Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review: Parquet Courts - Tally All The Things You Broke EP

Parquet Courts can do no wrong. I said that awhile ago, when they released their album Light Up Gold , which went on to be my favorite album of the year. They displayed such an impressive grasp on how to make not only a song, but an album fun, that you forgot the majority of the songs on it were just over a minute long (And these guys aren't even punk). With Tally All The Things You Broke, the fun seems to be in short supply.

The opening track on the EP, "You've Got Me Wonderin Now", feels like the guys started right where they left off with Light Up Gold. It has that slight garage rock twinge to it that makes it feel edgier than it actually is, while not being musically oppressive. The drums are quick, and the guitars tinny strum leaves no doubt it's Parquet Courts you're listening to. The song also displays, what I felt, was a sense of humor with a random recorder playing a melody in the background throughout some of the chorus. It might rub some listeners the wrong way, but for my part, it doesn't feel out of place.

"Descend (The Way)" comes out of the gate strong, being harder than "You've Got Me Wonderin", but still walking the line enough to not quite cross into punk or garage rock territory. While the song fades a bit in the middle with random filler, it relies, like most their songs do, on the combination of its unique vocal stylings and simple, but uber catchy riffs, which are both strong enough to carry the song by themselves. It's a slight problem they had on their album as well, but maybe something they can fix in the future. 

From there, things start to take a bit of a nose dive. "The More It Works", despite its quick tempo and good song structure, feels a bit flat and uninspired. While it adds variety with a driving bass-line being the only melody throughout half the song, the fact its so prominent is what makes it weak in the first place. Clocking in at over 5 minutes, the song could have used a bit of a trim, which may have made the chorus, powerfully driven by a barrage of distorted guitars, also more impressive. Instead, things get stale pretty quickly, loosing its overall effect. "Fall On Yr Face" doesn't feel like a track they'd make, let alone play. It feels at home played by some crappy blues-rock band at some bar frequented by middle-aged divorcees looking to mix it up and get lucky. In other words, as far from their norm as possible.

The final track, "He's Seeing Paths", is as bewildering a track as any I think I've heard. Maybe the song is meant to be a joke, in which case, fine, you got a laugh out of me, congratulations. However, I don't think it is. It's as if they found their old casio keyboard and turned on some of the pre-made beats installed on it and decided to make a random, very terrible hip hop song. I get the necessity to change things up, but when you deviate so much from the course you set that no one, especially a solid fan, doesn't get what you're doing, it might be time to not do it again.

Tally All The Things You Broke isn't going to be shit on completely since it's only a 5 song EP, but it does give me cause for concern. This might have been more of a silly EP the guys released, meant more for themselves than their fans, but the fact they still took so much time and effort to make it is odd. Three of the tracks are solid, and while the last 2 are mind-numbingly stupid, maybe they just wanted to see what people would think of a different approach. So long as they don't do it again, I'll give them a pass on this one. - Shane

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Review: Hana Kim - Exodo

I don't believe individuals need to make a good first impression. We're subject to so much shit day in and day out that if we meet someone for the first time, and say its a day where maybe your car had a case of spontaneous combustion or maybe you were mauled by a stray bear, chance is, you're going to have an off day and that person can forgive you next time they meet you. Music isn't as forgiving. You have really one chance to make people either like what you're doing or despise what you're doing, and that's a much harder angle to work with. Fortunately, with Exodo, Hana Kim makes a fine first impression.

Hana Kim is not your prototypical singer/songwriter type. While some of the music might seem like pretty standard fair, what really struck home while listening to this album was the variety of sounds she was able to create. Typically, you face the wrath of of someone who plays solely acoustic music (and poorly at that) or you take your chances with someone who has a god complex, meaning they make their name the band name and probably have so much creative control over everything that you have to wonder if they paid the musicians to help them make their songs in the first place (Mostly because the music sucks). Kim, thankfully, doesn't succumb to either of these fates.

"Caravan", despite it not being the official single on the album, felt like one because of the atmosphere it manages to create. Normally, I wouldn't say songs with pianos as the only instrument would be up my alley, but this one feels dreamy. Mixed with Kims vocals, it really pulls an upset over the desired single "Mexico", which gets a double billing with an acoustic version later in the album. "Mexico" has that lounge-like indie rock vibe going for it, making it quiet but enjoyable, but it doesn't have the same power "Caravan" does. It's the smallest of complaints because she could have just had another song on her album instead of trying to force home her love for "Mexico". 

"Give It Up" and "Ruins" are subdued little numbers that showcase Kims vocal talents, which never takes long for you to notice. They have a jazz vibe to them, driving home the notion of that she feels at home singing in some hip lounge bar. Although the music never really takes center stage in these songs, it doesn't have to, because when you're a project all about the voice, the music takes a backseat to everything else. Still, it's usually decent enough to warrant a listen, and it's clear the musicians are talented, so they deserve some recognition as well.

Injecting some dance-like beats into the album is "I'd Do It Again", a slightly disco influenced track that is a breath of fresh air from the rest of the relatively easy going songs. It doesn't go all ABBA on you, but the guitar uptick is very reminiscent of the genre, and if I saw a disco ball come out during a performance of this song, I'd find it very fitting. "The Sun Stands Still" felt like a song Feist would make, overlapping acoustic guitar riffs with moody, harmonic vocals. It's catchy, but doesn't fall to repetitiveness, never overstaying its welcome long enough to do so.

Exodo is one of those albums I didn't know how I'd react to, but came away surprised with. While the musical styles aren't what I'd call favorites of mine, the album rubbed off on me in just the right way to make me more appreciative of them as a whole. Kim is very talented, and while some of the songs don't quite have the soul to them I was hoping, they maintain a sense of professionalism and class that keeps you interested the whole way through. I hope she continues doing what she does, and explores the world of music thoroughly, because with her skill, there's no telling what she could do with it. - Shane

Monday, October 7, 2013

Review: The Bloodshots - On Fire

I never got why people opt to buy Tylenol instead of going for the generic brand. Really, all you're buying is the name, both pills do the same god damned thing. Sure, the Tylenol looks fancier, but your headache induced from  a 8 hour marathon watching Alf is going to get cured the same way by literally the same combination of lab-created drugs. I know there's a comfort in knowing what you get, but 99% of the time, things work out regardless. The Bloodshots new album, On Fire, reminded me of this bizarre rant.

The Bloodshots play some of the most generic rockabilly I've ever heard, but I'm sure it's intentional. You can try to go psycho-billy, but once you've crossed that acid-enhanced line, there's often no coming back. It's a sub-genre that really never flatters anyways, but presses home with a comfortable familiarity to everything that makes it acceptable. Trust me when I say I mean that as a sincere form of respect, because I know calling something 'basic' can rub people the wrong way. All I mean is nothing ever strays from the ordinary.

"Waste Away", with its sweet Americana vibe induced into the song, really hit home for me. It still feels right at home as the music you'd want to listen to on your way to Vegas, but there's something unique here that plays into a different hand, and that's why I enjoyed it. It comes with its dark side, but only in the form of disappointment, and the reason for that disappointment is because there aren't more tracks like this on the album. But if we had that, this song wouldn't stand out in the first place, would it?

Songs like "Watchu Do" and "Straight To Hell" are more up-tempo songs that might enable you to break out the twist or skank or whatever dance moves you people do nowadays. "Straight To Hell" stands out over these two mainly because it has the slightest punk edge to it. You won't be doing a circle pit to it, no, but I can see whiskey-infused punks ganging up together to group mosh through whatever crowd might be watching these guys live. 

You have tracks like "La La La Love" and "You're A Cat" that walk the sensible line and never stray to be anything else but pure rockabilly, and then you've got other tracks like "Long Gone, So Long", which, well, do the same thing. It's unfortunate the genre doesn't have much room for maturation, because I know these guys aim to have one hell of a time making music, but everything remains very baseline. It's less the bands fault and more the people who never tried to be pioneers of the genre in the first place.

On Fire is like the vanilla ice cream of album, it's just kind of there and doesn't wow you, but doesn't make you want to vomit blood in disappointment either. If they can change their approach in the future, and try to blend in more genres and maybe add in a few surprises, The Bloodshots could stand a chance at really making a name for themselves in the world of underground rockabilly music (That sentence came across as more comical than I'd anticipated). But, for right now, they're as simple as you can get. - Shane

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Blitz Review: Death Lab - Demo 2013

Death Lab, despite its look, is something born out of love and passion. It's a project you're likely never to see in person because it doesn't seem to me anything more then a passion project. Once a three man band, Death Lab is now solely run by it's original creator, a man who simply (or maybe not so simply) goes by the name SylverA (Yes, the capital A was meant to be there). It's unfortunate since they (he) show tremendous knowledge and love of death metal within this new demo.

The first two tracks, "Choose Me Over Us" and "Make Yourself Up" are pretty standard death metal tracks that succeed because they don't try to stray from the safe confines the genre has previously set up for them. "Make Yourself Up" stands out, but simply because its chugging melodies and pounding double bass pedal-infused drumming really make it the catchier of the two.

"Betrayal Of Trust", with its short but impressively up-tempo break down, keeps the strong showing going on the demo. Again, it's nothing fancy, but it's clear a lot of work gets put into this, and with nary a mistake heard, it makes it that much more enjoyable. "Draw To A Close", a rather aptly named last track for the album, feels less taken care of as a song, sounding like it wants to impress you more with its guitar work than simply impressing you as an overall song.

"Lack Of Vision" comes across as more a combination of power metal and death metal, though not as epic as you might expect a power metal comparison to be. It's a solid track that bolsters a resume, but doesn't take the cake far as 'hit' songs go. And "Stray To Escape" never really clicks on any levels, which is sad because if they'd really concentrated on more harmonies and less solos and guitar noodling, it could have worked well.

Death Lab have released a nice demo here, and it's something I hope they do more of in the future. It's never fancy, or awe-inspiring, but good and catchy enough to warrant multiple listens. Considering it's one mans pride and joy to keep this project going, it makes it all the more impressive for it. And that's something I'm sure he aims to do every day. - Shane