VIDEO (Source: QOTSAmusic)
The video for "I Appear Missing" is the first in a series of animations featured on the website for Queens of the Stone Age's forthcoming album, ...Like Clockwork. The song swings slowly in a morosely-psychedelic rock punctuated by pounding drums. Homme slides on the high notes of the verse toward the heart of his range in the chorus. No strong solo stands out, but clever orchestration and small touches are adeptly applied. Instead of hitting hard, the shifting rhythms leave an uneasy feeling that culminates in the eerie groove of the finale.
The lonely desert of wild scavengers is an appropriate setting. A bandaged and bloody man in a suit rises and floats toward the cliff as if dragged by a spirit. He ascends toward the light, only to be dropped and splattered in the derelict city below. The jerky paper puppets move through a great depth of scenery -- blurred cacti in the foreground, rising dust, and far-off mesas. The video evokes the Western desert cities under purple and orange skies, while the dark, blood-soaked imagery illustrates its lost and troubled souls.
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Mogwai's Les Revenants is a soundtrack album for the French television show of the same name, meaning "They Came Back". Knowing this, listeners can adjust their expectations accordingly. The album is a pretty mellow yet eerie collection that maintains a melancholy tension evoking the slow pursuit of the undead. The songs mostly contain minor-key (sad) harmonies led by a piano melody. A few sunny spots appear ("Special N" and "Relative Hysteria") and even a straight county/folk song ("What are They Doing in Heaven Today?").
The songs definitely give the impression that something is wrong -- a key to building suspense in a soundtrack. Simple melodies repeated in loops are accompanied by ominous harmonies. Twinkling keyboards or bells are slowly joined by a mournful cello and brooding guitar effects. Meanwhile, the drums slowly build in intensity, driving throughout the songs. Most songs build upon one or two patterns that slow reach a near-climax before fading away. Unfortunately for the listener, the actual climaxes happen on screen.
Les Revenants make for good background music for the slow progress of death, but doesn't quite reach the heights of a bright release from the dissonant tension or the depths of heavy, ear-ringing breakdowns. Highlights include "Hungry Face", "Relative Hysteria", "Modern", and "Wizard Motor".
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Washing Away recently completed recording their second EP, Part Two, so we are revealing the album cover to whet your appetite for a new set of alt. rock tunes. For this picture, their gracious photographer, Mei-Ling, allowed the camera turned on her. She helps model the hidden hand-holding of the cheating girlfriend, the source or anguish and infatuation of the album's main character.
Andrew is currently working on the final mixes at Shock + Audio and getting them to flow together seamlessly. Lewis's intention is that the songs on the EP's should connect with together with short instrumental pieces. On Part One, these interludes were included on the end of each song. However, on this album, they will be separate tracks -- four songs and three short interludes. The cost will not change, but we hope this track separation will make more sense to the listener.
VIDEO (Source: RivalSchoolsVEVO)
"Used for Glue" was Rival Schools first music video for United by Fate (2001). As an eighteen-year-old who just discovered post-hardcore music and wished cute indie girls would notice me, this video instantly struck a chord. Yes, the single-chord opening riff had me. The song is very groove-oriented, but the lead guitar riffs balance nicely on the beat. The singers slightly raspy voice is matched in intensity by his gaze into the camera.
Visually, almost everything in it seemed within the realm of possibility. The band and crowd were nodding and bouncing to the music at a t-shirt-and-jeans-kind-of house party. No spinning leg kicks. No outrageous makeup or lights. Even the main characters in the music video were slightly-above-average good looking in an endearing way. There's skateboarding, too. This setting could happen -- Rival Schools could play at my buddy's house and some cute acquaintance would end up making out with me after a few semi-awkward encounters. Easy.
What's cool is that instead of just straight filming, these encounters are heightened through brief slide-show-like scenes. They are very simplistic and direct -- "you just need to see this, this, this, and this" all to the beat. The slides even have Instagram-esque frames almost a decade before that application came out. Another cool special effect is the flash bulbs in the tree at the end -- just a cool touch.
For a more recent video, check out their first single from Pedals, "Shot After Shot".
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The Gaze, a Minneapolis dance rock duo, is financing the release of their first EP using crowd funding. The band is using a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to print a limited-edition run of 12” vinyl records, which have resurfaced as format of choice for music connoisseurs. If funded by December 21st, backers receive downloads, records, autographs, hand-drawn post cards, t-shirts, and VIP passes to the record release party.
While digital formats are great if you’ve hooked your iPhone up at a party, the format leaves much to be desired for artwork and packaging – as much a part of the experience as listening. The upcoming vinyl release includes “Skinny Jeans,” “Pocket Dial” and remixes of both tracks by local DJs. Audio stems of the tracks will also be available for crowd-sourced remixes.
The Gaze is a dance rock project concocted by musician Lewis Kuhlman. His catchy lyrics and ballsy bass is paired with the raw drumming of Steve Przybylinski for the ultimate combination of dance and rock. Producer Andrew Zoellner at LynLake’s Shock and Audio pulled out all the stops to create a great sounding record.
The second EP from Washing Away has been a long time coming. The songs have been written, but there is more to recording than that. These songs needed another perspective and more polish. Not like a shiny coat, but a layer that pulls out the best qualities -- more emotion, the right instruments, bigger moments. Lewis has been in the studio with friend and Shock + Audio engineer, Andrew, since the Spring of 2011. Along with Andrew's former bandmate, Steve, on drums, they've come together to make a great collection of songs. We've posted pictures below of the recording sessions. Here's hoping for great 2013.
Grizzly Bear's Shields is full of jangling grooves flowing through a vivide tapestry. The soft edges of the music give way to inundating waves of sound melding into a subtle but taught suspension. The layers of music flow in and out of focus with ease, giving the listener something new to discover each time.
The vocals are warm and urgent without a shout. The soulful singing feels like an intimate conversation. The singers evokes such longing and authenticity on this journey through the album. The listener is a child, warm and completely under the sheets of sound, listening to a beautiful story sung. All the while the bed sways in a dancing rhythm and the lights outside each glow brilliant colors rising and fading with intensity of the instruments.
The music flows so smoothly that there are rarely definitive hooks -- the listener floats comfortably from song to song. The album gives the best results when listened to as a whole. However, forced to choose, standout songs include "Sleeping Utne", "Speak in Rounds", "Gun-Shy", and "Half Gate".
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
VIDEO (source: EpitaphRecords)
Ten years after first seeing this video, I was finally able to see Refused live last month in Chicago. It was amazing! What about this video inspired so much devotion and does it still hold up? The song still gets my blood pumping. Refused's experimentation and willingness to embrace a larger sound beyond hardcore stereotypes opened me up to what rock music could be. They embrace grooves, harmony, and instrumentation outside of what I've heard.
What is most exciting about the video is the performance footage. They shake and hit harder than any live band (and probably harder than what is actually performable). The camera movement immerses the viewer, weaving in and around the twists and jerks. The lights emphasize the bombastic riff. The lead singer even sings swinging upside-down. The energy is contagious.
The costumed sections, however, are a bit less straight-forward. They can be confusing or hilarious. To see these guys arrive in furry rabbit suits is unexpected -- they must appear soft and cuddly to get in. Really, they are monsters in their next costume -- at least that is what most may hear when listening to "New Noise". The also don faceless, plastic suits, mocking the faceless, plastic music that made them into monsters.
The worst part of the video is the picture quality. For an official video, it is pretty poor. For a live version with better picture quality -- and even more recent -- check out Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Refused: New Noise (7/18/12).
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Michael is back in the Midwest and has been busy recording new Motion Jones tunes. He has completed two masterfully-done albums, Detours and Departures. These albums will be given a proper release this Autumn and Winter, respectively.
To celebrate these forthcoming releases, we're making Finish Line - EP available for sale in Motion Jones's store for the first time. As an extra treat, Free Time and Baby Teeth and One Shy will be available as pay-what-you-can! We hope these albums will hold you over.
Michael of Motion Jones formed Plot Lines in 2010. They released their first full length album, Things You've Taught Me, in April 2012. It contains a lot of the clever lyrics and good imagery -- even new versions of some songs -- from Motion Jones that we enjoy so much here. It's nice to hear Michael bring his sing-along-style to a full band and fill out his sound. He shed his bedroom folk for piano rock on this album.
The piano is a good addition for the most part. It gives some of the songs a theatrical or show-tune-like appeal. At its best, is adds a good layer of supporting texture. At its worst, it comes off cutesy or complicated. It also gives the album a bright sound, overpowering the low end. The bass and drums give the album a kick, but not hard enough to get the songs rocking. These songs could also benefit from more background vocals -- but fewer oo's, oh's, and ah's -- and dissonance to amplify the emotion of the songs. The singing lacks the growl that the lyrics are suggesting.
Working with so many layers is a nice problem to have. The challenge is using them effectively. This album comes very close to capturing the dynamic and engaging aspects of the tunes. For a band that's been around for less than two years, this is a decent first album. Plots Lines show their best work on the short, upbeat, and straight-forward songs.
Highlights include "Red Flags", "Mission", and "Gravel and Grass".
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars