March 29, 2009

Trophy Scars - Bad Luck

Trophy Scars released a terrible album in 2006's Alphabet. Alphabets. However, their most recent album, Bad Luck, is a complete turnaround that attains unexpected synergies between the post-hardcore success of their early discography and the wayward experimentation that ruined A.A. This album reminds me a lot of Cursive in its ability to work horns and strings into a post-hardcore/indie framework without veering into a bombast or melodrama that isn't designed and intended. Hopefully, these guys will only continue to develop their new sound in coming releases. They asked me to remove the links from their previous albums so I'm not going include a link to a free download here, but instead link to a page where one can purchase the album.

Bad Luck [2009] - Purchase - Review

March 14, 2009

Group Bombino - Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 2

Group Bombino is a Tuareg folk / rock group out Mali and Niger who were recently recorded for Sublime Frequencies' Guitars from Agadez series. The album's first half is completely acoustic and features more of the Tuareg folk melodies that are traditional to musicians of this ethnic group and this area, and the second half is more of a blend of Western and Tuareg traditions with electric instrumentation and more rock, blues, and psychedelic influences. I go more into the ethnomusicological implications of the album and how it balances its influences in my review (linked below). It's an incredibly enjoyable album but will pretty much go overlooked by 99% of the hip blogspot reading community, which is a shame.

Guitars from Agadez, vol. 2 [2009] - Download - Review

March 12, 2009

Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen

It seems like Cursive have really been mislabeled by the press and as a result by potential listeners who are squeamish about genre tags like emo or indie. Cursive's early career found them taking many left turns away from the sound developed by bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Christie Front Drive and creating a brand of indie that was heavier and had much more intricate guitar arrangements (Domestica) than that of their peers. As a result they got lumped in with the early 2000s resurgence of post-hardcore that grew out of Grade's and Refused's multi-faceted legacies. They were always outliers from both of those crowds and eventually aligned themselves more with their labelmates Bright Eyes by embracing introspective indie (The Ugly Organ) that was influenced by the singer-songwriter genre. They took off and ran with indie's textural and orchestral possibilities and became a parody of their previous styles by writing abstract pop songs (Happy Hollow) that attracted the attention of the pitchfork crowd after years of being championed by Alternative Press as an (ugh) emo band. Their newest album, Mama, I'm Swollen is a return to form circa 2002 (in between Domestica and The Ugly Organ that has been indelibly altered by their forays into indie, pop, and singer-songwriter. Lead songwriter Kasher is self-flagellating in his typically maudlin fashion, but the backdrop reconciles the experimentation of their recent albums with the potent immediacy of their earlier style. Mama, I'm Swollen is a rare kind of album in that encapsulates Cursive's entire career without feeling like a rehash. Forget about any unwarranted labels attributed to Cursive and lay your prejudices down; they are a genre unto themselves and deserve a listen.

Mama, I'm Swollen [2009] - Download - Review

March 3, 2009

Deftones - White Pony

Seeing this album upped at Staring at the Apocalypse and remembering my sadness that Deftones' bassist Chi Cheng remains in a coma (which is less morbidly but still disappointingly delaying the upcoming album Eros), has incited me to post White Pony, one of my favorite albums of all time. Like all good albums, this album has meant different things to me at different periods of my life. When it first came out, I was an 8th grader who mostly listened to music as some kind of angst outlet, which made heavy and angry tracks like "Elite" and "Korea" really move me. As I grew out of that phase and delved into learning how to play guitar, the instrumental performances popped out at me. Carpenter's guitar is typically simple, but he uses distinctive and interesting chord voicings and when he and Chi lockstep with Abe's ornamented fills, Deftones really rock. As I learned more about singing and songwriting, Chino's characteristic approach to texture and his expansive range blew me away. Even now, as I learn more about music production, Frank Delgado's soundscapes pop out at me and give new revelations about White Pony's depth and mysteries. This album truly transcends genre and its best moments are the ones that diverge most from Deftones' metal lineage. This album comes highly recommended, even to (or rather, especially to) those who have already made their mind up about what metal or the Deftones are about.

White Pony [2000] - Download - Review