Friday, November 20, 2009

a study in space-rock depression

Last week I had a couple difficult sessions with kids. There’s something so affective about depression that just pulls at me, sometimes feeling like a separate entity all together that feeds of the energy I pour into the sessions with the people I work with. Efforts to assuage the terrible thoughts and feelings that a kid may be feeling do more harm than good, and sometimes I feel at a loss. Driving home one night, listening to “Dirty Blue Balloons,” Failure really got to me. “Nothing helps and no one else/can make it feel alright float me through the night/I cannot let them go.” “Solaris” didn’t help much, and haunted me so much that I couldn’t listen to it anymore that night.

But that’s what’s so good about music, its malleable ability to adapt to fit individual moods and passing feelings. The album seemed to me about depression, and I got the feeling throughout that Andrews was taking on the persona of someone going through some unknown but debilitating ordeal. The long fade-out on “Pitiful” kind of freaked me out; it was taking so long to end and kept drawing out and felt like an editing mistake, but clearly, to me, was a deliberate attempt to strain the listener along with the fading instruments. The transition from “Leo” to the subsequent segue felt cavernous and heartfelt yet somehow empty, dripping with the sadness and hopelessness that permeated the aforementioned lyrics.

The two highlights for me on the album were “The Nurse Who Loved Me” and “Daylight.” The former I had only heard in Maynard James Keenan’s cover version with A Perfect Circle, and I reveled in the smooth and eerie progression of this version, which I obviously prefer. “Daylight” just scared the hell out of me. I really don’t know how else to put it. It affected me in an “Exit Music” kind of way. The songs leading up to it seemed even spacier and losing control, but Daylight is a whole other beast entirely.

I love the segues. The way in which Failure explodes into the first one from Sergeant Politeness reminds of one of the things I love the most about hard rock: the sheer power of the music. To me the guitars could have been turned up a little bit in parts, but their tone (I looove tone) is superb. After my first listen through I spent about 40 minutes with “Smoking Umbrellas” on a loop, trying to recreate the guitar’s sound with an EQ and my glorious Metal Zone pedal. I never quite got it, but that’s something I rarely do, since the majority of my tonal-tinkering usually focuses on getting one distinct (and much heavier) sound. I also love the mixing of the acoustic guitars, when they’re used. They seem to fall on the physical extremes of the presentation, and the strum strum stummm of the guitars cuts right across the whole spectrum from the extremes of each channel. Stuck on You is a great example of this: during the acoustic bits, it feels like the guitars are coming at you from the periphery. I kept moving the speakers further away from center to enhance the effect.

Some of the entries sound more derivative than others ("Pillowhead," for example, sounds like 12 bands from my youth, including (but not limited to) Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine, and STP), and for much of the album I felt right at home with their 90s grungy rock sound that I loved so much in my adolescence. Perhaps that’s why I felt so comfortable and familiar with the music despite never having heard them before, their sound just put me at ease. I’ve been listening to so much indie rock lately that its sometimes a shock to go back to stuff like this, a sound so familiar and replicated yet unique to a specific period of my life. So, I really liked Fantastic Planet. A lot. Even though it kind of freaked me out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Potwashers Perspective

Well first I'll put some thangs I jotted down while listening...

-Lots of cool weird sounds, which is totally awesome
-For some reason I was reminded of Alice in Chains + Pavement + Auolux (obv)
-Saturday Saviour = Supernova (KC QUILTY)
-Pillowhead = my favorite song, verse is a Nirvana rip-off

Right, so anyway, Sarah (sadie?) had played me this album before, but I hadn't really paid too much attention since we were at Bucks Rock and all I could think about was those motherfucking pots. She was real adamant about it's good-ness so I was glad that this album club gave me an excuse to download it off a random blog and listen.

Since I feel it necessary to quickly compare Failure to Autolux, I must say I like Ken Andrew's awesome 90's voice better than Eugene Goreshter's 'light moan.' (/expects to be murdered by Sadie)

I really loved the songs on the album with the "epic" drum beats and awesome sounding guitar solos. Sounds like the new Muse album on paper but they found a way to make them just be fucking awesome and not extremely extremely annoying.

The lyrics are kinda depressing (and maybe a little cheesy), I think...
I'm never gonna make you feel
That you're satisfied
I'm never gonna feel your pain
Like you wish I would

-Saturday Savior

I'm so ashamed to love no one
My ego's bent and my prides undone


Stuck on you 'til the end of time
I'm too tired to fight your rhyme
Stuck on you 'til the end of time
You've got me paralyzed

-Stuck On You

So to sum it up, I liked pretty much everything about it. If I had to come up with two complaints, the first would be that some of the songs don't feel too different from each other. But that's okay because it's a long album, so if some of the songs mesh, it's probably a good thing. Also, the lyrics are fairly emo and (I think) lame at some parts. But other than that, it's really good. Good pick, Sarah.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ANDERS SAYS: "Hey, pretty great!"

In school, I had this teacher, Thorpe Feidt (incredible name), who was adamant about students leaving their music devices at home when coming to the studio to work. He was this wild-eyed, capricious bastard who was, by no means, taciturn; and he was convinced that the constant stream of digital music being plugged into your ears was harmful for the artistic process. It was heinous! He was genius in his own way, but I hated being forced from listening to music while working.

I love painting, but I love painting and listening to music more. Most of the opinions that I form for new music come about in such a way that involves multiple listens to the same album while slapping color around for a few hours. As such, I love the idea of this club. LOVE. IT.

As for the album, my input is this: it's fun! I can't say that I fell in love with it, but it's a fun listen. It's an awesome dip into the 90s - not to mention, it's a band that I had no previous knowledge for or experience with. Fun!

For the first listen, I was in a drunken, charcoal, drawing frenzy. I was hooked to my laptop with a pair of obnoxiously large headphones, getting tangled in the wires and drawing a few nondescript portraits messily. I was having a blast, and my initial impression was that the album had some pleasantly surprising lifts away from the typical sounds inherent to 90s alt. My enjoyment of music, in general, being nothing but cursory, I'll spare you any specifics. Nonetheless, I found it engaging and listened to it a couple of times all the way through before falling asleep like a dog in my bed.

I picked the album up again a few days later, while doing some menial comp stuff in photoshop - an experience, I should say, that - while not entirely unlike the fun of painting - left something to be desired. I became bored with the first half of the album, but found it interesting again after that, restoring my initial opinion of the whole thing being fun.

The final listen was spent walking around the oceanside park down a few blocks from my apartment. I was able to pretty much zone out and let the music come, unadulterated by outside distractions. By the time I was done with it, my official opinion had formed that it was fun, but nothing I would explicitly go out of my way to listen to for any specific reason.

That's one of the leaves from my new plant, by the way. I still need to think of a name, but I'm thinking of going with "Frank". That's neither here nor there, though...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Failure - Fantastic Planet

Okay, this one here's my first pick. Straight outta '96, this is Failure's third album (and last release as an active band). Failure was never really famous in their heyday; they released two albums before Fantastic Planet (including one with Steve Albini) but neither yielded a charting single (the band's first was this album's "Stuck On You," which peaked at 23 on Billboard's Modern Rock charts).

But I think this album's extra cool for a few reasons. The space rock-y guitars hint at bassist Greg Edwards' future in Autolux, and Troy van Leeuwen, who joined the band for this recording, went on to play in A Perfect Circle (who covered this album's "The Nurse Who Loved Me"). It's like a time capsule that traveled on a space ship into the future and then crashed back to earth for you to enjoy. Frontman Ken Andrews did some other stuff too, but it all sucks. Sucks! Unlike this album. Listen away!

Monday, November 2, 2009

one day more

As of this time tomorrow night, the first session of the untitled album club will have begun. Thanks to everyone that's responded! It looks like there's going to be a lot of activity, so let's have some fun with this.

For now, I opened the commenting up to everyone. I'll moderate the comments posted to make sure that things don't get too obscene or irrelevant, but those without Blogger accounts should now be able to contribute.

Sadie, tomorrow, will kick off the club with the first album selection. From that point, you will have until next Wednesday, November 18 to listen to the album and get a real feel for it as a distinct musical work. The time period is still tentative; we can adjust the listening period to match our activity and needs. There will also be a list of who's going to be making upcoming selections. The comments and reactions to the music should be as loose or as serious as you want it to be - there will be no judging of others here! If you love it, say so, and tell us why. If you hate it, we want to know that too! As long as it somehow relates to the music at hand, it's on-topic.

Here we go.

we're growing

So interest has been very warm and it seems like we can get this up and running this week. I picked a two week listening period in the interest of time, but if this thing gets going we can certainly shorten it to one week. It's also totally okay to want to join but not really be held to any posting requirements; this isn't meant to be work, after all. If all you want to do is participate by listening and reading the other posts, that's fine too. The only thing you'd have to do is pick an album when it's your turn.

When the club's member base starts to take shape I'll post a list of randomly chosen names that represents who chooses the next album. That list will be updated with people's choices and will act as a quick reference as to who's chosen what and the progression of the club.

Sadie - you're going to be first. So get ready. To rock.

what's in a name

So people don't seem to like the name - they think it sounds like Michael Jackson. Ha! I was thinking more along the lines of Peter Pan, but point taken.

For now it'll just be the "untitled album club" until I can think of a suitable alternative. Any suggestions?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

and it begins

I have this idea.

It's called the Neverland Untitled Album Club. It started with me thinking about joining a book club to do more free reading, but since I like music more than books, this idea just developed organically from that. "Neverland" because shit like this makes me think I'm a little kid with no real responsibility. I like "Untitled Album Club" more...but we'll see. Here's the idea:

Every two weeks, we switch off choosing one full music album for the rest of the group to listen to. Everyone must (try to) listen to the album three full times from start to finish. The first two times can be during other things or activites: watching a World Series game, doing laundry, painting, whatever. However, the third listen must be alone, doing nothing else. If you have specific comments that you'd like to write down during the first two listens, go right ahead, but the idea would be to really try and comment about the album's progression the third and final time. These entries or comments could be about the nature of how the music sounds to you, what you like or don't like, how you feel about the experience, or what it makes you think of. Everything is fair game, as long as it somehow relates back to the music listening experience itself.

The music that you pick is up to you - it could be the most familiar thing in the world or the most obscure. It just has to move you, in some way. That's the only requirement.

If you'd like to be involved, let me know. I'll make everyone interested an admin and then make this blog private.

I know that you probably have a lot to do and might not be able to participate every time, and that's fine. But think about how often you think about discovering new music and how great you feel when you first realize this new and different band you've just been introduced to is really good. Even with everything available to me at anytime, I still often struggle with this. And I'm always looking for the next band to adore. So, who wants in?