The Dear Hunter – Migrant

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To escape.. to escape

Brainchild of Casey Crescenzo, The Dear Hunter, has never been known as a musical project that creates the same thing twice. After three immensely well received Acts albums, and a gargantuan EP project released in 2011 entitled The Color Spectrum it seemed that there was nothing that Crescenzo and his musical brain couldn’t do. Less than two years after the release of the Spectrum, The Dear Hunter is back with a new album that is centered around its frontman’s personal life. 

This lush, yet dense offering opens with “Bring You Down” a track which flows outwards from a morphing string maelstrom and grabs the listener right from the beginning. The album’s lead single, “Whisper” immediately kicks in afterwards and by the time its chorus arrives it’s quite impossible to be anything but enamored by Crescenzo’s knack for churning out songs that are musically interesting, yet catchy beyond comprehension.

Two more songs that were debuted prior to the albums drop, “Shame” and “An Escape” continue to pelt the listener with bluesy and intense vibes that leave the audience begging for more. “Kiss of Life” becomes the album’s first ballad, which after about a minute of emotive crooning explodes into a warm, passionate chorus. As the song continues, it becomes more and more rhythmically complex, keeping the audience held up by the lapels.

One of the clear standout tracks on this record is certainly the moody, wonky “Girl”. Completely new territory for Crescenzo, it is clear that there will be no wavering as he continues on his seemingly unstoppable musical journey.The female vocals on this track (performed by none other than Casey’s sister Azia Crescenzo) give the song an interesting twist that hasn’t yet been heard on a Dear Hunter track. The back-and-forth between the siblings is one of the album’s shining moments, and the final minute of this track will leave virtually anyone listening besides themselves.

“Cycles” seems to be the next step in the musical progression that has been created with the Blue EP, as it is awash with reverb guitars, and features a musical finale that hearkens back to “What You Said”. The album continues into another ballad, “Sweet Naiveté”. This track is predominately a piano/string piece who’s vocals feel like a slow, gentle waltz, in a vein not all unlike some of the less angsty tunes off Act III.

The band finishes the album strong with a 1-2-3 punch that is started with what is bound to become a live staple, “Let Go”. Launching into one of the most singable choruses the band has, this track not only has some of Crescenzo’s most dazzling vocal performances, but has perhaps one of the most memorable melodies the band has ever crafted.

If anyone was upset or worried that not diving right back into the Acts after The Color Spectrum might be a bad idea, they need not worry. Casey Crescenzo has once again proven that he is capable of quickly turning out a handful of beautifully crafted pieces which will without a doubt stand alongside with the best of whatever 2013 has to offer.

Standout tracks: “Whisper”, “Shame”, “Girl”, “Let Go”

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Beach House – Bloom (2012)

Beach House – Bloom (2012)

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It’s a strange paradise

Beach House is a dream pop duo from Baltimore, formed in 2004 and consists of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. Since the beginning of their career, the band had put out three studio albums before the latest one, Bloom came out last year in 2012.  The previous album, Teen Dream was a bit of a breakthrough album for the duo when it was released in 2010 and as a result, Bloom went on to sell 41 000 copies within the first week of its release.

Bloom is a logical continuation of Teen Dream, and it follows down the path of catchy choruses, beautiful melodies and a very rich sound. Beach House has been compared to the classic band Cocteau Twins, and there might very well be a small influence there. One big difference is that Beach House has strong Indie-vibe in their sound. They fill a void in the current world of popular music since dream pop is not a very common music style compared to other genres.

Bloom starts off with a very solid four-song run that just becomes better and better with each song. “Myth” is the first one which has a slightly darker atmosphere than some of the other songs on the album, but it has very memorable melodies with some great guitars and a catchy chorus. During the first four songs each song gets better than the previous, and it escalates on “Other People” which has one of the best choruses on the whole album. The verses are excellent, but the chorus is really what lifts the song. It has a great use of guitars, keyboards and catchy vocals, resulting in one of the best moments on the album.

The second half of the album was slightly harder to get into, but more rewarding when it finally clicked. Most of the songs follow in the pattern of having really catchy and well written melodies, but you need more than just a good chorus to make a good song. Luckily that is the case with these songs, and the end of the album is possibly the best part of the whole album. “On the Sea” stands out as being slightly different from the other songs, fewer layers and less keyboards resulting in a more straightforward sound on that song. The closing track “Irene” is the big highlight on the album, and everything has been leading up to it. The 17 minutes of runtime might confuse you because about half of it is silence with a hidden track at the end. Personally I would not have mind if the song was actually 17 minutes, the way it builds and escalates with Victoria singing “It’s a strange paradise”, that part alone could have gone on for 5 more minutes and I would have been happy.

Bloom is another sensational album by Beach House, and it is one of the better releases from 2012 without a doubt. If you are into indie music or like pop with catchy melodies and vocals, make sure you check out Beach House.

Standout tracks: Irene, Other People, Wishes, Troublemaker, Lazuli.

My Bloody Valentine – m b v

My Bloody Valentine – m b v

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My Bloody Valentine is a band that needs absolutely no introduction. The arrival of the newest album from the infamous shoegaze band, m b v, was destructive enough to nearly tear apart the entire fabric of the internet.

The band’s legacy is already firmly cemented with Loveless, an album which is often called one of the greatest albums ever released. The reaction to m b v will do nothing to change that in any way. It’s almost ridiculous to try to qualitatively compare any subsequent release from My Bloody Valentine to that album. Hell, I wouldn’t even try to compare anything in the entire shoegaze genre to Loveless. I suspect that some of this celebration of Loveless, as well as the massive anticipation for m b v, is due to the fact that My Bloody Valentine has not released a single note in 21 years. That fact alone can certainly change a lot of people’s perceptions about a band.

Comparisons of quality aside, m b v picks up right where Loveless left off. The band certainly knows how to handle fan expectations, because most of these songs sound like they could have been released in 1993, meaning they could be a natural progression from Loveless. Both “She Found Now” and “Only Tomorrow” are fantastic opening songs, which follow right in line with what My Bloody Valentine was trying to accomplish in the 90s.

Eventually the album does change it up with “Is This and Yes,” which is one the most unique tracks My Bloody Valentine has ever done. There are no drums to speak of whatsoever, and the entire song is just synth chords and Kevin Shields singing. At first it’s a very jarring transition, but the atmosphere created by these songs does grow.

“New You” is musically a great song, featuring traditional My Bloody Valentine pop catchiness. The lyrics which consist of “doo doo doo doo doo” may tire and bore certain listeners, but for the most part it fits with their overall sound. “In Another Way” again sounds like a traditional My Bloody Valentine song, but much more aggressive, which makes it way more interesting. It features a fascinating drum beat that gets busier as the song progresses. The synth chords that pound in the background remind the listener of “Sometimes.”

My Bloody Valentine is a legendary band; that status cannot be in question. With these things in mind, it almost brings m b v into a different context. This album can only further solidify the band’s greatness, not take away from it. Some fans may have wanted the album to be more similar to Loveless, some may have wanted something entirely different, or maybe some thought that this was just right. Either way, m b v is a more than worthy addition to the band’s catalog.

Standout tracks: She Found Now, Only Tomorrow, Is This and Yes, In Another Way

Polkadot Cadaver – Last Call in Jonestown Track Review

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Simply put, if you haven’t listened to Polkadot Cadaver yet, you are missing out on the best music you never knew existed. Todd Smith is easily one of the most promising musicians in the business, and this new album is shaping up to be the band’s crowning achievement. Two key members of Polkadot Cadaver, the aforementioned Smith and guitarist Jasan Stepp played in Dog Fashion Disco (with Jasan joining prior to the release of DFD’s magnum opus, “Adultery”), so you already know what an exciting time this is if you’re familiar with that band. Todd and Jasan have been astoundingly prolific these past few years. Since 2011, we’ve had a new PDot album, a debut from Knives Out!, and a second solo release under the name of El-Creepo. And now, they’re poised to release a new Polkadot Cadaver album that threatens to nullify them all.

As far as I’m concerned, Polkadot Cadaver is a continuation of Dog Fashion Disco. Both of Polkadot Cadaver’s albums make this abundantly clear with their zany circus music mixed with groove metal and the occasional disturbing ballad. The most exciting thing about this album so far (aside from the fact that the one song released so far pretty handily blows everything on Sex Offender [2011] clear out of the water) is the pride on display from the contributing members. Following several of the musicians on Facebook, every status for a while was about how “LCiJT is a rager.” or something to that effect. For reference, the pre-release hype from the band has never been this high for any of their other recent projects.

Onto the song itself: The new track is quite possibly the heaviest song the band has ever done. There were moments on PDot’s debut that had a bit of a thrashy edge (What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen? is the most obvious example), and Knives Out! certainly had its fair share of heavy moments. This song, however, is downright uncompromising in its aggression. While Jasan had a tendency to write simple, groovy riffs that were perfectly headbangable, the riffs here are much more complex yet just as catchy. Smith’s lyrics take a break from sordid love songs and serial killer biopics and instead talk about the infamous massacre from which the song derives its name. Included for good measure is a spoken word passage from what I assume is one of the cult leaders involved in the event. I can already see this song becoming a live favorite with its infectious, “shout-along” chorus. Jasan even tests the waters with a pretty solid guitar solo, which is a very rare occurrence for this band.

As the opening track on the album, this song seems like it’s setting the stage for the remainder of the album in the best way possible. Pre-orders can be found here. There’s a wide variety of bundle options including shirts, stickers, and even a freaking skateboard deck. Dig deep, folks. This is a band that deserves any support you can give them. Last Call in Jonestown releases on May 14th, with the album release party (which I will most certainly be attending) to be held at Peabodys Down Under in Cleveland, OH on May 3rd with special guests Psychostick and Downtown Brown.

Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)

Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)

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I never really loved you, but I’ll miss you anyway

Having put out the highly praised double-album Grace For Drowning in 2011, Steven Wilson is back with follow-up The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories), his third solo album. Since Porcupine Tree went on a hiatus, Steven Wilson have been making music heavily influenced by 70’s Progressive Rock, and this time he takes his talented live band with him into the studio for the first time.

Over the years, Steven Wilson have become a bit of a legend within the Progressive Rock-scene, and he has gained many fans due to his craftsmanship and ability to always evolve. “The Raven That Refused to Sing” feels like a natural progression from the previous album, Grace For Drowning, and it continues down the path of 70’s Progressive Rock, heavily influenced by bands like King Crimson and Yes.

The album starts off on a familiar note. “Luminol” is a song that was played live on tour before the album came out, and it was also featured on the live DVD, Get All You Deserve which came out last year. It is a song with very little singing, and it is almost an instrumental song with the various instruments trading places with each other. While the song is not 100% representative of how the whole album sounds, it very much sets the tone, and displays the talented musicianship that shines through on the album.

Lyrically the album is about different ghost stories, some of them are pretty scary, and some of them are sad. The title-track in particular has a very sad story about loss and mortality. The title-track is up there with some of his best work, and it is a ballad in a similar style to “Deform to Form a Star”, from the previous album Grace For Drowning. Another standout song is “The Watchmaker”, which features a clever use of acoustic guitars, but also some harmony vocals that has become Steven Wilson’s trademark.

The album is very good. The biggest issue is that it does not feel very exciting. Steven Wilson has already made most of this before, and while you do not have to reinvent yourself on every album or change genres completely, it is nice with a new twist or a new aspect if you are doing something you have done before. Soundwise it is very similar to Grace For Drowning which in my opinion is a stronger and more interesting album. Still, the album is far from bad, and if you enjoyed the previous albums, or enjoy Progressive Rock in general, I suggest you check Raven out.

Standout tracks: The Raven That Refused to Sing, The Watchmaker, Luminol.