Deftones – Live: Volume I: Selections From Adrenaline

Deftones – Live: Volume I: Selections from Adrenaline

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Record Store Day arrived with a new vinyl release from Deftones, an American alternative metal band. Live: Volume I: Selections from Adrenaline is the first release in a series of vinyl releases by the band. The idea is to release one of these for every studio album, each month. The vinyl includes 3 songs from the band’s debut album, Adrenaline, and also one B-Side called “Teething”. All four songs are recorded live, and taken from a concert back in 1996.

The sound quality is surprisingly good, and the songs sound really raw and energetic. Deftones had a more simple sound back when they started, but the material on this vinyl shows flashes of brilliance, that would later come on albums like Around the Fur and White Pony. The quality of the songs themselves is another question. Generally it often takes a band one or two albums to really get going, and in this case it’s easy to overlook the songs as being juvenile or unpolished, because the songs are not bad. I would say the strength of this release is that it gives you an experience of how Deftones sounded when they were a new band, touring for their first album.  Things have evolved since, and the band has undoubtedly become a much better band, but the early songs are charming, and they still work. “Engine No.09” finishes off the vinyl, and it was being performed live by the band on a regular basis as recently as 2010.

As a standalone Deftones release, this is a pretty great vinyl. The band has made better music, but it features interesting performances of some of the best songs from their debut album being played live. It’s a unique and charming release. It’s even more interesting now to see what they will do with the Around the Fur and White Pony vinyl next.

Standout Tracks: Engine No.09, Minus Blindfold, Nosebleed


The Knife – Shaking the Habitual

The Knife – Shaking the Habitual

The Knife's Shaking the Habitual Artwork Revealed

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It has been called “The 2013 equivalent of The Seer”, and finally after 7 years of waiting, a new The Knife album is here. The Swedish duo consists of siblings Karin and Olof Dreijer, and they have been making electronic music together since the late 90’s/early 00’s . The previous album, Silent Shout received a lot of positive feedback when it came out in 2006, and following it up would not be an easy task. Shaking the Habitual however doesn’t try to follow in the footsteps of what the duo has done before, but instead they use the album to explore new territories. In fact, Shaking the Habitual is almost twice as long as it’s predecessor.

Shaking the Habitual is a sonic journey through different electronic genres, and the duo leads us through industrial sounds reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails, ambient sections with a hint of drone, topped off with vocals from Karin which sounds very similar to Björk. It’s impressive how cohesive and consistent the album is considering the wide amount of influences and the length of the album. Clocking in at roughly 96 minutes, Shaking the Habitual is the most ambitious album the duo has created, and getting into it might be a challenge for some.

The first song on the album is a fairly straightforward one. “A Tooth For an Eye” is a catchy song with really cool percussion-work and pretty fun synth sounds. It’s a nice little tune that could possibly be one of the hits from the album, but the following song “Full of Fire” marks one of the highlights on the first CD. The vocals are slightly more distorted, and there is a constant groove in the music that seems to build over 9 minutes. It seems like a much darker song than the opener, and there are hints at really experimental sounds that will appear later on the album. “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” is another very interesting song on the first disc, and it has a strong industrial vibe to it. Dark and dreary landscapes with a sound not that far away from what Nine Inch Nails did with The Downward Spiral. The last song on this CD works almost like an intermission between the two discs. “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized” is a 19 minute long instrumental ambient/drone piece. This song certainly won’t be for everyone, but if you’re listening with headphones, this song is probably one of the most epic experiences of the album. A lot of subtle things happening, and it creates a very creepy atmosphere.

When you make a long album, or in this case a double album, you really need to have a strong second half. The first songs often get stuck first, and in some cases you tend to drift off towards the end of the album, so it really needs to hold up. Shaking the Habitual continues on a high note through most of the second disc. “Raging Lung” and “Stay Out Here” are two highlights on the album, and the latter has a really epic buildup with some really twisted synths, resulting in a very inventive sound. But when it comes to the album being experimental, it really reaches its peak of weirdness on the track “Fracking Fluid Injection”. It’s one of the most bizarre and avant-garde songs I have heard in quite a while, and it almost comes off as being more of a message. “You made it this far into the album without a problem? Let’s put that to the test with this song”. The song can best be described as having weird sounds and weird vocals. This is really the only weak point on this album, and I still appreciate it for the artistic idea behind it, even if the music in it is rather… out there.

Shaking the Habitual is an experience you shouldn’t miss. The album is long and experimental, and it won’t be for everyone, but just checking it out will be rewarding. It might take five or ten spins before it fully clicks, but it’s worth it. This might very well be the best album of 2013 so far.

Standout Tracks: Full of Fire, Wrap Your Arms Around Me, Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized, Stay Out here.

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.

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.

Amplifier – Echo Street

Amplifier – Echo Street

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”Its just a few miles to oblivion now, there was a bad connection from the start.”

It has been almost a decade since Amplifier released their self-titled debut album which successfully fused different musical elements, resulting in a very interesting sound combining the best of Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Alternative Rock and Space Rock with a heavier edge. Since 2004, the band has put out several EPs and two studio albums, the latest one being a big behemoth called “The Octopus”, a two-hour long double-album. The Octopus was an album with a very dark and heavy atmosphere. But that was two years ago, and the band is now back with a new album, the follow-up, Echo Street, which is almost the complete opposite of what The Octopus was.

Where the latter was a heavier album with a sometimes muddy sound and dark atmosphere, Echo Street is a light and bright album with a more clean production and more focused songwriting. In many ways, Echo Street is a very unique album in the Amplifier catalog. While I personally really liked The Octopus, it is very refreshing that Echo Street sounds completely different. It is noticeable right from the very beginning of the album, and the opening-song “Matmos” (and the whole album in general) will probably divide fans when it comes to opinions. It starts off quiet and really takes its time to build up, by some simple and effective chord strumming and singing. When the chorus finally kicks in after almost three and a half minutes, the song really lifts to higher levels. The song sets the tone for the album and what will come.

Musically I would say Echo Street is the least heavy album the band has put out, and the focus has shifted more towards creating epic soundscapes and crafting melodies. The Pink Floyd-influence shines through on a few of the longer songs, in a positive way. The band manages to make something unique out of it. Two fascinating songs on the album are “Where the River Flows” and “Between Today and Yesterday”, both are calmer songs, and the latter has this singer/songwriter-sound to it. Very unique compared to what the band has done before, and in a positive way. The melodies in these songs really stand out, and to me it is proof that the band has matured even more since the previous releases.

But if you like Amplifier for their more Progressive-side, do not worry. There are plenty of epic moments, the 12 minute song “Extra Vehicular” features a bass line so catchy that any bassist would be jealous, and it has one of the best solo-sections on the entire album. Five of the eight songs on the album are longer than seven minutes, and they all take their time to build up. What makes Echo Street so unique is the fact that most of the songs are fairly calm and light in terms of tone. Previous albums have had heavier, faster and more straightforward songs, but this album sounds almost like you would expect from the front cover.

I also highly recommend checking out Sunriders EP which came as a bonus if you bought the limited version of Echo Street. The songs on the EP are pretty different from how the album sounds, and the title-track on the EP is just as good as the best stuff on the album. Really amazing song with some sweet melodies, overall the EP gives you four songs that does not really fit with the rest of the album, but makes an excellent partner. Echo Street is in my opinion the best album the band has put out so far. I really hope this initial reaction will remain, right now this is an early favorite for best album in 2013. But it is a long year, and anything could happen. Recommended for anyone who likes Progressive music.

Standout tracks: Matmos, Extra Vehicular, Where the River Goes, Paris in the Spring, Between Today and Yesterday.