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

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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.

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”

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.