Alice in Chains
"Jar of Flies"
What a ride. There aren't that many releases for which I can say
something to the tune of "man, there really ain't a moment wasted
here," because it's somewhat rare to come across a release of any
sort that uses its time properly and in a nice, structured way.
Jar of Flies does just that; from Rotten Apple all the way
down to Swing on This - odd as it may be - it always has a nice,
consistent tone to it all. Rotten Apple is an amazing if dark intro,
followed by Nutshell which keeps a more acoustic touch, but with a
light amplification to its darkness. I Stay Away is a more rougher
stray from the rest, although it's still instrumentally and emotionally
on par with them to not be that much of a deviation. No Excuses
takes things to a lighter note instrumentally and adds a bit of a punch
to the percussion - additions that I thought were pretty nice. Whale &
Wasp, however, takes things into this kind of dive of noise and wails;
a little sad in its tone at the start, but ultimately somewhat lighter
as it goes on. The EP's arguable magnum opus, Don't Follow, comes in as
an appetizer prior to the finale, and it's quite a great track. Simple,
possibly relatable lyricism, comfortable guitarwork, a well-done deviation
in tone near the end, and a mean fuckin' harmonica. It all comes to a close
with Swing on This, a very odd instrumental deviation that takes
things to a more swing-y grunge tone as the name implies. It's... odd, but
definitely not bad. Overall - yes.
5 / 5
A Silver Mt. Zion
"Born Into Trouble..."
Released as ASMZ's second studio album, Born Into Trouble
packs a similar emotional punch as He Has Left Us Alone, with
the addition of a good couple of parts that include more intensity.
Even so, it keeps its calm, with a similarity to GY!BE but more mild
and with a teaspoon of sugar. By no means does that make it bad;
if anything, its light-hearted instrumental tone that appears on tracks
like Could've Moved Mountains and The Triumph of Our Tired Eyes is
comforting, and in the case of the latter, moves onto a more vibrant,
cheery instrumental with darker undertones. It's an amazing piece of
4 / 5
After Cap'n Jazz, Mike and Tim Kinsella went their seperate ways.
Past Cap'n, Tim formed Joan of Arc in 1995, borrowing less from Cap'n
and moving towards a more indie, experimental style. On the flip side,
Mike formed American Football when he came across a few high school
musicians-slash-friends - and eventually, their self-titled debut
came out in 1999. While Cap'n Jazz had a more rougher, hateful side
full of occasional screams or antisocial behavior in aural form,
American Football slows things down by having calmer vocals,
focusing more on comforting melodies and saddened lyricism, and
generally trying to stray away from the harsher tones that Cap'n
brought to the table. As such, it comes off as more of a midwest emo
album in contrast to Cap'n's post-hardcore style - but even so,
it creates a marginally better and more comforting sound than its
predecessor. A generally nice album, if a little weak after a few
4 / 5
Avey Tare & Panda Bear
"Spirit They're Gone,
Spirit They've Vanished"
While Merriweather Post Pavilion took more of AnCo's credit
later on, the true discography Chad of their earlier career - like,
early up to the point where they were still Avey Tare & Panda
Bear - was Spirit They're Gone. A comforting and creepily-happy
record that gives zero shit about hearing safety and goes wild with
various lush sound- and noisescapes, combined with Tare's soft,
high-pitched vocals. Of course, it does tend to deviate to more
odd sections that leave out the 'happy' from 'creepily-happy.'
Still, even those moments tend to grow on you after a while - and
after it does grow, the whole album becomes one whole oddly
enjoyable experience. Godspeed, Tare 'n Bear.
4 / 5
"An Innocent Man"
A varied mix of pop rock, doo wop and soul, An Innocent Man
acts as a reference to the popular tracks that came out in Billy's
earlier years with lyricism mainly related to cheesy, but catchy
love songs, all while retaining a style similar to songs released
in 60s Americana. As such, the album comes off as a hell of a strong
nostalgic experience for Joel and a catchy, but occasionally calm
and comfy album for the listener. It's still enjoyable more than
30 years later and a boomeresque album worth listening to.
5 / 5
"Burritos, Inspiration Point,
Fork Balloon Sports, Cards in the Spokes, Automatic Biographies,
Kites, Kung Fu, Trophies, Banana Peels We've Slipped On and
Egg Shells We've Tippy Toed Over"
Yes, you read that correctly. Why? Fuck if I know. Ask the
Kinsellas, maybe they know better. Alongside from the fact that its
name is overly long, partly unfitting and somewhat horrible,
you'll probably be surprised to find out that - surprise - the album
is somewhat similar! There's a part where the whole thing starts
to slowly decline and turn into somewhat of a filler album. Namely
after In The Clear, which is track n° 5. Says a lot. Had it been
only those five songs in one debut EP, this would've been a pleasant
record—but past In The Clear, Burritos feels dull. Its
strongest bullets get fired off at the start, with the weaker ones
coming right after. Ain't fair, really. In any case, all those tracks
pre-n° 5 are damn good. Little League is a solid post-hardcore
introduction to the whole thing, Oh Messy Life is an instrumentally
relatable track and one that stands strong among those five, Puddle
Splashers has quite the set of percussions, and Flashpoint: Catheter
is a surprisingly nice, comforting change of pace with a somewhat
minimalist presence. Aside from those five - dodge the record.
3 / 5
Just about the catchiest fucking disco album that could've come
out after their debut. A deviation from Homework, Discovery
takes a more varied approach but with a few consistent themes;
innocence, music, and - guess what - love. All 14 tracks are more
or less connected to Interstella 5555 and vice versa, save for a
few which are simply ambient (Nightvision, Veridis
Quo). Despite the occasional switch between these themes and
their respective aural style, Discovery still manages to
keep everything proper and catchy as hell - only two tracks pretty
much stand out as somewhat "bad" (Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
and Nightvision, respectively), but even then, the rest of
the album still exists. And by God, it's fucking beautiful - no
exaggeration intended. The first three tracks are a knockout on
their own, with Aerodynamic only serving as a foreshadow for the
more darker undertone that appears later on in tracks like
High Life and Short Circuit. Tracks such as Something About Us and
Face To Face utilize vocals incredibly well and mix them with
the instrumentals almost flawlessly, with Face To Face's vocals
being practically inseperable from the rest of the song itself.
Voyager gives off a more post-disco vibe, but its sudden appearance
and style acts as a nice surprise. In the end, the whole thing comes
to a close with Too Long - fitting, considering the exact timespan of
ten minutes. The former half of Too Long acts as more of a buildup,
gradually getting the listener more and more prepared for the
absolute fucking banger of a breakdown at four and a half minutes.
Past that, it turns into an amazing display of samplework, utilizing
repetitive beats and vocals to create a sound greater than the sum
of its parts. Discovery is a definitive, essential disco
album - one that packs a punch any time of day, any time of year.
5 / 5
De La Soul
"3 Feet High and Rising"
Sample-based hip-hop at its finest. A remarkably enjoyable,
catchy and comedic album on more than a few occasions, utilizing
sketches and memorable lyricism to add a bit of that sitcomesque
pizzazz. Tracks like Say No Go make great use of samples
and the trio's intoxicatingly good vocals. A fair listen and one
that falls under the Pretty Sweet Classics category. Only real
cons are the partial repetition and overly-minimal sections,
but past that, it's a good fuckin' release.
4 / 5
"Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!"
It's like if Zappa decided to go for shock-value surrealist
humor combined with post-punk and art rock, basically. Are
We Not Men? is one really fucking weird album the first
time around, but with every replay, it continues to grow on me
- side A is a great experience and one that I can pick up for
the sake of just jamming out at almost any time, while side B
acts as more of a weak link, emphasizing the art rock and
surrealism part. Even so, it's a pretty sweet album and one
that holds up very easily. Any album that has a song dedicated
to actual retards while being catchy and memorable as fuck
holds up just fine in my book, honestly.
5 / 5
"Building the Perfect Beast"
Remember when George Harrison got the fuck outta dodge,
built his solo career album by album and then eventually
released Cloud Nine? Yeah, well, Henley's Building
the Perfect Beast can essentially be summed up as his
Cloud Nine. Don't take that negatively, though - by
all means, it's an alright album. The Boys of Summer, Building
the Perfect Beast, Land of The Living and Sunset Grill
are all great tracks, but the rest falls short due to its
overusage or tasteless usage of synths and eh-ish lyricism.
It's still quite the listen, though. Just doesn't really feel
all that right, I guess.
3 / 5
There was a period of time where all I ever felt like
listening to was nothing but this album. A darker, dumber
and shittier time, perhaps, but it allowed for a few more
moments of relating not to the lyricism - rather, the
aural mood and the feeling of dread that comes with it.
Elliott Smith succeeds at fulfilling its goal of
wanting the listener to experience possibly the same thing
Smith himself felt at the time of writing and recording;
emptiness. A somewhat catchy, comforting and soothing one,
surely, but emptiness nonetheless. Underneath its beautiful
acoustics and soft, calming vocals sits a set of tired
lyrics, filled with regretted loves, a feeling of self-hate,
an occasional finger-point of anger as a result of the hate,
and weary adventures or detailed descriptions of various
scenes. It's an album that can't really be put in shorter
terms or small descriptions - it's an experience in every
meaning of the word.
5 / 5
Fishmans is an odd band. While originally a more dub-oriented
underground collective, the release of LONG SEASON
gave their sound a boost in the shoegaze and psychedelia
department. Technically speaking, LONG SEASON is not
an album—rather, it's a single song split into five
parts. Each part, however, is usually different than the
previous one; only parts 1 and 5 are similar in that they
pretty much have the same instrumental structure, the
same lyrics albeit in a different tone, and a few instrumental
sections from Pt. 1 which are generally left unchanged. To
hear those sections again feels oddly refreshing, and Shinji
Sato's cathartic, simple ending to it all feels so comfortable.
As-is with many shoegaze and neo-psychedelia releases,
LONG SEASON is—at its core—an incredibly
comfortable experience. It's not an album, not really an EP,
but something in the middle. Its ending will only leave you
wanting for more of Fishmans' beautiful tones and aural
textures; which is easily soothed by '98.12.28 Otokotachi
no Wakare and its live rendition of LONG
SEASON—one that feels so natural, so euphoric and
vastly greater during Pt. 3 in contrast to its studio release.
5 / 5
"Tango in the Night"
Turning away from their blues rock roots by miles, Tango
in the Night adapts to a more catchier pop rock sound; one
that combines upbeat, synth-driven vocal jams and calmer,
acoustic tracks which give it a soft rock pizzazz of sorts.
Songs such as Big Love, Family Man and Isn't
It Midnight display the album's catchier, louder aspects,
with others such as Mystified and When I See You
Again having a much more sombre and soft approach to things.
Others have their own kind of style—Caroline, which
employs a more percussion-based sound combined with Buckingham's
expressive vocals and the album's recognizable synth style, or
You and I, Part 2 which has a catchier, city pop-like vibe.
It's a fairly diverse and enjoyable album—although don't
expect it to be replayable all too much.
4 / 5
The Go! Team
"Thunder, Lightning, Strike"
I'm inclined to believe that this is the logical conclusion to
indie pop. This album—fuck, this experience—is
just about as good as it can unironically get. With virtually no
sign of any kind of pessimism, darker undertones or anything of
the sort, Thunder, Lightning, Strike is quite possibly the
most optimistic and upbeat as hell indie pop album. Introducing
the listener to its core sound, Panther Dash utilizes a
lot of distorted noises, instrumentals, and even a goddamn
harmonica, which manages to blend fucking perfectly. Shortly
thereafter, Ladyflash comes in acting as the album's short
palette cleanser, deviating from the louder rock elements seen on
Panther Dash and moving to a more disco-like style with
great sample and vocal utilization. Similarly, Feelgood by
Numbers goes for a jazzier rock 'n roll style which manages
not only to be really catchy in a simplistic way, but it does so
by deviating even further from the first two tracks. As a
back-to-nature, The Power is On reintroduces the louder
indietronica elements alongside the album's trademark cheerleader
vocals—and it does so quite well, building the song up to
an incredibly beautiful repeated guitar riff which simply adds to
the loveable chaos of the whole thing. Later on, Bottle
Rocket shakes things up by utilizing a combo of 90s dance,
the album's staple indietronica sound, and a bit of the whole
jazz / rock 'n roll pizzazz—similar to Feelgood by
Numbers, albeit more intensive. It's here where the albums
shows just how damn good it can be, even when it repeats the same
couple of samples and parts a couple of times more than expected.
Slowly, the whole thing comes to a close with Huddle
Formation—a bit of a lookback at Panther Dash, but with
less of the distortion and volume, and more of the danceable
enjoyability. The whole thing ends with Everyone's a VIP to
Someone, a loveably simple soft rock track which contrasts
much with Huddle Formation—but in an obviously nice
way. There's a lot to be said in terms of this album's sound; but
at the end of the day, it is what it is - happy. And there's no
better, simpler way of describing it.
6 / 5
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
"F# A# ∞"
A few years ago, if you told me I'd gradually start appreciating
post-rock and the 14+ minute songs thereof, I would've probably told
you to go eat shit. But, as it turns out, that happened to be the
case. I recall listening to Lift Yr. Skinny Fists for the
first time, back in early 2017 or so, and thinking "well, shit, this
is a thing." It was a pretty solid thing, too. Unknown territory,
granted, since all I was used to at the time was your run-of-the-mill
boomer rock, occasional vidya OSTs and a bit of indie pop or something.
But it wasn't until I tried F# A# ∞'s "The Dead Flag
Blues," track n° 1 on the CD release, that I went 'holy shit'.
It felt like the logical fucking conclusion to music at the time, and
such an experience was great. Granted, I eventually flocked towards the
vinyl release later on and started preaching about how the CD release
sucks balls—but in retrospect, it's a great extension to the
vinyl. The Dead Flag Blues is a solid introduction to the pacing
of F# A# ∞ and its musical structure (in essence, a
intro-buildup-peak style), East Hastings displays the great
amount of emotion and terror that GY!BE can display through nothing
more than distortion, repetitive samples and amazing usage of strings,
and Providence simply acts as the logical conclusion to both;
a combo of The Dead Flag Blues' style seen in The Cowboy
and East Hastings' magical buildups, topped off with a cathartic
yet sombre ending. It's pretty fuckin' great—probably one of the
better post-rock experiences right next to Laughing Stock.
5 / 5
The cover—a single shade of albescent white—gives off a
good impression of what the album is like. Minimalistic, but with a
comfortable touch of warmth in its acoustics. Origami is a great
contemporary folk piece; one that isn't necessarily enjoyable so much
as beautiful with each passing track. Aoba mixes more faster tracks with
slower, simplistic ones, all including nothing more than her absolutely
intoxicating vocals and a surprisingly expressive acoustic guitar. The
whole thing keeps an extraordinarily comforting vibe and simply shows
just how good contemporary folk can get, with much variation in terms of
speed and tone, but with a consistent, loveable style.
5 / 5
A surprisingly hard-hitting piece of Japanese dream indie, Long
Goodbye is only one of Teikoku's several pieces. The EP keeps things
mostly short and to the point - save for FLOWER GIRL - with no more than
five tracks, the last one being more of a simple outro track. The EP itself
has a focus on loud, rough instrumentals, with soothing, high-pitched female
vocals acting as a contrast to the whole thing without moving away from the
formula of the whole thing too much. In some ways, it can be considered an
indie version of Loveless for the first three tracks. However, it's in
FLOWER GIRL where the album takes a surprising turn for the better;
moving away incredibly from the fast and upbeat rhythmics and instrumentals,
it instead focuses primarily on the vocals, distorted guitar drones and a
simple drum section. It keeps this formula going on for a good couple of
minutes, occasionally throwing in some more guitar samples plus a whole section
dedicated to what sounds like a fairly short piano bit that combines itself with
the rest of the instrumentals. Its culminations starts to slowly come into full
view, as the lyrics turn into nothing more than a multi-vocal singing of 'flower
girl' while the guitar starts slowly dropping into seemingly nothing. In the end,
it all comes to an end - only to reach out yet again, with a wave of distortion
and exceptionally loud guitar solos contrasting even further with the repeating
vocals. It is here where the EP truly reaches its peak; an unbelievable setup
that truly awards the listener with what can only be described as an ear-grinding
catharsis. Gotta bless the Japs for stuff like this. It's an amazing pleasure
to come across such sounds.
5 / 5
Low-Life acts as a catchy deviation from the more darker undertones
of Power, Corruption and Lies, despite being fairly low in its tone in
terms of its lyrics which mostly talk about unrequited loves and the like. In
addition, Elegia takes a complete shift from the whole thing by moving
away from the catchiness, the consistent love-related lyrics and drum
machine-filled backgrounds to a sinister instrumental filled with synth bits
and a few guitar riffs. But, aside from Elegia, the rest of the album
is pretty loveable; tracks such as This Time of Night have a great
instrumental depth to them while maintaining a danceable style and a structure
that feels intelligent, dumb as that may sound. A shame that a couple
of tracks got their Substance mixes in a way that didn't entirely fit
them, but oh well.
4 / 5
Oneohtrix Point Never
Lopatin's OPN era is a great one. I originally delved into his works by
listening to Eccojams, courtesy of his Chuck Person alias, but it
wasn't until I found out about Oneohtrix Point Never that I truly felt...
cathartic. Replica was a special one, and it sounded like an odd
mix between vaporwave and ambient combined with alienating sampleplay. But
it wasn't until I came across Memory Vague that things started to
click. Essentially, Memory Vague can be described as proto-vaporwave.
I say "proto-vaporwave" because it came out a whole year before Eccojams,
which technically makes it the basis of vaporwave as a whole rather than
Eccojams. The songs themselves vary in sound and tone; for sure,
tracks like Angel, Chandelier's Dream and Nobody Here
sound like what you'd expect on your average vaporwave release. But it's
in the other tracks where Memory Vague's beauty lies; a great example
would be Ships Without Meaning, a 7-minute track experimenting with
various synth noises and drones, creating a noise that can only be described
as peaceful beyond measure. In comparison, though, there are some tracks
that tend to be more upbeat - Unmaking the World kicks things up a
notch, and sounds like something you'd hear on an MSX2 release. In spite
of this, it blends well with the album's synthetic environment. Yet, at the
end of it all, Nobody Here shifts the focus from nice little beep-boops
to a repetitive, yet calmingly haunting sequence of "there's nobody here" and
a few instrumental lines, all sent into a loop taking two minutes. It's a
great ending to the album, and Lopatin couldn't do it any better.
5 / 5
There's always a mixture of thoughts that pass through me when I hear
some portion of an artist's discography with some shitty beforehand idea
of what to expect; usually something to the tune of "goddamn, I was an idiot"
and "this fucks". Or thereabouts. Aja is one such example. Coming
to it with the idea that all Becker and Fagen could put out was Do It Again
in different tones was vastly, vastly moronic, but honestly? I was
more than fine with being proven wrong here. A handful to be said;
Black Cow is quite the introductory groove, the title track is outright
beautiful, and pieces like Peg and Josie are fantastically engineered
jams, but Deacon Blues - holy shit. It's not every day that you
come across something that captures the fine essence of sleaziness and
suburbian dejection with a tone that's unbeatable, a sound that's so easily
engraved into your head after no more than a couple of repeats, a lyricism
that invokes some of the smugest smirks I've had in a good while. You're right,
Becker and Fagen. I will play just what I feel. And I feel like I could
do with more of this sound.
Essential listening. A grower, not a shower.
6 / 5