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Archive for February, 2009

Dead Leaf Echo’s Fire Is Anything But Pale

Posted by Scotio on February 19, 2009

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It’s been a while. I seem to get bombarded by real life and not enough time to actually do what I want. What I want to do is write. So, I’m taking this time out to jot down some words that forms a review for a band I’ve been asked to take a gander at. Dead Leaf Echo is the name of the band, and the album I was offered to review was their EP Pale Fire. I can’t express how much of a joy it is to be able to review such delightful record from an obviously talent trio. So, right off top, I’d like to send thanks to LG(lead singer, guitarist) for giving the opportunity, and apologize for the lengthy delay that passed from the sending to the actual posted review. In all honesty, it was due to procrastination and, then, lengthy listening from surprised enjoyment.

With only six(6) tracks on this EP, it’s not exactly epic in length. But, what it lacks in length, it more than makes up for in content. All the songs on this mini-album are sensational combinations of Post-Rock, Indie Rock & Shoegazing. Needless to say, I’m a well-rounded fan of the three(3) mentioned genres(or subgenres if you’re that much of a stickler). Almost every song here is atmospheric and sweeping. But, none moreso than the title track “Pale Fire.” Mixed by the unsung legend Ulrich Schnauss, the brooklyn band delivers something so true to the staple of shoegazing that you’re tempted to see if they are American relatives of the Shoegazing posterband My Bloody Valentine. It’s not only the best track, but also the lengthiest. Which, due to it’s captivating sound, works in its favor. LG croons on the track like he was Kevin Shield’s star pupil. But, there is no imitation or duplication involved in this performance. It’s such an inspiring display that if someone told you it was a tribute to the band, you’d be hard to contest it. What’s brilliant is that Liza(Keyboardist) sings background right along with LG. It adds to the sensation of the track. That, coupled with the air-like echoed effect on LG’s vocals, is just enough to do you in and take you under. The only one that could have done an equally impressive mixing job that Schnauss performed would be the remarkable Alan Moulder.

“Warm Body” is a great way to introduce the EP. It plays only for under two(2) minutes. But, it leads perfectly into “Thought Talk.” Now, this song stands out strongly. It’s not so much as shoegazing as it is stuck somewhere between New Wave & Dream Pop with just a soft hint of Psychedelia. But, wherever that actual location is, you’re right there with it like its sidekick while you listen. The drum work done on this is sex. The cadence that it keeps is damn near orgasmic. Easily, this should be a crowd favorite at live performances. The wicked part is for about fifty(50) seconds, the tempo kicks up and you can hear the band members lose themselves in their performance. When played in homes, it should come with a warning to not ignite your lighters for an encore . . . just press repeat/rewind.

Another strong nod to 80’s rock is “Reflex Motion.” It isn’t necessarily pop, and it isn’t completely gothic/gloomy. But, it’s equal parts of both. Back in a time when Robert Smith lead the goth army, this track would have caught the attention of every single soldier in said army. Outside of the not-so subtle The Cure comparison, there’s also a similar taste of Bauhaus resting inside the song. There isn’t tons of complexity in this track, but there is a large degree of effects pedal knobbing going on while the guitars are being strummed. Mike’s bass work for this track is flat-out awesome. It’s a simple and slow hypnotic groove that keeps you enveloped from the first second to the last. Being the final track on the record, I’m left to utter out “this is how you close a record! take heed people!” And, I meant every syllable said while in that room by my lonesome.

“Tears” and “Cry The Sea” seem to work hand in hand. Played back to back from one another, they go together like siblings. On “Cry The Sea,” LG sings like master of ceremony of your dying day. Interestingly enough, when the verse aren’t in play, the track is very much uptempo enough to have the audience swinging their raven-black hair. On “Tears,” they unleash another Loveless moment, but with easier to decipher lyrics. This time, Mic Controller LG sounds like a strange blend of Thom Yorke singing Shoegazing. Yeah, it works. Odd, I know, but it does. No, his voice isn’t something a dead ringer for Mr. Yorke, but his rhythm & harmony is similar to some work that you’ve heard from Radiohead.

This Brooklyn band is one for the books. They don’t disturb or diminish those whom have influenced their style. They live it. They breathe it. And, all they’re asking for is for you to take a few moments out of your life and take a ride with them. Me, personally, I greatly enjoyed the journey, and I can’t wait for their next release to hop back in that car. This three piece group(four if you include their live guitarist Ann B.) balance each other out better than most. Only two other three piece bands created after the new millenium offer such great chemistry: Yeah Yeah Yeahs & Autolux. And, like those other two, it wouldn’t be hard to find out that Dead Leaf Echo obtains a strong cult fan following in a few years. Hell, this record I’m reviewing is currently out of print for the second time, outside of a few copies left on two specific sites. So, that says something in terms of people enjoying their work(it is, however, easily available digitally). After spending a great deal of time listening to their work, I’m proud to say that they’ve obtain a new member of that cult. So, LG, if you’re reading this, I’d be more than pleased to get my fingers around a physical pressing of your releases. My collection looks incomplete without it. Fans of the aforementioned bands(or just fans of the Goth & Shoegazing movement of the 80’s), mark my words, you have some new Leuteniants to lead you through these troubled times.

P.S. They have a new album titled Truth set to be released April 4th.

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Anthony Green & Colin Frangicetto Reinvent Avalon

Posted by Scotio on February 13, 2009

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Anthony Green. Here’s a name that is well known in the Indie Alternative Rock circle. Being the lead singer/co-founder of Circa Survive, former/original lead singer of Saosin, Co-Lead singer for experimental band The Sound Of Animals Fighting and being featured on a growing number of tracks for various bands . . . it’s hard not to have heard of the guy. Last August, he released his first solo effort, with assistance from the band Good Old War, titled Avalon. It was an predominately acoustic collection of songs written from a span of teen years to right before recording. His Circa Survive Bandmate/Co-Founder Colin Frangicetto turned around and remixed tracks off of the album. No, not a few, but the entire album.

Colin breathes new life into the songs that Anthony birthed. All have new signs of electronic elements added to them; some obvious, some not so much. The new formed songs take off running with such spectacular sounding tweaks that it’s like it’s a whole new album. What’s astonishing about the remixes is that Colin played all the instruments. No, I’m not talking about created loops and turned them off and on. Instead, he played all the instumental pieces all the way through. Part by part. So, there’s no loops. It’s like a live band assembled to create that sound. That’s something to brag on by itself. There are some pieces that he kept in the tracks, though(either in their original spot, or rearranged them). But, there’s more to hold your head up about, Colin & Anthony.

There are several standout tracks for this remix album. The entire thing is wonderful, but some are just beyond. I’ll list them in random order. When “She Loves Me So” comes on, you realize that this isn’t the folksy album that you took an original liking towards. The electronic hums and bleeps fit perfectly with the heavy bass kick and simple snare tap underneath Anthony’s worried lyrics. The new backing track offers a subtle sway to the moment of the track, which is contradicted by the claps and slaps of the chorus. Yet, it works together like Yin Yangs. “Babygirl” has an brief electronic introduction that slightly resembles 80’s pop tracks. The guitar played is from the original song, yet it feels so new and refreshed with this new beat. It almost sounds like something that should be played at an island resort. It’s hard not to imagine an extra air of confidence that the new form offers to the confessing lyrics. For those that dedicated the original to their beloveds, they’ll be able to two step and bob for this new dedication.

“Slowing Down(A Long Time Coming)” is my personal favorite song on this release. The reverse tracked sound did me in the moment the song came on. The electronic “chirp’ just makes the song beautiful. For the verses, Colin distorted Anthony’s vocals, making him sound like he’s behind a screen of static or just singing in a really crappy quality mic. It, actually, gives the track that much more emotion. The song itself speaks on wanting to part not because you don’t love the person, but because you are afraid that they’ll fall away from you due to your disagreements. Though the lyrics for the first and second verses are nearly identical, they still speaks so loud and voluminous. Even the effects on the guitar at the beginning gives off such a lonely and isolated tone. I’ve listened to this track for a number of times that only iTunes can give away. Let’s just say, it’s top notch, in my book. My second favorite track(and the favorite of my misses) is “Miracle Sun.” This track is the audio embodiment reaching out to someone. To sit there and call someone/thing your Miracle Sun is a dynamically bold statement. The Synths added in, for some reason, gives it a dawning morning feel. The slight echoed/delayed effect added to the guitar on the chorus brings out more isolation from the moment. The line “Where do you go when it gets dark?/And is there room for me there?” is the boldest testament to wanting something brighter than your norm.

The song that Colin couldn’t wait to get his hands on was “Califone.” His remix is beautifully sad. Not in the “bad” sense of sad. With the track nestled comfortably between “Slowing Down” & “Miracle Sun,” it gives off the idea that a Tri-Fecta has occured in the middle of this album. The computerized digital bleeps that sound like they are running up and down an old Sci-Fi movie’s circuit board does strange wonders to the verses. During the verses the electric guitar sings a swan song, whereas, switching gears for the chorus, it moves into an anthemic instrument for a drifter. The album closer “Ripped Apart” is epic. There isn’t a lot inside of it, but the electronic bass drum, synthesized keyboard and ambience make it feel omnious. Then, the chorus kicks in, and you’re treated to some almost Lo-Fi Electronic Dance music. Then, it goes back to being as serious as the “Dumn Dumn” from Law & Order. It’s a two-sided coin, and you’ll want it to keep flipping.

This is really a must have for Circa Survive fans. Not only for the fact that it’s two members of the band that ended up “collaborating” on this, but it’s the two founding members of the band. Plus, the friggin’ thing is actually really good. It makes you wonder what would come about if the two decide that, after the next Circa album, they wanted to pair up and do a lo-fi electronic album together. I, for one, would totally welcome the idea after hearing this experiment. This remix is as much of Colin’s as it is Anthony’s. That’s why Anthony put a Plus sign(see: “+”) instead of “Remixed by” on the actual album. The original album was pretty nifty. The remix is a collectible. No, literally. There are only going to be 1000 of them(and, yes, I have one) issued along with the Vinyl pressing of the original album. My only boggle with the physical CD was that it didn’t come in a “dressed” case. A simple white sleeve with Mr. Green & Mr. Frangicetto’s John Hancocks on it, and the number out of 1000 that I own. That kind of left me feeling sad, as when the package showed up, I deleted my download that you get when you buy the album. Sadly, that included the art files from the download(If anyone out there has all the individual art/production credit files, I’d feel most obliged if you could toss them my way). I implore you all to support this. You’ll want to own it legitimately. Not to mention that Anthony & the Circa boys are pretty stand-up guys. They totally release material to help support some causes that are close to their hearts. Why not back up someone like that?

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The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus Are Alone On This Road

Posted by Scotio on February 12, 2009

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The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus is a quartet from Florida that some of you little keen to the music scene kids might have heard about. Their major label debut, Don’t You Fake It, caused quite the headturning situation in the alternative music radio world. They weren’t too emo, but they weren’t too serious, either. It was the perfect balance of fun and abstract youth. They’ve recently released their second album with Virgin Records entitled Lonely Road. Sadly, I’ve never felt such a fitting title to an album.

Lonely Road seems, for some reason, to alienate out the fans of the band whom enjoyed their indepedent release and the strength behind the major label debut. It, instead, fights to dance carelessly across the overly thick line of commercialism. The band seemed like they weren’t entirely sure on what they wanted to accomplish with this effort. On one song, they sound like a Canal Street(see “cheap”) version of Guns N Roses from the early 90’s. Then, they release several songs where they blend in perfectly with the hordes of indistinguishable mainstream alternative acts that has their songs played on Top 40 radio.

If their ultimate goal was to come up with an album that completely dumbed down the work they did on their previous releases, and shoot for the cash registers . . . oh, I’m sorry, I meant iTunes check out area, then they hit a bullseye dead smack center. Fans expecting something more entertaining than their first major offering, or even something of equal caliber, will be very disappointed. Hell, you’re tempted to wonder what they were thinking on the song “Believe.” It combines a pitiful attempt at combining DooWop with “Contemporary Rock.” I guess they were trying to cocktail up a new version of the “Power Ballad.” If this song was a drink, you’d be waking up with Shrek’s relative in your bed wondering how will it be possible to kill yourself without waking them up and saving your life. Even the title track for this album comes across as an unnecessary attempt. The group seems to take a cue from the more famous of “Regular Rock” bands and adds in a Choir to sing out how lonely that road is that they are treading. Yet again, they find themselves releasing something that is best classified as a Wannabe Track. This time, it’s Bon Jovi(today’s version . . . yeah, I know) that they try to emulate only to result in an imitation.

Now, of course it’s not all bad. There are some saving grace songs, such as “Represent” and “Pleads & Postcards.” On these tracks, they give you glimmers of hope of giving you what lured you in the first time around. But, obviously, it’s not enough to buoy this Titanic album. Hopefully, for these four boys, there won’t be any string section strumming out their last moments. Everyone stumbles from time to time, and let’s just have faith that these guys will get it together enough to pull back in the fans that they’ve managed to give cause towards questioning them. Yes, hope for that instead of feeling that the mainstream monster has it’s talons in them, and they’ll only become more of the band that leaves you tirelessly defending their first releases while being pummeled with the fact that their later albums should only be played at a Pre-Teen’s Birthday Party.

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Chris Cornell Screams Sell-Out

Posted by Scotio on February 2, 2009

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Ok, I’m all for artists exploring and expanding. I can’t stand anything stagnant and dull. I’m one for change/growth. Still, there are some things that you should just know better than to do. Chris Cornell, this goes out to you. The new album, Scream, is produced entirely by Timbaland. Wait. Pause. Stop. Rewind. Timbaland? Are you being for real? Mister “Friggy-Friggy”? With Chris Cornell? The man who pleaded to the Black Hole Sun? Ok, I normally don’t like doing negative review posts, but there are just some things that need to be talked about. This album is definitely one of those things. Now, granted, I was thrown off when I found out about the collab between to the musical . . . umm . . . entities? Yeah, that’s a good choice of words. But, I decided that, maybe it isn’t so bad. I mean, Cornell did team up with the musical crew of Rage Against The Machine, right? Timbaland couldn’t have convinced Cornell to do anything drastic right? Right? Hello? Is that an echo?

Umm . . . hmm . . . I feel bad doing this. Why? Because I’m a serious old school Cornell fan. But, I guess . . . just like that crazy lady that I’m eternally romantically attached to say . . . medicine isn’t always pleasant tasting, but it’s needed. So, yeah, “Ground Zero” is a song on the album. The music and the Timbaland “Ey!”‘s that were featured on Nelly Furtado’s album screams out radio single. Chris Cornell seems uncomfortable on this song(actually, on all of the songs, but we’ll get to that). It doesn’t seem like a good match at all. This track just feels like it belongs in the hands of someone who relies on studio magic to come across as a moderate(read: successfully climbing up today’s musical charts).

“Part Of Me” is the album opener. And, yeah, man it was the start of bad things. A prologue of despair would be trying to be polite. The Chorus seems like something some Wack&B singer would croon out for a commercial rapper’s goofball ranting track. To sit there and say that you’re so into the girl but her problems just seem to be too much is one thing. But, to just freely toss out the bitch word just seems like a sad attempt at being edgy. I mean, cool. Feel that she’s a bitch. But, say that under your breathe(or out loud when you’re all alone). Don’t take this crappy route, man. Come on, Chris. What are you doing? The Spoonman bows his head in shame because of this.

“Never Far Away” HAS to have been a Justin Timberlake song. There isn’t ONE single solitary piece of this song that doesn’t scream JT. The beat, the singing melody, the lyrics  . . . all of it seems like a b-side to FS/LS. It’s really bowel movement inducing to sit there and deal with that. Like, let me get something straight here: If JT did the song. Sure, it would have been a cool track. It would have been one of those closet pleasure songs that I’d have to hide from people knowing that I enjoy. But, with Chris on this track, it just feels like he lost a bet or something and had to do the song. No, he doesn’t half-ass the song. I think that’s the problem. His voice isn’t suited for Candy Pop. There’s too much edge to it. There’s a strain laced through it from the years of dishing out good Rock music(save for the last Audioslave album, of course). But, no, don’t think that I’m being a bully. Let me show you why, the song “Long Gone” falls under that same category. JT or Rihanna or one of those other half talented singers would have aced this right out of the park. Chris Cornell makes you sit there and wonder “Dude, was reuniting with Garden really THAT bad of an idea for you to end up deciding to do this?” I mean, to just be fair, it’s as confusing as seeing Shaggy & Scooby performing in a Tag Team MMA event. Yeah, doesn’t settle right with your mental, does it? I know.

“Take Me Alive”, I’ll admit, did start off pretty damn “sexy”(to steal from the crazy woman, yet again). It had like a Bollywood feel to the song(Someone saw a Slumdog Millionaire preview?). The sitar and string sounds work well with him singing like was playing Jafar in an Aladdin Rock Opera. Hell, I’ll be truthful. If the whole album had this feel, I would have felt like I was eating Shell Toes for dinner. But, such wasn’t the case. I don’t know whether I was happy for being right from the start . . . or upset for predicting the failure that was to come once I pressed play. I’d rather take this song 13 times than any of the other tracks once. “Watch Out” plays out like some sort of angry pop track. Yes, the oxymoronic statement has been put into play. The synthesized guitar loop is annoying at best. The Timbaland Stutters before the Chorus makes you do a double take at the sadness that is the track. The cheap titty bar drum loops makes you re-evaluate what type of downward spiral must one be stuck on to make this sort of crud. I’ve heard more angst on some songs from Daughtry than what this tried to sneak over(or under) people. It’s quite strange having to state that and then look at whom I’m reviewing here.

Outside of that one track, the rest of the album just plays out like the same old song and dance that you’ve heard from Timbaland ever since he got his new MMG label. It’s very disappointing to see Chris Cornell sell his soul like that. I understand that everyone wants to make dynamic impacts all across the board, but this is just like something from Faust. I’m crying flagrant foul with this release. It’s heartbreaking and tragically desperate in every sense of the phrase. And, adding in small uses of profanity throughout the album won’t stop the people from calling this Justin Timberlake’s unreleased album. I’m sure there’s a very strong chance that the countless number of pop music drones will probably gobble this up, and Cornell will, for once, feel like a Mega Media Star. He should have been content being a Rock DemiGod. Now, he’s lower on the respect totem pole than he’s ever been. Only a Soundgarden Reunion album will wash away the pain that has been dealt with this blow. And, yes, this blows.

*Note: I know I didn’t get into great detail on the actual pieces of the song that makes them fall or fail . . . but if you’re familiar with the type of pop music that he’s doing now, I don’t even think the details need to be addressed.

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