System And Station - A Nation Of ActorsSystem And Station
Album title: A Nation Of Actors
By Cactus Joe
Posted: Nov 2008
Label: Latest Flame Records
(2009) Page Views
“A Nation of Actors” is the fourth full-length album by SYSTEM AND STATION. The August 2008 release is poppier than its predecessor, “Here is Now.” It has a guitar heavy and rhythmically progressive sound that forms the foundation for gentle and sometimes plaintive melodies and lyrics.
“The earlier System and Station stuff is pretty ‘prog rock’ with a lot of changes and six or seven minute songs,” said RFK Heise, principle songwriter in the band. “On this record we really tried to focus in on cutting out the unnecessary and get to the heart of the songs. I think doing that it really defined an identity for what we have been trying to do for a lot of years now.”
The music isn’t especially hooky, but I found myself drawn to the overall sound quality of the record. So perhaps “cerebral” is a good descriptor, although that suggests mellow music, which this isn’t. The song structures, instrumentation, and dynamics are reminiscent of early JANE’S ADDICTION, an influence in Heise’s songwriting.
“‘Ritual [de lo Habitual]’-era JANE’S ADDICTION definitely…and I’m a big classic rock fan,” Heise said. “Everything from LED ZEPPELIN, BUILT TO SPILL, and THE POLICE. I am super into YES. The idea before was to write epic rock songs, but it started to get to be too much. So now we are trying to be a little more accessible.”
SYSTEM AND STATION formed in Boise, ID in 1998 and have called both Madison, WI (1998-2001) and Portland, OR home since (they currently reside in the latter city). SYSTEM AND STATION has performed with the likes of MARKY RAMONE, SHINER, BUILT TO SPILL, BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB, and THE MEAT PUPPETS. They completed their 19th national tour in September.
Fragile Utopia - Fragile UtopiaFragile Utopia
Album title: Fragile Utopia
By Chris Fox
Posted: Nov 2008
Label: Self Released
(3005) Page Views
Thrash metal guitar without all the screams. This Madison local group does a great job bringing a unique mix to the painfully categorized metal scene. “Stillframe,” the album’s third track, provides insight to what the group is all about: a mixture of clean and distorted leads, heavy bass lines, and smooth vocals. “Machine” brings back the thrash metal feel, and proves the cyclical abilities of this group.
Land Of Talk - Some Are LakesLand Of Talk
Album title: Some Are Lakes
By John Noyd
Posted: Oct 2008
Label: Saddle Creek
(1954) Page Views
Streamlined and road-tested, the ten tantalizing tracks of Montreal’s Land of Talk full-length debut are the result of several years touring that had the group shuffling members until the current trio emerged as the perfect foil for singer, songwriter and guitarist Elizabeth Powell’s sharp narratives. Recorded in a converted church near their home town except for one track originating from Justin Vernon’s parent’s house in Eau Claire, there is a refreshing compactness to the tunes that leaves plenty of room for well-controlled gusto. A balancing act of agitated riffs and hustling bluster, “Lakes,” smash and shimmer as it reflects restless perspectives of timeless entanglements. Opening for Broken Social Scene Oct 11th at Madison’s UW Union Theater, LoT offer complicated conversations instead of idle chit chat.
Lucas Cates Band - All The PiecesLucas Cates Band
Album title: All The Pieces
By Cactus Joe
Posted: Oct 2008
Label: Self Released
(2924) Page Views
“All the Pieces,” the second album from Madison WI natives The Lucas Cates Band, is a thoroughly danceable, musically tight and well produced piece of pop rock work. Released in 2008, “All the Pieces” is a 100% self-produced follow-up to the band’s 2005 debut “Contradictory” (released on Madison’s PopBomb label).
“This record was done completely independently,” Cates said. “I produced the record with the guys and our investor. Everything is independent now and I like it that way. The music is what we want it to be.”
These are well-constructed, dynamic original songs, all written by Lucas Cates himself and arranged by the band. While the lyrics are both touching and emotive, the first impulse I had on listening to this record was simply an urge to get up and dance. This is music I would enjoy at an outdoor summer music festival rather than in the car or on my MP3 player. The grooves are great, the musicianship solid. This is rock’n’roll best served “live.”
The lyrics on this album, which I read on the CD jacket, have a universal mass appeal. The songs cover topics everyone can relate to, like love lost (“Love Broke Her Heart”), current events (“Numb,” about global warming), and injustice (“1492”). The title track “All the Pieces” is about the ups and downs in life, and looking on the bright side.
“We have progressed a lot as a band in the last year and a half, and after this year we’ll have had six major national tours,” Cates said. “I have met a lot of great people who are working as hard as I am and believe in the project. “All the Pieces” is about everything coming together and all these wonderful people whose paths have collided to put us where we are now.”
That said, this is music I just want to blindly shake my booty to with a cute girl on a summer day, not contemplate the depth and meaning of the lyrics. If I had to criticize anything about this album it might be just that the music is too damn upbeat in contrast to the more serious lyrical ideas presented.
There is a decent variety of musical styles on this album, with songs ranging from the more solo singer/songwriter stuff to the full-band rock out jams. Lucas plays rhythm guitar and sings with a voice that is tonally rich and bold, on par with contemporaries in this genre like Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz.
“John Mayer, Dave Matthews, and Jack Johnson were all people I listened to growing up,” Cates said. “I hesitate to say that we sound like these bands. I have the utmost respect for John Maier as a musician, a singer and a songwriter. He’s probably my biggest influence, but I appreciate all good musicianship. Dave Matthews was a main influence when I started playing guitar in college. I like Jack Johnson and Willie Porter for their songwriting.”
“All the Pieces” was released in August 2008. The band has been touring since early September to promote the record and they will host a CD release party for the album on Saturday October 18th, 2008, at the Brink Lounge in Madison, WI (www.thebrinklounge.com). There will be an “all ages” show from 9:00 to 10:30 followed by an “over 21 only” show from 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Light Pollution - Light PollutionLight Pollution
Album title: Light Pollution
By Dan Vierck
Posted: Sep 2008
(2134) Page Views
In the vein of Midwest post-indie folk groups, or rural musical collectives, Light Pollution is a welcome beacon in our coast-less sound scape. Melancholy but vibrant, exuberant without being lighthearted and legitimately captivating whilst dodging contrition and pretentiousness, this Chicago four-to-five piece hits like a major indie label heavyweight.
Despite transitioning band members and the death of their electric organ (as documented in the music video for “Firewood”), the band has maintained show dates and managed to put out a white-vinyl-and -download-only self-titled EP. Singer, guitarist, pianist, whatever-ist Jim Cicero is blunt about the band’s single-minded future, “Making the new record perfect [is the most important thing].”
The music is as smooth as sailing in a row boat with a choppy wind. The movement is rolling with the punctuation and sweet feel of lake spray against your exposed skin. With the horns and strings, the music swells in front of a steady bass drum and full guitar strumming with accentuating pops and rolls from the snares and cymbals. There are more layers than the band has musicians. The sound is robust, inviting and engaging.
As odd as it is sensible, Light Pollution owes a lot of its sound to 90’s post-hardcore groups like Rival Schools and Glassjaw, especially in the rhythm section. The odd hits and fills harken to a rawer time in underground music and the vocals harken that way as well. Cicero sounds like he’s indifferent to singing, but like it’s something deeper that he can’t control that’s driving him and coming out through his throat.
“These songs have more string and horn arrangements,” Cicero says about the EP, “and by recording on our own terms we allowed ourselves to experiment more, incorporating found sounds, dissonant piano rolls; noise in general.” Whatever you can find in any of their songs, it always has the building quality of a ghost howling behind you, chasing you up a flight of stairs that’s really a cliff - and that’s a good thing.
Deadly Sins - Selling Our WeaknessesDeadly Sins
Album title: Selling Our Weaknesses
By Dan Vierck
Posted: Sep 2008
Label: Dirty Mick Records
(2024) Page Views
Any mention of new-ish Boston punk rock outfit Deadly Sins and their full-length, “Selling Our Weaknesses” (Durty Mick, Sept. 2) will almost invariably be coupled with the information that lead singer Stephanie Dougherty was the woman who sang on Dropkick Murpheys’ “The Dirty Glass.” Here is no exception, though this marriage of information is misleading.
With Deadly Sins it’s a much more standard approach to modern east coast punk rock than the Murpheys. Both bands have that solid, unforgiving push to their music and the shouting over singing approach to vocals. Deadly Sins, however, takes advantage of Dougherty’s sultry vocals here and there by slowing down and letting her really sing; though there’s definitely a more raw than a refined, smooth and boozy sound.
The music itself comes closest to Alkaline Trio, but with more punch. The tight hooks are backed up with what sounds like a whole crowd yelling along behind the band. They do move around a bit more and try things out a little more liberally than most bands on their debuts, which keeps the album teetering and tottering throughout the listen. It’s refreshing to hear the difference between the straightforward opener “Grey Skies Turn” and the almost Blondie refrain of “Yard Sale,” but at the same time it keeps the record from maintaining any kind of engaging consistency.
This record has elements from every niche of contemporary rock and punk, appealingly arranged on top of each other, each given its moment in the sun throughout the spin. Mostly though, if it’s definitively one thing, it’s a solid Boston punk rock record.
Black Sabbath - The Rules of Hell (Box Set)Black Sabbath
Album title: The Rules of Hell (Box Set)
By Jeff Muendel
Posted: Aug 2008
Label: Rhino Records
(2161) Page Views
There’s no denying the Ozzy-era Black Sabbath and that band’s groundbreaking sound. But, it is also undeniable that Ronnie James Dio saved Black Sabbath when he took over as vocalist in 1980. When founding members Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler chose Dio as their new vocalist, the group’s sound matured, and it gave Sabbath another two years of productiveness before the band spiraled into near obscurity as lineup change after lineup change gradually eroded away all identity. Though Dio’s time with the metal pioneers produced only two studio albums and one live release, those years added an unforgettable chapter in Black Sabbath’s history. In 1992, Dio rejoined Black Sabbath after a decade on his own to record an album called Dehumanizer. While the recording doesn’t capture the fire of the earlier releases, it nonetheless offers many fantastic cuts, and produced another tour wherein the older material could be performed again.
Rhino Records has now released a box set that includes all four of these recordings – Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules, Live Evil, and Dehumanizer – all recently remastered for the first time. The set comes packaged in a deluxe black (how much more black could it be?) slipcase with extensive liner notes featuring new interviews with the band members. This five-disc box set sounds great and looks as evil as it should. Heaven and Hell sounds more awesome than ever with the new mastering; Mob Rules retains its status as the most under-appreciated release of the entire Black Sabbath canon; and Live Evil offers up extended jams and alternative arrangements from both albums. If you like Dio or the Dio-era Black Sabbath, this box set is a must-have.
My Chemical Romance - The Black ParadeMy Chemical Romance
Album title: The Black Parade
By Rocky Linderman
Posted: Jun 2008
Label: Warner Brothers
(2090) Page Views
It has become hard to live in America. In a few short years we, the American people, have had to learn how to live with the constant threat of terrorist attacks. We have had to endure the loss of brave men and women who laid down their lives in Iraq. And now more recently we are learning to live with an economy that is on the decline. Things are not looking good. Americans are living in fear. Its everywhere that you look. You can feel it in the very air that you breathe. That is why My Chemical Romance’s third album, “The Black Parade” is so important to our time.
No other album released this year has been able to capture the fear that is so prevalent in our country. Forged from the anguish of mental illness, the loss of loved ones, and the pain of knowing that all living things must die, “The Black Parade” captures the essence of what it means to be a human being. It isn’t just an album it’s a story. It’s a concept album that tells the story of a character, who is simply known as, “The Patient.”
When the story first begins The Patient is informed that he is going to die. The album then examines the things that The Patient has endured throughout his lifetime. The first track on the album, “The End,” is an epic beginning to a stunning record that isn’t afraid to face life head on. Every song is an exploration of a particular fear. The guys of My Chemical Romance take on everything. Whether its the fear of dying, the fear of having to live without someone, the fear of addiction and the enslavement it brings, the fear of living up to your parent’s expectations, the fear of having someone walk out on you, the fear of not being accepted, the fear of a terminal illness and the pain it will cause, or the fear of eternal damnation each is represented on the album.
My Chemical Romance takes every one of these possible terrifying situations and dives right in. It is not an easy record to listen to. My Chemical Romance do not pull their punches, but that is what makes the album so great. They are able to tell their listeners that this is how life is, it is a mortifying, paralyzing experience and it will rip you apart if you let it. But that is the key, if you let it.
Every one of the songs leads up to a grand climax. The message that My Chemical Romance is trying to impart to their listeners is finally made clear, living life is a scary thing and all of these horrible things will happen to you, but you can’t give up. You can’t be afraid to live your life. The final song on “The Black Parade,” entitled, “Famous Last Words,” says it best, “I am not afraid to keep on living. I am not afraid to walk this world alone.”
“The Black Parade” is a truly marvelous album that is unlike anything our generation has seen before. The only record that it is even comparable to is Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and just like Pink Floyd was able to capture the fears of their generation, My Chemical Romance has exposed the fears of a new generation. “The Black Parade” is a towering beacon of hope in a world that desperately needs some good news. You owe it to yourself to listen to this album.
Spiritualized - Songs in A & ESpiritualized
Album title: Songs in A & E
By John Noyd
Posted: Jun 2008
Label: Fontana International/Spaceman
(1628) Page Views
Heavenly choirs and late-night lullabies are interspersed among sutured blues and scalding psychedelia as Britian’s Spiritualized re-emerges with another overflowing opus. A modern odyssey reflecting the scary times in which we live; “Songs,” howls, sings and mumbles its way through reverence and misery. Front man, Jason Pierce, continues to explore metaphors for war, love and drugs - stirring together a half-buried blend of blazing guitars, spaced-out harmonics and the occasional pop melody to round out the mix. A tumultuous cavalcade of passion and torment, Spiritualized bravely rises to celebrate, communicate and commiserate through hard-lived logic and clinging hope. Equally adept at portraying the claptrap of an unhinged mind and the purity of a healed heart, “Songs,” rings, rips and resonates - indulging, retracting and sorting through galactic debris.
Time To Kill - InsanityTime To Kill
Album title: Insanity
By Jeff Muendel
Posted: May 2008
Label: Turkey Vulture Records
(2074) Page Views
The band Time To Kill came together at the end of 2006 in Wisconsin Rapids when guitarist K. Monville and drummer Paul Huser joined forces. They then added bass player Chad Nordman and completed the group with lead singer Nicole Williams. The resulting sound is somewhere between the thrash metal of Slayer and the aggressive punk of Suicidal Tendencies. While much of the CD has a fast meter, the group knows when to slow it to a Black Sabbath grind with songs like “Emotionless” and when to take it to the speed limit with cuts like “No Forgiveness.” Time To Kill gets bonus points for having a female front the group while retaining the sort of sound and attitude that usually subsists in all-male factions.
Kris Delmhorst - Kris DelmhorstKris Delmhorst
Album title: Kris Delmhorst
By John Noyd
Posted: May 2008
Label: Signature Sounds
(2079) Page Views
Embellished in voodoo spookiness that creeps and sweeps over open poems embracing life’s jamboree, Delmhorst’s, “Shotgun,” paints panoramas of blue skies and bayous. Playing light and breezy as easily as dark and swampy, her intoxicating voice shines like moonlight as, “Shotgun,” flickers and glows, fluttering between fiery passions, coy temptations and uncertain futures. Creating the record holed up in a cabin communing with her muse, Delmhorst eventually opened up her solo versions to several distinguished musical associates, giving “Shotgun,” a meditative freshness and outgoing friendliness. Skipping from drum machine hippie to solemn and solitary confessor, Delmhorst’s odes of appreciation for the rewards of simple pleasures are resoundingly satisfying. Always a thought-fueled songwriter, her Thoreau intentions produce transcendental results that steadily steal into your very soul.
In Flames - A Sense of PurposeIn Flames
Album title: A Sense of Purpose
By Kirin Furst
Posted: Apr 2008
(2173) Page Views
In 1990, a new genre was forged by these Swedish bands: In Flames, Dark Tranquility and At the Gates. It wasn’t until the later 90’s that melodic death metal caught on and since then In Flames has steadily grown in international popularity. Rejecting from the beginning the trademark brutality of parent genre death metal, they have increasingly moved away from the discussion of more grandiose Lovecraftian themes to those of personal despair, a change some pin to “Reroute to Remain” (2002) or “Soundtrack to Your Escape” (2004). At the same time, In Flames began incorporating influence from bands it had spawned which was a plethora of modern metal genres.
Long-standing In Flames fans express disappointment with the band’s ‘selling out’ to an American market inundated with bad nu-metal and pussified alternative. Those particular fans will shit criticism of the newest release, “A Sense of Purpose” (April 2008). The album sparkles clean with chorus-y layered vocals (a nice touch, but highly unnecessary in such quantity), introspective, angst-sodden lyrics, and the occasional ballad-rock string plucking. Aside from these rather superficial explorations into a more highly produced, epic, yet not necessarily more mature incarnation of In Flames, the best moments often feel regurgitated.
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