Codes and Keys: A Review

A quick listen through the new Death Cab for Cutie album, Codes and Keys, and it’s clear that this is the group’s finest album yet. With their last album, Narrow Stairs, some fans were ready to write the group off as a band that would live on only in the hearts of people who watched The OC in High School.

Codes and Keys seems like a progression from their 2005 album, Plans–more “concept” style songs that don’t rigidly follow traditional song structure. That is what they have done on their latest effort, while at the same time, shedding some of their abundance of angst and sentimentality.

Now that the band has been fairly well established, it sounds like they have become much more comfortable in expressing their creativity. You can tell it is the album they wanted to make. It is not so much an album of memorable hooks, but hidden sonic surprises, sprinkled throughout each track. It is an album that will continue to surprise you with each additional listen.

Codes and Keys is definitely worth listening to and the sound is unique enough that it may have some good shelf life. If the band continues to develop their sound and continue to push themselves like they have done here, Death Cab for Cutie are set to be one of the more memorable bands of the last decade.

Turn it up!

-Daniel


Sentimentalism. Beady Eye review.

Before you read this review you need to know a little bit about me and my taste. I am a sentimentalist. Things that connect to my childhood or experiences I have with people have very high value to me.

With that being said, I remember 2001 and buying three albums that have a lot of value to me. Coldplay- Parachutes, Travis- The Invisible Band, and Oasis- (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. Before these albums my musical taste was….limited. I basically had The Beatles, The Who, and U2. When I bought these albums I researched them, as I do. I got really into the “Britpop invasion” of the post-grunge nineties. I discovered Blur, Radiohead (who outgrew Britpop in 1997), the verve, and others. I remember listening to Be Here Now in my friend Jaden’s car. I remember looking at the album cover to Morning Glory when working at a concession with my friend Ginger. These are moments I remember. I will always have a soft spot for these bands, no matter how “bad” their music may get.

Now for the review. Do not expect any originality on this album. This is Oasis without Noel. Some may think that Oasis hasn’t made a good record in awhile; I think Don’t Believe the Truth was a fantastic album. This album is by no means fantastic. I enjoyed the album.

This is a fun album, it is nothing new, and it is simple and direct. The thing best thing about the album is that it is not at all trying to hide its British invasion fandom (one of the songs is titled Beatles and Stones). What Beady Eye does well is execute. Liam is a great front man who can sing classic rock songs. Gem, Andy, and Chris are great musicians. The writing and the feeling of laziness is the major flaw of this album. Most of the lyrics feel like they are written by some made for MTV music guy. This is an album that is fun, especially if you like cheesy, lighthearted, classic rock.

Recommended listening: Four Letter Word, For Anyone, Bring the Light.


Into a Clear Lake

Named after a Talking Heads song, Radiohead started as few snobby British art school kids. Now they can only be viewed as the greatest band in the world. This is proven in their latest album; how it sounds, what it represents, how it was released. This band breaks all the rules of the modern music world. It is more then releasing their own record online, they did it without anyone leaking it, they did it cheap, and they are making the money.

In Rainbows (2007) in a similar fashion and they made $30 million! With the current state of music being leaked, ruined, and controlled by some faceless entity in a window office, Radiohead does things their own way and people follow without question. I am a follower.

I started listening to Radiohead around 2002, this was late to the party. I was 15. I was blown away by this band. I had only ever been blown away one other time, that was when I listened to The Beatles when I was a little kid. I knew this band was different then every other thing out there. I am extremely fond of Thom, Johnny, Colin, Ed, Phil, and Stanley (he is in the band!)

The King of Limbs marks yet another leap the band makes. As significant as the change from The Bends to OK Computer to Kid A. This is them getting better, which I thought to be impossible. It is simple and touching, and it expands and shrinks, it rises and falls. It came as a shock mentioned last week, delivered an entire day earlier then announced, and again I am blown away. It is really, really good.

My current favorite part of the 8 track is the three-in-a-row masterpiece of Lotus Flower, Codex, Give Up the Ghost. Lotus Flower will be the first track most people listen to because it has been mentioned the most, and has an incredible video of Thom contorting artistically. It may be the best new track, it has rhythm, grace, and shows off Yorke’s vocals like all the best Radiohead songs do. It is followed by Codex, which is a throw back to the haunting simplicity of Exit Music (for a film). This song slows the pace and sets you up perfectly for the acoustic pound of the beginning of Give Up the Ghost. This song really gives it to you; great guitar beginning, incredible chorus, perfect climax and conclusion to this genius trifecta.

Cannot suggest this album any stronger.

Suggested listening: It is only 8 tracks, listen to them all.


CKY – Modern Metal Masters

CKY (Camp Kill Yourself) is a Hard Rock/Metal band from Pennsylvania. They became popular with the skateboard scene in the late 90’s. In fact, when I was in high school, they played at a skate park not far from my home.

The band is decidedly horror-themed, following in the tradition of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and plenty of other metal bands. CKY is a bit different as they are not as concerned with speed and shredding (although, they are fully capable), but instead focus on heavy, slower rhythms and memorable guitar riffs. Additionally, CKY, even on their first album were experimenting with creating atmosphere with creepy ethereal tones.

With their second album, Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild, they began to sprinkle in synthesizers into their songs, making them more melodic and ear-catching.

Their third album, An Answer Can Be Found, further develops their unique sound with more synths and more virtuosity.

And finally, Carver City, which I have slowly come to realize is their best, was released in 2009.

The sound of the album is, I think, everything this band has been trying to achieve since they began recording albums. The riffs are heavy and thoroughly layered as I think possible. The synths also have multiple layers and picked to create a futuristic/horror environment reminiscent of John Carpenter films of the 80’s. The vocal harmonics turn makes each song have dynamic melodies throughout.

In short, I love this album.

Carver City, like every CKY album before it, starts with a song concerning the town of Hellview, Pop. 96.

“Hellions on Parade” begins with a screeching, hypnotic rhythm which sets the tone for the entire album. The song seems to be about a hellish uprising using political imagery like “rallies” and “agendas.”

This song has a cool bridge with a synth solo that sounds heavily inspired by older sci-fi genre films.

Even a reference to “the 96,” as being the “96 Quite Bitter Beings,” which was the name of their first song on their first album.  They have created a fictional town that has a continuous story developing across four albums.

The second track, “…And She Never Returned,” is a great horror story that sounds too real. Everything about the lyrics to this song makes it sound like a plausible abduction case or missing person story.

The sweeping synths in the background along with the slower pace really give this song an emotional edge. Last seen on Coyote Drive.

I really thought “…And She Never Returned” was my favorite track but it is always followed by “Rats in the Infirmary” and I can’t just overlook that. This song, I feel, deserves some sort of honor for being the biggest contribution to the genre in years.

I don’t know if this song is about anything other than what the title suggests, but I just know it’s great.  So there are rats in a hospital—whatever, man, I dig it.

These are just the first three tracks on the album. The rest follow suit and expand in interesting ways and always continue that signature sound the band established on their first album.

Each listener’s experience will vary. For example, if you never listen to heavy metal, you probably have no idea what I’ve been talking about.

But I do, and I think this is a great CD. It is always an amazing to hear a band you’ve listened to throughout high school and beyond evolve over time and continue to produce awesome music.

For all you Hard Rock fans, check out Carver City.

Best,

Daniel


Summoning Lake Trolls. Top 5 Metal Albums.

Let me start off by saying that this is not a list of the best metal albums ever, but some might agree. This is a list of MY favorite heavy metal albums. I very rarely listened to metal, this last week I took advice and suggestions from friends, I did research while being snowed in, I listened to a lot of metal albums. These are the albums that stood out.

I would like to also add that I do not consider Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Van Halen, or KISS to be heavy metal bands. They are more hard rock then metal. I believe Sabbath and AC/DC were the first instances of what metal would be, but not, in themselves, metal.

“That’s impossible, there’s no such thing as trolls.”

“Then how do you explain the dead unicorns?”

5. Ride the Lightning – Metallica Metallica’s second record was when they really became top notch musicians. The songs were more then just the fast-paced speed demons that were on Kill ‘em All. They created intricate and complex metal songs that are considered their heaviest stuff. This album is fast and unapologetic, Metallica arrived and supplanted that they were going to be around for a long time.

Recommended listening: Fade to Black, Creeping Death, Escape

4. Vulgar Display of Power – Pantera Pantera’s 1992 game-changer was perhaps the last real metal album before grunge really got big. This album is perhaps the most “mature” album on this list. It isn’t typical by any means, it is new and exciting. Much the same way Metallica really showed up on Ride the Lightning, Pantera had a stroke of genius with Vulgar Display of Power. This is one of my favorite metal records to listen to again to find all the idiosyncrasies.

 Recommended listening: Mouth for War, Fucking Hostile, Attack the Radical

3. Reign in Blood – Slayer Slayer is considered by many to the quintessential thrash metal band, maybe the best on this list. I cannot say enough about this record. As I said, I am new to metal, this one came highly recommended. It took me at least three listens to really absorb what was going on here. So many bands want to be Slayer, they are not. Tom Araya knocks away any wincing I did, he is a great talent. Outside of metal this record is overlooked too often, it shouldn’t be. It is dirty, messy, fun.

Recommended listening: Angel of Death, Jesus Saves, Raining Blood

2. Master of Puppets – Metallica Considered by many to be the greatest metal album of all time. That is a very accurate assessment. This album has everything that makes metal great; thrashing rifts, complex story, scary vocals, brilliant musicianship by all band members. This record should be the first any non-metal fans listen to. It isn’t watered down like pretty much everything Metallica did after, but it is just really, really good. I cannot emphasize how good this album is. Hopefully someday Metallica will return to form and grace us with another masterpiece, we shall see.

Recommended listening: Battery, Master of Puppets, Disposable Heroes

1. Piece of Mind – Iron Maiden This is the metal album that most suits me. It is epic, literary, complicated, raw, and beautiful. The reason this album hit so close for me was that it feels constructed like a very detailed work of art. Yes, metal is definitely art. If you have any knowledge of poetry of literature, this record is perfect. If you love metal and some of the greatest vocals ever and never read, this album is perfect. With this week of really delving into metal, I understand that I love Iron Maiden. This album is my favorite metal record; it is also one of my favorite albums I have ever listened to.

Recommended listening: Where Eagles Dare, The Trooper, To Tame a Land

“We are here to make coffee metal. We will make everything metal. Blacker than the blackest black times infinity” – Nathan Explosion (Dethklok)


Snow Day Synthesizers

Here is cool song that sounded fitting to me after having been stuck in the snow for so long.  Grab a cup of tea and listen to this track. And of course, stay warm!

-Daniel


Nothing in Life That I Can’t Achieve

One of the Dubstep artists whose tracks I’ve consistently been impressed with is Bassnectar. A very apt name for this type of music. This song has a constant distorted bass sound that can feel like its wearing you down. In a good way. But it does give you a break or two throughout.

Sometimes I think Dubstep tracks have a “droning” problem and have too little tension and release. With Soundcloud tracks you can actually see what I’m talking about. A waveform that looks like just one big block of sound makes for an uninteresting song, in my opinion. Now, I realize this is dance and club music, but I think a good song needs to go somewhere and I also think this can be done in any genre of music. That is, if the goal is to make a song in the first place. (Ambient music is ambient on purpose).

If you don’t know what I mean, just listen for the rises and falls in this cool Bassnectar track:

Also, check out this cool remix of the same track. It’s destined to blow somebody’s speakers or wake up neighbors as it blares from cars with nice bass rigs:

As always, turn it up!

-Daniel