Archive for November, 2008
Living in 2008 is a little odd. From this point in history we can look back on centuries of progress and identify trends. Enter the Gaslight Anthem, a New Jersey band that has taken the best parts of their home state’s music scene and created something great. Combining the Jersey punk scene and the musical styling of Bruce Springsteen, the Gaslight Anthem created a new subgenre, “Springsteen-punk.” Currently, this group is on tour with Rise Against, Alkaline Trio, and Thrice.
The catchiest tunes on the record are definitely “The ’59 Sound,” “Old White Lincoln,” and “Miles Davis & the Cool.” These songs are reminiscent of better days, good times, classic sounds, cars, and musicians. As far as musical sound is concerned, the Gaslight Anthem has found a mix of upbeat guitars and drums that compliment their reverb-laden vocals. These tracks are probably the best representation of the group’s unique sound.
Song To Skip:
It is hard to pick a low point for this album. The entire record has a certain ebb and flow, with a few slower songs thrown in to the mix. One song that let me down was “Here’s Looking at You, Kid.” Slow and steady guitars start the song and continue throughout the song. Although this is not bad, there were several places where this song could break through into a moving anthem, but instead it maintains a low-key sound until the end.
The Gaslight Anthem is a proud band. Their signature style pervades almost every track on The ’59 Sound, and their reflections on relationships and times gone by evoke a positive response from the listener. However, do not listen if you are more interested in musical diversity: almost every song sounds similar, which is not necessarily bad when the album as a whole is catchy and fresh.
The story of a group of musicians who have overcome obstacles and difficulties to achieve their dream of becoming “Rock legends” has been told far too many times. It is an interesting story, but generic nevertheless. However, it still happens to a select few. Perhaps these stories inspired Ra as they overcame their own difficulties with changing band members and record labels over the course of a decade. The feel-good story would end with Ra producing epic, inspiring music that would last for generations. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Much like the stories, Ra’s latest album is interesting, but generic.
Ra’s third studio album, Black Sun, might have been a moderate hit about 10 years ago at the birth of the nu-metal genre. However, since Korn and Disturbed and the endless spin-off bands filled out the genre, there is little room left for originality. Black Sun begins with a promising Latin guitar riff that quickly fades to grinding, crunchy guitars. The heavy guitars carry a catchy, simple riff that is enjoyable until it becomes monotonous. In all, the opening track, “Broken Hearted Soul,” is decent, but it is nice to move on from the continual repetition of the same riffs. This relief is not found anywhere on the rest of the album.
Taken individually, none of the songs are too bad. Repetitive and generic, but still catchy and fast. However, listening to more than one is a monotonous experience. One unique aspect of the album is the distinct Middle Eastern sound found on many of the tracks. As a result, some of the guitar riffs are different than those typically found in mainstream rock. However, they are simply repeated too often. One song, “I Believe Again,” breaks away from this sound with a good mix of a strong piano and heavy guitars. Another plus is a considerably good use of harmonized vocals. The lead singer, Sahaj Ticotin, is a strong vocalist who holds the world record for holding the longest single note recorded. He demonstrates this ability incredibly on the third track, “The First Step,” where he holds one note for 24 seconds. All of the members of Ra are skilled in their musical ability and possess a solid sound as a band. Despite this talent and songs that sound good at first listen, the album as a whole fails to hold interest and quickly becomes boring. Although Ra desperately wants to be different, and made a good effort, they still fall securely in the nu-metal/hard rock genre.
If listeners want songs of hope and encouragement, they should not look to this album. Anger, despair, depression, and heartache fill every track. Lyrics from “Waste of Space” appropriately describe the mindset of the album: It wasn’t meant to be/This thing with you and me/It took a year to figure out how much you lied to me/I never understood/How much you’ve gone insane. The album starts with the theme of broken relationships, which are the central topic of “Broken Hearted Soul,” “Faulty Information,” and “Lost Along the Way.” General shock, dismay, and depression can be found in “Genocide” and “A Poet’s Dream.” Although Ra does an excellent job at keeping most of their lyrics direct and to the point, they remain disembodied and leave little to think about.
Like many bands, Ra does not want to be classified. However, with a lack of anything except generic alternative metal, little qualifies Ra as different. It is unfortunate that a band as talented as Ra makes music as bland as that found on Black Sun. If you want some angry music to fill the silence, this album will work just fine. Fans of System of a Down, Incubus, Three Days Grace, and Disturbed may find Black Sun fitting in well with their music preference.
Music can be one of the truest forms of self-expression. A prolific songwriter has the ability to convey thoughts and emotions through song. Love, compassion, hope and healing were just a few of the driving factors that led Daniel Smith to begin his musical experiment known as Danielson. Smith, whose strong Christian roots and incredible personal story act as the backdrop for his songs, performed a stunning set at the Hi-Dive last Saturday.
The Hi-Dive has really started to grow on me. After seeing Ra Ra Riot there several weeks ago, I’ve begun to appreciate the cozy atmosphere, free water and excellent sound mixing. The entire night felt like a comfortable gathering of old friends. Ian Cooke, a Denver cellist and songwriter, started the evening with an amazing set. Not only was his instrumental performance nearly flawless, but his smooth voice hit every note. Cooke used a variety of looping effects to create multiple harmonies with himself, a real treat for the ears. At the end of his set, the crowd called for more songs and he extended his set, something I have never seen happen with an opening act.
Up next was Cryptacize, an indie-pop band from the Asthmatic Kitty record label. Their simple sound and comically small instruments made for a good show. Catchy hooks and flowing guitar riffs kept the music upbeat.
Finally, it was time for Danielson. Taking the stage in matching pilot’s uniforms, the seven members of Danielson filled the tiny stage at the Hi-Dive. “This song is a clap-along,” said Daniel Smith on multiple occasions throughout the show. In fact, there were clap-alongs, snap-alongs and sing-alongs; all of which got the audience involved and made the set enjoyable. Rather than trying to decode Smith’s religious undertones and unique falsetto, I sat back and enjoyed the show. To celebrate the release of the group’s recently released retrospective album, Danielson focused on playing their best material from the last ten years.
Playing through songs such as “Idiot Boksen” and “Flip Flop Flim Flam,” Smith and company performed with intensity and sincerity. Danielson ended their set with “Five Stars and Two Thumbs Up” before performing two more songs as an encore (including “Did I Step On Your Trumpet,” one of my personal favorite Danielson tunes). For their performance, I give Danielson’s Denver tour stop five stars and two thumbs up.
Edit: Full bootlegs of this concert are avaiable at http://www.theflatresponse.com
Video from the show: Idiot Boksen
The Fleet Foxes are a difficult band to define. They combine the melodic and vocal tendencies of a group like Animal Collective, while using brilliant melodies reminiscent of The Shins or Simon and Garfunkel. The group describes its musical style as “baroque harmonic pop jams,” however, this (likely on purpose) obfuscates their style even more. Regardless of the Seattle quintet’s style of music, it is clear that on their self-titled release the group creates memorable, sometimes haunting songs, which do not need a succinct genre to be enjoyable.
The first thing a listener might notice is the vocal prominence and the slight instrumentation employed by Fleet Foxes. On the first track, “Sun it Rises,” there is almost nothing but shared harmonies and reverberated vocals, with occasional use of guitar solos. This sort of penchant to stress vocally-created harmonies continues throughout the album. “Heard Them Stirring,” the seventh track on the album, does not have lyrics, but almost the entire song is comprised of vocals with a backing drum beat. It is an aesthetically appealing, near-instrumental piece, and one of the most relaxed and tranquil pieces of music produced recently.
Although the songs written are all intriguing, there is not a significant amount of variance between the tracks. Certainly, the melodies are each different and appealing, but the structure of the songs is almost entirely constant. While this is not a problem for many, due to the low-key nature of the album, it may annoy some listeners.
The album, at times, transports the listener to another place, a beautiful place, with fairy-tale-like properties. They sing of rising suns and ragged woods, and the reverberated vocals remind one of a 1940s country singer. Overall, the album, while transformative and relaxing, could use some expansion. The fluidity of each track to each other track is near perfect, and how each track relates to the album as a whole is wonderful.
However, the reason each track relates so well to each other track is that they are extremely – almost too – similar. This, along with the poetically incomprehensible lyrics makes the album far from perfect, but it’s still an extremely enjoyable listen, and one which could easily transcend the era in which it was created, to become a well-known classic.
What happens when you take several hundred young people, cram them all into a venue, and add some of the best hip-hop and dance music Colorado has to offer? Answer: You get the epic concert that was 3OH!3 at the Gothic Theater last Saturday.
As part of a two-night stay at the Gothic, Boulder based rap-duo 3OH!3 brought their unique brand of electro-pop-dance infused hip hop to Denver. Tickets for the first night, Halloween, sold out quickly, and I was fortunate enough to secure tickets to the second night’s show. A quick word to the wise: 3OH!3 has sold out every Colorado venue for the last several months. If you want to see them, get tickets as soon as they go on sale.
The night began with the old-school hip-hop styling of The Pirate Signal, a Denver based MC and DJ team. After spinning some of the hottest new vinyl, including M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” the duo warmed up the growing crowd with a few songs. Up next was another Denver dance-scene musician, The Chain Gang of 1974. The crowd really got moving as heavy beats and catchy lyrics filled the warm, sticky air. Chain Gang’s best song was by far “We At The Disco,” although their entire set was strong, helping to build the anticipation toward the main act of the night.
However, there was still one more band before 3OH!3 took the stage: Innerpartysystem. The Philadelphia based band had one of the most intense light shows I have ever seen. In addition to using fog machines, they used computerized spotlights, lasers, strobes and lightboxes to supplement their brand of dance music. It was entertaining to watch, but unfortunately Innerpartysystem’s set was not as energetic as what Chain Gang of 1974 had brought.
Just when I thought things were starting to wind down, the main event happened. As 3OH!3 took the stage, everyone in the packed venue flashed the group’s hand sign. From there, it was a non-stop dance-o-thon. The crowd danced and sang along to some of the group’s hits, such as “Punkb*tch,” “Chokechain” and “I’m Not Your Boyfriend Baby.” Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte performed numerous dance stunts while singing. As their set came to a close, everyone at the Gothic knew the night wasn’t over. 3OH!3 came back and played four more songs for an encore, including radio hits “Holler Till You Pass Out” and “Don’t Trust Me.”
As someone who usually does not go for hip-hop and dance music, I had initially been skeptical of Colorado’s newest musical phenomenon. However, after seeing their intense live show, I must say that it was one of the most enjoyable concerts I have ever attended. Try to catch the duo next time they play a show here in Colorado, and good luck getting tickets.
In recent years, the music scene in Denver has grown and transformed. As the Mile High City continues to play host to world-famous musicians, the homegrown music scene continues to burst at the seams. Specifically, the hardcore scene in Denver has seen quite a bit of excitement in the last few years. In summer 2007, when longtime Denver hardcore group Vaux decided to call it quits, things were looking fairly grim. However, as I witnessed Friday night, the Denver hardcore scene is alive and kicking (and punching).
Fear Before, formerly known as Fear Before the March of Flames, was in town, playing at the Marquis Theater in LoDo. This show was significant in that it celebrated the release of the group’s new self-titled album.
The atmosphere at the Marquis that night was rather jovial and mischievous. Zombies, pirates and ghouls came out in addition to the hardcore scenesters. The emcee for the night was Maris the Great, a guy who dresses up like a zombie king and makes appearances at Denver area punk shows. The first couple of bands, In Separate Cities and Set Fire To Athens, got the crowd moving and kept things at a reasonable pace.
Up next was the band High Five. This hardcore group played their set while dressed up like cops (similar to what you’d see on Reno 911 or Super Troopers). Although I did not find their music very enthralling, I was entertained by the large group of hardcore dancers that took over the main floor of the venue. “Tear this place apart!” yelled High Five’s lead singer as they started their set. Flying fists, scissor kicks, flailing arms and various kinds of flips came from the crowd as heavy beats filled the venue.
After High Five came a slight change of genre. The pop-punk band Animo played through their set, which was a nice changeup. Their lyrics were actually discernable and their melodies were catchy. At one point they even threw in a Misfits cover, and later did a sing-a-long.
Finally, it was time for the main act. Fear Before, for as long as I have been following them, has been on a constant journey with their sound. This show celebrated their new material, while paying homage to their older songs. With guitars blaring, lights flashing, and costumes in place, Fear Before played through an hour-long set. The best way to describe the set is to say that it began as a slow burner. The crowd, tired and battered from four previous bands, almost seemed ready to go home.
However, as Fear Before continued through the night, the energy and intensity in the venue rose, and then peaked toward the end of the set. They played through some of my personal favorite Fear Before songs, such as “Mouth,” “High As A Horse” and a new number, “Fear Before Doesn’t Listen To People Who Don’t Like Them.” In all, the concert was an exciting homecoming for one of Denver’s most innovative hardcore bands.