Archive for January, 2009
Pillar is one of those bands that seems to have been around forever and seems to release an album nearly every year. This usually results in a lack of quality or a band that is simply that good. Pillar fits somewhere in the middle. Each of their previous eleven albums, some of which are re-releases and deluxe editions, have maintained a very high quality of production, song writing, and musical ability. Despite the amount of records produced, only a couple of Pillar’s albums stand out in the crowd of rock albums (Fireproof, Where Do We Go from Here). With each new album Pillar either slightly or dramatically shifts their musical style. From the rap-rock style of Above to the nu-metal of Fireproof to the hard rock of Where Do We Go from Here and The Reckoning to the calmer, yet passionate, hard rock of For the Love of the Game, Pillar has been all over the place. However, Pillar has yet to compromise great songwriting and undeniably catchy tunes.
Surprisingly, the best song on this album is a ballad. For a rock band like Pillar this often spells disaster for the album. The opposite is the case in this instance; as the fifth track on the album, “Smiling Down” offers a fresh and powerful break from the head-banging rock offered on the first four tracks and introduces a new path for the album. Save one track, “The Runaway,” the rest of the album takes on a deeper, serious sound with more passionate lyrics and emotional musicianship. This track is a great intro to what turns into a fantastic second half of the album.
“The Runaway” is easily the worst song of the album because it seems vastly out of place after the captivating track before it, “Smiling Down.” With boring verses and a wandering chorus the track disrupts the flow provided from the previous tracks and after a ballad, the strange, peppy beat on the track ruins the aura. The track should have not made the record and the track following it, “Throwdown,” should have taken its place.
During the first part of the album, driving beats fill most of the songs. Tracks like “Smiling Down,” “Get Back,” “I Fade Away,” and “Forever Starts Now” give a reprieve from the normalcy found on the previous tracks and offer a distinct and exceptional change to the album. The last song, “Forever Starts Now,” is a song that offers a tremendous climax to the album and leaves the listener wanting more. Pillar has yet again provided a solid album but one that is hard to place in the confusing direction Pillar has been going as a band. This album is a very pleasing listen with several songs that are hard to forget; hopefully their next album will show a more consistent direction as a band. Overall, this is one of Pillar’s best albums.
What happens when you mix one of Denver’s best hipster bars with some of the best up-and-coming local musicians? The answer: last Friday’s Young Coyotes show at the Hi-Dive. I was first introduced to Young Coyotes during winter break, when I saw them open for the Hot IQs. Even then, I knew I wanted to hear more of their fresh style of music. Before I dive headfirst into a review, let’s start with a little background. In mid-2008, Atlanta based band Moros Eros broke up. A few months later Greeley, CO band The Axe That Chopped the Cherry Tree also called it quits. Zach Tipon and Adam Halferty, who had played and toured together in the above-mentioned bands, decided to start something new. Since then, Young Coyotes have been keeping busy touring and recording material for their upcoming release.
Critics, both local and national, have not let Young Coyotes go unnoticed. Most recently, they were featured in the January issue of Marquee magazine, a Denver music-scene guide, and back in December they recorded a session at Daytrotter, a famous recording studio and website that offers free mp3s of exclusively recorded sessions with some of the biggest names in indie. Needless to say, there was a certain air of excitement at the venue last Friday.
The one word I have used to describe the entire night is relaxed. Even from the first local band, The Wheel, the show played out like a bunch of old friends getting together for a party. The Wheel’s singer, Nathaniel Rateliff, played a reverb-drenched classical guitar while belting out deep, reflective lyrics with his unique baritone. He was backed up by Joseph Pope, who provided organ parts which provided the necessary bass and a polished sound.
Next up was another local group, Bad Weather California. Lead singer Chris Adolf’s intense delivery and Adam Baumiester’s pedal steel guitar work gave them a unique sound. Think Beach Boys meets Black Flag meets steel guitar. To be entirely honest, it would be difficult to accurately describe their sound, but there is one thing that is certain, they put on an entertaining performance.
Finally, it was time for Young Coyotes. They came out and began with one of their more popular songs, “Momentary Drowning.” From there, they played through a number of “older” tunes and new material. I use quotes when saying “older” because this is still an incredibly fresh group, they don’t really have any old songs, just ones that are already available via MySpace. They continued to play through their set, occasionally stopping to figure out which song to do next. Friends of the band shouted out for different songs as the set list wandered throughout the night. During the course of the show, Tipon announced that the group would release about 12 tracks sometime toward the end of February. As they tried to finish their set, the crowd asked for another song and the Young Coyotes delivered. Overall it was a great show, it was well mixed and featured what makes the Denver music what it is: real, talented musicians.
This is a collaborative article, it’s the work of Jake, Spencer and myself.
Top Ten Mainstream Albums
1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Although a debut album, the Fleet Foxes sound more mature and together on their self-titled release than most bands ever sound. Harmonically, the band sounds almost immaculate. They create an ethereal mood which is hard to lose after listening to the album. Although lyrically straightforward, the music is the important part of this album and it is executed astonishingly well. Listen to “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” “White Winter Hymnal,” and “He Doesn’t Know Why.” -JR
2. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
The New York indie scene broke out nationally this year, and leading the wave was Vampire Weekend. Their sweater-vested semi-classical approach to music is infused with African drum beats and subtle pop-culture references. Catchy melodies and lyrics match the equally well orchestrated instruments on VW’s first album. Listen to “Mansard Roof,” “A-Punk,” and “I Stand Corrected.” -TW
3. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords
It’s not often that a comedy album makes the top ten albums list for a year, but Flight of the Conchord’s self-titled album is more than your average comedy album. The first release from the New Zealand duo is satirical and sarcastic in every sense; even the music mocks popular styles. The songs are simultaneously well-produced musically and hilarious lyrically. Listen to “Think About It,” “Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros,” and “Business Time.” -JR
4. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak
Innovation occurs when risks are taken. Kanye’s newest record does not pick up where 2007′s Graduation left off, but instead cuts a new track. Markedly simpler in production, 808s relies heavily on three things: drum machines, lyrics, and auto-tune. This move produced one of the most honest sounding hip-hop records released last year. Listen to “Paranoid,” “Street Lights,” and “RoboCop.” -TW
5. Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs
A mark of a great song is when the same melody from it can be repeatedly played without losing interest. Death Cab for Cutie tested this theory multiple occasions on this album and proved it true. Although being deceptively simple, many songs from this album have the potential to stay around for years. With a superb blend of light vocals and mixed instruments, this album will not soon be forgotten. Listen to “Cath…” and “No Sunlight.” -SN
6. TV On The Radio – Dear Science
In their newest album, TV On The Radio brilliantly uses drum loops and deep, eerie lyrics to present an interesting and fun record. Dear Science is at times chaotic, at times somber, and at times full of grandiose beauty. At all times, however, it is intelligent, entertaining, and deeply poignant. Listen to “Lover’s Day,” “Golden Age,” and “Halfway Home.” -JR
7. Anberlin – New Surrender
Shifting into a more mainstream sound has not stopped Anberlin from continuing their stream of catchy lyrics and melodies. Despite a deeper dependence on a synthesizer, Anberlin’s music continues to be driven by fast guitars and unforgettable lyrics. Listen to “Breaking” and “Haight St.” -SN
8. Coldplay – Viva La Vida (Or Death and All His Friends)
Hailed as the new U2, Coldplay shot to stardom unflinchingly with their previous albums. Holding up under the intense expectations of fans and critics alike, Viva la Vida portrays Coldplay’s classic sound in some songs, while musically progressing in others. Listen to “Lost!” and “Violet Hill.” -SN
9. Snow Patrol – A Hundred Million Suns
Snow Patrol combines a fast-paced alternative rock sound with simple melodies and song structures for a relaxing album. With an unusual singing style that varies through the album, A Hundred Million Suns keeps originality close to its core. Listen to “If There’s a Rocket Tie Me To It” and “Disaster Button.” Â-SN
10. I Hate Kate – Embrace The Curse
This record mixes 80′s new wave with modern pop to produce an enjoyable listening experience. Perhaps one of the best parts of this album is that there is definite ebb and flow; not every song sounds the same. Listen to “Bed of Black Roses,” “It’s You,” and “I’m In Love With A Sociopath.” -TW
Albums You Should Know
1. Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line
With a strong string section composed of a violin and a cello, Ra Ra Riot’s quick yet relaxed sound is excellent for studying, but is also upbeat enough to dance to. With a perfect blend of all instruments, they skillfully move from songs reminiscent of the Beatles to an 80′s style synthesis-driven song to a Kate Bush cover written in waltz time. The phenomenal chemistry of the band is well represented by all aspects of the album. Listen to “Dying is Fine” and “St. Peter’s Day Festival.” -SN
2. Sigur Rós -Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Beautiful and unique soundscapes fill Icelandic band Sigur Rós’s newest release. Jónsi Birgisson’s falsetto voice at times soars above the background music in a piercing and intense way. Other times, he matches the tone and intensity of the sound he is singing with, creating some of the most ethereal and stunning sounds being produced by any band today. Listen to “Gobbledigook,” “ViÃ° spilum endalaust,” and “SuÃ° í eyrum.” -JR
3. Colour Revolt – Plunder, Beg & Curse
Realization, raw vocals, and silvery-sounding guitars fill this record. Lyrically reminiscent of the epic poems, it maintains timeless ideas about the frailty of humanity and the fleeting nature of temptation. Musically, singer Jesse Coppenbarger’s intense delivery matches the well-produced instrumentation. Even with a few exceptionally strong tracks, this album should be taken as a whole. Listen to “Moses of the South,” “A Siren,” and “What Will Come of Us?” -TW
4. The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride
In their 16th album, The Mountain Goats continue to impress with deep and touching lyrics, complimented with equally touching melodies. Lead singer John Darnielle’s vocal skills, which allow him to move from a warbled, but pure, quiet to a confident, and sometimes angry, crescendo, drive the album. However, brilliant guitar and drum playing accent the music more readily in any previous Mountain Goats releases. Listen to “San Bernadino,” “Heretic Pride,” and “So Desperate.” Â-JR
5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
After a four year hiatus, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds returned in 2008 with their 14th studio album. In it, the band seems to forget that twenty-year-old groups are supposed to put out predictable albums, instead producing what may be their most exciting release to date. Lead singer Cave sounds like any punk rock frontman should – full of swagger and an attitude which compliments the driving bass and drum beats. Listen to “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!,” “Albert Goes West,” and “We Call Upon the Author.” -JR
6. Nada Surf – Lucky
Nada Surf is one of those bands that has been around for over 10 years and has not released a bad record. Lucky showcases a more mature and developed sound with beautiful melodies and bright lyrics. Listen to “Whose Authority,” “Weightless,” and “Are You Lightning?” -TW
7. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
If My Morning Jacket wanted to make an album which was easily pigeon-holed, they wouldn’t have made Evil Urges. They spend time flirting with psychedelic hippie rock, play with folk roots, and throw in some late-80s electronica. However, each song is without genre, and distinctly My Morning Jacket. Listen to “I’m Amazed,” “Evil Urges,” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pts. 1 & 2.” -JR
8. The New Frontiers – Mending
A bold mix of indie-pop and alt-country, the only full length release of the now-disbanded New Frontiers is a monument to their musical prowess. Mending covers a broad range of emotions and poses deep questions. Listen to “Black Lungs,” “This Is My Home,” and “Who Will Give Us Love?” -TW
9. We Shot The Moon – Fear And Love
Formed in the wake of Waking Ashland’s breakup in 2007, We Shot the Moon managed to produce a well-put together album within a year. The piano-based songs are well-balanced with their lyrical style. Uplifting and upbeat, their songs leave the listener feeling quite positive. Listen to “LTFP” and “Julie.” -SN
10. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
The ’59 Sound channels the classic sound of Bruce Springsteen while adding straightforward punk sensibility and style. This record inspires a certain sense of nostalgia with enjoyable and danceable tunes. Listen to “Old White Lincoln,” “The ’59 Sound,” and “Miles Davis & The Cool.” -TW
Local Releases of Note
3OH!3 – Want
In an innovative fusion of rap and techno, these two white guys from Boulder certainly have gained massive popularity across Colorado. Selling out their highly energetic shows quickly, 3OH!3 has developed a large fan base in this state. Their album goes from one dance-worthy song to another with impossible to forget melodies. Listen to “I Can’t Do It Alone” and “Starstrukk.” -SN
Fear Before – Fear Before
Hardcore music has never been more accessible than with Fear Before’s newest release. Opting to focus more on melody and lyrics instead of sheer heavy sounds, this record is enjoyable even outside of a mosh pit. Listen to “Treeman” and “Review Our Lives (Epic).” -TW
DeVotchKa – A Mad & Faithful Telling
DeVotchKa, the Denver band made famous by their appearance on the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, continues to use unique instrumentation and imitate unique music styles very effectively in their newest album. They incorporate Eastern European, Spanish, Mexican, and American music in a unique and interesting way. Listen to “Basso Profundo” and “Along the Way.” -JR