Friday, May 30, 2008

Review: 2*Sweet, "Sleep Without Dreams"

“Sleep Without Dreams”
(C. Walrus)

Last week, I chatted it up with Justin Pence, 2*Sweet’s singer, for an upcoming feature in the next issue of Redefine. In the interview, Pence mentioned that labels weren’t necessarily knocking on their door; “It takes people a while to stomach us and we’ve come to grips with that,” said Pence. And it’s true, unfortunately. The reality is that 2*Sweet’s amalgam of hardcore, pop, metal and punk has the potential to be a giant clusterfuck, but it walks away as its own epic rock genre.

“Sleep Without Dreams,” the band’s full-length debut, is chock full of great pop jams such as “Rested Eyes Tell No Lies,” “Miss You,” and “Bury Me in the Lovers’ Graveyard,” as well as some heavier songs like “Friends Till the Weekend” and “Dateless for Armageddon.” There’s even a 90’s style quiet-storm song in “Tarantula Perfume.”

The album is driven by Pence’s operatic vocal range and vivid lyrical imagery, which can best be compared to other great musical storytellers like Nas and Eric Clapton. Yet at the same time, it’s Pence’s schizophrenic vocal choices that make the album a little harder to swallow. But if you’re able to get around that, then you’d be in for a treat of an album. It’s possible that “Sleep Without Dreams” is a major contender for the best album of the year – it’s just up to the kids to jump on it now before 2*Sweet starts playing stadiums.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Review: Spark is a Diamond, "Try This On For Size"

Spark is a Diamond
"Try This On For Size"
(Pluto/East West)

Former Come Widdit band, Spark is a Diamond's new debut album, "Try This On For Size," is one of those few records that rides the thin line of really great and mediocre. For bands who chronically suffer from this (such as Comeback Kid and Rise Against) all it takes is one song and for Spark is a Diamond that song is "____ ____ Has a Deathwish."

Early on in their 24 minute debut, Spark is a Diamond comes running out at the gates. The band's well constructed and well produced tracks like "Check Your Lease, You're In Fuck City" and "Try This On For Size" are exciting and fresh enough to make anyone a believer. The steam tends to run out by the time you hit their cover of Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It," but make no mistake, this is still a very solid album.

For all the trappings that could turn them into another run-of-the-mill hipster hardcore band, Spark is a Diamond is great at writing songs and it shows all over "Try This On For Size." The vocal back-and-forth between singer Alison Bellavance and guitarist Matt Boylan are often well-timed and band's inclusion of electronic effects makes you forget that there is no bass player [1]. All in all "Try This On For Size" is a strong record and I'm interested in seeing what the band has up their sleeves in the future.

[1] Probably because I'm a bass player, but I have issues with most bass-less bands, except for these kids; they actually work better without one.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

ruining my favorite comics

last week, james and i saw "forgetting sarah marshall" and the trailer for "wanted" played before the flick. ugh.

for those of you who aren't total nerds, "wanted" was this sweet comic by mark millar that was about a secret league of assassins; this movie makes said group look like a bunch of pussies with morgan freeman as (probably) the only redeeming quality of the flick. angelina jolie's in it but she tends to ruin movies for me (except for "hackers").

a few years ago, mark millar expressed interest in getting eminem to play the lead guy, which would've been much better since homedude looks like marshall mathers in the comic.

anyway, this trailer did not look appealing at all. what a crock of shit.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

updates and shit...

so as you may have noticed, i'm in the process of shuttering stay off the crack. there's just really no need for it. i guess if i were so inclined, i could spout off about my personal life here (but don't hold your breath). anyway, i have a bunch of reviews and whatnot ready to post. i just have a ton of freelance stuff right now and because writing posts for this site doesn't pay my water bill, i have to do that other shit first. my bad.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Review: Death Cab for Cutie, "Narrow Stairs"

Death Cab for Cutie
"Narrow Stairs"

I make it no secret that I've watched these four dudes grow into a monolith of a rock band for the last 10 years. I'm pretty fortunate to hail from the city that is their current homebase, to have been able to watch their organic change from small-town openers to arena rock monsters. Even some of their misses, like the last half of "Plans," are still highly respectable records. So what else can Death Cab for Cutie do? Probably make the best record in their career.

There's no hyperbole in that statement: "Narrow Stairs" is the best Death Cab record.

Before I continue on, I'll say that a) my favorite record of theirs will probably always be "We Have the Facts, and We're Voting Yes" and b) nothing will change that. But the overall earnest aesthetic of "Stairs" is hard to shake. Whereas the band's first two albums were really esoteric and pretentious and "The Photo Album" lingered in a sort of a pop-music limbo, "Transatlanticism" marked an era of Death Cab that had Ben Gibbard spilling his guts all over Chris Walla's cache of 2" tape. As the band has aged, their albums have become more personal -- and though some people can call it a regression, I'll side with the band and offer it as quite the opposite.

The thing is, as we get older, we tend to get better at hiding our feelings and we get better at speaking in metaphors and vague phrases. "Transatlanticism" and "Plans" were, to me, Gibbard saying, "Fuck that," and making the most non-punk punk rock records. "Narrow Stairs" is an evolution of this progression. Lyrically, Gibbard seems to have fallen back to writing some vague songs, but for the most part, the record as a whole comes off as earnest. The best part of the record is Walla's impeccable production. Walla has always been a so-so producer, but, as exemplifed on Tegan and Sara's "The Con," his overproducing and addiction to textures really fleshes out these songs and molds them into living organisms.

Like I said, "Narrow Stairs" is the best Death Cab album thus far. It was so great, I don't even need to write about the individual tracks.

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