Indie-pop that’s not so indie… or pop for that matter.

July 20, 2009

* DISCLAIMER – None of what I write is affiliated in ANY WAY with theyageletters or any other member of said band. I write purely for my creative output, a constructive way to get rid of my boredom, because I love music, and because I love writing. None of what I write has anything to do with anyone’s personality. If you are in a band that I talk about or are affiliated with one, and somehow take offense to what I write than I feel sorry for you. I rarely get more than 30 views a day. So if you seriously get upset and pissed off about a dude sitting in his room writing in a blog talking about your band…. please grow up. If you take the time to actually read the reviews you will see that I honestly make an attempt to be unbiased and I talk about the music only. If you disagree or have issue with my writing style I encourage you to leave a comment or talk to ME… no one else has ANYTHING to do with this blog in any way. A new friend of mine put it perfectly… This blog is like masturbation for me. Talking about music is an urge. It may piss some people off. I knew that going in and I’m prepared for pissed off comments. My band mates do not deserve the same as they have nothing to do with my writing. I write “Hill of Yage” at the end because that’s how I tag everything. If you sincerely want to be a musician or be in the music business there are going to be people giving you, or an artist you represent, bad reviews. If you aren’t prepared for that…. GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE INDUSTRY! This next one won’t piss anyone off… 

Promo shot - click it for their myspace

Promo shot - click it for their myspace

 

So I’m going to do a bit of shameless self promotion at this point before I talk about the album. We spent the last week at “The Pocket Studios” in Toronto recording our second release. The studio is owned by Mike Turner who, as you may recall, played guitar for Our Lady Peace on their first four albums. If you don’t remember which the first four are… they’re the ones that aren’t brutal. Before meeting Mike I assumed he was a bad ass dude, and after meeting him we have confirmed that yes, he is a bad ass dude! So many cool stories to tell, and such a cool down to earth guy. I don’t want to gush and go on and on so all I will say is that I used the guitar for this album that he used on Clumsy… ’67 Les Paul… enough said. Our engineer was also bad ass. We were/are working with Shawn “Ninja” Lefebvre, who is a fellow graduate of the Music Industry Arts program. This dude definitely knows what he is doing when it comes to engineering and getting around a protools session. I was trying to do some editing for him on the go but could not keep up. Although I was using a small laptop that recently had a rockstar energy drink spilled on the keyboard. No excuses though, I need to get better and faster. Long story short, the album is going to sound incredible and is completely different from Hieroglyphics. By the way there is now a torrent of that album available (www.mininova.org/tor/2773773) so go steal it!

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted a review. Although the traffic on the site has been fierce. Traffic may be a nice word to use though, when it could be described as backlash in response to the “Odium” review and the “Baptized In Blood” review. Lots of good threats and “what the fuck do you know?” type comments. The comments and my responses to them are worth a read as they are pretty entertaining. My favourite is a guy who took acceptation to my comments about the singer from Odium’s voice saying that it’s a lot better than the vocals in our band. Which is hilarious considering the band I am in is %100 instrumental. Anyway, I’m going to talk about a band whom none of those people listen to, so maybe I will get some different comments. The band is “The Appleseed Cast” who are becoming quite the veterans of the indie rock scene. They are represented by a couple of different  labels, but the ones closest to home are “The Militia Group” and “Vagrant”. If the latter sounds familiar it’s because it’s a pretty huge label with a bunch of big names on it. They have a very large range of genres as well which is nice to see. Their artists range from bands like Alexisonfire, The Bled, Alkaline Trio, Protest The Hero, Moneen, Autumn To Ashes, Thrice, and Senses Fail, to a more mellow side with artists like, Dashboard Confessional, City and Colour,  Placebo, Olivia Broadfield and too many more to name. They come from the mid-west and are into their second decade as a band. Although they’ve released only six albums their style and influence range greatly through the six albums. 

This is a band that I have been exposed to just a very little bit as a member my band is into them and I have their entire catalogue on my itunes, save for their first album. That being said I must say that I am not a huge fan of their early works. I have not listened to their first album but the three that follow that all don’t do much for me. It’s just too much of a pop and emo (that word just seems so dirty now) vibe throughout. The vocals are so indie and the music is pure pop based. That being said, if you like catchy music that will play over and over in your head for days, the early catalogue is worth checking out, especially “Two Conversations” released in 2003. But like any decent band they have grown and incorporated new and different influences. By the time they ended their three year break in 2006 with the “Peregrin” album you could notice a significant change in all aspects of their music.  

 

Album Art

Album Art

 

 

The album I’m going to talk about is called “Sagarmatha” and has been playing pretty constantly in my itunes since I was aware of it’s release and grabbed a torrent file. Itunes says I’ve listened to it 7 times! which is about 5 more already than the average play count on all the other albums. So why is this album different from the rest? Well it’s obvious right off the bat with the first song called “As The Little Things Go” which establishes the main style of the album immediately. A style which I would simply call dreamy. The guitars in this song play off of each other so well. Both main parts are so different yet work perfectly, reminiscent of bands like Explosions In The Sky. This is also a theme throughout the record. The difference in the percussion is also shown clearly right off the bat with varying intensities and the willingness to slowly tear the beat down and build it back up again utilizing the full kit right down to the tambourine. I also love how a band that is supposedly “Indie” or “Pop” doesn’t even have the vocals come in until almost 7 minutes of an 8:15 song. This trend continues right through to the second track called “A bright light” which is another lengthy song at 7:05. This one has a bit more of a throwback to their older stuff at the beginning with the upbeat drums with shaker overtop along with catchy vocals. But this brings me to the biggest difference on this album, which is the way the vocals are mixed. Instead of being in your face and at the very front of everything they are pushed to the back, drenched in reverb, doubled, tripled, and layered with backing vocals that are equally drenched in reverb. This song has such a great dreamy riff at about four minutes in with a really catchy bass and drum groove layered with some pad, e-bow, and the delayed guitar (which they admittedly abuse). When the bass and drums drop out at the end you are left with a really cool, trance-inducing fade, which continues right onto the next song called “The Road West”. This song is about as ambient as I’ve ever heard this band with a very minimalist beginning until the song kicks at about 2.5 minutes. Epic is a word I would seldom, if ever, attach to this band’s music but this song is pretty close to that as they really build up and tear down the main riff incorporating different layers and textures including a great synth vibe that starts at about four minutes into the eight minute track. The obvious attempt by the band to be more instrumental is one that I obviously enjoy and is a direction I’m glad to see them take. The first three songs are a combined 23.5 minutes with about 3 or 4 minutes of vocals including the third track which is completely instrumental. 

To me the album has three clear sections. A long three song chunk at the beginning which takes you into a dream followed by quick middle section including the fourth track, “The Summer Before” which has the catchy vocal melodies the band is known for. This song has a much more strait up vibe with a normal progression on the guitar and more of a verse and then chorus progression. It would be a great choice for a single, but I wish they would continue the song for a bit longer as they really only do the one verse and one chorus. This is followed by a quick two minute song which brings back some of the acoustic guitar vibe they have used to great effect in the past. This is song is called “One Reminder, An Empty Room” and is another one that I would have liked to see go on for another five or six minutes. “Raise The Sails” is about as intense as the band gets. There are even some sections with some drive on the guitar! The songs on the album feed into each other really well as they always seem to carry vibes over. For example this track has a great powerful outro with a drum based groove to end and then has “Like A Locus” picking up with the drum driven groove right where it left off. This quick four minute song is a great example of how the band incorporates electronics into their music with great effect and is one of my favourites on the album. 

 

Live

Live - 2006

The third and final section of the album starts with the second-to-last track “South Col”. This song is the most rocking out on the album, and is the only song to push the tempo. But the dreamy vibe is not lost. The vocal layer is used to perfection. The main vocal has all the presence you need to make them feel like they are in the same room but with enough reverb and space added to keep the ambient vibe that is all over the album. It also makes it easier to transition to the great back beat middle section. This song, in general, probably has the best transitions of any song I can think of in their catalogue. Especially at the end when they take a piano solo and pile a bunch of layers all at ounce and then remove them effortlessly to go right back to the piano vibe. We end off the record with a funky little song called “An Army Of Fireflies”. This song is really the only song where the drummer shows his skills with a beat at the beginning which is just plain sick. The beat is grown perfectly throughout the 4.5 minute song which is one long crescendo and perfect way to end the album. 

Overall the album is great and I see myself listening to it many times in the future. They have clearly taken the good ideas they have established in their early work and taken their music to a whole new level. That being said if you’re looking for something busy or an album to rock out to, this is not an album for you. They never really leave their dreamy trance like vibe. Individually it’s hard to comment because the music in general is pretty minimalist. But if I had to comment I would say the musicianship is lacking as the guitar players lean on their delay pedals a lot and the bass player doesn’t stray too far from the root notes. The vocals were great as the simple melodies are catchy and sit just overtop of everything like a cloud. The drums also don’t stray too far from the simple pop beats. That, coupled with the simple bass, minimalist guitars, and basic melodies adds up to a lot of space. This is obviously the goal, but being the metal head I am I can’t help but think to myself “look at all those wasted 16th and 32nd notes that could be filled with…” I guess that’s why I’m not in a band like this. The production is about what you would expect. It’s simple and not fancy. The drums sound like indie drums with an emphasis on the bottom of the snare, not so much the attack of the stick, and a warm tone overall. The bass and vocals are the highlight of the production as the bass is just so warm and round and as I mentioned earlier I love how the vocals are more in the back and dreamy.

Well, that’s all I have to say about that album. If you dig simple, mellow, ambient, yet catchy music I strongly recommend grabbing a copy. They sell them on their myspace for the regular indie prices. They also have a vinyl version for sale with a bonus track. You could also just grab a torrent like me and you won’t be disappointed  either way. They don’t have any shows up accept a festival appearance in Kansas so we’ll all have to wait to check them out. As for the next review… I’m not sure where I will turn. Our engineer just produced a metal band with some cool attributes that I haven’t really had a chance to check out yet. Maybe that’s what I’ll do.

Until next time… keep spitting in the face of everything that is kitsch!

Hill of Yage

This week I’ve been listening to: New Beneath The Massacre album… same old, same old for them. But such crazy intense music with unreal guitar work. 

images

 

 

 

 

This week I’ve been watching: All of Family Guy season 7! so funny… Every thing’s better with a bag of weed!

This week I’ve been reading: Not much… some pretty fucked up Adbuster’s articles in studio.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: