Monday, November 27

Trail Of Dead Deal With Their Demons, Get Divided

Artist: ...And You Will Know us by The Trail of Dead
Album: So Divided

Comments: Here’s the story so far for Trail of Dead; Texas boys start a band with very long name and an affinity aggressive rock and orchestral, epic arrangements. Band releases critically acclimated and universally loved major label debut. Band releases follow-up album that is widely ignored. Primary song writer gets depressed. Primary song writer gets bitter, but not angry. Band releases “So Divided”, an album that is good, but not lasting in the way their major label debut was.

Trail of Dead has always made long songs, but on “So Divided” two of the best tracks are under 2:30. Their cover of Sonic Youth’s “Gold Hard Mountain Top Queen Directory” starts as a quiet epic anchored in a piano melody before swelling into a Queen-like chorus of triumph. The other short success on the album is “Eight Day Hell” which once again uses a piano, but this time to record a Beatle’s influenced pop song. This is an unusual move for the band, as their motif has always been punk influenced long rockers, not quick blasts of upbeat pop. For whatever reason, the song works, despite some questionable backup vocals from the rest of the band.

The other major success on the album comes in the form of the title track. The six and a half minute track starts out as slow alternative song before exploding into the kind of epic instrumentation the band has not touched upon since “Source Codes and Tags”. Suddenly, the song changes from a laid back song to an urgent rocker with thumping drums and driving guitars. The song is able to balance the grand feel and urgent delivery of the older Trail of Dead, while maintaining the mature instrumentation and polished sound of the new Trail of Dead. The song is like the last scenes of the first act of a play; it serves to remind the audience of what just happened, and hint at what is to come. It provides a climactic feel despite its placement in the middle of the record.

After those standouts, the rest of the album provides good, if not particularly memorable songs. “Stand in Silence” is the most straightforward rock song on the album, and is the closest thing to the all or nothing rock intensity of the band’s earliest work. “Wasted State of Mind” is a percussion driven track that is only really memorable for its eastern feel, which sets it apart from the rest of the record. Most of the songs 5 minutes or more and the only place the length really doesn’t work is on the Pink Floyidan “Life” which sags under its six minutes.

Overall, this is a good album that showcases Trail of Dead’s maturity as artists without forgetting their rowdy, violent punk roots. Not many tracks here have the same intensity of the early stuff, but there are no snoozers on here. Most of all, it sounds like …And You Will Know us by The Trail of Dead are beginning to come to terms with their sound. I cannot imagine how it would feel to release an album that was so universally loved so early in a career. The problem with that is that there is only one place to go from there, and that is down. On “So Divided”, Trail of Dead sound like they have not lost their ambition, but that they are ready to just start making records that sound good without trying to reinvent the wheel.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Key Tracks: “So Divided” “Gold Hard Mountain Top Queen Directory” “Eight Day Hell”

Worth The Money: Yeah

Monday, November 20

Guest Review - Paul Tsikitas

You Can’t Judge an Album by It’s Cover

Easily one of the most important underground bands of our lifetime, Yo La Tengo, has a tendency to name their albums in the strangest possible way. Titles like And Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out or New Wave Hot Dogs aren’t exactly the album titles that jump out and say “man, this must be awesome.” This can be especially said for Tengo’s latest opus strangely titled I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. Stupid, stupid name. But album titles aside, Tengo does pretty much what it has always done—write really great songs, and on this outing, probably even more so than usual.

On Beat Your Ass (Which is how I’m going to refer to it) YLT decides to do something a little bit different than on other albums. They took all the different sounds and elements of music that they love (everything from 60s British invasion organ jams to fuzzed out noise core to minimalistic Enoesque piano ballads), shove them in a blender and hit puree. Many times a band will try to mix the sounds they have played with and it just doesn’t seem to work all that well. YLT is not one of those bands.

The songwriting of Ira Kaplan, James McNew and Georgia Kupley can be said to be the modern day predecessors of The Velvet Underground. Much like VU’s self-titled third album, Beat Your Ass has a lot of mellow times and beautifully written songs, but it is sandwiched with two fuzzed out guitar jams. The opening track sprawling close to 11 minutes “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind” makes one believe they are in for a sonic atmospheric noise adventure. Not so.

Directly after in an abrupt ending as if someone pushed the button on an old car radio, the station changes and we get the song “Beenbag Chair.” Kaplan’s awkward vocals come in loud and clear over a charming little piano ditty accompanied by Georgia’s luscious harmonies and a horn section giving it a playful and silly vibe. The rest of the album will take these 180’s like cutting butter with a sword—smooth and easy, but almost unnecessary. “I Should Have Known Better” sounds like it should be used in an Austin Powers cut scene with its pulsating organ and super fast guitar riff. “Mr. Tough” has the same goofy vibe as “Beenbag Chair”, yet it’s just a tad bit more addictive. Try not listening to it nonstop for two weeks straight… not that I’ve done that. “Black Flowers” and “The Room Got Heavy” are the peak midpoint of the album where the most unique and different songs appear.

McNew takes vocals on “Black Flowers” for a ballad of sorts that has a strange horn section and arrangements even Sufjan Stevens would want behind his songs. “The Room Got Heavy” is Georgia’s standout performance. Donning her best Nico impression and overlapping it on some really funky organ tracks and an interesting rhythm section of congas and drums that swirl and twirl inside of your ears.

Some of the tunes do kind of drag on a little too long such as the mid-point “Daphnia.” The songs sounds straight off Eno’s Music for Films and just doesn’t seem to fit here—but is that the reason it stayed on the tracklisting? Probably so. Diversity is what makes Beat Your Ass a great album. The finale of “The Story of Yo La Tengo” is a tidal wave of shoe gazing distortion that also drags just a bit too long, but in the genre bender we have here, it’s only too perfect of a closer.

So what should you do before buying this album? Decide whether or not you even like Yo La Tengo. As far as albums go, this will be misunderstood by anyone who is just trying to learn the greatness that is Yo La Tengo. This is a true Tengo fan’s album. It has everything you could want from them (minus their amazing covers that they can churn out.) A springboard this is not. I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass may very well be one of the best albums of this year and without a doubt one of Tengo’s finest moments. So should you buy it? I say yes, but only if you either a) like Yo La Tengo or b) are really interested in hearing an album structured in a way you would never think it should be structured. Just like the title, the idea of it will make you think that it can’t be good. But like Yo La Tengo, it is pretty damn great.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Key Tracks: “Mr. Tough”, “Black Flowers”, “The Room Got Heavy”, "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind"

Worth The Money: For Fans of Tengo and Adventuresome music listeners only!!!

Many thanks to Paul Tsikitas for his take on Yo La Tengo's most recent release, and for giving this site some new matirial in my wake of lazy. Tiskitas is a LaSalle alumni, and as such earned the right to use phrases such as "shoe gazing" with complete impunity. He also knows his way around a record shop, and you should trust his opinion as much as I do.

Thanksgiving! Woo! I promise that I will get another review up here before you settle at you table to gorge yourself on roasted meat, I promise!

Thursday, November 9

Sam's Town Rocks Into Mediocrity

Artist: The Killers
Album: Sam’s Town

Comments: A few things you should know right off the bat:

1) I loved The Killers’ first album. I think I listened to “Hot Fuss” for about 4 or 5 weeks straight, and if I had started this site sooner, it would have made my Best of 2004

2) This album is not as bad as people would have you believe.

3) This album isn’t good either, and it is a far cry from “Hot Fuss”
I was putting off reviewing this record for a while, because I wasn’t really sure what I thought about it. I had read too many reviews and heard too many people talk about it for me to be able to give it a fair shake. So I waited until some time had gone by and people had gotten over the release of this album and moved on to the next so I could give it the fair listen I thought it deserved. In that time, I listened to “Sam’s Town” over and over again, trying to figure the album out. The entire time, I had a sense of “something is wrong on this album, but I cannot put my finger on exactly what.”

But today, in the middle of my 2pm class, it hit me like something metaphorical. The problem with this album is simple: The Killers tried to make a rock record instead of a dance record.

This is the main problem with “Sam’s Town”. The Killers seem to have forgotten what made them famous and popular. No one was listening to “Hot Fuss” for killer licks and wicked chops. People were listening because “Somebody Told Me” was 80s dance punk revival that you could move to. People liked “Mr. Brightside” because it gave sorority girls and mopey depressed boys something in common. No on is getting ready for a basketball game by doing lay-ups and listening to “Smile like You Mean It”. So that is the first problem with the album; The Killers turned up the rock, but at the same time, turned up the suck. The guitars are turned to the front of the mix and serves as the anchor for most of the songs on the album. This is a dumb idea, because The Killers aren’t a guitar band, and rather than lead with their strength, which is synth and hooks, they limp out of the gate and never recover.

Another problem with this album is the songwriting and the singing. For whatever reason, lead singer Brandon Flowers sounds like he lost his voice. He is warbling more than ever, and trying to hit notes that were never in his range on his best day, let alone on an average day. It’s pretty off-putting. Also, gone are songs about woo-ing girls, losing girls, and girls. They are replaced by songs about leaving towns, getting out of towns, the road, and roads out of towns. Now, the Killers are catching some flack to ripping off Springsteen, but after listening to the album a few time, the only thing these guys share with The Boss is a theme of escape. Sadly, The Killers don’t pull this theme off anywhere near as well as Springsteen does, and the songs falter because of it. Especially bad songwriting on “Uncle Johnny”

There are some good tracks. First single “When You Were Young” is the best on the album, as it blends in their dance sensibility with their new found set of rock-ready balls, and its one of the tracks that doesn’t focus too much on the theme of getting the hell out. Scattered all around this album are songs with great choruses, excellent breakdowns, good background vocals, and passable chorus singing from the whole band. The problem is that these are all gems among alibis, and few songs can hold all of them together.

But still, this album isn’t all bad. It’s better than the 2 stars Rolling Stone gave it, but not by much. It’s a better sophomore album than some hot-right-now bands can hope to put out, but not by much. Overall, its an inoffensive listen, but one that will leave you unfulfilled, and because of this, it is an ultimately forgettable, if not unpleasant record.

Two more things. Not problems with the album really, just poor decisions on the part of The Killers. 1) They get the title of “worst song title 06” with their entry of “Bling (Confessions of a King)”, which is such a bad name that it makes me want to hate the song on principal, despite the fact that it isn’t bad. 2) The decision to all grow silly creep moustaches and pretend that they are all in a western. What the fuck guys?

Rating: 5 out of 10

Key Tracks: “When You Were Young”, “Bling (Confessions of a King)” , “Read my Mind”

Worth The Money: Nope

Tuesday, November 7

Things and Other Things

Hello folks,

1) Ya boy Sean, best known as one half of Abreve and a guest writer for this site, has a review of some new hot shit underground hip hop. He gives it his stamp of approval, which is a pretty big deal if you know the guy as well as I do. He hates everything but the freshest of the fresh, so it's something worth checking out. You can read the review at .

2) The year is drawing to a close, so before too much longer I'll be posting my thoughts on the best albums of 2006. Feel free to email me at with your suggestions and gripes.

3) The upcoming schedule is as follows:

Later this week - The Killers
Next Week - Subliminal Orphans, Tool, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Later in the Month - Clipse, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Damien Rice, and MORE!

Mrdogg out!

Wednesday, November 1

Need Some New Information

Artist: Beck
Album: The Information

My first step when I want to review an album is to listen to it once the whole way through without stopping. The goal of this is to get a sense of the album, and formulate an idea of how I feel about it. Sometimes this is an absolute joy (“Boys and Girls in America”, “Game Theory”) and sometimes it is a tedious chore akin to cutting the lawn with scissors and a ruler (the guilty shall remain nameless). But most often, all that happens is that the album runs from start to finish, some songs stand out and some just run together. So when I first listened to “The Information” and it fell into the third category, I wasn’t really too surprised. Since that first listen, I think I have listened to the album all the way through maybe 5 or 6 times, and it is still sitting in that third category.

If you’ve ever heard a Beck album before, you know what to expect. Most geniuses are kooks who are a few money shots short of porn, and Beck is no exception. His blending of folk guitar, beat poetry white boy rap, hip hop drums, alternative instrumentation and progressive samples has yielded some of the most original music created in the last 30 years. But being a Genius isn’t a free pass; being brilliant is no good if you cannot create something to serve mankind, and you can’t create the same thing twice. This is where “The Information” falls short.

“The Information” opens with “Elevator Music”, starting the album off with a smooth laid back beat and some of that trademark Beck white boy rap It also sets a tone that remains constant throughout the album: really cool drums. “Strange Apparition” lifts a piano melody straight out of “Sympathy for the Devil” but charms it’s way out of being a rip off. “Nausea” comes in later, with its African influenced drum and bass thump that screams out to rattle speakers. It’s followed by “New Round”; a softer piece in the same vein of “Sea Change” and serves as the crown jewel of the album.

At the end of the day, there aren’t really any bad tracks on the album. It’s more like there are only a few good ones. “New Round” and “Elevator Music” are both on par with some of his best stuff, but this is mostly an album of filler. The only songs worth mentioning from the second half of the CD are the one that’s challenging, but interesting (“1000BPM”), the one that sounds like it belongs in an 80s teen romance (“Movie Theme”), and the one that’s way to fucking long (“The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton”).

“The Information” is a Beck album, so that means that there are going to be hits and misses. But this Beck CD is the first time that it sounds like to me Beck might be running out of ideas. He’s still one of the most innovative artists in a long time, but I’m afraid he’s been sitting on his laurels for a little too long. That being said, fans will enjoy this album, especially “New Round” and “Nausea”. Just don’t listen to the album all in one sitting, about an hour later, you’ll have vaguely good feeling, but you’ll be wondering where your last hour went.

Rating: 6.5 out 10

Key Tracks: “Elevator Music”, “Nausea” “New Round” “Strange Apparition”

Worth The Money: Only because it comes with a bunch of free stuff. But casual fans should stay away.