Quality, not Quantity
The alternate title to this month’s raving is “Why the Industry is Idiotic”.
I’ve noticed a trend over my time as a music aficionado. It seems that major labels require you to turn out an album a year if you’re new, an album every two years if you have an acceptable fan base, and an album every three years if you’re a superstar. Side note: Coldplay falls in its own category of “I got married and forsook my job because I’m a superstar and I can do that” category. I don’t know if they’ll EVER release the album that’s currently sitting in their vaults in some stage of completion. But back on subject-
The industry wants to make money. And by forcing bands to release albums, they in effect lower their profit. Why? Because bands can’t make the album they want, so they turn out crap for songs, put it in a good-looking package, and sell it, just to make the label happy. This small act sends the band in a downward spiral that’s tough to get out of.
Take Relient K for example.
Relient K’s breakout album was the stellar 18-song project “The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek”. I have most of those amazing songs memorized, and for good reason. The album glistened on all cylinders, from the production to the lyrics to the songwriting to the delivery to the song order to the packaging. It was simply blissful, unabashed, mature pop-punk. They went on an extended tour for the album (when you know it’s good, live it up!) and then they came home to start writing again. And write they did. But…wait…their CD release date was already right around the corner! Relient K then spazzed out and rushed to complete “Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right, But Three Do”. Not one element of this album was as good as “The Anatomy…”. There were moments of brilliance, but most of the album just felt rushed. Relient K virtually apologizes lyrically in places during the album. The album was junk. Period.
They took a short tour, then went home and spent a lot more time in the studio. Now they’re releasing a new album, entitled simply: “Mmhmm”. I’ve heard some songs off it- and time makes all the difference. The new tracks are more diverse, more personal, and more amazing than Relient K has ever been. Will the label learn? Hopefully.
How many one-hit wonder bands have been destroyed by the cycle of not getting their second album made the way they want, being forced to put out that junked second album (which fails to sell), then getting dropped from a label? Ever heard of Ruth Ruth? Ever heard of Semisonic? Kevin Max? Calibretto? even corporate darlings Lifehouse have fallen under the curse. It ruins bands! How many more have broken up under the stress? How about Watashi Wa, how about Days of the New, how about just about anyone from the mid-nineties post-grunge fallout session (where all the A&R guys were looking for the ‘new grunge’ and signing, then bailing, artists left and right)?
The industry kills. It doesn’t spare a couple of months to keep their artists in their peak and together. The industry is idiotic.
Roy Ashen/Sugar and Gasoline
Best Feature: This is intense, passionate, and heartfelt music.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Record Label: Catapult Productions
Roy Ashen loves what he does and it shows. His music is intense and passionate, ethereal and sensual. Ashen’s sound reflects the general mid-to-late 90′s alternative rock sound without sounding antiquated. He incorporates some of Matthew Sweet’s upbeat sounds, as well as traces of Soul Asylum’s more grungy sounds, but also remains sweetly sincere through his potently poetic lyrics and the genuine quality of his vocals. He writes from the heart, sings from the heart, and performs from the heart- in short, Ashen is extraordinarily talented. This album runs 56:10 and never gets stale. At the risk of sounding cliché, Roy Ashen gives you the best bang for your buck because every minute is worth listening to.
Group: Paulina/ S/t EP
Best Element: Great mix of the 70's, 80's, and Today!
Don't let Paulina's enigmatic song titles fool you. Their primary style is a terrific blend of classic 70's and 80's rock, but with enough modernized undertones to keep it fitting to our era. That said, the four songs on their self-titled album are hardly monotonous-each shows a different side of the group that's always entertaining to hear.
Their first track "Stardotstar" can best be described as having a no-worry feel. While not the best example of the band's potential (occasionally the lyric placement seems awkward), the drum leads are to be commended, and help preserve its variety. Paulina's mellow side comes out in "One Man Crowd," as the progressive instrumentals add a lot to this song. The intro to "Little Prince" has a classic rock feel as well, with guitar tabs that are here and there reminiscent of Lifehouse. The most unique aspect? Suffice to say it's a perfect example of your general "rocking-out" song. It's nice. But it's cool. And Paulina does an excellent job of showing that it can be both.
At times slightly reminiscent of Foreigner's "Double Vision," "Corwyn" is clearly the star song on this album. With hints of classic rock and ballad and a mix that's never uninteresting, it'll basically take your focus off anything else you're occupied with at the time, making you WANT to follow it. In short: The shifts own this song.
Overall, Paulina clearly has an understanding of how to bring classic rock back without being too nostalgic. On their website, they suggest playing more than one of their songs at a time for "super-crazy-wicked awesome-kungfu grip having" results, but listening to them individually gives the full effect of this album and potential of the band that never once proves itself boring.
Song: Closure Maybe
Genre: Fey Acoustic
Bottom line: Delicate acoustic song for the morning after.
Ledaswan features a female lead singer, which means that “Closure Maybe” also features female leads. They stand out against the simple acoustic backdrop of this song, as is the way with most acoustic songs. Erica Gutierrez (as that is her name) provides some soft, emotive singing to propel this song along, and while it doesn’t really break any ground, there’s no denying that it’s a fragile, beautiful vocal set she has provided for this song. Fans of Rilo Kiley or Death Cab for Cutie will find much to love in this little song- it’s a beautiful, bleary-eyed coffee-song.
Song: The Sex Talk, Slacking, and Four Letter Words
Band: Skill of Lying
Album: Amberlighting EP
Bottom line: Good, but there’s been better.
The only problem in the emo blast that is “The Sex Talk, Slacking, and Four Letter Words” is the sung vocals. I’ve determined that the difference between a good emo band and a bad one is the sung vocals, because it sure isn’t the screamed ones or the guitar proficiency. All emo bands can play their guitars as weapons, punch the tempos with accented drums, and scream ferociously. The better ones can change time signatures and syncopate and use good songwriting skill to keep things interesting. Skill of Lying has done all of that, making this a pretty good emo song. The problem hits in the sung vocals- they’re okay, but they just don’t have the continuously interesting tone that some bands have. You can’t say that the singer from MeWithoutYou has a great singing voice- but it is ALWAYS, always interesting. That’s what you need to capture in an emo song- emotion poured out in unique ways. Skill of Lying is a solid emo band. They just needs to work on some vocal delivery.