Band Name: Full Surrender
Album Name: The Distance Between EP
Best element: Unique and beautiful use of acoustic guitar
Label name: Jerk Records (http://www.jerkrecords.com)
Band e-mail: email@example.com
Within Full Surrender’s The Distance Between are five tracks which demonstrate musicians who have great potential. There are some things that they do incredibly well, and some things that they can improve upon.
As a high point, Full Surrender’s vocalist’s ability to sing is incredible. His voice is very emotive, and very easy to listen to…until the screaming starts. As an emo band, they are excellent, but the hardcore elements in each song feel out of place.
Another high point is the very clever use of acoustic guitar found throughout this CD. They don’t overuse the acoustic guitar – it is incorporated in a very subtle way, and creates a very sensitive undertone. Thus, it fits into their songs without screaming “listen to me! I‘m here!” This makes Full Surrender’s sound very unique and very aurally pleasing.
Song-wise, high points include “Borealis” and “For the Sake of Ten”, which stand out as runaway “hits”. The only musical low point is “Win Sen”, which is redeemed by lyrics so good that it’s not skippable.
The high points definitely outweigh the low points here, and having said that, it is really hard not to like this EP.
Band Name: El Minotaur
Album Name: The Vernal Sequined Ox
Best element: Not selling out
Label name: Generic Equivalent Records (http://www.boatsandstars.com/geneq)
Band e-mail: ElMinotaur@hotmail.com
El Minotaur means the absolute best. They are being themselves throughout this entire CD, sticking to their guns and not selling themselves out to become trendy and modern sounding. However, they very succinctly sum themselves up in the song “Jack A Dull Boy” when they say “take your calculated, over-thought, forced rhyme psuedo-poetry and burn it all/this time try to pick the words that mean the most to you and make you feel.”
That having been said, they have taken just about every lyrical cliché known to man and stretched them throughout a very difficult-to-get-into nine-track CD. The lyrics are full of things that the listener has heard so many times before that he or she cannot connect with the music on a lyrical level. Musically, each song is filled with early 80s throwback metal riffs and incoherent screaming, so unless the listener was a fan of 80s metal music, he or she cannot connect with the band musically either. When the vocalist is not screaming, he’s singing- but usually sounding whiny and off key. This, combined with the wailing guitar riffs and off-beat drums make this whole CD very painful to listen to.
How apt that they are on a record label named “Generic Equivalent“! While sticking to your guns is an admirable trait as a musician, it may be advisable for El Minotaur to take a bit of their own advice: While sticking with what feels right to them, they should come out with something more groundbreaking, instead of telling us what is felt by using the same boring analogies and sounds we’ve heard hundreds of times before.
Band Name: Cex
Album Name: Starship Galactica
Best element: Strange, sometimes comedic moments
Label name: Temporary Residence (http://www.temporaryresidence.com)
Band e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
With a style reminiscent of an instrumental The Postal Service, Cex’s re-released album Starship Galactica is a very fun listen. It starts off with a comedic intro: a computerized voice introduces the CD, only to be cut off Cex (actually artist/producer Rjyan Kidwell), who introduces the first real track, “Cal and Brady Style”. We then get to what most of this CD is – tracks of computerized techno music.
The weirdest track here is “Hi Scores” – which pretty much sounds like two people having sex while a guy is playing video games. It ends with him asking for a Sprite. Very strange. Title track “Starship Galactica” is also quite funny- it sounds like a 1980’s TV theme song, only with people intentionally singing badly and breaking up into laughter at times. The repetition of the phrase “gay men” over and over again at the beginning of the last track, “Bunky”, is also quite strange.
Overall, although a definite throwback to the late-90’s rave era, this feels like it would be a good CD to have as background music at a party (aside from “Hi Scores”…which depends on the kind of party you’re having!) or while you’re driving around with some friends on the weekend looking for some fun. If you’re into a very unique brand of techno music, this CD is definitely one to check out.
Band Name: Derby Lane
Album Name: The Vs. Narrative EP
Best element: “Bridgeport in Summer”
Label name: N/a
Band e-mail: email@example.com
Some people genuinely like the taste of Vanilla. Some people like to paint their walls industrial beige. Some people like to drive black Honda Civics. Some people even like to watch re-runs. I am not one of those people- I like to be different, I like to be stimulated, I like it unique.
I say this because Derby Lane is decidedly vanilla in their The Vs. Narrative EP. There’s nothing wrong with them at all- this will appeal to some people, and even make some people very very happy. It’s just that I don’t see anything in it that’s unique. Their songwriting hooks are all very adequate, but their pop-rock/pop-punk song structures don’t do much besides glorify the hook. This results in songs that drone on with seemingly no point- a terrible fate for any listener. Once the hook hits, the listener is reminded why the song was written in the first place, but when an entire 4 minutes hangs on the repetition of a guitar line or two, there’s a problem.
But it’s not always the guitars distilling nuggets of goodness- sometimes the vocalist delivers the hook in his high-pitched tone that’s never nasal but still grating after a while, such as in “Attalia”. His vocals aren’t that bad- it’s just that they’re not stellar, and after being pushed way up to the front, drowning out some of the music in the process, they just having nothing at all to hide behind. This exposes every little flaw and intonation the singer makes, and ultimately hurts the band.
But it’s not all dim prospects for Derby Lane. The dynamic shifts and melancholy air of “Bridgeport in Summer” actually let Derby Lane’s strength in songwriting sing out in a way the other four songs couldn’t, as “Bridgeport in Summer” possesses a beautiful, mellow clarity, good instrumental interactions, and unique ideas. It’s only one fifth of this EP, but hey- it’s a start.
If you like pop-rock/punk that’s on the radio right now, get this EP. You’ll love it. If you like a little more depth in your music, I’d pass on this one for now. Derby Lane does peek their head above water with “Bridgeport in Summer”, but most of this EP is submerged in the shallows of our musical era.
How Video Games Make You Smarter (Music-wise)
So I’m almost always six months behind the trends or six months ahead of the trends. This month I’m talking about the fact that I’m six months (or more) behind. I’ve been playing SSX 3 on the PS2 lately (no, that’s NOT the reason this edition is late) and I’ve been really wowed by the soundtrack.
Yeah, there’s the obligatory rap stuff on there, but there’s also some really good indie rock, like Placebo, Ima Robot, and The Caesars. That last band is the one I’m most impressed with- their contribution to the soundtrack is the infectious anthem “Jerk it Out” (it’s also been featured on an Ipod commercial as of late- but this is about a different growing trend). The track makes me sing, makes me want to dance, and basically has me jammin’ all the way to finish line (in 5th or 6th…just cause I play the game doesn’t mean I’m good). I went and looked up their album online, which I can do because I have this awesome streaming service named Rhapsody (www.listen.com) where I can listen to pretty much anything in the world for free, as long as I’m content to stream it. I sit at my computer enough to make it worth it.
Anyway, I looked it up online, and their album <u>39 Minutes of Bliss (In an Otherwise Meaningless World)</u> is a really good album- I’m considering buying it. I also looked up some more songs by Ima Robot, since “A is for Action” intrigues me to no end (their vocalist is awesome), and it’s the same story. Good album that I might buy. I haven’t done it for Placebo yet, but I plan on doing so.
Now this column isn’t trying to glorify SSX 3 alone (although I’m doing a good job so far of doing that). This is to say that all video game makers should spend this much time putting together their soundtracks. Three of the bands that I hadn’t heard on this soundtrack were bands that I really enjoy, but would have never found otherwise. If all video game makers were so good to their soundtracks, then this could be a genuinely great way to market music. It easily surpasses the music video as an effective means to advertise (but that’s a different column).
Will we see the perky dance/rock of I Hate Kate (www.purevolume.com/ihatekate) in a bouncy adventure game? Will the dark indie rock of Ammi grace a down-and-gritty first-person shooter game? Will RPGs be transformed by the panoramic ambience of Ugly Colors, Shots Before Sunset, and/or Industries of the Blind? Time will only tell- but I think so. I hope so. It would make video games way cooler than they already are- and it would sponsor good musical tastes among the general, video-gaming public. Indie-rock to the general public- now there’s something we can all look forward to.