Band Name: Various
Album Name: Inderma Records: Volume 1
Best Element: Original, interesting bands
Label Name: Inderma Records
Band E-mail: email@example.com
In the spirit of Russkaja, Morricone Youth, Iver, and Blue Ink Rebellion, here’s another bizarre and awesome new thing from Independent Clauses: Inderma Records. Yes, it’s an entire record label this time. Inderma Records specializes in improvisational music- music that hasn’t been made before it is performed/recorded and probably won’t ever be played in that way again. It is spontaneous songwriting that tests the chemistries of musicians to the maximum. It’s kind’ve like jazz, only without a commonly accepted point of reference. The collective state of mind of the group is the point of reference for a song.
These bands range from the rather complex, multi-person antics of Alchemy is Fire to the ambient, fuzzy Theanti to the dissonant and clangy duo Lamps to the extremely quirky, lo-fi pop of Cody Pike. Each have a say on this comp, whether it be Alchemy is Fire’s 15-minute long improv freak-out “Intergalactic Antics”, or Lamps’ two six-minute contributions, or Theanti’s shorter, glitchy ambient pieces.
Although this album is extremely interesting and exciting to me as a lover of new and interesting music, the point of improv isn’t to sit around and listen to it in your house. Improv is a live experience and as such, these recordings merely serve as impetus to go see the bands live. Cody Pike and Theanti have higher replay value, but bands like Alchemy is Fire and Lamps have little replay value. This is not to say they aren’t brilliant bands- it’s just that recordings are not the preferred method of hearing them. But sometimes there is no other way.
I’m thrilled that Inderma Records exists to help out bands like these. I think everyone deserves a fair shake, and the good people up at Inderma are making it easier for bands to do what they love. Everyone should hear this album, just to see what is happening- and since Inderma is a non-profit organization that makes all its albums available on their website, you can. Go there. It might inspire you.
Band Name: Various
Album Name: On the Verge: Alberta’s Best Rock
Best Element: The realization that there are some non-sucky modern rock bands.
Genre: Modern Rock
Label Name: Cyclone Records
Band E-mail: info’cyclonerecords.ca
So I will admit it- when a good modern rock song comes on the radio, I listen to it. I know, I know- I just lost a whole lot of credibility in a lot of people’s eyes, but whatever. There are good songs in every genre- even the most bloated ones in the world (and that crown [i]would[/i] go to modern rock).
Yes, this is a modern rock comp. And I did approach it with caution- even saying the words “modern rock” in a group of music snobs will cause near-seizures- but I think that it is ignorance to dismiss an entire genre en masse. So I gave this album a fair shot, just like any other album we review. And I was surprised at the selection on this album.
Yes, there were a few bands that bore a gut-wrenching resemblance to Nickelback and co., but besides those few unpleasant entries (about a quarter of the album’s 20 tracks), there’s actually a lot of good songwriting on this album. Gunther’s “Wrecking Ball” is a completely instrumental piece with a lot of heavy guitar/harmonics interaction, and it was really quite impressive. They also experimented with dynamics throughout, which is unusual for a modern rock band. I wouldn’t mind hearing more of Gunther’s guitar heroics, just as I wouldn’t mind hearing more of Hollow House.
Hollow House’s contribution was definitely the heaviest of the bunch, bordering on Deftones-style distortion to propel their eerie highlight track “Seeing Through Sepia.”
Winter’s Longing offers up two very pleasing tracks, taking a more upbeat, punkish approach to their rock. Six Pack Jacket’s “Eldorado Kid” is an excellently executed blast of old-school surf punk, while both of Creature Republic’s offerings were ear-catching, if not exactly groundbreaking. The female vocals there redeemed them, as the vocalist managed to not sound like Amy Lee of Evanescence.
So it just goes to show that there is good in every genre- you just have to be a little more open-minded to get your head around it. Now I won’t be defending 3 Doors Down anytime soon, mind you- but I do like what Cyclone Records has done with On the Verge.
Band Name: Various
Album Name: A Peek From the Unknown
Best Element: “Candy Hearts” by Tragic Miracle.
Label Name: Olinger Records (formerly Oldhouse Records)
Many fledgling labels like to start out by releasing a compilation album. Some labels see it as a chance to state their mission statement, while others see it as an easier proposition than releasing an album or an EP from a specific band. [u]A Peek from the Unknown[/u] is Olinger Records’ debut release, and it seems that this compilation was set up with label mission statement in mind.
I’m not going to beat around the bush: this is a pop-punk comp. It’s got 20 bands, and nearly all of them would list pop-punk either first or second on a list of their genres. While that does make this album an extremely tiresome cover-to-cover listen (especially if you’re not a fan of high-pitched pop-punk vocals, which are in abundance here), there are some nuggets of goodness in the mix.
It would be a crime to not mention Tragic Miracle’s “Candy Hearts”, a blistering firecracker of a song that calls up comparisons to early Offspring work (always a good thing). The cool guitar work, sincerely unique lead vocals, and passionate group yells make this the hands-down best track on the comp.
Another highlight is the very not-pop-punk “Prince of Thieves” by J’espere. Featuring an excellent female vocalist over an indie-rock barn-burner, it barely fits on the comp. Also contributing some good tracks are Flashlight Arcade with the dreamy, indie-tinged “Last Call for Demerol”, the Awkward Romance with “All You Non-Conformists are Alike” (much improved since the last time I heard them), and 5 Stars for Failure’s half-hardcore, half-pop-punk “Death Won’t Take Me”.
If you’re a fan of pop-punk, this CD delivers a wide variety of acts for you to check out, and should compel you keep an eye on Olinger Records. If you’re not a fan, then there’s really not enough here to justify the purchase.
Band Name: Various
Album Name: The Heart of Alberta: Folk, Country, Acoustic
Best Element: “For All Time” by the Allen Christie Band
Genre: Folk/Country/Acoustic/Modern Rock?/Hip-hop?
Label Name: Cyclone Records
This comp is labeled as folk, country, acoustic, and while that’s mostly correct, there are some very odd choices on this record that don’t fall into any of those three categories. For example, Kreshia Turner’s “Unnecessary Complications” is a hip-hop song. I am not kidding you- it’s a hip-hop song masquerading on a folk/country/acoustic album. It is based in an acoustic groove, but still- it threw me off. The Evanescence-like modern rock of Christa Haberstock’s “Necessary” and Jenae’s “A Flower” are also odd choices for this album.
But there are some nuggets of goodness on this album. Both of Hillbilly Dust’s blue-grass tinged acoustic-based songs are highlights, as well as Judith Lam’s forlorn “Prairie Skies”. “Don’t Call” by the James Murdoch Band features some great vocals and good songwriting in the verses, although the chorus is a little bit too formulaic for my taste. My favorite track here is “For All Time” by the Allen Christie Band, a bluegrass/pop fusion. It would fit radio well, and it’s a good song to drive to.
In fact, all of the songs on this comp would be perfect for radio- they all have a certain production sheen that makes them perfect for that medium. Some people would find this to be a turn-off, as some of the soul is lost from certain tracks in the transition. But the best tracks survive the transition well, making them definitively the best.
This comp is a pretty average affair- there are some genuinely good tracks, and some not-so-great tracks. If this were all folk/country/acoustic, it would be much better than it is- the tracks that didn’t fit really threw off the flow of this album.
Band Name: Various
Album Name: Assemblage Vol 1.0 DVD
Best Element: Really high quality choices.
Genre: Metalcore/Emo/Punk/indie….all separately, not a mix.
Label Name: Grey Two-Eleven Records
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Grey two-eleven’s Assemblage Vol. 1 is a very interesting release. It’s like a compilation album- only it’s a DVD of music videos instead of a CD of songs. I will treat this like I treat comps, because I really can’t think of any other way to review it fairly.
This is simply a stellar release. There are twenty music videos on this DVD, and of those twenty, only two bored me. Ironically, the two culprits of video boredom were two bands that would otherwise be praised: Copeland and Dismemberment Plan.
The Grey Two-Eleven staff did a great job picking these videos on many levels, picking a quality batch of songs in multiple genres that showcase a lot of different styles of video and varying levels of exposure.
After starting off with a bizarre concept video from pop-punkers Name Taken, this DVD launches right into the good stuff- darker punk band The Exit’s contribution “Lonely Man’s Wallet” is a great song with a brilliant story-telling video. The video shows the band in what seems to be a subway, watching various “lonely” people spend their money in various ways: gambling, drinking, whoring, etc. It’s a really well-crafted video and excited me for the rest of the release. Poison the Well’s metalcore contribution is a very well-shot but rather unexciting video of the band playing in a large barn- thankfully, “Botchla” is a good enough song to save the video. Indie-punkers .moneen. contribute a concert video, and while these normally suck, .moneen. shows that they know how to throw a party: doing backflips, surfing the audience, wrecking their equipment, running around the stage, and generally causing mayhem. It’s really fun to watch.
Ultimate Fakebook contributes hilarious satire on their genre of rock-n-roll by teaching a ‘rock-n-roll class’, one-man indie-pop project Onelinedrawing shoots a home video of Jonah Matranga walking around trying to make people smile, The Waking Hours and the Weakerthans pull off geek-rock with fervent abandon, and Blueline Medic partially succeeds at spearing the corrupt corporate and political systems by shooting a very low-key, thoughtful video to a punkish anthem.
These are all highlights, but the two absolute best videos are entered by The Beautiful Mistake and The Jealous Sound. The Beautiful Mistake’s “On Building” isn’t even one of their best songs, but the video for it amazing. It’s a story video that shows a man in a restaurant walking up to the waitress, talking to her, and giving her his card. He leaves. She leaves as well, returning to her abusive boyfriend/husband, who has already messed up her daughter and sets in on her. A montage scene of the man in the diner feeling the woman’s pain ensues- a simply stunning touch. The woman gets a gun, and murders the abuser- she calls the man in the diner. He runs in, takes the gun from her, wipes it of prints, and when the police come, he is the one arrested for the murder. The woman is in anguish. I’m in awe. It’s probably one of the coolest videos I’ve ever seen.
The Jealous Sound has an amazing video as well, but this video shows the band playing in a room lit with lamps that keep flickering on and off, casting weird shadows on the members of the band. The cinematography on “The Fold Out” is painstakingly and beautifully created, as the multiple camera views all have a purpose. The eerie ambience of the scene is only enhanced by the really, really tight indie-rock in the background- exactly how a song and video should play off each other. If the song weren’t as amazing as it is, the video wouldn’t be as powerful as it is, and vice-versa. Excellence.
This is a really excellent way to find out about new bands, and I highly recommend that you check this DVD out. I am a fan of music videos, and this compilation made my day when I watched it. I hope to see more of these compilations in the future, as this DVD’s high quality, quantity, and range make it one of the best ideas to come across my table in a while.