Category Archives: Alt Rock

Weekly Dig 3/25 – 3/31

Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals

This is coming a few days late, but hopefully this album will make up for it. All Hour Cymbals is full of all kinds of good stuff from great vocal harmonization’s to hand claps, and all of it tinged with a bit of a psychedelic edge.  The first three tracks are super strong and really get things moving. “2080” is the last punch of that opening trifecta, and I just wanted to highlight that song because of how it ends, in an epic chant of leaving pain behind and moving on in life (Unless you read the lyrics it’s going to be next to impossible to understand what they’re saying). What Yeasayer have done here is put together this collection that’s really a perfect album to welcome spring. It’s brimming with positivity and warmth and is just a lot of fun to listen to.

“It’s a New Year,
I’m glad to be here
It’s a fresh spring,
So let’s sing.”

Weekly Dig 3/18 – 3/24

The Black Keys – Brothers

I’ve had friends tell me to check out The Black Keys, they knew I would like them, heck even I knew I would enjoy them, but it was just something that took me a long time to get around to. Things finally clicked when I first viewed the music video for “Lonely Boy”. The Black Keys are bringing back old school rock, bluesy rock. They’ve been doing it for a long time actually. It’s worth it to check out.Brothers is loaded with great songs. “Howlin’ for You,” “Next Girl,” “Ten Cent Pistol” are all fantastic. Seriously, do yourself a favor and at least listen to those songs.

A peek in the Garden Window

   It was just over year and a half ago when I first discovered O’Brother. The Death of Day EP, which they will send you for free if you sign up on their mailing list, had me immediately hooked. O’Brother had put together a refreshing blend of post-rock, indie, and post-hardcore, and before too long the five songs off of that EP had become some of my favorite songs. Another thing that probably helped propel O’Brother forward among bands I love, was the chance to see them live. About a month after I discovered them they were opening for Manchester Orchestra. O’Brother kills it live, if you have the chance to see them do it. I’ve seen them live three times now and each time they get better and better. It was just a couple weeks ago when I last saw them opening for Thrice and Manchester Orchestra. Seeing some of these songs live was a real treat and helped stoked the fire of my excitement for this release.

The thing that stood out to me first and foremost upon listening to Garden Window was how much heavier this album is. “Malum,” the album’s opening track, establishes right from the get go that the next hour of your life is going to be a cryptic sludgy mess as a wall of of distorted guitars come crashing down on you followed up by Merritt’s haunting vocals. O’Brother has recorded a dark album, full of religious skepticism. On “Malum,” Merritt asks  “How great is my debt that my penance should be endless? Lo, my eager eyes will behold the truth”  amidst an almost Converge-esque chaos. The closing track “Last Breath” shows that the answers sought after only bring more questions to the surface, “So if God is an acronym, some giver of damnation, then why even bother with the concept of man?” The song also serves as the ‘anti’ “Malum.” While the opening track is arguably the heaviest track on the album, the closing track is by far one of the more calm songs, perfect counterparts to each other.

Musically O’Brother has expanded upon everything that was interesting on their EP, and made it better. Many songs lean more towards post-rock/metal, with “Cleanse Me” clocking in just short of fourteen minutes.  Listening to this album leaves you with the feeling that a lot of  time was spent working on the continuity of these eleven tracks to make one complete album as songs build off of one another. “Lo” takes the vocal melody that was introduced in “Malum” and rehashes it into a more standard rock song, “Poison” starts off with a more mellow, slower pace and then builds gradually to lead you into the epic track that is “Lay Down.” And Machines Parts I and II, which could very well have started out as one song, serve to crank up the intensity one last time before the last few tracks send you off. Tanner Merritt’s voice is now even more versatile, ranging from the soaring heights of his falsetto to a throaty growl and just about everything in between. Anton Dang is Attila the Hun of bassists, driving a lot of the music found here. At times he can be seen using a bow on his bass, much like Jonsi does in Sigur Ros on his guitar, to give a different tone every now and then. The drum work from Michael Martins has its moments as well. I really enjoy it when Aaron Wamack teams up and they both play a building rhythm like in “Poison,” or “Malum.”

The constant touring over the past couple years has helped O’Brother find their identity as a band, and it has led them to release Garden Window which seems like anything but a debut album. They’ve taken all of their many different influences and mixed them together to do what has become ever-increasingly difficult, break down the walls of genre’s and craft something original. If they can keep it up, at this pace it won’t be long until they will be the band that everyone is looking to for ideas.

Thrice & Manchester Orchestra @ The Great Saltair 11/1/2011

I think it would be very difficult to find a better lineup than the one for this show. At least a lineup with seven bands, which is a few too many. There was no way I would pass it up with Thrice and O’Brother playing, though. I thought maybe since they were all pretty decent bands it wouldn’t be so bad, but towards the end of the night your brain might be still having a good time, but you back sure isn’t. Luckily for me I’m a pretty strict adherent to the whole mind being greater than the body philosophy.

It could have been an even longer show for me than it was because we showed up a little late and missed the first one or two songs by Moving Mountains. I was excited to hear them, I’d heard a lot of good things about their album “Pneuma,” but during their quick set nothing really interested me into further checking them out. Sure there were a few scattered rhythms here and there that I liked, but as a whole I was pretty indifferent to what these guys were doing.

We moved from the Mountains on the O’Brother, which is a band that is seriously competing to be among my favorites of all. My excitement before the show and enjoyment during for O’Brother was only beaten by Thrice. They’ve been touring a lot recently and it has paid off for them because each time I’ve seen them they’ve put on a better show than the last. They’re new songs on the upcoming album Garden Window are seriously awesome, and I hope that album propels them into bigger success. Then maybe when I see them live they can play more than four songs. Their music is smart, diverse, heavy, and beautiful, although they didn’t show us much of their softer side with the songs they played. They opened with “Machines” I think they played part one and two, and then went into “Division of Man,” and then “Poison!” and “Lay Down.” Did I mention that I can’t wait for  Garden Window in two weeks. With a scruffy looking Leo Dicaprio as the front man and the direct descendant of Atilla the Hun on bass you know these guys are going to rock.

Up next was The Dear Hunter and just once I wish I could swap these guys out for Deerhunter, the better hunter of deers. I don’t know what it is about these guys, but I can’t get into them. Ironically I’ve now seen them more than any other band, because they always seem to be opening for bands that I really want to see like Thrice, mewithoutYou, or in the case of 4 months ago O’brother opened for them. To be honest this was probably my favorite time seeing these guys. It was probably due to the fact that they could only play five songs. The first song they played was really good, but it didn’t take long for them to lose me after that.

Things changed up for a bit as we wrapped up the indie/alt rock scene and La Dispute led us into a post-hardcore phase. I enjoyed these guys about as much as I enjoyed The Dear Hunter. The music rocked pretty good at times, but the biggest enjoyment came from the lead singer. Not because of his singing, but because of his dance moves. It is hard to describe, but he moved in a really unique sort of stiff-limbed way. I imagine it would be something like what you would get from that old, peg-legged, fisherman from Family Guy trying to dance. Throughout the whole set his delivery never changed, it was just barking indecipherable words, and that alone isn’t a problem for me. I don’t care if I don’t understand what their saying, but he never changed his tone or his pitch and I got a little bored with it. Eventually I just ignored him and listened to the other guys rocking out and they were pretty good.

Next up was our favorite jam band White Denim. The competition for that top spot isn’t all that fierce being that they are the only jam band I’ve seen live, but don’t let that fool you. They are really entertaining. They just rock. I’m not sure how long their songs are on their albums, but during their live show it seems like most of their song structure slips away and you’re left with 4 guys just jamming. One song blended into the next and it was easy to lose track of how long they played and how many songs they played. It could have been two songs, and it could have been 5, but the world will never know for sure.

At last we made it to the headliners. Manchester Orchestra was first and they did a good job. I’ve seen them do better though. We didn’t get any humorous banter that I’ve come to enjoy of these guys, so that was disappointing. I also am curious about their decisions on the setlist. I don’t think they played any songs from I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child, and they really didn’t play all that many new songs. I was looking forward to see “Simple Math,” “Virgin” and “Pensicola” but our ears were never graced with those great tunes. Overall though it was great, Andy Hull has a special intensity that he brings to the live shows. “Shake it Out” and ‘The River” were especially intense and they slowed down “The Only One” into an acoustic song which was also really cool.

And so, after 5 hours of rocking good times Thrice came on to send us home. They started off with a few off of their new record “Yellow Belly,” “Promises” and “Call it in the Air.” At some point after that they played “The Earth Will Shake” which has become somewhat of a staple in their live shows. Between O’Brother, La Dispute and Moving Mountains there were five or six extra drums on the stage for the epic ending of that song. Another highlight for me was when they played “Words in the Water,” that song is amazing, and I was super excited that they played it. I was also hoping to hear “Listen Through Me” and “Treading Paper” but you can’t always get what you want. They played a few more songs in there “Silhouette,” “The Weight,” “All the World is Mad,” and “Firebreather” before they left us. Then we called them up for one more and they played “To Awake and Avenge the Dead.” It was awesome, everybody was pumped. Even the security personel were rocking out. Dustin came out into the crowd standing on peoples shoulders, vocally assaulting the mike as intense as I’ve ever seen the guy. It was a fantastic finish to an exceptional show.

The Dear Hunter & o’brother 7/19/2011 @ Kilby Court

Alright, so I’ve been gone for a month, but before I left I managed to squeeze in one more concert. I went back to the lovely little venue of Kilby Court to see o’brother and The Dear Hunter. The lineup was complimented with Naive Thieves and Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground. I’ve seen Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground and o’brother once before and The Dear Hunter twice so I had a decent idea of what to expect for this show.

Naive Thieves were a great opener. They played a pretty mellow pop/surfer rock that was hard not to love. They’ve got some songs up for free download on their bandcamp and sites. I would recommend you check those guys out. Next up was o’brother, and they were the big pull for me to go to this show. They also made it worth it. They’ve got a new album coming out some time in October and half of their set were songs from that upcoming release.  The first song they played was a bit surprising to me, it was a lot heavier than the previous songs they’ve written. It took me a little bit to warm up to the screaming, but about halfway through the song I accepted it and it was awesome. Then they played some of their older songs; Providence, Division of Man, and Ascension which was fantastic. They ended their set with three more songs off of their new album, two of which I’d already heard through splits and an Alter The Press compilation. They played Aurora and then a song I don’t know the name of yet, but could be a favorite of all the songs I’ve heard from their new album. The rhythm section was just bringing the house down and then they finished by playing Lay Down, which is another rocking song. There was only one problem while o’brother was playing, and that was that there was too much awesomeness. So much so in fact, that the poor mike trying to take in the vocals kept getting overloaded. After a while it got a little rough on the ears which was a shame because the vocals of o’brother are so unique that it was a bummer they weren’t in the mix like they should have been.

The awesomeness slowed down a bit after that with Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground. I’d seen them live before a couple of years ago and I remembered them being a bit underwhelming, but while they were setting up I was starting to hope that they might put on a better show tonight. Sadly I was left with underwhelming again. I find these guys to be kind of gimmicky. They’ve got a guy that plays the violin and a guy playing the tuba to try and add some not-so-standard things to the music, and you can’t help but want to like these guys. Then after you hear the music you can’t help but be disappointed because with all the different sounds that could have been you never heard anything that was really all that interesting or catchy. The Dear Hunter have been another band that have left me a bit underwhelmed. I’ve seen them twice before and both times I haven’t been all that impressed. They have just released nine EP’s in The Color Spectrum and I’d heard a lot of good things about that, so I was looking forward to hearing the ways The Dear Hunter have diversified their sound. The first half of their set left me worrying that this would end up just like the other times I saw this band, but then they played the fan favorites of The Church and the Dime and Red Hands and things started to pick up. The rest of the songs they played were really good and made me interested in checking out some of the color EP’s. It’s pretty crazy to me that they were able to release 36 new songs. It’s also pretty impressive. You can’t say that these guys don’t have ambition, and from what I’ve read they have a lot more still that they want to accomplish. More power to them.

Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.

TV on the Radio made a movie of their new album Nine Types of Light. I want to talk about it

Nine Types of Light was released a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t actually purchased this album yet and I would partly blame that on this video considering it contains the whole album. Then a little over a week after this release Gerard Smith, the bassist, passed away due to lung cancer. Needless to say I was incredibly shocked as I’m sure almost all their fans were. That alone changed my feelings towards this music. It makes me feel like I need to appreciate it more and I don’t think that will be hard to do.

The songs they’ve crafted here seem more heartfelt than their past works, and by past works I mean Return to Cookie Mountain because I have yet to listen to Dear Science. “Will Do,” the lead single, is a perfect example of this. The song in conjunction with the music video seems to be themed around love lost and it is just packed with emotion. This somber tone doesn’t permeate through the whole album as there is a pretty large range of moods,”Caffeinated Consciousness” and “No Future Shock” are both pretty upbeat and will make you want to move.

I’m curious as to whether or not the members of the band knew Gerard’s passing was coming so soon. Maybe the lung cancer snuck up on him, maybe he’s known for months? I certainly will never know, but I just find it so interesting that they released this album so soon before he left this world. Not only that but they were touring, they have shows scheduled all through the summer. The tour started a week before the album was released and during the last have their going in to international territories; Mexico, Poland, Spain, France, the UK. They cancelled five or six shows to have a couple of weeks to care of all the things you need to when the bassist of your band dies. The way things were scheduled it makes me think that this was how Gerard wanted to go; making new music and playing shows for their fans. Unless this was as unexpected by the band as is was for me, but then I have a hard time believing that all you need is a few weeks to find a new bassist and continue on to a world tour. I like to think that he did pass away amidst doing all that he loved to do, and I hope we could all be so lucky. Not that dieing of lung cancer is lucky, I’m sure that was horrible and painful, but at least he got to go out with a bang.

I know an hour is a long movie to squeeze in to your jam packed days, but if you get the chance check it out. It starts out with a panel of people discussing dreams. It’s strange at first, but they discuss some interesting ideas. They appear a couple more times and talk about relationships, and the afterlife, and all those big question topics. “Caffeinated Consciousness” is the first track on the movie, and I really dig the music video for that with all it’s bright colors and oddly costumed characters. “Will Do” appears about 25 minutes into it and if your not going to watch the whole movie which I can’t blame you, look up this music vid on youtube, it’s a fantastic first single for this album.

RIP Gerard Smith.