This is breathing...

Music is breathing. I'm always stumbling into the local independent record store. Its an escape. And I buy records. I'll tell you about them here. I might also toss in some crazy late-night observations as the music plays.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

LAX-The-Game

Game seemed to fall off a bit since his last album. He doesn't seem as hungry as the last one and he's really not saying a whole lot on this record. We could have done without the interludes and it seemed there was too many little guest spots. Some of the tracks are unlistenable but some of them are really good. As usual Game had a good ear for the beats and for the most part he got some respected names on the production. For once he got something good from Kanye West after their previous two bombs (I can't stand "Dreams" and "Wouldn't Get Far"). Hi-Tek did it again, 3 for 3 on Game albums, delivering another soft percussion number with intense bass that takes over the whole track, he seems to invent everytime around, I like what he does. Nottz came through as usual but he was 1 for 2. "Ya Heard" got a great beat but I was not liking "Cali Sunshine" for some reason, very lame. JR dropped a couple worth keeping and even Scott Storch popped up with something. I have to mention "House of Pain" by DJ Toomp because it's the worst on the album. Talk about boring, this will put you to sleep, why do they leave this on the cd? On the lyrics side he doesn't seem to always stand out though, which is what you want from a rapper like Game, rhymes with energy. I listen to "State of Emergency" and he's ripping it apart, then you turn to "Ya Heard" and he's got a terrible flow while getting killed by Ludacris on his own tape (Luda is the only reason along with the production to listen to it). He seems lazy at times and or drunk/high.. He must have been high to try and recreate the deaths of big rappers on one song, I get tired of that stuff, not to mention he ruined a good beat. My main review of the album is that when he's good he's good, when he's bad he's bad. A handful have been on constant replay and others have quickly found the trash can on my computer.

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

3 Doors Down

I'm a huge fan. I love these guys, and I've been hooked since the day I bought The Better Life years ago. 3DD, in my opinion is the most talented band out there. I have always related to their music - they're just average guys who are passionate about the music.

But having said that, I'm disappointed in the new album. It's hard to explain what I don't like about it, other than it's too clinical. It just sounds like the band went from music as their lives to music as a job. The talent is there, but I'm not feeling the power or the flow that they've spoiled me with the first 3 albums. My wife said that the album sounds rushed. I'm not so sure what it's missing, other than it's missing something. I put on a song like Father's Son from their last album and I just FEEL it.

I heard a live version of "It's not my time", and this new studio version doesn't compare. They made it more "poppish" and it lost something in the translation. It's a great song but it could've been so much better. Everyone else seems to love this version though, so I know I'm in the minority on this one.

"She don't want the world" is my favorite on the new album. It reflects their evolution but still keeps to their roots. "When it's over" almost channels their first album, and it's growing on me.

The rest of the album sounds like they showed up to work one day and cut a bunch of tracks. The songs *almost* do it for me, but they just fall short. They're still my favorite band, but this album could've been better than it is.

Hopefully the new album will grow on me over time, but for now I'll be getting my fix from the previous albums.

By Some Guy

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Friday, March 28, 2008

OneRepublic - Dreaming Out Loud

The good outweighs the bad on 'Dreaming', March 28, 2008
It's not very often that a band from my home state of Colorado hits it big, but that's precisely what OneRepublic has done. With the help of Timbaland, the band scored one of the biggest hits of this decade to date with the remix of "Apologize", which spent 25 weeks in the top ten of the Hot 100, is one of only three songs to date to surpass three million in U.S. digital downloads, and spent 14 weeks at #1 on the United World Chart to name a few of its accomplishments. Needless to say I had to check out the band's debut album, especially considering how addicted I was to "Apologize." The album is one of those "singles" albums in my opinion, where about 5 of the songs are great and sound like big hits, but a lot of the album is filler.

Unsurprisingly to me, I did not find another song I liked as much as the Apologize remix, which is a bonus track on the album. Although I dislike that the remix is credited to Timbaland featuring OneRepublic (it should be vice versa), I have to admit there's something about the remix that sends the song into that upper echelon of mega hit that only happens rarely, and the original version of the song just can't compete. The song is much more than just a hit though, as everything about the remix is the total package of lyrics, beat, hooks, and vocal performance that seamlessly meshes to make it one of those universally likable songs. Enough about that song though, the rest of the album has some other tracks that are worth talking about, starting with second single "Stop and Stare." The song seems to be about evaluating your life and questioning why it is the way it is. The song has a big chorus and is one of the most re-playable tracks on the album. "Mercy" is a more rock tinged affair that first gained the band notice when they put it on their MySpace. It is somewhat reminiscent of a song U2 would do, and is well written and produced. My favorite track besides "Apologize" would have to be "Say (All I Need)" a song that crescendos from a gorgeous soft rock ballad into a soaring melodically layered piece of music. Most definitely a hit, but more importantly a superb song, and I have to also note that lead singer Ryan Tedder gives an exceptional vocal as well on it. The album isn't all good news though, as about exactly half of the tracks are filler that go in one ear and right out the other. Songs such as "Prodigal", "Tyrant", and "Won't Stop" to name a few just leave no real impression on me.

What saves "Dreaming Out Loud" from being disappointing is that the good half of the album overshadows the unmemorable portion. It's been a while since I've heard tracks as overall well put together such as "Apologize", "Stop and Stare", and "Say (All I Need)." Other highlights are "All We Are" and Coldplay esque ballad "Come Home." The band also seems to be talented lyrically as well, and Ryan Tedder might be quite the up and coming producer/songwriter already having huge production/writing hits for other artist such as Natasha Beddingfield's "Love Like This" and the mega worldwide smash "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis. "Dreaming Out Loud" is a promising debut that is satisfying but leaves plenty of room for future growth. 4/5 Stars

My Top 5:
1. Apologize (Remix)
2. Say (All I Need)
3. Mercy
4. Stop and Stare
5. All We Are

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cat Power - The Greatest

As January was winding down and I was wandering around the internet, wading through the eMusic archives and this month's Pitchfork reviews, I felt that January didn't bring much music worth talking about. I gave up and found an interesting artist on an eMusic "dozens" list named Cat Power, a.k.a. Chan Marshall. I downloaded her 2003 album You are Free and became an immediate fan. Her sultry, affecting voice delivers somewhat cryptic lyrics that nonetheless bury themselves under your skin. She plays both the piano and guitar with a moody charm that is, though sometimes simplistic, refreshingly original.

Marshall has just released a new album on Matador Records, entitled The Greatest. Though it doesn't quite live up to it's title, The Greatest does randomly arrive at greatness.

Marshall has previously played it safe within the boundaries of indie rock. The Greatest is her seventh effort and is her most accessible to date, owing to the fact that she is joined not by indie musicians but by legendary Memphis session musicians. These guys are strictly professional and have supposedly played for the likes of Al Green, Neil Young, and Aretha Franklin. This professional accessibility - which evokes the label "Starbucks music" to one Blogcritics reviewer - might mean that the indie rock world snubs Marshall. If, however, Marshall does manage to break into the Starbucks scene, mainstream fans are likely to give The Greatest a warm reception.

The Greatest opens with a triumvirate of the album's best three songs (except for "Love and Communication", which I'll get into later). "The Greatest", about somebody's failed aspirations as a boxer, nails it's intended mood with grace and perfection. A melancholy beat drags down the bittersweet, but endearingly elegant strings as Marshall croons "Once I wanted to be the greatest / Two fists of solid rock." The ballad crushes you under it's sincere depiction, both in lyrics and music, of honest remorse and failure. "Living Proof" wipes away the mournful vibe of "The Greatest", picking up the beat and adding a constant whining organ. "Lived in Bars" begins slowly and carefully, but picks up in mid-song, bursting into a celebratory ditty with repetitive horns and "sho-bops". These first three tracks establish the overall emotional mood of the album; a mood of bittersweet regret, disappointment, and nagging - but comfortable - sadness. These three also showcase the Memphis band at it's best.

The band's overindulgences come up in tracks 4 through 10. Only one of these is honestly bad - the baffling "Where is My Love" - but there isn't much to talk about. The exception is "Willie", a cover of Marshall's own 18 minute song "Willie Deadwilder" about the love between Willie Deadwilder and Rebecca. The lyrics are penned in a Dylan-esque storytelling manner and the band maintains a subdued groove enabling Marshall to show off her sultry vocal talents. Other than this the middle of The Greatest is above average (barely) filler. The band strays a bit too deeply into country-tinges and incessant horns while Marshall seemingly runs out of ideas.

Despite the aforementioned mediocrity, I can recommend The Greatest for three very good reasons. Number one and two are, of course, the opening triumvirate and "Willie". Number three is the closing song, "Love and Communication." Dropping the album's mood, which by this point becomes overbearing, it assaults you with heavy guitar (without the wearing country-tinge), a driving beat, and staccato strings. Marshall's voice floats atop the noise sounding more comfortable and natural than at any other moment on the album. I predict "Love and Communication" ending up on a few "best of 2006" lists. If you are looking for a more complete Cat Power album (minus the filler), I would recommend checking out You are Free. Canada phone cards India phone cards France phone cards Russia phone cards UK phone cards USA phone cards Bizon phone card Jupiter calling card Mozart calling card Continental calling card

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Collin Herring - The Other Side of Kindness

(originally written for the Boise Weekly)

Alt-country always strikes me as unparalleled in the context of authenticity. Collin Herring, hailed as “the torchbearer for alt-country” by the Dallas Observer (an assertion implying a responsibility that isn't entirely fair), plays his guitar and opens his mouth not to turn heads, but rather because playing music is simply what he does. Before even the first song ends, we understand that playing music is on par for Collin with eating, sleeping, and breathing.

Though there is surely something to be said for this raw authenticity, it does not necessarily equate to a worthwhile sonic experience. Indeed, I'm certain that my high school punk band meant every note of the 'music' that we played. But alas, none of our songs have stood the test of time. On The Other Side of Kindness Herring creates a genuine Americana audio landscape. The music's features are as familiar as the landmarks of the American heartland it evokes. This disc, however, is not entirely an obnoxious recreation of tired and traditional musical sensibilities. Herring's music is anchored by guitars that are comfortable like Grandpa and Grandma's home and is accentuated by strings like breezes over rolling green hills. Excuse the clichés.

While the music borders on run-of-the-mill alt-country, Herring shines through his words and vocal delivery. His voice is honest and occasionally intense – like Conor Oberst if he were more focused and more alt-country (the press release included obscure comparisons such as Husker Du; I had to have my fun too). Infused with just the right dose of twang, Herring's voice delivers down-home lyrics that contain grassroots insight. In 'Cauterize' Herring ponders out loud, “I guess only the lucky pictures turn yellow in a frame. The rest you slide into some dark place where receipts are research to remember where I've been, and bad news leads to interstates.” Within one's personal context words like these can attain a lucidity that is capable of shaking lives.

No matter how I may herald the greatness of today's trendiest music, I can't help but occasionally feel suffocated by the pretentiousness that abounds in both the words and sounds. A musician as unpretentious as Herring is refreshing because he is not the next big thing – he's just doing his thing.