Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Muse - The Resistance

I’ve never been a fan of people who decide whether music is good or not based on popularity. On one end of the spectrum there are those that simply don’t know that any music but commercial popcrap exists, but even worse in my opinion are those who immediately cast a shadow of doubt on music just because it’s popular. Now I’m not talking about the genre “pop”, we all know that top-40 stuff sucks, but it’s just insane to say, as I have heard many times, that an amazing alternative rock band like Muse are “too popular”. That has nothing to do with the fact that their latest release, “The Resistance”, is amazing; popularity and quality are mutually exclusive. Sure it’s not as good as some of their other albums, namely “Absolution” or “Origin of Symmetry”, but it pains me to see people get so caught up in haughty arrogance and independent elitism that they would actually claim that this album sucks.

Frontman Matt Bellamy’s voice is pure heaven. I once asked a friend if he liked Muse and he said “No, because the guy sings in falsetto.” Well… W. T. F. That would be like saying you don’t like Van Gogh because he used a wide paint-brush, or the Eiffel Tower is ugly because of what metal it’s made out of. It’s a style of singing, and not only is it perfectly warranted as a part of Muse’s overall sound, it augments it. He has the ability to bridge the gap between the higher register and the lower seamlessly, something that takes a lot of practice and dedication to the art of singing. And it doesn’t stop with his voice; anyone who has seen them live can attest that his piano and guitar skills are ludicrously good, and on their studio albums the layering of these elements is nothing short of divine.

But hang on, aren’t there more members in the band? Yes, and they are, too, incredibly talented. I especially like Chris Wolstenholme’s bass and always-in-the-background yet never unnoticed backing vocals, and drummer Dominic Howard is simply outstanding. Yet Bellamy’s voice will always be the defining thing about Muse, and on this album it delivers, with soothing, uplifting and soaring timbre, the usual message of love and regret, themes of world unification, disestablishmentarianism (I’m sorry I couldn’t think of a better word), and conspiracy theories.

The album holds together very well, a thoroughly enjoying experience from start to finish, and you wouldn’t expect anything less. I think where some people get their dislike of this album from is that they don’t realise Muse are not a “heavy rock” band. They have always shone on softer tracks like “Falling Down”, “Screenager”, and who could forget “Unintended”. This softness is interwoven very deep in the fabric of the album, probably off-putting newbie Muse fans who expected the slightly harder-edged nature of their previous release, “Black Holes and Revelations”, yet it is done in a gorgeous way, utilising string sections, sweeping pads and lush vocal layering. This is particularly evident in the three-part magnum opus of the album, “Exogenesis Symphony”. Symphony is definitely the right word to use here, although Muse has been known to label their music rather strangely (Bellamy has been cited calling “Supermassive Black Hole” an RnB track).

All in all it’s another Muse album and another winner, simple as that. People will look back on the 00’s and remember Muse as legendary, and fans the world over, myself included, sincerely hope they continue making great music like the luscious, scintillating, operatic and 5 star album that is “The Resistance”.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Red Friday - Nothing Is Free

I get very excited about great music, and often my reviews are hyperactively praising, but this time there’s really just not enough I can say to justify this album. I am blown away. I wish I could go back in time and tone down the enthusiasm of some of my earlier reviews to give this album the relative standing it deserves. VAST’s self-titled album was amazing. “Nothing Shocking” by Jane’s Addiction was more amazing. “Mer de Noms” by A Perfect Circle: exquisite. But holy fuck, Red Friday’s debut release, “Nothing Is Free”, is better than all three combined.

Those three names came to mind as I listened again, and again, and again; not just comparing the production values and composition of this jewel to those classic albums, but also because of what the sonic scope incorporates: warm yet heavy guitars, a voice that expresses, soothes and provokes; that is raw yet clean - segueing easily between different styles - carrying lyrics of hefty weight and emotion whilst still somehow retaining a hauntingly cold distance; drums that punch straight through the mix and combine with a positively droolifying bass to get that spinal action happening; and the light, albeit perfect amount of, electronic elements.

It’s a special sort of sound that a lot of bands aim for and miss, and that a rare few like the ones I’ve mentioned nail, yet at 25 minutes long, this 8 track album manages to compress all those juicy elements into the sweetest fruit possible. All killer, no filler, engaging for every single second, superbly produced, and an album you simply cannot live without. So it’s a good thing this album can be downloaded in its entirety from their website (free), for without it life would just be… less.
Red Army (Red Friday's fan site)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Aether Tree - The Children's War

I have put off reviewing this album for a long time, because there is so much I want to say about it, yet so little at the same time; more than anything I want you to merely listen to it. For this guy pours his heart and soul into his music; but rather than sieving it, kneading it and cookie-cutting it into a perfectly produced popcrap album, it spills over the edges, it gets smudged with dirt, its raw emotion shows through like bone in a deep wound. And this is exactly what makes it so beautiful. An artist’s toil is the pursuit of a perfection that can never be attained, and nothing is more admirable in a work of art like this album than what I call “beautiful imperfection”. His voice is rough and out of tune, his timing is off, the lyrical themes are disjointed and the guitar and piano playing is sloppy. But I beg of you, do not take this as a bad thing, for beneath the unpolished surface is a core that shimmers like a sapphire. The lyrics are absolutely gorgeous because they’re disjointed, the guitar is loose and freewheeling as the piano is whimsical and expressive because they’re sloppy; and his voice, oh his voice - such bittersweet poignancy will never grace the lips of any commercial singer - beauty in imperfection. On top of this there are glimpses of elements like soothing pads, saxophone, and found-sounds, plus a killer rhythm section, that all work together to produce something truly unique and beautiful. I hold this album very close to my heart, something about it touched me and moved me in a very deep way, and all I can say is “Listen”. Listen.

The Aether Tree has a cosy little homepage.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gravity Euphonic - [Self-Titled]

There’s nothing spectacular about this music but it got me turning it up to 11 and rocking the fuck out. Industrial music can often carry with it a swathe of petty goth-core imagery and try-hard darkness, yet apart from slightly clich├ęd lyrics these guys are solidly awesome without any pretence. The guy’s voice works well with this style of music and the production is simply astounding. Hard hitting bass and synth lines and heavy guitar backed up by perfect drums. I often write reviews of albums then leave them on the shelf, but I feel like this one will stay in rotation for a fair while. I’m normally very verbose and flowery with my language but I think the simplicity of this music warrants a succinct statement: “Fuck yea, Rock! Get it.”

Gravity Euphonic homepage.

Titee - Natural Kangaroo

Listening to Titee’s music, one gets the feeling that he is a man so advanced in wisdom that he has learned how to be a child again. His approach to melody, tone and rhythm is that of a wide-eyed, innocent child, exploring and playing make-believe. Going to and fro and in and out of blast-beats and arpeggios, smooth pads and deep bass, and the occasional (yet perfectly placed) vocal, the music defies normality vehemently and evokes pure, youthful imagination. Yet behind this curtain of playfulness is a dark undercurrent that reveals the intense and mad ramblings of an insane genius, and makes it something effervescent, something cosmic. There are moments of pure terror such as the monstrous rumbling of “Panntha Tooth”, and moments of delight as in the fantastically upbeat “Loosy”.

“Natural Kangaroo” is an appropriate title to describe the bouncing nature of this album. It hops and hops and hops, sometimes in a smooth, adventurous way, and other times in a startled leap as if the high beams have been suddenly flashed at the music. Natural is another word that becomes this album very well; one can imagine the furious chopped melodies and beats physically attached to Titee’s hands, being spun and woven effortlessly, the arms and fingers sweeping and swaying in a flurry of energy. Often fast paced yet very appropriately mellow at times (especially the brilliant closer track “Relax and Spin”), this album is the essence of an artist who lives in a colourful, enchanting and magickal world, a beautiful mind and soul that he allows a rare glimpse of with this gem of an album.

Outstanding work.

Free download: