True fans of music spend countless hours searching for that next great song, album or artist, whether it be online or in a local record shop. The beautiful thing about music in today’s age is that technology has created an infinite supply of great music that is available to us at the click of a mouse. How perfect is that? We can discover a brand new artist on the opposite side of the globe in seconds without a radio or a music television channel. It only makes sense that a website so dedicated to this gorgeous universe of music would want to celebrate the greatness and share it with anyone who is looking.
My name is Eric (Connecticutter), and I am your host of Straight from the Teet, where I will delve into 7 new albums per week as well as 1 randomly chosen throwback record and let you know which tracks I loved from the albums I listened to. I hope that my exploration through this never-ending sea of music will help satisfy that hunger for the brand new tracks you have been seeking.
MONDAY: Hot Chip – In Our Heads
TUESDAY: Metric – Synthetica
WEDNESDAY: 2:54 – 2:54
THURSDAY: Lights Out Asia – Hy-Brasil
FRIDAY: POP ETC. – POP ETC.
SATURDAY: Whirr – Pipe Dreams
SUNDAY: Wintersleep – Hello Hum
THROWBACK: Porcupine Tree – Deadwing (2005)
Hot Chip – In Our Heads:
I've got to be honest, I've never really been much of a Hot Chip fan. Sure, I enjoyed One Life Stand and The Warning but in the end, both albums and the rest of their discography are quite forgettable to me. Even though I don't have a sincere love for their electronic pop musical style, I was still pretty excited to listen to their newest album, In Our Heads. I credit this to 2012 being such a shitty year so far for music but whatever the case is, I was quick to check it out as soon as I possibly could. Now, if you aren't familiar with Hot Chip, they are an electronics based indie pop band from London. The band is a combination of Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard, Owen Clarke, Felix Martin, and Al Doyle who create a mixture of decently complex electronic arrangements and bubble gum pop bliss. Over the years, they have created quite big shoes to fill with every new release as critics everywhere all seem to love the band and their sound. In Our Heads is the band's first album since the critically acclaimed One Life Stand, which was on just about every critic's album of the year list in 2010. I admit that Hot Chip has an extremely bright and fun sound that is easily accessible to anybody who might be interested in checking them out. Most of their music is among some of the catchiest in modern indie pop so I'd be lying if their music didn't get trapped in my brain after even just one listen. After about 4 listens to In Our Heads though, I've come to the decision that Hot Chip is probably the most formulaic band in indie music. I don't know if you can blame them for this though as their albums continue to sell and do well with critics but to me, each record is just the same old dance friendly bubble gum pop record and I just don't see anymore interesting layers to go through with their musical production. Their sound has become overly polished to the point where the production just totally bores me. This was the first Hot Chip album too where I was split on thinking a few of the tracks were the worst songs of the year ("Night & Day") and others were the best of the year ("Let Me Be Him"). In the end, regardless of how much I liked a few of the tracks on this record, the album ends up being just a rehashing of every other album the band has done up to this point and I just cannot give them the credit that they, for whatever reason, continue to get.
Metric – Synthetica:
When you discuss the best front women in all of rock music today, there is a pretty clear vision of who is at the top. Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs is a pretty obvious one but what about Emily Haines? Haines is the founding member of Metric and has continued her role as lead vocalist and head songwriter since the band's inception back in 1997. As a band, Metric has been pretty consistent since their formation aside from a 5 year absence in new material before their comeback release, Fantasies in 2009. When I think of Metric though, it all comes down to Haines who is just a total kick-ass, rock queen. her lyrical approach has always been a major standout as she sticks to these desperately dark themes and almost depressing elements that kind of haunt their music but the band is always able to totally change that dynamic by adding some really inspirational rock n' roll sections. Musically, Metric ends up being one of the better synth anthem bands in all of indie music. On their new album, Metric haven't really evolved all that much but they stay so consistent that it is hard to really hate on them in all honesty. Synthetica picks up right where Fantasies left off in 2009 and Haines continues to show a tremendous aptitude for her songwriting abilities. The fact that this album starts out with the lyric, "I'm just as fucked up as they say, I can't fake the daytime", is probably one of the most bad ass lyrics I've heard all year. Haines couldn't give a shit less about the way her image is projected and it all ties in with the theme of the lyrics on this record. As Haines said earlier this year, the album is all about confronting what you see in the mirror and identifying what is real and what is artificial. Her maturity as a lyricist shows tremendous potential here as her confidence just blasts out and outshines just about everything else that's going on. Metric continues to be a very consistent indie synth band as Synthetica has lived up to what I was hoping they might accomplish with a follow-up to their last record. Although Fantasies is a better overall album, Synthetica still shows Metric continuing to grow as a band and that's really all you can ask for as a music fan.
2:54 – 2:54:
Shoegaze music is a very interesting genre. It basically revolves around lots of distorted guitars and pedal effects with a vocalist who is putting less effort into singing and more into watching his feet use the pedals. The genre has always been a huge favorite of mine since I first heard My Bloody Valentine and it continues to be up to this day. I've always really loved the ethereal qualities that surround the genre but it's something that very few bands, maybe only about a handful, really have the ability to grasp. Shoegaze music isn't on it's dying gasp or anything but for the most part, there is a huge line that divides the great from the not so great. 2:54 is a new band that is strattling this imaginary line with their debut, self titled LP. The band is a very traditional shoegaze band with basic alternative rock roots whose sound is very reminiscent of a band like The Smashing Pumpkins before their prime. 2:54 is an album that is anchored by heavy reverb guitar and some delicate vocals by female singer Colette Thurlow. At first glance, I really enjoyed what this band had to offer as they put together all the classic elements that make a shoegaze band, a shoegaze band. Things kind of slowed down for me though after a first listen and then after a second. By the time I had gotten to my third listen, 2:54 was already starting to grow pretty old on me. For the most part, the music is all reliant on some not too fashionable guitar that strays away from the complexities that make bands such as Mew a standout in the shoegaze community. Chord after chord, 2:54 is trying to do something that they don't seem truly capable of actually doing. Thurlow does bring a sweet sensation to this record with her self harmonized vocal tracks but in the end it's just not enough to really save this record from defeating itself. 2:54 is definitely a band that has some potential, especially inside a genre that doesn't have many significant players in the modern era but things will have to progress rather quickly in order to get to that point as their debut album is simply too lifeless to grow.
Lights Out Asia – Hy-Brasil:
71 minutes. The things you can do with that amount of time are pretty infinite I suppose. I mean, you could burn a days worth of calories at the gym, fly from New York City to Myrtle Beach, or maybe solve a critical world issue all in one hour. Your options are pretty endless with each hour you spend over the course of an entire day. Lucky for me, I have a one hour commute to my job and I normally spend this time listening to albums.Hy-Brasil, the latest album from Milwaukee post-rock band Lights Out Asia, comes in at 71 minutes and really leaves its listeners with no time to spare. This album has the glaring weakness of requiring its listeners to literally dedicate a massive amount of time to spend focusing on the output. If you have been reading my reviews, you already know that my love for music that exceeds the 50 minute mark is very scarce. Normally, albums that come in at a whopping 71 minutes don't really hold much of a chance in my heart for me to actually enjoy it which is too bad, because some of these albums contain terrific music. In the end though, as much as I love music, I feel like I can always find hundreds of better things to do with my 71 minutes then listening to one album all the way through. Lights Out Asia though, keep my attention with their musicianship. The band, which consists of Mike Ystad, Chris Schafer, and Mike Rush, are able to create a pretty unique style of post-rock music that is very soundtrack worthy. I can best describe their music as something that would soundtrack a brightly lit night sky as you relax on a mountain ledge. The tracks off Hy-Brasil gives listeners a chance to escape the machine that is life and kind of help you escape to a distant, foreign world. Each song employs an electronic foundation that releases a very atmospheric and ambient quality for the guitars and banging drums to rumble over. The closest resemblance to their sound is The American Dollar and although Lights Out Asia really don't come close to the expertise of that duo, they still show a pretty solid strength as producers. Once again though, by the time this album is finished, I am almost totally lost in it. 71 minutes is just simply too long for any instrumental record to build and replenish steam and by the second half of this album, it's just far too late. Musically, Lights Out Asia might be one of the better post-rock outfits around but they defeat themselves with an album that simply overstays its welcome.
POP ETC. – POP ETC.:
Earlier this year, I'm sure many of you came across a message from Chris Chu, front man for the band The Morning Benders. The message was a heartfelt note that said the band had decided to change their name from The Morning Benders to POP ETC. in order to not offend homosexual culture. It was a very good decision for the band to escape a name that ended up being very offensive to homosexuals but I knew right away that the new name was just total crap. For one, this was a indie folk band that decided they should call themselves POP ETC. so the name didn't really make a whole lot of sense. On top of that, it's in all caps and includes the shortening "etc."? Are you serious? It seemed pretentious to me but regardless, I was still excited to hear the band's follow-up to their hit LP Big Echo in 2010. That album, showed the band at their all time best with a more acoustic derived sound that managed to include a pop image along with something more folk oriented at the same time. After finally getting to hear POP ETC.'s self titled debut of sorts, I found myself more disappointed then I ever thought I could possibly be with them. The name change was one thing but now they have thrown away their guitars for the most amateur sounding electronics I have heard in recent memory. Each bubble gum pop song on this record ended up giving me an unhealthy sugar rush and I just couldn't believe the drastic change in sound. Not only was the music here totally different but Chu's terrific vocals were blemished by none other then vocoders! Listening to Chris Chu trying to sing like he was a part of Boyz II Men was just so obnoxious that it almost made me laugh. I would be lying if I said that some of the tracks weren't catchy especially tracks like "Back To Your Heart" or "Live It Up" but the fact that the band is trying to experiment into unknown territories really doesn't pay off. After hearing this band progress from their first to second record, this was a massive surprise to hear them change personalities so abruptly to sound like Justin Bieber. Chu and company needs to resort back to their acoustic sound and make folk pop songs again, like a band, instead of this pop flavored bullshit.
Whirr – Pipe Dreams:
Whirr is a California-based noise rock band who released their debut LP, Pipe Dreams, in March. Whirr shows off a very nostalgic sound, comparative to early 90's shoegaze bands who paved the way for the genre. Although the band shows hints at being a pretty deep shoegaze outfit, they are more prone to being plain noisy than melodic and ethereal. If it wasn't for a very complex, effects-laden guitar sound, I probably wouldn't have been able to keep up with this record for as long as I did. The explosive drums on top of the fierce electric guitar continued to add more and more dimensions of very noisy song crafting and although I'm not much of a fan of noise rock, I found myself pretty intrigued during certain portions of this album. For the most part, Pipe Dreams comes across as pretty obnoxious as the music seems a bit too over the top and we're unable to really grasp the lyricism put forth by singers Byanca Munoz and Loren Rivera. Neither singer really has much of a high attribute for singing but the breathy flow they put out is like a gentle cloud that we're able to dive into and escape the violent progression from the instruments. Lyrically, the songwriting isn't really up to par anyways as most of the lyrics are over simplified and nondescript. Effects wise, Whirr plays with a pretty massive sound but it's more or less a disguise for what is really going on. Much of the music on here is really shady and boring and it all hides behind this thick wall of reverb, hiding itself from plain sight. There are a few instances where the electric guitar really takes center stage for a short solo which helps my view of this album but in the end, everything just seems really stale and overdone. I would love to see Whirr add some new layers to their very dense, clouded style and experiment a little bit more with different instruments, maybe even some electronics that might fill in the gaps. Until then though, Whirr is just another tiny dot on the vast map of modern bands.
Wintersleep – Hello Hum:
Hailing from the vast countryside of Canada, Wintersleep has been quietly building a pretty decent reputation among alternative fans. Although the band has been formed for over 10 years now, they weren't really acknowledged until their 2012 release New Inheritors, which is odd because it's by far the bands worst album to date. On that record, lead songwriter Paul Murphy added a very dark edge to his once bright and colorful flavor. The album ended up lacking any of the real sophisticated fun moments that their albums prior included. 2012 is a new year and it shows Wintersleep returning to their traditional roots and straying away from that blazing darkness that poisoned New Inheritors. Their new album, entitled simply Hello Hum, shows Murphy at his most heart warming, telling tales of love and longing. The tracks on here all do a decent job of connecting the dots from pitching walls of guitar and bass to fruitful percussion that blows the lid off of the "pop" tag they garnered from their last record. This album is a very traditional alternative record, with lots of very 90's-esque guitar distortion and in your face bass effects. Hello Hum really proves that Wintersleep is capable of pretty big things as an alternative band even with a pretty low-key image that doesn't reach many people outside of indie culture. I was overall, quite surprised with my findings on this record as I was left in the dark with their last record. Hello Hum is a much more high-spirited album with lots of very wide open structures and bright, protruding lyricism. The album apparently was made during a practice jam session as ideas seeped out from the cracks while the band just had a goo time playing tunes and I get that sort of feeling just by hearing the final product. In the end, this is a pretty above average alternative record and although it shows a greener pasture then New Inheritors, Wintersleep still seems to be having trouble reaching the plateau they climbed to on their first few LPs. If you're looking for some decent alternative rock though for a Saturday afternoon alone at home, this is probably a good record for you.
Porcupine Tree – Deadwing:
Progressive music has been kind of at a free fall tail spin over the last 10 or so years. Aside from Porcupine Tree, there aren't really any other terribly significant bands within the progressive field. Radiohead would have to be one, if you can even consider them progressive anymore but the only other bands that even come to mind nowadays are Opeth and Anathema, neither of whom I can even compare with Porcupine Tree. Whatever the case is, progressive rock has not been the same since its heyday in the 1970s. Porcupine Tree, led by one of the most incredible music minds in all the world, Steven Wilson, has been not just one of the best progressive bands in the world but one of the best overall bands in all the world in my opinion. Considering that this band started as a joke solo project back in the late 80s, it's kind of incredible to see them in the context of who they are nowadays. The band has released terrific album after terrific album over the course of the last 20 years and although I cannot, in good faith, pick an overall favorite of theirs, I still love to discuss their 2005 LP, Deadwing. An album that was based on a screenplay about a ghost, Deadwing is probably the most well written record lyrically from Steven Wilson. The album plays with the overall theme of lost love and heartache because of the death of a spouse and it just sends haunting chills down your spine when you hear each gasp of longing from the subject of the story. Musically, Deadwing shows the band adding a certain blend of pop contributions especially with the hit single "Lazarus", but in the end, this album is a pure progressive rush. By far and away, one of the greatest songs since 2000, "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here" is just plain and simple, among the greatest progressive songs I have ever listened to. The 12 minute, hard rock ballad, tells the horribly sad story of a depressed person who lost the person they loved in a car crash and is an anchor point for Deadwing's overall theme. Steven Wilson, combined with the greatest drummer in the universe Gavin Harrison, the quietly incredible keyboardist Richard Barbieri, and the fantastic bassist Colin Edwin, have created countless masterpieces as a collective unit. In the end, I think it would be a terribly difficult goal to outdo this one though and it's not only the best album of 2005, but it's also right up there among best albums of the entire decade.
After another interesting week of album listens, I am more than ready to start another. If anyone is interested in purchasing or simply hearing any of these albums online, I have linked them for you at the top of this page to make it simple. I hope you have enjoyed reading this weeks edition of Straight From The Teet and I look forward to bringing you a new group of records next week. Please leave comments here at the bottom and let me know what you liked or didn't like from this week's lineup. Have a great week!