Sunday, December 30, 2007

Album Reviews 2007

The Ocean Floor - Tall Tales & Small Tales
Swim Slowly

This band is officially all over the place. The music is soft and lovely, starting off with an old jazz-tinged number that somehow morphs into some sort of hypnotizing chamber pop. Some of the album is reminiscent of Rachel's, the exception being the noticeably unique vocals that are somewhat quiet and folkish, yet squeaky in their own way.

Many treats and surprises crop up from the band's experimental song structures and wide array of utilized instruments. While the main musical theme seems to be the aforementioned vocals poetically serenading atop an acoustic guitar, you will also hear the occasional accompaniment of violins, piano, banjo, bells and even a little vinyl scratching.

Aside from the many moments of randomness, the album as a whole has a coherence that can be appreciated and a style that is truly its own.

Check it: [website] [myspace]

Franklyn Currie - S/T

Abbotsford's Franklyn Currie has been a prominent figure of the city's music scene for a while now, and aside from playing in several bands over the years, his folk material has become what he is known for best. This self-titled EP showcases Currie's song writing talent which closely resembles one of his inspirations, Damien Jurado.

Contributions from other local musicians on bass, drums and electric guitar add a full-flavoured element to each song, and a professional quality that doesn't take away from the sentiments of this DIY project. The music is as laid back as the man himself, and anyone who knows him will know exactly what that means. Also present is the darker, more mysterious side of folk music that fans of the genre can appreciate for its atmospheric vibrancy.

Check it: [website] [myspace]

Limbs - Stages

From Brooklyn, NY, Limbs remind me of the much missed Engine Down. The eleven tracks on this album are well constructed, with a few of them oozing with the unconventiality that makes any math rock band great to listen to. Others are a little more traditional and cling to that new Death Cab For Cutie sound all the kids are raging about these days.

The overall feel, though, is a modernized DC sound, softened by vocalist Jeff Stultz's singing, which is reminiscent of another great DC band, Faraquet. If they were to do any instrumentals I would probably compare them to Ativin, as they seem to have mastered that musty coordination of sounds without the help of Albini.

Check it: [website] [myspace]

Decomposure - Vertical Lines A
Blank Suirrel

Ontario's own Caleb Mueller is back with another flawless project of exhaustive musical ability. Starting off with the same unmarred pop structure as seen on Decomposure's last album, I was reminded of why I gave it a favourable review.

Much of Vertical Lines A delves much more into strains of hip hop and industrial experimentation, the songs of which are tagged by Mueller's frantic beats and translucent vocals. Lyrics are another of Decomposure's strong points; with plenty of tech-geek references to make any computer nerd giddy, the poetic quality of each song builds worlds upon worlds of imaginary escape.

This album's artwork and packaging has to be among the best I've ever seen as well: hand crafted and showing an authentically DIY zine-like construction. Accompanying all of this still is an extra DVD supplying three gigs, or 15 hours, of extra material including a PDF sketchbook, interviews, videos, original samples and many other treats.

It goes to say that when this amount of dedication and energy is put into an album it is hard to ignore. It's exactly what I like to see in an album; either you work hard at what you love or you just won't elevate to the callibre of perfection that Decomposure has.

Check it: [website] [myspace]

Touchers - The Underwater Fascist

The Toucher's sound might come across as a little familiar but altogether unique, or it may just be that I haven't heard a cowpunk band in a while, but I had to struggle to come up with any definite comparisons. Self-compared to the Country Teasers, the songs aren't as rash as most country punk; really they're toned down a little by their modern alterna-rock stylings, but there are moments of good intensity.

These guys also claim influence from Fugazi and Jesus Lizard, but I just don't hear it. The songs are quite catchy, though, and this album shows much more than just another faceless band with big dreams of making it big. Another interesting thing about the album has to be the sleeve artwork, which includes a photo of the infamous one-eyed kitten.

Check it: [website] [myspace]

Do Make Say Think - You, You're A History In Rust

Do Make Say Think is back doing what they do best. After a four year wait since their last recording, this fifth full-length album is yet another breath of fresh air from the Toronto based instrumental group. Songs range from their epic and colourful post-rock journeys to a few softer twists as noticed during the vocal inclusion of A With Living, and as can be guessed all the songs are unique and amazing in their own way.

There aren't many groups that can pull off what these guys do by putting a lot of hard work and creativity into what they do to give their fans such a high degree of quality music. Going strong for twelve years now, one flawless release after another is sure to keep them around for much longer.

Check it: [website] [myspace]

Comeback Kid - Broadcasting...
Smallman Records

I can't tell if I'm as much of a hardcore fan as I used to be. I mean, I haven't really heard anything original lately, and this album kind of reinforces my apathy towards hyped hardcore bands that cite diversity and maturity as an excuse to sound commercial. If you're a hardcore fan you might like this record, but music fans in general may become a little bored from the predictability.

Check it: [website] [myspace]

The Chocolate Robots - Purr Quality

Hailing from the "one-time bingo capital of the world" that is Sarnia, Ontario, The Chocolate Robots have reformed themselves with a new release of DIY rock. The range of compositions on this album wander from indie-rock, dance hit wonders to a laidback, almost cinematic post-rock feel. There's only three members in the band, but the sound is polished and full of suprises.

One of the best things about this release is the cut and paste cover design which, when compared to their debut lo-fi material, sort of contradicts the whole feel of the album. It's all in good taste, though, and cleverly contributes to the fun that this band so genuinely creates.

Check it: [website] [myspace]

Zao - The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here

I haven't really listened to any of Zao's latest albums after their self-titled release in 2000, but Big D told me how great this one was so I thought I would give it a shot. Also, over the holidays I watched their DVD that explained a lot of their comlicated history and it gave me a new appreciation for this band that is constantly reinventing itself and staying one step ahead of the metal-core scene.

The sound on this new album is quite brutal, as it's one of the heaviest albums I've heard lately. The band has come back to focusing on being uniquely bloodcurling with a doom-filled atmosphere and unnervingly screaching vocals. I could do without the melodic sing-alongs in some of the songs; to me it's just a tacky thing bands do these days to "relate to" the the teenage girl demographic. Plus it's kind of in conflict with their "tough guy" personna (not "tough guy" in the sense of hardcore music, but actually tough). Yeah, try figuring that one out.

Check it: [website] [myspace]

Abernethy - College Grove
Spinning Gold

The opening track (Astronaut) on this album gives me shivers, as do most of the tracks on Abernethy's last album. The rest of this new CD does not hold up to par, however. The material that Abernethy puts out that I do like may admittedly be a little cheesy for some, but many of the remaining tracks of this release go a little over the top even for me.

Still a talented and very unique Vancouver artist, there is an absence of the slowly creeping darkness that has now been turned into a lighter, Cat Stevens-esque style. Seeing Abernethy perform live is something I haven't had the chance to do, but would still very much like to.

Check it: [website] [myspace]

Rattus and the Scientific Method Orchestra - Kind of Hell

This mysterious CD arrived in the mail with no info attatched, and a Google search comes up with absolutely nothing. The album is a three-song instrumental EP that is quite dreamy, mixing electronica, sampled beats, and an accordian among other instruments to resemble a Mogwai-like composure. The peculiar anonyminity, together with the shortness of the album (around ten minutes) is really having me want more.

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