Sainthood – Tegan and Sara

The best Canadian import since Wayne Gretzky, twin sister duo Tegan and Sara have built a fan base by combining indie pop sensibility and a dash of punk rock aesthetic.

Their latest effort, Sainthood, is a much more mellow and balanced album then its predecessor, The Con. There’s not a single bad on the record, the overproduction that ravaged The Con is thankfully gone, and the sisters incorporate electronic sounds more naturally than ever before. Yet, something’s missing.

Sainthood’s shortcomings stem from the upsetting lack of the group’s signature brand of emotional fragility. As a result, the handful of knock-your-socks-off good songs that have been a staple of their previous records are nowhere to be found. The only track that is immediately gripping is the straightforward, Chuck Taylor-stomping rocker “Hell,” which sounds like Tegan and Sara doing an Good Mourning-era Alkaline Trio song (aka awesome).

Instead of the killer standout tracks, the album is strewn with songs that do nothing wrong, but also only do a thing or two very well. “Arrow” starts of the album with some sharp lyrical imagery, “Northshore” bubbles with a frenetic blitz of loose guitars, and “The Cure” has an undeniable flow that is so stylistically right for the duo it’s astonishing they hadn’t hit tapped it before.
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Best Albums of 2008 Revisited

So as the year winds down I always like to take a look back at my Top 10 Album list from the previous year and see how things have changed with said list over a year’s time for one reason or another.

The Original Top 10 Albums of 2008

1. Delayer – The Heavenly States
2. Everything Is Borrowed – The Streets
3. Natural Selection -1090 Club
4. Day and Age – The Killers
5. Walk It Off – Tapes ‘n Tapes
6. Narrow Stairs – Death Cab For Cutie
7. Stay Positive – The Hold Steady
8. Visiter – The Dodos
9. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords
10. Rabbit Habits – Man Man

The Updated Top 10 Albums of 2008

1. Delayer – The Heavenly States
2. We’re Still Here Missing You – Kaylee Cole
3. Everything Is Borrowed – The Streets
4. Keep Your Eyes Ahead – The Helio Sequence
5. Narrow Stairs – Death Cab For Cutie
6. Red Hands In Holy Water – Bright Light Fever
7. Walk It Off – Tapes ‘n Tapes
8. Stay Positive – The Hold Steady
9. Visiter – The Dodos
10. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords

Here are the reasons for the changes in wonderfully concise bullet-point form: Continue reading

Why Are The Beatles Infallible?

I don’t like The Beatles.

Now what do you do when you read that line? Did you gasp in horror? Did you shake your head and go, “wow…”? Did you immediately discount every opinion I hold about music?

If you’re anything like any other individual I’ve encountered, then one of those questions received a “yes” answer. Why? Why did reading that one statement evoke such a response?

The answer is that The Beatles are (said in an epically cavernous and echo-y way) “THE GREAST BAND OF ALL-TIME.” It’s the one G.O.A.T. argument that few seem to contest. It’s spoken and repeated as a given that everyone is supposed elicit a agreeing nod.

Given that this is the case, people assume that I don’t like The Beatles just to be different. They see it as a misguided attempt to be “cool;” to be a rebel. Yet this logic is flawed. It’s almost a case of religion. You don’t gain other people’s respect by not believing in their gods, and The Beatles are held up as cultural gods.
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All Time Low Feature for The Inlander

Band For Sale
All Time Low plans to be the next big thing. No matter what you say

By most standards, All Time Low is doing wonderfully. The band’s latest studio effort, Nothing Personal, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard charts (No. 1 among alternative, rock and independent releases) in July. For years, they’ve worn grooves in highways across America, touring constantly and steadily building a loyal fan base of screaming young fans. Last holiday season the Baltimore, Md., quartet were immortalized in a four-piece vinyl-toy gift pack.

Yet for All Time Low, the lauded kings of modern pop punk, one thing holds them back: They’re a pop-punk band.

“It’s the nature of the style of music. Anything that has ‘pop’ in its name, a lot of the time, gets a bad rap,” says vocalist Alex Gaskarth.

Their music is the genre’s ideally concocted brew of hooky guitar melodies, infectious lyrics that appeal to almost any high schooler, and fun-loving, down-for-anything spirit. And while the group was named Alternative Press’s Band of the Year in 2008, Gaskarth says that sort of acclaim is not what the band was ever about.

“We’ve always played music for fun — just to show people how to have a good time and for us to have a good time,” he says. “We don’t sweat whether someone gives a shit about our style of writing or reshaping the music world. It’s less about what people write about us and how many stars we get in a magazine; it’s more about how many people are coming to our shows and buying or downloading our music.”

He continues, “It’s definitely weird to become a commodity. I don’t think anyone really wants to feel that way, but at the same time it’s flattering.”
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Finch Feature For The Inlander

After the Boom
Finch thinks screamo can exist without the skinny jeans and flatirons

“We don’t all have the coolest haircuts. And we don’t have the tightest jeans… We wear other cool band shirts, but just the hair… Give us a chance even though we don’t have good haircuts.”

That’s what Alex Linares has to offer as a ringing endorsement for his band, Finch.

It’s a sarcastic statement, but it’s one that expresses the odd position that Finch occupies in their genre’s landscape. The group toes a tenuous line: They’re respected by scads of younger bands — who’ve borrowed sonically from Finch’s breakout album, 2002’s What It Is To Burn — but have a distinct aesthetic from than the bands they’ve influenced.

In the early 2000s, screamo was an up-and-coming genre in alternative rock circles, and Finch became one of the first bands to be slapped with the label. Used to describe a multitude of dissimilar bands, screamo (screaming + emo = screamo) essentially referred to anything that mixed screaming vocals with any type of melodic punk.

For a minute there, Finch and other bands like Thursday and the Used received a lot of ink: Screamo was slated to be “the next big thing.” Seattle’s Vendetta Red even had a nationally run Pepsi radio spot. But that was kind of it: The genre never really took off in the way that many expected it to. While hundreds of bands popped up to ape the style and fill the Warped Tour’s lineup, the genre’s mainstream chances had died within a couple years. What was once getting magazine covers and late night talk show appearances had become a niche genre.

And Finch is happy it did. Continue reading

Palace and Stage – Dusty Rhodes and The River Band

dustyrhodes_w288

It seems appropriate that SideOneDummy, the record label that may be best known for housing Flogging Molly, would be the one to release Dusty Rhodes and The River Band’s music, including the group’s newest LP Palace and Stage. Much in the way that Flogging Molly mixes Irish influences with punk rock, Dusty Rhodes and The River Band mixes the type of folky music you’d associate with a delta or steamboat and rock. It’s a niche musical focus that sets them apart from other bands. But while the band’s sound is initially refreshing, it eventually wears on the listener for various reasons.

Songs like “Blind Lead The Blind” work because the the instrumental style melds well with lyrics that are a slight upgrade from typical alternative rock stereotypes, focusing a bit more on a grander scale than most. Other times the Dusty Rhodes and The River Band gets a little too cutesy in their sonic tinkering. For example, the violin adds a lot to a number of songs, but it’s mixed in a very heavy and overbearing manner. We get it, you’re not a “typical” rock band, no need to beat the listener over the head with it. The synth and bell solo/bridge on “Palace and Stage” is a far worse and more self-indulgent example. It in no way fits with the rest of the song (or album for that matter) and seems more like a situation of trying to show off.

The biggest problem with Palace and Stage is the album’s polish. The production is overdone to a serious fault. It’s polished to the point of being shinny enough to catch a blinding glare off of, which does not work well with the “rootsy” sound the band’s style demands. It takes away an edge or element of danger.
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