Thursday, April 24, 2014

Week 15

Ceremonials by Florence + the Machine

In case you didn't know, Florence is a machine!

Girl's got a rock outfit that can hold it's own with anything else to come of the English isles. The group's newest album is retains the deep, rich sound of the first, although this time the flavor is much darker.

First track - "Only If for a Night." Just like most of Florence' material, this aggressive ballad doesn't beat around the bush. It's a story of missing someone who's passed on. You'll find the emotion both in Florence' voice, and haunting strings, and the cavernous drum track.

Next up is probably my favorite track from this one, "Shake It Out." Compared to the rest of the album this one is pretty optimistic. If Needtobreathe was to work with Adele, I think this is what we'd get. Empowering without too much icing and sprinkles. 

The next two are similar to me. Once again pretty somber, but ripe with soul. Miss Welch shares a lot of the soul sound of yesteryear that Adele has become known for. She doesn't have the lounge thing going on, but she sounds like she's singing because she has something inside her that needs to get out. "What the Water Gave Me" has a very "Rolling in the Deep" vibe. "Never Let Me Go" has a more modern sound with an interesting take on some dark ideas that to me have a very masochistic nature. 

"Breaking Down" follows, and as is the case with a lot of alternative art music, its a song of irony. While the song sounds happy and upbeat, its content is dark. Depressing even. Check it out for yourself!

The next track, "Lover to Lover" is another that sounds like someone spilled some Adele in the Florence soup. Retro soul to the max. Simple writing, but still a ripe song.

"No Light, No Light" is number seven and it's a killer song. True to form, the drums are thunder, synth patches are dark, and vocals are glaring. This one doesn't paint a pretty picture - and that's why it's so awesome. Things don't always work out and that's it. No silver lining. No glass half full. Sometimes they just suck and you gotta deal:

No light, no light in your bright blue eyes
I never knew daylight could be so violent
A revelation in the light of day
You can choose what stays and what fades away

"Seven Devils" is up next and frankly, it's just creepy. I'll let you guys figure this one out yourself. Just don't listen to it for the first time in a dark room while the goods of thunder and lightning duke it out during a lunar eclipse...

Following "Seven Devils" is "Heartlines" and honestly that one just doesn't do much for me. However, after "Heartlines" is "Spectrum" and well, I've been listening to this disc all week and I really have no idea what that song is about. Sometimes I think its about some sort of awakening (spiritual, emotional) and other times I think that Flo is referring to some kind of religious or cult mentality. You can make your own deductions (as if this video will help...):

Next to last number is "All This and Heaven Too." This one is about things that are so inexplicable and special that words fail to describe. Love, heartbreak, music, paralyzing fear, the choice is yours, but the lyric sheet for this one reads like a poem. Just killer.

Final track is "Leave My Body." Great way to end an album that's got traces of Adele, U2, and Zeppelin. This is a dark gospelly tune that's a message of transcendence. The eerie part is that it could be a commentary on the soul escaping the confines of the body, but through a darker lens it could be the mind escaping from a horrifying, scarring situation. You can decide.

Overall, this is a killer (almost) concept album from the most dynamic female rocker from the U.K. in a long time. If you're already a fan you won't be disappointed, and if you're not, as long as you aren't expecting ponies and rainbows, this could have you cheering for Flo and her boys pretty quick.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Week 14

The Rainwater LP by Citizen Cope

If you're a Citizen Cope fan, then you're probably familiar with this one and if you're not, then this record may be one for you to check out.

This is CC's fourth studio album, the first to be released under his own label, Rainwater Recordings. 

Overall the album is straight up Clarence Greenwood - very mellow blues/hip hop styled rock. Very similar to the other albums he has released. Even though this is a new record on a new label, still the same old Cope.

While the subjects of most of CC's music are not complex (at first) his writing is very creative - reducing sophisticated ideas and emotions to simple lines of prose. For example, from the love-ridden "Healin' Hands":

What's a pocket full of gold
Without a woman that you could hold
Can't afford to be on the back burner no more
Now I got a lot of places to go

and from the pensive "I Couldn't Explain Why":

The world keeps turning
The sun keeps burning
For all to learn what
Heavens only knows
Why do some
Get taken too young
All these answers
That heaven only knows

Similar subjects and vibe continue throughout the album. Lots of love, loss, hope, despair, and a dash of political commentary. 

My favorite track is "Jericho." For no other reason than because of the fresh synth and electronic effects thrown over the funky drum groove. Since this album isn't exactly the epitome of variety, you gotta find other things to be excited about!

Anyway, for Citizen Cope fans, this album won't disappoint. For those who are unfamiliar, don't expect this one to turn that frown upside down, but do expect some excellent production and some honest song-writing about problems that real people have. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Week 13

Common Ground by The New Gary Burton Quartet

Talk about four guys doin' they thing.

Gary Burton: Vibraphone dominator
Julian Lage: Metheny, v.2
Scott Colley: Upright master
Antonio "El Negro" Sanchez: Dr. Tastybeats

I don't think it gets a lot better than this. There are a few Metheny albums that I enjoy more, but as far as my medium sized contemporary jazz/fusion library goes, this one has seen more play than most.

First off. "Late Night Sunrise." What a fun tune. Very playful number that's obviously driven by the guitar but still has some of the most creative comping I've ever heard. These guys are off to a very fresh start.

Next is "Never the Same Way." This one listens like that. Never the same. Took me several listens to get into it, but to me the sign of a great jazz record is that much like a fine wine, it just improves with time. Gary takes a great ride on this one, sparing the quantity of notes for quality. Julian's solo is a little more aggressive which is a nice contrast. Colley's solo, like a lot of upright solos to me, takes a second to settle, but is still plenty solid.

The album's title track is probably my favorite. The head is just... cool. It's got this lilting, floating feel that makes me feel like I'm being pulled in several directions, yet completely relaxed at the same time. It's amazing what a little tasteful chromaticism will do to a melody. All four guys are in great form on this one. The comping and solos are great. Not to mention some killer stuff from El Negro at the end.

The next track, "Was It So Long Ago?" does a lot of stuff. First, it actually makes me wonder "Was It So Long Ago?" the melancholy harmonies (a little Spanish in sound) are yearning for, well, something. Second, even though it's a Burton original, it really showcases not what Gary can do, but what his bandmates are capable of. It's a very unique tune that almost sounds out of place after the first three, but I suppose really it's good that there's something totally different. Lage really moves this one along - just some heart wrenching stuff from him. Last, it makes you want to listen. I don't feel great after I hear it, but I don't want it to end.

Following "Long Ago?" is "Etude." This one begins like a Guiliani Right Hand Study in its arpeggiation figures. It's quick to depart to some really crazy harmonic movement - lots of unexpected twists and turns here. Lage's solo is nice, but Gary's is in a whole 'nother place. Every chorus is more and more exotic. Very hip tune, this one. 

"Last Snow" is next. Well, if you check this album out and think that "Long Ago?" was heart wrenching, then you'll probably feel the same about this one. Just moving. Exhausting really. 

Irony is a funny thing. The next tune is written by the drummer and it's probably my least favorite. "Did You Get It?" is a burner that still has plenty of great playing, but if I'm being honest, I don't get it. Just a bit out of taste for me. Except for the drum solo. Obviously. Who needs time when you're this good!?

Three tracks from the end we get a pretty liberal version of "My Funny Valentine." After a lengthy guitar solo intro, the head is actually pretty cool. Lage gives us plenty to ponder before the group kicks in just after the three minute mark. 

Penultimate track: "Banksy." This is another 'heady' tune that needs a few fresh listenings to get something out of it. Totally worth it though. Very original harmonies, some very cool ensemble gestures and yet again, tasteful playing by all make this pretty enjoyable.

Speaking of enjoyable the last one just makes you smile. "In Your Quiet Place," is best enjoyed... well, you know. Some unexpected harmonies, a Paul Newman flavor, mixed with some nice brushwork on skins wraps you up like a disgusting old blanket... that you absolutely love. Cool solos from Gary and Julian give you plenty to be happy about, not to mention a super comfy spread from Colley and El Negro. Very hip way to end a record. 

Top to bottom, this is one of my favorite contemporary jazz records ever. Gary's a great player and leader, and it's really cool to find out that he's willing to let the spotlight shine on his bandmates. Lage is a hoss. Colley's a cucumber. And Antonio proves why he's always working on someone's record. 

Give this one a listen. Fo. Sho.

Week 12

The Preview by Chiddy Bang

I need to play catch up a bit so I'll keep this brief:

Opposite of Adults