Progressive or Regressive Rock?: Opeth’s “Pale Communion” Reviewed

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Anyone familiar with the name Opeth most likely knows the Swedish band for being innovators in the progressive metal genre.  Their extremely unique sound has led them to worldwide acclaim in the metal community, and the band has had much praise from the modern progressive rock community as well.  Albums such as Blackwater Park and Still Life have become some of the most heavily-praised metal albums of the modern era.  Many fans, myself included, love Opeth for their ability to change from an extremely heavy metal riff to a beautiful acoustic guitar with the creativity and skill that few bands can even manage to pull off a few times, let alone as consistently as the band has proved.   [Read more...]

The Death of Death Grips and The Powers That B

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MC Ride

In early June, the elusive experimental hip hop group Death Grips released the first half of a double LP called The Powers That B, effectively dropping a bomb on the indie music community from up their sleeves.  Soon after, the band announced the completion of Death Grips as a project and the cancellation of all future tour dates.  Now we find ourselves in a post-Death Grips world, except one of these days we can expect Death Grips to release the second half of The Powers That B in a similarly sudden fashion.

Black Quarterback:

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Five Albums from Five Different Eras

Saint Motel
Saint Motel

As you might be able to tell by now, I really like lists and I enjoy the number 5. So here’s to a bit of both. Lately I’ve been going through my Itunes library and come across some old favorites; the one’s I’ve been meaning to get into more but haven’t had the time or energy to. But here I am to revive that spirit and to enlighten you all about some albums you may not have heard of, but will be glad that you did.

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Beck – Morning Phase

“Can we start it all over again this morning?” Beck asks early on in the opening track of Morning Phase, his first album since 2008′s Modern Guilt. After a gorgeous 40 second instrumental opening, strings give way into the plaintive guitar strums of “Morning”, and it truly does feel like a something entirely new, a rebirth — which is odd, because Beck has specifically said this album is a spiritual successor to his 2002 masterpiece Sea Change.

And sure, the beginning of “Morning” has an uncanny resemblance to the beginning of Sea Change opener “The Golden Age.” And sure, all of Morning Phase is ostensibly similar to its much-vaunted predecessor. It does feature the same musicians and the same California-folk influence. And yeah, even the cover art (Exhibits 1 and 2) looks strikingly similar, Beck’s steady gaze staring out behind smears of orange and blue.

But hear me out: the truth is that it’s only similar in the sense that all music by an artist sounds similar to previous music produced by that artist. No left turn is truly a total departure: even the cold, Kraftwerk heartbeat of Kid A‘s “Idioteque” had its roots in the laserbeam percussion loop of OK Computer’s “Airbag”.

The point of all this is to get you to look at Morning Phase in the ways it differs, rather than its similarities, because these differences are what make Morning Phase the best Beck album since 1998′s Mutations.

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St. Vincent Confidently Cuts To The Core of Her Sound

Album Cover courtesy of Pitchfork

Seemingly on the verge of a real popular breakout  for years after collaborations with David Byrne, Bon Iver, and Kid Cudi, it’s telling that Annie Clark decided to follow up her most successful (and best)  album yet with a self-titled affair. That it’s a fourth album is important as well: if third albums are about solidifying an artistic voice, a thing Strange Mercy did astoundingly well, fourth albums are about proving that you’re more. Some bands choose to build upon their sound like The National did with Boxer or Phoenix did with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, some choose to buck it entirely like Radiohead’s Kid A, or some bands depressingly regress like Metallica’s Black Album. No matter the quality, these albums frequently become a focal point in the discography: a tone setter for the rest of a career. Thankfully, St. Vincent offers a confident distillation of just what makes Clark’s project so fascinating without shedding her experimental roots.
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She’s Just Got That Soul Power

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If there’s one up-and-coming artist you should check out right this second, it’s Connor Zwetsch.  At the youthful age of 21, Connor has already managed to harness both the talent and the self-actualization required to help her rise into a promising career.  So rare is it that a musician successfully propagates such candor and humility that Connor’s work is invitingly reassuring.

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A New Take On J-Biebs

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Rumored picture of Justin Bieber being apprehended by the police.

It was just last week. I was in my room, minding my own business, trying to just become a better person by reading the news and being informed about the world around me. Instead, I had stories of Justin Bieber’s drunken escapades being forced down my throat. I understand some people love him, and some people love to hate him (and many turn around and listen to music that sounds just like his, but that discussion is for another day), but I try to just stay away from any dialogue concerning him.”Then why did you write a post about him?” is what you shrewd readers may ask, and to you all, I say “I can’t hear you, you are talking to a computer.” But seriously, I was able to take something positive from this recent flare of Bieber-mania, and you all may find a similar sort of consolation as well.

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More Than A Taco Bell Commercial

I know you’ve seen it. The boy running from his girlfriends parents house, taco gripped in one hand, jacket in the other, terrified look on his face as you see an angry dad chasing him down the street. There’s one thing you may have not noticed, besides the fact that the Grilled Stuft Nacho is not actually that big, and that is the song playing.  That song is “Evil Friends” by Portugal. The Man off of their latest album Evil Friends. 

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