Bob Dylan – The Times They Are a-Changin’

Bob Dylan – The Times They Are a-Changin’

By  John Consiglio

Moments that change history, are not often created by the actions of many, but by the voices of few. During the 1960s, the United States found itself divided; many artists wrote and protested over the issues of social and racial inequality, poverty, politics, and war. Among these artists, one man rose to shake the foundation of society, and give a voice to the voiceless. Bob Dylan’s 1964 album The Times They Are a-Changin’ marks his third studio album, and the first one to be comprised with only original songs [1]. Within The Times They Are a-Changin’ Dylan blends his eccentric and distinctive melodies with these social conflicts plaguing the 60s. This feeling of political uproar can be heard most prominently on track one’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’” where Dylan’s uplifting folk rhythm, along with the timbre of his acoustic guitar and harmonica, brings the protest marches and civil rights rallies right to the listener. While The Times They Are a-Changin’ follows a narrow texture of guitar and harmonica throughout its ten tracks, this does not in turn make the songs feel flat and uninspired, but instead ropes the listener in, refocusing their ears on the message behind Dylan’s lyrics. Track three’s “With God on Our Side” for example, follows a fairly simple form, but where the song shines is beneath the lyrics, where we find a message about the inevitability of war, and that when one enemy dies, another is just around the corner. The Times They Are a-Changin’ also carries a number of songs addressing the racial conflicts that were present in the 60s such as “Only a Pawn in Their Game” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”; each of which evoke powerful emotion that came with the struggle for social equality. Overall, Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’ is truly an album that stands for something more than just music. Behind the harmonies is the idea that one’s voice can conquer any army or nation. As we carry on with our everyday lives in a socially and politically divided America, if you feel that there is no hope of moving forward, remember Bob Dylan, remember this album,  and remember that the times they are a-changin’.

[1] Wikipedia. “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” Last Modified March 1, 2012. Accessed March 21, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Times_They_Are_a-Changin%27

Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way to Blue

Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way to Blue

By  Clay Roberts

Alice in Chains had to work harder than ever to create this album “Black Gives Way to Blue”, mostly because they were without their lead singer, Lane Staley and had taken a 14 year long break. Against the odds, they released this album on September 25, 2009 sounding better than ever. The band retains the grunge sound that they mastered with Staley in the 90’s but now have a more polished sound making a new use of low chugging guitar riffs and moaning vocals.

The track “Check My Brain” begins with a distorted, rough beehive-like guitar riff that blasts throughout the whole song. The song was voted the rock song of the year and can be used to see the evolution of Alice in Chains. The song features a singing style by William DuVall that is unique yet his sound is similar to that of Staley. Another song “A looking in View” also has a very heavy guitar riff in the intro that breaks out in a louder more intimidating chugging. The track is considered one of the heaviest we’ll hear from Alice in Chains, with the lead vocalist forcefully yelling his lyrics. The album gets softer however with tracks such as “Your Decision” which features softer vocals, guitar and slower rhythm. The most unique song on this album is “Black Gives Way To Blue” which is sung as a ballad by Jerry Cantrell. He poured his heart and soul into writing the song. The track has great harmony with a smooth texture that’ll make anyone listening feel the pain and sadness of Cantrell. The song is interpreted to be about close friend Staley, who passed on April 5th, 2002. The track features a piano played by Elton John, introducing a new sound for the band.

With tracks like those, this album can be considered heavy and soft rock at the same time. It showcases the talent of this group to create such a range of sound. Fans of Alice in Chains should own this record, as a testament to the band’s resilience and courage to keep on playing and creating music after the tragic death of their friend and lead vocalist Lane Staley.

Pantera – Far Beyond the Great Southern Cowboys’ Vulgar Hits!

Pantera – Far Beyond the Great Southern Cowboys’ Vulgar Hits!

By Sean Nelson

Drop whatever you are doing, head to your local purveyor of compact discs and slap twenty dollars on the counter for a copy of Pantera’s Far Beyond the Great Southern Cowboys’ Vulgar Hits! Released in 2003, this compilation album provides an accurate sampling that spans Pantera’s entire career. From the macabre epic “Cemetery Gates” to the don’t-tread-on-me metal masterpieces “Mouth for War”, “Walk” and “5 Minutes Alone” Pantera delivers a complete aural assault. For any newcomer to metal, this album contains some of the genre’s most well known classics and is a frontrunner of the “take no bull” attitude that heavy metal embodies.

One need only listen to the high level of musicianship as well as the melodic and lightning fast guitar solo on “Cemetery Gates” to realize that this isn’t your average garage band. Vinnie Paul and bassist Rex Brown create a solid rhythm on which “Dimebag” Darrel Abbot is free to create haunting guitar melodies. Vocalist Philip Anselmo harmonizes with the guitar arrangement during the last gasps of the track by reaching a string of chilling high notes. The band’s dark, brooding timbre can be heard in the unsettling shuffle of “Walk”, a song that might incite the listener to unconsciously start banging his head to the pulse of the music. Pantera’s impeccable musical form can be heard on the vicious masterpiece “Mouth For War”. The power chord riff gives one the feeling of flying. It progresses into a rapid, machine-gun fire conclusion that shakes the windows and rattles the walls. Anselmo performs his best banshee impression and belts it out. The effect will raise the hair on your arms.

This album is a must have for any man, woman or child who claims to love metal. The second disc alone is worth purchase with ten music videos and two live songs. The Best of Pantera is an excellent investment and staple in any respectable metal fan’s collection.

Throwback Suburbia – Shot Glass Souvenir

Throwback Suburbia – Shot Glass Souvenir

By George Lewis

I met Jimi Evans, lead vocalist of Throwback Suburbia, about 10 years ago.  He was fronting The Red Sector, a Portland area quartet whose sound was something approximating a futuristic, synth-infused alternative rock.  What caught my attention at the time, aside from the black vinyl pants and eye makeup, was how the band’s tunes were simultaneously edgy and remarkably catchy.  Much of the credit for this deft combination is probably attributable to the slick production and infectious riffs courtesy of guitarist Kevin Hahn.  And yet, what sets The Red Sector apart from the hundreds of local bands I’ve seen over the years is undoubtedly the uniqueness of Evans’ voice.  It has that all-too-rare commodity in rock and roll:  a distinctiveness that leaves a lasting impression.  The fact that he’s an incredibly nice, down to earth guy doesn’t hurt his cause either.

10 years on, the vinyl pants have long been traded in for smart suits.  Shot Glass Souvenir, Throwback Suburbia’s third album (and admittedly the first that I’ve heard), is a confident, unapologetic pop record.  The opening track (one of my favorites on the album), “Give and Take”, kicks off with a “Byrds” inspired guitar part that threw me into an instant time warp.  From the start, the band demonstrate mastery in navigating the finer details of a classic pop song’s structure and texture, indeed feeling like a “throwback”.  In doing so, their obvious passion and studio precision keeps them safe from falling into the trap of coming off as a rehashed “retro” group.  In fact, for all its homage to bygone decades of popular music, Shot Glass Souvenir feels remarkably fresh in its approach and delivery.

This album is full of pop gems.  Another of my favorite tracks, “Sinking Feeling”, stands out with its loose, open feel.  As the track kicks off with some brilliantly simple quarter notes on what sounds like an over-compressed bass, one hears drummer Mike Collins, whose flawless, tasteful performances are a highlight of the record, really open the tune up.  Evans’ vocals soar through the second chorus, and then, with a clever twist, the band spins us around again, trailing off into a bridge reminiscent of “The Police”.

It’s probably evident by now that I’m impressed with this album.  The only weaknesses I hear are really side effects of strengths.  When you’ve got 5 talented musicians all contributing and collaborating, which seems to be the case with Throwback Suburbia, sometimes it’s difficult to know when to let off the gas pedal.  With that said, there is some occasional overplaying, resulting in a sonically crowded field at times, and a bit more high-pitched organ than I’m keen to indulge over 40 minutes.   Luckily, the band seems to have an awareness of this.  “Side Effects”, a surprisingly stark, piano driven, 50s-style ballad makes for a beautifully effortless sounding tune near the record’s end.   What one also hears in this song is some experimentation with lo-fi sensibilities, which this reviewer hopes the band will continue to explore across future endeavors.

Band:  Throwback Suburbia
Album:  Shot Glass Souvenir
Website:  http://throwbacksuburbia.com

 

Miike Snow

Miike Snow

By Pauline Ramos

What do you get when you combine two Swedish music producers with experience creating some of pop music’s most memorable hits, with an American singer/songwriter? A group with plenty of potential called Miike Snow. Miike Snow is composed of producers Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg along with Andrew Wyatt. Their first self-titled album, Miike Snow contains a unique brand of easy to listen to, fresh, classy electro indie pop. Miike Snow as a group can be compared to bands like MGMT, Animal Collective and even Peter, Bjorn and John with their cool and curious sound.

The first track on the album, “Animal” is what drew me in. Be prepared to have it stuck in your head for the next few days after listening. This song sounds the most radio friendly of all the tracks and features a repetitive beat along with a catchy pop chorus that is not easily forgotten.

“Black & Blue” is another very appealing track on the album. After listening to this song numerous times I still did not connect with the lyrics which can also be a bit too breathy at times. What really made me enjoy this track were the melody lines and unique sound which I can only describe as cool and stylish.  Similar to many songs on the album, the lyrics are over shadowed by the well-crafted technique that was put into the production. Because of this, the artful melody lines and heavy beats are what seem to evoke the most emotion in the listener.

Miike Snow by Miike Snow brings a presence and establishes the group’s sound with a clear direction and likeable versatility. The album as a whole makes the listener feel like they want to hear more and could have gone overboard but shows restraint and craft. Miike Snow overall has significant mainstream and alternative appeal and I will definitely be looking forward to what the group comes up with next.

Rating: 8/10

LIGHTS – Siberia

LIGHTS – Siberia

I’ll be honest. At first, I didn’t like Siberia. It was too… I couldn’t put my finger on it. But I expected electric synths, space pop melodies, and complex lyrics. It took me a few listens to realize that LIGHTS’ sophomore album actually did have all of these things but with some extra layers. My first listen made me think that the artist I loved was gone forever, but my second listen (and the hundred that followed) helped me realize that it was a grittier, newer LIGHTS with all the same bells and whistles as before. And, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

LIGHTS has this way of provoking thought with her lyrics. The ideas are very important, and she even said that this grittier new album actually came from a happier place than her synth-pop previous album, The Listening. Not to mention that there is some serious SAT vocabulary going on. Take for example “Heavy Rope.” Not only does the chorus have the word “precipice” in it, but the song is this beautiful rendering of emotion, or more specifically, the feeling that you’re stuck and you need someone to pull you out. It’s heavy (pardon the pun), but it’s also real and universal.

What really blew me away was the sound. I had to warm up to it a bit, but I really like it, and most of the reason I do is because it’s so different in a world where originality seems pretty much impossible. But you haven’t heard anything like this. It’s kind of like dubstep, but with more catchy melodies and unexpected layers of sound. It’s not experimental, though, it’s very purposeful. And something you haven’t heard in her previous work is Shad and Holy F*ck. Shad is an up and coming rapper, and though rap music really isn’t my style, I really like what I hear. And I can’t be upset with Holy F*ck coming into play here, either. I’ve enjoyed the Canadian electronic artists for a while, and I’m glad LIGHTS is exploring new realms other than in World of Warcraft.

In all, Siberia is a crazy good album. It’s worth the cash, and LIGHTS totally deserves your fanatic loyalty.

Artist: LIGHTS
Album: Siberia
Release Date: 10/4/2011

Favorite Track: “Heavy Rope” “Toes”
Least Favorite Track: “Day One”

IDAHO – You Were a Dick

IDAHO – You Were a Dick

As a recording artist, when I listen to music, I can’t help thinking about how sound is being captured in a song.  More often than not, I’ll hear something and think to myself “I bet I know how they did that!”  Human beings are perhaps reductionists by nature; we can’t seem to help ourselves from trying to get to the bottom of things.  And like many aspects of our nature, this desire has its benefits, as well as its downfalls.  Simply put, sometimes I wish I could return to an earlier time when recorded music was a towering, enchanting mystery.

And yet there are some artists, although few and far between, whose approach to crafting a tune is so unique, subtle, and unpredictable, that time travel is (thankfully) made unnecessary.  Jeff Martin is one such artist.

Martin was indie rock before such a term was popularized, co-creating Idaho in So-Cal during the early ‘90s as a 4-piece.  Listening back to those early records on the since defunct label Caroline, there is definitely a foreshadowing of sonic genius on the horizon.

These days, Martin goes it alone, with engineer Bill Sanke often at the controls, integrating his rock sensibilities with flourishes of enigmatic textures and lonesome piano arrangements (Martin is classically trained) that have become increasingly prominent since Martin began scoring TV and film around the turn of the century.

“You Were a Dick” is an incredibly rich and poignant new chapter in the IDAHO story.  It mixes everything Martin does best, from the inconceivably gentle “Reminder”, the cruising instrumental “Impaler”, and a throwback rocker called “The Space Between”.  Yet, the album is not without surprises, the greatest of which is hearing Martin’s wavering voice more honed than in years past.  This adds a striking candor, which, when paired with the intimacy of an album recorded primarily in Martin’s living room, seems entirely appropriate.

“You Were a Dick” is available now on 180g vinyl, CD, and as a digital download at http://idaho.bandcamp.com

10/10

LIGHTS – The Listening

LIGHTS – The Listening

If your poison is techno, pop or anything in between, meet LIGHTS. It’s not a band, but one singer-songwriter with serious talent and crazy hair. In fact, LIGHTS is her legal name, and she calls her music “intergalactic-electro.” In her debut album The Listening she shows off some fun synth work as well as real depth you might not expect in an artist’s first studio album.

The album has a few songs from her early song-making days, where her studio was her room and her computer. One song called “February Air” put her in the spotlight through its debut on an Old Navy commercial about winterwear. The other songs, like “River” and “Second Go,” were more professionally made, but kept all of the creativity and passion of her older work.

If you pick up a copy (you should), pay some extra attention to the lyrics. They pack in a lot of meaning that’s so absent in the pop genre right now. They’re not your average lovey-life-is-perfect pop songs. The lyrics are made up of things we actually think about on a daily basis. And that speaks volumes. Literally.

As a listener and HUGE fan, I can’t help but feel happy when I hear LIGHTS. She has a new album coming out soon called “Siberia,” and the anticipation is killing me. Especially since two songs from the album are already ready for listening. “Everybody Breaks a Glass” showcases her talent for poetic, somewhat techno-rap, while “Toes” (which is now available to purchase as a single) is more what you’d expect from the girl behind “The Listening.”

Also, check out that album cover. They just don’t come like that anymore.

Artist: LIGHTS
Album: The Listening
Release Date: 10/6/2009

Favorite Track: “River” or “Lions”
Least Favorite Track: Really, I don’t have one

Young the Giant

Young the Giant

Being serenaded is one of those things most women could only hope would happen to them. But with Young the Giant’s Sameer Gadhia’s cool voice and cooler lyrics, I think those women can quickly picture themselves wrapped in the arms of the music.

Young the Giant’s single “My Body” was a hit in January, and with good reason. The entire band is talented, and unique enough in the indie music world that they are ones to look out for this year. If you like reading a book in a hammock or taking a drive on a sunny day, this is your score. Their self-titled debut album reminds me of a more grown-up version of The Killers, with little surfer-style guitar thrown in.

And it doesn’t look like there are signs of stopping for this band. After they perform at the upcoming VMAs, they will be on tour with Incubus until Oct 2011, not to mention they already have a great track record, peaking at #2 in Canada and #5 in the US for just one of their singles so far (My Body), with another on the rise (Cough Syrup).

Overall, they’re worth the listen and I’d say the money too.

Artist: Young the Giant
Album: Young the Giant
Release Date: 01/25/2011 (US)

Favorite Track: Apartment
Least Favorite Track: Islands

The Glitch Mob – Drink the Sea

The Glitch Mob – Drink the Sea

Full disclosure – this is my favorite album that came out in 2010. In my opinion, it’s electronic music at its finest. Just gritty enough without becoming noise. I have a hard time not listening to the whole album each time I turn it on.

I’m typically a little more drawn to electronic dance music, but this broke me out of my shell. You’re probably not going to hear this in a club, but I’d take a night in with this over a night out hearing a trillion songs featuring Pitbull. That’s just me.

I give it easily a 9/10.

Artist: The Glitch Mob
Album: Drink the Sea
Release date: May 25, 2010

Favorite track:  Animus Vox
Least favorite track:  Starve the Ego, Feed the Soul