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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

2013: The Year in Pictures

January 2, 2014 Leave a comment

As you know well enough by now, I’ve already summed up what I thought were the best albums of 2013. Because, you know, some people still like albums. But 2013 wasn’t just a great year for music listening, it was a great year for music watching. Thanks to a great hobby and an even greater ‘better half,’ I was able to take in more shows this year than in any year since college. In the process, I started to try my hand at live concert photography. An amateur in every since of the word, I couldn’t tell you what an f-stop is with a gun to my temple. That said, I think I stumbled into what would be considered an “okay job” at times. I have learned a lot, and continue to do so. I combed through the several thousand pictures I took and posted some of my favorite moments in a gallery below. Check it out – clicking on one picture will open up the gallery in full-screen mode.

Hopefully 2014 will feature many more cool opportunities. Stay tuned!

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On The Passing of Tony Sly

August 28, 2012 Leave a comment

On The Passing of Tony Sly

This is a post that I initially wrote for Dying Scene. I was sitting at my desk when I originally learned of Tony’s incredibly untimely passing, and was (and remain) incredibly taken back by the whole thing. While trying to process what was going through my head, I turned to what I know best: writing. Save for a couple minor edits, the post that ended up on Dying Scene was essentially written stream of consciousness. I didn’t quite expect it to take off the way it did; certainly the most “viral” original content piece I’ve written to date. I do take some pride in that my words (evidently) summed up what a lot of others were going through.

Album Review: The Bogarts – “Nothing To Call Our Own”

I initially wrote the review that follows for my “day job” at Dying Scene, but a reader beat me to this one. Rather than let 600-or-so words go completely unprinted, I figured I’d brush the dust off the old personal blog and post ‘er here.

When last we heard from Thousand Oaks, California’s The Bogarts, the youngsters had put out a solid-if-occasionally-flawed EP (2011’s self-released Ideologies – read my DS review here) that played like you’d expect to hear from an upstart band with SoCal skate-punk chops beyond their years.

A little more than a year has passed since Ideologies, and the time has served the fellas well. Their self-released debut full-length Nothing To Call Our Own finds the sound and the lyrics more focused and aggressive than ever. Okay, I’ve gotta stop focusing on how young the Bogarts are, because their sound obviously belies their age. While other early-twenty-somethings are busy refining their Cookie Monster vocals and cookie cutter screamo acts or bastardizing pop-punk into a shadow of its former self, a select few are proudly carrying the high-intensity skate punk flag forward for the new generation. The Bogarts are placing themselves at the head of that pack.

Album-opener “Bridge Burners” finds co-vocalists Alex Johnson and Nick Waite taking turns pouring their hearts out. It can be the proverbial kiss of death for younger bands (particularly those comprised of guys who can’t legally drink in the States yet) to tackle themes like isolation and betrayal and political unrest and self-medication. It’s a dangerous tightrope that leaves most sounding either painfully pedestrian and out of their league or pathetically simple and naïve. Or worse: emo.

The four-piece list Against Me!, AFI and Anti-Flag as influences, and while those are certainly valid, I can’t help but draw comparisons to Screw 32, one of the more underappreciated bands from the mid-1990s whose demise was all-too premature. Musically, there’s was a particularly dark take on the skate punk sound, and that seems to be The Bogarts wheelhouse as well. The music is aggressive and close attention is paid to melodically crafting songs that actually build on themselves in triumphant crescendo (“Living,” “Tempe AZ” and “The Offensive Rhyme” chief among them), or at least change tempo enough so as to avoid too much “sameness.”  Rambunctious chant-along backing vocals abound, creating visions of sweat-filled basement punk show group choruses.

The aforementioned Waite doubles as the band’s bass player and teams in lockstep with drummer Moritz Kaltenbrunner to serve as a formidable anchor for the dueling guitars of Johnson and Liam to alternate between swirling leads (is that an Iron Maiden inspired riff I hear on “Greetings From”?) and layered power chords. There’s not a lot of polish involved on Nothing To Call Our Own, and that’s probably a good thing. Equal parts aggressive and melodic, the music brings with it a heaping helping of tempo and key changes. The occasional muddiness supports the lack of clarity and direction that is eloquently evoked in the lyrics “Heavy Head,” which is the album’s most down-tempo track. It gets off to a little bit of a sputtery start and the lyrics a tad clumsy in the second verse (too many syllables, not enough spaces). It’s obvious enough what they were going for, however. Plus, the instrumental section is pretty solid, so they get a pass.

All told, Nothing To Call Our Own is a better-than-solid release that finds The Bogarts taking a huge leap forward in progressing their sound without reinventing themselves. A little more focus in a few areas and they’re laying the foundation for a solid career as a punk rock force to be reckoned with.

“Ramones” turns 35

April 22, 2011 Leave a comment

The title of this one says it all. April 23rd marks the 35th anniversary of the self-titled, debut album by the Ramones. As such, it also marks the 35th anniversary of punk rock. To commemorate the occasion, I wrote a (fairly lengthy) revisit/review of the album for Dying Scene. Check it out here and leave some love!

German Error Message – After the Warmth

March 19, 2011 Leave a comment

We’re going outside our normal comfort zone for this one; but then, diversity is the name of the game, innit? Comin’ straight outta Murfreesboro, Tennessee, “After The Warmth” marks the first release from folk “band” German Error Message. I say “band” because German Error Message is essentially just Paul Kintzing and a rotating cast of his friends.

“After The Warmth” is not your typical, ‘sounds of Americana’ style folk offering, however. German Error Message performs delicate, chamber-inspired folk tunes that take the listener on a rather forlorn journey. The sound throughout is both haunting and restrained; all of the instrumentation is of the acoustic variety, and Kintzing’s voice rarely exceeds a glorified whisper, forcing the listener to pay attention to the somber lyrics. Here’s a track-by-track rundown.

Opening track “Reaching Out” is one of the livelier tunes on the album, but still very much restrained, and reveals some traditional Irish seisiun influences, but even the banjo and mandolin are minimalist in nature.  “The Warmth” follows, and features banjo over acoustic guitar and bass. Also a little brighter than some of the later songs on the album, sounds more like a stripped down indie song (think The Shins gone acoustic). Also, I’m pretty sure there’s a xylophone. Track 3, “Some Storms,” actually features some brush-played drums, though they almost get in the way of the rest of the instrumentation. To fast-forward a little, Track 8, “Rejoicing,” suffers from the same problem.

Back on track…the album’s fourth track, “Discontent,” is perhaps the best song on the album, and it is also the most understated and haunting song of the lot. The slow, “finger-picked guitar over melodic cello” sound and interplay between Kintzing and Shelly Lites and Joan Perez would not sound out of place on a Damien Rice album. “We Arose” has a sound that crescendos bigger than any other song on the album, as helped by the bright horn section in the chorus. Lyrics about emerging from a bad situation. “Remember Your Entire Life” is driven by a double bass (not the double bass pedal that many of our more traditional reviews feature) which gives the song the feel of a somber funeral march.

“The Swell” also has a more acoustic indie-rock vibe. Also the shortest track on the album at 2:11. Album closer “There Will Be Seasons” is the album’s weak point. The repeated acoustic guitar riff sounds a little sloppy at times, and the horn section suffers greatly from the album’s lo-fi production; this would be a good track to get the whole ensemble into more than a bedroom studio and do it up right.

As I stated earlier in the review, German Error Message lies outside our normal comfort zone. That said, it certainly entails the same DIY mentality and honesty that many of our more traditional “punk” offerings do. Plus, a man’s music collection gets too vanilla when it contains only Les Paul’s and Marshall stacks.

Social Distortion – Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes

January 18, 2011 1 comment

We are currently eighteen days into the new year, and already an album that will be on my shortlist of “Favorite Albums of 2011.”  “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” is the seventh studio album (their first on Epitaph Records) from legendary (a term that I do not use loosely) SoCal rockers Social Distortion (stream the album by clicking on their name).  Almost thirty years after the release of their seminal debut album “Mommy’s Little Monster,” their first new album in seven years finds “Social D” firing on all cylinders.

Don’t be confused; this is not your father’s punk rock album.  Actually, on second thought, perhaps it is your father’s punk rock album.  Unlike fellow elder statesmen Bad Religion, who dropped the blistering  “Dissent of Man” last year to coincide with their own thirty-year anniversary, Social Distortion has mellowed their sound over the years with great results.   Frontman Mike Ness has released two countrified solo albums (1999s “Cheating at Solitaire” and “Under The Influences”) that focused less on his gutter punk background and more on the Hank Williams/Bob Dylan influences from his youth.  “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” finds Ness skillfully combining both worlds into one dynamite rock record.

The first chords of the instrumental opening track “Road Zombie”  highlights the signature Les Paul/Marshall cab sound that Social D fans have come to know and love, and segues nicely into “California (Hustle and Flow),” which features Ness’s trademark vocal stylings (which I guess can best be classified as a whispery whine)  a Stones-y groove and a gospel choir (you heard me right…a gospel choir).  “Gimme The Sweet and Lowdown” has a traditional Social D hook and a chorus that will get stuck in your head for hours (but in a good way, not like a Barney song).  Other highlights are “Machine Gun Blues” and “Bakersfield,” the latter of which checks in at well over six minutes; that’s practically half an album of traditional punk songs.  The album’s closer, “Still Alive,” has a classic rock feel that will have you playing air guitar in your kitchen (just be careful to tone down the Townshend windmills when others are in the room).

Social Distortion has taken some flack from “old school” fans who claim that the band “isn’t punk” anymore.  Those are many of the same fans who chastised Face to Face for going soft on 1998s “Ignorance is Bliss.”   Apparently some people would prefer to continue living in their parents’ basement while safety pinning “Casualties” patches and anarchy pins to their faux leather jackets without realizing that musicians grow and change and develop artistically.  Ness, who is rapidly rounding the corner toward 50 years old, has been hanging with Bruce Springsteen a lot in recent years, and “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” would find a comfortable home in the rock album collections of many Springsteen fan.  All of the ‘bottom of his heart’ lyrics and intense vocal urgency that you would expect from Social Distortion are there, but the years have left Ness sounding more hopeful and optimistic than ever.  In my opinion, their best album since 1996’s “White Light, White Heat, White Trash,” and maybe their best album hands down.

Listen to “California (Hustle and Flow)” above.