Friday, March 30, 2012

Live


When I got to the letter L, I noticed that I really didn't have much to choose from... I listened to a bit of Gordon Lightfoot, some Low... Eventually, I settled on the band Live.

"I Alone"

Upon listening through their catalog, I remembered how influential they had actually been in my life.  They really aren't the greatest band, and certainly not in my top 10 favourites... but their music (specifically the early-middle stuff) always remained a constant during my youth.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I practiced drums to their second and third albums.

Mental Jewelry, their first album, was kind of "meh."  It was redundant and certainly not that well produced.  The band had yet to really find their sound, but the sound they did have, they stuck to in each and every damn song.

"Mirror Song"

Skipping quickly onto their next album, Throwing Copper, this was definitely their most famous album, and it solidified the band as one of the standards of the 90's.  Most everyone simply remembers Live as "the band that did Lightning Crashes."


"Lightning Crashes"

There are quite a few other good songs on Throwing Copper, but in my opinion they didn't become a "good" band until Secret Samadhi came out in 1997.

"Rattlesnake"

Very clearly their darkest album to date, both artwork and musically, it was also one of their most creative efforts.  Personally, I still can't find much of anything wrong with the album and listening to it brings back some happy memories.

"Ghost"

Although many people regard that as the peaking point of Live, I personally think it was their next album The Distance To Here that really was the high point in the band's career.

"The Distance"

The entire album had a far more free and happy sound than their prior albums, using many different forms of spiritual and religious allegory.  I call it the "we went to India, and now here's an album" effect that has permeated many artists from The Beatles to Alanis Morissette.  I guess they just sounded more enlightened and peaceful than before.

"Dolphin's Cry"

Somewhere between The Distance To Here and their fifth album V, I guess the lead singer became friends with trip-hop artist Tricky, because not only did they appear on each others' albums, but Tricky is pretty much everywhere on V.

"Simple Creed"

This resulted in V being the most unique album by Live, and their last really good one by my standards.  Far more guitar-heavy than before, it was a pure rock album from start to finish, while still keeping a lot of the Eastern (and Middle Eastern) influence of their prior release.

"Forever May Not Be Long Enough"

After that, they've had two albums, Birds of Prey and Songs From Black Mountain, that I call "wonderfully mediocre."  Having grown up since their genesis, Live essentially developed into more of an adult contemporary sound.

"Heaven"

Much like albums from bands like Pearl Jam (which I tend to enjoy more, to be honest), hearing new music from Live usually brings about a feeling of familiarity and a thought of "Oh yes, Live. I like Live. Ahh, I remember this."

"The River"

I guess the band started having real problems around the time of Birds of Prey.  Most of the band wasn't fond of the direction the vocalist/songwriter was going, and wanted a return to the rock sound they used to have... among many other more serious issues (money and contract types of things) which led to a lawsuit a couple years ago.  It was announced last year that the band has reformed with a new vocalist and would be working on a new album.  This is bound to change the core sound and lyrical style of Live completely, and it could be either really good or really bad.  I guess I'll just have to wait and see...

In the meantime, I'm just going to wish them well, hope for the best, and enjoy their music occasionally... Just probably not much off their first or latest albums.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

King Black Acid


King Black Acid and the Wombstar Orchestra...
King Black Acid and the Starseed Transmission...
King Black Acid and the 144,000 Member Acid Army...
King Black Acid and the Sacred Heart...

Over 15 years the band King Black Acid has gone through numerous line-up changes and had almost as many name changes.  Apparently the Oregon-based band is still making music, yet their last release came a decade ago.

I first heard KBA at a Floater concert, being one of the few opening acts to NOT get booed off stage.  I very clearly remember being off to the side of the pit area, the crowd completely unaware of what to expect... The music swelled, the moshers got ready to mosh, and...

"Haunted"

If the music hadn't been so awesome, I would have laughed aloud at the stupid idiotic mosh pit people.

Anyways, I was captured by the spacey, dreamy music.  The band had an organ player, and the lead guitarist Daniel Riddle played one song with a toy laser gun pressed against the strings.  Odd, but good.  So after their show, I made my way back to the merch booth, spoke to the chick from the band, and when she found out I was a Pink Floyd fan, she suggested I get their second album Sunlit.  So I grabbed both that one and their recent album, the soundtrack to the movie The Mothman Prophecies. (Horrible movie, great soundtrack.)

I first gave Sunlit a listen and enjoyed the 3-track song cycle so much that I was online buying the other three(3) albums before the disc was over.  The album starts with a long, slow, mellow track... segues into a long, slightly more up-tempo track... and finishes off with a long, distorted frenzy.

"Headfull"

Their first album was similar in style to Sunlit, but four(4) long tracks instead of three(3).  Womb Star Session was recorded during a live radio broadcast and is a good testament to the band's sound, despite lacking in production value.

"Alone On Mars"

After Sunlit, KBA recorded a soundtrack for an independent film, the album released as Royal Subjects.  This is actually my favourite album by KBA, even though initially I wasn't as thrilled by it as the others.  It took a few listens before I realised the brilliance behind it.

"60 Cycles Numb"

While having a more "rock band" sound to their music than before (shorter songs and more radio friendly), Royal Subjects also showed the band expanding the other direction with ambient soundscapes.

"Passing Through the Photon Belt"

After Royal Subjects, the band changed its name and personnel, and recorded Loves A Love Song.  Far more accessible in style, KBA's music from this album was used on several TV shows and movies.  It looked like the band was headed towards nation-wide success.  The album was incredible while establishing a solid sound for the band.

"Into The Sun" (Live)

After yet another name change, the band was asked to record music for one of the two discs of the Mothman Prophecies soundtrack.  This was the other album I bought that first night, and aside from the bookending tracks by the band Low and some song segueing by TomAndAndy (who provided the film's score), it's a (now) typical King Black Acid album.  Dark and mysterious, slightly creepy at times, but intriguing and beautiful, some of my favourite songs come off this album.

"Wake Up #37"

Since then, King Black Acid has released a couple songs here and there (on MySpace, back when that was still being used), and I guess they perform now under yet another KBA name... although mostly in or around Portland.  I was lucky to see them a few times before they dropped back into obscurity.  Although, I can't help but think how big they could have been if they had continued on the same road they abandoned.

I still look around online every so often to see if maybe... just maybe... there would be any new release by King Black Acid.  So far, no such luck.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Jars of Clay


Between Billy Joel, Joy Division and Jars of Clay, I decided to write about the Christian band for the letter J.  In my massive collection of music, I only really have (and like) a few specific Christian artists... and I happened to find out about one through another.

Way, way back in 1994, I went to see the band PFR in concert, and their opening act was a little band that was just starting out.  Honestly one of the best concerts I've seen, Jars of Clay had yet to release their first album and was passing out their demo tapes at the merch booth.  (I still have the tape Frail in a box somewhere... Very rare.)

"Liquid"

Eventually their first (self-titled) album came out (with the help of King Crimson's Adrian Belew, oddly enough) and was quite possibly the first Christian rock album to make it in the mainstream market.  The main single "Flood" actually got some play on the national (once famous, now defunct) rock station Z-Rock, as well as normal rotation on MTV (back when it played music).

"Flood"

As I recall, the mainstream success caused quite a controversy in some more legalistic (see: stuffy) religious circles, but in the end no one could deny that the band had some merit.

The second album Much Afraid, while being far less popular, is my personal favourite and is what earned the band its place on my list.  Veering away from the Gaelic rock sound of the first album, the sophomore album contained less religious reference and was far more melancholy than before.

"Frail"

The entire album explores personal relationships and feelings of loss, sorrow, and loneliness.  Without being too much of a downer, the lyrics still remain uplifting enough to express a promise of hope.

"Five Candles (You Were There)"

My personal love of this album is from its purely human outlook on the band's own religious and spiritual beliefs.  While most Christian artists do their best to essentially hide the fact that they have any real world problems (along the lines of "everything is just fine and dandy if you believe in God"), Much Afraid embraces the fact that, no matter what we believe, we're all just human beings... and we all have struggles and trials in life that don't just go away with faith.

"Weighed Down"

The message is simply that it's where you turn when life weighs down on you.  In an odd move for a Christian band, God or "Jesus" isn't even mentioned until the last two songs (aside from an earlier line "no god can pull me out" which I don't think counts...) on an otherwise rather heavy and accessible album.

From their third album If I Left The Zoo and onward, the band became much more radio-friendly and contemporary rock.  While I'm still not thrilled with the shift in style, there are still plenty of good songs despite being standard catchy songs.

"Unforgetful You"

The fourth album The Eleventh Hour starts a trend of albums filled with a mixture of radio rock songs and random old-fashioned folk "gospel" style songs

"Amazing Grace"

Nothing really sticks out between then and now, aside from two albums.  One is a split live/studio album with re-recordings of older songs, and the other is a bluegrassy collection of traditional hymns and spirituals called Redemption Songs.

"On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand"

Other than that, the rest is pretty much mediocre yet still worth a listen.  What I give props to Jars of Clay for is that none of the music or lyrics ever feel forced or contrived.  That's one thing I look for in any band, no matter what their purpose... and the biggest problem I have with most Christian music is that it usually comes across as forced and unnatural.  Jars of Clay, however, has always been honest to themselves as singers and songwriters first, simply expressing themselves and what they feel.

That's the way it should be, and why as long as they continue to just "be", I will continue to love this band.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I Mother Earth


Well, for the letter I, my pick is the Canadian rock band I Mother Earth.

"One More Astronaut"

Yet another band I found simply because the band name and an album title caught my attention, I Mother Earth (or IME) blends some classic rock guitar, Santana-esque percussion, a bit of progressive metal, funky bass, and rather unique vocals into a genre that is actually kind of hard to pin down.  They've been posted as "Alternative Rock" and "Post-Grunge"... but I tend to just put them in the "Psychedelic Rock" category.

"Undone"

Their first album, Dig, is especially filled with psychedelic sound and plenty of funk, many of the songs turning into more of an extended jam than anything.

"Rain Will Fall"

Scenery and Fish was the first album I heard by IME.  It had me hooked right off the bat and kept my interest through to the final (7-minute long) song "Earth, Sky & C", a personal favourite of mine.  Of all the tracks posted today, this one is the most worth a listen.

"Earth, Sky & C"

In 1997, the lead singer Edwin announced he was leaving the band to pursue a (more radio-friendly) solo career... and IME was to find a new vocalist.  After hundreds of audition tapes and some disputes with both the label and management, they finally found a suitable replacement and a new album was released.

"All Awake"

One of the hardest things any band can ever do is find a new lead vocalist, especially after being known well for the unique sound of the original, but IME pulled it off beautifully, possibly even improving with a stronger vocalist while still sounding very much like the same old band.

"Summertime In The Void"

Quicksilver Meat Dream was released in 1993 and lost most of the psychedelic aspect, veering more towards darker progressive rock and metal than before.

"Meat Dreams"

Upon browsing the Wikipedia entry in preparation for this post, I discovered (to my surprise) that the band's 8-year hiatus is officially over, and the band is touring again.  Whether I should expect a new album or not is debatable, but usually when I band starts touring again after eight years, and it's not called a "reunion", that usually implies they plan to record.  Personally, I am hoping for a return to the sound of the first three albums, and not so much like the last... but any new music by I Mother Earth will be gladly welcomed.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Hôtel Costes


What can you say really about Hôtel Costes?  Not really a band... but a hotel in France, they release an album of "downtempo electro-lounge chill" music every year.

"Ambrosia"

Each album is mixed by DJ Stéphane Pompougnac and (I suppose) has the music that's played in the lounge, bar, lobby, whatever of the hotel that year, although I really might be wrong on that.  All I know really is that the music makes incredible background music for late nights in front of a computer.

"The Wicked Thoughts of You"

This is another set of music I stumbled upon randomly one day.  I was browsing through the electronic music at Best Buy one day, and saw a set of boxed CD's with "IMPORT" stickers on each of them.  Not one to ignore interesting packaging, I checked em out and decided to get one.  (Yes, it was the sexy girls on the covers that caught my eye first... Don't judge me.)  I really liked what I heard, so I started getting more of them.

"My Funny Valentine"

I currently only have the first 12 of the 15 releases as of yet, but I plan to obtain the most recent three(3) somewhat soon if I can.  If you're a fan of down-tempo or chill-out music, I definitely recommend any of the Hôtel Costes collections.

"Why Did We Fire The Gun"

Monday, March 05, 2012

David Gilmour


Well, I was considering Godspeed You! Black Emperor for my letter G pick... but then I found out that tomorrow is the birthday of one David Gilmour, who was actually my initial pick.

Now anyone who knows me knows I am a fan (understatement) of Pink Floyd.  If you aren't familiar with the band, Gilmour was not only the guitar player and lead singer (NOT Roger Waters, like idiots think), but he also wrote a good 80% of the music with keyboardist Richard Wright (RIP)... and although Rick is my personal favourite member of Pink Floyd (and it is my opinion that HE brought the true "Floyd sound" over any of the other three, but that's a different topic), I still hold a lot (and I do mean a lot) of love for David.

"Time" (Live)

A lot of people, while aware of his music with Pink Floyd, remain very ignorant of David's solo career... so I am going to briefly write about that, generally ignoring the band's music.

"There's No Way Out of Here"

Gilmour's first solo album (self-titled) was released in 1978.  Both he and Rick had been generally left out of the writing process for the next Floyd album (The Wall), which resulted in both releasing solo albums that year.  Gilmour's was definitely the strongest of the two and even had some (mildly) hit singles.  He brought in a couple friends from a previous band, Joker's Wild, as session musicians, so the "old home" feel probably had a lot to do with the polished feel of the album.

"Short and Sweet"

In 1984 a year after the next Floyd album he had no input on (The Final Cut), his second album, About Face, was released.  A step up from his first album, the music was still pure Gilmour.  There were also a few rock radio hits off About Face, the whole album being a bit more radio-friendly than his first.

"Murder"

While the production in whole is typical of the 1980's, I personally like this album better than his (relatively solo) Pink Floyd album from 1987, A Momentary Lapse of Reason.  Perhaps it was just that he was far more relaxed at being himself than he was at carrying a whole band.

"Near The End"

Then after 22 years, two (Roger Waters-less) Pink Floyd albums, some lawsuits, and a few tours with and without the band, David released what I feel is his crowning achievement, as far as the past 35 years are concerned: On An Island.

"On An Island" (Live)

For this third solo album, he enlisted the help of Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera, very early Floyd member Bob Klose, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and a few other notable people... such as a musically refreshed (yet secretly close to dying) Richard Wright.  The result is a fantastic and very mature album that I consider the most "Floydian" thing released since 1975's Wish You Were Here.

"This Heaven"

The sound of much of the album actually reflects back to the earlier "soundtracking random foreign films" era of Pink Floyd, between the Syd Barrett days and The Dark Side of The Moon.  What is noticeable the most to me (as an aforementioned Rick Wright fan), is Rick's influence on many of the songs, both musically and vocally.  This is by no means a bad thing, as the two of them together has always made for some of the most wonderful music.

"The Blue"

The tour for On An Island resulted in two completely different DVD releases, one with Crosby and Nash and more representative of the tour; the other being a special performance in Gdańsk, Poland, complete with a full orchestra behind them.  The shows not only included the new album in its entirety, but also plenty of classic (and not heard in a long time) Pink Floyd songs.

"Echoes" (Live)

Well, that pretty much sums it up for David Gilmour's solo career as of yet.  While I hope he continues to write and record (and perform) music throughout the coming years, the man has already given us plenty to enjoy.  His music and style has influenced many younger generations of musicians, and I'm sure it will continue to for many more.

Happy birthday, Dave!