Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rambos - Rock and Roll Monsters

Sometimes when I hear a crappy Nickelback song off in the distance, I wonder, "How did 'rock' get so convoluted?" I still don't know the answer to that question but I do know that Rambos understand the importance of simplicity and rock on their debut album Rock and Roll Monsters.

"Terrorize," the album opener, sets the tone for the rest of the songs. It's fast-paced and the chorus, sung by the whole band, is very catchy. "We've got an evil muse that tells us to terrorize," they sing. This fact appears to be true throughout the rest of the album's dark lyrics. The songs themselves are relatively simple but that doesn't mean they aren't powerful rock beats. Not only can you headbang to them, you could possibly dance to them at the right venue. "Burn down the disco," they sing on "Radio."

"Chuck Taylors" is an observation that everyone, regardless of race or gender, wears Converse shoes. Taking a break from faster songs, "Vampire" is a beautiful duet that continues with the monster theme without sounding like Stephanie Meyer's Twilight. "Nothing To Say" seems to stomp around without letting anything stop it. The dark/monster theme extends past the lyrics and into the entire band with the rough guitar riffs and crashing drums.

Rambos understand that rock and roll does not need to be over-produced with a thousand guitar pedals and deep, philosophical lyrics. It just needs to be mean, fun, and, you know, rock. Rock and Roll Monsters comes out March 6th on Grape Juice Records.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Heartless Bastards - Arrow

When I hear "blues-rock" three things come to mind. The White Stripes, The Black Keys, and Heartless Bastards. It's very fitting that the new Heartless Bastards album, Arrow, was released on Valentine's Day. Not that the album is romantic or even anti-romantic. In fact, that's just one way that this album is quite different from their previous albums.

Heartless Bastards' lead singer/songwriter/frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom has described the album as having a "super spaghetti western-type vibe." Having recently spent time in the Catskill Mountains, a cabin, and a ranch in West Texas, it's safe to say that this album has been influenced by the great outdoors. Honestly, it makes me want to chase murderers through a canyon in Arizona, armed with only a shotgun and my wits.

The album starts with "Marathon," a slow-building, moody song that hits you like a train when the whole band comes in. "I'm on my way home," croons Wennerstrom like a cowboy that's been gone too long. "Only For You" is the closest to a love song on this one, with vocals that are belted out without feeling strained at all. The "ooh's" on "Skin And Bones" are terribly beautiful and the guitar solo echoes it right back. "Got To Have Rock and Roll," "Simple Feeling," and "Late In The Night," capture the pure rock sound that Heartless Bastards are known for. The album closer, "Down In The Canyon," is a seven minute epic that builds from a slow and angry tune to an intense, fast, pissed-off rock song. Near the end, it feels as though every single member of this band is putting absolutely everything that they can into the song.

Filled with imagery of mountains and the west, this is a great album to listen to while at your cabin, rock climbing, fishing, playing hunting video games, eating steak, sitting outside, or drinking coffee. The Heartless Bastards seem to have changed as a band but that's alright. When artists don't change, they're boring. The trick is to change in an interesting way. Arrow does just that.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Air - Le Voyage Dans La Lune

If you're being technical, I suppose Air is an electronica band. However, their new album, Le Voyage Dans La Lune, is electronica like I've never heard before. Once again, this duo is redefining a genre.

Their most recent project is actually a soundtrack to the 1902 silent film of the same name. Translated from french it is A Trip To The Moon. Directed by Georges Méliès, it's considered to be the very first science-fiction film. Originally in black and white, the color version has been found and restored. It's being released in conjunction with the album.

This isn't the first time Air has recorded a film score and I dearly hope that it isn't the last. In 1999 they did the score to The Virgin Suicides, directed by Sofia Coppola. Both the movie and the album are fantastic. I can hardly imagine one without the other.

Their new album is like no other by the band. It's filled with actual studio drums instead of a machine. They blast through without disturbing the unity of the songs. "Sonic Armada" is filled with strange sci-fi noises and a thick bass line. It sounds like aliens, robots, and a flutist having some kind of jam session. "Seven Stars," built on fast drums and slow piano, is probably my favorite track at the moment. The rapid bass and drums create a kind of panic while the dreamy vocals (from Victoria Legrand of Beach House) take me to another world. "Who Am I Now?" features soft female vocals trailed by a dark bass drum until the piano comes in and takes over. "Cosmic Trip" is almost startling by its fast tempo and tight drums. I can almost see stars flying past my bedroom window while listening to this song.

This is the freshest electronica I've heard in a very long time. Combining two of my favorite things, films and good music, this is definitely looking to be one of the best albums of 2012.