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Archive for the tag “alternative”

Song of the Month (June 2013) – The Dear Hunter – “Girl”

I decided to start a new monthly entry for the blog, namely the “song of the month”. I will pick one song each month that really grabs my attention and write a quick discussion on it here. Check out each month’s song to possibly find some new artists you may not have heard of or just to hear some good jams.

For the first song of the month, I have selected The Dear Hunter’s “Girl”. “Girl” is the seventh track off their recent release, Migrant (you can read my review of the album here). The album as a whole is stunning, but “Girl” manages to stand out due to its heavier feel amidst a more calm album. “Girl” starts chunky with some powerful vocals, but manages to transition right into a clever chorus that combines some back and forth vocals between Casey Crescenzo and his sister, Azia, with some intricately layered guitar work. This results in one of the most interesting sounding pieces on the album. The song moves back to its chunky roots and back to its calmer chorus once more before lastly bursting into an attack of searing guitars, drums, and bass, along with some powerful vocals by Casey before finally settling back at its chunky roots. Whether you enjoy excellent vocal work, heavy-light transitions, or clever guitar work, you will find something to enjoy here – not to mention the track fits nicely for a summer jam. If you enjoy “Girl”, I cannot recommend Migrant enough (as noted in my review). I hope you enjoy the new recurring entry – let me know what you think of the song.

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The Dear Hunter – “Migrant” Album Review

The Dear Hunter - Migrant album cover

Today, there are so many rock groups out there, along with an exhaustive list of sub-genres, that it can become hard not to pick up a new album and instantly think of another similar sounding group. There is an endless sea of music that harbors a feeling of déjà vu/been there done that feelings. Enter, The Dear Hunter, to offer something completely refreshing, yet again. With their new release, “Migrant”, the group has once again outdone themselves and created an outstanding work of musical art.

There is one word that continues to come to mind when listening to “Migrant” – transcendent. Breaking the mold of the group’s previous four albums (all concept albums), “Migrant” skips the concepts and goes with a theme much simpler, and much more personal. From the intimate opening, “Bring You Down”, to the serene closing, “Don’t Look Back”, the album is a personal exploration both lyrically and musically. This takes the album across so many different territories, crafting so many unique sounds that each track is a new journey in and of itself.

Those that are fans of The Dear Hunter have likely heard the first track released from the album, “Whisper”, as it was released online about a month ago. This song is my favorite on the album, but to say that it is the standout track is to discredit the amazing body of work the group has put together on this release. There are so many beautiful harmonies, skillful transitions/tempo changes, and impeccable textures. Simply put, this is the most wonderfully-layered album I’ve heard since Sufjan Stevens’ “Illinois”. Further, I can recommend this album based solely on its vocal content – Casey Crescenzo has always been an extremely talented vocalist (a personal favorite), but this album showcases some of his best work. Casey transitions from soft melodies to raw growls (and everything in between) so easily and perfectly matches the feel of each song section. To see an example of all of the above in action, check out “Girl” below – a heavier track that manages to evolve into so much more multiple times throughout the track (in particular, the dual guitar work during the chorus is superb, not to mention the alternating vocals):

I could go deeper into the album and describe each track, but it is better to allow you to experience the magic of “Migrant” with as little knowledge as possible. There is not a low point on the album, and I can honestly say that I can think of no one who should not be able to find something on this album that he/she doesn’t enjoy. This personal exploration for the group has brought them into new territory – territory that many other groups may only dream of reaching. The passion and emotion Casey and company have put into each track is quite powerful and has allowed this album to stand out from the crowd as an incredible release. Do your ears a favor and delve into “Migrant” – I highly doubt you will regret it.

Final Score: 9.5/10

The Bipolar Bears – Self-Titled Album Review

The Bipolar Bears Album Cover

Every now and then, I am made aware of a random band, and after hearing some samples, I decide to take a chance on them. Just recently, I read another blog post reviewing the self-titled album by the Austin, Texas-based band, The Bipolar Bears. Soon after, I took that chance – and I am glad I did.

The Bipolar Bears offer an angsty, alt-pop that sits on the border between raw and refined. Sitting comfortably within their genre, the album feels full of confidence for the group, and offers its listeners a solid mix of tracks. As the album moves from track to track, it becomes apparent that there is a wide variety of influences in the group’s music. This makes each track have a unique feel – partially due to varying members of the group writing and performing vocals on different tracks – yet, in the end, there is still a nice consistency to the album as a whole.

Check out the video below for a taste of The Bipolar Bears:

Looking at individual tracks, “The Siren” quickly stands out as my personal favorite. A nice mix of keys, chunky guitar, and solid rhythm make the track an easy recommendation. Tracks like “Half Cigarette” and “I Want You” also stand out for some infectious melodies and pattern changes. There are even some nice brass sections as the album’s latter pieces.

On all the tracks, though, there is solid performances by every group member. It may not be highly technical, but that is not the point – the whole means more than the individual parts. In that respect, The Bipolar Bears have crafted a solid album that manages to have fun, yet feel mature in its execution. Take a chance, and you will likely be pleasantly surprised as I was with this up-and-coming group.

Final Score: 7.8/10

Caspian – “Waking Season” Review

After being sorely disappointed by This Will Destroy You’s latest release, “Tunnel Blanket”, I have been waiting for a post-rock album that would really wow me. Thus, I have been eagerly anticipating this album by one of my favorite bands. “Waking Season” is the fourth album by Caspian, a post-rock outfit from Massachusetts whose first release, “You Are the Conductor”, still sits high on my list of favorite albums (check out the combo of Further Up/Further In for pure post-rock bliss). How does this album stack up against their previous works, and more importantly, against other albums released this year?

Well, let’s take a look at the individual pieces that make up this 10-track LP. The album begins with the title track, which is a straightforward crescendo. I would almost have to say that it is too straightforward, revolving mainly on two chords. At a few points it seemed that it would shift away, but I still found myself in this simple progression. Further, the drum parts are overly simple, and when they change/build, don’t really progress the song in any way. Yet, the melody is good and the overall feel of the song is a good way to set the tone for the rest of the album experience. This title track then snaps seamlessly into the unstable “Procellous”. Here, you are thrust into what can be described as cohesive instability, a song that feels like it can explode at anytime, yet always feels like it is progressing to a set destination. At many points during the song, you feel torn in different directions by the differing rhythms and melody lines fighting between the instruments. This may sound like a bad thing, however, Caspian brings everything together wonderfully to produce a very powerful track. This is closely followed by “Gone in Bloom and Bough”, a much calmer (though it still hits hard at the closing) and melodic piece that nicely complements the previous track.

Fourth, we hit what I feel is the highlight of the album, “Halls of the Summer“. I cannot describe this song as anything but pure musical genius. The song begins with an industrial type background behind a piano melody. This piano melody builds and morphs into another beautiful melody before the section drops to reveal a strumming guitar. What follows is a short section of a melody similar to the piano part, but now guitar-centered. A distorted guitar enters along with the original piano melody to create an aura of sound that you really must experience to understand the nature of this song. Truly amazing!

How I envision myself listening to “Halls of the Summer”

Continuing on, “Akiko”breaks up the album midpoint, entering with a calm mix of clean guitar and harmonics. Though the track is short (3 minutes 33 seconds), there is enough movement to make it seem longer. As the first melody and mid-section pass, we are left with a fragile, awe-inspiring dual-guitar harmony (specifically at 2:21) that feels like it would fall apart next to such strong tracks as “Procellous”, or later “Fire Made Flesh”. Very rarely have I ever heard a harmony this perfect (seriously, it’s damn good).

Beginning the second half of the album is a two-track section starting with “High Lonesome”, an ambient intro track where Caspian channels their inner Sigur Rós. “High Lonesome” floats right into “Hickory ’54”, which opens with a modulated, trance-inducing intro. Here, though I feel a flaw in this album is further exposed. At a few points, mainly here and “Waking Season”, I found myself longing for a little more complexity in the rhythm section. The melodies in both tracks are so simple, that a more complex rhythm could really flesh the sound out. I am by no means adverse to simple drum tracks, as the following track (“Long Desert Mile”) is well put together with a simple drum progression, but these tracks just feel too plain without that extra boost from the rhythm section.

Having mentioned the eighth track,  “Long Desert Mile” is another straightforward song. As mentioned though, the song has some of that complexity that a track like “Waking Season” is missing. After this, we enter the final movement of the album consisting of another two-track piece. “Collider in Blue” is another ambient intro (like “High Lonesome”) that leads us into the final piece, “Fire Made Flesh”. This eerie track just has a perfect feel to round out the album. The haunting melody at the start slowly progresses like a slow burn before dropping out to allow a nice drum/bass groove to enter (where was this rhythmic complexity in “Hickory ’54”?). This evolves into a full assault on the ears, complete with thundering bass, pounding drums, and heavily distorted guitar, all brought together under a haunting ambient melody, that leaves the listener breathless as the album comes to a close.

All in all, this album is exceptional in its overall composition, and ability to weave in such delicate parts (“Akiko”) with well-planned sonic assaults (“Fire Made Flesh”). For its flaws, including the lack of rhythmic complexity in some areas, and melodies that don’t seem to progress at times, Caspian has done so much right and produced another excellent post-rock album. “Waking Season” has earned its spot as my favorite album of the year so far, yet cannot surpass the sheer brilliance that was achieved on “You Are the Conductor”. If you enjoy post-rock or instrumental music, you will not be the least bit disappointed by this album.

Final Score – 9.2/10

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