Intensity Ghost is a wonderful LP full of ambient music that draws you in. The 5 song Lp was released on October 28th by Pennsylvania based band Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band. This is the bands second work, they previously released Solar Motel (Paradise of Bachelors) in 2013.
The music in Intensity Ghost is technically masterful and pleasing to listen to. It is repetitive enough to blend into the background but if you pay attention there are dissonant sounds that build and swell to create tension that draws you in. The LP opens with The Ballad of Freer Hollow, which features a steady drum beat and repetitive dissonant sounds. The song is 11:25 min long though, and while it is a good song it is repetitive and and long. The Ballad of Freer Hollow would work better if it wasn’t the first song on the LP. Intensity Ghost’s second song, Yellow Square, interrupts the sleepy sound introduced by the first song a steady bass and drum beat. An electric Guitar threads in-between the two other instruments really wonderfully. The song builds slowly and it is still repetitive in nature. I Ain’t Waiting, the LP’s third song, is melancholic and it has a wonderful intro. The song builds with a chord progression that repeats and increases in speed .The sound expands and gets more complex while retaining its original simple nature. Overall the LP is very good, although it is rather repetitive.
When asked what influenced the sound on Encyclopedia, Jacob Gram said he wanted the album to sound like a Disney Musical, while Jonny Pierce said he wanted it to sound like a garbage can. To take a line from Pierce, “I think you can hear a little bit of both”. Encyclopedia is the combination of tragically real lyrical prose and the instrumentation to convey Pierce’s haunting musings. Amidst turmoil with members of the band, this is the first album with the two as a duo, but the classic Drums sound is maintained and improved upon.
The album opens up with an exposé of the two’s talent on Magic Mountain, with what sounds like what a house show punk band would turn out trapped inside a real magic mountain with nothing but Chaucer and old copies of Vice, with the lyrics “Inside my magic mountain we don’t have to be with them”. Rapid and syncopated drums match harmoniously with synth and dreamy lyrics, but after this initial stand of independence, the Drums peal off the outer shell of cuffed jeans and adidas, and reveal the somber reality of the album, full of technical playing, but also an understanding of what it means to write a song that isn’t ashamed of saying what it needs to say. Pierce doesn’t try to tuck anything out of sight by admitting “So help me, because I feel you drifting. You’re drifting a little, And I’m scared” on I Hope Time Doesn’t Change Him.
Encyclopedia might initially sound like what you’d expect to find on a dream-pop album out of Brooklyn, but where it excels is its lyrical/ musical simplicity, crossed with mastery. Fear of dying, fear of leaving, yet set against a distinctly American backdrop of a band that’s started to dig deep into its own distinct niche. I feel this is conveyed clearly in U.S. National Park as Pierce sings “United States national park, I don’t wanna die alone by the campfire”.
If you came to The Drums through their 2011 release Portamento, you’ll still find the mesmerizing trance tunes full of guitar riffs, but the lack of their other two members will certainly stand out, though this is not necessarily a bad thing. It sounds almost more fitting to hear the sounds of The Drums in a more mature and reminiscent way. Encyclopedia is certainly worth a listen if you’re looking to be more concerned about your inner hopes and fears than the weather this winter.
With the inevitable clashing of electric guitars in the background, the sophomore album from Immigrant Union, led by The Dandy Warhol’s Brent de Boer, Anyway still manages to pass itself off as a neo hippie folk record. The dream pop-y lyrics melt right into the impeccable fusion of psych rock and country riffs. Instead of coming off as a band with varied ideas and cohesive potential, the album seemed to have a lack of direction within it as a whole. This doesn’t take away from the talent within each song, but there was no center idea.
Tracks “Alison” and “Trip Ain’t Over” are the only real standouts on the album, with the lyrics “Alison” giving a vibe reminiscent of the Nineties’ alternative scene without giving up the country infused sound present throughout the rest of the album. “Trip Ain’t Over”, which is easily the most upbeat and mainstream-friendly track on the record. Although most of the album’s tracks maintain its complete severance from de Boer’s previous project, “I Can’t Return”, the third track, could have come straight off of Dandy Warhol’s record; however it still manages to blend with the majority of the album. Overall, the album comes off as a success, albeit with some very non-memorable songs and a partially constructed concept.
Ever wonder what The Mamas and The Papas would sound like playing in a dirty basement show on a college campus? One would imagine it sounding something like this album. Garage rock takes on San Francisco summer of love psychedelia in Cool Ghouls’ “A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye”. Myself being a fan of the Haight Ashbury scene that Cool Ghouls draws from so heavily, I had high hopes for the album. “A Swirling Fire” however, did not deliver. The album desperately lacks variety with very little change in tone, dynamics, structure, or even tempo, and many tracks are nearly indistinguishable from one another. The last track however offers some respite from the noise. “Sweet Rain” is a slow burning groove that is the only really memorable moment on the album. It seems like Cool Ghouls had one good idea for this album, but couldn’t think of any more.
On November 2nd I was treated to the hardest hitting set of music I’ve ever seen as Run The Jewels delivered a blistering hour of dazzling rhymes and thumping beats. Walking out to the aptly chosen tune of “We Are the Champions”, Run The Jewels opened the set with their self-titled song, “Run the Jewels”. The crowd went berserk as El-P and Killer Mike exchanged lines at Tommy gun speed with surgical precision. Continuing their triumphant start, the duo continued with songs from their fantastic new LP, Run The Jewels 2, such as “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “All My Life” that fired up the crowd in astonishing fashion. The album had only been out for a week and a half and yet the crowd had already memorized every word, singing along with absolute tenacity, a feat I’ve seen few artists inspire in their fans.
Other songs like “Sea Legs” and “DDFH” displayed the perfect synchronicity between the two that, in turn, further incited rabid reactions from the audience. That’s the beautiful thing about Run The Jewels at the moment; they’re riding a wave of well-earned fanaticism from the music community without losing who they are. El-P is still the gruff, politically-paranoid New Yorker spitting bars dripping with vitriol and Killer Mike is still the delightful, eloquent southern-fried wonder that we’ve grown to love and watching them perform together was nothing short of hip hop paradise. Rather than dwelling in homogeneity and predictability that’s occurred in other super groups and collaborations the two built upon their strengths and quite simply enjoyed themselves. It may seem like an odd thing to highlight in a performance but it brought that extra touch to an already flawless performance that made it all the more special.
This wasn’t the first time I’d gone to see a concert in Charlottesville. I’d once traveled there to attend a Metallica concert in my early teens, enjoying prime nosebleed seats with my ever-patient father as we witnessed bombastic stage production and classics like “Enter Sandman”. It was an awe-inspiring performance that left me nothing short of entranced for its duration. For a while I’d considered that the best show I’d ever seen as Metallica was my absolute favorite band at that time (and even that’s probably an understatement). Unfortunately, years later, somewhat more musically cynical, and far less of an awkward Metallica geek I often find it harder and harder to experience that same sense of wonder when I see artists play live. However, on a smaller stage with none of the bells and whistles, Run The Jewels managed to do the impossible. They restored my inner 14 year old.
Playland is the second solo album from iconic indie guitarist Johnny Marr. Marr is most famous for his work with the Smiths, Modest Mouse, Electronic, etc and Playland sounds like the culmination of everything has learned playing in these different bands. Marr blends the synths from Electronic with the rock and roll edge from his bands like the Cribs and the melodic sense of the Smiths. These elements come together to make for a collection of very well crafted songs that balance pop accessibility with rock n roll edge.
While the songs here are well written the production detracts from a lot of this album. The production doesn’t let anything stand out which is unfortunate because there is so much instrumentation on this album that it can become hard to pick out individual parts and instruments begin to blend into a shoegazy wall of sound that at times over powers Marr’s voice.The glossy production here works well at times on the more layered tracks but on rockers like “Playland” the glossy production takes much of the energy out of the song. Luckily for “Playland” there’s enough of energy that the album stays interesting despite this.
All in all this is a solid album, even the poor production can’t negate the fact that these are well written, catchy songs with a lot of energy. “Playland” shows that Johnny Marr has still got it.
Favorite tracks: “Back in the Box” “Easy Money” “the Trap”
Least Favorite track: “Playland”
by Charles Pfaff