Music I’m listening to…

October 13th, 2008

It’s been pretty quiet around here on the blog lately which, as always, is an illustration of the inverse in my life. Work is busy, life is busy, plus it’s fall here so I’m spending as much time looking for foliage and visiting fairs as I can. That being said, I’ve been finding some more time as of late to listen to new music in all of my travels.

Back in the day I used to listen to Tonic, a rock band. I was never a huge fan but some of the unreleased tracks on their albums were really excellent. For instance, I really like the song ‘Soldiers Daughter’ on the ‘Lemon Parade‘ album. With that being said I was somewhat hesitant when I first saw Emerson Hart, the lead singer and frontman for Tonic, had released a solo album, entitled ‘Cigarettes and Gasoline. I ended up buying the album though as it kept coming up as a recommendation based on a lot of the music I listen to. Overall I am glad I did. The album is really great in a sort of old school kind of way. My tastes these days are toward honest music that isn’t overly ‘hard’ in terms of instrumentation. I enjoy bands like Disturbed and that ilk but generally speaking I’m usually in the mood for a more calm approach and would rather be pulled in to the lyrics of a song and not the guitar tracks. That is not to say that this album doesn’t have some pretty heavy rock tracks but I would be lieing if I said the album isn’t a bit more on the ‘pop’ side of the spectrum.

Lyrically, this album is really solid. I’ve not done any research into Hart’s recent life but I can tell you for sure he was recently divorced. He is aware of his faults in the marriage and it sounds like his ex-wife is claiming to be innocent. He also delves into his relationship with his kid/kids in the song ‘Flyin” which is very powerful. The album truly weeps but is not depressing. All of the songs do seem to offer some hope to them. For me, his anger and passion comes across sincerely.

The album is littered with many power balled style songs mixed in with the more heavy material in a way that is not totally pleasing to me. As a person with a strong music production background I would have liked to see the album mastered to offer better flow between the songs. There could of course me numerous reasons the song order is the way it is but after a soft gentle ending to one song I don’t like the jarring effect that happens when a hard crunched guitar sound comes in moments later. I’m still thinking about the previous song and am not given a chance to flow into the next. As a person who listens to albums almost always from start to finish this is on my mind but I gather from the listening habits of those around me that this isn’t an issue for most. I know that most artists order the songs and instrumentation on an album in a specific pattern and I always want to hear the music as they intended it. There is a good chance they were looking to create the dissonant feeling in you as the next song began.

This album does a good job of mixing new techniques with old though in a way that I think is excellent. Often times when new albums come out there is a track or two with a drum machine that sounds totally out of place and you can tell that some idiot producer put it there because the kids will thinks it’s cool. Hart does have a few songs with drum loops on them but they fit to the music effortlessly and I think offer a quality that could not be achieved in a live studio environment. There is of course no way to know if the parts were played by a real drummer with samples swapped in later or if it was ‘programed’ but either way, I like it. ‘Cigarettes and Gasoline’, the final track on the album is a good example of this.

I like the album and it’s certainly one that I will be listening to for some time to come. It offers both interesting lyrics and a good sound overall and I will be looking forward to whatever Hart releases going forward.

The other album I have been listening to as of late is the latest from Kings of Leon. I saw them on SNL a few weeks back and was really taken by their songs. I appreciated the rougher edges and the intensity they had on the stage. This band comes in stark contrast to Emerson Hart but I am really drawn to the almost spooky nature of the vocals and the deep grove of the music.

I wouldn’t say the lyrics are great but they do tend to be interesting. For me to really get into a songs I have to hear the vision of the lyrics but this band seems to lack that overall. I would guess they mean something to the band and the writer but they lack a more defined storyline which I enjoy. The real draw from a lyrical point of view is the way they come across. Caleb Followill isn’t afraid of not being spot on in terms of tuning and is really swamped in reverb on the tracks. This, to me, is a clear sign that he either doesn’t like the sound of his voice or wanted to gloss over some intonation issues. The band also uses some backing vocal tracks to had a bit of lushness to some of the lines. It works very well with their overall sound. I find the vocals to be really piecing and like I said almost spooky but really filled with passion and pain. He is also very good at using the lyrics to augment the rhythm of the underling music.

The drumming is usually pretty detailed and a bit of the path when compared to more ‘radio ready’ bands but, as a drummer, I really enjoy it. Nathan Followill (the band is three brothers and a cousin) plays some pretty unique patterns that work very well with the bass line and guitar tracks. I almost always find myself tapping along and have really had a good time blasting the album through my headphones while drumming along.

It’s all really hard to put into words. The music goes right through me and I can’t help but become a part of it. The guitar sounds are awesome with numerous timbres that fit each song. The bass is solid and also variable based on the track. It’s treated like a real guitar and not just the low end as you hear in most pop records. I don’t know what else to say, if you like rock without the polish this is a killer album.

I don’t ever just buy a single from a record, quite the opposite, I usually by the current album that I’ve excited about but also any back albums they have released as well. This was the case with Kings of Leon but I have to admit I’ve not listened to much of the back music yet… I am just grooving on the new stuff too much to wander. What I’ve read though suggests that the back catalog is considerably more ‘raw’ then the current album, though the current album is pretty raw. It seems they have angered a few fans which I think it ridiculous. Bands grow over time and their sound develops. This album does not sound like a sellout album to me by an stretch and I think we have what I consider a ‘punk’ mentality. Look at the history of Green Day. They grew over time (arguably for the better) but the older fans, the people that saw them when they were still forming were really ticked to hear albums like Dookie and American Idiot, which they saw as the band selling out.

I don’t think that is the case. To me they grew and developed themselves as artists to be able to produce the vision they had in their minds. I think this is the case with Kings of Leon as well. No part of this album sounds like a plea for radio air play…

So, there you have it. Just a quick review and a post to let you know I’m still here. I find myself compressing my thoughts into 140 characters for twitter so much easier then doing a full post for a lot of topics that some posts do go by the wayside. There are more posts coming down the pike though…


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