Sunday, August 29, 2010

Take Me Home for The Showdown

Blood in the Gearsthe fourth full length release by Solid State Records/Tooth and Nail artist The Showdown is a type of musical dichotomy.  The album starts out as a typical hardcore/metal-core album (although with growls that can be understood on the first listen to the untrained ear), then they abruptly switch gears and turn into a Southern Metal/80's Metal Band a la Disciple or Messiah Prophet.

Do Zombies Wear Prada?

Zombie EP, the latest release by Tooth and Nail Metal-core act The Devil Wears Prada, chronicles a fictional invasion by Zombies, yes Zombies.
My problem with most Metal-core is "you can't tell what's going on without a program", in this case printed lyrics, at least with the thrash growls.  The good ones have a lot of easily discernible group choruses to appeal to the untrained ear. TDWP falls somewhere in the middle on this count.
Based on gang vocals and the music, I am going to give Zombie 3.75 Emeralds.  It would be four but I'm taking off for a short EP

Precious Metal

7th Symphonythe seventh release by Finnish Cello-Metal band Apocalyptica, is a work of fine art, no pun intended.  For the "traditional" metal head, there are plenty of screaming guitar work, but the addition of strings, particularly the cello (I know, it's hard to fathom, but it works for Skillet), brings a fresh feel to the album.  Not being a strictly Christian release, I may have to exclude it from consideration for Platinum Vinyl Awards, but I am looking for loopholes for admission.  Let me consider the evidence:
  • Of the Ten cuts on the album, over half, specifically six, are instrumental.  There is no such thing as Christian or Secular Instrumentals, it's just music.
  • Of the Four Vocal Tracks, all are "clean" songs that should appeal to anyone and one, Broken Pieces, is sung by Lacey Mosely, the Lead Singer of Flyleaf, a Christian Hard Rock band.
Right Now, I am still unconvinced on its final status, but am wavering.  On the merits of the music, however, 5 emeralds.  It is a great album.

Update 10/10/10: I remain convinced that this is a 5 Emerald Album, and I am placing it in nomination for a Platinum Vinyl Award in the Rock Genre for the 3rd Quarter (July-Sept) of 2010.

Update 02/15/11: Late Update-But as of 1/17/11 Apocalyptica made the Final 7 Nominees for the Platinum Vinyl Awards in Best Album, Hard Rock

Consider This

For Your Consideration the debut release by Montgomery, AL rockers Evolett is a simply stunning debut in the fairly crowded area of FFR (Female Fronted Rock, for those new to the music).  Lead singer Haden Brightwell is already drawing comparisons to Lacey Mosely and Flyleaf, high praise indeed for a new act.  Vocally speaking and Stylistically, I think comparisons to Sarah Anthony (The Letter Black) and Rebecca Barlow (Barlowgirl) are better.  Another comparison could be made to Fallen by Evanescence and With Abandon by Chasing Furies. Though both albums are stylistically different, they fall into the extremely small group of debut albums (in Chasing Furies case it was the only album) to achieve Perfect Album Status.  Most debut albums are, to put it charitably, a work in progress.  A case in Point, no one could have predicted Skillet's rise by listening to their self titled debut. Lyrically on point with lines like "eternal peace was within your reach, and you turned it down", and with polished instrumentals, this debut has the feel of a 5th or 6th album.
The Tracks:
  1. Only Time
  2. This Compromise
  3. This Portrait
  4. Circles
  5. We All Fall Down
  6. Silent Illusion
  7. Genetic Makeup
  8. Hang on Every Word
  9. Hold On
  10. Careful Where You Sleep
Though every song is a keeper, my personal favorites right now are Only Time, Circles, and Genetic Makeup.  You've got to love a song with this lyric:
        "It makes my skin creep and crawl to know I came from you, break down the genetic makeup, so I can chew it up and spit it out, and wash the taste right through my mouth."
After repeated listens this week I am ready to award 4.5 Emeralds to For Your Consideration.  I'm still holding back because it's a debut, and I always say "You can do better", but this might be really hard.  I'm filing this as a possible Platinum Vinyl Award Best New Artist for 2010. Consider, then buy, Evolett.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not Blown Away

There are albums that blow you away when you hear them for the first time, and then there are those that make you, well, we wont go into that right now.  Suffice it to say that, any genre that makes me feel that way (say Southern Gospel and Country) will not even be considered for review on this blog, and so, you, the reader will never be subjected to a review that basically says this album is a piece of (expletive deleted).  I may be honest in my less than wow opinion, but it will be respectful.
Then there is an album like No Far Away, the debut release by Chris August.  I call Adult Contemporary music, which this is Air Conditioned, for obvious reasons.  Adult Contemporary (aka Easy Listening) makes one comfortable, blends into the backround, sinks into your subconscious (these are the songs you can't get out of your head) and are played on elevators everywhere.
No Far Away is 11 songs of relationships (You and I), betrayal and forgiveness (7 x 70), and the wonder of God in creation (Starry Night), my favorite on the album.  He even attempts to do a Bible in a Song Track (Battle) but can't pull it off as well as DA T.R.U.T.H. The Song that sticks in your head is Loving You is Easy, especially when your brain starts swapping things with ABC by the Jackson 5.
All in all No Far Away is a passable Pop/Adult Contemporary CD. I predict it will do well.  It is a typical AC, comfortable, inoffensive, blends well, and 3 of 5 possible Emeralds. There will be better Pop albums.  I was Not Blown Away by No Far Away

A message for the ages

The Changing of the Guard, the 12th Studio Release from Starflyer 59 (a.k.a Jason Martin) continues the Starflyer 59 tradition of expert songwriting combined with what could best be described as As Ethereal Synth-Alternative Rock.  While more introspective and less "spiritual" sounding than Dial M (2008) there are nuggets to be mined for the careful listener.

An adherent of the cliche "Always leave them wanting more", TCOTG gives us 10 songs that clock in just over 30 minutes.  The track listing:
  • Fun is Fun
  • Shane
  • Time Machine
  • Trucker's Son
  • The Morning Rise/Frightening Eyes
  • I had a song for the ages
  • Coconut Trees
  • Cry Me A River
  • Kick the Can
  • Lose My Mind
Starflyer 59 has always been on the periphery of my musical experience.  I knew they existed, enjoyed the music from time to time, but never considered myself a "fan".  As such I only have two albums Silver (1993) (Hold onto your wallets, it's the corrected version, not the ones printed Starflier 59) and Dial M.  I usually gravitate to the music of the other half of the "brothers Martin" Joy Electrics Ronnie.  As such, I had no idea that Trucker's Son was biographical, I only thought it an enjoyable send up of Coal Miner's Daughter. (A country music reference from someone who hates country music).  The rockiest song on the album is Cry Me A River, most of the album is a easy listening, if not understanding.

As I said before, you may find gems here if you look.  One gem is in the final cut, Lose My Mind. Listening to the song, it is obvious he is not talking about going crazy.  I prefer to think that he is talking about the process of renewing his mind.  He is "losing" his mind and putting on the mind of Christ.  But that's just me.

Ever the perfectionist, just like his brother, he even apologizes for the album on his album.  He may say he has a "song for the ages written on some pages at home.", but if he does, that's going to make an awesome 13th.

I give The Changing of the Guard a solid 4 Emeralds (out of 5).  Will it make the final cut to be nominated for the Platinum Vinyl Awards? Maybe not, but there are four whole months to go, and this album tends to grow on you.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

TBSF 2010: Modern Worship

Maybe it is only fitting that I end the Platinum Vinyl Genre Categories with the most crowded genre in CCM today, Modern Worship.  In truth, possibly not a typical genre, because all entrants could also be classified as rock, pop, or whatever.  The thing that sets the genre apart is the subject of the music, not the style in which it is played.  The Best So Far for 2010 in Modern Worship are:

TBSF 2010: Folk/Folk Rock

The last of the weak genre's this time around.  Here's hoping for more good entries, in the second half of 2010.  Without further ado, the Platinum Vinyl Award nominees in the Folk/Folk Rock genre are:

TBSF 2010: Hip Hop/Rap

Another Genre Category with very few entrants.  Not so much that there were an abundance of bad music, but not many releases were in this category, and these three are the best so far:

TBSF 2010: Gospel/R&B

Due to a lack of releases in this category, this is the first genre that won't have to be whittled down at the beginning of next year.  With that in mind, here are the early nominees for the Platinum Vinyl Awards for the Gospel/R&B Genre:

(D) Indicates a Debut Project, qualifies for Best New Artist

Saturday, August 14, 2010

TBSF 2010: Alternative

The early nominees for the 2010 Platinum Vinyl Awards in the Alternative Genre are:
All links go to Amazon except for the Choir which links to their website store.  Album no longer available from Amazon. UPDATE 10/29: Adding Our Lives in Motion to this list. Digital Only EP released on iTunes back in April. Just got a chance to hear it and definitely it is the best thing to come out of Worcester in quite a while. They compare themselves to Anberlin but I think Ivoryline is a better comparison. Also get a best new artist nod. Will post a link soon. Check them out.

TBSF 2010: Dance/Electronica/Techno

The early nominees for the 2010 Platinum Vinyl Awards in the Dance/Electronica/Techno Genre are as follows:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

TBSF 2010: Rock

The early nominees for the 2010 Platinum Vinyl Awards in the Rock genre, which includes Metal, Hardcore, and Industrial, are as follows:

TBSF 2010: Pop

The nominees for the 1st Annual WENC Night Beat Platinum Vinyl Awards begin now.  In no particular order of importance or rank, these are the best so far for 2010 in the Pop Genre.
(D) Indicates a Debut Release, Qualifies for Best New Artist/Group

The Best So Far: An Introduction

I had originally planned this post earlier, giving my picks for the best CCM releases for the first six months of 2010.  However, even using 1 minute Amazon clips to make my decision, this has proven a much more daunting task than I had originally anticipated.  Rather than wait until I am finished, and at this rate that may be 2011, I will be making these posts a work in progress, continually adding, and maybe, even dropping entries.  The posts will be grouped by genre.

Update: Due to a marathon effort, I raced through the initial listenings of all the releases in the first 6 months.  At least those I could gather from new release lists.  If the cuts wowed me, it was nominated.  If it didn't it was ingloriously dropped from contention.  Honorable Mentions only come with the finals here, not the nominations.

As of now, you artists will have to be content with a Virtual Award (i.e. Mention on this Blog and on Twitter.  There is no piece of metal to give.  Only my recognition.