Weezer - Back to the Shack TRACK REVIEW

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Rarely have Weezer been so forgiving: “Back to the Shack” shows Rivers and Co. returning to their roots, both instrumentally and lyrically. While this track is, for the most part, pretty generic and has a simple melody to it, you have to admit that it’s far more interesting and promising than most of the band’s recent releases. I feel like the guitars and the drums compliment each other very well on this song, sending off an oh-so-sweet vibe reminiscent of Weezer’s renowned classic Pinkerton.

While Ric Ocasek’s production sounds too clean to be appealing and the chorus, which features lyrics that are nothing short of cringeworthy, is too plain to be catchy, I have to admit that I was pretty stunned at the 1:52 minute mark of this track. I seriously think this moment in the song lives up to a lot of the melodies from the band’s first two records. I’m not even joking.

Even though I’m a little disappointed that the entirety of this track didn’t sound like the bridge, I would love to hear the rest of this new LP of theirs to play out like this one glorious moment. Even Coumo’s lyrics are especially heartwarming:

"If we die in obscurity, oh well / At least we raised some hell"

The delivery of these lines is filled with such raw emotion and energy that it sends off an expectant message that Rivers still might have the potential to crank out a Pinkerton 2. Also, major props for the sick-ass riffage that tops off this moment perfectly.

Yeah, I guess we can forgive you, Rivers. Just give us some more of that bridge and we can finally forget about all those years of heartbreak you put us through.

Weezer’s new album, Everything Will Be Alright In The End, is due out September 30 via the band’s new label Republic.

Album Review: Shabazz Palaces - Lese Majesty

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On Shabazz Palaces’ sophomore release, they deliver a concept that feels underdeveloped and jejune compared to the hip-hop group’s debut Black Up.

With the pure excellence of their first two EPs from 2009 — a self-titled one, and Of Light — and 2011’s Black Up, it’s hard not to be at least a little disappointed with an album like Lese Majesty. While Shabazz Palaces' sophomore effort has some solid moments (“Forerunner Foray”, “#CAKE”), it feels weighed down by its underwhelming ideas and lack of hook appeal compared to their debut.

Lese Majesty features 7 suites, all of which have the potential to be something great but deeply lack some kind of abstract and forward-thinking flow. Everything about this concept feels too underdeveloped and simplified. But what this album lacks in creative ideas it makes up for with its killer beats. I think that the instrumentals on this record are easily on par with the ones that gave Black Up such a solid backbone. Not only this, but I find them to be highly original, intriguing, and pretty fitting for Majesty's moody atmosphere.

Former Digable Planets member Ishmael Butler (formerly Butterfly) delivers some wordplay that ranges from fascinating to lackluster under the alias of Palaceer Lazaro. Much like on Shabazz Palaces’ previous release, he does, however, manage to produce flows that are exciting, eccentric, and totally left-field.

Despite all of this, the songs on this album feel too much like filler. They never really go anywhere and are, for the most part, pretty forgettable.

At the end of the day, Lese Majesty, an LP full of short duds and abstract expressions, is a somewhat enjoyable and complex listen. You may want to skip through some songs, but there’s no denying that Lazaro and Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire’s spirit hasn’t died out just yet.

My rating (score): 3/5

Favorite tracks: “They Come in Gold,” “Forerunner Foray,” “#CAKE.”


(All reviews published for Marcel’s Music Journal are written by Marcel)

Album Review: Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestite

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On Celestite, Wolves in the Throne Room ditch their black metal sound and go for a more spacey, progressive ambient-electronic style.

When bands decide to make a drastic change in sound, the results can either be good or bad. This sonic exploration could be a benefit for them, expanding their artistic palette and giving fans something new. But on the other hand it could very well end up being a sore spot in their discography. And Wolves in the Throne Room's fifth album, Celestite, unfortunately falls into the latter category.

There’s no denying that this is unlike anything the West Coast black metal band have done before. Not only does it mark their first album to ever be released on their own label, Artemisia Records, but this LP also displays a complete 180 from the group’s depressive metal sound. No vocals and no drums are on this thing whatsoever. It’s a straight up electronic album that channels the harmonic visions of acts like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze.

But alas, instead of being a record that hypnotizes you with its dreamlike synths and heavy drones, Celestite is, for the most part, pretty forgettable.

Across five tracks that range from 5 to 14 minutes long, there seems to be a distinct quality throughout this record that sorely lacks emotional depth and interesting climaxes. You can’t really blame WITTR for trying, though, because ambient and spacey electronic music has been instrumental on past releases such as Diadem of 12 Stars and Two Hunters. But on this new album of theirs, everything feels so empty and rushed to the point where it’s not very interesting past the first track alone.

While Wolves in the Throne Room have never been the best in terms of variety, they’ve certainly gone to far more impressive lengths than this. With production that adds nothing to the atmosphere and songs like "Turning Ever Towards the Sun" and "Celestite Mirror" being too long to be interesting, Celestite feels like a failed attempt at trying to garner a new audience.

When I listen to this album, I feel like I’m just getting the ambiance that’s been hanging in the background for most of their metal days and nothing else. Without some sort of melodic undertone to carry these stretched out drones afloat, WITTR’s sound on Celestite feels completely lost. I don’t even think some of the songs on here have any potential to be interesting because most of the time this record sounds too samey-samey.

The closing track “Sleeping Golden Storm” tries so hard to be dramatic and grandiose with its orchestral synths. But in the end, like with most of Celestite, it ends up being anticlimactic and obnoxiously monotone.

I think that Wolves in the Throne Room did a much better job when sticking to short, no more than 2-minute ambient interludes in their previous efforts rather than making a whole album out of it. It’s great that they’re trying to expand their sound a bit but I just don’t think that they have enough interesting ideas to keep the listener captivated through a whole album of electronic music.

My rating (score): 1.5/5

(All reviews published for Marcel’s Music Journal are written by Marcel)

Flying Lotus announces new album, ‘You’re Dead!, plus tour

Photo by Tim Saccenti

(Written by Marcel)

Flying Lotus has announced the follow-up to 2012’s Until the Quiet Comes. It’s called You’re Dead! and it’ll be released on October 7 via Warp.

To coincide with the album announcement, FlyLo has also announced a fresh batch of North American tour dates. Check out the full docket below.

Flying Lotus 2014 Tour Dates:
07/25 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
08/16 – Mexico City, MX @ Ceremonia Festival
08/17 – Somerset, WI @ Summer Set Music Fesitval
08/24 – Los Angeles, CA @ FYF Fest
10/09 – Orlando, FL @ The Beacham Theatre
10/10 – Miami, FL @ III Points Festival
10/11 – Atlanta, GA @ The Tabernacle
10/12 – Carrboro, NC @ Cats Cradle
10/13 – Washingtonm DC @ Lincoln Theatre
10/14 – Upper Darby, PA @ Tower Theater
10/15 – New Tork, NY @ Terminal 5
10/17 – Boston, MA @ Paradise
10/18 – South Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
10/20 – Montreal, QC @ Societe des Arts Technologiques
10/21 – Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall
10/23 – Royal Oak, MI @ Royal Oak Music Hall
10/24 – Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
11/07 – London, UK @ The Roundhouse
11/09 – Austin, TX @ Fun Fun Fun Fest
11/11 – Tempe, AZ @ Marquee Theatre
11/15 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst Club
11/17 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater
11/18 – Seattle, WA @ Neptune
11/19 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
11/21 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
11/22 – Fillmore Auditorium, Denver CO

Live Review: Wolves in the Throne Room @ The Catalyst, Santa Cruz (7/18/14)

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(Written by Marcel)

Black metal band Wolves in the Throne Room were heavy as hell last night. No, I really mean it.

Very few metal bands, when it comes to performing live, can master this sort of expertise where the group can completely take over the environment surrounding them. Atmospheric guitars take charge of the sound waves while pummeling drums gives the music a sort of melodic appeal. Aggressive vocals conduct an ethereal ambiance that includes influences of shoegaze, post-rock, and ambient. Wolves in the Throne Room’s songs can be very pretty at times, yes, but they can also pull a complete 180 on you and be so incredibly harsh to the point that it’s skull-crushing.

Despite taking a drastic turn in sound recently with their new LP Celestite, which consists of straight up electronic pieces, WITTR performed zero tracks from their new release, focusing more on cuts from albums such as Diadem of 12 StarsTwo Hunters, and Celestial Lineage. Regardless of this, the band’s set at Santa Cruz’s Catalyst Atrium was still an enjoyable night that proved that WITTR continue to make a well-rounded transition from studio to stage that’s both convivial and enthralling.

Wolves in the Throne Room build a wall of sound that’s both atmospheric and reverberating. It engages you throughout, making you want to study it piece by piece, chord by chord. Both onstage and off, Nathan Weaver proves that he’s an incredible guitarist. Creating a vibe that’s felt throughout the entire room and adding a solid driving progression to the band’s sound.

It’s important to note that, unlike most modern metal bands, WITTR always use vintage amplifiers and recording equipment. This always sets a great lively feel to a group’s sound. And when it comes to this group’s captivating stage presence, it plays a prominent role when it’s in your face from beginning to end.

They are, for the most part, fairly unique. Their sound is so diverse yet so singular that it feels like you’re listening to the studio versions of these songs. I realize I’m not bringing up any track names, but that’s because there’s no need. WITTR perform their sets as one long composition, and it’s best to analyze their sound as a whole rather than breaking it down track-by-track.

Despite some unnecessary loudness throughout that made some of their performance a bit discomforting, Wolves in the Throne Room’s presence was so enduring and their atmosphere was so all around captivating that they put on a solid set from beginning to end.

Their music is anything but artificial. They play for the sake of playing. In interviews they’ve stated that they see their music as meditative rather than aggressive, a quality that can be noted in their live shows.

And that’s what makes them such a great band.

Setlist:
Thuja Magus Imperium
(A Shimmering Radiance) Diadem of 12 Stars
Dea Artio
Astral Blood
Vastness and Sorrow
Prayer of Transformation

Mac DeMarco’s “Chamber of Reflection” totally sounds like a Shigeo Sekito song

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(Written by Marcel)

As Noisey writer Ryan Bassil points out, Mac DeMarco's standout track from his new Salad Days LP sounds all too familiar to Shigeo Sekito's “The Word II,” an obscure synth track from the Japanese composer's 1975 release Shigeo Sekito Special Sound Series Vol.2. Compare the two tracks below. The main melody is pretty obvious, but who’s to say it’s not just a tribute?

R.I.P. Tommy Ramone, drummer for The Ramones

From The Ramones’ official Twitter account:

We are saddened to announce the passing of Ramones founding drummer Tommy (Erdelyi) Ramone. #RIPTommyRamone

R.I.P. Charlie Haden, legendary jazz bassist

From ECM Records:

It is with deep sorrow that we announce that Charlie Haden, born August 6, 1937 in Shenandoah, Iowa, passed away today at 10:11 Pacific time in Los Angeles after a prolonged illness. Ruth Cameron, his wife of 30 years, and his children Josh Haden, Tanya Haden, Rachel Haden and Petra Haden were all by his side.

Album Review: Isis - Panopticon [Reissue]

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The greatest sludge metal album of all time and Isis’ best is masterfully revisited.

Atmosphere. It’s all about atmosphere.

Very few bands in the metal genre could acquire the sense for a dynamic ambiance in their sound. And very few metal bands could perfect it.

Isis, however, did just that.

On their third full-length and followup to 2002’s game-changing Oceanic, the L.A. sludge metal band proved that they were unrivaled in the genre. They even blew contemporaries like Neurosis and Pelican straight out of the water while crafting their own unique sound in the process. Panopticon ranges from brutal to dreamlike, from intense to divine, and even 10 years after its initial release, it remains the band’s finest hour.

This album is perfect in every sense of the word. Its sound is so diverse and gratifying from beginning to end that it never takes a misstep. Which is something that sludge bands could rarely pull off in the early 2000’s, but Isis were truly masters of their craft. Their sound was never too over the top or extreme in any way. They kept a healthy balance of loud and quiet while developing records that each were more indescribable than the last.

Panopticon starts off perfectly with the track “So Did We,” a song that, while incredibly atmospheric, showed just how loud and intense this band could get. The guitars carry a heavy groove while the drumming keeps a steady pulse throughout. On “Backlit,” Isis journey into unknown territory and ultimately find beauty. The sonic perfection of these songs will either leave you speechless or in tears. This group certainly knew how to rattle your brain while simultaneously pleasing it, and that’s what made them such a diverse and unique act in their heyday.

Even some of the quieter tracks on here such as “In Fiction” and “Altered Course” are just as stunning as Panopticon's louder and more abrasive numbers. Each and every one finds inner beauty that indicates a more distinctive sound than the last.

On Oceanic, Isis developed a sound that was in your face from beginning to end. While it remains an incredibly solid record and one of the band’s best, it showed some room for improvement. Panopticon is essentially Isis’ pinnacle creation. Even 10 years after its release, there’s not a speck of dust that can be found on this record. Like much of their discography, Isis’ third LP has aged gracefully, adding even more sonic intensity through this elegant remastered reissue.

Aaron Turner’s guitar work on this thing is nothing short of masterful. Listen to how the chords chew the scenery away on “In Fiction,” a track that shows melodic progression break through an incredible pallet of sonic force. Even on the lengthier songs on Panopticon do Isis manage to capture the listener’s attention from beginning to end. There’s a certain catchiness factor to their music that’ll even leave non-metalheads wanting more.

Everything that’s been said about this LP has already been said. The sonic intensity of this record is practically genre-defining, with the heavy instrumentals that whisk this album right off its feet. On the closing moments of “Grinning Mouths,” Panopticon ends just as strong as it started. The crunching guitar melodies build a powerful wall of noise that progresses and progresses until the track abruptly cuts off. It’s by far one of the most jaw-dropping melodic progressions I’ve ever heard on a metal album.

Overall, Panopticon is an album that stands the test of time. There is so much to find in this record yet I feel like I have so little to say about it since it’s an album that should be listened to, not analyzed. I have never listened to a metal record that was filled with such emotion and raw, energetic power. I don’t think that there’s a single metal album out there that expresses as much beauty as Panopticon.

I feel like this LP is such an incredibly diverse and moving recording of tracks that it could easily be the greatest sludge metal album ever made. Every single chord, every single note and every single chime on here is conducted to masterful lengths. Words cannot describe how much I love this record. It’s an utter masterpiece that’s also one of the grandest achievements in modern music.

Perfection. Absolute musical perfection.

My rating (score): 5/5

Favorite tracks: “So Did We,” “In Fiction,” “Wills Dissolve,” “Altered Course,” “Grinning Mouths.”

(All reviews published for Marcel’s Music Journal are written by Marcel)

Death Grips have broken up

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Photo by Tom Spray

(Written by Marcel)

According to a note posted on their Facebook, Sacramento-based experimental hip hop outfit Death Grips have announced their demise.

While they have cancelled all upcoming tour dates, including their tour with Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden, the band still plans to release Disc 2 of 2 of their forthcoming double album, the powers that b, later this year via Harvest/Third World. The note reads:

"We are now at our best and so Death Grips is over. We have officially stopped. All currently scheduled live dates are canceled. Our upcoming double album the powers that b will still be delivered worldwide later this year via Harvest/Third Worlds Records. Death Grips was and always has been a conceptual art exhibition anchored by sound and vision. Above and beyond a “band”. To our truest fans, please stay legend.”

Over the course of their short four-year existence, Death Grips released five studio LPs. The first being 2011’s excellent mixtape Exmilitary, which was then followed by two of the group’s most acclaimed albums in 2012 with The Money Store and No Love Deep Web. In 2013, the band dropped a surprise release with the more electronic-driven Government Plates. And just last month, they released the first disc of their upcoming double album the powers that b, titled niggas on the moon.

Death Grips were no doubt one of the most influential acts of the past few years, and we’ll always have the great music they left us to enjoy.

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