The Strokes – “One Way Trigger”

The Strokes drop a surprising new single that takes the band’s typically tight sound, and covers it
with rigid synths and a questionable falsetto.

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Death Grips- “@DEATHGRIPZ”

Experimental hip hop outfit Death Grips closes out the 2012 edition of Adult Swims summer singles series with a track named after the trio’s Twitter handle.

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Animals As Leaders- “Isolated Incidents”

Hey, everybody! Anthony Fantano, here. You know who it is. I hope y’all are doing well. I’m here on my text thing again for a track review of a song from this new Animals As Leaders album, Weightless.

These guys are a Washington, D.C. metal band who I’ve known about since they dropped their self-titled debut in 2009. And let’s be honest here: I wasn’t really a big fan.

Maybe I didn’t give the album enough of a chance to really sink in or something. Ultimately, I just found Animals As Leader’s style to be kind of, well, robotic. While these guys do display a lot of really impressive musicianship, I don’t feel like I was getting a lot of soul out of it, honestly. I felt like the band’s members were merely showcasing their technical abilities and not much more. I think there’s merit to that kind of stuff, but it doesn’t keep me interested for long periods of time.

It’s not like all progressive metal feels that way to me, though. More acclaimed groups like Atheist and Mastodon have some killer releases, and Meshuggah–a group whose riffs I would liken highly to Animals As Leaders’–has always been able to make their dizzying, odd-time riffs groove hard.

Still, Animals As Leaders was a debut album. A lot of debuts end up being a group’s weakest album. Considering that, I was ready to give this band another visit and see if things had moved in a direction I liked more on this new LP, Weightless. I figured I could make a track review of it and hit up what seems to be this album’s lead track: “Isolated Incidents.”

With “Isolated Incidents,” the first thing I’m picking up is how much prettier some of the sounds are this time around. Animals As Leaders are pulling out some very beautiful guitar tones on this album. The clean, clear leads that start playing behind the main riff at about the one-minute mark are really tasteful. They’re a lot like something I’d expect out of a modern jazz album. The guitar solo coming in right after shreds a bit, but what’s most important about it is that it’s really emotive. I think the drums get a little buried behind the guitars, but the total package achieves a high volume without feeling flat.

Still, even as I praise this track a bit, I have to admit Animals As Leaders have kept a lot of what makes them a somewhat robotic listening experience. The introduction to this song has a strong electronic ambiance. The tapped guitar melodies are met with some skittering percussion I doubt is played by hand. These two sounds meet up again on this track in the middle and towards the end. While the meticulously executed guitar taps don’t really do much for me, these guys really let loose and impress during the points where I’m hearing the solos.

That’s not merely because the playing is pretty remarkable, but because the riffs change up nicely and the drums play off them in a way that empowers the groove. Actually, I’d say the drums manage to bring up two different grooves during moments like the one-minute mark.

Overall, the music on this particular track is sounding pretty human. I actually feel like I’m listening to a group of musicians, not a quartet of cyborgs sent from the future to eliminate the musicians of the present. However, I’d still say Animals As Leaders’ style sits closer to the more mechanical side of things. The combination of rock and electronic music has always been an interesting one to me, but my favorite artists to combine these two worlds have always been those who have taken electronics and made them rock, not taken rock instrumentation and made them feel electronic. Some examples of the former, for me, would be Holy Fuck or Ministry.

I think what I’m hearing on “Isolated Incidents” is a step in a really attractive direction for this band. However, is this something that really gets me excited? I have to admit the answer to that question is “no.” It’s not for lack of effort, though. Animals As Leaders have tons of that. It’s personality that they lack, to me. I know it’s there somewhere, though. Loads of emotion flares out of these tracks whenever a solo comes flying by. The first guitar solo to come in on the track “Do Not Go Gently” is especially jazzy. These guys are top-notch improvisers when they want to be.

Sadly, a lot of this album, including the song being reviewed here, seems to get locked into a series of riffs that don’t feel terrible, but just come off to me as being alright. Nothing I’d write home about, basically. Plus, some of the electronic textures that pop up here and there just sound pretty generic at times.

Those gripes aren’t huge, though. I think this band has come together with something way more listenable and relatable this time around. Though it’s not really for me, I do find it pretty admirable.

What do you think of this track? Love it? Hate it? Why? What should I review next? Also, find a stream of this track below. Forever.

Strong 6

Video: Animals As Leaders- “Isolated Incidents”

Evidence- “Strangers”

Hey, everyone! Hope you’re well. Anthony Fantano, here. Internet’s Busiest Music Nerd. You know! Alright, it’s time for another track review. Punching them out right now, and I’m getting to talking about an artist I promised I’d lay an opinion on: Evidence.

This dude is a West Coast MC, and I’ve been conscious of this buy for a little while. A friend of mine in college turned me on to Dilated Peoples, which kinda fit my hunger for conscious hip hop at the time. However, for some reason, I didn’t really stick with these guys and Evidence like I should have, admittedly.

I was beating myself up over it a bit when I heard this dude was dropping a new album on Rhymesayers, Cats & Dogs. I was pretty ticked I hadn’t been keeping up on him, but I’ve gotta admit I’m a little let down by this album now that I’m hearing it.

There was nothing really terrible on this album. I think part of my issue is that Evidence is a bit of an acquired taste. The guy has a slow, sleepy, repetitive flow. I can take a repetitive flow here and there. MF DOOM is pretty repetitive, but Evidence lacks the urgency that makes me really wanna stick with him. I know it’s semi-intentional, because Evidence even brings it up in his lyrics, but I’m still not a huge fan of it.

With Evidence, it’s a bit of an exchange game. Sure, I’m not getting a fiery flow here, this dude’s lyrics are usually pretty clever. I think the track “It Wasn’t Me” had some of my favorite lines on this album.

But I’m not too in love with them on this particular track: “Strangers.” Evidence muses about not being able to trust his friends with his weed, carrying weight, originality, and the West Coast. Evidence is not a shallow soul. I admire the fact that he’s making the music he wants to make. Not only that, he’s phenomenally consistent in his style and personality. Amen!

It’s just that there’s absolutely nothing here that really sticks with me. I never come away getting hit by any of these lines, sadly. Everything just feels, well, kinda passable. Take this line for example:

“Lately when I walk I’ve been trying to hold my posture straight, hold my chin up then feel the love from across the way.”

That’s just one of many moments that don’t do a lot for me. It’s not terrible, but not amazing me either. Sure, it’s taken out of context, and I influence you to check out the lyrics for yourself over here, because that lyric is linked to the lines that appear after it.

Between these lyrics, the DJ cuts in between the verses, and the beat itself, I can’t say much more about this track than this: It’s a hip hop song. What I mean is that it just kinda feels like a stereotypical hip hop track. The recording here is top-notch, yes, but I don’t see what’s so definitive about this.

Evidence in this very song says that nothing in this original. Sure, everybody is influenced by something, and those influences show up in the art artists create, but I wish this track did a little more to separate itself from what inspires it. Because at this point, “Strangers”–and a lotta songs on Cats & Dogs–feel, well, a little generic.

Overall, I think this is a likeable album–and like I said, I think it’s mostly me just being underwhelmed by this guy’s flow–but it’s songs like “Strangers” that kinda hold me back from really loving this thing. Songs like this just kinda breeze by for me. Still, some great features on this thing: Raekwon, Ras Kass, Slug, and Aesop Rock.

What do you think of this track? Love it? Hate it? Why? What should I review next?

Forever.

Strong 5

Stream: Evidence- “Strangers”

Azarath- “Firebreath of Blasphemy and Scorn”

Hello, my Needle Drops. Wow, that looks weird typed to me. Well, let’s move on. Track review time. ‘Nother text one. Hey, when y’all read this, do you hear it in your heads as my voice? Weird, right?

Right now, we’re focusing on a track from a death metal album I was smitten with a few weeks back: Azarath’s Blasphemers’ Maledictions. These guys are from Poland, and this is their fifth album if I’m correct.

In previous reviews, I’ve been really open about my thoughts on death metal. I’ve got a bigger crush on the older stuff, and it’s mostly because I prefer the natural filth found on records like Morbid Angel’s Altars of Madness.

Sure, things change, and I’m fine with that, but generic production techniques and drum triggers have lead to a sea of modern death metal albums that sound like plastic. It doesn’t even feel like I’m listening to an actual band in some cases, which really kinda ticks me off.

I can understand the desire to be technical. To go the extra mile is a longstanding tradition in metal. Bring things to the next level. Yes. Cool. Sure. I’m For it. Death is one of my favorite death metal bands, and they’re quite technical. Even a band like Behold… the Arctopus has space in my music collection. But there are just some sounds I can’t get past. Triggers. Ugh.

Thankfully, Azarath doesn’t screw around with that crap. They’re not the only death metal group I could commend for that, but I think this group is a special case. These guys are extremely tight and fast. Plus, they pull it all off while still sounding like a full band, not a machine. They add a bit of a black metal edge to the whole mix, too.

To start on the track this review is targeting, “Firebreath of Blasphemy and Scorn,” the vocals are absolutely wretched. Of course, that’s a compliment. At many points in this track, they’re layered with two voices that growl in different inflections.

Added to the voices are loads of guitars churning out speedy leads and riffs, but they don’t exactly stick out for me. That’s because the drums steal the show, and not in a way that I think saves this track. The drummer here, Inferno, is also plays for Polish metal veterans Behemoth, and it’s obvious he’s a beast.

Inferno’s technical ability gives Azarath a more unique edge. The extreme speed and volume made this song stick out to me. It was exciting. It got me going. Some of the melodies felt pretty original, the guitar solo was intense, and the total package was relentlessly vile.

Ultimately, my issue with this track is that after numerous listens, the thrill I was getting from the intense volume and speed sorta wore off for me. Then I was left thinking, “Dammit, it happened again!”

This occurs in a lotta metal records for me. Not all of ‘em, but a great deal. It happened especially quick when I got a hold of this entire Azarath album. Nearly every song is as relentless as this one. There’s little to no breathing room for many of the riffs, and it’s mostly because everything is trying to be as loud and fast as possible at once.

It’s not really a matter of this record being too hot to handle. I just get bored with the lack of variation a bit. If everything is fast, then nothing is. If everything is loud, then nothing is.

Still, the technical ability of this group is something to behold, and I’ll be looking forward to their next release. There are some great riffs and grooves hidden in that menagerie of metal instrumentation. I just wish they didn’t feel so buried.

What do you think of this track? Love it? Hate it? Why? What should I review next?

Forever.

Strong 6

Stream: Azarath- “Firebreath of Blasphemy and Scorn”

Blood Orange- “Sutphin Boulevard”

Singer-songwriter Devonté Hynes drops and picks up musical projects like bad habits. His latest is Blood Orange, which has a new record out on Domino Recs titled Coastal Grooves. I’ve received a lotta requests to touch down on this one, and I could see why. Some of the grooves backing the tracks on this LP are pretty undeniable. That’s especially true of the track featured in this review, “Sutphin Boulevard.” Find an audio review for the track below.

What do you think of this track? Love it? Hate it? Why? What should I review next?

Review: Blood Orange- “Sutphin Boulevard”

Stream: Blood Orange- “Sutphin Boulevard”

The Weeknd- “Thursday”

I’ve gotten tons of requests on this new release from the Weeknd, Thursday. Though I’m not exactly excited to dive into this Canadian, experimental R&B project again, I figure I’d at least touch down on one track to let y’all know how I feel. After all, there are some changes worth noting that have happened since the drop of House of Balloons, which led to the project’s blowup in popularity earlier this year.

What do you think of this track? Love it? Hate it? Why? What should I review next?

Review: The Weeknd- “Thursday”

Stream: The Weeknd- “Thursday”

All Pigs Must Die- “Sacrosanct”

Considering I touched down on this band’s debut EP earlier this year, at least reviewing one track from this new All Pigs Must Die album, God Is War, was simply a must. As far as I can tell, the band is still working with Kurt Ballou of Converge to bring an extremely heavy, metallic sound to this hardcore punk style. Find the review and some cover art below.

What do you think of this track? Love it? Hate it? Why? What should I review next?

Review: All Pigs Must Die- “Sacrosanct”

Stream: All Pigs Must Die- “Sacrosanct”

Gotye- “Somebody That I Used To Know” ft. Kimbra

It’s a review of the track that seems to be shining a lotta light on Australia’s independent music scene right now: Gotye’s “Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know.” Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy checking out this track as much as I did. Find the review below.

What do you think of this track? Love it? Hate it? Why? What should I review next?

Review: Gotye- “Somebody That I Used To Know” ft. Kimbra

Stream: Gotye- “Somebody That I Used To Know” ft. Kimbra

Feist- “How Come You Never Go There”

On the first track to drop from Feist’s upcoming album, Metals, the instrumentation hits a light groove as the lyrics detail a story about finding a love that was once there. However, all efforts seem to be doomed from the start.

The music doesn’t come on hard. It functions more on subtleties than obvious pop trickery, which makes this an interesting song to drop before the release of Metals. Will this track be upbeat in comparison to the rest?

The ending could have been more developed, and there could have been more contrast between the verses and choruses. Still, for me, this is a pretty solid tune. I love hearing Feist tell this narrative, and climb to breezy highs and depressing lows with her voice. Not completely filling, but a great appetizer.

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