Sunday, March 15, 2015

March Music Review and Giveaway

I've been meaning to do a music review for ages now, so not only will I share may favorite listens of 2014, I'm doing a giveaway too! Four winners will be able to choose the album of their choice: Bad Blood by Bastille, Supermodel by Foster the People, Sonic Highways by Foo Fighters, or La Gargola by Chevelle. Even though I pre-ordered all these albums, it's taken a while to listen to them adequately enough give an informed opinion of them. The rafflecopter for this giveaway is at the end. Sorry...US and Canada only due to shipping costs.

All This Bad Blood, a double album from Bastille, I pre-ordered after purchasing the Bad Blood EP. I (like just about everyone else) had fallen in love with Pompeii on first listen. Although the full album came out in late 2013, I really didn't listen to it much until last year, and since it's a double album and my mp3 player has a ton of music on it and is always on shuffle, well, it took a while to listen to the whole thing.

Bastille is, in many ways, perhaps a bit self-generic - not a bad thing, but many songs sound similar (I want to break out into Icarus in the middle of Silence) or have very similar elements, and lyrics are sometimes quite repetitive. And I don't care. It may even be purposeful - they would make it easy to make mashups of them (which they kind of do on the second disc.) The production of the whole album is amazing, as is Dan Smith's voice. I've been listening to it (in a roundabout sort of way) for over a year and, though the songs are certainly hook-laden, I'm far from tired of it! One of the things I love most is singing along in Smith's distinctive accent. Though from London, his accent (at least while singing) isn't typical. Perhaps influenced by his South African parents?

Choosing favorites from this album is difficult. Honestly, I love the whole thing. But a few from the first disc are Icarus, Oblivion - especially the cello ending - and the following videos: Flaws and Things We Lost In the Fire.

A few from the second disc are The Weight of Living Pt 1 (Albatross), Sleepsong, Laughter Lines, and Of The Night.

Foster the People have been a favorite band since I first heard Pumped Up Kicks when it was released in September of 2010 - one of those songs that immediately grabs me and, musically, is extremely exciting to me. The whole album was amazing, so I looked forward immensely to their second album release, Supermodel.

There's always that trepidation when a new band you love are releasing a new album and you're hoping that it's not a dud, that they didn't use up all their great ideas on the first album and now have songs that just kind of fall flat or go in a completely weird direction. Phew - that can't be said of Supermodel. It's absolutely the best album of 2014 as far as I'm concerned. Every single track is fresh and different and amazing, from the first to the last. I can't even pick a favorite (or two or three) but the first track is really great. I love the Afro cross-rhythms and the whole feel and tone of the song. Lyrics are great too.

Pseudologia Fantastica (pathological lying) is just weird and the official video hasn't changed my opinion one bit. But I absolutely love it just the same. One of the things that makes this album stand out to me is that every track subtly reminds me of at least one other artist, so much so that I have wondered if each song is (musically) a deliberate nod to other artists. I won't go into details here or I'll never get this post done, but this particular track is very nostalgic to me. Foster the People often have a Beach Boys quality to their sound, but this one reminds me strongly of a nineties pop artist named Tony Vincent, better known now for his performances on Broadway. His songs had a definite "sound" and this reminds me of him strongly for some reason.

I heartily recommend this album to just about anyone. If you loved the first album you'll adore this one.

I loved Foo Fighters before I really paid much attention to them. I know, that doesn't seem to make sense. I heard their tracks on the radio and knew the words by heart, but somehow didn't connect strongly until Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace, especially the track Let it Die. Since then I rectified the oversight by buying most of their previous albums.

Their last album, Wasting Light, is (I think) their best yet, so I was really looking forward to Sonic Highways. If you get HBO TV, you might have seen or at least been aware of the companion show. I was aware of it but unable to watch.

So, I like it. The new album I mean. If you like Foo Fighters, you'll probably like it too. Does it cover new ground or hold surprises? Well, let's put it this way - when I've put a lot of new music on my MP3 player, I play a little game guessing the artist whenever I hear a song I don't recognize. Since I listen to a lot of the same genres and like quite a few bands that sound similar, that's not always easy. But I can name this band in three measures or less. Usually less. Again, that's not a bad thing. I'm not one of those people who think bands have to redefine themselves every album or even show huge evolution (I seriously don't understand people who do), but this is very recognizably Foo Fighters. Considering this is a concept album - each song corresponding to a different city - I'd like to get the DVDs of the show as I'm sure it will help connect to the songs a little deeper.

Chevelle have been one of my favorite bands for quite some time now, probably only second to Mute Math. It's also one of the few bands I'm willing to brave a live concert for. Not that I don't love live music, but the combination of too loud music (I try to remember ear plugs to buffer the volume), toxic fumes, and crowded situations, usually deters me. When I heard Chevelle was playing at the Fillmore in San Francisco, I immediately bought tickets.

In case you're not familiar with them, they seem to be most often classified as alternative metal, which is a good enough description I guess. Definitely harder than most alternative, but not quite what I think of as metal - something in between. Whatever the category, I love them. Their songs grab me musically and hold on lyrically, often teasingly psychological or spiritual in nature, dark but not completely morbid. I relate to so many of their songs from a perspective of difference, otherness. My youngest daughter introduced me to them via their fifth studio album, Sci-Fi Crimes, and I've loved them ever since. I've yet to get their early albums, but I will.

In concert they are amazing. A small group (only three: Pete - vocal and guitar leads, his brother Sam on drums, and Dean on bass and background vocals) they sound like a five piece at least, filling up the concert space with a huge, textured sound (not just loud) with nuanced instrumentals and clear vocals. I was amazed, especially at the songs I knew best, as they sound better than the album tracks. That's saying a lot.

If you like your alternative very hard with sharp edges, superior musicianship, and haunting, thought provoking lyrics, like me, you'll probably like them. I reviewed their previous release, Hats Off To The Bull here.

Here are a couple of my favorites off La Gargola

I haven't done a giveaway like this before, so we'll see how it goes. Have you heard these yet? Which album do you hope to win?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to the winners! Winners will be contacted later tonight or tomorrow. I have a concert tonight and may not get to it till tomorrow, but I'll get to it!

Open only to those who can legally enter and receive prize. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. You must be a resident of the United States or Canada. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

This giveaway is running concurrently at

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