Gorillaz – The Fall

So, I got this album forever ago and plain ol’ forgot about it. That’s terrible. It’s not even in my “Recently Added” music in Media Player any more. Shit.
Well, according to Metacritic, today’s the release date anyway, so here it is…

Well, Gorillaz are bangin’ ’em out one after another, apparently. Plastic Beach has barely cooled from the presses and they’ve released their fourth studio album, The Fall. It is kinda cool how all the members are slowly getting their own albums, basically. Their first, self-titled album was apparently Russel Hobbs’ making, Demon Days was Noodle’s brain child, Plastic Beach was Murdoc Niccals’ call to nature, and now we have The Fall, a product of Stuart Tusspot.

“[The Fall] is mostly just me…something more gentle and just…well…it’s just me and an iPad really mucking about…trying out some stuff. Just looking at America and then tapping on the screen…I’m not really concentrating too hard on it…. So, right, each album got all of us on it somewhere, but each time it’s…more of one of us than the others…. Well, that’s how I see it anyway.” – 2D (Stuart Tusspot)

Just so you know how far this example extends, from band mate Murdoc:

“Well, this is curious…. I don’t remember recording this one at all. A whole album…and nothing. But it’s got the Gorillaz name on it so I must have done it! Did I? Really? Yeah…I probably did. Did it on an iPad using all the music apps…”

Hah. Anyway…I was shocked at how little Plastic Beach sounded like the Gorillaz I had come to know and love, but apparently this is just what Gorillaz sound like, now, and I’m okay with that. While Plastic Beach was the first down tempo effort, it had a lazy, breezy feel…”very rum and pirate-y” according to Tusspot. The Fall is it’s urban, jazzy, trip-hoppy brother. He’s the more distinguished of the pair. He wears tweed jackets with elbow pads and not in an ironic way. He would never drink a PBR, so he can’t even be misconstrued as a hipster. He’s just…cool.

This album is a great candidate for continuous play. Everything seems to ebb and flow into everything else and it’s pretty awesome. It’s understated and quite frankly, a beautiful, cohesive album. It’s amazing to think that it was recorded in a hotel room in 32 days by a person simply poking around on an iPad. While abstract, it’s certainly not cheap or boring.

Also, while Plastic Beach was laden with droves of hype and big name cameos, there’s a distinct lack of any of that on this album, proving that Gorillaz are just as good without all the bells and whistles. Apparently Plastic Beach is being hailed as the groups superlative effort, but I prefer The Fall. Check it out for yourself, but this album gets a solid A from me.

“Phoner to Arizona”

“Revolving Doors”


ArpLine – Travel Book

The pack of Brooklynites, ArpLine, comprised of Sam Tyndall (vocals, additional guitar, additional bass, programming and synthesizers), Adam De Rosa (guitars), Oliver Edsforth (keyboards and saxophone), Nathan Lithgow (bass, back-up vocals), and Michael Chap Resnick (percussion and programming) dropped their first album, Travel Book (clever!). From their press release:

“Indefinite and obtuse, their instrumentation is both complex and visceral, layering piercing guitars with heavy bass lines and resonant vocal textures that cascade into a washy gaze of percussion loops, synthesizers and programmed tones. ArpLine plays music that is both transfixing and poignant, lifting the veil of regularity so aptly found in many of their contemporaries.

…the band demonstrates a rich repertory of psychedelic industrial-pop sentiments that challenge the listener to look beyond the walls of sound and test the boundaries of all that is sonically possible.”

Whoever wrote that has been hitting the thesaurus. Hard. There is also a good possibly that a member of Vampire Weekend wrote it. Generally speaking, they’re pretty neat. Bordering on an early Joy Division-type sound, they’re bringing something back that I haven’t heard in ages…glam ROCK. Taking notes from early pioneers like the aforementioned Joy Division, New Order, David Bowie, and even elements of Depeche Mode, they’re bringing that somehow lazy sounding but tight musical arrangement back to the present. They make it sound so good, but manage to look and sound like they’re not even trying to.

The comparisons are being thrown around like rice at a wedding. Arcade Fire and Animal Collective seem to be the top picks and while I get it, ArpLine’s still got a sound completely their own.

Apparently “Fold Up Like A Piece of Paper” and “Make It Rain” are being acclaimed as the “hits” of the album, but it’s seriously ten quality tracks. The one that gets me every time is the seductive “Parts Unknown”. Slightly on the darker side, the Bauhaus sounding track brings back the days when goth was still pretty. “Amplify” is what MGMT would sound like…if they were better. (Not discounting the three tracks that everyone loves, but that’s exactly it. You have two albums and everyone loves THREE SONGS.) “Cap” is a hauntingly beautiful track, almost Tori Amos-like in the spectre-esque, foggy vocals.

While tracks vary, they’ve provided a fantastic, cohesive album that I’m sure is going to top some lists this year. This is certainly a valiant effort for a first release and I’m looking forward to what’s to come. Check ’em out for yourself on The Facebook, The Myspace, or The Twitter. In the meantime, this album get a good, solid, hearty A.

“Fold Up Like A Piece of Paper”


“Parts Unknown”

Radiohead – King of Limbs

Alright, I think I’m about ready for this. After two months of deliberation, I think I’ve figured it out…

I don’t like this album. Blasphemy! I know! I just don’t “get it” I guess. Radiohead‘s newest album, The King of Limbs, dropped sometime in mid-February. I got it, I listened to it repeatedly, and nothing. I let it go for a week or so, listened to it again, and nothing. I waited a few more weeks, put songs into other playlists to see if they would catch my ear, and nothing. While other bloggers and music outfits were feverishly typing away, I sat behind my desk feeling like I was missing the boat. I thought, “Why the hell am I not hearing what all these other people are hearing!?” I didn’t want to just spout off words with no meaning. I just wanted to fully understand this album, if that’s even possible.

I really wanted to like this album. I like Radiohead in general and pretty much think that Thom Yorke is the best thing since penicillin, but this time around, I’m just not digging it.

It doesn’t help that this album starts out with the cacophonous mess, “Bloom”. It really doesn’t make me want to listen to the rest of it. (I know, this is funny considering that I always bitch about albums that put all the good songs first, but can’t a girl get some balance here!?) Yorke and the boys built a kingdom out of weirdness and this is no exception, but in an awfully drab version. In Rainbows was borderline “too weird” for me, but amidst that feeling was the hope that it was merely an arrow in the right direction. There was still always this feeling that the album was just about to take off, but stayed grounded. This one doesn’t even get a twirl of the propellers.

The album does get considerably better after “Bloom”, but nowhere as good as previous efforts. Perhaps I am ruined by OK Computer. That is a distinct possibility. It picks up a bit with “Good Morning Mr. Magpie”, dips again with “Little by Little”, reaches it’s peak halfway in with the awesomely funky “Feral”, then quickly spirals back down into Weirdtown, USA.

Melodies? Too mainstream. Discernible lyrics? Too mainstream.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy a vacation from their typical sound…While I loved The Bends, Pablo Honey, OK Computer, I welcomed the change that was Kid A and Amnesiac. I really liked the integration of more electronic elements and even the distortian of Yorke’s voice. It sounded like a natural progression from where they had been. I guess I jumped ship somewhere around the time of Hail to the Thief.

I assume it must be hard to continue making music after you’ve already released a genre redefining album, but props to Radiohead for trying. I can at least tell myself that I made every effort to like this album, but that’s exactly the problem. I shouldn’t have to “make myself” enjoy an album, it should smack me in the face with all of it’s goodness! While a valiant effort on their behalf, Radiohead falls flat on this venture. I’ll be eagerly awaiting their next, and hopefully better, album. C


Steven Smith in Music Unexpected 4: The Bouncing Souls

Wow, Steven Smith loves him some Cruze-arati…and good punk. The former “Untitled Rock Show Host” has done some awesome stuff so far [see: Less Than Jake], and he’s back again with another of my favorite bands, the Bouncing Souls!

Check it out!

Yes, I still have a giant, girly, crush on Bryan. And yes, I want those shoes. Happy Monday, errbody!

Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine [Jon Brion vs. Mike Elizondo]

***2/9/11 Update: Please note that Google, being the terrible people that they are, took down The Unheard over on Blogger, so the link in this blog to download the John Brion version is no longer accessible. Sorry for being a big tease, but at least I told you in advance. Also, be sure to check out the new Unheard site, over at http://www.theunheardmusic.org/ Seriously, do that. The guy that runs it is super, duper awesome.***

So, about six years too late, I come across the original version of Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine over on The Unheard Music. (Side note: If you haven’t checked out that site yet, do it now. It’s full of musical gems from rare tracks to bootlegs to b-sides, and all of them are incredible.) It’s like listening to an entirely different album, yet at the same time, listening to the same album for the first time. Originally produced by Jon Brion, the original is a raw, emotional album with frenzied strings, ominous tones…it’s basically the evil twin of the pair compared to Mike Elizondo’s final release, an overproduced, radio friendly album. The only exception to this is “Please, Please, Please” and I think that’s only because this album may or may not have been mastered. The syncopation is off and it drives me a little bit insane. OCD FTL!

I’m not saying that the final was a bad album…in fact, I loved the shit out of that album until yesterday. When the final release came out to the masses, I did think it a bit odd, the amount of production, but I figured that it was just Apple growing up and becoming a little more polished. It was disappointing in the way that it’s not the Fiona Apple that I had come to love since the Tidal days, but it was a natural progression. Here, I come to find, it’s a sham.

It’s been disputed who actually declined the first recording. At first, Epic was blamed. It was said that they slated the album because there was no definitive “hit”. This prompted fans to launch the Free Fiona campaign in front of Sony studios. Later, though, and according to Elizondo, it was Apple’s choice to re-do the record, stating that she had written and recorded the songs, but didn’t have time to live with them and conceding that she didn’t really know what she wanted the album to be during the initial recordings. If I was part of that Free Fiona movement, I’d be pretty pissed off.

Despite the sloppiness of the situation, Brion and Apple remained friends, even performing together mere days before the final release. Surprising as that is, it seems like everyone involved settled amicably. Apple and Brion remain friends, Elizondo gets his 15 minutes, despite technically releasing an already released album (leaks of Brion’s original had been available on P2P sites for months at that point), and Apple still gets a new album. Win win for all.

As it is, Extraordinary Machine was a well received album by just about everyone. Critics and fans alike all found something to love. What I find interesting though, is that this is such a drastic change of what this album could have been. While the title track and “Waltz (Better Than Fine)” remain the same, that’s where the similarities end. I think Brion’s version represents Apple in the way that fans expect. Brion’s sinister and ominous strings, Apple’s dark and sultry voice, combined with her patented piano make this a quintessential Apple album, while Elizondo’s enables her to bring her music to the masses.

I think the loss of a lot of the string arrangements on the final release is really a shame. They added such a sense of fullness to an otherwise fairly sparse album. Instead of keeping the simple strings, Elizondo fills the album with a plethora of instruments including bass, guitar, keyboards, synthesizers, vibraphone, marxophone, flute, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, and French horn. While that’s all fine and dandy, why fix what’s not broken? If Brion can produce that effect with a violin and a piano, why can’t Elizondo? And why can’t Sony just be happy with what they get!?

Elizondo’s version does have the +1 of an additional song, “Parting Gift”. Other than that, it’s simply a cleaner, poppier version of the first. It also loses a soft, ambient, cosmic vibe that Brion’s version had going. Softly echoing vocals on top of Apple’s voice provided for an unexpected, yet welcome change. She’s always been our favorite little space-cadet and this was an apt reflection.

All in all, this album is still awesome no matter what version you listen to, just in their own respective ways. I will still be eagerly awaiting her new album, due out this spring, no matter who produces it!

Sounds Like Brisbane

Usually, samplers don’t make it onto That Girl With A Blog, but this one’s a little different. It actually ended up in my inbox quite some time ago and got lost in the shuffle, but I’m really glad that it ended up on top again.

Like most samplers, Sounds Like Brisbane has it’s hits and misses, but for what it’s worth, it’s a great mix of music. Seventeen different labels including Plus One Records, Mere Noise (Dangermen, El Borracho), Dew Process (The Living End, Mumford & Sons, The Hives, Ben Lee, Freelance Whales, Tokyo Police Club, Dropkick Murphys), Turkeyneck, Room 40, Someone Good, Pinnacles Music, SUGARRUSH, Lofly, El Nino El Nino, Red Tape Entertainment, Starving Kids (who have a band called the Winnie Coopers! WIN!), Valve Records, Obisidian Records, 777 Operations, and Useless Arts Records combine to make just as many tracks of everything from garage rock and indie to jazz to hip-hop to country and pop.

Highlighting artists including DZ DEATHRAYS, Mr Maps, The Optimen, The Medics, and Jackie Marshall, I Heart Hiroshima, My Fiction, The Rational Academy, Mr. Maps, Lawrence English, Ektoise, Marialy Pachenko, The Medics, Carry Nation, Halfway, Texas Tea, The Good Ship, Undead Apes, and Regurgitator it spans genres to create the perfect blend of all that’s happening in hot and rainy Brisbane.

The two artists that stand a head taller that everyone else are Ektoise and My Fiction. Ektoise with their instrumental trip-hop track “The Thought Police” and My Fiction’s rockin’  “Shanghai Surprise”.

My Fiction = awesome. From their bio on Myspace:

“Their sound? It’s indie rock without the baggage. My Fiction know what makes people move, and how to connect. The big guitars, bigger melodies and powerful bottom end all combine to make something immediate, but with depth. Lyrically powerful, their songs leave plenty of room for emotional connection.”

Take David Bowie, OK Go, The Cure, The Darkness, and She Wants Revenge, and My Fiction is their illegitimate, musically inclined love child. The Brisbane rock quartet comprised of Danny Murphy, Mike Willmett, Eric Robinson, Jimmi Laubscher just released their new album Fire Romance Fire and are in the midst of a whirlwind tour. I think these guys might be a new addiction. Check ’em out:

“Every June”

Also awesome, is Ektoise.  A full 180 from My Fiction, the band sports a lofty 7 members who all contribute to their incredibly full sound. From the bio on their site:

“Ektoise fuse live performance with meticulously programmed electronics, obscure Eastern instruments and the latest digital toys to make music unlike any you’ve heard before. Drawing from a fascination with all forms of music, Ektoise combine their favourite parts of Rock, Electronica, Ambient, Shoegaze, Trip-Hop, Metal, Drone, Noise and Avant-garde to build a sound that is entirely their own.”

Tru dat. These guys are awesome. Their sounds varies from ambient to trip-hop, to noise to, borderline industrial without being one giant, musical mess. They creative a cohesive and inspired sound entirely their own. Also awesome? You can download almost every album they’ve ever made, including remixes FO’ FREE on their website. Rad. And the only one you can’t download for free is only $8 and it’s brand spanking new, so that can be expected. Check em’ out:

“The Thought Police (Bitten by the Black Dog)”