Author Archives: Chase Martin

Favorite Albums of 2009 (Chase)

Right now, I feel like a lazy bastard. 2009 is passing by, and the most remarkable event of the year for me was seeing Billy Ray Cyrus in a Starbucks. However, all my inaction allowed for me to soak up all the music and beer that arose this year.

It’s hard for me to imagine a busier year in music. With a slew of long awaited follow-ups (Flaming Lips, Eminem, Sonic Youth), new side projects (Bad Lieutenant, Beak, Them Crooked Vultures) and music news in general ( Blur reuniting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, Oasis split, Michael Jackson’s death), 2009 really out did itself.

I’ve put my picks of the year, in no particular order, below.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2009

Dan Deacon “Bromst”

Coming strong of the ridiculous, and often too much to handle Spiderman of the Rings, Dan Deacon set off to blow minds. Well, that what Bromst did for me anyway. A musical venture to Toon Land that never seems to run out of energy.

Flaming Lips “Embryonic”

I don’t know about you, but I prefer my Flaming Lips to heavily doped out. For the past two records, it seemed the Lips had decided to leave the psycho-tropics out of the recording studio. We here at SiA are pleased to annouce that with Embryonic, drug-induced music made a come back, and the Lips revitalized themselves. Hurrah!

DOOM “Born Like This”

Since 2005, the Supervillain himself, MF DOOM, seemed to fall off the face of the earth. Earlier this year, he dropped the “MF” from his name and unleashed his best solo outing to date upon the world. Featuring some excellent J Dilla production and unprecedented DOOM flow, it was a most welcome return.

Animal Collective “Merriweather Post Pavilion”
Album after album, Animal Collective manage to hone their experimental music in to a finer degree. MWPP is an instant classic. It’s one of those career defining albums that will be a benchmark for the band’s potential. After this can only be mind shattering greatness, or disappointment.

Grizzly Bear “Veckatimest”

Before Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear proved that they were a great atmospheric band. But previous albums failed to make it past a 3 month rotation. This one, however, is different. GB forged together a great pop record, while maintaining that atmosphere the indie crowd tends to admire.

Raekwon “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. 2
Good hip-hop is hard to come by these days. I’ve had Ghostface Killah carrying the torch for the past few years, but his recent stumbles had me worried. Have no fear, Raekwon is here! The long awaited follow-up exceeds all expectations, and is one the best hip-hop records in the past 3 years.

Tom Waits “Glitter and Doom Live”
The Gravely One rarely tours, and his sold-out tour across America last year was not to be missed. Sadly, I did. Thankfully, snippets from the tour have been pieced together on this most excellent of live albums. His voice harsh as ever, his stage banter still supreme, and alternate versions of recent songs and classics make Glitter and Doom Live essential to fans of……well, music.
Dirty Projectors “Bitte Orca”
To say that the Dirty Projectors’ music is eccentric, is a bit of an understatement. Starts, stops, blips, beeps, and occasionally incomprehensible lyrics can scare some people off. Bitte Orca saw the group tighten things up a bit, and put out a stellar record worth hundreds of revisits. No wonder why David Byrne loves them so.

ARTIST OF THE YEAR

Animal Collective

No one really grabbed 2009 by the nuggets quite like Animal Collective did. They started off by releasing some of the best music of the year/their career in January with Merriweather Post Pavilion. Next, they supported that album with a great tour across the nation, with several major festival stops. They compiled an excellent box set of their work. And they finish the year strong with the 30+ minute Fall Be Kind EP, which shows that MWPP wasn’t their creative peak!

DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR

Eminem’s Return To Music
I can admit, I’m not that big of an Eminem fan. His first few albums were juvenile, fun, somewhat creative and always interesting. His issues with self-image and drug abuse led him to rehab and a few years out of the limelight. 2009 was supposed to be his big comeback, but all we got was Relapse. A record with half-assed writing, mediocre beats and an Em seems to have lost all relevance to the music world. Sure it sold well, but ultimately the record was a creative failure. Maybe if I were 14 again I would have crowned him king, instead I’m just sharpening the guillotine.

-Chase

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Climate Control: The Next Massive Attack LP

I should probably disclose my relationship with Massive Attack. I discovered them as a companion to the mass amounts of Portishead I was listening to my freshman year of college. And a year later, they were the sole soundtrack to my life while I was engaging in “less than desirable” behavior. Once I shed my extreme debauchery skin, I found that Massive Attack may just be too dangerous to listen to. So, I shelved them for about 3 years, fearing relapse. Since then, I’ve found that I can dip my toes back into the troubled waters that are Massive Attack.

All that time, I was awaiting another album from the Britons ( at one time reduced to a single Briton). In 2006, I was teased with the single “False Flags,” thinking an album announcement was just around the corner. Instead, I got utter silence, and the trip-hop voices in my head began to demand satisfaction. Fast forward to 2009, and I’m teased yet again with the release of another proper LP. While the group now says “spring 2010,” they did deliver upon us the Splitting the Atom EP, which has raised more questions than answered.

The EP only puts forth two new songs, alongside two remixes. It’s safe to say, that Massive Attack are still able to produce that “sexy, slow crawl” trip-hop sound. “Pray For Rain” is a curious number featuring the vocals of TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe. The song is built around a strong, off-time drum beat, and features and excellent breakdown in the middle. It’s a definite slow burn, building up tension over it’s 6 minutes, before fading out at the end. It’s nothing really revolutionary for the genre. Actually, it sounds like it came off the stellar 1995 album Maxinquaye, by former Massive Attack collaborator, Tricky. Which, may not be new, is still a sound I’d love to welcome back into my life.

The title track, “Splitting The Atom,” is probably a better preview of what Massive Attack’s fifth LP will sound like. It’s shows us a Massive Attack that still builds a good atmosphere, but fails to really offer up any stand out moments. It’s a song that seems like it’s building up to a great pay off, only to simply end.

I’m still not willing to say that I’m disappointed with Splitting The Atom. However, it doesn’t exactly put my mind at ease. With the return of original member Mushroom, I still have hopes that a memorable Massive Attack LP is on the way. I’m just worried that they’re only shooting for middle rung material these days. But if 2010 passes us by, sans Massive Attack release, I’m probably just going to have to quiet those trip-hop ghosts and accept that Massive Attack just couldn’t survive in the new millennia.

-Chase

New Releases: Raekwon, Yo La Tengo, and Jay-Z

Dear Wizard Readers, we’re going to start a new format this week.

Well, we’re going to try it out for a while, and if you guys like it, we’ll keep it. But if I start getting flaming bags of dog poo or naked pictures of Ron Paul in my inbox….I’m shuttin’ it down, real quick!

Anyway, so instead of the standard reviews, we’re going to post the note-worthy releases for the week, and open it all for discussion. And if you guys want us to expand a blurb into a review, I’d be happy to oblige.

So, chime in and let us know! (Links included)

September 8, 2009

RAEKWON: ONLY BUILT FOR CUBAN LINX 2
Finally, it’s here! This is long awaited follow-up to Rae’s superb 1995 cut. Drug-dealing, ripping off dealers, scratchin’ and survivin’, and a heart-felt tribute to ODB makes this a hip-hop record worth talking about. Everyone is on their game on the mic (Rae, Method Man, Ghostface Killah) and on the boards (RZA, J Dilla). Feel like hip-hop has been in the gutter for the past few years? Well, grab your gat and your stash (vicariously of course) and let Raekwon restore your faith.

YO LA TENGO- POPULAR SONGS
The indie paragons return with their latest LP. “Popular Songs” flexes the bands creative muscles, following up their excellent 2006 release, “I’m Not Afraid Of You, And I Will Beat Your Ass.” The trio keep things fresh for the albums 12 tracks, that closes with on epic note. Though at 15 minutes, you may not listen to it all that often. It’s an album that’s a perfect to ring in the fall.

JAY-Z: THE BLUEPRINT 3
The international rap mogul continues his un-retirement with another strong cut. The HOVA spends most of this record rapping about current music trends, haters, money, and…well, whatever the fuck he wants. Kanye runs the boards for most of the record, so his synth-heavy beats sets the tone for the album. “The Blueprint 3” features some really strong cuts, but it may leave fans hoping for a true “The Blueprint” old-school hip-hop grind passing on most of it. (It drops on the 9th now, in order to combat an internet leak)

Well, that wraps up a busy week and ends the August music drought (save the excellent electo-R&B debut album by UK’s The XX)

Please contribute below and let us know what you think!

-Chase

Review: Wilco “Wilco (The Album)”

It’s become painfully clear to me what this year’s music trend is.

Last year was marred by the over-use of Auto-Tune, which was somehow popular despite the fact that Eurotrance/dance music has been using it for years now. This year, numerous bands seem to be recreating music they made last decade. First there was Depeche Mode, next was Sonic Youth, and now you can add Wilco to the list.

Appearing on the scene in the mid-nineties with strong jam albums like Being There and A.M., Wilco set a bar for themselves and just continued to raise it. And since the release of their fourth (and greatest) studio album in 2002 Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco have been the forerunners for experimental/folk/Americana music. Hell, they’re probably the only band that fits such a concise genre. The following two albums have been radically different in sound making it impossible to pin down where a Wilco album will take you next. Well, that’s not the case here.

Wilco (The Album), ultimately finds Jeff Tweedy and Co. rewinding their song-writing skills back to before 2000. The record starts off on a decent note with “Wilco The Song” and “One Wing” bringing in that comfortable Wilco sound. The fourth track, “Bull Black Nova,” comes on like a shot in the arm (hardy har!). It’s an excellent song that showcases the experimental side that Wilco has had on display this decade. It’s also the one of two tracks where uber-guitarist Nels Cline is even audible on the record. However, the sweet instantly turns to sour with the forgettable single, “You And I.” And from here on, it seems that Jeff Tweedy’s mind just simply fell asleep.

Honestly, the entire second half of the album sounds like retooled tracks from Being There. Tracks 6-10 had me thinking I had slipped into a Timequake. Not to say that these are bad songs. “You Never Know” and “Solitaire” are exceptional songs, just not the kind of Wilco songs I want to hear in 2009. It just makes me think that Jeff Tweedy’s tank has run dry for the time being. It’s too early to say whether or not Wilco have already passed their prime, but I can’t help but heed the warning signs.

Wilco (The Album) is by no means a bad record. It’s just not the record Wilco needed to make.

-Chase

Review: Moby “Wait For Me”

Moby definitely falls into the category of “love ’em or hate ’em.” It’s been this way since the release of the transcendent Play in 1999. Critics were either enthralled with his ability to form genre-busting electronic music, or angered at….well, maybe the same thing. Either way, ever since then, his music has been under tight scrutiny. He seemed to lose a lot of people with the sometimes pretty and other times flat release of Hotel, and his strictly dance album Last Night was largely ignored, despite being an overall strong cut.

Wait For Me finds Moby, alone his bedroom, stripped bare. Under the influence of David Lynch, Moby decided to create the album alone, at home, and pour all of himself into it.

What comes of it?

Wait For Me ends up as probably the most intriguing and important album Moby has put out this millennia. The music is largely ambient and highly personal. It would appear that Moby is in dire need of a hug. Tracks like “Shot In The Back Of The Head” and “Walk With Me” allow the listener to peer into Moby’s soul, which is a sad, but beautiful place to be. Actually, I can’t really limit that statement to those few tracks, the whole album feels like that. It’s not until the fifth track, the Wolf Parade-esque “Mistake” (which is also the first track he sings on) that the mood lifts a little bit….but only a little.

Wait For Me might also try your patience a little bit. The album never really swells up like Play did, minus the beautiful title track “Wait For Me” near the album’s close. The ambient tracks all flow together nicely, but never really change pace. To stress the feel of the album, it’s kind of a downer. Deep within the album, you come across the beautiful “A Seated Night.” However, you’ve heard it before…..earlier in the album. So, it may suffer from some musical anonymity, but it creates the consistent mood that holds Wait For Me together. So, it doesn’t have those musical peaks Moby is known for, but it doesn’t need them. Otherwise, the album just might be downright schizophrenic.

It’s a strong album, that is for certain. However, it might not be for everyone. It’s a emotional cocktail of the string instrumentation found on Hotel, the aural mood and sampled song/dialogue that lifted Play, topped off with a splash of Aphex Twin. But it’s not a cocktail that you have to drink alone to find out, Moby is always there with you. And he makes for some interesting company

-Chase

Review: Sonic Youth “The Eternal”

The words just aren’t coming.

You might have a hard time believing how long I’ve been staring at this blank screen. I’ve gone catatonic in an attempt to write a review for Sonic Youth’s 16th studio release, and first on indie-haven Matador Records, The Eternal.

Writing a review for one of my favorite bands has turned out to be tough assignment. On one hand, I want to be fair and weigh in professionally on The Eternal. On the other hand……..I really love Sonic Youth.

Alright, let’s start with this: The press release that came with The Eternal‘s first single (the blistering and powerful “Sacred Trickster”) announced that the album was a true successor to SY’s previous album from 2006, Rather Ripped. That is so very true. The experimental spirit behind The Eternal is the same one that haunted every track on Rather Ripped. Fact is, they’ve been musing that experimental side since the release of A Thousand Leaves over a decade ago. But, I feel that with The Eternal they’ve come to perfect it. And this is exemplified all throughout the album with tracks like “Walkin Blue,” “Antenna,” and “Massage The History.”

Another spirit that seems to be all over The Eternal is the Ghost of Sonic Youth Past. Apparently, Thurston Moore and Co. remembered that they made records like Goo in their lifetime. But, instead of just simply re-treading those successful waters, SY decided thrash it all together in a whirlwind of greatness. Sure, “Sacred Trickster” could be confused with a B-Side from the early nineties. But, nearly every song on The Eternal manage to mix both sides of SY together to conjure up a rock album thats unrivaled today. The best examples I can offer up would be “Anti-Orgasm,” “Calming The Snake,” “Poison Arrow,” and “Thunderclap For Bobby Pyn.”

If you want to find a flaw with The Eternal, I suppose that you could argue that maybe it’s not a groundbreaking as previous albums. I would say the mixing of the two sides of Sonic Youth’s musical expertise is a winning and fresh combination. After all is said and done, Sonic Youth have failed to let us down after 16 records now. Like Morrissey did earlier this year, they manage to prove, yet again, why they’re important. And unlike Depeche Mode, they manage to make a “Sonic Youth” record, and still have it be revolutionary.

Here’s to another 16.

-Chase

Feature: SiA Summer Mix #2 (Reggae Edition)

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Hey guys!

Week one was a rousing success! I’m glad that everyone is enjoying our new feature!

This week is all about Reggae. Reggae music is the embodiment of summer to me, so I hope that after this, you’ll feel the same way.

SiA Summer Mix #2 (Reggae Edition)

Once again, feedback is more than welcome! If you’re a fan of reggae, and felt like I missed some crucial tracks, let me know! I’d love for a valid excuse to have and 2nd Reggae Edition…..not that really need a good reason to do so anyway!

Have a great week guys!

Tracklist

“Slavery Days” by Burning Spear
“Legalize It” by Peter Tosh
“No More Trouble” by Bob Marley & The Wailers
“Is This Love” by Bob Marley & The Wailers
“Marcus Garvey” by Burning Spear
“Rat Race” by Bob Marley & The Wailers
“The Mummy’s Shroud” by Scientist
“Heartless Dub” by King Tubby
“Your Teeth In My Neck” by Scientist
“Reggaelation (Resting Place)” by Burning Spear
“Black Panta” by Lee “Scratch” Perry
“Ghost Town (Extended Mix)” by The Specials
“Revolution Rock” by The Clash

-Chase