Back in December of last year I threatened to shut down this blog, or give it a break at the very least, and although certain aspects of life have gotten in the way of regular updates, I have somehow found time to keep it alive. I might not go to quite as many shows as I have in years past, but when I do, I make it a point to share my experiences with those willing to follow along. What I haven’t been able to do is share my thoughts on other aspects of pop culture. It’s true that my (not-so) new employer is a much larger force in my life than my previous one, but that does not mean I have completely abandoned my usual vices. Beer, books, movies, television and music are still a large part of my life. This post is a (not-so) quick rundown of how those vices have played a role in my world over the past 3 months…
The craft beer scene in Colorado continues to grow. New breweries are flooding the front range (in a good way) with exciting, palette busting flavors every day. You’d think we’d be satisfied with our overwhelming supply of local brew. And we are, for the most part. Coloradans are fierce supporters of buying local, but that doesn’t mean we lack a curiosity (or appreciation) for the what’s happening in the craft worldwide. That’s why it’s been so exciting to see new bottles on the shelves recently. It’s also why I haven’t been out filling growlers as much lately. I’m been too busy stocking and consuming a variety of out-of-state beers that have recently begun distribution in Colorado — AleSmith, Stillwater and EvilTwin are just a few of the names taking up real estate in my beer fridge. Not to mention Epic — the Utah-based brewery preempted their new $2.5 million Denver brewery with a blitz distribution statewide.
I was finally able to make it out to Lagunitas, Beer Republic and Russian River back in August. Lagunitas has a great setup in Petaluma and offered one of the most unique tours I have ever been on. We liked the place so much we went back a second time. It was a cool evening and the brewery was actually closed for the day, but that didn’t stop them from serving delicious IPAs while Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars performed on their small stage. Will definitely be visiting that place again.
The gypsy brewer Mikkeller has found a home in San Francisco. The Mikkeller Bar SF is a swanky spot in the SOMA district and I highly recommend it if you are ever in the city.
The last few months have done more than just quench my craft beer thirst (Hops & Pie’s 3rd Anniversary was enough on its own) , but the most exciting time of the year will come next week when the Great American Beer Festival comes back to Denver. All the local breweries (and soon to be breweries) have been prepping for GABF all year. Thousands of people with pretzel necklaces will descend upon our city in search for the biggest stouts, hoppiest IPAs and sourest sours the country has to offer. So stock up on Tylenol and TUMS and I’ll see you at Falling Rock on Monday night!
I blame this inundation of new beers for the fact that I’ve been watching so much TV lately. There’s nothing like vegging out in front of a screen with a good beer in hand. Believe it or not I didn’t seen one movie in the theater in Q3. In fact, I only watched a few movies on the small screen. Silver Linings Playbook was even better the second time, Ted wasn’t as funny sober, Gangster Squad was so awful I couldn’t get through it and Jay-Z killed what could have been an alright adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Trance was entertaining, but is wasn’t my favorite of the Boyle films. The only film (and I use that word lightly) that left an impression was Spring Breakers. I think Harmony Korine lost track of his point (if he ever had one) somewhere along the line, but I will say the cinematography was visual stunning — making the hot extremely hot and the the grotesque almost nauseating. Overall I did not like this film, but it stuck with me like a bad hangover. James Franco was equally hilarious and horrifying. His was a genius performance in a seriously flawed film.
Where movies failed me, TV more than made up. It was an epic three months for cable networks. First off, I rewatched The Sopranos from beginning to end in tribute to James Gandolfini. I averaged an episode a day from the day he died until the screen cut to black. It was much more rewarding this time and I am 100% convinced he was shot at the end. I feel like I have closure with that show now.
Speaking of closure, Breaking Bad‘s Vince Gilligan knows how to end a show! I will still argue that The Wire is the better show, but Breaking Bad was consistently good for six seasons AND had the perfect finale. I read a book call Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution last month and it gave a ton of insight into how TV changed when showrunners (writers) were given control. The premise is that somehow these difficult men made us root for difficult characters. They made us root for the bad guys — guys like Tony Soprano, Omar Little and Don Drapper. Dexter took this to a whole new level by making us feel sorry for a psychopath. But as good as Dexter was, it was campy, and the recent finale felt safe and just a little boring. That left Walter White as possibility the worst of the bad guys we’ve been tricked into caring about. He might have started out with noble intentions, but things changed once he got the first taste of power. He started doing it for himself, because he was good at it. He lied, manipulated and murdered because he wanted to, and in the end he got what was coming to him. It was so much fun to watch his transformation. It was better than any film I’ve seen in a long time!
The final season of Breaking Bad was the highlight of Q3, but the last season of Dexter was fun to watch as well. Wilfred keeps getting darker, but I’m still intrigued. Under the Dome is typical network fluf with terrible acting, but the story makes it just interesting enough to stick around to see what happens next. The Newsroom and True Blood are all kinds of awful, but like any train wreck, it’s hard to turn your eyes away. Speaking of awful, Sharknado was a waste of 2 good hours of my life, but that was my own fault. Modern Family is back and still funny, but New Girl is still the best sitcom on television. And as much as I hate to admit it, I started watching a reality contest show, Ink Masters. Although I think it’s probably going to lose its appeal now that Joshua and his drama are gone.
The Bridge and Orange Is the New Black are two shows I missed that I really need to catch up on.
The line between good and bad isn’t always a straight, bold line. Just because someone wears a black hat, doesn’t mean they are a villain. My favorite geek philosopher, Chuck Klosterman, tackles some of the same themes as Difficult Men when he takes a stab at showing the grey area when it comes to popular opinion about figures as diverse as Ice Cube, Bill Clinton, Hilter and Batman. I’ve never been a fan of Klosterman’s fiction, so it’s so refreshing to see him back where he belongs with I Wear the Black Hat. There is a space in my mind that I reserve for useless information, and no one can fill it like Chuck.
Besides the aforementioned books, my reading time has been spent almost primarily on Stephen King. Joyland was a quick, enjoyable read, but visiting the Overlook Hotel for the first time since I was a kid was a real highlight. I am amazed at how much the film version of The Shining had stuck in my head more than the novel. Kubrick’s film is a classic, but the novel has so much more depth. It was the perfect primer to seeing Mr. King speak at the Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder.
Stephen King was the first author I really got into, back when I was very young, so seeing him speak was something of a lifelong dream. The fact that he was speaking in support Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining, in the very place where The Shining was written, made it all that much more exciting. He stories ranged from sad to scary to bust-a-gut hilarious. It really was one of those experiences I will never forget. It also helps that (200 pages in) Doctor Sleep is not your average, inferior sequel — it continues King’s late career run of inspired novels.
The majority of my summer concert schedule is mapped to whatever Red Rocks has to offer. This year was no exception. We attended the annual 4th of July Blues Traveler show for the first time this year. I’m not a huge fan of that particular band, but we made a day out of it by hiking some of the trails, visiting the Trading Post and tailgating. Seeing Save His Soul performed in it entirety with a panoramic views of all the fireworks shows across the Front Range wasn’t so bad either.
This really was the year of opening acts at the Rocks though. The Black Angels were the perfect pick for the Robert Plant and Sensational Space Shifters show. Gogol Bordello were as insane as Queens of the Stone Age were loud. Nas stole the stage from STS9, and Langhorne Slim were the better band on the first night of The Lumineers homecoming concerts. Tyler, the Creator’s set became a Earl Sweatshirt set, but they were both better than Kid Cudi’s over-the-top space persona. Last, but not least, Frightened Rabbit and Local Natives both performed headline worthy sets, but unlike the other openers, they were seriously upstaged by the band that came next — The National were absolutely brilliant (as always). Their performance was a great way to close out the season. There were a group of 20 of us there that night. We took over Row 20. It was my 62nd show at the famous amphitheater and it was perfect.
The weather at Red Rocks was more than cooperative this year, but we paid for our run of good luck when we were soaked by torrential downpours at the David Byrne & St. Vincent show at the Botanic Gardens at Chatfield. We took a serious pounded that evening, but the show was nothing less than spectacular once those cloud made way for the stars above.
Not all live music experiences were outdoors though. Seeing my wife give herself whiplash while holding onto the stage at Deafheaven was shocking (in a good way). See Black Sabbath for the first time, and realizing Ozzy can still perform like he’s 20, was bucketlist worthy. Animal Collective actually performed songs from their albums this time around, so that was really cool. Jason Isbell has sobered up and shed his Drive-By Truckers past, only to reveal one of the most amazing singer-songwriters working today — he was better than he has ever been when he headlined The Bluebird last month. Chelsea Wolfe brought her new sound to Larimer Lounge last week, and My Bloody Valentine were able to drown out the sounds of sorrow in my head last month. Grizzly Bear were a lot more exciting than I ever expected them to be — they were so loud for such a quite band. Free tickets for Summer Slaughter Tour were a nice gift, but standing around in the Ogden (no re-entry allowed) for 6 hours was ruthless — luckily The Dillinger Escape Plan were worth the wait.
I skipped Westword Music Showcase this year, but I did make it out for a night of UMS. It just sucks that they fucked up Cults sound so bad. Cultivate Fest was fun this year, but we didn’t catch much music. With the exception of a couple Cold War Kids songs, we just spent the day drinking beer in the shade. Dessa and Sims put on a great show at the Bluebird, but I was slightly disappointed with the Run the Jewels set at the Independent in San Francisco.
We took a drive up to Cheyenne for Frontier Days and I am now a huge fan of the rodeo. The Dwight Yoakam concert was just icing on that day. I’m thinking that event will become a family tradition.
The one festival we invested in this year was the Riot Fest Denver, although it was a long way from Denver. Byers, CO is only 40 miles outside the city, but it feels like a different state. Even The Replacements commented on being in Kansas. What could be described as a Warped Tour for those who were around for the very first Warped Tour, Riot Fest highlights were Iggy & The Stooges, Flag, Against Me! and Touché Amoré. I’m sure Bad Religion and Rancid would have been on that list, but the weather ran us off on Day 2. We could have waited around for the storm to clear, but Breaking Bad and Dexter seemed more important at that point.
OK, I think I’m done talking about beer, movies, television, books and live music now, so let’s get into the meat of it — here are my album recommendations from Q3 2013…
Avicii – True
Believe me when I say I never expected to be recommending Avicii’s debut album on this site — or anywhere for that matter. Sure, “Levels” was catchy, and when it comes to EDM, Avicii is one of the least irritating producers out there, but to enjoy a full album of his material came as a shock. In all honesty, I’m surprised I even gave it a shot. I might not have if it weren’t for my 11-year-old daughter. She was doing her homework upstairs when I first played “Wake Me Up”. She immediately ran downstairs and said “what is that? I like it!”. It has become our road song ever since. It’s not the only addictive song on True. Although this album doesn’t push any limits, or even present anything that hasn’t been done before, it is enjoyable (safe?) EDM with a multitude of well placed guest vocalists. This is the type of party where you’ll only have fun if you leave your pretensions at the door.
Avicii – Wake Me Up
Carcass – Surgical Steel
(Nuclear Blast, 2013)
There are people who have been waiting for this album for 17 years. I am not one of those people. I wasn’t ‘in the know’ when Carcass shed its coat of gore in favor of a more melodic form of death metal, but that’s not to say I haven’t caught up in the meantime. These British metalheads are some of the most influential in this extreme genre and their reunion a few years back earned applause from many hairy dudes in black leather vests. The live shows were enough to make any fan happy, but a new album from a band who has been gone so long is always a risky endeavor. How could it possibly live up to the material that came before? Sure, these guys might be able to get on stage and perform the material they wrote in the 80’s and 90’s, but do they really have it in them to write new songs? It turns out the answer is yes. Surgical Steel is classic Carcass, but with a razor sharp modern edge. This is an album that can be embraced by old school metalheads, as well as those who are just dipping their toe into the toxic river of extreme music.
Carcass – 1985
Chelsea Wolfe – Pain Is Beauty
(Sargent House, 2013)
Chelsea Wolfe hates being compared to Zola Jesus. Before I really knew her style, I made that comparison quite a few times, but then I saw her perform at Bat Bar in Austin, right after seeing Zola perform, and I realized how far off I was. Her music came from a very different place at that time, but the new, synth-heavy material on Pain Is Beauty really does lend itself well to that comparison. There is something more sinister (and less sexy) about what Chelsea does, but tracks like “Ancestors, The Ancients” and “We Hit a Wall” would not be out of place on Stridulum III. This shift in sound, something Chelsea is becoming known for, does not come as that much of a surprise to those who are familiar with Ben Chisholm. Ben is the bassist and synthmaster for the band and has been with Chelsea the longest. He also records as Whitehorse, an enigmatic electronic project that Chelsea has been involved with as well. It seems some of that Whitehorse sound has found its way into their primary project and Pain Is Beauty is a testament to the collaborative effort of Chelsea Wolfe as a band. Apokalypsis still holds a place in my world that no other album will fill, but I’ve had no problem finding some space for Pain Is Beauty.
Chelsea Wolfe – We Hit a Wall
Diarrhea Planet – I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
(Infinity Cat Recordings, 2013)
These kids from Nashville have one of the worst band names in an era of awful band names, but they also have one of my favorite albums of the year. I like I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams way too much. But why wouldn’t I? There are so many of us who grew up on hair metal and pop punk, and no matter how much we try to hide that past, nothing gets us going like strong, melodic, stupid songs that make us involuntarily fist pump while screaming at the top of our lungs. Diarrhea Planet (I still hate even saying it) are able to channel Unwritten Law and The Darkness at the same time. You might ask why anyone would want to do that, and I wouldn’t have a good answer for you. It sounds awful on paper, but fuck me if it doesn’t work on this album. Diarrhea Planet might have an awful name, but I’m looking forward to seeing those two words sprawled across a marquee soon, because I can’t imagine their live shows being anything less than a shitload of fun!
Diarrhea Planet – Separations
Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
(Bad Boy, 2013)
Janelle Monáe is the most exciting thing to happen to r&b music in recent history, but to call her r&b is to ignore 98% of what she’s about. She is r&b,soul, hip-hop, funk and pop, but if you really want to put a label on her, it would be ‘performer’. Those of us who have seen her live will never forget the experience — part Michael Jackson, part James Brown, with some Prince, Badu and Lauryn Hill thrown in — she channels all the greats into something complete unique and original. Just one listen through The Electric Lady will expose a range so broad it will have your head spinning (although I could do without the interludes). What other 27-year-old singer could inspire Prince to not only contribute to her opening track, but to also send her a personal singing telegram? It amazed me that The ArchAndroid didn’t catapult Monáe into the pop stratosphere. The Electric Lady is even better. I realize she’s not exactly underground anymore, but the fact that she is not a household name (when so many lesser artists are) is just sad.
Janelle Monáe – Primetime
King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
(XL / True Panther, 2013)
When I first heard Archy Marshall’s debut full length, I didn’t get it. Sure, the kid (he’s 19) had a unique style, but I couldn’t help but find it monotonous. Nothing more than some quiet beats, the twang of an acoustic guitar, and some slurred vocals that sounded like they were coming from someone with a slight speech impediment. I deleted the album from my playlist after a few listens…but that voice kept haunting me. I’d wake up in the morning with the words “same old Bobby, same old beat” in my head. “Out Getting Ribs” would come to me at random points in my day. The album was like a nagging ex-girlfriend who wouldn’t let go, so I went back to it, just to prove to myself it wasn’t for me. As it turns out, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon is more than it appears on the surface. The album has a depth I had not explored on my first few listens. This album won’t be for everyone — Marshall’s voice will turn some off right away, but if you find his style intriguing instead of irritating, give this album some time. In a homogeneous world of music, it really does stand out as something different.
King Krule – Easy Easy
Mark Kozelek & Desertshore – Mark Kozelek and Desertshore
(Caldo Verde, 2013)
Mark Kozelek might still be a ‘fucked up little kid’ at 46-years-old, but he is still one of my favorite songwriters working today. He might be getting older, but for a guy who makes a living telling stories about his own life, age is a blessing. The longer we live, the more we experience (good and bad as that may be) and when you live as Mark Kozelek lives, those experiences stack up even faster than they do for the rest of us. This Desertshore collaboration is the 5th release from the extremely prolific singer-songwriter this year AND there’s a new Sun Kil Moon on deck for early next year. You would think his material would start getting watered down when it flows so frequently, but Mark Kozelek and Desertshore proves otherwise. The album includes stories about cult leaders, dead friends, cheating wives, washed-up boxers, travel, girlfriends, love, loss, small towns and big cities — all the usual suspects, as well a few new faces. It is brand new Kozolek and classic Koz, all at the same time.
Mark Kozelek – Livingstone Bramble
Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day
(Rhymes of an Hour, 2013)
Mazzy Star is high school music for me. Even though I wasn’t really into Mazzy Star in high school, the girls I associated with were. I never had a problem with the band, but I never showed a real interest. I thought Mazzy Star was the name of the girl singing for quite a long time. So I wasn’t really waiting for a new album. And although I am really liking Seasons of Your Day, I’m still wondering why Hope Sandoval and David Roback didn’t just credit the album to Hope & Roback, or something along those lines. If you look around the scene today, you’ll see quite a few bands who were influenced by albums like So Tonight I Might See — Beach House, Tennis, Rhye, Twin Sister… So why come back, 17 years later? Unless you’ve come to show those bands what’s next. Why come back with a completely stripped down, country-influenced album of pretty, but not exactly forward-thinking songs? I’m sure I could find the answers to those questions by searching for interviews with the band, but honestly, I don’t care. Seasons of Your Day might not be an essential Mazzy Star album, but that doesn’t make me enjoy it any less. Hope’s voice has never sounded better, so I don’t care what band name is on the cover, I’m just enamored with the the simple, powerful songs within.
Mazzy Star – California
Nathaniel Rateliff – Falling Faster Than You Can Run
(Mod y Vi, 2013)
Nathaniel Rateliff might not have been born here in Denver, but he’s been around long enough to earn his stop at the center of our music scene. Whether he performs solo, or with The Wheel, Born in the Flood, or the newly formed Night Sweats, he can always produce a crowd that would be the envy of any local scene. But Mr. Rateliff is not ours alone. When he’s not driving his white van from gig to gig in the Mile High City, he is crisscrossing the states or country-hopping around Europe. Success was not handed to him, he’s earned it with blood, sweat, tears and an extremely versatile voice. I’ve seen the man perform at least a dozen times and I have to say I lean towards his quieter, acoustic sets (seeing him cover Leonard Cohen songs at Lost Lake Lounge is something I will never forget), but Falling Faster Than You Can Run might be his best recorded work to date. Quietly released last month, this album finds Rateliff deep in thought, with a little anger to go along with the melancholy. He might claim to not know ‘a goddamn thing!’ on the opening track, but that opening track shows how well he can do one thing — he can write a goddamn good song!
Nathaniel Rateliff -Still Trying
Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
When it comes to alt-country music, it’s usually the voice that pulls me in, but it’s the lyrics that have me sticking around. With Neko Case, it’s different. First of all, she’s not really alt-country at all anymore. Second, I don’t know what the fuck she’s talking about most of the time. Sure, there are lines like ‘you never held me at the right angle‘ that live in my head long after the album ends, but Case is writing some seriously strange songs that I really don’t follow. I’m sure I could figure them out if I took the time to dig into each verse, but it’s really not that important for me to understand what she’s trying to say. Neko Case makes epic music. It’s music that’s about feeling. It’s not what she says as much as how she says it. When she sings ‘…and if I’m dipshit drunk on pink perfume, then I’m the man in the fucking moon’, she is bursting with so much energy and conviction that you can’t help but just say ‘yeah, that sounds awesome!’ I’ve been a fan of Neko Case since I first discovered her voice on The New Pornographer’s Mass Romantic and I have to say that The Worse Things Get… might be her best album since then.
Neko Case – Night Still Comes
Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium
Anyone who comes from a American small town believes the next Great American Novel exists within the limits of that town. And they are probably right. The stories coming out of big cities are extremely boring when compared to what happens in the small town. The good guys and villains are the same in every city, but that’s not so in the small town. I speak from experience. I have spent many nights in the seediest parts of America’s seediest cities, but I grew up in a small town, and I’m telling you, nothing is more frightening than the innards of a small town. The tiny dots on the map might seem harmless when you pull over to fill your gas tank and buy a pack of smokes on your way to somewhere that matters, but that’s just because the truth doesn’t hang out by by the highway. Those neon signs might sell petrol, but they’re even better at cloaking the reality of the small town. Will Sheff knows these things. He also spent his days in the small town before becoming a worldly musician, and on Okkervil River’s seventh album, he brings us back home. It might not be a Great American Novel, but it is the next Great Indie Rock Record, delivered by a band who has been a roll for over a decade now.
Okkervil River – All The Time Every Day
SubRosa – More Constant Than the Gods
(Profound Lore, 2013)
If I were to declare that the best doom metal album of 2013 came out of Salt Lake City, some people would would think me insane. The others, those who were crushed under the weight of No Help for the Mighty Ones in 2011, would nod their heads in agreement. My favorite extreme label, Profound Lore, has been somewhat of a disappointment as of late, but there was no doubt in my mind that More Constant Than the Gods would be one of my favorite extreme releases this year. SubRosa have delivered another document of sorrow and despair so powerful that it’s hard to believe the studio survived the recording sessions. Layering dual female vocals and violins on top of an already impressive doom canvass makes SubRosa one of the very few bands I would recommend to people who don’t necessarily have the patients for this subgenre. I haven’t spent enough time with the album to compare it to No Help…, but so far it’s as good, if not better. This is the type of music Profound Lore is known for. Here’s to hoping it’s just the start of a late-year streak.
SubRosa – Cosey Mo
Touché Amoré – Is Survived By
If you don’t like the idea of listening to screamo, just do what most people in your situation do, call it post-hardcore. Honestly, I don’t care what you call Touché Amoré’s latest album, as long as you give it the attention it’s due. Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me made my Top 10 of 2011 and Is Survived By is even better. You can actually hear Jeremy Bolm tearing himself apart on this album. Seeing them live only solidified my opinion that this band holds nothing back. They are exactly as intense as they sound. I could sit here and recite my favorite lyrics all day long, but I think the opening track sums it up pretty well. “I was once asked how I’d like to be remembered, and I simply smiled and said “I’d rather stay forever”, it was possibly my loudest cliché, but felt better than just walking away…” This is the diary of someone struggling with what it means to make art — to produce something that will be left behind. It’s the public deconstruction of ones own work via the work itself. “…all that’s left when said and done is words you will never ever hear“.
Touché Amoré – Just Exist
Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone
(Sunday Best, 2013)
Pushin’ Against a Stone, the debut album from Valerie June, has been on repeat since the day it was released in early August. I have listened to these 11 tracks more than any other album this year. At 21 years old, Valerie June has a voice at least twice her age. She is a girl outside her generation. She is well beyond her years in terms of singing and songwriting. She is far from alone in her mission to mine the past for inspiration, but where others have come back with old faded photographs of a country that no longer exists, June came back with hi-def footage of her ancestors. You can feel, taste and smell the past in her music, but she also paints with contemporary colors that make her music completely relevant today. Even some of her most flattering critics have hinted that Pushin’ Against a Stone doesn’t break any new ground, but I’d argue that it doesn’t need to. With so many young artists catering to what’s ‘cool’ or ‘hip’ today (or even worse, mimicking unrealistic ideas of decades past), it so refreshing to hear someone like Valerie June release such an honest tribute to her influences.
Valerie June – Somebody To Love
Volcano Choir – Repave
When we were blasting “Skinny Love” in my apartment in 2007, I would have never imagined that Bon Iver would become a household name. The fact that Justin Vernon has become a rock star and an SNL regular (as a guest and the butt of many jokes) is just mind-blowing. For Emma, Forever Ago was an album that meant a lot to us back in San Francisco, and it still means a lot to me today, but it’s hard to listen to it now. It’s hard to feel real emotion when you run into a parody at every turn. I can defend Justin Vernon all day long, but if you weren’t there before he became that white dude who hangs with Kanye, you’ll never get it. The enormous Red Rocks show last year would have silenced those who really want you to know they think his music is boring, but they weren’t there. They will never get it and that’s ok. And I’m actually ok with the announcement that Bon Iver might be done as a band. That being said, this Repave album is a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed Unmap back in ’09, but it did feel slightly unfinished. With their latest, Volcano Choir (Justin Vernon and members of Collections of Colonies of Bees) seem like a full fledged band. If Bon Iver really is done, then I can see Volcano Choir becoming much more than a side-project. This isn’t going to win Vernon any new fans, and he might lose a few, but maybe that’s ok. He never seemed like a rock star anyway.
Volcano Choir – Comrade
Watain – The Wild Hunt
Century Media, 2013
Watain have been spewing satanic black metal from Sweden since the turn of the century. They are one of the few black metal bands that have grown a substantial (for satanic black metal) fanbase while sticking to a rigid style and ideology. Some might think it’s a joke when these guys take the stage soaked in animal blood, surrounded by stakes adorned with goat heads, but a quick browse through interviews with Erik Danielsson will reveal a band of true believers. I would be lying if I said I didn’t find most of their beliefs amusing (and ignorant), but that doesn’t change the fact that they have produced some of the best black metal of the last decade. That is what makes The Wild Hunt so surprising. The breakneck speed metal is still here, but there are also clean vocals, melody and a 9-minute ballad. This album shows another side of Watain, a side most of their fans thought (or hoped) didn’t exist. It almost seems like Watain is taking advantage of black metal seeing the light in popular culture — it almost seems like they are selling out. So I understand the anger coming from some of their followers, but I’m at the point where I don’t care about shit like that. I enjoy listening to this album. I enjoy it more than 90% of the other metals albums I’ve heard this year. So fuck it, it Watain are selling out, at least they sound good doing it.
Watain – All That May Bleed
Other recent albums that have been on rotation:
Au Revoir Simone – Move in Spectrums, Autopsy – The Headless Ritual, Bill Callahan – Dream River, CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe, Cult of Luna – Vertikal II, Deer Tick – Negativity, Defeater – Letters Home, Earl Sweatshirt – Doris, Emily Reo – Olive Juice, Exhumed – Necrocracy, Gris – A l’Ame Enflammée, l’Ame Conseillée, Icona Pop – This Is…Icona Pop, Kings of Leon – Mechanical Bull, Man’s Gin – Rebellion Hymns, Misery Signals – Absent Light, Modern Life Is War – Fever Hunting, Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks, Norma Jean – Wrongdoers, True Widow – Circumambulation, Ulcerate – Vermis, Vattnet Viskar – Sky Swallower, The Weeknd – Kiss Land, Whirr – Around, Willis Earl Beal – Nobody Knows – Windhand – Soma
I really wanted to like the new Willis Earl Beal more than I did, but I still feel like he’s a studio failure. The man is so intense on stage and his youtube videos are so damn good, I just don’t know why he can’t get it right on record. His first album sounded like it was recorded in a tin can and Nobody Knows sounds like it was muffled by a padded room. Hopefully he can find a good balance next time.
Thanks for taking the time. Hopefully you picked up something new — something you wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. Please share anything you think I might have missed.