Single Shot: Enjoy the Silence

Posted in Music on July 30th, 2010 by Tom

This song has been following me around for the last couple of days, and a friend of mine just won’t let me forget that it’s semi-permanently lodged in my head.

I wish I had something more insightful to say, other than the little bit at the end always weirded me out. I don’t really understand it, but the more normal-song-part is a great tune.

‘Enjoy the Silence’
[ mp3 ♫ ]VCZT6826FCNR

Depeche Mode got their name from a French fashion magazine, which is not what I would have guessed. I’ve really enjoyed some of their more recent singles, but I’ll be damned if I can ever sit through an entire album.

Depeche Mode – ‘Enjoy the Silence’


Light Chasers

Posted in Music on July 20th, 2010 by Tom

Though it might be jumping the gun a little bit, as Light Chasers isn’t due in record stores until September 17, I wanted to get out in front of the physical release to tell everyone how incredible this latest effort by Cloud Cult is. Light Chasers is a concept album about an intergalactic journey which tells the “story of the search for answers.”

At first, I was a little skeptical of this entire venture. The album art evokes memories of special effects from SciFi channel movies in the late 1990s, and the 16-deep tracklist was a little daunting. Even in the first tack, hearing the Mission Control transmissions in the last 20 seconds was awfully reminiscent of the lead-in track ‘Must Explore’ off of the previous Feel Good Ghosts, so I was a little wary.

As to make an example of my lack of faith, however, Cloud Cult did not disappoint: within another two listens my mind was sufficiently blown. It’s incredibly difficult to start talking about one track without getting carried away on how it complements and improves all the other songs; to head this off, I should first talk about the record as a whole, beginning with the tracklist:

1. The Mission: Unexplainable Stories
2. The Departure: Today We Give Ourselves to the Fire
3. The Invocation (p.1) – You’ll Be Bright
4. The Birth
5. The Baby – You Were Born
6. The Lessons – Exploding People
7. The Interference
8. The Battles – Room Full of People in Your Head
9. The Escape – Running With the Wolves
10. The Acceptance – Responsible
11. The Surrender – Guessing Game
12. The Strength – Forces of the Unseen
13. The Invocation (p.2) – Blessings
14. The Awakening – Dawn
15. The Contact
16. The Arrival – There’s So Much Energy In Us

I purchased the downloadable copy so I could get an early listen in, and whatever track titles iTunes picked up on the import did not have the “The XXXXX” set of titles. To write this, I went looking for those, and was really surprised by how much illumination on the underlying story they provide. They very clearly trace out the different stages of this quest of space travelers to find “the light,” and give the tracks a greater purposes than if they were unknown.

The format is an extremely strong set of maybe 10 songs make up the bricks of the musical content, and around them is situated the other 6 tracks which serve as a type of mortar, holding them in the right order, binding the larger songs to one another, with one often foreshadowing the melody of the next. This isn’t really that new of an idea, but usually just one of these pops up at the opening, closing, or midpoint of a record; Light Chasers really commits to the idea, and it works wonders at tying together a large quantity of material.

The track released in advance a few months ago, ‘Running With the Wolves’, is great. On its own, it’s a great song, fairly representative of the strengths of the band; what’s amazing about it is how much sense it makes at the apex of this space odyssey of an album.

One of Cloud Cult’s greatest strengths is the craft that goes into their lyrics. Less obsessed with the outright wordplay of an Isaac Brock, they concentrate more on communicating such crystal clear, genuine human emotions that simply listening almost becomes an act of empathy. The strongest evidence on this record of this is ‘The Battles – Room Full of People in Your Head‘.

‘The Battles – Room Full of People in Your Head’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Particularly impressive to me were the verses,

In the center stands Ego- looking for attention.
And over there’s Self Pity, always crying, “Poor, poor me!”
Lock up the liquor, or they’re gonna get juiced.
I’ve got each of these in me.

Part of me is the Hang Man, looking for a scape-goat.
And part of me is the VICTIM, always crying, “Why you pickin’ on me?”
Lock up the gun cabinet, or it’s gonna get messy.
I’ve got each of these in me.

Here the group takes a fairly common human condition, internal conflict, and personifies the individual splinters of the mind, while the percussion and overall volume of the song is so loud that the listener really feels a sense of commotion.

A personal favorite of mine is ‘The Strength – Forces of the Unseen‘. It paints such a vivid image of a determination so dogged that it really gets you rooting for the protagonists and their mission, even though the exact details of it are unknown.

‘The Strength – Forces of the Unseen’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

This song also makes use of one of the conjoining threads of the record, that of “energy.” This, along with the eponymous “light”, as well as “the captain” pop up all over the record, and even though they mean different things in different places, they all twist together in the closing track ‘The Arrival – There’s So Much Energy In Us’ which, to me, is the single most powerful song on the album. I declined to post it here, because it’s really unfair to evaluate it out of the context of the rest of the album, but rest assured that it does not disappoint.

Ultimately, whether or not you like this album is largely dependent upon if you can “buy in” to it. You’ve gotta be willing to go on that space adventure with The Captain, to embrace the tragedy and excitement that comes along with The Mission, and to have a real yearning to chase the light yourself. Go into Light Chasers with both an open mind and an open heart, and Cloud Cult will deliver.

Cloud Cult – Light Chasers


The Five Ghosts

Posted in Music on July 16th, 2010 by Tom

Stars (The Stars? I never know how the name should be used) are one of my favorite bands of the last five years. Their past two albums, the raw Set Yourself on Fire and the cinematic In Our Bedroom After the War, have been among some of my most favorite records. Suffice to say then that their latest studio release, titled The Five Ghosts, was much anticipated.

There’s a lot to love on Ghosts, but also a little to want for. The two tracks released ahead of the album, ‘Fixed’ and ‘We Don’t Want Your Body’ are paired together as the fourth and fifth songs, and work excellently together. Particularly the latter, whose chorus I think is a little stupid,

Your soul is searching ecstasy
So you could have some sex with me
I don’t want your body
I don’t want your body

but ultimately has some really cool lyrical moments as well,

The window blind undrawn
You flash your trash to turn me on
Your just a tramp, you’re just a trick
Our hunger starts to make us sick

Lie down and try to talk to me
Sleep now and dream of who you’ll be
But will you actually be anyone?

Back-tracking to the opening, ‘Dead Ghosts’ was a really great choice to start the album, and ‘Wasted Daylight’, while not my favorite song, is a shining example of what a musical asset Amy Millan is to the group. One of the songs that really stood out as exactly what I was wanting from this album though, was ‘I Died So I Could Haunt You‘.

‘I Died So I Could Haunt You’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

It has a really great bass line, and all the emotive trappings we’ve come to expect from Stars, somehow making an incredibly sad sentiment almost fun. A stark contrast to this are the songs ‘He Dreams He’s Awake’ and ‘Changes’. The former is typical slow-builder which just builds too slow and never really takes off. The latter is pretty (again, props to Millan), but ultimately left me feeling pretty bored.

Fortunately, the end of the album really comes to the rescue. ‘Passenger’ has a some great synth, and an especially well-crafted chorus that gets bigger and better with each iteration. ‘The Last Song Ever Written’ is a decent slow song that provides a good lead in to ‘How Much More‘, which might be the best song on the entire record.

‘How Much More’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Here we finally have a track where Millan’s voice is not the only thing to show up for, but also the tune itself is noteworthy. Campbell’s backing is a good complement, and now that I think about it, is what I missed throughout a lot of the album. More Torquil Campbell-led songs would have been helped, I think. In any case, ‘How Much More’ is on par with some of the highest points on any Stars album, and really is a saving grade for Ghosts

In spite of it all, I still have to recommend this album; even on an off-day, Stars are a fantastic group and worth investing some time. The constituent tracks of The Five Ghosts don’t work in quite the beautiful concert of the past two efforts, but like I said above, there really is a lot to love.

Stars – The Five Ghosts


Mailbag: Volume 1, Galapaghost

Posted in Mailbag, Music on July 14th, 2010 by Tom

AUTHOR’S NOTE: From time to time, I get e-mails from artists suggesting that I might be interested in their music. The “mailbag” is my attempt to give back by showcasing the talent of those emerging artists whose work I genuinely enjoyed.

Casey Chandler is Galapaghost, a one-man act (at the moment) with a wide array of influences who truly does them justice. The handful of tracks I listened to were quiet and subdued, perfect for maintaining the emotional connection that really proves integral to experiencing Chandler’s music.

For just one person the music has a pleasantly surprising amount of depth to it. It’s exciting to think of what Chandler could accomplish with a few bandmates to add to an already rich sound.

My favorite Galapaghost track was ‘Runnin’‘. The conflict within the narrative of the lyrics seemed honest, and the chorus has just enough of a beat to get my head bobbing in time to the tune.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

Like any respectable band Galapaghost has a mySpace page. If you’re interested in additional tracks besides ‘Runnin”, he just released a new EP titled ‘Neptunes’ earlier this year.



Posted in Music on July 12th, 2010 by Tom

Champ has been one of the most pleasant surprises this year so far. I’d never heard of Tokyo Police Club before, and picked up the album on recommendation from a Barnes and Noble salesmen because I was feeling adventurous. I’m really glad I did, because this album quickly became one of my favorites so far.

A little overloaded on ensemble productions (Broken Social Scene, New Pornographers, Cloud Cult) at the moment, the simplicity of the music was a welcome reprieve. Which is not to say the sound is flat or boring, but just straightforward. It packs quite a bit of punch in some places, and the fast-paced songs snag your attention and don’t let go until the album closes. Not a single track is wasted as filler, and even among the best records that is not guaranteed.

So true is this about Champ that I really had a hard time picking two songs to share with you. The first that I have to throw out there is ‘Favourite Colour‘.

‘Favourite Colour’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

No single song has gotten stuck in my head this summer like this one has. The guitar line on the refrain is just bold enough that you respect it, but not so huge that it comes off as tacky. The lyrics tell a pretty cohesive story, and contain a fantastic set of lines,

Tell me what’s
Tell me what’s your favorite color
Tell me your favorite color
Tell me how’s
Tell me how’s your younger brother
How’s your younger brother?
Tell me what’s the first
Very first record you owned
’cause I’ve got no plans if you don’t
No plans if you don’t

‘Breakneck Speed’ is a solid bridge to the frenetic ‘Wait Up (Boots of Danger)‘. I’m going to cheat a little and include the music video in leiu of an mp3 because the dogs in it are adorable, and the tune fantastic:

Despite an explosive first half of a record, my favorite track is square in the middle, titled ‘End of a Spark‘. The guitar hook is sharp and catchy, and Monks’s vocals are at their best, most emphatic, when paired with this particular tune’s lyrics. The stripped down bridge before a powerful finish is what I liked best.

‘End of a Spark’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The latter half slows a bit, with songs like ‘Gone’ having a bit more texture to them. ‘Big Difference’ and ‘Not Sick’ are the quintessential “big finale” tracks, holding nothing back (the “so wha’d’ya need!” on ‘Not Sick’ is a high point) and in general leaving the listener really satisfied.

An incredibly compact and succinct record, Champ hits its stride from the first note, and there’s hardly a misstep until the last. Its stand-out tracks fit seamlessly into the album for a full 35 minutes of some of the best garage rock I’ve heard in a long time.

Tokyo Police Club – Champ