Best of 2012

Posted in Music on January 31st, 2013 by Tom

So it’s late, but that’s life.

Best Albums of 2012!

It was a necessary step for me to begin to get back on the music horse after a pretty abysmal showing November – January.

As always, hit up the Music Calendar for my personal checklist of stuff to check out in the coming months!

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Synthetica

Posted in Music on July 9th, 2012 by Tom

I don’t know what it’s been lately, but I’ve been having a bad run of trying out new albums and completely hating them. Hence the lull in posts here. It’s all the more refreshing when a tried-and-true standby like Metric come out with a top-notch album to get me excited about records again.

My love of Metric stems from the fact that they so perfectly embody what I want from my (non-mopey) music: catchy melody, fast percussion, punchy vocals. You’ve got this in spades on the first three tracks of Synthetica, ‘Artificial Nocturne’, the lead single ‘Youth Without Youth’ (which has really grown on me), and finally ‘Speed The Collapse‘.


‘Speed The Collapse’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The song is remotely industrial, to my ears, and does a good job capturing the sinister aspect of the central theme of the album, with its “oceans boiled, and rivers bled.” As to what the hell a “comedown of revolving doors” is, I have no clue, but “fate, don’t fail me now” is a kickass chorus, as well as a not-so-subtle callback to the opening track that features an identical lyric.

Despite being immanently listenable, (and even at its fluffiest, with ‘Breathing Underwater’) Synthetica is a record with an edge as well as an agenda. A cleverly woven tapestry set against the backdrop of a Blade Runner-esque future, Haines describes having…

…first envisioned the word “Synthetica” as the name for a particularly resilient skin-job from Blade Runner, a female replicant who voices an inner monologue of all your human imperfections. “If you imagine a nightmarishly fake version of me as a pop star, that’s her,” she says. “And this record was about me saying, I’m going to give more to the music than ever, but there’s no way I’m going to turn into someone like that.”

The corresponding imagery to such a character is highlighted on ‘Dreams So Real’, a slow processional set to the chorus of

I’ll shut up and carry on
A scream becomes a yawn

The synthesizers drone in the background while a slow marching drum beat pulls you through the track. For how slowly paced and simply constructed the song is, I’m blown away by how functional it is at this point in the album.

The back end is impressively strong too: ‘Lost Kitten’ is a curiously warm-sounding track for how dark the subject matter seems to be, with Haines falsetto perfectly executed. ‘The Void’ and ‘Synthetica’ make up a closing power-pair, with the latter in particular being a boon as well as a namesake for the album, before ‘Clone‘ begins the dénouement.


‘Clone’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

We haven’t heard this side of Metric (a slower tune that isn’t forlorn/depressed) since Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?‘s ‘Love Is A Place’. Sure, nobody’s going to be screaming the lyrics to this one at shows, but it offers a rare moment where Haines’ voice is just allowed to be beautiful, untinged with any biting edge or bitter sorrow.

Everyone tends to have an opinion about the Lou Reed aided track, ‘Wanderlust’. Mine? Would have been better as a B-side. The abrupt change in tone from ‘Clone’ to ‘Nothing But Time’ makes the album tighter, and leaves the listener ever so slightly unnerved, which given the topic of the record seems appropriate.

Synthetica is right up their with Fantasies in terms of quality of material while still being a clear and deliberate evolution in sound. Metric is an outfit that essentially does everything right, and I could hardly ask for a better album from these fine folks.

Metric – Synthetica

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Best of 2009

Posted in Music on December 31st, 2009 by Tom

The page for my Top 10 Albums of 2009 is up. Artists include:

Florence + The Machine
Franz Ferdinand
Metric
Passion Pit
Phoenix
The Sounds
Stellastarr*
We Were Promised Jetpacks
White Lies
Wild Light

but not necessarily in that order!

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Fantasies, Manners

Posted in Music on August 12th, 2009 by Tom

fantasiesI posted a little while ago that Boston’s Best Music Poll Concert had gotten me really excited to investigate a handful of artists. True to this, I caved the next weekend and picked up Metric’s Fantasies and Passion Pit’s Manners, the latter of which I nabbed for 8 bucks at Newbury Comics on Harvard Square, which was too good of a deal to pass up!

I’m gonna go with Metric’s album first, because that’s how they line up, lonely in my iTunes library (all my music is on my desktop, and so there are only about 3 CDs on my laptop!). It’s easy enough to just come out with it: this is a really well-crafted album. In their element, Metric’s electro-pop-girl-crooner bit works pretty well. Naked, the tracks might get a little dull and boring, but with the subtle beats behind them, the record goes pretty fast. ‘Help, I’m Alive’ is a perfect opening track, with all the tenants of a good single that get you excited to hear the rest of the record.

Normally, if you know my typical gripes, you know that I hate it when artists front-load their better material at the top of a record, and putting the single first is certainly an indicator of that; particularly when it is followed by the equally driving ‘Sick Muse‘. Imagine my surprise when I found two of the album’s best tracks, ‘Gold Gun Girls’ (which I posted an acoustic of from the BMP concert) and ‘Gimmie Sympathy’ back-to-back dead-center of the record! Both tracks are good in their own right, but they are a pretty powerful twosome that mark the peak of the record.


[ mp3 ♫ ]

The last three tracks blend a little together for me, but I never get bored or irritated enough to turn them off. I think that’s because even at their most mellow, anything on Fantasies can get you bobbing your head or tapping your foot, which is one of the highest complements I can give the record. My favorite track I found that I hadn’t heard before purchasing it is easily ‘Collect Call‘ with it’s slow build to a pretty dance-able chorus.


[ mp3 ♫ ]

mannersNext up is Manners! I also saw Passion Pit live, and against my better judgment that normally I do not warm up quite so well to the typical “indie-darling” group, decided to give their outlandish brand of electronic-aural-landscaping a go. I was not disappointed! This is some fantastic work right here, and they really do deserve a good chunk of the hype they’ve been getting on the blog circuit in the past few months.

Maybe the most fun about this record is that it’s hard for me to describe. I won’t go so far as to say it is genre-defining, but it certainly is different from the vast majority of my library. I’m happy to say that I eventually came around on ‘Sleepyhead’, which I really do enjoy in earnest now; it’s synthetic somehow-organized cacophony is masterfully executed. As before, ‘Little Secrets’ is still an explosive track everyone should hear.

What is most surprising about parts of this record is how clean-shaven it sounds in some places. ‘Let Your Love Grow Tall’ is a piano-driven affair that fits right in with something you’d have heard from Keane a few years ago (if the piano was hidden in a computer), and ‘Eyes as Candles‘ has a decided retro feel that I can’t quite identify. This other side to Passion Pit is decidedly different in tone, but every bit as heart-felt, when compared to their Bigger Songs (and by that I don’t mean popularity, but more abstractly in terms of the sound).


[ mp3 ♫ ]

As I type this, I feel like all my comparisons are failing to really capture the sound of Passion Pit. Maybe that’s by design, more than anything. I just lack the vocabulary of artists, which is OK. It’s new, refreshing, and worth your time. How about this: the track that best sums up Manners for me is called ‘Moth’s Wings


[ mp3 ♫ ]

So that rounds it out for now. If this handful of songs I have stuck in my head don’t get out soon, they might explode into a blog post, but other than that, this is it as far as Music From Boston goes. Beantown has been good to me on the musical front, and for that much, I am thankful!

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Best Music Poll Concert

Posted in Music on August 2nd, 2009 by Tom

BMP-ConcertI had the fortune to run across box of boom’s post about the free concert that Boston’s own WFNX was throwing Saturday, August 1. Instantly, I decided I was going. The lineup was fantastic (Pictured at right; Photo Credits: dillsnufus and imseeingred66), the venue familiar, and the price was nil! It doesn’t get much better than that, and Boston did not disappoint.

I arrived just in the nick of time, as Ra Ra Riot took the stage. They were one of the artists I hadn’t heard anything of, coming into this. I downloaded the track on box of boom, but hadn’t really committed any time before hearing these guys. I was pretty impressed, and enjoyed the set a lot. They are a really energetic live act, and offer a lot of texture, with an electric violin and electric cello offering sound you don’t hear as often. Seeing them live has really piqued my interest in this group, and I’m for sure going to follow up on their record.

Ra Ra Riot: Incomplete Set List:
Winter 05
‘Too Too Too Fast’


[ mp3 ♫ ]

Next up was Passion Pit. Oh, Passion Pit. When I first started drudging through Hype at the start of this summer, Passion Pit was all the rage. You couldn’t look at that site without seeing their name everywhere. Even now, their popularity with the indie crowd persists. I, like virtually any living human being, really like ‘Little Secrets’. However, their other big hit, ‘Sleepyhead’, I can’t get on board with quite so much. The intro synth voice drives me so crazy I routinely skip it, and miss out on the great song that follows it. So it’s a mixed bag. I’m coming around on it, and it was really good live. Their entire set was fantastic live. The other stuff I heard wasn’t as goofy as ‘Sleepyhead’, and if it’s in anyway related to ‘Little Secrets’ it’s for sure got to be good. Yet another that I’m going to make good on following up on.

Passion Pit: Incomplete Set List
Little Secrets
‘Sleepyhead’


[ mp3 ♫ ]

And then came Metric. The band I was really psyched to see at this show because of my obsession with ‘Help, I’m Alive’ since I first heard it earlier this summer. Metric and I go way, way back. All the way to around my sophomore year of high school when Rachel Klem put ‘Combat Baby’ on a mix CD for me. I never tracked Metric down, even after all those years, and I feel stupid for it. Ian gave me crap for it, mostly due to his love of Emily Haynes’ involvement with Broken Social Scene, which is fair. So when I heard the new single from Metric, I knew it was time to get my ass in gear. Fantasies is presently on my list to hunt down and listen to. I gotta say it’s around the top, actually.

Sadly, the show was not what I expected. Emily Haynes came out and told everyone that they were going to do an acoustic set… um, OK? Metric, who is pretty heavily synth-reliant, is going to get me all mellowed out, after PASSION PIT, of all people? OK… Well, I did my best to enjoy it. I heard the two songs from the new album I know, and I liked that, but it was pretty mellow. Turns out that the reason for this was one of the band members had just had a child! So obviously, he couldn’t be there, but Metric didn’t want to cancel. Which I respect. So I got something out of the set: mainly a desire to see fully-fledged Metric to rock my world. And a huge, MEGA INDIE CRUSH on Emily Haynes. …I guess that’s two things.

Metric: Incomplete Set List
Gold Gun Girls
‘Help, I’m Alive’
‘Satellite Mind’
‘Gimmie Sympathy’


[ mp3 ♫ ]

Next was Gaslight Anthem, who was introduced with the tagline ‘Telecasters and Tattoos.’ Instantly I am turned off. The fact that Gaslight Anthem is a bro-tastic, glorified indie-version of Blink 182 that doesn’t even do it right was a letdown. So vanilla was the hard-and-fast rock-bordering-on-punk-but-with-a-dash-of-emotion that I left. I was hungry, and Gaslight wasn’t doing jack for me.

I returned just in time for to opening of Airborne Toxic Event, who I’d feared would be closer to the Gaslight category than they were. Pleasantly, I was mistaken. Like Ra Ra Riot they had a violin player, which I really like. She kinda danced around when she wasn’t playing like Ally Sheedy’s character in The Breakfast Club. Anyways, I really liked their music, probably because I’d throw them into the ever-growing pile of bands with lead vocalists channeling Ian Curtis in some way, shape, or form (a la The Killers, but with less flash). I’m a sucker for it though. The energy of their performance, especially their finale which killed had me sold that this too is worth pursuing!

Airborne Toxic Event: Incomplete Set List
‘Sometime Around Midnight’
(New Song)
Innocence


[ mp3 ♫ ]

Finally it was time for the headlining band, The Bravery. Me and The Bravery also go way back, to high school. ‘Honest Mistake’ was a big single, and I, dutiful music junkie that I am, marched out and bought the record, intrepid young lad that I was back in 2005. I remember listening to the record a good deal, and being disappointed that it wasn’t quite what I’d expected. It seemed… flat. Lacking in dimension or depth. Not bad, but it didn’t last more than a few months in my car-CD-rotation. It certainly doesn’t get regular play today…

So when I heard they were playing, I gave The Bravery another listen. My feelings were more or less unchanged. ‘Honest Mistake’ and ‘Public Service Announcement’ were still the substantive tracks, in my mind, and that was about it. However, hearing ‘Unconditional’ as the opening to the live set began to change my impressions. I was also surprised how many lyrics I remembered, almost second hand, after having spent so little time (recently) with the record. They’re fantastic performers (at the risk of using the same band for comparison, think of a down-and-dirty Killers, again with less flash) and I got a lot more out of the material from the performance than I ever did from the recording.

Begrudgingly, I’m looking forward to giving their second album a go, which I’d been avoiding until I heard these guys and had such a good time!

The Bravery: Nearly-Complete Set List
‘Unconditional’
‘Public Service Announcement’
‘Hatefuck’ (New Song)
‘Believe’
Jack-o-lantern Man (New Song)
[Title Unknown]
‘Swollen Summer’
[Title Unknown]
‘Time Won’t Let Me Go’
‘Fearless’
‘Any Way You Want It’ (Journey Cover; w/ Airborne Toxic Event)
‘Honest Mistake’

All-in-all, the show was fantastic. Boston is lucky to have a station as great as WFNX to put on a show as great as this. WFNX is lucky to have listeners with such good taste that these fantastic bands were at the top of their poll of the Best Music. Me? I was just lucky to be there.

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