Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Check Out: Me & My Arrow and Future Ghosts

I've discovered a couple of bands that have peaked my interest.  As far as I know, they are both unsigned.

The first is Me & My Arrow, which is a one-man instrumental progressive rock project.  He will be releasing his first album on Dec. 13th, over on Bandcamp.  You can head over to to listen to a track from the album called "Men Without Chests".  This song is very good.  I am definitely looking forward to hearing the whole album.

The other band is Future Ghosts (love the name), who are an alternative rock band with pop elements.  You can watch their video for "Spotless" below, as well as, download two demos for free on Bandcamp.  "Spotless" is one hell of a catchy tune.  I'm not sure if/when these guys will be releasing an album, but the songs I've heard so far have me hoping that it will be soon.

August Burns Red Cover 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'

August Burns Red have released a really awesome rendition of the Christmas tune 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'.  I have to say, it is their best Christmas cover to date.  You can listen to the track below, as well as purchase it on iTunes and Amazon.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Simple Thanksgiving Playlist

This week has been a sad one.  Both Thrice and Thursday, two amazing bands that have done so much for the music scene as well as my own musical endeavors, have called it quits (aka, gone on indefinite hiatus).  I wish them the best.  To celebrate all that they've done and give thanks to these musical greats, I have created a very simple playlist for this Thanksgiving holiday.

I've taken both artists' complete catalogs and thrown them into a playlist, and am listening to them on random.  If you enjoy these two band, I urge you to do the same.  If you've never listened to these two amazing bands, just search them out on iTunes and/or Amazon and get some albums!!

Rock on!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: Collapse Under The Empire - Shoulders & Giants

Shoulders & Giants, in plainest terms, is a soundtrack without a movie.  Really, you could see any track off of this album accompanying a scene of some dramatic and/or action scene of a movie.  Instead, however, the listener is treated to a fusion of rock and electronica that, although may not perhaps push the threshold of the genre, is still one hell of an addicting and satisfying album.

Collapse Under The Empire (note the humorous acronym) consistes of the duo, Martin Grimm and Chris Burda, from Hamburg, Germany. Shoulders & Giants is their 3rd release since their formation in 2007 and is actually the first part of a two-part concept album.  The second part, Sacrifice & Isolation, will be released sometime next year.  I was immediately hooked by this album from the get-go. "Shoulders" slowly draws the listener in with some dark guitar riffs, eventually leading into a flowing guitar with a steady beat.  What follows are a conglomerate of songs full of excellently layered and catchy electro-rock.  Album standout, "There's No Sky", really leads the listener through a sweeping explosion of mellow melodies from the keys, while I also really enjoyed the driving intensity of "After the Thaw".  With all the intensity, however, I still felt a constant mellowness throughout.  It is clear that this album definitely has dark undertones, which appear most evident in "Disclosure".  However, I felt a sense of optimism still show through during the interplay between keys and guitar in other songs, like "A Riot of Emotion".

Since hearing this album, I have definitely been going back to listen to it more and more.  To be honest, I would love to see these guys actually compose a soundtrack for a movie in the future.  But, for now I will just keep listening to Shoulders & Giants, and I look forward to the second part next year.

Definitely check it out!

You can buy Shoulders & Giants on iTunes and Amazon.

Review: O'Brother - Garden Window

Dark, heavy, thoughtful, emotional, sweeping, beautiful, and edgy are among the many adjectives that could be used to describe the songs that comprise O'Brother's debut album, Garden Window.  There is a certain unpredictability in each song that captures the essence of Garden Window.  Life is unpredictable, and can be full of many twists and turns as we search for ourselves and our beliefs.  It is clear that past and present influences are an important inspiration for O'Brother's construction of Garden Window.  While maintaining a constant search for answers to their own theology, they also make no effort to hide the musical influences that helped shape this album.  To just name a few, the sounds of Radiohead, Tool, Blonde Redhead, the Deftones, and Converge resonate from Garden Window.  Co-producers, Andy Hull and Robert McDowell from Manchester Orchestra, also add some of their own signature sound to this album, most evident in "Sputnik", in which Hull has guest vocals.

Garden Window really demands your attention right from the start.  I typically can work while listening to music in the background, but I was constantly distracted as I listened to this album.  There is definitely a lot to take in.  The tracks that really stand out are "Malum", "Easy Talk (Open Your Mouth)", "Cleanse Me", and "Last Breath".  The solid rocker, "Lay Down", will also most likely be a fan favorite.  "Malum" opens the album with a heavy intensity, the distortion almost at the edge of dissonance, only to immediately transition to clean vocals and guitars at the start of "Lo".  This really set the mood for the rest of the album and instantly grabbed my attention.  "Easy Talk", on the other hand, takes things down a notch with some absolutely beautiful layering.  "Cleanse Me" is one of the most harrowing tracks on the album. Starting with a heavy crescendo, the song suddenly turns to a clean ambience only to revert back to the distortion at the end.  Note also, that this song has a runtime of fourteen minutes.  To keep the listener captivated over such a long period is quite the feat in itself.  "Last Breath" ends the album with a beautiful polar opposite to the distortion that started the album.

O'Brother have really begun to make a name for themselves, having toured with the likes of Thrice, The Dear Hunter, and Manchester Orchestra.  Their debut album will only increase their rise above the multitude of rock bands.  With such a solid debut, it will be exciting to see what these guys will produce as they further refine their sound.

Definitely check it out!

You can purchase Garden Window on iTunes and Amazon.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Free Download of Remix of Thrice's "Words in the Water"

You can now download Polaris At Noon's remix of "Words in the Water" for free here! Now there's no reason not to get this awesome version of an amazing song!  You can still listen to the song in yesterday's post.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thrice's "Words in the Water" Remixed

Listen to a pretty sweet remix, by Polaris At Noon, of the song "Words in the Water" that comes from Thrice's latest release, Major/Minor.  By the way, Major/Minor is my current album of the year.  So, if you haven't heard it yet, you should definitely check it out!  Then buy it!

Get More: Thrice, MTV Shows

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Playlist of the Month - A Lesson in Trip-Hop

Fall is here, and that's when my musical tastes begin to transition to trip-hop sounds.  Back in the 90s, while all of my high school friends were busy adoring Kurt Cobain and other grunge groups, I was just starting to get into the trip-hop scene.  More specifically, I was getting into Massive Attack.  Later, I became a huge fan of the genre and fell in love with other trip-hop staples, such as Tricky, Zero 7, Portishead, DJ Shadow, UNKLE, Morcheeba, and other newer groups that have surfaced.  But, at it's core, trip-hop will always be dominated by Massive Attack.  These guys just keep pumping out amazing material.  If you've never heard of any of these groups, and don't know much about trip-hop, then you're missing out on some of the best music ever created.

I have put together a new playlist of songs that I tend to enjoy by these groups, as well as by some relatively unknown artists.  This list is definitely a good starter, but is by no means complete (I have an "ultimate trip-hop" mix that contains around 300 songs!).

Have a listen, and let me know what you think!

1) A Necessary End - Saltillo
2) Teardrop - Massive Attack
3) Lionheart - Emancipator
4) Aftermath - Tricky
5) Culture of Fear - Thievery Corporation
6) Destiny - Zero 7
7) Everywhen - Massive Attack
8) Black Steel - Tricky
9) Organ Donor (Extended Overhaul) - DJ Shadow
10) Pray for Rain - Massive Attack
11) Glory Box - Portishead
12) A Hair on the Head of John the Baptist - Saltillo
13) Lonely Soul - UNKLE
14) Kiara - Bonobo
15) Moog Island - Morcheeba
16) Paradise Circus - Massive Attack
17) Giving Up the Ghoast - DJ Shadow
18) Burn My Shadow - UNKLE
19) Black Sands - Bonobo
20) Incantations - Massive Attack
21) Every Day - Tricky
22) Six Days - DJ Shadow
23) Mandala - Thievery Corporation
24) Rabbit in Your Headlights - UNKLE
25) Roads - Portishead
26) Danny the Dog - Massive Attack

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review: A Winged Victory for the Sullen - Self-Titled

Those of you who know me, know that I have somewhat eclectic tastes when it comes to music.  It may not be so apparent, given my top 10 of the year so far, but I do love it when I find an album that is completely different from what I'm used to.  That's why I'm so glad I checked out A Winged Victory for the Sullen.  I recently discovered them when they were featured over at  A Winged Victory for the Sullen consists of composers, Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O'Halloran, which began as an experiment to see if they could compose an album together.  Well, they succeeded, and the result is one of the most beautiful instrumental albums of the year.

The first track of the album, "We Played Some Open Chords", starts with what sounds like an orchestra warming up just before a performance.  This is immediately followed by the gentle strike of the piano as it leads us into the flowing, emotional body of this first piece.  Perhaps it's just the time of year, but this song invoked an image of a steady breeze swaying the branches of a tree as its leaves gently fall to the ground.  The following two tracks make up "Requiem for the Static King".  Again, these songs traverse a winding ambience. However, in "Part 1", the listener is led by a brilliant, melancholy melody of strings, while in "Part 2", we are left to explore the full embodiment of ambience followed by an intermittent piano that eventually steers our ears towards the end.  The piano then takes the forefront in "Minuet for a Cheap Piano".  Both "Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears" and "A Symphony of Pathetique" boast enchanting crescendos that build to a haunting ensemble of strings.  I particularly loved how "A Symphony of Pathetique" starts with rain-drops of piano chords accompanied by a tender background of strings that build to the song's climax at its middle, only to return to the gentle raps of the piano at the end.  The song is truly stunning, as some of the best chords flourish here.  The album then finishes off with "All Farewells Are Sudden", in which the listener is, again, shrouded by a dark ambience, but is then led to the end by piano.

It is possible that some might feel a sense of sameness throughout the album.  This is, in part, due to the slow and steady ambience created in the background of each song.  One would imagine this was done on purpose to connect all of the songs.  Wiltzie and O'Halloran manage, however, to include such varying melodies, chord changes, and crescendos to keep each piece fresh and interesting.  Really, A Winged Victory for the Sullen have created an absolutely beautiful piece of modern classical work in a year otherwise dominated by pop-punk, pop-rock releases.  The emotion and imagery that this album invokes has kept me coming back for more and more listens to see what else I might find hidden away in the music. 

If you are a fan of ambient, instrumental music, or are just looking for something different, I strongly recommend you don't overlook this album.  It is definitely worth a listen.

You can purchase A Winged Victory for the Sullen on iTunes and Amazon.

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