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Archive for April, 2011

12 Good Looking Album Artworks (Post-2000)

Album artwork made its first appearance in 1938, when Alex Steinweiss introduced artwork over the previously, plainly labeled covers. This “invention” provided every album with its own unique identity and images that fans could associate their music with. When we think of an album, the first thing that often comes to mind is the cover; it’s become a peripheral of music that no album, EP, or single can do without, remaining with us even in the digital format.

The following twelve album artworks are not ranked in any particular order.

Fall Out BoyInfinity On High

The flying sheep and dream-like atmosphere are this cover’s best features. The artwork has depth and gives you plenty to look at, especially the various contrasts that coexist (moon/wall and crow/wall with light and dark values, closet interior/wall with temperature values). The artwork just has a unique dream feel.

Brand NewDeja Entendu

I have no idea why the astronaut is there, but this cover just looks, to put it simply, cool. Contrasting temperatures result in an odd feel that absolutely fits Brand New’s distinct rock sound. This feel is further expressed by the textures of the water and sky.

Death Cab For CutieNarrow Stairs

No stairs here to reflect the album title, but the cover looks fantastic nonetheless. The multi-hued red, green and blue colored strips of paper being layered have great visual texture and the fact that no two strips share the same tone (more or less) gives this cover a lot of interest.

Radiohead – In Rainbows

This pop art styled cover designed by Stanley Donwood, who has done every Radiohead artwork since 1994, looks like something created digitally when in fact it (surprisingly) isn’t. It features a galaxy photograph layered with paint and interesting type that looks simple and fits Radiohead’s style of experimental music. The variety of color also serves to reflect the album title itself.

MGMT – Congratulations

‘Psychedelic’ just about sums up this cover. Odd colors, an i-don’t-know-what’s-going-on scene, and the cartoony style makes the cover seem like it’s something you’d see in a weird dream or trip (drugs are bad for you, kids).

Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3

Clean cover, with something other than the generic rapper’s face or body photograph. From a distance, the red bars have strong dominance and clearly indicate the cover is of the 3rd installation of Jay-Z’s ‘Blueprint’ records. Closer up you notice the objects piled up which adds complexity and depth.

Delphic – Acolyte

The artwork is absolutely amazing. Great photo-manipulation of the band members and the smoke they fade into. It’s something you definitely won’t mind looking at on your ipod.The background may be a tad simple when the complex photomanip is placed on top, but the Delphic typeface works to ease the  combination.

Jimmy Eat World – Chase This Light

Beautiful photograph with vibrant colors, giving insight to what the music itself is like. Nothing really much to say, just a wonderful looking cover.

The Killers – Hot Fuss

Smoooth. A soft blue dominates the cover (plus hints of red), and gives off a fuzzy, mellow feel. The Killers’ logo typeface fits well too, although I’m not sure I can say the same for the buildings lining the bottom…

Kanye West – Graduation

The cartoon style of this artwork by Takashi Murakami is great and the colors are extremely eye-catching. The illustration features West in a teddy-bear form (known as “Dropout Bear”, referencing an earlier record) being shot out of a colorful, vectorized who-knows-what. This is one creative rap album cover that sets it apart from nearly every other.

Passion Pit – Manners

Green paint, white text. What else do you really need?

Pendulum – Immersion

The feel of this cover is great. This artwork by Polish artist Valp is mysterious and just seems to fit the sound of Immersion. The colors are great, using a majority of cool green and blue while adding hints of warmer purple and red to increase interest. There is just so much going on here that some may not notice all the subtle elements of the art from a quick glance or from their music player screens.

Listen: Tyler, the Creator – “Tron Cat”

The third song to drop from Tyler, the Creator‘s highly-anticipated sophomore LP Goblin is “Tron Cat”, following “Sandwitches” with fellow OFWGKTA member Hodgy Beats and the viral hit “Yonkers”. The new song, which was first previewed along with the album cover here, is a standard Tyler cut, featuring an ominous, yet surprisingly simple beat and his signature twisted rhymes. You can listen to the song below.

Goblin will be released on May 10th via XL Recordings.

Goblin Tracklist:
01. Goblin
02. Yonkers
03. Radicals
04. She
05 Transylvania
06. Nightmare
07. Tron Cat
08. Her
09. Sandwitches
10. Fish
11. Analog
12. BSD
13. Window
14. AU79
15. Golden

Review: Thursday – No Devolución

Thursday – No Devolución

Released: April 12, 2011
Label: Epitaph Records
Purchase: iTunes | Insound | Amazon

When pre-release songs from No Devolución started streaming online, certain fans decried the notable change in Thursday’s sound. The band has steadily inched from intense to atmospheric since the introduction of synthesizers in A City by the Light Divided. Two albums later, the synths are now the defining part of the sound. Contrary to these fans’ response, though, this style, when coupled with their best lyrics in years, feels like a natural progression that is still a perfect fit for the band.

“No Answers” is most demonstrative of this new sound, with drums backing thick synths and only minimal, yet still effective, guitars until the chorus. The atmosphere created by these perfectly-balanced textures complements the lyrics, which give a feeling of both intimacy and reluctant distance.

More often than not, the guitars take backseat to the other instruments in general, not just the synths. The drums and heavy, active bass drive the music much more frequently than they ever used to, such as in “A Darker Forest” and the U2-reminiscent “Sparks Against the Sun.”

This is not to say that the band has completely abandoned its post-hardcore roots, however. “Open Quotes” is purely vintage Thursday, faltering only when it hits the underwhelming chorus. “Turnpike Divides” pays homage not only to their New Jersey origins, but their earlier sound with heavier guitars and the blend of singing and screaming in the chorus.

The balance between heavy and atmospheric has produced some of Thursday’s best songs in years. “Sparks Against the Sun” mixes a distorted bass line with an meaningful piano progression to create a song that’s engaging before the singing even begins. The pre-chorus is extended so listeners can bask in the music before building up with a two measure synth line, leading to a powerful chorus.

“Past and Future Ruins” begins with a minute of anticipatory guitars and atmospheric noises until the intense drums kick in. The vocals and drums carry the song until the explosive chorus, which culminates in some of the darkest music and loudest howling that Thursday has every produced. Adding to this power are the excellent lyrics, a lamentation of our increasingly artificial culture.

No Devolución’s lyrics are also an excellent return for the band, yielding some of their best since their 2001 masterpiece Full Collapse. They cover universal themes such as broken relationships and satisfaction with one’s life, such as when “A Gun in the First Act” asks, “Do you find sleep comes easy / dancing with the empty silhouette of everything?” Even when one can’t discern a specific meaning, the careful word choice almost always sounds meaningful.

In fact, the lyrics are so integral to the album that they are a necessary part of many songs. As musically wonderful as almost every song is individually, some may have a tendency to sound similar or blend together were it not for the lyrics to give each a subtle personality.

The only songs that come up short in lyrics are the musically peppy “Millimeter” and “Magnets Caught in a Metal Heart,” the latter of which is weakest in terms of music as well. For a lighter song, it doesn’t use the synths as one may expect and Geoff Rickly’s vocals sound uncharacteristically bland.

The change in style has also hurt Rickly’s vocals on the whole. He employs an atmospheric moan in many songs, even sounding similar to Deftones’ Chino Moreno in the chorus of opener “Fast to the End.” With the exception of the two songs involving screams and the beautifully raw, stripped-bare “Empty Glass,” there is a general lack of dynamic range throughout the album.

Almost anticipating fans’ response to the album, the epic closing track “Stay True” reminds listeners to not sell out, to remain who they are. Looking beneath the musical surface, the soul of Thursday has followed this advice and remained true to itself. No Devolución is an excellent, progressive step forward for a band that appeared to have their best work already behind them.


Standout Tracks: “Sparks Against the Sun”, “Past and Future Ruins”, and “A Gun in the First Act”

Chiddy Bang Freestyle For 9 Hours Straight, Release New Mixtape

Chidera Anamege, the rapping half of Chiddy Bang, is currently performing an eight hour freestyle in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for “Longest Freestyle Rap”. The rap is live from Las Vegas for MTV’s digital music awards show, The OMA’s. Watch the performance live here.

You can help out by suggesting topics for the freestyle via Chiddy’s Twitter using the hashtag #RapWorldRecord.

The Philadelphia duo will also be releasing their new mixtape, Peanut Butter and Swelly, later today. Links will be provided when available.

Track: Curren$y & Alchemist – “Scottie Pippen (feat. Freddie Gibbs)”

Track: “Scottie Pippen (feat. Freddie Gibbs)”
Artist: Curren$y & Alchemist
Release Date: April 20, 2011
Label: Jet Life Recordings/Warner Bros.

This cut, taken from Curren$y‘s fifth studio album Covert Coup, features Curren$y and Freddie Gibbs trading verses over a dark, moody backing track courtesy of The Alchemist. Although only two verses long, “Scottie Pippen” is a nonstop showcase of both rappers’ lyrical and technical talents. Curren$y’s distinctive New Orleans drawl opens the track, bringing in a few basketball references and his signature punch lines before allowing Freddie Gibbs to take over the mic — and take over he does. Gibbs’s verse highlights the rapper’s incredible flow and rhymes, with the Indiana-based rapper spitting perhaps the strongest verse on the entire album. Seriously, is it even allowed for a feature to go this hard on a track?

“Scottie Pippen (feat. Freddie Gibbs)” is from Covert Coup, out now via Jet Life Recordings/Warner Bros. You can download it for free here.

Rating: 9/10

Odd Future Ink Record Deal, Start Odd Future Records

LA rap collective OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) have inked a deal with RED Distribution/Sony to form their own independent label, Odd Future Records. The new label will operate under the Sony Music umbrella, but will be completely independent in terms of creative control — something that is essential to Odd Future’s authenticity and image as a musical and artistic act.

Odd Future frontman Tyler, the Creator will still be releasing Goblin via XL Recordings on May 10, 2011, which will be the group’s first physical release. And as for the new record label’s first release? The group says that they have yet to decide and will begin planning a release schedule in the near future.

Review: Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

Released: April 25, 2011
Label: Temporary Residence Limited
Purchase: iTunes | Insound | Amazon

It’s been a while since post-rock band Explosions in the Sky released their album, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, and many questions lurk through the fans’ minds: what has changed in the last 4 years, and how will Explosions in the Sky be able to create new music that is fresh and adds something new to their incredible, innovative discography? Few albums have impressed me at first listen as much as their 2003 album, The Earth is a Cold Dead Place. While Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is quite engaging on first listen, it is an album designed for repeated listens.

Drummer Chris Hrasky once said that “I think we just liked the idea of a band that there was not a leader or main songwriter, everyone collaborating and has their own say. I don’t think any of us want the sort of ‘leader role’, so a leaderless band is kind of the best option for us.” A band that doesn’t employ words must use the entire band to make sure that the music can stay radical, and Explosions on the Sky thrives on this. Everyone plays a role in each song instead of having one, main front man for the group. The band members’ technical abilities and musicianship complement each other extremely well. As critical as the guitar is used in their songs to create the melody, the drummer is just as important. Chris Hrasky utilizes his drum kit to create the entire atmosphere for each song. In the track, “Trembling Hands”, the drumming is so momentous that it is the focal point of the song.

Trembling Hands” is the only song that utilizes vocals in Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, and it is the first time in six years that they have done this. The one and only other time they have done this was in “Day Two” on their experimental eight-day project, Travels in Constants, Volume 21: The Rescue. “Trembling Hands” is a track that is much different than the rest of the album, and discography. The singing, along with the drums, gives the band energy that has never been heard before in an Explosions in the Sky song. It is probably the most inventive song on the album.

In a few days on April 30, Explosions in the Sky will be playing at Hollywood Forever Cemetery to promote their new album, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. Post-rock is a genre of music that is normally made to be very despondent and tragic, so playing the album at that venue will be quite fitting. “Human Qualities” seems to be a rather quiet and desolate song. However, this long 6 minute and 49 second build-up makes the last minute incredibly awe-inspiring. Explosions in the Sky does a good job of this in Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. Explosions in the Sky fabricate songs that are not only melancholy, but they also create songs that are extremely inspirational and hopeful for its listeners. For the genre of post-rock, it is not the band that always chooses the meaning of the music, but rather the listener to discover how the music impacts them. Explosions in the Sky connect their listeners to an emotional level that can sometimes never be done with words.

With the exception of “Trembling Hands”, not much has changed in this album. For a band that is so inherently inspiring to others, Explosions in the Sky does not attempt to achieve many new heights. You could probably compile Take Care, Take Care, Take Care along with their first album, How Strange, Innocence, and not notice a difference. However, this is not a problem for Explosions in the Sky. If not changing their musical direction is a problem, fans would be complaining by their second album. Explosions in the Sky seem to keep faithful to their fan base by giving their supporters what they want.

With the release of Take Care, one has to wonder what’s next for this band? For now, the band that seems to be going nowhere but up, will keep themselves playing shows alongside Arcade Fire and a countless number of festivals such as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.


Standout Tracks: “Human Qualities” and “Trembling Hands”

Free White Lies Single and New Tour Dates

London’s White Lies are giving away a free MP3 download of “Holy Ghost”, the second single from the band’s new release Ritual. The band will be launching a seven-city tour in the United States by making an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman on May 16. They will return to the States later this summer with an appearance at this year’s Lollapalooza. Download the MP3 and check out the band’s tour dates below.

White Lies
May 17 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club
May 19 – New York, NY – Terminal 5
May 20 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
May 21 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse
May 24 – Austin, TX – Antone’
May 25 – Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s
May 26 – Mexico City – Vive Cuervo Salon
August 5-7 – Chicago, IL – Lollapalooza

Review: The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

Released: March 15, 2011
Label: Canvasback/ATL
Purchase: iTunes | Insound | Amazon

Do you remember that feeling you had the first time you heard the explosive chorus of “Adam’s Song”? So much passion and energy was wrought by just a few simple power chords. Although that was years ago and the magic has waned, The Joy Formidable, a three-piece band from Wales seeks to recreate that epic feeling on their debut The Big Roar and succeeds wondrously.

Although Roar is technically their debut, TJF are no strangers on the indie scene. Formed in 2007, they have gained popularity through the release of numerous singles and the mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning, not to mention a moderate amount of notoriety for having a video banned from YouTube. In fact, half of Balloon’s songs have been re-vamped for Roar, and what were good songs before have been turned into near-masterpieces, fitting in with the rest of Roar.

The band jumps right out of the gate with “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie,” evoking the fuzzy sounds of Silversun Pickups and The Smashing Pumpkins. Upon hitting the chorus, however, The Joy Formidable distinguish themselves from these influences. Where Smashing Pumpkins are brooding and Silversun Pickups are atmospheric, TJF have a constant intensity. The song ends with an instrumental buildup that transcends the sound of headphones or speakers, a sound that demands to be heard live.

This transcendent feeling emerges time and time again on Roar. “Cradle” is pop perfection- clapping along feels mandatory. The chorus of “Chapter 2” is such a simplistic progression, but it feels fresh and huge. “Whirring” also employs a lengthy instrumental breakdown that builds up the sound to epic proportions.

Relying on a huge sound in song after song would make them a one trick pony, but TJF is incredibly creative in their musicianship as well. They don’t write songs based on a variety of riffs, and one would think that their fuzzy sound would grow monotonous quickly, but it doesn’t. They manage to make great songs through the creative use of their simple tools.

For example, “Whirring” uses only three notes in its main line, but different accents on repetitions and the changing backing guitar chords create interesting layers. “Austere” is driven by the drum beat and bass line and has no real chorus. “Llaw=Wall” is a dualistic song, as indicated by the title. The first half is soft and atmospheric, but explodes in a wall of sound halfway through. In the midst of this, there is a beautiful, brief pause to deliver the line, “You’re the ugly truth.” A couple of verses, choruses, and a bridge rarely appease The Joy Formidable.

Another strength of the band is a charismatic, talented frontwoman. The adorable Ritzy Bryan blazes on the guitar, and her vocals are among the best in indie rock. She has a great amount of versatility in terms of both range and in the emotion of her singing.

This isn’t to denigrate the accomplishments of the other band members, though. Bassist Rhydian Dafydd takes center stage and carries songs such as “Austere” and “A Heavy Abacus.” Drummer Matt Thomas provides the consistently impressive backbone to each song and shines through especially in the furious “I Don’t Want to See You Like This” and the double-bass section in “Whirring.”

The lyrics don’t always reach the high bar set by the music and vocals. They often have a certain poetic imagery about them, but while some lines are straightforward, others are moderately baffling (“Abacus, haunting me/Abacus, watching me”).

The only other mild complaint is that a couple of songs don’t have as much strength or lasting power as others. “A Heavy Abacus” is a mid-tempo number that relies on a lot of power chords and lacks the punch of other songs. “Buoy” may have better served as a softer number to come down from the powerhouse “Whirring” right before it, but instead just feels overshadowed as it is.

These are only minor faults with an album great on so many levels. The vocals, musicianship, and big sound make The Big Roar an excellent debut and The Joy Formidable a band to watch in the coming years.


Standout Tracks: “I Don’t Want to See You Like This,” “Whirring,” “Cradle”

Video: Tyler, the Creator Loves Golf, Becomes Thurnis Haley

In a promo video for his forthcoming studio album GoblinOFWGKTA leader Tyler, the Creator plays the golf-loving Thurnis Haley, discussing his passion for the sport.

“Hey, I’m Thurnis. I’m 53 years old and I’ve been golfing all my life. I eat golf, I sleep golf. My wife get mad ’cause all I do is golf!” he laughs to the camera.

Goblin, Tyler’s second album, will be released on May 10, 2011 via XL Recordings and will be the Los Angeles rap collective’s first physical release.