1/20/14 Bag of Tracks: The Dead Weather, Chris Topher, U2

Good day all. I trust everyone’s MLK Day is going swell. I had a great weekend, even though I worked most of it. I saw the movie Her on Friday, and it was incredible. Now that we’re getting closer to Oscar night, I’ve been watching more and more movies. But, Her is by far my favorite of this award season. Everyone should go see it. I also made a trip over to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg for the opening of their Andy Warhol exhibit. I was absolutely floored. If you live in Florida try to make it over there before it closes in April. Two of the greatest artists of the 20th century are brought together to showcase some breathtaking art.

On to today’s blog! It’s been a while sense we’ve had “A Bag of Tracks,” and we’ve got some good ones for you. Enjoy.

The Dead Weather – “Open Up (That’s Enough)”

The Dead Weather come screaming back with “Open Up (That’s Enough),” their first new material since 2010’s Sea of Cowards. This track is the most furious Dead Weather song since “Treat Me Like Your Mother”. Allison Mosshart takes the reins on vocal duties, with Jack, Little Jack, and Dean singing backup. During the chorus the three men struggle to contain Mosshart, warning her, “That’s enough, that’s enough.” But, she keeps pushing forward into a flurry of rock. The group have plans to release a full-length in 2015, and will be putting out several singles from the album this year. You can listen to “Rough Detective,” the second song released, on Spotify.

Chris Topher – “Creators & Innovators”

For those who don’t remember, I reviewed Chris’ EP Introspective a few months back and was blown away by the sonic bliss. Shortly after I reviewed the EP, I talked to Chris about how much I loved his music and what he planned to do with it in the future. He initially said that Introspective was going to be his last release, but after how well it was received, he was inspired to continue creating. That brings us to “Creators & Innovators”. The microphone crackles as Chris begins with a warped synth line. Like the rest of his music, I’m instantly transported to another world. I get lost in the continuous drum beat that is both big and beautiful. The whole song is intergalactic in size and feel. As the music closes, an old radio sample, which has become a staple for Chris, follows us out with a thought provoking monologue. Goosebumps.

U2 – “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”

Obviously, this song was written back in the 80’s, but today it has extra meaning. For those who are unaware, this song is about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I think “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” captures the humble preacher’s character perfectly. His struggle. His persistence. His message. As Bono so beautifully puts it, “Free at last, they took your life. They could not take your pride.” Even if you hate U2, I hope today you can feel something marvelous. Have a wonderful day.

EP Review: Chris Topher – ‘Introspective’

Chris Topher is Melbourne-based experimental indie rock artist (to be honest it’s hard to pinpoint what genre Topher fits into) who just released his third EP, Introspective. Topher has had a busy year, releasing his first and second EPs, Hearing Colours and Abstract Thoughts respectively. The release of Introspective coincidences with Topher’s birthday, so happy birthday Chris (hope it doesn’t suck)! Enjoy.

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You can download all of Chris’ albums for free at his bandcamp.

Chris Topher, Christopher… Wait a second…

There’s something about this album that makes me feel good. Actually, there’s a lot about this album that makes me feel good. From the opening piano riff on “Greenwich Village (Intro),” to the humming reverse guitar on the closer, the little details stand out as heartwarming. The songs aren’t bogged down with layers upon layers of exaggerated instruments, as is the case with some purely instrumental albums. Introspective is very detailed, but the sounds favor quality to quantity. This allows the listener to examine and dissect each piece, which is where Introspective pulls you in.

The piano melodies are without a doubt my favorite part of Introspective. The deep piano in “Iceland,” paired with synthesized strings creates a haunting portrait. Although I’ve never been to Iceland, I imagine the atmosphere fits the eerie landscape Bjork calls home. “Greenwich Village (Intro)” and the intro to “Golden Ratio” are two other spots on Introspective where the piano is sticks out.

However, Topher doesn’t rely solely on piano to carry Introspective. Drums, strings, and bass all shine at times on the EP, helping keep it fresh. Some tracks utilizes vocal samplesa decision that helps transition from one song into the next, and breaks up the absolute instrumentation that would otherwise be this EP. Boredom isn’t a problem here. There’s always something interesting to keep the listener engaged. The symbols on “Greenwich Village (Intro)” are so jazzy, they take me dim lit 1920’s underground bar. The rhythm again hits me on “Surrealist Eyes,” as Topher switches from drum machine to kit effortlessly. This, along with the Mike Wallace sample, makes “Surrealist Eyes” one of Introspective’s best.

“The Day Before Tomorrow” is another highlight, the most extravagant on the album. Like “Iceland,” it’s another song that builds an environment. The reversed sounds fly by like the Aurora Borealis on a desolate glacial landscape. Being that Topher is a Florida native, I can only assume these sounds are coming from a feeling within, rather than from his surroundings. It becomes even more obvious when you take into consideration the feeling these sounds give you, the self-reflection of the songs, and the name of EP.

Okay, enough spiritual talk, back to the music. I have a bone to pick with  Introspective: the guitar melodies aren’t as strong as I would have hoped. It could be that Topher isn’t as comfortable on guitar as other instruments, but the good majority of the guitar parts aren’t nearly as impressive as the rest of the instrumentation. On “Surrealist Eyes” it doesn’t ruin the song, but I don’t think guitar adds anything to the piece. “Golden Ratio” is another place where the guitar pull down the song. The piano is interesting; I love strings in the break of the song, but the guitar is just okay. Luckily, the EP doesn’t end there. It is followed by “Sheep in Fog,” my favorite on Introspective. So, I can forgive. The best guitar melody is on “Carnival of Light,” but it’s my least favorite song of the whole project. The first guitar part you hear is pretty interesting, but as another layer comes in, the first is drowned out. With a title like “Carnival of Light” I expect something far vaster, more exciting. Adding piano melody would have made the song much more expansive.

Altogether, I love Introspective. The way the each song flows into the next is beautiful, as if the EP was recorded in one session. On “Greenwich Village (Intro),” the listener hears Topher footsteps as he walks on stage and starts playing. Other raw elements, like his coughs or his instrument’s feedback, add to the personal feel. Topher allows us into his home, his mind. Finally, on “Sheep in Fog,” he sends you on a walk through an empty city, over Introspective‘s most beautiful sounds. Then, he walks away.