Album Review: Jack White – “Lazaretto”

So I was hoping to have this up before Bonnaroo, but that obviously didn’t happen. I however, did get to see Jack at Bonnaroo, and it did kick ass. He played material spanning his entire career, including quite a few cuts from his second solo album, Lazaretto. Here are some words about that album. Enjoy.

“his most angst-ridden album to date.”

Jack White III has typically been a man of mystery. Throughout his career, he has avoided reporters, refused to discuss his work, and at one time, avoided drama by claimed that him and ex-wife Meg White were siblings. Recently however, the garage god has given the press a field day. In 2013, Karen Elson, White’s second ex-wife, filed a restraining order against him, one that was eventually called off. Later that same year, emails surfaced where White voiced grievances towards The Black Keys, claiming that they had “ripped off” his sound. He even refused to let his son attend the same school where Black Key’s frontman Dan Auerbach’s son was enrolled.

This year has been no better for White. Just last month in an interview with Rolling Stone, White proceeded to air his complaints towards Auerbach, Adele, Lana Del Ray, technology, and even Meg White. Since then, he has had to retract his statements and apologize.


This turmoil spills out over Lazaretto. It’s possible that White, at the age of 38, has made his most angst-ridden album to date.  In “I Think I Found The Culprit,” he plays the victim, misappropriated and wrongfully blamed. “I think I found the culprit. It looks like you, must be you.” White’s inflection sounds bitter and scornful. “Alone In My Home” is White in his usual recluse state, hiding from the world, where he can’t be persecuted. It’s one of his finest country ballads to date. The descending vocal melody during the verses (see: “through my door,”) is phenomenally addicting.

But Lazaretto isn’t all guarding. In “Entitlement” and “That Black Bat Licorice,” White shakes his fists at collective humanity, declaring in “That Black Bat Licorice,” “Don’t you want to lose the part of the brain that has opinions? To not even know what you are doing, or care about yourself or your species in the billions.” Not since “Icky Thump” has he vocally attacked the human condition with such force.


The music on Lazaretto is just as aggressive. The bass and organ on “Would You Fight For My Love” are as menacing as the vocals. “High Ball Stepper” doesn’t even need vocals. The violin, reversed piano, and banshee guitars rip through ear drums like they’re toilet paper. Refrains on “Three Women” and “Lazaretto” bring the songs back with a vengeance. Just when you thought White’s onslaught was over, he comes back with cheap shot to jaw just for good measure.

Overall, I thought Lazaretto is leaps better than Blunderbuss. White is aggressive and refuses to pull punches, both lyrically and instrumentally. Like on the album cover, White sits in his throne of rock, alone, not even looking in the direction of his audience. In the future, I’d like to see White pull something out of left field, release an album that takes everyone by surprise. But until then, his usual blues rock bliss leaves me satisfied.

EP Review: Among Giants – ‘Back and Forth’

Among Giants are a emo-esque post-hardcore collective whose debut album Truth Hurts was released back in 2012. I got my hands on the album sometime last year, and really enjoyed the blunt lyrics and personal atmosphere. Since then, they released a handful of split 7″s, but there second complete project Back and Forth just dropped in April. Enjoy.

among giants back and forth

Compared to Truth HurtsBack and Forth is a very different sounding Among Giants. They’ve grown. There’s more attention to detail: heavier use of electric guitar, expressive drums, added background vocals, and an overall more polished sound. The songs feel heavier, and there’s more to listen to. The drums and guitar on “The World is Not My Friend” are fast and abrasive; they add angst to the already uneasy message. On “Art School,” Greg Hughes guitar during the verse is very similar to those off of Truth Hurts, but because he’s using a more distorted electric guitar, they’re injected with an extra punch.

But, this thicker and fuller sound is double edged sword. The songs on Back and Forth don’t come off as personal as they were on Truth Hurts. Because there’s more to listen to, you’re distracted from Hughes’ vocals, and his once piercing lyrics don’t have quite the same effect. Another gripe I have is with some of the less-than-memorable guitar melodies. “Hardwood Floors” is a good example. The opening riff sounds like a reused Rise Against guitar melody, and I think the song would have sounded much better without it.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about Back and Forth. It’s nice to hear from Among Giants again, and they’ve released a couple of solid tracks here, but I miss the highly emotive feel of Truth Hurts. This EP tries for that same ethos, but is over-shadowed by the instrumentation.

 

EP REVIEW: Chris Topher – ‘Green Machine’

Chris Topher is the man. His experimental indie rock and electronic style really captured me on last year’s Introspective, and his latest release continues on a similar, but distinctive, path. With Green Machine, Topher is joined (inspired) by some truly legendary forces in the fields of art, science, and literature. Enjoy.

A Supergroup like no other

Carl Sagan. Jackson Pollock. Sylvia Plath. All visionaries in their respective fields, and all muses and accredited contributors to Chris Topher’s fourth EP, Green Machine. I feel an understanding of the inclusion of these three visionaries is vital to an understanding of Green Machine and its composer. So as I’ve listened to Green Machine, I’ve tried to find the influence of each. Here are my findings.

Carl Sagan, a groundbreaking astronomer, astrophysicist, and cosmologist, led the world further into the unknown void that is space. This vast exploration has mirrored Topher’s music throughout all of his releases, and Green Machine is no different. On pieces like “Dark Matter” and “Creators & Innovators,” synth chords are stretched to cataclysmic lengths, conjuring feelings awe, comparable to witnessing a black hole swallow a red giant. He makes you feel isolated and overwhelmed, similar to feelings Sagan himself thrust upon the public while educating them of our minute place in the universe.

Jackson Pollock, expressionist action painter, burst open the doors to modernism in New York City during the 1950’s. His wild splatter painting techniques shocked and confused the world, but now his paintings sell for millions of dollars and his legacy rivals that of Van Gogh. What Topher draws from Pollock, can be found in “Antigravity” and “Colour of Number 9.” Instruments seem to have a mind of their own, jutting in and out, creating odd time signatures and surprising splashes of color. “Colour of Number 9” in particular is an unpredictable piece. It fuses the sporadicness of Pollock, with the previously mentioned spacious sounds influenced by Sagan. This marks a new addition found on Green Machine. Where Topher’s last release featured similar sounds separated into different tracks, Green Machine combines the two. And just as Jackson Pollock’s seemingly random art concealed brilliant meaning, so does Topher’s.

Sylvia Plath, prolific poet and tragic figure, wrote work that advanced the genre of confessional poetry to new heights. This openness is what she contributes to Topher’s music. Because although we never hear Topher’s voice, we get a clear representation of who he is and what his music conveys. On the opening track “Green Machine,” we hear the buzz of Topher’s instruments being plugged in, followed by a somber piano piece. It’s a fitting introduction to Green Machine. In a way, I think it’s Topher telling us he’s about to lay himself out there for us, show us his mind. And throughout Green Machine, there is that closeness you get with all of Topher’s music that makes you feel like your right their watching him record.

I was lucky enough to receive the only copy of Green Machine pressed to vinyl. It’s the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten while writing for The Vinyl Warhol, and will continue to motivate me into the future. When it arrived, it was in a white paper sleeve with “Green Machine” written across the front in green colored pencil. Underneath was written, “At 2:01 a.m. a scientist, a poet, a painter, and a dreamer worked together… to create something beautiful.”

Thanks everyone.

Album Review: Mac DeMarco – “Salad Days”

Mac DeMarco is a Canadian lo-fi indie rock musician, who has just put out his third full-length album, Salad Days. This is my first taste of DeMarco, and his latest work came highly recommended. Let’s explore Salad Days together. Enjoy.

Slacker rock at its most comfortable

The first thing that I notice on Salad Days is DeMarco’s laid-back approach to just about everything. From the first few seconds of the self-titled track, DeMarco has pretty much shown you his method to music. If you listen to “Salad Days” and absolutely loathe everything you hear, don’t bother listening to the rest of the album. You will hate it. DeMarco’s not throwing a change-up any time soon. DeMarco is a 20-something, pot smoking, PBR drinking, chill-out-at-a-barbecue kind of guy. And his mid-tempo, soft strumming, relaxed vocal aesthetic reillustrates what you knew from first glance.


Salad Days is chocked full of these slow burning, gentle beachy indie rock tunes. Unlike other sand-infused artists Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin, DeMarco never shifts gears. Song after song we are met with extremely minimal change. Where Segall can have an album with both metalesque guitar riffs and poppy acoustic tunes, DeMarco is unwavering.

On short and sweet songs like “Blue Boy” and “Brother,” DeMarco’s burnout life feels enticing. You’re entranced into his fluid world, the guitars smooth as silk, and the vocals whisper hooks in your ear. In contrast however, the four minute long “Let My Baby Stay” drags on and on, without ever really going anywhere. By the tenth track “Go Easy,” you’re exhausted of DeMarco’s ever-present slacker mystique, and you suddenly feel the urge to hand-in an application at your local Walgreen’s Pharmacy.  On these songs, DeMarco sounds lazy and uninspired; hell, on “Jonny’s Odyssey,” the album’s closing track, he can’t even be bothered to write lyrics.

But I’m not condemning. DeMarco’s haze-filled universe; I’m just saying I don’t want to live in it for an entirety of an album. But, when Salad Days changes things up, even in just the slightest, it’s revitalizing. “Passing Out Pieces” introduces these catchy synth lines, that are fantastic, and sound like something off an early MGMT album. DeMarco himself sounds rejuvenated by the addition. Unfortunately, after the taste of something new, returning to the original formula in “Treat Her Better,” sounds dull and aged. It’s not a bad song, but pales in comparison to the synth glory of “Passing Out Pieces”.

Thankfully, the synthesizer returns for “Chamber of Reflections,” my favorite off of Salad Days. The track evokes an R&B groove with a cool performance from the rhythm section. DeMarco’s vocals are sly as he repeats the song’s hook “Alone again…” But like “Passing Out Pieces,” the element that really pushes this song to greatness, are the poppy synth lines. And if I had my way, all of DeMarco’s future releases would be loaded with similar infectious melodies. They add depth to his slacker rock mannerisms, and help shake up the album’s slower points.

In all, I’m feeling pretty lukewarm about Salad Days. There are tracks that I enjoy, but the album’s overall monotony has me weary about coming back to DeMarco. If he changes his game up a little more, I’ll be happy to give him another listen. But, if I get another album weighed down by lackluster tunes, than Mac DeMarco will have to sit on his couch and listen to Black Sabbath without me.

Classic Albums: Soulja Boy Tell Em’ – “Souljaboytellem.com”

I’ve been wanting to do one of these for a long time now. Here’s an album that I (and hopefully to you) consider to be a classic. These are albums that have tremendously impacted the way I look at music, and need to be shared with everyone. I do not take this stuff lightly. Enjoy.

We won’t stop until we crank the world.

DeAndre Cortez Way, known better by his moniker Soulja Boy Tell Em’, is a rap artist that burst onto the scene in 2007 with his debut-single, “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”. After appearing on the award-winning HBO series Entourage, “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” encapsulated the ears of every listener, eager to learn the 17-year-old’s signature steps. Less than seven months later, Way released his career defining debut-album Souljaboytellem.com.


“What are we going to do today Mr. Collipark?” “Same thing we do everyday Soulja Boy. Try to crank the world.” With this goal in mind, we are thrust into the world of Soulja Boy Tell Em’. But, Soulja Boy’s world isn’t solely about himself. He exists because of the people who love him, and throughout Souljaboytellem.org, Soulja Boy exclaims this with an empowering, “YOU!” Whether he’s motivating you to move in “Crank that” or condemning violence in “Let Me Get Em,” he fights to stir a change in society. In “Snap And Roll,” he YOU’s until he “Can’t no mo’.” This backbreaking determination is what pushed Souljaboytellem.gov into the spotlight.

“Crank That (Soulja Boy)” was released during my freshman year in high school. At this time, my naive tween self was overwhelmed by the wave of change that was new realm of George Jenkins High School. But among this confusion, something big hit. Something that unified me with the rest of the student body. A dance. And not only did one dance help me gain acceptance to an unfamiliar territory, it pushed me forward as a human being altogether. When a upperclassmen would approach me calling me “freshie” or “fresh meat,” I would take the knowledge I learned from Soulja Boy Tell Em’ and use it to my advantage. “Yahh trick yahh!”


Soulja Boy’s captivating influence continues on the track “Report Card.” The song is a narrative depicting the all-to-real struggle of a young, African American man working to gain the education he so rightfully deserves. He explicitly demands his educator to “throw some D’s on the that bitch.” Here lies the power of Souljaboytellem.tv, it not only motivates it’s listeners, it berates it’s critics.

The music throughout Souljaboytellem.net is most closely associated with trap music, but does incorporate distorted guitars, steel drums, and horns. Soulja Boy himself produced a majority of the album’s tracks, and his upbeat, quick personality shows through. Trap music has gained much more momentum in the recent years, and through his producing, Soulja Boy predicted and helped shape popular rap music today.

Although Souljaboytellem.edu does look forward in many ways, it perfectly captured the time it was made in. The song “Sidekick” plays with the idea of yesterday’s emerging “tek-nology” and it’s grasp on an unsuspecting culture. Myspace, the leading social network website at the time, is mentioned numerous times as a sign of gratification to the website that helped him become successful. Later in “Bapes,”  Soulja Boy raps about the fashion trends of 2007.

Whether through it’s empowering anthems, trend setting dance records, or catchy cultural choruses, Souljaboytellem.com stands as a landmark album of the 2000’s.

Record Roulette: Ray Charles

I love Ray Charles. When my musical interests were still infantile, the sounds of “Mess Around” and “(Night Time Is) The Right Time” enticed me. The biographical movie Ray blew the door open to a sea of old R&B, gospel, and soul music. The history in this type of music is remarkable. The slave roots. The oppression. The fight for equality. No matter your race, how could music with this much power behind it not grab you? It definitely gripped me tight. I was running around like little Rudy Huxtable, crazy about Ray Charles. And I knew when I found this record, that I needed to share it. Enjoy.

The Location: Some thrift store in Melbourne.

The Artist: Ray Charles

The Record: The Best of Ray Charles

The Price: $1.00

The Draw: Before I listened to music, I listened to Ray Charles. He is “The Genius.” And I would have paid $1 just to hear “St. Pete Florida Blues.”

I’m going to need a needle after this one. You get what you pay for, and I payed a dollar for 10 songs. The sound is so distorted, that I feel like it could break at any second. Seriously, was this the first record Charles ever laid down to wax? Nope. Actually, Design Records released The Best of Ray Charles in 1966. Okay, The BEST of Ray Charles. So… where are classics? “Georgia on my Mind?” “Hit the Road Jack?” “What’d I Say?” Nowhere on here. It seems that biggest hit Design Records owned the rights to was “Rocking Chair Blues.” You know, the summer smash of 2010? Who doesn’t remember “Rocking Chair Blues?!” That didn’t happen? Oh.

The ever-looming crackling on The Best of Ray Charles adds a somber tone to Charles’ typical sultry voice. Most of the songs on the compilation feature dark subject matter, and condition of the record only adds to Charles’ ever-growing blues. As for “St. Pete Florida Blues,” the song feels like home. It’s simple in structure, but Charles’ has always found a way to make familiar sounds feel special. There’s what I think is a guitar solo towards the end of the track, that is bare-bones in composition. It sounds like one string tied to a wall, being plucked at mercilessly. The guitar’s striped elements mirror the  black musicians from The Great Depression: intense sorrow and ruthless struggle. Just because these aren’t the hits, doesn’t mean they’re not good. “The Genius” never disappoints.

 

Peace Treats Records – “Greetings from Orlando” PART NEXT TO LAST

We’re deep into the back half of “Greetings from Orlando,” and show no signs of slowing down. Only one more set left. Enjoy.

READ PARTS ONE, DEUCE, AND THIRD NOW!!!! I’LL KILL YOU.

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The Haroux – “Suzie Baby”

I’m really excited about what’s to come for The Haroux. Their first EP will be released in the next few months, and they’ve already proven themselves with their live show. “Suzie Baby” is an impressive taste of what’s to come.  The song starts as bare bones garage rock, but when the effects kick in, the song takes on new life. The vocals drone over the top of the instrumentation, effectively tying the two halves together. If you enjoy The Haroux’s Tame Impala-esque sonic experimentation, stay tuned, because “Suzie Baby” is just the tip of the iceberg.


Hear more from The Haroux on their Bandcamp!

ButterQueen – “Cover Up”

ButterQueen holds a special place in this blogger’s black heart. One of my earliest articles was covering a show featuring the three-some, and they gave me some much appreciated support. My first impression of Butterqueen: “Composed of one part Wet Nurse, one part Basements of Florida, and one part Tam Tam the Sandwich Man, this Frankenstein’s Monster came out swinging…Vocal duties [alternate] between salty and sweet, but their sound is all sleaze.” “Cover Up” keeps the whisky dreams alive, with a Stone’s influenced riff and numerous vocal melodies. Although ButterQueen may not be the most thought provoking Orlando band, they are without a doubt one of the raunchiest, and there music will keep you drinking, fighting, and fucking all night long.


ButterQueen survive on a diet of booze and cigarettes on their self-titled release out now!

Pasty Cline – “Fixed Point In Time”

Pasty Cline is like folk music put through a blender: messy, crass, and loud as hell. This solo-project by Girl on the Beach’s Connor Safran is a radical departure from his other work, and let’s us see another side of his musical personality. The whole song sounds like it was recorded with a shitty microphone in a single take. There’s an electric guitar buzzing in my ear, whilst Safran’s distorted voice blast through my speakers. The minimalist percussion consists of a thumping which evokes footsteps. One man, one message. Golden.


Haven’t gotten your fix? It’s okay. Pasty Cline has a whole album of jams just waiting.