Saturday, February 2, 2013

SISTAR 19 - "Gone Not Around Any Longer"

Over the past few weeks I've gotten a lot of requests to review this and that, and if you were one of those who asked, my answer has always been "I'll try", because no matter how much I want to write about all the great music I've been listening to, I'm going through a really rough patch with school and just this week I had to go to class all week with a flu and throat and ear infections left and right. I was hoping to get some "work" done on the blog over the weekend which is why I started listening to all the stuff I missed out on over the past few weeks and I got to the new SISTAR 19 EP when they came. The tears.

Sometimes I think my reviews are far too personal, especially when I read other blogs and critics and I get jealous at how well they compartmentalize and just go straight to the music, but then I remember that I always complain about acts not showing enough sincerity and emotion. If I don't show you guys, if I don't tell you, what I felt and how those emotions came, then there's a very slim chance that my review won't be as effective as it could've been. If I can't move myself, and show you that I was moved, how am I supposed to even begin trying to move you.

So yes, the SISTAR 19 EP made me cry. Twice. You probably don't know this, but I'm the type of person who, out of both necessity and years of trying, has forged a kind of mask. I don't cry unless it's serious, it's always when no one's looking, and no matter how depressed or stressed out I am, on the outside I've made myself out to be perfectly fine. I don't talk about my problems with my friends or my parents, I've held in majority of my frustrations and self-esteem issues, and I know it's dangerous and I shouldn't be holding things in, which is why I started writing.

The main reason why this made me cry was because "Gone Not Around Any Longer" is a really, really good EP, plain and simple. Call it a shallow reason, but honestly I think it's the only reason why I'd ever cry over the music I listen to. Of course it was enforced by the fact that I've been having a really hard time lately, but like I said I may not be able to compartmentalize when I write, but I do a ridiculously good job of it in real life. The fact that this was a good EP, the fact that this is such a beautiful EP, was what made the dam break open.

As a whole, I really love the light-hearted sound of the EP because for once it's a sound I would definitely imagine a bunch of young-ish girls to pursue. It's youthful, it's fun and light-hearted, but at the same time it is sexy, and it is feminine. This is the part between innocent little girl and woman in her late 20's/early 30's that pop tends to forget, or can't really capture accurately because it's neither of the polar opposites, but which also happens to be a pretty big part of fan bases. But from what I've heard on this EP, it looks like SISTAR 19 had no problem capturing that playful femininity and delivering it with conviction, cohesion, and a sense of effortlessness.

When I first heard "Gone Not Around Any Longer" the song, it was a pleasant surprise more than anything. I had read some comments on it last night and the negativity of them only made my surprise even more striking. It sounds very Brave Brothers, but this is one of those "once in a blue moon" times when he manages to find an extremely effective compromise between the familiar and the fresh, as far as his previous productions are concerned. For the most part, the selling point of this song is how he took all those makeshift "jazz" elements we've heard before, those familiar loops, that trumpet he seemed to be attached to all of last year, and even those high-pitched "ooh ooh"'s, but he didn't weigh them down even more with a very intense melody like the one in "Alone". Instead, he went one step further and actually gave the melody some spring to its step.

The result is a song with depth, with both a mysterious air and a cheery disposition -- it's feminine and sexy without being flat or boring. You get a song with some really gorgeous instruments like that crisp drum kit that literally made me melt, and that gutsy but graceful electric guitar, all delivered with effortlessly musical dynamics which make for some really heart-stopping but natural transition. And on top of all that there's this gorgeously put-together and thoughtfully delivered melody that gives the song power all while reenforcing the over-all graceful facade. Though it would still be outrageous to compare this song to heaven’s gift to man kind in the form of Craig David’s “Fill Me In”, first because that song is immortal and second because they’re two different songs with different destinations, they’re similar in one thing -- “Gone Not Around Any Longer”, especially the chorus, is probably the closest recent K-Pop has gotten to capturing and successfully delivering that nonchalant, “cool” but urgent and confident sound which “Fill Me In” is the epitome of.

I never thought I'd live to see the day a Brave Brothers production would stun me as much as After School's "Because Of You" did, but it looks like I have.

As much as I now worship "Gone Not Around Any Longer" for being a brilliant piece of pop music, it was ultimately "A Girl In Love" that drove the album's point home. I find it quite ironic that the most light-hearted song on the album was the one that drew the most emotions from me, but that's exactly why it's my favorite song. I don't know how many times I've said this, but really, the hardest thing to do is to deliver a simple song well, because a lot of people take them for granted and end up just doing an average job. "A Girl In Love" is the complete opposite, because it's such a simple, almost generic song, but you can hear that everyone who had a hand in it took it seriously.

What I really like about the song is how you can actually hear everything going on without putting too much thought into things, from the melody to the tambourines and the synth lines. But instead of the quietness turning into a competition between the elements, they do the complete opposite and bring out the strengths in each other. The gracefulness of the melody gives way to the texture of the tambourines and the sophistication the loops are going for.

What ultimately convinced me though is the fact that while this song was clearly taken seriously, it only served to make the over-all sound and atmosphere even more fun and light-hearted. Because everyone knew what to do, very minimal concentration was required for the basic "what note do I play", so everyone turned to the next question, "how do I hit this note". It's that kind of mindset that makes for a good song, because like I always say, in pop it's not about what you do, because majority of the songs are pretty much all the same, it's about how you do it. This isn’t a pretentious song, it’s exactly what you hear it as, and it doesn’t give off that air of trying too hard -- whatever depth or beauty you get from the song is a natural byproduct. This, my friends, is called chemistry. Chemistry between the elements, the instruments, the arrangement and melody, and with the delivery.

Honestly I thought that “Ma Boy” would destroy the momentum of the album, because from what I could remember it didn’t have that gentle intensity to it -- even if it has that fun element, the hook was a lot heavier and I recalled it having a different over-all feel from the two new tracks. But when I actually listened to it in relation to the rest of the EP, I was surprised when the real effect was the exact opposite of what I thought it would be. “Ma Boy” works with the other two songs precisely because of my reasons for thinking it wouldn’t. It’s a lot heavier most probably because it was produced before they even thought of putting it on the EP, but it’s that weight and intensity, coupled with the playful element present throughout all three songs, that gives the EP some dynamics. If the previous two songs were more concentrated on the “how”, on the process and the elements, “Ma Boy” goes ahead and delivers the punch for the whole EP. This is how you do dynamism right, not only with conviction, but with cohesion to boot.

I never thought I would say this about a release by SISTAR, or any division of, but if I were to sum up this EP in one word, I’d say it’s masterful. It’s masterful pop music, the kind that doesn’t claim to be “intellectual”, but in having all the qualities of the epitome of a pop release, becomes intellectual anyway. It is in these kinds of EPs that I get proof of the depth of songs that most people deem “shallow”.


Arc & Stones - Self-Titled EP

Every generation thinks it has discovered something new and different.  What was blues became rock 'n roll.  What was rock 'n roll became rock.  What was rock became classic rock then became new wave then alternative rock with plenty of little steps in between.  The genre categories have become so sliced and diced that you might as well say each band that has its own sound is a genre sub-category.  Yet, every band's sound is rooted in the past.  There is no Steve Vai without Jimi Hendrix.  There is no Jimi Hendrix without Bo Diddley.  There is no Bo Diddley without Muddy Waters.  There is no Muddy Waters without Robert Johnson. So, when four early twenty year old guys from Brooklyn, New York in a group named Arc & Stones, call themselves an "alternative rock band" with a "new progressive sound," I take the description with a grain of salt.  I mark such hype up to naivete and youthful enthusiasm. 

Sure enough my cynicism was validated as I listened to their first and only release, a five track self-titled extended play.  Arc & Stones does not provide a "new progressive sound," it provides some of the greatest sounding classic hard rock anthems and ballads I've heard since the late 1980's.  This is quite an amazing feat when you consider that not one of the band members was even alive when their sound was at its popularity peak.  For this young "alternative band" it might just prove to be a great place to start a rock music career.

The first track on the EP, "Silence",  is anything but quiet. Singer Dan Pellarin (he is also known to pick up a guitar or pick at the keyboards) has the vocal chops of an early Steven Tyler.  They drip with sweet rock emotion.  He just brings it, not just on "Silence", but on all five cuts on the EP. Lead guitarist Ben Cramer ably negotiates the quiet and loud blues-based pleas while bassist Eddy Bayes and drummer Joe Doino pound out the rhythm.  The remaining four tracks, in order, "Say Goodbye", "Let Me Down", "She's Mine" and "Rise", follow a similar curve with slowly building tensions that burst into raucous anthems and ballads of gargantuan proportions.

Significant credit for Arc & Stones' recorded sound must go to a non-band member, Jeremy Griffith, who produced the recordings.  His guiding midas touch is best displayed on "Let Me Down",  with its vocal hooks that build until a choir envelops the listener.   Don't get the idea that this band is all production.  These guys jointly write song lyrics. The classic hard rock throwbacks thrown down do not sound dated. Despite it not being a new sound, this rock music sound is timeless. 

- Old School

Friday, February 1, 2013

OCTOBER TIDE - Album Details and Fest Appearances

Swedish Melodic Gloomlords OCTOBER TIDE have revealed the album artwork cover for the band's upcoming full-length effort entitled Tunnel Of No Light.
Comprising of eight sorrowful, doom-laden tracks, Tunnel Of No Light sees the band going towards a somewhat more straightforward yet heavier direction but still very much keeping the traditional OCTOBER TIDE sound.

Tunnel of No Light is OCTOBER TIDE's fourth full-length album and first for Pulverised Records, who the band recently signed with. An early 2013 release date is expected. 

OCTOBER TIDE has announced appearances at this year's Depressive Fest in Moscow and Germany's Protzen Open Air. Dates and details are listed below:

Depressive Fest - April 13th, 2013 @ Moscow Hall - Moscow, Russia w/ Fen, Ahab 
& The Devils Blood - WEB 

Protzen Open Air - June 21st - 23rd, 2013 - Protzen, Germany w/Cryptopsy, Master & more

1) Of Wounds To Come
2) Our Constellation
3) Emptiness Fulfilled
4) Caught In Silence
5) The Day I Dissolved
6) Watching The Drowners
7) In Hopeless Pursuit
8) Adoring Ashes


Alexander Högbom (Volturyon, Spasmodic) - Vocals
Fredrik Norrman (Uncanny, ex-Katatonia) - Guitars
Mattias Norrman (Dellamorte, ex-Katatonia, ex-Interment) - Bass
Emil Alstermark  - Guitars
Robin Bergh (Aoria, Palefeather) - Drums


Mos Generator to support Saint Vitus on European Tour; Interview Opportunities Available

Ripple Music and MOS GENERATOR are pleased to announce the heavy rockin' power trio's support spot on SAINT VITUS' European tour beginning March 5th on Koln, Germany and ending March 27th in Hamburg. Touring in support of October 2012 Ripple Music release Nomads, the band's classy 'n catchy brand of heavy rock is sure to leave audiences with mouths agape and ears ringing.

The introspective and dynamically heavy Nomads marked the triumphant return of MOS GENERATOR after a three year hiatus. Fusing the band's trademark sound of explosive heavy dissonance with equally beautiful melodic passages, the Port Orchard trio is giving Hard Rock fans a 40-minute rock n' roll treat that was five years in the making. Available on CD, vinyl LP, and digital download at Nomads is unequivocally recommended for fans of Mountain, Black Sabbath, Corrosion of Conformity, Judas Priest, Monster Magnet, Deep Purple, Queens of the Stone Age, Kiss.

Check out the video for "Lonely One Kenobi" off of Nomads at this location.


*Mos Generator only
2/1 Flights Pub - Everett, WA  
2/9 The Breakroom - Bremerton, WA  
2/23 Club 21 - Portland, OR  
3/1 Chop Suey - Seattle, WA
3/5 Cologne, Germany @ Underground 
3/6 Berlin, Germany @ C-club 
3/7 Dresden, Germany @ Beatpol 
3/8 Arnhem, Holland @ Willemeen 
3/9 Paris, France @ La Maroquinerie 
3/10 Vosselaar, Belgium @ Biebob 
3/11 Brighton, England @ The Haunt 
3/12 Southampton, England @ The Cellar 
3/13 Birmingham, England @ O2 Academy 2 
3/14 Glasgow, Scotland @ The Cathouse 
3/15 Newcastle, England @ Northumbria Uni 
3/16 Pwhelli, Wales @ Hammerfest 
3/17 London, England @ The Garage 
3/18 Rouen, France @ Le 106 
3/19 Esch-sur-alzette, Luxembourg @ Kulturfabrik 
3/20 Lyon, France @ Le Ninkasi Kao 
3/21 Winterthur, Switzerland @ Salzhaus 
3/22 Vienna, Austria @ Szene 
3/23 Bologna, Italy @ Zr 
3/24 Milano, Italy @ The Tunnel 
3/25 Nürnberg, Germany @ Rockfabrik 
3/26 Aschaffenburg, Germany @ Colos-sal 
3/27 Hamburg, Germany @ Logo

Wiht - The Harrowing of the North

As I've mentioned before, I have been seriously derelict in my duties when it comes to listening to new music. It's a new year and time to remedy the situation. One of my favorite things to do when I have a ton of new stuff sitting around in my in box is to pick something at random and let it play while I navigate the brutal job market in search of work. So today I closed my eyes, moved the mouse around and it landed on Wiht's "The Harrowing of the North."

Turns out this is a good soundtrack for scrolling through endless job listings on Wiht are a heavy trio from Leeds, UK specializing in space ritual style instrumentals. Actually, I should say "were." According to their bio the split up about a year ago but are releasing their final recordings, two long ass jams that clock in at around half an hour. "The Harrowing of The North" and, also according to the bio, "contains 8 movements which follow the raids from their beginnings in 1069- when the King massacred Yorkshire’s people and destroyed the land ensuring it held no economic or cultural worth and remained subservient under his rule- to his remorseful deathbed nearly 20 years later." Dude! That's heavy! Musically it's very heavy. Parts sound like something off the first album by The Sword and others remind me of Ufomammut. So if you're into a Black Sabbath meets Pink Floyd thing, that's good news for you. The other song is called "Orderic Vitalis" and is dedicated to an outspoken chronicler "who, though loyal to his king, was outraged at his cruelty and condemned him in his writings." BRO))))! Musically, it continues in search of space.

It's too bad these guys broke up but I'm glad they are releasing these jams, and they certainly helped pass the time during a frustrating afternoon. With played their last show in March 2012 at Desertfest with heavy hitters like Corrosion of Conformity, Orange Goblin, Ancestors and Black Cobra. Not a bad exit strategy.