Karen O- Crush Songs

You probably know Karen O as the lead singer of indie rock band The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Since the band’s first album, she ventured from the group to pursue various solo projects including a recent appearance on the Her movie soundtrack which got her an Academy Award nomination. She released her first full-length solo album, Crush Songs, September 8 via Cult Records.

Crush Songs has the feeling of a collection of demos more than a fully finished album, but that seems to be what O was going for. “When I was 27, I crushed a lot,” O said in a statement on her website, “These songs were written and recorded in private around this time. They are the soundtrack to what was an ever continuing love crusade.”

The single, “Rapt”, starts off with a count down, as do many of the other songs on the album. The somewhat messy nature of the recording goes well with her lyrics that sound like a diary entry, “Do I really need another habit like you?” she asks herself.

The rest of the album goes on in a similar manner. A woman writing about lost loves and loves that never had the chance to develop. She sings them quietly, but well, backing up the songs with three instruments at most. O keeps it simple, if not too simple.

These songs seem rather unfinished, but isn’t that what a crush is? There are great ideas, powerful lyrics, obvious talent, and nice melodies, but something seems missing. You cant help but wonder how the album would sound with a full band backing up O’s voice instead of just a simple acoustic guitar. Crushes are just that though; they are unfinished loves that could never be. Anything more complicated wouldn’t get the sentiment across as well as these songs do.

The album is comprised of 15 songs and only runs about 26 minutes long, continuing the theme of crushes, which are often short-lived. You can feel the emotions that Karen O rushed into these songs despite the lo-fi quality of the recordings. Crush Songs is not musically or lyrically amazing, but its rawness makes it something worth listening to. I give Crush Songs a 6/10, but I might be slightly biased as chronic-crusher as well.

Astronautalis Interview

Andy Bothwell, more known by his stage name Astronautalis is a indie rapper currently based in Minnesota.  He was recently touring to support a new album expected in 2015.  The tour stopped by The Space in Hamden on September 12th 2014 with support by Sarah Jeffe and indie rapper, Transit.  I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the upcoming record, his influences, as well as his take on the music industry.  Enjoy!

 

Reincarnate – Motionless In White album review

 

 

motionless_in_white_april-2014

Let me start off this review by saying that I love Marilyn Manson, but hate nu-metal. Confused? Read on – you’ll figure it out soon enough.

Motionless In White is a band that has gone through several sound evolutions throughout their time as a band, starting with a very scene sound during their early EPs and releases, then pushing their metalcore aspects on Creatures, to a hardcore/Marilyn Manson combination on Infamous. Does their new album, Reincarnate, size up/surpass their old works?

I’ll start by saying that I loved Infamous – from the opening track, the band’s second album was not only darker, but it was extremely aggressive compared to their previous release. Infamous, in my opinion, was also a step in the right direction for the band’s image: they showed their fans that they were headed in a darker, heavier, industrialized/hardcore direction.

When I first heard the title track single Motionless In White released for their album Reincarnate, I was blown away – there was an increased electronic presence on the song, and the band seemed to have not only settled comfortably into their Infamous sound, but actually expanded on it by developing the song’s choruses into a multi-layered hook that had me listening on repeat. The production quality was also significantly better than previous works. When the second single was released, “Puppets 3 (The Grand Finale) feat. Dani Filth”, an aggressive powerhouse of black/thrash metal influenced metal, I knew I’d be heading into the band’s heaviest, most aggressive album yet. With high hopes, I pre-ordered the special edition of the album (Bible box and all) and awaited for September 16, 2014.

And yet, 14 seconds into “Death March”, the opening track of the new album, I felt as though I was listening to a nu-metal band. A once guitar-driven band seems to have changed – rhythms are focused on low-end only, whereas keyboards and vocals create a layering effect that adds melody to each song; while this works for certain sections, the aggressive, dark riffs seem to be missing from this album, and it’s upsetting to me; I was disappointed to find that the guitars on the album follow a trend of nu-metal styled riffage.

Certain songs avoid the pure-rhythmic style riffage, but they fall short in other ways – “Unstoppable” has a simple song construction that sounds like my high school band’s first effort at writing music, and the chorus seems like a knock off of the band’s song “Cobwebs” off of Creatures. “Break The Cycle” (which, by the way, has almost the exact same opening melody as “Dark Passenger” on the album), follows suite and almost seems like a regression for the band – the riffs that are melodic are typical metalcore riffs, and it’s the kind of material I would’ve expected to hear during the Creatures era. The final track, “Carry The Torch”, redeems the band’s guitar-driven style, but unfortunately, the verse riffs are reminiscent of a 2006 metalcore band – it’s something you’ve heard before, because it sounds exactly like it’s off of Creatures.

When the vocals kick in on “Death March”, their style immediately reminded me of Manson’s The Golden Age of Grotesque, and I thought there was more hope for the album – unfortunately, I feel that a lot of the album has it’s Manson moments that end up turning into nu-metal songs. “Generation Lost”, which is one of the album’s heaviest songs, is straight from the 90s with lyrics like “Throw your hands in the air and let’s start this shit” – the song quickly turns into a knock off of “Vodevil” by Manson, down to literal melodies being the same, but then returns to a nu-metal song. The song eventually explodes into a hard-rock styled bridge, which is redeeming and almost makes me forget that the song is nu-metal…until the lyrics, “Coast to coast, I hear the masses calling/Turn up now this is your final warning” are rapped. “Dark Passenger”, on the other hand, mimics the album’s title track and seems helpful from a musical/vocal standpoint, but is too generic of a metalcore song to stand out on the album in comparison to the band’s other material.

Despite all of my negativity towards this album, I find myself listening to it over and over again. Why? Because Motionless In White has also expanded their industrial side, and my god, it’s GREAT. The songs that excel on this album are the ones that either use guitar as a melody-driving device, or electronics to further each part. “Contempress feat. Maria Brink” is more ballad-like, but has a heavy edge, and the hook is damn catchy – not quite a “City Lights” or “Sinematic”, as it’s not dark enough to match either song, but it follows those songs’ style in its own way. “Wasp”, coming in at 7 minutes and 2 seconds, actually stood out to me as one of the best on the album – the layering is fantastic, the piano on the track is absolutely chilling, and at times it even reminds me of “Death of Music”, the 12 minute epic, by Devin Townsend.

The darkest, heaviest song on the album, is “Final Dictvm feat. Tim Skold” – and let me tell you, Skold’s influence is clear. Though the song starts off with an EDM style, which was initially a turn off to me, it builds into a chilling electronic industrial song, which would be perfect for anyone’s next Halloween Soundtrack; in fact, the sound of the song reminds me so much of SPF1000 that any underground goth fan is sure to love it, regardless of Motionless In White’s overall sound. The song is a black sheep on the album, but it shows what the band could eventually become; though I hope they don’t continue in this direction, as it would mean that their music would lose it’s hard aggressive edge, I wouldn’t mind hearing more songs like this on the next album they put out.

My favorite track, however, is “Everyone Sells Cocaine” – though the guitar is very nu-metal during verses/post-choruses, pre-choruses use dynamics well, and when the chorus hits, it’s huge: the sound balances out the 90s influence by bringing forth the band’s other influences.

I would be very, very surprised if fans of Motionless In White who have not expanded their listening tastes to the band’s influences like this album – it combines various styles from the past 30 or so years into 13 songs, but they aren’t always executed well. Fans of Infamous will find a few songs they enjoy listening to, whereas fans of Creatures may like the album better. Fans like me, however, who knew about Manson, Skold, and nu-metal far before they ever heard about Motionless In White, may have mixed feelings – if you’re looking for a hard hitting metal album, look elsewhere. However, if you want to hear heavy, enjoyable dark music, look no further; there’s plenty for you here.

I give Reincarnate a 4/5 – and I realize most fans probably won’t feel this way. Though it has a few songs that are generic or I probably won’t ever listen to again, there are enough songs that should/probably will become live set staples, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing how they translate from recording to the stage.

“Roughkast,” Album Review

I was given the album, “Roughkast,” by…wait for it….. Roughkast. Since it is my first album review on this page, I’ll try to go in depth, without taking up too much space.

Anyways, the album I received is one that takes influence from the styles of Jet, and Foo Fighters, to name a few. The influence in Roughkast’s songs are incredibly apparent, as every song on the CD is tooled with a Rock and Roll style, but the question remains, is the album any good? Well, not really.

“Roughkast,” is an album that certainly performs a nice little attempt at producing quality Rock and Roll tracks, but it contains some pretty critical flaws.

First of all, it is incredibly predictable. By that, I mean that every song on this CD has the same basic structure, starting with the main guitar riff of the song, then adding in the complementary instruments to add to that riff, then chorus, and so on and so forth. Don’t get me wrong — I am well aware that this is a principle in almost every rock song, but to keep an album interesting, you have to make it diverse. “Roughkast,” unfortunately, fails to add anything immensely diverse, and is incredibly tedious.

From the aforementioned point, this album also falls victim to identity loss. It really doesn’t set itself apart from anything else in the Rock and Roll genre, and nothing new is implemented into these songs. Sure, you’ll hear an occasional guitar solo, or a drum fill here and there, but otherwise, it’s just too straightforward. You won’t find your jaw dropping when you listen to this CD.

Lastly, the mixing in a few of these tracks is sub par. This issue forces the lead singer to sound like he is mere background noise, as opposed to being the leading force in the band. I understand that a more unknown band like Roughkast probably doesn’t have access to a Gold Record producing studio, but if you’re going to create an album that relies on loud instruments and vocals, you have to be able to reach equilibrium between those features.

All in all, “Roughkast,” receives a 5/10. The band certainly does have potential to be much better than what they are, but in the meantime, this record is just too generic and will most likely be forgotten shortly after your first listen, (should you choose to do so). However, I can say that a few of the tracks on the CD are some you can bop your head to, such as, “Do You Wanna Dance,” or, “Ruckus,” but this album will never be more than low-grade workout music.

10 Questions With Etienne Sin

Etienne Sin is a name that most metal fans know; not only is the 23 year old New Yorker an extremely talented singer and screamer with a large range, but he also runs his own record label, The Sin Circle Records. Sin has not only released multiple music videos and albums/EPs, but he also supports other artists and sets up tours with them; as if that wasn’t enough, he sells his own how to scream/how to write metal songs DVDs for beginners. I had the opportunity to interview Sin and ask him a few questions:


 

1. Your voice is ridiculously good. How did you learn to sing? Are you self taught, or did you take any formal vocal lessons?

I’ve been a tailored musician since I was a child; on all of the instruments. I started with piano and eventually learned the rest. I took vocal training for 3 years from multiple teachers. Before that, I was a horrible singer. I came out of the box listening to a lot of Metal and Death Metal. I was rather good at harsh screaming vocals when I started, but I was a terrible clean vocalist. I was naturally good at screams, for whatever reason, probably all of the Metal I listened to. I started that when I was 15 and I started singing at 16.

2. Why did you learn how to scream, and what was the learning process like?

As a 15 year old, I just did stuff. When you’re a teenager, sometimes, you don’t really think about things. You just do them. Once I started going to vocal lessons, things became much clearer. With my music background, such as music theory, knowing the basics of melody and rhythm, vocals came very easy afterwards. It was a natural progression for me.

I started to take my music career seriously around 18, when I realized I wanted more out of life than just growing up and making money.

3. For those who don’t know, you run your own record label, The Sin Circle Records. What was it like to start that, and how has managing it been?

It’s been a tough journey. The business part of the music industry is definitely not for everyone. Everything for me is a natural progression, from learning my instruments, to starting my businesses. I feel like I’m built for being a business oriented artist. I wouldn’t be able to keep my music career afloat without the business end of it. We live in a capitalistic environment and if you don’t adapt, you’ll fade away quickly. A lot of rockers and aspiring rockstars don’t really grasp this concept, especially when they are younger.

The hardest part of starting it up is learning the business. It’s all crunching numbers, talking to industry people, and setting yourself up as a powerhouse of new talent. It’s all strategy; a great man once said “If I had 8 hours to cut down a tree, I would spend 6 hours sharpening my axe.” The most exciting part would be the pride you get from getting good feedback from that talent.

Managing it is just as difficult as getting it off the ground. Once you have some buzz going for your musicians and artists, the idea now is to keep that going, all the while taking care of each one of their needs such as product releases and touring. The industries job list is getting shorter, so I believe the labels have to do more for their artists instead of throwing money at them so they can hire other people can do it. However, there are always levels to this business.

By the end of the year (2014,) we plan on having a full 8 artist roster. “Full” meaning the limit that we can properly maintain without sinking because of our own weight.

4. You work with a few people in your covers, specifically Desdemona and Danny Disastr. How did you meet them, and what’s your chemistry like with both of them (musically)?

Danny reached out to me when I was still forming The Sin Circle Records. Shortly after it’s formation, I would say about 6 months after I made the label official, he expressed his interest in becoming a bigger artist and working with me. He sent me some Live Like Glass demos and I really loved the lyrical and melodic content. Soon after, they came to New York and the rest is history. I can honestly say that Live Like Glass is a perfect example of our successes, as of right now. They were an unknown act and now due to both of our efforts, they are skyrocketing. Musically, I really love working with those guys. Danny’s writing skill is something I’m a fan of and they are a group of fun dudes, so it’s a pleasure.

As for Desdemona, I met her through my girlfriend. She’s an old friend of her’s, so that one was easy. I had expressed my interest in raising an artist from the ground up, working with someone with a very specific skill set. Desdemona and I talked for a long while before realizing her potential and we just put in the work! As far as musically and in the studio, we have a producer/artist workflow. I create all of the instrumentals and melodies and she works on the lyrics and her voice.

5. You’re probably one of the best known screamers on Youtube. What drew you to start putting up covers on Youtube, and when you started, did you find support from the community, or pushback?

On youtube, I’d definitely have to agree. I worked hard at that shit! Haha. But as far as the whole scene, there are still so many people I look up to, so I’d have to humble myself there. Vocalists like Phil Bozeman from WhiteChapel still make me look like shit, haha!

You always feel a pushback at first. People don’t like change. When I came onto the scene, I was different and strange. No one wanted to listen. I kept it up the pressure and people started paying attention to my workflow and confidence. I started because I studied marketing and I still do study marketing. I realized the potential of taking your career into your own hands and YouTube is the perfect medium for that.

6. You’ve been on tour before, and you’re currently booking future tours. What’s the experience like for you and those you tour with?

I hate booking tours, the worst of the industry shows when you’re doing that. But it’s all about building relationships with people and weaving around the jokers and egoists. If I’m on a tour however, you’d bet your ass that I have a hand in it in a major way. I’m all about getting things done, with speed and determination.

Otherwise, the actual tour is real fun. It’s tiring, especially if you have a long set every night. You have to pace yourself, which I have a hard time doing. Sometimes I also have a bit too much to drink and I blow my voice. So I’m still working on becoming a better live performer. The best thing for me is actually meeting the people and supporters of the music.

7. You can play every instrument in a standard rock/metal band; what other music groups influenced you to learn the instruments?

Screams, it was Carcass and Arch Enemy. Also bands like Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth. I loved the insanity that both of those bands inspired back when I was a teenager. I also really like clean vocals; it was A Skylit Drive pretty much hands down. I listened to power metal, but no one’s vocals quite hit me like 2007-2008 A Skylit Drive. I’m a huge fan of both of their lead vocalists, I never got into that “battle” on which one was better or anything. I have a ton of respect for both, so much to the point where I’ve worked with them on many occasions. I still listen to those records for inspiration today.

 

For guitar and bass, I’m heavily influenced by Carcass and their earlier works. Oh and a band from Poland called Decapitated. Those guys are absolutely insane.

 

As for Drums, I almost exclusively listened to technical death metal bands. Fast double bass, blast-beats and interdependence is my shit! Of course, I’m not nearly as fast as those guys are, but I still am very inspired by them.

8. Some of your most viewed covers are non-metal songs made heavy. Other than metal bands, what do you like to listen to in your spare time?

I actually don’t listen to metal for fun, or hardcore. I’m surrounded by it every day. There won’t be anything new or groundbreaking made from listening to everything within the genre. New things are brought about by listening elsewhere. If I’m listening to Metal or Hardcore I’m working on it. Of course, I keep my ear to the ground when new stuff comes out. I’m very tactical when it comes to Metal and Hardcore.

 

I listen to a lot of hip-hop, rap, and dance music right now. I also live in New York, you don’t live here and not listen to Hip-Hop. And if you do your best to avoid it, it’s not like your not hearing it somewhere. It engulfs the culture here and I really enjoy it.

9. How do you feel about TV shows like “American Idol”, “X Factor”, and “The Voice” as a way for musicians to get known? Have you ever considered auditioning for a show like that?

No, I don’t participate in that sort of thing. If I’m involved in something like that, I’m running it. That is putting your music career in someone elses hands, particularly 3 judges. I don’t like authority or judges. I’m all about taking shit into your own hands.

10. Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?

Take stuff into your own hands. Don’t rely on anyone you don’t trust 100% with your future. If you have a team, make sure they are all on board with your dream and vision. Remember that the chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.


You can find Etienne Sin’s YouTube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/etiennesin

All of Etienne Sin’s upcoming projects can be found here: www.etiennesin.com