Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Off the Dial

Music News, Reviews, Photos _ Podcasts

Album Review: N.E.R.D ~ Nothing

Posted by lmelvin On November - 21 - 2010

Written by: Laura Melvin

N.E.R.D’s latest release sprang from nothing… literally.  After scrapping their ready-to-go album Instant Gratification, Pharrell Williams and co. compiled new tracks to create the more existentially titled Nothing.  The album is an innovative take on rap and hip-hop, uninhibited by the stereotypes associated with the genre.  With the production help of French electro-duo Daft Punk, N.E.R.D blends solid beats with energetically charged lyrics and elements of funk and soul.

Pharrell’s signature – albeit sometimes tiresome – rap/sing method leads the album through a solid selection of tracks.  Politically charged “It’s In the Air” captures the civil unrest of American society today, while bringing up the feel of the 50s and 60s with bluesy-funk undertones.  The horn-driven, soulful track “God Bless Us All” speaks to today’s youth and the opportunities that lie ahead for the next generation.  Compare that to the get-your-drink-on tracks “Party People” featuring T.I. and “Hot-n-Fun” featuring Nelly Furtado, which are sure to be regulars on club DJ playlists, and you’ll get an idea of the variety offered on Nothing.

Though the album itself isn’t groundbreaking, N.E.R.D. maintains its fresh and innovative hip-hop nature.  Nothing is definitely listenable, and is a great album to throw on at home when winter hits its darkest days and you want something to groove to.

Popularity: unranked [?]

Written by: Laura Melvin

Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip has released an album that is as bland as the side project’s name – Gord Downie and the Country of MiraclesThe Grand Bounce is mellow, country Canadiana that sounds far too close to works by The Tragically Hip to be considered new and exciting.  Aren’t solo projects supposed to be a chance for artists to step outside of their comfort-zone?  I guess you can take the singer out of the band, but you can’t take the band out of the singer.

To be fair, Downie has such a distinct voice that I don’t think we would ever hear a difference between his solo projects and The Tragically Hip.  He’s how we identify a Tragically Hip track.  This album sounds like B-sides from the band that Downie just threw together and labeled it his side project.

Opening track “The East Wind” is also the first single from the album – a wise choice as it’s probably the most exciting song on The Grand Bounce.  The middle tracks are uninspired and, well, just plain boring.  By the last two tracks, I was completely disenchanted with the album and with Gord Downie in general.  He’s a very identifiable figure in Canadian music, and The Grand Bounce did not meet my expectations.  Final tracks “Broadcast” and “Pinned” plodded along so slowly I was snoozing by the end. “Pinned” actually has undertones of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”.  Sorry, Gord Downie and The Country of Miracles, ending an album with the ultimate musical sleeping pill is no way to wow your listeners.

Popularity: unranked [?]

EP Review: Daniel Moir ~ The Country and the Sea

Posted by lmelvin On May - 29 - 2010

Written by: Laura Melvin

When I first listened to Daniel Moir’s debut EP The Country and the Sea, I only knew the artist was from Edmonton.  That was all.  I didn’t read anything about him prior to hearing his music.  I listened blindly, finding his arrangements beautiful and his songwriting thoughtful.  The first word that came to mind was “mature”; I expected Moir to be a veteran musician.  Imagine my surprise when I found out he was only 20.

I quickly learned that I was not the only one surprised by his talent.  Off the Dial’s own Rob Latham caught Moir at a coffee shop gig in Vancouver and described Moir’s folk-inspired style as “Bob Dylan-esque”.  Latham stated in the article Edmonton Singer/Songwriters Set for Success, “Comparing anyone to the great Dylan is obviously a dangerous game, but Moir possesses a special musical talent that warrants the comparison”.

It’s a great accomplishment to be compared to a singer and songwriter like Dylan.  It’s even greater to be young and have the ability to so concisely convey a fact about the world.  In title track “The Country and the Sea”, for example, Moir manages to widdle down the complexities of life to a few words: “You get what you get and that’s all”.  Even the worldliest adults struggle with this concept and yet, at age 20, Moir is able to pare it down to eight words.

All five tracks on this debut EP are mature, peaceful, and well produced.  The Country and the Sea is a teaser – a few songs to peak your interest and introduce you to Daniel Moir.  I’m excited to see what this young artist creates when he has more than five songs to work with.  He’s at a wonderful point with his musical abilities where his youth blends with his old musical soul to create fresh and inspiring music.  Moir’s first full-length album, Road, drops July 9th.

Popularity: unranked [?]

How to Destroy Angels is a new project that Trent Reznor and wife Mariqueen Maandig revealed to us recently (with a video clip featuring 40 seconds of music and the subsequent official announcement). By now we all know that HTDA (which also features Atticus Ross of 12 Rounds and recent Nine Inch Nails producer/programmer) are planning on releasing a 6-song EP this summer.

Earlier this month, the first song to emerge from the forth-coming EP titled “A Drowning” was digitally released. Late last week, a second song surfaced accompanied by the following video. The video is fairly graphic as Reznor and Mariqueen not only appear to have been bludgeoned to death (despite her still being able to sing), but they are also then engulfed in flames as a very much alive couple in the same hotel room sit idly by, watching a dirt-bike race and having a seemingly pleasant conversation on the phone, no less.

Both the video and the song bear some strong resemblances to Reznor’s previous work (not surprisingly) as the song sounds very much like it could’ve been pulled from NIN’s back catalogue with the only difference being the female vocals. I do have to say though, hers fits in quite well in the song. It almost appears as if the song ends too soon, as though this video is incomplete but there’s nothing I could find to support that this is just a sample and not a finished product.

Popularity: unranked [?]

CD Review: Gogol Bordello ~ Trans-Continental Hustle

Posted by tzimmerman On May - 17 - 2010

Written by: Thomas Zimmerman

Start with Gypsy music.  Add a punk influence, and a dash of Ska.  That could sum up Gogol Bordello but wouldn’t do this band justice.  If you want to listen to something with energy, messages about love, lost love, hope, and politics then this is a definite buy.  Not a style of music I typically listen to but the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it.  The instrumentation is definitely classical gypsy, traditional changes in feel and rhythm, with a great mix of punk and hard, edgy vocals that remind me of David Wilcox with a Russian accent.  Eugene Hütz has a very unique voice and a difficult one to even begin to emulate, but very powerful and he gets the message across in his own way.  He’s good.

The album is mixed with different levels of genius and chaos.  There is a lot going on!  I counted at least seven different instruments on the track “Raise the Knowledge” not including vocals, and there may have been more.  It’s so well mixed that in some sense you more feel the different instrumentation than actually hear it.  Impressive, because music is supposed to make you feel something whether there are words or not.

All in all, after listening to this album a couple of times, I am really starting to like, actually love it.

Popularity: unranked [?]

CD Review: the Dillinger Escape Plan ~ Option Paralysis

Posted by cristóvão On May - 14 - 2010

The Dillinger Escape Plan ~ An Analysis + Option Paralysis Review
Written by: Steve Moore

We welcome back guest musician writer Steve Moore of the Unravelling and Post-Death Soundtrack as he crafts an excellent break-down of the new DEP album, Option Paralysis.

Most people don’t understand The Dillinger Escape Plan. I think that’s a pretty safe statement to make. Of course, most people live quite low intensity lives, and are used to running away when the stakes are high and the chance of loss is imminent. It can be argued that screaming, and noise made by humans, are in fact human expression; just like laughing, crying, singing, humming, whispering, or playing common scales on musical instruments. Aggression, being well within the realm of honest human experience, is art. It can also be quite useful and constructive – it can contribute to self-belief. Of course, tackling these kinds of sounds and facing these parts of you can be a challenging experience.

The Dillinger Escape Plan, for better or for worse – are fearlessness personified. You get the sense that they are going to take out the Queen, and absolutely no prisoners along the way. There will be no compromises. There will be no discussions. But you at least get the feeling that they’re fighting on the right side. Riled up. Unpredictable. Violent. Relentlessly inspired. Good people.

Not much can be said about their new album except that it serves as a slap to the face of the entire musical world, and a voice that just might say “Wake up, you lazy garage bands! This is real inspiration. You don’t know how to do this properly so quit shitting the bed. People are losing faith!” Their live show sends the same message, inadvertently making their contemporaries look like drunken talent show rejects waiting for Mom’s kool aid after band practise with the boys.

“Farewell, Mona Lisa” was released prior to the album as the opening single, and an album teaser. It tends to mix all the elements that make Dillinger great into one song. The frantic breakdowns and extreme emotion are all in place. The slow march that dominates the latter half of the song is a welcome change of pace for the band. They are also now fusing together the melodic and aggressive elements of their sound together, making for a more epic execution.

“Good Neighbor” takes cues from Black Flag, then raises the stakes. This track is getting into the category of “ridiculously heavy”, and it made me realize that I can’t win Dillinger new fans anymore. At least not by trying to force it on people. It’s simply too loud. Of course, by the end of the track it turns into a full on gang vocal – “Suicide by way of information!” to push it right over the edge.

“Gold Teeth On A Bum” is one of the most ambitious tracks, with inspirations ranging from The Jesus Lizard and Fugazi to even some Alice in Chains and Guns n’ Roses on the later choruses. They keep their signature sound intact while expanding it seamlessly.

“Crystal Morning” could refer to an apathetic music scene. “Cheering crowds deify their waste, Making love to their disgrace” opens the song lyrically. On this track and “Endless Endings” they are mastering a sound that only they can play effectively. They’ve gone so far with it that they’ve left the few bands who’ve attempted to copy them far back in their dust. Let it start, indeed.

“Widower” starts as softly as possible, with a solo voice and piano piece. This, leading into a catchy chorus layered in vocal harmonies, is the Dillinger most people don’t know about – probably because tracks 4 and 5 left them running for the Off button.

“Room Full Of Eyes” would be my personal favorite, both live and on record. After the enemy has already been shamed, let’s push this over the edge. Slow heavy. “Until we die we’re never satisfied. We’ll lust for and feed the dissatisfaction of want and need.” Damn right. They stretch to the complete opposite of their natural tempo, and execute it well. If you enjoy any kind of heavy music, listen to this song front to back.

“Chinese Whispers” is another standout track, mainly for it’s infective chorus “Every second is passing by so fast. Everything that you cling to will not last.” This track marks an expansion of the catchiness found on “Ire Works’” “Milk Lizard”, but better. More engaging.

“I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t” is the final heavy expression on the disc, if you see heavy as screaming and raging guitars, that is. The screams of “Suffering is love. Suffering is not love” give way to a strange circus-y closing track entitled “Parasitic Twins”, and it’s a beautiful one. A song about lost love with harmonies coming from just about everywhere, it’s an easy song to sink into. It could even be a gateway song for the band, though most would shrink back in terror after listening to the rest of the album.

Overall, you have to admire art that has real passion, real gusto, or true grit, as the late Hunter S. Thompson would say. Here we have it, so don’t ignore it. Learn from it. Let’s get some more real inspiration in this world. Turn the tides and show the bastard’s some fire in the head.

Steve and cohort Gustavo de Beauville heralded in the Unravelling‘s debut CD 13 Arcane Hymns yesterday (on the 13th of May). You can get yourself a physically or digital copy at theunravellingmusic.com NOW! You can also hear a couple of tracks from the new album on our podcast episode #24 and episode #21.

Popularity: unranked [?]

Vote Off the Dial in This Year’s FFWD Best of Calgary Poll

Posted by cristóvão On May - 13 - 2010

For those of you in Calgary, you most likely know about or even read FFWD Weekly, a free weekly newspaper that has been providing news, commentary, music, arts and cultural coverage. For nearly fifteen years, Calgarians have been looking to FFWD to see what’s happening in their city and for thirteen of those fifteen years, FFWD has conducted a poll to determine what is the Best of Calgary.

From categories like Best Public Place to “Do It” to Best Restaurant When Someone Else is Paying, you can cast your vote for the best and worst things about Calgary and there’s something in it for you! If you answer at least 40 questions in the poll, you’ll be entered in a draw for a slew of prizes from various Calgary businesses. You’ll have to register for an account on the FFWDweekly.com which takes only a moment and only requires your email.

Of course, we’d love it if you voted Off the Dial as the Best Local Blog, which you can find under the Urban Life section. Plus, being music lovers, pay close attention to other categories such as Best Radio Station, Best Festival, Best Local Band, Best Singer/Songwriter, Best CD Store, Best Place to Vinyl and Best Musical Instrument Store among many, many others. I’d tell you who I voted for but that seems like too much of an influence so I’ll just stick to asking for you to vote Off the Dial as the Best Local Blog. Thanks!

FFWD Weekly’s 13th Annual Best of Calgary

Balloting closes Tuesday, May 18th, 2010. Results will appear in the June 10th, 2010 issue.

Popularity: unranked [?]

Video of the Day: Danko Jones ~ “Full of Regret”

Posted by cristóvão On May - 12 - 2010

This is how much I love Danko Jones: Less than three weeks ago, I published a Song of the Day for the new Danko Jones track “Full of Regret” off the new album Below the Belt, coming out next Tuesday (May 18th). It’s a great, infectious, straight-up, balls-out rock song. So why not give people a double-dose of this often over-looked Canadian rock trio with the video for said song?

As mentioned before, the video features Mike Watt (of the Stooges and Minutemen, who does an excellent intro/outro), Motörhead‘s Lemmy Kilmister and actors Elijah Wood and Selma Blair. The video is done up movie-style, looked like it was a lot of fun to shoot and overall, is a pretty cool clip.

Funny though, how sometimes the funniest thing about YouTube videos is the comments. My early favourite for Comment of the Week? This from MJSalls;

My nipples just exploded, and my balls packed up and are moving to Canada……

Fantastic! Just like the video:

Popularity: unranked [?]

Song of the Day: the Dead Weather ~ “Die By the Drop”

Posted by cristóvão On May - 12 - 2010

This week, the Dead Weather released their second album titled Sea of Cowards.

Back in April, the band (fronted by Alison Mosshart and featuring Jack White, Dean Fertita and Jack Lawrence) revealed “Die By the Drop” as the lead single and issued a cool video to go along with it.

On April 30th, the Dead Weather streamed the album via continuous vinyl playback for 24 hours followed by digital streaming through various online sites. Early reviews are pretty favourable.

Listen to “Die by the Drop” here and feel free to download the track for free courtesy of RCRDLBL.com!

Popularity: unranked [?]

CD Review: Deftones ~ Diamond Eyes

Posted by rlatham On May - 10 - 2010

Deftones return well worth the wait
Written by: Rob Latham

Metal legends Deftones‘ hotly anticipated sixth studio album is a blockbusting barrage of melodic nu-metal brilliance and a re-iteration of the band’s rightful place as kings of their genre.

In the aftermath of the band’s successful North America tour supporting Slipknot earlier this year, on which by all accounts they often upstaged their masked compatriots, Diamond Eyes will have Deftones and nu-metal fans in general salivating profusely after the Sacramento rockers’ three-year musical hiatus.

The opening track ‘Diamond Eyes’ is a lesson in brilliant musical simplicity with a typical ridiculously-low tuned brutal riff supporting front-man Chino Moreno‘s laid back vocals before lackadaisically leaning into a chilled out, mellow chorus.

The raw energy that Deftones have made their trademark bursts into life with ‘Royal,’ with another rolling low-tuned repetitive riff throughout the song and another mellow, laid-back chorus rounding off a slightly surprising opening to the album.

Just as you’re thinking “Hey, Deftones’ sound has really mellowed out,” the thought is ripped out of your mind with the massive, exploding ‘CMND/CTRL’ featuring trademark intense screams from Moreno and a frenetic, blurring guitar riff.

This is backed up by the delicious ‘You’ve Seen The Butcher’ which opens up with an ominously building augmented guitar riff and descends into a heavy yet laid back chorus.

The album is chocked full of heavy bass and deep low-tuning guitar riffs as demonstrated perfectly in the energy-fueled ‘Prince,’ the outstanding feature of which is a trademark bursting guitar line supporting Moreno’s emotive vocal offerings.

The standout track of Diamond Eyes has to be the infectious mid-album song ‘Rocket Skates’ which, as the title suggests, is a blisteringly quick barrage of over-driven guitar chords and bursting riffs supporting Moreno`s prominent vocals.

The brilliance of Deftones is spelled out in the excellent ‘Risk,’ opening up with a dramatic, reverberating riff which leads into a chorus that has common-place on this album, drawn-out expressive vocals supported by wild, extended guitar chords.

This is a brilliantly crafted album which is well worth the three-year wait. It may not be what you expect when you pluck it from the record store shelf and pop it into your stereo for the first time, but give it time and it is a hugely enjoyable record.

Moreno’s recognizable vocals are in top form throughout but there is a distinct lack of the powerful, roaring guitar riffs we have come to accept as common place on a Deftones record.

As such, this album is more open to more mainstream metal fans but that is not to say Deftones have sold out in any way whatsoever. This is simply recognition of their unrivaled ability to write great music and, at that, great rock songs.

Popularity: unranked [?]

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