Aphex Twin – Syro Review

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December 6, 2014

Review by Corey Galvin

Aphex Twin – Syro

Rating: 9.5/10

I’ve would have never really called myself a fan of electronic music. It seemed to center around bass drops and repeating on itself to get people to dance too much, The genre as a whole seemed to be creative yet superficial. The only electronic-type artists I felt comfortable listening to was the likes of Radiohead, Daft Punk, and Moby. However, the past year, artists like Squarepusher, Four Tet, Danger Mouse, and Phantogram have came to my attention and showed the real side of the genre and that some artists cared musically.

Earlier this year, there was a lot of hype around a new album from Aphex Twin, also known as Richard D. James. James is known as one of the most-influential electronic artists of all-time. He hasn’t released an album in thirteen years but hasn’t had reason to. So when the news broke of his new release, Syro, the music community couldn’t have been happier. And let me tell you, at the end of listening to Syro, I couldn’t have been happier.

James doesn’t try to build on trends of recent electronic music or try to build his own in Syro. It’s just music that is his, straight from his mastery. There’s no bass drops, no samples, just his music and imagination.

Syro is strange. You get that feeling before you even listen to the music just by looking at the song names which are jumbled messes of computer code. You hear what you think is an alien language graze across the entire album and the sound effects at time make you feel uncomfortable. However, just minutes in you can tell that this music is more than just strange, it’s beautiful. James puts together some great compositions, two of them being the first two, “minipops 67 [120.2][sourcefield mix]” and “XMAS_EVET10 [120] [thanaton3 mix].” These two introduce amazing beats and bass but also add a layer of color and deepness with the synthesizers, sparkling high bells, and soulful piano. I think I even heard bongos at one point. It sets up the mellow, alien feel that permeates throughout the rest of the album.

What also doesn’t stop throughout the album is the genius level beats produced. It’s amazing the originality and how well put together and tight they are. The beats build up on themselves and bounce off each other. Its nothing like any other artist before. At points it seems like James is just showing off and taunting us such as in “4 bit 9d api+e+6 [126.26]” and “s950tx16wasr10 [163.97][earth portal mix].”

We see how much of a skilled musician James is by the melodies he produces. Some are childish, innocent, harsh, spacey, or even helpless. One of my favorites is on “180db_ [130]” where is it sharp but apt and keeps the entire song moving. You can hear the influence he brought to the electronic community as it brings back flashes of Daft Punk’s Discovery album. The highlight of this album is “CIRCLONT6A [141.98][syrobonkus mix]” where the melody is like a video game and childish but slowly grows into a mature sound and flows well despite the large amount of staccato. “PAPAT4 [155][pineal mix]” also shares an amazing melody with its bright synths and jungle feel.

This album is more than just a showcase of James’ skill in producing electronic music and that becomes very apparent in the closer “aisatsana [102].” In it it is just a very soft recording of a slow piano melody that slowly progresses as birds chirp in the background. It reminds me of a kid learning how to play piano. This shows us how beautiful and warm James wants the music to be. At the end of this album, the listener will feel a strange soul, emotional, mystique coming out.

The lesson I learned here is that you don’t have to be afraid of electronic music even if you are a hardcore “it must be played to be music” type person. Richard D. James shows that beauty and mystique, like the sound that came from Led Zeppelin, can come out of electronic music. Syro is a playground for the ears and the mind that every music lover should take a listen to. It changed my perspective on the electronic music community and I hope it will too to you after a listen.

Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways Review

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November 30,  2014

Review by Corey Galvin

Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

Rating: 6/10

Dave Grohl, the modern rock legend, is at it again. The Foo Fighters really got the whole world excited with the release of their eighth studio album Sonic Highways. Their advertising was prevalent, including appearances in YouTube commercials; it seemed like they were promoting the next coming of the Messiah. The Foo Fighters even landed a mini-series of the same name on HBO. However, the Foo Fighters did not live up to the hype they put out there in this album.

Dave Grohl has a weird obsession with the number eight, so he wanted to do something special with the release of the Foo Fighters eighth album. This album runs around the concept of the different sounds of rock across the nation. Each song was recorded in a different city and is supposed to represent the sound of the city. The sound of cities such as Chicago, D.C., New York, Nashville, Seattle, L.A., and Austin are expressed. Also, musicians that hail from each city guest star, such as Zac Brown for Nashville, or Gary Clark Jr. for Austin. It’s an interesting conception, but it fails to execute very well. The feel of the genre that is represented in each song seems to only come out a little. The Preservation Jazz Band’s only contribution on the track “In the Clear” is a background horn riff that if taken out, you would have no idea it was a “New Orleans song.”  The only time I thought that it was a good representation of the city was the Joe Walsh closing solo in “Outside” or the quick Zac Brown devil picking in “Congregation.” This rock and roll road trip across America idea fell very short. I don’t think the Foo Fighters did a good job of trying to make their sound go in a different direction.  Most songs sounded like a generic Foo Fighter’s song of the past, which isn’t  bad thing.

All the songs had a good hard rock feel to them, what the Foo Fighters are known for, and I’m sure would sound great live. Dave Grohl definitely did a good job producing the sound and compositions. Solos seem to come in at the right time and the guitar work is very well done. Gary Clark Jr.’s solo in “What Did I Do?/ God as My Witness” is one of the highlights of the album and so is Joe Walsh’s in “Outside.” However, I feel that all the songs tend to be forgettable. After the first listen through, I forgot what most songs sounded like. This album was definitely a step down from 2011’s Wasting Light and a flop as a concept album.

 

 

 

 

Damien Rice – My Favorite Faded Fantasy Review

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November 22, 2014

Review by Corey Galvin

Damien Rice – My Favorite Faded Fantasy

Rating: 8.5/10

I thought Damien Rice was retired and hiding out in some cabin in Ireland for the rest of his life before I heard he was releasing his new album My Favorite Faded Fantasy. It was 2006 when he last released an album and it was 2008 when he last played a live show. Led Zeppelin and N’Sync played more shows than him in the last 6 years. After a break up with fellow songwriter Lisa Hannigan, Rice fell off the map. In his return, however, he makes a statement. In this new LP, he returns with the most heart-breaking album since Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago.

Rice shows off his great voice right from the gate in his falsetto, jumping from staccato to long seductive notes. “My Favorite Faded Fantasy,” the title track, starts off as a melancholy duo between Rice and a guitar and slowly progresses as the band chimes in to add to the atmosphere and slowly leads to Rice screaming “I’ve never loved!” The drums and guitar and do their job as they build up to an intense ending that leaves the listener knowing that Damien Rice is back and frustrated more than ever. The frustration piles over into “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man,” the album’s best composition. Lasting nine and a half minutes, it brings out multiple emotions. The beginning makes you feel as if you are at a funeral with menacing piano, and the melody and tone of Rice’s voice is wistful. The strings add to the feel of the song. You become scared as Rice starts to ask his past lover, “What are you so afraid of?” You become terrified as the whispers and many different voice layers combine together producing a schizophrenic and sinister feel. Then it all stops giving way to the sound of water splattering. The listener is in a dark, dark place right now but there is no leaving. The piano and strings beautifully hook up back into the rolling ominous feel. At the end, it makes the listener feel like they’ve just listened to something out of a horror musical. This is something we’ve never seen from Rice, but it is brilliant. This is probably what the album should have ended with, closing it out in complete agony, but luckily there is plenty left in the remaining six songs. “The Greatest Bastard” starts off with a happy guitar and we get to hear some major key, something we deserve after the first two tracks. However, this is short lived as Rice’s voice comes in and it sounds like he’ll break down and cry by the time the verse ends. The shaky, watery voice breaks into a theatrical yet soul-wrenching chorus as the strings come in at the exact right time and leaves you in chills. The three best songs come first, but the songs move together, keeping you in listening despite the moody feel that encompasses the rest of the album. Each song seems to break into an epic portion with lots of strings and preaching vocals, which sort of gets old after a while, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t get goosebumps every time it happened. The album throws in some bouts of feelings of innocence, especially in “Long Long Way” and “Colour Me In,” as you get lyrics that say “Come let me love you” and the closing to the album which sounds like a child learning to play the clarinet, slowly, quietly, and choppily. That’s how Rice wants to see himself now, innocent and unaffected by love, but as the final words echo in the background for over three minutes, “It’s not enough,” it shows that it haunts Rice and forever will.

In this we feel the heartbreak and torment that Rice has experienced over his hiatus and we realize why it took him eight years to come out with any new music. This comeback album is as soul-wrenching as it gets, but it is Damien Rice showing off his great story-telling and song-writing at its best.

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