This has been a hectic week for me—I have reached a new level with my continuously compounding medical issues, any of which would be stressful enough to handle on their own, let alone all-together. I’m starting yet another treatment plan to deal with them all in delicate balance, and this one seems quite promising. It’s always nice to get (finally hopefully) proper diagnoses and the prospect of new medications always leaves me feeling delightfully anxious.
Still. Part of my issue is a metabolism that grinds along with less rapidity than the shifting of the seasons, and as a result I have no energy and it takes all of my will to get myself to move an inch. The constant and overwhelming sense of fatigue I feel is something that will hopefully start to go away as I continue with the medication and force myself into the gym to raise my metabolic rate. Until then, every day is a struggle for me to stay awake, think clearly, be active and present, and feel alive.
Chronic illness eats away at you with just the most terrible doggedness and leaves you feeling futile and hopeless and completely lacking in control—in many ways, that’s completely accurate. Luckily I was blessed with chronic illnesses that can be overcome with hard work, and the only thing between me and some semblance of relief or normalcy is persistence and the will of my own inertia.
I hope that things begin to look better in the future, and I am clinging to that hope for dear goddamn life.
In the meantime, I’m struggling with homework and social obligations and trying to get in exercise and therapy of all kinds, but I managed to get in some new music this week and I’m going to start off with the one and only:
Justin Bieber – Believe Acoustic (2013)
I’m a huge fan of acoustic albums, especially of artists for whom acoustic is a completely unrealistic format—that is, pop artists, metal artists, punk artists, electronic artists (remember Dirty Vegas’ acoustic demos that floated around Limewire? Remember Limewire!?!?)), et cetera.
I’m not sure Biebs’ new album adds much to his music, which is inarguably catchy and sonically pleasant but admittedly cheap. I’ve been a fan of Bieber since his YouTube days, and the kid has undeniable talent with pop music, and he can play guitar respectably well.
But he’s not playing guitar on this album. Here we have Dan Kanter, a multi-talented production hotshot who produces tracks for a lot of top 40 artists. Dan and JB hav e their act down brilliantly, don’t get me wrong—still, this album was a cash- and cred-grabbing attempt by Biebs and his managers, and he failed a major part of the cred part by not playing the guitar parts himself.
It still felt like a studio album. If it had a more stripped-down feel then Biebs would have had all the cred in the world—like I said, the kid has raw, pure talent. The arrangements are fantastic and full of his new-trademark soul. Standout tracks are “She Don’t Like The Lights” and “Take You”. “Beauty and the Beat” is patently more palatable than the radio version (in which Nicki Minaj awkwardly name-checks Selena Gomez), besides the fact that the original cut is over-produced to the point of ridiculousness.
“I Would” is a beautifully constructed classic soul-pop song with a simple studio backing, including drum machine. It’s solid and would hold up well to light-pop radio and romcom montages.
I think this album definitely adds significantly more to JB’s repertoire and credibility than 2010’s My Worlds Acoustic, though that album had the added bonus of being cute since JB was 16 when he was singing those sweet semi-acoustic arrangements about asking his GF to marry him—and, for that matter, it adds much more to his reputation than his pop albums. I have found myself wanting to listen to this with some amount of regularity, and it’s certainly easier to stomach than Believe. I would recommend this album, especially if you want to see what Bieber Fever is all about but you were waiting for an album that wouldn’t drive you crazy.
Finally. Finally. FINALLY.
It was about six years ago when I visited Madison, WI for the day to catch up with friends—most importantly, the honorable and beautiful Ryan J. Zeinert. At a record store off of State St., I grabbed onto Loveless by My Bloody Valentine and was immediately intrigued by the whole package. Ryan saw me gawking at it and spastically insisted on purchasing it for me. It went on to become one of the most listened-to albums in my collection, surpassed only by my favorite album of all of time.
So of course I was totally jazzed when I heard through the grapevine that MBV had covertly released a new album for digital download on their website. I—and, I think, everyone else—had high expectations for a followup to 1991’s Loveless. MBV had a lot to live up to with this, and thankfully they did not disappoint.
The album opener, “She Found Now” is a beautiful a lovely transition from Loveless. In fact, the first few songs are all kind of disconcertingly Loveless-esque and could easily be called bonus tracks with zero sense of a 22-year gap in production (although, leave it to Kevin Shields to spread an album’s production over 22 years). “Is This and Yes” is the mark of a transition in the album into a more synth-y sound hinted at in Loveless’ “Soon” and “When You Sleep”. “If I Am” is full-on diving into a new sound that keeps any MBV fan on the edge of their seat, dissecting every interval and sonic choice.
I’m sure it was a conscious choice to put the Loveless-esque stuff at the front end of the album, easing fans into the new-but-classic sound and allowing any discography marathoners an easy transition from the sounds of 1991 to the sounds of 2013. That’s not to say the stuff at the tail-end of the album is bad—how could it be bad?—it’s just when you give fans 22 years to form opinions around a band as influential and seminal as MBV then it is going to take a lot for us to accept a different sound. Luckily, MBV executes it perfectly and eases us into it.
I will give one criticism: the last two tracks are atrocious. I found “Nothing Is” to be one of the most annoying and ridiculous songs I’ve ever heard. I seriously thought my stereo was malfunctioning when I heard it and I’m still not sure that’s what it is actually supposed to sound like. Seriously this is an Apple Loop gone awry. “Wonder 2”, is a possibly-Satanic and incomprehensible composition. Together, they feel strangely tacked onto the end of an otherwise-brilliant album.
And, obviously, I want to point out Tata Young’s song “My Bloody Valentine” which I may or may not hold in higher regard than MBV. You should go download/buy her 2009 album Ready for Love. She is a brilliant vocalist but it takes a westerner with a particular sonic palette to connect to her Thai-language albums, which are available on Spotify.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPj0A_qkCS4]
Part of my persistant quest to open my mind to metal music, I picked out this album from one of the many that is sent my way by friend and kvltmaster extraordinaire Matthevv.
It’s a solid black metal album. It has distinct elements of folk and pagan metal with the fantastic feel of belonging in middle earth or at least as the soundtrack to some sort of epic and fantastical battle between mythical creatures.
There is no standout track to this album—they’re all epics averaging 14 minutes, and they clearly work best together as a single-listen type of thing. I will mention that the celt-folk feel of the final track (“Kaiku”, meaning “echo” in the band’s native tongue of Finnish) is absolutely brilliant. It comes replete with the wonderful ambience of crackling fire, wind through trees, and roughly cawing birds—something present more or less throughout the whole album, lending more to the imagery of armed hordes charging through glens and fog and into battle.
I’d rate this album up there as one of the more accessible metal albums I’ve listened to. It also carries very little pretentiousness, and is certified trve kvlt by Matthevv himself.
This album is exactly what I love about metal. It’s a big, conceptual album made by peeps with pure refined talent, deep love in their hearts, minds as wide open as a nordic vale, and a beautiful gift for atmosphere and storytelling. Listen to it, and feel compelled to be great.
Paul Baribeau – Grand Ledge (2007)
I’ve been vaguely familiar with Paul for a year or two now, through mutual friends here in Bloomington and through musically-inclined folks I know who are always much more up-to-date on innovative and great music than I am.
I’ve been meaning to get to this album for a while, but things kept getting in the way. His name popped up a few times in recent conversation and I decided it was finally time to hop to it.
So immediate reaction? Holy shit. Secondary reaction: *sobs*.
I’m a huge fan of pop-punk music because it expresses the kind of frenetic ennui and anxiety that I identify with, and which I think is not necessarily unique to punky kids but is certainly most beautifully expressed by them. Paul clearly expresses a huge influence by punk and pop-punk and his music is all the more effective and beautiful for it in my *humble* opinion.
But let’s get to the music, because wow. “Christmas Lights” hits you square in the chest with it’s honesty and raw anxiety and beauty and simplicity, with lyrics like “I never feel better after I cry / I spent six months of my life wishing I would die / I’m learning to be alone without being lonely / learning to be lonely without losing my mind”. “Ten Things” is a classic and FUCKING BEAUTIFUL motivational life-affirming scream-along tune that reminds you that “all you have is time time time / and one day that time will run out / that is the only thing you can be absolutely certain about”.
“Nothing To Say” hits me particularly hard and resonates with my life wonderfully, even though it’s clearly about a very specific moment with a person, Paul hits common chords with lyrics like “And I could call out your name / but the sound would never reach you / Or I could call you on the phone / and have nothing to say”. “Hard Work” is a beautiful and tenuously sane song about aimlessness. “Falling In Love With Your Best Friend” is another simple and beautiful song with a bubbling energy beneath the surface, like all of Paul’s songs.
They’re all 2-minute neurotic love songs that showcase Paul’s great writing and deliciously simple and stripped-down sound. This album comes highly recommended from me and other people with good taste so go put it in your Spotify playlist like now.
Last, but not least, I want to mention the fact that FALL OUT BOY is RELEASING AN ALBUM and just announced a tour to coincide with the release. They released a new song today (“My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)”) with an accompanying music video that scares me out of my wits about their new sound and allows for a varied and lengthly list of producers that one could reasonably speculate brought the wonderful atrocity into the world. The music video shows a tattooed dude and a lady burning FOB vinyls and tshirts in a bonfire then opening a van with four masked-and-bound people (who are presumably Fall Out Boy) and looking at them ominously.
The video is a great success in cinematography—it’s gorgeous. As for the music, I’m going to reserve judgement for the album. I know that FOB can never be the band that it was for Take This To Your Grave or From Under The Cork Tree (or Infinity on High, for that matter), but it remains to be seen whether I can handle a more hip-hoppy sound with drum machines (which leads me to wonder what Andy Hurley is doing during the recording of this track?) and screeching Prince-esque vocals from Patrick Stump(h)—who, let’s face it, is much more tolerable now that he can actually sing like a pro, as opposed to whatever whiny mumbling it was he heaved out of his chest and onto all of the tracks pre-hiatus. I guess Stump(h)’s solo career was less than a miserable failure (I actually feel pretty bad for the guy, he’s nice and intelligent and talented) if it made him a better singer.
At any rate, I’m extremely excited for this and you can expect to see a lot of ranting and raving about Fall Out Boy on this blog in the weeks to come, OH BOOOY!!! In the meantime here is the music video:[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=HsfY8iFbYjE]