If Thrice took their style from Artist In The Ambulance and polished the edges a bit to make a new album without any lyrics, that’s a little bit of what this would sound like. If a heavier act like As I Lay Dying or Underoath took one of their soothing instrumental interludes and stretched it over twenty minutes, that’s a little bit of what this would sound like. If Explosions In The Sky took their infectious delayed guitar riffs and used them as “verses” to mix in with some more dissonant “choruses,” that’s a little bit of what this would sound like. OK, so maybe those comparisons are all pretty lame, but the point is this EP is an instrumental act that advances with the interesting song structures you expect from lyrical music. You know all those times when you wanted a background sound with all the interesting, exciting energy of your favorite bands but without the distraction of all the words? This is what you’ve been waiting for.
STREAM THE WHOLE ALBUM: thispatchofsky.bandcamp.com
What a brilliant concept! Get a cornucopia of indie musicians to pay tribute to a classic album (Seven Swans) from one of the most classic indie musicians (Sufjan Stevens) of… all-time? (Get ready for parentheses!) Some of the remakes are more layered than the originals (although Joshua James’s “To Be Alone With You” is charmingly reserved, trading the guitar for a piano and a dash of cello). But it’s a real treat to hear Sufjan’s influences expressed through the nuances of the indie world, from the simple picking of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy to the percussion party of The Gregory Brothers (yes, the AutotuneTheNews guys) to the reverbed instrumentation of Derek Webb to the reckless vocals of Half-Handed Cloud. (Personally I think there’s a gorgeous amount of piano on these covers.) After a lovely journey of somewhat-known and mostly-unknown musicians (I haven’t even mentioned some of the most delightful surprises), the subtle yet distinct voice of David Crowder welcomes us to “The Transfiguration” (is that a harp?), brilliantly transforming through a horn arrangement and a cascade of electronic loops (the violin from A Collision – which also featured a Sufjan cover – also makes an appearance). If I still haven’t convinced you to buy one of the most exciting releases of the year (15 tracks for $10!), the proceeds are going to breast cancer research.
Standout Lyric: I can see a lot of life in you
In Case It Interests You: Many of the artists involved in this project are known as Christians.
STREAM THE WHOLE ALBUM: onjoyfulwings.bandcamp.com
If You Only Have 5 Minutes: “The Transfiguration” by David Crowder Band
Becoming The Archetype is rising from the ranks of modern metalcore to take position at the forefront. Their latest album opens with strings and a sweet operatic four-part harmony choral arrangement that flawlessly descends into the metal elements. Everything is crushingly brutal here, from the guitar work and breakdowns to the vocabulary and lyrical themes about good and evil, dark and light, mortality and eternity. (Scripture references and Latin phrases permeate the epic content.) The energy is far from chaotic; the focused control increases its force, and it mixes nicely with the melodic lines, especially when the sung lyrics have multiple vocal parts: this is accessible heavy music at its finest. And it’s creative, too: BTA continues their tinkering with the symphonic side of metal, and while there’s plenty of the usual piano and strings, I can’t conclude this snapshot without mentioning the inclusion of a sitar, or the ska breakdown with a trombone cameo featuring Dennis Culp of Five Iron Frenzy. Sweeping, grand, and – dare I say – epic: both musically and lyrically, this is Celestial Completion.
Standout Lyric: There was a time
When we all sang the song of death
But now our bodies resonate
Our living souls reverberate
The music of eternal light
Standout Lyric II: We are the sleepless ones
The ones who will be changed
The living, breathing, body of light
And we’ve got freedom coursing through our veins
Standout Lyric III: The heart of flesh has taken root inside
The light of life has been injected
Like circuitry across the expanse of space and time
Another darkened soul has been connected
Soli Deo Gloria
You can’t save yourself
Enemies are rising up against the light
Yet it will go on shining even in the darkest night
In Case It Interests You: The members of Becoming The Archetype are known as Christians.
STREAM THE WHOLE ALBUM: myspace.com/becomingthearchetype
If You Only Have 2 Minutes: Listen to the opening track
But If You Have 7 Minutes: Listen to the closing track
Emery returns to form with a self-described “heavy” album. The screams are fierce, the breakdowns are copious, and the dynamics are wide and entertaining as they oscillate between loud and soft, dissonance and melody. Some of the elements begin to feel a little clichéd after the first four songs, though that feeling is mostly rescued by the solid “You Wanted It.” While the album is advertised for its heaviness, it’s got a handful of electronic keyboard riffs and some really nice melodic vocal lines and tradeoffs. There’s even an acoustic ballad! Through the lyrics Emery maintains that brilliant combination of crushing melancholy and regret for past mistakes with repentant pleas for restoration and a brighter future.
Standout Lyric: Spent my nights just asking why
Would God let me become like this.
Was it a joke from the start?
Was I suppose to laugh more at it?
And everyone’s quoting their teachers and preachers
but their words make me feel so alone.
No one ever says that they’ve had those thoughts
in the middle of the night.
Standout Lyric II: We’re just caught in the thought that we deserve to be free.
Fix me. Father, fix me.
I’ve been waiting so long to feel this heartbeat…
We’re just caught in the thought that we deserve to be free
In Case It Interests You: The members of Emery are known as Christians.
STREAM THE WHOLE ALBUM: myspace.com/emery
If You Only Have 4 Minutes: Listen to “You Wanted It”
It’s been four years since the last album from Dave Grohl and his crew, and it feels like they just broke out of hibernation like a wild bear, showing a thing or two to the current pop trends by recording a full-throttle rock record in a garage. OK, so I never really listened to them before, but I could totally picture playing these songs on Rock Band – and I mean that in a good way: fun guitar riffs and bass lines, snappy drum beats, and catchy melodies. But it’s not pretentious, either – Grohl sings earnestly of dashed hopes, unforgotten dreams, and honest pleas. It ain’t perfect – the scream-heavy “White Limo” is a little too jarring, and there’s a little too much angst spread around for my personal tastes. But for the most part it’s a solid rock record that’s loaded with both heart-wrenching honesty and buckets of fun, right on through to the powerful ending.
Standout Lyric: Fame, fame, go away, come again some other day.
Standout Lyric II: One of these days the ground will drop out from beneath your feet
One of these days your heart will stop and play its final beat
Standout Lyric III: Forever, whenever
I never wanna die! I never wanna die…
I’m learning to walk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?
In Case It Bothers You: A couple songs contain a couple objectionable words
STREAM THE WHOLE ALBUM: myspace.com/foofighters
If You Only Have 4 Minutes: “Walk” performed on Saturday Night Live