I'll be honest with you, I didn't think it could get much better than 2009 for music, but January 2010 has raised the bar even further. There's so much great stuff being released lately, it's ridiculous. Here's what I've been enjoying of late:
Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
I guess this band has been getting a little hype around certain spots on the internet (*cough* Pitchfork *cough*), and having heard this record (and had its hooks stuck on repeat in my head long after listening) I think it's perfectly justified. These guys mix power-pop, a bit of lo-fi, a dash of surf music, and even some psychedelia to create a slab of catchy, guitar-textured indie pop goodness. There are so many reasons why this rules, but I'll leave you with just a few: 1. It's infectious as hell without being monotonous; 2. They combine a whole bunch of common influences and somehow sound unique; 3. The songs have an old-fashioned 'surf' feel, awesome; 4. Best band name/album name/album cover combination I've seen in ages; 5. They list Flannery O'Connor as an influence. Need I say more? This band will be big, big big, predicting it now. Get on board.
Vampire Weekend - Contra
I didn't like Vampire Weekend's debut at all, wrote it off as overhyped pretentious hipster garbage, but I don't know, I guess I'm pretty old now and my tastes are changing, and the mellowness of this record really appeals to me. It's fun, catchy, sometimes cerebral but also accessible. I guess I'm only now starting to learn that 'fun' music isn't necessarily vapid or bad.
Beach House - Teen Dream
Gorgeous dream-pop with a very subtle shoegaze influence here and there. This is the sort of album you listen to in a dark room with headphones, allowing your mind to drift away. Beautiful, moving stuff.
Dangers - Messy, Isn't It?
I know it's only early, but I'll be surprised if there's a better hardcore record released all year. These guys are raging, melodic, catchy and abrasive all at the same time. Surely the 'next big thing' in the genre.
Honorable mention to The Wonder Years for releasing a really solid pop-punk album with The Upsides, which is (deservedly) getting a lot of love around this site.
The only downside for me so far is the new Motion City Soundtrack album. For whatever reason, it hasn't really clicked with me yet. I still think the band will struggle to top the excellence of Commit This to Memory, and My Dinosaur Life is further proof of that - it contains some of their best moments, but also a lot of their worst. Hopefully it grows on me with time. If not, mega bummer.
In other news, I saw The Decemberists live this month and got a great new job, so all-in-all, I guess January ruled.
1. The Jealous Sound - Kill Them With Kindness
2. Cursive - Domestica
3. The Get Up Kids - Something To Write Home About
4. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven!
5. Pop Unknown - If Arsenic Fails, Try Algebra
6. City of Caterpillar - S/T
7. The Appleseed Cast - Mare Vitalis
8. The Appleseed Cast - Low Level Owl vol. 1
9. The Appleseed Cast - Low Level Owl vol. 2
10. The Appleseed Cast - Two Conversations
11. Penfold - Our First Taste of Escape
12. The Good Life - Novena On A Nocturn
13. Further Seems Forever - How To Start A Fire
14. The Casket Lottery - Moving Mountains
15. Thursday - War All The Time
16. ISIS - Oceanic
17. Brand New - Deja Entendu
18. Thrice - Vheissu
19. Saves The Day - Stay What You Are
20. Hopesfall - The Satellite Years
Honorable Mention: Moving Mountains - Pneuma (maybe it will make the list in a few years)
Band of the Decade: The Appleseed Cast
Any band who can release five very different, consistently excellent albums in one ten year period is doing something right.
Best thing about the coming Decade: the possibility of a new album from The Jealous Sound. Here's hoping they can top my next list, as well.
Everything else may have sucked in 2009, but at least the music was good.
Here are my picks for the 20 best releases of the year:
The Appleseed Cast - Sagarmatha
Caspian - Tertia
Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen
Weatherbox - The Cosmic Drama
Jeniferever - Spring Tides
Constants - The Foundation, The Machine, The Ascension
Gifts From Enola - From Fathoms
Converge - Axe To Fall
Russian Circles - Geneva
Junius - The Martrydom of a Catastrophist
The Mercury Program - Chez Viking
ISIS - Wavering Radiant
Brand New - Daisy
Polar Bear Club - Chasing Hamburg
Mono - Hymn To The Immortal Wind
Giant Squid - The Ichthyologist
If These Trees Could Talk - Above The Earth, Below The Sky
Baroness - Blue Record
Empire! Empire! (i was a lonely estate) - What It Takes To Move Forward
Fall of Efrafa - Inle
Honorable mentions to:
Jeremy Enigk - OK Bear
Eleventh He Reaches London - Hollow Be Thy Name
Buried Inside - Spoils of Failure
Now that I'm content I've heard most everything I'm interested in for the year, I've started to hone my AOTY list. It's a mammoth task. I'm pretty set on my favorite records of '09, but trying to organize them into some sort of order is impossible. I can't even cement a top 5 right now, let alone a top 20.
One thing I will say, however, is that my list for this year offers an interesting reflection of how much my tastes have changed. It's very heavily weighted towards instrumental/post-rock bands, a little lighter on hardcore/heavy music than in past years, and almost entirely devoid of pop-punk/rock-pop records. So it seems 2009 was the year of 'the post-rock' for me personally. I have to say, it's somewhat unsurprising given the absolutely stellar releases in that genre of late (i.e. Caspian, Mono, and Gifts From Enola to name but a few). but I'm wondering whether it reflects a broader trend in my music taste. Certainly, I've been more enamored with instrumental music this year than ever before. I think maybe I'm tiring of conventional song structures - the typical 'verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus' thing just bores the shit out of me - I prefer instead to get into the groove of a song and follow its natural progression for 5+ minutes and lose myself in the composition, see The Appleseed Cast's As the Little Things Go and Caspian's Malacoda for perfect examples of this. Those songs are pure musical bliss; no jackass chiming in with trite lyrics and pitchy vocals to ruin the mood of the song.
Another aspect which has greatly influenced my taste has been writing and playing my own music. Since I've become involved in this I've found myself much more attentive to, and respectful of, broader compositions. In the last couple of years I've moved away from being a vocalist to exclusively playing guitar in bands, so my focus is much more highly attuned to the role of the guitar in a band's song. I guess it comes as no surprise, then, that I've become obsessed with music that is, by and large, carried by said instrument. Interestingly enough, The Appleseed Cast remarked of their latest album that it was essentially a selfish exercise for the guitarists - they wanted to play music solely focused around their instruments - hence the minimal use of vocals on the record. They do a pretty damn good job of it, too.
At any rate, only time will tell whether I eventually grow tired of this post-rock obsession, or whether it marks a consistent change in my music tastes. Am I willing to abandon vocals forever? Of course not, but I find myself less and less interested in them, until every once and a while someone comes along and knocks me on my arse with something truly remarkable. Those moments are becoming less and less frequent, however.
So I ask all of you out there in ap.net blog-land, how have your tastes changed in 2009? Have they changed at all, or are you still fiercely committed to pop-punk? If that's the case, do you find yourself more disappointed with new music these days, or are you just as excited about it as ever?
I had my wisdom teeth out last Friday, it sucked. I mean, it really, really sucked. I have a pretty high pain threshold (endured kidney stones last year without pain meds), but this totally knocked me on my arse. Life has been taking a dumptruck-sized shit on me this year, these past few months in particular. And I'm not talking about your typical, maudlin, teenage love-lorn crap 'fake problems'; no, this is some heavy shit - pretty much everything I've ever known is going to change dramatically at some stage in the near future, and I don't know exactly what's going to happen; as in, are we going to wind up living under a bridge sometime soon? It's a possibility. But anyway, if I spent all my time dwelling on stuff that a) I can't control, and b) I can't forsee, I'd end up spending all my time in the foetal position, which wouldn't be of any use to anyone. So, I've managed to power on, surprisingly well I have to say. I got through all my finals, and I think I did quite well in the circumstances. In two weeks I'll be clerking full-time in a law firm until xmas, trying to get a full time job for 2010 which I desperately need (particularly considering the issues I alluded to above). Basically, from now until the holidays is going to be a whirlwind of crap, but maybe it's best to stay busy at times such as these.
I didn't intend to write any of the above, so forgive my digressions. I meant to segue straight from the 'unwise teeth' into a few music recommendations. Whilst I was suffering in pain, I went a good four days without listening to any music. That's quite a long break for me. Yesterday, I could take no more of it. I willed myself to the computer, upped the new Defeater and Person L records to my iPod, and crashed back on the couch to enjoy them. Defeater's new EP is fantastic, and Person L was a pleasant surprise, though I find the album lacks a bit of cohesion. I also spent a bit of time with the debut full-length from SF instrumental band Glaciers. I received the vinyl version of said album in the mail during my period of incapacitation, but couldn't sit down and give it a proper listen in any state of comfort, and thus made do with the digital files. I have to say, it is an excellent release. The band remind me of a less-heavy Russian Circles. Not that they really sound much like RC, but there's a darkness to their music consistent with the former. They set themselves apart from the usual crop of post-rock acts by having their bass player up front in the mix carrying the direction of the song, while the guitars cross in and out with pretty arpeggios. They also manage to successfully build mood and emotion without resorting to predictable 'crescendo-core' moments. I don't know what else to say, except that the record is great, and I highly recommend you check them out and pick up a copy of the ltd edition LP, in all its silkscreened, wax-sealed awesomeness. Check out some of their songs here: www.myspace.com/glaciersband
Speaking of crescendo-core, I also gave the new album from Mono another chance today. I've been somewhat underwhelmed by it thus far - I thought it lacked energy, and was a bit too 'Disney soundtrack' at times - but, for some reason, it really clicked with me today. The last two tracks are particularly superb. The vinyl version is also beautifully packaged so make sure you take a look at that, too.
What else warrants a mention? Oh yes, the new 2x7" from Defeater. This is the next band to blow up in Hardcore, mark my words. For anyone still mourning Verse and Have Heart, these guys may help fill that void. These new songs are, as always with this band, very thoughtful and melodic. Get on them before they're hyped to buggery (you're running out of time).
My next entry, if I can remember to make one, will probably feature some sort of end of year list. How excitement.
Here's some stuff I've been enjoying this past week:
YOB - The Great Cessation
Doom metal masters YOB return to show an ever-expanding group of bands how it's done. This record is great - it's crushing, melodic, heavy as fuck, and, most importantly for this kind of music, it's never boring. Great album, crossing my fingers it gets released on vinyl soon.
Doomriders - Darkness Come Alive
Heavy, pissed, riffy tunes that are, at the same time, catchy and fun as hell. Could end up being one of the best records of '09. It's pretty close at the moment.
Converge - Axe To Fall
I spoke a lot about this record in my last entry. My initial thoughts were fairly mixed, but since then I've given up debating whether or not this is a great 'Converge' album, and just focused on enjoying the music. And it is a very enjoyable album, for that matter. The first four songs rip so fucking hard, and the last two...well, they're refreshingly different. The middle of the album is solid, if a little unsurprising. Anyway, forget all that, it's a good listen.
Black Cobra - Bestial
This is a record from 2006, but I've been spinning it a bunch lately in anticipation of receiving their new record in the mail (hopefully one day this week). Anywho, Black Cobra are a two-man stoner/doom outfit that play heavy on the fuzzed-out riffing side of things, sort of like older High on Fire. Great band, great stuff. The new record apparently rips, so I can't wait to get my hands on that. They're playing here this week, too bad I'm going to miss it because I have non-refundable tickets to the soccer. Drag.
Familiar with the song, as I've already played it a bunch of times. Apparently there are people who don't like the noodly riff running through it. I am not one of them.
Reap What You Sow
More in your usual Converge vein. First thing to note is that the production is absolutely monstrous. Ballou is riffing his tits off again, and Koller's going fucking nuts. Beat's changed again, holy shit this song is crazy. I can't even keep up with it. The musicianship on this alone is incredible, let alone the songwriting. Think this may eventually be up there with the band's best songs.
Axe To Fall
Another familiar song - the one from the practice video - no surprises really from that. I love the breakdown.
Marching beat returns. Really cool, melodic guitar riff. Very metal. Starting to wonder how many guitars the tracked for each song. First few tracks all complement each other nicely, and they're also very accessible IMO.
Worms Will Feed
Things are starting to slow down now. This is the one thing that bugs me about Converge albums - they're all getting a bit predictable in terms of tracklisting (i.e. always start out blisteringly fast, then slow right down). I have no idea what Bannon's banging on about, as usual. There's a bit of melodic singing in the background, I assume that's one of the much-publicized 'guest vocalists'. It's pretty cool, but the song's not doing much for me. It's a bit 'wannabe doom-y'. Ooh, distortion just dropped out completely at about 3:55, wasn't expecting that. This is cool. I have to say, the bass sounds absolutely amazing. Now into a riff that wouldn't be out of place on the new Rise & Fall record. It's redeeming the song for me, I have to say.
Is this going to be another slow track? I hope not. Sounds like it at the outset. Oh no, I was wrong. It's sort of a 'rolling' mid-tempo beat, not much to note besides that. Kinda boring. The guitar tone on this track sounds a bit more grimy and sludgy. Makes me think of Doomriders for some reason. A solid song, but nothing really stands out.
Very cool start to this song, a little mathy riff, I like it. Hrm, this seems to be another one of those slightly grimy tracks. Breaking into a slower section, I reckon those are guest vocals but I'm not sure. Now Ballou's busting out another melodic metal riff. The rhythm guitar, again, sounds like it was lifted off the new Doomriders record. Ending is kinda typical and a bit boring.
Now we're speeding up again, surprise surprise. This is pretty standard fare, sounds like it could have been a b-side or out-take from No Heroes. Weakest song I've heard so far.
The thing that really strikes me with this record is how much melody there is, evident again in the beginning of this song. It's a catchy little jam, but like the last track, nothing that really grabs you. Not to say it's bad by any means, it just doesn't stand out the way some of the others do.
Rolling beat, riffs, a bit of melody, some cool shredding, but a bit formulaic by now. Putting these three 'average' tracks one after the other was a bit of a mistake IMO. Album's already starting to feel top-heavy.
Opening is similar to City of Caterpillar's 'When Was the Last Time We Painted Over the Blood on the Walls?' in that the guitar sounds like a swarm of angry bees (to me, at least). Now we're back into noodle-chunky bit-noodle-heavy bit etc. Hrm. Isn't it about time for another slow song?
Oh, here it is! Good lord, quiet opening with piano and acoustic guitar, and...is that Steve von Till? Is this really Converge?? What can I say, it's very, very different. Pretty cool though, I like it. The song itself is awesome, but I'm not sure it really fits with the rest of the album. Maybe a bit too ambitious in that sense, but props to the band for trying something different.
Clearly this is going to be another 'different' song. The opening is cool and kinda gloomy. Or maybe 'foreboding' is a better word. Yes, much better. Was that some electro stuff? This must be the 'Genghis Tron' one. Cool atmosphere, but these vocals...again, this is not a Converge song. As a collab it's likable and whatnot, but does it fit with the context of the album? I'd have to say no. That said, I think it's probably a good thing to have a bit of variety here and there. And, to be honest, I really like this song.
Wow, what an impossibly difficult record to sum up. Converge have turned in an album which I certainly could not have expected or predicted. Those last two tracks are a real curve-ball in their discography. Individually, I love each of them, but I don't know if they work in the context of the album. Or if the album even works at all. You have four super-strong songs at the beginning, then a few average, predictable ones, and finally a serve of total loopiness at the end there that doesn't fit with anything that's come before it. HOWEVER, I can't say I dislike any of the stuff here - quite the opposite, actually. I enjoyed listening to this album immensely, far more than I enjoyed No Heroes. I liked that it was random and unpredictable at times; that was, I guess you could say, a little refreshing.
I don't think I could possibly make any kind of definitive judgement about how 'good' this album is, or where it sits within Converge's discography, suffice to say that I really, genuinely enjoyed listening to this album first-time around, and I expect to play the shit out of it in the coming weeks and months, with an equal level of pleasure.
I just got back from a week's vacation at the beach. I have to admit, leaving to come home was tough, knowing how busy the next three months will be - law school finals in four weeks (which I've thus far done no preparation for), a potential wisdom tooth removal, full-time work clerking in a law firm right up until Christmas eve (basically a four week job interview) - it's going to be tough to find some quality time for myself amongst all that. Then there's the personal issues which also, in my darker moments, make me want to run away from this city and not come back. But that's just silliness, really, and nothing I can't get over - I've been battling it for over a year now, a bit longer won't kill me.
Anyway, so having found a tiny bit of time to myself before class (a mere hour, to be precise), I'm giving the new Daitro record which just arrived in the mail a spin on my turntable. For those who aren't familiar with them, Daitro are a French screamo band - more in the tradition of melodic emo bands like Evergreen, Funeral Diner and Amanda Woodward than the out-and-out chaotic stuff normally associated with the genre. I have to admit that I've more or less given up this type of music. I don't know, maybe I'm just old and jaded, but it got to a point where everything just kinda started running in together. So, is this new release from Daitro (their first since 2006) more of the same? Well, yes and no. Daitro have changed - they're a little slower now, a bit less screamy; the gorgeous melodies which light up all their songs seem even more distinct, more towards the centre of the music - but, to borrow a cliche, this is the band's 'mature' album. And that's totally awesome. This is a wistful gem of a record, perfect for those of us who may have lost a little bit of fire as we've grown older, but none of our heart.
So yes, I absolutely love this album, and urge everyone reading to take a listen. If you enjoy the music (and own a record player), give serious thought to picking up the LP - I'm of the opinion that music of this nature absolutely has to be heard on vinyl, and the band, along with French label Purepainsugar have put together a nice little package - 500 copies on black vinyl with a stapled booklet including writings in both French and English.
I've waited a long time to listen to this, and have read a lot of negative comments about the album. Honestly, I guess I can understand how or why kids who loved the 'old' Brand New could dislike this record, but for my tastes it's absolutely perfect. Musically, this record is so far about anything the band has done before - the arrangements are unpredictable and fascinating, the guitar lines (particularly Vin Accardi's lead guitar) are both subtle and intriguing, and bombastic and explosive. Yeah, there mightn't be a whole lot of melodies you can sing along to, but if you can look past that I think you'll see an album which is diverse, captivating and utterly surprising. This is definitely the band at the peak of their powers. Kudos to them for having the balls to progress in such a way.
One more thing: anyone who says this is a 'bad' album is wrong. I don't give a fuck about your opinion, objectively speaking, you are incorrect. By all means, if you dislike the album that's fine, that's the opinion you are entitled to. But this is not a 'bad' record. People need to stop thinking everything they can't immediately get into or don't care for, or which is different or unknown to them is somehow of diminished quality. It's not.
I haven't written here for ages now. Why? Well, I don't know, but I guess blogging can sometimes be a difficult to do when things aren't going so well (or, perhaps, liberating, but I've never really found that). So the first six months of this year were a total KITC, but at least they're over. I'm moving forward...well, trying to. But enough about that, I'm done dwelling on both the past and the negative.
You know, the funny thing is that, as I'm writing this entry, I'm conscious of the fact that I really have nothing to say. I've had nothing to say for a while now. That is not to say that I don't have thoughts, plans, dreams, hardships. No, I'm beset by the same number of ideas (and no time with which to act on them), but, I guess I'm growing increasingly aware of the fact that none of those really need to be related to anyone. Do I have anything profound which I need to articulate? Not really. Maybe I've suddenly removed my head from out of my own arse to see that nobody really gives a shit about anything I think or say, or maybe I've just been so damn busy with everything lately that I don't need to indulge my own self-absorption as much as I used to. I don't know. It's a mystery to me.
Anyway, one thing that I do always enjoy talking about is music, but, to be honest, I really hate writing about it in a forum such as this. I'm always struggling for the right words - it's less an emotional response to what I'm hearing, and more a descent into pompous criticism. So, rather than go down that path I'm just going to drop a list of a few things I've been enjoying lately. They are as follows:
Junius - The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist
Lewd Acts - Black Eye Blues
Heartsounds - Until We Surrender
Set Your Goals - This Will Be the Death of Us
Dolores O'Riordan - No Baggage
Caspian - Tertia
Thrice - Beggars
Well, that's pretty much it for now. I don't know when, or if, I'll be back here, but if you still have an interest in my shitty ramblings you can follow me on tumblr (lettvia.tumblr.com) or twitter (twitter.com/charlottecorday). Godspeed.
Starting off slow and dirty. First thing that’s apparent is the production – the guitars sound thick and rough, not too polished or overproduced like a lot of hardcore albums these days. Sweet keyboard line. Reminds me of Mind Eraser a bit in terms of the overall ‘feel’ of the song. Definitely a good thing.
Track speeding up and vox entering now. More of what you’d expect from PT. The instrumentation is so dirty-sounding yet so well defined. Every riff is highlighted perfectly. Moshy bit interspersed with keys and shredding. So good. Really interesting track overall, so many different things going on, and great use of dynamics.
Starting slow again. I can sort of hear a nice harmonic riff going on in the background but it’s not as apparent as the others. Rolling drumbeat with little cymbal touches – loving all these little subtleties and nuances, they make the tracks so much more interesting. Pace being varied again to great effect as vocals pan in an out.
More-standard PT fare – fast and heavy with shredding laid over the top. Guitar riff is pretty ridiculous. Breaks down into sweet cock-rock part, cue laser lights. The song writing on this track (and, indeed, the album to date) is pretty fucking next level for a hardcore band.
Track beginning with some guitar-driven atmospherics and a cymbal crescendo, sounds pretty evil. Vocals very much the focus of this part of the song, get the feeling there’s some key lyrics here but I can’t quite make them out. So far it’s taking on more of a standard ‘structure’ than the other songs to date. Another ridiculous guitar solo. Would like it if the keyboards made a return. Song is a bit same-y and could do with something to break it up a bit, or at least make things a little less predictable. Weakest track so far, but ‘weak’ is relative compared to the stellar stuff which has come before it.
More atmospherics and what sounds like simulated bird calls, sweet. Pretty obvious they’re simulated, which makes it all the more awesome. Clean guitar makes an appearance for the first time with sung vocals echoing in the background. Song is almost pretty in a brooding/melancholic way. Slowly fading into relative silence with a few blips and bloops remaining. Samples of people screaming/crying in a foreign language now, buried below the same guitar riff. Back into distorted riffs with spoken word lyrics looping over the top. There’s more vocals in the background but I can’t make them out. A trademark riff to close things out. Want more.
Wow. Pulling Teeth have managed to deliver on everything they’ve ever promised. Fantastic production makes the album raw and heavy, yet defined – riffs and melodies contrast against one another rather than running in together – and the band does an outstanding job of creating mood and atmosphere. Fantastic album, my only criticism would be the length. It feels more like an EP. Would have liked to see an additional two or three more tracks, but this is a fairly minor quibble. If there’s a better hardcore record released this year, I will be very surprised.
While listening to the band's (excellent) new album recently and following along with the liner notes a thought occurred to me - is there a more 'important' band within our scene than Thursday? I'm not speaking merely in terms of musical influence, but also the messages that they express through their music, and communicate to the general population through interviews and the like. Thursday has always seemed to me a band passionate about music and art, who are always taking steps above and beyond what most acts would generally do to further engage people in community, and also to spread passion and ideas throughout said community. To challenge kids to think about issues, to expose them to new music and art which is thoughtful and has something important to say. To be a 'gateway' to wisdom - the lantern lighting the way forward.
Anyway, I'm rambling, point I'm trying to make is that the band are legendary within our scene as far as I'm concerned, and I'm glad they're still around, making great music and continuing to enrich the intellectual and artistic culture of this community. And they quoted Roberto Bolano in their liner notes, +1000 awesome points.
Yeah, massive late-pass on this (I was waiting for a spare moment to sit down next to my turntable and really absorb it, moment has only just arrived). Anyway, initial thoughts are that the record is fucking awesome. I've heard a lot of people say it's a letdown after Chronoclast, but honestly I think that, in time, I may actually grow to prefer this release. Most strikingly, the tempo has slowed down considerably, which I love. Because of this, I feel like the songs are a lot more punishing, whilst at the same time being melodic. Really, as far as heavy music goes I can't see anything topping this release in the not-too-distant future. Album is fucking awesome and destroying me right now.
My initial thoughts as recorded upon first listen:
1. In the Now
Too repetitive. Already driving me crazy. Uh Oh. Sounds roughly like classic Cursive though, musically.
2. From the Hips
The most promising pre-released song sounds even better after a poor opening track. Good song, good melody. Great vocal melody.
3. I Couldn't Love You Anymore
Hated this when I first heard it on EW, but sounds better in the context of the album. Love the opening guitar. Pretty catchy, organ melody in the bridge still ruins the track for me, chord progression is all wrong IMO.
Initially sounds like one of Cursive's trademark 'album-bridging' songs. Could have been on Happy Hollow I guess. Building to something I think, I hope. Some nice guitar in the background that's subtle. Clearly this is a 'softer' album for them. Horns entering halfway into the song, I'm waiting for it to explode but it isn't. Teasing me, still no explosion. Back to the verse melody now, damnit. Weak song IMO, meanders for too long.
Very light guitar, unusual for a Cursive album. This could/should be a Good Life song. Catchy, damn catchy, but it's not Cursive IMO. Incidentally, Kasher's voice sounds great on this.
6. We're Going to Hell
Another Good Life-esque song (seeing a pattern much?). Some nice strings in the background - Cursive seem eager to fill up space on this album with whatever instrument they can find. Fuck yes, finally some intricate guitars, however light and subtle. More of this pls. So far this is the best song I think. Reminds me a bit of Moon and Antarctica-era Modest Mouse actually. I like it. Correction, I'm loving this song.
7. Mama, I'm Satan
Starting things off a bit more mid-tempo with some nice light guitar/drumming. Lyrics off-hand sound Ugly Organ-esque (self-hating artist, but I might be mistaken). I'm starting to accept that they're going in a 'softer' direction on this record - fewer, if any, ball-tearing songs. Building up to a horn interlude and Kasher roughly singing 'I cast you out!' with discordant organ/keys in the background. Liking the bassline in the background. Decent song, there's quite a bit going on in the background there.
8. Let Me Up
Another track with that slower, gloomy kind of feel. Feels like there's a bit more space on this one. Abrupt switch into pre-chorus, now there's what sounds almost like a clarinet or something. This is some weird shit. Switch back to the verse melody very seamless. I like the guitar in this. Now things are getting loud, finally some thick power chords. Song is impressively unpredictable. Like a more subdued (i.e. less manic) version of something on Happy Hollow. Interesting song.
9. Mama, I'm Swollen
Drums and guitar back at the forefront of this song, nice little intro here with the acoustic guitar flourishes. Fuck, I really like all the guitar tracks on this. Ahh, building again, this is so good. I'm really starting to like this album. Last 30 seconds are killing it, just rocking out. Seriously rad song, made all the better by the fact that everything preceding it was softer/slower. Great use of dynamics.
10. What Have I Done?
Kasher and acoustic guitar with some pretty deafening ambient noise in the background. Conjures images of a star-filled midnight sky over a corn field, or some shit. Lyrics are sounding good, more direct and less hiding behind wordplay. This could have been from the Novena on a Nocturn sessions, not a bad thing by any means. Kasher's doing an impassioned wail now as the music breaks free, sounding good. Nice harmonic horns/organs/keys/everything in the background, keeping with the band's focus on melody on this album. A worthy closer.
Overall Impressions: It's different, but I like it. Arguably, I think it's the only direction the band could have gone in to remain fresh. A very worthy addition to their catalogue. With a few listens I think it could reveal itself to be brilliant.