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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Have you ever purchased an album based solely on an Audio Overflow review?

This week's poll has closed. Let's view the results, shall we?

Yes! Yes! Yes! (50%)
No! No! No! (50%)

As things start to wrap up here at Audio Overflow, I've become increasingly curious as to how helpful I've been as a writer. My ratings put me at about a 71% helpful rating, which I can live with. But this blog gets way less hits per day (a few hundred, generally), and most of those are from non-regulars. According to the weekly polls, my regulars are only about 10-15 people. Ouch. Anyhow, I'm interested to know how you regulars voted. Do you remember a specific album that I reviewed that led you to purchase it? Did the inclusion of the word "solely" in the poll question affect your voting? Let me know for old times' sake.

Due to - umm - circumstances, there won't be another poll this week or, you know, ever probably. Things will conclude tomorrow with a few last-minute posts.

Until then...

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Video of the Week - Week 85

It's about time Shara Worden and Asthmatic Kitty made a video from her latest album as My Brightest Diamond. "From the Top of the World" isn't the greatest song from the album, but it's not too shabby either. Can you point out the similarities with Radiohead, or is that just me imagining things?

My Brightest Diamond - "From the Top of the World" from the album, A Thousand Shark's Teeth

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Postal Service: "Give Up"

You know that pivotal scene in "Garden State" where Natalie Portman's character shows Zach Braff's character a song by The Shins? She says, "You gotta hear this one song, it'll change your life I swear," and it literally does set into motion a chain of events that changes his life completely. That is exactly how I feel about The Postal Service's Give Up, an album that changed my life and my perception of what good music is, and what it could be.

If you've read my musings before, you're undoubtedly aware of the story of how I first heard this album. Driving with a friend during Spring Break 2004 (whoo!), he puts in this CD and begins playing "Nothing Better." Jimmy Tamborello's bellish synth sound reminds me of when Mario collects a coin, and being the huge video game nerd that I am, that won me over entirely. It was the first time I had heard Ben Gibbard's perfect (album) voice, perfectly complemented not only by Tamborello's flawless composition, but Jen Wood's sugary-sweet vocals. I semi-dated/saw/hung out/got complicated with this girl that very same year and this became our unofficial "song." She would sing Jen's lines and I would sing Ben's. It was cheesy, but it was good times.

That whole Spring Break I poured over this album. I remember waking up in the morning, walking over to my CD player, pressing play, and then going back to bed where I would lie down, close my eyes and just take it in. The first track, "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" still gives me goosebumps when the music starts and Ben softly croons, "Smeeeeared blaaaack ink," practically reaching out through the speakers and pulling me in. It's slow, meandering start makes its uptempo ending all the more exciting, bringing a smile to my face almost always. It's outdone on the album, only by the modern pop classic, "Such Great Heights," a song whose lyrics, composition, and performances all achieve a perfection that - up until that time - I had never thought possible. Sure, Iron & Wine totally killed the whole carefree, lovey-dovey vibe that this song had going for it, but if anything it makes you appreciate the original that much more.
Of course, it's not all hugs and kisses. Songs like "Sleeping In" and "This Place is a Prison" show Gibbard taking on a more realistic, less romantic world view. The former song's lyrics are, again, one of the album's high points.  "This Place is Prison" is definitely the lowest point on Give Up, particularly because of it's lack of energy, though that doesn't keep it from being an interesting listen at all.  When listened to in the context of the album, it's a welcomed change of pace and tone.  "Natural Anthem" is also a bit different from the rest of the songs.  The longest track on the album, it begins with a solemn violin loop before adding more layers that I can count.  Gibbard doesn't even start singing until the 4 minute mark, and by that time, his voice is the last thing you'd expect to hear from the song.  It sounds almost foreign, but as always, it's particularly lovely.

And what would a review of Give Up be without mention of its two most-romantic songs, "Clark Gable" and "Brand New Colony?"  "Gable" tells the story of how Ben grabs a few friends, a camera, and a van, and tries to create the perfect love scene.  Why?  Because he's "been waiting since birth to find a love that would look and sound like the movies."  It's a charming song, to be sure, with one of Tamborello's most toned-down compositions on the album.  It never gets in the way, or steps out of line.  "Brand New Colony" is entirely different, containing more Mario-esque synths and one of the most recognizable starting melodies ever.  Here, Gibbard speaks of his desire to take his lover and start a brand new colony where "everything will change."  Jenny Lewis lends her vocals to that line, repeating it beautifully and subtly (Jenny Lewis, subtle?  There's a first!) as she harmonizes with Gibbard.  It is probably the most beautiful moment on the album, which is saying a lot for such a glorious record.

In hindsight, the impact that this album has made on me is clear.  Whether or not that has an influence on how I feel about it is debatable, though I think this is definitely a record that can stand on its own merits.  Though saying it changed my life may sound like an extreme exaggeration, it really has changed so much about my thoughts, tastes, and opinions on the art form.  I didn't even know what indie music was, or even heard of it, until I listened to Give Up.  I hesitate to say that it is my favorite album of all time, though if one were to point a gun to my head and demand an answer, this one probably would flow off the tongue easier than anything else.  The bottom line is that Give Up is a very important album, not only for me, but for indie and electronic music in general.  In my opinion, it is an album without flaw or missteps, one that should undoubtedly be considered a massive achievement in music, and one that I've not grown tired of yet.  Only time will tell if the album remains a favorite of mine, but for right now it's just as magical and beautiful as ever.  That works for me.

Key Tracks:
1. "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight"
2. "Such Great Heights"
3. "Nothing Better"
4. "We Will Become Silhouettes"
5. "Brand New Colony"

10 out of 10 Stars

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Perfect Summer Soundtrack - Week 12

Well what do you know? It seems like only yesterday that I birthed this silly summer feature called the "Perfect Summer Soundtrack." But alas the fruit of my loins must emerge from it's nest and soar the autumn skies as a distant, though fond memory.

The Ultimate Road Trip Playlist

One might argue that I've spent too much time on the road trip this summer. While true in some regards (every album featured has been a particularly great road trip album), I'd like to offer a counter-point in that most memorable summer activities - be they vacations, trips to the beach, the lake, or a water park - involve hopping in the car and taking a drive. Certainly there aren't many who read this blog that would engage in such an activity only to pop in Meshuggah or Mastodon to accompany their trip. Therefore, I've continually tried to offer up what I consider to be great drive-time records, filled with songs that somehow seem better when you're behind the wheel.

This week's playlist is not only the last of this series, but perhaps the last I'll do for Audio Overflow, what with my imminent departure less than a week away. So I wanted to give you all something a bit special, in this case a multiple hour playlist (assuming imeem plays nice with all the 30-second samples) that is meant to be listened to behind the wheel. Is it worth going to your wireless provider, purchasing a laptop connect card, and hooking that laptop up to your car stereo for? Maybe. At the very least, it's worth listening to at your work desk, or at home when you've got nothing better to do. Maybe you'll find something that you've never heard, forgot about, or always liked but never bought. Maybe hearing it on this playlist will make you want to rush out and buy that to add to your own custom road trip playlist. I don't know how you roll. What I do know is, for me, it doesn't get any better than this.

Click HERE to view Weeks 1-11 of this 12-week series.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

What is Muse's Best Album?

Well, another week has passed and with it another poll. Here's what became of last week's poll question:

Showbiz (0%)
The Origin of Symmetry (11%)
Hullabaloo Soundtrack (0%)
Absolution (22%)
Black Holes and Revelations (66%)

I must say, I'm a bit surprised by the results to this week's poll. I'm one of the few people who voted for Absolution, as I think it is a more technically impressive, well-rounded, and thematically coherent record. The critical consensus has always been in favor of Black Holes and Revelations, but it had too many ups and downs for me to enjoy completely. "Assassin" and "Invincible" are the height of anthem cheese, "Soldier's Poem" is pretty, though a bit silly lyrically, and "Starlight" is Coldplay-lite. As an album, it was all over the place and Absolution felt like a more solidly constructed piece of art.

I'm interested to hear why you voted the way you did. Let me know in the comment section, below.

There's a new poll up right now! Please answer honestly. Also, Skeletal Lamping has may want to check that out.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

The Top 40 Songs By Of Montreal (Songs 15-11)

I was told last week that this list seems a bit excessive, that Of Montreal couldn't have more than 60-70 songs.  Well, I have well over 100 in my collection alone.  So narrowing the list down to 40 is not only helpful, but in no way excessive.  Deal with it.

#15:  "Old Familiar Way" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - Once again, I'm having fond memories of some of the first Of Montreal songs that I ever heard.  This lead-off track to The Gay Parade deals with being bored with everyday life.  Stuff that used to amaze you now leaves you wanting more, the life you live leave you unfulfilled.  It's the perfect setup to the zany world of The Gay Parade, with a cast of characters so expansive that you loose yourself in it and forget about your world entirely.

#14:  "Nickee Coco and the Invisible Tree" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - There's something so intensely magical and unforgettable about this song.  No matter how many times I listen to it, I'm completely captivated by the story of a young girl who climbs up an invisible tree, falls asleep, and disappears.  As the townspeople rally together to locate her whereabouts an owl flies by and spots young Nickee Coco, eventually leading to her discovery by friends and family.  The final chorus is emphatic and celebratory, and it gets me every time.  "We love you Nickee Coco/ We were so sad when we thought we lost you!"  I still get goosebumps.

#13:  "The Miniature Philosopher" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - I'm really on quite the Gay Parade kick here aren't I?  Hey, it's an awesome record!  Can you blame me?  This song is one of the more charming tracks from that album, about a tiny philosopher whom nobody takes seriously due to his short stature.  It's a bit sad to hear about his continual failures in philosophy and how he continues his quest to become famous, but then again, who doesn't enjoy hearing about the woes of pompous, precocious philosophers?

#12:  "Voltaic Crusher/Undrum to Muted Da" from the album, Icons, Abstract Thee EP (2007) - While not the longest or most inventive song in the Of Montreal catalogue, Kevin Barnes' depressing and self-depreciating break-up song is definitely one of the catchiest.  The simple line of "You gave me a hand/I gave you a fist/Please don't lose any sleep over me, baby/I hardly exist" has been stuck in my head so many times over the last year, that it's getting to be quite ridiculous.  

#11:  "Good Morning, Mr. Edminton" from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - The lead-off track to Of Montreal's weirdest album to date also happens to be the most enjoyable song to sing along with - definitely in their collection, but maybe ever!  Countless hours I have wasted singing "Tip toe down the spiral stairs and just before the cellar door you'll see a picture of a juggler.  Touch his nose and that will open up the secret corridor.  Take the ladder at the end up to the street and run as fast as you can!"  Grab a friend and make them sing harmony.  Trust me.  It doesn't get any better than this.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pirate Prude: "Exile in Circuitville"

I first received Pirate Prude's debut album in the mail over a month ago.  Like most albums I get in for review, I pop it right into the CD player for a preview listen just to see if it's something that I would enjoy.  After about 8 minutes of Exile in Circuitville, I had had about all that I could take.  I set it in my "To Review" box and waited to delve further into it until I had more time to devote to it.  That time came about 3 weeks ago.  I put the songs on my iPod and started my journey into Circuitville.  That one lasted about 20 minutes.

Conceived as sort of a semi-concept/tribute/response album to Liz Fair's seminal classic, Exile in Guyville and The Rolling Stone's Exile on Main Street, Exile in Circuitville is Mark Freifeld's artistic escape from the Tampa Bay area of Florida.  He describes Circuitville as being, "Infested with superficial gym rats and twink boys branding themselves with clothing labels and losing themselves in debaucherous circuit parties." If his goal in making the album was to distance himself from superficiality, he undoubtedly succeeded.  Mark seems to have an unabashed love of the early 90s indie-rock movement, and its influence on him is clear from the very beginning of the album.  Every song on Circuitville is completely drenched in distant, distorted electric guitars and Freifeld shows little care to make his vocals "pretty," or for that matter, tolerable.  It is for this reason alone that I have had such a difficult time listening to the album.  

To put it bluntly, this is some of the worst singing I've heard in my life.  Notes are missed several times a song, melodies are often uninteresting and unmoving, and Freifeld's death rattle of a voice is often exacerbated by his lo-fi approach to recording.  There are times, usually in each song, where he'll forgo his typical singing voice and opt for a nasty, wretched scream that - yes - adds a bit of emotion to the mix, but gets tired after about the third or fourth song.  And while the lyrical content proves that Freifeld is at least somewhat talented, the lyrics are mostly indistinguishable.
The music itself isn't terrible, but it isn't exactly mind-blowing either.  The guitars, as I mentioned earlier, are always heavily distorted and pushed to the back of the mix, and most of the time they repeat the same riff throughout a song's entirety.  There is no discernible percussion to be found on the album, either, which tends to make even the most upbeat Pirate Prude song feel like it's dragging on into eternity.  To be sure, the only redeeming quality that I can find on Circuitville is Tom Kersey's delicate and masterful playing of the cello.  It's soft, frail demeanor adds a nice contrast to Freifeld's excessive noise and almost makes things bearable.

Finally, after 3 weeks of giving Exile in Circuitville small doses of critical listens, I decided today to listen to the album in its entirety as I made a trip across town.  The end result is the exact same as it was over a month ago when I first heard it:  Pirate Prude is not for me, nor do I believe that it is for anybody who reads this blog regularly.  The music found on Exile in Circuitville is in no way polished, or in my opinion, presentable.  Listening to it is an excruciating experience, and one that takes an abnormal amount of patience and forgiveness.  Unfortunately, not even all of the patience and forgiveness that I can muster would be enough to want to listen to it ever again.

Key Tracks:
1. "Mister"
2. "Oh, the Places You'll Go"
3. "Devil's Hairslut"

1 out of 10 Stars

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Video of the Week - Week 84

How 'bout that post yesterday?

My Morning Jacket - "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2" from the album, Evil Urges.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Perfect Summer Soundtrack - Week 11

This week, then next week, then no more weeks of the Perfect Summer Soundtrack.  Not really that sad at all, actually.

The High School Friends Playlist

So for a lot of you, summer is a time to leave your college campus and return home for the summer.  And what's the bast (or worst) part of returning home?  Getting to see all your high school friends again, and being able to reminisce on the "good times."  Of course, there's nothing better to help reminisce than all of that shitey music you used to jam to back in your parent's old Ford Taurus.  

Face it, the music you listened to in high school sucked.  But being the nice guy that I am, I've decided to compile a good portion of it here.  The first 8 songs on the playlist are the songs you probably loved in high school.  The rest are what you should've been listening to.  More than anything, this just makes me feel old.  When I was in high school, Bill Clinton was still president of the United States and Coldplay was some British band that only my sister's ex-boyfriend had heard of.  How times change!

Week 1 - Rooney's Self-Titled Debut (Beach Trip, Road Trip, Skateboarding)
Week 2 - The Picnic Playlist
Week 3 - Of Montreal: The Sunlandic Twins (Road Trip Sing-a-longs, House Parties, Frisbee Tossing)
Week 4 - The 4th of July Party Playlist
Week 5 - The Pump Me the F*** Up! Playlist (Mountain Climbing, Fight Clubbing, Wakeboarding, Kayaking, Parachuting, Murdering, Running)
Week 6 - The Elected: Sun Sun Sun (Road Trip)
Week 7 - The Bike Ride Through the Country Playlist
Week 8 - Incubus: Morning View (Skateboarding, Surfing, Beach Trip, Road Trip)
Week 9 - The Water Aerobics Playlist

Week 10 - The Boy Least Likely To: The Best Party Ever (Hipster Parties, Road Trip, Biking, Frisbee-Tossing, and Running Through Sprinklers)

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Future of Audio Overflow

Audio Overflow will cease day-to-day operations on September 1, 2008.

Ahh, that felt good to say. What that means is that the daily posts you've come to -well - read on your way to other, better sites will no longer be coming on a daily basis. To artists and our partners, it means that we will no longer be accepting music for review, myspace music mondays, etc. It means that reaching me by e-mail is going to start being a bit more difficult than it has been in the past. Essentially, this means that Audio Overflow will no longer exist as it now stands.
The reasons for this move is simple, though I'll try to keep things as vague as possible for my own sake. I have been given the opportunity to pursue other things, and I am taking it. These "other things" that I speak of are not music-related, or even internet related, but they will severely hinder my ability to run this blog as I do currently. To date, Audio Overflow has made a total profit of $0.00. Simply put, this blog was never about making money, though I have given it ways to do so. It was always, and still is, simply a way for me to express my thoughts on the music that I enjoy and to share my favorite music with other people. Never would I have thought that in the 2 1/2 years that this blog has been up that it would become as popular as it has. I am extremely grateful to those of you who have visited regularly since this blog's inception, and for the artists, labels, and partners who have supported Audio Overflow over the past year.

Sadly, as I leave this blog behind, I am also leaving behind several goals that I had when I started taking it seriously in late 2006. I really do think that, given a few more years, Audio Overflow would have become more than just a regular ol' music blog with a meager, but respectable readership. I was always up for trying new things, and even brought in a few new writers to help spice things up. I have been anticipating the closure of Audio Overflow for months and thought about adding more writers to continue the site after I left, but without any respectable prospects and no pay to provide, such a task was daunting to say the least.

So the plan as of right now is to cease day-to-day operations on Monday, September 1st. I will continue writing in my spare time, but this blog will no longer be a priority in my life. I will post the occasional review and top 5 list, but things will be getting very quiet 'round these parts. The good news is that I fully intend on posting my Top 31 of 2008 and the 5th Annual Cale Awards (how could I resist) by year's end. Of course, the Cale Awards will probably not be reader-decided as it has been the last two years simply because I doubt there will be many readers left by that point. Should the readership remain at a respectable level, I may reconsider this.

So that is the plan. Thanks for reading Audio Overflow.


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Here are the results of this week's poll:

Awesome. One of my favorite artists. (7%)

A guilty pleasure. Fun to dance to. (21%)

Fun to look at, but I try not to listen. (28%)

Who? (42%)
So as was the case last week, I'm not too terribly surprised by these results. I asked the question because the media is leading me to believe that she's this giant megastar that everyon adores. While that may be true for the general non-thinking crowd, I wanted to know if my readers were into that shite as well. As it turns out, most of you either don't know who she is or wished that you didn't. Again, no real surprises, but I needed to be sure that this blog's audience was exactly what I thought it was.

Discuss the poll results below. How did you vote?

A new poll is up right now!

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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Top 40 Songs By Of Montreal (Songs 20-16)

Please you to visit 4 weeks previous before path you continue?  This beneficial to you, undoubtedly.

Week 1  |  Week 2  |  Week 3  |  Week 4
#20:  "The Actor's Opprobrium" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins Bonus EP (2005) - If there was ever a reason to reach deep into that Sunlandic Twins case of yours and pull out the bonus EP that's tucked away nicely, this song would be it.  The story of a poor chap who is honored to star in the great master's snuff film, only to find out that all blessings come with a consequence.  The line of, "I want to be a star, but that's going to far," could probably be slapped on the t-shirt of every young hopeful out in Hollywood who wants to be taken seriously as an actor, but is probably more suited for pornography, or snuff as the case would be.  Semantics, really.

#19: "Suffer for Fashion" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - Of all the danceable songs that Of Montreal has made over the past 5 years, none fit the mold better than "Suffer for Fashion," the lead-off track to their most recent album.  The first time I heard it was at a show about a year before the album came out and - whoah - totally blown away.  Keep that click clicking at 130 bpm, guys.  I wouldn't have it any other way!

#18:  "Oslo in the Summertime" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - Containing what is arguably one of the catchiest, most endearing basslines of the last decade (at the very least), "Oslo in the Summertime" is the audible embodiment of "cool."  Linguistically, that may not make a lick of sense, but I think long time readers ought to be able to follow.  The simple truth is that this song just makes you want to slick your hair back, throw on your shades and leather jacket, shove that comb in your back pocket and point at random people in tempo.  Or maybe that's just me.  Either way...great song!

#17:  "Lysergic Bliss" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - Let's go back, once again, to right around the time that I first heard Of Montreal.  Satanic Panic in the Attic was my very first album of theirs to own, and I bought it without ever hearing one of its songs (I was more familiar with The Gay Parade).  So at the time, I still wasn't completely sold on the band.  But by the time this song came around (Track 2, I believe) I was completely sold!  More specifically, it Kevin Barnes playing the role of dozens of schoolchildren and harmonizing with himself that sold me on the band.  The rest is history.  Boring, boring history.

#16:  "Chrissy Kiss the Corpse" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - In 2004 I was driving back from the ghetto, where I had just received my first tattoo, and a friend was in the back seat - completely high if I recall correctly.  Suddenly, this song starts playing on my stereo and I hear a faint voice from the back seat, "There's soooooo much going on."  I turn around to see my tranquil friend wide-eyed in amazement.  That's what I think about every time I hear this song.  Strange sure, but I always love how we can connect certain songs to different moments or times in our lives.  That's the magic of music, I suppose. 

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dieter Schöön: "Lablaza"

Take Beck and send him to Sweden, make him listen to equal parts German techno and Sonic Youth, get him really baked and put him in a studio; do all of these things and you might have a good idea of what Dieter Schöön sounds like.  Even then, though, actually defining Schöön's music is a lesson in futility.  Though almost entirely electronic, he often mixes in guitars, trumpets and saxophones to create music reminiscent of The Notwist.  His voice lies somewhere between the cool demeanor of Beck - to whom, I believe his music is most-comparable -and the lazy stylings of The Strokes' Julian Casablancas.  Too many names to keep up with, right?  I suppose it would've just been easier to say that Dieter Schöön is wholly original in a world where such a thing is a rare trait.

"Manuel" begins the album wonderfully, with a new-wavey feel that will pull almost anyone into Schöön's web.  His catchy electronic backing soon gives way to a freeform jazz saxophone solo in the vein of Stars' "He Lied About Death."  Layers and layers of electronics build on top of this to form a pile of sound beyond comparison.  The saxophone gives way to trumpet and acoustic guitar on "Mary Jane," a dance song-turned mariachi romp.  The song's breakbeat drums are miles ahead of Dieter's slow, maniacal croon, but this turns out to be a recurring theme on Lablaza that doesn't tire.
"The Harbour's Cold," for example, as one of the album's most energetic musical compositions.  Still, Schöön's melancholic voice goes at its own leisurely pace.  It is a very interesting aesthetic to say the least.  Listening to music my entire life, I am not accustomed to such an acceptable contradiction.  And as I stated before, this is something that Schöön explores throughout the album, like on the brief "Lot's of Free Shoes but Nowhere to Run" or the absolutely mind-blowing "I'll Go There."  The latter happens to be my favorite track on Lablaza.  It is here where he sounds most like Beck, though I can never imagine that artist singing something like, "Astrophonic testicles in the corn flakes."  The song's high point, however, is when all the instrumentation drops out to reveal a luscious 3-part harmony singing, "I'll go there/ because the freedom loves me."  Simply phenomenal.
Despite these wonderful moments, Lablaza is not without its share of missteps. Schöön's lyrics can sometimes be simple an repetitive, much like The Notwist.  However, where Markus Acher's repetition is catchy enough to be forgivable, Dieter's unique, plodding voice has the exact opposite effect.  On "Warm Hearts," he repeats one line throughout the song's 3 1/2 minutes and as a result, the song drags on for what feels like an eternity.  "Hogface" also features an annoyingly repetitive line, though the song changes its pace and style enough times to keep things mildly interesting.

These are small complaints, however, and for the most part, Lablaza is an absolutely mesmerizing listen.  I've listened to plenty of music in my life, but I can safely say that I've never heard anything quite like Dieter Schöön.  It took me a few listens before the genius of his unique brand of electronica dawned on me, but after it did, I just can't stop listening to it.  To be sure, many will be turned off by his abstract approach to a genre that is usually severely structured, but to me, this just adds to the enjoyment of listening to Lablaza.  Passive listeners beware:  you totally won't get it.  However, for those of you willing to give something several open and critical listens, Dieter Schöön's Lablaza is one of the most inventive and complex things you're likely to hear all year.

Key Tracks:
1. "Manuel"
2. "The Harbour's Cold"
3. "Jethead"
4. "I'll Go There"
5. "Everyone Must Leave"

8 out of 10 Stars

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Video of the Week - Week 83

You know, I think I'm starting to like this new, happy Conor Oberst fellow. Where'd he come from anyway?

"Souled Out!!!" by Conor Oberst, from his self-titled album.

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Moods - Introspective

Hey, what is this feature?  Oh, it's Moods, the feature where I pick a specific mood and then build a playlist off of that.  Nice!  I almost forgot it existed.

Ever get in one of those moods where you just have to sit back and self-evaluate; where you sit back and ask yourself those really deep questions that you try to avoid most of the time?  That, friends, is called "introspection" or "the examination or observation of one's own mental and emotional process."  It can be quite helpful in determining who you are, who you want to become, and what you want out of life.  

But introspection has it's drawbacks too.  For example, I don't think a person is capable of being introspective when an *Nsync song is playing in the background.  You'll either a.) start dancing and singing along (guilty), or b.) jump up to turn that shite down!  Either way, you're getting out of the zone.  To stay in the zone, I usually require a song with no words - an instrumental.  That way,  I'm not distracted by catchy hooks or someone else's introspective thoughts.

So with that in mind - you guessed it - here's a playlist of instrumental songs that should keep you in that introspective mood long enough to figure out why exactly you're still dating that rather annoying, though inexplicably hot girl that you just can't stand, or why you constantly feel the need to be the center of attention.  Deep stuff, people. Don't screw it up!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Darker My Love: "2"

As a musician you should always try to make an album as diverse as possible without sacrificing the style and sound of an album.  In other words, it's okay to have songs with varying pace, themes, etcetera; but artists should always be wary of placing an alt-country song right next to an upbeat dance pop track.  It's okay to dabble in different sounds, just do it on different albums (Lookin' at you, Fountains of Wayne.  I don't forget.).  At the same time, you also want your album to contain enough variety so as not to become stale and repetitive.  Unfortunately, I don't believe Darker My Love got the memo on this idea.

2 is an absolutely awesome album for its first 2 tracks.  "Northern Soul" starts the album off with a bang.  It's psych-rock at its poppiest, with an infectious, distorted guitar riff and equally infectious vocals.  There are some really cool harmonies going on as well; very reminiscent of Secret Machines in some ways.  "Blue Day" picks things up a notch with an actual drum beat and more cool vocals and harmonies.  It does sound a bit like the first song, but that's okay right?  Wrong.
By track three it slowly started to dawn on me that this sounded exactly like the first two.  Track four sounds eerily similar to the three that come before it.  It's not until the fifth song, "White Composition," that the band makes an attempt at mixing things up.  A Beatles-esque pop song, it gets rid of all the fuzzy guitars and replaces them with a acoustic guitars, jazz drums, and a whole lot of reverb.  The first time I listened through 2, it was this song that immediately stood out to me.  That's not just because it's phenomenal, but also because it's literally the only song that doesn't sound like every other song on the album.

That's right, after a quick ray of hope, Darker My Love goes right back to playing loud, distorted, psych-rock for the next six tracks.  Each track features the same phased-out vocals with wet harmonies, the same distorted guitar riffs, and the same loudness.  No thank you.  Honestly, if I hadn't had an obligation to review this album, I probably wouldn't have made it the whole way through.  Never has music this energetic been such a bore!  It's not like the band is without talent either.  On the contrary, they've proven themselves to me to be extremely capable musicians.  But this album is so repetitive and uninteresting, that I can't even give the band the respect (or the typically well-written review) that I think they deserve as musicians.  Hopefully the band can diversify their sound a bit for album number 3.  And maybe they could come up with a more original album title as well.  Just a thought.

Key Tracks:
1. "Blue Day"
2. "White Composition"
3. "Even In Your Lightest Day"

4 out of 10 Stars

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Perfect Summer Soundtrack - Week 10

Sad but true; there are only 3 more weeks of this silly series (not to mention, your summer) left to enjoy. So let's get on with it.

The Boy Least Likely To: The Best Party Ever

Recomended Activities: Hipster Parties, Road Trip, Biking, Frisbee-Tossing, and Running Through Sprinklers

There are parts of me every year that think, "Ugh, here comes summer again!" But I live in Houston where things can tend to get a bit steamy. Most people invite the sunny season like Scott Stapp (with arms wide open ;) ). Why? Because when people think about summer, they think about fun! Even as we get older, we still associate the summer months with vacations, trips, and - though it hardly matters -no school!

And if this 2005 album by The Boy Least Likely To can be described by just a single word, it would be "fun." Oh sure, there are bouts with insecurity and fear, but when your fear song is titled "I See Spiders When I Close My Eyes," you can very well be certain that you won't need to bust out your razors to get the full experience. It's a wonderfully joyous album that will absolutely make for the best party ever, assuming that everyone in your party shops exclusively at vintage clothing stores. If they don't, you might want to go ahead and dust off that Lil' Wayne album you swore you'd never listen to again. That seems to be pretty hot with the kiddos these days.

Week 1 - Rooney's Self-Titled Debut (Beach Trip, Road Trip, Skateboarding)
Week 2 - The Picnic Playlist
Week 3 - Of Montreal: The Sunlandic Twins (Road Trip Sing-a-longs, House Parties, Frisbee Tossing)
Week 4 - The 4th of July Party Playlist
Week 5 - The Pump Me the F*** Up! Playlist (Mountain Climbing, Fight Clubbing, Wakeboarding, Kayaking, Parachuting, Murdering, Running)
Week 6 - The Elected: Sun Sun Sun (Road Trip)
Week 7 - The Bike Ride Through the Country Playlist
Week 8 - Incubus: Morning View (Skateboarding, Surfing, Beach Trip, Road Trip)
Week 9 - The Water Aerobics Playlist

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

How Often Do You Illegally Download Music?

Here are the results to last week's poll, "How Often Do You Illegally Download Music?"

"Every time I want to hear new music." (30%)
"Just when I want to preview something at my leisure before I buy it." (38%)
"Occasionally, for hard to find or out-of-print albums." (15%)
"Never. Piracy is wrong!" (15%)

I'm not really surprised by these results, and as I stated in my rant a few weeks back, piracy is a problem but it's currently one of the only viable options for people who want to experience and discover music for free. As it turns out, most of you tend to feel the same way.

Feel free to discuss these results in the comments section, below.

There's a new poll question up right now.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

The Top 40 Songs By Of Montreal (Songs 25-21)

If you're new to this 8-week countdown, please check out the last 3 weeks to catch up!

Week 1   |   Week 2  |  Week 3

#25 - "Vegan in Furs" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - "Vegan in Furs" is probably the best album-ender in Of Montreal history.  With a catchy melody, crazy guitars, and a sing-along quality coda (I think that's the second time I've used that phrase in the last 48 hours), this song is undeniably awesome.  It drips with Of Montreal's trademark indie pop sound and Kevin Barnes' usually strange lyricism.  It reminds me of the good times before Of Montreal turned into a group that 15-year old girls can dance like skanks to.  For that, this song makes it to #25.

#24 - "Butterscotching Mr. Lynn" from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - At under 2 minutes long, it would be easy for many to overlook this great song.  It perfectly captures Coquelicot's whimsical feel while remaining sane enough (for the most part) for even the most casual of listeners to dig it entirely.  Again, I do tend to get a little sentimental when I listen to old classics like this one.  It's so perfectly constructed, deep, and exciting, that it makes a fly beat and cool bass line seem like child's play.  Not to completely trash Of Montreal's newer work, I love that stuff too.  But there's just something about songs like "Butterscotching Mr. Lynn" that absolutely does it for me!

#23 - "An Epistle to a Pathological Creep" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (Japanese Bonus Tracks) (2004) - It's a little known song, sure, but it's an absolute blast to hear.  When I first got wind of it, I was in college, so Barnes' rant about a guy who "speaks as if you should be taking notes" rang true with me.  So many arrogant d-bags in college, and Kevin manages to nail every single one with his characterization of this pathological creep.  Lovely!  And because it's so rare, I've uploaded it for your listening enjoyment.

#22 - "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - Ahh, the song that made Of Montreal into a household name.  While it's true that the Outback Steakhouse commercials really ruined hope of me every liking this song to the same degree that I did when I first heard it, nothing can erase the first time I popped The Sunlandic Twins into my CD player and jammed to this song on repeat.  Hell, it was even on Cloverfield!  Yes, my favorite little band has grown up and starred in T-Mobile commercials, mostly due to this song.  Make no mistakes, it is a brilliant piece of pop music, and one that is oddly relatable.

#21 - "The Problem With April" from the album, Horse and Elephant Eatery (No Elephants Allowed) (2000) - This may or may not have been the first Of Montreal song that I ever heard, I can't remember.  But what is important is that it's an amazing song that captures the heartbreak and hopelessness of being dumped, but does so with an amazingly upbeat, parade-march song.  The lyrics are easily rememberable (Actual word?  Spell check thinks so.) and easily some of Barnes' catchiest to date.  And hey, who doesn't love New York in June?  Besides radical Muslims...

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Eastern Sea: "The Eastern Sea" EP

Matthew Hines has been writing and recording as The Eastern Sea for a few years.  More often than not, these recordings have been solo outings uploaded to a website or a MySpace page.  For this debut EP, Hines brought some friends along to form a band under the Eastern Sea name.  The added members - Thomas Garcia-Olano (Bass), Jess Graves (Keys), and Zach Duran (Drums) - predictably add a new depth to the music that has been missing in the past.  But does the fleshed-out instrumentation ruin the quirky, honest music that fans have come to expect from The Eastern Sea?

The quirkiness, yes, but the songs on this EP are just a earnest and heartfelt as they have always been.  If anything, the new members of the band have given the music a maturity that has always been absent.   "The Night" is classic Hines, with simple lyrics that mask their inner greatness.  He sings, "When you're in my bed/ it looks like you're dead/ but I'm too scared you'll run/ so I won't call 911," and although the line is catchy and simple, it portrays Matthew's insecurity beautifully.  The song begins with a simple jingle bell solo, but builds throughout its runtime.  It never explodes into some sort of cliche breakdown, opting instead to keep things rather simple and straightforward.
"The Menu" follows in much the same way.  It sounds as if Matthew is singing about a normal day in the city, wandering around and just taking things in.  He sings of a restaurant, a university, and a place that sells moonshine "cheap as hell," and the lyrics are so vivid that it's almost as if you're right there with him.  On "The Floor," the band departs from the Death Cab-ish roads they've traversed thus far.  It is a much darker song, about a night on the town with friends.  It's slow, plodding movements are accentuated by Duran and Graves' heavily-reverbed instrumentation.  Here, Matthew sings, "All of the lights/ seem out out of sync/ but they'll move in time/ we'll step to the beat/ the more that I drink."  The song feels as if its brooding, plotting something sinister, yet great.  Sure enough, at the 2:40 mark the band explodes into pure rock awesomeness before quickly bringing things back down to a reasonable volume.  In all honesty, it sounds a lot like Built to Spill.  Hines, himself, even bears a striking resemblance to Doug Martsch (both vocally and in beard-ness).

"The Snow" finds the band toning things back down, with an airy composition and thick vocal harmonies.  The song tends to get a bit repetitive, but its lyrics make it a worthy addition to the EP.  The song's opening line, is undoubted the best, reading, "I hope that the doctors in your town/ can give you the pills that you crave/ I hope they teach your mind how to behave/ and I hope that Jesus still saves."  Matthew's vocals are naturally a bit thin and boyish, and this tends to be an issue later in the song as it has trouble standing out amongst the dense instrumentation.  The EP's closing track, "This is Holborn" is my absolute favorite; an upbeat, and hopeful indie rock song  that will melt any heart by the time the final second ticks off the clock.  The transition into the song's coda is a bit weak, but I'm far too busy smiling and bouncing my head around to care.  I'm almost positive that the hand claps and sing along vocals will have the exact same effect on everyone else who listens to it as well.

Overall, The Eastern Sea EP is a very impressive debut from Matthew Hines and his bandmates.  Having been familiar with Hines' solo work, I was expecting something completely different the first time I popped the album into my CD player.  The quirky, sometimes electronics-laden compositions of The Eastern Sea's past have been replaced by three very talented musicians who have added so much depth and complexity to the group's sound that it really does sound like a completely different project (The Western Sea?).  Perhaps the most-surprising feature of the EP is that it feels like a complete, well-rounded work of art while many other EPs are excuses to shovel an artist's best songs on to a CD.  The Eastern Sea has distinct feel and a tangible resolution, making it play more like a mini-album than anything else.  Knowing that this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for the band is almost as exciting as listening to them play and certainly leaves me wanting to hear more.  Please, make more.

Recommended for fans of Death Cab for Cutie, Owen, Built to Spill, and The National.

Key Tracks:
1. "The Night"
2. "The Floor"
3. "This is Holborn"

8 out of 10 Stars

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Video of the Week - Week 82

I've been waiting for months to be able to show off this video.  Just one problem, it didn't come out until last week.  Oh well!  Better late than never, I suppose.

M83 - "Kim & Jessie" from the album, Saturdays=Youth.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Conor Oberst: "Conor Oberst"

By this time, we should all know what to expect from Conor Oberst - be it from a solo recording or a Bright Eyes record.  For all of his talent, his skill as a songwriter, the changes from album to album have continually been slight (with the glaring exception of Digital Ash in a Digital Urn which was released simultaneously with a more traditional record).  On this, his first solo record since wrapping up puberty, Oberst is in fine form; never straying far from his roots or his fans' expectations, but keeping things interesting enough to warrant several repeat listens.

Album-opener, "Cape Canaveral," is the exact opposite of what we heard from Oberst's last outing, Cassadaga.  It's minimalist approach to music is nothing like the grand productions of that record, and honestly, it's a bit refreshing to hear.  The song's "choruses" are a bit reminiscent of "We Are Nowhere and It's Now," but when your catalogue of songs is as massive as Oberst's, a bit of overlapping is bound to occur.  Conor sings of things he's learned in his life, saying, "You told me victory is sweet, even deep in the cheap seats," and the imagery that it projects is truly beautiful.  "Sausalito" takes a different approach.  The upbeat, country rocker is more reminiscent of Johnathan Rice (ugh) or even Joe Walsh.  It's catchy lyrics and subtle harmonies give it a light, bouncy aesthetic that is often missing from Conor's work.  Could it be that Oberst is actually having fun on this record?
That definitely seems to be the case.  While most of his musical career has been weighed down by the heaviness of his lyrics or the subject of his songs, Conor Oberst is much lighter all around.  This is never more apparent than on the album's centerpiece, "I Don't Want to Die (In the Hospital)," a frantic, piano-led freak out that finds Oberst singing of his last moments, pleading, "I don't want to die in the hospital/ you gotta take me back outside/ help me get my boots back on!"  He later explains, "They don't let you smoke and you can't get drunk/ all there is to watch are these soap operas," and I totally get it.  "Get-Well-Cards" is more toned-down, but still rather light.  Oberst sings, "I wanna be a bootlegger/ wanna mix you up something strange/ braid your hair like a sister/ maim you like a hurricane."  Funny stuff, Conor.  Funny stuff.

But even though it has its lighter moments, Conor Oberst still manages to meet the expectations of his fans who like their music a bit dark.  On "Lenders in the Temple," Oberst sings of feelings of helplessness and despair, noting, "I'd give a fortune to your infomercial if somebody would just take my call," over nothing but a guitar.  It's such a wonderful expression of loneliness and I've found it to be one of my favorite moments on the album.  On the album's last track, "Milk Thistle" Conor subtly remarks, "If I go to heaven/I'll be bored as hell/Like  a little baby/ at the bottom of a well," like it's not one of the better, more impressive lines on the entire record.  Moments like these remind us why we listen to Oberst in the first place, why he is regarded by almost everybody as one of the most important songwriters of his generation, and make us thankful that the well that he pulls his songs out of is as deep as it is.

But as I said before, most of Conor Oberst is upbeat, or at the very least more light-hearted than anything the artist has created before.  Though it is still rooted in the style of his previous records, it maintains a uniqueness and a freshness that won't wear thin for quite some time.  To make the record, Oberst rounded up a few of his more musically-inclined friends (the Mystic Valley band, as they are now immortally known) last winter and headed to a small Mexican town where they stayed for five weeks, writing and recording the album.  The cold winter months usually lend themselves to equally cold songs.  But the change of climate must have done Oberst some good.  Conor Oberst is a warm, inviting, and exciting album that does a wonderful job of setting itself apart from the artist's other musical endeavors.  As such, it's one that any fan would be crazy not to add to their collection.  And for newcomers, well, this may just be the best time to discover the genius of Conor Oberst.  Buy it!

Key Tracks:
1. "Cape Canaveral"
2. "Get-Well-Cards"
3. "Lenders in the Temple"
4. "I Don't Want to Die (In the Hospital)"
5. "Souled Out!!!"

8 out of 10 Stars

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Introducing: The Poll of the Week

Things have been getting pretty interesting over in the comments section of last week's rant about piracy.  It's good to see people responding to articles and discussing some of the topics that are written about here at Audio Overflow.  So in order to get a better idea of who is reading this blog, I've decided to add a "Poll of the Week" feature that will run (duh) every week.  Each week, I'll place a new topic in the sidebar to the right of this post for you to weigh in on.

Naturally, this week's topic stems from that discussion that's going on right now in the piracy article.  Sound off, people.  Let me know what you think!

Poll closes at 11:59p on Saturday.  If you have any ideas for polls, send them along.

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Perfect Summer Soundtrack - Week 9

Here's an odd one, folks.  I've worked in a gym over the last few years and I've learned a thing or two about what people want to hear when they want to work out.  The oddest mix of the bunch belongs to the Water Aerobics crowd who mainly resort to bad disco music.  Disco Inferno?  No thanks.  Here's a playlist for the Water Aerobics crowd.  Please try something different for a change!

The Water Aerobics Playlist

So, I know, this isn't really my target audience.  Where I work, the majority of people who do Water Aerobics are white and over the age of 60.  But I've taken that into account when assembling the playlist.  Some of the songs were more popular in their heyday than they are now.  None of the songs are so "over the top" that they will flat out hate it, nor do any of them contain profanity or suggestive themes.  But it is music that any hipster can appreciate.  So even if you're not planning on turning 60 soon, it's still a great playlist.

Week 1 - Rooney's Self-Titled Debut (Beach Trip, Road Trip, Skateboarding)
Week 2 - The Picnic Playlist
Week 3 - Of Montreal: The Sunlandic Twins (Road Trip Sing-a-longs, House Parties, Frisbee Tossing)
Week 4 - The 4th of July Party Playlist
Week 5 - The Pump Me the F*** Up! Playlist (Mountain Climbing, Fight Clubbing, Wakeboarding, Kayaking, Parachuting, Murdering, Running)

Week 6 - The Elected: Sun Sun Sun (Road Trip)
Week 7 - The Bike Ride Through the Country Playlist
Week 8 - Incubus: Morning View (Skateboarding, Surfing, Beach Trip, Road Trip)

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Friday, August 01, 2008

The Top 40 Songs By Of Montreal (Songs 30-26)

Week 3 0f 8 is below.  If you're just now joining us for this Top 40 Countdown, be sure to check out the previous entries.  Once you brush up on your stuff, keep reading to find out which songs made it to the list this week.

Week 1   |   Week 2
#30:  "I Was Never Young" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - When I first got my hands on The Sunlandic Twins back in 2005, I was excited to hear that the lead-off track "Requiem for O.M.M.2" showed a nice evolution of Of Montreal's sound.  It wasn't until this song (track 2) that I realized that this was much more than an evolution, it was a revolution (oh yeah, I just went there).  Caveman chants, mariachi trumpets, electronic drums...hell, this song has it all!

#29:  "My Favorite Boxer" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - One of the many reasons why everyone should listen to The Gay Parade before calling themselves an Of Montreal fan, "My Favorite Boxer" is a charming, humorous story about a poor lad who idolizes a boxer named Hector Ormano.  Feeling bad for someone has never been so joyous!

#28:  "Eros' Entropic Tundra" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - Leave it to Kevin Barnes to name a song "Eros' Entropic Tundra" when the obvious and easy title would be "Sad Love" (yes, kiddies, that's this song).  This was one of the first times that I ever heard an Of Montreal be kind of sad, and I loved it.  It's heartfelt, earnest, and real which served as a nice break from all the necromancing and British tour diaries that overran the album.  Of course, we would later get a whole heap of sad songs on Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?  But in many ways, you never forget your first.

#27:  "Penelope" from the album, Coquelecot Asleep In the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - Honestly, this is a really great song, thus explaining its spot on this list.  But I fear that I might actually like Casper and the Cookies' cover version better.  I'm sure if Kevin Barnes had dreamt up the song in 2007 that he would have come up with something eerily similar to what those guys did.  Still, the original flows much better and feels a whole lot less gimmicky.  

#26:  "She's A Rejector" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - As great as this song is, I never realized the full extent of its awesomeness until I saw the band perform it live in January of 2007.  This is one of the few songs that I've ever heard sound better live than it does on the album.  That's not to detract from its greatness though, it's a blast to listen to, sing along to, and freak out to at the right moments ("I CAN'T, I CAN'T, I CAN'T, I CAN'T!!").

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