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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Projekt A-Ko: "Yoyodyne"

Last year, I profiled Projekt A-Ko in Audio Overflow's myspace music monday feature. In that article I wrote, "The band definitely does an amazing job of recreating the sound of indie music in the early 90s," and on their debut full-length album, Yoyodyne, the band continues to shine in that department. Throughout the album, bands like Sonic Youth and Sebadoh are constantly evoked, giving shoegazers of all shapes and sizes something to perk up at.

Projekt-A Ko is Fergus Lawrie on lead vocals and guitars, and Elaine and Ian Graham on bass and drums, respectively. The band flaunts a distorted, chaotic mess of music from the very first moments of Yoyodyne. On "Hey Palooka!," the album's lead-off track, the band travels from the heights of pop songwriting to the depths of noise rock effortlessly without ever seeming forced or over the top. Despite the band's sometimes unruly guitars and effects, one gets the feeling that none of this is done without care. All of it seems to have its place, and a lot of credit needs to be given to the band for reigning all of that in to make it more digestible.

What impresses me the most about Yoyodyne is that the group seems to have an uncanny ability to create brilliant pop hooks that instantly connect with the listener and stick whether you want them to or not. "Supertriste Duxelle," "Here Comes New Challenger!," and the aforementioned lead-off are all prominent examples of the band's excellent pop sensibilities. Honestly, I've never been the biggest fan of any of Projekt A-Ko's most notable influences, and the whole shoegaze sub-genre has been one that I've consistently avoided. The fact that I can come away from several listens to Yoyodyne and still want to return for more is entirely credited to the craftsmanship, passion, and songwriting skills of the band. This is shoegaze pop at its finest!

At the same time, however, Projekt A-Ko is not without blemish. The band's biggest flaw is Lawrie's voice, which hits all the notes but borders on bland. Despite the band's pop brilliance, Lawrie rarely sings a catchy hook without making me think that he doesn't have the polish to do these songs justice. Where his voice shines is on the album's slower, more solemn tracks. "Scintilla,"for example, is a perfect song; a spotless evocation of 90s alt-rock, and the album's most-impressive track! Lawrie's drab vocals blend flawlessly with his flimsy guitars. His vocals sound haunting next to Elaine's sugary-sweet backup, especially when they harmonize, "It's all too much/ it's not enough/ nothing has changed/ nothing is the same."

The album's title track (oddly enough, subtitled "Scintilla II") is just as beautiful, this time adding in lush string instrumentation into the mix. It was jarring at first to hear the cellos and violins, but simultaneously refreshing and thrilling! They really add to the song. The album's final track is a bleak comedown called "Don't Listen to This Song." You seriously should though. It's the first time that we get to hear the band in their simplest, most beautiful form. The chorus itself is a heartbreaking repetition of the song's title, and Fergus really outdoes himself on this one. When he sings, "My voice is a shattered dream," I can't help but think that there's no better way to describe it at that particular moment. It's a gorgeous, introspective track on what is otherwise an extroverted album.

With the band already hard at work on a follow-up to Yoyodyne, one has to wonder what they're up to. On this debut, the band has proven themselves capable of a range of sounds and styles that exceed the shoegaze label that follows them around. One thing I know I'd like to see in the future is the band playing to their strengths more. Lawrie's vocals work sometimes on the album's upbeat rockers, but it really shines on the Yoyodyne's downers! At the same time, the band has an amazing capability to create some really memorable pop hooks, and ignoring that would be a tragedy. Throwing Elaine Graham on lead vocals for a song or two would be exciting and perhaps even fitting, and finding a better balance between uppers and downers is a must! For the moment though, what we have is a pretty solid album that fully displays the talent, range, and potential of a young band. I'm excited for what the future holds and look forward to hearing more soon!

Key Tracks:
1. "Hey Palooka!"
2. "Here Comes New Challenger!"
3. "Scintilla"
4. "Yoyodyne (Scintilla II)"
5. "Don't Listen to This Song"

7 out of 10 Stars

The band has been kind enough to provide Audio Overflow readers with a 3-song sampler from Yoyodyne, containing the tracks, "Molten Hearts," "Supertriste Duxelle," and "Here Comes New Challenger!" You can download this sampler any time between now and May 23, 2009. If you like what you hear, please consider purchasing Yoyodyne directly from the band. I'm sure they'd appreciate it!

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Metric: "Fantasies"

Metric have been around for a decade now, bringing their take on New Wave Pop/Rock to the masses. In 2003 the band released their "debut" album, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? to almost universal acclaim. The album helped lay the foundation for their sound, one that would be expanded upon by 2005's equally-endearing Live it Out. Then, while the band was already at work on the follow-up to that album, Last Gang Records released the group's long-ignored real debut and perhaps their most impressive album, Grow Up and Blow Away. Finally after a long wait, Metric fans are getting what they want; a legitimate follow-up to Live it Out. Unfortunately, Fantasies is nowhere near as solid an album as the band has proven themselves capable of creating.

It starts off well-intentioned, with a distant breakbeat and Emily Haines' now-familiar vocals, both fragile and empowered, singing "They're gonna eat me alive!" "Help, I'm Alive," Fantasies' first single leaves a lot to be desired. For one, it seems incredibly repetitive and without any real drive. Haines' repeated "Beating like a hammer" chorus builds and builds throughout its length, but eventually just collapses into the same guitar riff every time. Just once I'd like it to build into something greater than itself. It never does. "Sick Muse" is a much more rewarding song, with a fun verse and better chorus than the lead-off track. It still feels a bit repetitive, however, if only for the repeated one-line chorus and somewhat annoying guitar line that carries the verses.

"Satellite Mind" finally gives Metric fans something worthy of true admiration. Emily's vocals are at their best here, and the guitars and drums evoke some of the best moments of 90s rock! The first couple of times I heard this song, I wasn't really sold. Since then, it has easily moved up to one of my favorites. Unfortunately, it's followed by "Twilight Galaxy," a song that has no legitimate reason for existing other than acting as filler. It almost sounds like Metric trying to recreate "Calculation Theme," but it lacks the charm needed to fill those shoes. The band smartly follows this bore with "Gold Guns Girls," an upbeat sex-rocker that is about as exciting as the band has ever been. The production on this song is amazing! From the subtle guitars, to Haines' sultry vocals, everything is exactly as it should be. This is a definitely one to play on repeat.

Fantasies' best track, however, comes next in "Gimme Sympathy," a remarkably addicting listen that hasn't aged a bit in the last month, despite the fact that I've listened to it well over a dozen times. Haines seems to be analyzing the state of Metric's fame by singing, "We're so close to something better left unknown" and asking the question "Who'd you rather be, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?" Ironic considering that if there was ever a song to catapult the band into that next level of fame, this would be the one to do it. It's not only radio-friendly, but has a sweet music video and enough familiarity to maintain their already loyal following.

From here, however, the album quickly heads downward. "Collect Call" is a quick comedown track after the intensity of "Gimme Sympathy." It has a few admirable traits, like a cool guitar riff and an infectious drum beat during the chorus. At the same time though, Emily's vocal melody goes absolutely nowhere. She sings "When you move, I move with you," but at this point, I'm already moving on and the track just keeps going. The next track, "Front Row" does an even worse job at garnering my attention. It sounds like a b-side to Live It Out, complete with overly-aggressive guitars and the most boring vocal melody ever heard on a Metric song. Haines is catchier on "Rock Me Now" - and yeah, she just talks on that one!

"Blindness" is a strange track, starting off as an eerie synth-rocker and then catapulting into a more upbeat affair at the 2-minute mark before returning back to where it started for the song's final minute. It's not the catchiest of Metric songs - which is always a bit disconcerting considering that the band is essentially a pop band - but it is an interesting song, and worth at least a couple listens. "Stadium Love" wraps the album up on a "meh" note. Metric's sound has never been louder or more deserving of the "stadium love" to which they claim to have. At the same time, I get the sneaking suspicion that this song is going to be simply mind-blowing at a live show. Here, it just sort of seems like a false high note for an unfocused album.

Fantasies is in no way a terrible album, but for every song that feels like it is perfectly executed, there's another that feels like it could have used a little more tweaking. The album has very few tracks that feel like they could hold their own against a "Dead Disco" or a "Monster Hospital," and that's a little disappointing coming from a band who has consistently put out great music for the past decade. But as far as disappointments go, I get the feeling that Fantasies could have been a lot worse. What we end up having is an average collection of songs; some great, some okay, and some not worth listening to after the first couple of spins. Up to this point, Metric has given me 3 albums full of amazing tracks, so I can deal with a few disappointments. Just don't let it happen again.

Key Tracks:
1. "Sick Muse"
2. "Satellite Mind"
3. "Gold Guns Girls"
4. "Gimme Sympathy"

6 out of 10 Stars

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

29 in 2009 - Buddy Holly: "Buddy Holly"

Buddy Holly: Buddy Holly
Originally Released: February 20, 1958
Genre: Rock & Roll
Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

I'm really into NBA Basketball. A few days ago, a friend and I were discussing how strange it is to know that some of the most accomplished athletes in the league are either the same age or younger than we are (we're 24, btw). Lebron James, for instance is the most talented player in the NBA right now, and we both have a couple months on him. While that's amazing and everything, what's more impressive is the fact that Buddy Holly, a legend and pioneer in rock & roll made all of his music before his tragic death at the age of 22.

Two years ago I was making emo-electronic songs and calling it music. This guy at that age had already become arguably the single most influential artist of the 20th century. Genius is a great thing sometimes, and Holly is the perfect example of a musical genius. His songs are almost all poppy love songs, especially on this album. "Everyday," maybe his most famous and one of my all-time favorites, embodies this idea of innocent, blissful love. As I said in 2007, it's not "complex or deep," but it speaks to simplicity of the human emotion of love. You can't really find that nowadays.

But the album is more than these cutesy songs too. "Ready Teddy" finds Holly at his most controversial, with a dirty howl of a voice accompanied by a Jerry Lee Lewis-esque arrangement. I can imagine the teenage girls swooning, the mothers crying, the jealous boyfriends. Elsewhere on the album, Holly proves that he's mortal with a few songs that just don't do it for me. The key example of this is "Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues," a bluesy rock song in which the artist spends the majority of the track whining and choking on fake tears. I can see how it would've been entertaining back in the day, but now it's just kind of annoying. "Peggy Sue" is a little disappointing as well, despite the fact that it's the only song from this album to make it to the Billboard charts.

Don McLean was almost right. The music didn't die with Buddy Holly, it lives on. But a part of music did die in that plane crash, and it's saddening to think of what could have been had Holly never stepped foot on that aircraft. Forget that stuff, though, because Buddy Holly is not only worth listening to, it HAS to be listened to. It is an album that you feel like you've heard a thousand times before, even if you've never laid ears on it. It's style is engrained in our musical knowledge as Americans and its influences are everywhere, from Bob Dylan to Rooney. Like almost any album, it has a few tracks that you'll skip or simply not enjoy as much, but you'd be stupid not to listen to it. If you're like me, you're stupid for waiting this long in the first place.

Let's put it this way. According to my account at the time of this writing, I've listened to 96 Buddy Holly Songs. I've only had this CD in my possession for a week.

Listen to it!

Verdict: Classic

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Hey, AO is on

So this is probably not all that big of a surprise to you, say, if you happen to look to the right half of your screen every time you visit Audio Overflow - but we're on!

For those of you completely out of the loop, is this sort of social networking site that revolves entirely around music. You install this little file on your computer, and everything else is done for you. Every time you listen to a song on your computer or iPod, it is "scrobbled" to your page for everyone to see. Say you're like me and you're listening to a lot of Serge Gainsbourg lately; you want to know who else is listening to the guy. can help you make connections that way! More importantly, if you want to keep up with what your friends are listening to, is the easiest way to do that.

I know that this all sounds like a paid advertisement for It's not. But I wanted to make it known that you should be friends with Audio Overflow on for two reasons:
  1. I currently have none :(
  2. It'll help you keep track of what I'm listening to, especially if you're on the lookout for your recommendation in the 29 in 2009 series.
If you're down, feel free to head over to and add "audiooverflow" as a friend. I'll never talk bad about you behind your back. Promise.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

29 in 2009 - The Jimi Hendrix Experience: "Electric Ladyland"

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland
Originally Released: September 16, 1968
Genre: Rock
Rating: 7 out of 10 Stars

The guitars. That's what I'm supposed to write about. Honestly though, I'm much more impressed with Hendrix's songcrafting abilities than his guitar skills. There are moments on Electric Ladyland that really catch him at the top of his game when his guitar is involved. But can we be honest? People have outshined him since his untimely death. Not very many people would want to admit to that, but it's true. Off the top of my head, here goes: Slash, John Frusciante, John Petrucci, among others. Tehnically, I think that they can do things on guitar that Hendrix never could have even imagined.

But that's besides the point. The point is, for his time, Hendrix was a god! And all of that goddotry (TM) is perfectly captured and preserved on this amazing collection of music. Had he had an extra decade or two to work on his craft, there's no doubt in my mind that he would come up with some amazing thing. That's partially why his death was such a tragedy.

This album may or may not be his best. That depends on who you ask. It does have some amazing tracks on it, however. Over the course of its two discs and 16 tracks, Electric Ladyland covers almost every style that could possible fall under the "rock" genre; from the 15 minute magnum opus "Voodoo Chile" and the impossibly amazing "All Along the Watchtower" to the sunshine pop of "Little Miss Strange." Even the lesser tracks are cool enough to warrant a couple listens.

But Electric Ladyland's shortfalls are in the tracks that don't seem to have any purpose whatsoever. The first three tracks are the first ones that come to mind, and as the album progresses, all the guitar solos and rock goddotry get sort of annoying, or worse, boring. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and this may be a prime example of that. It's not an album that I can listen to all the time, but having some of Hendrix's greatest songs in your collection is always worth it.

Verdict: Worth a Listen

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