Friday, May 20, 2016

The Growing World of Marissa Nadler

Marissa Nadler's voice has this ability to echo through me and haunt me in the most pleasurable way imaginable.  I like to deprive myself of her vocals just so that when I hear them again I get that feeling of floating all over again.  Drifting through a field of emotions only to embrace it as one would a lover, or a best friend that I've not seen for an extended time.

July was easily one of my favorite albums of the year when it came out.  Her vocals alone will make that album worth listening to as far as I'm concerned.

That brings me to her latest album - Strangers.  Instantly it feels like an old friend has greeted me.  That beautiful voice is something that could still - as I believe I've said several times - lead me straight into Hell and I'd never once stray from it.

The new album feels more uplifting than her last album.  That isn't to say that it is uplifting, it is still a very dark album.  There is just a tingle of happiness in her voice now that seems as though she has rode through her turbulent events in life and come out the other end better than she was before.

That, too, is further exampled by the lyrics.  They take a more indirect approach, more voyeuristic in nature as opposed to internal.  

The instrumental work is, of course, rather simplistic and eerie.  If you've not been a fan of her in the past then don't expect this album to be the one to bring you to your senses.  It does, however, set the perfect mood for her vocals and lyrics.  Just as a fan would expect.

While this album doesn't push her boundaries in any dynamic way, it does expand herself as a musician in little ways.  It doesn't feel as though this is someone locked inside her mind any longer.  There are hints of a more country music sound in some songs - especially "Strangers".  Don't read that as it being a country song, it is just hints.  

It is the little pushes like this that really make it feel better than July.  Not just from the aspect of a lyrical standpoint, but even the production value feels more keenly set to what she wants it to be.

Strangers is currently available however your preferred means of listening is.

-Dustin S. Stover

And, as usual, if you would like to read my collection of short stories, they are available on Kindle and Nook through the links below.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An Old Soul Trapped in a Young Body Sounding Like an Old Soul

Adia Victoria is someone of a quite turbulent and interesting past (look it up.  If you can find it, it is entertaining and insightful for how she got to where she is).  I can only imagine that her upbringing led her to loving blues.

She has every bit of passion in her music as every one of the greatest blues artists of all time.  For that matter, choose any genre - every genre - and then discover the most passionate of the bands in those genres.  Adia Victoria grasps every ounce of energy and passion that those artists could care to in their pinnacle, yet, she only has one release under her belt.

She is quite controversial in her public outcries, as well.  Social justice, her stance with the Black Lives Matter movement, and expressing her own personal experiences of being a black woman in a white world.

Her album, Beyond the Bloodhounds, is pure blues music.  Her voice is lush with an old time sound.  She sounds many decades older than her actual age.  Her writing style is equally as dynamic as the lyrics feel as though she has had a lifetime of experience piecing together songs.

Yet, because she isn't those decades older, she has the energy of a 20-something.  There is also an element of in your face, don't give a shit that I absolutely love.  An innocence in her naivety of how the world works, but that also builds into a character.  A character not afraid of deepening an understanding.

This is the second artist to release a debut album this year that I've been anticipating for what feels like forever.  I first heard Adia Victoria's song "Stuck in the South" over a year ago - I want to say it was sometime in 2014.  It was the kind of bait I had been waiting for without ever knowing I was waiting for anything.

That is to say, it popped.  It was a brilliant howl of purity, raw energy, and felt like a fresh kick in the nuts.

Since then, I hadn't really heard more than that song.  I had seen her posts on social media and been following her since, waiting extremely patiently.  I have not been disappointed by this release.  

I can't wait to see (and hear) where Adia Victoria goes from here.  Her album, Beyond the Bloodhounds, is out now and see her in a city near you as she is currently on tour as well.

-Dustin S. Stover

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Reintroducing the Deftones

The Deftones have been around a good while, as their first album came out in 1995.  Had someone told me that they'd still be around sixteen years after their album White Pony came out, I'd have found myself struck with an uncontrollable laughter.  Well, perhaps not back then.  I'd have been much more excited for all the music they'd make between then and now.

However, the time did pass between then and now.  Those first three albums were golden to me, but since then I have found myself disappointed in every release they've put out since.  They had discovered where they wanted to be by the time White Pony arrived and they executed it very well once they arrived.  Sadly, none of the albums after did much for me in regards to developing their sound more or changing enough of a direction to entice my listening beyond one or two passes.

Don't get me wrong, every album is very much Deftones, but they just didn't feel new.  Well, with their most recent release, Gore, that changes.  No, it doesn't feel like the instrumental work expands so drastically as the earlier albums did but it makes up for that in just how much Chino's vocals have improved.  There is also a really interesting dynamic between him and Stephen Carpenter's guitar playing.

Gore is really the first Deftones album that I've really wanted to listen to multiple times since White Pony.  It feels like a very cohesive album, an album that was born out of a stable mindset between the band members - even if, at times, it seems they are on different pages, the individuals seem to have a stable mind towards what they want.

That is the fine balance on this album that makes it work, though.  Suddenly I feel like I'm listening to a band that wants to discover themselves again.  A band that doesn't quite know exactly where it wants to go, and it doesn't care to just repeat the past again.

The lyrics, as always, are vague and seemingly random.  That's nothing new for any Deftones fan, though.

I just keep coming back to the vocals.  It is very odd for me to fall in love so heavily with vocals but they are something truly amazing on this album.  I read somewhere that Chino has gotten himself cleaned up within the past few years and if that is true, it has done wonders for his vocals.  There is a connection I feel through him to the music that I've not felt before - like he was dreaming in the past and he has suddenly woken up and really grabbed the songs.

In the midst of all this, though, they manage to sound so much like who they've always been that there is no mistaking them for anyone other than the Deftones.

While I may not ever love this album as much as I did Adrenaline, Around the Fur, and White Pony, I find myself being able to say that I'm a fan again.

-Dustin S. Stover

Check out my collection of short stories by clicking the link below.
Kindle: Happiness in a Void of Darkness
Nook: Happiness in a Void of Darkness

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Hope in PJ Harvey's New Album

Now, PJ Harvey is a musical genius.  A musical genius that I have a grand tendency to overlook time and time again.  When I heard she had a new album coming out, The Hope Six Demolition Project, I told myself that I HAD to listen to it.  Really take it in and not let it pass by.

Let's start with my favorite part about almost all the music I love - the instrumental work.  This is where I tell myself to fit it into a genre of music and explain how it differentiates from said genre.  The truth is, though, each song takes on a life all its own.  There are haunting songs, upbeat songs, and everything in between.

The link between them all is the message through the lyrics, but before I get to that point I'd just like to say that the album simply doesn't feel as though it is a single, cohesive piece of art.  Standing alone, the songs work.  There is depth in the sounds, there is cohesion in each of the individual songs.  This is really a meaningless and trivial complaint in today's society, where albums are a relic of the past in all but release date.  I am still, however, a big fan of that cohesive feel.  The way a Pink Floyd album flows from song to song, creating an entire story.

Anyway, back to PJ Harvey.  The topics covered in this album revolve around poor people losing their homes, losing their livelihoods to big name corporations.  Honestly, her fans are already going to be on her side with this topic, and the lyrics offer little as a means to support their claims so I doubt it would branch her fan base out based on that point.

Some of the songs definitely have a power to capture a listener, though.  Even though the entire album doesn't flow, the songs are good.  They definitely have catch to them, and they have the ability to reel in the listener.  The trick is to find which song on the album does that most for you.

Overall, I don't see PJ Harvey losing any fans from this album.  Even if her fanbase wasn't as dedicated as they've proven themselves to be, there are good songs to enjoy off the album.  On the reverse of that, though, I don't see her gaining any new fans either.

-Dustin S. Stover
Click below for my collection of short stories.
Kindle: Happiness in a Void of Darkness
Nook: Happiness in a Void of Darkness

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Do the Beans of Sunflowers Only Grow in Direct Sunlight?

Sunflower Bean have released their debut full length album, Human Ceremony, which comes in at a relatively short 38 minutes; however, it is a lovely walk through fields.  Fields illuminated by the brightest sunlight imaginable.

There is an airiness to their sound, a sort of floating you'd get from psychedelic music of the past.  In a way, they are a direct continuation from that sound but with a slight bit more pop in their step than that of the experimental days of the past.  There isn't anything wrong with that, but it does feel like less of a game changer and more of a copy-cat theme.

A lot of bands get their start by following the steps of their predecessors, though.  This album has a definite feel to it that other bands can't quite grasp, and by that I mean that it feels like a complete thought from start to finish.  All the songs fit together nicely and it is easy to distinguish that it is a Sunflower Bean song when you hear it, even if the songs feel like they were made in 1967 with modern day production value.

The alternating between male and female vocals feel as though it could be pulled off for a more dynamic effect, though, if the male vocalist had a bit deeper of a voice.  His relatively high voice doesn't distinguish him as much from the female vocalist as what my ears would like, but it is still a good contrast.

It is refreshing to hear this band, though.  There is something to be said about a band who can be so cohesive and full of sound without going over the top.  This isn't a hard band to enjoy.  There just feels as though there needs to be a touch more uniqueness to really give them that boost.

I will stroll through this field of sunflowers and blinding sunlight a few more times before it gets shelved.  It isn't an album I feel that I could fall deeply in love with but I find myself very far from hating it at the same time.  It is a good album, very good for a first LP, and it does what any first album should do - it makes me want more, I just hope it comes with a bit more depth.

I can't even fault the depth of the lyrics as it tackles space, God, life, and other existential topics; however, it still feels that they have so much more room to grow and that, after all, is the most exciting part of a new band.

-Dustin S. Stover

To read more of my writing, click below:
Kindle: Happiness in a Void of Darkness
Nook: Happiness in a Void of Darkness

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Poppy Garage Rock With a Punk Feel

There are a lot of people out there who pretend to not give a shit, and just want to enjoy their lives then there are those people out there who live their lives that way.  The authenticity of the people who just enjoy the fuck out of their lives is what the Hinds debut album, Leave Me Alone, gives off.

There is a punch to this album - like a pissed off ex girlfriend sees you out and about and decides that kicking you in the balls is the appropriate course of action.  As the pain settles in, however, there is a level of comedy to it as you notice her laughing at you and in that moment you remember all the reasons you fell in love with her in the first place.

Hinds is an all girl band who utilize lo-fi sounds to get their songs out, the lo-fi sounds that would easily be found by any old garage rock band.  Unlike most garage rock bands I've heard, Hinds have a feeling of bubbliness to them.  They can easily be distinguished as a pop band at times if it weren't for the use of actual guitars and drums - when was the last time pop music went that route?

What gets me most about this album, though, is the zero fucks given attitude that is portrayed so vibrantly.  I can so easily see them with alcohol bottles and cigarettes in hands and throwing a half full beer bottle at some asshole guy in the crowd who yells at them that he wants to fuck them all.  I could just as easily see them flash the crowd.  It is within that unknown that I find so much attraction to them.

There isn't anything tremendously special about them beyond this element of mystery.  What will they say next?  How will the guitar riff pick up or settle down?  Will they harmonize vocals or not?  I JUST DON'T KNOW!  I love that I don't know.

Too few bands can throw me off the way that Hinds has done with this album.  I can't say that I expect great things from them in the future - there is only so much lo-fi garage pop punk music a band can make before it grows totally stale, but for now and in this moment I welcome it with every ounce there is in me.  This kind of shock is what music needs.

So go out there and kick all those other bands in the balls, for fuck's sake.  Pull those roots out of the ground and put them on display for all those other garage bands to see.

Hinds album, Leave Me Alone, is out now.

Video of their full performance for the Seattle based KEXP radio station:

-Dustin S. Stover

For my collection of short stories:
Kindle: Happiness in a Void of Darkness
Nook: Happiness in a Void of Darkness

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Death of a Man, an Image, an Idea, and a Legend

I was going to write an album review for the new David Bowie album, Blackstar, but have not found the time to give the album a listen deep enough to truly hear.  It has been on constant play in my car and a few times at my house, but it was always while doing something else (fighting my way through Florida traffic does not render the best mindset to appreciate such a deep album).

Before I fell asleep, however, I learned of the news that he had passed away.  Boom, just like that, he left this world.  The man who fell to Earth has changed the entire world of music and art forever over the course of his fifty-plus year career.  At times, the perfect display of a rock star and at others a perfectly isolated  idea, but always, an artist.

This is why I find it hard to mourn his passing.  We can all, at times, want to feel immortal or believe something else to be just that - and perhaps his musical legacy will be, I know it will live on as part of my life so long as I am breathing.  However, he was just a person the same as all of us are.  He just utilized his life in a flashier way.

He was a person who lived his life so blatantly on his own terms, so obviously as only he wanted to that it was easy to believe that he was, perhaps, from another world altogether.  I prefer to view his life as what is possible for us all, though.  I prefer to view him as a person who paved his own way regardless of how much more difficult his life was for being different, regardless of how much the odds were stacked against him.

I find myself compelled to throw in some bit about his latest album here; primarily because of how it relates to his death.  He spent eighteen months battling cancer and knew he was going to die.  This album, Blackstar, had to be the album he wanted to make moreso than any other album he could have made.  The lyrics deal a lot with death and legacy, what amount of the lyrics that can be deciphered anyway.  

In the past, he hired jazz musicians to play rock songs and it always gave his music a certain element that could be found in jazz, but never has any of his albums been jazz albums - until his final album, anyway.  

Perhaps that is the greatest way to describe his life - like the greatest jazz songs, he was constantly throwing the listener off their base, challenging them.  He was constantly shuffling, creating something off the beat, creating a new beat, and going with the flow of it all.  

It will not be marked as a great day, his day of passing, but I will not be sad because of it either.  The legacy he left, the art he created, and the wake he left throughout his life is something to be treasured, for no one else could have made it.

-Dustin S. Stover