Friday, December 16, 2011

New song by Cheap Girls

Everyone’s favorite apathetic rock trio, Cheap Girls, has a new album slated for release on February 21st of 2012. The album is called “Giant Orange” and is the first assurance that 2012 is going to be filled with good music. They just released the track, Ruby, from the album, which you can listen to below:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Song of the Week: Black Cobra – Omniscient

Since this week marked the release of the Black Key’s new album, I was hoping that one of those songs would excite me enough to end up as my song of the week. And while the album is not bad, I think it sacrificed nuance and subtlety for catchiness. But, that is a topic for another time. The Song of the Week is from another two-piece band, which even have “Black” in their title! Black Cobra is a metal band from San Francisco, California that plays an abrasive and sludgy form of metal that borrows heavily from hardcore punk (mainly in the form of the shouted vocals). While most “sludge” metal is slow and plodding, Black Cobra’s music tears along at an extremely fast tempo, as if they decided to take only the fast parts from the genre that their music occupies.

They just released their 4th album, Invernal, through Southern Lord, but the song I have for you today is from their 1st album, Bestial. The vocals on Bestial have a murkier and grainer sound than that of their new album, and I think that lack of refinement makes it sound all the better.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Two new songs by The National

I can say without hesitation that The National is my favorite band to come out of the indie rock scene in the last couple years (they have been playing since 1999, but the last few years has seen them expand in popularity greatly). Any time they put out new music is a cause for excitement. Recently, they performed two new songs at CBC Radio’s “Q” show. The songs, "Rylan" and "I Need My Girl,” are on the quiet and restrained side, but are still fantastic. I can only hope that they have a new album in the works.

Listen to them here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Song of the Week: Get Rad – Fuck Off Death

Much to the surprise of everyone, myself included, just a week after my last post, I have another one! Who knows, maybe this means I will be posting a song on a more weekly basis (as Song of the Week implies). But enough of that, today I have a song for you by a hardcore punk band from the Milwaukee, WI called Get Rad. What first attracted me to Get Rad was the awesome cover art for their album I Can Always Live, which is a parody of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

And after looking at some of the song titles on the album, like “Bullshit Forcefield”, and “Fuck Off Death,” I was pretty certain I was in for a good time. Get Rad play an aggressive yet energetic style of hardcore punk that is more about having fun than being nihilistic and angry (a lot of hardcore punk these days takes itself far too seriously). I recommend that you give the song Fuck Off Death a listen. I think you will enjoy it.

You can stream the entire album from their bandcamp page, and if you are so inclined, buy the mp3s at whatever price you see fit.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Song of the Week: Russian Circles – Harper Lewis

The song that I have for you this week is from a instrumental rock band from Chicago, called Russian Circles. Despite only being a 3 piece band (guitarist, bassist, and a drummer), they manage to create a dense and layered sound, deftly traversing between light, beautiful passages and punishing heavier movements. While in my earlier years, I often shied away from instrumental music thinking it to be uninteresting, Russian Circles is anything but that.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Song of the Week: La Dispute – King Park

I have been kicking around the idea of starting a “Song of the Week” segment for this blog for a little while now. The simple idea behind it being that I re-examine what I listened to each week and come up with a single song that stood out the most and present it here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Jock Powerviolence?

For the better part of last week, I have been listening to the newest album by Weekend Nachos, a hardcore punk band from Chicago, Illinois. The album, called Worthless, is blisteringly fast, with a total of 14 tracks in just over 26 minutes. Because of the album’s brevity, I must have listened to it over 20 times, and of all the tracks on the album, the song “Jock Powerviolence” really stands out from the others. Even if I had the album designated to background music, my concentration was always torn away from whatever I was doing when the song came on, as the mid-song guest vocals are so distinctive and fresh that they demand attention. Beyond the distinctive vocals, the song has particularly interesting subject matter: powerviolence.

If you have any interest in hardcore punk, and are interested in learning a little about powerviolence, then strap yourself in!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ice Dragon – The Sorrowful Sun (2011)

When I started this blog a few months ago, its purpose was to talk about bands that are not getting as much exposure as they deserve. Today’s post is about one such band, Ice Dragon.

Ice Dragon is a heavy metal band from Boston, Massachusetts which plays a brand of metal that harkens back to the formative years of heavy metal, before it was largely dominated by screamed vocals and breakneck tempos. The music Ice Dragon plays is reminiscent of early Black Sabbath, with sluggish, down-tuned guitarwork and mournful vocals not unlike those of young Ozzy Osbourne. The band just released their second album, The Sorrowful Sun, the follow up to last year’s The Burl, The Earth, The Aether (which is up for download at their bandcamp page, name your price). As the band’s name suggests, many of their songs are about fantasy topics such as space travel and dragon slaying, but unlike other bands singing about said topics, they do not sound strained and contrived. That they have achieved this is a triumph in itself, a feat certainly helped by well-crafted lyrics and the genuinely anguished vocals of Ron Rochondo. The standout track of their new album is called Poseidon's Grasp, which relates the tale of a band of warriors questing to exterminate a dragon that has terrorized their homeland (and while I would not blame you for being skeptical after hearing such a synopsis, I think any skepticism will be quickly dispelled after experiencing the song reach its climax).

You can listen to the album in its entirety on their bandcamp page. Even if you do not count yourself as a fan of metal, I would urge you to give it a listen. And if you like it, a digital download of the album is available for a very reasonable $5. And perhaps more exciting is the limited pressing of the album to cassette, which they are offering with a lyric scroll (that’s right, a scroll!), storage pouch, and back patch (for the jean jacket you always wanted to get and fill with patches from obscure bands that no one ever heard of!). And certainly check out their earlier album, which can be had for the low price of nothing if you desire.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Guest Post - Maryland Death Fest 2011

After the dust settled and the outdoor stages were torn down from the Sonar (venue in Baltimore, MD), the the 9th annual Maryland Deathfest (a festival dedicated to “extreme” music, focusing primarily on death metal, but not being shy of other forms, and some hardcore for good measure) officially came to a close. This was the first time that I attended the Death Fest (along with my two brothers, of which the founder of this blog is amongst, Wystan Frauka), though seeing as I am currently living within walking distance of the Sonar, it seemed like I had to attend, especially with Kylesa, Savannah’s sludge metal masters, on the roster. I will try to keep this short and just touch on some of the highlights from the three days I was able to attend (sadly I did not get to see Dixie in Buzzov-en on Thurs).

The Skull
Bastard Noise:
I have only very recently learned about the powerviolence band Man is the Bastard, and its evolution into a noise band, the Bastard Noise, and as such I was only able to listen to a few of their albums very briefly before the fest. If I was not sold on them before, I certainly am now (another servant of the skull perhaps?). Although I knew Bastard Noise was a very bass heavy band, having listened to their newest LP Culture of Monsters, I was pretty shocked to see that only two of the three band members actually had traditional instruments, founder Eric Wood on bass, and another on drums. The third member, Aimee Artz, seemed rather out of place, next to the much older, beer-bellied Wood. She did a have a black polo sporting the skull logo of Man is the Bastard/Bastard Noise, so it was clear she played some part in eccentric band. When they started, it quickly became clear that the vocals that I had assumed were Wood’s from listening the new album were actually primarily Aimee’s. Saying it was an odd combination does not begin to cover it, but this juxtaposition made it all the more enticing. When she was not singing, she went over to this soundboard-like contraption that I have since learned is called “the coil.” Quite what it was doing to the music I am not certain, however. Aimee’s hateful screams mixed with the low bellowing of Wood and all crashed into the intricate bass lines that Wood produced at a lightening pace, further complimented by waves of chaotic drumming, made for quite the experience. And although the voices were often difficult to make out, it was hard to miss when they started “Me and Hitler.” It was arguably the most memorable song I heard the entire weekend.

I would be lying if I said that I was not looking forward to Ghost’s performance, the final performance of the festival. If you are unfamiliar with them, they are a black metal band from Sweden that dons robes and cowl their faces before their performances. Not to be outdone, the singer dresses up as a satanic cardinal with his face painted in the visage of a skull. But all of this seems a bit pedestrian when compared to their most distinguishing feature, the clearly pop inspired vocals. Nowhere is there a growl or scream, instead this is replaced by a rather cheerfully singing. The dichotomy is complete when you add their lyrics detailing witches’ Sabbaths and bloody rituals. They played their songs well, easily creating a grim and foreboding atmosphere. This was accentuated by how many people were packed into the warehouse space. It was a sea of bodies ebbing a flowing to the music, impossible to stem. I can’t help but feel this mood was deconstructed a little by the some the people there that were taking it a bit too seriously. One such person, who I will call “Invisible Oranges,” for his tendency to keep both of his arms raised and his hands clawing skyward, appeared as though he was having a religious experience. He had a way of keeping his fat arms in front of anyone around him, myself included. The only way I was able to prevent from becoming too frustrated with him, was to imagine those oranges he should have been cupping in those outstretched hands. Luckily, after a few songs I was swept away from Oranges in the surging tide. With only one album, Opus Eponymous, they only played for about an hour, covering most of their material, before leaving the stage as taciturn as they had mounted it. It was a nice way to end a rather chaotic festival, without a word.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Show Report: Social Distortion, Chuck Ragan @ Stage AE, Pittsburgh

Social Distortion

Up until recently, Pittsburgh did not have many venues suitable for accommodating more mainstream acts and the larger crowds that they draw. That changed with the construction of Stage AE, an outdoor amphitheatre situated right across from the Steelers’ own Heinz Field. I had not been to the venue before, but I decided that I would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to see Social Distortion, especially with the venerable Chuck Ragan opening for them.

Social Distortion is a Californian punk rock band that has been putting out music since the late 1970s, albeit at an extremely slow pace. Indeed, it took eight years for them to produce a follow up to 2004’s Sex, Love, and Rock’n’ Roll. With each new release, the band has managed to inject more country and blues stylings to their sound, a fact that is especially evident on their most recent offering, 2011’s Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes. Admittedly, I have not spent too much time with the album, though after a couple precursory listens, I couldn’t help but walk away with a bad taste in my mouth. If one could ever have classified vocalist/chief song-writer Mike Ness as a clever lyricist, it is safe to say he has forsaken that mantle (even the song titles offer up clues to their banality: “Diamond in the Rough” and “Can’t take it with you”). Despite clichéd lyrics, most of the songs are catchy and enjoyable, though a few feature gospel singers as back up vocalists that make me cringe each time I hear them. Being that the current tour is in support their new album, I was fairly certain that their set list would be largely dominated by new songs. Even still, I was excited to see them, as I have many fond memories of listening to their prior offering, Sex, Love, and Rock’n’ Roll, while I was in college.

As I suspected, their set was highly skewed towards material from Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, though they played many of the notable tracks from each of their earlier albums (including crowd favorites “Story of my life” and “Ball and chain”). Unfortunately, they only played a single song from Sex, Love, and Rock’n’ Roll. Mike Ness was constantly talking to the crowd between songs, informing us that with Stage AE’s construction, they finally had a place to play in Pittsburgh (which was hard not to be a little disappointed hearing, as I suppose they are now too “big” to be playing in the smaller and more intimate venues, of which Pittsburgh has many). He announced to the crowd two times that they “were just getting warmed up.” Despite these reassurances, after the 2nd mention, they only played one more song before leaving stage (though, they returned for an encore). As with the main set, the encore consisted mainly of songs from Hard Times, and much to my dismay, they brought out the gospel singers to help out on two songs. While I may be making the show out to be a lackluster experience, it was certainly enjoyable and the band was in top form, playing their songs with confidence. Their live performance sounded very much like their recorded material, and they did very little to give their old songs any new life.

Chuck Ragan

As I mentioned earlier, Chuck Ragan opened for Social Distortion, and it is safe to say that it was the most memorable part of the show. Chuck Ragan was one of the singers to the much loved Florida punk band Hot Water Music, though he left the band in 2006 to pursue a solo career. He is one of many punk rock musicians to branch away from punk towards acoustic folk. While the genre shift might make some punk fans a little uneasy, I can safely say that the shift was an extremely natural one, his gravely and earnest vocal delivery fitting perfectly with his songs documenting life’s hardships. He was joined onstage by the fiddle extraordinaire Jon Gaunt and Joe Ginsberg on upright bass, both of which played with a level of intensity and enthusiasm that was not to be matched the rest of the evening. Unfortunately, the large outdoor stage was not the ideal setting to see them. There were far too many people, many of which talked through the entire set, obviously only interested in hearing Social Distortion. Chuck paid no mind, however, putting forth his best for whoever was willing to listen. Afterwards, my brother and I got to talk to him for a short while and thank him for coming to Pittsburgh again (we had seen him earlier as part of the Revival Tour). And much to our satisfaction, he commented on the quality of the bands emblazoned on our t-shirts (Jawbreaker and The Jesus Lizard). If you are unfamiliar with Chuck Ragan, I highly recommend that you give his newest album, Gold County, a spin.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cheap Girls - Daytrotter Session

Cheap Girls is a 3 piece band from Lansing, Michigan that play jangly rock songs in the same vein as the Gin Blossoms (meaning that it is excellent, if you are not familiar the Gin Blossoms). Beyond the infectious and catchy guitar driven nature of the songs, if you delve into the lyrics you will notice a great deal of self deprecating humor and cynicism, reminding me of the Gin Blossoms’ old albums (I much preferred when they were singing about failed relationships and smoking cigarettes, as opposed to the trite love songs on their latest album. But, I digress). In addition to the clever lyrics, vocalist Ian Graham’s voice is instantly recognizable, with its unexcited and apathetic tone, which helps to make the songs all the more memorable.

Cheap Girls just recorded a session for Daytrotter, where they played four songs from across their discography (which is admittedly small, at the moment). It is up for free download at Daytrotter. Do yourself a favor and listen to it, and then go see them in concert if they are in your area. They have a number of East Coast dates with Bomb The Music Industry in June.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pine Barrens – Demo (2010)

In the past few days, my playlist has been dominated by a 4 track demo from a band called Pine Barrens. They are a hardcore band that hails from Manchester, England and beyond that, about the only other thing I know about them is that their demo is awesome (which is up for free download on their bandcamp page). Their songs are a curious mix of hardcore punk and black metal (while I may be inappropriately using the label, the shrieked/rasped vocals reminded me of black metal) that is both aurally assaulting and surprisingly compelling. Track 4 is the definite highlight of the demo, slowing down the pace a little and adding a second, bellowing vocal track that is hard not to get excited about. The song even has a saxophone solo at the end, but don’t let that fool you, this is aggressive music. Highly recommended. Download it, and if you like what you hear, it was just released on cassette from Big Mountain Recordings. It is limited to 50 copies, so it might not be around long.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The thought of starting a blog documenting my enthusiasm for listening to music has been one that I have been kicking around in my head for a little while now. Though, the idea was continuously shelved, not knowing if I was qualified for the endeavor. Now, I can already hear you crying “it’s a blog for god’s sake, what qualifications do you need?” And while that is certainly a valid point, I still wondered whether I had anything worthwhile to say about the topic. Despite my enthusiasm for listening to music, I am not a musician myself, so I always questioned the relevance of what I might have to say. With my lack of any real musical knowledge, it seemed that any of my critiques would rest solely upon what sounded good to my ear.  As such, any reviews of my own would be limited to stringing together interesting descriptors and adjectives, in an attempt to skirt around the fact that my opinions were not based on what makes a complex or well put together album. How often can you use hackneyed phrases like “buzz-saw guitars” or “brutal” before they stop meaning anything?

It then occurred to me that the blog did not have to focus on reviewing albums. Why not have it be a means to help channel my excitement about music and pass it onto others? There are a plethora of great bands that never reach the ears of most people, no matter how much they deserve to be heard. What better an idea for a blog than to attempt to introduce people to worthwhile bands they otherwise may not have come across?

And I can think of no better band to first mention than the one from which the blog takes its name, Armchair Martian.