A ‘Rey’ of Black Sunshine- Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence sends us on a dark journey

Lana Del Rey stares moodily out of the cover of her latest album, Ultraviolence, similar to The Ramones’ classic Rocket to Russia album art. The cover and the album as a whole represent a throwback to vintage rock n’ roll; Del Rey traditionally romanticizes and mystifies old styles but the new, more vibrant direction was probably created by album producer and contributor Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. The two make an impeccable pair, mixing Del Rey’s sugary party-girl persona with Auerbach’s alternative, edgy musical background, but Del Rey’s usual talent is by no means obscured by his presence. She’s a little more distant, a little less enthusiastic, and a little more disillusioned with the world than on previous albums, creating an experience that isn’t just sad, but beautifully poignant.


Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Live From KCRW

Not long after the release of the hauntingly ethereal album, Push the Sky Away, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds recently took us by surprise with the release of Live from KCRW – recorded in April, 2013, before a small studio audience at KCRW’s studios in Santa Monica. The album departs from the heavy guitar sounds and hammering pace of earlier works like Murder Ballads, stripping down atmospheric sound in some of the band’s lesser known songs and seducing us with its soulfulness, emotion and haunting melodies, purveyed through the pure sound of instruments such as the piano, violin, vibraphone and organ.


An Odd Look for Kiss Land

If you are familiar with The Weeknd’s music you are aware of the “feel” most of his songs portray; spacious R&B riffs surrounded by mysterious and at times distant vocals work in tandem with narratives of Tesfaye’s character, The Weeknd. Kiss Land takes a similar albeit more shadowy approach. The openings to most tracks are airy, dark and majestic. Tesfaye spends a lot of time harmonizing when he could be using vocals to drive each piece. “Professional” leads off the album by setting a grand stage for Tesfaye to deliver. However, we get more “airy and wider” with each following track to no overwhelming climax.


Together In The Darkness: Emerald Cocoons 7” Series, Alone Together Shines

Record series exist for as many reasons there are labels. Sometimes the reasons are forthright and in your face. Other times they exist purely for commercial promotion, and yet still for others the ties that bind the various recordings can be as slippery as freshly birthed umbilical cord. As with many things in music or art or whatever, I’m generally more attracted to dots I can’t easily join. I like the feeling of sensing there exists a thread that connects it all. I live to peel back the whatever obscures what’s beneath, to dial out the interference interrupting my connection to it discover the unity that gives meaning to the series as whole. In the case of Emerald Cocoon’s Alone Together series, that thread is intimacy. READ MORE.

Poison Packets and Little Capsules: A Review

Let me preface this review by saying that I am no musical expert. However, I do have ears and strong opinions, so take the following for what it is: the thoughts of an average music listener on an average musical album. Poison Packets by Saul Conrad is a soothing mix of songs whose folksy guitar coupled with occasional jazz undertones creates a mellow set of tracks guaranteed to calm your nerves and send you into an all around chill state. The only criticism that I have is that, to my unrefined ears, many of the tracks sound very similar. However, the soft uniformity makes Poison Packets a great choice if you are looking for something to play in the background as you go about your day.

The Occult Magic of Purity Ring’s Shrines

I left the recent Purity Ring concert with two predominant thoughts. One, that magic might actually be real, but real in a terrifying and vaguely apocalyptic sort of way. And two, that a conversation about live set of Megan James and Corin Roddick, who make up Purity Ring, would be crippled without some remarks on the album as well. Their musical canon consists of just one album, Shrines, and as such Purity Ring inhabits a moment when their recorded album and live performances are fundamentally one body (a situation which works particularly well for them, because Shrines is itself sort of a singular idea manifested in eleven subtly differing tracks).

Bob Dylan’s Hellfire and Brimstone Storm

Old. Irrelevant. Washed up. Out of touch. Creatively dead.

Anyone who has followed Bob Dylan’s career over the past half-century has probably applied, or heard some version of these terms applied, to the past ten years—a period that will probably be remembered as the artist’s lost decade. And with some justification.

After all, since 2001, Dylan has given us Love and Theft, Modern Times and Together Through Life, three albums that range from the merely mediocre to the truly awful. Anyone who felt that he had lost his edge is entirely justified.

Review Review: Bloc Party’s Four

The personal pronoun “I” appears a dozen times in the review in reference to me (it also appears several times in quoted lyrics), which is a lot. In my two previous, decidedly positive reviews, I used “I” a combined four times to talk about the most recent albums of Twin Shadow and Nas. A dozen is a lot for a Four review as well, Spin and Pitchfork, probably the two best known sources for alternative music criticism, both gave the album decidedly negative reviews without ever leaning on first person. Both of them dealt exclusively with the album in front of them, criticizing it for what it did. While I panned the album as well, I justified it by talking about how annoyed I was, rather than by pointing out the parts of the music that were doing the annoying.

A Plague Upon Your Ignorance: The Overwhelming Genius of Zappa

“I’m gonna tell you the way it is/And I’m not gonna be kind or easy” Frank Zappa, “Harry, You’re a Beast” The contributions that Frank Zappa made to music are a matter of historical record. As The Rolling Stone Album Guide notes, “Frank Zappa dabbled in virtually all kinds of music-and, whether guised as a satirical rocker, jazz-rock fusionist, guitar virtuoso, electronics wizard, or orchestral innovator, his eccentric genius was …continue…

Too Many People: Revisiting Paul McCartney’s Ram

Paul McCartney is that one artist where, even in the depths of his discography, I feel completely at home and safe. By now, all of his music, from The Beatles to his interesting 80s decisions to his weird classical wanderings, is well-known territory. It’s impossible to reach this kind of familiarity with every artist, and at this point, it would be too late for me to choose again and get …continue…