Spoiler: This post will be bias. If you’ve read this, you also know I’m pretty honest with my opinions. Not in a “I don’t give a fuck” punk attitude, but rather the lack of need to impress anyone. I mean you love me for the way that I am, right? Good, I’m glad we share the same feelings. Now that we’ve got that our of the way, Chris Stowe quietly released a small masterpiece today in his album “Hollow”.
Many of you may not know who he his, but that’s okay. There’s room on the bandwagon still. I’ve known Chris since I was little. His dad and mine played in bands way back in the 80s when we were both toddlers. We never really super close but we hung out together as kids, then life goes on. Fast forward to fifteen-ish years later, I’m with my wife in a tiny art space in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to watch a childhood friend play some of my favorite songs. (Worship This! and The Homeless Gospel Choir also played. Both of whom I’ve grown to love)
Chris is still one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known, and upon meeting again years later it’s clear nothing has changed. He tells a story in the middle of his set how it’s amazing how life connects people together. We hadn’t spoken in years, but through following similar music scenes we reconnected. It really is quite amazing how music is so much than deeper notes and rhythms.
His first album, “Bleed”, is something I still listen to regularly for it’s simplicity and straightforward honesty. Emotion and passion go a long way when all you’re armed with is a guitar. You can’t fake it. Well, you can try to, but most people will see through it. Chris’ songs are so good because he doesn’t have to fake it. He’s a human, and opens his heart a bit for listeners to hear when he plays. Being a writer, it’s hard to be that honest, and it’s sometimes painful. I thank Chris’ for opening his soul a little bit because it’s helped to heal mine in times of need.
I remember when “Hollow” was announced. I know this because I was delivering a newspaper route in Russell, Pennsylvania (Chris’ hometown ironically). It was about 4am, and my wife just had to call me and tell me the pre-order was up for his album. I pulled the car over, and she told me there were two variants and a shirt with a deer on it. Shortly after that, a deer ran in front of my car. (Not rare as I had seen at least half a dozen on that morning already, but it’s odd how life connects the dots for us). I told her to buy one of each variant (because I’m indecisive, and I mean, why not?). She said, “Already did.” She’s as big of a fan as I am.
“Hollow” is the natural extension of “Bleed”. The same emotion is there, but there’s a bit more variety in instrumentation, backing vocals, and the feeling of completion. At the end of the album is feels like something has been lifted off the singer’s shoulders. It’s hard not to feel that weight linger as the album ends. “Blood Drinkers” is the perfect opener. It opens with just Chris and his guitar and tells the story of the singer falling in and out of love. Everyone sings about love, but goddamn this girl broke this poor man’s heart. Then again, we’ve all felt that stinging pain. Unfortunately, some of us are not musically inclined to let the emotion out as poetically as this.
“Rain” is probably my favorite track right now. It reminds me of when I first heard, “Bleed”. It’s a love song carried by his voice. It’s unique in that it’s raspy, but it’s clear that the man can sing. With every punk guy carrying an acoustic these days, this stands out as his delivery of his music. “Angeline” introduces a harmonica and has an infectious groove to it. My wife’s favorite track right now, “Oh Lonesome” has a haunting atmosphere that sums the entire album. It’s a hollow, bare bones showcase of the human condition. And, it’s beautiful.
The entire album takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s not necessarily the ride you planned on, but sometimes on the great ride bus on life you get let out at the wrong stop. Sometimes you meet an old friend. And sometimes, just sometimes, you make a new best friend.
Purchase it at: http://a-frecords.bandcamp.com/album/hollow-af062
This stuff is so good. Paired with a cinnamon creamer it was like drinking velvet. I also spent this morning remembering how great the band Hostage Life was. “Walking Papers” is a great punk rock album, and “Centre of the Universe” showed a brief peak into where they could’ve gone if they decided to stay together.
Ok, so this series was intended to be a space for beer review. The problem with trying to review beer is that one leads to four pretty quickly. That, and I catch a case of ADD when I drink (which my wife will attest to). I become increasingly more social and easily distracted. Instead of half-assed attempts to write reviews, I decided to just do away with it all together. It’s not because I don’t enjoy a good drink. It’s because I don’t usually enjoy a good drink alone. There is another brew of a different variety that doesn’t impair my ability to think.
I put coffee in my veins like I put gas in my car (and my last blog tells you a little bit on how much I drive). I usually drink a minimum of two cups in the morning, and sometimes enjoy a cup evening while relaxing. I’m not super picky with my coffee as long it’s not brown water (a term I affectionately call the coffee that someone brews at work). I don’t claim to be an expert on anything I write about: music, beer, coffee, etc. However, I give honest opinions from genuine experiences which I think is more valuable than the opinion of a trained or paid critic.
My wife and I also recently bought a Keurig Vue. It’s a different experience, and felt wrong at first not brewing in a pot. However, it brews really good, and is giving me a chance to change up coffee flavors regularly. I thought it’d be another appliance like the George Foreman Grill that got used for awhile and then put aside in the graveyard of appliances. Well it’s been about two weeks, and I think it’s the convenience that keeps me using it.
Every morning I get ready, select an album off my iPhone to start the day with and hit brew with a random coffee in the Vue. It’s not hard to snap a picture and update my readers on the mornings occurrences. Yes, that could be reserved for twitter, but frankly I talk too much to be constrained to a character limit. Not because I have a lot to say, but rather I don’t know when to quit.
I did pick up a six pack of beer this weekend though of Xingu Black Beer. It shocked me how good this stuff was. It’s easily the smoothest beer I’ve had in quite some time. It’s a dark lager from Brazil that I can’t recommend enough to anyone that wants to dabble into dark beer. Yes, it’s summer, but one can only consume so many citrus beers. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Except cliff diving. Yeah, don’t do that.
It’s been some time in between these things, but that is not to say there hasn’t been anything happening this little corner of the world. I’ve been to shows, bought more music to keep my wallet slim (we’re all trying to stay healthy right?). and put a couple thousand miles on my car.
My job like all jobs has pros and cons. The cons mostly being that I can be unexpectedly woken up in the middle of the night to drive ~100+ miles delivering newspapers. While that’s quite the con, it usually doesn’t happen on a regular basis. Except the past few months it was a daily occurrence. It changes my sleep schedule, and generally makes me a terrible human to be around.
The pros of my job that I genuinely enjoy almost everyone I work with (which is a huge plus if you work in an office environment) and there’s a lot of time where I can listen to music or podcasts while I work. I’m able to stay up to date with things that are coming up, but unfortunately haven’t been able to inform my readers of these things. There’s only so many hours in the day to search for things. I found out about bands through a couple websites that had very little information and through the credits in the liner notes of albums. I found out what record labels I liked, and went from there. Not too much has changed over the years, there’s just more crap to sift through.
But here on this thing that I call The Sound of Ideals Clashing, we Cut the Crap (pun intended). Here’s some albums that have been released between my last entry and today:
OFF! – Wasted Years
Apologies, I Have None – Black Everything
Banner Pilot – Souvenir
Menzingers – Rented World
Cheap Girls – Famous Graves
Bane – Don’t Wait Up
Masked Intruder – M.I.
Andrew Jackson Jihad – Christmas Island
7 Seconds – Leave a Light On
Fucked Up – Glass Boys
American Football – Self-Titled reissue
That could very easily be someone’s Best of 2014 list. That’s just how good this year has been. Fortunately, the music gods have been good to us this all of this year so far, and looks like the next couple months will be quite the treat in the form of
Braid – No Coast
Pennywise – Yesterdays
Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown
Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again
The Holy Mess – Comfort in the Discord
Trap Them – Blissfucker
Chris Farren and Grey Gordon – Ducks Fly Together
Well that should catch you up if you’re schedule has been much like mine as well as given me a written reminder of what’s been out. I’ll be working on doing more in depth reviews, but that gives you a bit of what I’ve been up to lately. Hopefully, everything has been well with you, and let’s stay in touch.
I’ll leave with you a song off “Souvenir” by Banner Pilot.
Nothing is free in this world. You get what you pay for. Everything is subjective. All are cliche sayings used to justify the purchase or non-purchase of something. It’s always bothered me that people complain about how much things cost. I didn’t come from a rich background, nor do I live a lavish lifestyle now, but I think about everything I buy.
Is it worth it? Does this product enrich my life? Why am I buying it? All questions I ask myself when I buy something. Yes, I still buy things that don’t enrich my life, aren’t worth it, or don’t have a justifiable reason as to why I bought it, but I feel if we start thinking about why we buy things we will be better off.
This conversation started over recent policy changes to where I work and an album I pre-ordered being leaked early. People seem to have a sense of entitlement. Art whether it’s written with musical notes, paint brushes, or ink is all subjective. When something is subjective, it’s worth is up to those who value it. When something is presented to you, it is at that point you decide whether the price and your value match up close enough to make a purchase. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t buy it. Just don’t deface the product because you don’t value it as others do.
Support what you enjoy, and don’t support things you don’t enjoy. It’s simple. I buy things from companies and people that offer products I like and/or have good business practices. There are enough places to buy things at, and enough alternatives to products to support people doing the right thing.
Think Apple is too expensive. Don’t like Windows? That’s okay, try one of the hundreds of distributions of Linux that are maintained and created for free. Like one band but hate another? Buy from the one you enjoy so they hopefully can continue making music you like, and hope the band you hate slowly fades into the shadows forever. *Cough* Nickleback *Cough* Don’t like the price of the newspaper? Search for other ways to stay informed on things you are interested in.
We have more choices in this world now, than we ever have. Utilizes this freedom. Some places in the world are not so lucky to have this freedom. Take from this what you will, but it was more of a rant than anything else.
Sometimes an album comes along that just makes sense. The right place, the right time. I knew “Youngblood” by Divided Heaven was coming out. I had pre-ordered it awhile ago, but somehow was still surprised when I happened to swing by my apartment on my lunch break to find it gently leaning against my door. I finished up my work day and other responsibilities. It was a long, rainy, and dreary day. I’m relieved that it was over. I was going to wait to spin the record until tomorrow, but I’m glad I glad I decided to finish out my night listening to it.
Like I said in an earlier blog, I met the man that is Divided Heaven, Jeff Berman, last October at Fest in Florida. He was a genuine nice guy, and it comes through on the album. I want to start off by saying that this album sounds so good. His acoustic guitar sounds so warm, and his voice has only gotten stronger over time. The opening track, “Youngblood”, speaks of the indecision that is life in your 20s, 30s, 40s, or any age for that matter. This blog is titled The Sound of Ideals Clashing. The struggle of where you are, where you want to be, and the paths to get there. The closing track, “Gin” talks of the struggle with one of my favorite lines to end an album with, “Too young to plan, too old to fail.”
Jeff finally has some band accompaniment on songs like, “Melissa Militia” and “The Worst”, which only serve to accent the song. Not needed, but it’s enough variety to keep the ear interested in what Jeff has to say. Jeff’s lyrics have always been great, but you can tell he had some time with this album to create what he wanted. When the artist believes in his work as you can tell Jeff does on “Youngblood” makes for a better listening experience.
My dad, being in bands all of his life, always told me that you have to play what the audience wants. I always asked him why don’t you play what you want? He said there’s no money in it. I always felt that wasn’t true, and even if it was, I didn’t want it to be true. I’m happy to support Jeff in creating the art he wants to. Support the musicians you enjoy, there may not be a lot of money in it, but that’s not why the good ones do it anyway.
Order the record at: http://dividedheaven.com/music/
As much as I enjoy a challenging listen like the topic of my last blog, “Frances the Mute” by The Mars Volta, sometimes I just want to hear a band kick out the jams. I recently had the pleasure of seeing some shows in Cleveland. While I went there to see some bands I knew well, I’m always excited to see the opening acts that I haven’t had a chance to see before. Opening acts are hit or miss, except when you’re in Cleveland apparently. The city’s slow decline has led to a tension that lends itself as inspiration for artists.
Harvey Pekar, named after the famous comic of the same name, are one of those bands that blew me away. Not hearing anything from them beforehand, I watched them walk on stage and proceed to tear up the small stage that is Now That’s Class. No gimmicks, no stage banter, just a no nonsense hardcore band that is more interested in philosophy than typical hardcore values. I was sold.
Their album, “Upward, Not Northward” opens with the song “Are We Not Mammals?”. It’s a good precursor to the rest of the album. Heavy distorted bass, intricate guitar lines, and driving rhythms. “God Damn All Gentlemen” is a rager of a song about their hometown.
“This bus ride downtown is perfectly paired with that sullen Paul Simon song.
Static streets: the veins of that frozen lake.
Cleveland winters are the greyest shade of bleak…
Chips rain down on the shoulders of bitter inhabitants
an ever-present reminder that opportunity lies elsewhere”
The band’s energy never really lets up. As much as the band excels at creating interesting rhythms, their lyrics make them stand out from their contemporaries. The genre needs a band like Harvey Pekar, like the world needed comic Harvey Pekar to shake things up. The band sounds fresh, not because it was recently recorded, but rather because they are doing something not a lot of bands are doing. If you like rock, punk, or hardcore music, you will find something to like about this band. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite verses on the album.
“Nothing but to-dos and wish lists and dusty dreams that prove
I’ve always been more Cameron than Ferris.
What good is a labor of love locked under glass?
Even a hopeful future tense has nothing on the active present.
I will smash my ceramic pig until I have spent every cent of my efforts.”
- “Rot on the Vine”
Bands don’t make albums like this anymore. The Mars Volta created a genius recording or the most pretentious album ever recorded. One or both of those statements could be correct depending on your view of the band. I remember vividly when the album came out there seemed to be so much mystery around it, which probably drew me to it in the first place.
Around the time “Frances the Mute” was slated for release there were rumblings of an epic concept album about filling in the missing parts of a diary a band member found. Intriguing to say the least. I picked it the album up when it came out and it blew me away. Equal parts jazz, Latin, rock, and ambient music, the album commands the listener to take notice. There is so much going on, to even attempt to understand the album, it requires your full attention. You will either like this or you won’t.
Lending both ears lets you actually enjoy the musicianship that is on display. The entire album is up to interpretation, and is open ended in many places to let your mind wander with the music. “Cygnus…Vismund Cygnus” starts the album and opens with the following verse that what I believe alludes to the album’s theme of soul searching.
“The ocean floor is hidden
From your viewing lens
A depth perception
Languished in the night
All my life,I’ve been
Sowing the wounds
But the seeds sprout
A lachrymal cloud”
The album, as bloated as it is, knows when your ears can only take so much. “Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore” opens up with about four minutes of nature sounds that would normally seem to be filler, but only immerse the listener. Singer/lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala has a voice that can on par with Geddy Lee in terms of range, but is also bilingual. Guitarist/songwriter Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s ability to create a soundscape is unparalleled. Sure, the band creates music, but more importantly, they create an experience. This album is worth a listen if you’re looking for something different. I can assure you there’s nobody quite like this band making music today.
Anyone that has been in the vicinity of Western New York knows the painful cold we’ve been experiencing lately. Polar Vortex sounds like some Sci-Fi movie, but nevertheless, this snow and cold is exhausting. It is every year, so you’d think we’d be used to it. The tense feeling of walking to your car and/or job in single to negative digits is something tough to put into words, but Planes Mistaken For Stars first self-titled album gives me that feeling.
Planes Mistaken For Stars were a post-hardcore band from Illinois that had a good little run in the early 00’s. Taking equal parts hardcore, rock, metal, and melody they created a unique sound that has kept their legacy intact largely by word of mouth of their fans. They developed their sound over time to a powerhouse of sound, but on their first album they were clearly still searching for their sound. This is not a deterrent as the chaotic mash of sounds is part of what has made the album stay with me over the years.
“Copper and Stars” is one of my favorite songs anyone from my generation has written. So with that out of the way, the album with this song the listener is treated with a one minute jam session before the band kicks into full gear and guitarist/singer Gared O’Donnell takes over. His gravely, raspy voice repeats the opening lines, “And I don’t want to say that I wasted my days chasing instead of catching keeping. Wasting wishes on copper and stars”. It takes some time to get used to his voice, but it is as vital an instrument as the guitar. The song builds up before slowing to a halt at the end, only to allow “Division” to pick up where “Copper and Stars” left off. It’s intense, chaotic, and rhythmically all over the place for just under two minutes before abruptly stopping and spilling over a quiet minute long ballad.
The band perfects the push and pull technique. Never quite letting the listener get comfortable. The band is a locomotive going down the tracks pulling you along. You know the scenery is lovely because they slow down to let you see once and awhile, but they also let you know they are the captain of the train and you are just the passenger.
“The Past Two” ends with the the lines, “Cuz I’m afraid when the snow clears there won’t be much left of me. December killed the best of me”, effectively summing up the winters in Western New York. Any fan of rock or heavy music in general can find something to love about this band. If anything it’s something different to listen to while your car defrosts tomorrow.
Sometimes getting older is depressing in which we can no longer do things we enjoy. Sometimes, it allows us to look at life askew to appreciate something we never really paid attention to. This can be something as benign as nature you normally carelessly pass by on the way to work or finally watching that movie that your friends keep talking about. It can of course be much more life changing, but it’s important to remember that doesn’t have to be. However, it can be.
American Steel is a band that have been around since I was a toddler. Growing up, I heard magazines talk about them. I saw people wearing their t-shirts and adorning their clothes with their logo. I finally gave in and listened in my earlier youth, and they didn’t do anything for me. I just wasn’t ready for them yet. I hadn’t experienced enough of life to understand. You can’t force life experience.
No movie can make you feel love. No punk song can teach you how to do a kickflip on your skateboard. However, those things can remind you of those experiences. We all look for something to feel familiar when we encounter something new. We need to know that things make sense, or find a way to make them make sense to us.
“Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts” by American Steel is their latest album released in 2009. I was 22. I had been through college, found and lost love, and worked a handful of jobs that I may or may not have enjoyed. The album made and continues to make sense to me. I’m not saying their older albums don’t make sense to me listening to them now, but I can tell you that this one hits the spot for those who feel weary. Some music has the power to stand the test of time and feel new and nostalgic all at once. Albums that do that? Any that make you feel young and come to the realization of your age. My list is different than yours. This album may or may not be on that list, but I will tell you that it’s worth listening to in order to decide for yourself.