Bury Your Burdens In the Ground

Folk music. Alright, those you got past those two words pay attention to the next three words. William Elliott Whitmore. This man changed what I thought about folk music. His voice is other worldly. People don’t sing like him anymore. We are talking Sam Cooke level of singing here, but a completely different genre of music. I’ve met William and seen him play live and the way he captures the attention of an entire room is mesmerizing. His 2011 album, “Field Songs” has been in constant rotation since it came out.

I don’t know if his 2015 effort, “Radium Death”, is going to top it, but it’s going to come close. It’s similar in style of modern folk music with soulful vocals, but some of the songs feature a full band. It’s great to hear the songs fleshed out and be all that they can be. I love the intimate nature of acoustic songs, but I’m glad William isn’t pigeonholing himself into a one man band.

“Civilizations” speaks of wanting to live in the moment without distraction. Much of his songs talk of this idealistic lifestyle. As technology advances it has become harder to appreciate what naturally occurs around us. This is part of the reason I think folk music has a sense of magic to it. The working man is something that is taken for granted these days. I have been guilty of it myself. Not appreciating how the things I use and purchase on a daily basis are made.

People often even take for granted how their newspaper gets to them. The struggle newspaper carriers go through to deliver a product in the middle of the night in sometimes absurd conditions. It’s not a job on the same level as mail delivery. Take the time to thank the people who provide you services. Even that cashier giving you that coffee in the morning. It makes a difference, trust me.

“Trouble in Your Heart” follows “Civilizations” and is another subject William often visits. Hardship is something we all experience. There’s probably a million songs about it, and there will be a million more. Love and pain are two things that are easiest to write about in the sense that we feel the emotions all the time. However, when William Elliott Whitmore sings about hardship and encourages the listener to get through theirs, you believe him. He’s not a therapist. There’s not some crazy psychological metaphor in his songs, but there’s a friendly voice telling you it’s going to be alright. Sometimes, that’s all someone needs to make their day a little better. And sometimes, just sometimes, that’s all someone needs to save their life.

If you need an album to relax to or just need to feel a little better. Listen to “Radium Death” or “Field Songs” by William Elliott Whitmore. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to “Bury Your Burdens in the Ground” when I get stressed out. I always feel better after listening to just a few of his songs. You can’t help but be entranced by his positivity through the pain he speaks of. He’s a simple man with a simple message. No matter what happens in your life, it will be alright, and you’ll get through it.

I’ll let the music speak for itself.

 

 

Your Life In America

To set the setting, it’s roughly 9 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday. The longest I’ve slept in weeks by far. It’s been rough at work as of late with most of my mornings between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning and getting awoken in the few hours that I do finally get time to get some rest. My wife is at the gym. The dog on the floor at my feet. The cats cannot be located, but we all know that cats do not exist in this universe. Rather they drift between multiple parallel universes a la Interstellar. Oh wait, they’ve appeared as I wrote that sentence. They know I’ve outed their secret lives. I may not live through the weekend.

I’ve been feeling kinda down and out as of late. It’s never just one thing, just how life stacks jenga pieces of adversities in front of you. Finding a way to navigate moving these pieces around to succeed without letting them tumble upon you is the very essence of life. Life is a constant surge emotions. Happy ones, sad ones, pleasurable ones, painful ones, etc. People generally feel equal amounts of all of them throughout their life.

So why do I go on about this? Let’s talk about Ceremony’s new album, “The L-Shaped Man.” Lead Singer Ross Farrar recently went through a divorce. This seems to be the soundtrack of him moving that jenga piece out of the way. It’s an honest, heartfelt, cathartic piece of music about loss and regaining one’s composure. Well I made it this far without saying it sounds a lot like Joy Division. I’m not going to dwell on it, but their band name comes from a Joy Division song. I don’t know why everyone is so surprised they really like that band. Ceremony started out as a fast hardcore band that I’ve followed for years. They’ve always implemented new ideas into each new album evolving naturally. They don’t sound like Joy Division. They sound like Ceremony who wanted to make a dark post-punk record.

I’ve noticed they were the hardcore band people listen to if they don’t listen to hardcore. I can tell you I like them so much is because they don’t sound like every other hardcore band. Even in their early days when they wrote 30 second to minute long hardcore bursts, they did it well. There’s subtleties in hardcore music to pick up on if you want to appreciate it.

But they’ve grew into a band I think they’ve wanted to be. Their previous album, “Zoo”, sounded like a band wanting to try something new musically but for some reason didn’t fully commit. I think it suffered because of this, even if it still had some really great songs on it. “The L-Shaped Man” is going to piss off a lot of their fans. But they’ve been doing it for years, so I don’t think it will bother them. I imagine being an artist being constantly told what type of art you should be making would grow tiresome and make you not want to create it anymore. Thankfully, Ceremony said fuck it and made a great album.

“Hibernation” opens up the album as a slurred-sung piano interlude that sounds like the inner monologue of someone. The phrase, “You have to get through this…get through it all” is repeated setting the tone of the album. “Exit Fears” starts out as the first song with a full band. That driving bass lead and softer guitar playing is reminiscent of Joy Division. Ross has always been a very blunt and to the point lyricist, but his delivery adds all the emotion that the words need. When you have a distinct voice like he has, why bother wasting ink? “Bleeder” is so catchy and screaming to be a hit radio single. At least it should be. “The Separation” is a lost hit single from the 80s. The entire album is just hit after hit. If you enjoy post punk music or miss 80s music that wasn’t Journey you’ll enjoy “The L-Shaped Man”.

The album sounds fresh. Ceremony have found their niche. People love Joy Division so much is because they weren’t songs, they were experiences to listen to. As this album grows on me I’m sure I will feel the same way.

End of a Year or Something Infinitely More Creative

Another year has flown by. It started off with the most frigid of winters in which I attempted to deliver newspapers on frozen icy roads. Which could be a fun experience once, but not for three months. Luckily the rest of the year went well for the most part. Went to a few shows, met up with some old friends, and made some new ones along the way. Of course there were a few bumps in the road, but potholes can be filled, and suspensions can be fixed for about $400.

I listened to a lot of music this year. As I do every year. I also listened to a lot of podcasts. Podcasts are like the radio where you know what you’re getting into. I haven’t had time to rank albums. I used to think it was fun trying to figure out what was best to come out in the year, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s time that I could be spending elsewhere. Which is also part of the reason I don’t update as much on here. It’s not that I don’t have ideas, but rather putting these ideas in ink hasn’t come to fruition for one reason or another

Regardless, here are some podcasts that I have been coming back to.

One Shot Podcast – One off role-playing campaigns using a different rule set each time.
Turned Out A Punk – Damien Abraham (Fucked Up) talks to guests on how punk music influenced them in the respective career they chose. Damien is very well spoken and a punk music enthusiast. It’s interesting to hear how a genre that helped me realize the thoughts in my head actually made sense. Even if a lot of people still don’t understand I’ve met tons of people who do, and that sense of belonging is the reason this genre is still doing strong
The Angry Chicken – A podcast about the game Hearthstone. It’s such a simple fun game to pick up, but difficult to be good at. I’ve never had so much fun or be as infuriated with this game.
Campaign – A long form narrative role-playing game in the Star Wars Universe. It’s a story worth listening to if you’re a fan of role-playing, Star Wars, or podcasts in general.
Serial – Another story worth listening to. If you’re into audiobooks, then this will be right up your alley.
Overnight Drive – The rantings of two regular dudes are used to be/are in bands. Their life experiences are hilarious, sad, crude, and occasionally heartwarming. They don’t put up episodes as frequently anymore, but there’s quite a backlog you can catch up on.
Anxious and Angry – Ryan Young (Off With Their Heads) talks with guests about mental health and life experiences. He’s an honest dude who wants to better himself and help others who are having problems. Ryan always comes off as honest and sincere. Plus he makes some pretty rad music, and has a tendency to promote other rad music I may or may not have heard of.
The Virzi Effect and The Monday Morning Podcast – Paul Virzi and Bill Burr are two of my favorite comedians going now. If you listen to one podcast you should listen to the other. They are both down to earth guys who aren’t putting on comedy skits on their podcast. It’s more off the cuff rants about things going on around them. They are both likeable guys who are naturally funny.

There are more I listen to, but those will get you started. Now onto some records I’ve been digging all year. The list is not really in any order. They all get my seal of approval and are a worthy listen. I’m sure there’s some I haven’t listened to or will forget to list, but such is life.

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues : Their most important album, and I think an important album for all people to hear.
Protomartyr – Under the Colour of Official Right : If Joy Division and The Hold Steady made a band. I know that’s what I thought to.
Pup – Pup : I just did a review for this album. This band reminds me that young bands can still rock just as hard as any veteran band.
Restorations – LP3 : This band can’t top their last album, but they can come close. It’s raw. It’s epic. It’s everything an album should be.Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else : Cleveland is just churning out good bands. Last year I found out about Harvey Pekar, and this year this band gives me the punky garage rock I need in my life.
Hard Girls – A Thousand Surfaces : Just a rock album. Front to back.
Dwarves – Invented Rock and Roll : This band is genius. They make you sing along to the dirtiest fucking songs. They can be aggressive, catchy, or just plain weird. And it’s all still effortless to them 20+ years later.
Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown : This band is hit or miss with me. This time their channel their inner Converge, and they are all the better for it.
Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt : Not out of left field like Brian Fallon alluded to, which is just fine with me. Everything Brian Fallon touches is gold. This is no exception.
Botanist – VI Flora : This band is just plain weird, but I can’t help but listen to it. They swap out guitars for hammered dulcimers. Heavily distorted lo-fi black metal that is at times the prettiest thing you’ve ever heard and the most volatile. Any band that pushes the limit to a genre is something I can get behind.
Andrew Jackson Jihad – Christmas Island : They’ve finally embraced having a full band. I think they’ve hit their stride. I don’t know if this is my favorite album by them, but I think sonically it might their best.

That’s some of what I’ve been listening to this year. I think only one band appeared on last years list. I’ve been trying to broaden my horizons. As if I don’t consume enough media as it is. As always, see you next time. It could be tomorrow or a month from now. Well probably not tomorrow since I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, but soon. Happy holidays. Stay warm and stay happy wherever you are. If you’re not happy, find something that makes you happy. There’s a lot we can’t control, but you can choose to seek out positive things or dwell on the negatives. Maybe something of the above can help. I know they have for me this past year.

Lionheart

I always say that every year is a great year for music. For every over hyped disappointment of an album, there’s something that goes under your radar that will surprise you. Pup’s self titled album did the latter for me this year. Noisy punk influenced rock music. Imagine if Rivers Cuomo ever pulled the stick out of his pop music ass and just rocked out. If you know me I still love Weezer, but come on guys, what’ve you been doing the past ten years?

I digress, Pup is a Canadian band that absolutely rips. The intro song, “Guilt Trip” is a garage rock gem that encapsulates what this band can do. Fuzzy guitars, shouted/sung vocals, playful guitar solos, and just enough melody to hold it all together. If you like garage rock like Jay Retard, Ty Segall, and Nobunny. This band is up your alley.

“Reservior” follows up “Guilt Trip” in the same vein. Loud guitars and catchy lyrics. “Mabu” is a little change up in the guitar from straight riffage to more intricate poppy melodies. Don’t worry, the rocking doesn’t cease ever on this album. The second half of the album includes gems like, “Lionheart”, “Dark Days”, and “Factories”. At only 10 songs, I’ve named almost all the tracks. This is a worthy listen for anyone who like no frills rock and roll. This is a young band who is only going to go up from here. Get on the train now.

 

Celestial Lineage

I’m not a huge instrumental music guy. I can appreciate the musicianship, but I grew up on fast, loud, three chord punk music. I’ve evolved over time, but in my heart that’s what I love. I love movie sound tracks because the emotion they can create combined with the picture. However, most instrumental music doesn’t have that same effect. I enjoy Explosions in the Sky as a band, but they are not the end be all for instrumental bands. If “The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place” by Explosions in the Sky is the sound track to love, then “Celestite” by Wolves in the Throne Room is the sound track to the apocalypse.

Wolves in the Throne Room are said to play black metal on their own terms. Stripped down to the purest form. Black metal is all about atmosphere and aesthetic. I do enjoy some bands that do it, but most of the corpse paint, satanic, bible burning bands just don’t do it for me. It’s all about the music, and this is where this band shines. They are no nonsense musicians, opting for vintage equipment creating a very organic sound. There’s no orchestra and choir music. Just guitars, synthesizers, and a couple creative minds.

Their previous albums incorporate vocals, but their latest album is a companion album to “Celestial Lineage”. “Celestite” takes the sounds of the previous albums and expands on it. It literally sounds like the ending of the world followed by the desolation of being alone in that world. It’s beautiful. There are no vocals or drums on this record. It’s an atmospheric record that is worthy to be put to any movie. Not everyone’s cup of tea, even if you like the bands previous albums, but I believe they are a special band that people need to pay attention to. They are a good starter for getting into heavier music as they ease you into their world, and “Celestite” is the album to understand the type of sound they create.

If you’re looking for something to just put on at night to relax to, put “Celestite” on. Trust me, I wouldn’t let you down.

 

Back to the Future

Back in the early 80s, I’ve been told punk rock was dangerous. Keith Morris of Black Flag taught me everything I know about punk rock. It’s supposed to be loud, and if you’re not having fun you should probably stop doing it. There’s been a revitalization of all things old lately. In a way it’s nostalgic to see and hear things that are familiar, but at the same time it’s creating a stagnant environment for creating art for the sake of cashing in on a few dollars pulling on people’s heart strings.

News flash: That feeling of goosebumps on my arms still happens with new music. It just doesn’t happen as much any more.

Career Suicide are a Canadian band. A country who sadly while right next to the United States goes largely unnoticed in terms of anything they create. The CFL is a fun league to watch, it’s a beautiful country, my Ice Truck Hero Alex Debogorski lives there, and some of the best punk rock bands have come from there. For the sake of this blog we will ignore the mainstream acts that Canada has produced *cough* Nickelback *cough*.

Career Suicide while clearly influenced by 80s hardcore are not just another band covering “Nervous Breakdown”. The band like many 80s punk bands recorded and released music as quickly as it was made. The layman would say they are putting out music regardless of quality to make money. The thing about the punk rock genre is that there is unfortunately not a lot of money in it. People play this music because it’s simple to create fun, raw, uncensored music from the heart. It just sometimes happens to offend people not open minded enough to accept something different or not able to take a joke.

Their album, “Attempted Suicide”, is a prime example of taking a foundation and building upon it. Early Black Flag created memorable two minute blasts of music that people still care about today. Career Suicide take the ferocity of early 80s punk bands with the melody tendencies of  90s skate punk to make something unique.

The album starts off with “Play the Part” which has a frantic drum beat that flows into the nasally vocals of Martin Farkas. His delivery is fast, precise, and distinctive. The lyrics aren’t touching on any new subjects that other punk bands haven’t covered, but they are memorable and fun to yell along with. That’s all I really need. You don’t need three guitarists and ten minute songs to create epic music people will remember.

The entire album clocks in under twenty minutes. It’s just song after song never letting up for any length of time. It’s the kind of album that grabs you by the throat and demands your attention. It then abruptly stops and leaves you wondering what happened. Inevitably, I always hit play again. This album goes by so fast once is not enough. If you’re a fan of loud, fast music you’ll be into this band. Some of my favorite tracks on the album are, “Realities”, “Recipe For Disaster”, “Impact Side”, and “Fan the Flame”.

Something old and something new. Now that’s something everyone can enjoy.

A Stream of Unconsciousness

I’ve written about how music has changed my life multiple times. This blog only exists because of music.There’s certain bands or songs that hit me to the core every single time. Music is so powerful, but the difference between the music I listen to and pop radio is minimal in terms of how it effects people. I have no right to say that Nicki Minaj’s music doesn’t have the same impact as say Red City Radio on a person. However, I’d like to share some of the intimate experience “in the pit”.

Punk music and people who grew up with those traditional ideas of doing things your own way, on your terms, for your own reasons. Sometimes they were personal, sometimes political, and sometimes just to break up the monotony of daily life. It was simple that everyone could join and belong. In a place were everyone individually comes together to feel whole for period of time. Music fills the void, at least for me, that drugs or alcohol do for others.

I’ve been to a lot of different concerts. Some with a dozen people, some festivals, and some arenas. I’ve never felt so disconnected than being at rock concerts. I’m used to being near the front or middle during aggressive music, but seeing people trying to murder each other at a Five Finger Death Punch was sad. Seeing Dragonforce’s guitar players play endless solos on top of fans blowing their hair instantly made me feel like I didn’t belong here. A smaller show doesn’t mean better, but it does give the bands and audience to create something special that a band in an arena can’t do.

I’ve been in some pretty reckless mosh pits, but for the most part no one is trying to hurt each other. If someone does, they are called out on it by the collective, and sometimes the band themselves. I’ve broken up many a fight, and helped people I’ve never met because that’s what you’re supposed to do. I was recently at an Off With Their Heads show that was so crowded nobody could move. It was hot, sweaty, and being able to look to a complete stranger to your right and scream along to a song together is something not a lot of people have the chance to. I showed a video to a couple friends of mine trying to demonstrate how the shows I go to are. I’m still not sure they quite understand.

Sometimes, I wish people understood what it feels like for me to be at one of these shows. At Fest this past year, Red City Radio played their first chord and by the end of the first verse, I was covered in beer, my glasses broke, and I was holding people up in the air as they sang and had the time of their life. It felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that time. I’ve had strangers give me hugs, share stories with me, all because we were there for the same reason. It takes a certain mindset to put aside bullshit differences that society tries to force upon us.

I’ll never get too old to go to shows. I might be sitting at the bar in 10 years instead of in the midst of it all, but I’m excited to see a new generation understand that there’s a whole underground to explore. You can be and do whatever you want. The means to do so are more in reach than they ever have been. If you take anything from this rant. Please walk away with that knowledge.