Friday, January 15, 2010

The Second Stage Turbine Blade - Coheed and Cambria

There isn't enough that can be said about Coheed and Cambria's concept albums, coupled with musical and lyrical prowess, there is a fully developed story. The characters are hidden in some of the lyrical representation, as some of the words Claudio chooses are representative of his own live. There is a comic however, fully illustrated, that gives the listener a true image of exactly what is happening. The Second Stage Turbine Blade is particular in this aspect, as it's entirety has already been put on the shelves, so I listener, like myself, can have the full circular effect.

The story itself follows the Kilgannon family in their descent into death. It would take a blog all in itself to explain exactly what happens, but in the end Coheed and Cambria, along with three of their children, and one of their new fond allies are dead. Their remaining son Claudio is now in hiding from the creatures who are searching for him, because he, ultimately is the key to saving the keywork (the universe which they all belong to). The relationships and intimacies of the characters alone draw the listener into the lyrics, making them feel compassion for the wayward, and very in love Claudio, while feeling sorrow at the scene of two lovers dying side by side trying to balance the keywork. If you're really interested in the story, you can order the comic books here (vol. 1) and here (vol. 2), and enjoy them thoroughly at your leisure!

Let's break this down into some of the more prominent songs on the album, and talk about Coheed and Cambria's style as it relates to each of them.


By the same name as the tour that the band had this past year. They played each of their CDs straight through on four separate nights and recorded it for the less fortunate listener to purchase and listen to from home. The song itself has a very rock and roll feel to it, showing the band's old influences of classic rock and alternative bands. This is one of the few songs on the album that Claudio does not over track his voice in several places, this allows the listener to truly absorb the depth of his talent. He was raised as a child by an opera singer of a mother, and has since gained incredible range in his voice.

Guitars speak for themselves, as this song is one of the very important building blocks of C&C's unique riff like style. It seems as though the songs been written musically in several different parts, and put together in the smoothest way possible. It's not to say that it sounds fragmented, just that riffs and fills of the song have been put together individually, and don't ever clash with one another. It's an originality that some bands don't even come across on a new CD let alone with every riff in every song. The sound meshes well with the rest of the band as vocalist Claudio Sanchez plays most of leads while singing. In order for this to be cohesive, the lyrics must fit with the guitar, lest the song become disarranged and difficult to listen to. The bass is also something building. With each CD we find more versatility in the bass guitar of C&C, as though there is more and more talent being pumped into each song.

Everything Evil

This is the song punctuating the true evil that is to become of the universe in the story. It begins with an incredibly catchy drum lick, something that only one the Eppard brothers would come up with. It is unfortunate that Josh had to leave the band after making this album, as his rhythm is surely missed in some of the recordings to come. The song transitions into the common fast paced and hard hitting verse that Coheed's early recordings are known for, driven by the story of our protagonist family and sprinkled with just a touch of Claudio's personal life. The way that this song is almost like three songs in one, and doesn't conform to the standard verse-chorus-verse structure, allows the listener to really move along with the lyrics, as though the music itself has taken on a plot line of it's own. This may very well be one of the best developed and engineered songs on the album, considering the lower budget cost of recording.

Junesong Provision

Many songs could have been chosen for this third and final spot, however it is Junesong Provision that shows the true organic essence that is early Coheed. It isn't candied up at all with pro tools or any sort of intense mixing, however it still has the same impact when played as all the other songs on the album. This song is also very important, as it introduces some characters and parts of the story that would be completely over looked. Newo Ikken's moment with Apollo is something that was nearly forgotten about, as truly, as girl reading a letter with a dog isn't all that exciting. To some one who feels intimate with these characters though, this is undeniably important.

The acoustic demo of this song shows the band's roots, their inspirations, and their humor. It open's with an Evil Dead quote and leads into Claudio's haunting harmonic falsetto. Something definitely worth giving a listen to.

This album isn't something to be over looked if you're a fan of concept albums, alternative rock bands or Coheed and Cambria's new releases. It has a raw and organic feel to it, something that this generation has been lacking lately, and should be a staple in any die hard post-punk listener's library.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Owl City - Ocean Eyes (2009)

It's been a good year for the auto-tuner, and the synthesizer, and Owl City has capitalized on that idea with their new album. Generally, credit can only be given in lyric writing and mixing. The actual instrumental prowess is overlooked entirely, because if anything was organic in the recordings, it is overlapped by layers and layers of synthesizers. The popular appeal of this genre is evident, but at the same time it is degrading to the musical populace. Some people spend their entire lives dedicated to mastering an instrument, and their music, in this age has gone completely unappreciated. That being said, some of the songs Owl City has produced have become staples in the pop community, and are causing this CD to become a success before it has even been released.

Adam Young sports an arsenal of laptops on stage while performing this album, yet still manages to gather stage presence and the excitement of the crowd. Though originality does not present itself often in the album, delving from the beaten synthetic path ofter causes the songs to become greater successes. For example, the single fire flies has a more organic and harmonic chorus than the other singles, and became a viral success even before Owl City released it's video sometime last year. Another song that gained acclaimed success is the song Salt Water Room.

It has catchy choruses and that ever so popular synthetic base that most popular music does today. Auto tuned to every note, it is, in theory, musically immaculate, while at the same time deviates from any noticeable musical talent. Props on the pop tunes, cons on the repetitive nature of the album.

p.s. - I realize that electronic music does show talent, but it seems that Owl City is trying to reach for the post punk scene, and he should choose between either.


Download Link: Owl City - Ocean Eyes

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Closure in Moscow - First Temple

Let's talk about Closure in Moscow's breakthrough album, First Temple. This is one of the greatest CDs you've never heard about, for many MANY reasons. They've got versatile influences, a unique style, and a catchy chorus to back all of it up. Straight from Australia they bring originality to the table in North America, and get away from the straight four four feel that most of our popular bands tend to conform to.

Their influences are what brings them so much originality. You can almost taste the Mars Volta in their style, with sporadic lyrics and metaphors. The band has also been compared to Saosin and Circa Survive, relating to the time signature changes and avant-garde feel to their melodic progressions. Vocally, they seem to be inspired by the 70s rock bands such Rush and Yes, and the use of falsetto pins them right beside the beegees in some songs. With all of that versatility, it'd be hard not to find something you like about this album.

Instrumentally, first temple has a collection of virtuosity like no other modern album. The guitar never stops. Barret's guitar simply glides through what seems like solo after solo, never stopping to even contemplate a time signature change. The math involved must have been excruciating. Kimber's bass holds the funk side of the CD up, keeping the songs poppy and catchy, while at the same time showing his incredible talent with his instrument. Also, the bass doesn't only hold up a rhythm on this album, it also chugs along with the melody, and sometime is the only melody itself. The drums speak for themselves. In a mathy, jumpy sort of tune, the drums are responsible for keeping the transitions clean, while cutting the song up just enough for someone to realize that it's fallen from 4/4 time. This is done with impeccable skill and precision, sometimes filling an entire bar with complicated breaks and rudiments.

Let's talk about some songs individually.


This is the first song I came across by this band, and it stuck me. I love the Mars Volta, and this is very reminiscent of their style. The use of octave change effects and a hard hitting rhythm catch the listener by the feet and pull them along for the ride. The chorus repeats the same lyrics for the first few times, "Do you FEEL that FEEL that." It gives you the chance to sing along after hearing it only once, which Randy Bachman once said was a sign of a great single. Ripe with key changes and sharp melodies, this is one of the great defining songs of the style.

A Night at the Spleen

Dancey. If the word existed, it would be the best way to describe this song. The introduction to the song gives you no inclination that it will become the fast paced dance song that it is. We're brought into the first chorus with the lyrics "So let's sing together," and with that, you're once again taken for a wild musical ride. The song has falsetto placed harmonically through most of it's vocal passages, really accentuating the Beegees-esque influence in their cleverly crafted style. To really hear the talent Barret has for creating a unique solo style, the first guitar solo is a great example. It's unlike anything you can hear in popular music today because of it's jazz shred hybrid. This song is the pop song of the album, and a good choice to listen to first if you're going to buy or download the CD.


The Mars Volta are famous for their clever sound engineering and incredible use of calculated noise. Permafrost is Closure in Moscow's display of their talents in this sense. It's not a catchy song by any means, but the ambient feel of the melody causes the listener to be taken the right setting for the song that follows. If I could compare it to anything by another band I would have to choose the four minute introduction the the Mars Volta's "Miranda that Ghost that Isn't Holy anymore." It has the same ambient feeling, with less trumpets.

Just go out, and buy the album, it's something worth listening to, and it may even be a gateway to a new genre that you've yet to experience.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kings of Leon - Only By the Night

This has been a Kings of Leon year. Their album Only by the Night found it's place the at the top of several decade charts, and is still a top contender in sales in many places. It was so popular in Australia that it became a certified best seller. It's gone eight times platinum, and spent a lot of time lingering around the top ten albums in ten different countries. Needless to say, this one is worth checking out, but let's take a look at why it's risen to such high heights.

The band took a turn for nostalgia with this one, making an album that was even more rock and roll than anything they'd released before. The really unique thing about this rock and roll though, was their approach to mixing. The vocals and bass soar through the verses, giving the lyrics some emphasis, and relaying the message a little more profoundly. You can almost hear Joe Cocker's influence in the vocalists tones in the choruses, with sporadic pitch changes at some points. This aspect reached the demographic of our parents, people who still hung onto the classics of the 60s, straight through the 80s.

With the guitars and drums, we hear the 90s. With big, cymbal heavy beats, we have that catchy feel of Richard Ashcroft and Tutuska while at the same time preserving it's rock and roll edge with the simplicity of only a bass, snare, and a couple of toms. The guitars, are almost opposite to the drums in influence. They remain in the time period of the 90s, with just enough crunch to be heard and constant driving chords, the guitar lays down a flat plane for the rest of the band to glide over. The melodies that the guitarist incorporates once again takes it back to the rock and roll of the past, using reverb and fewer notes, but more emotion, to accentuate the melody and give the song a more round body. These aspects grab our demographic, the now teens and early twenty year olds, whom grew and learned to love music in the 90s, and still love the style today.

As far as singles go, Sex on Fire has been burning up charts in popularity. Even after a year of it's release, it's not uncommon to hear the song playing out of a radio, or a movie theater speaker. It had enough appeal to propel the album to it's high heights and will continue to do so because sex sells. It has the emotional, and sexual feel to grab onto nearly anyone, while providing an exciting, and catchy melody for anyone with a keen ear for music tuning in. Use Somebody is also lurking around the single and video charts around the globe, with the same soaring vocals we're used to, and simple driving guitar to keep that catchy appeal to it.

Overall, the album has a little something for everyone. Sensual lyrics, exciting instruments, and just enough keyboard to grab that pop lover and pull them in. Definitely worth buying, listening to, and showing your friends.

- Jeff

Download it here - ONLY BY THE NIGHT