Album Review: Little Hell

Little Hell by City and Colour (Vagrant Records, 2011. 49 minutes) Dallas Green – who performs under the ironic moniker, City and Colour – first entered the music scene with the post-hardcore Canadian band, Alexisonfire. Having already released two albums as a solo artist – Sometimes and Bring Me Your Love – Green has encountered considerable success in his native Canada. He has won a MuchMusic Video Award, Juno Awards for Alternative Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year, and has been named artist of the year by Chart magazine. Modus Operandi Honestly, my critical modus operandi for music reviewing is based on structures, creative musicianship, and lyrics. If an artist exhibits strength in one area, I am… Read More →

Album Review: Gloss Drop

Gloss Drop by Battles (Warp Records, 2011. 52 minutes) Battles is an avant-garde rock band from New York City. Originally formed as an underground supergroup, each musician carried successful careers outside of the band being associated with groups such as Don Caballero, Lynx, and Helmet. The band began with Ian Williams on guitar, Dave Konopka on bass, John Stanier on drums, and Tyondai Braxton on vocals and guitar. The band released Mirrored, its first full length, in 2007 to glowing reviews. In 2010, Tyondai Braxton left Battles to work in solo projects. With a hole in the vocalist department, Battles recorded its second album, Gloss Drop, with stand-in singers. Gloss Drop peaked at 98 on the Billboard Charts. Summer Camp… Read More →

Book Review: Bright’s Passage

Bright’s Passage: A Novel by Josh Ritter (New York: Dial Press, 2011. 208 pp) Hailing from Moscow, Idaho, Josh Ritter is best known as a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter. With his songs containing distinctive narrative lyrics, a jump to full-length fiction offered the natural next step. A graduate of Oberlin College with a self-created major of “American History through Narrative Folk Music,” Ritter launched his career in Ireland with the help of Glen Hansard and the Frames. While on a recent tour, Ritter began writing Bright’s Passage and after significant edits, released it with Dial Press on June 28, 2011. Currently, Ritter lives in Brooklyn. Literary Songwriting As a musician and an avid music fan, Josh Ritter’s albums have graced my… Read More →

Album Review: Bon Iver

Bon Iver by Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar, 2011. 39 minutes) Founded by singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, Bon Iver is an indie folk band featuring Vernon, Michael Noyce, Sean Carey, and Matthew McCaughan. The band began when Vernon self-released his first record, For Emma, Forever Ago, after spending three months working through the breakup of a band and a relationship. With much critical praise surrounding the first record, Vernon signed with Jagjaguwar. In the wake of For Emma, Forever Ago, Vernon collaborated with Kanye West on his latest record, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Bon Iver released its self-titled second record on June 12, 2011 and entered the Billboard charts at number 2. Sending Chills Down the Spine In certain ways, music contains… Read More →

Album Review: Codes and Keys

Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie (Atlantic Records and Barsuk Records, 2011. 45 minutes) Formed in Bellingham, Washington under the shadow of Western Washington University, Death Cab for Cutie is Ben Gibbard (vocals, guitar, piano), Chris Walla (guitars, production, keyboards), Nick Harmer (bass), and Jason McGerr (drums). The band signed to Barsuk Records off the strength of an early demo written primarily by Ben Gibbard. On Barsuk, Death Cab released four albums to much local and critical acclaim. Transatlanticism – perhaps the most famous release from their time on the Barsuk label – launched Death Cab as an international act. In 2004, Death Cab signed a worldwide deal with Atlantic Records and soon after released Plans, an album… Read More →

Album Review: Strange Negotiations

Strange Negotiations by David Bazan (Barsuk Records, 2011. 41 minutes) A prolific songwriter, David Bazan began his career as the front man of Pedro the Lion and continued playing in the band The Headphones. Located in Seattle, Washington, Bazan currently works as a solo artist. Known best during his Pedro the Lion days for his theologically rich lyrics, Bazan’s time in The Headphones and as a solo artist depict a philosophical shift as his lyrics combat his problems with alcohol and Evangelical Christianity. Curse Your Branches – considered by many, including myself, to be a masterpiece, is Bazan’s first full-length record as a solo artist. Bazan lives in Edmonds with his wife and daughter. A Complicated Relationship I have a… Read More →

Album Review: Helplessness Blues

Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop, 2011. 50 minutes) Based in Seattle, Washington, Fleet Foxes is a folk rock band lead by vocalist Robin Pecknold. In addition to Pecknold, Skye Skjelset, Josh Tillman, Casey Wescott, Christian Wargo, and Morgan Henderson comprise the full band lineup. Fleet Foxes released their self-titled, full-length first album in 2008 to much acclaim. Helplessness Blues is the band’s sophomore effort. Hate the Art, Not the Artist During my undergraduate years, I enrolled in a philosophy of art class. With a foundational principle based in the ad hominem fallacy, my time in this class reinforced the idea that one should never evaluate the merit of art through the life of the artist. In other words,… Read More →

Album Review: Wasting Light

Wasting Light by Foo Fighters (RCA, 2011. 48 minutes) Foo Fighters are an American rock band formed by lead singer and guitarist, Dave Grohl. Established in the wake of Nirvana’s end, the band’s current members are Grohl, Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel, Taylor Hawkins, and Pat Smear. Of the seven studio albums released, six of them have been nominated for a Grammy Award and three – There Is Nothing Left to Lose, One by One, and Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace – have won Best Rock Album awards. Rock-Star-Ness As a junior high student learning guitar, I enjoyed spinning my portable CD player with headphones enveloping me like ear muffs and imagining that I was playing in a band in front… Read More →

Album Review: Build a Rocket Boys

Build a Rocket Boys by Elbow (Downtown/Cooperative Music, 2011. 52 minutes) Formed in 1990 in Manchester, England, Elbow is a successful British rock band. The band is comprised of Guy Garvey (lead vocals), Mark Potter (guitar), Craig Potter (keyboards), Peter Turner (bass), and Richard Jupp (drums). Although Elbow has released 5 albums in their career, The Seldom Seen Kid received the most notoriety after Elbow won the 2008 Mercury Music Prize. Build a Rocket Boys is Elbow’s latest release. Looking Back While I am still considered young, I’ve spent enough time on earth to have memories both of joy and regret. Looking back at the route my life encountered, my memories flicker like a vintage slideshow. No matter the circumstantial… Read More →

Album Review: Gold in the Shadow

Gold in the Shadow by William Fitzsimmons (Nettwerk Records, 2011. 37 minutes) Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to blind parents, William Fitzsimmons was raised with music functioning as a communicative necessity. Fitzsimmons began his music career after graduating from Geneva College with a master’s degree in counseling and working as a mental health therapist. While working as a therapist, Fitzsimmons began writing songs that functioned both as a preparative exercise for his profession and as way in which to encounter his personal demons. William’s first two records, Until We Are Ghosts and Goodnight, were self-produced and recorded at home. After some initial success with these records, Fitzsimmons wrote The Sparrow and the Crow as a personal apology to his wife of… Read More →