Nils Frahm – All Melody review

This is a really interesting album. Nils Frahm approaches a minimalistic style of classical music with orchestras, choirs, and wind instruments; then mixes in a healthy dose of electronic as well. The best songs tend to be the ones that build subtle layers and layers of constantly changing sound, very akin to ambient music. However, the best songs also seem to have at least one prominent melody or chord progression that is emotional and gripping. There are three lone piano songs that effectively work as interludes in the album, and while the first one “My Friend the Forest” is beautiful and intimate, the others don’t quite reach that level and can even feel like a bit of a bore sometimes. I also think this album might be just a bit too long. Almost all of my favorite songs are on the first half and many of the songs in the second half get a little tedious or feel like we’ve already been there before. It still does a good job of creating mood and atmosphere but it felt like some of the ideas ended up getting repeated. Still a good ambient/post-minimalist album, but I feel like it could have easily been a little bit better by trimming the fat.


Highlights: A Place, My Friend the Forest, Human Range, Kaleidoscope


Joe Satriani – What Happens Next review

I know I’ve heard Satch write interesting guitars hooks in the past, but they are mysteriously missing on a majority of the tracks here. Most tracks on this album are at least decent. Joe is still amazing at whipping out really interesting, emotional, and often insane guitar solos, but he really tends to falter in the general songwriting department sometimes. Too many times the hook on a song isn’t strong enough to warrant the amount that it is focused on or played around, and with the backing instrumentation being simplistic and completely non-assertive, these mediocre hooks are left alone and can fall pretty flat. Joe seems to actually address a few of these problems in the second half, with songs like “Invisible”, and “Super Funky Baddass” having both interesting hooks and backing parts. The last complaint is that despite the more energetic songs working quite well most of the time, Joe opts to take most of the album to a much more mellow and laid-back place, which works against him more often than not, with a particularly weak closing track to drive that feeling home. Overall, What Happens Next is an album with some killer solos that do give the songs some nice appeal for other guitarists, but I can’t recommend it that highly otherwise.


Highlight: Headrush

Tribulation – Down Below review

This is not a bad album. I do like what they’re doing but what bothers me is there is very little variety. The guitar gets very repetitive pretty quickly (outside of the solos, which are quite good). The bass and drums play their parts in the mix well enough but rarely deviate from their core duties. I’m glad the album isn’t too long, as it keeps this repetitiveness from ever becoming too tedious. The songs are well written and I do like the way the progressions and melodic changes keep the ball rolling, but these melodic changes happen so often all over the album, to the point where they become predictable. The ambient and piano intros and outros that appear on some songs are EXCELLENT and in my opinion these elements aren’t used nearly as much as they should have been. The harsh shrieked black metal vocals sound fine but they are very samey and don’t really add much to most songs. My final complaint is the mixing, which has a tendency to bury some of the most interesting parts during a song. Down Below is still a decent metal album, with a haunting and melancholy atmosphere. I just wish they delved outside of their comfort zone more than they did.


Highlights: Purgatorio, Lacrimosa

Pink Floyd – A Saucerful of Secrets review


Alright, here we are with our first album review! We are starting off with one of my favorite bands: Pink Floyd, but we shall not be doing one of the famous albums just yet. Everyone already knows about Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and Wish You Were Here. Instead I wanted to do one of the lesser known albums, their second outing “A Saucerful of Secrets.”

Even among their early work, this album seems to be forgotten by a lot of people; overshadowed by the psychedelic blast of “Piper” and the overwhelmingly strange “Ummagumma.” The people that do seem to remember this album only seem to remember it because it’s the only album that both Syd Barrett and David Gilmour played on. This is a bit misleading. While both of them do play guitar on the album, they are only actually playing together on one song, and you would never have even realized it. That being said, I think this is one of the better non-70s Pink Floyd albums.

Saucerful retains much of the psychedelic rock sound the band crafted on their first album, but they also add in a very lavish, creepy, space rock sound to many of the songs. Songs such as “Let There Be More Light,” “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” and the title track really define what space rock sounds like to me. The way the band uses synths behind the guitars, pianos, and vocals to create an uneasy atmosphere gives the songs a character you don’t hear on many of their other releases. The vocals also add to the space on this album, as they are very soft on all songs but one, which I will get into later. For the most part, these are definitely moodier, darker songs than on their debut album.

The album’s first three songs flow very well and are probably my three favorites from the album. “Let There Be More Light” alternates back and forth between creepy, quiet verses and louder more eclectic choruses. “Remember a Day” treats us to some rarely heard Richard Wright vocal work over a blissful and playful piano. “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” is a very quiet and ambient track with soft vocals by Roger Waters. This is the only track in Pink Floyd’s entire discography that all five main members played on, but again there really isn’t anything in the song at all to indicate that. It’s still a very good song though.

Despite the fact that I actually quite like the fourth track, “Corporal Clegg” sticks out like a sore thumb and completely breaks the flow of the album. It is a much more upbeat song than the others and even contains an obnoxious kazoo part. I personally like the song and think it’s quite fun, but I know a lot of fans that disagree entirely, so take that how you will. After this, we get to the title track. This is an 11-minute instrumental song and it’s one of the first times we see Pink Floyd get very experimental. It goes through three main sections. The first is an extremely creepy and ambient synth build-up that is bound to give some children nightmares if heard at night. This then goes into a pounding drum pattern with dissonant piano banging and crazy synth explosions. The third part of the song slows back down for a very peaceful and beautiful resolution. It’s a cool song but definitely overstays its welcome quite a bit. There are far better versions of the song on their live albums but I certainly don’t think this one is bad.

The last two songs for me are a very unsatisfactory ending. “See-Saw” is another soft, playful song, but after the title track it almost puts me to sleep. Again, not a bad song, just not a great one. I’ve often heard people say the last song is their favorite from this album, but I actually don’t really care for “Jugband Blues.” This is the sendoff for Syd Barrett and the lyrics definitely reflect that, but musically I think the song is just a little too sporadic and ends too suddenly to leave much of a lasting impact, but I guess that is reflective of Syd Barrett’s time in Pink Floyd: very sporadic and ended dramatically, as he was officially kicked out during the making of this album. All in all though, it doesn’t feel like a great album closer, especially if you know nothing about Barrett.

Now this isn’t a bad album but it does have quite a few flaws. It doesn’t flow very well from front to back and some of the songs can drag on for a little too long. This album also came out around the time when bands were experimenting with hard stereo panning, so that can be very strange and off-putting as well. I would definitely still recommend you listen to the album if you’re into Pink Floyd or enjoy psychedelic rock music. At the very least this should be something unique that you probably haven’t heard before.

Rating: 73/100

Highlights: Let There Be More Light, Remember a Day, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

Lowlights: Jugband Blues

Album Reviews are Coming

So I think it’s been almost a year and half since I last posted to this blog. For anyone that actually reads these things I’m here to say that I’m going to be trying to do album reviews again. I had only done the one review previously (which I will be taking down) and then some song recommendations as well (which will be staying up), but now I want to really try to get going on this again, because I do really enjoy it.

There is going to be a format I use to choose albums to review. I don’t want to only be talking about new albums so I’ve concocted a system that will keep me listening to new music, as well as talking about ones I already know very well. I’m going to cycle off albums in sets of 3. The first album, being one that I’ve either never listened to, or have heard very few songs from. The second will be one that I’ve listened to before but may not have given much of a chance or I just have more to explore within the album. The third, will be an album that I know most of the ins and outs of the music. Now keep in mind, this is my plan for right now, but because I am impulsive and have a difficult time sticking to plans I don’t know if this is a formula I will stick to forever. For now it is what I intend to do.

Lastly, when I say the word “review,” I am using the term rather loosely. Yes, I will be giving each album a rating, talking about its strengths and weaknesses, and giving highlights and lowlights. But I don’t want it to be a super strict reviewing formula or process because to me, that takes away a lot of the fun of doing the reviews. They will be very informal. I will do my best to talk about why people may or may not like something objectively, but ultimately art is subjective. I will love things that other people think are crass, boring, or ridiculous. I may dislike something that is praised as a masterpiece (and trust me this will happen at least once or twice). If you do happen to read any of these, and want to give your opinion on the album, go ahead and leave a comment! Music discussion is the best discussion.

So all in all, I want to be helpful in opening people up to new music that I think is great, but I’m just one guy with an opinion. Don’t take anything tooooo seriously.

– Dk

Weekly Recommendation: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness + Tonight, Tonight – Smashing Pumpkins

This week I’m giving out a double recommendation (sort of)! I’m talking about the first two songs off of Smashing Pumpkins magnum opus Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Taken together, these two songs make up possibly my favorite intro to an album ever. The first song, titled Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, is a melodic piano piece that begins the album on a serene, beautiful, and sleep-inducing (in a good way) note. This segues into the second song (Tonight, Tonight), which picks up where the melody left off, adding the full band of guitars, bass, and drums, along with a powerful barrage of violins. These two songs are the perfect example of music being able to bring out deep emotions without needing words (although Tonight, Tonight, does have lyrics in it, the song would still be beautiful without them).

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a very long album. It reaches over two hours long even on the shortest editions of it. It is an album that presents an epic journey and to start a journey like this you have to begin with something powerful, something that will make you want to listen for two hours. It is not an easy task. In my opinion, these first two songs make up the best part of the whole journey. The 2 1/2 minute title track intro is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. Needing no lyrics, or vocals at all for that matter, it evokes a feeling of longing, nostalgia, and peace. It may seem like a slow way to begin an album but it makes perfect sense when you hear the song that follows it up.

Tonight, Tonight was one of the many singles released in support of this album, and for good reason. This second song begins right where the first left off. The piano cuts out and the band and orchestra enter in full force. The different instruments seem to swirl around each other throughout the song, playing off of each other magnificently, but the true hero of this song is the orchestra, All throughout the song they provide a counter-melody to the vocals, often being so grand as to overtake the emotion in Billy Corgan’s voice. I’ve used the word “beautiful” too many times already but I’ll say it again because it’s the most accurate word. This song is truly beautiful.

While Corgan has never been known as a vocal virtuoso, his vocal performance on this song leaves a deep impression. The lyrics speak of an abusive childhood that he had to endure and the song is his older self telling him to believe in himself, knowing that he can make it through so he can live out the “indescribable moments of your life.” It’s an inspiring song, especially to those who suffer from a deep unhappiness or suffering. It is a song about holding onto what you love most and allowing yourself to persevere through the pain. Billy Corgan sells these emotions so well in his performance.

To open an album as epic as this, something powerful was needed, and these two songs make this the most emotionally powerful intro to an album I have ever heard. It is so good, in fact, that the rest of the album is spent trying to reach this level of power for almost 2 hours. Some would argue that there are better songs on the album, but none of them left their mark on me as much as this did. This is my go-to album when I lay down in bed to sleep. These two songs are calming, yet exhilarating in a way that is very rarely heard in music. These two songs, on their own, sparked my interest in Smashing Pumpkins and Billy Corgan’s genius.

Weekly Recommendation: New Born – Muse

For this week’s recommendation I’m going with one of the band’s that really showed me the scope of what music could be. They are probably my biggest musical inspiration and are most certainly the band that helped me improve my guitar playing from simple 3-chord punk songs into something much more. They are Muse. This song, New Born, the opening track on their second album Origin of Symmetry, is one of the key songs that got me into Muse. I was originally going to review Knights of Cydonia, but I chose New Born instead because it is probably the song that has more nostalgic power over me. So let’s get into it.

The lyrics throughout the song speak of a future in which technology has advanced past humans and the body is no longer needed. Our brains are connected to a central system like a mechanical hive mind, as seen in the opening lyrics. As such human emotion becomes obsolete and we ourselves begin to metaphorically become machines.

The intro starts off with a mellow and mysterious keyboard part with Matt singing softly over the top. As soon as the progression ends there is a break that builds tension very quickly. This tension is broken by a piercing and heavy guitar riff based around the circle of fifths (for music geeks out there) and from here the song really begins to take off. The tempo picks up, the drums and bass are added in, and the song becomes more frenetic.

The verses kick in with the bass leading the charge in the instrumentation, and the vocals repeat the melody from the intro but it is sung with with much more fervor. From here on, Matt really shows off his signature vocal vibrato and falsetto. The solo section is a very fast tremelo picked part that closely resembles the keyboard from the intro. From there is another verse and chorus with Matt reaching up for a powerful E5 in falsetto. The signature guitar riff from early plays multiple more times to end out the song with a short and eery vocal outro by Matt.

New Born is one of those songs that will surprise you the first time you listen to it. At first glance it sounds like a dark piano piece, similar to a song like Sunburn off of the first album, but as soon as that guitar riff hits you are knocked out of your seat. That may be one of my favorite moments in music just because of the stark difference in tone and how cool that guitar riff really is. This is one of my personal favorite Muse songs and it’s a doorway into Muse’s ability to blend alternative rock with space rock, heavy metal, and progressive music. This is a song that shows how Muse are no strangers to experimentation.