Archive for the Uncategorized Category

LiffeyMusicEtc is Moving

Posted in Uncategorized on October 16, 2012 by liffeymusic

I’m moving to Blogspot.  Here, to be precise.

Which is a bit irrelevant at the rate I’ve been posting as of late, but I plan to pick up the pace shortly (and am halfway through the next review.)

I carried over the Actress review because I like that album quite a bit to say the least and wanted to have it on there for the archives, but aside from that I’m starting fresh.  I hope you’ll agree it looks nicer, and ties into my art blog, www.ianbarkerart.com.

Thanks to the couple of people out there who read this page.

Advertisements

Music Review: The Twilight Sad – Forget the Night Ahead (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized on September 28, 2009 by liffeymusic

The Twilight Sad, two years off of their critically acclaimed Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, are back to brood once again.  Those who felt that this year’s excellent sophomore album by The Antlers was a bit too wimpy, or at least too willing to linger, will likely find a friend in The Twilight Sad’s own sophomore effort,  Forget the Night Ahead.  Whether it be the dark, lurking lyrics, the sometimes too-easy-to-digest waves of guitar distortion, or just Graham’s Scottish accent, Forget the Night Ahead brings all the right elements into play, even if it doesn’t always capitalize on the potential that the band clearly carries.

The Twilight Sad have abandoned some of the finer instrumental nuances of Fourteen Autumns for a more distortion heavy, My Bloody Valentine-light sound. The new sound is utilized with mixed results.  For the times that lead singer James Graham brings the melodic hooks, it works brilliantly.  The dirty guitar textures compliment Graham’s skillfully and emotionally delivered lyrics of ambiguity, and sometimes overpower them, a device which is generally used with tact, heightening the reach of a band which was already successful in developing mood.  Tracks such as “The Neighbors Can’t Breathe” and “I Became A Prostitute” are just as apt to rock your face off as they are to pull your hair over your eyes, which is exactly what many fans were hoping for.

On the other hand, the new sound offers some unfortunate disadvantages as well; namely, the fact that this album is consistent to a fault.  While there are undoubtedly moments of dirty transcendence scattered about, a step back will reveal the album to be a bit of a muddy mess; nearly all variety and nuance from Fourteen Autumns is lost.  That’s not too say Fourteen Autumns was particularly exploratory, but it would have been nice to see The Twilight Sad develop in that direction.  The textures dominate this album, resulting in several stretches of indistinguishable sound.  Thankfully, it’s not bad sound, but it’s indistinguishable and forgettabe sound.  These stretches are usually characterized by nominal songwriting on Graham’s part; like the music, the melodies aren’t bad, but too often they have no teeth.  You won’t finish “Seven Years of Letters” or “Scissors” particularly offended, but you won’t really remember much about them either.  Repeated listening, as with many albums worth hearing, will reveal hooks that you hadn’t expected, but too often these potent moments just aren’t worth the effort it takes to uncover them.  It’s these Mogwai inspired guitar washes and periods of arbitrary songwriting that are the album’s only definable weakness, but when Graham is able to ride these waves rather than drown under them, such as on album peak, “That Birthday Present”, The Twilight Sad truly show promise.

All things considered, Forget the Night Ahead is a successful avoidance of a sophomore slump.  It’s a step forward for the band that will satisfy the majority of fans and critics alike, and will probably win a few new fans along the way.  Unfortunately, there’s too much, or perhaps not enough, that holds this album back from becoming a great.  While one has to appreciate that The Twilight Sad is moving forward with their sound, it’s also impossible to not be a little disappointed that there’s far less risk-taking within the album itself.  Nevertheless, the album represents a promising step in what will hopefully be a long and fruitful career for The Twilight Sad.

Final Score: 7.8/10

Highlights: “That Room”, “That Birthday Present”, “The Neighbor’s Can’t Breathe”

Massive Black

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13, 2009 by liffeymusic

Here is something very cool you should check out: In case you didn’t know, Massive Black Inc., a supremely sexy concept art company consisting of the likes of Andrew “Android” Jones, Jason Chan, Justin “Coro” Kaufman and many more, have DVDs and downloads for sale that allow you to see directly how the professionals work. Most are priced at $15, which is very reasonable for all the info you’re going to get out of them (I’ve been stocking up all summer, and learning a ton. Far more than I was learning in school, to be honest.)

What’s more, the proceeds go to keep conceptart.org running as a free resource. If you haven’t been, you need to. It is a seriously powerful resource.

You can find the vids on the forum here: http://conceptart.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=144

Most recent include Jason Chan: Style Exploration, The Business of Art, The Mystery of Form Starring Mike Bierek, and ZhangLu and Jason Manley Digital Painting Female Portraiture.

The Big Music List, halfway through 2009

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13, 2009 by liffeymusic

Now that it is summer, maybe I can start writing legit reviews again. 😐 Anyways, here’s a look at my (badass) year in music so far.

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion – 9.7
mewithoutYou – It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright – 9.5
Hecq – Steeltongued – 9.4
The Antlers – Hospice – 9.4
Animals as Leaders – Animals as Leaders – 9.3
The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love – 9.3
Mastodon – Crack the Skye – 9.2
Maudlin of the Well – Part the Second – 9.2
Black Cock – Robot Child with a God Complex – 9.2
James Blackshaw – The Glass Bead Game – 9.2
IAMX – Kingdom of the Welcome Addiction – 9.1
Grizzly Bear – Veckatimist – 9.1
Antony & the Johnsons – The Crying Light – 9.1
Fever Ray – Fever Ray – 9.1
Andrew Bird – Noble Beast – 9.0
Karl Sanders – Saurian Exorcisms – 9.0
Giuseppe Ielasi – Aix – 9.0
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – 8.8
The Dream – Love vs Money – 8.8
Akron/Family – Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free – 8.7
The Field – Yesterday and Today – 8.7
Nels Cline – Coward – 8.7
The Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca – 8.6
The Horrors – Primary Colours – 8.6
M. Ward – Hold Time – 8.5
Allen Toussaint – The Bright Mississippi – 8.5
Dredg – The Pariah, The Pharoah, The Delusion – 8.5
St. Vincent – Actor – 8.4
Paper Route – Absence 8.4
Sholi – Sholi – 8.4
Balmorhea – All Is Wild, All Is Silent – 8.4
Franz Ferdinand – Tonight: Franz Ferdinand – 8.3
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz! – 8.3
The Bird and the Bee – Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future – 8.3
Ozric Tentacles – The Yumyum Tree – 8.3
Future of the Left – Travels With Myself and Another – 8.3
Joker’s Daughter – The Last Laugh – 8.2
Yagya – Rigning – 8.2
P.O.S. – Never Better – 8.2
Radio Moscow – Brain Cycles – 8.2
Metric – Fantasies – 8.2
Omar Rodriguez Lopez – Old Money – 8.2
Zu – Carboniferous – 8.2
K’naan – Troubadour – 8.2
Neko Case – Middle Cyclone – 8.2
The Mars Volta – Octahedron – 8.1
Æthenor – Faking Gold and Money – 8.1
Starfucker – Jupiter – 8.1
Propagandhi – Supporting Caste – 8.1
Bomb the Music Industry! – Scrambles – 8.1
Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You – 8.1
Bat for Lashes – Two Suns – 8.1
A.C. Newman – Get Guilty – 8.1
Röyksopp – Junior – 8.0
Black Moth Super Rainbow – Eating Us – 8.0
Felice Brothers – Yonder Is The Clock -8.0
Burial & Four Tet – Moth/Wolf Cub – 8.0
Mountains – Choral – 8.0
Vienna Teng – Inland Territory – 8.0
PPP – Abundance – 8.0
Passion Pit – Manners – 8.0
N.A.S.A. – Spirit of Apollo – 7.9
Fanfarlo – Reservoirs – 7.9
Asobi Seksu – Hush – 7.9
Wavves – Wavvves – 7.9
Atom™ – Liedgut – 7.9
Telepathe – Dance Mother – 7.9
Cursive – Mama, I’m Swollen – 7.8
Finale – A Pipe Dream and a Promise – 7.8
Luck-One & Dekk – Beautiful Music – 7.8
Sin Fang Bous – Clangour – 7.8
Omar Rodriguez Lopez – Mega Ritual – 7.8
Scott Matthews – Elsewhere – 7.8
Ben Folds – Presents University A Cappella – 7.8
Lotus Plaza – The Floodlight Collective – 7.8
Oren Lavie – The Opposite Side of the Sea – 7.8
Peter Bjorn & John – Living Thing – 7.7
Arbouretum – Song of the Pearl – 7.6
Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career – 7.4
A Hawk and a Hacksaw – Delivrance – 7.4
John Frusciante – The Empyrean – 7.4
Swan Lake – Enemy Mine – 7.3
Micachu and the Shapes – Jewelry – 7.2
Patrick Wolf – The Bachelor – 7.2
Ganglians – Monster Head Room – 7.2
Eleni Mandell – Artificial Fire – 7.2
El Goodo – Coyote – 7.2
The Paper Chase – Someday This Could All Be Yours – 7.1
Drake – So Far Gone – 7.1
City Center – City Center – 7.1
Bell Orchestre – As Seen Through Windows – 7.0
Moderat – Moderat – 7.0
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South – 6.9
Dan Deacon – Bromst – 6.9
U2 – No Line on the Horizon – 6.9
Fiction Family – Fiction Family – 6.9
Dananananaykroid – Hey Everyone! – 6.8
The Audition – The Audition – 6.8
Prefuse 73 – Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian – 6.8
White Rabbits – It’s Frightening – 6.7
Vetiver – Tight Knit – 6.8
The Cool Kids – Gone Fishing – 6.5
Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown – 6.5
Dälek – Gutter Tactics – 6.5
Japandroids – Post-Nothing – 6.2
Mono – Hymn to the Immortal Wind – 6.1
Great Eskimo Hoax – Of Many Victories – 6.1
The Wooden Birds – Magnolia – 6.0
Blu – Her Favorite Colo(u)r – 5.8
Andrew Bird – Useless Creatures – 5.8
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – 5.5
Newsboys – In the Hands of God – 5.4
Wixel – Winter – 5.2
BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa – Man From Deep River – 4.9
Tim Hecker – Imaginary Country – 4.8
Bruce Springsteen – Working On A Dream – 4.1
Loren Connors & Jim O’Rourke – Two Nice Catholic Boys – 3.1
Omar Rodriguez Lopez – Despair – 1.9

Music Review: Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs (2008)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 14, 2009 by liffeymusic

Going into Narrow Stairs, I knew I was going to have to make a big effort not to let myself be biased by my affections for Death Cab. I wanted this album to be great to the point that I was afraid I might convince myself it was great even if it was in actuality sub par.

So when the album finally released and I listened to it and found myself convinced that it was great, I put a good deal of effort into analyzing it as objectively as I could, scrutinizing its finer points, and generally trying to pinpoint any faults that may have been initially obscured by my preconceived interest.

However, I soon realized that looking at Narrow Stairs with an objective eye doesn’t make any sense. This isn’t an album that you can mathematically critique; this is an album that you lay down to, close your eyes to, and let it do to your heart what it will. Yes, there are a few criticisms to be made here and there, and no, this is not the strongest collection of songs Death Cab has ever put together. But if you can learn to accept the mood change that Death Cab offers, it will become their most subtly emotional release yet.

At first, it’s somewhat jarring listening to some of the stylistic routes Death Cab has chosen to go as opposed to places they’ve gone in previous efforts. Everything flows smoother and sweeter, and yet manages to wink at the listener, saying, “You know it’s not really all this nice.” Death Cab has always had a knack for juxtaposing light and dark, and here they refined that ability.

Ben Gibbard’s vocals go a long way towards helping strengthen this juxtaposition with lines such as “The firemen worked in double shifts with prayers for rain n their lips, and they knew it was only a matter of time,” and “As the flashbulbs burst, she holds a smile like someone would hold a crying child.” In some songs, such as I Will Possess Your Heart, purpose may seem to be something as harmless as a love song, and only later does it hit that a stalker is in fact being described. On the whole, Narrow Stairs is lyrically on par with any of Gibbard’s past works.

Musically, this is Death Cab’s most varied work, but still manages to sound like a complete whole. From some of the heaviest guitars we’ve heard out of Death Cab on Bixby Canyon Bridge to the simple acoustic of Talking Bird and The Ice Is Getting Thinner, Gibbard and Co. express no shyness in exploring their range. Hits of gorgeously sparse piano on I Will Possess Your Heart, an almost tribal sounding beat on Pity and Fear, soothingly atmospheric background vocals on Grapevine Fires and much more are all to be found here. Despite this, everything for the most part flows together properly. The theme is consistently melancholy, perked up by poppier moments such as on No Sunshine (which sounds directly contrary to its name), and creates a very cohesive and emotionally involving atmosphere.

There are a few obstacles that keep Death Cab from reaching the near-perfection of Transatlantacism. There are a few awkward transitions, namely after Cath… and after the unfortunate sudden ending of Pity and Fear. In the second half however, the transitions are almost a bit too smooth, meaning that if you’re not paying attention, you may not even realize that song has ended. In addition, the second half of the album isn’t quite as varied as the first, creating a slightly unbalanced feel between the two halves. However, none of these mistakes are major concerns; this album remains excellent in spite, and occasionally because of them.

I came into Narrow Stairs with the intention of being as objective, informed, and cold-hearted of a critic as possible. But once again, whether by some trick or by one of the best albums of the year, I came out of Death Cab’s latest more soft-hearted than ever.

Final Score: 8.7/10

Highlights: Bixby Canyon Bridge, I Will Possess Your Heart, Cath…, Grapevine Fires

Music Review: The Bird and the Bee – Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 14, 2009 by liffeymusic

raygunsarenot2

There is nothing particularly special about the concept behind Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future. It’s a collection of largely electronically-backed pop songs performed by The Bird and the Bee, a relatively low profile duo comprised of Inara George and Greg Kurstin These sorts of things shower in every year, and usually deservedly fall through the cracks of most music critic’s To Listen lists. So what separates The Bird and the Bee from the crowd? Well, on their latest release, they do it not by making any attempt to change the formula, but by pushing the formula to its limits and creating some of the smoothest, catchiest pop songs you’re likely to hear all year.

After mildly annoying and entirely unnecessary opener “Fanfare”, “My Love” hits and sets the mood for the album. It opens with a beat suitable for a cheerleader chant, and an opening verse from Inara George, immediately comparable in delivery to Lily Allen. Indeed, the entire album maintains a sort of Lily Allen-light feel (in fact Kurstin worked with Allen on her debut album); there is swagger, beats that border on trip-hop and infectious melodies, but the affair is lighter on the funk and heavier on chilled out pop. Next comes “Diamond Dave”, on which the Lily Allen comparison is too obvious for TBatB’s own good. Nevertheless, it is one of the more enjoyable songs due to its upbeat confidence and well constructed melodies. “What’s In the Middle” is a little more low key, opening with a light bass groove and a monotone vocal delivery. The chorus takes a turn for the dream-like in which Inara sings “I wanna go to bed, I wanna lose my head”. After an unexpected but welcome (and brief) guitar solo, a shower of vocal layers and one more chorus, comes title track “Ray Gun”. Inara alters her voice from the previous three songs to achieve a wispy, tender sound that is a welcome change of pace, and reinforces the chorus: “I want a pretty little life”. “Love Letter to Japan” offers listeners their first real chance to get down, and unapologetically so. The chorus is appropriately cheesy and catchy, and while there is hardly any depth to the song, it’s a fun way pick up the pace after the last two tracks slowed things down. “Meteor”, accentuated by well-placed “ooh la la-la’s” is uneventful but still solid, and continues the pace of the album. “Baby” slows things down, but doesn’t give up any of the positives of the more upbeat songs. Arpeggiated piano sweeps through the song, and Inara’s vocals are stronger here than on any other track. A spoken section in the middle tries it’s best to ruin the song, but thankfully fails. 10 second track “Phil” leads into “Polite Dance Song” which is unfortunately aptly named. The first verse gives the impression that the song could be the album’s first misstep, with the too-generic-to-forgive lyrics, “Give it up for me please, put your hands in the air, if you know what’s good for you wanna shake it like you just don’t care”, made all the more cringe-worthy by the fact that is in fact sung quite politely. However, the bold chorus not only redeems the verse, but gives the impression that it was probably just a joke. It’s certainly the weakest song thus far, but is by no means a throwaway. “You’re a Cold” is a mid-tempo number with a nice dosage of funk. There is nothing wrong with the song itself, but it feels undoubtedly like it was done before, although a romping piano section midway through alleviates this somewhat. Up to this point, the album is almost perfectly paced and consistent, but it could have used a more distinctive song in “You’re A Cold”’s place. “Witch” is a bit more distinctive with an almost haunting melody and some dark effects, but doesn’t do enough to keep the album from sounding like it’s running out of steam. “Birthday” gets the album back on track with a beautiful chorus, the type of which listeners will by now be expecting, but still anticipating. It’s a simple song, but stands out and moves the album back in the right direction after the uneventful previous two tracks. Album closer “Lifespan of a Fly” is by far the most minimal track, and one of the most distinctive. “I have no regrets for anything I’ve done/ I feel I’ve lived as good as anyone/ Remember me as best you can/ So I might outlive my lifespan”. It’s an appropriately direct song, and an appropriate final track.

Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future is a remarkably consistent collection of both chilled out and upbeat pop songs that will grab your ear on the first listen, and grow an you for several more. It’s not terribly deep, the influences it draws are too obvious for comfort in some areas, and it probably could have stood to have been a few tracks shorter, but it remains for the most part a fun, consistently great collection that should be sitting in your stereo for a good while.

Final Score: 8.3/10

Highlights: My Love, Diamond Dave, Ray Gun, Baby

Top 25 Albums of 2008

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2008 by liffeymusic

Now that last year’s out of way, time to reveal my favorite 25 albums of 2008.  There were a lot of albums I didn’t listen to, but I’m tired of listening to new stuff, I’m just gonna be content with what I have here, which isn’t bad at all.

25. Laura Marling – Alas, I Cannot Swim

laura_marling

24. Tickley Feather – Tickley Feather

23. The Envy Corps – Dwell

22. The Mars Volta – The Bedlam in Goliath

21. Aaron Martin – River Water

333

20. The Bug – London Zoo

19. Matthew Robert Cooper – Miniatures

18. Sam Shalabi – EID

o1278914

17. Daclan de Barra – A Fire to Scare the Sun

34e9s47

16. Jade – Analogic

15. The Tallest Man on Earth – Shallow Graves

14. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

bon_iver_-_for_emma_forever_ago

13. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges

12. Heidi Talbot – In Love and Light

11. Gregor Samsa – Rest

gregor_samsa_-_rest

10. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

9. Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs

8. Sigur Rós – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

med_sud_i_eyrum_vid_spilum_endalaust

7. Balmorhea – River Arms

6. White Hinterland – Phylactery Factory

5. TV on the Radio – Dear Science,

4. Helios – Caesura

r-1518460-1225604212

3. Chris Wood – Trespasser

2. Have A Nice Life – Deathconsciousness

1. Shugo Tokumaru – Exit