Am I Getting too Old for this?

Second Stage In Keeping Secrets Burning Star IV

A friend recently posted a comment about perhaps being too old to be a fan of Coheed and Cambria. This is actually a sentiment I have felt for the past few years, being 31 now. I can’t escape that this band encompasses everything that I love not just in music, but in performance, and in concept. Hosting some of the most prolific musicians of the 21st century, the band also boasts a creative output that borders on the obscure, if not downright eccentric. Add to this an incredible live performance – I managed to see them four times while I was an undergraduate, and you have all the makings for a truly unique musical experience. The group has not gone without its challenges, including line-up changes, troubles with addiction, and the general problems of fame, but they have never failed to deliver in music, video, and print production. Perhaps then, it is not that I’m getting to old to enjoy the band, but rather, their timelessness invites a youthful audience that simply makes me feel old. Moving past this, I feel better about the band having such a large presence in my life, and I invite you to consider, should the question pertain to you: what is your favorite Coheed and Cambria album?

No World Black Rainbow Ascension Descension

My introduction to the band came from In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, when a good friend brought it and its predecessor back from a concert. I was instantly mesmerized by its craftsmanship – the rhythm section stood out strongly, while not overpowering (not that it would be possible in this band) the guitars. The seamless musical transitions and expert interplay between members made clear that their music wasn’t simply an esoteric practice in making noise and trying to impress listeners – this was a cohesive effort. Shortly after listening to Silent Earth, and The Second Stage Turbine Blade, I had the opportunity to see the band live, with an opening act that would forever change the way I looked at musical performance – but that is a different story. For the two years that followed, I would learn to play every track on these two albums, and I became engrossed in the narrative behind them, for which the lead singer would later release a series of comic books.

This experience led to an incredible anticipation for more work from the band, and for more information on an epic, albeit convoluted, science-fiction tale. Shortly after seeing the band a couple more times, and getting a signed copy of the first comic book to coincide with the albums, the band started promoting the upcoming album Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness. Despite the album’s pretentious title, it far exceeded all of my expectations, and certainly created an undeniable buzz for the band – they were featured on an MTV program shortly after its release, which, as I recall, is a sure sign of success and ability. The accompanying graphic novel was no less obscure than the narrative content, but the complete experience was so well crafted that the album and text could have been called All my Children and still have been as successful.

[I had hoped to embed the video for “Welcome Home” here, but the official Youtube page for C & C disabled it. Instead, enjoy their newest single: “Number City]

The albums that followed were more accessible, certainly in the case of No World for Tomorrow and Year of the Black Rainbow, although their newer works from The Afterman series recall the narrative flair of earlier works. Musically, narratively, and in terms of performances, I can’t imagine a stronger album than Burning Star IV, which boasted incredible guitars and effects, solid bass playing – it was certainly a shame that Mike Todd went down the path he did, and the drums never got better than the open-handed, and slightly pukey, Josh Eppard. Their performances reached an all-time high for me during this phase, constituting one of the most amazing performances I’ve ever seen – complete with a guillotine. I have little doubt that any of my readers have not heard of the band by this point, and I hope I’ve made my pick clear, with Burning Star IV as my favorite, but I would like to know: If you are a fan, which is your favorite Coheed and Cambria album?

Album covers link to their respective Amazon pages for sampling and ordering

TCBTS – Deconstructed

http://www.facebook.com/coheedandcambria

On twitter at @coheed

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Anticipating Great Things…

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It’s no exaggeration to call the previous Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs, a fulfilling and extraordinary experience. This effort helped to reaffirm the presence of artistry in music and, unsurprisingly, the band is leading into their next contribution, Reflektor, with a promise to do the same. The album’s first single, a titular track featuring David Bowie, combines the musicality that we expect from the band with a unique, internet-based video campaign that invites viewers to interact with the media on a level typically reserved for psychedelics. For fans still living in a more lo-fi age, there is a traditionally produced video featuring the same giant heads that we have come to love from “Sprawl II: Mountains Beyond Mountains.”

The Reflektor website encourages users to interact with the video using a control device, a mouse or touchscreen, to add dimension to the production, enabling lighting and effect manipulation. Of especial interest is the latter portion of the video, which features the message “Break Free,” delivered with some irony, as our interactions with the product are effectively constrained by a number of external decisions and technological limitations. How this paves the way for future interaction remains to be seen, but there is definitely potential in the Arcade Fire’s newest endeavor, and I am quite excited to see where the album, and future efforts to incorporate developing technologies, leads.

Overall, the viral promotion campaign for Reflektor seems to be working, as the band, established popularity not withstanding, is blowing up news feeds around various social media platforms.

Reflektor is available now for pre-order, and will release on October 29. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to engage the interactive video on the band’s website, or enjoy the more traditional media available for the single. Either way: listen, enjoy, and get ready for another great contribution from an amazing group.

And now: something different

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I’m fortunate to live in a city that has a thriving local music scene. Now that I have had the opportunity to establish my background and interests with this blog, I would like to depart from my usual content and focus on some of the amazing talent featured here in Seattle. Sammy Witness brings an upbeat and playful tone to the stage, and her debut album, Tiger Lily, is both playful and heartfelt. The hooks are catchy, yet earnest, and her voice is sultry, yet she has made clear the fact that she is having fun with her range and lyrics – the track, “Follow Close” is a striking example of this tendency. This project, funded by Kickstarter and available as a free download from Noisetrade, embodies music’s evolution, becoming artist and audience-centered, and reflecting a pure rendition of a performer’s vision.

Sammy Witness isn’t tearing up the charts or selling out stadiums – yet, but her popularity here is quickly gaining ground. Backed by her band, The Reassignment, she provides the perfect musical backdrop for the Northwest summer – a breezy respite from area’s typically gloomy characterization. I was fortunate enough to be linked to her website through Twitter, and I would recommend here that you take the time to follow the link above, to sample and download her album, and visit her website. Her story is whimsical and reflects the dynamic personality one would expect from her shimmering vocals and tongue-in-cheek lyricism.

http://www.sammywitness.com

on Twitter at @sammywitness

Can we take a moment…

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Can we all take a moment to refrain from the madness that is our own lives and reflect briefly on how amazing the Cold War Kids’ latest album Dear Miss Lonelyhearts is? It’s been out since April, and I’ve certainly been listening to it since then, but it has really caught up with me these past couple weeks. There is something about the earnestness of the lyrics, particularly in its standout track “Jailbirds” that just gets me choked up. Perhaps it is as a parent that the line “Father make believe for your daughters/ mother take it easy on your sons” resonates so strongly, or perhaps, even as a bystander to modern parenting dilemmas, we can see the disillusionment we are passing down to our children. Without spending too much time focusing on a single track, I don’t think it too grandiose to say that this contribution to our libraries is nothing short of spectacular.

Cold War Kids have a knack for pinning down our cynicism in strong lyrics and catchy riffs, and Dear Miss Lonelyhearts starts off strong in this respect. From the start of its first track, the single “Miracle Mile,” the album makes its ambition apparent. In this album, in particular, the drums are so strong, and compliment the vocals so well, that their cohesion seems nothing short of masterful. This band has always had a strength in its narrative tendencies, and its musical backbone, but in DMLH their growth and progression is most apparent. Far more refined then previous endeavors, which are still amazing, the band proves that growing up does not have to mean growing tired. The energy in this album borders on overwhelming, even as it borders on the ethereal, such as in “Fear & Trembling” and “Tuxedos.”

In summation, if you haven’t yet picked up this album, or, God forbid, you haven’t yet taken the time to listen to Cold War Kids (which seems incredibly unlikely), then it is most certainly worth your time to make the minimum effort to follow one of my links to give them a listen. Your ears will thank you, your mind will relish in the content, and your heart will ache at the somber tones and bluesy vibes. Dear Miss Lonelyhearts is a great starting point for anyone wanting to jump aboard this gravy train, and an even better stopping point for anyone already on-board. Now, feel free to go about whatever you were doing before, and thank you for taking this moment to reflect on a great album.

A Band Apart

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When I was younger, I absolutely lived for live music. I spent as little money as possible on rent and food in order to pay for 3 hour drives to neighboring cities, in order to catch great bands as they came through the area. On one such occasion, I happened upon the most amazing opening act I’d ever witnessed. 3, fronted by unequaled guitar players Joey Eppard and Billy Riker, blew my mind. I had attended the show for the headliner, but 3 left the most lasting impression on me. Certainly, Eppard’s playing would inspire me for more than a decade after. What was most endearing, however, was not Eppard’s style, or Riker’s shredding, but rather, the band’s complete cohesion. This 5-piece band was so incredibly coordinated, so fluid in their consistency, that they seemed to embody the very ideal of progression. At first listen, it was apparent to me that this band was working toward a purely artistic goal.

At the time, the band was promoting its album Wake Pig on Planet Noise Records. A year or two later, they would get the opportunity to remaster it under the Metal Blade tag. 3 was off to a rather slow start, as their albums, while always well received, were not blowing up like they should be. Their music’s intricacies would, at first glance, seem to alienate listeners who are not musically inclined, but their strong, consistent rhythms, metal-edged guitars, and ethereal vocals provide an accessibility that warms their sound to even the most radio-dulled ear in the crowd. Their largest setback was in their association, which, to their credit, is not something that they have worked to draw on. Within the same league as other, more popular musical acts, 3 had a hard time making a bigger impression without the theatricality that worked so well for other bands. Instead, 3 kept it pure. They kept it niche. And they didn’t force themselves to emulate what was already successful.

Had 3, the band, taken their music and their performance in a more popular direction, had they adopted the flare of their cohorts, they might have reached enviable heights in stardom. But 3, as they describe themselves, is a band apart. Their sound has continued to evolve and emerge as a force in an atrophied industry, their presence stays true to their vision, and for that, they may always remain in obscurity, but they will always remain. I own 3 copies of Wake Pig, still: the original pressing, signed by Joey Eppard, the remaster on Metal Blade, signed by the full band, and a listening copy of the Metal Blade release – plus digital copies of both versions, and I still find opportunities to listen to them. These records are nothing short of astounding, and only add to the quality of 3’s library to date. Every effort, every performance, every appearance, is progression. Even if this band never tops Billboard, they will always break hearts and blow minds.

Experience this force for yourself by following the album link to Amazon and purchasing Wake Pig, after that I challenge you to resist buying The End is BegunRevisions, and The Ghost you Gave to me. You’ll have no money for the bar, but you will have a definitive collection of records that will shift your musical palate. 3 is, perhaps, the best band that you haven’t heard of.

Word.

theband3.com

twitter: @officialband3

facebook.com/theband3