The week in review

This past week was a roller coaster of a week for me musically. Here is a list of the highlights and lowlights:

-Anathallo’s new album Canopy Glow came out this week but not a single record store or store of any kind in the Twin Cities got it. I was majorly disappointed… devastated. Electric Fetus ordered me a copy so hopefully it will get here soon.

-I finally got the new Right Away, Great Captain! Album, The Eventually Home and it’s amazing!!! Review coming soon.

-Dustin Kensrue’s (singer of Thrice) Christmas album came out a day early on amazonmp3 and it was only $7.99. It was a digital release only otherwise I would have gotten a physical copy. It is very good. It’s a little bit early for Christmas music but this might be the first Christmas album I wouldn’t mind listening to year round.

-I finally got Copeland’s new album. I wasn’t able to get it last month when it came out because I was over my CD budget. Then I noticed it was on sale at amazonmp3 for only $3.99. Even though I prefer getting the actual CD I couldn’t resist that price. Maybe if I see them live again I’ll get the physical copy then.

-Just a side note… amazonmp3 > iTunes

-Third Eye Blind is back!!! On the 18th they released their first new material in almost five years, in the form of a three song digital EP called Red Star. This is a prelude to their new full length Ursa Major due out next year. The highlight of the Red Star EP is a song called Non Dairy Creamer. A lot of people have been commenting about how cheesy the lyrics are in this song, but I couldn’t disagree more. On the surface some of the lines do sound cheesy but I feel like the message of the song totally rings true. The song is over the top political and I normally don’t like political songs but this one is great. There are some really strong statements and some really tongue-in-check statements… I just love it. I won’t post all the lyrics because some people might find them offensive but here are some snippets:

“They call it KFC
’cause it’s not really chicken
hot cheetos for breakfast
make a young student sickened
Did you ever think that someone’s tricking you”

The chorus goes:
“What it’s gonna be? Are you real to me? Or are you non-dairy… creamer?

And my favorite line:
“Heard any good joke lately? ‘Cause we sure do need ’em, my punk band’s called operation iraqi freedom”

Lyrics by Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind

And man does this song have the hooks!!! It’s so stinking catchy, I can’t get it out of my head.

-Finally, the biggest music news of the week… drum role please…

All the members of blink 182 are now talking!!! I’m a huge blink 182 fan and when they broke up four years ago I was devastated. I’m not going to bore you with all the details but the fact is this is huge. It doesn’t mean blink 182 is going to get back together but what it does mean that something blink 182 related is bound to happen sometime in the future… and that makes me very excited, especially since I never got to see them live. Also I’m just happy for these guys and that they are finally beginning to rekindle their friendship and putting the past behind them.

Peace Friends

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Anathallo: My Discovery


In anticipation of Anathallo’s new album coming out this Tuesday I’ve decided to tell the story of how I discovered this wonderful band.

When I was in college I was really into Christian hardcore/punk/post-hardcore music. Unfortunately, you couldn’t just go to your local Christian book store and pick up that kind of music; it was very underground. Thankfully, I discovered a great website called christcoremusic.net. Christ-core-music featured exactly the kind of music I was into. It had reviews, interviews, articles and a huge database full of hundreds of bands. In addition, the site contained comparisons of various bands and had suggestions of what bands you might like. I would spend hours going through the lists of bands and I believe there was some sort of ranking system so I would right down all the bands with the highest rankings. Then I would go to the now defunct mp3.com and download songs from all the bands I had written down. One of those bands was Anathallo and the song of theirs I downloaded was “But Without Love…” (to give some reference I believe this was sometime in 2002). Some of you who know Anathallo might be wondering why they were featured on a Christian hardcore music website. Believe it or not they started out as a post-hardcore band and if you listen to the aforementioned song you can totally hear the post-hardcore roots.

Out of all the songs I downloaded, Anathallo’s song was the one that stuck with me the most. I listened to it all the time and I wanted more. I proceeded to find out as much about Anathallo as I could. Sadly not much information about them was available. They were very underground, so all I had was this one song. At this point in the story it would have been easy to let Anathallo drift into oblivion, but they had me hooked, so I simply tucked them away in the back of my mind.

Over the next year or so I would check in with Anathallo every so often hoping to find something new. Finally, they posted a new song on Purevolume. The song was called “Don’t Kid Yourself You Need a Physician.” It was a very different song from “But Without Love…” but it was still amazing and would later become one of my favorite songs of all time. By this time Anathallo also had a pretty active website. I spent a lot time checking their site and began to learn a couple of things. One, was how open they were about their faith. I certainly was able to pick up on the spiritual themes of the two songs I had heard but they also had these really thoughtful and spiritually themed blogs on their website. Secondly I learned that despite being such an obscure band, they were very well respected in the hardcore/punk scene and not just amongst Christian bands. All of this combined made me even more fascinated with this little band from Mount Pleasant, Michigan. However, I still only had the two songs. I didn’t even know for sure what albums they had and their CDs where really difficult to get one’s hand’s on. Once again I tucked Anathallo away in the back of mind… that is until November 4, 2005.

By this time I was living in Minneapolis, my wife Rachel and I were then dating, and I was going to concerts like it was going out of style. Daily I would check my favorite band’s respective websites and/or myspace pages to see if they would be making a stop in my new home. Then it happened… on a frequent visit to Anathallo’s website I learned they would be playing the Fallout Urban Art Center in Minneapolis. Even though I really didn’t know what to expect, I was thrilled. After following this band for a number of years with little more than two songs I would finally have the opportunity to experience them first hand.


The night of November 4, 2005 Rachel, myself and our friend Laura headed to the Fallout. We patiently waited through the opening bands and finally the time was upon us… Anathallo was about to take the stage. If you have never been to the Fallout the back room where the bands play is fairly small and kind of has the feel of a garage. The stage is small and low to the ground so it was a very intimate setting. As soon as Anathallo began to play a huge ear-to-ear smile formed on my face and never left through their entire set. Words can’t really describe what the experience was like but what comes to mind is beautiful, amazing, chilling, happy, etc. There were about seven people in the band and they each rotated around and played various instruments including but not limited to a huge bass drum, flugelhorn, trombone, bells, chains, sticks, socket wrenches and of course the usual guitar, bass, keyboard, drum combo. It was like a rock band married with a very intimate orchestra… or something like that. The only strange thing was that they didn’t play either of the two songs I knew, and the songs they did play didn’t sound very much like those songs. The only thing I knew about the songs they did play was something they mentioned about how several of them were influenced by a Japanese parable. But that didn’t matter much, I had just experienced something very special, easily the best live show I’d seen in my life up until that point.

Following the show I was excited to make my way to the merch table and see what albums they had for sale. The only CD they had was an album called “Sparrows.” I’d never heard of it but I bought it without question. I assumed the songs I heard that night must be on that album, however my assumption would prove wrong. The following day still high from the night before I began to take in “Sparrows.” I recognized none of the songs from their live set, and again the songs had a very different sound, more similar to songs I’d heard before. Although I liked the songs on “Sparrows” I couldn’t help but wonder where the songs they played live came from. It would be another six months before I would find the answer.

On May 8, 2006 Anathallo released their first nationally distributed full length album “Floating World.” And sure enough all the songs I heard that night at the Fallout where on that album. Floating World was incredible; unlike any other album I’d heard before. As they mentioned live, there were in fact four songs based on a Japanese parable called “Hanasakajijii.” In addition a number of the other songs had Japanese influences, they even sing in Japanese on a couple songs. A slightly less important detail but worth mentioning, Floating World features the best album art work I’ve ever seen. I’ll post a picture of it but you really have to see it to fully appreciate it.

Although Anathallo remains relatively obscure, Floating World definitely put them on the map, at least in the indie music scene. This allowed them to re-release their past albums some of which where out of print, digitally. Of course upon hearing this I bought all of it on iTunes, and finally was able to make sense of their discography. Their first album was “Luminous Luminescence in the Atlas Position” which featured the song “But Without Love…” Their second album was “Sparrows” which I bought at their show at the Fallout, they then released an EP called “Holiday at the Sea” which features the song “Don’t Kid Yourself You Need a Physician.” The whole history of Anathallo had come together and they had permanently cemented themselves as one of my favorite bands.

I don’t remember the date but I was able to see Anathallo again sometime in 2006 at The Varsity Theater. Again it was nothing short of amazing. Anathallo remains in my mind as the best live band I’ve ever seen. This Tuesday November 18, 2008 Anathallo will release “Canopy Glow” and I couldn’t be more excited. This is by far my most anticipated album of the year. You can be sure I’ll be posting a review of it sometime in the following weeks.

Sorry this was so long but if you’ve made it this far you can probably tell I’m very passionate about this band. With that said if you’ve never heard of Anathallo, you really should check them out, you won’t be disappointed. And be on the lookout because they are planning a national tour beginning at the end of February.

-Darren

Annuals – Such Fun


It took me a long time to decided if I liked this album or not. I really enjoyed their last album “Be He Me” which was very different than “Such Fun.” Musically “Be He Me” was filled with urgency, tension, and even a kind of sadness. Lyrically it was abstract and mysterious. These were the things that really drew me into that album. “Such Fun” on the other hand has a much more playful sort of sound that was present on “Be He Me” but is now more in the forefront. I had such high expectations for “Such Fun” but I would listen to it over and over again and I just wasn’t feeling it. Then I saw these new songs performed live, got home listened to the album again, and it clicked. I realized “Such Fun” contained all the elements I loved about Annuals; crazy arrangements, varied instrumentation, wonderful percussion, amazing guitars, the whole gamut. But what was different was the vibe and the presentation.

What’s interesting is that the cover art is a painting from the late Bob Ross. And I think they chose his artwork without the slightest bit of irony. When you listen to this album it makes you feel like you’re in a Bob Ross painting with the happy trees and the chirping birds. These songs are playful, whimsical, and just fun to listen to. Where the irony comes in is when you listen to the lyrics. All the lyrics seem to be telling of a relationship gone awry. So you have this playful music coupled with some heavy subject matter. It makes for an interest experience to say the least.

My biggest criticism of this album comes from something else I noticed when seeing Annuals live. Their lead guitarist Kenny Florence is just amazing but on the album the lead guitar parts don’t shine through like they should. This is clearly an issue with the mixing and/or mastering, which I’m sure isn’t an easy thing to do on an Annuals album with all the different instruments and sounds they have going on.

Three of my favorite tracks are Down the Mountain, Always Do, and Hair Don’t Grow. Each of these three songs have this country music kind of vibe that I just love. Always Do features Florence rocking a lap steel guitar and Hair Don’t Grow opens up with this throaty, bluesy acoustic guitar, followed closely by some killer drums… that songs just straight up rocks. “Such Fun” took a while to grow on me and I’m sure glad I gave it chance because it’s a wonderful album.

I give it 4 stars.

I Voted!

Going to the polls this morning I must say was pretty exciting. This is the first time I’ve voted since the 2000 election. In ’04 I was being all apathetic, plus I was in Ireland and I didn’t want to deal with the whole absentee ballot business. But this year was different. I felt it was important to exercise this right many don’t have and to let my voice be heard. I’ve followed this campaign closely pretty much all year, I’ve done my research and I feel good about my decision. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens today. Like I said in a previous post, it’s all in God’s hands, but to be honest I’m really hoping Obama wins… 🙂

Get out there and vote if you haven’t already!!!

Live show roundup for October


I went to two shows this past month. The first being Minus The Bear with Annuals at the Varsity Theater. I mainly went to this show to see Annuals who I’ve been a pretty big fan of since their debut a couple years ago. Their set started out a little rough. I think they might of been having some sound issues, but by the third song they pulled it together. From then on they sounded great, particularly the new songs. This is the second time I’ve see Annuals live and the one thing I enjoy most is watching their lead guitarist Kenny Florance play. This guy is the most phenomenal guitarist I’ve ever seen, and he makes it look so easy. If your a fan of Anathallo, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens or just a fan of music in general you should really check these guys out.


Next up was Minus The Bear. I’ve know about these guys for a while and I’d heard a few of their songs but I hadn’t really gotten into them too much. But I must say they sold me on their live show. The whole band was very tight and clean sounding. The singer was spot on with his vocals and the keyboard player provided some great harmonies. The between song banter was quite entertaining as well. Needless to say I’ll probably be picking up one of their albums very soon.


The second show I went to in October was the almighty Norma Jean at Station 4, with a half dozen opening bands, none of which are worth mentioning. Norma Jean is one of about two hardcore bands I still listen to on a regular basis. The reason is… they’re amazing and their live show clearly demonstrates that. I’ve noticed a lot of hardcore bands sound pretty crappy live and think it’s because they’re trying to rock out so hard that they end up playing sloppy. Also a lot of singers have a hard time screaming through a whole set and holding their voice together. Norma Jean on the other hand are one of the tightest of any kind of band I’ve seen live. Each member of the band is an expert at their respective instrument, especially the guitarists. These guys are playing some of the craziest and complicated guitar parts I’ve ever heard, and they sound just as good if not better than their recorded material. Then there is singer Cory Brandon who is shredding his vocal chords but sounds totally clean all the way through the set. It’s a little of an oxymoron to say a screamer sounds clean but trust me on this one. There are few guys out there that I know of that can do what he can do. Another cool thing about Norma Jean’s set is their use of lighting and sound effects. They had about six, ten foot tall florescent lights standing vertical behind the band. The lights would flash a flicker along with the music which added a nice touch. Between songs they would play some recording of a guy speaking, I’m not sure what it was from, and then they would do this deep rumbling sound that was so intense I could feel my guts shaking. All of the awesome things Norma Jean does once again made for a very enjoyable experience. Oh and watching the kids doing their hardcore dancing is always pretty entertaining as well.