Friday, June 29, 2012

Wodensthrone – Curse

April 23, 2012 • Candlelight Records

I really should be looking into black metal instead of sludge these days. Somehow the whole genre just keeps getting better and better as time goes on, thanks to bands like Wodensthrone, who have crafted an excellent release with Curse. However, instead of branching the genre out into new territory, they have fused together, polished up, and perfected black metal old and new into a practically ideal sound, and they do it very well.

Basically, it's a really tasteful mix of black metal stylings: both a respectful nod towards the pioneering bands of the '90s and the atmospheric leanings of more modern bands. I'm not sure if their being British has anything to do with that (to be honest I'm surprised I haven't heard more good black metal bands from Britain), but all the same it's good to hear a band that does the etheral/depressive style in a way that doesn't seem pretentious or corny.

What we do get, anyway, is the kind of furious blasting black metal that often rides a very fine line between being generic and dull, and being awesome. Fortunately, most of the time Wodensthrone manages to stay on the good side of the line, combining it with the occasional awesome melodic line, for instance the middle of "First Light", giving the music a somewhat emotional twist that you don't hear much in black metal. The atmospheric bits are really great too, using slower drum lines and lots of acoustic guitar well. There isn't much else to say about their sound, as it's pretty typical (not in a bad way), although I am a bit skeptical about the over-abundance of keyboard / strings / choir. Sometimes they add to the mood well, sometimes they seem a bit superfluous. But when they do, they're mostly in the background, so it's not bad.

2012 has been a mostly great year so far and this is an album that's near the top of my list, not to mention perhaps one of the better black metal albums I've heard in general. Absolutely worth your time.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bersarin Quartett – II

April 20, 2012 • Denovali Records

I vaguely recalled enjoying Bersarin Quartett's self-titled debut back in 2008—a nice little album of ambient / electronic music with a classical flair to it. I enjoyed it, but I haven't gone back to it much at all. But now that their second album is out, I just might do that to see if it's grown on me—because II is a pretty amazing album.

Stylistically it's not too different from what I remember the first one sounding like: lush string arrangements, dreamy synth melodies, some deep and occasionally jazzy bass, culminating in some damn gorgeous music with incredible composition. It's mostly soft droning ambient, but with occasional subtle drumming, melodies that flicker in and out, dramatic glitches and noises, etc. It's a great aesthetic, and is very intricate as well; there is often quite a lot going on at once but everything melds together in a way that makes it seem simpler.

To the layman it may come off as run-of-the-mill film sountrack sort of music, which might be understandable due to the arrangements, but it's definitely more cerebral than that. (I hate to use that word, but it's tough to describe the atmosphere of II in general.) It does remind me a bit of Ulver's own soundtrack Svidd neger or a very dreamy Machinarium (could just be the clarinet though), both of which I also really like. It sounds a lot like something I can't quite put my finger on—or is that the point: vague familiarity and nostalgia? or am I making that up? Regardless, it clicks with me, no question.

Of course, I must warn (as usual, it seems) that yes, it is possible for good music to go on too long. At nearly seventy minutes, and with a few less-interesting and nearly-cheesy tracks (e.g. "Perlen, Honig oder Untergang" or "Keine Angst", although the latter is cheesy in a good way) in the typical middle-of-the-album slump, II can't hold my attention forever, though it certainly tries. In fact, compared to most ambient music I've heard, this album is quite engaging and works equally well with focused listening as it does as background music (I'd recommend a mix of the two).

II isn't perfect but it's definitely one of the best albums I've heard from this year so far (not that I've heard many, but still). I can see this album having a far-reaching appeal and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Massacre – From the Womb to the Grave

1986 • Ataque Frontal

It's always neat to hear genres branch out geographically, like non-US hip hop and things like that. You often get a style fused with a regional/folk influence, but sometimes you can get something incredibly generic, just sung in a different language. Finnish punk band Massacre's From the Womb to the Grave is sadly in the latter category.

See, I don't give free passes for bands simply because they're foreign and therefore inherently more interesting. Massacre simply plays some very simplistic and generic punk rock. Granted, it doesn't get to the same level of irritation that the Ramones create. Massacre's riffs and songwriting aren't terrible; they are just uninspired and uninteresting. It's like they listened to a few US punk records from the late '70s and early '80s and decided to copy what they heard—in 1986, when punk had already gone way beyond what they were playing here.

Also immediately noticable is the poor production—incredibly muffled and tinny, with guitars that sound like vacuum cleaners and underwater drums. I guess it goes with the general lo-fi DIY aesthetic that tended to go with early European punk (in my experience), so I won't knock the album much for it, but it is a bit annoying.

Sure, From the Womb to the Grave might make decent background or party music (and it probably wasn't bad live) but don't think about what you're listening to, or this will put you right to sleep. For punk virgins only.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Mgła – With Hearts Toward None

February 28, 2012 • Northern Heritage Records

Black metal has been interesting in recent years. We've had the proliferation of atmospheric black metal (the United States west coast stuff), the blackgaze movement, and the like. But apparently there is still a market for garden-variety '90s-style stuff. I can't complain, it's a good style that I enjoy, but even when it's done well it can still be tiresome. With Hearts Toward None is exactly that.

The album has a relatively typical black metal sound—loads of tremolo guitars, blastbeats, reverbed vocals, and no bass—although with a bit of a modern twist, including things such as more melodic sections and a mild punk influence (end of "IV", beginning of "VI"). It's still 99% good old black metal, even if it's not all blasting and there are some bits with slower, more atmospheric drumming ("II") and crunchy guitar riffs ("I"). It's done pretty well; the drumming is very proficient and manages to stay interesting even during the slow parts, though the guitars tend to stick to tremolo riffs a bit much.

However I'm finding this album notoriously difficult to review beyond simply describing it. Even after several listens, I haven't found much of anything to distinguish it from the hundreds of other black metal albums out there. Were someone to ask me if I thought it was any good, the best I could muster would probably be a shrug and "I guess...?" It hasn't done much to get any more of an exciting reaction out of me. It isn't particularly brutal, it isn't particularly original, it's just yet-another-black-metal-album.


Ultralyd – Inertiadrome

October 18, 2010 • Rune Grammofon

I don't talk about record labels much, but I gotta say that I do have a lot of respect for Rune Grammofon. I imagine it must be difficult to base your entire business around avant-garde Norwegian music, but they've managed to not only do so but to also generate a good-size cult following. Just about everything I've heard from them (which isn't a lot, but still) has been at least interesting, if not really good. Ultralyd falls more into the "interesting" category—they have a decent sound but don't really do enough for me to consider them "really good".

On the surface, Inertiadrome sounds great. The math-rock-ish, polyrhythmic drumming is carefully executed to good effect, and the growling bass is quite good as well; the two complement each other perfectly. Screeching guitar and saxophone lines accentuate the rhythm well, although every now and again I find myself yearning for some sort of hook to take a break from all the squealing feedback. We finally get one in the final track—a bit too late for me—and it clicks in pretty nicely.

The biggest issue I have with the album then, of course, is the writing. The entire thing suffers very badly from repetition, which is obviously quite a problem with just five long tracks. Each one is the same groove repeated more or less the whole length, with the occasional bars of fill to break them up. I suppose that anyone not paying close attention won't really notice, but I was, and I did. I hesitate to criticize too harshly because the repeated parts were mostly pretty interesting at first, but it would have been more enjoyable if every track was cut in half, at least.

So I think ultimately this album fails for me not because it is unoriginal, or it sounds bad, or the musicians didn't mesh, or anything like that... those things were all fine. Simply put, it is too boring. I won't say I didn't find some enjoyment in it, but it just wasn't enough to keep me engaged for all forty minutes. I don't want to dissuade anyone from checking out Ultralyd's material, but this is not the place to start.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

KEN Mode – Venerable

March 15, 2011 • Profound Lore Records

Today it is time to step outside my comfort zone a bit, although in just a small way. While sludge metal has for a long time been one of my favorite genres, I tend to stick to the atmospheric/"post-" side of things rather than the more traditional, punky side of things. I know I'm probably missing out on a lot of good stuff that way, but KEN Mode has come to save the day. Well, Venerable isn't going to suddenly turn me onto the sort of Jesus Lizard-esque noise rock I normally dislike, but it's a good album in its own way all the same.

Where KEN Mode really shines for me is their ability to strike an impressive balance between being really heavy and really catchy. The catchiness seemingly comes from infleunces of old noise rock bands, which is an interesting (though of course not unheard-of) thing to hear on a sludge album (for me, anyway). I have to admit: even though I'm not normally much into the non-atmospheric side of sludge, this album has definitely started to grow on me. It helps that it's often quite fast and aggressive which keeps it interesting, even if it has a bit of the messy and off-putting noise rock influence I don't really like (e.g. "A Wicked Pike"; I doubt I'll ever really be into that sort of thing).

The band itself plays decently enough as well. Technically, the album isn't anything terribly special, though there are more than a few interesting guitar riffs and bass lines ("Flight of the Echo Hawk"'s bass sounds particularly awesome). The songwriting is nothing to sneeze at either, although sometimes the catchy riffing makes way for more generic and less-memorable blasting or grinding. Such is life.

Yet, again, it's growing on me. I didn't like this album at all the first time around, and a few listens later it's starting to click. I blame myself, though, mostly for not trying very hard with this specific style in the past—so major credit to KEN Mode for opening my eyes up a bit.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Modern Life Is War – Witness

June 21, 2005 • Reflections Records

I find the modern hardcore punk scene to be really intriguing, as its evolution over the years has been quite interesting to track. Modern Life Is War's Witness is a prime example of where punk stood at the end of the last decade, combining the angry edge of the '80s and the angst of the new millennium. It's a very solid album, even if it's no longer particularly unique.

The music has kind of a screamo edge, especially in the vocals, but with a metal vibe in there as well—though maybe that's the proto-sludge elements you naturally get with screamo leaking through. The songwriting is perhaps a little lacking due to its repetition and extreme simplicity of a lot of the riffs. Regardless, the aesthetic appeal is undeniably good. The band emanates the attitude of punk's essence whether they are blasting and pounding furiously or sailing on lighter melodies. There is a nice balance struck that keeps the album from becoming sorely monotonous. (Compare the blastbeat opening of "John and Jimmy" to its much lighter successor "Marshaltown".)

I'm not totally sold on it like a lot of people, though, because it still isn't terribly original—there are more than a few spots that remind me of other modern hardcore bands like Dead Swans or Rise Against (albeit heavier). It could be that there have been plenty of bands since then with a similar sound, though, so I don't place much blame on this one. And then again that does mean that this album will probably have a pretty wide range of appeal, which is always a good thing. Perhaps it could be used as a gateway album from hardcore to screamo or something like that.

For me, Witness isn't breaking many barriers and certainly hasn't made its way into my hypothetical top-punk-albums-ever list, but it's still a pretty good listen and Modern Life Is War have definitely done a fine job. It's probably not something I'll be returning to much, though modern punk fans will probably find something to like in it.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Ulver – Childhood's End

May 28, 2012 • Kscope

Either Ulver has transcended all of space-time or they've totally lost it; I'm not sure which. It seemed like they could do no wrong after releasing some of the greatest albums ever over the last nearly-twenty years or so, mastering everything from black metal to electronic to art rock to ambient. Since Wars of the Roses, though, they've been losing me. Childhood's End is an interesting new direction for the band but I don't know if I'm really feeling it.

For anyone who doesn't yet know, Childhood's End is a cover album; Ulver takes on various rock bands from the mid-'60s with a psychedelic pop feel. Given that neither '60s rock nor psych pop generally do much for me, it's hard for me to click with the music on this album. Garm's vocals are the only thing reminiscent of older Ulver—not that I wasn't expecting them to change their sound yet again, but the songs don't sound like Ulver songs in the same way you could tell that Wars of the Roses had Ulver songs (even if they weren't particularly good ones).

Not that Childhood's End is bad, though. Given the source material Ulver did quite a fine job crafting new sounds with it. Many tracks have a really nice ethereal quality to them—lots of reverb and background strings, of course—combined with a sort of folky aesthetic (comes with the '60s territory, I suppose). Sometimes it works and they pull out something really great (like "Where Is Yesterday" or "Can You Travel in the Dark Alone?"), but other songs are still a bit too silly or cheesy to warrant more than one listen ("Today" or "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night", among others). Fortunately most of the songs are pretty short, so the bad ones are over soon enough, but I still feel like a lot of the dumber ones should have been trimmed easily.

Even after a few listens I'm still a bit confused by this album. Ulver completionists will of course listen to it, but be forewarned that it's not the same band that you grew to love back with Bergtatt or Perdition City. As an introduction to obscure '60s rock, sure, this might be a good place to start, but I couldn't care less. Dad rockers (yeah I went there) might like it for sentimental reasons, but what dad rocker is going to listen to Ulver in the first place, let alone enjoy their covers more than the originals? And that doesn't really leave us anywhere. Sure, it's a fine album. They did a good job. But why bother?


Friday, June 8, 2012

AMM – AMMMusic

1967 • Elektra Records

I'm determined to not give up. If Sturgeon's Law is to be believed, 10% of free improvisation out there has to be good, and I'm going to find it if it takes me the rest of my life. Where better to continue than with one of the most-lauded and most-famous releases, AMMMusic? It's definitely a start, as it's an improvement over what I've heard but at the same time it's very difficult to digest.

Like much of the free improv I've listened to in the past, the majority of AMMMusic is drones and screeches of string instruments, random percussion, and the like. The instrumentation and general sound is more or less what I was expecting, although I must give the band extra credit for pulling this off back in the '60s. Sure, it wasn't unheard-of then, but considering the state of music it was a gutsy thing to put on wax in the first place.

That aside, it's so difficult for me to figure out how I feel about this music. Texturally and aesthetically, it's sometimes not so different from many of my much-loved noise albums with its abrasiveness and difficult structure. But at the same time, much of the album feels very aimless—like on People Band 1968 where the musicians seemed to ignore each other. AMMMusic is definitely not atrocious like People Band 1968 is, but I can't help but feel a bit lost a lot of the time because of the aimlessness.

If nothing else, I do particularly enjoy the quieter bits, like the latter half of "Later During a Flaming Riviera Sunset" where a violin murmus along with a radio playing a somber orchestral piece in the background. I really enjoy the mood of that segment. There are more than a few occasions where the musicians click perfectly like that—but then again there are too many where they don't. It becomes a roller-coaster ride of pleasing and horrific. It's confusing, but maybe that's part of the appeal—it makes me think, maybe even consider things about music that I hadn't considered before.

This album has got to be one of the most difficult to rate I can remember. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I am annoyed, and it's impossible to reconcile that into a single opinion. At the very least, it's a very worthy listening experience and I am glad I heard it—it's definitely given me hope for the existence of more good free improv to seek out. (Sidenote: It's absolutely more tolerable when listened to with the original 40-minute tracklist; while the CD version has some nice extras it's too much for one sitting, for sure.)

7 (yet the most conflicted 7 I've ever given; this could go from a 4 to an 8...)

Inter Arma – Sundown

April 14, 2010 • Forcefield Records

I saw Inter Arma in concert back in the summer of 2010 and was impressed enough with them to buy their CD Sundown. They were indeed quite good live—raucous, loud, intense, everything you want in a metal show. The album is a bit of a letdown in comparison, although I would say it still represents the band pretty well and is a decent listen.

Their sound is so hard to describe, let alone pigeonhole into a genre... in the first song alone they switch from black metal to sludge to some sort of southern groove style. Such eclecticism can of course be a good thing as it makes the music much more interesting and engaging, but on the other hand it can sometimes be confusing and alienating. For me, Sundown tends to flip back and forth between those two extremes. I suppose it depends on my mood. Unfortunately, the tracks that don't switch up often tend to get dull quickly—such as "Epicenter", which is basically one long repeated riff. But much of the songwriting and such is still pretty good—lots of nice heavy, crunchy bits. It's a very ballsy kind of metal, you could say.

The other big downside to the album is that the production is atrocious; it sounds like it was recorded live although I'm pretty sure it wasn't. The mixing strips out pretty much everything but the mid-frequency range, making the album sound very muddy. It's not something one notices after a while, but it's still a bit fatiguing.

Sundown definitely won't be for everyone, and even after several listens for me it still doesn't click that well. But for what it is, it's not too shabby and I'm sure it will find fans in plenty of places.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Venetian Snares – Fool the Detector

March 5, 2012 • Timesig

Venetian Snares is keeping as prolific as usual—here's his second EP this year. I know plenty of people accuse him of going steeply downhill in the last few years, and I suppose I can sort of understand, but to me Fool the Detector is just as fine as the rest of his recent output. (Take that as a good or bad thing if you will.)

This has got to be some of the most complex electronic music I've heard lately, if nothing else. The music draws from all different realms of old Snares—there are dark atmospherics akin to My Downfall, rapid-fire glitches and cut-up melodies like heard on Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding. It's hard to say whether such complexity is a good thing—though it's worked in the past, to be sure—as often it can become too difficult to follow what's going on.

However, I am really enjoying the dancy pseudo-techno beat on "Index Pavilion". The straightforward kick beat complements the chaotic tune well and it'd be neat to hear more IDM-style stuff like this from Venetian Snares. "Fool the Detector" also shows that the magic is still there when it comes to string arrangements (as I mentioned above).

To any fan, Fool the Detector is definitely nothing new, and (like most Snares EPs) probably something to pass over. But it still has its merits; even though it's nothing extreme or unique or mind-blowing it's still okay. Personally I don't think it holds up to most of his other stuff but that doesn't mean it's not worth a casual listen.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Smell & Quim – Diameter of Elvis' Colon

1995 • Pure

I rescued this album off the oft-ignored avant-garde shelf at the record store. I can understand that this sort of stuff doesn't often sell well... because this album is bad. It's disappointing because I can see potential in these tracks; some of it is good and it could have been a lot better but there are so many things it does wrong that it makes the whole experience leave a bad taste.

Most of the album is middling harsh noise—lots of heavily distorted static that is constantly changing up; it seems interesting at first simply because it's a bit nicely chaotic. (Think a harsh Merzbow without the intricate layering.) But after not too long, it becomes a very tedious listen for a few different reasons.

Mainly, it gets boring really fast. Even though it seems interesting at first, it soon becomes apparent that the album really isn't that diverse at all, and after the first track and a half you've already heard everything you're going to hear on the rest of it. I have to give it credit for trying, as the style isn't really repetitive within tracks (except a few choice spots, and especially the longer tracks), but on the whole it feels like the same thing over and over again.

It also doesn't help that the production and mixing is awful. There's pretty much no low-end or high-end, and sometimes it sounds like it's being listened to through a telephone, which gets fatiguing really quickly. There are also panning issues, of all things; listening on headphones gets annoying fast when most of the sound is coming through only one speaker. It doesn't make any sense since the CD already sounds like it's more or less in mono to begin with.

Another deal-breaker for me is the awful sampling. The existence of the distorted and feedback-laden mouth-fart noises is just baffling. It sounds childish and irritating and has no place on any musical release. The spoken word samples aren't great either, although they do provide a well-earned break from the noise.

I suppose there probably is a niche demographic out there somewhere that would enjoy this, but even as a noise fan I'm not really feeling this. If you can tolerate the stupid farting and poor production it really isn't that bad, but I personally wouldn't want to listen to it again.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Husten – Let's Kill Television

February 11, 2011 • self-released

Plunderphonics is still a relatively foreign technique to me, but a lot of what I've heard of it so far has been pretty impressive. Husten has clearly been busy honing his craft lately, and Let's Kill Television has a pretty tight and consistent sound compared to debut Auszeit. While it's not perfect the whole way through, it definitely has its high points that make it worthy of a listen or two.

The forumla is quite straightforward: most songs are a simple downtempo drum beat and bass line, accompanied by various vocal and instrumental samples. Almost all of the instrumental samples sound great too: "Heyeah" has a really nice piano line, "Igor Eat Meat" has a very pretty combination of folky guitar and keyboard, etc. The vocal samples are hit-or-miss; I really like the cut-up dialog in "So Much Time" and the call-and-response in "Heyeah" isn't bad either, if a bit cheesy. On the other hand, some don't sit well with me at all, like the George Carlin sample in "I'm a Happy Guy" (it doesn't help that I don't really like Carlin to begin with, so I can't blame Husten much), or the weird dissonant singing in "When You're in Love".

On the other hand, sometimes everything clicks beautifully. The album's highlight "Then It Seems" integrates some soulful pop singing into a very ethereal beat, which clicks perfectly. It reminds me of Burial quite a bit as well. And "Ponzo Illusion" has what sounds like a Notorious B.I.G. rap throughout, which is pretty awesome on top of an already-good beat.

The song quality isn't particularly consistent, and to me it seems like the end of the album is pretty weak compared to the beginning. (But again plunderphonics isn't something I'm an expert on, so perhaps listening to it as one cohesive work isn't the way to about it.) Regardless, Let's Kill Television is full of cool ideas that are executed well—and let's face it, where else are you going to hear some hardcore rapping and throat singing on back-to-back tracks? (And if you do know where, let me know, because that's neat.)

Haul: Polyvinyl Records, May 30, 2012

Not too long ago I was browsing the Internet and I happened upon a picture someone had taken of their colored vinyl copy of Celebration Rock, and I soon decided I should seek out one for myself. After scouring the website of their label, Polyvinyl Record Co., I happened upon a ton of awesome albums that I felt I owed it to them to claim for myself.

As always, I spent way too much money, but Polyvinyl was awesome and not only sent my stuff in a timely fashion but included a few neat extras. Just about every indie label I've purchased from has been a really positive experience, but Polyvinyl has set the bar high.

Japandroids – Celebration Rock (LP, $16)

If you recall I already wrote a glowing review of this album not too long ago, and I figured I should be a responsible citizen and actually buy the music I like. Sadly they've been out of colored vinyl and I got plain old black, but the packaging is still pretty neat; it's got a gatefold cover and a huge 12" booklet with some concert photos. Of course, it sounds as good as it looks, but the review gets a bit more in-depth.

Japandroids – Post-Nothing (LP, $12)

Yeah, I'm a terrible person and didn't own their first album either. Well, now I do. It's packaged almost identically to Celebration Rock, as the covers suggest: it's gatefold with black and white photos inside, but it sadly doesn't have the neat huge booklet. Fortunately the music inside is almost as good. It's not as consistent as Celebration Rock but does have their so-far best song on it, "Young Hearts Spark Fire". It's a tradeoff, so why not hear both?

American Football – American Football (LP, $12)

What can I say? American Football has long been lauded as an emo / slowcore classic, and it was only right to honor them with getting this amazing album. If "Never Meant" doesn't get those heartstrings a-tugged, nothing will. On the other hand, now I have this insatiable desire to crank some Red House Painters. The packaging on this one is a bit vanilla, but I'm okay with that.

Cap'n Jazz – Analphabetapolothology (2×CD, $14)

I adore Cap'n Jazz's Burritos... album, but everything by them except this discography collection is long out of print. Polyvinyl didn't have the vinyl version so I got the CD instead (and of course I find out afterwards that the label, Jade Tree, does still have the vinyl version... such is life).

Anyway, I was pretty psyched to hear something new from them. As good as Burritos... is, I can't help but crave some new music from the band that got me into emo in the first place. By the way, I thought that we as a species had moved beyond putting those godawful sticker labels on the tops of CDs that leave nasty residue and ruin everything. What's the deal?

Owls – Owls (LP, $14)

Surpise, another Kinsella band! Especially since Owls basically is Cap'n Jazz with one fewer member and a more mature sound, and almost as good. Like the American Football album, there isn't really anything to say about the release itself, but whatever; the music is good so I'm not gonna complain.

Minor Threat – Out Of Step (12" EP, $10)

I apparently forgot that I was going to do a Dischord haul at some point, because I saw this in Polyviny's shop and couldn't resist. It's no original pressing, obviously, but I like having my vinyl Minor Threat collection nearly rounded out (I have the yellow first-two-7"-compilation as well). Anyway, classic hardcore, you can't go wrong.

Paris, Texas – Action Fans Help Us! (CD EP, free)

This has to be one of the coolest CDs I've ever seen. It's like a regular five-inch disc where the outer two inches are clear plastic, but still with screen printing over it. I wish I could find a picture online because it's a bit tough to describe. But it's really cool, take my word for it.

Anyway, I've never heard of Paris, Texas (the band) before but they're a sort of indie rock group a bit similar to Japandroids and Polyvinyl assumed I'd enjoy them based on my other purchases. I'm not entirely sure they were right; they seem a bit silly and generic to me. Time and more listens will tell.

Update: Full review here

31Knots – Talk Like Blood (CD, free)

And another bonus promo album! It's some kind of weird indie rock / new wave / post-hardcore / ska fusion that isn't bad, but it's a bit generic-sounding (somehow). I can kind of understand if copies of this actually were gathering dust on a shelf at Polyvinyl, as they jokingly stated. Still, I'm sort of liking it; I have a feeling this one will be a grower (I'm noticing it's back-stacked with all the good tracks at the end for some reason). And of course you can't beat a free extra!

Winston's Essentials (MP3, free)

Just a random sampler compilation I found for free, so I figured why not? A few bands I've heard of, a couple I actually like, and all the same kind of silly indie rock / indie pop. Not that I was expecting anything else.

Hey Girl, Hey: A Polyvinyl Sampler (MP3, free)

I didn't even order this one, so that came as a cool bonus. It's mostly bands I've never heard of, and a couple I've simply never heard, but there are a few interesting things in there like Owen (alias of a member of Cap'n Jazz and American Football), so if nothing else it will be a fun listen and I'll hear some new stuff.

Other stuff

Also included was a huge (18×24) poster for the newest Headlights album. I know nothing about this band so I doubt I'll be hanging that up anytime soon, but it's still definitely a neat addition. Also, the obligatory Airheads: pink lemonade. I hope it will be as delicious as I imagine. (Update: I waited way too long to eat it, like six months, and it got a bit stale. Oh well.)