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Classic Album Review

Well, I Should Have become a Jazz Daredevil

A couple months ago, a friend of mine referred to me an album called “Well, I Should Have…*” by Jon Benjamin – Jazz Daredevil. The record was released in 2015 under Sub Pop Records, who have a track record of talented artists. I’m typically not much of a jazz listener, but I decided to give this a shot.

The Premise

H. Jon Benjamin is a comedian, writer, actor, and “musician” who decided to create a jazz album with some other professional musicians on drums, bass, and saxophone. Lacking any skill or practice on piano, Benjamin attempts to sell his soul to the devil and is turned down. The rest of the album is divided into 4 parts, each titled “I Can’t Play Piano”.

Portrait photo of H. Jon Benjamin at the 2022 WonderCon in Anaheim, California
H. Jon Benjamin at the 2022 WonderCon in Anaheim, California. Photo Courtesy of Gage Skidmore, under Creative Commons.

The first part begins with a lively saxophone led section, and actually sounds quite good. The drums and bass play together wonderfully, and the sax solos are dynamic and fresh. And then Benjamin comes along.

With no sense of rhythm, melody, or how chords work, Benjamin’s piano sounds like a dying songbird with its vocal cords swapped around. When playing as backup for the lead saxophone, he actually doesn’t sound that bad, all things considered. But, since he has to improvise his solos, he is hopelessly out of tune with the rest of the band. In fact, they just play over him as if there is no piano to begin with.

This pattern continues throughout the rest of the album. The professional jazz players try their hardest to create a satisfying, cohesive set while the Jazz Daredevil tries his hardest to keep that from happening. And that makes this album so fun to listen to. This album is the music equivalent of “The Room” or “The VelociPastor”, which I consider to be high praise as a comedy special.

The Skits

As a comedian, Benjamin can’t help himself from putting a couple of jazz-inspired skits in his album. “Amy’s Song (The Bum Steer)” is a raunchy song too explicit to describe here, and it has to be the worst of his three skits, so I’ll skip over it. “Deal With the Devil” and “Soft Jazzercise” are spoken word interludes performed by Benjamin that fit in perfectly with the musical tone of the album.

The first of these tracks actually features Kristen Schaal and Aziz Ansari, both well-respected comedians in their own right. The dialogue between Benjamin and Schaal may remind listeners of a conversation from “Bob’s Burgers”, since they voice Bob and Louise Belcher, respectively. Benjamin’s timid insistence on selling his soul is honestly endearing, especially through Benjamin’s deadpan delivery that makes him sound uninterested in the intricacies of soul-selling.

Benjamin uses “Soft Jazzercise” to ease the mind of listeners, giving them a break from his lack of piano skills. His class is easy for any listener to try out for themselves. Personally, I found it refreshing and comforting to listen to his voice lead me on a journey of self-improvement.

Closing Thoughts

This album might not be the most meticulously crafted. It might not sound as good as Thelonious Monk or Dave Brubeck. But “Well, I Should Have…*” is an incredibly creative and irreplicable album that I highly recommend listening to for any fans of music. Although, perhaps regular jazz listeners might find it too rough on the ears.

Promotional video for “Well, I Should Have…*” released by Sub Pop Records.

— DJ Cashew

Categories
Classic Album Review

Bent Knee’s “Land Animal”: Dynamic Rock at its Finest

Bent Knee was founded in 2009 between Ben Levin and Courtney Swain as a mashup of the members names: Ben and (Cour)tney. They’ve danced between more industrial rock at their founding to hyper-pop inspired, avant-garde rock as of their most recent album. Here, though, I want to discuss their most popular album, “Land Animal”. I believe this to be the greatest amalgamation of the band’s talents, especially lead singer Swain.

Musical Versatility in Bent Knee’s Hands

Bent Knee has a knack for progression throughout the runtime of their songs, which is amplified by the average 5:03 minute length of tracks on this album. Starting with lead track “Terror Bird”, the song starts with some simple, low-key drumming and rhythm guitar led by Swain’s voice. Eventually, the song picks up as a heavy, overdriven electric guitar drowns out Swain’s beautifully quivering falsetto.

Music Video for song “Terror Bird” by Bent Knee.

Likewise, “These Hands” highlights the musical storytelling Bent Knee is capable of. The song never repeats itself in structure, and each new phase feels fresh and invigorating. The bridge towards the end of the song, especially, seems to throw guitars and drums all around your ears as it goes on, creating an incredibly dynamic soundscape.

The Haunting Holiness of Bent Knee’s Voice

“Holy Ghost” is probably where Swain gets to show off her vocal range best on the album. Her loud, nasally singing on the chorus feels straight out of 90s grunge bands like Hole. She perfectly encapsulates a work-induced loneliness that breaks her. Even her quiet singing on the bridge sounds like shes about to have a mental breakdown, especially with how her voice echoes with delay.

These qualities persist through the album, of course, but they take center stage on “Holy Ghost”. Despite their often heavy subject material, Bent Knee’s music also becomes incredibly cathartic to sing along to because of these qualities. I’ve actually found listening to “Land Animal” in my car, screaming choruses to no one in particular, to be a great form of emotional relief.

I am shrinking in the laptop light
Messages and blessings from each part of my mind
When I’m writing fiction I can shriek in real life

Lyrics from “Holy Ghost” by Bent Knee

Concluding Thoughts

Again, I highly recommend “Land Animal”, and the rest of Bent Knee’s work for that matter. If you’re listening to this album for the first time, I suggest giving it your full attention, letting the guitars wash over you and the lyrics penetrate you.

Rating: 8.5/10

— DJ Cashew

Categories
Classic Album Review

BURN PYGMALION!!! The Scary Jokes’ Guide to Romance

On January 1, 2019, The Scary Jokes released their 3rd album: “BURN PYGMALION!!! A Better Guide to Romance”. This piece of quaint bedroom pop follows fictional characters Jeanine and Sylvia through the struggles of their relationship. Liz Lehman, creator of The Scary Jokes, weaves together haunting yet entrancing melodies to probe into the details of each character’s feelings for each other.

A Journalist’s Obsession With a Star

“BURN PYGMALION” is split into songs from the perspectives of both characters with short narrations in between. The second track, “Death, Thrice Drawn” first introduces Jeanine’s adoration for Sylvia, a “hotshot” who she would “set the world on fire to be with”.

However, her anxiety over their less-than-ideal situation leads her to question if the relationship can sustain itself, much like the wyrm referenced in the second verse. The mostly upbeat, synth-filled song ends with an emptying of the soundscape to allow Jeanine’s anxieties to come to light.

The title alludes to tarot cards, in which death signals great change to come, foreshadowing a turbulent relationship throughout the rest of the album. Additionally, these three phases will likely spell the end of them both by their story’s end if it reflects the “triptych in decay” referenced in the second verse.

Pygmalion – Myth Made Reality

“Pygmalion” steps into an outsider’s point of view of Sylvia and Jeanine’s relationship, scalding Sylvia for her emotional abuse of her lover. Pygmalion was originally a king in Greek myth who obsessed over sculpting the perfect wife to adore before Aphrodite brought her to life.

You’re just a monster with a BFA
She wants to claw your eyes open
So you can see, she’s not a plaything

The Scary Jokes on “Pygmalion”

Much like the king, Sylvia is accused of manipulating her object of adoration to her whims without regard for Jeanine’s feelings. Sylvia chisels “fear in [Jeanine’s] eyes” in order to keep her clinging, as reflected in the intrusive hi-hats and the general emptiness in the music surrounding them.

A Dying Fad

At the halfway point in the album, Jeanine seems to officially cut ties with Sylvia, though not without retaining her love for the star. In “Sylvia’s Just a Dying Fad”, she vents her frustrations and worries with Sylvia leaving her to go film a new movie, suspecting that she is “just a friend” who helped jumpstart Sylvia’s career.

At this point, alarm bells are ringing in Jeanine’s head, just as they do in the song itself. The low synths also seem to distort as Jeanine’s perception of Sylvia does.

No Pleasure in Love

After hearing about Jeanine’s past emotional abuse on tracks like “Emotional Vagrant”, we can understand why she might be so insecure about Sylvia leaving her for so long. On “No Leverage / No Pleasure”, She comes to realize that her habit of hiding everything away even from those she loves is part of the reason why their relationship has mostly failed so far.

Jeanine repeats “I love you/ I need you” over and over, admitting to herself that she feels incomplete without Sylvia able to take care of her. Even still, she knows that part of this need comes from Sylvia “hijacking my mind”. The same musical themes present in “Sylvia’s Just a Dying Fad” present themselves in this song, implying that she’s still cautious about Sylvia distorting her mind further.

Optimism Against the Void

The album ends with “Bets Against the Void”, in which Jeanine finally reconciles the fact that Sylvia does love her and that their love can be beautiful. The more cheerful, lighter synths return as Jeanine tries to focus on how good she feels today, not what the future may bring.

As explained in one of their tumblr posts, Lehman’s own anxieties as someone in Jeanine’s position primarily fuelled the album’s emotional themes that provide complexity. The album’s overall light, spacey instrumentals allow Lehman’s lyrics to shine through while building a stellar atmosphere for those emotional themes to be surrounded in.

Rating: 9/10

— Cashew

Categories
Classic Album Review

Dawn of a Legend – KMD’s “Mr. Hood”

KMD, “Mr. Hood” album cover art

Kause in a Much Damaged Society, or KMD, sparked the legendary career of one of its core members, Zev Love X. Among other aliases, Zev Love X eventually came to be known by the moniker MF DOOM, the underground hip hop icon. Other members of KMD included DJ Subroc (Zev Love X’s younger brother) and Onyx the Birthstone Kid. “Mr. Hood” was the debut album released by the group under Elektra Records in 1991.

Can Rap Be Comical and Impactful?

The concept that “Mr. Hood” revolves around is the namesake character, who is composed entirely of samples from language-learning tapes and travels around New York City with the members of KMD. The group also brings in sampled voice lines from sources as disparate as a Malcolm X speech on “Boy Who Cried Wolf” and Bert from Sesame Street on “Who Me? (With an Answer from Dr. Bert)” and “Humrush”.

KMD’s lyrical style is reminiscent of other artists in the New York scene during the early 90s, including A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and the Jungle Brothers. They maintain a balanced blend of light-hearted humor and themes of racism and black empowerment throughout “Mr. Hood”.

Yet, the humor often serves to emphasize more thoughtful messages from verses on “Who Me?” for example. The song begins with a snippet from Disney’s “Song of the South”, an infamously racist movie from the 40s that introduces the character Little Sambo. Zev Love X’s verses explore his outrage towards several derogatory terms for Black people, and the phrase “who me?” reflects this point.

Lips and eyes dominant traits of our race
Does not take up 95 percent of one’s face
But still I see, in the back two or three
Ignorant punks pointing at me

Lyrics from “Who Me? (With an Answer from Dr. Bert)” by KMD

Zev Love calls on Dr. Bert at the end of the song to solve this issue, in which he instructs kids to “draw a circle around [Little Sambo]”. Considering how Little Sambo is such a racist caricature of Black people, Bert is telling all kids (not just those affected) to call out racism when they see or hear it rather than letting it slide.

Philosophy of KMD

As noted on the track “Nitty Gritty”, the members of KMD are Black Muslims part of the Ansaaru Allah sect, which mixes elements of Black nationalism and Islam. At this stage in KMD’s career, all were devout and refrained from drinking or doing drugs.

The opening track off “Mr. Hood” illustrates Zev Love X’s disdain for drugs and drug dealers. After learning that Mr. Hood is a drug dealer, he tells the story of Crackpot Jenkins, who got arrested for trying to sell crack to a cop. He still manages to keep up the light-heartedness of the album by setting the story in a playground where Crackpot Jenkins sells “pebbles and stones to throw rocks”.

Since then I knew he wasn’t too head smart

As I scribbled in art he insisted on standing in the sandbox

To collect unknown amounts of pebbles and stones to throw rocks

Lyrics from “Mr. Hood At Piocallee Jewelry / Crackpot” by KMD

From Love to Villainy

Despite becoming well known as one of the best in complex rhyme later in his career, Zev Love X’s rap style still sounds highly reminiscent of established artists at the time. His rhyme scheme had not yet developed to the intricate level displayed on Madvillainy or MM…FOOD.

Additionally, he had not yet experienced the hardships that brought him to adopting his villainous persona MF DOOM such as losing his brother Subroc to a car accident. As such, he still raps enthusiastically and with a passion not present in his later work.

It’s difficult to find a track on “Mr. Hood” devoid of any funk, with thudding bass lines and a groove that resonates through every track. While albums released under MF DOOM would drop the funk sound, the driving bass and humor lived on.

Conclusion

Zev Love X wanted listeners to be able to enjoy KMD’s music while still preserving the artistic integrity of their messages on Black empowerment. These themes only became more of a focus on their follow-up album “Black Bastards”, which was finished after Subroc had been killed.

As a result, “Mr. Hood” remains the only album in Zev Love X’s discography to be born out of passion for his craft and relative innocence. Listeners already familiar with MF DOOM should come to this album to explore his origins and find a more upbeat and pure DOOM.

Rating: 8.5/10

— CashewCrunch

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Album Review: “Geogaddi” by Boards of Canada (But Backwards)

In 2002, Boards of Canada became a part of the G.O.A.T conversation for electronic artists. Their work in the tail-end of the 90’s left them with loads of widespread critical acclaim. They already made one of the greatest electronic music albums there is. They didn’t have to do it again, but they chose to anyways.

You can read a hundred reviews for “Geogaddi”, but this is a track by track review for the entire album in reverse. The reversed instrumentation, as well as the numerous hidden messages littered throughout the album suggest that the album was meant to be heard in reverse, so I intend to hear it this way.

THE END

The thick waves on “Corsair” start the album by grazing the coastline of your mind, inviting you to wade into the foamy folds of dark nostalgia presented on this album. It’s an incredible opening track, walling you off from the outside world, leaving nothing but you and whatever you used to be.

What’s incredible is that the tracks on here unfold in similar ways to their straightforward counterparts. Throughout each song, sounds are added in a symmetrical pyramid rather than a slope. Many songs contain unique portions at the beginning and end with a common element connecting them, making them cohesive even when reversed.

The transition from “You Could Feel The Sky” to “Diving Station” is almost seamless, as the sudden sound of the rubber band stretching leaves behind faint industrial oscillations. A feeling of being stuck takes over, suppressed by forces mechanical or otherwise. There is a light somewhere up there, but you know you’ll never be able to reach it.

The serine bells on “Over The Horizon Radar” are another excellent highlight. It sounds exactly like closing your eyes in a garden, feeling the wind pass over your skin, and letting the last of the days sunlight touch you as the sun lowers behind the trees.

This track fades into a repeated message: “We love you all,” a message made unsettling by television static and vocal distortion before being followed up with a far more uncanny message: “If you go down in the woods today, you’d better not go alone.”

Danger looms over this album. Everyone has felt scared before, and Boards of Canada knows this.

“Alpha and Omega” opens with an incredible synth and static combination, slowly introducing flute patterns, while a bubbly beat rages on in the foreground. The static subsides, and is replaced by a sea of of synth harmonies.

The wind, flutes, and whispers of “Opening The Mouth,” suggest the presence of something otherworldly- something that wants you to know it’s watching, but means no harm. Maybe its just your imagination.

Each “mini” track woven into Geogaddi is a microcosm for the overall feeling that the album explores. Each one a new angle examining the intersection of innocence and evil, of curiosity and regret, of youth and what it leaves behind. Everything you need to know about Geogaddi is right there on the cover: the pure happiness of a child becoming kaleidoscopically refracted and tinged until it’s something cold, sterile, and geometric.

“In The Annex” is a good example of this. It doesn’t need to be played forward for this to be conveyed either. It’s all in the music. It’s terrifying.

The main weakness of “Geogaddi” as a reversed album is the percussive elements. Every drum melts into a squashy squibble, losing entrancement along the way. The drums should be grimy and grainy. This is noticeable on tracks like “Dawn Chorus”, “Alpha And Omega,” and especially “Julie And Candy,” which has one of the strongest openings of any reversed track until the drums enter the mix.

There are also vocal sections that don’t work well backwards, like the “Energy Warning” segment that becomes unintelligible garble. It doesn’t help that it’s followed up by the most vocal intensive track on the album, “1969.”

In one case though, the backwards drums and vocals did make for an interesting addition. The track “Sunshine Recorder” has a slightly off-kilter rhythm when played forward, but backwards it’s even more bizarre. When this comes together with “ecalp lufituaeb A,” you can stand on the sky and watch the cars pass by on the road above you. Walking along the clouds brings you to “Dandelion,” a beautiful piece on the synth.

You were meant to hear “Dandelion” backwards.

The penultimate track “Music Is Math” slowly unfurls and furls its bright electric coat before concluding with “Ready Let’s Go,” a track that functions far better as a starting track than an ending track. We’re left with a single snuffed out buzz.

THE BEGINNING

Is it as good as “Geogaddi” forwards? No. There’s a reason they didn’t release it this way. Does it still convey the same abstract feelings as “Geogaddi” forwards? Absolutely, and how many albums can claim the same?

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Band/Artist Profile Classic Album Review

“Black Shark” by Hammer No More The Fingers

I was first introduced to Hammer No More The Fingers during my discussion with Jeremy Leonard, NC State architecture professor and former WKNC DJ.

Emerging in the mid 2000’s, this band is pure indie rock power.

As I learned within my discussion with Jeremy, there was limited means or finding new and underground artists just a decade ago. WKNC was a leading platform for finding under exposed artists and local bands such as this one.

One of the initial break-throughs for this band was at WKNC’s very own Double Barrel Benefit.

Not only is this band musically extraordinary, but it local to the triangle area– emerging from Durham, NC.

Members, Duncan Webster, Joe Hall and Jeff Stickley formed the band after their graduation from UNC Chapel Hill and East Carolina University in 2007.

They thrived in the local Durham scene. Later touring across North Carolina and the US.

Upon listening to their discography, I was surprised we are not talking about them more at WKNC and beyond.

To highlight some of their success, I will be doing a dive into their 2011 album, “Black Shark”.

Ambitious, robust and high energy, this album will not disappoint.

“Black Shark” Review

“Black Shark” by Hammer No More The Fingers cover art

This band is a great example of the power and versatility of a guitar, some drums and a voice.

This three piece band is able to create such rich and fulfilling tracks through timeless elements and skill.

Right out of the gate, “Atlas of an Eye” displays their indisputable harmony and skill together. There is a clear distinction between bands that have been performing together for years and those that collided recently.

This trio has been performing together since 1994– giving this album confidence and harmony that can only be achieve through consistent collaboration and time.

One aspect I adore about this band is the vocal harmonies they achieve. Especially in opening track, “Atlas of an Eye” they achieve some beautiful vocal layering and echos. This layering is reflected in overlapping waves of strings and percussion.

Simply a great opening track. It builds so much momentum for the album to come.

Track number 3, “Shark” was the true hook for me in this album. The chorus is so strong. This track alone captures the energy and style of Hammer No More The Fingers– simple elements, unhinged skill.

I love that this band does not over complicate their lyrics. This is true for every song, but I particularly love the lyrics in “Shark”.

Further into the album, “It’s About Caring” has some of my favorite guitar lines. This track has very melancholy vocal work, giving the album an angsty, emo rock undertone. This weighty angst is contrasted beautifully with heavy guitar.

The strings are the star in this track.

Continuing the outstanding guitar work, prior track “Steam” is high energy and well balanced. All three band members shine here. This track feels like the true climax of the album– although every track competes for this title.

“Steam” has some the best moments of collaboration in the album.

This collaboration results in the highest energy in the album. The ending section combines all the strengths of the band– vocal harmonies, strong guitar and solid drums.

Simple elements executed with excellence.

Final track, “Fingernails”, is perhaps the most perfect ending for such a well crafted album. It provides low and high energy moments to lift the listener out of the album while reflecting on the best moments.

There are many tracks on this album that I did not mention, but they are truly all fantastic.

Concluding Thoughts

Many leading indie rock artists tend to over complicate music. In our modern world, there are so many resources and endless elements that can both enhance and diminish music.

Bands like Hammer No More The Fingers give a refreshing reminder that great music can be achieved without any excessive elements or fancy tools.

The true excellence in music comes from the passion to create and collaboration.

If you would like to listen to more of Hammer No More the Fingers, they have two other fantastic albums, “Looking for Bruce” and self titled, “Hammer No More the Fingers”.

There are simply and unbelievable about of talent within the triangle area, look forward to more local band reviews in the near future.

Categories
Classic Album Review

The World of “My Elegant Breaking Point” by Perry Maysun

Perry Maysun is a 20-year-old alternative rapper and producer that has made a name for themselves in the underground scene through raw and vulnerable music. Earlier this year Perry Maysun released their album “My Elegant Breaking Point”.

When I asked Perry Maysun to describe their music to someone that might not have heard it, they said “My music is my mental health and my day-to-day struggles put into art … the purest form of expression”.  

My Elegant Breaking Point

“My Elegant Breaking Point” is an album that brings a dark, cinematic and moody experience. The title captures the mood of the album perfectly. Perry Maysun pours his heart out rapping elegantly about pain, addiction and the struggles that independent artists face when trying to be taken seriously. 

The production of this album alone will capture your attention for the whole 36-minute run time, with swelling intros and intricate outros that seamlessly transition to each song. This coupled with the well-worded raps delivered by Perry gives the album a captivating narrative.

Stand Out Tracks

For my favorite tracks on this album, I have to start with “Melissa’s”. Standing alone this song is catchy, addictive and full of energy. But this is all made amplified when in the context of this full album, where the two previous songs build the tension that is finally broken by this song’s drop. 

Note: This song contains explicit language

Other standouts include “Bugs”, “Lo Mein” and “Duality” which is a self-destructive masterpiece that really drives home the themes of the album. 

The Perry Maysun Universe

One thing that Perry Maysun does well is creating worlds in his albums. Alongside “My Elegant Breaking Point” Perry Maysun also released MyElegantBreakingPoint.com. This website includes many extras such as a collection of poems that correspond to each song, a visual gallery and more. 

When I spoke to Perry Maysun about this he said:

“My whole concept was what if you could look up Yeezus.com and see where Kanye’s mind was when he made that and everything he was doing, and the looks, and the ideas, and concepts, and stories behind the songs. Let me make a virtual exhibit of my music and where my mind was when I made this project so its always there.” 

Perry Maysun

Closing Thoughts

Perry Maysun manages to create intimate and rich stories through his album “My Elegant Breaking Point” which leaves me excited to hear more of his music. His uncompromising and driven mindset toward creating music has made me eager to see him get the recognition he deserves.

Note: Some songs on this album contain explicit language

E. Pratt aka. DJ Off Belay

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Classic Album Review

Ramsey Lewis’ “Rocky Raccoon” Song Review

The prolific jazz musician Ramsey Lewis passed away earlier this September at the age of 87. Lewis was a Grammy award winning artist and is best known for albums like “Sun Goddess” and “The In Crowd.” 

Lewis is also responsible for a wonderful cover album of The Beatles’ music, called “Mother Nature’s Son.” “Rocky Raccoon,” off of The Beatles’ self-titled album (better known as “The White Album”) is my favorite song by the band. Lewis’ cover of “Rocky Raccoon” breathes a wonderful and vibrant life into the song, making it one of my favorite songs of all time.

The country song makes a wonderful canvas for a jazz cover. The cover starts off rather percussive and before you know it, a whole band of instruments have bled their way into the scene. The cover builds until it’s a pleasant storm of noise, with the melody on the keys serving as the rain and everything else draped behind it as the clouds.

Only 2 minutes and 38 seconds long, the cover is around a minute shorter than the original, and packs the same spirit into the same amount of time.

If you haven’t heard of Ramsey Lewis until now, I suggest you check out his rather extensive discography, there is something for everyone there. Or, at the very least, listen to his cover of “Rocky Raccoon.”

Categories
Classic Album Review

Discovering “Where the Heart Is” with Sweet Pill

Philadelphia-based pop-emo band Sweet Pill released their debut album with Topshelf Records in May of this year. Sadly, I had not gotten the chance to listen to it until recently. Since I first gave the LP a listen, it has been on repeat.

Coming in at 30 minutes, this album kept me entranced throughout the entire listen. Tracks flow from one to the next with great fluidity. The utilization of pop elements and structure over the emo instrumental and vocals make this record so replayable for me.

Lead singer Zanya Yousseff, guitarists Jayce Williams and Sean McCall, bassist Ryan Cullest and drummer Chris Kerneymakes make this album special. You can tell from the first listen that this passion project has been in the works for over two years.

Favorite Tracks

“Blood” is my favorite off of this album. Coming in off the title track, this song is about the anger that comes with a falling out and it does not mess around. This song utilizes breaks and a gritty, distorted rhythm guitar to really make each drop feel like a gut punch.

The song “Sometimes” also really stands out to me. I can’t help but bob my head when this song comes on. This song masterfully blends pop and emo to create something that’s fun to listen to but with a certain heaviness that’s unexplored in pop.

Conclusion

This album consistently uses violence to express anger and unfulfillment with life. I really appreciate Sweet Pill’s ability to use violence and make it effective consistently. They utilize this explosivity to such a degree that it’s impossible to skip one of their tracks when it comes on.

Sweet Pill’s work is filled with so much energy and enthusiasm and I can imagine them evolving their sound into something truly unique to them. I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the coming years.

Categories
Classic Album Review

Biting into “Orange” by Fishmans

A fresh citrus fruit has an addicting taste, not unlike the sound of Fishmans’ lead singer in their album “Orange.” Fishmans uses the keyboard among Shinji Sato’s vocals, bass and guitar to create a beautiful dreamy reggae sound that brings in the clouds to block the oppressive sunlight of reality.

Their fourth studio album, “Orange”, is my favorite to return to. It has all of the reggae sounds like steel drums and beats that I love, which is combined with Shinji Sato’s iconic vocals. “Orange” was released in 1994 under Media Remoras.

For Fishmans, they had much trouble with the comings and goings of band members, producers and record companies. On the album, Shinji Sato does the vocals and plays acoustic guitar with Yuzuru Kashiwabara (bass, chorus), Kin-Ichi Motegi (drums, percussion, chorus) and Hakase-Sun (keyboards, chorus). A guest electric guitarist, Sugar Yoshinaga, also appears in various tracks throughout the album. 

Peeling Open “Orange”

“Kibun” basically starts off the album, and it does so with a pop, reggae and electric fervor. The vocal repetitions bring constant joy to my ears. Shinji’s voice and lyrics are elegant as they bounce up and down smooth as butter. 

In “My Life”, simple lyricism brings simple and pure joy. Fishmans creates a pop tune that exudes exuberance. The keyboard steps us into life and beauty with the beginning of the track and sweeps us into a journey filled with the sound of people living.

“My Life” music video by Fishmans. YouTube video posted by ponycanyon.

As one of my favorite songs of all time, “Melody” stands out on this album. It jumps right into the action of music and all the joy it brings. Epic percussion backs up an electric guitar that shreds perfect little rhythms. 

The track flows and pierces me quickly. I’d be surprised to hear from anyone that this song didn’t even make them tap their toes to the beat. 

A slower track on a fast paced album tends to stand out or drift into the background. I think “Kaerimichi” found its place by blending in the rushed and jumpy first half of “Orange” with the other dreamier half of the album. 

One Last Bite

After diving back into this album to write about it, I already cannot stop myself from listening to it again and again. Fishmans’ sound is intoxicating to my ears. If the last song I ever got to listen to in my life was a Fishmans track, my ears and soul could be at rest with that. 

“Orange” is so fresh even at 28 years of age. If you’ve never taken the time to listen to Fishmans at all, or if you’ve only listened to their later albums, I cannot encourage you enough to peel open “Orange” and taste its addictive sweetness.