Monday, August 31, 2015

Stavesacre Friction Nailed The Tool Vibe Into Christian Rock Then Redefined Everything

In June 1996 the band Stavesacre released an album that would become one of the most eclectic, strong, and impressive records of all time. I’m not alone in saying this. The Los Angeles Times would write of the band summing up the one line that I tell a lot of people about, “The Best Band No One’s Ever Heard Of”. It’s so true, and the guys in Stavesacre know this all too well. For all the work and incredible elements that they pushed through in their careers, they never got the mainstream success that they should’ve received. In fact, it was on “Friction” that comparisons to Tool started, and you know what? Tool should’ve had these guys open up for them, as they would have been huge!

“Friction” starts powerfully with the track “Threshold”. This guitar and bass heavy track is precisely the same style that Tool and other prog-metal bands were putting out in the mid and late 1990s. From the opening track, you are taken on a progressive metal and hard rock ride that you cannot mirror anywhere else in the world of Christian music. It’s Salomon’s vocals that really progress here. Not only that, Jeff Bellew’s guitars, Dirk Lemmenes bass, and Jeremy Moffett’s drums are all on point through the incredible elements. “Loader”, “At The Moment”, “Suffocate Me”, and “Minus” deliver an opening section of a record that is by all intents and purposes, the definition of progressive rock and metal for the time.

It’s the second half that should’ve delighted Tool fans, as they bring out the elements that you’d expect from Maynard and the guys around the time. Even early System of a Down compares to this, as the band really found a groove in how to portray their heavy handed delivery. Stavesacre’s “Friction” plays on into an interesting elements, and while many people want to say that this is a “Christian” record alone, it’s not. It’s a heavy album that is well deserving beyond the label.

I was first introduced to the band at Knott’s Berry Farm in California. It was New Year’s Eve when I purchased the record from a Tooth and Nail rep. He said that if I liked heavy music this would be my new favorite record. You know what? He was right. I was really into Plankeye, Pax217, and Mxpx at the time, but it was this release that blew open the doors for me. I would then eventually become a big fan of Tool, but this record is one of the best records you probably haven’t even heard about.

Stavesacre is truly the best band you’ve never heard of, especially when you start to piece together their first 3 records. “Friction”, “Absolutes”, and “Speakeasy”, should’ve been the 3 nails that cemented the band’s mainstream success. They are better, and more cohesive musically than 90% of the bands that came out of the late 90s underground and mainstream rock radio. I would know, I grew up listening to alternative rock radio in Los Angeles. From y107 to knac to kroq to star 98.7 or whatever they call themselves now. I even worked for John Logic, but I digress.

How good is Stavesacre’s “Friction”? Why don’t you buy it and find out. 

You can get it cheap, and it’s well worth it. If you find it on vinyl, get it, it’s a super rare record to see in the wild. I’ve only seen it once, and that was a boot leg.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Vinyl Record Player Review: Jensen JTA-230 3 Speed Stereo Record Player

As vinyl records keep getting pushed into the mainstream, you are going to no doubt want to pick up a player. However, if you’re not really going to commit to buying a hi fi option, you’re going to need to look into the entry level options. There’s a lot to look into, and so here’s the start of a series of reviews for those that want to pick up a low cost record player. We’re starting with the Jensen JTA-230 3 Speed Stereo Record Player. This is an option that is listed at around $80, but you can get it for at least half of that if you look. Amazon, for instance has it for $45 at press time.

The Cost Break Down

For the highest fidelity, you won’t want to pick this up. However, if you aren’t going to spend a lot of money, or you want something to get you started, this works well. For the price, you will get a fully working machine, with plug in and play features. It also converts your records to MP3 if you want to do that, and it has a lot of control over tone and pitch. You can connect it to speakers if you’d like, but it has built in speakers. As far as the cost is concerned, this is a good entry model. It’s also a best seller, so you know that a lot of people are jumping into picking up the Jensen JTA-230 3 Speed Stereo Record Player.

What Reviews Say

There are currently 1200 plus reviews on this model. As far as record players are concerned, you are going to find that there are a lot of opinions on the matter. I think that this is a fine model for the entry level record enthusiast. If you have records and want to play them, without hassle, this is your model. It’s under $100, it plays the records, and the reviews have nearly perfect ratings. At press time, there are mostly 4 star and 5 star reviews. The negatives highlight that this is not a hi fi machine, and that’s ok. You won’t be able to tell the difference, honestly. If you want to go that route, expect to pay well over 1,000 dollars.

Ease of Use

As highlighted above, it’s easy to use the Jensen JTA-230 3 Speed Stereo Record Player. This is a good machine to plug in and just play records. If you have a collection or you want to start, get this player, plug it in, and start playing the music. It has everything ready, and it’s easy to utilize. If you want to get mp3 coverage, you will need to do a little more, but if you’re just about listening, this is a fine machine and it’s simple to use.

Worth Buying?

Here’s the thing, is it really worth picking up? If you’re starting out, if you’re not a hardcore audiophile, yes. The Jensen JTA-230 3 Speed Stereo Record Player is a great buy. However, do not expect all the bells and whistles that you may see from higher costing machines. This is made to listen to records, not to take into a club and dj with. No scratching, no major components here. It’s a non-nonsense record player with some modules and sound elements you can change up, and it has built in speakers. It’s inexpensive, and well worth your time.

For more information and comments on this record player, click here and check it out for yourself.

Vinyl Me Record Club Review

I recently took a chance and joined the Vinyl Me Record Club. I saw ads, I talked to someone on Twitter about it, and finally caved in when I saw that they were going to release a supreme reggae record. “Super Ape” is a record I reviewed for an up and coming blog “For The Fan”. It’s one of the best records from the Island era, that I have heard, and it was nice to get the updated treatment. However, the last two records from the club have been, meh. Here’s my simplified review of this service.

Pay Under $30

For starters, you can join month to month all for the price of 1 full priced vinyl record. Like many other clubs, you can keep your subscription and keep getting vinyl or you can quit before the month’s done and just get 1. When you sign up, you will get a newsletter, access to a member’s only store, and a lot of cool little notes.

The member’s only store is lackluster to me. There are some good records to explore, but it’s not nearly as grandiose as I thought. I thought I would enter a world of ultimate selection and serious music collecting elements. I guess I am spoiled by Discogs. Whatever the case is, this is not what I thought it would be. Plus the prices are full retail in many instances, and sometimes more. I’m good on all that.

The Records

The records that they release are great. Don’t get me wrong, they put a lot of effort into releasing records to the masses, and they do them up in limited pressings, with limited edition art, and more. You get a lot for the money, but if you’re not a fan of the selections, why be a member? I didn’t find myself longing to be a member after the release of the Wilco AM repressing. I’m not a HUGE Wilco fan, and the upcoming new record that the Vinyl Me club is releasing also doesn’t have my attention. I quit.

The Low Down

Simply put, this is a service for those that love vinyl and don’t care about the releases so much. They are smug at times, and when I talked to them on Twitter, they really rubbed me the wrong way. They weren’t very friendly. I received a total of 3 records for my involvement in their club, but for the price of $90 give of take, I could’ve picked up way better records from Half Price Books, Amazon, and Amoeba online.

Is it worth it? Not really. If you absolutely just want someone to recommend stuff to you, ask a friend, look on Spotify, fire up Pandora, and listen. Good music is out there. Vinyl Me is ok, but it’s like pop radio, it caters to a certain section, not necessarily everyone. It’s not for me, but it may be good for you.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

P.O.D. The Awakening Shocks The System With A Concept Album of Immense Purpose

P.O.D. has been going strong for a long time. I remember hanging out with Sonny and the boys way back when they were playing shows up and down the West Coast with Dogwood. That’s a long time ago, and since then, the guys have been packing away some of the most powerful songs. This time around they have gone full tilt with a concept album called “The Awakening”. It’s equal parts metal, rap, hardcore, and reggae. The band has really fused together some of their best elements, and has really ramped up the production this time around. The band is absolutely at their most melodic, and urgent with this one. If you are a fan of the Deftones recent pushes, you’ll absolutely love this record, because it very much feels like a brother of Deftones and Incubus right now.

From the start of the record, you are going to get hit with a reggae and hard rock blend. “Am I Awake” is a beautiful concept, with a mix of media sounds and the powerful elements that have made P.O.D. so poignant in the past. Forget what you heard on “Satellite”, this is a record that brings abound the same urgency that “The Fundamental Elements of Southtown” brought to the masses that were pegging them as just another Christian rock outfit. Ladies and gentlemen, they are not confined to one space.

Stand out tracks are all over this 45 minute instant classic. The record plays through a dramatic, visual line and story. Close your eyes and listen, and you’ll be treated to a story told in music and in cut scenes. The tracks ring out heavy, and you get a feeling for the amount of work that the band has put in to put this together. Tracks like “This Goes Out To You”, “Criminal Conversations”, and “Somebody’s Trying To Kill Me” all deliver that signature sound that the band has been famous for, but with a bit of melody to swerve you from time to time.

If I had to pick a track that stands out amongst others, I would say that “Want It All” should be a platinum selling single. It mixes jazz notes with Sonny’s lyrical delivery that is very much a powerful thing for the band. The guitar and bass come through with a nice touch, whereas the drumming is absolutely fabulous here, even though the song is not the hardest on the record. If that wasn’t the best one, I’d say that “This Goes Out To You” is a banger that definitely deserves your attention.

All in all, “The Awakening” is a concept album that really is on fire. P.O.D. have found a way to get me interested in what they are doing all over again. The same urgency I had when I spent $300 to see them at the Glasshouse upon the release of “Fundamental Elements”, has once again got me and it’s an eclectic presentation of the band’s influences. You owe it to yourself to pick this one up, it’s that good.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Jars of Clay Closer EP SpeaksTo A Different Era of Christian Music

Christian music can be laughable. Millions of people dismiss it. I don’t. I don’t dismiss anything, I love music, and if it’s defined as “Christian” so what? I want to hear whatever the musicians have to say, and play with. Plus, if they truly praise the “creator of music” wouldn’t they have some incredible tracks? Whatever the case is, I have always had a love and hate relationship with Jars of Clay. They put out some amazing records, then put out some things that didn’t really hit me as hard. The band put out one of the best records ever with “The Long Fall Back To Earth”. That thing is a stellar record that is deeper than the genre, and absolutely worth everyone’s attention. They really broke through with that, and have evolved as artists. With the “Closer EP”, they put out a taste of past and present, and really positioned themselves with a taste of their full length.

Usually, when you get the EP ahead of the LP, you end up with 4 or 5 songs that are supposed to make you excited about the forthcoming record. That’s what happened with this “Closer EP”. When I got my grubby hands on it, I found myself enthralled with the musical elements. 2008, wasn’t my best year. This record really had me falling in love with the Seattle weather. I was walking to work at the time, and I loved every minute of the contemplation that I had back then. I had a rocky marriage, battled depression, and was in a job that I both loved and hated. But this record and the songs really spoke to me at a point when I needed to hear the voice of a friend.

I didn’t get that voice. But the songs here represented a new hope for the time. Going back now to review and listen once again, I find myself in the same category sometimes. Sometimes I’m low. Sometimes I feel like there is no hope, but there is still something in me that is lit. Perhaps a small fire, or perhaps I’m reminiscent of the glory days of being in Seattle. I don’t know.

Suffice to say, “Closer”, “Safe to Land”, “Love Song For A Savior”, “Flood (New Rain”, and “Prisoner of Hope”, play past and present into a world that the band has definitely done well with. The songs feel whole, like a winter’s embrace. They are fascinating to dissect, and a thrill to listen to with new skin. I suggest picking up Jars of Clay “Closer EP” for a taste of what the band has done, and if you want more, explore it with your preferred medium.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Did The Slackers Perfect Ska Music in 1997?

Some analysts will scoff at the notion that ska music could’ve been perfected by an American band such as The Slackers. However, if you put in their release, “Redlight” from 1997 into your record player, you will realize that the band not only took elements of ska, they mixed in valuable potent elements of jazz, punk, reggae, and even a little calypso into a melting pot of music that you cannot deny is simply divine. Like a fine wine, even though I hate wine, this record has found a home in the hearts of underground music fans. “Redlight” was a nice companion piece for me, but I didn’t hear it until around 2006.

As far as these types of records are concerned, you have to go back in time to a different place. At the time, as Reel Big Fish, and the swing craze hit, bands like The Slackers and others got a major push into the mainstream. That didn’t last too long though, as you barely hear Reel Big Fish’s “Sell Out” on alternative rock radio any longer. In fact, if you are using the terrible Pandora streaming, you may not even hear it there half the time. Furthermore, in 1997 I didn’t have the internet, so this record escaped my grasp.

Hellcat Records produced this 1997 classic, and it’s hard to find on vinyl, but it is well worth it. The songs range from anthems, to laments, and stories. “Cooking For Tommy” opens up a magical experience of ska, jazz, and bass heavy rhythms. If you are a fan of this style of music you’re going to immediately connect with the laid back approach that the band brings out. But by the time you cycle to “Married Girl”, the dynamic shift in lyricism and conceptual storytelling will be something that will hook you. If you can’t enjoy that track, then you perhaps don’t appreciate ska music at all.

Other stand out tracks include, “I Still Love You”, “Redlight”, “She Wants To Be Alone”, “Rude and Wreckless”, “Come Back Baby” and more. There are 12 tracks total on “Redlight” and it’s a fascinating experience as the band travels through various moods and styles. There is never a singular, dull, or lackluster moment. This is the kind of music that should be playing in those old time night clubs with the tables and the drinks coming through, with a small dance floor. If ever there was a speakeasy type of record, it very well may be this one. It has so many good elements and tracks, and yet it doesn’t just focus on the slower progression of simplistic jazz. From the horn section to the lyrics, The Slackers very well could have perfected ska music in 1997, and no one realized it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

3 Hip Hop Tracks You Need To Listen To Right Now

Ditch the Drake, and Kendrick Lamar for a moment, and get your speakers turned up as loud as possible to hear 3 hip hop tracks that are absolutely grand. They are conscious hip hop songs that are going to talk about more than just drugs, women, sex. I know that many people won’t see this, but if you love hip hop and you want new music, here are 3 tracks that are going to absolutely floor you, because they floored me absolutely. Wow, where are these tracks when you need them in the mainstream? These are solid, listen to them, buy them, share them, let someone know!

Murs “Surprises”

My man Murs knocks it out of the park with this incredible offering. The chorus is amazing, and you’re going to be introspective upon hearing it. Murs delivers his signature rhymes, and “Ryan “Myagi” Evans drop some knowledge about this.

Tedashii “Dark Days, Darker Nights”

A man looking back at the heart break and lows that come with excess drinking, sex, and more. It’s rare to find rappers that flow through perspectives of the past without glorifying the fun of it all. Tedashii finds the past as a learning experience on this track, and asks for help, because he can’t make it on his own.

Thi’sl “King Without A Crown”

The number one stunner on this list, rapper Thi’sl brings through one of the most catchy hip hop tracks I’ve heard in a long time. The lyrical elements are all about humbleness, and throwing down the bravado in hopes for a better tomorrow. Listen up, rappers you’re on notice, this guy is sick.

That Time I Fell in Love With The Alkaline Trio In 2003

I remember the first time I saw Sonia (friend from college). I believe it was the first day of college. She was the female version of me. I was intimidated by her immediately. She was hot, I was a bumbling idiot, and I couldn’t get the courage to talk to her. She talked to me though. I think I stuttered. I was wearing a Juliana Theory “headphones” shirt, and she commented on it, said it was cool. I remember the elevator opening and I ran. Eventually I would get to talk to her as we shared some classes, and befriended her. I recall she got me to do things no other girl ever did, mainly ditch class. One day we ditched and ended up at Amoeba Music in Hollywood. I never asked her out. I don’t think she even liked me. I remember one time she got mad that I called what she did and or liked “cheer leading”. It’s not. I want to say she punched me, but I don’t recall to well on that. I recall thinking she was amazing. I should’ve asked her out.

Anyways, that’s all to talk about how The Alkaline Trio put out this collection on Asian Man Records that had a cassette tape on the cover. It was a collection of their tracks, and it came out in 2000, I believe. I picked it up at Amoeba and was immediately in love with the band. Matt Skiba’s voice and poetry came to me at a time when I was definitely low. College wasn’t a high point, but the musical interactions that I was envisioning with the band’s music was stellar. Don’t get me wrong, I heard “Stupid Kid” and “Armageddon” before this record hit my CD player, but still, this was awesome.

From the moment “Goodbye Forever” hit, I knew I had found another amazing band to love. The tracks on this read like a “best of”, and for all intents and purposes it is a “best of” for that time. The tracks include “Bleeder”, “Snake Oil Tanker”, “Cooking Win”, “Sun Dials”, “Nose Over Tail”, “For Your Lungs Only”, and so much more. Twelve of the best tracks from The Alkaline Trio, and some stellar craftsmanship from the band that I had to listen to a lot.

So how do I tie that all into Sonia? Well, she introduced me to Amoeba, cutting class in college, and by proxy, Alkaline Trio’s release. Now, the music video for this track was featured on a late night showing of Punkorama television, but I didn’t catch the name of the band or even hear the song again until 2003.

Suffice to say, you need to pick The Alkaline Trio “ST” from Asian Man Records. I prefer the limited edition “grey” vinyl if you can find that out there in the wild. Regardless of the medium, this is a stellar record that truly made me fall in love with the band, and still holds up today. Matt Skiba is an icon, and don’t argue with me. Sonia, a shout out is in order, I see you on twitter a lot, we chatted a bit. You’re still cooler than I will ever be. Thanks!

Side note, I only ditched class that one time. I’m a weirdo I know.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Local Resident Failure Unleashes A Fury of Pop Punk With This Here’s The Hard Part

There hasn’t been a lot of punk or even pop punk bands that have captured my attention quite as much as this band. Local Resident Failure first caught my eye because their drummer posts a lot of videos in which he drums full albums in various styles straight through. Well, the band has just put out one hell of a record and I don’t see a lot of people talking about it. “This Here’s The Hard Part” mixes everything that you could possibly like about punk and pop and throws into a blender of chaos. It’s a chaotic mix that is very well aware of how good music works.

From the first track, “Around The World”, you get that angst, the honesty, and the incredible push forward of punk rock fury that you found when you first listened to Green Day’s “Dookie”. This record is by far the best testament of a lost 1990s or early 2000s record. You are going to listen to every single song over and over again like you did with Nofx’s “Punk in Drublic”. Mark my words, Local Resident Failure's "This Here's The Hard Part" is the top punk record of 2015 thus far!

The guys in Local Resident Failure know how to not only put together elements of skate punk, punk rock, pop, and so much more. With 14 tracks and 32 minutes of music, “This Here’s The Hard Part” is one of the best records that you haven’t heard and it’s sad that I can’t promote it any harder. I am surprised that bands like this aren’t getting to the top of major tours, and are going through the ranks.

It’s easy to wax poetic about this record. The band has found the magic formula to create poppy music, without losing that punk edge. I’m surprised that Fat Wreck Chords hasn’t picked these guys up and paired them with the likes of their lineup. They are that good. Don’t believe me? Well check out the title track below, and pick up “This Here’s The Hard Part” today. You owe it to yourself to listen to this record. I love it! Man, it’s a great release.

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