Browsing: Music Reviews

Critics Den
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Jeff Buckley is alive. That’s the only way I can explain what’s going on with the release of The Relyx’s EP, Strange Living. I mean, sure. It’s a little more polished than Buckley’s original work. It’s not crappy and raspy and raw; Strange Living has the sound of a band that’s been in hiding for a decade, working on putting together a really strong five-song album to reintroduce… err, introduce themselves to the world.

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When you start up the first track on an album and you involuntarily say “What the hell?” it’s either a really good thing, or a really bad thing. There’s not much of a middle ground to that phrase.

But in my defense, I also wasn’t expecting what came out of my speakers when I clicked Play. The editor sent me a link and said, “Here, why don’t you try writing something useful for a change?” The link had the name Manchester Orchestra in it, so I figured it was going to be some classical pieces from the UK, right? I mean sure, those of us here at The Inept Owl have as much class and culture as a post-chili farting contest… but it wouldn’t be unheard-of for us to review some high-brow music for sh*ts and giggles.

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(Editor’s note: Darby turned in a music review this week that was not up to the usual high standards we have here at The Inept Owl. However, when we tried to return his review so that he could rework it, we found him passed out underneath his desk, a bottle of bourbon in one hand and an inflatable sheep in the other. Therefore, the editorial staff was forced to do a quick rewrite in order to meet the deadline. Thank you for your understanding.)

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Being an unpaid faux-music-reviewer (as in a faux reviewer of music, not a reviewer of faux music), I’m not up on the ridiculously fine-hair-splitting categories kids use these days. Our previous review of their work called them “folk,” but the current work was a little rock-heavy with country sounds to fit that mold in my mind (that mold being “bearded men who smell of patchouli” and “women who don’t shave their armpits”). But I know there’s this “alt-country” thing, so I looked it up on wikipedia; on that site, a bunch of people who take themselves too seriously typed a bunch of stuff about a genre they take too seriously. For lack of a better label, I’ll call them “alt-country,” which, to the best of my understanding, means they’re country-ish without sounding like country. It could sound like bluegrass or punk rock and somebody will call it alt-country, so that works for me. The guitar’s a little twangy at times, and the vocals are a little twangy at times… it fits. Twenty years ago, they would have been “southern rock.” But I digress.

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About six years ago, I was at one of those cheesy-ass “murder mystery dinner parties.” You know… everyone dresses up and acts out a murder mystery with each other, and there are themed courses to the meal that match up to the story line. Unfortunately, my wife and I were the only ones to show up other than the host and hostess, which made it rather difficult to play out the murder mystery. But since we had a fridge full of beer and I had a sock stuffed down my pants (it was a part of the character, I swear), we decided to play the ever-entertaining college drinking game, “Flip Cup.”

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We are in the midst of a cross-marketing Babylon. Musical whores are jumping across genres to sell albums left and right, and country music is the biggest beneficiary. First, Sheryl Crow had a brief fling with the twangy stuff. Then, Jewel went over to the dark side. Even Jessica Simpson, whose deeply moving pop lyrics should have guaranteed her a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has crossed the border. And today, I offer you the greatest travishamockery in the history of music:

Darius Rucker has gone country.

In case you don’t recognize the name, Darius is Hootie of “Hootie & The Blowfish” fame.

Yes, that guy. The African-American guy with the shaved head and gravely voice.

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You remember Coldplay. They were the English rock band that the radio deejays fell in love with a couple years ago, playing songs like “Clocks” and “The Scientist” until you were ready to throw yourself into traffic just so you wouldn’t have to hear them played one more time. They take on charitable causes. They don’t let their music be used in advertising (except for iPods). They’re like the British version of U2, only less famous. And less talented. And less cool. Lead singer Chris Martin is perhaps best known for being bold enough to legally bond himself to Gwyneth Paltrow and spawning oddly-named children like “Apple” and “Moses.”

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Welcome to Flavors Of Entanglement

Don’t get me wrong. Lyrically, this is still Alanis. You still have a “kiss my ass” anthem in “Straightjacket.” You still have the “I admire you from a distance” credo in “In Praise of the Vulnerable Man.” You have the “I’m at rock bottom but I’ll make it someday” types in “Incomplete” and “Not As We.” But apparently, somebody thought it would be a good idea to layer some techno crap on top of her singing and call it an album. At one point, I actually looked to make sure I hadn’t downloaded the soundtrack for Underworld 3 by mistake.

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Remember Counting Crows? Lead singer was a white dude with dreadlocks? Had that song, “Mr. Jones.” It was all over MTV, back when MTV played videos? You kinda liked them because the lyrics were obscure, but not Pearl Jam obscure. The lyrics were depressing, but not Nirvana depressing. They were, like… Grunge Lite. You probably owned their first album, “August and Everything After.” You might have picked up one of the next three albums, “Recovering the Satellites,” “This Desert Life,” or “Hard Candy.” But considering they were releasing albums at the blistering rate of one every three years, you probably lost interest at some point. After all, there are plenty of bands out there with obscurely-written and depressing lyrics that you didn’t have to wait almost an entire election cycle to hear their next release.

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I love the White Stripes. This is a declaration that seems sort of silly in 2008. Why take the time to write about your love of a band that has been around since 1999, and has held a firm foothold in the mainstream realm of “cool” music since 2001’s “White Blood Cells”?