14 July 2015

Switching to a new website!

After 4 and a half years of using Google’s Blogger to manage this blog, I’m switching it over to Tumblr. I received an email on July 13th that my Adsense account was being terminated due to “invalid activity”, while failing to specify what exactly my violation of their terms was. Incredibly frustrated but not deterred, I filed an appeal with Adsense managment, and on July 14th my appeal was declined and my Adsense account was not going to be reinstated. I lost any money that I had already earned from the program and any hint of a stable revenue I was working so hard to achieve. I feel very disrespected by the folks at Google, and I’m disappointed that after over 4 years of working to build an audience and support musicians that I admire, my ability to support myself is suddenly taken away without any real explanation. Even if my Adsense account is for some reason reinstated, I do not plan to return to the Google system again after this. All previous posts will stay on the other blog, but for the forseeable future, I will be using Tumblr to post my reviews. I need to find a way to put ads or make money from this Tumblr site, and while I am happy to be using Tumblr, this Google incident has really been a setback monetarily. 
Any support or help with ideas on how to monetize this site would be much appreciated. Regardless of this setback, I’m going to continue to post everyday and hopefully will find a solution. Thank you to everybody who has supported me and this blog. It means the world. 
Go to the new site here:

Lincoln Marshall - "Weight"

You know, I don't recommend enough rap on here. I'm good at finding obscure bands and artists from most other genres, but for some reason I really struggle to find a good hip hop album. Thankfully, our friends at Datura Records have delivered this debut EP from Lincoln Marshall, Weight. Lincoln Marshall is a project between one of my favorite LFK rappers, Approach, and one that I'm admittedly new to, MilkDrop. When you combine these two great rappers with some great production and beats, you get one of the better independent rap releases I've heard this year. I think it's pretty solid.

My gripes with Weight are pretty minimal. I do wish some tracks where a bit longer and were maybe a bit more focused. When you have a nine track EP that clocks in at just under 17 minutes, you'd hope that each track really goes all out. But it's more like 5-6 tracks with a lot of focus on them, and then a few tracks that I wish were more developed. The two under-a-minute instrumentals "The Keys" and "O.K...." sounds great, but I just wish they were longer and more developed. The raps and beats on the opener "Level One" sound great too, but considering it's just over a minute, I just wish it gave me a bit more. But, that's about all I have in the way of complaints. Each track definitely has something good to offer. Tracks like "Dirt" and "To The Life" are really awesome. The beats and the verses from both rappers sound great, and they're just damn fun to listen to. "Hey Now" shares those characteristics, but it also has a great thick bassline. The lyrics on this one in particular sound great. The guest verse from Louiz Rip also is pretty sweet. The tracks "Waterloo" and "Weight" feel like slightly darker or heavier takes on Lincoln Marshall's usual style. The beats feel a bit more bleak, and I don't mind it. "Waterloo" specifically has some great strummed guitar sounds over the raps that give it a noticeably different tone. "Weight" serves as a good display of MilkDrop's rapping on it's own, as well.

While I do wish that it was a bit more focused and consistent, I do really like Lincoln Marshall's debut EP. At just under 17 minutes, it really doesn't stop and it's just fun to listen to. The beats from Aikido Bray (and a guest beat from the fantastic DJ G Train) are minimal, but always sound great. The rhymes from Approach and MilkDrop are consistently awesome, and I like how the two rappers work together, but also each get a solo track or two. It's a good mix between the two personalities. Weight is a solid first release, and I can't wait to hear Lincoln Marshall's next one. Check it out!

13 July 2015

Holy Hands - "El Mar del Amor EP"

Holy Hands is a 3-piece post-punk band from Coro, Venezuela. They released their debut album last year, Manifiesto, and have released several free EP's since then. This is their 3rd EP, El Mar del Amo (which translates to The Sea Of  Love). And I'm really quite pleased with it, it's definitely their best work so far. The production on this EP sounds vastly improved from their previous releases, and it makes for some great reverb-drenched post-punk/shoegaze tracks. On all of Holy Hands previous recordings, the mixing of the layers and use of reverb didn't add up as well as it does on El Mar del Amor. I'm not sure what the band did to improve their production, but it sounds a lot better on this new EP. But enough technical babble, let's dig into the songs now. The EP starts appropriately with "Hola", a slow building but atmospheric track that is pretty dense with its sound. The guitars are very out-there and are filled with distortion and reverb, and the vocals have this great effect on them that makes it sound like they're going through a telephone speaker that make them sound really unique. The lead singer Moisés Amaya has a very plain, atonal way of singing, that is really benefited by the odd effect put on his vocals here. I just love how it sounds. Next is "Santos", a short track that goes a bit harder and faster than the first track, with some really blood-pumping drums, and shots of feedback coming in through the reverb every once and a while. The reverb on this track is really thick, making the guitars almost incomprehensible, but still enjoyable. "En el Mar" is a fun post-punk jam that reminds me a bit of an early Dirty Beaches track. I could see this track and "Santos" being really fun and loud to see in person. "Duele" is probably the most atmospheric track on the album, with some very thick octave-up guitar sounds surrounding the rest of the instrumentation. It's definitely my favorite track on the EP. It feels developed and emotive in all the right ways. It feels kind of like a Joy Division track, in my opinion. The closing track is appropriately called "El Final", and it's a nice reverb heavy drone without much else to it. It's definitely not bad, I just wish Holy Hands would've done a bit more with it.

While I do think the band still could use some improvements to their production and mixing of their sound, as well as maybe some quality control, I'm glad I found these guys, and I'll be looking out for what they do in the future. Holy Hands definitely has some potential, and I think they're worth checking out.

12 July 2015

Cameron Hawk - "Dream You Forgot"

(Photo by Rachel Meyers)

If you want to know a thing or two about music in Lawrence and Kansas City, a man who's almost impossible escape is Cameron Hawk. Probably best well known for being the co guitarist/vocalist for The Dead Girls, he's also played in Stiff Middle Fingers, Podstar, Hidden Pictures, [my personal favorite] Many Moods Of Dad, and probably quite a few others I either don't know about. In addition to his numerous groups, he's also the founder of the incredible annual celebration of local music, Lawrence Field Day Fest. He has an impressive resume to say the least. However, after spending 15 years working tirelessly in his local scene, Hawk left earlier this year to work abroad in China as an English teacher. While Cameron's presence in the local scene will be very missed, he didn't leave us with nothing. After a fairly active late 2014 (releasing new albums from The Dead Girls and Stiff Middle Fingers, and releasing the Many Moods Of Dad record on vinyl), Hawk has left us with a particularly generous parting gift: his first solo album, Dream You Forgot. In all honesty, it's probably one of my favorite of his releases.

For the most part, Hawk uses this record to take his usual rock/pop stylings and make them into emotive singer/songwriter tracks that feature Cameron's voice multi-tracked, acoustic guitar, lead electric guitars, and some occasional light rhythms. I really like the first two tracks, "(What I'd Do) If I Were You" and "Fire Again". "(What I'd Do)...." features very somber acoustic guitars accompanied by mildly distorted electric leads, and Cameron's harmonizing sounds great. His lyrics sound passionate and heartfelt, and they really work with his voice. "Fire Again" has some almost funky hand-snaps, and the acoustic guitars on this song really interact with the rhythm, plus Hawk's lyrics about relationships are both interesting and relatable. "Ariel Vue" is a really charming tune; Cameron's lovely harmonized vocals combined with the slow acoustic rhythm guitar makes for an wonderfully emotive track. The record features two instrumental cuts, "Nervousness" and "Black and Blue Bird". "Nervousness" is pretty sweet, featuring some fast finger picking and very twangy acoustic guitars. "Black And Blue Bird" features some nice interaction between reverb-tinged and distorted electric guitars between acoustic guitars, and with a bit of shaker added in, it all adds up to a wonderful sounding little track. "Lame Dream Apology" is a great acoustic ballad that has a fantastic emotional build, incorporating electric guitars and tambourine as it progresses that seem to get louder and denser despite only being a few layers of instrumentation. "All On You" is also a pretty heavy emotional track, featuring some great vocals and lyrics, accompanied by some amazing melodies. "Messy Days" follows a pretty similar pattern, but with a bit more speed and volume, and some really awesome "oooh's" towards the end. Not all the tracks on here are quite acoustic tracks though. "Dropped On The Rocks" feels like a more indie-rock tinged Dead Girls track. It's filled with plenty of energy and volume, and it sounds great. It's a reminder that Hawk is a man of many talents; he can write soft, emotional singer/songwriter tracks, but he can also bust out some great rock tunes (something he's shown consistently with his other bands in his career). "Walk Around The Block At Dusk" is a pretty candid and honest song lyrically, and I would consider it  to be a rock powerhouse. The album's last track is entitled "Running Off", and I think it ends the album quite well. It's incredibly punchy and energetic, it sounds like something Many Moods Of Dad could play. It's just a joy to listen to, and it's filled with all the elements that have made me love Cameron's music from the first time I heard it; great guitar playing, fantastic vocals, interesting and introspective lyrics, and tons of energy. This track just cranks it up to 11 and leaves your blood pumping before it slowly burns out. I think it's a great closer to Dream You Forgot. 

While I do think there are several other albums that rank above it, I think that Cameron's solo effort is among his best records. It's got a good mix of emotional acoustic tracks and some great rock tunes as well. Hawk's vocals and lyrics are all top notch, and the guitar playing sounds great. Whether he's doing more candid and unplugged tracks or loud and heavy songs, Cameron blends them and does each style flawlessly. I really loved listening to Dream You Forgot, and I think you should check it out as soon as possible. It's fantastic. I'm not sure when Cameron's next musical release will be coming out, but I think this will tide me over for quite a while. 

(Totally unbiased opinion: I hope the next release is a new MMOD record)

11 July 2015

Good Willsmith - "Snake Person Generation"

Good Willsmith is an improved-based drone/ambient/noise trio from Chicago, featuring TALsounds' Natalie Chami and the founders of the Chicago label Hausu Mountain, Max Allison and Doug Kaplan. I really fell in love with this band last year after they released their [technical] debut record The Honeymoon Workbook on the Mexican label Umor Rex, and got distributed by experimental music giants Thrill Jockey. And if you looked at my end of the year list for 2014, you know that that album was pretty high up on the list. I really loved that record, and the band's aesthetic. I loved how they seemed to be a no-nonsense sort of band; recording albums in one take with no overdubs, which gives it a real sense of urgency and immediacy not often felt in ambient music. You really feel like you're listening in on something that has been meticulously crafted and multi-tracked tens or hundred of times, not being played live. The density of the instrumentation was incredible; you could definitely feel each member contributing tons of different sounds and each one worked to further the sonic massiveness (is that a word? absolutely). What comes out are very emotive, dense, longform soundscapes that

Now, while the band has released only one full album, they've also released multiple tapes of material, and this is their latest, Snake Person Generation. It's definitely the most mixed bag release from Good Willsmith; it features one 17 minute cut from the pre-Honeymoon Workbook days, and 4 separate, shorter tracks. While I do wish the tape was in the style of GWS's previous efforts (all in one take) and wish it was bit more consistent, I still do find enjoyment in it. I really love the first track "Real Wet Feet Get Real Wet". It's a long and full drone that features some very low end synths, some great vocals Chami, and a massive layer of samples from children's records that really cut through the bass. It feels like a shortened, less-dense version of something from The Honeymoon Workbook, which I don't mind at all. The next 3 tracks sees Good Willsmith working on a more noise oriented sound. My favorite take on this approach is definitely "5MEO-FBI", which feels like some sort of weird club on acid. As someone who doesn't take drugs, this song is what I'd imagine music to sound like after going to a nightclub and taking a hallucinogen. I mean that in a good way. The tracks "Letter Of Snake" and "22 Dogs All Tuckered Out After A Walk" aren't my favorite GWS songs, but I do enjoy what they have to offer. Particularly "22 Dogs..", which shows how out there the band's use of samples can get. It's also is the first time I've ever heard the infamous Korg Miku pedal used on a song, and also the first time I've heard it used in an actually creative light. I'm not sure if I was supposed to notice it or not, but I did. The album ends with my favorite of all these shorter tracks, "High Level Vintage Magic". It mixes the density of the last three tracks, but combines it with the more emotive synth sounds of the first track and their other tapes. It's the sound that made me fall in love with the group in the first place, but strangely wasn't featured very much on this tape. I do appreciate though that the band tried to take their sound in different directions on this tape. It's not perfect, but I feel like it's all a good service for fans while we wait for their sophomore album.

If you're just hearing about them for the first time, I'd say listen to The Honeymoon Workbook, then their other tapes, than come back and listen to this. If you find that you like the band, this is a pretty good fan service. If you'd like a new improv ambient/drone/noise group to check out, give this and Good Willsmith's other releases a listen. They're definitely one of the most interesting and unique bands out there right now, and this is a decent addition to their discography. Enjoy!

10 July 2015

Contortion Horse - "Atheism & Taxidermy"

This is a fun little piece of history. While most people know the legendary Kliph Scurlock as the ex-drummer for The Flaming Lips, he's also known for drumming in tons of punk and hardcore bands back in the 90's and early 2000's (check here for a sort-of-not-really complete list). One such band was Contortion Horse, who released a five-track EP 20 years ago called Atheism & Taxidermy. Also for those not totally familiar with Scurlock's non-Lips career, he's also a pretty great engineer. He's mastered a lot of pretty awesome records as of late, including the sophomore Skating Polly record and the latest Be/Non record. So, for the Contortion Horse EP's 20th anniversary, it only seemed fitting that Kliph would re-master it, exactly 20 years (to the day) of its original mastering by Ed Rose. And I gotta say, it's really great to hear these brutal punk songs put back together so well. Each track sounds nice and loud, but also clear and crisp. It all sounds great. The drums are hard-hitting, the guitars are blown up and scream with feedback, the bass is super crunchy and distorted, and the vocals are brutal. Although I'm pretty late to the party on actually hearing this EP, but better late than never. And I'm really glad I'm getting to hear Kliph's remastered take on it, because it sounds fantastic. I'd check this out if you want to hear a pretty great collection of noisy hardcore punk songs, and a nice piece of Lawrence history. Enjoy!

09 July 2015

Arrington de Dionyso - "Sound is the Medicine"

Olympia's Arrington de Dionyso is a favorite of Riot In My Brain. Whether he's working in noisy trance-punk, throatsinging improv, or bass-clarinet free jazz, he's generally one of the most fearless and most interesting musicians around right now. And the nice thing, for fans, is that he is pretty damn prolific. Whether it's brand new music or re-releasing old favorites, there's always seems to be something for us to chew on. His latest release is Sound is the Medicine, which features two 30+ minute improv tracks recorded directly to magnetic tape. The first track, "Lalove Circular Breathing", features the Lalove instrument, which is a Indonesian bamboo-flute with a really interesting sound (unfortunately I can't look it up, because whenever I google it, all I get is videos of "L.A. Love" by Fergie). While the improv does go for a bit too long, it's still an entrancing piece from Dionyso that I can't say ever feels boring. The sound of the Lalove is always changing, and the speed, timbre, and tune of each note seems to constantly change throughout the track. The second piece on here is "Khomuz Medicine", which features some of Arrington's vocals and several differnt Khomuz, or a Siberian Jewish harp. All of the sounds of this track are really fascinating, especially considering they're all from an acoustic instrument or Arrington himself. The sounds feel very synthetic in rhythm, especially in the beginning. It feels like something being filtered through a modular synth, much less something being played with absolutely no digital processing at all (keep in mind that these pieces of improv where done straight to tape). And that's what I really like about this track in particular, it just has some incredibly unique and fascinating sounds on it, and I really love listening to it. All in all, Sound is the Medicine is a pretty solid release from Dionyso, all though it's definitely not going to be easy to sit through for some. If you're a fan of his more minimal improv pieces and like avant-garde music, I'd recommend giving this record a listen.

Also, for fun, here's the best video on the planet.

08 July 2015

The Sluts - "The Sluts"

Rock and Roll doesn't get much better than the LFK guitar-and-drums duo The Sluts. The band is coming up on their 4th year of being together, but in that time they've made massive waves in the Lawrence scene and have earned a legion of moshing fans (check the video from our friends at I Heart Local Music below if you don't believe me). This is their long-awaited [technical] self-titled album, which features the 4 songs from their The Loser EP and 7 brand new ones. Thankfully, the band has continued to use producer Joel Nanos on this album, who helped bring a much grungier and distorted sound to capture the energy of their last two EPs flawlessly. I can't tell if the songs from The Loser have had any sort of changes done to them, but they still sound great here. I absolutely love the songs "Loser" and "Linger; singer and guitarist Ryan Wise's performances are fantastic on these two tracks in particular, and drummer Kristoffer Dover just bangs the living hell out of his drums and it sounds fantastic. Both these songs are absolutely blood-pumping, and they're great displays of the energy that have made The Sluts so popular. Also, the "woo's" on "Loser" sound incredible. Plenty of points on the album get pretty sludgy as well, like "Summer Song" and "Used To Do It". While I think these tracks lack the heavy breakdowns that make a lot of Sluts tracks so much fun, I do respect the more emotional direction these tracks go for. Speaking of emotional: the closer to this album, called "Simple Song", is probably the most emotional and candid I've ever heard from a Sluts song. I really love it. The guitars are still distorted and grimy, but the whole song has a unique and upfront delivery that sounds great and different amongst the other tracks on this album. "There You Were" also has a similar emotive sound to it, but it fits with the other louder tracks on the rest of the record. But for the most part, this album is full of energy and loud rock performances. I think it's far from perfect, though; I wish some tracks where a bit more developed and went a bit harder, and I do feel like there's nothing particular new in the way of chords or rhythms being played here. But it's still a loud and blood-pumping rock record that I enjoyed quite a bit, and it even adds some extra emotive moments to their usual rock formula. If that sounds like something you'd enjoy, I'd check it out and blast it on your speakers, then mosh as hard as you can.

07 July 2015

The Octopus Project - "Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter OST"

I really enjoy when non-traditional composers or bands get assigned to make a film score. The result isn't always perfect, but I usually end up really enjoying it. Whether it's Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross scoring David Fincher's films or Daft Punk's fantastic score to the so-so TRON: Legacy, I find that when a director decides to use a slightly different source for the music in a movie, it tends to have some interesting results at the very least. From that standpoint, I really enjoyed this scoring effort from one of my favorite indie pop/electronica bands, Austin, TX's The Octopus Project. They scored the 2014 Sundance flick Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter from director and fellow Texan, David Zellner (which came out this year in limited release). This is the second one of Zellner's films that The Octopus Project scored, the other being 2012's Kid-Thing. The score won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Musical Score at Sundance, so I thought it would be worth doing a review on.

While The Octopus Project's Kumiko OST suffers from similar issues that other OST's suffer from that I'll get into in a bit, there are some really great moments that I love on here. The opening track "Into The Cave/Main Theme" starts with a very low hanging drone, then transitions into a lovely composition of what sounds like a mellotron and an acoustic guitar or a synthetic string sound. Regardless of what it technically is, I love how emotional this short piece is. "Library" is a very quiet synthetic organ piece; and while not particularly original in its chording, it still sounds pretty nice. "Bunzo" is a slow, pounding, dramatic song that is pretty minimal, but very punchy and vintage-sounding. I really like the vibe it has. Speaking of vintage, the 40-second "Michi" has a really awesome synth tone on it. "Airport" has an incredible atmosphere; the track features just 3 main layers, but does an incredible job at making each one as interesting and as full as it can be. The opening drone has an odd and bright vocal quality to it, while the melody being played on a very warbly synth sounds like something directly off an old electronic tape, and the short hits of bass help tie it all together perfectly. "Diner Walk" is one of the noiser and louder tracks to be sound on this soundtrack, featuring some distorted synths and guitars that sound pretty sweet."Hotel Cloak" has a very dramatic, almost spaghetti western feel to it, with it's tight but trebly guitars and slowly developing synths. "Wrong Idea" is a very atmospheric but short ambient piece, filled with low filtered arpeggiating synth sounds and gentle swells of outside synths or guitars, I'm not sure which. "Forest Morning" is filled with some lovely glockenspiel and background synthesizers, making for a nice little emotive composition. Speaking of emotive, the very loud track "A Discovery" feels almost euphoric with it's warm blast of buzzing synth drones layered on top of eachother. It sounds pretty incredible. And then the soundtrack ends off with a reprise of the main theme from the beginning, and that's also really nice to listen to. There's not much to distinguish it from the first version we've already heard, but it's a nice ending.

Now, here are my issues with the OST. Like most scores, there's some pieces that are clearly would work better in the context of the movie as opposed to listening to it by itself. And that's not something I'm saying The Octopus Project did badly. The tracks where this sort of thing happens are much more experimental or drone based, and they definitely don't sound too bad. But there are just a bit too many on here, and it makes the soundtrack feel a bit disjointed, and not as easy to listen to. And like I said, I don't fault the band on this at all. This is a film score, it's meant to go a long side the film and enhance the emotions on screen. And quite a few times, it also translates into interesting and beautiful songs, but sometimes it gets a little hard to listen to when you know it would work better being along side the film. That being said, I do find this to be a lot more complete and easier to listen to than a lot of OST's are. I do like it quite a bit, and I think it's worth a listen. And if you'd like a physical copy, our buddies over at Illuminated Paths released a limited run cassette edition of it that also includes a live record from the band playing back in 2007 (the embedded Bandcamp album is from Illuminated Paths, and you can buy a copy of the tape from there. Or, you can just go to this link here).

06 July 2015

M. Geddes Gengras - "3 Impressions"

There used to be a really cool marketing technique in the 60's and 70's where music companies would put out records to display the features of their products, called Demonstration Records. You can find stuff from MaestroYamaha, and even the legendary electronics's company Moog Music did this quite a bit back when it was a popular tactic. If you go to a record store, ask if they have an "oddball" or "genreless" section; there's a fair chance there will be a few records demonstrating the power of the early Moog Synthesizers. Some records, like Dick Hyman's MOOG: The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman and Wendy Carlos' Switched On Bach, are less of advertisements, but actual albums that demonstrate the instruments. These records are honestly really entertaining to listen to. Now however, in the days of gear demo videos on YouTube, this fun way of marketing has gone by the way side. But thanks to Moog and synth master M. Geddes Gengras, we have his 3 Impressions EP, a free EP made entirely with Moog gear. I think Gengras is one of the more talented synth artists working today, and I really love hearing him working with more ambient sounds. While usually focusing more on modular synthesis, the Moog devices seem to be fantastic creative tools for him on this EP, and it's really a joy to listen to.

On "I", the first thing we hear is a massive filtered synth bass note, which turns into the main melody as more and more layers of gooey synth introduce themselves underneath. It's an 8-minute ambient trip with a lot of incredible textures, each one being thicker and more filtered than the last. It's really a beautiful scape of sound that Gengras creates. "II" starts with a very slow but emotive bass sound, then these popping synth filters introduce themselves, creating some really fascinating textures that sound like something between a demented pan flute and rain drops. I'm assuming Gengras is using the patterns of the MIDI Murf for that, and it's a unique and creative sound for sure. Like the first track, "II" is a very full and rich synth track that is lovely on the ears, and is constantly developing and changing. Speaking of the MIDI Murf, the first sound we hear on "III" is a stereo tracked synth zapping back and forth between both ears, creating one of the most interesting effects I've heard in a while. This 12 minute monster is probably the one that develops the most as it goes. The sounds on this track are particularly well arranged. I like how the time and tempo seems to change at random, and there's a very tight but subtle bass sound that is always keeping things together in the background. The beats coming from the MIDI Murf sound absolutely fantastic as well. Like the other tracks, the synth textures sound sound really incredible, and I love the progression on this track in particular.

For a beginner to M. Geddes' electronic pieces, I think this is a great starting point. Not only are the ambient sounds pretty accessible, they're really quite beautiful as well. I really would recommend checking this one out. While I do realize that ultimately this EP is just an advertisement for Moog products, similar to The Lego Movie, it's the best and most creative commercial I've ever seen (or heard, in this case).

05 July 2015

The Wandering Lake - "Wend To Why"

The Wandering Lake is a psychedelic folk project from Brian Kupillas, of the Arkansas band SW/MM/NG. While SW/MM/NG is taking a bit of a break after their fantastic debut album Feel Not Bad (which definitely should've been on my 2014 list), Brian seems to have made a new home in Lawrence, KS. His debut record as The Wandering Lake, Wend To Why, has been released by our good friends over at Whatever Forever. I picked up a copy of the album's accompanying art zine, and received a free download along with it. I have been hard pressed to stop listening to it, honestly. Everything about this record is fantastic. Kupillas' voice is one of the more unique ones on the block as far as folk singers go, and it's really quite entrancing. His lyricism and songwriting feel very genuine and well crafted. The guitars on this album, ranging from trebled-out acoustics ("I Hope I Meet All Of You Again") to electric guitars with warped psychedelic tones ("Memphis") and warm fuzzy sounds ("Return To View"), all sound wonderful and add great sonic textures to each song. Each of the 9 tracks on this album feature top notch production and mastering; everything sounds incredibly tight and punchy, like you're in the room while it's being played. And all the other backing instrumentation (including the drums and keyboards) sound nothing less of wonderful. There is really not a single track on here that I don't absolutely love, and I feel like with repeated listens I'm only going to get deeper and deeper into it. Wend To Why is an incredible first effort from Kupillas that is worthy of some pretty high praises. Check it out!

04 July 2015

Major Games - "Major Games"

For me and most of the musical community of Lawrence, KS, the debut Major Games record has been one of the most anticipated releases of 2015. The three piece post-punk/shoegaze band has been around for quite a few years, but they only have on release to their name: their fantastic EP1, which came out all the way back in 2011. The band stayed fairly silent for about 2 years while recording this album, but they made their comeback at 2014's Lawrence Field Day Fest. One year later, we finally have the band's self-titled album, a full 4 years after their EP came out. And my god, it's awesome. It was well worth the wait.

The record starts with the textured and emotive "Life". The beautiful, reverb-slathered guitar sounds fill the whole space, while the tight bass line and hard hitting drums sit appropriately in the mix, making the whole son an instrumental powerhouse. The vocals from bassist Jeremy Sidener are passionate and full of [no pun intended] life. It's a wonderfully hazy song that is full of atmosphere and feeling that is perfect to start the record. Next up is "Prism", a very slow heavy burner that is methodical in it's approach. While the track might be boring to some, the incredibly emotional build it displays is really entrancing, and I really love it. But if that song is a bit slow for you, just wait for the absolutely brutal "Jennerz". This track is just... It's crushing. The melody and tone of the whole song is incredibly dark and heavy, and the guitar work from Doug McKinney is really out there. It sounds like he's using some sort of modulating delay (possibly from an Earthquaker Devices Rainbow Machine?), but adding a distortion before or after it that just makes it squeal and sound like the guitar is being shot at you from sort of hollow metal tube. His tone on this track is fascinating. It just adds to the track's incredibly brooding tone. I love it. Next is a track that's equally dark, "Other Location". The main guitar riff on the song is really eerie, and the song just keeps going down an even more sinister rabbit hole as it progresses. It keeps getting heavier and harder until it just seems to collapse in on itself. The texture on McKinney's guitar is really something, and Sidener's distorted bass that comes in around the 3 and a half minute mark is one of the more subtle changes to the texture, but it adds loads of atmosphere and makes it all even more crushing. It's incredible just how dark it gets, and I think it's amazing. The song "Risk" is the closest thing to an accessible punk song that I've heard Major Games pull, but oh my god. Doug McKinney's guitar on this track is INSANE. The heavy drumming and Sidener's vocals and bass make the track fantastic and heavy in it's own right, but McKinney really steals the show here. The high octave swells and bends are beautiful, and the heavy use of his whammy bar to create an intense vibrato add up to an amazing performance. It's just straight up mind warping, honestly. "BDBDBD" is kind of a slow burner like "Prism", but there's a very heavy payoff. The breakdown for the song is just absolutely bone chilling, you really need to experience it for yourself. "Burner" is another fast post-punk track that continues to get heavier and heavier as it goes. Jeremy Sidener's vocals on this track are particular noteworthy; I really love the emotional quality it has when he gets into his higher register and is shouting the lyrics. It just makes the whole thing particularly fist-pumping. McKinney's solo is also really solid as well, with his high octave playing and use of the whammy bar to create a really distinct and emotive sound. The album ends on "Voice", a very atmospheric and moving track that provides this album with the perfect finish. You can really feel every moment of this track; it's really wonderful and beautiful. And before you know it, all the instruments are seemingly swallowed in a sea of white noise that slowly fades out of existence.

This album is a masterwork of post-punk and shoegaze, full of emotion and volume. Major Games spent a long time putting in the effort to make this LP as good as it could be, and it really shows. All 3 members of this band put in their full energy to their respective instruments and talents, and it all sounds incredible. Whether the songs are fast and hard, or heavy and brooding, the group knows exactly how to display the emotions and mood of a track and put it on display in full force. And the mastering from drummer Steve Squire sounds fantastic. Major Games made an LP that I would consider almost flawless. This is definitely one of the best albums I've heard this year, and I will keep listening to it whenever I get a chance. I'd check it out as soon as you can. I want to thank the band for the extra effort they put in, because it comes through in how amazing the record turned out.

03 July 2015

Droneroom - "Piss Poor"

Droneroom is an ambient noise project from Nashville, fronted by Blake Conley. His latest release is the 21 minute track "Piss Poor" (I don't know quite what to classify the release as, so I'll just call it a single), released via the experimental Nashville label Sweet Sounds Records. If you're into ambient and experimental music, I'd definitely recommend giving this single a listen. It starts off with a trebly tremelo guitar chord, looped and repeating very meditatively. Then slowly a drone builds up around it, on what sounds like some kind of organ. Eventually some more guitars introduce themselves as well as some very hazy vocals. After vocals come in, slowly the track delves into a more experimental sound, incorporating some more atonal sounds that give it a very eerie quality. Then around the 14 minute mark, suddenly there's a shot of noise that's almost like fire being thrown at you. The guitar sounds get more distorted and harsh, making the song fairly intense while they're there. Then it slowly fades out, leaving you in a trance after 20 minutes of experimental heaven. This is a very solid release from Droneroom, and I'd really like to hear what he comes out with in the future. I recommend it if you're wanting a new ambient artist to check out.

02 July 2015

Arc Flash - "Black Market Time Tech"

Lawrence, KS punk band Arc Flash were on my watch list for quite a while before the release of this debut album. Comprised of Mau Bones' James Thomblison, The Lusty Flowers' Lewis Guillen, and OILS / Karma Vision / CS Luxem drummer Mark Osman, this band is an incredible supergroup of Whatever Forever alumni and talent. After gathering hype from their frequent, energetic live performances and a split tape with New Orleans' Ex Spectors, the band released their debut album Black Market Time Tech back in March. The album begins with an eerie message taken from what sounds like an 80's self help VHS, then immediately jumps into full force with "Critical", a short and sweet punk track that works as a good introduction to the band's sound. Next is the track "Titan", which is easily one of my favorite tracks here. It's full of energy and atmosphere, it makes me want to mosh even when I'm just sitting in my room writing this review. This is also where you can start seeing Thomblison's roots in ambient music; there is a thick delay on his guitar throughout the song (James can be seen at live shows with 3 or more delay pedals), and the song ends in a wide experimental soundscape that sounds amazing. That psychedelic influences continue heavily into "Tuff", a song that's definitely as heavy and as moshable as "Titan". The vocals on this track are absolutely blood pumping. Then at it's peak, the song slowly disintegrates into a dense psychic haze, with James barely singing, and the drums getting lighter and lighter. Then there's a snare hit, and we're right back into this amazing psych punk piece. The album slows down a bit for the emotionally charged "Earls", one of the most beautiful songs I've heard this year. Beneath the crisp guitar, crunchy bass, snappy drums (I swear that wasn't intended to be a moto for some sort of musical cereal) and emotive vocals, there are these small but powerful pockets of high octave ambient swells to be found hovering in the background. It's just lovely. Now, on the digital version, the drone that ends this track is very quiet and slowly fizzles out. But on the tape copy that I have, the drone keeps rising in size, creating a massive ambient texture until it finally runs out of time and just suddenly stops. Needless to say, I like that a bit more. The second side of the tape starts with "Blood". Once this track hits the chorus, I just lose it. After you've listened to this album as much as I have, you can't help but scream all the words, and mosh with anyone who's near by. Sorry to anyone who's been on the bus while I've listened to it. On my tape copy, the next two tracks "Divination" and "Pieces" are in a different order than they are on the digital release. Doesn't really affect anything, I think both orders work fine. "Divination" is a pretty fun track, probably the closest thing to a happy song that Arc Flash could do. It's still got plenty of energy and force, and has some really awesome sludgy guitar sounds in it. I also love the wah-wah used on this track. It sticks out from the rest of the guitar sounds on the album, so I just really enjoy it each time I hear it. The song "Pieces" is another absolute mosher (is that a word? well, it is now). The highlight of this song for me is how high James' vocals get on the opening lyrics. It gets me each time, and sets the energetic ton of the track perfectly. The album ends perfectly with "Sink", a perfect mix of Arc Flash's energy and the more emotive parts of their sound. The track's end drone, like "Earls", is really beautiful. But also like "Earls", the tape version I have just continues to rise and swell and I consider that to be the much more definitive sound of the drone. However, this track sounds like it's had a takeover from Agent X-12. Like, the drone is just suddenly interrupted by loud noise waves and squeals. And like "Earls", I like this tape version quite a bit better, and it kind of confuses me why these versions weren't on the digital release as well. But oh well. I do like both versions.

While I do think that the band's split with Ex Spector better shows the ferocity of their sound, I think this album is still incredible. I love every song, and the performances are all-around fantastic. I love to let this album play as loud as I can stand, and just feel all the layers to the songs. The experimentation with more ambient and delay-heavy guitars from Thomblison make this one of the most unique psych punk albums I've heard in a while. The drums are fast and pounding, the bass lines are tight and crunchy, and the vocals are emotive and powerful as hell. As the cover art says, this album gives you results guaranteed, and I think those results are helped with multiple listens.

01 July 2015

My Favorite Albums of 2014

Well everyone, Riot In My Brain is back once again with the big end of the year list for 2014. I heard a lot of great music this year, for sure. This list is a culmination of my personal favorites and albums I thought were worth recognizing as the years best. I spent a lot of time putting this together, so I hope you guys like it. If you have a question about my list (ex: why isn't [insert album] on the list? why is [insert album] at this point in the list?), feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll get to it as soon as I can. Thanks to everyone who made 2014 a solid year for music. Keep doing what you do.
Without further ado, here we go:

75. Arrington De Dionyso with Gal Lazer Shiloach - Lovers and Dragons

74. Superdensecrushloadfactor - Themes

73. Alt J - This Is All Yours

72. If This Is A Man - Vemod

71. Something And The Whatevers - Sold Our Souls For Wicked Lulz

70. Ozark Soundscape - Pink Cowboy Hat

69. Open Mike Eagle - Dark Comedy

68. Alex G - DSU

67. 2814- 2814

66. Modern Baseball - You're Gonna Miss It All

65. Busdriver - Perfect Hair

64. A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Sea When Absent

63. death's dynamic shroud.wmv - VIRTUAL UTOPIA EXPERIENCE

62. Arrington de Dionyso - UNHEARD INDONESIA: Vol. 3 and Vol. 5

61. Marcus Eads - Yacht Fire!

60. WHOOP-Szo - Niizhwaaswo

59. Tony Molina - Dissed And Dismissed

58. Spoon - They Want My Soul

57. Quilt - Held In Splendor

56. Promartyr - Under Color Of Official Right

55. Gem Club - In Roses

54. Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. - Astrogasm from the Inner Space

53. St. Vincent - St. Vincent

52. Brian Chippendale And Greg Saunier - Brian Chippendale And Greg Saunier

51. Daniel Klag - Twin Labryinths

50. FKA twigs - LP1

49. Sneaky Creeps - Negative Space

48. Morgan Delt - Morgan Delt

47. Thee Oh Sees - Drop

46. Lipstick Elite - Stay Passionate, But Be Discrete

45. Ariel Pink - pom pom

44. La Dispute - Rooms of the House

43. White Fence - For The Recently Found Innocent


41. Woodsman - Woodsman

40. Iceage - Plowing Into The Fields Of Love

39. Gnarly Davidson - Gnarly Davidson

38. Juçara Marçal - Encarnado

37. 회사AUTO - Neon Beige

36. Virescent - Journal

35. AL Riggs and The Inconveniences - Pasquotank

34. Cloud Nothings - Here And Nowhere Else

33. Alvvays - Alvvays

32. Piano Becomes The Teeth - Keep You

31. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Days Of Abandon

30. Gruff Rhys - American Interior

29. Grouper - Ruins

28. YlangYlang - Am I being overdramatic?

27. Netherfriends - P3ACE

26. Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2

25. Chapa Mamba - S/T

24. The Dead Girls - Noisemaker

23. Lost Trail - Chapter 19, In Which Lost Trail Faces The Year's End

22. Bohren And Der Club Of Gore - Piano Nights

21. The Answer Page - The Nightmares of my Dearest Cardinal

20. Ricky Eat Acid - Three Love Songs


18. clipping. - CLPPNG.

17. Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World

16. Have A Nice Life - The Unnatural World

15. Fishboy - An Elephant

14. All Blood - The Kids Have No Taste

13. Amen Dunes - Love

12. Lake Mary - There Are Always Second Chances In The Mountain

11. Merlin - Christ Killer

10. Julie Byrne - Rooms Without Walls Or Windows

9. Car Seat Headrest - How to Leave Town


7. Mac Demarco - Salad Days 

6. Deerhoof - La Isla Bonita

5. Swans - To Be Kind

4. Dirty Beaches - Stateless

3. Good Willsmith - The Honeymoon Workbook

2. Perfume Genius - Too Bright

1. Sun Kil Moon - Benji

I know I didn't write a description of why I loved the other albums of on this list, but I felt it necessary for my top pick. Regardless of Mark Kozelek media activity lately, it's impossible for me to think of any other album to top this list. I think it's incredibly hard to find an album that's so brutally honest and unflinchingly real, almost to the point where it gets hard to listen to. Benji is definitely that album. Each songs tells a story in immense detail, in a way I've never really heard. Mark Kozelek doesn't put you in a place and a time like other singer/songwriters do. You don't experience it yourself, you just see what he's experiencing, and it allows it to reflect on what you've experienced. His stories of death, mortality, family, friends, love, and life are just that: His. But they're so universal. These are all things that everyone has to deal with. Kozelek just shows you his experiences, and it's heartbreaking and gutwrenching to hear them. I just... It's incredible. This album is perfect to me in every way. The instrumentation is beautiful, Kozelek's vocal range shows the perfect emotive qualities on every song, and his story telling is absolutely incredible. The honesty that Kozelek shows is unmatched; most singers would never even consider putting their life on display the way he does. But the fact that he does makes everything so much more real. And I think him for that. This album has really made me think and reflect on my life and my experiences after every time I listen to it. It is easily the best album I have listened to from 2014, and I don't plan to stop listening to it anytime soon.

Honorable Mentions
18 Carat Affair - Adventures In Schizophrenia
Aesop Rock - The Blob
C. Scott And The Belltones - Alleged Junior Prom Queen Fanatic
Caribou - Our Love
Cerce - Adieux
D'Angelo And The Vanguard - Black Messiah
Death Grips - Government Plates
Dor - grey, north carolina
Golden Living Room - NEW NOSTALGIA
Graze - Soft Gamma Repeater
Guardian Alien - Spiritual Emergency
Hospitality - Trouble
Jess Williamson - Native State
Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again
Margot And The Nuclear So And So's - Slingshot To Heaven
Marissa Nadler - July
Mensa Group International - FJORDS, VOL. V
Milo - A Toothpaste Suburb
Mogwai - Rave Tapes
Nevhar Anhar - ☥Walking Around The Rings☥
NYKDLN - Free Gucci Man Cruise 740
Painted Palms - Forever
Pink Floyd - The Endless River
Sister - Rules Of Courtly Love
Solids - Blame Confusion
Sopor - Deprimere
The Antlers - Familiars
Thee Mt. Silver Zion Memorial Orchestra - Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything
Tigers Jaw - Charmer
Ty Segall - Manipulator
You Blew It! - Keep Doing What You're Doing