Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Oceansize - Frames

Methinks I'll also post a few reviews from the past of those albums which had that extra special moxy! First up is Frames by some Brits.

Corporations spend millions of dollars each year trying to come up with good names for products, but none of those overpaid specialists have come up with a name as fitting as Oceansize. Frames is the third album from this talented British quintet whose music is as expansive, beautiful and effortlessly changing as the ocean. Their music defies easy categorization, displaying at times the hooky power-pop meat of Splendor, and at others the shoegazer mist of My Bloody Valentine, the rough rhythms of Tool or the drifting psychedelia of early Pink Floyd.

Listening to Frames is like drifting in the middle of the ocean. There’s an orderly feel to the rise and fall of the waves, but there’s also chaos and a seemingly random movement to the fluctuations of each individual swell. One moment you’re floating serenely, awestruck by the beauty of the water and the wondrously massive sky above. But as you watch the sky it slowly darkens and the water gets choppy. Your once peaceful bobbing becomes a violent upheaval as the waves repeatedly lift and aggressively drop you. Still later they calm to a hypnotic tranquility.

The music packs a massive emotional wallop behind the meticulously crafted melodic hooks that will tug at you from the very first listen and eventually become addictive. True to their name, Oceansize write some pretty big songs encompassing some pretty big ideas. A lesser talent would turn it all into a convoluted mess, but these brave souls somehow massage their songs into a giant wow. Their scope is so broad and yet so universally appealing that it’s difficult not to fall under their spell. Do you like Nirvana and Foo Fighters? Check. Led Zeppelin and classic Black Sabbath? Got it. Wilco and Radiohead? It’s in there. King Crimson or even the Beatles? Got it covered. Nuanced art rock, power pop, intelligent metal, sophisticated space rock, even classical … it’s all there living in perfect harmony. I have a feeling that if Oceansize really wanted to pack jazz, hip-hop and country into their mix they would somehow find a way.

This past weekend I woke up in the middle of the night with an Oceansize song demanding to be played in my head. I need help. I’m the first to admit that when I really truly like a band, it’s probably doomed to commercial failure. The vast majority of people will find it too weird for their tastes. But I’ve been surprised at the response I get when I force, er, coax my friends to listen to Frames. The typical response has been, “Hey, this is pretty good!” I think they’re as surprised as I am.

The lucky Brits have had this album for two years. Why it took so long to cross the big pond and get an official U.S. release is beyond me, but it has definitely been worth the wait. It’s easily the best album I’ve heard in six months, possibly the best of 2009. Frames is the kind of album music geeks wait years to find. Don’t wait two years to find out why Oceansize have been called the most underrated band in Britain.

A Friendly Warning

Know that Fifth-Third Bank
Will not call at five A.M.
About your check card.


There is no joy like
Finding that you possess a
Cancer-free colon.

Monday, March 29, 2010

fun. - Aim & Ingite

One of the better albusm of 2009:

When indie favorites The Format broke up founding member Nate Ruess decided to follow his own muse and formed .fun, a band which knows no limits when it comes to style, instrumentation, composition, or any other “tion” in the book. The debut album, Aim and Ignite, is a mere ten songs but wowzers, what a whole bunch of ground these ten songs cover!

The opening song, “Be Calm”, is anything but, starting with an accordion and string section that brings a lilting melody to reluctant life. The song mellows, bemoaning “Why oh why” things must be so bad before the tempo picks up with flutes and more strings, leading the way to a mechanical sounding rhythm section and conversational vocals. The questions these voices bring are answered with inspirational horns and emotional post-rock beats that bring Queen to mind, frenetically growing to the lofty heights of a euphoric show tune finale. All this in just over four minutes, and a more enjoyable four minutes you’ll be hard pressed to find.

The rest of the album, while not as schizophrenic, is equally pleasant. “Benson Hedges” mixes rousing rock with a gospel choir and massive amounts of frantic energy. One of the best songs on the album, “All The Pretty Girls”, starts off with a wall of vocals, compliments of E.L.O., and quickly moves to a danceable, enthusiastic song accompanied by a solo violin that makes one think of Dexy’s Midnight Runner. “I Wanna Be The One” wastes no time in bringing in lots of horns and lots of Jellyfish influence, possibly because Ruess enlisted the help of former Jellyfish keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning Jr. A big swing beat and steel drum characterizes “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used to Be)”, contrasting its big singalong style to the following somber “Light A Roman Candle with Me”, a song which makes no attempt to hide its piano bar origins. Well, maybe it does try, using copious amounts of vocal harmonies, a bouncy bass driven happy beat, muted horns, and theatrical vocals that lift your spirits to soaring heights.

Despite having about fifty different instruments and a kitchen sink, the production is amazing, refusing to bog down these playful quirky songs with sonic sludge. As you might hope to expect from a band named .fun Aim and Ignite is forty minutes of amusing distractions from the doldrums of life. Good stuff? You bet, especially for fans of Mika and today’s batch of Queen-inspired indie-rock mavens.

Friday, March 26, 2010

John Gorka - So Dark You See

Because I'm hurtin' for material I thought I would also post my CD reviews as they are published. Have fun!

Years ago I downloaded John Gorka’s Temporary Road album from his web site, an album filled with so many exceptional songs that I nearly feel guilty for getting it free. Despite how fun it is to say “GORKA! GORKA! GORKA!” it took me until the recent release of So Dark You See to pick up another John Gorka album. Without having his other nine studio albums I can’t say how this one fits into the grand scheme but after multiple listens, both at work and while whittling a stick on the back porch, I can say that So Dark You See leaves me underwhelmed.

Mr. Gorka is known for his rich and gentle baritone voice, his flowing and gentle acoustic finger picked guitar style, and his folksy and gentle story telling songwriting. While Temporary Road contained ample amounts of gently self-effacing humor (okay, I’m done with the “gentle” joke now) So Dark You See lacks this bite, leaving the stories feeling a bit more typically singer/songwriter self-indulgent. For instance, the upbeat “Ignorance & Privilege”, with lyrics such as “I was born to privilege that I did not see / Lack of pigment in my skin won a free and easy in / I didn’t know but my way was paved” comes across as intellectually condescending whereas a bit of humor might have tempered the preachy delivery.

However all is not lost. The album begins with “A Fond Kiss,” a delicate, calming song beautifully crafted around the Robert Burns poem of the same name. “Can’t Get Over It” is appropriately melancholic as it mourns the passing of a friend, utilizing an accordion for an appropriately lonely feel. Likewise “Diminishing Winds” focuses on loss and eventual acceptance with a somber realism that will leave you blinking in astonishment. A personal favorite is the foot tapping “Whole Wide World” which finds the protagonist with an address on a dead-end street wondering what his life would be like if “the one” hadn’t gotten away, all decked out with restrained vocal harmonies and chilling electric piano. The patient listener is also treated to two too-brief instrumental tracks which showcase Gorka’s solid mastery of the guitar.

So Dark You See finds John Gorka seemingly at an impasse. He’s been in the music business for decades and no longer has the hungry desire that provided a wonderful contrast to his yearning vocals of things that should be and opportunities barely missed. Without the depth of this disparity his folksy, conversational music seems just a bit flat and worn, leaving one wishing for what might have been, just like the characters which populate his lyrics. Hey, maybe this is intentional, some Gorktastic master meta-plan to make the listener identify with the songs. That would be pure genius!

Better by the Bunch

Need to fix the car
But it’s rainy out and cold.
I hope the brakes work.

What’s for snack tonight?
Ice cream? Cookies? Crisp, fresh fruit?
How ‘bout wood and rocks?

Only one more year
Until I hit the four-oh
I am very blessed.

Run with that candy
But toddler legs cannot beat
The long arm of dad.

Someday I will start
A business: “The Soffit Store”
I’ll make millions, sure.

Monday, March 22, 2010


The older I get
The more beer grows in esteem
But not when it’s green

A chewy brownie
Is the perfect antidote
For the Thursday blahs.

Oops, I fell behind
In my daily haiku chore
So here are a bunch.

For world class coaster
You need travel no further
Than Holiday World

I hope that last one
Wins us a free trip for four
To Holiday World

A sound at six ten
Tessa with pillow and doll
Closing Lyndi’s door.

I would rather have
A bad day with my wife than
Ten good without her.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Don't freak out... the missing days are coming.

For world-class coasters
You need travel no further
Than Holiday World.

Monday, March 15, 2010

No Haiku

I fear for the future of this country.

No, not for the many politically unConstitutional crimes being committed in Washington but because the first generation of wide-spread hyphenated named kids are starting to marry. Chaos is just around the corner.

Imagine is Jimmy Rosebud-Pencil falls madly in love with Jenny Furnace-Heep. They marry and become Mr. and Mrs. Rosebud-Pencil-Furnace-Heep. They have a child who falls madly in love with Jordon Thingamabob-Mason-Gruber-Lollipop. They marry and become Mr. and Mrs. Rosebud-Pencil-Furnace-Heep-Thingamabob-Mason-Gruber-Lollipop. Etc.

In only a few generations names will become so long as to be meaningless and the government will mandate that everyone have the last name of Smith. Except for those already named Smith who will renamed Smythe.


Daylight savings time:
If one is good, why not three?
Begin the mind games!

Sunday cold and rain
Glad it was only the hose
And not calipers.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Mid-morning at work;
A hankering for cookies.
What a cruel torture.

For sheer excitement
Nothing beats Matthew Hoffman
And his Math Bowl Math

3/12/2010“Deadly Edge” by Stark:
Reading it will give you an
Aerobic workout.

I’m sure it’s all me
But Facebook makes me depressed.
It’s time for goodbye.

My car needs some work
Wheel cylinder and bearings
If it does not rain.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Raspberry bushes
Do not like to be thinned out.
It’s best to wear gloves.

Hi-hat, snare, bass drum
Pick two and all will be good
Try three and it bombs.

Matthew had a pain
In his neck. Surprisingly
It was not his bro.

Raspberry bushes
Do not like to be thinned out.
It’s best to wear gloves.

Hi-hat, snare, bass drum
Pick two and all will be good
Try three and it bombs.

Matthew had a pain
In his neck. Surprisingly
It was not his bro.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Edgar Allan Poe
Was a very fine old man
Like old man tucker.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Big Batch

First day of the month
Work work work work work work work
First day of the month

How can you be scared
Of a dentist you have seen
Fishing with your dad?

The clarinet boy
Plays his last middle school show.
Will he march AND play?

What a rough work day!
Ground up, worn down, spit back out
Good thing this is rare.

Fame and fortune call
For tonight our very own
Brooke will hit the stage!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The shortest month

Outlasted again;
Try again tomorrow night.
Baby drank caffeine.

Last basketball game,
All there will have no doubt that
Lyndi rocks the court.

Church in the morning,
Afternoon family walk,
Live for days like these.