It’s been a while. I know you’ve missed me. So let me get to the point here and tell you that I have been hooked on all four of these albums lately and I felt they deserved a shout out for their utter, shall I say, AWESOMENESS.
Matthew Mayfield – A Banquet for Ghosts
(I’m cheating and recommending Now You’re Free as well…)
I saw Matthew back in 2007 when he was touring with his rock quartet, Moses Mayfield (which much to my sadness released an EP and disbanded, but whose songs remain on my iPod to this day). It never occurred to me that maybe there could be more after the band went their separate ways, but oh my, is there more. Matthew has put out six EPs and two full-length albums since 2008. I’ve listened to them all in the past week. I don’t regret it. (I’ve watched every video too, but maybe that’s just because he’s easy on the eyes as well…but I’m sure he’s well aware.)
There’s something about a really crisp, raw rock vocal on rock infused pop-folk that just does the trick. The Alabama native is prolific, to say the least, and his songs are well written, well arranged, and perfect for those days you either want to sob while eating a pint or flying down the highway with the windows down feeling untouchable ..or the ones in between when you’re working in your cubicle having your mediocre day.
At a cellular level, the songs are emotionally jarring and his talent is overtly obvious. He’s even got a kick-ass cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” too.
Walk The Moon – Self Titled
I first heard these guys, of all places, on a Virgin America plane flight back from LA to Boston in a NyQuil dazed half-sleep. Made for Virgin America’s in-flight TV, this acoustic version of “Anna Sun” was captivating enough to make me wait the hours of Virgin America programming to watch it again. (It was worth it, don’t worry).
The acoustic versions of their songs rival the album versions, which takes a particular level of production and musical awareness to make electronic rock songs work as acoustic songs – and they do it well. Moving to their Self Titled album from the video was a breeze and opened a Pandora’s Box of new catchy synth sounds, guitar licks, and oh so beautiful melodies – a perfect marriage of electronic and live rock elements. Proving again that Ohio is an Idie Rock mecca, (joining The Black Keys, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and even rockers Trent Reznor and Dave Grohl) these guys are solid enough to make me wish they did Talking Heads covers – oh wait they do now. Keep an eye out for them at Bonnaroo this year, too.
The Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Ok, I really don’t know how I missed these guys my entire life, especially after being raised on alt-rock. Clearly I’ve missed the root of all influence for bands I’ve been listening to forever: Rage Against The Machine, Foo Fighters, STP, Alice in Chains, etc, etc. I know I have decades of music by The Deftones to get through, but this album, their seventh, is so solid. The vocals are a work of art. Just on the cusp of metal, with the elements of all rock genres make it bridge a gap where my threshold for screaming is located between alternative rock (yes) and hardcore (no). It’s all about the vocal for me and damn, Chino Moreno can sing. And I do love me some double bass drum, so it’s a win-win.
This album is the antithesis of alternative rock for me in the modern age. With nods to nineties sound but with a new digital edge, it’s well worth a listen. If nothing else, it will remind you where all your favorite bands borrowed their ideas from. This sound isn’t dead – it’s still very much alive and still awesome as ever.
High Contrast – The Agony & the Ecstasy
And now for something completely different: ELECTRONIC MUSIC! You didn’t think you’d get away from a Kimbie Jabber article without some EDM, did you?! Don’t worry, this record will smack you in the face just as hard as The Deftones, but in a different way. This record is all about the drum and bass.
First off, the title track “The Agony & the Ecstasy” is a great opening to the record, with a strong vocal I can’t keep myself from singing along with. Throw that in with some super wonky bass, orchestral and string parts, and strong counter-melodies in the synth lines, you’ll be hooked for the whole album. It’s obvious that his influence stems from filmscores. Listening is highly enjoyable but if taken too critically, it can make you feel woefully inadequate as a producer and musician. This guy is good.
Tied to the d&b behemoth Hospital Records, he’s also remixed some huge names including Coldplay, Kayne West, Tïesto, and The White Stripes. I have to throw this one in here too, as it’s a great remix of one of my favorite Imogen Heap songs, “Headlock”: