IC2S Playlist Update 04/11/2015

First up this week is “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses from Use Your Illusion I. For years, I considered this my all-time favourite song. While it has since been dethroned by “(*Fin)” by Anberlin (which, even then, was my 2nd favourite), I still really like it and Guns N’ Roses. If I had to guess, I’d imagine that my cooling attitude towards the song has to do with moving past teenage angst, so a breakup song like this is less appealing than a more thoughtful/theological/philosophical song like “(*Fin)”.

Naturally I decided to pick this song since it is the first week of November. I used to have a tradition on Facebook where I’d post a line from the song every day until the end of the month, at which point I’d post the song’s epic music video. It’s really too bad that Axl Rose is such a crazy asshole – it’d be great to get the original lineup back.

Secondly, we have “Down the Rabbit Hole” by Sovereign Council from their first album, New Reign. This is probably their best song from their debut album, although due to lineup changes, they aren’t able to play it anymore without a guest guitarist (since the song requires 2 lead guitars. This was disappointing, but it really reminded me just how good this song was and how much I wanted to hear it.

By the way, this entry how puts us to 56 songs and just short of 5 hours of music! That’s a pretty big accomplishment as far as I’m concerned, but it does make me wonder how long I’m going to keep the playlist going. I’m currently thinking that I’d like to keep it on a weekly update schedule at least until the playlist’s 1 year anniversary, but after that we’ll see how it goes.

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 12/08/2015

Sorry that I missed last week’s playlist update with basically no warning, the last couple weeks have been extremely busy for me. I have been travelling all over the place recently, mainly between work and my brother’s wedding. The wedding was the main reason that I delayed the playlist for a week, since I was a part of the wedding party and had to head down to St. Catherines to attend. However, we’re back on track now and will hopefully continue to stay fairly regular.

First up this week is “Fight Test” by The Flaming Lips from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. This is far and away my favourite Flaming Lips album and song, and happens to be the song which first hooked me into them. When I was in high school, a friend of mine asked to borrow my flash drive so that they could listen to some music on the school computer. However, they forgot to take the songs off of it afterwards, so when I got home I found some new music to check out. I had expected to like the They Might Be Giants stuff that was on there because I had heard a lot of good things about them, but I ended up getting disappointed. There were a few other artists as well, but none of them really appealed to me. Finally I came to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and wasn’t expecting much. However, “Fight Test” immediately transfixed me and left me saying “holy shit, this is actually very good”, before I went and listened to the rest of the album.

If you haven’t listened to them before, The Flaming Lips are a rather experimental psychedelic rock band. Yoshimi is easily their most accessible album, and arguably their most polished as well. “Fight Test” is one of their most resonant songs in my opinion, wrestling with the questions of when it is appropriate to take the high road and when it is necessary to stand up for yourself.

Secondly we have the title track “Laniakea” by Sovereign Council, which just went up on Spotify in the last week. Hopefully you will have ready my album review already, in which case you’ll know that I’m really digging it. Ideally, I would have chosen “Morta”, “Nona” and “Decima” for this week in a heartbeat, but unfortunately they would have to be three separate tracks (sure, I could have just put them in sequentially, but if you put the playlist on shuffle then that gets totally ruined). As a result, I chose the title track since it’s one of the strongest on the album. I saw Sovereign Council perform this track live on the first of August and the performance actually made me like this song even more than I did before. It’s pretty indicative of the overall sound of the album, so if you like “Laniakea” then be sure to check out the rest of the album.

Please follow and like us:

Album Review: Laniakea (2015)

So I was very excited the other day when I saw that my copy of Laniakea by Sovereign Council had arrived (and earlier than I had expected no less)! I have written in the past about how excited I was for this album, so I busted it out and have listened to it a few times now. Unfortunately, I’m not a very learned music reviewer, so this will probably be more impressionistic and less in-depth than my movie or video game reviews (not to mention that music might be the most subjective medium to attempt to review), but I’m going to try to tackle this anyway.

If you’re familiar with Sovereign Council’s debut album, New Reign, then the first thing that will probably strike you about Laniakea is just how ambitious it is. It’s obvious the band decided to step things up and pour their souls into this release, because it really shows in basically every facet of the production. This shows perhaps most clearly in the lyrics. Most of the songs on Laniakea follow a non-traditional structure (as in, they do not feature rhyming couplets and don’t necessarily follow the verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus structure that typifies most popular forms of music). While the lyrics were the sole weak point on New Reign, the songwriting has been stepped up quite significantly, and the non-traditional structure works quite well. There are still a couple awkward moments (most notably on “The Human Condition”, where the line “I only see one constant failure to perfect” doesn’t flow very well and makes the song stutter for a moment), but these are just as often offset by some very cool songwriting (“Decima” features the epic repeated verse “it’s the only way to enjoy the slow ride into the afterlife”, which just makes me want to sing along). In addition, Laniakea also happens to be a concept album, a feature which I did not expect going in. This cohesion actually makes the individual songs feel more meaningful. I’m usually pretty bad at deciphering concept albums, but on a very basic level, the album seems to follow the life of a man who seeks knowledge and wants to overcome human weakness – particularly the ultimate equalizer, death. To that end, the album remains quite consistent and slots into the power metal genre very comfortably.

While ambitious is the buzzword that I’d say most clearly typifies Laniakea, Sovereign Council have also clearly matured since New Reign, and wisely keep themselves from overstuffing the album in the pursuit of ambition. They have refined their sound in a very deliberate manner, making Laniakea‘s sound feel very polished and cohesive, while also allowing for some diversity to keep things fresh from song to song. While the album features 14 tracks, none of them feel like filler. The vocals have also gotten far more diverse. There is far more interplay between Alex and Lisa now, and when they join together in vocal harmony, we get some of the absolute most powerful moments on the album. Also, I have to give a shoutout to whoever the band member is doing the death growls (I regret that I don’t know who it is), they really punctuate the lyrics whenever they appear, particularly on “Nona”.

As for some track highlights, the album opens with “Rise”, which de-emphasizes the vocals in favour of showing off the expertise of the musicians and the guest violins. It’s a good preview of the rest of the album to come. “The Burden of Life” is definitely one of the stronger songs on the album, with the vocal harmonies of Alex and Lisa mixing with the death growls to create a very pleasing sound. “The Human Condition” is, I think, meant to be the “Bring It Down” moment on this album, and is probably the most relentlessly heavy and fast-tempo song on the album, while also tackling some pretty interesting themes. However, as far as I’m concerned, the real crown jewel of the album is the trifecta of “Morta”, “Nona” and “Decima”. While they are technically 3 separate tracks, as far as I am concerned they should be viewed as a single 10-minute epic. “Morta” opens slowly, building up appropriately to make the heavy stuff later more effective, while the death growls on “Nona” are contrasted fantastically with Lisa’s much softer vocals. Finally, “Decima” just blows the doors right off as the vocals and music get raised to equal prominence and we get a passionate and aggressive conclusion.

All-in-all, if you have any interest in hard rock or metal music and are in the market for something distinctly ambitious, I recommend giving Laniakea a look. While there is probably still some room for improvement in the future, Sovereign Council has poured their all into creating a really professional product, and the results do not disappoint.

8/10

UPDATE: Okay, I just saw Sovereign Council in concert for their album release celebration, and they were fantastic. If you get a chance to see them live, then just do it. I want to clarify a couple things though. First off, the person doing the death growls/screams on the album is Alex, which is even more impressive than I first thought. Secondly, I want to clarify that my thoughts on the lyrics on New Reign were just my opinion, confined to a handful of songs which stood out, and even then I really love that album regardless. Just figured I’d mention that because I was super surprised (and humbled) when it turned out that people had actually read this review and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong ideas because of my potentially crappy impression.

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 07/05/2015

Another week, another IC2S Playlist update! It was pretty hard to narrow down what I wanted to play this week, and I can imagine that next week won’t be any easier (especially since I have discovered a new, awesome artist so I always get pretty excited when that happens).

First up is “Think” by Kaleida. If you ever have seen John Wick (and if you haven’t, then rectify that mistake immediately), then you’ll recognize this as the rather hypnotic pop song at the start of the incredible “club scene”. I was listening to the John Wick soundtrack and thought that it was a really cool song. It feels somewhat minimalist to me, it’s very deliberate and not overblown, but still manages to be very catchy. Kaleida doesn’t have a lot of music yet (they don’t even have a Wikipedia page yet), but if they can keep putting out stuff like “Think”, then I might just become a fan.

Secondly, we have “Reminiscence” by Sovereign Council. I chose this song for a couple reasons. Firstly, I actually knew and went to school with a couple of the guys in Sovereign Council, and I like to support local artists – especially when they put out epic power metal like this. Secondly, they just put their new album, Laniakea, up for pre-order. I’m pretty damn stoked for it. New Reign was pretty fantastic for an indie debut album, and now that they’ve matured quite a bit and made the band a bit leaner, I think that Laniakea will be even better. I can only hope that they make it big.

As for “Reminiscence” itself, I really dig it (obviously). I think that there are a few songs on the album which are better than it overall, but it’s the killer dueling guitars near the end which really sell it to me. My one criticism of the band would be that their lyrics can be a little lame at times, but their musicianship in this song in particular feels very professional and accomplished. Check ’em out!

Please follow and like us: