Showing posts from 2014

Top Records of 2014: 15-11

15. Panopticon - Roads to the North (Bindrune)Panopticon is the project of Kentucky native Austin  Lunn and combines elements of traditional folk music with Metal, yet never seems like a Black Metal retread as it relies heavily on American musical folk styles. Panopticon's songs are an atmospheric reinvention of where folk and metal might intersect. Some, such as "The Echoes of Disharmonium" are thrashy, guttural metal numbers, while "The Long Road Part 1: One Last Fire is a distortion free traditional bluegrass fiddling interlude that merges with "The Long Road Part 2: Capricious Miles," a seven plus minute melodically epic track more easily than one would suspect. Panopticon makes these transitions look simple, merging heavy music and several American folk forms, including traditional Native American flutes and even banjos with startling clarity. Roads to the North builds on their earlier records and reflects the growth of this interesting amalgamation.…

90s Nostalgia: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Coming Out Of Our Shells Cassette

A much younger version of myself got the Coming Out Of Our Shells tape as a free Pizza Hut giveaway (I always wanted to be part of Book It, but my school didn't participate) and proceeded to play it far too often even though it was arguably awful. I always used to listen to music and play video games, and I cranked that tape on many days while I played Super Nintendo, going through Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, and innumerable game rentals listening to those ten songs over and over again. It was only later when I started listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and a bit later when I discovered Punk and switched over to NOFX, Operation Ivy, and indie stalwarts such as Pavement that the tape fell by the wayside only to be revisited again in a quest for nostalgia twenty years later.

The tape is an unsung pop-cultural artifact that was released at the cusp of 90's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtlesmania when everything that was even tangentially turtles-related sold like hotcakes. Th…

Kung Fu Comics: The Hands of Shang Chi

I've previously written on my obsession with Iron Fist, and I plan to continue my foray into analysis of later comics in that franchise, taking a look at how they changed with the introduction of Marvel's answer to the Blaxploitation genre, Luke Cage. Before that I want to explore the strange milieu of Marvel's earlier martial arts hero, Shang-Chi, the "Master of Kung Fu." He made his first appearance in Special Marvel Edition #15 in December 1973, six months before Iron Fist appeared and is one of the first heroes of the martial arts comics boom. Created by the interestingly weird team of writer Steve Englehart and artist Jim Starlin to cash in on Marvel's recent acquisition of Sax Rohmer's Dr. Fu Manchu and their rights to the Kung Fu television show, he paved the way for future martial arts heroes.

Shang-Chi is a Wushu master, skilled in both hand to hand combat and and weaponry. He uses both, unlike Iron Fist who tends to just use his hands and feet…

Track This: Matthew Sweet's "Sick of Myself"

Matthew Sweet's "Sick of Myself," the first track from 100% Fun is the type of pure power pop mastery that is good for whatever ails your tired old soul. From the palm-muted opening to the first full clean power chords, the song makes its intentions known, rocking heavily with tight drumming and blasting guitars. The song was a call-to-arms in 1995, and its even better now. Sweet's everyman vocals have a bit of sweetness to them, and it sounds like he's having so much fun. The track harks back to 20/20, the solo work of Chris Bell, and the like, but there is a larger guitar presence, if not a Phil Spector attention to detail. Sweet doesn't take himself too seriously and even with the backing of guitar legends Robert Quine and Richard Lloyd, both members of the far artier, yet no less explosive Television, the song maintains a ramshackle vibe. Listen to the sloppy, but spectacular, solos.

Sweet's lyrical bent is pure power pop love and loss. His word play…

Track This: Hayden's "We Don't Mind"

It's fall again, so that means that the music around here slows down and gets decidedly folky, if not more rootsy. That's not to say there isn't plenty of metal and rock and roll on the playlist, but some of the slower songs get priority.

Hayden's Everything I Long For is one of those singer-songwriter records that pulses anew on each listen. His simple guitar playing and everyman gruff vocals lend a veracity to his simple tales of love, loss, and boredom. While he has grown as a songwriter since its 1995 release date, the simple power of his unadorned vocals and aching lyrical approach make Everything one of his greatest artistic statements. His song craft has improved, but he has never bettered the album's timeless exploration of pain. Many people remember the single "Bad As They Seem," which put the Canadian singer on the map, an exploration of the narrator's hopeless unrequited love for the women he can't ever date -- a sixteen year old girl a…

Seasonal Shifts: The Pull of Northerly Climes

I feel closer to the earth when I go home. I know all the old cliches, especially the hoary old Thomas Wolfe chestnut that "you can't go home again," and I agree partially on principle. Nothing remains the same and each time you bring a different perspective to the people and places of your youth, but something tangible and touching remains. For me, it's the balsams shuddering in a slight breeze, the quiet, static repose of birches near the water's edge, the v-shaped formation of geese heading south, the faint remembrance of the bark of leafless trees -- an interminable number of old signs and slight smells, recalling my childhood and  past.

I feel closer to the earth when I go north to the rivers I spent so much time near and the woods I barreled through, uncaring of spiders and ticks, through rainfall and hoarfrost, participating in that age old communion with the land that I feel my ancestors perfected and I must continue. The cold touch of the ground is a mir…

Graveyarded: My Trips To Cemeteries

I've been visiting graveyards all summer, searching for the famous and not so famous. Here are a few of the photos that I took on my journeys. I will write about Hellbender's "Graveyarded" one of these days, but I thought the song was really appropriate for this post. Too bad that YouTube only has the whole album, Con Limon. I am posting a link to that, as well as these cemetery pics: Jack Kerouac, H.P. Lovecraft, Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, John Dillinger, and all.

Con Limon