You From Before

Try the New Album by Telegraph Canyon*

You From Before

You From Before is the fairly new 2015 release from Telegraph Canyon, and is now widely available even on Spotify so it will be easy for you to check this out! I love the name of the band, as it evokes something lonely yet gripping, like “Across A Wire” from the Counting Crows, or an unmistakable American Southwestern “out there” feel that is just so intriguing. One thing this album already has going for it, in my opinion – the length is just a short, sweet, straightforward 11 songs. None of that egotistic, overbearing, inflated song list that takes so much effort to digest – but just 11 of what Telegraph Canyon considers to be their best songs to release together for 2015.

This album opens with “Hundred Years” – the instrumentation at once echoey and full of reverb, while consisting of mainly a simple piano with background singing. The vocals are reminiscent of the edgy emotion behind a Kings of Leon song – but sweet and steady before being joined with a horn section. Overall the effect of this track is slow and thoughtful; almost dreamlike. By contrast, Track #2 (called “Flood”) replaces the echoes with a more direct approach – it literally sounds like it was recorded live in a single room, all at once. A genuine effect, and appealing if you like it straight. You can see the “Indie Folk” style genre emerging a little more on this one, with some acoustic piano and a rowdy chorus of backing vocals over a nearly tribal and essential backing beat – lending an emotional intensity to rival the 2000s band Arcade Fire, as the singer chants he “could have been your Amen”.

“Why Let it Go” is next, and honestly is sounds kinda eerie at the start – like the Cure “Spiderman” song. This transitions to a soulful chorus, with a lead vocal style somehow like a hypothetical effect of Leonard Skynyrd blended with Beck…. This song is both jazzy and soulful at the same time, with some featured organ bits and overall good beats. I didn’t have much to say about Track #4, called “Hung Up” – including lyrics such as “I’m not the one you want, not what you’re lookin’ for / I’ve even told you twice but you still wait for more”. However the next track is so funky (called “Old Hearts”), it will be impossible for you to stand still. It transitions to something a little shoegazy or emo on the sensitive chorus – I think there is some beautiful instrumentation here as the singer admits he’s got his “head above the water, but the waters always change”.

“Mantle” starts out a little strange, with some broken and creepy sampled sounds, but really this is a little more melodic and upbeat – like the recent “Wilder Mind” release by Mumford and Sons. And “Lightning” (Track #7) brings out a little of the old 90s rock style, like something by Better Than Ezra or the good ol’ Wallflowers. There is some crazy fun guitar on this one – under a lyrical structure and chorus reminiscent of Coldplay, even verbally reminding us that “love is often cold”. “Haunted Woods” comes in with some simple, easy, Banjo chords as the withery, moonshiney, vocals call you with lyrics to “go choppin’ down trees”. As a result, this feels like a good “round the campfire” type of song – for the end of the night when everybody is bleary and contemplative anyhow.

Track #9 is next, called “Wheel to the Garden”. This one is a little bit darker, and almost gospel-y on the chorus. It would seem that this album is getting slower and deeper as we move along – but there are also some good guitars that I enjoy here as well, that really keep the song feeling contemporary and edgy. Track #10 (“Honey”) gives you some crazy Van Halen guitars on the opening – shredding mechanically under a more emotional set of keyboards and other sounds, before breaking into a guitar-fueled chorus that will almost have you singing along… This gritty nature of the guitars and the overall radio-friendly vibe of this song make it the most “Kings of Leon” of them all. This is definitely my favorite on You From Before! My only complaint is that “Honey” ends too abruptly.

At last we have the warbling, ballad-esque finale, the 11th track: a slow and heartfelt ending to the album, a track called “Magnetic”. It even includes violins for a bit of warmth, following a halting tempo, punctuated gently by drumbeats here and there, as the vocalist pines in a warning tone that “all you want is all you got”.

I know I have already mentioned this, but Telegraph Canyon really reminds me of Kings of Leon and Arcade Fire. These are unique, interesting, edgy songs – altogether an album I would otherwise highly recommend – except for the fact that not one single song grabbed me as the “hit” single, the hook, the reason I should fall in love with this release. So here I am, left with a list of songs that I am fine with and I can describe in my own way – but I just can’t recommend any outstanding individual items with my usual passion and enthusiasm.

What do you think? Check this out and let me know if any of the songs speak to you personally. I’m so curious to know, because the basics for excellence are certainly in place – so I’m sure these guys have a great chance and a bright future. Take a listen, and support their efforts by purchasing the album if it really moves you.

Link to Preview Tracks on Google Play: You From Before – Google Play

Link to Purchase Album on AmazonYou From Before – Amazon

*Photo and artwork not belonging to or by rockmycommute.  Album art is shown as presented on the Amazon.com website – check it out!

 

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In Memoriam: A Personal Perspective

If you look online today, or indeed, for many days to come – you will find a plethora of memorial pieces on David Bowie, extolling the virtues of his legacy, his work, his art, his fashion, his personas, his self.  I love all of this – and as I am unable to replicate any of it, I will not attempt to.

But I can share why Bowie’s passing means so much to me – and is giving me quiet pause today.  My older brother might fact-check my timeline, but I think – I think David Bowie is almost solely responsible for my own love of rock.

I first discovered Bowie’s recordings via tiny audio clips in Microsoft Encarta on my parent’s new Pentium processor (we were just entranced by this technical functionality).   I was 10 or 11 at the time, and my conservative parents didn’t want us listening to music that wasn’t instrumental, so naturally I was hooked on Bowie’s magnetic appearance and dramatic voice!

I had always followed my big brother around asking nerdy questions about Star Wars, earth science, Medieval history, classic children’s literature… but now I asked him about music – not just David Bowie, but about any rock music that came up.  What are you playing on your guitar? (Nirvana).  Who is Stevie Ray Vaughan? (Awesome).  And so on… but Bowie’s music always stuck with me, and he became a favorite artist:

  • I remember when CMU played nearly all of  The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust album between sets an an  Elliot Smith show (it was truly the perfect setting and tons of fun).
  • I remember making a lifelong friend in college almost exclusively because of our mutual admiration for Bowie – I still imagine her singing the harmonies to “Starman” whenever I hear it.
  • I remember rejecting the character of the fictitious Brian Slade from Velvet Goldmine, because Jonathan Rhys Meyers just wasn’t as cool as the real Bowie.
  • I remember when my brother invited me to sing the backing vocals to his band’s cover of “Little China Girl” at one of his live shows.
  • I remember missing the Bowie concert in Pittsburgh (with deep regret) because $75 seemed like a small fortune when I made my money $2 at a time as a waitress.
  • I remember singing my heart out to a second-hand Ziggy Stardust cassette, in the first (and only) beater car that my parents gave me.

Small things really – but just examples of how Bowie is more than a stack of albums or even a fashion icon to so many.  In my own life his art was the start of my love affair with rock n’ roll, and a way to connect with friends and make memories over the last 23 years.  RIP, and thank you, DB. 🙂

Bowie

 

 

Theatrical Rock with a Paranoid Edge

Review of “Drones” by Muse

Muse by Hannah

Drones is the fairly new 7th studio release by the very popular yet still edgy (in my opinion) alternative rock group called MUSE (all-caps emphasis is my own).  Of course you’ve heard of them by now, and even I had heard of Muse even earlier than I realized – their 2006 hit single “Starlight” was an awesome, emotionally charged song that I actually thought was a new Radiohead release.  I was listening to a lot of Arcade Fire at the time – and since I’m always drawn to intense male vocal performances involving copious vibrato and emotion, I was totally hooked.

I’m not sure I actually realized that this track was Muse (and not Radiohead) until I accidentally attended a huge Muse concert at Madison Square Garden in 2010.  Of course I intentionally attended the show – I just happened to be there for the opening act (Silversun Pickups) and was totally blown away by the fantastic headlining performance by Muse.  I have also had a crush on the bass player ever since…

I am a sentimental cheeseball, so of course my favorite song on the album is the instantly accessible and emotional hit single “Mercy”.  I just love the simple, open piano chords, and the vocal intensity reminds me of Rufus Wainwright, or Richard Ashcroft of the Verve.  This is actually track #4 on the album, so I found myself skipping through the first few songs quite a bit on the ol’ commute to hear “Mercy” again and again.  It also got quite a bit of radio play!

The next track, called “Reapers” – reminds me of the belligerent vocals of a Better Than Ezra song – or something by Beck; it is both a little sassy and soulful here, and I love it!  The energy of the well-executed yet crazy guitar arpeggios carry through to track #5 in a way that is musical theater-like – the vocal quality here is also theatrical, dramatic, and almost electronic in style.

A fun song you might know from the radio is “Dead Inside” – it feels eerie and zombie-ish, with lyrics like ”your skin feels warm to caress – I see magic in your eyes” that conjure mental images of a possible music video not unlike Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” event.  For contrast, the song I like the least is the “Drill Sergeant” track. Basically this could be a sample from Full Metal Jacket, that just puts me in a depressed and paranoid mood.

As you listen to the album, you’ll observe that my paranoid mood is actually in line with the theme of this album.  You can tell from the title Drones, that this album is projecting a contemporary political, and anti-military type of vibe.  I understand the band’s attempt to be relevant and real – but again this is too depressing for my morning drive.  I try to focus on the musical aspects of each song, instead of just the lyrics or any anti-establishment message.

Each song has amazing drums, great basslines, hard heavy guitars, and expressive (sometimes crazy) vocals – the songs are rarely upbeat poppy hit singles (with the exception of “Mercy” and the thematically appropriate anthem “Revolt”), so they give off a darker, more serious twinge that hints at something deeper beneath.  Matt Bellamy often sounds like Mika or Freddy Mercury, and there are always plenty of well-positioned backing vocals for a dramatic chorus effect.

Another song I’m not sure I enjoy is “the Globalist” – towards the end of the album, this is another statement piece that includes some 1940s-esque whistling samples that give a creepy, haunting, vintage feel.  Running at over 10 minutes, I’m not sure what this track is supposed to be – sounds like a cowboy-inspired soundtrack from either a classic movie or something by Quentin Tarantino.  Either way it is dramatic and very sad to me.

The album closes with “Drones”, a short, tight, renaissance-inspired acapella piece that sounds like the sacred pieces commissioned for and sung in the holy cathedrals of Europe.  All of the cadences and phrasing are you would expect from a well-rehearsed all-male chorus – except I believe this piece is executed exclusively by Bellamy himself.  This took me back to my chamber choir days from high school – except that instead of singing music for the high mass, Bellamy is singing about our modern, remote, unfeeling approach towards warfare and death. The lyrics reference the hit single again when they inquire- “can you feel anything?  Are you dead inside?”

And with that, the operatic arch of this album is complete.  Even with all of the gritty, sharp, provocative, uncomfortable and dystopian futuristic elements – I really enjoyed this release.  I’ll mention Freddy Mercury again, because the theatrical, high-drama style is so similar – at times you’ll think you’re listening to an Andrew Lloyd Weber rock opera.  Another comparable vocalist would be Brandon Flowers from the Killers.

If you like this kind of energy, combined with excellent production quality, and the near-flawless execution of hard-hitting, edgy rock songs with a crisp, contemporary challenging message – you’ll appreciate this album and you should definitely check out the other releases by Muse.  Happy New Year!

Link to Preview Tracks on Google Play: DRONES by Muse

Link to Purchase Album on Amazon: DRONES CD by Muse