Monday, December 10, 2018

Cash, Johnny - "The Classic Christmas Album"

Cash, Johnny - The Classic Christmas Album
2013, Sony

1. Christmas As I Knew It
2. Christmas Time's a Comin'
3. That Christmasy Feeling
4. Christmas With You
5. Blue Christmas
6. The Little Drummer Boy
7. The Gifts They Gave
8. The King of Love
9. Merry Christmas Mary
10. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
11. Joy to the World
12. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
13. Ringing the Bells for Jim
14. The Christmas Guest
15. The Christmas Spirit
16. Silent Night

I've had my eye on this album for awhile and I finally pulled the trigger. It really, really pains me to say this about a Johnny Cash album but... I don't like it much. I really wanted to hear Johnny Cash sing. Not Johnny Cash and the Cash Family. Or Johnny Cash and Tommy Cash. I also want to hear him sing, not talk. He talks way too much. Now I know this is kind of his style in a way but I kind of like his singing voice. There's a few tunes on here I like but the bulk of it just kind of annoys me. Oh well, not everything can be awesome.

Useless Fact: Johnny Cash was on a One Bad Pig album! If you follow this blog you probably already knew that!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Haken - "Vector"

Haken - Vector 
2018, Inside Out

1. Clean
2. The Good Doctor
3. Puzzle Box
4. Veil
5. Nil By Mouth
6. Host
7. A Cell Divides

Where to go after the Eighties love-fest that was Affinity? Apparently, you go back to being heavy. Vector is the heaviest and most aggressive album since Visions. I am okay with this, by the way. The songs are dense, knotted compositions, full of heavy riffs, poly-rhythms, and everything you've come to expect from Haken. I also think there's a bit more in the way of hooks here than there was on Affinity. Also noteworthy, this album is pretty short for Haken. At seven songs (with one being an ambient intro track) and a scant 48 minutes, I think this is the band's shortest full-length album. However, I think the brevity works in the album's favor. The cram a lot in those 48 minutes so you're still getting a full meal. I'm just glad I can listen to the whole thing on the way to and back from work. Vector hasn't overtaken The Mountain but it's immensely enjoyable.

Useless Fact: There's a story here somewhere about a doctor in an asylum performing dubious experiments. Though there's a lot of room for interpretation as to what it's actually about and what is happening.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

MxPx - "Pokinatcha"

MxPx - Pokinatcha
1994, Tooth & Nail

1. Anywhere But Here
2. Weak
3. Wantad
4. Realize
5. Think Twice
6. Unopposed
7. The Aspect
8. Ears to Hear
9. Bad Hair Day
10. Too Much Thinking
11. PxPx
12. Time Brings Change
13. Jars of Clay
14. High Standards
15. Another Song About T.V.
16. Twisted Words
17. Walking Bye
18. No Room
19. Jay Jay's Song
20. One Way Window
21. Dead End

MxPx's debut, Pokinatcha, is missing a lot of the spit-shine and polish of Teenage Politics and Life in General. The sound is dirty, raw, and sloppy. And fast! Most tracks race along at full speed, rarely stopping to take a breath except for a few moments. Those moments being "Wantad" and "Bad Hair Day" for which the band received some buzz back in the day. I don't know though... I think I like my MxPx with a bit more polish. While the sound may be raw, the lyrics are not. They're pretty suburban teenage Christian with a little angst. Not that there's anything wrong with that - that was kind of their thing. It's worth a listen, but I prefer their later albums (i.e. the ones I mentioned, not their later - later material where they were really super duper polished and commercial).

Useless Fact: As I recall the band was originally called Magnified Plaid. It even says that on the spine of this album. However, drummer Yuri was prone to abbreviating it M.P. but with x's instead of periods. So they eventually became known as MxPx. Also, I read in an interview once that the word "pokinatcha" was from a Snickers commercial or something where the narrator says hunger is "pokin' at ya."

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Pentatonix - "Christmas is Here!"

Pentatonix - Christmas is Here!
2018, RCA

1. What Christmas Means to Me
2. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
3. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
4. Grown Up Christmas List
5. Greensleeves (Interlude)
6. Sweater Weather
7. When You Believe
8. Waltz of the Flowers
9. Here Comes Santa Claus
10. Making Christmas
11. Where Are You, Christmas?
12. Jingle Bells

So...maybe it's time to give it a rest with the Christmas albums. I can't believe I'm saying this but...I'm kind of disappointed with this one. Part of that has to do with the song selection. I mean, this is their third Christmas album in six years. I never cared for "Grown Up Christmas List" or "Where Are You, Christmas?" to begin with and these versions only make them slightly more palatable. Then we've got the two non-Christmas songs, "Sweater Weather" and "When You Believe." The former of which is okay but the latter is from Prince of Egypt. Another song I wasn't wild about originally (love the movie, though!). The rest of the tracks? It's Pentatonix. It's Christmas. You pretty much know what you're getting. "Making Christmas" (from The Nightmare Before Christmas) is the standout track which really showcases the originality that I fell in love with in the first place. I don't know. Maybe the problem is on my end. I like this okay but it's definitely the bottom of the three.

Useless Fact: Let's see, I've already mentioned that Avi left and that he and Kristen didn't get along. So... I've got nothing. At least Mitch shaved off that awful mustache.

Friday, November 23, 2018

McKennitt, Loreena - "An Ancient Muse"

McKennitt, Loreena - An Ancient Muse
2006, Quinlan Road

1. Incantation
2. The Gates of Istanbul
3. Caravanserai
4. The English Ladye and the Knight
5. Kecharitomene
6. Penelope's Song
7. Sacred Shabbot
8. Beneath a Phrygian Sky
9. Never-Ending Road (Amhran Duit)

When this album first came out I didn't think it was as good as her previous albums. I have no idea why - I think that the problem was on my end. Listening to it now I love it, naturally. "Caravanserai" and "Penelope's Song" are some of her best. "Beneath a Phrygian Sky" kind of reminds me of "The Bonny Swans" a little bit. I'm glad I went back to this one. I have a lot of memories of listening to this album and working at Coutrywide Home Loans in Florida way back in the day. Just before the secondary loan market burst. Boy that was a sucky job. Anyway, this album is great like the others and past me was a moron.

Useless Fact: My edition has another remix of "Beneath a Phrygian Sky." It's okay but I prefer the original.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Amaranthe - "Helix"

Amaranthe - Helix
2018, Spinefarm

1. The Score
2. 365
3. Inferno
4. Countdown
5. Helix
6. Dream
7. GG6
8. Breakthrough Starshot
9. My Haven
10. Iconic
11. Unified
12. Momentum
Bonus Tracks
13. Say the Word (Acoustic)
14. Dream (Acoustic)

I was a little concerned about this album at first. Neither single, "365" nor "Countdown," seemed to really do anything for me. I didn't think they were bad, just unremarkable maybe. Thankfully, all my fears were laid to rest listening to the album itself. Even those two tracks were a lot better in the context of the whole album. Helix continues to work the ground laid down by Massive Addictive (where they really defined their sound) and refined on Maximalism. New vocalist Nils Molin is a suitable replacement for Jake E. Though I do miss him. I can't tell if I prefer Jake to Nils or if I'm just old and resistant to change. The Rock Critic said once that it's okay to be a one trick pony as long as you're really good at your trick. Amaranthe proves that they are the absolute masters of their trick. Occasionally I wonder if they'll be able to keep up this level of consistency and quality. I also wonder if I'll ever get tired of their "trick." Though, it's been several albums and I still can't get enough of Gama Bomb's trick. And as Helix has demonstrated to me - I can't get enough of Amaranthe's trick either, so who knows?

Useless Fact: My CD comes with two acoustic bonus tracks. I didn't have a chance to listen to them because I forgot they were on the CD proper and not part of the album download. Also, Itunes will import "Say the Word" as "Helix."

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Gama Bomb - "Speed Between the Lines"

Gama Bomb - Speed Between the Lines
2018, AFM

1. Give Me Leather
2. A Hanging
3. 666Teen
4. Bring Out the Monster
5. R.I.P. U
6. Motorgeist
7. Alt-Reich
8. Stay Rotten
9. We R Going 2 Eat U
10. Kurt Russell
11. World Gone to Hell
12. Faceblaster

Hey, I finally got ahead of the curve on a Gama Bomb album! It's a good thing too because I think this is their best so far. That's high praise considering I thought Untouchable Glory was their best. I've mentioned a time or two about the band sometimes having problems making each song distinct. Well... they've long since gotten over that. Every song here stands out and has a catchy chorus or gang vocal that sticks in your brain. Dare I say there's even a little bit of progressiveness in "Alt-Reich." Maybe. Just a drop. "Alt-Reich" is also an example of a lot more socially conscious lyrics on this release. The band has always had a track or two like that but I think it's a lot more prevalent. here. "Alt-Reich," "We R Going 2 Eat U," and "World Gone to Hell" are the best examples. As much as I like the nostalgia, horror, and silliness, it's cool to hear some tracks that are vicious and fast but also carry a message (that I agree with more often than not). It's actually very in line with old school thrash which could be very socially conscious at times (just look at some old Anthrax records). Every time a new album comes out I always think about when I said I didn't know if wanted album after album of this in my Citizen Brain review. I was so wrong. As long as the band stays this awesome I will never tire of it.

Useless Fact: The liner notes in this album are inspired by the covers of old pulp novels. I kind of wish they would have put lyrics in their too, though.