October is here. which means at the end of the month the biggest holiday of the year in Santa Cruz arrives: Halloween. October is the best fall month, especially when you take a look at how many Music Genius Babies were born. Paul Simon on the 13th (70 this year), Tom Petty (61) on the 20th, and “the DNA of Rock & Roll” Chuck Berry was born on October 18, 1926! Mark your calendar, honor these musicians, sit down and spin some of their records. They make art for the listener, and at KZSC we are some happy listeners.
With Fall came a shit ton of big new metal albums. Mastodon, Machine Head, Dream Theater and Trivium, among others, released new albums in the span of two months, forcing me to dub Fall 2011 as the Season of Metal (or Metal’s Fall, I can’t decide which is cheesier). However, one particular album has made me more wet with anticipation than a Thai hooker in Bangkok. Heritage (which came out three days after my birthday. Coincidence? I THINK NOT) has once again proven that Opeth is arguably the most diverse group out there in not just the metal genre, but of all genres. However, with all that diversity comes a straining of the fan base that Opeth has culminated over the past 20 years of its inception. Which makes this album even more impressive. Heritage shows that Akerfeldt just does not give a fuck. He writes what he wants to write. End of story. So, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s start picking apart this engorged piece of art.
As a whole, Heritage is a teeny bit shorter then the average Opeth album, unless you count the two bonus tracks, Pyre and Face in the Snow, which rounds it out to about one hour. This is also the first time since Damnation there hasn’t been a track longer than 10 minutes, much to my chagrin. On the plus side, there are more tracks than usual, with 12 (including bonus tracks), giving Opeth more room (or songs) to work with. The album in its entirety isn’t your conventional Opeth; this is more of a tribute to 70′s prog than anything else. The riffs, beats, and synth are all inspired by the psychedelic bands of the past, with a little of Opeth’s magic thrown in there.
One thing all metal fans should be aware of is the fact that there are no hard vocals (i.e. death growls, screaming, etc). It’s all smooth, harmonic lyrics, which, depending on your preferred style, is for better or worse. Speaking of lyrics, I’ve never listened to Opeth for their “unique” lyrics, and this album won’t change my mind, and shouldn’t change yours either. For example, the main chorus in The Devil’s Orchard consists of Akerfeldt proclaiming that “God is dead”, something similar to what I’ve heard many a time in numerous metal albums. However, they are unobtrusive, more so than in most albums (because of the lack of death growls), which is all that is needed when you have someone as talented as Akerfeldt that’s writing all your music.
Which brings me to my next awesome point: the drumming. When Watershed came out, I wasn’t overly impressed with then-new drummer Martin Axenrot (partly because I have a man crush on ex-Opeth-drummer Martin Lopez) but he’s certainly improved his style over these past years. Throughout the entire album, Axenrot never ceased to impress me with his jazzy fills and complex beats. Being a drummer myself (albeit not very good), I look for more than just speed in drummers; it’s the technique that you usually find in jazz and funk drummers that really set them apart. Heritage showcases Axenrot’s techniques to their fullest, something which makes me even more excited for the future of Opeth.
Pros: Great drumming, unique sound, shows Opeth has massive balls
Cons: No long epic tracks, album cover (those faces scare me)
Best tracks: Nepenthe (#5), Famine (#7), The Lines in My Hand (#8)
There’s certainly much much more to this album than just what I or anyone else has to say. The only way you’re going to figure out this album is if you actually listen to it. And, ya know, you should probably listen to it.
With Beats Antique being one of my personal favorite bands, I am delighted to announce that they just released their sixth album, Elektrafone. Their ability to incorporate modern elements of electronic programming with traditional instruments from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and beyond creates a world fusion in their music with an irresistibly edgy vibe. In comparison to their two earlier and most well known albums, Collide and Tribal Derivations, Elektrafone has an emphasis on electronic experimentation that gives it a very trance-like feel at times. Listening to the album from start to finish, the bold sounds of the viola, violin, trumpet, and keyboard soothe you like a fruit smoothie. Stay tuned to KZSC World Music shows for a listen!
Girls have returned with their second full length album, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost,” and it has already had some major air time here at KZSC. More mature that their previous releases, Girls have created a beautiful album, full of new elements for the band (check out the metal elements in “Die” and the gospel back-up vocals!). The earnest, heart-on-the-sleeve style of lyrics makes it almost impossible not to create a special place in your heart for this album, and the cute and catchy melodies definitely make it impossible not to sing along. Not hooked already? Check out the video for “Honey Bunny:”
Like what you hear? Girls will be at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on October 8th!!
John Larry Granger will be conducting his final season with the Santa Cruz County Symphony after 20 years serving as the Symphony’s Music Director. The season opens the first weekend of October with Sheryl Staples of the New York Philharmonic. Further information on this season is available at SantaCruzSymphony.org
I am not the music festival type. One too many bruised, sun-burnt, dehydrated days in front of a stage may have led to this conclusion, but the bands at FYF Fest this past weekend drew me out into the heat and dust of downtown Los Angeles, and I regret nothing!
I’ll tell you how it went down. Photos are by Jesse Perez.
I arrived a bit later, so I missed some great bands like Fool’s Gold, and Smith Westerns, but I think the less exposure to the festival atmosphere kept my sanity intact. I arrived in time for Japandroids, the Canadian duo that kept the crowd going. Afterwards, I caught a bit of Cults, whose playful pop has turned them into one of my summer playlist staples. Lead singer Madeline Follin’s voice sounded clear and wonderful, and a California flag waved through the crowd, even though I’m pretty sure the band is from New York.
Strange Boys played a sweet little set, while No Age set up. Guitarist Randy’s mom was up there getting the crowd excited before they took stage, though I don’t think they needed to be any more pumped. It was at this point that I learned that I am definitely not pit material. When did everyone’s elbows get so sharp?
I picked up my shoes, dusted myself off, and went to see Broken Social Scene. One of the highlights of the day was watching my favorite Canadian collective play “World Sick” in an orange sunset. They said that this would be the last time they play L.A. in a long time, but fortunately for Santa Cruz, the band will be at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass the first week of October.
I still can’t believe Guided By Voices played, and I also can’t believe how DGAF Robert Pollard is. He paced the stage with a cigarette at his mouth, scowling, spinning the mike, kicking, and commenting on their performance of “#2 In the Model Home Series,” “I think that was in the right f*****g key.” It was so cool.
The best part of the night was screaming along to the Dead Milkmen‘s “Punk Rock Girl” with the rest of their crowd, even though the dust by that point made it nearly impossible to breath. Still, the band played “Stuart” and “Bitchin’ Camero,” but with a politically updated intro! I suppose I didn’t miss oxygen that much, and it was the best I’d felt walking away from from any festival.
Things went smoother for the Fest this year, and I going next year isn’t out of the question. Some festival tips for you: Make sure your shoes are comfortable and stay secure on your feet, remember the sunscreen, and a bandana or scarf is your best friend. Also, remember that no matter what they say, be prepared to spend a lot of money on water.
See more of Jesse Perez’s photography here.