Every Time I Die
From Parts Unknown
“At a time when a lot of bands are going for a more crowd-friendly sound, we wanted to go in the opposite direction,” said Keith Buckley of Buffalo’s Every Time I Die in the official bio for the band’s seventh album, “From Parts Unknown.” “Instead of making something that the kids can sing along to, we wanted to make music that scares them.”
Mission accomplished. “From Parts Unknown” is a brutal assault of an album, even by ETID’s bludgeoningly high standards. The core of brothers Keith and Jordan Buckley, Andy Williams and Ryan Leger’s sound always has been a shotgun wedding of indelible guitar hooks and screaming vocals, with edgy, darkly poetic and confrontational lyrics, and rhythms that demand to be regarded as propulsive.
That hasn’t changed in the 16 years of the band’s existence. But what’s different this time around is the band’s utter confidence in its direction. As the Buckley quote suggests, ETID knows what it wants to do, and it’s not to hold its audience by the hand.
Instead, we get pummeled right out of the gate with short, aural punches to the face. “The Great Secret” is one of these – a test of the listener’s endurance, really, and perhaps a warning for any listener with a weaker disposition than is necessary to fully immerse oneself in the rest of the album. “Pelican of the Desert,” “All Structures Are Unstable” and “Decayin’ With the Boys” all arrive like an unexpected shovel to the back of the head, marrying excruciatingly assertive riffage to Buckley’s malevolent bark of a voice.
One might be forgiven for assuming that this unforgiving sonic assault might not boast much more than angst and anger in the lyric department, but lo and behold, beneath the din lurks a fully formed poetic personae, albeit one of the unflinchingly in-your-face variety.
Already being hailed far and wide as one of the most essential heavy recordings of 2014, “From Parts Unknown” asserts Every Time I Die’s place at the head of the modern metalcore class. It’s not a record for the faint of heart. But then, did you really expect it to be?
– Jeff Miers
Eric Harland and Voyager
It is strange to think that jazz drummer Eric Harland is only 36. It almost seems as if he has been an entrenched titan on his instrument for a couple of decades. What’s certainly true is that he is the representative jazz drummer of the generation that came after the successive jazz drum generations of Jack DeJohnette and Jeff “Tain” Watts.
The news couldn’t be better in Harland’s case. Though he’s played with Wynton Marsalis, among countless others, he is, without question, the best drummer Charles Lloyd has played with since DeJohnette, almost in another lifetime.
“Vipassana” is a disc cousin to the last few Lloyd discs. It means the Buddhist meditation of seeing things as they really are. “No more was or will be,” as the disc’s publicity describes it, “only an infinite ‘this is.’ ” Which makes it as a disc title either a presumptuous one for a drummer or a modest one describing the bliss of his group playing together.
So extremely varied and eclectic – as well as melodic – is this disc that it sounds like something the much-underrated British saxophonist Courtney Pine released in the days when he was thought of as Branford Marsalis’ transatlantic twin. This is a drummer’s disc in that his contribution to the music is continuously inventive and artful, not domineering.
As a jazz group, Harland’s Voyager is an extremely fine one for this generation – saxophonist Walter Scott, pianist Taylor Eigsti, guitarists Julian Lage and Nils Felder, singer Chris Turner and bassist Hamish Raghavan.
Originals comprise most of it (“Normal” is a sort of Bobby McFerrin folk-rock search to define that most familiar word). But when it gets around to Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage,” it’s a fresh version of one of post-bop’s most beautiful tunes.
A beautiful disc.
– Jeff Simon
Music for Violin and Piano played by Michael Ludwig and Alison d’Amato
To hear this rather wonderful new disc by the soon-departing concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is, sadly, to understand fully why it was announced in April that he would be leaving the BPO.
If a solo career is calling Ludwig, you would have to wish him nothing but luck listening to this disc – as well as offering him every bit of your understanding. He does indeed have an awful lot to offer as a solo performer.
Joseph Achron was a Lithuanian/Polish/Russian violinist who, as a composer, fell early on under the spell of Jewish music and composed some bewitching music in its thrall. There’s even some (unavoidable) speculation that the inspiration of Marc Chagall’s famous painting of the fiddler on the roof was Achron.
Ludwig is superb playing Achron’s “Hebrew Melody” from 1911, “Hebrew Dance” from 1912, “Hebrew Lullaby” from 1912 and “Dance Improvisation on a Hebrew Folk Theme” from 1914. That isn’t all Achron could do, of course. But Achron – a friend of Arnold Schoenberg’s – was blacklisted by the Nazis for obvious reasons and after his death at 57 in 1943, suffered a kind of de facto blacklisting by Jewish audiences more interested in the music of assimilation.
That he has been revived recently is evinced by the vibrant performances of his music by Ludwig and pianist Alison d’Amato. If there’s more robustness of tone preferable in some of this music, it’s probably nothing that couldn’t be solved by Ludwig being able to play the exceptional instrument he deserves.
– Jeff Simon
Before the Waves
The sophomore album of synth-pop sweethearts Magic Man lives up to its first, self-produced album of 2010 (“Real Life Color”). The young Boston-based band has kept up its electronic sound, but it is now more akin to sister act Haim than the subdued The Postal Service, a band to whom they used to be compared.
“Before the Waves” starts out strong with “Texas,” perfect for dancing and with distinctly “summery” lyrics. In fact, the album only dips significantly in tempo once, about halfway through, during “Honey.” It makes for a nice break from the uptempo songs before it, but it also works well when the ensuing “Tonight” lifts the pace back up.
Though “Paris,” the proclaimed single, comes early on, there are some strong numbers toward the end of the disc. “Waves” is the hidden gem and possibly the height of the album with youthful messages and playful melodies.
Alex Aldi, who has produced albums for Passion Pit and Holy Ghost!, did the same for “Before the Waves.” His influence is prominent, and discernible in the album’s definite resemblance to the music of the “indietronica” band Passion Pit. This is a catchy album with memorable choruses and just the right amount of electronic undertones. Vocalist Alex Caplow has a distinct voice that jibes well with all manner of different instrumental and synthetic sounds.
The band is clearly maturing and the future looks bright.
– Andra Cernavskis