Luke’s Playlist

May 31, 2012

Luke works in the Central Library’s Arts Division and here’s his playlist.

Pardon Me/ Incubus

Produced by Scott Litt, Incubus’ second full-length album, Make Yourself, makes a bid for broader mainstream success while keeping the group rooted in a hybrid of familiar late ’90s alt-metal (i.e., roaring guitars, white-noise sonic textures, and an undercurrent of electronics) and Chili Pepper funk-rock. Where S.C.I.E.N.C.E. sometimes veered abruptly between the two genres without really fusing them, Make Yourself finds the band settling more comfortably into its sound, and once again, there are a few really good singles. Once again, too, there are still a few awkward moments and underwritten songs, but overall, the album should definitely please fans.- All Music Guide

Anna Molly/ Incubus

On their fourth album, A Crow Left of the Murder, Incubusgot heavier, both musically and lyrically, which might have developed their music but it shrank their audience. It’s hard not to see their 2006 follow-up, Light Grenades,  as a reaction to this situation — not that they shrink away from the progression of Crow,  but they polish and streamline their innovations from that album, resulting in a record that’s sharper, cleaner, and more immediate in every respect. This naturally means that Incubusdoesn’t sound as heavy as they did earlier in their career, but they’re still pretty somber here; even when the rhythms crash and the guitars wail, this is serious music, but they have a lighter touch here than they did on Crow. They also have a greater mastery of mood, as well as a greater musical variety than they displayed on the outset of their career. – All Music Guide

Wake Up/ Rage Against the Machine

Probably the first album to successfully merge the seemingly disparate sounds of rap and heavy metal, Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut was groundbreaking enough when released in 1992, but many would argue that it has yet to be surpassed in terms of influence and sheer brilliance — though countless bands have certainly tried. This is probably because the uniquely combustible creative relationship between guitar wizard Tom Morello and literate rebel vocalist Zack de la Rocha could only burn this bright, this once. While the former’s roots in ’80s heavy metal shredding gave rise to an inimitable array of six-string acrobatics and rhythmic special effects (few of which anyone else has managed to replicate), the latter delivered meaningful rhymes with an emotionally charged conviction that suburban white boys of the ensuing nu-metal generation could never hope to touch. – All Music Guide

Sleep Now In The fire/ Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against The Machine isn’t really the only metal band that matters, but their aggressive social and political activism is refreshing, especially in an age of blind (or usually self-directed) rage due to groups like Limp Bizkit, Bush, or Nine Inch Nails. Recorded in less than a month, The Battle Of Los Angeles is the most focused album of the band’s career, exploding from the gate and rarely letting go the whole way through. Like a few other famous revolution-in-the-head bands (most notably Minor Threat,) Rage Against the Machine has always been blessed by the fact that the band is spewing just as much vitriol as its front man. – All Music Guide

When They Come For Me/ Linkin Park

A clear continuation of 2007’s Minute to Midnight, A Thousand Suns also trades aggression for contemplation, burying the guitars under washes of chilly synthesizers — a sound suited for a rap-metal band that no longer plays metal but hasn’t shaken off the angst, choosing to channel inward instead of outward. So few rap-metal bands have chosen to embrace their age — they fight against it, deepening their technical chops while recycling ideas — that it’s easy to admire Linkin Park’sdecision not to shy away from it, even if their mega-success gives them the luxury to pursue musical risks. – All Music Guide

Bleed It Out/ Linkin Park

So, Linkin Park decided to embrace the inevitable and jumped headfirst into maturity on Minutes to Midnight, which meant that poor Mike Shinoda was effectively benched, rapping on just two songs. In many ways, it seems like even the guitarists were benched this time around, since Minutes to Midnight doesn’t really rock, it broods. Apart from a handful of ringers — “Given Up,” the Shinoda-fueled “Bleed It Out,” easily the best, most visceral track here — this is quiet, atmospheric stuff, dabbling with electronic textures that were cutting edge in 1996 but sound passé now. Also sounding passé are the tortured musings of lead singer Chester Bennington, who still is tormented by love, loss, family, any number of items that sound convincing coming from a man in his early twenties, but not so much so when the thirties are approaching rapidly. – All Music Guide

I Stand Alone/ Godsmack

Faceless, Godsmack’s third full-length, grooves more fluidly than Awake, but the band still hasn’t managed to locate the pop hooks that made their debut a success. And while concentrating on texture can be just as interesting as hooks, lyrics as misanthropic as Erna’s only sink Faceless further into the mire.- All Music Guide

 

 

 

B.Y.O.B./ System of a Down

Adjectives like “ambitious,” “jagged,” and “startling” have always defined System of a Down, and their third official full-length is no different. Pre-release, the band described Mezmerize as being the first part — the first side — of what’s essentially a double album. The records’ packaging would even slot together, making the eventual Mezmerize/Hypnotize whole. Appropriately then, there’s an intro to System’s first new material since 2001’s brilliant Toxicity. On “Soldier Side” Daron Malakian and Seri Tankian harmonize as they do throughout the record, and Malakian’s guitar has a mournful, Eastern air. But it’s just a lull before “B.Y.O.B.,” a thrash assault pierced with rabid and incredulous screams. -All Music Guide

Got The Life/ Korn

If you’re new to Korn, the most influential and successful metal band of the ’90s, this disc should blow you away — that is, assuming you’re a fan of extreme music with a dark, disturbing edge. But if indeed you’re new to Korn, you’d be better off skipping over this best-of and heading straight for their self-titled debut (their one undisputed classic), and then moving chronologically forward through the band’s catalog. Each album stands well on its own, albeit some better than others, and here you’re only getting the tip of each iceberg. If money is a concern, however, and you can only afford one Korn disc for your collection, don’t think twice about picking up Greatest Hits.  You won’t be disappointed. No chance of that.-All Music Guide

 

Spellbound/ Lacuna Coil

The primary conclusion being that songwriting versatility alone does not risk-taking music make, if those disparate elements have all of their edges sanded down, rather than serrated enough to leave indelible scars on the listener’s memory banks. (Having said that, we should mention the gorgeous, densely orchestrated ballad, “Wide Awake,” which will hardly convince the extreme metal masses to lay down their torches, but definitely harks back to Lacuna’s most celebrated releases.) In all fairness, Shallow Life, does come on very much as expected based on Lacuna Coil’s preceding career arc, and many observers would argue that backtracking isn’t the solution either if a band is to prosper in the long run — but it may have to be here, given the underwhelming sales and vociferous critical backlash bestowed upon the album.- All Music Guide

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A Playlist from WBER’s DJ David

May 25, 2012

Drawing inspiration from a Library Journal article about two librarians, Andrew Coulon and Matthew Moyer from the Jacksonville, Florida Public Library, that have reached out to DJs in their community for inspiration to expand their CD collection and to create playlists for their patrons. I immediately thought of Rochester’s alternative rock station WBER. I sent an e-mail to the station manager and within a day DJ David  visited me in the library and was totally on board with a collaboration. David is an Irondequoit native and volunteers at the station. He has already become a wonderful resource by giving me names of bands and artists to become aware of. Here is the first of hopefully many playlists that David has put together for me.  He describes this playlist,

“The common denominator is that they’re (mostly) hard rock artists (with a couple of them leaning more towards hardcore/metal).  They’re all very energetic.”

New Noise/ Refused

Many who listen to this album will say “Hey, this isn’t punk” after not finding the power chords and I-IV-V structures that they associate with poppy skatepunk bands like NOFX and Lagwagon, but this is what revolution is all about — taking an industry of specifications and expectations and turning it fully on its head, yet holding on to some semblance of what once was. Refused are pure innovation and passion spouting Nation of Ulysses-esque doctrine while fusing together the bite and flavor of fist-raised, Dillinger Escape Plan-style hardcore with ambient textures, jazz breakdowns, and other such deviations. – All Music Guide

All I Want/ A Day To Remember

The fourth full-length offering from Ocala, FL-based punk-pop/metalcore outfit A Day to Remember opens with vocalist Jeremy McKinnon screaming “I am fueled by all forms of failure”. What Separates Me from You is whiney, petulant, immature, hopeless, and thoroughly addicting, as the ten songs contained within the gatefold packaging (with the not-so-subtle painting of a man on a busy city street, trapped in an hourglass as the sand piles up around him) are as immaculately crafted and engaging as they are blindingly self-absorbed. Produced by New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert, WSMFY blurs the line between clean vocal emo-punk and throat-exploding metalcore with great success.- All Music Guide

Wake the Dead/ Comeback Kid

The hardcore vets in Comeback Kid have been road warriors for years, and Through the Noise captures the band’s live show in slick CD/DVD format. The videodisc includes a full-length concert in Leipzig, Germany; shot with six cameras, it provides a better view of the group’s on-stage presence than most concert DVDs, and the added documentary, “Our Distance,” gives a retrospective view of the band both on and off the stage. The accompanying CD is quite similar, of course, comprised entirely of tracks from the Leipzig show. Through the Noise is a fans-only release, but those who’ve followed Comeback Kid previously will be pleased with this all-encompassing package.- All Music Guide

Welcome Home/ Coheed and Cambria

The emo chords and songwriting dynamics have been shed in favor of a more prog rock, heavy metal sound that was so dominant throughout the ’80s. Nowhere is this more evident than in the album’s opener, “Welcome Home”; with its bombastic strings, dramatic buildups, breakdowns, and dual guitar solos, it’s one of the best metal licks that 1985 never made. The album concludes with a four-part song cycle that acts as a subplot within the album, and will most likely act as a bridge for volume two when it’s released. But conceptual plots aside, this is an album that finally lives up to the heavy metal promise and unapologetically delivers the goods with a full head of steam.- All Music Guide

Digital Bath/Deftones

Hard rockers Deftones take their heavy post-grunge ways to another level on their third album White Pony. Sensing painful frustrations and personal rediscovery with its allusive microcosm of an album title, the Californian alt-rock five piece were periodically stifled while making White Pony. Their 1997 sophomore effort Around the Fur was hailed to blast out commercially, but such pressure crippled the band musically and personally. The band struggled with leading its direction, trudging through weighed emotion, but White Pony was the tantalizing outcome.-All Music Guide

Lateralus/ Tool

Complex rhythm changes, haunting vocals, and an onslaught of changes in dynamics make this an album other so-called metal groups could learn from. While some compositions seem out of place, others fit together seamlessly, such as the 23-minute song cycle serving as the climax and resolution of the album. However, the album’s most disturbing moment arrives at the end, with dissonant electronic noises placed randomly with a drum solo over a phone call to a talk show discussing the secrets behind Area 51, once again serving as a symbolic gesture from the band encouraging people not to take things at face value and to think for themselves. -All Music Guide

Jars/ Chevelle

Sci-Fi Crimes, the hard rock trio’s fifth album, isn’t so much a change of pace as it is a change in source material from which to draw the group’s fiercely dynamic sound. First single “Jars” explores the down side of “going green” in typical Chevelle style. This is most certainly the same band that draws frequent comparisons to Tool, with its crunchy guitar attack and Loeffler’s unforgettable vocal delivery. – All Music Guide

Satellite/ Rise Against

Following in the footsteps of the wildly successful Appeal to Reason, Rise Against deliver another blast of driving, politically charged, melodic hardcore with Endgame. Musically, Rise Against are as solid as ever, but this time around, it feels like a lot of the heavy lifting is being done by singer Tim McIlrath. The great thing about punk is that it’s not how you say something, it’s what you’re saying, and Rise Against are still a band with plenty to say. All the d-beats and raw vocals in the world don’t mean a thing if you don’t have a message you believe in.  – All Music Guide

Sleep Now in the Fire/ Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine isn’t really the only metal band that matters, but their aggressive social and political activism is refreshing, especially in an age of blind (or usually self-directed) rage due to groups like Limp Bizkit, Bush, or Nine Inch Nails. If anything less than one of the most talented and fiery bands in the music world were backing Zack de la Rocha, The Battle of Los Angeles wouldn’t be nearly as high-rated as it is. -All Music Guide

The Sound of Truth/ As I Lay Dying

An Ocean Between Us offers several new aspects in the band’s sound: the churning hardcore is still very much at the center of the band’s sound, as are the twin lead guitars of Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso. Tim Lambesis is still the growling, razorbladed behemoth he always was, but Gilbert now offers melodic vocals on some choruses, effectively widening the band’s reach even if it takes fans a while to get used to it. The elements that made As I Lay Dying such a successful thrashing metallic unit are still in place; they are the marrow in the band’s sound. These new developments reveal one thing: As I Lay Dying’s members understand that progress is necessary for satisfaction and survival.  -All Music Guide