Welcome to Check Your Mode

The all-inclusive, ever-changing, and uncomfortably flexible guide to all things music in the 2010's.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Couldawouldashoulda: June 2011

Hayes Carll – KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories)

Original Review Here

Now’s about the time when the Couldawouldashoulda’s start to really look like Honorable Mentions, albums you wish could have stayed on the top fifty for just a little while longer, but, alas, had to make way for other deserving releases. Hayes Carll’s fourth album is a great exhibit of an engaging personality. His voice is cracked and borderline drunken, slurring through his lines like he may just hiccup the next verse. But where this description may connote laziness, Carll brings a distinct voice to each of his songs, whether with wry political humor or homely specifics. His best work comes out on the hapless duet, “Another Like You”, the wartime frenzy of “KMAG YOYO” and the still heartwarming family get-together, “Grateful for Christmas”. Even if you’re not a fan of country music, KMAG YOYO is an album more than worth your time.

E-40 – Revenue Retrievin’: Graveyard Shift

Original Review Here

Right now, I’m working on a review compilation of E-40’s Revenue Retrievin’ series, so it’s fitting that this album should appear in this segment. We know that E-40 felt like releasing two albums on the same day last year and now two albums on the same day this year. This year’s Overtime Shift is the clear best of all four, so, thusly, Graveyard Shift should be completely ignored. Well hold on a second, not so fast. Graveyard Shift may not be as colossally satisfying as Overtime Shift, but it’s still a great album. Tracks like “E-40” and “My Shit Bang”… well, bang, and I’m not going to just sit around and watch people disparage it just because its companion piece is the musical equivalent of the doctor brother that the family keeps complimenting at Thanksgiving dinner. Graveyard Shift may not be as fruitful as Overtime Shift, but, if you’re an E-40 or just plain old hip hop fan, it’s a no brainer to get. Who knows, you might even enjoy it more.

Lupe Fiasco – Lasers

Original Review Here

LOL REALLY? I like thought this album was total shit! Lupe goes mainstream? HOW DROLL!!!!!! How could it possibly be on any honorable mention list? RU some kind of Lupe Fiasco fanboy or something? Well, yes, but that’s beside the point. We can get into a conversation as to whether it was right of Lupe Fiasco to go in the direction he did for his third album, Lasers, but there is no denying that, nevertheless, it is a very solid album. It sounds nothing like his magnum opus Food & Liquor or the comparatively disappointing The Cool, but it still observes Lupe in fine lyrical form over hooks that are actually quite catchy. So what if it works better at a club than a house party this time around? Does that make it worse? It doesn’t, so don’t believe the anti-hype. Lasers is a worthy addition to the Lupe catalogue, and I’m glad he’s back in the hip hop conversation.

Julian Lynch – Terra

Original Review Here

June 12th

Check Your Mode: Hey Julian Lynch.

Julian Lynch: Ummm, yes?

Check Your Mode: I wuv you.

Julian Lynch: Well gee… thanks.

July 7th

Check Your Mode: Hey Julian Lynch.

Julian Lynch: Yeah?

Check Your Mode:


Julian Lynch: *sigh* Thanks.

Primordial – Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand

Original Review Here

Because I am constantly making lists and categorizing the music that comes out of the 2010’s, comparisons are inevitable, and the biggest may be 2010 overall vs. 2011 overall. It’s a valid query, but one that cannot be objectively inspected, because there are too many variables. However, I can safely say this: In terms of metal, 2010 definitely has the upper hand. By this time last year we had fantastic releases from Barren Earth, Stam1na, Triptykon and Nachtmystium. As of now, we only have two outstanding releases from Moonsorrow and Septic Flesh. Things can change of course, but I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say I was a little disappointed, being an enormous metal fan and all.

In terms of quality, Primordial is in a run for third place for best metal album so far (In a dead heat between Devin Townsend and Týr). The Irish metal group’s seventh album slays like their others, trudging through lands of distortion and double bass drum to deliver blows and vanquish enemies with the uniting power of massive balls. Singer Naihmass Nemtheanga rants at you to an almost numbing degree, but it’s all motivational, so it’s all good. Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand makes you less want to destroy shit than spout rhetoric at that shit until it realizes its life is worthless and decides to shy away and kill itself. Not much music does that, but, if there’s one thing you need to know about the newest Primordial album, it’s that it succeeds at it. Oh yes does it succeed.


The Antlers - Burst Apart: B / Malachai - Return to the Ugly Side: B / Snowman - ∆bsence

Space is a wonderful thing to have on an album. It makes music more fluid, keeping the pace interesting. I cannot tell you how many albums I would have enjoyed if only they paused a moment from their unrelenting onslaughts; in many cases, a little space can go a long way. Many albums like that have crossed my path, and yet, I have heard ambient albums that feel like glorious translucent space that drifts through my speakers to give me a floating feeling, although it is clear I am listening to something substantive.

But it should always be noted that space is what it is: Nothing. And too much of nothing tends to swallow something, and good albums can be diluted because they yield too much of their running time to it. The newest albums by The Antlers, Malachai and Snowman all remind me of what can happen when space suppresses potential as opposed to enlivening it. Their approaches are different, but all are ultimately albums that feel incomplete because space is too involved a component of them.

Snowman broke up before the release of their second album, ∆bsence, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to their final project. Not to say that an album like this has to convey the tension I’m sure was building within the group during its making (After all, the final releases of groups like Fang Island and Yellow Swans gave hardly an indication of intra-group turmoil), but, there’s absolutely no tension to be found on the album, at all. What you mostly find are vague textures of keyboards, percussion and guitars. Falsettos abound through mountains of reverb with no notable distinctiveness. The album goes on like this and nothing happens time and time again. When the closing title track “explodes” with some unexpected distortion, it just feels like throwing a stone into an empty pool; it’s a loud “clank” and that’s it. No ripple, no nothing.

Malachai have a slight upper hand in that they at least observe some personality on their sophomore LP, Return to the Ugly Side. The album’s fidelity makes the music akin to lo-fi AM radio pop but with an erudite British edge, lead singer Gee Ealey’s nasally cockney sounding like what would happen if Oliver Twist joined a post-punk band in adulthood. However, while “Monster” features some bludgeoning percussion and “Mid Antarctica (Wearin’ Sandals)” has some gruff guitar riffage, Return to the Ugly Side also succumbs to the space of anonymity. Much of the album sounds like Britpop retread, and Malachai don’t do a very good job of convincing you otherwise. Return, ultimately, sounds like a series of Gnarls Barkley outtakes. Their vague 60’s aesthetic is held up defectively by a stale personality. Like Snowman’s “Absence”, “HyberNation” attempts to surprise the listener with some breakbeats, and, while, admittedly, it comes out of nowhere, it hardly saves Return from its mediocrity. It’s hard to see the album being enjoyed as anything but background music.

Coming to prominence with their 2009 debut, Hospice, The Antlers drew ears with plodding melodies and singer Pat Silberman’s devastating tales of loss and dejection. If you have read anything about the group’s Hospice follow-up, Burst Apart, it’s that, to an extent, it’s more of the same. I would agree with this sentiment; the group’s instrumentation remains tempered and Silberman’s falsettos remain nimble and affecting. In fact, Silberman does a fantastic job on Burst Apart. Many artists strive for delicacy, but he goes all-out, descending upon tracks like “No Windows” to give them a beautiful, sinister bent. It’s shame, then, that, despite the vocal acrobatics Silberman observes on Burst Apart, so little happens on the album. “No Windows” could be transformative if its expanse of organs and mechanized percussion weren’t so repetitive. Songs like “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” and “I Don’t Want Love” should be distressing admissions of sexual frustration, but their arrangements are shy, almost cowardly. Even as Silberman gives his best lyrical performance in the first verse of “Putting the Dog to Sleep”, its impact is dulled by the sheer modesty with which the group accompanies it. The track embodies the mission statement of Burst Apart: A great album by a group with a talented singer marred by the low ambition of its more than competent instrumentalists.