Monday, July 28, 2008

Sound the Horn


As I had previously posted a few weeks ago, Totimoshi's new album, "Milagrosa," is a strong contender for album of the year. I honestly can't remember the last time that I have heard an album from a band that was new to me, that has stuck with me like this one. I can't get enough of the album and have listened to it over and over and over again since getting it, and has not lost a bit of its classic feeling. On their myspace page they have a quote, "The Melvins had Houdini, Totimoshi has Milagrosa," referring to what many consider to be the classic Melvins album, and they have gone beyond those boundaries. While The Melvins are a huge influence on Totimoshi's sound, they are so much more than what the Melvins accomplished with Houdini. Milagrosa (Spanish for "Miracle worker") sees Totimoshi stepping into realms of music previously untouched upon in their first four albums. These strides into new territory couldn't have sounded better as this album will without a doubt go down as a classic amongst those who have the sense to hear it. With so much music coming and going in the current state of the music industry, this is an album that all rock music fans should give a chance, and you will not regret it!

Totimoshi hail from Alameda, California and have been making albums for nearly ten years. They recently signed to Volcom records in time for the release of Milagrosa. Their sound is difficult to describe as they share many influences, but most prominent is the aforementioned Melvins, only with a far more accessible melodic quality more among the lines of the Queens of the Stone Age. Combine that with punchy guitar and bass blasts, the similarly hard pounding Melvins-esque drums, and a strong Latin influence that adds to their sound's uniqueness. Singer/guitarist Tony Aguilar's melodies are incredibly powerful and fulfilling as they compliment the often wandering guitar lines. Imagine stoner rock fuzz mixed with a jam band's desire to, well, jam, and their sound begins to become more clear.

The production team on this album helps to further cement the desired sound, as created by some exceptionally experienced hands. Page Hamilton of Helmet fame serves as the albums producer, while Toshi Kasai joined the squad as engineer. Kasai has been a long time engineer for the Melvins, and knows the thick thudding atmosphere traveled by both bands very well. Hamilton was able to add in some extra guitar lines and background vocals to the mix, creating a full sound of epic proportions. This doesn't mean that the music is polished by any means however. The production is still very minimalist, and works in the bands favor.

The album is somewhat of a concept album, as Tony describes it as, "I wrote most of the songs as an imaginary fight between love/compassion and hate/violence. I wanted to relay the stories as one choice versus the other both in the lyrics and melody." The ride this creates for the listener goes wild from slow, heavy, punchy songs to folk infused introspection, to full out upbeat explosions of hard rock soul. Their new drummer, Chris Fugitt has finally given Totimoshi a drummer that is worthy to accompany long term bassist Meg Castellanos in the rhythm side of things. He creates a crisp percision to each song that holds everything together, no matter what speed they happen to be playing in. Sonically, the bursts of wild guitar found on tracks like "Sound the Horn," "Milagroso," and "The Whisper" are reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's mid-era catalog.

"Sound the Horn," is a very strong opener to the album, as it showcases pieces of all that's to come. A winding track filled with incredible syncopation between Tony and Meg's playing that is as fluid as any band out there. "Fall and Bound," and "El Emplazado," are shorter songs, with a very punchy attack to them while still maintaining a strong emotional sensibility. Choppy breaks and riffs compliment soaring solos and intricate drum patterns on both these tracks. "Last Refrain," has a slower tempo than the previous tracks, but a melody that is undeniably powerful. The hook is chased by angular guitar blasts and a doomy yet breezy atmospheric quality. Intensity is mixed in and out of the track for a stunning rock composition.

"The Seeing Eye," is a more Melvins influenced track that reminds the listener of the aggression that Totimoshi is capable of bringing. With a Latin based guitar line, this song delves into the slow stomping grungy stoner rock arena, creating further texture to the album as a whole. Still very much melodic, they pick up the intensity without losing the flow or theme. Directly after comes "Milagroso," the most upbeat, even funky at times, track on the record. The chemistry between the three members is evident here, especially as Tony nosedives into the guitar solo after the bridge. Totimoshi are taking themselves to new heights, and this song proves they deserve to be noticed and appreciated as one of the best current rock bands. "Forever in Bone," is an acoustic, calming, folk influenced number reminiscent of a haunting ghost tale. Tony sings with his most sincere and disparate voice, both beautiful and foreboding at the same time. "The Whisper," quickly brings the bombastic sound of the album back with an anthemic wave of sound. This track is anything but whispered, as the chorus is very demanding and attention grabbing. This track always reminds of a mix of the huge stadium rock of the 80s, with the furious discourse of the best hard rocking bands of the 90s.

"Gnat" is another heavily punchy guitar/bass attack. With extreme pounding drums, this track serves to keep the metal heads and headbangers happy. The layering of guitars towards the end is a great contrast between the short punchy rhythm of the rest of the song. "Little Bee" and "Dear" close out the set continuing the fight between love, compassion, hate, and violence both in lyrics and music, with a slower more reflective sense. Totimoshi have created what I consider to be a damn near perfect album, and I hope everyone else will enjoy it too! You can catch them on tour this August/September with Nebula across America!! For more information and to hear some of these songs, please visit them at www.myspace.com/totimoshi.

ALBUM IS IN STORES NOW!

Toadies take the Midwest!




Attention Toadies fans of the Midwest!! The moment you've all been waiting for is FINALLY here. The Toadies will be playing dates starting tomorrow throughout the Midwest, culminating with their performance at this year's Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, IL as one of the most anticipated headliners! This week's shows are the last before the band takes a few weeks break until their album hits stores!!! At this point they will be touring again in Texas and the West Coast and the region. As of now the tour is scheduled through the end of November, with more dates still to be announced!! You really shouldn't miss these shows if you can attend them, as the Toadies put on a live show worthy of as many viewings as possible. The new songs are sounding great live, and I know I can't wait for the new album! Only three weeks from tomorrow!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

ALBUM OF THE YEAR?



LET ME JUST SAY THAT I AM COMPLETELY FLOORED BY HOW AMAZING THIS ALBUM IS. THE MOST INSTANTLY CLASSIC ALBUM IN YEARS AND YEARS. FULL REVIEW COMING SOON...

Monday, July 7, 2008

In a Galaxy Far Far Away...


In space, time can drift forever, but here on Earth if just felt that way waiting for Orion's debut release. The time has arrived though as their EP, "10011011," is finally available, and well worth the wait! I know that I had previously done a small pre-review of two of the four tracks that make up this EP, but I have received the full completed package, and felt it needed to be brought to the attention of rock music fans everywhere.

First, let me give you a little background on the bands history. This information is being re-printed from their record label Pop Up Records band biography. Orion was formed in 2006 in Lawrence, Kansas and consists of members Brad Chancellor [drums], Patrick Crough [vocals/guitar], and Lance Attack [bass]. The trio derives from a collective of previous Mid West acts which include: Tablets Of Orion, Reggie And The Full Effect, Earthen, and Chicago 7. Orion credit their sound to major musical influences including but not limited to: Failure, HUM, Shiner, Self, ON, Weezer, Far, Quicksand, Helmet, Handsome, and Jawbox. After spending much of 2007 recording, Orion teamed up with Pop Up Records in 2008 and made contribution to "The Nurse Who Loved Me: A Tribute To Failure" with their recording of "Another Space Song". In addition the band signed on with Pop Up Records to release their debut CD-EP entitled "10011011" which has been described as "the next great hope for the current era of space rock" (which I believe was by me in my May posting regarding them)! Orion showcase the ability to fuse infectious melody with raw power and are intent on leaving a mark. Expect to see and hear a lot more from this band in the future. Step into the light, begin boarding, and prepare for take-off.

Now onto the music...

The EP beings with "The Broadcast," a bouncing melodic track with the memorable chorus line, "Is it always this cold, wherever you go?" This song achieves great visuals from the lyrics, with an upbeat hopefulness to the sound. The drums double over top of each other while the thick guitars tear between rusty distortion to heavenly soaked chorus sounds. "Friction," follows and gives a stronger nod to the sound Failure created in the 90s. As I said in my review of this song a few months ago, I still feel this is one of the best space rock songs since Failure and Hum graced the scene. The guitar tones that chug during the beautifully melodic verses drift into a haze of sound during the choruses. The bridge adds another great texture of layering from all three band members before going back into the hook. Strong drumming helps to keep these songs firmly routed, and the vocal melodies create a familiarity after just a few listens. Mixing great space themed imagery with emotional lyricism, Orion have created something out of this world, and very down to Earth at the same time. Radio accessible and friendly without being lame, this is music that demands to be played over and over.

"Hi-Fi Sci-Fi," picks up the intensity level its brooding drums and bass creating an ominous landscape for its wandering guitar lines. The vocal melody has a strong angular quality to it that settles during the hook. Orion create great contrast between vocals and music as one calms, the other usually explodes. When the vocals of the chorus seem to hit at its most accessible, the guitars surge and destroy. The album always keeps a consistent remorseful sound with an underlying feeling of hope. "A Farewell," the final track on the EP especially drives this feeling home, as they have created a beautiful send off for their friend who has passed away. Dealing with saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy, but Orion has accomplished this with a great degree of elegance and passion. This track moves in intense shifts with heavy layers of guitar and bass being supported by a strong drum beat that blends right into the mix as it washes away into the final moments of the album.

Clocking in at less than 17 minutes in length, it's an understatement to say that it leaves the listener wanting more. After every listen I hope for another 10 or so tracks to appear on my CD, but all in due time. For now, I can be thankful that at least Orion have released 10011011 to the masses, and patiently wait for what I'm sure will be a long and promising career from this space rock trio. 10011011 is an incredible, even if it's short, journey through the depths of emotions and the sounds of space. Together with Orion, Satellite Tragedy's debut album (see May posts), and the upcoming B.L. Barakus/Beta Lyrae split release, Pop Up Records looks to be quickly emerging as one of the top independent labels in the country!

You can order Orion's 10011011 EP from this link here Give them a listen and let me know what you think!

Orion's myspace page
Pop Up Records myspace page

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

They Came, I Saw, They Conquered


Well, the tour I had been waiting for finally made its way to me this past week/weekend. The Toadies and Lions performed Thursday night at The Bowery Ballroom in NYC, and Friday night at The Middle East in Boston! I was sure to catch both of the shows, since the last time I saw the Toadies I was 10 years old, it was my first concert, and they were opening up for Bush! If you read this blog regularly, you know how excited I was for these shows, and I wasn't in the least bit disappointed!

My review for the two shows is combined into one, since they were pretty similar concerts. Lions started things off really strong. For those that haven't heard Lions, they are yet another great Texas band, from the Austin area. Their sound can best be described as a mixture between Rage Against the Machine, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin. Austin K., the lead guitarist is incredible, he reminds me of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez from Mars Volta. His live performance blows away anything I've heard on either of their CDs, and truly is a sight to see for your self. I hope they can bring some more of their live show to their next album, as the guitars live are out of control awesome. Their most recent album, "No Generation," is still a great listen, and Lions are a band well worth supporting. They closed the show differently each night. In New York they covered indie rock band TV On The Radio's song "Wolf Like Me," which they no doubt picked up from Local H. Local H cover that song during most live shows, and the two bands toured together last month! Either way, it sounded great! In Boston, Clark Vogeler (Toadies guitarist) joined them on stage for their last song, a cover of Deep Purple's "Highway Star." The energy level in Boston seemed higher for Lions, as singer/guitarist Matt dove into the enthusiastic crowd. They proved great openers, as the audience was pumped and ready for the Toadies!!

The Toadies took the stage and opened with Plane Crash to a thunderous ovation! They made sure not to lose any intensity as they went into Mister Love, and then I Come From the Water. The rest of the set list went as follows:

Plane Crash
Mr. Love
I Come From The Water
Quitter
new song #1
new song #2
Away
Little Sin
new song #3
I Burn
No Deliverance (new song #4)
Possum Kingdom
Doll Skin
Push the Hand
Backslider
Tyler

Encore:
Paper dress (NYC only)
ATF (Boston only)
Flower (new song #5)
Velvet

They seemed to be having a great time playing the songs, with Vaden cracking jokes and the band playing brief classic rock segments between songs. For the intro to Doll Skin, Vaden used a mallet to bang out the sounds on his guitar. A really cool affect that sounds perfect in comparison to the record. Their new bassist sounded great, and gave the impression that he had been playing these songs for years. I think they were unable to play some more obscure Toadies songs due to the lack of time to rehearse with the new bassist, but no complaints here! At one point during the show, Vaden asked how many people had been to a Toadies show before, and how many people were seeing them for the first time. During both the NYC and Boston shows, the sold-out crowd was far louder during the first timers, which I think made the band really happy, and is a great sign of things to come. The five new songs, "No Deliverance," "Man of Stone," "So Long Lovey Eyes," "Flower," and another one that I can't remember the name to, all sounded really great, and during my second night seeing them in a row, familiarity of the new songs only made them sound better! There is no doubt in my mind that No Deliverance will be yet another flawless Toadies classic! The response to every track, both new and old, was massive! Clearly the Toadies have fans outside of Texas that have been waiting a long time to see them again! The energy level never dipped from the band or the crowd, pummeling its way through the furious rock action!

For the encore they switched things up from the New York show I attended the night before. Instead of playing "Paper Dress," which I really love, they started the encore with "ATF," then went into the new track "Flower," and "Velvet" to close out the show. Toadies and the crowd stirred with energy from the opening second of Plane Crash all the way till the end, and it seems they have not lost a beat. A Toadies world takeover sounds more and more likely to me by the day.

After the show ended, the band hung around to meet, thank, and sign autographs/take pictures with the fans. I thought this was really awesome of them to do. I took a picture with the band, which is something I would pretty much never do, but hey...it is the Toadies! Now I can't wait till I finish my disposable camera! Not that it needs to be said...but...if you get the chance to go see Toadies on this or their next tour, make sure you take it! They gave one of the best performances I've ever seen that leaves you wishing it would never end.