What We’re Listening To – September 3, 2009

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Every week five Disc Makers employees talk about an album they’ve been listening to. We’d also love to hear what you’re listening to, so leave a comment with your album pick for the week!

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Raising Sand (2007)

Robert Plant and Alison KraussI was looking for something different to listen to. I had heard a lot of good things about this record for a long time so I gave it a try. This is not something that I would normally listen to, but I’m really glad that I did. It is an interesting mix of Blues, Country, Folk and Rockabilly. T- Bone Burnett was the producer and he did a great job of combining Alison’s, Robert’s, and his own musical experiences, making them all work together seamlessly. There is a nice mix of upbeat songs and slower moody pieces. The highlight is Alison’s voice – it is very clear with a lot of feeling.

–Tom B., Project Manager

Life of Agony River Runs Red (1993)

Life of AgonyFollowing my own personal tradition of arriving at things a bit late in life, I finally picked up Life of Agony’s 1993 debut River Runs Red after recommendations from several friends. After listening to it for a week I began kicking myself for not listening to this when I was an awkward teenager hating high school and looking for something other than the status quo.

Life of Agony arrived on the wave of the late 80’s New York hardcore sub-genre known as crossover (hardcore punk infused with metal). Led by Keith Caputo’s Danzig-esque baritone vocals and accompanied by down tempo brooding and moody metal riffs, the band takes the listener on a journey through personal anguish, societal ostracism, and punk rock escapism–all set to the gritty urban wasteland beat of New York City. Caputo drew from his own life experiences of abandonment, growing up in a broken home, and self loathing to create a violent, cathartic glimpse into his world. After all, their name is Life of Agony – what did you expect?

One underlying theme in River Runs Red is the author’s contemplation of suicide without any apology or pity from the listener. Specifically on the title track, Caputo bellows “I got the razor at my wrist ‘cause I can’t resist” (how Tipper Gore missed this one, I have no idea). This theme is also prevalent on the tracks “My Eyes” and “The Stain Remains”. All is not bleak though, the listener is eventually brought back from this abyss through messages of hope with songs like “Underground”, “Music and Words” and “Method of Groove”.

River Runs Red certainly appeals to the angst-ridden teen dwelling within me and I wish I could have experienced this album when I was actually a teenager. That being said the album does lack a bit of lyrical finesse and prose that older generations are usually drawn to. But at times, when dealing with such pain and frustration in one’s life, it may be best to be as blunt as a ball pen hammer to the back of the skull. Life of Agony certainly delivers this fatal blow and demands your full attention.

If you like Life of Agony I also recommend: Cro-Mags, Maximum Penalty, Killing Time, Quicksand and Helmet.

Disc Makers fun fact: Keith Caputo has produced two solo records that were manufactured right here at Disc Makers!

–Ken M., Intellectual Property Screener

Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)

Bon IverSo who has ever wanted to go into the woods and record an album alone in a log cabin? Well this guy did and the results are fantastic.

Bon Iver is singer/songwriter Justin Vernon. Vernon went into the Wisconsin woods one winter with an acoustic guitar and some recording equipment and got lost inside his own head. What he came back with was a collection of songs that are minimalist yet epic. The subtle textures, introspective lyrics, and layer upon layer of vocal harmonies (horns and other instruments were added later) create an album of mellow, almost angelic songs that sound familiar but also refreshingly new. Bon Iver definitely proves the old adage that sometimes less is more.

Check out my favorites from this album: “Flume,” “Skinny Love,” and “For Emma.”

–Jay W., Electronic Prepress Specialist

Muse Black Holes and Revelations (2006)

MuseMuse, for those who have never heard, is a great band. They remind me of the 70s when rock musicians were virtuosos who aspired towards greatness…of biblical proportions. The greatness was also digestible and made for the masses. Stadium-sized rock. In a world where the internet has made all music live on the same plateau, Muse stands out like a big pointy church spire, easily seen for miles. Influenced by Queen, Yes, New Wave, classical music and late 90’s grunge, they sell out stadiums and halls worldwide..except in the USA. It’s a mystery I still can’t solve.

Black Holes and Revelations is Muse’s fourth studio album. “Take a bow” has the synth arpeggios of the Moody Blues and who’s Matthew Bellamy talking about? What world leader? You fill in the blank! “Starlight” is Coldplay, Keene, and U2–easily my kids’ favorite. The falsetto in “Supermassive” is Prince and Simon LeBon (my wife’s favorite). “Map of the Problematique” has the Peter Hook style bass of New Order and a beautiful chorus. “Soldier’s Poem” is a left-turn ballad with beautiful Queen-like harmonies. My absolute favorite is the “City of Delusion.” Latin trumpets and guitars abound with a powerful Chris Squire styled Rickenbacker bass line (ah yeah..I’m a bass player). Then it all finishes with a cross between Midnight Oil and surf rock, “Knights of Cydonia.”

There are horribly critical reviews of this album on the web. But is it possible for a family driving to the beach in a minivan to be…wrong? Eh?

–Steve C., Mastering Manager

The Budos Band The Budos Band (2005)

The Budos BandEver since discovering these guys a few years ago, this album, along with the second album, has been in full rotation in my music catalog. This is the first full length album from this Staten Island, New York afro-funk-soul 11 piece group. Consisting of 11 instrumentals, the album fits in well with other 60’s and 70’s funk bands along with new funk and soul acts while managing to keep it fresh and easy to nod your head to. The songs aren’t too long or repetitive and while the horns tend to steal the show, the talents of the other members aren’t hidden within the music. Whether it’s for a bbq (“Up From The South”), relaxing (“T.I.B.W.F, Monkey See Monkey Do”), feeling like strutting down the street (“Ghost Walk”), or some jazz flute (“King Charles”), this album provides a quality soundtrack with a tight groove.

–Sean M., Prepress Specialist

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