My Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2013

It’s about that time. That time of year where everyone and their mom gives out awards and makes top lists of the year.  My problem with these awards/top lists is always the same, they are not fair. They will always be unfair, because of the factor of time. Time bias skews our perception, and it is difficult to overcome. A movie that comes out in January/February will almost never win film of the year, because by the time the Oscars come around everyone has forgotten how awesome it was because a different awesome movie just came out a week ago. It doesn’t help that award shows are pretty much giant marketing ploys for their corresponding industry, so selecting more relevant choices (time wise) is to the advantage of the people who do the selecting. Blah Blah our society is ruined by our obsession with currency, you get it.

I am going to try and ignore time bias as best I can. However I do realize most of these are releases from the past few months. Musical artists don’t necessarily have consistent schedules, but they do tend to release albums near the holidays (just like every other product on earth) and tour during the summer when the weather is appropriate for outdoor shows. So like I said, I will ignore time bias as best as I can.

Obviously, I am going to make a top 10 albums of the year. This list DOES NOT mean that they are the best 10 albums, they are MY favorite 10 albums. This means there is a strong bias towards progressive metal, bands that demonstrate superior songwriting, and use of harmonic progressions. Let’s get to it, this is going to be a long one.

10. Intense

Best tracks:

Intense

Pulsar

Starting at the end, for dramatic effect, we have the only album that is not considered rock by any means. Maybe it’s more of a shameless plug for the god of trance Armin Van Buuren and my enjoyment of his weekly radio show A State Of Trance, but this album actually was pretty cool. EDM fan boys will tell you how this album redefined trance and is a giant step forward for the world of EDM, I think it’s hard to make an argument for EDM making any headway in the last 5 years aside from Skrillex introducing the mainstream American world to wubstep (not a typo). The reason I included this album on my list is because of how defined it is by its style. Trance is all about the buildup, the layering, along with positive uplifting feeling-chords and sounds. EDM artists try too hard to sound unique and stand out instead of embracing their music for what it is – it’s for dancing. Sure, it’s about expressing yourself and doing drugs also, but EDM (electronic DANCE music) is for dancing at clubs. It was the reason it was created, it is the reason people enjoy it. Armin combines catchy melodies with dope beats and satisfying drops like his one true purpose in life is to make people move their bodies, and that you just might find yourself doing next time you hear one of his tracks.

OK, that’s enough techno for this year.

9. Altered State

Best tracks,

Of Matter – Resist

Of Mind – Nocturne

Of Energy – Singularity

The number 9 slot was difficult to fill. I always knew number 10 would be an obligatory inclusion of some sort of EDM, because it deserves some representation, but number 9 is where I essentially had to pick the last album, and not pick so many others.

Well, progressive metal wins again. TesseracT has always been a more unique band because of the vocalists soft and high ranged voice over the typically lower octave chords from the instrumentals. There is a lot of use of multiple vocal tracks (all same guy) for filling harmonics on this album, and it sounds really cool on the album. After seeing them perform and being disappointed with the amount of singing the vocalist can actually do by himself in a live setting, I have to put this at the bottom of my top albums. This is definitely a better recording band than a performing band. There is nothing wrong with that, using modern recording techniques is a great way to improve your sound, they just need to work on integrating this into their performance.

The album has themes of self-worth and struggles with addiction, both are things we all struggle with at some point in our lives. It has a consistent tone throughout, and all of the songs connect together, especially the ones in each section of the album (matter, mind, energy) and each section has its own ideas and style. It’s a really cool album, I just wish it had some more versatility to it aside from the vocalist. Off-beat rhythms in odd-metered time signatures gets tiring if you use similar chords and key most of the time. Still worthy of the list, just not a higher spot.

8. A Lot Like Birds -No Place

Best tracks:

No Nature/No Nurture

Kuroi Ledge

Hand Over Mouth, Over and Over

This is the most time-biased album on the list. I want to believe if this had come out in January I would still remember it today, but we will never know… To be safe I put it lower than my actual opinion of it right now.

Also, perhaps the most surprising album to me that is in my top ten, because the vocals are a bit…I don’t want to say whiney, but I just did. They sound a bit whiney at times, there I said it, but at other times his voice seems to soar above the instruments and is very throaty, giving it a proper full sound opposed to the more nasally sound that I don’t really like.

The flexibility of his voice says it all, the vocalist really is the key member of this band, it’s all about the lyrics and the message, that’s not to say the instrumentals aren’t amazing also. Each song has powerful emotional moments that climax both thematically and instrumentally together, my favorite being in Hand Over Mouth, which is really a continuation of Myth Of Lasting Sympathy (a spoken word poem with instrumental background). When he hits that note, you will know which one, uhg, stop it feels go away, I’m trying to write a blog post.

The album is sort of a concept album, about a house inside a man’s mind that traps all of his personal baggage, and that the only way to come to terms with these memories is opening the door and letting them all out. Naturally it’s a very emotive journey that will reach out to even the sourest souls, like mine, and relate with them at some point along the way. It’s very singable and even a bit catchy at times, but the tension and release is really what makes this a top 10. Instrumentally, harmonically, lyrically, even the vocal style, all cause the climaxes hit hard. I dare you to feel nothing as you listen through.

7. Subsume

Best tracks:

There are only four of them, so all of them.

For those who aren’t aware, this is one person, not a band. I don’t think it’s fair to give him an unfairly higher opinion just because he has to do all the work himself, the music has to be just as good as a fully stocked band. Nobody cares how many instruments you play or how good you are at recording, they only care what it sounds like.

Which is why Cloudkicker has surprised me over and over again.

What I have always liked about CK is his uplifting powerful progressions that just make you smile as the song hits its climax. It does tend to take a while to get there, but it is always worth it. This album is a lot darker to me than his previous work. It’s hard to analyze exactly what he intends for it to be about without any lyrics, but only the listener’s interpretation matters. Beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

This could hardly be considered a full album at first glance, it wasn’t exactly released as one, but the length is comparable to some full lengths, with one track clocking in over 16 minutes long and others being over 8 minutes. None of the tracks feel like they drag on, even the 15+ minute track is divided up into section nicely to keep the momentum going and the ear interested. This ‘single’ tops most of the full lengths released this year for me, so take a half hour out of your day to enjoy it.

6. Hellbound

Best tracks:

Children Of The Corn Syrup

Do You See Him

The Travelers

This is the heaviest album on the list. It is heavy in the sense that the chords are dissonant, the vocals are full of rage, and the rhythms are fast and articulate. It is also heavy with emotions, which seems to be a recurring theme in the music I listen to.

All of the songs are about real world issues and real problems with our society. They include environmental destruction, the dark side of human nature, our obsession/addiction to processed food, careless youth who get pregnant, things that we could all agree are flaws in the society we call humanity.

Each song by itself is amazing, but the album didn’t really hit me until listening form start to finish. The Great Gift of The World starts off explaining how we as humans don’t value the planet we live on, or care what happens when we die. Each proceeding song is about a separate issue, and then the final song The Travelers brings it all together, showing the world from the point of view of a race not from our world observing our society and destroying it because of those same flaws. It seems like an idea that’s been done before, but never like this.

Perhaps the reason the finale hits so hard is because of the way the songs inter-connect. The song Do You See Him, about the dark side of human nature (the devil inside of you) repeatedly asks “do you see him?” First time I heard it I was thinking meh, society sucks, I get it. In The Travelers, as the final progression slowly builds, he asks one last time “do you see him now?” and it hits me, Fit For An Autopsy has really stepped up their game here. They aren’t just mindlessly writing rage filledl lyrics about society, they are trying to send a message to all of us.

Also, THOSE BREAKDOWNS OH MY GOD. So heavy, in every way. I wouldn’t typically consider a band that has any amount of breakdowns to be an actual good band, but this is how its done. Combine the heavy themes with the heavy riffs and it will hit harder than ever before. Thank you for restoring my faith in breakdowns.

Well, DO YOU SEE HIM?

5. Pelagial

Best Tracks:

Bathyalpelagic iii: Disequillibrated

Benthic: The Origin Of Our Wishes

Hadopelagic ii: Let Them Believe

I’ll be a lazy shameless blogger and just leave a link to my full, more in-depth review of this album from much earlier in the year.

https://metalmalarkey.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/the-ocean-pelagial-an-epic-journey-to-the-bottom-of-the-ocean/

4. The Hands That Thieve

Best tracks:

The Three Of Us

The Hands That Thieve

With Any Sort Of Certainty

This album should have come out a long time ago. Tokay (lead vocals/guitar) has thrown a fit over the contract he signed with his record label and other sorts of drama that gets ska/punk fans all excited and riled up. My opinion, he’s an elitist who fails to see the benefits his label has given him over the years, and even though record companies are awful companies in terms of fairness for the artist, why should he get benefits that other artists on the same label don’t get? Its all a big marketing ploy for his fans who eat that sort of thing up and make them believe that Streetlight is some supreme band sent down from heaven to fight for the freedom of artists everywhere. What these same fans fail to notice is that this drama has caused this album to get delayed time and time again, over a year of delays (not that a release date was ever set in stone) building up artificial hype.

Basically, he’s not wrong, he’s just an asshole.

With that said, this album has a lot of killer tracks on it. The strength of this group is how singable their music is and how light-hearted it is in tone, but with darker annotations in the lyrics. Its catchy, its full of emotion, and the instrumentation is superb. All of the wind instruments are amazing players who are capable of taking the spotlight at any time, but the way they play together during the extended instrumental sections is some of the best melody writing I have heard from any band. This band is completely consistent at producing good songs, good albums, and good live performances. I could go into detail about each song, and why it’s good, and every moment in the album that hits you right in the feels, but there are so many. Just listen to it, and at the request of the god of music on earth Tokay, illegally download it so that the label doesn’t get any money, because that’s a good marketing strategy.

3. One Of Us Is The Killer

Best tracks:

Crossburner

Hero Of The Soviet Union

When I Lost My Bet

I will preface this section with this: this is the worst Dillinger Escape Plan album. I do not really prefer the vocal styles of Calculating Infinity, but it was the foundation for everything that this group has become. Wow what a cliché music critic thing I just said, but really.

This is still my number 3 this year. I really did like it and listened to it a lot, but I have already spent so much time praising DEP that I am going to take this opportunity to explain why its not number 1, like I was hoping it would be.

I just don’t feel the emotion. Most of the tracks are really good, but I found it hard for myself to relate to them. This is a point I make a lot, how easy it is for a person to listen to a song and understand not only what they are saying but what the song is about. The album art/concept got me really excited, hoping there would be the consistency to this album that DEP has always lacked, but then really only the title track is about that ‘concept ‘of everyone losing in a relationship when emotions are involved. I guess that word consistency is why I couldn’t really fall in love with this album, there are a few really good songs, and the rest were totally forgettable in comparison. I saw DEP two times this year, once right after the album dropped and once headlining summer slaughter, neither time did they play any more than 3 songs off this album. For a band known for their live performances, a lot of these songs don’t translate well into live performances, and they know it. When they performed One Of Us Is The Killer at SS, it was a big yawn, even though most of the fans got to sing along for once.

Still my favorite band, I just hope as they are rapidly gaining popularity worldwide they continue to write great songs.

2. Wrongdoers

Best Tracks:

Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes

Wrongdoers

Sun Dies/Blood Moon

Norma Jean falls at the bottom of my current top 5 favorite groups, and they wouldn’t even be in the top 5 if it weren’t for this album. Meridional was a great album with lots of very emotive moments, but there wasn’t really any one good song. This album is the opposite, the album overall doesn’t have the cohesiveness or the orver-arching themes like Meridional did, but there are so many killer stand-alone tracks. Sun Dies/Blood Moon is possibly my favorite single track all year, culminating in a chilling, powerful finale, just like last songs should.

Wrongdoers is about many things, commentary on the party scene of American youth, drug addiction related depression, the typical love/loss story, coping with death of a friend, all things I think any member of our society could relate to. The continued use of clean vocals adds a lot of depth to the band, while the riveting screams have the same impact they did before. Some songs are even singable, catchy in their own way, but the lyrics are powerful. Even though they represent themselves as Christians, their messages of faith and self-worth don’t just apply to religion, they instead tell them in a way that it applies to all aspects of life. Are they the most talented band ever? No, they don’t need to be. Sometimes writing good songs is more important than putting as many notes on a page as you can.

And finally, my favorite album released in 2013…

1. The Mountain

Best tracks:

Cockroach King

Falling Back To Earth

Because It’s Their/The Path

This one was really difficult for me to come to terms with, my favorite album of the year was by a band that I had not even listened to before the beginning of the year. I think that says a lot about just how much of an impact it had on me. The mountain is a ‘concept album’, which means all of the songs take place in the same atmosphere, and they share a common over-arching theme. The concept of the album is that the mountain which the album is about, is the conquest of man to achieve his idealistic dreams.

The Path, the first song, is really what sets the tone for the whole album. The beginning has very uplifting major chords in chorale style. The theme that you hear in this song is very important, as the same theme returns later in ‘Because It’s There’, but this time with multiple recorded vocal tracks for harmony.

The album is structured just like a mountain, and the summit is ‘Falling Back To Earth’, where you hear the protagonist literally and figuratively reach the top of this mountain. I’ll leave it to you to find out what happens in the rest of the album.

What makes this better than all the rest? What made this my favorite album of the entire year? All of the albums listed above have superior harmonic content, powerful and relatable themes, and logical, yet innovative song structure. This has all those things, but the difference is in the writing. The cohesiveness of the entire album, all of the songs together, is what makes the message stronger than NJ or even DEP can express in a single song. Pelagial has similar cohesion, but the themes aren’t as relatable and the style is more limited. Each song is distinguishable by itself, yet is only one part of a whole. This isn’t the first concept album I have ever heard, not even the first on this list, but I can think of no other album to tell a story as effectively as this, even the first time you listen to it. I love listening to things over and over, slowly absorbing all of the information within, but truly good music has an impact the first time you hear it. That is why The Mountain is my album of the year.

Honorable mentions:

War From A Harlots Mouth – Voyeur

Exivious – Liminal

Persefone – Spiritual Migration

Vildhajarta – One Thousand Evils

Animations – Private Ghetto

Protest the Hero – Volition

Still my favorite album of all time: Dillinger Escape Plan – Miss Machine

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Metal Monday #18

Ovid’s Withering – Murder to Dissect

Symphonic backtracks are hard to implement effectively. Sometimes they come off as cheesy, sometimes it causes the music to be too harmonically overwhelming. Combining this with metal, which can have fast tempos and rapidly changing chord progressions, it can sound too busy.

Not this band.

The backtrack is used almost throughout, to fill the harmonic gaps, and the characteristic sounds they want, but the content of the backtrack is very minimal. There are moments where it is the focal point of the music, but these moments are in transition when the actual instruments aren’t doing anything important. Keeping it simple in that regard is what makes it well done, leaving the complexity to the actual performing members of the band.

There are a lot of styles that they play, even on this song. It opens with straight symphonic backtrack, then transitions into a ‘mathy’ chug section with alternating meter, then switches into a more typical death metal sound. The chorus heard first at 2:21 is very straight-forward for metal, repeating the title of the song a bunch of times. It makes it ‘singable’ in a way, which is something death metal lacks a lot of the time. The section at 3:00 is nearly djent (I reiterate my dislike for this term),but I forgive them. The diversity in styles may seem a bit off-putting and un-natural, it sort of is at some times, but other times the transitions do a good job of making you not notice they changed anything at all, it’s just part of the song.

The album is a good 70+ minutes long, it gets a little exhausting to listen to all at once, but I found it a worthwhile listen since the songs connect seamlessly and there are over-arching themes.

And what better way to wind down after a 70 minute symphonic death metal marathon than with a solid breakdown.

Apparitions – Malice

@ 3:16 for the finale. Ah, now that my brain has become a pile of mush, I feel much less inclined to think about anything for the rest of today. Naw, this band isn’t that bad, if you are comparing them to bands of similar style, but the style is what it is, love it or hate it.

My next post will be my favorite 10 albums released in 2013, metal or not. If you like reading random people’s opinions on the internet, it will be a great read for you.

Metal Monday #17

No lyrics. No words. Just harmonics and rhythms.  A common complaint about metal is that you cannot understand what they are saying, a common complaint about instrumental music is that they aren’t saying anything – this leads me to believe that for the most part, music has to say things for it to be easily approachable by humans.

Funny thing is, this song says more without words than most songs with lots of words do. Our brains associate certain harmonics with certain feelings, because of the level of dissonance that is within a chord and the intervals of the chord changes. If a song has only 4 chords and the same rhythm repeating the whole time, it is limited in the amount of different feelings that it can cause your brain to associate with. It’s not to say that adding powerful lyrics to emotion-evoking harmonics doesn’t add to our level of understanding of the artist’s intent, but my argument is that the major cause of emotional content in music is the harmonics, not the lyrics.

Well how am I supposed to feel when I listen to this? How can I possibly understand what story Exivious is trying to tell if they don’t just tell me? Come on now, really listen.

The song opens very softly with long sustained chords, as is suspected for the beginning of any song.

The first part of the story is portrayed at :44. It has a somewhat curious, hesitant feel to it. It’s as if the artist is unsure of what to do – we just don’t really know what it is. The majority of notes in the melody fall out of line with the beat for a sense of misdirection and confusion. At 1:11 the notes fall just after the beat (also the first time we hear the theme) which gives me the idea that a decision has to be made on this subject urgently.

At 1:42 the song transitions again. The same theme is modulated to a different key here and repeated over and over again (the notes falling just after the downbeat of each phrase) while the rhythm section starts to build up tension with increasing intensity in their articulation style as this section goes on. How does this section make you feel? Do you feel the urgency in the rhythm section, combined with misdirection of the harmonics?

The song of course ends with an imperfect authentic cadence, and we don’t really know what he decided or if he made a decision at all. That’s because this is the first song on the album and you have to listen to the rest to hear how the story ends. WARNING: imminent saxophone solo.

And now for something entirely different.

At 1:16, I was led to assume there was a breakdown coming at some point soon.

There is a cool moment at 1:46, but it’s not the drop we are waiting for.

At 2:01 I was certain it was going to happen. Nope still not…

Oh.

@2:23

So terribly awesome. I really like the extended buildup and unexpected nature of this breakdown, even though the song really doesn’t do anything original or innovative at all. Thus is deathcore.

Why It Sucks #7

This is the first why it sucks featuring an artist that I don’t think is completely fraudulent. Well, it’s not that she isn’t fraudulent, but I would say significantly less fraudulent. Lady Gaga is a weirdo, I think we can all agree on that. Her outfits, her quirky beats, her outrageous (but amazing) music videos, she is not someone that is easy to ignore in our society right now. All of these things culminate into her image, the persona that embodies her music. I will say, she can be a bit over the top at times, but the way her music is all consistent with her image is cool as a concept – if only the music that resulted from this didn’t sometimes suck.

What makes this suck any more than the rest of the Gaga hits? Stylistically nothing is different, but I have some disagreements with what the song is about. Pop music is effective because it deals with easy to relate with subjects, partying, drinking, break-ups, this song is about something that almost everyone can NOT relate to. Basically, Lady Gaga is mocking the opinions the media has of her, which is cool, but then she is saying she embraces the media and being famous and loves it when everyone cheers for her. It’s almost relatable on the level of not caring what people think of you, but that’s not really her point, her point is it’s worth it because she gets to be famous. Herself is the subject of the song, and that’s what its about. Sorry that I am unable to relate with being Lady Gaga.

This songs verses are much stronger than the chorus. Good phrases, resolution at the right times, vertical note movement, quirky vocal style, typical Gaga. The chorus is what people care about, it’s the part people will remember, and I don’t remember any of it. Not only is it for some reason difficult to understand what she is saying, the sudden change of range of her voice makes it difficult to sing along. A lot rides on the chorus, you have to sing it at least 4 times, better make it catchy and easy to sing or people will get confused.

Those things, and the same 6 chord pattern being repeated the whole time over and over again, are why Applause by Lady Gaga sucks.

Metal Monday #16

So you only learned how to play one chord, but don’t want to suck, what do you do?

Na, these guys definitely know more than one chord. What I mean though, is most of their phrases are one chord cadences that have an open ended length. :01-:10 is part A in one key. :10-:15 is part B in another. They continue to change keys as their phrases transition from one to another, it makes up for the lack of structure in the rhythmic patterns. Notice at the first part A (0-:10) then another (1:34) the rhythm and pattern changed form before, but the key is the same as before.

Man is this guy upset though.

It makes me feel upset and want to punch things, so maybe it’s time for BREAKDOWN BEATDOWN

Not as heavy as usual (whatever that means), but I really dig this. This breakdown is not what I would typically expect as a breakdown. The ‘build-up’ part actually does the opposite, at :46 it drops off, then at 1:20 the full instruments (with gain) return until 1:45. After this the instruments slowly get phased out until only the vocalist is left. The vocalist also designed his lyrics to hit one of his more impactful lines right at at 2:00, when it finally happens. This ‘breakdown’ is followed by a more traditional sounding breakdown at 2:15. Two for the price of one.

In metal news, Dying Fetus is officially scheduled to play at Download Festival 2014. This wouldn’t be news, if the headlining bands weren’t Avenged Sevenfold, Linkin Park, and Aerosmith. We have ourselves to thank, this magical event is happening because of a social media campaign. Rumors say it started because of a post on metal injection, which I can confirm nor deny, but the story goes that someone saw the headliners, was upset, and so asked the event managers one simple question : #whynotdyingfetus ?

For a glimpse of just how quickly this escalated

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23whynotdyingfetus&src=typd&f=realtime

So many people tweeted/social media’d that the people behind the event decided the people could not be ignored, Dying Fetus will be playing at the event. I hope thousands and thousands of Aerosmith fans have their lives changed that day.

The Music Man Behind The Curtain

These songs are by exactly the same band, but something is very different. It isn’t anything in their style that changed, but the sound on the older song just sounds…hollow. Pardon me if I failed at coming up with an adjective to describe what a very unmixed album sounds like on mediocre recording equipment.

There is a difference, while hardcore fans will argue the older song sounds more “true,” the newer song sounds more “clear.” Some people honestly prefer the grittiness of the under-produced sound and some prefer the more articulate and full sound of well-produced tracks.

I can’t stand listening to music with low production quality.

As an entitled, spoiled American citizen, I have high expectations for my music. It should sound clean, without infringing on the artists creativity. I can blame my society for this sense of entitlement, or I can embrace it.

The truth is, the technology exists to make recorded music sound better. By better, I mean to make it sound the way the artist intended without the characteristics of the recording equipment altering the harmonic balance. Very expensive audio equipment can let you have this effect without as much post-record mixing, but for lesser known groups without a big record label, they will probably be recording with less than preferred equipment. To see the difference that the hardware really makes, listen to the older song again, then listen to the one from last year.  I believe that Converge uses similar mixing techniques (very little pitch correction and quantization) throughout the years, but as they have become more highly acclaimed they have grown economically, and technology has advanced, therefore they recorded on better equipment. The result is Converge, the way they always wanted to sound.

While in a genre like metal, where the fans are more passionate and willing to ignore flaws in their music, in popular music the production quality is even more important. The leading (economically) artists of today have great voices (mostly), yet  backtracks use harmonizing backup singers, pitch correction, and electronic instruments, leaving nothing in the hands of the audio hardware or the artist themselves. The producer takes the recorded voices/instruments and then essentially builds the entire song himself in computer software. The only thing you hear that is the artists creation is their voice. Some artists got famous for their ability to do this (Daft Punk, Kanye) without being all that talented or creative musically.

Kanye is a clever rapper and a good producer, but doesn’t play instruments or sing. Just wanted to clarify because I know there are a lot of die-hard Kanye fans, I hate him because he is a moron not because his music is awful.

Those of us who are musically retarded don’t care if you are not as privileged and don’t have access to nice audio equipment, we don’t care if your recording engineer went to community college, to our untrained ears all we know is it sounds good or it sounds bad. Big producers have to take the part of the music that are easiest to understand – the beat and the vocals – and make them stand out from the track so they are noticed the most. That is how you mix music that you need musically retarded people to like, give the listener as few things to focus on at one time as possible so their brains can process the information being presented in the sound. It is unfulfilling harmonically and rhythmically bland, but it does play on the strengths of the music (usually only the artists voice) and the demands of the common listener (simple beat definition, singable melodies and lyrics).

I look to electronic music producers for examples of good mixing. These artists are not known for their performing talent or musical knowledge, but instead their ability to create music with a computer. There is a huge difference between recording mixing and electronic mixing, each requires a different set of skills, but I think the recording guys could learn a thing or two from the electronic guys.

A lot of people think electronic music producers are garbage because they don’t play instruments or have to know anything about music theory to do what they do. Sure, they don’t, but it is clear this guy knows something. Every single track is edited and filtered to sound exactly the way he wants, which is probably upwards of 50 different tracks. Every minute sound is perfectly balanced with the melody, and different tracks are the focal point at different times in the song. Even though there are no instruments being played, lots of different sounds work together to give the song depth. Its 100% predictable, it’s a magic 4 chord song, the lyrics are cliché and uninspired, but despite this the song is still interesting because of the incredible attention to detail.  Andrew Rayel is a great producer, regardless of how uncreative his music may be.

The man behind the curtain is as integral to music as the person playing the instrument. When you make an argument that ‘production quality’ is cheating or dishonest (pitch correction, quantization, harmonizing, vocal filters etc.), you’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole. The fact is there is no way around post-mixing recorded music if it is going to be distributed digitally. Even the simple task of combining the recorded tracks onto a single MP3 is mixing. That being said, I totally understand where you are coming from…

This is an example of a song that is absolutely over-produced. Aside from the song just being bad overall, the filters/time delay effects on the vocals are gimmicky and distracting. The synthesizer is mixed at a level that covers the harmonics of the guitars.  Why even bother having a real drummer when the main rhythm is electronically generated? This style of production is simply to have a gimmick so they can catch your attention, not to play off the strengths of the performers recorded tracks. Perhaps there is a conflict of creative interest between the band and their producer and this is the result.

I’ll end this post with a look at how production quality has evolved throughout the decades. Nothing will ever take away what the older artists contributed to the world of music, but I can’t help but imagine what it would have sounded like if they had been recorded and produced today. Usually I tell you to listen more carefully, but this time listen to the sound as a whole as it evolves with technology.

Pop:

70’s

80’s

90’s

now

Metal:

70’s

80’s

90’s

now

Why It Sucks #6

Let’s remember back to the year 2002, Avril Lavigne releases Let Go, every pre-teen girl then proceeded to dress/act in this new punk/pop style so people think they are a badass. I witnessed it first hand in middle school, this new hybrid clique developed full of girls who acted just like the rest of the girls and were socially well accepted, but portrayed themselves as rebels and rejects because it was edgy. Doesn’t that sound like the worst kind of person you can remember? Avril Lavigne was the embodiment of this image, she was more edgy and had attitude even though she grew up a spoiled princess just like the rest of the solo female artists.

Now that edgy/punk is out and party queen is in, Avril found herself irrelevant in the mainstream for quite some time. I can’t remember the last hit she had since “Girlfriend” which some would argue is one of the worst songs of my generation, and that was in 2007. She also got a lot of flak for possibly lip syncing on different occasions.  A lot of people confuse lip syncing with recorded backtracks and point the finger when the singer makes a mistake, but the backtrack continues to play, making it seem as though the singer was not singing the entire time.

I’m done defending her, this song sucks.

For personal reasons I am going to start off talking about the Radiohead reference. Anyone who actually likes Radiohead would hopefully never associate themselves with this, and she claims to be singing Radiohead “at the top of our lungs.” Have you ever listened to Radiohead?  It’s not something you sing at the top of your lungs; it is mostly calm and slow. This makes me question why she uses this band in association with a fun night out, and if she is even familiar with their style at all. The real reason behind the reference is obvious; it’s strictly a name drop to make her seem endearing to fans of “good music.”

Also a song about not growing up that is also about getting really drunk on “a bottle of whatever.” Endorsing underage drinking? Your target audience will LOVE that Avril. Their parents however, will not.

Alright, enough about what she is saying. Let’s talk about “her” intense guitar playing skills. Avril Lavigne can definitely play guitar, it’s not like you can ignore footage of her successfully operating the instrument (not this music video). Now listen to the guitar part during the first verse of the song.

Wait for the note to change… wait…wait…

The bottom note of the major triad is the only note to change, and only twice. The other two notes remain the same THE WHOLE TIME. This does entirely change the harmonic makeup of the chord, but it is also LAZY SONGWRITING. Why do the work of completely re-establishing the key in the listeners ear every cadence (basic level songwriting) when you can instead just play that note the whole time (Lavigne level songwriting). We wouldn’t want our musically retarded listeners to get confused as to what is going on in the song.

Now onto the chorus, the pride and glory of every pop-hit. The majority of the phrase is the same 3 notes descending-ascending over and over until the song drops its own title “here’s to never growing up.” The catchiest part of the song is that line, and it is also the only well written measure in the entire song. The perfect authentic cadence really catches the ear nicely, as it is at the end of an extended phrase and gives us the harmonic resolution that we need. The problem with this chorus overall is that there are too many words. If you want this song to be a party song, played at clubs and bars, it has to be easily ‘singable’.  I can’t believe I am recommending catchy and simple melodies, but nobody is going to listen to this shit in their free time, nobody is going to put the effort forth to learn all those lyrics, keep it simple and people will eat it up in those situations. It will still be awful music but it will at least be more successful.

And that is why ‘Here’s To Never Growing Up’ by Avril Lavigne SUCKS.