Saturday, August 31, 2013

Old Man Charlie "The Absent King of the Earth"

Almost as a metaphorical personification of his human voice, the music of Old Man Charlie teeters a ponderous edge between lovable frailty and a certain "hair stand up on the back of your neck" boldness. Something I haven't heard since Russian Red drove me to the brink of weeping the first time I heard her "I Like Your Glasses" album. His music's fragile mood also reminds me of some of the darker songs by Damien Jurado. Old Man Charlie's allure is delicate and poetic and once your ear is turned you are a captive audience for the vivid, imaginative and sometimes morbid themes swarming around in Arlen Lawson's head. To achieve this poignant of a musical personality with just his mouth and six strings speaks volumes about his ability and potential, yet there is a lot to be said for what a focused and well produced record could bring us from him. His efforts so far have been adorned by other musicians lending additional accompaniment and instrumentation which show that this idea is a good one, but not a necessary one at all times. I find that the most tasteful arrangement of additional instrumentation in this singer / songwriter scenario is when you don't even notice that there is more going on than a voice and a guitar. So while I certainly see the potential in breathing additional life into Old Man Charlie's songs with due tastefulness, the delicate frailty that charms me can easily be toppled by a repetitive awkward drum beat or overbearing synth.
Luckily, in his latest release "The Absent King of the Earth," I am very pleased to hear a less distracting accompaniment and a more focused and tasteful production lifting these great songs where they deserve to dwell. This isn't one of my preferred genres of music because I often get a bit dragged down by the "sad sack" attitude of some singer-songwriters. In contrast however this EP has a comfortable length and enough variety and personality to keep me pretty much glued whenever I put it on. I tend to be a sucker for catchy melodicism and hooky song craft, and I find that the core of Arlen's songs possess a mindfulness of his ability to take advantage of that skill. Though I like the EP quite a bit, the highlight for me is a spoken word track called "I Want a Life" where he speaks pointedly about what he wants out of life. Though not technically a song, I think that the accompanying music, the mixing and recording on this track -clicks- the way I think all of his songs should, and can.
"The Absent King of the Earth" is not only a joy, but also a heap of evidence that Old Man Charlie is clearly heading for brighter horizons. I like to think of this EP as his parting gift to Iowa City, as the talent pool here is severely lessened by his departure to Los Angeles.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hello again followers.  I am checking in again with a brief update and a playlist.  I have been very busy working a new job and travelling a bit here and there.  There are a TON of great albums coming out this year, as well as more on the way!  I recently had the chance to sing on two tracks for the forthcoming Panopticon album.  Very excited to hear the album in its entirety when its all finished!

Whats been keeping me afloat lately:

Suhnopfer - "Nos Sombres Chapelles" Devastating, unrelenting, pummeling french black metal. I havent heard anything this aggressive in a long time. Makes me feel old. This was a great find by my friend Kurt.

Gorguts - "Colored Sands" A maelstrom of whirling and intricate death metal from these legends. This is a monument of human capacity to say the least.

Warlord - "The Holy Empire" Here is an enthralling take on the classic Warlord sound. Its so rare to hear traditional metal done so tastefully well. Its a bit too cheesy at times but hey this is Warlord we are talking about here.

Michael Perkins "Mr. 666 - GA008" This could easily be the score to a eerie 80's horror movie. Akin to Goblin and that ilk but done remarkably well without being too overly kitschy.

Eclipse "the Act of Degradation" Sort of a more symphonic and more adventurous version of what Lord Kaos was trying to do. Very complex and well arranged.

Lonndom "Viddernas tolv kapitel" Fairly ragged and charismatic folk from Sweden by guy from Lik. Very accessible.

Allegiance "Blodornsoffer" & "Hymn till Hangagud" I always overlooked these albums because of my hatred for Peter Tagtgren's lifeless production, but they are actually very good. Kind of hard to categorize even though people often think of them as viking metal.

Alcest "Les Voyages De L'ame" I've had a problem listening to Alcest ever since Les Discrets sorta beat them at their own game. After giving this a second chance I'm really enjoying it. This is an album that I will spend years devouring.

Watain "the Wild Hunt" After the single they released I feared it was the downfall of one of my favorite bands, but if you omit that track "the Child Must Die," this album is impeccable. If you're not expecting another Casus Luciferi or Sworn to the Dark, this holds its own quite well. This is more leaning away from the Dissection / Nifelheim influence in favor of a good helping of Bathory influence. What I find enjoyable about it is that its a near perfect commercial black metal album. This should please a lot of people and with proper touring I think Watain will be tops in black metal for many years.

The Howling Wind "Vortex" This is a great snarling album of straight forward black metal with excellent riffing and memorable songs. I'm really excited about this band.

Arch Enemy "Black Earth" I bought this in a dollar bin expecting to hate it, thinking it would be worth some $ down the road. It really caught me off guard and takes me back to 1998, a time when Swedish death metal was modernizing and commercializing. A sad eventuality, but a few choice albums stood the transition.

The Knife "Shaking the Habitual" This band has never quite done anything for me but Karin Dreijer Andersson has made me a fan with her work with Fever Ray, Honey is Cool and Royksopp. With this album I feel like they finally locked it in place. This has a lot to offer.

Peste Noire "Peste Noire" These guys are really starting to get fun. Its great to hear them further and further abandoning the trappings of the black metal genre and carving their own identity. This album seems to be where they grow their wings and really take off. It has a prevalent Mr. Bungle influence to it that I find addictive.

Supplicium "Magna Atra Missa" Another killer French band that I'd describe as a more raggedy Annthennath. I love this french style of guitar harmony.

What have you been listening to?