Milliontown – Frost* (2006)

Album artwork for Milliontown

Album artwork for Milliontown

In the progressive rock scene, it is often hard to rise up above the continuous stream of new music being released.  The problem is certainly not that too many groups end up sounding the same.  After all, this is a genre that prides itself on being unique.  No, the usual problem is that there isn’t enough substance in the music.  It can be a surprisingly difficult task to write intricate and musically complex songs that also feature strong, memorable material.  As a result, any artist that can accomplish such a task often stands out amongst their contemporaries.  It is for this reason that I discovered Frost*, a neo-prog outfit from England. From the first time I heard Milliontown, their debut album, I was hooked.  It contains all of the crucial elements to appeal to several different musical followings; it’s got crunchy guitar riffs for the rockers and rollers, lighter material with a poppier edge to appeal to a more mainstream audience, and of course it has heaps of intense instrumental breakdowns that attract all the prog fanatics.

From the first moments of “Hyperventilate,” featuring an open-ended piano solo that climaxes into a powerful 7/4 groove that quickly establishes the group as a prog powerhouse, it is easy to tell that Milliontown is going to be an exciting ride.  It is beautifully produced, thanks to the meticulous work of Jem Godfrey, who is the keyboardist, main vocalist, and producer.  The guitar tracks work extremely well with the rest of the rhythm section to fill up the entire sonic field, whether it’s with polished distortion or raw acoustic simplicity.  The real star of the show, however, is the multitude of synth sounds.  Whether it’s with a subtly-effected piano sound or a soaring synth lead, Godfrey packs a punch that easily distinguishes the band’s sound.

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The Sound of the Life of the Mind – Ben Folds Five (2012)

Album artwork for The Sound of the Life of the Mind

What’s this?  Ben Folds Five has released a new album?  Didn’t they break up over ten years ago?  This is very true – the band parted ways in 2000 after the release of their third and (supposedly) final album, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, in 1999.  After a twelve year hiatus, however, they rekindled the old flame and released The Sound of the Life of the Mind in September 2012.  For any and all fans of Ben Folds Five and/or Ben Folds’s solo work, this new album definitely lives up to the hype.  It sounds as though nothing was lost in those twelve long years of the band’s inactivity, and that they simply picked it up right where they left off.  This is definitely no small feat, especially given the large quantity of older bands that still struggle on despite having outlived their bygone golden ages.

As a singer/songwriter, Ben Folds has always stood out from the ocean of starry-eyed, mediocre talent present in the industry today.  Folds succeeds in writing truly unique music both instrumentally and lyrically, which leads to an extremely entertaining and original listening experience.  The lyrics are comical and informal; a refreshing change from the deadly serious subject matter prevalent in a large portion of singer/songwriter music.  Lines such as “If you’re feeling small, and you can’t draw a crowd, draw dicks on the wall” make it known that the band has retained their particular brand of wit over the years.  This album is perfect for the times when you’re simply looking for a light-hearted, energetic soundtrack to your day.

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