I’ve got to say that one of my favorite things about the current music industry is this strong resurgence of jam band music and culture that’s been going on for the past several years. As someone who wishes they had been alive to witness the explosion of psychedelic rock, progressive rock, and the jam band scene in the ’60s and ’70s, I am extremely happy about the genre’s relatively unimpeded longevity. After the Grateful Dead’s disbandment in 1995 as a result of guitarist and frontman Jerry Garcia’s death, the band Phish stepped in to fill the gap. Although they never achieved quite the amount of success and popularity that the Dead had, they certainly helped to keep the scene alive for the next decade. They were also an integral part of the rise of large-scale music festivals in the modern era. If you think about all of the festivals that host yearly events now – Bonnaroo, Coachella, Camp Bisco, Rootwire, Lightning in a Bottle, All Good, Wakarusa – the list goes on and on.
Dopapod is a group that is quickly rising to the forefront of the jam band scene. Born in 2007, they recently released their third studio album, Redivider, on 12/21/12. The entire record was recorded in a barn at Tyrone Farm, a solar powered farm in Pomfret, Connecticut. Despite the fact that it was released less than a year after their previous album, Drawn Onward (side note: if you haven’t picked up on this yet, the band really likes palindromes), there is nothing about Redivider that gives away any sense of rushed preparation. As a matter of fact, the entire thing is pure, musical gold.
I always love it when two musicians who have both put in the time developing their individual careers and finding success with their respective projects decide to come together to create a collaborative album. We saw this a few days ago with Storm Corrosion, the joint endeavor of Steven Wilson and Mikael Åkerfeldt. Today, I’ve got another such project, just released about a month ago on Kscope, a sub-label of Snapper Music which specializes in “post-progressive” music. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with Wisdom of Crowds, an album released by Bruce Soord and Jonas Renkse.
Bruce Soord is most popularly known for his role as the founder and creative mastermind behind The Pineapple Thief. Started in 1999, The Pineapple Thief has released nine studio albums over a thirteen-year career, including the most recent record, All the Wars. The group has become well-known in indie and progressive rock circles as a result of their unique stylistic crossovers between the two styles.
The indie scene in today’s music industry is as strong as ever. What originally began in the 1980s with the rejection of mainstream synthpop tendencies in favor of much rawer, grunge-influenced sound has metamorphosed into a unbelievably diverse collection of bearded, flannel-clad modern musicians. Of course, that’s a very simple way of describing it, but you get the idea. The point is that the concept of the highly independent artist who has total control of the creative side of their music. So now let’s dial our focus in quite a bit and shine the spotlight on a particular group from Great Britain named Clock Opera.
Although the band was first formed in 2009, they did not release their debut album, Ways to Forget, until 2012. Some would say that three years is a long time to prepare an album, but I would argue that there is no standard duration for such a feat. The one thing that can be said for certain is that the prolonged wait for the group’s debut was definitely worth it. After listening to the record many times and letting it sink in, its true potential shines through. Just as a fine wine matures with age, so too does Ways to Forget reap the benefits of its delayed release date.
Anyone who follows the progressive rock scene even a little bit will most likely have heard the names Steven Wilson and Mikael Åkerfeldt. The former is most well known for his brainchild Porcupine Tree, while the latter is the frontman of the notable Swedish prog metal outfit Opeth. Both groups have released ten studio albums over a two-decade period. Both have achieved outstanding success and critical acclaim in their respective fields. Both frequently cross the line between intense heavy riffs and delicate melodic passages. Yet they are two very distinct musical identities. Thus, it came as somewhat of a surprise and much of a thrill when it was announced that Wilson and Åkerfeldt would be collaborating on a brand new musical project known as Storm Corrosion.
The eponymous first album released by the newly formed duo in 2012 was not necessarily what we might have expected, though. In an interview back in 2010, Wilson stated “…we have this kind of passion [for] very experimental, obscure records, almost orchestral in their scope. And we wanted to make a record like that for a long time. It’s a long way from metal and it’s a long way from anything that, I think, Mikael has ever done…it’s actually a long way from anything I’ve done…The one thing we didn’t want to do is get together and do a prog metal supergroup, which would have been so easy to do – and kind of expected, in a way.”
What is the music composer or songwriter, if not a storyteller? That has been the transcendent role of the musician throughout the many ages of human history. From the first note that is struck, plucked, bowed, blown, or whatever else, we (typically) allow the performer to take over our attention until his story has finished. While this is true for just about any kind of music, some artists have perfected the art of storytelling in a way that not only warrants our attention, but enables us to temporarily let go of everything else plaguing our mind while we surrender ourselves to its enthrallment. Today we take a look at The Dear Hunter, one such group that has achieved mastery in this field. The Dear Hunter originally began as a side project of Casey Crescenzo, who was a lead vocalist and guitarist for the post-hardcore band The Receiving End of Sirens at the time. After writing the original demos for the first album to be released under this new name, Crescenzo elected to take leave of his old band in the interest of devoting his full attention to pushing The Dear Hunter forward.
This first EP, which was released in September 2006, came to be known as Act I: The Lake South, The River North. This was the opening volume of a planned six-act story written by Crescenzo. To quote his own words, “The Dear Hunter is the story of a boy, from his creation to his untimely end; the beautifully rapturous to the truly tragic. Set at the dawn of the 20th century, the debut EP gives birth to a story, and attempts to make sense of the future by explaining. Simply put, The Dear Hunter sings of things to which we can all relate: lust, deceit, greed, and hunting.” I will not go too much into the depths of the intricately-crafted world of the story (that is something that you must do for yourself), but I can assure you that it is the kind of world that transcends time and exists completely in the surrealism of your own consciousness.
I’ve always thought of the term “music blogger” as being somewhat restrictive. It seems like such an unimaginative term for an overlooked cornucopia of enlightenment. It is, unfortunately, far too easy to become numb to the everyday processes of searching for new music, weighed down by the sheer banality of it all. On the other hand, I have witnessed an uncomfortable number of music bloggers fall victim to the competitive, quasi-political nature of the cutthroat world they live in. I believe it is essential to leave both of these attitudes behind. Rather than a “music blogger,” I think the term “aural adventurer” might be more appropriate, or perhaps even “sonic expeditioner.” Why do I remain passionate about finding new music? It’s about the journey, not the destination. This is a core philosophy that applies to the world of music as much as it applies to life itself. The other night, I walked out the door with nothing but my iPod and a pair of Sennheiser headphones, eager to embark on such a journey. As my legs took me across the beautiful campus of the University of Miami, I retreated into my mental space – my inner theater – and embraced the sonic landscape that was beginning to form.
The album of choice for the night was Square Pegs Round Holes by Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, a band which I had never heard of before. I stumbled upon them quite by happenstance, thanks to the wonders of the Internet. The first words used to describe the group that I read were “improvisational progressive rock band.” Boy, did that get me excited. I knew from that moment on that I owed it to myself to at least check out some of their music. Approximately 67 minutes later, I found myself in a state of amazement as the full splendor of Square Pegs Round Holes sank in.