Even a cursory glance of our biweekly “What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To” posts (last weeks update here) will reveal that there is a great deal of variety among our staff’s musical tastes. Due to this, we brainstormed the idea of “Playlist Swap,” another biweekly segment that takes place between playlist updates. We randomly select two of the participants from each update, have them pick their favorite track from each of the nine albums in their grid and then send the list over to the other person to listen to and comment on. Within these commentaries occurs praise, criticism and discovery, and we hope that you experience a few instances of this last point as well. This week’s post brought staff members Ahmed Hasan and Jake Tiernan together to peruse each other’s tastes:
Jake: First, I would like to apologize to Ahmed for giving him a decidedly un-metal playlist. That week I wasn’t in a very metal mood, and instead opted more for shoegaze and various calmer, more reverb drenched music. This week, however, I am ready to listen to some metal again, and am excited to check out Ahmed’s playlist. I see a few names on there I recognize, and a few albums I’ve been meaning to check out but haven’t, so this might provide good initiative to do so.
Jamie xx – In Colour – “Girl”
Honestly when this song kicked off Ahmed’s playlist, I was a little relieved. It is also not very metal at all, but rather, a very nice, spaced out electronic track. I love the way in which Jamie xx uses the auto tune to not only enhance the singing voice, but also shift around the pitches, providing an interesting contrast to the somewhat repetitive backing track. The artist also fully uses the pan editing option to it’s fullest, and most interesting, extent as the voice and track bounces between headphones, making you feel as if there is some brand new head space that you can only experience for as long as you’re listening to the track. After hearing this track, I’m definitely interested in looking more into Jamie xx’s discography and exploring further the soundscapes they have to offer.
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic – “Famine Wolf”
Before listening to this song, my only true exposure to Between the Buried and Me was when my friend lent me a copy of “The Parallax II” during my freshman year of high school. At the time I found the album incredibly interesting, and listened to it at least once a week, but, as someone who listened almost exclusively grindcore, powerviolence, and screamo at the time, it did little to inspire me to further explore their discography. Now, three years later, listening to a new song of theirs, I’m in a similar position. On one level, I enjoy it, and could definitely see myself exploring the album a little bit, but it also does not particularly compel me to listen to the album before any of the other numerous new albums I still have to check out. Between The Buried And Me will remain as an artist whom I have a great respect for, and even enjoy if the mood strikes me, but ultimately fail to inspire me to do any further listening.
Archspire – The Lucid Collective – “The Plague Of Am (Cogito Ergo Sum)”
Let me start by saying that death metal has never really been my thing. For me to truly enjoy a death metal band, there is a high chance that it also needs to include a heavy grindcore, black metal, or melodic death metal element. Unfortunately, Archspire seems to fall into the category of death metal I don’t particularly enjoy. The playing is extremely, extremely tight, and there are definitely some parts instrumental parts with massive amounts of potential thrown in there, but two big things keep me from enjoying them fully. First, the vocals. I cannot place my problem with the vocals, but I think a big part of it is that he stays consistently in the low end without much exploration into a different key. The other big problem is the quality of production in regards to the drums. For me, they sound far too produced, which is a problem a lot of death metal bands seem to have when they track drums. Sadly, Archspire just isn’t for me.
Spawn Of Possession – Noctambulant – “Scorched”
Spawn of Possession is another band I have sort of a passing connection to, and one that I surprisingly actually really enjoy, despite not being a huge fan of tech death. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that Spawn Of Possession manages to avoid a huge cliche of the genre, which is falling into showing off just how technical they can be, without ever truly moving the song forward. Spawn of Possession instead takes their immense technicality and squeezes it into melody driven riffs that help the song to progress and build upon itself instead of simply just collapsing. After hearing how tight Spawn Of Possession is outside of the one album of theirs I used to jam (the one with the big fish thing on it), I will, most likely, actually look into their material a little bit further.
Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid – “Cold War”
If there was one instrument I truly love, it is the synth. I don’t know what it is about a good synth line, but it truly gets to me. Luckily for me, Janelle Monae knows how to properly utilize the instrument, leading into the track with it, before setting it as a constant bonus in the background while her rich, soulful voice enters over an easily dance-able drum beat to dominate the track. Overall, I very much enjoyed this track, and have every intention of checking out her music further after hearing it.
Gorod – A Perfect Absolution – “Carved In The Wind”
At first I was a little skeptical of this track, but, by the end, Gorod managed to win me over. The vocals are of the same low, guttural quality that initially turned me off of Archspire, though, unlike Archspire, the vocalist also manages to explore his range a little bit more, even dropping the growling all together for a few seconds through out the song to a sort of low, flat post punk talk-sing. The drums also managed to sound far more natural, and not so “studio done”, adding an immensely more “human” feel to the song, allowing the listener to focus more on the drummer’s skill and not question if a drum machine in use. Add to all of this how absolutely massive the riffs are, as well as how oddly well they groove at times, and you have a tech death oriented band that knows how to perfectly push the envelope of what tech death can be.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – Ire Works – “Horse Hunter”
If there is a style of music I truly love, it is mathcore. There is something truly beautiful about the mesh of hardcore and metal played in incredibly awkward, uncomfortable time signatures to make a cohesive, chaotic sound. Loving mathcore, obviously, entitles that I also love The Dillinger Escape Plan, meaning I also love this song. It has every distinct TDEP element present, the buzz-saw, air tight guitar work over the machine like, rudimentary drumming, all covered by vocals that are at times harsh and screeched, and at times smoothly sung. The Dillinger Escape Plan are masters of creating chaotic soundscapes through intensive technical playing while still maintaining song structure so that the listener does not simply lose interest.
Native Construct – Quiet World – “Come Hell Or High Water”
I’m having a hard time placing my finger on exactly what this song is, but I really, really like it. It has a very orchestral feel to it, beginning with the build up of strings, leading into a beautifully sung part. Then, when you think it could not possibly turn into a metal song, the growls and blast beats begin. However, the strings do not drop out at this point, but rather, shadow the breakneck guitar riffs, providing a nice accent to the technical display of skill. The whole song has sort of an off, waltz type feel to it, but still manages to bring a certain intensity and challenge to the music, making for one incredibly interesting song. I will most definitely be looking more into Native Construct after listening to this song.
The Reign Of Kindo – This Is What Happens – “Bullets In The Air”
Any song that begins with bongos, some noise-y, disordered guitars, and some absolutely insane drum playing, immediately has me won over. To me, it sounds very much like it is the same vocalist from Native Construct, which would make sense, as both songs provide prog metal heavily influenced by forms of dance music (in the case of Native Construct, it felt very triplet-waltz based, for Reign Of Kindo it feels as if there is a definitive swing-jazz influence). Truly, his voice is captivating, interesting, and perplexing in the context of the song all at the same time. It is very much the smooth, clean cut voice of a jazz singer, but at the same time is almost too chaotic for a traditional jazz voice. However, it also never clashes, but rather locks in nicely accenting the song well and providing a clarity over all of the chaos of the song.
Ahmed: I’ve just come home from a miserable 12 hour day including class, three hours of lab work, and an evening shift at work followed by an hour’s commute home, but coming home to enchiladas courtesy of my sister has proven quite the treat, and I am very stoked to dig my teeth into Jake’s 3×3. As heavier music goes, I’m very much into tech death and prog metal, though I do enjoy some jazz and rap on the side — as it turns out, Jake’s playlist has very little in common with these genres and is somewhat out of my comfort zone, though that only makes me more excited considering I’ve been on a new music kick lately.
Brian Wilson – Smile – “Good Vibrations”
Now this is the kind of track I really needed to hear at the moment! I’m not at all familiar with Brian Wilson‘s work, and don’t know much about the Beach Boys past their name (and that one Stephen King short story that kept referring to them — I believe it was off Skeleton Crew?) but this song is very calming, and I’m really enjoying the warm tones and uplifting lyrics. Definitely going in my pick-me-ups playlist.
The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds – “Hang On To Your Ego”
I suppose I’d have ended up listening to The Beach Boys sometime in the future after having just heard that Brian Wilson song, but props to Jake for speeding up the process! As the song itself goes, I can very easily see how this was (and still is) popular amongst many, but in all honesty my enjoyment of this is fairly surface level. That being said, the chorus does have a neat vocal line, and I like the jazzy breaks in between.
Yuck – Yuck – “Suicide Policeman”
This starts out with some pleasant acoustic guitar playing and quiet singing before what I imagine is standard indie rock instrumentation kicks in. The subtle sax after the second chorus sells it for me, and I like how well the different parts of this song’s instrumentation complement one another, even if I have no clue what the singer fella is quietly going on about the whole time.
Dinosaur Jr. – Without A Trace – “Yeah, Right”
A band I’m somewhat familiar with! The main riff has a great bounce to it, and while I was never a huge fan of J Mascis‘ vocals, the track is a whole lot of fun overall. I do wish the vocal melody in the chorus was taken a bit further, but this was a great listen and I can see myself checking out the rest of the album at some point.
Chapterhouse – Best Of – “Mesmerise”
Back to the (still fairly exciting) land of largely unfamiliar music! This is has some nice electronic touches and a great bass tone going for it, and I like what I’m hearing. The vocal delivery is rather subdued, but that works for the better in the context of the song, though I keep getting touches of Tommy Rogers in his voice — yes, I’m aware Chapterhouse predate Between the Buried and Me, but I’m working off what I know here. This is the kind of straightforward song I enjoy studying to, and was a pleasant listen overall.
Swervedriver – Mezcal Head – “Never Lose That Feeling”
Strangely enough, I’m immediately reminded of Devin Townsend‘s solo works as soon as this song kicks in — I can see a song like this on Ocean Machine (or Ki, if the guitar tones are dialed down a bit), and I’m pretty impressed overall so far. It’s only at the effects-heavy break three minutes in that I realize the song is twelve minutes long, and my impressions change a bit as I start to anticipate what kind of surprises lie ahead. Four minutes brings the first of such surprises, with a dreamy shoegaze break punctuated at first by prominent bass and then by a screechy solo guitar over hints of sax in the background. A couple minutes in and it seems the band has simply chosen to develop that further instead of bringing in new musical sequences, but all is working quite well; I almost feel some of Tool‘s early work in the heavily distorted guitars, but what I love most is how the sax is still going on without fully taking over. A great listen, and definitely an album I will be revisiting.
Beach House – Sparks – “Sparks”
More layers and airy vocals! I generally like more eclectic playlists but for once I like that there’s a theme running through most of these songs, considering my general unfamiliarity with shoegaze and the like. Perhaps it’s because of the previous track’s 12-minute splendour, but this one just doesn’t hold up for me as much — it’s definitely pretty and fairly calming, but there isn’t much for my ear to latch onto, though it does have a cool outro.
Anne – Dream Punx – “Perfect Teeth”
Some great, pounding bass and a strong beat here, even if the vocalist sounds like he’s in another room for most of it, though I imagine that’s to put more emphasis on the music. The final quarter gradually gains some momentum and size before erupting into a great solo, making for a decent listen, if not a very surprising one.
Gliss – Langsom Dans – “Waves”
This is a wonderful intro — almost similar to an uplifting movie soundtrack, as violins dance over a lush background. I’m not entirely sold on the subdued vocals at first, but they complement the song well, and eventually pick up and get to soaring over the choruses. I also really like how the violin periodically dips back in again; a very nice touch. My only real complaint is that it doesn’t build up to a bigger climax as I was expecting, but at the same time the whole song does feel rather climactic in itself, so that’s not too huge a deal. Good stuff.
-SM, AH & JT