Punch Brothers – All Ashore

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“The demons are hissing, ‘What if you’re wrong? You might be wrong.’” Quote from this album, from a song called “The Angel of Doubt”.

There are a lot of so-so reviews on this new Punch Brothers album All Ashore. And I’ve got to say, motherfuckers don’t know shit.

Look, I get it. This is different from what they’ve done before. Critics are pining for the days of The Phosphorescent Blues. “They seem to have lost a certain…” bla dee fucking bla. To those that feel this way, scream your feelings into a mitt full of AA batteries, slide all those batteries into a long sock, and then swing that shit like you’re trying to kill a swarm of malaria-infected mosquitoes with a fucking flail until that shit hits you square in the jaw. But, but let me be straight with you, I’m biased. These guys are my jam. I’ve written about Chris Thile, the mandolin player and lead singer of this posse, twice. And I did a writeup on the banjo player Noam Pikelny solo album. Also, I wrote a spiel on their guitarist Chris Eldridge. But these motherfuckers are some of the greatest players alive. How can I not write about them? On their talent, I’m happy to say, nothing has fucking changed. And they still genre hop faster than a raccoon in the middle of a red-necked shotgun shootout. But this album doesn’t jump out at you like a minstrel in overalls and say, “Hey look! Bluegrass can be music to!” with some folky shit-eating grin. They’ve done that already. They convinced the fucking world of this shit. That was then. Now, it’s time to move the fuck on.

The ambiance on some of these songs is closer to early Bon Iver or Sufjan Stevens than it is to bluegrass or classical. But, unlike Iver and Stevens, this quintet wrote these songs with complex counterpoint and sophisticated fucking arrangements. Jazz or classical heads will think these dudes dumbed down their shit for accessibility. The pop and folk jockeys will find this shit overly complex and long. Truth is, these motherfuckers are using a voice they’ve carved out themselves with fucktons of courage, years of dedication and hard work, and a disgusting amount of talent. You think that the first time they decide to produce an album for themselves and they’re going to play some impersonal and unsentimental shit? Fuck that. This is who the Punch Brothers are. This is their sound. They’re going back to their literary namesake coming from the Mark Twain short story “A Literary Nightmare”, which was later called “Punch, Brothers, Punch!” In the story, there’s a song so catchy it’s like a fucking disease. The only cure to it is to show someone else the song. Once they’re infected, you’re cured. So, enjoy the sickness and spread this fucking disease. Or, as the popular heavy metal band Disturbed says “You fucker get up. Come on, get down with the sickness.”

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Emile Parisien Quintet – Sfumato live in Marciac

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Putain que c’est français! A fucking accordion starts off this shit with a three-part suite called Le Clown Tueur de la Fête Foraine (The Killer-Clown Of The Funfair). Clowns? Accordion? Funfair? Add some stinky cheese, cigarettes, and a baguette and you win the French stereotype super sweepstakes. Oui? Ya, that’s a big fucking Oui. The main dude on soprano saxophone is even named Parisien for fuck’s sake. That motherfucker make the sax dance like its got kids to feed. And, du coup, he makes that shit jump, tousle, hoot like a didgeridoo, and go through these magnificent runs with the pace of a speed-addicted tap dancer with shoes made of fire ants.

Vincent Peirani plays the accordion. Or, at least I think he does. A piece of me still believes he might actually be a robot designed with the sole purpose of ruling over a accordion-sentient world. On this live album, the first song starts with Vincent showing his chops solo-style for about two minutes. After the first minute, I know I’m supposed to believe that Vincent is still a human, but fuck that shit, that’s some Google A.I. level shit. So, beep-beep-boop, motherfucker (he’ll know what I mean). He’s not just good at accordion he’s, literally, un-fucking-believable.

Next to this you’ve got Joachim Kühn. Only someone at a Kühn calibre could tie these two motherfuckers together while still also adding his own distinct flare. He’s played since the sixties. And the list of great names he’s played with, the awards he’s won, and a bunch of other cool shit he’s done along the way is too fucking long to be written down here. So, in short, I’ll just say don’t fuck with Kühn. Kühn is pure piano pimp. 

Michel Portal plays the clarinet on this shit. He also happens to be one of the designers of modern European jazz. Motherfucker played on Stockhausen’s Aus den sieben Tagen back in ’69, a classical piece designed to be played solely on intuition. Portal opened the world up to open-form classical music before most motherfuckers were even born. So ya, to say this guy is pretty good at improvisation is like saying getting tortured puts a bit of a damper on someone’s Monday. 

The beauty of this album is not the top-notch players. Get an army of great chefs in a kitchen to make a burger and, by the end of the night, some poor motherfucker is getting chef-shanked in the dick. But these guys don’t do that. They connect together with the singular goal of having a good time and making some good fucking tunes. They get lost in the music. They don’t make it about them. Most fucking garage bands break up because of some guy’s fucking ego. But, somehow, these talented motherfuckers play together without a hitch. In fact, this kind of attitude could be the reason why they got so good in the first place. They didn’t stand up on stage, fuck over their band, and say “j’en n’ai rien à foutre”. They stood with their band, without ego, and said, “Tous pour un, motherfuckers”. 

 

 

The Armed – Only Love

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Here, at Album a Day, there’s a really obvious weakness when it comes the music selection. I noticed this a while ago and started working on it, all the while dreading the day someone would comment, “Hey motherfucker, where’s the fucking metal?” At first I tried to go it alone. When I saw I was fucked, I went out and got some professional help. 

A montage of me going through metal training: A heavy-bearded metal guru glides into the room driven by a headbang so fast and aggressive it acts as a propeller. When the sharpened spikes on the guru’s leather jacket glint in the sun, instead of ringing out an audible “ting!”, it screams as if it’s dying. The Metal Guru raises each arm and storm clouds form. An ocean of double kicks rise from within the floor slamming out the fastest tempo ever fucking heard. I slowly sway to this beat, back and forth, in a feeble attempt to headbang. The guru shakes their head. Instead of making “the sign of the horn” with my hands, I point to different things within my kitchen with my pinky and screech like a raptor. The guru slams a palm to its forehead. Instead of selling my soul to the devil, I end up using my soul as a timeshare to middle-class demons that just need a week off every year.

Cut to one – consistently loud – week later under the guidance of a metal guru. 

The Armed hail from Detroit and specialize in a genre called extreme metal or hardcore punk. It’s loud. Holy fuck is it ever loud. But this loudness is perfectly orchestrated. The Armed arm themselves (see what I did there?) with polyrhythmic drumming, a screaming from three guitarists and three vocalists, and aggressive fucking synths. On a first listen, the music feels like it’s continually about to explode. This tension is maintained throughout the entire fucking album. The drummers on this shit work with the same determination and talent as many jazz drummers, but with the tempo turned up to fucking impossible.

This isn’t a style of music to scoff at. It’s something to admire and study. The practice it takes to sing metal can only be compared to opera. It takes a lifetime to learn how to do it well. And, even then, it doesn’t mean you’ll be any fucking good at it. There are highly respected teachers to train under (check this link) and voices like Mike Patton are revered like Roberto Alagna. Even in the Metal game, The Armed are unique. They have carved out their own fucking noise. They broke from the mould of generic metal to form something highly fucking entertaining, loud, and, somehow, playful. There is nothing in their wall of angry cacophony that doesn’t have a purpose. This shit works like osmium, the densest metal on earth, because this shit is dense, even by metalheads standards. But, even some noob like me can admire its noise, its chaos, its rage, its talent, and its purity. If you’ve never heard anything like this before, don’t be scared. It’s just fucking music. Really loud, really angry, and really fucking good music.  

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Dieter Schnebel – Schubert-Phantasie

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This is one of those albums that just fucking owns you, floors you, K to the fuck O. Maybe you’re one of those people that think modern classical music sounds fucky. Maybe you think it’s weirdo shit made by weirdos for all those fucking weirdos out there. Maybe you’re nicer than that. Maybe you listen to this kind of shit and say, “I just don’t get it” and then move on. Well, if you’re any one of these, put this album on. I fucking dare you. Seriously, fucking do it. Listen to it. Right fucking here. Right fucking now. I’ll even throw out a link for you to make that shit easier. It’s fucking gorgeous. It’s a beautiful experience. It’s ethereal. It builds and moves as fluid as running water with the brightness and warmth of a summer’s sun. There are sharp cuts of tension that build and will make you uncomfortable at times. But, if you just hang the fuck on, you’ll see that with this tension also comes a release. So, take the plunge, get over your shit, and just listen. It’s half a fucking hour. What do you got to lose?

It was hard to choose a single album to commemorate the great Dieter Schnebel who died on May 20th. But this was the album that made me fall in love with Schnebel. This album is a remix of Schubert. It sounds like Schubert on a fuckton of drugs. And, honestly, who doesn’t want to hear Schubert high as a Deep Purple groupie? It was written for the 150th anniversary of Schubert’s death in 1978. 

Dieter Schnebel was not like the other motherfuckers in the contemporary classical world. Dude liked his Stockhausen, Cage, Ives, and Varèse. But this motherfucker also earned a degree in theology. Say what? Ya, you read that right. Dude was a fucking ordained Lutheran minister. He even wrote this piece called dt 316 in reference to Deuteronomy 31:6 which says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because the Lord goes with you, and will never leave nor forsake you.” That’s right, we’re getting biblical up in this motherfucker. Schnebel was also known to be cool as a cucumber. While other contemporary composers of the time used their batons like big swinging dicks, Schnebel was happy and enjoyed collaboration. This isn’t to say the dude was timid. Fucking far from it! One of his pieces uses a Harley Davidson motorcycle as an instrument. Scratch that, I was wrong there. Nine! He used nine fucking Harleys and a fucking trumpet! Dude was so far out of the box shit looks like a Lego piece.

I get it if contemporary classical music isn’t your thing. Shit can sometimes get so far up its own ass it needs to open its mouth to see the light of day. But then there are albums like these where you can experience blissful, pure, sonic beauty. You can travel worlds and dimensions on this shit while being as sober as a judge. What, are you afraid of contemporary classical music? Stop being a candy-ass. It’s just fucking music. And with Schnebel there’s nothing to lose and so much to gain. 

RIP you wonderful motherfucker. If there is a heaven, teach those winged bastards how to play.

 

 

Zoë Keating – Snowmelt

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I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Fuck cancer. Fuck cancer right in its fucking stupid face. If you’ve followed along with this blog, you’ll know I recently lost a friend and family member to this cunt of a disease.

“That sucks,” you might be scared to say but think anyway, “what does this have to do with Zoë?” Just hold on a fucking second, will ya? I’ll get to it.

Zoë started her musical career as a second chair cellist in a rock band called Rasputina (ya, a second cellist chair in a rock band can be a thing). She has worked with Amanda Palmer on her album Who Killed Amanda Palmer, done a fuckton of film soundtracks, and got some fame for releasing her shit all indie-style and, somehow, she still reached number fucking one on iTunes for classical music. That’s badass shit. Zoë likes to loop her shit on stage as she plays it. Cool right? This has given her the title of “one-woman orchestra”. This is her fourth release under her name. A first in eight years. The reason for the gap in time is because of a stupid fucking cunt of a fucking disease. I’m not going to get into Zoë’s story of loss cause I’m not a fucking asshole. This may surprise some of you. If you want to hear her story, you can listen to it here in her own words from a talk she recently did on TEDMED. 

This album is unbelievably beautiful. Sure, the tone is spot fucking on. Of course, that bass goes deeper than a rip in a black hole’s back pocket. And ya, the recording is boss as all fuck. But, more than all of this, hidden beneath all the words I could ever conjure regarding albums or recordings, this album gives us what we all desire from music: pure unadulterated honesty. If you didn’t know anything of Zoë’s story, you would understand how she feels by the end of these four songs. This album is a window into her world. The title Snowmelt even gives a clue about the scenery. Zoë, a born Canadian, probably knows a thing or two about long winters and snow. I’ve heard it said that there’s this odd moment in the middle of a long winter where you can convince yourself that it will never end. You know it will, yet still, something in you believes it. Then, one day, as the snow begins to melt, you stare out into what was once a void of white and notice patches of grass coming up. “Motherfucker,” you think to yourself, “seasons do change.” For Zoë, it’s been a long fucking winter and she’s finally watching the snow melt. Well, fucking aye, Zoë. Fucking aye. 

 

Isasi Quartet & Karine Deshayes – Henri Marteau: Complete Works for String Quartet, Vol. 1

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Most motherfuckers will be scratching their heads like an ape with a dandruff problem at the name Henri Marteau. If you’re all up in that classical shtick and sport a big ego (which, let’s be honest, is highly fucking probable) and you don’t know the name, the thought of rage-filled murder spree may have crossed your mind. But before you go grabbing that kitchen knife, let me assure you that very few know Henri Marteau. And out of those that do, even fewer know that this motherfucker was also a composer. Truth? Unless you’re some fangirl of Max Reger or Paul Hindemith, which is not very likely, you probably have exactly zero fucks to give poor Marteau. 

So, let’s water your garden of fucks.

Henry Marteau (1874–1934) is known, primarily, as a violinist. Dude had mad fucking skills. At ten, he was a prodigy. At thirteen, he was asked to play by the King Tut of Richard Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen, Dr. Hans Ritcher. Young Marteau played so well he impressed some dude named Brahms sitting in the crowd. Motherfucking Brahms! At twenty-six, Marteau was already a professor at the conservatory in Geneva. In 1904, he became besties with Max Reger and repped the dude hard. They played more than fifty concerts together.

So, why isn’t Marteau a bigwig of history? Well, some stupid shit named Franz Ferdinand went out and got shot. All these other motherfuckers got super angry at each other until it became World War fucking One. Germans didn’t like the French in around 1914. Marteau, being more French than a baguette smoking a cigarette on a bike, got thrown into protective custody and house arrest. This shit happened so often that his name got put under lock and key with the rest of him. Bad fucking luck. But this shit becomes an even bigger shame when you listen to the dude’s tunes. Marteau could fucking write. Dude should be more famous than Taylor Swift. His lines dance and interweave around each other more often than four gospel singers competing for the solo. Yet, it sounds in sync. It’s harmonious. Shit made me giggle out of joy. Motherfucker made this shit work.

Anna Bohigas (violin), Chikako Hosoda (violin), Karsten Dobers (viola), and Guy Danel (cello) make up the Isasi Quartet. Mezzo-soprano Karine Deshayes joins in on the party. Deshayes is known more for baroque tunes, but she jumps into this late romantic shit like a fat kid on free hotdog day. Hearing a true mezzo sing this shit instead of a soprano makes those low notes feel super fucking comfortable. Ain’t nothing artificial about it. This shit is more natural than honey straight from the fucking comb. I can’t give it up enough for the Isasi Quartet. The purity and fluidity with which they play could put Evian out of business. Shit is world class. The best part about this album is that there’s a Vol. 1 in the fucking title. Means someday there’ll be a Vol. 2. And, if the sequel is anything like the original, than this shit has the potential to give Marteau the recognition he deserves. 

Elina Duni – Partir

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Fuck, putainmrdat, foda-sejoder, coño, scheiße, kut, and cazzo. I wish I spoke more fucking languages.  

Nine… count that. There are nine fucking languages on this album. Most of those words aren’t in the same language as the ones on the album. If you’re asking me how accurately each language is sung on the album, I have no fucking clue. I yell at Rosetta Stone like it’s a fucking person on a daily basis. Bilingualism? Sure. Trilingualism? Okay. I’ll even accept seven. But nine? Novemlingual? That’s not even a fucking word. “Well,” the one person who actually speaks nine languages might say, “I tell people I’m multilingual or a polyglot to save time.” Listen fucko, unless you’re a South African diplomat, a linguist, a professional singer like Elina Duni, or James fucking Bond, there’s no way you’re doing all those languages justice and you’re making me feel really fucking insecure. So there!

That’s right. That imaginary motherfucker can go polyglottal some balls. 

When Elina Duni sings, it doesn’t matter how many languages you speak or understand. You wouldn’t need to understand a fucking word to get what Elina is saying. Elina, usually backed by a quartet, decided to strip everything away that wasn’t essential to the main message of the album. What message is that? Solitude, loss, and love. Often on this album, she’s backed by a single guitar or a simple piano line. Her voice fills in the rest of the space. Her shaky vibrato, accompanied with a tone that resembles the late Lhasa de Sela (Lhasa), is more hypnotizing than an internet-meme reality-show house party featuring celebrity politicians on Dwane Johnson’s fucking yacht during a Christmas extravaganza giving away Chryslers.

This album is something to listen to as the sun sets and you’re halfway through a decent bottle of wine. This isn’t a “woe-is-me-I-can’t-live-without-someone” type of vibe. It’s not desperate like that. This is more of a “Ya, life’s a bitch: a dirty, nasty, and beautiful bitch” kind of vibe. Elina takes on Jacques Brel’s “Je ne sais pas” with absolute class on this album. The song “Let Us Dive In” is written by Elina herself. The rest of this collection is also absolutely spot fucking on. The first song is Domenico Modugno’s “Amara Terra Mia” (Bitter land of mine). It’s about someone leaving their home. They walk away and see this baby crying cause it’s trying to nurse on this pathetic excuse of a tit. The chorus ends with, “Bitter land of mine. Bitter and beautiful” (translated). Alain Oulman’s “Meu Amor” (more commonly titled “Meu Amor, Meu Amor”) is a song from the perspective of one lover addressing another in this skypeless long-distance relationship. It’s absolutely fucking heartbreaking. Each of these songs has a thick fucking story. The real intent and soul of each song comes through because Elina is a master fucking storyteller. She puts every ounce of herself into these songs. I’ll be listening to this shit more than once. It’s fucking gorgeous. So brava, encore, sophos, tako valja, olé, braavo, mainiota, bagus, and fucking aye Elina. You owned this shit novemlingually.