Album Review: The Mars Volta
Label: Warner Brothers
The Mars Volta have never done things by half. Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have consistently experimented with both what can be done in the confines of an album and with the patience of listeners. So it’s no surprise that, 11 years after the release of De-Loused in the Comatorium, Noctourniquet represents the biggest change in philosophy from the band since Frances the Mute sent heads spinning. Continue reading Album Review: The Mars Volta
The second part of The Only Thing I Know For Sure’s top ten of 2009. Part one can be found here.
7. Mastodon – Crack The Skye (Warner Brothers)
Bombastic and pretentious, this year Mastodon reinvented themselves. Crack The Skye at times beggars belief, the band pulling musical tricks out of their sleeve that nobody saw coming. It’s debatable whether this is their best album yet, but without a doubt it shows that Mastodon are so much more than a skilled thrash band with a few ideas – they’re happy to pioneer and mix up genres that have no right to belong together. The fact that they then went on to play these songs to perfection when they visited the UK this year just cements the fact that they are one of the best things ever at the moment.
6. Thrice – Beggars (Vagrant)
Ok, so let me be honest – this is the first Thrice album I’ve ever listened to. Shocking yes, but maybe it wasn’t such a bad start. Those fans fonder of their earlier sound seem somewhat disillusioned with this effort, but I sure as hell don’t understand where they’re coming from. Beggars is such an intricate piece of work, and a powerful release for vocalist Justin Kensrue’s troubled mind, that it demands attention and respect. Certainly one of the most affecting albums of the year, and not just because of its melancholic reflections on belonging and faith – Thrice still take care to rock out as hard as ever.
5. Ex Libras – Suite(s) (Wirebird)
This one came completely out of the blue, but it is something incredibly special. When I reviewed it, I had to rely on that journalistic crutch of comparing Ex Libras to Radiohead, a compliment that sometimes seems the only one music writers can conjure in order to make a new band sound important. But I stand by my favourable comparison, as ‘Suite(s)’ mixes the intelligent experimentation of ‘Kid A’ with more basic elements, such as a stunning vocal performance from Amit Sharma. A remarkably impressive debut, what makes it more exciting that this is a band at the very beginning of their musical career. And even Radiohead started shite, so imagine what this lot are capable of?
(Read the full review of Suite(s))
A couple of days after their sold out show at the Islington Academy, I’m sitting in the offices of Warner Brothers Records awaiting Mastodon. In true rock and roll fashion the band seem to have gone missing in London, and I’m reassured now and again that they will eventually turn up. The wait gives me enough time to have a look around the place. Colouring the boorish white of the walls are framed posters of all of WB’s big, and not so big, artists. The Enemy, Gnarls Barkley and Greenday are all proudly on display, and yet there’s something puzzling me. It seems strange that despite their rather remarkable success (Grammy nominations, big sales and almost entirely positive critical feedback) there are no Mastodon posters on the walls at Warner Brothers. Continue reading Interview: Mastodon