It wasn’t until The Vaccines released their 4th album, Combat Sports, have I begun to acknowledge their existence. That would’ve almost disappointed me if it wasn’t for music critics explicating this album as their best; meaning, I didn’t miss out from taking in their peak performance directly, and didn’t need to be there when they were still trying to figure purpose into the equation and distance themselves from people comparing them to rock legends. Of course somebody would’ve been disappointed. It’s probably the worst thing critics could do to rising talent (see Viva Brother for details). But it seems as if the English band have reset their musical strategy and are finally having fun. Combat Sports’ noisy synth-y dreaminess is a totally cohesive blast.
There are times in my life where my fellow Colorful Monsters correspondents tell me I should listen to an album, leading me to listening to the first song from it and then doing something else. Whether or not the artist is any good is beyond my comprehension as I am a very picky listener. If this blog was Look At This And Why I Hate It, I would talk to you about songs from those occurrences. Instead, we have a rare example where an album is so gosh darn catchy that I wake up to the music in my head.
Jack White? Why do I keep coming back to you? We had our fling and it was good. With your solo debut, you took me to the world of bluesy folk rock and it was my jam. I listened to Blunderbuss for months on end. Then I tried listening to your White Stripes backlog and..didn’t work for me. Then Lazaretto came out and I thought it was average. It felt like an attempt at reliving Blunderbuss but without the same passion and, at the same time, Jack White was trying to step back into White Stripes territory. It just felt unsatisfying for me so I felt convinced that as much as I consider White to be a talented musician, there was no way that I would be entranced by him again. But here I am with-
OVER AND OVER
Goodness me, this song has a guitar riff that will live in your ears for years. Over and Over and Over is Jack White at his best. He’s got his guitar, a range of backing vocalist who seem absolutely thrilled to be here, and the occasional asides to play distorted sounds that I couldn’t possibly identify. Yes, it’s nowhere near the folk rock that I fell in love with, but it doesn’t matter to me. Jack White didn’t need to make music from a genre I liked. He just needed to make music that was made up of the passion and skill that he’s known for.
Twentytwo in Blue is comfort food for my soul, an album so difficult for me to dislike and so easy for me to listen to that I can keep playing the album non-stop and never feel tired of it. For my listening pleasure, that’s great. For a blog about specific songs, it’s not so great. It’s hard to talk about one song from Sunflower Bean’s sophomore album without talking about the rest. So, without further delay, let’s talk about the album as a whole before I recommend any specific song.
Their album is a clear love letter to rock music of the past but how far in the past really depends on the song. Most of the time, Sunflower Bean resembles Fleetwood Mac but occasionally jumps to garage rock and more modern sounds. I don’t use the connection to Fleetwood Mac lightly. “I Was a Fool” feels designed to have Stevie Nicks interrupt the lyrics and talk about how thunder only happens when it’s raining. Fortunately, I actually quite like Fleetwood Mac.
Prospects of preparing new content for this site has been hit or miss. Mostly miss, because it’s been 3 months and nothing has been posted. Fear not! We do have many plans in mind, but most of them will take a while.
That being said, I’ve missed talking about music. I have listened to so much these past few months and the only pleasure I had of talking about it was with my fellow Colorful Monsters cohorts. I think it’s unfair to keep all our thoughts to ourselves so I’m bringing back written posts to Colorful Monsters. These won’t be reviews – I’m actually not a huge fan of critiquing music, especially if it’s from bands that are working to build themselves up. Instead, I want to talk about music that I like and love, with posts scheduled for Mondays and Fridays until I run out of music to talk about. This will be highly unlikely as the only limit to my song recommendations is that they have to be songs I’ve listened to this year, with original release dates being less important.
Sometimes, you encounter a band that changes how you think about music. You’ll encounter a group that shows you a new perspective, or presents you with something you’ve never encountered before. You may not necessarily enjoy what you hear, but you leave with new ideas on what music can be. Though, sometimes you do enjoy bands like that. Like, way too much, in fact. And sometimes one of those bands is avant-garde jazz fusion trio Trioscapes, and sometimes two thirds of that group join up with two members (one past, one present) of progressive metal band Haken to create an entirely new group that also completely changes how you think about music.
This is getting less and less hypothetical, but what I’m trying to say is, this was essentially tailor made for me.
Nova Collective’s The Further Side is an incredibly promising album for a band to lead off with. Blending together elements of jazz fusion, prog rock, and metal, The Further Side is 48 minutes of meticulously crafted, genre-defying magic. Though the influence of Dan Briggs’ compositional style is obvious, this isn’t just more Trioscapes, now without saxophone but with keyboard and guitar. This is a whole new animal, effortlessly blending together the creativity of multiple artists without the cracks ever becoming obvious. I can’t guarantee you’ll enjoy The Further Side, but I can guarantee that you will never find anything else quite like it.
Songs like “Cascades” prove that this bizarre concept works beautifully. Effortlessly combining lush instrumentation with complicated riffs, you’re immediately presented with an atmosphere that is entirely unique. I genuinely find it hard to describe just how gorgeous this song sounds; building off a foundation of gentle keyboards, hard rock guitars, and flawless timing, the song flirts with progressive rock, smooth jazz, and mixtures of the two. There’s almost certainly no reason this should work, let alone as well as it does, but every moment of the song proves that this is a winning formula.
“Ripped Apart and Reassembled” is just plain fun. Some of the soundfont choices made call to mind a video game soundtrack from the era of the N64 or the Dreamcast, but in my opinion, that just adds to the charm. Blazing through shifts in tone and style, the song seems to be embodying its title, feeling like someone has cut up one or two different songs and stitched the pieces back together in whatever order felt right. It’s honestly hard to believe this is the shortest song on the album; Nova Collective manages to cram so much into a little less than 6 minutes. This was one of the songs released before the album was out, and after listening to it, I was certain I would enjoy this album. It’s one of the most enjoyably weird songs I’ve ever heard, and it absolutely deserves a listen.
Then there’s “State of Flux.” I don’t think I can do this song justice in a paragraph. Much like its name would imply, and in keeping with the rest of the album, the song goes through constant and rapid changes, adding up to one of the most satisfying prog metal songs I’ve ever heard. Clocking in just a little shy of 10 minutes, there’s far too much to even begin to unpack here. Just know that this is some of the tightest musicianship you will ever encounter, with each of the four constantly at the top of their game throughout a piece that changes moods over and over again. It’s one of the songs that makes the entire album worth listening to.
Nova Collective has wasted no time in proving their worth, and if we can expect more material of this caliber from the band in the future, I will be one happy listener. The Further Side is an unbelievably good first impression; it’s one of those albums that’s so thoroughly flawless that it almost makes me angry. Fans of Trioscapes will not be disappointed, and they’ll also find plenty of entirely new ideas within that keep it from being more of the same. This is a once in a lifetime kind of album, and I loved every second of it. LOVE IT.