Mediocrity Incarnate

  • Artist: Dave Baker
  • Album: Dance of the Iguana
  • Year: 1995
  • Why I picked it up: C'mon, it's called "Dance of the Iguana." Let me give that a moment to sink in. Dance of the Iguana.

Dance of the Iguana is a collection of instrumental smooth jazz, ranging from hypnotically soothing to relatively upbeat. Perhaps the most stand-out thing about the album is how mundane it is. Nothing about the album stands out, either for good or bad. The music is great for what it is, but quite frankly smooth jazz has never been known for being terribly gripping or memorable. It's also not exactly brilliant, as most of the songs sound similar and Dave Baker's sound fades from memory by the time the album comes to a close. This is perhaps the epitome of music that will sound good to people who love the genre, and terrible to people who don't.

I personally find the music soothing, but not usually what I'm looking for. Your mileage will vary.

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More Morello, Please

  • Artist: Morello
  • Album: Twelve Ways To Breathe
  • Year: 2006
  • Why I picked it up: The album art was really interesting, with an anatomical image of a person and inking in parts of the sides. It gave off a strong punk/post-hardcore vibe that I felt I would enjoy.

Morello has a very nice sound which I truly love. The mix of clean, gruff, and shouted vocals in this style of post-hardcore is amazing. The guitar riffs are wonderous, the bass lines are solid, and the drumming compliments the other sounds amazingly--even if it does get a little weak at times. The album is phenomenal, with the only downside being that some of the songs sound too similar, with little variation between them.

If Thursday and Rise Against were to have a bastard child, he would sound like Morello.

  • Standout track: Fade Out
  • MySpace: Morello
  • How much I would've paid: $13
  • Rating: 4/5

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"Inspiral" is not a word

  • Artist: Inspiral Carpets
  • Album: The Beast Inside
  • Year: 1991
  • Why I picked it up: I wasn't sure if "inspiral" was a word, and I wanted to remember to check.

Inspiral Carpets is a fantastic early-90s rock group with an equal mix of guitar, vocals, and synthesizer. Their music is active and full of momentum, even if that sometimes conflicts with the lyrics. Even though it sometimes seems like the music is too upbeat for the frequently dark subject matter, it somehow works. The album does falter a bit near the end, particularly with the too-slow "Niagara", but other than that the album is an exemplar of early-90s synth rock.

Fun fact: The band Oasis took their name from an Inspiral Carpets poster. Thanks, Wikipedia!

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Do emotional fish cry saltwater tears?

  • Artist: An Emotional Fish
  • Album: An Emotional Fish
  • Year: 1990
  • Why I picked it up: The band's name is An Emotional Fish. An Emotional Fish. How could I resist?

With a calm, soothing rock sound, occasionally mixed with a southern rock or funk tinge, An Emotional Fish provides a wonderful ambient sound to listen to as you work. What's upsetting about them is that they don't leave too much of an impression. While listening to them you get a feeling that An Emotional Fish is a really good band, but once a song ends it's forgotten. The instrumentation is typically simplistic--with uninspired guitar riffs when the come--but mixed together it sounds very well done. The vocals are very clear and powerful, but the lyrics tend towards being a tad boring and tiring. They have a good sound, that's for sure, but they need to make themselves stand out more.

They just fall in line with other U2 sound-alikes.

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"It's like a bubble"

  • Artist: Dinosau
  • Album: A Little Crime
  • Year: 2007
  • Why I picked it up: The album art was really sparse--with merely a picture of the band--but the real draw for me was the band's name. I truly wondered how the band who could't afford the last letter of their name would sound like.

This European (Sweden is my guess from their names) electronica pop band really knows what they're doing, even if they can't finish spelling dinosaur. With a great variety of instruments--the three piece band boasts a wide range of winds and woodwinds, various percussion instruments, guitars and synths, and even rare instruments like the xaphoon (look it up, it's quite cool)--their specific brand of electronic sound is very unique, which is a great positive to all that they offer. The first song has a completely addictive upbeat tune to it, and the other tracks which keep a happy, cheerful feel are just as amazing. The simple, pure lyrics are very well done and the vocalist, Lena Nymark, can certainly sing them as they need to be sung. The only draw back I felt in the album were the slower songs, since they either lacked the full power possible from their repertoire of instruments, or the softer vocals and instruments were overpowered by the strong beats of the songs. This would be a very slight negative, but there are quite a few songs which miss because of this fact. What this equates to is an album of a some very catchy upbeat songs, mixed with a few which will be skipped or forgotten until another upbeat one is reached.

I like a cute girl with an accent.

  • Standout track: Pärris
  • MySpace: Dinosau
  • How much I would've paid: $5
  • Rating: 3/5

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"Sink" Sounds Like "Stink"

  • Artist: Eulogy
  • Album: The Sinking of the Navigator
  • Year: 2003
  • Why I picked it up: Album artwork consists of pictures of an abandoned mental hospital in a style that seems like it should be some type of neat subdued rock.

Allow me to put forward a radical hypothesis that would get me killed among hardcore music nerds: Eulogy would sound better if they played Rock Band more often. Mind you, I don't mean that Rock Band can teach you to be a musician, but it can certainly teach you to be a better one. Unfortunately, Eulogy's members can't handle the jobs each position requires. The singer can't hold a pitch, and could use the nice pitch-tracks in Rock Band to get better at that. The drummer can't figure out what a rhythm is, something else Rock Band could help with. The guitarists don't know how to tune, which admittedly Rock Band can't help out with, but at least it can make them know what tuned guitars sound like. I almost feel like the members of Eulogy have heard of music, but they've never actually heard what it sounds like. Maybe that's a little harsh, but it's what they deserve for forming a band made entirely of tone-deaf musicians.

On second thought, maybe they represent a charity for tone-deaf musicians, and my money actually went to help make that worthy cause. Yeah, let's go with that.

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  • Artist: The Mall
  • Album: (Emergency at the Everyday)
  • Year: 2006
  • Why I picked it up: Artwork was done in ink, so I figured it might be some sort of indie rock.

The Mall is a curiously-named band with two distinguishing characteristics. The first and worst is the singer's highly-distorted vocals. It doesn't sound so much like a well-distorted sound as it does the singer standing too close to the microphone. Maybe he was standing too close to drown out the other patrons at the mall? Fortunately, the second aspect partly salvages the nineteen-minute album: the band's synthesizer technique. It's catchy, it's fun, and it sounds vaguely like an early 8-bit Nintendo chiptune. Sadly the synth can't save the album entirely, but those with strong resistance to grating vocals will probably find something to like.

(Oh, and if you're wondering about the title, it's the name of the closing track.)

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"A Festival of Yesterdays"

  • Artist: Mythril
  • Album: Mythril
  • Year: 1995
  • Why I picked it up: I was hoping to find a nice metal band (look at the album artwork and see if I was close). The font, the insignia, the lightning bolts, the purple, come on.

I was amazingly surprised to find that this album is not metal, in any way. Truly, it feels more Purple Haze than purple lightning. This LP has a very strong classic feel, with the lead singer Cavazzini almost channeling Hendrix from time to time. Calm, soothing guitars (occasionally upbeat, which throws a great change up to the mix) along with simple, downplayed drums, and solid bass lines--combined with the great vocals--make this album far better than what I had expected. The classic rock feel is so great that I could not help but bob my head to the tunes. The funky instrumental--which the liner notes say was recorded in one sitting--at the end puts a perfect finale to the album.

My Thrill is Mythril.

  • Standout track: G-Spot Groove
  • MySpace: N/A
  • How much I would've paid: $10
  • Rating: 4/5

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