Thursday, May 31, 2012

Album Review: Aren't We So Lucky To Be Alive? by Elias and the Error

As we dive deeper into the depths of the digital age, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the production of a platinum-selling artist and someone with their own equipment and software, producing their own music. Elias and the Error don't have all the finesse of a major label recording artist, but they do a pretty great job.

Aren't We So Lucky To Be Alive? starts off strong with the Mark Mothersbaugh-infused "All You Ever Think About Is Death," which is poppy and intricate, while still conveying a message. "Evil" is a little bit different, with a very 80s synth line. It's definitely an interwoven piece, but some of the repetitive vocal effects can be tough to stomach. "Get This Fag Out of Here" is a successful message song, while still being quite high-energy.

The vocals on "Alex" seem to borrow slightly from David Bowie. "Alex" is a decent track with beautifully functioning synths, but there is a deliberate clash between the vocals and the music that doesn't really suit my style. One of the strongest dance songs on the album is "I Knew You Before You Were Rich," which is fairly repetitive, but not in a way that is grating.

From here, the album moves on to "Aren't We So Lucky To Be Alive? Part 1," which is for some reason introduced by narration. "Aren't We So Lucky To Be Alive? Part 1" doesn't suit my tastes at all, though it's similar to noise-pop. Later on in the album come "Aren't We So Lucky To Be Alive? Part 2," "Aren't We So Lucky To Be Alive? Part 3," and "Aren't We So Lucky To Be Alive? Part 4," which vary in levels of musicality. It's interesting the way all four songs explore the same concept of the title, but with varying instruments, musical styles, and possibly even life-views.

"Always At Odds" features a great underlying keyboard part, which makes the song. The use of electric drums or drum machines is also notable. "Riot" starts out like the lovechild of Devo and Wolfmother. As catchy as "All You Ever Think About Is Death" is, I think "Riot" is probably the most solid song on the album. "Ghost Man, Man" seems to pull heavily from Of Montreal, while "My Sex" has a rough, noisy sound, much like then end of "Aren't We So Lucky To Be Alive? Part 1."

Another dance-style track is "Now I'm Fine," the redundancy of which is once again tolerable. One of my favorite tracks is "Kanuu," which starts with soft synths and develops into a sound that is constant with the one that has been developed over the course of the album. I can't help but be reminded of Of Montreal's "Gallery Piece" when I hear Elias and the Error's "Mijuana," although they aren't really musically similar.

The last three tracks on the album are all strong, but it closes with "B Where U R," a catchy and musically sound song which perfectly encapsulates the band's sound, without borrowing very much from anyone else.

My complaints about this album are fairly few. I think it could do with a little less unresolved dissonance and clashing, but I gather that's part of their sound rather than a mistake, which is good. Some of the choices aren't really consistent with the style of music I listen to, but I know it's a style that many other people enjoy. I'm sure that by the next album, Elias and the Error will have discovered more of their own style, and will borrow less and less. I look forward to seeing where Elias and the Error go in the future.

Elias and the Error is an electro-punk art collective from Canton, Ohio. Elias Gowins produces and 
performs the music, and the visual experience is handled by a collective known as "The Error."

Aren't We So Lucky To Be Alive? can be found here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Emma Hath a Song: "Creep"

Some people consider Radiohead to be the mother of modern independent rock. It's interesting to realize that they made such a powerful introduction to the world as "Creep."

Thom Yorke wrote "Creep" in the late 80s, while attending Exeter University, before the formation of Radiohead. Yorke gave a demo version to bassist Colin Greenwood, to get him to help put the band together. When initially released, "Creep" performed horribly in the charts, and only received considerable attention when it was re-released a year later. When the band recorded "Creep," they referred to it as their "Scott Walker" song, making the producers think it was a cover. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood thought the song was too quiet, and he tried to mess it up by playing the hard noises just before the chorus. Yorke loosely based the melody of the song on "The Air That I Breathe" by The Hollies. After "Creep"'s release, Radiohead gave credit to Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood as co-writers due to the similarity.

Yorke has said that the song is about a man who tries to get a woman's attention by following her. Supposedly, Yorke wrote the song from his own point of view. The concept of not feeling good enough for someone you have a crush on is easy enough to understand, but Radiohead have reportedly received fan mail from murderers, telling the band how much they could relate to the song.

Radiohead were reluctant to create the radio-friendly version of "Creep," feeling it would imply that they were selling out and that it would disturb the sentiment of the song. Yorke felt the song lost its anger due to the edit.

"Creep" has been covered many times in many varying styles. As early as 1995, The Pretenders performed a moving cover for The Isle of View, almost making it sound like it could have been written by Chrissie Hynde.

More recently, "Creep" has been covered by artists from Kelly Clarkson to Prince. Youtube artist Tom Milsom performed it on the harp at the first Vidcon online video conference. A haunting choral version by Scala & Kolacny Brothers was used in the trailers for The Social Network.

The public remains interested in this song, and in covering this song for fairly obvious reasons. Whatever stalker qualities it might have, "Creep" comes from a deep emotional place, one that many people have either been in or can empathize with. The melody, however simple, is moving.

And that's all that I hath for now.