Postmadonna – POSTMADONNA

POSTMADONNA cover art

Artist Postmadonna
Album ‘Postmadonna’
Genre Math-Rock
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Label None
Release April 1 2013
Rating Excellent

Postmadonna‘s “POSTMADONNA” continues right along the same vein as last year’s EP, “Introducing Postmadonna“. This album hearkens back to classic rock territory in that there’s only 9 tracks, 2 from the aforementioned EP. The whole album clocks in at around 25 minutes. With that length, there’s no time for wasted space.

The album jumps right off in “Shredder“. The track starts off with a spastic, jazzy, meedly-meedly guitar solo that makes you scratch your head a little bit; what am I listening to? The song coalesces into a groovy, melodic, catchy track. “Shredder” features the vocals of Jamie Weber from  Dear Mister Manager, another Seattle math rock-ish band. Let’s hear it for collaborative cross-pollination!

Rather than talking about tracks individually, let me speak to the album as a whole. The album is short, with only 9 tracks, but it doesn’t feel like 9 tracks. It feels very cohesive, very planned out. There’s a real flow to it, and it’s great to put on and listen and think. It will demand your attention from time to time, regardless of what you are doing while listening. There are plenty of intricacies in the music, from weird delay-pedal-driven sound effects to quick guitar slips and slides, vocal melodies, bass melodies, harmonics here and there, and all the clicks, slaps, cracks and booms of a drummer that kills it song after song.

What you start to notice while listening to this album is that Postmadonna is playful. All the little noises here and there, the gang melodies found throughout, the guitar bends scattered about; these guys are having a blast and it just oozes from this record. Mid-way through the album, the listener is treated to an interlude of violins, cleansing the aural palette and giving a breather before launching into “Seamonster“, a barely over 2 minute track that satisfies like a 5 minute track. The album closes out with “WLRS“, which is an homage to The Beatles and a fantastically playful track. Starting with a simple piano melody and building from there, it has its tongue firmly in cheek and a wild group vocal, closing out the album with a dog singing along.

This is a solid, fun album that has the infectious hooks of your favorite pop band but chops enough to impress your musician friends and plenty to enjoy therein. The album has been one of the top albums in category “math rock” on bandcamp since it launched at the beginning of April. Go check it out!

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Surgeon – Fjords

Fjords cover art

Artist Fjords
Album Surgeon
Genre Post-Metal / Post-Rock
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Label Independent
Release 25 December 2012
Rating Average

I’ve heard the Newfoundland, Canada 4-piece Surgeon described as Post-metal, though they are self-described as instrumental prog-rock, which is more fitting than Post-metal, as they are aren’t metal to my ears. I recently gave their latest release “Fjords” a listen, and I’m left wanting more. Some of that is due to expecting more metal in the “post-metal”. To explain:

There are a lot of moments of cool bits or great sounds on this album. A great example is the opening and titular track of the album; the listener is greeted with a barrage of heavy punches. I love albums that start out by slamming the listener around. It really gets the listener’s attention, makes one sit up and take notice. You’ve my attention, Surgeon. However, we go from that opening assault to a mellower instrumental jam section. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t live up to the promise first thirty seconds of the track delivers. We start picking up momentum, and the bits around the five-minute mark are great furrow-your-brow-and-smirk “fuck yeah” moments that end far too soon. In the end, it’s a 6+ minute song that has a minute worth of awesome and the rest is only OK.

For one more example, “Leaf Blower” has a cool guitar intro. Add some cymbal and a rad guitar harmonic part, and this track feels like it’s really going places. However, around two minutes in and we’ve lost that intensity. We’ve gone into prog territory. This is not a bad thing at all, but it’s not incredible either. “Leaf Blower” doesn’t recapture my attention like the opening 30 seconds did. The tracks on the album seem to have this in common. There are a lot of builds that don’t grow to bursting, and there are a lot of cool parts with too much “only ok” music between. This album isn’t a bad listen, but it’s not gripping. But fans of instrumental or prog music should definitely give this a listen. However, as a post-rock/post-metal release, I’d call it average. – Tim

Roundtable Review: Lights & Motion – ‘Reanimation’

Artist Lights & Motion
Album Reanimation
Genre Post-rock / Ambient
Buy/DL Deep Elm Digital
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Label Deep Elm Records
Released Jan 16 2013
Rating Very Good / Excellent

    In our first roundtable review of 2013 we are examining Lights & Motion’s debut album, ‘Reanimation‘, released January 16th on Deep Elm Records. Lights & Motion is the brainchild of Swedish musician Christoffer Franzén and tends to walk among the lighter side of the genre. Without further ado let’s get to our panel of reviewers —

    “I tend to prefer vocal music to instrumental music. I like stories and words and the emotion and nuance that can be communicated vocally. Furthermore, instrumental music has to try a little harder to sound unique; usually a singer has his own delivery, word choice, enunciation and timbre that sets songs apart. All of that said, Lights & Motion’ s latest, ‘Reanimation‘, is a good example of an instrumental album done well. It sounds like a mixture of Sigur Ros and The End of the Ocean but with acoustic guitar, dedicated string section and a piano holding the melody. Highlights include “Victory Rose” – mellow, pretty track, perfect for a night drive; “Fractured” with a cool piano melody, “Texas” a track that starts with crickets, acoustic and slide guitar, then builds and adds a xylophone; and finally “Dream Away” , which I was pleasantly surprised when the final track had vocals, and a pretty good singer to boot. It serves as a great bookend to the album. The acoustic guitar and prominent piano help to separate this from other post-rock bands I listen to, so I’d rate it as “Excellent“. Well done!” – Tim

    “Let me get this out if the way first and foremost – the debut album from Lights & Motion is a good album. It has all of the crescendos you could hope for, all of the cinematic sounds, and all of the classic post-rock elements. To me, though, that’s part of its downfall. There is literally nothing here that you haven’t heard before – this part sounds like Explosions In The Sky, that part sounds like The Album Leaf, etc. There’s enough of a foundation here to leave me somewhat looking forward to what’s to come, but there just isn’t anything new here. The songs are well executed, they just travel very, very familiar ground.” – Shane

    “I’d heard A LOT of hype around the Lights & Motion release ‘Reanimation.’ Generally I’m pretty wary of anything that’s lavished with excessive praise but I manage to crack this album with an open mind. And you know what? It wasn’t terrible, but I definitely wasn’t blown away. The 13 track-record has its moments. It’s easy to listen to and even edges on greatness, but it just can’t get there. All the songs are catchy in an “I-feel-like-I’ve-heard-this-somewhere-before” kind of way that leaves me wanting to listen to the songs I’m reminded of, not the L&M versions. The perfect example of this is “Aerials.” While arguably one of the better songs on the album, it’s eerily similar to “Your Hand In Mine” by post-rock pros, Explosions In The Sky.
    The production on the album is incredibly clean with all the instrumentation reaching your ears quite clearly but I felt it was lacking in raw passion. Perhaps L&M sacrificed intensity for certain cinematic clarity. I would rate this album as average/solid.  Regardless the album is still pretty enjoyable and worthy of a listen through or two. After that? Who knows.” – Jerome

    “There’s not a lot that i need to say about this album, because if you’re a fan instrumental rock post-Explosions In The Sky then you already know what this sounds like. It’s beautiful, dramatic, powerful, to-the-point, explosive and uplifting. The culmination of everything that post-rock (or a certain school of post-rock) has been trying to achieve for the past decade. It picks your spirits up where all else has failed. It inspires feelings of awe and wonder. It’s music for stargazers. It’s the sound of your first crush and your last love. It’s crescendo-core through and through, but crescendo-core at its finest. A polished and perfected homage to everything that came before it. Is it derivative? Yes. Repetitive? A little. Contrived? Probably. But for any other band to revisit this style of music now would be futile — ‘Reanimation‘ just wont be topped. A must-listen to album.” – Shooter

    “After being bombarded by hype (thanks Deep Elm, bang up job again), I spun ‘Reanimation‘ a few times to get a feel for this ‘breathtaking’ and ‘magical’ release by EITS, GIAA, Lowercase Noises, Dorena, The Best Pessimist, Aerials, I mean Lights & Motion. Does changing your band name, as a solo musician, still allow you to use ‘debut release’ in marketing? Odd. Well, each listen left me unimpressed. I’m more of a fan of energetic, progressive, guitar-based instrumentals over the more emotive, piano-driven offerings but even so, this album provided nothing I haven’t heard on at least twelve other albums over the past seven years. Sure, it’s pretty, well produced and inoffensive – but it isn’t innovative or even noticeable in anything other than the fact it is a new release.  I must have heard that same marching, building drum beat thousands of times over the past few years. You know the one, EITS uses it on every other track. It failed to meet my number one criteria: “Can I recognize the band by the music, without looking?” I’m sure this album will end up on years’ end best of lists, because Deep Elm has excellent marketing skills and a choke hold on mid-major ‘post-rock’ releases. For me, I’ve rated it as a Solid Release – it’s OK, but don’t get your hopes up too high.” – Bothra

    “The first grievance I can see anyone listening to this album having will be that it’s formulaic and derivative. I can’t argue with that point. The first few times I listened to the album, I was ready to walk away calling it an unabashed homage to Explosions in the Sky, M83, and Sigur Ros. But I kept at it because the music has an undertone that deserves recognition. While almost every track is the formula of slow build to giant explosion, this album seems to almost perfect it. Over the course of thirteen tracks, this wears thin, but it still managed to captivate. The songs take hold when the piano is given more time to shine and the thumping drum beats stand off to the side instead of slapping you in the face. Two great examples of how this formula is done so well are “Drift” and “Reanimation“. This is a debut album and I can see this act evolving well over the next few years. Hopefully our next outing with Lights and Motions is more refined and less capable of being slapped on a movie trailer.” – Bryan

    “Deep Elm’s lineup of post-rock talent never ceases to amaze me. The label just seems to have a knack for finding some of the best talent around and ‘Reanimation‘ by Lights & Motion is just further proof of that. ‘Reanimation‘ is chalked full of cinematic flair, ripe with over the top emotion and has those captivating indescribable elements that carry it to its place among the higher echelons of post-rock releases. With top-notch production qualities and fine tuned craftsmanship, I can safely say this is the first truly brilliant post-rock release of 2013 and I think that it sets the bar high insanely high for in that regard. It’s crazy to think that at just three weeks into the new year there is already an album that will undoubtedly be found on many year-end lists and for good reason. ‘Reanimation‘ is an hour plus long magical journey that explores the depths of the soul by seamlessly transitioning between moments of glory, triumph and heartbreak. After dozens of listens I still find myself impressed at the musical mind of Christoffer Franzén (Lights & Motion). That no one particular instrument stands out as clearly being dominant or “better” than the rest speaks volumes to Franzén’s talent.
Prior to the release of this Roundtable Review, I’ve read early rumblings and criticism from those who were quick to dismiss this album as simply another third wave crescendo-core ripoff and I just don’t hear it honestly. There is a difference to me between common similarities and straight up reproducing another band’s style. Sure, there are inspirations found on ‘Reanimation‘ from EITS, and probably more so from Dorena than any other band, but they are just that, inspirations. What sets Lights & Motion apart is the fact that they’ve taken a successful formula and mastered it to include their own artistic interpretation and flair. Obviously there is going to be a little overlap in sound amongst instrumental artists of a specific style within a genre, but I think it’s far too easy to get swept up in trying to point to specific similarities than it is to simply enjoy an album for what it is. Sure “Reanimation” might not tread upon much new ground, but sometimes that’s ok and it shouldn’t detract from the fact that simply put this is an excellent album that needs to be a part of any post-rock fan’s collection.”  – IamHop

Postmadonna – INTRODUCING POSTMADONNA (ep) – 90%

INTRODUCING POSTMADONNA cover art

(IamHop note: Please welcome Tim D. to Postrockstar. Tim is a musician who currently plays bass for Seattle-area band Syas (http://syas.bandcamp.com) . Going forward, Tim will be bringing us music reviews and coverage of bands discovered through his involvement with the local music scene. )

If you believe that first impressions are the most important impressions, then introductions are a large portion and are thus of great importance. ‘INTRODUCING POSTMADONNA‘ by Postmadonna is a fantastic introduction that leaves a lasting impression of incredulous awesome.

The real gem of this too-short EP is “Whose Absinthe Is This?”; it has easily become my favorite song to listen to after a beer or two. It’s a stellar example of music that is as catchy as it is complex. It’s dense enough to stand up to repeated listens, yet still offer some new sound or feel each time. You can also tune out the intricacies and just enjoy the groove and immediate melody. From the background vocals and well-placed harmonic here and there, this is a song that was not written but crafted, that must have been thought out and pieced together with the overall grand view in mind. Each instrument has its’ time to shine, much like jazz; there’s a time and a place for spastic drums, there’s a time and place for bass to pop up and dance around, and there’s a time for delicate guitar work. This tune has all of these and then some.

“Shroomiverse II” is a too-short song that is just fun to listen to; it starts with a gallop that leads to a beautifully dreamy bit and ends with an otherworldly conversation with no one in particular. The EP is bookended by a mathy 8-bit sounding instrumental, and an acoustic/string section sing along that are nearly polar opposites stylistically but they play together well.

‘INTRODUCING POSTMADONNA’ is well worth the price of admission. This is a solid outing of songs with catchy melodies that aren’t afraid of nerding out, technically challenging music that will get stuck in your head after only a few listens. You can download it for free but really you should toss these guys some money so they make a full length!

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