What album should I review next?

I have some thoughts on the next album I want to have reviewed; however, I haven’t really fully committed to what should be reviewed next.  Therefore, I would love a little input (plus I just really want to do this and see how many people respond to it)  Let me know what you are thinking!

See the links below for info on the artists if you need it.

Foo Fighters

Fleet Foxes

The Dodos

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Sea Dog – Apricot Wheat Ale

First of all, I would like to explain how I happened to get this beer for reviewing.  First of all, I promise I didn’t go into a store and seek out the fruitiest beer I could find.  Actually, I was at a party for Easter this weekend and another member of the party brought a few different Sea Dog beers to the party.  They had a wide, and fruity, variety.  At the end of the party there were quite a few left over.  So, I figured I would bring home a few to review. There were three different types of beer in the pack.  I brought home a blueberry, raspberry, and apricot.  I have had a taste of an apricot before, but it was by DogFish head.  I don’t remember hating it, but I know I’m never really a big fan of any fruit beer.  My second reason for reviewing this beer is that I have gotten a little flack for giving everything I review good grades.  Let me be honest about my reviewing, I buy what I like.  I suppose I should go out on a limb a little bit more, but since I’m a little stocked up at the moment, I don’t really see that happening very soon.  So this seemed like a perfect time to review something I probably wouldn’t give an A right away.

With all that in mind, I did try to go into this one with an open mind. I knew I wouldn’t go into drinking this beer giving it an A before sipping it, but I would like to think it wouldn’t be a F (or E) either.  This beer is from a brewer in Maine.  I have never actually heard of them before, but I went to Maine last summer and enjoyed a few different locally brewed beers up there.  The big flavor up there is blueberry.  So, I actually had already had blueberry beer up there before coming across this one.  Therefore I decided to review this Maine brewers apricot beer.

As always I started with the appearance and smell of the beer.  Being that this is a wheat beer, I more or less was expecting certain things.  The beer has a golden, almost apple juice, color to it.  This really didn’t worry me to much.  Around this time of year I really enjoy wheat and hefeweizen beers.  The smell of the beer was very faint.  It had a very light aroma to it with a little hint of fruit in there.  I suppose it’s pretty obvious there should be fruit in an apricot wheat ale.

One thing made me very happy about the taste, the apricot was not overwhelming.  My wife loves to drink lambic beers.  Personally I can’t stand them.  They have a very rich and thick fruit flavor to them.  However, this beer relies more on the wheat aspect then the fruit flavoring.  To me that is extremely important.  I don’t think it is very rich in the wheat flavor, but I suppose that is more due to the fact that it isn’t meant to be a true wheat only beer.  The apricot flavor really comes through in the after taste.  That is sort of where the beer turns sour for me.  I realize that no matter how faint the taste, it is hard for me to get past the fruit flavoring.

Overall, I don’t think this is a terrible beer or anything, but I do have trouble getting past the fruit flavor in the beer.  If you are into fruity beers, I think this beer could be for you.  But, thankfully for me, I was able to switch over to a lovely homebrewed Vanilla Whiskey Stout from the writer of Hockey and Beer.  Check him out if you’d like.  He makes me mean stout.

Teacher Grade: C

The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

The Civil Wars have not really been a band too long.  I like saying that, as if I were responsible for find them or something.  Unfortunately for me, they have been around long enough to put out a couple small releases and this full album.  The Civil Wars is composed of just one male (John Paul White) and one female (Joy Williams).  White and Williams come together to form what will probably only become a greater musical force in 2011.  White and Williams have that success story already working.  They have already been the featured song on an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy”, been declared the best of what’s next by “Paste Magazine”, and had their album hit Itunes #1 the week it was released.  So I suppose I’m once again not really reviewing anything entirely underground, but it is one of those cd’s that has spent a lot of time getting play on my Ipod.

The Civil Wars do one thing really really well, and that is sing.  I say that because there really isn’t a whole lot of musical backing on this record.  Most of the time there is a single guitar playing with most of the songs.  There are a few other instruments that find their way into the mix on some songs; however, most of the record revolves around White and Williams beautiful singing.  This is of course in stark contrast to another guy/girl duo fronted by another famous man with the last name White. Despite these two bearing some resemblance; here, really neither singer is the driving force behind the band.  Some songs feature a female lead more and vice versa.  However, one thing they do really well is harmonize and complement each other.  Half the time you don’t even realize there is very little music playing with the album.

Most of the songs have a very low-key feel to them.  I didn’t immediately take to this album for that reason.  They are pretty much always kept at a very slow pace.  They tend to get a little louder when they are singing, but each song really keeps the same pace throughout.  At first I thought some of these songs would have a bit more of a Mumford and Sons feel to them.  On their album a lot of songs start slow, and then they get a lot quicker and louder as they go along.  But here they keep fairly low-key throughout the entirety of the song.  The one really big blatant exception to the rule is the title song for this album, “Barton Hollow”, has a very obvious faster and more upbeat feel to it.

A lot of the songs on the album do seem to deal with the topic of love. “Poison and Wine” more deals with sort of unrequited love.  Both singers harmonize the line, “I don’t love you, but I always will”.  “C’est la Mort” seems to be sung by a lover dealing with the death of a loved one.  They both continually sing the line “don’t go without me”.  So perhaps not all of the love songs are really positive love songs, but love songs none the less.  “The Violet Hour” is a well placed and well-played instrumental song.  I know ironic for an album I already said is not very heavy on the instruments.  Once again the title song really sticks out here.  “Barton Hollow” revolves more around a man on the run from the law.  Perhaps this helps to explain why it is definitely the most upbeat song on the album.

With the rise of bands like Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, and even The Raconteurs, it’s easy to see how this band would be making it big right now.  Folk music is definitely finding a resurgence in American popular music right now.  The Civil Wars have gotten together to construct a beautiful and sometimes haunting album.  Don’t put this album on if you are looking for something to rock out to; however, if you need something more low-key and subtle, this is a great album to pick up.

Teacher Grade: A

Gouden Carolus – Easter Ale

I have always enjoyed drinking different Belgian beers.  For my birthday this year I had my wife take me to Granville Moore’s.  If you have never been there you need to find the time to go. Or, if you don’t live in DC and you come to visit, you should find your way over to this excellent establishment.   It isn’t easy to get in the door, but if you go during the week you have a better chance of getting in.  That aside, one of the fine beers I had there was by Gouden Carolus.  They are a great Belgian brewery, and when I saw this bottle in Rick’s (VA) I knew I would have to review this one this week.  Earlier this year I purchased Gouden Caolus’s Noel which was fantastic.  So that just gave me another reason to look into this beer.

As my regular readers will notice, I didn’t put the whole picture of the bottle up for this one.  I just love the label on this particular beer.  The king on the horse, the flying bells, the easter eggs laying all over the grass, and of course a very excited bunny with some easter eggs.  Come on, who could walk by this bottle and not buy it.  I am a little embarrassed to say I must have walked by at least twice in the store without noticing it.  However, once I saw this beautiful label I knew I had found my beer to review this week.

As always, you have to take note of the look and smell of the beer before even tasting it.  This beer has a very nice rich caramel color to it.  This of course is always a good sign for me.  Pouring out my first glass I was surprised by just how much head was developing despite my excellent pouring abilities.  There is also a very rich smell to this beer.  Unlike some others that I have had recently, there definitely wasn’t the hoppy smell to this one.  The smell on this one has a much fruitier odor to it.  But it is more of a sweet-smelling fruity beer smell.  Needless to say, I was very interest in how this one would taste.

Taste wise, there were a few really striking things that stuck out to me.  First of all, there is a lot of carbonation to this beer.  I didn’t really expect there to be so much carbonation, but it really isn’t bad.  It also it’s too harsh.  I just would call it to more surprising.  Second, there are some very obvious fruit and caramel tastes that come through.  The finish on it has almost a meaty feel to it.  I decided to have my wife give it a try and use a few of her descriptive words to use as well (since she hates beer).  So the wife review is that it tastes like “bloody meat / beef jerky”.  Really I don’t know if that is a good review, but i do agree that there is a meat flavor in there as well.  Finally, there is some really interesting tangy feel that sits on the tongue at the very end.  It really really leaves a lasting impression.

According to the bottle, it says this beer is only brewed once a year (duh easter time).  But also, that only 2000 cases are brewed each year as well.  I’m not really sure how much beer that translates to; but, that means that you need to get on this beer.  There really isn’t much time left to get it.  I may have jumped the gun on this beer because it says on the bottle that this should be enjoyed with Easter dinner.  I couldn’t wait till Easter dinner, but maybe that will be good for all my loyal readers.  Go get this beer and enjoy it tomorrow night. You need to get this beer! Go now!

Teacher Grade: A

Destroyer – Kaputt

Destroyer is definitely not the band you would think they would be. Actually, it really isn’t a “band” at all. It is more the brain child of one man: Dan Bejar.  Destroyer will still surprise you in one more way.  This is definitely the furthest thing from any kind of metal, hardcore, or punk band. It reminds me of when I first heard the title of the movie “There will be Blood”.  My first instinct when someone asked me if I had seen it was to ask where they played and what record label are they on.  Destroyer however is pretty far from anything that screams and perhaps could be called heavy.

If I had to choose any comparison to Destroyer, I think I would have to settle on David Bowie.  I am a really big Bowie fan, and Destroyer has a very similar inflection in the way he sings.  He has a very subdued approach to his songs.  He never really changes the way he sings his lines.  He has a very breathy way of singing that sort of has a talking quality to it as well.  There are some songs where he harmonizes with a female singer.  This works out incredibly well and creates some of my favorite songs on this album.  “Blue Eyes” is a great example of this.  Honestly, I thought I would have a tough time getting into this when I started listening to it, but his singing really can become infectious.

The music definitely follows suit with the vocals.  All of it is rather low key and subdued as well.  This isn’t to say that it isn’t catchy. It definitely is.  There are sort of two different styles of song on this album.  Some of these have a lot of brass and woodwind accompaniment to them.  It makes these songs have sort of a jazzy feel to the songs.  The others have a synthesizer quality to them.  These have a little bit more of an 80’s quality to them.  Bear is great in both of these styles.

I have read some reviews that have said this is Destroyer’s pop album.  I have to admit this sounds very little like what I think of when I hear the term pop.  I suppose it does have a pop quality to it when you think of the other stuff that’s out there in this genre; however, don’t expect this to sound even close to radio pop.  Destroyer has a plethora of other stuff out there, so I obviously have to check out his back-catelog. However, as a new listener, Destroyer definitely has me interested in looking into the older stuff.

Teacher Grade: A (sorry I’m not a tougher grader)

Southern Tier – Unearthly

IPA’s have been some of my favorite types of beer for quite a long time.  I don’t know if I can really explain why I love them so much.  I think enough people hate them, so I always have to be difficult.  Therefore, when I saw this bottle of Southern Tier – Unearthly I knew I wanted to give it a shot. (Just to be clear, this is not the Oak-aged bottle that they also carry)  I have been looking into getting quite a few of the Southern Tier beers lately.  I started with getting their bottle of Iniquity.  That was a fantastic black ale, which really set me off on wanting to try the rest of the beers they have in their large catalog of libations.  The other thing that drove me to get this beer was the fact that it is an Imperial IPA.  All that says to me is that it is going to kick me in the head with even more hops than usual.  According to the label there are Kettle hops (Chinook & Cascade), Hop Back (Styrian golding) and Dry Hops (Cascade, Centenial, and Chinook).    I have no idea that what means, but once again, it drew me to picking this beer up and giving it a try.

I definitely started to notice that I was going to enjoy this beer before even taking a sip of it.  Two things really stood out to me before diving into the taste.  First was the color.  Some IPA’s tend to have a lighter color; however, this one came out a much darker copper color.  To me that is always a good start.  I tend to think beers are going to be more delicious if I can’t tell time through them.  I love to make assumptions. However, the other great thing was the immediate aroma that I could tell was coming from it.  Even before pouring it out, I decided to smell the cap.  Don’t ask me why I did this.  It really isn’t something that I normally do (that is unless there is a cork, which this one doesn’t have).  But, there was some very herbal and hoppy aromas even on the cap.  As someone who looks to get the hoppiest beers I can find, this was very exciting to me.  Of course, this was only confirmed as I began to pour it out.

I personally think this beer has the right amount of carbonation to it.  I read a few people who said it needs more, but I thought it was definitely adequate.  Taste wise there is some real citrus notes that come through at the beginning; however, those really start to fade out and the hops come in full force near the back.  The hops never really hit a big bite for me.  I can’t help but wonder if I have dulled my taste buds for hops.  Being that it is an Imperial IPA, I really thought I would get a much bigger kick near the end.  It still was a great experience, but I thought I just thought it was a little tame in the Imperial department.

Overall this is a fantastic beer.  It only makes me want to continue to look even more at the Southern Tier catalog.  They offer quite a bit more in the way of IPA’s and also have a few other very interesting concoctions I am looking forward to trying out.  A great beer, and it is definitely one I would look forward to getting again.

Teacher Grade: A-

Bayside – Killing Time

When I decided I wanted to review music on my blog, I figured it’d be cool to review all the music I love and want others to know about.  Then when I started thinking about what to review first, I started considering all these albums that would make me appear hip and on the edge of the music industry.  Finally I realized, I need to just review the album I’m listening to the most over the past few weeks.  Why reach for something I haven’t listened to nearly half as much?  Therefore, even if this makes me look like a 14-year-old girl, I’m going with some good old Bayside.

Bayside has been around for a while now.  They put out four albums on Victory Records (Finally escaping that terrible record label) and have sought refuge at Wind-up Records.  I have no idea if this is a step up in record labels; however, all I know is I can’t hear about Wind-up Records without having Creed come to mind.  So that may be a strike against them.  Regardless, Killing Time is their first record since signing to Wind-up.

One of the things that has always drawn me to Bayside is the lyric writing.  I have to admit I am a sucker for someone who can keep me interested in what they are singing.  Killing Time definitely keeps up with some of the other catchy lyrics present on their past albums.  On my personal favorite song on the album, “Mona Lisa”, lead singer Anthony Raneri sings, “Mona Lisa you’ve really done something, done a number to all of my organs”.  Later he adds, “You’re the black ice on my road to wholesome”.  I’m not saying it is the most prolific thing that has ever been written, but I like the way he thinks.  Additionally on, “The Wrong Way”, Raneri sings, “You’re the type of girl who puts on cyanide perfume, then asks for kisses on the neck from every boy in the room”.  Makes you think this guy has been burned by more than one girl in his life.  Guess even band guys have lady problems. Maybe I got the 14-year-old girl thing wrong; 12-year-old boy may be more accurate.

Only one song on the album is ever really skipped for me.  Personally I can’t stand the song “Sick, Sick, Sick”.  I know it sounds like a catchy one right.  It has a very sing songy quality to it for sure, but I can’t get past the little gang vocals right before they break into the chorus.  Ironically, when I just did a little research on the album, I found this was the first song released off the album.  I guess it’s a good thing I was a fan of the band far before they made that little mistake. Most of the songs keep a really up beat tempo to them.  “On Love, On Life” is the only exception.  Here they slow it way down for a ballad. I feared at first I would really end up hating this song, but I actually really like it.  It’s solely piano driven, but it is very reflective and a nice break in the album.

In the end, nothing musically really sticks out to me.  There are some fun little guitar solos here and there, but nothing to make me go too crazy.  They are musically very tight and really understand their main audience.  (Don’t be surprised if you pull up next to some kid driving his mommy’s mini van listening to this album) But, I have been a long time fan, so I can’t really complain with them giving me what I want.

Ultimately, right around this time of year I start looking for that CD I’ll put on in my car, put the windows down, and sing along to while driving down the highway.  I definitely think Bayside has accomplished that here.  It won’t win any awards, but it’ll keep me happy for the next few months of care-free driving.

Teacher’s Rating: B