A Guided Listen Through Caspian’s Dust and Disquiet

Dust and Disquiet Cover

 

Caspian’s Dust and Disquiet releases Friday. At the time of writing, you can stream the whole album via the New York Times here. Or you can just take my word for it and buy it for yourself now (iTunes/Amazon/band), and listen as you read through this track-by-track review.

 

1. Separation No. 2 (3:09)

 

The album fades in with a gorgeous opening track. Is that a saxophone? I wondered on my first few listens through. Then felt embarrassed to learn my brass knowledge is not what it should be. It’s Jon Green on the trumpet. With effects. On top of a lovely guitar. Beverly, Mass. never knew so sweet a sound.

After the three tracks Caspian previewed to introduce the album’s release, I was not expecting the soft, gentle sound of “Separation No. 2.” The lush tones, layers, guitar swells… everything is in sync. It’s one of the more evocative album intros I can remember hearing. Strings, brass, acoustic and electric guitars… YES.

The track is a mere 3:09, so leaves something to be desired. But you realize it’s the first of a pair, really. It’s the call to the response of the second track.

 

2. Ríoseco (7:52)

 

I could listen to this Caspian all day. The drums finally enter the record, about half a minute in. One wonders, too, if the bass’s album entrance only at 1:01 is deliberate–a sort of silence to honor the life and now absence of late bassist Chris Friedrich. (Also, now that you’re thinking about that, look again at the album cover.)

By 1:51 everyone is in and in lockstep. Guitars, bass, drums, effects strings–you get the feeling the band is just doing their thing for themselves, and you’re lucky enough to get to listen in.

“Ríoseco” is a really moving track. This is post-rock (or whatever) at its best… with pedal steel. No, it’s not country; it’s just awesome. I hope the band will be complimented and not bothered by the comparison with this track to (the best of) early-2000-era Mogwai.

 

3. Arcs of Command (8:49)

 

Caspian, you know, has a propensity to pull in ex-emo kids like me with the interlocking, layered, warm guitar parts, and then double their volume and quadruple the distortion. “Arcs of Command” begins more aggressively. Now that Caspian has got you all teary-eyed, they’re ready to rock those tears right off your face.

And dang it if they’re not going to do it in 5/4 time! Until they decide, that is, to turn the track into a blistering waltz. And that’s not the last time in the song they’ll change time signatures.

Especially after the first two tracks, the listener may well ask: What is this, a metal record? Caspian asks a lot of their listeners in this song, most of whom will be thrilled to oblige.

 
4. Echo and Abyss (5:45)
 

Where can you go after the heavy “Arcs of Command”? To another heavy song, of course, the build-up in which barely takes any time at all.

The (heavily processed) vocals cry out, as from an abyss, “Speak to me! Speak to me!”

 
5. Run Dry (4:36)
 

“Run Dry” is the albums “Whaaa…?” moment. The acoustic guitar with clearly audible vocals (“We are wide awake now….”) evoke Bruce Cockburn more than anything in Caspian’s back catalog.

Have we heard Calvin Joss sing before? After hearing him partway through Dust and Disquiet, we who love this instrumental band might still want more of his vocals in future records and/or side projects.

 
6. Equal Night (1:57)
 

A short two minutes serve as a sort of coda to the previous track. “Equal Night” brings the first part of the album (at least as I interpret it) to a close and prepares the listener for the second half.

 
7. Sad Heart of Mine (4:27)
 

The opening arpeggios call to mind the start of the record. If this were a cassette tape, it would be the perfect first track to Side B. This time, though, there’s a bit more of a joyful feel, or at least a post-catharsis mood, having worked through the first six tracks.

All of which is (deliberately?) ironic, given the track’s title.

 
8. Darkfield (6:36)
 

Don’t get me wrong–this is a fine song, and Caspian rarely if ever puts out what fans would consider a dud, but I found this track to be not as remarkable as the others. I was actually relieved for a bit of a break, in that sense, because there are still 13 minutes to go.

Take my assessment with a grain of salt, though–I’m a sucker for their quieter stuff. If you like the heavier, industrial sounds Caspian sometimes reaches for, you’ll likely love the track.

 
9. Aeternum Vale (2:08)
 

Another interlude, this one featuring some nylon-string guitar. It’s good in its own right, but seems needful preparation for the album’s long and (you guessed it) epic closing track.

 
10. Dust and Disquiet (11:26)
 

The album’s title track is classic Caspian. There are lots of dynamic shifts, builds, swells, memorable melodies, grooves, and tremolo picking. Lesser bands might give up on such a song and split it into multiple tracks. Not these guys.

And, no, 11 minutes is not too long for this track. It’s the exact length it needs to be to do what Caspian wants it to do.

The riff they finally end on will stay in your mind (and maybe even your heart, dare I say) long after the album ends.

 

* * * * * * *

 

The fall is here, and you need good music in your life. I’m grateful to Caspian for making such a thoughtful, emotive, meaningful, and well-executed album. I’ve already listened to it a dozen times, and even introduced my seven-year-old and five-year-old to it. (They’re fans now.) I will listen many more times to this record.

Check it out for yourself now (iTunes/Amazon/band). The album releases Friday, September 25.

 

——

 

Thanks to the good folks of Stunt Company for the album download for review. And many thanks to Caspian for making this record!

6 Most-Visited Posts at Words on the Word

It’s been a quiet week at Words on the Word. Don’t worry–I’ve been working on some future posts, not the least of which is a review of the new Caspian record. In the meantime, just for fun, here are the top six posts that keep people coming back to the blog, based on traffic, in increasing order.

6. First Look at Logos 6: New Features and Screenshots

5. How to Read and Understand the Göttingen Septuagint: A Short Primer, part 1

4. Why did Jesus tell the disciples not to tell anyone about him?

3. Review of Sony SRS-BTS50 Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

(I’ve got a review of Logitech’s new BOOM 2 coming soon….)

2. Bonhoeffer’s Last Words, Before He Was Hanged (70 Years Ago Today)

1. Which Bible software program should I buy? Comparison of BibleWorks, Accordance, and Logos

(This review is three years old, and could be updated to include the new versions of all three, but many of the comments still hold.)

More anon….

Review of SHARKK® 15W Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

 

I’ve been jamming to some sweet tunes with SHARKK’s 15W Bluetooh Wireless Speaker recently. I’ve used it around the house for some organizing projects, as well as took it on a trip with me.

Here are the full specs from SHARKK:

◦ Rock the House with this Powerful 15 Watt Bluetooth Speaker with 2200Ah Lithium Battery which supports up to 10 consecutive hours of playing time.

◦ Subwoofer + high-performance amplifier combine for incredible volume and high quality sound.

◦ Can also be used to charge your phone or other rechargeable USB devices with its built in Power Bank.

◦ Supports AUX, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC with Siri/S Voice Functionality. Make and receive phone calls with the built-in Mic.

◦ Includes Charger, Carrying Pouch, and a 3.5mm audio cable.

Here is what it looks like out of the box (images via SHARKK):

 

 

Sharkk Speaker: What’s Awesome

Battery percentage indicator

 

You can see the battery level right next to the phone battery percentage—it’s always visible from the device from which you are streaming music. There’s no real battery life indicator on the speaker itself, so being able to see it from your device is neat.

 

Sound decent for cost

 

The sound is good for the cost. Not stellar, but solid. The bass is noticeable, if not wholly sufficient, and the highs and the mids come out, though perhaps not as crisply as one might want for a speaker at $80. Still, the sound is decent.

 

It remembers your device

 

Once you connect a device to the speaker via Bluetooth, the SHARKK speaker remembers it, so you don’t have to keep setting it up each time. I really appreciated this.

 

Totally portable

 

The speaker fits on a towel rack in the shower room. It’s easy to hold in one hand and move around the house to follow you from room to room. Highly portable and light enough to carry around, if you want.

 

What’s Not Awesome

The speaker died one night

 

One night, for no reason that I can discern, the speaker died. I charged it overnight. It still didn’t work. I charged it a second night. Still nothing. Then on the third day (I don’t mean this to be a religious parallel), it sprang back to life and has been working fine since.

Support was responsive throughout the issue, but I never could figure out why the speaker stopped responding like that.

 

No remote control

 

Lacking is a remote way to control the speaker. You cannot do it via remote control or from your phone. I know it’s not a huge deal to get out of your chair to turn it on or off, but a speaker in this price range should support remote control.

 

Play/pause button flashes

 

The play/pause button flashes blue when the speaker is on. I noticed this one night in the middle of the night from across the room, when I had forgotten to turn the speaker off. A minor nuisance, and certainly not a deal-breaker. But an auto-off feature would be nice.

 

Cloth carrying case

 

The speaker comes with a cloth carrying case, which is handy, but doesn’t do much to protect the speaker. On a recent trip where I wanted to take the speaker (it is very portable), I just packed the speaker up in its original box, which was a much better solution.

 

+ and – buttons

 

It’s awesome that you can play and pause your iTunes or even Spotify app from the speaker itself. One tricky thing, though, is that the “+” button fast forwards the track. Only holding the button turns the volume up (the expected result from a button like that). So, too, with the “-” button. It turns the volume down, but only if you hold it. Otherwise it rewinds the track. I found this less than intuitive, and still think it’s an odd design decision, but I got used to it over time (mostly). It is nice to be able to change tracks from the speaker itself.

 

Concluding Evaluation

I can recommend the speaker, but only with the reservations above. I’m not sure it would be my first choice for a sub-$100 speaker, but it does have some nice features that make it an attractive option worth considering.

Find the speaker here (SHARKK) or here (Amazon).

 

Thanks to SHARKK for the review sample, given to me for purposes of review but with no expectation as to the content of this post.

Review of Teen Daze’s Morning World: Do Yourself a Favor and Listen to This Amazing Album. Right Now.

 

It’s already August, so I’ll just call it now: Teen Daze’s Morning World is 2015’s Album of the Year.

Two weeks ago I had never heard of Teen Daze, impoverished soul that I was. The lush, arpeggiated riff that opens the album on “Valley of Gardens” drew me immediately in.

Then Jamison, genius behind Teen Daze, sweetly sings:

I went down
To see what the pond had collected.
A valley of gardens
Muted the sound of the hills.
And the rain had ended
I can smell the leaving of winter.
Blue and green, now:
I feel them in every sentence.

…which is a good thing, because there aren’t that many sentences on this record. Jamison doesn’t need many lyrics, though, because (a) the ones he uses are plenty evocative and (b) the music is expressive, creative, intricately layered, and speaks for itself.

After my first listen or two, I described Teen Daze’s sound as if The Lassie Foundation were covering Badly Drawn Boy songs, with some mid-1990s James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins) sprinkled in. The drums are perfect, the riffs are unforgettable, and the production (John Vanderslice, mastered by Bob Weston) is outstanding.

But then on about my fourth listen through, I noticed the strings. Oh, those strings. They really make the album. Cello and rock and roll were made for each other. And these parts are perfectly orchestrated.

Morning World somehow has a way of evoking so many bands I’ve loved over the last couple decades, yet with its own unique sound.

The title track, “Morning World,” is what my college roommate might have called “the perfect pop song.” Its 4:15 duration could easily be 10 minutes, and you wouldn’t mind. Jamison asks in his falsetto:

Should I, drift back
Drift back, into a dream.
Into a dream?

The album pulls the listener into this dream—no, not the dream of the 90s, but visions of the Garden of Eden (“finally a place of endless wonder”). If Teen Daze is suggesting Morning World could have been the Garden’s soundtrack, it’s hard to argue.

But despite the promise that “We can live forever,” and the desire to “believe that this is forever,” mid-album (and the lyrics only allude to it, allowing the music to do the work) the listener realizes something has gone wrong in the Garden. The rest of the record comes to grips with what it means when “forever” actually has an end.

Morning World—released today—is actually a fairly significant departure from Teen Daze’s previous work. I went back and listened to three previous albums, and there’s barely a live drum set or unprocessed guitar part to be found. That older, ambient, synth-heavy stuff is awesome in its own right (and still has a place here), but the new sound serves Teen Daze’s music well.

Also—Teen Daze took just 10 days to make this album. Yes, 10 days—6 for recording and 4 for mixing. There are a few times when this shows–a couple muffled guitar notes here and there–but that comes across and mostly endearing and just adds to the album’s charm. You’d otherwise never know this genius record took less than two weeks to bring to completion.

Get this album as soon as you can, put on a pair of headphones, turn off your device notifications, and enjoy what is easily the best album of the year. Find it here (iTunes) and here (Amazon).

——

Thanks to the good folks of Force Field PR for the album download for review.

This Will Be 2015’s Album of the Year

 

Imagine if The Lassie Foundation covered a suite of Badly Drawn Boy songs, with 1996 James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins) sitting in on guitar and vocals.

And then sprinkle in an Eno/Lanois influence. Among other awesomeness.

The new record from Teen Daze–whom I’d never heard from till last week–is stellar.

NPR’s First Listen has the forthcoming Morning World available to stream in its entirety. Listen and read more about the album here.

New Caspian Record: Dust and Disquiet

Dust and Disquiet

 

Caspian has been on heavy (and I mean: heavy) rotation ever since I saw a screening of their concert film Live at the Larcom.

They’ve got a new record coming out this fall, which I suspect will be excellent.

Here’s the track list, with names that portend some epic soundscapes:

01. Separation No. 2
02. Ríoseco
03. Arcs of Command
04. Echo and Abyss
05. Run Dry
06. Equal Night
07. Sad Heart of Mine
08. Darkfield
09. Aeternum Vale
10. Dust and Disquiet

I’ll report back as soon as I can. In the meantime, you can pre-order here or here, and listen to the first released track below (you’ll have to open the post if you’re reading on email or RSS):

 

 

Ah… So *That’s* Why Wilco Gave Away Their New Album

Ah… so Wilco reveals the impetus behind offering their new album free. From a brilliant email blast today:

This message has arrived in your inbox because you downloaded Wilco’s new album Star Wars. Thanks for that and we hope you’re enjoying the new tunes.

Wilco Star WarsNow a bit of background… We consider ourselves lucky to be in the position to give you this music free of charge, but we do so knowing not every band, label or studio can do the same. Much of the “music business” relies on physical sales to keep the lights on and the mics up. Without that support, well, it gets tougher and tougher to make it all work.

With that in mind, Wilco has put together a list of some of their favorite recent releases. We encourage you to explore it (and beyond) and yep, even march down to your neighborhood record shop and BUY. There’s a lot of great music out there, lets all try to support it. After all, it’s the years of support (and purchases) of Wilco’s music that allowed us to do what we did last week.

Here’s a list of folks Wilco thinks you should listen to:

Adron – Organismo
Cibo Matto – Hotel Valentine    
Empyrean Atlas – Inner Circle
Eleventh Dream Day – Works for Tomorrow
Full of Hell, Merzbow – Full of Hell & Merzbow     
Game TheoryRealNighttime
Girlpool – BeforetheWorldWasBig
Invisible Familiars – Disturbing Wildlife
LandladyUpright Behavior  
Luluc – Passerby
Ned Doheny Hard Candy
Parquet Courts – Content Nausea  
Richard Julian – Fleur de Lis  
Scott Walker + Sunn O))) – Soused 
Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer    
Steve Gunn Way Out Weather  
William Tyler –  Deseret Canyon 

Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I’ve only heard of three or four of those artists. Looks like I’ve got some new tunes to check out.

And kudos to Wilco for using their platform to highlight others!

New Wilco (Free Download)

Wilco Star Wars

 

Wilco unexpectedly released a new album and is giving it away for free. You just have to enter your email address at http://wilcoworld.net/, and you get a download link.

I’m a few songs in and looking forward to listening to more. It’s not as poppy as I thought it might be (the first track is a bit cacophonous), but I expect it may grow on me as I listen to the rest.

Caspian: Live at the Larcom

Caspian
Image via band Website

 

Last night I went to a screening of Caspian’s Live at the Larcom concert film. Here’s a short write-up from the hosting venue (The Cabot):

Live at the Larcom is a 2-hour concert film chronicling CASPIAN’s momentous 10-year anniversary performance on October 18, 2014 at the Larcom Theatre in Beverly, MA. Performed in chronological order spanning all 4 of their studio albums, the set features both well known and rarely played songs by the band, captured in sweepingly atmospheric, reverent fashion by director Ryan Mackfall (Mastodon, Defeater) of Crashburn Media from London, UK.

The sound was amazing, the lights perfect, and the music and performance were incredibly moving. (And the Cabot Theater is itself lovely.) Caspian does both heavy and beautiful well, and often both at the same time. Their dynamic range is truly impressive. I’ve never seen them live, but when I closed my eyes at this film screening, I could easily imagine myself in the room with them.

Here’s the trailer (you’ll have to click through if you’re reading this post via email or other feed):

 

 

Here’s the set list:

1.) Cigarette
2.) Quovis / Further Up / Further In
3.) Moksha
4.) The Dove / ASA
5.) Ghost of The Garden City
6.) Malacoda
7.) Concrescence
8.) Sycamore
9.) Gone In Bloom and Bough
10.) Halls of The Summer
11.) Fire Made Flesh
12.) Hymn For The Greatest Generation

Check out “Gone in Bloom and Bough” (yes, it’s 10 minutes–all of it awesome):

 

 

Find Live at the Larcom available for purchase here on Blu-Ray and here as a digital download.