Album Review: Who Speaks for Planet Earth?

Playlist!

Just to start off – “Who Speaks for Planet Earth” by And Then There Were None is what I would call lightweight electronic fare, or perhaps even punk rock played in an electronic fashion. (And… catchy!!!!!!!) The style may not be for people that can’t listen to anything below Radiohead… or may not dig a ton of electronic stuff and synths and production… however, if you want to experiment, this is a sampling of what the genre has to offer! It’s like pop that no one’s discovered – and is different enough for “non-pop-pers” (um?) to enjoy!

After getting several songs from this album on my Pandora playlist, I decided to find the album on Itunes – and after reading the brief reviews, I bought one song. Put it on my running playlist, realized that it was my favorite for the exercise and wanted more, I bought the album – while doing a 5.2 mile run. Those songs kept me speeding through to the end, even with the DC heat.

There are some songs that I found fun immediately because of their catchy nature, and some that I just skipped. After listening to them through at least, er, probably fifty times each on average, I had decided that some of the catchy ones were not quite as good as the ones that I had skipped just because they weren’t catchy from the start. [ETA – And after getting new headphones and listening to them all again, I pretty much decided I still like all the catchy ones! Ahhh yo-yo-ing…]

So…

Album Review:

This band has a clear style in this album – some call it “emo dance music.” It is full and driven with synths, dance beats, guitar chords, distortions, repetition, percussion (piano and, I believe, xylophone?), and production.

The band works to achieve a ‘space’ sound, which if you couldn’t tell from all the synths and songs, you could tell right away from the 40 second album opener (which I frankly think the album could have done without).

I listened to the whole album through once to judge it, and after that I realized that songs that might seem more shallow or ‘catchy’ actually tend to work well as a part of a larger piece (the album) than individual ones. This may be the case with “Thank the Watchmaker” (which I have not reviewed in detail… yet). (Maybe this is why most people immediately buy entire albums?) The album starts off with the lighter, easily catchy songs, and changes it up a little halfway through. There is more complexity in the latter half of the album, but it is still not consistent – and there are synth sequences that are less catchy there too.

That being said, with more complexity and innovation in the beats, and even less reliance on synths, and less blatantly saccharine, cliche, or over-emotive lyrics (at parts), this could be more than a fun exercise track or pick-me-up (or even an emo-pick-me-up) and be something that sets a standard for, um, space-y songs. The lyrics have actually grown on me, especially the ones from ‘Alamo’, which I’ve interpreted to be a song from a dying person to his lover – (translation – Get me out of the hospital! Let’s have a great time together for the last time!), but some other times they fall a little flat.

Song Awards!

Catchy award winners:
Hospital
Reinventing Robert Cohen
Thank the Watchmaker
Action is the Antidote

Catchy once you get into them award winners:
Action is the Antidote (yes, it’s catchy enough to get on both lists)
Insozz… (opening sounds like a DDR choosing song screen… but the chorus is amazing)
Right Here Waiting (…perhaps my least favorite, perhaps because it is a cover… the entire bridge to the chorus is nice though…)
The Alamo

More serious songs (less catchy but the most honest/different):
Cloak and Dagger
Bed of Nails

My Favorites:
Bed of Nails
John Orr the Arsonist
Action is the Antidote
Thank the Watchmaker
The Alamo
The Hospital

Now for reviews of some songs!

I may add on reviews for others (perhaps per request?). I like breaking songs into segments and judging each one… so that’s what I’ll do here! Feel free to refer to the playlist at the top to listen to the songs as you read! Perhaps listening to them in a different browser would help if you want to know which part time-wise you’re listening to as you’re reading? Or you could just be less OCD than me (whoa! OCD? Me? O_______O) and just skim and decide if each song sounds like it would be interesting to listen to or not. Also, I rated them out of how much I enjoyed them overall rather than how musically different/robust/critically-acclaimable they are, so the ratings are generally pretty high. Even if I get really nit-picky in the reviews.

1. Murmurs Of…

The album opening. It’s only 40 seconds. If you’re looking for an epic ‘space-style’ opener, look no further than Japanese rock band FLOW’s Microcosm’s Echoes (it’s 1:40 as well!). This one is just okay itself, but it lacks a real transition into the first real song. The true beginning is the next one. Since it’s not even a song I’ll rate it out of 3 points instead of 10 – 0.2/3

2. John Orr the Arsonist

0:00-0:12 – Great, rocky intro! You can hear both the guitars and synths here – the guitars are more prominent in this song than in others on the album.
0:12-0:24 – Great transition and lead-in to the first chorus
0:25-0:36 – “We can’t take this if we faked this if we tr-ied/if I die…” I love the way it’s said the first time, and…
0:36-0:49 – Tunnel voice repeats! One of my favorite parts!
0:49-1:08 – The beats in the beginning are great, but I do not dig the robotic voice. At all. “I never want to see you die you know” – just one example of weak-over-the-top lyrics that make it hard to take the songs seriously. At least harder than the heavy use of synths does.
1:08-1:33 – The first part (the words I don’t know) are fine, and then it goes downhill a little due to the rest of the lyrics. “I was lost, I was lost, and I had no place to go, but I… I don’t think you’d understand…” I didn’t understand why out of all words those were sung the way they were, with high energy (like I grabbed my friend by the shoulder and said, “Hey, I don’t think you’d UNDERSTAND me!”)… this part wasn’t bad, but I think smarter lyrics or a touch more complexity would have improved it to provide the climax the rest of the song builds to.
1:33-2:48 – Reprise of the first transition and chorus. The first parts are good, like the first time, though (not sure about the na-ame on “twenty times less worth your na-ame” – what? I’m picky.) From 1:47-2:10, “…if I die…” is as great as before, 2:10-2:48 is all right but could be improved, in large part in the lyrics.
2:48-3:25 – I liked the lines and distortion work in this part:“selfish pride will take the lives of others you could save.”
3:25-end – That same “I don’t think you understand” part, which again is all right but is slightly less excellent than the rest of the song – and it’s the climax!

Overall: 8.8/10

3. The Hospital

0:00-0:28 – Xylophone-like notes make this beginning saccharine, sounding like a Christmas gift or something… although the lyrics are a little darker. “We lost everything that we had… Just call my name…” It’s like optimistic emoness. Actually those words could sum up this album pretty nicely…
0:28-0:56 – I love the music in this part in this bridge… “it’s not that far to the hospital”… the words “I would tear my two eyes to bring you back here” caught me by surprise, but this album is all about expressing emotions in extreme ways, or extreme metaphors…
0:56-1:38 – ”E-e-e-e-E E E E…” Great, energy-filled, techno-based dance part that echoes the previous lyrics with instrumentation, with guitar riffs, synths that don’t overpower the guitar, and xylophone beats. Not quite innovative, but if you’re already moving along with the song this will seal the deal – this is probably the lightest and most catchy dance song (in terms of the sound) on the album!
1:38-2:07 – Different lyrics! Yay!
2:07-2:30 – Repeat of the “it’s not that far to the hospital part.” Can I say that my favorite part of the song might be 2:21 – that little “happy…E” that happens there? I was sooooo happy in that one second, and I can’t explain it.
2:33-end – Repeat of the instrumentation, which leaves you… rock/dancing…

Overall: 7.2/10 (comes together very well, and is enjoyable! But lacks the innovation and complexity I’d need to give it a higher rating)

4. Reinventing Robert Cohen

0:00-0:12 – Favorite part of this whole song? One of my favorite parts of the album? Maybe one of my favorite twelve second segments. The piano here is amazing. And the marching drum. I turned it up multiple times just to have the next part which is four times as loud try to kill my eardrums.
0:12-0:30 – Last week when I did striders I had this song playing, and would start it up when I had almost finished jogging back to the beginning each time, and then SPRINT from the start when this part came. Strong, loud, energy-packed synths and guitars. Not as elegant as the first part, but…
That being said, the lost potential of this part (and the rest of the song, more so) kills me – that piano was just breezing along at a nice rapid tempo, and this part slowed it down. The band could have opted for complexity, and then periods of simplicity (or ‘slower’ rhythms) in between, but they choose simplicity all the way through. There’s some complexity in the distortion, sure, but couldn’t they keep the piano at its faster pace in these parts, developing or playing with it a little more, to surprise us?
0:31-1:02 – Love the part from :31-:43, even with the human voice and robotic echo. Then from :43-1:02… I was expecting it to go somewhere else, or a little further. So that part of the bridge was serviceable, but disappointing.
1:02-1:33 – Chorus! Energy-filled! I loved it the first 20 times I heard it. The lyrics “Like a fire inside me” were cliché enough that they dampered my enthusiasm a bit by time 21, but “she doesn’t know who I am” fit in perfectly.
1:33-1:57 – 1:33-1:45 were just like the first part of the first bridge: great, 1:45-1:57 were serviceable like the second part of the first bridge, but I liked it better – perhaps because I was expecting it? Strange?
1:57-2:05 – Best repetition of this verse – “She’s in my blood, and like a fire inside me…” with only sparse synth beats behind the tunneled voice… I imagined someone falling… which is usually what I imagine when a song is doing what I want it to…
2:05-2:30 – Chorus, same as before…
2:31-2:55 – I disliked the distorted repetition here… just smelled like ‘over-production’ and ‘cheesy effects.’ The last five or six seconds of human singing are good though!
2:55-3:21 – Bridge again, very good. Then a repeat of “she doesn’t know who I am,” which is good but not incredibly good (it is repetition after all)
3:21-end – “Go O-O-O-OOO-O-OOOON!!!” Another peak of the album. Then the rest is a reprise.

I literally listen for those peaks, in the beginning, the good moments in the middle, and the rest to get to the end. And I listen because it all comes together. Just kills me that if the band had perfected the entire bridge, or the chorus, or just one of them… this might be epic, but as it is… it’s middling as a piece of music, but very competitive when it comes to catchiness.

Overall: 6.8/10

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That’s all for now. This is my first time trying to review music, so if you have any comments or feedback, I would greatly appreciate it! Thanks! =)

On Myths and the Role of Novelists

Are you interested in creative writing?

Perhaps even fantasy writing?

Or are you simply interested in discussion on religion’s role in society, and its evolution?

Well, when I decided to read and review Karen Armstrong’s “A Short History of Myth” I thought I’d be catering to the writing/dreaming crowd. I hadn’t suspected that the conclusions from this small little book would be relevant and applicable to… well… EVERYONE.

So I’ll start with that latter part – the themes and message of the book, along with my thoughts afterwards. Since that part is long, I’ll dedicate a separate post to how one could use this knowledge in one’s own writing (and world-building!).

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