Friday, December 3, 2010

the birthday massacre - pins and needles

i can already tell this is going to be a hard one to do. More than any other medium, music is subjective to a heavy degree. Movies and games can be rated on an A-F, 100%, or 5-star system. Music, however, can not. Music has the unique ability to be trash to one person and treasure to another, at least much more than is the case with anything else. Put a triple-A video game in the hands of most gamers and they will all give you a thumbs up. But if you give a Backstreet Boys album to two people, you'll see them argue. Give a Backstreet Boys album to two Backstreet Boys fans and you'll see them argue. Give a Backstreet Boys album to two Backstreet Boys and you will see them argue too. So it's a little difficult for me to rate music like it's of any help to you as a consumer. That's why I won't. I'm not giving it a score, or any other rating. Like Halo and every other piece of media, I will simply be giving my impressions, and maybe an elbow as far as "Hey, buy this".

As mentioned in my metal article, I'm a big fan of The Birthday Massacre (TBM from here) despite every picture of them looking like they are for an audience that is way more punk or emo than I am. In person, at least on stage, they are actually very active, funny and.......... not goth like I'd expected. Their music does kind of lean towards it, but honestly it doesn't hurt it. And I'm not really trying to say goth is bad, I'm just saying that it's not the kind of music that I would expect myself to like. What I really love about them are their vocalist, their keyboardist, and how well the band works together. Like Linkin Park, they blend electronic and instrumental so well that I can't help loving it. Their vocalist blends vulnerability, sadness and playfulness where the instrumentals make you think of a sort of emo-ized interpretation of Alice in Wonderland. They do a really sharp, sad, and lovely kind of sound that I really can't fully put into words, but are also capable of doing something youthful and punky too. You'll just have to sample it. Here's the store sample bundle for their last album, Walking With Strangers.

So now maybe you have a bit of an idea of what this band sounds like. I first heard them on Pandora internet radio, where their album art and initial sound didn't catch my attention. I almost the hit "skip", but I stuck around and I am so glad that I did. My attention span on Pandora is usually really short, and if the song isn't grip me within like 10 seconds I usually skip.

This can be determined within 10 seconds ALL the time

A very lucky break. So they have a new album out now (October 2010), called Pins and Needles. At first listen, honestly I was disappointed. Like with Imogen Heap's Ellipse, this was because I was such a huge fan of the previous album. I had a hard time getting used to the new one, and you've probably encountered this problem before. A band comes out with a new album, they depart from their old sound, and even though you know you'd complain if they just gave you more of the same, you can't help getting over some initial prejudice because they've explored. Like with Imogen, though, after listening to it a few times, it's actually hard to determine which album I like more now. TBM has changed its members a few times, and I'm pretty sure that this album is one of the first to feature the same exact band as their previous effort (Edit: Not true, but I was close). As a result, the band has really had some time to gel together, get used to each other and become more "homogenized". They function more as a single unit now than they did on the last album. Appropriately, then, what we have here is an album that has fewer peaks and valleys, but an overall rise in quality and ability.

Walking With Strangers had some high highs and maybe a few lows (rare if any though), but this album is solid throughout. You can't really find a bad song on this album. It does have it's highs, able to go toe-to-toe with the last album on a per-song basis. But no single riff or melody can stand up to the best from Walking with Strangers. It's like the change from Disturbed's 10,000 Fists to Indestructible, the change from Imogen's Speak for Yourself to Ellipse, from Bjork's Post to Homogenic. It's a stronger album overall, but it won't rock your face the way "that one part" of the last album did. Still, I'm giving it more flak than it deserves; these changes are a good thing, and I'll tell you why in a sec.

Seriously. I usually put a joke here. I got nothing.

Specific tracks that stand out are Always, Sleep Walking, Secret, and Pins and Needles. This really kind of depends on your tastes, though. Those are just my personals. If it matters to you, my sister Jessica really liked In the Dark. When I played it in my car, like that time I played Disturbed's 10,000 Fists, she said "SEE? Why can't you listen to this all the time?" I think she looks at me as a work in progress or something. Anyways, she listens to Avenged Sevenfold and bro-rock like that, so if you share her tastes, try In the Dark instead of the ones I listed. In the Dark is probably the most "radio-friendly" piece on the album, most akin to the likes of Evanescence. It's dark and moody with a little bit of an edge, and will probably be the easiest to use as a "gateway" if you're looking to get somebody into this band. My tastes are more into the sad, pretty and intense, which are how I would describe the tracks Secret, Always and Sleep Walking, in that order.

In general, the tracks on this album are more (I would say) anthemic. The sound is taller and more broad than before, where it used to be a little more pointed. And if that sounds bad, it's not. Where I would definitely say they made a great album with Walking, they seem to have an even better feel for what they're "doing", and what kind of band they are. If you have Disturbed's Indestructible, you know what I mean. The band has matured, and their young sound has gotten relatively older, and they've gotten their collaboration down to a science. They don't seem to be relying on individual notes or melodies for affectation. Instead, they seem to have gone for comprehensive song construction, and it works. Really well. Every piece is incomplete without the other.

If you're a first-timer, I actually recommend picking this one up first. It's a better overall than the last one, and if you give it a listen you're more likely to stumble across a song you like. In this day and age, you don't really need my recommendation because you can just sample it, but if you're still on the fence after that, consider this that last nudge.

Buy Pins and Needles from:

Metropolis (Physical CD)
Amazon MP3 Digital
I hate iTunes

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