August 21, 2013

Stop.

I began AwkwardSound in the summer of 2010 inside my studio apartment during a short stint of unemployment. I'm not the type of person who does well with too much time on his hands, and with the economy being in the gutter, I decided to do the proactive thing and create my own "job" -- except this one would involve one of my favorite hobbies, music. The goal of AwkwardSound was pretty simple: I wanted to create a music blog my friends could check out for recommendations on new sounds they were too busy to discover on their own, as well as be that person who wrote more than two sentences about a song, band or album in light of a shift in priorities on my favorite sites where traffic revenue meant pushing content, and pushing content meant rushing music out without saying much about it. Of course, there was the allure of discovery as well, and at the very least, I could eventually list AwkwardSound on my résumé to promote applying my skills within my outside interests.

During my first year writing AwkwardSound, it was a very humble operation. I wrote song and album reviews, posted them on my personal facebook page and was happy if a dozen of my friends bothered to read along. When I moved back home to once again be employed only to be met by a dead social life, I still had far too much time on my hands. With those hours in the evenings and weekends, I began to mix my background in online marketing into AwkwardSound by going public with the blog, creating its own facebook page, Twitter account and getting verified with the HypeMachine. Coverage expanded to profiling rising buzz bands, new song streams without the in-depth review slant, videos and feature stories. I began analyzing traffic as a challenge to improve AS' visibility, and it wasn't until I noticed a spike one day thanks to pieces on Cult of Youth and Marina Minerva being plugged by the respective artists that I realized I was getting somewhere with my little DIY music blog being written out of my parents' basement. Three years later, and it still amazes me to this day when an artist, a label, a professional music writer or a publicist acknowledges the words that I've written here by sharing it with their followers just as they would a story on sites like Pitchfork or Stereogum.

While I've been lucky to build a small, but loyal network of readers as well as connections to the musicians and labels themselves whom I am thrilled to cover, the larger AwkwardSound has grown, the more arduous writing the site has become. On top of increasing content without sacrificing the effort behind it, there's a vicious cycle to it all: Grow your brand by covering new music that the larger sites are ignoring. Gain the endorsements of rising artists through your thoughtful writing. Eventually, the larger sites finally catch on to the trends after you've been talking them up for a year. Those bands stop acknowledging your posts in favor of supporting articles on larger web sites that guarantee them a bigger audience. The bands and larger web sites all win out, run off into the sunset holding hands, all the while you're back at square one looking for music to cover that hasn't been talked about to death by the time you come home from work.

Add to that, for every genuinely supportive member of the music industry you encounter with your efforts, there are far too many mean-spirited members of it who want nothing more than to tear your hard work down. The professional indie music writing world for example is more or less the equivalent of high school, in that they are the popular kids arrogantly controlling the territory and all too eager to dismiss any DIY writer who does in their free time what they consider a "career." Too many times have I come home after a bad day at the office already stressing, only to find an e-mail or series of tweets from some big music site scribe who chose to become a journalist after dropping out of law school criticizing the way I operate or denouncing the value of my posts, even though they are written with as much insight and purpose as theirs. Congrats, dude. You won the Internet for the day in 140 characters or less. My perspective of the industry has understandably become a negative one to the point where I'd much rather not get to know the people behind the music I write about or the writers behind the reviews I read elsewhere, because as the cliché goes, "Never meet your heroes." It's not to say I've ever held anyone within this realm on such a pedestal, but admittedly, it's begun to make me "hate" music because I can no longer listen to it without the negative experiences over baffling Twitter beefs or catty e-mails muddy my bias.

You probably have figured out by now that this is my goodbye post. I am proud of the 1,258 stories that I have written since June 1, 2010 in this space, and humbled for being given the opportunity to tell you about the music I loved rather than seeing it effortlessly slapped onto the Internet. The truth is, you don't need AwkwardSound. There are thousands of other sites just like this all over the endless web vying for your attention, wanting to be the "first" to tell you about your new favorite band and in all likeliness, contributing to the raging fire on social media where everyone has an opinion and you're welcome to voice yours -- just as long as it's the same as theirs. I don't know if I accomplished anything in my time as a make-shift music writer, but I do know that at the end of the day, the scores under the reviews, the by-lines that accompany them, the names of the sites you follow on Twitter, what's being said in the latest controversial "think piece" alongside arguments over who or what is and isn't punk -- It's all just white noise on the Internet trying to make you fall out of love with the music itself.

From the bottom of my emo heart, thank you, take care and please be good to one another.

Michael | AwkwardSound.com

August 20, 2013

Hear New Sound: Chelsea Wolfe's "The Waves Have Come"



Whether it be conjuring up the spirits of black metal or hollowing out a wickedly enchanting neo-folk spell, BUZZSound alumna Chelsea Wolfe occupies all distances of the dark realm with her ornate songwriting prose. On September 3rd, the Los Angeles chanteuse will release her third studio effort Pain Is Beauty on Sargent House, and what we have heard thus far in the brittle synthetic movements of "The Warden" and the claustrophobic funeral march of "We Hit a Wall" has assuredly indicated that Wolfe's transgressive songwriting on this go will encompass the sum of all narrations that listeners have been so lucky to stand witness to over the past few years. Pain Is Beauty's newest and final preview before its release is also the album's penultimate closer "The Waves Have Come," an ocean-sized epic of a piano symphony at 8-minutes long that batters emotion with ease as Wolfe's forlorn wants build a storm of treacherous climbs before peacefully letting go and drowning its sorrows under shallow waters. "The Waves Have Come"'s captivating arrival is below...

Sound Bites: Josh Berwanger, Porches. and Saves the Day

Josh Berwanger's "Baby Loses Her Mind"

The Anniversary were one of the most under-appreciated bands from Vagrant's golden era of emo during the early Aughties, but even after an untimely demise, there has thus far been no formal reunion to be had unlike those staged by many of the mid-western scene peers (at least we got an excellent posthumous B-sides and rarities compilation released in 2008...) The band's frontman and guitarist Josh Berwanger never gave up on his music career dream, however, and on October 1st, he'll release his proper debut solo outing Strange Stains on Good Land Records, which sees him re-teaming with original Anniversary drummer Michael Hutcherson and features guest spots from the likes of the Breeders' Jim McPherson. "Baby Loses Her Mind" is its first cut, and it travels a familiar path of sunny flower pop that was taken by his former band on their emo departure and final LP, Your Majesty.

Josh Berwanger - "Baby Loses Her Mind"

Porches.' Strange Action in the Cosmos

They've given you the opportunity to flirt with Franklin. They've helped you climb her "Skinny Trees." Heck, they've even given you the saddest blowjob of your life, and now, self-professed "bummer-pop" Brooklynites Porches. are letting all the ebb and flow ease and frustration heard within their upcoming longplay Slow Dance In the Cosmos go by streaming the entire listen of lust, loss and chill vibes via Consequence of Sound. For the unlucky recipients of a summer fling heartbreak out there, this one luckily makes for the perfect bookend to carry you into autumn's dying warmth, as it arrives on August 30th via Exploding In Sound.



Saves the Day's "The Tide of Our Times"

Yesterday, Noisey ran an interesting think piece entitled "Can Saves the Day Please Be Good Again?" that raised a lot of Internet chatter among emo nostalgists ahead of the release of the band's forthcoming eponymous full-length that sees them returning to the label where it all started, Equal Vision Records. The article goes into a host of discussion points including their rise on a major label to a shaky tail end catalog, but ultimately ends up at the conclusion that anyone who loved them before will likely be giving listen come September 17th and hoping for the best. Today, Saves the Day shot back with a reassuring answer as SPIN premiered the LP's latest track "The Tide of Our Times," which joins first single "Remember" in satisfying the minority (AS included) who believes In Reverie was a creative peak filled with copious sunny spots of chunky power pop from the indie darlings. Saves the Day's autumn tour in support of LP 8 with emo and post-hardcore up-and-comers Into It. Over It. and Hostage Calm (alongside select dates with fellow Jersey scene vet Geoff Rickly of Thursday) kicks off after Labor Day.

LIVESound: Touché Amoré Debut "DNA" at Bridgetown DIY


Touché Amoré's highly anticipated third full-length effort Is Survived By isn't out until September 24th via Deathwish Inc., but a few weeks back, the post-hardcore next-gens gave a small audience the full listen in a live show benefit for the La Puente, CA art space Bridgetown DIY. SoCal visual archivist Chris Avis, who runs the site Cavis Tapes, was there to record the entire thing, and today, he and Touché Amoré unveiled a new taste off the quintet's new LP with their performance of "DNA." Like Is Survived By's decimating Recommended first single "Just Exist", this latest revelation continues curbing the Los Angeles punks' emotional charge beyond the circle pit and around melodious corners without softening the physical blows. The genetic makeup to Touché Amoré's Is Survived By can be studied below...

"DNA" (live at Bridgetown DIY in La Puente, CA)

Hear New Sound: Body / Head's "Actress"


A week after the Dust settled on the debut listen from Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley’s new band, their fellow SY alumnus and label mate Kim Gordon has let free a new listen off her next step’s first proper outing. Body / Head is Gordon’s guitar-dueling noise rock project alongside Northampton experimental scene staple Bill Nace, whom she’s been recording and playing live with over the recent few years. On September 10th, the duo will see their proper reveal when their LP Coming Apart is released. Its first listen "Actress" steps off from the dronier aspects and smokier vocal dirge from Gordon’s past life while abandoning any of the formalities that came with that sort of writing process. It’s a telling sign that these two musicians have put in their fair share of mileage mucking through the wonderfully weird eccentricities of Western Massachusetts’ mostly uncovered noise scene. Body / Head plays the part well...

Song Review: Nine Inch Nails' "Everything"



What we’ve heard thus far off of Nine Inch Nails’ comeback album Hesitation Wounds with initial singles “Came Back Haunted” and “Copy of A” have comfortably knotted themselves within a familiar industrial electronic plane that beckons back to the project’s ‘90s mainstream peak more so than the experimental rock climbing of their mid-Aughties incarnation, but its latest listen “Everything” is nothing short of an unexpected anomaly from Trent Reznor and company that’s understandably leaving some listeners scratching their heads and checking the title bar on their playlists.

Nine Inch Nails has always enjoyed their fair share of alternative radio hits throughout the years, but this time the accessibility aims to please – dare AS say it – bright-eyed utopians rather than the cold world cynics. Its syncopated pop-punk beat bubbling upward rather than spiraling downward is exhilarating in its lightweight effortlessness, recalling a sunnier era in post-grunge / addiction mainstream rock (and suggesting that maybe Reznor’s close friendship with Filter frontman and former NIN member Richard Patrick has had a positive influence on him as well.) If the music isn’t enough to convince you of this, the refrain "I am home / I am free..." flowing ebulliently from Reznor’s mouth in its closing moments assures us that this is no glitch in the chronically black-clad frontman’s optimism.

August 19, 2013

Song Review: The Weeknd's "Live For" (feat. Drake)


These last few months have been a trying time for AwkwardSound when it comes to giving the Weeknd the benefit of the doubt leading up to his sophomore effort Kiss Land, due out on September 10th via Republic. The album’s first single, its title track, bombarded the senses with maybe too much sexual imagery and tripped out beats to take in one sitting, while its subsequent previews, "Belong to the World" and "Love In the Sky," have either managed to get him on the bad side of Portishead loyalists or just not impress anyone who prefers the sensual, lo-fi production that shrouded his first three mixtapes over what’s evolved into polished drug pop. Not at all helping Abel Tesfaye’s public image were rumors that he was feuding with one-time mentor and Take Care “Crew” leader Drake, who basically broke the Weeknd’s career by being the first to co-sign him. We can at least put to rest allegations of "biting the hand that feeds," however, as two of Toronto's hottest teaming up on Kiss Land's latest cut “Live For” squashes any beef that wasn't apparent when the two hugged it out at Drake's recent OVO Fest. Yet, even Drizzy's saving grace in his hard spitting presence doesn't do much to make Tesfaye's hypnotic arena seat-filling beats more bearing, and that cramped chorus line "thistheshitilivefor" sounds sloppy in its rush. I guess at this point if you're like AS and put off by the Weeknd's current direction, you have to wonder if the only thing drawing you to this dude is his who his friends are...