liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Music From the Cube: What Am I Listening To Today?

I supsect that a lot of people on my FList are already hip to Blue October (the band from Texas and not the techno-ambient band from the U.K. which has the same name) and their new release Foiled. I figured I might as well pimp some of the band's back catalogue 'cause if all you have is Foiled, man, you are missing out.

I decided to do my little salute to Blue October in anticipation for getting my grubby paws on their latest CD, Foiled (Amazon tells me it's en route). Since I have every CD they've released through Universal Records, I figured I'd give everyone a mega retrospective all in one go. (I should add, no, I do not have their independently released debut album The Answers in my collection. Just their major label releases.)

As a result, there are a ton of MP3 samples for you to try out from this band. I'm very sure that at least one MP3 (pointedly does not look at 'Balance Beam') will not only get you hooked on Blue October, but will send you running to Amazon to snap up all four of their CDs without another thought.

Blue October
[Support the Artist]

I swear to God that Blue October is one of those bands that had been hovering on the edge of break-out status since they released Consent to Treatment 6 years ago. Lord knows I started hearing chatter about them after they released History for Sale 3 years ago. I finally gave up and invested in the band's Universal releases after seeing them perform live through the magic of Music Choice on Cable. Yeah. I was that impressed.

Yet, for all the awesome in two solid studio albums — Consent to Treatment and History for Sale — and a fantastic double-CD live album in Argue With a Tree, they've managed to completely fly under the radar.

Until now.

Blue October probably first got widespread attention when "Calling You" from History for Sale was featured on the American Wedding soundtrack. However, it seemed the band sunk below the waves shortly thereafter. The only follow-up was their live album, Argue with a Tree, in 2004. It was an awesome treat for people who were already fans of the band, but didn't really build on the slight momentum they'd gotten with "Calling You."

Now comes Foiled, which is shaping up to the be the band's big breakout. Foiled (which is not included here because I'm still waiting on Amazon) has already gone Certified Gold and its first single, "Hate Me," has reached number two on the Billboard Modern Rock charts. A second single, "Into the Ocean," is slowly climbing up the same chart. Other singles have been released and have been popping up on different radio stations all across the U.S.

In short, a whole lot of people have finally discovered this band.

*sniff* I remember going through this with REM *sniff*

Before moving on to the CD reviews and the downloads, I should maybe put in a warning or two here. Some of the subject matter may be considered "triggers" for some of you or may contain language that is NWS. What little I've read on the band seems to indicate lead singer and band songwriter Justin Furstenfeld is mentally ill and has recently kicked a drug habit. After spending some time listening to the lyrics on many of these songs...I believe it.

In any case I promise to warn for triggers and language on the individual sample MP3s.

Argue With A Tree Rating=$$$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought used on Amazon almost a year-and-a-half ago.

Like I said above, watching their live performance on Music Choice convinced me to throw some financial love Blue October's way. This CD convinced me that I was not wrong to do so. The organic live performance on this 25-track double CD adds more fuel to Furstenfeld's raw, emotional lyrics. The band's musicianship is tight, while being flexible enough to accomodate the enthusiastic crowd. Furstenfeld's voice is in fine form as his vocal work vascillates between melodic and furious snarling. Best of all, however, the talents of rock violinist Ryan Delahoussaye receives the spotlight it deserves. If you're looking for an energizing and electric performance that offers splashes of some deeply personal and moving moments, you simply can't go wrong putting this in the CD player.

In the sample downloads below, only 'Sexual Powertrip' is most definitely NWS, although I do recommend downloading it if only for its very nasty portrait of man who is not only incapable intimacy, but is only capable of using his romantic partners.

'Inner Glow' might be considered NWS for some language, but otherwise is a very sweet tune about the excitement of making art, even though there may be times that it seems like: 1) you've lost the rhythm and 2) no one appreciates you. What's important is that you try, get it out there, and are true to yourself. I adore this tune. Seriously.

'HRSA' is a rather cheerful tune, considering it's about being institutionalized and being medicated to the gills. 'Drop' reaches moments of thoughtful melodiousness as the lyrics paint a picture of a man who self-medicates through substance abuse. 'Come In Closer' has a haunting, lonely feel about it as the lyrics at once push away and draw the subject of the song in.

The real stand-outs: There's some terrific violin and yodeling work in 'Italian Radio' that's not to be missed. It's like grunge meets old skool country in a danceable union that has you grinning while you butt-dance in the seat. 'PRN' is basically the rock violin solo and it is awesome. On 'PRN,' Delahoussaye's work moves from a classical feeling that puts you in mind of old world mourning before kicking up into something devilishly evil and frenetic. For lack of a better way of describing it, 'PRN' has a vaguely Russian feel about it. Finally, download Unknown, which is nothing more than Furstenfeld singing for a little over a minute-and-half with no accompanyment whatsoever.

Sample Song Downloads from Disc 1: HRSA (Live), Drop (Live), Sexual Powertrip (Live), Inner Glow (Live)

Sample Song Downloads from Disc 2: Italian Radio (Live), PRN (Live Instrumental), Come In Closer (Live), Unknown (Live; A Capella)

You can download all files from the project page by clicking here.

Consent to Treatment Rating=$$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought used on Amazon almost a year-and-a-half ago.

Of the three CDs listed here, this one is the most slickly produced. In addition, unlike other CD releases with Universal, Consent to Treatment doesn't carry any parental warnings, so it's pretty safe to buy it as is (I always go with what the artist inteded myself, so parental advisory warnings for me!). The flow of the tracks works very well here, even if the singing and the lyrics tend toward the self-conscious side. Don't get me wrong, Consent to Treatment is a terrific CD and well-worth the investment. It's just that it suffers by comparison with Argue With a Tree with its live-in-concert energy. The other issue is that Delahoussaye's violin work, which is a big part of Blue October's distinctive sound, isn't quite as prominent as I'd like it. It's sort of like yelling, "More cowbell!" when the music you've got is pretty damn good.

Just the same, I picked downloads where the violin was more prominent.

'Independently Happy' is a slick little tune about kicking the habit and finding your own zen. 'Schizophrenia' allows that distinctive violin work to take center stage as part of the this creepy little number (made all the creepier by the lyrics) about — what else — living with schizophrenia. 'Amnesia'is a good bookend to 'Schizophrenia' in that it focuses on someone wishing they could wipe all the bad things he's done completely away, or at least from his memory.

The real standout among these downloads is (please don't be shocked): 'Balance Beam.' I know I've offered it for download before several times. But, seriously, my love for this song cannot possibly be overstated. There's something so cheerfully cynical about the romance advice in this tune that I have dubbed it, 'Best. Love. Song. Evah!'


Now that I have revealed this bit of information about myself, I think you can see why I haven't been out on a date for a loooong time.

Sample Song Downloads: Independently Happy, Balance Beam, Schizophrenia, Amnesia

You can download all files from the project page by clicking here.

History for Sale Rating=$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought used on Amazon almost a year-and-a-half ago.

If History for Sale suffers from anything, it suffers from MPD. One track may be raw, angry, and deeply personal, like 'Razorblade.' The next may be fluffy, Top 40-friendly head-nodding pop fare like 'Calling You.' The aural whiplash can be a a trip-and-a-half if you're not prepared for it. Despite that, though, I do like the CD, but more for its parts than its whole.

Warning: 'Razorblade' isn't just NWS, there may be triggers for people hidden in them thar lyrics. We're talking cutting, rape, incest, and religion-based abuse. Unfortunately, there's no comfort for this hurt. The best that can be done is the primal scream where the minister and uncle in the song is refused forgiveness and called "a sick fuck."

The real standout on this CD: 'Somebody' is a furious anthem that — depending on my mood — could be about an imploding relationship or it could be about someone screwing up his life by making the same mistakes over and over again.

'Calling You,' like I said, was used on the American Wedding soundtrack and received some radio airplay. It's a sweet little poppy tune. It's even, dare I say, conventionally romantic. Considering this is Blue October, that's nothing short of a freakin' miracle. 'A Quiet Mind'is probably my least favorite track among all these MP3s. The only thing it really has going for it is the disconnect between tune and lyrics. It sounds like another sweet love song, but it's really an anthem of co-dependency

Sample Song Downloads: Razorblade, Calling You, A Quiet Mind, Somebody

You can download all files from the project page by clicking here.


To find previous thumbnail reviews, go to the Review Index.

After the donwload links expire, you can listen to streaming MP3 files linked with reviews at my Vox shadow blog for media.


Rating system:
None = Avoid at all cost. Worth cutting your ears off to avoid if someone threatens to play it for you. When faced with even the threat of its cellophane-wrapped presence, your best option is to RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!

$= If you stumble across it for cheap in a used bin, it might, maybe, perhaps could be worth the buy, but only if you need a cheap coaster for your cold drinks or a cool-looking frisbee.

$$= You might want to give this CD/artist a try, but only if the sample track tickles your fancy. Don't bother buying this one new because the good tunes you'd get out of this one ain't worth that kind of money.

$$$ = Worth looking for on a casual basis and maybe even buying new, but no big rush.

$$$$ = Definitely worth having in the ol' CD collection and definitely worth buying new, but don't re-arrange your personal "must have" list to get your hands on it.

$$$$$ = Why haven't you bought this CD yet? Go. This is a "Want. Take. Have." situation because you so want this.

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