The Telescope

A Cornucopia of News, Commentary and Harassment

Sep 6

Volcano Choir: Repave

Just gonna try to work out what I like most about Volcano Choir’s latest album without treading through the band’s debut nor all of that fantastic Bon Iver stuff that VC singer Justin Vernon has been known to drop into the musical ether nor Collections of Colonies of Bees’ material. Listen: Repave is a great album.

The cover kinda illustrates the tidal shifts in mood that the listener will come to find (also evidenced within the album opener’s title). There’s sun; there are clouds. There are a lot of waves rollicking the melodies back and forth. And from the vantage point of the first note, it’s impossible to see across the ocean at what lay on the other side. “Vast” is a word that springs to mind.

Earlier this year, the band released a sorta trailer for the album. “Byegone” filled out the backdrop, while clips of glacial movements and the band members’ in-studio meanderings flashed across the screen (or something like that). It’s a terrific tune and certainly stands as the centerpiece of the first half. That triumphant melody that leads into the chorus is an inspiring little thing.

And against the monumental music, there’s a noted irreverence throughout the album (re: lyrics). Just absolutely silly stuff most of the time. Less visible is the pacing of the album. With that very “monumental” concept in place, it’s remarkable how easily the songs flow from one to the next. That’s probably what seems most joyous about the album: It’s accessible in ways that similar works may not have been (aaand there’s that tread across the whole Bon Iver thing). Repave is stuff you can walk to, sleep to, write to.

Without referencing my absence from this blog (oh, wait…), here’s my latest feature from the ol’ day job

I wrote about Michael Bay, a rather legendary guitarist from Cleveland, and his philosophies on life, music and pho.

Oh, and he and his band are unbelievably talented and you should go see them, like, asap.

Aug 7

No appearance in more than five months, and now here’s the second post in less than hour

This one’s just for the sake of pumping a bit of extra life into this blog. I churned out a few half-hearted thoughts on Third Eye Blind just a moment ago. There’s another thing in the works that I’ll probably post here real soon. Maybe by the time I kill this double o’ Maker’s…

AND NOW, just a quick Sept. 6 update to his little post:

This Tumblr was re-imagined sometime earlier this year as a music blog. No media criticism, no personal wanderings, no food bloggage. I fully intend on living up to that bold “music blog” title.

A slight personal wandering here: My views on music journalism have really evolved over the past year. I still see much value in it, though I see fewer and fewer great examples of the work “out there.”

What should good music journalism be? What should the writer accomplish? <- Two Big Questions I’m hoping to suss out as I reinvigorate this damn thing with life, verve and wanton ecstasy.

/needle to the record, now.


In the eleventh hour of the last millennium, Third Eye Blind quietly released “Blue,” the follow-up to 1997’s nearly explosively popular self-titled outing. The latter was well regarded among pop culture pundits - and fifth-graders the likes of yours truly - due to that catchier-than-hell single “Semi-Charmed Life.” There were also, of course, intensely well crafted tunes like “The Background,” “London,” and, for those unfortunate enough to be born under a “bad sign” with black irises filling out their eyes, the mournful “Thanks A Lot.”

Two years later, though, the band would drop “Blue” and, almost literally, alter the face of contemporary pop rock forever. After one spin-through of “1,000 Julys,” an average of 1 in every 10 listeners passes immediately to the afterlife out of sheer, numbing joy. Probably the best song on the album is “Farther,” though. I mean, that fucking intro! To wit: Arion Salazar was the unspoken hero at various points during the band’s early years, but the ongoing feuds between ego-head Stephen Jenkins and Kevin Cadogan always obscured that. (Cadogan was kicked out shortly after “Blue” came out. Like, a matter of weeks after the release.)

All in all, though, “Blue” is richer than the self-titled album. Just sayin’.

Mar 1

Keep Aqueous on your radar; they’re doing great things

I’ve seen Aqueous several times now in Cleveland - most recently this past Wednesday at the Beachland Tavern.

I haven’t really been this excited about any one component of the *jam scene* for a long time. Aqueous has a very fresh sound. While drawing on a number of musical traditions, they’re paving a brand new path with bricks of golden melody.

Dig the link above for my review of this week’s show. I’ll plan on catching them next month in Erie, Pa., and in April for their two appearances in Cleveland.

Just a quick update for now - and a nod to Cleveland Scene. I’m sorta digesting the band’s latest album, Willy is 40, so maybe a full-bodied review is in order sometime soon.

Feb 27

Just a quick roundup of bands I’m diggin’ lately

- Milo Greene (for work and for the recent Bonnaroo nod)

- The National (for festie appearances and the fact that they’ve been on my to-listen-to list for a while - particularly Alligator)

- Belle and Sebastian (see The National)

- Foals

- Cellar Door Vol. II & III (local compilations of bitchin’ Cleveland music)

- Mogwai

- Phish (duh.)

- Dawes

Feb 16

Gotta admit, I really dig the drop in this song. It’s a long, trudging sojourn toward the climax, but the breakthrough around 3:41 is worth it. Great tune. (I’m also an unabashed Cleveland homer, so there’s that.)

Feb 1

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead

This show from the Brooklyn Bowl last weekend is just incredible. “Shakedown Street” is a total trip!

Jan 12

Jeff Mangum in Cleveland and - Ohmigawd! It’s JEFF FUCKING MANGUM!

Here’s my quick take on the (really fantastic) Jeff Mangum show in Cleveland last night. The crowd reminded me of the over-the-top cult of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.

Jan 9

Yo La Tengo, ushering seeds toward a fruitful future

Nighttime cabernet on the table, ready to dig into Yo La Tengo’s first album in, oh, four years or so.

Pleasantries right off the bat: Opening track “Ohm” has a reservedly upbeat feel to it, contrasting darker lead tunes like “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind.” Ira’s *do da do* chirping in the background really illuminates that and sets up hopes for an album that’s going to grow upward and spin off interweaving branches of ideas and melodies.

It’s the band’s 13th studio album, representing the latest notch in a catalog that spans a much, much wider sojourn than most contemporaries. I love the band dearly, but tend to hold them at arm’s length. We’re on different wavelengths, at times.

There are soft moments riddled throughout the band’s discography that still cease to pull me in completely. “Is That Enough” fills that spot with aplomb.

YLT’s grab-bag action has always been one of their many appeals. The album, at this early point, continues to skip toward jauntiness and the juxtaposition of filter-laced fuzz groove.

Dig “Stupid Things” to get yr fix of bass-driven conversation with splattering accents dashing around in the background. And pair it nicely with the follow-up “I’ll Be Around.” Quick note: A trend that I loathe in music reviews of any kind is comparisons to other bands. The name-dropping is too easy and it detracts from the music at hand. Buuuut… There is this fine Wilco element going on in this song. And I like it a lot. AND it segues sweetly into a Georgia-crooned tune. Oh, mercy!

Something that strikes the listener is how smoothly this album encapsulates much of what has come before it. I Can Feel The Heart…, I Am Not Afraid of You… and And Then Nothing… - the band’s trio of masterpieces, by most accounts - are each felt throughout. Seeds planted much earlier have produced a rather sturdy and mature limb in Fade. There’s nothing *groundbreaking* about albums put out by bands of YLT’s vintage. And I almost feel like a silly bastard getting into such talk. But there it is: This album is a joy upon first blush: simple, vibey and kind.


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