Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Commute Cometh (Again)

Every job has its perks. If you are a medical professional, drug reps regularly ply you with free meals and branded merch. Similarly, I am led to believe that astronauts get all the Tang they want, although I am unsure how this fares in our new post-NASA era.

For music bloggers like me, however, the benefits tend to fall into two categories. One is swag. The other is access to early preview tracks.

While the former can and should be proudly flaunted, the latter must typically be kept under the tightest of wraps. Except when it morphs into its magical secondary form, "the exclusive."

With that in mind I would like to hit my fellow inhabitants of the Nerd World up with some knowledge concerning the latest from Seattle chip-hoppers Supercommuter. I am pleased to report that the sophomore release from Wheelie Cyberman, Stenobot and Tron Juan, dubbed Products of Science, is set to drop next month.

On the most basic levels it picks up where their self-titled debut left off. Much of the album was built from music and lyrics conceived during the band members' daily commutes and the proceeds from its sale will again benefit Child's Play, but this time around the trio has certainly shook shit up.

While it retains the experimental sheen of Supercommuter, Products also seems noticeably more cohesive. The songwriting, which was approached more collectively, offers much more in the way of melody – both vocal and instrumental – and it also serves to expand the band's thematic sphere. Though robots and human/robot relations are certainly a core component, the guys have given Products of Science a more classical sci-fi feel.

This dozen-strong collection of beeps, booms and rhymes also boasts a fine selection of guest vocalists including Rachel Haden (That Dog, The Rentals) and Jen Wood (Tattle Tale, The Postal Service.) And diehard Optimus fans will be particularly delighted by the inclusion of fellow Autobeat Stumblebee on the track "Natural Immunity."

But a full dissection of the latest from these otherworldly androids is another story for another day. Right now I insist that you peep free teaser track "#1 Kyabajo." It's a cautionary tale from a hostess bar (featuring the aforementioned Rachel Haden on the chorus) that eschews much of Wheelie's fantastical storytelling in favor of a more earthbound narrative. Though its beat – which plays like an 8-bit cut from the Blade Runner soundtrack with a digital grindcore breakdown – is very indicative of the album's new feel.

Give it a listen, and keep your auditory sensors open for more news concerning the full release. Or you can quit playing coy and pre-order the physical pressing right now.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Shake It (Like a Cheeseburger)

I've been a big fan of Seattle's heavy-drinkin' hip-hop clique Southside for years now. Thunderball and the boys simply do things differently, they blaze their own trail. From lyrics to instrumentation to… um… promo, Southside always manages to not only be different, but to actually remain entertaining.

Right now the crew is putting the finishing touches on their forthcoming album Science Diction, but they could use some help generating funds for the mastering and duplication of the disc. Now Southside ain't asking for a handout or nothin' – in fact their Kickstarter offers appropriately priced pre-sales of the album and new band swag alongside some other pretty tempting treats. (Shit, dude, if you donate $250 and live in the PacNW they will literally come to your house and play a private show!)

The band's just 4 days out from the deadline, and they're still around $400 short of their goal. So if you can afford to help please do.

Readers unfamiliar with the band or old fans who haven't yet copped it are encouraged to check out the Science Diction promo EP for a taste of the new hotness. And, of course, Seattleites are invited out to the album release party next Thursday, August 4th at Crocodile Café with the big man himself, Billy the Fridge.

You'll wanna be there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The (Super) Power of Love

Kirby Krackle's 2010 release E for Everyone was, hands down, my favorite rock album of the year. Since its release I've reviewed it, played it on my podcasts, interviewed founding members Kyle Stevens and Jim Demonakos, scrutinized both their live band setup and their team of crack studio musicians and pretty much pimped the group out anytime I was given even a moment to discuss the overarching concept of geek rock.

Yeah, you could say I'm kind of a fan.

This, of course, means that I've been anxiously awaiting their follow-up album, with part of me terrified that it wouldn't live up to the band's legacy and the other part just glad to know that more music was on the way. Earlier this month the guys' third studio album Super Powered Love was released, and, Galactus be praised, it was every bit as epic as I'd hoped.

Allow me to elucidate. In exhausting detail.

"Then Again, Maybe Not" lacks some of the urgency of E for Everyone opener "Vault 101," but it’s a solid up-tempo rocker that's a fine introduction to the new album. It describes the unspoken attraction between a superhero and his arch-nemesis. Although, as the title implies, she seems a bit less than interested. This leads us to "Bite of Another," a Black Crowes-style southern vampire stomper. It's new sonic territory for the guys, and Kyle's vocals sound better than ever.

Three tracks in we strike gold with "Booty Do Math," my new favorite Kirby Krackle song, and, truthfully, another addition to my growing list of all-time favorite genre-benders. Though the hook-laden guest verse by my pal Adam WarRock grabs the listener's attention, Kyle Stevens's R. Kelly-inspired counter-melody vocals across the song's latter bars punctuate things perfectly, as does his Bieber-esque pronunciation of the word "shawty."

"Big Heart" tells the story of a superpowerless superhero -- a la Kick-Ass -- amid a solid rock 'n' roll shuffle, while "Hunt 'em All Down" channels a vaguely funk-metal groove into a pitch-perfect tale of (what I at least believe to be) the IDW continuity Transformers. Thereafter, what "In Another Castle" loses for its obvious instrumental and structural similarity to Kirby Krackle's debut album stand-out "Zombie Apocalypse" it more than makes up for in ukulele-soaked gamer goodness.

The latter half of the album kicks off with the Tex-Mex lotto-winnin' daydream of "Nerd Money." It's likely Super Powered Love's weakest selection, but on its own merits it's still a rock-solid joint. It's followed by the album's debut self-titled single, which is just as endearing, engaging and enjoyable as it was when Kyle leaked it to me all those weeks ago.

"Comic Shop" welcomes back E for Everyone guest rapper GMK The Great on an off-kilter parody of 50 Cent's "Candy Shop," which is worth a listen for the humorous censoring alone. (Spoiler: it's Walking Dead-related.) "Rainbow Bridge" likewise keeps things in that comic book vein with a power ballad dedicated to Marvel's Thor. Because Kirby Krackle is nothing if not nerd-topical.

The album begins its wind-down with "Needing a Miracle," which borrows both a shade of its guitar melody and its theme of human/superhuman romance from "Super Powered Love" (albeit with the gender roles reversed this time around.) That track builds big and then dissolves into "Open up Your Window," which plays like a continuation of the same musical love story.

Super Powered Love closes with the glam-punk "I Wanna Live in a World Full of Heroes," a song that, with a couple of obvious exceptions, plays like the album's triumphant mission statement. With the overall project centered firmly on tales from within our favorite fictional worlds, it's a fitting end that again pushes the band in a new musical direction.

While only time will tell how well Super Powered Love stands up against this year's other heavy hitters -- both The BossFights and Supercommuter have proven that Kirby Krackle isn't the only band to up its game in 2011 -- it easily boasts the single greatest track of the summer. I'd recommend the album as an easy buy simply on the strength of "Booty do Math," but with a dozen other top-shelf cuts Super Powered Love is another must-own masterpiece from Seattle's reigning kings of geeky guitar pop.

Buy it now via iTunes or Bandcamp. Then kneel before Zod.

"'Member when your magic made me pregnant? / 'Member when you turned Africa Asian?"

[This piece was cross-posted from the GeekDad blog.]

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rock Well

In the earliest hours of this AM, nerdy rap mainstay mc chris announced the supporting acts for his fall Race Wars tour. The lineup is, to say the least, inspired:

Obviously another mc chris/MC Lars outing is a big draw, and since truncating the first third of his TeacherRapperHero duties Mega Ran has become even more the epic showman. I'll caution attendees, however, not to write off relative newcomer to the scene Adam WarRock. I had the pleasure of catching him at Nerdapalooza, and, in addition to being a helluva nice cat, he truly commanded the stage during his performance. Shit, he more than held his own during the Dual Core freestyle session as well. (Dude even came correct with a Casey Anthony reference! #topical)

No dates have been announced, but you can be sure mc's people are hashing all that out quickly. Keep an eye on each of the artists' official web presences for further information as it becomes available.

And if the show comes through your burg, definitely make it a point to come out. This lineup is truly a force to be reckoned with.