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  • Catching up with Foxing’s discography

    In 2011, right in the thick of the emo revival, Foxing popped up on the emo band radar. Judging by the band name, they were automatically off to a relatively promising start. “Foxing” is succinct, unique, and memorable. It’s appropriately capitalized. It doesn’t have sports, parents, a celebrity, pants, unnecessary punctuation, or some other assortment of emo band name characteristics that scream, “We desperately want our band to be associated with the emo revival, but meaningfully contributing to it is an ask far too great.”

    There was a lot of hype around Foxing back then. There was no shortage of internet forum comments predicting that they were going to become the next big thing in the genre space, that their popularity was going to explode into the mainstream, or that one of their future LPs would be a masterpiece. I recall attending a show headlined by mid-tier emo veterans The Early November, and seeing the guitarist rock a Foxing shirt. Black, minimal design, little more than the band name printed across in white. The name spoke for itself, apparently. Seeing this was enough to confirm my hypothesis that Foxing’s hype existed not only in random internet forums, but in the outside world as well.

    Given that it’s been about 10 years since their inception, and that they have a fourth album on the way, perhaps a refresher on their discography thus far is in order.

    The Albatross (2013)

    I’ll cut right to the chase: I’ve always been of the opinion that the amount of hype generated by Foxing’s debut was nonsensical. Regretfully, I let this disproportionate amount of hype affect my view of the album: I shunned it as overrated garbage for years. I recently revisited The Albatross, and was surprised to ultimately conclude that it’s only partially as bad as I remember it being. It has a couple high points that I never allowed myself to appreciate back in the day. It’s certainly a step above many albums made by the host of other football-daddy-simp-kardashian-peepee!-pants! bands of the early-to-mid 2010s.

    I maintain, however, that the album is nothing special. I had always wondered where in The Albatross people saw markers that suggested this band was going to stand out.

    Perhaps part of its allure was how promising the opener sounded, if only at face value. Given the cinematic nature of “Bloodhound,” it’s evident that Foxing aims to prepare the listener for an epic and grand album. We’re eased into the album with somber strings and a rich-sounding mini-choir. I could certainly imagine these being nice touches at the beginning of an album that warrants such an introduction. But at its core, The Albatross is not such an album. It’s just a run-of-the-mill emo album.

    There’s a valiant attempt to make good on the epic-sounding buildup of “Bloodhound” on the follow-up, “Intuit,” a song primarily dominated by loud, shimmering guitars. But this attempt is just too valiant; the dynamics are overwhelming at the expense of the melodies, which come out sounding flat and uncreative. The instrumentation on “Rory” is similarly lacking. Vocalist Conor Murphy consistently makes respectable efforts to compensate for these instrumental deficiencies by always sounding as impassioned as humanly possible. But often, particularly in “Rory,” it comes across as just that: overcompensating.

    The Albatross is most digestible when Foxing take a quality-over-quantity approach in crafting out the instrumentals. Take “The Medic,” where Murphy sings over a pleasant, albeit somewhat plain, guitar melody. Murphy’s eccentric vocal deliveries work well here because, unlike in “Intuit” or “Rory,” the instruments aren’t waging an unnecessary battle to be as loud and grading as he is.

    But Murphy’s vocals occasionally introduce an additional problem into the mix: no amount of passion in his delivery can make some of the astoundly bad lyrics on The Albatross sound good. I can’t believe that the one single off this album, “Rory,” has lyrics so unforgivably basic and derivative as “So why don’t you love me back? So why don’t you love me back? So why don’t you love me back? So why don’t you love me back?” The lyrics on “The Medic” are similarly egregious. What character on an emo album doesn’t always smell like cigarettes and have whiskey on their breath? These tropes are beyond overused.

    Now, this isn’t to say that all the lyrics on The Albatross are bad. Plenty of times, Foxing showcase an impressive ability to write thought-provoking imagery and metaphors. The problem is that they’re easy to miss. Perhaps if more of the good lyrics were chosen to be emphasized or repeated in the hooks, or if the vocals in the mix were clearer more of the time, the creative lyricism in The Albatross would have been able to make more of an impact.

    The instrumentals are also plagued by derivativeness. Those damned familiar “twinkly” guitars are abundant. The worst offenders lie at the tail end of the album: “Den Mother” and “Quietus” offer little to nothing to set themselves apart from the tracks on the quintessential twinkly emo album, American Football.

    “Bit by a Dead Bee” parts I and II are probably the highest points on the album. “Pt. I” is notably home to the “doot-doot-doot-doodoodootdoot-guitars-while-screaming” part. It’s arguably the most intense bit of music on the album. The precision with which this quick guitar melody inserts itself along Murphy’s screams is very satisfying. However, I must add the caveat that the part sounds just a little too much like The Fall of Troy. Putting that aside, it’s still a damn cool stretch of music. It also does a great job of setting up the cathartic crash of instrumentals that finish out the song — one of the few instances on The Albatross where loud dynamics work in Foxing’s favor. “Pt II” follows this up by taking the intensity down several notches, an appropriate shift that compliments “Pt I” perfectly.

    Overall, The Albatross is a half-decently produced emo album with a few interesting parts, but more often than not, it’s disappointingly derivative. The most consistently compelling driving force is Conor Murphy’s vocal performance. But to make a good album, you need more than just passionate vocal deliveries.

    Dealer (2015)

    I’d given Dealer, Foxing’s sophomore effort, a few listens when it came out in 2015, quickly concluding that it was boring drivel. I recently returned to it, and initially formed the same opinion. When listening, I often would be halfway through before I even knew it. I just didn’t find it very captivating.

    However, I eventually came around to the album, and now firmly view it as their strongest and most complete album to date.

    Dealer doesn’t have much in the way of punchy, attention-grabbing hooks. It’s a quiet album that doesn’t bombastically advertise its strengths. However, it would be a mistake to assume from this that it doesn’t have strengths.

    Regarding instrumental composition, it’s evident that Foxing took a step back and decided to use a more reserved, methodical approach. The mixing between the different instruments and the vocals are carefully balanced so that every part is crystal clear. With this, the intricacies in the instruments are a lot easier to appreciate. The guitar on “The Magdalene” starts off sparse and gloomy, and in the second half it flourishes into a much fuller, dream-like sound — perhaps “twinkly,” but not in a way that’s cliche. The earlier parts of the pensive ballad “Night Channels” are successfully driven by just a piano melody and some soft vocals. Most impressive is “Winding Cloth,” an instrumental that gets progressively more beautiful as more elements are gradually introduced.

    To be clear, Foxing don’t try to make every song on Dealer an ultra-complex symphony. There’s a carefully considered balance between sticking to their roots as a rock band, as seen in the opener “Weave,” and being ambitious when the situation calls for it, like when “Winding Cloth” comes around.

    Conor Murphy’s vocals are also significantly smoother on Dealer. He sounds calmer and more comfortable. He still has plenty of opportunities to raise his voice, but when he does, he sounds more in control and dynamically in sync with the rest of the band. His vocal versatility is most impressive on “Glass Coughs.” With each chorus, his delivery subtly gets more and more piercing, a progression that amplifies the liveliness of the song considerably.

    Like on The Albatross, the lyrics on Dealer are rich with fascinating imagery and metaphors — particularly biblical metaphors. They often tie into themes of guilt, such as on “The Magdalene,” which is about how religion can impose guilt regarding sexuality.

    Perhaps “Indica” is the most striking example of strong lyricism. The song is about the horrid memories that come with having served in war. It’s a first-hand account, written by bassist Josh Coll, who served in Afghanistan. The degree to how dark the lyrics are is impressive in it of itself. It speaks to the courage of the band, and especially Coll, to tackle such painful subject matter in their music. As for the actual lyrical content, practically every line in the song is incredibly explicit. “Indica” was fearlessly written; nothing is off limits when it comes to the theme of death — more specifically, killing. It’s an absolutely heartbreaking song. The guitar melody, like so many other melodies on Dealer, is simple but sad. It’s played quietly, rightfully allowing ample space for the lyrics to be the main focus of the song. The trumpet, similarly reserved, compliments the guitars and vocals perfectly.

    And here I was all this time, before I actually paid attention to the lyrics, thinking that “Indica” was about how Conor Murphy likes to smoke weed sometimes. Boy, was I dead wrong.

    Dealer has a certain sadness that’s ubiquitous throughout and never completely lets up. Generally, I’m partial to dynamic albums that change things up a little more. But after giving this a good amount of listens, its consistency in tone has me completely won over. There’s a certain depth that’s achieved by staying with its primary atmosphere and skipping the detours. On the closer, “Three on a Match,” Murphy lays out a line that comes across as particularly heavy: “I’m survived by the weight of my own sins.” If a band decided to just randomly chuck this line into a verse near the end of a half-assed garbage album just for the hell of it, it wouldn’t have much of an impact. But there are so many non-stop references to dark themes like guilt on Dealer that when that line comes up in the closer, it credibly serves as a hard-hitting, all-encompassing summary.

    There are only a few parts of the album that I have negative criticisms of. “Eiffel” is a comparatively average song that the album could have done without. And there are one or two instrumental features that don’t quite hit the mark for me. The smooth and casual-sounding sax on “Laundered” sticks out as a little out of place given that it’s preceded by such an emotionally heavy atmosphere. But other than that, I don’t have a whole lot to complain about. It’s an incredibly cohesive album filled with heavy lyrics, gorgeous instrumentals, and well-balanced mixing.

    Nearer My God (2018)

    For their third LP, Foxing take another crack at making something grand. They try a handful of new ideas, and the result is their most eccentric effort yet. Unlike Dealer, Nearer My God changes its pace up quite a few times throughout the album. In various places, Foxing go from quiet to loud, from slow to fast, and from composed to the brink of insanity.

    Nearer My God starts off with a subtle electronic beat paired with some sinister piano chords. When Murphy comes in, his voice is high-pitched and doubled. He sounds anxious and dissatisfied. The lyrics on “Grand Paradise” are typical of Foxing: negative and shrouded in creepy metaphors. When the heavy guitars finally make their appearance for the first time, it’s only for a moment. The drawn out build-up on this song is so cool, it makes my skin crawl. Foxing prove themselves to be absolute masters of suspense with this song. It’s incredibly rewarding when all of the instruments finally let loose and come together. Murphy’s screams are a really nice touch, too. Every transition on “Grand Paradise” is perfectly timed, every instrument is applied appropriately in each situation. It’s a perfectly crafted Foxing song that gets me absolutely pumped for this album every time.

    The main aspect of what makes “Grand Paradise” so great are the sharp dynamic contrasts within the song, and this musical technique makes its way onto other songs with similar success. “Lich Prince,” for instance, begins innocuously, with Murphy characteristically expressing his dissatisfaction with life over a barely-audible beat. At the start of the chorus, the rest of the band barges in loudly, instantly upping the intensity of the song from zero to 100. Later, on the bridge, Murphy gets increasingly agitated with the understandably horrifying realization that he feels “like a house plant,” eventually breaking into an anguished scream. He does a flawless job setting up the guitar solo, which is unfortunately just a touch too sanitary and straight-forward to be satisfying.

    “Gameshark” is another track with a refreshing amount of personality. Every time I hear it, I’m on the edge of my seat. It’s an anxiety-ridden song, and there are so many elements that come together to make it that way. The swift bassline, Murphy’s high-pitched vocals, that weird water droplet effect. And those beautiful lyrics. Sonically, it’s no doubt a creepy song in its own right, but those heavy biblical references just make the song hit that much harder.

    These are the types of songs that give the most life to Nearer My God. The more tempered, straight-forward anthems like the title track and “Bastardizer” aren’t bad per se. Perhaps they’re even necessary to counter the more intense songs, so as to not make the album overwhelming. But I can’t help but be a little bit bored by them. I also have to speculate: is the aim with some of these tracks to sound like Band of Horses? Is that why that’s the album cover? If so, I can’t endorse this direction. Foxing are capable of better. They’re at their best when they’re throwing curveballs, not when they sound like Band of Horses.

    Speaking of curveballs, “Five Cups” is a daringly epic song at a 9-minute runtime. In my mind, it serves as a (really long) interlude that connects the two halves of the album. It’s a muted, meditative song that slowly builds around a simple mantra: “I want to drive with my eyes closed.” In the second half of the song, both the beat and the vocals sound distant and distorted. It’s an interesting progression that makes me imagine the narrator of the song, presumably Murphy, sinking deeper and deeper into hopelessness.

    I don’t think Foxing don’t quite ever fully return from whatever pit of darkness they delved into during “Five Cups,” because unfortunately, the back half of Nearer My God is a complete letdown. The chorus on “Heartbeats” is just weird. It’s creepy, which I don’t mind, but it also sounds to me like it’s meant to primarily be catchy, and it’s not. So overall it just makes me confused. “Crown Candy” sounds stuck in a similarly awkward limbo between creepy and anthemic. The beats featured on “Trapped in Dillard’s” lack subtlety and as a result come across as gimmicky. The closer is underwhelming.

    There are so many positive characteristics in the first half of the album to note. I appreciate the satisfying change-ups in dynamics, the eccentric vocals, and the selectively placed synthetic beats, which pan out well more often than not. I will dare to claim that Nearer My God’s first half is the best half-album that Foxing has ever released. But the album as a whole lacks follow-through. The back half isn’t even remotely in the same league as the front half. I imagine a world in which Nearer My God was split up into two EPs. How devastatingly disappointing that second EP would have been.

    Given how good the first half is, though, I still view Nearer My God as a solid album overall.

    Well, that’s my overview of Foxing’s released albums so far. Their fourth album is coming out soon, probably, so we’ll see what they do from here. Thanks for reading.

  • No Plan Conversations’ Top 10 Albums of 2020

    It’s December 17th, and I’m coming in hot with my top 10 personal favorite albums of 2020.

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  • Jump Rope Gazers every bit as lovely as The Beths’ previous work

    It’s been a few months since The Beths released their sophomore effort, Jump Rope Gazers. Upon release, the consensus was that JRG was a good album, but a clear step down from their debut, Future Me Hates Me. After all, JRG is noticeably less energetic than FMHM. It’s nice, sweet, and undeniably charming, but the album lacks the power and conviction that was so impressive on their debut.

    But here’s the deal: this latest release has proven that The Beths are capable of shining with or without FMHM’s level of energy. Their music has always been full of great qualities. It should be no surprise that a slight change in style wasn’t going to keep their follow-up album from being wonderful. And wonderful it is: JRG is the AOTY, and it’s time to acknowledge that it’s every bit as good as The Beths’ previous work.

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  • All Hail To the Thief, All Hail To the Thief!

    And we’re back with more Radiohead talk.

    I had been putting off listening to Hail To the Thief for quite some time now. It’s easy to see why: pretty much everything about this album at an initial glance is unappealing. For one, it has a reputation for being one of Radiohead’s Least Good albums. I knew this going in, and for that reason it was actually pretty challenging to put the biased thoughts that stemmed from that knowledge aside. Thoughts like, “Well most people think it’s not that good, so it’s probably shit.”

    On top of that, it’s 56 minutes long, which is pretty long. It takes a very good album to pull off a near full-hour long album well.

    And the album cover is hideous.

    But anyway, I eventually got over myself and listened to it. Don’t judge an album by its cover, as they say, probably. Let’s get into the discussion.

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  • Here’s why Amnesiac is better than Kid A

    But first, hello again.

    I’ve recently been getting into Radiohead these last couple months.

    I’ve been getting sort of into them for years, but at a snail’s pace, as in, I’ll check out like one of their albums each year. But recently, for whatever reason, I’ve been going absolutely ham on them, so now I am up to 7/9 albums; only two left to get acquainted with! I’ve been enjoying the process of checking out their albums and pitting some of the albums against each other. For whatever reason, it’s just a really fun thing to get into this band and form an opinion on which albums are the better albums and which albums are the worse albums.

    Anyway, recently I decided that Amnesiac is better than Kid A, which is apparently somewhat of a hot take. So, why is Amnesiac better than Kid A? Let’s get into it.

    Let’s start with the general style of the albums.

    Kid A came out earlier than Amnesiac, and I think this makes sense. The reason I say this is that although most of the tracks on Amnesiac were apparently recorded in the same time period as Kid A, Amnesiac sounds like a more mature Radiohead overall. When Radiohead made OK Computer, that’s when they found their signature quintessential Radiohead sound that they seem to be able to reliably use as a base for their other albums. But did Radiohead actually make a great album in OKC? I’d argue no, it only set the stage for them to make other albums that took that quintessential Radiohead style and have more creative takes on it.

    Kid A does build a bit on OKC’s style. It has a much more dreamy and ambient feel than OKC with songs like “Kid A” and “How To Disappear Completely.” It’s a slight departure from the more standard-rock-band-with-a-slight-twist sound of OKC – which was a slight departure from the mainstream rock sound of their album The Bends. Stylistically, Kid A is a step up from OKC, and OKC is a step up from The Bends. But Kid A still seems to have a lot of the elements that made OKC just OK. In particular, the fact that it sounds, to me, like a collection of good – some great – Radiohead songs that struggle to flow well together, and struggle to tie into one another. It isn’t really greater than the sum of its parts.

    You know what’s cooler than a measly stylistic step up from a previous album? A fucking transformation. Amnesiac is the first album where Radiohead were able to make a truly fascinating, cohesive album. Amnesiac is not just Kid A part 2. It’s actually what Kid A should have been in the first place. It’s the first Radiohead album that achieved spectacularly in taking that base quintessential Radiohead style that OKC set up, and then spinning it in a really cool and creative way. In the case of Amnesiac, it brings this type of music that seems to aim to emit this desert vibe (source: title of second track), and it completely succeeds in maintaining and building this fascinating atmosphere throughout. The album sounds ever so slightly sinister; unwelcoming. But at the same time, some of the beats sound a bit playful and fun, so at no point does the album become a downer to listen to.

    OK, but how do the actual tracks of each album compare? Perhaps a good place to start is the openers.

    “Everything In Its Right Place” is a relatively strong opener. Traditionally, openers are some of the more aggressive or upbeat tracks to get you pumped for an album, and I really respect that Radiohead is able to deviate from that but still able to pull off a solid opener. This is probably one of the best indie rock songs to clean your room to, and you can’t really say that about a lot of indie rock songs.

    But “Packt Like Sardines” is just on another level. “Everything In Its Right Place” gets points for pulling off a more muted and chill opener. “Packt like Sardines” gets even more points for how great it pulls off its more traditional opener pace. It’s got this rudimentary sounding tinny beat – an example of what I would describe as one of the playful sounding beats that this album has. But on top of these sounds are more articulate, impersonal, electronic beats. And the way the measured, electronic beats combine with the rudimentary tinny beats is really freaking cool. Thom Yorke sounds bored, nonchalant, yet kind of annoyed (“Get off my case.”). In this case, I mean that in a good way. Thom has an attitude in this song. This song has this ever so slightly harsh element to it, which is why it’s such a great preview into the rest of the album.

    On the other hand, is “Everything In Its Right Place” as great a preview into Kid A? I’d argue no. It’s a cool song, especially when you’re cleaning your room, but I just don’t enjoy it as much and I think it’s the worse opener.

    Now, let’s take a look at each album’s front half. Kid A?

    Not gonna lie, Kid A’s second song, “Kid A,” is a disappointment. If they’re gonna make such a tired draggy song, the second spot on the album is not the place to put it. It’s just not an engaging song. It’s kind of relaxing – like I wouldn’t mind if this song was playing in a barber shop while I was getting a haircut. The song does pick up in the second half, in classic Radiohead fashion (first half boring; second half actually cool). But it still fails to really carry the album forward in any meaningful way.

    “The National Anthem” is the kind of a song I was waiting for on Kid A. They made two somewhat interesting songs, but I was thinking after hearing first 2 tracks: “OK, let’s stop playing around, let’s just hear some damn Radiohead.” And “The National Anthem” is definitely what I would consider Some Damn Radiohead. The brass and wind (?) instruments in this song are fucking bananas, and I think that on this track, that serves as mostly a good thing. More on that a bit later. I do enjoy this song quite a bit, though.

    “How to Disappear Completely” is probably considered one of their best songs ever and that, IMO, is deserved. It’s pretty much a masterpiece. I love how it gets a little creepy toward the end, yet underneath that remains that element of beauty that’s set up from the earlier parts of the song. I just wish there were more tracks like this song on the album. If there were more songs like “HTDC” on Kid A, maybe I’d dislike the title track a little bit less.

    OK, let’s turn to Amnesiac’s front half now.

    Unlike “Packt Like Sardines,” “Pyramid Song” isn’t harsh and it doesn’t really have as much of an attitude. However, it does channel that negative energy into qualities that are also a bit sinister. Mysteriousness. Uncertainty. Ominousness. It’s a fascinating song. Even the lyrics: like, yes, go on, Thom, what did you see when you jumped in the river?! I need to know! Beautiful song. One of Radiohead’s more melodic songs.

    Does the momentum slow down after “Pyramid Song?” Nope, because what follows is yet another sick song in “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors.” An absolute banger. Remarkably weird. This would be the sickest song to play in a club. But like, a super underground club, where they’re doing all sorts of weird drugs. Because damn this song is otherworldly yet still somehow so goddamn catchy and cool. I love how intense the drum beat is and how much of an impact it’s able to make, despite how simple and tame it sounds. “The National Anthem” just cannot compare to this track. “The National Anthem” is super crazy and impressive but what makes Amnesiac’s third track superior is that it achieves the same level of craziness by doing so much less. In classic Amnesiac fashion.

    “You And Whose Army” is a fairly solid song and it’s a good placement for a more straight forward ballad after the madness that was “Pulk/Pull.” I do have one slight bone to pick with this song, and that’s that the piano part in the second half isn’t really as profound as it sounds like it’s trying to be. You’ve got these super simple piano chords and the resolutions (?) are being played so dramatically, with so much emphasis volume-wise, and it just doesn’t quite work IMO. Still a decent song though.

    “I Might Be Wrong”: What I like about this song, is that along with the previous song, it sort of continues the album by more casually meandering through, and it manages to do that without getting too boring. This song brings some of the attitude that “Packt Like Sardines” has, but it’s a bit more liberal with its willingness to be repetitive and sort of just get lost in a jam with the same guitar line over and over. And I actually dig it quite a bit. I’d much, much rather get lost in this song than get lost in “Treefingers,” for instance.

    Anyway, up through this point, Amnesiac hasn’t had a bad or ill-fitting track. Kid A has a decent opener that doesn’t really tie into the rest of the album, a disappointing second song. It’s not until the third track where Radiohead reveals themselves as an actual alive band playing an album. And even that song feels like it’s trying to overcompensate with its instruments in attempt to pick up the pace of an album that started off dragging its feet. “HTDC” is admittedly fantastic, but it’s immediately followed by “Treefingers,” which is nothing more than an OK instrumental to just space out to, I guess. I don’t hate it but it just doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table.

    Let’s continue with the back halves. We’ll start with Kid A again.

    “Optimistic” is a solid Radiohead song. This song is kind of the poster child for how I view this album, because like multiple other songs on Kid A, it’s a solid Radiohead song, I just don’t see how it meaningfully connects to the rest of the album.

    “In Limbo” is just a nothing song. It’s a skip song. It’s one of those songs on an album, that just isn’t particularly great. Next.

    Now “Idoquete” on the other hand is a banger. It’s intense, commanding, yet Thom sounds very emotionally charged – desperate, even. I think this contrast between the the desperate sounding vocals and the commanding, unrelenting beat is really, really cool.

    Turning to Amnesiac…

    Unfortunately “Knives Out” isn’t a great song, I just feel like it doesn’t pack any sort of punch whatsoever. Kid A has “In Limbo,” Amnesiac has “Knives Out.” Fair enough.

    I didn’t love “Dollars and Cents” at first, but it gradually grew on me – a lot! I used to think that its 5 minute length wasn’t warranted, but I’ve changed my mind. The understated insanity that this song slowly builds up to is cathartic. It kind of sits in the middle of the stylistic contrasts between some of the other songs like “Pyramid Song,” “Packt Like Sardines,” and “I Might Be Wrong.” It takes its time with the atmosphere it ultimately creates, but underneath this slow building atmosphere is always this subtle dissatisfaction, impatience, and unrest. And yet, like in “I Might Be Wrong,” it still somehow manages to maintain this constant groove. In “Dollars and Cents,” that groove is achieved by the bass line. It’s an interesting song that definitely earns its place on this album, even if it is perhaps one of the weaker Amnesiac tracks.

    I’m not really in love with “Hunting Bears” but I think it makes a little more sense than “Treefingers.” “Hunting Bears” says, “ok, this has been a long windy road, let’s just sit down for a couple minutes, go back to our roots, and play some good old fashioned guitar lines.” And honestly, I’m kind of OK with it.

    We’re not gonna talk about “Like Spinning Plates.” Fun fact: that song isn’t actually on Amnesiac. Not sure who started that rumor but that’s fake news.

    Oh, right, we do still need to talk about the Morning Bells, though.

    You know, as far as the Kid A version, I really appreciate this song. It’s a decent song, it’s got a compelling beat, and Thom’s singing sounds right at home with the rest of the band. He fits into this song just as well as he does with pretty much any other Radiohead song. But overall, it’s not a great song. It’s really just an okay song. And it overstays its welcome a bit by running a minute longer than it should.

    What I’m most appreciative of Kid A’s morning bell though, is that it ultimately inspired the creation of the Amnesiac version of the song, which is basically a straight up masterpiece. It ties together all of the preceding songs so well. It’s a little creepy. It’s a lot darker than the Kid A version, much more ominous, not unlike the atmosphere that “Pyramid Song” has. Really making great use of those minor chords. Seriously though. And I love how it progresses into a more blissful tone towards the end. It’s just one of so many curveballs that this album throws. Kind of reminds me of the Alex G song “Gretel” (and, oddly enough, Kid A’s “HTDC”) – idk whether it’s creepy or beautiful, so I guess it’s both! It’s pretty much the perfect title track for this album.

    So how do the endings compare?

    With Kid A, there’s Motion City Soundtrack or whatever that song is called. That song is just weak. That song has zero bite of any kind. Even when the song picks up in the second half, it just sounds like a cheap and disingenuous attempt at tying the album up with something very big sounding. But it’s just a very weak attempt at that.

    Oh wait, that actually wasn’t the last song? There’s a 52 second instrumental track called “Untitled” that’s actually the closing track? Right, there is another track. OK, so what’s the deal with this track. What is even the point. This song is about as profound as its title. Am I supposed to be like, in shock after hearing this instrumental? Because what I’m actually left with is this thought: “Welp that was a pretty good album, some good Radiohead songs in there for sure.” That’s how I feel about Kid A as a whole. A pretty good album with a few really good Radiohead songs.

    You know what closing track did leave me in shock, though? Fucking, “Life In A Glasshouse.” This song is masterful. I honestly think that this is the peak of the album. Like, if Amnesiac was a fucking pyramid, then this song would be at the top of the pyramid. This song is showmanship. This song says, “hey, I hope you enjoyed this weird ride, time to wrap things up…” And then it turns out to be such an absolute banger that when it’s over you actually are shook by how good it was – in particular how masterful the wind and brass instrumentals are.

    Since Kid A also has a track that has very ambitious brass and wind instrumentals in “The National Anthem,” I’ll also take this opportunity to say that “Life In a Glasshouse” achieves way more depth than “The National Anthem” does with its brass/wind instrumentals. Sometimes when I hear “The National Anthem,” it sounds crazy to the point where it almost feels a bit haphazardly thrown together. “Life In a Glasshouse” never sounds this way; it’s complex and grand but at the same time it’s always measured, purposeful, and sure of itself. It’s a closing track that does a perfect job of closing the door that Packt Like Sardines opened. Like the opening track, its lyrics are sinister, negative, a tad annoyed, even. Like “Pyramid Song,” it’s mysterious. And like Kid A’s “The National Anthem,” except executed better in this regard, it has incredibly impressive instrumentation.

    Hearing the closing moments of Kid A is like watching an OK movie and then having the lights come on and you getting out of your seat and getting on with your life immediately.

    On the other hand, if Amnesiac was a movie, when it was over you’d be so fucking shook from the final moments that you’d just sit there in disbelief for like 45 seconds before getting up to exit the theater.

    Lets recap with a TL;DR.

    • Amnesiac is more stylistically unique, and more stylistically consistent track-to-track. Kid A is an awkward compromise between ambient-sounding songs like “HTDC” and straight forward rock songs like “Optimistic.”
    • Amnesiac has better flow.
    • Amnesiac starts off better than Kid A does.
    • Amnesiac ends better than Kid A does.
    • Amnesiac has the better version of Morning Bell.
    • Kid A fails to build momentum in its front half, while Amnesiac absolutely kills it in this regard.
    • Amnesiac’s back half admittedly has some issues: “Knives Out” is mediocre, “Like Spinning Plates,” which apparently is in fact on the album, is bad. “Hunting Bears” is only passable in that it serves as a half-decent interlude.
    • Kid A also has issues with its back half. “In Limbo” and “Morning Bell” aren’t great. The closer ends the album on a whimper. The high points of the back half, “Idoteque” and “Optimistic,” while solid songs, don’t really help give the album a unique or compelling identity; they could have easily just been a couple more songs on OKC.
    • Overall, I think that Kid A’s back half issues are at least equally problematic to Amnesiac’s back half issues.
    • In terms of individual bangers, Kid A does has a couple great ones: “HTDC” and “Idioteque.” But Amnesiac has “Packt Like Sardines,” it has “Pyramid Song,” it has “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors.” It has “Life in a Glasshouse,” for goodness sake.

    Overall, I think it’s pretty clear which is the better album.

  • Here’s why Amnesiac is actually better than Kid A

    But first, hello again.

    I’ve recently been getting into Radiohead these last couple months.

    I’ve been getting sort of into them for years, but at a snail’s pace, as in, check out like one of their albums each year. But recently, for whatever reason, I’ve been going absolutely ham on them, so now I am up to 7/9 albums, only two left to get acquainted with! I’ve been enjoying the process of checking out their albums and pitting some of the albums against each other. For whatever reason it’s just a really fun thing to get into this band and form an opinion on which albums are the better albums and which albums are the worse albums.

    Anyway recently I decided that I think Amnesiac is better than Kid A, which apparently is a Hot Take.

    So I made this writeup about why that is, and looking back on it I am actually really proud of it, woohoo!

    So yeah here’s why Amnesiac is better than Kid A.

    (more…)

  • My trip to Japan

    Two posts in the span of like a week? Wow, amazing, and probably an indication that my next post is not gonna come for like 3 more years. So until then, it’s been real.

    Anyway, last April I went to Japan with three friends. About a week afterward, over the course of about two afternoons, I sat in a cafe with a pen and notebook and wrote about the experience. It was a really pleasant 2 afternoons! Every once in a while I’ll go down memory lane and read what I wrote, and as more time goes on, it seems like these memories become more and more special to me – the highs and lows alike. I think the entire experience will always have a special place in my heart, so what the heck, I kind of want to post it here as well.

    So here’s what happened when I went to Japan for 8 days.

    (more…)

  • Trip to Japan

    Two posts in the span of like a week? Wow, amazing, and probably an indication that my next post is not gonna come for like 3 more years. So until then, it’s been real.

    Anyway, last April I went to Japan with three friends. About a week afterward, over the course of about two afternoons, I sat in a cafe with a pen and notebook and wrote about the experience. It was a really pleasant 2 afternoons! Every once in a while I’ll go down memory lane and read what I wrote, and as more time goes on, it seems like these memories become more and more special to me – the highs and lows alike. I think the entire experience will always have a special place in my heart, so what the heck, I kind of want to post it here as well.

    So here’s what happened when I went to Japan for 8 days.

    (more…)

  • Anti-anti-SJWs are important

    So something’s been eating at me quite a bit lately, and maybe it will be cathartic to write it down, because I haven’t really had the urge to bring it up at a dinner conversation or anything but there are some things that you have to get out somehow.

    It’s about anti-SJWs and anti-anti-SJWs.

    (more…)

  • First Post

    Making a blog that is a WordPress this time because I don’t want to unnecessarily open another door to mindless social media staring.

    Anyway, don’t want to make this too formal, this will pretty much be any sort of writing or thoughts that I feel like putting on here. May include things like thoughts on books, music, creative writing, writing about a cool experience, etc. Let’s see how this goes. Disclaimer, no guarantee that I will update this more often than once every million years.