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Album Review: Deftones – “Koi No Yokan”

After more than 20 years, Deftones are still going strong. In fact, they may be stronger than ever these days. Their newest, highly-anticipated album, Koi No Yokan, is clearly the work of a well-seasoned group that is truly in touch with their sound and who they are as a band. However, something about the album still leaves more to be desired.

First off, if you are a fan of Deftones, then you can rest assured, this is definitely still the band you know and love. They haven’t changed very drastically (not for the worst at least), and when you listen to this album, all of the components that drew you to the band in first place are still there. It is a well-produced, well-written, and meaningful record that has been graciously welcomed by fans and critics into the band’s discography. Still, something about the work as a whole just does not have as lasting an impact as it’s 2010 predecessor Diamond Eyes. It could be considered a close second though.

Right off the bat, Koi No Yokan—a Japanese phrase for the sense that a person feels upon first meeting someone that the two will fall in love—hits the listener hard with the deep Meshuggah-like tones of Stephen Carpenter’s 7-8 string guitar in opener “Swerve City.” This sound sets the stage for most of the album, especially in the tracks “Poltergeist,” “Tempest,” and “Rosemary,” which repeats a dark and brooding riff in the breakdown with surprisingly similar tones of The Acacia Strain. While Carpenter’s guitar is the first distinguished trait in the song, it’s Chi Cheng’s smoothly ascending and descending bass lines that carry the verse of “Swerve City.” Vocalist Chino Moreno leads the track and the album as fluidly as ever, with his signature “soaring-over-the-mountains” reverb and elongated melodic phrases.

The second track, “Romantic Dreams,” follows up this feeling with a pulsing 3/4 groove that alternates to optimistic riff-laden sections in 4/4. “Leathers” ups the intensity with dissonant sections of chugging and screaming, while still interlaced with emotively grandiose and flowing choruses. As mentioned before, “Poltergeist” utilizes the lower and grittier qualities of the guitars, which accompany an intense 7/8 polyrhythmic intro held down by drummer Abe Cunningham—with handclaps that are sure to make this song an interactive crowd favorite.

“Entombed” is a nice change of pace for the album. The feeling of this track can largely be accredited to Frank Delgado’s synth work, which provides a harmonically rich and ambient foundation for an overall uplifting song. When combined with droning delayed guitars and Moreno’s expansive vocals (“Shapes and colors are all I see/Shades of colors are all I feel“), this spacious and electronically grounded track sounds like it could easily be on a Team Sleep album (Moreno’s side project).

The variations between the first half of the album are more or less reflected throughout the second half as well, making for an overall pleasant yet somewhat unmoving experience. The song “Rosemary” contains an interesting dynamic balance between dark intensity and soaring ambience, but the closing track, “What Happened To You?” is the only song on the album that seems to stand out slightly more than the others due to upbeat rhythms by Cunningham and a sort of “bouncy” bassline by Cheng. If Deftones want an honest answer to the question posed by the title of this final track, I would have to say,”nothing.” Nothing happened to me. I enjoyed the album for what it was, but no part of it stuck with me afterward.

Despite some dynamic variations, the whole experience of Koi No Yokan felt very one dimensional. One could argue that, since their formation, Deftones have only gotten better with each album, but this one leads me to believe that they may have finally plateaued. That being said, Koi No Yokan isn’t a bad place to level out. There is nothing overtly groundbreaking about it, but it is still better than a lot of other music coming out these days. I just feel like whatever edge that Diamond Eyes may have had seems to be missing from Koi No Yokan.

If you like Deftones, check out OurStage artist Moving Atlas.

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Stream New Deftones Album

Alt-rock band Deftones will be releasing their long-awaited seventh studio album, Koi No Yokan, next week, but you can hear it right now! While it is still inherently and unmistakably a Deftones record, the crew have taken their sound to a whole new level of heavy riff-laden prog-rock that Rolling Stone describes as “adventurously agressive.” If you enjoyed the band’s previous album Diamond Eyes, then prepare yourselves for the powerfully emotive Koi No Yokan, due out Tuesday, November 13th on Reprise Records. Click here to listen now!.

If you like Deftones, then you might also like Ourstage’s own Vicesiadmire.

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Stream Thrice’s Live Album – “Anthology”

Still heartbroken about Thrice breaking up? Well don’t you worry. They understand, and just to show how much they care, they’ve put together a 24-song collection of select live recordings from their farewell tour. The limited edition physical 4-LP/2-CD box set is set to be released next week on October 30 by Staple Records, but you can hear it right now streaming on SoundCloud! So grab your buddies and some tissues, sit back, and enjoy the final recordings of Thrice as you weep for the demise of one of our generations greatest bands. (Suck it up. There’s probably gonna be a reunion anyway.)

If you like Thrice, then you might also like OurStage’s own This Armistice.

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Blink-182 Working On New Album

Pop-punk veterans Blink-182 have plans to write and record a follow up to 2011′s return from hiatus, Neighborhoods. According to NME.com, bassist and vocalist Mark Hoppus says the trio are “starting to write a new record right now… [but the] new album probably won’t happen for about a year,” due to current tour schedules. Hoppus hopes to bring some life back into the music world after what he believes to have been “a dry summer” in 2011, “devoid of a lot of great new music.” Drummer Travis Barker adds, ”I feel like the best is yet to come, the next album is going to be exciting.” So keep your ear to the ground for more updates on the next album from Blink-182!

If you like Blink-182, then you might also like OurStage’s own Aimless Again.

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Motion City Soundtrack Release New Song

Power-pop rock band Motion City Sountrack are releasing one last vinyl seven-inch to finish their Making Moves series with Drexel University. The release contains two new songs entitled “Severance” and “Major Leagues.” You can hear the latter at RollingStone.com. The songs were recorded at a studio in Drexel University with the help of some student engineers. The record will be released on November 6th under the college’s label Mad Dragon Records.

Q&A With KT Tunstall

It’s no surprise that KT Tunstall has a passion for culture. Growing up in England with Irish, Scottish and Chinese blood, Tunstall was instantly and independently drawn to musical performance at a young age. In 2004, her debut record Eye to the Telescope spawned worldwide hits “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” “Other Side of the World” and “Suddenly I See.” Following further success with 2007′s Drastic Fantastic, KT has returned with her third effort, Tiger Suit. We caught up with KT and talked about her confidence crisis, recording in a legendary studio and the inspiration behind this eclectic and organic new record.

OS: Growing up in a family with no musical background, what caused you to learn several instruments and eventually pursue a career in music?

KT: It was pretty freaky! It was a weird, very innate thing, where I just gravitated to music straight away as a little kid, and nobody else in my family really did. It’s kind of funny because my mum found a diary that she kept of when I was a baby and she said when I was six months old, she found this diary entry going, “I’m really worried because Kate screams louder than anybody else’s baby.” (laughs) But no, I was asking for piano lessons by the time I was six and playing a bunch of instruments when I was quite young. It was just always something that I found really natural and an easy way of communicating, through music. It’s just always been there.

OS: Tiger Suit is the title of your new record, and refers to a recurring dream you’ve had when you were younger. How have you interpreted the dream and how does it relate to your music?

KT: Well, it’s a really cool dream where there’s a tiger in my garden and I go out and I start stroking it…and I’m a kid in the dream. It’s not until I come inside the house and look at the tiger through a window that I’m really afraid, and think, “What the hell was I doing? It could have eaten me.” And I can’t see myself in the dream, so I thought, “Am I disguised as a tiger? Am I also a tiger?” But there’s something going on where I am able to commune with this beast and it’s not attacking me. And I suppose that, even now, as an adult, makes me feel how I feel about music. A lot of the time…where I’ll just jump in and do something and not really think about it, and then afterwards, just go, “Oh my God, that could have gone so wrong!” But also, the title is kind of referring to when I go on stage. I go on stage as myself. I’ve never had, like, a character. But I suppose after six years of touring…I think this last year, I had to write and stuff, it just made me realize that I’ve got this kind of armor and it’s this kind of, Joan of Arc warrioress, “I’m gonna do what I fucking want,” armor (laughs), and I get on stage and be who I want to be. And at the same time, I’ve got to take that off when it comes to writing and I’ve got to be as vulnerable and as real as possible. It’s a protective thing, but also a really fierce thing…I’m a huge fan of Where The Wild Things Are, the movie that just came out, that was my favorite book as a kid. Max wears his little wolf suit and I was just convinced that if he wasn’t wearing it, he would just be eaten in about five minutes. He’s got his magic suit on that keeps him fierce.

OS: You have called your new music “Nature Techno.” Can you explain what that means and how your sound has evolved since Eye to the Telescope and Drastic Fantastic?

KT: Yeah, it was kind of a concept of what I wanted to try out…I haven’t like, made a house album. But it was really just about the fact that I’ve realized I’m a huge blues fan. I love up-tempo blues as well, more rockabilly stuff…Eddie Cochran being one of my favorites. And it just made me realize when I was digging deep to kind of find out what was going to turn me on the most in terms of making a new album, I really rediscovered my passion for dance music. I’ve been a big fan of Leftfield and DJ Shadow, The Chemical Brothers and a band called Lamb…and I realized that that music makes me feel quite similar to when I’m listening to up-tempo blues music. It’s got this really primal, four-to-the-floor pulse…I just find myself getting lost in it, in the rhythm. When I’m dancing around a campfire, I end up feeling pretty similar to when I’m dancing in a club. I just really wanted to mix those two together and see what happened. And I think the big difference with this album is it’s the first time I’ve gotten quite experimental. It’s been quite traditional instruments up until this point and this was the first time we kind of used electronica, synthesizers, drum machines and that kind of thing. I also feel like there’s just a wilder streak to this album, where I’m not too worried about technical perfection in terms of my singing and it’s more just about being a bit freer and expressing myself a bit more.

OS: Between records, you took an international trip that had a huge impact on you. Can you tell us more about the trip and its effects on you personally?

KT: Yeah, the first part of the trip was to the Arctic, to Greenland, which was a really incredible landscape that I dreamt about for many years and wanted to go and see. I went with this group called Cape Farewell and they took 20 scientists and 20 artists on this boat. So I’m on this boat with Jarvis Cocker, Martha Wainwright, Feist, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Vanessa Carlton, Robyn Hitchcock, Laurie Anderson, all these amazing artists….and because it was right in the beginning of starting to make a new album, my ego just attacked me with a huge machete and just went, “You suck! You’re not nearly as good as these people, you’re never going to make an album that’s going to excite you as much as you want to excite yourself.” I just had this big confidence crisis where I felt like life had become quite complicated. I was in this beautiful place where the Northern Lights come out and there’s whales in the water and icebergs floating that are the size of skyscrapers and I just felt like, “I could really just get off the boat and stay here for awhile.” And that was really what that song was about,”Uummannaq Song.” It’s the first song on the record, which has got that very tribal feel to it. All of the places I visited over my travels had this very strong indigenous culture, and I also felt there was a real, rooted musical culture. I traveled South America, went to New Zealand and went to India and heard incredible music. I think traveling just basically really fired up my imagination in terms of, with this album, I’ve sort of given all of these songs location. I think they’re set in places in my mind and what I saw and experienced in my travels really helped fuel that.

OS: You recorded Tiger Suit in the famous Hansa Tonstudio in Berlin, Germany. What was that experience like?

KT: It was awesome. It was so cool. I’d recorded most of the demos at my place in England and it’s really cool, but it’s quite small, so I wasn’t really going to be able to make the record there. And so I went to Berlin, and it’s just this amazing legacy, where Bowie recorded Heroes, U2 recorded Achtung Baby and Iggy Pop recorded there. It’s got this energy for me that I just felt like I wanted to play better. I recorded with a live band for the first time and we recorded vocals live and we were just so energized by the history of the place. It looked so cool and Berlin’s an amazing city. Very vibrant.

OS: You released two different singles in the UK and America, “(Still A) Weirdo” and “Fade Like a Shadow.” The songs are very different from each other. How have the two been received in their respective countries?

KT: It’s been really interesting because I’ve not had that happen before, releasing different singles. “Fade Like a Shadow,” for me, was really good…I understood the record company going, “Yeah, let’s go with that,” because it’s so upbeat and it’s quite urgent. It’s about exorcising this ghost of someone who’s still alive, who’s haunting you. It’s got that electronic influence on it. And then in the UK, “(Still A) Weirdo” is such a strange choice for a single, I thought, “What are you doing, putting that out as a single?” It’s like the weird little runty puppy on the album, this very eccentric little fragile song. But they said, “it’s really emotional. It’s very different from a lot of what else is out there and it makes people feel something.” And I think it’s the same for “Fade Like A Shadow” as well, it’s a pretty emotional song. But they’re going great, I’m really pleased. They seem to be popular, as far as I can tell.

OS: You’re heading out on tour, first to the UK and then across America. Will your stage show be different this time around to accompany your new sound?

KT: Well, I have a slightly different band. I don’t know if any of you guys remember a British band called Ash, they were quite big. They had this girl guitarist called Charlotte Hatherley. She went off and did her own thing but she’s joined the band for this tour. So we have a girl on lead guitar, which is so cool. And we have a Welsh rock ‘n’ roll boy on bass, but I have the same drummer and same keyboard player. But it’s basically quite full tilt. Rehearsals were like, going clubbing, for awhile. We play a lot of beautiful, really down-tempo numbers as well, and I’ll play some stuff on my own. I always like to keep it quite diverse. I also have an awesome backdrop being painted with UV paint, which I’m very excited about.

Check out KT’s fall tour throughout the UK and the US:

10/19 Cambridge, UK – Junction
10/20 London, UK – O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
10/21 Manchester, UK – Ritz
10/23 Glasgow, UK – Barrowland
10/24 Wolverhampton, UK – Wulfrun Hall
10/31  Portland, OR - Crystal Ballroom
11/1   Vancouver, BC - Commodore Ballroom
11/2    Seattle, WA - The Showbox SODO
11/4    Spokane, WA -  Knitting Factory
11/5    Boise, ID - Knitting Factory
11/7    Reno, NV - Knitting Factory
11/8    San Francisco, CA - Warfield Theatre
11/11  Los Angeles, CA - The Music Box
11/12  San Diego, CA - House of Blues
11/16  Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre
11/18  Minneapolis, MN - Epic
11/19  Indianapolis, IN - The Vogue
11/21  Chicago, IL - Vic Theatre
11/22  Detroit, MI - The Crofoot
11/23  Toronto, ON - Phoenix Theatre
11/25  Montreal, QU – Club Soda
11/26  Philadelphia, PA – The Trocadero
11/27  Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
11/29  Boston, MA - House of Blues

 


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