HYLI Vol. LIX - The Contortionist and Jeff Buckley
Andy send Jacob the best progressive deathcore and Jacob sends Andy some very good Singer-Songwriter.
Hey gang. It’s Patrick. I’m back but not really Back. My wife had our baby like a week and a half ago and it’s been awesome but exhausting and incredible but completely obliterating. I described it to a friend the other day as “just a constant barrage of not sleeping, getting pissed on, feeding and being like “wow this is the best thing i’ve ever seen.” I stand by it. So, I will be taking like a month or two or whatever away from the actual writing and editing of the newsletter (did you guys notice last week I didn’t edit this, I did). Andy, however, thought it would be fun if I typed up this intro to “talk about baby stuff.” My baby is cool. She poops like, no hyperbole, 8 times a day and then pisses an extra 3 or 4 with no poop. It is all-consuming. She also has a habit of pooping or peeing, then I go to change her, and she sprays me with more additional poop or pee. She has a Poster’s Mentality already. She rocks. As I type this, she has just peed on me again. I kinda caught it but mostly in the diaper I was going to use and, regrettably, my hands. I washed them before typing, rest assured, but it kinda feels like I just have Piss Hands now.
I haven’t really listened to much music in the last couple of days since leaving the hospital (hospital’s fucking suck, 0/10 experience, do not want to ever be back) except for a) when I drove to Costco to buy diapers, I listened to all of Eagles’ Hotel California - a perfect album - as I am wont to do once every fortnight or so, b) when I drove my dog to doggy daycare - which is five minutes from my house - I listened to Joyce Manor’s Never Hungover Again and nearly finished it in the there and back ten minutes of driving, and c) when I drove home from day two of four at the hospital to take a nap while my mother in law was staying with my wife because I had like three panic attacks in a row and my mental health was Poor from not sleeping, I listened to Titus Andronicus’ The Monitor because I needed to enact my own form of primal scream therapy in my car. All fun albums, all good (or necessary) experiences. I love my baby. I think I’m a good dad so far. Seems so difficult to say. I’m more in the janitorial phase at this point. I love it and I love music. I can’t wait to listen to music again. Hope You Like This Or Whatever See You In a Month.
The Contortionist - Exoplanet
Andy: One of the many great things about Patrick being gone is I can dig into my bag of favorites and pick something I know he has already heard but is still deserving of a spot on this newsletter. While he’s absent with his peeing baby, that is my goal. Jacob is the first to be blessed with one: The Contortionist’s Exoplanet. Just an all-timer near Rushmore status album for me.
I was a big fan of The Contortionist during their Sporadic Movements and Shapeshifter EP era. They just seemed so much better than their popularity showed. I was so excited when this album dropped that it was basically the only thing I listened to for a semester.
This album is the perfect combination of heavy and melodic. Exoplanet is an amalgamation of these concepts that come together to create a really cohesive piece. I honestly do not think there is another album that does it better. The breakdowns here are brutal and the melodic sections are beautiful. Take “Flourish” for an example. The opening breakdown requires you to throw hands, and the middle section is this beautiful spacey guitar work. The song ends with a nasty stank-face riff. It literally has it all. And they do it so well.
The final three tracks (Exoplanet: Egress / Void / Light) are basically a 13 minute sample of what progressive deathcore should be.
For me, I am comfortable using the word Masterpiece for this album. It is the pinnacle of progressive deathcore. A perfect album. Definitely didn’t hype it up too much did I? Sorry. Hope You Like It.
Jacob: At first Andy gave me an album by a band named after the 22nd chapter of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and, to be honest, it wasn’t for me (Andy: it was After The Burial). But this? I like this.
Where After the Burial is loud, brash, and unintelligible, The Contortionist is loud, brash, and unintelligible—in space! I think a correlation could be made between my interest in heavy music and the amount of storytelling happening. Rush, Coheed, Alesana… I love a concept record. So while this isn’t as literary as The Emptiness, it scratches a lot of the same itches. On top of that, the guitar melodies absolutely slap.
There are mathy/progressive bits scattered throughout this record that tickle my brain just right, mixed in with plenty of chuga-chuga. This whole record is *extremely* 2010 (Andy: A great year for music imo), but holds up okay. The cleans aren’t that great, but because they’re so scarce you don’t really notice. That said, my favorite track is “Contact.” It has the best elements from all of the tracks conveniently rolled up into precisely five minutes.
Andy definitely didn’t over-hype this record at all. I knew that he loved it, and for good reason. Anything else on this wavelength usually tempts the skip button on my keyboard, but I’ve listened to this record five or six times since it was given to me and I found something new to enjoy each spin. I’ve mostly moved on from heavy music, but I appreciate Andy serving up something that appeals to my progressive rock proclivities. Thank you, my dude.
My congratulations and best to Pat and his growing family!
Jeff Buckley - Grace
Jacob: I’ve got a few artists that take yearly, all-encompassing holds over my psyche for weeks at a time. The Beatles get a deep dive when the weather turns cold. Jeff Buckley when the frost gives up each Spring. I came into the late Jeff Buckley the way most people my age did. I watched Shrek a bunch, then found his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” preferable to Rufus Wainwright’s.
Grace is Buckley’s only complete work. Following years playing in coffee shops and venues around NYC, always under the shadow of his famous father Tim, he put out one of the most influential records of the ‘90s. It didn’t sell well when Buckley was alive, and you’re not going to find it on many mainstream top 100 lists, but Bowie, Dylan, Brad Pitt agree that it’s one of the greatest of all time. (If any of those cultural giants are going to have any pull with Andy, I’m hoping it’s Brad.)(Andy: Always here for Bradley.) So while Pat is preoccupied with his peeing baby, I’m giving Andy one of *my* Mt. Rushmore picks too.
I adore this record. It’s beautiful, intense, and varied. Taken individually, it’s hard to imagine a through line through any of the tracks (two of which are covers and one an early modern English hymn)(Andy: Have you heard the good word that All Covers Are Good?). It’s equal parts Zeppelin, Hendrix, Queen, Mudhoney, and church music with a dash of influences coming in from Buckley’s background in jazz, reggae, roots rock, and heavy metal (nudge, nudge Andy). Of course he could handle it all adeptly with a glorious set of pipes (dude was a tenor with a range of four octaves). The control he demonstrates on the title track or “Dream Brother” is contrasted sharply with the wild post-grunge freneticism on “Eternal Life”—a staple in my pump-up playlist.
The record is a good mix which includes timeless numbers like “Last Goodbye” and “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” which instrumentally sounds like Sixpence None The Richer, but departs from ‘90s convention through a soft but stellar vocal delivery of sheer poetry. This is a lyrical record, sometimes arty or theatrical, but always emotive and bold (a.k.a. “my kind of thing”), but has a little something for everyone. This is one of my top-five records of all time. Hope You Like It.
Andy: I was terrified when Jacob first suggested this to me. The only Jeff Buckley song I had ever heard was “Hallelujah” and, in the nicest way possible, I cannot explain how much of a Not-Andy song that is. Like lump it in with “Wagon Wheel” and “Piano Man” for me - bottom of the barrel stuff. (Jacob: It’s me. Hi. At the bottom of the barrel, it’s me.) I know this is an important album for Jacob and I’m sweating bullets when he suggests it like, “Oh man. How am I gonna write about this in a way that isn’t just me shitting on his favorite record?” When I was eventually done being a baby and finally pressed play…man I was so wrong.
My guy Jeff goes hard on some of these songs. Right out of the gate he gets me with “Mojo Pin”. He absolutely lets loose on “Grace”. Some of this stuff is just Rock and Roll with an acoustic guitar, and I am here for it. The songs where he goes for it are so fun man. Because his voice is so good Buckley gets a little too cute with it at times when he should just Be Rocking instead. (Jacob: All in moderation and more in the bonus disc of the 2004 re-release.)
The buzzsaw solo on “So Real” is so good man. Song is a banger. Why is he out here playing around with “Corpus Christi Carol” when he has tracks like “Eternal Life” and “Forget Her”? I don’t think it’s a shock to anyone that I don’t vibe much with the slower tracks on this album but these songs where he lets loose are a blast - significantly more than I was expecting!
I apologize for saying bad things about “Hallelujah” but this album definitely has some brighter spots. I had fun with this and can confidently say I Liked It (even though I was really worried I would not).