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Doug Paisley - Starter Home Music Album Review

Gracefully navigating the intersection of folk-rock and country, the gentle-voiced songwriter turns detailed images of domestic tranquility and promise into reflections on disappointment.
For a decade, Canadian singer/songwriter Doug Paisley has turned quiet, specific moments into inquiries on life’s larger struggles. On his 2010 breakthrough, Constant Companion, Paisley used the inevitability of endings to explore understanding oneself, the only possible “constant companion.” For 2014’s Strong Feelings, he mulled death and its uneasy relationship with life, or how their juxtaposition ripples into every wave of existence. And now, on his fourth album, Starter Home, Paisley details the chasm that separates what poet Seamus Heaney described as “getting started” and “getting started again.” These songs examine how the person you are never truly aligns with the person you want to be, especially when you stumble upon a sticking point that’s hard to move past.

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Vein - Errorzone Music Album Reviews

Vein - Errorzone Music Album Reviews
Yesterday’s Active Rock playlist gets ransacked and reconfigured on the debut full-length from a Boston hardcore quintet whose influences range from Converge to Korn.

In hardcore, no sound is beyond reinvention or exploitation. If a strain of commercial rock or underground metal existed at one point, the question is when—not if—a younger generation will retool it in some cramped, dank basement. Boston hardcore quintet Vein are another band of interpreters, though they don’t draw from just one source. Their early material harkened back to the chaotic, pre-Jane Doe Converge, spazzing in technical bursts. Errorzone, their first full-length, adds vintage nu-metal fragments to that base, distorting them through the prism of technocratic dystopia. This approach makes Vein the most ambitious of their 1990s-infatuated cohort, using well-worn styles to unlock a hidden terror instead of settling for nostalgia.

Vein’s appropriation of nu-metal is effective because it’s irreverent. Errorzone acknowledges that the genre reigned supreme for a time, and that it wasn’t an aberration so much as a gateway to better heavy music. But the band isn’t trying to convince you that Life Is Peachy is a secret gem, even if the minute-long track “Rebirth Protocol” clearly draws from the higher register of Korn’s seven-string guitar parts, bleeding them out so that they sound more dissociated than ever. “Doomtech,” “Untitled,” and the title track confine Slipknot’s most radio-friendly choruses to a serene prison, isolating the band’s archetypal lost-Iowa-kid listener in another dimension. For hardcore bands, clean vocals usually signal a turn toward melody, accessibility, and so-called maturity; in Vein’s case, they’re another whiplash in a series of sudden jerks, confounding expectations but providing no relief. Yesterday’s Active Rock playlist is ripe to ransack and reconfigure as a vaguely familiar agent of disorder, transforming aggression that once soothed teen angst into something more destructive.

Nu metal and ’90s hardcore don’t quite speak a common language, but blocky rhythms comprise their shared root words and enable communication. Errorzone’s breakdowns muscle up as formidably as anything by Harm’s Way or Code Orange, the two acts closest to Vein’s space. It’s in these passages that Vein reassert themselves as a hardcore band, justifying their tinkering with history. “Broken Glass Complexion” concludes by merging brawn with scattershot drums and skronky guitar blasts, while “Old Data in a Dead Machine” ends with hammering downstrokes that are divorced from groove yet brimming with their own determination.

“Virus://vibrance” shifts, not even two seconds into its runtime, to breakbeats, in Vein’s most unexpected ’90s excavation. Breakbeats in hardcore would have been game-changing 20 years ago, and they still sound subversive here. Like so many elements of the album, they too exist primarily to agitate, sharp turns on a proudly nonlinear collection of songs. This is the sound of retro-futurism finally reaching the turn of the last millennium.

More than a particular sound, Errorzone evokes the late-’90s era when technology collided with rock and metal, as electronics crept in to threaten the dominance of guitar music and distribution models loosened. As artistic barriers crashed down, rock traditionalists put up new, higher walls and tightened their borders. Those years were tumultuous, and the dust hasn’t come close to settling; we’re still figuring out how placing the internet at the center of our lives fucked with our brains. Errorzone surfs this ongoing uncertainty: One of the most jarring sounds on the album is the sterile “goodbye” at the end of “End Eternal,” as if a rogue AOL free trial CD were shepherding you through a dystopian alternate reality. It’s terrifying, sure, but that unease sets the tone for one of the year’s most exhilarating heavy records.

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