'Zeit' album cover.

Zeit by Rammstein #

› Played on May 9th, 2022, written on May 19th, 2022

As with my album note of The Birthday Massacre’s Diamonds, I want to write about Zeit because of my history of listening to Rammstein, and how they make me feel.

No music makes me feel the way a Rammstein album makes me feel.

I can’t explain how they match melancholy and intensity, beauty and cacophony, harmony and precise, brutal, chest-shredding distortion like they do. I’m not saying they’re the only ones who can represent all of those on a record, but no one does it like they do.

When a band has one vocalist, that vocalist is usually the center of the band’s presence. The way that can come across is that the band makes music that fits the singer’s voice and surrounds it. But it feels like that’s backwards with Till Lindemann, Rammstein’s vocalist. It feels like they created his voice to match Rammstein’s music.

I learned that Lindemann’s voice is a “dramatic baritone”. How perfect is that description. I think if we tried to create a voice to match Rammstein’s sound, we couldn’t come up with a voice better than Lindemann’s.

The first three tracks are my favorites. “Armee der Tristen”, “Zeit”, and “Schwarz”.

The theremin opening the first few seconds of “Armee der Tristen” is a signature Rammstein sound. It’s unmistakable. You know it immediately, and I love that. “Armee der Tristen” reminds me of Rosenrot. It’s a classic Rammstein song.

“Zeit”. What can I say about “Zeit”. Why don’t you just watch the music video?1

It’s a beautiful song, with beautiful lyrics, and a music video that probably took more work than many movies. There’s a full minute of credits at the end.

Finally, “Schwarz”. “Schwarz” is my favorite of the three. Putting lyrics aside (and they are raw and real), it’s the most musically moving track to me.

Denn immer, wenn ich einsam bin
Zieht es mich zum Dunkel hin
Der Sonnentod ist mir Vergnügen
Immer, wenn es dunkel wird
Die Seele sich in Lust verirrt
Die kalte Nacht ist mir Vergnügen
Trink das Schwarz in tiefen Zügen

Right when Lindemann sings “Der Sonnentod ist mir Vergnügen” in the second and third choruses, there’s a theremin tune in the background that just kills me.

It’s like that scene in Almost Famous when Russell is talking to William about “that woo, that single woo” in the song “What’s Going On”. That’s what you remember, the little things.

Zeit isn’t perfect. “Giftig” which comes right after “Schwarz” is a jarring transition, and none of the songs after “Schwarz” stayed with me until “Adieu”, which gets an honorable mention for being one of the best album-closers I’ve ever heard.

I’ve been logging the music I listen to on Last.fm since Dec 8, 2008.

And according to Last.fm, Rammstein is the second most played artist in my library. Three thousand, one hundred, and fifteen plays across nine albums played from sometime before 2008 until today. Rammstein’s music is woven throughout my entire adult life, and there is meaning beyond words to that.

Zeit is beautiful and flawed, and you should listen to it.

  1. Some content warnings apply. This is Rammstein. ↩︎

favorite tracks

Armee der Tristen, Zeit, Schwarz

'Diamonds' album cover.

Diamonds by The Birthday Massacre #

› Played on Mar 7th, 2021, written on Feb 22nd, 2022

The Birthday Massacre will always be a special band to me.

In September 2007, I was in my first year of university and my first month after moving halfway across the planet. I had just moved from the Middle East to Canada two weeks before frosh week, I was enrolled in a tough program that I hated, I was alone, lonely, struggling in a relationship that was slowly dying, and generally Not Good®.

I started volunteering as an assistant science editor in the campus newspaper. The paper was big enough that record labels (remember labels) would send review copies of music CDs (remember CDs) to the paper’s office to be reviewed. The paper’s policy was “if you review it, you keep it”.

That’s right. A record label sent a CD in the mail to the newspaper office so that we would listen to the CD and write a review that would get printed on paper that was then distributed across the city. We had pretty big circulation too.

The Birthday Massacre released Walking with Strangers on September 10, 2007, and one day the CD showed up at the office.

Walking With Strangers album cover

I took it home and listened to it then reviewed it, and kept listening to it on repeat for what felt like the entire academic year. That album was playing in my ears on crowded buses and early frigid Ontario mornings and late nights after eight hours of lectures. I still can’t listen to “Kill the Lights” without getting a flashback memory of how the Physics building smelled.

Many years later and releases in between, Diamonds feels like a sequel to Walking With Strangers. It’s magical, noisy, loud, glittery. The writing is beautiful the way only honest and unpretentious writing could be.

“The Sky Will Turn”

[pre chorus]
And as trapped as we are, it’s the devil we know
The exceptions we make will never be shown
To the rest of the world, what we touch turns to gold
For a moment, we freeze
If ever there’s a fall moon breaking
It’s painting our faces
We won’t know (won’t know)
Which way (which way)
The sky will turn
We’re at the blood eclipse
And we can’t look away
It’s like a car crash burning
At the edge of the earth

Each song is distinctive and memorable, but they are all part of a whole. As soon as one ends and the other begins, I recognize it immediately. That sounds like a small thing but it really isn’t.


We rise, then we dissolve
It’s a deep black crush
It’s a pale blue love
And we know what we’ve become
It’s a pale blue love
It’s a deep black crush

A new world oddity meets the commoner
Impulse, white blood, so high, too soft, ohh
Try to meet halfway, now we’re up against a stone wall
We crash, twin fire, blue ash, pink smoke, ohh
Spirals in decline, one tied against the other
Impulse, white blood, so high, too soft, ohh
Dissolving in the sky, swallowed in time
We crash, twin fire, blue ash, pink smoke

Finally, Sara Taylor sings a perfect ending to the album.

“Parallel World”

We never thought that we could watch the place that we came from
Fade to the wrong side of the parallel world
And they burned every shred of innocence
Leaving a skeleton boy, a skeleton girl

And behind the veil there’s a way down
If you follow the truth there’s a way out
If you follow truth there’s a way out
If you follow the truth there’s a way out
And behind the veil there’s a way down
If you follow the truth there’s a way out
If you follow truth there’s a way out
If you follow the truth there’s a way out
(If you follow truth)

This album note comes with a personal connection and that only matters to me, but I wouldn’t have written it if Diamonds wasn’t so good that months after I first listened to it I came back to write about it. You should listen to it.

favorite tracks

Enter, The Sky Will Turn, Crush, Parallel World

'A New Low in Hi-Fi' album cover.

A New Low in Hi-Fi by Brad Sucks #

› Played on Jun 21st, 2021, written on Sep 1st, 2021

“In It to Win It”,

I was in it to win it
but then being in it
got a little bit old

Brad Sucks is a one-man band fronted (and backed, and middled, I suppose) by Brad Turcotte. The first song I heard by Brad, “Making me Nervous”, was in 2003, off of his I Don’t Know What I’m Doing album which I found it on a weird ass site called Jamendo.1 It was weird because it was full of music that indie artists uploaded for everyone to download for free. I was new to the internet and a lot of other things in this world, but I thought I understood enough to know that if you gave something away for free, you didn’t make any money from it. How simple.

I now know that Brad making I Don’t Know What I’m Doing free for download on Jamendo led to me giving him a lot of money over the years. And Jamendo’s model foretold a lot of how the creation economy on the internet was going to be. Years later, a guy who makes music and puts it online for free is one of my favorite artists, and his first album that he gave away for free became one of my all-time favorites.

“A Little Distance”,

I think a little distance might be just what I need
I don’t know when or why or how everything got to be so extreme
Ain’t got no interest in wishing, no real desire to believe
I’m not tired of living, living’s tired of me

I guess I had double vision, but it was easy to see
It didn’t make any difference, baby, if you know what I mean
Been out here burning bridges like they been giving them away for free
I’m not tired of living, baby, living’s tired of me

I love Brad’s songwriting. I don’t know anyone who writes music like he does. The words read so simply, the way you’d talk to a friend over coffee, but they sound so musical and poetic, and the extreme straightforwardness makes them sincere and believable.

“Better than Nothing”,

You may be wondering why you’re here
Because the point of everything isn’t clear
And anything you care about disappears
No matter how hard or how much you love it

You may feel like you’re all alone
Like a dog that doesn’t get the point of bones
And it’s easier to just stay home
‘Cause you can’t see why this is better than nothing

It’s just so good and so clever, and as good as the lyrics are, the way he sings them, landing every syllable and every line perfectly, takes the songs to another level. It’s noisy and intimate, casual but from the heart. Trust me you don’t know the half of it until you listen to it. And you should listen to it.

  1. Jamendo still exists but it’s unrecognizable compared to its original form, so I won’t link to it here. ↩︎

favorite tracks

In It to Win It, A Little Distance, The Motivation, Better Than Nothing

'Devotion' album cover.

Devotion by Pale Honey #

› Played on Oct 9th, 2020, written on Oct 11th, 2020

The only appropriate way to read the following review is to have this performance of “The Heaviest of Storms (devotion, pt. 1)” at Tapetown studios playing in the background.

Why do people write music reviews? I, human, listened to something for a while, and it made me feel something. It put a dimple in my tin heart, and I want to give you, other human not sharing a sensory experience with me, that dimple. I want to describe it to you, to materialize it in your mind’s eye. It’s futile, really, and the harder I try to make it happen the less relatable my whole effort will seem to you.

Reviewers end up in contortions, binding themselves in wet language trying to make you understand what it’s like for the music in its specific quality to impact your eardrums. Well, there’s just no way to do that.

That won’t stop any of us from trying though. So:

The whole album is really good. It’s clear, unassuming. No one is forcing anything. It’s like everyone sat back and just agreed to let their emotions become music for a while. It’s most obvious in the beginning riffs of my two favorite tracks: “The Heaviest of Storms (Devotion, Pt.1)” and “777(Devotion, Pt.2)”.

The singing and instruments reach out to hold your hand, and say “hey, it’s okay. we’re all dealing with some things, and wouldn’t it be nice if we were just ourselves for a while and talked without pretension? without rush?”

And that’s one way to describe the album. I couldn’t make it any clearer than that. You should listen to it.

favorite tracks

The Heaviest of Storms (Devotion, Pt.1), 777(Devotion, Pt.2)

'Profane' album cover.

Profane by Couch #

› Played on Aug 6th, 2020, written on Aug 6th, 2020

This album was added to my library in early 2015. ‘Was added’ is passive, and the passive voice is a tool to hedge and avoid responsibility,1 which is why I usually avoid it. But in this case, I actually don’t remember adding it. Of course, I don’t remember adding hundreds of other albums that sit, waiting, unlistened-to, in my iTunes library.

Profane is an instrumental album. I can’t quote you any favorite lyrics. I can try words like ‘dreamlike’ and ‘post-modern’, but that could mean anything. The band doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, and “couchmusik.de” goes to what I assume is a German domain registrar’s page. So how can I describe this to you?

A quieter and more consistent God is an Astronaut, and a faster Bonobo. A simpler Maybeshewill and an abbreviated and more disciplined Mogwai. Describing an artist’s work in terms of other artists is a last resort for me, but describing music is hard, and I’m not that good of a writer yet.

Profane is dramatic and progressive, it has anxiety which becomes cacophony; not the annoying kind, the beautiful cathartic kind.

Listen to “Doch endlich”, you’ll know what I mean.

Unfortunately this album is not on Bandcamp, and I don’t see the CD being sold anywhere obvious, but it is sold in the Apple Music Store, and you should listen to it.

See also

  • A Matador Records page written around the time Profane was released, via the wayback machine

    Our friend Richard Martin at the Seattle Weekly says of ‘Profane’: “guitarist Juergen Soder, keyboardist Stefanie Bohm and their mates succeed again, sping complex rhythms and hidden melodies, straying into fascinating jams.” The equally observant Michael Endelman of the Boston Phoenix says, “Couch arrive at a state of suspended animation, somewhere between Sonic Youth’s ‘Daydream Nation’ and Tortoise’s 20 minute epic ‘Djed.’”

I like how I described it better.

  1. This is especially true in scientific writing. All papers are written in a passive voice. We didn’t tell the participants in the study to do something, “participants were told”. We didn’t run the regression analysis, “a regression analysis revealed a significant effect of years of education”. I digress. ↩︎

favorite tracks

Doch endlich

'Far Enough' album cover.

Far Enough by Cable Ties #

› Played on Apr 7th, 2020, written on Apr 7th, 2020


And it might be hopeless but if I lose hope
I bring on that ending

Everything on this album is great, but the singing is what will stick in my mind forever. Jenny McKechnie is one of the best vocalists I’ve discovered in a long time. Her range, how she can go from quiet to growly, either suddenly or more gradually than you thought was possible. Her control of her vocals is perfect. Apparently, they’re punk. At first I didn’t see it, I thought there were parts that sounded too controlled and beautiful to be punk, and I don’t remember the last time a punk song lyric left made me feel as uplifted as the first chorus of “Hope” does (quoted at the top of this note).

But. But you can listen to (or watch) the last chorus on “Sandcastles”, and it is very punk.


You don’t do anything because you know that people like you they
just don’t do anything at all
but tear each other down

Who knows. Punk, like all genres, and almost all things, is difficult to define. Anyway, I think what I’m trying to say is that you should listen to it.

favorite tracks

Hope, Sandcastles

'what we say in private' album cover.

what we say in private by Ada Lea #

› Played on Apr 6th, 2020, written on Apr 6th, 2020

I discovered this album when I bought [The Execution of All Things][] CD and Saddle Creek records included a thank you note and a postcard with the album art of what we say in private. Something about that warms my heart.

The first track on the album starts with some electronic music that’s the opposite of what you’d expect, and you’re not wrong to not expect them, because there is nothing like those first few seconds again on the entire album. It’s a strange decision. But that part quickly ends and the rest all makes sense. It still weirds me out whenever I relisten to the album from start to finish.

A lot on this album feels unintentional or improvised, and I like that, although it doesn’t always work well. More often than not it does work though, and when it does you realize just how good the lyrics are. If anything I think the lyrics are sometimes let down by the music.

“wild heart”

God watches over us in disbelief
And I take your head with my hand
A ring of dancers form around the house
To surround us and I pray that every door is shut
But in my heart, I know that any woman bound to enter will

Long live the wild heart, babe
Always groping for answers
Hungry for experience
Always touching the neighbour

“what makes me sad”

What makes me sad is I can’t
What makes you sad I don’t know
But if your eyes well up at the thought of it
Well that’s a sure way to know

“the dancer”

Some days I feel like dancing
But some days I don’t
Some days I just sit and watch
The sun dancing through my window

Some days I am a daisy
Dancing with the breeze
But some days I am the foot
That has to step on everything
Everything, everything

Even on clear days, your judgment is cloudy
Even on clear days, you’re expecting thunder and rain
Even on clear days, your judgment is cloudy
Even on clear days, even on clear

You should listen to it.

favorite tracks

wild heart, easy

'EP' album cover.

EP by Mexico City Blondes #

› Played on Mar 21st, 2020, written on Mar 21st, 2020

I re-listened to this EP many times trying to put into words what I like so much about it.

I still don’t have the right words. I like Allie Thompson’s singing a lot. It’s warm and soothing. It’s a voice that dances and makes me want to dance with it. I just want to fall back into it like it’s a soft couch.

Hm. You know there’s a bit of calm Ladytron in here, and a bit of Scanners too. I like this like I a lot of Scanners’ quieter songs.


Nobody’s gonna hold my hand
Holdin hands is like holdin’ sand

Growin’ up it feels like givin’ in
Growin’ up it feels like givin’ in
Growin’ up it feels like givin’ in
Can’t run from the skin you were meant to be livin’ in

I don’t know what else to say. The wordcount does not correlate with how much I like this EP. You should listen to it.

favorite tracks

Worry, Further

'Con Todo El Mundo' album cover.

Con Todo El Mundo by Khruangbin #

› Played on Mar 6th, 2020, written on Mar 6th, 2020

I knew about Khruangbin but I didn’t know about this album. I discovered this via The RFK Tapes podcast, which used Maria También as their intro credit music. The track is easily my favorite on the album, but the entire album is worth your money. You should listen to it.

favorite tracks

Maria También