REVIEW: Warpaint/Dogfish Piercing Pils

The first review of the year is from the lovely ladies of Warpaint.

THE RECORD: Warpaint- Warpaint- 2014 Rough Trade

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Warpaint has some serious industry street cred under their belt. A little name-dropping might be required for a minute. They are currently signed to Rough Trade Records, the London-based home of Arcade Fire, Alabama Shakes, the Decemberists, and more. John Frusciante mixed their first EP in 2008. This latest record was produced by Flood, whose resume includes everyone from The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, PJ Harvey, and U2. So the sound on this record is naturally pretty epic, but absolutely listenable, with plenty of single-worthy tracks.

I would describe this record as the perfect late night burner. It’s the kind of record that’s great for listening to when hanging out at a bar after hours. Or if you’re a bartender like myself, cleaning up the bar after hours. It’s awesome, chill music that doesn’t put you to sleep, but actually does the opposite. It keeps the energy flowing.

“Keep It Healthy” is my favorite track on the album. The guitar chord progressions are dark, and from the way it starts off and the amount of metal I listen to on a regular basis, I half expect it to go off into a doomy breakdown. But it doesn’t- it just kind of builds up and flows. The reverb on the vocals sound like they’re singing on the top of a cold mountain.

The track after that, “Love Is To Die” has a little industrial-ish synth in the background, which adds another dark element to the dreamy pop aspects. I also like that the notes on the chorus don’t necessarily end on a perfect fifth- they sound unresolved and abrupt, which has a very cool effect.

If I had to compare them to a modern band now, I think that they sound like Cults if Cults listened to more Siouxsie and the Banshees when they were in the studio. Both bands that I can only describe as “cool”, and I mean that in both hipness as well as that the songs have an icy feel to them. Another great thing about this record is that while its just a few minutes shy of an hour, the songs all flow together nicely without feeling like any are filler or just trying to continue on a theme.

THE BREW: Dogfish Head Piercing Pils

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My trip to Slovakia last spring definitely heightened my appreciation for the humble European-style pilsner. When it comes to light-bodied beers, I will choose a pilsner over a wheat beer any day of the week. One of Dogfish Head’s newest brews, the Piercing Pils is refreshing and delicious, even in these cold winter months. Dogfish is known for breaking traditional brewing rules and includes so many unique ingredients in their beers. Piercing Pils is brewed with pear juice and a white pear tea, so you get both the sweet flavor of the juice, as well as the clean spicy notes from the tea. It gets some additional spiciness from the Saaz hops, which is nice. This is a complex pilsner! I love it. I won’t deny that I’ve tried some boring pilsners in my life- this is definitely not one of them! It really takes hold of all your senses and makes you remember that spring isn’t that far away.

THE PAIRING:

I wanted to choose a beer that was clean, easy to drink, but had a lot of complexities to it. Much like this record. Warpaint is definitely a pop record, but it has so many different elements to it. While the vocals are very sweet-sounding, there are many dark aspects to it as well. Kind of like the mix of sweet pear and spicy Saaz in the Piercing Pils. A lot of fruit beers come off as kind of wimpy, and many people scoff at them. You know, kind of like how some people scoff at female musicians. Or sound engineers like myself. Okay, maybe that’s reaching a bit, but sometimes I have to throw a little hint of feminism in there. So just crack open a bottle of this badass, fruit-driven pilsner and put the needle down on this record from a group of badass women and enjoy the ride. “Love Is To Die” is below, but you can check out the whole record on NPR’s First Listen right now.

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Review: Rush “Clockwork Angels”/Dogfish Head Urkontinent

THE RECORD:

Rush- Clockwork Angels- 2012 Roadrunner Records

DISCLAIMER: So I’m a Rush fan. There are a lot of people who disagree with me, unfortunately. But I’m not going to use this post to defend my love of Geddy, Alex, and Neil. I’m just going to review their new record, Clockwork Angels. If you’re not into it, just skip ahead to the beer review this week.

Anyway. Clockwork Angels is the band’s first release since 2007’s Snakes And Arrows. I’ve always appreciated that sometimes Rush has taken a few years in between albums, while still remaining prolific. This latest release is their nineteenth full-length studio album. The band has stated in interviews that Clockwork Angels is a concept record about a journey. It’s sort of a broad concept, which unifies all the songs while still allowing room for them to stand up individually. That is another cool thing about this album. While it definitely has plenty of Rush’s lengthy, signature epics such as “Clockwork Angels” and “Headlong Flight”, it has shorter radio-friendly tracks as well. And regardless of length, all the songs have an interesting hook to them that grabs you and pulls you in.

First track “Caravan” may be familiar to some, as it was released in 2010 as a single. It’s a great way to kick off this record, especially following the theme of a journey. Hopping on a caravan with Rush sounds like the perfect road trip to me. “BUB2” was also released and featured in the setlists from the band’s 2010-2011 “Time Machine” tour.

“Seven Cities Of Gold” is another great track. It kicks off with this awesome, funky bassline that hangs on as a hook throughout the whole song. It’s also another song that more obviously ties in to the concept of a worldly journey with lyrics like “Seven Cities of Gold/Stories that fired my imagination/Seven Cities of Gold/A splendid mirage in this desolation”. Rush lyrics are always interesting- they can range from the totally ridiculous to the anthems that everyone can relate to. Their best albums have songs with both, and Clockwork Angels can certainly be counted among those ranks.

THE BREW:

Urkontinent Belgian-style Dubbel

Dogfish Head Brewer- Milton, DE

I stumbled upon Urkontinent while visiting the Dogfish Head brewery earlier this summer. They do list it as an “occasional rarity” released in limited batches, so don’t expect to find it at your local neighborhood liquor store on the regular. Urkontinent pours deep, rich and dark with a light milk-chocolatey head that fades quickly. Classified as a Belgian-style dubbel, Urkontinent takes ingredients from around the world. Wattleseed, toasted amaranth, rooibos tea, myrica gale, and honey. Each ingredient gives a different flavor. Lots of chocolate and hazelnut notes, which I would expect are from the wattleseed, as well as some floral and fruity flavors. However, this beer is not all sweetness- the finish is quite dry. There is so much going on with this beer, but all of the flavors are well balanced without anything being too overpowering. The 8% ABV gives it a little heaviness, but the depth of this beer needs that.

THE PAIRING:

I was finishing up some of this beer while watching the Rush documentary Beyond The Lighted Stage, which is a great film for anyone who likes Rush even a little. Dogfish Head calls this beer a “social collaboration of worldwide porportions”. What better beer to pair with a concept record about a world wide journey! The ingredients are a sampling of the continents- Australia (wattleseed), North and South America (California honey and amaranth), Africa (rooibos), and Europe (myrica gale). Are they traveling to these continents on Clockwork Angels? One can only guess, but if they needed a beer to drink on this journey, this would be a great one. Rush has always been a band that has not been afraid to experiment and go in different directions that might seem weird to some people.I find that Dogfish Head does this with a lot of their beers, and it’s especially found in Urkontinent. Their slogan is “Off Centered Beers For Off Centered People”. I’m pretty certain that most Rush fans are fairly off centered people, at least I know I am.

Bonus Food Pairing! I also had this beer as part of a beer dinner. We paired it with 5 spice “Carne Asada” over Brussels sprouts, Oriental sweet potatoes, and Maple brown ale reduction. DELICIOUS. This big beer held up to the steak and all the flavors of the food worked well with the different flavors of this beer.