Thursday, March 22, 2012

Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired - Joyce Manor (Review)

The first time everyone really got a chance to know the band, Joyce Manor, was last year when they released their debut self titled album. That album was praised by everyone. Aside from Reinventing Axl  Rose by Against Me!, this was one of the best debut full lengths in a VERY long time. It was at the top of all kinds of lists, it was given close to perfect reviews on everything, and it was just, overall, embraced by the punk community. It was fresh. It was a ten track album of straight forward punk rock with only a few songs breaking the two minute mark. With a debut like that, It is hard to keep things together and reach the expectations of the listeners. Considering how good that album was, I don't find it possible to reach those expectations. This one is no exception. It is not bad, it is just not what I had in mind.

As you start "These Kind Of Ice Skates", it sounds similar to the sound they have become known for since their previous album. That is all soon going to change. The second half of this song is where you realize how much they have experimented on this album. And I don't mean that in a bad way. It is still good stuff, it is just not what anyone expected (me at least).  The second half of this song is just really odd (in a good way, I guess).

"Comfortable Clothes" is one of the best tracks on the album. It sounds like their signature sound, in your face straight forward punk rock. This is one of the tracks which they had previously played live many times, which led us to believe that the whole album would be the same. That was not the case. There is only a few songs on here that have that kind of sound. Those ones being the best of the album.

After that comes "See How Tame I Can Be". This is another really different one. It is one that has an 80's type sound. It sounds like something I can imagine The Strokes releasing. "Joyce Manor releasing Strokes-esqu music, what?" Yea I know, that was my reaction. You really can't just imagine this. You have to hear it for yourself. For what it is, they pull it off pretty well, I must admit.

Next is "Drainage". It is a static filled lo fi acoustic song. It is pretty slow for a Joyce Manor track. It is also pretty dark and emotional. Especially when the piano comes in. Very weird track, but still okay.

"Video Killed The Radio Star" is a cover of the Buggles song of the same name. It sounds really weird, Joyce Manor covering an 80s new wave song, but it really sounds nothing like the original. They really made it their own. It has so much energy. It is actually a very good version of the song. If this was not a cover, it would probably be the overall highlight of the album.

"If I Needed You There" is another one of those classic Joyce-sounding songs. It is these songs that hold this album up and help it from completely tumbling over. This song is the fastest song on the album. It is one of those songs that make you feel like breaking something. Besides some minor production changes, I could easily imagine this being on the Self Titled LP.

Then comes "Bride Of Usher" which is another weird one coming from Joyce Manor. It sounds happier than their usual stuff. It sounds "beachy" for the lack of a better word. I guess what I am trying to say is that I could picture this being on Fake Problems' latest album Real Ghosts Caught On Tape. I am not so sure how I feel about this one. It is cool and all, but it is just not what I want to listen to when I hear a Joyce Manor record.

"Violent Inside" is another pretty good track. It is a tad too "pop-punky" for my liking, but it still is very good. It took me a few listens to appreciate it, but I eventually did. What this song is about is very relatable for me, also. It is about growing up as a punk kid and little things pissing you off that don't piss of normal people. That is something I deal with a lot. So that is another reason I really like this song,

The last song, "I'm Always Tired", is another acoustic track, except this sounds more like traditional Joyce Manor than "Drainage". It is a high tempo pop punk song with just an acoustic guitar. If this had electric guitars, drums, bass, and about 30 more seconds, this song would not be "odd" at all.

Maybe not what we expected, but it is still a pretty good album. I am heavily enjoying this album regardless of how it holds up against their previous album. Some of the weird songs throw you off a course a bit while listening, but you get over it quick. The first time listening, you will probably be confused (I sure was), but you get used to it after a few listens. One thing I loved about the first album was the length of the songs and the length of the album overall. It was all very short and very easy to listen to. This album takes that to the extreme, with only nine songs, making it only a thirteen minute album. I am all for short albums, but I am not so sure about this. It may be a little too short. Either way, it is still a fun album and I still look forward to what they do in the future.

Highlights : Comfortable Clothes, If I Needed You There, Violent Inside

Music : 8 (different, but still very good)
Lyrics : 7 (I actually like them a lot)
Artwork : 6 (Nothing special)

Overall : 7.5

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Women And Work - Lucero (Review)

I always used to believe that this band could do absolutely no wrong.  I was happy with every album released by this band. While some were disappointed and busy complaining over the brass section in 1372 Overton Park, I was enjoying it. I just love the chemistry of this band. It is all so new and unique. It is really rare to find a band like that. That raw edgy country, punk and rock n' roll made it hard for me not to like this band. Well...all those thoughts were stacked on a shelf with the release of this record.

"Downtown (Into)" gives you the first taste of disappointment from Lucero (or at least my first taste). Although it is only an intro, and it is only a minute long, it gives you a glimpse on what the rest of the album has in store for you. The first time you realize that Ben's voice is completely polished and loses the whole raw sloppy thing you began loving Lucero for...That is a painful feeling."

After that is "On My Way Downtown". It sounds similar to the first song. Except this is where you officially except that THIS is what the band has turned into, a good band that has resorted to the sound of mainstream country artists such as Toby Keith. It is a shame. It really is.

"Women & Work" adds more of a "boogie woogie" element to the album, but still has the core style of the first two songs. The piano seems a tad more present. And the brass section parts really seem to get under my skin. They seem really cheesy and predictable. This song is one of the low points on the album, partially because I really don't think this "boogie woogie" style is necessary. I personally think their sad songs are better and I miss those songs.

Next is "It May Be Too Late". I am not going to lie. This song is actually pretty catchy. I actually like it. The lyrics continue that corny type that this album seems to be full of, but its actually a pretty sad song musically. This one may be one of the bests on it. I get the chorus stuck in my head whenever I listen to it. That should be a sign of something.

And now comes "Juniper". This is the "Sixes and Sevens" of this album ("Sixes and Sevens was the bummer of the last album). It honestly sounds like a failed attempt to make a Lucinda Williams song. It is tremendously   awful. It is garbage. It carries the same Toby Keith and Keith Urban type sound. Which is not something I want to hear on a Lucero album!

"Who You Waiting On?" sounds like a full on pop song. Besides his southern accent, there is not many traces of any country music, and the punk rock element to their music is totally absent in this song. I can't figure out what they are going for in this song. It is really out of place. I don't understand the significance of this song at all.

"I Can't Stand To Leave You" is the next track. Now this song I can get behind. Their older music definitely holds a stronger influence in this song than the rest of the album. Besides Ben's voice (just like the rest of the album), and some production changes, this could of fit on some of their older albums perfectly. The whole song is a giant build. I personally think this should have opened the album. That would have gave a better first impression.

Next comes "When I Was Young". This song is the least memorably on the entire album. Not to say it is the worst, but just so easily forgotten. I actually legitimately forgot about this song after my first listen to the album. It brings nothing new to the album at all. From the start of the song, you expect something more to come out of it, but no. You are left waiting for something that isn't coming. And that really is how I felt for the whole album.

"Sometimes" is enjoyable compared to the low points on the album. It is nothing special, but on such a bland album like this, "ok songs" are required. This is one of those required songs. It is a tad boring and mellow, but that is SO much better than the lame attempts to "rock" on this album.

"Like Lightning" is another "rock" song, which, in my opinion, is just stupid this close to the end of the album, but this song would be bad regardless where it was placed. It is such a generic rock song. It starts with a little ragtime saloon style piano riff, which is actually pretty cool and refreshing. It sounds like something you would  hear in an Old West film. If the song stayed with that kind of style, I would actually like probably like it. The piano still plays throughout the entire song, but it is covered by an unneeded brass section and obnoxious guitar solos. Oh well.

"Go Easy" sounds like the song "Mom" from their previous album, except not as emotional of course. There are some back up soul singers in this song which add a new element to the music. I am not sure I heard these type of singers on a Lucero song before which is cool for a change, I guess. This is another song that makes you a tad disappointed though because you expect more to come out of it. It is not an awful song though. Still, it is not on par with other Lucero music.

Overall, I guess the key word is "disappointed". This is not that terrible of an album. It is just the fact that you expect more from a band with such potential. And it honestly makes me sad that it has reached a point where I am writing a bad review for their albums, but I have to. So many things factor into the disappointment. Number one being Ben's voice being over rehearsed and losing all of the passion it had originally. Others being over production, cheesy lyrics, and abandoning all sense of emotion. They seem to be taking the same path as Social Distortion with Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, except far worse than that album. The album artwork is also terrible. That being my first impression, I still didn't think the music would be this bad. I still have hope for the future of the band, but for now, I guess I will have to deal with what I have.

Highlights : It May Be Too Late, I Can't Stand To Leave You, Sometimes

Music : 6.5 (Not even close to any other Lucero album)
Lyrics : 6 (Very cheesy and corny)
Artwork : 3 (Absolutely dreadful and a very bad first impression)

Overall : 5.5

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On The Impossible Past - The Menzingers (Review)

The Menzingers have been creating quite the name for themselves recently. They are known for writing truthful and honest "in your face" punk rock tunes. They have been starting to get noticed with their previous effort, Chamberlain Waits, which topped all kinds of lists and such. This will be The Menzingers first release on "mega-indie" label, Epitaph Records. Anyone expecting this to drastically change the bands sound will soon be proved very wrong. They are the same great punk band no matter who they are working with. Hopefully this transition only means it will just be exposed to more people and help people understand the power of the band. Although you see a wider range of influences on this record, they still have that raw pop-punk feel that their fans have grown to love.

On The Impossible Past begins with "Good Things". It is a quick song about how good things usually don't last. You can hear the emotion in his voice very well throughout this song. The verse's muddy guitar and the massive sounding chorus definitely ensure that the listener will continue to listen. It certainly got me hooked and forced me to listen to the rest of the album.

"Burn After Writing" has some really really nice harmonies through the verses. The song almost falls into the Blink-182 territory with it's pop-punk melodies and guitar parts (except not with pretentiousness of Tom Delonge). The constant harmony is definitely the highlight of the song. Also, the chorus WILL be in your head for a while.

The next song is "The Obituaries". This is one of the highlights on the album, although it was very hard to pick highlights on such a constantly great album. The chorus is just so huge. Another chorus stuck in my head for a pretty long time. And the lyrics are also awesome and descriptive. This was one of the songs I had heard before I had heard the whole album, and it is one of the primary reasons I had to go back and listen to this album immediately after the choice was given to me.

Another song I heard a while before giving the whole album a listen is the song titled "Gates". This song is probably the slowest song on this entire record. That is not a bad thing, by the way. This song kicks just as much ass as the rest of the album, just in a different manner. It just sounds more like a 90's alternative song than a modern punk rock song though. This song may take a few listens to actually "get it". But as I was saying, I had heard this well before the whole album, so I had some time to get familiar with this song. Even so, It still feels fresh with every listen.

"Ava House" begins with only drums and vocals with, sort of, a chant vibe. That "chant" vibe continues through the majority of the song, mostly due to the drumming in the song. It is pretty cool. It manages to build pretty high throughout the song, though. The vocals in this song seem to feel very emotional and dark at times, especially in the choruses.

"Sun Hotel" has a very poppy and catchy melody, but the music is, honestly, just as punk as the rest of the album. This song relies heavily on the melody. This song also has some pretty strong lyrics. I thought the line "From the shame, the fear, the guilt that's tough to mention / The kind that always pry your eyelids open" was a quality lyric. Some of the melodies in this song, and especially the outro, have a poppy, almost Beach Boys vibe.

After that comes "Sculptors and Vandals". If this song stayed sounding like what the beginning of the song sounds like, It would probably be rated softer than "Gates". It starts off very slow and soft, but it doesn't stay like that very long. About a minute through the song it picks up to, ironically, probably the fastest portion of the album.

"Mexican Guitars"  is one of the best songs on the whole record lyrically. With lines like "I'm so sick of living in this ditch / with the only memory in the back of my head". It does an amazing job of painting an incredible picture in your head. And the picture is quite beautiful.

The next song, "On The Impossible Past", is the title track, but acts more like an interlude. It is very short and very emotional. They lyrics are very emotional, talking about regrets. It seems to talk about one regret in particular. It seems that it talks about a drunk driving incident he was involved with. It is one of the coolest songs on the album considering how much gets said in a minute in a half.

The previous song leads straight in "Nice Things" The transition between "On The Impossible Past" and this song could quite possibly the best part of the record.. I'm not sure if it was supposed to have a closely related title to the opening song, "Good Things", or not, but either way they don't share much in common that I can see. They are both very good songs though. This song has a certain drive to it that you don't hear very often in punk music. It is one of my personal favorite songs off of the album.

The next song is "Casey". This is another lyrically heavy song....very lyrically heavy. It is most likely the best lyrics on the album. This song creates such a detailed and descriptive illustration in your mind. It talks about a past relationship, which seems like a reoccurring theme on this album. The lyrics for this song are so perfect, it is hard to focus on anything else. 

"I Can't Seem To Tell" seems to have the same sort of kick as "Nice Things". You can almost see different influences such as The Pixies in this song, with the steady bass leading the verses. And the second verse's lyrics have some Pixie-esqu lines in it also. It is really the final drive of the album, with the next song being a slower, more epic type song. 

The final song is "Freedom Bridge". Although these lyrics are too deep for my understanding, it all seems to hit just as hard as the songs where I actually do know what is going on. The last verse seems to be talking about suicide of some sort, most likely containing a deeper meaning than "just suicide". My lack of depth aside, this is still a great song.

I will be honest and admit, this is the first release I have actually listened to by this band. Not because I had something against them, just because I didn't get around to it. But after this release, I promise you, I will order their entire back catalog and buy any future releases. This record was very nice. It is nothing revolutionary or really different, It is just fun. It is a whole album full of catchy pop punk songs that I crave way too often. I haven't heard an album released full of this youthful pop punk sound in way too long. You can only listen to Dookie so many times before a new breed of pop punk is necessary.

Highlights : The Obituaries, Mexican Guitars, Nice Things, Casey

Music : 8 (good simple new pop punk music...what we all needed!)
Lyrics : 8 (nostalgic themes about regrets and past times for the most part)
Artwork : 4 (The worst part of the album is easily the awful cover art)

Overall : 8

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Classics Of Love - Classics Of Love (Review)

All I must say is "how refreshing". I have gone way too long without hearing something new within this style. This album is something you haven't gotten a whiff of since the late 80s/early 90s. As a matter of fact, If I didn't know better, I would think this is an 80's hardcore record. This is Jesse Michaels', the brilliance behind the legendary Operation Ivy, newest project. It also includes various members of the California band, Hard Girls. It has such politically charged lyrics and fast hardcore punk tunes track after track. It is twenty-three minutes of minute and a half long tunes that are more socially aware than most of the music I hear being released today. You can't go wrong with that.

The rapid snare drum starting "What Of Shame" begins an album full of fast, shouty, hardcore punk tunes. And this song is no different. This song starts a thirteen track run of constant energy. This song seems to be about the different forms of corruption in modern life, and Michaels seems to summarize it very well.

"Castle In The Sky" is the first, out of very very few, ska songs on this record. And I must say, this sounds almost identical to some of Operation Ivy's music. This is not a bad thing. It is actually a blast from the past. It dabbed a smile immediately on my face. I forgot how much of a legend Michaels was until I spun this record for the first time.

The song "World Of The Known" returns to the hardcore punk aspect which the song "What A Shame" introduced to you, except this song takes it even further.It is faster, louder, and makes you want to fight even more! The song manages to state the complaints of a modern routine lifestyle perfectly in under two minutes...Well done, Michaels.

The next song, "Gun Show", is definitely one of the high-points on the album. It is a tad less heavy than some of the extremely heavy stuff, but it still has that same vibe that gets you pumped up. It has some very cool lines in it also. The best being "We stood at the very last edge of everything that had ever been said. Took a look at the people's archive. Nodded politely and chose the swan dive" This could actually be one of the best lines on the album because it does a great job showing his frustration.

"Stronghold" has another one of the best lines on the album. It explains "Life is a game where you see who can make the most money. Life is a game where you see who can get the most power.Who fucking cares?". That line pretty much sums up the whole song (it actually sums up the whole album pretty accurately). They're are a few awesome lines like that in this song. This is a very lyric heavy song.

"Moving Pictures" takes on more of old school hard rock style. Not my favorite track on the album, but it is still good. The lyrics hold up against the rest of the album, but it's just the fact that this song, for some reason, doesn't really seem like it fits in with the rest of the tracks. Still a pretty good song though.

"It Will Not Be Moved" successfully hops right back on track with the other hardcore songs.For a song with a duration only slightly over a minute, this song contains a lot of substance. This song carries the same descriptions as the previous hardcore songs on the album, which is a very good thing.

The next song is "Bandstand". It is the second and last ska song on the album. This song doesn't really sound like Operation Ivy as much as "Castle in The Sky" though. It sounds like a fresh new ska song. This expresses Michaels' dissatisfaction with the music industry in modern day. Which is so easily relate-able to me (and probably most people who are reading this). When I say that, you may be thinking "oh, another cliche band complaining about major labels", but it really doesn't come out like that at all. It strikes me as more a sophisticated look at the whole situation. When it's all said and done, "Kick The Bandstand Down!"

After that, comes "Would Be Kings". This is another song that carries over the same themes that run through the entire album. Mostly dealing with issues such as money,  power, and dissatisfaction with modern society. Overall, it is a pretty good song.

"Last Strike"'s main vocals are not sung by Michaels, which is the only song that way on the album. I am not positive, but it seems like each verse is sung by someone else in the band. If this is so, that is pretty cool.

"Light Rail" takes a more melodic approach to the style of this album. It has some nice lyrics packed within it. One that caught my attention immediately is "which came first, the animal or the zoo?". It is no brilliant line or anything, but it definitely makes you think, and that is what makes quality lyrics.

The next song is "Dissolve". It is the heaviest song on the album. I had heard this song prior to the album release, and absolutely loved it. Nothing has changed since then. This probably the best song on the record. I put on this track and I feel the need to instantly break something. Good punk rock songs can do that to you, I guess!

The last song is "We Need A Change". This song is a good way to sum up the album. It talks about continued topics such as corruption, the issues of corporations, and what seems as the longing for revolution. This song pretty much closes up the album by summarizing the issues addressed throughout the previous songs.

This may seem far fetched until you listen to the album, but I strongly believe that this is Jesse Michaels' strongest effort since Operation Ivy's Energy. He has made a lot of music since then, but nothing quite catches the energy (no pun intended) of this album. It, literally, sends you back to the old days of punk's beginning, which I did not have the satisfaction of living through. This album feels so perfectly jointed together with constant politically based two minute hardcore songs. For any fan of hardcore music, this album will be one of the best things to be released in a very long time!

Highlights : Gun Show, Bandstand, Dissolve

Music: 8 (Some of the best pure punk songs I've heard in a while)
Lyrics: 10 (politically charged heartfelt songs)
Artwork: 8 (most done by Michael's himself)

Overall : 8.5

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Knife Man - Andrew Jackson Jihad (Review)

There are certain albums that perfectly define certain genres. Against Me!'s "Reinventing Axl Rose", Frank Turner's "Love Ire & Song", and Andrew Jackson Jihad's "People Who Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World" are some of them that define folk-punk. With an album like that, it is hard to keep listeners happy with the releases to come after that. Andrew Jackson Jihad is one of the few who manages to blow away expectations even after their previous albums (which were all masterpieces).

The first song is "The Michael Jordan of Drunk Driving". It is a short little number. The first line of the song (and of the album) is "The Michael Jordan of drunk driving lost his final game tonight". I personally think opening up an album with a line like that is pretty brave. It is the type of lyric you don't see to often unless from Andrew Jackson Jihad.

The album gets kicked into high gear with "Gift of the Magi 2: Return of the Magi". This song adds a drum set and electric guitars that weren't in "The Michael Jordan of Drunk Driving". It is a much faster and heavier song than the opener, which throughout the album, there are plenty of heavier / faster songs than Andrew Jackson Jihad fans are used too. Regardless of "what they were / what they are" arguements, these fast tunes are great.

"American Tune" is one of the most witty, yet shockingly honest, song on the album. It is about the many advantages a white, straight, male has in america. The first verse explains the advantages of being white, and the second verse explains the advantages of being a straight male. All the way through the song, they are followed by a kazoo that pretty much takes over the song.

The next song, "Back Pack", is one of the scariest, most brutal, song I have ever heard. It explains a very dark death in very fine detail. And it deeply explains how lifeless the victim felt, explaining "your body felt just like a backpack / t-shirt". Which is actually a horrifying line. The song is almost so graphic, it is hard to listen to at time, but melody and guitar riff is so haunting, it will surely keep you listening. The stuff it says in this song are usually left off of most songs by anyone else because they don't have the balls that Andrew Jackson Jihad has. But Andrew Jackson Jihad prooves they can do whatever the hell they want to do in this song.

"Distance" returns to some more of the fast more traditional punk musicianship as "Gift of the Magi 2: Return of the Magi". This, in my opinion, is a better developed song though. They seem more confident with the electric guitars and such in this song. This song documents a break up in length. It has a pretty funny line it that sings "I hate whiney fuckin' songs like this / but I can't afford a therapist / sorry guys, here's a solo" which then continues into a guitar solo.

"Fucc The Devil" goes back to the slower tunes, which confirms the fact that this album almost has a steady pattern of "slow song, fast song, slow song, fast song.....". This song has some cool back up vocals (i think...?) with a cool little affect on them. Nice littly song, a tad too short though.

"Hate, Rain on Me" is another fast tune (shocker). This song has constant lead electric guitar throughout almost the enitire song, which is not usual for Andrew Jackson Jihad songs. This song sounds more "punk rocky" than the usual Andrew Jackson Jihad song. You see more of these "punk rocky" songs a bit later in the album.

"If You Have Love in Your Heart" is another very short song. This is a very nice song though that fits a lot into the minute and a half it has. I personally see this song as an intermission, almost like this is where the second half of the album begins (or where the first half ends).

"No One" is a song VERY unlike the standard Andrew Jackson Jihad song. It has a very bluesy sound to it that you would never expect from a band like them. It is a sad song. It is a song about being no one in the world, and having no one to be a no one with. There is a nice little guitar solo about half way through the song too. This song seems to drag a little bit too long towards the end, but it is cool to hear these guys expirement a little bit.

"Sad Songs (Intermission)" seems like it came straight from a cowboy movie. It sounds real old school. The only thing that sounds like Andrew Jackson Jihad is the voice, thats all. The song is very refreshing. You don't usually hear this amount of expirementing in a punk rock record. The piano is the base of this song, and it works absolutly perfectly.

"Zombie By The Cranberries By Andrew Jackson Jihad" sounds like it came straight from "People Who Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World". It is the same instrumentation as that album. It is stripped down to the basic acoustic instrumentation. It is a very good song with borrowed lines from the song "When The Saints Go Marching In".

"People II 2: Still Peoplin'" is probably the best thing, lyrically, they have ever written. This is one of the most quotable songs I have ever heard. There is too many awesome lines to quote right here in this review, but I'll share what I think is one of the greatest lyrics of all time. "You can hope it gets better, you can follow your dreams. But hope is for presidents, and dreams are for people who are sleeping". I think that is one of the greatest lines ever. There is much more in the song also that are worth listening for. This song is a sequel of a sequel, but not a sequel to the original, confusing concept, eh?

Here is another one of those punk songs I was talking about earlier. It is called "Sorry Bro". This is most likely the "punkest" song they have ever recorded (I hate to use the term "punkest", but I mean traditional punk rock by that). It is just barely short of two minutes and just has electric guitar, bass, and fast drum.

The next song, "Skate Park", is similar in terms of the fast drums and electric guitars, but is a lot better, in my honest opinion. This song is very fast. The opening guitar riff to this song is very catchy. And one line of this song got caught in my head for a few days. It goes "stick stick stick to your guns / don't quit until you feel like changing them"

"Free Bird" starts off and ends with just the sound of nature (rain, birds ect.), and these sounds continue behind the music for the entire song. This is a very good song. It is very poetic, and the backround sounds add to the poetic aspect. There is also a constant mandolin (I think) playing through out the whole song which is very cool to listen too.

The last song is "Big Bird" This is most likely one of the greatest song Andrew Jackson Jihad has ever written. It just starts with Sean's vocals and continued nature noises for about forty-five seconds. This song seems pretty depressing. There is some really cool back up vocals going on in the verses which are credited as "Knife Man Singers". I am not too sure why they credited them as that, but regardless, this song is spectacular. The perfect way to close a nearly perfect album.

Although  "People Who Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World" is one of the definitive folk-punk records of all time, this album prooves to be a lot more than just a folk-punk record. If I had to put a label on it, sure, it would be folk-punk, but this is so much more than that. This album sees them expirementing with so many different styles and different instruments. This record just has so much going on it that it will be fun to listen to every time. This could very well be as good, possibly better than, "People Who Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World".

Highlights : American Tune, Back Pack, People II 2: Still Peoplin', Big Bird

Music : 8. (No complaints)
Lyrics : 9.5 (witty, clever, perfection)
Artwork :8 (varied dark and bright, just like the music)

Overall : 9

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Neighborhoods - Blink-182 (Review)

I am not a huge Blink-182 fan in the first place, but I always enjoyed a good selection of their music. Although the dick and fart jokes can get a little old, their music has always been fun. That changed on the previous album, Self titled. That album took more of an emo, more serious approach to their music. After that album, they went on a hiatus, and each did side projects. Tom Delonge did Angels and Airwaves, and Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker did +44. Neighborhoods sounds like it could be another Angels and Airwaves album. Considering this is Blink-182's come back album, everyone is habitually going to love it, But for me, it is all of the little things added to this album that drag it down. And they drag it down a tad to far to enjoy the record.

It opens with "Ghost on the Dance Floor".  This a reasonable choice for the opener, besides one embarrasing flaw. The verse melody is identical to the melody of Blink side project, Boxcar Racer's "There is". I think someone probably should've reminded Tom that he is already written this song a few years back, but anyways. It is nothing more or less than a catchy pop song. I guess it is what you would expect from them. Another big thing about this song that I hate (which is one of my biggest problems throughout the whole album) is all the spacey sci-fi sounds in the backround.

Next is "Natives". At first this song sounds just like any other Blink-182 track. The guitar riff is pretty cool. But then when the song actually kicks in, those background effects come in and screw everything up. The chorus gets rid of them though, and carries on a more traditional blink-sounding production. The chorus is one of the strongpoints on the album, but the verses drag it down to much to listen to often.

"Up All Night" was the first single to be released from the album. It is probably the worst track on the standard album. The spacey noises are most noticable in this song. The melody is totally blink-esqu, but it is so over powered by shitty production methods and sci-fi sounds. When this single was released, although hearing Mark and Tom dueting was refreshing, I was still dissapointed. I know for a fact that there is better choices for singles on this record. When people say, "you are obviously wrong because it is number one on the charts" and all that, Yea. Obviously. It is Blink-182's first track in five years. No matter what the quality of the song is, it will be number one. I promise you this.

"After Midnight" is the second single released, I believe. This is a better choice than "Up All Night" in my opinion. Although this continues throughout the whole album, the autotune on Tom's voice is most relevant here. It is embarrasingly hidden. The vocal effects on this song are way to noticable in this song. That is pretty much all I can notice when I hear this song.

After that comes "Heart's All Gone". All of those effects and noises are pretty much gone in this song. This is definitly the song that is most similar to their older albums. It is probably the fastest song on the album, and it is just a straigh-forward pop/punk song. That is exactly what I want from a band like Blink. I don't want any pretentious bullshit like "Snake Charmer" or Angels and Airwaves. The lyrics are handled pretty well in this song also.

"Wishing Well" is another highlight. The drum fills before each pre-chorus is tremendously awful, but that doesn't drag it down too far. This is another straight-forward three minute pop song. This is exactly what I hoped the whole album would sound like (besides that shit excuse for a drum fill). Although those noises are still here, the youthful poppy-ness of this song over powers the flaws in this song.

"Kaleidoscope" is easily the least memorable song on the album. Every time the song ends, I forget how it went (I am not exaggerating). That is not saying it is the worst on the album though, I am just saying that it has nothing worth remembering. Tom's autotune is also painful in this song. It may be as noticible as "After Midnight". The structure to this song also seems like it has no rhyme or reason. I really don't understand it yet.

Next is "This Is Home". This is another song that would sound like Take Off Your Pants and Jacket if it weren't for the synth. The melodies and guitar riffs are extremely similar to their older music. The lead guitar riff in the intro and verses reminds me a lot of their other music. In some places in the song, there is some weird things going on with Tom's voice. I'm not sure if it is an editing problem or it is intentional. If it is intentional, than that is a dumb move by them. Either way, this song is okay.

"MH 4.18.2011" is an okay track. It seems extremely misplaced though. It does not fit on this album what so ever. It takes more of a rock vibe, rather than a pop vibe like the rest of the album. Regardless, it is a pretty cool song. It is pretty distracting though, how this breaks the flow of this album. This really doesn't even seem like a Blink-182 track, let alone a Neighborhoods track.

The closure is "Love Is Dangerous". This, again, is saturated with awful production. The synths are present throughout the whole song. The vocals are pretty bad in this song too. I really hate it how Tom over pronounces certain random syllables in words. Every time he says "dangerous", he over pronounces the last syllable. Not the worst song on the album, but certainly not the best.

Maybe if the album wasn't compressed to all hell, and maybe if the album had more to offer than just synthy sci-fi noises, than I would like it. The songs themselves are not bad, just how they went about handeling them is terrible. Also, maybe if "Even If She Falls" was included on the album I would like it. It is the best song by far and it is left for the deluxe version. The autotune is pretty embarrasing on this album. And Travis's drumming isn't really anything special on the album either. Regardless of quality, people will over listen to this song for the next year just because it is Blink's comeback album, but in all honesty....It isn't good.

Highlights : Heart's All Gone, This is Home, (Even If She Falls)

Music : 4 (Only a few songs actually sound like the band)
Lyrics : 5 (Blink is not a "lyrics band" anyways)
Artwork : 1 (That front cover is a joke)

Overall : 3.5

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's Great To Be Alive - Fake Problems (Review)

Earlier this summer, I wrote a review of their latest album, Real Ghosts Caught On Tape. I refered to their creativity and how expiremental they are. Out of all their albums, this contains the most of that. Every song sounds nothing like the last one. That is what I want. That is exactly why Real Ghosts Caught On Tape was a tad dissapointing. If I were to put a label on this album, I think I would call it expiremental folk-punk. It just has so many different elements in it, it is hard to call it anything but fantastic. It is easily my favorite Fake Problems album to date.

The first song is a nice little song called "1234". It is short, sweet, and overall a very nice listen. For a minute long song, it manages to get quite epic at many times. To show everyone that they are not just an average folk-punk band anymore, they decided to add a whole brass section to the first track. Very cool. This song leads straight into the next flawlessly.

"Dream Team" was released as a single and had a video made for it. Good choice making this a single out of any of the rest of these songs. It is the most radio-friendly and catchy song on the album. It is the easiest to digest. To put it in more simple terms, It is the least weird on the album. It is still good, but not as unique as the rest of the album. The video consists of them playing at a house party, and the fun the band is having really reflects on the song.

After that comes "You're a Serpent, You're a She-Snake". This song really contains the expiremental aspect I was talking about. The fuzzy bass is charmingly overwealming, and the synth is the base of the song. It sounds like Pop music, New Wave, and Punk all had one amazing baby. The guitars are distorted to all hell, to the point where you can barely hear what they are playing (which is awesome in my honest opinion). The last segment of the song is EXTREMELY epic, it is ashame that part is so short though. Still, another refreshing song.

"Don't Worry Baby" is contains more folk elements, while maintaining the expiremental feel. It is a very dark song. This song also has the brass section in it, except it feels MUCH different from "1234". It is used in a much darker way. Although the electric guitars are still present, you can also hear the acoustic, which adds to its folky-ness. In the bridge it almost seems like a chant consisting of  "La La La"s and a lot of gang vocals. Towards the end, there is a little 30 second segment that really isn't part of the actual song. It is a total mood change from sinister to happy. It is very cool though.

"The Heaven & Hell Cotillion" is probably the song I have the most plays on on this record. It is a very fun folk song. It is under two minutes long, but in that time, it will surely make you smile. From the entrance of the banjo, to the yodeling breakdown, this is a really happy song about religious confusion. Chris Farren's witty lyrics add to the upbeat feel to this song.

The next song is "Level With The Devil". This song has a lot of cool tempo changes and mood changes. It is good, but doesn't really stand out. Their is some cool mandolin riffs involved and some weird little melodies, but it just feels a tad to long. In my opinion, the song could end half way through and be much better. It begins to drag towards the end. My advice to the band would have been to somehow split it into two parts, so you could still includ the second half. Either way, this isn't an awful song, it is actually pretty neat.

After that is "Diamond Rings". This is another really dark song. The inclusion of the flute was genius in my opinion. I also really dig the falsetto back up vocals in the chorus. The video for this song captures the mood of the song brilliantly. The third verse and third chorus are where my love for this song truely stands. It just feels so full when you get to that point.

"Tabernacle Song" is a slow song. The base of the song is an acoustic guitar. It is another song with the flute. It also has some piano which really sounds nice. Farren's lyrics really stand out on this song. And the short breakdown feels ten times more emotional than the rest of the song. All around a good poppy folk song.

That song leads straight into "Alligator Assassinator". I can't exactly get behind the meaning of this song. The music is cool though. It sounds like rockabilly music kind of. Or maybe just straight-up rock and roll. The song doesn't stand out though. It almost feels like filler.

"There are Times" is a lead guitar driven song. It is really good. It kind of loses the folk genre and kind of replaces it with Indie music. This song sounds like an indie song. The lead guitar is really catchy. I remember reading somewhere that this is lead singer, Chris Farren's, favorite song he has ever written. I wouldn't blame him. This song get really epic at times. The brass section is back and that adds to the song a lot.

"Cold On The Soul" is the slowest and softest song on the album. It is a really nice track. It shows that Chris Farren doesn't just write witty humerous songs, but also serious poetry. There is no percussion in the song at all. It is all based around an acoustic guitar, a banjo, and a quiet synth in the back. It is about lonliness and has a certain vibe that you really don't hear much anymore.

The closure of the album is "Heart BPM". This is one of Fake Problems best song. It reaches triumphant heights. The lyrics are outstanding. It has a very nostalgic atmosphere. It is one of those songs that make you think about everything from past to future. The inclusion of so many instruments I will not bother to even list adds to this. The song ends with the same drum beat that started the album, which I found really cool. Everything about this song is perfection in my honest opinion. You can't put my love for this song into words, so I will not try!

It seems that this album is just one big party. There is so much gang vocals everywhere, and there are different people playing all different kinds of instruments. I really think this album deserves to be known more than it is. Chris Farren's ability to go from comical to emotional is fantastic, and his ability to blend the two is even more impressive. Unlike Real Ghost Caught On Tape, which relied on lead guitar, this album relies on EVERYTHING. By everything, I mean it literally. It is really nice to hear them blend so many different genres together. You may have noticed I have used the word "epic" over a dozen times. But in my opinion, there is no other adjective that describes this album. That is personally what I like in music.

Highlights : The Heaven & Hell Cotillion, Cold On The Soul, Heart BPM

Music : 9 (Every song sounds unique and fresh)
Lyrics : 7 (Witty and humerous, yet serious)
Artwork : 6 (Front cover is the only artwork in it)

Overall : 8.5

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