Album Reviews


Anna Burch

Quit the Curse – February 2, 2018

Review by: Wade Panizzoli

Local indie-rock artist and Michigan native, Anna Burch decided to start her solo career after departing from her old band, Frontier Ruckus. She ended up making one of the best records that will be released in 2018. “Quit the Curse” was highly recommended to me by a few friends and listening to it was one of the best I have made in a long time. “2 Cool 2 Care,” the first track, opens with a distinctive guitar riff that will automatically be coded in your brain. Very noticeable and confirmed by Anna Burch, the video for this song was shot in both parts of Detroit and Waterford. The first few tracks on this record have the more rocking vibe including “2 Cool 2 Care,” “Tea-Soaked Letter” and “Asking 4 a Friend.” The next couple tracks have a more ballad style in “Quit the Curse” and especially “Belle Isle.” “Belle Isle” was written as a love song, so with the addition of the ballad style, the nail hits the head on this track. This album includes a track for every feeling a listener may have. The vibes are all there from happy, dark, love, sad, and everything in between. “What I Want” is a crowd pleaser based on personal experience. As soon as the walking guitar and bassline lead up to the chorus it’s almost impossible not to turn to your friends and sing “I won’t play the victim, just because I can’t get what I want.” The record comes to an end with “With You Every Day.” Some may find it corny to end the record with a track that has a repetitive faded outro, but this is, in fact, the perfect way to end this record. Of course, the last song has to be a love song as well. The listener may feel ripped off that they’re only getting nine tracks on a full-length LP, but the tracks are so strong that the record left no room for complaints. Even though this record was released in February, it will be an album you’ll still want to be listening in the summertime with your car windows rolled all the way down and the wind blowing your hair all around. I’m confident in saying that this record will make my album of the year list way in December. I owe a big thanks to my friends Mat and Luke who introduced me to this record and I’m in high hopes that Detroit will see Anna Burch on the Mopop lineup for the summer of 2018.


Album Review: Polygondwanaland – King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

November 17, 2017

By: Bailey Ernst

If Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd had a music-infused love child, the Australian born band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard (KGLW) would be stumbling on pitter-pattering feet across the questionably progressive rock universe. Spewing music that could easily be the soundtrack to a 1970s hippie controversial film, KGLW have released multiple albums enlisting the help of a multitude of instruments and vocal ranges in 2017. Their newest album “Polygondwanaland,” explores the outlandish and fervent macrocosm of rock and roll while stringing along the notions of scandalous jazz and licks of heavy metal.

Every aspect of this album scrapes off a stop-motion picture, multi-universe adventure vibe. We start our adventure in the tunnels of, “Crumbling Castle,” bringing to light the Claymation protagonist inching his way into the depths of a world unknown. The hushed voices and electric guitar bothered by the bass trembling in 5/8 and 7/4 time introduce the world as a psychedelic post-apocalyptic timepiece. The castle has been destroyed and war stained, and it’s up to the protagonist to save cities disfigured and to explore its abyss.

“Water’s rising up, thick and green … / Are we safe in our citadel?”

The desert plain is revealed after hours of carrying the weight of distant refuge, wind blowing the protagonist’s long locks in, “Polygondwanaland.” Flutists and fiddlers dance and cry with their tambourines as the drought of the desert cause black and white infused hallucinations to form and take over the brain, splicing irises and exploding neurons. Moving chaotically into, “The Castle In The Air,” a woman’s voice whispers a semiotic chime (“The river opened her mouth and spat into a vast sea larger and bluer than a cloudless sky…”), empowering the protagonist to keep moving his soggy clay feet to the time signature changes baring similar beats to the chasm band, Tool. As if perfectly planted, we come across the next song, “Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet.”

“Feel euphoric … / Prehistoric … / Living fossil …”

As the tempestuous sea becomes closer, unknown demons fight lavishly and attempt to grasp the protagonist’s mind, making, “Inner Cell,” call forth an internal battle, sickening bullets thrown at him in invisible haste. Constant pressure and negative thoughts (“Dance of the dead will descend / on his head”); every line cut short with staccato and declared in such a profoundly immoral timbre. The struggle transcends into, “Loyalty,” giving a brighter and blinding light to the adventure, increasing confidence and wit. The protagonist has won the internal battle. The diabolical sea waits.

“I will fight inquisition … / I will not surrender if I’m backed into a corner.”

Strangling the beast of the sea is a hard feat, its dragon scales twisting into mist when pricked and touched. “Horology,” and “Tetrachromacy,” both adhere to the temptations of the beast and the crusty crusade…temptations to give up and negate life; become an unknown amongst the defeated.

Growing temptations.

“Beast too strong. Sea too powerful. The protagonist is lost.”

“I heard a story, could be true / About a colour under blue. You couldn’t see it with your eyes / Or invent with intellect”

But, with one last glimmer of shimmering hope, we’re greeted with, “Searching…,” the song to bring him back to life and yield the beastly temptations of giving in. Imagine the protagonist gasping for his last breath, seeing the absence of color in any light, top of the sea miles away from his fingertips. He hears the clamoring of bongos and claps in sync with mild strums of acoustic strings that grasp and collapse into his clay wrists toward the surface.

“I am omnipresent for thee … / I walk the streets holy.”

The world is at ease for three seconds, froth in the sea, before the last song. “The Fourth Colour,” emerges into the sound-waves. Battle and blood between the beast and protagonist. Overzealous beats of burden enrage. And


D’Angelo and The Vanguard

Black Messiah

By: William Georges


Michael Eugene Archer, who goes by D’Angelo onstage, or R&B Jesus as dubbed by Christgau, has released his first album since Y2K, Black Messiah. The savior of modern R&B, his first two albums, Black Sugar, and the more upheld 2000 album Voodoo, combined the samurai sampling of Wu-Tang (thank you J-Dilla), the spirituality of Aretha Franklin, the seductiveness of Al Green, and the brute power of Prince, whisking them into a bowl of southern innovation. black messiah small

Black Messiah, or any of D’angelo’s releases, are unique in that they do not simply showcase a voice that could melt even the most stalwart metalhead. Every second of Black Messiah is a reminder that D’Angelo still isn’t finished expanding R&B. Tracks like “Ain’t That Easy” and “1000 Deaths” harmonize arousal and spirituality behind sensual electricity, muted bass plucks and choir with some of the oddest time signatures this side of the Mississippi.

Nowhere in this album does D’Angelo put all his eggs in one basket—i.e“Sugah Daddy”; a juicy five minute R&B[anger] featuring choir falsettos, riding up and down sassy trumpet scales alters an already dynamic atmosphere. Additionally, D’Angelo proves that letting a simple hip/hop rhythm carry melodies like “Back to the Future (Part I)” isn’t necessarily succumbing to familiarity or reaching for ‘experimental minimalism’.

..But wait there’s more. For what would the king be without capturing the painful clapping and whistling Mississippi Delta blues? “The Door” paints D’Angelo as a prophet of drunken southern blues, reclined on train tracks howling as the city’s outliers clap in unison to his anthems of pain and regret.

Though probably not intended, D’Angelo’s Black Messiah feels like a memento of the 2000’s. With odd sampling reminiscent of Madlib’s “The Unseen”, the shrills and simplicity of Gnarls Barkley, the ambition of Andre 3000, and the sheer gravity of Jack White’s Mississippi Delta Blues reincarnation, D’Angelo comes back strong in 2014.


Start with: “1000 Deaths” “Sugah Daddy” “The Door”

Similar: Frank Ocean, Gnarles Barkley, Outkast


King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

I’m In Your Mind Fuzz

By: William Georges


King Lizard and the Gizzar…errr Wizard and The Lizard’s Gizard? KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD! This psychedelic rock outfit hails from Victoria, Australia. This band, whose name sounds like a strain of some bad drug, is relatively new to most people’s ears despite having a 5 album discography. Two of these five albums were released in 2014, the latter being I’m In Your Mind Fuzz. king gizzard cover

The album starts out with three songs that display incredible continuity (“I’m In Your Mind,” “I’m Not In Your Mind,” “Cellophane”). If you didn’t pay attention to the track list, you probably wouldn’t think the songs changed to the next. The first track opens up with fast-paced snare drumming backed by a forward guitar melody and a fast-paced, bouncy bass guitar. Towards the end of the opening track these eerie warped, noises that sound like they were taken from an old episode of Scooby Doo accompany the extremely lush sound of a harmonica. Not only do these tracks achieve beautiful continuity, extremely rich instrumental composition and a driving force of forward paced rhythm, they are seasoned with the lead singer’s drug addled vocals, whose voice bubbles just above the surface of coherency for the audience.

The album breaks its momentum on the track “Empty”, with its hypnotic and looped instrumental, sounding like a mashup of crunchy low-fi guitar, flute, and organ. When you think you’ve been surprised enough by not only the creativity of the instruments and licks, the flute-led song “Hot Water” ushers in a soothing landscape with the lead singer injecting his voice into whispers all over the track.

Finishing up the album are the tracks “Satan Speeds Up” and “Her & I (Slow Jam II).” By its title you might think “Satan Speeds Up” is a sign that the band might be taking itself a tad serious, thankfully KG&TLW fools you. Though the melody on this song hits its darkest and bluesy-ist and the lyrics existential “Every life is like a song that takes forever to be sung” and accusing Satan of spreading slander to loved ones behind his back, the content feels inherently good-willed through conveying the genuine aimlessness and sorrow of a young adult. “Her & I (Slow Jam II)” closes the album with a creamy Latin Jazz sound with spurts of dwindling, spiraling noises that rain down on the track over lyrics like, “Her will will shine, from up above/ fill her heart with a lot of love, so the sun can shine a little brighter on her and I.”

Much of this album can be easily overlooked the first few times through with its distracting and awesome composition of instruments that flood the entirety of the work. What makes this album shine a little brighter are the smaller details that come along with multiple listens

With some of the boldest and most invigorating sounds psychedelic rock has heard since Merriweather Post Pavillion, I’m In Your Mind Fuzz stands triumphantly among sitting peers.


Start with: “Cellophane”, “Hot Water”, “Her & I (Slow Jam II)”

Similar artists: Animal Collective, Tame Impala, Foxygen



La Isla Bonita

By: William Georges


Imagine winning the lottery every year since you were born. Now imagine you won this lottery from the purchase of one ticket, which was flown across seas by a bunch of foreigners to be hand delivered to your front door. This is the perfect storm of one musical group from SoCal,Deerhoof. Pessimism sucks, but it is to be asked, when speaking of Deerhoof: How much growth and innovation can come out of a 20 year old band headed by a Japanese girl limited to broken English? Sky’s the limit. deerhoof pic

This album marks the 20th year anniversary of 3 man + 1 woman rock outfit Deerhoof. The members cited the albums direction towards Radiohead, Talking Heads, The Roots, and The Flaming Lips etc. And they do just that, Bonita at its peaks is a dark stormy calamity, transitioned to a sunny sky, tucked behind big bouncy green Nintendo 64 mountains. With its most accessible, fun sounds yet, Bonita manages to come off artsy edgy and funky.

There are times on this album where Deerhoof mix hooks and inaudible slurred vocals to create feeling, evident on the track “Doom”.  “Exit Only”, a track smothered in lo-fi crunchy guitar where Satomi grins “Welcome to speech yo’ freedom!”, resulted as a twist on Deerhoof’s own inventive cover of The Ramones song “Pinhead”. Reinventing its own cover, a prime example of Deerhoof literally reinventing itself successfully over and over and over and over (times 20). The song “Oh Bummer”, 4 minutes in length, throws a variety of fun, scary and gloomy at you with its progressions from lighter instrumental to thicker, and heavier sounds backed by a shrilling Matsuzaki.

On an album like Bonita, where every moment feels necessary and innovative, the more songs, the merrier. Unfortunately with only 10 tracks, Deerhoof leaves you wanting more. However, the brief in-and-out fashion of this album is refreshing and intimate while you are in its company.

In 2014, Deerhoof continues to deliver, going as far as stepping down from its wacky stoop to please crowds.

Rating: 4.2/5


Run The Jewels

Run The Jewels 2 (Fool’s Gold Records)

By: William Georges


DAMN SON! Back together for the second year are MCs El-P and Killer Mike under the critically acclaimed hip/hop duo, Run The Jewels. El-P is a New York boom bap underground rapper, known especially during the early 2000 underground hip/hop scene for his legendary records like Funcrusher Plus and Fantastic Damage. His partner, Killer Mike, introduced to many on Outkast’s seminal 2000 album Stankonia on the track “Snappin and Trappin’”, brings his southern-fried flow and political consciousness to this new album, Run The Jewels 2.

run the jewels

Run The Jewels 2

What isn’t there to say about Run The Jewels 2? As soon as you hit the play button you are bombarded with Killer Mike’s dialogue “IM FINNA BANG THIS BITCH THE FUCK OUT!” And the opening beat — so evil, looming as Killer Mike’s lyrics ride the shadows casted by the rhythm. Mike’s confidently slow flow takes the track to utmost levels of confidence.  El-P finishes the track in brutal defiance of morality. “Oh My Darling” bangs your ear drums with sludgy bass and its chilling looping chorus, “OH My! DARLING DA-DA-DARLING, DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-D-DARLING”.  “Blockbuster Part 1” keeps the intensity running at full speed with its fast paced doom metal backed bass patterns, with lyrics referring to the corruption of the American elite, reflecting continuity in Run The Jewel’s ‘anti-corruption’ idiosyncrasy.

The middle parts of the album keep you trapped in this hellish nightmare, continuing the pattern of gritty, mind-blowing production and lyrical content.  “Early ft. Boots” and “All My Life” are songs whose choruses are chilling samples. The vocal tone of the looped chorus sounds admittedly guilty to the atrocities Killer Mike and El-P rap about.

And here you are, almost through this album—tortured, sexually abused, you’re a joke, the Government wants your neck, and Satan is getting really annoyed that you haven’t arrived yet. Then comes “All Due Respect” with its guerilla army, coup-de-tat sounding snare, echoing like it was recorded in an old dirty warehouse filled with an illegal weapons cache. It is El-P’s way or the highway; your mom loathes you and your dad left you. If you thought that was bad, Killer Mike is selling drugs to your sex addict family too!

Run the Jewels continues to raise the bar of disturbing, horror type hip hop with Run The Jewels 2. With some of the most well produced tracks of the year, RTJ 2 is a good’n.

Rating: 4.6/5, y’all.


Thurston Moore

The Best Day (Matador Records)

By: Andrew Grieve


Since Sonic Youth went on hiatus in 2011, Thurston Moore has kept himself busy collaborating with Yoko Ono and John Zorn, as well as moonlighting in black metal supergroup Twilight and his own side-band, Chelsea Light Moving, which released their self-titled debut last year. Thurston-Moore-The-Best-Day

Despite Sonic Youth’s rather heady discography, Moore has remarkably only released four solo albums in nearly four decades of musical activity. His first two;Psychic Hearts and Trees Outside the Academywere more along the lines of Sonic Youth, noisy, yet catchy and melodic, not too outside-the-box as his collaborations typically go. His last, 2011’s Beck-produced Demolished Thoughts, was much more subdued and melancholy, with Moore trading in the atypical noise for a more organic, acoustic folk sound.

Moore’s latest solo release for Matador Records, however, The Best Day, is not far from the last Sonic Youth albums that were released in the 2000s or his earlier solo work. Backed by familiar faces such as SY drummer Steve Shelley on Drums and My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe, Moore manages to return to a solo album that mirrors much of his previous work.

If you’re already acquainted with Sonic Youth, The Best Day will seem like familiar territory, for first-time listeners, the beginning may be a bit of a slog to get through, with the first two tracks clocking in at 20 minutes alone, with the rest of the album being far shorter than the beginning.

The album begins with “Speak to the Wild”, an eight-minute melodic jam that sets the tone and mood for the album itself, beginning with a verse/chorus structure, fraying into a psychedelic jam and then closing with a final verse, similar in nature to tracks off of Trees Outside the Academy.

The lead single “Detonation” is a great, speedy attack from Moore and his solo band; close to the music he made while heading Chelsea Light Moving over the last two years. Follow-up “Vocabularies” takes a darker turn, taking a mostly acoustic approach.

Closing tracks “Grace Lake” and “Germs Burn” would fit in great next to Thurston’s originals on the last Sonic Youth full-length, sprawling, psychedelic tracks that manage to get out of control and fall apart right to the point where he and his band manage to spin right back into control.

While one could say Moore very rarely thinks outside of his comfort zone when it comes to original solo work or his time in Sonic Youth, it’s clear that he has refined a sound that only he can make. There will be numerous Sonic Youth copycats, as there has always been in alternative rock; but only one Sonic Youth. Only one person can make that dissonant yet melodic guitar tone, and it’s Thurston Moore. Like other alt-rock luminaries, such as J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. fame, he has found his ground and continues to move forward in a controlled fashion, not too crazy, but just enough to where it sounds like Thurston.

That being said, The Best Day is a great follow-up for fans of Sonic Youth and Moore in general – but as for first-time listeners, this writer would most likely point to a SY album such as Dirtyor Rather Ripped if you have an aversion to wordless psychedelic jams.
If you don’t, however, you’re in for a noisy treat.

Key tracks: “Detonation”, “Speak to the Wild”, “Germs Burn”
Listen if you like: Sonic Youth and associated projects, Slint, Television, J Mascis



Everything Will Be Alright In The End

By: Kevin Hawthorne (@KevinHawthorne3)


“It’s not as good as Blue or Pinkerton!”

Weezer has had this yelled at them by nostalgic fans every time they release a new record, and in many ways it’s very unfair. Those albums were made in a very different time for singer/guitarist Rivers Cuomo and the rest of the band. Back in 1994 when their debut album was released, Weezer were an unknown band, then were suddenly catapulted to super-stardom, only to realize they don’t quite belong. Those feelings aren’t easily recreated, however that doesn’t excuse Weezer’s output since 2005’s Make Believe. The Green Album and Maladroit were solid fun albums, but after Make Believe through Hurley in 2011, Weezer delved into self-parody, especially on 2009’s god-awful Raditude.weezer-albumart

After four albums of disappointments, many Weezer fans gave up. But now, Weezer have surprised everyone by releasing Everything Will Be Alright In The End.  With the Blue and Green Album producer Ric Ocasek at the helm, Weezer have delivered their best album since 2002’s Maladroit. Fuzzy guitars are everywhere, replacing the sheen of the past few records, and instead of having awful lyrics like “The Girl Got Hot” or “Beverly Hills,” Weezer gives some heartfelt (but still endearingly corny) performances. “I couldn’t put in a novel, I wrote a page but it was awful,” from “Da Vinci” is particularly great.

Since Raditude, Weezer has been using co-songwriters, and while they’ve had very mixed results, the ones chosen for Everything Will Be… are excellent.  Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast co-wrote (and sings a duet with Cuomo) on the excellent “Go Away”. However, the best collaboration on record is the contribution made by Titus Andronicus front man Patrick Stickles. “Foolish Father” is a heartbreaking rocker that is everything you’ve wanted from Weezer in the past 12 years wrapped into one song. This album also proves that Cuomo can still write fine tunes himself: the huge riff driven “Ain’t Got Nobody”, the epic march of“The British Are Coming” and the album closing “Futurescope” suite of “I. The Waste Land, II. Anonymous and III. Return To Ithaka” are highlights of the album, “III. Return To Ithaka” being the most ambitious Weezer has done in years.

The guitar work shreds on this record. This makes some of the weaker tracks like “Cleopatra” and “I’ve Had It Up To Here” much more fun to listen to, and the good tracks an absolute joy.

There problems on this record, some tracks,mentioned above, are much weaker and there a few “huh?” moments like the opening whistle to “Da Vinci”, though it grows on you admittedly, and the trying-too-hard-to-cash-in-on rocking out like’s it 94 nostalgia in “Back To The Shack.”

In the end everything is alright (I’m sorry, I’ll show my self out) and Weezer has made an incredibly fun and listenable record. Is at as good as The Blue Album or Pinkerton? No, those records can’t be recreated and we need to stop comparing every Weezer album to those two.  Weezer has made the best record they’ve made in years so take off your headphones, stop being blinded by nostalgia and enjoy it.


Metro Station


By: Amber Lemons (@Amber_Lemons)


goldShake-shake-shake it ladies and gents, because Metro Station is back! Their new EP, Gold, drops on October 14th. The band’s previous self-titled album came out in 2007 and included their hit single “Shake It.” Both the album and the single were a huge success for the band. In 2010 however, tension between the two band mates, Mason Musso and Trace Cyrus, caused the band to go on hiatus.

Now that Musso and Cyrus are back together they have released a single entitled “Love & War.” This is the first song on the EP. The song speaks to those who are in the type of relationship classified as “just friends” and want to be more. It’s a catchy song and very easy to get into the dancing mood to.

True to the title, “She Likes Girls” is the second song on the EP. A guy is wondering whether or not his girl actually loves him back because he is pretty sure she’s into other girls, uh-oh!

“Forever Young,” the only track on the EP that features another artist, is in collaboration with The Ready Set. The lyric, “living fast is all we know” seems to speak for the whole EP. A good portion of the lyrics throughout the EP have to do with youths drinking, partying and falling in love. Metro Station seems to be yet another band that glamorizes teens partying.

Overall fun album to listen to if you’re in the mood to dance around but the lyrics are a bit drab since it’s just more music about partying. Metro Station has done great at sticking to their old sound with an added breath of fresh air.


Death From Above 1979

The Physical World

By: Neil Hazel (@iamneilhazel)


Death From Above 1979 is back in the game with the release of their new album, The Physical World. After releasing their first album back in 2004 and then breaking up in 2006, the Canadian duo took a long break from writing and performing. Despite the time away, the band hasn’t forgotten how to write tracks that immediately grab you ear and hold your attention through the entire album.Death-From-Above-1979-The-Physical-World

With The Physical World, Death From Above 1979 have shown that they can perfectly walk the line between pop and hard rock. Some segments are straight and to the point, with pounding drums and hard hitting guitar chugs, while others are filled with clean fills and smooth riffs. Almost every song has a catchy chorus that will have you singing it in your head days after you listen to it. “Right On, Frankenstein!” is impossible to listen to without wanting to sing along and nod your head as it moves along at a breakneck speed. “Always On” is a track filled with solid rock licks and roughly crooning vocals. “White Is Red” starts off as a ballad like song, slowly building into a noisy rock chorus before suddenly dropping back into calm. “Government Trash” stands out as one of the coolest tracks on the album, moving quickly from one section to the next with a slick guitar lead and blasting drum beats lining the whole song.

The best thing about Death From Above 1979 is their ability to craft songs that you will want to listen to over and over again. Upon each listen it is easy to identify a new, exciting part of each song. A vocal melody, a guitar lick or a drum fill all start to pop out to make The Physical World worthy of many repeat listens. It sounds as if the two members sat down to write the album and just began violently thrashing on their instruments, and then went back and added in layers of heavy rock precession, before finally implementing the catchy hooks into each track. For the most part, this back and forth is pulled off extremely well. However, there are some transitions that seem a little off, and some of the songs may seem a little out of place.

The Physical World is a solid, fun-to-listen to album. It won’t require too much effort to enjoy all 11 tracks on the CD.  Death From Above 1979 has created a pure rock album that pulls from multiple facets of the genre. The album is many things: punky, poppy, noisey, heavy, exciting, and really well put together. Let’s hope the band can avoid calling it quits for a second time and continue to produce jams for years to come.

4/5 Fake Elephant Noses

Karen O

Crush Songs

By: Erin Ben-Moche


“When I was 27 I crushed a lot. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever fall in love again,” Karen O, singer of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, expresses on the inside cover of her debut album, Crush Songs.

This record is extremely short, clocking in at just over twenty five minutes. The length of the songs range from 57 seconds to 3 minutes, but all capture her feelings of each “crush.” She starts each song with “One…Two…Three…” to set the tempo, but her soft voice sets the mood for the songs. Karen O’s Karen-O-Crush-Songscalming melodies and airy vocals perfectly describe who she is as an artist: simple and to the point. Her poetic lyrics don’t have to be over the top in order to be romantic. Each song’s minimal instrumentation and vocal percussion adds to the simplistic nature of the album.

“Ooo” opens the album with the words “Don’t tell me they are all the same.” This song provides an introduction to the album, showing that each person she fell for was different and each one made her feel a certain way. “NYC Baby,” only 57 seconds in length, discusses how O loathed leaving her former crush and letting their long-distance relationship consume her.

Crush Songs also includes a cover of “Indian Summer” by The Doors. It is a beautiful cover that mixes classic rock with O’s own unique touch of Indie soul. It gives the song a new perspective coming from a female’s point of view.

“Native Korean Rock” is another highlight from the album, providing an anthem for those having a hard time getting over their own soured romantic endeavors. Fortunately, it leaves a silver lining of hope towards new beginning.

What is interesting is that Crush Songs took four years to record and produce. Recording started in 2006 and ended in 2010. During this time, Karen O released three albums with The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and was also nominated for her Oscar winning work “Moon Song” from the film Her.

If you need a slow playlist, or are in the mood for love, heartache, and raw emotion, you should check this out this album. Karen O should be celebrated for her raw, breathy sound and smooth guitar melodies that are haunting to listen to. Anyone who has ever been in a head-over-heels relationship, brutal breakup, or yearned for hope will enjoy this album. Karen O leaves us wanting more of her and the passionate lyrics that tell the story of her search for love.

4/5 Rating

Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate)

You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

By: Sam Boyhtari (@SamuelBoyhtari)


The sophomore release of Michigan’s own Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) is challenging, in that it asks listeners to do something that few albums do: to experience a series of very honest, tangible stories. How closely you pay attention to these stories is, of course, up to you, but there is a tremendous amount of emotional depth woven into the eleven tracks of You Will Eventually Be Forgotten, and I find myself returning time and again to experience them all, because the pureness of their telling is beautiful.

The straightforwardness of Keith Latinen’s lyrics is, in many ways, jarring to ingest. As a listener, I expect and prefer, for the most part, a very cryptic style of narration from songwriters—a constant effort to encode what could otherwise be a very plain and uneventful story. You Will Eventually Be Forgotten takes this conception and challenges it at every turn, relatingempire empire very sincerely a group of dark and personal narratives that feel like prose poems read to a very somber and powerful soundtrack.

It is doubtless that this style will likely turn off some listeners, as it initially did me. But as I continued to listen to these songs, so true and unconventional in their telling, I became enthralled by it all: the oscillating nature of the instrumentation, rising and falling with the drama of each story; the unabashed lyrics, boasting little symbolic or metaphoric content to speak of, save to paint more vividly an already clear narrative.

This style of writing does have its downfalls. At times, the lyrics seem forced into the song structure in a way that makes their transference less than dramatic, and the straightforwardness of the content sometimes leaves me yearning for more poetic embellishment—more encrypting. But it’s moments where Keith sings about being stranded in the middle of a lake during a storm, or trying to circumvent a fatal car crash, where this LP shines bright, capturing a level of emotional depth that less honest creations cannot attain. The opening line of the album’s second track, “I almost died at 21,” is one of the most impactful moments of the entire journey, leading into an account of a near-death experience, amidst which Keith proclaims: “my life did not flash before my eyes.” The narration is very powerful, and moments like this outshine some of the less impactful spots on this LP.

You Will Eventually Be Forgotten feels like a collection of journals and photographs, selected tediously and lovingly from a larger cache of untold stories. The narration of these stories may push fans of more convoluted music away, but there are so many powerful moments worth exploring within these songs—these stories—and I am quite glad that Keith and Cathy have chosen to share them with us.

4 out of 5 Lucky Stars

King 810

Memoirs Of A Murderer

By: Neil Hazel (@iamneilhazel)


Listening to King 810’s debut full length album, Memoirs of a Murderer is like stepping into a heavy metal time machine. The 16 tracks are some of the most varied I have heard from any metal band in recent memory. Some tracks invoke some of the 90’s biggest metal bands like Slipknot and Korn, while others show what the future of metal could be.

The album starts with three heavy hitting songs led by “Killem All” that are certain to grab your attention and make you bang you head. Vocalist Dave Gunn displays raw energy and emotion in both his lyrics and vocals that is equal parts intriguing and haunting to listen to. Just when you think you have King 810 figured out, they throw a curveball with “Take It” an acoustic song that is reminiscent of Johnny Cash. King 810 displays their mastery of metal with songs like “Fat Around The Heart”,king 810 pic featuring verses filled with ambient guitars that build into the chorus with hard hitting drums. “Treading and Trodden” is one of the most interesting songs on the album, incorporating subtle electronic elements into the background and vocals. Memoirs of a Murderer is paced by two spoken word tracks “Anatomy 1:2” and “Anatomy 1:3” which display Gunns vocals and nothing else. They are chilling pieces that allow the listener to hear just how enthralling the vocals can be even without music.

Each individual track on the album has stand-out moments that make any one a worthy listen, but when Memoirs of a Murderer is taken as a whole piece, it becomes an entirely different beast. Each track flows into the next both thematically and musically. “Carve My Name” is a slow march to war, that begins with a whispered chant, with a marching drumbeat that slowly grows louder and louder. The song eventually explodes into one of the most brutal parts of the cd, before fading back out. Gunn then recites The New Colossus the inspiring poem displayed on The Statue of Liberty, before “War Outside” begins with a fury of guitars and drums. When the album finally reaches its conclusion in “State Of Nature” it is in almost the opposite place from where it started, a slowed down analysis of the way of the world, played over an acoustic guitar that slowly builds into a full band ballad.

Another important aspect of King 810 outside of their music is their background. All four members were born and raised in Flint, Michigan, one of the most violent and dangerous cities in America. Gunn’s lyrics demonstrate the hardships that he has faced, and the music itself is filled with the struggles of a dying city. Memoirs of a Murderer is a fantastic metal album, and with the diversity in the tracks, it ensures that it is one that is interesting and exciting on each listen. With a debut as ambitious as this, King 810 is a band that every metal fan should pay attention to.

You can see King 810 on tour with Slipknot and Korn, November 29th at The Palace of Auburn Hills.


The New Pornographers

Brill Bruisers

By: Sam Boyhtari


With their sixth LP, Vancouver’s indie rock icons deliver a fast paced, cohesive experience that stays fresh from start to finish, paying tribute to 80s style synth pop, as well as the Galaga soundtrack.

To those unfamiliar with The New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers may conjure up images of its makers playing stadium shows for thousands of fans, rather than their usual cozy theatres and halls. The Brill Bruisersalbum’s sound is remarkably bombastic, even amidst all of the band’s past material. The title track slams into listeners, making for an epic introduction to a track list that is both varied and energetic, all of it packed with the charming melodic vocal content that The New Pornographers are adored for.

If you haven’t experienced a New Pornographers record before, each one is a multicolored excursion into the artistic presences of A.C. Newman, Daniel Bejar (See Destroyer) and Neko Case. Each of these musicians offers a unique brand of songwriting, creating a sense of diversity about the band’s records that has appealed to fans since the release of Mass Romantic in 2000. With Brill Bruisers, this sense of artistic diversity is fully present, but even more seamless and fluid. Perhaps even more pleasant and surprising is the heightened interaction of Newman’s niece, Kathryn Calder, who has more of a presence on this LP than Neko Case or Bejar. Since her debut with the band on their 2005 release, Twin Cinema, Calder has continued to grow as a member of The New Pornographers, and this latest release sees her singing almost as much as Newman, often taking over the lead roles while Newman sinks back into the orchestral, synth-riddled textures that define many of these fantastic tracks.

The definite highlights here are the title track, with its fanfare of harmonies and blasting guitars, Bejar’s “War on the East Coast,” which features some of the catchiest vocal work of the entire package and showcases his songwriting wonderfully, and “Dancehall Domine,” a booming pop masterpiece that blends the voices of Calder and Newman to admirable affect.

None of the 13 songs outstay their welcome, each providing a different tone to a very seamless record, but a few of them do seem oddly underdeveloped or stagnant; “Drug Deal of the Heart,” Calder’s feature song, is sadly vacant and uninteresting, and it really doesn’t do her vocal work justice at all, nor does it ever blossom into anything. Similarly, Bejar’s second effort, “Born With a Sound”, is rather straightforward and basic, failing to hold its own amidst the rest of his work with the band. In addition, Neko Case seems strangely absent from most of this record, appearing in only two songs as a lead vocalist, and one other as a secondary singer, which may disappoint fans who are used to her more active participation in past records.

Brill Bruisers is, at its heart, a rock album, and it is enjoyable because it manages to supply a wide array of sounds and pop melodies while remaining fluid and fresh. With this said, there are times when textures seem a bit thin, reduced to chugging guitars and glittering synths that don’t quite fill all the space, but for the most part, all of these songs are extremely rich and entertaining, stamped with the signature sounds of Newman, Calder, Case and Bejar. The New Pornographers’ latest work starts with massive energy and ends in the same fashion, and it is a most welcome addition to their steadily growing legacy as a pop force to be reckoned with.

4 out of 5 Three-Dimensional Bruises


No Sleep

By: Neil Hazel (@iamneilhazel)


It has been three years since Los Angeles based metal act Volumes put out their debut LP VIA. It is clear that the band has taken that time to carefully refine their sound for their sophomore effort, No Sleep.

One of the things that makes Volumes stand out is their use of two screaming vocalists. This allows Volumes to keep the vocal sections of their songs interesting throughout the whole CD. no_sleep_import-volumes-26599968-2946233481-frntWhen the two vocalists go back and forth in sections of songs, it gives off an almost hip-hop like feel to the heavy tracks. There’s also an abundant use of clean vocals on several of the songs such as “Across The Bed”, that fit well with Volumes use of hard-hitting breakdowns and ambient guitar leads.

One of the best aspects of No Sleep is how balanced it feels. Listening from start to finish feels like a really complete experience. Tracks move from heavy head-bangers like “The Mixture” and “Neon Eyes” to smooth, clean guitar led songs like “Erased” effortlessly. Combining both heavy and clean aspects within almost every track keeps the CD interesting. The only downside of the meticulous effort that Volumes put into each song is that we are only given ten tracks, two of which are instrumentals. “Vahle” is one of the standout tracks, featuring some of the slickest guitar leads on the album, coupled with a very catchy, clean chorus.

No Sleep is an album that is both intricate and easy to listen to. Volumes have cemented themselves as a standout band in the metal scene. Even though it is only their second release, the band has hit their stride and improved greatly upon their prior work. If you’re looking for emotionally driven metal that will have you banging your head and singing along, then give this a listen. Let’s just hope that we don’t have to wait another three years for more.





Once More ‘Round The Sun

By: Neil Hazel (@iamneilhazel)


When you want to just throw up your metal horns and headbang your troubles away, MastodonMastodon has always been a band that can deliver.  With their sixth release, Once More ‘Round The Sun Mastodon brings the metal once again. Mastodon produces a massive sound for only having four members. The bass is heavy and solid, the guitars are smooth, the riffs are sick, and the drums are crisp and tight, with just enough flair to stand out in sections. All four members of Mastodon provide vocals throughout the 11 tracks on the CD, keeping things interesting not just from song to song, but also within each song. It does seem however, that the group has left behind some of the more ferocious screams from their early albums for more radio-friendly singing. Songs like “The Motherload” contain downright catchy choruses that will have you wanting to sing along after the first listen.

That isn’t to say that Mastodon has left behind their old, sludge metal sound. “High Road” maintains that heaviness, while still adding in the cleanly sung sections. While Mastodon has always been a popular metal act, Once More ‘Round The Sun is their most radio-friendly work to date, and while this may turn off some old school Mastodon fans, it is still a solid metal album. Tracks like “Feast Your Eyes” and “Aunt Lisa” will probably appeal to more traditional metal fans. Feast Your Eyes moves at a brisk and heavy pace and contains a cool little riff section in the middle, highlighted by great bass tone. “Aunt Lisa” is one of the more interesting tracks, containing guest vocals from all-female Atlanta punk group The Coat Hangers. Use of trippy guitar and vocal effects make the track a fun song to listen to. The song ends with a chant of “Hey, oh, Let’s get up and Rock n’ Roll”, which may seem like a strange inclusion, but actually fits really well with the rest of the song.

Once More ‘Round The Sun is an extremely solid album, it just doesn’t seem like it’s taking a huge step forward for the band. The songs are still heavy, the solos still rock and in terms of technical ability, Mastodon are still some of the best musicians playing right now. While it may not be what long-time Mastodon fans were hoping for, it is an album that most metal fans will enjoy.

3.75/5 Massive Tusks



Every Time I Die

From Parts Unknown

By: Neil Hazel (@iamneilhazel)

Every Time I Die are no strangers to writing fast-paced, in-your-face metal, and with their seventh full length “From Parts Unknown” the Buffalo, New York group manageevery time covers to innovate while staying true to their roots. The first track “The Great Secret” sets a pace for an album that is full of relentlessly pounding drums, and hard-hitting riffs. Vocalist Keith Buckley seamlessly floats from guttural screams, to soulful singing. The album moves at a brisk pace, with every track guaranteed to have you banging your head along with guitarists Andy Williams and Jordan Buckley’s grizzly riffs and chords. Bassist Stephen Micciche is constantly on point, filling out the tracks with a solid, heavy bass tone and drummer Ryan Leger doesn’t let up for a second over the 12-track album.

After one of the quickest and most ruthless tracks “If There Is Room To Move, Things Move”, Every Time I Die slows things down, but it is no less entertaining. “Moor” begins with a tense, eerie piano piece accompanied by Buckley’s haunting vocals. The track slowly builds up, moving like a train heading towards an inevitable crash. When the drums and guitar hit, it is one of the most satisfyingly heavy songs on the album. With the track “Old Light”, The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon is recruited to sing the catchy, head nodding chorus. His vocals fit perfectly in between the growls and roars of Buckley during the verses. The album is closed out by the viscous track “Idiot”, leaving the listener both exhausted and wanting more.

From Parts Unknown harkens back to Every Time I Die’s early releases like Hot Damn! and Last Night in Town, and with that has cemented itself as one of Every Time I Die’s most aggressive releases to date. The group did not forget the country elements that they’ve incorporated into their more recent albums. Just like Buckley’s vocals, the guitars and drums move in between thrash and country from second to second. It seems that Every Time I Die has found a sweet spot in between the old and the new and leaves something that every metal fan can find to enjoy. From punk, to thrash, southern to metalcore, From Parts Unknown clearly shows that after seven releases, Every Time I Die is not slowing down any time soon.

The Roots – “…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin”

By Johnny Kassab | @johnnykassab


Now, I know this review is coming a little late in terms of when the album was released, but I really had to give this one time. Even on their website they said “it might be the one that requires the most deep listening to absorb,” so I really wanted to get a good feel for this album before posting my very first review here.

...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

To start, I’d like to give the much-deserved credit to Romare Bearden for working on the album artwork. One aspect that sticks out throughout all of The Roots’ studio albums is their astonishing artwork. Their artwork ranges from the cool coversiconic covers, and controversial covers. Yet, their music seems to work well with whatever cover they choose. With all of the different characters and voices used on this album, the collage cover seems especially appropriate.

There are a couple of tracks that sound somewhat familiar as far as past releases from The Roots, but in a good way. Understanding is one that really sticks out, as I am a huge fan of their release Undun that came out December of 2011. The songs have an overall hungry sound to it. The lyrics throughout “…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin” touch on religion, thoughts of the devil, and the struggle of life for a black man. To catch every reference and every emotion in their music, I’d suggest a week at least. This album is leagues deep and covers topics to which many people can relate.

I’m genuinely surprised that The Roots even had the time to put this album out, with their job as the house band for Jimmy Fallon and his recent move to the Tonight Show (bringing The Roots on the Tonight Show with him).

There are a few familiar names that appear on the album, such as Dice Raw and Greg Porn, as well as some notable features, the likes of Patty CrashModesty LycanMercedes Martinez, and Raheem DeVaughn. While the instrumental of The Dark will reel you in, the vocals in songs like Never and When The People Cheer will leave you speechless. The Roots really went left field with a few of their tracks, such as The Devil and Dies Irae; those tracks really have to grow on you, and I know that some of their fans won’t particularly like these tracks. Then again, that is the music business. You can’t keep everyone happy.

To sum this album up, if you’re scared of religion in music, get over it. If you enjoy hip-hop and want something that brings new flavor to the table, go download “…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin” right now! Hell, even buy a shirt with the cover art on the front.

4.5 out of 5 power fist afro picks

You Me At Six
Cavalier Youth
By: Ashley Allison (@AshleyReports)

Out with the rage and in with the radio friendly pop-rock. British rockers, You Me at Six, did away with the angst portrayed in their previous album, Sinners Never Sleep, and showed the world they could make a quality album with no super-star guest appearances. “Fresh Start Fever” is one of my favorite tracks off the new album, Cavalier Youth. The track is the closest sounding to SNS and starts with an eerie but enticing piano. The chorus will be stuck in your head all day, trust me.  They have more than proven themselves to their hometown crowd, selling out the famous Wembley Arena in London; but this track has potential to skyrocket their fame in the United States.ymas_cavalieryouth The band has matured lyrically as well. The most notable, “Lived a Lie” and “Hope for the Best”.  Front man, Josh Franceschi’s voice is flawless, per usual, and changes between his raw talent to harsh grittiness showcased in “Win Some, Lose Some.” Past that, much of album sounds very similar to old records such as Hold Me Down and Take Off your Colours.  It seems as if they played it safe, maybe too safe. Nonetheless, the album is full of catchy hooks, lyrics of love stories and hopefulness that will keep the die-hard YMAS fans happy and attract new audiences. The boys are heading out on a headlining tour that will stop in the UK and Russia, they have also confirmed that they will be apart of the Reading and Leeds festival. For US fans, stay tuned to the bands website for tour news! Overall: 3.5/5 Start with: Fresh Start Fever *check out the WXOU exclusive interview with YMAS drummer, Chris Miller, here *

By: Lauren Barthold (@bylaurenb)

beyonce_album_cover‘Twas the night before finals and all through the house, not a student was sleeping, not even, well, me.  The clock hit midnight and procrastinating, I checked Instagram.  One of the first posts on my feed was a video from Queen B herself with the caption, “Surprise!”  After watching the montage of brand new videos to the music of also new “Drunk In Love (feat. Jay Z),” my iPhone almost slipped right out of my hands. I bought all 14 songs, 17 videos, and digital booklet for $15.99 exclusively on iTunes because DUH.  It is only available for album purchase until the 20th when the individuals songs and videos will be available, but I was not about to wait until then.  I do have to admit I do not like music videos though, so that part didn’t do anything for me.  It is kind of like the book being better than the movie type of thing. It begins on track one with someone asking Beyonce what her aspiration in life is.  Her answer?  “To be happy.”  The song “Pretty Hurts” is about body image and the media brainwashing women into thinking skinny is better.  One line says, “It’s the soul that needs surgery.”  Get it, girl. The very hip-hop/rap “Haunted” starts with old audio of Beyonce winning Female Pop Vocalist as a child and her saying, “I would like to thank the judges for picking me, my parents who I love.  I love you, Houston.”  Once the song began, it instantly reminded me of “Marvin’s Room” which has been done by numerous artists, including Drake who is featured later on the record. Track three features Beyonce’s husband, Jay Z.  10 years after “Crazy In Love” comes “Drunk In Love” continuing to show that these two are perfect separately, but even more so together.  It gets intimate with lines like, “Why can’t I keep my fingers off you baby?”  Warning:  It only gets more sexual from here. Four is upbeat and easily the best track on the album titled “Blow”.  You figure it out.  “No Angel” is very slow and raspy.  B’s voice reminds me a lot of Alicia Keys, and frankly I did not like it. “Partition” begins with Beyonce asking her audience to say, “Hey Mrs. Carter.”  Again with the sex!  The title comes in at the line, “Driver roll up the partition please, I don’t need you seeing ‘Yonce on her knees.”  As a fellow feminist, I did not like the line, “I just wanna be the girl you like, the kinda girl you like,” at first.  I mean, come on!  That is just not her.  However, the bridge is in French.  After translating it, I learned it says, “Do you like sex?  Sex.  I mean physical activity, coitus.  You like it?  Are you not interested in sex?  Men think that feminists hate sex but it’s an exciting and natural activity that women love.”  Yes.  Here, she is talking to the people who criticize her for being open about her sex life, yet still a feminist icon.  Seriously.  Could she be any more perfect? “Jealous” is about, you guessed it, jealousy.  There are screams in the background that remind me of “Mercy” by Kanye West.  It is just whatever, I always thought that sound was creepy.  “Rocket” sounds different than most of the album with an old fashioned sound.  Think “Pusher Love” by Justin Timberlake.  I told you Drake was featured, and love song “Mine” is track nine.  10 is “XO” which has a very refreshing, enlightening sound. Behind “Blow”, “***Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)” is one of my favorites.  At 1:26, there is a speech by the featured feminist writer from Nigeria about why what we are teaching young girls is bad. “Superpower” features Frank Ocean, and the song is very Frank Ocean-ish.  You will like it if you’re a fan of his, you will not if you aren’t.  The two last tracks “Heaven” and “Blue (feat. Blue Ivy)” are much more serious.  “Heaven” talks about death and how “heaven couldn’t wait for you”.  In the final one, we hear B’s daughter, Blue adorably say “Hold onto me,” as well as some other baby talk that is hard to understand. Overall, I found the album to be a very different sound for her, but still good.  Personally, I believe she should continue to do more like “Love On Top” from “4”.  Regardless, her dropping it out of absolutely nowhere and focusing on the “visual” part of it only confirmed that Beyonce can do WHATEVER SHE WANTS, and is in fact the queen.

Arcade Fire
By: Samuel Boyhtari

Arcade Fire’s fourth full length LP offers two CDs-worth of ambient, dance-centric music, falling short of epic proportions despite the anticipated mystique that it has generated since the release of the title track a few months back. Perhaps mystique is not quite the proper term—some have compared the band’s drastic shift in sound and image to The Talking Heads, who endured a similar change in tone with the releases of Fear of Music in 1979 and Remain in Light in 1980. Nevertheless, I cannot help but view Reflektor as possessing a certain level of mystique, despite the fact that its extensive length (nearly an hour and twenty minutes, spanning two sides) is not quite justifiable by the content within. Regardless of the record’s rather unremarkable exploitation of existing musical formulas, Reflektor manages to stay interesting for most of its running time due to its ambient, eerie personality (which the band has come to master), as well as its representation of a fresh and different Arcade Fire. Arcade Fire The record’s single and title track, “Reflektor”, is by far my favorite of the 13, exemplifying the band’s new, dark, disco-esque flavor more effectively than any of the songs that follow—which is a bit of a shame, but this is not to say that the rest of the album fails to establish something inspiring or intriguing. “We Exist” follows suit with an extremely danceable beat that carries on some of the initial charm of the first song. One of the album’s longer tracks, “Here Comes The Night Time,” is decidedly sparser than some might prefer, but it offers melodic elements that are disturbingly cute amidst the album’s moody atmosphere, with a hyperactive beginning and midsection that mimic the frantic sounds of a massive nighttime carnival. The tracks “Normal Person” and “You Already Know” introduce an interesting element of self-reflexivity that is sadly absent from the rest of the album; the voice of Win Butler thanking a non-existent crowd and speaking about disliking rock and roll is both humorous and thematic. Considering the album’s title and overtly conceptual nature, it’s a shame that Arcade Fire didn’t explore this element any further. In the same way the absence of this self-awareness from the rest of the album inhibits Reflektor’s conceptual potential, the separation between disk 1 and 2 is jarring and unwelcome, removing the listener from a potentially smooth experience. The nature of Reflektor’s lengthy songs of course requires the existence of two separate CDs, but it is the length of said songs on the second half of this LP—specifically the album’s eleven-minute concluding track—that ultimately harm the ambience and charm of the first half that I am quite fond of. “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” and “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)” are somewhat interesting additions to the album’s progression, but they are both too long for what they are; the final track “Supersymmetry” is completely anticlimactic and entirely too long, its last five minutes consisting entirely of droning, off-kilter noise-elements that would be interesting, had they made an appearance at any point throughout the rest of the album. These songs are not unenjoyably by any means, but they don’t make much impact amidst an album that could have been far more epic in scope. Reflektor doesn’t succeed completely, but it certainly doesn’t fail. It is ultimately the alienation of the second half of this LP—which at times becomes too monotonous to be grandiose—that inhibits the album from true greatness. This aside, Reflektor is still great, attempting to do what not many modern albums do: to represent something larger than a simple grouping of songs. Though Arcade Fire doesn’t totally fulfill this goal, their latest endeavor is worth the time simply because it ventures past simple song writing, exploring dark thematic content and corners steeped in ghostly disco-tech. 4 out of 5 Slightly Blemished Disco Balls

White Denim
Corsicana Lemonade
By: Anthony Spak

Austin, Texas groovers White Denim are at it again on their fifth full-length album, Corsicana Lemonade, out October 29th. After touring with Wilco last year, the group enlisted Wilco’s frontman Jeff Tweedy to help produce the album. The result is a tight, ten song batch that stands out as the most mature of White Denim’s catalogue. Coming of the success of 2011’s slightly more cosmic D in which they added guitarist Austin Jenkins and crafted a more sophisticated sound than their previous three albums, White Denim have taken a step further into maturation. All four of the band members are now into their 30’s, and getting over that hump has molded their sound into one that sounds older. One can hear the influences of Seventies rock bands in their sound: The triumphant fuzz guitar runs in “At Night In Dreams” bring to mind the equally triumphant guitar work on Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ In The Years.” The duel guitar lead in the middle of “Come Back” recalls the dueling guitar lead of Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town.” white denimWhat keeps this album sounding fresh and not like a cut out of their classic rock influences are the complexities laid down by rhythm duo of virtuoso drummer Josh Block and bass player Steve Terebecki. Block’s playing is as textured and varied as always; from dense, funky backbeats (“Cheer Up/ Blues Ending”) to country stompers (“Let It Feel Good”) to all out rockers (“At Night In Dreams”), Block’s range of diverse percussion moods is impressive, but not overbearing, as he still supplies these songs with the feels they deserve. His ensemble drumming style swings these songs up, down, and around. Block rolls into solid downbeats just enough to keep the listener tapping their feet, then takes off into a totally different but appropriate feel. Best of luck to air drummers everywhere. However, White Denim still embrace their trademark music complexities that make their instrumentation so interesting to listen to; The drop-of-a-hat tempo change from a duple to a triple feel in “New Blue Feeling” is satisfyingly reminiscent of the same change present in D’s “River to Consider.” The sudden slip from a half-time feel to a double-time feel in the verses of the album’s single, “Pretty Green”, is classic White Denim, providing listeners with a similar density that made D such a beloved record. New tricks are also added to the repertoire. At times, White Denim have been known to cram as many notes into a song as possible, at times becoming unlistenable. However, the last two tracks feature mellow, lingering sounds that highlight a newfound patience in their playing. “Cheer Up/ Blues Ending” rides along a sparse, swaying feel that allows singer/guitarist James Petralli a powerful vocal opportunity, which he nails. “Ever look at a sign you’ve maybe never seen?” Petralli sings, fittingly. “Put a dime in your pocket/ Relax,” Petralli continues, crooning a realization that he and his band mates might just have made a career making the music they love. “A Place to Start” wraps things up with a cosmic soul feel that feels like Al Green fronting the Grateful Dead, circa 1973. Terebecki’s bass line slithers around just enough to keep the listener wiggling, providing a low-key funk foundation that ends the album nicely. The Guardian is currently streaming Corsicana Lemonade, use the link provided below to stream:

Kings of Leon
“Mechanical Bull”
By: Sam Boyhtari

With their sixth studio album, Mechanical Bull, Kings of Leon take a step back toward their raw, southern-rock roots, presenting a listening experience that is enjoyable, albeit uninspiring as a whole. In contrast, the opening track, “Supersoaker,” is quite the opposite of uninspiring. Doubling as Mechanical Bull’s first single, “Supersoaker” starts things off with a bang, ushering listeners into the rest of the package with an energy reminiscent of the band’s second album, Aha Shake Heartbreak. Caleb’s blazing guitar riff opens up the track, droning on as Matthew strikes the first notes of an immensely powerful lead line—there is a kind of magic in this opening sequence that is unfortunately absent from the rest of the album, and this is Mechanical Bull’s primary downfall.Mechanical Bull This is not to say that there is an absence of any other particularely good songs here. “Temple,” the fifth track on the album, is a welcome extension to the kind of energy introduced in the initial track; Caleb’s voice glides above the driving instrumentation as he sings: “I take one in the temple/I take one for you.” Of equal note are “Beautiful War” and “Tonight,” these representing two of the album’s stronger ballads, both encompasing rather epic moments amidst the album’s 11 songs, and bearing considerable resemblance to something U2 would have their hands in. As powerful as these ballads are, the final couplet of songs on the album create a dissapointing anticlimax that massocres any anticipation generated throughout the work. The last song, “On the Chin,” is sadly devoide of anything original or exciting, representing little more than a cliché statement that seems both cheap and uninspiring. I can’t understand why this song was chosen to end the album, as opposed to a more grandious song like “Tonight,” which contains a reletively emotional climax that seems far more fitting for the end of an album like this. We can perhaps assume that the intention was to create a sentimental and endearing conclusion to the work, rather than one of epic proportions—sadly, this conclusion is unremarkable and uninspiring, in the wake of an album that is claimed to represent a return to the band’s earlier, energetic work. Anticlimax aside, the sound of Mechanical Bull is an enjoyable one, taking itself far less seriously than its predescessor, Come Around Sundown, but in a good way. The introductory track is powerful and energetic, and the second song, “Rock City” (despite it’s name), delivers an amusing three-minute southern-rock jam with a reasonably infectious guitar solo at its forefront. It’s a shame that the third track, “Don’t Matter,” is a complete throwaway, offering only a cardboard rock riff and minimal lyrical depth; this song comes off as a shallow attempt to bring some of the energy of the first song to the rest of the album. In the same way that this song falls short of all expectations, “Family Tree” just might be the most unoriginal song that Kings of Leon have ever written, to the extent that it’s placement within this album is almost nonsensical. Mechanical Bull is a solid rock album endeavor, but it’s initial charm is sadly marred by the presence of several less-than-spectacular songs, two of which serve as the album’s conclusion. With only 11 songs to boast, it does not speak well when several of them are less than memorable. 3 out of 5 Animatronic Fighting Animals

Mayday Parade
“Monsters In The Closet”
By: Ashley Butala, Volunteer Promoter

In 2007, the Pop/Punk/Rock band from Tallahassee, Florida known as Mayday Parade released their debut album “A Lesson in Romance” which debuted on the Billboard Heatseeker’s Chart at #8 holding a chart position for seventy weeks. It paved the way for the bands success. With their second album following in 2009, “Anywhere but Here,” and EP “Tales Told By Dead Friends” in 2011, the overall success of this band has sky rocketed. Album sales have exceeded 600,000, while track sales have surpassed 3,000,000 to date. The band has made a huge explosion with “The Punk Goes” series, and their third album “Self-Titled” reached #12 on the Billboard Top 200 in 2011.  So what’s next for these guys?Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 9.55.40 AM

Mayday Parades fourth album “Monsters in The Closet” released October, 8, 2013, features 12 brand new tracks. Since their debut album not much has changed in terms of consistency with the band’s sound. I’ve always been a huge fan of this band since the very first song I ever heard from them which was “Take This to Heart” off of their debut album. With the success of the bands tours from previous albums there’s no doubt in my mind that success of this album won’t be if not already the biggest success we’ve seen from these guys.

The fourth album features the band’s first single off “Monsters in The Closet” which is the song “12 Through 15.” Other tracks include: ”Hold Onto Me,” “Angels,” and “Ghosts” just to name a few. I’ve listened to the entire album a few times now, and I like it a lot better than Mayday’s other three albums. I can relate to it a little better than the rest. Though I do find all of their other albums to be depressing this one seems to be more edgy and uplifting to me. It’s not as sad, and dark.

Smith Westerns
“Soft Will”
By: Anthony Spak

The most soul-crushing moments in rock music have occurred when a fan takes their first listen to a new album featuring their favorite guitar player, and is heartbroken to find out that their beloved ax man has gone to the dark side and decided to play a synthesizer (supposedly, true Van Halen fans hate “Jump”). This same feeling of simultaneous panic and curiosity occurs upon first listen to the new Smith Westerns single, “Varsity.” smith-westerns-soft-will-608x608-124553_250x250 The Chicago foursome’s new album “Soft Will”, released on the very trendy Mom + Pop, serves as ten-track-trip through the past, present, and future of a young band on the rise. Songs on the latter half of the album showcase the Smith Westerns of 2011 who recorded the very hooky and very guitar heavy “Dye It Blonde”. “Best Friend” is the best example of the Smith Western’s of old, with guitarist Max Kakacek’s laying down a monster intro and subsequent hot licks, much like the ones that drew everyone’s attention on “Dye It Blonde.” The album opener, titled “3 A.M. Spiritual”, showcases the present state of the band. Musically, the band has begun to incorporate synth into their sound as more than just a layering device as it was used, very sparsely at that, on “Dye It Blonde.” The glossy synth textures used on the track are tasteful yet a tad unsatisfying upon first listen as they lack those transcendental guitar licks that made everyone fall in love with the band three years ago. Lyrically, “3 A.M…” deals with the present pressures of both young love and young fame: “You don’t look like you used to be/ You don’t look like you did on TV,” singer/guitarist Cullen Omori croons overtop a bed of silky chords. The future of Smith Westerns rests, literally, on the shoulders of the album’s closer and single, “Varsity.” This synth-pop powerhouse features very little guitar, a bumpin’ bass line, and a sleek synth melody so infectious that even in the wake of your all-time favorite pet’s untimely demise, you can’t help but tap your foot to it a little upon listening. The fact that “Varsity” was chosen as the single for the album and is the most synth-dependant song on the album highlights a new direction for the band. Smith Westerns have grown away from but not completely ditched the teachings of glam-rock guitar greats like Mark Bolan and Mick Ronson that turned everyone’s head around on “Dye It Blonde.” This album achieves a good but not great combination of these two differing styles; the glammy guitar-bendings of the past and the new synth structures of the future. The curiosity and effort needed to make the integration of the new synth sounds in with old guitar staples is easy to hear. However, more maturation is needed in order for Smith Westerns to completely develop their new sound into one that sounds more fully formed.

 3.5/5 Stars
Surfer Blood
By: Samuel Boyhtari

In 2010, the Florida-based indie group Surfer Blood released their debut record Astro Coast on Kanine Records, delivering a solid set of songs that managed to achieve a fresh and enjoyable angle on a widely exploited “surf rock” scene.syferblood Surfer Blood’s second effort, Pythons, comes to us nearly three years after Astro Coast, claiming for itself ten new tracks that represent a drastic departure from the debut album’s style, and not necessarily in an admirable way.   To justify this claim, I must say that the reasoning behind it assumes that one is familiar with Surfer Blood’s first album and also enjoyed that album thoroughly. If neither of these assumptions rings true for you, chances are that you will greet Pythons with much more initial warmth and acceptance than I did. Based upon the delivery of Astro Coast, I assumed that Surfer Blood would venture further into realms of sonic weirdness and peculiarity that would bring new and interesting sounds to indie-surf music while retaining the catchiness of the original LP. When I discovered that the band was to engineer the album alongside producer Gil Norton (arguably known best for his work with The Pixies), my musings were reinforced considerably. Herein lies the reason for my initial disappointment with Pythons.  Surfer Blood’s sophomore LP is not a “surf” album by any means. Rather, it is an indie-pop album with considerably less distinctiveness than it’s predecessor. Every sonic inch of these recordings are clean cut—you wont find a single hair out of place here, nothing edgy or harsh sounding. But that’s not necessarily a deal breaker, even if the instrumentation is rendered into little more than a single wall of sound, rather than several interesting and distinctive parts working in tandem. What is so disappointing about this record is its utter abandonment of the first album’s interesting, and at times dark, take on the surf music genre in favor of watered down pop tunes with a few calculated scream/growls from front man J.P. Pitts. Said screams are about as close as this album comes to fulfilling any of my dreams about the direction of the band’s sound, but they are distastefully exploited so that they aren’t interesting anyway—the choice to include them just seems like a gimmick amidst a handful of otherwise completely uninteresting song ideas, especially considering that the first album sports no such vocal elements from Pitts. But here’s the thing: despite my criticism of Pythons, I still enjoy listening to it. The opening track “Demon Dance” is an extremely catchy pop song and an excellent intro to the rest of the package.  “Say Yes To Me” employs some of the hookiest lyrics Pitts has ever written, and “Weird Shapes” offers a somewhat grungy sample of the same brand of catchy, streamlined pop, and that’s really why the album is still enjoyable for me: because it is a concentrated, streamlined experience from start to finish. Pythons is easy to listen to because nothing on it is unbearable or broken. On the contrary, Surfer Blood maintains their reputation for constructing catchy melodies and lyrics, despite their second album’s regretful absence of truly interesting components.  Pythons is an amusing and smooth ride that is shamelessly possessive of the sound of summer, and though it neither lives up to the charm of the original LP nor introduces anything unique or particularly interesting to modern music, it does present a fun and enjoyable addition to the summer soundtrack.

 3 out of 5 Snake Charmers


The Roots
“…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin”
By: Johnny Kassab

Now, I know this review is coming a little late in terms of when the album was released, but I really had to give this one time. Even on their website they said “it might be the one that requires the most deep listening to absorb”, so I really wanted to get a good feel for this album before posting my very first review here.

...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

To start, I’d like to give the much-deserved credit to Romare Bearden for working on the album artwork. One aspect that sticks out throughout all of The Roots’ studio albums is their astonishing artwork. Their artwork ranges from the cool covers, iconic covers, and controversial covers. Yet, their music seems to work well with whatever cover they choose. With all of the different characters and voices used on this album, the collage cover seems especially appropriate.

There are a couple of tracks that sound somewhat familiar as far as past releases from The Roots, but in a good way. Understanding is one that really sticks out, as I am a huge fan of their release Undun that came out December of 2011. The songs have an overall hungry sound to it. The lyrics throughout …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin touch on religion, thoughts of the devil, and the struggle of life for a black man. To catch every reference and every emotion in their music, I’d suggest a week at least. This album is leagues deep and covers topics to which many people can relate.

I’m genuinely surprised that The Roots even had the time to put this album out, with their job as the house band for Jimmy Fallon and his recent move to the Tonight Show (bringing The Roots on the Tonight Show with him).

There are a few familiar names that appear on the album, such as Dice Raw and Greg Porn, as well as some notable features, the likes of Patty Crash, Modesty Lycan, Mercedes Martinez, and Raheem DeVaughn. While the instrumental of The Dark will reel you in, the vocals in songs like Never and When The People Cheer will leave you speechless. The Roots really went left field with a few of their tracks, such as The Devil and Dies Irae; those tracks really have to grow on you, and I know that some of their fans won’t particularly like these tracks. Then again, that is the music business. You can’t keep everyone happy.

To sum this album up, if you’re scared of religion in music, get over it. If you enjoy hip-hop and want something that brings new flavor to the table, go download …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin right now! Hell, even buy a shirt with the cover art on the front.

4.5 out of 5 Power Fist Afro Picks