Album Reviews

Metro Station

Gold

By: Amber Lemons (@Amber_Lemons)

10/16/2014

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.

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Death From Above 1979

The Physical World

By: Neil Hazel (@iamneilhazel)

10/8/14

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

10/1/2014

“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)

9/8/14

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)

9/1/2014

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.

4.5/5


The New Pornographers

Brill Bruisers

By: Sam Boyhtari

8/27/14

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


Volumes

No Sleep

By: Neil Hazel (@iamneilhazel)

7/15/14

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.

4/5


 

 

Mastodon

Once More ‘Round The Sun

By: Neil Hazel (@iamneilhazel)

7/11/14

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)

6/30/14
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

5.27.14

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
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You Me At Six
Cavalier Youth
By: Ashley Allison (@AshleyReports)
2/6/14

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 *

Beyonce
By: Lauren Barthold (@bylaurenb)
12/17/13

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
Reflektor
By: Samuel Boyhtari
11/18/13

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
10/28/13

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: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/oct/21/white-denim-corsicana-lemonade-album-stream

Kings of Leon
“Mechanical Bull”
By: Sam Boyhtari
10/23/13

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
10/21/13

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
 7/31/2013

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
“Pythons”
By: Samuel Boyhtari
7/29/13

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
5/27/14

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

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