All posts by Matthew Balogh

All Time Low Takes Experimental Shift with New Single

by Thomas Redding

All Time Low is a pop punk band that originated in Baltimore, Maryland, formed in 2003. They have been a part of Hopeless Records for most of their career, but will now be releasing their upcoming album on Fueled By Ramen Records, which is also the home of bands such as: Paramore, Panic at The Disco, Young The Giant, and Twenty One Pilots. They announced this surprise record label switch just a day before the new single and music video for the single was released on Feb. 17. Based on fan reviews of the new single, there is excitement in this change of sound for the band, giving them assurance that the label change was the right choice for them.

Their new single, “Dirty Laundry” sounds somewhat experimental for the band. Typically known for pop-punk hits like, “Dear Maria Count Me In,” this song takes a different route for the first half. They are starting to add more electronic features with the release of each preceding album, and are speculated to head towards a total pop sound. This new track is still a song you can jam out to, yet the verses and first two choruses are softer and more eerie than anything the band has released before. The electric guitars don’t kick in until the last chorus, giving it a burst of energy. This ending gives it a small trace of the pop-punk genre that their albums once consisted of.

The band had mentioned that there was some experimenting being done during the recording process, which is understandable for a band that is now close to 15 years old. They are looking for something different to play live, while also trying to market themselves and differentiate themselves in a highly formulaic genre. So far, fan reactions to the track have been mostly positive, and the pre-order merchandise bundles have been selling fast. These sales further the notion of success with the experimentation in the upcoming album.

Some believe that this track may just be one of its kind, and that there will still be pop-punk songs on the album. There is a chance of this, and that would be quite interesting to hear a wide range of sounds coexist cohesively on their album. However, each of All Time Low’s albums have a distinct sound. One can tell the difference between albums almost right away, so one might assume that this album will have similar sounding tracks to that of “Dirty Laundry.” This is most likely to happen because the first single typically is a summary of what the album will sound like.

Overall, fans are quite excited to see a “new” All Time Low. Their previous album, “Future Hearts” debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling 75,000 copies in its first week. It’s expected to see around the same, if not more. While All Time Low isn’t necessary “mainstream,” they can sell out stadiums fairly easily. Their fans are typically “die- hard fans” that will pay almost $200 to see them. For a band in the pop-punk genre, they are on the high end of popularity and recognition.

All Time Low is about to embark on a large tour this summer, hitting almost every House of Blues venue across the United States, along with some large concert halls along the way. The closest stop for anyone around here would be in New York City on July 31, at the Central Park Summerstage. Their new album, “The Last Young Renegade” will be available June 6, and pre-orders are available on iTunes and at www.alltimelow.com. I would rate this track an 8/10.

blink-182 Announces Deluxe Edition Album with New Songs

 

by Matt Balogh

After the release of their album “California” last July, blink-182 had been met with all types of attention: among the band’s fan base, the new followers, and the unforgiving group of fans that bash any post-Tom Delonge recordings. Delonge was blink’s former guitarist, co-lead vocalist and founding member of the band. After complications with scheduling for an upcoming album between the band members, the unthinkable had happened for the group.

Delonge had notified the group that he was leaving to focus on his own projects around mid-2014, leaving the band without their guitarist. Soon after, Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio filled in, and later was confirmed a full-time member of the band.

Considering Alkaline Trio’s style in the punk rock genre, fans expected blink to completely return to their roots in energetic fast punk music. As a very talented guitarist and vocalist, Skiba fit in perfectly, but fans had grown upset over the absence of Delonge’s signature slurred vocals.

“California” gave the band a massive popularity spike and even earned them their first Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album. Compared to their past albums, this one lacked in strong songwriting. The songs were catchy, however, very basic and songs didn’t differ much from track to track.

Under the production of Goldfinger’s John Feldmann, the 16-track album seemed to feature a little too much filler. The 30-second joke tracks seemed to only be placed in there just to get old fans off their back about losing their sense of humor. The album did spawn a handful of solid songs that will work very well blended in will their usual live set-list.

To promote the release of the upcoming deluxe edition of “California,” the band had released a new single, “Parking Lot.” The song is more upbeat, in the vein of “Cynical,” appealing to the band’s old fans who crave Travis Barker’s faster drumming. With lyrics putting even more “west-coast glorification” into the album, the band doesn’t cover any new ground. A nice homage was paid to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” was paid in the chorus lyrics, adding a quirky spin on it.

The deluxe edition adds 12 extra songs to the album, making it worth the money. Pre-orders will be available through the band’s official site, expected to be released May 19.

 

Weezer Hints at upcoming Album with New Single

by Matt Balogh

Storming through the pop and rock charts in 1994 with “The Blue Album,” Weezer has been well known and loved for their “geek-rock” style for 25 years now. Being rather modest of their success, front man Rivers Cuomo felt anxious and uneasy about a lot of the new-found fame that the band had earned.

Many of these mixed feelings led to influence in Cuomo’s songwriting,and the darker sounding “Pinkerton.” Many remembered Pinkerton, but Cuomo wanted to forget about it. By describing it like a cathartic, yet embarrassing confessional, Cuomo disregarded the band’s efforts on that album until more recently.

Since Pinkerton was released in 1996, Weezer took a small break until 2001, subsequently releasing a number of albums greatly differing from Pinkerton’s style. The band took a route of more pop rock, similar to some tracks off of “The Blue Album,” and maintained a pop sound throughout most of their catalog.

Last year, Weezer released their fourth self-titled album, nicknamed “The White Album,” which became the tenth album in their catalog. This album merged their catchy pop-rock tunes with a mix of some “grunge pop” elements of their earliest music. Critics responded well to the album, and it even earned the band a Grammy nomination for best rock album, to which they lost to Cage The Elephant.

The band’s newest single “Feels Like Summer” was released on March 15, with confirmation of the band’s upcoming album Weezer (“The Black Album”), to be released in the summer. This album is meant to be a collection of firsts for the group. In a similar relation, Pinkerton was to “The Blue Album,” “The Black Album” is expected to be a lot darker than all of their previous albums, no pun intended.

Rivers Cuomo said, “If it were a movie, it would be rated R,” as opposed to their others, being compared to PG and PG-13 movies content wise. This is referencing Cuomo previously stating his name songs may feature more swearing, something that the band barely ever includes in their songs.

This news excited fans, expecting the raw and heavy sound and themes that Pinkerton was known for. However, when the band released “Feels Like Summer,” speculation went towards the direction of their pop sound.

The song is guided heavily on a drum machine beat, following a structure and sound that is very similar to a lot of pop music played on mainstream radio. The song has a catchy hook, but is strangely different from previous songs with the stylistic change.

Granted, fans were met with a previous confusion when the band released “Thank God For Girls” from “The White Album,” yet, the album featured a wide variety of tracks that satisfied old fans. While that may be the case for this single as well, it could provide a taste of their further exploration for new sound, which is a hard thing for any band to do.

CCSU’s Singers Filling Up Founder’s Hall

 

by Matt Balogh

Many music enthusiasts gathered in Founder’s Hall on Thursday to enjoy the sounds of various singing groups here at Central Connecticut State University. The CCSU Chorale, Blue Notes and the University Singers took the stage for a performance full of wonderful arrangements. The performance was free to all, opening the doors to many students and faculty members.

Beginning strongly, the Chorale performed a composition by Martini, to which conductor Drew Collins jokingly expressed, “It’s always fun to start things off with a Martini.” All went well throughout their set, simultaneously flipping through their music sheets as their sound erupted around the room.

Interestingly enough, the second arrangement in their performance, “Der Tanz” by Schubert, they had performed 3 different times. Considering that the original was around a minute and a half long and arranged for a quartet and piano accompaniment, they included that exact arrangement in the middle of the song, aiding to its original setting.

To close their portion of the show, the group had done a tribute to George Gershwin with a medley of his classics “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin,” “Summertime” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” The various sections blended well, including a strong bass section that shook the surrounding area. In addition to an angelic Soporano to match the rest, evening out the entire mix.

The next group was the Blue Notes Vocal Jazz group, a fairly new group to the lineup, performing acapella jazz. Featuring many of the members of the Chorale, the 8-piece group did a set consisting of a Greg Jasperse composition. Although it was quick, their style was an interesting piece to the lineup. The group sang in a “scat” style annunciation, featuring no intelligible words, just syllables.

The University Singers then closed the concert with the Chorale members. Singing without the accompaniment of a piano, the group held a strong sound and balanced well together.

Their first arrangement, a working of Bach’s “Ich Lasse Dich Nicht,” featured a ‘call and response’ style vocal arrangement, as the parts switched back and forth between sections. Switching between energetic and loud pieces, soft and mellow, the group filled the remainder of the show with fantastic arrangements.

Senior singer Hunter Bustamante, a member of the Chorale and the Blue Notes, spoke highly of the groups, “the most important aspect of preparation is the amount of practice time and dedication put into each piece.” Each piece was arranged to fit the size of the group and each individual part, a process that each member contributes a large portion to. Bustamante continued that overall “members of the groups join for a variety of reasons, most commonly the love of making music with others in a friendly environment.”
Both the Chorale and the Blue Notes host shows twice a semester, however, the University Singers are much more active in their performances. The groups consist of all CCSU students with an interest in musical arrangement and singing. Accepting all types of students, the various groups welcome anyone to join.

Knuckle Puck’s New Single Raises Eyebrows

by Thomas Redding

There are many mixed reactions of the new acoustic single from frontrunners of the new pop-punk scene, Knuckle Puck. The Chicago band, typically known for their hard-hitting songs, have taken a different route with their new releases, “Calendar Days” and “Indecisive.”

The first single, “Indecisive,” was released last Thursday, Feb. 23, and many devoted fans were taken rather off guard. They have released acoustic versions of songs before, but never quite like this. This is the first time that lead singer Joe Taylor, has ever included falsetto-style singing into one of their songs. He also refrained from yelling, something typically heard in previous acoustic tracks. This is the first time we get a glimpse of his actual singing voice, and while he doesn’t have ‘pop star’ qualities, his voice does a good job of complimenting the tone of the track.

The single is their first official release of an acoustic song, some wouldn’t say that it was disappointing. However, when the band announced new music, most were expecting another pop-punk anthem.

After reaching somewhere around the halfway point of the song, opinions began to change as they realized it was actually pretty serene. Although the reviews were mixed, their limited vinyl record of 500 copies, was sold out within about an hour. 

The band’s has matured since their previous release, “Copacetic,” in July of 2015. They have strayed from the “pop-punk acoustic norms,” which includes the same set of chords and strumming pattern, along with a strings section and recycled melodies. The single has more technical and interesting guitar parts, and the lyrics play a large role, because they are much stronger than heard in previous releases.

There are few lyrics to the song, which makes it somewhat resemble a lullaby. The melody is very droning and calm, creating a new sound for the band. It is also difficult imagining the band ever playing this song live, considering that their shows are known for being energetic and loud.

It is not clear if this was an experimental release, or if it could mean something new. Some speculate that by straying from the fast, loud, pop-punk jams, the band is seeking a softer rock side of their sound. It would be interesting to see them go in a new direction, as they would be paving a new path for pop-punk, which is in dire need of some change currently.

The “new pop-punk” sound has been pushing long time fans away from the genre lately, as the sound has changed far past its original roots. A different sounding Knuckle Puck album may actually be good, allowing them to stand out in this crowd of heavily formulaic bands.

Knuckle Puck can be seen opening for Mayday Parade’s 10th Anniversary tour, which will be traveling across the country this spring. The band is highly recommended for fans of the genre. There are still tickets available for the tour stop at College Street Music Hall in New Haven, on May 6.Check out www.knucklepuck.limitedrun.com for pre-orders of “Calendar Days” and “Indecisive,” and to see the video for the new song.

Overall, the song is great and has the potential for frequent replays on the iTunes libraries of pop-punk fans. I would rate the song a 7.5/10.

Linkin Park Returns with a New Single

Image result for linkin park heavy

by Matt Balogh

At the forefront of the nu metal scene in the early 2000s, Linkin Park has grown to find a fan base of millions. By combining a large sound of heavy metal influence and hip hop elements of rapping style vocals, and DJ-led turntable scratching. This created a distinct sound for them, allowing their debut album Hybrid Theory to sell over 30 million copies worldwide.

Being a favorite of nu metal and hip hop fans alike, Hybrid Theory became a base for many nu metal bands to follow. Their singles “In The End” and “One Step Closer” had seen large rotation on rock stations, and continue to be staples in their live performances to this day.

Over the years, the band has put out 6 albums more, each to a sloping response by their long time fans. Fans have criticized their change in style, as it keeps inching towards a pop style. While not completely ditching their nu metal taste, their albums have featured more much lighter feeling songs, and less and less edge on their sound. Starting with songs like “Shadow of The Day”, and really everything on Minutes to Midnight, they have brought softer songs, and really a total departure to a pop rock-ish style.

In the case for their newest track “Heavy,” it seems as though they have completely converted themselves to a pop sound, ditching anything “rock” that the band had previously been known for. If the song suggests anything of the new album, this leaves anticipation of a rock-less, polished electronic pop album. The instrumentation is minimalist, and sounds almost completely computer generated, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Their downfalls, however, lie in the structure and lyrics of the song.

With not much going on in the background, the song seems to rely on the inclusion of the up-and-coming pop singer Kiiara. The singer does not bring much to save the song, and it resembles a pop duet in the vein of The Chainsmoker’s “Closer,” which exemplified the recurring motif of modern pop music: basic and seemingly uninteresting track that is attempted to be revived by new singer that is just as uninteresting. Kiiara’s vocal addition took the majority of the singing role after her awkward introduction in the chorus. Shifting energy very rarely throughout the track, the quickness of its length makes the song go from A to B, and feels like nothing had even happened.

The lyrics are really uninspired, just linking overused lines like “can’t escape the gravity,” “I’m holding on,” and the repetitive “why is everything so heavy,” which is ironic considering the nature of the song. The chorus had potential to save the verses from their simplicity, but is stuck to the repetition of the “why is everything so heavy” line.

For fans of the band, they have some real bad news coming to them. Hopefully the entire album won’t be following this style, as it lacks the feeling that Linkin Park had always packed. Although a change of style isn’t terrible, this song unfortunately doesn’t even work well as a pop song, and certainly works as only filler. Linkin Park has had a history of success and creativity, so it’s hard to blame them for experimentation. The song could possibly find the interest of die hard fans, or maybe fans of modern pop music.

Relient K’s Truly Madly Deeply EP

by Matt Balogh

Starting in 1998, Relient K made their way through the Christian Punk scene, eventually finding their audience. With a contract signed to indie Christian label, Gotee Records, Relient K released their self-titled debut to little initial reaction, but eventually went on to sell 400,000 copies. The band’s sound had used humor and references to pop culture to combine with a catchy pop-punk sound, making them the perfect subject for an era that pop-punk dominated.

A year later, the band’s next album “Anatomy of Tongue and Cheek,” had charted them on the Billboard 200, debuting at number 158. Songs like “Pressing On” and “Sadie Hawkin’s Dance” had brought them more popularity, and the album eventually was certified gold. Throughout another full length and a handful of EPs later, Relient K had managed not to lose their playful wit and pop-punk charm that listeners loved.

In 2004, Relient K met with mainstream success, as they signed to Capitol Records to release their album “Mmhmm,” heavily driven by their hit single “Be My Escape.” The album peaked at number 15 on the Billboard 200, and furthered their success even more. This album worked as a platform for experimentation, when compared to their previous releases. While maintaining a pop-punk element, “Mmhmm” introduces sounds of alternative rock, post-hardcore and even soft rock balled-style songs. After “Mmhmm,” the band had released 6 albums, including a Christmas compilation.

Lyrically, their songs discuss various topics, however, they do incorporate Christian faith into their lyrics. Over the years, the religious references have seldom appeared, but still are a consistent feature of their music. Since their stylistic experimentation in “Mmhmm,” their lyrics have been a little more serious than their cheerful and humorous songs in the past.

In 2017, Relient K had released their new EP in time for Valentine’s Day, titled “Truly Madly Deeply.” Despite the title, there are no covers of Savage Garden, but rather a 3 song EP of all originals.

Leading off the EP “Candy Hearts,” is a return to the pop-punk sound that the band had so perfectly perfected. The song makes for an excellent introduction of the very short EP, working as a “carpe diem” style story, offering love to an unknown recipient.

The song has very straightforward structure, but is very energetic as a modern love song. Showing their versatility, the next track “Happy Valentimes” is a rockabilly style song, featuring a shuffling beat that pumps out a catchy backbone to the song. “Happy Valentimes” is a lot less complex lyrically, as it follows a linear love story and squeezes in some essential ‘Lalalas.’ The final track, “BMI Valentine” has a style similar to folk-rock, complete with an acoustic guitar backing. This song is a fairly depressing close to an EP full of love, considering it is more of a hopeless romantic story. The song references to alcoholism, and being without a heart while looking for a valentine.

For what it’s worth, the EP is a nice little collection for a listen during this year’s Valentine’s Day. The length of it helps with the variation of song genres, making it flow better than they may have on a full length. Specifically, lead singer/guitarist Matt Thiessen’s lyrics have never dulled, and continue to influence feeling on the band’s fans.

59th Grammys Recap: A Year of Firsts

by Matt Balogh 

While Connecticut had a very snowy and hectic weekend, the biggest names in the music business were preparing themselves for the 59th Celebration of the Grammy Awards.

This year, the beloved James Corden had the honor of hosting, bringing his usual comedic elements featured heavily throughout his late-night show. During his introduction, Corden demonstrated his comedic style by falling down the stairs as the opening song progressed. In a shift of feeling, Corden began to rap a summary of upcoming events planned for the night, accompanied by a beat for his well-rehearsed itinerary rap.
The show was filled with many exciting moments, but also had its fair share of technical difficulties and political influenced speeches. Being a celebration of music, the show was jam-packed with performances from many artists, including some of the nominees.

After Adele’s show-opening rendition of “Hello,” many artists followed with their acts such as Daft Punk with The Weekend, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars and Chance the Rapper. Some performances were more minimalistic than others, such as Ed Sheeran’s stripped-down looper pedal performance of “Shape of You.”

Sheeran had used the guitar pedal technology to record live loops on the spot, and built them up as he sang and played guitar over the backing, making for a very interesting display. As for the more elaborate performances, the widely acclaimed artist Beyoncè had a massive display, paying tribute to themes such as motherhood, love and civil harmony. The act brought out over two dozen back up dancers, and featured special effects to bring a surreal element to the imagery of the routine.

The night also paid tribute to recently passed musical artists George Michael and Prince. Adele led the George Michael tribute with a performance of “Fastlove,” to which she had requested to restart while looking rather disappointed in herself. Later on, Bruno Mars had collaborated with The Times to bring an energetic dedication to Prince.

In a more political influence, A Tribe Called Quest took the stage with Anderson Paak, Consequence and Busta Rhymes to both pay tribute to their fallen member Phife Dawg, and to use their performance of their song “We The People” to slam President Donald Trump. In an excellent message of equality, they made the message clear to resist to “President Agent Orange.”

There were some interesting collaborations throughout the night, most notably the Bee Gees tribute and the unusual pairing of Lady Gaga with Metallica. In a medley of the Bee Gees’ classic hits, Demi Lovato, Tori Kelly and Little Big Town set the stage merging all their own styles, blending the segments fairly well. On the other hand, the chemistry with Lady Gaga and Metallica felt rather forced, and very odd. Their performance of Metallica’s new song “Moth Into Flame” made Gaga look like a winner of a “Sing with the band” contest, as it unraveled itself as more as a karaoke tribute. James Hetfield’s mic had not been working, adding to the uncomfortable environment of the situation, however, Gaga at least maintained very high energy to keep the song going, appropriately ending with a stage-dive at the song’s end.

The Awards themselves brought history, as there were many first-time winners and records set. One of the more interesting of the winners was Chance the Rapper, a fully independent artist that took home 3 awards last night. Considering Chance releases all his music for free, this meant that he had been awarded more Grammys than the total amount of songs he has sold.

Chance also beat out Kanye West for Rap Album of the Year with his mixtape “Coloring Book.” First time winners Twenty One Pilots had accepted their award for best Pop Duo in a peculiar fashion: with their pants off. Singer Tyler Joseph had explained to the audience that they had promised themselves that ever since they once watched the same event on TV while dressed in a similar outfit. David Bowie had certainly left his mark on the musical world, as he posthumously won all 5 awards that he had been nominated for. Many different artists and family members came up to accept his awards in his honor.

One of the most anticipated face-offs of the night went to Beyoncè and Adele. Both highly acclaimed artists, but went head to head on several awards. While being widely praised and essentially hyped up over everything she does, Beyoncè was expected to have a clean sweep through all of her 9 nominations. However, for both Record and Album of the year, Adele had claimed victory, but tearfully gave a shoutout to Beyoncè as she felt that her album had deserved it instead.

The night had been a very shocking and entertaining collection of artists, certainly made for an interesting event.

Less Than Jake, Sounding The Alarm in 2017

 

by Matt Balogh

Less Than Jake has been in the business for 25 years now, bringing fame to the sound that is Ska Punk.

In the mid to late 90s, bands like Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger, Sublime and Less Than Jake have helped to popularize the third-wave of ska to a mass market. This following gained attention of major record to take interest, allowing Less Than Jake to get their big break on Capitol Records.

In 1996, Less Than Jake released their cult classic album Losing Streak, widely accepted as one of the best albums of the 90s punk and ska scene. From then on, they have put out six more full lengths, five compilation albums, and eight EPs.

Their sound was definitive in the start of the era, providing a mix of fast-paced punk music, with a switch of reggae and ska influenced riffs. This mixture was the base of many bands music at the time.

Throughout the years, the band had experimented with combinations of their signature style, and even straying to more pop-punk sounds, which was received with mixed reception from long-time fans.

More recently in 2013, Less Than Jake had released their eighth album See The Light, a strong effort that proved to both fans and critics that they have not lost their flair. The album consisted of 13 songs that flowed perfectly from track to track, being the opposite of a boring listen. Generating crowd favorite live tracks, and some of the catchiest music they have released to date, See The Light had introduced the band into the 2010s: a decade relatively dry in the vein of ska punk.

After four years without new music, the band had released Sound The Alarm on Feb 3, 2017. The new EP consists of seven songs, but each have strong hooks and melodies to really give the release its punch. While instrumentally similar to their albums See The Light, Anthem and Hello Rockview, the band has shown that they have not lost their style, but have evolved to a new layer of their energetic form.

To introduce the EP, the band ‘sounds the alarm’ with their opening track “Call To Arms,” that begins with a bass riff that ignites the song into a mosh-appropriate groove full of action. Showing their progression in stylistic changes, “Whatever the Weather” works as a slower paced jam, fit with a usual hook in the chorus that is lifted by the reggae upstrokes of the guitar, then transitioning into a full-fledged power chord jam. Similar in style, “Years of Living Dangerously” incorporates the ska elements along with an alternative rock sound and structure.

Overall, the band has not changed much, which could lead as both a blessing and a curse in this case. The EP also seems to go by fast, even at seven songs, which may have worked better in a full length situation. However, the EP allows for a nice refresher for long-time fans. It serves as a gateway to the band’s music through their new contract with Pure Noise Records, an indie label that is very popular among fans of indie rock and pop punk in the new scene.

Produced under the wing of Roger Lima, the band’s bassist, the EP marks one of his many projects in the production chair. Along with his production work, the album features Lima’s vocals on a large amount of the album, as opposed to their previous work, where guitarist Chris DeMakes usually covers more of the singing.

A pretty great effort for the 25 year old group, making fans happily anticipate any upcoming projects. I give the album an overall rating of 7/10.