Category Archives: Music

The Underdogs Rise in the Pop-Punk Scene

 

The pop-punk band State Champs.

by Natalie Dest

Springing up into the 2010 music scene, State Champs started their musical journey off as the underdogs.

Originating out of Albany, New York, this American pop-punk band has a similar sound to bands such as All Time Low and Mayday Parade, engaging fans with their fast punk-rock tempos and intense vocals.

Before signing to Pure Noise Records in 2012, State Champs were filling basements and small venues before their opportunity in releasing four EPs and two albums, including their most recent album released back in 2015, “Around the World and Back.” This pop-punk group has quickly dug their way out from the bottom, and are finally establishing their name within the music scene. However, their success didn’t spark overnight.

Although the band has received much support from bands such as 5 Seconds of Summer and All Time Low, State Champs’ musical success is undoubtedly because of the band themselves. Big thanks are in order to “The Finer Things,” an incredibly catchy and gripping album debut from the band back in 2013.

This was the release that spiraled State Champs’ recognition of their energy and innovation in the pop-punk genre. However, with an album such as “The Finer Things” setting the bar very high, this makes the task of creating a follow-up album of the same stature quite difficult.

Although the band’s most recent LP doesn’t quite hit the benchmark in terms of surpassing their past release, “Around the World and Back” features just enough catchy hooks, unique melodies, and musical proficiency that without a doubt impresses both fans and outsiders of the pop-punk genre.

Featuring their most recent hit single “Secrets,” “Around the World and Back” undoubtedly helped State Champs land the title of Best Breakthrough Band at the 2016 Alternative Press Music Awards. If anything is to be recognized about the band’s newest LP, it’s that the band successfully gave their record a pop-fueled style, while still incorporating the punk edge undertones that one would expect.

Their most notable single, “Secrets,” is a perfect example of this, starting the album off right by showcasing the strong musicianship within the band. The strong guitar progression and energetic drumming is distinct from their powerful instrumentation, much similar to the track “Eyes Closed.” Although this record is heavily influenced from this particular sound and the material is highly rhythmic, State Champs keeps fans interested with its varying meanings and lyrical content behind each song.

The track “Back and Forth” is very charismatic and toe-tapping, largely similar to the young and exhilarating attitude that comes from All Time Low’s release of “Nothing Personal” back in 2009. “Back and Forth” makes it clear the band’s capability to create memorable songs, even if the pace may be slowed down from their typical up-tempo tracks.

“Breaking Ground” follows the band’s musical variation between tracks, as the tone is much more edgier and empowering with its heavily punk guitar instrumentation, keeping the essence of pop punk alive and well.

Although this record has more musical variety when comparing to past LP “The Finer Things,” it can be said that “Around the World and Back” has a few tracks that are too similar to each other. As that may be the case, State Champs’ “Around the World and Back” is a record that should proudly stand on its own two feet regardless.

The continuous solid hooks, inspired songwriting and fresh lyrical ideas plant this album comfortably within the pop-punk scene. Whether a die-hard fan, or completely new to the genre,  “Around the World and Back” showcases State Champs’ ability for the big time.

Catch State Champs on their 2017 U.S. Tour, featuring bands such as With Confidence and Against the Current. Tickets are currently on sale, with the tour kicking off on Apr 7.

Ten Essential Concept Albums For College Students

by Kayla Murphy

A concept album is one that features an idea or theme expressed through a cycle of songs. Whether rock or rap, concept albums have been perfected by artists of many different music genres.

Personally, concept albums are the most unique and interesting. My favorite part is dissecting the message and following it up with a personal interpretation. I’ve compiled a list of concept albums from an array of genres and artists that every college student should check out.

  1. “The Wall”- Pink Floyd (1979)

“The Wall” is a rock opera that touches on themes of abandonment and isolation, symbolized by creating a metaphorical wall. Follow the life events of the main character Pink, whose father is killed during World War II. Pink grows up with an overprotective mother and is tormented by abusive teachers. He later grows up to become a rock star, but develops a drug and relationship problem. After his marriage crumbles, he sinks into a deep depression. Tormented by his own guilt, Pink places himself on trial for showing human emotion and is ordered to “tear down the wall.” If one seeks a visual aid to this masterpiece, check out the movie Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”

  1. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”- The Beatles (1967)

On a return flight back to London, Paul McCartney had an idea about an Edwardian-era military band, which led to his idea of the “Sgt. Pepper” concept. The Beatles dedicated an entire album to the fictional Sgt. Pepper. The creation of this alter ego allowed The Beatles to express the freedom of experimenting with music. Songs most known on the album include “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “A Day in the Life,” and “With a Little Help from My Friends.” One can check out the movie inspired by this album.

  1. “Lemonade”- Beyoncé (2016)

“Lemonade” is divided into 11 chapters named Intuition, Denial, Anger, Apathy, Emptiness, Accountability, Reformation, Forgiveness, Resurrection, Hope and Redemption. The concept behind “Lemonade” was described as “every woman’s journey of self-knowledge and healing.” Beyoncé was inspired by her grandmother, Agnez Dereon and Jay Z’s grandmother, Hattie White. One can hear a sound clip from Hattie White saying “I had my ups and downs, but I always found my inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” One can also watch the hour-long film that features Beyoncé and all of her songs on the album.

  1. “American Idiot”- Green Day (2004)

“American Idiot” is a punk-rock opera that follows the story of Jesus of Suburbia, a teen anti-hero who is divided between rage and love. Throughout the story, listeners begin to understand the album’s expression towards disillusionment and dissent of a generation that came in the age of military turmoil, with events like the Iraq War. Known songs off the album include “American Idiot,” “Holiday,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” This album inspired the Broadway musical: “American Idiot.”

  1. “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars”- David Bowie (1972)

Ziggy Stardust is David Bowie’s alter ego, as the album tells the story of Stardust. Ziggy Stardust is a rockstar alien who wants to spread his messages of hope, peace and love to the human race. The album centers around Ziggy’s glam-rock influences, themes of sexual exploration and social commentary. In real life, this reflected Bowie’s sexuality and one of his greatest and most controversial pieces of all time, “Starman” was created.

  1. “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”- Kendrick Lamar (2012)

This concept album follows the story of Lamar’s teenage experiences in drug usage, gangs, and the lifestyle that surrounded him in his hometown of Compton. With production aid from Dr. Dre, this album was nominated for four Grammys, including Album of The Year. Songs most known from this album include “Swimming Pools,” “Poetic Justice” featuring Drake, “Backseat Freestyle,” “The Recipe” featuring Dr. Dre and “Don’t Kill My Vibe.”

  1. “American Gangster”- Jay Z (2007)

Jay-Z was inspired by the film American Gangster, which was about Harlem mobsters in the late 1960s. Jay-Z even stated that almost every song is based on a specific scene from the film based on the character, Frank Lucas, head of the mob. The album charted number one in the U.S. and the songs most popular on the album include “Blue Magic,” “I Know” and “Roc Boys.”

  1. “Tommy”- The Who (1969)

The plot to “Tommy” is a little complex. British Army Captain Walker goes missing during an expedition and is believed to be dead. Years after, Mrs. Walker gave birth to their son, Tommy. Captain Walker returned home and discovered that his wife found a new lover. The Captain then murders the man and Tommy watches. Tommy’s mother convinces him that he did not see or hear the incident and must never tell anyone about it. As a result, he becomes deaf and blind to the outside world and relies on his sense of touch and imagination. Some of The Who’s most popular songs on this album include “Pinball Wizard,” “I’m Free,” “See Me, Feel Me” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

  1. “The Black Parade”- My Chemical Romance (2006)

The Black Parade is a rock opera about a character known as “The Patient.” The concept album is about his life and memories as he is on his deathbed. “The Patient’s” fondest memory was seeing a parade as a child. My Chemical Romance also used this concept album as an opportunity to perform as an alter ego, where at concerts they would perform in all black marching band uniforms. This album included many hits, such as “Famous Last Words,” “I Don’t Love You,” “Teenagers” and “Welcome to the Black Parade.”

  1. “Watertown” – Frank Sinatra (1970)

In 1969, Sinatra’s sales reached an all-time low; to combat this decline, he wrote a concept album about the story of a man whose wife leaves to raise his two young sons in Watertown. Sinatra’s rich and classical vocals will serenade you, especially his classics on the album “For Awhile,” “Michael and Peter,” and “Elizabeth.”

Mayday Parade Celebrate The Tenth Anniversary Of Their Debut Album

by Thomas Redding

Florida based pop punk/emo band Mayday Parade, celebrated their 10th anniversary by re-releasing their debut album, A Lesson In Romantics.

The band originated as two separate bands called Kid Named Chicago and Defining Moment.

The release included five demo songs originally featured on the album, and one unreleased demo called “Coming Back With Winter.”

The song sounds like a B-side because it doesn’t really fit in with the original 12 tracks that made the album. It has a similar sound seen from the band, but it doesn’t have that one good hook that the other 12 had. It is noticed why it didn’t make the album, but is still a great song. The song had its use, however, just a few years later.

The track was salvaged during the writing of their next album Anywhere But Here two years later. They pulled the lyrics and melody from the chorus of “Coming Back With Winter” to create “Save Your Heart,” which was featured as track 7, It then occurred to most fans why they might have included that demo on the re-release; it was a very nostalgic touch.

This was not the only change that was heard. In the demo recording of “Champagne’s For Celebrating (I’ll Have A Martini),” the chorus was sung in a different way, contrary to what many fans are used to hearing.

The change was truly a good one, although the demo has its perks as well. The bridge in the demo was sung with a different melody than the final song and some fans prefer this version to the much cleaner, polished studio recording.

During the recording of A Lesson In Romantics, the band had a sixth member, Jason Lancaster, who later left due to what he claimed as not having a larger role in the band. When the album was released, he left the band to start his own project “Go Radio,” who ended up signing to the same label.

One can easily understand after listening to the six demo tracks, that Lancaster must have felt a bit mistreated. Four of the six demos were entirely sung by him, but only one remained that way in the finished product.

It’s can be assumed he wrote the songs, but didn’t agree when producers wanted other lead singer, Derek Sanders, to be the lead on these tracks. The reason he left the band has become much more apparent after the release of these demos.

However, some fans are wondering whether he may join the band on their upcoming ten year anniversary tour. It would be the icing on the cake for long time Mayday Parade fans, which have yet to see the band play with all six original members. Many think it is highly unlikely because Lancaster’s band Go Radio broke up about a year ago, based on his decision to focus on his family life.

If anyone is interested in attending one of these anniversary shows, the closest stop on this cross-country tour is on May 6, at College Street Music Hall in New Haven, CT. Tickets are available online, and are selling fast. Joining them are pop-punk favorites Knuckle Puck, and an on the rise UK band, Milestones.

Tiger Jaw Return With New Song And Members

by Thomas Redding

Three years since the release of their previous studio album “Charmer,” the band Tiger Jaw is picking up right where they left off with the release of their new song “Guardian,” featured on their upcoming album “Spin” to be released May 19.

After the release of “Charmer” in 2014, three of the band’s longtime members left the group, leaving only guitarist/ vocalist Ben Walsh and keyboard player Brianna Collins.

The two decided to carry on with normal operations by adding a temporary-backing band for their upcoming tour that year. Fans were unsure on the future of the band, as it seemed they might be on a path to the end.

After about a one-year hiatus, the band has now been teasing the possibility that they have been working on new music, by putting up a blurred photo of what was assumed to be artwork for a new album.

After a few days, the album, alongside the new single and an upcoming summer tour, was announced.

The new song has many similar qualities to tracks off Charmer. It’s hard hitting, yet mellowed out in a way that allows to still be catchy, and has many fans hooked on what to expect from the album.

The band mentioned on social media that the new song, “Guardian,” was a good preview of “Spin.”

The lyrical content is about the effects of dealing with anxiety, while being a support system to others around.  The band, typically known for using metaphors, has included some in the chorus when singing.

“Burn a candle to my skin / Turn the handle, let me in / I cannot be your medicine anymore.”

The lyrics are what drew in a lot of fans at the start of the band. This has definitely been furthered into more meaningful topics, which can be seen in the production of “Charmer.”

With the loss of three-fifths of the band, the recording process was definitely going to be different than what was previously seen from the band.

The now duo went into the studio with producer Will Yip, who has worked with Tigers Jaw on almost all of their releases. Walsh was the original drummer of the band, so his capabilities were, without question, acceptable for being at the loss of a drummer. Walsh also recorded bass, as well as guitar for all of Spin. Collins has control of the piano/keyboard and even some vocals.

It has been rumored that Collins, who’s voice has typically been heard as a background vocal, will be singing lead on quite a few songs. This would definitely give a different sound.

Her voice is soft and quiet, meaning there may be a few mellow songs on the album, which is not a bad thing. Many fans prefer their more melodic slow songs to their fast, indie rock jams. Some think there will mostly likely be about a 50/50 ratio between the two.

As for live shows, the band will most likely continue with the musicians they had been using on their previous tour. Anyone interested in seeing Tigers Jaw can now buy tickets to their show at Webster Hall in New York City.

This is the closest to Connecticut that they will get, but it will be quite worth the trip. Joining them on this tour will be alternative rock bands Saintseneca, and Smidley,  both great for fans of the indie-punk scene.

You can pre-order the upcoming album Spin by Tigers Jaw at their website, www.tigersjaw.com, or digitally on iTunes. Overall I would rate “Guardian” a solid 10/10. I highly recommend pre-ordering this album, and also recommend taking a listen to their previous LP, “Charmer.”

 

Upcoming Concerts in CT

by Corey O’Neill

Connecticut is scattered with great concert venues. Whether at a local bar or at a much larger scene, there seems to be an intriguing show almost every weekend. Here are some of the notable upcoming shows around the state to look out for.

 

Bastille – Friday, March 31, Mohegan Sun

British indie pop band Bastille, sky-rocketed to the mainstream back in 2013, thanks to their radio smash-hit “Pompeii,” from their first LP “Bad Blood.” After a few years touring and recording, the group is back with a new record entitled “Wild World,” which was released this past September. Catch them at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, March 31. Tickets are still available from as low as $29, but act fast!

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Big Sean – Friday, April 7, Toyota Oakdale Theatre

Detroit rapper Big Sean is currently touring his newest album “I Decided,” which was released by GOOD Music and Def Jam Recordings last month. Known for putting on a great show, Big Sean will look to put on another exciting performance at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre on Friday, April 7. Tickets are currently available by Live Nation for around $50.

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The Decemberists – Saturday, April 15, College Street Music Hall

College Street Music Hall is a relatively new location in New Haven, and it is rapidly growing in popularity. Since its opening back in May of 2015, the venue has hosted many favorite artists among young adults. Tickets usually go for around $20, regardless of who is performing. Indie band The Decemberists, will be taking the stage on Saturday, April 15. Other notable upcoming shows include Mayday Parade in May, and City and Colour in June. Great shows at a great venue for a cheap price!

 

Eric Church — Thursday and Friday, April 27 and 28, Mohegan Sun

For country fans, Eric Church will be performing back to back nights in later April. Church is currently touring his sixth studio album, “Mr. Misunderstood” for his “Holdin’ My Own Tour 2017.” Church has no opener for this tour and is playing two sets per show. Tickets are a bit pricey for this one, with prices starting from as low as $100.

 

The Fray – Sunday, April 30, Foxwoods

The Fray will be playing The Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino on Sunday, April 30. The group may not be releasing new music anytime soon other than their most recent single “Singing Low,” but they are touring to promote their greatest hits album, “Through the Years: The Best of the Fray.” Tickets start at $60.

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