Tag Archives: album review

Album Review: Gym Class Heroes, ‘The Papercut Chronicles II’

The Papercut Chronicles II Source: Fueled By Ramen

By Ashley E. Lang

Gym Class Heroes’ latest album, The Papercut Chronicles II, was worth the wait. Front man Travie McCoy brings the band to the next level with inventive rhymes and a killer back beat that will keep you moving throughout.

‘Za Intro’ provides a little taste of what is to come with the help of a mechanical voice over introducing the band. “Hi, have you ever wondered what it would be like to listen to some music? Well this is your big chance,” the monotone voice recites into echoing speakers.

‘Martyral Girl$,’ the first real track off the album, packs a punch right from the start. “I’m officially going in and refusing to come out unless I’m bloody, let’s go…” Referencing the shallowness that  has overrun society, Travie systematically releases verse after verse of hits. “Everybody here is extra hip like replacements … I’d rather be sedated than conversate about whose sneakers are more outrageous or whose outfit’s the latest…”

‘Life Goes On (feat. Oh Land)’ is a nice change of pace. Offering up a strong reflection of past choices before quickly moving on because, as Travie points out, life is too short to live in the past. “Starin’ at an empty bed my ex-girl should’ve been in, thinking what I woulda done different, not a damn thing cuz finally I’m done with it…You take too much for granted I just can’t understand it…” he snaps back.

‘Solo Discotheque (Whiskey Bitness),’ not only produces a slew of impressive lyrics but also includes a surprising old school twist of vinyl scratching between verses.

A personal favorite, ‘Holy Horseshit, Batman!!,’ is one of the strongest and deepest tracks off the album touching on the controversial topic of faith and God. “She reached her hand out with a pamphlet and I politely said “No, ma’am,  I mean no disrespect and I apologize if this f**ks up your program. You tell me I’m gonna burn for lying but that he can turn water to wine. Well if there’s a hell below then we’re all gonna’ be just fine…” He continues on to describe how questioning God created a turmoil within his conscious, posing the question of whether or not he is a lost soul in  the world where questioning everything around us has become a way of life. “Maybe I would be a fool to think that somewhere in the sky’s a place for me,” he spits back.

‘Nil-Nill-Draw’ touches on the problem with romance these days. A possible self reflection of a past relationship of a corrupt and jealous affair emerging with a semi chauvinistic quality that arises in the track as Travie spits “I could have any girl but I stayed with you, I guess everybody plays the fool…”

‘Lazarus, Se Gitan’ is a creative twist, following Travie through his journey of falling in love, but not quite finding true love. “Oh, I’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places, oh somebody take me home,” he calls out.

Rounding out the album with the second to last track is ‘The Fighter (feat. Ryan Tedder)’. The Gym Class Heroes never let their guard down churning out hit after hit, “Ya ever feel like your train a thoughts been derailed? That’s when you press on… half the population’s just waitin to see me fail. Yeah right, you’re better off tryina freeze hell. Some of us do it for the females and others do it for the retails, but I do it for the kids, life through the tower head on, every time you fall its only making your chin strong.” An inspirational journey of never giving up on yourself and following through with your dreams because the only one who can keep you down is yourself.

The last track on the album is one of the strongest. ‘Kid Nothing And The Never-Ending Naked Nightmare’ closes out the track listing with a vengeance, “This is me thanking you dearly, sincerely, from the bottom of what’s left of my misery magnet. Guess I’ve been too busy being stagnant and if I ever steer you wrong grab the wheel and jerk it left. I’m only human but admitted I’m such a beautiful mess,” Travie rips into the mic.

This album makes you think. What do you want out of this life and whether or not you’re wasting your time on stuff that never really mattered. Travie is a lyrical genius and most certainly will not let you down. His band’s musical talents also will not disappoint. Every beat, every rhythm, every word uttered into the mic, will leave an imprint in your heart and your mind. Do yourself a favor and open yourself up to the Gym Class Heroes.

Album Review: Angels And Airwaves, ‘Love: Part II’

By Peter Stroczkowski

Love II is both AvA’s fourth album and the final release in the Tom Delonge-led project’s ‘Love trilogy’ including the first Love album and the 2011 space-narrative film Love. With the release of Blink-182’s newest album just a few months ago, it is definitely a good year to be a Tom Delonge fan.

However, the typically potty-mouthed and nasally Blink guitar player most of us knew and loved is replaced here with an overly-philosophical, misguided, but equally nasally bastard child of Bono and Jared Leto.

Angels and Airwaves have always struggled with this weakness: although their music is beautifully textured, composed and performed, it is weighed down by contrived lyrics, repetitive and unoriginal vocal melodies, and a frontman ultimately more concerned with living up to his own hype than connecting with his listeners.

Opener ‘Saturday Love’ combines an intro worthy of being called the pop-punk genre’s ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ with Delonge’s uninspired crooning.

To be fair, the chorus is catchy, but the rest of the song bleeds together with the many other forgettable moments on the album. It is clear with the droning of synthesizers, the endless pitter-patter of lead guitar played through delay pedals and the attempted anthemic vocal arrangements that Delonge and the band want very much to create mood and atmosphere within the songs.

The problem is that the songs are almost entirely mood and atmosphere: airy, see-through and lacking substance. The lead single ‘Anxiety’ sounds nearly identical to the band’s older song ‘The Adventure’, while ‘Dry Your Eyes’ is a blatant rip-off of older single ‘Everything’s Magic’, which itself was a completely derivative of The Cure’s ‘Close to Me’ and Blink-182’s ‘Anthem Pt. 2′.

This is ultimately what is so frustrating about AvA’s music: there are plenty of good ideas but rather than hearing these ideas expanded upon, altered or dissected, the listener is fed either the same thing or practically the same thing over and over again, with Delonge’s strained voice sounding significantly weaker each time. For many fans of AvA’s music, this very well may be a plus. For everyone else, at least we can hope for another Blink-182 album.

Album Review: Coldplay, ‘Mylo Xyloto’

Photo courtesy of Parlophone

By Ashley E. Lang

For over a decade, Coldplay has been streaming from our speakers, dancing through the air and finding their way into our hearts. With their newly released album Mylo Xyloto, they have most certainly proved why they have dominated the airwaves and will continue to do so for years to come.

Mylo Xyloto is beaming with whimsical rhythms, backed by a strong vocal performance by lead vocalist Chris Martin. Every track on Coldplay’s latest is another one for the books.

The opening track, “Mylo Xyloto,” is 42 seconds of synthesized joy and a perfect introduction to Martin’s charisma bursting out of every track.

Declared a concept album by Martin, Mylo Xyloto tells the story of two protagonists, Mylo and Xyloto, who meet and fall in love while living in an oppressed society. The album takes you through each stage of their lives from love to problems within society and the suffocation of higher powers where their only real means of escape is in their dreams. Martin sings “When she was just a girl she expected the world but it flew away from her reach so she ran away in her sleep,” in “Paradise.”

“Major Minus,” an edgier track off of Mylo Xyloto, warns of the dangers of a government watchdog. “They got one eye on what you knew And one eye on what you do so be careful who it is you’re talking to.”

Coldplay takes on a soft acoustic rhythm in “U.F.O.” Although less upbeat musically, the delicateness of the instruments proves to be a perfect addition to Martin’s vocal performance on a more sensitive track.

With a surprising twist, Rihanna delivers an impressive performance on “Princess of China” with Martin. As Mylo and Xyloto battle the evils of everyday life, “Princess of China” chronicles the pitfalls when love becomes a battleground. “I could’ve been a princess, you’d be a king could’ve had a castle on a ring but no, you let me go. I could’ve been a princess, you’d be a king could’ve had a castle on a ring but no, you let me go…you stole my star…cause you really hurt me.”

In continuing the sorrows of a broken heart, “Up in Flames” captures beautifully the feeling of loss and the hopelessness of being alone after knowing what it means to truly love.

Mylo Xyloto is a brilliant album that not only captures the human psyche but also devours the illusions of the heart from every stage of love, loss, and rebirth. Separately each track holds its own, but the tracks meshed together produce pure greatness. This album does not disappoint on any level.

Album Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, ‘High Flying Birds’

Source: Sour Mash

By Justin Muszynski

After leaving arguably the biggest British band since the Beatles, no one was quite sure what Noel’s debut solo album would sound like.

Soon after listening to the first track you realize Noel Gallagher was set out to prove he was the better half of Oasis. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds opens with “Everybody’s on the Run,” and it’s nothing short of epic. Ever since a version of it from a sound check was leaked on YouTube, Oasis fans have awaited a finalized version.

Noel doesn’t make the same mistakes that he did with Be Here Now, his latest album isn’t over bloated or overhyped. In fact, it’s rather mellow compared to his earlier work like Definitely Maybe. Songs like “If I Had a Gun” and “Record Machine (I Wanna Live in a Dream)” have moments of tranquility followed by a chorus that’s being belted out at the top of Noel’s lungs.

As you listen you’ll certainly recognize it roots from Oasis, however it’s the most uniquely sounding album Noel has ever put out. The guitar in this one is certainly different from Oasis albums. Instead of heavy distortion and a guitar riff after every other line, an array of instruments is taken advantage of along with several choirs in the background throughout the album.

“The Death of You and Me,” the first single, is like “The Importance of Being Idle” part two, an instant classic that cleverly surprises you with a brass section in the middle. “AKA What a Life” is certainly unfamiliar territory for Noel with its fast paced dance tune melody, but somehow he seems very comfortable with it.

Even songs that Noel himself described as not so good like “Dream On” deliver with lyrics that in typical Noel fashion sometimes don’t make much sense like, “The kids outside, they’re drunk up on their lemonade.”

High Flying Birds is a solid album that doesn’t bother inserting any filler songs, they’re all good. It’s better than any album Oasis has put out in the last ten years. We’ll just have to wait and see if in the long run it holds up to albums like Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story)Morning Glory. It’s certain that Liam Gallagher, his brother and former Oasis frontman, has to be questioning his choice to move on to another band without Noel.

Album Review: Alesana, ‘A Place Where The Sun Is Silent’

Source: Epitaph Records

By Danny Contreras

A Place Where the Sun is Silent is a miserable excuse for an album. Unfortunately for Epitaph Records, the Raleigh, North Carolina natives produced a 16 song album for a niche that, while small, still hasn’t died out. This album is the epitome of bad; it is not pop but leans heavily towards it with many four chord songs, while also trying to appear tough with the rougher vocals that never truly fit into any of the songs.

The album is divided into two halves (three if you buy the deluxe edition which increases the song list to 24, please don’t); the first half is based on the first four levels of Dante’s Inferno, while the second is based on five through nine. They all follow a formula of simple song structure, annoying lyrics and on and off clean/harsh vocals. No songs stand out and the result is an overly bad effort.

“The Dark Wood of Error” and “A Forbidden Dance” are the album’s openers. The former is a two minute intro where the voices of the band members make the music and the main singer begins narrating a story. The latter is a power-pop song with easy to understand lyrics, even harsher vocals and no-catchy-tunes guitar playing. The bass is present, but very rarely.

The biggest slap to the face of music is song four, “Beyond the Sacred Glass”. It tries to be progressive, smart and catchy but it fails. Random time measures do not ensure a good prog song and neither does quick playing. It fails at being catchy because it failed at being progressive and smart. It’s too long and too annoying to be enjoyable.

The first half ends with “Lullaby of the Crucified,” an ironic song title because the album crucifies the listener. It is a more or less quiet song, which is why is titled “Lullaby,” but it is a bit boring. It doesn’t truly ever get off the ground, and the tempo won’t make anyone headbang, or hum along.

The second half only has two songs that can be reviewed as it continues being weak throughout.  “Labyrinth” is an okay song, nothing special, but not entirely bad. It does rely on a simple structure, but it truly is catchy. Not to the point of annoyance, but nevertheless catchy. “A Gilded Masquerade” is another song that remains catchy but doesn’t stand out as much. It begins rather comfortably and picks up a little bit, but never makes you hyper. The chorus is catchy and so is the drumming; I wouldn’t blame you if I caught you air drumming.

Overall, the album shouldn’t be bought. If you’re a fan, you should consider your music choice. It’s not fun, it’s not catchy and it’s stupid. And while they’re playing to a niche, anyone outside of it will not enjoy this album at all. What I fear the most is the legions of fans thinking they know anything about Dante’s Inferno from this misinterpretation.

Album Review: Mayday Parade

By Brittany Burke

In Mayday Parade’s third studio album self-titled, Mayday Parade, the pop-punk band from Tallahassee, FL proves that they have staying power.

While their contemporaries are feeding into the pop side of the musical charts, the boys in Mayday have actually gone back to their musical roots and were able to produce tracks much like the ones found on A Lesson in Romantics, the band’s first full-length studio album.

The album’s opening track, and first single “Oh well, oh well,” sets the pace for the rest of the CD. As lead singer Derek Sanders croons through the opening notes the, song quickly speeds up, which makes you forget that it is a song about heartbreak.

With songs such as “Call Me Hopeless, Not Romantic,” and the final track, “Happy Endings Are Stories That Haven’t Ended Yet,” it is clear that Mayday Parade has mastered songs of longing, lost loves and shattered hearts.

The first four songs on the album are melancholic with a slower tempo, but the momentum changes with the song “Priceless.” While the track keeps in theme with broken relationships, it is one that you can’t help but want to move to. I find myself subconsciously moving my head with the music, but it is a fine line between sugary-pop and pop-punk, luckily Mayday Parade seemingly refuses to cross into the mainstream pop world.

It is ironic that the most upbeat song musically, “A Shot Across the Bow” has Sanders singing a chorus of “I hope you fall into the ocean, and the current leaves you hopeless swimming around, as the waves crash over you until you float away,” but the irony works.

Mayday ends the album as strong as it started, showcasing Sanders’ vocal range and ability to draw in a listener. His vocals are backed by catchy instrumentals and end the lyrics end the album with a sense of hope.

Some may suggest the band draw inspiration and find other things to write about opposed to 12 tracks on just love and love lost, but why tamper with an equation that works?

The Carter IV Lives Up To It’s Predecessor

Tha Carter IV Photo Courtesy of:Young Money

By Nick Rosa

With Lil Wayne’s critically acclaimed Carter III going platinum in the first week and winning a Grammy for Rap Album of the Year, the Carter IV had very high expectations.  With hits like “A Milli” and “Got Money” that stood the album apart from many others in 2008, Wayne manages to do the same in 2011.

“The Carter IV” has been heavily anticipated ever since the music lab experiment of rock-album “Rebirth” flopped its way onto shelves.  Also, while incarcerated in Rikers Island his release of “I am Not a Human Being” which was a hit or miss with most Wayne fans, gave the “Carter IV” that much more hype.

After two push backs and plenty of singles such as “She Will ft. Drake,” “How to Love,” and his first single since being released back in November “6 Foot, 7 Foot,” Wayne has finally come back with another hit album.

Make no mistake the “Carter IV” is not a bad album but fans familiar with his previous work will be disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong the production is quite amazing with groundbreaking beats, smooth rifts, and heart pounding anticipation for when the beat drops.  The one thing is missing is the lyrical  beast who we loved in the “Carter II and III” and mix tapes like “No Ceilings,” The Drought 3 and 4” where he established himself as the rapper eater…the best rapper alive!

Weezy’s wordplay has taken a turn toward simplicity and lack of imagination we are all used to hearing in his songs.  One line from a single on C4 called “Abortion” goes, “I just built a house on I don’t give a f**k Avenue,” which really seems to be the truth.  Wayne is known for shooting off similes and creative metaphors instead of a developing narrative.  C4 has plenty of these things in his album but the creative environment just wasn’t there.  Wayne seems not to reflect on his hectic three years since the “Carter III” or his stint in prison, which completely caught a massive fan base off guard.

None the less, Wayne gets rap heavy weights Drake, Rick Ross, Jadakiss, Nas, Busta Rhymes,  Tech Nine, and Andre 3000 on the album with him which all bring their own unique styles to the album which really gives the flow an A+ across the board.  Also, smooth styling’s from Bruno Mars in “Mirror,” John Legend in “So Special,” and T-Pain (No extreme auto-tune, thank god) in “How to Hate,” really stand out in their smooth hooks.

The album may suffer due to the high expectations but there are plenty of high lights throughout.  “Megaman” is an unassisted chorus-less track that gives off power to the beginning of an album like “A Milli” did in C3.  With “6 foot 7 foot” right after “Megaman,” Wayne does make a strong statement.   Scroll down the track list you’ll hear “Nightmares of the Bottom” which gives perspective and depth to the album where he says, “Don’t call me sir, call me survivor.”  Next is “She Will ft. Drake,” where the beat is nothing but excellent and Drake’s hook is, well, we all know Drake can hold his own these days.

Further down the track list you’ll hear “President Carter,” which is a must hear with its delicate, smooth, creepy beat, which samples former President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration.  The final song before the “Outro” is called “Its good ft. Jadakiss and Drake,” is another winner.   It’s a strong posse that C4 needed, with Drizzy really riled up for his brother Wayne and Jada starting the track off in the right direction.  Forget the Jay-Z diss that Wayne comes back with, his verse stands out more than some of his others on other tracks.

On the Deluxe version there are seven, yes, seven extra songs.  This makes twenty-one full new Wayne songs which every Lil Wayne fan wanted so badly.  Even after dropping his “Sorry 4 the Wait,” Mix tape back in early July, fans were left craving more.  This first sales week has already set records, breaking “Watch the Throne” by Ye and HOV’s record, by selling over 300,000 digital copies within the first three days!  Take it any way you want but that says something about Wayne’s stature still, even after three years since C3.

This album has what Wayne fans have been waiting for, sparking up a blunt before the majority of his songs, keeping his persona, bumpin’ beats that shake the car, and that recognizable voice going in on his tracks.  Is the “Carter IV” Lil Wayne’s best work yet? No chance.  Is it worth repeated listens? No doubt about it.

Carter IV is in stores now and on I-tunes now.

Album Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers “I’m With You”

Courtesy: Warner Brothers

By Peter Stroczkowski

‘Monarchy of Roses’, the opening track from ‘I’m With You,’ the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ tenth studio album, begins uncharacteristically with feedback-drenched guitar squawking, tribal drumming, and the filter-heavy vocals of Anthony Kiedis.

Moments before the listener begins to doubt the avant-garde direction taken by the band, the song gracefully transitions into a head-bob worthy, bass-propelled verse (anchored by the fleet-fingered Flea, unsurprisingly in top form throughout the album). The track from this point on alternates between the aforementioned noisy section and the funky verse until an atonal and atmospheric solo pierces the mix, courtesy of newest member Josh Klinghoffer.

Klinghoffer replaced longtime axe-slinger John Frusciante (who left the band amicably in 2009 to pursue his solo career). This is Klinghoffer’s first album with the band, and he doesn’t disappoint, filling his predecessor’s shoes and then-some. He provides all of the songs with both an understated, ambient gentleness as well as a pugilistic, funky and psychedelic bliss when called for.

Admittedly, the Chili Peppers’ albums haven’t been idiomatic examples of artistic change and advancement since the band hit their stride with 1999’s ‘Californication’.

‘I’m with You,’ however, strikes a balance between the band doing what they do best – quirky, funky rock with incessantly rhymed vocals ready for mainstream radio – and showcasing new sonic ideas – the pseudo- folk ballad ‘Brendan’s Death Song’ – as well as the nearly post-rock influenced break in ‘Goodbye Hooray.’

Some new elements however, seem insincere and alien to the band’s style. Most memorably, the saloon piano of ‘Even You Brutus?’ which is reminiscent of a Cold War Kids single. However, the phenomenally dance-y, blissful closer ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ ranks among the band’s best work.

‘I’m with You’ is divided into three parts: the standard Chili Peppers funk-rock fare, familiar-sounding songs augmented by the incorporation of brand new sounds and styles and the rest of the album, which inevitably blends together and remains forgettable, even for die-hard fans.

The greatest strength of ‘I’m With You’ as an album is the display of a band unafraid to mix up the formulas that have worked for them, even now, almost three decades into their career.

Album Review: Stevie Nicks, ‘In Your Dreams’

Stevie Nicks
In Your Dreams
Reprise
May 3

By Sara M. Berry

It has been 30 years since Stevie Nicks broke away from Fleetwood Mac to release her first solo album, and her latest effort, In Your Dreams is perhaps her best since. It’s a perfect mix of the Fleetwood Mac-style rock of the 70s, the solo-Stevie ballads of the 80s, and her foray into the world of dance music in the 90s and 2000s. There’s something for everyone on this album.

My favorite aspect of Stevie Nicks’ work has always been her songwriting. Over the years, she has said many times that the vast majority of her lyrics are originally written as poetry, and it is always the stories that she tells that sucks me into her songs. It seems that Nicks can tell a story about almost any subject, from the age-old theme of love gone awry to current events.

The album opens with “Cheaper Than Free,” a collaboration with Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. “Cheaper Than Free” is an almost jazz-like ballad singing the praises of the simple aspects of love. Nicks has been known for her outstanding duets with the likes of Tom Petty, Don Henley, and Kenny Loggins, and this is no exception. The deluxe version of the album includes the music video, a simple but beautiful filming of the making of the song.

“Soldier’s Angel” clearly comes out of the visits Nicks has paid to wounded soldiers over the past decade since 9/11, as she has been just one of the many celebrities to support our troops as they return from serving our country.

“Italian Summer” and “New Orleans” bring back the awesome imagery that I have always loved in Nicks’ ballads. Through the words that could be poems on their own, the listener can almost see the Islands of Capri and the spectacle that is New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

“Moonlight” tells the quintessential love story. Although it was technically written about the Twilight series, and the similarities between the fictional relationship between Bella and Edward and the real-life 1970s love affair between Nicks and fellow Fleetwood Mac member Lindsey Buckingham, it could have been about any timeless love story.

Musically, the songs on In Your Dreams are a pleasant combination of piano, strings, and drums behind Nicks’ always-strong vocals. Thirty years ago, Nicks began a solo career as an outlet for establishing her own musical identity separate from Fleetwood Mac, and her work continues to be her own while still having elements of her work with the band that made her famous.

Album review: Manchester Orchestra’s ‘Simple Math’

Manchester Orchestra
Simple Math
Favorite Gentlemen
May 10

By Ashley Lang

Manchester Orchestra has returned with their third album and with the release of Simple Math its fair to say that they’ve come back better than ever.

Andy Hull (rhythm guitarists, singer, and songwriter) shines on Manchester Orchestra’s latest creation. Hull’s vocals are backed by solid percussion solos and heavy bass fingerings.

Hull’s voice, strong and steady, bleeds with rugged perfection. In “Deer,” the first track off of Simple Math, Hulls delicate musings take over.

“There’s nothing in these wooden drawers / To bring you back, to keep me bored / I don’t know what to do with me no more…Dear everyone I ever really knew / I acted like an asshole so I could keep my edge on you / Ended up abusing even those I thought immune.”

Heavy guitar riffs mixed with a steady back beat are frequent as you get further into Hull’s fantasy. On “April Fool” Hull screams, “I don’t know where I’ve been, what I’ve done” before softening his tone while singing “I am the once now irreplaceable son /  I’m antichrist in your home / I’ll come around this time to let you suck from my soul / Let me go!”

“Pale Black Eye” gives off a bluesy folk vibe of sorts, more prominent on this track then others, with simplistic percussion beats and solid guitar melodies that are perfectly backed by Hull’s sweet and somber harmony.

However, it is the track “Virgin” that shows all of Manchester Orchestra’s vast personalities. “Virgin” begins with low guitar picks, as a child choir sings softly in the back ground.

“We built this house with our hands, and our time, and our blood / You build this up in one day to fall downward and rust.”

Hull’s voice builds from a dark empty place deep within. “And I bruise just like anyone would bruise / And I know we’ve got a long way to go / I know I’ve got so far,” before erupting into a heavy guitar explosion that erupts through your speakers.

Hull slows things down with the lead track “Simple Math.” His light and broken musings fit nicely within the harmony as Hull coos “I’m lost and hardly noticed, / slight goodbye / I want to rip your lips off in my mouth.” His voice calling after a ghost, “Simple math, it’s how our bodies even got here / Sinful math, the ebb and flow to multiply / What if I was wrong and no one cared to mention / What if it was true and all we thought was right was wrong?”

This album is truly an evolution in Manchester Orchestra’s progression. In a band that has gained a solid following throughout the years it would be a wrong for them to be ignored now. Hull’s sweet and somber whisperings will make you fall in love.