Delta Rae returns with a new single, “Run,” off the band’s latest EP Chasing Twisters, and we’re here to preview the song which is this week’s iTunes “Free Song of the Week” feature. In addition, we’ll introduce you to Midnite on Pearl Beach, a Chicago band blending elements of psychedelic, folk, rock and blues to create a sound you’ll have to soak in to believe. We feature a clip of single “One Foot Left,” in addition to the entirety of album track “Modern Gods,” off their upcoming album Lamplighter — get it on January 14th!
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I remember September 11, 2001 starting out just like any other day. I’d overslept, just like on most days, so I’d taken a rushed shower and was trying to catch up on the news while toweling off, before I’d take my 1.5-mile trek across IU’s campus to class. I had CNN on mute, but recognized the World Trade Center with smoke coming from the tower. Mute was quickly removed as I saw footage of the second plane hitting, and I immediately had to call my mother to see if she was watching.
An hour later I sat in the front row of my massive Criminology lecture, crying openly along with my classmates as we watched developments on the classroom’s gigantic video screen. None of us knew how to process this, developments seeming so far away on a sunny September morning, yet still right there on top of us nonetheless. I recall stumbling through the rest of my classes that morning (including Calculus, wherein the heartless teacher made us continue working even as one girl nearly had a breakdown — her father was a NYC fireman) wondering just what our world was coming to.
I couldn’t continue to watch the news and become numb to developments. I saw that happening to friends of mine in the dorms, watching the news with their red eyes, jaws clenched, minds reeling. I had to get out and walk. I walked that afternoon to the local record store, where several like-minded students browsed the aisles with equally impenetrable stares. We had to find something we could listen to which would pull us out of the mess current events had sucked us into. I recall picking up a copy of Ben Folds’ Rocking The Suburbs, an album I’d already pilfered via Napster, as well as one by a band I’d never heard, Jimmy Eat World.
Bleed American, the title read.
Months later that album would simply be Jimmy Eat World, since the band feared people weren’t understanding that the title was not an attack on America but rather a claim of ownership. We, as Americans, needed to take on that identity and bleed American through and through, celebrating our lives in all their craziness and absurdity. “I’m not alone, ’cause the TV’s on …” the album opened, before encouraging us to clear our thoughts with Speyside, something I wished fervently at the moment that I could do. Forget what was happening now and just let music take over. Even for a few minutes.
I caught a lot of flack in the coming weeks from students who thought I wasn’t taking the events of September 11th seriously. I was among the vocal few on campus encouraging people to fight the terrorists by getting back into our routines, bleeding American in the best way we could at the time, by simply living our lives and telling the terrorists we wouldn’t be destroyed by them. I caught grief for protesting against the “banned songs” list Clear Channel put forward to protect us from music that wasn’t “patriotic” enough. Many felt I was wrong when I suggested turning off the news and living again.
But I stick by my belief that, when tragedy strikes, the music you love matters. The things in your life which give you hope matter more than watching tragedy unfold via 24/7 instant news. And when our soldiers went to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight for our country and to prevent, hopefully, another attack like this from ever happening, they too took solace in music and culture, the very American identity they’d sworn to protect.
So as you remember the fallen from September 11th, twelve short years ago, please also remember to celebrate the good things we have in life that those who died would surely die again for, those things we so very often take for granted.
Ask yourself for a minute just what makes for a full-throttle pop stunner, and “What If” by Five For Fighting masterfully answers. Start with a memorable piano hook, then layer on thundering percussion and staccato vocals over an eventual guitar hook at the chorus which simply can’t be expunged from your mind. Draw listeners in with the music, then hit them with a deceptively simple line of questions which stand to probe the deepest failings of a relationship, putting us in the unenviable position of seeing things through another’s eyes.
“What If” proves itself to be up to the challenge of throwing 2013′s pop fans a lifeline, an instantly repeatable song which reveals more on each listen as we dig deeper into what first seemed simple but later becomes far more complex. “What if you told my lies? What if I cried with your eyes?” Ondrasik asks, emotion brimming over from every falsetto note left ringing in our ears. “Could anyone keep us down?” Here, he sings to an unseen second person of a relationship on the rocks, questioning both himself and her about where the failings lie. Is it me? Is it you? Are we both equally to blame, for simply never considering the other’s point of view? What if all that’s needed to save the relationship would be for both to “rise up” and admit that no one’s right?
It fits perfectly in line with Lucas Jack’s “Paralyzed” off Sun City, another song which dared to pick apart a broken relationship knowing as he did that there might not be a way to put the shards of shattered glass back together. “What If” does this with a hook aimed more for mass consumption than deep-thoughts contemplation, but it is refreshing to hear such nuanced lyricism on such a dead-on-arrival format as pop top 40 radio. If Five For Fighting has a hit with this, there’s evermore potential for songs like Lucas Jack’s to push the boundary of pop introspection even further.
Take a chance for a minute and give this a listen. He’s thrown us a lifeline, but if we don’t take it …
We are in a
golden age lucky streak of music right now.
No addicting singles by a inadequate artists being jammed down our esophagus. “Radioactive” is finally becoming inactive. Pink is only played 13,256 times per day, down from the usual 24,890. We can breathe. Our precious air supply is, for the moment, untainted.
But something is coming. It always does, and it’s terrifying. The next time you hear a song with an “Ooohh,” “Lalalala” or any other wordless chant you can memorize after one listen, run. These are the demon seeds that take root into our society and grow to ostentatious heights. I guarantee that the next radio addiction will prominently feature this. [Editor's note -- unless it's by Adam Duritz ... then bring on the "Lalalala's"]
The catchy, mindless little sounds create havoc on our ears and we don’t even need to pay attention before we are singing along to Lady Gaga, whether we like it or not: “Ro ma, ro ma ma, ga ga, ooh lala, WHATCHUPA ROMANCE.” Maroon 5 has mastered this technique with the whistles in “Moves Like Jagger,” the “ooh-ooh” sequence in “One More Night” and countless other songs. The Biebs does it, as does Taylor Swift (Oooh-woo-ooh-ooh-ooh/We-eeeee). I’m sure the pop industry hooked onto this formula years ago and now cranks those hooks out like worthless iPhone apps. The list goes on, but put on a top-40 station and you’ll take notice.
I can’t find research to back up these findings, but how else do you explain Nickelback’s rise to power? I once saw an interview with Chad Kroeger where he talked about the reason “How You Remind Me” was so popular. It was the “Yeah, yeah” part. It’s so simple, but they found out how to stick in our ears in an effective way. “When We Stand Together” might be their catchiest song and the chorus is perforated with “yeah”s. It’s no coincidence. Say what you want about that band, but they rode a wave of success off that nugget of information, as have many others. It’s clever marketing.
And there’s nothing really wrong with it. There’s nothing wrong with us liking it, either, because sometimes music is a release, not a cryptic message. If we don’t know the words to the song on every station, at least we can get the easy part. Still, it’s sort of degrading harmonizing to Selena Gomez on the drive home. But the main problem is that as long as you live like a normal human being, there’s no way to avoid them. And another one’s coming.
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The Lonely Island – The Wack Album
Analyzing music can get immensely draining, mostly because there’s a lot of garbage to sift through. Also, the music industry can be downright evil (see above).
Before you dismiss The Lonely Island as the musical equivalent to the spitball-firing class clown, remember that we all have our role to play. Andy Samburg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone’s faux-rap trio has yet to take itself seriously, even on this, their third album. That’s important. The Lonely Island may represent musical satire, but the content tells you the exact state we are in as a society. It’s smart enough to know how to make fun of common trends and self-aware enough to present it with charm. This includes the mindless way we dance to absurd songs, the ridiculousness of the “YOLO” meme and strutting as a not-so-tough rapper. Oh, and there are songs about hugs, the semicolon and compliments, because of course.
And they actually make pretty good music, which gets lost in the buffoonery. But for TLI, it’s not all about comedians making jokes through song. It’s what their musical purity brings out in their guests by representing caricatures of themselves.
As with the previous two albums, The Wack Album is an A-list bonanza. Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell and Too $hort have some ironically comical rapping cameos, which is a standard Lonely Island shtick. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong shines in “I Run NY” and it’s unlike anything he has ever released. Best hook on the album. Sick beats and punk rock seem to pair well with each other. And coming off of his Le Miserables success, Hugh Jackman wails as this album’s Michael Bolton. Only TLI could take a classy, dignified Oscar-winner and feature him singing about breasts in “You’ve Got the Look.” Kristen Wiig also kind of sings in that track, surprise. Solange gets some exposure in “Semicolon,” and we already know the chemistry Justin Timberlake has with these guys.
I’d imagine each guest star welcomes the opportunity to be on these tracks because there are no rules holding them down. I have so much respect for all of the artists listed above. Being an entertainer is a serious business and there needs to be a liaison to show us that not everyone is a bland square. There are plenty of victims at the expense of dirty jokes, but if Diddy can handle it, so can we.
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Jimmy Eat World – Damage
One day while creating an iPod playlist, I had to do a double-take in the Jimmy Eat World section. I’ve never thought of the band as a favorite; it’s merely an acquaintance with which I don’t have a problem, but I don’t . But there were a shocking number of 5-star rated songs on there. Like, way more than most bands I LOVE. So I began to give them more of a listen and became a supporter, if only out of my own guilty neglect.
I was ready for Damage to release. So I listened to it. Then I had to check to see if this was a B-side collection or something. This is so typical. Whenever you start liking something years after it has been around, the new stuff is a letdown. And now I’m blinded by my own tastes and disappointment to give this the positive review it probably deserves. Here’s why: That collection of 5-Star songs included singles like “Pain,” “My Best Theory,” “A Praise Chorus,” along with some lesser-known tracks. But it all had ENERGY. I could crank a homerun at Yankee Stadium from the adrenaline pumping through those songs.
Damage is not that. It’s a love/breakup album from the same bracket as a Dashboard Confessional or Yellowcard. And for the most part, this album is heavy on the acoustic sound, which goes back to their earlier work. It’s like they took their big sound they built up over the years and stripped it down for a more intimate feel. But it was the best way to convey these emotions and that counts for everything. The final two tracks, “Byebyelove” and “You Were Good,” got to me, capping a bit of a gloomy ride. To someone who isn’t in that state of mind, this album and I just didn’t sync up. But it wouldn’t be fair to them or you to say that this was a “bad” album. If you are going through some kind of heartache, Damage could make for decent pain relief this summer.
“I Will Steal You Back” is the lead single and probably the best song here. And for energy, “How’d You Have Me” has the biggest serving. There are beneficial takeaways from a rather somber album, but I wasn’t ready and I had a bad experience. I hope that you find them just as I hope that this album finds those who need it.
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AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods – “Dotted Line”
(f. Double B / Nathalie Elam)
AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods – “Put On Blocks”
(f. Nathalie Elam / Andrew White / Nicatine of Free Whiskey)
AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods – “Supersonic Love”
(f. Nathalie Elam)
AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods – “Last Call”
(f. Nicatine of Free Whiskey)
From the land of the mighty Pacific Northwest comes the rumbling of a burgeoning hip hop community, that is uniting all things hip hop. Graffiti, Djing, B-Boying, Emceeing and a growing battle rap scene.
Matthew Lindblad definitely has plenty of experience as part of the Orange County music scene. A multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, Lindblad played guitar with the band New Years Day, which gave him a taste of mainstream success including Warped Tour experience. Now he’s teamed up with Gus Flaig (drums) and Chris Chavez (guitars, vocals) to form Rebel Revive, a band which is able to draw on Lindblad’s experiences with rock influences both old and new, to create a sound they can call their own.
The result is XI, a hybrid of pop, rock and punk influences named for the eleven years Lindblad has spent performing his music in the area. “The Voices,” the EP’s standout single, features a fresh musical backdrop which reminds this critic of Blink 182 or Cartel if they were filtered through the Slip (must hear: “Even Rats”), with the band singing a chorus of “whooooah-oh-oh!”s as Lindblad claims they have the voices, silent for too long, which will now speak for a generation. While that may be an overreaching statement, the chorus itself is incredibly ear-catching and repeatable.
The rest of the EP builds on that hook to create songs which are memorable and instantly accessible. With “Better Days” and “Stars” standing out as potential future singles, there’s no reason to expect this album to fade away anytime soon. If anything, expect your appetite to be barely whetted. You’ll have to settle for repeating the six songs and hoping it won’t be too long before the band puts together the epic full-length this hints lies just over the horizon.
XI officially drops tomorrow, but if you’re ready to go for a musical ride, “Hear! Hear!” has the entire album streaming exclusively today! So strap on your headphones and press play, then make sure you share this music with everyone you know with good taste. You may have heard it first, but they’ll all want to ride your coattails.
Texas-based songwriter Lucas Jack has made no bones about his desire to bring back the glory days of the piano-pop songwriter, whether that singer be Billy Joel or Elton John. But his attempt to reinvent that tradition, while maintaining the familiar beats listeners will have come to expect, does a surprisingly solid job expanding it as well.
Sun City, a concept album which follows a couple through their journey toward the American Dream, though the detours are numerous and their success rarely assured. These songs are often Joel’s Brenda and Eddie from “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” as they travel through the darker edges of modern suburban life. Midway through the album, “Hope” takes on a darker view of Joel’s “She’s Always A Woman,” in particular:
There’s a distance in her eyes
Every time she starts to lie
And she’s far away tonight
And she always offers hope
That she wraps around your throat
Like a hangman selling rope
The war is only words you never say
The score you keep just counting down the days
Keep singing with the chorus in the bar
To blacken out the dark
And keep on coming back just as you are
But it’s not just an exercise in cheap misogyny like Joel’s hit, taking cheap shots. The song illustrates the buying of time which takes place in a marriage collapsing despite everything both spouses try to do. Both sides want to keep things together, so she lies and he accepts the hope she provides, even as he lies by saying the marriage still has a chance and that he’s not strangling against the metaphorical noose. The song’s haunting tone echoes the futility both must feel in the situation, with little they can do but keep living lie after bitter lie.
We witness the same couple earlier in the album on “Paralyzed,” as the husband debates just walking away from everything, even though he knows he never will. Lyrically this is where Lucas Jack shines, laying everything on the line in brutally cutting prose as his piano echoes the hopeful tone which will obviously keep this man in the marriage past its breaking point.
Once a month with our t-shirts on
That’s how far our love has gone
Our friends all tell us we should both move on
But we’re tangled up too tight
We’re paralyzed in our separate ways
We’ve both got kids of our own these days
And they’re making it harder to walk away
But we’re both long gone inside
How’d we get so old at 35?
I don’t want to give you the perspective that this album is nothing but bitter pills to swallow, backed by sunny piano pop which belies the devastation within. Lucas Jack is a talented songwriter who echoes Billy Joel in his delivery as often as he does solo-era Ben Folds and (on “Don’t Get Carried Away” in particular) even a touch of contemporary Randy Newman. These are songs crafted from the ground up to focus on all angles of the song, and it makes for an album full of vignettes which each deserve to be single candidates.
“You Belong To The City Now” stands tall as the album’s best individual track, and it’s rightly been named as the album’s lead single. It opens with piano, bass and guitar as Jack’s vocals sing of “living it up until it’s way too late to live it down,” his characters’ first glimpse of the city life which, while it eventually will consume them, still holds an alluring aura. I was reminded immediately of “Bonfire of the Vanities,” the Tom Hanks character who thinks he’s the master of the universe, making loads of money so he can live what he thinks is the perfect life, but we know he’s just a few steps away from being destroyed by that lifestyle. On the fourteen songs which follow this introduction, these two characters will take a serious beating — by the end, will they still believe in that dream? Does that upward mobility to the middle class mean anything, or are we all struggling to get past the moments which in the end would really matter the most?
In the end, Sun City is a remarkably astute debut from a songwriter who has crafted a song suite which plays well from the first hit, building in intensity as we listen more and more, sifting through all the lyrical details. It’s like watching a film where we’ve known these characters in varied forms all our lives, so we’re invested in seeing that they come out in the end with at least a semblance of dignity. This is modern American life, and like the troubadours he so admires, Lucas Jack has potential here to have produced a contemporary pop classic. For fans of the genre, missing this album would be a misstep you don’t want to make.
Brazilian singer / cellist Dom La Nina’s “Sambinha” brings out the smiles, requires further review of debut Ela
If this doesn’t bring a smile to your face when you wake yourself up this morning, I don’t think anything will.
Over a plucked cello melody and guitar backdrop, the talented young songwriter lays down a layer of sweetly catchy vocals, creating one of those to-the-point singles bands like Sergio Mendez and Brasil 66 used to put out back when this music had its brief heyday in America.
It’s a song worth checking out, and it makes me want to dig deeper into her debut LP Ela, out since January on the Six Degrees label. Some have likened this sound to what Cat Power might manage if produced by the likes of Brian Wilson. I’ll leave the comparisons up to you, because I only have half an hour before work and I need to hear the song at least five more times first.
Dom has been featured on WNYC’s Soundcheck Blog, KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, and NPR’s Weekend Edition and Studio 360. She made her US performance debut at the Make Music Pasadena festival and Hotel Cafe last weekend in Los Angeles, and returns to North America in early July, including a New York City date at Joe’s Pub. Hopefully she’ll do well and they’ll announce more dates for those of us stuck in the midwest. Until then, the recordings will have to suffice.
Anamanaguchi – “Endless Fantasy” (2013, dream.hax)
Reviewer: Matt Sanderlin
So… Most of you are probably asking yourselves – What exactly is “chiptune” music?
Remember 8-bit soundtracks to games on the original NES and the Super Nintendo? Well, chiptune music integrates these vintage sounds with real, modern instrumentation to create a very amicable conglomeration. It’s generally instrumental, though some bands have vocalists that accompany their chiptune music.
Anamanaguchi (ah•nuh•ma•nuh•goo•chee) are the current kings of chiptune. One of their older pieces, “Jetpack Blues, Sunset Hues,” has been used as the intro music for the well-known Nerdist podcast for a couple of years now. The band also just launched and successfully funded a $50,000 Kickstarter project in order to spread the word about their latest record, Endless Fantasy.
Endless Fantasy has 22 (yes, twenty-two) brilliant little chiptune compositions. The energetic vibes that the quartet exude begin immediately with the introductory title track, and do not stop or even begin to slow down until the record is long over. Early album track “John Hughes” is an easy jumping-off point – Its nonstop melody runs are not only instantly catchier than you would ever believe, but are strengthened in full force by the metal-level charge of the drums. If you’re not moving in time in less than a minute, than you might want to check your pulse to see if you’re still breathing.
The following track is the dancentric and light-heartedly seductive “Prom Night.” Vocalist Bianca Raquel lends her fitting talent to the track, dueting in an unorthodox-yet-suiting fashion with the 8-bit cartridge sounds. It’s something that fans of the Drive soundtrack would really get a kick out of – In a less dark sort of way, obviously.
Other great pieces like the atmospheric first single “Meow,” the overcast anthem “In the Basement,” and the whimsical frenzy “Space Wax America” will set your melodic sweet tooth on fire like nothing that you’ve ever heard. And electronic music is not usually in my wheelhouse, either.
If you dig fun, way uptempo instrumental music that appeals to the 80′s/90′s child in you, Endless Fantasy is the key to your Delorean. The digital and CD versions are already available, and the vinyl version releases later in the month. Definitely an album and genre worth checking out!
For the old-school fan of classic rock who isn’t afraid to mix plenty of Humble Pie and Jeff Beck into their listening schedule, Blades of Grass by Dirty Streets should be an album on your immediate listening list when it hits shelves on July 9th. Until then, get your fix with a few repeats of “Stay Thirsty” to keep your pump primed, a track which the Memphis-by-way-of-Mississippi power trio recorded at the legendary Ardent Studio with production help from sound engineer Adam Hill, with added power provided by Lucero’s Rick Steff on keyboards. With two full-lengths already to their name along with an extensive touring history, expect big things from these guys in the coming months. To learn more, check them out on Facebook!
Vampire Weekend – “Modern Vampires of the City” (2013, XL)
Reviewer: Matt Sanderlin
(Available now on iTunes/Amazon)
A third album can really define a band’s past, present, and future. U2′s War. The Smith’s The Queen is Dead. Radiohead’s OK Computer. The third album really can make a case for a band, revealing if they are truly “in it” for the long run.
On Vampire Weekend’s third album, the band fully and finally realizes and defines themselves. While the quirky, afro-pop nature of their sound is still largely present, a newfound seriousness abounds. In stark contrast to previous and frivolous frolics like “Oxford Comma” and “One (Blake’s Got a New Face),” Ezra Koenig and his companions build much darker soundscapes and overall tones. Lyrically, Koenig reveals his religious distaste in “Unbelievers” and “Ya Hey,” shocking the system of fans who are used to hearing him sing about more obscure matters, like mansard roofs and diplomat’s sons. This maturity is actually quite natural and fitting, and showcases Koenig’s versatility and eagerness to grow.
Musically, the band experiments readily. Even from the first sounds of the opening track (“Obvious Bicycle”), the listener is showered with striking and intriguing sounds that perfectly texture the memorable melodies and fitting lyrics. “Everlasting Arms,” one of the many highlights of the album, displays this same experimental mindset by filtering the vocals through expansive reverb, creating vivid sonic washes and a colorful sound palette.
In all, Modern Vampires of the City is a great victory for a still-young band, and one of the year’s greatest accomplishments. If you didn’t care for the band’s work on Vampire Weekend and Contra, give this album a chance – You’ll be more than pleasantly surprised.
Two bands, opposite directions.
Paramore – Paramore
In a publicized dispute December 2010, Josh and Zac Farro left Paramore and didn’t go quietly. From their viewpoint, the entity that is “Paramore” is a crooked mess. Summing up Josh’s post, it’s Hayley Williams – and those guiding her – using the band as a mere vessel for her own solo project. Which is odd, because I’d argue that the band has been to her detriment, at least musically.
With a handful of exceptions, Paramore suffers from “Lady Gaga syndrome”: addictive choruses (“YOU TREAT ME JUST LIKE…”) and dull verses that make dryer lint seem thrilling. This is because Williams, who has a shimmering set of pipes, and the band’s style of music doesn’t always fit. Remember “Airplanes”? That’s some good stuff. She needs to be more of a singer, not a rocker, so that our eardrums have time to recover from that incessant piercing. Despite the band showing some growth on each album, the same conundrums persist: Is Paramore a synthetic product of the industry who’s sole purpose is to promote Hayley? And, how can Hayley’s voice exist in the confines of a “rock” band?
We have one answer. The self-titled Paramore was named as such because the band felt born-anew after the recording process and this is their “reintroduction.” Yeah right. We all know that this is the ultimate slap in the face to the Farro brothers. This is the first album without them, and they were the ones who founded the band in the first place. You may call it a coincidence, I call it irony. But even with all this squabbling, we don’t really know the truth. All we know is Hayley took some time to herself in LA and got a new producer for this album. But it’s not like you care about that anyway. Music is music. As long as a record gets put out, why bother with the semantics of its creation? So, as painful as it might be to hear, this is Paramore’s best album.
Paramore speaks to angsty young-adults coming of age in a tumultuous world (there’s a song called “Grow Up” and an interlude titled “I’m Not Angry Anymore”). They are on every Twilight soundtrack for a reason. But there are 17 tracks here that add up to more than an hour of ambitious songwriting, so we’ll focus on the new Paramore rather than the handful of throwbacks.
When the first interlude came on, I about lost my mind. THIS is what Hayley Williams should be doing all the time. Strip the instruments around her to bare essentials and let her voice carry those songs to the moon. Use Ingrid Michaelson as a template for how heavenly that could sound. Luckily, we get more than that little sample in the three short-but-sweet interludes.
“Ain’t it Fun.” Listen to it, seriously. It’s not a “Paramore” sound by any means, but that song exemplifies how far they can deviate from the cookie-cutter sound of their past. I can’t imagine how much Chaka Khan listening it took to inspire this. Oh, that gospel chorus. “Part II” bridges this new sound and the former sound: catchy chorus and enthralling verses, keeping the skip button at bay. The ballads smell a lot less cheesy this time around, too. “Last Hope” and “Hate to See Your Heart Break” show an emotional maturity anyone can tolerate.
And that is sort of how this album breaks down. Chances are, unless you are a true Paramore fan, you won’t like the entire album but there will be something playlist-worthy for your music taste. Evolving bands can alienate fans in the process, but this one seems to do more of the opposite. Hayley Williams can thrive in this band when they step out of that punk-rock quagmire and when the need for screaming is at a minimum. Even so, whether the industry is pulling the strings or not, this album retains what Paramore has always been about: Hayley.
Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll
Pete Wentz said that he and Patrick Stump started writing songs just for the heck of it and one of them gave him chills. That just about says it all. They reunited the band and started recording this album in secret. No song in recent memory has made me want to run head-first into a brick wall more than Fall Out Boy’s comeback single, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark.” But there is a whole album to account for now. Please, please, don’t be a one-track wonder. When the group disbanded in 2009, who mourned? By that time, Fall Out Boy had eroded into an odd semi-hit pop-rock concoction. And though their music evolved, it was kind of bleh. I listened to Folie à Deux in preparation for this album, thinking my ear-buds had changed and there would be a hint of what was to come. Wrong on both accounts.
The Save Rock and Roll claim is a bit of a stretch, but this record may have saved the band. That “secret” album Stump and the boys created is full of SICK BEATZ and arena-caliber explosives. Big Sean, Courtney Love, Foxes and, yes, Elton John all make appearances but they are merely afterthoughts. From the get-go, “The Phoenix” reintroduces the band by knocking you flat on your rear. “Just One Yesterday” and “Death Valley” all have that “MSKWYDITD” ferocity, which is perfect. The album can’t be all crazy, but you can’t leave us hanging after that first single either. Old school fans can find vintage FOB in “Young Volcanoes,” an anthem for the adolescents, just like the good ol’ days.
The hiatus and side projects have seemed to do wonders, but perhaps the best change for Fall Out Boy was creating an album solely on its own accord. They had fun making this album and it shows. We might not have missed them when they left the first time, but it’s feels good that they’re back.
It quickly becomes abundantly clear that there are few things David Draiman isn’t comfortable talking about. The man’s been around the block more than a few times, with a decade-plus behind him working with Disturbed, and his new album with super-group Device has breathed fresh air into his creative process. So he’s excited to sit down prior to the band’s show tonight at Ft. Lauderdale’s Culture Room to talk about the new album. Just don’t ask repeatedly what’s happening with Disturbed and all’s fine.
“Is Disturbed getting back together? When is Disturbed getting back together? Why did Disturbed break up?” he laughs. “We didn’t break up. We will be getting back together. Stop asking me about it! It’s a hiatus – look up definition of hiatus!”
With that out of the way, there’s plenty of time to talk about what went from being a one-off project for a potential soundtrack contribution to becoming a project which would consume his creative energies and push them in new directions. In the process, however, he also discusses what it’s like to hear early Disturbed albums more than a decade later, why he no longer feels trapped by his own voice, and that he really really wishes there was an app out there to smack “motherfuckers who say stupid things.”
It’s definitely a wild wide — you’ll want to read along below!
[Read the "Hear! Hear!" review of Device's album,
which came out officially on April 9th!]
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You’ve referenced Maynard James Keenan’s work with A Perfect Circle when asked about why you hope fans will accept Device as willingly as they have your work with Disturbed. Are fans today as willing to embrace artists experimenting with more than one project?
I hope so! [Laughs] I think that all of us are definitely stretching our wings out. It seems where there’s room to create art there’s then a reason to do it. This is, as I’ve said in previous interviews, not something I set out to do or planned. It’s a very fortunate accident. Geno [Lenardo] and I meant to write a song for a soundtrack together, not for the material to lead to writing more songs, or for those songs to lead to the creation of a band. The grouping of material was so strong, even after the first two week period when we already had seven songs in the bag, we were so cohesive and powerful it became a very compelling idea with powerful momentum behind it. When you are creating, the music tells you what to do. The music will always dictate where it needs to be. This grouping of material spoke very loud and clear.
Though the industrial sound of the new album does draw comparisons to Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, I’ve always noticed your interest in reviving something of a New Order 80s industrial pop sound. This album updates that in a more modern context, particularly on the cover of “Close My Eyes Forever.” What drew you to cover that song in particular? What was it like finally working with Lzzy Hale after she’s been such a longtime supporter of Disturbed?
And we have been longtime supporters of her, and I will continue to be a longtime supporter of her until the day I die. She’s an amazing woman. In my opinion she is the top of the mountain as far as female rock singers are concerned. I don’t think anybody holds a candle to her – she is the best of the best.
That’s a song I’ve loved for years, since it first came out. Who could forget the video? Who could forget the hook? It was such a memorable moment, one of the great rock duets of all time, so timeless. And Lzzy and I have been talking about doing this since she first started supporting Disturbed way back in the day. Initially we thought about doing it with Disturbed, but I’m very glad we ended up doing it with Device because in Disturbed it couldn’t have gone in the direction it did, with that ambient nature, the more synth-heavy, string-heavy sample-laden vibe to it. And I think it needed that. I think doing a heavier version wasn’t necessarily the answer.
You told Tony LaBrie of Flint, Mich.’s Banana 101.5 that after twelve years of cycling between record and tour with Disturbed, you all started to feel like “part of the machine.” That plus the album cover’s twisted take on technology absorbing our humanity, do you ever start to feel totally out of place in the modern world of social media?
I don’t know, man. I think that people are as heavily invested in the social media and that they follow the details as rapidly as they do because they are continually interested, and there is that continual desire for more, to be a part of the life, to a certain extent, of the artist that you love.
Does there come a point where a fan’s need to know everything about a band makes it impossible for an artist to ever try anything new or interesting?
You know, the minute you are focused on any expectations other than your own as an artist, that’s the minute that you fail. It should never be about trying to fit within a certain demographic or style. You have to stay true to yourself. You have to make music or make art that fulfills you, that speaks from your heart. That’s really the beginning and the end of it. The fans, you hope, will always value your music whatever direction you take. Maybe there are some fans of Disturbed who won’t dig where Device went with some of these new songs, with some of the more synth-heavy or electronic-fueled factors. And that’s okay! Device is going to appeal to some people who Disturbed wouldn’t, and the reverse as well. That’s why you do something like this, hopefully, is to be able to go in some of those different directions. I’m obviously also haunted by the identity, which is a blessing and a curse, of my voice. When I sing, it sounds like me no matter what the direction.
Right. You’ve said “as a vocalist you become a prisoner to the style you develop.” I found that interesting, because fans who listen closer to the vocals over time will hear how you’ve developed that style, adding more melodic tones to the staccato rhythms of the delivery. Do you still feel trapped by what you’ve done with Disturbed vocally? Or could any of that be solved by a few Meatloaf-esque “Bat Out Of Hell” moments?
Maybe. [Laughs] Maybe, man. It really is wonderful to do more of the “classical” delivery. To not always have to go to my safety spot, to the spot that I know I can own pretty well which is that rapid-fire staccato style delivery.
That and the microphone-assisted growl.
Yeah! That just comes out if there’s a primal element in the music, if there’s something that brings it out. That’s another thing which isn’t necessarily planned. Some of these rhythms are as tribal and primal as anything on a Disturbed record, sometimes I push the envelope even more. So it definitely can sometimes bring the animal out of you. But it’s really satisfying to let one of those things rip. Satisfying to be able to go back to your home base or even more satisfying to be able to expand it.
I love the things that I did on “Run For Cover.” I love being able to write a song like “Through It All” for my wife on the record, working with Glenn Hughes, where had I not gone in that direction, having a voice like his and mine on the same track wouldn’t have made sense. Or even a track like “Haze” – no one has ever heard me sing the way I do on the verses of that song anywhere on any record at any point in time. So it was really nice to be able to go into those directions and to still be myself, to be unashamed of being myself. At the same level I allowed what I’ve become to grow, and that’s been very refreshing.
What did become stifling and has become stifling was what the expectations were for a Disturbed record. “Okay, we fit within certain parameters, we have to stay within those parameters relatively, you have to know who your fan-base is, to know who you’re playing for, performing for.” We always did, and we kept that identity strong. That’s part of why we’ve been able to maintain the level of success that we have. But it also can be trapping when you are forced to do that much of a direction all the time.
I can hear that, listening to the albums in order like I did prepping for this conversation. You can hear how far you guys have come from doing a song like “Dropping Plates” to what you would do with “Never Again.” I can’t imagine many would have expected to hear “Never Again” based on what they heard on the first album.
I would agree with you. And to be honest, even though that first record captured us at a point in time where we were very raw, primal, and a lot of people really connected and loved that, there are parts of that record where I listen back and I cringe a little. “Oh my God, what was I thinking? Did I really think that was a good idea?” It really seemed to work back then. Lyrically, definitely there are things I wish I could have done better. But I was just starting out, feeling things out. I certainly didn’t have the knowledge base or even the fundamental skills that I do now. So it’s nice to come from that and to grow, to continue to learn and I’m continuing to build on what I’ve done with each passing day.
Well, it progressed quickly – I’ve always been interested in the way you’ve discussed your religious heritage through your music over the years, and I still think “Never Again” and “Prayer” don’t get nearly the critical respect they deserve.
What message would you hope fans would take from a song like “Opinion,” where you sing “Are you blind? Are you cold? How can you say you don’t have an opinion?”
That is a call-out to all those people who say “ignorance is bliss.” And they’d rather not know what’s going on in the world, they’d rather live in their own little bubble. Whatever happens outside their door doesn’t really affect them. “I don’t have an opinion.” Well you have to. If you don’t have an opinion then you don’t have a voice, and nothing ever changes. Then we can never affect change. There’s so much change that is necessary in this world, it takes people who have their eyes open and if you keep your eyes closed too long something ends up coming by and smacking you in the face. It’s definitely a wake-up call.
Are we all so afraid to offend anyone we won’t actually say what we really think anymore? Or has the world of social media made it too easy to empower ourselves anonymously without ever really saying anything worth standing behind?
Definitely. Oh, no shit. But as you’ve probably borne witness to, I’m never afraid to say what I think. I definitely think that the Internet has made people exceptionally mighty, unnecessarily and unjustifiably so. There are no repercussions. There’s no responsibility – you can say anything you want, pretend to be anybody you want, and somehow that’s okay. I don’t think that it is. I think that there should be consequences for actions. I am a believer in freedom of speech to a point. I don’t believe in hate speech. I don’t believe people are entitled to do that. I don’t believe people are entitled to bully. I don’t think that’s a right, that we’re protected to do that. I think other people should be protected from it.
That’s a flaw in the way that our laws are structured. I think that we give too much license to be predators, to do damage for the sake of quote-unquote “freedom of speech.” And that’s not freedom anymore. People should be free from being bullied, from being persecuted, from being tormented. That’s a freedom as well, and people often will go ahead and waive that freedom of speech flag and think that it entitles them to say just about anything.
You know what? It doesn’t. There should be repercussions. I often say I would pay a million dollars for an app that enabled me to just smack people through the computer. I mean it, I would pay a million dollars. There would be so many dumb motherfuckers getting smacked, it would be a smacking spree. And all of a sudden everybody would have a little bit of consequence. “What the hell is wrong with you? You are not just some computer jockey, some wannabe maniac sitting behind a keyboard trying to one-up the next guy in insulting some poor individual.”
And I can take care of myself. I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about the countless others out there who fall prey to these online predators and end up taking their own lives or end up living in isolation. They’re unable to deal with their own image of themselves. It’s disgusting what some of this technology has empowered people to do.
Well, maybe after this runs somebody will come up with Digital Bitchslap or something and you’ll get credit for it.
Dude, I’m in! If you know some developer guys, let’s go ahead and do it. We’ll build in some kind of shock technology into the computer. I’m in, let’s co-found the company!
After more than a decade working in the world of music, is there any subject you wish simply wouldn’t be brought up anymore?
“Is disturbed getting back together? When is Disturbed getting back together? Why did Disturbed break up?” [Laughs]. We didn’t break up. We will be getting back together. Stop asking me about it! It’s a hiatus – look up definition of hiatus, I don’t have any other way to explain it. And I’ve explained it in a hundred interviews and everybody still ends up asking me the same damned question.
Look, this way we’re all going to grow in our appreciation of each other as a group. Everybody steps away from it for awhile, the band and the fans. It’s not something that’s predictable anymore, you know you’re not going to get a new Disturbed record every other year. When a Disturbed reunification does occur — and it will occur because we don’t go ahead and dedicate sixteen years of our lives and all our blood, sweat, tears and souls to walk away forever — when the time comes we’ll come back to it with renewed vigor and inspiration, make a killer record and take this thing to new heights! But everybody needs to be conscious from here on out that when Disturbed does get back together, does make a new record, that’s a special occasion. It isn’t something that’s going to happen cyclically every other year anymore. We all need to cherish it, not just from the fan’s perspective but even from the band’s perspective as we become re-inspired by it rather than feeling like we have to do it. It’s going to make a tremendous difference.
In the reverse, what do you wish someone would talk to you about in an interview, yet they never do?
I’ve never been shy about talking about anything, brother. So I really don’t know that too much hasn’t been covered. I’ve gone in pretty much every direction I could possibly imagine. All I can do is reassure people and consider it a tremendous compliment that people love Disturbed to the point where they become so worrisome, so fearful. I think that’s a great thing. People should care, and I’ve definitely been shown that they do. I’m flattered for that.
In the meantime, you’re out on tour with Device now, not Disturbed. What would you tell those fans who wait for the inevitable reunion? What would you want them to get from seeing a Device show?
The same sort of release, man. That’s what music is about, even though it’s electronically saturated, this is still hard rock, so it’s still all about catharsis, having that moment of empowerment and release. Feeling like you can transcend the obstacles of life, that still draws water from the same well and I think this well is even more diverse. It can give people a lot of different flavors they’ve never had the opportunity to experience with Disturbed. You should just enjoy the ride. Please, come on board, because you’re welcome!
Classical piano meets Lil Wayne’s lyrical perversions on “IANAHB,” subverting any claim to good taste
For a minute you might be forgiven for wondering what the hell this track is — have I stumbled onto some odd alternate universe wherein Lil Wayne has converted into an off-kilter pianist?
“I’m in a crib, butt-naked bitch,” he chimes in ninety seconds in. “She said my dick could be the next black president.” Whatever the hell that means. From there, “IANAHB” expands to celebrate everything which is patently absurd about the entirety of Weezy’s schtick.
Yes, he’s crazy.
No, he doesn’t care what you think.
For those reasons, he’s willing to throw any ridiculous sleaze rhyme against the wall in hopes that it might stick and piss off someone, anyone, anywhere. In the course of nearly six minutes of perversely inane lyrical mind-fuckery, Lil Wayne manages to boast about everything from fucking every bitch in sight to even fornicating with the very piano backing his rhymes.
The message in the end is that he’s not a human being, so there’s no line he won’t cross in search of so-called hip-hop greatness. That, of course, is already clear to anyone with ears, as any rapper who would think it’s even remotely reasonable to equate the murder of Emmett Till with hardcore rough sex lacks the humanity to understand the concept of what it means to cross a line.
This is Wayne’s World, and if there ever was a line separating good from bad taste in hip-hop, he’s already gotten it drunk and had his way with it.
We’ve all been through romantic situations where “should have known better” comes to mind. We make mistakes, but often pray we won’t become defined by them. This is a playlist full of songs which ride that roller coaster from the highs of first love to the lows of wishing we’d just said no before having one’s heart ripped to shreds became a legitimate possibility. Highlights include “Flowers,” from Anais Mitchell’s acclaimed Hadestown folk-opera, “Homage for the Suffering” from a stunningly under-appreciated Matthew Perryman Jones effort, and “El Matador,” one of the best soMngs from Semisonic I can almost guarantee you’ll never have heard. That, and you can expose yourself to a number of artists on the edge of fame who sorely deserve a wider audience — Meaghan Smith deserves to be mentioned as one of the stronger “vaudeville pop” vocalists working the pop scene, and Diane Birch’s “Fire Escape” sorely needs a cult following.
The 184.108.40.206′s subvert pop, punk, surf and rockabilly expectations with Bomb The Twist, the best EP of 2012 you didn’t hear
Play this EP straight through and you’ll feel like you’ve just taken a time-warp back into the classic era of pop singles. “Three Coolchicks” may be the best mock-Beatles track I’ve heard to really hit on the sound the band made famous, while distilling how that sound must have sounded to these three Japanese women coming up in the era of Quentin Tarantino “aural re-evaluation.”
Yoshiko “Ronnie” Fujiyama, Sachiko Fujii and Akiko Omo formed the 220.127.116.11′s in Tokyo back in 1992, achieving a modicum of underground fame when they briefly appeared in Kill Bill Volume 1 performing “Woo Hoo” by the Rock-A-Teens, but their music has yet to catch fire. That boggles my mind in this era of retro-pop nostalgia — the EP’s title track sounds like a long-lost Bill Haley smash as though filtered through the Ramones with a touch of surf-rock Beach Party mix thrown in for good measure. This is the essence of “fun” and “rock” distilled into 18 minutes of furiously twisted pop. Like Tarantino the music ably steals from an era long past, but the key is that filter which is applied liberally to the music to make it distinctly theirs. That alone makes this worth a listen. I dare you not to start singing along with “Dream Boy” as though it truly was the logical follow-up to the Chordettes or Leslie Gore.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Foals burst into Holy Fire vs. new music from the Virginmarys and Atoms for Peace
When “NOW 45″ is the third highest-selling album, you know it’s been a slow week for music. You’re telling me I can play “Die Young” more than once every half hour? SOLD.
I’m constantly looking at upcoming releases and the only ones that remotely pop out are Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” on March 19 then The Strokes’ new one a week later. It’s a torturous time for new-music fiends.
But hey, this is also a time for discovery. New band/listener alliances are formed everyday, so may you find one as we wait for the ol’ faithfuls to wrap up production. Recovering from the absurd snowstorm, here are select albums from the past few Tuesdays. There are some new bands here, so it’s been an adventure.
Foals – Holy Fire
This is the third album by Foals and I cannot speak on behalf of the first two. But after the first few tracks, Holy Fire left an impression. Apparently, those songs are now singles, but the clicky-groove in “Inhaler” and the infectious pop anthem “My Number” are the highlights of the album.
Because the first half of the album is so catchy, the rest of it just fades away. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it parties a little too hard, too fast. You might even be satisfied with playing “My Number” on repeat.
That said, there’s an energy throughout that is never in-your-face. The guitar is more plucky instead of grungy and it helps push tracks like “Out of the Woods” into more of a ballad category. It’s not a fair comparison, but I feel the same way listening to this as I do when I listen to the John Butler Trio. Some strange balance between rocking out and chilling out.
The Virginmarys – King of Conflict
Free downloads can be like digital pamphlets, destined for the closest trashcan. But sometimes, you get a gem that opens a gateway to spectacular musical avenues. Here’s such a case.
Sitting on my iPod since (scrolls through iTunes purchase history) 2010 (!) was “Bang Bang Bang,” a hard-hitting free download of the week that spewed out an unforgettable hook: “Take that gun, girl, and blow my mind.” Ooh man, this was a keeper. The band had nothing else out there, so their relevance was short lived. That single became buried and eventually forgotten.
Well now, three years later, The Virginmarys has surrounded that bombshell with an arsenal full of explosive tracks. These British rockers are not unlike the era of Jet and Wolfmother, Australians who sent music to the states to say, “This is how it’s done. Remember?” Mainstream rock music can get bogged down in the meaningless muck of sex, drugs and alcohol. It should be kicking down doors and pillaging all the awesome out of life. OK, maybe there is some mention of the three taboos of rock on this album, but it at least has meaning behind it. “Lost Weekend,” being the prime example, is more a cry for help: “And my body aches and my head it hurts. I’ve long found out that drugs don’t work. Will someone save me from myself tonight.”
“Just a Ride” barrels through the grieving process of a failed relationship while tracks like “Dressed to Kill” are almost the opposite, claiming “She’s my world.” Does King of Conflict bring anything new? Not quite. But sometimes the new can get so nauseating it takes nostalgia to cure it. This isn’t the dawning of another British rock invasion like we had in the early 2000s, but if it were, The Virginmarys would be at the forefront.
Atoms for Peace – Amok
So, this is Thom Yorke.
Atoms for Peace is merely an alternate label, but we can all assume that one Yorke incarnation sounds like the rest. Listen to Amok followed by The Eraser, his solo album, and for good measure, give The King of Limbs another whirl. The atmosphere is static. Compare that to a, let’s say, Tom DeLonge from Blink 182 and Angels and Airwaves. I never have to wonder what I’m listening to because those two bands are vastly different and serve different emotional purposes. Yorke, as unique as he is, is all under one bracket.
With the addition of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, drummer Joey Waronker, who has worked with everyone from REM to Norah Jones to Beck, and percussionist Mauro Refosco, this could have been something a “fun” album. It’s not as dark as Yorke’s other work, but you won’t be craving this on a sunny day.
“Unless” feels like a car revving up in snow and going nowhere. Just once I’d like to see Yorke vocally detonate in the middle of a song. It’s a fine track, but it would have pushed this song into elite territory if it had some sort of climax. It’s like Radiohead’s cerebral and experimental style. All brain, not enough brawn. Do you work out to a Radiohead song? Can you? If this qualifies as exercise, I’m all in:
“Before Your Very Eyes…” and “Stuck Together Pieces” have prevalent bass-lines and that Flea/RHCP funk is trying so hard to get out. This album sounds as if it were produced with the utmost care and precision, but with the weapons at his disposal, this was a perfect time for Yorke to let loose. When you focus on what the band does well – smooth synth with a multitude of unconventional layers on top of it – the album is exceptional. Like deep-meaning lyrics, there are sounds on this album that require multiple listens to discover, and that’s most of the fun. But the minimalist approach and lack of diversity kept Amok from being something truly special. Oddly, this album is yet to reach Spotify.
All night awake
In the moonlight I’m with you
In the moonlight I’m with you
Brighter than gold
They’ve owned my ears since I first heard their Cuban-fueled masterpiece Two Shoes nearly a decade ago, and since that moment I’ve never ceased to be surprised at the levels to which they take their obsessively catchy blend of global pop. This latest single, a bright exercise in full body enrichment, sets your speakers afire with horn soaked exuberance, as Felix Riebl lets loose his distinctive Aussie vocals and the band holds sway over us all. In this musical empire the only reason the sun ever sets is so we can blast off with music like this under the moonlight. And with American pop music lacking any distinct edge, something this good is worth ten times its weight in gold. Their yet-untitled sixth album, due in May, can’t come nearly soon enough to sate my appetite for more as I, stuck awake way into the night, continue to press play. “Oh la aye!” indeed.
Casey Abrams’ new “Get Out!” video puts a humorous spin on obsessive crushes with an unforgettable hook
Memo to Casey Abrams. As much as we all love your songs and want you to succeed, it’s dangerous to film a video where you’re seen stalking a hot chick wearing her best “I Love NY” t-shirt, leering behind her like Seattle’s latest serial-killer-in-waiting. That, and telling a girl “you got me like a bug bite and now you’re under my skin” while your eyes bug out eerily might not quite come off as “sexy” as you’re hoping. This time it gets you punched in the face. Next time she might cut you, and we’d hate to see you get hurt, with so much great pop songwriting yet for you to do!
All kidding aside, this video perfectly sums up what made Casey so damned likeable when he was on American Idol back in 2010. If this hook doesn’t win you over, and you don’t find something to champion via this interview I conducted with him for PopMatters, I then officially excuse you. Please now safely give up pop music for life, you’re just not going to be in the right frame of mind for music which doesn’t take itself so seriously.
Lately I’ve been going crazy looking for a juicy pop hit to champion as we head toward spring. Well, folks, this is the one … roll those windows down and crank it full-volume, make sure the whole neighborhood hears. Represent for happy-go-lucky bearded weirdos everywhere, because with a hook this good, if this can’t be a hit I don’t want to listen anymore.
“We Don’t Even Live Here” — P.O.S. and his “Weird Friends” showcase just how far ahead they remain of mainstream hip-hop via new video
I’ve been a champion of P.O.S.’s magnificent hip-hop effort We Don’t Even Live Here since it came out late last year, but the rapper continues to find ways to mine that album for gold as the new year gets going, proving he leads the genre’s vanguard by a wide distance. Reset your opinions of hip-hop by giving these lyrical anarchists a listen or ten. They won’t be beat, and any chance to dig deeper into their catalog is worth the effort. Their tour was cancelled last year due to P.O.S.’s imminent need for a kidney transplant, but they will be playing Sasquatch! Fest with Mumford and Sons, Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, the XX and an astonishing number of other cutting edge alternative artists, when the festival takes over George, Washington on May 27, 2013. Based on everything I’ve heard about his live shows, this won’t be one to miss.
Check out the video below! It definitely deserves a shot at wider mainstream acknowledgement, even as the band refuses to give up an ounce of their indie credibility to get it.
Fall Out Boy knows what we did in the dark but hasn’t figured out it’s been six years since their relevance expired
I wish Fall Out Boy could see just how far they’ve fallen since their career crashed and burned with the collapse of Folie a Deux. Unfortunately they think that a dash of Maroon 5 mock-swagger plus Bruno Mars-esque backdrop hooks equals a whole lot of Fun. And it’s not. Not by a long shot. “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” merely showcases a band whose career long ago went up in smoke attempting to create a pop juggernaut while playing by the old rules, figuring we’re all so desperate for a radio earworm we’ll gladly submit our brains for their control.
While once a powerful fixture in the world of top 40 hitmaking, Infinity On High marked their peak, and the five-year absence after “hits” like “America’s Suiteheart” failed to exceed trainwreck status suggests a total lack of direction. It’s been a long slow slide, and worse yet, they think they can Save Rock and Roll with their absurdly titled sixth studio album, due out in April. If this single is the best they can do, I think rock and roll would rather die a slow painful death than to submit to Patrick Stump and Co. as its savior. Sorry boys … the fall-out shall be swift: This critic knows what your songs did during the hiatus, and he’s not buying. Here’s hoping the rest of America follows suit.
The last time I wrote about Hugh Laurie’s surprisingly adept blues debut nearly two years ago, the world of WordPress took note and rocketed the little review to Freshly Pressed status. The album never quite took off in the US, but my post did because at the time the music was only available in the UK — I’d just happened to luck into a press copy by accident, becoming the first US critic to say anything about it. What’s great about Laurie’s blues work, which makes the album stand out even two years in, is the fact that he comes at the music as a fan. He’s heard this music all his life, and it’s soaked into his soul — something which makes his performances work even when you perhaps wouldn’t otherwise take him seriously.
Today I learned he’s putting his music out there further in the UK to promote the NHS’s Organ Donor Registry via ITV, at a time when there is a desperate shortage of donors in that region. Laurie took to Oceanway Studios in Los Angeles, recording a rollicking cover of “Unchain My Heart” for the cause in the same venue where everyone from Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald have recorded. You can watch the video below, and then dig deep into Let Her Talk like you should have done two years ago. It’s not too late to recognize a wide-ranging talent when you hear one.