Pet Shop Boys: Electric
The distinctive sound of the Pet Shop Boys returns in their eleventh album (and first
on their own label) Electric. A blend of 80's new wave, 90's techno, and modern electronica,
Electric is definitely full of tracks that will keep the glow sticks spinning far
into the wee hours of the morning. The mash-
Throwing Up: Over You
Rebel though I may be, writing the artist and title for this review made me cringe
a little. That being said, I love the raw energy of the band, and the lo-
David Lynch: The Big Dream
The Big Dream is blues packaged in a way you've never quite heard before. Slow groves, funky electronic beats, and some distorted guitar that sounds like it belongs on Neil Young's Re.act.or, this second album released by David Lynch isn't like anything I have ever heard before. And honestly, I dig it. Featuring a slow burn cover of Bob Dylan's Ballad of Hollis Brown that effectively switches gears and sets up a decidedly darker second half of the album, Lynch proves that he can sing in a weirdly compelling voice too. If you are a fan of the slow burn groove, and open to old genres done in a new way, check this one out.
Darren Hayman & The Short Parliament: Bugbears
Well, I'm a nerd. I saw the title and got a little excited at the Bugbear reference.
I got even more excited when the opening track of the album made me feel like I was
slinging ale in a seventeenth century inn somewhere in the woods. But then, I suppose
that is what one would expect from an album featuring seventeenth-
Goo Goo Dolls: Magnetic
Considering all of the songs that could have been chosen for a single release ahead
of this album, I can’t for the life of me understand why Rebel Beat was chosen. It
certainly sets a lackluster expectation for the rest of the album. Mediocre at best,
it sounds like something you would hear on one of those Disney pre-
The rest of the album improves a bit, but I sometimes wonder if we are ever going
to hear anything that comes close to Iris. Caught In The Storm is a decent little
love ditty. Keep The Car Running isn’t too bad, either, if you’re in a miserable-
The standout on this album is Come To Me, a beautifully written acoustic number about a fresh start between two people that are finally ready to get their act together for good. Bulletproof Angel also deserves a mention; it’s slow and mellow, but the vocals are decent, and lyrically, it’s a good tune.
Overall, I wasn’t exactly blown away. Back in the days before Iris, the Goo Goo Dolls took some flack from their original fan base for becoming to Adult Contemporary Rock with their sound. Then along came Iris and they rocked again. If you were a fan of those ACR days, then you will probably enjoy this album. Personally, I haven’t been a fan since day one, so Iris is my litmus test. Maybe it’s not fair to use one song as a gauge for an entire album, but I loved that sound. This isn’t it.
Nine Inch Nails: Came Back Haunted
Maybe I am comparing apples to oranges here, but after the recent release of new Alice In Chains material, I was incredibly disappointed with this single. Look, it sounds like Nine Inch Nails. It just sounds like bad Nine Inch Nails. It definitely tries to have that industrial rock sound, but it comes off as bad eighties synthesizer garbage. With the above mentioned AIC release, we had a band from the height of the nineties rock era keeping that sound alive with a modern twist. NIN is attempting the same thing, but it has no soul.
All day long while I toiled at the mundane tasks of life away from this desk, I asked myself, “Why? How could Reznor have gotten this far off track?” It doesn’t help that guitarist Adrian Belew and bassist Eric Avery quit before the project was barely off the ground. Then again, Belew could hardly have saved this mess. Any card carrying King Crimson fan understands that the music he was responsible for creating in no way resembled real KC music, and I am sure that there is an unspoken rule in the fandom that if you ever see Belew on the street, you are to smack him upside the head with a vinyl copy of Court of the Crimson King and shout: “This is what you ruined, you bastard!” Of course, his presence would explain that bad synthesized sound……….
Alice In Chains: The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
TAlice In Chains is one of those bands that has fallen victim to the classification war, as was the case with many bands that weren’t solidly grunge coming out of Seattle in the 1990’s. Of all the labels that have been applied to them, I think Alternative Metal fits pretty well, and it’s a sound that they have stayed true to throughout their career. It’s all the more amazing given the upheaval the band has been through in the last decade.
Like Pink Floyd, AIC has the ability to produce an album that is nothing like anything they have done in the past, yet still carries their distinctive sound. You hear them and recognize them immediately. Their latest album, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, is true to that sound and still manages to be fresh and original.
Typical of Alice In Chains, the album is dark, full of slow burn guitars, the music of the tortured soul. Surprisingly, there are a few standout tracks with a bit of a brighter sound, namely Breath on a Window and Low Ceiling. Not the usual, but still AIC .
When a band is around for twenty plus years, there comes a point when a line is drawn in the sand: are they still true to their sound, their audience, their message? Are they still significant? Or is it time for them to hang it up, stop producing stale music that was over ten years ago, and go enjoy middle age with a round of golf? In this case, forget the golf. AIC is still dark, still morose, and still current. This was the glorious sound of my high school years, and it’s nice to know that I don’t have to pine nostalgic for the good old days. Not when bands like Alice In Chains are still rocking it.
The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here will be released on May 28, 2013..
30 Seconds to Mars: Love Lust Faith + Dreams
I know that I just went on a mini-
30 Seconds to Mars has the ability to produce rock music that has the same effect
that ambient electronica has on me. I get into the whole “mind expanding through
the universe, let’s explore my inner-
The album is split into four parts, each exploring the themes mentioned in the title, with a female voice introducing each theme in spoken word. The first two tracks, Birth and Conquistador, deal with love. Angsty, crazy love, but love all the same. Up in the Air, City of Angels, The Race and End of All Days deal with lust, Pyres of Varanasi, Bright Lights and Do or Die cover faith, and Convergence, Northern Lights, and Depuis Le Début finish up in the dreams category.
As far as a concept album, it’s not my favorite. But I love the combination of more mainstream rock and punk sounds with electronica. My personal favorite track is Pyres of Varanasi. An exotic instrumental coupled with a haunting, Middle Eastern influenced chant, I could listen to this over and over while I work. As a matter of fact, as I was doing this review, I finished up the album and then listened to that track several more times in a row.
As I mentioned above, you have to be into a lot of different sounds to really appreciate this album. If electronica is not your thing, you may want to give this a pass. But if you love rock, and ambient, and world music, and pop/punk, check it out. It’s all over the place in terms of sound, but hey. It’s 30 Seconds to Mars. That’s what they do, and they do it well.
Love Lust Faith + Dreams was released on May 17, 2013.
Green Express: Gex
Hailing from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the alt rock band Green Express offers the best of the grunge era sound, with nods to the classic and modern genres of rock peppered into their music. The band is about to embark on a European tour to promote their new album, Gex.
South America has been producing some great bands lately, and I am blessed with the opportunity to get to hear this stuff. Those of you over in the UK have been privy to the SA explosion onto the rock scene for a while now, but here in the States we are just now getting a real taste of it, and it’s awesome.
Gex is fabulous. Full of aggressive guitars and moody vocals with throwbacks to Nirvana
in the harmonies, it rocks, pure and simple. Twice today I have found myself excited
that the sound of my high-
To sum up: Gex rocks. The album is great, and you will have a special appreciation for it if you remember the terms “lamestain” and “harsh realm” and know exactly where they come from and why. Pay attention to South America, because big things are happening on the rock scene there. Follow Green Express; I have been sniffing around the SA scene since I heard this, there is a lot of good out there, but this band is definitely one of the few heading the pack. As always, stop by and check out the reviews and take a listen to New Music Tuesdays. It’s a great opportunity to hear some great music like this and earn the “I knew them before they were big” bragging rights.
Two Point Zero: Roads and Saline
The bottom line is this: I love Two Point Zero. Hailing from the UK, they have gained a following in their own country the old fashioned, rock and roll way: Playing their music well every chance they get and developing one hell of a following.
They are everything I love about the post grunge genre at its best. They’re not a
rehash of the mid-
The nineties influence is there to be sure, along with a host of other influences, but like any good band, these guys have a sound all of their own. Its fresh, and it rocks. .
Roads is one of those songs that isn’t slow at all, but the mood is the same as if it were a soulful ballad. Raw and emotional, full of wailing rifts and distraught vocals, it’s a musical journey into open and honest pain.
Saline is the newest single to be released by the band. Infused with driving guitars that are tinged with a bit of Bush influence, fast driving drums and some more of the great vocal blends that are so prevalent in their music, this song is one you will listen to over and over again.
Two Point Zero can be heard on the Tuesday Drivethru on Exosphere Radio on May 21 2013. Roads and Saline will be released as part of a 4 track EP in the next few weeks.
Deerhunter : Monomania
The latest studio album from Atlanta’s Deerhunter keeps the band solidly grounded
in the Indie Rock genre, although their self-
Full of feedback, reverb guitar, and distorted vocals, Monomania is a wonderful blend
of 1967 and 2013. While Deerhunter pulls the Sonic Youth card when describing their
influence, like any good Indie band should do, I really hear more similarities to
the Stones in this album. Dream Captain and Back to the Middle showcase some decidedly
Make no mistake; there is a good bit of variety in the tracks, enough to make you realize that this thoroughly modern band can run with the big boys in this decade. Pensacola has a rockabilly feel that reminds you of their Southern roots. The last track, Punk (La Vie Anterieure) is every bit the Indie Punk sound that made these guys famous in the first place.
Monomania is a fantastic showcase of the vintage sound that Deerhunter is known for, and well worth a listen.
Monomania will be available May 7, 2013.
Noah and The Whale: Heart of Nowhere
Could it be possible? Twice in as many weeks, I have found an album with accompanying media to review. I couldn’t be happier.
Heart of Nowhere is a feel good album, even if it’s constantly focused on the past. It’s upbeat and bubbly. It’s the kind of music you want to listen to when you need motivation to meet a deadline. It’s the perfect background noise for a lazy, cocktails and hammock kind of day. It’s what I want to hear driving down a country road with the wind in my hair, feeling like I am twenty again.
It takes me back to the eighties, but only the best influences of that decade are found here. This is the kind of music that would be featured in a John Hughes film. Synth, solid drums, and some violin lend a timeless air to their sound, and the guitar put me in mind of U2 and The Cars. It’s tight and precise without sounding too technical. Lyrically, it’s all about nostalgia for the past, and resigning yourself to the grown up present. The album is accompanied by a thirty minute short film, following the same themes, about a group of teenagers spending their last night together on an island before going out into the world as adults. Every memory from my childhood is accompanied by a soundtrack of eighties New Wave and Rock in my head, so this idea particularly resonates with me. It’s a longing walk down memory lane that still manages to stay positive, even with such melancholy lyrics.
Heart of Nowhere is available May 6, 2013.
Neon Neon: Praxis Makes Perfect
Now, I suppose praxis could make perfect, if the subject matter being discussed and considered from every angle was worth putting any effort into. This album falls well short of that.
This second release by project Neon Neon, collaboration between a producer and Gruff Rhys, front for the Welsh band Super Furry Animals, left me feeling like I was taken back in time to the eighties. A glorious time, to be sure, but this sound manages to capture everything that was wrong with that decade.
If Christopher Cross, the dudes from Air Supply, and Al Stewart were to get together and make an album, it would probably sound something like this. At times it sounds like a poor version of elevator music; at others, you realize it would be the perfect soundtrack for a senior citizen dance party somewhere on a boat in Florida. Think of any aerobics video you may have watched in the early eighties, remember the music, and Voila! You have this album.
There is one song that I made it through without feeling the urge to go find some
legwarmers and a sweatband: Shopping (I Like To). Not that I particularly enjoyed
it in any way, but at least it was a departure from the Jane Fonda sound. The vocalists
put forth a valiant effort to sound like Animotion, but the end result is much better
suited to a trippy “B” sci-
I am sure there is a market for this. If you are of the young crowd that prefers buying your records on vinyl, even though that particular medium was obsolete before you were a twinkle in your mama’s eye, then maybe you cold explain the appeal to me. Maybe I don’t see the irony, or whatever it is that appeals to the cardigan crowd. If Neon Neon took the last track, The Leopard, and put its ambient sound on loop without vocals, I may use it to meditate. Maybe. Otherwise, I think I will give this one a pass.
John Andrew Fredrick: The King of Good Intentions
Sixteen pages into this novel, I found myself thinking, “Who talks like this? Like a giant, walking thesaurus?” By page thirty, I had my answer. John talks like this.
John, the rhythm guitarist for a sorta good, not actually bad Indie rock band. John, the eternal womanizer with a heart. John, the grudging substitute teacher by day, rocker by night, navigating his way through the delirious, artificial world of Los Angeles in the nineties.
After a Main Street USA, white picket fence upbringing, followed by a college education abroad, John finds himself pounding away on his guitar in a shack outside of his buddy’s property trying to pull a band together. Along the way he finds an awesome chick, colossally screws that up (or does he?) and somehow manages to actually land a shot at the big time after two gigs. Surrounded by a bunch of walking, breathing banalities, he often acts clichéd himself; that’s part of the joke, when he decides to let you in on it. And the joke is on everyone, including him. But can a slacker, stoner substitute teacher that lucked into the relationship of a lifetime and a career opportunity out of left field actually manage to keep his collective act together long enough to cash in on both?
The rocker wannabe that scoffs at all the other rocker wannabes has been done a million
times, often with a Mary Sue sort of flair: MY character is the bestest, awesomest,
The story is told from a first person point of view (John’s) and as I stated at the
beginning, I had a bit of trouble getting into the language. That is, until I got
to know him. Then I found my self a bit disarmed by his Johnny-
His interactions with a class A Goth shrew, who happens to be dating the fellow band
mate that owns the rehearsal property, are priceless. I knew seventy just like her
at the Art Institute. His love story with Jenny, the easy-
The only thing I can’t handle? The ambiguous ending. When I am this emotionally invested, I need closure. That is a personal preference, and I am sure, if John were real, he would be off somewhere having a laugh at my hopeless expense. Either way, John, I hope you come back soon. I really want to hear the rest of the story.
Stone Sour: House of Gold and Bones Part 2
House of Gold and Bones: Part 2 is the second half of Stone Sour’s ambitious concept album, telling the story of The Human as he makes his way toward the Red City for an event called the Conflagration. This epic event will require the human to make a choice that will change him forever. Throughout the journey, he encounters Allen, a creature that looks eerily like the Human, Peckinpah, a Gandalf type “Ill be around when you need me” sort of guide, and the Numbers, a strange horde that pursues the Human, led by Black John.
The human quickly discovers that this whole strange world is him, and that all of the characters are aspects of himself that he either loves or loathes. The Conflagration will determine whether he will continue to return to this realm over and over, or if the choice he makes will be the right one and this place will never be seen again.
At the Conflagration in the House of Gold and Bones, the Human realizes he cannot change until he acknowledges that change must be complete and all consuming, leaving old habits and choices far in the past where they belong. The trial is over, and he emerges a new man.
This album blew me away. It’s much darker than the first half, and even without the
story it’s pretty powerful. It’s everything that awesome nineties rock should be,
but somehow still modern. It took me back to the days when Alice in Chains and Nine
Inch Nails ruled the airwaves. I have long lamented the fact that the prog rock
concept albums from days gone by are practically non-
The Wall was a little more straightforward than this; with House you have to follow
the liner notes to get the whole story. And if you want to go even deeper, look for
the Dark Horse Comics four part series that follows the story even more in-
While the concept of personal rebirth has been done repeatedly in rock and roll, this is an interesting take on the whole concept, fantastically dark and layered. It’s been a long time since I was just as excited about the contents of an album’s packaging as I was about the music on it. Maybe a return to the days of including posters in albums is not far behind. One can hope!
House of Gold and Bones: Part 2 was released April 9, 2013 and is available now.
Fall Out Boy: Save Rock and Roll
Friday at 5, deadlines are met, the insane stress of the work week is over, and for once you are looking forward to the long drive home. Ready to start one hell of a weekend, you hop in your ride and contemplate the perfect music to fit your mood, something to get you amped up for the party ahead. At a loss, you cry to the heavens, searching for the right sound. Fall Out Boy has heard your cry in the wilderness, and answered with Save Rock and Roll. Bet you didn’t see THAT coming.
Lauded as an out of nowhere surprise comeback by critics and fans alike, the fifth
studio album from this emo/pop group is a nice change from the last mediocre studio
outing, and a welcome reminder that Pete Wentz is something other than paparazzi
fodder. It’s a fun ride, full of buoyant tracks that were meant for fist pumping
The highlight of the album is My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up).
“I just got to get you out of the cage
I'm a young lovers rage
Gonna need a spark to ignite
My songs know what you did in the dark”
Yeah, don’t know what you’re talking about, but I dig this next part:
“So light em up up up, light em up up up,…………..” Yeeeow! Hell yeah!
That pretty much sums up the entire feeling of that song. I heard this in Tony’s New Music Tuesday set, and found myself fist pumping. I was in the live chat, but apart from that, alone in my office. And I was rocking out like I was at a concert. That’s right. It put me in such a party mood, I was jamming out with people via keyboard and monitor and felt the vibe anyway, like they were all in the room with me. It’s pretty nuts, and that’s kind of the idea. There is nothing profound here, but there really doesn’t need to be. Just rock on and rock out, and on to the next song.
I am also particularly fond of the track How The Mighty Fall, a slightly creepy look at that bad relationship you just can’t resist. “Baby, we should have left our love in the gutter where we found it…..” well, I am glad you didn’t. I like living out my broken wing fantasies through someone else’s stories. I don’t get sullied, but man is it fun to pretend for a minute that I could wreck a boy like this. Delicious. And because hot little messes are hard for this guy to resist, we get served with the line “I’m a dick, girl, addicted to you.” Classy? Hell no, but who cares? It’s fun to be nasty.
This is the part where I would typically do the sum up of the album as a whole, but I think I have made it pretty clear that it’s a big ol’ party soundtrack. For your next beer pong tourney, pool party, backyard barbeque, or “Hey, lets all wear purple and get drunk!” celebration, this album is guaranteed to get the party started, and keep it going strong.
Paramore is all grown up, and Hayley Williams uses her pipes to full effect to tell
us all about it. The band’s self titled new release, and first studio album since
Josh and Zac Farro departed in 2010, is a definite breakaway from the emo-
Now, the first single from the album, is the ultimate anthem of the searching soul, alive but not really living. Williams demands, “If there’s a future, we want it now.” But the self assurance, the feeling of “waking from the dead, and everyone’s been waiting on me” is tinged by darker elements of self doubt. “Wish I could find a crystal ball, for the days I feel completely worthless,” she laments. The song opens with a take no prisoners, own your destiny attitude, and ends with a definite note of lingering confusion about how to own that destiny.
Daydreaming is more of the same, tinged with a bit of hope. Backed by a guitar and
drum mix evocative of the Cranberries, this 90’s style alt-
The album is hard to classify into one genre. Ain’t It Fun is a guilty little pleasure, sitting back and watching karma bite a very deserving someone in the ass. Its pure schadenfraude, and the 80’s style riff, complete with xylophone, took me back to my days of Bananarama fandom. Last Hope, pretty and peppy, showcases Williams’ softer side as she ponders letting go and just letting the chips fall where they may. Hate To See Your Heart Break is almost Country in style and verse, a message for all those who believe the heartache of a lost love will never heal. Peppered throughout the tracks are three short Interludes, accompanied by a mandolin and moving the story along like a modern Greek chorus.
Paramore is a thoughtful introspective on what it means to grow up, and grow into who we are meant to be. A triumphant declaration that yes, we can do this, and yes we know what needs to happen. But lingering at the end is still the burning question: How?
For all of the sunny assumptions about what may lie ahead, the one thing missing is a willingness to confront the past. From the album’s last track, Future:
So, I'm riding the future,
I'm leaving a key here.
Something won't always be missing,
You won't always feel emptier.
As the song swells into a straight up rock and roll jam, we are left wondering about the key that will unlock the door and reveal the answer. But maybe the answer isn’t behind a door, exactly. I find myself looking forward to the next outing, when the wall between the future and the past, so deliberately erected, is broken down into a bridge. I will be waiting with baited breath for the rest of the story.
Kurt Vile: Wakin on a Pretty Daze
I was pleasantly surprised that a long, mellow opening track kept my attention, enough to make me want to hear more. Nine minutes is a long time for me to focus on one song, particularly one that isn’t in any hurry to get where it’s trying to go.
The track Walking on a Pretty Day is just that, a leisurely stroll in the sunshine,
letting your thoughts wander where they may, as the album title suggests, in a lovely,
indulgent daze. Vile’s laid back, Dylan-
Shame Chamber picks up the pace a bit, a fun little song that mixes dark lyrics with a fun, carefree beat that strangely fits the subject matter. In Snowflakes are Dancing, the Neil Young influence is stronger than ever, and proves once again that acoustic can be a powerful force in rock guitar. Being the Neil fan that I am, it’s easy to hear why this was my favorite track on the album.
The album ends on a melancholy note with Goldtone, a view of the past through an
Daze is about introspection, letting things happen. In the search for an answer, the journey can be more fulfilling than the ultimate conclusion, a fact delightfully illustrated in Vile’s newest outing. Taking your time and just being in the moment is the ultimate outcome for the listener, even if it’s not the original plan. There is just something about Vile’s style that doesn’t allow you to do anything else, and by the end, you don’t really want to anyway. You are just glad you were along for the ride.
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