Thursday, June 29, 2017

Imagine Dragons Evolve: An Album a Day

An Album A Day is posted 5 days a week, Monday-Friday

    Imagine Dragons are an interesting band to me, like I said when I reviewed X Ambassadors, they get a lot of undue criticism in my opinion. A lot of people trash Imagine Dragons for being a radio rock band, but I’ll take a half decent radio rock band over the garbage EDM and minimalist pop that dominates the radio these days. When I’ve listened to Imagine Dragons before I found that like most pop leaning rock artists I didn’t care for most of their deeper cuts, especially with Imagine Dragons’ tendency to fill their album with boring soft rock.
    I expected their new album Evolve to be much the same; I’d like the lead single, find the second single to be okay and maybe like another 1 or 2 songs off the album. Surprisingly I actually like more songs from Evolve than I dislike. The first couple of songs on this album add some hip hop and r&b elements that I didn’t realize were missing from Imagine Dragons’ sound.
The first track, I Don’t Know Why is basically a Weeknd or Drake song with some 80’s synths and occasional guitar stabs added. The second track, Whatever It Takes is kind of like Imagine Dragons doing a Twenty One Pilots song in the way that it blends rapping on the verses with an alternative rock chorus. The third track and lead single Believer is the perfect blending of these hip hop elements with Imagine Dragons’ typical heavy rhythms and soaring vocals into what is probably the most cohesive track on the album.
    If Believer is the Radioactive of this album than Walking The Wire really wants to be the Demons. To me Walking The Wire is one of the worst tracks on the album as it just sounds like a boring contemporary Christian song, even more so than Demons. The better choice for the lower tempo inspirational single would have been the next song on the record, Rise Up. While Rise Up isn’t anywhere near the best song on the album, it has the calm soft rock sound that Imagine Dragon’s second single usually has, and unlike the previous track Dan Reynolds actually sounds invested.
    The third soft rock track is up next and it’s possibly worse than Walking The Wire, after this we get the strangest track on the album, Yesterday. This song is really hard to describe, but it’s a strange track that calls to mind The Beatles and Panic! At The Disco. Reynolds also sings in a lower register that reminds me of Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, but despite the weirdness it is a good track.
    Then we get Mouth Of The River, which is a well written and powerful rock track followed by Thunder, which is a minimalistic hip hop track. Thunder actually works way better than most trap songs that try to make this same rhythm and beat work. The album closes out with two mediocre tracks that don’t really stand out much, although Dancing In The Dark is kind of trippy with it’s glitchy electronic vibe.
    This album has more tracks on it that I like than any other Imagine Dragons’ album I’ve listened to before and some of them are legitimately great songs. Imagine Dragons have greatly reduced the number of terrible soft rock songs on this album and replaced them with more experimental tracks. I also commend them on how they mix in more and more disparate genres and make them work without losing their own sound; that is really what this band does best. I hope they continue to experiment with mixing in the Tron inspired synths and hip hop elements of this album or even some of the string sections from Smoke + Mirrors in the future and drop the crappy soft rock songs entirely.
Album on Google Play
Album on ITunes
Album on Amazon

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Coldplay Viva La Vida or Death And All Of His Friends: An Album a Day

An Album a Day is posted 5 days a week, Monday-Friday

    Today we are covering one of my favorite albums of all time, Viva La Vida or Death And All of His Friends by Coldplay. Now, Coldplay are not generally a band I get all that excited about. Even back when this was my favorite album I understood that I didn’t really care for most of Coldplay’s other stuff. Not to say that they are bad or uncreative, their earlier style just wasn’t my cup of tea. But Viva La Vida is exactly the type of alternative rock that I absolutely adore these days. I enjoyed this album when it first came out in 2008, in fact I enjoyed the lead single so much that I made this my first album purchase ever.
bought this album from Whole Foods in Baton Rouge, Louisiana when I was 11 years old and made my brother put it his CD player while we sat in bumper to bumper traffic in the rain. This album was the second CD that I discovered sounded really good being endlessly looped through my boom box, the other being America’s Greatest Hits album. I’m not sure what about the track Viva La Vida first grabbed my attention; I think it was either the fact that he was clearly telling a story about a Napoleon type character in a pop song or simply the viva la revolution! Feel of the whole thing.
    While I’d describe a lot of the elements on this album as vaguely world music sounding, there was something definitively French Revolution about the sound of the title track. From the beginning to end every song on this album is fantastic, with the mix of strings, world music, piano rock and Johnny Buckland doing his best The Edge impersonation meshing perfectly together.
    This album mixes arena rocking and ambient music together into a fairly unique and awesome combination. The best tracks on this album are the two title tracks, along with Yes and Violet Hill, while the only real low point for me is Strawberry Swing sitting between Violet Hill and Death and All Of His Friends.
    As previously mentioned, Viva La Vida is an anthemic rock track that oozes with the French Revolution vibe the band was evoking with this album. The song tells the tale of a dethroned king who now lives in poverty and isolation, seemingly being sung from the perspective of a Napoleon like character, post exile. This was certainly the most radio ready song on the album but it’s style is very weird for top 40 success as it is one of the most definitively rock songs Coldplay have ever had get popular.
    My personal favorite track on the album, Yes, features Chris Martin singing in his lower baritone register to add variety to the album. As a baritone myself I always loved this song because it was one of the few Coldplay songs I could sing easily. Along with Martin’s seductive low vocals this track features some of the coolest violin parts on the record. Apparently this track was inspired heavily by The Velvet Underground, which are supposed to be the originators of the alternative rock sound. Along with this influence, band members have commented that the hidden track Chinese Sleep Chant at the end of this song is meant to be a parody of shoegaze and of My Bloody Valentine specifically.
    Next we have Violet Hill, a track that is vaguely political but in the kind of way where you can pretty much insert any political opinion into the song. I actually really like these kinds of songs, because I really don’t care to hear political ranting in music, with exceptions made for Rage Against The Machine and anti-Vietnam songs because of the quality of music. This track works amazing well at making me feel the cold winter that Martin sings about, the synths and piano stabs convey this feeling very well. The lyrics are kind of a mash of jumbled words that sort of tell a story, but the delivery of the song makes up for the sometimes disjointed storytelling.
    Lastly we have the other title track and album closer Death and All of His Friends. This track could easily be described as Violet Hill part 2, with the same cold feeling and disjointed storytelling over music that pulls the whole thing together. The album actually closes with a hidden track inside of Death and All of His Friends called The Escapist, which seems to be the existentialist crises of Chris Martin leaking out.
    The track features the repeated line “And, In the end we lie awake, and we dream of making our escape” over the music from the album opener Life In Technicolor. This makes the album easy to listen to on repeat because of it's circular nature. I always took the lines to be a poetic description of being dead; the lines are also likely a reference to The End by The Beatles which has Paul McCartney singing “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”.
    As I said at the beginning of this review, this is one of my favorite albums of all time, turning this review more into a sales pitch to go listen to it. While I’m biased in favor of this album because of the nostalgia for me, I legitimately believe this album is just as good as I’ve said it. One of the strongest points of this album for me is it enough of an arena rock album to be a pump up daytime listen and ambient enough to be listened to at night. I can’t even count how many times I fell asleep to this album as a kid or even as an adult. I’ve enjoyed this album for 9 years now and I fully expect to be enjoying it for many more to come; do yourself a favor and give it a listen.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

X Ambassadors VHS: An Album a Day

 An Album A Day is posted 5 days a week, Monday-Friday

   Is it just me or do a lot of people act like Imagine Dragons are the new Nickelback? People act like they are nothing more than a soulless money maker without a style; hell I’ve found out a lot of people who don’t like Dan Reynolds voice. I personally don’t get it, but to those people I would say go listen to X Ambassadors, because after listening to their crappy album VHS you will beg for Imagine Dragons.

    Generally I’ve seen these two bands be put in the same category and they’ve even collaborated a few times; because of this I think it only fitting to compare the two. While Imagine Dragons do make a fair amount of obvious radio bait songs, they also make some solid tracks that are deeper cuts on the record and it’s not like most of their hits are bad. Compare to that X Ambassadors, a band so ready to sell out they are literally only popular because of a car commercial. And if it was a case of them getting big off of that and the rest of their album was good or even average, I’d give them a pass but this album sucks.
    On the topic of style, Imagine Dragons have a very definitive and recognizable sound even with the way they blur genres a lot. Imagine Dragons two most distinct elements are pounding rhythms and Dan Reynolds very unique voice, now their softer tracks usually drop the huge drums in favor of acoustic guitars, but Reynolds voice is still instantly recognizable. X Ambassadors claim to be a real rock band with some things taken from indie music, and that pretty much holds true. They are an alternative rock band with the pretention and boring sound of indie.
    As for the songs on the album, all of them are forgettable as hell. The two exceptions are Renegades and Unsteady which are okay enough songs that get stuck in your head and just become aggravating. Those two tracks are actually pretty good, along with Nervous and B.I.G., but the issue that even these tracks suffer from is sounding generic. The first 6 tracks on this album could literally just be called “The jeep commercial”, “The pop song”, “Bastille knockoff”, “Nick Jonas knockoff”, “even Dan Reynolds can’t save you now” and “Why is this drum and bass?”.
    The only thing that almost counts as a constant style is the inclusion of acoustic guitars on most of these tracks, but nothing about the playing is unique or memorable. Lead singer Sam Harris isn’t a bad singer at all, but he suffers from sounding way too much like everybody else. At times he sounds like Dan Reynolds, at other times Adam Levine or Chris Martin from Coldplay with an American accent. He occasionally dips into a more soul singer kind of voice that has a bit of it’s own sound, but overall Harris is just too generic sounding, just like the rest of the band.
    Maybe this album is a combination of songs that were written or partially written over the course of the years since they formed and that’s why it feels so disjointed, or maybe it’s just the crappy first album bands put out that used to only go out to a couple of people before the internet. Either way, these guys need to cultivate their own sound before they attempt a follow up. I’d like to see them either take the Panic! At The Disco approach and sound like a slightly different version of a more popular rock band or simply expand on the sound from Renegades more. Who knows, maybe they’re next album will fantastic, after all Harry Styles is now a rock star and Pantera were originally a glam rock band called Gemini; things can change.

Album on Google Play
Album on Amazon
Album on Itunes

Monday, June 26, 2017

Fall Out Boy Champion: An Album a Day

An Album a Day is posted 5 days a week, Monday-Friday

    So Fall Out Boy released a new single. This is the second single for their album to be released later this year, M A N I A. This will be their first new album since 2015’s American Beauty/American Psycho and reportedly is going to draw heavily on EDM influences. The first single Young and Menace featured the three years behind current trends sound of dubstep mixed with contemporary pop influences. So with the background out of the way, let’s see how Champion tackles EDM.
    To start, this song does at least appear to have guitars somewhere in the mix and does bring in a little bit of Fall Out Boy’s older sound. The issue this track has right off the bat for me is that the production doesn’t sound like Fall Out Boy; it’s crisp with that dull echoey feel that all pop music has these days. On top of this, even with the guitar in the background the opening of this song wouldn’t sound out of place as the hook on a Future or Drake track, with such a drowsy and low delivery. Also their heavy use of purple in all the marketing keeps making me think Patrick Stump was sipping lean before some of these vocal takes.
    Throughout the majority of the song Stump’s vocals are strong as ever, just like on Young and Menace, but there are a few drowsy segments that kill all of the momentum of this track. And while this track attempts to use the huge sounding drum sounds from their last album to add power, even the drums sound tired. I don’t want to be overly negative, because I hate people who throw a fit every time a band changes their sound, but there are changes that work and changes that don’t and this change does not work at all.
    Fall Out Boy’s change from pop punk mixed with emo to a more commercial arena rock sound on their last two records worked because it expanded the sound of the band and made them sound like a bigger version of themselves. This shift to a EDM influenced pop sound does the exact opposite, making it sound more and more like Patrick Stump’s solo career ghost written by Pete Wentz. Seriously, on both of the singles from Mania how many musical elements can you pick out? On Young and Menace I hear a lot of synths, a snare drum, a very slight piano once in awhile and I think a guitar buried under everything else on the drop. On Champion, there’s a guitar line, a few synths and drums; that's it.
    I find the same issue here I found with Heavy by Linkin Park when I first heard it; where is the rest of the band? Fall Out Boy feature two guitarists, a bass player and a drummer along with a vocalist; at least when Linkin Park fill an entire song with pro tools and keyboard they have the excuse of having a DJ and a keyboard player in the band. Continuing with the comparison to Linkin Park, I actually think this is worse than One More light because Linkin Park at least went all in on a pop sound and had some songs that worked as pop music. Conversely, Fall Out Boy's half pop half rock sound just makes these tracks sound confused and I personally don’t think Young and Menace or Champion work even as pop songs.
    Overall, I’m worried that Mania could be to Fall Out Boy what One More Light has been to Linkin Park. The little bit of hope I have left is that they have not fully committed to the EDM pop sound just yet, as elements of their rock sound keep bleeding through. This means that there’s a chance that a few tracks on Mania will be legitimate rock songs. We will all have our answers soon enough as the album drops in September.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Paramore After Laughter: An Album a Day

An Album a Day is posted 5 days a week, Monday-Friday

Today we’re looking at former pop punk band Paramore’s latest foray into pop, After Laughter. Given Paramore’s pop punk roots, a switch to a new wave inspired sound to stay viable actually makes a lot of sense. Given new wave’s status as cleaned up and family friendly punk rock as well as the recent resurgence of 80’s music being popular this switch should work very well for Paramore.

Firstly, let me just say I was never a huge Paramore fan; I liked most of their hits but every time I'd listen to their deeper cuts off the albums I would always get bored quickly. In fairness, that's how I felt about most pop punk and emo bands of the 2000s, from Fall Out Boy to My Chemical Romance I always found the deeper cuts to be lacking. The only album by those sort of bands I liked the whole way through was Panic! At The Disco’s latest album Death of a Bachelor.

Over the course of listening to Paramore I've found tha the handful of songs I like from them I absolutely love, but everything is else is kind of forgettable. Needless to say I wasn't expecting much from this album; I really like the lead single Hard Times, but I usually do like their singles. Hard Times was still way more interesting than most of Paramore’s music because it promised a manic depressed 80’s new wave tribute sound across the album. That genre, and the way they handled it on Hard Times did give me hope that this album would be strong all the way through.

After listening to the full album I find myself torn. Part of me really likes the new wave sound throughout the album, the added synths and funk bass lines absolutely match Paramore perfectly. But part of me feels the same about this album as every other Paramore album. Despite the new wave polish they sound exactly like Paramore always has to me, pretty average with occasionally great songs.

For some reason, even with replacing the punk guitars with synths and funk bass most of this album felt just as familiar as anything else Paramore have done. Don't get me wrong it’s a solid album with 4 or 5 really good songs on it, but the stuff that isn't really good feels almost like background noise to me. Just like their past albums, I either get bored with the worse songs or just forget them as soon as they end.

The highlights are Hard Times, Rose Colored Boy, Pool, Grudges and Caught In The Middle. Hard Times and Pool are the most blatantly 80’s tracks on this album, combing really cool synths that sound like a mix of xylophone and wind chimes with a funk bassline and drum beat. The guitar is pretty sparse on these tracks, adding texture rather than being the main instrument, but it works perfectly within the context of the song.

Rose Colored Boy, Grudges and Caught In The Middle are an interesting mix of punk and new wave. These tracks mix more aggressive guitar riffing reminiscent of their early album with the new wave inspired sound of this album. These tracks feel like the best of both worlds for Paramore, keeping the aggression of their early sound and mixing it with the elegance of their poppier sound. To me, this is Paramore at their best.

I'd have to say this album is a mixed bag to me; featuring some of my favorite Paramore songs as well as ones I forget even exist the moment they stop. The blend of new wave with their sound works better than a lot of what they've tried before, but a lot of tracks just sound like filler between the great tracks. Ultimately I think this album is worth a listen, but after one listen I simply pick out the 5 tracks I like and pretend the rest don’t exist.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Islander Power Under Control: An Album A Day

An Album A Day is posted 5 days a week, Monday-Friday


   Islander are an interesting band; their first album, Violence and Destruction was almost entirely one of nu metal revival, complete with a guest spot by POD front man Sonny Sandoval. But after literally the entire band left except for lead singer Mikey Carvajal, Islander’s sound also evolved, incorporating punk, alternative, ska punk, hip hop and modern metal into their sound. The album that came out of this mixing of genres was Power Under Control, which for my money is head and shoulders better than their debut.
    The lineup for this album consisted of JR Bareis on guitar, Arin Illejay on drums and Ezekiel Vasquez playing bass. Bareis is the current lead singer and guitarist for KoRn guitarist Brian “Head” Welch’s solo project, Illejay was the second drummer for Avenged Sevenfold and Vasquez was the bass player for alt rockers ForeverAtLast. Given the eclectic styles and influences each of these artists brings, not to mention the clear Deftones influence on Carvajal, it’s no wonder the album contains so many genres.
    The first thing I can say about Islander is that Carvajal is one of the greatest front men in the modern rock and metal scenes. First off, this guy have like 15 different ways of singing, ranging from death growls and screaming to legitimately good rap vocals, amazing cleans and a unique style that borrows from Che without being a rip off. On top of that, Carvajal owns every crowd that he plays in front of live, combining raw charisma with singing ability and a knack for never looking lost during instrumental breaks.
    The album as a whole is something that must be experienced in one sitting, while many songs are great on their own they all work better within the context of the album. Tracks like Darkness, Bad Guy, Think It Over and Casket work great as stand alone songs, but work way better within the semi narrative of the album. While there is no definite story, the placement of each song seems to have a general flow from a sinner lost in darkness to someone who has found meaning in life.
    Islander, similarly to Twenty One Pilots have songs that are filled with vague Christian themes and spiritual elements. These themes likely stem from Carvajal’s faith, who like Tyler Joseph is not interested in making Christian Rock music but doesn’t shy away from putting those themes into his lyrics. This is one of the better bands at writing songs that can be enjoyed both from a Christian perspective or just from rock or metal fan perspective.
    Some of the best moments on this album come from songs like Devil Red, Beelzebub and Casket that haphazardly switch from alternative rock tracks into full on metal songs before switching back again. The sharp contrast between Beelzebub’s xylophone driven sound to the harsh vocals and metal guitar on the climax is amazing and perfectly sums up the feel of this album. There are also elements of reggae and ska punk on this album that are played much straighter than the Papa Roach/ POD esque reggae nu metal of their first album.
    Calling this album nu metal doesn’t really feel right, but ultimately I don’t know what else to label this as. I feel like the Deftones’ influence is definitely felt here in the way that the album has an almost progressive feel that is too big for the nu metal moniker. Power Under Control also features some really slick production that allows soft tracks like Bad Guy to feel just as powerful as Green Slime Man or Darkness.
    This album overall is a masterpiece and a testament to what a creative and talented band can do with the much maligned nu metal genre. I truly believe if this album had came out in 2001 that Islander would be one of the biggest bands of the nu metal scene. It will be interesting to see if we get a third album from these guys and what it sounds like, especially since Carvajal and the rest of the band that were on this album have amicable split.

Album on Google Play
Album on Itunes
Album on Amazon

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Uriah Heep Wizards and Demons: An Album A Day

An Album A Day is released 5 days a week, Monday-Friday

Today we are looking at the 197- album by heavy metal band Uriah Heep, Demons and Wizards. This band debuted only a few years after more well known early metal bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. This coupled with the band always having to compete with these other bands means that most people don’t usually mention Uriah Heep when talking about early metal bands. This makes Uriah Heep one of the most underrated classic metal bands of all time, and Demons and Wizards is considered by most to be their best album.

Stylistically, Uriah Heep sit somewhere between Zeppelin and Deep Purple, with a folk and hard rock sound dominated by huge organs and keyboards. That’s not to say that they don’t have their own sound, but they do share a lot of similarities with those two bands. Uriah Heep also have a lot of elements that predict future metal and rock stylings, such as the operatic vocals that would be common in power metal and arena rock. Some of the guitar solos on this album, particularly on The Spell, remind me of Avenged Sevenfold.

This album features Uriah Heep’s biggest hit, the song Easy Livin’ which fits nicely in with other classic rock music and artists. Easy Livin’ has all of the hallmarks of Uriah Heep’s sound, but it’s a bit shorter and less progressive than a lot of their other tracks, making it more digestible on a classic rock station. Other tracks off of this album of particular note are Rainbow Demon, All My Life and The Spell.

Rainbow Demon is a track that shows some of the progressive rock sound that Uriah Heep are known for. The track starts off with a plodding drum beat that calls to mind a church bell ringing with only organ and vocals accompanying the drums. The lyrical style either influenced or predicted bands like Dio and Iron Maiden with the same level of vaguely spiritual or mythical lyrics sang like an epic. The track closes out with an extended blues rock guitar solo and one execution of the chorus.

All My Life is an interesting track that sounds like Led Zeppelin for the first half before turning into hair metal meets gospel for the second half. The first half is a strongly blues based rock track with some folk elements, while the second half is taken over by organs and choirs that drive home a powerful gospel feeling. Lead singer David Byron shows of his upper range, hitting some ridiculously high notes during the songs crescendo.

The last track on this album The Spell is one of the strongest tracks on the album. Despite having a very upbeat piano riff leading most of the song, it deviates off into various interludes including a nearly 2 minute long guitar solo. The thing that I really like about these guys is even when they have the opportunity to go nuts and be overtly flashy they still use restraint and play tastefully so as to benefit the song. Rather than having different sections that go in a million directions with everyone showing off, the song has movements much like a classical piece.

While they may not be remembered as readily as other bands of their day, such as Sabbath or Zeppelin, Uriah Heep are a top notch early metal and prog act who absolutely deserve a listen. These guys are still making new music and touring to this day, albeit with a different lineup than during the classic years. It really is a shame that they don’t get more recognition, because if this album is any indication a lot of people don’t know what they’re missing.

Album on Google PlayAlbum on ITunes

Monday, June 19, 2017

Queens Of The Stone Age The Way We Used To: An Album a Day

An Album a Day is posted 5 days a week, Monday-Friday


     The first single off of Queens Of The Stone Age’s forthcoming album Villians (Which is most certainly not being produced by Mark Ronson) is everything you’d expect from this crew. The Way You Used To Do is filled to the brim with fuzzy as all hell guitar riffing mixed with the demented crooning of Josh Homme. These elements are matched with a powerful bassline and set to a catchy swing beat you can easily dance to. This filthy mix of trashiness and soul all set to a beat you can dance to feels right at home in the Queens’ catalogue.

    Ronson’s production touches can be felt in the handclaps used to keep time as well as on the absolutely pristine compression used to focus Homme’s fuzzy guitar into a garrote wire. The song isn’t so different from previous tracks the Queens’ have done, reminding me a lot of a swung version of My God Is The Sun from their last album, ...Like Clockwork. If this any indication of a prevailing style on the rest of the album then I’m very interested in hearing the rest of Villians.
    The only real negatives I can find in this track is that the drums are a bit buried in the mix, but they do blend in with the handclaps pretty seamlessly, one of the many signs of good production by Ronson. The production value is pretty high on this track, adding polish without losing the very messy and trashy sound that Queens’ are known for. I was particularly impressed with the way that the various guitar tracks both blend together and can be heard apart from each other very well, with the bass line being clearly felt and heard as well. With the amount of fuzz and instrumentation from this band it would very easy to lose the individual instruments.
    This song likely isn’t going to bring in any new fans, and it isn’t supposed to. This is a song for the fans and in all likelihood the album will also be. Homme and co. have never really seemed to be bothered too much with the idea of mainstream success or doing anything besides making bluesy stoner rock for themselves and whoever would listen. By all accounts, Villians will do exactly that, just maybe with some handclaps and horn sections courtesy of Mark Ronson.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Royal Blood How Did We Get So Dark?: An Album A Day

An Album A Day is published 5 days a week Monday-Friday

    After the near perfect album that was Royal Blood’s debut I was hardly able to wait for How Did We Get So Dark? to release. I literally listened to this album at 12:01 when it became available on Google Play Music and have spun it three more times since. This album is fantastic, although it is a little bit different than what I was expecting from Royal Blood.

    My biggest complaint with this album is that the weakest tracks are all towards the beginning of record. The title track is a legitimately good opener but then Lights Out and I Only Lie When I Love You are the two weakest tracks on the album. Lights Out isn’t bad, it’s just kind of boring to me; after only hearing it a handful of times it already feels like it’s been overplayed. I Only Lie When I Love You has really poppy sounding vocals and production, although  I will admit it gets slightly better everytime I listen to it.

    She’s Creeping is a mixed bag that I’m not really sure what to make of, I think I like it but it doesn’t move me the way some of the later tracks do. The main riff and use of a major scale on the chorus is actually really cool, but it lacks the energy of their other tracks. On top of that they do one of my most hated musical tropes on this track; the fakeout buildup. The bridge is entirely a buildup that after 30 seconds just goes back into the chorus.
    Track 5, Look Like You Know is where the album starts to pick up steam and never slow back down. Look Like You Know has a some really nice melodies over the top of the brutal pounding bass playing, with Kerr’s affected vocals working really well in the context of this song. The next track Where Are You Now reminds me of The Black Keys and The White Stripes, having that really steady punk blues trashy feel both bands are known for. There are a few breaks that bring to mind Muse or Queens of The Stone Age, but even with all of these elements the track is 100% Royal Blood.
    The last 4 tracks are far and away the strongest ones on the album and well worth the wait. Don’t Tell is a powerfully thick stoner rock track that shows what Royal Blood do with a slower song. Kerr’s falsetto vocals on the chorus are of particular mention, especially in contrast to the thick bass riff underneath him. The buildup to the bridge is well executed and gives a smooth transition to the crescendo of the bluesy bass solo that leads back into the final chorus.
    Hook, Line and Sinker is the track that is the most like the songs off of their first album and also one of the strongest on this album. The way that the vocals and the bass follow each other throughout the verses and chorus give the feel of a musician who is fully in sync with his instrument. One of the common threads I’m finding throughout this album is that I really enjoy Kerr’s falsetto vocals, it's likely the contrast against the thick bass riffs and pounding drums that I enjoy so much.
    Hole In Your Heart is probably the coolest track on the album as it features Mike Kerr playing electric piano on the verses before shifting back to bass on the choruses. While he’s just pounding out chords on the piano while he sings over it, the piano adds another layer to the track that I honestly wouldn’t have expected to work this well. A small detail that I applaud them for is closing the track back out with the electric piano as well instead of just going full rocker until the end.
    The closing track Sleep is really the only song that could close this album out as it does the job perfectly. The main bass riff in this song has a neo classical vibe that wouldn’t sound out of place if played by a string section. It’s a very dramatic riff that builds tension behind the vocals. The reason why this track is the perfect closer though is the way that it fades out for the last 40 seconds, with short bass stabs (reminiscent of a cello) as the only accompaniment to Kerr’s vocals as the track fades out.
    Overall this album is great, even with the weaker moments early on. With a band that I know I’ll listen to the whole album I’d prefer the weaker stuff first so that it gets better as I listen, but to anybody who isn’t a fan it could be a deterrent to keep listening. It’s difficult to compare this album to their first one because where it was solid all the way through this one has highs and lows.
    The first album was a pretty steady level of rock all the way through and it was great because of it. This album has songs that are better and worse than a lot of their first album, and by law of averages probably winds up about even. If the entire album sounded like the second half it wouldn’t even be close as to which was better, but tracks 2-4 drag it down to just as good as their debut.
Album on Google Play

Album on ITunes

Album on Google Play

Thursday, June 15, 2017

2. An Out Of Genre Experience

Today on Ain't Talking Bout Pop, Justin and Noah discuss covers that are better...or weirder! than the original.

 note: we incorecctly stated that Godsmack performed the cover of Come Together used in the Justice League trailer when it was actually Gary Clark Jr. and Junkie XL, our bad.

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Royal Blood: An Album A Day

An Album A Day is published 5 days a week Monday-Friday

There are very few bands that have something truly unique or unusual about them as most bands simply imitate their heroes. Royal Blood are a band that actually feels truly new and unique, paying homage to their heroes without ever just copying them. While many would point to the somewhat gimmicky duo structure or lack of guitarist as an explanation why. While their ability to stand out is helped by the oddity of being a bass and drums only duo, their uniqueness extends far beyond any aesthetic qualities.

Some of the bands that lead singer/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher agree have influenced their sound include Queens of The Stone Age, Muse and The Dead Weather. Kerr cited the song No One Knows by Queens of The Stone Age as being the track that made him realize he could be a rock singer, as Josh Homme’s crooning seemed attainable. Kerr said that the powerhouse singers commonly found in rock music had made him believe he wasn't good enough to be a lead singer, but hearing Homme croon over music that would feel at home in a metal track showed him a way to be a rock singer he had never considered.

Kerr has also stated in interviews that Chris Wolstenholme of Muse was part of the inspiration for his complex bass setup. Wolstenholme utilizes a combination of bass and guitar equipment to allow him fill out the mix better underneath Matt Bellamy's vocals and lead guitar playing. Kerr takes a similar approach to filling out the mix in Royal Blood, using a mix of guitar and bass amplifiers to produce both bass frequencies and the mid range associated with electric guitar. This setup along with some octave pedals are what allow Kerr to simultaneously sound like he's playing bass and guitar with only one instrument.

The influence taken from The Dead Weather is mostly seen in the way that Kerr and Thatcher throw different genres into each song. Some of the elements specifically taken from The Dead Weather include funk and rap inspired drum beats and the rapid fire singing that Jack White and Alison Mosshart both make use of. This heavy syncopation and rhythmic singing style can be found all over Royal Blood's debut album and it adds a lot of tension and attitude to their music.

Despite utilizing elements from all of these bands and others, what Royal Blood delivers is something really interesting and unique. Kerr’s gear choice is something that many wannabe musicians, myself included, have spent hours researching, but in the end what makes his sound so great is what he plays. While most of the bass playing is shockingly simple, every song oozes cool and style. Kerr's convey a disinterested swagger that plays perfectly over the thick and aggressive bass riffs.

Songs like Ten Tonne Skeleton and Better Strangers balance powerful riffing and an almost sarcastic attitude on the vocals perfectly. The other thing that is huge throughout this album is just how good of a drummer Ben Thatcher is; unlike The White Stripes, the drummer is the superior musician in this duo. Whether keeping time or playing complex fills and solos he always fits the song and is never distracting, even when playing extremely technical parts.

It's easy to see why guys like Dave Grohl, Jimmy Page and The Arctic Monkeys have been so high on these guys. Like all great duos, Kerr and Thatcher have learned how to use their limitations and, to quote Kerr “take the weird way round.” Do yourself a favor and go check this album out, and keep an ear out for these guys’ second album How Did We Get So Dark? that drops tomorrow (6/16).

Album on Google Play

Album on ITunes

Album on Amazon