Thursday, July 27, 2017

Album a Day Update

Just a quick update to let everyone know that going forward An Album a Day reviews will be ending and will be replaced by three reviews a week.

A review of a single on Monday.
A review of a new album on Wednesday (2015 or later)
A review of an old album on Friday (2014 or earlier)


I started doing these reviews over the summer break from college and with the fall semester about to start back up I will not have time to do five a week anymore.

Change effective as of next week.

Panic! At The Disco Death of A Bachelor: An Album a Day

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


    Today we are looking at an album that really skirts around the borders of Pop and Rock music. While this band is traditionally considered a rock band, this album in particular has more of a Power Pop sound. Nonetheless, today we are looking at Death of A Bachelor by Panic! At The Disco, which could be more appropriately called Brendon At The Disco as lead singer Brendon Urie is the only remaining member of the band. Everything on this album is Urie except for the brass section and the drums on Hallelujah.
    Given that this entire album was written and performed by one guy and a brass section it should be no surprise that the album is very consistent with each song fitting in with the rest. From the contemporary radio rock tracks Victorious and Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time to the pseudo Gospel Hallelujah and modern Big Band title track, everything flows together perfectly. Urie mixes old and new throughout, with elements from everything from Big Band, Power Pop, Classic Rock and Hip Hop.
    The mix of genres and eras lends most of the album a timeless feel, with the only thing betraying it’s modernity being the use of hip hop drum machines at various points. The only real weak track is Victorious, which is a good song it's just not as good as the rest of the album. The standouts for me include Emperor’s New Clothes, Death of A Bachelor and The Good, The Bad and The Dirty.
    Emperor's New Clothes is a powerful if a bit darker sounding track that shows off Urie's range incredibly, having him go from restrained low end vocals on the verses to belting at the top of his range on the chorus. This is an example of how to blend a brass section into a rock song perfectly, as they mix effortlessly with the guitars and synths. The drums, while simple, hit so hard that they drive the power of this song home brilliantly.
    The title track Death of A Bachelor has Urie adopting a Sinatra esque croon on the verses and part of the chorus before building up to some incredible falsetto singing on the back end of the chorus. The music throughout is a blend of hip hop drum machines and a classic big band brass section. The bridge also features a pseudo drop where the brass section fights it out with a booming synth bass in a perfect mix of new and old.
    The Good, The Bad and The Dirty is another example of how this album blends modern Hip Hop and Big Band together perfectly. The mix of tuba and synth bass on the verses over the top of some backing synths splits the difference between a Trap beat and an old school marching band. On the chorus the guitar and heavier drums come in, adding a rock flavor on top of the other elements. As usual Urie’s vocals are on point throughout, as working solo seems to have given him even more freedom to let his voice run wild throughout this entire album.
    I love this album, as it shows how good Pop elements can sound when done right and with effort put into them. Rather than simply phoning it in with auto tuning and nothing but synths, Urie instead not only hired a brass section but recorded numerous layers of each of the other instruments himself. Looking back I have to wonder if Urie working inside a band might have only been limiting him as, in my opinion this is the most mature and excellent album Panic! At The Disco have ever done.



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Nine Inch Nails Add Violence: An Album a Day

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

    Today we are looking at the second EP in a trilogy that Nine Inch Nails is currently in the middle of. This EP is entitled Add Violence and for the most part lives more in the ambient and instrumental side of NIN’s discography. While there are vocals all over the album from Trent Reznor, the focus is really on the music for most of this EP’s five tracks.

    First off, apparently this is the second EP to feature Atticus Ross as an official member of NIN; for those who don’t know Ross is a long time collaborator of Trent Reznor and has worked on NIN albums since With Teeth back in 2005. His touch doesn’t seem to be any more present on this EP than it has in the past so I think the officially adding him to the band is more of an overdue title change than an upgrade in role. The other thing that is interesting about the mechanics of this EP is that it is part of a trilogy of EPs set to be released within about a year of each other.
    The first of this trilogy was Not The Actual Events in December of 2016 and the last is set to be released sometime in the end of 2017/ beginning of 2018. This release schedule mirror some other established artists like John Mayer who have decided to release their album in smaller chunks rather than all at once. It will be interesting to see if other artists follow this example that splits the difference between an old school album and the pop industry’s practice of just releasing singles.
    The actual album reminds me a lot of Hesitation Marks, having a similar focus on ambient sections as a lot of the tracks on that album did. The first track, Less Than, is the only song the album that really feels like an Industrial Rock song, with the rest having the Industrial elements but being way more introspective. Reznor’s vocals on Less Than have a bit of an edge to them that compliments the distorted guitar driven, powerful instrumental.
    Where he is raw and edgy sounding on Less Than, Reznor is really whispery and haunting on the rest of the album. The Lovers has a tone that reminds me of Find My Way from Hesitation Marks, having a really dark echoey soundscape of an instrumental as Reznor’s crooning fades in and out of the foreground. This Isn’t The Place has some synth stabs that sound a lot like an orchestral movie score and continues on the overall feel of The Lovers.
    Despite Not Anymore being the most aggressive song on the album it still features Reznor’s vocals being slathered in reverb and delay. Because of Reznor’s vocals being so far in the background in winds up feeling more like an aggressive movement in a classical piece than anything else. That kind of sums up this album too, aside from the first track it feels a lot like a movie score.
    The last track The Background World should end 6 minutes earlier. Literally everything after the 5:44 mark is drowned in so much static and hiss that it’s not even music anymore. Along with this the repeating loop that gets more and more distorted isn’t a perfect loop so it stutters every 10 seconds or so before continuing. I’m all for experimental noise music, but this is literally just noise for half of the song, if he had it on a fade out the whole time then maybe it would work better, but for me after about 5 minutes I have to cut the song off.
    The EP is pretty cool to listen to, but aside from the first track the whole thing feels like a movie score more than anything. I think the idea is that the ambient music is supposed to represent sleep and the 6 minutes of noise at the end is Reznor trying to wake up, but it could have been executed better in my opinion. Overall it’s a solid EP with some minor issues that are easily remedied by skipping ahead on the last track.



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Twenty One Pilots Blurryface: An Album a Day

A̹͚̲̭̜̦̬̭̭͇͓͔̜̬̎̈́̌ͫ̐̔̑̈́͂ͪ̽̈́̋ͬ̅̆͑̚n̮̗̮̭̬̦͉̬̲͈̲̟̬̪̙̑̒ͪ̌ͅͅ ̫̤͙͔̳̲̇̔ͤ̈̌͒̀A̳̭̹̦͎͓͖̘̖̩̪̹̰̬̥͚̤͚̒̈́͂͊͗̈ͥ͋l̫̰͖̦̗̪͉͓͍̲̱͕̔ͥ͆ͫ̔͂ͤͅb̜̘̮̽̌̀̓ͬ̍̓̔͐ͨ̈̃ͭ̓ͨͯ̀u͇͓̳͔͔̱̖̻͍͇̮̘̳̥̼̻͉ͭ̆̈́̽̈́̐ͨͮ͂͌̐̂̊ͯ͒̌̈̂̓m̲͈̺͚͔͍̼͚̀̉ͥͤ̇̐͂͋̒͊͌ ̞͚̞̯͇̅̾̓̑̓̏͗ă̩̳̘͔̯̼͍͋ͭͧ̾̓̌ ͉̟͚̼̯͍͈̣͉̫̫ͪ͋ͤ̃͆̈͒̈́ͧ͆͋̌̈ͥͧͪ̎̀͂Ḍ͈̭̯̪̬̬͖͕͕̬̮̜̝̠̝͔͑̈̈́̄̒̓̉ͯ̽ͧa͕̫̟͕͇ͮ̉͆̃ͦ̑ͅy̝̘̻̦͙̺̫̋͐ͭ͂̈́ͨ̄ ̮͚͈̬̲̣̺̥̟̰̱͎͍͖̩̹͈͖͆̄̈ͅi̩͔̭͇͚̰͕̟̣͉̮͖̦͙͔ͩ̋ͥ́̃̓ͭ͆̉͂̿͗ͣ̃̿̓ͣs̖̬̟̬̪͔̞̱̪̬̙͍̘̦͍͌͆̎̒̎̉͌͌̿ͨ̎ͫ͒ͬ̈́̍ ͍͎̥̪̠̳̳̺͎̣̠̘̌̓ͦ͑̍ͪ̄ͣ̈ͪͨ̄͒ͭ̒͐͆́p̰̹̖̘̘̺̤̺̯̎ͬͩͭ̊̏͌͑o̗̣͍͚̼̣͚̥̙̼̩̦̔͒ͩͪ̀ͨͩͦ͒̓ͅͅs̞̦̯̞̥͙͓̮̳̈̍̃ͪ̔̔ͨ̍̾͆̄ͭ̌͌ͯt̹̬̭͙͉͍̙̜̗̬̮͍̒ͭ͆̉̑ͯͭ̓̂̊̽͆̓̇̇͋ͅḙ̦̯̳̳͚̅͆̃ͤ̽̈́̍͐ͮͬ̚ͅd͇͓̹͚̮̰͎̫̯͖ͬͪ̆̍̽ͫ̄̇ ̙̠̭̙̞̝͍̀ͨͩ̃ͭ͑ͫ͛̒̅̈́ͮ5̱̪͓̖̼̦͈̜̍̒̑͊̈ͫ͐̆̽̊ͫ͑͂ͩ̓̚̚ ͓̤̫̇̓̈ͅḏ͓̮̙̯̜ͥͭ̇̈́̓̑̓̋̎̾ͥ͆̉̈̊̔̈̊ͨă͉̹̯̳̺͙̘͖̟̩̥͍̜͇ͪ̿ͯ̃ͯ̑ͅy͎̟̬͇̗̯̥̗̫̮͎̣̟͍͈ͬ͗̽͆̑̀ͅs̜͇̳̬̼̲̥̱̖̞̺̅̒ͮ̑̄̂̍͂͑̄̇ͪ͊̎ ̫̪̰̰̟͙͇̤͎ͭ͒͆̓̿̍̌ͅa̖͕̟͇ͣͮ̾͋̔ͫ͛̄ͩ̈͂̌̇̌̈̆̔͊ ͖͙͕̰͙̞͎͈͕̞̳͓̘̱̞̦͇̰ͬ̆̾ͤ̃̃w͔͙͖̯͎̥͉͍̣ͮ̉̃̉̈̇͗ͅe̮̦̰̱̳̠͉͇͍̗̰͇ͭ͐̌͌̎ͫ͗̍͊̂ͤ̒̚ͅe̼̹̹͈͔͓̤̘̮̟̩̜̲̝ͫ̉͂̂̚k̹̫̤͕̤͉̳̖̭̣̮̖̝͎̻ͯ̌͒̈̅̈̈́ͅͅ,̪͔͙̫͊̽͒̃̇̆̈̿͐̄ͥ̄̂͂ͤ̚ ̝̩̼̯̦̉̀̈ͭͧ̑̈̌Ṃ̰͕͖̘͚̙̰̩̟͕̟̜̥͖̗̭̖̽ͨͮ̔͑ͬ̃̓̒̇̐ͧ͛̏͑̚ͅö̞̳̜͉͉̱̻́ͧ̉̌͊̎ͩ̂ͪ̾̂ͯͦ̒͆̐ͦn͔͙̙̯̩̘̪̠̳͙̭̙̬͈̜̰̗̅ͥͨ̅̓͑̄ͪͥ̚̚d̼̰̝̖̞̲̳̳͛͌̓ͭ͌ͬ͒ͭ̎̽ͯa̦̺͙͎͇͈̞̣͖͇̽̀ͬͅͅy͔̗̠͇͙͙͇̲͇̬̖̰͔͔͚̦̲͓̗͐͌̍̾̔͐̽͋ͧ̎ͦ̉ͬ̓͂ͯ͑ͨ̚-̝͚̗̻̲̱͓̜͎̺̜̯͙͛ͣ̈͒̃ͨͩͪ̆̏ͥ̐̅͆F͚̲̹̞̣͖͙͙̮̹͎̖͇̪̭̦̟̏ͣ̋ͧ̅̋̍ͩ̑̿ȑ̝̘̫̥̬̗̥̝͚̼ͮ́̒̂̏̆͌̋̓ͥͭ̾̅i͍̖̳͚̤̙ͬ̑̏͋ͥ̿͑̇͐͐̆ͤ̂d͍͓̼̗́́͛̉ͬ̏ͯ̈̈́͌̎̈́̓͆̿͋̂̚̚a͖̙̼̘̲͎͗̓̓̐̽ͬͪ̏ͣ͒͋̒̔͌͗̿͐ý̦̺̩̯͇̖̪͓̃ͯ̂͂͆ͅ





    Today we are continuing my quest to look at every twenty one pilots album by digging into their most recent studio album and smash hit Blurryface. This is the album that got me and many others into twenty one pilots for the first time. This album also is one of the craziest things to come out in a while as it is a bit of a concept album. The concept for this album does not follow a strict story but rather having tracks that all relate to similar themes and having the character of Blurryface.
    First off I’ve used the version of Blurryface that many fans have agreed is the proper way to listen to it. This version is identical to the studio version except that you include the original cut of Goner that was released years before Blurryface at the beginning. The reasoning for this is that this version of Goner has the tone of someone who is giving up, being very dark and having the sound of a noose tightening throughout. Then at the end of this track we have the synth stabs that most fans believe to be the sound of Blurryface (the character) screaming, this is the exact sound heard at the beginning of track one HeavyDirtySoul.
    From here the album plays out as a battle between Tyler and his demons, which are personified in the character of Blurryface. Blurryface has been described as an avatar for Tyler’s negative thoughts and emotions, being essentially all of the negative aspects of Tyler. The first time Blurryface was featured in a song was the single Fairly Local. This track has Tyler fighting with himself on the verses, arguing rather he is evil or if he can fight his nature. The pre-chorus has Blurryface taunting Tyler that this song will never be popular or played on the radio and that even if it went up for a vote his clique is too small for him to be heard.
    The introduction to Blurryface comes in the music video however, where the first time this taunt is spoken Tyler steps behind a wall and all that can be seen is his shadow. The second time however, Tyler is standing is a red lit room looking nervous before his head snaps forward to reveal red eyes as the deep pitch shifted voice of Blurryface taunts him. This is another case of Tyler mixing metaphors of mental demons with imagery of actual supernatural demons. This deep pitched shifted voice is used on other tracks as well, such as the hit Stressed Out.
    One of the weak points of this album is that the tracks after Fairly Local don’t really relate the character of Blurryface as well until Goner. While they are fantastic songs that deal with the issues of anxiety and doubt that Blurryface represents, they aren’t as direct with the character as earlier songs. Tear In My Heart is a really nice aside from the rest of the album as this is actually a love song written for Tyler Joseph’s wife Jenna. It’s the closest thing that twenty one pilots have done to a happy song and it’s a surprisingly good fit for them.
    The next track Lane Boy is one of my favorites and deals with the idea of record labels or critics telling them to stay in their lane. The entire song is pretty much them telling critics they will continue to experiment and do whatever style or genre that they wish and they should be happy they don’t go as far as they want to. Tyler even suggest the idea of having numerous time changes and tempo changes, which I’d honestly be all for if they wanted to go straight into prog territory.
    The song wraps up with a Drum’n’Bass buildup that fades into the next song The Judge. The Judge is the biggest Ukulele song on this album, featuring more lyrics of the spiritual crisis variety. The Bridge in this song displays Tyler’s uncertainty about his faith as well as relating back to the theme of a battle with Blurryface. While a lot of people see The Judge as being a metaphor for God it is also true that the listener can be The Judge of his bout with Blurryface. He is unsure if he is winning or losing because he is fighting himself.
    The next track Doubt, as well as Polarize and Hometown continue the spiritual lyrics mixed with battling Blurryface. Another standout is Message Man which is features some pretty rare boasting from Tyler about his skill as a lyricist and a rapper. The big finale of this album is the new rendition of Goner.
    While the original version finishes with Tyler seemingly defeated this version continues on with lyrics about how he’ll slip away into the music. This time around the fight continues with Tyler stating that Blurryface isn’t him and that he needs help to take him out. This lyrics seems to be Tyler asking praying for help much like HeavyDirtySoul. The song picks up into a powerful and frantic pace as Tyler screams out don’t let me be before ending with everything dropping out aside Tyler on the last line. This has been interpreted by many fans and been confirmed by Tyler as being the moment that Blurryface is defeated with many theorizing that the reason “you” is the line where everything fades away is because Tyler has received the divine intervention he was asking for.
    If you can’t tell by the long and in depth review this album has gotten from me, I absolutely love this album. While other albums have had dark elements and good songs this album works from beginning to end with a dark electronic vibe throughout that is balanced well by the acoustic elements and softer songs. This is an album that gives up something new on each listen and filled with so much imagery and storytelling that you may never discover everything Tyler and Josh have included on this record.



A̭̘͚̻̰̱̟͕̜̣̬̐ͬ̃̍̆ͭl̺̤͍͓̉̃̑̓͌̌͑̋̍̐̚b͎͉͚̖͙͍̣̲̜̤̭̲ͬ̈́̏ͮṳ͓̲͚̤̯̼̹̭̭ͩ̍ͯ̎̓̒̏̂͊̅ͫ̽̿ͮ̊͑ͭ̚m̦̺̭͇̱͈̖̩̲̜̟̘͖̟̖͖͛̇̈̾̄͑̏̑ͦͯ̃ͨ̉ ọ͙̫̞͉͕͕͖̺̖̠̰̳̜̥̩̓ͫ̽ͭ́̅̒̓̔ͦ̓̈n̩̜̩̱̺̯͙̟̠͑ͯ̅ͣͭ ̪͙̳͔ͮ̒̾ͯG̺͚̫̮̮̼͕̗̾͂ͭ̂̌̄ͦ͌͋͑ͥ͐o̞͇̱͙̰̰̘̱͓͖͓̦̝̞ͯ͌ͯ̅̓̃͛̈́̿̅̂ͨ͗̏ͬ͗ͮͪ̄õ̱̲̥͔̠̺͍̥͉̻̹͉̙ͯ̃̽̆̒͆̉̓͗̂ͪg͓̬̫̹̩̱̻͐̀̈́̂̆͂͛̿̾̍̽̂̓l̗͓̯̱̞̱̭͈̠̘̹̭̝̠͓͈͕̝̅ͪ̉̚ͅe̞͉̤̠̤͇͓̥̖̼̗͙̣̰ͧ͐͗̓̔ͫ́͊ͧ̈̊̓ͥ͂̋̓̓̚ͅͅͅͅ ̺̞͕̦͇̤̼͚͓̺̝̭ͬͩͧ̊͋ͧ́̐ͮ͌P͉̼̱̖̥̤̟̩̠̳̜̘͋̌̌̾ͤ̎l̤͚͙͖̩͚̲̊̉ͣ͌̆ͫ͂̊͑͋̽ͧa͖̻̻̫̝͗ͫ͛ͪͪ͑̈̍̍̀̽̚̚ŷ͉̜͕̼͉̳̣̤̞͓͔̻̃͗͂ͭ̓̚

A̜͙̞͉͚̜̱̤̠̰͙̮̠͚̫̮̲̦l̠͎̯͇̥̭ͅb̬̫͙̝͙͓̗͚̬̩̖ͅu̺̦̘̲̱̮̗̤̞̲͉ͅm̝̻͙͕̘ o̺͇̬̭͚̟̺͔ͅṉ̜̰̯̦̱͙̞̼̭ I͕͙̜̥̦͍͕̮ͅͅt͓̯̩̭̮͇̙̞̩u͎̼͔̗ͅn̗͖̫̗̰̻̖̖̮̹̖̯̯̱̘͇̭e̟̞͙̟̟ș͖̞̱̱̲͎

À̴̢͜l̴̡͏̡͟b̧̧̧͏ų̀͟͠͏m̨̕ ơ̛͜͜͝n̛͜ A̶̕͟m̡a̶̷͠ź̡͢͝͞o̴̧͢͡n̨̧̕͢






Monday, July 24, 2017

Linkin Park Talking To Myself

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


    Today we are reviewing a song that Linkin Park released a music video for the same day that Chester Bennington died. While I’ve technically reviewed this song before when I covered the full album One More Light, there are obviously some things to talk about in light of Bennington’s suicide. I’ve seen a lot of fans say that One More Light in general is a suicide note and seen them point out specific sections in Heavy, Talking to Myself, No One Can Save Me and others that seem to confirm this; I disagree.
    First of all, the allusions to depression have always been a part of Linkin Park’s music, Chester has never shied away from letting his demons out on the page. Secondly the song Talking to Myself is not about Chester’s depression but rather about him not being able to help someone else. The point of the song is that the narrator cannot get through to somebody else and help them with their struggle so the narrator feels like he’s simply talking to himself.
    I can see why people now might try to tie this conversation to actually being about Chester since the title is Talking to Myself, but that isn’t how that phrase is used here. Just like other songs on the album were not suicidal but rather were Chester dealing with his issues. He has stated many times after the recording of the album that these songs helped him get to a better place and if you listen most of them have a hopeful thread throughout them. That’s why I don’t think One More Light was a stealth suicide note, I think it was an album about conquering depression.
    As for this song specifically, it is the only real rock song on the album with Brad Delson having some pretty cool guitar licks in between verses and on the bridge. This would not feel out of place as a softer track on The Hunting Party, similar to Until It’s Gone. This is also one of the tracks that I liked because of Chester’s vocal delivery; love or hate One More Light but this album had some of my favorite vocal moments from Chester.
    Overall this is one of the better songs to come off of One More Light, even though I find myself liking some of the poppier songs better. This one works well as a radio rock track and like everything off of one more light has some really interesting lyrics.

Album on Google Play

Friday, July 21, 2017

STP with Chester Bennington High Rise: An Album a Day

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


    After the death of Chester Bennington yesterday I found myself listening to a lot of the music that he had done. I’m not typically the type to be affected by celebrity deaths, but Linkin Park are one of my favorite bands so this one did hit me a little bit. But as I listened to various Linkin Park albums I realized I didn’t want to review one of those for today’s Album a Day as I’d rather do something less well known. That is why I decided that in honor of Chester I’d look into High Rise, the album he did as lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots.

    When this album first came out in 2013 I had heard Black Heart and Out Of Time getting a bit of radio play but I never bothered listening to the rest of the album. These two tracks are still my favorites off of the album as they feature Chester singing in a lower register than he normally does. This was pretty much the only case of him utilizing his lower voice on record until One More Light came out earlier this year.
    One of the coolest things about this album though is hearing Chester with a straightforward rock band behind him. As much as I love Linkin Park, straightforward Hard Rock is one of my favorite genres and this is Hard Rock done extremely well. Since there are only 5 tracks on this EP I might as well go through this track by track.
    Out Of Time opens up the EP with a solid punch to the face, screaming out the gate in a very Scott Weiland sounding way. From the little bit of STP that I know this sounds exactly like one of their songs, with Chester pulling off his best Hard Rock / Grunge voice for this track. Like I said before I love Chester’s lower register and the grit that he has in his voice here, add in a killer guitar solo and awesome instrumentation and you have an awesome way to open an album.
    Black Heart is the song that I remember the most from this album, mostly because of how the guitar melody and Chester’s voice mix and intertwine. Obviously the guys from STP are fantastic musicians and it shows on this track with powerful drums and another epic guitar solo. Chester strikes a balance between his usual singing voice and the lower one he used on Out Of Time.
    Same On The Inside is probably the most forgettable track on the album as it sounds like a Linkin Park track that Mike Shinoda forgot to show up in the studio for. It does have a little bit of the STP sound but for the most part this song doesn’t sound much different than something off of The Hunting Party or Minutes To Midnight. This isn’t helped by the chorus being one word away from a Linkin Park song (From The Inside).
    Cry Cry is another great song from this album, featuring disgusting fuzz guitar on the verses that calls to mind Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. This one is still a slower track but it has an almost bluesy feel to it, especially on the verses. I’ll admit I was slightly disappointed by the guitar solo on this one as Dean DeLeo opted to go with a traditional overdriven tone instead of cranking up the fuzz for this as well.
    The last song on the album, Tomorrow is one of the various tracks I found that made me pause and go read the lyrics. Turns out this song is likely written about going home to be with his family after a tour, in the context of his suicide this song also has a darker feeling. Basically the chorus of the song is about how Chester can’t comprehend tomorrow and that it feels so far away even though it’s only “one lonely day away”. While the idea of psycho analyzing lyrics he wrote 4 years away to understand his mental state is absurd, these kind of statements are all throughout the lyrics Chester wrote if you pay attention.
    In the end this is a pretty damn good album, STP are on point throughout and Chester’s vocals work way better than anyone thought they would. The tracks sound and feel like STP as well, none of the stuff on this record sounds like another band. It’s a shame that they never recorded anything else together as this combination worked incredibly well.

RIP Chester Bennington.

Album on Google Play
Album on ITunes
Album on Amazon

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Issues: An Album a Day

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




    Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if Justin Timberlake, DJ Lethal and Emmure had a side project together? If so then Issues is your band. Issues is a Nu Metalcore band that incorporate an array of weird influences that include Pop, R&B, Rap, Metalcore, Djent and Nu Metal. While all of these genres should not, under any circumstances work together, they surprisingly do. Certain tracks go back and forth between heavier, harsh vocal driven bits and poppier sections while others have the boy band vocals and harsh vocals laid over top of a metal band with scratching and keyboard.
    At the heart of the mixture of Pop and Metal are co-lead singers Tyler Carter and Michael Bohn. Issues is actually the third band that both Carter and Bohn have sang with, having previously worked as a duo in bands A Path Less Traveled and Woe, Is Me. Their chemistry shows throughout the album as they are able to make the transitions between and layering of Carter’s soft clean vocals and Bohn’s primal snarling work well.
    Life Of A Nine is the track that features the band going through all of the genres they mix at a fairly rapid pace. The song starts off mid-breakdown then picks up tempo as Carter raps the pre chorus and then the chorus goes full pop, complete with shimmering synths around Carter’s clean vocals. One of the things I do have to give these guys is for all of the potential to be a novelty act they take their music seriously, having solid guitar work and generally well written lyrics. Even the bassist and drummer seem to hold their own for most of the album.
    If Life Of A Nine has the most noticeable shifts of genre mid song then The Langdon House might be the most cohesive combination. This track does feel more like a standard Nu Metal track than anything else on the album, but it also mixes in the heavier Djent elements and pop vocals. This track also features some of the best rapping from Carter and even some harsh vocals towards the end of his verse. I give their drummer Josh Manuel a lot of credit here as he manages to pull off some fills in between the vocals on the softer sections without it sounding forced.
    The rest of the album is much the same, seeing how many ways they can mix Rap, Metal and Pop over the course of the album. Late is more of a commercial Rock song throughout and the closing track Disappear features an acapella Gospel choir at the end, but other than that the rest is pretty similar. If you’re wondering where the idea of mixing Top 40 and Metal came from, apparently it was inspired by Nu Metal. Members of the band have said that they want to do with R&B and Top 40 what Nu Metal did with Rap music. So there you go, it’s Linkin Park’s fault again.
    Overall this album is actually really good, there really isn’t a track on this album that I dislike. Despite the novelty of blending Pop and Metal this album is cohesive, certainly more cohesive than it has any right to be. A few of the transitions are jarring, such as Stingray Affliction’s bridge, but even those shifts don’t feel any more out of place than an ambient part of a Periphery song. I found myself enjoying this album way more than I ever thought I would and I’m curious to go listen to their second album Headspace now.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

XXXTentacion Revenge: An Album A Day

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


    So maybe I’m just old but it seems like rappers are really running out of names. Like we’ve always Lil’ somebody or Big somebody and stuff like that but now we have Kyle. Like his rap name is just his actual first name, and his first name isn’t even something like Madonna or Prince. On the opposite side we have XXXTentacion, a rapper who looks like somebody had his gamer tag first so he added random characters until he found a version that was available. This is a weird dude, he’s kind of like Tech N9ne or Hopsin in that he’s into a lot of dark imagery and will incorporate rock elements, but he’s just weird.

    First off let’s talk about his verse for the XXL magazine freshman class cypher. I personally really like his freestyle here where he goes completely acapella yet still manages to be in time with the beat and does his best speed rap Kendrick Lamar impersonation. His mix of spoken word and speed rapping along with the somewhat disturbing lyrics he comes up with had me half expecting him to succeed in summoning Satan in the middle of the cypher. This freestyle convinced me that the kid had talent, but I’m not sure how his style would work in mainstream rap music.

    So I went and checked out his latest mixtape I could find on Google Play which was Revenge, this mixtape features his breakthrough hit Look At Me as well as a mix of other tracks he’s released on his soundcloud and on other mixtapes. Let me say, Look At Me is terrible, it’s the same generic crap brag rap song that every mumble rapper puts out these days except with edgy try hard lines about killing people. This kid may be the first rapper who actually has a rap sheet who comes off as a phony any time he tries to be a gangsta.
    The next track I Don’t Wanna Do This Anymore sounds like a Lo-Fi Drake track and is just kind of boring. The next three tracks are actually really interesting and cool to me though, they feel like a mix of Kanye West’s 808 and Heartbreak album, black metal production and towards the end of King, even some metal instrumentation. The first of these three tracks, Looking For A Star sounds like something straight off of 808 and Heartbreak with slighter less polished production. The thick robot filter on X works really well with the backing beat.
    The next two tracks feature the lo-fi, recorded with a potato sound that I’ve only heard before on black metal. On the first of these two track, Valentine, the lo fi sound is mixed with the Kanye styled auto tune and singing of the previous track. The mix of these two extremes along with the lyrics that seem to be torn between good and evil, literally between heaven and hell works well at expressing the anguish X feels over his actions even though he can’t decide if he wants to change or not. This ties well into the next track, King which came from the same mixtape that Valentine did.
    This track strips down to nothing but X and an acoustic guitar with the same lo fi production of Valentine. This song seems to be a continuation lyrically of Valentine as it features X moaning that he just wants to go back to before. He doesn’t want to deal with his actions or the suffering which he has experienced. His suffering builds up into the climax of him screaming at the listener over the top of a heavy metal beat before seemingly accepting his role as the villain.
    The next track Slipknot isn’t bad, but it’s fairly standard rap fare, nothing too interesting here. The last two tracks go back to the level of horrible that the opener is, being somewhere between incoherent noise and generic brag rap. Really the only thing on this mixtape worth listening to are the three middle tracks, mostly because of how interesting they are.
    Ultimately this is a pretty crappy mixtape, and I’m really disappointed in X because I was expecting a lot better after hearing his freestyle. Even the songs I like on this mixtape aren’t so much good as they are interesting to me. I feel like this dude would do much better as an emo rocker or metal head than as a rapper, but regardless this mixtape is pretty terrible.

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Twenty One Pilots Vessel: An Album a Day

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




   
    Continuing in my quest to review every album Twenty One Pilots have released, today I will be looking at their first album released after signing with Fueled By Ramen. While actually their third album overall, Vessel was the first album made on a major label and as such is where a lot of current Twenty One Pilots’ fans first discovered the band. As I have not listened to their second independent album Regional at Best I cannot say if this is a dramatic change from that album, but it certainly is a departure from their self titled debut.
    This album mixes moods a whole lot more than their debut, with a lot more aggression and even some happy sounding songs that contrast with the dark or sad lyrics. As I said when I reviewed their first album I believe that the missing ingredient was the chemistry that Tyler Joseph has with Josh Dun. It seems that Dun facilitates Tyler trying more experimental ideas and blending of genres as well as being a far superior drummer than Chris Salih.
    The blending of genres and experimenting with moods can be seen most clearly in the opening track Ode To Sleep. It’s been stated by Tyler that the reason this was the album opener is because it throws just about every element of their sound at the listener immediately. The track starts with an aggressive almost classical sounding synth line before the first verse turns into an electronic rap song. The chorus is then a happy pop song as Tyler sings about his temporary respite from his nightly demons. While the second verse turns back into a rap song it features some of the fastest rapping that Tyler has ever done. The dynamic from soft to heavy and mixing of genres perfectly encapsulates the album.
    There really isn’t a bad track on this album, and unlike their debut none of the tracks delve too deep into melodrama, making them all listenable regardless of mood. The closing track Truce is fairly somber, but it works perfectly to close out the album. The tracks that standout the most for me are Ode To Sleep, Screen and Trees. All three of these tracks feature the heavy use of metaphor and religious imagery that Tyler Joseph is known for in his lyrics.
    While Ode To Sleep mixes the metaphors of mental illness and emotional demons with literal spiritual warfare, Screen and Trees has Joseph seemingly speaking directly to God. In the case of Screen the lyrics seem to be Joseph questioning why he thinks he can hide his mental illness and brokenness from his creator, using the idea that he literally has a screen on his chest. The bridge features the repeated phrase “we’re broken people” which is a sing along line during live shows. This songs refers both to mental illnesses and the idea of sin, keeping Joseph’s typical mixing of Christian ideology and descriptions of his own struggles with depression and anxiety.
    Trees almost feels like a sequel song to Implicit Demand For Proof from their debut album. Whereas in that song Joseph is essentially calling out God and demanding He prove his existence, even if He does so by destroying him,  this time Joseph takes a less antagonistic approach. This one doesn’t come off as doubtful as much as unsure of how to know Him and painfully aware of his faults. Like a lot of their songs the lyrics both refer to the spiritual elements as well as portraying the mind of someone with terrible social anxiety. Which I suppose this makes sense, if you have social anxiety about talking to normal people then trying to talk to a supposedly all powerful being that you believe created everything should be pretty daunting.
    Overall this album is a huge step up in quality from their debut album, and while the lyrics are terribly different the delivery is. The rap verses mixed with melodic singing and occasional screaming adds a diversity and dynamic element to Tyler’s delivery that lets him convey his message much easier. Likewise the music is a huge increase in quality, being way more diverse and interesting to listen to. Many fans consider this to be the band's best album, especially since their next album would become a huge commercial hit and lead to the “it’s popular so it sucks” mindset of some of their older fans. While I don’t know if I’d say this is better than Blurryface, it is absolutely one of their best and has some of my favorite tracks from this band.


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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Legends Sleeping With Sirens: An Album a Day

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



Add another one to the list of decent rock bands selling out and turning pop sounding. Legends by Sleeping With Sirens is a legitimate sellout as it was done for the USA olympic team. The biggest issue is that rather than having a more commercial version of their usual style they completely disregarded any and all rock and metal influence to make a generic as all hell pop single that doesn't even sound like the same band.
I'm not going to act like Sleeping With Sirens were all that great before this track, but at least they had a style and identity. Similarly to the band Issues they mixed pop elements in with a hard rock and metalcore sound. Again, this combination was never one I particularly liked but at least they had a legitimate and interesting sound. One of the fee tracks I like from them is called We Like It Loud and features the irony filled lyrics “sell us the world but we ain't selling out”.
As a power pop track this one isn’t too bad, especially when compared to most of what get’s played on the radio these days. The synths are kind of cool and the real drums are a nice touch to keep it from being exactly like everything else on pop radio. Aside from the generic lyrics, the biggest problem on this track are the vocals. Even if you’re not a fan of this band, you have to admit Kellin Quinn has a pretty incredible voice; on this track his voice is so dull and lifeless I wasn’t even sure it was him at first.
Now, this isn't the first commercial pop sounding track they've done, pop influence has always been part of their sound. Given that they walk between pop and metal it's entirely possible this isn't their new sound but simply a one off track. But even compared to their other softer tracks this one is terrible, being devoid of any of the hallmarks of their sound. A track like Heroine works so much better for a poppier/ radio friendly song because it mixes the rock elements in.
While I've never been a fan of these guys I'll admit that they have a lot of potential and I'd hate to see them continue in the direction of a track like Legends. I've actually found a few songs from their last album Madness that I enjoy. I think a sound that is somewhere between Avenged Sevenfold, Bring Me The Horizon and radio rock is a much better fit for these guys than sellout power pop.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

4. 2010s Music That Doesn't Suck Part 1



Part 1 of 2 where Justin and Noah discuss some of the music of the 2010s that doesn't suck. Today we examine the mainstream side of the 2010s for good music.











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Friday, July 14, 2017

Greta Van Fleet Black Smoke Rising: An Album a Day

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


    Today we’re looking at a band with a very familiar sounding lead singer. The band is called Greta Van Fleet, they are a blues based hard rock band from Frankenmuth, Michigan. The band consists of three brothers, Sam, Jake and Josh Kiszka as well as drummer Danny Wagner. The band’s overall style is blues and folk based hard rock, with obvious classic rock influence from bands like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin.

    While they are a pretty good rock band in their own right, the thing that really sets them apart is lead singer Josh Kiszka’s vocals. When I say it’s obvious they are influenced by Led Zeppelin, I mean it; Josh sounds almost identical to Robert Plant. While there are plenty of singers who try to sound like Plant, or have a similar vocal range to him, Josh Kiszka sounds like he could actually be Robert Plant at times. The track Flower Power is particularly impressive as the whole band gets into a very Zeppeliny sound.

    So far they have only released one EP, entitled Black Smoke Rising so we’re going to look at those four tracks. The first song Highway Tune is driven by a southern blues guitar riff that is somewhere between classic rockers like the Allman Brothers and something newer like The Black Keys. This is probably the most modern sounding song on the EP, with Josh utilizing a rapid fire staccato singing style on this one. Another thing to note about this band is how huge the drums sound on every track, and unlike Imagine Dragons they sound like actual mic’d up drums and not samples.

On track 2, Safari Song  Josh starts sounding almost identical to Robert Plant and the music matches the classic rock delivery. The frantic guitar and basslines hold the song together while Wagner plays fills through the majority of the verses, dancing from one end of his kit to the next. These guys have nailed the sloppy and loose feel that Zeppelin had, which is in stark contrast to the tight and overly perfect music of today. The guitar solos on this EP have a primal energy to them as Jake Kiszka plays in a very loose way that fits the style of music perfectly and keeps the sloppy feel of the EP.

Next we have the dynamic Flower Power which is the most Led Zeppelin track on the EP, complete with mildly nonsensical fantasy lyrics. The use of organ and tambourine adds the folk element that they were missing and also adds an element of progression so that when the song exploded into a raw guitar solo it feels like a gut punch. Speaking of which, this solo is the best guitar moment on the album as it is sandwiched by two much softer parts and just rips the song to pieces. Jake Kiszka’s loose and raw soloing works the best on this track as it has all of the momentum and buildup of the song behind it.

The last track which is also the title track is the song that sounds the most like a classic rock inspired song and not like something that came out in the 70s. While the Led Zeppelin elements are still there, this song doesn’t sound like something Zeppelin would do. There is a certain twanginess to Josh’s vocals here that lends a bluegrass or country element to their sound. While the track itself might not be the best on the EP, I believe it is the one that best represents these guys own sound, aside from the classic rock bands they listen to.
To be clear, these guys aren’t a Zeppelin tribute band, if you want that go listen to SoZo. But there are a lot of similarities between their sound and Zeppelin’s, especially the lead vocals. I think this is a damn fine EP, and I can’t wait to hear their full album. It will be cool to see if they branch off and explore their own sound more or delve further into the classic rock sound. Either way, check these guys out.
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Kills Ash & Ice: An Album a Day

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



    Going back to the collection of albums that Noah really likes, we’re today looking at the latest album by The Kills, Ash & Ice. For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Kills, they are a blues inspired indie rock duo featuring Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince. Rather than The White Stripes / Black Keys formula of drums and guitar they instead have only guitar and vocals, using a drum machine to fill out the rhythm section. The interplay of Mosshart’s vocals and Hince’s guitar playing is what makes this band a lot more than the sum of their parts.
    While The White Stripes always had a punk influence they never really played up the bad boy punk image all that much. Their music was devoid of profanity and generally were closer to nasty blues rock than anything. While The Kills don’t sound particularly punk rock, being way too slow and methodical, they do play up the menacing atmosphere and delinquent attitude of punk music. The image and attitude of punk without the sound is probably why they’re usually categorized as indie rockers. This slightly darker tone and image also bleeds over into the Jack White and Alison Mosshart supergroup The Dead Weather.
    Getting back to Ash & Ice, it may be their easiest album to listen too, especially if you come from a pop or mainstream rock background. Blood Pressures and No Wow are also pretty accessible, but this is the most streamlined and cleanly produced album they have ever done. The whole album is fantastic from start to finish, but the highlights are Doing It To Death, Hum For Your Buzz and Siberian Nights.
    Doing It To Death was the first single off of this album and it’s not hard to see why, this song has the crossover appeal to have worked on alternative stations, rock stations and maybe even pop stations. The way that Hince’s guitar builds and fades in time with the drum machine creates the perfect bed for Mosshart’s vocal delivery. Also props to the music video director for having the choreography evoke the feeling of the song perfectly.
    Hum For Your Buzz is one of my favorite moments on this album, containing nothing but Mosshart singing over a very basic blues guitar accompaniment. Obviously this is one of the softer moments on the record and features some of the best of Mosshart and Hince playing off of each other. I also want to hear more direct guitar solos after the tasteful blues solo Hince pulls off here.
    Lastly we have Siberian Nights, the track which absolutely drips in the sexual tension and energy that Mosshart is so good at conveying. While she always has an element of this in her delivery, this song makes it fairly explicit with lyrics full of double entendre and sexual references. The lyrics seem to go back and forth between seduction and hesitation, with Mosshart asking in the chorus why the target of her affection has no love for her. By the end of the song she turns from seduction to practically begging her target to help her through the Siberian Nights.
    While this album isn’t anything particularly special in regards to the rest of The Kills catalogue, it’s one of their only albums I can get all the way through. Most of their albums feature a dud or two, or have weird noise rock inspired breaks, but this one is clean all the way through. As a huge Dead Weather fan it’s cool to see how Alison manages to take over and own every track she’s on, regardless of what sort of band she’s working with.
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