Saturday, September 30, 2017

Coldplay Ghost Stories: Old(er) Album of The Week

    Today we are looking at the album that killed my interest in Coldplay; Ghost Stories. From about 2008 to 2011 or so Coldplay were one of my favorite bands, I absolutely adored Viva La Vida and the Prospekts March EP and I at least enjoyed the singles from Mylo Xyloto even if I never got into the full album. Then Coldplay released A Sky Full of Stars as the lead single from their album Ghost Stories and I pretty much lost all interest in this band until I rediscovered Viva La Vida in 2015 and heard some of A Head Full of Dreams.
    Now let’s be clear, I went into this album more biased than usual because of the disdain I had for A Sky Full of Stars. I could not stand the boring instrumental and excruciatingly repetitive lyrics; and yeah those criticisms kind of apply to the album as a whole. I don’t dislike dreamy ambient sounding music as a whole, in fact one of my favorite albums this year, Vitamins and Flowers by Trophii is a card carrying Dream Pop album. The difference is that Coldplay are at their best when they mix ambient elements with more traditional rock elements and always benefit from having interesting soundscapes.
    The only track with any real energy Sky Full of Stars, with the only other thing keeping me awake being random drum machines. I get that Coldplay leaned on similarly dreary sounds for some of their hits like Yellow, Fix You and The Scientist but those songs still had some sort of rock edge or changes throughout the song. Yellow has gorgeous delay filled guitar passages, Fix You turns into a rock track with group vocals and The Scientist eventually turns into a rock song as well. On top of instrumental shifts that keep these tracks interesting, the lyrics are much deeper and more interesting than anything on Ghost Stories.
    Overall this feels like an album where Coldplay weren’t sure what direction to go in, adding in 2010’s pop elements like the heavy use of drum machines and the dreary introspection of their earlier work. The issue is that the album isn’t as good at being dreary and introspective as Parachutes or X&Y and it is nowhere near as good at being a pop album as A Head Full of Dreams. If I were to rank all of Coldplay’s album this would by far be the worst, at least in my opinion.

Album on Google Play

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Album on Amazon

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Weezer Beach Boys- Single of The Week

Beach Boys by Weezer is a track with an interesting concept behind it. The main idea seems to be Rivers Cuomo pining for the sweet and timeless music of one of his favorite bands to break through the dark and aggressive world of modern music. While this Alt rock critique of modern pop and rock isn’t necessarily wrong, the issue is they make this statement on a boring and melancholy sounding track. While this song has more of the nostalgic ache that you would expect from Weezer rather than the empty and dark atmosphere of someone like Missio, the track still falls flat.
The lyrics are actually well composed and convey the story perfectly; but the delivery and music behind the lyrics rob this song of any power. Rather than something remotely close to the fun and slightly off kilter rock sound Weezer have been known for, we get a very low key and melancholy track. The ultimate irony, that may be purposeful, is that Cuomo sings about the need for gorgeous four part harmonies and singing from the heart on a track where he sounds half asleep.
Along with the drowsy vocals, Rivers’ guitar playing is boring, uninspired and sparse. While the intent is to leave room for the bass guitars riffing, the bass isn’t high enough in the mix to put the funky power that it’s trying to convey. If they wanted to do this right they would have done like Charlie Puth’s Attention and cranked the hell out of the bassline to make the emptiness of the rest of the arrangement work better. But because of how limited the guitar playing is and how low the bass is the song just sounds like an empty digital void.

Honestly at this point I prefer EDM Weezer with Feels Like Summer to this boring track; at least that track felt like Weezer. While they have always mixed sunny and depressing to get their sound, Weezer just feel so boring and drowsy that I literally almost fell asleep listening to the song on repeat while writing this. And the worst part is that the lyrics and message of the song are really good, it’s the arrangement, mix and music that ruins the song. I think this song can be summed up by the one review it has on Amazon as of writing this, "Filler".

Monday, September 18, 2017

Foo Fighters Concrete and Gold- New Album of The Week

    After the promise of Run earlier this year the Foos have delivered with an excellent album that draws on some old school mojo mixed with a hit of metallic freak out. Most of the album is devoid of the more Alt rock elements that usually call back to Grohl’s time in Nirvana, replacing them with a double dose of Classic Rock inspiration and Metal attitude. The Foos have also decided to throw some vaguely political themes on a few songs, but they do those of us who find escapism in music a favor by keeping the political messages background to the music most of the time.
    The first track, T-Shirt, seems to illustrate that Grohl also would rather stick to just making music, stating “I just wanna sing love songs and pretend like nothing’s wrong…”. This track does a good job of prefacing one of those vaguely political tracks, Run, by letting us know Dave is only addressing these topics because he feels that he needs to. The track also build up musically to the beginning of Run, flowing together into Run’s metallic freakout of a first verse.
As I said back when I reviewed Run as a single, I love hearing Dave Grohl’s harsh vocals on the verses, especially when contrasted with the softer approach he takes when getting to the melodic chorus. Taylor Hawkins Dancehall and Drum n’ Bass inspired drumming on this track also adds a level of chaos and danceability that I have never heard on a Foo Fighters track before.
    The next track, Make It Right is solid featuring more of Hawkins drumming up front as well as a Jimmy Page like guitar riff and backing vocals by Justin Timberlake. Track 4, The Sky Is Neighborhood is one that I fully expect to wind up on Top 40 and Alt Rock stations, sounding like an all real instruments take on Imagine Dragons. Rather than the drum samples, computerized samples and copious amounts of studio reverb that Imagine Dragons use we have a somewhat dry mix full of acoustic drums and guitar riffing getting the same feel. Also Dave Grohl sounds much nastier and more powerful than Dan Reynolds’ polished vocals.
    The next track La Dee Da is my favorite track on this album featuring two of my favorite gimmicks in a rock song and one of my all time favorite vocalists. This track has powerful fuzz bass as the main driving element, powerful metal screams in a non metal song and backing vocals by Alison Mosshart; seriously if Jack White had a guest solo on this track it would be my favorite song of all time. Even though Mosshart’s vocals aren’t that high in the mix this whole track has the same kind of spastic rhythm that she is known for, likely because her and Grohl are singing the same lines and he decided to match her cadence rather her sing it straight. This is basically the second Run on this album, featuring a powerful sound and somewhat politically charged lyrics.
    Dirty Water is an okay Alt rock tune and Arrows is the most standard Foo Fighters song on this record. Happy Ever After (Zero Hour) is a trippy song that reminds me a bit of Across The Universe and has that distinct Classic Soft Rock sound. Speaking of The Beatles, the next track features Taylor Hawkins doing his best John Lennon impersonation on vocals and Paul McCartney guesting on drums. Sunday Rain rather intentionally sounds like a halfway point between The Beatles and Nirvana and does a good job of feeling nothing like a Foo Fighters song, largely because of not having Grohl sing on this track.
    The second to last track The Line reminds me of Walk and is a pretty solid Foo Fighters track. Closing out this album is the title track which Grohl described as sounding like a mix of Sabbath and Pink Floyd, and honestly that description is nearly perfect. The slow but punishing guitar on the first verse and chorus with Grohl’s creeping, almost spoken vocals certainly sounds like Black Sabbath mixed with Comfortably Numb. Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men adds a choir of haunting background vocals on the chorus that perfectly hammers this song home. This track is filthy and beautiful in all the right ways and closes out the album perfectly.
    Overall this is a pretty awesome album by the Foo Fighters, proving once again that they are second only to Jack White in the modern Rock god pantheon. The only real weakness of this album is they don’t have many songs that sound like the typical Foo Fighter’s sound, but I really like the aggro metallic style that they display on Run and La Dee Da, especially when contrasted against Sunday Rain and Happy Ever After. The dynamics and blending of numerous influences are what make this album so much fun to listen to, along with all of the crazy guest spots on this record. As we get closer to December I have started to make my year end Top 10 list, and something off of this album will definitely be on it.

Album on Google Play

Album on ITunes

Album on Amazon

Saturday, September 16, 2017

8. Powerful Instrumentals

Justin and Noah talk about the instrumentals that stir up and create emotions in the listener, from Tina Guo to Trans Siberian Orchestra and every point in between.

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Sunday, September 3, 2017