Review: Billie Joe Armstrong – No Fun Mondays

Billie Joe Armstrong - No Fun Mondays

While some artists were keen to wait out the pandemic before releasing music, Billie Joe Armstrong took advantage of the extra time on his hands to release a series of covers that known as the No Fun Mondays compilation. He covered a wide breadth of artists from almost all genres, including The Bangles, The Clash, John Lennon, and Tommy James and the Shondells. Despite the branded name, these songs turned out to be quite the enjoyable listening experience as Billie Joe showcased his impressive knowledge of historical artists and made each rendition feel updated for new ears.

The set kicks off with the Tommy James and the Shondells’ classic, “I Think We’re Alone Now” that got most of its longevity from the 80’s cover by the artist known as Tiffany. The guitar-based cover song stays true to the basic arrangement of the original, and Billie Joe’s trademark vocal performance is still up to par. “War Stories” by The Starjets quickly follows the opener and keeps the momentum going for a perfect slab of melodic punk rock well within the repertoire of the Green Day front-man. Billie Joe does an impressive job of commanding the track while going into his higher register on the chorus and bridge as he delivers a worthwhile rendition.

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Review: My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

My Chemical Romance - Danger Days

The one constant in the career arc of My Chemical Romance has been reinvention. From each record’s sound to the wardrobe used on stage for each album cycle, MCR has never been strangers to pushing the boundaries of what is expected of them and their music. On Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, My Chemical Romance would reinvent themselves for the fourth time and deliver their boldest artistic statement to date. Having scrapped a full album’s worth of material (that would later be known as Conventional Weapons) in-between recording The Black Parade and this album, fans and critics alike were looking forward to seeing how Gerard Way, Frank Iero, Mikey Way, and Ray Toro would come back into the limelight after the massively successful third record. Danger Days ranges from thrilling sing-a-long anthems to power-pop and their trademark take on punk/emo rock alike. With so much riding on this career-defining record, how would everyone react to the material that would come through the speakers?

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Review: Silverstein – REDUX II

Silverstein - Redux

It’s amazing how much a single year can throw a wrench into our plans. 2020 has made all of us re-focus our thoughts and priorities as we deal with a global pandemic that has forced us to make sacrifices along the way. Silverstein were poised and ready to tour on their recently released 10th studio album, A Beautiful Place to Drown when the world had other plans for the post-hardcore veterans. Having recently celebrated 20 years since their formation as band, Silverstein turned the unique situation into an opportunity to revisit some of their classic songs and deep cuts from past records for an album now known as REDUX II. The new recordings that made the cut for this record range from simple re-polishing of beloved songs that feel fresh for a new audience, to major enhancements to the song arrangement.

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Review: I Am The Avalanche – DIVE

I Am The Avalanche - Dive

It feels great to have I Am The Avalanche back. With their first studio album in six years, DIVE wastes little time getting down to the business at hand with some incredibly well-crafted tunes. Lead single “Better Days” opens the record with a perfect build up to an ultra-melodic chorus. Lead vocalist Vinnie Caruana had this to say about opening the album with the track: “Not only is it the intro track to the record, but it is also the song the first the band wrote together since 2014’s Wolverines. It’s all about realizing too late how good you had it and raising a “drink to better days.” Oddly enough, it was written before the world went to hell in a handbasket earlier this year – making it an eerie prophecy.” Interestingly, many of these songs found on DIVE are the perfect soundtrack to the uncertainty of the days ahead of us while still remaining cautiously optimistic that things can improve.

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Review: Arms and Hearts – The Distance Between

Arms and Hearts - The Distance Between

The Manchester melodic punk act formed by Steve Millar, better known as Arms & Hearts, makes a solid introduction to the folk-punk scene on The Distance Between. With a raspy voice that ranges from the howl of songwriting veterans such as Brian Fallon and Chuck Ragan, Millar makes a powerful opening statement on this collection of nine well-structured songs. The material teeters between sounding like a singer-songwriter at a dimly lit nightclub, to the full-bled passion of a punk band packed to capacity in a sweaty venue. What Millar does best is making his listeners hang on his every word as he sways from a soft croon to a blood-curdling scream.

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Who Will Meet Me At The Gates – “Wet Cement” (Song Premiere)

Who Will Meet Me At The Gates

Today I’m pleased to premiere the brand new single from Who Will Meet Me At The Gates, called “Wet Cement.” Who Will Meet Me at the Gates is the latest installment in the ever-expanding universe of The Inevitables. Initially conceived as a soundtrack album and comic book, The Inevitables is evolving into a multilayered, multimedia project that extends into toys, art, and branded collectibles. On October 16th, the first single “Good Grief” dropped from a new five-song acoustic EP, featuring a veritable punk rock supergroup featuring members of Pears, Less Than Jake, The Jeff Rosenstock Band, Big D and the Kids Table, and Westbound Train.

As with the rest of the Inevitables project, the group was not satisfied stopping with music. For the graphic side of the concept, they brought in Portland-based artist Tomo77 to lend a visual experience to the songs. The result is a 6-print series reflecting the impact of the pandemic amid a tumultuous and changing social and racial landscape. Rendered in isolation, Tomo77’s images explore themes of racism, police brutality and a society in the throes of political chaos and disease, entwined with symbolism reminiscent of the middle ages. The art will be made available in a limited run of numbered and embossed prints. 

If you like what you hear, you can stream the album here.

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Review: Lifehouse – No Name Face

The charming debut record from Lifehouse called No Name Face took a lot of people by surprise when it first arrived 20 years ago. Led by singer/songwriter Jason Wade, the band was able to capture radio magic right from the get-go with their radio mega-hit “Hanging By A Moment.” The song went on to be the most played song of 2001 and allowed for the album to sell over 2.5 million units in the United States alone. Apart from the lead single and introductory song on the record, the LP is surrounded by several well-crafted songs that showcased Wade’s lyrical depth and vocal prowess at the tender age of 20 years old. The band was able to pull on the heart strings of America and made several TV appearances during the promotional cycle of the album. Looking back at this album brought up a lot of memories of listening to this record front to back during the autumn of my senior year of high school. What set Lifehouse apart from most of the other bands I was listening to during this era of music was their way of telling great stories through their music, and it made for an album that would stand the test of time.

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Apolar. – “Stargazer” (Song Premiere)

Apolar

Today I’m pleased to share the single premiere from the Chicago-based, Rock/Post-metal duo named Apolar. called “Stargazer.” The track comes from their third EP, STS-51-I, that is a concept record based around NASA’s Challenger mission in 1986, where the shuttle exploded on its way into orbit. The song reminds me of bands such as Explosions in the Sky and Align In Time, and makes for a great listening experience. If you enjoy what you hear, you can pre-order the new EP on Bandcamp.

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Review: Sarah and the Safe Word – Good Gracious! Bad People.

Sarah and the Safe Word - Good Gracious! Bad People.

Every now and then I come across a band who is able to mix so many of the elements I enjoy about music and present it in a pleasing package. Much like my discovery of My Chemical Romance opening up for The Used back in the year 2002, it’s hard to describe the feeling of when you know that a band has that “it” factor. Enter Sarah and the Safe Word, who have crafted their sophomore record called Good Gracious! Bad People that has a blend of Panic! At the Disco theatrics, My Chemical Romance thematic elements, and the Gothic cabaret of the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. The sextet band from Atlanta, Georgia appear poised to take the next dramatic leap into the limelight as their new record delivers all over the board.

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Review: Fear No Empire – Fear No Empire

Fear No Empire - Fear No Empire

In the midst of a global pandemic and social unrest going on in the United States, Fear No Empire were inspired to form to give another voice to the protests and amplify their message through their music. The band is comprised of vocalist Ali Tabatabaee (Zebrahead), bassist Ben Ozz (Zebrahead), guitarist Dan Palmer (Zebrahead, Death By Stereo), and drummer Mike Cambra (The Adolescents, Death by Stereo and Common War). When I last spoke with Ali about this new project, his passion for providing a call to action for others to fight back was apparent. The topics covered on their self-titled EP are extremely topical and relevant. The COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of action from leadership, kids in cages, and discrimination across the board forced the hand of these musicians to do their part to spread awareness and provide a musical outlet for their politically-charged attack.

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Review: I Don’t Know How But They Found Me – Razzmatazz

I Don't Know How But They Found Me - Razzmatazz

Dallon Weekes and Ryan Seaman were facing some extremely high expectations and unanticipated buzz surrounding their debut LP, Razzmatazz. Under the band moniker, I Don’t Know How But They Found Me (which originates from a Back to the Future quote) the two musicians found some unexpected success early on in their career. Weekes, who once was a touring and contributing member to Panic! At the Disco, found himself at a crossroads of sorts since he had written tons of solo material and needed an outlet to release it under. The band’s first single, “Choke,” from the 1981 Extended Play record skyrocketed the band to the tip of everyone’s tongue and made naysayers take notice of what some were calling “Panic-lite.” The EP debuted at the top of the Billboard Heatseekers chart, and the single peaked at #7 on the iTunes Top 100 Alternative music charts. With the spotlight firmly on the band, Weekes and Seaman crafted a unique set of tracks that would become their debut full-length record. The material is similar to the introductory tracks found on the EP, but the band begins to realize their vision for their sound on Razzmatazz.

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Review: Give Me A Reason – Vice Versa

Give Me A Reason - Vice Versa

The Swiss-based pop-punk band Give Me A Reason have created a solid debut record in Vice Versa. Produced by Blake Roses (Oh, Weatherly), the band comes storming onto the pop-punk scene with vibrant guitars, bouncy vocals, and solid songwriting. The band’s sound is reminiscent of early All Time Low, with a mix of Boys Like Girls and Cartel thrown into the mix. While the band doesn’t stray too far from their influences, the music that comes pouring through the speakers is undeniable ear candy.

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Review: The Struts – Strange Days

The Struts - Strange Days

The circumstances surrounding The Struts third album, Strange Days, were unique, to say the least. The band had just come off the success of two popular records and had established themselves as one of the “must-see” live acts coming up in the music ranks. The Struts, who had not been together since February, all got COVID-19 tests before moving into producer Jon Levine’s home for the ambitious task of recording a new album in just ten days. The result was a collection of ten songs that include a ton of A-list collaborators in Albert Hammond Jr (The Strokes), Robbie Williams, Tom Morello, and Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott & Phil Collen. The material that the band was able to come up with under the pressure of a deadline still lives up to the hype of their earlier material and plays out like a love letter to the glam rock of the ’70s.

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Review: Seaway – Big Vibe

Seaway - Big Vibe

After releasing three albums firmly planted in the pop-punk genre Seaway were ready to try something new with their sound. Their fourth album, Big Vibe, takes a stab at 80’s style pop rock filled with big sing along choruses and crowd pleasing hooks. Released under their longtime label in Pure Noise Records, the record’s timing in the fall season seems a little curious, as the sound that comes through the speakers is fully entrenched with summer vibes. The benefit of releasing shimmering music during the rain-soaked season of autumn is to have some new tunes to brighten up our outlook on life and what comes next. Seaway have created their best record to date on Big Vibe, and the band seems poised to take the next big step in their quest for world domination.

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