When Joywave set out to record their third studio album in their home studio in Rochester, New York, even they must have been surprised by how much the result of their work would be so relatable in the chaos of a never-ending pandemic. Produced by Joywave front-man, Daniel Armbruster, the band has created a spacey collection of tracks that breathe new life into a society that is struggling for its sense of direction. In some recent interviews regarding Possession, Armbruster mentioned that the album is an investigation of control, and added, “Our heads are spinning. Every day is crazier than the last. Every screen we walk by is shouting at us, demanding our undivided attention. Control over our own lives is constantly under siege.” This album couldn’t have come at a better time, as this quote sears through the noise of uncertainty going on in our lives at this very moment.
One of the things that gets lost on us as we deal with all of this self-quarantining, self-isolating, and social distancing is how easy it is to forget about taking of ourselves and our mental health. Brain Pain is a catchy, immediate, and socially relevant record as Four Year Strong take a look at what it means to be lost in our thoughts. With song titles ranging from “Crazy Pills” to “Talking Myself in Circles” and “Get Out of My Head,” FYS take it all in stride as they investigate the inner workings of our brains and what makes us all unique and human. On its surface, Brain Pain couldn’t have come at a better time for all of us as we re-learn ways to communicate with each other without that physical connection, and it surely doesn’t hurt that these songs are some of the best work from the band in quite some time.
One of the first things that stood out to me as I sat down to listen to Sophie Allison’s (Soccer Mommy) latest record, Color Theory, was how much her songwriting and confidence had grown in such a short period. Typically after releasing a successful debut album, songwriters can get a little shell-shocked by their success and fall into the dreaded sophomore slump that swallows up so many great artists. Luckily for us, that is not the case on the fantastic second record from Soccer Mommy. Filled with lush musical landscapes, futuristic artwork, and packaging, as well as some of her best songs to date, everything clicks perfectly into place on Color Theory.
This past week, I was able to have a phone conversation with Elle Winter before she released her new EP called Yeah, No. In this interview we discussed what went into the recording sessions, the meaning behind the album title, and artists she looks to for inspiration. Yeah, No is available everywhere music is sold.
Debut albums are always a ton of fun to review as they come with so much hope, promise, and youthful exuberance as the artists try to put their unique stamp on the music scene. Snarls’ debut LP Burst comes sparkling onto the indie rock music scene with vibrant guitars, shimmering harmonies, and a plethora of hooks to balance out their band. Snarls are a four-piece band from Columbus, OH, and are led by Chlo White (vocals, guitar) who wastes little time getting down to business on this excellent record. Rounding out the band are Riley Hall (bass, vocals), Mick Martinez (guitar), and Max Martinez (drums). Snarls seem to fit well with other emo/indie bands such as Snail Mail, Haim, and Soccer Mommy, but they have plenty of musical chops to stand out and be memorable on their own.
A couple of weeks ago, I was able to have a great conversation with the lead guitarist of Silverstein, Paul Marc Rousseau. In this interview we chatted a lot about everything that went into making their new album A Beautiful Place to Drown, the collaborative efforts present on the record, the detailed writing process for these sessions, and we even discussed lead vocalist Shane Told’s consistent vocal improvements. A Beautiful Place to Drown is available everywhere music is sold this Friday, March 6th.
Having knocked the rust off and avoided the dreaded sophomore slump that so many bands seem to struggle with, COIN have returned with their third album called Dreamland. A reasonably straight-forward record that likely won’t dissuade longtime fans of the band from staying true to the group, but also one that doesn’t stray too far from what the band has already tried so they may have a difficult time gaining a wider audience. There are a few nuances and improvements to COIN’s sound that make it hard to fault them for continuing with a successful formula, such as dream-pop elements filled with lush synths and breezy guitars. As much as I enjoy listening to this band and this record, it feels like it lacks some of the energy and urgency that made their second record How Will You Know If You Never Try so endearing. The familiar sounds and stylistic choices feel welcoming at first. Still, by the time you get to the conclusion of the record, you’re left with a feeling of a small missed opportunity to take advantage of the momentum gained from their breakthrough second album.
This past week I was able to have an in-depth conversation with Colin Dieden, who has launched a new project called Little Hurt. Colin discussed his decision to leave his previous band (The Mowgli’s), how his new EP is coming together, and what the future looks like in this band in terms of touring plans and creating a grassroots campaign of getting the word out about Little Hurt.
When I last sat down to write about a Billie Joe Armstrong project, I put my thoughts down on a band called The Longshot. What I wasn’t expecting from the new Green Day album, called Father of All Motherfuckers, is for that aforementioned side project to surpass the quality of the much more established brand. But alas, on Green Day’s 13th studio album, they have taken a few steps backward as they try and regain their footing. At first, it was tough for me to put my finger on where it went wrong on this record, but after re-listening to the album a few more times since its release date, it just isn’t as strong as I have come to expect from the pop-punk giants. Produced by Butch Walker, Chris Dugan, and Green Day, the album should have been a momentous creative igniter for the band to re-solidify themselves right before their most prominent touring stint in recent memory (the Hella Mega Tour with Weezer and Fall Out Boy). But instead, the final mixes of this record feel like they are missing a key ingredient in what made the band such a fun time in the first place.
On John Moreland ‘s fifth solo record, aptly titled LP5, he takes an exploratory dive into working with an outside producer for the first time in his solo career. His producer selection in Matt Pence (Jason Isbell, The Breeders) fits like a glove as the production and songwriting elements that were already a strong suit of Moreland’s repertoire really shine on the album. Moreland recently said in an interview regarding his producer choice that, “I wouldn’t say that he pushed me into trying anything that I didn’t already want to do, but I think I came in with a lot of ideas that I found interesting but didn’t know how to execute. Matt was great at expanding on those things.” This American singer-songwriter from Tulsa, Oklahoma, has never been a stranger to writing great roots rock songs that feel as genuine and as warm as the singer’s personality. LP5 is by no means a departure from his already great sound, he expands upon it with more textured musical elements to give these songs a little more life.
When I last chatted with co-lead vocalist and band founder Zach Lupetin regarding Dustbowl Revival’s latest record, Is It You, Is It Me, you could hear the excitement in his voice in the new direction the band was taking on this album. Lupetin’s enthusiasm and confidence is warranted, as Dustbowl Revival have created a record that marks the next adventurous step in their evolution as artists. Produced by Sam Kassirer (Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter) Is It You, Is It Me is a sonic expansion on what Dustbowl Revival are capable of making when they set no limitations on themselves, and ignore any preconceived notions on what their band is expected to sound like. The band sounds re-focused, refreshed, and ready to conquer new audiences on this brilliant new album.
On Chase Tremaine’s debut solo album,Unfall, the Dallas-born singer-songwriter shines all over the record in an album almost entirely written and performed by Tremaine himself. The strengths found onUnfall are natural to notice right from the first listen: brilliant harmonies, intricate and layered guitars, as well as precise beats and pop hooks. Tremaine’s time spent playing in several Nashville-based bands is apparent, as he showcases a full breadth of styles and genre-blending on his debut LP. Over the 10-song, 46-minute record, Tremaine confidently takes the listener on an ear candy journey filled with a professional sounding album that was produced by Zach Lardy. Tremaine never loses focus on this record and delivers a strong introduction to his solo career.
This past month, I was able to sit down with Caroline Smith (of Your Smith) and talk about everything that went into her great new EP, Wild Wild Woman. In this interview we chatted about the lessons she learned from touring with road veterans K. Flay and X Ambassadors, how she typically composes her material, and key artists she has listened to over the years that have been essential in her development as an artist. Caroline is currently wrapping up the final dates of her US headlining tour.
Recently, I was able to sit down with Zach Lupetin (vocals, guitar) of Dustbowl Revival to discuss the band’s seventh studio album, Is It You, Is It Me, available everywhere this Friday, January 31st. We chatted about the band’s upcoming headlining tour in support of the new record, the stylistic changes that went into the new album, and artists that he admires in today’s music scene. I feel that the band grew a ton on this latest album, and I’d recommend Dustbowl Revival for fans of Lake Street Dive, Galactic, and other American-roots rock bands.
What is a politically-charged punk rock band to do as the world crumbles around them? Fight back. Anti-Flag have made their most immediate record in quite some time on 20/20 Vision, one directly has the POTUS in mind with of all of the fist-pumping anthems to be found here. On their 12th studio album, the band has little left to prove, yet they continue to deliver some of the most consistently excellent punk rock found in music.
Opening up with the current single “Hate Conquers All,” one that intersperses Trump-dialogue about protesters, Anti-Flag waste little time getting down to the business at hand. With lyrics such as, “Hate conquers all / In the ashes of the fall / With our backs against the wall / Watch the empire fall / Watch the nation dissolve,” the band makes it crystal clear of the urgency of the political situation going on in DC. The song feels like a call to arms for people to wake the fuck up on all of the terror taking place in our very own country.
After what seemed like a more extended than usual three-year hiatus, Bombay Bicycle Club have made their triumphant return with their fifth studio album Everything Else Has Gone Wrong. Many of the band members dabbled in solo projects during this hiatus, but the band seem as refreshed and re-focused as ever on their latest offering. In a recent statement, the group confirmed this newfound enthusiasm by saying, “More than anything it just felt great to be in the same room playing again. It made us realize what a good thing we have and has given us renewed energy and enthusiasm for the future.” Longtime fans of the band have plenty of reason to be equally excited for the latest chapter in their discography, as the record encapsulates everything the band does well, while still including plenty of new surprises along the way.
2019 was a year that gave us outstanding debut records, tremendous follow-ups from several established bands, as well as some surprise albums that I never would have thought to make my list at the beginning of the year. My list and listening taste are as eclectic as it’s ever been and I’m perfectly happy with that. Here are 30 albums I felt are worthy of your attention and ears delight.
This past week I had the chance to chat with Aaron Gillespie of The Almost. During our conversation, the topics ranged from discussing his new album, Fear Caller, the lessons he’s learned growing up with his bandmates in Underoath, and gaining some perspective on what makes him such a brilliant musician and songwriter.
On their eighth studio album, Coldplay have made a record that embraces the past while still keeping most of its heart in the present. The double album entitled Everyday Life is broken into two chapters, in “Sunrise” and “Sunset,” and paints a picture of a band with plenty of tricks still up their sleeves. Every detail of this album seems carefully crafted, right down to the artwork mirrored on both the top and bottom. Chris Martin and his bandmates could have made a record in the same vein of their last effort, A Head Full of Dreams, but that’s simply not in Coldplay’s DNA to be complacent with what they have done before. Instead, we are left with 16 songs that sound simultaneously immediate, current, and creative.
On the new album from the South Jersey/Philadelphia band Out of Service, they do a great job of encapsulating the feelings of living with depression, getting help, and coming to terms with living with a mental illness. The wide range of emotions that a person can go through when they realize they aren’t “feeling right” can be both shocking and heartbreaking at the same time, and Out of Service realizes this is a process. In fact, as a person like me who struggles with depression from time to time, Burden spoke to me more than I thought it would from the very first listen.