On the fourth studio album from Canadian-band The Strumbellas, the six-piece folk rock band expand their sound into nine cohesive songs. Rattlesnake takes us on a journey through multiple themes and moods, and begins to embrace less of an introspective approach to their lyrics than fans have grown accustomed to over the years. Coming off of the success of their Glassnote Records debut album, Hope, and the #1 Alternative single “Spirits,” The Strumbellas may have felt a greater sense of pressure to deliver on this record. Lucky for us, The Strumbellas were up to the task of making an LP worthy of repeat listens throughout the Spring season.
Kicking off the set with the anthemic first single, “Salvation,” The Strumbellas showcase a new-found swagger and confidence that was less apparent on their earlier work. Lead singer/guitarist Simon Ward sets the tone of the record early on this song when he sings exuberantly, “I like to dance under street lamps and walk upon the clouds/I like to shout from the rooftops and surf on top of the crowd/For many years, many years I was scared of the person I was/And I’m not perfect they say, but I know that I was born to be loved.” Ward has always put forth an optimistic view on life, and his warm approach to songwriting feels like having an old friend come by to visit.
Looking back on the tenth anniversary of Silverstein’s fourth studio album, A Shipwreck in the Sand, is an interesting project and it in many ways is a snapshot of the state of the world we were living in. Coming off a slightly commercially and critically disappointing third album in Arrivals & Departures, the band felt a sense of urgency to deliver a great record. Silverstein turned once again to the Discovering the Waterfront producer, Cameron Webb, to help them create an early-career landmark album in their discography. The themes of betrayal, loss, war, and the problems with the US health care system are prevalent throughout this LP. Self-described by the band as being one of their “heaviest” records in their career, this album takes us on a four chapter journey in the form of a captivating concept record.
When Bad Suns came into the light of the Indie Rock scene in late 2013, I was instantly enamored with their unique style of 70’s and 80’s-era post-punk all packaged in a new and vibrant form. Now on their third full-length album, Mystic Truth does little to change my glowing opinion of this young band that continues to show amazing growth and promise. Filled with shiny guitar-driven rock, this album shows staying power in being in our rotations well throughout the Spring and early-Summer seasons.
Kicking off the set with the first single, “Away We Go” paints lead singer Christo Bowman in search for love and purpose as he sings, “I need some love and affection/I’ve got no sense of direction or what to do/I hear a song on the radio that breaks through/Yeah, that’s right, I’m talking to you.” The song itself is a great reminder of the pop sensibilities that Bad Suns have come closer to perfecting in the early stages of their career and is a nice opener to a set of songs that gel well together.
Do Davey Havok and Jade Puget ever take a rest? After AFI released an EP called The Missing Man at the tail end of 2018, it could be forgiven if they would like to kick their shoes up for a bit and let their fans indulge in the new sounds. However, had they taken a break, we wouldn’t have received such a crowd-pleasing, 80’s new wave effort in Blaqk Audio’s fourth full-length LP, Only Things We Love. Filled with rich homages to 80’s synth staples such as Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, and Erasure, Blaqk Audio can come to terms with the direction they decided to navigate on this record.
Kicking off the set with “Infinite Skin” reminded me something that could’ve easily fit on a Tears For Fears record, with the exception of the darker lyrical content that we have grown accustomed to from Havok. Davey paints a picture of despair when he sings in the opening verse, “Blood on the corner/Love on a dead end street/You heard them warn her/When you first heard of me/You stopped at nothing/Shots rang rang in the night/I’d stopped a little short, a little short of something right.” The music surrounding these words are brighter than you would expect and it turns out to be a solid choice of an album opener.
If you were to count the number of bands who have lasted 30 years and consistently put out quality material over that period, you likely wouldn’t need both hands to do so. The Bouncing Souls thankfully fall into this category of a DIY-punk band that have made a memorable legacy for themselves over their 30-year career. Crucial Moments is an EP that stands on its merit of an accomplishment as much as it is a summary of what The Bouncing Souls have done over their eventful career. Accompanied by the 96-page coffee table book of the same name, The Bouncing Souls take some time to reflect on their legacy while still showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The process of growing up and taking on more responsibilities, or “adulting,” takes different forms for everyone. While some may glide through young adulthood into full-fledged middle-aged freedom, many of us struggle to find our place in this crazy world we live in. On the sophomore record from Holy Pinto, Aymen Saleh does a great job of encapsulating all that goes into this transition from being a care-free kid to an adult.
From the opening lyrics on Set It Off’s latest effort, Midnight, they are clearly out for world domination: “Look out, they’re closing in on you now/Wake up, or you’ll wake up six feet down/Nobody’s got your back in this town/Knock em in the teeth now.” While some bands may get buried for using cliche phrases in their music, Set It Off make everything feel genuine and passionate on this record. By embracing the pressure of needing a sure-fire hit record on their hands (after signing a new deal with Fearless Records) the Tampa, Florida four-piece band deliver all over on Midnight.
This past week I was able to sit down with lead vocalist of Silverstein, Shane Told, and discuss the process that the band went through for the REDUX: The First Ten Years retrospective release. The band is self-releasing the record and it will be available everywhere music is sold on April 12, 2019.
The New Orleans, Louisiana jam band Galactic appear to be brooding with confidence on Already Ready Already, as they continue to expand their sonic musical landscapes into a breezy 25-minute, eight-song record. While the early stages of their career focused on experimenting with various sounds that bordered between funk, rock, jazz, and blues, this set embraces the immediacy of a great pop song.
Coming off of a brilliant debut record called Vital, Morgxn has come back with an equally impressive “stripped” EP of the strongest selections from the debut into re-imagined tracks in Vital : Blue. It’s on this EP that Morgan Karr showcases his staying power as an Indie Pop artist with no other distractions besides a piano, carefully placed string sections, and his powerful voice.
On their third album, Seasons, American Authors crank up the volume and soul in a glossy effort that is arguably their strongest album to date. The band, best known for the Top-40 single “Best Day of My Life,” showcases their staying power in the ever-crowded Indie Rock genre. Under the careful tutelage of veteran producers Cason Cooley (Ingrid Michaelson) and Trent Dabbs (Kacey Musgraves), the two co-producers bring out the best in the Brooklyn-based band.
Talent is a remarkable thing. When you see it, you recognize it almost instantaneously, and it becomes nearly blinding to any of the other faults surrounding that artist. On the debut full-length LP from Maggie Rogers, her talent oozes through the speakers with rare confidence not usually found from a new artist. Heard it in a Past Life is a remarkable introduction to an artist who is 100% comfortable in her skin and knows exactly the type of music she wants to create.
On the debut LP from Cassettes, Wild Heart is an earnest love letter to the 90’s era of pop-rock that dominated the airwaves. The five-piece band from Philadelphia shows a ton of promise on this debut record that was co-produced by Ace Enders (The Early November) and Nik Bruzzese (Man Overboard), and was carefully mixed by Vince Ratti (The Wonder Years). This album features a wide range of summery vibes and good times that finds the band reminiscing while still keeping an eye on the future.
On the third album from the St. Petersburg trio, Polyenso, Year of the Dog finds them stretching the boundaries of their already dynamic sound on this experimental EP. Polyenso are on the brink of something remarkable here on this release. If you can tune into the world of this band and lose yourself in the music, you’re in for a treat.
When I look back on the year of music that was 2018, I can’t help but marvel at the great mix of variety and strength of material that came out of it. From polished singer-songwriter material to stadium ready anthems, this year had it all. Here is my list of the 30 albums that had the biggest impact on me:
I had the chance to sit down with Nathan Pyles of Ancestors Index to discuss his new album, Ghost, the unique merchandise designs he has created and artists he admires in today’s music scene.
AFI have never been strangers to the darker side of things, as clearly evident from the shadowy packaging and artwork of their latest EP, The Missing Man. However, what I’ve always admired about this band is the silver linings found in their music. After releasing arguably their darkest-toned LP to date in 2013’s Burials, they followed this effort with 2017’s AFI: The Blood Album, an album that incorporated many of their past styles into a single record. On this EP, AFI has found a way to pay homage to the path they blazed before, while still adding new elements to their trademark sound.
On William Ryan Key’s second solo EP, Virtue, he continues to stretch out his sound and repertoire with one of the better singer-songwriter works of art to date. While Thirteen was primarily based around the acoustic guitar, Key uses a fair amount of piano, electric guitar, and percussion on this recording to fill out the expansive sound that he was likely going for.
“The Same Destination” cuts through the opening bars of faint strings with carefully struck piano chords that help set the table for another brilliant showing from the former Yellowcard front-man. The wall of sound that opens this track features some more electric guitar elements that were missing on his previous EP and serves as a nice opening for the record. “Mortar and Stone” follows the tender opening with some intricately played acoustic guitar and layered vocals from Key. Key’s confidence broods throughout this EP that he self-described on his website as an “exploration of a new sound” and “evolution.” I concur with his line of thinking, as William Ryan Key has delivered another collection of songs worthy of his underrated legacy.
Synth lovers, rejoice! Muse have crafted a powerhouse of a record in Simulation Theory that is one of the more immediately gratifying albums to date. From the futuristic artwork that could easily be mistaken for the poster art of the next Blade Runner film, Muse has their sights set on making everything that they have alluded to in the past few efforts bigger and brighter.
From the dramatic introductory track, “Algorithm” sets the stage perfectly for a thrilling ride of an album. Lead singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy opens the set by singing, “Burn like a slave/Churn like a cog/We are caged in simulations/Algorithms evolve/Push us aside and render us obsolete.” Bellamy and company have never been strangers to using samples and synths to enhance their sound, but on Simulation Theory, they ultimately went for everything that they had been hinting at over the past few LPs.
The New Hampshire post-metal trio, Girih, are here with their debut EP, Eigengrau, and it channels several key influences of similar “math rock” bands such as Thrice. The dark tones found throughout this EP mesh well with the variety of riffs and noises on this debut. The major disclaimer for this EP is that it is instrumental only, but there are plenty of redeeming qualities to find on this record.