Review: Silverstein – When Broken Is Easily Fixed

Silverstein

Looking back 15 years from Silverstein’s debut album is an interesting experiment, now knowing all of the great work they have put forth since. When Broken is Easily Fixed was a compilation of the band’s early EPs, Summer’s Stellar Gaze (2000) and When the Shadows Beam (2002), that were re-recorded for Victory Records under the tutelage of producer Justin Koop. The LP itself went on to sell over 200,000 units, far surpassing any expectations.

I first discovered Silverstein when my college roommate told me I needed to check out this new band on Victory Records named after a children’s book author (Shel Silverstein). That first song he played for me was “Bleeds No More.” I was immediately drawn into the aggressiveness of the track, from the dual-guitar attack of Neil Boshart and Josh Bradford, to the carefully placed screams of Shane Told, the track just clicked. Then as I began to investigate the other songs on When Broken is Easily Fixed, I became drawn to songs such as “Red Light Pledge” and “Wish I Could Forget You,” each with their own personalities and intricate guitar work, precise drumming, and incredible hooks. I really appreciated what Silverstein was aiming for on this release, and I knew that this band in particular was going to do something great in their career.

Interview: Black Dog Prowl

Black Dog Prowl

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Washington, DC-based band, Black Dog Prowl, in their practice space in the heart of Maryland. They will be releasing a new series of EPs this Fall, and will headline the DC Music Rocks Festival on August 18th at the legendary 9:30 Club. In this interview, we chatted about each of the four band members’ influences, touring plans, and what this next gig means to them.

Review: Dave Grohl – Play

Dave Grohl - Play

Does Dave Grohl ever sleep? The near 23-minute instrumental song, “Play,” features Dave Grohl playing all of the instruments and is chaotic enough just in its concept alone. The “album” itself was recorded at East/West Studios in LA with the audio recorded by Darrell Thorp. The project came together to help promote music education in schools (so hell yeah to Grohl for doing this).

I highly recommend using a nice set of stereo headphones to fully absorb this entire work of art, rather than streaming it through a crappy pair of standard earbuds. This massive prog-rock odyssey is tailor-made for Dave Grohl, and has all of his many influences rubber-stamped over this opus. That being said, Grohl is precise in mastering the art of changing tempos, styles, and genres and knows exactly when to crank it up, or turn it down. The composure he plays with on “Play” is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Review: Lovelytheband – Finding It Hard To Smile

Lovelytheband

On Lovelytheband’s debut album, Finding It Hard To Smile, the group grows upon the sound from their debut EP and stretches out the good vibes over the expansive 16-track LP. The new group is led by former Oh Honey lead-singer, Mitchy Collins, guitarist Jordan Greenwold and drummer Sam Price. The group has had over three million streams of their debut single, “Broken,” and has toured extensively since their debut EP dropped in 2017.

The album opens up with the instrumental/atmospheric synth-laden title track, that flows directly into the second track “Pity Party.” The synths and guitars mesh well and play off of each other nicely on this track, as drummer Sam Price sets the pacing brilliantly. The following track, “Make You Feel Pretty,” finds Lovelytheband at the utter-catchiest, with a bouncy verse and upbeat sing-a-long chorus. In the second verse, Collins paints a picture of a relationship that appears to be very one-sided, when he sings, “Oh, I could use a Xanax, maybe that’ll fix this/She’s like an addiction, something I ain’t kickin’ easy/Am I wasting my time?” These catchy, yet relatable lyrics, paint the band as group willing to wear their heart on their sleeves and showcase their vulnerabilities.

Review: Mayday Parade – Sunnyland

Mayday Parade

I’ll be the first to admit that I am very, very late to the Mayday Parade bandwagon.  Mayday Parade are a band that I would recognize on Warped Tour and the Punk Goes-compilations, tour announcements with other pop-punk bands that I enjoy, and now the new excitement of being inked to a label that truly is passionate about the artists they sign. Rise Records are getting a great piece of music to market from the Tallahassee, Florida quintet.

Before the release of Sunnyland, the group released the well-received Black Lines. As a casual fan of the group, I found the change in styles refreshing, rather than hindering what I always felt the group was capable of making: a solid rock album with killer hooks from start to finish.

Review: Florence and the Machine – High As Hope

Florence and the Machine

On Florence and the Machine’s fourth full-length LP, Florence Welch continues to experiment with expansive backing sounds of string compositions and begins to reflect on her life and relationships leading up to this moment. This album does not have too many up-tempo tracks at its disposal, and for the casual listener, it may come as a surprise that the singles do not stray too far from the rest of the content on this cohesive work of art. Personally, I felt the album would have benefited from an up-tempo rocker or two, to help balance the melancholy sounds found throughout these landscapes.

On the album opener, “June,” Welch sings, “The show was ending and I started to crack/Woke up in Chicago and the sky turned black/And you’re so high, you had to be an angel/I’m so high, I can see an angel.” As Welch opens up about her past drug use, it’s hard to not pull for her in her fight against addiction. “Hunger,” even finds Welch opening up about an eating disorder and uses relationship metaphors as well to describe her struggles. This track is one of the better and more personal pieces that she has composed at this point in her career.

Review: Dreamers – Launch

Dreamers - Launch

The opening of Dreamers’ new EP, Launch, erupts in chaos. With a siren sound launching directly into your eardrums from the opening notes, this band makes it clear that this is a call to arms. Dreamers are from Manhattan, NY, but they recently relocated to Los Angeles to work on a trilogy of EPs on Fairfax Records. Coming off the success of hit singles from the debut album, This Album Does Not Exist, such as “Sweet Disaster” and “Drugs,” Dreamers continue to take advantage of the urgency found in their songwriting style.

Interview: Sherri DuPree-Bemis of Eisley

Eisley

I had the opportunity to interview Sherri DuPree-Bemis from the band Eisley.  We chatted about how she has developed as an artist, her family life on the road, and took a deeper dive into their upcoming acoustic record, I’m Only Dreaming…Of Days Long Past, available everywhere on July 20th via Equal Vision Records.

Review: Twenty One Pilots – Jumpsuit/Nico and the Niners

Twenty One Pilots - Trench

After months of teasing brief, unexplainable, clues about when new music would be coming from the ultra-popular group, Twenty One Pilots just casually dropped two great songs in “Jumpsuit” and “Nico and the Niners.” These two blazing tracks come from the upcoming album, entitled Trench, due out on October 5th.

Starting with the lead single, “Jumpsuit,” this dynamic duo have evolved their sound a bit from the multi-platinum certified Blurryface LP, while still keeping the core elements of what makes them who they are on this song. The song starts off with a faint alarm sound, and the trademark drumming of Josh Dun, signaling a call to arms as Tyler Joseph sings, “I can’t believe how much I hate/Pressures of a new place for my weight/Jumpsuit, jumpsuit cover me.” It’s almost as if the two artists know just how much pressure is on them to produce a significant work of art for the rabid fan-base that has been clamoring for a taste of what they had cooked up in the studio.

Review: Gorillaz – The Now Now

Gorillaz - The Now Now

On Gorillaz latest album, The Now Now, Damon Albarn and company tone down the guest artist slots and take a more serious approach to their songwriting craft. This LP, the sixth total for the group, was recorded in February 2018 and has now hit our eardrums a mere 14 months after the release of Humanz. The results of this strategy are well-rewarded as the Gorillaz have crafted an album sure to please their core audience, while still impressing casual fans of the group.

Every aspect of this album showcases the brilliance of Albarn as a songwriter, and they have re-branded themselves as true “artists” right down to the cover art of the familiar ape playing a guitar as if he just sat down to showcase a few tunes for a coffee shop audience. The first track, which features a guest contributor in George Benson, titled “Humility,” showcases some cool jazzy guitar elements and finds Albarn singing, “Reset myself and get back on track,” which could very well be the overall disclaimer for this album. The Gorillaz have found themselves in a new state of mind for this LP and have come back re-focused on a record worthy of your attention and multiple appearances in your new music rotation.

Review: Billy Raffoul – 1975 (EP)

Billy Raffoul - 1975

On Billy Raffoul’s debut EP for Interscope Records, entitled 1975, Raffoul capitalizes on his strengths: powerful, soulful lyrics and precise musicianship. At just 23 years old, Billy Raffoul mesmerizes on this EP with his bluesy vocals and pain-felt delivery of every lyric. On top of that, he’s an incredibly talented and underrated guitarist.

On the first single released from the EP, called “I’m Not a Saint,” Raffoul belts out that “I’m not a saint/But I could be if I tried.” With the earnest and heartfelt delivery found on this track, you would be hard pressed to not be a believer in what he sings about. With an almost everyman-type approach to his songwriting, much like DIY-ers Brian Fallon and Butch Walker, Raffoul makes you really feel what he was going through when he wrote this songs that are easily relatable, while simultaneously brilliant.

Interview: Pat DeFrancisci of Tru

I recently had the chance to chat with frontman and guitarist Pat DeFrancisci from a band called Tru, located in New Jersey. The group has recently released an EP called Growing Pains that reminded me a lot of a mix between Weezer’s instrumentation and Stone Temple Pilots’ vocal-approach. In this interview, Pat discusses their approach to songwriting, their key influences, and the story behind the creation of the EP.

Review: Courtship. – Denial in Paradise

Courtship. - Denial in Paradise

I stumbled upon this new band, Courtship., while attending a concert in Washington, DC where they opened for Night Riots, and I immediately gravitated towards a sound that reminded me of synth-pop veterans such as Smallpools, Foster the People, and Great Good Fine Ok. On Courtship’s debut album, Denial in Paradise, I’m extremely grateful I found this LA-based artist, as they have encapsulated all of their high-energy showmanship directly into their debut album.

Review: Panic! At The Disco – Pray for the Wicked

Panic at the Disco - Pray for the Wicked

“Are you ready for the sequel?” sings Brendon Urie confidently on the third track, “Hey Look Ma, I Made It,” and if Panic’s rabid fan-base is any indication, they are more than ready for whatever Urie has in store for them. On Panic! At the Disco’s sixth album, Pray for the Wicked, Brendon Urie is clearly having a blast and is 100% comfortable with who he is as not only an artist, but as a person as well.

Produced by Jake Sinclair (Fall Out Boy, Weezer), the sheen and textures found on this LP are polished, but not over-produced. Coming off the successful and Grammy-nominated Death of a Bachelor album, Panic! is well equipped for the demands being put forth by their eager audience. If Death of a Bachelor was the self-reflective album of Urie’s career, then Pray for the Wicked is the full-blown party album.

Review: Mike Shinoda – Post Traumatic

Mike Shinoda

The circumstances behind Mike Shinoda’s debut solo album, Fort Minor not included, could have been more desirable. Shinoda’s longtime bandmate, and best friend, Chester Bennington lost his battle with depression and you can feel each and every emotion that goes along with the loss on the Post Traumatic LP. Previously, Shinoda had released the Post Traumatic EP, which has the opening three tracks from this album, only to later announce he was going to release a full-length album to help gain closure on Bennington’s untimely death.

Many of these intensely personal tracks are very hard to listen to, as they sound like pages ripped directly out of a private journal of someone who is devastated by the loss of a close friend. Shinoda does an excellent job of encompassing the wide spectrum of thoughts that go along with a sudden loss, and the depth that he goes into on this album on describing exactly what he is going through are simultaneously heartbreaking and remarkable at the same time.

Interview: Travis Hawley of Night Riots

Night Riots

Night Riots are an alternative rock band who have toured extensively since the release of their debut album, Love Gloom. The band has also released two EPs prior to the LP, as well as two singles from their sophomore album. Last week, I had the chance to sit down with front-man Travis Hawley (front/center in picture) from the band Night Riots prior to a show on their Dark Violet tour. This interview took place at a small venue in Washington, DC where the band has played several times before, but this was their first official headlining stint. Travis talked about how they prepare for a tour and also their upcoming full length album.

Review: The 1975 – Give Yourself A Try

Give Yourself a Try

On June 1st, 2018, The 1975 finally announced that the name of their new album would be A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships and released the brilliant single, “Give Yourself a Try.”

The first and most recognizable part of the song is the looped Adam Hann guitar riff that sounds almost abrasive, however the lyrics and Matt Healy’s vocals quickly bring the listener in with his trademark croon. The drum beat from George Daniel is precise and consistent, with very little variation. This beat is likely intentionally simplistic to bring the attention back to the lyrical content and soaring choruses. The bass line from Ross MacDonald complements the drum beat, however it’s not in the forefront as much as it was on the band’s previous two full lengths. The guitar and vocals are clearly what propel this song.

Review: Coheed and Cambria – The Dark Sentencer

Coheed and Cambria

Coheed and Cambria have returned with the expansive, space epic-inspired song “The Dark Sentencer.” The track itself has been broken into two unique parts: a short prologue and the aforementioned track itself. The prologue sets the stage for where this story takes place in the universe that Coheed has created through a multiple album series.

The prologue begins with a gentle piano playing, and then eventually the silences breaks for the narrator to say:

Know now there is no time, space between the Well & Unknowing. Our story starts there. Well into our future, yet far beyond our past. In a romance between a pair of Unheavenly Creatures. The Five Houses of the Star Supremacy have privatized the detention zones of the galaxy. These planetary prison pits reassembled from the cracked worlds of the Great Crash. Which brings us to our stage. Where the light must learn to love the black. The Dark Sentencer. It begins with them, but ends with me. Their son, Vaxus.

Still with Coheed on this one?

Review: Ben Howard – Noonday Dream

Ben Howard - Noonday Dream

On Ben Howard’s third solo album, entitled Noonday Dream, he continues to experiment with massive audio landscapes, precise musicianship, and his trademark low vocal delivery. The album was written and produced by Howard, with a few key production collaborations with band-mate Mickey Smith. On Howard’s first two albums, he established a rapport with his listeners that he has fine-tuned here on this third LP on Republic Records.

The album itself starts off with the intricate “Nica Libres at Dusk,” that sets the table nicely for the rest of the content found on this effort. Guiding the listener down this dark landscape on the first sprawling track showcases the talent that Howard has as not only an incredibly talented musician, but also a captivating storyteller. This opening track features textured arrangements and “every-man” gruff vocals from Howard.