Review: Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold

Sleater Kinney

When setting out to record their ninth studio album, Sleater-Kinney began pondering with the idea of working with Wilco singer Jeff Tweedy on the follow-up to No Cities to Love. However, once S-K began the writing process and collaborating with St. Vincent, the band loved this new and exciting direction too much to pass up the chance to have St. Vincent produce the entire album. Once considered one of indie rock’s most reliable bands for their steady work ethic, Sleater-Kinney found themselves at a late-career crossroads. Do they make a similar sounding record to what their audience had come to expect, or push themselves to their creative limits by reinventing what their band could become? The latter is what came to fruition here on The Center Won’t Hold: an electronically expansive record that tinkers with modern sounds and state of the art production elements.

Western Settings – “Another Year” (Song Premiere)

Western Settings

Today I’m excited to bring you the premiere of Western Settings’ new song, “Another Year.”

For those unfamiliar with the band, they are an incredible punk rock band from San Diego, California, and this second single is a strong representation of the band: solid punk rock with ear-candy hooks.

Lead singer and bassist, Ricky Schmidt, is as endearing as ever on the song, and the dual-guitar attack from Dylan Wolters and Will Castro allows the track to soar to new heights. If you’re into punk music, this band is one to watch as the year unfolds.

The song is available for streaming below, and the album is available for pre-order now on Bandcamp. It will be released on September 6th.

Review: Ra Ra Riot – Superbloom

Ra Ra Riot - Superbloom

When preparing for their fifth studio album, Superbloom, Ra Ra Riot mentioned in several interviews their intention to create an album worthy of lasting impact and an enjoyable listening experience. Front-man Wes Miles co-wrote two of the twelve songs with former Vampire Weekend guitarist Rostam Batmanglij, and in doing so, helped expand Ra Ra Riot’s repertoire and sound in general. Miles mentioned in an interview that the band wanted a “DIY, demo mindset” to many of these songs, yet Miles decided these demos that were recorded in his parents’ house were strong enough to be considered the final versions.

One of the first things listeners will notice on Superbloom is how the simple song structures and sounds make for a great experience. This breezy collection of twelve songs are all well thought out, and make a lot of sense cohesively as an album.

Interview: Vinnie Caruana

Vinnie Caruana

This past week, I was able to chat with I Am the Avalanche and The Movielife frontman, Vinnie Caruana, about his upcoming solo tour and new record Aging Frontman. The record will be released October 4th via Know Hope Records and pre-orders are currently live. In this interview, Vinnie shared his passion for songwriting and how he continues to motivate himself as an artist.

Review: Cowboy Diplomacy – The Get Down

Cowboy Diplomacy - The Get Down

On the lead single from Cowboy Diplomacy, “The Get Down” rocks with the urgency of roots-rock bands such as The Revivalists and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, with mostly favorable results. The song itself is built around the guitar licks of lead guitarist Billy Boswell and lead vocalist/guitarist Ian Cochran, and some foot-stomping percussion from drummer Matt Whilden. After the introductory lyrics kick in, a blast of horns and good vibes fill out the single introducing Cowboy Diplomacy to the world.

Review: Of Monsters and Men – Fever Dream

Of Monsters and Men

Now three albums into their career, Of Monsters and Men have all but abandoned their happy-go-lucky and charming takes on indie rock in favor of stadium-ready pop anthems on Fever Dream. The first lyrics on the LP are telling as lead singer Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir opens with, “I see color/Raining down/Feral feeling/Swaying sound/But I don’t know what you want.” The entire record is filled with much brighter moments than we have come to expect from the Icelandic band, and this album turns out to be their best to date.

Coming off of two successful records in My Head is an Animal and Beneath the Skin, Of Monsters and Men could have very well made a similar sounding record for their third effort. However, never ones to be complacent with what they have accomplished before, the band took it upon themselves to push themselves to their creative limits on Fever Dream. Co-produced by the group and under the trusted tutelage of Rich Costey (Frank Turner, Foster the People), Of Monsters and Men have fully embraced the pop underlining that were embedded in their earlier work and made a record worthy of the size of the venues they are playing this fall.

Review: Night Riots – New State of Mind

Night Riots

The state of the world we are living in requires many outside distractions to cope, live, and find a way to be happy in general. On New State of Mind, Night Riots provide plenty of lush musical landscapes to help remind us the beauty of well-crafted pop-rock songs with deeper meanings behind each track. Now that their new record has arrived, Night Riots seem poised for making a significant statement in the music scene with an album that sounds simultaneously professional, dynamic, and captivating all from the first listen.

Never a stranger to the darker tones and mystery surrounding the after-hours nightlife that were presented in their earlier material, New State of Mind is surprisingly bright. Led by the atmospheric album artwork that finds the cover model finding the beauty within herself, there are several songs with massive textural feelings and dual meanings within them. The album was co-produced by Eric Palmquist (Thrice, Bad Suns) and Night Riots, and the production elements showcase a band painting with broad, colorful strokes; never afraid of taking a calculated risk along the way.

Review: Sum 41 – Order in Decline

Sum 41 - Order in Decline

On their seventh studio album, Order in Decline, Sum 41 wastes little time in describing the state of the world we are living in. And they do a great job of summarizing the feeling of growing up in a country where the leader seems to suck the life out of everything that we once held so dear. Sum 41 have delivered their late career masterpiece and they have never sounded better in this mixture of punk, metal, and rock that pulsates with immediacy and a strong call to action from their fan-base. The styles they have teased and tinkered with over their career come to full fruition on this record that finally realizes the band’s full potential.

Even from the first few riffs delivered on “Turning Away,” Sum 41 rock with a confident swagger found in scene mainstays such as Green Day, while still showcasing vulnerability and a human element behind their words. Deryck Whibley sings in the first powerful chorus, “I’m turning away/Because I feel like I can’t go on, while we’re living in this lie/And when all of my faith is gone, I don’t even want to try/There’s nothing that you could say, that could ever change my mind/And will all of these steps I take, it’s giving me back my life.” There’s a lot to unpack here, as we know Whibley nearly lost his battle to alcohol addiction and had a long road to recovery to fight for his life, much less his career as a touring musician in a successful band. Whibley sounds re-focused, refreshed, and doesn’t appear to want to let his new outlook on life go to waste any time soon.

Review: 311 – Voyager

311 - Voyager

As a life-long 311 fan, I approached Voyager with more optimism than most. I looked forward to each of their releases every other summer and would typically be one of the first ones to purchase their new music on the street date. Over time, even as my taste in music gravitated towards punk/emo-tinged rock, 311 remained a band I would find myself coming back to as spring came to a close. With multiple summer tours packing amphitheaters across the US, 311 have always benefited from a patient listening base. This album should do little to change their devout fans’ opinions on the direction the band is going. The fact remains that at thirteen albums in their career, they may have played things a little too safe on Voyager.

Review: The Covasettes – It’s Always Sunny Above The Clouds

The Covasettes

The Manchester-based indie rock band, The Covasettes come bursting onto the music scene with the brightly colored EP It’s Always Sunny Above the Clouds. With it’s Care Bear-styled cover art, I was initially unsure of what to expect from the band that I was introduced to. However, The Covasettes quickly won me over with the core influences of Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, and Coldplay that are felt warmly as they create a wonderful collection of songs. The four-piece band is comprised of lead vocalist/guitarist Chris Buxton, lead guitarist Matt Hewlett, bassist Jamie McIntyre, and drummer Matt Buckley, and their chemistry as a unit comes across undeniably on this record.

Review: Two Door Cinema Club – False Alarm

Two Door Cinema Club

On their fourth studio album Two Door Cinema Club fully embrace the 80’s synth and colorful pop that they hinted at on 2016’s Gameshow. False Alarm paints the Northern Irish indie rock band as a group that is willing to take calculated risks and have a blast while doing so. Whereas other artists may find their comfort in a familiar sound from album to album, Two Door Cinema Club have little issue with experimenting with a variety of new ideas and fresh takes on their songwriting.

Review: Russian Girlfriends – In The Parlance Of Our Times

Russian Girlfriends

In the birth of the internet, the ill-timed phrase, “this isn’t punk!” was uttered by way too many online accounts. Fast forward to today, and some people are still taking it to the web to defend against whether their favorite bands fit into one genre or another. The times have changed slightly as genre lines tend to be blurred as groups evolve and figure out their sound. Enter Russian Girlfriends, who make unapologetic, blazing punk rock that demands to be pumped through the speakers at the highest volume. For those unfamiliar with the band, Russian Girlfriends are a five-piece band from Albuquerque, New Mexico in the style of the melodic urgency of The Bouncing Souls, the political brashness of Anti-Flag, and the high-energy punk rock of The Explosion. Comparisons aside, In the Parlance of our Times is one of the better punk rock records to come out in the latter half of this decade.

Review: Bastille – Doom Days

Bastille - Doom Days

The list of accolades that Bastille have accrued over just three studio albums is what most bands can only dream of when they start their career. With over 9 million records sold to date, several number one singles, and many major music awards added to their impressive resume, Bastille should be able to kick back and celebrate a bit. Coming off of a successful sophomore effort in Wild World, that was packed with content surrounding the changing world around us, political ramifications, and dense metaphors about how the world as we knew it was spiraling out of control, it only made sense for their follow-up to be called Doom Days.

The hype surrounding this particular release was at an all-time high due to the success of their Top 40 crossover smash with collaborator Marshmello in “Happier.” Everything was lining up perfectly for Bastille to deliver their landmark album in their discography since they appeared to have so much going in their favor. Doom Days chronicles their rise to fame, as well as what the band described in a recent interview as a loose concept album regarding “the importance of escapism, hope and the preciousness of close friendships.”

Interview: Hannah Joy of Middle Kids

Middle Kids

Earlier this month, I was able to catch up with Hannah Joy (singer/guitarist) of the indie rock band, Middle Kids before they played a sold out show at the legendary 9:30 Club in Washington, DC. During our conversation, Hannah shared the band’s approach to creating a memorable set of songs for their live shows, the process that goes into writing their music, as well updates on the progress of their second full-length album. Middle Kids recently released New Songs For Old Problems on Domino Records, and the EP is available for purchase wherever music is sold.

Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication

My memories surrounding the seventh studio album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers are flooded with great moments spent with this classic, late-90’s record on many Summer evening drives back and forth from the beach. Californication came at a time when my sixteen-year-old self was rapidly veering away from the pop that was dominating the airwaves of the radio, and I vividly remember when I purchased a CD copy of this album that I still hold in such high esteem to this day. As I look back on the 20th anniversary of this classic, I remember how I was immediately drawn into the world the band was describing in ways I never thought that I could be. I was transformed within an album from the very first notes. While my younger self may not have fully grasped all the themes that were being tossed around in the lyrics such as: death, suicide, globalization, and traveling, I could still appreciate every ounce of blood sweat and tears that the band had put into the classic LP.

Review: Mike Frazier – Where The Valley Kissed The Sky

Mike Frazier

Let me introduce you to Mike Frazier, an ultra-talented singer-songwriter from Virginia who has a knack for showcasing the wide range of emotions that go into telling captivating stories through his music. Frazier wastes little time getting to the point he wants to get across in a brief, 9-track album called Where The Valley Kissed The Sky. The collection is a very loose concept album of Frazier’s time spent traveling from town to town and working different jobs in the valley. A lot of his observations through this album’s lyrical content show a changing economic landscape and how it impacts the average person living in these rural areas of the country.

Review: Middle Kids – New Songs For Old Problems

Middle Kids

The opening verse of the new EP from Middle Kids sets the tone for what’s to come on this thrilling record: “We accept all beliefs and prayers/But if you don’t agree, you can sit over there/Express yourself with personal flair/But first check that it fits with the kids upstairs.” These lyrics stuck with me since it in many ways encapsulates all that goes into today’s society of expressing yourself, but not impeding on others beliefs. At times we can be so ingrained into what we believe to be morally right or just, that we may forget that many others don’t think the same way as us.

Coming just a little over a year from their debut full-length LP, Lost Friends, Middle Kids expand upon their sound in exciting ways on New Songs For Old Problems. Whereas their debut album found the Australian band figuring out their sound, this new record finds them at their most accomplished and confident.