Live albums are typically used by a record label to either fill in the time between album releases by an artist, or to take advantage of when a band is at its peak popularity. With no shortage of catalog material, Cold War Kids have released their first live album entitled Audience. The band has released six studio albums to date, with very little lag coming in between each of the releases. Recorded on September 24, 2017 in Athens, GA, Audience capitalizes on the band’s live strengths, which is to keep the music flowing from song to song, all the while engaging the crowd in belting out each memorable hook.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is the sixth studio album from indie rock superstars, Arctic Monkeys, and it is also one of their more polarizing releases to date. Front-man Alex Turner recorded most of the demos for this album at his Los Angeles home, and composed the majority of the songs on a piano, rather than a guitar. This curious approach to recording a highly anticipated follow-up to a successful record in AM, followed by a lengthy hiatus, just added to the mystery of the album as a whole. Additionally, the unique promotional approach of keeping the entire record under “lock and key” by not pre-releasing any songs prior to the street date only helped with challenging listeners to absorb the entire album, rather than a couple of singles taken out of context.
The general themes found throughout this album are of science fiction, self-reflection, politics, religion, and even technology itself. The sound that Arctic Monkeys have achieved here can be best described as modern “lounge pop,” reminiscent of stylistic artists such as Father John Misty and David Bowie. Even though the majority of these songs were written and composed by Alex Turner himself, and even though it was initially suggested by his bandmates he self-release the album under his own name — due the complexity of how to add the other instrumental parts around the piano/vocals — this is still an Arctic Monkeys album. The rest of the band has enhanced the piano-driven direction of this record by creating an album worthy of your full and undivided attention.
As indie rock continues to evolve, and a growing number of bands keep getting lumped into that genre, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for bands to stick out from the pack. Such is not the case for a relatively new band called Middle Kids, as their brand of indie pop rock flourishes right from the first listen. The group, from Sydney, Australia, are comprised of lead singer/guitarist Hannah Joy, her husband and bassist Tim Fritz, and drummer Harry Day. The group has taken full advantage of the excitement that comes with releasing their debut full-length album by showcasing just how talented this trio truly are.
The Voidz, led by The Strokes’ front-man Julian Casablancas, have gone through a few housekeeping changes since their debut album Tyranny. For starters, they have dropped Casablancas’ name from their moniker, probably for the intention of making it known that they are a true band, rather than just a side project. Additionally, the band has used their second album as an experimental canvas on which to paint with all types of styles. While their debut album came across as abrasive and hard to digest, Virtue brings out the best in this crew and if you can stomach the variety of approaches used on this record, it’s quite a fun and trippy ride.
On Thirty Seconds to Mars’ fifth album, titled America, Jared Leto and his bandmates experiment with big U2-type choruses, patriotic themes, and the deeper meanings of life. The band has long-since been known for their anthemic choruses and there are plenty of those to go around on America, as well as great production and a polished sound fit for a major label and radio outlets alike.
The album itself is front-loaded with the previously released singles “Walk on Water” and “Dangerous Night.” The one-two punch of these tracks play off of each other well, with the latter being the more memorable of the two. Leto sings on the chorus that it’s a “dangerous night to fall in love/don’t know why we fight what we’ve become.” The themes of loss, heartbreak, and longing for a change in the status quo run rampant throughout the album.
Side projects, in general, are healthy for the long-term well being of a band as it allows the multiple band members to experiment with new sounds and ideas that may not be best suited for the main unit. That being said, it’s hard to find too many differences between Billie Joe’s new side gig, The Longshot, and Green Day. Billie Joe sounds just as confident as ever on the new LP and it initially reminded me of the sleek and polish of another recent side project (Foxboro Hottubs) but with more production sheen on The Longshot’s debut album.
The Longshot is comprised of guitarist Kevin Preston, drummer David Field, and bassist Jeff Matika (who has toured extensively with Green Day). “Love is for Losers” spans over 11 easily digestible tracks, with a total running time of 32 minutes. Kicking off the set with “The Last Time” Billie Joe croons, “I’ll give you all my blood, til it’s a waste of time/If that’s not good enough, you’re always on my mind.” These tongue-in-cheek lyrics are what we have grown to expect from our fearless pop-punk leader, yet it’s also a good album disclaimer of “take it or leave it.”
Lord Huron, the indie rock group from Los Angeles, have had quite a few years to grow into their trademark sound of atmospheric landscapes and wandering journeys. Vide Noir, the third studio album and their first on a major label, was mixed by Dave Fridmann (Tame Impala, The Flaming Lips) and self-produced by front-man Ben Schneider, in which he has crafted his early career masterpiece. Schneider recently credited this album to a new habit of taking nighttime drives around LA and the “search for meaning amidst the cold indifference of the universe,” according to his recent social media posts.
Straight from the album opener, “Lost in Time and Space,” we are immediately transported to a dark yet clear night landscape with subtle sounds of buzzing lights, background whispers, a harp, and eventually the folk strumming of Schneider’s acoustic guitar cuts through the soft noise. In the track, Schneider admits, “I don’t know who I am, I don’t know where I am,” and the listener is immediately pulled in to go on this journey with the band.
Change can be difficult, sometimes it feels like it is the most painful concept to deal with. That being said, the Central Pennsylvania rap-rock group, From Ashes to New, have dealt with the replacement of their clean vocalist Chris Masser, in favor of Danny Case, semi-seamlessly. In addition to Masser’s departure, the band has a new drummer in Matt Madiro. The band is able to retain the sound that they introduced through two EPs (Downfall and S/T) and a full length LP, Day One, with an effort that should be worthy of an occasional spin.
When looking back at the accomplishments for Indie Rock mainstays, The Decemberists, one may think that they have little left to prove on their eighth album. However, this group has never been afraid to make the music they want to make, and bring their loyal fans along for every thrilling and unique chorus. I’ll Be Your Girl finds The Decemberists not only comfortable with who they are, but also as an artist willing to paint with new and vibrant colors.
The flowery cover art and liner notes fit the content of the music well as the album shines brightly and helps paint the story on a canvas that fans of the band have grown accustomed to. The first single and album opener, “Once in My Life” starts the listeners’ experience on the LP on a high note with the familiar strumming of an acoustic guitar and the warm, anthemic vocals of singer Colin Meloy who puts everyone on notice that all is not well in the world. Given the current state of the political climate and the honesty portrayed in The Decemberists’ catalog, it’s easy to tune in for the ride the band takes us on for this album.
Debut albums are typically a fun listen since the old adage goes, “You have your entire life to write your first album,” and The Aces’ When My Heart Felt Volcanic is no exception. The all-female group from Provo, Utah is composed of singer/guitarist Cristal Ramirez, her sister/drummer Alisa Ramirez, bassist McKenna Petty, and guitarist Katie Henderson. The Aces core strength relies on vibrant pop hooks and phenomenal guitar work. Their debut single “Stuck” has already been streamed well over 2 million times, and the band continues to build off their momentum with recent tours with the likes of COIN and X Ambassadors.
When My Heart Felt Volcanic is a shimmering debut, perfect for the beginning of Spring, and all of the good vibes that come along with better weather. Their sound on this album can be best described as a mixture between The 1975-esque guitars, and the well thought out hooks similar to HAIM and Paramore. The album starts off with “Volcanic Love” and helps set the tone for the majority of the song structures and concepts found throughout the LP. The aforementioned single, “Stuck” has a bouncy beat throughout and a memorable sing-a-long chorus. Singer, Cristal Ramirez, shines throughout their debut single and showcases an impressive vocal range and style.
Typically when a band, such as The Neighbourhood, choose to self-title an album, it signals either a re-branding or further solidifies how the band wants to be perceived from this point forward. This album (which is their third full-length LP) falls into the latter category as it thoroughly solidifies the type of music that The Neighbourhood have grown into. The album as a whole focuses on the band’s strengths: gloomy themes, synth-laden riffs, and outstanding vocals from front-man Jesse Rutherford.
The promotional approach for this album was different than what they had tried in the past, as they released two EPs (Hard & To Imagine) leading up to the release of the full-length. This creative approach of teasing the new styles and themes they were experimenting with gave their fans a glimpse into the creative process that went into this album. The lazy approach of releasing two EPs and having the same exact songs and sequencing on the album is not in this band’s DNA, as they have chosen the very best of the EPs content and created an album worth multiple repeat listens.