To Write Love on Her Arms 10th Anniversary Concert

To Write Love On Her Arms

Ten years ago, 19-year-old Renee Yohe was just another addict struggling with her pain. As fate would have it, a journalist, Jamie Tworkowski, caught wind of her plight and offered his support. That encounter would eventually pave the way for the Florida-based nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA). In a decade, the organization has offered help to nearly 200,000 people and raised more than $1 million towards counseling and professional solace for those battling depression, self-injury, suicide and more.

Earlier this month at Orlando’s House of Blues at Disney Springs, a sold-out crowd helped fete TWLOHA and its founder Jamie Tworkowski as part of its 10th anniversary Heavy and Light celebration. With a headlining set by Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and support from Arizona’s The Summer Set, Nashville’s Matt Wertz and Renee Yohe herself, the event proved to be a rousing success.

Read More “To Write Love on Her Arms 10th Anniversary Concert”

Review: Mat Kearney – Just Kids

Mat Kearney - Just Kids

In a little over a decade Mat Kearney has built a career (and life) most would envy. He’s sold over a million albums, has had a half dozen singles, traveled the world, married a model and continues to inspire his countless fans. Just Kids, the fifth album from the Nashville-based singer-songwriter is arguably his most personal and honest record, but it is far from his best. For those who like a record to be one in which the artist reveals a lot of himself, then there will be plenty to love about Just Kids. Moreover, those who enjoy Kearney’s spoken-word-cum-hip-hop vocal stylings found on Bullet and Nothing Left to Lose, will also find plenty to relish in. But neither of those things makes an album and for its numerous charms, Just Kids still falls way short. For starters, the album’s sonic veneers veers heavily towards commercialism and accessibility and maybe that’s viable to some, but at this point in his career he should be crafting albums that are daring, innovative, original and challenging. Just Kids is neither of those things. 

Read More “Mat Kearney – Just Kids”

Review: Chuck Ragan – Till Midnight

Chuck Ragan - Till Midnight

Four albums into a much-lauded solo career, Hot Water Music frontman Chuck Ragan continues to churn out masterful Americana music and if you need further proof, give yourself an hour and spend some time with Till Midnight

Though many might argue otherwise, an album opener should be the creme de la creme, after all you only get one first impression. Ragan is fully cognizant of just that and puts his best foot forward on the rousing singalong “Something May Catch Fire,” a heartland rocker culled straight from the Springsteen playbook. Jon Gaunt’s triumphant fiddling and a hip-shaking chorus cement the track as one of Ragan’s best to date and serve as a sparkling start to an album that is worth many repeated listens. 

Read More “Chuck Ragan – Till Midnight”

Review: Young the Giant – Mind Over Matter

Young the Giant - Mind Over Matter

Chalk this one up to pretense. 

The highly anticipated sophomore follow-up to Young the Giant’s juggernaut self-titled debut is a mixed bag of awkwardness, superfluous breathiness and more brain-wracking lyrics. Plenty might find album opener “Slow Dive,” gorgeous and inviting but really it’s a waste of 40 seconds that serves no purpose. Ditto for the punchy “Anagram,” which has a cheery chorus and a sun-drenched vibe but does very little on repeat listens. Sure, there’s moments of prettiness and the song does have its share of pleasant moments but it lingers for far too long and is only rescued by Sameer Gadhia’s otherworldly vocals. First single “It’s About Time” is even more confused as it seems to stretch the band into a genre they’re not well suited for. Equal parts garage-pop and avant-garde indie, it sounds way too much like a band trying too hard. 

Read More “Young the Giant – Mind Over Matter”

Review: Boys Like Girls – Crazy World

Boys Like Girls - Crazy World

So this is the Hollywood effect, huh? 

A half-decade ago, Boys Like Girls (BLG) were a hard-charging Boston quartet that wrote commercially accessible power-pop with tinges of punk and shared bills with the likes of Spitalfield, Punchline and All Time Low. Heck, one publication even referenced them as 2007’s version of Fall Out Boy. Yet here we are in the latter stages of 2012 and Boys Like Girls sounds distinctly distant from that framework they once laid. To put it succinctly, they sound more like Train than that of Fall Out Boy. 

Whether this has anything to do with Johnson’s relocation to California and his time spent with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Victoria Justice and Hot Chelle Rae, to name a few, is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for certain, when it comes to writing pop hooks few are better than him, and Crazy World is set out to prove exactly that. Whereas 2009’s Love Drunk felt like a band trying too hard, Crazy World finds the quartet swimming in their newfound contentment and reveling in their pop gloss. Any way you slice it, there’s no denying frontman Martin Johnson’s talent for pop hooks and Crazy World is chock full. 

Read More “Boys Like Girls – Crazy World”

Review: Steel Train – Steel Train

Steel Train - Steel Train

Man it must be nice to be Jack Antonoff. Between a dalliance with Scarlett Johanssen and cult-like status in the super group Fun, the New York City-based frontman is also the brain trust behind burgeoning indie juggernauts Steel Train. Veteran performers of Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Coachella the quintet are a much-praised, must-see live act who made a sizable dent with their 2007 full-length Trampoline. This year’s self-titled follow-up is a harmonic collection of 12 veritable anthems. Soaring, transcendent and deeply felt, it’s as good a disc as any released this year.

The band sets the tone exquisitely on the triumphant opening number “Bullet,” a tightly packed, four-minute pop masterpiece. Anchored by Antonoff’s confident vocals, its rising chorus is arguably one of 2010’s finest moments. If album openers are supposed to be introductory statements, then Steel Train has indeed made the declaration of the year. For those still not on the bandwagon, it’s time to step on and start taking this band seriously.

Read More “Steel Train – Steel Train”

Review: John Nolan – Height

John Nolan - Height

At the same time that his high school friend was busy culling one of the year’s most polarizing albums, John Nolan worked quietly in his Lawrence, KS home penning the nine songs that would make up his solo debut Height. The creative force in the piano-based Straylight Run and the man touted as being the genius behind the seminal emo classic Tell All Your Friends, Nolan is well-revered across the country for what many like to think is his Midas touch. So it comes with bated breath and months of anticipation that Height is now released to the world. 

Beginning with album opener “Til It’s Done to Death,” the disc begins in a quirky, semi-splashy fashion. What begins as an acoustic number turns swiftly into a dancy, catchy, lo-fi singalong. While the verses are somewhat muddled, the chorus is a surefire crowd-pleaser. Utilizing keys and synth, “Til Its Done to Death,” has a decidedly urban feel. That is to say this sounds like a song written in a London flat, and not the barren plains of Kansas. He continues with “I Don’t Believe You” which has one hand dipped in electronica and another in intimate acoustic pop. The song begins with a supple acoustic guitar before diving headfirst into what is ostensibly a demonstration in dance hall dizziness. Pulsating with a whir of beats, synths and samples, “I Don’t Believe You,” is musically strong, but as an orchestration manages to suffocate the lyrical narrative, resulting in a memorable, melodic and slightly muddled exercise. As expected, the lyrics are terrific, but that kind of thing is always expected from him.

Read More “John Nolan – Height”

Review: Nightmare of You – Infomaniac

Nightmare of You - Infomaniac

Few music critics, and/or consumers, were expecting the self-titled debut from Nightmare of You (NOY), the braintrust of ex-Movielife guitarist Brandon Reilly, to be as engaging as it was. And yet in the fall of 2005, Reilly and his three friends: now-departed drummer Sammy Seigler, guitarist Joe McCaffrey and now-departed bassist Ryan Heil, churned out a near-flawless work of 11, literate, Smiths-inspired offerings. Equal parts creative and caustic, the self-titled was an auspicious effort that marked the start of something very special. Or so we thought. The Long Island quartet followed their shimmering debut with the brief, but sonically different Bang EP, a disc that geared more towards experimentation and improvisation. From the danceable title track to the off-kilter “Herbal Jazz Cigarette,” NOY seemed to push the creative boundaries a bit further than most were expecting. So it comes with baited breath, that the group has released their second and long-awaited full-length Infomaniac, without two of its founding members. 

Read More “Nightmare of You – Infomaniac”