Review: Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown

From Parts Unknown is Every Time I Die’s seventh full-length, yet it comes out of nowhere like a debut – feeling desperate, ferocious, and raw. You can attribute that feeling to producer (and Converge guitarist) Kurt Ballou, whom undoubtedly challenged and pushed the veteran band to the limit at Godcity Studios. Enlisting a producer of Ballou’s stature could only mean one thing regarding LP7 – a complete deconstruction of metalcore’s status quo. From Parts Unknown is stuffed with various twists and turns and sudden stylistic changes – tastefully mixed in with absolutely brutal compositions and utterly bleak lyricism.

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Review: Tigers Jaw – Charmer

Tigers Jaw - Charmer

Something funny happen while every blog and fan prematurely buried Tigers Jaw – the Scranton, PA quintet-turned-duo recorded their best material yet. On some March afternoon last year, the band released a statement regarding the departure of three members and the immediate cancellation of Tigers Jaw upcoming North American tour. Because the announcement came out of nowhere and gave very little details on the present or future status of the band, many assumed it was the end. Instead Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh decided to carry on. And with a little help from their former bandmates (Pat Brier, Dennis Mishko, and Adam McIlwee) and producer Will Yip, the end result of this strange journey being Charmer, Tigers Jaw fourth full-length and most well-rounded album to date.

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Review: Coldplay – Ghost Stories

Coldplay - Ghost Stories

There aren’t many artists in pop music today that are easier to dismiss out of hand than Coldplay. I know this because I spent the better part of a decade doing it myself, mercilessly mocking this band for their limp, wimpy attempts at arena rock. I’m not entirely sure why that was, since Coldplay’s ballad-heavy music has pretty much always been situated directly in my wheelhouse, but regardless of the reasoning, the fact remains that there is something about Coldplay that just makes people want to disparage them.

When I finally started to pull down my walls of mocking, mean-spirited indifference toward this band, I moved instead to skepticism. I saw the promise in certain songs on the band’s third album, 2005’s X&Y, but I also saw a lot of bloat, the stink of lofty ambitions that didn’t pay off. I was only slightly more taken with the band’s fourth full-length release, 2008’s Viva la Vida, an album that most people adored, but that I saw as a pale imitation of countless better bands, from U2 to Radiohead and beyond. There was promise on that album too, but it was lost somewhere under layers of stadium rock pretense and misplaced bombast, from the overbearing title track to the lyrically inept “Lost!”

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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. 

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Review: The Menzingers – Rented World

The Menzingers - Rented World

LP4 is a huge hurdle for The Menzingers. Whenever a band goes up against themselves, it’s an enormous test of their staying power and ability to grow within their own sound. The popularity and cult-like adoration surrounding 2012’s On The Impossible Past makes it obvious that The Menzingers are The Menzingers’ biggest competitors when it comes to Rented World, as the questions surrounding this release view it pointedly as a “follow-up,” and whether that follow-up could possibly meet lofty expectations. 

This is fair and unfair for the Scranton, PA quartet. When I reviewed Transit’s Young New England, and completely trashed that album, I wrote that the band had set a standard for excellence in the past – a standard that I held them to with their new work. The Menzingers are in exactly the same boat. At the same time, it’s daunting to give an encore to an album as holistically spectacular and sweeping in nature as the Americana-tinged, story-telling punk rock that Impossible Past offered us; as vocalist and guitarist Greg Barnett explained to Exclaim! Magazine, “…when we first started writing, even the first note, it was like, ’Oh, where do we start?’” [Italics added for emphasis.]

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Review: Noah Gundersen – Ledges

Noah Gundersen - Ledges

There’s a moment near the beginning of Noah Gundersen’s fantastic debut album, called Ledges, where the singer/songwriter just lets loose. The song in question, a traditional Appalachian folk-like reverie called “Poor Man’s Son,” dwells for most of its runtime in a stripped down a cappella setting, Gundersen’s voice melding with his sister’s to create a sound that is instantly timeless. It feels like something that should have been on one of the T. Bone Burnett-helmed Coen Brothers soundtracks, Gundersen’s voice and style leaning more toward the recent Inside Llewyn Davis and his sister Abby’s Emmylou Harris impression – not to mention the song’s decision to directly quote from “Down in the River to Pray” – coming more from the fertile traditional music ground of O Brother Where Art Thou. The combination, frankly, is every bit as stunning as it sounds, with lyrics like “I’ve got money for food and a little bit of gasoline” gliding out like something that would have sounded equally at home in the Great Depression as it does in the current economic recession.

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Review: Taking Back Sunday – Happiness Is

Taking Back Sunday - Happiness Is

You can describe the Taking Back Sunday fandom by imagining a simple Venn diagram: one circle contains fans who only enjoy the Tell All Your Friends version, the other full of fans that prefer the band’s major label output (Louder Now and New Again). And then there’s the small intersection of fans who prefer a little bit of everything from Taking Back Sunday’s vast and diverse discography. You can see why the majority of TBS news threads are littered with hundreds of differing opinions.

The band’s sixth record, however, looks to bring those two sides together. Happiness Is is Taking Back Sunday’s first independent release in almost ten years (via Hopeless Records) and delivers that indie spirit throughout its eleven tracks. That energy is immediately felt on opening single “Flicker, Fade.” Clashing cymbals and soaring guitar chords are the backdrop as Adam Lazzara softly sings, “If you should change your name/I’d love you just the same/and if you’d run away/I’d save your place.” It’s oddly comforting, with its eruptive and incredibly catchy chorus sandwiched with the band’s mastery of soft/loud/soft dynamics. It also re-introduces John Nolan and Mark O’Connell back to the mix. Both musicians seemed lost in the overall recording of Taking Back Sunday, and on “Flicker, Fade,” Nolan delivers his impassioned yells (which buoy the song’s chaotic outro), while O’Connell’s raucous drumming gives the track (and the rest of Happiness Is) its spine.

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Steve Klein Arraigned in San Luis Obispo Court

Legal

Idobi has learned and reported that Steve Klein (ex-New Found Glory) was “arraigned (on December 12, 2013) in a San Luis Obispo court on multiple charges, including lewd conduct with a minor under the age of 14” and has pleaded not guilty.

UPDATE • March 12, 2014

We have received the following statement from Steve Klein’s (ex-New Found Glory) attorney.

It is a difficult challenge to defend oneself in the media when there is a pending criminal case. This is because people are quick to assume that if a person is charged with a crime, they are also guilty as charged. And it is especially difficult because criminal defense attorneys insist that their clients not talk about the case to ensure that their constitutional rights are protected. Furthermore, attorneys are limited by law as to what can and cannot be said about a case to the public. 

In the matter of Steve Klein, since his case has now been brought into issue by the media, I am permitted to make a few statements. To that effect, I offer you the following indisputable facts about the accusations:

1. Steve Klein is not accused of having any lewd actual physical contact with any minor. 

2. ALL charges against Steve are derived solely from online consensual video chats between Steve and some female strangers he met on an adult website. Steve believed the females were over the age of 18.

3. The females alleged to be “minors” in this case are not known females. This means that no one, not the prosecution, not the police, and not the defense, actually know who the females are and no one knows their true age. 

4. The possession of child pornography charge is based solely on Steve allegedly “possessing” the videos of chats with the female strangers from the adult website. 

This is about all I am permitted to disclose at this time. But I can tell you, from my many years of experience in this specialty area of criminal defense, I wholeheartedly believe that Steve Klein is innocent of all of these charges. 

Steve is devastated by these accusations. He has lost his band, his livelihood, and his ex-wife continues to push for full custody of his children using this case as her pawn while he literally fights for his life. Despite this heavy hand, Steve remains strong and hopeful that he will be vindicated.

UPDATE • Mar 12, 2014

New Found Glory have posted the following update:

Upon our return from Warped Tour Australia, Steve made us aware of possible allegations that might be made against him. At that point, not knowing all the details, we made the decision to part ways in order for him to deal with these personal issues. Us 4 members of New Found Glory have given our entire lives to this band and will continue to do so. We’ve been able to play all over the world for the most amazing fans. We can’t wait to get in the studio to make a new album and we can’t wait to get back on the road! Just coming off the Parahoy cruise and a surprise show in our hometown we are more inspired than ever! Thank you so much to everyone around the globe for always sticking by us. The future is bright.

This article was originally published on AbsolutePunk.net

Interview: Adam Lazzara of Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday

On March 18th Taking Back Sunday releases its sixth full-length record so we got on the phone with vocalist Adam Lazzara to learn more about it.

When did you start writing this record?

We started writing not too long after the self-titled record came out. Just because we all live in different states, whenever we got home from tour we would get together to write and find a place that was kind of out of the way so there weren’t many distractions.

This time I noticed you went with two producers, Marc Hudson and Mike Sapone, instead of returning to Eric Valentine like you did with the self-titled.

That kind of happened haphazardly because we had done a round of demos in Michigan with Marc Hudson and then we did another round of demos in New York with Mike Sapone. When it came time to actually record the record we thought things went so well when we were demoing with those guys, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’ve had a relationship with Mike Sapone since the band started so that is one reason we went back. As for Marc Hudson he’s been touring with us for years so it was just two guys we felt really comfortable with because they were our friends first. There really wasn’t much of an outside influence.

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Review: Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All

Modern Baseball - You're Gonna Miss It All

I really, really don’t like the term guilty pleasure. I think it’s a dirty phrase that’s used too often by people who don’t feel guilty at all about liking whatever they’re talking about. I used to describe the Snakes On A Plane theme song as a guilty pleasure (while we’re here: that song is a undoubtedly a high in Crush Management’s dominance over the world), but then I thought about it and decided that “guilty pleasures” do not exist. 

There is a point here, hidden underneath the layers of awesome, guiltless pleasure currently filling your ears, since I’m assuming that you clicked on that link and by now William Beckett is getting into the first chorus of the Snakes On A Plane jam. For many people, Modern Baseball’s sophomore LP, You’re Gonna Miss It All, will seem like it belongs under the umbrella of things you like but deep down you’re not really supposed to like. This makes sense to me because I felt that way about the band’s debut, Sports, for a very long time. Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald are not “technically good” at singing. Modern Baseball does not write gloriously composed instrumentals that will one day serve as a reference point upon which even more glorious songs will be written. The lyrics Lukens and Ewald belt out – sometimes loudly, sometimes softly, and sometimes mumble-y – have an expiration date on them. Case in point: The opening track, “Fine, Great,” mentions Instagram. Someday, Instagram will not exist. Probably.

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Review: Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Transgender Dysphoria Blues is the record Laura Jane Grace has been screaming to get out for many years. Two May’s ago, the Against Me! front woman revealed her lifelong struggle with gender dysphoria and came out as a transgender woman. After a flurry of press and support followed by a desolate and bleak recording process that almost killed the band rises an album that shuts out all the white noise and delivers the best Against Me! album ever. Laura Jane Grace has a lot to get off her chest, so it’ll be best if you give one of the most essential punk records of our era your full and undivided attention. 

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