Review: Dustin Kensrue – Please Come Home

Dustin Kensrue - Please Come Home

Please Come Home is the freewheeling solo debut of Thrice frontman Dustin Kensrue. Kensrue’s folk-country labor of love has finally taken shape with a minimalist 8-song release featuring Thrice axe-man Teppei Teranishi and the band’s guitar tech, Chris Jones.

The album kicks off with a double-time acoustic number called “I Knew You Before.” Kensrue sends a scathing message with sharp lyrics aimed at the degradation of women. Interesting fare, for sure, and it proves quite the compelling opener for Please Come Home. The title track is a rather unexpected ballad that stands proud although at times seemingly scattered. The arrangements feel a little off until Kensrue hits the chorus for the first time, and then he finds his groove. “Blanket of Ghosts” is the surefire sleeper song on the album. Sounding as though Kensrue decided to channel Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz, the song meanders along with an organ-heavy accompaniment (courtesy of Thrice’s Teranishi). Many listeners may skip this song, but it reminds me a lot of Duritz’s “A Long December,” with its slick lyrics, extended solos, and pleasing tone.

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Review: Sugarcult – Lights Out

Sugarcult - Lights Out

Just about every band out there ends up with a song or two expressing a deep-held desire to spread their wings because they are jaded with the current state of affairs. Sugarcult’s third album, Lights Out, is jaded and yearning for more, which is ultimately what their fans may feel upon repeated listens.

Sugarcult have always relied on squealing instrumentals sure to get fans jumping around and singing along, even if the music falls squarely into the pop-punk category. Lights Outis no different, although the tones are just a little bit darker and Tim Pagnotta’s vocals just a little bit rougher than we have heard before. The title track is merely a shout-along intro to “Dead Living,” which will get you well acquainted with the overall sound of the new CD. Glossed production brings the manic-depressive “Los Angeles” to the forefront of the CD in all its shimmering glory and radio readiness. Sugarcult has always stood on the strength of their singles, and as the second single, “Los Angeles” will help them try to return to the mainstream. Following quickly is “Do It Alone” (the first single from Lights Out, conveniently), which provides a more upbeat song reminiscent of Start Static. The chorus repeats a bit too often, but it is certainly sugary and memorable.

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Review: +44 – When Your Heart Stops Beating

+44 - When Your Heart Stops Beating

It’s inevitable, +44 and Angels & Airwaves will be (unfairly) compared. Yes, both bands feature members from one of the most influential pop-punk bands ever, blink-182. And yes, both bands released their hotly anticipated albums this year. But, this is where all the comparisons end. While AVA’s album was trying to be the next U2, Mark Hoppus wrote more about the end of blink and how horrible his past year had been. While +44 isn’t completely different than from the sound blink-182 captured on their last release, it would be an injustice to the band to categorize their debut album, When Your Heart Stops Beating, as “blink-182 with synths.” It’s much more than that on this thirteen track journey. Produced by Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker, with some help from executive producer Jerry Finn features a nice balance of upbeat pop-punk tunes, arena-sized rockers, and somber tracks. 

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Review: Deftones – Saturday Night Wrist

Deftones - Saturday Night Wrist

Throughout their long career, Deftones have been pushing the musical boundaries of metal since day one. Their first two albums (1995’s Adrenaline and 1997’s Around The Fur) were raw, chaotic, and in your face. After a 3 year break, the Sacramento band, which was originally a quartet (vocalist/guitarist Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter, bassist Chi Cheng, and drummer Abe Cunningham), officially added keyboardist/DJ Frank Delgado to the mix, and released the genre defying White Pony. Heavier, moodier, and complex, it prompted all major music publications to crown them as the “Radiohead of Metal.” It is also very likely that White Pony influenced some of your favorite post-hardcore bands recent albums. After all the success and hype (Pony went on to go platinum), Deftones followed it up with 2003’s self titled effort, which left much to be desired. The band has said they became lazy on that record and that album showed how much they put into it. Leaving many fans disappointed, Deftones barely toured to support that record, and many began to forget about them and/or write them off. Their latest release, Saturday Night Wrist, is here to win back those fans and erase the disappointment of the last album. 

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Review: Converge – No Heroes

Converge - No Heroes

This Halloween, just like any other, many people go out looking for something that’ll scare them. They search for something that rattle their bones, haunt their dreams, and leave a lasting impression on their senses. While most people will look for this sensation in the wrong places, such as going to cheesy haunted houses or wasting eight bucks on Saw III, I am here to point you towards something that is truly horrific, brutal and unforgiving. This “something” is nothing but Converge’s latest hardcore offering, the ruthless No Heroes. The longtime Boston outfit – vocalist/madman Jake Bannon, guitarist Kurt Ballou, bassist Nate Newton, and drummer Ben Koller – are back to old habits here, as fans who were disappointed by 2004’s You Fail Me will be happy to notice somewhat of a return back to the style of Petitioning The Empty Sky and When Forever Comes Crashing. Produced by Ballou and guided by Bannon’s artistic vision and meditative lyrics, No Heroes is here to take no prisoners. 

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Review: My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade

The Black Parade

You may love to rip them for what you perceive their image to be. But there’s one thing you can’t take away from the powerhouse known as My Chemical Romance: This is a group of talented musicians with a vision that refuse to apply the brakes to their imagination, creativity, and ability. 

The New Jersey quintet – singer Gerard Way, bassist Mikey Way, guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero, drummer Bob Bryar – has pulled out all the stops for The Black Parade and has released anything but a sequel to their last material. The 13-track (14 if you want to get technical and include the “Hidden Track”) effort will leave you with a feeling like that of being in a theatre on Broadway, watching dancers and singers bring to life the latest Andrew Lloyd Weber tale.

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Review: Dead Poetic – Vices

Dead Poetic - Vices

Maynard James Keenan would be proud. 

Being the new millennium and all, alternative music of today has strayed from the place of where alternative music came from in the early 90s. Bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Tool stood as monuments for how rock and roll would be angrier and more personal, intuitive and unabbreviated. On Vices, Dead Poetic have certainly bottled that charisma and whittled away any form of screamo critics thought they were. Capturing themes of—you guessed it—vices, the lyrical development of Vices strains through sexuality, pride, vanity and ultimately redemption.

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Review: Copeland – Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Copeland - Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Every so often, a band comes into the music scene and establishes an enigmatic relationship with their fans. Not in a Radiohead-esque way, but they look just a little bit deeper than everyone else and their fans grow fiercely loyal, just as the haters ruthlessly defend their feelings. Copeland is one of those bands. Three original studio albums into their career on The Militia Group, each has been an exercise in creativity, expansive songwriting, and flamboyant musical excess. Eat, Sleep, Repeat, despite its mundane title, is the pinnacle of the band’s career so far, and both sides of the scene will be coming to blows for years over this CD. 

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Review: A Static Lullaby – A Static Lullaby

A Static Lullaby - A Static Lullaby

In 2003, a small five-piece from California named A Static Lullaby released their debut album, …And Don’t Forget To Breathe, on Ferret Records and where one of the first bands to make the “sing-scream” pattern huge. Forget To Breathe was a gateway album for many people, as it was the first album kids heard of this style. As they developed a devout following, they signed to major label Columbia records and released what we would call the sophomore slump. ASL released Faso Latido in 2005 and switched up their style a bit, making their sound more rock-orientated. Needless to say, this blew up in their face; they were dropped by Columbia and were near breaking up. 3 original members – bassist/vocalist Phil Pirrone, drummer Brett Dinovo, and guitarist Nate Lindeman – quit the band to pursue other projects, leaving the other two members, vocalist Joe Brown and guitarist/vocalist Dan Arnold in a tight spot. Instead of retiring A Static Lullaby for good, they recruited three new members – guitarist John Death, bassist Dane Poppin, and drummer Jarrod Alexander – and signed to a new label (Fearless) to release their self-titled third album. Produced by Steve Evetts (Saves The Day, He Is Legend, Lifetime), A Static Lullaby is a return to their roots; Brown’s scream dominates many tracks and the song structures closely follow those of Forget To Breathe. This album is meant to bring back their old fans, which this album succeeds at doing.

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Review: Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds

Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds

Justin Timberlake obviously missed the whole “quit while you’re on top” lecture. Too stubborn to exit the public after his stint on the Mickey Mouse Club with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and JC Chasez, Timberlake recruited a juggernaut boy band which danced and moaned their way to the fastest selling album of all time, 2000’s No Strings Attached. Still craving an artistic outlet, a few more heaping piles of cash, or perhaps simple celebrity, Timberlake embarked on his solo journey after ‘N Sync’s 2002 demise. Rather than subtly testing the waters of solitude, the former paragon of all things squeaky clean and role model-worthy made ferocious waves everywhere by inundating fans and detractors alike with both a redeveloped persona and revamped sound. Conquering the masses with his debut chart-topper Justified, which sold a towering 7,000,000 some-odd copies worldwide left J.T. feeling unfulfilled still. Enter FutureSex/LoveSounds.

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Review: Spitalfield – Better Than Knowing Where You Are

Spitalfield - Better Than Knowing Where You Are
It’s just another stretch of highway. 
I never asked for ordinary. 
Time and time change. 
If I rewrote this it might just sound the same.

Those are the words that begin Spitalfield’s third album, Better Than Knowing Where You Are. That intro (titled “Dare To…”), backed by dreamy guitar tones and softly sung by vocalist and guitarist Mark Rose, displays the writing perspective from the Chicago quartet. Spitalfield has never written the same record twice, from the pop-punk goodness of their debut, Remember Right Now to the more rock-orientated second album, 2005’s Stop Doing Bad Things. These lyrics can also be directed towards Spitalfield’s fans, the majority of which despised the critically acclaimed Bad Things, longing for the pop-filled hooks that dominated Right Now. Fans need not worry about the groups latest (and best) offering yet. Combining the hooks and melody of the first record along with the maturity of the second, Better Than Knowing displays how much progression this band has made over the course of their eight year existence.

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Review: John Mayer – Continuum

John Mayer - Continuum
And if we had the power 
to bring our neighbors home from war
They would have never missed a Christmas
No more ribbons on the door

John Mayer aims straight for the heart with his poignant fourth studio album, Continuum. The anti-war anthem and lead single “Waiting On the World to Change” gives listeners, both old and new, an idea of how far Mayer has come. To be frank, this is no “Your Body Is A Wonderland.” With Continuum, Mayer broadens his fan base by infusing a very blues and R&B-influenced sound. On the next track, Mayer strips down the soft-pop sound and builds “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)” around an effervescently jazzy guitar piece. He has proven both his durability and versatility as a songwriter with Continuum. Mayer designs each melody delicately in order to best capture the listener’s heart; this stellar CD should attract an amalgam of old and new fans.

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Review: mewithoutYou – Brother, Sister

mewithoutYou - Brother, Sister

Last summer, my friend Scott Weber told me I must get into mewithoutYou—that they are a pivotal band, creative and non-linear—every five-dollar word Pitchfork Media would use to worship a Sufjan Stevens or Mogwai album. Putting it nicely, I thought they were rather over-the top and boring at the same time. Where were the driving choruses and upbeat melodies? I mean you have to have one or the other right? Fast forward almost a year later and I’m singing their praises, first acknowledging the pure poetry of their art—from there it was all butter. 

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Review: Senses Fail – Still Searching

Senses Fail - Still Searching

In the August issue of Alternative Press, Senses Fail vocalist and lyricist Buddy Nielsen had this to say about his lyrics for the new album: “No violence; no blood; none of that stupid shit. I want to be as honest as possible. Most of the songs are about the past year of my life, when I had a mental breakdown – I basically went crazy.” These words hold true on the New Jersey quintet’s second album, Still Searching. Gone are the songs about chainsaws, digging up dead girlfriends, and his obsession with fire. Instead, Nielsen’s lyrics are self-reflective and open about his struggles with depression and alcohol. This is a nice change from the cliché-ridden lyrics from Let It Enfold You and instantly you can tell Senses Fail have grown up, which was helped by Midtown guitarist Heath Saraceno, who joined the band on tour and then played and influenced the sessions of Searching. Immediately, the musicianship, most notably the guitars, have improved tenfold, thus strengthening all thirteen songs. The effort still has some notable flaws, but that’s not to take away from how much this band has matured and improved over the course of 2 years.

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