Review: The Almost – Monster Monster

The Almost – Monster Monster

After being the sole operator of his side project debut Southern Weather, Aaron Gillespie expanded his solo effort into a full band deal, which may explain the increase of variety in The Almost’s second album, Monster Monster.

Monster Monster retains the aggressiveness that Southern Weather possessed while diversifying the tempos and compositions as well. Produced by Aaron Sprinkle, Gillespie’s voice has never sounded stronger. Musically, Monster Monster twists and turns, sometimes severely. In fact, Monster Monster channels Foo Fighters a lot more than it does its scene contemporaries. 

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Review: Say Anything – Say Anything

Say Anything - Say Anything

Max Bemis isn’t pissed anymore. Well, he’s still got a bit of a chip on his shoulder about a few things, but when you just got hitched to a beautiful singer, wife Sherri Dupree of Eisley, why would you continue to be a shell of a man, one that seems bitter at the world they’re playing their heart out in? Bemis is no longer the little kid scared of the world, maturing from a real boy to a kid set to save it. The band’s self-titled isn’t the double disc venture of last time, but a compact one still attempting different elements of pop: some great, some confusing, all Say Anything.

From the start of the disc, the band’s attempts of “pop,” or something like it, are well received through the guitar work of the opening “Fed to Death.” For a second, the opener shines over the city, and possibly sounds as uplifting as anything from Andrew McMahon vocally, but lyrically, a religious open forum, two stories, the later obviously about Jesus Christ.

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Review: Weezer – Raditude

Weezer - Raditude

Let it go. Weezer’s days of recording classic material that ranks anywhere near their self-titled “blue” album or Pinkerton are done; that Weezer sound is dead. Yet, that anticipation from fans everywhere has continued upon the arrival of each new Weezer record. Five albums into their new millennium comeback and well, nothing has changed: Rivers Cuomo and his band of brothers are still recording goofball pop music with joyful rhythms and tepid lyrics… and by now, you’d be ignorant to believe it will change. Raditude is Weezer’s seventh full-length release and their most widely-collaborative effort. After last year’s third self-titled “red” album failed to impress many fans with the band’s experimental side, Weezer changed things up and hired veteran pop producer Butch Walker to helm the boards, as well as co-write a few songs. Jacknife Lee was also brought back, and despite their last effort’s lack of appeal, the band stuck with a few ideas that continue to amplify their teamwork mantra (for example, all members share songwriting duties).

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Review: Tegan and Sara – Sainthood

Tegan and Sara - Sainthood
I practiced on my sainthood
I gave to one and all
But the rumours of my virtue
They moved her not at all

The lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s 1976 song, “Came So Far For Beauty,” work as the inspiration behind Sainthood, the sixth studio album from twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin. For the last ten years, the Canadian musicians have worn their hearts on their sleeves with their music. Starting out as the little folk duo that could, the sisters have matured into one of the finest indie rock bands today. They’ve beautifully grown into their song writing and Sainthood is a testament to that, as it is the finest work of their career.

Yes, the theme of the album still revolves around relationships, but Sainthood features the best lyrics the sisters have ever written. Continuing the trend set on 2007’s The Con, Tegan and Sara’s lyrics go deeper than the typical relationship drama. The struggle, grief, and bitterness bleed and breathe throughout the album. In one instance, Tegan wants to make a relationship work, only to realize it’s futile on the aptly titled, Cure-tinged “The Cure.” Immediately after, Tegan closes herself off to every one on the punk-flavored “Northshore.” The lyrics throughout Sainthood convey many emotions. Frankly, the conversations here are just more adult. Over the eerie, electronic vibe of “Night Watch,” Sara admits, "I need distance from your body / I deserve this anguish on my house." You’d never hear a line like this even five years ago from this band, displaying the lyrical strides Tegan and Sara have made.

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Review: A Rocket To The Moon – On Your Side

A Rocket To The Moon - On Your Side

The monotony overwhelms. A chorus flies by and I barely look up from my fourth plate of nachos. Some people drink when they’re upset – and even worse, some people write pop songs – but I just eat. Plate after plate after plate of squirrel soup, peanut casserole or pizza. Never has an album begat so many munchies. Every time I feel full or sick to my stomach, another bland “I Miss You REAL BAD” mantra flies by and I must once again stuff my face with that which makes me fat and happy. It might seem like a lazy mechanism, but so is A Rocket To The Moon’s music. There’s no soul, no urgency and definitely no sustainability. I’d be offended that On Your Side existed if it didn’t mean so much pepperoni pizza.

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Review: Cartel – Cycles

Cartel - Cycles

After suffering a disaster of Titanic-like proportions (the actual boat, not the movie), Cartel are hoping to recover from the self-titled backlash with Cycles, an album that proves Chroma was the initial jump, Cartel was the (imperfect) landing and Cycles is the massive bounce back. Full of shimmering pop numbers built on shiny-riffs and colossal production, Cycles is a dubious return to the power-pop that launched the band into the stratosphere. “Let’s Go” shakes off all previous binds and lets the band rock their socks off before ensuring that the slump is now indeed over. While there isn’t anything as riveting or as bombastic as the “Q/A” combo, Cartel prove that keeping it simple is just as wildly spirited as anything else they have achieved.

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Review: Taking Back Sunday – Tell All Your Friends

Taking Back Sunday - Tell All Your Friends


“So sick, so sick of being tired/And oh so tired of being sick/We’re both such magnificent liars/So crush me baby, I’m all ears.”

These are the words that open Tell All Your Friends, the debut full-length album by the Long Island band Taking Back Sunday. Although the band had been together for some three years by the time of the album’s 2002 release, they had undergone numerous lineup changes—including a new lead singer—and had just recently solidified their sound, with Adam Lazzara mainly at the helm vocal-wise, with support from guitarist and founding member John Nolan. The two also shared songwriting and lyric writing duties on the album.

Tell All Your Friends grabs the listener’s attention from the start. The album begins with feedback before Nolan’s ringing guitar riff and Mark O’Connell’s fast-paced, sliding drum line jolt “You Know How I Do” into action. And then, less than fifteen seconds into the song, Lazzara begins singing the lines given at the beginning of this review. “So sick, so sick of being tired…” However, the listener isn’t just hearing vocals Lazzara recorded for some song because it sounds good. When you listen to the songs on Tell All Your Friends, it really is so much more than entertainment. At the risk of sounding cliché, you feel what Lazzara (or Nolan) is feeling.

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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.

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Review: Mayday Parade – Anywhere but Here

Mayday Parade - Anywhere but Here

When Mayday Parade’s self-released EP (which would later be picked up by Fearless) dropped in 2006, it seemed even then that bigger things lay ahead for the band. Besides the Fever You Can’t Sweat Out-flavored “When I Get Home You’re So Dead,” which would get a bit of a makeover for their full-length bow A Lesson in Romantics, the songs weren’t quite there yet, and a few tended to drag on a bit (“Three Cheers for Five Years” approached the six-minute mark), but they had that sound, just the right blend of pop sensibility and rock crunch, that suggested inevitable future success.

It hasn’t exactly been a meteoric rise, but with sales of Romantics surpassing 130,000 units, Mayday Parade earned a major label billing for its follow-up Anywhere but Here, as well as a pairing with hitmaking producer David Bendeth. The resulting album retains a little of the sunny pop-punk of their previous releases– album opener “Kids in Love,” which is very much in an All-American Rejects vein, is a good example– but mostly goes in a darker pop-rock direction, reminiscent of Sugarcult’s Palm Trees and Power Lines. It’s generally likable and probably has a better shot at catching on with rock audiences without losing the pop element, though established fans might be a little disappointed that there’s nothing as immediately snappy as “When I Get Home You’re So Dead” or “Jamie All Over.”

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Review: Brand New – Daisy

Brand New - Daisy

Brand New never sent you a lyric booklet for their 2006 release, The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, and that probably pisses you off. 

Brand New doesn’t write “hooky” songs like “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad” or “The Quiet Things No One Ever Knows” anymore, and that probably pisses you off.

Brand New doesn’t like to talk to American press very often, if at all, and that probably pisses you off.

Brand New gave their new songs short, vague titles instead of quirky, long-winded titles, and that probably pisses you off.

Brand New named their new album Daisy, and that probably pisses you off.

Brand New decided to place a fox in a forest on the cover, and that probably pisses you off.

Brand New doesn’t care. 

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Review: AFI – Crash Love

AFI - Crash Love

When it comes to AFI’s legacy, there are two sides to the story: there is the independent, hardcore punk outfit that shook stages of local circuits for several years in the 1990’s, and there is the considerably more popular band that signed to a major-label in 2002. The debate continues to rage on as to which version of the band is “better,” but the fact of the matter is AFI has never been the same one-trick pony some punk bands can often remain. By the time the new millennium rolled around, The Art of Drowning was goth-punk perfection and shot AFI’s name into the stratosphere. They were no longer the wildly spastic hardcore band that answered things and stayed fashionable — they were now full-blown rock stars (oh snap, someone call the DIY police, because they be breaking all kinds of punk rock “laws”).

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Review: Relient K – Forget and Not Slow Down

Relient K - Forget and Not Slow Down

This is it how it should always happen. Relient K, a band once known for quirky little pop culture references peppered with mild God-isms, is now a pop-rock powerhouse. With more former members than current ones, the band has somehow outlasted every complication, including 2007’s absolutely terrible output Five Score and Seven Years Ago. That abomination’s only silver lining is its sneak peeks at the joy within Forget and Not Slow Down. Singer Matt Thiessen has bounced back with the best choruses and most emotionally charged songs of his career. But what becomes most apparent during Forget and Not Slow Down is its cohesiveness, that indefinable feeling when everything is exactly where it should be. A first for the band, intros like “Oasis” and outros like “Flare” create brief moments of reflection before their counterparts continue the noble task of blowing us away. Lucky you, welcome to 2009’s Swan Song.

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Review: The Swellers – Ups and Downsizing

The Swellers - Ups and Downsizing

Every new year, resolutions are far easier to purposely ignore than to follow through with. For instance, being fiscally conservative when you just gotta have their cool new rollerblades (here I come, Venice Boardwalk!), or cutting down on fast food (but they’re two tacos for 99 cents, you bastard!). The new year brings out new opportunities, a fresh start and more importantly, an end to everything that came before it (The Happeningnever happened).

Hailing from Flint, Michigan, The Swellers are four average dudes who come from an environment in which upbringing is reflected in your attitude and getting out of dodge isn’t as easy as it seems when high school finally ends. The working-class town was one of the focal points in the documentary film Bowling For ColumbineFlashdance Roger and Me and for the Swellers’ sophomore full-length (and Fueled by Ramen debut), Ups and Downsizing, is a coming-of-age record about everything going on in their own lives — and seeing it all from the sidelines as well.

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Review: Saosin – In Search of Solid Ground

Saosin - In Search of Solid Ground

It is not a well-kept secret that I was a bit enamored with Saosin’s debut LP. The timing of that record and the execution of it seemed damn near perfect at the time. The stars just kind of aligned for that release, and Saosin has been riding the wave ever since. And going back to listen to that self-titled gem now, I still stand by everything I said – the combination of soaring vocals, upper echelon musicianship, and flawless production made for a work deserving of its transcendence beyond the post-hardcore roots that spawned it. So here we are, three years later – has the band used its accomplishments and notoriety as a launchpad to create another killer record? Or is their sophomore effort a perfunctory exercise in simply going through the motions?

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Review: Every Time I Die – New Junk Aesthetic

Every Time I Die - New Junk Aesthetic

Every Time I Die wants to destroy the world. While their previous albums have inflicted some damage on Mother Earth, the Buffalo quintet is not satisfied. The fact of the matter is ETID wants to leave their mark, so they’ve promised that their fifth studio album (and Epitaph debut), New Junk Aesthetic, would blow a huge gaping asshole into the earth. So if you’ve felt the earth shake recently, that’s just me recklessly playing this album way too loud, as New Junk Aesthetic is the heaviest Every Time I Die record to date.

Working with producer Steve Evetts once again, Every Time I Die set out to give manbirth to the most vicious record off their career; a record that kicks you in the teeth, shreds your balls, and shows no mercy. [Opening track “Roman Holiday” sets the bar high, as fuzzy feedback and a dirty riff scribble their way across the song before bowing out to a devastating breakdown that could TKO Brock Lesnar. “The Marvelous Slut” is full of urgency as vocalist Keith Buckley yells, “Why do I always give myself away?,” as Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan’s vocalist) adds some nice backing screams. 

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