Review: Emery – …In Shallow Seas We Sail

Emery - ...In Shallow Seas We Sail

After the hot mess that was I’m Only A Man, and the inconsistent EP While Broken Hearts Prevail, it was probably fairly easy to forget about Emery. But that EP was a crucial stepping-stone to bringing the post-hardcore quintet back to prominence. Laying down tracks such as “The Smile, The Face,” and “Edge of The World” proved that Emery could still deliver quality tracks. And that they do, plus more, on their fourth album, …In Shallow Seas We Sail. Masterfully produced by Aaron Sprinkle, the thirteen track album features crisp musicianship, incorporating the melodic heaviness that drew us to love Emery in the first place. 

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Review: Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown

Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown

The evolution of musical artists is an enigma in itself. While it can often polarize the fan of a beloved artist, it is absolutely fundamental for an artist to be able to grow, particularly as they become older and their longevity hinders on their next move. Surely it doesn’t always work, and many times, bands fail to ignite a fire with a large audience and are forced to step back creatively in order to earn their fans’ ears back. The approach is an anomaly since selfish listeners can’t budge and try out a drastic (or not so drastic) change, simply based on the band members’ decision to explore new depths of sound.

In 2004, Green Day did precisely what they had to do in order to maintain relevancy. There was no other choice after the mild success of 2000’s Warning, arguably their most inventive and shape-shifting album left the band in a questionable state. Following the lead of The Who down to almost a ‘T’, the band wrote a massive punk rock opera that followed the vaguely metaphorical tale of a youth living two different lives in a troubled modern era. The success paved the way for Green Day to distance themselves from their bratty punk rock past and move towards crafting ambitious efforts that rang of fierce, unsavory lashings at politics and religion, all while weaving a yarn that while still punk rock in all its context, allowed the band to develop a gratuitous sense of self while expanding their trademarked brand of punk rock.

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Review: Closure in Moscow – First Temple

Closure in Moscow - First Temple

Everyone has a type. Whether it’s a type of food (Chinese) or a type of the opposite sex (brunette), everyone has specific criteria. Equal Vision has a specific type of band. You know, the kind that incorporates melody and aggression into somewhat technical music. Damiera, Circa Survive, early Coheed and Cambria, and the list continues with Closure In Moscow

The Australian quintet is crisp; releasing melody at a quick pace. The band rarely takes their foot off the gas pedal, as opening tracks “Kissing Cousins” and “Reindeer Age” feature riffing that needles in and out, knitting tightly with Chris De Cinque’s high tenor. In fact, it’s fairly obvious that De Cinque patterns his vocals similar to Cedric Bixler of The Mars Volta. Not that it’s a bad thing, as his voice soars throughout each track. 

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Review: Anti-Flag – The People or the Gun

Anti-Flag - The People or the Gun

”I hate a song that makes you think you are no good. I hate a song that makes you think you are just born to lose.” – Woody Guthrie

Give Anti-Flag credit for never being condescending or coming across as know-it-alls. This is a band made up of four guys who like punk rock, and are willing to scrap the chance at super-stardom in order to express their messages through song. Maybe that is why so many people were upset when they signed to RCA in 2006, but were still able to release an album that maintained their own values and stuck it to the man with an ironic iron fist that was full of sarcastic wit & pent-up angst.

So, after seven full-length studio albums, Anti-Flag rode the major-label wave and wasn’t feeling the surf. Now, they are back where they belong, on a label that has been gaining some serious clout the past year, thanks to in part to their highly-praised roster (including The Gaslight Anthem and Fake Problems). While this should ultimately have the band dancing on clouds and skipping through the woods, Anti-Flag’s brand of joy comes from being exceptionally pissed off and letting you pleasure from it.

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Review: Paper Route – Absence

Paper Route - Absence

It’s tough not to sound like a pretentious music elitist when you are discussing something you feel very passionate about. So, if I come across as one right now, I apologize right off the bat. If you can’t find something to like in Paper Route, then you don’t appreciate good music. It’s even tough for me to try to convey my thoughts on this album when I can’t even fully comprehend how complex it is. 

Paper Route is a four piece band from Nashville, Tennessee that was formed in 2004 after several other bands had disassembled. As of late, the band has been touring with music scene heavyweights such as Paramore, Jack’s Mannequin, and Copeland. Audiences and fans alike have been thoroughly impressed and have had nothing but great things to say about the band, mostly because they have only been touring on a couple of EPs and haven’t had a lot of material to work with, which brings us to the present place and time, April 28, 2009. Paper Route’s debut album Absence is officially available. So how does it stack up? Let’s just say that it’s one of the best albums of the year so far.

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Review: mewithoutYou – it’s all crazy! it’s all false! it’s all a dream! it’s alright

mewithoutYou – it’s all crazy! it’s all false! it’s all a dream! it’s alright

It’s not often you hear an album described as being accessible and polarizing at the same time, but that’s exactly what happened with it’s all crazy! it’s all false! it’s all a dream! it’s alright, the fourth studio album from mewithoutYou. It’s always been Aaron Weiss’ poetic vision set to post-hardcore that leaned on angst and shouting. But on it’s all crazy, Weiss and company have exchanged that noise for something simpler, as the group focused more on their melodic and folk influences.

Don’t let the lack of riffs and electric guitars fool you though, it’s all crazy is still an intense and passionate mewithoutYou album, just this time it is channeled into pianos, accordions, and lavish compositions. Opening track, “every thought a Thought of You,” is upbeat, as electronic piano chords and a steady drum beat pace Weiss’ poetic verses. The bass lines from Greg Jehanian’s are absolutely pleasant, as it livens up the track even more. Lyrically, Weiss is still exploring theological themes, delving into the Bible and the Qur’an for lyrical inspiration.

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Review: NOFX – Coaster

NOFX - Coaster

Winner for “Most Bad-Ass Movie About Salesmen” ever, Glengarry Glen Ross, contains several memorable quotes meant to be a verbal slap in the face to those who think, notdo. Besides the clip we hear that serves as the introduction to Coaster, there are several inspired moments NOFX could have chosen as a means to indirectly imply the subject matter of the opening track. Or perhaps they could have used it as a metaphorical design to slyly reference the music industry’s current lack of wit. Fat Mike, however, provides his own words to live by, and to borrow a quote spoken by Kevin Spacey’s character: “You’ve got a big mouth… now I’m gonna show you an even bigger one.”

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Review: Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything to Nothing

Manchester Orchestra - Mean Everything to Nothing

Quick note to the rest of the albums coming out this year: The bar has just been set.

Over the years there have been a select group of artists that have become so well respected within our community that they have reached almost hallowed ground. Their recordings are considered by some as the pinnacle achievement of what our little music scene can create. These bands top many “all time favorite” lists – and even years later their influence and replayablity dominate the eardrums. I’d like to present to you the next candidate for admission: Manchester Orchestra.

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Review: Silverstein – A Shipwreck In the Sand

Silverstein - A Shipwreck In the Sand

Betrayal. Arson. Infidelity. True Love.

Two stories that parallel each other. A captain and his ship overthrown by men he put his trust into. A lover scorned by the betrayal of his woman and his best friend. A passion for fire. A concept burning with torment, confusion, and hatred. This is A Shipwreck In The Sand, and this is Silverstein’s finest offering. 

This five-piece from Ontario, Canada, have never been the frontrunners for respect in the scene. While critics continued to dismiss the band as generic post-hardcore, the band has continued to improve. Just listen to the evidence in Shane Told’s vocals. Once a shrieking mess on their debut album, When Broken Is Easily Fixed, Told’s voice now bellows with a swagger. The band has also improved musically, adding new dynamics and tempos in each album. With A Shipwreck In The Sand, the improvements we’ve heard on the previous two albums reach a maturation and refinement. 

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Review: Kelly Clarkson – All I Ever Wanted

Kelly Clarkson - All I Ever Wanted

Putting All I Ever Wanted on shuffle could, depending on your thought process, ruin or save the whole experience. A far cry from Ms. Clarkson’s very public fight to write all her own songs on My DecemberAll I Ever Wanted finds the singer co-penning just six of 14 songs (mostly with One Republic crooner Ryan Tedder). In this case, it’s a good thing Clarkson gave up some creative control, as her songs are generally the album’s weakest tracks (with the winners being string-infused rocker “Long Shot” and “Impossible”, which may be one of the best vocal performances of her storied career). Instead, All I Ever Wanted finds redeeming value in songs meant for Katy Perry or songs written by some of the biggest names in the game – lead single “My Life Would Suck Without You”, for example, has a veritable who’s-who of nameless songwriters behind it. 

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Review: A Day to Remember – Homesick

A Day to Remember - Homesick

Homesick makes it abundantly clear why so many people refuse to jump sides for A Day to Remember. There are 12 songs of the exact same heavy/lol-pop that can be heard onFor Those Who Have Heart or And Their Name Was Treason. Stick with your instincts; there are no true changes to the band’s sound. However, I finally realized the (probably intentional) trickery that comes packaged with ADTR records. Each one begins with a blistering fist pumper that’s more pop than “mosh.” The listener is instantly “amped” up (or whatever), and then it’s almost like the remaining 35 minutes don’t even matter. Your sated pleasure sensors easily discharge the forthcoming filler. But let’s say you skip that first song – or in this case, the first and second song – do you still have a great record? Quite confidently, I will say without this carefully planned dose of adrenaline you have a terrible f**king record. After we hear a shattering breakdown proclaiming “This is a battleground!” in second song “My Life For Hire,” the album becomes pretty skippable – save for a few (admittedly contagious) moments. If any band should just release EP’s, it’s A Day to Remember.

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Review: Thursday – Common Existence

Thursday - Common Existence

The critical and fan reception to Thursday’s 2006 release, A City By The Light Divided, were, at best, lukewarm. It caused a divide among fans; either you loved it or you hated it. There was no middle ground. City took on a more experimental route with Thursday’s signature sound still woven in. Some complain about the tone of the album, most complained about the production of Dave Fridmann (I personally love it). So when the Jersey sextet announced that Fridmann would be producing the band’s Epitaph debut, Common Existence, fans were naturally wary. 

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Review: Bon Iver – Blood Bank

Bon Iver - Blood Bank

Bon Iver seem to be a bit confused. Stepping out of the wintry woods and into the hot spotlight can have that effect. 

Following what has become the most infamous period of isolation since Thoreau and his picturesque pond, neo-soul man Justin Vernon has seen his debut full-length, For Emma, Forever Ago, transition from word-of-mouth exchange in 2007 to official label release on Jagjaguwar Records in 2008. The album’s brilliantly simple honesty and chilling atmospheres have captured the hearts and ears of listeners across the country, both fans and critics alike. To call For Emma, Forever Ago a success would severely understate its impact. Bon Iver have been swept up in a maelstrom of radio interviews, in-studio recordings (including Daytrotter and Myspace Transmission sessions), and tour dates with Swedish acoustic artist The Tallest Man on Earth. If fervor is your measure of achievement, then it’s also important to note that Bon Iver’s gem finished at number seven on the staff’s compiled list of The Best of 2008 and featured prominently in many staff members’ and users’ lists as well. Suffice it to say, 2008 was a pretty bang-up year for Bon Iver.

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