Review: Hawthorne Heights – If Only You Were Lonely

Hawthorne Heights - If Only You Were Lonely

There are two overly weak aspects of Hawthorne Heights’ If Only You Were Lonely, and they are the same two elements that plagued their high selling The Silence in Black and White. Lyrically, Hawthorne Heights needs a lot of work to pass up the post-hardcore clichés of their predecessors in their own songwriting, and they need to do something more profound with their triad of guitars. When you have three people playing the same instrument and a bassist to add to the mix, we need something more complex than a flourish or a little reverb here and there to accent the lead guitar. Any metal or hardcore band worth their salt can play something similar with one guitarist and a bassist; the band has a huge opportunity to make grippingly corrosive music to curl your toes, the likes of which modern music has not seen. Instead, The Fully Down (who also have three guitarists) put Hawthorne Heights to shame in that department.

Read More “Hawthorne Heights – If Only You Were Lonely”

Review: Yellowcard – Lights and Sounds

Yellowcard - Lights and Sounds

This is an open letter to Yellowcard, a band whose album Ocean Avenue I consider one of my favorite “summer albums,” and who hail from Jacksonville, in my adopted home state of Florida. I will welcome any attempt by the band to contact me regarding this review/open letter, and I am looking forward to reading fans’ thoughts.

Dear Yellowcard,

So you’ve finally gotten over the MTV-spurred major-label buzz from Ocean Avenue and the unceremonious banishment of guitarist and founding member Ben Harper (who you have replaced by former Staring Back guitarist Ryan Mendez) in time to build on that promising hype you generated back in 2003. The hype is there, with your lead single hitting the airwaves only about half a million times a day. With electrically charged guitar riffs, the title track is fun to listen to the first few times. But Ryan, your voice needs a little bit more “oomph.” I believe that as a band, you have managed to earn early “worst of ’06” honors for your abysmally awful “Down On My Head,” which stinks up the third spot on the CD. Did you just take cheesy emo lyrics, put them on repeat, and toss in a little bit of one-dimensional harmonizing for good measure to make sure the song is dead as a doornail? I’m of course going to say this and you’ll pick it as the next single, catapulting this steaming pile of dung into trendy oblivion. After your listeners work their way through that drag of a song (or just press “skip forward”), I have to give you props for the first solid track on Lights and Sounds. “Sure Thing Falling” is hard charging and overwhelmingly hooky, which plays to its advantage. I enjoy the brief interlude from violinist extraordinaire Sean Mackin late in the song as well, which adds some depth to this catchy piece of music. Characterized by a throaty bass line and simple yet well-written guitar riffs, “Sure Thing Falling” will hits your listeners hardest with the infectious lyrics, which are probably the best on the album. One for two isn’t bad.

Read More “Yellowcard – Lights and Sounds”

Interview: Matt Squire

Matt Squire

This interview was conducted via email on January 14th, 2006 with record producer Matt Squire (Northstar, The Receiving End of Sirens, Panic! At the Disco, The Junior Varsity, Hit the Lights, etc., etc., etc). I don’t know how to thank Matt enough for the work he put into this interview. It was extremely long, he’s a busy man, and yet he still came up with detailed, thorough answers.

Read More “Matt Squire”

Review: Motion City Soundtrack – Commit This to Memory

Motion City Soundtrack - Commit This to Memory

Having garnered much praise and acclaim for their Moog-laced, high-octane, pop-tinged, full length debut I Am the Movie, expectations for Motion City Soundtrack’s follow-up, Commit This to Memory, were astronomically high, especially with Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 fame on board as producer. So, with all the build-up and the big name attached to the project, did Motion City Soundtrack deliver? Absolutely, and then some.

Read More “Motion City Soundtrack – Commit This to Memory”

Review: Finch – Say Hello to Sunshine

Finch - Say Hell to To Sunshine

It’s been three very long years for Finch fans across the world. After the immense success of the band’s debut full-length What it is to Burn, fans grew tired of watching Finch play tour after tour, performing the same songs that had since grown old. Although Finch had played a large part in triggering the so-called “screamo” explosion, their sound had been replicated by hundreds of other bands who tried to cash in on the screamo fad. Of course, Finch was one the first bands to become a commercial success while performing that style of music. That was three long years ago, and the Finch faithful have been anxiously awaiting another album with bated breath. New demos began to surface, and reactions were widely varied. The consensus seemed to be that everybody absolutely hated Finch’s new style, or loved it. One thing was for sure – Finch’s new material was not going to be What it is to Burn part 2. That brings us to today, just days before Finch’s long awaited follow-up album, Say Hello to Sunshine.

Read More “Finch – Say Hello to Sunshine”

Review: All Time Low – The Party Scene

All Time Low - The Party Scene

I remember when I was 17 years old. I did a lot of stupid things, as well as some great things, but I never did what the 4 members of All Time Low did. That would be releasing a debut album under independent label Emerald Moon Records. Hailing from Baltimore, All Time Low (consisting of lead vocalist and guitarist Alex Gaskarth, guitarist Jack Barakat, bassist Zack Merrick, and drummer Rian Dawson) have released an album, titled “The Party Scene”, filled with great melodies, catchy sing-alongs, and energizing guitar hooks. If you were listening to this album for the first time, not knowing who the band was, you would think that this would be an established pop-punk band’s second or third album. You would think that a band with four 17 year-olds wouldn’t be able to write an album as good as this. But All Time Low has surprised many, showing that they are very talented despite how young they are. Prepare yourself for 40 minutes of some of the best pop-punk you’ll hear all year.

Read More “All Time Low – The Party Scene”

Review: Panic! at the Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out

Panic! At the Disco - A Fever You Can't Sweat Out

Let’s just get it out of the way: Panic! At the Disco sounds like Fall Out Boy. Extraordinarily so. And it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed: “Is this Patrick Stump’s side project?” and “I honestly thought this was Fall Out Boy playing a joke on people until they started playing shows” are common replies in news posts here regarding the band. You get the idea. Let’s just accept the fact that they’re a bit derivative (hell, they christened themselves after a line in the Name Taken song “Panic”), and go from there.

There has been a shit-load of buzz regarding Panic!: their idea of posting clips of songs from the album on Purevolume on Fridays and full versions on Tuesdays has almost necessitated a good many news posts on AP and on other webzines, which in turn has really put their name out there and gotten people talking about them. Here’s the thing though—people wouldn’t care talk about them unless they were really good, or really bad. And they’re not really bad.

Read More “Panic! at the Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out”

Interview: Vinnie Fiorello of Less Than Jake

Less Than Jake

Hey, Vinnie. It’s nice to have you here again for round two of the “Brandon vs. Vinnie Interview Series”. What’s been happening since the last time we sat down?

Well, we are in the studio recording our new record in North Hollywood. It’s been 18 days so far. Howard Benson is producing it. He did our Hello Rockview record, but also POD, My Chemical Romance, Motorhead, Papa Roach, Rooney, and The All-American Rejects. It’s going fast. We are almost done.

Read More “Vinnie Fiorello of Less Than Jake”

Review: Plain White T’s – All That We Needed

Plain White T’s – All That We Needed

Within the first few seconds, the impression is given that this is going to be a fun album. However, a crucial question lingers – will the fun last? The answer is an emphatic NO. The opening track, “All That We Needed”, is a really basic pop-rock song. Clean, simplistic rhythms work the song forward with high, jumpy bass lines. The snare jumps out of your speakers with a pop and my head was nodding without giving it any thought. It’s nothing new – but it’s done really well, as the repetitive chorus will remain in your mind for hours. This is a good thing – for one song. Not 13 songs. The album progresses into a darker song, “Revenge”. This is when the lyrics started to annoy me – “I’ve got the microphone so don’t go too far, I’m gonna tell the whole world how you really are”. The bubbly undertone provided by the album opener has managed to disappear in this song, as the verse is overly basic, the same pulsing beat pops in after each vocal line is spoken throughout the song. No variation means the song isn’t interesting.

Read More “Plain White T’s – All That We Needed”

Review: Acceptance – Phantoms

Acceptance - Phantoms

It’s ironic that such a great summer album leaked online a month after the summer of 2004 was over. Now, in April 2005, Acceptance’s debut full-length Phantoms is about to become the mainstream summer hit of 2005. There’s a lot of pressure on this album to sell. A major label debut for a band with no proven mainstream success? A ballad (“Different”) being marketed as the first single? An album leak 6 months before the street release? A lot of questions have been raised regarding this band, but Acceptance has created an album to silence the doubters. Acceptance’s brand of catchy, emotional pop-rock stands out from the pack with killer hooks and stunning vocals. This band is about to take over the airwaves.

Read More “Acceptance – Phantoms”

Review: A Static Lullaby – Faso Latido

A Static Lullaby - Faso Latido

Does this band even have fans anymore? A Static Lullaby has returned with their major label debut but sadly nobody seems to care. The disinterest shown by music fans is not unmerited. Faso Latido is an uninspired sophomore album, full of predictable transitions, lackluster energy, and over the top production. The one thing that made A Static Lullaby remotely enjoyable in the first place was the fact that they had a moderate amount of energy. When this energy was manifested, the band truly put forth a good sound. Sadly, this album contains none of it. A Static Lullaby has two vocalists – the singer also drums, and then there’s the screamer who runs around stage awkwardly when he has nothing to do (see Atreyu, Underoath). While those bands have released follow-up albums that utilize all their vocalists, ASL’s sophomore effort does the opposite. A majority of the vocals are now singing only, in fact there are some songs where there is virtually no screaming at all. I’m not condoning or suggesting excessive amounts of screaming by any means, but the entire album lacks life. “Stand Up” is a catchy number that lasts for about 45 seconds before a sharp realization came to me – A Static Lullaby has turned into every other radio screaming band out there. Short verses, predictable choruses that get repeated over and over again for some instant sugar coated bullshit to make listeners happy. Put “Stand Up” on the new Trapt album and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The screaming, when used, is as obnoxious as ever. It comes in awkward places and is too intense for the often laid back musicianship. Additionally, the slow chanting/talking into screaming transition can only be used so many times.

Read More “A Static Lullaby – Faso Latido”

Review: Hit the Lights – Until We Get Caught

Hit the Lights – Until We Get Caught

Within 20 seconds of popping in this CD, I had to eject it and make sure I wasn’t listening to new Fall Out Boy demos. The vocal stylings, chord progressions, and mixing all sound very familiar – there’s even gang vocal shouts in the background. Yet despite these similarities, Hit the Lights is very capable of making some noise of their own. Despite this, the CD is permeated with parts that sound exactly like other bands. This EP is 5 songs of infectiously catchy pop-punk that is decently produced and is full of talent, but you have to wonder how much of the instrumentation was indirectly taken from other bands. Still, the verses are full of thick, driving melodies that induce foot-tapping. The second track, “At 6:00, We Go Live,” really fascinated me, basically because it was composed entirely of different sections of pop-punk songs I’d heard before. The drum fills, the stop and go breakdowns, the strumming patterns…it’s all very familiar. Yet I can’t say that the result was anything I didn’t enjoy. Hit the Lights don’t pretend to be anything they’re not – they play catchy, formulaic pop-punk, and they do it well.

Read More “Hit the Lights – Until We Get Caught”

Review: Valencia – This Could Be a Possibility

Valencia - This Could Be a Possibility

Anyone who’s been paying attention to emo/punk e-zine message boards over the last few weeks has undoubtedly noticed a certain buzz regarding one relatively new, obscure band. With each passing day, the buzz has slowly grown louder and louder, as more and more people have chimed in, claming that “this band will be an instant favorite,” and that “pop punk has found its savior.” Signed to I Surrender Records, Rob Hitt of Midtown’s label, Valencia is the band underground pop punk lovers have been raving over lately—and for good reason. This Could Be a Possibility, Valencia’s debut album, is exactly the kick in the pants pop punk has needed for a while now.

Read More “Valencia – This Could Be a Possibility”

Review: Sherwood – Sing, But Keep Going

Sherwood - Sing, But Keep Going

Sherwood’s sophomore effort his stores May 31st on Side Cho Records, and it just may be the happiest thing to hit your ears all year. In an explosion of pop and rock, Sherwood has not abandoned the style of music experienced on their self-titled EP, but rather embraced it. The EP was full of generic tracks that were easily forgettable, and it seemed like it was time for Sherwood to add some flair to their musicianship or forever be lost in the world of piano-pop emo rock. The EP had some moments of pop bliss to it, and Sherwood has taken those parts they did best and blown it up into an excellent full-length album. Well-produced and full of tender, beautiful melodies, Sing, But Keep Going is an outstanding pop record to transition the seasons into summer.

Read More “Sherwood – Sing, But Keep Going”