Review: John Mayer – Paradise Valley

John Mayer - Paradise Valley

Tell a bunch of people you meet at a party that John Mayer is one of your favorite songwriters, and you may get a few curt nods, perhaps even one or two wide-eyed declarations of agreement, but quite often, you will see rolled eyes and barely restrained scoffs instead. Whether a result of the off-putting public persona Mayer was putting forth a few years ago or a lingering disrespect for the artist’s early pop radio hits, I have found that a lot of people still dismiss John Mayer as an asshole, a playboy, and a mediocre songwriter. I can’t claim to have met the man and wouldn’t presume to make accusations in the first two categories, but I have always found it strange that my friends and family members don’t share so much as a fraction of my adoration for Mayer’s musical output, especially because he has proven himself to be so much more than just the twenty-something heartthrob that sang “Your Body is a Wonderland” on MTV over a decade ago. 

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Review: The 1975 – The 1975

The 1975 - The 1975

I feel as though every year or so a new band hits my ears that forces a sharp reflection and virtually recalibrates my tastes. It’s that band that defines the year for me. That band that I look back on as the crack that splintered my tastes and musical habits into a spider-web of new directions. I think of artists like Blink 182, The Format, Brand New, Thrice, The Gaslight Anthem, Bon Iver, and P.O.S. Bands that have become pillars of my musical collection and ones I would point to as defining my “taste matrix.” These bonds have lasted for years and each listen to their catalog transports me back in time. These are the bands that I take possession of and metaphorically hang my hat on. That I say: “this is the band that defines this part of me; this is the band that I believe in.”

In 2013, that band is The 1975.

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Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue” Acoustic (Video Premiere)

Yellowcard

Yesterday was the ten year anniversary of Yellowcard’s breakthrough album, Ocean Avenue. On August 13th, the band will be releasing a special acoustic album featuring all thirteen Ocean Avenue tracks. Today, we’re premiering the first video from Ocean Avenue Acoustic of the song that changed everything for the band – “Ocean Avenue.” I’ve been listening to the acoustic album for a little while now and each song is incredibly well-done, with this track being one of the standouts. You can also pre-order Ocean Avenue Acousticon iTunes for only $7.99 and it comes with an instant download of this song. If you’re a vinyl guy like me, you can also pick this up on wax here. The band is also heading out on tour in September, so check to see if it’s coming near you and purchase tickets here. So check out the video in the replies and let us know what you think about this new rendition.

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Review: The Dangerous Summer – Gold Record

The Dangerous Summer - Golden Record

I bet you weren’t expecting to see this name on the byline. No doubt some, if not most of you have seen the tweets, posts, threads, etc. chronicling the turmoil of The Dangerous Summer between themselves, their fans, and sometimes this very website. And I’ll be honest – even a month ago I wouldn’t have believed I’d be writing the review for the band’s latest release, Golden Record. I’ve always been a fan of the band’s music (War Paint was in heavy rotation during the summer of 2011), but the antics and weird shit that went on turned me off to the band. But sometimes a simple post from the offending party can act as an olive branch and you reevaluate things. Hey man, music mends broken hearts and it can also rebuild bridges. 

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Review: City and Colour – The Hurry and the Harm

City and Colour - The Hurry and the Harm

A corridor of darkness wraps around my car as it shoots down some county two-line road on the backstreets of town. There’s no one else around, no one but me, my blue beater of a Chevrolet, and the sounds pouring out of my stereo. It’s the summer of 2008, my first summer with a car, my first summer since my siblings moved out, my first summer with any semblance of freedom or responsibility, and it’s both the best and worst season of my life. I’m driving home from work at a job I hate and it’s midnight. I could call my friends and see what they’re doing, but chances are that most of them have either stayed at their houses too late for their parents to let them leave or are too many drinks in to register my call. I could also call her: the girl who used to be my best friend, the girl I’ve spent the past six weeks falling for, head over heels, but I know she won’t answer either. So I let my phone lay dormant at my side and I just drive. I drive and I turn up the stereo, and I listen to the strains of an acoustic guitar and a desolate voice as they nourish my wounds or cut them deeper. Or maybe they’re doing both. Truth is, I’m not sure which side of the pain I’m on anymore. All I know is this: when I walk into my house tonight, I’ll immediately want to leave it. I’ll feel pathetic and lonely and miserable for spending another night alone in my bedroom, even if the actual “night” is already gone and going anywhere else right now would just be stupid. But in the 10 or so miles between my workplace and my front door, with the music coursing through me and the brisk night air flicking through my hair, I feel more alive than I’ve felt in weeks. This is my stronghold, my bulletproof vest, my Fortress of Solitude. So instead of turning right and driving straight home, I turn left and take the long way. These songs aren’t done with me yet.

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Review: The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever

The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever

Everything you need to know about Whenever, If Ever – the debut full length from The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – is right there in the image gracing the album’s cover. It’s a snapshot of exuberance and carefree youth – the idea of jumping off a cliff into the unknown is met with I don’t give a fuck enthusiasm perfectly sums up the ten track record. Even the album title possesses that attitude.

Throughout Whenever, If Ever, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die (you best believe I’m abbreviating the shit out of this name for the duration of this review) takes plenty of lefts in its music when you’re expecting rights. Post-rock tendencies are met with horns-aplenty and juxtaposed against incredibly catchy pop-punk-esque hooks. TWIABP’s thorough aggressiveness is exhilarating from beginning to end. The album’s sleepy intro, the two-minute “Blank #9,” is tasked with bringing what’s so endearing about TWIABP to life, as it leads into quirky guitar opening of “Heartbeat In The Brain” before the avalanche of instrumentation rushes into our ears. 

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Review: Jimmy Eat World – Damage

Jimmy Eat World - Damage

It’s always been astounding to me the way that songs, albums, lyrics, melodies, instrumental lines—even album titles or cover art—can become more than the sum of their parts when they collide with the right listener at the right time. In a world full of critical acclaim, “best of the year” lists, and verbose Pitchfork reviews, it seems that we have stumbled into an age of relative consensus. How many publications ranked Frank Ocean’s Channel ORANGE or Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D.City at number one last December? Or went with Bon Iver the year before? Or Kanye West in 2010? Few collective outlets, at least within the inner circle of the big critical players, venture too far beyond the same five or six favorite records at the end of any given year. Sure, those same publications review hundreds and hundreds of albums and hand out great scores to a lot of up-and-coming obscurities, but from looking at the top ten lists scattered across the web each year, it seems like the idea of an objective “best album of the year” is becoming more and more corporeal.

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Review: Man Overboard – Heart Attack

Man Overboard - Heart Attack

It makes sense that the band with the battle cry of “Defend Pop Punk” would eventually take aim at the heart. With its self-titled Rise debut feeling a bit safe at times, we needed Man Overboard to reclaim that Real Talk urgency. I’m not saying the band’s last album was bad, but it was missing some of the punch its debut possessed. Thankfully, that’s not the case with Heart Attack, as Man Overboard has brought back its defibrillator to jumpstart things once again.

One of my colleagues stated that it finally sounds like the band is composing complete songs instead of just hooks, and I tend to agree – at least that’s how the self-titled came across to me; it had killer choruses but not much else. Heart Attack remedies that, however, as album opener “Secret Pain” delivers the right amount of kick, as the mid-tempo verses and energetic chorus gives off the sense of a refined Real Talk track. “Boy Without Batteries” features one of the album’s best choruses (good luck getting that bridge out of your head), while the title track and “Suppy” are pure pop-punk bliss.

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Review: Eisley – Currents

Eisley - Currents

Last time we checked in with Eisley, the band was exploring the deep space with its very good extended play of the same name. During the time between that and its latest Equal Vision release, Currents, a lot has happened internally and externally. Some things stayed the same (the band recorded once again in its home studio; they still have an ear for incredibly melodies and hooks), some changed, at least in each member’s personal life (there were a lot of babies in the studio; the band is facing controversy from its failed Kickstarter campaign). But forget all that for now, as the only thing that matters is if the DuPree gang would continue its trend of releasing atmospheric indie-pop gems.

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Review: The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation

The Wonder Years - The Greatest Generation

I don’t know what draft I’m on of this review. I think probably my sixth. I really can’t remember. I’ve probably deleted 4,000 words over the past two weeks. Part of this is because for the past week I’ve had this terrible fever thing and half of what I wrote was rubbish. The other part is because no one could have expected this record, and if you claim you did expect it, then you’re a liar. 

I believe in The Wonder Years. I believe they are one of the most exceptional bands around right now. They showed us with The Upsides that they could connect to young adults on a fiercely intimate level — more impressively than many of their peers from the late-2000s pop-punk revival. They showed us with Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing that not only was their arrival not a fluke, but that they possessed a critically important trait — the ability to, as a group, gather themselves and write an album that both drew upon and grew away from their previous triumph, and improved upon it in every measurable way.

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Review: Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll

Fall Out Boy - Save Rock and Roll

I believe that each time we select an album out of the ether and push play, it says something not just to us, but about us. It becomes a reflection of that instant and transcends into both a personal and social entity simultaneously. It is this duality of frozen moments, between headphones and shared experiences, that helps define why we listen. We listen to be touched. We find comfort in intimate moments alone with songs, and we tie memories with the best of friends to the soundtracks of our nights. The songs that have stayed with me the longest are the ones that exist forever between these two realities: the ones that I suffer with and the ones that I share.

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Review: Alkaline Trio – My Shame Is True

Alkaline Trio - My Shame Is True

For some reason, Alkaline Trio falls into this weird “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” area with their legion of fans. Whenever the band experiments with its sound (CrimsonAgony & Irony), fans complain that it doesn’t sound like the band’s previous material. So when the Trio writes an album that’s a throwback of sorts (its last full-lengthThis Addiction), fans whine about it not being as good as From Here To The Infirmary or Goddammit. The band can’t win. Fortunately, this hasn’t ever deterred the band from writing what they deem to be the best Alkaline Trio songs. On its second proper Epitaph full-length, the band headed to the Blasting Room to work with legendary producer Bill Stevenson for (surprisingly) the first time in its career. The result is My Shame Is True, the Trio’s tightest collection of songs since 2003’s Good Mourning.

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