Talent is a remarkable thing. When you see it, you recognize it almost instantaneously, and it becomes nearly blinding to any of the other faults surrounding that artist. On the debut full-length LP from Maggie Rogers, her talent oozes through the speakers with rare confidence not usually found from a new artist. Heard it in a Past Life is a remarkable introduction to an artist who is 100% comfortable in her skin and knows exactly the type of music she wants to create.
On the debut LP from Cassettes, Wild Heart is an earnest love letter to the 90’s era of pop-rock that dominated the airwaves. The five-piece band from Philadelphia shows a ton of promise on this debut record that was co-produced by Ace Enders (The Early November) and Nik Bruzzese (Man Overboard), and was carefully mixed by Vince Ratti (The Wonder Years). This album features a wide range of summery vibes and good times that finds the band reminiscing while still keeping an eye on the future.
On the third album from the St. Petersburg trio, Polyenso, Year of the Dog finds them stretching the boundaries of their already dynamic sound on this experimental EP. Polyenso are on the brink of something remarkable here on this release. If you can tune into the world of this band and lose yourself in the music, you’re in for a treat.
On January 12, 1999, Britney Spears hit the music scene with …Baby One More Time. Boy bands, Britney Spears, and company ruled the late 90s and early 2000s with their music. The title track dropped in October 1998, which gave fans a taste of what to expect. It also helped blast Britney into her celebrity status. It’s the only track I can imagine having such a big impact from the get-go. Wouldn’t it have been odd for them to have the lead single be literally any other song on the album? That’s sure how it feels now, anyway.
Radar State is a new powerhouse band that consists of Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic of The Get Up Kids, Josh Berwanger of The Anniversary, and Adam Phillips of The Architects. Each of these guys has been in the game for quite some time. The Get Up Kids’ Something to Write Home About turns 20 this year, to put things into perspective.
Strays feels like a cohesive album even with the tradeoffs at lead vocals. No matter who is singing, you get what this album is all about. “What’s a Rebel” is a jam that feels like it could be a summer anthem. As soon as the hook comes in, energy courses through you. I found it hard to sit still while listening to the song because it just makes you want to jump. If I were sitting while listening to it, I’d either have my head bobbing along to the beat or had my feet bouncing up and down. It’s just that catchy.
I made sure that 2018 was the year I finally made my way through The Sopranos. I finished the final season just before the year ended. It was quite the trek and nicely timed given that The Sopranos Sessions was set to release this month. After finishing the show, I jumped into the book and went on the wild ride all over again.
AFI have never been strangers to the darker side of things, as clearly evident from the shadowy packaging and artwork of their latest EP, The Missing Man. However, what I’ve always admired about this band is the silver linings found in their music. After releasing arguably their darkest-toned LP to date in 2013’s Burials, they followed this effort with 2017’s AFI: The Blood Album, an album that incorporated many of their past styles into a single record. On this EP, AFI has found a way to pay homage to the path they blazed before, while still adding new elements to their trademark sound.
As I sit here looking at a blank page, pondering about how I’m going to approach writing about The 1975’s gargantuan third album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, I turn to my dear friend procrastination and flick open Twitter on my iPhone. After a few minutes of scrolling through an endless timeline, disgusted and amused simultaneously, I had the belated (and probably way too obvious) realization that A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is an exploration of our codependency of the things – whether it’s drugs, sex, the internet – we use to temporarily numb the sting of loneliness.
Much has been written about The 1975’s leader Matty Healy decision to spend six weeks in a rehab facility in Barbados to fight his addiction to heroin – a stint that helped Healy reflect not only on his life, but the lives he was affecting. His decision to get clean came shortly after the band started writing A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, so unsurprising a lot of the lyrical content is derived from the recovering addict’s time spent in therapy.
On William Ryan Key’s second solo EP, Virtue, he continues to stretch out his sound and repertoire with one of the better singer-songwriter works of art to date. While Thirteen was primarily based around the acoustic guitar, Key uses a fair amount of piano, electric guitar, and percussion on this recording to fill out the expansive sound that he was likely going for.
“The Same Destination” cuts through the opening bars of faint strings with carefully struck piano chords that help set the table for another brilliant showing from the former Yellowcard front-man. The wall of sound that opens this track features some more electric guitar elements that were missing on his previous EP and serves as a nice opening for the record. “Mortar and Stone” follows the tender opening with some intricately played acoustic guitar and layered vocals from Key. Key’s confidence broods throughout this EP that he self-described on his website as an “exploration of a new sound” and “evolution.” I concur with his line of thinking, as William Ryan Key has delivered another collection of songs worthy of his underrated legacy.
The drought is over, and Rita Ora is back with a shower of blessings in the form of new music. It’s been more than six years since the release of her debut album, ORA which gained the attention of several music fans in the world. With songs like “How We Do (Party),” “R.I.P,” and “Fall in Love” it was like love at first listening for pop fans. Since then, she has released impactful singles like “Let You Down,” “Poison” and “Body On Me” that made fans thirst for another album. Unfortunately, the legal tussle with her previous record label, Roc Nation stopped this from happening.
Synth lovers, rejoice! Muse have crafted a powerhouse of a record in Simulation Theory that is one of the more immediately gratifying albums to date. From the futuristic artwork that could easily be mistaken for the poster art of the next Blade Runner film, Muse has their sights set on making everything that they have alluded to in the past few efforts bigger and brighter.
From the dramatic introductory track, “Algorithm” sets the stage perfectly for a thrilling ride of an album. Lead singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy opens the set by singing, “Burn like a slave/Churn like a cog/We are caged in simulations/Algorithms evolve/Push us aside and render us obsolete.” Bellamy and company have never been strangers to using samples and synths to enhance their sound, but on Simulation Theory, they ultimately went for everything that they had been hinting at over the past few LPs.
The warm jangle-pop of U.S. Highball is refreshing. Think Again, the duo’s first EP, almost feels like a lost tape from the ’90s recently discovered and released today. It’s saccharine and sincere in a way that indie pop rarely seems to be anymore; not to mention that it’s also extremely catchy.
The New Hampshire post-metal trio, Girih, are here with their debut EP, Eigengrau, and it channels several key influences of similar “math rock” bands such as Thrice. The dark tones found throughout this EP mesh well with the variety of riffs and noises on this debut. The major disclaimer for this EP is that it is instrumental only, but there are plenty of redeeming qualities to find on this record.
I believe “What the hell happened?” was my first reaction upon hearing Day & Age, the third album from The Killers, for the first time. This record didn’t compute for me. It was bizarre and misshapen, a mess of ideas that never coalesced into anything that made sense as a unified work of art. It sounded to me, on first listen, like a B-sides record. If The Killers hadn’t released an actual B-sides collection just a year before, I might have wondered if the band just gotten lazy and pulled out some ideas they’d shelved for earlier records. But apparently Day & Age was the statement the band really wanted to make at that time, and what an odd statement it was.
When Andrew McMahon announced his new LP, Upside Down Flowers, he referred to the album’s producer, Butch Walker, as a “fellow traveler.” That word choice was fitting, because if one word could describe McMahon over the 20 years that have so far encompassed his career, “traveler” is it. McMahon has made a lot of types of records over the years. He’s made emo-flecked piano rock records and sunny pop-punk records. He’s made Americana-influenced road trip records and towering stadium pop records. He’s made records about California and records about New York. He made one of the ultimate records about living young and free, followed by a record about almost dying young. He’s traversed a lot of territory over the course of eight LPs and three very distinct chapters. But he’s never made a record quite like Upside Down Flowers before, a record that is, ostensibly, about a traveler looking back and taking stock of where he’s been so far.
Upside Down Flowers is the most outwardly nostalgic album that McMahon has ever made. He’s written about the past before, but never in such detail or with such a storyteller’s eye. The first song on the album is called “Teenage Rockstars,” and it’s an unabashed tribute to McMahon’s bandmates from the Something Corporate days. The second song is called “Ohio,” and it vividly recounts the drive that transplanted his family from Ohio to the west coast—right down to the band that was playing on the car stereo. Listening to these songs feels like sitting next to McMahon on a couch, flipping through a photo album of old polaroids and hearing him recount the adventures and misadventures depicted in each. It’s a kind of intimacy we haven’t heard from him before.
When looking for adjectives to describe Coheed and Cambria and their latest effort, The Unheavenly Creatures, I kept going back to the same word: epic. Coheed have never been strangers to expanding their repertoire of complex space odysseys and intermingled stories of fictional characters, but on this LP they have genuinely created something quite remarkable.
This album grabs your interest directly from the first notes of “Prologue” that sets that stage for all that will come next in this saga. From the shiny and brilliant packaging of the entire album and its artwork, it’s hard not to get directly sucked into the vortex of Coheed’s world on this fantastic record.
Few albums can put a smile on my face as quickly as Sycamore Meadows.
That’s probably an odd thing to say, since Sycamore Meadows is not, by most metrics, a happy album. Butch Walker’s fourth solo LP was birthed in part from the California wildfires that destroyed his home, most of his possessions, and the master tapes for every song he’d ever recorded up to that point. The songs catalog breakups, painful journeys of self-discovery, and the record business being irreversibly fucked. The album’s last track is a sobering piano ballad that bears one of the most emotional vocal performances Butch ever put on tape.
And yet, Sycamore Meadows still makes me smile.
On the latest solo effort from John Nolan, Abendigo, he continues to stretch the boundaries and imaginations of what a record can be, with very favorable results. Giving the production reins to the trusted tutelage of Mike Sapone (Taking Back Sunday, Mayday Parade), Nolan delivers a terrific LP sure to tide his fans over until the next TBS record hits the streets.
On the second EP from I The Mighty’s front-man, Brent Walsh, he stretches out his vocal repertoire and showcases his power as a solo artist. Produced by Courtney Ballard (5 Seconds of Summer, All Time Low), Walsh can blend unique traces of R&B, pop, and singer-songwriter elements into a well-crafted work of art.