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Review: Panic! At The Disco – Pray for the Wicked

Panic at the Disco - Pray for the Wicked

“Are you ready for the sequel?” sings Brendon Urie confidently on the third track, “Hey Look Ma, I Made It,” and if Panic’s rabid fan-base is any indication, they are more than ready for whatever Urie has in store for them. On Panic! At the Disco’s sixth album, Pray for the Wicked, Brendon Urie is clearly having a blast and is 100% comfortable with who he is as not only an artist, but as a person as well.

Produced by Jake Sinclair (Fall Out Boy, Weezer), the sheen and textures found on this LP are polished, but not over-produced. Coming off the successful and Grammy-nominated Death of a Bachelor album, Panic! is well equipped for the demands being put forth by their eager audience. If Death of a Bachelor was the self-reflective album of Urie’s career, then Pray for the Wicked is the full-blown party album.

Review: Dawes – Passwords

Passwords

Passwords is Dawes’ fifth record of the 2010s—and their fifth great one. It’s also the first time that they haven’t taken a substantial leap forward in terms of sound or approach. Ever since their 2011 breakthrough, Nothing Is Wrong, Dawes have been switching producers with every record, always searching for that new groove. Nothing Is Wrong was a wash of gorgeous 70s-influenced Laurel Canyon folk, earning the band almost as many comparisons to Jackson Browne as Brian Fallon got to Bruce Springsteen. 2013’s Stories Don’t End had flickers of a 90s folk rock record, modernizing and streamlining the band’s songs with a more studio-driven approach. 2015’s All Your Favorite Bands went in the opposite direction, embracing the band’s live, jam-oriented roots for a record full of loose guitar solos and spontaneous energy. And 2016’s We’re All Gonna Die brought in mad scientist producer Blake Mills (Alabama Shakes, Perfume Genius, John Legend) for a bold, expectation-shattering disc—a career left-turn that prompted at least a few comparisons to U2’s Achtung Baby.

Review: Mike Shinoda – Post Traumatic

Mike Shinoda

The circumstances behind Mike Shinoda’s debut solo album, Fort Minor not included, could have been more desirable. Shinoda’s longtime bandmate, and best friend, Chester Bennington lost his battle with depression and you can feel each and every emotion that goes along with the loss on the Post Traumatic LP. Previously, Shinoda had released the Post Traumatic EP, which has the opening three tracks from this album, only to later announce he was going to release a full-length album to help gain closure on Bennington’s untimely death.

Many of these intensely personal tracks are very hard to listen to, as they sound like pages ripped directly out of a private journal of someone who is devastated by the loss of a close friend. Shinoda does an excellent job of encompassing the wide spectrum of thoughts that go along with a sudden loss, and the depth that he goes into on this album on describing exactly what he is going through are simultaneously heartbreaking and remarkable at the same time.

Review: Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer

Father John Misty - God's Favorite Customer

People often (mistakenly) interpret the Father John Misty persona as being cover for Josh Tillman to be some sort of “holier-than-thou” troll, thus missing the bigger picture on his third album, the 76-minute opus Pure Comedy. The follow-up to Comedy, however, is the polar opposite – God’s Favorite Customer is a concise ten track effort that clocks in under 40 minutes and peels back the Misty avatar to reveal a wounded, introspective Tillman. It takes courage to be this vulnerable – especially when Tillman has spent the last three albums examining and critiquing the world and culture around him. But on his fourth album under the Misty moniker, Tillman takes a step back from that macro view of everything around him and turned his gaze insular, resulting in the most heartbreaking record of 2018.

Review: Steve Moakler – Born Ready

Born Ready

Steve Moakler loves to sing for the everyman.

That’s what drove much of his last LP, last year’s stellar Steel Town. It was all over 2014’s almost-as-good Wide Open, especially songs like “Humble Operations” and “Rather Make a Living.” It was certainly there in “Riser,” the song that he and Travis Meadows wrote for Dierks Bentley back in 2014—and the song Bentley loved so much that he built an entire album around it. Like Bruce Springsteen, someone who has become an increasingly evident influence on Moakler’s music over the course of his last three albums, Moakler has a talent for finding beauty in unexpected, unglamorous places.

“Finding beauty in unexpected and unglamorous places” is more or less the mission statement of Born Ready, Moaker’s second album in 15 months. The title track and leadoff single is about long-haul truckers, while early highlight “Breaking New Ground” turns hard labor into a metaphor for perseverance and resilience. Even the album’s big love story song gets the title “One of the Boys,” underlining the everyman theme further.

Interview: Travis Hawley of Night Riots

Night Riots

Night Riots are an alternative rock band who have toured extensively since the release of their debut album, Love Gloom. The band has also released two EPs prior to the LP, as well as two singles from their sophomore album. Last week, I had the chance to sit down with front-man Travis Hawley (front/center in picture) from the band Night Riots prior to a show on their Dark Violet tour. This interview took place at a small venue in Washington, DC where the band has played several times before, but this was their first official headlining stint. Travis talked about how they prepare for a tour and also their upcoming full length album.

Review: The 1975 – Give Yourself A Try

Give Yourself a Try

On June 1st, 2018, The 1975 finally announced that the name of their new album would be A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships and released the brilliant single, “Give Yourself a Try.”

The first and most recognizable part of the song is the looped Adam Hann guitar riff that sounds almost abrasive, however the lyrics and Matt Healy’s vocals quickly bring the listener in with his trademark croon. The drum beat from George Daniel is precise and consistent, with very little variation. This beat is likely intentionally simplistic to bring the attention back to the lyrical content and soaring choruses. The bass line from Ross MacDonald complements the drum beat, however it’s not in the forefront as much as it was on the band’s previous two full lengths. The guitar and vocals are clearly what propel this song.

Review: Coheed and Cambria – The Dark Sentencer

Coheed and Cambria

Coheed and Cambria have returned with the expansive, space epic-inspired song “The Dark Sentencer.” The track itself has been broken into two unique parts: a short prologue and the aforementioned track itself. The prologue sets the stage for where this story takes place in the universe that Coheed has created through a multiple album series.

The prologue begins with a gentle piano playing, and then eventually the silences breaks for the narrator to say:

Know now there is no time, space between the Well & Unknowing. Our story starts there. Well into our future, yet far beyond our past. In a romance between a pair of Unheavenly Creatures. The Five Houses of the Star Supremacy have privatized the detention zones of the galaxy. These planetary prison pits reassembled from the cracked worlds of the Great Crash. Which brings us to our stage. Where the light must learn to love the black. The Dark Sentencer. It begins with them, but ends with me. Their son, Vaxus.

Still with Coheed on this one?

Review: Ben Howard – Noonday Dream

Ben Howard - Noonday Dream

On Ben Howard’s third solo album, entitled Noonday Dream, he continues to experiment with massive audio landscapes, precise musicianship, and his trademark low vocal delivery. The album was written and produced by Howard, with a few key production collaborations with band-mate Mickey Smith. On Howard’s first two albums, he established a rapport with his listeners that he has fine-tuned here on this third LP on Republic Records.

The album itself starts off with the intricate “Nica Libres at Dusk,” that sets the table nicely for the rest of the content found on this effort. Guiding the listener down this dark landscape on the first sprawling track showcases the talent that Howard has as not only an incredibly talented musician, but also a captivating storyteller. This opening track features textured arrangements and “every-man” gruff vocals from Howard.

Review: Kanye West – ye

Kanye West - Ye

When Kanye West reactivated his Twitter account, that was a sign something was coming. Without keeping fans in suspense, he tweeted about the new projects from G.O.O.D. Music. This list included his own album — this album — which was only given the title ye the night before its release. However, his tweets about his album aren’t all that built up the anticipation for this project. Rather, his culturally disturbing posts on Twitter, which he later topped with his outrageous words during an interview on TMZ, created a negative hype and suspense prior to release. Certainly, every listener would pay attention to his lyrics before any other ingredient on ye. Right now, his lyrics act as the thin thread between him and the audience.

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Review: Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town

Born to Run was the album that sparked my appreciation for Bruce Springsteen’s music, but Darkness on the Edge of Town was the album that made me a fan.

In 2015, when Born to Run turned 40, I wrote about the day I fell in love with it. A chance discussion about Springsteen at a family reunion sent me reaching for the Bruce albums on my iPod the next day, as my family traversed an epic snowstorm to drive back home. I had five Bruce records on my mp3 player, but I’d never really given full attention to any of them. They were all records from my parents’ CD collection, and at the time, I still stupidly believed (perhaps self-consciously) that older music couldn’t be my music in the same way as something released in my lifetime.

On that snowy drive home, I cycled through the Bruce albums on my iPod: the bombastic, optimistic dream of Born to Run; the scrappy underdog symphony of Greetings from Asbury Park; the deeply ‘80s-sounding Born in the U.S.A.; the resilient recovery rock of The Rising; and the sparse storytelling of Devils and Dust. I loved Born to Run immediately. I liked The Rising a lot, too. I had trouble getting over how dated Greetings and Born in the U.S.A. sounded to my ears at the time, but I liked the songs. And Devils was fine, but mostly didn’t move me.

The Death of the Compilation CD: How the Industry Has Changed Since 1996

I’m sure all of us can remember where we were when we either purchased, or were given from a friend, one of the annual Warped Tour compilation soundtracks. It signified the beginning of the Summer concert season, and another year to look forward to the annual Warped Tour. Now that the Warped Tour is on its last legs, with its final installment coming this Summer, one has to wonder about what will happen to the compilation CD that we have been expecting ever year since 1996.

The history of the compilation CD is a complicated one, much like the changing music industry over the past three decades. During the CD “boom” of the 90’s, it seemed like a ton of music buyers were looking for inexpensive ways to find out about new bands, or to sample tracks from their favorite artists’ upcoming album. The compilation CD was a great way to not only save money by not investing fully in a ton of individual albums, but also to discover artists that you may not have ever considered checking out otherwise.

Review: Pusha T – DAYTONA

Pusha T

With three albums in his discography, Pusha T isn’t a consistent artist, but when he releases an album, it feels like a ceremony. He always makes an impact with each project. His last album was in 2015, since then, fans have been anticipating, hoping, and dreaming of the day Push will drop a project. That was before Kanye brought the G.O.O.D. news to the world. In a series of tweets, he announced upcoming releases from Pusha T, Teyana Taylor, Nas, Kid Cudi and himself. Although initially titled King Pusha, Pusha T had to change the title because he felt “it didn’t represent the overall message” of the album. In another tweet, he said, “DAYTONA represents the fact that “I have the luxury of time. That luxury only comes when u have a skill set that you’re confident in.” As for what’s to be expected on DAYTONA, Push said the album was created especially for his “family, high taste level, luxury, and drug raps fans.”

Review: Chvrches – Love Is Dead

Chvrches

For Chvrches’ third album, Love is Dead, they turned to veteran producer Greg Kurstin (Tegan & Sara, Foo Fighters) to help them craft their most memorable effort to date. Since forming in 2011, the synth-pop group has taken over the indie music scene with multiple prominent festival appearances and two well-received albums. Their fanbase was incredibly eager to hear what Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty had cooked up for the next chapter in their story.

On Love is Dead, Chvrches have accomplished the rare feat of staying true to their original sound, while still adding even more nuance and creativity into this final product. In an era where artists get blamed for either not changing enough from album to album, or for changing too much, Chvrches have found the perfect balance of experimenting with new sounds and song structures, while still staying honest to who they are as a band.

Review: Lost In Society – Eager Heart

Lost in Society

If you’re a fan of The Menzingers, Lost In Society is a band that you should be listening to. The punk trio signed to Wiretap Records for their latest release, Eager Heart. The EP consists of five songs that fly by, and I mean that in a good way. This band rips.

I remember seeing Lost In Society live for the first time at Programme Skate and Sound in Fullerton, CA. By day, the store sells skateboards and vinyl, but at night, they put on some great shows. Right away, the band’s live show impressed me. They have so much energy and that transfers to the new EP.

Review: William Ryan Key – Thirteen

William Ryan Key - Thirteen

When Yellowcard disbanded after their self-titled album, I didn’t think that would be the end of making music for everyone in the band. William Ryan Key proved me right by releasing Thirteen. While I will always miss the combination of his voice with Sean Mackin on violin, this EP helps to fill the void that was left when Yellowcard ended.

Review: West Thebarton – Different Beings Being Different

West Thebarton

West Thebarton are a new punk rock band from Adelaide, Australia who pride themselves on translating their high energy live shows directly into their debut record, Different Beings Being Different. Led by their fearless and extremely charismatic singer, Reverend Ray, the six other band members mesh well with the front-man’s demand for attention right from the first track. Leading off the set is their debut single, “Moving Out,” which sets the tone early for the type of frenetic rock to expect throughout this blistering LP. My first impression of this band reminded me of two other punk rock bands such as Anti-Flag (with a more polished approach and fewer political themes) mixed with the pop sensibilities of The Explosion (mostly from their great Black Tape record).

Review: Superorganism – Superorganism

Superorganism

The story behind how band members meet is typically an interesting topic of conversation when they are interviewed for a press release. This is no exception with Superorganism, as their story is incredibly unique, much like their dynamic brand of music. The group consists of eight members, spanning the globe from England, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea. A large portion of the group met and formed a band called The Eversons, with now-lead vocalist Orono Noguchi finding the group from her YouTube recommends playlist, only to later submit vocals to an Eversons’ demo that the group collectively loved. With that, Superorganism relocated to London, England to form the majority of their debut, self-titled album.

With a recent stamp of approval from Sir Elton John himself and a shiny new record contract with Domino Records, Superorganism have crafted one of the strangest and mesmerizing debut albums to come out in quite some time. Featuring a blend of samples, programmed beats, heavy synths, and delicate vocals from Noguchi, the group is quickly making a name for themselves.

Review: Cold War Kids – Audience (Live)

Cold War Kids - Live

Live albums are typically used by a record label to either fill in the time between album releases by an artist, or to take advantage of when a band is at its peak popularity. With no shortage of catalog material, Cold War Kids have released their first live album entitled Audience. The band has released six studio albums to date, with very little lag coming in between each of the releases. Recorded on September 24, 2017 in Athens, GA, Audience capitalizes on the band’s live strengths, which is to keep the music flowing from song to song, all the while engaging the crowd in belting out each memorable hook.

Review: Hidden Hospitals – Liars

Hidden Hospitals - Liars

Hidden Hospitals have cemented themselves as one of my favorite current rock bands. As I was listening through Liars, I was taken back to what got me into the band in the first place. Their 2015 album, Surface Tension, was a breath of fresh air. They didn’t sound like anything on the radio. They aren’t afraid to try new things when it comes to their music and with Liars they encapsulate rock ‘n roll in their own way.