Interview: January Jane and Matt Pinfield

January Jane

Recently I was able to schedule a Zoom interview with BMG’s newly signed pop rock band from New York City, called January Jane. The band is comprised of vocalist Pat Via, guitarist Mitch Mitchell, and keyboardist Peter Scialla. This great new band was discovered by music scene legend, Matt Pinfield, and in this interview I learned how January Jane got started and the crazy circumstances that led to Pinfield working closely with the band. I asked January Jane about their strengths as artists, their songwriting process, and how they would describe their live show. The band released a new music video today for their single ”Versions of You” off of their upcoming EP Your Drug, that will be released everywhere music is sold this summer. Read our full conversation where I describe January Jane as being one hit song away from being at the tip of everyone’s tongue.

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Interview: Tanner Merritt

Tanner Merritt

A lot has changed since I caught up with O’Brother last year. For one, touring again is a possibility for the band – over 105 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, which brings the country closer to post-pandemic normal. For vocalist Tanner Merritt, he has written a ton of new solo material due to monumental personal loss. Last year, O’Brother was riding high: They had released their long-awaited fourth album, You and I, to unanimous praise and incredible sales for a newly independent band. 

The album relished space and classical guitars while intentionally leaving vague lyrics to listeners’ imaginations. As beautiful as You and I is, there was a dark undercurrent beneath the track “What We’ve Lost.” A kind of follow-up to Endless Light’s “Black Hole,” Merritt needed an outlet to write about his father, Cyrus’s decade-long fight with Alzheimer’s disease. Then COVID hit, and Merritt spent most of the year in total isolation alongside his mother, watching his father’s condition worsen until he passed away on November 4, 2020, two days after his 63rd birthday. 

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Review: A Story Told – I Don’t Mind (To Get A Little Hurt Sometimes)

The latest single from the Charleston, West Virginia pop rock band A Story Told is taken from their upcoming album, American Made (out everywhere on July 16th), and has a great bounce to it in the same vein of bands like Twenty One Pilots, Smallpools, and the electronica-tinged brilliance of AWOLNATION. “I Don’t Mind (To Get A Little Hurt Sometimes)” is a great re-introduction to a band who are trying new and interesting elements in their sound to keep themselves on the cutting edge. The band is comprised of vocalist Alex Chaney, guitarists Josh Allen and Jason Lieser, bassist Zach Holley, drummer Casey Hardman, and their new sound feels ready to explode into the mainstream sooner rather than later.

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Review: Manchester Orchestra – The Million Masks of God

Manchester Orchestra - The Million Masks of God

If you had only heard the initial two singles from The Million Masks of God – “Bed Head” and “Keel Timing,” the sixth album from Manchester Orchestra, you could argue that the Atlanta group has learned how to groove. I’m not talking about groove-metal, Pantera style, although their take on “Walk” would be sick. They have always had that heavy edge, after all. Their songs have always been catchy; look at the youthful energy of “Wolves at Night,” the brilliant key change on “I’ve Got Friends,” the blues-inspired “April Fool,” or the undeniable “Choose You.” The list could go on and on. On their fifth album, A Black Mile to the Surface, the band combined their talent for unforgettable melody with ambitious, sprawling storytelling. In that sense alone, The Million Masks of God is the natural successor, a sister album to their 2017 instant classic.   

The Million Masks of God is co-produced by vocalist Andy Hull and lead guitarist Robert McDowell, alongside Black Mile producer Catherine Marks (The Killers, Alanis Morissette) and newcomer Ethan Gruska (Phoebe Bridgers, Fiona Apple). With these two powerhouses on board, Manchester Orchestra turns the concept album dial up to 11. While the theme was abstract at the beginning of writing, it became far more straightforward following the loss of McDowell’s father to cancer. “If Black Mile was this idea of ‘from birth to death,’ this album would really be more about ‘from birth to beyond, focusing on the highs and lows of life and exploring what could possibly come next,’” Hull explained. The question here is, how well do they tell the story? Does the music itself match the quality of the concept? To me, it’s complicated.

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Review: Lilith Czar – Created From Filth And Dust

There’s a lot to like about Lilith Czar. She does her best to fight misogynistic behavior in an industry filled with so much of it, adds another voice to the female empowerment movement, and still cranks out well thought out anthems worthy of the early praise garnered. Lilith Czar (formerly Juliet Simms) “killed” off her old identity in the track “All American,” in an attempt to distance herself from a person she no longer identified with as an artist. On Created From Filth and Dust, Lilith Czar channels her inner rock queen to deliver an album filled with dark tones, heavy synth-laden beats, and with just enough silver linings to ensure that the material doesn’t get too heavy. With so much new momentum going in her favor, it’s hard to not buy in to the controlled chaos she presents on this record.

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Review: Ash – Free All Angels

Ash - Free All Angels

The Northern Irish band Ash doesn’t seem to get a lot of love here in the states, but I’m hoping by revisiting certain album landmarks such as the 20th anniversary of Free All Angels more will come to appreciate their music. This third studio album from Tim Wheeler (vocals/guitar), Mark Hamilton (bass), Rick McMurray (drums), and Charlotte Hatherley (guitar, backing vocals) is the one record I make sure to have on steady rotation when spring turns to summer. I started this tradition unconsciously back in the days of organizing my CD collection (in those big Case Logic binders) by making sure Free All Angels would be the first record I’d see in the front when school finally broke for summer vacation. From the opening lyrics of “Walking Barefoot” where Wheeler sings, “Your beauty took my breath away / In awe all day / Your company was so relaxing / Easy going ways / We saw the first signs of summer and springtime change / Walking barefoot along the sand / I hadn’t planned to stay / Yeah, we’ve been walking barefoot all summer / It’ll be sad my friend / To see it come to an end / Why can’t we just quit,” it marked a laid back transition in my mind of turning the page of the care-free days of what summer means in our youth.

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Review: The Offspring – Let the Bad Times Roll

The Offspring - Let the Bad Times Roll

For years now, it seems like a new The Offspring album has been promised like a new Avatar movie. There were rumblings of a new record being recorded as early as 2013, but nothing came to fruition despite the band hyping up their progress. In this time, they left the record label they’ve been a part of since 1996, Columbia Records, and also parted ways with long-time bass player Greg K. After the delays, band drama, national chaos and a global pandemic, the band finally dropped their first new album after nine years, the appropriately titled Let the Bad Times Roll.

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Review: Greta Van Fleet – The Battle At Garden’s Gate

When I first examined the curious case of Greta Van Fleet, I sat on the positive side of the review field when Anthem for the Peaceful Army hit the streets. With so many reviewers piling on the negative words and takes on their debut record, I could see where these writers were coming from, but I didn’t feel like the comparisons were fair. Sure, the obvious connections to sounding like Led Zeppelin come with its own set of risks for paying direct homage to one of the most legendary and creative rock bands of all time. However, these young musicians, made up of three brothers and their drummer Daniel Wagner, were making the music they loved and wanted to share with the world. This fruitful path led to several sold-out tours worldwide, multiple TV appearances, and with those accolades came a brighter spotlight shining on them to deliver on their sophomore effort, aptly titled The Battle At Garden’s Gate.

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Review: David Cook – The Looking Glass

David Cook - The Looking Glass

On the latest EP from the former Season Seven American Idol winner, David Cook takes bold new steps in re-imagining the way he approaches his songwriting and music. The Looking Glass EP has a certain swagger to it from an artist who feels like he’s getting his footing back, honing in on his strengths as a songwriter, and yet discovering new ways to tell his story. This is the first release of new music since 2018’s Chromance EP, and David Cook sounds as re-invigorated as he’s ever been. When I first heard the lead single, “Reds Turn Blue,” I wrote about this exciting new direction is his music, and I’m glad to say David Cook continues to cover new ground on this latest collection of heartfelt songs.

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Review: Waxflower – We Might Be Alright

On the debut EP from Waxflower called We Might Be Alright, they strike a nice mix of paying direct homage to emo heavyweights like Jimmy Eat World, Saves the Day, and The Maine while bringing their own unique package of vibrant guitar hooks and soaring melodies. What the band does well on this record is to re-package tried and true pop elements into refreshing new guitar-driven songs that are structured around the band’s strengths. While the music doesn’t stray too far away from their direct influences, there is plenty of ear candy to enjoy on this debut.

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We Were Both Young When I First Saw You: A Closer Look at ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’

Can a re-recorded version of a beloved album recapture the magic of the original? Taylor Swift is betting on the answer being “Yes” as she embarks on a journey to remake her first six albums. First up? 2008’s Fearless, the breakthrough LP that netted Taylor some of her biggest hits, won her a Grammy trophy for Album of the Year (the first of three, so far), and made her a generational pop music superstar. contributors Craig Manning, Anna Acosta, and Garrett Lemons took a closer look at the project, revisiting the original Fearless and exploring the various ways that the new Fearless (Taylor’s Version) stacks up.

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Review: Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

People like to say that the Foo Fighters are a band with plenty of great hits, but not great albums. To say Foo Fighters don’t put together excellent records is not a fair knock. 

I could write an entire thesis defending Foo Fighters albums, but for now I’ll just say their first three albums – Foo Fighters, The Colour and the Shape and There is Nothing Left to Lose – are classics, jam packed with hits and underrated B-Sides. I can also admit at the same time, there are circumstances where the hits over albums idea rings true. “All My Life” is far superior than the rest of the songs on 2002’s One by One. “The Best of You” was miles ahead of the pack when stacked up against the other tracks on 2005’s In Your Honor. Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace had three strong singles with “The Pretender”, “Long Road to Ruin”, and “Let it Die”, but the rest of the record was just okay. 

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Review: Thursday – Full Collapse

Thursday - Full Collapse

It seems like just yesterday I was discovering this “new band” my college roommate told me about called Thursday. The first song he played for me was “Understanding in a Car Crash,” and I was immediately drawn into the world of the post-hardcore/emo blend of magic that Thursday were able to accomplish on their sophomore record, Full Collapse. This album seemed destined to be huge, and had so many things going for it upon its release. For starters, the album was released during the so-called “golden age” of emo, with so many legendary bands releasing music during this time period. Secondly, Thursday were graced with a talented, energetic, and captivating front-man in the form of Geoff Rickly, who is now seen as a bona fide legend in our scene. Lastly, Thursday were brilliant at creating larger than life guitar hooks courtesy of their dual-attack by Tom Keeley and Steve Padulla. Rounding out the band were the ultra-talented bass player Tim Payne, and drummer Tucker Rule who were all up to the task of stepping up to the plate to create this legendary album. Full Collapse is a raw, visceral, post-punk blend of hardcore elements packaged for the masses, while still remaining endearing enough for longtime fans of Thursday to reminisce on discovering this band they had in their back pocket. This album would launch Thursday directly into the mainstream of emo bands on the tips of every tongue mentioning an influential band during this time period, and not to mention record executives falling over themselves to sign them to a major label. As much as has been written about the labels associated with Thursday, its more important to look at how the music from this album has stood the test of time.

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Review: Wild Truth – Drift

I’d like to introduce you to your next music obsession: Wild Truth. With well-crafted hooks, vibrant guitars, and the vocal styling reminiscent of other pop-rock bands like Fall Out Boy, Walk the Moon, and The Maine; this band has a little bit of everything to capture that “lightning in a bottle” feeling of discovering an artist ready to break out in a big way. The Richmond, Virginia-based band formed in 2017 and consists of Will Beasley (bass/guitar), Clayton Sargent (drums) and Nick Gargiulo (vocals/guitar). The Drift EP is definitely one of those records that grabs you from the first listen.

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Review: Alkaline Trio – From Here to Infirmary

Alkaline Trio

Pop punk was taking the world by storm in 2001. Blink-182, Green Day and The Offspring were some of the biggest punk bands around, while groups like New Found Glory and Good Charlotte started to make a name for themselves in 2000. It was no coincidence that Alkaline Trio, a three piece punk band from Chicago, decided to lean into a poppier sound on their third LP, From Here to Infirmary. Some viewed this record as a “sell out”, but it quickly became clear this type of punk was the type of music they were meant to be playing.

While another band with dual singers was gearing up to release Take Off Your Pants and Jacket 20 years ago (Ironically, 20 years later Skiba is now a member of Blink-182), Alkaline Trio – consisting of singer/guitarist Matt Skiba, singer/bassist Dan Andriano and drummer Mike Felumlee (who left the band in 2001 and was replaced by current drummer Derek Grant – dropped what still remains their most complete record as a band. 

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