Over the past few years, I have found it easier to defend my adoration for Good Charlotte, even after many critics had written them off after the multi-platinum success of The Young & the Hopeless. Good Charlotte is continuing to find ways to reinvent themselves in the latter stages of their career, and their seventh full-length album entitled Generation Rx is no exception. Coming off of two commercially successful albums (Cardiology and Youth Authority) after a lengthy hiatus is no small feat, and the fact that many fans have stayed with the band over their lengthy career shows the staying power of the Waldorf, Maryland natives.
On the propulsive opener “Fever Dreams,” Emma Ruth Rundle breathlessly declares, “Fear, a feeling, is it real?/So nostalgic too, it just puts the dark on you,” immediately setting the tone on her fourth solo album, On Dark Horses, before the guitars can even come thundering through. Following up the wounded vulnerability on 2016’s Marked For Death, On Dark Horses features a restless Rundle picking up the pieces and moving forward all while creating her most visceral and personal piece of art yet.
While Marked For Death was written in isolation in the desert, Rundle collaborated with Jaye Jayle’s Evan Patterson and Todd Cook and Woven Hand’s Dylan Nadon to help flesh out her new record, giving On Dark Horses a relentless dynamic between Rundle’s intoxicating vocals and the ominous yet electrifying guitar work. The blackened folk of “Control” begins with a slow smoldering of sound before being engulfed by jolted guitar riffs, while the bluesy “Dead Set Eyes” emerges with hazy, dueling guitar interplay that Rundle’s vocals cut through like a knife.
Debut albums are tricky. On the one hand, they’re the first real look most people will take at your band. Sure, you’ve released a bunch of singles, maybe even a few EPs, but the actual debut album still seems to end up being where you take all the momentum you’ve had, and make a push to build a fan base around your music. So far, Pale Waves have been doing everything right. They’ve released a variety of songs, they’ve been building some buzz, and they have locked down the style they’re going for. On the other hand, getting a debut album right means finding a collection of songs that can keep those early adopters happy (since they’ve probably overplayed a good portion of your record already) while also building around it a cohesive feeling. My first impressions of Pale Waves’, My Mind Makes Noises, is that they have a lot of really good songs, but I’m not sure they have a really good album.
On The Mowgli’s latest effort, I Was Starting to Wonder, they hone in on all of the best parts of their sound and deliver an outstanding EP from start to finish. With three full-length albums to their name thus far and multiple sold-out touring campaigns, The Mowgli’s realize who they truly are on this EP: a talented band that focuses on the optimistic side of life.
The album kicks off with “I Feel Good About This” and gets the Summertime vibes started early, and it fits perfectly with the cover art of a day out in the sun with friends. The two lead vocalists, Colin Dieden and Katie Earl, harmonize beautifully on the chorus here as they sing, “I’ve been looking for love in the distance/Down the sidewalks of cities I visit/Up the coast looking for something different/All along you were there but I missed it/I don’t know what it is but I feel good about this.” The themes of looking for love while still staying true to themselves are prevalent in this great collection of songs perfect for the end of the Summer season.
“I’m so glad that chapter of my life is over.”
Ruston Kelly tweeted those words out while introducing “Faceplant,” one of the (many) pre-release songs from his full-length debut album, Dying Star. They could just as easily be applied to the album as a whole, which exorcises a boatload of demons over the course of 14 beautiful, despairing songs. It’s a heavy listen: Kelly doesn’t try to glamorize his portraits of heartbreak, nor is he anything but candid about his personal struggles with addiction. Kelly overdosed in early 2016 and ended up in rehab. Later that year, he released his debut EP, called Halloween. He’s been building buzz ever since, and seems poised to explode with Dying Star. He also fell in love, getting married earlier this year to country music star Kacey Musgraves.
Do you remember your first kiss?
A few weeks ago my mom stopped by for dinner and brought with her a shoebox she had found in the basement. The box, now flimsy and tattered, contained love letters and notes from elementary school up through college. I laughed when she gave them to me. Over the years she’s dropped off countless things from my childhood whenever she decides it is time to redistribute the stuff neither of us knows what to do with any longer. When she left, I almost just tossed them aside. However, on top of the pile, I caught a glimpse of something that caused sensory memories to start flooding back. I took a sip of beer, mumbled “fuck it” under my breath, and pulled a few folded pieces of paper from the box.
I recognized handwriting. I recalled the way specific notes were folded. Ink colors. Inside jokes. Faded pencil sketches of pen-names and scribbled between class “I love you’s.” I started to feel long-buried memories of when these little pieces of paper, pre-cell phone and instant messaging, meant everything to me. When each letter represented possibilities and of being so in love that these possibilities, these fleeting ideas of a future, all felt inevitable. And each, now, clearly also representing a moment of heartbreak; of unfulfilled youthful promises.
I first heard of the new band, Spirit Animal, when I looked at the concert listings at my local venues and saw their name as the main support act for established artists such as Incubus and The Struts. Naturally, I was curious to check out the band if for nothing else to see what the hype was all about. On their debut album, Born Yesterday, Spirit Animal are clearly here for good times and party vibes, while still maintaining enough composure to reflect on history as well.
Having recently signed a record deal with Atlantic Records, Spirit Animal tend to embrace the high hopes put forth by their label and delivers a product worthy of our attention. In a lot of ways, I can find similarities to Spirit Animal with the early work of their tour-mates, Incubus, with the type of “funk rock” that they portray throughout their debut. However, Spirit Animal stretch out more to create a unique enough product to stand on their own as well.
This first impression was originally posted as a live blog for supporters in our forums on August 29th, 2018. I’ve decided to make it free to all users of the website. First impressions are meant to be quick, fun, initial impressions on an album or release as I listen to it for the first time. It’s a running commentary written while listening to an album — not a review. More like a diary of thoughts. This post has been lightly edited for structure and flow.
I figured with the album coming out on Friday this was really the last time I had to try and get some early thoughts down on this album for everyone before you’ll be able to hear it. Hell, there’s always the chance this leaks while I’m typing this up. Then everyone can join in with me.
At a high-level, this album works for me more than any of their albums have since Crimson. I’ve liked the stuff that followed, but it never really captured that same magic as their earlier work. I would find myself listening to them for a few weeks (with the exception of This Addiction, which never really grabbed me), but after that, when I wanted an Alkaline Trio fix, I’d go back to Crimson or something before it. That’s just how it played out for me. I can’t predict with certainty that this is going to be an album I come back to in the future, but there’s something about it that hits me just right and gives me that feeling. There’s an energy here, a feeling of immediacy that they touched on with My Shame is True, but one that feels much more rolled into a “classic” Alkaline Trio-sounding album. This urgency to the songs is really resonating with me at the moment.
“I love you, Chicago,” Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy sings on the closing notes of the second track “City in a Garden,” and, in a lot of ways, Lake Effect Kid, is very much a love letter to Chicago and all of the band’s memories surrounding their city. Nostalgia aside, Fall Out Boy have shown that they have not peaked, and the Lake Effect Kid EP showcases some of their best work to date.
Conor Murphy is not fucking around – the end of the world is coming soon or at least it feels like it is every single day. Murphy carries a sense of impending dread throughout his band Foxing’s spectacular third album, Nearer My God – as if all of this could collapse at any minute. So if you’re gonna square up with the apocalypse then Foxing figured they might as well throw their best punch and create a stone cold classic. And, almost out of necessity, Nearer My God is exactly that.
A conversation in the Thrice album thread got me thinking this morning. Does hype around an album even matter anymore? In the past, the idea of a hyped release meant that a lot of people would be anticipating, talking about, and building “buzz” for the release. The thinking went that the more hype around a release, the better it’d sell, then there’d be more people out on tours, you’d get bigger and better tours, and then you’re on your way. The time between announcing an album and releasing it into the world seemed to, in theory, be built around coordinating and focusing this hype as you built toward release week and getting those first week sales. But here, in 2018, does this hype really mean anything and can we measure its success?
Over the past few months I can’t think of many rock bands that had more buzz, or “hype,” than the most recent Foxing release. All the right publications were talking about it. All the right “taste makers” liked it. Premieres on all the right websites. Features were written. Cool, unique, campaigns. Awesome podcasts. And it was all backed by, in my opinion, one of the best albums so far released this year. It came, it was released into the world, and it sold just fine in the first week. (Around 3,500 copies.) So, by quite a few of the metrics we’ve always used to define what a good album rollout looks like, this one had it all. It had the buzz. It had the “hype.” It had our forums anticipating the album from announcement all the way up to the day it was released into the world. The question I started asking myself this morning was centered on if this was actually effectively better than the Thrice album rollout — which seems to have die-hard fans upset because there isn’t enough to keep them interested. And, furthermore, how do we adequately measure “hype” and if it matters in the rock or alternative music world today?
Mitski Miyawaki (mononymously known as Mitski) is a powerhouse. The Japanese-American artist is only 27 years old, and her new album; Be The Cowboy is her fifth album in six years. Her 2016 album Puberty 2 was released to universal critical acclaim, single “Your Best American Girl” landed on multiple “best songs of 2016” lists, and starting in March this year, she joined Lorde as an opener for the New Zealand artist’s Melodrama World Tour. To say that Mitski has been having a hard working, busy, few years is an understatement. Within Be The Cowboy, there’s a new central focus for Mitski: the loneliness that accompanies a young woman as she relentlessly tours to continue being a musician for a living. Of course, her words are as sharp and powerful as ever. There’s no one who has so effectively mastered the art of explosive, endlessly fascinating songwriting. She switches between personifying fictional characters, while a number of tracks follow her relationship with music (“Geyser” and “Remember My Name” spring to mind) rather than other people, or herself. This is undoubtedly Mitski’s most ambitious album yet, and also the culmination of all her past work. The album has an unbelievable amount of musical ideas wrapped up inside it, and in any other artist’s hands, it might not work. Be The Cowboy is only 33 minutes long – only three songs are longer than two and a half minutes, but it all flows beautifully. All the ideas are anchored by ethereal vocals and haunting lyrical gems. Just looking at the singles, it’s clear that Mitski is confident in making yet another sonic departure. Take second single “Nobody”; an infectious disco-pop banger that’s nothing like anything else in her discography. Album opener “Geyser” is bombastic and combines the piano and organ found in her first two records, Lush and Retired From Sad, New Career In Business and joining them is the crashing, distorted guitars that defined her breakout album, Bury Me At Make Out Creek. Final single “Two Slow Dancers” is a gorgeous, nostalgic piano ballad. There’s no one who tackles nostalgia and loneliness like Mitski.
On Calpurnia’s debut album, Scout, the four-piece group from Vancouver, Canada show off their garage-rock influences and showcase the promise of a very talented, young band. The band consists of vocalist/guitarist Finn Wolfhard (from Stranger Things), drummer Malcolm Craig, bassist Jack Anderson, and Ayla Tesler-Mabe rounding out the group on guitar and backing vocals. To simply write-off this group simply based on their age would be a big disservice to yourself and Calpurnia.
The EP itself was recorded under the tutelage of producer Cadien Lake James (of Twin Peaks), and what he is able to get out of the four youngsters is remarkable. Not to say that Calpurnia were not capable of this album without James, but the polish and sheen that comes through the speakers is really amazing.
Looking back 15 years from Silverstein’s debut album is an interesting experiment, now knowing all of the great work they have put forth since. When Broken is Easily Fixed was a compilation of the band’s early EPs, Summer’s Stellar Gaze (2000) and When the Shadows Beam (2002), that were re-recorded for Victory Records under the tutelage of producer Justin Koop. The LP itself went on to sell over 200,000 units, far surpassing any expectations.
I first discovered Silverstein when my college roommate told me I needed to check out this new band on Victory Records named after a children’s book author (Shel Silverstein). That first song he played for me was “Bleeds No More.” I was immediately drawn into the aggressiveness of the track, from the dual-guitar attack of Neil Boshart and Josh Bradford, to the carefully placed screams of Shane Told, the track just clicked. Then as I began to investigate the other songs on When Broken is Easily Fixed, I became drawn to songs such as “Red Light Pledge” and “Wish I Could Forget You,” each with their own personalities and intricate guitar work, precise drumming, and incredible hooks. I really appreciated what Silverstein was aiming for on this release, and I knew that this band in particular was going to do something great in their career.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Washington, DC-based band, Black Dog Prowl, in their practice space in the heart of Maryland. They will be releasing a new series of EPs this Fall, and will headline the DC Music Rocks Festival on August 18th at the legendary 9:30 Club. In this interview, we chatted about each of the four band members’ influences, touring plans, and what this next gig means to them.
This first impression was originally posted as a live blog for supporters in our forums on July 19th, 2018. First impressions are meant to be quick, fun, initial impressions on an album or release as I listen to it for the first time. It’s a running commentary written while listening to an album — not a review. More like a diary of thoughts. This post has been lightly edited for structure and flow.
This new album from Thrice is a tricky one to pin down. I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out the best way to put into words what I think about it and, specifically, what it sounds like. I think going broadly I would describe the album has having a nice groove to it. A groove that reminds me most of Beggars, and one that doesn’t wholly eschew the rock sound they had on their last album, but instead leans into many aspects of that sound in new ways.
Writers, much like normal human beings, have a bucket lists. The difference is, our bucket lists contain people – personalities, creators, and yes, other writers that have inspired, comforted, and confounded us with their talents. Many of them will likely remain names on our lists until the day we type our last words, but occasionally, we’re lucky enough to spend a little time with the artists who have influenced us most.
Murder By Death, the Indiana-based kings and queen of gothic folk-rock, have been on my bucket list since I first discovered their catalog a decade ago. I was 14 then, a freshman in high school stealing his older brother’s CDs based on album artwork alone, and the idea of an album telling stories about devils and deserts was already inconceivably cool to me; the fact that this same album featured guest vocals from both Gerard Way and Geoff Rickly only cemented its importance in my mind.
Now, nearly 20 years into their career, Murder By Death exist in the kind of vacuum that contains a dedicated fanbase and a fearlessness to tell any tale they can conjur. It was then my great pleasure to speak with frontman Adam Turla about his penchant for Western-influenced storytelling, the band’s songwriting process, and of course, Murder By Death’s eighth, glam-rock inspired space opera (of sorts), The Other Shore.
Over the course of the past 10 years, few albums from the 2000s have stuck with me quite like The ’59 Sound. One of the undeniable truths of being a consummate life soundtracker is that most of your favorite albums end up being inextricably linked to certain periods of time. You play those records so much when they’re new to you that they become a collage of moments and memories from your life. It’s a beautiful thing when that happens, but it also tends to mean your favorite LPs eventually fall out of regular rotation, as you reach for new music to play that role for new moments and memories. Most of my favorite albums fit into this category. My other 2008 classics—records like Butch Walker’s Sycamore Meadows and Jack’s Mannequin’s The Glass Passenger—are albums I revisit only every month or two, not because I don’t love them, but because they hold so many pieces of my past self within their songs. Those albums could never be life soundtracks to me today, because they already played that role at such vivid and crucial junctures of my life.
The ’59 Sound is different. It’s the rare “favorite record” in my life that isn’t tied to any one specific moment or season or year. It’s a record that has grown with me over time, one that has meant a dozen different things to me from one year to the next. Where other records I loved back then have drifted more into the background, The ’59 Sound is a record I’ve played regularly—probably once every couple weeks, at least—for the better part of the past decade. A part of the reason is probably my initial indifference to the album. The ’59 Sound got a lot of hype in 2008, but my first listens told me it was something dated and backwards-looking: songs stuck in the past that didn’t have relevance to my present. (Note: this opinion is my worst first impression of all time.) Because I was never infatuated with this album like I was with many of the LPs that came out around the same time, I never “wore it out” in the same way.
Does Dave Grohl ever sleep? The near 23-minute instrumental song, “Play,” features Dave Grohl playing all of the instruments and is chaotic enough just in its concept alone. The “album” itself was recorded at East/West Studios in LA with the audio recorded by Darrell Thorp. The project came together to help promote music education in schools (so hell yeah to Grohl for doing this).
I highly recommend using a nice set of stereo headphones to fully absorb this entire work of art, rather than streaming it through a crappy pair of standard earbuds. This massive prog-rock odyssey is tailor-made for Dave Grohl, and has all of his many influences rubber-stamped over this opus. That being said, Grohl is precise in mastering the art of changing tempos, styles, and genres and knows exactly when to crank it up, or turn it down. The composure he plays with on “Play” is nothing short of a masterpiece.