Review: The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers

The Beths - Jump Rope Gazers

“You are a beam of light / maybe that’s why your battery runs dry,” Elizabeth Stokes sings on the penultimate track of Jump Rope Gazers, the highly anticipated sophomore album from New Zealand group, The Beths. “You Are A Beam of Light” is the sole acoustic song on the album, and what a song it is. In the hands of another pop-punk songwriter, the track could come across as corny; or worse, convey zero emotion in a story that should tug at your heartstrings. Stokes, though, is a songwriter who transforms the mundanity and nostalgia of life into something universal and wholly captivating, while highlighting her introspective mind.

The Beths’ debut album, Future Me Hates Me was a surprise hit. Well, it was a surprise to the band. To everyone listening, it was clear that the four-piece had created something extraordinary. According to Chris Taylor at The Line of Best Fit, “Future Me Hates Me was one of the most self-assured and exciting debuts in recent years.” It’s true: with their debut, The Beths had me enjoying pop-punk for the first time since my teens. The success of the album propelled the Kiwis to newfound heights, spending 2019 touring with Pixies, subsequent to a stint in Europe and the UK with their personal heroes, Death Cab for Cutie (The Postal Service’s Give Up is an album Stokes knows front to back).

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Review: Sharptooth – Transitional Forms

Sharptooh

The sophomore album from Maryland-based hardcore rockers Sharptooth wastes little time getting down to business. Fronted by vocalist Lauren Kashan, it’s pretty cool to hear hardcore music through the lens of a woman. Transitional Forms tackles the themes of going through changes in life, and the aftermath of feeling like you’re not the one in control. Kashan mentioned this quote about the new record: “Ultimately, the record is about a paradigm shift, from hopelessness to self-compassion, and the fundamental realization that nothing in this world or in ourselves is ever black and white. It’s the story of my personal struggle with the societal, interpersonal, and internal constructs that have left me feeling small, afraid, broken, and utterly hopeless.” Their brutal approach to heavy themes is felt far and wide on this album that hits as heavy as it was intended.

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Review: Grey Daze – Amends

Grey Daze

Prior to the meteoric success of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington was the lead vocalist of a grunge-inspired rock band known as Grey Daze. The band released two albums (Wake Me and …No Sun Today) before Bennington joined Linkin Park, and the songs from those releases have been re-recorded and re-imagined for an album known now as Amends. The band is comprised of longtime members Sean Dowdell (drums, backing vocals), Mace Beyers (bass), as well as Cristin Davis (guitar) who have affectionately raided their vault of unheard vocal takes from Bennington to recreate this record. Although Grey Daze disbanded in 1998, Bennington took to social media in 2017 to announce a reunion of his former band, yet due to his untimely death, he never got a chance to see the final product through. Amends is a proper time capsule of the brilliance of Bennington’s vocal prowess at such a young age, and it’s easy to see the rock influences that he wears proudly on his sleeve on this album.

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Review: HAIM – Women In Music Pt. III

HAIM - Women in Music

Coming off of the success of their sophomore album, Something to Tell You, which spawned a Top 40 hit in “Little of Your Love” all eyes were focused on the three sisters in HAIM to see what they would come up with next. What they have created is a sonic achievement of great songs that they have affectionately coined Women In Music Pt. III. The promotion schedule of this record was kicked off with a short an intimate tour of delis in the US that was halted due to the pandemic. The sisters also decided, like many other major artists, to delay the release of their album until now. Who would have known that they would release the best record of their career with an expansive collection of tunes that features new musical styles, tones, and sounds to further round out their artistic statement. The album was produced by Danielle Haim, Rostam Batmanglij, and Ariel Rechtshaid, who each put their unique stamp on this record that directly rewards the listener on each repeat spin.

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Review: Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher

When asked about the pressure of writing the follow-up to her successful debut Stranger in the Alps, Phoebe Bridgers responded with an emphatic fuck no. “I made the whole record knowing that people were going to hear it. And I made the first record being like, “I wonder if I’m going to have to get a day job after this,” Bridgers explained in a recent UPROXX interview. “Mostly I just wanted it to be better than the first record, which I think it is.” With that clearheaded mindset, Bridgers’s new record Punisher accomplishes that and more – her lyricism has never been sharper while each track features richer and deeper song textures than ever before.

With Punisher, Bridgers’s worldview continues to expand even as the world around her (and us) falls apart. Love, death, and the impending apocalypse are consistently swirling around us, and Bridgers is fiercely captivated by every detail and how they exist within everyday banalities. Her interpretations and retelling of each one is wittier and sharper than ever. “Garden Song” begins with Bridgers daydreaming of living in her friend’s “house up on the hill,” but only after implying that the white supremacist neighbor has been murdered and buried in her new garden. There’s a contentment behind the wistful opener as she reveals that “the doctor put her hands over my liver/she told me my resentment’s getting smaller,” melancholically sighing, “No, I’m not afraid of hard work/I get everything I want/I have everything I wanted.”

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Review: Tenille Townes – The Lemonade Stand

Tenille Townes

The first time I heard Tenille Townes, I knew she was the real deal. Her proper major-label debut release was an all-acoustic EP titled The Living Room Worktapes, and it was a masterpiece. Townes has a strong but unusual voice that conveys depths of empathy and emotion, as well as a talent for crafting songs that ask deep existential questions about what we’re doing here, how we connect with one another, and what the afterlife might look like, among other things. These talents are impressive in any context, but there’s something about hearing them over a sparse acoustic arrangement that makes them all the more jaw-dropping. Listening to The Living Room Worktapes captures the way it feels to hear a complete unknown at an open mic night—just voice, guitar, and unbelievable songwriting—and be absolutely bowled over by their talent. While just four songs long, that release left me with the highest of hopes for what Townes’ career might hold. Here was an artist with Lori McKenna’s talent for storytelling and understanding of the human condition, paired with a Patty Griffin-like voice that could cut you right to the soul.

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Review: Gordi – Our Two Skins

Gordi - Our Two Skins

Sophie Payten, the Australian folk-pop artist known as Gordi, is one of the finest songwriters to ever come from this country. In August 2017, she released her debut album, Reservoir, which peaked at #20 on the ARIA Chart. Following the release of the record, Payten dove straight into exploring her collaborative side; appearing on “Postcard” with Troye Sivan, as well as featuring alongside Julien Baker, Bon Iver, The National, and more. Last year, Payten worked as a doctor at the Prince of Wales Hospital after completing her medical studies at The University of New South Wales in 2018. In January, Gordi released her first song in three years: “The Cost,” with all proceeds going to the 2020 Australian Bushfire Relief. Her second album, Our Two Skins, was somehow created amongst all of this.  

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Review: Align In Time – On A Spiral

Align in Time

Very rarely do you come across a band who can convey so much raw emotion in an album without a single vocal, but enter Align In Time, the musical alias of John Boles. On his second album, On A Spiral, Boles is able to convey a wide range of emotions in a storytelling approach similar to a film score. It’s a perfect album to throw on in the background while you want to escape from all of the other outside noise of the world. With rich influences that range from the post-rock elements of Circa Survive to the emo-tinged guitars of Jimmy Eat World, Align In Time is perfectly in tune with who they are and have created a soundtrack worthy of immediate praise and consideration.

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Review: As Cities Burn – Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest

“The first day I was alive I got on a ride against my will. It’s so amazing I’ve made it this far.” 

Cody Bonnette, one of As Cities Burn’s two vocalists, sings these lyrics with an impassioned earnestness. They come from “Maybe,” a highlight from the band’s underrated 2019 release Scream Through The Walls, their first release after a decade. In those two lyrical sentences, I am understood, and my emotions of where I am at right now represented. As Cities Burn has always been the band that I could find myself in every single song. 

In 2005, this wildly popular local band fronted by two brothers from Louisiana put out their debut record on Solid State. At the time, Underoath were beginning to embrace their position as an undisputed juggernaut of the scene. Demon Hunter and Zao were already established giants. Norma Jean and Haste the Day were coming off two wildly popular releases. Young guns Emery, Showbread, He Is Legend, and The Chariot were skyrocketing in popularity every week. August Burns Red was just a name on an undercard compared to the bands already listed. 

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Review: New Found Glory – Forever + Ever x Infinity

There’s nothing like pop-punk in the summer. When the sun is shining, and the air is warm, it’s the perfect time of year to drive around with your windows down, blasting some New Found Glory. During a normal summer, a new New Found Glory album could become the soundtrack of a season spent with friends, going on vacation, tailgating for concerts, and family BBQs. Summer 2020 is going to be a much different summer than we’re used to. Fortunately for long time fans of New Found Glory, you have a new album for you to  lose yourself in for 48 minutes.

New Found Glory is back with Forever + Ever x Infinity, their tenth studio album. It’s a record that finds the band going back to their roots of punk, hardcore and post-hardcore instead of continuing to explore the lighter pop elements that frequented 2017’s Makes Me Sick. If this sounds familiar, it’s basically the same thing that happened when they elected to ditch the mellow and softer sounds of 2006’s Coming Home to return to rock/punk with 2009’s Not Without A Fight. If you were a fan of Makes Me Sick and were hoping to see the band continue down this road, you might be disappointed with this release. However, if you’re a fan of NFG albums like Catalyst and Resurrection, you’ll walk away pretty happy with what you hear.

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Review: The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

The first time I ever heard American Slang was in my freshman college dorm room, just a week or two from the end of school, on a gorgeous April spring day. Now, if I’d been a law-abiding listener, the wait to hear the new album from The Gaslight Anthem—their follow-up to 2008’s acclaimed The ’59 Sound—still would have been the better part of two months. American Slang didn’t officially hit the streets until June 15. But 2010 was maybe the golden age of album leaks, and as a broke college student with a budget for little more than gas and the occasional midnight McDonald’s run with my roommate, that fact was very good news for me. It also meant that American Slang, a bulletproof summer soundtrack album, got to serve as the bookend to my first year of college, and to all the anticipation I was feeling as four months of summer approached.

When The ’59 Sound broke in 2008, The Gaslight Anthem quickly became one of the most buzzed-about rock bands in all the circles I was a part of online. Here was a band that respected classic rock traditions and made them sound new again; a band willing to pilfer from their influences in the most loving manner possible; a band whose frontman was, perhaps, worthy of being called “this generation’s Bruce Springsteen.” All that hype only became louder and louder throughout 2009 and into the early part of 2010, which meant that by the time Gaslight announced their new record, excitement for it was through the roof. A title and an album cover that seemed to promise another sweeping classic-rock-styled masterpiece? Well, who could resist that?

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Review: Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica

Modest Mouse - Moon & Antarctica

To paraphrase the timeless Forrest Gump, Modest Mouse albums are like a box of chocolates; you never know what kinds of songs you’re gonna get. 

You could have a beautiful song with an epic ending like “Talkin’ Shit About a Pretty Sunset,” a wild, weird 11-minute jam like “Trucker’s Atlas,” or a chaotic song like “Breakthrough” that makes you want to shout like singer Isaac Brock and bounce around the room.

All of these traits are on display on Modest Mouse’s 2000 album The Moon & Antarctica, their first on a major label. Despite the jump to a bigger label with Epic Records, Modest Mouse only continued to grow into one of the greatest bands in indie rock. While some bands might drastically change their sound when they make the jump, Modest Mouse instead put together one of the greatest works in their career. They created an album where you don’t have to skip a single song, making each track feel like they’re all connected and are as important as the next one up the track listing.

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Review: Lady Gaga – Chromatica

Lady Gaga - Chromatica

”This is my dance floor, I fought for” Lady Gaga proclaims on the Chromatica track, “Free Woman.” With this collection of club-ready anthems, it’s hard not to take her statement more seriously than right now. Coming off of a successful acting stint in the A Star is Born film, the interest in her music couldn’t have been any higher. Lady Gaga has answered the call in a big way with one of her more immediate records to date and has taken full advantage of the spotlight. This album was produced by BloodPop (Michael Tucker) and Gaga herself, and the singer’s return to pop music feels as refreshing as ever. The record also features several A-lister collaborations with Ariana Grande, Elton John, and BLACKPINK that further enhance the synth-pop direction Gaga was going for.

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Review: Jeff Rosenstock – No Dream

Jeff Rosenstock - No Dream

Like the Beyoncé of the punk rock scene, Jeff Rosenstock has a knack for dropping surprise albums that go on to be instant classics. Rosenstock has done it yet again with, NO DREAM, a record loaded from front to back that might just be his best release to date. 

Rosenstock has never held back when diving into contemporary issues. WORRY summed up the anxious feelings leading up to the 2016 Presidential election, POST arrived on New Year’s Day of 2018 after a long first year of Donald Trump in office and now NO DREAM has dropped in the midst of a pandemic, mass public demonstrations against systemic racism, and political unrest before election day.

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Review: The 1975 – Notes On A Conditional Form

The 1975 - Notes...

Now that we’ve had some time to digest the latest album from The 1975, I thought it was about time that we started the discussion on everything that makes up Notes on a Conditional Form. I’ve seen several posts online about the album being too long, and at 22 tracks, it’s a warranted argument. Some people have even gone as far as cherry-picking individual songs from the album to make their playlist that better fits their tastes and listening preferences. While I am usually against the idea of skipping tracks during the listening experience that the artist intended, I found myself just as guilty as everyone else with navigating around some of the songs that didn’t seem to flow in the full album. Typically when there is an album that invites so much dissecting to enjoy the material, it’s a clear sign of an imperfect record. The 1975 had a lot going for them leading up to this LP, having already released three bona fide classic records before NOACF. This album is arguably their most polarizing to date, and while some may write off this record as a rare miss, the good far outweighs the bad in their latest artistic statement.

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