Violent Soho are back with their first record in four years called Everything is A-OK, which seems ironic given our current world affairs. The new album was written before the COVID-19 crisis hit the world like a ton of bricks, but you could now make the argument that Everything is A-OK has arrived at just the right time; a moment when we can relate to the themes and ideas scattered throughout the record.
After taking a break following 2016’s Waco to focus on other musical projects, the Australian rockers– consisting of lead singer/guitarist Luke Boerdam, lead guitarist James Tidswell, bassist Luke Henery and drummer Michael Richards – are picking up right where they left off with their new album.
Even for longtime fans of the band, many of us were taken back by surprise by just how good Wake Up, Sunshine is. All Time Low have crafted their quintessential mid-career masterpiece that picks all of the best elements of each of their previous studio album efforts and expands upon these landmark moments with glowing results. The songs never stray too far from what All Time Low have accomplished in the past; they do these moments bigger and better on this record. This is one of those albums that grabs you from the very first listen, doesn’t disappoint, and still leaves you with a feeling of warmth and comfort through each of your repeat spins. In an age where some bands are postponing their releases in favor of garnering more attention in the fall, All Time Low have graced us with an early-summer treat that will stay in our daily rotations for the foreseeable future.
We are currently living in uncertain times with fear, anxiety, and stress riding high, especially as many are self-quarantining to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Sometimes what you need to get you through is a calming force, and for many, temporary relief came in the release of Pearl Jam ‘s new album, Gigaton, their first new record in just over six years.
Gigaton arrived at a moment when people needed a break, and many Pearl Jam fans were fortunate to be rewarded with one of the best albums in the band’s deep discography. The new record is one that was a genuine collaborative effort, and it amplifies the sounds of a band still loving what they do as they head into their fourth decade creating albums.
The new record is loaded from front to back, in what is truly a balanced record. There are moments of peace, calmness and relaxation, with an equal amount of rockers that you’ll be air-guitaring along to.
Back onto the scene after a lengthy hiatus, The Beautiful Mistake have released their first new music since 2004 with You’re Not Broken. I Am. Produced by Beau Burchell (Saosin), this short collection of songs shows a lot of promise as the band looks to write the next chapter in their career. The band is comprised of band members Josh Hagquist, Shawn Grover, Josh Quesada, Steve Dunlap, and Jon Berndston, and they seem poised to re-cement themselves into the crowded post-hardcore scene. On this EP, the wide-range emotions felt in their music only speaks to the power of their sound and composure as artists.
When Joywave set out to record their third studio album in their home studio in Rochester, New York, even they must have been surprised by how much the result of their work would be so relatable in the chaos of a never-ending pandemic. Produced by Joywave front-man, Daniel Armbruster, the band has created a spacey collection of tracks that breathe new life into a society that is struggling for its sense of direction. In some recent interviews regarding Possession, Armbruster mentioned that the album is an investigation of control, and added, “Our heads are spinning. Every day is crazier than the last. Every screen we walk by is shouting at us, demanding our undivided attention. Control over our own lives is constantly under siege.” This album couldn’t have come at a better time, as this quote sears through the noise of uncertainty going on in our lives at this very moment.
Although Nap Eyes couldn’t have predicted the circumstances behind it, their fourth album, Snapshot of a Beginner is a comforting album for the social distancing era. Songwriter and vocalist, Nigel Chapman springs between anxiety-induced stalling of tasks (“Mystery Calling”) to “feeling bored and unquestionably boorish” for writing songs about himself on “Though I Wish I Could.” Snapshot of a Beginner takes both the snappy and slacker rock moments of Nap Eyes’ third album, I’m Bad Now and encourages your grooviest dance moves to some pensive jams.
The Halifax, Nova Scotia outfit is Chapman, Seamus Dalton on drums and percussion, guitarist Brad Loughead and bassist Joshua Salter. Joining them are producers, James Elkington (Joan Shelley, Steve Gunn), and Jonathan Low (The National, Big Red Machine) to elevate the band’s slick sound with flourishes of additional piano, keyboards, organ, synthesizer, pedal steel guitar, and percussion. Nap Eyes, exceedingly open and clever, may leave you entranced — but, contrary to the name, their music certainly isn’t a slog.
I’ll be honest: I’m starting a fifteen-year retrospective of Thrice’s seminal masterpiece Vheissu in a way that may not make sense.
It’s been just under three years since the legacy of Brand New’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me gained a sizeable asterisk. Once firmly entrenched at number two on my list of all-time favorite albums, that record transited from being a piece of art that comforted me, grounded me, and helped me through some of the darkest eras in my cycles of depression to this huge question mark of unease and memory. It was an album that had fostered a community in my life—both online on the AbsolutePunk forums and with high school friends—at the same time that depression was stealing many senses of connection. It embodied a sound and possessed lyrics that explained how depression felt inside my chest and head.
In all the ways that losing Brand New hurts a myriad of people—from Jesse Lacey’s victims to the band’s fans—my internalized struggle emerged when I couldn’t turn to “Degausser,” “Sowing Season,” or “Not the Sun” to face certain emotions anymore. I won’t pretend I haven’t turned to those songs first out of a sense of musical muscle memory in the interim years, but they don’t carry the weight like they used to. In many ways, thanks to medication and a lot of personal growth, I don’t need them anymore, at least not as I did back then. But there will always be a part of me that wants an album to feel like a home in the storm when those emotions swarm.
Last month, at a concert venue in Atlanta, before a pandemic swept the globe and the year still felt full of promise, I realized that I already had that album—one that probably should’ve been the one I’d turned to all along. One that’s brought me comfort and catharsis through the chaos of social distancing, botched government responses, and hysteria.
Imagine ever doubting Code Orange.
Three years ago, the band kicked the mainstream in the teeth with their Roadrunner Records’ debut, Forever – serving the uninhabited a taste of the group’s relentless intensity. That record broke the band into the Billboard Top 200, numerous spots on big-name festivals, countless collaborations ranging from JPEGMAFIA to Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, and ultimately a Grammy nomination. But for those aware of the Pittsburgh quintet’s work ethic, you already knew the band wouldn’t ever rest on just those laurels – a zero chance possibility that their next record would resemble its predecessor. Forever only skimmed the surface of the Grammy-nominated band’s uncompromising vision, laying the foundation to deliver their fourth full-length album Underneath – Code Orange’s most brutal and visceral music yet. It’s exactly what band leader Jami Morgan proclaimed to Rolling Stone earlier this year: “At the end of the day, that’s what we are about: disruption. down. we. go.”
One of the things that gets lost on us as we deal with all of this self-quarantining, self-isolating, and social distancing is how easy it is to forget about taking of ourselves and our mental health. Brain Pain is a catchy, immediate, and socially relevant record as Four Year Strong take a look at what it means to be lost in our thoughts. With song titles ranging from “Crazy Pills” to “Talking Myself in Circles” and “Get Out of My Head,” FYS take it all in stride as they investigate the inner workings of our brains and what makes us all unique and human. On its surface, Brain Pain couldn’t have come at a better time for all of us as we re-learn ways to communicate with each other without that physical connection, and it surely doesn’t hurt that these songs are some of the best work from the band in quite some time.
One of the first things that stood out to me as I sat down to listen to Sophie Allison’s (Soccer Mommy) latest record, Color Theory, was how much her songwriting and confidence had grown in such a short period. Typically after releasing a successful debut album, songwriters can get a little shell-shocked by their success and fall into the dreaded sophomore slump that swallows up so many great artists. Luckily for us, that is not the case on the fantastic second record from Soccer Mommy. Filled with lush musical landscapes, futuristic artwork, and packaging, as well as some of her best songs to date, everything clicks perfectly into place on Color Theory.
Debut albums are always a ton of fun to review as they come with so much hope, promise, and youthful exuberance as the artists try to put their unique stamp on the music scene. Snarls’ debut LP Burst comes sparkling onto the indie rock music scene with vibrant guitars, shimmering harmonies, and a plethora of hooks to balance out their band. Snarls are a four-piece band from Columbus, OH, and are led by Chlo White (vocals, guitar) who wastes little time getting down to business on this excellent record. Rounding out the band are Riley Hall (bass, vocals), Mick Martinez (guitar), and Max Martinez (drums). Snarls seem to fit well with other emo/indie bands such as Snail Mail, Haim, and Soccer Mommy, but they have plenty of musical chops to stand out and be memorable on their own.
Having knocked the rust off and avoided the dreaded sophomore slump that so many bands seem to struggle with, COIN have returned with their third album called Dreamland. A reasonably straight-forward record that likely won’t dissuade longtime fans of the band from staying true to the group, but also one that doesn’t stray too far from what the band has already tried so they may have a difficult time gaining a wider audience. There are a few nuances and improvements to COIN’s sound that make it hard to fault them for continuing with a successful formula, such as dream-pop elements filled with lush synths and breezy guitars. As much as I enjoy listening to this band and this record, it feels like it lacks some of the energy and urgency that made their second record How Will You Know If You Never Try so endearing. The familiar sounds and stylistic choices feel welcoming at first. Still, by the time you get to the conclusion of the record, you’re left with a feeling of a small missed opportunity to take advantage of the momentum gained from their breakthrough second album.
When I last sat down to write about a Billie Joe Armstrong project, I put my thoughts down on a band called The Longshot. What I wasn’t expecting from the new Green Day album, called Father of All Motherfuckers, is for that aforementioned side project to surpass the quality of the much more established brand. But alas, on Green Day’s 13th studio album, they have taken a few steps backward as they try and regain their footing. At first, it was tough for me to put my finger on where it went wrong on this record, but after re-listening to the album a few more times since its release date, it just isn’t as strong as I have come to expect from the pop-punk giants. Produced by Butch Walker, Chris Dugan, and Green Day, the album should have been a momentous creative igniter for the band to re-solidify themselves right before their most prominent touring stint in recent memory (the Hella Mega Tour with Weezer and Fall Out Boy). But instead, the final mixes of this record feel like they are missing a key ingredient in what made the band such a fun time in the first place.
Loom isn’t the album experimental musician and producer Katie Gately intended to make. At the time of her mother’s diagnosis of a rare destructive cancer, she was close to finishing an entirely different album. However, she quickly recognized that she “didn’t have the bandwidth to make that record anymore.” So, she returned to her Brooklyn family home and completely recreated the album around the 10-and-a-half-minute saga that deals with substance abuse, “Bracer,” which was her mother’s favorite track. Where her 2016 debut album, Color exhibited a frenzied and fierce listen, Loom reveals equally frantic textures and retains her debut’s display of melodic pop sensibilities. Although, this time around, her voice is front and center, atop harsh sound design.
Gately’s mother passed away in 2018. To convey the enormity of such a loss, she’s added real earthquake recordings and samples of further wreckage, such as peacocks screaming, wolves howling, pill bottles rattling, a machine gun going off, the take-off of a fighter jet airplane, a coffin shutting, and heavily processed audio from her parent’s wedding. The swiftness of her mother’s diagnosis and passing held an impending weight over Gately, and so Loom captures the bizarre nature of imminent doom, but also with some iridescent colors.
On John Moreland ‘s fifth solo record, aptly titled LP5, he takes an exploratory dive into working with an outside producer for the first time in his solo career. His producer selection in Matt Pence (Jason Isbell, The Breeders) fits like a glove as the production and songwriting elements that were already a strong suit of Moreland’s repertoire really shine on the album. Moreland recently said in an interview regarding his producer choice that, “I wouldn’t say that he pushed me into trying anything that I didn’t already want to do, but I think I came in with a lot of ideas that I found interesting but didn’t know how to execute. Matt was great at expanding on those things.” This American singer-songwriter from Tulsa, Oklahoma, has never been a stranger to writing great roots rock songs that feel as genuine and as warm as the singer’s personality. LP5 is by no means a departure from his already great sound, he expands upon it with more textured musical elements to give these songs a little more life.
When I last chatted with co-lead vocalist and band founder Zach Lupetin regarding Dustbowl Revival’s latest record, Is It You, Is It Me, you could hear the excitement in his voice in the new direction the band was taking on this album. Lupetin’s enthusiasm and confidence is warranted, as Dustbowl Revival have created a record that marks the next adventurous step in their evolution as artists. Produced by Sam Kassirer (Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter) Is It You, Is It Me is a sonic expansion on what Dustbowl Revival are capable of making when they set no limitations on themselves, and ignore any preconceived notions on what their band is expected to sound like. The band sounds re-focused, refreshed, and ready to conquer new audiences on this brilliant new album.
On Chase Tremaine’s debut solo album,Unfall, the Dallas-born singer-songwriter shines all over the record in an album almost entirely written and performed by Tremaine himself. The strengths found onUnfall are natural to notice right from the first listen: brilliant harmonies, intricate and layered guitars, as well as precise beats and pop hooks. Tremaine’s time spent playing in several Nashville-based bands is apparent, as he showcases a full breadth of styles and genre-blending on his debut LP. Over the 10-song, 46-minute record, Tremaine confidently takes the listener on an ear candy journey filled with a professional sounding album that was produced by Zach Lardy. Tremaine never loses focus on this record and delivers a strong introduction to his solo career.
Kaya Wilkins is just like you. Well, sort of. She enjoys Netflix and vegan peanut butter chocolate ice cream; she fights jet lag, experiences yeast infections, and she summons introverts such as myself to her “Zero Interaction Ramen Bar.” All of these facets are wrapped up in Wilkins’ penchant for light, luminous melodies. The Norwegian-born, New York-raised artist is fully realized on Watch This Liquid Pour Itself, her Jagjaguwar debut and second album under the Okay Kaya moniker. Recorded mostly by Wilkins herself, she collaborated with producers Jacob Portrait (Whitney, (Sandy) Alex G) and John Carroll Kirby (Solange, Kali Uchis) in order to further her vision. Inside its 39-minute runtime, Watch This Liquid Pour Itself presents forms of wetness through the lens of oceans, rivers, and ponds. The water in this universe is not of rebirth or revitalization, though, even when Wilkins misleads you so.
What is a politically-charged punk rock band to do as the world crumbles around them? Fight back. Anti-Flag have made their most immediate record in quite some time on 20/20 Vision, one directly has the POTUS in mind with of all of the fist-pumping anthems to be found here. On their 12th studio album, the band has little left to prove, yet they continue to deliver some of the most consistently excellent punk rock found in music.
Opening up with the current single “Hate Conquers All,” one that intersperses Trump-dialogue about protesters, Anti-Flag waste little time getting down to the business at hand. With lyrics such as, “Hate conquers all / In the ashes of the fall / With our backs against the wall / Watch the empire fall / Watch the nation dissolve,” the band makes it crystal clear of the urgency of the political situation going on in DC. The song feels like a call to arms for people to wake the fuck up on all of the terror taking place in our very own country.
After what seemed like a more extended than usual three-year hiatus, Bombay Bicycle Club have made their triumphant return with their fifth studio album Everything Else Has Gone Wrong. Many of the band members dabbled in solo projects during this hiatus, but the band seem as refreshed and re-focused as ever on their latest offering. In a recent statement, the group confirmed this newfound enthusiasm by saying, “More than anything it just felt great to be in the same room playing again. It made us realize what a good thing we have and has given us renewed energy and enthusiasm for the future.” Longtime fans of the band have plenty of reason to be equally excited for the latest chapter in their discography, as the record encapsulates everything the band does well, while still including plenty of new surprises along the way.