Thursday, January 17, 2019

Numb Without You (Single) - The Maine

On the 8123 Podcast, run by Garrett and Pat of The Maine, they recently spent an episode talking about their new album. At one point, they mentioned that this new album is going to be a very bold one for the band - including ideas and elements outside their normal comfort zone. It made me excited when I heard that, but it's hard to anticipate what that'll look like in terms of an actual sound.

Good thing we didn't have to wait too long.

The Maine released the first single, "Numb Without You", from their forthcoming 7th studio album You Are OK. Luckily my girlfriend and I had the chance to listen to the song together for the first time, driving around in the rain late Tuesday night, which is usually my preferred way for listening to new music. What a pleasure it was to have and share that experience with someone I care for so dearly.

The song is a bold one; there's no doubt about that. Right from the start, the strings are a huge step into new territory for the group - and it's a step in the right direction. Even when the rest of the band comes in, there's a fiery energy to it all, while still having a sense of familiarity. This is The Maine, but perhaps not in the form you've known them these last 10 years. This is a band who is constantly looking forward, moving towards the next big step and what they can continue to accomplish. There has never been any sort of stagnation in this group - listen to their albums over the years, and you will see a band continuing to discover itself and what potential they hold.

I absolutely love this song. In the less than 48 hours it's been out, I've listened to it 20+ times. It's got this darker, grittier tone from the band that I have yet to see, but with such an expansive sound - there's an epic feeling to it, especially the drop in the chorus as the band comes crashing in. The bridge is some pure rock and roll bliss, feeling reminiscent of the band's energy on songs from Pioneer - an album, interestingly enough, where the band really pushed for their own sound and creative control over their music.

I'm very, very excited for You Are OK to arrive March 29th. I'm sure we will get more singles before then, so I know I won't be waiting too long before I get another taste of the new sound from The Maine. Until then, I'll be trying not to think about how I won't be in Phoenix this weekend at the second edition of the 8123 Fest, rocking out with the boys as they begin their new era. Congrats - this is going to be a wild ride.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Anticipated Albums of 2019

I have thought about and talked about this subject before, but never before did it cross my mind to do it as a post on here. So here it goes - this is my list of anticipated albums for 2019, which will be categorized by those that are confirmed/highly likely and those that are rumored/unlikely/my wishlist. I've included the release dates for those that do have them & reasonable ranges for those without.

Confirmed & Highly Likely:

  • Bring Me The Horizon - AMO (1/25/19)
    • The one that has a set date and will be one of the first albums of the year that I have my eye on, AMO will be something many other fans of the band are paying close attention to as well. Though some were disappointed with their last release, That's The Spirit, but I found it to be one of their strongest and most diverse. It showed a desire to push in new directions, and had some truly raw and vulnerable moments, musically and lyrically. That album meant a lot to me, and I know that if the band continues on that route, then this release will be great. Since we've had some singles already, it seems as though the band will be a bit of a middle ground between the newer experimental elements and the gritty, hardcore sound of some of their older albums. 
  • The Maine - Untitled (Spring/Summer 2019)
    • Lovely Little Lonely was my favorite album of 2017 and one of my favorite albums ever, so naturally I'm going to include the follow up on this list. The album has been recorded and is in the mixing/post-production phase, so it's highly likely we'll see it drop in the first half of the year. On The 8123 Podcast, band members and hosts Pat Kirch and Garrett Nickelsen have discussed some of the process and their feelings regarding the album. From what they've said, this album will be a bold and exciting endeavor from the group. 
  • The 1975 - Notes On A Conditional Form (May 2019)
    • Yes, you're reading that correctly. The band's latest release, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, came out not quite two months ago, and the band has been hard at work to put out another, separate album less than six months later. It's hard to speculate what the sound will be like - but knowing the band, it'll be worth listening to. 
  • grandson - Untitled (Spring 2019)
    • While this release will most likely be another EP in the Modern Tragedy series, it's still a release that should be given as much attention as possible. 2018 was a nonstop, action-packed year for grandson, and his fire is nowhere near being burned out. Given the continuing political climate, the relevancy of his music is only going to grow bigger and more powerfully speak as a voice for those who are dissatisfied with the status quo. 
  • Walk The Moon - Untitled (Spring 2019)
    • This was a surprise addition to this list - just barely 24 before I sat down to write this, the band dropped a surprise single, "Timebomb". It's surprising that the band would be amping up for a release so soon after their last (November 2017), but given the energy and direction of the new single, I'd say it's an album to be excited about (so hopefully this isn't a one-off single). 
  • From Indian Lakes - Untitled (Spring/Summer 2019)
    • A band that I have so much love and enthusiasm for, it's been a solid two years since their last release - and with a tour supporting Copeland coming up this spring (and the official confirmation via Twitter), the time seems ripe for a new album from the California group. 

  • Mike Shinoda
    • While his album just released last summer, I would be very surprised to see no new music from Mike Shinoda. The sprawling 16-track Post Traumatic covered a lot of ground, but I know the man has more in the works. If there isn't a full length album (since he's gonna be touring in Europe in March and most likely elsewhere in the summer), then perhaps at least an EP of fresh material will drop this year.
  • Linkin Park
    • This one is a delicate matter. It's not necessarily that I want to/expect to see an album this year, or even in the next few years, but I find it hard to imagine a world where the remaining members of Linkin Park don't come together for another album. I'm sure they're all still working through and will be forever healing from the loss they experienced with Chester's passing in 2017, but I think that once the band has had time to process and come together naturally, they will return to the world together. What that will look like or sound like, I won't speculate - it's not my place and it does no good. But I think this will happen
  • Blink-182
    • It's been about 2 &1/2 years since the return of Blink-182 in their current iteration, and the timing feels just right for a release from the pop-punk veterans. The carrying power of their last release was pretty incredible, and I know the chemistry with the three current members would carry on in their next release. 
  • Paramore
    • The band's transformation/refocusing with After Laughter showed a maturity and vulnerability that was related to and gobbled up by fans and critics alike. While that seems like a lot to follow up with, I know that the band felt very organic, fresh, and revitalized in their last album. I have no doubt that a follow up will continue that same energy. 
I'm going to revisit this post halfway through the year - see what ideas I had that were correct, which I was off on, and what surprise albums drop between now and then. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Top Songs of 2018

There have been two reasons for the delay in this post.

One, the holiday season is always super busy for me, and then I went and left my laptop with my parents at Christmas - so I haven’t had as much time or proper resources as I would like.

Two, it’s been difficult to finalize my list and so I’ve been putting it off a bit. There were a lot of great, great songs this year. And picking one to reign supreme has been quite a back and forth process. But, I finally got my act together and decided, so here’s my list (I decided to do from #10 to #1 for the suspense factor).

10. ATM - J. Cole
  • This song, on my initial listen, felt too similar to a lot of the current radio fare. The more I listened, however, the more I realized the depth the song contains, lyrically. I’ve enjoyed watching Cole’s star rise over these last few years, and this song is a testament to that.
9. Filthy - Justin Timberlake
  • While the album that this single was supposed to build hype for didn’t sit as well with me, this song is still an absolute blast. The funk and the future came together to create one of JT’s best hits in years.
8. Small Worlds - Mac Miller
  • It was hard to pick a favorite from this album, but Small Worlds was the track I kept coming back to most often. As my girlfriend pointed out, the end almost ends up being a spoken word piece, with Miller showing his most thoughtful album yet (and unfortunately his last).
7. If I Say - Mumford & Sons
  • I knew from my first listen that this song was going to be in my top favorites for the year. The way it builds, slow and gentle at first, but sweeping you away in an experience that’s truly remarkable. A beautiful, wonderful piece.
6. Star Treatment - Arctic Monkeys
  • The introduction to the masterpiece that is Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino really sets the mood and tone, so well that I keep coming back to this song more than the rest. It was very much an odd experience the first time round, but I’ve grown to really love and appreciate this song and the album it begins.
5. Levitate - twenty one pilots
  • Short but sweet - that's a perfect summary of this song. The brevity is what makes it so great, always leaving me wanting more of the sick instrumental and Tyler Joseph's smooth and slick flow. Not to mention the lyrical depth of this song - lots of layers to unravel. 
4.Running From My Shadow (feat. grandson) - Mike Shinoda
  • It was hard to pick which of Shinoda's songs were gonna end up on here; "Nothing Makes Sense Anymore" and "Promises I Can't Keep" were both heavy contenders, but this song consistently rose to the top in my mind. It showcases the incredible talent of Shinoda - the musicality, the lyrics, and the songwriting collaboration with grandson lead to an absolute blast of a song. 
3. Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea - Fall Out Boy
  • One of the few times I've called a song a "banger", I knew early on this was gonna be in my top. The intensity, the catchy-ness captures the spirit of Fall Out Boy and the direction they've gone as a band. This one felt like such a great blend of electronics and a throwback to their pop-punk roots, and one that was easy to play on repeat this year. 
2. Stoned, Alone - Teenage Wrist
  • I absolutely love the whole album, but this song really felt like it showed off what Teenage Wrist is about. The gritty meets shoegaze sound was one I wasn’t expected to embrace so well, but this song is full of so much fun and energy, you can't help but bob along and rock out. 
1. Love It If We Made It - The 1975
  • The surprise song of the year. My initial couple of listens to this song were not ones of pure enjoyment. This song took its time to grow on me, but boy did it. A song for the times, a song of raw emotions and thought provoking statements. Angsty and cool and sorrowful all at once, this was the song that encapsulated much of 2018. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Top Albums of 2018

As this year is coming to a close, it's time for one of my favorite posts - my top albums of the year. I always find really entertaining to go through and rank the albums that were released throughout the year, and this year is no exception.

However, I've decided to approach it a bit differently, mostly due to the inspiration I got from all the Spotify posts I saw recently (I use Apple Music, so no year end totals for me). In past years, I've just ordered them based on how I liked them and their impact on me. While I will include those factors, I've decided to do a few different lists based on different factors - primarily play counts and averages. I'll show the lists, and then go into further detail after each one. 

I took all the numbers down on December 7th, and haven't counted plays or releases after that date.

For albums with the most total play counts (play count in parenthesis, for all songs combined):
  1. Post Traumatic - Mike Shinoda (589)
  2. Mania - Fall Out Boy (478)
  3. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino - Arctic Monkeys (475)
  4. Chrome Neon Jesus - Teenage Wrist (464)
  5. Nearsighted - Speak Low If You Speak Love (390)
  6. Swimming - Mac Miller (362)
  7. Trench - Twenty One Pilots (329)
  8. Beerbongs & Bentleys - Post Malone (299)
  9. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (ABIIOR) - The 1975 (293)
  10. Delta - Mumford & Sons (218)
This, to me, feels like the popularity rankings. It's not based on merit, but instead just the numbers - how many times did I listen to the tracks for each album. The top four were unsurprising; those albums have been vying for best album all year. The biggest surprises were Beerbongs & Bentleys and ABIIOR - the former because it was NOT in my top album contention (unlike the Grammy's, apparently), and the later because of it's late release (only 8 days before I did my counts). Some of the numbers are a bit skewed, however, due to factors such as singles, release dates, and others (specifically for Mania, with it's postponed release date from last year and the length of time some of the singles had been out). 

So I also decided to also figure out the average play count, based on the totals I got above and the number of songs on each release. 
  1. Mania - Fall Out Boy 
    • (47.8 average, 10 tracks)
  2. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino - Arctic Monkeys 
    • (43.2 average, 11 tracks)
  3. Chrome Neon Jesus - Teenage Wrist 
    • (42.2 average, 11 tracks)
  4. To Imagine (EP) - The Neighbourhood 
    • (39.6 average, 5 tracks)
  5. Post Traumatic - Mike Shinoda 
    • (36.8 average, 16 tracks)
  6. Nearsighted - Speak Low If You Speak Love 
    • (32.5 average, 12 tracks)
  7. A Modern Tragedy, Vol. 1 (EP) - grandson 
    • (31.2 average, 5 tracks)
  8. This Place Is A Movie (EP) - First Ghost 
    • (29.8 average, 6 tracks)
  9. Swimming - Mac Miller 
    • (27.8 average, 13 tracks)
  10. Trench - Twenty One Pilots 
    • (23.5 average, 14 tracks)
This one felt like it was a little more balanced, because it was less of a popularity based on individual track plays and boosted the albums that I listened to frequently from start to finish. However, it also was more partial to shorter releases, especially EP's that only contain five or six songs (like To Imagine, A Modern Tragedy, and This Place Is A Movie).

I found that going through and figuring out the numbers and averages was actually really fun. It gave me a different perspective on the releases, showing me how I favored some albums more than I originally thought, while reaffirming others as being my favorite and the numbers reflecting that. I decided to finish the post with my original list of how I rank the albums and a few sentences about why. I've also linked each title to it's original review for more in-depth info as well (if I reviewed it).

Top Albums of 2018:

  1. Post Traumatic - Mike Shinoda
    • I had a feeling this album would top the list, but regardless of my love and admiration for Linkin Park - what a release. Coming from such a loss and creating such a piece of art, Mike Shinoda shows his versatility, his songwriting skills, and, most importantly, his ability to be raw and vulnerable in his walk through life. 
  2. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino - Arctic Monkeys
    • If Mike Shinoda hadn't put out such a stellar album, this would have taken the cake. An album that immerses you from beginning to end, that demands to be listened to as a whole, an entire unit - a bold, yet well played move. Definitely an album I will continue to revisit.
  3. Chrome Neon Jesus - Teenage Wrist
    • Teenage Wrist was band I did not know of before this year, but I've grown to love the gritty nature of the group that combines sound influences from my childhood (emo/mid 00's alternative) and just before my time (90's alternative). Another solid album of guitar-based music, a blaring middle finger to the critics and naysayers who claim that music with guitars is "dead".
  4. Swimming - Mac Miller
    • An incredible album that's tragically marred by the loss of a blossoming artist. Mac Miller's latest and final release reveals a man who was finally hitting his stride, who was breaking into a place of authentic and vulnerable creativity. The demons were lurking in the album, but the staying power and message was hope - striving towards the light and the dawning despite those dark places.
  5. Delta - Mumford & Sons
    • A late entry but an easily identifiable masterpiece. Mumford & Sons have broken their own molds in spectacular fashion, and this album sets new standards for the "banjo band". Sweeping epics, quiet crooning, and a sense of honesty and being true to oneself that's really inspiring.
  6. A Modern Tragedy, Vol. 1 - grandson 
    • A fiery debut from a fiery artist - one that I had the pleasure of seeing in concert this fall. What rage, what energy - this is the political rock of our day and age. Channeling Rage Against The Machine, grandson flies through this five song EP as he covers a span of topics; police brutality, political corruption, depression, and drug abuse and addiction. Not a name to be missed, and one whose star is most definitely on the rise.
  7. Trench - Twenty One Pilots 
    • With the way that anticipation was building for the follow up to Blurryface, I wasn't sure how Twenty One Pilots was going to approach their latest album. The result was more than I could have hoped for - possibly their darkest album yet, but filled with moments of glittering, gleaming hope - light and darkness ever warring.
  8. Mania - Fall Out Boy
    • This album was one I was expecting to be on last year's list, but due to some delays, we got the album just after the start of this year - and was it worth the wait. One of the strongest FOB albums to date, showcasing their ability to continually adapt and build their sound in new and intriguing directions. It wasn't the most consistent album, but still a thrill ride from start to finish.
  9. Nearsighted - Speak Low If You Speak Love 
    • An album that I wasn't expecting to enjoy as much as I did, Nearsighted really highlights the songwriting skills and thoughtful music of Ryan Scott Graham. It's a layered release, full of raw and tender moments throughout - all with easy, sweet melodies to accompany.
  10. KOD - J. Cole
    • While I didn't listen to this album as consistently as some of the others on this list, I was still very impressed with the latest effort from J. Cole. Covering a variety of topics over some slick beats and fantastic production, Cole opened up about many things while calling out and rejecting stereotypes in rap. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships - The 1975

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is The 1975's boldest album yet. A sprawling, 15 track journey into a strange yet familiar place, ABIIOR covers an incredible amount of ground in just under an hour. The 1975 takes us on a tour of the modern era, the world of the internet and trap music, while incorporating more timeless and classic sounds, like jazz and ballads. You can hear the 80's, the 90's, the 00's, and today's sound all in the boundaries of the album. It's an ambitious and risky move, the entirety of the album. In an interview with Beats 1 on Apple Music, frontman Matt Healy explained that they don't want fans calling them a rock band anymore - they're a pop band, making pop records. While some people might have issues with this, it's a very honest statement from the group, and an accurate one. The indie-britrock band of the first The 1975 album is gone, and the emerging persona is one that has grown exponentially. Change for artists is always important, and while sometimes not well received initially, very necessary for a band to continue thriving in the world of popular music. This album shows the band's ability to embrace this new direction and focus for the band without compromising their integrity or the integrity of the music. That's a feat not easily achieved, and many bands have seen themselves fade from quality music into the blur of mainstream pop music (I'm looking at you, Maroon 5).

It's hard to pinpoint this album, genre-wise. And that's okay. Genre, in mine and other's opinions, is a dying breed. I think the blending and melding of genres is excellent and exciting and the way new musical ideas and boundaries are birthed and explored. Obviously, genres will exist for some time - but band's like The 1975 are doing good work in coloring outside the lines. Some of the music falls within the expected framework for the band. "Give Yourself A Try" and "It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)" feel the strongest of The 1975, the most reminiscent of their previous songs and soundspaces they've explored before. Not to say that they're unimaginative or boring - "Give Yourself A Try" is one of the best songs of the album, with the gritty guitar line, electronic/noisy drums, and Matty's autotuned vocals coming together to create a simultaneously relatable and exciting track.

The deeper you delve into the album, the more you find new ideas and places previously unexplored by the band. "Love It We Made It", the strongest song of the album, is this haunting and chaotic piece that showcases a very raw and intense side of Healy's vocals we haven't seen before, perhaps since their early days. "I Like America & America Likes Me", which started as a tribute/riffing off of "Soundcloud Rap", ends up being a very unexpected foray into trap that still somehow works for the band. "TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME" gives off an ever so slight reggaeton vibe and sees the band at their poppy peak; the lyrical content does give the track much more depth, tackling the subject of cheating in a relationship.

The last four songs of the album feel complete as a section, a whole piece that flows together in a way that I find hard to listen to them separately. "Surrounded by Heads and Bodies" is simply stunning; this beautiful, eerie piece that's so stripped yet holds such a strength and lasting power. The fact that it was written for a women Healy met while he was in rehab makes it all the more bittersweet. "Mine" emerges from the sort of mysticism presented with the last track and slows things down with some really, really jazzy sounds. Yet it still works. "I Couldn't Be More in Love" has a gospel feel, especially on the latter choruses, and "I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)" is reminiscent of late 90's/early 00's alternative, specifically in the intro with the acoustic guitar and in the chorus with the way the instrumental kicks it up and expands into this wall of noise.

I think the most remarkable thing about all these songs, all these examples, is that despite the number of directions the band goes, they still retain their identity and their sound. That's something that's really admirable. I think that this is the band's best album to date in terms of conceptual and lyrical content - time will tell whether this album can hold it's own against their sophomore release (one of my favorite albums of the last few years), i like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it. I don't know if the diversity of sound will create an album I'll continually come back to or just specific songs that I'll enjoy. But the most baffling thing of all is that the band is currently working on and planning to release another album in May of 2019: Notes on a Conditional Form. What that album will hold, we'll have to wait and see. But I am pleased and will be thoroughly enjoying this new work of art from one of the world's most promising acts.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended: "Love It If We Made It", "Surrounded by Heads and Bodies", "Mine", "Give Yourself A Try"

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Delta - Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons finally did it. They shed the “banjo band” skin.  If their last album, Wilder Mind was their breaking from the stereotypes surrounding them, then their fourth album, Delta, is a declaration of limitless potential. Delta reveals a band unhindered by expectations, willing to try and explore previously untouched areas and sounds. This is a band that has decided to use all the tools in the toolbox, to mix and meld a variety of ideas as they forge towards a new direction. Delta feels like the band is breathing, truly breathing, and revealing their own potential. It’s an honest and vulnerable work from the band, both musically and lyrically. It feels very cohesive, with tracks flowing into each other and referencing cross-tracks.

These also a big sense of exploration in this album. Different genres and elements are introduced that feel quite different and out there for the group. Hip hop, pop, and R&B all find their place throughout tracks in various parts of the instrumental. "Woman" and "Rose of Sharon" both feature hip-hop influenced beats, with the chorus of the latter even having some pop tendencies; the choral vocals, the clap beat, and the synths all showing a modern influence in the organics of the band's usual sound. "Picture You" definitely showcases some pop influence even stronger, yet in a way that still feels very natural for the band. Not only is the album different in terms of genre exploration, but also in variation of sounds. While Wilder Mind was a step in the right direction for the band with the rock focus, Delta shows how big the band can go beyond that. The scope of the album was broader, with more variation, contrast and highs and lows. It creates a more engaging experience than before, drawing the listener along for a wild ride. The track that does this the best, to me, is “The Wild”, a track that starts of soft and slow and beautiful and finally erupts into this huge, epic sound that still retains the beauty from before. The orchestral elements add layers, showcasing the band’s ability to creat and orchestrate beyond their usual instruments and sound space.

There are stories to be heard in these tracks, songs that bleed into and reference each other. Sequences reveal shorter tales in the middle, series of tracks that rise and fall on their own within the larger scope of the album as a whole. My favorite sequence is “Picture You”, “Darkness Visible”, and “If I Say”.  Not only does it sonically ebb and flow, but lyrically and thematically as well. “Picture You” feels like a reminder, a calling out to the Lord in spite of the darkness visible, the darkness ever approaching or looming. “Darkness Visible” brings the storm to life, the eerie sounds blending with the instruments as an excerpt from John Milton’s Paradise Lost is recited - tying in even more to the religious and spiritual aspect of the sequence. It grows into this loud, booming section that’s heavy and intense, bringing to mind a battle - in this case, perhaps for the soul. “If I Say” brings the sequence to a close, starting off stripped and bare after the conflict, yet building back slowly with hope and love. The story conveyed is absolutely captivating; breathtaking music that builds its own world yet tells a story so relatable and timeless - the struggle between hope and despair, light and darkness, good and evil.

Delta is the band’s most ambitious outing to date. It reveals the butterfly bursting from the cocoon, the long gestating form of a band that has a long career ahead of them, full of new surprises along the way. This album is easily one of the best of this year, and I certainly think it’s the best work from this band so far.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended: "The Wild", "Picture You/Darkness Visible/If I Say" (all as a sequence), "Forever"

Friday, November 23, 2018

Honey - EP - Crooked Teeth

When I interviewed Tyson of Crooked Teeth for my review of their rerelease of Pastel, he mentioned the influence that Fall Out Boy has had on the band, in terms of way they approach all aspects of the music biz and taking the risks that they have over the years.

As I was listening to the new EP, Honey, I found myself very much agreeing with that influence and seeing the way that Crooked Teeth is ready to take risks and make bold moves. With just five songs, the band really flexes their songwriting skills and showcases their wide-ranging influences, with elemtnts of hip-hop and pop smoothly mixing in with pop-punk and emo sounds. It's an ambitions venture, not trying to fit a single mold or set of expectations as the band lays it all out on the line. The whole EP only lasts for about 17 minutes, but each listen reveals the variety of sound spaces that the band chose to explore through. At it's heart, the band's pop-punk and rock sound holds true throughout. Each song of the release manages to incorporate an element or two that is not an obvious connection - the hip-hop beats of the title track, "Honey", and "You and Me (Whatever)", the synth/percussion melody line utilized in the intro and choruses of "Broken Bones", and the pop-leaning beat, synths, and echoing/super high vocals of "Absent" all reveal a much wider range of musical inspiration far beyond those of any one genre.

One of the most impressive elements of this release is the songwriting. It's incredibly strong, with all of the hooks for each song being both memorable and creative; tunes that get stuck in your head but still retain substance and intentionality. I think the song that sticks out to me the most is "You and Me (Whatever)" - the vocals and melody feel the strongest of the whole EP, showing pop-sensibility over both the synthetic beats and bass or the gritty guitars and crashing drums. The fact that they hold up so well over both sections, both of completely different directions and vibes, really is a testament to the band's songwriting and Tyson's vocal abilities.

The impressive nature of the songwriting goes far beyond the vocals; the instrumentals are all top notch as well. The flawless melding of the band's usual tools (guitar, bass, drums) with the synthetic and genre-crossing elements makes for an ever-deepening listening experience. Each time through leaves room for new discoveries, new a-ha moments. Not to mention there's just some kickass, jamming places that make your body want to move along. There's this place in "Absent" where the guitars hit these staccato, almost snarl-like notes, in sync with the drums that is just damn cool. The contrast of the verse in "Hate Me" between the muted guitar strums and drums and the full throttle wall of noise for Tyson to growl over. The drop into the first chorus of "Honey" where Tyson falls through a melody that conveys such anguish while Adam and Adam kick things into high gear to provide a ferocious wall of support. I could keep going, but the point is that the band knows what they're doing - these ain't no amateurs.

Lyrically, this release is a gold mine. Such well crafted songs about deep struggles and pain that life has brought and letting those responsible know what they've done. It's a very relationally-based set of songs, but one that feels very relatable and paints vivid pictures of the various situations. The chorus for "Honey is one such example:

"I think I might die
I feel the onset of this heart attack
While my hands are tied behind my back"

as well as part of the chorus of "Absent"

"It always happens, that I'm left hurting
Rather be absent, than feel like a burden
You draw me close, just enough to make me hang around"

The biggest stinger/call out, which I really appreciated the brutal honesty of the last few lines of the bridge for "Broken Bones":

"There's only so much you can buy
When there's just nothing left to hide behind
So smile big cause that's the only thing that's real".

Each song contains a number of lines that I imagine many people will grab onto and hold close to, capturing the different struggles of those with anxiety, depression, and heartbreak.

When I spoke with Tyson back in May,  he said this about the forthcoming EP (Honey): "I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised at the growth there." He got it right on the nose. I think this EP has a little bit of something for everyone. Not only does it have elements that drew fans to the band, but shows the scope of their vision for what the band can accomplish and their willingness to take risk along the way. The payoff was definitely worth it; this is 17 minutes of super solid music that you won't want to miss.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended:  "Honey", "You and Me (Whatever)", "Broken Bones"