Friday, November 23, 2012

Youngblood - Single

Ever since I was introduced to 3OH!3, I've been a big fan. I love their work, and how they can have fun with the music they make. Yes, they haven't made music that's totally innovative or terribly complex, but that's not what music is always about. Music should be about the artist making music that they love and enjoy to create. If it turns out to be genre-shattering or a trendsetter, then that is an added bonus. 3OH!3 has been consistent in making great beats, catchy hooks, and "memorable" lyrics (for an example of just truly genius lyrics, see "House Party"). They have usually made a mixture of rap, pop, and alternative, all bundled up together, on their previous records; Omens, their new record coming out this December, seems to be no exception. However, it would appear that from the first few singles released off the record that they are exploring a few more genres and types of sounds. Their latest single, "Youngblood", is a perfect example of this. They delved more deeply into the alternative genre, and do a great job at it if I may say so. The vibe of the song is a positive, upbeat, teenage anthem for driving at late hours (which I personally tried and found very fitting) and living/enjoying life with a young attitude. The bridge was probably my favorite part, with the build working very well. I very much enjoyed the vocals, which are somewhat of a change for 3OH!3, who usually rap. The tempo of the song was also much slower, for most of their catalogue is at faster speeds.

It took a few listens to truly appreciate this song, but it is now one of my favorites from the duo. I enjoyed the musicality and effort taken to try new sounds and musical ideas. It makes me excited to hear the rest of the album next month. Definitely a song worth spending your money on.


Friday, November 16, 2012

PTXmas - EP

I have been a huge fan of Pentatonix since watching them make their way to the top of the TV show, "The Sing-Off", which is a competition for a cappella groups. I was hooked from the beginning, and was astounded with the level of talent this group contained. Their ability to take any song, own it, and add flare is incredible. So when I heard they were coming out with a Christmas EP, I was beyond excited. I love Christmas music, and the fact that Pentatonix was going to put their own spin on classics made me estatic. I just downloaded the EP and have already listened to it once through, with more listens to come.

1. Angels We Have Heard On High
This song begins softly, with some great harmonies and Mitch Grassi singing beautifully as always. Then, however, the astounding Kevin Olusola comes in with his incredible beat-boxing skills, and Pentatonix's style comes through in full force. The chorus has to be my favorite part, with the key shift at the end bringing the song to a epic level. The group does an awesome job with the builds and slower sections, especially when Avi sings a verse, utilizing his low voice to create a relaxing and warming tone to the song. Pentatonix definitely made this song their own, but also kept pieces of that tune we all know to create a killer opening to this EP.

2. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
The hand clap intro immediately caught my attention on this song, as did the imitation of bells in the background. Pentatonix again made this song their own, but in a much softer manner. Also, I thought havin Avi sing the lead vocals on this song was a great choice, for his voice is a perfect fit for the type of vibe Pentatonix was trying to create. The song continues on with this beautiful, relaxing rendition, adding a incredibly neat wind-blowing sound to paint a picture of the scene of Jesus' birth, until about 1:40 into the song. At this point, the clapping drops out for a moment, only to return with a bass drum and much louder clapping sound to push the song into epic territory. This carries through the song to create a very epic rendition of this Christmas classic.

3. Carol Of The Bells
Intros seem to be a strong point for Pentatonix on this EP, with another solid beginning of interplaying harmonies and incredible beat-boxing. Mitch begins to sing the familiar lyrics, and the track unfolds into a instant classic with that Pentatonix twist. The tom sound created by Kevin is over the top, and made my jaw drop when I heard it. The chorus is awesome, to put it simply; especially the part where Scott comes in slower underneath Mitch's singing. The outro is also a great addition, bringing back down the energy of the song. Another absolutely fantastic track on this EP.

4. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On A Open Fire)
This rendition was done in such a heartwarming way. It generally did not contain any particularly astounding moments, but they were not necessary. Pentatonix is so gifted as musicians that they know exactly how to do each song they cover in a way that inputs their own style while keeping the integrity of the song. I will say that the highlight is when Kevin does a "trumpet" solo, which completely fits the piece and is so awesome. There are many versions of this song out there, but this one is definitely on the top of my list.

5. O Holy Night
This song is one of my favorite Christmas songs, so I was excited when I saw that it would be on the EP. I was blown away by the way that Pentatonix handled this song. They decided to take it slow and create a really moving version of this classic. Having Kirstie do the lead vocals on this song was a genius move, further emphasizing the beauty of this song contains. The lack of beat-boxing was a good idea as well,

6. This Christmas
Choosing this song to finish the EP was a great choice, given it's warm vibe and room to explore that amazing Pentatonix style. From the heartwarming intro to the beat driven verses and the addition of a choir about halfway through, Pentatonix goes all out in a truly awesome rendition of this song. It encapsulates all that they are and all they are going to be in the future. The laughter at the end was a great touch as well, revealing the joy they had making this EP.

This was by far one of my favorite releases this year. It is absolutely worth buying right now. So go do it! This is a fantastic addition to any Christmas collection or music library. I look forward to the next release by this amazing group!

Overall Rating: 5/5

Monday, November 5, 2012

Punk Goes Pop, Volume 5

To kick off my reviews, I thought that the latest edition of Punk Goes Pop would be a great start. I've been a big fan of the Punk Goes Pop series, since I really love hearing covers and different artists' takes on songs. Volume 5 has not officially released yet, but I've bought a few of the singles and listened to the rest via YouTube. I'll do a song by song review, just going through the album in order.

1. "Grenade" (Originally by Bruno Mars) - Memphis May Fire
I had not listened to MMF previously, but was definitely hooked after hearing their rendition of one of Bruno Mars' biggest hits. They start off with a nice electronic intro and some clean vocals, and proceed to blow away the original with roaring guitars and smashing drums. They have a few breakdown sections, which are very well timed and add to the overall outstanding cover they create. Absolutely a superb performance.

2. "Call Me Maybe" (Originally by Carly Rae Jepsen) - Upon This Dawning
When I saw that this song was on the list, I was curious and concerned about how it would turn out. I had also never heard of UTD, who just released their first album through Fearless Records. As I started the song, the familiar intro gave me some doubts. However, when everything drops and the growl of Gianluca Molinari ripped through, it instantly blew away any expectations I had for the song. To hear Jepsen's vocals screamed out made this cover at least 10 times better than the original. The breakdown and instrumentation was very well done, and the balance between clean and screaming vocals was just right. It would have been perfect for me if not for the addition of the "f-word" in the chorus on a few occasions. Not only did it not fit well, it was also completely unnecessary. Besides that though, it was a very excellent cover.

3. "Somebody That I Used To Know" (Originally by Gotye) - Mayday Parade
Mayday Parade is a veteren of the Punk Goes Pop, and always creates solid covers. I believe this is by far their greatest cover yet, and once you listen, I think you'll agree. The minute the song begins, it is instantly evident that Mayday has taken this song and made it their own. They change the key, giving the song a much more upbeat and positive tone. Using a guitar to cover the melody, Derek Sanders sings a tune he has so often in the past, which is why I believe this song was the perfect song for them to cover. The song slowly builds until the first chorus, truly revealing Mayday's experience and musical talent. The additional vocals of Vic Fuentes, lead singer of Pierce The Veil, was a great choice in making the song more Mayday than Gotye. His higher voice keeps Kimbra's part in mind, but it is also unique enough for the listener to maintain a distinction. By far one of the best songs on the album, and one of the better covers of this song in particular that I've heard.

4. Glad You Came (Originally by The Wanted) - We Came As Romans
WCAR is by far one of my favorite bands in the heavy scene. So when I saw they were on the track list for this album, I was stoked. I thought the original version of the song was pretty decent, had a good beat, and was very catchy; however, I think that WCAR left the original in the dust. They do keep it similar to the original in certain parts, but they balance it out with a good old taste of WCAR guitars and drums. Even though they keep the original hook on a keyboard, they give it their own flair by adding some distortion. Also, the screams and breakdowns are aptly timed and placed. Definitely a favorite from the album, with no complaints from me.

5. Some Nights (Originally by Fun.) - Like Moths To Flames
Another band I had not heard of, I was curious to see how this cover would go after hearing LMTF's usual material. The intro was not my favorite, but it was amusing to have the drop come in and totally change the feel of the song. As amusing as the breakdown was, I have to admit it was a bit of a turn off, because for me it went too far from the vibe of the original song. However, they redeemed themselves when the vocals came back in and the song continued. Their mixing of "clean" and screaming vocals was well done, although they did favor screaming to clean. LMTF definitely made the song fit more to their style, and I will give them credit for that.

6. Billie Jean (Originally by Michael Jackson) - Breathe Carolina
Breathe Carolina is by all means not a "heavy" band; that is ok though. Variety is necessary, for without it we'd have an album of all screaming covers. While I do enjoy screaming, there is a point where it is too much. So this song was a nice break from the constant distorted guitars and face-melting drums. It started much like the original, but was soon defined by the use of some auto tune. Now, that does not mean that it automatically is a bad song. Even though I thought this on my first listen, I decided on a second listen that it fit Breathe Carolina's style and this cover. They are a more electro band, and so auto tune fit in this instance. I really enjoyed their flare and musicality on this cover, and felt that the breakdown near the end was very well done and timed perfectly. Like I said earlier, this is a very nice break and more chilled out song on the album.

7. We Found Love (Originally by Rihanna) - Forever The Sickest Kids
FTSK is another band who would not be considered "heavy". I enjoy their music, and was pleased to see that they were doing a song on the album. I was especially pleased to see the song choice, because I felt that it was a good fit for them. After listening, I was confirmed in my thinking. Beginning with vocals and then having the rest of the band come in was a great way to kick the song off. Jonathan Cook's vocals are a perfect fit for this song, able to soar as high as Rihanna's (with the help of a little auto tune, which does not detract from the song). On first listen, I was not a fan of the screaming section due how high and hallow-sounding it was, but warmed up to it when I realized it was a great fit for the song. The only part of the song I did not enjoy was the section where the band screamed "We found" repeatedly and slowly. Besides that, I think it was a great cover, and a continuation of the break from total screaming covers.

8. Boyfriend (Originally by Justin Bieber) - Issues
When I saw that this song was being covered, I laughed out loud, yet was somewhat excited. Don't kill me, but I actually enjoyed the original version of this song. However, I know that this version is by far the better one. Issues began in the same fashion as the original, but quickly kicked it into high gear by adding some rock & roll swagger and screams, making you want to tap your feet and headbang (which is weird when talking about a Justin Bieber song). Tyler Carter does a good job imitating Bieber's crooning, but Michael Bohn does a great job at totally shaking up the vibe of the song and making you not want Bieber as your boyfriend. Most definitely a favorite off of the album.

9. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Originally by Cyndi Lauper) - The Maine
The Maine is hands down one of my favorite bands period. They always put out great music, and have done some fantastic covers for the Punk Goes... series. I must admit that when I saw that this was the song they chose, I was skeptical. The original is not one of my favorite songs at all. When I heard The Maine's version, however, I had to go listen to the original to make sure it was a cover of the song I was thinking of. Because The Maine completely changed the energy and emotion behind the song. It's incredible. It's honestly one of the best songs they've done. They put their heart and soul into this song. They scream, but not in the way that the other bands do on this album. They scream in frustration and sorrow, relating their emotions. It's a truly inspiring rendition, completely leaving the original in the dust. The instrumentation creates a thought-provoking, memory-prodding vibe, with a high school late night feel. It makes you want to jump in the car and just drive for the sake of driving. Drive in the night to feel the wind in your hair and just belt out the lyrics. Honestly, words cannot give it the credit it deserves. Also, the additional vocals by Adam Lazarra of Taking Back Sunday were an excellent choice, especially near the end. Such an awesome job on the vocals. Such an awesome job as a whole. My favorite from the album.

10. Payphone (Originally by Maroon 5) - Crown The Empire
Crown The Empire is yet another band I had not heard of, but was thoroughly impressed with. Payphone has been an immensely huge hit on the radio, and so I was excited to see how it would be covered. CTE did a spectacular job with the song. They way that they changed the vocals gave it a much more sorrowful feel than the original. The grit that Andy Leo adds to the clean vocals gives them a naked feel, like he's letting all frustration out about the failed relationship. His screaming is also very well done, adding to the anger emitting from this track. The chorus was my favorite part, with the play back and forth between falsetto vocals and the grit I already mentioned. I was very glad they chose to cover the alternative version and avoid the rap. However, the unnecessary addition of "mother-f***er" was a bit of a turn off. Besides that, it was a well done song.

11. Paradise (Originally by Coldplay) - Craig Owens
I have heard Craig Owens when he was with Chiodos and D.R.U.G.S., so I was initially expecting a much heavier sound in this cover. What I heard, however, was an auto tuned pop version that I wasn't terribly impressed with. It seemed to lose that epic, arena sound that Coldplay captured in their original. It was a decent song, don't get me wrong. I believe that Owens has talent, that is for sure. However, it felt like he could have done better on this cover. He did not stray from the vibe of the original and didn't add his own flair to the rendition.

12. Mercy (Originally by Kanye West) - The Word Alive
I'll be honest, this was my least favorite song off the album. I've heard a few of their songs, including their cover of Heartless by Kanye as well. I knew what to expect, but was disappointed. It was too much screaming for me, and the only reason I could understand the lyrics because I've heard the original. It was brutal, and too much in my face. The only redeeming section is the chorus, which I think was well done. Otherwise, I would not recommend this song unless you're into the very heavy scene.

13. Ass Back Home (Originally by Gym Class Heroes) - Secrets
Secrets did a fantastic job on this cover. The clean vocals in the chorus captured the energy and emotion of the song. At first I wasn't a fan of the screaming, but it definitely fits the song. It gives the song a desperate feel, as if he is so desperate to tell her how he feels that he has to scream it out. The instrumentation was well done, especially the drop outs to just vocals. The bridge did a great job of building and further solidifying the emotional pull of the song. A excellent finish to a great album.

Overall, I was really pleased with Volume 5. I enjoyed almost all of the songs, and believe it's the best Punk Goes Pop to this day.
Songs to buy: Grenade, Somebody I Used To Know, Glad You Came, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun