Friday, December 28, 2012

Let These Words Last Forever - We Came As Romans

I did not used to like screamo for the longest time. It always gave me a headache and seemed like useless noise. And then I was introduced to A Day To Remember. In a conversation, my friend Austin Smith and I agreed that ADTR was a gateway band into the screamo scene. While they do have screaming, ADTR combines it with a pop sound, creating "mosh-pop". As I began to explore the newly discovered heavy world, I came across We Came As Romans. WCAR is a much heavier group than ADTR, but still stays more towards the melodic side than other bands. As I began listening to their music, I started paying more and more attention to the lyrics and deciphering what they were saying. The messages I picked up on surprised me immensely; they were so much more positive than the vibes the songs gave off. My interest in the group skyrocketed, and I bought more and more of their music as a result.

When I found out they were releasing a new single, "Let These Words Last Forever", as part of a reissue of their last album, Understanding What We've Grown To Be, I was thrilled to hear the new material. I was instantly hooked by the vocals and the driving force to the song. Once I looked up the lyrics, however, I was amazed. They were such profound, compassionate, and thought-provoking words. One line in particular that I enjoyed was "I'd rather have my words remembered and not my name; I'd rather have this message remembered and not my face". Those are such humble and inspiring words to me. This band is about more than making money or fame. They have an incredibly positive message that they are trying to get to a generation who is in need of it. For those surrounded by huge amounts of negativity in this world today, WCAR is a beacon of hope and positivity. The song itself makes you want to get up and move; it pumps you up and pushes you to want to make a difference. There needs to be more songs out there like this, and more groups with this attitude. I recommend this song to everyone who likes the band or is into the heavy scene. 5/5

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Stomping The Phantom Brake Pedal - Angels & Airwaves

There is something so unique and fantastic about Angels & Airwaves. I believe that Tom Delonge really was able to express himself creatively through AVA, and that made him an immensely better musician and artist. AVA has continually created epic and moving music, pushing boundaries of what a band can do. A great example would be their LOVE project, which consisted of creating two albums and a feature length movie. This is something that few bands would ever attempt, and something that even fewer could ever pull off. AVA did such an incredible job with both of the albums, turning out multi-dimensional music. When I heard about their new EP that would include new unreleased material from the albums, I was excited to say the least. It's not like their normal songs; it's left over material from the movie score they wrote. So it does contain elements of the AVA we know, but is also complex in more aspects than I anticipated.

  • Diary (Reel 1) sets the bar. Not just for this EP, but for AVA's future material. There are few words to describe the awe which I felt upon my first listen. It builds slowly, just like I've come to expect from AVA. But the way that it does is epic. The piano line that comes in gets me every time. The chord progression is absolutely fantastic, and the final banging chord has such a sense of force to it. Then the drums come in, slowly but surely. Some people may dislike the lack of a lot of vocals, but I think that it is so well done the way it is. The instrumental keeps the listener on edge, waiting and waiting for what's next. The sound they created is so massive, yet soothing. It's incredible. And when the vocals come in, it's timed so perfectly. They drop everything but the synths for a few moments, and then come back in even stronger with Tom's voice floating over the track so beautifully. I'm absolutely in love with the song, and so impressed with AVA for the job they did on this song.
  • New Blood (Reel 5) definitely had a score feel to it. It was AVA, yet new and exciting sounds were being tested. The piano line about 2 minutes in had almost a Middle Eastern hint to it, revealing an expanding influence. The drop about 4 minutes in is absolutely the best part of the song. It's unexpected yet welcome. I also love that part of the chord progression from "Diary" is used in a synth form. It maintains the score feel, yet sheds a new light on what they have already used. While this song did not get me in the same way that "Diary" did, it is still fantastic. The ideas present reveal the band's potential and skill.
  • Reel 6 starts off with the theme from the previous songs present, but is present in a much faster, driven song. The guitar line has a sick distortion to it, giving it grit and power. The difference in the types of sounds again reveals the creativity of AVA. I especially loved the switch to electric drums, which greatly contributed to the driving pace. The sound within this track surrounds the listener and makes them feel like they are a part of whatever world AVA was trying to create. It almost has a Nine Inch Nails sound to it; full of dark ideas, but upbeat in a pop sense. It does not depress the listener, but instead fuels them. 
I believe I would need to see each of these songs in the movie as they were intended, but I'd say that they are all great by themselves. They each reveal new aspects of AVA, and show how much potential the band has ahead of them.

Also included in the EP was 5 remixes of some of the popular tracks from the LOVE albums; Surrender, Epic Holiday, Young London, Anxiety, and Saturday Love. All of them were awesome originals, and the remixes are pretty good as well. They all were made much more electronic, with the beats much more prominent and synths and keyboards replacing a lot of the guitar and bass sounds. An exception to this was the remix of Young London, which had a much more mellow, Brit-rock tone to it with the clean guitar and laid-back drums. On the other hand, the remix of Surrender was a much more electronically driven version with a lot more sounds and samples added. I enjoyed them all, but am aware that people are picky about remixes (as am I). 

All in all, this was a really solid release from Angels & Airwaves. They revealed much different sides to their growing sound and the directions of the future of the band. I was very impressed, and would suggest that any fan of the band go buy it! It is currently available on AVA's website and will be on iTunes January 8th. 


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Number Three - My Chemical Romance

After downloading Number Three, I quickly gave each song a listen and was extremely pleased. The latest installment of Conventional Weapons has a much darker tone, and more slowed down feel. They both revealed the more emotional side of the boys of My Chemical Romance.

  • The World Is Ugly has a truly touching and hopeful message. I have such respect for Gerard for the heart he puts into his lyrics and vocals. His vocals really bring the words to life, as does the instrumental, which has sort of an 80's ballad vibe going on. I love the line "the world is ugly, but you're beautiful to me". It's moving; a message of hope to those who need it desperately. I also love the bass line; there's something haunting about the distortion they used during the verses specifically. The bridge is also fantastic, with Gerard adding a bit of a rasp to his voice and the guitar line following the vocals to create a melancholy sound. All in all, a well done song. 4/5
  • The Light Behind Your Eyes starts with a beautiful string section line and a perfectly placed acoustic guitar. When Gerard's vocals come in, I thought at first it wasn't him. He sounds so different on this song, yet it's undeniably him. His voice is so tender and vulnerable on this track. It's stunning. The lyrics are also spectacular and have such a positive yet saddening tone to them. There are few words to describe what My Chemical Romance did with this song. It came out of nowhere. It's eerie yet beautiful; haunting yet hopeful. There are great builds, but the most fantastic points in the song are the stripped and bare sections. Those parts touched my heart. It was so amazing. 5/5

My Chemical showed a very sensitive with these two songs. I'm so incredibly glad they decided to release all these songs. I cannot wait for what else My Chemical Romance has in store.

I've already reviewed Number One and Number Two from My Chemical Romance's Conventional Weapons release series in a previous post, so check it out for my thoughts on those songs as well!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dogs Eating Dogs - Blink-182

Blink-182 has been, and always will be one of my all time favorite bands. I grew up listening to them, and fell in love with their sound and attitude. They have always put out great music that works for so many occasions. They were there for my times of happiness, rebellion, sadness, anger, and much more. They got to me like few other bands did. When I found out that they split up back in 2005, I was pretty disappointed. I loved their work. So when I found out that they were planning to get back together in 2011, I was beyond stoked. I loved Neighborhoods, the CD they just put out in September of '11. It was Blink, but they had grown up. This had to happen; you can't expect 30+ year old men to make the same music they did when they were 20. It had some weak points, but was an overall great comeback.

Now, the announcement for Dogs Eating Dogs came quickly and unexpectedly. The band had left their record label earlier this year, and decided to write some songs and make their latest EP. I was excited as always, and awaited the moment of the release. When the time came, I hit "buy", anxiously waited until the songs had downloaded, and then hit repeat.

  • When I Was Young caught me completely off-guard. It was so much like Blink's older material that I was shocked. I feel in love immediately. It grabbed my heart and mind and sprinted away as I tried to catch up. The chorus is fantastic; Tom's vocals are hauntingly amazing, and the lyrics are so simple, yet I know this will be a song I listen to when I'm angered by everything. Or when I want to shove my fist in the air and scream along and jump up and down. This may be one of my favorite Blink songs ever. It's so catchy, got attitude, yet is grown up. Such a spectacular start to the EP. 
  • Dogs Eating Dogs is the title track, and opens like a Blink song from the early 2000's. Mark starts singing, instantly creating that back and forth sense we all know to be Blink. The drums definitely push this song, with Travis doing solid work as always. I love Tom's job on the chorus, bringing in a hint of Angels & Airwaves but keeping the Blink there. And while the song does have a more punk feel to it, the lyrical content is much more mature and deep than they would have written about 15 years ago. 
  • Disaster starts with some nice bass, and then drums hit it off to start the build. With the synths and guitar, it begins to feel very much like the intro of an AVA song. However, everything clicks when the verse begins. Travis does some really fantastic work, helping to really drive the song as Tom reaches out to someone who's scared and alone. I really love on the chorus where Tom sings "Hold on you're breaking up" and everything hits on each of the words, giving a breakdown feeling. This song makes me want to just move in some way. The energy of the song courses through me when I listen, and it's really incredible. It also has an epic feel to it, thanks to the AVA vibes running throughout the song. 
  • Boxing Day was another unexpected gem on this EP. Blink had mentioned that one of the songs would have a folk feel to it, but I did not expect it to turn out like this. It's Blink for sure, but with a hint of Box Car Racer interwoven throughout. The acoustic guitar was a great idea, especially with the intro. The harmonies Tom and Mark use in the pre-chorus is beautiful, to be honest. The whole song is beautiful. It is another fantastic example of how much the boys have grown up, not only in their music but their lives. All of these songs have a much more melancholy tone, but it's not emo or depressing in any way. It's real, and that's the best part about it. Another great addition to the EP and Blink's catalogue. 
  • Pretty Little Girl had to be one of the more surprising songs off the EP. Most of the track has a +44 feel to it, even though Tom sings the vocals. The synth line was also a nice touch. The part that caught me off guard, however, was a rap from Yelawolf during the bridge. I had to check that this was the only song playing and it wasn't a mistake. At first, it felt so out of place, but after a few listens I started to like. It showed Travis' hip-hop influence, which I felt was a really nice touch. Tom and Mark's joint vocals on the chorus was also a solid way to finish off the EP. I don't know it this is what they were going for, but I think it showed a sense of unity in the band. They're doing what they do best, having fun, and being themselves. 
This is one of my favorite releases from Blink-182, and I absolutely recommend buying it. It's a steal at $4, and is a spectacular addition to any music library. It shows their growth, maturity, and expanding tastes. 


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crazy World - Boys Like Girls

When they debuted in 2006, Boys Like Girls hit the scene with hits like "The Great Escape", "Hero/Heroine", and "Thunder" and captured the minds and hearts of fans all over. Their first CD, Boys Like Girls, was a major success and lead to many tours across the U.S. and all over the world. Their second album Love Drunk, spawned another few big hits like "Love Drunk", and their collaboration with Taylor Swift, "Two Is Better Than One", but was not quite as successful as their debut. Love Drunk was released in 2009, and was accompanied by more touring, which I was privileged enough to attend. They put on a great show, as well as supporting acts Cobra Starship and The Maine. Between 2010-2011, many rumors spread around pertaining to a new record and the band splitting. It turned out that the record rumors were false, and the split rumors were semi true. The band was put on hold indefinitely, and many side projects began.

However, the band revealed last year that they were hard at work on a new album, which was finally released last week on December 11th. It's called Crazy World. I had listened to three of the songs which had been released in an EP in July, and was eager to hear the rest of the record. It felt like Boys Like Girls had some new energy, yet they had also matured. They also adapted a hint of country in their music, which is something that a few bands have picked up on in the last few years. After downloading the new album, I plugged in my speakers and let it play through. I was thoroughly impressed. Granted, it was not the same Boys Like Girls when they debuted, but that's expected. It's necessary. If they hadn't changed, evolved, matured, then they wouldn't be able to keep making music. So I was pleased with their direction. Most of the songs are very laid-back, summertime songs, like "Red Cup Hands Up Long Brown Hair" or "Life Of The Party", the later including an awesome addition of a gospel choir. They have some with a more sad tone, but it works very well for the record. These tunes include "Leaving California" and "Take Me Home", both of which were fantastic. Overall, my personal favorite from the album was "Stuck In The Middle", a song which ironically has a similar message to that of the classic song "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World. The acoustic introduction brings to mind the beautiful "Hero/Heroine",  and the song then unfolds with driving drums and big synths.

Now, not every album is perfect. I thought this was a very solid effort from Boys Like Girls, but I had one complaint; their song "Cheated". Cheating is a subject that has been covered in much detail in songs, and needs to now be handled with a fresh and creative look. Boys Like Girls did a very generic song about a relationship gone because of cheating, and I believe it was the lowest point of the album. However, the rest of the album was done very well, and I was thoroughly impressed.


Songs to get?:
Stuck In The Middle
Life Of The Party
The First Time
Leaving California

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Number One & Number Two - My Chemical Romance

I was introduced to My Chemical Romance by my Dad, who purchased their album "The Black Parade" when it was released in 2006. I fell in love with their punk sound mixed with a dark pop feel. It had a gritty feel, but also had pop tendencies; they could be melancholy yet make you want to pump your fist in the air. They had a unique sound I couldn't get out of my head, and I have been following their work since. Their last album, "Danger Days: The Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys", was an interesting departure from their previous darker albums. It was a concept album, mainly centered on a fictional post-apocalyptic California. I absolutely loved it, but became even more intrigued when I learned about how Danger Days came to be. My Chemical Romance originally had an entire album recorded and ready to go when they wrote the lead single off of Danger Days, "Na Na Na". They loved the feel and idea of the song so much that they wrote the rest of Danger Days based on it. So a lot of people asked, "What's going to happen to the other album?". Originally, members of My Chemical Romance stated that it would stay locked away for a while, possibly till the end of the band. `However, in September, it was announced that 10 of the songs would be released in pairs every month from October until February of 2013. The first two pairs have been released, aptly named "Number One" and "Number Two". Number One contained the songs "Boy Division" and "Tomorrow's Money", and Number Two contained "Ambulance" and "Gun."

  • Boy Division starts out fast and in your face. Gerard Way's voice briefly intros into an explosion of sound. Rocking riffs and a steady beat lay down a solid foundation to an energetic song while Way's vocals make you want to sing along and raise a fist in the air. The build-up into the chorus is fantastic, with the drums and guitar rising and falling in sync with Way's vocals. Way switches things up from more melodic to a more raspy sound, creating a darker overall sound. The breakdown section was incredible, making you want to jump around and bang your head along with the resounding drums. Overall, it's a truly great song, and one of my favorites from MCR. 5/5
  • Tomorrow's Money has the feel of a classic rock-n-roll song, starting with a great riff and building drums. The grit that makes MCR's sound comes off strong and loud in this song, with Way getting down and dirty with his vocals throughout the verses. He comes in much stronger for the chorus, which is another fist-pumping anthem. The bridge grows slowly but surely, with way crooning the listener until he screams and the guitar breaks into an awesome solo. The drum section of the chorus has to be the best part; so clean, crisp, and resounding as it drives the song. Another fantastic song by MCR. 5/5
  • Ambulance begins with gang vocals, which is unusual for MCR, but executed very well. The song in general is more emotional and less anthem-like than the previous songs released. It has a hopeful tone to it, especially accentuated by Way's voice as he pleads for someone to "save his life". The chorus is the highlight; still driving, yet in a more upbeat manner. The piano part in the background of the bridge is so simple, yet beautiful. I can see this song being a great acoustic song of just piano and Way's vocals. An awesome addition to MCR's catalog  and a new favorite of mine.  5/5
  • Gun. has a sweet bass intro over the drums, reminiscent of MCR's song "Planetary(GO!)". This song further transitions towards an emotional feel trying to get your blood pumping. The lyrics really like to play off the word "gun" and anything else that rhymes with it, which works out better than I would have thought. Usually repetitiveness becomes annoying, but this pattern was done very nicely. I like that they did two verses in a row instead of doing a typical verse-chorus pattern. The bridge doesn't differ too much from the verses, which is good; changing up the patterns and styles keeps things fresh. The chorus is also well done, borrowing a pop feel while keeping the punk alive. Another great song from the boys in MCR. 4/5
There are 3 more pairs of songs that will be released, and I plan on reviewing them all. So stay tuned! The next pair will come out on December 18th, so a review will be posted soon after. Thanks for reading!