Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10 Albums of 2013

2013 was an absolutely solid year for music. Some releases were unexpected releases, some were highly anticipated, and some were much better than expected. All in all, there were plenty of great records that made their debut this year, and I was very pleased and surprised with a lot of them. So, as a way to change things up and have some variety for the blog, I've compiled a list of my top 10 albums, although they are not in an order; that would be far too difficult to figure out. Instead, I've listed them below with some of my thoughts about each, as well as a song or two that really stood out.

My Top Albums of 2013:
  1. 30 Seconds To Mars - Love Lust Faith + Dreams
    Even though I knew that 30 Seconds To Mars took their time to make their albums and that a new one would be coming soon, this album completely took me by surprise, both with its release and its quality. I am definitely willing to continue to wait for their albums if they keep being this fantastic. It was an epic fantasy thriller, a wild ride of music that soared and rumbled. It was filled with songs that could stand alone and be excellent for radio, but the beauty of the album was how it played as a whole. With songs flowing right into others and wonderful instrumentals in-between, Love Lust Faith + Dreams was a soundtrack to an incredible story that 30 Seconds To Mars told with raw emotion and furious passion. The result is one of the best albums of the year, and probably my favorite album by them to date.
    My Favorite Songs: Birth & Bright Lights
  2. Paramore - Paramore
    Now this was an album I had been waiting a while for. After suffering the loss of two of their founding members, the world waited to see what Paramore would do. With this album, they sure got their response. The self-titled release from the group revealed a revitalized and energized sound that came in with an explosion and showed everyone that Paramore was not dead and gone. In fact, they came back better than ever, with a branching out of sound and styles that revealed the band's maturity and moving on from the past. With a balance of fun-natured tunes and more hard-hitting jams, Paramore is a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end. Songs like "Still Into You", "Ain't It Fun", and "Fast In My Car" show off the ability of the band to live life and enjoy it, while tracks like "Part II", "Now", and "Future" reveal that they acknowledge the hard things in life, and are willing to take them on. This album was even better than I expected, and I can't wait to see what they do in the future.
    My Favorite Songs: Part II & Future
  3. OneRepublic - Native
    After some delays, OneRepublic finally hit the public scene again this year with an album that very much surprised me. The leading single, "Feel Again", didn't catch my interest as much, but as I listened to the album when it released, I was incredibly impressed. Even though it took longer than expected, the result was a polished and solid record that was worth the wait. OneRepublic took their pop sound from the last record and made it even bigger, with songs like "Counting Stars", "If I Lose Myself", and "Life In Color" ready to hit stadiums and airwaves alike. Even though it was a pop-based album, they still brought in some other elements to help create stunningly beautiful tracks like "Can't Stop" and "Au Revior". "Can't Stop" is heart-broken lyrics over echoing hip-hop beats that comes together to become a huge cry of desperation, and "Au Revoir" is brooding about what ifs over moving string and piano lines to create a haunting piece. Not everything on the album is spectacular, but nothing on the album is bad. You can hear the quality and hard-work that went into this record, and I think they did a grand job, expanding their previous pop sound and incorporating other ideas and sounds that made the album a diverse piece of art.
    My Favorite Songs: Can't Stop & What You Wanted
  4. Oblivion - M83
    For me personally, this has to be the most surprising album on the list. I had never really listened to M83 and hadn't seen Oblivion, but my dad and I watched it near the end of the summer. Not only was I entranced by the movie, but the soundtrack had me hooked the more the movie went on. I hadn't fallen in love with a soundtrack like that since Tron: Legacy. I personally think the combination of classical sounds with electronic elements makes for stunning music, and this is one of those cases. It is much less electronic than Tron: Legacy, but it is just as intricate and visual. The huge soundscapes bring the mind the huge landscapes of the movie, and capture the intensity of the movie within the notes. It's also fantastic in that while the songs flow together flawlessly, they are identifiable as single songs, which is something I find hard to notice with classical film scores. Songs like "Earth 2077", "Starwaves", and "Jack's Dream" are all tracks that I can easily identify from start to end. It's soundtracks like this that make movies come to life, and give them another dimension that allows viewers to connect even more with the movies they love. 
  5. Fall Out Boy - Save Rock And Roll
    Fall Out Boy. The band that took the world by storm. Again. After a brief and vibrant hiatus, Fall Out Boy came back with an explosion that shook everywhere. They dropped their first album since 2008, an album that revealed the change that they went through while they were gone and the sound they wanted to make. They were able to record away from the world, away from expectations, and what resulted was one of their best albums. They changed their sound, yes, but thats what happens when bands grow up. They grow out of things, and this is the case. From the first single, "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)", I knew this album was going to be something special. People have complained that the title of the album, Save Rock and Roll, is not an accurate description of the sound; they say it sounds too pop-influenced. What people forget, however, is that rock 'n roll isn't about guitars with distortion and a driving drumset. Rock 'n roll is about taking chances, about doing something that isn't expected, about going on a ledge and taking a leap of faith. That's exactly what Fall Out Boy did with this album; no one expected them to put synths and electronic beats and hip-hop influence in their music, but that's exactly what they did. It's polished, it's radio friendly, and it's rock 'n roll. I had never been a huge fan of FOB, but I've gotten hooked for sure now.
    My Favorite Songs: My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up) & Save Rock and Roll
  6. Jimmy Eat World - Damage
    This was one of those albums I was not expecting to like as much as I did. I found out it was releasing a few weeks before it did, took an initial listen and didn't think much of it. I must have not been paying much attention on the first go round, however, because I tried it again a few days later and ended up buying the whole album after a few listens. I have always loved Bleed American, and I think they've struggled since then to make something that is at that same level; this is the album that finally did it. It's a bit more grown up than their earlier sound, but they found a way to channel the same energy and emotion that they had in the beginning of their career into this album. Songs like "Damage", "How'd You Have Me", and "No, Never" show they still have the ability to create upbeat anthems that could connect with fans, while songs like "Book of Love", "I Will Steal You Back", and "Byebyelove" show that rawness and darker undertones are not out of reach as these guys have aged. The album has a less polished sound than their last release, and I think it's that difference that made this album so much better. It felt a lot less forced, and much more natural for the group. It was the surprise hit of the summer for me, and renewed my faith in the band to create fantastic music like Bleed American.
    My Favorite Songs: Book of Love & Byebyelove
  7. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience
    JT came back this year, and he came back with a bang. After only recording for close to three weeks, he came out with 21 songs and two albums of pop gold. From the hip-hop beats to the throwback influence and extended songs everywhere, The 20/20 Experience spans genres and sounds to create one of the best records of the year, and one of the best in a long time. It all began with "Suit & Tie", the single that turned some away but put JT back in the spotlight. Part 1 was a huge success, being one of the top selling albums thanks to songs like "Pusher Love Girl", "Tunnel Vision", and "Mirrors". While those songs were the most pop and radio friendly, there were plenty of other songs that ventured into other genres, such as the jungle/exotic "Don't Hold The Wall" or the latin-influenced "Let The Groove Get In". The world was incredibly impressed with JT's comeback, but Part 1 wasn't the end; Part 2 hit the world a few months later, and I personally thought it was even better. Songs like "Take Back The Night", "TKO", and "Cabaret" are ready to hit the airwaves with glossy hooks, big band backings, and JT's incredible vocals. Others like "True Blood" and "Drink You Away" come off with different vibes, with the former channeling Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and the later dabbling in country. All in all, these albums presented some killer songs that show JT's power to dominate the music scene. Out of all the recent comebacks, this has to be one of those at the top. 
  8. Panic! At The Disco - Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die
    Panic has been up and down over the years, breaking out into the music scene with a new sound, losing half of their group, and coming back again stronger than ever. This album is no exception to their constant change of sound. This album draws on the 80's and electronic and comes out with a solid collection of songs. The opening "This Is Gospel" is one of the best songs Panic has ever done, with a energizing beat fueling high soaring vocals and roaring guitars. The intensity this song brought was continued throughout the album, on songs like "Miss Jackson", "Vegas Lights", and "Casual Affair". The band got in touch with its pop side as well with low-key "Girls/Girls/Boys" and makes-you-feel-like-you're-in-the-80's "Collar Full". The one song on the CD that is completely different from the rest is "The End Of All Things", a haunting and dark piano tune that makes you stop and truly listen. It is easily my favorite from the album, and possibly one of my favorite songs of all time. It reveals the true potential of the group, with its chilling vibe and utter beauty. With this album, Panic not only has one of the best albums of the year, but continues to show that they are not going down without a fight. 
  9. Linkin Park - Recharged
    Even though this album was a remix album, it was full of some of the best remixes I've ever heard, some of which came up to the par of the originals. It's been a while since Linkin Park did a remix album, with Reanimation coming out in 2002, but they did a fantastic job picking great collaborators to create a mix of hip-hop, dubstep, and dance anthems. The opening song, "A Light That Never Comes" is the only new material on the album, but is representative of everything that the band wanted to explore with these remixes. They collaborated with Steve Aoki for the dubstep/dance influence, had Mike write some killer raps, and brought it all together in an aggressive Linkin Park-nature. Their selection of collaborators was fantastic, bringing in known rappers such as Pusha T and Ryu from Styles of Beyond, and utilizing more unknowns like Bun B and Cody B. Ware to add some variety to their usual sound. Mike also wrote some new raps for the remixes that are easily some of the best he has written in years, hitting hard and turning people on their heads. They also brought in artists like Datsik, Killsonik, and Dirtyphonics to throw electronic distortion all over their tracks and make something fantastic. The wobbles and dirty synths found throughout the album fit with Linkin Park's repertoire incredibly well, enhancing their hard hitting nature and adding even more aggression into the music. All of these artists came together with Linkin Park to create some awesome remixes, and continue to show the versatility and adaptability of this band that has been one of my favorites over the years. 
  10. The Maine - Forever Halloween
    I didn't have a lot of expectations for this album, to be honest. I absolutely loved their last record, Pioneer, but wasn't terribly impressed with their singles for Forever Halloween. "Love & Drugs" and "Happy" took some getting used to, but once I did, I got hooked on them and the rest of the album. It continues on the path that Pioneer brought them to, moving away from their more mainstream early days and cementing themselves in a sound of their own choosing. They became more realistic, more cemented in what happened as people age and responsibilities and relationships make life not so carefree anymore. Songs like "Kennedy Curse", "These Four Words", and "Forever Halloween" reflect on hard times, lasting pain, and the struggles of dealing with adulthood. "These Four Words" is one of the best songs on the album, being a stripped down piano-driven track about love and the lack of it, and filled with vulnerability and honesty. Not all the songs are so somber, however; songs like "Happy", "Run", and (ironically) "Sad Songs" all have more upbeat natures, although they can get a bit down lyrically. That's part of the realism of the record though; it's not some polished and pretty tune that makes you want to dance blissfully, but songs of heart and emotion and humanity. That is why this album made it in my top list; it may not be the most catchy songs or the most cheery, but some of the most honest I've heard in a while.
Now, even though those albums were the ones that made the list, that doesn't mean there weren't others that came close. Here's a few that didn't make the cut, but definitely were great releases during the year.

Honorable Mentions:
  • Tonight Alive - The Other Side
    This album took the sophomore slump and beat it to a pulp. I was impressed by their debut, What Are You So Scared Of?, but this album blew my expectations out of the water. It took their darker nature, which I loved best, and brought it to the forefront, with aggressive songs like "Lonely Girl", "Hell and Back", and "Don't Wish". This album had a realistic sense to it, a lyrical vulnerability that helps you connect with the songs on an even deeper level.  I personally think these guys shine when they get gritty and raw, and that was what they did throughout this whole album. Some other standouts were "The Other Side", "The Fire", and "The Ocean". 
  • We Came As Romans - Tracing Back Roots
    These guys were one of my first "Hardcore" bands that I began listening to, and I have been following their career with great interest. This album saw them moving towards a more mainstream style while retaining their essence, which translates to having more generic song structures while keeping things intense, heavy, and uplifting. Songs like "Fade Away", "Never Let Me Go", and "Tell Me Now" all follow a more verse-chorus-verse-chorus type of pattern, but still contain great breakdowns and growling screams like they have always done. Another great part of this album was having David Stephens, their unclean vocalist, do clean vocalists, adding more variety to their songs. This album showed the continuing potential for what the band can become while showing off the great talent they have in this moment. 
  • A Day To Remember - Common Curtesy
    After many delays and legal issues, A Day To Remember finally released their long awaited Common Curtesy in late November, and it was definitely worth the wait. This could be their best album to date, with a huge collection of songs that range from upbeat and catchy to lots of distortion and raw rage. "Violence (Enough Is Enough)", "Sometimes You're The Hammer, Sometimes You're The Nail", and "Dead & Buried" are just a few of the hard-hitting tracks that reveal ADTR's ability to still get gritty and intense. They also had some more lighthearted songs, such as "The City Of Ocala" and "Right Back At It Again", which have their heaviness but have a more fun sense to them. There is also a couple of acoustically based songs, like "I'm ALready Gone" and "I Surrender" that reveal the gentle side of the band, and their ability to be soft and intimate instead of intense. I was really pleased when I began listening to this record, and am impressed with the band for what they put out, despite their opposition. 
  • The Maine - Imaginary Numbers EP
    This was truly a surprise release from the boys in The Maine. No one expected it, and no one expected it to be so incredibly good. This all acoustic, all original EP is a gem, a stunning set of 5 well done songs. Each have their own strengths that they bring to the collection, and each have qualities that make them stand out without outshining each other. "Raining In Paris" and "Visions" are love songs that bring to mind cloudy days spent inside warm and cozy. "Perfectly Out of Key" and "Room With No Windows" are different in sound, yet both are self-reflective pieces that take different looks at what life has done to us. The use of piano, guitar, percussion, and other instruments all comes together to create a sense of unity while having distinct songs. It was a short set of songs, but definitely full of creativity and continuing the honesty found in Forever Halloween
  • Pentatonix - PTX, Vol. 2
    Pentatonix is one of the most talent groups out there right now, there's no question about it. Their latest release was a prime example of why I can make this claim, with a new collection of originals and covers that showcase the musical abilities these five contain. Covers like "Can't Hold Us", "Save The World/Don't You Worry Child", and the masterpiece medley "Daft Punk" show their talent for taking any song they cover and making it their own. They also expanded the number of original songs on this album, with tracks like "Natural Disaster", "Love Again", and "Run To You" revealing the diversity and incredibly creativity Pentatonix has. "Love Again" is inspired by the EDM movement, and could easily be played right next to the hottest club hits today. "Run To You" is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, and my personal favorite from the album with the strictly harmonic elements building into a huge and epic sound. With this release, Pentatonix shows that they are only just getting started and don't plan on stopping anytime soon. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Five Song Friday - December 27th

 This is it! The final Five Song Friday of the year! I've been doing these for close to a year now, and I love sharing the music I listen to with everyone who reads. So thank you for being interested in what I write, it's what keeps me writing. This week there was a lot to choose from, since I was finally able to buy some songs I wanted thanks to gift cards. So check out what I've been listening to, and see what you like.

  1. Raining In Paris - The Maine
    The Maine is consistent in surprising their listeners with the soul and depth of their songs, and the Imaginary Numbers - EP, was no exception to this. "Raining In Paris" is a beautiful and soft piece about love and romance. The acoustic guitar leads the song, giving it a folky feel while John O'Callaghan sings gently and filled with emotion. The shaker and organ in the chorus add some color and texture, putting contrast in the song. It all comes together to create one of their strongest songs, in my opinion. It creates an atmosphere that is calming and enjoyable. 5/5
  2. Countdown - Dangerkids
    Dangerkids are definitely a band to watch, and this song is another example of their potential. Shamelessly harnessing the influence of Linkin Park, Dangerkids blend metalcore with rap and make it work. This song has breakdowns, it has raps, it has electronic influence and hits hard. Both their clean and unclean vocalists work together like a team, trading off and blending incredibly well. I really enjoy their rapper, who sounds so much like Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park that it's uncanny. Their use of electronics and strings also works together really well, adding more dimensions to their music that set them apart from their fellow hardcore bands. 5/5 
  3. Love Don't Die - The Fray
    This song is different than what The Fray has done in the past, but it works very well in this case. It's upbeat, it's catchy, and it's a bit edgy. The chorus is brighter, but overall it's got a bit of a gritty tone that catches you ear and makes you nod alone. I particularly enjoy how the main guitar line is acoustic, but it still sounds as edgy as an electric guitar. Isaac Slade's vocals are top notch, soaring incredibly high on the chorus and getting low and gritty on the verses. His voice is one of the most distinct in the music business, and one of the reasons why I continue to listen to the band. The backing vocals of the chorus are insanely high, and give it a ethereal emphasis that adds depth to the song that makes it stand out. 5/5
  4. I. Crawl - Childish Gambino
    I had never listened to Childish Gambino before, but I saw that he had a new album out, and decided to check it out to see if it was any good. This song was the stand out, with a raw beat that weaves in and out with the more delicate chorus. Childish Gambino's raps are short, but to the point and explosive. He has good rhythm as well as being lyrically smart. I hadn't planned on really buying anything from the album when I checked it out, but after this song, I might have to check out more of the tracks. 5/5 
  5. Legendary Lovers - Katy Perry
    Again with Katy Perry, I know. But I can't deny that her music is my guilty pleasure, and this song is no exception. With it's Asian influence, it, like the title, takes on a legendary vibe, combining some unique instrumental choices with big booming beats and Katy Perry's killer vocals. I really enjoy the pre-chorus, where she speeds up and the hip-hop influence is most prominent. The chorus is also solid as well, a polished hook that draws you in bit by bit. The song is seductive and mysterious, with its exotic flair catching your interest with every listen. The more I explore Katy Perry's latest album, the more I am seeing how great it is, and how excited I am to find more great songs. 5/5

Monday, December 23, 2013

Imaginary Numbers EP - The Maine

The Maine have been a busy bunch this year with a brand new album and two major tours under their belt (both of which I had the privilege of going to). You would think that after just wrapping up a co-headliner with Anberlin, they would take a break and relax. You'd be wrong, for here came Imaginary Numbers, an acoustic EP filled with 5 new original songs. It was a surprise for everyone, but an incredible treat for all who listened. It would have been expected if they had included maybe an original or two with acoustic versions of songs from Forever Halloween, but the Maine seems to be anything but expected.

This EP opens with "Raining In Paris", and is not so surprisingly a romantic tune that is perfect for a rainy day. That does not mean it is bad, by any means; in fact it's one of the strongest songs on the EP. From the lyrics and John O'Callaghan's falsetto to the stripped down instrumentation of acoustic guitars, a shaker, and subtle organ lines, the song makes you think of a moonlit evening in the City of Love. The chorus is my favorite part, with some really fantastic lyrics. Lines like "what good is a heart of gold, with no one to share it" and "my heart is in the city of love, but it's raining in Paris" really stick out as creative and memorable. In fact, well done lyrics are a common theme throughout the entire EP. "Room With No Windows", for example, is not nearly as moody as the previous song, and has a lighter and more laid back air about it, which results in some great lines like "and the only two things holding me here are whisky and women", which is a side of The Maine I particularly enjoy. They always are heartfelt in their work, regardless if it's a more serious song or if they're just having fun. You can definitely feel the authenticity in this song, as well as on the rest of the album. A stand out quality of this song is John's voice, which takes on a rustic and older feel that gives the song a brooding atmosphere. He has some lines that aren't the happiest, but he is able to sing them in a manner that does not make you feel down and sad. It's a realistic vibe. That is continued on the next song, "Perfectly Out Of Key", but in a bit of a darker direction. However, it is an absolutely beautiful song, and is probably my favorite out of them all. John's falsetto comes back on this one, but it sounds pained, as if he's even struggling to get the words out. "I'm just a bad haircut, some fashion from last week, no one really knows me at all" is a line that is not only well written, but cuts deep when you really hear it. This song is an even more simplistic instrumentation than the other songs, with just a piano and the vocals, but that helps contribute to the mood even more. It is a stripped down and vulnerable song, and that is a reflection of the artistry of this group of musicians. "Visions" continues to display their artistic talent, creeping back towards the more laid-back feel while still putting genuine emotions into the song. It has a romantic feel, but makes you think of someone far away, for the song speaks of someone who can only be seen in dreams. The vulnerability continues, for John "loathes these goddamn visions, but I just can't wait to fall back to sleep". There is a sense of conflict, a desire to move on and forget but an inability to do so. The instruments are a stand out for this song, with the acoustic picking providing some contrast and the harmonica giving the song a bit of a folky feel, which fits perfectly with The Maine and their progression of sound. The EP wraps up with "Lovely Sad", an almost 7 minute long track that begins with a dreamy and mellow melody of picked guitars and a keyboard that relaxes you and sets up the tone for the rest of the song. John impresses yet again with whisper-like vocals that are gentle and beautiful. This song is definitely less about the vocals and more about the instrumental, which isn't something you find too often anymore. Bands just go for radio play, and don't just let the music go. This song is a great example of a group finding something that works and going with it. It's a perfect ending for this EP, although I definitely wish they had put more songs in. However, it is still a fantastic set of songs, and I am very glad The Maine decided to put these songs together. It is a Christmas gift from them to the fans, and they have succeeded at making great songs yet again. 5/5

Raining In Paris - 3:47 (5/5)
Room With No Windows - 3:44 (5/5)
Perfectly Out Of Key - 3:58 (5/5)
Visions - 4:26 (5/5)
Lovely Sad - 6:52 (4/5)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Five Song Friday - December 20th

Happy Friday all! I hope your weeks went well, and that those of you on break from school have been relaxing from all the hard work. I may have been busy, but I've still had time to find some new music to add to my collection, and some tunes that have been coming up again and again. Check out what I've been listening to, and see what you enjoy.

(Disclaimer: Yes, this is an odd collection of songs. It's a Funky Five Song Friday)

  1. Perfectly Out Of Key - The Maine
    The Maine has been one of my favorites for a few years, and it's been wonderful watching them grow up and mature musically. Putting this song next to some of their early music doesn't even compare. The depth, musicality, and raw vulnerability found in this song is incredible, and hard to find in many other places. John O'Callaghan's falsetto is full of sorrow and regret, with the piano line and subtle synths helping to create this smoky and dark atmosphere. I particularly enjoy the lyrics of this piece, with some stand out and relatable lines floating throughout the song. This EP was a surprise, both in terms of the release of it, and the quality of the work. "Perfectly Out Of Key" is my favorite off the album, and possibly one of my favorite songs by the group. 5/5
  2. Jingle Bell Rock - Bobby Helms
    This has always been one of my holiday favorites, and it gets me in a joyful mood whenever it comes on. It has such an upbeat and cheerful nature about it; I don't know how you wouldn't feel better after listening to it. The vocals are superb, and the guitar gives the song that rocking groove. It's from an era of absolutely fantastic music, and has a timeless air to it. I don't always get the words right when I sing along, but it always brings Christmas to the mind and to the heart, and that's what is important. 5/5
  3. Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
    I've been listening to a lot of my music on shuffle lately, but this song has come up consistently. I never really listened to much of these guys growing up, so I've been discovering them more in recent years. It's slow, but I'm definitely taking a liking to them. This song is a more relaxed song, and that works very well for them. I like the laid-back nature, but I also enjoy that it can pick up the energy at times, providing some great contrast. The lyrics, as I've been listening more and more, are much deeper than I imagined, speaking of the consumerism and idolizing of movie stars and greed that can be found here in California. It's a side of the state that some don't like to put in a negative light, but it does have it's problems. However, I very much enjoy the song, and think that it works as both a powerful message and a soothing sound. 5/5
  4. You Won't Know - Brand New
    This album has been coming up a lot in my listening, and I'm growing to like it more and more as I listen, with this song being one of my favorites. It starts off more mellow and chilled out, although the vibe is still definitely dark and almost haunting. Then it kicks into high gear about a minute and a half in, becoming even more dark as well as angsty and raw. The vocals are more of screams than harmonies, and the guitars roar over the crashing of the drums to become a solid wave of sound that hits you and gets you pumped up. I really like the ominous nature of this song, and the record overall; it has an unpolished nature that seems to be slipping from music as of late. I know I'm late to the party on these guys, but it's worth it to get hooked even now. 5/5
  5. Birthday - Katy Perry
    Now, before any judgment is made on this selection, just think about a guilty pleasure you have as far as music goes. Katy Perry is mine, and I think that her stuff is fantastic. It's not the most creative or unique, but it's catchy and fun and sexy and I love it, so just accept it. Once you get past the mainstream aspect, I think this song is pretty great. It's upbeat, it's catchy, and Katy Perry has a great voice that slides over this track. I may be interpreting the song wrong (although I don't think I am), but she definitely comes off as seductive, both lyrically and with her voice, and that is something that works very well for her. I enjoy the instrumentation of this song, with the guitar line and horns giving the tune a retro feel that fits marvelously. The lyrics can be cheesy at times, like the bridge, "Let me get you in your birthday suit, it's time to bring out the big balloons", but pop music is about creating lines and tunes that stick, and that is certainly the case with this song. 5/5

Friday, December 13, 2013

Five Song Friday - December 13th

Oooo, Friday the 13th! I hope you all have had a wonderful week, especially those of you who suffered through finals. To those of you who haven't, keep up the good work! During this stressful week, I listened to a lot of music, so check out the songs I was using to get me through my tests and papers (which was a lot of Christmas music).

  1. Sowing Season (Yeah) - Brand New
    I'm slowly becoming more and more hooked on these guys. My collection of their music has now grown to include their last two albums, and The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me is one of my new favorites. This song kicks off the album with a bang, starting deceivingly quietly and then exploding into gritty guitars and throaty screams. I was only really familiar with Deja Entendu, and found this song, and the rest of the album, to be considerably darker, which works well. It's moody, but not depressing. It's got a bit of rage fueling it, and gets the blood pumping as you rock out to the raw nature of the song. I really enjoy this song, and I know I'll be talking about my other favorites from the rest of the album soon. 5/5
  2. Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney
    I had never really heard this song before this Christmas season, and was introduced to it by a good friend of mine. It's not your normal Christmas song as far as instrumentation, but it definitely has that Christmas spirit in it. The lead synth line is a bit odd, but it gets stuck in your head quite easily. Paul McCartney's voice is one of the most distinct out there, and his does Christmas quite well. This one is a classic, although not your normal Christmas classic, and inspires the delight and wonder that only Christmas can bring. 5/5
  3. Little Saint Nick - The Beach Boys
    I absolutely love this song when the Christmas season rolls around. It's one of the few Christmas tunes that makes you feel like you're on the beach, but still makes you think of snow and all that jazz. Christmas music in general, and this song specifically, have this element of pure joy within them. They are able to capture a happiness that we sometimes forget about in the world, and songs like this one help remind of us the good times we have. This song will always be one of my favorite Christmas tunes, and I'm gonna be playing it until Christmas passes yet again. 5/5
  4. I See Fire - Ed Sheeran
    When I heard that Ed Sheeran was going to be doing a song for Desolation of Smaug, I wasn't quite sure how that would work. However, when I saw the midnight premiere this morning and this song began playing as the credits rolled, I instantly fell in love. Ed Sheeran is a fantastic musician, and he found a way to blend his signature sound with lyrics that perfectly fit the movie, but don't come off as cheesy. It is an utterly beautiful song, with a very simple instrumentation and fantastic harmonies. The picked guitar, the violin, the tambourine, and the cajón all come together to create a powerful and polished tune. I'm definitely going to be listening to this one on repeat for a while. 5/5
  5. All I Want For Christmas - Michael Bublé
    Michael Bublé has the voice of an angel, and this song is a exquisite example of that. He hovers low and gentle, but then will climb and soar, high and powerfully. I really enjoy the instrumentation of this song as well; it captures Christmas, and accentuates Bublé's voice without distracting from it. It's simple, but it gets the job done in a beautiful way. I've always thought this song was cheesy, but this version comes off very sincere and genuine. This album is only a couple years old now, but it is already a classic in my mind, and will be played in my home during Christmas for many years to come. 5/5

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five Song Friday - December 6th

Well, it's been a long week, but it's finally Friday. I hope your weeks have been well, and for those of you who are dealing with finals next week/already have, may the odds be ever in your favor. I myself have had a few, plus more next week, and so have been doing a lot of studying, which involves some motivational music to keep me going. Here's some of the songs I've been listening to this week, and since Christmas is rapidly approaching, there's some great classics in the mix as well.

  1. College Kids - Relient K
    Seeing that finals are baring down on us college kids, I thought this song was an appropriate song to include this week. I love the funny, yet serious nature about this song. You end up laughing at most of the things because they're painfully true. Lines like "I'm poor, I'm starving, I'm flat broke" and "Call it torture, call it university" highlight some of the real struggles that face the college student today. But, at the same time, you have to be able to sit back and laugh at it. That's why I enjoy this song, for it channels the fun energy of college but interlaces more serious lyrics. This is a great song for those very desperately needed study breaks. 5/5
  2. Ten Thousand Hours - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
    I originally picked this song because I was listening to a lot more Macklemore since I almost had the chance to see him in concert, but then I realized that it would work for this finals situation as well. After all the studying we end up doing, it almost feels like we've been working on these papers and tests for 10,000 hours. Besides that, I genuinely enjoy this song. It is upbeat, has some great lyrics, but also has fantastic contrast thanks to the outro verse. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are geniuses, and I am extremely excited to watch their career as they continue to bring issues to the light of day, but remember to have fun as well. 5/5
  3. White Christmas - Michael Bublé & Shania Twain
    This song is a Christmas classic, and Michael Bublé does a mighty fine job with his own version. I've always liked this song, and Bublé does a great job with making it feel modern, yet retaining that old-school appeal. The addition of Shania Twain to make it a duet is a nice twist, and not something found very often, so it stands out for this reason. I love the jazzy and classic nature of the song, which always works so well for Christmas songs since they're all from that era. If you haven't heard this version, or any of Bublé's Christmas CD, then go now, because you're missing out. 5/5
  4. It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - Michael Bublé
    It's hard to deny how incredible Michael Bublé's voice is, and this is another song that he just shines on. It's another classic Christmas tune, and Michael Bublé's version will join the ranks of the greats. It opens with a very magical and wintery-sounding opening, bringing you to a snow covered small town in your imagination. The song flows so well, with a very laid-back and relaxing instrumentation that makes you want to curl up by the fire with a good book. I could listen to Bublé's CD for all of Christmas season, and this song is definitely one of my favorites. 5/5
  5. End Of Me - A Day To Remember
    I've been listening to this album a lot, and realizing more and more how great it is. This song is one of my favorites because it combines two elements that I love about ADTR; their hardcore nature, but ability to do acoustic songs so well. It opens with a beautiful picked guitar line and soft and vulnerable vocals, but eventually unfolds into a huge and gritty piece. The bridge is my favorite part, because it revisits the vulnerability found in the beginning, but in a raw and explosive nature that is absolutely stunning. I really enjoy this song, and the whole CD, which is slowly becoming my favorite by the group to date. 5/5

Friday, November 29, 2013

Five Song Friday - November 29th

I know it was yesterday, but happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a fantastic day of family, food, and good company. I am thankful for a great many things, but I will say that I am thankful for the people who take the time to read my blog. It really means a lot to me, because I greatly enjoy writing about the music I love, and it's fantastic that people enjoy reading about it. Thank you all for the year of blogging so far, and here's to hopefully many more!

So, for this week, it's not really thanksgiving themed, (unless you, like me, are grateful that A Day To Remember finally released their new album on iTunes and Spotify, which in that case it is very thankful for that), but it has some new music I've been listening to, and I'm always thankful for the new tunes I find every day.

  1. Violence (Enough Is Enough) - A Day To Remember
    This song actually leaked quite a while ago, but I have been really excited for the rest of the album because of it. It's got screams, breakdowns, blistering drums and riffs, and the intensity we've all come to expect from A Day To Remember. It's not even the heaviest song on the album, but I think it has a great balance of clean and unclean vocals. It also has a melancholy tone to it, despite the fast pace and gritty nature. I also especially love the breakdown/bridge, which not only changes up the pace, but gets even darker and just simply makes you want to head bang along with the beat because it's just that good. Definitely one of my favorite tracks off the album. 5/5
  2. Minnie - Sleigh Bells
    I've slowly been acquiring the latest album from Sleigh Bells, and this is the next track that I've gotten myself. I really like this one, because it has some great contrast in sounds and styles. The signature guitar starts off the song, roaring in to be joined by a hard-hitting beat. Alexis Krauss has such a striking voice, being able to soar miles high and come down with a low and serious rapping voice. The chorus is fantastic, with the change in tempo and the explosive nature. It can almost come off as hallow at times because of the very small instrumentation, but I think it is very oriented towards their first album, which is what got me hooked on them in the first place. I highly recommend this song if you like groups like Metric, Silversun Pickups, and Death Cab For Cutie. 5/5
  3. Life @ 11 - A Day To Remember
    This is another favorite off of Common Courtesy, thanks to it's great balance of heavy and pop-punk influence. This song reminds me a lot of "Better Off This Way", which is an absolute favorite from the group, and probably why I like this song so much. It is upbeat and fast, but rides a tone of almost sorrow throughout the song. The whole song is really great, but I personally like the bridge the best, which feels a lot bigger than the rest of the song, and has an awesome lead-in. Even though it has a lack of guttural screams, it retains the heaviness within the instrumental, and that's one of the key ingredients in A Day To Remember's success. 5/5
  4. Ho Ho Hopefully - The Maine
    I had to do it. It's after Thanksgiving, and that means Christmas time is here! This is one of my personal favorite Christmas tunes, and it's only been around a few years. The Maine is a stellar band, and this EP was a fantastic set of originals and a cover. This is a more traditional sounding song, and also a very beautiful song. The acoustic guitar is light and pleasant, the vocals are amazing as always, and the synth provides a bit of depth to help create a relaxing, sleigh bell filled listening experience. 5/5
  5. I'm Already Gone - A Day To Remember
    Now, as much as I love A Day To Remember when they get dark and gritty, they also do more acoustic stuff that is incredible. Their new album had multiple tracks like this, which made me very happy, and this track is one of my favorites off the CD. The arrangement of the song was very well done, with the vocals switching between single and gang-style, which I'm always a fan of, and acoustic guitar accented by some clean electric guitar lines. It sounds very pretty, but again has a bit of sad undertones. A Day To Remember does the sound of sadness well, which is not a bad thing at all. This song does not come off as very sad and depressing, however, and makes for a great listen when relaxing. 5/5

Friday, November 22, 2013

Five Song Friday - November 22nd

Friday Friday Friday. Another week has gone, and the music never stops. Check out the tunes I've been listening to, and see what you like.

  1. Break The Same - MuteMath
     I've been listening to this album a lot these past few weeks, and this song in particular is one of my favorites. It has energy and picks up the intensity, but still has moments of serenity and beauty. It also is an upbeat nature, and doesn't come off as dark in the slightest. I really enjoy the vocals; they're one of my favorite parts of the songs from MuteMath. They're ethereal, and float over the track effortlessly. If you like groups like The Almost, Anberlin, or Switchfoot, then you'll enjoy this song. 5/5
  2. Stockholm Syndrome - Blink-182
    This was another song by Blink-182 that I had the honor of seeing it played live, and it was a blast. This song is an explosion of energy from beginning to end, but has a darker feel to it, which is found throughout the album. Travis Barker pounds away at the drums while Tom and Mark constantly go back and forth on trading off vocals, constantly changing the feel of the song and keeping the listener engaged. One of my favorites from the album, easily. 5/5
  3. Can't Stop - OneRepublic
    This song has been on my Five Song Friday series a couple of times, but there's a reason for that. It has a hip-hop influence, especially in the beat, but feels sorrowful when the vocals and synth lines come together. It has an edge of desperation, with Ryan Tedder's vocals starting with confusion, but quickly slipping into melancholy. If you haven't heard this song, or anything else from OneRepublic's latest album, I highly recommend it. 5/5
  4. The Light Behind Your Eyes - My Chemical Romance
    I've also mentioned this song before in previous posts, and it's because of the incredibly beauty contained within the song. It builds spectacularly, but is incredibly delicate up until that point. The string lines, the piano, the acoustic guitar, it's all arranged in a fantastic way. Gerard Way's vocals are the star of the song, with an incredibly contrast between the tenderness in the beginning, and complete anguish by the end. It is one of the best songs My Chemical Romance has ever done, and one of my favorite songs easily. 5/5
  5. Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution - AC/DC
    I don't know why I've been listening to this song as much, but I have been completely hooked. This song is a classic, and has a good amount of grit while just rocking out, plain and simple. AC/DC has a lot of great songs, but I feel that this one is underrated compared to "Hells Bells" and "Back in Black". It isn't in your face, but a good song to kick back and have a good time with. I love blasting this song, and it's great to just sing along with. 5/5

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

PTX, Vol. 2 - Pentatonix

Pentatonix is on fire. They have taken the music scene by storm, and are winning fans over with every cover and video they do. Their tours are fantastic, their videos are humorous and quirky, and they are lovable, down to earth people.

That was even before their latest release.

PTX, Vol. 2 is a not only a fantastic album, but leaps and bounds ahead of their first release. It has covers and originals like the first, but the quality and arraigning of these ones reveal the ever increasing skill and talent of the group. It opens with the upbeat cover of "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, which is able to showcase each member's talents and strengths, yet able to reveal how in-sync they are with each other. From the Mitch's soaring runs, to Avi's wobbles and bass lines, Kevin's insane beatboxing, and Scott and Kirste's blending and harmonizations, Pentatonix is able to explode out of the box with this cover. After that, it's a smooth transition into the first original on the album, "Natural Disaster", which is lead by Scott, whose power-backed vocals help carry the momentum of the previous track, as well as the clapping track and the gang vocals that explode out on occasion. The chorus is huge, with all of the elements I mentioned coming out even more. My favorite part of this song has to be right after the second chorus, where the beat drops into a half time, and it take on a breakdown feel, accentuated by Avi's insane wobble sounds and Kevin's epic beatboxing.

The next original, "Love Again", is an adventuring into a new genre for Pentatonix; EDM and dance. They've covered dance-oriented songs before, but they've never tried to write one of their own. While this may sound like an odd combo, Pentatonix tackled this challenge and blew it out of the water. Mitch took lead on the vocals this time, which was due to his fascination and familiarity with EDM music, and he is right on point, providing soaring falsetto runs that would fit perfectly on an instrumentally engineered EDM song. The highlight of the song, however, is Avi's incredible bass lines. He gets incredibly low, providing satisfying bass that would be worthy of being blasted in a night club. The harmonization on this track is fantastic as well, with Kirste and Scott blending effortlessly to provide the backing vocals. The overall feel of the song is a bit darker than Pentatonix's norm, and not in a depressing or angry manner. It comes off as more intense, and therefore takes on a darker tone. Most of the others are not like this, however; a great example would be "Hey Momma/Hit The Road Jack", which is part original and part cover. The verses are all original work from PTX, but the chorus is sampled from another song. I love the intro of this song, with Kirste coming in with an almost seductive whisper, and the song exploding into motion with Scott taking back the reins. The song has a bouncy, energetic feel, thanks to the fast pace, the bright vocals and harmonies, and punctual beatboxing. My favorite part is the breakdown/bridge, which is where Scott shines on vocals, with a little bit of a scream in his voice that adds to the building of the moment. I also love the old school feel the song has; it comes off as something out of the 50's with a modern twist.

Not everything on the album is loud and upbeat, however. Songs like "Valentine" and "Run To You" show off the softer side of Pentatonix. "Valentine" is a cover that, like its title would suggest, is a cute and catchy tune about love and romance. It is a very pretty sounding song, with soft vocals, and very few notes and beats that are hard hitting or sharp. The intro is my favorite part, with the vocals all coming at different moments and creating this back and forth nature that has a bell-like nature. It is a shorter tune, but is a solid arrangement and is great for romantic mixes for that special someone. "Run To You" is an original, and is definitely the best song Pentatonix has ever done. It is completely a cappella, with Kevin, their beatboxer, even contributing vocals. It is, without a doubt, completely and utterly beautiful. There is no other word better to describe it. It has such longing, such raw emotion that bursts through in glorious and heart-melting harmonies. Avi provides epic lows, Mitch and Kirste give incredible highs, and it all comes together to captivate the listener. The best part is the bridge, where the intensity picks up, and Mitch soars even higher and Avi comes up higher than normal, and they're both backed by the others building the majesty with their harmonies. It honestly makes me think of heaven, and just the overwhelming sense it will have. This song is solid gold, and will forever be one of my favorite songs by the group.

Despite their brilliance with "Run To You" and "Natural Disaster", they don't just shine on their originals. "Daft Punk" and "Save The World/Don't You Worry" further reveal their arranging talents, which have gotten even better as they've progressed. "Save The World/Don't You Worry" is a mashup of the two songs by Swedish House Mafia, and show their increased influence from the rising dance and electronic movement. It switches between the two songs, sampling and mixing chorus and verses from both songs to create, in my opinion, a better and more creative song than the originals ever achieved. The upbeat and intense feel of the dance songs works perfectly for them, especially at the very end when they switch into a breakdown that includes some insane wobble sounds that would fill a stadium filled to the brim with fans. "Daft Punk", however, might just eclipse that song. Seamlessly blending together 4 different Daft Punk songs, Pentatonix shines with a dazzling light. From Technologic to One More Time to Get Lucky to Digital Love, Pentatonix brings together all of these songs and shows their talent in an explosive manner. The harmonies, the remix effects, the way they make their voices sound electronic, its incredible. They are each showcased in different sections, but they all come together as one collective group. That is what makes them fantastic, is their ability to let each other shine, but not take over and make it about themselves. This song was a perfect end to the album (discounting "Save The World/Don't You Worry" because it's a bonus track).

I was incredibly impressed with this album. It showed the huge leap in talent and skill that they've had since their last album, and how much potential they have to continue to wow their fans and bring in more. 5/5

Can't Hold Us - 3:18 (5/5)
Natural Disaster - 3:31 (5/5)
Love Again - 3:19 (5/5)*
Valentine - 2:37 (4/5)
Hey Momma/Hit The Road Jack - 3:01 (5/5)
I Need Your Love - 2:52 (4/5)
Run To You - 4:26 (5/5)*
Daft Punk - 4:09 (5/5)*
Save The World/Don't You Worry - 3:48 (5/5)*

(* indicates recommended songs)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five Song Friday - November 15th

Busy weeks keep coming, but I keep finding time for music (otherwise, I might go crazy). This week, I had the huge honor of being able to see Blink-182 play their self-titled record for it's 10 year anniversary, and had an absolute blast at the show, (so be on the lookout for a review of it sometime next week). So I've been listening to their stuff a lot, so look for that as well as some other tunes for this week's installment!

  1. The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows - Brand New
    I've heard about Brand New before, but never listened to their music until one of my friends gave me an album. This song is one that stuck out for me, and I've been listening to a lot more this past week. I really like the chorus, specifically the instrumental and the way it becomes so much bigger than expected. The guitar line soaring up and down, the gritty distortion, and the crashing drums are all accentuated by the vocals, which have a raw feel to them. The whole album has this not-so-polished sound, which is something you don't hear too often nowadays, and so this song has a great depth to it. I can easily see why this is one of their biggest hits, and look forward to exploring their music even more. 5/5
  2. Always - Blink-182
    This song has always been one of my personal favorites from Blink-182. It has this aggressive, intense nature, yet feels very vulnerable and almost romantic. The song is upbeat, but is prevented from becoming poppy due to the darker undertones, both instrumentally and lyrically. I absolutely love the chorus, which varies between romance and passion, love and lust. This song is easy to lose yourself in, as is much of Blink's music, and it will always be one of my favorites (see what I did there? I'm so clever). 
  3. I Miss You - Blink-182
    Another one of my favorites by Blink, and another that shows off their emotional and mature side. I love being able to jump around and jam out to their stuff, but songs like this are perfect for late night talks, thoughts when you can't sleep, and working in the night. The vocal interplay between Tom and Mark is fantastic in this song, with each bringing their own strengths to the table. Mark is more held back and contemplative, while Tom is raw and passionate, creating some fantastic contrast. The acoustic guitar in this song is such a relaxing sound, as well as the string line that repeats throughout the song. It's definitely one of their best songs, and I was so thankful to get to see them play it. 5/5
  4. Stare At The Sun - Mutemath
    Mutemath was a band that I had previously heard of and had a song by, but was given this album by the same friend who gave me Brand New. Out of the album, this was easily one of my favorites. It's slower, but it has a dark, entrancing sound that keeps drawing me back to it. It has an eerie feel to it, and I haven't really heard anything like it before. The ending is one of by favorite parts, when it cuts to just the drums and vocals, which continue the eerie feel and close out the song in a seemingly sudden manner. Easily one of the best songs on the album. 5/5
  5. Chaos - Mutemath
    This is my favorite song off the album, hands down. It's edgy and fast-paced, getting the blood pumping while you listen. The vocals on this track are fantastic, ranging from polished and smooth sounding to gritty and raw. The instrumental contributes a lot to the darker nature as well, with the drums keeping the pace up as they pound away and the guitars switching from echoing lines to gritty chords. My favorite part is the background vocals that float around during the song, and come through strong at the end, giving the song an ethereal feel that is fantastic. This song is worth checking out if you have't listened before. 5/5

Friday, November 8, 2013

Five Song Friday - November 8th

This week has a bit of a theme to it...*cough cough PENTATONIX cough cough*. Anyways, it was a long week for me personally, but some great music regardless. Check out the songs I've been listening to nonstop, and see what you enjoy.

  1. Daft Punk - Pentatonix
    I absolutely love Pentatonix. They're innovative, talented, crazy creative, and sound fantastic. This song exemplifies their talents spectacularly, with harmonies out of this world, solos showcasing everyone's voices, rumbling bass, and awesome beat-boxing. Not to mention the arraignment of 4 Daft Punk songs all into 4 minutes is insane. It is one of their finest songs to date, and truly reveals their skills so far, and the potential they have to become even better. This song is easily one of my favorites from the new album, and a true joy to listen to. And the music video is killer. Definitely worth checking out. 5/5
  2. Lies Greed Misery (Dirtyphonics Remix) - Linkin Park
    This remix is a combination of grity dance vibes and hip-hop swagger. It is intense, it is booming, and it gets the blood pumping. It builds from the hip-hop beat into a driving drums and bass feel, and it's awesome, the contrasts. I especially love the drop after the second build, with the double time feel; it gets me excited every time I listen. This song adds a lot of intensity that wasn't so present in the original, and makes it great to listen to every time. 5/5
  3. Love Again - Pentatonix
    Another one of my favorites, "Love Again" is an original song by the geniuses in Pentatonix. It embodies the spirit of dance and EDM music today, which seems very out of place in terms of a capella. However, this turned out to be one of the best songs on the album. Mitch leads the vocals on this song, which makes sense because, according to a video the group posted, he is very heavy into the dance and EDM scene, and so he had the best idea of what this song should sound like. I personally love the drop the best, when Avi lays down this incredibly sick-sounding bass-wobble growling that sounds like something you'd hear in an EDM song. They created some noises that I didn't think were possible for just the voices, and I was very impressed by this song. 5/5
  4. Down - Blink-182
    Now, this song will seem random in the mix, but I will have the privilege of seeing Blink-182 perform their Untitled album from start to finish this coming Monday, and this is one of the songs from said album. It also happens to be one of my favorites by the group, and possibly one of my favorite songs of all time. The emotion, the energy, the rawness of this song connects with me. I have listened to this song many times while I felt like my world was broken, or falling apart, and it has helped every single time. This song, and many others on the album, have been instrumental in my teenage years and getting me through rough times, and I am beyond thrilled to be able to hear it live by one of my favorite groups this next week. 5/5
  5. Run To You - Pentatonix
    I didn't know what to expect when Pentatonix said that they would have a ballad on the new album, but the result was more beautiful than I had ever imagined. It is honestly one of the most majestic and incredible pieces I have ever heard, and I cannot get enough of it. It's an original, which astounds me that they could write something this amazing, and it also has no beat-boxing, which is unheard of for the group. It rises beyond anything else they've ever done, and embodies an epic feel that cannot be met by instruments. The entire song is fantastic, but I am in love with the build. It just erupts with raw emotion and a force that gives me chills when I listen, which is unusual for me. It is beautiful; there is no other word that can describe it adequately. If you check out any song this week, please listen to this one. I beg you to. It is amazing. 5/5

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Recharged - Linkin Park

The excitement I'm currently experiencing is pretty fantastic; getting to review new Linkin Park, remix album or not, is something I've been looking forward to since I started my blog. While it isn't a studio album, which hopefully there will be one next year, it still includes a brand new song, and a slew of fantastic remixes from their last studio album, Living Things. This is the second remix album they've done, with Reanimation in 2002 containing remixes of songs from their first album, Hybrid Theory.

All of the songs but "A Light That Never Comes" are remixes, and so I thought to talk about the original song first before getting into the others. This song has a big dance vibe, due mainly to the collaboration with Steve Aoki, who is a rising DJ. While some fans may complain about the band "going mainstream", remember that this song, and the entire album, is geared towards remixes, which nowadays are mainly dance and EDM oriented. A driving beat really pushes this song, overlaid with some gritty and smooth synths, Mike's raps, and Chester's vocals. It also stays away from the more expected dubstep sounds, and sticks to a club anthem type of vibe. This may sound weird for Linkin Park, but they are always dying to try out new and exciting sounds, and incorporate them into their repertoire. This song does not mean that they are going to become a dance/EDM group, but that it might show up within their ever evolving sound.

Now, the remixes. There's a wide variety of sounds within the songs, and it makes for some great contrasts as you listen through the album. There's a few guest spots from some great rappers, such as Pusha T, Bun B, Cody B. Ware, and Ryu, some of whom I've heard before and some I haven't. They all had good features on their respective songs, and brought a hip-hop element to a dance heavy crowd. "I'll Be Gone (Vice Remix)" was a great example of this, taking a rock-based song and giving it a some serious rap vibes. It worked fantastically, with not only Pusha T providing some great rhymes, but Mike writing a new rap for the song as well, which came off as hard and aggressive, something he does very well. The booming kick drum and the tight-hitting drums helped to complete the hip-hop orientation. "Roads Untraveled (Rad Omen Remix)" did this partially, keeping the more emotional drive that the original version contained, but adding some dance and hip-hop vibes to create an entirely new feel for  the song, especially in the chorus, where Chester's vocals are interwoven with huge hitting sounds and thumping drums. Bun B, a rapper I had never heard of before, fit perfectly on the track, throwing lines down as the song shifted into a true hip-hop nature. The crowning jewel of the songs with guest artists, however, has to go to the "Skin To Bone (Nick Catchdubs Remix)" which takes one of the most different sounding songs on the original album and turning it into a fast-hitting, insanely catchy track that incorporates some wobbly synths and electronic distortion. The raps are the centerpiece of the song, starting with Cody B. Ware's opening rhymes, building in intensity with Ryu's, and ending with another new set of rhymes from Mike. I've heard Ryu before from Fort Minor, and Mike's rap further revealed his mastery over words and his ability to come up with fantastic lines.

While these songs were heavy on the hip-hop, most of the others leaned more towards the dance and dubstep areas. "Lost In The Echo (Killsonik Remix)", for example, throws in some epic and grinding dubstep wobbles that make me excited every time I listen. The drop is so in your face and unexpected, and I absolutely love it. It's a great fit, and matches the intensity of the original song. The beauty is that it repeats the drop again in the song, letting the listener enjoy the awesomeness of it again. This and the "Until It Breaks (Datsik Remix)" are really the only two that venture into dubstep, with the later not nearly as obviously wobble oriented as the former. The wobbles in "Until It Breaks" are not so in your face, but still add to the intensity of the song. Another song that delves into dubstep influences is the "Lies Greed Misery (Dirtyphonics Remix)", which gets gritty, loud, and picks up the pace. It has some fantastic moments, especially during the second drop, where the beat switches to half time but the synths continue at the same rate, creating a syncopation that gets me every single time; I can't get enough of it. Chester's screams also are incorporated very well into this remix, fitting the face-melting vibe given off by the monstrous synths.

Dubstep does not dominate, however; the dancing vibes are prominent throughout the album. Songs like "Burn It Down (Tom Swoon Remix)", "Powerless (Enferno Remix)", and "I'll Be Gone (Schoolboy Remix)" all could be played at clubs and raves and fit right in."Burn It Down" had a dance/pop feel to begin with, the the transition to dance was no big surprise. It works really well, with the existing synth lines making great hooks, and Chester's vocals working perfectly with the mood. "Powerless" was a surprising twist, going from a more somber and moody tune to an upbeat and almost cheery song. The high-soaring synths, steady beats, and driving nature turned this song into a huge and epic sounding song. "I'll Be Gone" was remixed again, but this time with a dance flare. The pulsing beat and distorted synths give it a lighter feel, but it is still able to retain a bit of darkness that the original contained. Now, while these remixes were well done, I personally felt that they were a bit lackluster. They were't bad, but I preferred some of the other remixes on the album.

As I mentioned earlier, Mike contributed a few new raps for some of the songs; that wasn't all he did for the album thought. He also remixed two songs himself, being "Castle Of Glass" and "Victimized". Both were very different songs to begin with, and became even more different after being remixed. "Castle Of Glass" took on a dance vibe, with a lot more synths and electronic drums leading the way. The song ebbs and flows, with moments of pausing and moments of building into epic, pulsating sounds. "Victimized", on the other hand, became even more intense than the original, thanks to huge, booming beats and an even faster tempo. There is an immense presence of sounds on this song, creating an in your face feel.  Chester's screams from the original song integrates very well with this mix of sounds as well, feeding the intensity even more.

Lastly, there's two more remixes that were, interesting, to say the least. One of them, "Until It Breaks (Money Mark Headphone Remix)", was a collection of weird and odd sounds that worked much better than I would have thought. It goes from moments of heavy electronic influence to a classic rock sound, to even a western sound that works, surprisingly. It wasn't my favorite track, but makes for an interesting listening experience for sure. The last song on the album is "A Light That Never Comes (Rick Rubin Reboot)", which just didn't do it for me. It comepletely changes from the original, taking on a tribal beat in the beginning that is mixed with a little bass guitar and some piano chords. It doesn't have the same intensity that the original had, and I think that is where it lost it for me. It wasn't bad, but just not the best.

All in all, I was very excited for this album, and was not disappointed. There was a lot of really well done remixes, and gave fans something to listen to while they wait for the next studio album. 4.5/5

A Light That Never Comes (feat Steve Aoki) - 3:49 (5/5)
Castle Of Glass (Mike Shinoda Remix) - 6:20 (5/5)
Lost In The Echo (Killsonik Remix) - 5:09 (5/5)
Victimized (Mike Shinoda Remix)  - 3:00 (5/5)
I'll Be Gone (Vice Remix) [feat. Pusha T] - 4:01 (5/5)
Lies Greed Misery (Dirtyphonics Remix) - 4:51 (5/5)
Roads Untraveled (Rad Omen Remix) [feat Bun B] - 5:28 (5/5)
Powerless (Enferno Remix) - 6:08 (4/5)
Burn It Down (Tom Swoon Remix) - 4:46 (4/5)
Until It Breaks (Datsik Remix) - 6:01 (4/5)
Skin To Bone (Nick Catchdubs Remix) [feat. Cody B. Ware & Ryu] -3:54 (5/5)
I'll Be Gone (Schoolboy Remix) - 6:12 (4/5)
Until It Breaks (Money Mark Headphone Remix) - 4:30 (4/5)
A Light That Never Comes (Rick Rubin Reboot) - 4:40 (4/5)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Five Song Friday - November 1st

This week has been exciting in music, thanks to a new (sorta) release from Linkin Park, which is my favorite band. So look for a few songs from them, another new release, and some of that pop-punk kick I've been on recently...

  1. Pawner/Killin It - Polar Bear Club
    This is technically two separate songs, but they flow together so well that I had to include both. These guys are a pop-punk group, but not as intense and fast-paced as other groups. These two songs especially exemplify this, with "Pawner" being a more extended intro that builds gradually into "Killin It". Both have a similar feel and sound, but they also have their differences, creating a great listening experience when played together. "Pawner" feels more drawn out, while "Killin It" has more grit and packs a bigger punch. I really enjoy this group, as they offer a different sort of sound within the pop-punk family tree. 5/5 
  2. Lost In The Echo (Killsonik Remix) - Linkin Park
    The original version of this song was one of my favorites off of the album, embodying the true nature of Linkin Park while embracing new and exciting sounds. It was also one of the more intense songs, and this remix brings that intensity to an entirely new level. Now, some people are going to complain about the presence of dubstep, but I think it fits the feel of this song perfectly. Also, it's a REMIX album. Remixes nowadays are usually dance/dubstep oriented, and so this is expected. But the drop that Killsonik adds is insane; I was caught off guard when I first listened, and have been listening again and again because it's simply so good. This is definitely one of my favorites off of Recharged, the new remix album from the band, and I am excited for the next studio album they put out. 5/5
  3. Skin To Bone (Nick Catchdubs Remix) [feat. Cody B. Ware & Ryu] - Linkin Park
    Now, this song was an unexpected addition to the remix album, but was easily one of my favorites. The reworking to make it a hip-hop oriented song, and the addition of rappers made it a completely different song. It's much more intense than the original, and gets the listener pumped. Having Ryu as a guest rapper was a pleasant surprise as well, since he was such a big part of Fort Minor, and his hinting at another album from Mike Shinoda's side project makes me very excited and hopeful. I also very much enjoyed Mike's new rap on the song, which continues to reveal his lyrical mastery and aggressive rapping nature. 5/5
  4. Late Nights In My Car - Real Friends
    I am completely hooked on these boys. They have such a raw and honest sound, it's addicting and refreshing. They aren't looking for a polished and primed sound, but just making music that they love and that is true to them. It makes for awesome songs, like this song. It has angst, heartbreak, and self-evaluation. Line's like "If you never break, you'll never know how to put yourself back together" stick in the listeners minds as clever and impressive. I keep delving more and more into this group and love every bit of it. 5/5
  5. It's About Time - Young The Giant
    This song is aptly titled. Being over 3 years since their last album, Young The Giant made a solid impression on fans when they first debuted. Now, they've announced their signing to Fueled By Ramen and their sophomore album coming out early next year. While it's a bit odd that they're signing with this particular label, I'm just glad that they're putting out new music. If this lead single is any indication of the direction of their upcoming album, then I'm very excited. It retains their essence, but displays it in a new package. With a bit more edge and a lot of energy, it reveals a maturing since the last record. Their vocalist, Sameer Gadhia, has a very unique voice, and is one of my favorite aspects of the group. With a driving sound and great energy, this song brings the band back into the spotlight, and excitement to fans who have been waiting. 5/5

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Playlist - Halloween

Happy Halloween! I'm sure you are all out having fun and being safe on this spooky holiday. If you're looking for some haunting tunes to play at whatever Halloween bash you've got going, then I hope this list can get you started! Enjoy all the candy!

  1. True Blood - Justin Timberlake
  2. Thriller - Michael Jackson
  3. Forever Halloween - The Maine
  4. Highway To Hell - AC/DC
  5. Ghostbusters - Ray Parker Jr.
  6. Monster Mash - Bobby "Boris" Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers
  7. Runnin' With The Devil - Van Halen
  8. Superstition - Stevie Wonder
  9. Dead Man's Party - Oingo Boingo
  10. This Is Halloween - Marilyn Manson
Now, some of these songs might be ones you'd expect, and others, maybe not so much. Classics like Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash" have been staples at Halloween parties for years now, and are only expected. Others that's I've chosen, such as Justin Timberlake's "True Blood" and The Maine's "Forever Halloween", are newcomers to the Halloween scene, but I think belong on a well made Halloween mix. "True Blood", off of Justin Timberlake's excellent latest release, The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2, channels the spirit of Thriller and combining it with modern sounds and "horror-filled" lyrics. With a solid beat, howling wolves, and Justin Timberlake's voice, this will surely be a hit at a party. "Forever Halloween", the title track from The Maine's most recent album, takes on a more emotional and slower approach to Halloween. While this may not be a pump up jam, it works as an eerie and soulful slow dance tune that builds from acoustic guitar and piano to crashing drums and John O'Callaghan soaring high vocally. The majority of these songs are older, drawing mainly from the 70's/80's eras with the likes of AC/DC, Van Halen, and Stevie Wonder, which are sure to be crowd pleasers. Oingo Boingo, of the same era but not quite as acclaimed, have some great party tunes, with "Dead Man's Party" appropriately fitting the description, and will make listeners laugh and nod their heads along. Another favorite will be the Ghostbusters theme, as performed by Ray Parker Jr. This theme song is not only from a fantastic 80's film, but sure to get a sing-a-long started and good times ensuing. The last addition to this list is a bit of an oddity, but necessary for this time of year. Performing a cover from the classic "The Nightmare Before Christmas", Marilyn Manson comes through to create an edgy and thrilling version of this song. It will bring back memories for many folks, and add some rock to your shindig. 

I hope this adds a few tunes to the playlists you guys have going for whatever event you're throwing or attending, and if you're not doing anything, then play these songs and have a great, safe night. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Concert Review - Anberlin, The Maine, Lydia, and From Indian Lakes

It's been a few weeks, but I wanted to share my thoughts about this show that I went to. It was by far one of the best concert experiences I've had overall, and it was an absolute blast. The line-up was near perfect, the venue was awesome, and the crowd was great, for the most part. I will remember it as one of my favorites, that is for sure.

First off, let me start with the venue. It was at The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA, which is not what you expect in the slightest. I was anticipating a somewhat shabby place in a sketchy downtown area, but instead found a modern building at the edge of an upscale business park. It also had free parking, which is always welcome, (since most places charge $10-$20), and the parking was right by the venue was well. The inside of the venue was fantastic as well. It was very modern, with some simple yet interesting architecture. The layout was awesome, with 5 different levels of viewing areas on the first floor alone, and a balcony level as well. Each level was different enough in height that you could clearly see the stage from each one, and there was plenty of room. The show was sold out, but the spaciousness of the venue made it feel not so crowded. My friend and I were on the third level, and ended up having a fantastic view the entire show, especially when the people in front of us left after The Maine, and we had the railing/wall of our level to lean on for Anberlin. It was glorious.

Anyways, the show. So, we got into the place about 15 minutes before showtime, bought some shirts, and made our way into the main concert section to discover that the opening band, From Indian Lakes, was already a song into their set. I never learned why they had to start early, but apparently that was something that happened on other stops during the tour. We found our spot, and started listening to the group, whom neither of us had really heard before. To our surprise, From Indian Lakes was much more than you would expect from an opening band. They knew their songs, they knew their instruments, they had confidence, and they had stage presence. Not to mention that they played some solid songs. I failed to catch the name of their first song, but the remaining songs rocked. They had a variety in sound and intensity, and it was great. Their finishing song, "Till I Can Walk", built up to an incredible finish. Within moments of their set ending, I made my way over to their merch table and picked up their sophomore album, Able Bodies, which I highly recommend.

After a brief stage switching, the next band came on, which was Lydia. I had listened to a few songs beforehand, and liked what I heard, so I had some anticipation. I have to be honest, I just wasn't that impressed. They have a good sound, and they put on a decent show, but it was lackluster. Not only that, but my biggest problem was with their lead singer. He has a very unique voice, which I enjoy, but his mannerism while on stage made their performance a bit of a drag. He was almost like a rapper, constantly moving his hands as he sang, and he kept coming close to the microphone and backing up from it, making it sound as if he was cutting in and out all the time. This grew wearisome quickly, and my friend and I agreed that we wanted the act to be over soon. I have respect for them as musicians, but I think that the singer's way of acting on stage was a big turn-off for me, as well as some of the other audience members.

With a little bit more lengthy stage change, we had to wait for The Maine, but not for long. A large part of the crowd seemed to be waiting for them, for the reaction to the dimming lights was intense. The Maine immediately got into the music, playing through a set list that covered the entirety of their catalog, ranging from their early days till their latest release, Forever Halloween. I had already seen the main once this year, and very much enjoyed their live performance. I was not disappointed this time either. They had a great stage performance, taking time in-between some songs to talk to the crowd and say hello. It was entertaining, most definitely, and showed that they really do care about their fans. I will be honest, I thought some of their song choices were not what I expected, but they were all good songs nonetheless. They brought the lead singer of Lydia back out to do some guest vocals on one song, which wasn't as bad as my friend and I first imagined. One of my favorite things was that they closed their act with "Misery", which I consider to be one of their best songs they've ever done. All in all, I was very pleased with The Maine's performance, and the love and affection they had for their fans.

Finally, after a even more lengthy stage change, the final group hit the stage; Anberlin. Coming out to booming bass and ethereal synths, Anberlin immediately kicked up the intensity level of the night, diving right into one of my favorites of the group, "Paperthin Hymn". They continued with the driving energy, slipping from song to song of crashing drums, roaring guitars, and Stephen Christian screaming and singing his lungs out. About halfway through their set, they slowed things down a bit, switching from their latest single, "City Electric", which was much less intense than the previous songs, to the stripped down and acoustic feeling "Unwinding Cable Car", a favorite among the fans. After that, they picked the pace back up again, and thrilled the crowd until the moment they left the stage. The added amount of smoke also helped create the intense ambiance they were looking for, which I particularly enjoyed. They took some time to talk, but made sure to focus on performing their music, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. They managed to make it a good thing, keeping to the music while not seeming detached. I was incredibly impressed with Christian's vocals, which were exactly on point with how he sounds on all the records. It seems that nowadays, it is increasingly rare to find artists who can truly perform what they record, and so it was refreshing to not be disappointed. I feel like they could have played a song or two more, but besides that, I very much enjoyed their set.

Now, the after concert experience was one of the best I've ever had. My friend and I decided to hang around outside to see if we could meet some of the bands, because we had always wanted to do that, but never had been able to. Even though I ended up waiting a fair amount of time (2 hours or so), I managed to meet all of the members of The Maine and get their latest album signed by them. It was a real honor to meet them, and I was very impressed with their commitment to their fans. They stayed out there 2, 3 hours past the concert to meet with and talk to their fans. It showed their love of their supporters and their humility in not being too big to talk to the people who support them. It was the cherry on top of a fantastic night.

From Indian Lakes -
Breaking My Bones
I Don't Know You
Stay Outside
'Till I Can Walk

Lydia -
The Exit
This Is Twice Now
Best Nights
Knee Deep

The Maine -
Listen To Your Heart
Kennedy Curse (Extended Outro)
Like We Used To
Waiting For My Sun/Some Days (feat. Lydia)
White Walls
I Must Be Dreaming
Run (Outro)
Don't Stop Now
Into My Arms (Piano Intro)
Love & Drugs
Inside Of You
Girls Do What They Want

Anberlin -
Paperthin Hymn
We Owe This To Ourselves
The Resistance
Someone Anyone
City Electric
Unwinding Cable Car
Take Me (As You Find Me)
The Other Side
Feel Good Drag
Self Starter
A Day Late

Friday, October 25, 2013

Five Song Friday - October 25th

This week has been busy, and hectic, but music has found its way to me despite the chaos of the week. This week has been a Pop-Punk sort of week, so that will be apparent with some of my song choices. Check out the tunes, read my thoughts, and see which ones you like. Thanks for reading!

  1. Floorboards - Real Friends
    Real Friends. A friend of mine tipped me off to these boys, and I've been getting more and more addicted each day. This group makes some fantastic pop-punk; some honest, down-to-earth music. I discovered I had this song from some free sampler, and have been jamming it as much as I can. I love the rawness of their lead singer, Dan Lambton, and his lyrics are very revealing and personal. These guys have the same sort of vibe as Relient K did in its earlier days, and I absolutely love that. It's upbeat, it's driving, and it rocks. Definitely excited to explore more of their music soon. 5/5
  2. Hostage - Dangerkids
    I cannot help but hear early Linkin Park when I listen to these guys, which by no means is a bad thing. I love that they're so heavily influenced by my favorite band, and it attracts me to them even more. This song in particular does a great job of balancing hopelessness and hope within the same song. It's high moments lift you up, and the low moments remind you that everything isn't always great. Their lyrics are fantastic, in my opinion, and are revealing while sending a positive message to their listeners in hopes to build them up. That is a common thread amongst hardcore/metal bands today, and I think it is a trend that is forcing people to rethink their preconceived ideas of this genre. 5/5
  3. Hard To Please - State Champs
    This is another pop-punk band that I have been listening to more and more lately, and slowly getting hooked. This song in particular is my favorite so far, with the line "maybe I'm a bad person" showing a willingness to accept imperfections, which is fantastic lyrical honest. The song itself is very catchy, with an upbeat nature of crashing drums and gritty guitars going through great riffs while their lead singer sings and yells his heart out. It's very personal feeling music, and it's what I love about it. 5/5
  4. Saturday - Fall Out Boy
    I know this is a little old-school compared to the rest of the songs, but it fits well with the pop-punk thing I've got going on. This is Fall Out Boy in their early days, which I think is nice to listen to sometimes. I love their newest album, with it's variety of influences and sounds, but this early stuff is good as well. I hadn't really heard this song until I went and saw them live, for they closed with this tune. I can see how these guys influenced the pop-punk scene, and how they set standards with this first album. It's cool to see the roots of bands that have evolved in sound over time. 5/5
  5. A Love Like War (feat. Vic Fuentes) - All Time Low
    All Time Low has been constantly putting out solid records the last few years, and I always keep an eye on their latest releases. This song, off the bonus version of their newest record, Don't Panic, is one of my favorites from the group that I've heard in a while. It has that more lighthearted nature they have perfected, but it also hits heavier than anything I've heard from them. It features guest vocals from Vic Fuentes of Pierce The Veil, who I think complements the band well with his higher range and selected screams here and there. The guitar really leads this song, with some sweet riffs and chords driving over clapping beats and then pounding drums. I very highly recommend it if you like Yellowcard, Tonight Alive, or The Wonder Years. 4/5

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Devotion - Anberlin

Now, this won't be a full length review, since this release is essentially a deluxe version of Vital, Anberlin's last album. However, I will say a bit about the songs on the initial release before getting into the songs that have just been added.

I discovered this album more by accident; I have listened to some Anberlin for a few years, but have never been a huge fan. I happened across their latest release, Vital, and slowly fell head over heals for the album. Vital is a true masterpiece, an album that is a fantastic listen from beginning to end. From the explosive guitar and synth-led "Self-Starter" to the epic piano filled closer, "Unstable", Anberlin created an aggressive, passionate, and intense record that the listener becomes immersed in. Songs like the 80's reminiscent ballad "Innocent", and the emotional, marching "God, Drugs, & Sex" provide stark contrast to heavy hitters such as "Little Tyrants", a raging kick that is fueled by roaring guitars and near-scream vocals, and "Desires", which comes directly after "Innocent", which immediately opens into blistering guitars and pounding, crashing drums and contains an intensity that is hard to meet with vocals that soar and shout on the chorus. The album isn't all contrasts, however, and a middle ground is found between calm and storm on songs like "The Other Side" and "Orpheum". "The Other Side" opens and continues with echoing synths that flow between heartfelt verses and raw choruses, and "Orpheum" builds into an epic sound thanks to a resounding piano intro and driving drums that push into choruses of questioning and urgency. Overall, I was incredibly impressed with this initial release, and, especially after seeing them live, was very excited to hear the new additions to the album.

So, for the new songs. There is the same sort of divide found amongst these new tracks as with the rest of the album. At the same time, however, these songs have a different sense to them; you can tell why these were not included in the album, although I'm very glad they decided to release them. Lead single "City Electric" has a much more alternative-pop vibe than anything else on the album, and stands apart because of this. It also has a more happy tone, which is not saying that the rest of the album is depressing or gloomy; it just is much darker than this particular track. Led by a somewhat distorted guitar and steady drums, the positive aspect is due mainly to Stephen Christian's vocals and the gang vocals shouting "oh, oh" repeatedly through the chorus. It's definitely a solid song, revealing the diversity which Anberlin can draw upon in creating music. Another aspect revealed in their songs is their passion for the music and what they're writing about. Some examples of this can be found in songs like "Dead American", "Said Too Much", and "Safe Here". "Dead American" is possibly my favorite of these B-sides, with it's ethereal sound that explodes into fast-paced rock. The lyrics are simple for the chorus, but the repeated nature and that they're screamed out shows their importance. Other spots lyrically caught my attention, such as "don't care about those who you try to impress, hide the demons they're under the dress; you really got them, you think you really got them", which really grabbed me once I listened carefully. "Said Too Much" continues this same urgent nature, with a gritty and low bass line that subtly grabs your attention and draws you closer in as Stephen cries for someone to "stay where I can see you" in a desperate manner. This desperation is further exemplified on the bridge, where he continues to yell and scream increasingly, which is definitely one of my favorite parts of the song. "Safe Here" continues this urgency, opening with a dirty synth line that kicks into high gear with a steady drum beat and Stephen utilizing his vocal diversity with a lower line to build up to the chorus. He gets quite up there, which is always impressive (especially since he can get that high live), and the drums and guitars come together to create ebb and flow within the chorus itself.

Not all of the songs are this intense and gritty, however. The remaining two new songs, "IJSW" and "No Love To Speak" fall more towards the affectionate and gentle side. "No Love To Speak" is a nice transition between the edginess of the previous songs, retaining the faster pace and more full instrumentation, but a newfound tenderness is evident in Stephen's vocals. He brings the urgency that is consistent with the other songs, but also a sense of weariness, specifically found when he says "I'm tired" (which sounds obvious, but the way he says it speaks volumes). This more gentle side is also accentuated by the piano and staccato bell-like synths found throughout, subtle in the background, yet present if given attention. The only song I haven't discussed, "IJSW", is a fitting final song to talk about. It is the most different track out of all the new songs, in direction, instrumentation, and overall sound. Driven by echoing electronic beats, layered synths, and Stephen's voice covered in effects and even auto-tune. This last part is very fitting, given the heavy electronic influence on the song. The usual distorted guitars are replaced by the flowing and clean synth lines, and Stephen's usual aggression and rawness is tuned towards a more gentle and synthesized sound. It all comes together to display the musicality with which Anberlin approaches their work, and the diversity in which they can create music. I very much enjoyed the flowing and digitalized nature of that song, and the contrast it presented to some of the other songs.

I was very impressed with these new songs and B-sides, more so than I think I was for the initial album, which I enjoyed greatly. These additional tracks further reveal the talent and impressive creativity the band members have. I loved listening to all of them, and cannot wait to hear what's next from them.

Overall Ratings:
Vital (Initial Release): 4.5/5
Devotion (New Songs): 5/5

Track-list: (Including Vital songs)
Self Starter - 3:17 (5/5)
Little Tyrants - 3:21 (5/5)
Other Side - 4:06 (5/5)
City Electric - 4:28 (4/5)*
Someone Anyone - 3:30 (5/5)
Unstable - 3:35 (5/5)
Intentions - 3:08 (4/5)
Innocent - 4:18 (5/5)
Dead American - 3:10 (5/5)*
Desires - 3:04 (5/5)
Said Too Much - 3:32 (5/5)*
IJSW - 5:26 (5/5)*
Type Three - 3:57 (4/5)
No Love To Speak - 4:09 (5/5)*
Orpheum - 3:52 (5/5)
Safe Here - 3:41 (5/5)*
Modern Age - 4:12 (4/5)
God, Drugs, & Sex - 6:14 (4/5)

*Designate new tracks with Devotional release

Friday, October 18, 2013

Five Song Friday - October 18th

Friday is here, finally! And with Friday comes the new music I've been listening to this week, so check out the songs and see what tickles your fancy.

  1. Casual Affair - Panic! At The Disco
    This song is one of my favorites off of Panic!'s newest album, and for one particular reason; it just sounds cool. From the opening synth to Brendon Urie's slightly distorted and echoing vocals, the song will have you coming back for more with its haunting undertones. The addition of strings, and the striking beat help to further this spooky, yet beautiful nature. If you haven't checked anything out from the album yet, at least try this song. It's a great work from the group. 5/5
  2. Bitter Rivals - Sleigh Bells
    Sleigh Bells has such a peculiar sound, and I have grown to love it more and more. I have yet to listen in depth to the new release, but I have found a few songs that I am hooked on, "Bitter Rivals" being one of them. It's combination of acoustic guitar and poppy synths with explosive beats, gritty electric guitars, and intense vocals. The blending of hip-hop, alternative, and pop comes together to create a catchy song with some fantastic arraigning. 5/5
  3. Dead American - Anberlin
    This song has got gritty and dirt smeared all over it, but has moments of complete clarity and serenity. It's ethereal nature draws you in, and it's passionate and intimate sound get your blood pumping. The chorus is simple, but definitely catchy, with Stephen Christian screaming that "we want it right, we want it right now", coming off as aggressive, yet urgent. I've listened to this song at least once every day this week, and I absolutely love it. 5/5
  4. Can't Hold Us - Pentatonix
    Pentatonix is one of the most talented groups out there, and I love everything the release. This latest single is no exception, with the song choice being simply perfect for the dynamic of the group. Their choice to showcase each member's abilitys throughout the song shows their humility and unity as a team. My favorite part of the song is when they do the horn line a capella, which sounds spot on and powerful. The energy level throughout the song is constant and explosive, making you happy after every listen. 5/5
  5. Survival - Eminem
    Eminem's return to rap after his last huge album has been fantastic, plain and simple. His first single, "Bezerk", showed his ability to switch things up, pulling from an 80's influence and coming at the listener hard and fast. "Survival", his next single, is filled with raw passion, and much darker undertones than the first single. His raps are intense and incredible, although sometimes graphic, showing off his mastery of language and ability to rhyme and articulate, The song fires me up with the energy it puts off, and makes me want to get out there and do something. Definitely a worthy purchase if you enjoy his work. 5/5