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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Too Weird To Live, To Rare To Die! - Panic! At The Disco

Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! is a perfect definition of Panic! At The Disco. They are too unique to stick to one particular sound, but too creative to go away anytime soon. With a variety of releases, they have gathered a wide ranging fan base, but despite the constant changes in both sound and members, they have managed to come out of the fire not only in one piece, but refined like gold and better than ever. Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! is a culmination of all of their albums, and still points to the future and what it may yet hold.

Drawing heavily from their first and third albums, Panic! moves in a largely electronic direction, which is expected if you've followed their career at all. Synths, drum machines, and an eclectic assortment of electronic noises drive the latest batch of songs from Panic!, but they are also interwoven with gritty guitars, rock-oriented drums, and, of course, Brendon Urie's soaring and theatrical voice. These elements all come together to create just over a half hour of a musical roller coaster, filled with twists and turns, highs and lows (but not too many of those). It kicks off with the heat beat intro of "This Is Gospel", which was one of the lead singles and one of the best songs Panic! has ever put out. The vocals and harmonies are fantastic, and each verse leads into the explosive chorus, filled with stadium ready drums, roaring guitars, and sing-along lyrics. Panic! manages to keep their lyrical weirdness that set them apart all those years ago, but still has moments of clarity, and being relatable, with lines like "if you love me let me go" and "the fear of falling apart" becoming anthem cries for teenagers as they listen along. This song slides right into the other lead single, "Miss Jackson (feat. Lolo)", a Fall-Out-Boy-My-Songs-Know-What-You-Did-In-The-Dark sounding anthem, which is not a bad thing at all; it just doesn't seem quite as original as it should. I still very much enjoy the song, with it's contrasting elements, going from low-key bass led verses to sharp drums and whining guitar filled chorus. It is one of the harder hitting songs, and has a more intense feel to it.

This vibe is continued throughout the album, with songs like "Vegas Lights", "Nicotine", and "Casual Affair" all keeping up the intense nature in different manners. "Vegas Lights" takes on a more fun-natured vibe, yet still sounds fierce thanks to it's driving beat and the few synths that provide a edgy vibe. The children's countdown as an intro is a tad bit creepy, but the song unfolds into alternative/electric genius. It's by far one of my favorite songs, thanks to the catchy nature of both the vocals and the electronic elements. Another song that follows in this catchy fashion is "Nicotine", a fast paced song that inspires clapping along and dancing to the beat. It has some electronic elements, but leans more towards traditional rock instruments, being led by guitars, bass lines, and resounding drums. The bass line during the pre-chorus is excellent, since I'm a sucker for a good bass. I also enjoyed the acoustic piano that can be found when the song brings the energy level down, adding a different vibe than the more commonly found electronic elements. However, just a few songs more into the album is "Casual Affair", the heavily electronic-laden piece, which is both beautiful and haunting at the same time. This collision of sounds is created mainly by Urie's vocals, the repeating synth line, and the echoing drums. Urie's voice provides both the beauty and a chilling sense thanks to his vocal sound being combined with echoing effects and a bit of auto tune, which I think is a fantastic fit with this song. Some people might complain simply because it's being used, but it's not to make up for his voice or cover mistakes; it's simply to complement the song itself. This song also has a swagger to it, which makes me think that this might have been where the hip-hop influence Urie mentioned in an interview about the album comes in.

The whole album isn't edgy and dark, however; a nice 80's pop influence helps provide some fantastic upbeat tunes. "Collar Full", led by synths and a very 80's style drum beat, provides some fun for the listener. The happy nature of this song is infectious, and you can't help smiling and wanting to move to the beat. It rides the line of annoying catchy perfectly, feeling preppy yet not totally care-free. "Girl That You Love" is another song that exemplifies this 80's influence, thanks to some excellent toms and pulsating synth lines. It has a bit of a darker nature than "Collar Full", but is not a mood-killer, thanks to the driving beat and added staccato guitar lines during the chorus. "Far Too Young To Die" follows in this nature, opening with a steady beat and synth that bring to mind a multitude of movie scenes in 80's clubs. It moves into a more modern nature when the vocals kick in, which are the best part of the song in my opinion. Urie has a voice that can change from incredibly upbeat to intense and emotional. This song strays more towards the latter, but not in a manner that depresses you. It's just splendid to listen to, whatever he ends up doing with it. Not all of the songs make you want to pull out your roller blades and leg warmers, however; an upbeat nature can be achieved without bringing back those days. "Girls/Girls/Boys" is in the same line as "Collar Full", but differs in style. A more mellow sound and stripped down combination of groovin' bass line, simple drums, and a slightly distorted guitar to create a solid song about relationships and (obviously) boys and girls. Finally, the closing tune "The End Of All Things" is a dramatic turn from everything else on the album. With an eerie, haunting, and emotional sound, this song stands apart thanks to the simple instrumentation of just a piano line and Urie's vocals. It brings down the energy, especially from the previous song, but shows some incredible musicianship. The vocals are fantastic, with the effects and harmonies coming together to be both digital and human, revealing a rawness, yet also being polished simultaneously. The strings at the end of the track solidify the somber nature, and create a fitting end to this wild ride.
Rating? 4/5

This Is Gospel - 3:07 (5/5)*
Miss Jackson (feat. Lolo) - 3:13 (5/5)*
Vegas Skies - 3:09 (5/5)*
Girl That You Love - 3:09 (4/5)
Nicotine - 3:07 (5/5)
Girls/Girls/Boys - 3:27 (4/5)
Casual Affair - 3:18 (5/5)*
Far Too Young To Die - 3:17 (4/5)
Collar Full - 3:18 (4/5)
The End Of All Things - 3:32 (5/5)*

(* tracks indicate recommended downloads)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Five Song Friday - October 11th

The weeks fly by, and I discover lots of fantastic music to listen to (and by lots I mean A LOT). Check out what I've been listening to, and see which ones you like as well! I've attached links to the song names, so if you want to hear how they sound, click the title of the song and it'll take you there.

  1. I've Given Up On You - Real Friends
    I actually discovered this song thanks to some of my friends covering it, and found that I really enjoy it. The first time I listened, I felt it should eventually build with drums and the likes, but have found after a few listens that I love the way it is acoustic yet not. The addition of the bass guitar and the slightly distorted guitar help build the intensity without erupting into a full on punk song. The vocals and lyrics are where the song shine, with lines like "I write songs about you all the time" and "I'll stay awake at night with just my skin and bones" reveal an angst and depression present after a rough break up. Break ups are covered by every artist out there, but this felt like a fresh and more raw, emotional take on the subject. I very much enjoyed it. 5/5
  2. Vegas Lights - Panic! At The Disco
    I was stoked for this album, and it did not disappoint in the slightest. With the lyrical feel of their debut album and the instrumental of the future, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die was a short but sweet set of tunes. This song, besides it's odd intro, is one of my personal favorites off the album. It has swagger, it has groove, and it embodies Vegas, (hence the title), which is a fitting tribute to the birthplace of Panic! Brendon Urie's voice is the best part of the track, which soars high and low, growing with intensity and teeming with intimacy at points. It's one of the highlights of the album, and I highly recommend it for fans of Fall Out Boy, Cobra Starship, and All Time Low. 5/5
  3. Sugarcane - Sleigh Bells
    To start, I apologize for the video link on this song; it was the only one I could find. The song, as you'll find if you listen, is raw. It punches you as the beat comes in to it's full extent, a wave of sound hitting your ears with resounding and booming beats lay the foundation for gritty guitars and polished vocals. Vocalist Alexis Krauss has a voice that isn't easily forgotten, and is especially showcased in this song, with melodies that catch your attention and enthrall you. I come back time after time just for her vocals, but also for the hard-hitting instrumental that backs up the intensity of her voice. I haven't listened to the entirety of the new album from Sleigh Bells, but after this and a few others, I'm well prepared to buy it. 5/5
  4. Blood On The Leaves - Kanye West
    I know that this seems like an odd addition to this list, but I do appreciate Kanye's talent as a rapper and making very innovative beats and tracks. This song is an example of that talent. It builds wonderfully, and erupts into an intense, dark track. The auto-tune fits the vibe perfectly, and is backed by a loud and gritty horn line with a perfectly timed beat. The song gets me pumped, and inspires me to create music with the same intensity. Lyrically, it's not terribly exciting, but the vibe and feel of the song is fantastic. 5/5
  5. I Don't Know You - From Indian Lakes
    I discovered this band at the Anberlin/The Maine show I attended last week, and was incredibly impressed with not only their sound, but their mature and professional stage presence. They did not have the awkward vibe of an opening band, but came off as confident and together as the openers. They are one of those fantastic bands who are better live than recorded, which is what I think all that matters. However, that doesn't mean the record is bad. This song is one of the many I really enjoy. It's one they played live, and one of the more low-key songs, but it still has it's intensity at times. Their sound is very relaxing and fall/winter-esc, fitting in with the clouds and chilly weather lately. Definitely check them out if you like The Maine, Walk The Moon, and Lydia. 5/5

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2 - Justin Timberlake

When Justin Timberlake makes a comeback, he makes it big. While everyone was still going ecstatic over The 20/20 Experience, he revealed that it was only the first of two parts, immediately building the hype and excitement for the next part. When it dropped this last week, the fans could finally hear the rest of Justin Timberlake's explosive jump back into the music scene. I knew that the expectations would probably exceed the result, due to the first part being fantastic. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that this album holds it's own as part continuation, part sequel. Even though the songs were recorded at the same time as those from Part 1, they have a different vibe and different sounds. It was probably engineered this way, for I'm sure JT wanted to create different listening experiences with each album, even though they are connected. In this aspect, he most definitely succeeded.

There is a definite division in this album, with the two halves containing different emotional drives and moods. The electric synth, hip-hop beat driven first half unfolds into the more acoustic guitar, orchestrally led second. Songs like "TKO", "True Blood", "Gimme What I Don't Know (I Want)", and lead single "Take Back The Night" contain a higher-level energy, making you want to dance to the beat and sing along with a smile. "Gimme What I Don't Know (I Want)" opens the album in a much different fashion than Part 1, with multilayered vocals quickly giving way to JT's signature beat-boxing combined with some hip-hop drums and a groovin' bass line. The song has some funk to it, thanks to that bass line and the guitar that subtly fades into the chorus. All this is complemented by JT's vocals, which soar over the instrumental as he greatly utilizes his falsetto on this song as he compells the muse of his song to come to him. The chorus, thanks to both Timberlake's lyrics and vocals and the resounding beats, inspires a jungle vibe, which is further confirmed and solidified by the bridge section, that is punctuated by animal noises and Timberland speaking of "deep in the jungle, the animals come out". The next song, however, takes on a far different theme than an animalistic lover, although the implications are similar in a sense. "True Blood" is about what your first thoughts probably are; a lover with vampire qualities. The song overall has a very Halloween vibe, thanks to many lyrical references to creepy and spooky things and well placed wolf howls, which I'm sure will inspire a rise in popularity as it comes nearer to Halloween. It also feels a bit like Michael Jackson's "Thriller", not only because of the supernatural influence, but due to the bridge/spoken word section, that JT and Timberland speak in low tones with ghostly shrieks in the background to create a chilling mood. I very much enjoy the extended nature of this song; clocking in at more than 9 and a half minutes, it creates a haunting experience that makes you want to grove along at a eerily decorated Halloween party in some wacky costume. It'll be interesting if they make a music video for this song.

Not all of the songs, however, are themed quite in this manner. "Cabaret", for example, is a more pop/hip-hop track that talks about the same sort of material, just in a more mainstream manner. This song is one of the two songs with a guest spot, with this song featuring Drake, a pairing I found odd in theory, but excellent in practice. His rap spot fits the vibe of the song perfectly, along with some great lines and a well placed section of his signature singing/rapping. JT himself has some hilarious, yet not so appropriate lines, which I won't repeat (you'll have to listen to it for yourself). His vocals complement the romantic, yet hard-hitting nature of the song, emphasizing the softer side more, and creating some fantastic contrast. Another example of a more expected theme within a song is lead single "Take Back The Night", a tribute to a gone age of big bands, flashing lights, and soul-filled music. It definitely has a Michael Jackson vibe to it, but JT makes sure to make it his own. The addition of The Tennessee Kids adds not only flare, but legitimacy for Timberlake as an artist. As this world moves farther and farther into the electronic age, it's nice to hear some real instruments; blasting trumpets, funky bass lines, and some driving drum set rhythm. This goes to say, however, that electronic isn't a bad thing. Songs like "TKO" and "Murder" both contain high amounts of electronic based instruments and still show a high quality of musicianship. "TKO", as you might guess, is more based around a boxing theme, and is driven by sharp beats and climbing and falling synth lines. JT sings of not a knockout girl, as one might expect, but a girl who knocks him out because she isn't who she used to be anymore."Murder", the other track on the record with a guest artist, comes in as a middle ground between the electronic and the authentic, containing striking beats combined with loud brass jabs and a slick guitar line. Jay-Z provides a rap for this song with some clever lines and good contrast, and furthering the musical relationship between the two, since they continue to do guest spots for each other.

Now, I earlier mentioned that there was a clear division in this album. This starts with "Drink You Away", a surprising blend of Southern Gospel and danceable country. Timberlake even manages to throw a hint of a country twang on his voice, creating a vastly different listening experience than the previous songs on the album. It isn't fast paced, but does not feel slow thanks to the upbeat nature and despite the lamenting nature of the song. The acoustic guitar and slightly distorted electric guitar definitely further the country vibe, and help to make this song a nice break from the dominating hip-hop/pop nature of what the listener has been experiencing. The next song, "You Got It On", opens with a radically different sound, somewhat bringing back the pop and hip-hop sounds. However, it doesn't feel nearly as driving, but instead bringing down the pace of the album with a soulful feel. JT is definitely romancing with this song, and he's not trying to rush it at all. The song finishes off with an orchestral outro, helping to finalize the old-time feel of the song, and transitioning right into the next song "Amnesia", which is a little more urgent in nature as the beat-boxing kicks in and Justin sings over Timberland providing some bass. This song fades into a more emotion led, stripped down outro of bass kicks, key jangles, and sharp snare hits, with plucked and bowed strings complementing JT as he soars in and out of falsetto. "Only When I Walk Away" builds the intensity present in the last song even more, even taking on a angry tone accented but a roaring guitar and some vocal distortion. JT gets into this song, almost yelling at points as he sings of a flip-flop lover who continues to change their mind. The transition at almost 4 minutes keeps the same energy level, yet channels the emotions through a hard-hitting beat that drives the song as JT howls how she loves him "only when I walk away". The last minute changes as well, bringing down the energy this time, but instilling a foreboding sense in the listener. The last song on the album, "Not A Bad Thing", is also the longest song, clocking in at a lengthy 11:32. The first half is a more pure pop sound, almost reminiscent of JT's earliest days in his career. He tries to convince a girl that she should give him a chance to be her man. The second half, however, takes on a completely different sound, solely being driven by a picked guitar and eventually strings. JT's voice also switches up during this part, taking on a very soft and sensual tone to inspire a time in music long gone. It's a very beautiful way to end the album, and is a last effort to reveal the diversity Timberlake has as an artist.

After listening to this whole album, I'm very glad Justin Timberlake decided to do 2 parts of his album and release all these songs, for there are some great new additions to his library on this latest release. Not everything was absolutely perfect, but you could tell it all had a lot of effort and work put into it. My only major problem with the album overall was the higher amount of swearing present. I don't mind it, but it felt unnecessary at times and almost forced in for the sake of having it. That said, I still love the album, and am excited to see what JT does in the future. 4.5/5

Gimme What I Don't Know (I Want) - 5:15 (5/5)
True Blood - 9:31 (5/5)
Cabaret (feat. Drake) - 4:33 (5/5)
TKO - 7:04 (5/5)
Take Back The Night - 5:55 (5/5)
Murder (feat. Jay-Z) - 5:08 (4/5)
Drink You Away - 5:31 (5/5)
You Got It On - 5:56 (4/5)
Amnesia - 7:05 (4/5)
Only When I Walk Away - 7:06 (5/5)
Not A Bad Thing - 11:32 (4/5)

Five Song Friday - October 4th

Another Friday is here, and an exciting Friday it is! I am going to another concert tonight, this time featuring Anberlin and The Maine (which yes, it will be my second time seeing them this year) as headliners, and Lydia and From Indian Lakes as the openers. It'll be an awesome show, and I'm stoked. So be on the look out for a review, and hopefully some pictures and videos. Seeing as that's the case, this week's will have some new music I've discovered (which means Justin Timberlake), and some of my favorites by The Maine and Anberlin.

  1. The Runaways - Anberlin
    I had not heard this song before I knew I was going to see them, and it was a pleasant surprise. I absolutely love the intro, which just sounds cool, plain and simple. This song has that edgier, gritty tone to it that is awesome. I don't know if they're going to play this song, but it would be awesome if they did because it's fantastic. It's evident that it's from Anberlin's earlier days, but it's a great work, and has some nice contrasts between the chorus and the verses. 5/5
  2. These Four Words - The Maine
    This is one of those songs that really showcases the raw talent The Maine has. It's stripped down, it's simple, but it's hauntingly beautiful. I got to see them perform it last time I saw them, and I hope they play it again, because it was fantastic. It just consists of pianos and vocals, but makes for a great sing-along. 5/5
  3. True Blood - Justin Timberlake
    JT is back again, and Part 2 is just as good as the first. "True Blood" is a Halloween-dance party song for sure, thanks to the vampire theme, monster references, and the occasional werewolf howl expertly placed. I love the thrill of this song, and it's evident inspiration from Michael Jackson's famous "Thriller". It's one of the best songs on his new record. Even though it's long, it really doesn't feel like it. I love JT's extended outros, and how they create unique listening experiences within each song.  5/5
  4. Cabaret - Justin Timberlake
    This is the shortest song on Justin's new album, but also one of the best. It's got a guest spot from Drake, who adds a lot to the song thanks to well thought out lines that complement JT's own great lyrical plays. It has a more hip-hop vibe than pop, which isn't a surprise since Drake is on it. It has a very sensual vibe to it as well, which is definitely Justin's style. I highly recommend it if you like Drake, Jay-Z, or the like. 5/5
  5. Royals - Pentatonix
    I love everything they do, I admit it. But they absolutely killed this song. I never was a big fan of the original, but this version blows it out of the water. The dynamics, the harmonies, the bass, the beat-boxing; it's all fantastic. Especially the harmonies, they get me every time I listen to the song. It's insane. Go listen to it, buy it, love it. 5/5

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Concert Review - Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, and Twenty One Pilots

This took a little longer than I had hoped, but then again, life gets busy. I had the great privilege of going to this concert, and I do not regret going in the slightest. It was a blast, and an entertaining show. It was at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, which is a fairly large venue. This ended up being a blessing in terms of noise, for I was not nearly as deaf at the end of the night as I anticipated. I know I should wear earplugs, but I just love the loud, loud music at live shows. Anyways, I had an actual seat, just about dead center, at the top of the lowest seating level. It was as good as it could get, (unless I was in the very front of the floor crowd), but it was really a quality spot to watch the show. I got there a little early, so I enjoyed my time, waiting for the show to begin.

It kicked off with Twenty One Pilots, a group I discovered soon after I learned they would be opening for the show. They had an immense amount of energy, with lead singer Tyler Joseph running and jumping around the stage as he sang, rapped, and screamed earnestly and emotionally. He was all over the place, including walking ON the crowd itself, using their hands to hold up his feet so he could sing to the crowd as he stood upon it. They, and all the other bands, incorporated a great many lighting effects into the show, (which makes me glad I don't have epilepsy, because I would have for sure had a seizure) and also did a lot of flips and backflips, which were all awesome. They used a lot of pre-recorded tracks, which bugged me a bit at first, but then I realized it makes sense since they're a two man band and can't possibly play 4+ instruments at the same time. It was cool, however, that they did play some, such as the drums, piano, and ukelele. Their bass lines, both synths and guitar, were INSANE. You could feel it hit your chest and mess with your heartbeat, it was so loud. I absolutely loved it, and I think everyone else in the crowd did. Another thing I liked about them was their humility. After almost every song, Tyler would talk to the crowd and thank them for coming out. Not only did he thank the crowd, but he continued to ask if the band was doing good enough for everyone, and if they all liked it. I thought it was a very humble attitude, one that is hard to find nowadays in the music industry. It gave me a lot of respect for them, and more interested in their show. They played only 6 songs, but they had just as much energy as the headlining acts. Not only that, but they ended their set with an insane drum-off outro where they just banged away on some toms as synths and bass was rumbling the arena. They were definitely a great opening group.

After a 20-30 minute pause for setting-up, Panic! At The Disco took the stage to screams and enthusiasm plentiful. I sadly missed them coming out because I was in line for a shirt, but still managed to catch most of their opening song, "Time To Dance". Panic! had a very Vegas show style to their set up, with lots of lights, screens flashing their name, and a whole lot of color. They came out with a different kind of energy than Twenty One Pilots, but that's expected. They were a much more theatrical act, and all about working up the crowd and performing their hearts out. They were also more comedic, with lead singer Brendon Urie having witty and hilarious remarks in-between songs. One such instance was when he told the crowd that his parents were in the crowd, and after having everyone say hi, he said to them, "Look Mom and Dad, I made it!" It was a great moment, with the crowd laughing and cheering for them. Comedy aside, they put on a great performance. All the members of the band were into the music, putting passion into their work as they jumped, ran, and jammed out. Urie's vocals were spot on, showing that the talent was not only real, but better than expected. He also was able to let out throaty screams, surprising me and adding some intensity to certain songs that complemented them well. Their energy was a great prelude into the openers; Fall Out Boy.

When the lights went out for Fall Out Boy, the screams and shouting where almost unbearable. But soon the crowd died down (slightly) to the sounds of "The Phoenix" rising up and bursting with energy. The boys of FOB came out in ski-masks for the first song, and then ripped them off as they carried on. The next hour and a half was filled with the screaming crowd, a set-list full of sing alongs, and a surprising amount of rock n' roll. Don't let the alternative-pop of their last album trick you; FOB is here to rock and make noise. They had crazy lights, an immense amount of energy, and no fear in going all over the place. The show flowed, from pure rock to piano led ballad moments, to even an acoustic stage in the center of the floor. It was all an absolute blast to watch. They brought back out Brendon to do guest vocals on "20 Dollar Nose Bleed", which was awesome, but they even took the time to cover Drake's "Hold On, We're Going Home", (which was actually really cool, despite being really unexpected). The acoustic stage was really great, taking a moment to lower the mood of the crowd and create the feel of a campfire sing along (without the fire). Guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley each got their own solo moment, which furthered the rock concert vibe, and bassist Pete Wentz provided some throaty screams when necessary. Frontman Patrick Stump led the band with a solid grip, singing his heart out and driving the band to put on a real, authentic show. And that's what they brought. For most of the concert, I was on my feet, singing along and singing my lungs out. It was one of the best show's I've been to just based on the energy and enthusiasm each band put out, and I'd easily do it again.


Twenty One Pilots-
Ode To Sleep
House Of Gold
Holding On To You
Car Radio
Guns For Hands (with outro)

Panic! At The Disco-
Time To Dance
The Ballad Of Mona Lisa
The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage
Let's Kill Tonight
This Is Gospel
Ready To Go
Miss Jackson
But It's Better If You Don't
Nine In The Afternoon
I Write Sins Not Tragedies

Fall Out Boy-
The Phoenix
I Slept With Someone In Fall Out Boy And All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me
A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More "Touch Me"
This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race
Alone Together
Guitar Solo
Death Valley
Sugar, We're Going Down
Young Volcanoes
Hold On, We're Going Home (Drake Cover)
What A Catch, Donnie
20 Dollar Nose Bleed (With Brendon Urie)

(Acoustic Stage)
I'm Like A Lawyer with the Way I'm Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You)
Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy

Drum Solo
Dance Dance
Just One Yesterday
I Don't Care
My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light 'Em Up)

Save Rock And Roll
Thnks fr the Mmrs