Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Violet Light & a Hum - Yume

This last week saw the release of the debut EP A Violet Light & a Hum from up and coming LA group Yume. They've got similar elements as bands like Lydia, A Will Away, and From Indian Lakes, so if you dig any of those bands, these guys will be a good fit for you. And when asked who's in the band and who plays what, the band replied, and I quote, "All 4 us play a special & unique magic keytar, each imbued with it's own cosmic abilities, crafted by an ancient wizard in the alps" (sourced here). But for the actual answer: Ray is on guitar and lead vocals, Charlie is on guitar and backing vocals, Nikita is on bass and backing/lead vocals, and Kenzo is on drums. They also said that they take a lot of inspiration from various dream pop & shoegaze bands, small-time bands, and a mutual liking of The Cure.

The four track EP has an overall dreamy quality (their twitter bio labels them as "LA Dreamo, so this is not too surprising), being some fairly mellow and chilled out alternative rock. It kicks off with "Hideaway", which showcases the great blend they achieve of polished recordings with just enough grit to get that really good indie sound. The shift in Ray's vocals between the first 2/3rds of the song being lower and almost of a talking-quality, and the last section, with the octave shift and much greater emotional emphasis, reveals just a taste of their consistent use of contrast to create memorable tunes.

"Gills" really features the guitar throughout, from the opening riff and the muted strums of the pre-chorus to the more distorted riff leading the instrumental through the chorus. This song also showcases the band's ability to bounce between the signature dreamy quality that's quickly established and a more edgy, punk vibe. I especially love the line from the chorus "I talk of timing, but I hardly care at all"; it really caught my attention when I first listened through the EP.

Nikita's vocals at the end of "Gills" hint at the prominent aspect of the next song, "I Don't Belong Here (And Neither Do You)", which is the interplay between the male and female vocals. There is a definite ethereal quality to Nikita's vocals, which also adds to that overarching dreamy feel. The change in tempo a little around 2 minutes into the song is what makes this one in particular stand out to me as the strongest song, as it's able to switch in a way that feels very natural and still retains the essence of the song.

"Flowers (...Isn't Heaven)" finishes out the EP in a slower fashion, the highlight of being Ray's vocals during the chorus that feature a really surreal-sounding effect that focuses the spotlight on them. Besides the chorus, the emphasis is really placed on the instrumental, which takes over the song after the second chorus and feels like a jam session as the drums, bass, and guitars all play off each other as they build back into the last verse and chorus.

Overall, it's a really great start. They have a quality sound that's backed by some subtle unique factors, their vocals are a fantastic balance of edgy and polished, harmonies are solid, and the instrumentals switch flawlessly between leading and supporting throughout the record. A job well done.

Rating: 4.5/5
Recommended: "I Don't Belong Here (And Neither Do You)"
Related: Lydia, A Will Away, From Indian Lakes  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Battle Symphony - Linkin Park

Surprisingly, Linkin Park put out another single for their upcoming May 19th release, One More Light, titled "Battle Symphony". It's release date was leaked a couple days before it came out, so it wasn't an actual surprise when it dropped on March 17th, but still unexpected so soon after "Heavy", the first single (see my review of it here). I think it's an indication that there will likely be at least two more singles released for the album before it officially drops.

The song itself starts off with a much more upbeat tone and vibe than the first single, "Heavy". It also feels a bit more like Linkin Park from the very start, something that Heavy didn't have, which in turn made the latter a bit difficult to swallow at first. The sampled vocal intro is really catchy, and the drop of the beat gets your head nodding along easily.

The verses really showcase this newer side of Chester's vocals that we haven't seen in previous releases. The lyrics and vocals are really at the forefront of this song and "Heavy", and I know that's a main focal point for the album as a whole, so it's definitely something to keep an eye out for with upcoming singles.

The chorus has a real anthemic sound to it, which was expected given the title. It's got some good layering to it, although the most prominent aspects of the instrumental are the synths and the drums. It definitely is similar to "Heavy" in terms of the construction. The lyrics feel a bit better on this track, but still not quite as inspired as they've managed to be in the past.

All in all, it's a continuation of the experimentation that "Heavy" introduced. It's a side of Linkin Park that hasn't really been shown off before, and is something that I know I will still need some time to really learn to appreciate in the same light as their other releases. They've mentioned in interviews that there's going to be a lot of blending of genres on this album, even more so than they've done in the past. I look forward to hearing that, but for now it feels like a lot of "pop" and not a lot of anything else.

 I believe it's better than "Heavy", but still not the best that Linkin Park's put out so far.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Black Butterflies and Deja Vu (Single) - The Maine

I've written about The Maine before. I've been listening to them since I was in 8th grade; almost 10 years at this point. And throughout their entire career, they have continued to produce music that constantly surprises me and exceeds my previous expectations. The evolution of their sound has been such a pleasure to watch, from the early pop-punk of Can't Stop Won't Stop to the more mature and gritty Pioneer to the fun & thought-provoking American Candy. They're now preparing for their 6th studio album (6 albums in 10 years, not too shabby at all), Lovely Little Lonely, and we've seen two singles released so far; "Bad Behavior", a feel good tune full of clever innuendos and a groove so catchy that you cannot help but sway along and rock out (I write as my head and shoulders uncontrollably move to the beat). I got to see this one live at the 8123 Fest, a celebration of the 10 years of The Maine and all their friends, which was an absolute blast.

The real focus of this post is the second single that came out last week, "Black Butterflies and Deja Vu". The album comes out in less than a month, so getting another single wasn't really guaranteed.

But we did, and I can't remember the last time I was this excited and in love with a song. It opens fast and loud, with the beat almost feeling a bit "drum and bass" and a much faster tempo than "Bad Behavior". John provides some of the best vocals I've ever heard from him, with excellent harmonies and so much energy from every member of the band. You can't help but feel energized when the song plays. And some of the harmonies during the verses; absolutely stunning.

One of the coolest aspects of this song is the inversion of the traditional balance between the verses and choruses. Normally the verses are a bit more restrained and build into a big chorus, but The Maine use huge, full verses and very stripped down choruses to create some incredible contrast. It makes you listen; it forces you to break from the usual expectations and be attentive to what is happening.

The other part of this song I love is the lyrics. It's one of the more relatable songs I've heard in a while. Just look at the first half of the chorus: "I lose my voice when I look at you, can't make a noise though I'm trying to, tell you all the right words, waiting for the right words". They were able to capture the exact words about how it's sometimes so difficult to find the right thing to say. It's such genius lyrical work, and it's very applicable to situations most people go through. There's also beautiful lines like "you come around, I come undone" or "you crash like a rolling wave, you come around I lose my brain".

I was incredibly impressed with this song. I can see why the band is excited about the new album, and I cannot wait to hear it in its entirety.

Bad Behavior Rating: 4/5

Black Butterflies and Deja Vu Rating: 5/5

One last note; another thing I love about The Maine is their sense of family they have created with their fan base. They absolutely love their fans (I've met them before, and they were so down to earth and humble). One way they're showing their love is with the new program they're doing to promote the new album. They're letting their fans be the ones on the front lines, and they're rewarding them for it. I've signed on to be a record sales rep, which means that I actually get a commission on any albums that I sell through my own link to their merch store. So, if you like what you've heard from the band, please click here and check out their pre-order options. If you buy something through my link, I get a portion of the sales, and you help support The Maine to keep doing what they do. So please check them out!