Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Love It If We Made It (Single) - The 1975

What a wild ride it's been with this song.

When The 1975 announced a new single was coming out, I was (of course) excited. After the wonderful tune that was "Give Yourself A Try", I was very curious to hear another track from what is shaping up to be an immensely intriguing album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.

So when I saw that “Love It If We Made It” was live and hit play on my phone, the ensuing song that came out of my phone speakers was not what I expected.

With “Give Yourself A Try”, I knew instantaneously that I loved the song. It’s upbeat and catchy, all while maintaining it’s somewhat gritty nature, both lyrically and musically.

With “Love It If We Made It”, it was not the same smooth ride.

My girlfriend, Kellyn, was in the room with me, and the minute Matty Healy begins his sing-yelling, we both looked at each other with confusion. What a 180 from the pretty vocals of “Give Yourself A Try” – this track was full of frustration and angst. The tempo is slower, but the fire feels even more intense, the instrumental chugging along as if only for a platform for Healy’s most aggressive vocals to date.

We both were put off. We agreed that the direction of the song and lyrics was a bold move for the band, something Kellyn mentioned would be difficult for some of the fans to accept. I respected the work, but wasn’t sure I would grow to like it.

I really should be more aware of how bad my first impressions of a song can be by now.

I gave it time. I listened to it on the way to work the day after it released, letting it fill the speakers and blare into my ears. And I found myself liking it a little more. I try to do most of my critical listening in the car. With my body and mind focused on the road, it’s easier for me to hear music without distraction and truly appreciate it. Not to mention that it’s a better representation of the track – the speakers allow for the full sound to be heard, intricate parts and lines not easily heard on the unreliable speakers found on smart phones.

One of the aspects that kept me coming back was the lyrical content. What a huge amount of ground covered in a song. They don’t hold back, they don’t sugar coat subjects on the track. Just look at the starting two lines:

“We're fucking in a car, shooting heroin
Saying controversial things just for the hell of it”

They cover just about everything, from:

the systematic oppression of black people –
“Selling melanin and then suffocate the black men
Start with misdemeanours and we'll make a business out of them”,

Trump & Kanye –
"I moved on her like a bitch!" & “"Thank you Kanye, very cool!",

The current environment of rap, specifically the recent deaths of prominent up & comers–
“Rest in peace Lil Peep”

and a whole lot more. You could write an essay about all the various things discussed in the song. The one line I keep coming back to in particular, however, is the endnote of each verse:

“Modernity has failed us”,

which I find to be such an incredibly interesting notion. It’s playing on the idea that the more advanced we become, the farther we march down the road called Progress, we will always improve as a species, as a people.  But progression is never a diagonal line up. It flies up and plummets. It zigzags all over the place. I think a lot of people felt that things were only ever going to get better. Science would improve us, technology would make our lives easier, and things would continue to climb. But, with a multitude of different events, such as Brexit and the election of Trump, many people have begun to see that we might slide back down before we climb once more. This is no surprise – in the course of the history of humanity, we have had successes followed by times of darkness and despair.

That’s what makes this song great though – the chorus. “I’d love it if we made it”. A cry for humanity to strive on, push back at the hopelessness and dare to make a difference in a time of growing indifference.

Fast-forward to now, and 36 plays later, and I am 100% sold on the song, perhaps even more so than “Give Yourself A Try”. The band calls their current era “Music For Cars”, something that I’ve found to be very true so far. The songs work so well for the road, especially late at night, zooming along freeways and deserted roadways. Beyond that though, its reveals more of the risky and bold moves the band is taking with this record. Personally, I’m in for the ride. I’m excited to see what’s next.

Rating - 4.5/5

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Jumpsuit / Nico And The Niners (Single) - twenty one pilots

twenty one pilots took the world by storm with their last album, blurryface. They rose up with a fire and spread through the globe, igniting the hearts of many a fans before vanishing for almost a year. They left everyone breathless, waiting for the next album cycle, the next thing from the two piece group.

Last week, a cryptic video appeared on their social media. Then another. And then, feeling like a freight train out of nowhere, they dropped not one, but two new songs from their upcoming release, Trench. The songs, "Jumpsuit" & "Nico And The Niners", both connect to each other while taking their own twists and turns.

As it is with any band that gains popularity one a specific release, twenty one pilots are facing a lot of expectations from the fans. Their sound is so unique and covers a broad spectrum of influences, so it was a bit difficult to anticipate what their new album might lean towards.

For me, the songs did not disappoint.

"Jumpsuit" brings things out of the gate with a jump start, a faint siren in the background of the intro that's overtaken by this gritty, super-overdriven bass-line that is only matched by the drumming of Josh Dun. The intensity of the instrumental is balanced on the opposite end by Tyler Joseph's somber, almost subdued vocals. It's a darker tone for the band, not poppy or bright in the slightest.

The bridge/outro is easily my favorite part, as it's the most intriguing part musically and emotionally. The bridge consists of these echoing piano chords laying the groundwork for Joseph's quiet, almost heartbreaking lines:

"I'll be right there
But you'll have to grab my throat and lift me in the air
If you need anyone, I'll stop my plans
But you'll have to tie me down and then break both my hands"

It's done in a manner that's somewhat haunting, but becomes frantic as the chorus kicks back in for one last time even heavier than before. This time though, Joseph screams "jumpsuit, jumpsuit cover me" in a way that gets your adrenaline going and you head nodding. Lasting less than 10 seconds, the breakdown is satisfying in its intensity, yet leaves you wanting a lot more.

"Nico And The Niners" feels a bit more like blurryface, reminding me a bit of "Lane Boy" and "Ride". It's much slower, more relaxed as compared to "Jumpsuit", yet still retains that same darkness the first song brought with it. The focus is more lyrical, with the instrumental providing the background as opposed to leading the charge. This song feels a little less striking after "Jumpsuit", but has a repetition to it that leaves it playing in your head long after it ends.

My favorite part is during the bridge, where Joseph shows off some of his vocal prowess by spitting fast rhymes. It's only about 20 seconds, but his delivery is so swift and clear - it's incredibly impressive.

The new era of TOP has begun. I'm ready for what's next; I can't wait to see what the rest of the album sounds like.

Rating:

Jumpsuit - 4/5

Nico And The Niners - 3.5/5

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Pray For The Wicked - Panic! At The Disco

Panic! At The Disco's new album, Pray For The Wicked, feels like a natural progression for the band. Influenced by Brendon Urie's recent stint on Broadway as Charlie Price in Kinky Boots, Pray For The Wicked has a definite theatrical feeling to it. It brings to mind the band's debut album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, and the sort of classical/old-school influence of Sinatra and big bands.

I wrote the above introduction, and then left this review alone for a few days, listening to the album each day and giving it a lot of thought. I really struggled with how I feel about this album. On one hand, I thoroughly enjoy it. The music is well written, well produced, and blends elements and genres in a seamless manner. Brendon further reveals his talent through the writing and his performance, belting out some truly incredible lines that still surprise me when I listen. Songs like "The Overpass" and "King of the Clouds" stuck out to me, coming on after another on the record but carrying completely different energy. "The Overpass" starts with these huge, wailing horns, ushering in one of the better drum rhythms I've heard in quite some time. The sharp beat keeps the song's pulse thumping at a breathtaking rate while Brendon's vocals soar high with strength and keep up with the crashing rhythm. "King of the Clouds" slows things down with gang vocals that bring to mind Queen and a speaker-shuddering, pounding hip-hop bass. While the rest of the instruments come in, it's the first verse that has the most impact to me; the contrast of the vocals and beat are truly show-stopping.

However.

The whole show is, and has been, about Brendon now. It feels quite inwardly focused on his success, his rise to fame. It feels like the band has moved quite far from it's start - which is natural and to be expected, in certain ways. But this album sounds fairly similar to Death Of A Bachelor; it doesn't push the envelope for the band and the sound. There are more theatrical moments, sounds and feelings that invoke a Broadway stage alive with song and dance. "Dying in LA" feels a bit too much like it came out of a musical; the moment where the main character is down for their luck and looking for hope in the darkness. While the song showcases Brendon's vocal prowess, the connection falls flat. That's a reoccurring theme - a failed connection between the music and the listener. Songs like "Hey Look Ma, I Made It" and "High Hopes" are a bit too similar in content to be placed one after another, as both go on about the hard work and dedication it took to get Brendon to where he is today. While it's something to be proud of, it's a bit hard for most of his fans to relate to - people who live fairly average, normal lives in comparison. The sense of being relatable is minimal, and the placing of the two almost lyrically identical songs one after another feels like a bit of a poor choice.

It's good music, but not specifically memorable. I wanted to like it more than I did, I've come to realize. I respect Brendon's hard work and talent, but I'm starting to think that the new direction of Panic! At The Disco is not for me.

Obviously others will very much enjoy the band where they are and support them in that. But I think that time has passed for me. Who knows, perhaps Brendon will include others in the process and the band will seem more like a band again. Part of the benefit of multiple members is the self editing, the internal ability to gauge ideas for all they're worth and not just put out what sounds good. With just Brendon at the wheel, (and while I'm sure the people he records and produces with give feedback), it feels as though certain ideas that might not have been the best to delve into were expanded upon.

But for now, I'll look fondly on the parts of their discography that I sincerely enjoy and not dwell on any negative thoughts. I wish the band success, sincerely.

Rating: 2.5/5

Recommended: "The Overlook", "King of the Clouds"