Wednesday, January 30, 2019

amo - Bring Me The Horizon

amo is the album that Bring Me The Horizon needed to make. It reflects who they currently are as a band, and the ways in which they want to expand their sound and scope.

For some fans of the band, this album will be the nail in the coffin - this is so far removed from their beginning days (first three albums or so). Those who were unhappy with That's The Spirit will most likely be displeased with amo, for similar and more amplified reasons. The pop leanings, the current trend dabbling, all will lead some fans to be disheartened and disappointed.

While I can understand them, I feel bad for them.

This is a common and reoccurring theme I've seen with some of the bands who are getting to be a bit farther along in their careers - an original, defining sound, and an eventual breaking with and evolving towards new directions. On Linkin Park's polarizing album A Thousand Suns, Mike Shinoda delivers a few very applicable lines in "When They Come For Me":

"'Cause even a blueprint is a gift and a curse
'Cause once you got a theory of how the thing works
Everybody wants the next thing to be just like the first"

The notion of bands being led by expectations of their sound and the kind of music they make is a difficult one to grapple with. The way in which Bring Me The Horizon has addressed this is fitting, and the resulting album should really be of no surprise to followers of the band. Those who cannot seem to grasp this and continue to rail against and whine and complain online will always exist. It's true for many bands who have gone down different paths and moved away from their roots, and while it is a difficult thing to do, I believe it is a sign that a band is doing something right. If they are pursuing the path they desire, making music and exploring sounds that they want to create, then they are doing what is right for them. While fans are the ones who make their careers and dreams possible, they are not required to put out things just for the sake of pleasing the fans. In fact, I believe they shouldn't. Making that which is true, that which is honest, is the most important to bands and artist as creators of music, of art.

Now, this album is a solid piece of work. It explores such a variety of sounds and influences - pop, trap, edm, hip-hop, and beatboxing all make their appearances and show their influence. These new spaces allow the band to express new sentiments and ideas, showing a vulnerability that they hadn't really been able to express before. They collaborated with different artists (Grimes, Dani Filth, and Rahzel), which also allows for outside influence and new ideas mixing in.

With this expansion, this delving down different paths, there does come a certain sense of inconsistency. The ebb and flow is not quite as smooth as that of Sempiternal or That's The Spirit; there isn't the same cohesiveness. However, the diversity of the sound is the strength of the album - showing the band in new and quite different lights than we've previously been allowed to see. "nihilist blues (feat. Grimes)", really takes the band into a space that is both similar and foreign to them - as vocalist Oli Sykes described it, there's something "primitive" about the sound of this song, this darker, dance track. This notion of a sound that taps into the primitive nature is especially evident in some of their older work, the raw screaming, thundering, roaring nature of heavy metal. The trap influence on "why you gotta kick me when I'm down?" allows for a bit of a swagger, a retaliatory nature against those who say one thing (that they care for you) and do another (talk down to you), which is fitting with the sort of bravado commonly found in rap but also very much fits with the gritty guitars and heavier influence.

Their last album, That's The Spirit, was a powerhouse in terms of lyrical strength. That album ended up being a very meaningful and relatable album for me a few years ago, so I realize that my view is somewhat skewed. I knew it was going to be a high standard I had for their next release, and that it probably wouldn't reach it. I was correct, but that doesn't mean that there aren't some very meaningful lyrical moments on this album. "medicine" is one of the more intriguing songs lyrically, going into depth about the ways in which people can be toxic and how those relationships are hard to leave -  my favorite line is the opening one:

"Some people are a lot like clouds, you know
'Cause life's so much brighter when they go".

"heavy metal (feat. Rahzel)" is also different in that it directly addresses the band's change in sound and the reactions of certain fans. This is always difficult territory to tread into, as it can be seen as very aggressive or immature, but I feel as though BMTH does a great job of sort of making light of the whole situation. The chorus says it all:

"And I keep picking petals
I'm afraid you don't love me anymore
'Cause a kid on the 'gram in a Black Dahlia tank
Says it ain't heavy metal
(And that's alright, that's alright)".

While speaking with Apple Music, Sykes said that while they are proud and confident in the music they are currently making, they still struggle with that desire to please people. This song is supposed to address that, both seriously and in jest.

Overall, I think this album was an excellent step for the band. They made intentional music that addresses their own lives and where they stand, as well as looking towards the future. It's a really vulnerable piece of art, a bearing of their hearts and minds, and I respect and appreciate that immensely. While I still personally have more attachment and favor for That's The Spirit, I know this is an album that will continue to provide moments of discover and excitement in the music.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended: "nihilist blues (feat. Grimes)", "medicine", "wonderful life (feat. Dani Filth)", & "i don't know what to say"

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Numb Without You (Single) - The Maine

On the 8123 Podcast, run by Garrett and Pat of The Maine, they recently spent an episode talking about their new album. At one point, they mentioned that this new album is going to be a very bold one for the band - including ideas and elements outside their normal comfort zone. It made me excited when I heard that, but it's hard to anticipate what that'll look like in terms of an actual sound.

Good thing we didn't have to wait too long.

The Maine released the first single, "Numb Without You", from their forthcoming 7th studio album You Are OK. Luckily my girlfriend and I had the chance to listen to the song together for the first time, driving around in the rain late Tuesday night, which is usually my preferred way for listening to new music. What a pleasure it was to have and share that experience with someone I care for so dearly.

The song is a bold one; there's no doubt about that. Right from the start, the strings are a huge step into new territory for the group - and it's a step in the right direction. Even when the rest of the band comes in, there's a fiery energy to it all, while still having a sense of familiarity. This is The Maine, but perhaps not in the form you've known them these last 10 years. This is a band who is constantly looking forward, moving towards the next big step and what they can continue to accomplish. There has never been any sort of stagnation in this group - listen to their albums over the years, and you will see a band continuing to discover itself and what potential they hold.

I absolutely love this song. In the less than 48 hours it's been out, I've listened to it 20+ times. It's got this darker, grittier tone from the band that I have yet to see, but with such an expansive sound - there's an epic feeling to it, especially the drop in the chorus as the band comes crashing in. The bridge is some pure rock and roll bliss, feeling reminiscent of the band's energy on songs from Pioneer - an album, interestingly enough, where the band really pushed for their own sound and creative control over their music.

I'm very, very excited for You Are OK to arrive March 29th. I'm sure we will get more singles before then, so I know I won't be waiting too long before I get another taste of the new sound from The Maine. Until then, I'll be trying not to think about how I won't be in Phoenix this weekend at the second edition of the 8123 Fest, rocking out with the boys as they begin their new era. Congrats - this is going to be a wild ride.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Anticipated Albums of 2019

I have thought about and talked about this subject before, but never before did it cross my mind to do it as a post on here. So here it goes - this is my list of anticipated albums for 2019, which will be categorized by those that are confirmed/highly likely and those that are rumored/unlikely/my wishlist. I've included the release dates for those that do have them & reasonable ranges for those without.

Confirmed & Highly Likely:

  • Bring Me The Horizon - AMO (1/25/19)
    • The one that has a set date and will be one of the first albums of the year that I have my eye on, AMO will be something many other fans of the band are paying close attention to as well. Though some were disappointed with their last release, That's The Spirit, but I found it to be one of their strongest and most diverse. It showed a desire to push in new directions, and had some truly raw and vulnerable moments, musically and lyrically. That album meant a lot to me, and I know that if the band continues on that route, then this release will be great. Since we've had some singles already, it seems as though the band will be a bit of a middle ground between the newer experimental elements and the gritty, hardcore sound of some of their older albums. 
  • The Maine - Untitled (Spring/Summer 2019)
    • Lovely Little Lonely was my favorite album of 2017 and one of my favorite albums ever, so naturally I'm going to include the follow up on this list. The album has been recorded and is in the mixing/post-production phase, so it's highly likely we'll see it drop in the first half of the year. On The 8123 Podcast, band members and hosts Pat Kirch and Garrett Nickelsen have discussed some of the process and their feelings regarding the album. From what they've said, this album will be a bold and exciting endeavor from the group. 
  • The 1975 - Notes On A Conditional Form (May 2019)
    • Yes, you're reading that correctly. The band's latest release, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, came out not quite two months ago, and the band has been hard at work to put out another, separate album less than six months later. It's hard to speculate what the sound will be like - but knowing the band, it'll be worth listening to. 
  • grandson - Untitled (Spring 2019)
    • While this release will most likely be another EP in the Modern Tragedy series, it's still a release that should be given as much attention as possible. 2018 was a nonstop, action-packed year for grandson, and his fire is nowhere near being burned out. Given the continuing political climate, the relevancy of his music is only going to grow bigger and more powerfully speak as a voice for those who are dissatisfied with the status quo. 
  • Walk The Moon - Untitled (Spring 2019)
    • This was a surprise addition to this list - just barely 24 before I sat down to write this, the band dropped a surprise single, "Timebomb". It's surprising that the band would be amping up for a release so soon after their last (November 2017), but given the energy and direction of the new single, I'd say it's an album to be excited about (so hopefully this isn't a one-off single). 
  • From Indian Lakes - Untitled (Spring/Summer 2019)
    • A band that I have so much love and enthusiasm for, it's been a solid two years since their last release - and with a tour supporting Copeland coming up this spring (and the official confirmation via Twitter), the time seems ripe for a new album from the California group. 

  • Mike Shinoda
    • While his album just released last summer, I would be very surprised to see no new music from Mike Shinoda. The sprawling 16-track Post Traumatic covered a lot of ground, but I know the man has more in the works. If there isn't a full length album (since he's gonna be touring in Europe in March and most likely elsewhere in the summer), then perhaps at least an EP of fresh material will drop this year.
  • Linkin Park
    • This one is a delicate matter. It's not necessarily that I want to/expect to see an album this year, or even in the next few years, but I find it hard to imagine a world where the remaining members of Linkin Park don't come together for another album. I'm sure they're all still working through and will be forever healing from the loss they experienced with Chester's passing in 2017, but I think that once the band has had time to process and come together naturally, they will return to the world together. What that will look like or sound like, I won't speculate - it's not my place and it does no good. But I think this will happen
  • Blink-182
    • It's been about 2 &1/2 years since the return of Blink-182 in their current iteration, and the timing feels just right for a release from the pop-punk veterans. The carrying power of their last release was pretty incredible, and I know the chemistry with the three current members would carry on in their next release. 
  • Paramore
    • The band's transformation/refocusing with After Laughter showed a maturity and vulnerability that was related to and gobbled up by fans and critics alike. While that seems like a lot to follow up with, I know that the band felt very organic, fresh, and revitalized in their last album. I have no doubt that a follow up will continue that same energy. 
I'm going to revisit this post halfway through the year - see what ideas I had that were correct, which I was off on, and what surprise albums drop between now and then. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Top Songs of 2018

There have been two reasons for the delay in this post.

One, the holiday season is always super busy for me, and then I went and left my laptop with my parents at Christmas - so I haven’t had as much time or proper resources as I would like.

Two, it’s been difficult to finalize my list and so I’ve been putting it off a bit. There were a lot of great, great songs this year. And picking one to reign supreme has been quite a back and forth process. But, I finally got my act together and decided, so here’s my list (I decided to do from #10 to #1 for the suspense factor).

10. ATM - J. Cole
  • This song, on my initial listen, felt too similar to a lot of the current radio fare. The more I listened, however, the more I realized the depth the song contains, lyrically. I’ve enjoyed watching Cole’s star rise over these last few years, and this song is a testament to that.
9. Filthy - Justin Timberlake
  • While the album that this single was supposed to build hype for didn’t sit as well with me, this song is still an absolute blast. The funk and the future came together to create one of JT’s best hits in years.
8. Small Worlds - Mac Miller
  • It was hard to pick a favorite from this album, but Small Worlds was the track I kept coming back to most often. As my girlfriend pointed out, the end almost ends up being a spoken word piece, with Miller showing his most thoughtful album yet (and unfortunately his last).
7. If I Say - Mumford & Sons
  • I knew from my first listen that this song was going to be in my top favorites for the year. The way it builds, slow and gentle at first, but sweeping you away in an experience that’s truly remarkable. A beautiful, wonderful piece.
6. Star Treatment - Arctic Monkeys
  • The introduction to the masterpiece that is Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino really sets the mood and tone, so well that I keep coming back to this song more than the rest. It was very much an odd experience the first time round, but I’ve grown to really love and appreciate this song and the album it begins.
5. Levitate - twenty one pilots
  • Short but sweet - that's a perfect summary of this song. The brevity is what makes it so great, always leaving me wanting more of the sick instrumental and Tyler Joseph's smooth and slick flow. Not to mention the lyrical depth of this song - lots of layers to unravel. 
4.Running From My Shadow (feat. grandson) - Mike Shinoda
  • It was hard to pick which of Shinoda's songs were gonna end up on here; "Nothing Makes Sense Anymore" and "Promises I Can't Keep" were both heavy contenders, but this song consistently rose to the top in my mind. It showcases the incredible talent of Shinoda - the musicality, the lyrics, and the songwriting collaboration with grandson lead to an absolute blast of a song. 
3. Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea - Fall Out Boy
  • One of the few times I've called a song a "banger", I knew early on this was gonna be in my top. The intensity, the catchy-ness captures the spirit of Fall Out Boy and the direction they've gone as a band. This one felt like such a great blend of electronics and a throwback to their pop-punk roots, and one that was easy to play on repeat this year. 
2. Stoned, Alone - Teenage Wrist
  • I absolutely love the whole album, but this song really felt like it showed off what Teenage Wrist is about. The gritty meets shoegaze sound was one I wasn’t expected to embrace so well, but this song is full of so much fun and energy, you can't help but bob along and rock out. 
1. Love It If We Made It - The 1975
  • The surprise song of the year. My initial couple of listens to this song were not ones of pure enjoyment. This song took its time to grow on me, but boy did it. A song for the times, a song of raw emotions and thought provoking statements. Angsty and cool and sorrowful all at once, this was the song that encapsulated much of 2018.