Posts Tagged ‘rock’

jew-damageLet’s be honest with ourselves here—there will never be another Clarity or Bleed American, simply because those records are modern classics, and Jimmy Eat World got older, and so did we. These days, I’m not expecting JEW to put out the next Clarity, because it’s not 1999 anymore, it’s 2013.

That being said, I don’t want them to abandon what made them excellent in the first place. I don’t think they ever completely did, but some of their previous records flirted with it, becoming poppier and more produced than I would have liked.

Damage is the closest Jimmy Eat World has come to returning to their classic emo/alternative rock roots in many years, and it is excellent indeed. The record seems to mix the older stripped-down emo sounds with the Futures-and-onward full-bodied aesthetic. In short, it’s a good mix of the old and new Jimmy Eat World.

Right off the bat, “Appreciation” hits the listener with an organic guitar-based approach that typifies most of Damage. It’s probably thanks to the bare-bones recording-to-tape approach used by producer Alain Johannes, a regular Queens of the Stone Age collaborator. The title track, “Lean,” and “Book of Love” are upbeat, jaunty pop-rock songs. Lead single “I Will Steal You Back” boasts one of the stronger choruses on the album.

“Please Say No” might be the “Hear You Me” of Damage; a gradually-building slow-tempo ballad with deeply personal and specific lyrics. The next two tracks step up the energy—the exceptional “How’d You Have Me” is full of driving guitar and catchy hooks, and “No, Never” is the closest thing to Bleed American/Futures-era Jimmy Eat World I’ve heard the band produce since those records were released.

JEW has always thrived in the open spaces—expansive, mid-tempo rock songs with emotive lyrics from frontman Jim Adkins. The superb “Byebyelove” is a great example: another standout for sure, and one of my favorites. Album closer “You Were Good” is a simple acoustic song that almost sounds like it could have been found on one of JEW’s lesser-known EPs like Firestarter, the self-titled EP, or Stay On My Side Tonight.

Along with guitarist Tom Linton, bassist Rick Burch, and drummer Zach Lind, Adkins has crafted another masterwork here with Jimmy Eat World’s seventh studio full-length. Although the record is rather short—ten tracks, clocking in at just over a half-hour—the band consistently pulls off what they do best: sweet and simple emo-rock songs that stick with you. 2013’s Damage is unexpectedly excellent.

~ J.M.

tumblr_mbk3huaLiF1qa13nvo1_500Today, AFI’s seminal sixth studio album, Sing The Sorrow, turns 10 years old! I invite you to join me in revisiting this classic, and wishing it a very happy birthday.

Before I really got onboard with the AFI bandwagon, they were a band that confused me. They confused me because they sounded totally different depending which album I’d hear. Their newer stuff—Decemberunderground onwards—sounded very polished, slick, almost new-age Green Day-like. Then I would hear some older stuff, say, from 1999’s Black Sails in the Sunset, that retained the hardcore punk sound the band championed on all of their early albums.

2003’s Sing The Sorrow is the album that bridges those two extremes. It’s widely considered AFI’s first big shift in sound, incorporating slower tempos, industrial parts, and a generally alternative-rock-based approach. AFI is one of the few bands I can think of that successfully pulled off a drastic shift without alienating the majority of their fan base; if you ask me, the fact that Sing The Sorrow was so different, yet so accepted, speaks to how good of a record it really is.

The meat of the album is, in my opinion, the middle: roughly tracks 4 through 8. “Silver and Cold,” “Dancing Through Sunday,” “Girl’s Not Grey,” “Death of Seasons,” and “The Great Disappointment” are all incredibly solid tracks, all in succession. Each one is unique, creative, musically solid, energetic, and showcases Davey Havok’s melodic vocal track superbly. The melodies and harmonies that Sing The Sorrow demonstrates throughout—but especially on these middle tunes—are easily the best of the band’s career.

Let’s not carelessly leave out other great songs, though—track 2, “The Leaving Song, Pt. II,” was a lead single and is another excellent cut. “Bleed Black” and “This Celluloid Dream” are two further highlights. I suppose it’s safe to say that every single track on Sing The Sorrow is worthy of high acclaim. There’s not a bad song on this record, and I imagine that’s why it’s faired so well both commercially and with dedicated fans.

Progressive, unique, and driving compared to AFI’s earlier work, retaining integrity and musicality despite being released on a huge label (the now-defunct DreamWorks, which was essentially absorbed into Geffen Records), Sing The Sorrow is the perfect mix of old-school and new-school AFI. This “meeting in the middle” approach serves the band well, demonstrating their true talent and songwriting capability. It’s rather strange to think it came out a decade ago; my favorite AFI record is now ten years old. Happy birthday, Sing The Sorrow!

~J.M.

P.S.  Also of note, although completely unrelated to this anniversary—today is 311 day! March 11th, 3/11. So everyone should listen to at least one 311 song today at some point.

In case you didn’t understand that title, I’ll try to clarify. These are five albums that I really enjoy, and in fact have enjoyed for many years. For various reasons, though, I tend to forget that I love them so much. Sometimes it’s just that I listened to the album a lot in a specific period of time and it got overplayed; sometimes another album by the same band eclipsed it and made me forget about the original one. And sometimes I just plain forgot about it. Poor little album. Anyway, here we go. Ranked, in order of least-most forgotten about to most-most forgotten about (what?), from 5 to 1:

5. Dredg – Catch Without Arms

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I consistently forget about Catch Without Arms, and I consistently love it when I remember it. It’s easily my favorite Dredg album—progressive yet poppy, pummeling at times and soft at others, complicated but straightforward, all at the same time. Gavin Hayes’ voice is great, and the instrumentation is top-notch. I’ve found that it’s also a great album for highway driving, for whatever reason.

 

 

4. Tiger Army – Music From Regions Beyond

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This album got unfairly bashed on—the iTunes review goes so far as to call it “less than successful.” Okay, so it’s a little slicker, more produced, and synth-oriented than TA’s past records; I think it’s filled with awesome songs anyway. Maybe I forget about it because the first three Tiger Army records are more acclaimed. Or maybe because “Afterworld” reminds me of a certain fizzled relationship (not mine) that now seems silly. In any case, Music From Regions Beyond is solid, and too often forgotten by yours truly.

 

 

3. Saosin – Saosin

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So much hubbub was made over original Saosin vocalist Anthony Green leaving to form Circa Survive that the resulting Saosin album, sans-Green, seems to go forgotten, at least by me. Also, this album got severely overplayed in my high school years, so I probably tend to skip over it nowadays because I heard it 324,829,384,709 times before walking into what’s-her-face’s Algebra class. That’s a shame though, because Saosin contains many of my favorite songs the band ever made.

 

2. The Receiving End of Sirens – Between The Heart And The Synapse

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Also very high school for me, but a classic. The harmonies, epic song structures, tribal drums, Shakespearean/Grecian imagery and lyrics, and triple-guitar approach make this album a sort of post-hardcore rock opera without ever becoming cheesy or overdone. I liked this one a long time ago, so it’s just the passage of time that causes me to forget about it. A mistake, for sure. Also, I’m pretty sure that “The War of All Against All” is still one of my favorite songs ever.

 

 

1.  Box Car Racer – Box Car Racer

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Without a doubt, the one and only album by Box Car Racer is the record that I simultaneously love and forget about the most. Randomly tucked into my iTunes library between The Bouncing Souls and Boys Night Out, the side project of Blinksters Tom and Travis remains some of the most solid work either musician has ever recorded. I put it on par with anything Blink ever released, surpassed only, I’d argue, by the almighty Self-Titled album. I don’t know if it’s because Box Car only ever released this one record, or because I listened to it until the parts were permanently melted into my subconscious; either way, I forget about Box Car Racer constantly, and it’s always a rewarding experience when I return to it.

 

 

~J.M.

The title of this little blurb may lead you to believe that I, esteemed OBR columnist, actually like Nickelback. This isn’t the case—while I can’t say I truly, deeply despise them, I don’t particularly like them either. Really I’m rather indifferent. In any case, I propose this question: why does everyone love to hate Nickelback?

Let me clarify. Perhaps a better question is this: why does everyone love to hate Nickelback specifically? If you ask me, there are reams of bands that sound like Nickelback, and theoretically deserve as much bashing. Don’t believe me? Hop on YouTube and listen to 3 Doors Down, Staind, Hinder, Breaking Benjamin, Daughtry, Shinedown, or Theory of a Deadman—just to name a few. I’m not saying any of those bands are terrible, or that any of those bands are great. I’m just saying they all follow the same general formula, so why hate on Nickelback specifically? They all use the same general chord progressions, throaty vocals, polished production value, wide-open drumbeats, and verse-chorus-verse structures. I’m not even saying those things are inherently bad things, I’m just saying that they’re formulaic across the board.

Somehow it has become a societal trend to hate Nickelback. If you know anything about music, the thinking goes, you must know that Nickelback sucks. You’re cool and informed if you bash on Nickelback. Somehow, Nickelback became the mascot for a hailstorm of hate on these modern mainstream American rock bands. That’s what I’m going to call Nickelback’s music from here on out—MMAR, Modern Mainstream American Rock. I have nothing against MMAR, not that I listen to it. I just don’t understand why it became so popular to hate on one MMAR band and not the others.

Speaking of genres, why does no one hate the bands that influenced Nickelback? Well, besides Creed… everyone hates Creed. Nickelback was originally considered “post-grunge,” meaning that in some sense they picked up the torch where Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Collective Soul, Blind Melon, Bush, and others left off. Does everyone hate those bands? No. They’re still super-popular. Granted, Nickelback took those influences and polished it up, making radio-friendly rock for the masses. You could call it a bit of a sell-out. But are Nickelback’s radio-ready songs any more polished and mainstream than anything by, say, Justin Timberlake or Taylor Swift or Maroon 5 or Bruno Mars? No one bashes those artists the way they bash Nickelback.

what-if-tom-brady-cloned-himself-and-then-married-herself-thumbI think Nickelback is like Tom Brady. If you don’t like them, you just love hating them. I don’t get it. Granted, I do have a bit of a man crush on Tom Brady, because he is literally everything I’m not—handsome, wealthy, and athletic. In fact, I’ve never understood why everyone hates Tom Brady. Is it because he’s good looking and wins a lot? Or because he dates and/or marries models and actresses? I know, I know—he’s a whiny little something-or-other, and not a real man. Let’s get in our lifted trucks and start blaring Motörhead and take pride in our teeth-fillings and our slimy tramp-stamped girlfriends.

Alright, rant over, even I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore. The point is, it’s not cool to be cool by hating Nickelback. You can hate them if you so choose, but you may as well hate 3 Doors Down, Daughtry, and all the rest of them while you’re at it. You can also love them if you so choose, and I won’t judge you, but you’ll probably get a lot of flak for it. If you like Nickelback, love the New England Patriots, and drive a lifted truck, the majority of the American populace probably wishes for your death. Good day!

~ J.M.  

“Why would anyone ever want to be screamed at?”

That, dear readers, is my mother’s thoughtful assessment of screamo, hardcore, metal, and the like. Whatever you call it, Momma Bear doesn’t understand hard music with screaming. She thinks the vocalists are screaming at us, the listeners. I try to explain that they’re not screaming at us, they’re screaming at the world, at their problems, at injustice, at stupidity, at females, at whatever. And the point is that sometimes our own aggressions can mirror theirs, and it can be cathartic or something like that. Or we just like the way it sounds.

In any case, she hates any music with screaming. I played some Norma Jean songs in the car for her once. She insisted that it wasn’t really music, and that she could in fact “do that,” meaning scream the way vocalist Cory Brandan does, so therefore it was nothing special. I chuckled and tried to explain that in the grand scheme of things, Norma Jean is practically soft compared to some bands. Then I played a Converge song. She just rolled her eyes.

The majority of modern alternative rock type of stuff is out as well. A Perfect Circle garnered this response: “Who taught this guy how to sing?” Never mind that Maynard is one of the most respected singers in modern rock, and probably ever. An epic Tool composition elicited an even blunter response: “I hate this type of music.” So prog-rock stuff is clearly out—The Mars Volta, Coheed & Cambria, Porcupine Tree—all total fails. When I played a softer song by the latter, she actually kind of enjoyed it, until the vocals came in. So I guess British accents are a no-go as well.

Rock, alternative, punk, prog, metal, screamo—all terrible, in my mom’s opinion. So what does the woman like? You may be surprised to hear that she does actually enjoy a decent amount of stuff released within the past couple of years—but I’ve figured out that it either has to be basically pop music, or stuff that sort of sounds like it came from her generation.

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Case in point: The Gaslight Anthem. When I was first spinning their breakthrough disc, The ’59 Sound, in my car, my mom’s ears perked up. “Who are these guys?” she inquired innocently. She likes them, because the whole point of that album was that it was engineered and mixed to sound like it could have been made in, well, 1959. She likes some Band of Horses tracks, too, probably because they have that Neil Young/Creedence type of vibe going on sometimes.

Then you get to the huge bands like the Chili Peppers, Coldplay, and Dave Matthews Band. Let’s get real—all moms enjoy jigging around to “Viva la Vida.”  For some reason she also enjoys “Reckoner” by Radiohead. This would lead me to believe that the really popular arena-playing bands are usually what she likes. But dear mother likes to throw a curveball here as well, because it doesn’t always hold true. She thinks Counting Crows sounds terrible, and reggae-influenced stuff like 311 is “druggie music” (although she may not be too far off with that one).

Further curveballs appear: she absolutely loves “Missed the Boat” by Modest Mouse, but if you play any of the old MM stuff she’ll laugh at it. Same with Against Me!. Their last album, White Crosses, prompted her to praise Laura Jane Grace’s (formerly Tom Gabel) voice quite highly, but when I played an older punk song of theirs she refused to believe it was even the same singer.

90s music is a mixed bag as well. Mom enjoys some of it—The Wallflowers, Hootie and the Blowfish, Gin Blossoms—but bands like Pearl Jam or Bush are generally met with sneers. There’s no point in even trying out Nirvana or the Pumpkins.

The point is, I just can’t figure out what my mom likes, exactly. She just likes what she likes and dislikes what she doesn’t. Some pop stuff, some “indier” stuff, some rockish stuff. But there’s never any clear-cut boundaries. After she made me link Hoobastank’s “The Reason” to her desktop for quick listening, I gave up trying to suggest good bands. More recently, though, she asked who the band was after I’d played an Alkaline Trio song. GAAHHHH! It’s mind boggling.

~ J.M.