Real Friends-Composure

In “Stand Steady,” the second track off of Real Friends’ third full-length Composure, frontman Dan Lambton sings, “It’s good that I’ve grown.”  In pop-punk, Peter Pan-syndrome runs rampant, and records about growing will always be in vogue.  Whether they’re about resisting development or the difficulties of growing, this is a pop-punk standard, but Real Friends hasn’t really grown or changed besides switching up their charade. Continue reading

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Panic! At The Disco-Pray for the Wicked

When Panic! At The Disco released A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out in 2005, it was a breath of fresh air to the alternative/emo/pop-punk scene that was spilling into the mainstream.  Fever was a rock record that also felt like a work of theater, carnival sideshows and electronica, but what’s most incredible is P!ATD couldn’t follow it up for another decade.  Pretty Odd, the group’s last record with all four founding members, was a brilliant work of Beatles fetishism that couldn’t appeal to a large part of the fanbase.  Vices & Virtues felt like Fever lite.  Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die served as an enjoyable transition to 2016’s Death of a Bachelor, an album that may be the group’s best and the only one that feels as fully realized as FeverBachelor was the group’s most exhilarating release in over a decade, and that leads to why Pray for the Wicked is such a profound disappointment.  It’s a transitionary record for what may well be the wrong direction. Continue reading

Petal-Magic Gone

               Despite 2015’s Shame being a powerful debut filled with pounding hits (“Tommy”) and emotive ballads (“Heaven”), it didn’t really deliver nearly as much as one would hope a debut would.  Kiley Lotz, Petal’s songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist, revealed in a recent piece for Out that this would be the first album where she has songs about her sexuality.  Magic Gone sees Lotz jumping over any hurdles that Shame couldn’t completely clear.  The songs are fearless and well-crafted on Magic Gone.  Lotz retains the charm of her first album, but she holds nothing back here. Continue reading

Kanye West-ye

The nature of waiting on Kanye West’s ye has been conflicting.  In some sense, it was nerve-racking: Kanye West, already the most polarizing artist of the decade, had recently come out as a Trump supporter (suspected to be the product of a mental breakdown).  The first track released from this album cycle was the meme-birthing “Lift Yourself,” arguably Yeezy’s most cringe-worthy lyrical work to date.  This also comes as the world of mainstream rap is enthralled by a Drake and Pusha T beef that seems to only be growing.  With that being said, there’s still the excitement that comes with being a Kanye fan.  It’s not exactly at the same level of The Life of Pablo, with the Yeezy Season 3 showing at Madison Square Garden or surprise album drop on SNL.  Reading about the listening party in Wyoming and getting the album a few hours later, I felt the same exhilaration as hearing that Life of Pablo dropped on SNL, seeing the Yeezus artwork, and first hearing “Runaway.”  From the time Kanye announced this album until now, it’s been a period of wrestling with wanting the new album to be good from a fan’s perspective but also struggling to come to terms with Kanye’s politics.  Surprisingly, there was little to be worried about on either front. Continue reading

The Problem With Greta Van Fleet

In 2008, AC/DC went on a North American tour in support of their Black Ice album.  Opening this tour was Northern Irish hard-rockers The Answer, a band that upon a Google search was hailed as “The Irish Led Zeppelin.”  I downloaded some of their songs, most notably “Highwater or Hell” from their Never Too Late EP.  They definitely did have a bunch of Zeppelin-isms, chunky guitar riffs, a yelping lead singer, and a powerhouse rhythm section.  For someone who’d yet to get jaded from almost all opening bands, The Answer seemed like a godsend.  Of the three big arena concerts I’d been to, The Answer was easily the best opening act I’d ever seen.  I listened for The Answer for about a year after that show, because why wouldn’t I?  Led Zeppelin was my favorite band, and there was little sign they were ever reuniting.  Here I had a near perfect sound-alike that I also enjoyed.  A few artists manage to stir up similar feelings: young bands like Wolfmother, Jet, Alter Bridge, as do some newer supergroups formed by older rockers: Black Country Communion, Adrenaline Mob, or Hellyeah.  Artists that pay tribute to older music are nothing new, and some are actually somewhat innovative in their modern classic rock (see: The Darkness, Steel Panther), but now we have Greta Van Fleet: a breakout sensation that sounds a little too much like Led Zeppelin. Continue reading

The Front Bottoms-Ann

The Front Bottoms early releases are arguably brilliant, but unquestionably flawed.  Brian Sella had yet to find his signature yelp, the production was lo-fi, the band was still mainly a two-piece, and there was plenty of casual misogyny scattered through the lyrics.  The band’s release of the Rose EP in 2014 was a chance to right some of these wrongs: flesh out some songs for a full band, and make them sound like The Front Bottoms had on Talon of Hawk.  Ann serves as a continuation of the “Grandma” EP series; the band’s current iteration reworks some old songs to make them more fitting with the Going Grey era of The Front Bottoms, a bad idea on paper that pays off nicely. Continue reading

Snapchat: A Loveless Marriage

I never took the kids and left Snapchat, but we only spoke when we needed to and started sleeping in different beds.  I do think Snapchat and I are spared our divorce, but we’re still trapped in an unhappy marriage that I won’t leave for the sake of my contact list.  This was probably foreshadowed by Snapchat’s tumbling stock and when the layout for the app was first altered, but I think that Snapchat’s most recent update is the most half-hearted attempt at making the app better.  Worst of all, it’s going to hurt the app and user’s relationships with it. Continue reading

Frank Turner-Be More Kind

               Frank Turner isn’t exactly a musician out of time.  He’s made a career embracing the past while making fairly relevant music.  He’s also noted for having a diverse taste in music.  If one had to guess, he has an equal affinity for ABBA and Queen as he does for Rancid.  He also will unashamedly speak his political views and point a finger at those he sees as fallacies and evil.  Be More Kind sees Turner seeking empathetic people while taking a step away from his folk and punk roots and leaning into a more radio-friendly indie rock sound. Continue reading

Spanish Love Songs-Schmaltz

LA’s Spanish Love Songs have all the promise of a band that can have real staying power.  They have the hunger of a band that wants people to hear their songs and feelings, and they have the talent to back it up.  Their latest album Schmaltz brings the breakneck intensity of hardcore, but the emotionality and varied sounds of emo.  They take the heartland-americana punk sounds of bands like The Gaslight Anthem or The Menzingers and tie in the heavy pop-punk sounds reminiscent of Upsides-era Wonder Years.  Schmaltz sees a band in the formative stages of becoming an excellent act that will only get better. Continue reading

Andre the Giant (dir. Jason Hehir)

My knowledge of pro-wrestling for the most part starts and ends with the Mountain Goats’ 2015 album Beat the Champ[i].  Prior to that album, it seemed like big guys performing a high energy stage show for an audience of drunk idiots.  What John Darnielle does so well is showing that limited and first impressions are very often wrong.  Beat the Champ is an album that really humanizes so many different aspects of wrestling: the matches, the fans, and the wrestlers.  Like the Mountain Goats album, Andre the Giant was a similar experience.  It educated me on something I thought would just be a weird anomaly.  HBO’s Andre the Giant sheds light on the mythic Andre Roussimoff that is engaging for both fans and casual viewers. Continue reading