Joyce Manor-Million Dollars to Kill Me

Joyce Manor’s 2016 album Cody showed a band that was willing to take a step away from the abrasive, no bullshit pop-punk that they’d perfected into a band with similar ethics but making more power-pop inspired indie rock.  Sure, there were still pop-punk bangers like “Fake I.D.” and “Reversing Machine,” but songs like “Eighteen” or “This Song Is A Mess But So Am I” fell more into a sort of Blue Album worship in crafting great pop-savvy indie rock.  Million Dollars to Kill Me doesn’t feel like a continuation of Cody nor does it feel like it’s picking up after Never Hungover Again; it sounds like a band that is truly without a care and is making whatever the hell it wants. Continue reading

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Eminem-Kamikaze

            Remember on Recovery when Eminem straight up said, “Them last two albums didn’t count/Encore, I was on drugs. Relapse, I was flushin’ ‘em out?”  While Recovery may not be the definitive album in Marshall Mathers’ catalogue, it was really great to see Eminem own up to two albums that were really just subpar, and that album was followed by Eminem’s best album in 11 years.  Revival was a serious misstep for Eminem, and while there’s a certain excitement and viciousness in Kamikaze, it’s an even bigger one. Continue reading

Death Cab For Cutie-Thank You For Today

            Death Cab For Cutie have always been a respectable indie-rock act with personable lyrics that appeal to people that may also dabble with theatrical emo.  Ben Gibbard and company have always created serviceable sad jams.  Even on 2015’s Kintsugi, despite age and maturity, Gibbard was able to bring the self-loathing goods on a song like “No Room in Frame.”  Thank You For Today sees the band’s expansion of sound that they began exploring on Codes and Keys, but it also sees the band peddling back into their early material.  The album comes out feeling like an incoherent blob of ennui. Continue reading

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

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