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September 2014
30

Photo Gallery by Kayla Surico (kayla-surico)

Artist(s)/Band(s): Citizen (citizentheband)

Location: Backbooth - Orlando, FL

Date: September 28, 2014

You can view the entire set from this show here.

Shout out to norsekorea for always booking amazing shows! Follow them to stay updated with great shows happening in Florida. 

September 2014
29

Photo Gallery by Kayla Surico (kayla-surico)

Artist(s)/Band(s): You Blew It! (youblewitfl)

Location: Backbooth - Orlando, FL

Date: September 28, 2014

You can view the entire set from this show here.

Shout out to norsekorea for always booking amazing shows! Follow them to stay updated with great shows happening in Florida. 

September 2014
29

Photo Gallery by Kayla Surico (kayla-surico)

Artist(s)/Band(s): Hostage Calm (hostagecalm)

Location: Backbooth - Orlando, FL

Date: September 28, 2014

You can view the entire set from this show here.

Shout out to norsekorea for always booking amazing shows! Follow them to stay updated with great shows happening in Florida. 

September 2014
29

Photo Gallery by Kayla Surico (kayla-surico)

Artist(s)/Band(s): True Love

Location: Backbooth - Orlando, FL

Date: September 28, 2014

You can view the entire set from this show here.

Shout out to norsekorea for always booking amazing shows! Follow them to stay updated with great shows happening in Florida. 

September 2014
29

Photo Gallery by Kayla Surico (kayla-surico)

Artist(s)/Band(s): The Passenger

Location: Backbooth - Orlando, FL

Date: September 28, 2014

You can view the entire set from this show here.

Shout out to norsekorea for always booking amazing shows! Follow them to stay updated with great shows happening in Florida. 

September 2014
29
Maroon 5 – V Record Label: Interscope Release Date: September 2 2014 In the beginning of this year, I was at a crossroads with my reviews; most often, I only spent about a week or even just a few days with a record, but I got some tips from another reviewer/writer, and he told me to really spend time with albums. A couple of weeks or more, just as much as I see fit. And I’ve been doing that for a long time. My default time is usually two weeks. I’ll spend two weeks with an album at the most, or 10 – 20 listens on my iPod, whichever comes first. Sometimes, however, I will spend three to four weeks with an LP, or even an entire month. It all depends on the record, but with some records, I purposely wait a little bit. Such is the case for California pop-rock/pop band Maroon 5 and their fifth LP, appropriately titled V, aka the Roman Numeral for five. I’ve waited almost a couple of weeks to talk about this album for a reason. I’m most likely the only fan of theirs who prefers their last couple of records over their first couple. My first experience was 2012’s Overexposed, and it was my first real experience with pop music.  I thought it was decent, and a couple of years later, I still think so. I have heard the three albums prior, and while sophomore album, It Won’t Soon Before Long is probably my favorite, featuring a nice balance between their old funk-rock sound along with a streamlined pop flair, I don’t really care for debut album, Songs About Jane. Most of their fans seem to hail that album as a classic, but I’m in the minority of people who don’t quite care for it.

With that being said, I waited to talk about V for a simple reason – I wanted to see what other people had to say. See, I’m willing to “defend” Maroon 5’s last few albums, including this one, because they aren’t that bad. This isn’t merely a case of someone who just doesn’t like these albums, whether it’s for the sound, lyrics, or whatever. I can see both sides, and that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that people mindlessly talk trash about this band for no reason, and it’s almost as if people are surprised that they’re a pop band now, even though they’ve been really hammering in this sound for around four years now. I have seen a few reviews, and while some of them are justified in what’s being said, others aren’t. And I never understood the backlash for the band’s last couple albums. No, they didn’t sell out. No, they aren’t totally generic. And no, this isn’t a solo project of Adam Levine. When a band goes over a major label, some changes may or may not need to be made, such as book or comic book being adapted into a film. Heck, look New Jersey group The Gaslight Anthem. It’s weird mentioning them in the same review as a Maroon 5, but the same idea applies to them as well. They went over a major label in 2012 with the release of fourth LP, Handwritten. They already had kind of changes their sound on third album, American Slang, just two years prior, but they refined it and changed it a bit more. There’s a reason this album is considered by many to be one of their best. They also released a new album just a few weeks before V entitled Get Hurt, and it’s easily my favorite record of this year.
  Now that my little “rant” is out of the way, the week prior to V’s release, it was streaming on iTunes Radio, so I gave it a listen, and just from a first impression, I enjoyed it. I thought it was solid enough, so I picked up a copy for myself on the day of its release. I’ve given it many more listens since then, I would say I really do enjoy it. I don’t particularly love this album, but I really do like it. For starters, it’s a very logical progression from Overexposed, but there is a bit more variety in this album. Overexposed did have some nice things about it, but the instrumentation was easily what killed it for me. Not too much, but the songs kinda blended together in how they sounded. This one has a lot more defined instrumentation on each song. Album opener “Maps” is very guitar-driven, while tracks like “Sugar,” “Feelings,” and “In Your Pocket” are energetic pop numbers that would fit quite nicely on Overexposed, but they have a rather different flavor to them. This album almost seems like it’s rooted in 70s pop/soul. One example that led me to this is one of my favorite tracks on the record, “Unkiss Me,” which is soul/R&B number that works very well. I haven’t heard Maroon 5 really go R&B and it works out pretty well, and a lot of this album does sound slightly “retro.” Not totally, because there are some tracks that do have a very modern sound, but the instrumentation on this LP has improved a bit more from Overexposed. Not only that, but the production on this LP is something to marvel at. I hate how people say things are “overproduced,” but this sounds very crisp clear. I can hear everything that’s going on, and it sounds fantastic. My favorite thing about the band, not just a specific album, is easily Adam Levine’s vocals. He’s seemed to have improved with each record, and I’d say that on V, his vocals are the best they’ve ever been. I will admit that he does use his falsetto a lot on this record, such as on “Sugar,” “Unkiss Me,” and “Feelings,” but I like it. If you like his higher range, you’ll love his vocals here, too. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with his vocals, but he does use his higher range a lot, and I can admit that could be a problem to some people. While I do love his voice, his lyrics I’ve always been hit or miss on. Each album is filled with some good moments, but I’ve never been too impressed with his lyrics. On V, it’s the same thing, and that’s really the main problem I have with this album. At least, it’s the biggest, anyway. The lyrics are kind of a mixed bag; there are a few songs I do really like lyrically, but for everyone one that works, there’s another song that doesn’t.

The three songs I enjoy most lyrically are “Maps,” “Unkiss Me,” and “Sugar.” “Maps” and “Unkiss Me” are sort of similar, as they deal with relationships gone awry, and to be honest, all of this album does deal with relationships. It’s not actually surprising, since Levine himself got married a bit before or after the album came out. But those are done pretty well. The former track is about how Levine and his significant other have been through so much, and he’s been there for her through the worst parts of her life, but she’s just blowing him off and forgetting about him, so he’s trying to get the map that leads to her, while the latter is just about an on/off again relationship and Levine says that if she’s going to go, she’d better take back everything that they ever said and did. “Sugar,” on the other hand, is one of the more cute and adorable tracks on the LP. It’s sort of cheesy, too, but it works okay. The lyrics are basically similar to that Def Leppard song, “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” and it’s the same idea. Levine is asking a woman to give him some loving aka pour some sugar on him. It’s a very catchy tune, and one of my favorites on the LP. But there are a few tracks that also don’t quite work, including, “Animals,” and “Feelings.” These two are the big ones that don’t work. The former reminds me a lot of Pharrell Williams’ “Hunter” from his sophomore G I R L, and it’s the same idea, just a different metaphor. Levine equates seducing a woman to them being animals and he’s “preying” on her. People have said this song is similar to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” but I see nothing misogynistic about it. It’s just a dumb metaphor, and nothing more. The latter, on the other hand, is sort of strange, just because the song is about how Levine has some uncontrollable feelings for a woman and he can’t contain them anymore. The song is catchy, at least, but the lyrics are stupid. The only other problem I have with this album is that sometimes, the instrumentation is a bit boring. For instance, closing track, “My Heart Is Open,” featuring Gwen Stefani, is easily the most boring closer I’ve heard on one of their LPs. It’s just a generic piano ballad and the lyrics are just as forgettable. It’s not a bad song, but not one that’s too memorable, either. A few other tracks, such as “Leaving California,” and “New Love” are the same way. They just kind of fade into the background for me, not really adding anything interesting or worthwhile to the album. There are a lot of songs that I do enjoy on this LP, but I’ll admit that the problems are pretty big. And even then, there really isn’t anything new, unique, or just plain great on this record, either. It’s not necessarily generic, but not really anything mindblowing. I can see why people wouldn’t like this LP, but the point of my rant in the introduction was to say that people seem to dislike this band for almost no reason other than because it’s cool to hate their last couple of albums. If you don’t like their last couple albums, I can respect that, but if you just hate their last albums because they’re “mainstream” or because they aren’t as good as their first couple, that’s what I take issue with. And it’s not even that this band is one of my favorites. They really aren’t, but I see this band being trashed constantly, and it’s hardly justified. I’m really happy I heard this, but maybe I’m in the minority of people who genuinely like this LP. It’s not perfect, by any means, but for a pop album, it’s quite enjoyable. Overall rating: 8.3/10
-Bradley

Maroon 5 – V
Record Label: Interscope
Release Date: September 2 2014

In the beginning of this year, I was at a crossroads with my reviews; most often, I only spent about a week or even just a few days with a record, but I got some tips from another reviewer/writer, and he told me to really spend time with albums. A couple of weeks or more, just as much as I see fit. And I’ve been doing that for a long time. My default time is usually two weeks. I’ll spend two weeks with an album at the most, or 10 – 20 listens on my iPod, whichever comes first. Sometimes, however, I will spend three to four weeks with an LP, or even an entire month. It all depends on the record, but with some records, I purposely wait a little bit. Such is the case for California pop-rock/pop band Maroon 5 and their fifth LP, appropriately titled V, aka the Roman Numeral for five. I’ve waited almost a couple of weeks to talk about this album for a reason. I’m most likely the only fan of theirs who prefers their last couple of records over their first couple. My first experience was 2012’s Overexposed, and it was my first real experience with pop music.  I thought it was decent, and a couple of years later, I still think so. I have heard the three albums prior, and while sophomore album, It Won’t Soon Before Long is probably my favorite, featuring a nice balance between their old funk-rock sound along with a streamlined pop flair, I don’t really care for debut album, Songs About Jane. Most of their fans seem to hail that album as a classic, but I’m in the minority of people who don’t quite care for it.

With that being said, I waited to talk about V for a simple reason – I wanted to see what other people had to say. See, I’m willing to “defend” Maroon 5’s last few albums, including this one, because they aren’t that bad. This isn’t merely a case of someone who just doesn’t like these albums, whether it’s for the sound, lyrics, or whatever. I can see both sides, and that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that people mindlessly talk trash about this band for no reason, and it’s almost as if people are surprised that they’re a pop band now, even though they’ve been really hammering in this sound for around four years now. I have seen a few reviews, and while some of them are justified in what’s being said, others aren’t. And I never understood the backlash for the band’s last couple albums. No, they didn’t sell out. No, they aren’t totally generic. And no, this isn’t a solo project of Adam Levine. When a band goes over a major label, some changes may or may not need to be made, such as book or comic book being adapted into a film. Heck, look New Jersey group The Gaslight Anthem. It’s weird mentioning them in the same review as a Maroon 5, but the same idea applies to them as well. They went over a major label in 2012 with the release of fourth LP, Handwritten. They already had kind of changes their sound on third album, American Slang, just two years prior, but they refined it and changed it a bit more. There’s a reason this album is considered by many to be one of their best. They also released a new album just a few weeks before V entitled Get Hurt, and it’s easily my favorite record of this year.

 
Now that my little “rant” is out of the way, the week prior to V’s release, it was streaming on iTunes Radio, so I gave it a listen, and just from a first impression, I enjoyed it. I thought it was solid enough, so I picked up a copy for myself on the day of its release. I’ve given it many more listens since then, I would say I really do enjoy it. I don’t particularly love this album, but I really do like it. For starters, it’s a very logical progression from Overexposed, but there is a bit more variety in this album. Overexposed did have some nice things about it, but the instrumentation was easily what killed it for me. Not too much, but the songs kinda blended together in how they sounded. This one has a lot more defined instrumentation on each song. Album opener “Maps” is very guitar-driven, while tracks like “Sugar,” “Feelings,” and “In Your Pocket” are energetic pop numbers that would fit quite nicely on Overexposed, but they have a rather different flavor to them. This album almost seems like it’s rooted in 70s pop/soul. One example that led me to this is one of my favorite tracks on the record, “Unkiss Me,” which is soul/R&B number that works very well. I haven’t heard Maroon 5 really go R&B and it works out pretty well, and a lot of this album does sound slightly “retro.” Not totally, because there are some tracks that do have a very modern sound, but the instrumentation on this LP has improved a bit more from Overexposed. Not only that, but the production on this LP is something to marvel at. I hate how people say things are “overproduced,” but this sounds very crisp clear. I can hear everything that’s going on, and it sounds fantastic.

My favorite thing about the band, not just a specific album, is easily Adam Levine’s vocals. He’s seemed to have improved with each record, and I’d say that on V, his vocals are the best they’ve ever been. I will admit that he does use his falsetto a lot on this record, such as on “Sugar,” “Unkiss Me,” and “Feelings,” but I like it. If you like his higher range, you’ll love his vocals here, too. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with his vocals, but he does use his higher range a lot, and I can admit that could be a problem to some people. While I do love his voice, his lyrics I’ve always been hit or miss on. Each album is filled with some good moments, but I’ve never been too impressed with his lyrics. On V, it’s the same thing, and that’s really the main problem I have with this album. At least, it’s the biggest, anyway. The lyrics are kind of a mixed bag; there are a few songs I do really like lyrically, but for everyone one that works, there’s another song that doesn’t.

The three songs I enjoy most lyrically are “Maps,” “Unkiss Me,” and “Sugar.” “Maps” and “Unkiss Me” are sort of similar, as they deal with relationships gone awry, and to be honest, all of this album does deal with relationships. It’s not actually surprising, since Levine himself got married a bit before or after the album came out. But those are done pretty well. The former track is about how Levine and his significant other have been through so much, and he’s been there for her through the worst parts of her life, but she’s just blowing him off and forgetting about him, so he’s trying to get the map that leads to her, while the latter is just about an on/off again relationship and Levine says that if she’s going to go, she’d better take back everything that they ever said and did. “Sugar,” on the other hand, is one of the more cute and adorable tracks on the LP. It’s sort of cheesy, too, but it works okay. The lyrics are basically similar to that Def Leppard song, “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” and it’s the same idea. Levine is asking a woman to give him some loving aka pour some sugar on him. It’s a very catchy tune, and one of my favorites on the LP. But there are a few tracks that also don’t quite work, including, “Animals,” and “Feelings.” These two are the big ones that don’t work. The former reminds me a lot of Pharrell Williams’ “Hunter” from his sophomore G I R L, and it’s the same idea, just a different metaphor. Levine equates seducing a woman to them being animals and he’s “preying” on her. People have said this song is similar to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” but I see nothing misogynistic about it. It’s just a dumb metaphor, and nothing more. The latter, on the other hand, is sort of strange, just because the song is about how Levine has some uncontrollable feelings for a woman and he can’t contain them anymore. The song is catchy, at least, but the lyrics are stupid.

The only other problem I have with this album is that sometimes, the instrumentation is a bit boring. For instance, closing track, “My Heart Is Open,” featuring Gwen Stefani, is easily the most boring closer I’ve heard on one of their LPs. It’s just a generic piano ballad and the lyrics are just as forgettable. It’s not a bad song, but not one that’s too memorable, either. A few other tracks, such as “Leaving California,” and “New Love” are the same way. They just kind of fade into the background for me, not really adding anything interesting or worthwhile to the album. There are a lot of songs that I do enjoy on this LP, but I’ll admit that the problems are pretty big. And even then, there really isn’t anything new, unique, or just plain great on this record, either. It’s not necessarily generic, but not really anything mindblowing. I can see why people wouldn’t like this LP, but the point of my rant in the introduction was to say that people seem to dislike this band for almost no reason other than because it’s cool to hate their last couple of albums. If you don’t like their last couple albums, I can respect that, but if you just hate their last albums because they’re “mainstream” or because they aren’t as good as their first couple, that’s what I take issue with. And it’s not even that this band is one of my favorites. They really aren’t, but I see this band being trashed constantly, and it’s hardly justified. I’m really happy I heard this, but maybe I’m in the minority of people who genuinely like this LP. It’s not perfect, by any means, but for a pop album, it’s quite enjoyable.

Overall rating: 8.3/10

-Bradley

September 2014
29
Paul McCartney / The Fireman – Electric Arguments Record Label: One Little Indian Release Date: November 24 2008 It’s sort of an indisputable fact that Sir Paul McCartney, formerly of The Beatles and Wings, is a very successful, and popular artist, especially one of the most popular artists of all time. He’s influenced countless other artists and bands, and keeps putting out music. He just released his 18th solo album last winter, entitled New. I really enjoyed that album, and it’s ultimately the album that inspired me to listen to The Beatles’ records in full, and get into his solo work. Aside from myself, lots of people really latch onto what McCartney does, and they pay close attention to what he puts out. In fact, that’s how it is with most artists, especially ones as popular as McCartney. Of course if you’re a fan, you’re going to know what he puts out when he puts it out, but what happens if there’s a rather “obscure” project that a musician is apart of that’s hardly talked about, so when you come across it, you’re rather dumbfounded? Well, for me, that came in the form of The Fireman’s third LP, Electric Arguments, when I came across a used copy at my local FYE last week. I had never heard of it before, but the cover does say it’s by Paul McCartney. I thought I’d pick it up, just because I was curious.

As it turns out, The Fireman is the name given to McCartney and producer Youth’s electronic/ambient project. The pair began making records in 1993, the year I was born, so it’s been around 21 years that this duo has been around. At least somewhat, anyway. They’ve only released three albums in 21 years, so it’s only been sporadically. As I did some research, regarding The Fireman, I found out that the project began as an instrumental/ambient project, and I probably won’t look into the band’s first two LP, which are more instrumental. Third LP, Electric Arguments, is where the band switched things up, being very vocal-centric, almost each song having vocals by McCartney at the forefront, and having actual song structure, even if the tracks are a bit lengthy at times. When I also read that this album, at least, was also a psychedelic-rock/pop album, I was immediately intrigued. As the Beatles being my favorite band, and my favorite era being their psychedelic era, I wondered what would have happened if McCartney time traveled to the 00s and made a psychedelic album with the instrumentation and technology that’s available. So how did this album turn out? Well, Electric Arguments is a very fascinating album, because this is a record that’s rather obscure, and for good reason. Not because it’s terrible, far from it, but because it’s quite “inaccessible,” meaning that if you’re a fan of the Beatles’ early work, or their last couple albums (Abbey Road and Let It Be), where they became more of a straightforward rock band, you might not like this. Heck, even if you’re not a fan of long-winding albums, psychedelic music, or both, you won’t like this. Personally, I am a music fan who does like “weird” albums, but not too weird. I do like some structure, but hearing Paul McCartney basically “get weird” is really fascinating, since his songwriting has usually been straightforward, with some experimentation now and again. He never gets too weird, and heck, Band On the Run by his second band, Wings, is a very straightforward rock album and it’s regarded as one of his best, post-Beatles. And I can attest to that somewhat, but 1971’s Ram, recorded with the late Linda McCartney, is sort of what I mean by that it’s weird, just not too weird. It’s unique, and interesting, but not inaccessible. This album, well, sort of is, depending on who you are. If this album does seem like something you’d like, you’ll probably love it. Heck, even though I just said that there are people who won’t be into it, if you are a Beatles fan, this is worth a listen. It’s an interesting psychedelic-rock/pop record that shows McCartney in a somewhat new way. McCartney’s certainly experimented, just not to this degree. Songs such as the ten-minute epic, “Don’t Stop Running,” the piano-tinged “Universal Here, Everlasting Now,” and “Lifelong Passion” are very ambient and quiet songs. But there are some glimpses of McCartney’s usual songwriting, and I won’t lie, those tracks are much more interesting to me. Songs like album opener, “Nothing Too Much, Just Out of Sight,” “Light from Your Lighthouse,” and “Highway” are easily my three favorites. The first track is easily the only one that really comes close to being a straightup rocker, with a really cool guitar lick in the middle of the track. But the others work very well because they have a melody, and a chorus that’s very catchy. Heck, McCartney’s vocals are great throughout the entire album, but a lot of the songs do lack vocal hooks or any kind of melody, which slightly kills this record for me. Not by much, because I love the song, but the album’s biggest problem comes in the form of two things – the length and the sequencing. The album is 63 minutes long, 61 if you don’t count the two minutes of silence before “Don’t Stop Running” and hidden track “Road Trip” at the end. The length wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if the album was sequenced a bit better. See, the first half of the album is great. It’s a combination of catchier songs and the more drawn-out ambient electronic numbers, which are kind of cool. But the problem is, the second half is nothing but these songs, and the album gets, well, slightly boring to listen to. At least, exhausting, anyway. Not necessarily boring, but it could, if you just aren’t into it. For me, it’s exhausting, because it feels like it drags on after awhile. And I have a hard time sitting through it because of it.


Don’t get me wrong, this album is awesome, and I’m glad I found about it. I really enjoy it, and it’s easily one of the best things non-Beatles related that I’ve heard from McCartney, but there are just a couple of things that do prevent from really fawning over it. If the album cut a couple of the 5 – 6 minute electronic/ambient songs, and sequenced the record with a bit more variety in the second half, I’d love it. But for what it is, it’s still great. There’s doubt about it, but it’s just two little things do get in the way after repeated listens. I can’t stress enough, however, that this album is worth checking out if you’re a Beatles fan, or a fan of psychedelic music. If you ever wanted to hear more of Paul McCartney either being immersed into psych-rock or electronic music, give this a shot. You most likely won’t regret it, and I know I didn’t. Overall rating: 9.5/10
-Bradley

Paul McCartney / The Fireman – Electric Arguments
Record Label: One Little Indian
Release Date: November 24 2008

It’s sort of an indisputable fact that Sir Paul McCartney, formerly of The Beatles and Wings, is a very successful, and popular artist, especially one of the most popular artists of all time. He’s influenced countless other artists and bands, and keeps putting out music. He just released his 18th solo album last winter, entitled New. I really enjoyed that album, and it’s ultimately the album that inspired me to listen to The Beatles’ records in full, and get into his solo work. Aside from myself, lots of people really latch onto what McCartney does, and they pay close attention to what he puts out. In fact, that’s how it is with most artists, especially ones as popular as McCartney. Of course if you’re a fan, you’re going to know what he puts out when he puts it out, but what happens if there’s a rather “obscure” project that a musician is apart of that’s hardly talked about, so when you come across it, you’re rather dumbfounded? Well, for me, that came in the form of The Fireman’s third LP, Electric Arguments, when I came across a used copy at my local FYE last week. I had never heard of it before, but the cover does say it’s by Paul McCartney. I thought I’d pick it up, just because I was curious.

As it turns out, The Fireman is the name given to McCartney and producer Youth’s electronic/ambient project. The pair began making records in 1993, the year I was born, so it’s been around 21 years that this duo has been around. At least somewhat, anyway. They’ve only released three albums in 21 years, so it’s only been sporadically. As I did some research, regarding The Fireman, I found out that the project began as an instrumental/ambient project, and I probably won’t look into the band’s first two LP, which are more instrumental. Third LP, Electric Arguments, is where the band switched things up, being very vocal-centric, almost each song having vocals by McCartney at the forefront, and having actual song structure, even if the tracks are a bit lengthy at times. When I also read that this album, at least, was also a psychedelic-rock/pop album, I was immediately intrigued. As the Beatles being my favorite band, and my favorite era being their psychedelic era, I wondered what would have happened if McCartney time traveled to the 00s and made a psychedelic album with the instrumentation and technology that’s available. So how did this album turn out?

Well, Electric Arguments is a very fascinating album, because this is a record that’s rather obscure, and for good reason. Not because it’s terrible, far from it, but because it’s quite “inaccessible,” meaning that if you’re a fan of the Beatles’ early work, or their last couple albums (Abbey Road and Let It Be), where they became more of a straightforward rock band, you might not like this. Heck, even if you’re not a fan of long-winding albums, psychedelic music, or both, you won’t like this. Personally, I am a music fan who does like “weird” albums, but not too weird. I do like some structure, but hearing Paul McCartney basically “get weird” is really fascinating, since his songwriting has usually been straightforward, with some experimentation now and again. He never gets too weird, and heck, Band On the Run by his second band, Wings, is a very straightforward rock album and it’s regarded as one of his best, post-Beatles. And I can attest to that somewhat, but 1971’s Ram, recorded with the late Linda McCartney, is sort of what I mean by that it’s weird, just not too weird. It’s unique, and interesting, but not inaccessible. This album, well, sort of is, depending on who you are.

If this album does seem like something you’d like, you’ll probably love it. Heck, even though I just said that there are people who won’t be into it, if you are a Beatles fan, this is worth a listen. It’s an interesting psychedelic-rock/pop record that shows McCartney in a somewhat new way. McCartney’s certainly experimented, just not to this degree. Songs such as the ten-minute epic, “Don’t Stop Running,” the piano-tinged “Universal Here, Everlasting Now,” and “Lifelong Passion” are very ambient and quiet songs. But there are some glimpses of McCartney’s usual songwriting, and I won’t lie, those tracks are much more interesting to me. Songs like album opener, “Nothing Too Much, Just Out of Sight,” “Light from Your Lighthouse,” and “Highway” are easily my three favorites. The first track is easily the only one that really comes close to being a straightup rocker, with a really cool guitar lick in the middle of the track. But the others work very well because they have a melody, and a chorus that’s very catchy. Heck, McCartney’s vocals are great throughout the entire album, but a lot of the songs do lack vocal hooks or any kind of melody, which slightly kills this record for me. Not by much, because I love the song, but the album’s biggest problem comes in the form of two things – the length and the sequencing. The album is 63 minutes long, 61 if you don’t count the two minutes of silence before “Don’t Stop Running” and hidden track “Road Trip” at the end. The length wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if the album was sequenced a bit better. See, the first half of the album is great. It’s a combination of catchier songs and the more drawn-out ambient electronic numbers, which are kind of cool. But the problem is, the second half is nothing but these songs, and the album gets, well, slightly boring to listen to. At least, exhausting, anyway. Not necessarily boring, but it could, if you just aren’t into it. For me, it’s exhausting, because it feels like it drags on after awhile. And I have a hard time sitting through it because of it.

Don’t get me wrong, this album is awesome, and I’m glad I found about it. I really enjoy it, and it’s easily one of the best things non-Beatles related that I’ve heard from McCartney, but there are just a couple of things that do prevent from really fawning over it. If the album cut a couple of the 5 – 6 minute electronic/ambient songs, and sequenced the record with a bit more variety in the second half, I’d love it. But for what it is, it’s still great. There’s doubt about it, but it’s just two little things do get in the way after repeated listens. I can’t stress enough, however, that this album is worth checking out if you’re a Beatles fan, or a fan of psychedelic music. If you ever wanted to hear more of Paul McCartney either being immersed into psych-rock or electronic music, give this a shot. You most likely won’t regret it, and I know I didn’t.

Overall rating: 9.5/10

-Bradley

September 2014
29
Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On the Edge of Town Record Label: Columbia Release Date: June 2 1978
The thing I dislike most about listening to artists with big discographies, especially not even knowing a full album by them, is that it’s really hard to determine a good starting point. Everyone will have different opinions, so you won’t get the same answer every time. But sometimes you just get lucky as was the case with me, when I decided to look into New Jersey rock/Americana artist Bruce Springsteen, also known as “the Boss.” He’s a major influence on one of my favorite bands, The Gaslight Anthem, and has played with them before, so I thought it would be a good time to listen to his stuff, especially since he just released a new album entitled High Hopes. Well, the question I had was, “Where do I start?” I barely knew anything about his work, other than his two most famous released, Born In the USA and Born to Run. I was out shopping with my mom one day, and came across a bunch of his albums somewhere. None of them were his two most famous albums, so I looked at all of them, and decided which one to take home. For whatever reason, there was one album that really stuck out of me, and that was 1978’s Darkness On the Edge of Town. I don’t know if it was for the title alone, or the cover art, which features Springsteen in a white t-shirt and leather jacket, looking really cool, I guess you could say. I thought the cover art was really cool, and rather interesting, so my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to get that one.   Being that I’ve barely heard any of his songs, I wasn’t too sure what to expect with Darkness On the Edge of Town. I used to listen to a Chicago classic rock radio station, and they worshipped him on it, but I didn’t know too many tracks of his. Ultimately, that made me more excited, because I didn’t know what to expect. And with what I got, the excitement was worth it. Even though I knew Springsteen to be a heartland rock artist with a few folk albums under his belt, this was a different kind of Springsteen; this album was dark, brooding, quiet, and even sad. To put some perspective on why this record was like that, let’s look at the background of it how it was conceived. Well, it all starts with previous record, 1975’s Born to Run. The album was Springsteen’s “breakthrough” album, and with that album, came a lot of legal troubles and stress. He was rather inactive for a few years, and went into a darker direction. A lot of the songs are still hopeful in nature, but paint a very dark picture of himself or characters he’s writing about. Darkness On the Edge of Town was well received by fans and critics, but failed to generate any singles that were very successful. Nonetheless, it’s considered by fans to be one of the Boss’s best records, and I’d ultimately agree, putting it in my top five. Going into this record, I somewhat knew what his voice sounded like, but not completely. It’s a little rough and gruff, even though I do like a few rougher sounding vocalists, including Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon. If you’re not familiar with those kind of vocals, this album might take a little bit to settle, but his voice is really good. Despite Darkness being his fourth album, Springsteen’s voice does sound a bit rough around the edges, but it’s not too much of a problem, because it’s just gruff-sounding in general. At the time I heard this for the first time, I was also listening to 1984’s Born In the USA, and his voice was still gruff, but it sounded a lot better, mainly due to the pop influence that album had. It seems as though, during this period, his voice was still rough around the edges, just improving more with each album. His vocals are very enjoyable on this LP, however, especially on songs like “Adam Raised a Cain,” “Candy’s Room,” “Prove It All Night,” and the ballad “Racing In the Street.” I mentioned Born In the USA, not only for his vocals being quite different, but if you want to hear of two examples of Springsteen albums that are different in lyrics and tone, these two albums are not quite opposites, but different. The opposite of Born In the USA is definitely 1982’s Nebraska, which was a very pessimistic and dark album, whereas Born In the USA is very upbeat and hopeful. Darkness On the Edge of Town is a mix of both, surprisingly. It’s dark, but also optimistic. It’s upbeat, but sad. It’s a mix of the two tones, and it’s actually interesting. The album has what’s known as his “four corners” effect, where the beginning of each side of the record, back when records were only on vinyl, was a very positive and uplifting song, but end of each side would be a darker song to balance each other out. There are some optimistic tracks on here, such as “Badlands,” and “Prove It All Night,” that focus on being optimistic, even in the darkest of times. But there are a few very dark songs as well, such as “Candy’s Room,” and “Factory,” which is yet another short track, but this time, about the narrator and his father working at a factory, aka the middle class life. These songs are quite odd, not because they’re bad, but because people don’t usually hear Springsteen like this, being sad and pessimistic. It’s interesting, to say the least. While the best part of this album is Bruce himself, it’s the instrumentation that also helps a lot. It really complements a lot of the lyrics, mainly having a very dark and almost eerie vibe. Whether it’s the rocker “Adam Raised a Cain,” or the very quiet and relaxed “Something In the Night,” Springsteen can really match an emotion nicely. And there’s plenty of emotion here, including the instrumentation. It complements everything nicely, and there are really no complaints about it. Everything is very memorable, there are plenty of hooks and really memorable parts, whether it’s vocally, or instrumentally. Most records suffer from a lack of variety, but this one doesn’t. It has a very consistent sound, but never becomes dull or tiring. Darkness On the Edge of Town is a very cohesive record, and it’s a blast to listen to, even if its themes are not very fun and happy go lucky.  For being the first album I’ve listened to by Springsteen, it’s great. It really is great. There aren’t too many complaints I have overall. The only thing I can think of is really just that it’s nothing I haven’t heard before. It’s certainly an influential album of his, marking a maturity in his work, both in songwriting and in lyrical tone, and although it’s not as great as Born to Run (which is damn near impossible to replicate), it’s just not a revolutionary LP. And his voice is a bit rough around the edges, but it’s enjoyable, either way. If you’re new to Bruce Springsteen, this isn’t a bad album to start with, but it’s not as accessible as albums such as Born to Run or Born In the USA. You can’t go wrong with this, however. It’s a very “mature” album, but also still retains what made him popular and well regarded in the first place. It may not be a very influential release that changed music forever, like in the same veins as Born In the USA (which I enjoy a little bit more) and Born to Run, but it’s still a good record that’s worth listening to. Overall rating: 9.5/10
-Bradley

Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On the Edge of Town
Record Label: Columbia
Release Date: June 2 1978

The thing I dislike most about listening to artists with big discographies, especially not even knowing a full album by them, is that it’s really hard to determine a good starting point. Everyone will have different opinions, so you won’t get the same answer every time. But sometimes you just get lucky as was the case with me, when I decided to look into New Jersey rock/Americana artist Bruce Springsteen, also known as “the Boss.” He’s a major influence on one of my favorite bands, The Gaslight Anthem, and has played with them before, so I thought it would be a good time to listen to his stuff, especially since he just released a new album entitled High Hopes. Well, the question I had was, “Where do I start?” I barely knew anything about his work, other than his two most famous released, Born In the USA and Born to Run. I was out shopping with my mom one day, and came across a bunch of his albums somewhere. None of them were his two most famous albums, so I looked at all of them, and decided which one to take home. For whatever reason, there was one album that really stuck out of me, and that was 1978’s Darkness On the Edge of Town. I don’t know if it was for the title alone, or the cover art, which features Springsteen in a white t-shirt and leather jacket, looking really cool, I guess you could say. I thought the cover art was really cool, and rather interesting, so my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to get that one. 

Being that I’ve barely heard any of his songs, I wasn’t too sure what to expect with Darkness On the Edge of Town. I used to listen to a Chicago classic rock radio station, and they worshipped him on it, but I didn’t know too many tracks of his. Ultimately, that made me more excited, because I didn’t know what to expect. And with what I got, the excitement was worth it. Even though I knew Springsteen to be a heartland rock artist with a few folk albums under his belt, this was a different kind of Springsteen; this album was dark, brooding, quiet, and even sad. To put some perspective on why this record was like that, let’s look at the background of it how it was conceived. Well, it all starts with previous record, 1975’s Born to Run. The album was Springsteen’s “breakthrough” album, and with that album, came a lot of legal troubles and stress. He was rather inactive for a few years, and went into a darker direction. A lot of the songs are still hopeful in nature, but paint a very dark picture of himself or characters he’s writing about. Darkness On the Edge of Town was well received by fans and critics, but failed to generate any singles that were very successful. Nonetheless, it’s considered by fans to be one of the Boss’s best records, and I’d ultimately agree, putting it in my top five.

Going into this record, I somewhat knew what his voice sounded like, but not completely. It’s a little rough and gruff, even though I do like a few rougher sounding vocalists, including Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon. If you’re not familiar with those kind of vocals, this album might take a little bit to settle, but his voice is really good. Despite Darkness being his fourth album, Springsteen’s voice does sound a bit rough around the edges, but it’s not too much of a problem, because it’s just gruff-sounding in general. At the time I heard this for the first time, I was also listening to 1984’s Born In the USA, and his voice was still gruff, but it sounded a lot better, mainly due to the pop influence that album had. It seems as though, during this period, his voice was still rough around the edges, just improving more with each album. His vocals are very enjoyable on this LP, however, especially on songs like “Adam Raised a Cain,” “Candy’s Room,” “Prove It All Night,” and the ballad “Racing In the Street.”

I mentioned Born In the USA, not only for his vocals being quite different, but if you want to hear of two examples of Springsteen albums that are different in lyrics and tone, these two albums are not quite opposites, but different. The opposite of Born In the USA is definitely 1982’s Nebraska, which was a very pessimistic and dark album, whereas Born In the USA is very upbeat and hopeful. Darkness On the Edge of Town is a mix of both, surprisingly. It’s dark, but also optimistic. It’s upbeat, but sad. It’s a mix of the two tones, and it’s actually interesting. The album has what’s known as his “four corners” effect, where the beginning of each side of the record, back when records were only on vinyl, was a very positive and uplifting song, but end of each side would be a darker song to balance each other out. There are some optimistic tracks on here, such as “Badlands,” and “Prove It All Night,” that focus on being optimistic, even in the darkest of times. But there are a few very dark songs as well, such as “Candy’s Room,” and “Factory,” which is yet another short track, but this time, about the narrator and his father working at a factory, aka the middle class life. These songs are quite odd, not because they’re bad, but because people don’t usually hear Springsteen like this, being sad and pessimistic. It’s interesting, to say the least.

While the best part of this album is Bruce himself, it’s the instrumentation that also helps a lot. It really complements a lot of the lyrics, mainly having a very dark and almost eerie vibe. Whether it’s the rocker “Adam Raised a Cain,” or the very quiet and relaxed “Something In the Night,” Springsteen can really match an emotion nicely. And there’s plenty of emotion here, including the instrumentation. It complements everything nicely, and there are really no complaints about it. Everything is very memorable, there are plenty of hooks and really memorable parts, whether it’s vocally, or instrumentally. Most records suffer from a lack of variety, but this one doesn’t. It has a very consistent sound, but never becomes dull or tiring. Darkness On the Edge of Town is a very cohesive record, and it’s a blast to listen to, even if its themes are not very fun and happy go lucky.

For being the first album I’ve listened to by Springsteen, it’s great. It really is great. There aren’t too many complaints I have overall. The only thing I can think of is really just that it’s nothing I haven’t heard before. It’s certainly an influential album of his, marking a maturity in his work, both in songwriting and in lyrical tone, and although it’s not as great as Born to Run (which is damn near impossible to replicate), it’s just not a revolutionary LP. And his voice is a bit rough around the edges, but it’s enjoyable, either way. If you’re new to Bruce Springsteen, this isn’t a bad album to start with, but it’s not as accessible as albums such as Born to Run or Born In the USA. You can’t go wrong with this, however. It’s a very “mature” album, but also still retains what made him popular and well regarded in the first place. It may not be a very influential release that changed music forever, like in the same veins as Born In the USA (which I enjoy a little bit more) and Born to Run, but it’s still a good record that’s worth listening to.

Overall rating: 9.5/10

-Bradley

September 2014
29
Bruce Springsteen – Born In the USA Record Label: Columbia Release Date: June 4 1984 Every artist and band has their “magnum opus,” meaning their most popular album or their “best” album, but a band’s best album sometimes isn’t their best selling. I’ve somewhat spoken about this before, mainly just the idea of a band having a magnum opus, but not about how a band’s best-selling album sometimes isn’t their best. A good example of this would be The Beatles. Now that might be a bit biased (but all reviews and opinions are), because they’re my favorite band, but their magnum opus came in the form of 1967’s Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That recorded was very popular, and is considered by many fans and critics to be the best record of all time, whether it’s for how good it is, how influential it is, or just how innovative it was. This is an example of an album that is a magnum opus on all levels. It was the Fab Four’s best album, most innovative (really expanding prior record Revolver’s sound), and the most popular, despite not having any number one singles, and the singles that were played were banned from BBC Radio, mainly because of drug references. The band’s best-selling album is 1969’s Abbey Road, featuring the very iconic cover of the Fab Four walking across, you guessed it, Abbey Road, near Abbey Road Studios, where they recorded most of their albums. I do love that album as well, but I wouldn’t say it’s their best. Of course this all boils down to opinion, but a lot of people would argue that Sgt Pepper is their best.  Another example of an artist with a magnum opus is Bruce Springsteen, just so happens to be the subject of this review. He’s from the other side of the pond, aka New Jersey, but he’s still a good example, nonetheless. The album I’m thinking of 1975’s Born to Run, which is the album that got Springsteen in the public eye, and garnered him some critical acclaim. The thing is, that’s not his most popular album, but many would argue it’s his best, and I can see both sides (although it really has become my favorite). While Born to Run was his magnum opus, 1984’s Born In the USA is definitely his high-selling album Heck, it was the best-selling album in 1985, and it spawned seven number one singles, tied with Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814. It not only launched Springsteen into celebrity status, but marked a departure for his sound. 1982’s Nebraska was a very dark, acoustic/folk album that was being bleak and pessimistic. Born In the USA is much more hopeful and much more uplifting, and people really took that to heart, and with that, Springsteen helped to really capture with the American public was feeling at the time, and he’s been known to do that for many years now with each album. While Born In the USA is a great album (it’s ultimately my second favorite), it’s not his best. At least, not quite. It’s really damn close, and for good reason. Everything on this album just works, including the lyrics, instrumentation, and Springsteen’s vocals. My favorite thing about this LP is Springsteen’s vocals; while I enjoy his vocals a lot on every album prior, they were always slightly rough around the edges, maintaining a gruffer sound. But on here, he lets loose and his vocals sound amazing. It does help that the instrumentation and overall sound of this album has a more radio-friendly sound, making his vocals have less of a grit to them, and sound slightly polished, but it works to his favor. Born In The USA is certainly a “commercial” album, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s an interesting example of a rock artist who tried to get with the times by taking a risk and using synth/electronic elements in his sound, and because of that, his vocals got less gruff as they usually are. Songs like the title track, “Dancing In the Dark,” and “Working On the Highway” are all somewhat “poppier” tracks with more prominent hooks and synth lines, and honestly, upon first listen, I was quite impressive that Springsteen is really able to keep his voice almost the same, just with more melody and polish. He voice doesn’t sound much different, but just improved. It sounds a lot stronger, and because of that, it’s a lot better. As for his lyrics, Springsteen didn’t lose his knack for writing a good song. On the record prior, Nebraska, the lyrics were very depressing, with tracks talking about putting a man on death row, murdering people, an escaped convict wishing to not be pulled over, and a state trooper who has a criminal brother but would rather not put him in prison. Born In the USA is the record that most people know by him, and this is sort of the album that started his uplifting, and dare I say inspirational, lyrics about overcoming obstacles that the every day person would deal with. Other albums did that, including Born to Run, but not to this degree. Springsteen doesn’t paint himself as a celebrity or a typical rock star, but instead, his records talk about real issues and real things that people deal with. Some have said that the lyrical themes of Born In the USA are the same as Nebraska, but have a more optimistic outlook, having himself or his characters do things and say things that are more uplifting. A couple of good examples of this are on “Glory Days” and “Cover Me,” the former being reliving “glory days” of your past, and the latter being about wanting a significant other who can “cover you” when times get tough. There are a few sad songs, however, and the main one is the title track. A lot of people thought, and still think, that the title track is a patriotic song, but it’s not. The verses paint a very sad and melancholy picture of a Vietnam vet being drafted and coming back to the United States, facing scrutiny from his family and the public. The biggest thing, however, that really sets this apart from his other albums is the instrumentation, mainly being the use of synth on many tracks. This is the first time the E Street Band used synth and electronic elements, but instead of being a very cheesy 80s album, the synth is used nicely. It’s got somewhat of a “dated” sound, but it’s not in your face. The songs are still really good and wellcrafted. It’s not necessarily a product of the times, because even now, these songs can still resonate with people. The record itself is a lot fun, too, at least for the most part. Springsteen was going for a more pop sound with this LP, and he got it. He can rope in new fans and have a commercial appeal, but he didn’t quite lose what made him popular in the first place, and that’s the perfect thing. A lot of songs feature synth riffs, including “Dancing In the Dark,” the title track, and “Working On the Highway.” These are all songs I really like for the hooks as well, but the synth lines in the tracks really complement that. Springsteen is able to combine that sound with his very middle class/blue collar mentality seamlessly.  The only nitpick I have with this album is simple – while I like how he took a big risk with a more synth-laden sound, his lyrics just aren’t as deep or really as introspective as records like Born to Run and Nebraska. This album isn’t stupid, or meaningless, but the messages of most of the tracks are certainly a bit more “clichéd” and cheesy. They’re done well, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll admit, there’s not much depth to it. And because of that, I can’t say this is truly my favorite, but it comes close. The lyrics are great, but not his best. Despite that, I would say that this is a rather influential record. This was one of the first examples of rock and pop music really coming together and working very well. Every song is memorable, every song really hits its mark, and overall, Born In the USA is just a brilliant album. There’s so much on it to enjoy and admire, and I think this is the perfect album to start with if you are new to Springsteen. I started with Darkness On the Edge of Town, and while I don’t regret that, it’s not as an “accessible” album as Born In the USA. Whether you’re into pop music, and want to get more into rock, or you’re a rock fan, and you want to listen to more pop, this is a good album to start with. It’s got something for everyone, really. Overall rating: 9.8/10

Bruce Springsteen – Born In the USA
Record Label: Columbia
Release Date: June 4 1984

Every artist and band has their “magnum opus,” meaning their most popular album or their “best” album, but a band’s best album sometimes isn’t their best selling. I’ve somewhat spoken about this before, mainly just the idea of a band having a magnum opus, but not about how a band’s best-selling album sometimes isn’t their best. A good example of this would be The Beatles. Now that might be a bit biased (but all reviews and opinions are), because they’re my favorite band, but their magnum opus came in the form of 1967’s Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That recorded was very popular, and is considered by many fans and critics to be the best record of all time, whether it’s for how good it is, how influential it is, or just how innovative it was. This is an example of an album that is a magnum opus on all levels. It was the Fab Four’s best album, most innovative (really expanding prior record Revolver’s sound), and the most popular, despite not having any number one singles, and the singles that were played were banned from BBC Radio, mainly because of drug references. The band’s best-selling album is 1969’s Abbey Road, featuring the very iconic cover of the Fab Four walking across, you guessed it, Abbey Road, near Abbey Road Studios, where they recorded most of their albums. I do love that album as well, but I wouldn’t say it’s their best. Of course this all boils down to opinion, but a lot of people would argue that Sgt Pepper is their best.

Another example of an artist with a magnum opus is Bruce Springsteen, just so happens to be the subject of this review. He’s from the other side of the pond, aka New Jersey, but he’s still a good example, nonetheless. The album I’m thinking of 1975’s Born to Run, which is the album that got Springsteen in the public eye, and garnered him some critical acclaim. The thing is, that’s not his most popular album, but many would argue it’s his best, and I can see both sides (although it really has become my favorite). While Born to Run was his magnum opus, 1984’s Born In the USA is definitely his high-selling album Heck, it was the best-selling album in 1985, and it spawned seven number one singles, tied with Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814. It not only launched Springsteen into celebrity status, but marked a departure for his sound. 1982’s Nebraska was a very dark, acoustic/folk album that was being bleak and pessimistic. Born In the USA is much more hopeful and much more uplifting, and people really took that to heart, and with that, Springsteen helped to really capture with the American public was feeling at the time, and he’s been known to do that for many years now with each album. While Born In the USA is a great album (it’s ultimately my second favorite), it’s not his best. At least, not quite. It’s really damn close, and for good reason.

Everything on this album just works, including the lyrics, instrumentation, and Springsteen’s vocals. My favorite thing about this LP is Springsteen’s vocals; while I enjoy his vocals a lot on every album prior, they were always slightly rough around the edges, maintaining a gruffer sound. But on here, he lets loose and his vocals sound amazing. It does help that the instrumentation and overall sound of this album has a more radio-friendly sound, making his vocals have less of a grit to them, and sound slightly polished, but it works to his favor. Born In The USA is certainly a “commercial” album, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s an interesting example of a rock artist who tried to get with the times by taking a risk and using synth/electronic elements in his sound, and because of that, his vocals got less gruff as they usually are. Songs like the title track, “Dancing In the Dark,” and “Working On the Highway” are all somewhat “poppier” tracks with more prominent hooks and synth lines, and honestly, upon first listen, I was quite impressive that Springsteen is really able to keep his voice almost the same, just with more melody and polish. He voice doesn’t sound much different, but just improved. It sounds a lot stronger, and because of that, it’s a lot better.

As for his lyrics, Springsteen didn’t lose his knack for writing a good song. On the record prior, Nebraska, the lyrics were very depressing, with tracks talking about putting a man on death row, murdering people, an escaped convict wishing to not be pulled over, and a state trooper who has a criminal brother but would rather not put him in prison. Born In the USA is the record that most people know by him, and this is sort of the album that started his uplifting, and dare I say inspirational, lyrics about overcoming obstacles that the every day person would deal with. Other albums did that, including Born to Run, but not to this degree. Springsteen doesn’t paint himself as a celebrity or a typical rock star, but instead, his records talk about real issues and real things that people deal with. Some have said that the lyrical themes of Born In the USA are the same as Nebraska, but have a more optimistic outlook, having himself or his characters do things and say things that are more uplifting. A couple of good examples of this are on “Glory Days” and “Cover Me,” the former being reliving “glory days” of your past, and the latter being about wanting a significant other who can “cover you” when times get tough. There are a few sad songs, however, and the main one is the title track. A lot of people thought, and still think, that the title track is a patriotic song, but it’s not. The verses paint a very sad and melancholy picture of a Vietnam vet being drafted and coming back to the United States, facing scrutiny from his family and the public.

The biggest thing, however, that really sets this apart from his other albums is the instrumentation, mainly being the use of synth on many tracks. This is the first time the E Street Band used synth and electronic elements, but instead of being a very cheesy 80s album, the synth is used nicely. It’s got somewhat of a “dated” sound, but it’s not in your face. The songs are still really good and wellcrafted. It’s not necessarily a product of the times, because even now, these songs can still resonate with people. The record itself is a lot fun, too, at least for the most part. Springsteen was going for a more pop sound with this LP, and he got it. He can rope in new fans and have a commercial appeal, but he didn’t quite lose what made him popular in the first place, and that’s the perfect thing. A lot of songs feature synth riffs, including “Dancing In the Dark,” the title track, and “Working On the Highway.” These are all songs I really like for the hooks as well, but the synth lines in the tracks really complement that. Springsteen is able to combine that sound with his very middle class/blue collar mentality seamlessly.

The only nitpick I have with this album is simple – while I like how he took a big risk with a more synth-laden sound, his lyrics just aren’t as deep or really as introspective as records like Born to Run and Nebraska. This album isn’t stupid, or meaningless, but the messages of most of the tracks are certainly a bit more “clichéd” and cheesy. They’re done well, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll admit, there’s not much depth to it. And because of that, I can’t say this is truly my favorite, but it comes close. The lyrics are great, but not his best. Despite that, I would say that this is a rather influential record. This was one of the first examples of rock and pop music really coming together and working very well. Every song is memorable, every song really hits its mark, and overall, Born In the USA is just a brilliant album. There’s so much on it to enjoy and admire, and I think this is the perfect album to start with if you are new to Springsteen. I started with Darkness On the Edge of Town, and while I don’t regret that, it’s not as an “accessible” album as Born In the USA. Whether you’re into pop music, and want to get more into rock, or you’re a rock fan, and you want to listen to more pop, this is a good album to start with. It’s got something for everyone, really.

Overall rating: 9.8/10

September 2014
29
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III Record Label: Atlantic Release Date: October 5 1970 For a brief moment, before I start off this review, let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we? Well, my memory lane, anyway. There was a period of time in, I’d say, 2009 where I only listened to “classic rock.” Honestly, as I’ve grown older, I’ve grown to slightly detest that term, because it’s admittedly a dumb and strange way to describe older music. Not all rock music from back in the day is “classic,” but for some reason, people use this term to describe older music, such as The Beatles, The Police, The Clash, Jimi Hendrix, and many others. It’s basically what your parents probably listened to it, and if they didn’t, they were probably nerds. Just kidding. I was a nerd in high school, so I’m all for things nerdy. But in all seriousness, during that time, I did discover a lot of music that has stuck with me today, such as The Beatles (although I just had a compilation LP of their number one singles, but really loved it), The Eagles, Hall & Oates, Boston, and certainly many others. Heck, I’ve even gone through a few more periods where I listened to a lot of older music, one in the beginning of 2014 and one now, even though I’m focusing on a couple of different musicians and groups. But one band that I never got around to listening to was English hard-rock outfit Led Zeppelin.

I’ll take a moment to let you, the reader, collect your thoughts and pick your jaw up from the floor, once you realize I’m the only person on Earth who’s never listened to Led Zeppelin. Are you okay now? Alright, good, but alas, it is true. I’ve never listened to a full record from Led Zeppelin, and I’ve always wanted to. Thankfully, their first three LPs were reissued in June of 2014. I wasn’t too interested in them at first, because too much new stuff was coming out, but I came across them at Walmart last week. The only one that they had a standard copy of the band’s third LP, 1970’s III, so I decided to get it. I did some research on my phone while I was waiting to go home, and it turns out, this LP marked an interesting progression for the group. They used a lot of acoustic guitars on this LP, having a folksy sound to it. I was a little skeptical, because I’m not all that into folk music, honestly, but I have been spinning Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 LP, Nebraska. I bring this up, because that’s a folk album, and I love it. It’s a fantastic LP, and one of his best records. Even though III was a more folk-inspired album, I thought I’d give it a chance and see if I enjoy it. I’ve had it for the last week now, so how is it? I’ll be honest, I’m not really into this LP, but I do enjoy it. There are some things I really like, and some things that I don’t necessarily find bad, but just don’t really care for. This is a tricky album to talk about, because I don’t really want to piss off the “fanboys” of this group, and make it seem like I hate this album, because I don’t. I just don’t think it’s that interesting. Let me explain what I mean by that. See, earlier this year, I had a similar encounter with folk/rock artist Bob Dylan. Considering that the record, Highway 61 Revisited, is number four or five on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time list, it was an album I’ve wanted to hear. Well, I didn’t care for it much, and I wasn’t terribly surprised. It’s when I kind of realized that folk music just wasn’t my thing. I also wasn’t into Dylan’s vocal delivery, having a really odd sing-song sound and just not being very interesting. I didn’t trash that album, because I could hear why it was considered a classic, but unfortunately, it was an album that I appreciated more than liked.


This is the same way, and it’s mainly just because I don’t really care for folk music. A lot of the album just kind of bores me, to some degree, at least instrumentally. On a track like “Immigrant Song,” or “Gallows Pole,” the instrumentation is a mix between folk and rock, and I do like folk-rock from time to time. That’s a lot more interesting than just straight-up folk music. And there are a few songs that do mix that up, such as the seven-minute epic, “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” which is a really nice blues-rock track, with a really nice guitar solo towards the end. But a lot of this LP just sort of bores me, and that’s a shame, since I do want to really like this album and this band. I will admit, however, that what does really work for me is vocalist Robert Plant. His voice is insane, and I’ve never heard another voice like his. He was a treat to listen to this on this LP, but that’s all I really enjoyed, sadly. It’s not that I disliked any of this album, I just wasn’t that into it. But I do really appreciate its existence, considering that this is an album that pushed the band forward, showing people and critics that they weren’t just a standard rock band, but were capable of experimentation, almost in the same way that the Beatles finally surprised critics by releasing Rubber Soul, Revolver, then Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And to be honest, Rubber Soul sounds quite similar to this LP, both being folk-rock records (the Beatles had been quite influenced by Dylan and other folk artists at the time of recording in 1965). It’s not surprising that Rubber Soul isn’t my favorite Beatles album, either, but I do love that album a lot, since they’re one of the few bands that do make it interesting for me. And if you do like folk music, definitely check this out. It’s an interesting album, for sure, but it doesn’t mean that I personally think it’s a great one. It’s definitely good, but this is an album that I appreciate more than I enjoy. Overall rating: 8.3/10
-Bradley

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III
Record Label: Atlantic
Release Date: October 5 1970

For a brief moment, before I start off this review, let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we? Well, my memory lane, anyway. There was a period of time in, I’d say, 2009 where I only listened to “classic rock.” Honestly, as I’ve grown older, I’ve grown to slightly detest that term, because it’s admittedly a dumb and strange way to describe older music. Not all rock music from back in the day is “classic,” but for some reason, people use this term to describe older music, such as The Beatles, The Police, The Clash, Jimi Hendrix, and many others. It’s basically what your parents probably listened to it, and if they didn’t, they were probably nerds. Just kidding. I was a nerd in high school, so I’m all for things nerdy. But in all seriousness, during that time, I did discover a lot of music that has stuck with me today, such as The Beatles (although I just had a compilation LP of their number one singles, but really loved it), The Eagles, Hall & Oates, Boston, and certainly many others. Heck, I’ve even gone through a few more periods where I listened to a lot of older music, one in the beginning of 2014 and one now, even though I’m focusing on a couple of different musicians and groups. But one band that I never got around to listening to was English hard-rock outfit Led Zeppelin.

I’ll take a moment to let you, the reader, collect your thoughts and pick your jaw up from the floor, once you realize I’m the only person on Earth who’s never listened to Led Zeppelin. Are you okay now? Alright, good, but alas, it is true. I’ve never listened to a full record from Led Zeppelin, and I’ve always wanted to. Thankfully, their first three LPs were reissued in June of 2014. I wasn’t too interested in them at first, because too much new stuff was coming out, but I came across them at Walmart last week. The only one that they had a standard copy of the band’s third LP, 1970’s III, so I decided to get it. I did some research on my phone while I was waiting to go home, and it turns out, this LP marked an interesting progression for the group. They used a lot of acoustic guitars on this LP, having a folksy sound to it. I was a little skeptical, because I’m not all that into folk music, honestly, but I have been spinning Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 LP, Nebraska. I bring this up, because that’s a folk album, and I love it. It’s a fantastic LP, and one of his best records. Even though III was a more folk-inspired album, I thought I’d give it a chance and see if I enjoy it. I’ve had it for the last week now, so how is it?

I’ll be honest, I’m not really into this LP, but I do enjoy it. There are some things I really like, and some things that I don’t necessarily find bad, but just don’t really care for. This is a tricky album to talk about, because I don’t really want to piss off the “fanboys” of this group, and make it seem like I hate this album, because I don’t. I just don’t think it’s that interesting. Let me explain what I mean by that. See, earlier this year, I had a similar encounter with folk/rock artist Bob Dylan. Considering that the record, Highway 61 Revisited, is number four or five on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time list, it was an album I’ve wanted to hear. Well, I didn’t care for it much, and I wasn’t terribly surprised. It’s when I kind of realized that folk music just wasn’t my thing. I also wasn’t into Dylan’s vocal delivery, having a really odd sing-song sound and just not being very interesting. I didn’t trash that album, because I could hear why it was considered a classic, but unfortunately, it was an album that I appreciated more than liked.

This is the same way, and it’s mainly just because I don’t really care for folk music. A lot of the album just kind of bores me, to some degree, at least instrumentally. On a track like “Immigrant Song,” or “Gallows Pole,” the instrumentation is a mix between folk and rock, and I do like folk-rock from time to time. That’s a lot more interesting than just straight-up folk music. And there are a few songs that do mix that up, such as the seven-minute epic, “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” which is a really nice blues-rock track, with a really nice guitar solo towards the end. But a lot of this LP just sort of bores me, and that’s a shame, since I do want to really like this album and this band. I will admit, however, that what does really work for me is vocalist Robert Plant. His voice is insane, and I’ve never heard another voice like his. He was a treat to listen to this on this LP, but that’s all I really enjoyed, sadly. It’s not that I disliked any of this album, I just wasn’t that into it. But I do really appreciate its existence, considering that this is an album that pushed the band forward, showing people and critics that they weren’t just a standard rock band, but were capable of experimentation, almost in the same way that the Beatles finally surprised critics by releasing Rubber Soul, Revolver, then Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And to be honest, Rubber Soul sounds quite similar to this LP, both being folk-rock records (the Beatles had been quite influenced by Dylan and other folk artists at the time of recording in 1965). It’s not surprising that Rubber Soul isn’t my favorite Beatles album, either, but I do love that album a lot, since they’re one of the few bands that do make it interesting for me. And if you do like folk music, definitely check this out. It’s an interesting album, for sure, but it doesn’t mean that I personally think it’s a great one. It’s definitely good, but this is an album that I appreciate more than I enjoy.

Overall rating: 8.3/10

-Bradley

September 2014
27
The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt Record Label: Island Release Date: August 12 2014 New Jersey heartland rock, punk, and alt-rock band The Gaslight Anthem can do no wrong, and Get Hurt is easily their best album to date. There, I said it. Is the review done? Can I go home now? In all seriousness, there is a lot more that can be said about the heartland rock quartet, even though I do fully believe that the band can ultimately do no wrong and that fifth studio LP, Get Hurt, is the best album the band has ever made, beating 2012’s Handwritten by a slight margin. While I first became acquainted with the band in 2010, with the release of third LP, American Slang, it took a couple years for me to really appreciate it and enjoy it, since I wasn’t into their brand of heartland rock meets punk at the time. Heck, I hadn’t even listened to Bruce Springsteen, so I didn’t even know that they were influenced by his work (I’ve been getting into his work this year and I love it, honestly). I did like the record, I just didn’t know why I did. Well, when 2012’s Handwritten came out, I absolutely fell in love with that LP. It was a great straightforward rock and heartland rock record. Sure, it wasn’t as “punk” as their first two records, but who cares? If it’s good, it’s good, and well, that record was great. Within the last year or so, I have been getting into their other three albums that I hadn’t listened to in full, and all that’s left is debut Sink or Swim. When fifth album, Get Hurt, was announced earlier this year, frontman Brian Fallon said it was going to be unlike anything the band had ever done before. A lot of fans took that as the band getting “weird,” if the guys from Workaholics were reporting on the record. Fallon was just going through a divorce while writing the LP, and just recently, he said that the record is not a breakup album. At least, there’s more to it, anyway. Before I even talk about the lyrics, a lot of the album does deal with relationships and easily relatable situations. The band has always talked about easily relatable things, almost in the vein of Springsteen and his knack for creating characters and stories, about said characters or himself, that are very relatable. Fallon is just a regular guy who talks about regular things, and he’s even been on the record for saying that. He doesn’t want people to look at him like a hero, and I can see why. I admire his modesty, but Fallon is a great lyricist. There’s really no doubt about it. On one hand, I could understand fans being kind of worried about what the future would hold for the group, because if they’re getting weird, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Fallon also said that the influences on the LP were records that were career defining, and marked a turn for the group/artist in question. That’s a very interesting thing to say, because that can mean anything. Fallon somehow managed to say nothing, yet everything about the sound of Get Hurt through comments like that. And fans were anticipating the album, regardless. Of course I had to get a copy and talk about this as well. On a break at work, I ran over to Best Buy and bought a copy on release day, because I couldn’t wait to hear it. Now that I’ve had it for a few weeks, let me reiterate the first point I made in this review – Get Hurt is the band’s best album to date. A lot of people will disagree, and I may be in the minority of fans who enjoy this album much more than anything they’ve done, but let me explain. With each LP, The Gaslight Anthem have progressed a bit more, all the while sticking to their own guns, and maintaining their own sound in the process. I’m also in the minority of fans who don’t really care for the earlier albums as much. If I really had to rank their LPs, for me, it goes: Get Hurt, Handwritten, The ‘59 Sound, American Slang, and Sink or Swim. I do love their records a lot, but I do think their last couple albums are much more impressive. Mainly it’s because of their progression into a mellower band. The band basically morphed into a heartland rock band similar to Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, the latter of which really has an influence on this LP. Songs like “Selected Poems,” the title track, “Underneath the Ground” and the token acoustic track, “Break Your Heart,” are much slower and actually take time to build atmosphere and a mood. “Selected Poems” is one of the most interesting songs on the record, because of a tempo change. The intro is very quiet and serene, but suddenly, it just switches gears and becomes a loud, rocking track. It’s only a few minutes long, but it makes an impact, nonetheless. But of course, the album also does feature its fair share of rockers, such as “Stay Vicious,” “Rollin and Tumblin,” and “1000 Years,” all featuring great guitar riffs and Fallon’s signature vocals that rival Springsteen in their gruffness. The instrumentation on this record is certainly impressive, and a logical progression at that. The album is certainly more mellow than it is loud and aggressive, but I do enjoy the band at their most vulnerable and quiet. My favorite thing about this LP, however, is Fallon himself, but to be specific, it’s his vocals and lyrics. And honestly, this is why the album is their best. His vocals are the best they’ve ever been and the lyrics are some of the best he’s even written. Every record does have some gems and the best that the band has ever written, but lyrically, I feel like I connect to this LP more than the others. Why? Well, Fallon won’t admit it, but this album does read off like a breakup album, but not in a standard sense. It’s not a record that’s whiney or annoying, but Fallon just talks about real feelings that come with heartbreak and things of that nature. The title track is a perfect example of this, with Fallon saying at the very end of the track, “And maybe you needed a change / And maybe I was in the way / Maybe some things they stay / And some things go away / And maybe I was mine / And maybe you were not the same.” For whatever reason, that outro really hits home every time I hear it. Other tracks, such as “Selected Poems,” “Dark Places,” and “Underneath the Ground” deal with breakups and relationships as well, but in an interesting way. The only song that doesn’t seem to be about a breakup is the acoustic song, “Break Your Heart.” At the same time, it’s not a happy song, either. The song deals with Fallon basically warning a woman about who he is, and telling her that the things that he knows and has seen could simply break her heart and shatter her idea of him. Fallon does a nice job as painting himself as a tortured man, but purposely being vague about why. He doesn’t want to tell the woman why he’s so tortured and dark, so why tell the listener? While this song doesn’t work as Handwritten’s acoustic track, “National Anthem,” it’s still a nice song. And to top it off, his vocals are the best they’ve ever been, not only on this track, but the whole record. He just belts it, and every time I hear the album, I’m excited because I love hearing Fallon sing. The most fascinating thing about Get Hurt is how people react to it. Some people, like myself, love it, but others loathe the LP. On one hand, that’s fine because if you don’t like the album, no one can force you to. But at the same time, I don’t really get the “hate” for this record. There isn’t too much, from what I’ve seen, but at the same time, it’s just sort of weird seeing people attack a record that doesn’t even deserve it. Sure, you may not like it, but that doesn’t mean others can’t. I seriously believe it’s their best LP, and if you disagree, that’s fine. But I hope I explained my thoughts well enough, since I absolutely adore this album, and honestly, come the end of the year, it just might be my album of the year if nothing more that I love comes out. Overall rating: 10/10
-Bradley

The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt
Record Label: Island
Release Date: August 12 2014

New Jersey heartland rock, punk, and alt-rock band The Gaslight Anthem can do no wrong, and Get Hurt is easily their best album to date. There, I said it. Is the review done? Can I go home now? In all seriousness, there is a lot more that can be said about the heartland rock quartet, even though I do fully believe that the band can ultimately do no wrong and that fifth studio LP, Get Hurt, is the best album the band has ever made, beating 2012’s Handwritten by a slight margin. While I first became acquainted with the band in 2010, with the release of third LP, American Slang, it took a couple years for me to really appreciate it and enjoy it, since I wasn’t into their brand of heartland rock meets punk at the time. Heck, I hadn’t even listened to Bruce Springsteen, so I didn’t even know that they were influenced by his work (I’ve been getting into his work this year and I love it, honestly). I did like the record, I just didn’t know why I did. Well, when 2012’s Handwritten came out, I absolutely fell in love with that LP. It was a great straightforward rock and heartland rock record. Sure, it wasn’t as “punk” as their first two records, but who cares? If it’s good, it’s good, and well, that record was great. Within the last year or so, I have been getting into their other three albums that I hadn’t listened to in full, and all that’s left is debut Sink or Swim.

When fifth album, Get Hurt, was announced earlier this year, frontman Brian Fallon said it was going to be unlike anything the band had ever done before. A lot of fans took that as the band getting “weird,” if the guys from Workaholics were reporting on the record. Fallon was just going through a divorce while writing the LP, and just recently, he said that the record is not a breakup album. At least, there’s more to it, anyway. Before I even talk about the lyrics, a lot of the album does deal with relationships and easily relatable situations. The band has always talked about easily relatable things, almost in the vein of Springsteen and his knack for creating characters and stories, about said characters or himself, that are very relatable. Fallon is just a regular guy who talks about regular things, and he’s even been on the record for saying that. He doesn’t want people to look at him like a hero, and I can see why. I admire his modesty, but Fallon is a great lyricist. There’s really no doubt about it. On one hand, I could understand fans being kind of worried about what the future would hold for the group, because if they’re getting weird, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Fallon also said that the influences on the LP were records that were career defining, and marked a turn for the group/artist in question. That’s a very interesting thing to say, because that can mean anything. Fallon somehow managed to say nothing, yet everything about the sound of Get Hurt through comments like that. And fans were anticipating the album, regardless. Of course I had to get a copy and talk about this as well. On a break at work, I ran over to Best Buy and bought a copy on release day, because I couldn’t wait to hear it. Now that I’ve had it for a few weeks, let me reiterate the first point I made in this review – Get Hurt is the band’s best album to date.

A lot of people will disagree, and I may be in the minority of fans who enjoy this album much more than anything they’ve done, but let me explain. With each LP, The Gaslight Anthem have progressed a bit more, all the while sticking to their own guns, and maintaining their own sound in the process. I’m also in the minority of fans who don’t really care for the earlier albums as much. If I really had to rank their LPs, for me, it goes: Get Hurt, Handwritten, The ‘59 Sound, American Slang, and Sink or Swim. I do love their records a lot, but I do think their last couple albums are much more impressive. Mainly it’s because of their progression into a mellower band. The band basically morphed into a heartland rock band similar to Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, the latter of which really has an influence on this LP. Songs like “Selected Poems,” the title track, “Underneath the Ground” and the token acoustic track, “Break Your Heart,” are much slower and actually take time to build atmosphere and a mood. “Selected Poems” is one of the most interesting songs on the record, because of a tempo change. The intro is very quiet and serene, but suddenly, it just switches gears and becomes a loud, rocking track. It’s only a few minutes long, but it makes an impact, nonetheless. But of course, the album also does feature its fair share of rockers, such as “Stay Vicious,” “Rollin and Tumblin,” and “1000 Years,” all featuring great guitar riffs and Fallon’s signature vocals that rival Springsteen in their gruffness. The instrumentation on this record is certainly impressive, and a logical progression at that. The album is certainly more mellow than it is loud and aggressive, but I do enjoy the band at their most vulnerable and quiet.

My favorite thing about this LP, however, is Fallon himself, but to be specific, it’s his vocals and lyrics. And honestly, this is why the album is their best. His vocals are the best they’ve ever been and the lyrics are some of the best he’s even written. Every record does have some gems and the best that the band has ever written, but lyrically, I feel like I connect to this LP more than the others. Why? Well, Fallon won’t admit it, but this album does read off like a breakup album, but not in a standard sense. It’s not a record that’s whiney or annoying, but Fallon just talks about real feelings that come with heartbreak and things of that nature. The title track is a perfect example of this, with Fallon saying at the very end of the track, “And maybe you needed a change / And maybe I was in the way / Maybe some things they stay / And some things go away / And maybe I was mine / And maybe you were not the same.” For whatever reason, that outro really hits home every time I hear it. Other tracks, such as “Selected Poems,” “Dark Places,” and “Underneath the Ground” deal with breakups and relationships as well, but in an interesting way. The only song that doesn’t seem to be about a breakup is the acoustic song, “Break Your Heart.” At the same time, it’s not a happy song, either. The song deals with Fallon basically warning a woman about who he is, and telling her that the things that he knows and has seen could simply break her heart and shatter her idea of him. Fallon does a nice job as painting himself as a tortured man, but purposely being vague about why. He doesn’t want to tell the woman why he’s so tortured and dark, so why tell the listener? While this song doesn’t work as Handwritten’s acoustic track, “National Anthem,” it’s still a nice song. And to top it off, his vocals are the best they’ve ever been, not only on this track, but the whole record. He just belts it, and every time I hear the album, I’m excited because I love hearing Fallon sing.

The most fascinating thing about Get Hurt is how people react to it. Some people, like myself, love it, but others loathe the LP. On one hand, that’s fine because if you don’t like the album, no one can force you to. But at the same time, I don’t really get the “hate” for this record. There isn’t too much, from what I’ve seen, but at the same time, it’s just sort of weird seeing people attack a record that doesn’t even deserve it. Sure, you may not like it, but that doesn’t mean others can’t. I seriously believe it’s their best LP, and if you disagree, that’s fine. But I hope I explained my thoughts well enough, since I absolutely adore this album, and honestly, come the end of the year, it just might be my album of the year if nothing more that I love comes out.

Overall rating: 10/10

-Bradley

September 2014
27
You Blew It – Keep Doing What You’re Doing Record Label: Topshelf Release Date: January 14 2014 Yes, I know that Florida emo/pop-punk outfit You Blew It released their sophomore LP, Keep Doing What You’re Doing, in the beginning of the year, and yes, I’m aware that I’m late to cover it. Okay, now that those two things are out of the way, I know that I should have covered this sooner. Sadly, as I pointed out in my last review (which was on Tom Petty’s debut solo LP, Full Moon Fever, might I add), there’s too much music in this world, and not enough time to listen to it all, so that means, some albums will have to be put either on the back burner or totally skipped. And right now, I’m skipping things that I once thought about pre-ordering, but I found more things are more important to me, or other expenses are popping up. But during these last couple months, I decided to get more into pop-punk again by either revisiting a ton of pop-punk albums that I listened to a and/or reviewed a couple of years ago, and now I’m just on the tail end of that pop-punk spree. At the time of writing this, I’m sorta done with listening to pop-punk for awhile, minus a few albums I’m pre-ordering that I genuinely do want to hear. Other than that, I won’t be listening to any other pop-punk albums for awhile. It’s not that I hate the genre, but I want to dive into other stuff now. Anyhow, the last two albums in this wave I ordered were Make Do and Mend’s 2012 LP, Everything You Ever Loved, and this one, You Blew It’s sophomore LP, Keep Doing What You’re Doing. I did get a couple more, such as Living With Lions’ 2011 record, Holy Shit, but I put that record on “indefinite hiatus,” as I’d delicately put it, so I could get into all the other stuff I have. Plus, I liked Make Do and Mend more, and this album is a “new” release, so they were more important to me. Regardless, I’ve had Keep Doing What You’re Doing for a week or so, so what do I think? The reason why I haphazardly apologized for not covering is simple – this album is really damn good, and I remember hearing about this band when it came out, but didn’t other to look into it. I’m not too huge into emo music (my review for Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)’s new album explains it pretty well), and it’s mainly for how whiny most vocalists’ voices can be (although I don’t mind it when it’s interesting or done well), and just how meandering and slow the instrumentation can be. The only band that really combines both emo and pop-punk quite well, at least to me, is Transit, but I also gotta add this band to the list as well. You Blew It definitely are an “emo” band that I can say I enjoy a lot, and this album is great, but it’s not perfect. Its problems aren’t really bad, but they’re worth mentioning. In the meantime, let’s start off with what works. And for me, it boils down to one thing – the lyrics. That’s the main thing I really enjoy, and all throughout this LP, there are some great lyrics.  My three favorite moments occur on three tracks, the first of which being “Gray Matter,” where vocalist Tanner Jones says, “I wouldn’t say you have a way with words / Just a mastery of making sure that they’re heard.” On the second track, “A Different Kind of Kindling,” Jones says, “The only thing that stays the same is the way you never change.” And finally, on the third track, “Better to Best,” Jones says, “Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to try to be happy / Maybe things aren’t quite as bad as I let myself believe.” The last track I mentioned is the closing track, and I saved this moment for last, because this is a great track to end the album, both musically and lyrically. The album is really centered on Jones’ distaste, for the lack of a better word, for his “friends” and just people in general. But there are also tracks that talk about his distaste for himself. It’s a very self-loathing LP, but the last track is one of my favorites, because I look at this track as saying, “Yeah, things have been pretty bad, but maybe things aren’t as bad as I think, so let’s stay positive.” I think that’s a nice message to end the LP with, and it closes things off on an optimistic note. I may like the lyrics the most on this record, but everything else is solid enough as well, but I can’t say I’m as into everything else as I’m into the lyrics. It’s still a great album, but I do have some slight issues with everything else. The instrumentation is basically an amalgamation of pop-punk and emo, the former genre having a bit more influence. The instrumentation is good on this record, and it’s certainly quite energetic, but at the same time, the songs do run together a lot. For being a 34 minute record, that’s not a huge problem, and I can overlook that just fine. If the lyrics weren’t as good as they are, I probably wouldn’t be into this LP as much. The instrumentation is done fairly well, but there is a bit of a formula on this record, and while their sound is interesting, they don’t really do a lot with it. Jones’ vocals, on the other hand, are my least favorite thing about this record, Again, like the instrumentation, they’re good, just nothing really worthwhile. The instrumentation is at least unique to some degree, but Jones’ vocals don’t quite do much for me. They aren’t really whiny, but he doesn’t have too much of a range. His vocals stay relatively stagnant throughout the LP, which does make it a tad boring. Not boring where I’m not into it, because the lyrics are great, but just slightly boring. In the end, if you are a pop-punk fan or an emo fan, it’s totally worth a listen. Again, I’m sorry I didn’t cover this sooner, but if You Blew It is reading this, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s pretty awesome. Overall rating: 9/10
-Bradley

You Blew It – Keep Doing What You’re Doing
Record Label: Topshelf
Release Date: January 14 2014

Yes, I know that Florida emo/pop-punk outfit You Blew It released their sophomore LP, Keep Doing What You’re Doing, in the beginning of the year, and yes, I’m aware that I’m late to cover it. Okay, now that those two things are out of the way, I know that I should have covered this sooner. Sadly, as I pointed out in my last review (which was on Tom Petty’s debut solo LP, Full Moon Fever, might I add), there’s too much music in this world, and not enough time to listen to it all, so that means, some albums will have to be put either on the back burner or totally skipped. And right now, I’m skipping things that I once thought about pre-ordering, but I found more things are more important to me, or other expenses are popping up. But during these last couple months, I decided to get more into pop-punk again by either revisiting a ton of pop-punk albums that I listened to a and/or reviewed a couple of years ago, and now I’m just on the tail end of that pop-punk spree. At the time of writing this, I’m sorta done with listening to pop-punk for awhile, minus a few albums I’m pre-ordering that I genuinely do want to hear. Other than that, I won’t be listening to any other pop-punk albums for awhile. It’s not that I hate the genre, but I want to dive into other stuff now. Anyhow, the last two albums in this wave I ordered were Make Do and Mend’s 2012 LP, Everything You Ever Loved, and this one, You Blew It’s sophomore LP, Keep Doing What You’re Doing. I did get a couple more, such as Living With Lions’ 2011 record, Holy Shit, but I put that record on “indefinite hiatus,” as I’d delicately put it, so I could get into all the other stuff I have. Plus, I liked Make Do and Mend more, and this album is a “new” release, so they were more important to me. Regardless, I’ve had Keep Doing What You’re Doing for a week or so, so what do I think?

The reason why I haphazardly apologized for not covering is simple – this album is really damn good, and I remember hearing about this band when it came out, but didn’t other to look into it. I’m not too huge into emo music (my review for Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)’s new album explains it pretty well), and it’s mainly for how whiny most vocalists’ voices can be (although I don’t mind it when it’s interesting or done well), and just how meandering and slow the instrumentation can be. The only band that really combines both emo and pop-punk quite well, at least to me, is Transit, but I also gotta add this band to the list as well. You Blew It definitely are an “emo” band that I can say I enjoy a lot, and this album is great, but it’s not perfect. Its problems aren’t really bad, but they’re worth mentioning. In the meantime, let’s start off with what works. And for me, it boils down to one thing – the lyrics. That’s the main thing I really enjoy, and all throughout this LP, there are some great lyrics.

My three favorite moments occur on three tracks, the first of which being “Gray Matter,” where vocalist Tanner Jones says, “I wouldn’t say you have a way with words / Just a mastery of making sure that they’re heard.” On the second track, “A Different Kind of Kindling,” Jones says, “The only thing that stays the same is the way you never change.” And finally, on the third track, “Better to Best,” Jones says, “Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to try to be happy / Maybe things aren’t quite as bad as I let myself believe.” The last track I mentioned is the closing track, and I saved this moment for last, because this is a great track to end the album, both musically and lyrically. The album is really centered on Jones’ distaste, for the lack of a better word, for his “friends” and just people in general. But there are also tracks that talk about his distaste for himself. It’s a very self-loathing LP, but the last track is one of my favorites, because I look at this track as saying, “Yeah, things have been pretty bad, but maybe things aren’t as bad as I think, so let’s stay positive.” I think that’s a nice message to end the LP with, and it closes things off on an optimistic note.

I may like the lyrics the most on this record, but everything else is solid enough as well, but I can’t say I’m as into everything else as I’m into the lyrics. It’s still a great album, but I do have some slight issues with everything else. The instrumentation is basically an amalgamation of pop-punk and emo, the former genre having a bit more influence. The instrumentation is good on this record, and it’s certainly quite energetic, but at the same time, the songs do run together a lot. For being a 34 minute record, that’s not a huge problem, and I can overlook that just fine. If the lyrics weren’t as good as they are, I probably wouldn’t be into this LP as much. The instrumentation is done fairly well, but there is a bit of a formula on this record, and while their sound is interesting, they don’t really do a lot with it. Jones’ vocals, on the other hand, are my least favorite thing about this record, Again, like the instrumentation, they’re good, just nothing really worthwhile. The instrumentation is at least unique to some degree, but Jones’ vocals don’t quite do much for me. They aren’t really whiny, but he doesn’t have too much of a range. His vocals stay relatively stagnant throughout the LP, which does make it a tad boring. Not boring where I’m not into it, because the lyrics are great, but just slightly boring. In the end, if you are a pop-punk fan or an emo fan, it’s totally worth a listen. Again, I’m sorry I didn’t cover this sooner, but if You Blew It is reading this, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s pretty awesome.

Overall rating: 9/10

-Bradley

September 2014
27
Ariana Grande – My EverythingRecord Label: RepublicRelease Date: August 22 2014
When you’re a popular actor/actress on children’s television, whether it’s Nickelodeon or Disney Channel, it’s quite hard to actually break out into the mainstream as your own artist. It can certainly happen, however. Look at Demi Lovato. I’m not a fan of her music, mainly just because I’ve never heard it, but she was a Disney Channel star and has frankly risen up to pop stardom (at least to some degree) in recent years. It’s totally possible, and another star who has managed to successfully make it as her own artist is Ariana Grande. Grande is more so known for being the star on a few Nickelodeon shows, such as Victorious and Sam and Cat. How do I know this? I actually don’t know, especially because I’m a 21-year-old dude. I’ve never really watched those shows, but I knew she was on them. Weird. But anyway, she was mainly known for playing a rather ditzy character (again, I don’t know how I know this), and for awhile, people didn’t understand that she was a person outside of her TV shows. But since both shows are off the air now, at least in terms of new episodes, she’s been making a name for herself as a solo artist, first appearing with debut single, “The Way” in 2013. I’ll put it on record that I do really enjoy that song, and I did kinda like her debut record, Yours Truly, not even released a year ago. While I do enjoy Grande’s voice a lot, a lot of the songs felt like bland pop music and nothing more. Of course, part of that is because I’m not exactly her target demographic, but even so, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t like it. It was a decent album, but nothing that’s quite stuck with me over the last year or so, minus a few songs.
When lead single, “Problem,” from sophomore LP, My Everything, was announced, I was eager to listen to it, not only for her, but it also featured rapper Iggy Azalea, whom I have a love/hate relationship with. She’s not a terrible rapper, especially after hearing one of her older mixtapes. But her debut LP, The New Classic, wasn’t a classic whatsoever. Aside from a few choice cuts, it wasn’t that interesting. I did really like her voice and her flow, so I had a feeling this song would be nice, and it was great. Featuring a horn section that sounds thankfully a million times better than “Talk Dirty to Me” by Jason “How am I still relevant?” Derulo, the song was a nice “screw you” to an ex of Grande’s and Azalea’s, not sure if it was the same person or a different one entirely. But regardless, the song was something I wanted to hear at the time, since I was dealing with a situation like that when the song came out. Fast forward the whole summer, Grande finally released My Everything, her sophomore LP. It’s a bit worrisome that the album is out not even a year later, but I had faith in her. Her voice is nice, and the collaborations on here are pretty nice, too. Featuring not only Azalea, but Childish Gambino, The Weeknd, Zedd, and A$AP Ferg, the record did seem to have potential. I listened to a stream of the LP on YouTube, because I was a bit skeptical still. I did like the album enough to buy a copy, so a few days later, I bought a copy at my local Target and brought it home to listen to. I’ve had it for about a week now, so how is the record?
Well, this is a weird album. Not a weird album in terms of sound, such as The Fireman’s Electric Arguments, which is Paul McCartney’s electronica project (weird, right? But that album is pretty damn good, too), but just a weird album to talk about. It’s weird, because I like this album, there’s no doubt about it, but there are things I’m not crazy about. This album is much better than Yours Truly, at least in terms of experimentation, instrumentation, and just overall. But at the same time, there are some things Grande hasn’t improved on. I’ll get to that later, but there are two things that really work about this album – the instrumentation and Grande’s voice. 
You see, reader, Yours Truly didn’t quite resonate with me as much as I wanted it to, because of the instrumentation on the LP. It came off as generic pop record, and aside from a few songs, it didn’t do a lot for me. They were catchy, for sure, but just not interesting. On this LP, the instrumentation is much more suited to her voice, having an old fashioned R&B sound, mixed with some hip-hop now and again, especially on tracks like “Hands On Me,” and “Best Mistake,” both of which feature a rapper, A$AP Ferg and Big Sean, respectively. Coincidentally, these are two my least favorite tracks on the record, but I like her vocals on the songs, at least. But a lot of the album does have a laidback R&B feel to it, with songs like “Break Your Heart Right Back,” “Love Me Harder,” and the title track, really having a groove to them. As for Grande’s voice, I’ve always enjoyed it, and it was the best thing on Yours Truly. It’s both good and bad that it’s my favorite thing here, because it has gotten better, and the instrumentation does complement it, but there’s nothing else that really pops, I guess. I do like the instrumentation a lot, especially on a majority of the album, but it’s not too interesting, either. Her voice is great, and on the whole album, her voice is just fine.
The problems on this LP are quite hard to ignore, and there’s really two big ones – her vocal delivery, at least in certain tracks, and the lyrics. Her vocal delivery is fine, for the most part, but Grande has a weird fascination with not pronouncing words clearly, so throughout the record, her vocal delivery seems a bit strange, like she just put marshmallows in her mouth, or she’s eating peanut butter. It’s a bit odd, but not a huge problem. The lyrics are the biggest problem here, and it’s not that they’re all bad (there are a couple moments where I’m not enjoying them all that much), but they’re just nothing new or interesting. It’s all the same stuff that she’s talked about on Yours Truly, relationships and more relationships. There are a couple of tracks that do work very well, lyrically speaking. Aside from “Problem,” which I mentioned and do enjoy a lot, two other tracks that really work lyrically are “Break Your Heart Right Back,” which features a modest verse from Childish Gambino, and “Why Try.” The former track is kind of a typical breakup track until you really look at the lyrics, because the song is about Grande being cheated on, but the person that her ex cheats on her with is a man, and it’s really interesting. I’ve never heard this being talked about in a song, let alone a “mainstream” song. It’s interesting, and works pretty well. The latter is a track that’s about a dysfunctional relationship, and Grande basically pulls a “devil/angel” dynamic with the lyrics about how she loves “the pain,” and doesn’t know why they even try getting better.
There are some “stinkers” on this LP, however, not even just lyrically, but in general, and the two biggest for me are “Break Free” and “Hands On Me,” which rhyme oddly enough. The former is the track with producer/musician Zedd, and honestly, this song is not only the most out of place song on the album by being an EDM track, it’s also the most boring. The EDM beat is really bland and does nothing interesting, minus a “bass drop” or whatever during the bridge, but that’s not even interesting. The song is pretty weak, compared to the whole LP, and just falls flat on its face. The other track, “Hands On Me,” is the only blatant hip-hop track on here, and this one doesn’t work, mainly for its lyrics, which talk about Grande letting her partner know it’s cool if he puts her hands on her butt. Seriously, A$AP Ferg’s verse on this LP, which is incredibly weak and annoying, is just him making jokes about touching her butt. That’s all the song is about, and if you think that’s really stupid, yeah, it is. The beat is kinda nice, but the song just falls under itself, especially because it’s sandwiched between the two “ballads” on the record, and those are obviously meant to be very serious and sentimental. Why she put this song in between those makes no sense to me.
All in all, I would say that My Everything is a step up, just not a big one. It’s got its highs, and its low, but in the end, it’s a nice album. I’m glad I heard it, but it’s not necessarily one that will go on my end of the year list. It’s enjoyable, minus the few songs that I’m not all that into, but just nothing really extraordinary. It’s not like she pulled a Justin Timberlake by releasing a generic pop album, not being bad but just kind of boring, then releasing a pop masterpiece a few years later. And ultimately, it’s the lack of time spent on this LP that sort of kills it. If these songs were much more expanded on, this album probably could have been great, but it’s always a problem (no pun intended) when artists either release a double album that has too many ideas, or an album that’s only a year later, where there’s either not enough ideas, and/or enough new ideas. Back in the day, bands did this all the time, including my favorite, The Beatles, but they were a band that’s not even in the same league as Grande, so that’s slightly an unfair comparison. Now when artists do this, it’s not a good sign. And while I think this album is not a bad follow-up, it’s only a slight improvement, mainly just being some nice instrumentation, finally suiting her vocals, and her vocals improving a nice amount. If you did like Yours Truly, or even found it bland and uninteresting, you’ll probably like this one as well.
Overall rating: 8.3/10
-Bradley

Ariana Grande – My Everything
Record Label: Republic
Release Date: August 22 2014

When you’re a popular actor/actress on children’s television, whether it’s Nickelodeon or Disney Channel, it’s quite hard to actually break out into the mainstream as your own artist. It can certainly happen, however. Look at Demi Lovato. I’m not a fan of her music, mainly just because I’ve never heard it, but she was a Disney Channel star and has frankly risen up to pop stardom (at least to some degree) in recent years. It’s totally possible, and another star who has managed to successfully make it as her own artist is Ariana Grande. Grande is more so known for being the star on a few Nickelodeon shows, such as Victorious and Sam and Cat. How do I know this? I actually don’t know, especially because I’m a 21-year-old dude. I’ve never really watched those shows, but I knew she was on them. Weird. But anyway, she was mainly known for playing a rather ditzy character (again, I don’t know how I know this), and for awhile, people didn’t understand that she was a person outside of her TV shows. But since both shows are off the air now, at least in terms of new episodes, she’s been making a name for herself as a solo artist, first appearing with debut single, “The Way” in 2013. I’ll put it on record that I do really enjoy that song, and I did kinda like her debut record, Yours Truly, not even released a year ago. While I do enjoy Grande’s voice a lot, a lot of the songs felt like bland pop music and nothing more. Of course, part of that is because I’m not exactly her target demographic, but even so, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t like it. It was a decent album, but nothing that’s quite stuck with me over the last year or so, minus a few songs.

When lead single, “Problem,” from sophomore LP, My Everything, was announced, I was eager to listen to it, not only for her, but it also featured rapper Iggy Azalea, whom I have a love/hate relationship with. She’s not a terrible rapper, especially after hearing one of her older mixtapes. But her debut LP, The New Classic, wasn’t a classic whatsoever. Aside from a few choice cuts, it wasn’t that interesting. I did really like her voice and her flow, so I had a feeling this song would be nice, and it was great. Featuring a horn section that sounds thankfully a million times better than “Talk Dirty to Me” by Jason “How am I still relevant?” Derulo, the song was a nice “screw you” to an ex of Grande’s and Azalea’s, not sure if it was the same person or a different one entirely. But regardless, the song was something I wanted to hear at the time, since I was dealing with a situation like that when the song came out. Fast forward the whole summer, Grande finally released My Everything, her sophomore LP. It’s a bit worrisome that the album is out not even a year later, but I had faith in her. Her voice is nice, and the collaborations on here are pretty nice, too. Featuring not only Azalea, but Childish Gambino, The Weeknd, Zedd, and A$AP Ferg, the record did seem to have potential. I listened to a stream of the LP on YouTube, because I was a bit skeptical still. I did like the album enough to buy a copy, so a few days later, I bought a copy at my local Target and brought it home to listen to. I’ve had it for about a week now, so how is the record?

Well, this is a weird album. Not a weird album in terms of sound, such as The Fireman’s Electric Arguments, which is Paul McCartney’s electronica project (weird, right? But that album is pretty damn good, too), but just a weird album to talk about. It’s weird, because I like this album, there’s no doubt about it, but there are things I’m not crazy about. This album is much better than Yours Truly, at least in terms of experimentation, instrumentation, and just overall. But at the same time, there are some things Grande hasn’t improved on. I’ll get to that later, but there are two things that really work about this album – the instrumentation and Grande’s voice. 

You see, reader, Yours Truly didn’t quite resonate with me as much as I wanted it to, because of the instrumentation on the LP. It came off as generic pop record, and aside from a few songs, it didn’t do a lot for me. They were catchy, for sure, but just not interesting. On this LP, the instrumentation is much more suited to her voice, having an old fashioned R&B sound, mixed with some hip-hop now and again, especially on tracks like “Hands On Me,” and “Best Mistake,” both of which feature a rapper, A$AP Ferg and Big Sean, respectively. Coincidentally, these are two my least favorite tracks on the record, but I like her vocals on the songs, at least. But a lot of the album does have a laidback R&B feel to it, with songs like “Break Your Heart Right Back,” “Love Me Harder,” and the title track, really having a groove to them. As for Grande’s voice, I’ve always enjoyed it, and it was the best thing on Yours Truly. It’s both good and bad that it’s my favorite thing here, because it has gotten better, and the instrumentation does complement it, but there’s nothing else that really pops, I guess. I do like the instrumentation a lot, especially on a majority of the album, but it’s not too interesting, either. Her voice is great, and on the whole album, her voice is just fine.

The problems on this LP are quite hard to ignore, and there’s really two big ones – her vocal delivery, at least in certain tracks, and the lyrics. Her vocal delivery is fine, for the most part, but Grande has a weird fascination with not pronouncing words clearly, so throughout the record, her vocal delivery seems a bit strange, like she just put marshmallows in her mouth, or she’s eating peanut butter. It’s a bit odd, but not a huge problem. The lyrics are the biggest problem here, and it’s not that they’re all bad (there are a couple moments where I’m not enjoying them all that much), but they’re just nothing new or interesting. It’s all the same stuff that she’s talked about on Yours Truly, relationships and more relationships. There are a couple of tracks that do work very well, lyrically speaking. Aside from “Problem,” which I mentioned and do enjoy a lot, two other tracks that really work lyrically are “Break Your Heart Right Back,” which features a modest verse from Childish Gambino, and “Why Try.” The former track is kind of a typical breakup track until you really look at the lyrics, because the song is about Grande being cheated on, but the person that her ex cheats on her with is a man, and it’s really interesting. I’ve never heard this being talked about in a song, let alone a “mainstream” song. It’s interesting, and works pretty well. The latter is a track that’s about a dysfunctional relationship, and Grande basically pulls a “devil/angel” dynamic with the lyrics about how she loves “the pain,” and doesn’t know why they even try getting better.

There are some “stinkers” on this LP, however, not even just lyrically, but in general, and the two biggest for me are “Break Free” and “Hands On Me,” which rhyme oddly enough. The former is the track with producer/musician Zedd, and honestly, this song is not only the most out of place song on the album by being an EDM track, it’s also the most boring. The EDM beat is really bland and does nothing interesting, minus a “bass drop” or whatever during the bridge, but that’s not even interesting. The song is pretty weak, compared to the whole LP, and just falls flat on its face. The other track, “Hands On Me,” is the only blatant hip-hop track on here, and this one doesn’t work, mainly for its lyrics, which talk about Grande letting her partner know it’s cool if he puts her hands on her butt. Seriously, A$AP Ferg’s verse on this LP, which is incredibly weak and annoying, is just him making jokes about touching her butt. That’s all the song is about, and if you think that’s really stupid, yeah, it is. The beat is kinda nice, but the song just falls under itself, especially because it’s sandwiched between the two “ballads” on the record, and those are obviously meant to be very serious and sentimental. Why she put this song in between those makes no sense to me.

All in all, I would say that My Everything is a step up, just not a big one. It’s got its highs, and its low, but in the end, it’s a nice album. I’m glad I heard it, but it’s not necessarily one that will go on my end of the year list. It’s enjoyable, minus the few songs that I’m not all that into, but just nothing really extraordinary. It’s not like she pulled a Justin Timberlake by releasing a generic pop album, not being bad but just kind of boring, then releasing a pop masterpiece a few years later. And ultimately, it’s the lack of time spent on this LP that sort of kills it. If these songs were much more expanded on, this album probably could have been great, but it’s always a problem (no pun intended) when artists either release a double album that has too many ideas, or an album that’s only a year later, where there’s either not enough ideas, and/or enough new ideas. Back in the day, bands did this all the time, including my favorite, The Beatles, but they were a band that’s not even in the same league as Grande, so that’s slightly an unfair comparison. Now when artists do this, it’s not a good sign. And while I think this album is not a bad follow-up, it’s only a slight improvement, mainly just being some nice instrumentation, finally suiting her vocals, and her vocals improving a nice amount. If you did like Yours Truly, or even found it bland and uninteresting, you’ll probably like this one as well.

Overall rating: 8.3/10

-Bradley

September 2014
26

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September 2014
25
Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever Record Label: MCA / Universal Release Date: April 24 1989 I may or may not have written about this before, but one problem that comes with being a reviewer/critic is that, well, there’s too much music and not enough time to listen to Thankfully, new releases rather stagnant at a few points during the year, usually in the late spring/early summer and late summer/early fall. In both of those periods this year, I’ve basically just gotten back to a list of things that I have wanted to listen to, mainly “older” records from the 60s – 80s, along with actually diving into an artist’s full discography (that artist is Bruce Springsteen, if you’re curious). I actually did get a couple of Springsteen’s LPs in the spring, but I never got a chance to go further into his work. Now I’m finally taking that step, but there also were a few other bands, artists, and albums I wanted to look at. Just a few months prior to getting into Springsteen, I got a handful of Beatles albums, since I’ve known plenty of songs from them, but never actually got any full LPs. I got a bunch of their LPs, and they ultimately became one of my favorite bands, if not my favorite. I’ve really wanted to complete my Beatles collection, so I finally one of their albums. I also really wanted to get a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled album, since I got a copy of Rumours earlier this year and fell in love with it. The third album I really wanted to listen to was Tom Petty’s 1989 debut solo LP, Full Moon Fever. Just recently, him and his band, The Heartbreakers, released their thirteenth album, Hypnotic Eye, and that made me remember that I’ve always wanted to hear some of Tom Petty’s solo material. I do also want to listen to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but the only song of his I really knew was “Free Fallin’.” I remember coming across the album at many places for only $5 - $7, so it’s an album I really wanted to take a listen to. I do like getting older albums sometimes because they’re cheaper, especially “classic” records, but I just didn’t have the time. Between this summer’s major wave of releases, and getting a lot of stuff myself, mainly catching up on pop-punk records I’ve wanted to listen to. I basically put everything else on hold, but I decided to finally get these albums, including Full Moon Fever. I do really enjoy the song “Free Fallin,” but I really wanted to hear the album itself. On a lunch break at work one day, I went over to Best Buy real quick to get a copy, so I could listen to it for the next few days and see if I’d like it enough to get into it. Well, I’ve spent a few days with it, and given it enough listens to really talk about it, so what do I think? Simply put, Full Moon Fever is a good album, but there isn’t enough to make it a great album. For my first album of Tom Petty, whether it was solo or with his band, this is a good introduction. It does include one of his biggest hits in the form of “Free Fallin’,” but that’s ultimately my favorite song on the record. No other songs really top that track for me in how great the song is. A few come close, but not quite. It’s a bit disappointing, even though the album is still good as a whole. It’s not generic, boring, or anything like that, but it’s just not great. It’s got some things that work, however, and the main thing is the instrumentation.

Petty was apart of the “heartland rock” movement, which was (and to some degree, still is) a genre made popular by singer-songwriters in the 70s and 80s, including Petty, Bob Seger, and the biggest artist in the genre, Bruce Springsteen. Musically, the genre was a guitar-based, straightforward rock sound, also influenced by folk, Americana, and country. Most of these artists avoided synth and electronic elements, although Springsteen updated his sound on his records during the 80s to include keyboards and some synth and 1984’s Born In the USA is his highest selling LP, so it certainly worked for him. But it was mainly a genre of music that wanted to be authentic and “real” by using organic instrumentation, including things like horns, pianos and saxophones, along with having a very raspy and gritty vocal delivery. Lyrically, it was about the struggles and triumphs of the common blue-collar worker, hoping to connect with the American public. Springsteen did a very good job of that, with many of his albums being very successful. Petty, on the other hand, was also successful with it, but not to the same degree. But what does really work for me is the instrumentation on Full Moon Fever. After hearing a lot of Springsteen’s albums, Tom Petty is certainly different, but his take on the genre is much Americana and country influenced. Heck, “Free Fallin’” could be considered an alt-country/Americana track as well. The whole record does have that sound to it, and that’s mainly what I like about it. There is a nice amount of variety, especially in the instrumentation. A song like “Alright for Now” is a really short acoustic track, while “Runnin’ Down a Dream” is a very energetic rock track, featuring a great guitar solo at the very end of the song. I’d also say it’s my second favorite track on the record, just falling behind “Free Fallin’.” What sort of kills this album for me is, unfortunately, Petty’s voice. I’m not all that into Tom Petty’s vocals or his delivery. His voice isn’t terrible, or unpleasant, but it’s just kind of boring. He reminds me a lot of Bob Dylan, whom I’m not very into, either. Not because he’s a folk singer, and I did get a copy of his most popular LP, Highway 61 Revisited, but what I couldn’t get into was his vocals. At certain points on Full Moon Fever, I feel like I am listening to Bob Dylan. On a few tracks, such as “Love Is a Long Road,” “Yer So Bad,” and “A Face in the Crowd,” Petty employs a talk-sing kind of vocal performance that is exactly out of the Dylan handbook. I never liked Bob Dylan’s vocal delivery, and I don’t like how Petty basically does the same thing. It doesn’t work very well, at least to me. I don’t find his vocals bad, but just very lackluster or uninteresting. Even if Springsteen’s voice is raspy and very raw, he has a great range, and he can sing very well. Petty, on the other hand, his range isn’t very impressive. It’s just sort of there, and with the exception of a few songs, such as “Free Fallin’,” “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” and “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” (which ultimately has a Beatles-esque sound), his vocals really do nothing for me, and the vocals are not only a huge part in music in general, but in heartland rock. For the genre, the focal point is really on the vocals and lyrics, especially since the genre’s influences, including folk and Americana, also have a focus on vocals and lyrics. But heartland-rock does put value on instrumentation, having a more “rock” sound, as implied by the name.

While I do enjoy the instrumentation, it’s the vocals that ultimately kill me, and to some degree, the lyrics, too. Again, it’s not that they’re bad, and for the most part, they are enjoyable somewhat, but there are hardly any songs with great lyrics. I hate to bring this track up for the millionth time, but “Free Fallin’ is a great song, lyrically, vocally, and instrumentally. It’s easily the best song, and no other track really comes close to it. Like I said, I few sort of do, but not quite. On songs like “Yer So Bad,” “Zombie Zoo,” and “The Apartment Song,” the lyrics are kind of stupid. They just don’t really make sense, especially closing track, “Zombie Zoo.” What is that? I have no idea, and Petty doesn’t make any effort to explain that. That’s a nitpick, for sure, but I want to be able to connect with what a vocalist is saying to me, at least for the most part. If it was written well, I could also look past it, but I really can’t. These songs are too silly and strange, especially when other tracks are absolutely fantastic. In the end, I’m glad I heard this album, and I probably will be going back to it every now and again, but I can’t say it’ll show up on my list of favorite albums of all time. If you do enjoy heartland rock, or and artist like Bruce Springsteen, this album is worth checking out. Heck, if you do enjoy Petty’s other material and haven’t heard this, it’s also worth listening to. And even if you enjoy folk music, country music, or Americana, definitely give this a listen as well. Petty does his own sound, there’s no doubt about it, but I’m just not a huge fan of his voice or lyrics, at least on the majority on this album. Overall rating: 8.5/10
-Bradley

Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever
Record Label: MCA / Universal
Release Date: April 24 1989

I may or may not have written about this before, but one problem that comes with being a reviewer/critic is that, well, there’s too much music and not enough time to listen to Thankfully, new releases rather stagnant at a few points during the year, usually in the late spring/early summer and late summer/early fall. In both of those periods this year, I’ve basically just gotten back to a list of things that I have wanted to listen to, mainly “older” records from the 60s – 80s, along with actually diving into an artist’s full discography (that artist is Bruce Springsteen, if you’re curious). I actually did get a couple of Springsteen’s LPs in the spring, but I never got a chance to go further into his work. Now I’m finally taking that step, but there also were a few other bands, artists, and albums I wanted to look at. Just a few months prior to getting into Springsteen, I got a handful of Beatles albums, since I’ve known plenty of songs from them, but never actually got any full LPs. I got a bunch of their LPs, and they ultimately became one of my favorite bands, if not my favorite. I’ve really wanted to complete my Beatles collection, so I finally one of their albums. I also really wanted to get a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled album, since I got a copy of Rumours earlier this year and fell in love with it. The third album I really wanted to listen to was Tom Petty’s 1989 debut solo LP, Full Moon Fever.

Just recently, him and his band, The Heartbreakers, released their thirteenth album, Hypnotic Eye, and that made me remember that I’ve always wanted to hear some of Tom Petty’s solo material. I do also want to listen to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but the only song of his I really knew was “Free Fallin’.” I remember coming across the album at many places for only $5 - $7, so it’s an album I really wanted to take a listen to. I do like getting older albums sometimes because they’re cheaper, especially “classic” records, but I just didn’t have the time. Between this summer’s major wave of releases, and getting a lot of stuff myself, mainly catching up on pop-punk records I’ve wanted to listen to. I basically put everything else on hold, but I decided to finally get these albums, including Full Moon Fever. I do really enjoy the song “Free Fallin,” but I really wanted to hear the album itself. On a lunch break at work one day, I went over to Best Buy real quick to get a copy, so I could listen to it for the next few days and see if I’d like it enough to get into it. Well, I’ve spent a few days with it, and given it enough listens to really talk about it, so what do I think? Simply put, Full Moon Fever is a good album, but there isn’t enough to make it a great album. For my first album of Tom Petty, whether it was solo or with his band, this is a good introduction. It does include one of his biggest hits in the form of “Free Fallin’,” but that’s ultimately my favorite song on the record. No other songs really top that track for me in how great the song is. A few come close, but not quite. It’s a bit disappointing, even though the album is still good as a whole. It’s not generic, boring, or anything like that, but it’s just not great. It’s got some things that work, however, and the main thing is the instrumentation.

Petty was apart of the “heartland rock” movement, which was (and to some degree, still is) a genre made popular by singer-songwriters in the 70s and 80s, including Petty, Bob Seger, and the biggest artist in the genre, Bruce Springsteen. Musically, the genre was a guitar-based, straightforward rock sound, also influenced by folk, Americana, and country. Most of these artists avoided synth and electronic elements, although Springsteen updated his sound on his records during the 80s to include keyboards and some synth and 1984’s Born In the USA is his highest selling LP, so it certainly worked for him. But it was mainly a genre of music that wanted to be authentic and “real” by using organic instrumentation, including things like horns, pianos and saxophones, along with having a very raspy and gritty vocal delivery. Lyrically, it was about the struggles and triumphs of the common blue-collar worker, hoping to connect with the American public. Springsteen did a very good job of that, with many of his albums being very successful. Petty, on the other hand, was also successful with it, but not to the same degree. But what does really work for me is the instrumentation on Full Moon Fever. After hearing a lot of Springsteen’s albums, Tom Petty is certainly different, but his take on the genre is much Americana and country influenced. Heck, “Free Fallin’” could be considered an alt-country/Americana track as well. The whole record does have that sound to it, and that’s mainly what I like about it. There is a nice amount of variety, especially in the instrumentation. A song like “Alright for Now” is a really short acoustic track, while “Runnin’ Down a Dream” is a very energetic rock track, featuring a great guitar solo at the very end of the song. I’d also say it’s my second favorite track on the record, just falling behind “Free Fallin’.”

What sort of kills this album for me is, unfortunately, Petty’s voice. I’m not all that into Tom Petty’s vocals or his delivery. His voice isn’t terrible, or unpleasant, but it’s just kind of boring. He reminds me a lot of Bob Dylan, whom I’m not very into, either. Not because he’s a folk singer, and I did get a copy of his most popular LP, Highway 61 Revisited, but what I couldn’t get into was his vocals. At certain points on Full Moon Fever, I feel like I am listening to Bob Dylan. On a few tracks, such as “Love Is a Long Road,” “Yer So Bad,” and “A Face in the Crowd,” Petty employs a talk-sing kind of vocal performance that is exactly out of the Dylan handbook. I never liked Bob Dylan’s vocal delivery, and I don’t like how Petty basically does the same thing. It doesn’t work very well, at least to me. I don’t find his vocals bad, but just very lackluster or uninteresting. Even if Springsteen’s voice is raspy and very raw, he has a great range, and he can sing very well. Petty, on the other hand, his range isn’t very impressive. It’s just sort of there, and with the exception of a few songs, such as “Free Fallin’,” “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” and “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” (which ultimately has a Beatles-esque sound), his vocals really do nothing for me, and the vocals are not only a huge part in music in general, but in heartland rock. For the genre, the focal point is really on the vocals and lyrics, especially since the genre’s influences, including folk and Americana, also have a focus on vocals and lyrics. But heartland-rock does put value on instrumentation, having a more “rock” sound, as implied by the name.

While I do enjoy the instrumentation, it’s the vocals that ultimately kill me, and to some degree, the lyrics, too. Again, it’s not that they’re bad, and for the most part, they are enjoyable somewhat, but there are hardly any songs with great lyrics. I hate to bring this track up for the millionth time, but “Free Fallin’ is a great song, lyrically, vocally, and instrumentally. It’s easily the best song, and no other track really comes close to it. Like I said, I few sort of do, but not quite. On songs like “Yer So Bad,” “Zombie Zoo,” and “The Apartment Song,” the lyrics are kind of stupid. They just don’t really make sense, especially closing track, “Zombie Zoo.” What is that? I have no idea, and Petty doesn’t make any effort to explain that. That’s a nitpick, for sure, but I want to be able to connect with what a vocalist is saying to me, at least for the most part. If it was written well, I could also look past it, but I really can’t. These songs are too silly and strange, especially when other tracks are absolutely fantastic. In the end, I’m glad I heard this album, and I probably will be going back to it every now and again, but I can’t say it’ll show up on my list of favorite albums of all time. If you do enjoy heartland rock, or and artist like Bruce Springsteen, this album is worth checking out. Heck, if you do enjoy Petty’s other material and haven’t heard this, it’s also worth listening to. And even if you enjoy folk music, country music, or Americana, definitely give this a listen as well. Petty does his own sound, there’s no doubt about it, but I’m just not a huge fan of his voice or lyrics, at least on the majority on this album.

Overall rating: 8.5/10

-Bradley