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August 2014
25
Cover the Coastline – Silver Lake Record Label: Unsigned Release Date: July 5 2014 For the last few years, I’ve been using a music website called Bandcamp. I don’t want this to become an ad for the site, but in all honesty, it’s a good website, so if you want to check it out, go ahead. The reason I bring that up is simple: they have a lot of free music. And no, I don’t mean leaks or illegal downloads, I’m talking legally free music, whether it’s an EP or full record. I’ll usually go on there if I’m either in the mood for some unknown/unsigned bands, or if I’m broke and want some free music to keep me going until I get paid again. Those two things usually go hand in hand, and such was the case for my most recent downloading spree a couple weeks back. Since I’ve been listening to a lot of pop-punk during the summer, I went searching on the pop-punk tags, and found a handful of bands. One band that stuck in particular to me was Illinois outfit Cover the Coastline. They just released their debut EP, Silver Lake, in July, and they are a very unknown band. Heck, they only 500 likes on Facebook, so does that mean I can like them before they were famous? In all seriousness, that alone perked my interest, but another thing did as well. I decided to take a quick listen to part of the first track, and it caught my attention. It was pretty standard pop-punk, but with an “easycore” edge, similar to a band like Four Year Strong. Since the EP was pay-what-you-want (usually meaning free), I thought I’d download it and give it a shot.  Well, how is Silver Lake, the debut EP from Cover the Coastline? This is a perfect example of an EP/album that really surprised me. I’m not necessarily in love with it, but at the same time, I enjoy it a nice amount. This band is easily one of the best “unknown” bands I’ve found in awhile, and the biggest reason why is the band’s instrumentation. The band is a pretty straightforward pop-punk band, but combines it with a slight easycore edge. For those of you not familiar with it, easycore is the silly name of a subgenre of pop-punk that combines the genre with traces of hardcore, mainly breakdowns and/or harsh vocals. The genre was quite popular in towards the mid-00s, but has since died down, with the exception of a few bands, such as Four Year Strong, and Chunk! No Captain Chunk! Cover the Coastline has traces of this sound in their own sound, but it only shows up every now and again. If anything, that’s a great thing, since the EP doesn’t get stale at any point. A song like second track “Night Terrors,” is one that has that easycore sound, but the title track is a down-tempo quiet pop-punk number. It’s a lot different compared to the first two songs.  Sadly, though, this leads me to one of my two biggest problems. They’re both pretty simple, but the first one is easily the biggest problem I have. The songs sound way too similar. With the exception of the title track, each sounds quite alike. There really isn’t much to distinguish them, minus the choruses, which are pretty catchy, to be fair. But instrumentally, the songs don’t really bleed together, but not all of them are memorable, either. Because the instrumentation is done well, it’s not too much of a problem, but with repeated listens, the EP can lose its sheen. At least, lose it slightly, anyway. The second problem I have isn’t as big, but I’d call it a problem, and it’s their vocalist. No, their vocalist isn’t bad, by any means, but the vocals on this EP suffer from just being lackluster at many points. Their vocalist sounds rather flat, and uninteresting. His vocals don’t quite match the intensity of the band’s easycore meets pop-punk sound. The only track that really fits his vocals is the title track, and that’s a track where the vocals are damn near flawless. Throughout the rest of the EP, the vocals aren’t bad, or even grating, but they’re just not as interesting as the music. The lyrics are decent, too, with some very standout moments, and that’s ultimately what does keep the vocals somewhat afloat, but the vocals are easily my least favorite part of this EP. Thankfully, it was for free download, and the EP is only 21 minutes long, so you aren’t necessarily losing a lot of time if you’re not into it. It’s worth a listen, however, if you are a pop-punk fan. RIYL: Four Year Strong – Enemy of the World, Scouts Honour – The Last Four Years EP, & I Call Fives – First Thing’s First EP Overall rating: 8.3/10-Bradley

Cover the Coastline – Silver Lake
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: July 5 2014

For the last few years, I’ve been using a music website called Bandcamp. I don’t want this to become an ad for the site, but in all honesty, it’s a good website, so if you want to check it out, go ahead. The reason I bring that up is simple: they have a lot of free music. And no, I don’t mean leaks or illegal downloads, I’m talking legally free music, whether it’s an EP or full record. I’ll usually go on there if I’m either in the mood for some unknown/unsigned bands, or if I’m broke and want some free music to keep me going until I get paid again. Those two things usually go hand in hand, and such was the case for my most recent downloading spree a couple weeks back. Since I’ve been listening to a lot of pop-punk during the summer, I went searching on the pop-punk tags, and found a handful of bands. One band that stuck in particular to me was Illinois outfit Cover the Coastline. They just released their debut EP, Silver Lake, in July, and they are a very unknown band. Heck, they only 500 likes on Facebook, so does that mean I can like them before they were famous? In all seriousness, that alone perked my interest, but another thing did as well. I decided to take a quick listen to part of the first track, and it caught my attention. It was pretty standard pop-punk, but with an “easycore” edge, similar to a band like Four Year Strong. Since the EP was pay-what-you-want (usually meaning free), I thought I’d download it and give it a shot.

Well, how is Silver Lake, the debut EP from Cover the Coastline? This is a perfect example of an EP/album that really surprised me. I’m not necessarily in love with it, but at the same time, I enjoy it a nice amount. This band is easily one of the best “unknown” bands I’ve found in awhile, and the biggest reason why is the band’s instrumentation. The band is a pretty straightforward pop-punk band, but combines it with a slight easycore edge. For those of you not familiar with it, easycore is the silly name of a subgenre of pop-punk that combines the genre with traces of hardcore, mainly breakdowns and/or harsh vocals. The genre was quite popular in towards the mid-00s, but has since died down, with the exception of a few bands, such as Four Year Strong, and Chunk! No Captain Chunk! Cover the Coastline has traces of this sound in their own sound, but it only shows up every now and again. If anything, that’s a great thing, since the EP doesn’t get stale at any point. A song like second track “Night Terrors,” is one that has that easycore sound, but the title track is a down-tempo quiet pop-punk number. It’s a lot different compared to the first two songs.

Sadly, though, this leads me to one of my two biggest problems. They’re both pretty simple, but the first one is easily the biggest problem I have. The songs sound way too similar. With the exception of the title track, each sounds quite alike. There really isn’t much to distinguish them, minus the choruses, which are pretty catchy, to be fair. But instrumentally, the songs don’t really bleed together, but not all of them are memorable, either. Because the instrumentation is done well, it’s not too much of a problem, but with repeated listens, the EP can lose its sheen. At least, lose it slightly, anyway. The second problem I have isn’t as big, but I’d call it a problem, and it’s their vocalist. No, their vocalist isn’t bad, by any means, but the vocals on this EP suffer from just being lackluster at many points. Their vocalist sounds rather flat, and uninteresting. His vocals don’t quite match the intensity of the band’s easycore meets pop-punk sound. The only track that really fits his vocals is the title track, and that’s a track where the vocals are damn near flawless. Throughout the rest of the EP, the vocals aren’t bad, or even grating, but they’re just not as interesting as the music. The lyrics are decent, too, with some very standout moments, and that’s ultimately what does keep the vocals somewhat afloat, but the vocals are easily my least favorite part of this EP. Thankfully, it was for free download, and the EP is only 21 minutes long, so you aren’t necessarily losing a lot of time if you’re not into it. It’s worth a listen, however, if you are a pop-punk fan.

RIYL: Four Year Strong – Enemy of the World, Scouts Honour – The Last Four Years EP, & I Call Fives – First Thing’s First EP

Overall rating: 8.3/10

-Bradley

August 2014
25
Transit – Something Left Behind Record Label: Mightier Than Sword Release Date: February 22 2011 Boston pop-punk/indie-rock act Transit’s third EP, and first acoustic EP, Something Left Behind, is a very fascinating release to talk about, because there are a few things that lead me to finally give this a listen. For starters, I’ve been a fan of Transit for the last couple of years; I listened to 2011’s Listen & Forgive when it came out, but I didn’t like the album very much at first. I got much more into pop-punk about six months later, and I found a copy of the record at Hot Topic, so I gave it another shot, and fell in love with it. To this day, it’s my favorite pop-punk record, and one of my all time favorite records. I love it a lot, but I hadn’t really listened to the band’s back catalog. I have listened to the band’s last two releases, both 2013’s second acoustic EP, Futures & Sutures, and preceding album Young New England. While I love Futures & Sutures, I wasn’t too into Young New England, but going back to that record a year later, I like it a nice amount. It doesn’t deserve all the hate that it gets, basically. That leads me to why I decided to check out Something Left Behind, and the reasoning is pretty simple: it was the EP prior to Listen & Forgive (coming out just earlier in the year, and featuring a track from the record), and I’ve wanted to hear their back catalog, so I was essentially petting two kitties with one hand.


At the same time, I also went on a rather big pop-punk haul, as I call it. I ordered a few other records from FYE’s website, the two records of which I was already very familiar with, and this one being the only one that I haven’t heard yet. I did know who Transit was, and had an idea of what to expect. What I didn’t know was that this was an acoustic EP. I found that out after I looked it up, so this EP is fascinating to me, because I haven’t heard the original versions of most of these songs, all featured on the band’s 2010 record, Keep This to Yourself (which I did order finally, so I’ll be hearing that soon as well). Essentially, instead of looking at this EP as just a standard acoustic EP, you know, having acoustic versions of songs on a prior record or records, along with a couple of new songs, I can simply look at it as its own thing, which is both a good thing and a bad thing at the same time, for the same reason, really. I haven’t heard the original versions, and that’s both a good thing, and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because I can judge this on its own merits, but at the same time, maybe I’d like this more if I did hear the original versions first. Either way, though, I’m still going to look at this EP as its own separate thing, since I haven’t heard the original versions. I can only go by what’s on this acoustic EP, so I’m taking it what it is.  And now that I’ve had the EP for a few weeks on repeat, it’s absolutely fantastic. I’m not going to lie, however, I’m not surprised at all that I enjoy it so much. I love Transit already, but before you claim I’m “biased” because I already love this band, remember something: every review is biased, because you’re reading or listening to the thoughts and opinions of somebody else. Others may agree with that person, but opinions are certainly biased in some way, shape or form. With that being said, though, this EP is still good on its own. Even if I didn’t love the band as much, which would be a weird parallel universe to live in, I’d still enjoy this EP a lot. It’s really good, either way. If you’ve never heard the band’s acoustic material, and you love them, too, this is perfect. Another interesting thing about this EP is that I don’t generally enjoy or really love acoustic records, whether it’s an acoustic version of an album, or just the singer-songwriter acoustic sound. I don’t usually like that stuff, with very few exceptions. Pop-punk/acoustic act Front Porch Step is an exception to this, since that group has an acoustic sound but has pop-punk elements in it, making for an interesting sound and listen. While this EP isn’t necessarily like that, since it is just acoustic versions of songs, plus a couple new ones, Transit is definitely an exception. And it’s not necessarily the instrumentation, because to be honest, the instrumentation is my least favorite part of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, but I’m not really into acoustic instrumentation all that much, at least when it’s pretty straightforward. A year prior to this EP’s release, fellow pop-punkers I Call Fives released an acoustic EP called Gives Bad Advice, at the same time as their sophomore EP entitled Bad Advice, and that’s a very interesting acoustic EP. They wrote songs as though they were full band, but made them acoustic. That’s much more fascinating and memorable compared to just standard acoustic songs in pop-punk. There is one full band song, and that’s the closing track, “1978.” A more refined version of this song does appear on Listen & Forgive, but it’s a very unique song, being that it is full band. At the same time, the two new acoustic tracks, “Indoor Voices,” and “Just Go, Just Leave” are also great, and show off what’s so great about the band.   The biggest thing that shows that is easily vocalist Joe Boynton. There’s no doubt about it as Boynton is one of the most interesting and unique vocalists in the pop-punk scene and for good reason. This EP definitely shows it, since the point of acoustic material is to really have the vocalist be the center of attention. Not because the vocalist is vain, but that can happen (Sleeping With Sirens and Blood On the Dance Floor, anyone?). The instrumentation is stripped down to let the vocalist really shine, and that’s what Boynton does. His voice is rather nasally, but it’s not obnoxious or annoying in the slightest. He can actually sing quite well, and does so on every single track. His lyrics are also very poetic, and clever, too; they always have been (even if Young New England was a bit more watered down, so to speak) so it’s not surprising here that the lyrics are great as well. There are plenty of one-liners and memorable moments lyrically to keep the EP afloat. The only problem I can really say about it is what I said earlier – if you’re not into acoustic material, you may enjoy this as much, and honestly, I’m not. I’m not a huge fan of acoustic and/or folk music, but I can admit when something is really good, and this EP is an exception. I always liked when this band had acoustic material, because it was most often done very well. The instrumentation is the only thing that I’m not all that into, but it’s still good, at least. It’s still enjoyable, but where it really works is Boynton himself. He’s what really carries this EP, and if you either love his vocals/lyrics, or want to hear an acoustic record with a great vocalist/lyricist, this is the record to listen to. And after hearing this, I can safely say that Transit is one of my favorite bands. RIYL: I Call Fives – Gives Bad Advice, Real Friends – Acoustic Songs, & A Loss for Words – Returning to Webster Lake Overall rating: 9.5/10-Bradley

Transit – Something Left Behind
Record Label: Mightier Than Sword
Release Date: February 22 2011

Boston pop-punk/indie-rock act Transit’s third EP, and first acoustic EP, Something Left Behind, is a very fascinating release to talk about, because there are a few things that lead me to finally give this a listen. For starters, I’ve been a fan of Transit for the last couple of years; I listened to 2011’s Listen & Forgive when it came out, but I didn’t like the album very much at first. I got much more into pop-punk about six months later, and I found a copy of the record at Hot Topic, so I gave it another shot, and fell in love with it. To this day, it’s my favorite pop-punk record, and one of my all time favorite records. I love it a lot, but I hadn’t really listened to the band’s back catalog. I have listened to the band’s last two releases, both 2013’s second acoustic EP, Futures & Sutures, and preceding album Young New England. While I love Futures & Sutures, I wasn’t too into Young New England, but going back to that record a year later, I like it a nice amount. It doesn’t deserve all the hate that it gets, basically. That leads me to why I decided to check out Something Left Behind, and the reasoning is pretty simple: it was the EP prior to Listen & Forgive (coming out just earlier in the year, and featuring a track from the record), and I’ve wanted to hear their back catalog, so I was essentially petting two kitties with one hand.

At the same time, I also went on a rather big pop-punk haul, as I call it. I ordered a few other records from FYE’s website, the two records of which I was already very familiar with, and this one being the only one that I haven’t heard yet. I did know who Transit was, and had an idea of what to expect. What I didn’t know was that this was an acoustic EP. I found that out after I looked it up, so this EP is fascinating to me, because I haven’t heard the original versions of most of these songs, all featured on the band’s 2010 record, Keep This to Yourself (which I did order finally, so I’ll be hearing that soon as well). Essentially, instead of looking at this EP as just a standard acoustic EP, you know, having acoustic versions of songs on a prior record or records, along with a couple of new songs, I can simply look at it as its own thing, which is both a good thing and a bad thing at the same time, for the same reason, really. I haven’t heard the original versions, and that’s both a good thing, and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because I can judge this on its own merits, but at the same time, maybe I’d like this more if I did hear the original versions first. Either way, though, I’m still going to look at this EP as its own separate thing, since I haven’t heard the original versions. I can only go by what’s on this acoustic EP, so I’m taking it what it is.

And now that I’ve had the EP for a few weeks on repeat, it’s absolutely fantastic. I’m not going to lie, however, I’m not surprised at all that I enjoy it so much. I love Transit already, but before you claim I’m “biased” because I already love this band, remember something: every review is biased, because you’re reading or listening to the thoughts and opinions of somebody else. Others may agree with that person, but opinions are certainly biased in some way, shape or form. With that being said, though, this EP is still good on its own. Even if I didn’t love the band as much, which would be a weird parallel universe to live in, I’d still enjoy this EP a lot. It’s really good, either way. If you’ve never heard the band’s acoustic material, and you love them, too, this is perfect.

Another interesting thing about this EP is that I don’t generally enjoy or really love acoustic records, whether it’s an acoustic version of an album, or just the singer-songwriter acoustic sound. I don’t usually like that stuff, with very few exceptions. Pop-punk/acoustic act Front Porch Step is an exception to this, since that group has an acoustic sound but has pop-punk elements in it, making for an interesting sound and listen. While this EP isn’t necessarily like that, since it is just acoustic versions of songs, plus a couple new ones, Transit is definitely an exception. And it’s not necessarily the instrumentation, because to be honest, the instrumentation is my least favorite part of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, but I’m not really into acoustic instrumentation all that much, at least when it’s pretty straightforward. A year prior to this EP’s release, fellow pop-punkers I Call Fives released an acoustic EP called Gives Bad Advice, at the same time as their sophomore EP entitled Bad Advice, and that’s a very interesting acoustic EP. They wrote songs as though they were full band, but made them acoustic. That’s much more fascinating and memorable compared to just standard acoustic songs in pop-punk. There is one full band song, and that’s the closing track, “1978.” A more refined version of this song does appear on Listen & Forgive, but it’s a very unique song, being that it is full band. At the same time, the two new acoustic tracks, “Indoor Voices,” and “Just Go, Just Leave” are also great, and show off what’s so great about the band. 

The biggest thing that shows that is easily vocalist Joe Boynton. There’s no doubt about it as Boynton is one of the most interesting and unique vocalists in the pop-punk scene and for good reason. This EP definitely shows it, since the point of acoustic material is to really have the vocalist be the center of attention. Not because the vocalist is vain, but that can happen (Sleeping With Sirens and Blood On the Dance Floor, anyone?). The instrumentation is stripped down to let the vocalist really shine, and that’s what Boynton does. His voice is rather nasally, but it’s not obnoxious or annoying in the slightest. He can actually sing quite well, and does so on every single track. His lyrics are also very poetic, and clever, too; they always have been (even if Young New England was a bit more watered down, so to speak) so it’s not surprising here that the lyrics are great as well. There are plenty of one-liners and memorable moments lyrically to keep the EP afloat.

The only problem I can really say about it is what I said earlier – if you’re not into acoustic material, you may enjoy this as much, and honestly, I’m not. I’m not a huge fan of acoustic and/or folk music, but I can admit when something is really good, and this EP is an exception. I always liked when this band had acoustic material, because it was most often done very well. The instrumentation is the only thing that I’m not all that into, but it’s still good, at least. It’s still enjoyable, but where it really works is Boynton himself. He’s what really carries this EP, and if you either love his vocals/lyrics, or want to hear an acoustic record with a great vocalist/lyricist, this is the record to listen to. And after hearing this, I can safely say that Transit is one of my favorite bands.

RIYL: I Call Fives – Gives Bad Advice, Real Friends – Acoustic Songs, & A Loss for Words – Returning to Webster Lake

Overall rating: 9.5/10

-Bradley

August 2014
25
Of Mice & Men – The Flood (Deluxe Reissue) Record Label: Rise Release Date: June 14 2011 It’s funny how tastes change, isn’t it? Around four years ago, I really loved CA metalcore turned nu-metal band Of Mice & Men. Truth be told, I was in a bit of a “scene phase,” and I listened to mainly post-hardcore/metalcore bands, such as Attack Attack! (their debut album with Of Mice & Men frontman Austin Carlile is a crabcore classic, I don’t care what anybody says), Before Their Eyes, Blessthefall, Of Mice & Men, and plenty of other groups. They were a band that I definitely enjoyed, but as I grew out of that phase and started listening to more kinds of music, I stopped listening to them. It started sooner than that, actually, because while I loved their self-titled debut album, I lost touch with them when sophomore LP, The Flood, was released in 2011. I don’t even know why, I just hardly listened to that album. Eventually, I stopped listening to them, along with “core” music in general. I’ve certainly listened to some within the last couple years, and only this year, have I started listening to it a lot more again. Albums by Chiodos, Architects, The Amity Affliction, and a few other “core” bands came out, and I absolutely enjoyed those. Of Mice & Men also released a record earlier in the year, third album entitled Restoring Force. At first, I didn’t bother to listen to it, but when I saw it on sale at FYE, I thought it was worth a listen. And lo and behold, I really enjoyed it. Sure, it was nothing truly great or perfect, but I still liked it for what it was. It had its problems but for being a nu-metal album with metalcore influence, I enjoyed it a lot. After I heard that LP, I sort of considered myself a fan of them again. Their shift in sound was quite interesting, and I felt as though it was for the better. They weren’t just your average post-hardcore band with fangirls anymore, but they were doing something different, both for the genre and for themselves. At the same time, I did want to listen to their back catalog again, since it’s been years since I’ve listened to them. My local Target has had copies of The Flood for the last few weeks I’ve gone, and I almost got it one week, but decided to wait. Of course, when I did that, they didn’t have it the next week. I had a few hours to kill before work one day, so I decided to go over there to see what was new. They did have the new Spoon LP, They Want My Soul (which I did get eventually, and I really enjoy that record), but I didn’t want to get that, and since The Flood was only $7.50, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to listen to it a handful of times jut to see how it is. I do want to mention that I got the deluxe reissue, which has four “new” songs, at least for 2012, when the reissue came out. At the time, the band didn’t have a clean vocalist, as former clean vocalist/guitarist Shayley Bourget left the band to focus on other projects. The band were left without a clean vocalist for a brief time, so to tide fans over, they released a reissue of the record, with four “new” songs showcasing their new sound. And right off the bat, these songs are just okay. While they’re decent, they’re just not that interesting, either. These songs are fine on their own as a little EP, but with the album, they just lack that spark the rest of the record does. It was clever for them to add a title track for The Flood with those tracks, but without a clean vocalist, it does kind of bring them down a bit. There is a nice post-rock guitar tone running through the first two tracks of them, but it just disappears and it’s never revisited. To put it simply, the “new” songs aren’t bad, but not as interesting as the record itself. And honestly, the album is a lot better than I remember. The thing is, I didn’t remember it much at all. I knew it was “heavier,” but that was it. On one hand, The Flood is certainly their heaviest record, and surprisingly, I’d also say it is their “best” album as well. In my review of Restoring Force, I said that was their best, but listening to this LP again, this is a bit more enjoyable and memorable than that record. At least by a slight margin, anyway. I don’t necessarily love this LP, but it’s still really good, and got some really good things in it. For starters, vocalist Austin Carlile is great in this record. He was always one of my favorite harsh vocalists, but my enjoyment of his work waned the moment he started getting fangirls. I don’t know why, but I just found that annoying. Listening to his vocals on Restoring Force, I still enjoyed them a lot, albeit they were rather different. His voice was much more gruff and raw, whereas on his prior records, he seems to be a lot more aggressive and ferocious of a vocalist. And he certainly is here. His vocals are amazing, honestly. On every track, minus the two where Bourget take lead vocals, he’s just fantastic. Speaking of Bourget, his vocals are amazing as well, honestly; I do like his vocals a bit more than current bassist/clean vocalist Aaron Pauley (who is really good, too, don’t get me wrong), because he does seem to do a lot more with his voice. Heck, the songs he has on his own are just great, too, which are “My Understandings,” and the acoustic bonus track, “When You Can’t Sleep At Night.” Both of these tracks are easily two of my favorites, and they’re just beautiful tracks, his voice in particular really standing out. While there aren’t any really overwhelming problems I have with this LP, there’s only one thing that I can’t say I care too much about and it’s the lyrics. I wouldn’t say they’re truly terrible, but they’re sort of standard for the genre, talking about relationships, inspirational stuff, etc, etc. There’s just nothing I haven’t heard before, and really nothing too interesting, either. The lyrics just don’t do a lot for me, even though the vocals on this LP are great. And honestly, I will admit that towards the second of the album itself, it does blur together slightly. There is a formula to this LP, and that’s not what bothers me, it’s just that the songs don’t do too much to separate themselves after awhile. The hooks and choruses are really the only thing separating them, but the songs suffer from the same formula, and after awhile, they get hard to tell apart. The thing is, I see that with most “core” albums, so it’s not a surprising problem. In the end, this album is quite enjoyable, especially if you like post-hardcore/metalcore. If you aren’t a huge fan of this, I’d recommend just the standard version, but if you do like nu-metal or want to hear what they sound like without a clean vocalist, it’s not bad, and worth your time for at least one listen. Those songs only total to about 12 minutes, so they’re not that bad. I’m glad I got this, and listened to it again. It’s not a record that I’m going to listen to all the time, but maybe every now and again, and that’s still a good thing. Overall rating: 8.5/10-Bradley

Of Mice & Men – The Flood (Deluxe Reissue)
Record Label: Rise
Release Date: June 14 2011

It’s funny how tastes change, isn’t it? Around four years ago, I really loved CA metalcore turned nu-metal band Of Mice & Men. Truth be told, I was in a bit of a “scene phase,” and I listened to mainly post-hardcore/metalcore bands, such as Attack Attack! (their debut album with Of Mice & Men frontman Austin Carlile is a crabcore classic, I don’t care what anybody says), Before Their Eyes, Blessthefall, Of Mice & Men, and plenty of other groups. They were a band that I definitely enjoyed, but as I grew out of that phase and started listening to more kinds of music, I stopped listening to them. It started sooner than that, actually, because while I loved their self-titled debut album, I lost touch with them when sophomore LP, The Flood, was released in 2011. I don’t even know why, I just hardly listened to that album. Eventually, I stopped listening to them, along with “core” music in general. I’ve certainly listened to some within the last couple years, and only this year, have I started listening to it a lot more again. Albums by Chiodos, Architects, The Amity Affliction, and a few other “core” bands came out, and I absolutely enjoyed those. Of Mice & Men also released a record earlier in the year, third album entitled Restoring Force. At first, I didn’t bother to listen to it, but when I saw it on sale at FYE, I thought it was worth a listen. And lo and behold, I really enjoyed it. Sure, it was nothing truly great or perfect, but I still liked it for what it was. It had its problems but for being a nu-metal album with metalcore influence, I enjoyed it a lot. After I heard that LP, I sort of considered myself a fan of them again. Their shift in sound was quite interesting, and I felt as though it was for the better. They weren’t just your average post-hardcore band with fangirls anymore, but they were doing something different, both for the genre and for themselves.

At the same time, I did want to listen to their back catalog again, since it’s been years since I’ve listened to them. My local Target has had copies of The Flood for the last few weeks I’ve gone, and I almost got it one week, but decided to wait. Of course, when I did that, they didn’t have it the next week. I had a few hours to kill before work one day, so I decided to go over there to see what was new. They did have the new Spoon LP, They Want My Soul (which I did get eventually, and I really enjoy that record), but I didn’t want to get that, and since The Flood was only $7.50, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to listen to it a handful of times jut to see how it is. I do want to mention that I got the deluxe reissue, which has four “new” songs, at least for 2012, when the reissue came out. At the time, the band didn’t have a clean vocalist, as former clean vocalist/guitarist Shayley Bourget left the band to focus on other projects. The band were left without a clean vocalist for a brief time, so to tide fans over, they released a reissue of the record, with four “new” songs showcasing their new sound. And right off the bat, these songs are just okay. While they’re decent, they’re just not that interesting, either. These songs are fine on their own as a little EP, but with the album, they just lack that spark the rest of the record does. It was clever for them to add a title track for The Flood with those tracks, but without a clean vocalist, it does kind of bring them down a bit. There is a nice post-rock guitar tone running through the first two tracks of them, but it just disappears and it’s never revisited. To put it simply, the “new” songs aren’t bad, but not as interesting as the record itself.

And honestly, the album is a lot better than I remember. The thing is, I didn’t remember it much at all. I knew it was “heavier,” but that was it. On one hand, The Flood is certainly their heaviest record, and surprisingly, I’d also say it is their “best” album as well. In my review of Restoring Force, I said that was their best, but listening to this LP again, this is a bit more enjoyable and memorable than that record. At least by a slight margin, anyway. I don’t necessarily love this LP, but it’s still really good, and got some really good things in it. For starters, vocalist Austin Carlile is great in this record. He was always one of my favorite harsh vocalists, but my enjoyment of his work waned the moment he started getting fangirls. I don’t know why, but I just found that annoying. Listening to his vocals on Restoring Force, I still enjoyed them a lot, albeit they were rather different. His voice was much more gruff and raw, whereas on his prior records, he seems to be a lot more aggressive and ferocious of a vocalist. And he certainly is here. His vocals are amazing, honestly. On every track, minus the two where Bourget take lead vocals, he’s just fantastic. Speaking of Bourget, his vocals are amazing as well, honestly; I do like his vocals a bit more than current bassist/clean vocalist Aaron Pauley (who is really good, too, don’t get me wrong), because he does seem to do a lot more with his voice. Heck, the songs he has on his own are just great, too, which are “My Understandings,” and the acoustic bonus track, “When You Can’t Sleep At Night.” Both of these tracks are easily two of my favorites, and they’re just beautiful tracks, his voice in particular really standing out.

While there aren’t any really overwhelming problems I have with this LP, there’s only one thing that I can’t say I care too much about and it’s the lyrics. I wouldn’t say they’re truly terrible, but they’re sort of standard for the genre, talking about relationships, inspirational stuff, etc, etc. There’s just nothing I haven’t heard before, and really nothing too interesting, either. The lyrics just don’t do a lot for me, even though the vocals on this LP are great. And honestly, I will admit that towards the second of the album itself, it does blur together slightly. There is a formula to this LP, and that’s not what bothers me, it’s just that the songs don’t do too much to separate themselves after awhile. The hooks and choruses are really the only thing separating them, but the songs suffer from the same formula, and after awhile, they get hard to tell apart. The thing is, I see that with most “core” albums, so it’s not a surprising problem. In the end, this album is quite enjoyable, especially if you like post-hardcore/metalcore. If you aren’t a huge fan of this, I’d recommend just the standard version, but if you do like nu-metal or want to hear what they sound like without a clean vocalist, it’s not bad, and worth your time for at least one listen. Those songs only total to about 12 minutes, so they’re not that bad. I’m glad I got this, and listened to it again. It’s not a record that I’m going to listen to all the time, but maybe every now and again, and that’s still a good thing.

Overall rating: 8.5/10

-Bradley

August 2014
25

CJ Goes Acoustic: with Pat from Light Years (lightyearsoh)

Light Years - Put Myself Together

Filmed and Edited by: Candy Valenzuela (nerv0uskids) and Eden Kittiver (edenkittiver)

Location: St. Petersburg Florida

Date: July 25, 2014

August 2014
25

Concertjunkies Interview with Dan from Real Friends (realfriendsband)

Filmed and Edited by: Candy Valenzuela (nerv0uskids) and Eden Kittiver (edenkittiver)

Location: St. Petersburg Florida

Date: July 25, 2014

Candy had the opportunity to meet up with Dan Lambton from Real Friends at warped tour for a quick interview! Watch Dan talk about their debut full length album, warped tour and being clumsy!

August 2014
25

Concertjunkies Interview with Foxing (foxingtheband)

Filmed and Edited by: Kayla Surico (kayla-surico) and Eden Kittiver (edenkittiver)

Location: Backbooth - Orlando, FL

Date: August 8, 2014

Kayla had the opportunity to meet up with Jon, Ricky and Conor from Foxing to do a quick interview! Watch the video to learn about songs from The Albatross, upcoming and new music, and funny tour stories!

August 2014
24

Hey everybody! This is the first informal post I’ve probably ever made here, but instead of posting a review, I wanted to talk about my own music for once. Last month, I started a spoken-word/poetry project called Kitchen Conversations, and I released a self-titled EP in the beginning of this month. I just launched pre-orders for the deluxe version of the EP, but if you dig bands like La Dispute, Pianos Become the Teeth, Touche Amore, and Being As An Ocean, or just love poetry, check out my solo projects. I’ll put a couple links below if you’re interested:

Bandcamp — www.kitchenconversationswi.bandcamp.com
Facebook — www.facebook.com/kitchenconversationswi

It would mean the world if you at least just listened to my stuff. Please and thank you. -Bradley

August 2014
23
5 Seconds of Summer – Self-titled Record Label: Capitol Release Date: June 17 2014 (UK) July 22 2014 (US) Australian pop-punk/pop-rock outfit 5 Seconds of Summer is a rather fascinating group, because there is so much that can be discussed when talking about them. A lot of people have been calling this band a boy band, similar to One Direction, because that’s who discovered them, and honestly, they aren’t too far off. The thing is, this band just plays their own instruments. Heck, they’re on the cover of Alternative Press magazine for this month. They certainly aren’t a “boy band” if they’re on the cover of a magazine like that, where most of its readers, aged 12 – 20, aren’t into boy bands or even pop music itself. Others have made the claim for or against that 5SOS are a pop-punk band, in the vein of Blink-182, New Found Glory, Real Friends, The Story So Far, etc, etc. While I can say they’re not technically a boy band, they’re not really pop-punk, either. And that’s not the pop-punk purist in me saying that because they’re popular or whatever. They just don’t come off as a pop-punk band in that vein. One could argue, however, that they’re a pop-punk-that’s-more-pop-than-punk, meaning bands like We Are the In Crowd, All Time Low, and other bands who play a combination of pop-punk and pop-rock. Calling 5SOS a pop-punk band is a bit strange to me, only in the sense that they aren’t the kind of band that could carry the torch of the genre. They don’t really fit in with the kind of pop-punk that I really enjoy, along with many other people. They could be a good band to get into if you’re new to pop-punk, or want a “gateway” band, but these guys really aren’t the kind of pop-punk that most people are used to.  Regardless of what you think about this band, one thing is for sure: they’re getting harder to ignore. Ignoring them simply will not help anymore. For awhile, I saw the group’s debut self-titled EP, and simply ignored it. I listened to the track “She Looks So Perfect,” and I shouldn’t have watched the video while listening to it. I didn’t like the video at all, but the song wasn’t half bad. The lyrics were kind of cringe-worthy, especially the chorus, but the songwriting wasn’t half bad, and the hook was still great. It’s a very catchy tune, but at the same time, I wasn’t that interested in listening to the rest of the EP. I knew the band had an album coming out, but I wasn’t too sure I wanted to hear that, either. Well, I’m obviously writing about the band’s self-titled debut album now, so I’ve certainly given it a few listens. After releasing an EP just a few months ago, you’d think they’d wait a bit longer to release an album, right? Well, music is a business at the same time, and with the internet making it easier for people to move onto new stuff in the blink of an eye, it makes sense from a business standpoint. And it helps that, at this point, the band is getting really hard to ignore. I finally thought I’d buy a copy to listen to, and see what I thought about it. Is this band really worth the hype that they’re building up for themselves, or are they just a band that only pre-teen girls are going nuts for? Well, it’s sort of both, and that’s a rather odd thing to say. The hype surrounding them is somewhat justified, but at the same time, this is a band that pre-teen/teenage girls will eat up. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’d be lying if I said that I can’t see why their fans are a very specific demographic. This is a very fascinating LP, since there are some things that I really enjoy in it, but also some things that I don’t. What works is pretty simple – the instrumentation and vocals. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing mindblowing or revolutionary. Don’t go into this album thinking you’ll get a Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club by The Beatles, because you’re just silly if you have expectations that high. Granted, there is nothing wrong with having expectations going into a record, but if you have an idea of what to expect, you shouldn’t be surprised when it’s not as great as you wanted it to be. I will say, however, that if you just have fun with this LP and understand that these guys are in their late teens/early 20s and they’re a pop-rock band targeted to teenage girl, you’ll most likely enjoy it a lot more.  Regardless, the instrumentation on this LP is still quite impressive, especially in certain moments. Maybe it’s more so the songwriting, but even so, the way the sounds are constructed and the instrumentation as a whole is really nice. Songs like “She Looks So Perfect,” “Good Girls,” and “End Up Here” have great hooks and catchy melodies. It’s surprising to me, especially because I never thought that some “boy band with guitars” would be able to produce such catchy tunes. A majority of the songs on this LP are insanely catchy, and well done pop-punk. It’s pretty straightforward, but instrumentally, it’s really nice. Even the vocals are quite interesting, too; all four members sing, including lead vocalist/guitarist Luke Hemmings, guitarist Michael Clifford, bassist Calum Hood, and drummer Ashton Irwin. Hemmings takes most of the vocals, but when the other members come into play, they can sing quite well, too. The only problem is that I can’t exactly distinguish each of them apart, but they do have nice voices. I’m not appalled by any of them, and none of them are better than the other (Blink-182, anyone? I seriously cannot stand Tom DeLonge’s vocals. I don’t mind whiny vocals, but he’s just too whiny for my tastes). Even though the instrumentation and vocals are quite nice on this LP, my biggest problem is the one thing I haven’t mentioned yet – the lyrics. The instrumentation on this record is up to par with bands they cite as influences, such as All Time Low and Boys Like Girls (the latter of which I enjoy a nice amount), having a nice pop-rock sound, albeit nothing too revolutionary or unique. It’s just done very well. But what makes those bands work are their lyrics. Sure, they’re nothing all that great, either, but they’re a lot more “mature” than compared to this band. And while I don’t usually let lyrics bother me, there’s a reason why their fanbase is comprised of teenage girls, and it’s not only their boyish good looks. It’s their lyrics that pander directly to them. Songs like “She Looks So Perfect,” “Good Girls,” and “Kiss Me Kiss Me” really showcase this. A lot of the songs on this LP do focus on relationships and girls, but it’s nothing more than your average ideas and subject matter. The lyrics aren’t truly bad, but there are a few moments where I cringe every time I hear it. For instance, the two that stand out most to me are on “She Looks So Perfect,” where the chorus says, “She looks so perfect standing there / In my American Apparel underwear,” and “Heartbreak Girl,” that describes the bands’ affinity for a girl who keeps dating terrible guys, “And when the phone call finally ends /  You say, “I’ll call you tomorrow at 10” / And I’m stuck in the friend zone again and again.” Those are really stupid lyrics and every time I hear them, I just cringe.


There aren’t too many more moments like that, but as a whole, the lyrics are just okay. There’s nothing really bad about them, but nothing really good, either. They just exist, and their fans will eat them up just fine. There are two tracks that I loved lyrically, however, those two tracks being “Beside You,” and “Amnesia.” These two tracks feel the most “adult,” and honestly, if the whole LP was full of these lyrics, I could get into this album much more. The former song is about a long distance relationship, the clichéd “I’m on tour, but you’re at home” song, but for what it is, it’s done quite well. The same goes for album closer, “Amnesia,” the only breakup song on the LP and the only acoustic song. Both objectives hit their marks very well, as the lyrics are quite mature and realistic. It’s a great ending track, and easily one of the two highlights on the LP. Sadly, though, having only two highlights doesn’t mean I’m absolutely in love with this LP. I certainly do enjoy it a nice amount, but its problems are quite apparent. It’s nothing too original, which isn’t bad all in itself, but the songs do have a formula to them, and it can get kinda stale after awhile, and the lyrics are nothing remarkable, either. The instrumentation and catchy choruses are what really keep this album afloat for me. It’s a good album to play in, well, the summer. It’s just a catchy pop-rock album that’s definitely worth a few listens, whether or not you fit the demographic for it. Favorite tracks: “Amnesia” & “Beside You” RIYL: All Time Low – So Wrong, It’s Right, Boys Like Girls – Self-titled, & The Maine – Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Overall rating: 7.5/10-Bradley

5 Seconds of Summer – Self-titled
Record Label: Capitol
Release Date: June 17 2014 (UK) July 22 2014 (US)

Australian pop-punk/pop-rock outfit 5 Seconds of Summer is a rather fascinating group, because there is so much that can be discussed when talking about them. A lot of people have been calling this band a boy band, similar to One Direction, because that’s who discovered them, and honestly, they aren’t too far off. The thing is, this band just plays their own instruments. Heck, they’re on the cover of Alternative Press magazine for this month. They certainly aren’t a “boy band” if they’re on the cover of a magazine like that, where most of its readers, aged 12 – 20, aren’t into boy bands or even pop music itself. Others have made the claim for or against that 5SOS are a pop-punk band, in the vein of Blink-182, New Found Glory, Real Friends, The Story So Far, etc, etc. While I can say they’re not technically a boy band, they’re not really pop-punk, either. And that’s not the pop-punk purist in me saying that because they’re popular or whatever. They just don’t come off as a pop-punk band in that vein. One could argue, however, that they’re a pop-punk-that’s-more-pop-than-punk, meaning bands like We Are the In Crowd, All Time Low, and other bands who play a combination of pop-punk and pop-rock. Calling 5SOS a pop-punk band is a bit strange to me, only in the sense that they aren’t the kind of band that could carry the torch of the genre. They don’t really fit in with the kind of pop-punk that I really enjoy, along with many other people. They could be a good band to get into if you’re new to pop-punk, or want a “gateway” band, but these guys really aren’t the kind of pop-punk that most people are used to.

Regardless of what you think about this band, one thing is for sure: they’re getting harder to ignore. Ignoring them simply will not help anymore. For awhile, I saw the group’s debut self-titled EP, and simply ignored it. I listened to the track “She Looks So Perfect,” and I shouldn’t have watched the video while listening to it. I didn’t like the video at all, but the song wasn’t half bad. The lyrics were kind of cringe-worthy, especially the chorus, but the songwriting wasn’t half bad, and the hook was still great. It’s a very catchy tune, but at the same time, I wasn’t that interested in listening to the rest of the EP. I knew the band had an album coming out, but I wasn’t too sure I wanted to hear that, either. Well, I’m obviously writing about the band’s self-titled debut album now, so I’ve certainly given it a few listens. After releasing an EP just a few months ago, you’d think they’d wait a bit longer to release an album, right? Well, music is a business at the same time, and with the internet making it easier for people to move onto new stuff in the blink of an eye, it makes sense from a business standpoint. And it helps that, at this point, the band is getting really hard to ignore. I finally thought I’d buy a copy to listen to, and see what I thought about it. Is this band really worth the hype that they’re building up for themselves, or are they just a band that only pre-teen girls are going nuts for?

Well, it’s sort of both, and that’s a rather odd thing to say. The hype surrounding them is somewhat justified, but at the same time, this is a band that pre-teen/teenage girls will eat up. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’d be lying if I said that I can’t see why their fans are a very specific demographic. This is a very fascinating LP, since there are some things that I really enjoy in it, but also some things that I don’t. What works is pretty simple – the instrumentation and vocals. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing mindblowing or revolutionary. Don’t go into this album thinking you’ll get a Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club by The Beatles, because you’re just silly if you have expectations that high. Granted, there is nothing wrong with having expectations going into a record, but if you have an idea of what to expect, you shouldn’t be surprised when it’s not as great as you wanted it to be. I will say, however, that if you just have fun with this LP and understand that these guys are in their late teens/early 20s and they’re a pop-rock band targeted to teenage girl, you’ll most likely enjoy it a lot more.

Regardless, the instrumentation on this LP is still quite impressive, especially in certain moments. Maybe it’s more so the songwriting, but even so, the way the sounds are constructed and the instrumentation as a whole is really nice. Songs like “She Looks So Perfect,” “Good Girls,” and “End Up Here” have great hooks and catchy melodies. It’s surprising to me, especially because I never thought that some “boy band with guitars” would be able to produce such catchy tunes. A majority of the songs on this LP are insanely catchy, and well done pop-punk. It’s pretty straightforward, but instrumentally, it’s really nice. Even the vocals are quite interesting, too; all four members sing, including lead vocalist/guitarist Luke Hemmings, guitarist Michael Clifford, bassist Calum Hood, and drummer Ashton Irwin. Hemmings takes most of the vocals, but when the other members come into play, they can sing quite well, too. The only problem is that I can’t exactly distinguish each of them apart, but they do have nice voices. I’m not appalled by any of them, and none of them are better than the other (Blink-182, anyone? I seriously cannot stand Tom DeLonge’s vocals. I don’t mind whiny vocals, but he’s just too whiny for my tastes).

Even though the instrumentation and vocals are quite nice on this LP, my biggest problem is the one thing I haven’t mentioned yet – the lyrics. The instrumentation on this record is up to par with bands they cite as influences, such as All Time Low and Boys Like Girls (the latter of which I enjoy a nice amount), having a nice pop-rock sound, albeit nothing too revolutionary or unique. It’s just done very well. But what makes those bands work are their lyrics. Sure, they’re nothing all that great, either, but they’re a lot more “mature” than compared to this band. And while I don’t usually let lyrics bother me, there’s a reason why their fanbase is comprised of teenage girls, and it’s not only their boyish good looks. It’s their lyrics that pander directly to them. Songs like “She Looks So Perfect,” “Good Girls,” and “Kiss Me Kiss Me” really showcase this. A lot of the songs on this LP do focus on relationships and girls, but it’s nothing more than your average ideas and subject matter. The lyrics aren’t truly bad, but there are a few moments where I cringe every time I hear it. For instance, the two that stand out most to me are on “She Looks So Perfect,” where the chorus says, “She looks so perfect standing there / In my American Apparel underwear,” and “Heartbreak Girl,” that describes the bands’ affinity for a girl who keeps dating terrible guys, “And when the phone call finally ends /
You say, “I’ll call you tomorrow at 10” / And I’m stuck in the friend zone again and again.” Those are really stupid lyrics and every time I hear them, I just cringe.

There aren’t too many more moments like that, but as a whole, the lyrics are just okay. There’s nothing really bad about them, but nothing really good, either. They just exist, and their fans will eat them up just fine. There are two tracks that I loved lyrically, however, those two tracks being “Beside You,” and “Amnesia.” These two tracks feel the most “adult,” and honestly, if the whole LP was full of these lyrics, I could get into this album much more. The former song is about a long distance relationship, the clichéd “I’m on tour, but you’re at home” song, but for what it is, it’s done quite well. The same goes for album closer, “Amnesia,” the only breakup song on the LP and the only acoustic song. Both objectives hit their marks very well, as the lyrics are quite mature and realistic. It’s a great ending track, and easily one of the two highlights on the LP. Sadly, though, having only two highlights doesn’t mean I’m absolutely in love with this LP. I certainly do enjoy it a nice amount, but its problems are quite apparent. It’s nothing too original, which isn’t bad all in itself, but the songs do have a formula to them, and it can get kinda stale after awhile, and the lyrics are nothing remarkable, either. The instrumentation and catchy choruses are what really keep this album afloat for me. It’s a good album to play in, well, the summer. It’s just a catchy pop-rock album that’s definitely worth a few listens, whether or not you fit the demographic for it.

Favorite tracks: “Amnesia” & “Beside You”

RIYL: All Time Low – So Wrong, It’s Right, Boys Like Girls – Self-titled, & The Maine – Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Overall rating: 7.5/10

-Bradley

August 2014
23
Traditions – Cycles Record Label: Take This to Heart Release Date: March 11 2014 Being a fan of something means that you generally enjoy, like, or even love, whatever it may be, whether it’s a TV show, film, book, band/artist, or whatever. You can be a fan of really anything nowadays, but there’s nothing that says you, the fan, can’t point out any flaws in whatever it may be. You can certainly acknowledge the flaws and shortcomings of anything you enjoy. Most often, people don’t really care about the flaws, or don’t think there are any, because they love it way too much to notice. For instance, I’m a huge pop-punk fan, and that’s probably something any regular readers of my reviews know. Do I even have “regular readers”? I’m not a newspaper column, but I’d be fascinated to know if anyone really reads all of my reviews. Anyway, as much as I love the genre of pop-punk, there are problems in it. Granted, they’re more noticeable in bands that I don’t like or really care about, but the flaws exist. There’s a few of them, namely lyrical themes, instrumentation, and vocal delivery. The lyrics are usually pretty cliché, talking about pizza, friends, girls, hometowns, and what have you. These topics can be done well, and a lot of bands do, but some bands are quite clichéd about it (I’m looking at you, Real Friends). The instrumentation can be rather bland, and while it doesn’t have to be original, with some bands, it lacks any pizzazz or staying power. It’s just boring and utterly forgettable. The vocal delivery, too, can be rather clichéd, as most vocalists in the genre try to shout, instead of actually sing. And it can be rather annoying, hearing band after band that does that. With that being said, I’d be lying if I said that pop-punk is not a saturated genre, meaning that it’s overloaded with tons of bands trying to capitalize on the success of both the pop-punk bands of yesteryear (mainly the early 00s), or the newer bands of the last few years.  As much as I love it, it’s getting harder and harder to find really unique bands that stand out in some way, shape, or form. A lot of the unknown and/or unsigned pop-punk bands I’ve found aren’t very good, to be totally blunt. They don’t do much for me, but I will say that I have found a lot of good ones recently, such as IL pop-punk/easycore bands Cover the Coastline and Scouts Honour. Other ones have caught my attention include a couple of bands on indie label Take This to Heart Records. I actually came across MA pop-punk band Traditions on Absolutepunk, a music website that I visit daily. It’s how I’ve come to find many bands I love, to be completely honest. The band debuted a music video for a track off debut EP, Cycles, released earlier this year. The band’s RIYL really interested me, citing bands such as The Wonder Years, Taking Back Sunday, and The Swellers as influences. I dig all three bands, to varying degrees (The Swellers being my favorite out of those), but I figured it was worth a listen. So I bought a copy of the CD, and I decided to see what this band was all about. Frankly, I would add Traditions to the list of really good unsigned and/or unknown bands I’ve come across. They’re signed to a small label, but they’re still pretty unknown. This is a band that does actually try to have a unique sound. Another band on the label, Life On the Sideline, is another pop-punk band that also has a rather unique sound, albeit the sounds are a bit different. Traditions goes for a more alt-rock meets pop-punk sound, while Life On the Sideline is a pop-punk band that mixes emo and indie-rock.  I wouldn’t say Cycles is a perfect EP, by any means, but for a debut EP, it’s still quite impressive. If you’re a pop-punk fan, this is certainly worth your time, and with it only being 15 minutes, it wouldn’t hurt to give it at least one spin. Right off the bat, I love Traditions’ sound, mixing alt-rock and indie-rock with pop-punk. It’s not necessarily a new sound, per se, considering that bands like The Swellers, Transit, and Daytrader already have done this and still do it, but it’s good. I’d still say that this band is rather unique, since not many popular pop-punk bands have a unique sound. I hate to say it, but most of the big pop-punk bands sound exactly the same, and don’t offer anything interesting or all that new. Bands such as Balance & Composure, Citizen, Firieworks, Transit, and many others, have very unique and interesting sounds, so why aren’t these bands more popular? Well, I digress, but Traditions is a band that I’d put into that category. I will say, however, that each song on Cycles does sound rather similar, and that’s my biggest issue with it. The EP does have a formula to it, and for being 15 minutes, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The songs just aren’t all that memorable on their own. I do like everything about this EP, but I feel like its ideas are a bit too repetitive, losing its sheen after a handful of listens. Like I said, however, this EP is definitely worth your time, and showcases a rather interesting sound. For a debut EP, this is pretty solid stuff, and I can’t wait to see what this band does. RIYL: Daytrader – Twelve Years, Transit – Listen & Forgive, & The Swellers – Good for Me Overall rating: 8.3/10-Bradley

Traditions – Cycles
Record Label: Take This to Heart
Release Date: March 11 2014

Being a fan of something means that you generally enjoy, like, or even love, whatever it may be, whether it’s a TV show, film, book, band/artist, or whatever. You can be a fan of really anything nowadays, but there’s nothing that says you, the fan, can’t point out any flaws in whatever it may be. You can certainly acknowledge the flaws and shortcomings of anything you enjoy. Most often, people don’t really care about the flaws, or don’t think there are any, because they love it way too much to notice. For instance, I’m a huge pop-punk fan, and that’s probably something any regular readers of my reviews know. Do I even have “regular readers”? I’m not a newspaper column, but I’d be fascinated to know if anyone really reads all of my reviews. Anyway, as much as I love the genre of pop-punk, there are problems in it. Granted, they’re more noticeable in bands that I don’t like or really care about, but the flaws exist. There’s a few of them, namely lyrical themes, instrumentation, and vocal delivery. The lyrics are usually pretty cliché, talking about pizza, friends, girls, hometowns, and what have you. These topics can be done well, and a lot of bands do, but some bands are quite clichéd about it (I’m looking at you, Real Friends). The instrumentation can be rather bland, and while it doesn’t have to be original, with some bands, it lacks any pizzazz or staying power. It’s just boring and utterly forgettable. The vocal delivery, too, can be rather clichéd, as most vocalists in the genre try to shout, instead of actually sing. And it can be rather annoying, hearing band after band that does that. With that being said, I’d be lying if I said that pop-punk is not a saturated genre, meaning that it’s overloaded with tons of bands trying to capitalize on the success of both the pop-punk bands of yesteryear (mainly the early 00s), or the newer bands of the last few years.

As much as I love it, it’s getting harder and harder to find really unique bands that stand out in some way, shape, or form. A lot of the unknown and/or unsigned pop-punk bands I’ve found aren’t very good, to be totally blunt. They don’t do much for me, but I will say that I have found a lot of good ones recently, such as IL pop-punk/easycore bands Cover the Coastline and Scouts Honour. Other ones have caught my attention include a couple of bands on indie label Take This to Heart Records. I actually came across MA pop-punk band Traditions on Absolutepunk, a music website that I visit daily. It’s how I’ve come to find many bands I love, to be completely honest. The band debuted a music video for a track off debut EP, Cycles, released earlier this year. The band’s RIYL really interested me, citing bands such as The Wonder Years, Taking Back Sunday, and The Swellers as influences. I dig all three bands, to varying degrees (The Swellers being my favorite out of those), but I figured it was worth a listen. So I bought a copy of the CD, and I decided to see what this band was all about. Frankly, I would add Traditions to the list of really good unsigned and/or unknown bands I’ve come across. They’re signed to a small label, but they’re still pretty unknown. This is a band that does actually try to have a unique sound. Another band on the label, Life On the Sideline, is another pop-punk band that also has a rather unique sound, albeit the sounds are a bit different. Traditions goes for a more alt-rock meets pop-punk sound, while Life On the Sideline is a pop-punk band that mixes emo and indie-rock.

I wouldn’t say Cycles is a perfect EP, by any means, but for a debut EP, it’s still quite impressive. If you’re a pop-punk fan, this is certainly worth your time, and with it only being 15 minutes, it wouldn’t hurt to give it at least one spin. Right off the bat, I love Traditions’ sound, mixing alt-rock and indie-rock with pop-punk. It’s not necessarily a new sound, per se, considering that bands like The Swellers, Transit, and Daytrader already have done this and still do it, but it’s good. I’d still say that this band is rather unique, since not many popular pop-punk bands have a unique sound. I hate to say it, but most of the big pop-punk bands sound exactly the same, and don’t offer anything interesting or all that new. Bands such as Balance & Composure, Citizen, Firieworks, Transit, and many others, have very unique and interesting sounds, so why aren’t these bands more popular? Well, I digress, but Traditions is a band that I’d put into that category. I will say, however, that each song on Cycles does sound rather similar, and that’s my biggest issue with it. The EP does have a formula to it, and for being 15 minutes, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The songs just aren’t all that memorable on their own. I do like everything about this EP, but I feel like its ideas are a bit too repetitive, losing its sheen after a handful of listens. Like I said, however, this EP is definitely worth your time, and showcases a rather interesting sound. For a debut EP, this is pretty solid stuff, and I can’t wait to see what this band does.

RIYL: Daytrader – Twelve Years, Transit – Listen & Forgive, & The Swellers – Good for Me

Overall rating: 8.3/10

-Bradley

August 2014
23

Photo Gallery by Leo Burke ( Leo Burke )

Artist/Band:  Seaway

Location: Cuisine En Locale - Somerville, Ma.

Date: August 17, 2014

You can view the entire set from this show here.

#seaway   #gallery   #leo burke   
August 2014
23

Photo Gallery by Leo Burke ( Leo Burke )

Artist/Band:  Stickup Kid

Location: Cuisine En Locale - Somerville, Ma.

Date: August 17, 2014

You can view the entire set from this show here.

August 2014
23

Photo Gallery by Leo Burke ( Leo Burke )

Artist/Band:  Driver Friendly

Location: Cuisine En Locale - Somerville, Ma.

Date: August 17, 2014

You can view the entire set from this show here.

August 2014
23

Photo Gallery by Leo Burke ( Leo Burke )

Artist/Band:  Agree To Disagree

Location: Cuisine En Locale - Somerville, Ma.

Date: August 17, 2014

You can view the entire set from this show here.

August 2014
23
The Killers – Hot Fuss Record Label: Island Release Date: June 15 2004 About two months ago, Las Vegas alt-rock/indie-rock group The Killers celebrated the tenth anniversary of debut record, Hot Fuss. I read a review on the music website Absolutepunk about the record, and how it still really held up. As someone who’s barely listened to the band, I was a bit curious about it. You see, I had only listened to this band once many years ago. I listened to a few tracks off Hot Fuss, including lead single, “Mr. Brightside.” That’s the only track I really remember, but it’s a good song. I really enjoy that track. For whatever reason, sadly, I forgot about the record. It completely slipped my mind, but maybe that is because there has been a lot of new releases coming out that I’m more concerned with. Well, a few days ago, I had about four hours to kill before I had to go to work, so I spent the morning walking around a few places, first over to Target (where I picked up Cali nu-metal/metalcore band Of Mice & Men’s sophomore LP, The Flood for only $7.50), then to FYE (where I didn’t get anything), and finally, Best Buy. I didn’t see much of anything that I really wanted, but I went over to the “budget” records where I came across Hot Fuss in the $5.99 CDs. I didn’t really want to pass it up, so I decided to get the album. With how praising that review was about the LP, and how much I love the lead single, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to listen to the record. After work, I brought the record home (well, both LPs home, anyway), and decided to give it a listen. How did that turn out? Honestly, I’ve given the album a few spins, and I have rather mixed feelings on Hot Fuss. On one hand, I really enjoy it, but on the other, there are some things about this LP that I just can’t get over, and really just can’t get into. Okay, let’s start with what works, and it’s really two things that work for me the most: vocalist Brandon Flowers, and the overall sound of the record. Flowers is one of the most fascinating vocalists I’ve ever heard. His vocals are really odd, but in a good way. The man can certainly sing, but he’s got an unorthodox voice. His vocals are doused with vocal effects throughout a majority of the record, but it’s not obnoxious or really bothersome. If anything, it showcases that he’s experimenting with his vocals. That’s not something you see every day with a band, especially an indie-rock band. I can certainly commend Flowers for that, and his vocals are still really good, regardless. I found myself really enjoying the vocal hooks and melodies throughout the LP. I also really like the sound of the LP, even if it’s a tad simplistic. There isn’t much to their sound; this LP is merely an indie-rock meets 80s New Wave. They actually remind me a lot of defunct New York band The Bravery. In fact, vocalist Sam Endicott sounds a lot like Flowers. If you dig The Bravery, especially their debut album, you’ll enjoy Hot Fuss, too. It’s got the same kind of sound, just done a bit differently. Hot Fuss is an indie-rock record meets New Wave/pop. It’s got a lot of nice fluttering synth lines running through the record, along with your average indie-rock instrumentation. The synth is really what keeps the record interesting. When the synth shows up, I’m a bit more into the song, but the sound itself is cool. Sadly, however, there a lot of things on this LP that I just don’t care for. And the negatives do outweigh the positives here. The main problems I have with this LP go hand in hand: it’s too long, and some of the songs themselves really drag on. Seriously, three of the songs on here are 5 minutes or over, and they make up a third of the LP. The thing is, I wouldn’t mind if these songs were interesting or enjoyable, but they’re just boring. These songs tend to drag on quite a bit. Closing track, “Everything Will Be Alright” has a great drum pattern running through it, but it just meanders. The song doesn’t go anywhere, doesn’t do anything, it’s just stagnant for six minutes. The song gets really boring really fast, and I just don’t have any interest in listening to it. A lot of other songs on this LP are just plain boring, and that’s the biggest problem. The album clocks in at 45 minutes, and that doesn’t help, either. It feels way too long. I feel exhausted every time I listen to this thing because a lot of the songs just bore me. This is a perfect example of a record with a cool sound, but mediocre in execution. Some of the songs are great, such as “On Top,” “Midnight Show,” and “Mr. Brightside,” which are easily my three favorite songs, but the album itself is quite boring. It would also help if the lyrics really held up throughout the album, making what Flowers says worth investing in the album, but the lyrics are just as bland. With the exception of the songs I mentioned, along with another couple tracks, the lyrics are really boring as well. There’s just nothing for me to really latch onto, minus a few moments here and there. Don’t get me wrong, this album isn’t bad, and there’s nothing I really dislike, but I just find this album mediocre, to some degree. There are things I do enjoy about it, so I don’t ultimately dislike it, or not care about it, but I just don’t really have the inclination to revisit this album. It would be one thing if there were anything overwhelmingly good to keep me coming back to each song, but I don’t think having a few enjoyable songs on a 45-minute record is worth listening to the entire thing. I just don’t see myself really playing this album very much, but it might be something I play every now and again. It’s got some good moments and songs, but not all of it really works for me. There is a reason why this album is so revered by people, and I can admittedly hear it, but it just doesn’t do too much for me. This is a case of me really appreciating an album more than actually enjoying it, but who knows, maybe you enjoy more than me, or will enjoy it more, if you haven’t heard it. I definitely would say it’s worth your time, especially if you want to hear an album from one of the biggest “mainstream” alt-rock bands of the last ten years.   Overall rating: 7.5/10-Bradley

The Killers – Hot Fuss
Record Label: Island
Release Date: June 15 2004

About two months ago, Las Vegas alt-rock/indie-rock group The Killers celebrated the tenth anniversary of debut record, Hot Fuss. I read a review on the music website Absolutepunk about the record, and how it still really held up. As someone who’s barely listened to the band, I was a bit curious about it. You see, I had only listened to this band once many years ago. I listened to a few tracks off Hot Fuss, including lead single, “Mr. Brightside.” That’s the only track I really remember, but it’s a good song. I really enjoy that track. For whatever reason, sadly, I forgot about the record. It completely slipped my mind, but maybe that is because there has been a lot of new releases coming out that I’m more concerned with. Well, a few days ago, I had about four hours to kill before I had to go to work, so I spent the morning walking around a few places, first over to Target (where I picked up Cali nu-metal/metalcore band Of Mice & Men’s sophomore LP, The Flood for only $7.50), then to FYE (where I didn’t get anything), and finally, Best Buy. I didn’t see much of anything that I really wanted, but I went over to the “budget” records where I came across Hot Fuss in the $5.99 CDs. I didn’t really want to pass it up, so I decided to get the album. With how praising that review was about the LP, and how much I love the lead single, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to listen to the record. After work, I brought the record home (well, both LPs home, anyway), and decided to give it a listen. How did that turn out?

Honestly, I’ve given the album a few spins, and I have rather mixed feelings on Hot Fuss. On one hand, I really enjoy it, but on the other, there are some things about this LP that I just can’t get over, and really just can’t get into. Okay, let’s start with what works, and it’s really two things that work for me the most: vocalist Brandon Flowers, and the overall sound of the record. Flowers is one of the most fascinating vocalists I’ve ever heard. His vocals are really odd, but in a good way. The man can certainly sing, but he’s got an unorthodox voice. His vocals are doused with vocal effects throughout a majority of the record, but it’s not obnoxious or really bothersome. If anything, it showcases that he’s experimenting with his vocals. That’s not something you see every day with a band, especially an indie-rock band. I can certainly commend Flowers for that, and his vocals are still really good, regardless. I found myself really enjoying the vocal hooks and melodies throughout the LP. I also really like the sound of the LP, even if it’s a tad simplistic. There isn’t much to their sound; this LP is merely an indie-rock meets 80s New Wave. They actually remind me a lot of defunct New York band The Bravery. In fact, vocalist Sam Endicott sounds a lot like Flowers. If you dig The Bravery, especially their debut album, you’ll enjoy Hot Fuss, too. It’s got the same kind of sound, just done a bit differently. Hot Fuss is an indie-rock record meets New Wave/pop. It’s got a lot of nice fluttering synth lines running through the record, along with your average indie-rock instrumentation. The synth is really what keeps the record interesting. When the synth shows up, I’m a bit more into the song, but the sound itself is cool.

Sadly, however, there a lot of things on this LP that I just don’t care for. And the negatives do outweigh the positives here. The main problems I have with this LP go hand in hand: it’s too long, and some of the songs themselves really drag on. Seriously, three of the songs on here are 5 minutes or over, and they make up a third of the LP. The thing is, I wouldn’t mind if these songs were interesting or enjoyable, but they’re just boring. These songs tend to drag on quite a bit. Closing track, “Everything Will Be Alright” has a great drum pattern running through it, but it just meanders. The song doesn’t go anywhere, doesn’t do anything, it’s just stagnant for six minutes. The song gets really boring really fast, and I just don’t have any interest in listening to it. A lot of other songs on this LP are just plain boring, and that’s the biggest problem. The album clocks in at 45 minutes, and that doesn’t help, either. It feels way too long. I feel exhausted every time I listen to this thing because a lot of the songs just bore me. This is a perfect example of a record with a cool sound, but mediocre in execution. Some of the songs are great, such as “On Top,” “Midnight Show,” and “Mr. Brightside,” which are easily my three favorite songs, but the album itself is quite boring. It would also help if the lyrics really held up throughout the album, making what Flowers says worth investing in the album, but the lyrics are just as bland. With the exception of the songs I mentioned, along with another couple tracks, the lyrics are really boring as well. There’s just nothing for me to really latch onto, minus a few moments here and there.

Don’t get me wrong, this album isn’t bad, and there’s nothing I really dislike, but I just find this album mediocre, to some degree. There are things I do enjoy about it, so I don’t ultimately dislike it, or not care about it, but I just don’t really have the inclination to revisit this album. It would be one thing if there were anything overwhelmingly good to keep me coming back to each song, but I don’t think having a few enjoyable songs on a 45-minute record is worth listening to the entire thing. I just don’t see myself really playing this album very much, but it might be something I play every now and again. It’s got some good moments and songs, but not all of it really works for me. There is a reason why this album is so revered by people, and I can admittedly hear it, but it just doesn’t do too much for me. This is a case of me really appreciating an album more than actually enjoying it, but who knows, maybe you enjoy more than me, or will enjoy it more, if you haven’t heard it. I definitely would say it’s worth your time, especially if you want to hear an album from one of the biggest “mainstream” alt-rock bands of the last ten years.
 
Overall rating: 7.5/10

-Bradley

August 2014
23
Jesse McCartney – In Technicolor Record Label: Eight0Eight Records Release Date: July 22 2014 New York pop/R&B singer Jesse McCartney is one of those singers that was really popular back in the early to mid 00s, faded away for awhile, then suddenly came back within the last year or so. He didn’t necessarily come back in a fashion as grandiose as fellow po/R&B singer Justin Timberlake. Remember when he came back? That was crazy. He released a video on his website and people went nuts, myself included. As a huge JT fan, I was stoked for whatever he was doing. Jesse McCartney, on the other hand, didn’t come back as strongly, but did release an EP in 2013, entitled In Technicolor, Pt 1. I didn’t discover the EP until March of 2014, and it was on total accident. A friend of mine showed me a post on his Twitter page, but I noticed that he had a new EP out, so I decided to listen to it. Believe it or not, I was already a fan of McCartney’s work, at least debut album Beautiful Soul, anyway. I knew that McCartney was going to release a new record soon, but I wasn’t sure what it would be called, what songs would be on it, or even when it would come out. Fast forward to just a couple weeks ago, I was at my local Target, just looking around and I saw the cover of fourth album, In Technicolor, on the side of the new releases display, saying it was coming out the week after. I immediately got stoked, because I knew it was gonna be good. In Technicolor, Pt 1 was actually a teaser EP with four songs from the LP, so I had a huge hunch that it was going to be great. I loved the EP’s sound, having a 70s disco sound, and that’s exactly what McCartney said it was going to be. I did manage to pick it up, and if you get it at Target, there are two bonus tracks on the LP, so I’ll talk about those as well. Now that I’ve had it for a couple of weeks, how is In Technicolor? Well, I’m happy to say that In Technicolor is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. It’s absolutely magnificent in many different ways, and it delivers in every single way I was hoping it would. From first glance, it would appear that McCartney is basically jumping on the “retro-pop” bandwagon, similar to guys like Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, and a few others, but that’s not the case. He does have a retro sound on this LP, but it’s all his own. Like Justin Timberlake, he tries to utilize a modern edge, and a few tracks do have a modern edge to them, such as “Checkmate,” “Catch & Release,” and “Goodie Bag.” I may not make any friends for saying this, especially as a big JT fan myself, but I have to say, I like In Technicolor just a bit more than The 20/20 Experience. Before every JT fan starts to write me an angry letter (do people still do that? I don’t know, but I’m waiting to get some), let me explain.


This album succeeds in a few areas where The 20/20 Experience didn’t, and they’re pretty big areas. Don’t get me wrong, that album is really freaking good. It was one of my favorite albums of 2013, but there were some glaring flaws in it, and there were two, both of which went hand in hand: the length, and ambition of the record’s sound. See, the album was around 70 minutes, and as guy who doesn’t really like long albums, it got to be an exhausting listen. But the reason it was so long was because the songs themselves were long. JT went off the wall (the Michael Jackson reference wasn’t intentional, but take it as you will) with ambition and just making the songs as long and intricate as possible. Well, the thing is, that’s cool in theory, but the songs were way too ambitious, especially for a pop record. Very few songs really had a justifiable length. If he made the songs about 3 – 5 minutes, they’d still be really good and also radio-friendly. On McCartney’s new LP, the songs are already between 3 – 4 minutes, but they have a nice balance between being rather simple and ambitious at the same time. They have a simple formula, but the execution is very strong. A song like lead single “Superbad” is very short, but it’s also one of the best tracks on the record, having very strong and groovy instrumentation that can make almost anyone get up and starting dancing/ That song, and many others, show off McCartney’s vocals very well, almost channeling his inner Michael Jackson. On a few of the tracks, such as “Superbad,” and “All About Us,” that’s exactly whom I thought he sounded like. McCartney’s vocals are still quite fantastic throughout the LP, regardless of who he sounds like. He really sells the emotion in the songs as well, even though the songs are mainly upbeat, and rated PG-13. There’s nothing truly vulgar or blatantly sexual, but a few tracks almost get to that point. Specifically, he sells the emotion on the much quieter and more upsetting tracks, and there’s really only three, “Checkmate,” “The Other Guy,” and “Catch & Release.” The first track was actually on the teaser EP and easily one of my favorites on the four-song effort. It tells the tale of McCartney using chess metaphors to describe a relationship and he calls “checkmate,” because she keeps doing things to him that pushing him away more and away. The two other tracks deal with a girl who’s cheating on McCartney, but they’re both opposite in terms of ideas. The former track deals with a woman who’s cheating, but he still wants her around. The latter has McCartney saying that she can go ahead and sleep with as many people as she wants, he just doesn’t want to be dating her, and thinks they’d be better off as friends. The songs work very well, even though I’m not a huge fan of ballads, such as “The Other Guy.” McCartney’s voice is great on there, so I can forgive it. If there is one problem I do have with this record, it would be the lyrics, but a couple of songs as a whole don’t really do much for me, even with the interesting instrumentation. A song like “Punch Drunk Recreation” is a song that just doesn’t work for me at all; the lyrics are kind of stupid, with McCartney doing his best Robin Thicke impression have a song like “Blurred Lines,” but not being as weird or creepy about it. The lyrics themselves at various points are the same way; they just don’t quite work for me, and on one hand, it’s not surprising. This is a pop record, after all, and the lyrics can be cheesy, silly, or just plain dumb, but they’re not truly bad. There is no lyrics where I cringed or thought it was awful. It’s just kinda lackluster and doesn’t really sway me one way or the other. Most of these tracks are about relationships, and they’re just sorta your average tracks, nothing really spectacular. What keeps it afloat is McCartney himself and the instrumentation. Those things are great, so I can overlook rather bland lyrics, considering that’s not the focus of the record. And if you do like this trend of retro-pop, and/or wondered where the heck Jesse McCartney went, give this LP a listen. You most likely won’t regret it. It’s easily become of my favorites this year. Overall rating: 9.5/10-Bradley

Jesse McCartney – In Technicolor
Record Label: Eight0Eight Records
Release Date: July 22 2014

New York pop/R&B singer Jesse McCartney is one of those singers that was really popular back in the early to mid 00s, faded away for awhile, then suddenly came back within the last year or so. He didn’t necessarily come back in a fashion as grandiose as fellow po/R&B singer Justin Timberlake. Remember when he came back? That was crazy. He released a video on his website and people went nuts, myself included. As a huge JT fan, I was stoked for whatever he was doing. Jesse McCartney, on the other hand, didn’t come back as strongly, but did release an EP in 2013, entitled In Technicolor, Pt 1. I didn’t discover the EP until March of 2014, and it was on total accident. A friend of mine showed me a post on his Twitter page, but I noticed that he had a new EP out, so I decided to listen to it. Believe it or not, I was already a fan of McCartney’s work, at least debut album Beautiful Soul, anyway. I knew that McCartney was going to release a new record soon, but I wasn’t sure what it would be called, what songs would be on it, or even when it would come out. Fast forward to just a couple weeks ago, I was at my local Target, just looking around and I saw the cover of fourth album, In Technicolor, on the side of the new releases display, saying it was coming out the week after. I immediately got stoked, because I knew it was gonna be good. In Technicolor, Pt 1 was actually a teaser EP with four songs from the LP, so I had a huge hunch that it was going to be great. I loved the EP’s sound, having a 70s disco sound, and that’s exactly what McCartney said it was going to be.

I did manage to pick it up, and if you get it at Target, there are two bonus tracks on the LP, so I’ll talk about those as well. Now that I’ve had it for a couple of weeks, how is In Technicolor? Well, I’m happy to say that In Technicolor is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. It’s absolutely magnificent in many different ways, and it delivers in every single way I was hoping it would. From first glance, it would appear that McCartney is basically jumping on the “retro-pop” bandwagon, similar to guys like Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, and a few others, but that’s not the case. He does have a retro sound on this LP, but it’s all his own. Like Justin Timberlake, he tries to utilize a modern edge, and a few tracks do have a modern edge to them, such as “Checkmate,” “Catch & Release,” and “Goodie Bag.” I may not make any friends for saying this, especially as a big JT fan myself, but I have to say, I like In Technicolor just a bit more than The 20/20 Experience. Before every JT fan starts to write me an angry letter (do people still do that? I don’t know, but I’m waiting to get some), let me explain.

This album succeeds in a few areas where The 20/20 Experience didn’t, and they’re pretty big areas. Don’t get me wrong, that album is really freaking good. It was one of my favorite albums of 2013, but there were some glaring flaws in it, and there were two, both of which went hand in hand: the length, and ambition of the record’s sound. See, the album was around 70 minutes, and as guy who doesn’t really like long albums, it got to be an exhausting listen. But the reason it was so long was because the songs themselves were long. JT went off the wall (the Michael Jackson reference wasn’t intentional, but take it as you will) with ambition and just making the songs as long and intricate as possible. Well, the thing is, that’s cool in theory, but the songs were way too ambitious, especially for a pop record. Very few songs really had a justifiable length. If he made the songs about 3 – 5 minutes, they’d still be really good and also radio-friendly. On McCartney’s new LP, the songs are already between 3 – 4 minutes, but they have a nice balance between being rather simple and ambitious at the same time. They have a simple formula, but the execution is very strong. A song like lead single “Superbad” is very short, but it’s also one of the best tracks on the record, having very strong and groovy instrumentation that can make almost anyone get up and starting dancing/

That song, and many others, show off McCartney’s vocals very well, almost channeling his inner Michael Jackson. On a few of the tracks, such as “Superbad,” and “All About Us,” that’s exactly whom I thought he sounded like. McCartney’s vocals are still quite fantastic throughout the LP, regardless of who he sounds like. He really sells the emotion in the songs as well, even though the songs are mainly upbeat, and rated PG-13. There’s nothing truly vulgar or blatantly sexual, but a few tracks almost get to that point. Specifically, he sells the emotion on the much quieter and more upsetting tracks, and there’s really only three, “Checkmate,” “The Other Guy,” and “Catch & Release.” The first track was actually on the teaser EP and easily one of my favorites on the four-song effort. It tells the tale of McCartney using chess metaphors to describe a relationship and he calls “checkmate,” because she keeps doing things to him that pushing him away more and away. The two other tracks deal with a girl who’s cheating on McCartney, but they’re both opposite in terms of ideas. The former track deals with a woman who’s cheating, but he still wants her around. The latter has McCartney saying that she can go ahead and sleep with as many people as she wants, he just doesn’t want to be dating her, and thinks they’d be better off as friends. The songs work very well, even though I’m not a huge fan of ballads, such as “The Other Guy.” McCartney’s voice is great on there, so I can forgive it.

If there is one problem I do have with this record, it would be the lyrics, but a couple of songs as a whole don’t really do much for me, even with the interesting instrumentation. A song like “Punch Drunk Recreation” is a song that just doesn’t work for me at all; the lyrics are kind of stupid, with McCartney doing his best Robin Thicke impression have a song like “Blurred Lines,” but not being as weird or creepy about it. The lyrics themselves at various points are the same way; they just don’t quite work for me, and on one hand, it’s not surprising. This is a pop record, after all, and the lyrics can be cheesy, silly, or just plain dumb, but they’re not truly bad. There is no lyrics where I cringed or thought it was awful. It’s just kinda lackluster and doesn’t really sway me one way or the other. Most of these tracks are about relationships, and they’re just sorta your average tracks, nothing really spectacular. What keeps it afloat is McCartney himself and the instrumentation. Those things are great, so I can overlook rather bland lyrics, considering that’s not the focus of the record. And if you do like this trend of retro-pop, and/or wondered where the heck Jesse McCartney went, give this LP a listen. You most likely won’t regret it. It’s easily become of my favorites this year.

Overall rating: 9.5/10

-Bradley