Terrible dancing, excellent music.
A very merry Christmas, dearest blog readers. Have an uplifting Latin pop song to accompany the warm feeling of Bailey’s in your bellies.
Thanks to The Wombats, a British three-piece indie rock/pop band, we can see why they would “want to go back to their bar in Tokyo.”
X-factor runner up sings poppy indie music (that’s actually good). I wouldn’t say that he’s terribly original, but his music, nonetheless, is fun.
Tom Gabel ends his latest album in defiance of some inevitably disappointed Against Me! fans: “Don’t let them tell you who you are.” An appropriate statement as he closes the poppy punk rock album, White Crosses, that deems pre-New Wave Against Me! dead to the punk world. Indeed, Against Me! has sold out to the mainstream rock producers in flaccid hooks and sing-along choruses, but in doing so the Green Day/Smiths-inspired anti-jingoistic rockers have matured into a widely enjoyable talent.
Take “Ache With Me.” Oh yeah: blues progression, 50s feel, acoustic guitar, mosh-pit ending slow-dance song. But in slowing the album down to explore the contemplative and perhaps prettier side of Against Me!, they showcase their ability to redefine their punk-rock ballads for a wider audience. Without falling flat like more current Green Day, “Ache With Me” succeeds.
In keeping with their political inspirations, “White Crosses” and “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” address abortion and rebellion in a similar fashion to pre-New Wave Against Me!: chirped imagery-laden storytelling. Folky—yes—but enjoyable.
Is the whole album fantastic then? The middle section slows a bit much and admittedly White Crosses brings little novelty to the band’s discography, but with “Rapid Decompression” to liven the album up in 1:45, and the hands-down best song on White Crosses to close (“Bamboo Bones”), this is a solid fifth album from newly reformed staple of punk-rock, Against Me!
Recommended Tracks: Bamboo Bones, White Crosses
Loyal music blog readers, I apologize for being inactive for so long. As many of you know, I am currently studying abroad in Beijing. Though this has distracted me from my BurgerBlog duties, it has also offered me new opportunities: an “in” to contemporary Chinese popular music.
After many hand gestures and broken sentences in Chinese and English, the clerk working the music stand showed me her favorite band, Fairyland in Reality (hereon out, F.I.R.). Though the band is Taiwanese (arguably Chinese, but we won’t get into that), it gives a good insight into what a popular indie band in China sounds like.
I will be the first to admit: this album is dated. “FIR’s Album” was FIR’s debut, which was released in 2004; their most recent and fourth album, Let’s Smile, was released this past Christmas. It is important to acknowledge that being a half-decade old, this acts as a representation of interests six years ago, and perhaps not now.
Unlike traditional Western rock songs, FIR is highly orchestral; the piano and violins guide the band as opposed to a plugged-in guitar, bass, and heavy drums. An Evanescenceish operatic woman’s voice crows over the variety of genres that FIR presents.
The poppier songs, like “Flame” and “Your Smile” are appealing as they encroach the familiar. The clear Western influences, like post-grunge guitar licks and flashy synths, take away from the flair of the album, but for those interested in popular Western alternative, these are the songs for. Disclaimer: “Flame” will get stuck in your head, regardless of if you understand the lyrics or not.
The ballads are a bit painful and formulaic; they start with quiet piano and then burst into harmonies, strings, and synths. Think Disney.
Check out “Revolution” for something pretty different. “Revolution” sounds like it could have been featured in a modern version of Phantom of the Opera, whereas many of the other songs are just fillers.
Though I don’t feel well qualified enough to rate this album yet, after the release of FIR’s Album, FIR was named “Best New Mandarin Artist” by the Golden Melody Awards.
There comes a time, as a critic, when you have to bow your head down to an album that has shattered the constraints of modern sound and introduced a new approach to music that works well. fun., in their debut album Aim and Ignite, has been able to do this through their fantastic sense of composition, variety, and sheer talent.
The band members are not new to show business; the musicians hail from former bands The Format, Steel Train, and Anathallo. As they are musical veterans, they are not afraid to dabble in the unknown. Mixing the sounds of Vampire Weekend, Queen, and an eccentric symphony composed of harpsichord twangs, oboes wails, accordion clangs, and the sweet sound of Belle and Sabastian-esque guitar.
fun. isn’t afraid of tempo changes, difficult vocals (Nate Reuss is the new Freddie Mercury), or not producing a single made-for-radio track. What they are afraid of is the “less is more” ideology. Amidst the chaos of brilliant composition, there is hardly space for air as the tracks build (almost every track starts with quiet vocals and then crescendos into a theatrical finale). There is more room for simplicity; sometimes, like in “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To Be,)” fun. can afford to tone down the musical genius to allow for Reuss’s vocals to shine above the complex wall of sound.
The standout track for this album is “Be Calm,” Aim and Ignite‘s opening track. Aside from the romantic Russian-influenced mindfuck, the lyrics and vocals make this ballad. “Be calm/ Take it from me, I’ve been there a thousand times/You hate your pulse because it thinks you’re still alive/and everything’s wrong/It just gets so hard sometimes/Be calm.” Obscure references litter the rest of the album as well. In soft-spoken “The Gambler.” Reuss croons, “I swear when I grow up, I won’t just buy you a rose/I will buy the flower shop, and you will never be lonely.” The ever-confident romantic, Reuss refuses to allow himself to become corny and overdramatic, yet he still allows for love to permeate his words.
Aim and Ignite is not only my pick for album of the year, but also of the decade. It is intelligent, well composed, and thoughtful. A thorough listen will prove that the album has little flash, games, or gimmicks; it is a pure composition of lyric genius and good ole fun.
Recommended Tracks: Buy this album
If Hot Topic could create their perfect band, it would probably be Paramore–maybe that’s why they’re so easy to hate. The cookie-cutter pop-punk quartet, headed by lead singer Hayley Williams, is a modern Avril Lavigne: strong female vocals, a teenage angst focus, and rockin’ attitude. Featured on modern teen idols like the Twilight movie, Paramore’s new album, brand new eyes, doesn’t reveal anything new about the genre.
That’s not to say the album isn’t fantastic if cookie-cutter pop-punk is your music of choice. The best song on the album and second track, “Ignorance,” is a complex, lyrical rock anthem for the dumped. “The same tricks that, that once fooled me/They won’t get you anywhere/I’m not the same kid from your memory/Well, now I can fend for myself.” Coupled with slamming drums and catchy riffs, this track is already all over the radio and there to stay; be prepared to be sick of it by Thanksgiving.
“Brick by Boring Brick,” “Where the Lines Overlap,” “Playing God,” and “Decode” continue to showcase Williams’s strong vocals and lyrics, along with catchy guitar riffs and drummed out accents. These songs showcase the band’s self-assessment of maturing beyond Riot!.
However, maturity certainly isn’t something Paramore has mastered. “Looking Up,” “The Only Exception,” and “Misguided Ghosts” are dull attempts to seem “well-rounded.” It might fool the fourteen and fifteen year olds who masturbate to MTV’s qualifications for ‘good’ music, but it doesn’t fool those who know that even balance of ballads and rock songs does not make a good record. The juvenile lyrics on these songs only further detract from brand new eyes as a whole.
Luckily, as stated earlier, Paramore provides a variety of fist pumping teen anthems. brand new eyes does not provide for anything new, thought provoking, or inspiring, but it does rock hard enough for those older than fifteen to appreciate. Paramore has potential; as the band ages, they will likely produce better and better music. Until then, we can only hope that they stay together long enough to see that to fruition.
Recommended Tracks: Ignorance, Brick by Boring Brick
Toss These Tracks: The Only Exception, Misguided Ghosts
If Madonna and Peaches had a child (as-if they would ever procreate?), it would be the posh homosexual internet icon Jeffree Star, famous for his MySpace page and the single, “I Must be Emo.” Jeffree, after several EPs and releases on the web, has finally brought forth her first full-length album, Beauty Killer. Hype surrounding yesterday’s release have sky rocketed Jeffree’s MySpace hits, her references on Twitter, and the album’s placement on most-purchased alternative album on iTunes: it is number 12. Despite the LP’s instant commercial success, I am not impressed.
At least, that was my final impression. The first two tracks on Beauty Killer are fantastic. In a wall of electro-synth pop sound, the listener can instantly feel the stirring club mix moving their heart and toes to the beat. “Prisoner,” the second song and first single on the album, is the standout song on Beauty Killer. It’s fun, sexy, and sure to reach the ears of horny teenagers ready to rock out to something new.
Despite the success of the first two songs, Jeffree uses his clear vocals to portray immature images of violence and sex. “Pretend I love you for another year/Starve myself so I’ll fucking disappear/Your red-dipped fingers look like strawberries/But these gashes look like self-injuries.” What the fuck? Ms. Star, after the brilliance of the first two songs, why would you kill a good thing? The backbeat is a lot of fun, but the tactless violence in this piece ruins the song.
“Beauty Killer,” “Electric Sugar Pop” and “Fame & Riches, Rehab Bitches,” blend together in their painful sugarcoated sex anthems. For tweens, these will be the best songs on the album, but for those of us who have a more sophisticated taste, we might want to cry about what else Jeffree could have offered.
“Love Rhymes With Fuck You” and “Fresh Meat” sound like Britney Spears was put into a weed whacker, spit out, and then asked to make music. It’s god-awful. The misguided screamo adds nothing to “Love Rhymes With Fuck You” except repulsion.
Fortunately, Jeffree has a few redeeming tracks. “Bitch, Please!” isn’t classy, but the well-thought out lyrics and groovy electro beats are. The references are obscure and “huh” inducing. Observe:
Slide my panties off in your Lamborghini/TMZ just saw my coochie like I was Britney/Be Flo Rida an spin me right round round/But don’t try to bite me like Chris Brown/Make my bottle pop like a Pussycat Doll/Smoked out Michael Phelps and won a gold medal
The song is full of similar zingers. Well done, Jeffree.
The other tracks are eh. Nothing spectacular, kind of like the entire album.
Recommended Tracks: Get Away With Murder, Bitch, Please!, Prisoner
Toss These Tracks: Love Rhymes with Fuck You, Fresh Meat
Rob Thomas produces high class music, and Cradlesong is a must-have for any music lover.
Though tempting to end the review there, Cradlesong, the most recent solo album from Matchbox Twenties’ lead singer, demands and deserves more attention than that. Thomas, with his honey baritone, catchy guitar hooks, and affinity for good music, has mastered what he tried to in his first album, Something To Be: mainstream pop rock genius that can appeal to all listeners, young, old, or otherwise.
From the touchy topic of terminal illness (“Her Diamonds”) to the difficulties of the “Real World 09″ to tribal cries to God (“Fire On The Mountain”), Thomas is able to harness the severity of his topics yet apply likable peppiness to each and every one of the tracks presented in Cradlesong.
Angst and sweetness envelop the album in a blanket of soulful lyrics. Geared more towards the adult listener, Thomas writes about being judgmental towards his wife in the track “Hard On You.” Please forgive me if I’m hard on you, Thomas pleads as the song closes. “Hard On You” fades, and a hard guitar preempts the torment of “Still Not Over You” (his wife for being too hard on her? Not sure where this fits into Thomas’ personal life), followed by the sexy Daughtry-ish tune “Natural.” There is not a track on this album that won’t appeal to a vast spread of listeners.
Overall, Cradlesong doesn’t have a bad track on it. As it’s listened to over and over, the details and nuances of this intelligently designed album (from the same think tank as Matchbox 20) will present itself in new ways: the clear lyrics hit from different directions, the power chords and tribal drum beats shake the listener’s foundations, and little riffs and hooks make themselves apparent that aren’t immediately obvious to the skimming listener. Cradlesong has the same longevity that Joshua Tree and Thriller have offered over the past two decades. The difference is, Cradlesong hasn’t had the time to reach the potential of its following.
In “Wonderful,” the third to last track on the album, Thomas proclaims, “I guess I’m past my prime/And now I’m overrated.” Rob, there is no “A” that I’m happier to award, and if you keep pumping out records like Cradlesong, you can someday “be cool” and hit your prime.
Recommended Songs: Buy this album