On Today of All Days, Hear This

“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage. Rage against the dying of the light.”

 

In the aftermath of something like the election, something that is going to change our world and how we live in it, it’s easy to lose hope. Things seem dark, and your mind races with a million questions of what might possibly be coming in the future. And they’re not the kind of questions we dream of asking:

“How am I and the people I love going to be discriminated against now?”

“Will the economy be stable enough for me to support myself now that I’m starting professional life?”

“Will I be able to afford to stay healthy?”

“What’s going to happen to science, progress, and the strides we’ve made on bettering energy and the environment?”

“What if there’s a war that comes? What if it’s a war of dire consequences?”

“How can we all thrive, and not just survive, under the leader we’ve chosen?”

“How can we fight back?”

 

It’s now up to those who create and inform to fight back and inspire others. It’s up to us to give hope and show the beauty where there seems only darkness. And since I write, I shall write. I shall do my best to inspire in all of you a spark of hope, and a goal to never stop believing in good and in what we can achieve together. To me, this day and this concept goes beyond words, so I want you to listen to the music I posted above today. Hans Zimmer’s “End Credits” from Interstellar is a track that is dark. It’s forboding and somber and swirls around you like a fog, making you unsure at first. The organ plays like death at a funeral. It seems almost overwhelming. But it’s a piece from a film that’s about pushing beyond our own limits and realizing what we can do together. It’s a piece about reaching beyond our own fear and finding the hope beyond, and the possibilities that lie there. As it resolves, it fills one with peace and a sense of benevolent finality. It’s the sense that though the path is dark and frightening, the end is something of ultimate goodness.

That’s what we must remember now. We have work to do ahead of us, and a long road to get to where we all share in each other’s kindness and generosity, especially now. But as you listen to this, and the light seems to be dying, I want you to remember that there will be more light. A little bit from us today, and tomorrow, and the next day and the next. But an ultimate light coming at the end of all this. A growth and understanding. A new day that we’ve fought so hard to create for each other.

So today, you may mourn and grieve. That is absolutely your right, and I for one will be right alongside you.

But tomorrow, I urge you, do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage.

Rage against the dying of the light.

Bring it back and make it shine brighter than ever before.

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A Dance with the Devil – Top 5 Artists to listen to this Halloween

“Look, I know the supernatural is something that isn’t supposed to happen, but it does happen.”

 

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(Illustration is by my boy Stephen Gammell from “Oh Susannah.” Definitely my favorite story from More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark)

I hope everyone is having a successful (in whatever way that applies to you) Halloween. I myself have decided to use my free time in not being invited to any parties to provide boundless quality entertainment for your Halloween instead! And I’m not even complaining, this is what I love to do. Now I know most of you are going to be probably bumping some pop jams at your parties or even putting on some great ambient spooky soundtracks or the like. That’s all well and good, but I thought I’d chime in some of my favorite artists of the macabre to put you in the mood for celebrating all things creepy and unnerving. Here’s the top five artists that’ll most definitely put you in the Halloween mood this year. I mean, on top of how much I know you all already love it

 

5. William Control

 

William Control, former frontman of the now defunct horror-emo band Aiden (who you should also check out) is an ambitious guy. He’s written books, created films and concept albums all based around his special brand and love of gothic horror. He’s certainly got the vibe of a lounge singer for the damned  as his deep voice croons across tales of tragic love and things (and people) that lurk in the shadows. If the thought industrial/electronic tinged 80’s synthpop-esque darkness excites you, definitely give this dude a listen. It may come across as a bit overwrought at first, but that’s what Halloween is all about isn’t it? And who doesn’t appreciate a bit of melodrama now and then?

 

4. Ice Nine Kills

 

The song I posted above is literally about the Exorcist. Also, you should just look at their albums covers. Ok, now is there any doubt that this band isn’t horror themed? I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing Spencer Charnas, the singer of Ice Nine Kills, and we spoke at great length how their newest album is based on works of literature, including Carrie, The Exorcist, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. So yeah, I think they got it down. Metalcore/emo fans should definitely give these guys a spin this year. They’ve got the hooks, the screams, and the talent.

 

3. Nox Arcana

 

Ok so I know this technically falls into the “Ambient Soundtrack” category I mentioned earlier, but seriously, if there’s one group that you should put on if you’re looking for that type of music, it’s Nox Arcana. These guys go absolutely above and beyond at crafting music around a specific theme depending on the album. And they have A LOT of albums. Lovecraft? Covered it. Gothic horror? Covered it. Fantasy tales? Covered it. And the list goes on and on. Going past the typical soundtracks and soundscapes, these guys suck you into an honest to goodness story that will take you on a ride of melody and shadow. If you haven’t heard of them, prepare to have all your soundtrack bases covered from this Halloween onward.

 

2. Rob Zombie/White Zombie

 

Perhaps there is no name more synonymous with modern horror music and film than Rob Zombie. Literally anything you check out by him is tied to Zombie’s love of all things horror, and it’s been a part of his identity since way back in the 90’s when he formed the hard rock group White Zombie. What I’ve always loved about Zombie’s music is his use of samples from old films to add an unsettling and cool retro vibe to his music. Hard rock fans are already well acquainted with Zombie’s ventures, but if haven’t come across his work yet and you’re looking for something to sink your fangs into…come on guys, the word ZOMBIE is literally in his name. Consider that your biggest clue.

 

1. Ghost

 

One of my absolute favorite artists of the moment, Ghost is a six piece band from Sweden that has a certain…shall we say affection for the Devil. But don’t let that deter you, it’s all in the name of performance and embracing the chaos in our lives to better understand it and take hold of it. If there’s one band above all others I could recommend to you, it would be this incredibly dynamic group. If you go in expecting one type of sound only from these guys, or are expecting them to be Black Metal heavy, you’d be dead wrong. With one of the best pop sensibilities around and some of the best rock hooks you’re likely to hear this year, there’s something for everyone to be found in Ghost. Not to mention it’ll get you grinning your best evil grin. If mischief is your name this Halloween, play this at your party.

 

And with that, I wish you all a Happy Halloween. Stay safe out there! Until next time.

The Many, the Proud, and the Emotional: An Examination of Twenty One Pilots – Featuring Guest Collaborator Jessica Maxwell

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Wow, so I feel like I’m in one of those movies where I blow the dust off an old tome after it not being touched in 600 years. Welcome back friends! It’s been awhile since there’s been anything published here. Believe me, I ‘m definitely going to try and make a more concerted effort to keep the songs going again. But today I have a special piece for you all. I’ve been working with my very talented friend and fellow music writer Jessica Maxwell on a collaborative piece on Twenty One Pilots. We’ve both seen the band, and thought it would be interesting to examine just why these two dudes have gone from quirky indie outfit to omnipresent pop stars seemingly over the course of a few months. We wrote essays from different perspectives and talked about our own observations and musings on the band, and we decided we would publish each other’s writing. So here is Jessica’s side of the collab, which, if I do say, is very well done and very down to earth (the way it should be.) I definitely hope to team up with her again in the future, but in the meantime you can check out her super awesome website at soundsaboutwrite.com. She does amazing concert reviews as well as pieces on musical theatre, and much more! If you enjoy my writing style, you should feel right at home on her site. She just published my side of the Twenty One Pilots collab, so head on over and check that out too! Now without further ado, here’s Jessica’s take on the Ohio duo:

 

The first time I saw Twenty One Pilots, I had no idea who they were. What I was watching on stage was a guy with a ukelele wearing a floral kimono and screaming this weird music, accompanied by a drummer with neon-colored hair. I was both confused and intrigued. This was in 2013. Before Blurryface, before the radio play, the Jimmy Kimmel performance. This was when no one had remotely any idea who these guys were.

Earlier that year, Fall Out Boy had announced they were coming off a three year hiatus. Pop-punk fans alike rejoiced, and after they released their fifth studio album, Save Rock and Roll, they announced they would be going on a headlining arena tour with Panic at the Disco. My little emo heart soared at the announcement and I was quick to get tickets. When the day came, my friends and I asked each other if we knew who the opening band was. Twenty One Pilots? Never heard of them. On this rainy September evening in a crowd of hundreds, we had a hard time figuring out their music. Why was this guy jumping around on stage rapping so quickly and wearing a ski mask? This wasn’t the pop-punk stylings of Fall Out Boy or Panic at the Disco, what did this band have that they could compare with the bands they were opening for? That was the best part; they didn’t.

Twenty One Pilots are one of this generation’s most unique bands to date. With more modern pop-punk bands coming to popularity like Real Friends, Moose Blood, and Modern Baseball, there’s been sort of a steady stream of the common pop-punk thread that we saw emerge in the mid-2000’s with the likes of Yellowcard, My Chemical Romance, and Fall Out Boy. And yet, a band like Twenty One Pilots has managed to make it’s way into this same mould. When you visit Hot Topic, you’d be hard pressed to not find some of their merch there. When you turn on the radio, you’re likely to hear their songs Stressed Out or Tear in My Heart. So how has this happened? How did this band who once opened for Fall Out Boy manage to gain enough recognition that they just recently sold out two shows at the infamous Madison Square Garden? It’s been an interesting observation.

One thing that’s been for certain, is that there has been a vast increase in an interest in the pop-punk genre. It seems that in the last four years the newer teenagers are taking a keen interest in the genre, hence why there are so many younger kids seen at Twenty One Pilots shows. Another observation is the online community. Though it’s safe to say that my generation grew with the likes of Myspace and very early inklings of Facebook, the forthcoming teenagers have multiple options of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and most notably Tumblr. The Tumblr community alone has helped to increase a band’s popularity with the ease of GIF making and humorous text posts.

So what exactly makes Twenty One Pilots so much more special? They put out albums, they tour, their songs are on the radio, just like any other band that they may be associated with. What gives? It goes deeper than that. For starters, their music is unlike anything you may have heard. I’ve always told people that their music is difficult to be classified because one song can have intense rapping, another can have cute ukelele hooks, another may have a reggae vibe. There’s really no classification, which could be the reason that their fan base has spanned the way it has. The diversity in music equals for a diverse fanbase.

As well, their lyrical content has a much larger focus on one’s stability be it physical or mental. Songs like “Stressed Out”, “Car Radio” and “Migraine” are just some of the songs that touch on those subjects. During a day and age where it feels like the world is falling apart, these songs have become anthems for those who choose to listen. Not only do these songs talk about it, but there is the discussion of hope, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A beacon of hope.

With the unique presentation both on stage and off and their diverse musicality it’s no denying the well deserved popularity has been bestowed on Twenty One Pilots. With relatable and hopeful music for the devoted fans (who refer to themselves as the ‘clique’), these kids have something to hold on to. A latch that they can pull on when they’re feeling down, and a whole group of kids who feel the same way and communicate about the music that makes them happy again. There is a line in their song Fairly Local that goes ‘for the few, the proud, and the emotional’, the true sign that this is for those who have stuck by, who are here to stay, and who are always going to listen.

 

Thanks again Jessica! Again, you guys can check out my piece over on her site soundsaboutwrite.com. And while you’re there, stay awhile and check out all her other great articles. Seriously, do it. You won’t regret it.

 

 

#190 – Negasonic Teenage Warhead

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Artist – Monster Magnet

Album – Dopes To Infinity

Year – 1995

Genre – Stoner Rock/Hard Rock

 

In honor of Deadpool, which I’m incredibly excited to see, I decided to review a song befitting of the kickassery and hijinks that I’m sure I’ll bear witness to in the next few days. Also, for those who don’t know, this is actually the song that Grant Morrison derived the name of his character, who appears in the film. Let’s heat up some chimichangas and get to work on this bad boy of a song.

One thing about Monster Magnet that I always liked is that they existed in this time where the music all around them sounded nothing like them. It was either the beginnings of the softer alternative and radio rock movement, or right in the full swing of post-grunge bands. What’s great about this song is that it’s a lampoon of the “oh woe is me” angst of all the grunge and post grunge rockers out there. Monster Magnet stands them on their head and creates a balls out old fashioned rock and roll track that really stands out even today. When the band is finished with their thoughts on the genre in each verse, they vehemently claim that “I will deny you.” I suppose they thought most of the bands they were speaking about had no place in rock and roll. Either way, it’s a funny and different perspective on music that, obviously today, has become extremely influential. Monster Magnet has hung in there, but ironically they haven’t been as recognized as the subjects of their song.

But how’s the music? Well just like every good comic book movie, it’s kickass. The opening flanger effect on the guitar sets the intro up perfectly before frontman Dave Wyndorm kicks it in with the incredible riff that permeates the prechorus and chorus of the song. The guitar is crunchy and the stomping rhythm promotes maximum headbanging capabilities. It’s science, kids.

Speaking of, that prechorus and chorus are the absolute highlights of the song. This is where every instrument comes together and really proves that sometimes old fashioned rock needs to remind everyone it’s still around. Wyndorf snarles and absolutely lets loose his frustration. The echo on his voice adds some power and adds to the whole space-y vibe they have going on with this song. It’s got a mean hook that hits your face like a sonic boom, and if you love rock and roll and haven’t heard of these guys before, you’re going to be kicking yourself after this song.

All in all, this is more of a song to just let loose to and will hopefully appear in the end credits of some film someday. Picture this: classic good guy walks away from massive explosion whilst putting on sunglasses to this song. Cut to black. Roll credits. Hey, it works in my mind! Enjoy Deadpool everyone! Hopefully when you see Negasonic Teenage Warhead, you’ll think of this song!

 

 

#189 – Romeo

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Artist – Chairlift

Album – Moth

Year – 2016

Genre – Synthpop/Indie Pop

 

 

The nature of gaining someone’s affection has been through an incredible amount of sports analogies, including the classic depiction of a race with all potential suitors competing. It’s this picture that Chairlift so wonderfully paints in bright color on my personal favorite from their latest album Moth. Caroline Polachek has always continued to surprise me as a singer, and the duo certainly has a talent for hooks that I’m sure will continue to develop on further albums. With endearing love songs being a certain specialty for Chairlift, “Romeo” adds itself as another great one that the band makes their own with it’s own unique sounds, whilst maintaining a solid ground of pop sensibility.

“ON YOUR MARKS. GET SET…”

Distortion is the first sound out of the starting gate (pun intended). It certainly is an interesting choice to add a sort of aggressive sound and drum scheme to a song with many other bright tones. The song starts by building up with a sort of shout-sing verse with crystal synth effects that quickly leads to the chorus, which is the highlight here.

“Hey Romeo, put on your running shoes

I’m ready to go”

The drum n’ bass beat kicks in with a very lush background of synths, and Polachek absolutely delivers with her delicate yet powerful vocals that hit every note succinctly. It’s lovely how she drifts into and out of falsetto, and it adds a neat texture to the melody, which is as much of a hook as any top 40 pop song.

With every verse, the lyrics deal with the chase; the race of love. It’s fast paced and breathless, like going for a long and arduous run on a summer day when all you want to do is chill inside with the A/C running and a lemonade. But Polachek’s part symbolizes the tantalizing reward for success, luring the titular Romeo to push himself and even to “cheat” to win her affection. The song makes you feel like you’re constantly running behind her, trying to catch up, but in a way that you find yourself enjoying.

I love the bridge, where Polachek shares the “On your mark” with bandmate Patrick Wimberly. The punctuation that it brings to the song and how sharp it is is a nice touch, and Polachek’s delivery as well as the backing instrumentation here is almost like someone running out of breath, before exploding into a second wind with the last chorus and pulse pounding ending.

The song is interesting because of its pop qualities but mainly because it’s more of an aggressively fun love song, rather than a delicate and intimate song that Chairlift has explored quite a bit in their past. But it’s a welcome change for me, and by the next album, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chairlift explores their full pop capability.

#188 – Lipstick Wonder Woman

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Artist – Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown

Album – Wild Child

Year – 2013

Genre – Blues Rock

 

After my last piece on Buckethead (here), I definitely felt in the mood to write about another guitarist that’s flown under a lot of people’s radars. That guitarist in question would be Tyler Bryant, a strapping young lad of only 24 who can play a slide guitar like a mother. “Lipstick Wonder Woman” is the ultimate display of just how sexy and slinky a good slide can be.

With a short little tease intro, Tyler basically gives us the instrumental equivalent of foreplay before launching right into the lap dance, metaphorically speaking. This little slide lick that opens the song makes you want to fan yourself it’s so smoking. It’s like biting into absolutely delicious BBQ. It’s that “hoo boy, that is good” feeling that you get here. You can hear this kid’s talent less than 30 seconds into the song. The rhythm is so slick that you can’t help but put yourself in that cowboy (or girl) fantasy you’ve had. Get your mind out of the gutter, I didn’t mean that kind of fantasy…or maybe I did. Either works.

When Bryant starts singing, he’s just as smooth as his guitar skills. The words flow and he weaves them in between his finger picked guitar underneath, and the lyrics are perfect for every crazy night out when you want to get a little naughty. And by time we hit the thumping chorus, we’re past the lap dance and now the metaphorical clothes are coming off. These lyrics are as sexy as anything and his slides just give it that awesome bluesy and bad boy feel that every rock and roll artist wishes they could capture. Bryant, at 24, has got it down to a T from square one.

When the intro riff comes around again, Bryant gets sassy and shows off a bit on the high end, but those fireworks absolutely add to the mood and feel of the song. Taking it down a bit quieter before exploding back into the next verse, he just strings you right along. You want more with every second that passes.

After the second chorus, there’s a quiet interlude that builds to an absolutely pounding bridge where the band goes full on guns a blazing, just like the old west. This auditory gunfight goes right into the end of the song, and by the time the song ends on the last chorus, you’ll be wondering why you’ve never heard of this kid in your life. He’s got the skills to pay the bills.

Hopefully as time passes Tyler will get his due in the spotlight, and he truly deserves it. For anyone looking for a slinky, sexual blues rock banger, I present to you not only this song, but the entire catalog of Mr. Bryant. I highly urge you to go check it out, and promptly pretend you’re a character in Sons of Anarchy.

 

 

Buckethead: A Journey Into the Bizarre and Beautiful

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LAS VEGAS – OCTOBER 28: Guitarist Buckethead performs with the band Praxis at the Vegoose music festival October 28, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

If you were a Guitar Hero player back in its early days, then you remember a little song that you could unlock as a bonus track called “Jordan.” This, for many people including myself, was their first taste of Buckethead. The song, with its stuttering rhythm and booming tone was unlike any song, actually any THING that I’d ever heard. It was so weird and wonky, with solos that sounded like a computer was imploding on itself. But the song was the most challenging in the game and it proved to be a Herculean task for players to overcome. Despite never having heard of him in my life, his skills were undeniable. Naturally curious by this oddity, I started to dig deeper into just who was this mysterious master guitarist, and soon I took the plunge into the most fascinating rabbit hole of my musical life.


What the average listener may not know about Buckethead is that he’s prolific, and incredibly so. Born Brian Carroll in 1969, very little is known about much of Carroll’s life at all. There are very few pictures of him unmasked, and most are from his childhood. We do know he studied under Paul Gilbert, another virtuosic player of the era, and soon after he adopted the persona known as Buckethead. As to why Carroll decided to wear a KFC bucket on his head and a Michael Myers plastic mask, he is quoted as saying the idea came to him whilst, well, eating KFC:

I was eating it, and I put the mask on and then the bucket on my head. I went to the mirror. I just said, ‘Buckethead. That’s Buckethead right there.’ It was just one of those things. After that, I wanted to be that thing all the time.

Since those days, Buckethead has gone on to work with some of music’s best and brightest. Guns n’ Roses, Les Claypool, Iggy Pop, Serj Tankian, Bassnectar, and even Hollywood actor Viggo Mortensen are just a select few of those who have collaborated with him over the years. This fact alone was enough to baffle me. I understood he was a talented shredder, but what could possibly attract all of these artists to him? It’s only when you explore the Buckethead catalog that you discover why that is.

 

After about eight years of listening, I can tell you that the sheer diversity, scope, and emotional depth of Buckethead’s skills as a musician and a player is more nuanced than any solo guitar artist I’ve ever heard. His music ranges from the sweeping and epic to the intimate and very intensely introspective, to the raging and angry. He has a similar ability to pop writer Sia, who can pull melodies from her head and come out with hit after hit. Buckethead is much the same, and though his songs may not be hits, they are just one new amazing journey after another. Take for example the next song linked, “She Sells Seashells by the Slaughterhouse.” It’s title is classic Buckethead, with a penchant for the bizarre, but I haven’t heard a guitar weep like the way it does in this track. It’s haunting and peaceful, and showcases how he is just as adept at playing with emotions in a slow, methodical way as he is at melting faces.

 

In order to know the music in this case, I feel like you have to know the man in some ways, which is very difficult to do. The man who is Brian Carroll seems a very reclusive and guarded individual, and flashes of that come out in his public persona. He rarely speaks when in uniform, and usually uses a puppet to do so. His voice is soft high pitched, and he often appears awkward and uncomfortable. This is a man who cared for his parents very much, and who has dedicated many songs to his family. When his mother and father recently passed away, he released an album with the cover being an unguarded look at the man who, despite being faceless on stage, is a human like any of us:

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In many ways, Buckethead is the uber-nerd many of us wish we could be. He has a love for giant monsters, robots, and even did a performance with nunchuks on stage. He played songs from Star Wars and Willy Wonka, and many classic horror movies. He has an absolute love of basketball and its players (and, like “Jordan” has written many songs about them.) In essence, like I said before, he is one of us. But despite his talents and quirks, he hides away and hides behind. He adopts the nature of a robot; a pure guitar playing machine. But he’s not. He lets his music speak when he cannot, and that makes the his music all the more potent. It’s perhaps the only glimpse of a man who is so talented, yet perhaps very tortured. Or not, but one can only speculate.

 

Buckethead has released over 253 studio albums in his career, with over 115 being released last year, and each one holds something new to discover. Remember when I said prolific? Yeah, how many artists can say “Oh I released 115 albums last year and also was in Guns n’ Roses.” Be he doesn’t. He doesn’t say a thing. Most guitarists who are incredibly talented use that to gain spotlight. But Buckethead retreats from all of this. Despite his high profile work, few out there can place him or even know who he is.

The bizarre and the beautiful are the two sides of human nature. Perhaps Brian Carroll wears a mask because he’s free from judgment, and he can be anything he wants to be. His music can be anything we want it to be. It’s creation in its purest form. Looking at a track like “Nottingham Lace,” one of his most popular tracks, takes us on a trip across a plethora of emotions, and many more than most “standard” songs can do in my opinion. It’s here that we see his skills as incredible virtuoso, soloist, and manipulator on full display.

 

I suppose “original” is the only word you really can use. Buckethead has created a style all his own and seems to have, paradoxically, lived more authentically through his music and performance than many people have in their ordinary lives. This is, I think, what makes a true artist. It’s the complete, unabashed “I’m going to create, perform, and live how I want. I may come across a strange, even reclusive, but despite the stares and whispers behind my back I get, I’ll be me through and through.” When you listen to any Buckethead song, you are getting a pure, undiluted look under the mask at the very human man underneath. It’s a strange and beautiful world that Mr. Carroll lives in, but one I’m happy to be a part of and hopefully others will want to explore. Because, yes, Buckethead is an American classic and a true artist. Can we ask for more?

 

 

 

Thoughts on Coldplay’s “A Head Full of Dreams”

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“That’s life”

Those two words sum up how I feel about Coldplay’s new album, A Head Full of Dreams, released today. What do I mean by that? Well I firmly believe that this album is exactly the combination Coldplay wanted to make after the release of their last two albums. Taking the highest highs they’ve ever written on 2011’s Mylo Xyloto and merging them with the lowest lows they’ve ever written on last year’s Ghost Stories, the band has created what naturally comes from greatest joys and sorrows of the human experience: life.

Coldplay has always inherently understood how we as people adapt how we react to the external world by our internal feelings at any given moment. I’ve always admired how Coldplay constantly changes their aesthetic as a band with every album starting from A Rush of Blood to the Head. I believe this is a reflection of how we as people change our actions and behavior when we encounter different challenges and triumphs in life. This aesthetic idea comes to a head in the new album. Right from the album cover, you can see it’s covered with every color and different scenes of nature. It’s encapsulating the human experience in one piece of art. The band’s outfits in photos now are normal clothes spattered with paint; I think representing the flavors of the day to day that hit us and shape us.

So it’s safe to assume I admire what they did with the tone and idea behind the album. But how’s the execution?

Overall, I think A Head Full of Dreams could definitely have been much better than it is. It’s an album with moments of greatness and incredibly emotional songwriting and massive hooks. It’s also an album with some lazy songs that didn’t catch me at all melodically or lyrically. However, keep in mind that I thought their last album was a masterpiece, and I still think so, so I kind of had high expectations coming in. The first two tracks didn’t grab me whatsoever, and that worried me a bit. There wasn’t anything particularly memorable about them. Then we hit track 3, “Hymn for the Weekend.” This is a solid track, and I always like to see Coldplay push their own boundaries and not be content with repetition. The chorus is anthemic and the jangly piano that backs the song sounds great. I should say that I’m not a Beyonce fan by any means, but she does a good job lending her talents here backing Chris Martin.

“Everglow” is the best song on the album. It’s Coldplay saying, “hey, we haven’t forgotten who we are and how we started.” They got started on love and lost love ballads, and this is up there with the best of them. It’s heartbreaking and a ballsy move from Chris Martin to have ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow back him on this track, and the lyrics and Martin’s voice cut to the bone. But part of growing and life is accepting and clinging to the happy times from a past love. You don’t forget them, and they shape you. This is a five star track for sure.

I hated “Adventure of a Lifetime” the first few times I heard it. Again, probably because I was coming off of my Ghost Stories high (or low). But I have to give props to Jonny Buckland for playing such an infectious and catchy guitar riff. This is the moving on of “Everglow” and it’s the metamorphosis into a better person who’s learned to love themselves and others again. It’s about having some fun and seeing the beauty in everything. It’s not my favorite but still a good track. Speaking of fun…

“Fun” is a track that has a chorus I love and it’s made for big arenas. It’s just a big song. Tove Lo sounds phenomenal on this song, and she was an excellent choice to guest on this album and song.

Though the interlude tracks on this album are intriguing from a philosophical standpoint, there’s not much music for me to tackle there, so I’ll move on to “Army of One.” This song…this song frustrates me to no end. The first half is absolutely incredible with a lush organ and a huge melody. It was poised to be second best on the album…but the second half of the song just meanders into this weird, sparse Ellie Goulding sounding jam that I can’t make heads or tails of. If the momentum from the first half had carried over, this song would be a surefire winner. My advice is listen to the first half and see what you think of the second. You might get more out of it than me.

“Amazing Day” takes the vibrancy from Mylo Xyloto and adds it to the tempo of a song like “Always In My Head” from Ghost Stories. It’s an ethereal guitar driven track that uplifts and soothes. It’s a song to be listened to in serene, quiet moments. It’s well done, but not one of my favorites.

I know there’s a lot of buzz about “Up&Up” because Noel Gallagher plays guitar on it, but I didn’t get a whole lot out of the song. The guitar is great, but the melody didn’t really hook me and the lyrics were a bit bland. I’d say check it out to hear the guitar, and again, most people will probably get more out of it than I did.

So those are my thoughts. The album plays a bit like a rollercoaster. It’s slow in the beginning but then really picks up in quality and songwriting and emotion until a level ending.

Ups and downs.

Sounds a lot like life.

 

 

 

 

6 Artists You Probably Don’t Know About, but Should

This post has been a long time coming, and don’t worry, I’m working on finishing up my emotional music videos posts, but I wanted to throw this one out into cyberspace first. I had the privilege of working as music director at a small college radio station, and through that I discovered a lot of great artists that are really flying below the radar right now. I’d also like to think that over the years I’ve compiled a list of smaller groups with massive talent that still haven’t gotten the break they deserve. So I’m doing my part to shed some light on some of these artists, and I’ve covered some of them before in my single song reviews, but trust me, you’re going to want to know about them. If they make it big, you can say you saw it here first. If not, good music is good music either way.

  1. Until the Ribbon Breaks

 

If “amalgam” is a word you like to put in your vocabulary, or if when someone asks you what you listen to you realize that you listen to so many genres you just say “alternative” and hope the person doesn’t pry further, then by God is this band for you. These Cardiff, England chaps, led by mastermind Pete Lawrie-Winfield, are not jacks but masters of all trades. Firmly guided by the principle that film and music go hand in hand, you can easily describe UTRB’s music as cinematic. Genres are crossed one after another, as the music generally focuses on a background of usually electronic R&B or subtle dance beats, but with colors and notes of rock, hip-hop, and soul intermingled in every song. Music has never felt more like a movie than this: the action packed wordplay and lyricism, the melancholic and urgent singing, and the edge of your seat climax. Soak it all in and enjoy the ride until the credits roll.

 

2. Capital Lights

It’s a shame that this Oklahoma band decided to break up, because I very rarely give perfect scores to albums, but this band’s debut album This Is An Outrage! is one of my favorites of all time. I’ve never heard a more perfect pop punk (leaning heavily towards the pop) album in my life. Every single melody these guys craft will be your new favorite, guaranteed. If All Time Low, We The Kings, Mayday Parade, or Relient K were big parts of your life or still are, then Capital Lights needs to be in your life. Their second and last album, while a step back from their debut for sure, is perfect for those who like a little rock in your pop. But if nothing else, give This Is An Outrage! a listen. Any fan of a great hook and classic clever and endearing pop punk lyrics will not regret it. Check out my review of the song “Outrage” here.

 

3.  In Flight Safety

What would Coldplay sound like if they rocked a little harder? If you’ve wondered this, then Canadian alt-rock group In Flight Safety are the answer. Cranking out some of the most infectious riffs I’ve heard all year on their last album Conversationalist, these guys bring back a lot of the things I loved about bands like The Bravery. It’s solid songwriting with a twinge of darkness, but without losing the energy. Turns out these dudes have been around for awhile, and though they’ve been featured on TV in some shows, they haven’t made any big breaks in the States yet. As soon as I heard these dudes, I knew I’d found something good. And now I pass it on to you. Check out my review of the song “Destroy” here.

 

4.  Panic Is Perfect

 

California’s Panic Is Perfect is hopefully on the verge of something big. These guys encapsulate everything that’s fun about alternative music. It’s the kind you music that you just want to listen to whenever you feel happy. But these guys are no one trick ponies. Their recent EP covers all the bases, including my personal favorite, a chilled out funky groove called “Bobby Black,” which I reviewed here. This band just oozes likability, and more importantly, musical talent. These guys come from backgrounds in world music, which means they’ve got so many things to bring to the table that they’re going to need a bigger table. Which they’ll need pretty soon, if my estimation is correct.

 

5. A Silent Film

 

Time and time again I find myself going back to A Silent Film in a lot of moments where I just want to be by myself. This English group excels at the kind of melancholic and somber beauty that many bands dream of achieving. This band deserves to be among the titans of modern britpop and counted among bands like Snow Patrol and Keane. The production is there, the talent is there, and the music is sure as hell there. The only thing missing is exposure. This is all radio ready, and it’s time for this band to break into the mainstream. Here’s one of my earliest reviews of their song “Reaching the Potential.”

 

6. Urban Cone

 

If this Swedish group is not famous within the next two years, I’ll eat my hat. This is a catchy as you can get, and I’m honestly surprised the song I posted above they did with superstar Tove Lo is not a huge hit already. These guys have the chemistry of any great boy band out there, but with the musical capability of the best alt-pop bands. This is a message that goes out to every pop/alternative radio station: PLAY THESE GUYS. Their album Poloroid Memories was fantastic and they crank out songs like the two posted here, someone who’s in a bigger position than me is going to take notice eventually.

 

So that’s it for now! Go forth and share!

 

#187 – Don’t Panic

coldplay-parachutes-2000-pop-parlophone-tuotelaji-cd

Artist – Coldplay
Album – Parachutes
Year – 2000
Genre – Alternative/Britpop

In the wake of the terrible terrorist attacks around the world, most notably yesterday in Paris, I feel the need to contribute and console. I have my two cents politically, but I feel that me sharing a song of comfort is something that most people could use. It didn’t strike me to choose this song until this very afternoon, and honestly, nothing captures how I’m trying to feel amidst all this sadness better than this song. I hope it gives you as much comfort as it gives me, and that it reminds you that though things may happen that shake our faith in the world, the world really is a beautiful place if we choose to make it that way and change it for the better. I’m going to focus on the words here, but all I’ll say about the music is that it fits the words perfectly.

Bones sinking like stones
All that we’ve fought for
Homes, places we’ve grown
All of us are done for

The lyrics here really seem to reflect the state of a lot of people’s minds. As we ponder the terrible events that have occurred, we can’t help but think of the heartbroken families in Paris. It sometimes seems that everything that’s good in the world that we’ve fought for can come undone in an instant. It’s in times like this that sometimes we need to look to see all the good that’s being done to help those who are suffering and those who are oppressed. For every evil that’s in the world, there’s an even more powerful, greater goodness in kindness in one hundred more people.

We live in a beautiful world
Yeah we do
Yeah we do
We live in a beautiful world

It’s hard to remember this sometimes. All we see on TV is suffering, but I hope that we all can see the good that we all can do when we stand together and change the things we don’t like about ourselves and the world. We truly can make it even more beautiful. Seeing the solidarity of people across the world yesterday and today lifts my spirits even the tiniest bit. If we kept that going every day, who knows what could happen. Yes, it’s true we have a lot of work to do, and there are many disasters in the world that fly under our radar sometimes, but when we strive to do more and get better together, miracles happen. We do live in a beautiful world. Not a perfect one, but one that we can certainly change if we try.

Oh all that I know
There’s nothing here to run from
Cause here
Everybody here’s got somebody to lean on

Perhaps the most important lines in the song. If we take a stand together and lean on each other and help others, there’s nothing we can’t do or change.

I hope that these words offer some hope and comfort to those shocked by the events of yesterday and any other time where atrocities have happened. The next step is taking action to help. My thoughts are with any person and family who is hurting in the wake of all this, and I stand with you.

Leave what you think in the comments.