Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sleigh Bells Release Best Album

Noise rock duo Sleigh Bells released their third album Bitter Rivals this month and it is by far their best record. Sleigh Bells music mixes in pop, punk, metal, R&B, dance, hip hop and indie rock to form an aggressive but catchy sound.
Their 2010 debut album Treats was a great record and got the band lots of attention however 2012 sophomore album Reign of Terror was just boring.
The album opens with the first single and title track. Like "Tell 'Em" and "Comeback Kid" from their previous albums, the first single is always the best track and that is true for this album as well. "Bitter Rivals" is catchy and aggressive and stands up for attention.
"You are my bitter rival/ But I need you for survival," singer Alexis Krauss sings during the chorus.
Krauss is a very interesting vocalist. She's very similar to Karen O from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, soft singing one moment  and then shouting and shrieking the next. Krauss along with Derek Miller, formally of Poison the Well who does guitars and production make up Sleigh Bells. Miller's beats and shredding are part of what makes the band's sound work.
Other songs that are highlights include "Sugarcane," "Sing Like a Wire" and "Young Legends" are some of the album's best songs. This album is the first time that breakups are covered well on a Sleigh Bells album. "You Don't Get Me Twice," "To Hell With You" and the album closer and the album's other best song is "Love Sick." The band had several relationship songs on their sophomore album but none were as good as these songs.
There is one lone song that isn't good. "Minnie" is repetitive, strange and unnecessary. That being said this is still Sleigh Bells' best record and is hopefully a sign of what's to come for this amazing band.

Cassadee Pope Releases Enjoyable Debut

Cassadee Pope rose to fame in the Warped Tour circuit with her pop-punk band Hey Monday. Their music was an energetic dose of pop-punk that featured a very pop edge but also rocked hard. Hey Monday took a hiatus and Pope released a mediocre EP that was basically Hey Monday lite. Then she participated and eventually won The Voice. With Blake Shelton as her coach Pope adopted a country sound and that later manifested in the first single "Wasting All These Tears." The single was a great first country outing for Pope and her debut album Frame by Frame followed this month.
The album starts on a high note with the album's five best songs. "Good Times," "Champagne," "Wasting All These Tears," "I Wish I Could Break Your Heart" and "Everybody Sings" are all catchy and memorable. "Good Times" is a fast paced song about enjoying the good times with a bit of  a rock edge and is the best song on the album. "Everybody Sings" shows a bit of Pope's pop side with a Gwen Stefani "Hollaback Girl" inspired breakdown during the bridge. "I Wish I Could Break Your Heart" is a rock inspired song as well as "Champagne."
Other good songs on the album are "This Car" and ode to falling in love in a car and "One Song Away" a breakup ballad about being one sad song away from a breakdown. "Easier to Lie" is an anthem for cheaters all over and despite being a sleazy track, is an emotional look into the mind of a cheater.
Some of the songs that aren't as good include "You Hear a Song" which is a misguided attempt at a love song and just comes off cheesy. "11" is a Taylor Swift inspired song that deals with a child dealing with the divorce of her parents.
However the album closes on a high note again with "Proved You Wrong." This song is a fast-paced country rocker that is similar to Pope's solo material.
While this country debut is a good album, it isn't truly pure country. The music is more pop and rock with country influences mixed in. Pope should return to Hey Monday as soon as possible. Her music with her former band was far more memorable than these songs. But judging by her "I'm going back to my roots" spiel that isn't likely to happen anytime soon, if not ever. 


Panic! at the Disco Release Killer New Album

Rock band Panic! at the Disco have had quite the career. After skyrocketing to the top with their debut album,  2005's A Fever You Can't Sweat Out the  band released a shitty second record, 2008's Pretty. Odd. While this album had a few good songs, they couldn't compare to past hits like "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" and "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage," two of the band's best songs.
Then in 2009 while recording a third album the band lost half it's members. Ryan Ross and Jon Walker went on to form a new band The Young Veins which stayed in the psychedelic sound of the band's second album. Remaining members Brendan Urie and Spencer Smith wanted to keep the band's sound in a more pop sound like their debut, which was good for them in the end. At the time it seemed as if the band were done for but then later that year the band released their first single with the new lineup "New Perspective." This single was from the soundtrack to the ridiculous movie Jennifer's Body and showed that the band were in no way done.
Then in 2011 the band announced their new album Vices & Virtues and preceded it with their single "The Ballad of Mona Lisa" which was on the same level of greatness as the band's debut. That album was similar to the sound of the band's debut and led the band to the new sound they have on their recently released fourth album Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!
The album has a very 80s inspired sound that is very prevalent in songs like "Girls That You Love," "Casual Affair" and third single "Girls/Girls/Boys." This album is set to restore fan's faith in the band and it will do so.
From first single "Miss Jackson" which features soul singer Lolo to the rocky "Nicotine," the band never disappoint on this record. All of the songs are good and memorable. "Nicotine" is the best song on the album and should be the fourth single. Almost every song is an album highlight from the dancy "Vegas Lights" to the album's lone ballad and closing song, "The End of All Things." The only song that is sort of lackluster is the second single "This is Gospel." While you'd think that a single would be one of the more memorable tracks, it just doesn't hold up against the rest of the songs.
This album finds the band experimenting with new sounds. The album's musical style mixes in electropop, rock, power pop, hip hop and R&B. The band are getting more experimental than ever.
This album is definitely a good step forward and hopefully the band stay on this level from now on. 


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Get Personal On New Album

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts released their tenth album last month and front woman Joan Jett gets personal in the lyrics. The queen of punk and hard rock has always made catchy songs that had a somewhat personal tone to the lyrics, but on Unvarnished, Jett lets loose her feelings and ideas.
On "Any Weather," the first single, Jett discusses getting through tough times with the help of her friends and family. On "TMI" and "Reality Mentality" Jett discuss the culture we live in and our lack of privacy.
On "Make it Back" Jett discusses how sometimes things get hard.
"I hope this train won't fall of the track/ Cause I, I gotta make it back," Jett sings during the chorus.
On "Hard to Grow Up" Jett deals with the trials and tribulations of, well, growing up. The song is inspired by the loss of Jett's parents. "Fragile" keeps up with these themes. Jett realizes how fragile life is.
"Soulmates to Strangers" deals with the pain after a breakup. Jett has always had lyrics about breakups but this song hits harder. "Bad As We Can Be" and "Different" features Jett getting back to her "Bad Reputation" days. "Bad As We Can Be" is about knowing a lover is bad for you, but staying with them anyway. "Different" is a call to arms for the freaks out there.
The album ends on a different note for Jett and the boys. "Everybody Needs a Hero" is a ballad that is gorgeous and about how sometimes you just need a bit of help.
This album is a great step for the band and hopefully they keep up this personal tone for future albums.

Justin Timberlake Will Never Stop

Justin Timberlake released his second album of 2013 last month and it's one of his best. The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 is far better than it's predecessor. While his last album had a more neo-soul sound this new record, Timberlake's fourth, has a more hip hop and R&B influenced sound like his last album combined with Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds.
The album, like all of Timberlake's are predominantly produced by Timbaland. This is evident in album highlights "Gimime What I Don't Know (I Want)" and the second single "TKO."
Other highlights include "Cabaret" which features Drake, "Murder" which features Jay-Z and the acoustic rock inspired "Drink You Away." 
While most of the songs are great there are some that aren't up to par with the others. "True Blood" is about four minutes too long with a runtime of 9:31 minutes. While Timberlake's last three albums are known for having long songs, this one just isn't necessary for it to be that long. The song is good but after a while it's just too much to handle. Also the first single "Take Back the Night" could have been better.
Those songs aside the album really does shine. "You Got it On" is a soulful track that is a throwback to Part 1. " "Amnesia" is a classic Timberlake song that deals with a breakup.
"Only When I Walk Away" is a thumper that has a guitar-laced beat about the end of a relationship, a topic that despite being happily married Timberlake covers a lot on this new album.
The album ends with "Not a Bad Thing." This song is a love song that features more acouscit guitars. This song goes to show that even after the heartbreak that is dealt with on the disc, love can come. The album keeps up with the acoustic sound on the bonus track "Pair of Wings" This song features just Timberlake and an acoustic guitar. This song is a love song that is simply adorable.
All in all this album is a great record and it goes to show that Timberlake is not going anywhere.

Krewella Release Exquisite Debut Album

Dance trio Krewella released their debut album Get Wet last month and it is a fun ride from beginning to end. Their music combines house, drum and bass and dubstep to make a perfect union of dance music perfection. From the opening track "Live for the Night" to the ending song "This is Not the End" which features Pegboard Nerds, the group always bring the party.
"Live for the Night" is an epic party jam that starts the record off right. Next up is one of the best songs, "We Go Down." This song is all about partying and the bonds of friendship. "Come & Get It" is a fun song that is decidedly dubstep leaning. The next song "Enjoy the Ride" is a song about the group enjoying the ride that is life.
One of the best songs on the album comes up next. "We Are One" is possibly the most house song on the album is all about unity. This song should definitely be a single, it would do great at radio. The next song is sure to be a hit as well. "Dancing with the Devil" features Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and Fall Out Boy vocalist Patrick Stump. This song is a dubstep anthem for misfits everywhere.
"We are louder than your bullshit/ You're just dancing with the devil," vocalists Jahan Yousaf and Yasmine Yousaf sing with Stump.
The next song is the group's signature song and biggest hit "Alive." The song is a gorgeous dance song that starts out with just a piano and soon adds a raved out instrumentation. The song is song is about the music making them feel alive. It's emotional and perfect. This song is so catchy, no wonder it's such a huge hit.
The theme of getting lost in the music continues on "Pass the Love Around." The song is about dancing at a club and getting lost in the music and feeling free. The next song "Ring of Fire" has the group getting into a darker dubstep kind of sound. "Fuck the rules," the girls sing in the first line of the song. The song is tailored to clubs.
The next song "Human" finds Krewella changing up the pace. The song starts off with pianos and acoustic guitars. The lyrics of the song show such fragility. "I am only human," they sing.
Next the album goes to "Killin' It." This song has a hip hop swagger to it and then dubstep breakdowns. The lyrics are classic hip hop bragging lyrics.
The album closes on a high note with their current single "This is Not the End." The song features Pegboard Nerds is a very dubstep song that closes the album off right.
Krewella are a great group and they've already shown that they mean business. They are sure to have more hits like "Alive."

Icona Pop Start The Party On Debut Album

Icona Pop released the perfect pop single last year. Their hit "I Love It," which features Charli XCX on vocals and as a songwriter, was the perfect breakup anthem. Fun music with angry lyrics about a lover who's done wrong. It was catchy and addictive and relatable, yet still carefree. That sums up Icona Pop in one word, carefree. Their debut album This Is... Icona Pop is proof of that.
There's no more evidence needed than two of the duo's singles "All Night" and "We Got the World." "All Night" is a fun song about partying all night and "We Got the World" is an ode to being yourself and enjoying life.
"They say you're a freak when we're having fun/ Say you must be high when we're spreading love/ But we're just living life and we never stop/ We got the world," Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo sing during the chorus.
Sometimes the duo's lyrics about partying work and sometimes they don't. On "Ready for the Weekend" the band keep up with their antics but something about this song just doesn't work.
One of the album's best songs is the first single, the Tupac sampling "Girlfriend." On the track the girls sing about how all they need is each other and their friendship.
"All I need in this life of sin/ Is me and my girlfriend/ Down to ride til the happy end/ It's me and my girlfriend," the duo sing. 
Another highlight is "In the Stars," which is an indie-inspired number. That is followed by the weird "On a Roll" and then the gorgeous ballad "Just Another Night." This song, Icona Pop's first ballad, is a gorgeous ballad about suffering after a bad night out.
The album goes into "Hold On" which is a song about realizing a breakup is coming. The song also has some indie influences. The song is followed by the boring "Light Me Up." This song is good, but it isn't very interesting or memorable. The album then closes with the punk inspired "Then We Kiss." This song is a fast paced track that ends the album on a high note.
The album isn't the best record of the year but it is a fun record to be the soundtrack to any party. Icona Pop are far from a one hit wonder.

A Skylit Drive Continue To Wow On New Album

Post-hardcore band A Skylit Drive released their fourth album Rise last month. This album, their first without founding member Joey Wilson, is a more polished effort than any of the band's other releases. Each album and EP the band has released becomes more and more polished. The sound on this album isn't as raw as their early work. While the band's production has become more polished, the band's passion and emotion in their music hasn't waned. While Rise isn't as great as their last and best album Identity on Fire, it is a great record that is sure to keep fans happy.
The album doesn't have any bad songs and each song is catchy and memorable. The songs have the usual mix of heavy unclean vocals by Brian White and clean, high-pitched vocals by Michael Jagmin. 
Tracks like "Dreaming in Blue," "Crazy" and the title track and first single have the band's classic post-hardcore sound. Catchy hooks, heavy verses and killer breakdowns. While this album isn't exactly groundbreaking, the band do tread new water in some spots. "Said & Done" has an electro inspired intro and lone ballad "Please Stay" and one of the best songs on the record have a different sound as well, incorporating pianos into the music of this touching ballad.
The album's best song is the album opener "Save Me Tragedy." It's a heavy rocker and a great way to open the disc. "I hear you screaming/ You fell in love with a tragedy," Jagmin sings.
The second half of the album has more memorable songs like "Pendulum," "Wide Awake" and "Shadows."
This record further helps A Skylit Drive etch our their place amongst the greatest post-hardcore bands. This band can be around for a long time to come. Hopefully on their next album  they further the experimentation.