album review

THE BLACK PARADE IS BACK IN A NEW WAY
October 19, 2016 11:23 am

“When I was a young boy, my father took me to the city, to see a marching band…”

This line of lyric is so universally known by the rock world that no one can hear this song and not feel some strong attachment to it. My Chemical Romance‘s immersive album The Black Parade was part epic, part tragedy filled with soaring highs and wallowing lows. Rock Sound magazine is celebrating the 10th anniversary of this legendary album with the story of the creation and life of The Black Parade and an incredible amount of content.

9390352-368-k802450A decade is a long time, in 2006, the Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii came out, Casino Royal and Cars debuted, Justin Timberlake was bringing “Sexyback, Shakira’s hips didn’t lie and Daniel Powter was still having his bad days. This was a year of strong movement in pop culture and punk rock was being redefined. My Chemical Romance way making one of the biggest movements because of their raw style of music, fashion and tone in their genre defining The Black Parade.

Rock Sound’s October edition is an essential for any punk, emo, rock or ska fan. There is a beautifully told story of MCR’s creative process of The Black Parade and its life and impact it had on the band. It is filled with a lot of funny small stories and interesting insights on why the band took a break and how they dealt with all of these changes.

However, the part of this edition that seems more interesting and gripping is the cover album that accompanies the issue. Rock Sound gathered a grand collection of artists deep in the indie rock world to cover each song on The Black Parade giving each track new life while saluting them with praise and honor at the same time. From Escape the Fate‘s similar and powerful rendition of “Dead!” to Twenty One Pilot‘s heart breaking performance of Cancer and Against the Current‘s different take on Teenagers, this album brings new life to The Black Parade while reminding you how truly amazing this album was and still is.

I would recommend anyone and everyone who is a fan of MCR, The Black Parade, punk, rock, indie, ska, heavy metal or good music in general to pick up this epic issue of Rock Sound with the additional tribute album. MCR is also celebrating this 10th anniversary with a special deluxe edition that any fan NEEDS to get, you can’t miss this. The Black Parade is amazing in both forms and may their music and memory carry on.

LINDSEY STIRLING: BRAVERY IS ENOUGH
September 1, 2016 6:35 pm

 

Lindsey Stirling was a sensation and novelty act years ago, with dancing, dubstep and epic violin solos she broke the mold. Being one part of EDM dubstep, one part classical and one part pop, Lindsey has no fear to be who she truly is. However, like most impressive and creative acts, they can be one hit wonders and terribly repetitive after awhile, lacking creativity or diversity.

I am happy to say, Lindsey Stirling is not like those others and she shows her powerful ability and innovation in her new album Brave Enough.

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I actually saw Lindsey Stirling years ago in a quiet auditorium in at the Visitors Center of the Mormon Temple in Washington DC. She played Shatter Me with such beauty and grace being only accompanied by a man with a drum box and a piano. Her passion was unreal and the whole audience was in awe afterwards. If you ever get the chance to see her, I absolutely recommend it.

Brave Enough is a beautiful and strong example of her abilities to collaborate with others while still emphasizing the special talents of each artist. From Rivers Cuomo (Weezer) to Christina Perri and ZZ Ward to Lecare, Brave Enough is so packed full of artists it’s almost hard to keep track of them all. It is great to see her fame being put to good use bringing them all together in one cohesive piece.

Her strongest point in her music is also a bit of a weakness though. Fast paced violin work mixed with dubstep and drums is a wonderful mix and I love it even more in this album, the songs sound clear and individual, never repetitive. The only thing I would want from her would be some more relaxed and slower song. “Gavi’s Song” is fantastic, and I would love to hear more of this style. but it is only a minor complaint, the album and each track is honestly very good and totally deserves your time and money.

I am happy to see this album exceed my expectations. I thought it would be a set of familiar sounding songs that featured some mediocre singing here and there, but I was wrong. It is a variety in writing and collaborations make a wonderful album filled with enough energy to fuel your night drives, video game marathons or morning workouts. Check it out and love every moment of it.

PAINTED PALMS: LONG DISTANCE DOES WORK
August 30, 2016 11:59 am

Painted Palms had an interesting start to their career. Reese Donohue and Christopher Prudhomme were two cousins growing up together on the same block in Louisiana. But it took Donohue moving to the west coast for the two to begin writing music together. They exchanged tunes online for several years while they both finished working on their degrees. These exchanges resulted in the debut EP Canopy. After the release of Canopy, Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal heard the tracks and invited the duo to be main support for Of Montreal’s tour in 2011. Thus began Painted Palms.

Their music consists of memorable melodies accompanied by balmy synth pop. It’s easy to feel the urge to get up and move when a Painted Palms track starts playing. Their debut EP was only a small taste of what was to come. In 2014, they released their debut album Forever. The album garnered an overall positive review from Pitchfork. The single “Carousel” is a great example of the psych synth pop sound that represents Painted Palms. Their follow up to Forever came two years later in 2015.

Horizons opens up with the single “Refractor.” The video for the song was debuted on Billboard. The video is an interesting combination of live-action and animation. This sophomore album had a large emphasis on the synth pop sound. The melodies continued to flow effortlessly from track to track. They toured that album with another fantastic electronic pop act, Small Black. The consistent aspect between all of Painted Palms releases thus far is their listenability. While their music fits much better soundtracking a summer drive than a cold winter night, if you put on any of their albums you’ll find yourself enjoying it from start to finish.

HOT PANDA: GOOD POP, BAD POP
August 24, 2016 12:06 am

 

Hot, inescapable energy comes charges through some early distortion and coy guitar strumming on “Other Spooky Is the leadoff track to Hot Panda’s 4th studio album, Bad Pop. But once Chris Connelly’s high pitched hollerings kick-in, everything just snowballs from there.

The song’s pace kicks into a completely frantic pace towards the halfway mark, and by that time, a spookier, modulated voice spelling out the title of the song is introduced. Even before this, the title made absolutely no sense. This idea really just doubled down on the nonsense.  As Bad Pop went on, it seemed as though doubling down on nonsense was, in many ways, all part of the Hot Panda charm. Choosing Hot Panda as a name in the first place evokes a sort of inherent silliness.

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There are certainly moments of normalcy to be appreciated on the record, though. Time-travelling Psych-Pop tunes like “Golden Arch are as straightforward and clean cut as they come. The sound is made for the Ed Sullivan show as teens bop their heads back and forth like a newton’s cradle made of skulls. And “On Your Own” provides easily the most tender moment Bad Pop has to offer.

It’s certainly more fun when they decide to embrace their weirdness, though. The perfect example of this being “Linda Ronstadt, a track built on the quirky concept of paying homage to the legendary singer. The quirk also gets a big boost from the charmingly chirpy backing vocals from bassist Catherine Hiltz, whose voice clashes with Connelly’s in a way that makes for a captivating listen.

In an Occam’s razor type of inevitability, however, the true standout here is of course “Bad Pop, the album’s titular track. Not only do their sugar rushed odd ballerey stand out, the lyrics are funny enough to cause some unexpected laughter on a crowded train. An act that still leads to stares from people, even though it should be completely normalized at this point. Regardless, it’s really great hearing Connelly’s maudlin self-awareness that this cheery sounding ditty could easily be used to sling sneakers in a year’s time. I think that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy? I don’t fucking know, I failed psych class.

As Hot Panda powered through their 10 song LP, they displayed a hodgepodge of different ideas. The heavy, fun Power-Pop somehow blends seamlessly with their more psychedelic and jammy moments. It’s all squeezed under their umbrella of strange in Totoro fashion, who wasn’t exactly a panda, but they can’t be too far separated in the animal kingdom.

BLOOD ORANGE’S FREETOWN SOUND
August 23, 2016 11:26 am

 

Blood Orange is fucking awesome. Like his namesake citrus, Dev Hynes’ newest album Freetown Sound is a delicious mix of sweet and sour, oscillating between phat beats/enduring hooks and raw frustration/societal truth.

Dev Hynes began his musical career as a member of The Test Icicles, after moving to London from his home in Edinburgh, Scotland to attend art school. He released his first Blood Orange album, Coastal Grooves, in 2011 and has since worked as a songwriter for an increasingly impressive series of artists: Theophilus London, Florence + The Machine, Solange Knowles, Sky Ferreira, Foals, and Britney Spears, to name a few. His chillwave core has taken on 80’s and 90’s influences over time, and his message has become decidedly more political.

Sometimes refreshingly calm, sometimes painfully poignant, Freetown Sound has struck a keen balance between what people today want to hear and what they need to hear. It’s smooth, angry, sexy and frustrated, but never ambivalent or verbose. It’s cool and clear, crisp and modern, but also intense and passionate and vivid and timeless. It’s about racism. It’s about sexism. It’s about religion. It doesn’t mince words addressing these sensitive issues truly and directly, and it couldn’t possibly be more relevant to the modern zeitgeist. This is what we need to be talking about, and Blood Orange is doing it’s damnedest to get the conversation moving. All you have to do is go listen to the music.

Glad to see someone as awesome as he is addressing what really matters in the world today.

BRIANA MARELA: SWEET ELECTRO LULLABIES
August 15, 2016 9:43 am

 

Briana Marela makes moody, ethereal music. Layered vocals pierce through rhythmic ambiance, washy and compressed, like an ice queen in a steel canyon. Marela self-released two albums before getting signed by Jagjaguwar records, who sent her to Reykjavik, Iceland to work with Sigur Rós producer Alex Somers. The result is All Around Us, a collection of emotionally charged, heavily processed, ambient electro-crooning that put me right to sleep upon my first listen.

And of course I mean that in the best possible way. I was quite content to doze off to her dulcet love songs, whisked away by the aforementioned ice queen to slumber in peace atop her steely canyon of sound. I picture myself melting in a vat of butter, only the butter is covered in ice crystals and I’m made entirely of liquid nitrogen, which is poisonous when consumed so don’t even think about it. Excellent music to nap to, or to study to or to do anything mindless that can be accompanied by ambient music. Not great for long car rides or roller coasters or to be playing from an ice cream truck. But hey, that’s just me.

Briana Marela continues to live in Seattle and perform throughout the Pacific Northwest.

ORTHY DANCES INTO THE HEART
August 8, 2016 12:08 pm

Ian Orth is an Austin, TX songwriter and producer. His dance project Orthy is a perfect example of the wide variation of music coming out of Austin. Besides the more well known acts such as Spoon, Okkervil River or Explosions in the Sky there is another side to the Austin music scene that Orthy well represents.

The project was inspired by a combination of events. A weekly dance party hosted by Orth in Austin went by the name of Learning Secrets. This was an event that Orth and others would host to try and introduce people that were typically fans of rock music to the electronic dance music scene. They would bring in the best DJs around to try to expose the crowd to a night of good vibes and stellar beats. Orth had been writing music for a good period of time, but never felt the urge to share the music with anyone.

That all changed when he met his soon to be wife. Orth said in an interview, “…Then I fell in love with my fiancée, and I know it’s kind of cliché or easy to say, but I just started writing all of these songs and all of it sort of started coming out.” After that, the music had to go somewhere. It came out in the form of Orthy’s first EP in 2011 called Suenos. The three tracks on the EP have a very organic feel to them, as far as electronic music goes. There’s a bedroom production quality to the tunes that is undeniably attractive. The track “City Girl” is a standout cut.

Orthy came back in 2014 with another EP called E.M.I.L.Y that garnered the band a little bit of critical success. They were featured on NPR’s World Cafe later that same year. Most recently, in 2015, the act released yet another EP titled Listen to Her Heart after the Tom Petty classic. Orth reworked the Petty song into a slow pulsing electronic groove. The EP also contains remixes of a few tracks that appeared on 2014’s E.M.I.L.Y.

Orthy will be playing at the Sound on Sound festival in Sherwood Forest outside of Austin with a killer lineup featuring Courtney Barnett, Run the Jewels and Phantogram to name just a few. Keep an eye out for Orthy in the future as they have to be poised to release a full length record at some point.

TROYE SIVANAUSTRALIA’S EMERGING PRINCE OF POP
August 2, 2016 4:34 pm

“I’m addicted to working. For me to be up all night writing songs and waking up early and posting teasers—it’s addictive to me. It’s just my natural state to be creative, even on my off days.” –Troye Sivan

The hard working Australian musician/Youtuber/actor Troye Sivan sounds like he could be an ATYPICAL SOUNDS staff member, but unfortunately he’s probably a little busy between touring, writing music and being the 3rd most subscribed to Youtuber in Australia.

Sivan says that it’s “not his job,” to disprove the stigma Youtubers might get, but when he makes such good music, why should he have to?

I care about my music, what people think of me. I just want people to hear my music with an open mind. If you don’t enjoy it, that’s cool. But don’t not listen because of that label. It’s going to take a few years before people take it seriously, but it’ll happen. –Troye Sivan

Sivan is on his way to becoming a bonafide pop star, 4,260,226 subscribers can’t be wrong. His debut Blue Neighborhood is airy, yet aching. His songwriting is innocent, smooth and brutally honest. Blue Neighborhood is such a perfect title, it’s filled with good vibes and yet there’s an underlying tinge of pain reminiscent of a midnight drive.

Not many artists can live up to the hype of 4 million people, but Troye Sivan does.

SHURA: NOTHING’S REAL…
July 25, 2016 9:21 am

…Except how great Shura’s debut album is!

After re-releasing 2015’s classic “Touch” with the addition of vocals by Taleb Kweli earlier this year, Shura has given us her much anticipated debut album Nothing’s Real and it did not disappoint. The 80’s pop/R&B sounds are nothing short of fantastic. Nothing’s Real recycles some songs from the White Light EP, released in 2015, with some minor updates, but the tracks are right at home with their new companions. The influences of Janet Jackson and Madonna are very apparent on tracks such as “What’s it Gonna Be?” and “Indecision.”

The album fits nicely into what some are calling the future of pop music. Alongside other acts such as Tegan and Sara, the sounds of the 80’s are being reconstructed with modern elements. The clean, immediate sonic nature of the music is engaging. The sweeping synths are a mixture of classic analog and modern, nearly cheesy sounds. The lyrical content is superb.

Aleksandra Denton may be a 25 year old from England, but her lyrics are applicable to any and all 20 something’s around the world. “Touch” has an overly familiar feel. The turmoil of wanting someone so badly and knowing that it’s too late is something everyone can relate to. The emotions running through “Touch” are so strong that there are honestly palpable. It’s no wonder that the following track, “Kidz N’ Stuff” is about the same person. The album deals with heartbreak and introspective thoughts. The album feels like a true reflection of Aleksandra herself and that is what gives this album a good feel. Shura has a strong, bright future ahead of her.

HINDS IS THE NEW STANDARD FOR INDIE ROCK
July 13, 2016 3:35 pm

Wow! Just, wow. HINDS is everything an indie rock band could ever dream to be. This indie rock band from Madrid is so powerfully raw that you’ll think they are the ones who created rock music.

Starting in 2011 as a duo doing primarily covers, Carlotta Cosials and Ana García Perrote built a small following with their strong vocals and guitars skills. After recruiting Ade Martin on bass and Amber Grimbergen on drums, the duo became an epic foursome of spirit and attitude for the indie rock scene.

Their first album, Leave Me Alone, came out January of this year full of smashing hits. There is something impressively simple and thoroughly amazing about this these four girls. I realized it sounds like they are the first people to ever pick up guitars and drums and sing at the same time. I mean this in the best way possible, as if they are the first ones to discover what rock music could be. Their style is all from them, no outside influences or pressures from the world, you hear these artists pour every ounce of their soul into every track. The guitars meld together on every song and their layering vocals are so sweet and driven by emotion, it’s addicting. I hope you can hear it the same way I do, and the more you listen, the more you see their raw talent and personality in every note.

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Their new music video for “Warts” is a punch in the face message about loving the wrong person and watching a train wreck of a relationship. The description in the video says, “have you ever seen a couple that shouldn’t be a couple? Have you ever seen your friend’s girlfriend’s warts before he does?…..She is gonna beat him bad, but he only hears parabarabaraba.” It has everything a indie rock band should have: style, originality and a sound that stay with you all day.

Enjoy this wonderfully bittersweet music video and check out the rest of the album Leave Me Alone, with songs like Bamboo, Warts, San Diego and Garden, you’ll never want to listen to anything else this summer.