Archive for the Rock/Alternative Category

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light Review

Posted in Rock/Alternative with tags , , , , , , on November 21, 2011 by CruzerWpg

Recorded in Dave Grohl’s garage, Wasting Light is the seventh studio album from the Foo Fighters and according to the band’s front man, their “heaviest album yet.” While I might not buy into the “heaviest and hardest” claim, it is most definitely their most raw. In an industry where many rock bands tend to become more produced over time, the realization that a group who has been recording albums for over 15 years, being played on MTV and selling out stadiums can still dig in and create an organic, entirely analogue release speaks volumes to their talent and overall grasp of their passion.

Wasting Light gets off to a noisy start, with Grohl growling “these are my famous last words” before kicking into a thunderous guitar riff that retains the band’s signature melodic trim. The first single “Rope” and the following “Dear Rosemary” are classic Foo Fighters tracks that welcome old listeners to the album. What follows is what I assume Grohl was talking about when alluded to the band’s heaviest work thus far; “White Limo.” The vocals cannot be deciphered, the drums and licks fly by at a rapid pace, yet it’s strongly melodic, even amongst Grohl’s shrieks and screams. Later in the track list, the slow burner “I Should Have Know,” which features Grohl’s former Nirvana band-mate, Krist Novoselic, continues the anti-formulaic vibe that enhances the record.

Overall, the album contains little filler with “Arlandria,” “These Days,” “Back and Forth” and the album closer “Walk” urging heads to nod and hands to start air-strumming. In what is a true testament to the power of the songs on Wasting Light, although the album was recorded in a garage, I can imagine it would pack much of the same punch streaming out of an arena’s massive speaker system.

City and Colour – Little Hell Review

Posted in Indie Rock, Rock/Alternative, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 17, 2011 by CruzerWpg

With Alexisonfire splitting up earlier this year, it seems as though Dallas Green’s side project, City and Colour, has now become his full time gig. While I enjoyed much of what Alexisonfire brought to the table, Green was always the part of the equation that stood out for me. With “Little Hell” offering more of a “band sound” than his previous acoustic-tinged releases, I have no complaints what-so-ever about both Green’s and the band’s decision to part ways.

“Little Hell” sees Green joined by Daniel Romano of Attack in Black, Dylan Green and Scott Remila of Raising the Fawn, Nick Skalkos of The Miniatures, Misha Bower of Bruce Peninsula and Anna Jarvis and Jordan Mitchell of The Rest. The result is a fuller, lusher sound that other City and Colour outings. The title track “Fragile Bird” and “Weightless” are great examples of this. The album also sounds less produced, but the imperfections and the squeal of guitar string only add to the album’s sorrowful musical and lyrical landscape. Case in point, the track “The Grand Optimist” does not convey any of the feeling its title suggests.

Overall, the album acts as a continuing step in City and Colour’s releases. While “Bring Me Your Love” built on “Sometimes” acoustic guitar driven sound with folk influenced banjos, harmonicas and drums, “Little Hell” takes it one step further by offering the listener an even more layered recording.

Catch City and Colour at the Burton Cummings Theatre on February 3rd, 2012.

Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns Review

Posted in Electronica, Rap/Hip-Hop, Rock/Alternative with tags , , , on September 23, 2010 by CruzerWpg

“A Thousand Suns” is a big bold album for Linkin Park.  It closely follows the nuclear warfare theme of 2007’s “Minutes to Midnight,” but correctly loses the U2 melodies and sonics that plagued the previous release.  This is Linkin Park at it’s finest;  without convention and without restraint.   However,  if you listen to the first single, “The Catalyst,” or any other track of the album, you might not hear it.  The album is just that, an album.  It is not a collection of songs.  It is one big peice of music – something that LP recognizes, and plans to release the album on iTunes as one track, 47 minutes and 56 seconds long.

“A Thousand Suns” is made up of 15 tracks, six of which are are under three minutes long and comprised of intrumental interludes or sound clips.  Recordings of Martin Luther King and atomic bomb developer  J. Robert Oppenheimer rise seamlessly amidst the layers of organic and technology-inspired sounds.  The most jarring moment of the album features a clean crisp recording of one of King’s emotionally-charged speeches.   His words are repeated, eventually being distorted until the emotion is gone -replaced by metallic screeching.  It begs the question: Do King’s words ring true as they once did, or have we (technology) replayed them and distorted them until the are monotonous and irrellevant?  Its a fair question, and a very subtle yet smart way of exploring the idea.

It is hard to review the album song by song, as each track plays a part in the overall picture, however standouts include ‘Burning in the Sky,’ ‘When They Come for Me,’ ‘Wretches and Kings’ and ‘The Catalyst.’  Even though the album is a collection of sounds and ideas, the noise speaks universally.  There are tribal beats, heart-shuddering basslines, raw rap verses, quiet acoustic moments and ear-shattering guitars and shouting.  It seems Linkin Park has made a album that transverses continents, cultures, and genres.  It’s fitting.  The scare of nuclear warfare knows no boundries, so neither does this piece of commentary and art. 

On a side note, forums and YouTube comments abound about how the band has lost it’s edge;  that they’ve gone soft.  It’s true that Linkin Park sounds nothing like the rap/rock band of ten years ago.  If they did, nobody would care.  Although, I challenge anyone to listen to the track “Wretches and Kings” off the new album and tell me it’s not hard enough for them.

Against Me! just doesn’t give a s*#!

Posted in Rock/Alternative with tags , , on September 7, 2010 by CruzerWpg

Against Me! took alot of flak when they released their major label debut New Wave in 2007.  The album was a noticeable departure from the rough DIY recording style of their earlier work, yet held on to the political and social musings of previous outings.  While Spin magazine called it “Album of the Year”,  frontman Tom Gabel took exception to the so-called “fans” who lashed out in anger at the band’s growth and change of direction: 

“I find it completely frustrating and off-putting and it turns me off of the punk scene really because people are very closed minded.”

Gabel isn’t standing down from his comments on the band’s new disc White Crosses.   The lead single “I was a Teenage Anarchist” laments on the falls of the anarchy scene and the misshapen politics and revoultions it embraces.  It’s fitting, however, that by taking a staunch very un-mainstream stance in the eyes of his old-school followers, Gabel closly follows the same ideals that the group he is trying to distance himself from holds.

Immediately following “Teenage Anarchist”, the Springsteen-esque “Because of the Shame” is another stand-out track on the album.  The lyrics are honest and the emotion runs high as Gabel rasps and growls about a painful meeting at a friend’s funeral.  The friend in reference, interestingly enough, is the same subject of Againt Me!’s previous single “Thrash Unreal”  The shame in question, turns out to be that very song. 

 “Suffucation” evokes memories of Against Me!’s earlier work, it’s ready for crowd shout-backs and urges fists in the air.  “Ache with Me” proves Against Me! cannot be pigeonholed.  At the end of the day, it’s all the band wants to prove.  They’ve shown they can write folk-punk songs as good as the next guy.  They’ve proven their punk-rock stylings.  It’s time to move on to the next project.  White Crosses isn’t quite there, but it’s pretty damn close.

 

Jimmy Eat World: Band of the Decade?

Posted in Rock/Alternative with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2010 by CruzerWpg

I recently listened to the remastered version of Clarity, the band’s critically acclaimed breakthrough album, which is declared by many to be the definition of real emo.  Real emo.  Not the guy-liner, screaming vocals, and general “I hate my life” mall emo of today, but heart-on-my-sleeve, down to earth emotional rock.  The music blew me away.  I forgot how good this album really was.  Every song weaves into the next within a lush musical environment and the lyrics actually begged to be listened to.  To prove it’s worth, the album, orginally released in 1999, was re-released in 2007, as well as released as a live album based on the group’s tour of the entire album.

It got me to thinking.   Jimmy Eat World, a four-peice alternative rock band from Meza, Arizona, has released a consistantly good and growth-filled album with each outing.  The Jimmy Eat World of the nineties sounds nothing like the Jimmy Eat World of present, but is still entrancing in its own way.  As well, each song on pretty much each album deserves to be there.  I started thinking about other bands that I could say the same thing about.  There are very few, and certainly not many with a catalog as large as Jimmy Eat World’s.   

With Clarity ushering in the new mellenium, the band released Bleed American in 2001 (re-named after the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks to Jimmy Eat World).  The album notched up the tempo on most of the tracks and proved that the band could create a mean hook-laden pop-rock song.  “The Middle” caught on with radio-listeners the world over and pushed the band into mainstream success, 3 albums after their first outing.  Which leads me to one of my peeves about the band: many judge JEW by “The Middle”, as this is the only song that comes to mind when they hear the band’s name.  The song, however, does not accurately portray the band’s sound.  It is simplistic up-temo pop-punk track whereas Jimmy Eat World’s signiture sound, I feel, is a much more slow burner rocker, characterized by deep personal lyrics.  But I digress, “The Middle” still rocks.

The rest of the 2000’s brought Futures (2004) and Chase this Light (2007).  The two albums grow on the band’s already easily accesible sound.  It’s amazing that these hook filled, middle of the road rock albums by a band that garnered such indie cred with Clarity are produced with the same feeling, attention, and love.  Plus, the original indie fans don’t accuse the band of “selling out”, as they should not.  Jimmy Eat World has earned their right to play their music.  This wide appeal is one of the things I pondered as I listened to their music again this past week.  From the 3 minute pop-rock ditty of “The Middle”, to the 7 minute powerful plea of “23”.  From the indie kids, to the mall kids, to their older fanbase that remembers the Static Prevails days.  Jimmy Eat World delivers.

Jimmy Eat World is real music.  Not overproduced, not overwritten, not overthought.  I  don’t believe many other bands have brought as many smile-inducing, toe-tapping, yet intelligent songs to the masses as this band has in the last 10 years. 

 Jimmy Eat World for Band of the Decade.  With talk of a new album in 2010, I hope it is a sign that we will see many many more years of entertainment from this band.  In the mean time, I take comfort in the fact that when lead singer Jim Adkins croons  “they’ll say, Lord give me the chance to shake that hand,” that I already have.

30 Seconds to Mars – This is War. Or is it?

Posted in Rock/Alternative with tags , , , on January 6, 2010 by CruzerWpg

When I pressed play on my iPod after I had loaded This is War onto it, I was blown away .  Jared Leto’s voice murmered softly on the opening track ‘Escape’ and all of the sudden a chorus of people-seemingly a huge stadium full of people-proclaimed “This is War!”  Wow.  It was a really powerful introduction.  An introduction  that sustains itself through the first half of the disc, but ultimately loses steam.  

The following track, ‘Night and the Hunter’ is an interesting electronic layered piece that sounds nice, but has no semblance of a interesting hook.  The first single, ‘Kings and Queens’, which I liked the first time I heard it, fits nicely on the disc, along with the title track, ‘This is War’.  The band takes a promising acoustic turn on ‘100 suns’, one that  is over way too soon when it breaks into the dark, moody track, ‘Hurricane’.  

Originally, 30STM planned a cameo by Kanye West’s on ‘Hurricane’, but it was removed in the final release.  I listened to West’s version, and as much as I dislike West and the thought of him adding anything to Leto and Co, it worked.  I didn’t hate it.  Unfortunatly, the disc dies at the midway point.  What follows is an agonizing mixmatch of overused crowd vocals and cliche lyrics.  I feel This is War is a step in the right direction for 30 Seconds to Mars. But unlike their album cover that features over 2000 different versions of fans faces printed on it, the music contained within it not diverse enough to solicit repeat listens.

Top 5 Albums of 2009

Posted in Rock/Alternative with tags , , , , , on November 30, 2009 by CruzerWpg

I know it is not quite the end of the year yet, but in the spirit of the year wrapping up, and snow finally falling, I am listing my picks for the top 5 albums of the year.  There is no order of preference…almost.

1. Brand New- Daisy
Probably my favorite album of the year.  Brand New never makes the same album twice, and this release proves it.  With a crazy mix of deep-south guitar, hollow shouting vocals, and an overall recorded in the basement feel, this album was, in my opinion, the most impressive release of the year.

2. Silversun Pickups – Swoon
More polished than their first release, Swoon delivers a near perfect sequence of interlocking songs that are perfect for listening at night.  The fuzzy shoe-gaze guitar work is magnificent and the androgynous vocals are smooth and relaxing.  This release sounds like nothing else this year.

3. Metric – Fantasies
This album blows their previous efforts out of the water.  Metric dropped the rough feel of their older work in favour of a fuzzy more polished sound that borders the line between mainstream and indie.  The result is a group of songs that have enormous appeal,  resounding  just as well on the radio as on hipsters ipods.

4. Placebo – Battle for the Sun
Brian Molko didnt reinvent his band for this release.  He simply balanced out the electronic elements of his band’s previous album Meds with the rock vibe that brought the band success in the late ninties.  The standout tracks, ‘For What it’s Worth’ and ‘Speak in Tongues’ are worth the price of the album alone.

5. OneRepublic – Waking Up
Timbaland may have brought OneRepublic into the public eye with the inclusion of his re-working of the band’s hit ‘Apoligize’ on  his Shock Value album, but Waking Up proves that the Los Angeles band can get by just fine on their own.  It’s a mellow feel-good disc, with upbeat positive songs.  Give a listen to the first single ‘All the Right Moves’ to get an idea of just how much these guys can rock, without actually rocking.

Honorable Mentions: Green Day – 21’st Century Breakdown, Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz, Billy Talent- III