Empire of the Sun – Two Vines

If Empire of the Sun’s goal is to transport listeners to another world with their music, I’d say they’re doing a pretty good job. They somehow always manage to create a fantasy-like ambiance in their songs. With a dazzling headpiece and flashy outfits, the Australian duo has returned to deliver an album to satisfy our eardrums.

When Empire of the Sun came into the music scene with Walking on a Dream, they caused a stir with their experimental nature and whimsical music. They lost a bit of their momentum when Ice on the Dune came out, but they seem to bring it back on the latest album Two Vines. While not having the initial charm that their first album had, Two Vines brings about poppy tunes infused with electronic elements.

Two Vines starts slow with “Before”, a groovy tune that pairs well with singer Luke Steele’s airy vocals.  The album then kicks into gear with the first single “High and Low.” A song inspired by a childhood friend, group member Nick Littlemore hoped to lyrically channel the experiences of adolescence. There is an innocence in track as Steele sings, “Now we are running in a pack to the place you don’t know/And I want you to know that I’ll always be around.”

As the album progresses, we reach the track “Friends.” It is a curious composition as a sluggish drum beat eventually transforms into a danceable breakdown. While I think the band went a little too heavy with the auto-tune, the captivating synths makes up for it.

Towards the end of the album, their slower tempo songs take the spotlight. “Digital Life” offers a more futuristic track with industrial steam intertwining with an oriental sounding melody. “To Her Door” closes the album with a triumphant ballad that features the beautiful guitar playing of Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac.

Empire of the Sun’s unique style alone draws attention, but their creativity with music is what makes fans stay. Their music never fails to take the listener on a journey to a colorful paradise. Two Vines certainly does that with a vivid ride through their jubilant jungle.

Empire of the Sun will be playing a show at the Great Saltair on December 3.

On Your Radar: Bad Suns

The moment I first heard the band Bad Suns, I became completely entranced with their music. There was something hypnotic about them that drew me in. Whether it was the singer’s soothing voice or their dreamy melodies, Bad Suns had me craving more.

Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Bad Suns is comprised of lead vocalist Christo Bowman, bassist Gavin Bennett, drummer Miles Morris, and guitarist Ray Libby. The band is often described as 80’s new wave as they tend to get comparisons to iconic rock artists of the 80’s such as Depeche Mode or Elvis Costello. It’s no surprise considering Bowman grew up in a very musical household where he became inspired by the records his father would introduce to him. He was so inspired that he learned how to play guitar and started writing his own songs. This would later help him when the band released their debut album.

Language & Perspective was a great introduction for the indie pop band. It set the stage for the young musicians and showed people they were ready to enter the music scene. The first single “Cardiac Arrest” put the artist on the map with its mellow, almost beach like vibe. Bowman ingeniously compares extreme feelings one might have towards another person to a cardiac arrest. “Sleep Paralysis” is a personal favorite from the album as the band finds a way to make this song pleasurable yet disjointed.

With the attention they gained from their first album, Bad Suns began touring with The 1975 and The Neighbourhood as opening acts. After many months of touring, Bad Suns released their second album Disappear Here earlier this year on September 16. Sophomore albums can be a little tricky for some bands because they’ve already developed a fan base and expectations are raised. This seemed to be no problem for them as Disappear Here is a perfect successor to Language & Perspective. The songs are catchier and have more of a depth to them. The opening and title track for the album “Disappear Here” is a nice welcome back to the band with an upbeat rhythm. Bowman has an extra zing in this song especially evident during the chorus. “Heartbreaker” touches on a feeling that many young adults experience: the fear of failed relationships. He pretends that he’s okay and can go on without her, but it’s an act.

Bad Suns is a modern, retro sounding band filled with spirit. Their honest, sometimes cynical, lyrics not only make them relatable, but prove that they too are learning how to navigate life. With the amount of optimistic energy they bring to their music, it’s a band that I consistently find myself putting on repeat.

Die Antwoord – Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid

The first time listening to a song by the South African rap-rave group, Die Antwoord, I was appalled, shocked, and even offended. Apparently I wasn’t the only one considering the mostly negative reviews of Die Antwoord’s fourth studio album Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid. However, while it’s easy to dismiss the group for their crude and audacious persona’s, there’s much more to Die Antwoord than meets the eye.

die-antwoord-tickets-jpg-870x570_q70_crop-smart_upscale

The group’s aesthetic stems from the South African counter-culture movement called “zef” which roughly translates to “common” in English. For Die Antwoord, the style is most often characterized by bold colors, gaudy outfits, and flashy jewelry. However, in an interview, Yo-landi Visser says “Zef’s kind of like you don’t give a f*ck and you have your own flavor and you’re on your own mission”; a mentality that’s ingrained in all of Die Antwoord’s work, especially in their newest album Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid. 

The opening track “We Have Candy” is a surreal and theatrical invitation to the rest of the album. A combination of comedic dialogue and soaring operatics leaves the listener confused yet wanting more; a description that can be applied to most songs from Die Antwoord. “We Have Candy” was the group’s original name for the album because of it’s random and playful tracks, but the name was soon changed to Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid once the group added more dark and vulnerable songs to the album.

die-antwoord-ppcorn-2015-art

The song “Banana Brain” is a perfect example of the more random and playful songs Die Antwoord began writing the album with. The track begins with Yo-landi’s high-pitched and eerie vocals which then lead into a roller coaster of pulsing beats and EDM rhythms. The music video for “Banana Brain” depicts a crazy house party with fast cars, psychedelics, and neon lights; a setting most appropriate for the song’s wild/rave attitude.

Even though Die Antwoord’s music shouldn’t be taken too seriously, some of the songs take it too far to the point where they become immature and no longer amusing. The songs “Wings on my Penis” and “U Like Boobies?” are just as cringe-worthy as they sound. The songs feature an unknown six year old named Lil Tommy Terror rapping about exactly what the song’s names suggest. Along with being inappropriate in nature, the songs also lack musical substance and make me question why they were considered official tracks on the album in the first place.

6eaa3d0c629812074c90c72028f47f78-960x751x1

While most of the songs from Mount Ninji contain a similar sentiment, it’s clear that the group tried to balance the album out with more vulnerable and stripped down songs like “Alien,” “Darkling,” and “I Don’t Care.” The songs discuss what it’s like to be considered an outsider and not caring what others think. Even though the message of these tracks are more heartfelt and genuine, their stripped down nature makes the songs dull and repetitive.

Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid may not be the most musically substantial album out there, but it’s certainly exciting and different. It also contains bizarre guest appearances like “Rats Rule” featuring Jack Black and “Gucci Coochie” featuring Dita Von Teese. Overall, the album’s avant-garde character and catchy rave beats definitely makes it an album worth listening to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saba – Bucket List

The growth of Chicago’s hip hop scene just won’t stop. It’s bigger now than it’s ever been thanks to an influx of incredibly talented, thoughtful, and cool artists. The latest Chicago rapper to make his voice heard this year is Saba, the 22 year-old face of the Pivot Gang. His new album Bucket List came out on October 27th and it’s good. Really good.

Saba started playing piano at 7 and started messing around with production software at 12. He graduated high school at 16 with a 3.9 and followed in his father’s footsteps as a musician (wikipedia.com). Luckily for him, he was able to ride the Acid Rap wave into relevance and through his relationships with other Chicago rappers (Chance, Noname, and Mick Jenkins, to name a few) he’s been able to break into the game with some really quality music. This latest tape is just another example of the authenticity that is so crucial to Saba’s, and Chicago’s, new sound. He’s real, he’s transparent, he’s positive. His message is beautiful and his lyricism only accentuates his points. His word play is impeccable and he switches up his flows effortlessly. I seriously can’t say enough about this guys ability to spit. He’s beginning to establish himself as a premier wordsmith in the industry and he has the opportunity to craft such astounding rhymes because of the subject matter he is taking on.

A theme of this new wave of Chicago rappers is to take on topics that haven’t been talked about much in hip hop over the last decade. Saba doesn’t drink or smoke, he’s never been a big partier, and he’s been able to stay out of gang violence for most of his life. Those are some of the big ideas that have been promoted in rap since the Lil Wayne era so Saba had to take inspiration from some different perspectives. Fame, family, Chicago, and the potential of our generation take the driver’s seat in Bucket List and Saba’s genuine optimism shines through these dialogues he opens up. It’s truly inspirational and what really draws me to Saba and his music.

I knew I would connect with this tape from the very first song. “In Loving Memory” sounds like a Social Experiment song and Saba wastes no time getting into his incredible rhymes. I could hear pieces of Chance, Noname, and Childish Gambino influences on this track and he sets the tone early with a dense verse and a really smooth singing performance. He finishes the track by giving us his bucket list which consists of “One, I wanna have a meal from in and out, coz I live nowhere near one. Two, I wanna go one on one against D. Rose. And three, I wanna *bleep* [sic] Kylie Jenner…” (genius.com). He’s funny, he’s enthusiastic, and he has a great new LP out. Saba most definitely has room to grow as an artist and a producer and this project has him moving in the right direction.

Score: 8.0

Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues

When it comes to alternative rock music, there are bands that are absolutely quintessential to the genre. These bands dominated the airwaves in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and helped pave the way on what alt rock should sound like. Even though lately many of them have not been as popular as they once were, there are a select few who prove they are not out of the game, like Jimmy Eat World.

Jimmy Eat World formed in 1993 in Mesa, Arizona. They had released two albums in the 90’s but didn’t see commercial success until the release of their 2001 album Bleed American. Many notable singles were bred from that album, from the title track to “Sweetness”, but nothing compared to “The Middle.” From there on out, Jimmy Eat World was one of the staple bands of the emo/pop punk scene. They stayed in the limelight for their next two albums Futures and Chase This Light, however, they started to drop off the music scene with Inverted and Damaged. After touring got done for Damaged, the band decided to take a year off for a much needed break.

Integrity Blues is a nice welcome back for Jimmy Eat World after their hiatus. They came back with new ideas and a new approach on how they would develop their songs. The whole theme of this album revolves around acceptance of life and the changes it brings with it. “Pretty Grids” and “Get Right” call upon all the rock lovers with their heavy guitar breakdowns and profound bass lines while “You With Me” and “It Matters” show their capability to embrace a softer side as singer Jim Adkins calmly serenades the listener.

“Sure and Certain” was the first song I heard that notified me that they were making a new album. I remember the first time I heard it I was extremely overjoyed. It was as if the band never took a break to begin with. The opening lively guitar strums combined with the anthem-like drum beats was enough to ensure me that Jimmy Eat World had returned.

While their past two albums were not highly successful, Integrity Blues reminds fans why they fell in love with Jimmy Eat World in the first place. It hits listeners with deep feelings of nostalgia. For me, the album transported me back to the days where I had Futures on repeat. The band was able to create an album that was consistent to how they sound without being repetitive. The long awaited album had finally come and it didn’t disappoint.

 

 

Green Day – Revolution Radio

It has a been a hot minute since we have heard anything from the Pop Punk staple Green Day. The ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! trilogy, the band last project was released in 2014 and was surprisingly forgettable for a Band that is know for creating life altering foot tapping Punk Jams. Since then the band has appeared to be in turmoil with the announcement of a break after their last tour. With the band’s Front-man Billie Joe Armstrong going to rehab for substance abuse some wondered it they would be calling it quits.Image result for green day However, they are back delivering an album that Armstrong says is about “the culture of mass shooting that happens in America mixed with narcissistic social media.”

The opening track Somewhere Now eases us into Armstrong troubled mind with the opening lyrics “I’m on way to somewhere Now/ I don’t want to be/ Where the future and promises/ Ain’t what it used to be.” Then the power chords kick in and unfortunately Green Day delivers a formulaic and uninspired pop punk performance. Every track delivers nothing new and lacks the punch of their earlier work while struggling to find the heart that has become their signature.

The title track Revolution Radio tackles Armstrong’s concerns about the  recently developed culture of mass shooting in America. He attacks the problem as angry protester unsure of the solution “Scream with your hands up in the sky/like you want tImage result for revolution radioo testify/For the life that’s been deleted/Sing like a rebel’s lullaby/Under the stars and stripes/For the lost souls that were cheated.” While this track is classic Green Day what it lacks is what the whole album lacks something new. There is not a lot of true substance, in its place are lyrics that barely could be considered criticism and the same chord progression we have heard Green Day use for years.

Still Breathing is my favorite song off the album and it possibly the most sincere song on this record. Armstrong praises that somehow he is still breathing stating “I’m like an ambulance that’s turning on the sirens/Oh, I’m still alive” tapping into the raw emotion that only a punk rocker who has finally kicked his substance abuse problem can. Yet it highlights the exact problem the rest of the album Image result for revolution radiohas, behind the entrancing pop punk rhythms, and seemingly relevant lyrics lies little substance. Songs like Outlaws, Forever Now, and Young Blood might sound good initially they lack the hall mark of great punk songs emotional resonance.

Revolution Radio is not a return to form for Green Day, rather it is more of an evolution. They are no longer a bunch of young punks kicking and screaming about the neuroses and politics, that much is clear. Revolution Radio shows a level of maturity from the band, asking their listeners just how dark the world around us is theses days, and is there a clear solution? While that sounds like an epic idea for an album Green Day cannot convert that into anything meaningful. Revolution Radio’s problem is not that it is a bad pop punk album, it has catchy lyrics and chord progressions, its problem is that it lacks the substance required to be even a noteworthy album, go listen to Jeff Rostenstock’s Worry instead.

 

A Whole New Gaga

lady_gaga_-_joanne_official_album_coverStefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, or as you might know her, Lady Gaga, dropped her new album Joanne. To call it “okay” would be the understatement of the year. The album was written to honor the creative spirit of her aunt Joanne. Best known for her meat suit, dance music, and love for the disco-stick, Gaga turned in the sequins for blue jeans and a guitar on this accept-yourself-and-love-yourself album.

Track 01: Diamond Heart- A tale of how to be strong, told from the point of view of a young, wild, American woman. The bombshell lyric, “Some asshole broke me in, wrecked all my innocence, I’ll just keep go-go’n, and this dance is on you” speaks directly to Gaga’s past about being raped. Gaga sings that although she’s not perfect, she’s got a Diamond Heart.

Track 02: A-YO- This track is laced with lyrics about sticking it to the man. Gaga herself defines this track as, “‘A-YO, A-YO were smokin ’em all’ is like “Hey you, let’s celebrate. We’re leaving our haters in the dust.” Essentially, this song pays tribute to the people who called Artpop a flop. (Gaga’s album from 2013, Artpop, received horrible reviews from both critics and fans)

Track 03: Joanne – A song written about Joanne, Gaga’s aunt who passed away at age 19. This song is written in the first person, referencing Gaga by her middle name, but is a tribute to her father’s sister. She sings, “take my hand, stay Joanne, heaven’s not ready for you, every part of my aching heart, needs you more than the angels do”

Track 04: John Wayne – This song captures the album best of all, as Gaga sings about, “being strung out on John Wayne.” The dance-like track has the same feel as Born This Way (Gaga’s album from 2011) but is a little more western-y and surprisingly heartfelt. She sings, “He called, I cried, we broke” most likely referencing the split from her fiance earlier this year. This is the western pop song I never knew I needed.

Tlady-gaga-t-magazine-nyt-1476724790-640x434rack 05: Dancin’ In Circles – This track provides the closest resemblance to the 2008 chart topping album, The Fame. The gritty lyrics, ska beat, and message between the lines hugs close to songs like “Alejandro” (Born This Way) and “Love Game” (The Fame). I’m not going to leave any of the lyrics here, but the ode to loving yourself comes in a literal sense from this track, and it’s bound to be a dancefloor anthem.

Track 06: Perfect Illusion – Released as a single to announce the album, this track is an ode to someone specifically created by Gaga and the media. She got the idea from the pressure she feels to live up to the ‘illusion’ she’s created for herself. Between her cigarette sunglasses, black firebolt eye makeup, and neon animal print jackets, she feels as though she’s created a certain outlook for herself, and she wanted to reference how that02-lady-gaga-press-photo-cr-collier-schorr-2016-billboard-1548 feels for her. The lyrics also dissect how euphoric the feeling of fame can be, while at the same time, feeling incredibly fake.

Track 07: Million Reasons – This acoustic track is a heartfelt, simple song representing a turning point in Stefani’s career in which she has, “cut through all his worn out leather” and given herself reasons to continue with a music career even though it’s headed in a different direction. Most chill-inducing lyric: “Every heartbreak makes it hard to keep the faith.”

Track 08: Sinner’s Prayer – This western, empathetic, track is a hard hitting song that focuses on embracing yourself for who you are. Best bone chilling lyric: “The man’s got a gift for getting what he wants, He’s thirsty when he drinks, Gets on the brink, and throws her off.”

Track 09: Come To Mama – A track that can be summed up in the first line, “Everybody’s gotta love each other” This song is the farthest from a typical Lady Gaga track. It has a gospel feel, an inspiring message, and a heartfelt plea, begging the world to love each other.

Track 10: Hey Girl – Gather up every girl you’ve ever met and blast this at your next get-together. This song is going to be your new favorite ode to friendship. Featuring Florence Welch from Florence + The Machine, this song is full of empowering, lift-you-up lyrics such as, “Help me hold my hair back, walk me home ’cause I can’t find a cab, and we dance down the bowery, held hands like we were 17 again”. It’s catchy, it’s beautiful, and it’s fun.  Girl lady-gaga-joanne-jpg-c83925511999fcc49fd859aabc799988-678x381power forever.

Track 11: Angel Down – This song is a powerful tribute to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen who was shot to death. While Gaga fears that she will get negative feedback about the song, she feels that she needs to make music with a purpose because of the platform she works within. Best lyric: ” Doesn’t everyone belong, In the arms of the sacred, Why do we pretend we’re wrong?”

Track 12: Grigio Girls – A catchy tune that pays homage to Gaga’s longtime friendship with Sonja Dunham, who was revealed last year to be suffering from breast cancer. This is my personal favorite on the album, for it’s ode to girl groups. Gaga references The Spice Girls, and calling your sisters to drink some wine after a 01-lady-gaga-press-photo-cr-collier-schorr-2016-billboard-1548hard day. Stand aside boys, tough girls on the mend are going to come out of the woodwork to sing along to the anthem ending of this song. My favorite lyric: “Pour your heart out, watch your blues turn gold”

Track 13: Just Another Day – The inspired-by David Bowie track reeks of the Electroclash movement. It’s a catchy, uplifting tune about keeping your head up in the clouds, even when people try to pull you down. Most playful lyric:  “I’ll lay back in my chair and find a way, and when you say that thing that you say, that makes me mad, I’ll turn away.”

This raw album is a new side of Lady Gaga that has never been seen on shelves before. Mother Monster opens up in every song, and even in the album artwork itself- she has taken off the wigs, glasses, and makeup to show us a more simplistic side of herself. The promo pictures for the album’s release are beautiful black and white portraits that show Stefani as she is in real life . This female empowerment album is something I never knew I needed.

Yellowcard – Yellowcard

As their 10th and final studio release, Yellowcard’s self-titled album is powerful and new yet still reminiscent of their original pop punk sound.

In June, the band announced that they would be breaking up after the last show on their world tour on December 18. While the news was disheartening to their loyal fan-base, the band stated in a note:  “We realized that this was the right time to step away and preserve the legacy and integrity of the band. It is with you, the fans in mind, that this decision was made.”

With many successful bands, deciding an appropriate time to retire is difficult, but after months of deliberation Yellowcard finally concluded that their era would soon be coming to a close.

“We went into this record knowing it would be the last” said the band. However, even with the end in sight, Yellowcard made sure to produce an album filled with invigorating rock hits like “Got Yours” and “What Appears.”

The opening track, “Rest in Peace,” begins with a rhythmic guitar intro and catchy violin riff that’s intrinsic to Yellowcard’s signature sound. With lyrics like “If this was the last time that we would ever speak, Could we forgive somehow, Could we let it rest in peace,” Resolution and Forgiveness are made apparent as strong themes throughout the song. Even though “Rest in Peace” is the opening track to Yellowcard’s final album, it doesn’t feel like it. The song is uplifting and hopeful in the sense that there’s peace to letting things go.

One of the other main hits from the album, “The Hurt is Gone,” succinctly wraps up some of the important ideas from the album. It discusses the inevitable changes a person goes through, and the hope within that change.

As a band that started in 1997, the members have grown significantly over time, and relay their own personal changes through their music. “The Hurt Is Gone” is so special because everyone at some point in their life can relate to the ideas of the song. Along with an important message, the song includes a melodic guitar introduction and a striking chorus with the lyrics “Change comes for you, even if you’re hiding out. So wake to this truth and maybe you’ll believe me now.”

The final song “Field & Fences” is the most singular track from the album because it’s so poignant and ends the album in such a beautiful way. The 7 minute song includes soft guitar melodies and layered harmonies that sound almost hymn-like. The chorus ties everything back to the beginning track, “Rest in Peace”, with the lyrics “Tennessee, when I finally lay down to sleep, then I’ll rest in your ground.”

While Yellowcard is comparatively more somber than the band’s previous releases, it’s a perfect mix of new music with their old sound.

Even though the band will retire after their December show, they will be playing in Salt Lake City as part of their Final World Tour at The Complex  on October 28th.