Bite Back: Not a Saint or a Savior

Chalk full of barrowing guitar tones and existential dread that plummet nose first into your ear canals, this EP from the San Diego based hardcore outfit Bite Back is a brutal encounter. Five blistering songs fill this EP with lyrics of having to cope with nihilism, depression, and anxiety complimented with pounding guitars and breakdowns reminiscent of the mental beatings such a mind deals with—it isn’t pretty.
The songs on this album are very grim—they cater to a very esoteric demographic with Austin Bolechowski’s straightforward vocal and lyrical delivery that paints the band for who they are. The EP opens with “Day By Day”—it starts with an intense buildup of guitars and drums over the closing monologue from the character Patrick Bateman from the film American Psycho. It all gives way to Josh Orellana’s high velocity drumming then the rest of the band jumps into the sea of despair with Bolechowski’s opening lyrics, “Always struggling day by day, can’t ever think of what to say, trying to keep my head held high, but I just count my failures every night.”
The EP continues on with hints of groove, thrash, and sludge metal built in on their hardcore foundation all while keeping on the themes of mental anguish. “Sinner” hurtles a plethora of riffs with alternating vocals that range from controlled yells to high pitched screams with hair-raising lyrics like “I’ve been thinking thoughts that’d make the devil want to kill himself!” “Stray Dog” (appropriate for the band’s name) delves into the isolation side of depression with reoccurring lyrics like “I’ll live on my own, I’ll die on my own, these motherfuckers couldn’t spend a god damn night all alone,” and “I’m a mutt with rotting teeth, decayed like my fathers’ before me!” but the most tumultuous lyrics are sung during the breakdown—“What the fuck do you know about pain? You never lost anything!”
The EP takes a two-and-a-half minute breather with “Lull”—a sluggish, more somber number with more melodious vocals that still doesn’t steer the album off course. After a brief pause it traverses into the closing track with Bolechowski bellowing its moniker “Numb!” “Numb” pummels to a close with a beatdown of everything in Bite Back’s musical arsenal with the final lyrics “No puedo ser fuerte, lo que me mata es mi mente!” (“I cannot be strong, what kills me is my mind!”)
Bite Back’s Not a Saint or a Savior is destructive and incredibly brutally honest—these boys don’t hesitate to wear their hearts on their sleeves. The lyrics sum up a lot of key themes with depression and anxiety and the music is the perfect match, stimulating feelings of a mind at war with itself.

Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine

I have always loved Mac Miller’s music. From K.I.D.S. and Best Day Ever when all he wanted was to swag out, to the experimental days of Macadelic and Watching Movies with the Sound Off, he was a staple of my high school days. During my college career, he’s released three more projects. Faces, with its drug-induced lyrics and smooth production, is one of my favorite tapes of all time. Last year’s GO:OD AM, one of the best starting over albums in rap history, with so many references about addiction, over-dosing, and recovery, is enough to get anyone through their roughest days. His newest release, The Divine Feminine, has a completely different feel.

He’s completely focused in the album. One thing I’ve learned since really becoming a hip hop head is that it’s near impossible for an album to completely come together as one collective unit, unlike the prog rock that my dad grew me up on. This album comes together. It’s one of very few albums that I can listen to start to finish every single time. It’s a love album all the way through, however, Mac is still able to put his classic depressed twist on it. “The sun don’t shine when I’m alone,” is one of his opening lines of the album, setting the theme throughout. Most of the songs play off of the depression of not being with your significant other, the problems that occur when a relationship is purely physical, or the issues a guy has when he’s constantly messing his relationship up.

This album sounds a lot different that a lot of his other albums. It’s clear at this point that he’s not just a rapper, or a producer, or a singer, he’s just a great musician with a pure sense of sound. The production brings in soft, slow beats, jazzy beats filled with horns, and fun upbeat hooks that display his competence and that he can rap over any beat. Mac brings in a stacked grouped of artists featured on this album; Anderson .Paak and CeeLo Green put their unique voices on Dang! and We, respectively. Kendrick Lamar and Ty Dolla $ign both spit on their verses of the album, and he brings his new girlfriend Ariana Grande in for a verse on My Favorite Part.

The Divine Feminine shows a lot of growth from an artist who has put himself through a lot in recent years. If you have an hour to kill, or if you’re feeling a little down, this is definitely an album you need to check out. Thank you, Mac.

Mac Miller will be coming to SLC in November at the Saltair, you can purchase tickets here: http://smithstix.com/music/all-music/rap-hiphop/event/19011/mac-miler-nov-1

Warpaint – Heads Up

With many great women in rock and roll, it’s no surprise that Warpaint has gained attention for their dream pop aesthetic and wispy vocals. The Los Angeles quartet formed on Valentine’s Day in 2004. The bandmates have a long history with each other as lead woman Emily Kokal and guitarist Theresa Wayman have been friends since childhood. They were later joined by sisters Jenny Lee Lindberg and Shannyn Sossamon, though Sossamon would leave soon and be replaced by Stella Mozgawa, and would write and perform songs that would later comprise their first EP.

In 2007, Warpaint debuted their EP Exquisite Corpse which rose up to the Number 1 spot on the Los Angeles Amoeba Records local artist chart. Critics praised the album and were curious to hear what else the band had in store. The band listened and released The Fool three years after their EP came out. Once again the critics gave their album fantastic reviews. Word of Warpaint started circulating and they captured the hearts of many fans with their harmonious choruses and Lindberg’s artistically melancholy bass lines. Following suite, their second album Warpaint garnered rave reviews. Now, two years after their phenomenal self-titled album, they have delivered their wonderfully dynamic third album Heads Up.

The band excited many fans with the news that they were making a new album. The first single released is ironically titled “New Song”. It describes the joys of a new relationship when the person of interest is constantly in your head. While it is not the most lyrically intricate song, it is catchy enough to remain in your head for a couple of hours. This song has many characteristics of a “mainstream song” with its repetitive lyrics and poppy beats. It is a strange venture from the band’s previous songs that entranced people with their psychedelic nature.

“Whiteout” is the opening track and second single of the album. Kokal really delivers with intense, passionate vocals. The amount of layers Warpaint manages to put on every song absolutely blows me away. For this track, every instrument playing blends so magnificently together bringing about a song that is a mixture of indie pop with hints of R&B.

Heads Up is a great listen when you want to relax. It’s a calming album filled with the mystic idiosyncrasies that the listener has come to expect of Warpaint. However, they have seemed to have expanded their sound with faster paced songs and rhythms. In a way, this album reminds me a bit of music from the 90s with reverberating guitar notes and hypnotic melodies. This album steps away from the dark mood Warpaint usually has, but never strays too far from what has made the band a cult favorite.

Jack White Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016

The acoustic picks of classic songs from Jack White and his bands The White Stripes and The Raconteurs are featured on the new album, Jack White Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016, released earlier this month. The twenty-six tracks featured on the two-disc album take us through moments of their recording history; beginning with the 1998 “Sugar Never Tasted So Good” song that was written on the porch of Jack’s parent’s home.

Jack and Meg White are the singers, songwriters and musicians in The White Stripes, a rock band formed in Detroit, Michigan. The new acoustic album has a song from their 2000 album De Stijl called “I’m Bound to Pack It Up” that showcases an awesome command of the electric violin. “We Are Going to Be Friends” from the 2001 White Blood Cells album is a sweet song about a schoolyard friendship with a catchy picking pattern. Some songs from their 2003 album Elephant were included in the new album as well as a song Jack White created later that year called “Never Far Away” for the movie Cold Mountain.

Songs from the 2005 album Get Behind Me Satan are in the album including “As Ugly As I Seem” in which Meg White plays hand drums. “Love Is The Truth” is a lesser known song that was created for a Coca-Cola commercial in 2006 and has made its way into the album along with songs from the 2007 Icky Thump album like “Honey, We Can’t Afford to Look This Cheap” inspired by the prominent music scene in Nashville, TN where Jack was living at the time. “Carolina Drama” and “Top Yourself” from The Raconteurs album Consolers of the Lonely have their own acoustic and bluegrass interpretations too.

In 2012 Jack White’s song “Love Interruption” featuring Ruby Amanfu appeared on the GRAMMY nominated album Blunderbuss, Jack’s debut solo album. That track and a number of others from that album were added in, like “On and on and on” whose lyrics are not present until nearly a minute into the song and the title track which got its name from a 17th century European firearm. “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” is also on the album, as is “I Guess I Should Go to Sleep” featuring Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three band. “Machine Gun Silhouette” is in the mix too but it came from the album Love Interruption and was apparently composed by emails Jack received from his visual art collaborator whom he’s never met.

White’s 2014 album Lazaretto contributed a few songs to the new album including “Want and Able”, “Entitlement” and “Just One Drink”. “City Lights” is the previously unreleased track that was actually written and recorded 10 years prior during the Get Behind Me Satan recording sessions. It was finished in 2016 and was included as part of this acoustic set. It has all come back full circle in Acoustic Recordings which is exemplary of the rock and blues roots that Jack White has possessed since the beginning whether on his own projects or in his other endeavors. There’s no denying Jack White is a true artist through and through.

Homecoming Spotlight – Fictionist

It’s that time again to welcome back students and alumni to celebrate being a University of Utah Ute. Homecoming week will run from September 30th to October 9th. During this week, there will be many entertaining festivities from Songfest in the Union to the Crimson Rally on the Union Lawn. Let’s not forget the biggest highlight of Homecoming: the football game against Arizona. With all of the excitement, what better way to start Homecoming week than with the Student Dance featuring native Utah band Fictionist.

Hailing from Provo, Utah, Fictionist consists of singer and bass guitarist Stuart Maxfield, singer and guitarist Robbie Connolly, guitarist and bass guitarist Brandon Kitterman, and drummer Aaron Anderson. With the exception of Anderson, the band had been playing music together since their high school days in Salt Lake City. With their realistic lyrics, energetic melodies, and astonishing guitar solos by Connolly, the band has garnered lots of attention. Their first album Invisible Hand, released in 2009, won an Independent Music Award for Best Pop/Rock Song for their single of the same name. They yet again managed to win the same award in 2011 for their song Blue-Eyed Universe from their second album Lasing Echo.

During that same year, Fictionist received the great honor of being one of sixteens bands to compete in Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Do You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star” contest. The winner would land a coveted spot on the magazine’s cover and a record deal with Atlantic Records. Although they were eliminated in the fourth round, they left a positive impression and were still signed to Atlantic. Through their new label, they released a 6-track EP titled Fictionist – EP.

Things seemed to look up for Fictionist as they were working on new music and they even got to tour with Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees. All seemed to be going well, but unfortunately, the relationship with their record company was quickly deteriorating. In an interview with the Daily Herald, Maxfield is quoted saying, “In hindsight, everything about how things came together was wrong.” The band felt as though their label did not understand them as they were asked to rewrite many of their songs and omit many of their signature sounds. In the end, they never released their album and were dropped from the label, but the group was anything from sorrowful. They kept their head high and looked back at the experience with gratitude as it gave them more of an opportunity to rehearse and work on new material they were actually enthusiastic about.

Finally free from Atlantic, Fictionist has been rediscovering what kind of music they wanted to produce with the release of Free Spirit – EP. While being a relatively short EP, only consisting of four songs, it packs enough of a punch to leave the listener wanting more. The opening track Free Spirit sets the tone with an exceptionally cheerful tune that would have anyone jumping around. This song might be their farewell from their old label with the lyrics, “But you don’t have to stick around/if you don’t want to.”  We Can Sleep When We Die is one of the more mellow songs with a slower tempo. However, it never lacks the upbeat theme of the EP. High Society brings the funk with its moody bass and grungy guitar. Fictionist proudly closes with the most spirited track Right Now. Maxfield passionately sings throughout the song with triumphant electric beats wonderfully complimenting him.

Homecoming week kicks off on September 30th with the Student Dance taking place at The Depot at 8:00 p.m.

Motet – Totem

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The Motet’s new album Totem is the self-described ‘future of funk’, and while it’s not a bad album, I would personally just call it ‘more funk’.

The songs on the album are fun and upbeat for the most part, with strong bass lines and a beat that makes you want to dance. My only complaint is that it’s forgettable. I’m coming back to my notes about the album and I can’t remember what half of them are talking about. The tracks sound very similar to each other for the most part and I found myself losing focus on the song even though I was sitting at my desk explicitly to listen to this album. The problem is how repetitive the songs are, which isn’t to say sound bad, but they didn’t manage to keep me engaged.

As far as how the album was mixed I have a few questions. In some of the songs the bass guitar is very muddy, and at first I just assumed it was just to help cover up cheap recording equipment or and inexperienced mixer, but then in other songs like ‘Damn’ the bass was much crisper and easier to listen to. So why not just use that same strong clear bass for every song? I don’t know if they were going for a stylistic choice or something, but whatever the reason is, I’m not a fan. That’s nitpicking though, and to be fair the vocals were always very clean and the singers timbre stood out well. Speaking of the singer, I like him a lot. His name is Lyle Divinsky and I have to say, I could listen to him sing all day. He does the whole ‘funk’ theme very well, while not over performing.

This album is a professional piece of art, don’t get me wrong. If you’re at a party and this album shows up on spotify, there’s no reason not to put it on. But I can’t give you a reason to look for it either. If you want to listen to a solid funk albums with no real issues, this fits bill. I think The Motet should be proud of what they’ve made.

Local Natives – Sunlit Youth

On August 8, 2014, Local Natives took the Twilight Concert Series’ stage and performed to their heart’s content. I remember the day like it was yesterday: the crowd was cheering, the lights on the stage were a calm blue, and my friend and I danced and sang along to all the songs they played. It was a great concert only made better by the announcement that they were already working on new material for their third album. Fast forward two years later and they have finally released what I had been waiting for: Sunlit Youth.

Local Natives got their start in Silver Lake, California. Right out of college, the band wasted no time to start working on their first album. Their debut album Gorilla Manor was well received and set the stage for the potential the group has. From Gorilla Manor to Sunlit Youth, they have significantly matured. This album is not as charismatic as Gorilla Manor, but is much more optimistic than their emotionally driven second album Hummingbird. The lyrics have a more profound impact, addressing issues that are prominent in this day and age, such as telling the younger generation they have a voice (Fountain of Youth) to advising people to live in the moment (Past Lives).

The album opens up with the enthusiastic song Villainy. It is a grand departure from the somber mood of their second album to a livelier, joyous tone. It is immediately evident that they were not afraid to take some risks because of the heavy synths that loop from start to finish. In a way, it feels like they wrote a love letter to their hometown with the lyrics, “Mine is a chrome palace/Lost in Los Angeles/I know that I’ll make it through.”

Midway through the album, we get what is unarguably the most distinct and experimental single the band has ever produced with Coins. While still sounding like a Local Natives song, it veers away from the indie rock feel they usually have to a bluesy vibe. Singer Taylor Rice serenades the listener with a soulful voice while the prominent chords of the guitar play in the background.

Jellyfish has to be one of my favorite tracks on the album. Its hypnotic melody is captivating with its tribal beating drums, elegantly contrasted by gentle chimes. Rice’s soothing voice sings a story of love to the listener as he begins to describe how unexpected falling in love can be, “Took the wrong train and I fell/Head over heels in a moment.” This instantly shifts to the downfall of a relationship and how it equally can catch you off guard. The pain of heartbreak can be relatable to many people, however, the song still has a sense of positivity to it as if to assure people that everything will be okay.

Local Natives are currently on tour and will be performing on September 22nd at The Depot. Doors open at 7 p.m.

 

Grouplove – Big Mess

I am flooded with nostalgia when I hear Grouplove songs. It is one of those bands that brings back happy memories from when I was a freshman or sophomore in college, the year they released their self-titled EP and later their album Never Trust a Happy Song. A few songs you may recognize from that album are “Colours”, “Tongue Tied” and “Itchin’ on a Photograph” which I would hear on the radio and became part of the musical backdrop to my summer breaks.

Spreading Rumours was released a couple of years later with songs like “Ways To Go”, “I’m With You” and “Shark Attack”. I remember blasting these tunes in the car with my friends, windows down and singing out loud. I went to their concert at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City a couple of years ago and saw for myself their electric energy on stage. So maybe I’m a little bias but there’s no doubt their multitude of fans agree.

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Grouplove’s new album Big Mess makes me feel like I’m catching up with an old friend because of its familiar vocals and infectious hooks. The album’s opening song is called “Welcome to Your Life” which from the get go kicks things off with an uplifting beat. The lyrics to this song are about embracing the big mess life can be and knowing you can make a change if you want to “make it your best year.” As we’re settling into the new school year it’s a good reminder to make the most of it.

Their alternative rock sound really shows on the song “Traumatized” because it starts off with an energizing drum beat and a nice jolt of electric guitar. The vocals on this track draw you in because of its raw and powerful emotion. You’ll easily get the catchy chorus stuck in your head. The song takes a dip in tempo for emphasis then rages on with the guitar leading the way to pick it back up at the end. “Good Morning” in contrast has more of a synthpop sound. It’s a feel good dance song that introduces the guitar halfway through and has a really cheerful melody. It would fit right into some of the many festival scenes that they have played like Coachella or Lollapalooza.

Grouplove is on the Big Mess World Tour and are performing at The Complex 536 W. 100 S. Salt Lake City on October 17th, doors open at 7 pm. http://www.thecomplexslc.com/event-1178.htm