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.

Solange – A Seat at the Table

There are not many artists these days that have the audacity to attempt to create an LP that is expressive, expansive, and coherent. Even fewer are able to succeed in this endeavor. Solange does. A Seat at the Table, Solange’s third studio effort, is an album that has the potential to be a definitive art piece in the struggle of civil rights in the 21st century. This is her first project in 8 years and it’s okay if you’ve never heard the name Solange Knowles before. She has been living behind the incredible shadow of her sister, Beyoncé, for the vast majority of her career but here second album, Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, and this more recent one are two very good reasons why she deserves her own reverence from the music industry. Disclaimer: this album is not Lemonade, and it is most certainly not trying to be Lemonade.

This album, like her sister’s newest work, is a celebration of blackness but that is where the similarities end. Even how these woman honor being black is completely different. Solange, rather than making an aggressive, almost militant declaration of freedom from the social constraints of traditional racial roles, takes a more earnest look at the state of black people in America today. Two songs that I felt really embodied her over-arching message on this album are “Interlude: Tina Taught Me” and “F.U.B.U.”. The first discusses a pride in being black and who you are and recognizes that just because you take pride in your culture, that does not mean that you are trying to disrespect someone else’s foundations. The latter discusses the rise in black culture and the potential of black people in the face of implicit bias and straight up racism that still exists in America today.

What really struck me about the tone of this album was the underlying sense of optimism and confidence in her people that Solange carries throughout this record. She seems to recognize the gains made by black people in the last 60 years but she never forgets that there is still a battle raging in this country for black peoples’ unalienable rights that very much needs to be fought.

A Seat at the Table will not go down as my favorite album of the year. It is a long 21 songs and her stripped down production is beautiful but after the first 30 minutes, I could use a change in tempo. On the positive end though, the transitions and interludes are fantastic, the production is definitely on point, and her message is clear and beautifully worded. I really enjoyed this album, especially the songs “Cranes in the Sky”, “Don’t Touch My Hair”, “F.U.B.U.”, and “Junie”. A powerful and elegant effort, I have to give Solange props on this album and those four songs will definitely be in my rotation for the next few months.

Score: 8.4/10

Two Door Cinema Club – Gameshow

Fans of Two Door Cinema Club, myself included, have patiently waited for new material to be released. At times, it was uncertain as to whether or not they would come back as the band members were dealing with their own problems and projects. After 4 years of waiting, Two Door Cinema Club are back and sounding more confident than ever.

Produced by the infamous Jacknife Lee (Crystal Castles, Silversun Pickups, Weezer), Two Door Cinema Club’s newest album Gameshow is a modern take on classic rock music. Singer Alex Trimble names David Bowie and Prince as major inspirations for this album and it is evident, especially in songs like “Bad Decisions” and “Surgery”. The band has experimented a bit to add more of an electronic sound to their songs while still keeping their alternative sound that drew so many fans to listen to them. Yes, Two Door Cinema Club have followed in the path many other bands are taking with the 80s music revival, however, they do it in such a way that is refreshing and pleasurable.

The first track “Are We Ready? (Wreck)” reinforces the idea that Two Door Cinema Club has returned stronger than ever. Trimble makes some brazen statements as the song opens to the lyrics, “We are the sacred cow/Stand up, take a bow, you’re wonderful/You should be comfortable, don’t think at all”. Steady choir chants and handclaps kept my foot tapping throughout the entirety of the song.

The album’s title track “Gameshow” is one that is bound to be a crowd pleaser during concerts. It’s one of the most spirited songs on the album that gave me some LCD Soundsystem vibes. Trimble sings with a furiosity that I have not heard from him before. In it, Trimble is taking back control from the record companies and finally standing up for himself.

Many people have criticized Gameshow as falling short of expectations, but I say differently. The album is not revolutionary nor is it a giant leap forward for the band, but it is a fun and funky collection of songs that is bound to get a crowd thrilled. Trimble’s vocal ability impressed me because I did not know his voice was capable of such range. Guitarist Sam Halliday also deserves recognition with his outstanding guitar solos that are more prominently featured in this album. While not all of the tracks on Gameshow are my favorite, that doesn’t detract from the fact that I think this is a wonderful album filled with creativity and ambition. After 4 years, it was definitely worth the wait.

Joy Division : The Middle Man

 

From Warsaw, to Joy Division, to New Order, Joy Division acted as a “voice of the underdog” for many people in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Their ability to redefine themselves over and over is a tribute to their originality in song, lyrics, rhythm, and beat. They stumbled onto a sound that fit in perfectly with their era, but somehow stood out as one of the most influential bands of all time. They originally started as ‘Warsaw’, an English rock band in Manchester who formed after being ridiculously inspired at a Sex Pistols concert. In 1976, the band consisted of singer Ian Curtis, guitarist and keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bass player Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris. Warsaw was a band name created by Sumner and Hook, referencing David Bowie’s song “Warszawa”, but they later changed their title to Joy Division to avoid being confused with a similarly titled band in the area. Their influences included legends like a Berlin-era Bowie, The Talking Heads, The Clash, The Velvet Underunknownpleasuresground and Iggy Pop.

Joy Division made music that people didn’t know they needed, not by emphasizing anger as most punk bands did, but by emphasizing mood and expression.Joy Division was the first band to bring the melancholy feel into the post-punk period. Inspired by punk energy, their music is full of loopy drum patterns, soothing guitar riffs, and odd bass rhythms, topped off by Ian Curtis and his liquid gold voice, acting as a combination of Jim Morrison, Joe Strummer and Lou Reed. Their undistinguished punk-infected rock was a quality that only could be appreciated as the songs got slower and continued on, making their live shows, where they played loudly and aggressively, some of the most attended events of the 1970s. Each show had it’s own heart and soul and no two shows were ever the same.

After Joy Division recorded their most famous album, Unknown Pleasures, their career soared. Their first-of-its-kind melancholy lyrics and punk musical vibe took the world by storm. In May of 1980, while on tour for their second studio recorded album, “Closer”, Ian Curtis, lead guitarist, committed suicide. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was performed in honor of Curtis, at the last Joy Division show.

After Curtis’ death, the remaining band members unanimously agreed that Joy Division should be figuratively put to rest in honor of Curtis himself. They continued with a different name, and brought new wave into the 80’s. New Order, which had a few new additions, became one of the most influential bands of the 80s for their combination of punk and electronic dance music. Their first single, “Ceremony” was performed in several Joy Division concerts, but officially was20150707060046new_order_movement_cover released through the new band. New Order continued into the 80s and 90s, gaining new fans as they released dance music that had depressing lyrics. They brought a new sound into a new era, and their aesthetic was to do whatever the hell they wanted. They didn’t give many interviews, encores, and released numerous nameless albums. New Order holds the best-selling 12-inch single of all time, for their song “Blue Monday”.

As a group of people who didn’t struggle to remain relevant, Joy Division lives on through New Order. Although each member of the band took turns experimenting with vocals, instruments, and new types of patterns in their music. Sumner eventually took over as lead vocal, but he refused to do interviews out of respect for Curtis. The band lyrics heavily are influenced by the death of their friend, and still insanely popular, “Low-life”, an album released in 1985, was just remastered and re-released in 2015.

 

Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Love and self-discovery are common themes in Justin Vernon’s songs. Bon Iver’s music has the amazing ability to make the listener feel both calm and shaken at the same time. The beautiful sounds and often haunting lyrics and vocals give the sense that one is lost inside their own home, which is a feeling that the vast majority of people are able to relate to at some point in their lives.

22, A Million, Bon Iver’s first album in five years, takes a different approach to these concepts. With far less acoustic guitar and far more synthesizer, these new songs put a twist on Bon Iver’s usual sound. It reminds me a little of a more sad, introspective Kanye West, which may sound odd given that the two come from different genres and backgrounds. Music is just the interpretation of emotion, though, so it makes sense to me that the art could sound similar.

While 22, A Million is undoubtedly musically and creatively beautiful, I must admit that I do prefer Bon Iver’s older music. Though, when I listened to this new album for the first time, one song really stood out to me. When I heard “715 – CR∑∑KS,” the third track on the album, I was first captivated by the sound. It is similar to the last song, “Woods,” on the Blood Bank EP, but it is also incredibly unique. I then listened to it again to hear the lyrics and fell in love with the song. “Honey, understand that I have been left here in the reeds / But all I’m trying to do is get my feet out from the crease.” These lyrics in particular really struck me. Filled with a mixture of abandonment, longing, and futility, they penetrate all the way down into the depths of emotion and bring a variety of memories back up to the surface. These lyrics made me feel something very strong, which is what music should do.

Another song on 22, A Million that I find to be very interesting is the last track, “00000 Million.” This song off the new album sounds the most like Vernon’s older music, which I am very fond of. However, like with “715 – CR∑∑KS,” the thing I like most about it is the lyrics. Vernon repeats the phrase, “the days have no numbers,” which, in the context of the song, I interpret as “the days are all the same; there is nothing to distinguish one from the other.” Another lyric he repeats is, “if it’s harmed, it’s harmed me, it’ll harm, I’ll let it in.” This is particularly interesting, because Vernon is saying that though he knows this thing is bad for him, he won’t try to stop it. Both of these emotions are ones that hit very close to home for me and many others. Like so many of his other songs, this haunting track is able to make the listener calm while also feeling a swarm of strong emotions.

In all honesty, I am not too fond of any of the other songs on this new album. However, that does not mean that I think the album as a whole is anything less than a work of important and exquisite art. There is no denying 22, A Million’s beauty. Justin Vernon produced yet another stunning album that will resonate with and change the lives of many people.