Monthly Archives: March 2014

“Long Live the Queen” – Frank Turner

This weeks Music Monday pick was inspired by Vasilis who pointed out that Frank Turner’s Love Ire & Song was released on this date six years ago. Frank’s music has always held a special place in my heart because his songs might be unflinchingly raw and honest at times, but there’s always a thread of hope that runs through his work. Frank’s never made it a secret that he writes from experience, and that reality means it’s easy to connect to his songs on a much more personal level. He’s also one of my favorite storytellers, and this song is a perfect example of all the reasons why I love him.

The video, directed by the talented Ben Morse, isn’t half bad either.

Leave a comment

March 31, 2014 · 8:02 pm

First Impressions: Koji

By Cherie

Image

For this weeks First Impressions I was given the artist Koji. I’ve heard his name mentioned before, and I knew he did the Acoustic Basement tour but that’s about all I knew about him. Vas told me he chose this artist for me because of his voice, and he warned me that I would probably be surprised by his sound. He was right, as usual.

The first song I listened to was “Giants Sleeping.” The version I listened to first was a live version because, to quote Vasilis, “his voice sounds fucking beautiful in it.” And I have to admit that Vasilis is right. The recorded version is good as well, but there’s something about the live version that is much more compelling. Its stripped down and much more intimate with just Koji and a guitar. My first thought when listening to is it that it would be the the perfect road trip song. The sleeping giants that Koji refers to in the song are the Appalachian mountains, a mountain chain that runs through his home state of Pennsylvania but also passes through the state I live in (New Hampshire). I was struck by how vivid his description of the mountains are, even though he doesn’t use that many words. There’s a stretch of land that runs through the mountains near where I live, called the Kancamagus Highway. Its a winding, twisting mountain road, and though it can be quite terrifying at times with a sheer drop on one side and looming mountains on the other, I’ve always been drawn to it. I’ve traveled it in every single season, and experienced it in just about every kind of weather. Koji describes it exactly when he sings “ghosts haunt, hang and hover like the morning mist / the sun burns it off, the giants rise / then I know that I am alive.” Perhaps its just my familiarity with the mountains, but I felt a sense of connectedness to the song, and those words in particular.

The second song, “Chasing a Ghost” is a lot more upbeat in tempo than the first. Just like the first song though, the thing I was drawn to right from the start were the lyrics. Koji has a way of painting pictures by using just the bare minimum number of words that is fascinating. My favorite line from this song was “summertime sticking to the skin on my ribs.” Its such a short line, and yet it somehow managed to paint a vivid picture in my mind. I’m instantly transported to hot New England summers when the humidity sinks into your very core and feels like its become a part of you.

Image

I can easily see myself looking up more of Koji’s work in the future. This blog is called Lyrically Addicted for a reason, and there’s something that draws me to Koji’s simple but poignant lyrics. I’d love to see him do an acoustic show, his voice is lovely and draws a listener in all on its own. In fact, after listening to those two songs I looked up future tour dates and was disappointed to see that he’s not coming anywhere me any time soon. But you can bet the next time he swings around I’ll be there.

Leave a comment

Filed under first impressions

March Sadness Playlist

by Vasilis

March is a good month to be sad: We lose an hour of sleep to Daylight Savings (though we do gain an hour of daylight), the weather is still wintery, and it’s a never-ending 31-day month with no holidays to give us time off. So in honor of March Sadness (full disclosure: this is not an original idea) I put together a playlist of some classic emo bands.

Emo has been going through what many are calling a “revival” over the past couple years; bands like Into It. Over It., Tigers Jaw, Balance & Composure, Dads, Modern Baseball, The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, and many more have led the “emo revival” charge. Those who love emo claim the genre never died. Regardless, the takeaway is that emo (past and present) has provided us with some honest, heartfelt music to scream at the top of our lungs and get us through the sad times.

This playlist is split into two, starting off with the revival and progressing to the classics like The Get Up Kids, Braid, Jimmy Eat World, American Football, Texas is the Reason. Enjoy the sadness everyone!

Leave a comment

Filed under playlist

Fireworks – “Oh, Common Life” Review

by Vasilis

Image
Pop punk often suffers from oversaturation. For every band like The Wonder Years that pushes the boundaries, there are ten more that lack imagination and are little more than carbon copies of their predecessors. The genre’s prolonged prosperity relies on the bands that are willing to go against the grain and experiment with the style while remaining true to its core values. Alternately, the trendier bands that stick like glue to one sound to pander to the lowest common denominator often get discarded after the audience becomes bored with their shtick, thus affecting the overall longevity of the scene. For pop punk to excel, more bands need to be willing to test themselves and the audience to create music that can allow the genre to grow.

Enter Michigan-based Fireworks; the band is pop punk by association but has never used the genre as a crutch. If you start from the beginning of their discography, you might find little to distinguish them from other pop punk bands; they wrote fast and aggressive distortion-driven songs that featured catchy, nasally vocals that waxed poetic about friendship, hometown, growing pains. However, with the release of their critically acclaimed sophomore album Gospel, the band began to distance themselves from the pop punk crop; they added heavier use of the keyboard and cleaner guitars while exploring pop-inspired melodies. The music was mostly uplifting and hopeful, but remained unbelievably infectious and relatable.

If Gospel represented a happier side of pop punk, then Oh, Common Life, the band’s third full-length album, presents a much gloomier outlook, rife with melancholy, nostalgia, and introspection. The album comes on the heels of a brief hiatus that gave the band time to breathe and examine their lives. The lyrics incorporate dark and haunting imagery while the music further delves into the deep end of the pop-tinged spectrum. The album holds nothing back, drawing from the most honest crevices of common, everyday life. Opener “Glowing Crosses” sets the listener up for the roller coaster ride that’s before them, charging ahead with a churning bass line and a pounding guitar riff that leads to a fist-pumping chorus featuring Dave Mackinder’s soaring vocals as he belts, “you know I’m barely hanging on/I’m burning on your front lawn/like a burning cross, cross cross”. The use of the church-like organ in the bridge sets this song apart from your standard rough-around-the-edges pop punk song. Keyboardist Adam Mercer shines in his ever-expanding role, sprinkling twinkly harmonic piano riffs at the perfect times to add a bright layer to even the darkest songs.

After stalling on the goofy guitar riff on “Bed Sores” and the unremarkable “The Back Window’s Down”, the album’s only real missteps, the music picks up steam and never lets up as the band offers some of their finest work to date. Tymm Rengers’ explosive drumming opens the doors on “Flies on Tape”, a toe-tapping, hand-clapping anthem that showcases Dave’s continued vocal progression; his harmonies invoke images of Patrick Stump as he reaches some of the highest notes he’s ever hit. Guitarist Chris Mojan and Brett Jones compose some of the band’s most memorable guitar riffs to date, from the slick and dancey “Woods” to the slow and methodical “One More Dizzy Creature With Love”. “The Sound of Young America” is a song befitting its name, presenting a catchy, adrenaline-charged riff leading to a spirited and youthful chorus that is a lot of fun to listen to. “Run Brother Run” is one of the finest songs in the band’s catalog, a slow and somber track that builds off the polished guitar and piano and draws the listener in with its intimate look into Dave’s inner turmoil.

The band consistently orchestrates uplifting music even when tackling the saddest moments. Death seeps through every pore of the album, specifically pertaining to Dave losing his father while he toured with The Wonder Years in 2011. “Play God Only Knows At My Funeral” sees Dave coping with his ghosts as he laments, “I’m half the man/my father says I should be/and I can feel/I can feel him over me.” The crisp riff and ear-pleasing melodies put a huge smile on your face even as Dave sings, “Maybe I need to go out tonight/and get stabbed to death to feel alive/yeah I used to try”. “The Only Thing That Haunts This House Is Me” opens with another blaring guitar riff that sways gracefully into a hook-heavy chorus that addresses the affect the death had on his life. Closer “The Hotbed Of Life” is a bouncy sing-a-long that delves deeper into Dave’s ghosts. He croons, “I used to hang grocery bags up and down, up and down my arms/to impress my mom, now I use them to carry boxes/out of my dead dad’s house/so I started writing songs about this girl/but now that girl is somebody’s wife” The images of ghosts, graves, and death are weaved throughout but are handled with great care and attention.

Oh, Common Life comes at a time when pop punk has been going through a stagnant period. The band shatters all conventions associated with the genre, which is all the more impressive since they have now done this twice. The music is brave and relatable, logically building off the foundation laid down on Gospel. The album refuses to sugarcoat anything, but then again neither does life; death and misery happen and the only way to deal with it is to address it head-on. Dave’s pure honesty and candidness provide the fuel that drives the brilliantly catchy music and soaring melodies the band continues to provide. In the end, Oh, Common Life is a welcome addition to a genre that sorely needs innovation.

Image

Leave a comment

Filed under album review

“Knives” – The Box Tiger

Today’s Music Monday song comes from up and coming Toronto based rock band, The Box Tiger. Lead singer Sonia Sturino gives a powerful performance and reminds us that yes, girls can rock too.

Leave a comment

Filed under music monday

First Impressions – Bayside

By Ryan, contributing writer

 Image

I’ve heard the name Bayside kicked around before, and I’ve never looked into them too much. But, with the advent of this new column, I’m finally getting a chance to check them out. The only thing I really know going into this is that they’re a rock band. That’s it. And, that they have cool album covers.

Regardless, I’ve been texted my instructions. I’m going to listen to “Devotion and Desire” off of their self-titled album, “Sick, Sick, Sick” from their album Killing Time, and “Landing Feet First” from The Walking Wounded. The Walking Wounded also happens to be Vas’s favorite album and the track “Landing Feet First” is Cherie’s favorite song by Bayside. You can probably surmise that she was the one who chose the tracks for this segment of First Impressions.

First off, we have “Devotion and Desire”. I like their sound right off the bat. The guitar work is great and the little lead-in reminds me of harmonic metal guitar work but not as complex or screechy. The guitar work afterward is fairly straightforward, but works well. The music is something I would listen to regularly. However, and this is a major point, I’m not a fan of the vocals. I’ve always had a particular aversion to certain vocal qualities that crop up in various genres of music. For instance, I love metal, but I don’t like black metal vocals. The pig squealing and ultra-deep and guttural vocals are just ridiculous. But, anyway, back to Bayside. I’ve always had an aversion to the pop-punk/new-emo vocals. His voice doesn’t always cut into the whiny quality that I’m not a fan of, but when it does, it puts me off. It doesn’t make me hate the track at all, though. It’s just one of my pet peeves. I’m a fan of what I’ve heard so far; so, let’s see what the next track brings.

“Sick, Sick, Sick” (from Killing Time) is another instrumentally sound track that I dig. This track is still energetic, but not as fast-paced as “Devotion and Desire”. As with almost all other music known to man, this track is about being heartbroken and feeling (you guessed it) … sick. Although these kinds of lyrics are common throughout music, I think that it is again the vocals that make me not feel attached to the song. I don’t feel any power or rage behind his voice. It’s all just sort of present. It doesn’t grab me by the heartstrings and drag up memories of exes and mistakes.

Finally, we have “Landing Feet First” from The Walking Wounded. I think I’ve actually heard this song before (most likely on a roadtrip with Cherie). This is what this man’s voice was made for. This is the most appropriate track for his vocal style. It’s almost Weezer-like in a way, a much more gentle presentation with a mellow rock instrumental. I’m a big fan of this track.

bayside bird

All in all, I liked my introduction to Bayside. I’m going to listen to more of their music for a more rounded opinion, but I’m probably just going to pick and choose the mellower tracks for a specific playlist so I’m not skipping through entire albums to find them. The takeaway from this is that I’m very picky with vocals and that you shouldn’t let that stop you from checking out Bayside yourself.

Leave a comment

Filed under first impressions

Quote of the Day

Sometimes I wish you were here, weather permitting
Right thoughts, right words, right action

“Right Action” – Franz Ferdinand

Leave a comment

March 21, 2014 · 5:58 pm

10 Songs That Will Make You Rethink Pop Music

By Ken, guest contributor

While I was growing up ‘pop’ music was a dirty word to utter if you considered yourself a music fan. “How can a song written by so many people be good?” and “what about authenticity?” are phrases you’d usually hear people say when pop music was brought up, but something I’ve noticed is how that mindset is beginning to fall to the wayside. This has largely due to how indie bands have taken in pop music with open arms but it also has a lot to do with experimentation. What makes a pop song great (if it is in fact a good song) is that it can connect with various people for a variety of different reasons. I love pop music and rather than go into some long and ridiculous rant on why you should as well I figured that sharing some examples of how pop music has become interesting over the years. These are ten songs that are shamelessly pop tunes that simply kick ass.

Man Like That – Gin Wigmore

This tune was used a promotional single for the Heineken/Skyfall commercials a while back yet once you hear this tune again it’ll be stuck in your head for days. Gin Wigmore is an artist who strives to shake things up while still allowing her music to be as accessible as possible. ‘Man Like That’ showcases how she can delve into ballroom style and display various range with her voice in less than three minutes.

Elevate – St. Lucia

You’d be hard pressed to find a harder working band than St. Lucia and their packed live shows are a grand byproduct of all that hard work. Along with stellar live shows they also have highly infectious songs as well, ‘Elevate’ being a shining example as to why they’re a band you’ll end up falling for even before the song is finished playing.

Jamaica – Theme Park

It’s a brave thing for a rookie band to take on a softer approach with a single but luckily for London based group Theme Park ‘Jamaica’ is one of those songs that instantly puts your mind at ease and continues to hold your attention as the guitar chords soar in an immensely sharp manner. If dancing happens while you listen to this song don’t feel bad, you won’t be the only one feeling the urge to move.

Dance Apocalyptic – Janelle Monae

Fun. That’s the sole word that could be used to describe this bombastic display of sounds. Janelle Monae has proved time and time again that she has expansive range, whether it be subtle and somber tracks or explosive electric tracks, each of her songs are filled with character and personality. ‘Dance Apocalyptic’ is a great introduction for those unfamiliar with her work and are curious what all the fuss has been about.

Girls – The 1975

It’ll probably sound quite pretentious but I love the fact that The 1975 don’t look like the type of band that makes the music that they actually make. If you were to judge them from their press photos you’d probably assume their songs to be a barrage of teenage angst and aggression but their music borders much more on observational emotions, and when they do skirt introspective waters there’s always a sense of softness applied. ‘Girls’ is a great example of this, a song that tries to fight against being a pop tune yet glows as a pop number the second Matty Healy’s voice begins to echo.

Hearts – Dan Black

Something pop music gets criticized for is being a genre void of any creativity. An artist like Dan Black is a shining example of how untrue such a statement is. Black describes is own brand of music ‘Wonky Pop’ (a self-invented genre).

Cough Cough – Everything Everything

This song marked the return of Everything Everything and talk about a way to make a bang in the music world. Again, this is an example of pop music being more then just bubblegum and catchiness. Cough Cough is a song that’s verbose and expressive yet still retains a repetitious structure that bolsters the track rather than hinders it. This is one one of those tracks that’ll be stuck in your head for weeks and you’ll actually enjoy the fact that it is.

Money On My Mind – Sam Smith

Probably the most conventional song on this list, in terms of structure, yet this tune is still a song that combats the ‘pop is formulaic’ stigma in more ways than one. It’s a challenging song in fact because of how the chorus dramatically changes the tone of the song itself. Yet somehow this works in the songs favor rather than against it. You can hear the R Kelly and Prince inspiration all throughout this track but it’s the crippling honesty and drastic tonal change that allows Sam Smith to stand completely on his own with Money On My Mind.

Deepest Shame – Plan B

Oddly enough, it’s rare to see contemporary musicians utilizing skills learned from past albums in future tracks and albums. Deepest Shame is a single taken off of Plan B’s third album, Ill Manors, an album which is vastly bleak and explores the underbelly of Britain’s estate culture and the harrowing experiences people in those areas deal with every day. This track in particular is a somber pop song, where Plan B utilizes the talents he explored in his second LP, The Defamation of Strickland Banks. With ‘Deepest Shame’ Plan B is able to approach the subject manner of the song in a more somber way while still making sure the power behind his lyrics is felt throughout the songs entirety.

Powerless – Rudimental

A great example of an emotional track that has no restraints from the word ‘pop.’ Powerless is a track that soars while never letting go of your heartstrings in the process. Rudimental are craftsmen when it comes to producing songs with powerful beats but it’s truly Becky Hill’s vocals that shine on this track above most of the tracks you’d find on the Top 40.

1 Comment

Filed under editorial

I Am the Avalanche – Wolverines Review

by Vasilis

Image

It feels like just yesterday that I Am the Avalanche released Avalanche United; comparatively speaking, it may as well have been yesterday. The heavy weight of six long years was lifted off the band’s shoulders when they finally unveiled their long-awaited sophomore album on October 11, 2011. The release faced countless setbacks, from troubles with Drive-Thru Records to frontman Vinnie Caruana’s divorce, leading band members to spend those six years working regular jobs and writing and touring sporadically. Many questioned whether the release would ever see the light of day; luckily, I Am the Avalanche has never cared to hide their struggles and tend to wear them on their sleeves as a sign of perseverance. It was a long road for the Brooklyn punk band.

So the release of Wolverines, which comes just two-and-a-half years later, will come as a welcome relief for fans. With a more consistent routine and the uncertainty of their future behind them, the band collectively focused their efforts on creating the most complete and honest work of their careers. On Wolverines, the band follows the path of its predecessor with short, adrenaline-charged punk/hardcore songs empowered by the band’s strong commitment to DIY ethics. Produced by drummer Brett “The Ratt” Romnes and mixed by veteran Will Yip, the album contains the most electrifying, gritty music the band has released to date. Yip’s presence is felt throughout the record, as the songs sound crisper and bolder than anything the band has ever put out.

“Two Runaways” opens the album with a curveball, drawing from late 70’s Americana rock and roll roots in the vein of Tom Petty/Bruce Springsteen. Still, there is no mistaking the raw power of Vinnie’s voice once it blares through the speakers. His signature snarl dominates over crunchy guitars and Brett’s explosive drumming, a formula that prevails throughout the record. Lead single “The Shape I’m In” is a dynamic punk song documenting Vinnie’s physical and emotional distress stemming from a back injury. The extreme anguish is felt as Vinnie howls “Take warning, can’t console/a broken man with a heart of gold/do my best to make it/God knows I can’t take it.” Vinnie addresses his failed marriage in “Anna Lee”, the most gut-wrenching of the album’s ten tracks. The chorus brilliantly captures the feeling of abandonment and confusion at that moment when everything seemed fine; Vinnie starts with cleaner vocals that gradually surge as the music swells behind it before reaching an emotional breaking point.

Amid the worst life has to offer, the band finds time to embrace the good and all the things that keep them going. “177” is a feverish 2-minute tune that commemorates the engagement of two close friends, sporting a noticeably more upbeat pace to matches the song’s happy subject. “Young Kerouacks” draws inspiration from the famed American author by celebrating being alive in the face of adversity while alternating between shouted verses and fist-pumping, anthemic choruses. Vinnie screams “Beautiful vibes/and only good times/just waking up from the darkest times/I’m not coming back/I’ve been dragging myself through/with regards to the worst this life can give”, which feels like a rallying cry to leave the bad behind. This song, and much of Wolverines, showcases some of the brashest vocals Vinnie has ever recorded.

With so much intensity, the album never loses its steam. On “My Lion Heart” Vinnie rejects pain, instead opting for self-empowerment while belting, “I finally found a better way to live/my lion heart has so much more to give/so I’m writing this down ‘cause I can’t live enough/when everyone’s asleep I’m just waking up.” The album closes strong with “One Last Time”, an introspective, self-exploratory song that erupts with powerful guitars and drums and a driving bass line. The song addresses the destructive nature of art, questioning if pain is self-inflicted for the betterment of the music. The hurt is captured bluntly in the line “I start a fire to watch it burn”, a feeling many can relate to.

Wolverines is the product of blood, sweat, and tears, representing a lifetime’s worth of battles. The band is not afraid to air out these moments of hardship knowing that the struggle makes victory all the more satisfying. Wolverines proves to be an appropriate title for the album, capturing the music’s relentless ferocity and vicious bite. Wolverines are known for being a small but deadly animal, and I Am the Avalanche can be seen as wolverines of the punk rock scene; they are still a small band but have a rabidly dedicated fanbase that embolden them and make them as unstoppable as any group in the scene today. Wolverines captures I Am the Avalanche perfectly while using every peak and valley to power their music to places they have not reached in their ten-year run.

Image

Leave a comment

Filed under album review

First Impressions: King Charles

by Vasilis

Image

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but seeing as how this segment is all about first impressions I would safely say that I have the right to do so. For this week’s installment, Cherie suggested a musician by the name of King Charles. A name with such royal connotations immediately led me to believe that his music would be eccentric and unorthodox (Cherie described him as “unique”). After seeing some photos of him, unique appeared to be a massive understatement; both his hair and his attire was unlike any I had seen from a modern musician and seemed more fitting for 19th century England. The only thing he was missing was a white powdered wig, a sword, and a crown to drive the royalty image home. After doing some research and seeing that he had previously toured with Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons, and Noah and the Whale, I knew why Cherie was fond of him without hearing a single song.

King Charles released his one and only album LoveBlood on May 7, 2012 (or 7 May, 2012, if you prefer). The first song was called “Ivory Road”, which is the older of the two singles. I was immediately impressed with the rich string section that accompanied the banjo in the intro. His voice is definitely unique but reminded me a lot of a British Bob Dylan (considering that he references Bob Dylan with “positively Fourth Street” and “boots of Spanish leather”, it’s clear he was heavily influenced by Dylan). The song flows freely between tempos, switching up from slow and methodical to fast and ebullient, brilliantly matching the pace of his feelings. His music and voice are very theatrical, which is to be expected when your name is King Charles, and stylistically can loosely be classified as psychedelic folk-rock. I could see him fitting in well with a band like Queen.

After listening closely to the lyrics, what I love about “Ivory Road” is its how relatable it, especially to someone who loves to write. The narrator is trying desperately to describe the way this girl makes him feel but cannot do so as hard as he tries. His comparisons are at times random and irrational, showing no rhyme or reason, but he keeps throwing them out rapidly, desperately trying to find the perfect match when there may be none. I love how passionate he is about the person he’s singing about and I can almost picture him sitting at a desk next to a mountain of crumpled up paper cursing the fact he can’t find the right fit. The song is a wonderful look into the mind of someone who is in love.

Image

The second song is titled “Lady Percy”, which fits in with the whole royal theme King Charles portrays. This song maintains a cheerful and upbeat pace throughout and is catchier than the previous song. Strange as it sounds, the chorus reminds me a lot of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid; it’s up-tempo, happy, celebratory, and puts a smile on your face almost instantly. While remaining eccentric, this song is less on the theatrical side than its predecessor and more fit for radio and mass audiences. Much like the last song, the narrator speaks about his true love with unbridled enthusiasm and dedication. Instead of trying to describe her perfection, this time he is fantasizing about ways to get her to fall for him while lamenting that “Lady Percy will never come to my show.” Like in “Ivory Road”, he dreams up wild imageries to describe his feelings for her. The narrator in both songs is very charismatic and the lyrics are fantastical, existing in his most vivid and untamed imaginations. This song is so enjoyable and my favorite of the two, although I am quite fond of his over-the-top, dramatic style.

Based off the two songs I listened to, I can tell the rest of the album probably sounds quite romanticized. King Charles expresses longing, desire, and deep love in both these songs. He is an artist I would most likely have never found on my own but after hearing these two songs, I will definitely give LoveBlood a listen. As he only has one album in his collection, it cannot hurt and, judging from these two songs, I can’t see myself finding much fault with it. He is worth your time if you like theatrical and unconventional indie music. At worst you might waste 40 minutes of your time, but at best you might find the next indie-folk artist to fall in love with.

Leave a comment

Filed under first impressions