Tag Archives: acoustic

New Music // Chris T-T – “#WorstGovernmentEver”

What’s your idea of the worst government ever? Chris T-T only had to look as far as modern British government to find what he thought was the perfect contender. Check out his video for the single #WorstGovernmentEver below!

Like what you hear? You can stream the new album 9 Green Songs now in it’s entirety on Spotify, or purchase it one iTunes, Amazon, or XtraMile Recordings. Happy listening!

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Neue Vox presents The Princes of Westland acoustic session

One of the things we love most about acoustic session is a chance to see the artist in an informal setting. The producers behind Neue Vox Sessions had the same thought and came up with a simple but intriguing concept. Their idea was to film acoustic sessions with bands where the band was in control: the band picked the location and song choice and Neue Vox filmed the result. The first session produced by Neue Vox features the indie folk duo The Princes of Westland performing their song “Battle Cry Unbroken” from the top of Winston’s apartment in Bushwick, New York.

Like what you hear? You can find Princes of Westland over on facebook for music updates and more information. We also heard that Neue Vox has some exciting stuff in the works so head on over to facebook and be sure to follow them for information on their upcoming projects.

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Album Review // Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – “We Don’t Have Each Other”

by Vasilis

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On what is probably my tenth listen to We Don’t Have Each Other in the weeks since it was first streamed by Hopeless Records, I couldn’t help but feel immense sympathy for Aaron West unlike any I have felt for even some of my closest friends. Having lost his father, a child, and experiencing a bitter divorce, Aaron is having a year that would cripple most of us, but he has turned to singing about his sorrows to ease his pain; it’s enough to make the listener want to give him a hug. More incredible still is the fact that Aaron West is a fictional character, a figment of The Wonder Years vocalist/songwriter Dan “Soupy” Campbell’s very vivid imagination.

Dan embarked on a unique project for his debut solo record. Known for his very personal lyrics and emotionally-charged vocals, the pop punk frontman and fan favorite decided on an Americana-influenced, folk-punk record focusing on the worst year in the life of the fictitious Aaron West. Though an acoustic-heavy solo record is certainly not unheard of in the punk community, We Don’t Have Each Other feels fresh, a triumphant look into the struggles and emotions in the world of a completely imagined character as real as the songs he has sung about his own life. Using the project to expand on his lyrical repertoire, Dan’s research into the character (much like how a novelist would dive into the world of his fictional subjects) pays dividends and helps the listener experience a deep, personal connection to Aaron.

Opening with the soft hum of a finger-picked acoustic guitar, Aaron wastes no time getting to the heart of his sorrow: the divorce from his wife Diane. The song flows flawlessly from the dreams of their Brooklyn apartment to the realizing that his wife’s sister is telling him Diane is leaving. The subtle details, like finding his wife’s hairpins around the apartment to the emptiness of the bed (“I can’t stand my bed without you”) are striking and show the lengths Dan went to make this world as concrete as possible. The details compliment the narrative throughout the album, from the grapefruit color they painted their child’s walls in “Grapefruit” to watching Buffalo Bills games with his late father in “You Ain’t No Saint” to the homeless man comforting him in “The Thunderbird Inn”, every step of the journey is elucidated.

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Musically, the album explores several styles. The band consists of eight total members according to Dan, including a full horn section, bass, guitar, and drums. Produced by The Early November’s Ace Enders, his keen ear is on full display; he helps Dan craft each song to reach its full potential with precise placement of every instrument, from banjos to horns to harmonica. Dan showcases an impeccable knack for capturing Aaron’s mood with the varying styles on each song while keeping the sound cohesive as it follows the story. The middle of this album especially shines. “Running Scared” is upbeat and celebratory, finding Aaron on the run from his problems to the comforting warmth of the south. The chorus features a soaring hook with an indie rock flare on top of pounding drums. “Divorce and the American South” returns to a mellow acoustic vibe, with Dan addressing his inability to find happiness in the south to an ex-wife who isn’t listening. “The Thunderbird Inn” combines the soft with the loud, opening with acoustic strumming that builds to a raucous chorus with Aaron lamenting “Didn’t know that I looked that pathetic.”

As is typical with Dan’s work, he saves the best for last with the hopeful closer “Carolina Coast”. The song is poetic and heart-wrenching, but laying deep in the crevices of his misery is a glimmer of hope found on the horizon of the Carolina coast that he is now staring out on. Aaron’s long trip to the south to find comfort and escape his sadness is unsuccessful, as he is still swallowed by his sorrow. The bluesy backing guitar riff beautifully compliments the acoustic guitar, and the harmonica gives the song a campfire feel to it. Aaron closes the album out with the realization that “I’m not coming home tonight without/Diane by my side, no.” In a strange yet appropriate choice, the album ends with an acoustic cover of “Going to Georgia” by The Mountain Goats. The song was not written for the album but fits eerily well into the overall themes of travelling south and returning home to a loved one.

There is no telling what the future holds for Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties. This could be a single record or could become a biography of an imagined person that comes to life. Whatever Dan decides to do, the listener can be sure he will put his full effort into it. While he has made it clear The Wonder Years remain his top priority, an outlet like this can only serve to bring out the best in his writing and inspire him even further. We Don’t Have Each Other is both a great record to hold fans over but also an album that stands strongly on its own, crafted with beautiful guitar work, excellent production from Ace Enders, and the lyrical excellence we’ve come to expect from Dan Campbell. I just hope Aaron West finds the peace he’s looking for.

 

 

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Tell All Your Friends acoustic – A Ten Year Retrospective

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By Cherie (contributing writer & editor) and Vas (contributing writer)

Cherie:

It’s been eleven years since Taking Back Sunday released their hit album Tell All Your Friends. Eleven years. The band has had its ups and downs in that time, but it seems like lately the band has been stuck in a downward spiral. Their last studio album, Taking Back Sunday, was probably their weakest album yet, failing to gain the popular support that past albums had. Maybe the lineup changes have had more of an impact on the band then they are letting on; having a rotating lineup that changes from album to album certainly can’t be good for maintaining a consistently positive atmosphere. Whatever the case its clear that the bands first three albums, Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want to Be, and Louder Now, are strong albums and have gained much support from fans but their latest few, New Again, and Taking Back Sunday have fallen short in that regard.

What’s a band to do when they start losing the support of their fan base? In an attempt to recapture some of their former glory, the band immediately jumped on the ten year anniversary of Tell All Your Friends and launched a tour in support of it. It was a good move for the band at the time. TAYF is commonly regarded as the band’s best album so playing that album live in its entirety was a good way to win older fans back. With the end of the tour rumors that the band was working on a new album surfaced, and that seemed to be the end of it. Until this past month.

This year, a year after the ten year anniversary, the band announced a live acoustic album of TAYF. Although I’m a huge TAYF fan, I have some major problems with the album. First of all, its a live album. The audio is shoddy at times, especially when it comes to Adam’s vocals. In an effort to include the crowd vocals, which are loud on most songs, the audio engineers end up with a lot of excess background noise which further decreases the quality of the audio. Adam’s vocals on the album also leave a lot to be desired. Half the time it sounds like he’s leaning away from the microphone, but even when he’s singing into it his vocals are sub-par. It’s a trend I’ve noticed over time that his vocals have been weak, and it almost makes me wonder if he strained them at some point and they never really recovered. Crowd participation is the one redeeming factor of the album, along with the appearance of Michelle Nolan doing the original background vocals on several tracks. I certainly plan on listening to TAYF this summer, but not this new live version. I’ll stick to the original recording. Overall it’s a disappointing album that screams of desperation for a return to past success.

Vas:

I guess since you’re going to take bad cop on the album, I’ll be the good cop and point out some of the things I liked, although your points on the band’s steady decline are well taken. I would even go a step further and say the group pandering to its past began when they invited Shaun Cooper and John Nolan back into the band before recording their Self-Titled album, which I also was not too fond of save for a few songs. After New Again flopped, the group seemed really desperate to win fans back by appealing to those who loved Tell All Your Friends so they reconciled with Nolan and Cooper while kicking out Matt Rubano and Matt Fazzi, two very talented musicians who lent their skills to Taking Back Sunday and were caught in the unfortunate cross hairs of his desperation. Don’t get me wrong, I love Nolan and Cooper as much as the next TBS fan, but musically speaking it paid little dividends and Nolan’s famous backing vocals, which helped TAYF so much, hardly played a role on their new album. But I digress…

I too was a little disappointed to find out this album was recorded live. While Taking Back Sunday put on one of the most energetic live shows you’ll ever watch, I can’t say it’s the cleanest performance. It’s fun to be in the crowd but not the best to listen to or observe at home, and honestly for a band that has so many problems live, especially with Adam Lazzara’s voice it’s amazing that this is their third studio recording (along with a live Bamboozle album and their past acoustic album Live From Orensanz CD/DVD). A lot of bands are recording acoustic versions of albums (Saves the Day with Daybreak, Yellowcard with Ocean Avenue and When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, Dashboard Confessional with Alter The Ending) and it’s always fun to see a band put a different spin on a song acoustically in a studio setting with more at their disposal and more time to create it the way they want to.

Negatives (which you laid out) aside, Taking Back Sunday sets are all about the raw, captivating nature of the band and front man Adam Lazzara, which includes the sloppy instrumentation and gruff, distant vocals. I think this album captures that feeling very well, and you hear it the second the group breaks into “You Know How I Do”. The crowd participation is excellent on this album, which is to be expected coming from a band whose lyrics are meant to be shouted at the top of one’s lungs. As someone who has physically lost their voice at a Taking Back Sunday show, I can attest to this personally. This album features some of the most relatable lyrics, a wonderful, bitter, scathing attack that is so cathartic that it’s hard not to enjoy. As you would expect, “Cute Without the ‘E’” is the album’s highlight, as it all reaches a fever point that explodes in the bridge when Nolan and Lazzara exchange lyrics before the crowd erupts in “why can’t I feel anything for anyone but you!” The crowd participation even help mask Adam Lazzara’s weak vocals.

The piano and violins scattered throughout each track does add a nice dimension to the songs that the original versions don’t have. I’ll give the group credit for also experimenting with the tempo and pacing of “The Blue Channel”, which they slowed down considerably and doesn’t sound like the original with acoustic instruments. Also, it’s great seeing “Your Own Disaster”, a b-side from the original album, make its way onto the acoustic version. Sloppiness aside, I do enjoy the album though I will be more likely to go back to the original recordings, especially with songs like “There’s No ‘I’ In Team” and “You’re So Last Summer”, which don’t translate well acoustically. If you’re into re-imagined acoustic songs by Taking Back Sunday, I would strongly suggest Live From Orensanz, which truly saw the band experiment wonderfully in a live setting with far better results.

(Additional note from Cherie: I have to agree with Vas. The ‘Live From Orenanz’ album was much better produced, though it too was live. It has all the benefits of an acoustic album (reimagined versions of some of their most popular songs) but an overall better execution.)

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