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Album Review: Sadnecessary by Milky Chance

German folk pop duo, Milky Chance has just released their debut album Sadnecessary. The band consists of lead vocalist Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch as DJ. Mixing folk, electronica and rock the duo has discovered a rare vine of music that is currently washing over the airwaves. Their hit single “Stolen Dance” is one of the most popular songs of the summer, but this track is just the tip of the iceberg.

The eleven track album is a solid first effort by the band and is a great introduction to one of Germany’s most popular rising acts. Sadnecessary begins with the mid-tempo beats and relaxed vocals of Rehbein, as he belts out the lyrics to “Stunner”. This quickly transitions to one of the records most upbeat tracks, “Flashed Junk Mind” that is easily one of the more notable songs on the record. Things slow down considerably with the next three songs, “Becoming”, “Running” and earlier released fan favorite “Feathery”. The almost lazy vocals of Rehbein carry the three tracks at a plodding pace with soft beats and gentle guitar strumming. Lyrically intricate and catchy, the three songs sync together extremely well.

A short respite courtesy of the one minute and a half long song “Indigo”, leads into the title track of the album. “Sadnecessary” is the part of the album where things begin to pick up again in terms of energy. The song is a pleasant introduction to the more energetic and shall we say upbeat side of the album. Transitioning to the beautiful melodic guitar play from Rehbein on standout track “Down By The River”, the band picks up the pace through sheer instrumental talent. The hook filled song leads into the joyous sounding “Sweet Sun”. Reihben almost raps through the whole entire track as Daush lays down fast paced electronica to give the song a considerable kick.

The final two tracks end the album on a very laid back note. “Fairytale” unfortunately ceases any momentum that the previous track garnered but is a good interlude to the highlight of the record. Chart topping single “Stolen Dance” is the bands international hit and is filled to the brim with catchy hooks and one memorable chorus. Ending on a high note with their most well known song is a time honored strategy that bands love to implement. This is a track that has put the duo on the map and is an excellent way to conclude their debut album. Despite the tendency to build momentum before slowing down the pace for one or two slower paced tracks, Milky Chance has managed to create a brilliant piece of art that will satisfy their growing fan base.

Final Grade: B

Written by Tyler Bossio

Album Review: Dream Your Life Away by Vance Joy

vance-joy-dream-your-life-away-2014-art-636.jpg

Appearing first on the scene with standout single “Riptide”, James Keogh or better known by his stage name Vance Joy has finally released his first full length album. Alternative indie folk rocker, Joy is an Australian singer/songwriter that burst onto the music scene in early 2013 with his EP, God Loves You When You’re Dancing. This pushed Joy into the spotlight and marked him as one of the fastest rising stars in the indie folk rock genre. On September 5th of this year he released his debut album Dream Your Life Away to rave reviews.

From top to bottom Dream Your Life Away is a remarkably solid and pleasant album that shows off Joy’s crowd pleasing style. The whimsical “Winds Of Change” starts the album off on a light-hearted note before diving right into the more powerful sounding third single titled “Mess Is Mine”. Starting with a simple guitar strum that builds up and then turns into a cascade of violins and drums. Joy’s almost mournful howl could break hearts right then and there. Track three,”Wasted Time”, begins at a faster pace but still has an almost sad sounding undertone, before introducing his hit single “Riptide” that refreshes the palate. While the next song, “Who I Am”, is nothing too special and is really one of the only few snooze pieces in the album, it makes a wonderful segue into Joy’s very first single “From Afar”. Another lyrically sad track that tugs at the heartstrings, Joy delivers the song with the skill of a seasoned veteran and the mounting chorus of “It doesn’t come as a surprise”, repeated over and over again make for a foot stomping good time.

If Joy had ended the album here it would have been just fine, but then again that would only be half of a full length album. In what appears to be a similar pattern for the indie rocker, the slow build-up before a more frantic paced finish becomes his bread and butter on the next three tracks “We All Die Trying To get It Right”, “Georgia” and “Red Eye”. All decent tracks, but with similar starts and finishes, it feels a little monotonous. This all changes with the moody faster paced “First Time” that as soon as it ends, quickly changes gears and melds into the uplifting track, “All I Ever Wanted” that makes the listener think of better times. The final two songs on Joy’s debut album are “Best That I Can” and “My Kind Of Man”. Both are slow love ballads that show off his soft vocal range. While it is not the most bombastic way to end his album, it is very fitting considering he started as a folk crooner that played small venues around Australia. Overall, Dream your Life Away is a fantastic debut album that will propel Joy to even greater heights and is one record that fans of both folk and alternative rock can enjoy worldwide.

Final Grade: B+

Review by Tyler Bossio

Album Review: Everything Will Be Alright In the End - Weezer

This album is solid as a rock, front to back, and represents a confident return to form without repeating what has already been sung. There is power and confidence in the build-up between sections, experimentation within genre boundaries and strong melody lines that both soar above and float low near the ground. I think what I’m trying to say is that the new Weezer songs are comfortable sticking around melody lines that are just catchy enough, and confident when modes switch into bridge sections. And still, in my opinion the way that the album really proves itself is in the lyrics, and the dedication to the band’s bond with its listeners in style and lyrical content. The song “Back to the Shack” is tied to the story of getting back to The Village recording studio in Los Angeles, lovingly referred to as the shack. The song opens with the words “Sorry guys, I didn't realize that I needed you so much” and continues to declare what went wrong, what they did to fix it, and how they feel like they are back where they belong. The producer (Ric Ocasek) that helped them for “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” also helped them produce the albums “Pinkerton” and “The Blue Album”, featuring many songs that are widely considered to represent Weezer’s glory days, and it shows. This album draws from the hopeful future as well as the past, and what made the band first sound good. Guitar chords are well chosen and have a meaty quality. Song structure doesn't off-put the listener and still varies enough to not feel painfully straight-forward. Songs like “I’ve Had It up To Here” demonstrate the vocalist’s (Rivers Cuomo) fairly impressive vocal range and comfort that is expressed throughout. No one band member fades in the background; they all have equal presence and representation in the music at different times.

                It seems difficult to feel that I can create a knowledgeable and earnest critique about this Weezer album, since I’ve never been a large fan of the band despite being surrounded by roommates and friends that have been. The redeeming quality of this album and the band’s growth over time falls somewhat on my deaf ears. Perhaps with my inner radio friendly song critic I can make rock songs into easy targets, but I’m making sure to judge the band’s music for what it is. Music has a niche and effectively fulfills a purpose, and I am under the impression that Everything Will be Alright in the End does everything that is supposed to do and more. It presents a new face of the band that is familiar but not a copy of the Weezer from the 90s, and it looks fans right in the face and says; “sorry for all that strange stuff in the past, here’s some stuff that might make it up to you”. They even decided to release “Back to the Shack” as the first single before the album release, perhaps explaining the urgency of the message they needed to share with listeners. I have respect for strikingly personal statements such as: “We belong in the rock world / There is so much left to do / If we die in obscurity, oh well / At least we raised some hell”. Maybe I’m not knowledgeable of old school Weezer tracks, and just didn't find the ones that I can appreciate (because there aren't many in that category so far) but I can attest to the direction that they are moving towards now.  ★★★★☆

Review by Travis Strong

Album Review: Royal Blood (Self-Titled)

The rock duo comprising of bassist/vocalist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher from Brighton, England are having a breakthrough year with the release of their debut album, self-titled Royal Blood. Imagine if The White Stripes and The Black Keys with the help of a wizard created a little rock and roll offspring? Well in all likelihood that offspring would be hard rock duo Royal Blood. Their self titled album was released on August 25th of this year and instantly debuted at number one on the UK rock charts, selling around 660,000 copies in its first week. This was the first time since 2011 that a rock album has reached number one in the UK and could be a shoo in for rock album of the year.

Ferocious yet concentrated and undeniably hook filled, Royal Bloods first album is a force of nature that sends its listener on a jarring riff filled journey. Mixing grunge with bluesy rock the band has found a formula that projects well on record and in live form. This is a rare combination that has elevated several bands into stardom. Formed only last year Royal Blood is riding a wave that does not seem to be slowing down any time soon. The band has been publicly praised by major music publications and established rock bands alike. UK brethren the Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders wore one of their bands t-shirts during their epic Glastonbury Festival performance in 2013.

The album is a moody burner that begins with their first single “Out Of The Black”, a song that sounds close to a Jack White song albeit much heavier then his recent work. Next up the anthemic and even faster paced “Come On Over”. On just track three, the highlight of their album rears its Queens Of The Stone Age infused head. “Figure It Out” is easily one of the more memorable songs on the album that starts off slowly with a continuous bass riff followed by the inclusion of a basic drumbeat, before an almost hair raising build up that turns into an explosion of sound and Kerr’s almost carefree sounding lyrics. Already a must-play song at events, Royal Blood knows and understands the power of the track and that, it is their ticket to international fame. A catchy rock album loaded with muscle Royal Blood is a welcome surprise to the rock scene and will entertain new listeners and rock purists alike.

Final Grade: B

Review by Tyler Bossio

Album Review: This Is All Yours by Alt-J

 This Is All Yours by Alt-J

This Is All Yours by Alt-J

The alternative rock band all the way from Leeds, England are back with their second full length album and boy is it a doozy. Alt-J has finally released their most recent thirteen track effort titled, This Is All Yours. If you thought their first album, An Awesome Wave, was adventurous then you are going to love This Is All Yours. The album is an up and down roller coaster ride of scintillating and at times hauntingly beautiful tracks that are easily listenable and undeniably addicting.

Coming seemingly from out of thin air the band took the world by storm after winning the 2012 Mercury Prize. After going on a year-long world tour that garnered the band a loyal following the three musicians sat down to record their second album. The end result is a possible nominee for best album of the year. Whatever the band has been doing to turn out two insanely haphazard yet magnificent records, should be kept on lockdown, because the year of the Alt-J is about to start all over again once the album is officially released on September 22nd.

Starting off with the appropriately named “Intro” that begins and ends with the distorted/repeated choruses of “la la la”, before breaking down into a mean sounding bass heavy affair. This neatly segue’s into the more slow paced and relaxing piano driven track “Arrival in Nara”. This leads into “Nara” that shows off lead singer Joe Newman’s unique vocals behind a relaxing backbeat of drums, bells and guitar. Moody and provocative sounding single “Every Other Freckle” is next before the band does a complete left turn with “Left Hand Free”. The song is fast paced and upbeat compared to the majority of their album. It highlights the more rocking side of the UK band that has primarily relied on its slow and unexpectedly bass heavy songs to deliver a punch.

“Left Hand Free” is a short respite before the fantastic yet much slower paced tracks “Choice Kingdom” and “Hunger Of The Pine”. This opens the door for one of the more impressive tracks on the album. “Warm Foothills” is a delicate mid-tempo duet between Newman and Lianne La Havas. While minimal the song is gentle and warm. It becomes a perfect introduction to track ten, “The Gospel Of John Hurt”, which slightly picks up the pace before transitioning into “Pusher”. A very stop and go song, “Pusher” is one of the more overlooked tracks on the album.

The second to last song is an epic shout-out to their previous album, titled “Bloodflood pt.II”. With a slow buildup that ends in an explosion of sound Alt-J has saved some of their best songs for last. The ambient final track, “Leaving Nara” is a fitting album closer that is classic Alt-J. Overall the album is a huge step in the right direction for the band and will only cement their already growing legacy as indie rock stars. In what can only be described as an organized mess, Alt-J has delivered one of the best albums of the year and the future can only get brighter for the UK band.

Final Grade: A

Review by Tyler Bossio

 

Album Review: Hozier (Self-Titled)



 Hozier's self-titled first release

Hozier's self-titled first release

Irish singer/songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne or more commonly known by his stage name, Hozier has just recently released his debut self-titled album. Having already been released in Ireland, international fans of the budding indie rock star can purchase the album in October after its global release. Appearing out of nowhere on the indie folk rock scene in 2013 with his hit single “Take Me To Church”, Hozier instantly turned heads. Now readying his debut album, Hozier is set to take the spotlight.

Hozier is a soulful and extremely solid indie rock album that has a powerful kick throughout. Starting off with the breakthrough single “Take Me To Church”, a slow building track that truly highlights Byrne’s beautiful vocals and guitar play. Picking up speed with “Angel of Small Death & the Codeine Scene”, Byrne displays a faster paced, foot-stomping affair that is sure to become a staple at live shows. Quickly followed by two of the most positive and optimistic sounding songs on the whole album. “Jackie and Wilson” and “Someone New” are upbeat folk rock epics, that are a pleasant respite from the much gloomier sounding first two tracks.

The pace slows down considerably with “To Be Alone”, which is a painful love ballad that sends shivers up your spine. This segue’s into Byrne’s most recent single “From Eden” that is quite possibly runner-up for second most hypnotic song on the album. Track number seven, “In A Week”, features the only duet on the album and Byrne’s soulful lyrics are accompanied by Karen Cowley’s delicate vocals. It is hard to top this fantastic partnership but track eight “Sedated”, does just that. One word to describe this hidden gem of a song is “Anthemic”. Easily one of the strongest tracks on the album, you are looking at a future single in “Sedated”.

Byrne does not stop the waterworks as the soulful and sad track “Work Song” keeps the momentum going. The almost Bon Iver sounding track “Like Real People Do”, is a slow haunting song that demonstrates his softer vocal range. “It Will Come Back” and “Foreigners God” are bluesy hard-hitting tracks that shake you to your bones and are undeniably catchy. They become a perfect introduction to the albums soft sounding finale. “Cherry Wine”, is a heartfelt ending to a versatile indie rock album that will no doubt be placed in the years top rock albums lists. The quite plucking of Byrne’s guitar and smooth lyrical delivery make for a slow yet satisfying ending.

The album is an extremely competent debut for the blues/soul singing Irishman. Hozier finds strength from Byrne’s incredible vocals and intricate song writing. With his meteoric rise in the music world and the impending global release of his self-titled album, there is no telling how far Byrne will go. Look forward to one of the best soul/folk rock albums to be released this year.

Final Grade: B-

Review by Tyler Bossio

 

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