Keywest-Joyland Album Review

Ireland’s own Alternative/Indie/Pop band, Keywest, are known for their indie pop sound that is reflected in their music. Their most recent record, Joyland, takes a turn towards indie more so than their previous, The Message. This is where the band finds their sound and it’s because of this sound that the instrumentals add so much more to this record than their debut. Joyland was released in 2015 and explores different themes but all centered around love in its many forms.

The record kicks off with “All My Mistakes,” which sounds like a happy-go-lucky song paired with soft vocals and an acoustic guitar. The lyrics suggest that the vocalist, Andrew Kavanagh, is talking about is someone who he considers a mistake. Despite the melancholy lyrics: “I saw it coming/Way down the line/I knew it the end you/Would never be mine/But of all my mistakes/You’ll be my favorite one” the upbeat instrumentals put the sound of the song in a new direction.

Another track that features a similar theme as “All My Mistakes” is “Carousel.” It is about someone the vocalist can’t be/isn’t with. The vocals sound more emotional, especially when paired with the guitar that gives it a somber feeling. There is yet again another contrast between the melancholy lyrics and an upbeat chorus. “I’ll only love you from afar/My love will last a lifetime/I love you with a heavy heart.” “Cold Comfort” and “Gypsy Rose” are two songs that sound more alternative and indie, compared to the pop sound that is on other tracks of Joyland. “Cold Comfort” has strong electric guitars, which adds diversity to the record since it doesn’t only rely on the acoustic guitar. When these instrumentals are paired with vocals that give off the rock vibe even more, it creates a new dimension to the band. All that is said about “Cold Comfort” can be said about “Gypsy Rose,” as well. In addition, Kavanagh’s vocal power is shown off the most in this track. He hits high notes that are not heard in any other song on the record, which show what he’s truly capable of. As for the themes in the record, love is highlighted on in most of the tracks. It’s one word that helps sum up the ideas that the lyrics were written about. “Apple Tree Hill” and “Always Been You” are two love songs that show off what romance is about.

“Apple Tree Hill” is about two lovers growing old together and about their relationship at its current time and how it will be in the future. The place mentioned, Apple Tree Hill, clearly has some significance to the couple, as it is their destination after the both pass away.

“Always Been You” is another romantic song talking about his love and despite everything that happens it always was her. The piano/drum combo creates a steady beat, which backs up Kavanagh’s soft and controlled voice. The simplicity of the instrumentals make way for the lyrics since they are a key part of the song and what should be focused on in this track. At one point the vocals are isolated, which give it more of an emotional feel.

“This Is Heartbreak” is a track that transitions the record to heartbreak, another subset in the theme of love that Joyland follows so well. The emotion in the vocals are so prominent and combined with the instrumentals to get across the tale of heartbreak that is expressed through the whole song.

Overall, this record is put together well and explores themes that can be related to at many ages and situations. Love is a universal feeling and one that can be understood the easiest when put in a song. Keywest showed off their skills in their sophomore release and refined their sound as they lean towards the indie/pop side of the genre. This suits them well and something they should continue with in the future.

Rating: 8/10

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Mallory Knox-Wired Album Review

From hard-hitting rock instrumentals to soft rock ones, and everything in between, Wired has it all. This is the newest record from English rock-alternative band, Mallory Knox and was released on March 10. Although they have tracks with hard rock elements and sound very raw in that sense, this album contains a variety of tracks not limited to that style. They have their core rock foundation, but the diverse use of their instrumentals makes the songs sound more diverse.

“Giving It Up,” “Better Off Without You,” “Lucky Me,” and “Saviour” are all songs that are hard hitting with raw guitars and drums that overpower the vocals in a way that works for the style.

“Giving It Up” begins the album with hard rock instrumentals and vocals to match. Already, lead vocalist, Mikey Chapman, demonstrates his talent. He shows that has no trouble hitting the high notes that he does in the chorus of this track. This is high-energy that gives the album an energetic and exciting start-similarly to the other hard rock tracks that are scattered at various points of the record.

The part of the album that leans more towards the side of softer rock includes tracks like “For You,” “Midnight,” and “Come Back Around.”

“For You” and “Midnight” have a similar groovy-like feel because of the way the guitars sound in these songs, especially. Both are still upbeat but have softer instrumentals to show off the vocals even more. The dual vocals between Chapman and back up vocalist, James Gillet are shown off in “Midnight” because of the way they blend with each other. “Midnight” even has some dreamy elements within the instrumentals which adds to the story being told and matches the title.

Some other stand out tracks that make this record what it is are “Falling In Love,” “Come Back Around” and “Mother.” “Falling In Love” sounds as if it will be the slow song on the record; once the second chorus hits, it’s back to an upbeat rock and roll track with powerful drums, guitars and angry vocals to match. It ends just as slow as it begins, which is a little twist to make it stand out even more.

“Come Back Around” is the song where Gillet’s back-up vocals shine the most. Chapman starts off the lyrics and Gillet finishes them, instead of repeating the lyrics, which occurs often with back-up vocalists. This is a simple change that goes a long way for the listener.

“Mother” sounds similar to other songs on this album, however; there is one part in the pre-chorus that is so different from all the other parts of the song and even the album. When Gillet sings, “Chin up kid, you’re counting down the minutes,” it gives such a pop punk vibe that is something not heard on this record. It’s yet another simple element that is so enjoyable to listen to and catch different styles in these songs. Since this is the closing track, there is a feeling of ending within to get across that it’s the final track.

Mallory Knox have created a diverse rock record and one that stands out among other releases. It’s full of different songs and styles, even if they are only in small parts of the songs. It’s almost like a reward for the listener to catch something as minute as it, but makes their listening experience so much more enjoyable.

Rating: 8/10

The xx-I See You Album Review

An album filled with a variety of tracks, while holding onto similarities to make the piece more cohesive is what best describes The xx’s newest and third release, I See You. It puts together tracks that go hand and hand with another, while each song still remains unique and its own. This prevents most of the tracks from being lost and forgotten in the whole feeling of the album. The xx are considered an indie/electronic pop group from London, England made up of three members: Oliver Sim, vocalist and bassist, Jamie Smith, drummer and producer and Romy Madley Croft, vocalist and guitarist.

I See You begins with the funky and upbeat first track, “Dangerous.” The band mixes a trumpet with the alternative instrumentals and even electronic effects to create a sound like no other. These effects last during the majority of the song and when combined with Sim’s and Croft’s vocals, sound wonderful. Their voices blend well during the whole track, but especially in the chorus. Both their vocals are mellow, which show off a contrast with the effects that turn the song upbeat.

There are other songs similar to “Dangerous” that take the upbeat effects and instrumentals to create a song with enough balance between the relaxing indie sound and a funky rock one. These songs are “A Violent Noise” and “On Hold.” Both contain similar elements, but each stand out with their own sound while blending with the overall feeling of the record. “A Violent Noise” has parts where there are softer vocals and effects, while in others faster and more intense ones. The instrumentals and vocals equally speed up and gain intensity to match some lyrics in the chorus: “Every beat is a violent noise.”

“On Hold” is the most upbeat and rock sounding song on the record. This makes it stand out but the way the instrumentals are used allows it to fit into the sound of the album as a whole. What makes it unique is the use of the electronic effects. All the other songs on the record utilize them, but this is the one where they are the most prominent. They also sound different compared to the relaxing effects that make this album overall sound calm. These effects sound like they belong in a pop-electronic track instead.

The remainder of the album follows a calm sound, especially in tracks: “Performance” and “Replica.” Each one has a similar feel to them because of features like they each doesn’t have many complex electronic effects like another track, “Lips.” “Replica” is instrumentally driven, as the effects and instrumentals overpower the vocals at times and tend to lead the song in the correct direction. However, overpower is not meant negatively in this case. Somehow, this element works in these parts of the song since its focused on the relationship between the instrumentals, effects, and vocals.

The album concludes with “Test Me,” the most mellow song and one that does its job of wrapping I See You up completely. The vocals only last until about two minutes before the song ends and the rest is a combination of electronical effects and instrumentals. They sound dark and dramatic, which creates a somber feeling. Similarly, to when something good comes to an end. It closes out this record in a way that is truly unique. The length of pure instrumentals give the listener time to reflect and think about the album and the lyrics.

I See You is a great listen for anyone looking for a relaxing record to chill to and especially for fans of the indie genre. It does not contain as many rock elements as other bands considered part of the indie rock genre and the use of electronic effects makes them unique when compared to other artists. This record is one that is cohesive and at the same time blends different elements together that wouldn’t seem to make any sense. The xx makes them work in a way that wouldn’t be expected.

Rating: 8/10

Favorite Albums of 2016

Over the course of 2016, I discovered many new artists whose albums I fell in love with, fell back in love with old artists because of a new record and followed my favorite artist’s newest records. Each one of these showed of that new music flourished this year, many albums I listened to were a huge hit. Although others, were not. But this is my favorite records of 2016 so that is what I will be discussing. *Albums are in no particular order*

  1. Better Weather-With Confidence

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Aussie pop rockers, With Confidence were never a band that was in my sights until I saw them on a recommended video while watching State Champ’s newest music video for
“Secrets.” I heard With Con’s two EPs, fell in love, and when Better Weather was released, fell even more in love with that album. It’s truly a wonderful album, there are simple lyrics surrounded by deeper ones on many of their songs. Each one is extremely catchy as well, with choruses that can be learned after only a couple listens. That may make the record sound more simplistic, and with some songs it is, but that’s not the whole thing. With Con explores themes of avoiding normality and prides themselves with being different while pursuing their musical dreams. This is a special record and extremely easy to get into.

Stand Out Tracks: “Long Night,” “Waterfall” and “Archers.”

Rating: 9/10

2. Death of a Bachelor-Panic! At The Disco

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Panic! At The Disco is a well-established group with four other albums under their belt. With each one and different line-up changes, the sound has been changed in each record to suit the band when creating their music. Now that Brendon Urie is the last original Panic! member standing, he mixed up this record from where they began with A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. But this new sound is still as good as their original. The songwriting still shows of Urie’s talent and his vocals are fantastic, especially in the title track. It sounds more pop than the unique sound of their previous works but it works. Panic! are known for this sound changing act so don’t be disappointed yet. It really is an amazing work that deserves to be appreciated.

Stand Out Tracks: “House Of Memories,” “LA Devotee’ and “Crazy=Genius.”

Rating: 9/10

3. Double Dare-Waterparks

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Discovering Waterparks was one of the best musical things that has happened to me all year. I was familiar with them from their Cluster EP and when their debut released, I shrugged it aside. After listening to their lead single, “Stupid For You,” I finally listened to the whole thing. Thank goodness that I did, this is clearly one of my favorite records of the year and it may even be my favorite. Each song hooked me instantly; Waterparks’ pop punk sound combined with electronic elements created a unique sound and feeling that is rare to hear. I honestly have nothing bad to say about this record; you need to listen to it because it is phenomenal.

Stand Out Tracks: “21 Questions,” “Plum Island” and “Powerless.”

Rating: 9.5/10

4. Headspace-Issues

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Electronic, rock, metal and rap wouldn’t seem like genres that would blend together, but Issues makes them all work in their newest release, Headspace. Around the time this record came out, there was nothing but buzz about how amazing it was. I strayed away from them because of their metalcore elements, but kept an open-mind about this release. And I’m glad I did. Each song is truly unique from each other but is still able to create a cohesive unit as the album wraps up nicely when listened to from start to finish. The metal elements are toned down to make more room for the blending of the electronic and rock ones with sprinkles of metal and even rap. It’s an album that won’t be easily forgotten and for good reason. Issues showed off how great of a band they can be with this record and I hope they continue is this direction.

Stand Out Tracks: “Coma,” “Slow Me Down” and “Lost and Found.”

Rating: 8/10

5. The Human Condition-Jon Bellion

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Every record on this list, except this one, falls in the rock genre. And I don’t call myself a fan of rap, but The Human Condition is a pop record with electronic and rap elements on it that I instantly fell in love with. It’s fantastic and each song has a different feel to it. “80’s Films” has a nostalgic vibe to it while “Morning In America” takes a point on social issues and the world we know today. Every element Bellion experimented with works and nothing is forced. Everything is cohesive and creates a three dimensional record that can be enjoyed for years to come.

Stand Out Tracks: “Morning In America,” “Hand of God” and “Maybe IDK.”

Rating: 9/10

6. Low Tides-This Wild Life

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Acoustic duo, This Wild Life’s sophomore album, Low Tides, takes what they have created with their debut, Clouded, and  expands upon it. From the songwriting to instrumentals, each have improved and shows off what they are capable of. Many songs on this record expose true emotional reactions from the listener. This shows how powerful the songwriting is that it evokes those emotions from someone who may not even be going through the situation being sung about. Kevin Jordan’s vocals are soft and can serenade any listener. They pair perfectly with the seriousness of the topics and his emotion is reflected in the same way. This record is an easy one to listen to and a hard one not to enjoy.

Stand Out Tracks: “Hit The Reset,” “Red Room” and “Let Go.”

Rating: 8/10

7. Misadventures-Pierce The Veil

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After waiting four years for a new Pierce the Veil release, this record doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. Being such a huge fan of Selfish Machines and Collide With The Sky, I was nervous that this record wouldn’t be able to compare to either of those. But that is not the case at all, fortunately. These songs are crafted beautifully and intensely; from the personal lyrics to all the band’s talents on their respective instruments. This is another band that have established themselves as a powerhouse in their genre and they still have a lot of musical fight left in them. “Song For Isabelle” is one where vocalist Victor Fuentes  shows off his personal lyricism and lets his emotions through. Meanwhile, “Texas Is Forever” shows off wonderful instrumental work. Although those respective elements shine in those two songs, they are shown in every song. This record is Pierce The Veil that we all know and love with extras that show that they are developing with every release.

Stand Out Tracks: “Floral and Fading,” “Bedless” and “Texas Is Forever.”

Rating: 8.5/10

8. In Our Bones-Against The Current

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Pop rockers, Against The Current have finally released their debut record. After listening to their two EPs front to back, multiple times, a new record was long due. And In Our Bones doesn’t disappoint one bit. The songs are catchy and evolve into a more pop rock sound that takes one step further than their previous EPs. All the songs are unique and have something about them that make them special, but the band truly shines with “Blood Like Gasoline” and “Wasteland.”

Stand Out Tracks: “Blood Like Gasoline,” “Wasteland” and “One More Weekend.”

 

 

Set It Off-Upside Down Album Review

Set It Off originated as a pop band then moved into the genre of pop rock for many of the records, specifically Horrible Kids and Cinematics. They then changed to be a bit more pop on Duality, while still holding their ground as a rock band. This is the sound that Set It Off is, except with their new album, Upside Down, things have changed. This album is very much on the pop side of the pop rock genre and there are mixed reviews. This is not the direction they should have went; after all they really shine in the rock sound.

“Something New:” It’s a nice introduction to the album, it sounds like it would belong on Duality. The drums on this track shine the most though, even though the other rock elements are toned down. Also, they added a trumpet to many songs on this record and it works well on this song specifically. It adds a new dynamic and expands their genre, similarity to Yellowcard because they have a violinist. The beginning of the album has a consistent theme of optimism and this song exemplifies this well.

“Uncontainable:” The most “rock” song on the record, which is extremely disappointing. It sounds the most like old Set It Off, but it’s sad that there are only two songs that really feel like them. The theme of this one is very similar to “Something New,” and is a perfect song to pump up anyone and get them off their feet.

“I’m taking the crown, I’m taking it now, we never look back we’re uncontainable.”

“Life Afraid:” Once the album hit this song, it was disappointing. This song started the major transition of the album to ‘pop.’ Listeners who are fans of this kind of sound will probably enjoy it, but it’s not the sound many fans of Set It Off’s older songs are like.

“Want:” This song is a step up from “Life Afraid” and the not so stand out title track, “Upside Down.” The drums are back to what Maxx Danziger does best, playing drums to a rock song. It’s unfortunate that for most of the songs the band had him play such simple pop genre sets. Vocalist, Cody Carson, sounds much better on this song. He sounds more emotional and the listener can understand that this song has some meaning to him. His vocal range is shown off too, specifically his range for high notes.

“Diamond Girl:” Another song that they added the trumpet into the chorus, but it does not work as well as it did it “Something New.” It would sound better if they had added a guitar instead, since the trumpet interrupts Carson’s vocals. Most of the lyrics on this album are also very simple and not the complex writing that Carson is capable of. This song is the most lyrical complex though. There are metaphors through the whole thing, which is refreshing for this record.

“You’re a one of a kind fixed in gold…You were a gem lost in the rough.”

“Admit It:” From this song and on, the themes get more intense and there is more emotional poured into the lyrics and even in Carson’s vocals. In many of their previous records, Carson constantly sang about someone he disliked, some can even say hated, and this is continued with this song and some after.

“Just admit you dug your own grave and now you’re buried.”

“Hypnotized:” As for the emotion in Carson’s voice, it is shown off the most in “Hypnotized.” At some points it sounds like he’s rapping and the listener can hear his anger, it’s so prominent that this is the most aggressive song. He clearly has some built up frustration with someone and that is clearly presented in this track.

“I heard you been lyin’ and tryin’ to shit on my name talkin’ behind my back.”

“Me W/O Us:” It was nice to hear the band choose to wrap up the album with an acoustic song, but it sounds too much like it belongs on the radio. The chorus specifically reminds me of a Justin Bieber song. It’s pretty and has a beautiful meaning, but more was to be expected from Set It Off.

Depending on what sound you prefer from Set It Off affects whether or not you’ll enjoy this record. It can be clearly stated that fans of the old rock side of them will not choose to purchase or even listen to this album. The song writing is mediocre, with the exception of some songs, the sound is too ‘pop’ and not enough rock and it sounds like it could be so much better. Especially since they have been working on it for so long.

Rating: 5/10

Music Recommendations-October 2016

I listen to a lot of music, this is nothing new. And I listen to a variety of rock/alternative artists so I figured that I would share with you all who I would recommend you listen to.

Catfish and the Bottlemen:

I have never been a huge fan of the indie/alternative side of rock music because I was never exposed to it. Then when I heard “Soundcheck” by them, I was hooked. I instantly looked up their debut, The Balcony, and after listening to it straight through I knew these guys were something special. After I listened to their newest record, The Ride, I wasn’t as big of a fan of it as I was with their debut, but it still has their flare to it. Songs like “Soundcheck” and “Oxygen” are some of my favorites.

Recommended Songs: “Cocoon,” “Hourglass,” “26,” “Soundcheck” and “Oxygen.”

This Wild Life:

I discovered this acoustic duo last year and loved their debut record, Clouded. Now, their second album, Low Tides, was released last month and I finally got around to listening to it. And I am so glad that I did. This record is the perfect mix of pure acoustic to some “harder” songs with some great quality lyrics. Kevin’s inspiration for this record is clear in some songs but harder to pick out in others. That’s what makes it so great, it’s simple but complex at the same time. This is a must listen record for 2016.

Recommended Songs: “Hit the Reset,” “Brick Wall,” “Pull Me Out” and “Red Room.”

Forever Ends Here:

This is one of the bands I recommended in my Up and Coming Artists post in August and I still stand by that. I have loved this not as known band especially for their EP’s and I say the same for their debut record, Imagine This. It strays away slightly from their harder rock sound in their EP, From Where I’d Rather Be, and uses some synth effects and such but it still sounds really good. All the songs are catchy and give you another reason to listen to these guys.

Recommended Songs: “Chapters,” “Search the Night,” “Fell From the Stars” and “Send Me Crazy”

“Okay”-As It Is:

This is the newest single by UK band, As It Is, which I just wrote a post about. Just listen to the song, it’s great.

Neck Deep:

Ever since the release of Life’s Not Out To Get You, I have been obsessed with this band. I’ve been listening to them since they released this record and went back to listen to their older stuff and enjoy it just as much as their newest record. They are one of the best pop punk bands I have ever heard and are dominating the genre right now. I’m looking forward to their newest music because I know it will be amazing.

Recommended Songs: “Lime St.,” “Smooth Seas Don’t Make Good Sailors,” “December,” “Damsel in Distress” and “Candour.”