Cold War Kids: LA DIVINE (Album Review)

Cold War Kids’ new album LA DIVINE released this Friday, and I’m listening to it for the first time through as of writing this review. I just recently became a fan of the band last summer when “First” was a staple on the radio.

The first four songs on the record have been singles released before the album’s actual release — “Love Is Mystical,” “Can We Hang On ?” “So Tied Up (featuring Bishop Briggs)” and “Restless” — so I have already been familiar with these tracks.

“Can We Hang On ?” sounds very reminiscent of the band’s previous album — Hold My Home — and the first few seconds of the track has a similar sound to “First.” I felt like Bishop Briggs’ featuring on “So Tied Up” was wasted potential as I believe she only provided backing vocals, but the song is still great.

The album features three tracks that are unpolished, quick, one-minute bits that serve almost as interludes into the next song. These songs breakup the album and set the tone for the following track. “Cameras Always On” is only 36 seconds long, but I wish that the band fleshed out this into a full song as it just felt like a tease of a bigger piece. “Part of the Night” transitions into “Free to Breathe” so smoothly to close out the album on a mellow note.

As of now I believe that Hold My Home was a stronger album — but that is not to say that LA DIVINE does not hold gems of its own. However, I have only given the album one listen through so far, so I am sure in time I will be able to give a stronger opinion.

Key Tracks: Can We Hold On ?, Restless, Ordinary Idols, Part of the Night, Free to Breathe

 

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New Music Friday: Kendrick Lamar, San Cisco, Bleachers & Oh Wonder

Instead of writing about an album this week, I just want to write about all of the fire that the world was blessed with today.

First off, Kendrick Lamar released a new track titled “HUMBLE.” from his forthcoming album that is rumored to be releasing next Friday. The song essentially is Lamar telling his fans and other rappers to be humble in the chorus whilst bragging about himself in the verses.

As amazing as the song is, the accompanying music video is just as incredible. Some of the camerawork being really amazing (specifically the part at 2:05) and I wish there was a behind the scenes video to explain some of how it was produced.

To a completely different genre/vibe, one of my favorite Australian bands San Cisco released a new song titled “Hey, Did I Do You Wrong?” This song makes me feel nostalgic of summer and excited for the upcoming season. This song will most likely become a staple in a lot of my happy Spotify playlists, despite sort of depressing lyrics.

“Don’t Take The Money” is the debut single from Bleacher’s second album Everybody Lost Somebody coming June 2nd. While she is uncredited, it features vocals from Lorde on latter half of the song. Not too much more to say about this song other than it is a jam and deserves a listen.

Finally, as one who has recently discovered the band Oh Wonder, they just dropped a new track titled “Ultralife.” It reminds me a lot of Of Monsters and Men, but that’s not a bad thing.

All of these songs are significantly different from one another, but they all carry a “feel-good” vibe and I’m just excited 2017 is finally kicking off some great new tunes.

The Shins: Heartworms (Album Review)

I can’t say I’m very familiar of The Shins, as I really only know their more popular songs – “New Slang,” “Australia,” and “Simple Song” – and also James Mercer’s (lead singer) other project Broken Bells (“The High Road”), but I took a chance and gave their newest record a listen.

The album starts on a high note – with the very upbeat “Name For You.” I definitely see this song becoming a hit for the band. However, the following track – “Painting a Hole” is my least favorite on the record. It’s not that it is a bad song or anything, but in the context of the album, I feel it doesn’t fit properly.

“Fantasy Island” is one of my favorite songs on the album, with the lyrics exploring the idea of escaping to an imaginary island to escape from the problems of life. “Fantasy Island” flows into “Mildenhall” – a song about how Mercer decided to become a musician.

The entire album is full of catchy hooks, and I believe “Half A Million” takes the cake for the best chorus lyrically and in terms of catchiness:

There’s half a million things that I’m supposed to be / a shelter in the nighttime, a punk running free

As one who has listened to more Broken Bells songs than The Shins, I can definitely tell there has been an influence on the production of this album from Mercer’s time with Broken Bells. This may be displeasing for those fans who prefer the less-electronic side of The Shins, but for me I love it.

Key Tracks: Name For You, Fantasy Island, Mildenhall, Half A Million, Heartworms, So What Now

 

Foster the People: Torches (Album Review)

I believe that almost everyone has heard Foster the People’s 2011 “Pumped Up Kicks” to the point where they are sick of it, but “Pumped Up Kicks” barely scratches the surface of the genius of Torches – I’d even argue that it is the weakest song on the record.

Torches holds a special place in my heart as one of my favorite albums of all time, as it is one of the few albums that I can listen to front to back and enjoy every single song on it.

Torches is full of high energy, synth heavy tracks and catchy choruses that never seem to fail to make me want to tap my foot along.

“Call It What You Want,” is based on the fears of Mark Foster (lead singer) not wanting to become labelled and sell out with his rising success, while “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)” explores childhood nostalgia. No song is overly similar to another, yet it all still comes together perfectly.

It is also worth noting several of the bonus tracks from the record – “Ruby,” “Broken Jaw,” and “Chin Music For The Unsuspecting Hero,” – are fantastic standalone tracks (however are not available on Spotify).

Overall, Torches is a fantastic record and I still listen to it regularly. While Foster the People’s 2014 album –  Supermodel – was great, I still find myself listening to Torches more often.

Foster the People have been silent for a couple years now, presumably working on their third album, and I am eagerly awaiting to hear more.

Key Tracks: Call It What You Want, Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls), Houdini, Miss You

Passion Pit: Tremendous Sea of Love

Within the past week, Passion Pit has released seven new songs from a new project titled Tremendous Sea of Love. The title originates from President Trump referring to his crowds during his campaign as a “sea of love.”

Whether these songs are from a forthcoming album is unclear as of now, but began appearing the day Michael Angelakos (Passion Pit frontman) announced that he had founded a new company – The Wishart Group – to help support artists with legal, educational, and health care services.

Michael Angelakos has made it clear that now is the time to share the love in the world, and his method of doing this by sharing new material.

As of now, the new tracks – “Moonbeam,” “Somewhere Up There,” “Hey K,” “Inner Dialogue,””The Undertow,” “I’m Perfect,” and “You Have The Right” – can only be found on the Wishart Group’s YouTube channel.

“Moonbeam” and “Inner Dialogue” are short instrumentals, while “Something Up There” is a longer, experimental track, featuring a sample of a voicemail from Angelakos’ mother.

“Hey K” and “I’m Perfect” are standouts so far, as the production on each track is fantastic.

“Love is the answer and the one design / such a simple design, holy architecture”

I’m curious to see where this project will lead, and for how long Angelakos will keep releasing tracks. So far I have loved every one, and look forward to hear more.

Key Tracks: Hey K,  I’m Perfect

Colony House: Only The Lonely (Album Review)

Only The Lonely is Colony House’s sophomore album following up 2014’s When I Was Younger. “Silhouettes” and “Roll With The Punches” had been a couple of my favorite songs of the past year, so I was ecstatic to hear new material from Colony House.

The album released January 13th, 2017 through RCA Records, and follows “the story of our experience with the first album, and what doors it opened” (via Billboard). Colony House toured for two and half years following their first album, so a new sound was influenced from that experience.

Only the Lonely has a more “rock-n-roll” feel when compared to When I Was Younger. The shift to this rawer sound was a great, subtle change in direction for the band.

One of my absolute favorite things about this record is how each song seamlessly flows into the next. Specifically, the transition between the ending of “Follow Me Down” into “Remembered For” is amazing.

The final track of Only The Lonely – “This Beautiful Life” – the strongest track on the album – questioning life as we know it and closing the album on a peaceful note.

“What in the world are we doing here?
What is the meaning of it all?
To fall in love, to make a life that’s calm and stable
Or just to find a place where I belong?”

Only The Lonely was a proper second album and avoided “the sophomore slump” that a lot of bands seem to face. Check it out below on Spotify.

Key Tracks: Lonely, You & I, Where Your Father’s Has Been, This Beautiful Life



 

 

Matt & Kim: We Were The Weirdos (EP Review)

Matt & Kim have been one of my favorite musicians to follow since discovering them due to their passion and creativity for everything involving their music. A perfect example of this is We Were The Weirdos.

During their 2016 Coachella set, Matt & Kim dropped a surprise EP titled We Were The Weirdos – an EP they created completely in the weekend between the first and second weeks of Coachella. Matt Johnson spoke about the EP via Pitchfork:

“We took three months off over the winter, the longest break we’ve ever taken since we started the band. They say absences making the heart grow fonder, and when we got back on the road a few weeks ago we felt so fuckin’ inspired! Like we were a new band! You have to ACT on inspiration or it’ll slip through your fingers, and then we were charged up even MORE from 1st weekend of Coachella.  I’m so proud of how raw and real these songs are going to be, I really believe there is something special here…”

Overall, I believe this EP is the ideal sample of the Matt & Kim sound. Since these songs were produced in such a short time, there is such a raw feel to them as they were not tweaked to sound perfectly. “Fall To Pieces” and “Haunting Me” have a similar sound to their earlier records, while “Let’s Run Away” explores the newer or evolved Matt & Kim sound from their most recent album – New Glow. These songs capture the same happy, upbeat nature that Matt & Kim have always been known for (key example: “Daylight”).

While Matt & Kim might not have a sound that everyone enjoys, I believe that anyone is able to see the genuine passion that they have for what they do. This passion reflects in their creative music videos – from choreographed dancing in bed, stripping down nude in the middle of winter in Times Square, to swinging a GoPro around in slowmo – all ideas fully created by Matt & Kim themselves.

Even more so, they just launched a YouTube series called “MATT and KIM SHOW YA STUFF” which is essentially a new vlog every Monday and Thursday.

We Were The Weirdos is a solid entry into the Matt & Kim catalog and recommend giving it a listen.

Key Tracks: Fall To Pieces, Haunting Me



Glass Animals: Gnarls Barkley “Crazy” Cover & More

I wasn’t planning on writing about the same artist twice, but this song just came onto my radar today and god damn it was too good not to share.

Glass Animals covered Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” for Australian radio station triple j on Thursday and I love it. It is a unique take on already great song – just adding the chill Glass Animals vibes.

triple j has a segment called ‘Like A Version’ where every Friday morning they have an artist come on and cover a song. Some of my previous favorites have been San Cisco’s cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, The Griswolds’ cover of Vance Joy’s “Riptide”, and even a previous Glass Animals appearance on triple j covering “Love Lockdown” by Kanye West. I’d even argue the Kanye cover is even better than this, but both are fantastic in their own ways.

British radio station BBC1 has a similar program called the Live Lounge, but typically with larger artists than triple j. My favorite from BBC1 has been Panic! At Disco’s cover of “Starboy” by The Weeknd .

Generally covers are amazing, as long as they evolve the song in some aspect. I find it boring when an artist just copies a song, without giving it their own touch to it. Glass Animals’ covers of “Crazy” and “Love Lockdown” changed up the song enough where it was almost like I was listening to a new song.

What the world really needs is another cover of “Wonderwall” by Oasis (please god no).

Link: YouTube

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season One Review)

When I first heard A Series of Unfortunate Events was getting a television adaption, I was ecstatic. These books were one of my favorite of my childhood, and it is nostalgic to be able to relive these stories once again.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a retelling of the depressing tale of the the Baudelaire orphans – Violet, Klaus, and Sunny – who lost their parents in a fire and now are forced to live with an evil guardian named Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) – who is after their massive fortune. The book series spans through 13 books, each with the Baudelaires trying to escape from the clutches of Count Olaf.

This first season covers the first four books of the series –  The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill – each book getting a two episode treatment. This treatment essentially allowed each book to be a standalone movie, yet at the same time allowed them to flow into each other almost seamlessly.

As a fan of How I Met Your Mother, it was difficult to get past Neil Patrick Harris casted as Count Olaf. But at the same time… I can’t think of anyone better. He captured the sinister and humorous aspects of Count Olaf, and I believe he did a better job than Jim Carrey did in Nickelodeon’s 2004 movie adaption of the series.

The casting throughout the entire show was amazing – every time Patrick Warburton walked on screen to narrate as Lemony Snicket was one of my favorite things about the show.

The show pays great attention to detail – making subtle references to future events in the books, the changing theme song for each song (each sung by Harris), and the overall Wes Anderson-esque cinematography.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a hard series to adapt into a television/film version, but I believe the tone was nailed with this newest iteration.

 

Glass Animals: How To Be A Human Being (Album Review)

glassanimalsvinyl-deluxe-front2016 was a great year for music, and How To Be A Human Being was personally my favorite album that came out of it.

Glass Animals created an album where each track told a narrative about a fictitious character. How To Be A Human Being covered many bases, ranging from the struggles of unemployment and living with your mom (“Life Itself”), to a basketball player moving out west to make it (“The Other Side of Paradise”), to cocaine infused delusions (“Cane Shuga”).

This album was a departure from their jungle themed sound they carried on their 2014 album Zaba, but at the same time is an evolution of the strange, catchy sound that Glass Animals has been known for.

The song “Season 2 Episode 3” sounds straight out of a video game, while mocking the culture of people who sit in front of their television all day, with bizarre lyrics such as:

“Leftovers for breakfast, cereal for lunch. She’s broken but she’s fun. My girl eats mayonnaise, from the jar when she’s getting blazed”

In September of 2016, I was able to catch Glass Animals live at the Ritz in Raleigh, NC. After the show, I was able to meet band member Drew MacFarlane (guitar/keys) and discussed with him how each character was written for the album. According to MacFarlane, Dave Bayley (lead singer) wrote out storyboards for each character with characteristics about that person (such as: what they ate, wore, etc), and used these to develop each character into a story.

Encounters on tours were also a major influence into the creation of these songs. Dave Bayley states that the chorus of “Pork Soda” was based from an encounter with a homeless man (via Paste Magazine):

“I heard a homeless man talking to someone once and say ‘pineapples are in my head.’ In retrospect, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t actually those words, but I thought it was at the time, and it kind of stuck with me.”

The album closes with the heartbreaking “Agnes,” a song describing the horrors of watching a friend spiral into crippling depression, become addicted to drugs, and then finally commit suicide, all while being unable to help them. The song makes a reference to Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut with the lyric, “and so it goes,” and closes with chilling lyrics reflecting on what it feels like to lose a loved one:

“You’re gone but you’re on my mind, I’m lost but I don’t know why”

Overall, How To Be A Human Being is one of the more creative albums I have listened to, and highly recommend giving it a listen from start to finish.

Key Tracks: Season 2 Episode 3, Pork Soda, The Other Side of Paradise, Agnes