Thrice – Major/ Minor review

Thrice’s new “Major/Minor” might be straight out of an early 2000s alternative station top 40. It sounds a little bit like Tool and a little bit like 3rd eye blind. Heavily distorted guitar solos accompany bombastic drums and Dustin Kensrue’s labored vocals. There are some vague lyrics about stones, birds, and bleeding. Dustin sings, “you don’t care/ you don’t care.” He’s right. This album might as well be ten years old. Having old influences is alright unless the genre is something as tired as early 00s alternative music. This stuff sounded nostalgic when it came out.

It’s impossible to tell what Kensrue is singing about, but it’s vaguely angsty so as to be applicable to anyone. It’s guttural, manly, and down-to-earth. Thrice’s angst is masculine. For those who miss the manly emotiveness of bands like Bush, Seether, or even early Nickleback, Thrice’s “Major/Minor” would be a good listen. They keep the beat simple, slow and dragging. It’s like an alternative version of a slow dance song. Soulful guitar is punctuated by a few beats on the high hat and Dustin Kensrue’s anguish. Despite its name, the album is mostly played in minor keys. The title of the album should probably be “Minor”. Hit three beats on the drum set, play in a minor key, repeat process.

The album is as tired as the name might suggest. Lack of originality is evident in this 10 year old new album. Hearing the same minor loops over and over again creates a depressive overtone to “Major/Minor.” The songs drag along over the course of fifty minutes. There’s plenty of self-righteous anguish, as Dustin Kensrue sings about relationship slights and misfortunes. In “Listen Through Me,” Kensrue declares that he speaks truly, and everything hangs on a word. Whatever this means, it’s loaded with special significance as the singer is apparently in anguish. It’s reminiscent of “now that we’re here, it’s so far away, all the struggle we thought was in vain.” Thrice is a vestige of a past fashion in alternative rock. Post-grunge is dead and so is “Major/ Minor.”


The Devil Wears Prada – Dead Throne review

The Devil Wears Prada’s “Dead Throne” is fast metalcore. The best thing about the albums are the fast drums and the worst things are the obnoxious throat screams and overblown high electric guitar solos. Basically, it’s what you’d expect from metalcore and The Devil Wears Prada in general. It’s actually fortunate that you can’t hear Mike Hranica’s voice, because the angsty lyrics are unintelligible. This is what separates The Devil Wears Prada from new post-2000 emo bands. The line between emo and screamo is crossed when you can’t reflect on the quasi-tragic lyrics. The Devil Wears Prada still belongs to that group of bands favored by angst-filled middle schoolers without a developed appreciation for subtlety. The emotional range of “Dead Throne” is, unsurprisingly, all different shades of morose and angry.  The album is high-energy, which makes The Devil Wears Prada a little more bearable than bands like Hawthorne Heights, and you can’t actually hear the lyrics, which puts them ahead of My Chemical Romance. If The Devil Wears Prada could be compared to one band, From First to Last comes readily to mind.

High electric guitar that sounds almost electronic is coupled with fast drum solos and scream-singing. If the Devil Wears Prada were dismantled, their tracks could easily form a project like Skrillex with the same notes on guitar played on a computer.

The album’s range goes from the 2:24 drum saga that is the track “Dead Throne” to the introspective “Kansas.” For those who like songs fast and hard, the first few short tracks are the closes thing to punk rock. There’s more “core” than metal in the first few songs. The rest of the album is more scream than metal or hardcore, as the solos are not complex enough to qualify as a real metal album and the beats not fast enough to be related to punk rock.

The Devil Wears Prada’s “Dark Throne” is a good album for what it is. Metalcore is, a lot of the time, another word for teenybopper screamo.


Mates of States – Mountaintops review

Mates of States’ “Mountaintops” can’t help but sound a bit like a family band. Married couple Kori Gardner and Jason Gammel make clean pop music together with some folk influence. “Mountaintops” is indie pop with some Americana, like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah with higher production values. The album’s high point is the vocal harmonizing. On the track Maracas, they both sing simultaneously, “I’ve got your back/ syncopated breathing.” “Mountaintops” is all togetherness and light. There’s some obvious joy that went into the making of the album and it comes out in the lighthearted indie-folk songs.

The best thing about some thousands indie folk-pop was the creative, wild, unstructured sound with poor production quality. Clap Your Hands and late Neutral Milk Hotel had a kind of rambling effect that recalls old-school drawn-out harmonica without the actual instrument. There was something free about it, like a road trip across the countryside by the skin of one’s yellow country teeth. “Mountaintops” is a little more produced than that. Mates of State is just a bit cookie-cutter. There’s a lot of genuine emotion in the album, so it doesn’t fall totally flat. It does, however, lack some adventure. It’s happy and kind of one-dimensional. Mates of State is a little bit Pollyanna on “Mountaintops,” which is not unusual for the husband and wife duo. It is, basically, a family band.

Jason and Kori harmonize seamlessly and the result is still a little bland. Mountaintops would be good for a road trip with the kids. It’s clean, fun, happy and full of beautiful harmonies and major chords. It’s reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel without all the moodiness the folk duo was capable of. “Mountaintops” is, at least, not a downer. Even when singing, “oh, little girl/ pick up the pieces/ you’ll learn to live without me” they sound like a summer camp song. Mates of State is making the good clean American folk family pop that made them successful in the first place. It’s a popular formula that fits all your easy listening, family friendly needs.

“Mountaintops” is not a bad listen for anyone in a really, really good mood.


Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost review

“Father, Son, Holy Ghost” sounds like a tortured version of wholesome Christian family band pop. It has influences of the Beach Boys, the Everly Brothers, and good 50s rock and roll and pop music in songs about drugs and bad relationships. Owens’s lyrics aren’t cool or self-conscious. He’s candid and open with his emotions to the point of almost sounding self-absorbed, but it never burdens the wholesome pop vibe. If you’ve ever listened a Beach Boys album or to some Christian folk rock, the combination of painfully sincere lyrics and light, poppy tunes balance each other out. “Father, Son, Holy Ghost” isn’t quite uplifting, but it’s a fun album with some pretty vulnerable spots.

Chris Owens is very open without taking himself too seriously, making a few good pop songs out of junk addiction, a childhood in a religious cult, and relationship baggage. While “Honey Bunny” might seem a little self-obsessed, it’s refreshing to hear a rock star slag his own luck with women: “They don’t like my bony body/ they don’t like my dirty hair/ or the stuff that I say/ or the stuff that I’m on.” It’s a ubiquitous statement, and a relatable one for anyone listening who happens to feel to addicted, skinny, fat, or unattractive in some way. Pretty much anyone could pop the album in and escape from their problems a little bit. That’s what listening to “Father, Son, Holy Ghost” feels like. It makes the gutter a happy place.

Some tracks on the album are a little more raw. There’s places where all the light pop is gone and what’s left is a bleeding, sincere mess. The honesty goes so deep that such seriousness is beyond criticism: “nights I spend alone/ I spend ‘em running round, looking for you baby.” When someone admits to that much desperation, and has the music to back it up, there are no rules about what can and can’t go into a song.

Owens lays everything bare on “Father, Son, Holy Ghost,” and that’s why it’s so powerful. There’s nothing self-consciously cool about it.


A Winged Victory For the Sullen review

“A Winged Victory for the Sullen” is a collaboration between Adam Wiltzie of Stars of the Lid and LA composer Dustin Halloran. Wiltzie was interested in making some interesting ambient drone music, and Halloran answered with a string quartet, French horn, classical piano and bassoon. The result is a wash of guitar melodies accompanied by traditional symphonic sounds. It’s ambitious, ambient, and gloomy, as the title might suggest. The drone gets lost in the melodies at points, between what sounds like an orchestra tuning up and some drifting guitar chords. Most songs are long and drawn out. There are only seven tracks on the whole album, which lasts about forty-five minutes. The result is that most tracks sound the same and lack structure. One song blends into the next without the listener noticing. “A Winged Victory for the Sullen” is aesthetically calming and blends the guitar nicely with the more traditional classical instruments. Unfortunately, lack of song structure and any kind of energy make the album pretentious and a little boring. It’s ambient, but not quite drone music. There isn’t a single line hovering below the melody to tie the song together. It all gets lost in kind of a wash, which is what the album is.

“A Winged Victory for the Sullen” gets lost between lofty classical ambitions and Wiltzie’s minimalist drone aesthetic. It waters down the classical melodies and washes out the drone beat. Instead of working to bring out each other, both elements water the other down. The album is definitely sullen, as listening to it is more sleep inducing than transporting. Ambient music sounds a bit like lobby music on this album. It is, at best, a pleasant background noise.

The concept for the collaboration between Wiltzie and Halloran has promise. The idea of taking a drone line and applying some symphonic melodies could have worked to produce something powerful, but “A Winged Victory For the Sullen” is kind of a weary mess. Lofty ambitions produced some stodgy music.


Samiam – Trips review

Samiam’s “Trips” is a little Yellow Card’s “Ocean Avenue” and a bit of that other Berkeley band, Green Day. The 90’s pop-punk aesthetic is there in spades and it’s got plenty of tweeny bopper angst. It’s punk cleaned up and repackaged in a clean, kid-friendly album. It goes from faster faux-punk tracks to ones that sound like a half-assed “Redundant” without all the despair.

“Trips” has all the poppy repetition of radio punk without the self-deprecating sense of humor of early Blink182 or the nastiness of Dookie-era green day. The album would be a total wash without Jason Beebout’s voice. It’s more 2000s and boy band than punk, but that fits more with the songs. It’s versatile enough to sound like a pop song without sacrificing the punk rock sensibility. There’s no rasping vocals or abrasiveness. Beebout doesn’t make his singing an accessory to the beat. It sounds like a voice rather than an insistent beat. It’s smooth and pretty to listen to. This could also be the lacking ingredient in “Trips.” Beebout has a total lack of grit. It makes “Trips” a pop album more than anything else.

“Trips” is better in the upbeat tracks because it doesn’t do anything beyond throwback top-40 material. It’s as if Samiam pulled samples from every 90s alternative band on the radio and mashed it up into a few post-punk tracks. The video-game sounding guitars, the confessional lyrics, and the west coast vibes all fit together in the album. The highlights of “Trips” are the more fun parts, where Beebout gets goofy and nostalgic with a few silly electric riffs and some Sum-41 worthy lyrics. This is something many of us would have danced to as 14-year-olds in the gym locker room.

“Trips” has potential to be something more with a bit more current inspiration. As it is, it’s not a bad album for nostalgic Blink-182 fans. Pop punk isn’t dead, at least.


Terius Nash – 1977 review

“1977” is The-Dream’s latest released under his real name, Terius Nash. It starts out like a confessional album, which fits the self-title. Nash sings/ raps about failed relationships, Rolexes, not giving a f***, and crashing an ex’s wedding.

Some tracks sound almost like Nash is reading from a diary: “I’m not like him/ not like them/ I wish you would/ roll up/ I’m not better than that/ but I appreciate the form of flattery.” Nash bares his soul. He acknowledges his shortcomings while making it clear that he doesn’t have time for what a n*gga think or do, as long as he’s got Rolexes on his whole crew. Terius Nash has it going on, and at the same time he’s crashing ex-wives weddings with drunk love confessionals on “1977.”

1977 sounds almost nostalgic. His smooth flow and Autotune blend effortlessly with fast, exaggerated raps, female vocals, and Pharell’s voice.

There’s something missing on “1977” that leaves music about Rolex, girls, and ego falling a little flat on the album. The-Dream’s delivery lacks some conviction that is required to pull off a real inflated R&B track. He doesn’t really burn on tracks like “Wedding Crasher,” about crashing an ex-wife’s wedding. It sounds unintentionally tongue-in-cheek when Nash raps about not giving a f*** or losing his girlfriend. Usher-style confessional lyrics need nothing short of a passionate delivery to pull it off, and “1977” falls short of that. In places, the lyrics get faux-profound in the way that R&B music should never be. The opening track has some vague, loaded lyrics sort of speak-sung. The album captures some of the more mundane aspects of a diary entry, which could be a pitfall of a self-titled confessional.

Terius Nash’s self-tilted has high aspirations, and is crucified by them. The album comes across as calculated and trying to hard. It isn’t unlistenable, but it isn’t great either. “1977” is just another R&B album that sounds like it could have come out of the early 2000s.


Gotye – Making Mirrors review

Making Mirrors is a little Jack Johnson, a little Michael Jackson, a little reggae, and a little bit Jungle Book. That exact mix isn’t found on every track, but there’s good influences of each dispersed through the album. Wally DeBecker lays his soul out there in a mostly feel-good album, with a few songs dedicated to breakups and running into an ex. Then, with the track “I Feel Better,” Wally launches into a more upbeat Jackson five type mode after a brooding Maroon five-ish opening. Making Mirrors is pretty radio friendly throughout, if a little cheesy in its sincerity (the breakup songs are just so heartfelt.) Still, Making Mirrors gets it right. Wally hits the resentful, melancholy notes just right before swinging back into a boogie. If you like pop music and breakup songs (and the two often go together), than you’ll enjoy Gotye’s Making Mirrors.

Wally’s Belgian-Australian voice is the cornerstone of the Making Mirrors. His high, sincere voice is perfect for heartbroken tracks as well as laid-back and upbeat songs. It matches the Jack Johnson-style surfer guitar as well as the more chillwave tracks towards the end of the album. It ranges from cheerful to dejected in just a subtle change of pace. He sings about the blues and about keeping the blues away in the same note. However poppy the album is, Gotye has quite the range: “I forget myself and everything else that depressed me yesterday.” Making Mirrors is about no worries, no cares. Making Mirrors doesn’t get too bogged down in breakup emotion. The result is that the mood of the tracks is as fluid as Gotye’s voice. Whether sad, happy, breaking up, or singing about a girl, Wally’s voice retains it’s kind of cheerful cool.

As versatile as his reggaeton surfer-vibe is, Wally DeBecker’s music is a little cheesy. The reggae thing is a little tired and so are the Chumba-Wumba voice distortions on a few tracks. Making Mirrors has some evidence of 90s throwback. Gotye’s latest album is easy listening.


Elite Gymnastics – Real Friends review

Elite Gymnastic’s “Real Friends” is an entertainingly eclectic EP. It starts out with a tongue-in-cheek Velvet Underground-style narrative set to Chillwave. The rest resembles their previous album Ruin a little bit more. It’s as if Elite Gymnastics took a Washed Out mashup and added some snide, candid lyrics. For a genre that’s usually been all about feeling nondescriptly good, “Real Friends” makes a bit more of a statement. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but it’s a statement: “Last year I used to live with my girlfriend in her dealer’s basement, I paid no rent and slept all day.” It sounds a bit like college, and like something a lot of people just might admit relating to.

The rest of the album isn’t quite as verbose. It’s more typical chillwave. That’s fine, because the opener has enough lyrics for the whole album. Some of them are very funny if you have a sick sense of humor, like, “She was 19 but people said she looked like she was 12 until she showed you the stretch marks.” If you don’t, you probably won’t like the new Elite Gymnastics album much. The rest of “Real Friends” is just a chill groove. Light synth and heavy base are sublime as usual. Elite Gymnastics has a loose formula for producing good chillwave, and that gives them a bit of room to add some lyrical experimentation. This album introduces a songwriting element to a genre that mostly consists of feel-good chants. Elite Gymnastics proves that substantial lyrics don’t necessarily sink the music. But, they still understand the real point: “I wanna go in the sun/ where there’s beer/ where there’s friends.” Few people would object to that. “Real Friends” is mostly for having a good time. There are no real flaws in the album. The only people with legitimate complaints are probably those with a blanket hatred for electronic music or those with no sense of humor. The two tend to overlap.

Elite Gymnastics might be the best chillwave yet.


Purling Hiss – Lounge Lizards review

Purling Hiss’s Lounge Lizards combines shredding guitar with rough production for tracks that sound like they’ve taken a page out of old school punk. Lounge Lizards is grubby and short- only six songs on the entire album- and sounds like a juke box play. It’s got classic riffs and some doo-wop vocals backing up Mike Polizee’s gritty, Richard Hell-esque voice.

The songs aren’t too fast-paced, but it’s a high-energy album. If punk production was mixed with classic rock and roll riffs and some vocal lessons from Wu Lyf, the result would be Lounge Lizards. The album is unwashed and unapologetic. It’s influences span a few decades of rock and roll and punk, taking some grime from all of them. In some tracks Polizee’s voice sounds like it could have been off of a horror-punk track with background distortion that sounds a bit like early misfits.

Vocals are fast and guitar parts more elongated. Purling Hiss draws out both elements on a few songs, creating something that could have been influenced by Voodoo Child rather than the Pistols. Either way, it doesn’t really matter what Mike Polizee is singing; the “oohs” are all that’s needed to accompany the fast beat and bad production.

Lounge Lizards is a bit unruly in this respect and it works. This album is all about release. There’s lots of incoherent screaming that works just as well as lyrics would, and it’s just as impossible to discern what the singer from Wu Lyf or Jonny Rotten are singing most of the time either. Mike Polizee just lets his energy out all over the track as Purling Hiss, the results sounding a bit reckless and totally suitable.

Even if Lounge Lizards was a great effort in production, it certainly doesn’t play that way. In this case that just makes it more fun to listen to. It sounds like Purling Hiss had fun making the album and that really bleeds over into the songs. Lounge Lizards has a lot of raw energy to go with its raw production.