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  1. Murdocks’ album Distortionist

    October 10, 2010 by Anna

    Franklin Morris is a man with a lot of angry things to say.  After having endured unemployment, divorce, and a slew of other defeats, who could blame him?  While Morris faced such challenges, his Austin-based band, Murdocks, suffered along with him.  Amidst the devastation of being dropped by its record label, the band also struggled with maintaining a functioning lineup.  However, with the recent release of their album, Distortionist, it’s safe to say things are certainly looking up for this indie-rock trio.

    The album begins with “OMG,” an upbeat, anthem-like track that introduces the high-energy sound that characterizes the entire record.  While distorted guitars dominate the song, they do not drown out the catchy bass line that finds itself perfectly balanced with the unpredictable guitar solos.  Several memorable tracks follow, including “Tongues,” a song which maintains the fun, punk rock sound of the first track.  However, this song’s lyrics delve deeper into the band’s (mainly Morris’) personal struggles as the vocalist sings about infidelity amidst the familiar sound of wild guitars and heart-pounding percussion.  “Tongues” is followed by “Die Together,” perhaps the most catchy track on the record. A killer bass line drives the song while the arrogant attitude in Morris’ vocals compliments its lively sound.  “Black Jesus Knocking” makes great use of the bass-driven sounds before it, boasting of the most intriguing intro on the album.  In this track, the band’s angst and frustration takes full form as its vocalist sings, “I am the rage of everyone.”  If this track isn’t forward enough about Morris’ anger, then the album’s last song, “Windower” sets things straight.  A slower, more mellow sound accompanies the vocalist’s accusations of lying and cheating, ending the album with one last vent of pent up indignation.

    This record certainly does a great job of maintaining the energy with which it begins.  Although such energy can sometimes border an exasperated, tiresome sound, the band’s ability to create an album in which tracks follow seamlessly after one another is definitely deserving of commendation.

    Rating: (2.5/5)

  2. Theives and Villians’ album South America

    September 15, 2010 by Anna

    South AmericaLet’s face it, sometimes the pop-punk and indie-rock scene can be a little monotonous… High pitched vocalists singing about their broken heart or intense love for someone in an effort to catch their attention while distorted guitars wail and drums thrash resulting in a messy but catchy track that hundreds of teenagers can sing along to while reflecting on their own love woes. Although Thieves and Villains makes some use of this familiar pop-punk sound, their album South America is packed with sounds that take it beyond the conventional.

    Thieves and Villains takes pride in the fact that this album was recorded “the old-fashioned way.” Rather than relying on auto-tune and hours of layering and production, the band chose to record using vintage tape machines and their own gear. Judging by the raw and organic sound of this album, they definitely made the right decision.

    There are several gems in this album and some less notable. One of the highlights is the record’s second track, “Song For Dean Moriarty,” in which the band makes good use of a loud and prominent bass line. The following song, “Virginia Woolf” boasts of intriguing instrumentals and vocals resembling that of Panic! At the Disco. Another notable track is “I Want A Friend Like South America Promo, Photo Credit: Jesse DeflorioYou,” one of the more pop-influenced songs with verses that will undoubtedly induce some head-bobbing and/or swaying action. “Drums In Amsterdam” sounds like it came straight out of the Eurotrip soundtrack with its high-energy, guitar driven sound, while “Youth” highlights the band’s excellent percussion. The song’s final 30 seconds has vocalist Sergio Otaegui singing “you should join in” while back up vocals joyously sing along. Appropriate, is it not? The band closes the album nicely with the pleasantly acoustic “South St. Hymnal,” a great contrast to the upbeat tracks before it.

    Though not the greatest album, South America is a valiant effort to reinvent the pop-punk and indie rock sound. Its consistency overpowers the pitchy and sometimes repetitive aspects that make the album flawed and shows that Thieves and Villains has immense potential.

    South America is out now and they’re heading out on tour soon, so check out the dates below.

    Rating: (3/5)

    On Tour:

    Sep 22, 2010 Brooklyn, NY, US @ Party Expo w/The Scenic
    Sep 23, 2010 Hamden, CT, US @ THE SPACE w/The Scenic
    Sep 24, 2010 Nyack, NY, US @ Indigo Paradise w/The Scenic
    Sep 25, 2010 Salem, MA, US @ Salem KNights of Columbus w/The Scenic
    Sep 26, 2010 Dover, NH, US @ The Dover Brick House w/The Scenic
    Sep 27, 2010 Baltimore, MD, US @ Ottobar w/The Scenic
    Sep 28, 2010 Philadelphia, PA, US @ The Barbary w/The Scenic
    Sep 30, 2010 Charlotte, NC @ CASBAH w/The Scenic
    Oct 1, 2010 VA, US @ Club Relevant w/The Scenic
    Oct 2, 2010 Warrenton, VA @ THE BARN w/The Scenic
    Oct 15, 2010 Providence, RI, US @ The Ruins w/ Just Surrender and With The Punches
    Oct 16, 2010 Patchogue, NY, US @ Club Karma w/ Just Surrender and With The Punches
    Oct 17, 2010 Albany, NY, US @ Bogie’s w/ Just Surrender and With The Punches
    Oct 20, 2010 Jermyn, PA, US @ Eleanor Rigby’s w/ Just Surrender and With The Punches
    Oct 22, 2010 Vineland, NJ, US @ Hangar 84 w/ Just Surrender and With The Punches
    Oct 29, 2010 Bronx, NY, US @ The Point w/ Just Surrender and With The Punches
    Oct 30, 2010 Danbury, CT, US @ Heirloom Arts Center w/ Just Surrender and With The Punches
    Oct 31, 2010 Cambridge, MA, US @ MIDDLE EAST w/ Just Surrender and With The Punches

  3. Call the Cops’ Self-Titled Debut Album

    June 22, 2010 by Anna

    If you haven’t heard of Call the Cops, prepare yourself. There’s a huge chance you’ll be hearing a lot from and about them in the upcoming months.  Hailing from Long Beach and Orange County, CA, the band self-released their first EP, Motion Sickness, and gained attention from critics and fans alike.  At such an early stage in its musical career, the band has already had its share of accomplishments such as being voted the winners of Toyota’s 2009 “Rock the Space” promotion and being named one of Alternative Press magazine’s “100 bands you need to know in 2010.” The band continued to generate buzz by getting tracks on popular shows like MTV’s “Real World” and landing slots on the 2010 Take Action Tour and Bamboozle Left.  Now, with the release of its self-titled debut, Call the Cops is undoubtedly on its way to even greater success.

    The album’s first track, “Like it Like That,” establishes a pattern found in the album as a whole as the song begins with a more subtle, unique sound and rapidly develops into a high-energy, electro pop rock track. While the first track serves as a great introduction, it pales in comparison to some of the catchier and more memorable songs on the album.  One of these is the second track, “So Over You” which perfectly contrasts an upbeat sound with dark lyrics like “I hope you drown in all the lies that you’ve been telling.”  This is followed by another notable track and a personal favorite, “White Dress” which has all the elements of a good pop song.  The track starts with mellowed down instrumentals, calling more attention to the short, but awesome harmonies and transitions into a danceable duet between the lead vocals and the pleasant surprise of females vocals.  “Shot Me Down” boasts of a catchy chorus and straight-forward lyrics like “It must suck to be you,” while “Love Like Novocaine” shows the band exploring faster rhythms and unpredictable percussion.

    Although this album lacks variety as the similarity between tracks poses difficulty distinguishing one from another, it is a fun and lighthearted display of the band’s musical style and direction.  Call the Cops will be on the Vans Warped Tour this year promoting the release of this album which comes out today. Here’s to hoping their live performance is as impressive as their debut release.

    Rating: (3.0/5)

  4. The Blue Pages’ EP Nighthawke

    May 22, 2010 by Anna

    There’s no doubt about it, The Blue Pages are definitely working hard to make themselves known.  The band’s constant touring and promotional efforts have earned them appearances with acts like Panic! At the Disco, A Rocket to the Moon, and Passion Pit as well as a few shows on the 2009 Vans Warped Tour. With such a hectic schedule, it’s a wonder they even had the time to release their new EP Nighthawke.

    This album will have you dancing or maybe just unconsciously bobbing your head to the infectious beats of every track. While their single, “Lil Mama” exudes energy and establishes the band’s lighthearted sound, I found myself more impressed by tracks like “Say it Again,” which illuminates lead singer Zac Barnett’s vocal capabilities, showing off his falsetto while maintaining the vocal intensity that drives the song.  Barnett’s display vocal range accompanies quirky lyrics like “You know I’m sensitive…but we can’t get down with our clothes on.” Another stand out was “Slow Down,” a track with an intro that is probably the most interesting ten seconds on the entire album.  However, while the song begins with a unique sound, it quickly transitions into having the same monotony in rhythm that characterizes the tracks before it.

    All the songs on this album sound so much alike, it becomes difficult to distinguish one from the other.  But whether you call it cohesive or lacking creativity, there’s no denying that this album is a fun and promising display of The Blue Pages’ musical abilities.

    Rating: (2.0/5)

  5. The Morning Benders’ album Big Echo

    May 12, 2010 by Anna

    Big Echo

    Let’s knock a few basics out of the way first: yes, this album was produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, and yes, the Grizzly Bear influence is quite obvious.  Big Echo shows The Morning Benders utilizing Grizzly Bear’s hazy, organic sound in an effort to abandon the mediocre indie rock sound that embodied their debut album.  Despite Taylor’s influence, The Morning Benders have managed to create an album that stands well on its own, allowing the band to establish its unique presence.

    Big Echo opens with “Excuses,” a track that wastes no time introducing The Benders’ dreamy, yet larger than life sound. Its brilliant layering of orchestration and vocals conjures energy enough to make it an automatic favorite.  The album continues to impress with the funky and catchy “Promises” which is memorable for its killer intro alone and later with “Wet Cement” in which the band perfectly juxtaposes sweet vocals with thumping percussion and bass lines. Just when listeners have found themselves caught in the dream-like haze induced by the previous tracks, “Cold War” changes the pace, boasting of an upbeat, feel-good sound complete with handclaps and a memorable chorus.  However, the track’s high-energy quality is short-lived as the song quickly transitions into the more tranquil half of the album.

    This latter half is undoubtedly less impressive as tracks like “Mason Jar,” “All Day Day Light,” and “Stitches” show the band losing direction, creating tracks that are more lazy than serene and lack melodies worth remembering. Despite the dragging feeling of the second half, it still contains the quirky quality that makes the album intriguing.  Tracks like “Pleasure Sighs,” which uses abrupt pauses and excellent harmonies to create depth, and “Hands Me Down” which boasts of intensity from start to finish display the band’s innovative abilities. The album closes with “Sleeping In,” a song that embodies both the big sound of the album’s first half and the tranquil sound of its second.  However, like many of the other tracks, the song transitions from quiet and dreamy to loud and distorted, making it quite predictable.

    The Morning Benders

    Despite a few misses in the second half of the album, Big Echo is a charming display of The Morning Benders’ musical direction.  Its experimental yet logically orchestrated quality establishes the band’s ability to create an organic sound while maintaining a clean presentation.  Big Echo is by no means the most brilliant work out there, but it is a commendable display of The Morning Benders’ huge potential.

    Rating: (3.5/5)

  6. Say It Twice – EP

    March 22, 2010 by Anna

    Say It Twice has had its fair share of success since the release of its Jetset Trends EP on August 2007.  It was named one of Alternative Press Magazine’s top 8 unsigned bands and top selling unsigned artist on Past tours include Warped Tour, Bamboozle, and various others with bands such as We The Kings, All Time Low, Metro Station, and plenty more.  Now Say It Twice is signed with Authentik Artists and is preparing to release its second EP on March 23, 2010, which is sure to maintain the band’s abundant flow of success.

    The album begins with “The Road You Know,” a brilliant introduction to the fervent quality in lead singer John Schaefer’s voice that establishes the earnest and lively tone encompassing the tracks that follow.  The song begins with remnants of a ballad as the quiet piano line takes backseat to emphasized vocals, however quickly escalates into an upbeat and danceable track that stresses optimism in the face of struggle.  The song transitions perfectly into “Love Learn” which contains the same fusion of pensive lyrics and upbeat sounds as piano and restrained percussion embodies the verses, contrasting with the larger than life sound of the chorus.  It serves as a clear indication of one of the band’s musical influences as the electric guitar line resembles tracks from Kings of Leon. “Speed of the Drum” is another display of Shaefer’s strong vocal abilities as his mesmerizing use of falsetto in the chorus embellishes its subtle harmonies.  However, the band’s strong qualities lay not only in its vocals, but also in its percussion as “Getaway” introduces its drum line 40 seconds into the song, creating a heart-pounding rhythm that reinforces the song’s urgent nature.  “Lies” begins with an atmospheric sound that is abruptly interrupted by high-pitched electric guitar and booming drums. It closes the album with the same subtle sound with which the song begins.

    This album is a great introduction to Say It Twice for those who have not heard its first EP and guaranteed satisfaction for those who are already fans of the L.A.-based band.  While it does lack innovation, it is an incredibly cohesive listen, displaying the band’s abilities both lyrically and musically as genuine vocals accompany lively guitars and percussion, showing that the band is definitely headed in a very promising direction.

    Rating: (3.5/5)

  7. The Rocket Summer’s album Of Men and Angels

    February 21, 2010 by Anna

    Quick, think of one thing you don’t like about The Rocket Summer…it’s okay, I’ve got nothing either. How could I have anything remotely negative to say about a band (I use that term loosely as there is only one very talented guy behind it by the name of Bryce Avary) whose past albums had titles like “Hello, Good Friend” and “Do You Feel?” Judging from the feel-good album titles alone, The Rocket Summer is not your average pop-rock band.  It aims not for fame and fortune but for a means to spread its message.  While other pop-rock acts sing about romantic relationships and heartbreak, The Rocket Summer takes a more daring approach, offering tracks about appreciating life and self-awareness.  The band aims to spread love and it does just that in Of Men and Angels, its latest album on Island Def Jam records to be released on February 23, 2010.

    I love it when I listen to a song and it changes my perspective of life in a matter of 3 or 4 minutes. I love it even more when there are other songs just like it compiled into one cohesive and well-crafted album like Of Men and Angels.  Bryce Avary truly outdid himself with this one, kicking off the record with “Roses” which boasts of excellent percussion and a larger than life energy that not only embellishes the encouraging lyrics of the track, but also establishes the album’s optimistic tone.

    The album continues to impress with the mellow “Hills and Valleys,” which initially sounds like a ballad and quickly transitions into an upbeat track that highlights Avary’s growth as a vocalist and benefits from the lighthearted feel that handclaps create.  But if this track’s gorgeous piano intro leaves you wanting to listen to something slow and sentimental, then “Walls” is the way to go.  The Rocket Summer broke my heart with this track, in a good way of course.  If not brilliant for the tear-jerking harmonies in the last minute of the song, then “Walls” is great for its perfect inclusion of strings and vocal urgency.

    However, the most memorable tracks on the album are those in which Avary shows his quirkier side.  The choir-like “oohs” and snaps that initiate “Nothing Matters” makes it an immediate favorite, but perhaps what solidifies its genius status is that it has one of the best lines in the whole album, “I know it’s not too sexy but I’m singing ‘bout the blessings we get.”  If that doesn’t get a smile out of you, then “Japanese Exchange Student” will.  A good artist is one that namedrops in a song and gets away with it, but an extraordinary artist can namedrop both Beyonce and Paul McCartney in a song and come away with a track that still has substantial meaning. While the song is lighthearted and silly with lyrics like “Be nice to the Japanese exchange student” and “I love the Japanese, those from Japan and overseas like me,” it inevitably holds a bigger message, like all the tracks on this record, to be accepting of others in general.  How he managed to teach a moral lesson through such unusual means is beyond me, but that is the genius of it.

    This album isn’t much different from The Rocket Summer’s previous work, but I suppose it’s as the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” While it does have more spiritual and introspective influences, Of Men and Angels stays true to The Rocket Summer’s lively and optimistic style and shows that growth without abandoning musical and lyrical roots is possible.  The Rocket Summer is all about feeling good and spreading love, so it goes without saying that I love the good feeling that I get from this album and you will too.

    Rating: (4.5/5)

  8. Vampire Weekend’s album Contra

    January 25, 2010 by Anna

    Vampire Weekend - Contra

    Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut album was an unexpected success, selling almost 500,000 copies and catapulting the band to popularity in both mainstream and indie circles.  Fans embraced the New York band’s educated play on words and raw instrumentation, commending its innovative sound. However, with every successful debut album comes high expectations for the next and a threatening “sophomore slump.” While many bands have fallen back into oblivion after disappointing follow-up releases, Vampire Weekend’s Contra only solidifies the band’s undeniable appeal. Contra recently debuted at No.1 on Billboard’s top 200 after its release on January 12, 2010 on XL Records, a well-deserved achievement for a well-crafted album.

    Contra is intriguingly absurd.  It thrives on juxtaposition, fusing African rhythms and electronic effects, auto-tune and orchestration, and ballad and high energy in a way that is simply genius. The first track, “Horchata” introduces the African/Caribbean rhythmic theme of the entire album. This percussion also plays a large role in  “Run,” and “Diplomat’s Son.”

    There is no doubt about this album’s absurdity after being taken on the adventurously odd ride that is “California English.” The band takes huge risks in this song, combining auto-tuned vocals and orchestration with an African/electronic background that makes the entire song so bizarre you can’t help but listen again.  Another repeat-worthy track is “Giving Up the Gun” which pleasantly integrates female vocals and displays improvement in the overall production quality of Contra in comparison to their debut release.

    Vampire Weekend

    This album has several highlights, but there are a few songs that require more than a couple listens to really enjoy such as “Holiday,” “I Think Ur a Contra,” and the album’s first single, “Cousins.”  While the music video for “Cousins” perfectly personifies its funky and frantically energetic style, it took quite a while for me to notice and appreciate the song’s excellent bass line and unusual percussion.

    Despite this, Contra is impeccable.  It is strange and confusing in all the right ways, beneficially worldly and daring, and excitingly unpredictable.  Contra successfully displays Vampire Weekend’s growth in both its musical and technical abilities, showing that, for this band, there is no such thing as a “sophomore slump.”

    Rating: (4.5/5)

  9. The Summer Set’s album Love Like This

    January 16, 2010 by Anna

    Arizona, pop-rock band The Summer Set released their debut album, Love Like This, on October 13, 2009 on the label Razor and Tie after self-releasing two EP’s while in high school. Brian Dales (vocals), Jess Bowen (drums), Josh Montgomery (guitar) and brothers John (guitar) and Stephen (bass) Gomez successfully express their fun and light-hearted approach to music with an album loaded with energetic pop beats that will undoubtedly make you nostalgic for your carefree, drunken high school days.

    Although I was admittedly a skeptic about having to listen to yet another 5-piece, teenage, power-pop band with whiny vocals, “The Boys You Do (Get Back at You)” was a pleasant surprise.  Setting a lively tone for the entire album, this first track is an irresistible fusion of opposites – Dales threatens to “go to sleep with all your friends” and vengefully warns about “the monsters in your bed,” amusingly contrasted by the peppy musical accompaniment. However, listener beware: the chorus can and will get stuck in your head. Listen at your own risk.

    While the band is successful at maintaining the energy from the first track throughout the album, some songs are predictable and have a Jonas Brothers quality about them. Chief among these are “Passenger Seat” and “Chelsea” (which was written about actress Chelsea Staub from the show, Jonas – how’s that for irony?).  This could pose as a bonus or total turn-off depending on your personal preferences, but the songs are worth a listen or two regardless.

    One of this album’s highlights is “Young,” which pays homage to young hopeless romantics everywhere.  The band provides an infectious musical backbone to lyrics like, “If I’m Romeo and you’re Juliet, as long as I’m breathing I’ll love you to death” which successfully captures the exaggerated nature of teenage love.

    The last track, “Where Are You Now?” is a brilliant end to an album full of high-energy, power-pop sounds.  A duet with Meg&Dia singer, Dia Frampton, this ballad is a beautiful and impressive expression of raw talent.  The maturity and soothing quality of Frampton’s vocals evokes the same in that of Dales’, making the dialogue between the singers convincing and believable. Subtle harmonies throughout and a dreamlike interlude at 3:10 display the simple nature of the song as a whole, showing that the band is capable of more than just guitar-heavy pop-rock.

    While not the most innovative album to hit the shelves, Love Like This is a genuine display of The Summer Set’s optimistic approach to music.  With tracks about falling in love , embracing your youth and life in general, this album is road-trip ready and a promising start for the Arizona band.

    Rating: (3.0/5)