Archive | May, 2013

Gin Blossoms – Congradulations… I’m Sorry

21 May

The Gin Blossoms were a jangle pop band that had a very successful breakthrough album, New Miserable Experience with highly successful singles like “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You” that are still played on the radio today. After a very successful album, the Gin Blossoms went back into the studio to try and churn out another hit album.

While this album gained platinum status and had the hit single “Follow You Down”, this album doesn’t have as much of a punch as the previous. There are a handful of solid tracks on this album, but it feels like there is only a handful of great songs mixed together with a bunch of filler tracks. The first half of the album was pretty good, but the second half was a bit lackluster and felt like they sort of half-assed it so they could have enough tracks to make a full album instead of a solid EP.

This album also doesn’t feel like much of a progression from the previous album either. Instead of building up on their sound that they progressed between their first and second album, this feels like they were trying to play safe with the sound they established on New Miserable Experience and not go a bit farther with their sound, or try something new.

Grungie’s Rating: 3/5

Green Day – 1039 Smoothed Out/Slappy Hours

18 May

1039 Smoothed Out/Slappy Hours gets labeled by a lot of people as Green Day’s first album, but it’s a compilation of their early works. It contains the entirety of their first album, 39/Smooth, so in a sense they’re partially correct, but it also contains their early EPS like Slappy and 1000 Hours (hence the mashup of all their names into this compilation).

The Green Day we’re familiar with now sounds a lot different than how they did on this compilation. It’s missing the snottyness of Dookie, the complexity of American Idiot (well complex for Green Day standards), and the maturity featured in Nimrod and Warning. The album is still rough around the edges in many places, and while not a bad album, it’s also not very great either with nothing that really stands out. At this point in their career, it’s strange to see how these guys started a punk revival in the mainstream and having several multi-platinum albums.

Like I stated earlier, it’s not a terrible album, but it’s not great either. Most of the songs are pretty similar to each other and many of the songs are a bunch of sappy love songs. While there are a few songs that are catchy and have some very singalong choruses, nothing really gives you much of a lasting impression. Musically, it’s more happy go lucky than their later stuff, especially the darker sound of Insomniac. Probably the biggest difference between the Green Day most of us are familiar with and this Green Day is the guitar solos. While these guitar solos are fairly well written, they don’t really help make the rest of the songs stand out or make them any better. This album is really for those who are big Green Day fans and want a taste of their sound before they were famous.

Grungie’s Rating: 3/5

Daft Punk- Random Access Memories

16 May

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Random Access Memories is Daft Punk’s first album in eight years (unless the Tron Legacy official score is to be counted), being announced just months before its official release. The French house duo have abandoned their almost strictly electronic style of past albums, this time opting to use more live instruments and featuring a number of guest performers.  The trademark synthesisers and vocoders remain present, but drum machines have been replaced with live drums on all but two tracks, and the closer is the only track to feature sampling.

The album is a tribute to American funk and dance music of the 1970s and 80s, but elements of French house music can still be heard. Nevertheless, fans of Daft Punk’s more straightforward electronic dance anthems may be disappointed. This does not mean the album is not danceable. The album is incredibly easy to dance to as with their past works (if not more so), but this time around things are more complex. On average, these tracks are at a slower tempo, utilising string instrumentation, and for many, may lack the ‘edge’ that the duo’s famous hits have. Other fans will more readily embrace the change. Random Access Memories, while still certainly sounding like Daft Punk, is a well-executed step in a new direction.

The disco influence is easy to enjoy, even for someone not usually a fan of disco. The album flows smoothly for the most part, and the guest performers are evenly placed, the strongest performances by Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder, and Paul Williams.

The album’s major downfall is its length. The album feels twenty minutes too long, with some tracks feeling like filler or redundant.  “The Game of Love” and “Within” serve the same purpose, so only one of these feels necessary. “Beyond” and “Motherboard” are two slow paced tracks placed back-to-back, a decision that renders at least one of these tracks tiresome. The album’s sound is pleasing but there simply isn’t enough variation to justify seventy-four minutes of music.

The highlight’s do more than just save the album though. Funk oriented “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Get Lucky” are standouts, along with “Giorgio by Moroder”, “Touch”, and album closer “Contact”. There are moments that hint at Daft Punk’s more electronic house oriented works- and the funk and disco influences are even more apparent on this album- but as a whole, the album offers a much welcomed change in the duo’s music.

carlcockatoo‘s rating: 4/5

Jeremy Enigk – Return of the Frog Queen

13 May

 

Jeremy Enigk is the lead singer and one of the guitarists in the seminal Emo/Post-Hardcore band, Sunny Day Real Estate, and is cited as one of the biggest influences for the genre of Emo. Their first album, Diary, was critically acclaimed and they recorded their follow up album not long after. Sadly there were tensions between the members and they disbanded before the album was released, but luckily their label, Sub Pop, released their second album untitled, but is commonly known as either LP2, or as a self-titled release. After their breakup, Enigk decided to record his first solo album and this is what came out.

This album bares little resemblance to Sunny Day Real estate’s first two albums, so if you’re looking for a continuation of Diary and LP2, then look the other way. This has a much more mellow sound than the SDRE albums, and incorporates either an acoustic guitar, or an electric on a clean setting backed up by orchestral instrumentation with a more or less style of chamber music creating the baroque pop sound that encompasses this album.

The sound of Return of the Frog Queen has a much more personal and intimate feeling than the Sunny Day Real Estate’s more angst ridden work, and this is really evident in songs like “Lewis Hollow” and “Call Me Stream”. Despite the album having an overall mellow sound,  Enigk doesn’t fall trap like many artists where all of the songs kind of have the feeling of everything sounding the same. Many of the songs in Return of the Frog Queen features a diversity of sounds ranging the mellow solo acoustic and vocal performance of  “Lewis Hollow” to the buildup and climax of emotion with “Shade and the Black Hat” which starts off with intense piano driven riff and the orchestra slowly builds up the entire song by adding more instrumentation as the song continues.

Probably the only complaint of this album is the short running time of 29:27 and you sometimes get the feeling of wanting more with its short tracklist and some of the songs being relatively short, but it seems that it works to the album’s advantage by getting to the point instead of beating around the bush like many similar relatively slow paced albums seem to do. Enigk has decided that it was much better to sacrifice length for quality.

Grungie’s Rating: 5/5

The Antlers – In the Attic of the Universe

1 May

At this point, The Antlers were still a solo project of Peter Silberman. While his first album Uprooted was a straight up folk album, In the Attic of the Universe still has some folk aspects, but expands it more by adding aspects of dream pop which, as to its name suggests, gives the album a dreamy and euphoric feel and gives it a comforting and relaxing feeling when listening to it from front to back.

Coinsiding with the dreamy nature of this album, there isn’t a ton of energy of this album, which isn’t a bad thing since Silberman has worked a way to prevent you from being bored through this by keeping much of the relaxing slower-paced songs short and to the point. With only 8 tracks and at 26 mins, you get a feeling of wanting more when the album is over, and it is possible that this album could have been made even better if there were a few extra songs added to give it a more complete feeling.

The reoccurring theme of this album is being fascinated with the vastness of the universe, with many of the lyrics reflecting either looking up at the sky, or the feeling of being lost. This is accompanied by Silberman’s vocals that range from standard singing, to whispering, or wailing falsetto. Though much of the album focuses on the instrumental parts, with either full on instrumental songs, or songs that focus a lot on the instrumental sections. The album flows seamlessly with many of the songs leading into each other, and has a reoccurring riff that shows up in many of the songs, with the final track being a sort of reprise of the opening song.

Despite the short running time and slight feeling of incompleteness, Silberman gives us a much more expanded sound of his previous album, many of which becomes incorporated in his third effort as a band with the critically acclaimed Hospice, but this album is great at giving you an idea of what’s to come.

Grungie’s rating: 4/5