Sunday, October 30, 2011

November 1 Releases, 2011

By: Cassie Whitt, Blogs Editor

In this installment of ACRN's Drop It Like It's Hot, blogs editor Cassie will check out some things she's never given a chance in the past.

First on the testing table is Hit The Lights: a band known in my mind as one of the "highlighter generation." One whose fans could be found in neon-splattered clothes scrawled with large, block lettering journeying across Warped Tour parking lots over the past couple years.

Some would argue that my propensity toward black drives me away from such bands, but I argue this: These newer pop-punk bands, for me, offer nothing that is actually new. I can point to examples in the past which they echo, and I just can't get into a re-hashing of the same thing that I liked and perceived as better then.

Perhaps, if I hadn't grown up with bands like The Starting Line and Brand New (circa 2001), I could have a better appreciation for something like Hit The Lights' new EP, Invicta.

Still, it was not an unpleasant listen and I'm glad I gave it a chance. It has everything a good pop-punk EP should have: catchy choruses, a higher-than-usual male vocal, a couple mellow breakdowns and sing-along quality.

I may give Hit The Lights more chances after getting a taste through the Invicta EP.

The second chance I gave this week was to The Decemberists, because I know they hold a special place in editorial director Kevin Rutherford's heart. This week, they release Long Live The King, yet another EP, this one of b-sides from The King Is Dead, which came out earlier this year.

Immediately, I was struck by the title of the first track: "E. Watson." I could only hope it meant beloved Hermione Granger actress and fashionista Emma Watson. My hopes were naïve, I suppose.

The Decemberists reak of PBR, teardrops in dirty beards, slow-motion civil war reenactments and mountainsides: a strangely comforting combination. I get the appeal, but I don't want it for myself. I just wouldn't mind being surrounded by it from time to time when I need a nap.

Chance three of the week goes to Girl in a Coma because they are on Blackheart Records, so I assume they have to be at least a little bad-ass. Exits And All The Rest is a tad on the sleepy side for me, though more up-beat than the aforementioned EP.

The album, with its old-fashioned feeling and smooth alto lady vocals, does nothing remarkable for me. It just kind of makes me want to start a rad, more exciting band of my own here in Athens.

Who's down?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October 25 Releases, 2011

By: Chris Dobstaff, News Editor

It’s almost time for Halloween; so, let’s see what’s in the goodie bag of new releases this week. There’s definitely a mixture of tricks, as well as some stellar treats.

Let’s start with one of the tastiest of treats of the year. Justice, an electronic duo from France, just released its second studio album Audio, Video, Disco. I’ve only tasted a brief sample of the album, but even I, more a fan of straight rock, cannot deny that this album has some serious kick. Everyone get ready to hear Audio, Video, Disco at house parties for the remainder of the year.

We also saw the release of the new Coldplay album, Mylo Xyloto. Is it true that Coldplay is one of the lamest bands on Earth? Probably. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some “Clocks” every now and then.

How will the band’s fifth album stand up? The first single, “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall,” not only is home to a classic cheesy Coldplay title, but is also utterly unexciting. Overall, reviews have been a mixed bag, but we should all indulge ourselves in “Princess of China,” just to hear Coldplay and Rihanna together at last. Cause that’s really what we’ve always wanted, right?

The legendary Tom Waits also returned with his first batch of studio material since 2004 with Bad As Me. The 61-year-old singer-songwriter has backed up his 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction with another great album. Just go listen to “Get Lost” and try to fight the urge to listen to the rest of the album. Stay on the look out for Amanda Norris’ upcoming review of the record. That girl loves her some Tom Waits.

Our very own Editorial Director Kevin Rutherford reviewed My Brightest Diamond’s All Things Will Unwind this week. The guy generally picks everything to pieces, but he actually gave the disc a positive review. I’d say that just about gives me reason to check it out.

She & Him took on some classic holiday tunes with A Very She & Him Christmas. I have to be honest with you guys, though. I’m about fed up with Zooey Deschanel’s cuteness. I just can’t take it anymore! Am I the only one here? Also, Christmas albums are generally boring, and seeing as the band’s second studio album bored me to tears, I can’t imagine this little collection of songs to be much different.

Michael Bublé also released a Christmas album! Skip that one too.

In fact, here’s a little piece of advice: Unless the Christmas album is by Elvis or Fats Domino, steer clear of it. (Fats Domino has the greatest holiday collection of all time. Real talk, you guys.)

Brian Wilson released In The Key of Disney, an album of the Beach-Boys-legend's singing songs from “You Got a Friend in Me” to “Heigh-Ho.” I haven’t heard any of Wilson’s newer material, but I’m a sucker for some Disney classics. Count me in.

Lastly, Deer Tick released Divine Providence. Though they sound like a dirty southern band, the group actually hails from Rhode Island. Lead singer John McCauley’s raspy-yet-powerful voice is just what one want at the head of one's rock band. Deer Tick gives you the southern rock the Kings of Leon did prior to recording “Use Somebody.” It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but it’s still a lot of fun to get down and dirty with some root-sy rock.

That’s about it. No real spooktacular albums coming out, but for the love of God can we stop releasing Christmas albums before we trick-or-treat?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 18 Releases, 2011

By: Kevin Rutherford

If you've followed this blog for more than a few weeks, you know that when it comes to new music, there are good weeks and there are not-so-good weeks.

This week could probably be considered one of the latter; though, it's not due to the quality of the music presented, per se. The main issue is the selection.

Some weeks are crazy in terms of releases. Intense. Much to choose from. Like when three or four blockbuster films release on the same weekend. You just don't know where to begin.

This week, the path to take is quite clear. Start with M83.

The electronic dream pop act from France returns with their first record since 2008's acclaimed Saturdays = Youth. In fact, off that record, the song "Kim & Jessie" was ranked at No. 256 on Pitchfork's 500 Best Songs of the 2000s. High expectations? You bet. Did it live up to them? Check back with later in the week to find out.

The next stop is with Jane's Addiction. Yeah, right, that Jane's Addiction. Who on earth knows how it happened, but the '90s icons are back with a new record, The Great Escape Artist. For those keeping score at home, it's their first record since 2003 and only their second since 1990.

Let's just say that the reception to the new album hasn't been too positive. Check out Staff Writer Sam Boyer's review of the album for further details. And she's a '90s freak, so you know you have an expert on the genre talking here.

Everlast, formerly of '90s rap act House of Pain, continues to try to reclaim the success of "What It's Like" with Songs of the Ungrateful Living. When Everlast is the third largest artist I mention this week, you know things aren't going well.

Family Force 5 keeps trying to make crunk rock happen with III. If the first single, "Wobble," is any indication, you'll be listening to this record purely to have something to laugh at for your next party. Any song that takes a term commonly used in American dubstep and applies it to music that is decidedly not dubstep is just asking for it. Granted, the term "wobble" has other connotations, but let's think in terms of the modern day here.

Plus, these lyrics:
"Scenie babies/ Throwback 'cedes/ Bleach-blonde hair and your neon shadies/ Skinny jeans/ Know what I mean/ Roll the red carpet out the limousine."

What the actual fuck?

No, you know what, that's it. I'm done. Humanity is over. I just can't deal with music anymore.

I'm sorry, Kentucky Headhunters, Casting Crowns, Bond, Kimya Dawson, My Brightest Diamond and Patrick Stump. I just... I can't do this anymore. I quit.

Friday, October 14, 2011

October 11 Album Releases, 2011

By: Scott Smith, Album Reviews Editor

A Radiohead release could be considered the biggest release of the year, let alone a given week. But TKOL Remixes 1234567, a series of reinterpretations of the band’s latest release, The King of Limbs. Ironically, the album that I personally criticized for being too short is packed with material from some of the electronic music worlds brightest rising stars including Caribou, and Jamie xx (of The XX.)

A similar endeavor was embarked upon for Caribou’s most recent album, Swim, and garnered fantastic results. Radiohead themselves seem to be overseeing, or at least, embracing the project as they always have in the past like their “Nude” remix contest from a few years back. This time their throwing a party featuring many of the DJ’s on the album and Thom Yorke himself will be spinning for the enjoyment of the lucky attendees.

The album is up and streaming right here and after listening to a few tracks, I can definitively say it’s a fun mix. Caribou made a boring song in “Little By Little” a raucous and bombastic track, but my favorite track was the remix of the new age Brazilian samba “Feral” by Lone, someone I’ve never heard of before this moment.

That’s the best part about these kind of releases: Discovering new artists--there are usually so many up and comers.

Strangely again, the second biggest release of the week might not even be a full-length album, but an EP. That may sound peculiar, especially if you aren’t familiar with the kind of work James Blake can produce on an extended play.

Blake, one of the biggest critical darlings of 2011, assaulted the web late last year with a three EPs, that revealed his large scope of abilities in recording techniques. Each EP was Blake in a specific mindset--a showcase of how well he could work within different genres to create something entirely his own. He’s now already being coined as the father of post-dubstep, a movement away from the grimy bass-rattling that has flooded our speakers over the past two years or so.

Blake’s newest EP, Enough Thunder, was met with the loftiest of expectations. Among the six tracks is a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” Arguably Blake’s most quintessentially James Blake tune is his heartbreaking, drowning cover of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love,” so this only made the hype more unbearable. Luckily the beautiful piano ballad is a highlight.

To only up expectations and ‘indie cred’ of the work, Enough Thunder also includes “Fall Creek Boys Choir” featuring the only person critics are drooling over this year more than Blake: Bon Iver. Maybe I’m crazy, but Blake’s uninspired production on the track does nothing to aid Bon Iver’s layered, effectually smooth growling. Listen for yourself here, but I can only surmise this EP as a dud that got swallowed by its own hype.

Those are the biggies, but there are still some other releases that may tickle your fancy. The first release from Future Islands drops this week. They’ve received some buzz on the web recently, most likely because their name is Future Islands. Peter Gabriel still refuses to act like a normal human being, and that’s fine with me. The former Genesis front-man is releasing his own, orchestral, remix album of his own solo material.

Lastly though is a welcoming release from everyone’s favorite whistler, Andrew Bird. No it’s a not gorgeous homogeneous mixture of classical violin with contemporary music sensibilities (and of course, some whistling), it’s a soundtrack for the upcoming low budget black comedy/ drama Norman.

The film centers around Norman, a high school student who lost his mother and now must live with the reality of life's being just him and his stomach-cancer-ravaged father. Sounds like it’ll contain some of the great black, morbid humor I love (Louis C.K. is my hero) before switching to a heartfelt drama about growing up and living with what life deals you.

This sort of premise sounds tailor-made for Andrew Bird, a musician who can switch from the light and whimsical to dark and emotional as quick as a whistle (sorry for the pun, I’ve been trolling Reddit a lot lately.)

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for next week’s post, which should be spectacular with all the great albums coming out.

Monday, October 3, 2011

October 4 Album Releases, 2011

By: Carolyn Menyes, Interviews and Live Reviews Editor

We're back again dropping it like it's hot here at ACRN. New school year, new season, new music. So, let's see what Rocktober 4 has to offer in terms of album releases!

First up is Feist's fourth studio album, Metals. Homegirl has had a few hits in her day, including "1234" (as seen in all those commercials circa 2007) and "Mushaboom," which I think has been covered by just about every other indie musician out there. Metals' first single, "How Come You Never Go There," is a typical lady singer-songwriter jam with a sleepy feel. If October continues to be as gray as it has been thus far, and this single indicates the rest of the album's sound, I feel like it's a good fit for fall.

Now, I'm not of the punky persuasion and consequently not the most qualified to discuss these next three albums. But! those who are will be quite pleased with what this week has to offer.

Mayday Parade are releasing their eponymous third album, New Found Glory are performing some Radiosurgery and The Misfits are coming out with their seventh record, The Devil's Rain. (That last one has such a delightful pun; let's just appreciate that for a moment.)

I listened to the lead single, "Oh Well, Oh Well," off of Mayday Parade, and it seems like a technically solid pop-punk record. Bands and songs like these always remind me of those dudes who wore Etnies and carried around their skateboards when I was in the seventh grade, and I bet this album will please their demographic. Let's shred, guys! (And make fun of that grunge girl. Sigh, middle school is rough.)

According to an impressively thorough Wikipedia article on Radiosurgery, the latest New Found Glory took a page from Adele's success book and wrote a record based on "lyrics [that] were directly inspired by events in the bands personal lives, after one member suffered a long-term relationship break-up." But, I guess maybe that's just music in general. Heart break = best inspiration.

And like I said, I'm not the biggest fan of this genre, but all this music sounds the same to me. I honestly thought New Found Glory sang "Sugar, We're Going Down," and when I started playing the title track off Radiosurgery, my dear roommate swore it was Simple Plan. Am I being offensive? Probably. But, whatever. This is nothing we haven't heard before. Let's be creative and original for once, pop-punkers of the world!

Even though I tend to lump them in the same category as Mayday Parade and NFG, The Misfits single "Land of the Dead" off The Devil's Rain is refreshingly different from the last two bands I discussed. And I know fans of this band are intense and won't care about what some Bright Eyes fan has to say about it. But, it's spooky and hardcore and it makes me want to hide in a corner. So, it seems like it's effective.

Mutemath is also releasing their third record, Odd Soul, this week. I listened to the title track (there's a trend to my research, if you can't tell), and it's little bluesy, a teeny electo and even a smidge sexy. I am more comfortable with this music. I'll most likely check this disc out more in depth here soon.

For all those socially-conscious girls (who may or may not dig girls) out there, Indigo Girls are releasing their fourteenth studio album, Beauty Queen Sister. Let's go to Lilith Fair, ladies! We can make a difference.

Finally, and most comedic, Erasure are releasing an album, Tomorrow's World. They did that song that's in Robot Unicorn Attack, and that's all you need to know.

So, sorry to punk fans out there, but you wounded my spirit when I was 12, and I will not forgive you (or your music).

Until next time, if they let me do this again, it's been real.