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Archive for October, 2008

Album Review: New Surrender

by on Oct.27, 2008, under Album Reviews

Anberlin has been known for their driving beats and melodies that are impossible to forget. Because of this, many expectations were placed on the band for their fourth album, New Surrender. Although the change in their sound was significant from their previous albums, few fans will be disappointed with New Surrender.

The album starts quickly with “The Resistance.” The fast, palm-muted guitars and fast beat that start the song in typical Anberlin fashion is a promising introduction to the rest of the album. The album continues to progress with a wide variety of song styles. Anberlin fans will love the second song on the album, “Breaking,” which sounds like it could have been directly off of Anberlin’s previous album, Cities. A change Anberlin has incorporated in their music is a larger use of synthesizers, which can be heard on almost all tracks, and is highlighted on “Disappear” and “Haight Street.” Unlike most of Anberlin’s previous music, many songs on New Surrender have a dance beat to them, especially “Blame Me” and “Haight Street.” Another notable track is a redone, harder version of “Feel Good Drag,” originally found on their second album, Never Take Friendship Personal.

Although many bands are able to write lyrics that sound beautiful and poetic, Anberlin does so while still having meaning. The varieties of topics in the songs are about as diverse as the songs themselves. A few songs like “Younglife” remember good times shared with friends and lovers. “Breaking” describes a girl who is skilled at breaking hearts and probably has had much previous experience. Many songs are about living for something more, as is the case with “Disappear” and “Burn Out Brighter (Northern Lights).” Only a few songs, like “The Resistance,” are difficult to pick out meaning.

New Surrender remembers the past and hopes for the future. Relationships, ambitions and life fill the album from start to finish in a remarkable musical work. Although Anberlin has changed their sound slightly, the end product is worth every minute. Full of unforgettable melodies and thought-provoking lyrics, New Surrender is sure to be a favorite of both fans of Anberlin’s previous albums and those who have never heard of them before. This album is highly recommended for fans of Paramore, Emery, Dashboard Confessional and Self Against City.

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Album Review: Stay Positive

by on Oct.27, 2008, under Album Reviews

The Hold Steady are often compared to Bruce Springsteen. Lead singer Craig Finn’s gruff voice, coupled with the pervasive drum patterns and powerful guitar and piano solos, which are common in Hold Steady albums, make this comparison very apt. The band, which has roots in the Twin Cities, even discusses the same sort of American themes which Springsteen made his forte. However, in this regard, The Hold Steady does more than Springsteen ever could. This is particularly apparent in their newest album, Stay Positive.

The album begins with “Constructive Summer,” an upbeat song that undulates between being The Hold Steady’s apparent take on punk music and a classic rock ballad. The former of these seems to be validated in the song’s lyrics, which make references to Iggy Pop and The Clash. The song’s upbeat rhythms and guitar solos make both a good introduction for the rest of the album and a good introduction to The Hold Steady’s overall style.

The second track, “Sequestered in Memphis,” deserves being the album’s single. Although, musically, key elements of The Hold’s Steady’s music pervades the song, lyrically, the impact of band influences John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats and poet Jim Carroll becomes clear. It tells the story of a man who appears to have had some sort of affair with a fugitive. It tells this story from the point of view of the man being interviewed by a lawyer at trial. Not only does it tell the story very well in only two verses, it also demonstrates the man’s frustrated feelings at being interviewed. The second verse ends, “Well look, what the hell, I’ll tell my story again,” which perfectly explains how the man – and many people in his situation – feel.

The whole album is full of these sorts of interesting and well-told stories. However, it’s not simply a lyric-heavy album, full of verbose and abstract sentiments. Anyone who’s a fan of classic rock will certainly be satisfied by Hold Steady’s music. Some of the songs also have more modern sounds. “Navy Sheets,” for example, contains guitar riffs which could very well have been written by Radiohead. The album also contains beautifully orchestrated ballads, such as “Lord, I’m Discouraged,” which has empathy-producing piano segments and “Slapped Actress,” which ends with efficacious use of a small choir. Other highlights include “Stay Positive” and “Magazines.”

The only problem which presents itself in the album is that many of the songs are very similar. In order to easily differentiate between songs on the album, a more than casual listen must be undertaken. Aside from that, the album is fun and upbeat and it contains extremely pertinent selections of wisdom addressing the difficulties of life along with well-crafted ironies related to life. The album is many things, depending on the mood of the listener. Sometimes it’s simply a good, upbeat set of music. Other times, it feels didactic. Sometimes, it is even darkly humorous. And occasionally, it is all of these, and more, presenting an excellent and diverse album.

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Album Review: The End is Not the End

by on Oct.06, 2008, under Album Reviews

Background:

Two years ago, House of Heroes released Say No More, which was a re-release of their self-titled album from 2005. After three seemingly endless years, they emerged with a fantastic album incorporating 14 tracks, an intro track, a hidden track, and an additional band member. House of Heroes started in 2002 when the band No Tagbacks renamed their group. The name change was meant to convey the band’s new approach. House of Heroes has since toured with other prominent pop-rock bands such as Relient K and MxPx and has consistently written and recorded catchy, unforgettable tunes.

Favorite Song:

“Field of Daggers” begins with a military cadence and takes on a somewhat eerie style. The chorus picks up with a driving rock beat that once again melds into the mystical feel on the next verse. Harmonies reign, the guitar elevates the track to its crescendo and after a brief suspension. Finally, the track ends with another series of rock riffs. Directly after the main part of the song, there is an instrumental section that forgoes vocals and lets the slow serenity deepen the sense of awe provided by the track.

Forgettable Song:

“The Young and the Brutal”, the hidden track on the album, immediately follows “Field of Daggers” and is a somewhat poor ending to this fantastic record. The punk-rock style seems out of place after the drama and emotion of the preceding track. It is not a bad track, but one that is out of place in the album and one that takes away from the prominence of the previous track, “Field of Daggers”.

In Closing:

The pop-rock genre has been in a rut in recent years with albums sounding more alike and lyrics remaining shallow. Out of the mire, The End is Not the End has arisen. Freshness emanates from the album that speaks endlessly of war and peace, love and hate. Offering perspectives from both sides of this moral debate, “By Your Side” claims there is honor in serving one’s country, fighting the enemy until death, but “Baby’s a Red” demands not only loving one’s own blood but also loving the enemy, describing a man’s love for a Communist. The depth of this album is staggering. The End is Not the End offers an almost magical blend of rock driven beats and an insatiable desire to question long held beliefs. This album will make you think and will make you listen again and again. It is that good.

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Album Review: Way To Normal

by on Oct.06, 2008, under Album Reviews

Throughout his career, Ben Folds has written clever piano-pop-ballads. During his time with the Ben Folds Five, his songs focused on the ironic side of growing up. After he broke free of that group, his style matured and his songs became much more somber. However, throughout the entire time, his ability to match his music to his words was uncanny. Folds had seemingly mastered songwriting, in both his lyrical and musical content. On his new album, Way to Normal, he fails on both accounts.

The album certainly has moments of promise. The single, “You Don’t Know Me,” features fellow piano-ballad aficionado Regina Spektor and is a spectacular song. The track, which tells an interesting story (of a long-together couple who realize they don’t truly know each other at all) possesses an interesting and uncommon rhythm and an endearing melody. A number of songs, in fact, are quite good. “Free Coffee” presents a surprisingly personal story involving his recent divorce, as well a commentary on some social ills. Musically, “Free Coffee” is a break from Folds’s standard fare, but he presents an electronic-beat-heavy song very well.

Unfortunately, despite the three or four songs which recall Ben Folds of old, there are a number in which Folds simply does not deliver. The first track on the album, “Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head)” tells the story of a time Folds was performing in Japan, when he slipped and hit his head. One of Folds’s greatest talents is his storytelling – his ability to tell a complex story, and convince the listener of its sincerity, without being overly literary. In “Hiroshima,” Folds tells an unimportant, simple story, to no effect. Further, the song relies on pop tricks and hooks which are much too simple and ineffective to be done by such a prolific songwriter.

Many Ben Folds songs are immediate classics. They linger in the heads of listeners like an unwanted relative – long after it seems necessary. Some songs – “The Frown Song,” “You Don’t Know Me,” and “Cologne” – keep with this tradition. However, for most of the album, Folds sounds like he’s trying too hard, with unnecessary musical embellishments, lacking the subtle jabs at life which proliferate the rest of his work. Folds seems to have finally turned into the angst-filled type of person he makes fun of in so many songs. In the song “Rockin’ the Suburbs,” Folds claims to “be all alone in [his] white-boy pain.” In Way to Normal, it seems like he’s been alone too long.

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Concert Review: Green River Ordinance at CSM Homecoming 2008

by on Oct.06, 2008, under Concert Reviews

Friday night, as the sun began to set and the Homecoming field events wrapped up, the M on Mount Zion began slowly

Green River Ordinance, Courtesy Andrew Ferguson, www.andrewferguson.net

Green River Ordinance, Courtesy Andrew Ferguson, www.andrewferguson.net

flickering on, as it had done for decades. However, Friday night was different. After a few quick speeches from members of Blue Key and Golden Mayor Jacob Smith, the dull yellow lights disappeared as the bright white light of energy-efficient LEDs began to shine. According to Blue Key, the old bulbs cost approximately $2300 a year to maintain, while the new LED bulbs will only cost around $180.

Following the ceremony was the Homecoming concert, which featured Ft. Worth, Texas band Green River Ordinance (GRO). After dropping out of college during their senior year, the members of GRO set out to follow their dreams of a becoming successful with music. Jamey Ice, GRO’s guitarist, said “We were going to take a year off and our parents said ‘We’ll give you one year, and if you don’t get a record deal you have to go back to school.’ That year it worked out really well, we sold a bunch of records, toured the country and signed to Capitol Records last October.”

As a band that lists the likes of Jimmy Eat World, U2, Matchbox 20 and Third Eye Blind as their influences, Green River OrdinanceO lived up to expectations that night. Their set started off slowly, and after playing a mellow opening

The M switches over, Courtesy Andrew Ferguson, www.andrewferguson.net

The M switches over, Courtesy Andrew Ferguson, www.andrewferguson.net

song, the band invited the crowd to gather in and enjoy the show. As the night cooled off, the crowd warmed up. Green River Ordinance played through a number of catchy tunes and even threw in a cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” toward the end of the set.

After playing for nearly an hour and a half, the concert was over. “I thought the show was pretty cool,” said Ryan Hild, “It was nice and relaxed; the band played well.” Other CSM students shared Hild’s sentiments. “I thought it was totally awesome,” said Drew Meyer, “I thought they had a really crisp, clean sound and I really liked listening to them.”

Green River Ordinance plans on touring the east coast in the near future, then supporting their record, which comes out in February 2009.

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