Category Archives: Rock n’ Roll

Chasing Tail

Well it’s been awhile hasn’t it? I’d like to say I have an excuse — like taking 18 hours of intensive writing courses and doing publicity for more than one artist — but really those don’t hold up in court because I’ve been out of school for over a month. Honestly, it’s been so long that when I logged onto WordPress I was surprised to see that my blog was still getting steady views.

The truth is, I work a shit ton and I’m just tired and these posts take time. But I’m back, and I’m here to stay (but you’ve heard that before, haven’t you?).

For my millionth debut, I bring you yet another from The Bottlemen.

Album: The Ride
Artist: Catfish and the Bottlemen

The Ride

Since all of you have been longtime readers, you know that I’ve written about CATB before, sometime in early 2015. They had released their album only a few months prior at that point and were touring the States for what I believe was the first time.

My how times have changed.

Now they’re back in the States and they’re bigger and better than they were last time, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This isn’t a live review. This is an album review.

Catfish and the Bottlemen released their sophomore album, The Ride, just last month on May 27, this time with Capitol Records. It’s another short album — only about 40 minutes long — and it managed to peak at number 1 on the Official U.K. Albums Chart. Here in the states, it peaked at 28 on the Billboard 200, which is about a hundred places higher than their debut.

All in all, I’m not totally sure what I was expecting from CATB the second time around, but somehow I think they managed to both deliver and disappoint at the same time. I’m not saying it’s a bad album, but things have certainly changed.

I feel like this is a good point to mention that Dave Sardy produced The Ride. This small tidbit of information honestly confused me a little. Sardy has worked with everyone — including The Bottlemen’s heroes, Oasis — but this particular piece of production was actually quite disappointing.

Catfish, for their part, delivered quite well I think. Lyrically, The Ride doesn’t quite stand up to The Balcony, but gems like “7” hit you with classic Van McCann lines like “I don’t think through things, I never get time cause I don’t think things through.”

The best songs on the album can hold up to the CATB we’ve grown to know and love, but the rest seems like filler. Musically, every song manages to catch the audience’s attention, especially with the soaring riffs found in “Twice” and “Postpone,” and softer, acoustic tracks like “Glasgow” and “Heathrow” keep the album from sounding like more of the same.

But what about that production element I spoke of earlier? Well. Let me tell you.

The production was honestly what upset me most about the album. It just wansn’t up to par. Catfish’s sound hasn’t changed for the worse, but The Ride comes across as too clean cut. It lacks a rougher element that The Balcony brought to the table. Musically, they’ve leaned towards The Strokes but cleaned up their sound like they’re trying to hide something. It’s an odd combination, to say the least.

In short, it’s an album that was meant to be performed live, and Van McCann will tell you that himself. The Ride’s tendency for live performance only becomes more evident when you hear it in person. In fact, I didn’t decide that I liked the album officially until after I saw them in St. Louis Tuesday night. The way The Bottlemen play together only reinforces how good the material actually is, and boy can they put on a show. It was even better than the last time I saw them.

In short, The Ride is a pretty good listen — if you’re willing to listen with an open mind. It’s not The Balcony, but then again, I’d be disappointed if it was.

Honorable Mentions: 7, Twice, Emily, Red, Heathrow

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Understated Indeed

Oh, New Years. Last year I’m pretty sure I made the resolution to keep up with my blog, and that went fantastically unwell. So I’ll make the same resolution this year, but honestly, I can’t promise anything cause I’m taking 18 hours next semester (because obviously I must love stressing myself out).

Honestly, this post was originally going to be about Oasis. I’ve been feeling hella nostalgic for the 90s lately and sometimes when I need a good cry I listen to “Champaign Supernova” and just eat my feelings. But plans change, and I decided to write about The Last Shadow Puppets instead,  because 2016 is the year of their return and I’ve been a little obsessed with The Age of the Understatement lately.

I’ve literally been working on this post for like a week now. It was tough to write so cut me some slack on this one.

Album: The Age of the Understatement
Artist: The Last Shadow Puppets

TLSP

The Last Shadow Puppets are undoubtedly one of my favorite supergroups — if you can call them that. The project is something Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner and his bestie Miles Kane (of The Little Flames at the time) threw together after both bands toured together in 2007. While both of them are members of successful groups, I have a hard time classifying TLSP as a supergroup honestly. I just don’t think of them like I do, say, Them Crooked Vultures. I sort of like to imagine Turner and Kane are just BFFs who like to rock out together — sort of like me and my bestie, if we had musical talent.

While Turner and Kane initially started writing for the project in 2007 while touring together, the project didn’t really come together until 2008. Most of The Age of the Understatement was recorded with producer/drummer James Ford at Blackbox Studios in France, and with the help of Final Fantasy (AKA Owen Pallett) and the London Metropolitan Orchestra, the album became the best compilation of music you didn’t realize you need in your life.

The Age of the Understatement dropped in April of 2008 on Domino Records and the band embarked on a brief tour. A few shows were played with a 16 piece orchestra, which is just hella cool. The project has such a unique sound — like James Bond come to life — and seeing them with an orchestra would just be magical.

Speaking of the sound though, the duo list their main influences as Scott Walker (the musician, not the politician) and early Bowie, but the cunning lyrics found on the album are obviously influenced by John Lennon and several other late 60s artists as well. Ultimately, the album comes together to sounds like something you’d hear in a spy movie. The sweeping strings coupled with that 60s rock band sounds remind you of secret agents, long dresses, big jewelry — the kind of glamour and suave style that you’d find in a 60s film. It takes you on an adventure to another place, but as Heather Phares put it in her review, the album doesn’t overstay its welcome. Most of the tracks on the album fall short of the three-minute mark and it ultimately makes for a short listen.

To start, The Age of the Understatement kicks off with its title track. There’s a kind of urgency to the album — it begins with a fierce tympani roll and the forceful vocals you’d expect from Alex Turner. But the whole album isn’t like that, though it maintains its rigor. The album lightens up with “Standing Next To Me,” but the sweeping “Calm Like You” reminds the listener of just how awesome Alex Turner is at his vocals. Lines like “Accidents and toffee drops/And thinking on the train,” keep the 60s dream alive with the addition of a great horn section, and Turner handles the vast chorus like it’s nothing.

And let’s just be honest for a moment here. Sam Smith, you can step aside. TLSP would school you in a 007-off any day, despite having never actually written a Bond theme. In fact, the ever so suave “My Mistakes Were Made For You” could probably even hold its own against Adele (blaspheme, I know). The elusive femme fatale that seems to haunt many of the songs on the album seems like she would fit in perfectly as a Bond Girl. As Turner sings “And in the backroom of a bad dream she came/and whisked me away enthused,” you can just imagine the type of girl she is. Lines like “And it, the fame that put words in her mouth/She couldn’t help but spit them out/Innocence and arrogance entwined, in the filthiest of minds” only add to the picture. Add in a few harmon mutes, toss in the strings, throw in a key change. It’s all there: the perfect Bond theme.

Admittedly, some tracks such as “Separate And Ever Deadly” and “I Don’t Like You Anymore” sound like something the Arctic Monkeys might play, but The Last Shadow Puppets manage to separate themselves from the other members’ separate projects. The album manages to keep up it’s tempo but varies stylistically in a way that keeps everything interesting. In short, it’s a work of art.

No wonder everyone is so excited for their return. They’ve only been teasing us for 8 years now.

I’ll attach a video below for those who are interested in the band. Until next time (because who knows when that will be), keep listening. And watch out for The Last Shadow Puppets’ new album, coming soon!

Honorable Mentions: The Chamber, Black Plant, The Meeting Place (or just Meeting Place, depending on where you live), Time Has Come Again (or The Time Has Come Again, depending on where you live)

 

*This post contains a link to Heather Phares’ review of the album, found on AllMusic.com

 

Right On Time

It’s 1:00 in the morning and I have to be up at 7:00 but I really wanted to get this out. As always, it’ll be edited once someone texts me my latest mistakes.

Teaser: something big is coming soon.

Album: …Like Clockwork             Artist: Queens of the Stone Age

Like Clockwork

So I’m sitting here reading Josh Homme interviews in preparation to write this, and I can’t lie about it. I knew there was a reason he’s one of my favorite musicians. He’s f***ing hilarious (sorry, being around recording industry majors has done a number on my language skills). The truth is, I’ve been out for awhile because sometimes school and life get in the way, but I’ve also been listening to this album nonstop for like two years months. I mean, two years later and it’s just as good as it was the first time. Better, even — because I wasn’t sure that I liked it the first time I listened.

…Like Clockwork was released in the good ol’ U.S. of A back in June of 2013. It was the band’s sixth studio album, and their first on indie label Matador Records after their time with Interscope. Actually, it was their first album since 2007’s Era Vulgaris. I guess 6 years seems like a helluva time between records, but Homme has been involved in several projects since (including Eagles of Death Metal and Them Crooked Vultures) so it’s not like I’ve missed him or anything.

But I did miss Queens. There’s something about their desert rock that welcomes me in every time — but that’s my dark and twisty side talking. QOTSA is a band that combines the sweet with the dirty and the raunchy with the emotional in a way not many bands manage, and …Like Clockwork embodies that better than any of their albums ever have.

This album is their return to the music scene, and boy do they come in with a bang. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart at number one after it’s release (the only QOTSA album to make it to the number one slot), and all of it’s singles placed on the Billboard Singles chart. …Like Clockwork had critics raving, and it got the band three Grammy nominations. It also landed itself on NME’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, coming in at #335.

And, if I do say so myself, there’s a reason. This is a band whose lineup has fluctuated over the years to the point of really only having one constant member (Homme), but they seem to have finally locked it in despite losing their drummer half way through recording. The album contains guest spots from everyone to former collaborator Dave Grohl (who rocks my socks, as I’ve said a thousand times before), to the Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner, to Elton freaking John — who volunteered as an “actual queen,” according to Homme. Former bassist Nick Oliveri even makes an appearance, though not on bass. Together with engineer Mark Rankin, the band has created their best album yet.

…Like Clockwork opens with the sludgy “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” a track that’s got a slow groove. Right off the bat, you can tell that this album is gonna be good. The song is just a preview of the vocal and instrumental experimentation that’s to come, though. The album really doesn’t kick off until “I Sat By the Ocean.” It’s a groovy song with a slide guitar that sticks with you for days, but not in a bad way. Homme croons “Time wounds all heals as we fade out of view,” while comparing a dead relationship to “passing ships in the night,” on the track, proving from the start that he knows his way around writing lyrics.

Really, the album shows a type of restraint that’s not typical of Queens of the Stone Age. Tracks like “They Vampyre Of Time And Memory” and “…Like Clockwork” balance the slow and tame with the hard rock we’re used to and elicit emotions about rock n’ roll  you didn’t even know you had. There’s a personality in the playing that hasn’t been there before.

But what would a Queens album be if there wasn’t a hard rocker? The uninhibited “My God Is The Sun” brings the desert rock right to the table and flies by — more like what we’d expect from QOTSA — and reminds us just what they’re capable of. Really, there’s no wonder it was nominated for “Best Rock Performance” at the Grammys.

And then there’s my favorite track on the album: “Smooth Sailing.” It’s a cocky strut of a song, but the arrogance is earned as Homme sings, “It’s all in motion/ain’t not stopping now/I got nothing to lose and only one way: up.” It’s a clever song that locks in and rolls, and the way Josh Homme plays with his falsetto just adds to the effect.

Really, everything about this album impresses me. The lyrical content is just fantastic — some of the best the band has put out, I would say. It’s very dark and contains Homme’s ever so infamous cynical sarcasm, but that’s what makes it so great. Lines like “To be vulnerable is needed most of all/If you intend to truly fall apart,” found in “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory” are easy to miss on the first few listens, but once caught force you to think about their meaning.

While the album does lull a little in the middle during “Kalopsia,” it manages to hold your attention from start to finish. Even the six-minute “I Appear Missing” doesn’t feel so long. It’s an album that’s got talent and showcases it in the best way. In the words of Pitchfork’s Stuart Berman, …Like Clockwork is an album that “kicks like a mule even when it dresses like a queen.”

Like this album? Hate this album? Please, let me know in the comments below!

And as always, never stop listening.

Honorable Song Mentions: If I Had A Tail, Fairweather Friends, I Appear Missing, …Like Clockwork

Overrated — Or Maybe Just That Good

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? This one has been a long time coming but the unfortunate thing about college is that you spend so much time wasting time that when you actually have something you want/need to get done, you can’t get it done because real life gets in the way.

For those of you that don’t already know, I’m no longer studying at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville — I’m now at MTSU. So if I’ve got any readers in the Boro, let me know! I’m missing way too much live music just by virtue of the fact that I hardly know anyone out here and I need someone to go to shows with.

But on to the music, right? That’s what you came here for anyway I’m assuming. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Album: OK Computer                                                                                 Artist: Radiohead

OK Computer

OK Computer. One of the greatest albums of the 90s? One of the greatest albums ever? The album that made Radiohead? Some say yes, others no. While Radiohead might be the music gods of the 90s to some, they’re simply an overrated band to others.

Let me explain how I moved from the latter category to the former:

I used to be really into Muse (I swear this is related). In fact, I’m still into Muse (despite how weird they’ve gotten), and my Muse Pandora station has been a favorite for years. I’m pretty sure it’s been a favorite since I was like 11 or 12 (because of course I lied about my age to create a Pandora account). Anyways, on that Muse Pandora station, I heard a lot of Radiohead. Of course, I knew about Radiohead — or at least I knew of them, and I knew that they were hailed as this amazing revolutionary band. In short, I was completely underwhelmed. I thought they were weird, I hit skip, I moved on.

As I got older I came to appreciate the big Radiohead hits out of the 90s: “Creep,” “Karma Police,” “Paranoid Android.” Again, I never really listened and while I thought they were good songs I failed to really see the significance.

THEN I read an article about how Dave Matthews is a huge Radiohead fan. Actually to be honest, it didn’t change my opinion of them, but it maybe it did make me listen closer — so thanks again, Dave Matthews! — because now I finally realize what Radiohead did and why everyone should listen to them.

And so here I am, at age 19, having finally gotten the memo, and hoping to give you some insight. Which is why I chose this album to write about, rather than their debut or their sophomore efforts.

So, for those of you who were like me and wrote Radiohead off the first time, let me introduce you to the band. Radiohead is a five-piece, post-Britpop, experimental rock band out of Abingdon, Oxfordshire. They actually formed in the ‘80s while in school, but they didn’t really make it on the big stage until their first album debuted in the early 90s. Most of you might recognize their hit single “Creep” which was one of the singles off that album.

While I would give both of their first two albums positive reviews, many view OK Computer as Radiohead’s most important album and I think I would be inclined to agree — this is the album that made them artists rather than just another 90s band. The album was released in May of 1997, though it didn’t hit the States until July. Though this was only their third album, the band elected to self produce with the help of Nigel Godrich, who has worked with artists such as U2, Beck, and R.E.M. The album was released by Parlophone Records in the UK and by Capital Records in the United States. Their previous album, The Bends, was super successful in the UK, so OK Computer was met with a lot of anticipation — it debuted at number one in the UK and held that position for a couple weeks.

But now that we have the cold hard facts out of the way, let’s talk about the music. Radiohead’s sophomore effort was sort of the melancholy, personal and emotional material you’d expect from a tortured artist — it was the bands way of coping with the stresses of their newfound fame. But OK Computer was more of a reaction to the material found on The Bends. It would have been really easy for Radiohead to churn out the same material that was found on The Bends — it would have been good, even. But maybe not great.

Instead, the band set out to produce a new album that had different material — so different that the labels were a little nervous with the finished product. Most of the album was recorded in and old mansion known as St. Catherine’s Court; the band didn’t have a deadline for this production so they took advantage and went creative ham on it. Recording in an old mansion allowed the band to use different acoustic styles and I think that OK Computer wouldn’t be the same if it had been created in a studio.

But I think what makes OK Compter so fascinating is the material on the album. The lyrics are highly impersonal but very emotional. Thom Yorke himself described the lyrical content as snapshots of what was going on around him — reactionary almost. Subject matter ranges from highly political statements to aliens to schizophrenic social climbers, while the overall sound is almost celestial in nature. I would say this album is what launched the sort of electronica era, though all the sounds on the album were made with guitars and synthesizers. It’s a montage of layers and layers and layers, played with undeniable skill, that peel back to reveal Yorke’s tortured falsetto. It’s pretty impressive, really, because it sounds like there should be too much going on.

Take for example the lead single from OK Computer, “Paranoid Android.” It’s not your typical single in that it’s six-and-a-half minutes long and involves about three distinct changes, but several people have regarded it as the “Bohemian Rhapsody” of the 90s. While I wouldn’t necessarily go that far (and neither would the band, since it was sort of a gag song), I would say it’s a pretty good sample of what the album has to offer. Lyrically it explores the mind of someone who’s clearly insane: lines like “Please can you stop the noise/I’m trying to get some rest/From all the unborn chicken voices in my head,” start the song off on an interesting foot while layers of both acoustic and electric guitars combine with synthesizers, a voice box, and Yorke’s haunting vocals.

OK Computer takes it’s listeners on a musical ride. Tracks like “Karma Police” and “Climbing Up The Walls” are constantly building tension and others like the hard, political “Electioneering” release it in a way that makes the album flow like one continuous piece of work. All the while, lines like “For a minute there, I lost myself,” found in “Karma Police,” and “Show me the world as I’d love to see it,” found in “Subterranean Homesick Alien” leave the listener empathizing with the singers sense of solitude and loneliness. And to tie it all together, the track “Fitter Happier,” found in the middle of the album gives the listener the sense that the world is fast-forwarding before his or her eyes while the voice of a robot rattles off life advice.

Sure, it’s not a concept album, but OK Computer has a concept. Maybe I wouldn’t describe it as “positive” — though I think that’s the comparative vibe the band might have been going for in relation to The Bends, but in 1997, Radiohead released an album that was way before their time. Hundreds of bands have tried to go for the same thing, but Radiohead pulls off the chaotic layers and sci-fi sound with an artistry that hasn’t been matched in a long time. No wonder critics loved it.

Requests? Leave them here, Facebook, or my Twitter page! I lost my list of suggestions, so seriously throw some out there. Who knows when I’ll write again, but until then, keep listening. And seriously, listen to this album. It’s excellent.

Honorable Song Mentions: Airbag, Subterranean Homesick Alien, Electioneering, Lucky — just listen to the whole thing really. It’s that good.

Wasting Light, But Not Time

Well then. It’s certainly been awhile, hasn’t it? I’ve been planning this update for almost over a month, but between work and moving and school and life — let’s just say writing hasn’t been my priority. Sometimes I really just want to put it off, even though I always have a good time actually doing it. I’d also like to point out that it’s very hard to write when you’re listening to music that doesn’t inspire you.

Oh well. I’m back, and I’m bringing rock n’ roll with me.

Album: Wasting Light                                                       Artist: The Foo Fighters

Wasting Light

I talk about Dave Grohl and what a badass he is all the time, but ironically I don’t think I’ve ever written about a Foo album which is really quite a shame. I mean, the Foos really are a staple of the 90s, and with a rock god like Grohl fronting the group they really just can’t be ignored.

Now, who are The Foo Fighters? Long story short, Dave Grohl (formerly known as the drummer from Nirvana) set out to start a band that he would front after Nirvana and everyone was excited and some people were angry and all in all it turned out to be awesome. I don’t really want to go into the band’s history too much because I think most people are somewhat familiar with them (I mean they sold out Wembly, for pete’s sake). If you aren’t, I suggest looking up “Everlong” and “My Hero” and then maybe you’ll realize that you have heard of this band.

And since that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the album — or more specifically, why I’m writing about this one today. Wasting Light was The Foo’s seventh studio album and it was released in April of 2011 by RCA Records. So you might be asking at this point, “Gee Maddie, why would you write about the seventh album first?”

Well let me tell you what makes this album awesome.

There are a lot of things that make Wasting Light as amazing as it is, but to me I think The Foos did something so incredibly cool when they made this album: it was recorded analog. In Dave Grohl’s garage. At his house. With his kids running around (or so I imagine). So what does that mean exactly? Well I’m sure most of you know, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. The Foo Fighters went old school on this one. Not a single computer was used to make this album. That means what you hear is exactly what the band recorded. Every imperfection was captured as they rocked out in Grohl’s garage. There was no computer to cut and paste, or to edit, or to smooth out. This is how it was supposed to be done. It’s raw and it’s beautiful.

But there are other amazing things about this album. Not only was it recorded analog in a garage, but Wasting Light was also produced by Butch Vig who had previously worked with Grohl during the Nirvana days on Nevermind. Pat Smear also rejoined the band officially for the first time since The Colour and the Shape. With his addition, Wasting Light is a shredder with three guitars. I know that sounds like much, but the layers and the chords are so well done that the album just rocks, exactly like it’s supposed to.

Overall, Wasting Light is about more than just rock n’ roll. It’s about reflections on the past and hopes for the future and it’s about returning to where they came from. Krist Novoselic, the previous bassist for Nirvana) even guested on “I Should Have Known,” a track that makes a few unmistakable references to the late Kurt Cobain. Bob Mould from Hüsker Dü also made a guest appearance on the album, as well as many others.

I think what makes this one of the best Foo albums since the 90s is that you can really tell the band is proud of it. Dave Grohl himself said he wanted this album to encompass their entire sound, regardless of whether or not it would be their best. And I think that the goal was met and was surpassed, if reviews tell you anything.

Wasting Light was not only nominated for six Grammy Awards, but it took home five and wowed critics everywhere. Rolling Stone’s David Fricke and NME’s Rob Parker agree that it is easily the best Foo album since The Colour and the Shape in 1997. With the edgy opener, “Bridge Burning” and subsequent single “Rope” — which is only the second single to debut at #1 on Billboard’s Rock Songs — it’s hard not to get sucked in and as Parker put it, “drive just that little bit faster…”

And where do I stand? Personally, I think this is my favorite album from The Foo Fighters. It’s the kind of album that you don’t get to hear often anymore. It’s the kind of album the artists really poured everything into, just for rock n’ roll’s sake.

But let me know what you think. You can comment here, Facebook, or Twitter, and until next time, keep listening.

Honorable Song Mentions: Rope (I mean that cymbal though), White Limo, Arlandria, Miss The Misery, I Should Have Known

I really encourage you to check out Perker’s NME review here. I think it’s very well written and the guy really likes the album and it’s cool that there’s a critic out there that doens’t shy away from it.

The Rolling Stone article by David Fricke can be found here

One for America

So, how many weeks am I behind? I literally printed out my annotation page for this and it’s just been sitting on my dresser, staring and making me feel guilty for putting this off. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing this, it’s just doing it well requires some research. I guess maybe I could just make stuff up, but that wouldn’t do me or you any good. So here we are. I’m bringing you an American classic for the Fourth. Or… you know. The fifth.

Album: American Fool                                                             Artist: John “Cougar” (Mellencamp)

JC_American_Fool

Before I say anything about this album, I’m going to not only give you background, but also share what critics have to say because I think it might help you understand Mellencamp a little better.

American Fool was actually John Mellencamp’s fifth album. It was released in 1982 on the label Riva Records (which also produced Rod Stewart and not much more), and Mellencamp and Don Gehman produced the album. American Fool was the first Mellencamp album to be clearly successful — it managed to hit the number one spot on the Billboard 200 and both of it’s singles (“Hurts So Good” and “Jack & Diane”) were both wildly successful. I mean, what’s more American than two American kids growing up in the Heartland? (That was terrible, and I’m sorry).

But you see, critics weren’t exactly in love. Mellencamp had previously released albums under the name “Johnny Cougar” and “John Cougar,” and from what I understand he didn’t find himself to be very sincere about his music and critics felt the same way. I really think that he was one of those artists who just had the unfortunate luck of running into some pushy people who wanted to market him a certain way, and artists who are just starting out usually find they have little say if they want to actually put out their music.

So, in light of his previous music, critical reception to American Fool was mixed to say the least. Many critics already held too much of a grudge and some found it hard to believe Mellencamp could be anything but a sellout. Rolling Stone’s Ken Emerson claimed that Mellencamp’s voice “oozes insincerity” on the whole album, and basically called him a Springsteen/Petty knockoff.

Overall, I think a lot of critics agreed this was a better album though. Emerson even admitted “[Cougar’s] rock n’ roll [was] becoming more convincing.” All Music’s Thomas Erlewine agreed; he said the album was a good kind of “shock” and also admitted that Mellencamp was getting better.

I’m pretty sure Mellencamp himself agrees with the critics. I know he doesn’t find some of his old stuff to be good music, and he said himself American Fool has about “three good songs” and “the rest is just filler.”

My review?

I agree one hundred percent. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love to put this record on but I find that more than half the songs on the album are formulaic and I lose interest. The album opens with “Hurts So Good,” which is definitely a strong start, and that track is followed up with “Jack & Diane.” I think anyone would agree those are the two strongest songs on the album. I have to hear “Jack & Diane” maybe twice a shift every time I work at my second job and I still love that song, so obviously Mellencamp did something right there.

The album has some great riffs — the acoustic on “Jack & Diane” and the electric on “Danger List” are classics — and Mellencamp’s band plays pretty well on the album. I think this particular brand of “Heartland rock” was sort of a new twist at the time and I think that’s why everyone liked the album so much. There’s some great (and very 80s) drum beats and the overall ensemble just really comes together, and I think the lyrical content is just really relatable.

In sum, it’s a good album. It’s fun to listen to. It’s just not a great album. The first few tracks are the best though, and by the time you get to the end of “Weakest Moments” you’re definitely ready to move on because that’s a terrible song. But in general, it’s good, and it’s an American staple.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and I’ll post again before another month rolls around. Until then though, never stop listening!

Honorable Song Mentions: Hurts So Good, Jack & Diane, Danger List, China Girl

***EDIT: reviews mentioned can be found at the links below

Rolling Stone — Ken Emerson’s review of American Fool

AllMusic — Thomas Erlewine’s review of American Fool

Who Covered Who?

So it took me awhile to update this one and here is why. I originally wrote about Glass Animals and had the post like 80% done but then I completely changed my mind and I haven’t had time to write the new one. Instead of writing about an album this time, I’m writing about my top 5 favorite covers. Glass Animals is soon to come, and I’m kind of thinking of posting about Catfish again because good god were they amazing. Anyways, on to the music.

All Along the Watchtower
Cover Artist: Dave Matthews Band
Original Artist: God Only Knows (Kidding, it’s Bob Dylan)

I remember one time I had a conversation with my best friends mom about Dave Matthews Band, and I remember her asking, “Do you know what drives me crazy about Dave Matthews Band?” I asked her what, and she told me that they cover “All Along the Watchtower” like it’s their own song. I guess some people are entitled to that opinion. I full-heartedly disagree, however.

I like this version because it throws in a little Hendrix, it throws in a little Dylan, and it mixes it all up with DMB. Over the years it’s become an up to twelve minute spectacle that builds into the best jam ever. And I really mean that. “Watchtower” as us DMB fans call it is possibly one of my favorite things to watch the band play. Hell, even Bob Dylan himself likes DMB’s version.

The Man Who Sold The World
Cover Artist: Nirvana
Original Artist: David Bowie

I’m just gonna get this out of the way, cause it’s something I’ll get a lot of hate for: I am all for David Bowie. Really I am. But Bowie’s version of this song is just weird.

“The Man Who Sold The World” is another one of those songs that is pretty famous for how many people have covered it. The song itself has a bit of an ambiguous meaning, but the lyrics are sort of about someone’s multiple personalities and finding oneself. It’s kind of a horror twist on a coming of age kind of deal. The reason I like Nirvana’s version better is because of what Kurt Cobain brings to it, and honestly the content is probably why the song was important enough to him to even bother covering it. Seriously, listen. It’ll put you in a dark mood though — don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Do I Wanna Know?
Cover Artist: MS MR
Original Artist: Arctic Monkeys

I love the Arctic Monkeys. I love MS MR (post about them to come soon). And I love this song. So naturally I love that MS MR covered this song, and I’m extremely jealous of Alexandra cause she got to see it live and I have to rely on YouTube. Oh well.

Why do I like this cover? Well besides the fact that it’s almost impossible to not have a major girl crush on Lizzy Plapinger, the duo manages to take the song, smooth it out, add a few things, stir in a little funk, and it still keeps to the original. Despite the fact that they’ve put their own spin on it, it’s got the same emotion with a slightly different tone. Basically, this is a perfect example of how covers should be done.

We Can’t Stop
Cover Artist: Bastille
Original Artist: Miley Cyrus

I know, Miley. Gross. Really can’t stand her (though she doesn’t irk me as much as she used to, surprisingly). Hot damn Bastille turned this song to gold though. I’m not even kidding when I say you can actually take this song somewhat seriously.

The cover starts with a sick bass, includes some great piano, a violin, a tad bit of guitar work, need I say more? And despite the overall serious tone Bastille brings to the song, Dan Smith makes fun of the cover a little by adding the line “only Dad can judge us” (instead of “only God judge us), and throwing a little bit of “Achy Breaky Heart” in just for kicks and grins. Because I’m posting this, you guys had better watch to the end because it’s hilarious.

Hold On We’re Going Home
Cover Artist: Arctic Monkeys
Original Artist: Drake

This totally makes the list because, despite the fact that I don’t really listen to or even like Drake, I’ve heard this song a million times and the Arctic Monkeys completely transform it. They take the song and give it a totally different vibe. It sounds like something that should be in a Target commercial and I mean that in a fantastic way (not even a hint of sarcasm, even though it totally sounds like it). They turn it into a funky almost dance number that sounds like it should’ve come out of another era, and Turner’s voice is completely magical as he serenades you with Drake’s words. I think this is my favorite version of this song. So you should listen.

I highly recommend listening to all of these. Until next time, keep listening!

Catfishing

Look at that. A post that was promised and it’s even on time. Please, hold the applause.

Album: The Balcony                                                      Artist: Catfish and the Bottlemen

Catfish

Honestly, I don’t know that much about this band. They’re from Whales, which is pretty cool. I don’t know about that many bands from Whales. I do know that they’re fairly new on the scene having just come together in 2010. According to their Wikipedia page, they started off playing covers of The Beatles (which earns them mad respect points) and eventually moved on to writing their own stuff. Originally they just played “opening” gigs in parking lots before other artists’ shows. Soon enough they got their record deal in 2013 and emerged fast by playing the festival route the following year. In September of 2014 they dropped their debut, The Balcony. That was in the UK. Don’t ask me when the good ol’ U.S. of A got it cause I can’t tell you.

So before I say anything about the band or the album, I want to point out that frontman Van McCann (not his real name, but I wish it was) claims his inspiration comes from The Strokes and Oasis. What does this tell us? 1) he has really good taste in music and 2) he’s fond of 90s music. He might be my favorite person already. And might I just say, Catfish nails it.

Now Ben Homewood of NME called Catfish’s sound “about nine years too late.” He said it (or, wrote it rather) pretty negatively. His review called The Balcony “ham-fisted” (whatever that means) and goes on to slam McCann’s lyrics and the band’s overall sound.

My opinion? Homewood just doesn’t appreciate what Catfish is bringing to the table. Or maybe I’m just sentimental. This album is about nine years too late, and I can give him that. But it’s honestly something that needs to be here and now.

So what is their overall sound? Well if Oasis and The Strokes had a baby that grew up to become a rebellious indie teenager under the influence of The Arctic Monkeys, it would be Catfish and the Bottlemen. So let’s talk about that for a second.

First of all, I have mad respect for the band. They said they wanted to sound like The Strokes and Oasis and they do (if not a little lighter on the Oasis side). Not many really pull that off. So maybe that’s a good thing, and maybe that’s a bad thing. Maybe they aren’t original enough. Maybe they know exactly who they want to be as musicians. It could go either way. Regardless, they bring the “indie” sound to an old favorite.

Now The Balcony had it’s fair share of singles. Usually I hate people who only know/talk about the singles, but I’m gonna be that person for a second. I feel like CATB definitely picked their strongest songs to release, and it did them a world of good. “Pacifier” opens up with a distorted guitar riff that’s just screechy enough to hear a definite melody. It’s fast paced and heavy on the drums, and McCann’s actually quite the vocalist. There’s something to say about artists who aren’t afraid to roughen their voice. It’s quite honestly 90s-tastic. And if The Strokes’ influence wasn’t apparent enough in that track, there’s always the ever so pop-rock “Kathleen.”

As far as lyrics, I can admit that McCann has some work to do. He wrote most of The Balcony’s tracks when he was just fifteen and sixteen, so yeah. Some of them are the work of a teenage boy. But some of them hold insight that most sixteen year old boys don’t have. For example, in “Pacifier,” McCann mourns a lack of understanding with a lover as he cries “You just don’t know how it feels to lose/something you never had and never will,” which is a concept I think most people don’t often think about.

The Balcony received mixed reviews. Most critics put it somewhere in the high-middle. Some loved it. Some (like Mr. Homewood) hated it. Regardless of what other critics think though, I liked the album. It’s got something that I think a lot of younger people missed out on in the late 90s and early 2000s — something that I think they shouldn’t have missed out on, and something I was very fortunate to be very exposed to (thanks Lindsay & Erin!). Catfish is merely reviving their opportunity.

Personally, I think they’re a band who know exactly who they want to be. I like what they’ve got and they can only grow from here. I’m very excited to see where they take their sudden fame. And I’m also very excited to see them next month.

Until next week (or whenever the hell it is I post these days), keep listening 🙂

Homecoming

Aaaaaand I’m back! It’s been what? A month? Maybe you can guess why I’ve been gone so long. I’ll give you a hint… I had no internet (again). Surprise surprise. If I had a nickel for how many posts I’ve missed/went to great lengths to post because of my bad internet juju, I’d probably have what, at least five dollars now? The point is, our landscapers sliced our internet cable in half twice, and my internet is finally restored. And for those of you with questions…

  • But Maddie, couldn’t you have posted at school using UT’s wifi? Yes. I could have. But I prefer to use my time on campus for school work.
  • Well why didn’t you just hook your computer up to your phone’s hotspot? Sorry, Netflix is more valuable. You have to make internet decisions when you have no internet.
  • Doesn’t your blog matter to you? Yes, it does, but I had the flu and I just really wasn’t feeling it.

I think I’ve covered all of my bases now. Believe it or not I’m actually not that busy and I really did have a post typed up and ready to publish. It was about a band called Moon Taxi, because I was supposed to see them in concert. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen because of the flu, and then posting about them just made me sad, so I’m going to write a completely new one and post it on Wednesday. Because I can. Because I have internet (assuming nothing happens before then). It’s going to be about a band called Catfish and the Bottlemen, so if you’d like to be ahead of the curve and give them a listen before then, feel free.

I have posted the song that this post was named for below. It’s by Green Day. Have a listen, it’s pretty good. Sorry for my absence, and I’ll see you Wednesday. Until then, you know what to do!

2014, It’s Been a Good Run

Well, here we are! It’s the end of 2014, and so starts another year. I’ll admit, I’m very proud of myself for making it this far with the blog. I honestly didn’t expect to find myself still blogging at this point. With that being said though, I would like to take a moment to talk about some changes for 2015!

This year, I’m going to be a full-time student, teaching swim lessons twice a week or maybe more, and training for a triathlon. My weeks might be getting pretty busy from this point forward and I MIGHT end up switching my update day — just a heads up so you can watch for that. I also have made some changes to my page. I’m really going to try to post a playlist on the sidebar at some point.

But I also want to talk about 2014 (I was going to update on Christmas Eve, but we had no internet *surprise surprise*, so I think a New Year’s post is appropriate).

In 2014, I went to a total of thirteen concerts. Not bad, if I do say so myself. That comes out to about one a month (which Alexandra and I were totally doing for almost six months). But which concert was the best? Here is my definitive ranking of the top 5:

5) Frank Turner

ft2

So, I sort of had a hard time with this one. I was going to say The 1975, because it was totally sick and Matty Healy is Matty Healy and I’m not afraid to fangirl about it, but then I remembered White Arrows/The NBHD. That was just an amazing show. The energy at that show was amazing and I discovered a really awesome band called White Arrows. But then I remembered Frank Turner. I was going to go with The NBHD anyway, but I ultimately decided on Frank Turner for one reason: he really cares.

Frank Turner 2At one point in the show there were a few kids who wouldn’t leave him alone or start heckling and he went off and had them thrown out. Ultimately, it kind of seems like a jackass move (sorry for the sketchy language, Mrs. Clupper), but after the show it almost seemed like he felt bad about it. But in the moment, he wanted to share his thoughts and his feelings that he pours into his music with the audience and these kids weren’t very respectful of that. Also, at the end, during “Four Simple Words,” he brought three kids from the audience on to the stage and gave them tambourines. So yeah, Turner wins.

 

4) Local Natives

Local Natives 1 Local Natives 2

 

 

 

 

 

I have no words. I wish I had words. But I don’t. I still can’t listen to Local Natives without being overcome with PCD. The emotion and excitement of the concert are still so alive, and I saw them in April. I mean, forget about that group of kids that stood in a circle at the front and talked the entire time. The rest of us were so involved in the music and the atmosphere and the lights and the emotion. It went from upbeat to slow and emotional to excited and everything in between. I highly recommend.

 

3) DMB (That’s Dave Matthews Band for anyone not in the loop)

This picture 100% belongs to the band's instagram page.... I was WAY too far away.
This picture 100% belongs to the band’s instagram page…. I was WAY too far away.

DMB will always make the list. They can go out there and not sing a single word and still make the list. The music is what matters at a Dave show. You make so many friends, and Dave fans are pretty die-hard. Dave shows unite thousands of people, the music is always good, you can dance like no one is watching, and the energy of the band really translates to the crowd. There’s nothing like yelling “YEAH” at the top of your lungs during “#41” with hundreds of other people. So really. Even if it isn’t a good show, it’s a great show. Everyone who can go see DMB should go see DMB.

 

 

 

2) JT

JT1JT2 JT3Honestly, I haven’t been to a show like JT’s before. Like, holy crap does this guy have talent. And the setup — I mean the stage FREAKING MOVED. I don’t even want to know how much that costs. Regardless, it’s really refreshing to see a pop artists with real instruments to accompany him. Plus, he brought out Garth Brooks at our show so we were basically winning as an audience. Would I go again? Probably. Could I afford it? Hell no.

 

 

 

 

 

1) Fleetwood Mac

FM2

I saved the best for last. I truly mean it was the best. You know how you see these bands that were super cool in the 70s and 80s, but now they’re just sad and they should probably stop (*cough*KISS*cough*)? Fleetwood Mac is not one of those bands. They haven’t lost anything. And let me tell you, Christine McVie KILLED it. Like, she sounds exactly like she did in the 70s. It’s amazing. And despite the fact that Lindsey Buckingham takes himself way too seriously, he’s super talented. They all are. I won’t even lie about it, I totally cried when they came out and started playing. I have nFM1ever been so overwhelmed by greatness. I have never been in the same room with such greatness. It was the most amazing moment of my life. I’m seriously considering going by myself to the show in Knoxville, despite the fact that it will more than likely empty my checking account. It was that good.

 

 

So there you have it. These were my top five, and if you get the chance to see them, I highly recommend it. What were your top five concerts on 2014? Let me know in the comments here, on Facebook, or on Twitter! You can also follow me at @notreallyindie on Twitter for updates on the music scene!

As always, keep listening 🙂

Also, if the picture placement is odd, I apologize.