Saturday, February 27, 2010

In Blogs We Trust

Never trust a skinny cook. It's an old adage I've heard describing that a mix of profession and lifestyle will essentially create the best and most trustworthy person for the job. Think about it. Would you get a tattoo from an artist with no tattoos themselves? Would you trust a bald barber? Probably not, right?

Well, the same can be said for your choice in what music critics you read. In the past few months I've really started to notice the vast amount of music bloggers/writers that call themselves "critics," yet do not play an instrument or understand how music actually works.

Anyone can write about how the new 30 Seconds To Mars album combines swirling lead guitar riffs with synth infused keyboards, but how many of them actually know what the hell they're talking about?

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's when people claim how much music means to them, yet they remain so disconnected from it. How many of you have actually tried to sit down and write a song? Have you ever tracked your own guitar riffs, written your own drum piece or filled a notebook with lyrics?

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that not everyone possesses the want or desire to create music. That's fine, just don't tell me you want to spend your life around it.

Just because you sit at your computer listening to the new CD you bought at the indie record store you like to shop at does not mean you're suddenly entitled to spend your life writing, reviewing and criticizing music.

Maybe it's just me, but I want the music journalists I read to know a little bit more about music than the fact that they like it. If you're going to write about the sound a band have, I fully expect you to know and understand how that sound was achieved. You should be able to tell me what amps, pedals, guitars, drums and effects were used and why.

That might seem like a lot to know, but trust me, it's not. Take one look around a gear website and see for yourself all that goes into creating a piece of music these days. The gear stands as the building blocks to the music - if you don't understand that, you don't understand the music process, and in my eyes, shouldn't be writing about it.

There is just so much time and understanding that goes into creating something as simple as a CD. And the sad part is that most of the population knows nothing about it, yet will still consider themselves experts on the topic.

I think New Found Glory said it best: "It's more than a t-shirt. It's more than a tattoo. It's more than a phase. This is how I was raised ... Don't believe a word, a word they fucking say!"

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Road Maps To New Music

New music. This is a term I like to use loosely. Mostly because I have this uncanny ability to find "new" music months, or years, after it comes out. Such is the case with this week's album purchase - This Time Next Year's Road Maps And Heart Attacks.

I had originally heard of the pop-punk four-piece last spring on a free compilation CD I picked up on Record Store Day. Their single, "Alex In Wonderland", immediately caught my ear, and has been a tune I find myself humming every now and again.

Well somehow, in the giant waste of time that is my life, I came across their website a few weeks ago. I gave their playlist a listen and found out that they had not only rerecorded "Alex", but it was the third track on the band's first full-length record.

Being stoked, and perpetually late (the album was released in October '09), I hit Newbury Comics last Friday and snagged myself a copy. It could be the fact that it's getting warmer outside (40s all week!), or that I'm just wishing summer was here already, but I tend to get heavy into the pop-punk scene come late winter/spring.

I'm happy to say it was a great decision. The album has been the soundtrack to my weekend, and will probably fill most of this week's listening.

Road Maps is not another other mainstream pop-punk album. TTNY's fresh sound harkens back to Catalyst-era New Found Glory. Hell, their name even refers to a Movielife album. You know you're getting something good here.

Right from the get-go Road Maps is infused with upbeat and catchy melodies. "New Sensation" is the anthemic gem of the album. You wanted the role, now you're playing the part/They're dying to be just like you/So sing us a song
where we can't sing along/And you're the new sensation.

TTNY's dual vocal approach adds some real depth to the album on songs like "Mischief With No Direction". They have managed to recapture the pop-punk sound through it. Remember that nasal-y whine that pop-punk used to be based in? Well, TTNY have brought it back from the dead, and damn is it refreshing to hear.

Look, I could go on forever about my new flavor of the week, but I'll spare you. Just trust me, if you've ever been a pop-punk fan and miss the way things used to be, then go pick up Road Maps And Heart Attacks. It'll make you feel young again. That's something we could all use.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

AVA - Love Review

I may have spent Valentine's Day alone this year, but it wasn't a complete loss. Love, Angels and Airwaves' third full-length album dropped this past weekend as a digital download. The best part - it was free. You can't go wrong there.

AVA frontman Tom DeLonge told Alternative Press last week that Love "is the release of [his] life." From one listen to the record it's clear that he and his bandmates, guitarist David Kennedy, bassist Matt Wachter and drummer Atom Willard put all they had into this record.

Love follows the trail already blazed by AVA's first two albums. It's an aggressive, up-tempo experimental rock album that's packed with more hooks than a Japanese fishing boat. AVA had the loop stations on full swing again, stacking melody on top of melody to produce a vibrant record that only these space cadets could pull off.

Love kicks off with an instrumental piece entitled, "Et Ducit Mundum Per Luce", which when translated from the Latin means, "And He Leads the World by Light." It's the shortest song on the album, the only one clocking in at under four minutes.

From there, we're taken through a list of bass driven songs complemented by Willard's tight drumming and Kennedy's classic accenting guitar leads. "Young London" is possibly the most anthemic tune on the record. The chorus, which repeats itself four times, reads: Suit up,boys/Let's ride, it's the weekend/Get down, girls/And dance with your best friend.

"Hallucinations", the first single off Love, is lyrically reminiscent of "Call To Arms", the lead track from AVA's 2007 release, I-Empire. A densely packed song, calling on a romanticized view of love and the world at large, "Hallucinations" will catch you and stay stuck in your head for days.

It's clear that DeLonge hasn't forgotten his past just yet. Further down the tracklisting sits "Letters to God, Part II". No doubt a follow up, coming of age ballad, to the Boxcar Racer original. Though it may be a step in a whole new direction musically, the lyrics are just as interpretable as any from DeLonge. It's a fitting way to start the album's descent.

Overall, Love is bound to satisfy any AVA fan. It's obvious the band haven't lost their sound, and have found some comfort in their writing process.

If you haven't already, grab the free download of Love here. Seriously, do it. It put the band $500,000 in the hole, but they're doing it for you! "Music should be free," said DeLonge in an LA Times Interview. You can pay them back when they come to your area on tour with Say Anything this spring.

Much love, homeys.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Alice In Wonderland Soundtrack Review

If appealing to a mass audience was Disney's goal with Tim Burton's upcoming flick, Alice In Wonderland, then job well done. From the looks of it, this movie should be a hit with kids and adults alike. Who couldn't love a live action adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic? But Disney one-uped itself by calling on an all-star cast of musicians for the movie's soundtrack.

Just check out some of the names - Mark Hoppus (blink-182), Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy), Robert Smith (The Cure), Motion City Soundtrack, All Time Low and Franz Ferdinand just to name a few.

The CD, entitled Almost Alice, wastes no time letting its punk-rock roots show. The All-American Rejects grace the number two spot on the record with a soft, yet catchy, song entitled, "The Poison." Emo-pop swallows the remainder of the first half. Owl City adds a sugary little number, as bizarre, and yet as strangely infatuating as the Mad Hatter himself. All Time Low's "Painting Flowers" sounds surprisingly grown up, hinting that maybe this band can save itself from their bubblegum persona.

The second half of the record takes a dark turn with its opener, "Very Good Advice", performed by The Cure's Robert Smith. Its discordant verses and moody lyrics set the tone for what's to come. The Mark Hoppus/Pete Wentz collaboration entitled, "In Transit" boasts a haunting melody reminiscent of +44's "Weatherman." Further down the tracklisting, Motion City Soundtrack add the knockout punch. "Running Out Of Time" proves to be the catchiest song on the album, mixing melodic guitars with Tony Thaxton's signature drumming.

The record does fall flat in a few spots, though. Avril Lavigne's opener is a whirlwind of verses that work, and then choruses that are far too overstretched and whiny. Then there's Shinedown. Umm... enough said on that one.

Overall though, Almost Alice is a good record, especially seeing as it's a movie soundtrack. Usually you won't find something this fluid and fitting on any compilation.

You can check out clips from each song here, or on the sampler above. The record is due out on March 2, only three days before the movie hits theaters. I know I can't wait. In the meantime, take a look at the tracklisting below:

1. Avril Lavigne - "Alice (Underground)"
2. All-American Rejects - "The Poison"
3. Owl City - "The Technicolor Phase"
4. Shinedown - "Her Name Is Alice"
5. All Time Low - "Painting Flowers"
6. Metro Station - "Where's My Angel"
7. Tokio Hotel & Kerli - "Strange"
8. 3OH!3 featuring Neon Hitch - "Follow Me Down"
9. Robert Smith - "Very Good Advice"
10. Mark Hoppus & Pete Wentz - "In Transit"
11. Plain White T's - "Welcome To Mystery"
12. Kerli - "Tea Party"
13. Franz Ferdinand - "The Lobster Quadrille"
14. Motion City Soundtrack - "Running Out Of Time
15. Wolfmother - "Fell Down a Hole"
16. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - "White Rabbit"
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