Sonic Disorder: Human Kind (Album Review)
Review by Rob Watts. Follow @RobWattsOnline
Boston’s Sonic Disorder continues to develop and refine its template of hard-edged, yet melodic sound on their sophomoric effort Human Kind. Their long-awaited follow-up to their 2008 debut release reaches for new heights—having largely eschewed the grunge/punk overtones of their previous album, Human Kind solicits a more somber downcast, riding tandem with a captivated and intoxicated vibe. Engineered for instant impact, songs such as Dirty Window, Demons in the Dark and the title track showcase well-balanced drum and bass thumping, blended perfectly with the gazing guitar overlay. Songs such as A Sign of Things to Come? carries a beautifully pensive and moody tone throughout the track and features a well-placed atmospheric cello performance by guitarist Jeff Briggette. Toy Soldier Part One, leading into Toy Soldier is a progressive step ahead while still maintaining that foggy, misty morning framework that the band started on their debut. Saturated with wavy guitars and a pounding backbeat, it’s surely destined to be a live crowd pleaser. Human Kind features new vocalist Steve DiPersio, replacing former frontman Jeff Boyle. Fans of the band won’t sense such a blatant exchange, however, as DiPersio delivers everything that was great about their debut album while maintaining his own identity as a perfectly-metered rock vocalist. Just Another Day truly shines a light on his soulful, melodic and hard rock abilities. Human Kind certainly eclipses their previous release in regards to songwriting, melody and structure. This in no way diminishes the value of that album. It simply states that Sonic Disorder used their gap of time between releases to their advantage, creating a focused and cohesive collection of music that is worthy of their dedicated fans’ patience.
Learn more about the band and their album at SonicDisorder.com
Metric: Pagans in Vegas (Album Review)
Review by Rob Watts. Follow @RobWattsOnline
Robot Rock at its finest. I’m not paying it a compliment, though. Pagans in Vegas, the Toronto-based synth-pop-rock quartet lead by Broken Social Scene Alumna Emily Haynes, have released their sixth full-length album this week to much hurrah and hoopla. It’s always hard to review an album by one of your favorite bands where you just don’t feel the excitement and good energy that they once gave you. Sadly, after giving this album a few listens, I went reaching for Fantasies (2009) and Synthetica (2012), “Pagans” far-superior predecessors.
While hearing Pagans in Vegas, I did find the opening track Lie, Lie, Lie to be a solid intro. Haynes trademark vocals (which is the highlight of all Metric albums) come off sweet yet venomous, as do they with Fortunes. By the time we arrive at The Shade, I feel as though I’m walking through a video arcade from hell. On Shade, which features tremendous songwriting and solid hooks, I’m distracted by the continuous Donkey Kong-like tones throughout the track. Luckily, the acoustic bonus track was included on my copy, which makes this song much more enjoyable for me. Celebrate is standout track for me as the flow between Haynes and her band mates is undeniably fluid.
Where it begins to take a downturn for me is on Cascades. Not a bad track, but the band begins to sound slick and anodyne. I start hearing other bands in the music—bands that Metric inspired and laid the template for, not the other way around. Rather than recognizing hints of Depeche Mode and Lou Reed, I hear heavy-handed lifts of CHVRCHES and Shiny Toy Guns, as evident on songs such as The Other Side and Too Bad, So Sad (possibly the most annoying song on the album.) It’s the inconsistency that bothers me the most about this album. Something about it lacks focus—it just falls all over the place, whereas their previous two albums were solid with laser sharp focus. I don’t think Pagans in Vegas knows what it wants to be. Especially when one listeners to the self-indulgent two-part epic closer The Face Part one and two. By the end of the album, I’m left wondering did the entire band even perform their instruments on this album, or did they simply rely on synths? I’m hard pressed to hear any guitars or bass with any level of significance.
The album isn’t a total wash in my mind. It’s just not my favorite offering from the band. While there are moments of brilliance on the album, I’m disappointed that the amount of songs that grab me only add up to an e.p.’s worth of material.
Visit I Love Metric for album details and purchasing info.
Silversun Pickups: Better Nature (Album Review)
By Rob Watts. Follow @RobWattsOnline
One of the coolest things about a new album by Silversun Pickups is that it reminds you of an old friend who comes to dinner—once again, with even more interesting stories to tell since last time. The Los Angeles-based quartet’s ever-expanding sound comes accross impeccably on their fourth full-length album, Better Nature which comes out on September 25th via their own New Machine Recordings.
Produced once again by Jacknife Lee (who helmed their previous effort Neck of the Woods), their sprawling cinematic sound pours outward from every track, as evident from the opener Crawling (Better Nature.) Lead vocalist and guitarist Brian Aubert‘s shimmering guitar tone and unique vocal range open things up with a familiar feel but as it progresses, the album takes you to new places unlike any of the band’s previous releases. Connection and Pins and Needles pull out all the stops, with tight guitar riffs, in your face drum and bass rhythms, and of course Joe Lester‘s haunting ethereal backdrops.
Friendly Fires is a slow-paced declaration, followed by lead-off single Nightlights, which is probably the closest track that bares resemblance to anything found on 2012s Neck of the Woods. Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance), the latest single employs bassist Nikki Monninger‘s vocals as she trades verses with Aubert in a prominent manner. The track, as well as much of the album, feels like a hint of an 80s throwback—but just a hint. Tapedeck, probably the quirkiest of the collection, showcases drummer Christophen Gaunlao‘s upbeat tempos quite nicely as the song throws the listener all over the place as the track turns off every which way. Latchkey Kids falls back on familiar SSPU territory with straight-ahead musicianship, while Ragamuffin walks you down dark pathways once again with its ominous opening chords. The Wild Ones plays the listener out wonderfully with each musician utilized perfectly, which is really what we’ve come to expect from this band.
With stellar production, new recording techniques, gang vocals, the implementing of Monninger’s vocals to a greater extent and an overall recharge from the band as they move forward—taking reign of their own career, this is an album worth supporting.
Better Nature Out Sept. 25th. Visit SilversunPickups.com
Faith No More: Sol Invictus
Review by Rob Watts
It’s as if the last eighteen years hadn’t happened. Reuniting in the studio for the first time since their 1997 release, Album of the Year, the San Fransisco based experimental rockers have responsibly recorded an album that die hard fans can declare worthy of the near two-decade-long sabbatical. Sol Invictus picks right up where Album of the Year left off. Having listened to their 1997 effort a bunch of times leading up to the new release, I can say with absolute certainty that Sol Invictus sounds exactly like what I’d have expected from the band in 1999, let alone 2015. In short; they truly meant it when they said they were recording a Faith No More album that sounds like Faith No More.
Mike Patton‘s vocals are amazing as always and his classic delivery has lost nothing over the years. All of his side projects have kept him in top shape and Sol Invictus benefits greatly from that fact. Roddy Bottum’s keyboards gives the album the right amount of ambience and ethereal quality. Billy Gould and Mike Bordin‘s familiar backbone will jump right out at you and Jon Hudson‘s guitar performance is probably one of his best offerings on this album.
It’s difficult to pin point all the great elements of each song, as I’ve always approached Faith No More’s music as a full-album experience. At least since 1992s Angel Dust. Superhero and Motherfucker, the two lead singles, are hard-driving rock delights, but Cone of Shame and From The Dead really shine a light on Patton’s operatic vocal abilities. Matador is a highlight, especially for fans of Bottum’s synth playing. Black Friday features Patton’s sung-in-spoken word vocals that we’ve all come to know and love. As an album in its entirety, it comes close to Faith No More’s finest work to date. I hope we don’t have to wait another eighteen years for a new album, but if it’s as good as this one, I’ll wait patiently.
Best Coast “California Nights.”
There aren’t many bands around today who you can rely on to consistently release quality albums; especially music that get better with each new release. “California Nights” could very well be one of the best new releases this summer. Continuing with the same formula of upbeat hook-laden songs from their previous ep “Fade Away“, the Los Angeles surf pop band once again employed producer Wally Gagel, known for his work at Fort Apache Studios with acts such as Belly, Sebodah and Juliana Hatfield. The album has some amazing hooks, especially on songs such as FEELING OK, HEAVEN SENT and JEALOUSY. The hypnotic dream pop title track features Bethany Cosentino‘s vocals at their most epic state. Between her and band mate Bobb Bruno, this could possibly be their most ambitious and greatest piece of work…yet! (Rob Watts)
e.p. (Poster Album)
Review by Rob Watts
Dayton, Ohio-based Babbling April have recently released their debut e.p. As 2/3 of America has been blanketed with an ominous level of snow in 2015, along comes a collection of music that is sure to drive away your seasonal affective disorder. The opening title “Sunny Day Records” rather speaks for itself. A light, shoegazy commencement which serves as a perfect primer for the rest of the album. “On Breath from Esme'”, a light and benign instrumental, which at two minutes length, serves purely as an adverse counterpart to “Girl Ima’ Babe”, a hard-driving, hook heavy track reminiscent of many (cool) English indie bands. “Liars” is a definite highlight, displaying a girl/boy vocal trade off and ladened with pleasing harmonies and hooks. “Another Kind of Perfume” is another well-performed instrumental, while “All Around” brings the album to a close with its shimmering fuzz rock and catchy, harmonious vocals.
The band members, performing various roles within the group are;
High-Marks on songwriting and musicianship. The vocals are some of the most enjoyable I’ve heard in a while and quite suprizingly, every instrument on the album is well-placed and well-represented. I can actually hear the bass guitar—something that somehow seems to get lost or just fully discarded in the mix of today’s recordings. Babbling April are expected to release their full-length album sometime next year. I’ll be waiting but in the meantime, I suggest checking out their current offering at their BandCamp Page.
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Shadow of the Sun
Album Review by Rob Watts
It’s not often where I stumble upon a new album that hooks me in immediately and holds my undivided attention from point A to point B throughout the entire listen. In fact, I immediately replayed the album again, as it was one of the greatest listening pleasures I’ve had in quite a while. From the opening track “Wilding” to the final piece of the happy frenzy “Animal”, Shadow of the Sun, the band’s third album, feels a bit like a circus act on acid or a carnival fun house ride surrounded by neon pinwheels and dancing mannequins. Each track follows through with repetitive riffs and thumps, drizzled with hypnotic guitar tones and synths by singer-guitarist Ripley Johnson and singer-keyboardist Sanae Yamada. They truly created an eerie atmosphere of hazy, hypnotic sound on this album. I’m confident you’ll enjoy this latest release!
Visit us at OceanViewPress.com
Shadow of the Sun is available March 3rd.