alt rock

(That’s What I Call A) Rally Cry: Album Review

During Weekend 1 of Coachella 2017, I worked the late shift. I was on from 4 p.m. until midnight, which meant I got to check out the festival earlier in the day. Most of you who attend festivals know that a lot of the hyped acts play later timeslots. With that in mind, there weren’t many bands I went to check out before my shift started each day. However, on Saturday afternoon I decided to check out Arkells set on the Outdoor Stage. I knew one of their songs at the time, “Leather Jacket”, from doing some browsing on Spotify. Since the set was in the middle of the afternoon when the desert heat is at its prime, there weren’t many people in attendance, especially in the guest viewing area. I was essentially front and center for the set. That afternoon Arkells played one of my favorite sets that I saw at Coachella last year. They had great energy. I enjoyed their music without knowing much of it. They even brought a random festival-goer onstage with them to play guitar during one of their songs. It was so cool! I’m surprised I didn’t write about them sooner.

On Friday Arkells released their fifth studio album Rally Cry so I figured it was appropriate to do an Arkells post along with an album review. Arkells is a Canadian alternative rock band from Hamilton, Ontario that formed in 2006. The band is named after a street in the Westdale neighborhood of Hamilton where they used to live and practice together. Max Kerman (lead vocals, guitar), Mike DeAngelis (vocals, guitar), Nick Dika (bass), Tim Oxford (drums), and Anthony Carone (vocals, keyboard, guitar) comprise the band. Kerman and DeAngelis met while in college at McMaster University and discovered their similar taste in music. The rest is history.

Arkells released their first album Jackson Square in October 2008. They received some media attention in 2010 when Kesha and rap singer Shad joined them on stage for a cover of Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson” while performing at a small venue show after the 2010 Much Music Awards. In October 2011, they released their second album Michigan Left. That year the band also announced the departure of original member Dan Griffin (he was replaced by Carone). In the next few years the band continued to tour and received a few notable accolades, mostly in Canada. One of those was Group of the Year at the 2012 Juno Awards.

Their third record High Noon was released in August 2014. The album earned them Group of the Year and Rock Album of the Year at the 2015 Juno Awards. They also released the self-produced EP Study Music. While on tour in spring 2016, they teased a new record. That record, Morning Report, was released in August 2016. It was their fourth full length. In 2017 along with playing Coachella on the festival circuit they also played Osheaga Festival and Sasquatch! Music Festival. Their song “Knocking at the Door” peaked at #1 on the Canadian alternative rock charts. It was also their first track to reach US Alternative Charts where it peaked at #39.

Now Arkells are back with Rally Cry. I’ve listened to a few songs from their other albums and I have to say from their first album to their most recent, their sound has remained consistent. It’s pure alternative rock. Kerman has such powerful and somewhat distinct vocals. I feel like their music and even the lead vocals are a similar sound to that of Cold War Kids. I’ve been listening to their single “Relentless” for a few weeks now. It’s a jam and currently on my workout playlist. “People’s Champ” is a protest anthem of U.S. President Donald Trump, which isn’t the first time the band has taken a political stance with their music. “Whistleblower”, “The Ballad of Hugo Chavez”, and “Knocking at the Door” have political meaning as well. Another track on the new record “Saturday Night” gives off a Bruce Springsteen-esque vibe. Overall though, every song has that same alt-rock sound that has gained the band recognition in Canada over the years.

If you’re already a fan of Arkells, you should be stoked about this album. I definitely think they’re an underrated band in the U.S. Their music is great and after seeing them at Coachella, I can attest that their live performances are great too. I might be seeing them play again in two weeks too! They’ll be joining St. Lucia on their current headlining tour and I have plans to check out one of the shows. They’ll also be headlining a Canada tour in February 2019. It’ll be one of their biggest headlining tours to date as they play arenas across the “True North Strong and Free.” I feel like they have the potential to make a name for themselves in the U.S. at some point soon as well too. Definitely check them out sooner rather than later by giving both their newest album and older albums a listen. All five of their albums certainly have “gas in the tank to go all night long” on whatever medium you’re listening on!

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On A Friday

The alternative/indie rock scene of the 80’s and 90’s brought some incredible bands to the music world. Groups like The Smiths, The Cure, Nirvana, R.E.M., The Pixies, Weezer, Oasis, Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel, Sonic Youth, and Depeche Mode ruled the scene. Their music still remains popular to this day. Another band on that list who I failed to mention just released their 9th album on May 8th (digital release only; physical release June 17th). Their music spans over the last three decades and surprise, surprise, like many other legendary bands, they’re from the U.K.

Radiohead was formed in 1985 while band members, Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, piano), Jonny Greenwood (guitar, keyboards, synth), Colin Greenwood (bass), Ed O’Brien (guitar, back-up vocals, percussion), and Philip Selway (drums, percussion, back-up vocals), attended Abingdon School in Abingdon, Oxfordshire together. At the time they decided to call their band On A Friday because they would get together to rehearse in the school’s music room on Fridays. The band stayed together while the boys attended University by rehearsing on weekends and holidays. It wasn’t until 1991 that they recorded their first demos and began playing shows. That same year the band signed a six album recording deal with EMI and changed their name per request of their label. The name Radiohead comes from The Talking Heads song “Radio Head”.

In 1992 Radiohead released their first EP, Drill. The EP did not have much chart success. Their first album Pablo Honey came out in February 1993 with the song “Creep” as the first single off the album. The song and album wasn’t received well. In fact, “Creep” was blacklisted by BBC Radio 1 for being “too depressing”. By early summer of that year though, “Creep” was receiving airplay internationally in Israel and on the west coast of the United States, which prompted the group to go overseas to play shows. Eventually the song reached the number 7 spot on the U.K. Singles Chart when it was re-released in September 1993 after its international success.

Radiohead’s second album The Bends was released in March of 1995. Prior to The Bends, they released an EP in late 1994 called My Iron Lung (it featured a song of the same name that was also on The Bends). Their second album finally gave them the success they were looking for in the U.K. Several singles from the album received chart success. However internationally their second album didn’t match up to the success of their first and particularly the single “Creep”. Nonetheless, the band was satisfied with the album’s reception and they toured the U.S. and Europe in support of R.E.M. following its release.

OK Computer, the band’s self-produced third album, was released in 1997. It’s arguably Radiohead’s best album to date and was compared to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon upon its release. The band received worldwide success with OK Computer including topping the U.K. albums chart, receiving a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album, and a nomination for Album of the Year. Since its release the album has gone triple platinum in the U.K., double platinum in the U.S., and multiple certification in other international markets.

Following OK Computer, Radiohead released Kid A in October 2000. The album received mixed reviews yet still received a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album and a nomination for Album of the Year much like its predecessor. Amnesiac was released a year and a half later in June 2001. The album topped U.K. music charts and reached the number two spot in the U.S. It also received a Grammy nomination and a Mercury Music Prize nomination.

Radiohead’s sixth album Hail to the Thief was released in June 2003. It debuted at number one on the U.K. music charts and reached the number three spot in the U.S. eventually going platinum and gold in each respective country. The album release also signaled the end for their contract with EMI. A month before the album release Radiohead embarked on a world tour which included a stop to headline the Glastonbury Festival. They finished by headlining Coachella. Radiohead played Glastonbury many times before their headlining performance in 2003, including their first time as a headliner in 1997 after the release of OK Computer, but 2004 marked the group’s first Coachella appearance (they made their return to Indio as a headliner in 2012).

Since 2003 Radiohead has released three more albums, In Rainbows, The King of Limbs, and most recently A Moon Shaped Pool. In Rainbows and The King of Limbs each received similar praises and awards as other Radiohead albums which included award nominations (and win for In Rainbows; 2009 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album) and high chart rankings. With Radiohead’s release of consistent musical masterpieces, A Moon Shaped Pool will probably follow suit to the many albums that came before it.

Radiohead’s music falls in the alternative rock/indie rock genres. Over the last 24 years, they’ve combined a bunch of other musical styles into their records such as electronic, jazz, and hip hop. However, even with influences from other music genres and their development over the years, their sound primarily suits the alternative/indie rock scene.

Radiohead is a legendary band for any person interested in alternative or indie rock. The first time I listened to any Radiohead songs pre-dated my indie/hipster days. I knew of the band, but never listened to any of their music until one of my high school friends suggested we cover “Creep” while we were together playing music on our spring break. Then in 2011 once I hit my hipster era I began listening to more of their music. Even then though, my Radiohead music collection was limited. It still is despite receiving Pablo Honey on vinyl from a friend for Christmas one year (you think that would have made me want to get all their albums). However, I believe Radiohead is one of the best indie rock bands ever and Thom Yorke (primary song writer) is a genius. I feel like every time I’m introduced to a new Radiohead song I end up liking it. I’d love to see them live some day. I hear they’re amazing live, but they’re pretty amazing in general so that’s not hard to believe. They’ve come a long way since those Fridays in the music room. If you’ve never listened to Radiohead and are now curious about this incredible rock band, please check out these songs:

  1. High And Dry
  2. Just
  3. 15 Step
  4. Thinking About You
  5. Creep
  6. Karma Police
  7. Talk Show Host
  8. No Surprises
  9. Fake Plastic Trees
  10. Burn the Witch
  11. Nude
  12. There, There
  13. Everything In Its Right Place
  14. Paranoid Android
  15. Pyramid Song

Coachella Band Preview: BØRNS

I’m not sure if you knew or not but, COACHELLA BEGINS ON FRIDAY! For those of you camping, it begins Thursday night, but the festival officially begins on Friday. Since Friday is only a mere 3 days from now, this will be the final band preview for Coachella 2016 (I do have an extra special Coachella post for tomorrow planned though). Over the past 3 months, I’ve previewed all of my favorite acts performing this year and now it’s getting down to the wire. There was a handful of bands to choose from that I wanted to write about for this final preview so I figured I’d choose one whose music style is more so my cup of tea, meaning not another EDM artist.

Garrett Borns, better known to the world as BØRNS, is a indie pop/alternative rock artist from Grand Haven, Michigan. His debut single, “10,000 Emerald Pools”, was released a little more than a year ago on November 10, 2014. His EP Candy was also released the same day. After the EP release, BØRNS played multiple TV appearances and festivals to promote his EP. He joined the likes of MisterWives last spring and Charli XCX and Bleachers last summer on tour. BØRNS debut album, Dopamine, was released on October 16, 2015. The album peaked at the 24th spot on the Billboard Top 200 in the U.S.

BØRNS plays an indie pop/alternative rock style of music. His music also has elements of synth and can be considered synthpop. There’s even a hippie-like sound to a few of his songs too. His high pitched vocals are smooth. At times they even remind me of Justin Timberlake’s sound, except better because his music has a much more indie sound.

I first heard of BØRNS over the summer at some point. I’m not exactly sure if I heard him first on the local alternative radio station or on my friends Spotify playlist. The song “Electric Love” was the first song I heard though. Since the summer, I’ve heard the song many more times as well as several other BØRNS songs that I like just as much and have recently been getting into.

BØRNS 2016 Coachella appearance will be his first. He did play other major festivals like Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits last year, but Coachella goes beyond other festivals in my opinion. He’ll be kicking off the festival with a Friday set. As I’m writing this post, I’m listening to BØRNS and I can picture hearing this song while a cool breeze blows and the palm trees and bohemian hipsters are swaying. It should be a great set to attend to start off the weekend. With the limited amount of time, here’s some songs you need to have on repeat over the next three days:

  1. 10,000 Emerald Pools
  2. Electric Love
  3. American Money
  4. Seeing Stars
  5. Past Lives
  6. The Emotion
  7. Fool

The NBHD

Last weekend, I was at Best Buy looking for an item that I could spend my Best Buy Rewards mystery prize coupon on. I checked out the movies. Nothing interested me, so I figured I’d check the music. Best Buy isn’t really the best option for music. They don’t have a large selection, but they do usually have the latest releases. As I glanced over the new releases, I saw a brand new album from The Neighbourhood. My eyes lit up. I love those guys. Their first major single “Sweater Weather” was basically the anthem of my spring 2013. I didn’t even know they had new album coming out. I was definitely spending my mystery coupon on something (got the album for $5.29…WIN).

Formed in 2011, The Neighbourhood (The NBHD) hails from Newbury Park, California. The alternative, indie rock group comprised of members Jesse Rutherford (vocals), Jeremy Freedman (guitar), Zach Abels (guitar), Mikey Margott (bass), and Brandon Fried (drums) (original drummer Bryan Sammis left the group in early 2014) decided to spell their band name using the British spelling of “neighborhood” as to not be confused with another band of the same name who used the American spelling. They released two EPs in 2012, I’m Sorry… (May) and Thank You, (December) followed by the release of their first full length in April of 2013, I Love You. It debuted at number 39 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. The band played dates at SXSW and Coachella that spring and toured the U.S. throughout the summer. Their single “Sweater Weather” reached number 1 on Billboard’s Alternative chart by early June 2013. The group spent 2014 touring in Europe and released a mixtape album titled #000000 & #FFFFFF (the color codes for black and white) on November 28, 2014. It wasn’t until August of 2015 that the group announced their second full length album Wiped Out! would be released on October 30th.

The Neighbourhood surely fits the bill of alternative rock, indie rock. You might even say they’re a little experimental, but to me they always sounded a bit more than those categories. Maybe it’s just lead singer Jesse Rutherford’s voice, but I feel like they have an R&B sound to the vocals mixed with a rock background. I mean listen to some of their songs and tell me it doesn’t sound like baby-making music. They basically play baby-making music for hipsters.

I first heard of The Neighbourhood in March 2013. I saw a friend tweet about the song “Sweater Weather” so, of course, since I’m always looking for new music, I looked up the song. I fell in love. It was my jam for a couple weeks straight. The first week I listened to it on repeat constantly. I remember playing it for my friends when I picked them up for our weekly hang out of watching the TV show Pretty Little Liars. If I had a soundtrack for my life, that song would definitely be a part of it because it became synonymous with that incredibly inspirational time period (for other reasons unrelated to The NBHD). After that, I eventually heard other songs by The Neighbourhood and took a liking to them as well (not quite as much as “Sweater Weather”, but they were still pretty good). My friend bought me the album for Christmas that year and I had it on replay in my car for a while. That’s why finding their newest release at Best Buy last weekend was such a pleasant surprise, especially since the new record is awesome.

The new album has that same groove featured most of their songs (*cough cough* baby-making music). Their latest single “R.I.P. to My Youth” is the final track. Rutherford almost seems to sing-rap the verses while coming in with his signature smooth vocals on the chorus. Songs like “The Beach”, “Daddy Issues”, and “Baby Came Home 2/Valentines” are almost pushing into the rock ballad category, while other songs like “Prey” and “Cry Baby” lead into the record with that signature Neighbourhood sound. I even got the impression of some folk undertones in the song “Single”. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the new album is the first track “A Moment of Silence”. It actually is a moment of silence, or 30 seconds, if you want to get technical. Popping the record in my car’s CD player without looking at the names of the track-listing, I was confused by it at first. I waited for the album to start, only to hear dead air. Then, when a song started playing, it was already on the second track. It was seriously about 15 minutes ago while researching these guys that I understood my confusion. If you’re already a fan of The Neighbourhood, I recommend picking up this album. It features hints of other music styles while still sticking to their sound roots. I also recommend the album if you have a date scheduled with your significant other and you really want to get into their pants. In fact, I have other songs I can recommend for that too:

  1. Sweater Weather
  2. Afraid
  3. Flawless
  4. Female Robbery
  5. W.D.Y.W.F.M.?
  6. West Coast
  7. #icanteven
  8. No Grey
  9. Wires
  10. The entirety of Wiped Out!