alternative bands

(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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The Early November

I know I’ve only had this blog for a little over a year now, but I’m still not sure why I didn’t make a post about this band at this time last year. Yesterday it occurred to me when I was trying to think of a blog topic for the week that it would be the perfect time to write about the band The Early November because ironically it is early November (obviously intentional). I used to listen them back in high school. I wouldn’t say they were one of my favorite bands, but I had quite a few of their songs downloaded.

I first heard of The Early November sometime between mid 2004-late 2005. I can’t exactly pinpoint the moment like I often times do with many of the bands I write about. I’m guessing it was some time after I purchased the 2003 Vans Warped Tour Compilation, which was in the summer of 2004 (“Every Night’s Another Story” is listed on my iTunes as being from that album). They came into existence a few years before I first listened to them though.

The Hammonton, New Jersey band was founded in 1999 by guitarist and front man Arthur “Ace” Enders, along with former member Jim Sacco (later replaced by Joseph Marro), Sergio Anello, and Jeff Kummer. The band signed with Drive-Thru records in 2002 releasing two EP’s that year, For All of This and The Acoustic EP (acoustic versions of all the songs on For All of This), with the label. The Early November played dates on the Vans Warped Tour and the Skate and Surf Fest the same year. While still touring, the band debuted their first full length album, The Room’s Too Cold, in the fall of 2003.

In 2006 the band released their sophomore record, a triple disc album, The Mother, The Mechanic, The Path. The album debuted at #31 on the Billboard Top 200, which was their highest charting album to date. It was around the release of the second album that guitarist Bill Lugg was added to the ensemble. In 2007 the band announced an indefinite hiatus and played their final show at Bamboozle on May 6th. At the time, the future of the group was uncertain, but they did not rule out a possible reformation, which is exactly what happened four years later.

The band reunited in the fall of 2011 to play several shows on the east coast. At one of the shows (Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ), it was confirmed that Ace was working on a new album for the group. The Early November’s third album and first album in 6 years, In Currents, was released in July of 2012. Since then, the band has toured and released a fourth album, Imbue,  which came out in May of this past year.

When I was in high school and college, I never had the opportunity to see The Early November live. I did see Ace Enders perform an acoustic show once though in early 2012 along with Anthony Raneri of Bayside, Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids, Chris Conley of Saves the Day, and Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. on the Where’s The Band? Tour. I’m pretty sure I remember Ace playing a few Early November songs along with songs from his side project band I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business. It was a fantastic acoustic show. I highly recommend seeing any of your favorite bands play acoustic if you ever have the opportunity.

Truth be told though, I haven’t listened to The Early November in a very long time. It’s been so long that I haven’t even heard any of the music they released post-hiatus. The last time might have been at that acoustic show almost 4 years ago and even then I wasn’t listening to them like I had in the past. Even now as I played their songs while writing this post, it occurred to me that things are so much different for me than they were back in high school. Their music falls under the emo, alternative, indie, punk rock genres. I can’t listen to their music and relate to it in the same way. I’m a much different person. I have more confidence, more hope, and an overall more positive outlook than I did as a teenager. Although my life is currently nowhere near where I’d like it to be and I’m still trying to achieve my goals, it does get better. For nostalgia’s sake though here are some of my former favorite songs by The Early November:

  1. Ever So Sweet
  2. Come Back
  3. All We Ever Needed
  4. Hair
  5. Sesame, Smeshame
  6. I Want To Hear You Sad
  7. Sunday Drive
  8. For All of This

The New British Invasion

In the 60’s there was a pretty big deal band that came out of England, but in the 00’s there was another one. Maybe not as big as the first, but they still matter to me. This blog post is about them, not The Beatles.

I first found out about The Kooks in  early summer 2011 when my friend Caylee told me to listen to their song “Naive”. I loved it. It was so catchy. That same year in September they released their album Junk of the Heart. I bought it shortly after the release. I also ended up getting their first album Inside In/Inside Out which was released in 2006 a few months later.

The band is made up of members, Luke Pritchard, Hugh Harris, Alexis Nunez, and Peter Denton, although Nunez and Denton were not part of the original lineup. Paul Garred and Max Rafferty were with the band from their early days until 2012 and 2008, respectively. The Kooks are a British rock band whose sound almost reminds me of something you’d hear out of a 1960’s British Invasion band. At the same time, they fit into that modern indie sound that’s comparable to The Arctic Monkeys.

I haven’t heard much about them since then. No tours. No new albums. Maybe there was something and I just wasn’t paying attention, but about 2 months ago I heard a brand new single called “Down”. I didn’t fall in love immediately, but it was a song that I found good enough to download. Then, about a week and a half ago I was looking at iTunes for some new music (first time I ever did that I may add) in their recent alternative popular download search list type thing (I don’t know how to describe it). To be honest I’m not sure what I did to get where I did to find the new music, and I don’t feel like looking up the exact steps in the iTunes store. Anyway, I found a recent Kooks song called “Bad Habit”. It was super catchy. I downloaded it and after finally getting it on to my iPod yesterday, I can’t stop listening to it. It’s on repeat. As I just found out the song is on their new album Listen which was released in September (where have I been?!) along with the song “Down”. I’m currently hooked on it. I plan on getting this new album sometime in the near future as well. If that song is any indication of what the album is like then I’m sure it’s a worthy buy. Of course I could be wrong. There have been albums that weren’t that good aside from one or two songs. If I know the Kooks though, I’m sure they put together a quality record.

So if you’re sitting there reading this, take the time to listen to “Bad Habit”. I put the Youtube video below for your convenience (you’re welcome!) and then check out some other stuff by The Kooks. If you need some help, as always, the song list:

1. “Naive”

2. “Junk of the Heart (Happy)”

3. “Seaside”

4. “She Moves in Her Own Way”

5. “One Last Time”