new album review

Crooked Shadows: Album Review

Way back when I started this blog, I wrote about my love for Dashboard Confessional. They changed my life in high school and got me into good music (click here for a more detailed description). They were my favorite band back then. For the past 9 years though, they’ve been M.I.A. as far as new music goes. Honestly, if you were to tell me a year ago that I’d buy a new Dashboard album, I wouldn’t have believed you because the style of music Dashboard plays doesn’t match my current interests. Plus their music reminds me of a specific time in my life that I’ve grown past. I still appreciate them for that time though. I’ve just moved on.

A little over a year and a half ago, I worked a Dashboard Confessional show. They were on the Taste of Chaos Tour with Taking Back Sunday, Saosin (with Anthony Green), and The Early November. It was an honor to work and one of my greatest full circle moments to date. I had the opportunity to stay for the show after I finished work and I, of course, took advantage it. I left early to watch the Stanley Cup Final (my team, the Penguins, were on the verge of winning the Cup) but stayed for about 5-6 Dashboard songs. However, I doubt I would have attended if I wasn’t working. That’s the best example I can give you of my recent feelings towards Dashboard Confessional. Three months ago that changed slightly.

Dashboard Confessional released their first single from their new album Crooked Shadows in November (the album was released on Friday). I saw it as a new music release on Spotify and decided to listen because I was curious. The single, “We Fight”, was pretty good. It was better than I expected. I wouldn’t say I was hooked, but I was happy their new song was something I would listen to. I felt the exact same way upon hearing Brand New’s “I Am a Nightmare” in June 2016 and The Movielife’s “Mercy is Asleep at the Wheel” over the summer. At that time, I also saw that Dashboard announced a new show date in my hometown in late January. I thought to myself that I’d definitely go to the show as long as I had nothing else going on. I even tried to see if a few friends were interested, but I delayed getting tickets in case something came up.

I ended up being able to go and took my mom to the show. She was always a fan of Dashboard when I listened to them in high school so I thought she’d appreciate seeing them at least once. The show was fantastic. I loved it, especially lead vocalist/guitarist Chris Carrabba’s stage presence. It definitely evolved over the years. It was fun to stay for the whole thing this time around and sing all my favorite songs again with a few new ones in between. Speaking of new songs, a week before the show they released another single, “Heart Beat Here.” This time upon listening, I was hooked. The song was a perfect blend of something I would listen to now mixed with that classic Dashboard Confessional sound (essentially Chris Carrabba’s voice). At that point, I thought to myself, “I might actually have to get this new album.” On Friday, I did.

Crooked Shadows, Dashboard Confessional’s seventh full length album, was released on Friday. The album is relatively short compared to the others. It’s only 9 songs long. Within those 9 songs though is the complete re-birth of a 2000’s emo band to a 2018 indie/alternative rock band. This album is far from emo. It’s purely indie rock mixed with indie folk, electronic, and alternative rock. It’s such a great blend of my current interests with classic Dashboard that I fell in love with it in a matter of hours. If you want anything reminiscent of old Dashboard, I’d recommend listening to the songs “Open My Eyes” featuring violinist Lindsey Stirling or “Just What to Say” featuring Chrissy Costanza. “Heart Beat Here” has an old Dashboard feel as well. At the Dashboard show I attended two weeks ago, Chris said the song is a continuation of “Hands Down.” I don’t know if I’d agree as far as the sound goes, but it’s definitely a great song. That track along with the other first five are absolute jams. My favorites are “About Us” and “Belong” (with Cash Cash) which I had on repeat Friday afternoon. “We Fight” is included in that bunch as well. I currently have the album in my car and I’m sure I’ll be listening to it on repeat for the next week or more.

This is the second time in less than a year that I’ve fallen in love all over again with one of my favorites (the first was Foster the People over the summer). Although I think this time, I’ve just fallen in love with new Dashboard so it’s kind of like falling love all over again. I would recommend their new album to anyone at this point, but especially to those whose music interests have grown and changed, much like mine have. Dashboard Confessional is back in the best way possible.

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hopeless fountain kingdom: Album Review

As you know, all-new albums from some of my favorite artists will be dropping throughout the summer. The album releases began over the weekend. I’m going to try to review as many of them as I can, especially because I’ll be busy traveling and it will at least give me a few planned topics to write about.

On Friday, along with alt-J’s Relaxer, Halsey released her sophomore album hopeless fountain kingdom. Although it’s currently #1 on iTunes, it’s a disappointment for me. I’ve always liked Halsey’s darkness and edge that she brought to her music. Her new album seems generic. She tried to bring in this artsy, creative aspect to it by having it reflect a Romeo & Juliet type of scenario, but instead I feel like she’s trying too hard. I previously compared her styles and sound to a mix of Lana Del Rey and Lorde. Although this album brings in some of that Lana Del Rey creativeness, she’s strayed from the Lorde-ish type of sound and Lana-ish lyrical content heard on Badlands. If there are any songs that I enjoy/appreciate from this new album, it’s “Bad at Love” and “Eyes Closed”. “Eyes Closed” was released as a single a few weeks ago and I liked it initially. There’s really nothing more to it than that for me. Upon listening to the album though, “Bad at Love” was the song that stood out to me in sound and lyrics. It’s catchy, but the lyrics also give representation to Halsey’s bi-sexuality, which she’s been open about in the past. Sure the lyrics aren’t genius. They’re kind of just average pop lyrics. It’s definitely no “New Americana”, but I like the fact that the song reflects Halsey as an LGBT artist, which is something you don’t always get in music.

The new album also features a few collaborations. Quavo from the hip-hop group Migos, Lauren Jauregui from girl band Fifth Harmony, and Norwegian DJ Cashmere Cat all make appearances on hopeless fountain kingdom.

Overall though, I think this is one album I’m going to bypass on purchasing. It was a disappointment for me after such quality work with Badlands. I feel like Halsey is just falling into the main stream pop, where she had potential to be more than that. I’m going to just blame “Closer” and The Chainsmokers for this one. Hopefully her follow-up delivers in a big way. For those of you who really like this album, I’m sorry I don’t agree with you. I was hoping for this album to be just as good as Halsey’s debut. Unfortunately that’s not always the case and I’ll just hope for something better next time.

Relaxer: Album Review

Yesterday alt-J released Relaxer, their 3rd studio album. Today I’m giving you my take on it.

Relaxer is shorter than the first two alt-J albums. It only consists of 8 songs and 39 minutes of play time making it alt-J’s shortest album thus far. However what it lacks in size, it makes up for in content. It’s a perfect combination of the alt-J music you know and love.

I’ve always found alt-J’s sound to be so original. At least none of the other bands I listen to sound similar to them. Some of their earlier music had an Arabic/Middle Eastern sound to it. “3WW” and “Deadcrush” have a bit of that sound, but each song’s sound goes beyond that too. “3WW” has this Egyptian-like sound, while “Deadcrush” incorporates an electronic/deep house type sound. “Hit Me Like That Snare” has an indie rock feel and “In Cold Blood” has the sound of a classic alt-J hit similar to “Breezeblocks”.  “Adeline” and “Last Year” are both soft and mellow. They’re comparable to “Warm Foothills” and “Pusher” from This Is All Yours or “Matilda” from An Awesome Wave. Finally, the intros of “Pleader” and “House of the Rising Sun” remind me of something I’d hear from a movie score.

Relaxer is the new album you’ve been waiting to hear from alt-J. It’s got everything you’d want from the indie rock band and it’s the perfect addition to your alt-J album collection. I will say though, alt-J isn’t for everyone. Their sound is unique no matter how you look at it so if you’re going to listen to them for the first time with this album, don’t expect your typical indie rock. It’s a bit beyond that. If you love alt-J though, you’ll definitely love or at least like this new album.