new music

Shore: Album Review

There’s something about fall that makes me want to listen to indie music. Maybe it’s the way that nature boasts its most colorful season in the Northeast. Maybe it’s the cool crisp air that’s much welcomed after a hot summer. Maybe it’s the flannel, beanies, sweaters, and boots that bring out the hipster in all of us. Maybe it’s simply all those long drives across the state in mid-October I used to take while listening to Matt Pond PA, The Smiths, Good Old War, Bon Iver and other indie acts. It’s probably a combo of all these things, but for the last 10 years or so fall has felt like indie music season, which is why when Fleet Foxes released their most recent full length Shore on the fall solstice, I knew I had to give it a listen. What surprised me is just how into it I was.

I’ve always been a casual fan of Fleet Foxes. Despite their indie folk style that fits my ideal fall tunes, I usually associate them with winter. Cue “White Winter Hymnal”. Shore is the perfect end of summer fall album to change my mind though. In fact I’m ready to listen to it on a long drive while admiring some foliage.

Shore is Fleet Foxes fourth full length album. It was recorded over the last year including in the midst of the pandemic. Actually, the frontman Robin Pecknold recorded the album himself without the other members of the band. So yes, it does feature other collaborators. I don’t think their sound has changed much throughout their four albums, but who knows, maybe I’m just bad at distinguishing indie folk music. Still, I feel the same vibes from Shore as I do from Helplessness Blues and their debut self-titled. If anything this album feels more bright. “Can I Believe You” is an early front runner for my favorite song on the album so far. It has an uplifting feel to it and is also pretty catchy. Plenty of other songs fit that mood as well though creating that brightness you get from this album.

It’s really unfortunate that tours and festivals have ceased for the time being because this album deserves a tour in its support. I’m sure we’ll get there though. While touring in support of their last album, Crack-Up, they played Coachella in 2018 and I wrote this about them. I did get to see part of their set that year and it was the perfect night time indie Coachella set. Can’t wait til I can say the same again. In the mean time, take in the beauty of fall if you live in an area where it can be appreciated while wearing your beanie and checkered flannel and give this album a listen. Tell me it’s not perfect for the setting.

Notes On A Conditional Form: Album Review

In a time where there’s not much in the immediate future to look forward to, we thankfully still have music. New albums and songs are still being released. Some releases may have been delayed, but they’re still happening this year. For an industry that’s been crushed by this world wide crisis, it offers a glimmer of hope and an abundance of jams.

Today, The 1975 dropped their highly anticipated fourth album, Notes On A Conditional Form. The album release was twice delayed already this year, but every few weeks a new single from the album was released in the lead up to this weekend’s official release. To me, this feels like The 1975’s most ambitious album to date. Stylistically, it crosses genres, yet still maintains the indie/synth pop sound well associated with The 1975.

An inkling of this genre breach happened when the band dropped one of the new album’s first songs, “People.” The track sounds more like a punk rock/hardcore anthem than anything you’ve ever heard from The 1975 in the past. I remember being pleasantly surprised with the vibe of the new song as someone who grew up listening to punk and hardcore music, but I still questioned where the band was going with it. As more songs were released, I was assured that their new album would be full of stylistic surprises.

In early April, The 1975 released the song “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America,” which features indie folk rock artist, Phoebe Bridgers, who was supposed to join the band on their 2020 tour until it was inevitably postponed. The song is a testament to Bridgers’ folk rock style. The only thing that gives it away is Matty Healy’s vocals, but even Healy’s sound succumbs to the song style. “Playing on My Mind” also has that indie folk feel.

“Roadkill,” which wasn’t released prior to the full album, sounds like it could’ve come off a Sam Hunt record. It’s got an unmistakable country twang. Despite the country vibe, it still feels like a 1975 indie pop song. I kind of love it. There’s also a few interlude tracks on the record that bridge into another genre as well. These songs take the standard synth pop sound of the band into a more electronic sound. “Shiny Collarbone” and about halfway through “Having No Head” are those dance tracks.

The album is full of songs that sound like what you would expect from The 1975 too. There’s several bangers like “Me & You Together Song”, “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)”, and “Frail State of Mind” and smooth rock ballads like “Guys”, “The Birthday Party”, “Don’t Worry”, and “Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied.” It’s honestly such a great mix of music.

Like I said, this album feels different than what we’re used to from The 1975, but it blends genres remarkably well and still gives us the sound that we’re looking for. It may have taken me an album to actually get into The 1975 (I really got into them after “The Sound” from I like it when you sleep…), but I’ve been a fan ever since. I’ve always really been into their hits. “The Sound” (obviously), “Sex”, “Heart Out”, “Chocolate”, and “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” are a few of my favorites. This new album feels different in a good way though and even the songs I don’t typically fall for, I love. I think if you’re an indie music fan or a music fan in general, you can find something on this record that you’ll like. It’s got something for everyone. But really, you might just love it all, it’s that good. So give it a shot. If you don’t find it appealing, my solution is that maybe you would like it better if you took off your clothes. (Of course, that one is my favorite!)

Good Spring

It’s kind of amazing how much has changed since I last posted. Two weeks ago my big concern was hoping Coachella wouldn’t get cancelled. Now it’s hoping that I’ll get to work again at some point this year. In the last 3 weeks the world has just gone downhill. Three weeks ago it was unimaginable. Now it’s the standard and it’s crazy how I’ve already settled into it. For me it’s been a re-adjustment. When I first started this blog, I was in the midst of a time in my life where I was unemployed. I stayed home a lot. I tried not to spend much money. I would occasionally do things like drive an hour to the nearest Chipotle once a month. It’s kind of like that now with even less opportunity to do anything to pass the time. It’s heartbreaking when I think about it, but I’ve been getting through it and I’m reminded every day just how lazy I can be. I’ll buy into this thing though if it ends with me being able to work again, see my friends, and enjoy live music sooner rather than later. I don’t really know what other options I have. It’s all pretty shitty and hopefully the music industry gets some support soon.

When I last posted, I know I said I’d have a lot more time to write, but I really didn’t realize just how much time I’d have. Since then, I did a lot of thinking about music during this down time. The moment we all get to enjoy concerts and festivals again is gonna be pretty special. I also think we’re gonna get a lot of great new music out of this, which lead me to think about a great record that was created after Justin Vernon of Bon Iver spent months escaping the world, For Emma Forever Ago.

Bon Iver’s debut album was made while Vernon spent November 2006-January 2007 at his father’s remote hunting cabin that was an hour northwest of his hometown Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Vernon decided to spend some time there to get away from society after dealing with having mono, a liver infection, and just general displeasure in his songwriting and life. While in the cabin, he hunted his own food. His father also visited him every two weeks or so to bring him beer, eggs, cheese, and other items he wasn’t able to hunt.

Vernon recorded 9 songs in the cabin that winter including favorites like “Skinny Love”, “Flume”, and “Re: Stacks”. He drew inspiration from multiple sources such as Bruce Springsteen, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, and Appalachian folk singers. He recorded the music for his songs first. Then he used wordless vocals to add to each song. The album represented major life events Vernon was going through at the time that ranged on topics of longing and lost love to mediocrity. When Vernon left the cabin in February 2007, he was still feeling ill and not particularly satisfied with his songwriting.

After about a few months, Vernon’s friends encouraged him to release the album so he did. He independently released it in June 2007 under the name Bon Iver, which is a misspelling of the french phrase “bon hiver” meaning “good winter”. The project gained popularity throughout 2007 into 2008 from many indie music outlets. For Emma Forever Ago was re-released in February 2008 under Jagjaguwar. It eventually made music charts worldwide and lead to plenty of success for Justin Vernon and his band Bon Iver.

I spent a few days last week listening to this album in full. It gave me a lot of comfort in knowing such a beautiful thing could come from isolation.  This is why I truly believe there’s going to be great music that comes out of this dark time. There’s going to be a lot beauty in general. Who knows how long this lasts or what’s to come for our future because for once I think everyone feels pretty uncertain. We will make it out though. There will be concerts. There will be festivals. There will be more new albums and songs. Things might be a bit different initially, but we’ll adjust and make them better. Maybe we needed this break. Maybe earth just needed this break. It will get better though. It always does. Be well in the meantime and I’ll leave you with this from Florence and the Machine, “it’s always darkest before the dawn.”

CHAMPION: Album Review

A few weeks ago Bishop Briggs released her sophomore album CHAMPION. Her debut came out about a year and a half ago and in that time Briggs has been touring while simultaneously working on new music. Bishop Briggs released the bonus track “Hold On” in 2018 as well as the single “Baby”. Neither made the cut for the new album. In the weeks leading up to the release, Briggs released several new songs featured on the album. One of those singles was the title track “CHAMPION” which has since reached the number 22 position on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart.

CHAMPION picks up right where Church of Scars left off. It’s filled with more soulful alternative/indie rock jams. It’s a great follow up, especially with sure hits like CHAMPION, the break up anthem “TATTOOED ON MY HEART”, and “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”. If anything I think this album differs only slightly stylistically due to the less predominant bass in the tracks. Even with that slight difference, the bass is still there, just a bit less than in Bishop Briggs’ debut.

This album is definitely worthy of a listen for alternative/indie music fans, especially those who love Bishop Briggs and her powerhouse vocals. Bishop Briggs has yet to announce any 2020 tour dates but is currently finishing up this year touring in Europe. I suspect she’ll be going strong into the new year with more shows and festivals after this new release late in 2019. Keep an eye out for her and her tunes in the new year because she’s bound to be on the 2020 concert/festival radar.

Norman Fucking Rockwell!: Album Review

On Labor Day Weekend, Lana Del Rey released her sixth full length album Norman Fucking Rockwell! The new album brings more of that haunting pop sound that Lana is so famous for. Lana collaborated with famed producer and Bleachers front man Jack Antonoff on the record. Leading up to the release, she released several singles contained on the new record including a cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time”.

I’ve been a fan of Lana Del Rey since the Born to Die days. In my opinion, her first three albums had a similar sound and feel. But since Honeymoon, her fourth album, her sound has chilled out even more, which is saying something for Lana Del Rey. Norman Fucking Rockwell! brings back some of what I’ve been missing from Lana Del Rey music for the past few years, yet still ties in that melodic, haunting and peaceful sound that has been a primary element of her last two records.

I will say lyrically Lana’s later records have more meaning and depth compared to her earlier works. However, there is something pretty awesome about the line “My pussy tastes like Pepsi cola…” This new record brings in plenty of summer and west coast vibes with songs like “California”, “Doin’ Time”, “Fuck It I Love You” and the nearly 10 minute long track “Venice Bitch”. A lot of Lana Del Rey’s music has a similar carefree Bohemian style quality with themes involving love, sex, partying, America, and the west coast. I feel like her music is something I should be against yet, I fucking love it.

If you’re into Lana Del Rey, you’ve clearly already checked out this album. Otherwise, you probably don’t need to listen to this one. It’s nothing extraordinary unless you’re already a Lana fan. Although, if you’re a west coast fan, you may find a few gems in the track listing. If you’re a Lana Del Rey fan who hasn’t listened to this one yet, you should definitely listen to Norman Fucking Rockwell! asap.

Fever Dream: Album Review

After working two festivals and being forgetful about the blog for a month and a half, I’m back with an album review. In fact, in the past few weeks several artists I like have released new music and I’ll probably do a couple more reviews in the coming days/weeks.  First up is the latest from Of Monsters and Men, Fever Dream.

Fever Dream is the third full length album from the Icelandic indie folk pop group. It was released on July 26th. This is also the band’s latest album since 2015. The band hinted working on new music in spring 2017 via their instagram, but “Alligator”, the first single from Fever Dream, dropped a little under two years later. Fever Dream is full of melodic indie pop jams similar to their first two albums. There’s not one particular track that stands out as being “that song” like “Little Talks” was on their debut, but there are several songs that will surely grow to be popular amongst fans of the band and indie music fans alike. One of those songs is “Wars” which is about a mind war between loving and not loving someone. One of my personal favorites is “Ahay”. What I can say about the track is that the chorus is extremely catchy.

As I mentioned, over the years Of Monsters and Men has stayed consistent on their sound. The vocals of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson create a beautiful harmony which have become a signature mark of the band. They’ve also stayed within the realms of a mixture of indie pop and indie folk music, which is always a good thing as a fan. They’ve also routinely used native instruments like the glockenspiel as part of their music.

I’m definitely a fan of Fever Dream because I’m a fan of Of Monsters and Men. Even if you’re not a huge fan, the album is still worth a listen if you’re a fan of the indie pop genre. The new record is a great album to put in your car while heading on a road trip during these summer months. I felt like it was at least while driving to my gig the other day. This fall, the band will be embarking on a tour in support of their latest work. Check out Fever Dream when you have the chance and check them out in a city near you soon.

Father of the Bride: Album Review

On Friday, one of my most anticipated albums of the last year came out. Since early 2018, I’ve been waiting for the release a new Vampire Weekend record. Friday it happened. Vampire Weekend’s latest album, since Modern Vampires of the City came out in 2013, Father of the Bride was released. The album’s been teased for months with the release of singles like “Harmony Hall”, “2021”, “Sunflower”, “Big Blue”, and most recently “This Life” and “Unbearably White”. Finally the full album is out and I must say it’s not what I was expecting, but it hasn’t disappointed me yet either.

Father of the Bride is one of those albums that need to grow on you. It’s clear that in the last six years things have changed for frontman and songwriter Ezra Koenig as well as for the band itself (original member Rostam Batmanglij left the band in 2016). The sound is much more different than prior Vampire Weekend records. Koenig’s vocals are the one thing that distinguishes many of the new tracks as being Vampire Weekend songs. There are elements of country, jam, and pop in the record, which is much different from the former albums that have taken sounds from music of other cultures.

Another new addition to this album is the collaboration with Danielle Haim from the sister trio group Haim. She’s featured on three tracks and provides background vocals for a few other songs as well. As a big Haim fan, I’m into this. I never expected the collaboration, but I sort of love it? It adds a female voice to Vampire Weekend that didn’t exist prior. The songs featuring Haim are the ones that sound much different than typical Vampire Weekend. I do like it, but I also kind of wish the songs were more Vampire Weekend sounding with a Haim addition instead of being more Haim sounding with a Vampire Weekend addition.

It’s evident that with FOTB Vampire Weekend has grown and matured in life and in music. In fact, I noticed while seeing them at Lollapalooza last summer that the people attending their set were all older, probably in their 30’s or late 20’s, which if you’ve been to Lolla you know is rare because there’s an overflow of high school and college kids every where. It was pretty cool. So I guess in a way with their new music, Vampire Weekend is growing with their fans. Overall I like the album. I don’t love it. There are a few tracks that are sure bangers, mainly “Harmony Hall” and “This Life”.  The rest really need to grow on me. As I listen to the album more and more though in preparation of seeing Vampire Weekend in concert in September I’m sure I’ll be into a few more songs. I’ll probably still be jamming to “A-Punk”, “Walcott”, “Unbelievers”, and “Oxford Comma” though too. And if you’re a big Vampire Weekend fan I’m sure you’ll be doing the same.

Tranquility Base Hotel: Album Review

It took almost 5 years for Arctic Monkeys to release a new album. They went on hiatus after supporting AM, which is arguably their best album to date. 2018 is the return of the British indie rock band though. On May 11th, they released their 6th album Tranquility Base Hotel. The album title has never been truer though because tranquil is definitely a word to describe this record.

It has a different sound than many of their prior records. Arctic Monkeys have been labeled as a quinessential modern indie rock band. This record strays from the pure rock sound they’ve been known for. It’s more melodic and vibe-y.  Aside from Alex Turner’s crooning vocals, it doesn’t sound like an Arctic Monkeys record. I’ve been listening to the band Magic City Hippies and it reminds me of them a lot. It’s missing that edge and uptempo sound. It’s the kind of thing you’d listen to on a rainy afternoon.

After anticipating this album for at least a year and a half, I was disappointed. I got stoked on the Monkeys for a little while there in 2016 after being a casual fan since AM‘s release. I was waiting to hear some brand new bangers from the boys from Sheffield, but instead I got music that could probably put me to sleep. Maybe I’m just being picky and this record will take time to get used to, but I needed another “Do I Wanna Know?”, “Snap Out of It” or “Fluorescent Adolescent.”

Despite my disappointment in the new record, I’m still stoked that Arctic Monkeys are now touring again. I plan on working a show of theirs in July and sticking around to see their set. I’m definitely stoked for it and need to binge on their old records. I guess I have to listen to their new one too. After hearing the album, I decided not to purchase it. I was disappointed. I need to let it grow on me before I revisit the buying option. That’s what happens sometimes though. Sometimes an album isn’t what you expect or what you want to hear, but that’s what makes the good ones even better!

Almost Everyday: Album Review

Another album that was released within the last two months was Matt & Kim’s Almost Everyday. I was also fortunate enough to finally be able to see Matt & Kim perform live at the end of April. It was one of, if not the most fun show I’ve ever been to. I was starting to get tired waiting for them to come on, but as soon as they did it was pure joy for the hour and a half set they performed at Brooklyn Steel complete with blow up dolls, balloons, and a wall of death. After seeing that show, there was no question that I was going to pick up their album that was due out less than a week later.

I was eager to check out this new album because I really liked the single “Forever” that they released in the weeks prior to the album release. Almost Everyday doesn’t stray from the quality indie pop featuring synth and drums that Matt & Kim are known for. I think some of the synth sounds have even grown on this particular record.

After listening to the album, I didn’t feel like any songs jumped out at me in particular. I had a similar feeling when New Glow was released. With that album, I had to listen to it several times for a few songs to really start sticking with me. Eventually I got into a few songs on that record though. As for Almost Everyday, I’ve taken a liking to “Glad I Tried” and “Like I Used To Be”, along with “Forever”, which I already enjoyed before I heard the full length album.

Several of the songs have a lot of meaning and depth. The album was written over a time when Kim was recovering from her ACL injury and the band’s future felt like it was in jeopardy for a brief time. Thankfully Kim made it through! Truly, they both did though and this new album is a reflection of that.

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.