BandQuote Reviews

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Here

edward-sharpe-hereEdward Sharpe and the Mag­netic Zeros have about ten band mem­bers. The num­ber varies from time to time with addi­tional artists fil­ter­ing in and out of the group. Rather than the rigid con­struct most bands form them­selves under, Edward Sharpe and the Mag­netic Zeros have organ­i­cally bumped into peo­ple they would like to per­form music with and have invited them into an almost com­mune like musi­cal troupe.

No one in the band is actu­ally named Edward Sharpe, which will con­fuse most. The name comes from an unfin­ished man­u­script writ­ten by front man Alex Ebert before he met front lady Jade Cas­tri­nos. From there, the band grew and might still be grow­ing to this day.

Their sopho­more album, Here, is more mel­low than the large band’s pre­vi­ous album Up From Below. There is a beau­ti­ful sim­plic­ity to Here, which empha­sizes enjoy­ing the effort­less plea­sure of life. On first lis­ten, some will write it off since there is not too much of a beat to dance to. On repeat lis­tens how­ever, peo­ple will begin to fall for the tran­quil and almost hyp­no­tiz­ing elements.

There are nine tracks on Here, which will take lis­ten­ers only thirty-eight min­utes to get through. Each song is able to flow well into the next and they def­i­nitely belong with each other. It’s refresh­ing to find an album that is con­structed to be lis­tened to from begin­ning to end. While this is how an album should be made, many peo­ple in the younger gen­er­a­tion are not use to this since a lot of today’s artists have a col­lec­tion of “hits and misses” rather than a com­plete album. If you like one song from this album, you will like them all.

The mes­sage is con­sis­tent through­out Here of liv­ing for sim­pler pleas­antries such as fam­ily, danc­ing, love and aspir­ing to become closer to what­ever higher power there is. While front man Alex Ebert appears to look like a mod­ern day run down Jesus (part of the per­sona of the mes­sianic Edward Sharpe), it is not an album that speaks to a par­tic­u­lar denom­i­na­tion, but rather any higher power some­one may believe in. This con­ti­nu­ity makes each track hard to dif­fer­en­ti­ate from the oth­ers, which unfor­tu­nately will turn some peo­ple away from enjoy­ing the album in its entirety.

Many will sim­ply lis­ten to the open­ing track and cur­rent hit on iTunes “Man on Fire” and feel that the other songs aren’t worth down­load­ing due the repet­i­tive nature. These peo­ple will be miss­ing out. While very sim­i­lar through­out, the almost forty minute expe­ri­ence will calm and soothe many trou­bles away. They fol­low the old adage that when giv­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion, always start and fin­ish strong since that is what peo­ple will remem­ber. I won’t clas­sify the mid­dle seven songs as filler since each flows well into the next, but the final song “All Wash Out” along with the intro are Here’s most pow­er­ful tracks.

Some pick up the album due to it’s hipstery-like cre­den­tials while oth­ers will avoid it since it is not some­thing one would play with a rowdy group of party goers. There are nights for raves/clubs and there are nights to relax and con­tem­plate why peo­ple are on Earth. It’s on repeat lis­tens that the beauty of this album comes out and it’d be best to put on when relax­ing after a hard day of work with friends that feel like family.

Here was released May 29th and can be pur­chased on iTunes or any nearby record store.

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Tenacious DRize of the Fenix

220px-Rize_of_the_FenixThe first thing one will see when look­ing at Tena­cious D’s Rize of the Fenix is the giant flam­ing dick in the shape of a phoenix sur­rounded by fire on their album cover. So sets up the third album in the con­tin­u­ing rock opera that is Tena­cious D.

After their very suc­cess­ful self-titled debut album, Hol­ly­wood Jack (Jack Black) and The Rage Kage (Kyle Gass) wrote and starred in the film Pick of Des­tiny and made a sopho­more album of the same name. It is widely known as a box office bomb, but picked up a cult fol­low­ing among die-hard Tenacious-D fans.

Rize of the Fenix is Tena­cious D’s ascen­sion from the ashes of their so-called down­fall. The first track, also titled “Rize of the Fenix”, show­cases their in-your-face rock tal­ents and should be lis­tened to sur­rounded by fire and strip­pers. Not all the fol­low­ing songs can live up to the rockin’ intro­duc­tion, but it def­i­nitely sets up lis­ten­ers for the Tena­cious D experience.

Sadly not all of the album can live up to their self-proclaimed glory. Like in their pre­vi­ous albums, they have two skits of Hol­ly­wood Jack and The Rage Kage goof­ing off in the stu­dio. While they may pro­vide a chuckle, lis­ten­ers will prob­a­bly skip over these tracks when re-listening to the album. They would have bet­ter served as pro­mo­tional videos lead­ing up to theRize of Fenix’s release and only dis­tract from the music.

Tenacius D spend most of the album pok­ing fun at them­selves in songs like “Low Hang­ing Fruit;” which empha­sizes pur­su­ing eas­ier going plump girls as a rock and roll pub­lic ser­vice announce­ment.  Through­out they find a good bal­ance of rock and com­edy by mak­ing strong tracks with effec­tive sto­ry­telling, such “Roadie,” which high­lights the impor­tance of the often times for­got­ten men in black who lug and set up rock band’s equip­ment. This install­ment in the bal­lad that is Tena­cious D will leave fans proud and belt­ing out tracks, but leave the more squea­mish very concerned.

While only Hol­ly­wood Jack and The Rage Kage know how long they put in seri­ous stu­dio time for Rize of the Fenix, it feels unfin­ished. Three tracks time out pretty quickly, with some only last­ing a minute. “To Be the Best” makes a great homage to mon­tage songs such as the one used in Team Amer­ica: World Police. It has the energy to pro­mote even the most sloth-like out of bed, but cuts off before lis­ten­ers can get into it.

Its very pos­si­ble their flop with the Pick of Des­tiny gave them the mate­r­ial they needed to cre­ate this redemp­tion album. High­lights from Rize of the Fenix come from when they poke fun at their own their rise and fall through fame such as “The Bal­lad of Hol­ly­wood Jack and The Rage Kage”. How­ever, only half of the album stands out as mem­o­rable while the rest can, sadly, be glossed over. Those few hits are enough to get them tour­ing again, which fans will love as an excuse to get another Tena­cious D tattoo.

Rize of the Fenix was released May 15, 2012. The entire album is stream­ing free on Tena­cious D’s Sound­cloud account @ http://soundcloud.com/tenaciousd/sets/rize-of-the-fenix/

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Neon TreesPicture Show

220px-Neon_Trees_Picture_ShowNeon Trees reached national and radio suc­cess after “Ani­mal,” from their first album, was released as the free sin­gle of the week by iTunes. While the rest of their debut album Habits shared the same upbeat, dance-educing melodies, they couldn’t eclipse the suc­cess of “Ani­mal.” It became a crowd favorite at their shows and was remixed often by DJs look­ing to put their name next to a pop­u­lar track. In the music indus­try, this is viewed as a good prob­lem though.

Like many artists with a suc­cess­ful debut, they are faced with appeas­ing their exist­ing audi­ence while at the same time matur­ing as a band with their sec­ond album. By those cri­te­ria, Neon Trees has suc­ceeded. Their sopho­more album, Pic­ture Show sticks with the fami­lar pop/rock feel while at the same time mix­ing darker ele­ments that young adults who recently came out of their teenage years can iden­tify with.

In antic­i­pa­tion for their sec­ond album, they released the sin­gle “Every­body Talks.” It was met with large suc­cess and gained atten­tion for the album due to its wide use in a car com­mer­cial for the Buick Ver­ano and its Pan­dora com­pat­i­bil­ity. Nat­u­rally, Neon Trees is savvy/greedy (you choose) enough to use the free pub­lic­ity to their advantage.

The first half of the album fol­lows suit with tracks such as “Mov­ing in the Dark” and “Teenage Sounds.” The songs deal with the idea of older gen­er­a­tions claim­ing music is dead while the younger gen­er­a­tions only care about get­ting their own real­ity show on MTV. To both they say, “Old peo­ple, stop only tun­ing into Pit­bull and Ke$ha and search out some decent music. Young peo­ple, stop being stupid.”

After the suc­cess of their first album, Pic­ture Show nat­u­rally deals with their reac­tion to this new­found fame. Fame has its ups and downs, rang­ing from the party lifestyle to the pub­lic scrutiny, typ­i­cal top­ics for a sopho­more album. This love/hate rela­tion­ship with fame helps cre­ates the dis­jointed feel of the album that some will appre­ci­ate and oth­ers will be con­fused by.

Pic­ture Show is not per­fect and at times feels like it could have used a lit­tle more pol­ish. Songs such as “Close to You” and “Still Young” are repeats of the count­less other songs deal­ing with try­ing to reclaim a lost love. They don’t feel like they belong to the rest of the album and seem like filler; which slow things down considerably.

As stated above, minus a few mis­steps, this album dis­plays the growth of Neon Trees. Life is not always a dance party even if the youth of the nation try to make it so. As peo­ple age, they are bound to run into dis­ap­point­ments in oth­ers and in one­self. So Neon Trees couldn’t con­tinue to be all happy go-lucky.

So, while there is a slightly darker tone, the major­ity of the album keeps the happy power pop feel fans enjoyed from their first album. Lis­ten­ers will be able to play most tracks at a party and if they take the time to lis­ten closely, may learn how to adjust for life’s less glam­orous aspects. Tracks like “Trust” and “Hooray for Hol­ly­wood” cre­ate a bi-polar effect where lis­ten­ers won’t know to dance care­lessly or mope to.

This album should be played with a group of peo­ple and will go over well as a head-bobbing album. There are a few tracks that peo­ple will want to fast-forward through, but the catchy instru­men­tals, mean­ing­ful lyrics, along with lead singer Tyler Glenn’s excep­tional vocal range are def­i­nitely worth lis­ten­ing to. The only thing bump­ing it down to four stars is the sometimes-confusing mix between love and dis­con­tent. To be fair, life isn’t mono-emotional and Pic­ture Show rep­re­sents the expe­ri­ence of the ups and downs peo­ple face, some­times all in one night.

Pic­ture Show was released April 17th, 2012. You can lis­ten to the com­plete album @ http://www.fameisdead.com

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The Offspring – Days Go By (unpublished)

daysgobyIn 1984, The Offspring was formed and they have been creating albums ever since. That’s about three decades of holding onto their originally intended fans while growing to the mainstream status they have today. The Orange County natives recently released their ninth album, Days Go By, and it is able to draw from their angst roots while promoting a calmer message. It’s a hard mix to balance, but they succeed at creating an album their growing fan base will enjoy while still progressing as artists.

To be part of the punk rock genre, a band must serve as an outlet for the anger of adolescents and young adults. Now that they are no longer part of that age group, The Offspring had to find a way to remain in their genre while aging their message at the same time. Rather than yelling to fight back, their opening track “The Future is Now” as well as the song “Hurting as One” speak to they loss on both sides by holding on to a grudge. There is still anger in their verses and the instrumentals back them up well, providing a message about moving on.

The first half is what long time fans will appreciate about the album. For those unfamiliar with The Offspring, it means they would fit well on a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game. The later half of the album is more experimental. Midway through is a skit song called “Cruising California (Bumpin’ in my Trunk)”. It’s fun, but more of a gag and an exception to the rest of the album. The following songs vary from slower/darker relationship ballads to one song utilizing California Hispanic themes. The ending songs finish off in the same fashion as the beginning, chastising those whose sole motivations are greed and warmongering.

With all of their experience, The Offspring knows how to put together an album. The beginning draws in their very large fan base while the later half is able to vary and experiment to create a distinct album. It is the obvious progression for a band looking to keep in touch with their beginnings, but who are also aware of their age.

Nine albums is a hell of a feat and The Offspring pull it off. While the majority of tracks go over well, some fall flat. They are not ready to quit though and songs like “Secrets from the Underground” explicitly state how they are not dead yet and are still going to keep coming out with albums in the future. It’s nice to see how they’ve progressed since a lot of artists can lose touch with the music after they outgrow their originally intended audience. Days Go By is for the adults that have followed them all this time and still provides some hits that new listeners will enjoy.

Days Go By was released June 22nd, 2012. You can purchase the album on iTunes or at a record store near you.

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The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now (unpublished)

tallestThe Tallest Man on Earth has gained fame for his live performances where his soulful style resonates with his audience. The man responsible, Swedish native Kristian Matsson who in reality is not as tall as his musical pseudonym makes him seem, is able to sing in a folksy style compared often to that of Bob Dylan. While his tracks don’t appear often on the radio often due to its calm nature, it’s refreshing to hear an artist who can perform live and sound precisely as they do on their albums.

His third album, There’s No Leaving Now, is able to grab audiences with the use his guitar and voice complimenting each other and only rarely relying on other instruments to add to his style. His guitar and voice work so well together that it’d be a crime to listen to one without the other. While his voice has a nasal drawl that is hard to recreate, it is his unusual guitar picking that makes his music powerful to listen to.

There’s No Leaving Now can best be related to a calm stream. It’s peaceful and has a beauty to it that will entertain listeners. The issue that differs his third album from his previous works is it’s forgettable nature. The songs do not really differentiate with each other so it is hard to identify one song from the next and the tracks do not have the same soul that his previous debuts have.

Fans of the Tallest Man on Earth will still like There’s No Leaving Now. It sticks to its folk routes and has a peaceful nature to it. The issue is that it’d be better to listen to if shuffled along with other tracks at one of his live performances. Without an outdoor setting and a few friends to relax to the tranquil melodies with, it becomes unfortunately forgettable. Not bad, just “meh”.

This is not the album that those unfamiliar with The Tallest Man on Earth should start out with. Only a few tracks, such as “1904” and “Wind and Walls”, have the soul that many of his previous albums have more of. Another note that those unfamiliar with his style should understand is the confusing nature of his lyrics. I have not had the pleasure to meet with Kristian Matasson and ask him the reason behind his style, but it is most likely to create an emotional journey rather than a physical story. That is a critical difference between The Tallest Man on Earth and Bob Dylan. Dylan sings to an issue while Matasson sings to a mindset.

Fans of The Tallest Man on Earth will enjoy There’s No Leaving Now but it is unlikely to become their favorite work of his. While I do recommend those interested in folk music to check out some of his previous work, it’d be best to hold off on listening to his recent album until they have built a preference for his style. It is in no way a poor album. It only comes off as average though.

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