Edward 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.
The 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/
Neon 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
The Offspring – Days Go By (unpublished)
In 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.
The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now (unpublished)
The 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.