Category Archives: Album Reviews

Album reviews by WQAQ staffers

Matt Greene “Shades of Greene” Mixtape Review

The best rappers of the digital era have started with mixtapes: Wayne, Wiz, Mac, Cole, and Greene. Matt Greene has dropped his debut mixtape entitled “Shades of Greene”, a clever play on his last name.

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The young gun from Middletown, New Jersey, got his introduction into music through the pianos and drums, then found a love for hip hop. That love grew into passion as Greene began to write rhymes of his own.

“I just have rhythm,” Greene said after recalling how he was able to play the drums the first time he ever sat down at a set. Greene’s rhythm is evident in his voice, which moves in a deep tone across some familiar beats. Greene borrowed beats from J. Cole, Logic, and Phoenix to name a few, a diverse collection of background music that accents his clear articulation through the 13 tracks.

Greene’s talents are particularly on display on the track “Drift Away” where he raps over a smooth Pretty Lights production. His creativity and flow over the beat help to showcase his lyricism, which is exceptional for a first mixtape. Some thematic elements Greene used were inspiration, dreaming, and nostalgia.

Greene also performs with the group Off Top, a compilation of Greene, Gnarly Nonsense, Parker Caexar and Eric Foster. They’ve performed two shows in New Jersey in the past few months and are planning to book more in the upcoming future.

Needless to say Greene’s voice is going to take him far in the hip hope game. Central Jersey is starting to develop a solid underground rap scene, and its safe to say Greene is on the forefront. His local following has helped his mixtape already to reach over 3,000 people through his Facebook. You can listen to Shades of Greene on his Bandcamp.

Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright in the End Album Review

As a lifelong fan of Weezer, it’s safe to say that I was thrilled to be reviewing the latest album from the group, but at first, I took that thrill with a grain of salt. After all, the more recent albums by the group have been lackluster, to say the least, and there has been a real desire to hear this group touch upon their roots is something that the dedicated fan base of Weezer has wanted since the mid 2000’s.

After the release of their singles, “Back to the Shack,” and, “Cleopatra,” fans of Weezer were yearning to hear what the rest of this album had in store, hoping that the band had continued to give the fans that classic sound that they have been waiting to hear. Well, I can assure everyone that this album definitely lives up to the hype.

“Everything Will Be Alright in the End,” is an album that successfully combines everything we know and love about Weezer, with a few fresh additions. Fans of the band will certainly be thrilled to know that this album carries a nostalgic essence of the Weezer’s style during the 1990’s. The album, (which was produced by Ric Ocasek, the brains behind Weezer’s, “Blue,” and, “Green,” albums), brings back the lovable lyrics and catchy grooves that made their first albums so memorable, along with a few interesting vocal collaborations between the group and the band Best Coast’s, Bethany Cosentino. The album is also filled with the trademark quirky guitar solos that only a mind like Rivers Cuomo can think of. I will admit that the three songs in the middle section of the album, (following, “Lonely Girl), seem to fall victim to a tedious use of chord progression, an issue that was present at the ending section of, “The Green Album.” Nonetheless, this is only a minor issue, as the rest of the album certainly makes up for this section.

It’s certainly a refreshing site to see an iconic band pay homage to old style, and create an album that makes the listeners remember why they fell for that band in the first place, and this is an act that Weezer executes perfectly on this album. My personal favorites are, “Lonely Girl,” and, “Foolish Father,” but that’s only a fraction of what this album has in store. If you haven’t listened to this album yet, I STRONGLY suggest that you do so, because you will not regret it at all.

Overall Score: 9/10

American Football Reunion Show – 10/11 Webster Hall

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The first time I ever heard the dueling melodies, somber trumpets, rhythmic drums, and the angst ridden vocals that make up American Football I was in High School. I was listening to a lot of different post-hardcore and indie rock and hadn’t really heard anything like what American Football brought to the table. I was intrigued but not over-sold and didn’t really revisit them until college. Now I get American Football. I understand the depth of the music. I understand what they created in the basement of their college house back in 1999.

Getting the opportunity to see them come together 15 years later to recreate the magic that they captured on their self-titled album and EP was something I didn’t think was ever going to possible. The shows sold out within minutes, despite the band’s efforts to add more dates to accommodate the wealth of listeners they had built up over the years. If not for the work of my talented girlfriend, Ashleyann Silva a senior studying public relations and entrepreneurship, this would’ve never happened. Fortunately for myself, the publicity company that she has interned for, Big Hassle Media, allotted her a photo press pass and a plus one, AKA yours truly.

The scene was set from the moment we arrived outside of Webster Hall. The line was packed full of the older emo generation, who were around to remember the influence that American Football had on the genre, but it also contained some of the younger generation, who respects and worships the band as if they were still a part of the scene (I am of the latter). Upon entry we figured it’d good to go up to the balcony to get a bird’s-eye view of the affair. Into It. Over It. had started their set and were ripping tenaciously through their new take on emo, which clearly is influenced by American Football. We couldn’t get a good spot to see because everyone was packed in tight on the railing, so we descended back downstairs into the heart of the crowd. Luckily we were able to post up in the front right corner of the room next to what appeared to be a security guard. He was standing on some sort of ottoman to get a better view of the crowd.

As Into It. Over It. ended their set and gave their thanks to the crowd, the anticipation set in. You could see it across the faces of everyone in the crowd; a sort of blank stare on the stage while they calculated the possible amount of time the band could keep us waiting for. We watched as their guitar tech set up everything for Mike Kinsella and company. We watched as Kinsella appeared on the side of the stage for a moment and received a warm welcome before he disappeared back into the green room. In the meantime, I went to the bar to grab a $7 Stella Artois.

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Then after about 20 more minutes of waiting it happened. I had been lucky enough to inherit the ottoman that the security guard had been standing on in between sets, so I had a great view of the entire venue as I sipped my overpriced imported beer. The house lights went down and four ghostly figures appeared on stage in the form of silhouettes, lit only by the flashes from several cameras in the crowd. And then it all began with the riff from the beginning of “Five Silent Miles.” The lights cascaded over everyone in the hall, and behind the band was a projection of the infamous corner of the house that graced their record cover. They continued through their EP, in an out-of-order fashion, although no one seemed to mind. Everyone was too transfixed on the fact that American Football was on the stage.

Everyone really got excited when Kinsella began to play the beginning of “Honestly?” The entire sea of people formed as one and belted the words as did Kinsella: “Honestly I can’t remember all my teenage feelings, and the meanings. They seemed too see-through to be true.”

In between songs while the band would have to move into another one of their calculated tunings, D A D A C# E to F A C G C E, Kinsella would humor the crowd by simply asking, “What do you guys want to talk about?” Several loudmouths would try their best to shout back witty topics at Kinsella as he stood staring intently down at his tuner to make sure he had it all right. I simply stood thinking to myself, “So, new album anytime soon?”

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Kinsella traded his Telecaster for a Bud Light as the band went into their most aggressive, for lack of a better word, song, “I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional.” The crowd chimed into the famous lines: “You’re so cold to accidents and misunderstandings!”

The night went on and the music just seemed to be getting better. Maybe it gets better with age. And after 15 years of aging, I’d say American Football were at their best. While I was at the tender age of 7 the last time they played any shows, they seemed to be enjoying themselves up on stage as they were playing songs from their adolescents, that didn’t really pertain to them anymore. I mean, Steve Holmes has been out of music for a long time, but it didn’t look like it on Saturday night. The band concluded their set with “The One With the Wurlitzer” as Kinsella told the fans, “We’re going to go over to the side and stand there for a bit,” of course anticipating chants for an encore.

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Of course, they delivered and had obviously left out two of their staples from their setlist. The encore began with Steve Lamos playing his trumpet behind his drumset, and touring bassist (and brother of Mike Kinsella) Nate Kinsella played a tom in the corner. Mike Kinsella and Holmes tried to figure out who was supposed to come in first on their track “The Summer Ends” and had to restart it a few times before they got it. The mess up just added to the atmosphere and didn’t phase anyone in the crowd other than giving them a good laugh. They ended their set on a classic note, with their most popular song “Never Meant”, the groovy, math-rock jam that had the whole crowd nodding their heads in-sync. It was a perfect scene to end what felt like a perfect night.

As they left the stage, Kinsella grabbed the empty bottles that he’d accumulated during the set and gave his regards to the fans. He even grabbed one fan’s camera and took a picture for them, something I’m sure that fan will remember for the rest of their lives. The reunion of American Football was greater than advertised and really hit home. Maybe it’s because I’m graduating college this year and understand some of the things that Kinsella brings forth in their lyrics, or maybe it’s because I got to see a band that I’d never thought it’d ever be possible to see. Either way, American Football have certainly left a legacy behind. If they decide to go forward and create new music that will be welcomed I’m sure by all, but if they decide to end it all after this round of tour dates, I wouldn’t blame them one bit.

 

Childish Gambino – Kauai EP

Cover for Kauai EP featuring STN MTN title

Donald Glover, the man, the myth, the comedian/rapper/actor/human-swiss-army-knife is at it again. Better known in the music scene by his alter ego, Childish Gambino, the 31 year old boy wonder recently released his highly anticipated EP full of island beats and dreamy hip hop fittingly titled, “Kauai.” A day before Kauai was released for public consumption on iTunes, Gambino released his mixtape to go along with the Kauai EP, STN MTN. The projects were presented together and one is supposed to complement the other. STN MTN features Gambino crushing tons of known beats originating from his Georgia, his home turf and the Kauai EP is all new material with some bonuses added in.

Lets focus on Kauai. The EP opens with a track that Gambino released via his Soundcloud titled, “Sober.” We hear bouncing synths and we hear the hook, “And now that it’s over/I’ll never be sober/I couldn’t believe/but now I’m so high.” A line that while it’s not easily accessible to everyone is still relatable to those that have gone through a break up. Here, Gambino gives us a somber track about longing for someone who’s already let you go on top of one of his most hauntingly uplifting beats yet. The best part of this track has to be the unexpected drop of his heatwrenching, bass-y bridge. By this time, it’s clear that this EP is going to be good.

Before you can talk about the EP, however, it should be said that this isn’t a typical Childish Gambino release. For one thing, it features Jaden Smith, the prodigal son of actor and “former rapper” Will Smith. Jaden Smith plays the part of “The Boy” on two tracks of the EP, and to anyone that knows Gambino’s screenplay from his sophomore album, this jumped out right away. “The Boy” is the main character from a 75 page screenplay that Donald Glover wrote to accompany his second album, “Because the Internet.” The album artwork for Kauai that Glover leaked revealed Jaden Smiths involvement from the very beginning and solidified the EP as a continuation of the project he began with Because the Internet. That being said, Jaden Smith’s presence on the EP is actually pretty cool.

At the end of the second track, “Pop Thieves (Make It Feel Good)” Jaden Smith has a sort of spoken-word verse, in character of course. Smith hasn’t necessarily made a good name for himself in either the acting world or in the music industry (he hasn’t actually made music, but after his father’s blip of a rap career and his sister Willow’s insufferable, “Whip My Hair” song, his attempts would already be spoken for). However, his verse at the end of “Pop Thieves” and his voice at the beginning of “Late Night in Kauai” really help the EP flow together coherently. It’s also pretty pleasing to the ear, especially since Famuel Rothstein of Royalty acknowledges that people don’t take Jaden seriously in a poem at the end of the song. Though at first it was questionable, Jaden Smith definitely belongs here.

Overall, the album doesn’t showcase his rapping prowess as much as his two previous albums, but artistically, this EP is an absolute gold mine. It’s a great addition to the Because the Internet concept, and the songs themselves are incredible. Full of soul and spice in good measure, each track is something to behold, from the conceptual masterpiece that is “Late Night in Kauai” to the car-radio-thumping “The Palisades” which is my personal favorite off the EP, Childish Gambino has truly delivered again. It really feels like listening to this latest installment could take you to a night of bliss on a beach somewhere in Kauai.

Tiny Moving Parts- Pleasant Living

More often than not, a band’s second attempt fails to impress after a successful debut album. Pleasant Living by Tiny Moving Parts is definitely an exception to this rule. The band’s first LP, This Couch Is Long & Full of Friendship, brought them into the “emo revival” scene and built up a fan base for Tiny Moving Parts. This summer I saw them open for Modern Baseball and they had the crowd screaming along with their relatable lyrics and math-rock guitar solos. It was really good, but Pleasant Living is great.

There is a clear increase in maturity that is exhibited on Pleasant Living, both musically and lyrically. “Sundress,” the album’s opener, introduces this new growth that is carried throughout the album. The screamed words and guitar solos are more calculated and less meant to show off. The lyrical content is less like a stream of consciousness and more full of depth. The transitions between songs are done in a seamless way that makes Pleasant Living easily listened to all the way though.

Lyrically, Tiny Moving Parts can be considered typical emo. Themes of high school, friendships, and failed relationships, are present in a lot of the band’s songs. Pleasant Living is still emo, but less dramatically so. Frontmen Dylan Mattheisen and Matthew Chevalier work together vocally to deliver lyrics like, “I’m not ok, but I will be someday” that show angst with a gained sense of hope. Their voices blend together when necessary but also stand on their own during the spoken and screamed parts of songs such as “Skinny Veins.”

Tiny Moving Parts mixes spoken word, screaming, and experimental rock in way that works extremely well. The closing song of Pleasant Living, “Van Beers,” combines all of the band’s strengths beautifully. Trumpets highlight the clean vocals with lyrics that sound like returning home after time spent on the road. The album’s end showcases Tiny Moving Parts’ growth perfectly.