Category Archives: Album Reviews

Album reviews by WQAQ staffers

“Roughkast,” Album Review

I was given the album, “Roughkast,” by…wait for it….. Roughkast. Since it is my first album review on this page, I’ll try to go in depth, without taking up too much space.

Anyways, the album I received is one that takes influence from the styles of Jet, and Foo Fighters, to name a few. The influence in Roughkast’s songs are incredibly apparent, as every song on the CD is tooled with a Rock and Roll style, but the question remains, is the album any good? Well, not really.

“Roughkast,” is an album that certainly performs a nice little attempt at producing quality Rock and Roll tracks, but it contains some pretty critical flaws.

First of all, it is incredibly predictable. By that, I mean that every song on this CD has the same basic structure, starting with the main guitar riff of the song, then adding in the complementary instruments to add to that riff, then chorus, and so on and so forth. Don’t get me wrong — I am well aware that this is a principle in almost every rock song, but to keep an album interesting, you have to make it diverse. “Roughkast,” unfortunately, fails to add anything immensely diverse, and is incredibly tedious.

From the aforementioned point, this album also falls victim to identity loss. It really doesn’t set itself apart from anything else in the Rock and Roll genre, and nothing new is implemented into these songs. Sure, you’ll hear an occasional guitar solo, or a drum fill here and there, but otherwise, it’s just too straightforward. You won’t find your jaw dropping when you listen to this CD.

Lastly, the mixing in a few of these tracks is sub par. This issue forces the lead singer to sound like he is mere background noise, as opposed to being the leading force in the band. I understand that a more unknown band like Roughkast probably doesn’t have access to a Gold Record producing studio, but if you’re going to create an album that relies on loud instruments and vocals, you have to be able to reach equilibrium between those features.

All in all, “Roughkast,” receives a 5/10. The band certainly does have potential to be much better than what they are, but in the meantime, this record is just too generic and will most likely be forgotten shortly after your first listen, (should you choose to do so). However, I can say that a few of the tracks on the CD are some you can bop your head to, such as, “Do You Wanna Dance,” or, “Ruckus,” but this album will never be more than low-grade workout music.

Haze – The American Scene Album Review by Jonathan Hammer

Though I respect all music, it’s sometimes difficult for me to branch out of screaming vocals and heavily distorted guitars – as a metal head, indie pop-rock music that all sounds the same usually just doesn’t do anything for me.

Then there’s The American Scene.

The American Scene’s latest work, Haze, comes out September 9 via Pure Noise Records, but an advanced promo copy has gotten me sucked into some relaxing indie that has memorable hooks and a simple-but-fun sounding song construction.

The album opens with its title track and sets the mood well: crunch guitars that have the clarity of a gorgeous clean tone, upbeat drums that follow pop rhythms but aren’t generic, bass lines that create an infrastructure of low end to make sure the mix isn’t too thin, and catchy vocals with just enough reverb and delay to make them stand out, all allow for The American Scene’s work to hold its own against other acts in the genre.

Darker, mellow songs like “Nails of Love” aren’t too common on the album, but offer a good break from the more upbeat songs that abound. As “Nails of Love” ends and transitions into “4th and Broadway”, an upbeat piece with more guitar presence, listeners can understand that the band has a whimsical play of dynamics with their instruments, as well as a writing process that leads to diverse works.

The album is also filled with lyrics that college students can relate to, such as the extremely catchy chorus of “Nails Of Love”, which is guaranteed to remind you of at least one person you’ve met before: “She doesn’t want to be in love/Doesn’t think it’s any fun/All her friends are getting high on the weekends/He doesn’t dance unless he’s drinking/But he’s been breaking it down”

With no song clocking in at over 4 minutes, and most of the 10 songs on the album being less than 3 and a half minutes, Haze offers listeners music that can stay on repeat because of how short and catchy each song is. Whether you’re looking for something to go for a run to, trying to find new study music, or simply just want to listen to a new band, watch out for Haze in the near future; The American Scene made a mark on my music listening habits, and I’m sure it will for you, too.

 

“Royal Blue”, the band’s single for the album, can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JQDKVHIxdY

“Through Struggle Comes Strength” – The Involuntary, EP Review

“You live your life so aimlessly, without a purpose I can see.”

From the beginning, this five song EP hits hard and doesn’t look back. With lead singer, Dan John’s powerful opening statements, its evident this New Jersey five-piece means business. Forming from the ruins of several renowned post-hardcore acts all over Jersey, John (Cry the Beloved City, By Defect) is supported by guitarists Ryan Robb (The Red Effect) and Rahul Chitale (Fairfield) as well as bassist Peter D’elia (Elodie) and drummer Vince Rifino (Gold, The Red Effect). Though a few years removed from their previous acts, The Involuntary are making a splash in a stagnant New Jersey hardcore scene with their debut EP, “Through Struggle Comes Strength”.

Showing off their arsenal of talents, The Involuntary seem to have no weak spots in their power lineup. If you were around 5 or 6 years ago in the New Jersey music scene, you would know that these guys were all over the Garden State playing shows together, just for different groups. Now together, they’re creating buzz in a scene that’s been struggling for some time now.

 

Showcasing their wide range of influences from old-school Thrice, math rock studs Minus the Bear, and techni-core giants August Burns Red, The Involuntary are proving that there is plenty of originality left to be explored in hardcore music. While the casual hardcore listener can access this EP without a struggle, the deep listener will appreciate the little things the band has made an effort to display. They tracked the record in Montville, New Jersey, with Mike Lisa, a former bandmate of Rifino’s as well as a popular local producer. From there the tracks went to Rifino’s older brother Matt, where he mastered the EP at NBC studios. While the production value on the EP is outstanding, it is not over-produced, a medium that many hardcore bands struggle to achieve with all of the temptations of studio help.

John fully embraced the roll of the frontman, something he has yet to do in his musical career. Previously he was a guitarist/singer, but now he is displaying his talents in both singing and screaming, and doing both in outstanding quality. Robb and Chitale’s guitars compliment each other, and while neither of them is considered the “lead” they dual parts and make sure the listener is never bored. D’elia, a former guitarist in his last stint with Elodie, proves he can write and perform basslines that will entice fans and rumble their bones. Rifino is drumming at another level throughout the record, continuously challenging himself and his bandmates, while also making sure the listener keeps their heads bobbing through the entire 16 minutes of chaos.

The Involuntary are proving that there is some excitement left in this genre that New Jersey has been quick to abandon. This work has been in production for about a year and a half now, the band is aiming to keep fans and listeners coming back for more. They do just that with these five tracks, and their exciting live performances. The EP is available June 21 on the band’s Soundcloud and Bandcamp, as well as streaming on their YouTube page. You can like The Involuntary on Facebook for updates.

Concert Review – Manchester Orchestra, Balance and Composure, and Kevin Devine at Terminal 5, NYC

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Photo by:  Ashley Silva

 

Terminal 5 was packed to its 3,000 person capacity Thursday, May 22 as Manchester Orchestra came to town, bringing along friends Balance and Composure and Kevin Devine and the Godamn Band. All three of the acts have released albums within the past two years that were made to played live. Manchester Orchestra’s Cope is a raw, punch you in the mouth, sort of rock and roll album, full of huge distorted guitars accompanied by Andy Hull’s soaring voice. Balance and Composure’s The Things We Think We’re Missing is an emo-grunge album that hones Nirvana’s Nevermind but also poses aggression and melody in a way similar to Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary. Kevin Devine has released two albums in the past year, entitled Bulldozer and Bubblegum respectively, that transcend his usual acoustic power pop as well as his love for loud pop punk.

Kevin Devine and the Godamn Band started the show off, coming out to a cheesy country song that was apparently chosen by their sound guy. They got right into it, playing their spastic form of pop punk that is undoubtedly influenced by early 2000 Brand New and blink-182. Kevin Devine hopped around stage doing his best impression of Peter Cottontail. At one point, Devine started to sing the overplayed Nickelback song “How You Remind Me”, but thankfully retracted from the chorus into one of his own jams. One exciting part of Devine’s set was when he went into his ballad “Cotton Crush” and the road crew quickly set up a second drum set on stage, as a guest drummer came out to join them. While the second drummer didn’t do much to differentiate himself from the other drummer, it was pretty rock and roll. Kevin Devine and the Godamn Band got the crowd moving and prepared them for the night of excitement that was to come.

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Photo by: Ashley Silva

On comes Balance and Composure after about a 20 minute intermission. Behind them hung a large white banner displaying their name in a simple, lower-cased font. By the sound board in the back of the room was an oil-wheel projector that spun tie-dye colored blobs around on their banner. While the background was mesmerizing, it didn’t take away from the epic set that was about to happen. Balance went into their hit single from their debut album “Quake”. As the guitars lulled the crowd into a trance, lead singer Jon Simmons casually wandered over to the microphone, just to announce to the crowd, “Bang your fucking head”, just before the song dropped. The energy in Terminal 5 was electric and the crowd came alive in full force from that point on. Balance mixed in a variation of songs from both of their albums, feeding off the crowds energy. Fans were crowd surfing and opening up push-pits everywhere possible inside the venue, mimicking scenes of past years’ Warped Tours. Balance and Composure, on their largest tour to date, playing alongside a band in Manchester Orchestra that has influenced their music in various ways, showed no nerves, and won the crowd over with their loud, emotional songs.

Now for the main course, the beautifully chaotic, Manchester Orchestra. Opening the stage up to its full capacity and displaying a large banner, simply reading COPE behind them, the men from Atlanta took the city stage, opening up with their single from their second album “Shake it Out”. It was almost like they knew that they crowd would freak out once they heard those opening notes and the tambourine hits because the place literally erupted. Not one person in the venue was not singing along to the words, “Shake it out, shake it out. God I need another round, another round, another round, another I can feel it now.” Manchester went through a set which suprisingly only included four songs from Cope. The set was very heavy in songs from their second album Mean Everything to Nothing. It also included a Bad Books cover which included Kevin Devine joined them on stage to end their set. Of course once they left the stage the fans began the “one more song” chant. To the fans excitement, they came out with a vengeance, with their first single from Cope, “Top Notch”. The crowd seemed to have its own pulse and moved along with every song throughout the encore, until Manchester finally closed the night with “Only One”, where Hull proclaims, “I am the only one who thinks I’m going crazy, and I don’t know what to do”, while the entire crowd seemed to feel his emotion and sing along.

The show was loud, fun, exciting, and inspiring all in one package. Every band knew how to work the crowd and feed off of their energy and emotion. Each band also nearly replicated their sound from their albums, from every note hit, to each bit of guitar feedback. These three groups worked perfectly together and it would be surprising to not see some of them on tour together sometime in the near future.

“Loom” Frameworks (by Chase Montani)

With the recent surge of melodic post-hardcore, thanks to releases from Touché Amoré, Deafheaven, La Dispute, and Pianos Become the Teeth in the past two years, it’s been a breath of fresh air to see this new era of unmatched creativity and willingness to experiment. Frameworks clearly wanted to get in on the action. While Frameworks is definitely the most spastic of the bunch, they are also the most dynamic. Their debut album “Loom” shows off the potential that has been building around them since their first EP “Every Day is the Same” was presented to the scene in 2011. Frameworks caught the attention of Alternative Press and were featured in their “AP&R” section, as an upcoming unsigned act that revealed their formation was driven by the fact that they “really wanted to find an efficient way to waste a lot of money, quit our jobs and drop out of school.” Hailing from the musical hotbed that is Gainesville, Florida, which has produced acts such as Less Than Jake, Against Me!, and Hot Water Music, the “tropical screamo” five-piece are making their case that they should be mentioned in the conversation when talking about the southern city.

Frameworks enlisted Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Joyce Manor) to produce “Loom” which proved to be a perfect fit for both parties. Shirley’s presence is immediately felt on the opening track “Disquiet”, clocking in at just 23 seconds, with an acoustic guitar strumming among the opening of doors and background whistles. The album shows off a raw, yet superb quality, with guitars full of depth and drums that are felt strongly with every hit. Vocalist Luke Pate flails his voice across the remaining ten songs with such sentiment, that it doesn’t even matter that you can barely understand what’s coming out of his mouth; much in the way George Clark’s vocals are felt on Deafheaven’s “Sunbather”. Yet Pate’s angst and despair are felt, whether you can understand him or not.

Frameworks display their love for trialing in every track. The title track breaks down into a convulsive period of confusion, where the listener cannot be even sure that a guitar could sound such a way. “True Wealth” finishes with a guitar lick played in reverse that instantly lulls you in, with a methodical drum pattern guiding you right to the end. “Rosie” contains some of the most intensive drumming in the album, layered over distorted bass that grabs you and doesn’t want to let go. “Bright and New” begins with a beat that will have you bopping your head back and forth, then takes you through a series of chaotic verses, only to let you down gently with a shoegaze inspired ending that will have you saying “how the hell did this end up here?”

The instrumentals conveyed by Frameworks aren’t the only imaginative aspect of the album. Pate has stated that “Loom” is largely a concept album, debating the idea that he himself will look out of his window and realize that he won’t be able to have the chance to interact with most of the people that pass, and how this idea looms over him. However, the concept isn’t solely felt in the lyrics, as the songs themselves go from upbeat and energetic to a heavier and darker section, only to come back full circle to a more uplifting tone with the album closer, “Agreeable Thoughts”, which begins with what appears to be the sound of rain underneath some of the nicest sounding, reverb immersed guitar and builds up until the album perfectly comes to a close.

“Loom” seems to have what it takes to become an instant classic for screamo and post-hardcore fans of all types. It has tracks that appeal to the fans of heavy, dark hardcore, while also appealing to fans of melodic chaos. Frameworks may be rookies in the scene as far as full-length albums go, but are by no means rookies to making well thought out, imaginative music.

“Loom” is available on April 29 and comes courtesy of Topshelf Records. You can catch them on tour through May alongside Gates and Tiny Moving Parts.