Category Archives: Album Reviews

Album reviews by WQAQ staffers

“Standing in the Breach” Album Review

I found the 2014 album “Standing in the Breach” by Jackson Browne ultimately relaxing in tone. It is characterized as a pop album, although I feel that it leaned more towards the country/ folk side. The guitar combined with light drums and deep, soft voice of Browne creates an atmosphere of an easy-going lifestyle in the face of trauma, heart break, and destruction in a changing world. The songs on this album investigate many troubling and personal aspects of life, such as relationships between lovers and world disasters, such as oil spills. They serve as a reflection of Browne’s discontent with the state of the world, but his determination to live through it. Browne is most known for his work in the 1970’s, however, he continues to produce music now while into his 60’s, still possessing the same vocal abilities and activist nature.

The first song, the Birds of St.Marks was not unknown to his fans. He first played it in the 1960’s and played throughout many of his concerts, but did not record it on any of his albums until this point. For this reason, this song has evolved through the years and has had a lot of work put in to it. I find it to be one of the best off the album. It is supposedly about Nico who was a female revolutionist in the 60’s, and who he believed had been too encompassed by a life of fame and fortune, and had therefore become lonely in her popularity. This song is sad in nature, but the melody I find to be somewhat comforting, as Browne states that he must “call back all the birds I sent to fly behind her castle walls”. Despite that he is weary over the fact that he must let her go, his knowledge of what he needs to do is inspiring, as we can not all chase after things forever.

Many of Browne’s songs possess similar melodies with a similar structure: repeated, short, riffs that incorporate only a few guitar chords and a few drum beats, followed by a short uplift in beat and intensity, only to return to the slow, basic pattern once again. Overall, despite that the melodies are enjoyable, I find that they are too repetitive. There is not much differentiation in the songs or between songs. However, this flaw is probably one of the only one’s I can discover.The lyrics on this album are touching, comforting, and inspiring, if that’s the kind of music you’re looking for, and despite his age his abilities as a performer have not visibly diminished.

Long Way Gone, the third song off the album, struck me deeply. In this song, he reflects on the state of the world as it is different from decades ago. As a man of 66, he has clearly seen tragedies as well as happy experiences. But now, he feels that things are heading more towards the former. As a child, he was care free, which most of us can relate to, but now as the world is changing to a more destructive place, he feels that he is “a long way gone” from where he used to be. Everyone can relate to this confusion and lost feeling that he discusses. Despite the tragedies, such as oil spills and gun control, he witnesses, he is at peace with his life, stating that this wild road will still “take me where i’m bound, but it’s a long way around.” I found this song extremely comforting and relatable.

Standing in the Breach, the song endowed with the album name, reflects on the unfairness of life: poor and rich, sick and healthy, etc. However, he believes that love “redeems us”,

Overall, this album truly shows Browne’s activist colors, but in a modern world rather than his 60’s development.

“Analog Man” Album Review

Crass, blunt, and politically-incorrect are three terms I would use to describe Max Random’s album Analog Man. And guess what? I think it’s fantastic. Random tells it like it is, and does so effectively. In his songs, he’s sort of the observational comedian, making fun of current events and taking a lighter side to social issues. He tackles subject such as death (“Mister D”), the government, corporate America, and pop culture (“Godzilla”), greed (“Come On Baby”), and of course, weed and the government (“Ballad of Johnny Boon”). He’s an excellent parody artist as well, including his song “I’ve Smoked Weed Everywhere” (“I’ve Been Everywhere”) and “Monster Hash” (“The Monster Mash”). Random also has a softer side, as demonstrated through his songs “You Were Cool”, which has lyrics that are a little reminiscent of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind”, “It’s Not Goodbye Forever”, which deals with the death of someone close to him, and “Analog Man”, which is a funny song, but reminds us that we must enjoy life, and make it worth living.

Not only is Random an excellent comedian, he is also an excellent musician. He is a superb guitarist, and a pretty good singer. Overall, I liked this CD a lot. It is the perfect mix of comedy, and deep thought and insight. Every track was enjoyable to listen to, for me at least. I wouldn’t recommend this to people who are sensitive to these subject matters. But for those who aren’t, I say, give the album a listen. It’s worth it.

Novo Amor answers WQAQ’s questions

What is it about Woodgate that made you want to name your EP after the location?

It’s a place that is paramount in terms of the songs as a collection. In brief the EP is about the inconsistencies of loving someone, digging into the faults and remembering moments. The EP is a raw expression of a stage of life, and for me that stage started in Woodgate, NY.


Faux is honestly magical, what was it like to collab with Ed Tullet?

Firstly, thank you I’m pleased you like it… Secondly, Ed gets his name spelt wrong on a lot of music blogs… it’s Tullett, not Tullet (He gets fussy about that! Understandably).

Writing with Ed is great, he is one of those people you sort of hate because he is younger and better than you! I’m sure you know the type. We have lots of songs written together, writing with him seems to come easy because we share the same vision… more to come in the future.

I recently stumbled upon Holland while on 8tracks and so I watched the YouTube video and I watch it almost three times a day now. Did you have any say in the video, what was it like filming that video, where was the video located, and was the water freezing? What was the inspiration behind that song/video?

Josh, the director the video is a close friend of mine who co-owns a production company called Storm+Shelter (http://stormandshelter.com/). I generally trust these guys to make me decent videos so I don’t need to put too much of my own say into it, I will usually spend time brainstorming with Josh and trying out ideas… for example the night before we shot Holland he was filming me singing in a blacked out bath of water, when that failed we headed to the beach for 6am to film what would become the final video. The video was shot in February 2014 at Llantwit Major Beach here in Wales… And yes, the water was unexpectedly freezing!! I spent the rest of the shoot dying in the car.

I consider you to be my new Bon Iver. How do you like being compared to other bands such as Bon Iver?

I’ll take it as a compliment I guess. I’d rather be compared to Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon than Universal Music Groups Justin Bieber. Bon Iver is held pretty high in my list of greats, so any comparison to that is ok with me. I think it’s mainly the falsetto vocals that cause the comparisons, and I only sing in falsetto because my normal voice just low and bland.

Will you be performing anytime soon in the U.S.?

Not anytime soon, I’d love to be able to go over there and tour with a full band setup… that’s the dream. Hopefully it will happen within the next year, Someone needs to invest in me!

Who is your music inspiration?

I tend to take little bits of inspiration from various artists and pieces I hear. Generally though I would say James Vincent Mcmorrow, Justin Vernon and Asgeir.

How long have you been making music?
Since I was about 13 when I got my first guitar and little cassette tape recorder… I’m 23 now and music has been my only passion for the past 10 years. I’ve only been making music under Novo Amor for the past 2 years, there has been a lot prior to this. Lots of heavy rock music, house music, cinematic & classical music.

Who are you currently listening to on your iPod?

I usually get obsessed with an artist for a few weeks and then move onto another one. Recently I have been listening to a lot of James Blake, Asgeir, Highasakite, James V Mcmorrow and Alt-J.

Most Anticipated Records of the Fall

Fall is upon us and there are some pretty exciting albums that are coming out, or are rumored to be coming out before year’s end. Last autumn, we saw the release of some pretty incredible records like Balance and Composure’s “The Things We Think We’re Missing” and Touché Amoré’s “Is Survived By.”

This Fall is already shaping out to be a great one for music of all genres. Here are a few records I’m looking forward to:

Minus the Bear “Lost Loves” – 10.07 – Dangerbird Records
Minus the Bear have also satisfied fans with their releases despite their always-changing array of sounds. With the release of “Lost Loves”, Minus the Bear has put together a compilation of b-sides from from their last three releases – “Planet of Ice”, “Omni” and “Infinity Overhead.” They released the first single from the album “The Lucky Ones” in August.

Pianos Become the Teeth “Keep You” – 10.28 – Epitaph Records
Pianos have built up a pretty dedicated following with their throwback screamo style combined with pounding, emotional instrumentation. They put aside the screams and traded them in for fluttering vocals, that still manage to hit as hard as it did before. If the first single “Repine” is any indication, we’re in for a hell of a record from the boys from Maryland.

Gates “Bloom and Breathe” – 10.21 – Pure Noise Records
After signing to Pure Noise Records, Gates went out on countless tours and also re-released their EP “You Are All You Have Left to Fear” with two new tracks. Gates have come a long way from the first release of “Fear” and “Bloom and Breathe” is shaping up to be a monumental release for the quintet from New Jersey. Check out their music video for “Not My Blood” was released last week.

Logic “Under Pressure” – 10.21 – Def Jam Records
If you’ve had an ear in the underground hip-hop scene for the past few years, chances are you’ve heard of Logic. After being signed to Def Jam Records in April 2013, Logic’s debut album has been in the works for a little over a year, and has been teasing fans through social media on what to expect from the record. He released his first single “Under Pressure” last week to get even more buzz going around the debut.

Radiohead “TBA”
Thom Yorke has been messing with Radiohead fans in recent days by posting his usual cryptic pictures and messages through his Twitter account. While not much has been said about this album, other than Johnny Greenwood saying that Radiohead camp would be getting together in September, it can be speculated that new music is coming, hopefully by early next year.

Kendrick Lamar “TBA”
“King” Kendrick dropped “i” on Tuesday and sent shockwaves throughout the Internet. The track features a sample from the Isley Brothers, a group Kendrick has cited as a big influence in his music. The tone of the track is uplifting and contrasts the tone of “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” but the lyricism is still tops anyone else’s in the game. Kendrick has also mentioned he hopes to drop his new album before the end of the year.

Brand New “TBA”
Brand New released “Daisy” five years ago and has been taunting their fans ever since with the idea of a new record. A few weeks ago, it was said that they might have played a new song live, although no one could really confirm the news. However, Brand New has put up a picture on Instagram of Jesse Lacey in a large studio with a man who we could only hope to be their long time producer Mike Sapone. While nothing has been said by Brand New, they built a studio this summer and that has to mean something. Hopefully they release something before the new year.

 

 

 

Karen O- Crush Songs

You probably know Karen O as the lead singer of indie rock band The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Since the band’s first album, she ventured from the group to pursue various solo projects including a recent appearance on the Her movie soundtrack which got her an Academy Award nomination. She released her first full-length solo album, Crush Songs, September 8 via Cult Records.

Crush Songs has the feeling of a collection of demos more than a fully finished album, but that seems to be what O was going for. “When I was 27, I crushed a lot,” O said in a statement on her website, “These songs were written and recorded in private around this time. They are the soundtrack to what was an ever continuing love crusade.”

The single, “Rapt”, starts off with a count down, as do many of the other songs on the album. The somewhat messy nature of the recording goes well with her lyrics that sound like a diary entry, “Do I really need another habit like you?” she asks herself.

The rest of the album goes on in a similar manner. A woman writing about lost loves and loves that never had the chance to develop. She sings them quietly, but well, backing up the songs with three instruments at most. O keeps it simple, if not too simple.

These songs seem rather unfinished, but isn’t that what a crush is? There are great ideas, powerful lyrics, obvious talent, and nice melodies, but something seems missing. You cant help but wonder how the album would sound with a full band backing up O’s voice instead of just a simple acoustic guitar. Crushes are just that though; they are unfinished loves that could never be. Anything more complicated wouldn’t get the sentiment across as well as these songs do.

The album is comprised of 15 songs and only runs about 26 minutes long, continuing the theme of crushes, which are often short-lived. You can feel the emotions that Karen O rushed into these songs despite the lo-fi quality of the recordings. Crush Songs is not musically or lyrically amazing, but its rawness makes it something worth listening to. I give Crush Songs a 6/10, but I might be slightly biased as chronic-crusher as well.