Thursday, November 25, 2010

Crimson Review

Progression is never a bad thing. Adhering too strongly to an old formula or style can be deadly for a band, which is why you always hear the hype for an artist's new record that they claim will be a step in the next great direction for them. People adore change if it is done right, but the fangs come out when it doesn't please them. In the case of Alkaline Trio's 2005 record, Crimson, the band faced a little bit of both. Fans of their earlier, gruffer work were appalled by their newer, more appealing style while newer fans were immediately hooked by their catchy choruses and cunning lyricism. Since their 2003 release, Good Mourning, the group had dropped their reds and blacks in favor of a duller gray, perhaps to portray the softer, more somber approach they chose to take for this album. No longer are they screaming with anger or holding you by the throat with their music, instead they intertwine their dark lyricism with a more depressive atmosphere to accentuate their trimmed energy. The music is softer, the lyrics are less furious, and it doesn't hit nearly as hard it used to, but fortunately for them they still know how to make a catchy tune.

Alkaline Trio has always somewhat relied on the hooking aspect of their music, but never has it been more apparent than on Crimson. The three singles, and arguably best tracks on the album, hold most of the addictive appeal throughout the record. The drums on "Mercy Me" and the pulsing chorus of "Time To Waste" are wonderful summaries of everything that the Trio has done wonderfully in the past, and the lyricism of "Prevent This Tragedy", teamed with the ever-dreary atmosphere really shine through as the outstanding successes of the album, but there is still a glaring absence of energy from the record during the small moments in between. "Your Neck" tries desperately to be what "Time To Waste" had already accomplished with its formula chorus-verse-chorus structure and Skiba's surprisingly boring vocal work followed immediately by "Smoke", which holds just the same hollow feeling. It's a harshly vivid display of what Alkaline Trio is without the pounding energy of their former releases; as well as a perfect transition into what their future work would become.

Upon first listen, Crimson holds everything that you could want from a pop-punk band. You have your catchy hooks and repetitive chord progression paired with decently clever lyricism sung by two fairly distraught men -- but how long can that last you? Alkaline Trio has been clinging tightly to this facet since their debut record, and since then have slowly shed everything that made their music so powerful. This record shows them choosing a slightly new path for their music to pursue, but never quite achieve the separation that's necessary to make it its own entity. Crimson's basic fundamentals make it an outstanding pop-punk record, but without that spark of life that has propelled other bands into success; it's just another unfortunately lacking outing from one of punk's former masters.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Would It Kill You? Review

The first years of Hellogoodbye's career showed the makings of a group on the verge of explosion. Their electronically saturated music fueled with middle-school romanticism seemingly grasped the hearts of teenagers everywhere like a cheesy plague spreading throughout the music industry. Just when it seemed that Hellogoodbye were about to break out into stardom, they disappeared. Very little was heard from the band since the release of their 2006 LP, Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! and their name and music faded into obscurity partly due to their lawsuit with Drive-Thru Records which restrained them from releasing new material. However, now they have returned after a four year absence from the studio with their newest poppy achievement, "Would It Kill You?". Their return comes with a great breath of fresh air from the band as they incorporate a new luster onto their previously formulaic and progressively boring approach to music. They almost completely rid themselves of their electronic and synth fascination and move onto more traditional pop-rock instrumentation as well as shedding a layer off of their adolescent shell. With this album comes a major growth for the band, while somehow still remaining mostly the same.

The almost immediately present progression comes as a rather large surprise for those who were fans of them during their first few (and only) releases. They showed nearly no signs of change as they performed their synth-laden music with skill and fines. It would seem for certain that they wouldn't bother changing what was already perfected, but luckily they did. In the opening moments of "Finding Something To Do" they start quick and with a pop-punk like energy similar to that of Relient K or New Found Glory. The drums are swiftly pounded and the guitars sway and flow along with them. This, along with the appearance of a horns section on "Betrayed By Bones" presents a whole new side to the group that was never before seen prior to this. However, below this fresh facet their lyricism remains mostly the same, while showing some signs of moving past high-school romances onto the fear of growing older. They perform this nicely with a cheerful outer appearance with a slightly more melancholy subject matter on the appropriately titled "Getting Old".

While "Would It Kill You?" begins to lose its momentum toward the last half of the album, it serves as a great display of what a little change can do for a band. Hellogoodbye went from an almost overly poppy and synth-drenched quintet into a fun, fresh and catchy pop-rock group. Their flow is superb and they hold a decent ability of switching up sounds to keep the album interesting and ear-catching. They use the talent they have at their disposal to great effect in creating the best album of their career and a wonderful start to what hopefully comes next for the band. Whether it is an expansion on the sound they developed on this record or another direction entirely, it's for certain that they'll still be the cheesiest band in music at the moment. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Ruth" Review

Nana Grizol hold one of those names that are special in the way that you can infer what they will sound like just by saying it aloud. You were thinking an indie-pop group mixed with some folk influence, right? On their sophomore album, "Ruth", they associate these rather diverse genres to create one of the more pleasant albums of the folk and indie scene as of late. They bounce charmingly from smooth acoustic numbers to more intense, hard-hitting songs with ease within the brief thirty-one minutes that make up the album. As with most bands in the genre, they mash miscellaneous instruments and rhythms throughout the record to hover over the stagnancy border that plagues the genre. With the horn section from the prestigious Neutral Milk Hotel and the introspective and intimate lyrics from lead man Theo Hilton it's honestly shocking that the group itself isn't more well known -- though it could be argued that it comes with the genre. Regardless of media prominence, they still play their music and play it with stunning grace.

The thin line between melancholy and hopefulness is carefully trotted upon on the opening track, "Cynicism" on which the overall tone of the album is skillfully abbreviated. The vocalism of Hilton on these short but powerful tracks hold an anxiously timid tone that creates some of the best contrast when compared to when he breaks into all-out shouts on "Arthur Hall". His tonal shifts capture a very obvious influence of that of Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) or even Jeff Buckley. This likeness is shown even stronger on the gorgeous instrumental track "Alice and Gertrude", where the horns swell and flow with a grand piano to create a very classic indie atmosphere. However, it may be all of these familiar indie facets that keep "Ruth" from reaching the grandiose status of those who created said formulas.

It's without a doubt that Nana Grizol's greatest strength is their ability to follow these past influences with such grace, but without enough deviation from the past, it takes a great deal of creativity to make a masterpiece -- but maybe that isn't what Theo Hilton wanted. The lyricism on "Ruth" is like a diary put to music, except with a fair bit of figurative language. The intensely personal feel of "Cynicism" and "Sands" really allows entrance to the thoughts and feelings of one man's travel through what he perceives as life. There are the songs about girls and sunsets, and they all feel entirely genuine when paired with the beautiful musicianship of everyone that backs Hilton. It's an almost overly familiar formula, but is done with such allure that it deserves admiration and a night of your life to lie in bed and enjoy the somber tones of "Ruth".

50 All-Time Best Last Lines in Literature

I was sent this website by a viewer of the site and I thought it would be an interesting read for anyone interested in such a thing. Enjoy.