Song of the Moment

J. Cole - Lost Ones

Friday, July 29, 2011

Heidi Presents, "Give Up On Hip Hop?"

Maybe I just don’t get it.

Last Friday while not working at work, one of the many blogs I read posted Otis, the first single from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s upcoming album. The blog’s review was glowing, and I was excited. I mean Kanye and Jay-Z sampling one of my favorite songs? This was going to be epic. But as I gave the song a listen, I started to feel sick, and my mind raced through all five stages of grief.

Denial: This can’t be what they came up with! Two of the most respected and brilliant minds in hip hop came up with this? This has to be a fake. A demo. Practice. Something. Anything but the actual release.

Anger: How could they do this to Otis?! He deserves better! This is lazy. Why are rappers so lazy? Can’t they come up with anything original? This is literally chopping up a brilliant song and shouting over it. This is bullshit. Even worse, this has turned me into my mother!

Bargaining: Maybe it’s not as bad as I thought it was. Let’s try a second listen . . . Nope. Still bad.

Depression: What’s wrong with ME? Does this song actually suck, or is it an indication of the larger issue that I have been trying to ignore for years? I just don’t understand hip hop. How can I identify with my generation if I don’t like hip hop? This reminds me of that one time in 7th grade, when I got made fun of for not knowing who Biggie Smalls was. Not to mention the devastating realization during my sophomore year of college that the fact that I couldn’t sing along with Ignition meant that everyone was gonna know that I wasn’t invited to house parties during my freshman year. Why didn’t anyone like me?! Sniff, sniff.

Acceptance: I am not a rap fan, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I am no longer going to think that I’m uncool because the rap songs on my iPod were at some time featured on Top 40 radio.

I know, I know, I shouldn’t judge an entire genre on one song. But, as you learned on Friday, my internal struggle sparked a little bit of a debate. Just like the B Side, I believe that the music you’re raised with stays with you and influences your future tastes. I was raised on local country radio, Paula Abdul and my Mom’s collection of 45’s. Not a great start, but I have a deep appreciation for the music that got us to what we have today. And I think that’s why I’m sometimes bothered by sampling; to me, it can feel like a rip off, even more than a bad cover.

But, unlike the B Side’s post would suggest, I do believe that good rap is out there. I’m going to lie, I am offended by “offensive” lyrics, but that perfect blend of an innovative beat with lyrics that actually say something can be extremely powerful. I do appreciate that. I promise!

I think I’ve talked enough in previous posts about my tastes and where they’ve come from. Aside from the occasional song on an MTV Party to Go compilation, rap just wasn’t part of my life until late into my teen years. Maybe this whole post is about how I have felt left out of something that means so much to so many others. I don’t dismiss the genre, but I am finally willing to dismiss the pressure I’ve been putting on myself to love it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wyclef Jean - The Carnival

Inevitably, whenever I really enjoy a particular band, and the lead splits off into their own solo act, I end up comparing those works to the original bands' works. For example, comparing the value of Fergie's solo stuff versus BEP's albums. Not necessarily fair to compare, but it makes me feel Fergie should realize she has it good with BEP, and not branch out. Now with Wyclef here, it's hard not to listen to this and recall the amazingness that is 'The Score' by the Fugees. I know Wyclef was desiring a different vibe from what he was doing with the group - but I love that album. And this would need to be up on par with the original 'Score'. Just my input. This came out in 1997, and it was widely thought Wyclef caused the Fugees break because he wanted to run with a solo career. I don't think that was accurate and a conclusion the media jumped to - but alas. This is listed as 2x platinum by the RIAA and comedian Chris Rock put this in his top 25 hip hop albums of all time. Fairly high praise. One thing I need to get off my chest about hip hop albums in general, and this really impacts my feeling on this record - I HATE skits. I hate when you put out a 30 track album, and 15 of them are stupid skits where it's just nonsense. I've never heard one skit based record that I thought the skits added ANY value to the album. They just annoy me and make me not want to listen to the rest. Anyways, this has those - and a lot of them. It's supposed to play out like a play or movie, but it doesn't. And I can't stand it. It seems like there are only 5 or 6 real songs on this album, which is frustrating. I enjoy Wyclef, and I loved the Fugees. I looked past the skits on that record, because the music was that good. Not the case on 'Carnival'. I can't recommend this, and since it was a Suggestion Box request from peterman - I'm hoping he comments with this thoughts. Maybe I need to listen a few more times, but I'd like to hear what he (or anyone else) enjoys about this record.

1. Intro
2. Apocalypse
3. Guantanamera
4. Pablo Diablo (Interlude)
5. Bubblegoose
6. Prelude To "To All The Girls
7. To All The Girls
8. Down Lo Ho (Interlude)
9. Anything Can Happen
10. Gone till November
11. Words Of Wisdom (Interlude)
12. Year Of The Dragon
13. Sang F├ęzi
14. Fresh Interlude
15. Mona Lisa
16. Street Jeopardy
17. Killer M.C. (Interlude)
18. We Trying to Stay Alive
19. Gunpowder
20. Closing Arguments (Interlude)
21. Enter The Carnival (Interlude)
22. Jaspora
23. Yele
24. Carnival

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Year Of The Dragon
2. Gone Till November
3. We Trying To Stay Alive

2 out of 5 stars

Brand New - Deja Entendu

For some reason - just as I was about to start writing, "What am I gonna do with 40 subscriptions to Vibe?" popped into my head. Kudos to anyone out there who knows where that's from. Anyways, followers janis! and Shaqwanda are big Brand New fans. They each requested that I review their stuff quite a while back now. I got to their 'Your Favorite Weapon' album back in January of this year - which received a very average review from me. I'm all about getting to know a band and giving second chances though, so no time better than the present. This record was also the immediate follow up to the one I did in January, so that's also a bonus. 'Deja' is also the bands only album to chart - sitting at Gold status with the RIAA. A pretty neat story via the lead singer in an interview with MTV, "No matter who you are or what your band is about, you can't put a record out without people saying it's derivative of something else. So by saying the record's already been heard, it's kind of like saying, 'Yeah, you're right. We're doing something that's already been done before.'" Which is in response to the album title that is French for "already heard". I'd have to go back again to 'Weapon', but this feels a lot different than that record. I can't even put my finger on it. It doesn't have that redundant punk sound - except a couple of tracks. But overall, this album has a sound that has a signature that I could easily associate with Brand New. A sound I could look for on the radio and immediately know it's them. I like that. This still doesn't rock my socks completely off my feet - but I like it. I like it much more than their first record. And I'll say this one is worth checking out today.

1. Tautou
2. Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades
3. I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light
4. Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't
5. The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows
6. The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot
7. Jaws Theme Swimming
8. Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis
9. Guernica
10. Good to Know That if I Ever Need Attention All I Have to Do Is Die
11. Play Crack the Sky

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't
2. Tautou
3. The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot

3.75 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Shadows Fall - The Art Of Balance

Lupe put me in a pretty good mood for the time being, so this next review may be over the top positive just because of my frame of mind. Plus my day is almost over, so woohoo! Anyhow, Shadows Fall has been making music since the mid 90's. Yeah, they came out in the grunge period of the US. They're from Springfield, Massachusetts - which might be a state where I cannot recall any other band I've reviewed being from. Score to them! These guys are certainly metal through and through. Well, with the caveat being I've never heard of them before today. And never listened to anything by them before. Thanks to janis!, I've got someone new to groove on this afternoon. So if the rest of their albums sound like this one, they're pretty metal. Apparently they also take their lyrical influences from Eastern philosophy and some references to the Rastafari culture. That's pretty neat. Not many current metal bands doing stuff like that. Not to mention, there is a Pink Floyd cover track on this record - which is super awesome! Pink Floyd rules. Anyway, this album came out in 2002. It didn't chart or anything, so odds are none of you have heard this before. The goal of this record was to have a perfect balance of melody and aggression. Well, they got the aggression part down - not sure about the melodic balance though. Taking it at face value, it's a solid metal album. There are a couple more slowed down tracks, but it's still heavier on the hard side. And for that, I do like it. The ballads are cool though, and more toward my favorite tracks. This has gotten great reviews from other critics, but I don't think I share their total love. It's good, not great - but well worth listening to.

1. Idle Hands
2. Thoughts Without Words
3. Destroyer of Senses
4. Casting Shade
5. Stepping Outside the Circle
6. Art of Balance, The
7. Mystery of One Spirit
8. Idiot Box, The
9. Prelude to Disaster
10. Fire Burns in Babylon, A
11. Welcome to the Machine

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Welcome To The Machine
2. Casting Shade
3. The Art Of Balance

3 out of 5 stars

Lupe Fiasco - Lasers

Ahh!! Sorry that I'm posting late again today. I was in a training class all morning, and came back to some nonsense. Anyways, I wanted to get to another Lupe Fiasco album after I reviewed his debut drop a while back. Follower Ashley asked that I look into his stuff, and my curiosity was peaked. I didn't exactly fall in love with that record, but I saw potential in the fella. And not to mention, I can't go 10 minutes without hearing the track 'The Show Goes On' at this very moment. I haven't heard it enough to be annoyed with it yet though - so that's good. Just a quick sidenote, this album features a collaboration with Skyler Grey - which poses a question in my head. Is there anyone blowing up as much as she is right now? She's been featured on some HUGE singles by major artists. Not bad for someone without an album release yet. Anyways, this was supposed to be a triple album that Lupe was going to drop this year. Lasers is also an acronym for something, but it's long and not all that interesting. I want to get into the style of this album. It's a bit of everything. We've got a lot of hip hop elements, but then quite a heavy r&b influence with some soul and even some alternative type music. It makes for a really easy, and fun listen. Analyzing a couple tracks, 'Show' is an anthem. It's a dance track that everyone can sing along to in the club. Every club in America could play this song as the last of the night. It's honestly perfect. 'Words' has that old school rap track feel with a sick beat, and then the hook perfectly done by an artist with a great vocal. And pretty much every song is solid lyrically, so that's not an issue. Track 3 has the awesome piano arrangement and feels like a Kid Cudi track or any other well defined rapper that uses instruments. It's safe to say I like this. And I think it's safe to say there is something for everyone. I can't imagine anyone would hear this and be totally turned off - but I could be wrong. I'm going to recommend it, and hopefully you give it a shot.

1. Letting Go
2. Words I Never Said
3. Till I Get There
4. I Don't Wanna Care Right Now
5. Out of My Head
6. Show Goes On, The
7. Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways)
8. Coming Up
9. State Run Radio
10. Break the Chain
11. All Black Everything
12. Never Forget You

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. The Show Goes On
2. Break The Chain
3. Words I Never Said

4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kelly Rowland - Here I Am

Boo yah! New Music Tuesday is here and ready to rumble. With an artist most of you are probably familiar with - and a track that's been blowing up pop/hip hop stations all over the United States of America. I think we all recall Miss Rowland from the late 90's iconic pop group, Destiny's Child. Her and Beyonce were super tight. Well - Kelly is 30 years old and how moving on to her solo career. This is her third studio recording, but her first with new management. She's not with Universal Republic Records, and hoping to make music that more suits where she is in life, and in her career. She claims this record is going to be more uptempo and mixture of a lot of different sounds. There are a couple hot club tracks here - including a David Guetta produced track - 'Commander'. This album runs through various styles - it's got a little R&B, hip hop, pop and dance music all wrapped up into one. I'm not sure how well the album flows top to bottom, but what do I know. 'Motivation' has been blowing up the billboard charts as of late - and I'll admit, for me it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It's an over-the-top sexy type track, that has lyrics that might make some porn stars blush a little. What is odd though, is I very much prefer this sound versus her club tracks. It'll probably end up being my top rated songs because a) I love Weezy and b) it's not the club track that I'd rather hear from my Techno Tuesday installments. All in all - this record is pretty average. I didn't have high expectations of it, and it about met them. I think she has a ton of talent, I'm just not sure what her wheelhouse is. Great voice, great look - but the music hasn't yet matched either.

1. I'm Dat Chick
2. Work It Man
3. Motivation
4. Lay It On Me
5. Feelin Me Right Now
6. Turn It Up
7. All Of The Night
8. Keep It Between Us
9. Commander
10. Down For Whatever

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Motivation
2. Commander
3. Lay It On Me

2.5 out of 5 stars

Burial - Untrue

Dubstep is everywhere nowadays. Probably without any of you guys even knowing it - it's created quite a bit of controversy in the music world. Why? Well, many DJ's feel the dubstep guys are lazy - and that they can't produce their own solid beats. If you listen to this today - you'll be able to hear how it varies from other more mainstream dance acts out there. This isn't 'techno' in the sense you're going to hear it at the club per se, but it's very electronic, and very beaty. In fact, my James Blake album that I love is so low frequency, loud bass that I have to skip a track or two in the car. Even if I turn the bass down - it's just not meant to be played over a certain volume I think. This doesn't seem to be hitting quite as hard, but we'll see. William Bevan is the man behind the moniker - and he was born in London. This was released in November of 2007 to an INCREDIBLE amount of praise. Honestly, most critics are giving this a 4+ review - with a number giving the full five stars. Crazy. What's pretty cool, is how many samples you can hear over this record. I'm hearing some Christina Aguilera sampling here and even some Beyonce. It's all super stretched out and funky - but cool. The album artwork for this is really neat too. The drawing on the front cover is at the very least, a conversation piece. I really like dubstep anyway, but I really like this. The genre isn't for everyone - but I really vibe with what guys like Burial are doing. On top of being awesome, I'm going to give this a high rating so more people join the revolution.

1. [Untitled]
2. Archangel
3. Near Dark
4. Ghost Hardware
5. Endorphin
6. Etched Headplate
7. In McDonalds
8. Untrue
9. Shell of Light
10. Dog Shelter
11. Homeless
12. UK
13. Raver

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Ghost Hardware
2. UK
3. Archangel

4.25 out of 5 stars

Monday, July 25, 2011

Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown

I was such a big Green Day fan in the day. And per follower janis!'s request, I did a retrospective on them a long while back. I pretty much tipped my hand on how I felt on all their records via that post - but I'll try to go into more detail on the individual ones when I get to them. I think everyone knows their style, so I won't get too much into that. What the casual fan may not remember or know - Green Day took a really long break before this record. If memory serves me correctly, it was 5 years after 'American Idiot' to this drop. The band had also been taking it on the chin from casual fans, saying their music wasn't as "raw" and as great as their earlier works. That they'd focused too much on politics. While I typically hate when bands get into the political game, I didn't feel their music was any less punk or hard then it was a decade ago. Maybe not as good, but still had that signature Green Day sound. Lyrics aside, the music was still there. Now, when I first got this album, I listened to it three or four times and couldn't have been more annoyed. I don't really even know why. The music, the album - it seemed so poor to me. Lazy and sloppy. I felt like five LONG years would have given me this immediate reaction as though they just made 'Abbey Road' or something. Completely unfair. I set it aside for a month or two - and I came back to it. And when you objectively listen to this, it's actually quite good. Better than good even. Better all around album than 'Dookie' in many ways. Now don't get me wrong - nothing will ever overthrow that as my favorite album by them. But top to bottom, they really are doing more with this album. They are more than just 3 chords and fun lyrics on this album. They are doing so much more. Genre wise, still punk/alt rock - but they mix it up - which makes it a nice listen. There are a couple tracks I still skip - but all in all, it's solid. Solid enough I'm going to listen to it all day today. Don't go that far, but check it out today.

1. Song of the Century
2. 21st Century Breakdown
3. Know Your Enemy
4. ­Viva la Gloria!
5. Before the Lobotomy
6. Christian's Inferno
7. Last Night on Earth
8. East Jesus Nowhere
9. Peacemaker
10. Last of the American Girls
11. Murder City
12. ¿Viva la Gloria?
13. Restless Heart Syndrome
14. Horseshoes and Handgrenades
15. Static Age, The
16. 21 Guns
17. American Eulogy: A. Mass Hysteria/B. Modern World
18. See the Light

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Restless Heart Syndrome
2. Last Night On Earth
3. 21 Guns

3.5 out of 5 stars

Chicago - II

Monday. Arguably the worst day of the week. Staying in bed this morning seemed like the best option for me - yet here I am, slaving away at the office. All made better by music as usual though, and getting started with some old school Chicago today. 1967 saw the beginning of a band that started in...well, I think you could guess. The band met while studying at DePaul University. They started a band and called it 'The Big Thing' which was a fairly successful cover band playing local shows. Upon getting a nice record deal - they decided to change it to the 'Chicago Transit Authority'. They did release one studio record as that name - but obviously shortened it to Chicago on this album - their second studio release. I would say pretty much everyone would recognize a couple tracks by Chicago - even if they think they've never heard of them. Peter Cetera (lead vocal) has a pretty distinct voice that you'd have heard at least 100 times. Now, some of the tracks you may know and love could be his solo stuff, but a track like 'You're The Inspiration' is pretty well known, and a Chicago track. I guess the reason I chose this particular album, was the track '25 or 6 to 4'. It's always been my favorite song by the band. Mainly because it's actually a pretty fast paced, rockin' harder sound. And after the first couple releases, the band got pretty experimental and quite ballady. I don't take issue with it, I simply prefer this old school sound. The album here is all over the place. The vinyl was broken up on symphonies almost, with each of them sounding pretty unique. I understand that first timers think this is pretty out there, and I agree. I wouldn't be able to listen to this very often, and I have to be in the right mood. But Chicago still paved the way for rock bands to use woodwind and brass instruments - so props for that. Feel free to dabble in this today, but don't need to listen to the whole kit and kaboodle.

1. Movin' In
2. Road, The
3. Poem for the People
4. In the Country
5. Wake Up Sunshine
6. Make Me Smile
7. So Much to Say, So Much to Give
8. Anxiety's Moment
9. West Virginia Fantasies
10. Colour My World
11. To Be Free
12. Now More Than Ever
13. Fancy Colours
14. 25 or 6 to 4
15. Prelude
16. A.M. Mourning
17. P.M. Mourning
18. Memories of Love
19. 1st Movement
20. 2nd Movement
21. 3rd Movement
22. 4th Movement
23. Where Do We Go from Here?

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. 25 or 6 to 4
2. Make Me Smile
3. Color My World

2.75 out of 5 stars

Friday, July 22, 2011

B Side Presents, "Hip Hop Help"

It's obviously no secret I really enjoy rap music. I have since I was a younger kid. When I was growing up in the Milwaukee area, we had a radio station called Hot 102. It played all the rap music of the day, which back then - basically meant a beat with some rhymes over the top of it. Starting to get into music in the late 80's, you had MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice as you're bigger acts of the moment. NWA came onto the scene and mixed things up, but that didn't get as much play in my area of the world. In fact, I can't remember knowing who NWA was until much later in my life.

The reason this post is coming up today, I was talking with my partner in crime Heidi yesterday, and she was doubting that any good rap is out there today. After my initial flabbergastedness went away, I tried to get to the bottom of her argument. And it turns out, she doesn't roll with the rap of today. Why? Because she doesn't identify with it. And I won't steal her thunder as she's promised to tell you all herself how she feels, but the bottom line for me is, she enjoys the "pop" raps of yesterday. You all know the tracks: Nelly - Hot In Herre; Dr. Dre - Forgot About Dre; Snoop Dogg - Drop It Like It's Hot; 50 Cent - In Da Club the list can go on forever and ever. While I certainly think there is a market and a place for such music, it's not the rap I personally choose to run with.

Now, don't get me wrong. I didn't grow up in Compton or anywhere that would be considered a mean street of anything. But I had my share of hardships in life. I had a super odd ball family that was dysfunctional. I grew up with various people around me having drug and alcohol problems. I had a family that moved to a better community - but couldn't afford it. We were broke. Most of the people I went to school either A) couldn't relate to those issues as a younger child - or B) wasn't going to admit to anyone else (and possibly even themselves) that they had those issues either. It was a lot easier to put on Marky Marky and pretend your problems didn't exist.

I was a good kid. I did my best to keep my parents from killing each other. I started working at age 12 to help my parents out financially. I never got brought home by the cops. So I wouldn't say listening to rap music was a rebellion for me or anything, and it's not as though my parents attempted to censor what I listened to. For me, it was simply that I didn't look through the rose colored glasses as a kid. And rap wasn't talking about how great life was, and they were actually singing with a message - not just making hits. In a way, the music was sad - and that was actually kind of nice. Not to sit back and wallow in my sorrows - but knowing that successful people out there also have problems, and that my issues in the grand scheme of life - weren't that bad. Rap provided me with both an outlet to escape and perspective on life. And some great beats and lyrics to sing along with as well.

Now, in retrospect - there were other bands I could have listened to and probably gotten the same feeling and emotional connection. Had I picked up on Radiohead when they first were out, sure - that may have done it. A band like NIN could have too. But for some reason, it was rap. It was 2Pac, Biggie and DMX. Yeah, DMX. Sure - I fell hard and head over heels for the grunge revolution too. Offspring - Smash was my first cd. But when push came to shove, rap was always my go to genre. In many ways, it still is. I agree to an extent how the game is a little slow right now - and I've talked about that in previous posts. But when the Kanye album drops - or the Eminem album drops...records that are great in every aspect of music. Great lyrics, subject matter, great beats and arrangements. It typically gets me way more excited than any other genre. I don't even have a reason to explain it. It just goes back to a 12 year old me rationalizing life with my 'Chronic' cd.

I feel everyone has a genre of music, heck even a band that they identify with more than anything or anyone else. Rap is that for me. I'm harder on rap than any other genre out there. I want it to be great. I want 2Pac to come back and make music that isn't just beats and raunchy lyrics. I want a guy like him to be a real poet on the mic, but still talk about what he's going through. Rap lacks that today. What makes Eminem great to me, is he's an open book. His lyrics are his life. I love that. That's what I identify with. I love Kanye for the same reason. '808's' is sad. Really listen to it. He's struggling to come to terms with his own life and what everything means. I do that too. Many of us do.

Anyways, I have no idea what Heidi is going to write about as it related to rap. It may have nothing to do with what I talked about. But our conversation inspired me to really think about rap - and why it really is I love it. And that's what I came up with. Happy Friday B Siders!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Eric Clapton - Pilgrim

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I already know what some of you may be thinking. How dare you review 'Pilgrim' as your first solo Eric Clapton record? And for the most part, I agree with you. I'm slightly ashamed of myself. But I've been hooked on this one song for years - and I need to share it with you all. When this album dropped in 1998, it was pretty clear what Clapton's status was in rock legendry. He's one of the best guitar men of all time, and had the reputation of making great music with different great bands. When he went solo, there was no shortage of his own star power. He created a variety of excellent albums on his own as well. But then 1998 hit, and this record released. It was pretty clear that critics and fans alike flat out, didn't care for this album as a whole. 'My Father's Eyes' got some decent radio airplay, but that couldn't carry the album into any sort of popularity. Part of the issue was this was Clapton's first release since 1989, leaving fans hungry for nearly a decade. They subsequently felt let down by such a mediocre record. And while I think some of the critics were too harsh, I agree in general. This was Clapton trying to be very "90's". The album has a little bit of an edge in spots, and sports a lot of backup singing that is really poppy sounding. I don't necessarily care about all of that. I want to put on display track 2, aka 'River of Tears'. It's flat out one of the best songs out there, ever. It's a very 'mood' type track, and it's an awesome song to drift away to. I adore it. It's sad that it's featured on an album of otherwise mostly garbage, but hey - it happens. While I don't think you'll find this album unlistenable, it's not great. But track two my friends, pure gold.

1. My Father's Eyes
2. River of Tears
3. Pilgrim
4. Broken Hearted
5. One Chance
6. Circus
7. Going Down Slow
8. Fall Like Rain
9. Born in Time
10. Sick & Tired
11. Needs His Woman
12. She's Gone
13. You Were There
14. Inside of Me

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. River of Tears
2. She's Gone
3. Going Down Slow

2.25 out of 5 stars

Buckcherry - 15

I'm not even sure how to open this review. I honestly never really thought of Buckcherry as a real band. I didn't know others thought they were legit until a couple months ago. I think they played Summerfest or something, and a few people I know were fairly pumped to go see them. I just assumed it was for their potty mouth novelty tracks, but it didn't seem to be. I was floored. Regardless, they formed in 1995 in Los Angeles, California. They have a bit of a sorted and complicated history...and it's not overly exciting - so I won't go into it in any sort of detail. Just know they took a fairly long break after a couple underwhelming albums. They reformed in 2005 and dropped this, the '15' album. It dropped in April of 2006 and became pretty much an instant success both commercially and critically. The album sits a single platinum today. The praise was quickly transferred into anger, as in September of 2006 they were sued by a 16 year old girl claiming she was coerced into performing topless and forced to appear in various sexual positions on stage. Buckcherry and the label won the suit because the girl falsified her information, stating she was 18. But even with the "win", the regular person begged the question of, "why do they need that kind of behavior anyhow?" And for the most part, I'd tend to agree with the common man. All in all though, this is a hyped up version of punk rock type music with dirty lyrics. It's not really my cup of tea. The song 'Crazy Bitch' is probably just as irritating to me as it is dumb and disrespectful to women. I'll stick with thinking they suck, and call it a day.

1. So Far
2. Next 2 You
3. Out of Line
4. Everything
5. Carousel
6. Sorry
7. Crazy Bitch
8. Onset
9. Sunshine
10. Brooklyn
11. Broken Glass

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Next 2 You
2. Sorry
3. Onset

1 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rage Against The Machine - Evil Empire

For some reason I've been on a RATM kick as of late. Their music always gets me going, but I seem to forget about them frequently. Then one track comes on and I go nuts and listen to them for weeks on end. Strange right? Anyways, I've reviewed two of their other studio drops - both of them getting high praise from the B Side. I don't suspect 1996's 'Evil Empire' will be any different. Part of that is because I have the album cover sitting right next to me on my wall in the office. Part of it also might be this is a 3x platinum album, tied for their best selling album ever. At this point, I'm not sure many people don't know their style. It's pretty unique and cool. I'd say they were the pioneers of the rap/metal game, but I guess you could make arguments for other bands too. Regardless, I like them because of the hard, metal sound they put forth. And it's rare you get hard rock music that has lyrics you can absolutely adore. I'm not big into the political nature of their music, but I like that I can sing along really loud to these guys and everyone else in the car will be singing too. The album title is a play on Ronald Reagan and his name for the Soviet Union in the 80's. This was also released with a B Side (see, that's why I called it that!) that had a live version of 'Bombtrack' and an unreleased cover of NWA's 'F**k Tha Police'. I never heard that, so I'll be searching this afternoon for it. But listening to this again today, it's good. It's really good. Sure this brand of music isn't for everyone, but pretty close to everyone. I'm going to play it as loud as I can the rest of the day.

1. People of the Sun
2. Bulls on Parade
3. Vietnow
4. Revolver
5. Snakecharmer
6. Tire Me
7. Down Rodeo
8. Without a Face
9. Wind Below
10. Roll Right
11. Year of tha Boomerang

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Down Rodeo
2. Bulls On Parade
3. Revolver

4 out of 5 stars

Flobots - Fight With Tools

Music sometimes can be very odd. Or more specifically, I should say it doesn't fit into any prefabbed genres, making it almost a miscellaneous type thing. Most critics would say the Flobots are straight up hip hop or rap - but I disagree. I've listened to this a couple times since follower peterman dropped it in the Suggestion Box. And while at first, I would have listened to just the flow and thought - sure, this could be rap. But then I keep going, and get deeper into the music, and it's so much more than that. There are a ton of more rock based arrangements on tracks and then they use an array of instruments that would be too out there for a rapper. This is a six team group from Denver, Colorado. They've been making music since 2000 or so. They dropped this album initially in 2007, to great local success in the Colorado general area. But then something started to blow, and they decided to re-release the album again in 2008. They started doing more major shows, played all the late night shows - they were starting to hit it. The charts also didn't know where to put these guys, as they charted on rock charts, alt charts and rap charts. Very strange for one record to have that happen. I have a friend in Denver, and I wonder if they put on more shows in that area. I'd probably check these guys out live someday, as they have that sort of feel to them. Overall, I like this because it's rap with trumpets, viola's and other crazy instruments you wouldn't normally hear with good flow. Lyrically it's a little weak, and obviously lacks the standard rap beats. It's a cool listen though, and well worth checking out.

1. There's a War Going On For Your Mind
2. Mayday!!!
3. Same Thing
4. Stand Up
5. Fight With Tools
6. Handlebars
7. Never Had It
8. Combat
9. Rhythm Method, The (Move!)
10. Anne Braden
11. We Are Winning
12. Rise

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Rise
2. War In Your Mind
3. Handlebar

2.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

DJ Khaled - We The Best Forever

DJ Khaled? Another dance review? No silly! DJ Khaled is basically a glorified talent manager that people consider to be an artist. Oh wait, did I give my opinion too quickly? I'm basing most of my opinion that nearly every Khaled track I've ever heard, virtually all sound the same, contain the same rappers for cameos and rarely actually contain DJ Khaled doing anything. He gets the DJ label because he's an actual radio DJ down in Miami. Which enters into his connection with Rick Ross - who's also based out of Miami. His records are now connected with Cash Money - which explains the fusion with Drake and Weezy nowadays. This is Khaled's fifth studio album - all coming in the last 5 years. I have to say in general though, there are a couple tracks on this record that I enjoy substantially more than other Khaled singles. Take track one for example. 'I'm On One' is much different than the typical "hype up" style track I've heard from him in the past. A really laid back track with real raps, not just yelling. There are a few of those tracks on this album of course, but they weren't all initial singles...which is nice. Once you get to track two, it gets back to that overhyped, T-Pain auto-tuning his way into a track that's just nonsense. The remix is MUCH better, and I'd actually recommend that to you guys. Otherwise, some nice cameos by Jeezy and B.o.B, and overall a record that is virtually listenable. Still by no means a rap record for the ages - but all in all better than I was expecting. If it wasn't for all the sick collabos, I think it'd be virtual garbage.

1. I'm On One
2. Welcome To My Hood
3. Money
4. I'm Thuggin
5. It Ain't Over til It's Over
6. Legendary
7. Sleep When I'm Gone
8. Can't Stop
9. Future
10. My Life
11. A Million Lights
12. Welcome To My Hood [Remix]

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Welcome To My Hood Remix
2. I'm On One
3. Money

3 out of 5 stars

Skream! - Self Titled

Sheez...what a day! Really sorry about my tardy postings - but I've just been crushed with nonsense all day long. Alas, I'm finally ready to get on with my music today! Finally! So it's Tuesday - which always means two things. And numero uno on that list is Techno Tuesday. The last review I did for dance music spawned another DJ that I hadn't heard of, Mr. Skream here aka Oliver Jones. He was born in 1986 and was born in jolly old London. He turned DJ in 2003 or so - but I'm reading he was also part of some super amazing dance group called the Magnetic Men. With the huge influx of dub in the music business, I'm kind of surprised that more groups don't exist. I mean, you have a ton of smaller acts trying to make a living. In theory, if they joined forces, you could make some more noise. Just sayin'. Anyways, this is one of two studio drops for the solo work of Skream. This dropped in 2006 with the second one coming out last year. This self titled work seems to be one that generated next to no buzz. He was pretty much unheard of at that point, which means a lot of critics probably didn't take it seriously. So the question is in hindsight, should it have gotten more pub? For me, this album is a solid start to what could be a solid career. It's got that very 'spooky' sound at the beginning, which you'd expect from a name like Skream. And quite frankly, that's different than what else is out there now. Track three switches to an almost reggae type style, which is just strange given the first two. I don't know. While I want to be high on this because it's different, the mash ups are just so odd it's a hard listen. Maybe the next one got better?

1. Tortured Soul
2. Midnight Request Line
3. Blue Eyez
4. Auto-Dub
5. Check-It
6. Stagger
7. Dutch Flowerz
8. Rutten
9. Tapped
10. Kut-Off
11. Summer Dreams
12. Colourful
13. Emotionally Mute (Outro)

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Tortured Soul
2. Midnight Request Line
3. Rutten

2.25 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, July 19th


I promise!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Band Of Horses - Infinite Arms

Huh..I'm so shattered right now. I was digging through some music over the weekend and I thought I had this new, cool band to introduce you all to. Queued up this record and had it all ready to feature this morning. As I was typing the band name into my magic spreadsheet - the autofill option wanted to kick in. Meaning, I had already reviewed these guys. Sure enough, around Christmas time last year, I got to their first album. Son of a ...! Oh well, this is still a good band to profile, as I was reading through my first impression of their debut record - I really enjoyed it. And as I was weeding through this one, I found myself with the same emotional connection to the original record. This came out in May of 2010, and was nominated for a grammy in the best alternative category. The neat piece of this album was, there was no financial support from a record label upon making it. The band had left their previous label but wanted to keep the train going in terms of making good, quality music. Most of the tracks on this album were written while half the band was staying in a cabin in northern Minnesota - near Canada's border. And this album isn't a let down in terms of if you were a fan of the previous two records. The sound is similar, but different enough you wouldn't get bored with it. And for newbies to Band Of Horses, the sound if pretty unique. I made a comparison to MMJ last time, and that's probably the closest I can come up with sound wise. This is a really cool record. Different enough to feel new, but similar enough to make you feel like you're right at home. Give these guys a shot. They're creeping up my list of best bands you're not listening to.

1. Factory
2. Compliments
3. Laredo
4. Blue Beard
5. On My Way Back Home
6. Infinite Arms
7. Dilly
8. Evening Kitchen
9. Older
10. For Annabelle
11. NW Apt.
12. Neighbor

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Blue Beard
2. On My Way Back Home
3. Laredo

4 out of 5 stars

Eric Church - Carolina

Monday. First day of the week. Weekends seem to continue to somehow get shorter and shorter. But alas, we're back and it's a knee-slappin', yee-haw'in, country day here on the B Side. Looking back at my request list from the outstanding JenInTosa, I'm down to one of her last suggestions. Not sure why Mr. Church got thrown to the bottom of the list, but hey, it happens. He was born in 1977 in Granite Falls, North Carolina. Shocking that he's from Carolina based on the name of this record. When he started playing local gigs in his area, he played mostly Jimmy Buffet cover songs - and then a few of his original licks. The clubs he played were so rough, he'd often get into fights while playing on stage with the crowd. His first album came out in 2006, and never got super noticed by country nuts out there. This album dropped in March of 2009 and is certified gold by the RIAA. Seems as though he's on the upswing, and has his third studio recording due out this year sometime. I'd heard it was going to be next week, but I can't seem to confirm that anywhere. He seems to have that older school deep south kind of sound - mixed with more modern lyrics and subject matter. He seems like he'd be the type of country artist you might really walk the outlaw country walk. I'm not sure it fully translates in his music, but the persona sure would work out. This reminds of the racist, sexist, badass country of back in the 70's. It might not be quite as good as some of those acts, but I think there is a place for that brand today. We'll see where he goes with record three.

1. Ain't Killed Me Yet
2. Lotta Boot Left to Fill
3. Young and Wild
4. Where She Told Me to Go
5. Longer Gone
6. Love Your Love the Most
7. Smoke a Little Smoke
8. Without You Here
9. You Make It Look So Easy
10. Carolina
11. Hell on the Heart
12. Those I've Loved

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Carolina
2. Smoke A Little Smoke
3. Love Your Love The Most

2.75 out of 5 stars

Friday, July 15, 2011

B Side Presents, "Friday Gut Check - Back It On Up"

So it's another one of those days. Where the events of this week, prompted me to run a Friday commentary type piece. This week I took a peek into the world of Selena Gomez, and was surprisingly not turned away with disgust. Hooray her. But what I did have a distaste for was the name of her backup band - 'The Scene'. What a terrible name. I mean, I picture a bad car accident or when the drunk guy at the bar makes a fool of himself at the end of the night. Plus I have an issue in general with already pluralized names for anything. Like the 'Thunder' in Oklahoma City in the NBA. When you get asked who you play for - do you respond with, "I'm a Thunder!" That just seems silly.

So here we stand with my top 5 worst backup band names ever. I'll give a brief description why and note that this is off the top of my head. So there are probably a bunch of other bad ones - but I just forgot.

5. The Jordanaires - Elvis Presley. My father had an old album that was a gospel record by Elvis Presley and the Jordanaires. I recall thinking when I was a little kid how dumb of a name that was. Turns out the name comes from the Jordan River in Springfield, Missouri - but still. Are you that uncreative? You were sitting outside one day thinking of names, you took one peek over at the river and thought that was the way to go? Well, it wasn't.

4. The New Power Generation - Prince. If we were making the list of best names ever - the Revolution would be on it. That's just a cool name for a band. But the New Power Generation? They took over in 1990 or so when Pepsi was starting the taste of a new generation. And Gen X and extreme and all that was becoming cool. So I kind of understand why they chose this - but it's still so awful by comparison. How about you and your crew versus me and the Revolution? Yeah, way better.

3. The Funky Bunch - Marky Mark. Haha. Do I even need to write anything here? Is there anyone who respected the band period - let alone their name? I can't imagine so. Vibrations good like Sunkist. I really wanna know who done this. Yeah, that really happened.

2. The Band - Bob Dylan. So this one is kind of misleading, and I'm probably the only who knows about it. This is the same 'The Band' that was honestly a pretty good band back in the day. The did the track 'The Weight' which is a song I really love. But before all of that, they were the backups for Mr. Bobby Dylan. In which, you're coming up with names for your band - and you pick, The Band? Really? That's the best you could do? It's about as unoriginal as calling you Bob Dylan and the Dylans.

1. Miami Sound Machine - Gloria Estefan. Here we are, numero uno. Was there any doubt? The Miami Sound Machine. It sounds like a cheesy eighties stereo unit that you could have bought on QVC or Home Shopping Network for 3 easy payments of 19.99. Wait, order now and you get TWO Miami Sound Machines for the price of ONE! What a deal! Order your Miami Sound Machine today and we'll throw in a knife that cuts through a lead pipe! I respect Gloria, but I don't respect the name of the band, or Emilio Estevez. Yeah, take that.

That was my five. I'm sure there are more awful names out there and more to come someday. Now I gotta run, I've got a date to hang out with the Scene.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Neil Young - After The Gold Rush

I'm the biggest fickle classic rock fan in the world. I love the genre. I listen to it very, very often. But for some reason, when people ask me what my favorite music is, I typically talk about alt rock and rap substantially more often. I don't get it. Neil Young is one of those guys, where everybody knows a few songs by him, but maybe doesn't know they're listening to him. If that makes sense. He was born in 1945 up in Canada. He was a part of a variety of bands - including Buffalo Springfield, Crazy Horse and obviously CSNY. Why is that obvious? Well, that stands for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. While with CSNY, they (specifically Young) had a bit of a rivalry with Lynyrd Skynyrd. The track 'Southern Man' on this album was one that Young wrote as his outcry against racism in this country and in the world overall. While Skynyrd shot back with the direct lyric in Sweet Home Alabama - the "rivalry" between the artists was always a friendly one. Which is nice...a debate about values while not needing to involve violence. This particular record came out in 1970 - and was his third studio recording. It's a modest 2x platinum, but Neil Young never did burn down the house with album sales. I think a lot of that relates to his style. He's very folky, very much a songwriter and lyricist. Some people can't stand his voice, I don't mind it. But the music is typically very slow tempo and can tend to blend together if you don't know the words. There is a classic track like 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' - which I'm sure everyone in the world knows by different artists. Most critics call this one of the best albums ever made. And I certainly do really enjoy this one, and think it's a fantastic album. I just hesitate to be too praising of an album that I don't own, and probably would never buy. Admittedly, I'm not the biggest folk rock fan - and typically if I'm in the mood, I turn to Dylan. But this is still quite good - three or four amazing tracks. At the very least, check those out.

1. Tell Me Why
2. After the Gold Rush
3. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
4. Southern Man
5. Till the Morning Comes
6. Oh, Lonesome Me
7. Don't Let It Bring You Down
8. Birds
9. When You Dance You Can Really Love
10. I Believe in You
11. Cripple Creek Ferry

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Don't Let It Bring You Down
2. Southern Man
3. Only Love Can Break Your Heart

4.25 out of 5 stars

Evanescence - The Open Door

Every so often I get something in the Suggestion Box that is a repeat of something I've already done. I know I need to get a better "search" function - but I just haven't had the time to dive into it lately. Sometime...I swear. Anyway, follower Ashley asked that I take a peek at any Evanescence album - which I reviewed their 'Fallen' record just over a year ago. The simple search for them in the blog brings it up, but something like 5 or 6 pages below the top. It's there though. Regardless of that one, I'll happily do another record by them - because I adore Amy Lee's voice. It's got this impact on me I can't really describe - but I feel her passion come through in the music. And usually that means it's someone screaming into the microphone and getting emotional. Not her. Really smooth, quality vocals - very polished, but still very full of feeling and emotion. Love it. This record is a mere 2x platinum after their debut drop hit a solid 7. Overall the sound varies quite a bit. Starts hard with 'Sweet Sacrifice' and 'Sober' - but by the end slows down to the incredibly well done 'Good Enough'. If you took those three tracks, you have a heck of a start to a record. It's the stuff in the middle on this album where it lacks the luster. Still a really solid album - just not going to be knocking down the door of any "top of" lists anytime soon. They have another record due out in October this year, so it'll be intriguing to see if they keep this kind of style or mix it up. I do like this though, and I really like the band. Very much worth checking out today.

1. Sweet Sacrifice
2. Call Me When You're Sober
3. Weight of the World
4. Lithium
5. Cloud Nine
6. Snow White Queen
7. Lacrymosa
8. Like You
9. Lose Control
10. Only One, The
11. Your Star
12. All That I'm Living For
13. Good Enough

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Good Enough
2. Call Me When You're Sober
3. Sweet Sacrifice

3.25 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ice Cube - Lethal Injection

I'm such a music nerd, that often I'll watch music related programs on TV. And by often, I mean nearly daily. I watched three documentaries recently about NWA/Ice Cube by himself. That inspired me to do some Cube - which somehow I haven't done yet. While watching the VH1 'Behind The Music' about Cube, I kept thinking about how I was never that big a fan of his stuff. But upon reflection, I never really listened to much of his stuff in total - just singles. So it wasn't fair. Plus - I learned that he was the mastermind behind much of Eazy E and NWA's stuff, as the writer of the group. He even wrote the movie 'Friday' back in the day - had no idea. I decided to run with this particular record for a couple reasons. 1) I ADORE the song 'Bop Gun'. It's one of those underrated tracks or unheard by most people tracks that everyone can groove to. 2) It features the track 'Down For Whatever' which has nostalgic value for me from the film 'Office Space'. Not to mention, it's just a really well done rap song. 3) 'You Know How We Do' has one of those's just contagious. And you might be flipping that beat around in your head one day - and can't recall where it was from. I want to remember. Did I just give away my Top 3? Hmm...seems probably. Anyhow - Cube is the man. He's one of few guys that can do the family films, "sell out" according to some peers - but still be really respected in the business. He still puts on shows every now and again, and from what I hear - they're solid too. This was his fourth studio recording, dropped in 1993 and is certified platinum. I recommend listening to this today, and then maybe picking it up. It's worth it enough I think I'm going to grab it today.

1. Shot, The (Intro)
2. Really Doe
3. Ghetto Bird
4. You Know How We Do It
5. Cave Bitch
6. Bop Gun (One Nation)
7. What Can I Do?
8. Lil Ass Gee
9. Make It Ruff, Make It Smooth
10. Down for Whatever
11. Enemy
12. When I Get to Heaven
13. What Can I Do?

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Bop Gun
2. Down For Whatever
3. You Know How We Do It

3.5 out of 5 stars

Coldplay - A Rush Of Blood To The Head

Hump Day arrives here at the B Side, and it's a beautiful day out there. Delightfully cool, compared to the heat we've been seeing lately. Normally, I save my mood music for more depressing type days, but I couldn't hold off on this one. I reviewed Coldplay's debut drop 'Parachutes' as one of my first ever reviews on the blog. Somehow, over the time I've completely forgotten to get back to them and do their follow up - which is this very record. I think at this point, anyone who cares about the style of music they're putting out there, knows full well about the band. They're not sneaking up on anybody anytime soon. They started recording this in September of 2001, one week after the attacks against the US. They were in London when it happened, and in London trying to record this piece. That was a slight difference from the original album, which was recorded in Liverpool. The band had trouble focusing while in London, so that didn't last very long. They moved back over to Liverpool, and got this bad boy in the books. Chris Martin was obsessed with the track 'In My Place', and focused heavily on that from the get-go - and that was the first single drop. The album is 4x platinum in the states, which is the highest here. (Viva La Vida is diamond in France for some reason). It's really hard to find a reason to dislike this album. Even if you're a Coldplay hater (which plenty exist), it's just a really solid album. Many songs to sing along to, and a song for virtually any mood you could be in. And for me who listens mostly while sad - there are EPIC tracks for that mindset. Those will be my Top 3. Honestly, this is probably their best overall record. The only other one that's close is their first album. Go ahead and take yourself back to 2002 today and toss this on. I think you'll be pleased.

1. Politik
2. In My Place
3. God Put a Smile Upon Your Face
4. Scientist, The
5. Clocks
6. Daylight
7. Green Eyes
8. Warning Sign
9. Whisper, A
10. Rush of Blood to the Head, A
11. Amsterdam

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. The Scientist
2. Clocks
3. In My Place

4.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Incubus - If Not Now, When?

Good old Incubus. I feel like it's a retro 'New Music Tuesday' today, with a really good 90's band and then a really good 00's band. Here we are, July 12th, 2011 and they both are dropping new albums the same day. Just a month ago or so, I got an exclusive Incubus track from my friends at Epic Records - which I enjoyed. That track was track 10, aka 'Adolescents'. Lead singer Brandon Boyd took some time away from the band to do his own solo thing. While I did enjoy that record too, it was very similar to the standard Incubus song, just without the benefit of the backup bandmates. Right after he wrapped all that up, it seemed he wanted to get right back into it with the crew, and they began recording this record. Then after finishing the recording, they announced they'll be heading on an 18 month world tour supporting this album. That's nuts. 18 months on the road. I could never handle the life of a rockstar. This record seems a little less "out there" lyrically compared to a normal Incubus record. The overall theme seems to be more about romance and women than anything else. Which is kind of a nice break for them. There are only a couple really hyped up tracks, but mostly the album is really chill and relaxed feeling. Which I think is a good metaphor for how the band feels as a whole. Taking the time away and having time to reflect seems to have been a great move for Incubus. Hopefully the well rested guys keep coming up with great tuneage for fans. I won't say this is their best work or anything - but it's another nice piece in the catalog. Check 'er on out today - seems it's a pretty nice work for any music fan.

1. If Not Now, When?
2. Promises, Promises
3. Friends and Lovers
4. Thieves
5. Isadore
6. Original, The
7. Defiance
8. In the Company of Wolves
9. Switchblade
10. Adolescents
11. Tomorrow's Food

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Adolescents
2. Defiance
3. Promises, Promises

3.25 out of 5 stars

Sublime With Rome - Yours Truly

I'm not entirely sure why - but I don't feel like listening to dance music today. So another week of hiatus for 'Techno Tuesday'. I'm guessing there aren't too many people upset by that, only because the techno albums are usually the least commented on. Anyways, it's a double super happy bonus version of New Music Tuesday today. And we start with Sublime with Rome. Basically what this band is - is Sublime with Rome Ramirez as the new frontman. Since Bradley Nowell's death in 1996, a lot of creative music has not been out there from the other two members of the band. Rome Ramirez is basically another guy. He's just from California and I can't find that he was in another group before doing this project. But if you listened to the Dirty Heads from a while back, he wrote and sand the chorus in 'Lay Me Down' - the main single off their one album. They were going around using the Sublime name, but it turns out Nowell owned the rights to that name. So some lawsuits resulted, and the final output was Sublime with Rome - which is somehow okay in the eyes of legal professionals. 'Panic' has been crawling all over the radio lately, and it's not a bad track. Overall, it's got (oddly enough) the same feel as Sublime used to feel. Very laid back, quasi ska type feel. Island music sort of. The only difference here seems to be the lyrics. I could always count on old Sublime inspiring me to think about something or sing along - I'm not sure this shares that quality. There are a couple sing worthy tracks, but I didn't vibe with it as much as old stuff. Time will tell. Certainly worth a listen though, especially if you're an old school Sublime fan.

1. Panic
2. Only
3. Lovers Rock
4. Murdera
5. My World
6. Paper Cuts
7. PCH
8. Same Old Situation
9. Take It or Leave It
10. You Better Listen
11. Spun
12. Can You Feel It

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Lovers Rock
2. Panic
3. Can You Feel it

3 out of 5 stars

Monday, July 11, 2011

Selena Gomez - A Year Without Rain

Sometimes, I don't know why I put myself through such anguish. I keep telling myself I review a variety of music to stay open minded and retain objectivity. And I think I achieve that. Plus, I've been tuned in to some music I'd have never given a shot years ago. But one thing I'm pretty certain on, I'm going to hate Selena Gomez. Nevermind she was a Disney star. Nevermind she's "dating" Justin Bieber. Nevermind that she recorded this album when she was seventeen. Even nevermind that her backup band is named "The Scene". Ugh, I'm going to get through it. So she was born in Texas in 1992. She was born to an actress mother, which I think is part of the reason she got into the work at such a young age. The acting began and she starting picking up popularity in 2008 or so. And of course, when a brand like Disney catches wind a younger, attractive girl is starting to build steam, they put her in every medium possible and ram her down your throat. So naturally, she had to start putting out records too. The music stuff started in 2009, with this album being the 2nd studio drop for Selena and the Scene. The album is marked gold, selling about 600k copies in the US. After listening to this today, it's not really what I expected. Yes, it's very much still teen pop music - something not directed toward me in the slightest. But she doesn't sing like a 17 year old girl. She's got some pipes. The lyrics are pretty bad, but the beats are pretty solid in spots. I think she could have some potential. Just need to transition to more "adult" stuff, which will come in time. Although, I'm reading she wants to give up music and focus on acting - so what do I know? Anyways, don't go into the car and put the hammer down to the record store for this or anything - but it might not be as bad as you think.

1. Round & Round
2. Year Without Rain, A
3. Rock God
4. Off the Chain
5. Summer's Not Hot
6. Intuition
7. Spotlight
8. Ghost of You
9. Sick of You
10. Live Like There's No Tomorrow

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Off The Chain
2. Ghost Of You
3. Round & Round

1.75 out of 5 stars

Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare

Quick sidenote to this morning. I rolled into work and it was a nice, sunny morning. Flash forward about 15 minutes - BAM! It's storming like crazy! Looks like 2 in the morning out there. Nuts. Anyways, it's music time! And time to get to a band I'm semi familiar with - but not a ton. I probably would have done them at some point anyways, but reader Christina asked that I look into this one, as she's a fan of the track 'So Far Away'. The band was formed in Huntington Beach, California around 1999 or so. The band name is a reference to the Kane and Abel story from the Bible. Although they aren't a religious band, they all took a quasi-religious moniker as well. This is their fifth studio recording, with their first coming in 2001. They have one platinum selling record - which was their third drop (and the only one I have). This record was their first without one of the founding members, Jimmy 'The Rev' Sullivan. Looks as though he passed officially of natural causes, but he also had a pretty odd cocktail of drugs and alcohol in his system upon passing. Sad. This actually debuted at number one on the charts, taking over Eminem's reign on the top spot - selling over 150k copies. I'm not sure how I feel about this one. It's got that metal quality I sometimes enjoy, but it's not really amazing. It's almost poppy, if those two genres can mix. Maybe a better word is theatrical - which can be common for metal. I'm just not sure it works here. While it's certainly radio friendly, that isn't a quality I look for in my music. I won't give it a bad rating, but I won't endorse it either. This one is totally up to you guys to make your call on it.

1. Nightmare
2. Welcome to the Family
3. Danger Line
4. Buried Alive
5. Natural Born Killer
6. So Far Away
7. God Hates Us
8. Victim
9. Tonight the World Dies
10. Fiction
11. Save Me

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. So Far Away
2. Nightmare
3. Natural Born Killer

2 out of 5 stars

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rant #19 - "July 6th, 2011"

A long time ago, probably sometime in March, I noticed a show coming to Summerfest that I couldn't pass up. Back then, when I approached a few people about going to see Cage the Elephant, Florence + The Machine and The Black Keys, the biggest response I got was, "I've never heard of any of those three bands." Sad. Really sad. Naturally there are a couple folks out there that heeded my advise and listened to the bands, and knew there was no chance they could miss this epic show. And here I am, going to tell you about it.

It started with Cage. And I was mistaken, I had thought Flo was going to open. So as we walked in the venue, we were greeted with 'Aberdeen' from their latest record. They played a solid combo of new stuff and "old" stuff - which dates back just a couple years. They had a pretty solid following there, and had a pretty good crowd singing along with 'Ain't No Rest For The Wicked'. And overall, they put on a MUCH better show than they did back at the Rave opening for STP. I'm not sure the crowd overall cared much about them though, as it was clear by the amount of people present for them versus Flo. It could have just been the timing of it all, but it seemed people had no problem missing Cage and getting a little extra tipsy. I wouldn't say they missed anything super amazing.

Flo came on next. And boy did she come on hard. She strolled out in a long cape type thing, and there were roses set on her mic stand. And I just want to make one comment no her before I go on. If you have ever listened to 'Lungs' in your life, it seemed pretty clear that she can sing. Now, typically when you listen to a recorded record, it sounds outstanding. They polish up the vocal and it sounds like angels singing. Well B Siders, there was no difference record to live. Florence can absolutely, positively sing the sh*t out of any song she wants. She could even manage to make the most primal of screams into the mic sound like the most beautiful thing ever. She played one new song, the only one that wasn't off of her sole album. Seemed clear the biggest pop was for 'Dog Days Are Over', but she had people singing and moving the whole time. She had a pretty large band accompanying her on stage, including the harpist - who did an outstanding job. All in all, the energy she brought forth and the way she got the crowd involved - it was outstanding. When the performance was said and done, I turned to my friend and asked, "What are the odds her show overshadows the Black Keys?" It was that good.

The hype was mounting. People were waiting and waiting to see one band, The Black Keys. And what shocked me was the very different brands of music these three acts brought to the table. We had a ton of Flo fans in front of us, and I didn't think they cared as much about the Keys. Well fans, everyone in that venue cared about the Keys. And boy it showed in the applause and hoopla. They opened with 'Thickfreakness' which was a great start to the show. They proceeded to play another four songs with just the two-some on stage, and sounded like there could have been 100 guys on stage strumming the guitar. And just a side note, the two guys, Pat on the drums - who could EASILY be one of the best drummers in music today. Honestly, check him out. And then Dan on guitar, who is no slouch in his own right. Give him a little more time, people are going to start to notice nationally. Anyways, after the first few songs they brought out a bass man and then a keyboardist. They started to rail through songs off the latest album, 'Brothers'. Seemed to be highlighted by their performance of 'Tighten Up' - but honestly, all the songs had a shocking number of people belting it out along with them. The back crew left again, and they went on with 'I'll Be Your Man' which is the track that tuned me into the Keys. 16 tracks total before they called it quits, only to come back out and do a double encore. In short, this show was PHENOMENAL. The whole thing was, but the Keys were amazing. I would pay my hard earned money anyday to see them again live. It honestly blew me away.

This show seemed to be one of those "once in a lifetime" deals. If those three bands ever perform together again, SEE IT! Pay money, go see it! I promise you won't leave feeling disappointed. And for the love of Pete, if The Black Keys come to a venue near you, see them. If you haven't checked them out yet, then they're still one of the best bands in existence you're not listening to. Now if only my dream show would come true, Eels and Black Keys. I think I need to send an email out to some management teams...

Happy Friday B Siders!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Black Keys - The Big Come Up

Is it any secret that one of the best shows of the year is going down tonight? Florence + The Machine, Cage The Elephant and the Black Keys. One night only, Summerfest, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It's going to melt my face off in rock amazingness. I wanted to run a review from one of those three artists today, and then by default it had to be these guys. I've reviewed Flo's one album and Cage's two. Since I've only done two of the Keys records, I still have many more to go. I decided to run with 'The Big Come Up' today, because that's where I got started. Devotees may recall how I was introduced to the band, and that was via a TV show on HBO. The intro to that show is the track 'I'll Be Your Man'. I knew right from that sick opening this was a band I could probably jive with. I proceeded to pick up every album they've ever made shortly there after. In total, this is probably in the middle of my favorites, but if you listen to it - it's still a great record. They have this sound, this dirty guitar, dirty vocal - made in the garage type sound. And they never stray from it. They stick to that normally fast paced dirty arrangement and it just flat out works. Having heard every album they've ever done, they all somehow sound unique and have tracks you can identify with each specific record. This one has a couple anthems (as I like to call them) in which you can put on that track, and everyone listening is going to be captivated. Naturally, those will be in my Top 3 tracks. I'll be listening to these guys all day to get pumped for the show, and so I can sing along later. I suggest you all listen today too, concert or no. You can't go wrong with some Keys.

1. Busted
2. Do the Rump
3. I'll Be Your Man
4. Countdown
5. Breaks, The
6. Run Me Down
7. Leavin' Trunk
8. Heavy Soul
9. She Said, She Said
10. Them Eyes
11. Yearnin'
12. Brooklyn Bound
13. 240 Years Before Your Time

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Breaks
2. Countdown
3. I'll Be Your Man

4 out of 5 stars

The Band Perry - Self Titled

It's actually quite frightening how into routines we all get. I mean, yesterday was clearly Tuesday, but because it was my first day back to work after the holiday, it didn't even dawn on me. So, my sincerest apologies for not dropping any New Music Tuesday bombs on you guys. Looking today, there wasn't much worth while anyhow, so I'm just going to proceed with some old stuff. And it's country day again on the B Side, which brings me to The Band Perry. Never heard of them until this morning when I pulled up the Billboard Country music charts. Turns out they're from (here comes a shocker) the south - in Mississippi. They started making twangy tunes in 2005 or so. The band is made of a family, Kim Perry on lead and her two brothers - Neil and Reid. Let me tell you an odd tidbit about these guys. They were signed in August of 2009, and dropped a single right away in November. Another single dropped in June of 2010, with the album dropping in October of 2010. So, a year between singles, no big whoop right? Well, ANOTHER single came off this album just as recently as January. We're talking singles in three calendar years now! The only other time I've seen that is with Cage the Elephant. The album itself is certified gold status, so not a major seller - but doing a nice job. And I think this album is very well polished for a debut drop - but in terms of contemporary country music, this doesn't really stack up versus the rest of the artists out there. I'd much rather listen to Antebellum or even Taylor Swift versus this. And that doesn't mean it's bad, just bad by comparison. Check it out if you're a country nut, otherwise, sit it out.

1. You Lie
2. Hip to My Heart
3. If I Die Young
4. All Your Life
5. Miss You Being Gone
6. Double Heart
7. Postcard from Paris
8. Walk Me Down the Middle
9. Independence
10. Quittin' You
11. Lasso

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. If I Die Young
2. You Lie
3. Hip To My Heart

2.75 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Metallica - Master Of Puppets

I know, I know, I know. I know what you're thinking. More Metallica B Side? Please...can't you find other metal to do? My response is, I've done 51 metal reviews now, and only three of them have been Metallica. And hey, I listened to this at total random over the weekend, and I forgot how awesome it is. Master of Puppets came out in 1986 and is 6x platinum in the USA. 1986. This came out around the same time as the H2O album I reviewed last week. Can you imagine? What an odd time in the industry. You had "rock" music like Hall and Oates out there for people to graze on, but then you also had "rock" music like this out there, with people banging their heads to it. What an odd time for rock in general. While we all know my stance on the poppy, synthed out version, it couldn't be more opposite for the metal coming out of the same time period. This album is flat out awesome. And you don't even have to be a metal nut to enjoy it. While I like hard rock, it's not exactly my wheelhouse genre or go-to genre. But I can toss a record like this one on, and I just groove away. And I sing along to tracks like 'Master', 'Sanitarium' and even 'Battery' a little bit. So it's got the lyrics, and not just the hard sound that makes people fear you're listening to the devil's music. My only complaint on this record would be length, at only 8 tracks. But hey, it's still awesome. Three monster hits (the ones I named earlier) and 5 more great songs. I won't go as far out on a limb to say it with certainty - but this might be the best metal album ever recorded. If it's not number one, it's at worst top 5. Book it.

1. Battery
2. Master of Puppets
3. Thing That Should Not Be, The
4. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
5. Disposable Heroes
6. Leper Messiah
7. Orion
8. Damage, Inc

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Master Of Puppets
2. Welcome Home
3. Battery

4.75 out of 5 stars

Ray LaMontagne - Trouble

First and foremost, I hope everyone had a nice, long holiday weekend. I know it's incredibly tough coming back from an extended weekend - and I personally am dragging my way through today. But music can help, so here we go. Ray LaMontagne today. How many of you have heard of him? I'm guessing not a ton of you nodded your head or raised your hand in agreement. He's done one commercial I think everyone would recognize - but that might be about it. Maybe I only notice it because I love dogs, but there is a Traveler's Insurance commercial where a dog can't sleep because he's afraid someone will steal his bone. Long story short, he finally insures it and feels safe - all to the tune of Ray's 'Trouble'. Pretty good commercial. Anyhow, Ray was born in 1973 in New Hampshire. Ray's dad was in the music biz, and because of that he always shied away from music in general. It wasn't until later in life, while working his late night job, he heard a Steven Stills song that drove him to want to learn more about music. And in 1999, he started putting music together and performing. He eventually amassed 10 tracks to use for a demo, and began sending it to various record companies. 'Trouble' here came out in 2004 and is certified gold by the RIAA. Other than the title track, a few other songs have been used in film and tv as well. And I think part of it is simply that the songs are so easy to listen to. They're all very well put together and easy on the ear. His style is so simply, but very cool to listen to. His voice is pretty raspy, and very soulful. Most tracks are just strumming an acoustic and letting his pipes do all the work. And the more upbeat tracks he does a great job coming across with enthusiasm, which some vocal artists like him have trouble with. I have a hard time seeing a reason not to go out and buy this. It's a really fun, solid listen.

1. Trouble
2. Shelter
3. Hold You In My Arms
4. Narrow Escape
5. Burn
6. Forever My Friend
7. Hannah
8. How Come
9. Jolene
10. All The Wild Horses

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. Trouble
2. How Come
3. Narrow Escape

4 out of 5 stars

Friday, July 1, 2011

Creed - My Own Prison

So I know that I've taken it on the chin a few times by saying I didn't mind Creed. Back in the day, I think they were a fairly good rock band that ended up getting progressively worse over time. What always entertains me is people always want to talk smack about Creed, and you have a hard time finding their supporters. Yet, they are one of the best selling bands of all time. TENS of millions of albums sold over the years, and the number keeps going up. When this dropped in 1997, you have to remember what was going on in the industry as a whole. The grunge movement was pretty much over, and you started to see the more "emo" and punk rock bands take over. Rap was starting to make a pretty big come back in the US too. I think in general, it was a time when America was yearning for good old fashioned, guitar strumming rock and roll. And no one really wanted to provide it. Although this album was toned down and made more radio friendly, it still has a solid rock sound to it. Lyrically is a pretty good album, and obviously had the "hits" too. I remember thinking Creed was nothing amazing, but this album changed my mind. And I'll state that this record is hands down my favorite, and the one I'd consider most tolerable for the casual listener. And at 6x platinum, many, many people out there would seem to agree. I'm not going to write today that you need to start giving Creed respect. The lead singer is a bit of an a-hole and their music has gone downhill. All I'm suggesting is, give this another shot sometime. You might be surprised in how good it is.

1. Torn
2. Ode
3. My Own Prison
4. Pity For a Dime
5. In America
6. Illusion
7. Unforgiven
8. Sister
9. What's This Life For
10. One

Listen To Samples

Top 3 Tracks:
1. My Own Prison
2. Ode
3. One

4.25 out of 5 stars