Young Lore – Night Riots

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Release Year: 2013

Rating: 7.5/10

Night Riots’ music is so irresistible, catchy, and charming. Listening to their songs, you can’t help get in a good mood while singing along. Though they gained notoriety with their 2016 EP Howl, they reinvented themselves with 2014’s Young Lore EP. While it isn’t a drastic departure from their current sound, it has a different mood. One that’s slow, somber, and not as fun. It definitely shows a band finding their style.

The best track here is “Back to Your Love.” Sounding similar to the direction they would move in later on, the song is upbeat, bouncy and bright with Travis Hawley sounding lovelorn as he sings. Since the music is so catchy, it’s easy to miss how bleak the song is. The lyrics talk about a couple who know things aren’t what they used to be and wonder if they can ever get it back. It’s their strongest track from their early days and perfectly shows off their catchy sound.

Remedy” is another upbeat track that gets you on your feet, though it sounds generic. Even with the splash of synth that pops up during the second verse, the song is formulaic. It could be from any alt-rock band and it gets boring after a while. “Loyal Blood” has the same issue. The music is fun and energetic with a good pop/punk vibe to it. But again, it sounds like alt-rock tunes you’ve heard a million times. Funnily enough, this track sounds like something that could’ve appeared on their first album as PK.

Most of the EP is made up of slow tracks that mean well, but don’t hold your attention for very long. “Spiders” catches you off guard with its muted pulsating beats and haunting vocals that open the song. It sets up this chilling feeling you can’t shake. Though it has a melancholic air, the lyrics are quite empowering with a message of stay strong and keep pushing forward in the face of adversary. It’s not a bad track, but the slow music and sleepy vocals become boring after a while.

Masks” begins ominously with buzzing music that grows more intense every minute. Tension thickens when Hawley starts singing making you question where the song is going next. The mood breaks during the hook when the music kicks up switching to an uptempo mood. It’s a slow-burning track that would’ve fit comfortably on their debut LP. Similar to “Spiders” it’s not very engaging. There’s nothing about it that grabs your attention. Soon, you’re ready to move on to the next song.

Closing track “Young Lore” is another highlight of the EP. Opening with a stark, somber piano, choir-like vocals fill the air as the music constantly builds. Hawley starts humming as if he’s singing a church hymn. The mood doesn’t stay somber for long as the bouncy music makes a return and gets you moving. It also has a positive message of living life now and doing what you want because our time on earth is short. Similar to their best songs, this one makes you dance and has a memorable hook you’ll struggle to get out of your head for days.

While Young Lore isn’t Night Riots’ strongest release, it does lay the groundwork for where they would go next. It marks a young band finding their sound. Some of it is generic, while other spots hint to what would come later. There are some dance-worthy tracks, but a lot of it is slow and mellow with nods to electronic elements they would add later on. A good chunk of it sounds like your average alt-rock band. It’s just a shame it isn’t as fun, catchy, or charming as Howl or Love Gloom.

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Playlist: Songs Recorded in a Different Language

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Back when releasing singles meant more than just posting a link, it was common for artists to record their songs in different languages. Most of them were region exclusive, making it a treasure trove for collectors. Plus, it was a nice treat for international fans. The practice isn’t as common today, but once in a while, contemporary artists will flex their language skills. Here are just a handful of artists who recorded songs in another language.

“Todo Mi Amore Ers Tu”/“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” – Michael Jackson

This duet between Michael Jackson and Siedah Garret was the debut single from 1987’s Bad and was the first in a string of five number one singles for the singer. A special edition 12” single featured a Spanish re-recording of the track dubbed “Todo Mi Amore Ers Tu.” The song sounds just as sappy as the English version, but with more cringe inducing pronunciations. While the hook sounds just as pretty as the original, Jackson and Garret sound a bit awkward on the rest of the song. Then again, it’s the first time Jackson recorded a song in Spanish. They also recorded a French version, which sounds much better. The song seems better suited for French than Spanish, but at least these versions aren’t terrible.

“Gone” – Nsync

Nsync fans may remember the Spanish version of “This I Promise You,” but this version of “Gone” flew under the radar. And it sounds just as good, if not better, than the original. While their vocal delivery is a bit stilted, you can tell they’re not comfortable with the language, their harmonies are on point. They actually sound great singing in Spanish. Justin still gives a powerful vocal delivery filled with all the hurt and anguish of the original. The Spanish version of “This I Promise You” is solid, but this version of “Gone” is far better. It’s a shame it wasn’t as popular as the former song. Though it makes you wonder how other Nsync songs would sound in Spanish. How about a Spanish version of “It’s Gonna Be Me?”

“Mickey” – Toni Basil

“Mickey” is one of those baffling one hit wonders. Why was this annoying song ever a hit? And why can’t you stop singing it? It’s one of those songs you hate but will get stuck in your head all day as soon as someone mentions it. For the alternate 12” single, Basil recorded the song in Spanish. And yes, it’s just as annoying. Admittedly, it’s not as aggravating as the English version, but something about it still gets under your skin. Maybe it’s the in-your-face pep rally vibe. Or how Basil keeps repeating Mickey throughout the song. Or because it’s just an awful song no matter what language it’s in.

“Nunca Te Haré Llorar”/“I’ll Never Break Your Heart” – Backstreet Boys

Boy bands recording their big hits in Spanish was a strange phenomenon. But when you think about it, it makes sense. They have fans all over the world, so why not do something special for their non-English followers? BSB added to the trend with a Spanish version of “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.” They actually don’t sound bad; their vocals still sound sweet and smooth. And it’s good to know the song is still sappy and cheesy in another language. They also recorded a Spanish version of “Anywhere for You,” but it’s not as good. Hearing Nick Carter trying so hard to enunciate is painful.

“My Cherie Amour” – Stevie Wonder

“My Cherie Amour” is one of those timeless love songs. It’s sweet, easy going, and has a simple, yet unforgettable hook. When it was released in 1969 it charted at number 4 on the Billboard Pop and R&B singles chart. Now, it’s one of Wonder’s most iconic songs. It was so popular, Wonder re-recorded it in Spanish and Italian. Wonder handles both versions well having a pretty good grasp on each language. Both versions still sound as sweet and beautiful as the original. Considering the title, you’d think he’d do a French version. It’s never too late for him to try.

“Veras”/“You’ll See” – Madonna

Madonna has always flirted with Spanish culture ever since her days of visiting “La Isla Bonita.” So it’s no surprise that she recorded her 1995 single “You’ll See” in Spanish. Translated by Argentine singer/songwriter Paz Martinez her voice sounds beautiful, yet haunting. This version of the song still has the chilling, heartbreaking tone as the original. The Spanish lyrics paired with the swirl of Latin guitars complete the bittersweet mood. It’s kind of romantic, but there’s still something sad about it. Madonna later recorded “What It Feels Like For a Girl” in Spanish along with a collaboration with Ricky Martin entitled “Be Careful with My Heart,” which sounds like a strange duet, but actually works quite well.

“Can’t Change Me” – Chris Cornell

The debut single from Chris Cornell’s solo album, Euphoria Morning, received a French version for Japanese, European, and deluxe versions of the record. While his French is a little spotty, his voice still has the same power, emotion, and drive found in the original. He sounds beautiful in this version and his voice will still give you chills. Though it is a bit weird that part of the bridge is in English. The song was translated by Alexis Lemoine, so maybe it was a style choice. It takes you out of the song for a bit, but overall it’s a fantastic reminder of why Cornell was one of rock’s best singers.

“Do Do Do De Da Da Da” – The Police

For a special 7” edition of this single, The Police recorded this song in both Spanish and Japanese. While the Spanish version isn’t bad, the Japanese recording stands out. Japanese can be a difficult language to learn, so a lot of artists opt for an easier language if they want to re-record their songs. Yet, Sting does a pretty decent job here. Sure, he sounds and a bit unnatural, like he’s a first year Japanese student, but he doesn’t sound terrible. Still, it’s better than his new album with Shaggy.

“Helden”/“Heroes” – David Bowie

David Bowie’s groundbreaking single “Heroes” was recorded in English, French, and German. Every version is fantastic, yet each one has a different feel to it. The original is filled with a sense of melancholy while the French version is beautiful and kind of romantic. The German version is bursting with emotion and finds Bowie practically shouting at the top of his lungs by the song’s end. Each version is exciting and has a timeless quality to it. It really shows off Bowie’s talent and how great his crossover appeal was.

“Mi Refljo”/“My Reflection”– Christina Aguilera

In 2000, Christina Aguilera released her second album and her first Spanish album dubbed Mi Reflejo. The record featured cuts from her debut album, like “I Turn To You” and “Genie in a Bottle” recorded in Spanish. But this single from the Mulan soundtrack is one of the best from the album. Whether it’s in Spanish or English, the song is still beautiful and heartbreaking. The way she hits her notes on this version still gives you chills. Even if you can’t understand Spanish, the power of her voice and the emotion she puts behind every word is enough to make you cry. But if you’re looking for another Spanish Aguilera song that won’t choke you up, “Ven Conmigo (Solamente Tú)” is a good choice.

“Boom Clap” – Charli XCX

For the Japanese edition of her second album, Sucker, Charli XCX re-recorded “Break the Rules” and her hit single “Boom Clap” in Japanese. Surprisingly, both songs translate very well and the former actually sounds like it could be by a J-pop girl group. Of course, her Japanese skills aren’t the strongest, but she does a fine job. The songs keep their upbeat vibe and the hook on “Boom Clap” is still so infectious, you’ll find yourself singing the Japanese version in no time, even if you don’t know what she’s saying. Since recording singles in another language isn’t as popular as it used to be, it’s cool to see an artist like Charli XCX do something like this for her fans, especially those in Japan.

“Llámame”/“Call Me” – Blondie

This iconic track received a Spanish recording for a special 12” single meant for release in Mexico and some South American countries. It was later released in the US and the UK and was featured on the 1993 compilation Blonde and Beyond. For the most part, this version is spot on, even Debbie Harry sounds decent singing in Spanish. But things get clunky around the hook which finds her repeating “call me” in English. It’s like the translators decided “Llámame” didn’t sound as catchy and stuck with the original.

“Héroe”/“Hero” – Mariah Carey

No matter what you think about Mariah Carey, she has a killer voice. Her powerful vocals and those impossible high notes she hits are enough to give you chills. She brings that same talent to the Spanish version of “Hero.” This version was recorded for the international release of her album, Music Box, and was translated by Jorge Luis Piloto. The song is gorgeous and Carey sounds confident while singing in Spanish. This version even charted on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs. She’d later record “Open Arms” and “My All” in Spanish, but after a mistranslation snafu with the latter song, it seems like we won’t be hearing sing in another language for a while.

There are a lot more artists who recorded in another language so which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

“Over It” – Bullet For My Valentine

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Release Year: 2018

Rating: 5.5/10

Bullet For My Valentine have been one of my favorite metal bands since The Poison. I love the way they mix intense, technical riffs with melodic moments yet keep the aggressive mood. So when they announced a new song, I was ecstatic. Venom was a great follow up to the disappointment that was Temper Temper. I couldn’t wait to hear the next blistering track the band had in store. Sadly, it’s one of their weakest songs.

“Over It” is such a disappointment. It’s not terrible, but it’s a forgettable track. All the excitement, anger, aggression, and thrills that make up a Bullet song are missing. The opening isn’t bad; the intro riff and slower pace is something a bit different for a lead single, but I kept waiting for the moment when the song kicked into high gear and came alive; it never happened.

The music is dull and bland. It sounds like it could by any rock band on the radio. There’s very little about it that commands your attention and pulls you in. After hearing it a few times I thought “Eh, it’s okay I guess.” The lack of screaming vocals makes it worse. I’m not saying they need to take over the whole song; you just want more of them.  The brief moment they appear, you realize how much they’re missing. The song also lacks their signature riffs and solos.

The thing that gets me excited for a Bullet song are the insane riffs and solos. Michael Paget is a beast on the guitar and always shows off his skill with fiery, dizzying solos. And the riffs themselves are memorable. Think back to songs like “Room 409” or “Waking the Demon.” Those riffs instantly grab you and suck you in. All of this is missing on this song. The guitar isn’t bad, but it sounds pretty average. It doesn’t have that Padge stamp and is lacking the excitement, fire, and aggression. It’s another generic riff we’ve heard on other rock songs.

Everything about the track is weak, especially the lyrics. Bullet aren’t amazing songwriters, but they’ve made more compelling tracks than this. The lyrics are cliché and sound more fitting coming from an angsty teen. And some of them are baffling, particularly the bridge: “Breathe in/breathe out/don’t wanna ride your carousel.” The song also follows this formula Bullet has fallen into over the years: intro riff, quiet music while Matt sings “angry lyrics,” exploding, distorted hook, return to verse, breakdown, repeat.

“Over It” is Bullet at their weakest. Even Temper Temper sounds better than this. It’s a bland, generic song that has none of their signature riffs, solos, or aggression. It’s tolerable on its own, but it doesn’t get you excited for their upcoming album. There’s nothing memorable about this song. You’ll struggle to remember the hook after hearing it a few times. Hopefully, this isn’t representative of the entire record. I’m still looking forward to hearing more from them, but for now, my expectations for Gravity are low.

Blue Sunshine – The Glove

Release Year: 1983

Rating: 7/10

It’s not unusual for artists to break out of their comfort zone and take on different projects. Though he’s the charming frontman for The Cure, Robert Smith wanted a break from the spotlight. With the help of some friends and some drugs, Smith recruited Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Steve Severin and vocalist Jenette Landry to form the psychedelic outfit The Glove. The group only produced one album, Blue Sunshine, and it’s a weird trip.

The eccentric album has elements of both The Cure and the Banshees but feels like a hodgepodge of different sounds and styles. Many songs such as “Like An Animal” have a psychedelic vibe to them with swirling synth, dizzying music, and weird lyrics involving sex and death – at least some things don’t change for Smith. At times, the album feels like a weird acid trip that you’re not sure is good or bad. The band plays around and mashes various styles together on songs like the breezy “Looking Glass Girl,” which sounds more appropriate for a Cure album, the disjointed and dizzying “Sex Eye Makeup,” and the manic, bizarre sound collage that is “Relax.” It’s as if the band threw caution to the wind and recorded whatever they felt like.

The songs can be jarring with the weird music, but what’s most unexpected is the absence of Smith’s warbling vocals. Landry takes over vocal duty and even though her voice isn’t bad, sometimes her high-pitched shouting is grating. At times it feels like your ears are going to bleed. Luckily, Smith does lend his voice to two songs: “Mr. Alphabet Says” and “Perfect Murder.” And of course, if you’re a Smith fanatic, they’ll be the best songs from the album. The former is actually the most memorable track with its bouncy opening. Here, we move away from the psychedelia and move into a weird, bluesy mood. It has a jangly piano that’s reminiscent of ragtime tunes. What really puts the song over the top are the additional strings. It gives the song a sense of drama, which is a bit unexpected. Sometimes the strings are jarring, other times it’s oddly pretty.

“Perfect Murder” also has great music. The opening exudes a tropical feel with the playful xylophone kicking things off. Smith sleepily sings lyrics like “move inside my daydream/like fingers in a glove” making for a mood that’s lazy and soothing. Something about it makes you feel like you’re in a hazy, hot jungle. The song ends with Smith’s random noises and howls along with what sounds like crickets chirping in the night. The music and the overall feel makes it stand out from the other songs on the album. Those who prefer Smith’s vocals will be happy to know Glove songs featuring his singing were eventually released on the 2008 reissue.

None of the songs are bad; if anything the music is interesting and catches your attention. But few of the songs aren’t very memorable. Some of them haven’t aged well, either. “This Green City” has a twinkling Casio riff that sounds like it’s taken from a 70s news program. When you hear it, it just makes you laugh. “Punish Me with Kisses” has a similar problem with a cheesy piano riff from a cheap effects program. “Orgy” is a bit of an exception since its snake charmer-esque music is hard to forget. It plays like it’s trying to put the listener in a trance. “Blues in Drag” is an odd, soothing instrumental with echoing keys and gentle strings. It has its pretty moments but is easy to forget when compared to the other songs.

Blue Sunshine is one weird ride. It’s an odd, psychedelic experience that makes you wonder exactly what drugs the group was taking at the time. It’s not necessarily the best album, but its experimental nature makes it worth a listen. Because the band plays around with so many styles you never know what to expect next, which can make it fun. There are some upbeat, catchy songs, but some of them are forgettable. It doesn’t help that the lyrics sound like nonsense at times. It’s weird enough to keep you engaged, but it’s definitely an acquired taste.

Playlist: Awesome MadTv Performances You Forgot About

Anyone remember MadTv? Back in the 90s and 2000s, if Saturday Night Live wasn’t your style, chances are you turned to this show for laughs. It gave us iconic and hilarious characters like Miss Swan and Stuart. After In Living Color, it’s still one of my favorite sketch shows of the 90s, even though I probably shouldn’t have been watching. It also gave us some killer performances. Since the last few seasons of the show and the shoddy revival weren’t that great, it’s easy to forget the big names MadTv pulled in. Featuring new acts and legends helped the show stand out from its competition. So, let’s take a look back at some awesome MadTv performances you probably don’t remember.

The Cure – “Maybe Someday” (2000)

How MadTv managed to get The Cure to perform on the show is a mystery. Robert Smith can get picky about where he plays and a lewd comedy show featuring a grown man in his underwear doesn’t seem like one he’d be a part of. However they did it, the show got The freaking Cure to play “Maybe Sunday” in 2000. It’s a solid performance with Smith and the band sounding amazing as usual. Sadly, it’s a condensed version of the song with Smith not singing the first verse and going straight into the breakdown after the hook, but he’s Robert Smith. He can do that if he wants. I actually remember seeing this right as I was getting into the band. Smith and his wiry black hair captivated me just as much then as he does now. This is still one of my favorite MadTv moments.

The Strokes – “Is This It?/NYC Cops” (2002)

MadTv album Bobby Lee introduces The Strokes as his favorite band and they kick off their two-song set with “Is This It?” As always, frontman Julian Casablancas looks disinterested being on stage. Things get more lively for “NYC Cops” as fans get out of their seats and rush the stage. The scene never gets chaotic; everyone just wiggles and dances in the background while Casablancas looks distraught. The weird part comes at the end when we see Frank Caliente and Mo Collins as George and Babara Bush complaining about MadTv being over and trying to find something else to watch. The scene would be more enjoyable if they actually let The Strokes finish performing.

Queens of the Stone Age – “No One Knows” (2003)

This was around the time QOTSA hit the mainstream, despite releasing two albums prior to Songs of the Deaf. Both this and “Go With the Flow” are a blast to watch. Josh Homme and co go at it hard like they’re playing one of their own shows. The crowd kind of just sits there and politely nods, which is strange. With our current image of Homme being clad in leather, covered in tattoos, and looking slightly haggard, it’s funny to see a young, fresh-faced Homme. Though I can’t get over his creeper mustache. Luckily, he doesn’t revisit that too often.

Sum 41 – “Still Waiting” (2002)

Sum 41 absolutely kills it with this performance. Not only do they sound great, they’re energetic and go it hard bringing some aggression to the MadTv stage. It’s short, sweet, and straight to the point. No weird sketches or tricks here. It’s just the band doing what they do best. But you can’t help noticing the crowd just sitting there nodding their heads to the music. With the hard driving nature of the song, you’d expect people jumping around or least dancing in their seats. It’s kind of weird.

Creed – “Higher”(2000)

Okay, so this performance isn’t that awesome; it’s just funny to look back on. Believe it or not, there was a time when Creed wasn’t a stain on music. Even though the show made funny Creed parodies, even they couldn’t deny how successful the band was. Listening to the performance now, it makes you wonder how people sat there and took Scott Stapp’s vocals seriously. It sounds like he’s doing a bad Eddie Vedder impression throughout the entire song. And seeing him give “sexy” faces to the camera makes you cringe. Still, it’s better than the time Stapp forgot all the words to his songs, so that’s a plus.

Green Day – “Blood, Sex, and Booze” (2001)

After a weird joke from Will Sasso, Green Day takes the stage to perform “Blood, Sex, and Booze,” something they rarely play live. They play with the same passion, fire, and fervor they do in their massive stadium gigs. It’s a pretty cut and dry performance for the band that’s still a blast to watch. While I didn’t like the band at the time this aired, I remember rushing home after school around the peak of American Idiot to catch a rerun featuring this performance. They also played “Warning,” which is a solid performance, it’s not as fun as the previous one.

Ja Rule featuring Ashanti – “Always on Time” (2002)

Remember when Ja Rule and Ashanti ruled the airwaves? These two had a number of hit singles on their own, but they seemed to work best when singing with each other. Regardless of how you feel about Ja Rule and his antics now, you can’t deny he was one of the most popular rappers ten years ago. And while Ja Rule’s gravely vocals can be laughable, the two actually sound really good here. As someone who loved singing this song on weekend drives, this throwback is a blast to watch.

Alien Ant Farm – “Smooth Criminal” (2001)

This performance not only features Alien Ant Farm playing their one smash hit, it also has Aries Spears (remember him?!) doing his best Michael Jackson impression. Donned in a suit, fedora, and white makeup making him look like really creepy, Spears teases MJ’s then comeback, pulls off a couple of kicks, and gets carried off by two young boys. Afterward, the band launches into the song while the crowd dances and waves their arms from the comfort of their seats. Seriously, did the show have a no standing rule or something? The energetic performance and Spears’ impression makes this a memorable MadTv moment. Too bad AAF couldn’t manage to score another hit.

Marilyn Manson – “Personal Jesus” (2004)

MadTv really tried to make this performance “edgy” and “cool” with the twisted camera angles and dark lighting. Unfortunately, things are so dark you can barely see Manson and the rest of the band. Compared to his other TV appearances this one is quite tame and he seems a little bored. John 5 and Tim Skold exude more energy than Manson. Being the newly minted Manson fan I was, I ate up every minute of this performance. It’s still better than his recent concert appearances.

Blondie – “Call Me” (1999)

Since the show has been off the air for almost 10 years, (we won’t count the “revival”) it’s easy to forget how many iconic musicians have played the show. Bon Jovi, Wu-Tang, and Ice-T have all made appearances, but Blondie’s is one of the best. While the performance is great even though it’s cut short, it’s the skit with Miss Swan that stands out. Miss Swan fronts the band singing her own incomprehensible version of the song prompting Debbie Harry to come out and ask what the hell she’s doing. Miss Swan then insists she wrote the song on tuba but allows Harry to sing only if she plays nice. It’s a weird bit you’d never imagine the singer being a part, but it happened. But hey, this was when Miss Swan was at hear peak. Who wouldn’t want to be in one of her sketches?

No Doubt – “Bathwater” (2000)

For anyone to remember No Doubt during their peak, this is how they picture Gwen Stefani. The weird, alt girl with her own style and sound. Stefani is slinky and cool as she sings, while the rest of the band ham it up for the camera, especially a topless Adrian Young. It’s a fun, energetic performance that reminds you how awesome both No Doubt and Stefani were. While I don’t mind her current work, it’s just not the same.

Tenacious D – “Tribute” (2002)

You’re never sure what kind of performance you’re going to get from Tenacious D, but you know it’s gonna be weird and it’s gonna rock. The duo didn’t disappoint with this MadTv appearance. Featuring Dave Grohl on drums, Jack Black recounts a tale of singing the greatest song in the world for a beast. The thing is, they can’t remember it. Black gives his usual hammy rockstar performance that’s fun to watch. The best part comes when he gently sets down his guitar, rips off his shirt to show off his flame painted gut, and “breathes fire” out of his mouth. Clearly, they’re a perfect fit for the show. Too bad they didn’t have them on more often.

There are so many performances I wanted to include, but couldn’t find like Outkast and Wu-Tang Clan. So which MadTv performance is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!