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Notable Releases of 2016

2016 may not have been music’s finest year, but there were a lot of good albums I played on repeat. While not all of them were notable or amazing, there were plenty that stood out for different reasons. So here are my picks for other notable releases for 2016.

Album that Caught me Off Guard:

Electric Warlock Acid Witch – Rob Zombie

When I heard Rob Zombie was dropping a new album, I reacted with a “meh.” Seeing as I didn’t care for his last few albums, I had low expectations for this one. Educated Horses was a big disappointment, Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is bearable, yet forgettable, and Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor is hardly worth remembering. My disdain for the new album grew when I saw the lengthy album title and tracklist featuring songs like “Everybody’s Fucking in a UFO.” But when listening to it a revelation dawned on me: this is fucking great! This album is Rob Zombie getting back to basics: weird songs, tons of samples, and rocking the fuck out. There are some misses on the record, like the sludgy “WURDALAK,” but it’s a rousing ride from start to finish. Zombie keeps it short and simple as he pumps out bangers like “Get High,” “Get Your Boots On,” and “Teenage Rock God.” Some of the songs are reminiscent of his past stuff, but it still gets your heart racing and head banging. Even the songs that are just okay are still gripping instead of boring filler like on his last records. Listening to it again I couldn’t help throwing devil horns in the air even though I was by myself on the couch. It’s loud, aggressive, weird, freaky, groovy, and kick ass, everything a Rob Zombie album should be. It’s a proper return to his aggressive roots, which he seemed to move away from in later years. And best of all, the album is fun as hell. It reignited my faith that Rob Zombie can still make killer music. Can’t say the same about his movies, though.

Underrated Album of 2016:

Alas Salvation – Yak

Once I heard Yak’s brand of chaotic, psychedelic rock on their 2016 debut, I knew it would be one of my favorite albums of the year. They almost went under my radar, but I barely caught them thanks to an assignment for another music site. What instantly grabbed me was their energetic, destructive vibe. Listening to songs like “Victorious” and “Harbor the Feeling” makes you picture them breaking everything in the room while they’re playing. It felt like I was hearing chaos incarnate when listening to the album. Half the time it’s unbridled noise and audio insanity, but I loved every minute. To keep the album from getting repetitive or dull, Yak plays with different sounds, like the psychedelic tinged “Use Somebody” or the Spaghetti Western isolation of “Smile.” Tracks like these made for an unpredictable, exciting ride. If there was one album that got me the most excited and left the biggest impression on me, this was it. I can’t wait to hear what else the band has in store for us in the future.

Album I Tried to Like But Couldn’t:

I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are so Beautiful yet So Unaware of It – The 1975

Get out the pitchforks right now. Yes, for some reason, I couldn’t get into this album. I was intrigued by The 1975 when I saw them perform “The Sound” on The Tonight Show. Since they’ve received mass praise from practically every outlet, I decided to check them out. While I liked songs like “Love Me” and “A Change of Heart,” the rest did nothing for me. It seems I like the 80’s, danceable side to the band, not the slow, drawn out, ballads that permeated the second half of the record. I listened to it several times, but came away with the same feeling; it’s long and too slow for my tastes. It just didn’t grab me like I hoped it would. This doesn’t mean I think The 1975 are a bad band or that the album sucks. It just wasn’t for me and I still don’t get what all the hype’s about.

Album of the Year Runner Up:

The Dream is Over – PUP

It was really hard picking album of the year and it came down to PUP’s second album and what I ultimately picked. PUP’s self-titled debut kicked ass. It showed off their punk nature and chaotic drive, but also showed the band can do more than just scream and be loud. They pushed that to the breaking point with their sophomore effort. With such praise heaped on their first album, it would’ve been easy for them to cave under pressure and release something that was tolerable. For this album, they somehow managed to top themselves. Everything about felt rawer, fiercer, and even more emotional in some places. I love how songs like “DVP” and “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You (I Will)” are pure destruction and aggression. Yet, songs like “Pine Point” and “Sleep in the Heat” both haunting and gut wrenching. It’s easy for a punk band to be loud and brash, but few of them can get out of their comfort zone and make emotional songs that still kick major ass. So much passion, drive, and heartache comes out of this album, it’s hard to take in all at once. It’s an excellent follow-up proving the band didn’t get lucky the first time around.

Well, 2016 is finally over. Let’s hope more awesome music in 2017. What albums are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!

100 – The Hunna

100

Release Year: 2016

Rating: 8/10

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been obsessed with Night Riots since I saw them open for Blaqk Audio earlier this year. Now, I love them even more for introducing me to The Hunna. The Hertfordshire quartet took the stage before Night Riots and tore it up. I was floored by their raw energy, sheer force, and awesome presence. Plus, it didn’t hurt that their songs were kickass. I bought their debut album, 100, right after the show ended. While it’s not perfect, it’s a promising as hell debut.

Right away the album pulls you in with the insanely catchy “Bonfire.” This opening track perfectly captures what The Hunna are about: raucous music with sing-along worthy hooks. Singer Ryan Potter recounts a destructive relationship with a hint of sadness, but mostly sass as he sings snarky lines like “So bite my tongue/But fuck your heart/and I can’t stand/can’t stand you, baby.” Everything explodes during the chorus, hitting you in the chest with the wild guitars and pummeling drums. The music may be intense, but the hook of “And we blew up like a bonfire/fire, fire” instantly grabs you. Though the content isn’t necessarily upbeat, the way the song is packaged makes it fun and so fucking satisfying making you want more. Luckily, The Hunna is prepared to deliver.

This trend of earworm hooks and wild music continues for just about the entire album. “We Could Be,” which seems to be targeted at previous record labels who passed over the band, has the same driving energy and sheer force as the previous track. This song stands out for the catchy, yet biting hook of “We could be way up/and we could be on top/if it weren’t for shit like you.” Somehow they manage to make this chorus fun and upbeat even though there’s a lot of attitude and anger behind it. “Never Enough” follows the same pattern of rocking music with gripping hooks on this highly energetic and booming track. It makes another high point on the album.

Though they don’t seem to talk about it much, the band must’ve had a hard time getting started judging from songs talking about their struggles. “World is Ours” has a positive message of not giving up when times get tough and talks about trying to get the band running. It has a great message but isn’t the most gripping song on the record. “You & Me” is another song dedicated to the non-believers and a nod to those who stuck with them over the years. We get to see just how much the band means to them with the line “not just a band, but a family.” It seems they’ve been through some rough times, but at the end, they keep smiling, which is something they express in other songs. Tracks like “Brother,” “Alive,” and “Be Young” all have an uplifting message of live life, be happy, and don’t stop trying.

The Hunna slow things down with the soft, sentimental “Sycamore Tree.” Potter finds himself in a moment of reflection on this mellow track. The way it’s framed is actually soothing: for most of the song, it’s only Potter and an acoustic guitar. Near the end, the rest of the music kicks in waking up listeners, but things never get crazy. It’s nice to hear them switch things up, but it’s a little too slow for my taste. “Still Got Blood” is the stronger ballad. It has a raw, rock sound with the fiery guitars and hard hitting music. There’s definitely a lot of attitude and soul to the song, which keeps it from getting dull. Potter gets sultry for the sexy track “Bad For You.” With a blues-tinged riff, Potter sounds soulful and full of desire as he sings about something he wants so bad but knows it’s no good. It’s one of those songs that you put on to get in the mood.

Honestly, there are no bad songs on the album. Some are stronger than others, but they’re all enjoyable. But what keeps 100 from being a stellar debut album is the length and lack of variety. After a while, the songs start sounding the same. “Coming Home, “Rock My Way,” and “Alive” can all be described as highly energetic, catchy, fun songs. Aside from a guitar riff here and there, little about them really stands out from other, stronger tracks. This is why songs like “Piece By Piece,” which takes some cues from funk and has a sick groove, are so notable.  This becomes painfully obvious when you realize the album keeps going and going. Filled with 16 tracks, some of it, sadly, is filler. If they opted for something shorter, they could’ve picked the best songs making for a standout debut album. As it is now, it’s not bad, just a little tiring after a while.

Still, The Hunna fucking rock. The album has its flaws, but it’s enjoyable. All the songs make you feel good and have killer hooks. You’ll be singing along with them in no time. They somehow manage to perfectly blend pop melodies with hard driving rock music, making for songs that are super satisfying. Plus, Potter proves to have a wonderful voice. He switches from signing with so much fire it sounds like he’s about to rip his vocal chords to sounding soulful and sweet. And the way his thick British accent infiltrates songs makes it downright charming. If you thought the album was good, just wait til you see them live. If The Hunna is the future of alt-rock, I think music will be awesome at least for a little while.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey guys! There’ll be a new post soon, but I just wanted to take a moment and say happy Thanksgiving! Hope everyone that celebrates it is safe, happy, and spending time with people they love. Also, eat a lot of good food! And those who don’t celebrate have an awesome day and have good food anyway. And if you’re doing black Friday, be careful.

Thanks for being awesome, guys and still following the site. ❤

 

Time For a Change

Hey guys. It’s been a while since I’ve actually stopped and talk to you and thank everyone for stopping by. Whether you’re a follower or just checked out one of my reviews, thanks for visiting the blog. I wouldn’t keep doing this without you.

But the reason for this post is to announce a change in upload schedule. Over the past year or so, I’ve been doing my best to keep a consistent schedule of two posts per week. But as I’ve gotten more writing work and taken up a part time job, it’s been harder to keep the schedule going. Lately, it’s hard to find the time to sit down, listen to music, and analyze it the way I want to. I don’t want to just listen to anything just for the sake of content. I always want to make sure whatever I’m covering is what I’m genuinely interested in at the time.

I thought about it for a long time and I didn’t want to do it, but I decided it’s best to change when I upload reviews. Instead of uploading two pieces per week, I’ll be uploading one roughly every two weeks. It sucks, but I think this will work better with my more hectic schedule. I want to make sure the blog stays fun for everyone. I don’t want it to turn into a chore, which is where it’s been heading over the past few months. When I started the blog, I had the ability to dedicate all my time to it. Now I realize I don’t anymore, but I don’t want to stop blogging. Hopefully, this change will allow me to work on more awesome content for the blog without stressing out so much about.

Thanks for being understanding and thanks for following the site. Here’s to more great content in the future!

Ellipsis – Biffy Clyro

Release Year: 2016

Rating: 8/10

Biffy Clyro are one of those bands that likes experimentation. Their music often falls into that category where so many genres are mashed together the best way to describe is “alt rock.” They make the type of songs that seem complex, taking several listens just to piece everything together. They often shift gears between albums and they seem to do the same for their seventh release. Biffy go all out rock for their most accessible release so far.

Biffy Clyro get in touch with their hard rock side on this album. They’ve been never been shy about getting raw and gritty before, but they normally vary their sound. Here, they stick on a pretty straightforward path. The opening track “Wolves of Winter” is intense and hard hitting. All the music hits you like a crashing wave for an aggressive tone. There’s a moment where the music drops, leaving only a steady bass line and Simon Neil’s rapid vocals. Something about it is so satisfying, making it one of the stronger songs on the album. There’s even some clever wordplay with the lyric “Just remember, no I in team/There’s two in brilliant.” It’s a great, energetic track that leaves your blood pumping. The same goes for lead single “Animal Style.” The gritty guitars and somewhat sensual vibe make it an intense rock song. The hook is memorable, the music is driving and dirty, and Neil cooing “ooo ooo ooo” makes it a stand out on the album.

Tracks like “Flammable” and “On a Bang” continue with the raw, intense rock trend. They’re in-your-face tracks with great energy and a lot of attitude. When Neil sounds fed up when he sings “Now you know better/why can’t you fucking do better” on the latter track. They have similar mood and sound to the previous rock songs. They’re good but may not grab you instantly. Biffy seem to leave the weird, complex compositions behind for the majority of the record for a more accessible sound. This is best heard on the ballad “Re-arrange.” Rather than being intricate, epic, and heartbreaking, it plays like current radio hits. The sappy lyrics, echoing beat, and hand claps make it more suited for a band like X Ambassadors. It’s not horrible, but it can be off-putting for those who aren’t used to Biffy sounding like every other band on the radio. Luckily, this is the only low point on the album.

Biffy has always experimented with their sound and they do the same here with the odd “Small Wishes.” It’s their country song. It has light, twinkling music with twangy guitars that make you question if you’re still listening to the same album. The song is even more jarring since it comes after two gritty, rock songs full of loud, fuzzy guitars. It leaves you scratching your head, not really sure what you just heard. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it actually fit with the rest of the album. Though there are some slow songs, the majority of it is intense rock. It’s hard to go from that to a country song. The track is better suited for a b-side. Otherwise, feels out of place on the album.

What’s most interesting about this album are the lyrical themes. Even if it’s difficult to pinpoint what certain songs are about, it’s easy to see the running thread of broken relationships and unchecked feelings. On the upbeat “Howl” Neil laments how he’s “always got the rage” and can’t really change for the better of a relationship and he questions what real love is on “Herex.” On the ballad “Medicine,” there are several references to addiction, whether it be drugs or not letting go of things. It climaxes for a dramatic end where Neil hints it may be better if the other person just left. But these themes are provocatively captured on the beautiful closing track “People.” It begins slow and gradually builds up to a fuller sound over time. The song takes a somber turn as Neil sings about being mean, having the “Cruelest mouth/and sick little tongue” driving his lover away. It’s a definitive classic Biffy track that ends the album on a downer. There’s so much going on here you’ll play it on repeat just to hear the music, lyrics, and vocals come together for this melancholy tune.

Ellipsis is another solid album from Biffy Clyro. But unlike releases Puzzle and Opposites, it doesn’t grab you right away. This is a record that has to grow on you over time. Because there are few intricate compositions, varied styles, or epic moments, many of the songs don’t grab you right away. Their other songs felt larger than life, complex, and sometimes weird. These songs don’t have the same impact since this record is straightforward rock. It’s still enjoyable to listen to and is probably their most accessible, but it may take a while for long time fans get into. The new album is still exciting, energetic, and has that Biffy charm.