Album Review

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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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.

Man of the Woods – Justin Timberlake

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Release Year: 2018

Rating: 6/10

When I first saw Justin Timberlake’s rugged, I’m-an-outdoors-man promo for Man of the Woods, I was not happy. I didn’t want down to Earth Justin. I wanted Sexyback Justin. Luckily, the album isn’t stepped in folksy roots as the promos made it out to be. Unfortunately, the album isn’t that good. The main problem is there are no songs that stand out, grab your attention, and make you want to crank it up whenever you hear it. The closest we get is lead single “Filthy,” which is just weird and takes a while to grow on you before you start singing it.

Songs like “Man of the Woods,” “Midnight Summer Jam,” “Wave,” and “Higher Higher” are fine but pretty generic. Once the album ends you don’t remember them until you play the LP again. They have decent music and some pretty good hooks, but there’s nothing exciting about them. “Say Something” featuring Chris Stapleton is an unexpected highlight. It’s got just the right amount of a country vibe to please country fans and non-fans alike. Plus, Stapleton and Timberlake sound great together.

Most of the songs are inoffensive and not bad to listen to, but they’re just there. “Montana” may have a 70s inspired groove, but it sounds too similar to the rest of the songs on the record. “Morning Light” featuring Alicia Keys is nice but gets boring pretty quickly. The rest of the tracks like “Breeze Off the Pound,” “The Hard Stuff,” and “Livin’ Off the Land” are hard to discern from one another since they sound so similar. And seeing as they’re the closest thing to Timberlake’s newfound persona, they don’t really do much for the record.

Other songs are just cringy. “Sauce” features the unfortunate line of “I like your pink/you like my purple,” which is wrong on so many levels. It also features him doing a shoddy Prince imitation, which is hard to sit through. “Supplies” is even worse. Timberlake attempts a trap song filled with generic hip-hop music and an annoying hook. It’s so out of left field, it doesn’t fit on the album. And it’s hard to take “Flannel,” an ode to a fucking shirt, seriously. He actually sings the line “But if I’m bein’ selfish, that gave me a reason to be there/With my flannel on.” The preceding interlude featuring his wife Jessica Biel is even worse. She talks about wearing his shirt and how makes her feel like a woman. It will make you roll your eyes.

Man of the Woods is a definite miss for Timberlake. While there are a handful of decent songs, the album severely lacks the fun, must-listen-to dance hits he’s become known for. Most of the songs are generic or just plain dull. After hearing the album a few times, I couldn’t care about it anymore. It’s not the weird, earthly vibe we thought it would be. Even worse, it’s a boring, generic safe record for Timberlake.

Knowing What You Know Now – Marmozets

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Release Year: 2018

Rating: 8.5/10

When Marmozets burst on to the scene, they were hailed as one of the most exciting bands in rock. They hold on to this title with their album Knowing What You Know Now. The record is full of high energy tunes that are catchy, yet heavy and will get you moving whether you’re dancing or starting a mosh pit. All of their songs have this amazing energy to them that you’ll be singing them after hearing them one time.

Part of what makes the album so great is the energetic nature of the band and their intense attitude they pump into the songs. Opening track “Play” kicks things off with hard driving guitars and a pummeling rhythm that gets you moving before Becca Macintyre sings “I don’t dance ‘cause I want to/I dance cause I need to,” something anyone who needs to groove to let off some steam can get behind. It gets your adrenaline rushing and makes you excited for what’s to come.

The same boundless energy continues on tracks “Habits,” the hyper “Major System Error,” and the bouncy “Like a Battery.” These songs have such an intense drive and passion it makes them irresistible. These songs get you excited, make you start moving and shaking, and instantly grab your attention. They’re catchy as hell too. After hearing songs like the groove-laden “Lost in Translation” and “New Religion” once, they’ll get stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Though they keep up with their fast, aggressive sound a notable change is Macintyre’s vocals. She’s always had a powerful voice, but here she plays around with her range. Before her power steamed from screaming and yelling. Here, she stretches her ability switching from deep, gruff vocals (“Suffocation”) and soft, slightly eerie crooning (“Start Again”). Not only is her voice impressive, it shows how she’s grown as a singer. She’s on her way to becoming one of rock’s best singers.

Marmozets slow things down with a few mellow numbers. “Insomnia” is well meaning but is the only low point on the album. While it lets you catch your breath from the heart palpitating songs, the singing is somewhat off putting. The song isn’t horrible; It has a good start with the dreamy, watery music, but when Macintyre hits those high notes during the hook they’re grating. It’s like she’s doing a weird Betty Boop imitation that’s both annoying and creepy. It’s enough to make you skip to the next track.

“Me & You” is another slow song, but this one actually works. The music is calm and gentle while Macintyre croons about saying goodbye to someone. It’s a bittersweet track about leaving someone, but hoping you’ll see them again someday. There’s this serene beauty to it that really makes the song stand out. It shows Marmozets have no problem slowing things down and showing another side of themselves.

The album closes with the sentimental “Run with the Rhythm.” It’s not the most engaging or memorable song on the record, but it’s the message that makes it stand out. It opens with the reassuring message of “Take your seats/Hear me speak/You’re not alone/In everything” letting you know you’re not alone in facing certain troubles. The hook “So run with the rhythm/run with your freedom” feels like it leaps and bounds throughout the song. It can be interpreted any way you want, but the main takeaway seems to be about freedom and doing things that make you happy. It’s a surprisingly uplifting way to end the album.

Knowing What You Know Now is a blast to listen to from start to finish. The songs are hyper, energetic, and thrilling. It’s hard to sit still while listening to the record. The band manages to keep their devil may care attitude and make songs that are so catchy you’ll be singing them all day long. And Macintyre’s unique, powerful voice helps make the album an unforgettable experience. Clearly, Marmozets are the best band you’re not listening to. At a time when rock feels stale and seems to be playing it safe, this UK-five piece is just what we need.

Revival – Eminem

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Release Year: 2017

Rating: 6/10

2017 was a crazy year for several different reasons. Everyone from celebrities to your neighbor commented on the tense political landscape. But I most wanted to hear from Eminem, a person who wouldn’t sugarcoat his feelings. Revival finally released and….sigh. I really wanted to like this album, especially since his freestyle “The Storm” was so tight and powerful. But this is just a mess. I was flat out confused when I first listened to it. I didn’t know how to feel, but at this point, I can say I just don’t like it.

This album has so much potential, but when you’re listening to it you can’t help but think “why did he do that?” So many of the songs start off strong or have a great verse, but veer off in strange directions. We first heard this on the misguided “Untouchable.” His lyrics about racism in America is honest and he’s saying things we all need to hear. But you can’t take it seriously with the weird hook of “White boy, white boy/You’re a Rockstar/my momma talkin’ to me/tryna tell me how to live” that that sounds like he’s mocking Fred Durst.

“Framed” has a similar problem. The hard-hitting music and features Em spitting fire gets you amped up for something awesome. Then the goofy ass hook comes on featuring Eminem repeating the title in a stupid voice.“Believe” isn’t a bad track and has some strong moments, but it’s hard to get over the generic music and his weird flow. It sounds like every other rap song on the radio right now. Seeing as he’s often considered an innovator of rap it’s unlike him to turn to what’s trending to try and make a hit. The whole thing catches you off guard making you think you’re listening to someone else entirely. It’s not a terrible song, but it’s a bit unexpected for the rapper.

The biggest problem with the album is how forgettable the songs are. It’s hard to remember most of the songs once it’s over. They’re not as hard-hitting, fun, or interesting as his part material. “Walk On Water” is boring, while songs like “Heat” and “Nowhere Fast” barely even register. Not to mention the much talked about collaborators don’t really add anything. Pink takes over most of “Need Me” making it more of her song. “River” featuring Ed Sheeran is okay at best and “Tragic Endings” with Skylar Grey sounds too similar to their previous collaborations. And how many more songs do we need with Grey? It makes you wish Eminem would stop rehashing the formula of teaming up with a female pop singer. It’s not interesting anymore.

And then there’s the awful samples. On past albums, Em has used tracks like “Crazy On You” and “Time of the Season” with surprising success. He tries to sample classic rock songs again here and it’s a mess. What the hell is even going on with “Remind Me?” He butchers “I Love Rock N Roll” and turns it into some Frankenstein hook for a weak ass song about women. Things don’t get any better with “In Your Head” which samples “Zombie” by The Cranberries. The way the iconic hook is stuffed into the song makes it unbearable. It’s just not a good fit at all. The sample of “The Rose” in “Arose” is lazy and corny. These samples don’t add anything to the songs and make your roll your eyes with how they’re misused.

If you can make it past the confusing lyrics, awful music, and filler tracks there are some decent songs buried under all the trash. Closing tracks “Castle” and “Arose” finds the rapper reflecting back on his height of fame and his eventual relapse. He speaks from his deathbed and even goes as far as say goodbye to his family before being saved at the hospital. It’s actually a harrowing and disturbing experience to hear him speak as if he’s already dead. Another thoughtful track is “Bad Husband” where he apologizes to ex-wife Kim. Considering he’s murdered her (twice) in song, this was a long time coming and shows he’s matured and mellowed out over the years. Though the hook of “great dad/bad husband” is pretty cringy. Maybe he’s patting himself on the back a bit too much there.

Another strong track is “Offended.” It’s classic Eminem, slashing through his haters and laying down some impressive flow. The thing that kills this song is the tonal shift during the hook where it sounds like a grade school taunt. “Chloraseptic” is another stand out track. Eminem’s flow and rhythm is on point and the intense music gets lodged in your head. The lyrics are pretty weak and at times ridiculous (“’Cause I conned her into/Rippin’ the condom in two/Dick is a bargainin’ tool/Now I’m gettin’ blew like Klonopins, Rude Jude”). While it’s not his best song or even his best rap, it manages to be one of the few memorable tracks from the album. And the recent remix featuring 2 Chainz is even better. The way he channels his anger to spitfire and his haters makes it better than most of the material on the LP.

Sadly, Revival is a huge disappointment that had so much potential. So many of the songs have the right sentiment or the right idea, but at some point, it falls apart. I get Eminem wanted to try something new. It just sucks that most of it doesn’t work. A lot of the lyrics aren’t as clever or hard-hitting as we expect from him, a lot of the samples are misused, and the music comes off as generic. Rather than using the events of 2017 as fuel for some great commentary, he revisits well-worn territory and it’s boring. Not everything on the album is terrible, but there’s not enough memorable material to make you want to listen to it again. Hopefully, this is just a misstep and Em will be delivering fiery, exciting songs on his next release.