Night Riots

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.

Love Gloom – Night Riots

Release Year: 2016

Rating: 8/10

Night Riots stole my heart when I saw them live with Blaqk Audio earlier this year. Their fusion of synth pop, rock, and electronic made their music irresistible. I picked up their 2015 EP Howl right away and impatiently waited for their debut album, Love Gloom. I was a bit surprised when I finally got my hands on it; it has a different vibe, mood, and feel than their previous release. It’s not drastically different, but there are some changes.

For one thing, Howl is upbeat, fun, and danceable the whole way through. But Love Gloom allows the band to explore other sounds and avenues. There are still insanely catchy jams like the popular “Contagious” and “Work It.” The latter isn’t Travis Hawley’s best singing effort, he sounds a bit too stained, but the song is still bouncy and fun. “Nothing Personal” is another catchy track blistering with lust and desire. Hawley has a vampiric presence and this comes out best on this song when he sings lines like “Numb yourself and think of me” or “I’ll be the king, you’ll be the filth/I’ll wash away.” It sounds like he’s trying to hypnotize us. It’s one of the most gripping and catchy songs on the album.

Aside from this, the rest of the album is kind of slow and melancholic. Previously, the band described their music as “pop gloom” and that’s exactly what it is. “Fangs” is pretty upbeat, but steeped in darkness and the macabre. The hook pleads “So stick your fangs, fangs, fangs/into me” bringing up images of vampires, albeit sexy ones. Similar to their other songs, this one also drips with lust and desire – it’s something Night Riots effortlessly convey in a good chunk of their songs. It’s a sort of dark romanticism they explore on this track.

The excellent “Don’t Kill the Messenger” might as well be their love letter to Depeche Mode. The shuddering bass, booming drums, and somber guitars makes it sound like it was written for the iconic band. It also has a brooding nature that plays into their melancholic side. The track stands out for its more aggressive tone and heavy hitting nature. Everything gets more intense as the track continues. It has a big sound making it one of the most satisfying songs on the record. Plus, it’s pretty catchy. After one listen, the song will burrow itself in your head.

Breaking Free” is where we start to hear the band’s softer side on the album. It’s another stellar track filled with lush tones and atmospheric music that makes it feel like you’re under water. The rolling drums that occasionally pop up give it some extra flair. It’s another brooding track talking about breaking out of a relationship. Something about it is warm and relaxing even though the lyrics aren’t exactly the most uplifting: It’s beautiful, yet haunting quality makes it one of the highlights of the album.

As previous songs have shown, Night Riots take great inspiration from 80s music. It was all over their EP and it’s all over this album, but they use the New Wave influences in a subtle way. The ballad “All for You” has this big, 80s anthem vibe to it. The dreamy guitars, far away sound, and relaxing melody makes you think of Tears for Fears, who they’ve covered in concert. To keep the song from getting too dull, the bridge comes alive, bursting with guitar and drums. It’s a soft, sweet song about being there for one another. “Tear Me Apart” starts with a weird, stuttering synth that instantly grabs your attention. This song feels directly tied to the title: the mood is somber and gloomy as Hawley laments the end of a relationship. Some of it is cliché, like the lyric “Where does it start/where does it end/I’m losing my best friend/tear me apart,” but it’s pretty forgivable. The track also has this ghostly vibe to it with ethereal singing, other world music, and a cold vibe infiltrating the entire song.

This slow, doom-laden mood continues on tracks “Pull Me Down,” which has a Gothic quality to the lyrics and “Everything Will be Alright,” which is haunting and a little eerie as Hawley sings “lately I feel undone.” Though the songs are slower, the 80s synth elements aren’t abandoned. Rather they play smaller roles in the music popping in the background or playing softly to make the song come alive. Instead of being the focal point, they’re used to add to the song’s flavor and sound. Listeners get a break from the constant wave of gloom with the upbeat “End of the World,” which starts with more attention-grabbing synth that’ll get stuck in your head.

The closing track, “As You Are,” has elements that are likable along with some questionable bits. The opening is too slow and sappy for my tastes. Lines like “Don’t change for me/you got nothing to fix/you’re not broken” end up sounding a bit corny. But what saves the song is the beautiful, symphonic quality to it. As Hawley sings, strings swell up around him making the song pretty and heartbreaking. This paired with the way he croons “Meet me as you are” is enough to give you chills. It’s a somber song; Hawley sounds like he’s at the end of his rope, which makes the final line “I let you down/ betrayed you” hit even harder. It’s not the best track on the album, but it’s a fitting close.

Love Gloom wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. There weren’t as many upbeat, catchy, danceable songs as on their previous release. Yet, it remains a strong, thoughtful debut. The upbeat songs are still there, showing Night Riots know how to make you dance. But the slower tracks laden with darkness and of course, gloom, show another side of the band. The album is a melancholic affair; something you put on when the sky is grey and leaves start to fall. Some of it is brooding, some of it is fun, but the whole thing is honest. That’s part of what makes it so appealing. Many of the songs may not grip you right away, but if you give it a chance, you’ll find a great debut that’s not afraid of the darkness, which we all need to embrace from time to time.

Playlist: I Think I’m Paranoid

Everyone gets paranoid from time to time. Sometimes you end up in the dark area of Youtube at 1:30AM and need to make sure the doors are locked. Or you’re sitting at home watching a movie when a thud makes you get up and search until you find it. It’s a normal feeling; some even say a little paranoia is good – it keeps you on your toes. But what happens when things go too far? It can turn into an unhealthy obsession, always checking over your shoulder. Or sometimes, there may actually be somebody behind you, watching your every move. These songs are for those times when you’re feeling on edge, thinking you’re being followed or watched. As some of these songs prove, you may not be alone.

“Who Can It Be Now?” – Men at Work

Sometimes there’s no greater dread than hearing an unexpected knock at the door. Is it the mail carrier? Or is it a kidnapper coming to take you away? That’s what Men at Work are wondering on this track. Collin Hay is paranoid and maybe a little agoraphobic as he sings about not leaving the house and feeling safest in his home. It’s a little weird, but who hasn’t pretended like they weren’t home when the doorbell rang? But then you start to question the singer as he assures us there’s nothing wrong with his state of mind and even worries that “the men” will come to take him away. The song doesn’t make you feel any better about being paranoid, but at least it has that killer sax riff.

“Somebody’s Watching Me” – Rockwell

This is the greatest and most ridiculous song dedicated to paranoia. Rockwell sings about coming home after a hard day and living in fear he’s not alone. He drops references to Psycho and The Twilight Zone while looking over his shoulder to see if he’s being watched (like that old Bugs Bunny joke). Though the singer is most likely being paranoid, we’ve all felt like there was something in the closet watching us in bed. Or even someone behind us as we sit in front of our computers…never mind. The song is cheesy, but what saves it is Michael Jackson’s hook. It proves that Jackson can make the most horrible songs sound good.

“Don’t Stand So Close to Me” – The Police

While the song could easily be used to describe how you’re feeling on the train during rush hour, the song is about an inappropriate student-teacher relationship. Sting croons about a teacher fretting over a student crush and what the consequences are if it gets out of hand. Of course, things do go further leading up to a confrontation with the rest of the staff near the end of the song. Oddly enough, Sting was an English teacher but he denies the song is autobiographical. The Police seem pretty paranoid and creepy as a later entry on the list will show.

“Paranoid and Aroused” – Korn

It’s all in the title. This song explores someone fighting off their demons and constantly feeling on edge, thinking the demons are going to win in the end. This person descends further into madness, medication being no help until they’re at the point of breaking and losing control. Though the title may make you think there’s something sexual happening while freaking out, there’s nothing of the sort. It’s more that the person can’t let their guard down for one second for fear something is out to get them.

 

“Paranoid” – Black Sabbath

What would later be known as one of Black Sabbath’s best songs, “Paranoid” is about a guy whose – well you get the idea. Ozzy waxes about not feeling emotions like love, happiness, and joy properly prompting him to think something is wrong with him. There’s nothing he can do except live with his fate. Notably, the guitar riff frantically races along representing the nervous energy of this poor guy. Though it’s one of the breakout tracks from the band’s second album of the same name, Geezer Butler has described it as a throwaway track; something to fill up three minutes. If you had to have a soundtrack for your paranoia, this wouldn’t be a bad song to have.

“I Think I’m Paranoid” – Garbage

One of Garbage’s biggest hits finds Shirley Manson not really sure who she is. She begs to be bent, molded and manipulated just to please someone or something. So what is she paranoid over? There are different theories ranging from wanting to please a guy to drugs. According to Butch Vig, the song has more to do with the music business than about someone who is actually paranoid, but the lyrics are still applicable. It’s probably the first song you thought of when you opened the playlist.

“Every Breath You Take” – The Police

This is one of the most misinterpreted songs in music history. Many believe it’s simply a love song; someone yearning for their loved one and not wanting to be lonely. Some have even gone as far as to make it their wedding song. Truth is, the song is from the perspective of a possessive ex-lover who cannot get over the person they lost. Keep that in mind the next time you hear the opening verse: “Every breath you take/every move you make/every bond you break/every step you take/I’ll be watching you.: Yes, this person is a stalker. It’s unsettling especially when you watch the video, which features Sting staring eerily at the camera. And people still couldn’t see this wasn’t a love song? Seems like The Police have some issues to work through.

“Obsession” – Animotion

 

This 80s one hit wonder seems like one of those oddly weird love songs that populated the decade. If you only pay attention to the opening verse, it seems like it’s about someone who wants someone else so badly they’re willing to do anything. A little weird, but not unheard of. It’s not until the second verse where things get unsettling: “I need you I need you/By sun or candlelight/You protest/You want to leave/Stay/Oh, there’s no alternative.” At this point, someone is being held hostage. Guess they were serious about the collecting and capture you line they sing before the hook. It’s one of those “Gotcha!” songs. You’re happily singing it without realizing it’s creepy as hell.

“Follow You” – Night Riots

This is another one of those “Gotcha” songs I mentioned earlier. The song is super catchy and Travis Hawley’s voice is so seductive you almost don’t realize how disturbing the song is: “I will follow you home/’Cause I know where you live/You’ll never be alone/’Cause I know where you live.” No matter how sweet it may sound when you’re hearing it, the song is about being a stalker. This guy doesn’t know the girl in question (“I saw your face inside the newspaper”) and proceeds to watch her undress because he’s convinced he’s in love. There’s nothing sweet and adorable about stalking someone no matter how good Hawley sounds while singing about it. It’s one of those songs that makes you stop and go “what the fuck is happening here?”

“Paranoid Android” – Radiohead

From the seemingly batshit lyrics to the constant sonic shifts, this song is paranoia incarnate. It begins softly with Thom Yorke whispering “please stop this noise/I’m trying to get some rest” already making his discomfort clear. It wastes no time getting weird with the next line “from all the unborn chicken voices in my head.” Right away we know something is not sitting well with this person. It continues in this fragile style until the bridge where gritty guitars take over as if to show this person’s breakdown. It’s haunting, yet beautiful all at once. Yorke was inspired to write the song after a nightmarish scenario in an LA bar. It’s claustrophobic, gritty, and intense and may just make you look over your shoulder when you hear it.

“I’m Afraid of Everyone” – The National

This song is a heartbreaking looking at paranoia and anxiety. It looks at someone trying to continue life in a normal fashion when everything around them is falling apart. Singer Matt Berninger croons “With my kid on my shoulders I try/Not to hurt anybody I like/But I don’t have the drugs to sort it out” showing the person on the verge of a breakdown. The music starts out fragile, like the person’s state of mind, and continually gets more stark and aggressive towards the end. Berninger ends with the line “Little voices swallowing my soul” hinting that the person has lost their battle with anxiety. It’s a haunting portrayal showing how serious the problem can get.

“One Way or Another” – Blondie

What starts out sounding like a playful is actually a disturbing account of being followed. Inspired by Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriend, who stalked her after their broke up, the song is about someone hell bent on possessing someone. Harry sings about following them downtown, driving by their house, and stalking them through the mall. The song gets eerier as Harry grows instant on tracking down this person to the point where it sounds like she wants to harm them: “Lead you to the supermarket checkout/Some specials and rat food, get lost in the crowd.” The punk nature and Harry’s seductive vocals can’t hide how creepy this song is. And to think I used to sing this as a kid.

Which song puts you on edge? Which ode to paranoia did I forget? Let me know in the comments!

Howl EP – Night Riots

Release Year: 2015

Rating: 9.5/10

If it wasn’t for Blaqk Audio I wouldn’t know who Night Riots are. The band opened for Blaqk Audio on their recent tour and I fell in love with their catchy songs, fun vibe, and charming vampiric frontman Travis Hawley. Their performance was upbeat, fun, and made you want to dance. Though I already listened to a few of their songs before the concert, I downloaded their EP Howl as soon as I got home. Similar to how I felt after the performance, it left me wanting me. The only thing I could was hit the repeat button.

This is one EP you can’t get enough of. All the songs are awesome and stay with you long after the record ends. The opening track “Oh My Heart” is actually my favorite. It starts with this cool distant chanting that forms the beat of the song. Hawly’s vocals are pretty strong and have an impressive range. From his singing here you can hear all the charisma he exudes on stage. Something about the way he sounds when singing “Two in a crowd – I feel your desire” makes him seem like the mysterious guy in the club you secretly want to hook up with. The entire track is irresistible and introduces listeners to the fun ride they’re about to experience.

The infectious “Contagious” is one of the strongest songs on the EP and shows off the band’s sound the best. It’s a mixture of synth pop, new wave, and alt rock. This track starts with a weird wailing sample that makes you take notice as soon as you hear it. Thanks to Hawley’s low vocals during the verse there’s also a sexy vibe to it. His vocals come alive and vibrant during the hook when he croons “I am contagious/I am breaking down.” The song is a fun mix of rock, synth, and dance music that’s so grabbing you can’t help but move. Again, it’s another one of those tracks that’s so damn good you’ll be singing after one listen.

Unlike the first two songs, “Holsters” isn’t one that instantly grabs you. Its mellow nature has to grow on you, but it won’t take long. With the lighter music and Hawley singing about a seemingly bad break up it has an anthemic quality to it. The bridge, where the uplifting message of “Learn to live again” is shouted over and over, makes you picture people in solidarity pumping their fist in the air singing along. The lyrics seem to have a lot of references to fighting such as being battered and weathered and even the title makes you think of weapon holster. It’s an interesting way to address a break up and trying to remain a strong without being straightforward.

The band let’s their 80’s influence fly high on the energetic and upbeat “Break.” This is another track that begins with odd synth riffs, which sounds like someone stuttering. It’s a bit weird but definitely ear catching. Though it’s another dance-centric song with a strong hook that lodges itself in your head, the music is more reminiscent of 80’s new wave, which makes it more fun. “Shine” differentiates itself a bit with a rapid, thudding beat sounding like it’s on the run. Hawley’s vocal prowess is on display here as he goes from low to high range. It’s hard to describe his voice, but it makes you think of someone sophisticated and classy; like if Lestat fronted a synth pop band. After hearing a few songs you’ll understand how his voice is electrifying, sexy, and exciting.

The closing track “Follow You” is also cool and catchy with its slinky groove, but it’s pretty creepy. The whole song is about following a girl home he doesn’t really know. During the pre-hook, Hawley sings “I will follow you home/’Cause I know where you live/You’ll never be alone/’Cause I know where you live.” That is stalker territory. Even if you’re singing along, it doesn’t take too long to realize something isn’t right. He’s day dreaming and potentially stalking a girl whose picture he saw in the newspaper. He even talks about sneaking around her house and watching her undress in the last verse. That sort of shit is bound to get you arrested. It may be creepy, but you can’t deny how catchy and fun the song is.

Howl is an excellent EP from start to finish. It shows off the fun, upbeat, and energetic nature of the band. This is something you put on when you want to dance or just get yourself in a good mood. Their mix of synth, rock, and pop makes for songs that are catchy and memorable, while Hawley’s vocals standout as being charming and seductive at times. The EP is so good you’ll want to hear it again and won’t be able to hit repeat fast enough. Night Riots are a promising band on the rise and I can’t wait to hear what they’ll do next.