Archive for the ‘Album Reviews’ Category

Heyward Howkins

Back in December, we spoke with singer-songwriter and Philadelphia native, Heyward Howkins about his debut LP, The Hale & Hearty. Now here we are, almost a year later and he’s just released his first full album as a solo artist.

Previously a member of The Trouble With Sweeney and The Silver Ages, Heyward has opened for My Morning Jacket, OK Go, and has twice landed on Rollingstone.com’s Editor’s Top Picks of the Year.

Be Frank, Furness takes you on a journey of attention grabbing arrangements intertwined with a lyrical honesty full with emotion. It beats a heart of folk over a soul of rock, topped with Heyward’s falsetto vocals that lie somewhere in-between those of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Michael David Rosenberg (Passenger).

The album is available now on iTunes. You can also stream the full album below via Spotify.

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Jake Bugg

I hear people say how badly they would have loved to be alive for the music revolution of the 60s almost every day, and I suppose I’m victim to this statement as well. There’s a lot of great music in the modern age, but classic rock ‘n’ roll and folk music seem to have taken a hiatus the past decade or so. After hearing Jake Bugg’s debut album, I’m happy to say that the hiatus is over.

Jake Bugg channels his inner Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan vocally, Johnny Cash musically, Simon & Garfunkel harmonically, and even pulls in influence from bands like The Beatles and Nirvana as well as artists like Buddy Holly and Hank Williams. In other words, all the great music we listen to when we want to be transported to another time is back, and stronger than ever.

At only 18 years old the time of recording, Jake Bugg’s debut album instantly makes you feel as though you’re in the 1950s listening to your record player, while the Ed Sullivan show plays in the background.

The record starts off with the biggest single from the album, “Lightening Bolt”, which inhabits the “scratchiness” of an old vinyl record and even portrays a hint of skiffle music, popular in England during 1956-57. The upbeat tune is then followed by “Two Fingers”, which was not only recorded in Liverpool (home of The Beatles), but even has a drum beat noticeably influenced by Ringo. “Country Song” reminds me especially of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, with its simplistic yet meaningful lyrics, and heart-wrenching guitar.

“Ballad of Mr. Jones” is a song full of storytelling and incredible imagery, similar to early pieces by Bob Dylan (which is ironic considering Dylan uses the name “Mr. Jones” in one of his songs as well). It feels like Bugg took one of Bob Dylan’s stories and put them to Nirvana music.  The album closes with the song “Fire”; a song so reminiscent of classic country-folk music, I had to go back and check to see if it was a cover.

Overall, I was extremely impressed by Jake Bugg’s debut album, and at such a young age, I’m hoping to see a lot more great things to come from him. So turn off the lights, press play, and be transported back to a much simpler time; you won’t regret it.

With the release of their fourth studio album, the Brooklyn quartet, Grizzly Bear, has once again expanded the realm of the indie-rock genre. Shields is their most experimental album yet, weaving in and out of the emotional confusion that comes with the need for both solitude and companionship.  Fans of the band will not be disappointed, as band members, Ed Droste, Daniel Rossen, Chris Taylor and Chris Bear have definitely stepped up their game.

Beginning with the cover of the album, designed by Richard Diebenkorn, the depiction of a club guarded by a larger spade could be interpreted as the role of relationships and people acting as a shield in our lives. We desire to be alone, yet simultaneously need that barrier around us.

The first track on the album, “Sleeping Ute” gives the sense that you are both physically and metaphorically waking up from a dream. “Those countless empty days left me dizzy when I woke” portrays a self-realization, or seeing something for the very first time. Possibly realizing an emptiness in a relationship you’d been ignoring, and feeling there is no other option but to walk away from it. The first song makes it extremely apparent how much growth has developed within the band. In comparison with their first albums, Shields is more daring with sound and more intimate with the lyrics. This album is the first, in my opinion, to really use the words as a narration and depict one core theme throughout the record.

By the time the album reaches the track “Yet Again”, you have already begun what feels like a journey of sorrow and confusion. This song serves as a release from these feelings, and the harmonies on the “oh, oh, oh” are like an emotional outlet giving us a sense of relief. The album then moves into the song “The Hunt”, where rough guitar chords and cymbals echo the message of lost love and finding One’s self beautifully.

The album ends with the epic tune “Sun In Your Eyes”. Shields opened with a sense of doubt and an uncertainty towards society, and by the time we get to this final song, we expect some sort of forgiveness and return. Instead, we are faced with the line, “I’m never coming back”, leaving us submerged in an uncomfortable yet necessary reality that sometimes walking away is the answer.

Shields offers an incredible emotional journey and is an album you can get lost in. Peaking at #7 on the Billboard 200 in America, this record is sure to be a great addition to your collection.

 

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At last! Circa Survive returns for it’s fourth album, Violent Waves. Anthony, Brendan, Colin, Nick, and Steve are back and at their best. They have put out a bit of an experimental deviation, as well as artist Esao Andrews, who has done all of their album artwork. Every album up to this one has been quite aggressive due to the hands of guitarists Brendan Ekstrom and Colin Frangicetto. All of the soul and attack still resonates from their amplifiers, but this time it just sounds a bit more refined. I believe this refined sound is due to the band opting for a live setup when recording this self produced album. Some have complained that the album was poorly mixed and the instruments all seem to clash rather than harmonize. Sometimes this can be a direct result of an inexperienced member taking the helm of the soundboard. I’m all for a well mixed album by another party, but I am always more interested in what a good band actually sounds like. Back in 2010, I had the pleasure of seeing them shortly after Blue Sky Noise was released. They sounded even better live and I believe this album is a testament to exactly what these guys are truly capable of when they are placed in a stripped down environment. Both Brendan and Colin have been the backbone of Circa Survive from day one and their abilities are what sets this band apart from every last one out there.

Violent Waves is an experience that you need to set time aside for, sit down and really listen to. It flows extremely well, rewarding the listener with a very fulfilling experience. The flow of this album is comparable to any Pink Floyd album from 1973 to 1979. If you turn it up loud enough, just shy of disturbing the peace, the music is at it’s best. It starts off with “Birth of the Economic Hitman,” which is an unrelenting build up of energy the slowly emanates from your speakers and ignites at the 1:27 mark. Also, pay close attention as you fade from “Phantasmagoria,” and sink into “Think of Me When They Sound.” Anthony Green’s unmistakable vocal swoon will take you and every last one of your nerve endings to any cosmic destination you please. His abilities are quite unique and are an integral part in the making the this band’s intoxicating sound. My favorite tracks include “Suitcase”, “My Only Friend,” and “Brother Song.”

Overall, Violent Waves is a heavy dose of everything I love about Circa Survive…which would be everything. The mesmerizing vocals, distant, mountain sized howling guitars, over-driven bass, and sky cracking drums all melt together on a canvas of new possibilities. These five musicians once again prove that there are no rules and there is no formula for making great music. Pure talent, raw emotion, and inspiration are the framework for this effort. I have listened to it about 30 times and it gradually becomes more gripping with each and every play. You will hear something different each time you listen. So if you are seeking a break from the drab, repetitive nature of today’s popular music, do yourself the justice of buying this album. You will not be disappointed. I believe Circa Survive have successfully turned themselves into one of the most finely tuned, precise, and inspiring artists out there. Listening to what they have to offer has always been a pleasure for me. It never hurts to dig for something new. You will be pleasantly surprised at what you find along the way. This album can be an authentic and extremely valuable asset to your music collection. When next opportunity arises, stop. Take a long look around. Turn up Violent Waves and ENJOY.

 

The xx – Coexist

Posted: October 7, 2012 by Tuned In, Turned Up in Album Reviews, The xx
Tags: , , , , , , ,

In 2009, the xx debuted their first album, which offered a quiet, yet emotionally sound contrast to the emerging indie music scene. This album demonstrated the band’s exceptional ability as minimalist songwriters, and also showcased their ability to write a cohesive album. It has been three years since that record debuted, and the expectations for their newest album, Coexist, were at an all time high.

Fans of the first xx record are almost guaranteed to like this album as well, as they follow a very similar structure and the band stays remarkably true to their original sound. Musically, it is easy to hear the growth that has developed within the musicians, Romy Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith. Lyrically, however, I feel as though the band has regressed slightly. Some of the songs on the record did a fantastic job of connecting to our romantic emotions, but most of the songs seem to fall short of any real connection.

Coexist flows extremely well as a whole, as does their first album, xx. This band’s talent is apparent, as it takes true musicians to write an album, as opposed to a collection of individual songs released on the same disk. I strongly believe this band is one of the most musically talented of the present indie music scene, however whether or not they continue to gain success will depend on their ability to match their musical depth with equally powerful lyrics.

Listen to Coexist: