For The Lolz (Paramore, After Laughter review)

A friend of mine once told me that the kinds of music you prefer to listen to can tell you a lot about your personality, maturity and proclivities.

Not to mention all of the hundreds of articles and quizzes out there which claim to predict your personality based on how you answer certain questions. For instance, someone who listens to classical music would be typified as smart, hip hop fans are extroverts, and punk rockers are intense, energetic, and low on empathy.

Here’s an example, for the lolz.

 

Paramore – After Laughter

released May 12, 2017
******** 8/10

Paramore are an American rock band. Led by vocalist Hayley Williams, guitarist Taylor York, and drummer Zac Farro, they have seen more than their fair share of lineup changes over a thirteen year career. Have released five studio albums to-date, After Laughter is their most 80’s influenced and pop rock styled recording. Consider their greatest single Ain’t It Fun – which was released with the fourth album, 2013’s Paramore.

That track was the single greatest predecessor for all of the fun Paramore are having on this latest album.

So what does it sound like you ask? Well, it’s a combination of pop, emo pop, pop rock, alternative rock, and indie rock. So according to that personality test, it means that Paramore are outgoing and nervous, creative and curious, but have low self-esteem.

Apparently this test is working out for me because I would have to agree with all of that. This is a very upbeat and creative album, exploring a ton of different topics includes the oft ignored arenas of mental health and suicide. It’s a more mature vibe and different then what we’ve seen from Paramore on previous outtings, with Hard Times exemplifying the high energy and shift into synth and the odd. Further demonstrated by Rose-Coloured Boy, the track has a pop music tonality, with Williams showcasing her chops to keep the tempo up, but if you listen to the lyrics she is coming from a place of depression and anxiety. It’s chilling really.

Told You So continues in the same fashion, with a sobering outlook on the future and no expectations for more from life. It’s almost as if the bard are using pop music as a vehicle to showcase the challenges in pretending to be happy all the time, when the internal battle is far more difficult and filled with disparaging thoughts.

Forgiveness, Fake Happy, and 26 all channel 1980s movie soundtracks like something that Blondie would have featured in or better yet, Madonna. Before she really went grunge in the 1990s. Forgiveness in particular is quite powerful as a ballad, and easily one of the albums best, especially when paired with Pool, which I think sandwiches that section of the record quite well.

This album really does mark a shift for the band and while the ska and reggae towards the end of the record seemingly come from no where in Caught In The Middle, it’s fucking brilliant. Reminding me of early No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

 

Pros: Moving away from their grunge-rock ways was a ballsy move from Paramore, but if anybody has the vocal range to play in the 1980s, its Hayley Williams. And while Idle Worship tells us they might not like themselves anymore, I still think they’re pretty damn cool. *Hugs*

Cons: I don’t really know where No Friend fits in this album, it’s kind of an odd duck, black sheep and red mark on an otherwise perfectly tuned effort. Also kind of slow? And ominous?

Runtime: 43 minutes

Points of Interest: After Laughter marks the return of former drummer Zac Farro to the band, as he recorded drums for the album and officially returned in February 2017 as a full member. Hard Times is the first single and Told You So is the second single.

I’ll admit I didn’t really pay attention to Paramore much when I was younger, which is odd given that they cite certain bands which I personally like as influences – Fall Out Boy, Blink-182, Death Cab for Cutie, Jimmy Eat World, Thrice and New Found Glory. Plus Hayley Williams takes personal inspiration from the  likes of the Ramones, Blondie and The Cure. For realz. I think John from ARTV said it best by declaring this an album that doesn’t sound like Paramore, but which is a good album nonetheless.

theories Summarized

Paramore are pop punk for the 21st century. They do all of the things that punk music are supposed to do, rhythm, high energy and tackling social issues, while having the fun, heart, and catchiness of pop music. That they’ve been able to transition into other areas of pop music while keeping the messages alive demonstrate their character and willingness to make meaningful music. The kind that makes you laugh heartily.

Tim!

They’re Barking In The Wrong Key (AFI, AFI (The Blood Album) review)

When a band has been around for over 25 years, you probably should stand up when they enter the room and definitely stop talking out of respect when they say something, unless you’re a dick. If you’re a dick, you can just close your ears and pretend it never happened. Probably to your detriment.

This week we explore an album which I personally think deserves your attention. An early entry that might make my top 10 for 2017, but we’ll just have to dig in for now.

 

 

 

AFI – Self-titled (The Blood Album)
released January 20, 2017
********** 10/10

afi-the-blood-album

A Fire Inside, better known as AFI, are an American rock group that focuses on punk, alternative and emo music. The lineup hasn’t changed in almost twenty years, but only features two of the original four members – Davey Havok on vocals and drummer Adam Carson. Hunter Burgan provides bass support and Jade Puget is the guitarist, but all three instrumentalists share backup vocals. Having released tend studio-length albums now, AFI is the first self-titled album that AFI has completed.

Affectionately called “the blood album,” this record has been released on vinyl in four limited edition color variants matching the four blood types (A | O | B | AB). But is it any good, you ask?

Well, yeah.

I’ve been a fan of AFI since Sing The Sorrow hit the ground running, earning the band mainstream attention and Billboard attention for almost a year, just shy of a week. Then Decemberunderground came out and I was hooked, I picked up their back catalogue and haven’t looked back since. Granted, I don’t think Crash Love or Burials had quite the same visceral impact as AFI’s sixth and seventh efforts, but dammit if this self-titled album doesn’t remind me of Sing The Sorrow. And well, everything else they’ve ever done.

You see dear readers, at this point in their career AFI don’t have to take any real risks, but they are more than capable of revisiting genres they’ve already explored and giving a tempered reflection of what preceded, this even application of sonics is what reminds me of Sing The Sorrow – it’s intentional subdued but infinitely more thoughtful and considered.

Some of my favourite tracks include Aurelia, Hidden Knives, So Beneath You, Dumb Kids, Pink Eyes, and The Wind That Carries Me Away. None of these tracks are much like the other one, but each are familiar because AFI has been down these roads before.

Now before you accuse me of accepting this as a middle-of-the-road AFI and not A Fire Inside, you should know that Havok and Puget wrote over 60 songs before they got to this 14 track offering. And you need to listen to the whole album more than once, it gets better on subsequent viewings, like any good piece of art.

This is AFI committed to their art, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.

 

 

 

 

As I sit with the realization that one of the last mega-stores of music and film is dying off and that I’ll have to change my own tactics going forward (read: goodbye HMV), it’s satisfying to know that music will still find a way. AFI are still relevant and that means more to me than cheap prices and the convenience of online shopping. But maybe I’ll learn to embrace that too. No harm in checking out a new theory.

Tim!

You Want It Darker (Sum 41, 13 Voices review)

Leonard Cohen left this world in both a dramatic and cheeky fashion with his final offering. He realized long ago that true music fans almost always want more from you, more emotion, more physicality, more spirituality, more presence, the list goes on. With his final album, You Want It Darker, Cohen gave us something quite visceral, but poked fun at our expectations.

This weeks album review is more of the same.

Sum 41 – 13 Voices
released October 7, 2016
******** 8/10

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Sum 41 Is a Canadian band that makes punk, rock, and metal music, mostly of the alternative variety. What this means is that they are influenced by a number of musical genres and what that sounds like exactly has been heavily disputed by even their most committed fans.

What started as a predominantly pop and skate punk sound with their first effort slowly evolved to feature melodic hardcore on the second album and eventually stronger rock and metal treads with Chuck. After exploring those heavier themes, the group went back towards their pop punk roots for the fourth album Underclass Hero, and then dark again with Screaming Bloody Murder.

13 Voices is something altogether different. And I like it.

This is an album of recovery and reflection for lead vocalist and songwriter Deryck Whibley. After having had a brush with death from a battle with alcoholism, this is Whibley pushing back against the darkness. After all, the very first three tracks, A Murder of Crows, Goddman I’m Dead Again, and Fake My Own Death are all dialed right into that feeling of anger against himself and the drug that almost finished off the job.

This is a darker album, and while it does kind of feature a new direction, as already mentioned, Sum 41 DID try to do this back in 2011 with Screaming Bloody Mirror, though not very successfully. The reason why this is new is because it’s a return to form with the reintroduction to Dave “Brownsound” Bakash to the group, the metal backbone of Sum 41. He left after Chuck, and I don’t think the band has been nearly as good since that time. Some of my personal favourite tracks are 13 Voices, War, and The Fall and the Rise, but I think both older fans of the first three albums and current ones will be able to get behind this new Sum 41 machine.

This is a technically well made album, and while there might be some haters out there harping on Whibley for writing the songs with keyboards whilst listening to movies with the sound muted, these guys are not your typical punk group, nor your typical metal group, they managed to transcend that pop and skate punk sound. Don’t believe me? Give Breaking The Chain a listen or two and you’ll be on the Pain for Pleasure train once again (almost forgot about that alt-persona didn’t you?).

People, Sum 41 have introduced violins into their sound FINALLY after so many years, odd given that the punk group I associate with violins, Yellowcard, signed off this same year.

This album is a timeline of the redemption of Deryck Whibley after almost completely falling apart in the aftermath of the Steve Jocz quitting the band and the gruel of their last tour.

Is this album perfect? No, it isn’t. But it’s pretty goddamn good, and thankfully I’m not dead again.

 

 

 

This band finally did what they’ve been claiming they would do for years… ditch the pop from their sound and fully embrace the punk. Hell ,they might even be leaning more into metal for the first time since, well, ever. As someone who grow up with these guys, albeit a few years behind, this record demonstrates what was always behind the pop punk sounds and silly nicknames, a real message about dissatisfaction with society and being discounted before given a chance to do something. Empowering ourselves never felt more important than it does with 13 Voices. We may not have realized we wanted a darker Deryck Whibley, but I’m sure glad he gave it to us.

Tim!

Third Wave Metaphor (Tove Lo, Lady Wood review)

Wiz Khalifa is something of an enigma, he jumped off the lot with Black and Yellow back in 2010, but did you know he had been generating buzz since about 2005? And ever since then he’s collaborated with a ton of other crowd disturber personalities. Did you know he has over 100 collaborative efforts?

He must have some kinda influence? And guess what, he paired up with another Swedish shit disturber to riff on the subject of influence. And she’s on the docket for a review this week too…

Tove Lo – Lady Wood
released October 28, 2016
******** 8/10

tove-lo-lady-wood-cover-1024x1024

Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson, better known by her stage name Tove Lo, is a Swedish singer and songwriter.

Lo formed the Swedish rock band Tremblebee in 2006, but when that group disbanded, she pursued a song-writing career and was able to get a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell music in 2011. By 2014 she secured an incredible arrangement with Wolf Cousins that led to a record deal with Island and Polydor. Tove Lo has now released two studio length albums, the first being Queen of the Clouds, and most recently the two-part concept album Lady Wood.

In addition to solo work, Lo was a co-writer on Hilary Duff’s Sparks and Ellie Goulding’s Love Me like You Do. She has also worked with Coldplay, Flume, Nick Jonas, Years & Years, Seven Lions, and Wiz Khalifa, among others. Lo is known rather openly for her autobiographical lyrical content and the often dark tone which moves the narrative of each song forward. She is also quite comfortable with indulging love, sex, and death wherever and whenever she can.

For instance, in anticipation of her album release, Tove Lo just released an accompanying short film called Fairy Dust which pairs with and features tracks from Lady Wood. It ‘s directed by Tim Erem and stars both actress Lina Esco an Tove Lo in various vignettes which tell a slick story with a strong third wave feminist bend to it. I can’t say too much about the explicit direction of the story (and it is explicit, too explicit for YouTube), but it is rather conceptual and definitely not something to open at work or around the kiddies.

Part I is about the movement towards sex – anticipation, indulgence, consideration, consequence.

Yeah you give me wood, give me lady wood – This is the anthem of this first half of the album. Whether it’s about the addictive nature of lust on Influence, the technical and literal of what happens to a woman’s chemistry on Lady Wood, debauchery and complexity of emotion serviced via synthesizers on True Disaster, the allure of having fun and hooking up on Cool Girl (an homage to the Gone Girl persona), and finally that feeling of love as it overtakes your sensations delivered via Vibes.

Part II is the aftermath of it all – loneliness, vulnerability, complexity, withdrawal.

It’s darker and dejected, almost like that afterglow is gone, but the energy of desire hasn’t returned just yet. Don’t talk about it, sweep it under the rug like we do, do – and such is the anthem of the second half of this album. The questioning hedonist, wondering if the consequences have been worth it, but still alone. Don’t Talk About It is an expression of lamentation, while Imaginary Friend is more of a defence mechanism against haters, Keep It Simple an update on Habits (Stay High) because she’s still struggling but older, while Flashes is straight up self-awareness minced with self-hate, and last but not least, WTF Love Is audibly shows the problems she faces, confusion about her identity and desires. She has emotions she cannot harness and yet she wants something personal.

Ultimately, you might not “like” her music, but it’s really difficult not to get on board with Tove Lo and her natural ability to produce a strong set of tracks. Lady Wood is clever, catchy, and conscious. I cannot believe I read this in The National of all places, but they’re on point. Tove Lov is making the closest thing to punk rock EDM as is possible right now. It’s dark and desperate, but her sense of counter culture is ever-present – She’s under the influence, and this is the best place in the world.

 

 

 

Let’s close this review out with a dovetail. You should probably listen to this album. But you’re an adult and you can make up your own mind. So I’ll let you think on it. But if Wiz Khalifa is into it, and he managed one of the biggest hits of all time via See You Again, then it’s time to stand up and listen. Could just be a theory though.

Tim!

See The Math Of It (The Dillinger Escape Plan, Dissociation review)

Saying goodbye is incredibly tough – Particularly if you don’t know if you’ll ever meet again. When all you have are memories from a painful departure, it numbs you to your core being.

You need to be thoughtful in your farewell messages, because once you do, there is no second chance. This week’s album review is an exercise is that experience. Someone leaves and the other stays behind.

The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
released October 14, 2016
******** 8/10

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The Dillinger Escape Plan are an American mathcore and heavy metal band which claimed their name from the bank robber John Dillinger. Founded in 1997 and born out of a hardcore punk group called Arcane, these guys have seen numerous roster changes over their 10 year tenure and 6 studio album showing.

Like the man, The Dillinger Escape Plan have successfully executed numerous projects which have given them creative control and an ability to dictate the course of their own trajectory despite numerous changes to the lineup, intentional and otherwise.

Dissociation marks the last time that TDEP will be performing together on tour. Initially thought to be an indefinite hiatus, lead singer Greg Puciato has since confirmed that the band will be breaking up once the tour ends in March 2017.

Let me start first by stating that I was disappointed to learn that TDEP would be breaking up after this record. As I immerse myself more fully in the music scene, especially in metal, I realize that there a number of fantastic groups that make metal music which I know absolutely nothing about. Dissociation feels like the right title knowing what we now know of the future. Whether the album is about the separation of it’s elements, literal or metaphorically, the foundations of the record are set up rather nicely with Limerent Death. A song that addresses the death of a romantic sentiment and the lingering frustrations therein. The follow up track Symptom of Terminal Illness is definitely more methodical and slow in it’s delivery.

Wanting Not So Much As To is one of my favourites on this album. I suspect it has something to do with the punk tones and howls featured throughout, plus it features melodic notes, spoken-word, and it all fits in together rather nicely in it’s instrumentation.

Fugue has great electronic influences, Low Feels Blvd is jazzy, while Surrogates and Honeysuckle feature prominent opening, middle, and closing sections.

Manufacturing Disconent is heavy. And in the past this would’ve been exactly the kind of song I stayed away from, but it’s considerably more interesting to consider it with the backup vocals and sampled audio. Taken as a whole, this song represents the creative ability of The Dillinger Escape Plan almost perfectly, and other critics have labelled it as a classic sound for them.

The final three tracks are all excellent in their own right – Apologies Not Included, Nothing to Forget, and title track Dissociation. It is the light at the end of tunnel. And as mentioned before whether literal or a metaphor, this song has a simple structure and even some hope of the future ahead. I blame the strings for that. They are beautifully included and introduce us to a very different side of The Dillinger Escape Plan. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, but I suspect a great many replays of Dissociation in the years to come.

 

 

 

I’ve heard this idea that true friends don’t ever really say good-bye, they just take a sabbatical from each other, picking up the pieces easily upon reconnection. The Dillinger Escape Plan have had an excellent run, and while they may be leaving to pursue other opportunities, the memories they have made will last a lifetime, even better because we have a musical record. That could just be a theory though.

Tim!