Two Piece Band (Royal Blood, How Did We Get So Dark? review)

It’s important to make music that you care about dear readers. And it’s essential to listen to music that fires you up inside. And man does this music ever do that for me.

 

Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?

released Jun 16, 2017
******** 8/10

Royal Blood are an English rock and roll duo, comprised of vocalist and bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher. They have been making music since 2013 – they hit the ground running when they released their first single, Out of the Black later that year. But they first truly got my attention in 2014 when the fourth single Figure It Out debuted.

Holy Moses was that a good experience.

Most definitely my favourite song of that summer. It had the raw quality needed to start a personal process of healing for me. And that release was almost three years ago, so it says a lot about their rock and roll power, because a great deal has happened for these blokes in the time past. Royal Blood saw a huge spike in popularity in a short time, winning several awards including Best British Group for 2015.

When it comes to describing their sound, Kerr has stated that one of his biggest influencers is Steven Hamblin from Graces Collide, which is all well and good, but if you’re new to Royal Blood, then you’re probably wondering what these guys sound like comparatively and I’m happy to oblige. The White Stripes, Black Keys, Death From Above 1979, and Japandroids are probably the best ones I can think of straight away, so take the time and look ’em up.

This is one of those albums that faces the ever-popular challenge of the sophomore follow-up. Tread the course or swim out into deeper waters and hope you don’t drown. Luckily for us, Royal Blood are strong enough swimmers fully capable of doing both; sometimes we hear songs like Where Are You Now? and Look Like You Know which stick to the sounds that what we know, but then we get excellence in the form of album closer Sleep, allowing everything that happens in between songs one to ten to vibrate at level far more grand then on the first album.

Yes. There is a big block of cheese to go with the album’s third single and eighth track, Hook, Line & Sinker, but it’s definitely still a fun song, and considering the tempo of the rest of this record, that’s a far better excuse to be forgiven of then some of my previous album reviews. Also She’s Creeping is kinda bland, angular, and annoys me, but I read another review on Ultimate Guitar which specifically stated a resemblance to Nirvana on this song (who some might say I inexplicably hate), so I’ll just leave it alone.

For my final thoughts… The use of extra vocals and overdubs on the second and third tracks Lights Out and I Only Lie When I Love You make them incredibly catchy, with all of the rawness that made Royal Blood popular to begin with, but making better use of Kerr’s voice and layering in more instrumentation to boot.

Pros: If you’re willing to listen to this a few times over, you might be surprised to learn that one of the best tracks is the title one – How Did We Get So Dark mixes in the new and old sounds quite well. And it deserves to be a single. Also Lights Out and Sleep. It’s a short album with a lot of buzz and well paced.

Cons: Sometimes the production runs a little slick and I think that’s where we end up with songs like She’s Creeping and Hook, Line & Sinker, which unfortunately feel a little phoned in for me. Also, I wish that some the themes were either more epic or more intimate, less middling, please and thank you.

Runtime: 35 minutes

Points of Interest: Royal Blood share the same management as Arctic Monkeys. And months before they released their debut album back in 2013, Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders sported a Royal Blood t-shirt in support of them.

If you haven’t been convinced to check this album out just yet, then I’m a sad theorist, but I think you should check out these tracks (1) (2) (3) and make up your mind for yourself.

theories Summarized

Royal Blood may or may not be a great band of our generation, but either way they rock out with the best of them. I have high hopes for future years and sincerely someone figures out how to turn the lights on, if not, I’ll just jam along in the dark with them.

Tim!

Slow Down Baby (The Lumineers, Cleopatra review)

Folk music has a soothing nature to it, it feels like clean soap and a warm basin full of water, like a brown bottle of beer dropped on a hard wood floor, like a summer dress brushing against the wheat fields.

You know what they say right? Music can sooth even the savage beast, and this week’s band is making major efforts to bring you up to their level of newfound sincerity and thoughtfulness.

Let’s take a look-see.

 

 

 

The Lumineers – Cleopatra (White Album)
released April 8, 2016
******** 8/10

CLEOPATRA

The Lumineers are an American folk rock band. Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar), Jeremiah Fraites (drums, percussion), Neyla Pekarek (vocals, cello), Stelth Ulvang (piano) and Ben Wahamaki (bass) make up the group.

The band initially formed between Fraites and Schultz after Josh Fraites (best friend to Wesley and brother of Jeremiah) died of a drug overdose in 2002. The two began playing together as a way to cope with their loss.

This is their second studio album, which was self-titled and released in 2012. And they have come a long way from both that album and their initial outings – When Fraites and Schultz first started to play together, they had a number of random names, and they did all kinds of songs, from covers and basic hard rock numbers, to acoustic jams, to electronic infused music.

As a fan of the band, who owns that first album, I can tell you that this is a welcome change of pace.

Schultz’ vocals are stronger, seasoned and somehow more supple. If I can use that word. Sleep On The Floor is a good opener, because it reminds you of their range and ability to get a room moving in a slow sway.

But it’s at the second and third tracks that you get excited. Ophelia is a fun and somewhat sad song, while Cleopatra changes the pace ever so slightly. It’s kind of invigorating to listen to and reminds me of their breakout single Ho Hey. That song let the world know that The Lumineers meant business.

Sure they are a fun folk act that you can enjoy drinking whiskey or beer, but that belies the epic scale of their range – they can sing intimately to an entire crowd and no one will get jealous.

Now this is where it gets interesting, the rest of the album shifts to more nuanced efforts with the percussion, ivories and vocals of Schultz. If you’re not careful you might not appreciate the album on a first or second go, and it doesn’t surprise me that some reviews are giving this sophomore LP a 6 or a 7, but I promise you’ll enjoy it more and more as you go.

Yes, it’s more tempered but exploration is what is going to give them future opportunities and ways provide input to the musical landscape. You’ll definitely notice the shift when it happens, but that doesn’t mean it always goes down smooth. Angela is quite solid and represents both the monotony of small-town life and some of the tracks that follow, because some of the other songs do bleed together.

Which is why it’s not perfect. They’re still figuring it out, but so what. Most of the album is good, and sometimes you want an album to slow down on you so you can turn of the lights and get some gentle sleep.

 

 

 

Delicate narratives wrapped in vocals coated with milk and honey are never a bad thing dear readers, and The Lumineers are just warming up and shining a spotlight on their subject matter. Do they know exactly what they want to say just yet? Well, no.

But you can count me among the ever-faithful who will be tuning their radio in and sitting on the rug with some oval-tine and a cookie or two.

But what do you hear when you listen to the Lumineer…s? Comment! Subscribe! Share! Join the conversation creative types, and I’ll see you tomorrow with something theatrical.

Tim!

 

A Warm Embrace (Half Moon Run, Sun Leads Me On review)

Music is such a fun subject to write about, because people become so politically charged when it comes down to what they listen to. I’ve always wondered what specifically drives that passion.

If you disagree with the hivemind, you just might get mauled. So be careful dear readers when treading unfamiliar waters.

I mention this because this week’s album review is from a hot topic band by the name of…

 

 

Half Moon Run – Sun Leads Me On
released October 23, 2015
******* 6/10

Half-Moon-Run--Sun-Leads-Me-On-album-cover

Half Moon Run are a four piece Canadian indie band. They also happen to be based in Montreal, but are from other parts of the country (BC and Ontario).

And they have a strong following already, considering this is their second recording. If you look at their website, as of today, you’ll see that their next 18 shows are all sold out.

So what exactly are they doing right, to garner such a huge fan base?

Well I’m not entirely sure I can tell you, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

The first thought I had when I started to listen to this album was, “oh, it’s really mellow and probably has incredibly thoughtful lyrics throughout, so I’ll have to listen intently in order to really appreciate what I’m hearing.” Which had an interesting side effect. I started to notice things about their music. A lot of different parts of songs and sometimes entire songs reminded me of other bands.

Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Muse, Mobile, Depeche Mode, Coldplay, Arkells, and Stabilo, among others, all come to mind.

And so I started to get frustrated, because I thought their singles from their first album were really something special. Call Me In The Afternoon, She Wants To Know, and Full Circle were so beautiful and natural in their offer. So maybe I made the same mistake as a lot of fans do, I expected Half Moon Run to stay as they were and not be who they are. It was selfish of me.

But the truth of the matter is that they didn’t change that much on their sophomore album. They just started to explore some more, and picked up references of familiar faces along the way. It’s kinda hard to slight them for having good taste and wanting to carve out their own path too.

I think you should listen to their current two singles, because they are pretty solid.

Turn Your Love and Trust are the kind of songs that make you want to turn on your stereo to begin the day. And then you’ll listen to the rest of the album and start to find your favourites. Mine happen to be Narrow Margins and the title track, Sun Leads Me On.

I think Exclaim’s review of the album makes a good point when they say

With Sun Leads Me On, Half Moon Run are attempting to shake the title of “that band with that song” and show off how far they have come, and for the most part, it works.

But I really do believe that they would have a stronger identity if they played up their quirks some more and sunk into their music with it. The folk elements always work so well with the catchy lyrics and synth-pop influences, but it can get a bit sleepy with all of the slight changes.

Would it surprise you to learn that this band is composed of four strangers? I’m unclear on impact that something like that can have on unity, and it doesn’t seem to be a problem for Half Moon Run, but hopefully after two years of touring together, they’ve started to form a bond which will allow them to weather the storm of album number two and become a mainstay in the indie scene.

There is a certainly a place for them.

 

 

And that’s all he wrote. Not much else I can say about this one folks. I do suggest you take a listen, maybe they will grow on you more than they did for me. Though I suspect if I give this album enough listens, it will become part of my musical dictionary before long.

Tim!

 

 

Desert or Dessert? (Machine Gun Kelly, General Admission review)

Sometimes I will buy an album and have no idea what I am getting myself into. And it usually ends up either one of two ways, either I really like what I bought or I unfortunately have to shake my head at the reality of $15 wasted on my part and $100s of thousands of dollars down the drain for whoever produced that particular noise garbage.

Luckily my purchase last week was nothing like that.

I bought a sophomore effort from the eclectic Machine Gun Kelly (MGK). Which is very evident the more time you spend with the record.

 

 

Machine Gun Kelly – General Admission
released October 16, 2015
******* 7/10

1500x1500sr MGK General Admisison

 

Did you know that Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) is only 25 years old? It definitely surprised me because I was expecting him to be at least 30 years old, based on some of the lyrics he spits on this LP. Also that he is representing Bad Boy/Interscope Records and even has a guest appearance track with the infamous Kid Rock featured.

But that surprise isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I also learned that some of his early influencers were the heavyweights Ludacris and DMX. In particular he got really into the genre after listening to the track We Right Here, from DMX’s The Great Depression! Which was one of the first hip hop CDs I ever bought too! And he loves NOFX, the Casualties and other awesome punk groups.

Check out the interview he had with the ever-weird Nardwuar for some evidence!

So how would I describe MGK in terms of the hip hop scene? I think he represents the parts of it which are working to be inclusive of everybody and everything. He wants to work with all kinds of artists and his music is about positive identities and finding yourself.

I’m going to quote directly from the liner notes –

I needed it to feel authentic, i needed to push the limits of my sanity and capture something real. Legend has it that you have to lose yourself our there in order to find yourself inside. That’s exactly what we did  and that’s exactly what this album represents: Finding yourself

This album is a ticket into the journey of finding one’s self. A ticket into our every day trials and tribulations. This album is a self-realization that underneath it all we’re just the same. This is general admission. Enjoy the show. Lace up.

The price of admission for this show of course, is realizing that pretty much anything and everything is open territory for MGK. He’s been through drug addiction, has a young daughter, and has even been homeless before.

Those pieces alone might be enough to put together some powerful tracks, but there is so much more going on in this record.

For instance – he’s from Cleveland, Ohio and he raps about it A LOT. The track Till I Die is a perfect vehicle for this concept and the music video encapsulates this even better. He raps about the trials and triumphs of living there and in the  music video features people from the city and shots of the city itself.

Bad Mother****er is an anthem for who MGK is and where he is at. He knows what he’s been through already and the dark stuff he’s let into his life, self-imposed or not, but that’s not gonna stop him from being a bad mother, and he’s OKAY with it.

But those aren’t the only songs he puts together. The song A Little More is about the stresses of life, and not being silent about pain, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Being mindful of others and extending love wherever you can.

General Admission is ambitious in a lot of fun ways, and reminds me of his influencers in a lot of little ways. Some of the reviews on this album have been negative, but I think that’s the price of admission. You don’t always get a perfect experience out of it, but if you’re willing to give something different a try, you might just be surprised enough to enjoy yourself in the desert.

 

 

Happy Monday dear readers! I hope your week is a good one, but don’t worry, I’ll be back tomorrow night for a movie review. And I’ll be hard at work behind the scenes because this week is a vacation for me, and I’m putting together some fun theories for you.

Tim!