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Album Reviews

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The Traveller: Rhett Miller
★★★★☆

When a lead singer of a prominent band decides to work solo for a while, they need to be able to strongly differentiate their personal sound from that of their band as a whole, especially when the band is coming off of one of the most successful albums of their career. The Old 97’s are alt-country royalty, and 2014’s Most Messed Up was easily one of the best albums of the band’s twenty-plus years together. At its best, their aggressive, heavily punk-inspired country brings equal parts drunken debauchery and actual emotion together in a rowdy, adrenaline rush-inducing package. Miller’s solo albums have usually kept most of the debauchery and heart at the center of the 97’s lyrics, but he tends toward a gentler, more acoustic sound to take the more aggressive edge off. With The Traveller, Miller takes his solo sound even further from the 97’s norm by bringing in Black Prairie as his backing band. Black Prairie is a Decemberists side-project that is basically the band minus frontman Colin Meloy that leans in a more bluegrass direction instead of the theatrical folk of their main band. Essentially, Miller has traded in his typical incredible backing band for another high-quality band of a very different background, and has put together a pretty great album as a result. Most of the songs on the album keep the Decemberists-esque sounds to a minimum and let Miller’s songwriting and voice shine through. “Most in the Summertime” is a great summer love song, and acoustic jam that just lets Miller relax and put a loving smile on the listener’s face. “Wanderlust” is a terrific country-rock song that starts the album with a serious intensity, but still doesn’t get as aggressively in-your-face as an Old 97’s song would, creating a strong distinction off the bat between what Miller is best known for and what he’s trying to create here. When Miller and Black Prairie start to indulge their weirder sides, the album goes to some places that, while not the best tracks on the album, are certainly some of the most interesting things that this collaboration could have come out with. The instrumentals for “Jules” feels like it could fit right on the most recent Decemberists album, but Miller’s writing and voice allows that familiar violin and guitar work to go in a completely direction than anything Colin Meloy could have done with it. The melancholy, ethereal “Dreams Vs. Waking Life” lets everyone involved indulge their weirdest and darkest musical tendencies and creates an incredible dream-like song for the listener to wander through alongside the band. Overall, this isn’t an album that will likely hugely influence the direction of either of these main bands going forward, but it’s a great side distraction that lets everyone involved have a little fun and blow off some steam in the act of making a very solid album. This is definitely worth a listen to anyone who enjoys the Old 97’s, the Decemberists, or just very good country/folk-rock in general.
Review written by: Mitchell Owens

I Am Alive In Everything I Touch: Silverstein
★★★★☆

This band from Burlington, Ontario, Canada, is celebrating their fifteenth anniversary. As if to mark the occasion their newest album “I Am Alive In Everything I Touch” was released earlier this month, May, on Rise records. The second track “heaven, Hell, and Purgatory” starts with Told’s signature unclean vocals. This track contains one of my favorite lines from the album. “I know everything I’ve done has led me here/ but I’m not scared to go/ lift up everything I own.” The album starts off with a strictly instrumental track. The song titled “Toronto” is a blend of noises from a train going over the tracks, acoustic guitar strumming, to the sound of cars driving by at the end of the bit. It is only logical to assume that these sounds are reminiscent of the member’s hometown. The third track “Buried at sea” works together with the first instrumental track to establish the theme for the album. The song, which begins with the sound of rain falling down, discusses relying on your aspirations as motivation to keep going. The next track “late on 6th” is the only acoustic track on the album, and shows off the band’s incredible versatility. Shane Told, vocalist, mixes his signature unclean vocals with well executed high notes. This song follows suit with many Silverstein songs and talks about heartbreak and longing. “I know we can’t go back/ I made mistakes/ I lost track/ when I called your name you didn’t hear a sound/ I couldn’t feel it then but I need you now.” Next up is a track with an amazing live video that you should watch. The track is “Milestone.” This song also contains the words of the title track. The song talks about how we have to band together in order to overcome the corrupt nature of society. Following that song comes “The continual condition” I wasn’t a fan of this song because it came off s trite and stale. It is another addition to the band’s wide repertoire of sappy emo love songs. It isn’t a terrible song just somewhat eye­roll­worthy. Next is “desert nights” my personal favorite track. The song is especially instrumentally strong. In the song the vocalist sings about feeling disconnected with life and how he doesn’t feel anything any longer. The album culminates with two strong tracks “Je me souviens” and “in the dark.”
Review written by: Avery Sapetko

Blurryface: Twenty One Pilots
★★★★☆

Twenty One Pilots is growing more and more popular by the day. The duo made it big with hits such as “Car Radio” and “House of Gold” off their 2013 album Vessel, and it looks as though their next album Blurryface is going to catapult them into the mainstream. Their last album was full of angst ridden songs that questioned the quality of life, but this one has a lighter, more optimistic sound to it. The song that convinced me of this is their newest hit “Tear In My Heart.” It’s essentially a love song that combines their classic alternative sound with pop-friendly melodies. It’s the catchiest song on the album, so it does not shock me that it is climbing the alternative charts at a high rate. It’s sure to become some couples’ “song.” There aren’t a lot of other songs on the album that mirror “Tear In My Heart.” I really like how Twenty One Pilots experimented with putting some electronic music. You can hear this taste of electronic in songs like “Doubt” and “Polarize.” The quality of the actual music throughout the album is great, but the content of the songs is what really got me to like this album so much. One of my favorite songs off the album is “Stressed Out.” It’s a song that is oozing with nostalgia about being a child and having no worries in the world. The beat is infectious, and the lyrics about now caring what other people think is on point. It’s a song everyone can relate to, and I think it’s one of the best songs off the album. “Not Today” is another great song off the album. It has a great bass line and is upbeat, but the lyrics of the songs contradict the sound of the song. The song is about getting over someone and how hard it is to let them go. Anyone who has gone through a break up can easily relate to this song. That’s the biggest thing I’m fond of throughout this album. The sound of the song may be upbeat and happy, but the lyrics of the song tell a different story. This concept can tie into reality. There are times where we are both happy and sad at the same time, and we do not know exactly why, but we know we must live through it. There are songs on the album that mirror this concept perfectly. Other songs are rawer with their sound, like “Goner.” This is a more solemn piano ballad about being a goner and only wanting the one you love to know who you are. It’s a beautiful song that is full of raw emotion, and is easily one of the best songs off the album. Overall, I wasn’t expecting this album to be as upbeat as it was. Vessel was full of angst, while this album is more upbeat. I’m happy to see Twenty One Pilots experiment with a different sound. I definitely recommend giving the album a listen to!
Review written by: Kelly Kuehn

Tree: SEKAI NO OWARI
★★★★★

e-girls

This group is a dance and vocal unit called “E- Girls.” “E” means Exile which is also dance and vocal group. So, E- Girls inherits from Exile. The leader of Exile, Hiro produces this group like as female version of Exile. Actually, E- girls are formed by three female dance and vocal group, “Dream,” “Flower,” and “Happiness.” Dream is the oldest group and components of four vocalists. Actually, they can also dance professionally and have the feeling of and atmosphere of adult. Their songs are mostly love songs. Flower components of two vocalists and five dancers, and they all can dance as well. They are the middle age in E- Girls, 19 to 22 years old, so their songs are love and up- tempo. Finally, Happiness is the youngest in E- Girls, 15 to 20 years old, so they have energy and power to dance. They component of two vocalists and five dancers and they all can dance as well. These mixed characteristics, adult, powerful, and mild make much harmony to fascinate people. To be formed by three groups, they can perform dynamically, powerfully, and heartrendingly for each audience in every concert. You can enjoy their music when you are watching this video and listening to the music. Interestingly, the vocalists change depending on which music the vocalists match, so they are selected in each song. Different vocalists are chosen for different songs. In this album, there are rock, love, and happy songs. For rock song, you can enjoy watching the music video because the up- tempo music matches their dance. For love song, you better listen to the music. The music tone reminds the time when you love someone. For up- tempo song, the dance is dynamic and surprises you because of the powerful dance even though they all are girls. Some people in E- Girls are models and others are on variety TV shows because each person has different characteristics for entertaining. As performers, they train professionally as if they are athletes. They do weight training, running, spinner bike, and bench press. The producer Hiro thinks performers have to train and be professional to entertain. They do not want to show poor performances. I think they are the most famous girls group in Japan, but they still need to be known each name by people in Japan. Then they probably can do world tour sometime. You can see their amazing performances and professionalism and will like them.
Review written by: Wataru Orihara

Happily never after: As it is
★★★★☆

My friends have been going of the handle about this album. Personally, I’m a pretty big fan as well. As It Is a pop-punk group from Brighton, England. They signed with Fearless records early this year join such groups as Real Friends and August Burns Red. Their sound is what you would expect from an up and coming pop punk group; catchy riffs, group vocals, and a lot, A LOT, of two stepping in the music video. However, they are a bit better talent wise than some bands that I’ve seen and they are hiding a few tricks up their sleeve. First, off their lyrics aren’t as shallow as might be expected from many pop punk albums. “Take care of yourself but carry the whole world just forget that it hurts from ankle to collarbone and you think and you bury your head away and you sink.” Second, and this is what my friends were really excited about, there are two vocalists that share almost ½ ½ of the vocals. It’s probably a 40/60 split. Both of these vocalists have chops but they sound completely different. The first vocalist, Patty, has a high pitched unique timbre that’s typical emo vocalist. The second vocalist, Ben, has a much deeper voice his voice is harsher and grittier. My personal favorite song off the album is one of the two singles that were released I love “dial tones,” the other single is “Concrete.” “Dial Tones” is catchy, has a memorable chorus, and just makes you want to dance. I have said in past reviews that an acoustic track seems to be considered almost necessary on albums of this genre. The second to last song on the album, “You, the Room & the Devil on Your Shoulder” is the only acoustic track on the album. Patty, main vocalist and eye candy, lowers his voice to a near whisper while the rest of the band hum along in the background. The only instrument is a guitar being strummed.
Review written by: Avery Sapetko

Shadow Shows: Seryn
★★★★☆
Shadow Shows

Seryn has been through a number of changes since the release of their 2011 debut, This Is Where We Are. They’ve relocated from their hometown of Dallas to the more musically inclined streets of Nashville. Their fairly large line-ups have gone through a number of shifts, with members drifting in and out of the band. They’ve left their label and become an independent band. Their most sonically noticeable change over this time is how the band has opened up its sound for their sophomore effort. Their first album was defined by layers of acoustic instruments, prominent banjo use, and constant finger picking. Shadow Shows maintains full but gentle sound of their debut, but explores multiple new ways to reach that effect. Instead of relying prominently on whatever acoustic instruments and layers of harmonies around Trenton Wheeler’s lead vocals could get them, the band has welcomed anything that can help them create an even more entrancing and engrossing sound. When the instrumental intro to the album, “Kilimanjaro,” opens with various ambient noises and an electric guitar, it is a huge shock to the system of anyone who was a fan of the first album and of the image that Seryn crafted based on that album, but once you open yourself up to the new sound, it’s pretty incredible. Along with the instrumental additions, the band has increased the role of Jenny Moscoso’s vocals, making her almost a co-lead singer for the band at points. Her voice complements Wheeler’s gorgeously, and she can bring a fire to her to her lyrics that adds a layer to them that the incredibly calm-sounding Wheeler just doesn’t have normally. These changes are instituted in various degrees across the album, with songs like “Path” that sound like Seryn’s original music going up against songs like “Disappear,” which almost sounds like it comes from a completely different band. The new sound works well in any degree it’s implemented in though. Every track sounds gorgeous, and there are no dull moments or down tracks to cause you to lose your attention. As soon as the album was over, I wanted to hear more of this sound, so I’m probably going to have this on repeat for a few months while I eagerly anticipate any new music from these guys in the future. Hopefully the next wait won’t be as long or as difficult as the last one…
Review written by: Avery Sapetko

Handwritten: Shawn Mendes
★★★★☆
Shawn Mendes

The upcoming 16-year-old Canadian music artist Shawn Mendes, finally releases his album, Handwritten. Handwritten is officially his debut album, which was released back on April 14. Mendes gives us a taste of pop and soul as he introduces us to both in this album Handwritten hasn’t had trouble charting high on the charts. The album peaked at number one on both the Canadian Albums Billboards chart and US Billboard 200 chart. Handwritten features 12 different breakthrough songs that are just amazing and most of the songs were written by Mendes. I think the really best thing about Handwritten is that each track doesn’t repeat it’s self. Each track has its own uniqueness to it; instrumentally and lyrically we get a different taste from each song. A song from this album that I really like is “A Little Too Much” because it’s such an amazingly beautifully written song by Mendes. The instrumentals in this track wasn’t overbearing, it sort puts you in this deep emotional trance. The acoustic guitar really made this song, and that alone gave this song that “umph” factor to be a beautifully composed song. This track really gives off a strong emotional feedback, which helps the listeners to be able to connect to the song. I think this song tries to give off the message that life will get tough, so we will need to take a step back and take a deep breath. Another song off this album that I’m really fond is the upbeat hit single, “Something Big.” “Something Big” is definitely the number one single on this album. This track sort of reminds me of most of Justin Timberlake’s song. It has that funky acoustic guitar instrumental that we hear a lot in Timberlake’s song. The verse “something big is happening” is accuracy describing that amount of success Mendes is having. Overall this is an outrageously terrific debut album.
Review written by: Alan Taylor

Original Soundtrack from Season 1 of Empire: Empire Cast
★★★★★
Mother

From the very first episode of Fox’s hit new drama Empire it was clear that the network had a hit on its hands. The acting is superb, the premise of a father who is at the head of a music empire having to find a successor in his three sons, while also dealing with the return of his ex-wife/ex-con is immensely entertaining. On top of that every episode leaves you wanting more and its no surprise the show had a record-breaking debut season; it became one of the first shows in years to grow in ratings with each episode. Similar to Glee in its first season, one of the best parts of every episode quickly became the catchy and well-produced music. Thanks to being written and produced by a team led by hit-maker Timbaland, as well as the talented actors/singers, and guest stars the soundtrack to the hit first season Empire is poised to break just as many record as the show itself. If you haven’t watched any of Empire yet the music alone will be reason enough to start. The cast is mostly fresh-faced who can seriously sing and rap just as good as the current artists topping the charts. The coolest part about Empire is how the show is all about dominating the music world but thanks to how catchy, enjoyable, and radio-ready the songs are it is hard to imagine this being Empire’s peak. Jussie Smollett (Jamal) brings much emotion and stellar vocals while Yazz (Hakeem) brings enjoyable raps with a likable cockiness. At 18 tracks there is a huge variety of tracks to choose from. There is seriously a song for whatever mood you may be in. Whether it’s wanted to be accepted on songs like “Good Enough,” or getingt ready for a night out on “Drip Drop,” this soundtrack has some of everything. Some songs have deeper lyrics and more powerful vocal performances like “Keep Your Money” but with jams like “Drip Drop” although simpler and fun it’s unlikely you will be able to get it out of your head. The entire cast also sounds phenomenal when paired together. Serayah McNeill (Tiana) and Yazz (Hakeem) has great chemistry and Yazz and Jussie who play brothers on the show sound very different yet mesh great together. There is an arrangement of new voices on the soundtrack but there are also plenty of features from better-known artists as well. Terence Howard plays a music icon and boy does he sound like one especially when paired with singers like the phonemically talented Mary J. Blige. Jennifer Hudson lends her Grammy winning talent on “Remember the Music” and “Whatever Makes You Happy” featuring Juicy J, and is a perfect fit for the show. There are more noteworthy features from icons like Estelle, Courtney Love, and Rita Ora as well. Whether you’re a fan of hip-hop, rap, or gospel this soundtrack does not disappoint. When the cast all gets together on songs like “You’re So Beautiful,” you really get to see just how much talent is on this one soundtrack. There are catchy emotional ballads, club ready jams, and even relatable songs. The cast alone should be reason enough to watch Fox’s latest hit show but the musical performances will keeping you coming back. The season one soundtrack is sure to be Grammy winning and leaves much anticipation until its season two premiere. Although it seems like the incredible and very well done album will be hard to top, I have very high hopes.
Review written by: Brandon Kasprzyk

instant Gratification: Dance Gavin Dance
★★★☆☆

Hey, guys, this album was reviewed in The Stylus this week, however do not fear because I intend to put my own spin on the review. Anyways, shall we get started? First thing, the singer’s voice made it difficult to get through the entire album. He has such an annoying high-pitched tone that just drives me insane. Don’t get me wrong there are men, like Adam lambert, that rock the high-pitch however this guy just does not. Another thing that automatically annoys me on any album, not just this one, when unclean vocals and cleans are used at the same time, obviously by two people. It is just so confusing, and you cannot discern what they Hell they are saying. This album is their sixth full-length and despite the annoying vocals they have pulled it together, at least lyrically and musically. Perhaps the best song on the album is “death of the strawberry swisher.” This song is the final contribution to a trio of songs that have spanned past albums. Another notable song is “shark dad”, this song features guitar played by the bands former guitarist. This song has possibly the best lyrics of any other son on the album “The world is drunk. I’m a piston on a mission, pumping out my guts.” If you haven’t heard of Dance Gavin Dance they are an interesting bunch. They have been through more line-up changes than any band that I can think of. Membership of this band is seemingly a revolving door situation. Much of this group’s strife has been caused by former vocalist Johnny Craig who in the past has had numerous issues involving alcohol and substance abuse. His personal drama took a toll on the band for a number of years, until they decided to give him the boot. After being kicked out of the group Johnny went to rehab and now has a successful solo career This album can be listened to in its entirety on YouTube.
Review written by: Avery Sapetko

The Past, The Present, The Future: Jodeci
★★★☆☆

For most people my age, Jodeci may not be a familiar name. They released their third album before we were born and their fourth, and most recent, one was released this past March. The Past, The Present, The Future is their comeback album which was produced by Timberland. It is their first album in twenty years. The past two decades have probably been the most dynamic in regards to music and how we listen and experience to it. I think everyone can agree that music has definitely changed since the nineties and so has the audience. In order to make sales, decent sales, you have to appeal to the audience that is present today. I don't think Jodeci did a good job of doing that. I am not saying that I dislike the album. I am just saying that I don't believe that they should expect new fans. Their nineties background is evident throughout the album, especially, in the songs “Stress Reliever”, “Too Hot” featuring AV, and “Incredible”. Its hard to explain what makes “Stress Reliever” feel like a 90s song. The beat, the lyrics, and the rhythm all have the smoothness that 90s RnB usually possesses Its an ode to a woman, as is most of the songs on the album. It is one of the most addictive off the album. “Incredible” is another song that is almost indistinguishable in the time changes. In this song it is heard in the harmonies and the underlying seductive talking. You just dont hear that anymore. “Too Hot” has an obvious Hip Hop influence, like most of their music. AV is a contemporary artist and this is possibly one of the most intelligent moves they could have made with this album. To include relevant contemporary artists such as AV, B.O.B in their single “Nobody Wins”, and Mila J in their song “Body Parts” will boost their relativity with new audiences. All three songs have the ability to get stuck in yous head but not for long. None have very significant merits besides the artist that are featured on them. The songs “Checkin' For You”, “Those Things”, and “Every Moment” don't even have that, but they are enjoyable enough. “Every Moment” is my favorite out of the three because it is a slower song that is just so sweet you cant help but love it. Jodeci was never afraid to have emotions on a track and I can hear that in the song “Jennifer” as well. Both are emotional and just really nice to hear. The only song I disliked on this album is “Sho Out” featuring Liana Banks. The repetitive lyrics grate on my nerves and it is obvious that this one song was their attempt at being more modern. Overall, I enjoyed the album, I believe it could be a successful album. If it was released in the nineties. A comeback album should showcase how an artist(s) grew as a musician and that they can still hold their ground with the top contemporary artists. I believe they will get decent sales because they already have a strong following, but if they were to keep releasing albums their sound will have to pick it up a notch if they want the records to ever follow in their history's footsteps and reach multiplatinum status because while their sound may not have changed, the industry has.
Review written by:Brianna Milon



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