Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Songs of the Week: September 11-20

So, since it took me a couple extra days to get around to this post, I've extended the span of the week. Don't worry about it. Here we go.

Paramore: Monster -- Paramore's most popular single of recent days is "The Only Exception." I do not like that song. At all. In fact, it bugs the heck out of me. I think Hayley Williams voice sounds flat, the lyrics are trite, and musically, it just isn't very Paramore-esque. Luckily, Paramore recorded the song "Monster" for the Transformers: Dark of the Moon soundtrack. This song, in my book, makes up for the awfulness that was "The Only Exception." The video is pretty cool, too.

Flyleaf: Circle -- Personally, I think Flyleaf is a horribly underrated band. Why they've never gotten more recognition, I have no idea. This song is from the band's second album, Memento Mori, which I think kind of kicks the ass of their first album. Flyleaf upped the heaviness on Memento Mori, but somehow managed to make their sound smoother at the same time. It's fantastic. Most noticeably, though, singer Lacey Sturm's voice came a long way from Flyleaf. It's especially evident on "Circle" that developed more control of her vocals; on the first album, Sturm's voice was strong, but often sounded like she was just yelling on some notes. This time around, she executes the high, powerful notes flawlessly.

D.R.U.G.S.: Sex Life -- Love this song. Love Craig Owens (in case I've never mentioned it). That's all.

The Postal Service: Such Great Heights -- This song will never, ever, ever get old for me. Just go listen to it. So lovely.

The Hoosiers: Made to Measure -- So, this song was actually on a playlist that I downloaded, and I am now obsessed with it. Fun, catchy, etc. etc. Now, if someone could just tell me how the British manage to be so good at this style of music...

Louis XIV: Pledge of Allegiance -- Oh, Louis XIV, how I heart you. So dirty, so fun, talented. Louis XIV does, in fact, rank as one of the best bands I've seen live. They have such a "don't give a f**k" attitude, and it comes out in both their recordings and their onstage presence.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Songs of the Week: September 4-10

Hi! I apologize for taking last week off...I was out of town for a chunk of it. But I'm back, and with awesome tunes for your listening pleasure.

Alkaline Trio: This Could Be Love (Damnesia re-recording) -- Back in July, Alkaline Trio released the album Damnesia, which consists of acoustic and semi-unplugged versions of some of their greatest hits. Well, imagine my excitement when I discovered they did a re-recording of "This Could Be Love," one of my faaaaavorite Trio songs. And, my goodness, it Blew. My. Mind. "This Could Be Love" is kind of a twisted song (listen to/look up the lyrics and you'll see what I mean), and the Damnesia version totally takes on a more sinister, desperate vibe that fits absolutely perfectly. The original recording of the song has a somewhat manic air to it, which is also great, but I really dig the darker tone Alkaline Trio gave it on Damnesia. Gives me chills!

Cobra Starship: You Make Me Feel -- This song was the first single released from Cobra Starship's most recent album, Night Shades. I have lukewarm feelings toward the album as a whole (which will be addressed in a separate post), but I love this particular song. "You Make Me Feel" is typical Cobra Starship--very dancey, synthy, and catchy, with Gabe Saporta's stellar vocals shining through. It has a slight hip-hop vibe to it, which is cool, and the female vocals by Sabi add a nice dimension to the song. As for the video...how freaking cute is Gabe? I swoon.

Avril Lavigne: Smile -- I'm just going to assume you're judging me for the fact that Avril Lavigne is on this list. Let's just acknowledge that and move on, ok? Righty-o. So, here's why I like this song (aside from the fact that it's catchy and has sweet lyrics). Avril's first hit, "Complicated," was my self-proclaimed theme song in 8th grade. Sort of set the standard for my longtime reign as the emo one in my group of friends. Well, a decade later, someone has come into my life who makes me smile more than I thought was possible (seriously, I'm pretty sure if things keep up I'm going to have to relinquish my title as the emo kid). The chorus in this song is very fitting to the situation: "And that's why I smile. It's been a while since every day and everything has felt this right, and now you turn it all around, and suddenly you're all I need--the reason why I smile." It's also kind of cool to have come full-circle with an artist's music. So...yeah.

Matt & Kim: Daylight -- I had heard a lot about Matt & Kim and had listened to a few songs, but for some reason never gave them a very serious listen. Well, the other night they opened for Blink 182's Minneapolis/St. Paul show (review coming soon!) and I was so impressed. Super fun, high energy, interacted with the crowd, and great musically. Across the board, awesome performance. I've been listening to them somewhat incessantly since. And! Discovered while seeing them live that Matt is really cute*. Bonus!

*Sidenote: I am in no way whatsoever one of those people who will listen to a band solely because I think a member of the band is attractive. In fact, I make a very conscious point not to look for pictures or watch videos of the band until after I've listened to them so I don't have that sort of bias in my head.

Adele: Rolling in the Deep -- Vocally, Adele is pretty much the embodiment of perfection. I'm fairly certain the girl couldn't hit a sour note if she tried, and the power with which she delivers her music is earth shattering. As far as female artists go, Adele is what the music industry needs to try to get more of: someone who not only possesses pure talent (no autotune!!!), but who is all about marketing herself based on that talent and not off of gimmicks and raciness. Classic.

Enjoy the tunes, and be on the look out for several more posts coming in the next couple of weeks because I have lots of ideas tumbling around in my head that I want to share with you guys!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Songs of the Week: August 21-28

Another week, another list of song suggestions. So far, I'm doing really well keeping up with this....go me! And heeeeere we go.

Portishead: Machine Gun -- So, I was in hardcore emo mode for a couple days this week. Not the most fun, but it happens. Ah well. This song, in particular, fit my mood perfectly one day. Not so much lyrically, but the overall tone of it. Just very heavy, a combo of melancholy and angry. Awesome.

Lydia: One More Day -- Oh, this song. Musically, I think it is absolutely gorgeous. However, it is beautiful in that tragic way that makes me want to cry, just because of the tone of it. Throw in the lyrics, and you get what is --in my opinion-- one of the top 5 most emo songs ever.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack: Time Warp -- I have had the entire Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack stuck in my head lately, but this song in particular keeps running through my noggin. Such a fun song! Plus, you gotta love that it tells you what the dance is...it's just a jump to the left! Then a step to the right!

A Skylit Drive: Thank God It's Cloudy Cause I'm Allergic to Sunlight -- My favorite song from the album Adelphia. Just wonderful.

The Spill Canvas: Our Song -- Yes, my recent obsession with The Spill Canvas has continued. I love what a different feel this song has from my last featured song by them ("The Tide"), and how it's actually upbeat! Plus, I think the video is adorable. As are the lyrics.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

REVIEW - We the Kings

As promised, I'm finally getting around to a review of the We the Kings show I attended a few weeks ago. Excited? You should be.

Now, I need to give some background first. I'd seen We the Kings once before their performance on August 6th. It was about a year and a half ago in St. Louis and, while I loved their music, I didn't have the highest expectations for their live show.

I had been going to a lot of pop-punk shows, and all of them had ended up pretty lackluster. I expected the same from We the Kings, but they completely blew me away. This time around, with my last experience of We the Kings in mind, I had very high expectations for the concert. And I was far from disappointed.

Opening for We the Kings were Action Item, The Downtown Fiction, Hot Chelle Rae, and the Summer Set. My concert companion and I missed the Action Item and most of The Downtown Fiction, but the crowd already seemed pretty amped when we got there, so I'm assuming both bands put on a good show.

Unfortunately, the venue hosting the concert, St. Paul's Station 4, lacks air conditioning. Consequently, it was about a million degrees inside, so we spent Hot Chelle Rae's set listening from outside where it was significantly cooler (despite still being in the 80s). Hot Chelle Rae sounded great and, when we went back inside for the last bit of their set, the crowd seemed to be enjoying them thoroughly.

Following Hot Chelle Rae was The Summer Set, and they were fantastic. They sounded great and were troopers through the boiling conditions within the venue, even while much of the crowd wasn't. Really, my only disappointment with the night was the fact that the audience never got overly into the performances. Everyone looked like they were enjoying the performances, but, for the most part, people just stood there instead of dancing.

The Summer Set at first seemed a little frustrated by this, but I think they realized pretty quickly that the reason for the lack of movement from the crowd was the heat in the venue and not lack of interest in the band. I felt they even stepped it up for the second half of their set as a way to say thanks to everyone for enduring the heat to see them. Personally, I was a little bummed that they didn't play my favorite of their songs (Passenger Seat), but they had a solid set, and were fun to watch, so I can't complain about one song not being performed.

Finally, it was time for We the Kings. And once they took the stage, I did not stop moving for the next hour (which I'm pretty sure annoyed all the people around me who insisted on standing still).

We the Kings were absolutely brilliant. They played a great selection of songs from all three of their albums (including all of my favorites!), and were very sincere when they'd break between songs to talk to the crowd. And, of course, they actually seemed to be enjoying what they were doing. I've seen bands that will say from stage how much they love performing, but look absolutely miserable while onstage. We the Kings is not one of those bands. They make it completely evident how much they appreciate their fans, and how much pride and enjoyment they find in making those fans happy. Stage presence is an extremely important factor of live music for me, and We the Kings has it in abundance.

From beginning to end, We the Kings put on a fun, energetic, and entertaining show, even despite the heat and a couple of technical difficulties. There was one odd part where singer/frontman Travis Clark decided to give a spiel about the birds and the bees, but it was funny and led into a good song, so I can look past that. Overall, though, it was one of the most fun concerts I'd been to in quite some time. If you ever get a chance to see either The Summer Set or We the Kings live, I definitely recommend you take advantage of the opportunity.

Oh, and you know it was brutally hot in the venue when both The Summer Set (from Arizona) and We the Kings (from Florida) commented that it was the hottest show they'd ever played. Well done, Minnesota.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Songs of the Week: August 14-20

First off, I promise I will have a review of the We The Kings show very soon! I intend to have it up before the next concert I go to (Blink 182!), which is on September 7th, so that really doesn't give me too much time to get cracking. So look for that this week!

Now for this week's song picks!

The Spill Canvas: The Tide -- This song is so outrageously wonderful in every way possible. Nick Thomas's voice is smooth, sincere, and overflowing with emotion. The music is melancholy, and so simplistic that it really makes the lyrics the focus of the song. And the lyrics? Very sad, but tell the story beautifully. It also contains one of my favorite lines ever: "Heaven's not a place that you go when you die, it's that moment in life when you actually feel alive." Perfection.

Bring Me the Horizon: Blessed With a Curse -- I love this song because I feel like it approaches screamo much differently than what one would usually expect. It's still heavy and screamtastic, but it's very slowed down, and even beautiful -- definitely not a word I'd generally associate with screamo. While some screamo bands tend to let the vocals go more melodic on slower songs, BMTH keeps the harsh vocals, which creates an awesome contrast with the instrumentals. Crossing my fingers they play this one when I see them September 13!

Holiday Parade: Crimson Red -- OK, the best way I can describe the sound of this band is Jack's Mannequin meets Jimmy Eats World. Not a bad combo, huh? Musically, "Crimson Red" is fantastic. Piano-backed, simple, and includes all those chords that make you feel something. Lyrically, it sort of feels like it's been done before, but the lyrics are sweet and meaningful, so we'll look past that.

Blink 182: First Date -- Let me say from the get-go, my personal opinion is that Take Off Your Pants and Jacket is Blink's best album (and not just because of the wordplay!). I'm sure a lot of people would disagree with me on that, and that's fine. That being said, "First Date" gets the distinction of being a song of the week. I think this song is awesome, and more accurately describes the awkwardness/nervousness that accompanies first dates than most songs.

Mayday Parade: Miserable At Best -- So, I have actually hated this song for about 3 years, due to the way I first heard it. My boyfriend at the time broke up with me for another girl, and decided that I was going to be his go-to person to talk to about her and how much he liked her and how she didn't like him back, blah blah blah. Well, every time he would call "Miserable At Best" would be playing in the background. And it absolutely sucked knowing that he was listening to that song, and the lyrics "I can live without you, but without you I'll be miserable at best," bummed about the fact that he couldn't have her, and that I wanted to be with him but instead had to listen to him crying over another girl. Awful, awful, awful. As a result, during that whole situation the song would make me sob uncontrollably every time I heard it. Even after that, when we got back together, it still made me cry because I associated it with that really bad time. So yeah, really long time despising the song because of the emotions/memories it brought back. Well, now it makes the Songs of the Week list because for the first time in 3 years I heard it and, while it still made me sad, I did not cry. Didn't even tear up. Big step for me! Emotional growth based on this song? Pretty much.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Songs of the Week: August 7-13

Songs of the week for the second week in a row! I'm on a roll! Woo!

We the Kings: Say You Like Me -- As mentioned last week, I recently saw We the Kings live. Absolutely amazing show. Consequently, I have continued listening to them obsessively. "Say You Like Me," from their new album Sunshine State of Mind, has been the track I've been playing most repetitively. It's sweet, it's upbeat, it's an all-around great song.

Forever the Sickest Kids: Tough Love -- Really, you can't go wrong with Forever the Sickest Kids. They're just kind of fantastic. They've got a bit more edge to them than a lot of pop-punk bands, and I dig that.

Every Avenue: Girl Like That -- Not going to lie, this song cracks me up. And I don't think it's intended to be a funny song. It's about being into a girl you don't think you can have, and not knowing what to do about it. Pretty typical fare, right? And then there's the chorus:

"I would make a move if there was a chance she'd let me in. I would make a move if I thought there was a chance she'd let me in. What can you do with a girl like that? Taking everything giving nothing back. Stuck between her legs when she sets her trap, what can you do with a girl like that? It's like a curse that's she's put on me, sweaty hands, shaking knees. Tell her that I want her to move too fast, that's what you do with a girl like that."

So basically, it's not even about liking this girl. It's just about wanting to sleep with her. The lack of subtlety it awesome.

Go Radio: Goodnight Moon -- In case you don't know, Go Radio is the band that Jason Lancaster, former vocalist, lyricist and guitarist of Mayday Parade, started after leaving MP. The vibe of Go Radio is very similar to Mayday Parade, except pushed to more extremes. The emo songs are emo-er, and Go Radio has an all-around heavier sound than Mayday Parade. I dig it. "Goodnight Moon" was the first Go Radio song I heard, and I love it. It's unbearably sappy, but so heartfelt that you can't help but enjoy it. Plus, I'm a sucker for any slow songs sung by Lancaster. The man legitimately has a great voice, and slow songs like "Goodnight Moon" really showcase the power and emotion his voice carries. Fantastique.

Dashboard Confessional: Stolen --Weird fact: I only listen to Dashboard Confessional in the summer. I might listen to a song or two at other times during the year, but for the most part, DC is summer music to me. No idea why. Consequently, I end up rediscovering different Dashboard songs every year, and this year I've found myself once again head over heels in love with "Stolen." I honestly think it's one of the most romantic songs ever. Really, who doesn't want to be told that they've stolen someone's heart?

Tune in for next week's songs!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Songs of the Week: July 31-August 6

Last summer I attempted to do "Songs of the Week" posts, but only managed to cover two weeks...and did both weeks in one post. Oops. Let's see if I can be more consistent this time around, eh?

Here we go.

We the Kings: Heaven Can Wait -- Tonight I'm seeing We the Kings (expect a review in the next couple of days), so have been listening to them fairly incessantly in preparation. In particular, I keep coming back to "Heaven Can Wait." In typical WTK form, the song is poppy, catchy and a lot of fun to listen to. Add to the musicality sickeningly sweet lyrics--"Heaven can wait up high in the sky, it's you and I. Heaven can wait deep down in your eyes, I'm yours tonight. Lay your heart next to mine, I feel so alive. Tell me you want me to stay forever, 'cause Heaven can wait"--and you've got a delightful pop-punk love song. I've linked to the official music video (which takes place at a dog show and really makes no sense attached to the song), but there's also an acoustic version out there that's worth checking out.

The Summer Set: Passenger Seat (Acoustic) -- Opening for We the Kings tonight is Arizona-based band The Summer Set. They're equally as pop-punk as WTK, although my personal opinion is that, both musically and lyrically, they have a much younger feel. Nothing wrong with that, of course, especially as my favorite song of theirs is "Passenger Seat," which is all about a boy and girl sneaking out at 3 a.m. to hang out, risking getting caught by their parents. Ignoring that part of it (which makes me feel rather old), the song is absolutely adorable in the way in which it talks about new love: "Just sweep me off my feet again, my new addiction. I've been waiting, I've been addicted to this story of a girl who can help this boy meet world and sweep me off my feet again." Love it. There's also a non-acoustic version, but I much prefer the acoustic version, so linked to that.

Chiodos: The Words 'Best Friend' Become Redefined -- One of the things I was most impressed by the first time I ever listened to Chiodos was how effortlessly [former] frontman Craig Owens could go between actual singing (and good singing, at that) and screaming. I saw Chiodos twice before Craig's departure, and have seen his new band, D.R.U.G.S. once, and I remain baffled as to how his singing voice can remain so smooth immediately after screaming. Amazing. Anyway, I love that back-and-forth dynamic in Craig's voice, and I love "The Words 'Best Friend' Become Redefined" because the music takes on that same back-and-forth. It starts out really heavy, then goes into light piano, then gets heavy again. Throughout the entire song, it keeps going between hard and soft, sped up and slowed down, resulting in a song that keeps you on your toes.

Automatic Loveletter: Black Ink Revenge -- If you have not heard, or heard of Automatic Loveletter, you're missing out. ALL is technically a four-person band, fronted by Juliet Simms (who not only sings, but also writes the songs for the band and plays guitar), but Simms often performs solo also. And man can she perform! Listening to ALL's songs, you can tell that Simms has an amazing voice, no question about it. Back in July, though, I got to see her live at Warped Tour, where she played an acoustic solo set, and I was absolutely blown away. Nothing is done to her voice on ALL's albums! In a music industry that's becoming dominated by autotune, it's so refreshing when artists have legitimately brilliant pipes. And just to prove how good Simms is live, the link goes to her performance at Warped Tour. As for the song itself...well, if you've ever been cheated on or been in a relationship where you fought all the time, it'll speak to you (I, for one, cried through the entire song when I heard it live).

Demi Lovato: Skyscraper -- Demi Lovato's new single "Skyscraper" was actually recorded twice; first when Lovato was dealing with bulimia and her voice was extremely raw due to the damage to her vocal chords from purging, and then again after she finished treatment for her eating disorder and emotional issues. She decided to release the first recording of the song, and in the rawness of her voice you can hear every ounce of emotion she had been dealing with. It's a powerful song about remaining strong even when things are falling apart around you, and that message (and Lovato's fans) helped "Skyscraper" to be released as the #1 song on iTunes without any radio play.