First Impressions: October 2012

For your convenience, the Taylor Swift argument is up top.

Oct. 23

Taylor Swift – Red

Rating – It’s important to note that she’s 22

Taylor Swift was an early candidate for this blog’s 2012 MVP. All we needed was a full length album to properly assess how far she has come as an artist. On the Hunger Games soundtrack released earlier this year, Swift had two songs, one in particular called “Safe and Sound” featuring The Civil Wars. It was one of the best songs released this year and was an exemplary look at what it would sound like if she ditched the pop scene and became a wholesome artist. She followed up with another coming of age performance on the B.o.B. album, but it ended there.

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is a wretched song. It uses too many “evers” and the dialogue clip is douche-chilling. Swift is one year younger than I am. I know I’m not the target market, but I have no similarities to her or her music on any level. A majority of tracks are, surprise, about breakups and icky boys. Has she ever been single? Would that make for a better album if she sang about actual life instead of spilling her high-school drama into our already drama-ridden lives?

Some songs were good for what they were. “I Knew You Were Trouble” was an early fave, and it even had dub-step! Just where she needed to take her career. The lead singer from Snow Patrol stumbled his way onto this album somehow, as did that Ed Sheeran kid. Both decent tracks. Other than that, it’s another album that obsessive fans will love because, to them, everything Swift sings is a groundbreaking pièce de résistance. It’s absurd. Did you all hear Justin Bieber’s album this year? That’s the progression we’re still looking for in Taylor Swift.

Also, this album came out on a Monday. Couldn’t wait one day.

Special Section: Second Impression!

Taylor Swift sold 1 million albums this week while I fought for a cause that no one could defend. It’s not that good. And she allegedly just broke up with her most recent boyfriend, so I’ll be waiting for that one-sided argument to hit the radio next year. It makes me physically ill. When I wrote the above copy, I was in the disappointment phase because I wanted to like the album. It’s not horrible, just immature. Then you all had to buy it. I tried to tell you. Now I’m in rage mode.

This is how sane people lose their minds. I took the time to write a review, some people read it, and a million people bought the album. This is literally my worst nightmare. There are alien parasites infesting the Earth, and I am the lone resistance. It wouldn’t be that bad except that no one listens to quality music to begin with. But let’s stay in the pop genre for comparison. Justin Bieber, who I mentioned above, came out with a legitimately impressive album in June and he took monumental steps forward as a musician. I love it and I’m not ashamed. But the album still hasn’t reached 1 million sales. UnBeliebable.

I don’t know what it is with you people, but I give up. You are condoning this nonsense when it needed to cease three years ago. Swift’s next album will be exactly the same, she’ll be 25, unmarried and unjustifiably endearing. I have said this many times over the past week, but why is she always the victim? She has more failed relationships than anyone I’ve ever known, yet she comes out as the apathetic figure in all of this. And there are those poor guys who may or may not have been class-A d-bags. What gives her the right to sing on their behalf?

Probably the same reason why I’m typing right now. I think it’s all about me.

Intro

I went to Rockfest once. By the time the 12 hours were up, I had mud up to my thighs, non-functioning vocal chords and sights I can never un-see. You may have trouble picturing me there among the voracious potheads and sagging middle-aged bare breasts, but was there. And I rocked hard.

Rockfest is the largest one-day music festival in the nation. It happens every year in Kansas City and I encourage everyone to go at least once for the culture shock. Your Blake Shelton concerts are muck in comparison.  It’s one of the few places where I had the warm comfort of home while experiencing a redneck uneasiness of being out of place.

After I left the marathon music event with an overall fondness of the experience, it confirmed that at my heart and soul, I am a rocker. A sophisticated one at that, but I love the raw energy and fearlessness of the guitar thrashing and screaming vocals.

I was pleased to find three new albums from rock bands I enjoy to start this month off. Most releases as of late have been artsy and have lacked the aggression that balances out the musical spectrum.  So let’s get October off right.

Rock on.

\m/_

Oct. 2

Muse – The 2nd Law

Rating: A sign of the times

This was one of my most highly anticipated albums of the year if only to see how far into the reaches of space they could go. Instead of a linear transit, they reached in every which way, in crevices beyond what we already knew existed. If you listen to the album, you’ll see that new discoveries don’t always lead to likable results. A few tracks (“Supremacy,” “Animals,” “Explorers”) are a nice throwback to pre-Resistance Muse, which this album sounds nothing like. Then everything else goes bonkers.

You hear everything from Led Zeppelin to Louis Armstrong, defining this album as one of those “influential cesspools.” The track “Panic Station” is an 80s funk throwback Prince and Stevie Wonder, one of Muse’s most bizarre creations to date. I posted it for a reason, so listen to it. “Follow Me” is about Matthew Bellamy’s child, Bingham, and the lyrics are very granola, but the chorus is fierce. That’s where some dub-step comes in (also in the last two tracks on the album and the chill pulsation of “Madness”). “Save Me” and “Liquid State” were written by bassist Chris Wolstenholme about his alcohol addiction and he provides the vocals as well. It’s a different feel for Muse, but I commend them for going this direction and allowing Wolstenholme to take the lead for once.

This album is all over the place and I love when artists go bonkers. Seriously, tell me a band that sounds remotely similar because they clearly have different aspirations than Radiohead. When assembled, The 2nd Law is a giant experimentation of influences and in some ways that defines the album, which make it less about Muse. I would rank this album probably around the middle of their discography, but this could be just a platform for something far more grand.

Three Days Grace – Transit of Venus

Rating: A rock revival

I’ve been very adamant on this blog about musical creativity and novelty. In recent years, I never give one-dimensional bands a chance to have five-star products, and it doesn’t quantify just how far a band has come. With rock music as it is today, this could have very easily been another Life Starts Now. Instead, Three Days Grace went for a more articulated sound and released perhaps the best rock album of the year.

Lead singer Adam Gontier seems to have morphed his violent growl into a scintillating screech, which is evident from the first track on. The content remains unhampered from the band’s first three albums. To some, that could be its biggest detractor, but with songs such as “Give Me a Reason,” “Time That Remains,” and the grandiose finisher, “Unbreakable Heart,” there is plenty of heartfelt redemption. Also, Three Days Grace did a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Give into Me,” one of my favorite MJ songs. Totally did not see that coming.

Papa Roach – The Connection

Rating: This is the sound they’ve been looking for

This is much like Usher’s new album in the sense Papa Roach found the little musical nook where they belong. They are at their best with up-tempo power rock, something you can chant and fist-pump to. I have never been a huge Papa Roach fan with the exception of The Paramour Sessions, but this album has some grit to it. This is the early form of the band except perfectly evolved for 2012. With this whole dub-step phase and what Korn did with The Path to Totality, I figured there would be ridiculous rock/ dance elements in this album, but they stuck with good old energetic rock with keyboards, loops and textures. Nothing sounds forced and nothing sounds misplaced.

Tristan Prettyman – Cedar + Gold

Rating: Heart spiller of the year

I hope Jason Mraz never listens to this album. There are moments so painful that no man would be able to recover. For those who don’t know, Tristan Prettyman and Mraz were engaged and allegedly split up when Mraz became too immersed in his career. He talks about it in Love is a Four Letter Word and those songs are gracefully tragic. However, when discussing the end to the end of that relationship, Prettyman may have had the final and definitive say in Cedar + Gold. As a man, there were lines that ripped my insides to shreds. Her honesty was brutal, like this line from the antithesis to Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up,” “Glass Jar:”

“And now everything’s as if nothing ever happened
The version of your story isn’t really matching up
You gave up on us
You got the whole world watching and everyone’s attention, yeah
Turn your head and you never even mention us
You gave up on love”

I reserved this week to only feature the three albums above, but Cedar + Gold got to me more than any other album this year. “I Was Gonna Marry You,” “Say Anything,” and “Deepest Ocean Blue” brim with vulnerability and punctuate the core influences of this album. Maybe I knew the situation too well as I rooted for them. Maybe I fear that could happen in my own relationship. Maybe there’s something here worth learning.

Oct. 9

Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman: Ascension

Rating: Still killing it

Coheed and Cambria has to be one of the most underrated bands in recent years. They do music incredibly well. Each album is a 10-15 piece rock epic relating to lead singer Claudio Sanchez’s comic book series, the Armory Wars. This album, the first of a two-part compilation, follows the same formula as most of their records: An exquisite guitar intro, narrative songs that diverge from demonic to angelic and a handful of elongated tracks that all interweave and go by the same title (the five “Key Entity Extraction” tracks). There were no surprises, yet the band continue to serve its purpose with each record. Just listen to that juicy intro to “Domino the Destitute” above.

Ellie Goulding – Halcyon

Rating: She’s adorable, isn’t she?

The first time I heard “Lights,” I had to Soundhound it, which is a rare occurrence reserved for only songs I wish to hear again. While perusing my history on the app, I realized that I identified another song by this same Ellie Goulding months earlier. That is a one-time historical event that may never be replicated. Her first album, however, was just OK and I accepted that she may be a one-hit wonder.

She isn’t. Goulding’s sound teeters on beat-driven dance club hits and honest-to-goodness music. This is certainly the time period to emerge as that type of artist. The tracks themselves, when upbeat, are dynamic and formidable. It’s precious when you see her button-cuteness belt these songs out, such as this Beats commercial. The end of the album gets soft, concretely segmenting the heavy and light sides. It’s not a masterpiece of any kind, but there are plenty of single-caliber tracks you will inevitably hear later this year.

The Script – #3

Rating – I defend this album because few can

Does anyone in the States like The Script? Not just the singles on the radio, but truly like the band? Granted, they are an intriguing blend of of pop, rock and hip-hop and some of the non-singles aren’t mass material, but it shouldn’t take away from the quality of music. As a casual listener since their first album, I find The Script as exotically refreshing as Irish beer. It’s not my go-to, but a nice change of pace. After deconstructing their sound to a stale sediment for their second album, #3 is a triumphant return to their first-person sentimentality with a ruggedness that makes it safe for any male to enjoy.

“Hall of Fame” feat. will.i.am. is on the radio now and there’s a good chance you love it. It’s so triumphant. “If You Could See Me Now” is an uplifting downer where each singer offers a tribute to a lost loved one. I will bet money that “Give the Love Around” will be the next single from this album. Like it sounds, it has a reggaeish element encouraging changing the world. “Kaleidoscope” was undoubtedly inspired by U2. And other than “Glowing” and “No Words,” I can’t remember there being a song about relationships. It’s nice that they spread the themes out a little more this time.

Oct. 16

Jason Aldean – Night Train

Rating – Nothing personal, Mr. Aldean

Are there country music blogs out there, seriously? Can there be?

I tried. These posts, though only a couple of months old, have lacked certain genres and we have an open-arm policy. So a country album finally came out, I listened to it and have nothing relevant to say on the album itself. But there are issues that must be addressed for the sake of this blog’s future.

I don’t dislike country, but, like coffee or Japanese animation, it’s a hard sell if you aren’t already into it. Country is the homestyle cooking of the musical spectrum, reserved for people comfortably content with life relaxing on the porch after a good day of conventional labor. That’s cool. I prefer a half-pound greasy cheeseburger on my plate before I plop down and watch mindless television for six hours, further assisting the erosion of my brain. Something dynamic.

As far as country goes, Jason Aldean is a good artist. Of course, this comes from a guy who tastes no difference between a $10 or a $300 bottle of wine. This album could have been made 10 years ago and been on hold until today because all of it sounds the same. It does. I’m not making fun of anyone for liking country music, but can we all just admit it? Your cornbread crumble defense cannot hold up to truth.

Yet, we continue to buy the album. And I, void of shame, will continue to review it.

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