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The Ramparts Rebel Album Review February 22, 2017

Review by Nicole Seitz

Joey Affatato, senior music industry student and vice president of Blue Hawk Records, has been a part of the Monmouth University music scene since the beginning of his freshman year in the Fall of 2013. Now he has some amazing music to share with us on his album. Affatato’s first band in college was The Ramparts Rebel, which included himself and his uncle’s band, Crypt Keeper Five.

This album is self-titled The Ramparts Rebel, and if you have ever had a chance to see Joey Affatato play live, you will really be blown away about how some of your favorite hits are re-created on this album. As a frequent goer of Affatato’s shows and a friend, I was honestly surprised and super pumped by the artistic magic that I heard in the songs that I often hear live at his shows.

Affatato explains how he composes his music, “When writing an album, I usually start off by writing songs stripped down on my acoustic then eventually, I’ll come up with a cool hook or catchy melody and I’ll go off that,” Affatato states. “Then, I’ll demo the songs out until they sound good enough to bring to the studio to record.” This album definitely sounds like it was carefully put together and well-practiced.

The opening track begins with a Green Day-esque bass riff that just brings you back to 2005 and makes you feel so angsty in the best way possible. This whole track is just angry and honest which is very refreshing compared to the many happy-go-lucky love songs that some people may be used to now a days.

The second track on the album, “Faults,” is a go to song for Affatato when he plays out. The perfect example of a hooky, fun, but still angsty song. Sometimes you can’t help but scream the chorus at the top of your lungs and pronounce it ” MY FAAA-AA-WALT!”

The next few tracks have a much more serious vibe. You can tell from the feel of the songs and the lyrics that these are real stories and real life lessons put together into 3 minute ballads. When I first listened to the lyrics of “By My Side,” the third track on the album, I began to tear up because I felt like I could feel every emotion that was put into the song and it was just so relatable.

By track five, “Emily,” we get back into the classic Punk Rock feel with gang vocals screaming “Hey Emily!” and the imperfect guitar tone with upbeat drums and overall punk vibes.

Track six is the only acoustic song on the album. “Brings Me Down” was actually a song that Joey Affatato had recorded with Blue Hawk Records as a part of their fourth compilation album. On Blue Hawk Records he recorded this song full band with The Crypt Keeper Five. However, on this album, the acoustic rendition allows Affatato to really showcase some of his amazing vocal skills. During one of the last choruses, he decides to sing acapella and the tone of his voice is really beautiful and adds a great dynamic to the whole song.

The intro to track seven, “Honey, What Was Your Name?” is very reminiscent of a Blink-182 song later in their career. The vocals and over all vibes of the song remind me a little bit of John O’Callaghan, the lead singer of The Maine, and something off their album Pioneer.

Track eight, “Breakdown,” is one of the most powerful songs on the album, in sound and lyrics. This is a track I had never heard before from going to Joey Affatato’s shows, so it was a shock to hear something that just made me feel so much emotion and tension, in a good way. The song is mostly this blurred-sounding guitar and very clear vocals. This style really allows the listener to hear every word and really hear the story.

The last track is titled “Irene,” cleverly named after the hurricane back in August of 2011. The intro bass riff sounds just like you’re in a movie where a big storm is about to come, like the eerie calm before the storm. “Irene” is another crowd favorite at Affatato’s shows and the recreation of it on the record certainly does not disappoint.

Over all the album is AMAZING! Although Joey Affatato is primarily labeled as a “Punk Rock” artists, this album still finds a way to give you all types of sounds and feelings. From really edgy and angsty, to deep and meaningful.

The lyrics really tell a story. Affatato states “I’ll write lyrics and keep changing them until they’re the exact words I want people to hear when they listen to my music.” The words really do speak to you when you listen to the album. Every line has meaning and every song is another lesson learned. The greatest part about music is that it is a way to express ourselves creatively and Joey Affatato certainly does that.

The Ramparts Rebel is not Affatato’s only project. His new band The Carousers, who are signed to Blue Hawk Records, have been in the studio and are looking forward to dropping their new EP for us soon.

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Lamentable Tragedy – Titus Andronicus May 18, 2016

Filed under: CD Reviews — NVMP @ 11:28 PM
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A review by Jon Warhol
tlta

Online reviewers have been praising and glorifying the hell out of The Most Lamentable Tragedy as if it’s some grand philosophical statement that’s going to bring peace to mankind. They’re all wrong. Dissenting opinions should always be welcoming punk, so here’s mine.

Before calling me a hater, let’s get one thing straight: Titus Andronicus is one of my favorite bands and there are some really great parts to their 4th album: The Most Lamentable Tragedy (TMLT). However, TMLT is a 29-track 93-minute rock opera in 5 acts that suffers from some little problems which add up to one big problem: it’s just too much. The length, the number of tracks, the concept, the production, the weird parts, the loud parts, the silent parts. It’s just too damn much. Some tracks kick ass, but as a whole it falls flat.

Length: Too long. I own the album on CD and it spans 2 discs. I could dramatically improve it by halving the track list so it’ll fit onto just one. Disc 1 is mostly A-OK, but on disc 2 do we need the Gregorian chant praising Egyptian sun-god Ra? Or the choral version of “Auld Lang Syne”? Or the track called “7 Seconds” that’s just 7 seconds of silence? Or the closing track “A Moral”, an anti-climactic short drone? You get the point.

Lyrics and Vocals: References to classic literature and pop culture and a complicated story about a manic-depressive who meets his doppelgänger, goes through dream sequences and has an existential crisis…or something like that. It’s really hard to get the story simply from listening to the music. This is because most of the album is sung in a scream that’s exhausting, hard to interpret, and just a little too soft in the mix.

I totally get that this is punk rock and it’s supposed to be loud, emotional, confrontational, angsty, blah blah. It certainly achieves all those feelings. But if the lyrics are important and tell such a complicated story, why were they sung and recorded in a way that makes them hard to hear?

Part of me also feels that a 93 minute 5 act opera about one’s personal problems is a little self obsessed à la Roger Waters or Pete Townshend. But hey, I’m not the one with manic depression and it works for Patrick, so to each their own.

Production: Again, I understand punk is supposed to have an in-your-face quality, but listening through the whole thing feels like it was recorded and mixed quickly in one small room. There’s often so much guitar, bass and drums that most of the lyrical content and story gets lost in muddiness. Combined with TMLT’s length, the production and instrumentation really begins to sound the same after a while. You’ll get weary of riff after riff and more guitar and more guitar that by the time disc 2 rolls around, you’ll find yourself skipping tracks.

Things I liked: The band’s performance on TMLT is top-notch. Tight rhythms, powerful chord riffs and melodic guitar solos make parts of TMLT stand out as some of Titus’ strongest playing. There are times when the lo-fi, fast and angry production works well. Tracks 9 – 12 “I Lost My Mind (DJ)”, “Mr. E. Mann”, “Fired Up” and “Dimed Out” are the best on the whole album and would be an awesome EP if released on their own. While the album’s length and production made me miss some of the overall story, I respect that the band tried something bold and new. Titus Andronicus made a true artistic statement with TMLT. Whether or not this statement is realized will vary from listener to listener.

Get it! If you’re already a Titus Andronicus fan and like lengthy rock operas.

Don’t get it! If you’re not already fan. Start with their second album The Monitor. Or, watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKdWBpXlc6E from Titus’ YouTube channel. It’s the best 15 minutes from the whole album.

 

 

The Black Keys “Turn Blue” Review June 23, 2014

By Jon Warhol

Turn-Blue-Black-KeysTurn Blue is the eighth full-length album by the two piece blues-rock band from Akron, Ohio, The Black Keys. Can we even really call them a “blues-rock” band anymore? The band’s earlier albums were recorded in basements and abandoned rubber factories, and consisted of mostly one vocal, one drum and one guitar track of in-your-face, kick ass dirty blues riffs. Turn Blue sees the duo working in a studio with Danger Mouse as producer to make more groove oriented alt-rock tracks, showcasing lush melodies and a high production value. Doesn’t even sound like the same band, right?

That is a silly and rhetorical question; of course they are the same band, but their music has significantly evolved since their 2002 debut, The Big Come Up.  A better question to ask is whether or not this evolutionary leap in the band’s sound is in the right direction for both new and old fans. Although this is not the first time the band has worked with Danger Mouse, Turn Blue represents the biggest leap in the group’s sound.

In terms of track length and musical ambition, the seven minute opener “Weight of Love” is arguably the most epic song The Black Keys have ever recorded. Old and new fans will no doubt love the psychedelic atmosphere and three screaming guitar solos. “Awesome!” I thought after hearing track one, “I hope the rest of Turn Blue is this cool”. “Weight of Love” is an example of elaborate studio production done right, but the following track “In Time” feels over-produced, middle-of-the-road and boring in comparison.

Over-produced is a good way to describe most of Turn Blue. While I can appreciate The Black Key’s efforts to try new things search a more “evolved” sound, a lot of the album’s production becomes over-production when the extra bells, whistles, synthesizers and string sections don’t add anything to the songs that otherwise range from average to ok. The title track “Turn Blue” has an awesome slow, dark groove but is the strange electronic swooshing synth sound throughout really necessary? Probably not.

Besides the production, Turn Blue has an overall slow-to-moderate tempo that lacks the Oompfh! Pow! and the ballsy guitar and drum sound older fans are used to. Those who enjoyed Attack & Release and El Camino will no doubt fancy Turn Blue, which feels more like a sequel to the two mentioned Key’s albums that also have Danger Mouse’s production stink all over them.

Final verdict: it’s ok. If you’re a Black Keys fans who liked Thickfreakness, Rubber Factory and Magic Potion, you probably won’t be too into Turn Blue. In all fairness, a band’s sound must evolve over time; it would be very boring if a group created the same records over and over. I respect and understand why The Black Keys are changing and expanding their sound, but one must not go too far and alienate the fans who originally fell in love with them.

black-keys

 

The Mighty Fine – ‘Brothers and Smugglers’ Review March 9, 2014

By Angela Blasi 

The Mighty Fine, a four piece punk band from San Luis Obispo California, are slated to release their fourth full-length album March 4, 2014 titled Brothers and Smugglers via Creator-Destructor Records in vinyl, CD and digital formats.  This album was recorded throughout 2013 in North Hollywood, CA with Producer Kyle Black (Strung Out, Set Your Goals, Comeback Kid).
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From the opening track “Into the Clouds,” the album hits the ground running.  The guitar starts hurriedly strumming and by the time the bass drum kicks in, I found my head happily bobbing along with these unfamiliar sounds.  While it reminds me vocally of Sum 41 with a dash of NOFX, they hold their own remarkably well.  Each track seamlessly flows into one another with no shortage of catchy anthems.  The bass and drums lock into a solid rhythm with the momentum of a steam engine; a sound that will have crowds on their feet and moving all night long. If they’re this compelling on record, I can only imagine the feverish movement of their live show. The music has heart, diversity and great melodies over top, keeping each song distinct in sound but refreshingly different from the last.  I have never listened to them before, but here the album plays and I have yet to change a song.  Brothers and Smugglers is definitely a solid album from start to finish where no song requires skipping.  Personal favorites include “Way Too Fast” for its musical diversity and the opening to “Trade Brigade,” as it sneers with the attitude I have long missed from the punk rock of the last few years.  They will be touring parts of California throughout March and April in support of the Ataris, Heartsounds, and others. Check out dates below.

‘Brothers and Smugglers’ Tracklisting
1) Into the Clouds
2) Break The Tide
3) Bad Form
4) Snake Skin
5) Palindrome
6) Way Too Fast
7) Trade Brigade
8) Calypso
9) Who’s To Know
10) Daphne 

Upcoming shows:
Mar 02        Strummer’s w/ THE ATARIS & Versus The World        Fresno, CA
Mar 03        SLO Brew w/ THE ATARIS & Versus The World  San Luis Obispo, CA
Mar 07        Thee Parkside w/ Heartsounds +more     San Francisco, CA
Mar 08        Luigi’s Fungarden w/ Heartsounds +more         Sacramento, CA
Apr 03         SLO DIY w/ Heartsounds +more tba        San Luis Obispo, CA
Apr 04         VLHS w/ Heartsounds +more Pomona, CA         Tickets
Apr 05         Til-Two Club w/ Heartsounds +more        San Diego, CA
Apr 06         Redwood Bar w/ Heartsounds +more tba         Los Angeles, CA

 

A Little Crazy by Spinn February 3, 2014

Filed under: CD Reviews,New Music — NVMP @ 11:11 PM
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Album review by Jon Warhol
Spinn

Consisting mostly of Monmouth University alumni and managed by a Monmouth alum, Spinn is a New Jersey based rock/pop turned alternative country group whose second full-length release, A Little Crazy, is an easy to listen to collection of tunes with some very solid and catchy melodies/compositions.

By no means are these talented ladies amateurs – Spinn has been around since 2006, has played many shows in the NY/NJ area, and released two full-length albums and an EP. One thing that caught my eye from their bios is that besides love, pain, trust, confusion and good friends, they cite tequila as a source of inspiration. After listening, it’s no wonder I can see most of these songs as suitable background music to a bar scene in a movie. Let’s begin…

A Little Crazy, track by track

1. “Quicksand” – A solid opening track that will give you a good idea of what’s to come. After listening a few times, I have come to appreciate how this track wastes no time; it jumps right into the chorus and takes you on a ride through a powerful chord-riff and clear backing vocals. The lead vocal is confident and reminiscent of Heart’s Wilson sisters. 

2. “Regret on the Rocks” – A little less in-your-face rocking sound, but nonetheless a catchy melody that I could hear playing in the background of a bar. Strong use of lead guitar fills the gap between verses. Musically speaking, the song has a chord structure that I swear I’ve heard somewhere before but can’t really place…and in no way is that a bad thing. “Regret on the Rocks” keeps the listener interested with different sections and melodic backing vocals.

3. “Heartbreak” – There’s nothing better than chunky distorted chords and a driving rhythm! Three songs in, this is the shortest song on the album but it packs the most punch. The lyrical hook of “Heartbreak” was catchy enough to have me humming along on first listen. If there is anything missing from this track, I feel it needs a short but dirty guitar solo somewhere to break up the structure and feel of the song.

4. “So Hurtful” – Halfway through the album and it’s time to get a little emotional. The lyrics are obviously written by someone who has been “done wrong” as they say. Instrumentally speaking, this song introduces a small, but intelligently placed string section to add to the mise en scene and feel of this track. Spinn’s talent for harmonies definitely can be heard here.  

Spinnn

Left to Right – Megan Battaglia, Stephanie Spinner and Cheryl Lynn Spinner

5. “Addicted” – Just like “Quicksand,” this track starts off the second half of A Little Crazy with power chords that don’t waste any time making their point. I feel this song makes the best use of dynamics on the album – the loud parts are loud, the quiet parts are quiet. The lead guitar fills between verses have great tone, but I feel that a powerful song like this should feature a quick, meaningful instrumental solo. Don’t be shy to play more notes, lead guitarist!

6. “A Little Crazy” – Before listening, my expectations for this song were high, as they are for any title track on an album.  This is a solid piece that wouldn’t seem out-of-place among the most popular country rock songs. The vocal hook stays with you like something from Sheryl Crow or Shania Twain.

7. “Goodbye Missouri” – This is my personal favorite. As one of the more mellow selections from this album, the lyrics tell a story, the harmonies are on point and the chorus is the catchiest I’ve heard yet! This song is a good example of Spinn putting to use their talent for flowing melodies and compositions.

8. “Shine” – Spinn closes with arguably the poppiest song on the album. Once again, they stick to their verse-chorus-verse-chorus formula to deliver a catchy tune that is liable to be stuck in your head.

Whether Spinn feels like rocking out or playing unplugged, they do so in a consistent way from track to track that will definitely resonate with fans of Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow, Heart and the Gin Blossoms. The production quality of the album is very good; sounds professional enough to blend in perfectly with 90’s rock or on the country charts. The lead and backing vocals steadily deliver strong female leads, harmonies and lyrical storytelling from song to song. Spinn’s talent for catchy melodies connects the most in songs like “Quicksand,” “Goodbye Missouri” and “Shine”. The group is obviously adept at lyrical and melodic composition. Who would I recommend A Little Crazy to? Any of my friends who appreciate the talents of groups like the Dixie Chicks, Ray Lamontagne, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and other bands of the genre. Although A Little Crazy sticks to a certain formula and style, it does so very well. If Spinn keeps releasing recordings along the likes of A Little Crazy, I believe they will find even greater success, recognition and airplay.

Check out Spinn
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Free Reign: Clinic Holds the Reins May 28, 2013

Filed under: CD Reviews — NVMP @ 9:04 PM
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Review by Hoverbee

Clinic--Free-Reign-album-cover

In what seems like another lifetime, while record shopping, I was mesmerized by the music being pumped out of the record shop’s speakers.  It grabbed me and brought me on a curious journey before setting me back down on earth.  Entranced, I wandered to the clerk to inquire “Who is this band?”  “Clinic,” he said.

I bought the album Walking With Thee on the spot.  I took it home and played it until I knew every note and had discovered all of its hidden secrets.  After much consideration of a friend’s upcoming birthday, I was convinced this album would be the perfect gift and had been prepared for the album to simply blow her mind.  I did not receive the reaction I expected.  “Every song on the album sounds the same.”  Oh, how I was plagued by this wretched way of thinking!  The beauty of Clinic is their ability the create variations on a theme.  The influence of experimental jam sessions, psychedelia and jazz in the music is what many listeners find attractive.  Look at “Echoes” from Pink Floyd’s Meddle which is essentially one long song that comprises the entire second side of a vinyl record.  Some of us don’t mind if an album sounds like one long song.

On Clinic’s seventh studio album Free Reign, songs like “Seamless Boogie Woogie BBC 10pm (rpt),” “Miss You,” “King Kong” and “You” embody this idea of musical freedom and the spirit of exploration.  The prominently featured wah-wah pedal of 2010’s Bubblegum, a departure from their original sound, is all but gone except for the track “Cosmic Radiation.”  It seems that while Clinic has abandoned their previous attempt to assuage the critics and change their sound in favor of what they do best and what some of us truly love about them, they have not lost the courage to experiment with the music.  Pshaw to those that say Clinic are trapped or tied to a sound and have become stagnant.  Clinic has instead achieved an equilibrium performing a balancing act by managing to remain experimental yet maintain their definitive sound.

For those fans who insist that Free Reign apparently still lacks the gritty raw energy that Clinic creates so well there is Free Reign II, a mix of the album by Daniel Lopatin (a.ka. Oneohtrix Point Never.)  Either way, I’m still as mesmerized and entranced as that day long ago in that record shop.

 

Alkaline Trio : My Shame is True May 5, 2013

Filed under: CD Reviews — NVMP @ 10:51 PM
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An Album Review by Alexander ‘Stigz’ Castiglione

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The 2013 release My Shame Is True by Chicago triad Alkaline Trio has nothing to be ashamed of.  Delivering a taste of days past; steeped in bitter emotion and new-age angst, this release gives die-hard Alkaline fans the flavor of the kick ass albums of yesteryear.

Frankly this album is broken up into only two categories tracks I like, and track I love.  Bringing back the upbeat yet aggressive pseudo-punk sound that I fell in love with many moons ago, this EP opens up with a foot-tapping, head bopping track, “She Lied to the FBI.”  From that point on in, I rarely found myself eyeballing the skip track button, and really started to get into the album when I heard “Kiss You to Death,” a song reminiscent of some of my favorite classics – “This Could Be Love” and “Private Eye” : Vaguely romantic and slightly disturbing lyrically, driving and warming melodically.

From there I got to a collaboration I really was looking forward to on “I, Pessimist” – a collabo with counter-culture-centric, post-punk front man Tim McIlrath of Rise Against.  However, I do wish it was longer than two minutes and change, as their call-and-answer vocal tactics and aggressive riffs I hoped would’ve ran out for longer.  From there is has some pretty solid tracks, closing with one of the best of the album, in my opinion – “Pocket Knife.”  This jam echoes the sound of albums past, namely Maybe I’ll Catch Fire with hints of Crimson.

All in all, their best release in years – which isn’t saying much if you gave a listen to Agony & Irony – not their best release by any stretch – and Damnesia ­– which only had a couple originals and was comprised mostly of re-cuts of old hits; making it a not-quite greatest hits album.  Regardless, if you grew up on staples like Goddamit and Maybe I’ll Catch Fire – I’d say go scoop up this release ASAP.  Is it the same vibe as earlier work?  Somewhat, but all acts mature, some in ways we like, and some we don’t.  One noteworthy “evolution” if you will, is bringing God into their lyrics.  Hey, whatever helps you sleep at night, I say, but this writer hopes we don’t go off the Jesus freak deep end and release an album like Brand New’s The God and The Devil are Raging Inside of Me.

That being said, the album is taking steps back into the right direction – that is the road which hooked thousands of fans like me with their simplistic song structure, introspective and damaged lyrics, and unpolished yet oh-so-catchy hooks.  Check it out, nonetheless.