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Hunter Valentine: Collide and Conquer is a Gracefully Gritty and Poweful, Amplified Love Story February 15, 2013

Filed under: CD Reviews — NVMP @ 8:04 AM
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Review by Angela Blasi

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Hunter Valentine have been at this game for nearly a decade and have finally given their ever-growing fan base their third full length studio album to hold and cherish.  Collide and Conquer offers eleven tracks of the progressive alternative rock Hunter Valentine is gaining popularity for.  If you’re new to the group, I highly recommend Lessons from the Late Night as an introductory record with a follow-up of their latest rock morsel.

Upon first impression, I noticed opening track “Liar Liar” right away.  It hits you with a guitar riff that hooks you within the first five seconds.  By ten seconds in, the gravel of singer Kiyomi McCloskey drops, begging of a broken promise. All the while, the listener is slowly becoming hooked by the growing integrity of the kick drum.  Definitely a good way to supercharge anyone who’s excited to dive into this album.

The album as a whole twists and turns, varying from heavy distortion to up-tempo pop hooks and melodies.  Some of the songs, such as “Lonely Crusade,” “Crying” and “The Great Canadian Love Song” left me with a serious impression of unrequited love.  When she sings she feels like crying tonight,  I imagine we all just have nights where we feel like sobbing.  I’ve never been the type to enjoy the sounds of emo boys whining over past lovers, but her admission of wanting to cry manages to avoid any whining and actually feels like that relationship many of us have had where one person thinks things are great and the other person has rehearsed break up speeches for 3 days.  “This Bull Rides Tonight” opened up with Somer Bingham performing a melodic keyboard intro but was probably my least favorite part off the record.  It was slow and the music did not stand out as anything attention grabbing as I had experienced on earlier tracks.  However, that doesn’t mean the song is garbage all together.  This would be the part in the set where the crowd lends their voice and joins in a choral sing-a-long, spilling their collective hearts on the floor.

On the contrary, we have songs like “Gates of Hell,” “Priscilla,” “Ted’s Collision” and “Little Curse (Shit Happens)” which bring a different momentum to the music.  I enjoyed the guitar work on “Little Curse (Shit Happens)” coupled with a few throaty screams in the verses.  Laura Petracca’s bass line adds a tight, punchy edge to this song that is so important in communicating the sentiment screaming over top.

“The Pulse” was a particular favorite off this record.  It opened with minor tones and an ominous set of lyrics depicting a future waking up beside a deceitful lover and being awfully bitter about it.  As I listened, I began to imagine a woman scorned but behind her is hell-fire  not a river of sadness, as the song titles might have you believe.  “The Pulse” also threw me for a loop as it crescendos into a chorus that has a funkier groove, only to slip quietly back into a brooding state.  I also noticed when Kiyomi belts, “I’m gonna catch you,” her pledge of getting even one day, the music takes on a major tonality.  As a result, it very creatively stays within the theme of the song; angry at being burned but not getting mad, just getting even with all sorts of confidence.

But it seems to be a recurring theme with this album; dark, distorted tones and heavy drums segue into a powerful pop-type of explosion.  It threw me at first, expecting the heaviness of the verse to get even thicker come chorus time, but this routinely was not the case on Collide and Conquer.  Each song was musically interesting and different from the last track before it.  My only qualm with this piece would be closing track “The Great Canadian Love Song.”  The song states, “it’s just another love song/but it’s mine” and is most certainly a longing ballad.  For what it is, it’s nicely executed, just not my cup of tea.  But more importantly, I felt the album could have closed stronger.  For all the listener goes through lyrically as he or she ventures through the tribulations of the heart, I was left wanting something more from the closing seconds of this story.  I would have liked to have ended on the classic high note, but I do appreciate the lyrical honesty of the artist.  Maybe they chose to close out the album with that track because this love story hasn’t reached a high note yet.  Perfect for anyone bitter about love this upcoming Valentine’s Day.

It’s all in how you look at it.

 

Art History by California Wives September 19, 2012

Filed under: CD Reviews — NVMP @ 7:54 PM
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Review by Nicole Aimone
California Wives released their latest album Art History on September 4, 2012.  This album brings soft subtle and poppy vocals, signature alternative guitar rhythms and foot-tap inducing drum beats to the table, something the band has mastered by now.  They also have a circa 1980s vibe going for them with member Hans Michel on keyboard.  California Wives certainly hasn’t lost any of their synthesized pop meets The police sound that first appeared on 2009 release EL84.
Some of my favorite tracks from Art History are “Blood Red Youth” and “Marianne.”   The thing that drew me to these songs is that they have both great guitar and lyric hooks.  I found myself singing them in the shower, which forced me to listen to the album even more because, I mean who wants to have a song stuck in their head all day?  I’m sure every listener will catch themselves doing the same thing when they hear this album.  I’m warning you now, this album is addictive.
Want to see California wives live and in the flesh?  Well here are your chances!
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Southern Air by Yellowcard August 25, 2012

Filed under: CD Reviews — NVMP @ 3:43 PM
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Review by Nicole Aimone

Yellowcard is back with their 8th album Southern Air, which was released August 14, 2012.  This album is classic Yellowcard, with the punky drum beats, rough vocals, meaningful lyrics and of course the guitar riffs that just somehow mesh perfectly with the other components.

Although this album doesn’t rock  as hard as Yellowcard’s earlier albums, such as Paper Walls, it does rock.  I mean, you can’t expect anything but a rockin’ album from these guys.  It has a pop-punk feel just like their 2003 release Ocean Avenue.

Southern Air is quickly dethroning Ocean Avenue as my favorite album, with songs like their latest single “Here I Am Alive” and “Always Summer.”   My favorite songs on the album have to be “Ten” and “Here I Am Alive”.  They both have the emotional value in the lyrics that you can find in any Yellowcard song, and to me that is one of the band’s greatest qualities.  The emotional value of the band doesn’t stop with just those two songs; the whole album provides fans and even first time listeners with a very personal insight to their lives.

All in all, Yellowcard has done a fantastic job once again, and I’m sure that I am not the only fan that does a little happy dance on the inside when a song from the album comes up on my shuffle.

The band will be touring in Asia, down under in Australia, Brazil and then back to the United States.  Check out their US tour dates below and visit http://www.yellowcardrock.com/

  Yellowcard On Tour

Nov 2 Las Vegas, NV Hard Rock Hotel & Casino @ Vinyl
Nov 3 Los Angeles, CA House of Blues – LA
Nov 5 Albuquerque, NM Sunshine Theatre
Nov 6 Dallas, TX House of Blues
Nov 7 Austin, TX Emo’s East
Nov 9 Tampa, FL Jannus Live!
Nov 10 Orlando, FL House of Blues, Orlando
Nov 12 Atlanta, GA Masquerade
Nov 13 Charlotte, NC The Fillmore Charlotte
Nov 15 Baltimore, MD Ram’s Head Live
Nov 16 Philadelphia, PA The Electric Factory
Nov 17 New York, NY Best Buy Theatre
Nov 18 Boston, MA House of Blues
Nov 20 Cleveland, OH House of Blues
Nov 21 Detroit, MI St. Andrews Hall
Nov 23 Chicago, IL House of Blues
Nov 24 Chicago, IL House of Blues
Nov 25 Sauget, IL Pop’s
Nov 27 Denver, CO The Summit Music Hall
Nov 28 Salt Lake City, UT The Complex, Rockwell
Nov 30 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore
Dec 1 Anaheim, CA House of Blues
Dec 2 San Diego, CA House Of Blues
 

Reel Big Fish Releases New Album With An Old Soul August 22, 2012

Filed under: CD Reviews — NVMP @ 8:33 PM
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Review by Angela Blasi

Reel Big Fish’s latest album, Candy Coated Fury out on Rock Ridge Music, has been hailed as a return to their earlier sound; complete with fun, frantic humorous energy.  Opening with “Everyone Else is an Asshole,” the band sets the precedent with a choir of voices chanting the song title for what will become 14 tracks of a great breakup album.  Highlighting the experience of a bad relationship with all its trials and tribulations, Reel Big Fish manages to capture the spirit of having loved someone so much you eventually hate them with the candid track “I Know You Too Well To Like You Anymore,”  featuring Julie Stoyer of the band Dick and Jane.  In four and a half minutes, Stoyer and Barrett exchange blows while telling a love story gone horrifyingly sour.  And what is Reel Big Fish without cover tunes?  For their 7th studio album they have chosen to cover The Wonder Stuff’s “Don’t Let Me Down Gently.”  Adding the classic RBF up tempo ska to this catchy track, it fits the album’s theme well, though stylistically hasn’t been altered very much.  However, I appreciate the second cover on Candy Coated Fury, “The Promise” originally recorded by When in Rome.  If you’ve ever seen the video of the original version, then you’ve basked in all its long-haired, synthesized glory.  Despite being a slower track, and thus the last one in the lineup, it maintains the bands sense of humor while still being relevant to the concept of the album.  It’s a great cover, as they manage to transform the song with a swaying reggae vibe.  From start to finish the 7th son of Reel Big Fish has successfully given fans the energetic brand of ska-ified sarcasm and hysterics that lured them in on Everything Sucks.  After a few listens through, you find yourself ready to sing along all the while wondering where this album was back when you needed it.
Two notable songs are “Hiding in my Headphones” and “Don’t Stop Skankin’.”  Admittedly, these weren’t my favorite at first play due to their repetitive nature.  I got kind of bored with them, until I got up and started moving a precursor for what could be a blast in a live performance.  The band will be touring Europe fall of 2012 and eventually Brazil and Argentina.  Regardless of when they make it to your town, this latest musical work is a definite must for all RBF fans and anyone who can appreciate the guts and glory of heart-break up.

 

I’m Alright if You’re Alright by The Helveticas June 28, 2012

Filed under: CD Reviews — NVMP @ 11:53 PM
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Review by Jake Davis

I’ve had the pleasure to watch and experience The Helveticas grow from a simple high-school band to something infinitely greater.  Their signature jazzy-indie sound has finally broken free of conventions, and has transcended into what can be called a tremendous step forward for this little band from Hartford, CT.  The true beauty of their music is how the songs are written.  Very rarely do you find a band where all members are at the same level instrumentally, and all three members are superb musicians.  All of their songs, especially the newest tracks on their debut album I’m Alright if You’re Alright, are one of the easiest set of tracks to jam to that I’ve ever heard.  For a band of high-schoolers to create a record where all songs stand independently, but also come together even greater is truly a marvel.  Even if you didn’t like the band when you first heard them, I implore you to go and give this new album a listen on their BandCamp.

Surprisingly, even their oldest tracks have been tightened and given a new sound, a greater sound.  Their jazz training can be heard in the best way, and every track is a wonder to listen to.  However, as most debut albums are, there are still imperfections.  With only one vocalist and almost no harmony, it’s easy to get a bit tired of the same vocalist and vocal stylings by the end of the album.  I hope for their next release, they decide to occasionally switch up vocalists or add more complex harmonies apart from the rare backing vocals on this album.  In that same vein, as a long-time listener, I was hoping for a few new tracks to supplement the plethora of older tunes that they’ve played for nearly two years now.  Of course, if this is your first time listening, then they’ll all seem quite awesome.  One of my favorite parts of the record is an instrumental track added to the beginning of “She Killed Me,” one of their oldest songs.  It truly showcases what I love best about these guys, great music that keeps evolving, getting better and tighter.  So again, listen to The Helveticas, it’s more than a pleasant surprise.

 

Keane, Strangeland May 23, 2012

Filed under: CD Reviews,New Music — NVMP @ 6:40 AM
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by Hoverbee
Dear Keane,

Come back to us, please; we need and miss you.  You captured our affections with 2004’s Hopes and Fears and reaffirmed our feelings for you with 2006’s Under the Iron Sea.  We forgive you for breaking our hearts with 2008’s Perfect Symmetry.  We heard the song “Clear Skies” on 2010’s EP Night Train and anticipated the rekindling of our love.  Your latest release, Strangeland, reminds us that if you love something, you should let it go and hope that one day it will come back to you.  Strangeland is an appropriate name for the album.  It’s a place we’ve never been and a place we do not wish to return.  Stylistically the album is a far cry from Perfect Symmetry and elicits memories of days gone by, but lacks the compassion and rawness of the bands first two albums.  It leaves us with an emotional void.  It’s as if they no longer really love us and are just sticking with us out of obligation.  They seem to be simply going through the motions leaving us with songs that are lifeless and boring.  Here we do not find the passion in vocals, production, and arrangement that we crave so badly.  We also long for the familiar vocal stylings of Tom Chaplin.  Chaplin’s voice has a different timbre and he sings much lower than his vocal range.  It makes us wonder if he spent a substantial amount of time locked in a closet with Brandon Flowers (not that we don’t love Mr. Flowers.)  We really do love you, Kean, but for now, we are letting you go because we can’t stand the pain.  We’ll hold our breath and wait for your return.

Sincerely,
Your Fans

 

Break Anchor’s Debut EP “Black Hearts & Blackouts” March 26, 2012


Review by Angela Blasi

Released March 20, 2012 on Paper + Plastick Records behold the debut EP from Break Anchor.  This pop-punk outfit channels the spirit of East Bay sounds from a scene gone by and is fronted by the well-known Jay Navarro (Suicide Machines and Hellmouth).  Comprised of his own angst and battles with the trials and tribulations of his life, this EP beautifully expresses his gritty, downtrodden yet resilient spirit.  The opening track “All I Have” had me hooked from the first line; its subtle-driving guitar riff building with choral vocals only to break into a hard, driving piece that never loses momentum.  Even lyrically, I enjoy the content as it reflects some of my own sentiments living in this Great Recession economy.  The vocals scream, “Everything is money!” while I envision myself signing this at high volumes in the summer sun; my own fuck you to the establishment.

Without hesitation, the second track “Can We Pretend” is focused and hard-hitting from the start.  Carried by the punchy bass progression, it’s a personal track that is easy to relate with.  It’s raw without being unclean, passionate without being overbearing.  There is a sense of belonging in these first two tracks, fantastically conveyed to the listener in a time when the definitions of success and identity are blurred.  This brings me to the last track, “Failure of Epic Proportions.”  “You try and convince me this is what I’ve been working for/ Time flies/ I don’t know, I work so much I don’t know you anymore/ Growing up makes us forget who we were.”  Simply stated yet poignant, Navarro’s lyrics easily bring life to the heart attack feeling of measuring one’s own failures and successes.  A slower track, this last song doesn’t lose focus of the other two, despite being a more emotionally charged piece.  This is definitely one of those songs to listen to when feeling particularly disenfranchised and disconnected from the well-to-do establishment, seemingly oppressing us all.  The song then ends with the calming serene sounds of ocean waves, as if to signify the finding of inner peace through the hell and turmoil that is self-discovery.

I’m excited to hear more from this band; their music is refreshing to hear.  They have met their goal in achieving a fresh sound that is in your face while bringing to life the influences of punk rock from past days.  From the first listen I was hooked and left wanting more.  The EP never compromises the heart of its members, giving the listener three tracks of unadulterated feelings, eloquently stated while being melodically raw with rich hooks and riffs.

Click here to listen to Black Hearts & Blackouts 

Break Anchor also recently debuted a music video for “A Failure of Epic Proportions,” watch below