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Album Reviews

Four: One Direction
★★★★☆
Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Vol. 1

The hit sensational boy band One Direction has done it again but with a more explosive bang. They released their fourth studio album, FOUR, on November 17. FOUR is they’re newest album that will leave you in a daze because it displays that raw talent of this band. This album is by far one of their best produced yet. One Direction is not the same band that debuted back in 2010. It’s because of them being able to produce songs that have phenomenally great catchy hooks, great instrumentals and roaring beats, that their success in the music industry is sky rocketing. This album is proof that the sound of One Direction is changing for the better. FOUR has had successful charting on a variety of charts. Number one on the Australian Albums ARIA chart, the Dutch Albums MegaCharts chart, Irish Albums IRMA chart and New Zealand Albums Record Music NZ chart. It offers upbeat, uplifting, high spirited and cheery types of sounds; it’s definitely a groundbreaking pop album. The each song on the album features amazing, beautiful and heartfelt lyrics. Musically and lyrically, One Direction shows a lot of maturity in this album. My favorite is the hit single, “Steal My Girl.” I think it’s the best track on the album. It’s a great piano-driven rock song with soaring vocals. This upbeat and catchy track displays electrifying instrumental play. I love how the song opens up with a rising piano piece. The piano throughout the song is what gave that feel good vibe. I can honestly say that I keep this track on repeat when I driving or just walking around. You can’t help but to want to sing along “Everybody wanna to steal my girl, everybody wanna take heart away. Couple billion in the whole wide world, find another one cause she belongs to me.” The song has had a lot of success charting that it peaked number one on two different charts, the Demark Tracklisten chart and the Greece Digital Songs Chart. “Fireproof” is one of those soul grabber songs that will leave tears rolling down your face. I loved the vocals on each of their solos. This song has the 1970s written all of it. The sound of this song, reminds of classic rock from the era. Some might say that they sound like the rock band Fleetwood Mac in “Fireproof.” For the song “Night Changes” they sort of steer away from pop and move more towards R&B. The song has that very mellow soothing relaxing beat. The simplicity of the relaxing sound, along with the heart-driven vocals will blow you away. I really like the harmony on this song and you can feel their passion. I’m not a huge fan of 1D but these are phenomenal. I truly recommend this album to people who are not just fans but people who are looking for music with a great sound.
Review written by: Alan Taylor

People Keep Talking: Hoodie Allen
★★★★☆
Four by One Direction

Not many artists have the opportunity to do the exact music they want but Hoodie Allen is one of the exceptions. He isn’t associated with a record label but you can’t even tell, thanks to the honest raps and great production. Like Macklemore, Hoodie Allen is also part of the wave of artists leading successful careers without the help of a major label. He has come very far in the past few years and has quite the fan following known as the Hoodie Mob. His first mix-tape was released in the late 2000’s, it’s now been two years since his first album All-American and breakout hit “No Interruption.” He seems to have progressed even more since his Crew Cuts mixtape and delightful surprise acoustic album. With his sophomore album, People Keep Talking you really get to hear some of the best music Hoodie Allen has ever created. Instead of trying to make an album of hits he can tries to connect with his fans. You get the chance to really listen to his journey and his struggle with finding success, which can be heard with album opener “100 Percent of Something.” With “100 Percent of Something” he reflects on his last major relationship while also discussing the good things in life. The message of carrying on and moving forward continues with one of the album stand outs “People Keep Talking.” “People Keep Talking” is relatable yet fun to listen with its hilarious clips of a fan and a record company spokesperson. Throughout the album the party side of Hoodie comes out but not in a club ready. Across the board the songs are much more complex than with previous releases. He show’s that it’s really about loving life, especially in potential single “Won’t Mind.” “Won’t Mind” was one that I had a hard time getting out of my head. When it comes to catchiness every song manages to hook you in some way. “All About It” featuring Ed Sheeran which, is his next single is a great jam that might just be the song that helps introduce him to even bigger audience. Alex Wiley, and MAX also make guest appearances that help to add even more to an already great production. He is clearly building his audience by creating music that focuses on connecting with his fans while also poising himself for top 40 success. Although Hoodie Allen is technically a rapper, this album presents him as more of a pop artist that does some rapping. His audience is most definitely for twenty-something’s and females yet he creates something many people can relate and connect with. The album has many influences whether it’s R&B, Pop, Rock, or even the Reggae that is heard on the spectacular “Movie.” On People Keep Talking there are songs to party to, songs to make you think, songs about heartbreak, and many personal and honest thoughts. Hoodie Allen has crafted an honest, fun, pop, rap album that delivers a personal connection and manages to show an artist at their artistic best.
Review written by: Brandon Kasprzyk

Black Veil Brides: Black Veil Brides
★★★☆☆

Blackout

I know quite a few people that actively hate Black Veil Brides. Maybe it’s because of their sound, most likely it’s because they wear makeup, but I’ve personally never had an issue with them. To be honest, I thought Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones was one of the best albums of 2013. When I sat down to listen to the bands’ recent self-titled release, however, things… changed for me. Their fourth album (which I will refer to as IV from now on) is far from being a bad album, don’t get me wrong. I just found more issues with it than I would have liked. Where Wretched and Divine was a masterful story told through killer tracks and a continuous narrative between songs, IV felt very flat to me. BVB’s instrumentals (which have never been lacking) show leagues of development on this record, and in a truly metal way. However, singer Andy Biersack’s took away the magic for me. Songs like “Heart of Fire” and “Faithless” definitely have the power of the groove, with tasty riffs, pulse-pounding drums, and blistering solos. But then Biersack starts singing. And you ask yourself “Is this a metal album or was that just the beginning of the track?” That’s how I felt. BVB has always blurred the lines between metal and generic, “emo” sounding rock, but this album leads you to believe it’s going to stick to metal and then it lets you down. There are definitely good tracks here though, that fit much better with BVB’s established style, like the almost 80’s-esque power ballad “Goodbye Agony” and my personal favorite, the heavy but melodious “Stolen Omen”. It seems to me that BVB hasn’t really settled into the proper niche yet, and this album was an effort to try something else out, which there is absolutely no problem with (it worked out quite well for Avenged Sevenfold right?). I simply don’t think Biersack has the right voice for the classic rock/classic metal vibe they were going for. Check this out for sure, whether you’re a die-hard BVB fan or not, because hey, it could make a fan out of you and lead in the right direction (towards their previous albums).
Review written by: Jake Trask

Sonic Highways: Foo Fighters
★★★★☆

Blackout

Nirvana was a huge rock band that, in the eyes of many, could not continue After the death of Kurt Cobain; the world and all who loved him were shocked. Nirvana's drummer, Dave Grohl, felt that he needed to continue their music journey. In 1994, all by himself, Dave Grohl recorded the Foo Fighters first mixtape. Soon after recording he recruited bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith, both formerly of Sunny Day Real Estate, as well as fellow Nirvana touring bandmate Pat Smear as guitarist to complete the lineup. Soon after being recruited William Goldsmith was replaced by Taylor Hawkins. One hit after the other, the world watched as the Foo Fighters got bigger and bigger. With the release of 2011's Wasting Light fans wanted more, the question is "did Sonic Highways deliver?" Well kinda. Sonic Highways has an interesting idea behind it; the foo fighters went all across America and recorded in the major music cities. Dave himself would interview major music leaders and those interviews would be the inspiration for the lyrics of sonic highways. In my opinion it was genius, and in some of the songs, most notably Something From Nothing, it works. From Chicago blues to Nashville country, the fighters cover it all, and boy did they do it great. By far the best track of the album is the Fest and the Famine, which has blues undertones with the Foo's Classic guitar shredding sound. Sonic Highways is a wonderful album that unlike today's music has a soul. It is profoundly beautiful and deserves a listen. 4 of 5. I also recommend the HBO documentary series Sonic Highways, which chronicles the making of the album.
Review written by: Isaac Smith

As Blood Runs Black: Ground Zero
★★★☆☆

As blood Runs black

I love black-death metal, and grind core but sometimes its difficult to discern what exactly the vocalist is saying. Luckily in the newest release by ABRB you can tell exactly what is being sung. The lyrics are clear and the musicianship is organized and crisp. Don’t worry though; the band has not lost any of the distinct brutality that they are known for. I would argue that this is one of the best heavy albums to come out this year. Being as an ocean, and thy art is murder have also dropped excellent records. As always with as blood runs black you will be punched square in the gut and encouraged to jump in the pit with your fellow metal-heads. Id there is anything negative to be said the attempts at acoustic tracks fall way short. It just isn’t their strong suit, something they should stray from in future releases.
Review written by: Kat Sapetko

Runaways: Work Drugs
★★★★★

work drugs

“Runaways” is the ninth album by the pop/indie band Work Drugs. It’s an album full of lyrics about leaving, starting over, moving on and finding something better. It’s meant for people who fall in the age group of 17-24 years old. This was the first album I heard from the band and I can honestly say that I am impressed. They have an original sound that you can hear throughout the album, especially, in songs like “Runaways”, “Free to Roam”, and “Double Life”. These all have an electronic pop beat that pulls you in from the very beginning. This kind of sound can also be heard in their track “Heatwave”, which is one of my favorites on the album. In the songs “Lost Weekend”, “Fragile Creatures”, and “Predictable Moment” you can still catch their electric pop tune, but with a hint of jazz that is such a great surprise you will instantly love the song. They are not afraid to be adventurous with their sound, which is a smooth, vintage pop music, the kind of pop music that’s hard to find today. If I had to guess a band that influenced them I would have to say Fleetwood Mac. They also have a lot in common with Foster the People. This similarity can be heard in the song “The Moment”. Their track “Saved by the Bell” makes me think that if there was pop music in the fifties this would be it. WD seem to enjoy taking chances in their music, especially with songs like “Man of War”, which is about growing up and fame, and “Temporary Life Line”. The last track of the album “Show and Tell” seems to pull everything I have talked about together; the jazz and Fleetwood influences and their vintage sound. This album is one of the best albums I have had the pleasure to listen to in a while. If you have never heard of Wok Drugs this album will make you a hardcore fan. I gave it 5/5.
Review written by: Brianna Milon

White Noise: PVRIS
★★★★★

prince

Breakthrough alternative synthrock band PVRIS released their debut album “White Noise” on November 4th. Packed full of ground-shaking, head-banging songs, this album is sure to make you a diehard fan. Lead singer Lynn Gunn, guitarist Alex Babinski and bassist Brian MacDonald have established themselves as a band to be reckoned with. Even though this is PVRIS’ first time out of the gate, I know this is only the beginning of their journey. The intensity and versatility of the album is what makes it stand out. Lead single “Smoke” draws you in with heavy drums amid Gunn’s unbelievable vocals. The bass and guitar pick up during the chorus, making for a captivating, commanding beat. Gunn’s voice pierces during the bridge, sonically building against synth effects. Heated track “My House” showcases the synthrock side of the band. Chorus lyric “It’s my soul; it isn’t yours anymore” shouts revenge and regret. The bridge left me speechless as drums and synth build to unreal levels. Gunn lets out her emotions through raw, raspy screams that make you feel her rage. “Ghosts,” “Fire,” and “Let Them In” highlight Gunn’s range. She mixes falsetto with hardcore shouting that sounds like no other alternative singer in the business. In a split second, Gunn is able to transfer from soft, smooth verses to ear-shattering choruses with the ideal amount of force. She’s giving the top male alternative singers a run for their money as a breakthrough vocalist. PVRIS is not a one-trick-pony band. Their talent does not stop at hard alternative musicality and vocals. “White Noise” is a rare due to its marriage of synth and rock. Instead of letting limits define style, PVRIS fearlessly experiments through collaboration of synthesizers and intense alternative instrumentals. Tracks like “White Noise” and “Mirrors” rely on synth and keyboard to drive the songs in a syncopated way. The effects add a mystical, surreal edge, giving alternative music a new identity. My favorite song is “St. Patrick”, an epic mix that is hard-hitting yet beautiful. Complex drum phrases, electric guitar runs and synth breakdowns create a euphoric sound from another universe. Gunn preaches passion-laced lyrics through sound barrier-breaking runs and gritty screams without hesitation. PVRIS’ album also includes slow tempo songs with a twist. “Holy” is a lyrical wonder that lets Gunn’s vocals take the lead in rap-like verses and belting choruses. “Eyelids” is a lyrically delicate ballad unlike any other. Gunn beautifully sings her heart out about inevitable goodbyes. Her heartbreak is heard in lingering verses and the use of a personal voicemail adds an authenticity beyond words. PVRIS is the band to keep on your radar. Gunn has an indescribable, raw signature voice backed by equally talented band mates. Their album is versatile, dominant, and words cannot serve it justice. It is impossible to stop listening one you’re hooked, but it’s the best addiction. “White Noise” is an ultimate introduction to PVRIS’ sound and my new all time favorite album.
Review written by: Madison Hornung

Black Star Elephant: Nico and Vinz
★★★★☆

Black Star Elephant

The hit sensational Norwegian duo of Kahouly “Nico” Nicolay and Vincent “Vinz” Dery, Nico & Vinz has taken over the music industry by storm. Nico & Vinz released their second studio album, Black Star Elephant, back in October. Black Star Elephant first released in Australia on September 14 and then was released in the United States on October 14. This album is a lot better than their first album, The Magic Soup and the Bittersweet Faces. Black Star Elephant is proof enough that Nico & Vinz are at the highest point in the music career. Every song on this album has that nice smooth vibe and to put the cherry on the top, Nico’s and Vinz’s vocals. They surely put a lot of soul into this album. The fact that Black Star Elephant doesn’t have that “Parental Advisory” warning attached is an A-plus in my book. This album isn’t like the typically hip hop songs, where’s there obsessive profanity; it’s like music artist don’t know how to make music with being profane or vulgar. For me it’s rare that I find a whole album good because I usually don’t. But these guys have done what many artist couldn’t do; produce an album full of powerful and great beats. My two favorite songs off of this album is “Am I Wrong” and “In Your Arms,” but my number one favorite out of the two is “In Your Arms.” In both of these upbeat catchy singles, Nico & Vinz really push their vocals. “Am I Wrong,” the upbeat summer hit, has that goodie, goodie feeling that makes you makes smile and sing when you’re down. It’s hard to listen to the song and not sing the verse, “Am I Wrong for thinking that we could be something for real?” “In Your Arms,” a one of a kind song and the best song on the album is a great catchy, upbeat, and uplifting song that is about never giving up. I can’t help but to keep pushing the replay button and singing “When I lay down in your arms,” with Nico & Vinz. Black Star Elephant gets a huge standing ovation from me. If Nico & Vinz continue to produce hit singles like “Am I Wrong” and “In Your Arms,” I think have a successful music career.
Review written by: Alan Taylor

Heart on my Sleeve: Mary Lambert
★★★★★

Heart on my Sleeve Mary Lambert
The LGBTQAAP community has a new role model in the form of Mary Lambert. Lambert, an outspoken lesbian, has blown expectations to hell with her debut full length released on Capital records. “Heart on my sleeve” is an unapologetic collection of love songs that will make you misty eyed , and jams that praise women of all sizes and encourage self-love and body positivity. The highlights of the album include the semi-acoustic track and name sake of the album, heart on my sleeve. Let me be, one hand, finding one hand. “Two hearts making amends with themselves at their end cause I'm not sure who I was before but the day I saw you at your door you opened up the things I shut, the things I shut.” Critics, myself included, have hailed her cover of Rick Springfield’s classic song Jessie’s Girl. Unlike other artists she doesn’t change the gender of the people in the song. She is intentionally saying her guy friend Jessie is dating the woman that she is in love with. People in the LQBTQAAP, and people who aren’t, are giving Mary kudos for being a kick-ass woman who loves her body and wants others to do the same. Lambert, sporting bright red lipstick and outfits that compliments her curves appears just as vivacious as her musical style.
Review written by: Kat Sapetko

.5- The Gray Chapter: Slipknot
★★★★☆

I went into this album with the complete wrong mentality. I thought that nothing about it would wow me or even remotely draw me in, and I would have sat and listened to an hour long album just to be left disappointed. I need to stop doing that. .5: The Gray Chapter was by far one of the best albums I’ve listened to this year. Slipknot is definitely alive and well, something I had serious concerns about after the death of founding bassist Paul Gray in 2010 and the departure of founding drummer Joey Jordison in late 2013. Despite these huge setbacks, the band still managed to deliver one of their most killer albums to date; a real slammer that keeps the classic sounds of Slipknot alive. The first track that really struck me was track 2, “Sarcastrophe”, which is preceded by the intro track “XIX”. The song starts off itself starts off with this really neat, almost Egyptian-sounding instrumental part that somehow manages to be both eerie and headbang-worthy at the same time (Well, I guess that’s something Slipknot have perfected by now). But seriously, everything in this song combines so well. Lead singer Corey Taylor can still deliver on the mic and the other 8 members (including the mysterious new drummer and bassist whose names the band has refused to release) all use their own unique talents to make the song a powerfully heavy one. “Lech” also delivers this same vibe; it’s a song heavily based in Slipknot’s customary electronic sampling mixed with more guitar overdrive than I feel like most amps can handle. “Nomadic” follows this same formula. One song that kind of surprised me, however, is “Goodbye”, a track that honestly seems more fitting for Taylors’ side project Stone Sour Even when the song picks up in tempo and ferocity; it still maintains a seemingly bluesy, sing-songy feel that isn’t usually captured by Slipknot (“Snuff” anyone?). There is a problem here though; I’m wondering if you can guess what it is yet? That’s right; I used the word formula earlier. As in, most of these songs seem the same. And not only that, they seem similar to other Slipknot tracks. Don’t get me wrong, what they do, they do well. But nothing really seems to change, you know? I guess that’s the biggest reservation I had about this album as a whole, but it’s definitely still a solid listen, especially if you’re someone that believes the loss of Gray and Jordison would have a significant impact on their sound.
Review written by: Jake Trask



Strong Museum of Play

Army