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Album Reviews

Strange Desire: The Bleachers
★★★★☆

The Both

“I Wanna Get Better” is a song known by almost everyone in the country by now. If you were a fan of that, you’ll love this album. The Bleachers was put together by several people, including a member of the well-known band Fun. Their songs sound exactly like “I Wanna Get Better” but completely different at the same time. This is definitely a strange band that only certain people will enjoy. “Wild Heart” is the first track and there’s a reason for that; it is FULL of power. It has a “tinker” beat to it along with some great piano and a wonderful hook. It also has great dynamics and phenomenal transitions between verse and chorus. “Rollercoaster” is sure to be their next single. It’s a cute song about falling in love and all of the ups and downs it creates. It has a slow, quiet intro only to burst into a very energetic chorus. It has a unique sound alongside low vocals that give it a cool touch. Another thing I love about this song is that the sound transitions between old sounding pop punk and current pop. “Like a River Runs” is a favorite of mine. It has an old school heavy rock sound to it with heavy guitar riffs and drums. It also has a beautiful and quick chorus that goes right into the verse which builds anticipation. If you’re not a fan of these upbeat songs, the album also includes a few slower ones, “Wake Me,” “reckless Love,” “Take Me Away” and “Who I Want You To Love.” The Bleachers are a unique and upcoming band that is worth a listen. I recommend to anyone looking for a cool band that has a sound that can be described as a current Rusted Roots.
Review written by: Nikki Lawrence

Yes!: Jason Mraz
★★★★☆

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It’s hard not to find Jason Mraz’s work anything but enjoyable. His mellow yet soulful sound brings happiness to all that happen upon it. His songs are sweeter than sugar and the way he writes his lyrics about love make you feel as though he can see into your soul and summarize everything you have ever thought about love in the most beautiful way possible. Mraz has been charming the music industry with his work since his recognition in San Diego’s coffee house scene in the early 2000s with his acoustic guitar, soulful voice and a beautiful perspective on life and love. With his newest album release “Yes!” Mraz shows the world his talents as both a musician and a writer (not that the world needed any more proof, to be honest.) He sticks with the same sound he has had for over a decade for this album. There is not a lot of auto-tune or EDM in his songs; it is all Mraz’s voice, acoustic guitar and the occasional drum or piano. One of the first tracks on the album is titled “Love Someone” and it is a true Mraz hit; it is catchy yet calming, his voice is as soulful as ever and the way his voice and his acoustic guitar mesh make the song sound whimsical and passionate, much like it is when you love someone. A similar song to this is “Hello, You Beautiful Thing.” It has the same whimsical and mellow sound that is present on the rest of the tracks of the album. It is a beautiful and upbeat. If you are having a bad day where you need a song to really pick up your mood and make you feel like a million bucks, I suggest listening to this song. My favorite track on the album is “Long Drive.” It’s a soothing song in which Mraz sings about having a great night with someone he loves, so they decide to take a long way home to make the night go on longer. It starts out slow and then picks up the tempo to become an upbeat, mellow song about love. The song “Best Friend” is a slower song on the album that reminds me of something I would hear a couple have their first dance to at a wedding. Mraz talks about how he is lucky to be spending so much time with his best friend (who is also his love.) This track is the softest one on the album and I recommend it to anyone who wants their love to know how much they mean to them as both a lover and a best friend. Overall, “Yes!” is an album that will not disappoint Mraz’s fans, as all the songs are in his trademark mellow-acoustic style. I wish he would do something a little different in at least one of the tracks, like add in a piano or a violin sound to shake it up a bit. Other than that, Mraz’s album is soulful and simply beautiful. I recommend giving it a listen to if you have the chance!
Review written by: Kelly Kuehn

Fall for You: Leela James
★★★★★

Leela James, a well-known artist and songwriter that is not new to the world of blues, R&B, and soul music, finally released her fifth overall studio album, Fall for You. It has been two years since James released her fourth album Loving You More… In The Spirit Of Etta James. I personally think James is truly one of R&B’s most unrated shining stars in the world of R&B. James A lot of James’s music is influenced better all-time great singers, James Brown, Roberta Flack, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Gladys Knight, Mavis Staples, and Stevie Wonder. Some people would say that James could be a great comparison to Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, and Tina Turner because of the way she sings. I think people compare James with them, because of James’s rich and deep vocals. That’s exactly what James brings to the table on this album, that raw talent and authentic voice. If you forgot what real soul, blues, and R&B music sounds like, go listen to this album now. You can feel James’s heartfelt soulfulness on each track featured on this album, it will give you individuals who appreciate authentic and true musical talent, the chills. James has her own little uniquely built skills that really help to distinguish her music from everyone else’s. After I listened to thetracks on this album I was impressed, and had me wanting more. Picking a favorite song from this album is not an easy task, I still don’t have an all-time favorite, but the songs I want to talk about are “Fall for You.” “Fall for You,” hosting the same name as the album, is a great single because James really demonstrated her powerful vocal ranges. This song is so lyrically perfect; you can’t do anything but sit and listen as James voice draws you in. Her deflection of her emotions is evident through her vocals. Overall I think this album is A-plus quality and it was a good feeling for me to give this Fall for You a well-deserved five out of five stars.
Review written by: Alan Taylor

Charmer: Tigers Jaw
★★★★☆

Tigers Jaw’s sound is a very satisfying mix between Fleetwood Mac and Brand New. In a way, it seems as if Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham are raging inside of “Charmer.” This is the Scranton band’s fourth album. Adam McIlwee, Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh’s harmonies have a glassy, disengaged quality and they’re accompanied with passionate emotions and turbid guitars. They're transitioning out of pop-punk and emo into straight-up indie rock, and they’re doing it smoothly, making it seem like they have been an indie rock band all along. The opener’s chorus, “It’s a cruel world, but it’s cool,” is backed up by great vocals and music, making it a pretty catchy song. “Slow Come On” brings forth a flurry of drum rolls and McIlwee’s vocals just nearing a scream. It’s a chilling example of a person revealing his true colors, telling someone who doesn’t turn him on about the kind of person who does—“I don’t even care how mean they are/ So I don't ever take your calls.” When McIlwee yells, “Why am I so cruel?” towards the end, it’s about as close as he gets to a confession or culpability, acknowledging himself as a man who wants the ones he can’t have, rejects the ones he can, and comes to the conclusion of loneliness. “What Would You Do” is a total outlier, detailing a sad hookup, while “Frame You” is just as candid—“You couldn’t leave me alone/ Because I was a wreck and you were the savior type.” These songs lead up to the lead single “Hum.” This is the sole track where Collins takes the lead. When she sings, “You left a permanent scar,” the passion behind his voice makes you feel the pain that he once felt. Though this album is laced with "Twin Peaks" references, “Charmer” ends up sounding like a very mature indie rock album.
Review written by: Nick Winger

Gyspsy Heart (Side A) EP: Colbie Caillat.
★★★★☆

The Both

I am pretty sure the majority of us know the new song from Colbie Caillat, “Try” and if you don’t I suggest going to YouTube and watching the music video. It is an uplifting song and video proclaiming everyone is beautiful the way they are. No makeup, no Photoshop, no fancy hair do, or stylish clothes, us as human beings are beautiful. The video portrays only girls but men can be beautiful too without all of that nonsense. We don’t have to try so hard to be liked, as long as we like ourselves. Now if you listened to “Try” and didn’t like it I can almost guarantee you, that you will not like the other four songs on her new EP. “Live It Up” is the first song on the EP. It’s very upbeat and the lyrics are motivational. It encourages you to do, exactly what the title says, Live It Up. “Blaze” is almost edgy for Colbie Caillat. Kind of like Live It Up, if you’re going to do something, go all out! Not horrible advice! “If You Love Me Let Me Go” is number three. To be totally honest, the beat and the lyrics don’t seem to mesh very well. It is very lack luster compared to the other songs on her EP. It can easily fade into the background and pass you without you caring to notice, unfortunately. The last song is “Never Gonna Let You Down”. It has a pure, angelic sound that can be familiarized with past Colbie Calillat songs, like Bubbly. The punchy pop instrumentals make this song a go to for a summer night anthem.
Review written by: Michelle Voorhees

As You Are: Jason Lancaster
★★★★★ Ready Steady Go

 

Jason Lancaster is the previous lead singer of the bands Mayday Parade and Go Radio. Lancaster worked with Mayday Parade from 2005 until 2007 into 2008 and with Go Radio from 2008 until 2012 into 2013. After the breakup of Go Radio, he chose to pursue a solo career. He said that Go Radio gave him an outlet to vent and allowed him to speak his mind which started his solo position. Being a huge fan of Mayday Parade, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a solo album but Lancaster provided everything I could’ve imagined and more. His unique voice is very apparent and the edgy pop punk band sound is still intact as well. Some of the songs that sound incredibly similar to the classic Mayday Parade sound include “The Cause,” “Growing Up” and “Shine.” They all have a rock, pop punk theme to them that definitely caught my attention. “Growing Up” is a song that’s name describes it; it’s a simple song about how “growing up is optional.” It features piano along with drums and cymbals, a jazzy feel behind the pop punk that really sets a cool, one of a kind sound. “Shine” is the same way, with simple verses that escalate to powerful, upbeat choruses. “Just in Time” and “You N Me” side more towards the Go Radio sound, with a touch of We The Kings. “Just in Time” is a cute yet sad song about not taking a chance on someone wonderful and pondering all of the things you’re missing out on because of it. It tells a story of knowing that you can treat someone like a Prince or Princess and how you wish everything could fall into place all by itself. Both songs are mostly acoustic and have a simple, pretty sound, almost angelic. They have a great, catchy beat that is kept by a quiet drum that swims throughout the background. The lyrics are quick and clever and the soft verses are followed by a beautiful chorus. “Adam” and “Do I” definitely gravitate more towards Mayday Parade’s old sound. They’re both slow and feature a lot of piano. “Adam” is about love and life in general. One of the lyrics reads, “I don’t remember being promised another day.” It features BEAUTIFUL vocals that are soft yet powerful, passionate and angry at the same time. It also has great transitions from verse to chorus. “Do I” has a very similar sound but Lancaster shows a different side of his voice, almost country. It flows very well and has some great harmonies to coincide. My absolute favorite from this album is “Climb up To My Window.” It’s about falling in love with the girl next door while she’s simply sitting outside on her porch. It has a light rock feel to it but also has a slight country twist. It’s incredibly catchy and has a lot of energy and powerful vocals. Overall, I was extremely impressed with this solo album. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who was a fan of his previous bands or anyone looking for a great, new album.
Review written by: Nikki Lawrence

The Black Market: Rise Against
★★★★★

 

Rise Against has never had a problem challenging the status quo of the world with their music. They have made music containing concepts such as the horrors of war (as seen through the eyes of a soldier in their song “Hero of War”) and the call to stop the bullying of gay teens through their song “Make It Stop (September’s Children).” They are rock activists who have no problem saying what they think is wrong with the world (as well as how we can change it) over their angst-driven alternative/punk rock sound. Their newest album does not fail to wander away from this concept. “The Black Market” could very well be the soundtrack to every anti-authority, angst-ridden person’s life. The first track titled “The Great Die Off” is a song that talks about the human race dying off because of the way we want things and how we want them now. It will make you want to raise your fist in protest to human greed as you listen to the fast-paced alternative song. A majority of the songs on the album will get you pumped up, which is what I think Rise Against’s plan was with this album – get people to think about something and have a fire spark inside them. Songs that are similar to “The Great Die Off” include “Time + Tragedy” and “The Eco-Terrorist in Me.” One of the better tracks on the album is titled “I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore.” It’s full of angst and will make adrenaline pump through your body as you listen to lead singer Tim McIlrath sing of how he no longer wants to be near his home and how he does not want to answer to a higher authority. “A Beautiful Indifference” is also sure to make something inside of you stir with angst as you hear McIlrath sing of authority and the people being indifferent toward one another. “Methadone” is a track that is different from the others. It resembles the earlier work of Rise Against. It’s a slower song that says “love is like a needle full of methadone” and continues to talk about fighting for someone. It’s a nice break from the super-fast guitar riffs in the other songs on the album. The most powerful song on the album without a doubt is “People Live Here.” It’s an acoustic song, so all you can hear is McIlrath’s voice, angry with passion. He sings about the hypocrisy of religions (“My God is better than yours/From the hate that drips from your crosses, are your hands so clean?”) as well as remembering that people lived here as the ashes from human destruction clear. This song stuck with me the most while listening to the album – there’s just something so haunting yet beautiful about the song that I could not stop listening to. Overall, Rise Against does a fantastic job with their newest album. It’s equal parts rebellious, passionate and downright honest. If you are ever in need of a rebellious soundtrack, or are feeling like you need to release any built up angst, do not hesitate to check this album out.
Review written by: Kelly Kuehn

Unstoppable Love: Jesus Culture
★★★★☆

The Both

For those fans out there who has been waiting for Jesus Culture to release their newest album, Unstoppable Love, well the wait is over. The Christian and gospel music group, Jesus Culture, released their newest album Unstoppable Love, June 3. Chris Quilala and Kim Walker are Jesus Culture’s main two lead singers. Jesus Culture is a band about helping people to be revived spiritually; this album is Jesus Culture’s best album yet. After listening to Jesus Culture’s Unstoppable Love you will be impressed by the quality and freshness of each track. Unstoppable Love is full of magnificent uplifting tracks. If you’re a huge fan of the band Jesus Culture, or even a person who loves good Christian music, there’s no doubt about it, you must buy this album. The richness and quality of the tracks featured on the album can bring some of you to a deeper intimacy with God. Unstoppable Love features 13 spiritually tracks, “Sign Out,” “We Will Run,” “Light of the World,” “Surrender All (Give You Everything),” “Unstoppable Love,” “Your Name is Glorious,” “No Other Like You (We Will Exalt You),” “You Made a Way,” “We Stand,” “Wide Open,” “Born of God,” “In Awe of You,” and “10,000 Reasons.” In my opinion “Your Name is Glorious,” “Sing Out,” “No Other Like You,” “10,000 Reasons,” and “You Made a Way” are the most heartfelt spiritual songs featured on this album. “Sing Out” is by far the best worshipping song featured on Unstoppable Love. The dulcimer on this track makes a huge difference in this song; it makes the song so much better. You can just feel the emotions and passion in “Sing Out,” driven by Quilala. Quilala digs down deep on this song; you can feel the passion drawn from his vocals. The Jesus Culture choir did a heck of a great job singing “You Made a Way.” If you don’t feel anything after listening to “You Made a Way” or any other song featured on this album you might want to check your spiritual pulse.
Review written by: Alan Taylor

Disgusting: Beartooth
★★★★☆

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Caleb Shomo's, former vocalist of Attack Attack!, new project, Beartooth, is totally misguided: The two bands sound nothing alike, and that's a testament to Shomo's seemingly bottomless well of creativity. “Disgusting,” like its extended-play predecessor “Sick,” was created from the ground up solely by Shomo. He played all the instruments, sang all the vocals and twiddled all the knobs, resulting in an absolutely exhilarating album, the kind of punk record a hardcore kid can back and the kind of hardcore record a punk kid won’t turn down. It’s the middle ground between the bombastic nature of A Day To Remember and the laid back swagger of Every Time I Die, with an elevated level of pop smarts absent from most newer heavy bands. The two-minute “Dead” is a guaranteed circle-pit starter, rotating through double-time passages, straightforward verses and plenty of breakdowns. The anti-suicide anthem, “Body Bag,” is a total rager, with four-on-the-floor drumming leading to Shomo bellowing, “One life, one decision!/Make sure it ends with you still living!” Many of Beartooth's songs carry strong messages; beyond “Body Bag,” there’s lead single “Beaten In Lips,” which tackles the topic of child abuse, where he encourages victims to “keep living loud and proud/They never can hold you down.” Closing track “Sick & Disgusting” seems to revisit similar lyrical ground, as Shomo repeatedly pleads, “Daddy, I don’t wanna be sick and disgusting,” through layers of feedback and his own tears, closing the album on an incredibly dour note. “Relapsing” and “I Have a Problem” deal with alcoholism; an issue Shomo has publicly commented on before. The moment in the latter song when the instruments drop out for Shomo to yell in a broken voice, “I don’t know about you, but I’m admitting now that I have a problem,” is chilling in its honesty. When you realize Shomo is only 21 and has been living the touring-band lifestyle since he was 15, you have to wonder how many more demons still reside in his head that he intends to work out through song. This album is great for any hardcore music fans, or anyone dealing with these issues who need something to connect to. Beartooth is on the rise to becoming a powerhouse amongst the music community.
Review written by: Nick Winger

Begin Again Soundtrack: Various Artists
★☆☆☆☆

The Both

Boy oh boy! My apologies but I was very critical of this album, and very unpleased and unimpressed! Starting off the album is Adam Levine singing “Lost Stars” now don’t take this the wrong way and don’t get me wrong, I love Adam but this song is not as great as everyone raves! It is the most popular song off of the album on iTunes, and honestly gave me a headache. It was definitely not the right octave for Adam. Since there is only four artists on this album I will just get all of Adam’s song reviewed first. “No one else like you,” has somewhat of a jazz feel, and is honestly better than “Lost Stars” in my opinion. Adam only got better from there. The next song, “A Higher Place,” while not perfect was upbeat, fast paced and Adam’s highlight on the album. I am not very familiar with Keira Knightly, but I thought she was just an actress. If she isn’t just an actress and does legitimately sing, maybe she should stop. And if she doesn’t sing, that is probably a good thing. “Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home” is her best of the album. The chorus sounds amazing and the song has such a light sound it could put The Grinch in a good mood! However, “Lost Stars” and “Like A Fool” were just bad. “Lost Stars” was the better of the two, but Adam definitely sounded better than Keira. Her “Lost Stars” just sounded boring. “Coming Up Roses” was better than most of her songs, but it had a very sad sound to it. “A Step You Cant Take Back” is definitely her best song on the album. Still not good but better! As far as “Like A Fool” goes I couldn’t even get through the entire song. She sounds massively amateur, and I just couldn’t. But that isn’t the only song I couldn’t deal with for the duration. Cessyl Orchestra’s two songs on the album irritated me to no end. It might just be their sound, or it could very well be the songs but either way I wanted to cry they irritated me so much. I know that sounds harsh but I am just being honest. They would be better if it was just instrumentals. “Did It Ever Cross Your Mind” and “Into The Trance” both sound like, what I would imagine tripping on acid would sound like. The lead vocalist whispers the last word of nearly every line in both songs. It is really horrible. Cee Lo Green was seriously my savior on this album! “Horny” while the lyrics are dumb, his voice sounds amazing; and you almost forget how dumb the lyrics are. It has a soulful sound and oddly probably the best song on the album. “Women Of The World” was also good, at least in comparison to the rest of the album. It was up beat with that soulful Cee Lo Green voice. However, it did end on a bad note when Cee Lo’s voice is holding a note underneath other Cee Lo vocals. It just sounds unpleasant, almost like a ringing in your ears type of nose. Ugh! Maybe if I see the movie I will be more appreciative of the soundtrack, but that’s doubtful.
Review written by: Michelle Voorhees



Strong Museum of Play

Army