Category Archives: Reviews

Album Reviews: Best Coast, Cage the Elephant and Caroline Smith

Best-Coast-Fade-Away1

Best Coast- Fade Away

Grade: C

Release Date: October 22, 2013

It’s starting to look more and more like Bethany Cosentino doesn’t have anything to say anymore. Maybe it’s her love for California which has placed her into a heightened state where she has no need to develop interesting viewpoints, because nowadays Best Coast just sounds like the complaining of a closed off individual, which doesn’t translate into good music. That might have always been the truth too which is easier to notice in hindsight, but the lack of development from this band is really frustrating when you consider that it’s probably going to continue to be true for their future releases as well. Best Coast isn’t singing about anything new or profound but they’ve still formed themselves a solid fan base, a steady slot in festivals, and a strong social media presence. In other words, although it’s incredibly annoying to continuously hear her sing about how great California is and how she’s sad because of failure in relationships, Best Coast doesn’t really have to much of a reason to change their sound at this point because they have an audience for it.

Melophobia

Cage the Elephant- Melophobia

Grade: A-

Release Date: October 08, 2013

I’d managed to not listen to Cage the Elephant before this, and now I feel obligated to search their other albums because I really like Melophobia. Sometimes it’s got the sound and energy of a live show like in the album opener “Spiderhead”, but it’s been cleaned up enough to be heard as a proper album in a similar manner to what Slam Dunk did on Welcome to Miami last year. It’s a very raw sound which gets messed with a bit to often by adding unnecessary production effects and bad guest vocals (the presence of Alison Mosshart on “It’s Just Forever” is painful) but on the whole the sound stays consistently great to make it a fun listen. There’s screaming choruses, funny lines (personal favorite: “I think your mother wants me dead”), and boatloads of catchy guitar parts. There’s even surprisingly genuine moments like the album closer “Cigarette Daydreams”, Cage the Elephant brings a lot of great qualities to the table in this album and the final product is a really good listen.

Caroline Smith
Caroline Smith- Half About Being A Woman

Grade: C+

Release Date: October 08, 2013

Incredibly disappointed here. Back in 2011 Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps released one of the best albums of the year in Little Wind, and that was an eye opening experience for me about the hidden gems that could be found from artists that I wasn’t familiar with. Little Wind was a mixture of pop and folk sounds with Smith singing about insecurities in relationships, and the confidence she suddenly exudes on Half About Being a Woman isn’t really a welcomed change in sound. Smith switched from singing about how “ain’t that always how it seems to go, when something good comes oh it goes” to singing about wanting to find a man who can buy her things. It has the sound of a project where Caroline Smith really wanted to define the person that she was and switched to a neo-soul sound in order to do it, but I think she’s really just moving further away from her strengths. She’s got a fantastic voice still, but it’s not being used properly on this album.

Album Reviews: Arcade Fire, Cults, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

Grade: A-

Release Date: 10/28/2013

Staying fair with this album is difficult. On one side, the Arcade Fire and Reflektors buildup was gigantic and the live show I attended(and covered in another post) was the best live event that I’ve ever seen. This seemed to set the table for this to be an almost unfathomable ‘next-step’ for a band which was already one of the premiere names within the alternative music scene, and a band who was already following up on an album which won album of the year in 2011. In my opinion, that next step didn’t happen on Reflektor, but you can’t hold the fact that an album didn’t turn out to be a classic against it when grading. Reflektor is a very good album which contributes to the dream of reviving disco in 2013, and it’s awesome to hear that when Arcade Fire collaborates with James Murphy the product can legitimately be played and danced to at random venues. There’s also a few new Arcade Fire gems like “Normal Person”, “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus) “and my personal favorite “Here Comes The Night Time”(which I personally believe will become as hypnotic and repetitively played as “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” was for Tame Impala in 2012). Reflektor is much better than the average record that you’d hear, which is why it deserves an A-, but it’s hard to mark it higher when it’s likely the third or fourth best Arcade Fire album out of their four releases(Neon Bible being it’s competition). The final viewpoint for me is that it’s really cool to hear Arcade Fire do disco, but I don’t think that this product is as good as what they’ve done before, so I hope it’s not a permanent sound shift.


Cults- Static

Grade: B-

Release Date: 10/14/2013

Cults had an outstanding  self-titled debut album back in 2011 which showed a lot of promise for the indie pop duo, but there was a bit of an odd development in between that release and their sophomore effort Static. Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion decided to split and end their relationship, but maintain the band and continue releasing music together, a snippet which makes tracks like “Always Forever” a bit of an awkward listen. Static is a step back for the band in terms of the energy and catchy pop choruses which were present on their debut, but this album is still a fun listen even if it is an unspectacular release.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.- The Speed of Things

Grade: B+
Release Date: 10/08/2013

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and Cults actually have a lot in common, both indie pop duos released terrific debuts in 2011 (Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s being It’s A Corporate World) and  released their second albums within a week of each other. It’s a tough band to judge because Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is exceptionally good at making music with pop gimmicks in it, which begs the question of if an album should be judged based upon how enjoyable it is or how likely it is to last the test of time. The Speed of Things is not an album which is going to inspire people to make new music or make people marvel at their sources of inspiration, but the album is a tremendously fun listen with moments that are surprisingly beautiful. Hopefully increased exposure for the band inspires them to take more risks in future projects about song topics because they have a great pop sensibility, and it would be fun to hear what a more ambitious project by them would sound like.

CD Review: The Pixies- EP1

2013 has hosted some really notable returns to music including My Bloody Valentine, Daft Punk, Boards of Canada and now the most recent one, the Pixies. So why is it that EP1 doesn’t sound like it fits in with the rest of that group? The answer is probably because of how it made more sense for the other groups to reform.
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Album Review: Okkervil River- The Silver Gymnasium

Okkervil River is a terrific band out of Austin who has an actual tie in to college radio, as frontman Will Sheff was a DJ before starting Okkervil River. They’ve succeeded in distinguishing themselves from other bands by being able to play both folk-rock and pop songs with extreme declarations, and Black Sheep Boy, The Stand Ins, and The Stage Names are all terrific complete albums previously released by the group. Unfortunately, The Silver Gymnasium doesn’t deserve to be placed in the same category of those albums, as Okkervil River ends up playing folk-pop with no real bite to it, and folk-pop is a pretty awful music genre.
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Yazen Hits Up: Skate and Surf Festival at Six Flags Great Adventure (5/18/13)

Skate & Surf Festival made its return this spring after John D, the founder of The Bamboozle Festival, announced that Bamboozle wouldn’t be making a return in 2013. When the details about Skate & Surf were announced, the main attraction would be Fall Out Boy headlining the festival after their four year hiatus. Along with Fall Out Boy, some other bands played at the smaller stages who have been nothing short of phenomenal.

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((SHOW REVIEW)) THE BABIES, Party Boat, & Birthdays at Valentine’s 5/3/13

It was one of the first days of spring — white flowers were blooming hard all over Albany and people were driving by with open windows spilling music on to the streets. At the time of this writing, Albany Medical Center has not taken over this block where Valentine’s stands and hopefully if you are reading this in the future, it has not done so!

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It is Friday night, May 3rd, with locals Birthdays and Party Boat opening for THE BABIES. We were all really excited to see The Babies play live – A lot of the rock DJs have played the hell out of Our House on the Hill since it was released in November 2012. One concert-goer proclaimed, “MY HEART IS A JITTERY BUTTERFLY” while we waited for them to start and I forced a “Kodak Moment”:

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THE BABIES – I had so much fun during their set – They had lots of energy and played all the hits! Their live show translated well from their studio albums — Seeing them live made me love their songs even more because the instruments sounded bolder all around and it really did it for me. I hope one day I can see them play a basement show. There were a lot of dancers in the audience which made the set even more fun.

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They had Our House on the Hill on record, cassette, and CD, their self titled CD, Moonlight Mile/Places 7” (review below), T-Shirt, and an AWESOME TOTE BAG (A++++++)

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Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

“In a world dominated by Avicci and David Guetta, Daft Punk steps in once again to show us what we need to be hearing”

NOTE: This album releases worldwide May 20th.

Turn it off. Turn off the mindset of all the current trends, the music you currently like, and be ready to listen to something completely different. It’s electronic too, but nothing like you’ve heard in the past. I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece and superior to everything else, but rather blows you away in how radical the sound is. I truly believe a new standard has been created in the music space, and Daft Punk has once again innovated the world of electronic music.

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Two LPs//One EP (No split this month)

It’s Yazen again, giving an update on some quality music dropping in May. This month is going to be a crazy month for Pop Punk, and I’m going to be discussing some new releases from The Wonder Years, Man Overboard, and Misser.

LP 1: The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation. (Hopeless Records.)

The Wonder Years have been a massive name in Pop Punk since they released “The Upsides,” and their new album is proving to be their best. The band claims it’s the third part of a trilogy about growing up, and they’ve been building hype for it with a 24 hour record release tour, in-store performances, and they even auctioned a pre-order bundle and donated the proceeds to The One Fund – Boston. The three singles that have been released so far show signs of progression, with more vocal harmonies from Matt Brasch and Josh Martin, and some of Dan Campbell’s most personal lyrics.

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HEAT’S MINI REVIEWS: Purling Hiss, Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin, Chelsea Light Moving, Bleached


Purling Hiss – Water on Mars 4/2013
ATTN: Dinosaur Jr. Fans, Malkmus, Anybody that loves great dirty delicious guitar tones, solos and flourishes.
I pretty much headbanged, danced, and/or swayed through this whole album. I plan on blasting this in my car with the windows down this summer. Guitar driven album, riffage galore, love all the note bends!!!
Song Picks: “The Harrowing Wind”, “Mercury Retrograde”, “She Calms Me Down”, “Lolita”


Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin – Reverse Shark Attack
And HE’S BACK!!! Ty Segall is churning out albums like crazy the past few years. This album is a collaboration with Mikal Cronin, who is in his current band. THIS IS DIRTY GARAGE ROCK, high throttle, blow your speakers out loud. They literally sound like they recorded this in their garage surrounded by Jay Reatard posters. I like how it sometimes sounds like they are running their instruments through a chainsaw. Tracks 1-6 are fun, loud, and 2 minutes or less while the last track is a 10 minute soundscape and definitely my favorite song on the album. If you like Ty Segall’s music, you will like this. Reverb, distortion, vibrations, underwater kingdom, wild!!

Song Picks: “Reverse Shark Attack”, “Ramona”, “High School”, “Drop Dead Baby”


Chelsea Light Moving – s/t  4/2013
If you are a Sonic Youth fan, don’t worry, you can feel Thurston Moore’s influence on these songs. Sometimes the guitars are creepy sounding, vocals are awkward like they should be from Moore, and these songs are sometimes darker/heavier than Sonic Youth. If you don’t know Sonic Youth, it sounds like weird rock: guitars tuned strange, rambling songs, being on a strange journey that you’re not sure if you should be on. I say that with love!

Song Picks: “Empires of Time”, “Heavenmetal”, “Sleeping Where I Fall”


Bleached – Ride Your Heart

Two sisters bringing you a concoction of reverb guitars and vocals, California, simple and straightforward song structure, titles and lyrical content, catchy and feeling good. I bet they are fun live. It sounds like they had a good time making this album. NO STRESS HERE, they take it easy.

Song Picks: “Looking for a Fight”, “Next Stop”

Oberhofer- Notalgia EP

One of the best parts of being involved with the radio station is that you get exposure to bands that you wouldn’t have heard about before. The best example of this is Oberhofer, a band from Brooklyn who released their debut album Time Capsules II last March and quickly became a favorite at our station and on the CMJ charts. Back when it arrived at CDB I remember choosing to review it based upon the marketing label on the front that described it as indie pop and listed the major festivals they were booked to perform at, and within a calendar year they would be performing in Albany for both Pearl Palooza and as the second headliner for our station’s 35th birthday anniversary.

Time Capsules II was instantly accessible and consistent, and I wrote about it on this blog naming it my favorite album that came out last March and my 5th favorite album of last year. Still there were some complaints that I’d routinely make about the band’s style despite loving the album, which is well summed up by my quote in the second link of how “Oberhofer has to find a way to keep the pop sensibility without whistling, playing the xylophone, and singing “oooo”‘s in every song; they have to progress to more meaningful songs”. And that’s where the Notalgia EP comes in to play.

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