November 5th is just two days away, and there are a few great releases coming out this week. Hit the jump below to check out the album details and download information for all the great records coming out this week!
Sam Smith releases ‘Safe With Me,’ the first track of his forthcoming EP
Posted by Brandon Vesely on 08/07 at 05:05 PM
In late July, English R&B singer Sam Smith released a new track, “Safe With Me” with the songwriting and production help of fellow dance/pop artist Two Inch Punch.
As a solo artist, Smith’s catalog consists primarily of softer, vocally-driven tracks with a reflective, passionate feel. However, when Smith teamed up with rising electronic duo Disclosure on the hit track “Latch,” the singer diverged from his R&B roots. “Latch” layers Smith’s warm, tender vocals over top a backdrop of synthesized melodies and electronic instrumentals to create an infectious dance track.
Smith’s new track continues his departure from cut-and-dry R&B music. The song combines electronic instrumentals and computerized effects that enhance and diversify the signer’s already powerful vocals, giving the track a more animated feel than Smith’s earlier work. “Safe With Me” is the first installment of a 3-track EP to be released one song at time over the course of the summer through PMR Records.
Last fall’s “Latch,” and Naughty Boy’s “La La La” released on May 19 of this year, are Smith’s biggest successes as a guest performer to date. Nonetheless, the budding artist is committed to success as a solo artist and the second track of his forthcoming EP, Nirvana is due for release sometime in the near future.
Oberhofer is a five-piece group that rose from the depths of the NYU music scene in 2008. The band’s alias comes from the last name of lead singer Brad Oberhofer, who writes and records the majority of the group’s music, employing the help of other group members only as needed.
Oberhofer sit comfortably beneath the widely-encompassing umbrella term, “alternative rock,” albeit with experimentation with a variety of genres, including noise pop, indie, and dance punk. Brad Oberhofer ventures in a variety of musical directions with his songwriting and often conveys personal emotions through his lyrics and their accompanying soundscapes. That said, nearly every Oberhofer track is unique and memorable.
In 2010, the young group began to gain traction with the release of their first single “o0Oo0O0o,” a youthful track that employs the group’s signature keyboard driven instrumentals and explores teen angst and romance. The track gained them the attention of established groups like Sleigh Bells and Neon Indian, both of which asked Oberhofer to tour with them.
After a round of concerts in 2011, Oberhofer landed a record deal with Glassnotes Records and began work on their first full-length album, Time Capsules II. Brad enlisted the help of renowned producer Steve Lillywhite, who has worked with successful groups like The Killers, Talking Heads, and 30 Seconds to Mars. He recorded most of the vocals and instrumental backings himself, recruiting help from other musicians only when absolutely necessary. Additionally, the group did a considerable amount of promotional work in advance of the record’s release, most importantly making a musical appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. By the time of its release on March 27, 2012, Stereogum had designated Time Capsules II the 39th most anticipated album of 2012.
Notable tracks from the debut include “Landline,” “Away FRM U,” and “I Could Go.” “Landline,” the album’s second track, features harmonic instrumentals and peppy drumming, while incorporating themes of loyalty and commitment. The following track, “Away FRM U”, which Oberhofer performed during their Letterman appearance, is a catchy song with a boyish, uncertain sound created by glockenspiel melodies and innovative percussion work. The album’s fourth track, “I Could Go,” is slower but retains its predecessor’s upbeat, juvenile feel. This song also includes the glockenspiel instrumentals that define the group’s unique sound and adds melodic guitar riffs and orchestral effects. All and all,Time Capsules II is a moving, cohesive album that earned the album critical and popular recognition as an up-and-coming artist in alternative music.
Watch the video for “Away FRM U” here:
Since the release of their first album, Oberhofer has toured relentlessly, stopping at venues across North America and making appearances at well-known music festivals like Lollapalooza and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
I saw them play in Pittsburgh earlier this summer and their performance was fantastic. The quintet’s unrivaled musicianship carries over to the live arena and Brad’s animated stage presences makes for a lively and entertaining show.
Despite their hectic touring schedule, Oberhofer has made time to produce a new EP, Nostalgia, which they unveiled on July, 15 2013. The EP reflects Brad Oberhofer’s musical growth and maturing songwriting skills, but still preserves the adolescent feel of the group’s debut album.
The EP’s first track, “You + Me (Still Together in the Future),” is a softer melodic track that illustrates Brad’s diverse musical skills and conveys emotional depth. I heard the song for the first time when I saw Oberhofer live, and the track remains one of my favorite Oberhofer songs to date.
The second song on the new release, “Got Your Letter,” is a synthy track with an optimistic feel, that continues the emotional complexity of the EP’s opening track.
A short instrumental interlude splits “Got Your Letter” and the next full track, “Earplugs,” a decidedly dissonant track that contains some of the band’s best harmonies.
The final track on the short but impressive EP is “Together/Never,” a “nostalgic” track, (pun intended), that includes titillating instrumental progressions and floating vocals.
All and all, the album has a soft feel that projects a sentimental, reflective aura. Even with its more serious nature, Oberhofer’s second effort carries on the sonic diversity and impressive musicianship of Time Capsules II. Oberhofer’s talent and drive ensures that the unique group will remain a fixture in the alternative/experimental genre.
For the remainder of the August, the band will continue to perform across the country and at various festivals, as they put the final touches on their second full-length studio album. I highly recommend checking Oberhofer out onSpotify, where you can find their entire discography to date, or seeing them live in the future if they make a stop in your area.
Anthony Green to contribute to Balance and Composure’s forthcoming album
Posted by Brandon Vesely on 07/30 at 01:34 PM
Anthony Green announced that he will contribute vocals to a track on Balance and Composure’s upcoming album, The Things We Think We’re Missing, on Monday via Instagram.
Here’s what Green had to say about the recording:
“So excited about the new @balanceandcomposure record. I had the honor of singing on a track and I can honestly say its one of the best songs they ever wrote. Go check it out at http://balanceandcomposure.com and tell them how much they rule and tell them I sent ya.”
Green is a founding member and lead singer for the immensely successful alternative group, Circa Survive, and has performed with other notable bands like Saosin, Say Anything, and Good Old War. The prolific artist has released two full-length solo albums and his third effort, Young Legs, will be out sometime this fall.
That said, Green’s announcement bears testament to Balance and Composure’s steady increase in popularity among indie/alternative fans.
Formed in Doylestown, Pa. in 2007, the budding quintet has produced a considerable amount of recorded material including a 2009 split with fellow Pennsylvania indie rockers, Tigers Jaw and their successful debut album,Separation, released in 2011. They specialize in heavier indie rock, driven by dark lyrics and melodic guitar riffs.
Amidst the hype surrounding the release of their sophomore effort, Balance and Composure have released a complete track listing for the record and added an instrumental sample from the album to their website. They have not released any promo singles.
In June, the band announced a fall tour alongside co-headliners Title Fight, (another punk/indie group from eastern Pennsylvania), with openers Cruel Hand and Slingshot Dakota. The tour will be stopping at Union Transfer in Philadelphia on October 12 and 89 North in Patchogue, New York on October 13.
Watch Title Fight’s 2012 performance at Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Churchhere.
For more information about Balance and Composure, go to their website and be sure to tune in to them on Spotify, where you can find their entire discography. You don’t want to miss your chance to check out this rising group before they hit it big.
It’s time for The Weekly Tour Round-Up! There are a ton of great tours going on this summer and fall that are getting announced each week! Below you’ll find all the tours going on over the next few months, with newly announced tours listed above previously announced tours. So check out all the tours if you’ve missed any of them and make sure to mark them down on your calendars!
Lady Gaga has Recovered from Surgery and Has Some Huge Announcements
Posted by Kayla Tooma on 07/26 at 05:55 PM
This year has been quite tumultuous for Mother Monster. Some people have been wondering why they haven’t heard from her or seen her throughout the media lately. For Gaga, 2013 began with such promise—she was nearing the end of her global Born This Way Ball Tour and was finally back in North America, her third studio album ARTPOP was rumored to be out by spring, and her career was going steady on success. However, in February of this year, Gaga suffered a labral tear in her right hip, a serious injury that resulted in her having to cancel the rest of her tour, go through surgery, postpone her new album, take a break from all media, and be confined to a wheelchair for some time. Like most of her fans, and someone who had awesome tickets to two of her shows, I was upset by the news.
But five months later, Gaga is back and ready to take over the world once again! She made a surprise appearance at New York’s Gay Pride Rally, and spoke and sang the national anthem. But even more exciting is the news she recently announced regarding her new album and new music. She has announced that the first single off ARTPOP will be released August 19, 2013, the album itself will be out November 11, 2013 and is available for pre-order on September 1, 2013. To sweeten the pot even more and make her ‘little monsters’ go wild, she released the first promotional image for the album. It is a stunning photograph by Inez and Vinoodh, featuring Gaga covering herself with her arms, showcasing her “ARTPOP” tattoo, wearing a designer mask, and letting her new fox brown hair cascade over her shoulder.
So what can we expect from ARTPOP? Well for one, she is continuing to collaborate with RedOne, Fernando Garibay, and the album is being produced byZedd (artist who gave us the awesome summer hit “Clairty”). Gaga, a frequent user of Twitter (@ladygaga), tweeted some hints and sneak peaks with which to tease us music-hungry fans with. She tweeted that she had written over fifty songs to be considered inclusion into ARTPOP, which suggests Mother Monster has been having a creativity storm and we can expect the best of the best of her work, no filler songs. She’s also mentioned that ARTPOP will differ extremely from her last mega-hit album Born This Way, which dealt with a lot of self celebration and was pretty mature for a pop album. While in Australia on her tour, she performed a new song, a piano ballad titled “Princess Die” and has stated that if the song were to be included, it would be transformed into a more up-beat dance track. The song is clearly a nod to the late Princess Diana and dives into dark areas like suicide and the demand of fame. She’s also tweeted some lyrics from upcoming songs like “’We could be caught, we’re both convicted criminals of thought’ – Sex Dreams” in February and “’It’s been too long since I’ve had a sip and I get this feeling, I need a green detox the truth will be the winner tonight’ –from TEA on ARTPOP” as recent as July 21. The only other confirmed track is titled “G.U.Y. (Girl Under You)”.
Another interesting part of the upcoming album is that it is going to be released as an album app. This confused me when I first heard about it, but apparently Gaga is not the first to do such a thing. Two other albums have been released as apps: Jay-Z’s Magna Carter Holy Grail and Bjork’s (back in 2011) Biophilia. While I think the idea of creating a interactive experience with music is innovative, it can also be very dangerous. I would hope the album would be available on iTunes and in stores, but the app would create inequality to those who do not have smart phones or tablets, and Gaga’s has been stated to be designed specifically for the tablet, although it is also available on smart phones. Could this be a huge mistake or a huge innovation? An album app would cost quite a lot of money to make and if it is not as popular as an iTunes download or a physical copy, Mother Monster could have some trouble.
I’m not entirely sure what to expect on ARTPOP. Gaga is somewhat unpredictable which is both alluring, but sometimes off-putting. The Fame is undoubtedly her most mainstream-type album, but with a refreshing edge. WithBorn This Way, she began to lose some people and it started to seem more gimmicky than artistic. Her music videos became ten-minutes or longer, contained irrelevant and confusing imagery, and seemed to just be strange with no purpose, message, or real vision. I hope Gaga regains control over her extreme creativity, so that ARTPOP will be slightly more controlled and not just a mash up of every thought and image that comes to her mind.
Defeater, a hardcore group from Boston Massachusetts, released their newest full-length album, Letters Home, on July 16 via Bridge Nine Records.
Defeater began playing as a group in 2004 but did not release any recorded material until 2008. With the release of their latest work, the hardcore outfit has produced three studio albums and two EPs.
Their music is conceptual and outlines the trials and trepidation of the working American family in the years after World War II, particularly focusing on themes of hollowness, monotony, and loss. Group members have described the post-WWII era as a sort of “gilded age” in American history, where America as a whole seemed to be on an upswing, but the prospects and living conditions of the working and middle class majority were not so promising.
Defeater typically combines traditional components of hardcore music, deep growls and heavily distorted guitar riffs, with a sprinkling of melodic elements. They pride themselves as innovators of hardcore and emphasize the importance of creativity and a willingness to be different within the genre’s sometimes redundant landscape. The quintet is not above producing softer tunes, and their biggest hit to date, “I Don’t Mine,” is an acoustic love song from their sophomore album Empty Days & Sleepless Nights.
Letters Home builds on the success and energy of Empty Days and certainly does not disappoint. Like the band’s previous works, Letters Home is dark and brooding both lyrically and instrumentally and continues the group’s effort to chronicle the struggles of the American working class family.
The album opens with “Bastards,” a song that includes complicated, technical guitar work and vocalist Derek Archambault’s best screaming. The intro track sets the tone for the remainder of the album, a pulsating testament to working-class angst, dissatisfaction, and inner strife.
“Bastards” is followed by “No Shame.” This track is a rhythmically driven song with harmonic guitar work. Archambault’s shrieks serve as a percussive element that complement the song’s captivating beat. Lyrically, the song continues to delve into pessimism and discontent with the monotonousness gloom of day-to-day working class life.
Letters Home trudges on with “Hopeless Again,” a track that mixes musical elements characteristic of old-school hardcore groups with those used by contemporary post-hardcore bands. The song includes a softer bridge followed by a catchy breakdown that makes the song a standout.
Next up is “Blood In My Veins,” another dissonant track, pushed forward by steady, unwavering guitar work and breakneck drumming.
The album’s first half finishes off with “No Relief,” another modern sounding track with harmonic elements. The title of the song resonates with the emotional and musical feel of the album as a whole. The album delineates an inability to find refuge from the despondency of working class life and the record offers the listener “no relief” from the continuous onslaught of heavy riffs and screeching vocals as it charges into its second half.
The sixth track of Letters Home is “No Faith.” The track’s unusually ornate guitar work makes it memorable, particularly because such instrumental work is uncharacteristic of the hardcore outfit. The next track, “Dead Set,” recounts family turbulence and loss, a frequently addressed theme in the group’s music.
The album’s eighth song, “No Savior,” begins with a mellow guitar passage that produces an aura of hopelessness and desperation. The intro shows the group’s unparalleled ability to express distinct emotions through instrumentals and distinguishes them as masters of varying musical styles. After about a minute the vocals kick in and the song powers into a heavier section. Regardless of the distorted guitars and guttural vocals, the emotion conveyed in the intro is undoubtedly still present and defining throughout the track.
The next track, “Rabbit Foot,” mimics the soft intro of “No Savior” and builds into a pressing vocal passage. This track’s sophisticated drumming is particularly impressive and meshes well with the wall of distorted guitars to create a unique, memorable rhythm. Like the preceding track, “Rabbit Foot” builds in intensity and finishes explosively with the help of Archambault’s passionate wails.
The album’s final track, “Bled Out,” is the longest track on the album and clinches the album both musically and conceptually. The track’s lyrics bring together most of the themes and emotions touched on throughout the album, and shows the musicians’ competence in a variety of musical styles. Once again, the last track undeniably exposes the band’s unique ability to synthesize emotion through instrumentals and to utilize vocals as a rhythmic and lyric vehicle. “Bled Out” is a satisfying conclusion to an emotional and unforgettable album.
With their third album release, Defeater continues to establish themselves as a force in the alternative/hardcore scene and to display their unrivaled creativity and emotional depth. Their unique lyrical content and eagerness to step outside the established boundaries of traditional hardcore music makes them stand out among modern rock groups.
Recently, I had to read anarticle for a class about K-pop (Korean pop). It caused me to reminisce on the days when I was well-informed on the K-pop news and happenings, when I called myself a fan.
I remember when I first started listening to K-pop about five years ago. I can’t deny, I loved listening to it. I had been listening to a lot of J-Rock, and somehow I stumbled across Korean music, thinking I wouldn’t be impressed. I was wrong. Daily, I was looking out for the new groups, wondering if any of the newcomers were going to take over the Korean pop scene. The perfection in their dance steps, the cool fashion sense, the cute smiles; before I knew it, I had fallen. Hard.
But two years later, I seemed to be seeing the same thing over and over again. I cute wink here, a genie pant there. Over and over and over and over again. That’s when it hit me: K-pop was a sham. I started to realize how blind I was to the fake-ness and overproduction. I kept hearing about how they would find people from China and even America (Asian-Americans, of course), move them to Korea, and train them for years to debut them on music shows, like Inkigayo. I knew this before, but I guess I didn’t really know it, or to be more honest, I didn’t want to face the truth. But finally, the truth slapped me in the face, and it was time for me to let K-pop go, at least my obsession with it.
I noticed how all the American fans of K-pop were SUPER obsessed, more like stalkers than supporters. I didn’t want to be apart of that. I thought America was bad, with all the Disney kids coming out with albums, but Korea was, and is, even worse, when it comes to manufacturing their music acts.
I feel like the music industry over there is trying too hard to be what they think western music is like, with the hopes of breaking into the western music charts. But what they don’t realize is we like things to be at least somewhat authentic. Even with people like Justin Bieber and Rihanna, we can tell they have at least a little bit of say in what they do, even if they are just a product of the companies that produce them. Psy, the artist behind “Gangnam Style,” only became popular because he was just being crazy and silly, which seems to match what he’s really like (and because the song was paired with a dance that everyone can mimic, but anyway.)
I remember when the Wonder Girls were sent over to the US. They performed onSo You Think You Can Dance. The performance was good, but it was stiff and very choreographed, too choreographed. No one remembered them except people who already knew them from before. BOA and Se7en were also sent to establish a career here. They didn’t even get to perform on a TV show. Some might say it’s because they’re Asian and the music industry in America isn’t open to Asian artists. That could be part of it, but I think it’s mainly because they’re not ‘real.’ They’re the ultimate musical product. They’re pretty much walking, talking singing dolls, worse than any Disney star I can imagine.
That doesn’t mean I don’t listen to some K-pop every once in awhile. I have to admit, I think the beats and instrumentals they use are very creative, and I really like the hard work and dedication they put into the synchronized dancing. It’s some of the best dancing I’ve seen from a music act, in any part of the world. My favorite groups (called “idols” in the K-pop world) include Kara, Infinite, andf(x). But without the individuality and creativity coming from the musicians themselves (if we can even call them that), I don’t support it like I used to. Groups like 2NE1 and Big Bang are a little bit more creative than the average K-pop star, but even they seem to be a product of their company rather than just musicians with individual personalities.
Maybe if they blended the hard-work and synchronization with actually letting the artists contribute to the creative process, I could respect K-pop. They might even be able to cross-over to a western audience. But until then, they’ll simply remain manufactured “idols” who change their hairstyles every two seconds and read a script when giving interviews. No one wants to see that.
Rap legend Jay-Z released the digital version of his newest studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, on July 4th and the record became available on store shelves July 8th. Magna Carta Holy Grail is Jay-Z’s twelfth studio album release making him one the most prolific rappers in modern history.
His role as an architect in the development of the modern rap/hip-hop genre is undeniable. The influential artist has sold well over 50 million albums across the globe and has received nearly 20 Grammy Awards.
Despite his phenomenal success and wealth, Jay-Z has not forgotten his humble roots. He regularly takes part in philanthropic efforts, helps up-and-coming artists establish themselves in the industry, and continues to emphasize the value of hard work and community unity.
In honor of the latest addition to Jay-Z’s extensive catalog, let’s take a look back at his roots, road to fame, and the plethora of contributions to the hip-hop genre:
Jay-Z was born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1969 to Adnes Reeves and Gloria Carter. Reeves left the family shortly after Carter’s birth, leaving his mother to raise him and his three siblings on her own. The family lived in the notorious Marcy Houses, a housing project located in Brooklyn.
Jay-Z failed to graduate high school and claims to have been heavily involved in drug trafficking and other illegal activities.
The rapper started out freestyling as a teenager and eventually began writing his own songs. His stage name is derived from a subway line that stops on Marcy Avenue, near his childhood home.
In 1989, Jay-Z teamed up with another local rapper, Jaz O, and landed a spot on Yo! MTV Raps.
He began to establish himself in the industry by forming a record label, Roc-A-Fella-Records, with the help of friends Damon Dash and Kareem Burke in 1996. Shortly after the label’s founding, Jay-Z put out his first studio album,Reasonable Doubt. Reasonable Doubt included popular singles like “Can’t Knock the Hustle” with R&B singer Mary J. Blige. The album quickly became a commercial success. It achieved platinum status, included a guest appearance by the legendary Notorious B.I.G., and reached number 23 on the Billboard 200.
The emerging star followed up his debut with two more albums produced in quick succession, My Lifetime Vol. 1 in 1997, and Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life in 1998. Vol. 1 garnered even more commercial success than his initial release and was a considerably more polished work than his earlier album. Vol. 2 spawned the hit single “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”, his most successful track yet. “Hard Knock Life” secured the rapper a spot as an industry heavy weight and earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1999.
Both albums achieved platinum status. Vol. 2 would become Jay-Z’s best-selling release of all time and received the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 1999.
With his newfound mainstream success, Jay-Z continued to produce music at breakneck speed and began to collaborate with other industry stars.
In 1999 he worked with popular R&B singer Mariah Carey to produce“Heartbreaker” for her album, Rainbow. The track earned Gold status and reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In the early 2000s, Jay-Z released two studio albums, The Blueprint and The Blueprint2. The former featured a guest appearance by up-and-coming star, Eminem, and produced hit singles like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Girls,Girls, Girls.” The album entered at number one on the Billboard 200 and received critical acclaim for its skillful meshing of hardcore rap and conventional hip-hop.
The Blueprint2: The Gift and the Curse, a two-disc release, also debuted at number one and reflected Jay-Z’s growing musical maturity and movement toward a more mainstream sound. The album included collaborations with a variety of pops tars including his soon-to-be wife Beyoncé Knowles on “03 Bonnie and Clyde”.
With the release of his eighth studio album in 2003, the world-famous rapper announced his retirement as a solo rapper. Despite the surprise and disappointment of listeners and the rap industry as a whole, The Black Albumwas another chart-topper and included the hit singles “Change Clothes,”“Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” and “99 Problems.”
After the release of his “last album,” Jay-Z began to pursue other interests. He collaborated with artists from a variety of genres, most notably teaming up with rockers Linkin Park to release 2004’s Collision Course.
Nonetheless, the rapper’s hiatus from solo work did not last as long as he had suggested.
In 2006, Jay-Z reemerged as a solo artist with the bombshell release of Kingdom Come, his first release in nearly three years. The album was an instant commercial success and sold over half a million copies during the first week of its release. The album contained the popular single, “Show Me What You Got.”
Since Kingdom Come, Jay-Z has continued his work as a studio and performance artist, releasing three more studio albums and performing at a variety of festivals and events, including the Glastonbury Festival, the Roskilde Festival, and the O2 Wireless Festival, all of which were in Europe.
In spite of his brief hiatus, Jay-Z has continued his legacy as a rap innovator. He continues to grow stylistically, draw on a wide range of influences, and play a leading role in the musical direction of the hip-hop industry as a whole.
He married long-time love interest Beyoncé Knowles in April of 2008 and the couple had their first child, Blue Ivy, on January 7, 2012. Additionally, Jay-Z has shown considerable concern for social issues. He has willingly contributed to philanthropic endeavors, focusing his efforts on the global water shortage, Hurricane Katrina Relief, and voter registration.
Be sure to check out his newest release, Magna Carta Holy Grail, on iTunes, Spotify, or in stores.
Since 1991, California-based four-piece AFI has cemented themselves as veterans of the scene. Once a dreary horror-punk outfit, the quartet have since reinvented themselves, each release transforming the band’s sound, all while retaining that AFI flair. With the release of 2003’s masterpiece Sing The Sorrow, fans witnessed the group’s rise to near super-stardom, and the long-running punk rock aficionados’ popularity reach previously unimaginable heights.
In 2009, with the release of Crash Love, the band’s eighth full-length, that train came to a screeching halt. It appeared AFI had regressed, trading moody, punk rock anthems for paint-by-numbers pop hooks, a change in direction that was met with discontent. The fire appeared to have finally gone out.
Needless to say, the next one would be a big one.
Fast forward nearly four years into the future, and AFI have returned with “I Hope You Suffer,” the first single from their yet-to-be-titled ninth studio LP. Where the bulk of Crash Love felt hollow and uninspired, “I Hope You Suffer” finds the battle-scarred four-piece rejuvenated and reenergized. A slow-burn type of number, “Suffer’s” verses capture AFI’s trademark gloom in the best way possible, making excellent use of piano and Jade Puget’s masterfully bleak guitar tones as the song creeps forwards.
The track’s chorus exemplifies charismatic frontman Davey Havok at his best, this time cocked with a new, albeit eerily familiar snarl. While Havok was certainly the least of the band’s worries through their struggles, his approach on “Suffer” feels more focused than in recent memory, surely a welcome sign for listeners aching for a return to form. Perhaps what’s most impressive, however, is Havok’s awe-inspiring vocal range, seamlessly blending his customary, soaring croon with a near sinister-sounding growl: a refreshing crash course in what the ringleader has always been capable of.
Alternative rock band The Used has been hard at work lately. After a three-year break after their fourth album in 2009, they released their fifth album Vulnerableand are preparing for their sixth album release this winter. In addition to the upcoming album, the band just released a five-track EP titled The Ocean of the Sky. The band will also be playing as a part of this summer’s Vans Warped Tour.
On the day of the release of the EP, the band’s Facebook page stated “The Used want to save the world. We have created an EP called The Ocean of the Sky that could possibly achieve this goal. Establishing abolishment of class system hierarchy between artist and patron; an EP with a deep message; written by the people, for the people, with a conscious hope for a brighter future.”
The Used is best known for their singles “Taste of Ink,”“I Caught Fire,”“The Bird and the Worm,”“Take It Away,” and “All That I’ve Got”. After their last single, “I Come Alive,” I was quite impressed with how the band has grown but still very much maintained their aesthetic. They combined elements of hip-hop and dubstep into their hard rock and threw in a dash of circus-esque keyboards. The Ocean of the Sky however is even more complicated, layered, and deeper than their previous album. The EP begins as you would expect a normal collection of The Used’s music would—songs consisting of instruments, melodies, sung lyrics, and some awesome rock. However, when you get to the middle of the title track “The Ocean of the Sky,” the entire album shifts into something completely different from anything I have ever heard.
The EP starts off with “Iddy Biddy,” a fast paced, catchy rock song that is very indicative of the band’s style. The middle of the song is graced by lead singer’s Bert McCracken’s spoken poetry, which is a common, effective tool the band has used throughout their career. McCracken’s lyrics and poetry are always pleasing to the ear with lovely sounds and thought-provoking ideas and words. The music smoothly transitions to the next song, “Quixotica”. “Quixotica” provides a heathy dose of rock to its listener with an awesome breakdown. The final ‘traditional’ rock song on the album is “Thought Criminal.” The slow song of the EP, “Thought Criminal” is lovely with sway-along music, good vocals, and awesome lyrics. Towards the end of “Thought Criminal,” the transition from the band’s usual rock songs begins.
While the three previous songs were strong and great rock songs, the two next and final tracks are by far the most artful and interesting of the EP. They are quite long in length and filled with mostly unconventional sounds. Although most people wouldn’t listen to them while taking a jog or driving their car perhaps, as pieces of art they are quite impressive and amazing to listen to while in pensive thought, on the beach, or laying in bed.
“Ocean of the Sky” is an interestingly structured song. The first three minutes of the eight-minute song are filled with strong rock, a great beat, and awesome vocals. Then the track takes an interesting, spooky turn with microphone feedback, ghostly vocals that are filtered in and out, guitar distortion, and screams. This sound jumble is soon abruptly cut off by distant spoken words, an eerie static and feedback filled radio transmission that is somewhat unclear. Towards the end, the voices become a little clear, and the words “fear is the little death that brings total obliteration” can be heard.
“Tethys”, the final song, a twenty-minute mass of sounds and music, is quite impressive. The word “Tethys” means titan and is also the name of one of Saturn’s moons. The song is certainly a titan in its length and impact, but it is interesting to think of it as being related to a celestial, alien moon. The song in itself is quite foreign to what most people would expect as a song. Gorgeous and haunting, the first two minutes are filled with quick beats and eerie back sounds, like the action scene of a horror movie. The song then calms and reminds me of being at the beach at night, seeing the vastness and emptiness of the ocean. The haunted calmness comes to a quick end with what sounds like factory machines. Then the track takes you to a sound that is almost like something you’d listen to in order to fall asleep, but only if you wanted to ensure nightmares or meaningful dreams. After eleven minutes, the static is back and sounds similar to harsh winds appear. The song makes you feel like you’re in the wild, but the wild is a lonely abyss that while empty is also paradoxically filled with everything. Church bells and deep, bass synths come into play as the song continues to give grandeur. After a full minute of silence, the eerie sounds and synths come back and are like a roaring light that slowly fades to black at the end of the album. The song almost makes you feel like you’re on Saturn’s moons, exploring the exotic landscapes.
The Used is a pretty consistent band in terms of releasing albums and collections like The Ocean of the Sky that are very much their style but they also are always experimenting with other elements. The Used’s new EP, The Ocean of the Sky, is an impressive piece of work. In just five tracks, the band gave us a myriad of music, sounds, and art unlike anything I have ever heard. A thoughtful mix of their signature sounding rock and a healthy dose of experimental art that leaves the listener feeling they’re in a different part of space or the world. After a delicious taste, I’m looking forward to their sixth studio album this winter.