Album Review: The Voidz’ Virtue (2018)

Thevoidzvirtue

Julian Casablancas, the man who wrote arguably the best album of the 2000’s, now might have a two-decade streak.

Top Tracks: Leave it in My Dreams, QYURRYUS, ALieNNatioN, Lazy Boy…… All the songs.

Rating: 9.8/10


By: Mikey Bamarni

If you’ve ever looked up anything on Google about The Strokes you know how much Julian Casablancas is and especially was their leading creative force. Their first two albums, the ones that have achieved the most critical and commercial success, are basically 100 percent credited to Casablancas. The music, the melody, the lyrics, are all his. Except for one co-writing credit with Albert Hammond Jr on “Automatic Stop”. Album three saw Julian allowing a little more bandmate input, but due to its drastically darker sound (thanks at least partially to changing their producer), did not sell as well or receive the same response from critics or fans at the time.

Now what ends up being of The Strokes afterwards can be argued on both sides. The other members were getting better and better as artists, and with that came the desire to be more involved in the music making process, but on the other side Julian was also improving and wanted to have the band stick to the same writing routine that brought the first two albums such acclaim. This led to a minor break and some solo albums from the NYC five-piece. Two more solid Strokes records followed that were now made as a “band” (All five member have songwriting credits here or there), but Julian never got his chance to be the artistic strong force he once was.

No promotion was done for that last record and within a year Jules decided to release his second non-Strokes album credited to Julian Casablancas+The Voidz. At this point they still weren’t together, just seeing each other. It was an album that was super ambitious, but also not very accessible. It was a crazy record full of loud sounds and beautiful melodies so buried in the mix that dissecting lyrics was nearly impossible. Then after a Strokes EP which many critics and fans thought was a step in the right direction, the Voidz returned this year for album number two. Now it can be said…… Julian Casablancas is a genius.

This album is not perfect or linear, but that’s its greatest appeal. In interviews prior to the release, Julian stated that this album was meant to be more accessible than the last JC+Voidz outing. He also made it clear that there would be a song on it for everyone. This is true. The record basically sounds like 15 different bands all with the same lead singer and consistent lyrical content, almost solely centered on the issues facing 2018 America.

It starts off with “Leave It in My Dreams”, the most Strokes sounding on here, but with enough strange guitar work and textures to make it unique. “QYURRUS”, arguably the best song on the record, is crazy. Self-described as Arabic-Prizon Jazz with a cult-like chant at the end, it will lead to an overwhelming first listen, but go back for more listens and you will see all of the appeal. To think that this man also wrote Last Nite is mind blowing.

Then you’re again put in the ring with “Pyramid of Bones”. This track is heavy, loud, yells, and bites. Almost coming across like a Black Sabbath/System of a Down track. Then comes “Permanent High School”, a song that wouldn’t be too out of place on the last Strokes record Comedown Machine.

Two tracks that I can’t fully give a perfect score to are “One of the Ones” and “Black Hole”. The later one only because it is meant to sound super loud and raw, not something that appeals to me. When you try to appeal to everyone you’re bound to not get a perfect score, and that’s expected but also should be commended.

I could do a track-by-track here, but that would take forever. This album is required listening, it is a tour-de-force that only gets better with repeated listens. The only sad thing about this album is that it ends. This is not it for Julian. He is still breaking ground and pushing the limits of what an artist can do almost 20 years after introducing a new style of music that has brought artists like Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, and Kings of Leon to the mainstream. Never question his qyurryus mind.

 

Album Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Sex & Food (2018)

UnknownMortalOrchestra+SexFoodIt’s one of those albums that made me wonder, how am I just discovering them now? 

Top Tracks: A God Called Hubris, Major League Chemicals, Hunnybee, Not in Love We’re Just High

Rating: 7.5/10


By: Jackie Reed

What a trip. Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Sex & Food (2018) is one jammer after another. These New Zealanders manage to fuse atmospheric jazz undertones, grunged-out guitar, and crisp drum samples into a master setlist.

“A God Called Hubris” is a quick slurred intro, acting like an open call for all ears. Then the second song, “Major League Chemicals” transitions with full force. This jazzy rock collaborative intensifies with reverbed guitar and complex drum riffs, even with a delayed first verse.

Songs “Ministry of Alienation” and “Hunnybee” follow. Though they don’t administer the same energy as previous songs, they do attain a chilled-out, catchy vibe. “The Internet of Love (That Way)” and “Not in Love We’re Just High” share a similar mood. Their experimental vocals and abrupt instrumentals are worth sticking around to.

As a new fan of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, this album made me wonder, “how am I just discovering them now?” Sex & Food is an admirable collection of psychedelic rock out to push musical thresholds, blow minds, and cultivate a greater following.

 

Album Review: Kali Uchis’ Isolation (2018)

kaliKali Uchis masters the art of collecting her thoughts in a lush jazz soundscape, typically an intangible skill to reach.

Top Tracks: Flight 22, Dead To Me, In My Dreams, After The Storm

Rating: 8.5/10


By: Jackie Reed

On April 6, Kali Uchis released her debut album Isolation (2018). The Columbian-born singer shines above her Alexandria, Va. upbringing. Instead of hiding her identity in the suburbs, Isolation remains as a vulnerable narrative characterizing what Uchis has, what she wants, and what she’s capable of.

Thundercat-produced single “Body Language – Intro” is a flute-heavy jazz number that initially invites listeners to dive in and hear Uchis out. Following the intro is fourteen other tracks, posed as either a memory, a full feature story, or a temporal feeling.

“Miami” feat. BIA is a sensual piece lathered in textured drums and a soulful attitude, similar to singers Lana del Rey and Amy Winehouse. However, the dark soul mood falls short and is instead replaced with more empowering tracks. Singles like “Just A Stranger” feat. Steve Lacy and “Tyrant” feat. Jorja Smith embrace emotions that are rather fleeting and in the moment.

Uchis succeeds in balancing short-lived pleasures with reflective anecdotes – take the velvet audio piece “Flight 22”, the remixed “Dead To Me”, and Tame Impala’s production “Tomorrow”. She juxtaposes raw lyrics with meticulous synth action and a generally upbeat pop tone.

Along with vocalizing her thoughts on running away, dealing with family and lovers, and monetary needs, all of this is intended to be reasons for moving forward. “After The Storm” feat. Tyler, The Creator and Bootsy Collins reinforces the idea that life goes on. For Uchis, this hopeful bop addresses how temporary distressing matters really are.

All in all, Kali Uchis produced a collaborative album that deserves immense recognition from music critics today. An ultimate step up from her mixtape Drunken Babble (2012) and Por Vida-EP (2015), it’s a mesmerizing album driven by bi-lingual lyricism, genre-bending undertones, complex soundbites, and an offbeat-yet-glamorous style. The fifteen-song listicle is easy listening to the ear, yet challenging to the mind.

Feature Photo By (Kali Uchis/Facebook). 

Album Review: Jack White’s Boarding House Reach (2018)

jack whiteWhat did I just listen to? A crazy brain at work.

Top Tracks: Corporation, Hypermisophoniac, Ice Station Zebra, Over and Over and Over

Rating: 9/10


By: Mikey Bamarni

Jack White was losing interest and appeal over the past five years with consistently underwhelming and uninspired music, painfully awkward interviews, and comments that made the greatest guitarist of the 21st century come across as a jerk.

Lazaretto (2014), his last full-length solo album from 2014, is the worst thing he has released with “White” in the album artist’s name. After that he released a disappointing record with one of his bands, The Dead Weather. What ended up being his best song in this musically rough time period was the Beyoncé jammer “Don’t Hurt Yourself” – which, ironically enough, this is something White might have been thinking about if he kept releasing records at the quality he was.

So when there was news of Boarding House Reach (2018) coming through, the excitement wasn’t all that high. Then, he goes on to release perhaps his cheesiest and worst lead single ever, “Connected by Love.” Granted, it sounds a little better in the context of the record as a whole, but it made many afraid that Jack White was about to kill-or at least damage-his own legacy. Thankfully, that song and the album it’s on could not be any more different.

Boarding House Reach is Jack White’s most experimental album in his now 20 year career. It does so much intense and crazy s**t that there is no way someone could claim it was done by anyone else. I am not, by any means, saying it is a perfect record. Many of the tracks are nonsense spoken words. “Why Walk a Dog?” is about how dogs have made us the pet (Jack. Relax, bud.) In many ways it reminds me of Kanye West’s album The Life of Pablo. It jumps around, but also gives you little glimpses of the artist’s genius brain. A man who in the future will go down as one of 21st century’s most creative and inspiring forces.

The good songs here aren’t just good, they are crazy good. They grab you by the throat. He experiments heavily with funk, rap, and even classical sounds. The 1-2-3 punch centerpiece of “Hypermisophoniac”, “Ice Station Zebra”, and “Over and Over and Over” perhaps is the best string of three songs that Jack has ever put to record. The last two tracks on Boarding House Reach “What’s Done is Done” and “Humoresque” also stand out due to their slow tempos. These songs still explore new ground like the other tracks do, but more so by gently grabbing your hand.

It is a polarizing album, one that some will not like. If you want to hear some straight up garage rock anthems like “Fell in Love with a Girl” or “Seven Nation Army” you won’t find that here. However, you will find a complete album that with all of its flaws, at its core, is brilliant.

Feature Photo By (Jack White/Official Website).

Album Review: Albert Hammond Jr.’s Francis Trouble (2018)

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“The Stroke” shows off why he doesn’t need Casablancas and company on AHJ’s defiant fourth album.

Top Tracks: Muted Beatings, Set to Attack, Stop and Go, Rocky’s Late Night

Rating: 8.1/10


By: Mikey Bamarni

Albert Hammond Jr. was the first Stroke to go out on his own in 2006 and has the most solo tracks under his belt. His first album Yours To Keep (2006) showed off a sound that despite being very guitar-driven and reminiscent of The Strokes, had enough originality thanks to his unique vocal delivery and summer-vibe upbeat riffs that only AHJ could produce. He followed that up with a mediocre sophomore slump album Como Te Llama (2008). Later, The Strokes got back together and released 2 full albums and an EP. Since 2013, Albert has released the great AHJ (2013), a solid third record, Monetary Masters (2015), and now, his best album yet.

Francis Trouble (2018) is an album where Jr. discovers a fresh and energetic identity – note, an identity inspired by a twin brother who was sadly never born, but whose fingernail was still found in the afterbirth. This revelation, which he didn’t learn until age 36, brings to the forefront that frontman swagger that he lacked in the past.

On the first single “Muted Beatings”, Albert channels the sounds of 2009 Paramore with far more personal lyrics and extremely intricate arrangements. “Rocky’s Late Night” is another highlight off the record. This track is captivating with infectious guitar work and deeply personal lyrics about his growth as a person and grasping how to deal with life’s changes. The beautifully harmonized and slow-building jam “Set to Attack” also soars and is sure to be a staple for live shows down the road.

Unfortunately not all the songs are winners. The second teaser “Far Away Truths” falls short when it’s up against other tracks in Hammond’s discography; it also just sounds like a weak Strokes song.  A few other tracks suffer due to similar reasons, not bad songs by any means, but underwhelming.

With all that being said, Albert has made it clear that even if The Strokes don’t get together to record any time soon, we’ll still have one-fifth of the band. He’s putting his heart and soul out here, and it’s pretty damn catchy. All in all, the future looks bright.

Feature Photo By (Albert Hammond Jr./Official Website).

Album Review: THENBHD’s The Neighbourhood (2018)

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Though The Neighbourhood lacks a full makeover of a sound, the redundancy in their current melodies are used to their benefit.

Top Tracks: Flowers, Scary Love, Reflections

Rating: 7.5/10


By: Jackie Reed

After years of quietly releasing live session tracks and solo projects, The Neighbourhood returns to the boyband arena.

Their self-titled album The Neighbourhood (2018) released on Friday, March 8. It’s a conglomeration of new wave singles and songs pulled from previous EPs – particularly their Hard – EP (2017) and To Imagine – EP (2018). Likewise, they pulled from Hard to Imagine – EP (2018) as well, though this EP is literally Hard and To Imagine meshed into one, branded-new EP. A little overboard, but it lets their name be known.

Songs like “Scary Love”, “Sadderdaze”, and “You Get Me So High” are dark anthems synthesized with reverbed vocals, pop clicks, crisp drumbeats, and echoing instrumentals. These act as the foundation for the album – they are key tracks that define what the group is best remembered for. Other tracks like “Nervous” and “Void” came out days before the album release. Such tracks offer similar tones and vernacular heard throughout the album.

Let’s not forget that there were new singles released solely out of this album. Take “Flowers”, the first single. It’s a cinematic introduction to the album, which reconciles the band’s beach sound and sophisticated image. “Blue” is another one new to the ear. It’s a testament to Jesse Rutherford’s solo project & (2017), an album embraced by his tenor vocals and synthy hip-hop music beds.

Though The Neighbourhood lacks a full makeover of a sound, the redundancy in their current melodies are used to their benefit. Typical distant guitar and static vocals are techniques they manage to get away with. Much of their interludes and existential sounds are drawn from characteristics found in previous albums – say Wiped Out! (2015) and #000000 & #FFFFFF (2014).

The album as a whole is no showstopper. However, it does reclaim the band’s territory in today’s independent artist game, ultimately gratifying long-time fans and impressing new ones.

Feature Photo By (The Neighbourhood/Facebook). 

Album Review: MGMT’s Little Dark Age (2018)

mgmt1

MGMT show they aren’t done writing beautifully trippy pop songs.

Top Tracks: Little Dark Age, Me and Michael, TSLAMP, Hand it Over

Rating 9.1/10


By: Mikey Bamarni

MGMT did something a little different when they released their first single “Little Dark Age”, the title track, to the world back in October. They went 80’s goth. The decade is clearly making a huge comeback, but the band went about it a little darker, with eerie lyrics and musical tones and a music video inspired by The Cure. It is their most pop friendly single since they released the now-classic Oracular Spectacular (2007) singles 10 years prior.

Two months later, they released the much trippier song “When You Die”, reminiscent of Congratulations (2010) – another “pop” song that has enough originality and MGMT weirdness to make it stand out. The next pre-album single is the beautiful and Beach Boys influenced “Hand it Over.” It’s the slow jam off the album and perhaps the best track of the bunch.

Other fantastic songs from the record are “Me and Michael,” which feels like it was George Michael inspired, due to its vocal production, delivery, and the name George Michael. It’s destined to be a hit. The hilariously-meta music video even predicts that it will be popular. There is also the groovy and psychedelic “TSLAMP” or “Time Spent Looking At My Phone.” This is a definite jam with lyrics that may hit some a little too close to home.

With all that said, the album isn’t perfect. “Days That Got Away” leaves something to be desired, and at times the album can sound a bit monotonous.

Overall Little Dark Age shines immensely. It’s a great introductory to the band for new listeners, as well as those who enjoyed the pop appeal of Oracular Spectacular and the experimentation of Congratulations.

Feature Photo By (MGMT/Facebook). 

Album Review: Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods (2018)

 JTDespite a horrible album roll out, Man of the Woods hits almost all of the right notes.

Top Tracks: Man of the Woods, Higher Higher, Flannel, Livin Off The Land

Rating: 7.2/10


By: Mikey Bamarni

Now, with over 20 years of Justin Timberlake in our lives we have made it to Man of the Woods (2018); an album he described as his most personal and best yet.

What’s great about MOTW is that it isn’t trying hard to be anything other than JT. Bieber follows the EDM trends while Bruno Mars creates songs that people swear they’ve already heard. People can say he’s appealing to the country market, but he already showed signs of interest in the genre with 2013’s “Drink You Away” and through his help in pushing Chris Stapleton’s mainstream success.

At the end of day, it should not be a debate: Timberlake is the current living king of pop.

With the opening single “Filthy”, the listener is treated to a fun and more robotic, but sadly not as catchy, “Sexyback”. Why this was chosen as the lead single instead of the super fun title track, I’ll never know. “Breeze Off the Pond” is a nod back to the Justified days and “Flannel” has a melody with harmonies so layered that you might think you’re listening to a long lost *NSYNC song.

You’ll find next level production courtesy of The Neptunes and Timbaland. Songs like “Livin off the Land” and “Morning Light” shine in particular thanks to this team, who are just as much a reason for the record’s enjoyability as JT is.

At the same time, with all the positive things said, this is still Timberlake’s second worst album, only superior to the horribly unnecessary The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 (2013). A lot of these songs get lost in their own attempt of sounding unique and ultimately come across as fake and bland. “Sauce” “Wave” and “Hard Stuff” are all filler. Other tracks also seem like they could be omitted.

Critics will hate this album, they’re going to say it’s fake, it’s easy to. A bad rollout, poor lead single selections, and confusion over how an artist that got famous through R&B music one day decides to go country. The truth however is that this album is much more Marvin Gaye than Hank Williams.

Give this record as many listens as you can, because with each extra journey you’ll find more and more to enjoy in the woods.

Feature Photo By (Justin Timberlake/Official Website). 

Mikey B’s Top Five Albums & Songs of 2017

By: Mikey Bamarni

Best Albums of 2017

5. Ti Amo – Phoenix

In June of this year, I reviewed this newly released album by Phoenix; yet here we are in December and the record is still just as amazing. It’s even more incredible due to the fact that the album has vibes reminiscent of summer. The more listens you give it, the more you notice the small little details that make this 10 track tour de force so griping. It’s the ultimate indie rock band release of 2017.

4. Antisocialites – Alvvays

Before this year, I had never heard of Alvvays. When I did stumble upon them on the World Wide Web I instantly disliked them. Alvvays?? V’s?? Do you want to be CHVRCHES?? Their name alone made me blood red mad. Since the album artwork was particularly enticing, I decided to judge an album by its cover, and it ended up being a great call. This record is the background music to your favorite dream and most relaxing happy place. Definitely recommend that you listen now.

3. Visions of a Life – Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice have been on my radar since their debut album released in 2015. Their music sounded like it was straight from the 90’s, but with modern production and less depressing lyrics. The combination was something special. This year they released a phenomenal album. It has many standout songs and fantastically expands the sound they started to show the world two years ago.

2. I See You – The XX

The XX is an excellent band. They have three albums that I highly recommend giving a listen to. Their third record, which they released this year, is probably their most up-tempo release yet. It’s always interesting to see this band explore new sounds, as they always end up succeeding. You must listen to the album all the way through at least once. I See You may be the best introductory album for this group, as it’s their best yet.

1. DAMN – Kendrick Lamar

Everyone was stunned by the jazz and political lyrics of the 2015 Kendrick album, To Pimp a Butterfly. While it was clearly a musical masterpiece, it was a hard listen for the more mainstream rap fans to grasp. Especially for those who loved the beats and production of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, it was hard to get into the more instrumentally driven follow up.

DAMN, however, does the trick of combining the political and personal lyrics of the 2015 album with a production that is even more beat driven than M.A.A.D City. It is a journey of a record, with each track focusing on a single aspect of what Kendrick Lamar wants to discuss in 2017. This is truly a masterpiece.

Best Songs of 2017

5. GOLD – BROCKHAMPTON

When I was on Twitter one day, I noticed a lot of talk about BROCKHAMPTON. At first I thought it was a TV show, or perhaps a cool indie rock band. But, to my surprise, found out that they were a self-described rap boy-band. With this niche classification, I knew I had to be check them out. The stand-out song out of the vast amount of tracks they released in 2017 is this heavy bumping jam. With a catchy chorus and lyrical swag, this song is truly golden.

4. PRIDE – Kendrick Lamar

DAMN was a darn good album (scroll up to see my thoughts). The standout to many critics would be HUMBLE or DNA, but for me, it’s PRIDE. The song is incredible in all aspects. Musically unique and mid-tempo, the lyrics are incredibly poetic and detailed, complementing Lamar’s silky-smooth vocal delivery. It’s a fiery track worthy of your peep.

3. Sign of the Times – Harry Styles

When 1D reached its peak, I was a Zayn Malik kind of guy myself. Mostly due to our similar ethnic backgrounds and shy guy personalities. When Harry, the other arguably most talented member of the bunch, released his debut single, I didn’t have super high hopes. But, I was interested and gave it a listen. This song floored me. The incredible thing is how it’s a straight rocker, yet still reached number 3 on the Billboard 100. Harry went solo with with a huge risk, and he hit it out of the park.

2. Say Something Loving – The XX

They released this song on January 1st, and thus making it a contender for song of the year. The XX did something beautiful with this track. They made a song as infectious and catchy as it is introspective and deep. With fantastic sampling and beautifully mellow vocals, it’s a song you need to listen to before it slips away.

1. The Man – The Killers

The Killers had an epic comeback in 2017. They released their best album in about 10 years, which included the ultimate pop/rock song. With influences from the Bee Gees, David Bowie, and a sample of Kool & The Gang, it was destined for greatness. It exceeded that predicted strength. Although the lyrics may seem cocky and arrogant, a quick watch of the music video explains that the song is mocking the guy who thinks he’s the king when, in reality, he’s just a human (or maybe a dancer).


To see Mikey B’s top picks of 2016, click here.

Album Review: COIN’s HWYKIYNT (2017)

COIN’s second album is a familiar pop series that embodies a mixed bag of emotions, all with a stagnant and cheerful disposition.

Top Tracks: Talk Too Much, Hannah, Malibu 1992

Rating: 7/10


By: Jackie Reed

COIN is leading a front in the independent pop artist game. Their newest album, How Will You Know If You Never Try (2017) also known as HWYKIYNT, came out this past Friday, April 21. With leading singles “Talk Too Much” and more recently “I Don’t Wanna Dance”, they leave indie pop fans vacating all music elsewhere and directing themselves to the album. Their second album is a familiar pop series that embodies a mixed bag of emotions, all with a stagnant and cheerful disposition.

Two years after the release of COIN (2015), featuring some prominent go-to pop singles like “Run” and “Atlas”, the new album shows the very development and confidence of the band. The Nashville band takes their dreamy vocals, pumping drums, and wildly smooth guitar riffs up a notch. Their lyrical growth and outreach of emotions makes the listening experience a familiar yet enjoyable one.

COIN’s album starts with an empty and slow introduction “when I talk about the future.” They quickly adjust their momentum and bring back their usual windy drums and pushy beat. Chase Lawrence, the lead vocalist, assures his Nashville heritage by mixing his vocal twang with jumpy indie pop instrumentals. It is rather reminiscent of indie artists who share optimism in their tracks, like Magic Man, LANY, The 1975, Grouplove, and Smallpools.

Following songs have a similar format, each containing relatable story, undeniable cheer, and riffs true to the band. “Talk Too Much” is the third song off the album, and it is the talk of the town; this anthem emulates the insecurities of many individuals in a cute and honest approach. Their fourth song “I Don’t Wanna Dance” also has a similar message, validating the goodness of the song through irony, in a way.

COIN’s album holds a theme: challenging the realities of teenage/young adult love and relationships. With relationships comes insecurities, blunt conversation, and of course, courtship. Their lyrics prove this. In their sixth song “Are We Alone?”, parts of the script add to the very emotion that comes with young love. “Pulling teeth just to ask how your day was” is one notion which many may relate to.

A part of young love, however, comes along innocence and a fresh start. COIN ends their album slow, like the beginning. The last songs “Miranda Beach” and “Malibu 1992” simply add to the narrative, ending in such a way that is filled with nostalgia.

Overall, COIN’s HWYKIYNT (2017) is the ultimate go-to summer album to add to any indie pop playlist. Though there is little variety between songs, they still contain positive messages that are relatable on so many levels.

Feature Photo By (COIN/Facebook). 

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