“We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes” ~ Album Review

Review by James

1.       We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes / Title Track – [10/10] – Definitely a solid opening track. Death Cab’s alt-rock atmosphere shines through enormously through this song, gradually building in two phases. The first half is driven by a slow rock song, though it is filtered and sounds fairly muffled. The guitars and percussion are incredible, as they are throughout the course of the album. Once the filter wears off, the cymbals and vocals gain a new sort of freshness that makes the song sound incredible, and creates quite a cool effect as if hearing normally after being underwater (though that’s a bit of a stretch, you understand). The song, very broadly, sort of signifies a depressing morning after. The metaphorical lyrics are quite cool and flow together well, particularly the first verse and chorus. Overall, one of the best tracks on the album, immediately after pressing play.

 2.       The Employment Pages – [7/10] – Ehhh… the song gets a little better after a minute or so, but personally I don’t like this one as much as some of the others. The guitars and percussion are pretty alright, though the guitar takes a while to get to the good section. The vocals, however, remain consistently irritating throughout the majority of the song. This brings it down quite a bit, though the song is listenable since parts of the song go a little while without any vocals. The lyrics aren’t particularly poetic either. Overall an alright song, but not particularly memorable at all. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the general mediocrity of the next song.

 3.       For What Reason – [5/10] – Nah. This one is just really whiny, not too much appealing about this. I won’t go into too much detail, but for what reason would you want to listen to this song? (see what I did there?)

 4.       Lowell, MA – [8/10] – A slightly more up-tempo song that has some pretty good guitarwork in there. The vocals are a little strange, it’s difficult to explain but seems a little delayed. The song is incredibly well-polished and the bass is spectacular in the bridges between the chorus’s end and the verse’s beginning. The percussion is actually quite nice in this one, it moves the song together extremely well, even in its simplicity. Overall, it’s a solid track. Quite a nice song actually.

 5.       405 – [9/10] – The majority of this song revolves around delay and feedback. It’s a cool track, the heaviest thus far in the album. Both the harmony guitars and vocals have overdrive layered over them, which actually sounds quite cool, though it takes some time to build on you until you appreciate it. The lead guitar has just a hint of distortion… which sounds cool but often gets drowned out by the other drive in the song. The lyrics are written about Highway I-405, about a potentially vivid relationship that couldn’t last due to an alcohol addiction, and the bittersweet rage that propels the subject to keep going but ultimately never amount. Artistically written, some of the imagery is just spectacular.

“Misguided by the 405, ‘cause it led me to an alcoholic summer,

missed the exit to your parent’s house hours ago,

Red wine and cigarettes, hiding your bad habits

underneath the patio, patio…”

 6.       Little Fury Bugs – [11/10] – Probably my favorite song on the album. This is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in a long while, despite the lyrics being quite depressing. Gibbard’s voice is absolutely stunning in this… the guitars are haunting. The melancholy, soft atmosphere the song utilizes definitely stands out as a genuinely gorgeous track. Aside from the incredible instrumentals, the lyrics and vocals are absolutely spectacular as well. Due to the song’s incredibly slow tempo, Gibbard pulls off an almost ghostly tone of voice that sounds extremely nice in time with the instruments. The percussion builds and fades, adding to the calming feel the track provides. Overall, this song is flat-out perfect. Every album needs a favorite. Here’s mine.

 7.       Company Calls – [7/10] – Eh, it’s an alright song. There are parts of the song that I like, parts I don’t. The chord progression is pretty horrible, though the guitars, when not playing the prog, sound fairly nice, particularly after around the first minute and a half. Forget 405, Company Calls is the heaviest thus far. The vocals are actually alright, ranging from Ben’s general calm, flowing voice, straight to a punk, cord-bleeding yell that you won’t find otherwise on this album. I personally find this song fairly bland, though there are worse.

 8.       Company Calls Epilogue – [9/10] – The slightly slower and softer counterpart to its similar namesake is, in my opinion, much better. Not entirely sure what the two songs have to do with each other, apart from sharing some lyrics, but this one is much improved chord-wise. The song is a lot longer, which is nice. The guitars and bass are crisp and quite nice actually, though the rest of the song is fairly nondescript. All I can really say at this point is give this one a listen.

 9.       No Joy in Mudville – [8/10] – Dat glockenspiel. The song starts out calm enough, a slow 6/8 rock song with gentle sounding, almost eerie vocals, guitars, and a glockenspiel, which gives the song a hauntingly beautiful introduction. Though the build is slow, by the time the song really kicks off it’s quite the tune. Between the slow and hard rock portions of the song lies a transition of Gibbard’s alto-soprano and simple clicks for percussion. Immediately following are the overdrive guitars and intense snare and cymbals. The song is alright, but it gets fairly repetitive, which wouldn’t normally be an issue, but the song is six minutes long. Apart from that, Mudville brings a fair amount of joy in preparation for a spectacular next track.

 10.   Scientist Studies – [10/10] – This song finishes off the album incredibly. Like many of their other songs, it begins slowly and medium-soft. It opens with the first verse, utilizing warm guitar, shaker, and reversed piano, giving the song a ghostly atmosphere, however, once the song builds it becomes fantastic and much more hardrock-influenced. The mid-section of the song uses a standard alt-rock feel similar to that of Company Calls and Lowell, MA. By the end of the song, however, the distortion becomes incredible, a burst of energy in an otherwise fairly balanced album. In fact, the last 30 seconds of the song are the consistent echoes of the distortion that last all the way until the end. The lyrics have multiple interpretations, but essentially it’s based around a mildly depressed and completely bewildered college student, expecting all the high school drama to be over but having it come back to haunt them again, as it mentions fairly literally in the second verse. Overall an incredible finish to a great album.

 

“I thought that this meant something more than broken hearts and new addictions,

We’ll leave our sins within the carpet twine, our bodies dissolve the chemicals over time…”

Recommend? Yes

Averaged Rating – 8.4/10

Opinion Rating – 9/10

 

Recommended Tracks

  1. Little Fury Bugs
  2. Title Track
  3. Scientist Studies
  4. 405
  5. No Joy in Mudville

“Torches” by Foster the People ~ Album Review

Review by James

1. Helena Beat – [9/10] – Maybe I’m being overly generous, but I love this song. The song has an overall great progression, beginning with a drum intro followed by a weird noise that sounds similar to a heartbeat. Written along Mark Foster’s teenage struggle with Hollywood’s drug and gang violence, the song is pretty powerful, though the lyrics are pretty metaphorical and take multiple listens to sink in. One of the more forthright lines features in the chorus:

“Yeah, it’s OK,

I tie my hands up to a chair so I don’t fall that way;

Yeah, it’s alright,

I took a sip of something poisoned but I’ll hold on tight”

Regarding the instrumentals… the guitars and bass are stunning – the keyboards really put together a neo-grunge, almost robotic, sort of sound I personally like a lot. The only knock this song gets is Foster’s irritating soprano. The lyrics are good, but in all honesty, they’re hard to concentrate when in the back of your mind you realize it’s a dude singing it. Other than that, it’s a solid track.

 

2.      Pumped Up Kicks – [10/10] – Let’s be honest here. This is the ONE Foster the People song that literally everyone knows about. Taken from the perspective of an abused teenage killer, driven to insanity. The lyrics are taken from a combination of both the Columbine High School and Westwood shootings, and are haunting once you’ve listened multiple times. Phrasing aside, the rest of the song is spectacular, but gets a little repetitive, as it’s a four-bar bassline repeated over and over for essentially the course of a four-minute song (though in my mind it doesn’t really detract from the song). The vocals on this song are much better than on Helena Beat, though the lyrics are just as good… and the guitar harmonies (man alive). Overall, one of my favorites on the album.

 3.      Call it What You Want – [8/10] – This is basically the polar opposite from their first two incredibly dark songs; a much more upbeat and fun feel, though gets kind of irritating considering the overwhelming amount of random whistles and beeps you face listening to this (more than Maroon 5, if you can believe that). The song revolves around an overly effect-heavy set of instrumentals, something I am not a huge fan of. Despite this, the song does have a pretty powerful meaning, though not quite to the extent of its predecessors. It’s essentially a jab towards society’s desire for comformity, regarding social hierarchies, cliques, etc. The “Call it What you Want” is a reference to the desire for social labels. The lyrics aren’t particularly poetic, quite literal actually. This song just BARELY makes an 8/10, but with that it’s actually not a bad song, though I wouldn’t recommend it in comparison to the first two.

 4.      Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls) – [4/10] – There are parts of this song that sound actually pretty nice, the chorus and bridge particularly, but that doesn’t really merit the rest of the song, some of which is EXTREMELY irritating. The whole song, particularly the second half, is littered with pitch-altered laughs, which isn’t creepy so much as just obnoxious, coupled with even more whistles and beeps than CIWYW, which lowers the song even more. Both the acoustic and tremolo-electric guitars are pretty alright, though the chords don’t necessarily “fit” with the general arrogant feel of the song.  I can’t genuinely recommend this song. Thankfully, it’s the shortest on the album. Pass.

 5.      Waste – [11/10] – HELL YES. This song is actually incredibly refreshing if you managed to sit through Color on the Walls, so the perfect rating is just a little bit biased. But even alone, the song is really quite good. The song gets really incredible once the first verse has passed and the chorus begins. The chorus is particularly powerful, giving the epitome of the song its true feel. The nostalgic, lovesick lyrics can be interpreted generally as two people, one of which is struggling through a harmful issue (I’ve heard anywhere from PTSD/Schizophrenia to drugs and alcohol), the other of which is attempting to help them through the issue, though the problem may potential mask itself as dislike.

“The truth cuts us and pulls us back up
And separates the things that look the same
You can fight it off, you can fight it off…”

The synthetic, bubbly sounding bassline and keyboards are incredibly crisp-sounding, bringing the song together with other more bizarre instruments like church bells, grand piano, and glockenspiel really make the song incredible. The vocals in this are just incredible, surpassing by far any other song on the album. This is THE best song on the album, no questions asked.

 6.      I Would Do Anything For You – [9/10] – Sounds like a slightly more upbeat combination of both Waste and Helena Beat. It’s an alright song, not particularly memorable but still a great track. The lyrics are without the question most literal and generally convivial on the entire album – as if the title didn’t give enough of a clue, the song is basically about a relationship that goes completely perfect. That’s about it. Not a particularly powerful song, though it’s progression and bridge particularly are quite nice. In general, it’s a fairly nondescript love song, though coming from Foster’s haunting voice the song does have that nostalgic and melancholic, yet poignant emotion that makes it another really solid track to near the end of the medium of the album.

 7.      Houdini – [9/10] – Alright, this is a funky one. The song is one of the most polished on the album, a very synth-heavy track with FtP’s indie-tech feel present throughout. What stands out the most here are the VOCALS. Both the harmonies and backing, as well as the lead vocals, even down to the stuttered vocoder adding to the percussion — make the song feel incredibly crisp and overall nice. The keyboards are OK, but a little high for my personal tastes. The lyrics are another powerful, yet mostly metaphorical, interpretation of social and peer pressure, about being afraid to stand up for yourself and/or what you believe in.

“Got shackles on, my words are tied,

Fear can make you compromise,

Lights turned up, it’s hard to hide,

Sometimes I want to disappear”

 

8.      Life on the Nickel – [6/10] – Not really that spectacular of a song, but that’s mostly due to its three glorious predecessors. The percussion is alright, but hurts your ears after the first minute and a half or so. Vocals are a little high, along with the synthesizer, which features an okay 8-Bit solo near the end. The non-electronic piano kind of merits the six-star rating, but this song isn’t particularly good. The song basically centers around having chances come and go across your life for money and power, but never really making it, and thus hatred for society is derivated.

 

9.      Miss You – [6/10] – Just another average song, more buzzed percussion that gets painful. I’m gonna assume this song was filler, just to make the album that magic number of 10. Nothing at all to say, it’s listenable but really quite boring.

 

10.  Warrant – [9/10] – The longest and probably most prime indie-rock track on the album, though the song is actually quite nice. It begins with an operatic intro, followed by a U2/Green Day esque styled drum and electric bass second intro, before finally venturing into the actual song, which personally is quite cool. Some of the fuzzed vocal effects are a little annoying (you’ll hear about 2/3ds through the song), but the rest of the vocals are pretty nice. The drums, guitars, and bass remain continually spectacular throughout the song, though the entire song sounds completely different from the rest of the album. Overall a solid closer, and another final great track to finish up quite a good album.

 

Averaged Album Rating: 8.2/10

Personal Album Rating: 8/10

Recommend? Yes

Personal Song Recommendations:

1.      Waste

2.      Pumped Up Kicks

3.      Houdini

4.      I Would Do Anything for You

5.      Helena Beat

“Vulnerable” by The Used ~ Album Review

Just released on March 26th, 2012, this is The Used’s 5th studio album. After 2 album duds, (“Lies for Liars” and “Artwork”), The Used has stepped it up 5 notches, with an amazing combination of alternative, punk, emo, and rock. Comparable to their second album, In Love and Death, each song on this album deserves some credit. They are all amazing. Here is the review.

Album Title: Vulnerable

Artist: The Used

Genre: Alternative-Punk

Rating:

Opinion Rating ~ 9/10

Averaged Rating ~ 8.334/10

Track

1. I Come Alive ~ 4.5/5

When I’m there
At the edge
In this moment I feel it, I know
Come alive when I’m falling down.”

The bands first single, released in January, this song defines this whole album. Its about a symbol for the band coming back from the shadows and showing the world who they really are. With the perfect mix of orchestral parts, electronic parts, and whispy vocals, this song is awesome.

2. This Fire ~ 4/5

This song, also a mix of orchestra and punk, switching off between chorus and verse. Very catchy chorus, and awesome orchestra part, just resonates “In Love and Death.” Very good, not the greatest, but very good and well written lyrics about love fading away but a fire in his heart burning strong.

3. Hands and Faces ~ 3.5/5

This song is very electronica-based. A lot of vocal effects with electronic drum sets, it was also a single released in February. Very strange bridge because of a very big slow down in tempo, but regardless a good song. Lyrics are decent, not the best lyrics.

4. Put Me Out ~ 3/5

This song is not one of my favorites, its really more on the hard punk side, with a lot of yelling/screaming. I compare it to “Take It Away” from In Love and Death, (which I also don’t especially like.)

5. Shine ~ 5/5

Definitely one of my favorite song on the album. Its a mix of punk, dance, and alternative, all in one package. The lyrics are also written very well, the chorus is very catchy, and the bridge is memorable. Mix of guitar and synth. All this in one equals the perfect combination.

6. Now That You’re Dead ~ 3.5/5

Mediocre song, a very mysterious intro, but immediately speeds up to a hardcore-punk-type feel. Lyrics are not especially good, but the instrumentals are, like most of their songs, very good. Sounds kinda like some of the songs from their “Artwork” album, which was a dud.

7. Give Me Love ~ 4/5

Actually pretty good, not as much as yelling as the other songs. There are a lot of vocal harmonies with some effects, sort of sounds like “I Caught Fire” from In Love and Death, which is a very good song. On the top 5 list of my favorite songs from this album.“`

8. Moving On ~ 4.5/5

Very good, too. This song was only written by the band, no help from other lyricists. The instrumentals in the verse are some sort of synthesizer patch that sounds what I call “the ice cream truck,” but its still awesome. Also on the top 5 list of my favorite songs. The bridge is amazing, with its best quote… “Feel the beat of my broken heart, feel the beat as we’re moving on.” The chorus is also pretty catchy, with some very high notes hit by Bert.

9. Getting Over You ~ 4.75/5

The ballad of the album, which personally I love. The Used makes amazing ballads, with Bert showing off his real vocal talents. The lyrics are amazing, made me tear up the first time I heard it. According to a comment on the YouTube video of this song, “I’ve spent hours writing poems trying to make myself feel better, and I stumble across this song. I can honestly say I’d rather sit here and smoke cigarettes, and just let it hurt for awhile than even attempt to get over him.” Basically, this is an amazing song.

10. Kiss It Goodbye ~ 3.5/5

Also a mediocre song, with still amazing instrumentals. The muted guitar throughout the song is hypnotically good. Some vocal effects, sort of catchy chorus, some yells, and an okay drum line.

11. Hurt No One ~ 4.5/5

Verygood song. The bands true feelings comes out in this song. The drums are very, very good (mainly on the low toms, if you know what that means.) If this album was a story, Hurt No One would be the falling actions to the resolution. Bert is saying that, basically, throughout this entire thing, he never meant to hurt anybody, apparently he has. He’s apologizing for everything, before the closing song.

12. Together Burning Bright ~ 5.5/5

Favorite song. Period. Amazing closer, saying that he knows its gonna be alright. There is not much else I can say about this song, listen for yourself.

~Ukuleleism~