Saturday, November 29, 2014

Song Of The Week: 11/30/14

Song: "Only Human"

Artist: 12 Stones

Album: "Beneath The Scars"

Year: 2012

"Only Human" is a song that appears to be about picking somebody up who's down. There are many things in life that don't go exactly your way and life is full of struggle and adversity, but it is important that we stay strong and positive and try to move forward and not let the setbacks get you down. It also helps to have someone that is giving you positive reinforcement, trying to steer you in the right direction. We are all human. We all make mistakes. It's what you learn from them that makes you a better person. 12 Stones formed as a band back in 2000, hailing from Louisiana. The band would sign with Wind-up Records and in 2002, release their self-titled debut. Thanks to the singles "Broken", "The Way I Feel" and "Crash", this album debuted at #147 on the Billboard 200 charts. 12 Stones vocalist Paul McCoy was featured on the Evanescence award winning song "Bring Me To Life" and that gave the band the shot in the arm it needed. In 2004, the band released "Potter's Field" which debuted at #29 on the Billboard 200, making it 12 Stones highest charting album. "Potter's Field" featured the singles "Far Away", "Photograph" and "Shadows". 2007 saw the band release "Anthem For The Underdog" featuring the songs "Lie To Me", "Anthem For The Underdog", "Adrenaline" and "Broken Road". "Lie To Me" and "Anthem For The Underdog" both cracked the top 30 on the Mainstram Rock charts. In 2010, the band released the EP "The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday" which featured the single "We Are One". In 2012, 12 Stones relationship with Wind-up Records had come to an end and the band signed on with Executive Music Group to release their fourth full length studio album, "Beneath The Scars". This album featured the singles "Bulletproof" and "Worlds Collide". Currently, there is no news of 12 Stones working on a new album that I know of. While the band isn't hugely successful, they have sold over 2 million records worldwide which isn't too shabby at all. Their style is mainstream, radio rock much in the same vein as Three Days Grace, 3 Doors Down, Creed or Thousand Foot Krutch. At times they get heavy, but they tend to be more melodic. Sometimes they are referred to as a Christian rock band, but they don't refer to themselves as that. Though their beliefs are clearly Christian, they like to not be confined to one thing in their music. There has been some movement of band members in the band, but the constant has always been vocalist Paul McCoy who writes all the lyrics and arranges most of the music. Good band, not great.. just good.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Song Of The Week: 11/23/14

Song: "Wezeltown"

Artist: Tim Barry

Album: "40 Miler"

Year: 2012

Like so many of Tim Barry's songs, "Wezeltown" is about the lonely traveller and the places and people he meets along the way. Wezeltown Drive is located in the small town of Old Fort, North Carolina where the population exceeds just over 900 people. The town is known for it's beautiful, natural waterfalls and it's several festivals, including free music festivals plus several re-enactments of Revolutionary War engagements. It's the type of place that brings a smile to the lonely travellers face, a place of comfort, but he can't stay long. He's soon back on the road to continue his travels. Tim Barry is a folk punk solo artist from Richmond, Virginia. His musical roots date back to 1990, where he joined Richmond, Virginia hardcore punk band Avail. For 12 years as frontman of Avail, the band dropped six full length albums, two demo albums, four EP's and three live albums. Avail spent the early part of their career on Lookout! Records before going to Fat Wreck Chords for their last two releases. 2002's "Front Porch Stories" was the band's last official release and though they haven't performed together since 2008, they have never officially disbanded. In 1994/1995, Barry also played bass guitar for the short-lived punk folk band (Young) Pioneers. Perhaps this is where Barry caught the bug to perform acoustic, rootsy music. Barry began his solo career in 2004. Signing with Suburban Home Records, Barry's first solo release was "Laurel Street Demo 2005", released in 2006. This album would foreshadow where Barry wanted to go with his music, as shown with the acoustic "Idle Idylist". 2006 also saw Barry release "Rivanna Junction". This album featured the crowd favorite and sing-a-long "Avoiding Catatonic Surrender". Continuing with his acoustic folk punk style, Barry released "Manchester" in 2008, featuring the songs "This November" and "South Hill". 2010 saw the release of "28th & Stonewall", featuring crowd favorites like "Thing Of The Past" and "Walk 500 Miles". In 2012, Barry signed on with Chunksaah Records, the record company founded by the Bouncing Souls. His first release with Chunksaah was "40 Miler", featuring tracks like "Driver Pull", "40 Miler" and "Fine Foods Market". In 2014, "Raising Hell & Living Cheap: Live In Richmond" was released, a live album recorded in Barry's hometown. Currently, Barry's new album "Lost & Rootless" is set to be released on November 28, 2014. He also has already set up a string of west coast tour dates that will begin early in 2015. The new craze in the punk rock world has been for lead singers to record stripped down, acoustic, folksy type material. Whether it's Tim Barry, Hot Water Music's Chuck Ragan, Lagwagon's Joey Cape or No Use For A Name's Tony Sly, more and more punk frontmen are getting into the acoustic thing. Some do it better than others, but to me, the two that stand out above the rest are Chuck Ragan and Tim Barry. Barry, in particular, has a way of songwriting that brings you to the places he's describing, introduces you to the people he meets along the way and really makes you feel like you're riding shotgun as he travels around the country to places that you probably don't know or maybe even never heard of. It's American roots music, along the lines of early country and folk, but with an edge that can only come from a punk rock performer.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Song Of The Week: 11/16/14

Song: "Champion Beyond Blessing"

Artist: Hopesfall

Album: "A Types"

Year: 2004

"Champion Beyond Blessing" is a song that appears to be about manipulation and deception. It tells of someone who preys on people using sympathy to ultimately get what they want. The vocalist seems to be the one who is finally gonna stand up to this person and take the side of all who became victims of this manipulative person. Hopesfall formed as a band back in 1998, hailing from North Carolina. They started off as a Christian hardcore band. In 1999, they released their first album, "The Frailty Of Words" on DTS Records. This album was heavily influenced by religion. In 2001, the band released the EP "No Wings To Speak Of". In 2002, Hopesfall hooked up with Trustkill Records and released "The Satellite Years". This would be the first album to feature Jay Forrest on vocals as founding vocalist Doug Venable left the band. It was also the first album where the band began de-emphasizing their religious influences on their music. 2004 saw the band do a major shift in sound, moving away from post-hardcore and becoming more alternative rock orientated. This can be seen with their album "A Types". Thanks to the lead single "Icarus", "A Types" was probably the band's most successful release as they began to get some radio recognition. For 2007's "Magnetic North", the band meshed their new alternative rock style with some of their old post hardcore sounds. Hopesfall barely toured in support of "Magnetic North" however. Inner turmoil and constant problems with their label Trustkill Records eventually caused the band to call it quits in 2008. In 2009, there were rumors out there that vocalist Jay Forrest was going to track vocals over some unfinished Hopesfall songs but that never came to fruition. In 2011, the band reunited with original vocalist Doug Venable to play two shows in their home state of North Carolina. Currently, there is no news on the Hopesfall front. After those two reunion shows in 2011, the band members parted ways, most likely closing the book on Hopesfall. The band could never keep a steady line-up nor could they stick with a signature sound. They always seemed to struggle to find their musical identity and bands like that often don't last. Throw in the tension with their record label, and it seemed that this was a band that was destined to fail.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Song Of The Week: 11/9/14

Song: "Song For Mike"

Artist: The Real McKenzies

Album: "Westwinds"

Year: 2012

"Song For Mike" is a tongue in cheek ode to NOFX frontman Fat Mike. Fat Mike was the person who recognized The Real McKenzies as a band, signed them to his famous punk label Fat Wreck Chords and has been the band's longtime producer. "Song For Mike" is like a playful thank you for everything Fat Mike has done for the band. The song appears as a secret track on The Real McKenzies latest effort, "Westwinds". The Real McKenzies formed as a band back in 1992, hailing from British Columbia, Canada. The band was founded by vocalist Paul McKenzie and guitarist Mark Boland. Through the years, the band has featured over 100 different musicians, but McKenzie and Boland have always been the constants. In 1995, the band released their debut album, "Real McKenzies". This album would feature such Celtic favorites as "Scots Wha' Ha'e" and "Loch Lomond". In 1998, the band released "Clash Of The Tartans", featuring the single "Mainland" and a cover of the traditional song "Auld Lang Syne". 2001 saw the band release "Loch'd And Loaded" featuring such Scottish drinking anthems like "Whiskey Scotch Whiskey". In 2002, the band released their first live album, "Pissed Tae Th' Gills". This album was a tribute to Robbie Burns, a famous Scottish poet and lyricist from the 1700's. 2003 saw the release of "Oot & Aboot". This album featured the Robbie Burns penned "Ye Banks And Braes". In 2005, the band released their fifth studio album "10,000 Shots". This album would feature the songs "Pour Decisions", "Farewell To Nova Scotia" and the crowd favorite "Bugger Off". In 2008, the band dropped the album "Off The Leash". This album would feature two of the bands more popular songs, "Chip" and "Drink Some More". In 2010, The Real McKenzies released "Shine Not Burn", a live acoustic pub show which was recorded in Germany. 2012 saw the band released their latest effort, "Westwinds", featuring the singles "The Tempest" and "My Luck Is So Bad". Currently, The Real McKenzies announced they would be recording their next album in San Francisco in the Fall of 2014. This record would again be produced by Fat Mike and released on Fat Wreck Chords. While the Dropkick Murphys seem to be heralded as the face of Celtic punk music, The Real McKenzies were actually a band 4 years before the Murphys formed. Also, while the Murphys steer toward their Irish roots, The Real McKenzies aren't afraid of wearing their Scottish heritage on their sleeves. What both bands do have in common is their pride in their cultural roots and a pride in their local community. If you like your Celtic punk filled with pub anthems, traditional covers and sing-a-long, drink-a-long favorities, then The Real McKenzies are a band for you!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Song Of The Week: 11/2/14

Song: "Hurt No One"

Artist: The Used

Album: "Vulnerable"

Year: 2012

"Hurt No One" appears to be a song about someone who is dealing with regret. While owning his own shortcomings and taking his share of the blame for his failed relationship, he's not quite sure he can overcome the guilt of what he has done. He did not mean to hurt anybody but what's done is done and he has to live with that. He must learn from his mistakes and get through his self hate. The Used formed as a band back in 2001, hailing from Utah. The band was formed by members Branden Steineckert, Quinn Allman and Jeph Howard. Bert McCracken was the last member to join the band as vocalist and lyricist. The Used self recorded "Demos From The Basement" and eventually signed with Reprise Records. John Feldmann, of the band Goldfinger, not only helped the band get signed but also produced their debut self titled album in 2002. This critically acclaimed album went gold thanks in part to the hit singles "A Box Full Of Sharp Objects", "The Taste Of Ink", "Buried Myself Alive" and "Blue And Yellow". In 2003, "Maybe Memories", a cd/dvd featuring live tracks and unreleased material, was released. 2004 saw the release of "In Love And Death", featuring the singles "I Caught Fire", "All That I've Got" and "Take It Away". This album was re-released in 2005 and featured a cover of Queen's "Under Pressure" with some help from the band My Chemical Romance. In 2006, Steineckert left the band to join Rancid. The Used then released a double live album titled "Berth". In 2007, the band released "Lies For The Liars". This album charted in the top 5 in more than 7 countries and featured the tracks "The Bird And The Worm", "Liar Liar (Burn In Hell)", "Pretty Handsome Awkward" and "Paralyzed". 2008 saw the release of "Shallow Believers", an EP that contained the band's b-sides. This EP charted #14 on Itunes Top 100 albums. In 2009, the band released "Artwork". The band wanted to return to the more aggressive style that was prominent on their debut album and the first single on the album, "Blood On My Hands", showed that. In 2011, the band left Reprise Records and formed their own label, Anger Music Group. Their first release on their own label was "Vulnerable". This album featured the songs "I Come Alive" and "Hands And Faces". In 2013, "Vulnerable" was re-released as "Vulnerable (II)". This release featured b-sides and bonus material. 2013 also saw the release of an EP titled "The Ocean Of The Sky". In 2014, "Imaginary Enemy", the band's sixth full length studio album, was released on their own label with a distribution deal through Hopeless Records. "Cry" and "Revolution" were the first two singles from their latest album. Currently, the band is promoting "Imaginary Enemy" through touring and appearances. The Used came out at a time when bands who were based in pop punk, melodic rock, emo and screamo began to rule the airwaves. The Used, along with contemporaries My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday seemed to be all the rage in the early to mid 2000's. Those bands continue to flourish because they are all good bands despite what genre is popular at the time so while other bands disappear into obscurity, The Used continues to push forward and remain relevant.