Sunday, December 28, 2014

Song Of The Week: 12/28/14

Song: "Mae"

Artist: The Gaslight Anthem

Album: "Handwritten"

Year: 2012

"Mae" is a song that appears to be about the vocalist thinking back on an old love. Perhaps she was his first love but it was definitely someone he felt a strong connection to. He asks her to go out and maybe they can rekindle some of that flame which they once had. With his current life so hectic with work or just living with the pressures of being older, he's looking for some meaning or something to hold on to. Perhaps "Mae" is who is searching for. The Gaslight Anthem formed as a band back in 2006, hailing from New Jersey. The band was originally called This Charming Man but soon changed their name to The Gaslight Anthem once their line-up was set. In 2007, the band released it's first album, "Sink Or Swim". This album was well received among most punk rock avenues as well as getting some respect in mainstream publications such as Spin Magazine. 2008 saw the band first release the EP "Senor And The Queen", then their landmark album "The '59 Sound", which was released through SideOneDummy Records. With singles such as "The '59 Sound", "Old White Lincoln" and "Great Expectations", this was voted the #1 album of 2008 by eMusic. Of course, with the band being from New Jersey, and with Brian Fallon's songwriting and singing style, The Gaslight Anthem often draws comparisons to a young Bruce Springsteen. Fallon does not shy away from the fact the he is a big fan of Bruce and at the 2009 Glastonbury Festival, Springsteen joined The Gaslight Anthem on stage for a raucous rendition of "The '59 Sound". Fallon then returned the favor by joining Springsteen's set to sing along on "No Surrender". In 2010, the band released "American Slang". This album debuted at #16 on the Billboard 200 charts thanks in part to the hit singles "American Slang" and "Bring It On". In 2011, The Gaslight Anthem signed up with Mercury Records and in 2012, released it's fourth album "Handwritten". "Handwritten" was another solid album for the band featuring the singles "45" and "Here Comes My Man". That same year at the DeLuna Fest in Florida, Fallon had another treat when Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam joined them on stage to perform PJ's "State Of Love And Trust". In 2013 the band first released "Singles Collection" which featured the band's nine 7" singles in one package. They also released their very first DVD, "Live In London". 2014 saw the compilation "The B-Sides" released. This featured some, but not all, of The Gaslight Anthem's rare songs, acoustic songs and some live tracks as well. 2014 also saw the release of the band's most recent album, "Get Hurt". With singles like "Get Hurt", "Stay Vicious" and "Rollin' And Tumblin'", you can see the band was trying to alter their style a little bit, not necessarily in a good way. For me personally, I didn't think this stylistic change helped their sound. I think maybe they were trying to get away from the constant Springsteen comparisons but I think that sound is what made them a great band. I'm not saying the new album was terrible, I just didn't find it on par with their previous three releases. Currently, The Gaslight Anthem is in full support of "Get Hurt" doing the touring and promotion thing. The Gaslight Anthem is a band that makes me hopeful that rock and roll is not dead. Brian Fallon is a great songwriter and heartfelt singer and their songs, for the most part, are constructed beautifully. Though early on, they were lumped in the punk rock scene, I don't necessarily see them as a punk rock band. If you took many of the band's influences, bands like The Replacements, Bouncing Souls, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Pearl Jam, The Clash, Social Distortion and The Rolling Stones, and mixed these band's styles in a pot, you'd probably churn out something that sounds like The Gaslight Anthem, a band I feel is one of the best out there right now.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Song Of The Week: 12/21/14

Song: "Don't Mosh The Organ"

Artist: The Dopamines

Album: "Vices"

Year: 2012

"Don't Mosh The Organ" is a song that appears to be how some people are constantly telling you how you should live your life or offering advice as to which paths you should choose. Once you brush these people off and start making your own decisions and making your own mistakes to learn from, then you will find what path to choose. The irony is that once you've found yourself and your calling, it's these same people that supposedly knew it all that come crawling back to you asking how you did this or did that. So you just brush them off again. The Dopamines formed as a band back in 2006, hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio. The band was originally intended to be a side project for members of Black Tie Bombers and Ukraine Crane. After a short tour in 2007 opening for The Queers, the members decided to break up their original bands and put the primary focus on The Dopamines. In 2008, the band hooked up with It's Alive Records and had two releases, their debut full length album "The Dopamines" and a split 7" with Till Plains. A live performance by The Dopamines at the 2009 Insubordination Fest was recorded and released as a live cd/dvd. Many punk fanzines and critics were raving about The Dopamines live show and the passion and energy and overall fun the band seemed to be having while performing. 2009 also saw the band release the EP "Soap And Lampshades" as well as a split with The Copyrights. In 2010, The Dopamines signed with Paper + Plastick Records and released their second full length album "Expect The Worst". The band then earned the opening slot on a Less Than Jake tour to support the album. They also released a 7" split with Be My Doppelganger that year as well. 2011 saw the band release a split with fellow punks Dear Landlord. In 2012, The Dopamines returned to It's Alive Records and released "Vices". Currently, while there has not been any definitive news that the band has any new material ready for release, they have in fact tracked some demos back in 2013, possibly for a new album. In 2014, the band released a song on their Bandcamp page that was available for free download. The Dopamines bring a brand of high energy, melodic pop punk that has similarities with fellow punk bands such as Dear Landlord, The Flatliners, Four Year Strong and House Boat. They're pop punk, but now quite as clean as a Green Day but a little more gritty like Green Day's side project Pinhead Gunpowder. If you're a fan of high energy, melodic punk rock, then The Dopamines is a band you should give a listen to.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Song Of The Week: 12/14/14

Song: "Jackie Robinson"

Artist: Everclear

Album: "Invisible Stars"

Year: 2012

"Jackie Robinson" is a song about the life of a particular black man who when he was young saw firsthand the segregation and hatred towards him. His Dad took him to see Jackie Robinson, perhaps the first sign of any type of progress for him for his race, not particularly in race relations however. He saw how mixed race relationships drew even more hatred as he fell for a white girl who was later found in a ditch because of their relationship. The song culminates with the election of a black President and the man dies knowing that America has changed so much. He dreamed of this day happening, but never thought it would. It's basically about racial progress in America. It's not perfect by any stretch, but it is better then when this man was growing up. Everclear formed as a band back in 1991. Following the break up of his previous band Colorfinger, Art Alexakis moved to Portland, Oregon and put an add out in a local magazine. Craig Montoya (bass) and Scott Cuthbert (drums) would answer the add and Everclear was born. Their first two releases "Nervous & Weird" EP and "World Of Noise" were both recorded in a friend's basement and you can hear the real, raw and garage-y feel to those recordings. In 1995, Everclear signed with Capitol Records and released "Sparkle And Fade". The album featured the singles "Heroin Girl", "Heartspark Dollarsign" and "Santa Monica", the single that really propelled the album to platinum status. In 1997, the band released "So Much For The Afterglow", featuring the singles "Everything To Everyone", "I Will Buy You A New Life" and "Father Of Mine", the latter which earned the band Billboard's Modern Rock Band Of The Year for 1998. 2000 saw the band release "Songs From An American Movie Vol. 1: Learning How To Smile". This album featured the band's most successful single, "Wonderful". "Songs From An American Movie Vol. 2: Good Time For A Bad Attitude" was released just four months later. This probably hurt the sales of this album because the promotion was still in motion for the first volume. The second release kind of got lost in the mix with the consumer public. In 2003, the band released "Slow Motion Daydream", featuring the singles "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom" and "The New York Times". At this point, Capitol was basically not promoting Everclear or the album. It only wound up selling just over 100,000 copies. To make matters worse, Montoya and Eklund both parted ways with the band. In 2004, Everclear finished out their contract with Capitol by releasing the greatest hits compilation, "Ten Years Gone: The Best Of Everclear 1994-2004". In 2006, Everclear signed with Eleven Seven Music and released "Welcome To The Drama Club" which featured the singles "Hater" and "Glorious". 2008 saw the band release the all cover album "The Vegas Years", oddly enough it was released through Capitol. 2009 saw the band release "In A Different Light", which featured re-recordings of previous Everclear hits, mostly in an acoustic, stripped down setting. The album featured two unreleased tracks, "Here Comes The Darkness" and "At The End Of The Day". In 2011, the band released "Return To Santa Monica", featuring re-recordings of old songs and some covers, and "Extended Versions", a live album. 2012 saw the band release their first new album in six years, "Invisible Stars". The first single released on this album was "Be Careful What You Ask For". After the release of this album Alexakis created the Summerland Tour. This tour was a 90's nostalgia tour featuring Everclear and such bands as Lit, Marcy Playground, Live, Filter, Sponge, Eve 6 and Soul Asylum to name a few. Currently, Alexakis told the audience at a 2014 Summerland Tour date that the band are in fact working on a new album to be released soon. Everclear is Art Alexakis' baby. He is the chief songwriter and lyricist. While they came out of the post-grunge era, their songs tend to veer more toward power pop. They have garage band, noisy moments (mostly on their first two albums) but generally their songs are very melodic and pop orientated. Alexakis' lyrics are simple, often storytelling in nature. But they tend to be personal or even when he writes about someone else's story, like "Jackie Robinson", he tends to make that very personal as well. His songs are very straightforward is what I'm trying to say. They are not hard to decipher like some other band's songs are. While the band's popularity has waned since 2000, they have definitely made an impact on the music scene and their style and sound is unmistakenly original.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Song Of The Week: 12/7/14

Song: "Voices"

Artist: Matt Skiba And The Sekrets

Album: "Babylon"

Year: 2012

"Voices" is a song that appears to be about someone suffering from schizophrenia. The person being described in the song is in such a bad mental state that they feel they are suffocating. Their own reality is a living hell and the outside world just can't comprehend or understand what they are dealing with. Those who are trying to offer help just can't get through. Matt Skiba got his start in the music world back in 1996, hailing from Chicago, Illinois. He is best known as the guitarist/vocalist for seminal punk band Alkaline Trio. The influential Alkaline Trio have released nine studio albums along with various splits and compilations over the last 18 plus years. Matt Skiba got his first taste of doing the solo thing in 2002 when he and 7 Seconds frontman Kevin Seconds released a split where both artists performed basically acoustic songs. In 2006, Skiba and F-Minus bassist Josiah Steinbrick formed the band Heavens and released the album "Patent Pending". This featured a more electronic sound incorporating drum machines and samples. 2010 saw Skiba release a solo album called "Demos". This was basically demo tracks that Skiba had on his personal computer. The tracks were songs that may or may not appear on future Alkaline Trio projects or future side projects. Either way, these were the songs in their infancy stage. 2012 was a busy year for Skiba on the side project front. First he formed a band called The Hell with Atom Willard, drummer for both The Offspring and Angels And Airwaves. This band would have two releases, 2012's "Sauve Les Requins" and 2013's "Southern Medicine". Also in 2012, Skiba formed a band featuring AFI bassist Hunter Burgan and My Chemical Romance drummer Jarrod Alexander. This band was called Matt Skiba and the Sekrets and they released one album called "Babylon", "Voices" being the lead single off of that album. Currently Skiba has confirmed that he is at work on a new solo album. He is also working with Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 on a children's punk album. Alkaline Trio last released an album in 2013 called "My Shame Is True". While Alkaline Trio is Skiba's main focus, he seems to make time for his various solo projects as well. The common thread in all of his music are his lyrics which tend to be personal and gravitate towards the darker things in life and relationships. No surprise that he is very much influenced by bands like The Cure, The Damned and Nirvana, all three bands offer up emotional, dark and personal lyrics in their songs. Like the Trio was heavily influenced by a band like The Misfits, younger bands such as My Chemical Romance were most likely influenced by Alkaline Trio. Matt Skiba's songwriting, solo and with Alkaline Trio, has left a permanent mark on the musical landscape.