Pale Waves – Unwanted: Review

Turning back the clock with Unwanted, Pale Waves reinvigorates the sounds that hooked us with My Mind Makes Noises, which felt slightly faint on Where Am I? Instead of reeling towards general rock complexions, Pale Waves ignites their emotions and lets them ride like waves as they shift between chords and effects. The strings are transparent and potent, allowing the drums and synths to be the sandpaper smoothing out the rough edges. It’s gripping at various moments–other times, we’re vain to the sounds that aren’t as triggering and leave us humdrum with esoteric genericism in the pop-punk aesthetic blanketed over the album, and the slight side-turns into acoustics. Though they teeter in this direction, it centers on taste, and it didn’t hit the proper tastebuds; the few missteps can get glossed over by the sheer consistency heard compared to their last album. And that isn’t to say I haven’t had this on repeat–cause I have exponentially, further showing how easy it is to get lost within that realm of sounds.

The realized consistency in Unwanted is as potent as ever, keeping you enshrined in this confined temple of relativity where Heather Baron-Gracie’s captivating melodies and the band’s overall riotous instrument playing keep you glued as it comes from multiple angles. It’s immediate with “Lies” and its tremendous drop, creating an identity toward the emotive tenacity these tracks will deliver. There is angst, and their fiery limits aren’t confined, giving Baron-Gracie the range to evoke emotions fluidly. She doesn’t get invariably angered by situations, sometimes getting lost within existential thoughts that get reflective based on personal social experiences. But it’s when Baron-Gracie truly immerses herself with these feelings, which are reflective amongst the best tracks on the album. “Lies,” “Jealousy,” and “Alone” are some that come with a fierce punch, propelling the straps to grip you into your seat and rocking to these sentiments we are or aren’t focusing on, especially with the latter two. “Jealousy” ferociously captures that essence of jealousy Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” exhumed, just not as vanilla. The melodic strings and gripping drum patterns in the chorus bring out your inner emotional mosher, one where the body speaks on the production’s bravado. 

Unlike “Jealousy,” “Alone” reinforces a disdain for anyone who embodies an overly touchy persona and eagerness beneath that they can’t get beyond simply understanding someone’s preference to be alone. Heather Baron-Gracie exhumes these sentiments with personal integrity that you forget the universal appeal it brings; it’s akin to empowering anthems about being alone and striving, except it’s being alone, so she doesn’t have to deal with varying “repercussions.” Like she said in an interview with Apple Music: 

“I don’t think I’ve ever been as brutal as I am on this track. It’s about when you say no to someone and they just don’t leave you alone. So many times—in clubs, in bars, in goddamn Tesco—where someone comes up to you and they’re like, ‘Can I buy you a drink? Can I get your number?’ And you say, ‘Sorry, I’m not interested.’ And they still get all handsy and physical with you. Do you not get the message? Don’t touch me.”

– Heather Baron-Gracie

: there is an essence of being without becoming overly preachy, especially in the context of rejection songs. There is a balance that never downplays the themes, though not all tracks have gripping production, sometimes feeling like composites of other styles without adding anything distinguishingly new to set itself apart besides any catchiness within the chorus or melodies. 

Fortunately, we’re steering towards a triumphant set of tracks to close the album, especially as they imbue these exhilarating sounds that shift the parameters by allowing some of the simplicity to feed into the depth of the performances or the intricate production that steers you away from current pop-punk tones. “You’re So Vain” and “Reasons To Live” begin to ignite and exhume fumes of creative integrity. It’s pertinent to one’s enjoyment of the album as they slowly shift toward the sounds of Where Am I? except with stronger compositions that keep your ears glued. It caught me by surprise, with the final track finding itself on heavy rotation. Baron-Gracie has noted how negatively emotional Unwanted is and transcends the emotions loosely, like on “Clean,” which gives us some crisp, fun positivity where her sense of love gets explored physically and vocally. You hear and feel it when she sang: “I bang my hеad against the wall/Until I hear your voice/Yеah, I’ve come undone/I’m hooked and I’m withdrawn/And I don’t really care if it’s my fault,” as this composite of metaphorically intense love, and it’s delivered beautifully.

Amongst the wind of radiant consistency, some tracks minimally stunt progression or feel like a sonic retread of others that have done it better, which is the case with the more somber, acoustic-driven “The Hard Way” and “Numb.” They don’t sound like something special at first, as you get predominant lead-ins toward these crazy closers of rock bliss, but those lead-ins aren’t all effective and leave you feeling mum about the last 70 or so seconds of the tracks. “Only Problem” is not like them; it is one of these composites that feels like a poorly constructed throw away that doesn’t retread themes, instead sounding poor in comparison with what follows. These tracks have merit contextually lyrically, but the layering between vocals and production isn’t equally as strong, and that’s what keeps you engaged.

Unwanted is fantastic, albeit with a few hiccups along the way. It delivers what fans want and love and more, and from speaking to a few–post thought collection, which has been potent in our conversations. It keeps their formula intact as we shift in emotional range, becoming reflexive between vocals and instrumentations–we’re in a daze as we align with riotous melodies that make us feel heard during our inner personal jam session. And if you bypass the ineffective tracks, there is more to obtain from the sheer transitions within the pitch, style, and more, which will leave you with a rewarding listening experience.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Beach Bunny – Emotional Creatures: Review

Throughout the band’s growth, Beach Bunny has solidified an identity that delivers electric, fun, and raw music with powerful gravitational pulls; you can’t help but find some songs or albums that hit. That’s how it was with me, and it continues to be with their new album, Emotional Creature. Like past albums, they exhume a youthful (instrumentally) yet mature (songwriting) presence in the Rock scene, building these unique instrumentations with fluidity, continuously immersing into Rock at an authentic level. However, that loses importance with the consistency of the instrumentalists Jon Alvarado, Matt Henkels, Anthony Vaccaro, and frontwoman Lili Trifilio as they steer the ups and downs. Emotional Creatures reflects a new direction that mostly strides because of the aforesaid general positives and evolves naturally with its “Sci-Fi” angle–it echoes as synthesizers are now a prominent instrument. The album gives us an artistic improvement with a flurry of wicked great music in a compact product with great songwriting and melodies, despite a few hiccups.

With Beach Bunny’s recent inclusion of synthesizers, the shift isn’t as robotic; it offers a guide for effects, pedals, etc., instead. It adds nuance to the instrumentations as they bounce between pop and punk rock, weaving different tempos and transitions, which gives Emotional Creatures some smoothness. Though I can’t say similarly about all the songs, Lili Trifilio takes us through these perspectives that root into the core of her emotional journies with the people around her. Boasted by the intricate use of the effects and synths, the expressive force in Lili’s voice delivers that oomph, attracting you toward it. We hear that throughout, with a few occasions of insane synergy that tugs you closer and closer, like “Gone” or “Karaoke.” It’s an effervescent feeling throughout the first half, never becoming unwavering as we continuously transition from “Entropy” to “Weeds.”

Those tracks get supplemented by potent songwriting, which buoys a relationship-centric core that takes varying avenues to tell a story. “Fire Escape” beautifully uses these detailed actions to paint a scene in the context of the track; in this case, Lili Trifilio sings about her and her lover’s journey through New York. It’s a consistency that stands out more frequently than not, especially in the first half. We hear these varying trajectories that are distinct and colorful lyrically. Similarly, “Eventually” sees Lili singing about facing your problems as running from them never makes them disappear. The vocal melodies bring whimsical energy that radiates slight pop-punk nostalgia in its rawest form.

That whimsical energy holds their spaceship afloat, containing engaging reminders about the subtle complexities of both sides. Unfortunately, it can get shortsighted with lingering or repetitive notes, but we get a construct that elevates the stickiness which grips us firmly. Though the repetition can mostly feel subtle, it doesn’t weigh down the quality since Lili Trifilio delivers these varying vocal textures. The final track, “Love Song,” sounds more standard, giving this feeling that it’s just a poorer reflection of “Entropy.” Many catch our ears swiftly, keeping fans of rock music, like myself, looping music that comes with slight nuances to 00s pop-punk/punk-rock, like “Fire Escape.” It stays personable while remarking notions that generalize friction or connectivity in its songwriting, allowing the instrumentations to energize and deliver rawness, specifically with guitar and bass. And it’s a reflection of the consistency heard in the first half of the album.

With tracks like “Weeds” or “Deadweight,” there is a looseness toward sonic depth, but they get enveloped in its writing. Beyond taking their own unique approach to the themes, there is a cleverness to their writing. “Weeds” brings back that nostalgia in the form of age, as Lili Trifilio incorporates a Polly Pocket in a beautifully unique way, singing in the second verse: “Tired of giving, giving, living like a lady in distress/But I don’t need someone to save me/Not your Polly Pocket in your lover’s locket/You can’t hold me down, I’m a bursting bottle rocket.” After “Weeds,” we get a bit disjointed musically; Beach Bunny creates these detailed instrumentations rooted in synths and losing the essence of emotion. You’ll predominantly hear it with “Scream;” the synths guide the vocal performance over some mundane drum patterns–similarly, the instrumental track “Gravity” doesn’t try anything new with synthesizers. It left me feeling empty–there was an opportunity, and they missed it. 

Emotional Creatures continues to showcase Beach Bunny’s talent while expressing new directions. We get some wonderfully mixed rawness/openness from the band as instrumentalists, specifically Lili Trifilio’s dreamy, intimate, and detailed writing and vocals. You get taken to the center of their persona and more as they acquiesce sounds into a clean front-to-back progression, but there are hiccups along the way. As a fan of the band, they deliver tracks I’ll return to frequently, and I hope you do too.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Avril Lavigne – Love Sux: Review

We’ve all had phases in our adolescence where the music we grew to love mirrors the angst inside, and in the early to mid-2000s, pop-punk was that. Avril Lavigne is one of many artists to have made a name within the genre – until 2007 when the infamously juvenile “Girlfriend” made splashes, only for Avril to double-down with “Hello Kitty,” years later; however, I haven’t always been absent from her music – some highlights here and there – and it’s a good thing I wasn’t as Avril Lavigne has come with her best work since 2005’s Under My Skin. Love Sux is a dynamic shift from blending nuances of the past with oblique pop. Love Sux knows what it is: lyrically poignant, blending commercialized lingo with riotous rock or rounded pop-punk ballads.

Love Sux doesn’t disassociate sonic complexions as tracks transition, like 2019’s Head Above Water. The album saw Avril Lavigne transition from the soulful and mediocre “Tell Me It’s Over” to a weird Power-Pop/Hip-Hop hybrid with Nicki Minaj on “Dumb Blonde.” It was only ever-so-often that her inner punk seeped out – here, she is hitting strides by delivering upon her strengths. But Avril is a rockstar, and she makes it known with her emotionally rugged vocal performances and righteous production. It’s on bombastic and hypnotic tracks like “Cannonball” and “F.U,” and driven love tracks like “Kiss Me Like The World Is Ending.” “Cannonball” ignites the fire for Avril’s return to Pop-Punk. It parallels her debut’s, Let Go, opening track “Losing Grip.” Both tracks mirror similar sentiments of being better off without an ex, except “Cannonball” does not lament, and instead, she is ready to turn it on, except for a few tracks. 

Avril Lavigne keeps the energy flowing with veracity, especially when we hear her blending tempos and speed. Unfortunately, these balanced transitions don’t mirror with two of her duets: “Bois Lie” featuring Machine Gun Kelly and “Love It When You Hate Me” with Blackbear. MGK’s turn to pop-punk has turned out basic melodies and instrumentations, which reflects in both effort and chemistry with Avril; it can be said about Blackbear, as well. There is little effort, which is sometimes the case with Avril, like with “Bois Lie,” which perpetuates an argument in a relationship. There is little that stands out, and most times, it’s waning on pop and relevancy, considering it is done better with Mark Hoppus on “All I Wanted.” “Bois Lie” has minimal depth, and the emotional delivery is lackluster; fortunately, these tracks could get pushed aside, and you’ll receive an incredible pop-punk album.

When you displace those two duets, a lot of what Love Sux gives us is a rocking head-banging time – whether she is destroying property on “Bite Me” or “Love Sux” or creating parallel pop-punk ballads (in tempo). Like most pop/rock ballads, we hear elevated piano riffs or slow tempo string arrangements; however, Avril Lavigne keeps you on that steady path before triggering the withheld angst. “Dare To Love Me” takes the former approach while retaining a rock aesthetic to keep the momentum flowing. Avril told us on “Cannonball” that the hunger is there, and without giving us a real taste of varied like “Complicated,” she has enough to keep you going, like mirroring the energy and cadence of “Sk8er boi,” especially with “Love Sux.”

Playing Love Sux without those duets offers a lot of breathing room for the monstrous head-banging to never stops, even when Avril Lavigne slows it down. It adds definition, sonically and lyrically, as we hear Avril singing about varying topics like keeping yourself up during the bad days on “Avalanche” or that emotional bridge that comes within starting a new relationship after being broken-hearted from a past one. Avril is opening the doors to her heart, more so than before, because it comes naturally to her. She isn’t widening her horizons with these different styles, and instead, she keeps it 100. It translates to a benefactor – if you – 86 the other duets: “All I Wanted,” her duet with Mark Hoppus of Blink-182. Mark Hoppus adds that 00s nuanced, with a modern twist – this allows the track to feel fresh amongst a modern wave of the genre we hear today while taking you back to the end of summer moshing at Warped Tour. The production helps; it continues to build energy from both singers over shreds of riotous electric guitar and drums, and that’s a predominant feeling throughout most tracks.

Avril Lavigne is at her best on Love Sux, and it shows. She is hungry, energetic, and thriving as she finds home with a genre she left in the past – it shows as she demolishes every production in her wake. Though the same can’t be said about two of the three duets, putting them into a flow with the other tracks stipends the smooth progression. But I’m a man of simple taste, and it’s easy to push those tracks aside so I can bathe in pure pop punk bliss.

Rating: 8 out of 10.