Arcade Fire – We: Review

With pertinent themes with clever and fantastical instrumentals, Arcade Fire continues to coast with dreary and rhythmic melodies and harmonies over uninteresting songwriting that you almost forget Win Butler is singing, but not Régine Chassagne. It’s constructed with linear focus instrumentally, but when it comes to the way subjects are delivered, your level of attention wanes. It’s disappointing; Arcade Fire has driven on more darkened paths, but their lively shift on Everything Now was a misstep; however, finding that happy medium on We hasn’t offered much of a rewarding presence. There are bursts of tangible tracks that keep your interest afloat but isn’t as rewarding as hearing The Suburbs for the first time. But they stumble on hurdles that divert from the aesthetic that works (Dance-Pop), creating a bridge between some complexions of folk and faltering in the construction.

Arcade fire runs with ideas/themes that speak on aspects of society like our attachment to technology, the “American Dream,” and the effect of the socio-political climate through unique POVs. But it’s muddled with obscurities in the verses that sometimes it feels like they are just singing words without context. It’s evident in the transition in the two-part intro, “The Age of Anxiety,” that establishes how open they will continue to be. On the second one, Win Butler sings: 

“Heaven is so cold

I don’t wanna go

Father in heaven’s sleeping

Somebody delete me

Hardy har-har

Chinese throwing star

Lamborghini Countach

Maserati sports car.”

It establishes this death anxiety, but fears he is too warped into a rabbit hole created by life but feels to build on it emotionally through slightly dronish melodies. It’s inconsistent. They juxtapose intended moods on the livelier dance-pop tracks, and that’s the only contrast between the 1s and 2s. So, when they go into more ballad-centric melodies, it loses that spark, for the most part. There is a smooth transition between “The Lightnings” as Win Butler matches the emotional gravitas, but it isn’t the same with both parts of “End of An Empire” and the first half of the second “Age of Anxiety.” It gets partially attributed to the songwriting, which isn’t as consistently linear like the first of the latter or “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid).” 

They’ve never devoided themselves from exploring beyond a reflection, and going through the black mirror, which adds a dual perspective between the themes and the purported “I.” They’ve done it eloquently in past work, like “Modern Man” on The Suburbs, and parallel, without the “I,” on the eponymous track on Neon Bible. They find ways to blend the two, and it’s the least consistent, especially as it doesn’t leave much of an impact. That impact comes when they liven up the instrumentations, offering a variety of unique constructs to stream with the melodies and sometimes good linear storytelling. It’s the one consistent throughout We. Through this teeter-totter of writing between both lead vocalists, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, wherein Régine’s vocal performances shine with incredible consistency and sometimes act like a proper duet-foil for Win. It is heard in abundance throughout.

Régine Chassagne, as a performer, is the standout for the band, as she commands some of the best parts, outweighing Win Butler’s consistency in the first half. When the production switches from a low tempo to something more energetic, like in “Age of Anxiety II” and for a minute in “End of Empire IV (Sagittarius A).” Though it isn’t to say Win is all lows, at times coming with a solid stream of performances that stays with you, like the chorus and third verse of “Age of Anxiety I” and in the last 4 of 5 tracks. Within this roller coaster ride, you get their best near the end, especially the drive between “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” and “Unconditional II (Race and Religion).” Régine Chassagne shines vibrantly on the latter with infectious melodies and solid songwriting. It gets boasted by the cadence in Peter Gabriel’s backing vocals, which allows you to ride a slight high before the eponymous track, where that high keeps you rolling through a beautiful acoustic ballad.

e has a tiring and slightly modest first half before spearheading into these vibrant melodies and sounds that encapsulate their style blended with dance-pop complexions. It left me disappointed as it seemed they could only go up from their last album, though it slightly did; it wasn’t anything profound. Unfortunately, that stays in the second half, as Arcade Fire leaves you on a high note, albeit not as memorable.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Weezer – SZNS: Spring: Review

Weezer’s constant output has never ceased to amaze me, sometimes it lands, and other times they become mostly forgettable duds. They have had moments where, for every three or so mediocre to okay albums, there is one great one, but fans rejoice for new music–I know I do– there are always a few solid songs that stay with you. For the past two decades, they have seemed to pull all their effort in the first half of the decades than the second–this trend makes it easier for others to know when to come back. 2021 has been a great heel turn for them as they’ve explored new avenues musically, and continue to do so on their new EP, SZNS: Spring.

You may ask, is SZNS: Spring fantastic? It’s not even close, especially when comparing to previous Weezer albums; however, to say it isn’t another fun experience after Van Weezer wouldn’t be doing it justice. SZNS: Spring is like any run-of-the-mill power-pop/rock project from Weezer that offers melancholic fun with the instrumentations and the songwriting, which oozes middle-age dad levels of fun and relaxation. Ok Human had us singing about audible and reading Grapes of Wrath or a fun time at the Aero movie theater, and that is prominent on SZNS: Spring as Rivers Cuomo weaves a tale of “The two angels descend from heaven down to Earth because they’re tired of being so prim and proper up in heaven,” as per his press release.

SZNS: Spring is a flow of power-pop consistency before steering toward more standard rock complexions. Weezer has an idea of where they are spearheading the story, but the production sometimes is too much or Rivers Cuomo misses the mark melodically. When it comes to Weezer projects of this caliber–which I’ve mentioned prior–it starts to downward crescendo into a mundane burger of basic melodies. “The Sound Of Drums” is the first that didn’t hit as well as the others. Rivers brings melodies we’ve heard done similarly and excellently on past albums, but’s simplicity doesn’t hit as smoothly since the production–sometimes–muddles Rivers singing and leads you to the next two songs, one of which shines like three of the first four songs. 

Starting with “Opening Night,” you hear that sense of dad-Weezer taking form as Rivers sings about Shakespeare and how reading his work makes him happy. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the fun use of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concerto number 1 in E major, opus 8, RV 269, “Spring (La Primavera)”, I: Allegro (in E major), the track would lose its mysticism since we’ve had funner and better songs about loving books from Weezer–If you take away the sample, then you’re left with another track like “The Sound Of Drums.” It barely keeps the interest leveled high for me to return. There are the songs “Angels On Vacation,” “A Little Bit Of Love,” “The Garden of Eden,” which carry nuances to melodies that make them lovable and fun, especially as they remind you of the fun times listening to OK Human and the array of fun piano melodies and synths.

SZNS: Spring is fun, but for an EP, it wears off quickly, with a more concentrated effort given to the earlier songs than the latter. However, this is Weezer and we get entertaining songs for the moment but forgettable in the long run. It’ll stay in my Weezer playlist full of fun songs, but don’t expect me to return swiftly with desire.

Rating: 6 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.

Fur – When You Walk Away

Ever since falling into a typical YouTube rabbit-hole, the transfixing quality that exhumed from “If You Know That I’m Lonely” delivered a band with inherent promise, mainly because of lead singer William Murray’s beautiful vocal textures. His voice is like a blend between the crooning baritone-esque structure of traditional folk and amplificated underground rock bravado; it interplays with the contrasting rock-and-roll nature of the production, giving us different plates to expand our palettes. Fur has had an identity formed since their first foray in music like the previously mentioned single – a few singles and EPs later – on their new album When You Walk Away, they continue to eclipse past a few conventional ticks like an off-brand moment of solidarity where the guitar consistently shreds, even though it isn’t egregiously apparent. 

Sometimes bands can get carried away, mentally, and any minimalist-elongated lick or riff can hinder a song a bit, as it does on “The Fine Line of The Quiet Life.” It isn’t to dissuade the value of the song, but William Murray’s unique vocals barely scratch the audible surface as they let that elongated focus at the end become more of a focal point. It’s never detrimental toward Murray’s performance, except for the brash loudness that pushes Murray’s voice aside – occurring more frequently in the first half, it’s harder to pick apart the lyrics, which is a heavy component of Fur’s music. 

When You Walk Away is expressive in the first half, as William Murray’s drowned-out voice is overlooked by near elegance within the differentiating chord progressions and sonic transitions – like shifting from somber overtones with the bass to rock-n-roll with the percussion and guitar. Fur doesn’t allow you to walk in blindly, as they open and end, When You Walk Away, with namesake songs that also have the split duality. The album has a noticeable pivot that comes at the end of “She’s the Warmest Colour In My Mind.” It doesn’t have abrasive undertones in the strings and has an elegant balance between rock and melancholy. 

They’re in tune with their musical influences, and it’s audibly heard with tracks like “She’s the Warmest Colour In My Mind” – it’s reminiscent of older 80s rock – with subdued production during the chorus, instead of elevated percussion and strings in the verses. When You Walk Away is focused on reflection and what it means to have this perspective imparted onto you – where you become entangled in these thoughts that cause constant doubt.

When You Walk Away split is divided at the seams – you hear a consistent sonic theme keeping you in tangent with the reflections written in the lyrics for Fur. Part 1’s reflection point comes from captivating your ears with a sequence of instrumentations that fits the angst coming from young adults. The band lets their contained chaos fixated on being methodically placed, with quirky sidesteps from the lead guitar, like at the beginning of “Anybody Else But Me.” Similarly, in Part 2, Fur brings a consistent atmosphere – there is a cadence between pensive singing and broken down singled out instrumentations like on “Holding Up The Sun.” The acoustic guitar leads the rest as it progresses, intertwining a final mix of hope as it speaks on addiction and one’s lack of faith. 

When You Walk Away is intimate and vast in its approach to storytelling, giving us one cohesive journey from start to finish. It’s a reflection of life and music, as William Murray integrates ideas about love and existentialism. Whether the band is reeling in the differentiating atmospheric tones between the heavier rock elements with esoteric ballads that sometimes hit, except in here, where Murray’s intricate and direct like on “What I Am” – a thematic extension to “Anybody Else But Me” – the underlying difference coming from the levels of the vocal layers. Fortunately, it’s a happenstance that a lot of the songs elevate everyone’s strength. 
There is never a moment where When You Walk Away starts to shift you away – Fur is in tune with their sound, never relying on being like someone else with more pop. It’s heard throughout, especially within the plethora of songs in the middle, like “The Fine Line of The Quiet Life” and “No Good For You,” where it immediately shoots you to the peak. There are a few questionable moments within, but the tracklisting gives it a perfect transition between the two sides of the coin. Though they may not be the best songs because of minor problems, there is no denying When You Walk Away opens on an extremely high note.

When You Walk Away is a solid debut for Fur, delivering fans a blend of sounds that hit both spectrums. Unfortunately, I wish the first half was a little better mixed, but the infectious array of instrumental layers makes up for it. It’s a definite recommendation for fans, especially the curious semi-fan that knows a few of their 2017/2018 singles. They are relatable and bring a triad of marvelously plated components that make one of the better rock albums of the year.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Limp Bizkit – Still Sucks: Review

It wasn’t until Woodstock 99: Love, Peace, & Rage that I was able to hop out of my shell and embrace who I am, or rather, who many of us are, a Limp Bizkit fan. Can you blame me (them)? They exemplified the personification of young white male rage from the angst-filled young adults looking to unwind in chaotic ways. And with the kind of topsy-turvy world we’ve been in for the last year and a half, sometimes seeing these artists/bands come back from long hiatuses has been an ethereal experience – it’s uncanny, fun, and surprising – all three personify Limp Bizkit’s new album, Still Sucks. Still Sucks is a cheeky nu-metal rap album that broadens the scopes of Fred Durst’s vocal performances while still giving us that “YEAAAH” Fred Durst we’ve come to love and appreciate, albeit being far from a great album.

Due to the heightened publicity that stemmed from the Woodstock 99 documentary, it allowed Limp Bizkit to promote it their way. Starting with the illustrious Lollapalooza, Fred Durst created an Instagram account and took on a new persona as he took us through a journey where the hypnotic “Dad Vibes” was unleashed onto the world. Donning a grey wig, dockers, and an older-tweed blazer before donning the puffy jacket, Fred is back to his old way – focusing on the tongue-in-cheek lyricism that evokes participation from the audience and amplifies the unquantifiable energy that resonates within our souls. 

But Limp Bizkit knows one thing: the connection between their audience and the mentality. Due to it, a lot of the childish and comically-straight forward nu-metal has given them their own identity, only bolstered by DJ Lethal with his infectious vinyl scratches commanding the lead like on “Dirty Rotten Bizkit,” though it doesn’t take away from what the band does – bringing infectious energy on heightened bombastic songs, like on “Barnacle.” These types of songs bring out enjoyment from casuals who like some gritty righteousness and fuckery.

Still Sucks emboldens an artistic direction that quickly runs in not-so-rampant directions. There is that Bizkit-ness oozing out the seams, but Fred Durst lies to himself with odd acoustic ballads. You hear him break down the parameters of his life today, weighing on heavy subjects, and it’s where the album loses you. Two songs (“Don’t Change” and “Empty Hole”) are centered on an acoustic base for the strings, as Fred Durst laments on themes of change and love. And unironically, Limp Bizkit closes the album with their most pop sound song in some time, “Goodbye” – it weaves tender guitar riffs with subtle bass strings as the antithesis of who they are. Like Durst’s soul, it comes from a well-meaning place since he speaks on pushing away depressive thoughts and lifting your serotonin levels.

Unfortunately, Fred Durst isn’t the best vocalist – his melodies are rough, and they tend to be equivocal to stale fingernails on the chalkboard. Durst comes from the heart, and it’s something to admire, but it doesn’t work. However, it isn’t constant, and he flips the script on “You Bring Out The Worst In Me” – his melodies switch from somber to uproarious, giving fans crazy energy they’ve almost always delivered. And Wes Boreland delivers ethereal guitar riffs that shift with the tone, become the consistent highlight in these songs.

Outside of this not-so-new and always off-brand approach by Limp Bizkit has pulled them from delivering a phenomenal album from start to finish. Unfortunately, they never pick their pants up from the bootstraps and give it their all. But when they do, we are given the fun and madness that comes in the form of “Dirty Rotten Bizkit” and “Snacky Poo,” as Fred Durst gives it his best in the flow and lyricism. The former blends this elegant synergy between vocalists and instrumentalists, especially, DJ Lethal who makes it a focal point for the vinyl scratches to amplify the backing for the rest of the instruments.

Still Sucks doesn’t always suck, and sometimes you have to let loose and enjoy things as they are given – that is how Limp Bizkit rolls. Fan or not, it fits how we feel about the shift from warm to cold – we just want to let loose, warm up, and break things. Despite the score, Limp Bizkit’s new album is a thrill as Fred Durst brings dad vibes to the masses!

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Prince – Welcome 2 America: Review

When word spread of a non-collection of demos and records from Prince’s vault, the world felt a sigh of relief to receive new music without fearing for a producer’s intervention. We heard that this album, Welcome 2 America, was one that Prince had shelved after its recording. And after some rough years with tragic releases that undercut artists’ legacies, like Michael Jackson and Pop Smoke, there were worries that this new album could potentially deliver something similar. However, that isn’t the case. Welcome 2 America is this groovy-funkadelic soul journey that takes through histrionics of culture’s control in society.

Most of Welcome 2 America reminds us of what we’ve been missing over the last half-decade. Prince has had a presence everywhere, despite minimal hiccups within some of the instrumentations. There isn’t a moment where the music feels fully dated. He speaks on the influence social media and the internet have on creating biased opinions. But it isn’t like Prince is equating to the meme – The Simpsons Predicting Things. Instead, Prince has a keen eye on the stimulation consistent backslaps from the judicial system, and more can create amongst a crowd. 2020 was a testament to that momentous uproar amongst the community.

Before the start of Prince’s Welcome 2 America tour, his band accompanied him in the studio to record some music, particularly about the social-political climate in America and more. He distinguishes the rights of one and the view imparted on them based on blind societal construction. In the opening song, Prince delivers in spoken-word / singing hybrid delivers this wide range of ideas that flowed through his head as he saw the world progress. It continues to elevate throughout the album, taking away aspects of the dance movements for electrifying emphasis on the songwriting.

This is effervescent on the songs “Same Page, Different Book” and “Running Game (Son Of A Slave Master),” which breaths onto life’s recurring redundancies. It speaks on the changes needed as these redundancies become a more glaring issue. It finds ways to fix a community presence to keep the attention of the listener through the instrumentations.

Prince has had a consistent procession with rockabilly sensibilities behind his various eras, from disco to funkadelic power-rock and others. It isn’t missing here as Prince takes us back to a moment where this sound rang supreme for him. So there will be an urge to groove to the rhythm, despite the deep meaning in the songwriting. For example, In the song “Born 2 Die,” Prince creates a parallel to living-free as he speaks about the dangers that could kill a character, like external temptations. Prince approaches these subjects carefully to create the right atmosphere amongst the collection of tracks. It makes the transition between songs that bring out a two-step and ones that bring out your inner beret-wearing-coffee-drinker sensibilities (musically). 

The songs that follow a similar path to “Born 2 Die” come across with beautiful bravado. “Yes” and “Hot Summer,” in particular, are these breaths of fresh air with commanding gospels that create unison from those who dance around with glee. It stems from a looser sensibility that comes from an elongated sunset and calming weather of the summer. “Yes” gets you up on two feet as you rejoice with the band in this unified mix of glee and happiness that stem from trying and seeing new pastures.

Unlike “Yes,” “Hot Summer” is a delicate summer fling that doesn’t boast the tracks around it. Others feel part of a bigger collective, while this feels too focused on being a summer anthem. From the infectious percussion and harmonies by Prince and his band, this small stoppage gap delivers behind Prince’s strengths. It’s a highlight from the album that isn’t fully there. To its merit, one could easily find themselves grooving to this on any given day or whenever your focus isn’t to play this from start to finish.

These transfer over to other songs like “1000 Light Years From Here.” This song contrasts themes with the instrumentations. It blends lively sounds with serious songwriting that speak about the prototypical American Dream. For some, it is a true dream that becomes a reach, while others create their own far from the gravitational center of society. 

The songs that fluctuate instrumentally around similar sentiments are usually the best. One of my favorites songs on the album, “Stand Up And B Strong,” delivers on all cylinders. It builds momentum by fueling the internal desire to feel heard and capitalize on unified strengths. Like on “Yes,” there is an overwhelming sense of wanting happiness and determination that brings us closer together. 

There aren’t many songs that feel minimally off. But there is a reason Welcome 2 America got shelved in 2011. It isn’t perfect, and the humility it adds to Prince as a musician leaves you feeling comfortable and warm about its perception later down the road. Welcome 2 America takes itself seriously and is vibrant enough that most will enjoy the many songs on this, while others may feel lukewarm – understandably so. This album is fun and a nice relic of the past; however, it would have been understandable if it remained shelved.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Woodstock ’99: Peace, Love, and Rage: Film Review

The beauty and whimsy of 1970’s Woodstock is something the few to many have experienced once in their lifetime. It captured the calm and effervescent unity amongst the festival-goers. 30 years later, we would see the reverse happen at Woodstock ‘99. The festival defined a cultural shift in society that didn’t parallel the 1994 festival. They direct partial blame toward pop music, which didn’t fit the mold of the 90s counterculture. Garret Price’s new film Woodstock ‘99: Peace, Love, and Rage delivers dueling cases for the horrors and beauty of the festival.

Garret Price delivers an informative horror flick and concert documentary full of ideas that have a thin veil, like most true crime documentary series trending today. What they bring into the fold are these ideas about the raging toxic masculinity that has allowed many acts of sexual assault to go undermined in the aftermath, the auditory response from the audience, and the lengths to which a performer knew what they were brewing. 

As the documentary stacks idea after idea, there are moments where the film starts to tread between pieces of information undercut by stunningly restored footage of the concert from the various archives  – MTV/Pay-Per-View/Print media. However, it cuts corners to keep intact the most glaring issues, one of which culminated from an underlying motto of the original festival: FREE LOVE

Free love wasn’t necessarily free in 1999 unless you were one of many aggressors who chose to redefine the term free. 1999 had people violating females, ages as young as 14, and the idea of free love on both ends was an expression of love of one’s body with the amount boobs present and the toxic-rape culture with the amount of sexual assault reported. In the documentary, Moby mentions that within the nu-metal and rap, the understanding was absent and picking apart what they like: misogyny and homophobia, which fueled frat boy rape culture.

Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine, and Metallica weren’t on a tight leash. The underlying issue stemmed from a callous nature when performing. It was a matter of trying to find equilibrium between an image and the safety of the attendees. It shifts the perception of the concert as this wild rage-fueled event, and it undermines performance highlights and any positive discourse throughout the past 22 years. These discussions spread from the infrastructure to the pre-established sentiment created by MTV in the fight between the uproarious and bombastic rap-rock/nu-metal and the new age of fun and hyperactive teen-pop, amongst others.

Garret Price creates juxtaposition by breaking nostalgia glasses and forcing us to see glaring differences between the three festivals. Unfortunately, despite the number of beautiful highlights, there isn’t much to digest outside of nu-metal and Limp Bizkit made white boys extra harsh and rapey.

Piece-by-Piece, more issues get passed over in simple mentions by the interviewed artists, attendees, and music critics. It makes the marketing of the film slightly manipulative as it breezes through topics swiftly. There are moments the film shows you the all-night party for fans of electronic music and Moby, which gets tossed aside like a salad on pizza night.

The film takes the time to show the chaos, but it lacks proper cohesion in the editing shifting around these topics like a commercial right before the climax. There have been exposés and articles revisiting and detailing the events of the festival. At a point in the film, you hear Rolling Stone Magazine’s music editor, Rob Sheffield, remember having to sleep on white pizza boxes for its linear comfortability and piss visibility. The amount of trash and debauchery preceding the peak of the chaos, with grace and debilitating nausea, became an afterthought. The many attendees had a mindset that mirrored those from the 94 festival: one last hurrah before adulthood. 

Garret Price does a solid job telling you this horrific and chaotic story that formed the wrong kind of unity and demonized an ideal that held for years. It’s filled with beautiful restorations of performance and unique interviews from critics and festival-goers. I recommend this to whoever enjoys a solid music documentary that shies away from an individualized artist.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Favorite Albums – Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys

Superlatives are as meaningful as they are to you and that is why on occasion I love to talk about an album when it hits a low mark like five years. And frankly this album is older than my age, but Pet Sounds has always been a part of my life and has been one of the defining pieces of musical influence I had growing up. What started with a love for “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” grew into learning and understanding the complex sounds and layering Brian Wilson incorporated as the Beach Boys started to transcend past the fun surf rock of yester and into some more awe inspiring music, which had partial motivation from The Beatles dominance internationally. And as we all know, a lot of their later work incorporated a lot of psychedelic sounds into their brand of pop rock. Similarly, Pet Sounds implemented these melodic overtones onto their brand of surf rock, as well shifting the compositions and delivering some impactful music.

Pet Sounds turned 55 years old on May 16, 2021. The tardiness in any piece about it comes from a lack of words to describe how much a single person can love an album from an era where there is no experience and just history. Growing up in the 90s and 00s, surf rock was never part of my overall musical rotation until later in life when I decided to delve deep into the past. You have to understand surf rock was a trend that lasted half a decade (at best) on the charts before being replaced by psychedelia and folk, and eventually disco. My generation was mostly into hip-hop, pop, emo/punk rock, and spring break where you can get loose, stupid and forget your woes for one week, especially if you were in college. It wasn’t in my purview, and having a family that listened to predominantly Spanish language music and genres, didn’t give me something to grow into. Eventually I started to consume a lot and learn how to dissect songs from a non-theorist perspective. 

My full admiration and love for Pet Sounds came when I was in college. I played my hand with some psychedelics and it made certain things clear, but most importantly it made a lot of the performances of Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and Brian and Carl Wilson more weight as you break apart the emotional grip. I first heard Pet Sounds in full when I was 11, but I was privy to what I knew and that was elevated jangle-pop-like fun and so “Sloop John B” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” I was never privy to understanding that “God Only Knows,” was used in misappropriate ways in the media, as it romanticized the idea of suicide due to a break up; or how “I Know There’s An Answer” had to be re-edited as it correlated too much to drug use, which it was and at the time drugs were also a touchy subject as it became a cornerstone of the counterculture of 1960s. 

“I Know There Is An Answer” had to have the title and verbiage in the chorus changed in order to take away from direct LSD reference when Brian Wilson’s haunting vocals sing “Hang On To Your Ego.” It was influenced by LSD and the effect it has on people like Brian where, once, he proclaimed he saw god after a full dose. Because of this, he engaged in more and has expressed a lot of Pet Sounds production and writing from them as it would bring out his insecurities, which correlates with the unusual timbres and harmonies that embolden the music’s broken down tones, like “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulders).”

But as you listen to it more, you start to understand that Pet Sounds can fill you with a modest roller coaster ride of emotions, slowly filling your mind with songs evoking hope. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” gives us a song that expresses this fantasy we have of never growing old. As Brian and Carl sing in the in the bridge, “Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray, it might come true / Oh, baby, then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do / Oh, we could be married (Oh, we could be married) / And then we’d be happy (And then we’d be happy) / Oh, wouldn’t it be nice?” It brought the melancholy to the slightly depressive “God Only Knows,” which was the B Side to the single record released prior. 

These songs were always present in my youth, whether in film or in the media I consumed. “God Only Knows” was a prominent component of the popular holiday film, Love Actually, and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” was prominent in 50 First Dates, amongst other tracks. At the time Adam Sandler was a major component of my youth and it distinguishes me from my other film friends. Adam Sandler is my favorite comedic actor and going to see 50 First Dates was a beautiful memory. It was my first major I’m not old for this film with my father in theaters and a lot about it has always resonated with me, especially “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” which opened the floodgates for discovering more. And from there my love for Pet Sounds grew more and more.

The height these songs reached would amass a lot of hype and it delivers, despite the experimental nature within some of the production. It elevates the themes that come from the lyrics like how “That’s Not Me” is about maturity through the eyes of a man who tries to prove his worth to people from his past, keeping it simple and having more depth than a Twenty One Pilots record. 

The themes and stories from Pet Sounds are direct and broad in the way you can find ways to correlate it into your own life, like “Caroline, No,” which is a ballad about losing trust in someone, particularly the significant other in your love affair due to an unexpected change where both POVs differ. Or the conflicting “Here Today,” where Mike Love leads the cynical song about love through the eyes of an older man as he talks to the younger man about love. He brings notes about how he’s been with her prior, meaning someone similar, and to be careful about falling head over heels in swift motion because she could leave you at any moment. 

One can go about and speak about the visceral brilliance of Pet Sounds. Like the way it shifts from surf pop to an elevated form of chamber pop, and the depth of the themes from beautifully simple lyricism is on another level. But that would be another retread of what others have talked about in previous writings, which you can find anywhere. Especially something extremely intricate about how the title song was supposedly for a James Bond flick and if so that song would have had some weird animal sounds. There is a nuance to it because it doesn’t make it a focal point. It is added in the distance to implement this idea that the song is being recorded and played to an audience of animals at a farm. 

However, despite some of the intricacies I mentioned, I’m writing this because I love Pet Sounds more than anything I’ve ever heard in my life. Not because I want you to think on a deep level about the meaning of these songs or so forth, even though it’s brought up. This is just me talking about my favorite album and key parts that make it so. And hopefully influencing you to seek it out on all major streaming platforms. 

I then ask myself what does Pet Sounds mean to me? It means a lot. They were introduced to me by my favorite comedic actor in Adam Sandler and it was one of the first albums I heard front to back. That feeling was like eating a beignet for the first time at a New Orleans joint and first bite of soft dough with that sugary kick from powder sugar exploding and melting in your mouth with immense flavors or like when the concert you attend brings out a plethora of special guests. Either way, if you haven’t listened to it do yourself, and I, a favor and go enjoy its greatness and brilliance.

St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home: Review

St. Vincent has never shied away from exuberating a lust and love for the music she creates; a lot of which have centered around a pop-like subtext, ranging from the noise and art pop of Actress to the glam rock and synth pop rock of Masseducation. She has always been an ever-growing force in music that doesn’t let universal appeal become a drawback into her artistry, and the bold choices she makes on weaving her vocal performances to fit the nuanced funk/soul sounds of her new album, Daddy’s Home, feel like a breath of fresh air. In a way these sounds have allowed her vocal performances to envelop a new stratosphere, where a lot of the key-sonic undertones of early 70s funk, sways her in this nostalgic direction, which shows the visceral strength behind the talent of both St. Vincent (Annie Clark) and Co-Producer Jack Antanoff. 

Daddy’s Home is very personal for St. Vincent, diving deep into the crevices of her life and allowing it to integrate different narrative styles. Whether she is implementing herself in a party to establish a social misery that she masks amongst friends and family or being referential to detail the stress the media induces with certain standards on, she keeps it emotionally resonating with the melodic and melancholic nuances in her vocal performance and its pace. It brings more to the atmospheric and soulful texture over many funk-inspired tracks and the more broken down instrumental like “…At The Holiday Party.” 

One of the few cruxes of Daddy’s Home goes beyond the dimensions of sonic direction. As this is her first foray into these beautiful nostalgic – era defining sounds, it comes across naturalistic and her pain, her determination, and the way life around her interacts, brings about a new sense of clarity musically. Along with Jack Antanoff, she brings a plethora of grooves and melodies that drive home the deepening realism in her themes and performances. The title song brings variant indications that the album will balance its tonal inflections with the production. 

The kind of funk that emboldens various aspects of the production on Daddy’s Home doesn’t always take a renowned approach to the pacing and instead develops a leaner and softer-melodic texture more attune to her strengths. Midway through, St. Vincent takes that unique turn by bringing forth an uptempo with an elevation in the notes of the wurlitzer and the groovy-loud bass patterns, which guides the direction laid out by the opening track, “Pay Your Way.” The funkadelic sounds don’t always get an uptick from the vibrant bass grooves and infectious sequences in the production that comes from the masterful mixing of layers by Chris Gehringer, who has mixed Loud by Rihanna and most recently Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa. His work in creating the final mix has given St. Vincent’s vocals a very open and focused limelight.

Her vocal performances contain ranges in pace, which in most cases takes the emotional gravitas that embodies soul music and gives it character, in this melodic way. But the unique approach to using modulation and effects gives the vocals an elevation that the backing vocals do a little better. The modulation on “Pay Your Way,” gives it that extra level of authenticity to the kind of modulation usage in funk music from artists of yester. However, the effects on “Down,” are subtle; it gives the song and her performance a naturalistic rock approach in the vigorously strong electric guitars and thumping percussion. 

Most times St. Vincent takes the slower and melodic soul vocals and she delivers some buried emotions from the kind of relationship she has had with her father, whose release from prison was the light bulb for this sonically conceptual album. It’s a loose inspiration as she takes it to tell a bigger story that seems to be misplaced for the time. Daddy’s Home is at point literal and abstract in the music, using these stories to tell the bigger picture. But without the nuanced sound, the album’s nostalgia trip is lost within a newspaper from years ago when a white-collar crime got equal notoriety as opposed to others. It ignites the range in emotions hidden beneath. You can hear the anger, the disappointment, and the aspiration to get through the hurdles that encompass the overall being of one.

Daddy’s Home brings an influx of new sounds that make it different from what we are used to from St. Vincent, but she makes it her own and develops a beautiful array of soulful vocal performances. It elevates the emotional grip she has on the words, which become more impactful the more you listen to it. 

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Weezer – Van Weezer: Review

Weezer was supposed to release Van Weezer back in May of last year, but due to COVID-19 it got shifted a whole year and it may have been for the better. In January, they released OK Human, which was an amalgamation of baroque pop rock and thematic for a time where isolation was easing and normal habits started recurring like commutes and the easing of restrictions at food and beverage locations. However Van Weezer comes in as the complete opposite, in sound and tone, from OK Human. Rivers Cuomo writes these songs in the lyrical and thematic style of glam metal/hair metal from the 80s, taking cues from Van Halen, Whitesnake, and Night Ranger to name a few. It’s youthfully energetic and complete joy to listen to, even when it starts teetering at the end with songs that feel empty and forgettable. 

We’ve had the opening track, ”The End of The Game,” available since 2019 and it proved to be an indication of what is to expect from Van Weezer. The band, and especially Rivers Cuomo, brings a youthful energy that was lacking from their cover album, The Teal Album. The electrifying guitar strings embolden the monstrous percussion and vocal performance from Rivers, who is just having a great time along with the rest of the band. And this is something that felt absent from their covers album.

Unlike their cover album, Van Weezer takes the plunge into being focused on the sonic textures and small details that separates the genre of glam metal from the others. It comes primarily from the instrumentation and vocal deliveries, which are embossed by the echoed melodic reverbs in the choruses. They keep this in the forefront, while in the background they deliver another standard Weezer album, lyrically. But thematically there are some similarities, the content of the storied lyrics are approached with relevance to the kind of music they have been delivering recently, so it’s refreshing to hear this new sonic approach.

This is slightly new territory for Weezer as they don’t always elevate their sound to mirror the power of metal and specifically glam metal/stadium rock. But they have been able to prove otherwise when they delivered an excellent piano rock album earlier this year. Though, Weezer’s slight backdrop in power pop initially took away some doubt before clicking play, but they really understand the undertow sounds of glam metal by properly incorporating the unique guitar riffs and powerful solos. The music is elevated to exponential levels that you’ll find yourself at odds with as you head bang to Weezer songs, but that is what they do here.

The sonic elevation is audacious throughout, with many high points like the unique interpolation of “Crazy Train” on “Blue Dream.” But Van Weezer reaches its peak too early and as we bend the corner to the last third, we start to see a decline in the quality. It starts to feel more of the same as the beginning, with similar and repetitive instrumental patterns that have you feeling like hitting skip till it starts at track one. However, throughout the first eight tracks there is so much visceral power that you forget Rivers Cuomo is singing some geeky fun and introspective lyrics.

The simple beauty behind the geeky and nerdy charm comes naturally inside the powerful rock anthems, as Rivers Cuomo brings it with his vocal performances, which try to come off as part of the era. As the year progressed he has been able to adapt to the content of the music, like how January’s OK Human was mostly filled with songs about what they would do in quarantine and sometimes in life. It was simpler than some of their more try hard projects, like The Black Album, which tried to replicate some of the sonic success of The White Album. And on Van Weezer Rivers channels that charm to elevate the music to amplify a stadium. A lot of the melodies and lyrics are fun and infectious that hardcore fans will find the enjoyment in listening to every word; however the balance in solos/instrumentations to vocal performances makes it an album that can bring crowds who want post-modern nostalgia.

The first two thirds of the album have their own beautiful execution of originality with smooth transitions, like the one between “Blue Dream” and “1 More Hit.” But the last two tracks deescalate the whole rock show vibe, which some shows do in elegant fashion, but the slower melodies of the piano rock “Precious Metal Girl,” and the retreading “She Needs Me,” don’t hit the landing. And even though these tracks don’t carry the weight all the way through to keep you attention for all the 33 minutes, Weezer at least brings their strongest component, the charm. 

Van Weezer is a pure delight that will have you mirroring the fun Weezer has performing it. It isn’t their most profound work, lyrically, and brings enough to keep you engaged and yearning for stadiums to fill up like before. This is the kind of music that will make more of an impact live, but if not, your audio system will be enough to head bang and play it loud.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.