Penny and Sparrow: Struggle Pretty

In January last year, I wrote a post about a band that I was completely blown away by on first listen. Penny and Sparrow is back with their second album as of Tuesday!

pennysparrowA good friend of mine introduced me to the Austin, Texas duo and on first listen, I had chill bumps. Second listen evoked tears. I knew I was hooked at that point. I’ve been listening to that album since. I follow them on Facebook and when I realized a new album was out two days ago, I bought it without a second thought. I’m just now getting  a chance to listen to it.

Serial Doubter really kicks the album off (after the intro track Jeffrey Alan) with familiar vocals deposited over increasingly dense instrumentation. The song has an easy-going tempo, but with drums that rock the hammock like a slow breeze.

Bread and Bleeding and Thunder really showcase the Mumford and Sons influence stylistically with the hyper guitars and trumpets or violins, respectively. The soothing vocals that you’re used to come in and somehow melt over the abnormally rapid instrumentation and create a totally new dynamic.

I am absolutely in love with Rattle. This was one of the first two songs the band released in the lead-up to the new album and I fell head over heels for this one. It sounds like the beautiful beginning to a thunderstorm – you know what I’m talking about, when everything gets really still and there’s just a bit of wind blowing but you know something more is on its way so you have a heavy feeling deep inside. I don’t want to rattle and I’ve got no plans to let myself be tossed away, but this muscle could never lift a thing without you anyway. This band writes such gorgeous lyrics that sometimes I’m left speechless. They’re some of the most beautiful lyrics being written in music right now.

Reeth is the song I’ve been waiting for this entire album thus far (and this is nine tracks in). This sounds like a direct upgrade of the sound from Tenboom and it’s absolutely stunning. The guitar is so delicate that it almost feels like a balancing act trying not to tip over onto the vocals. I found myself holding my breath to listen a little more intently two different times.

The album wraps up with the entirely a capella Fantine. It seems a strange choice for a last song, but the lyrics serve better with nothing to distract from their impact. They’re stark and serious and darker than I was anticipating. So before I go saying you make a bad lover, I think that I’ll let you kiss me. I can not in good conscience wear white. If I’m honest, my wedding dress needs to be black. I’ve seen too much skin in the souls that live in it, I fear I’m the bride you give back. you take and you give. You give and you take.

Penny and Sparrow are some seriously talented musicians. I have no idea why more of you aren’t listening to them. Stop everything and do it right now.

 

Key Tracks
Reeth (track 9)
Rattle (track 4)
Fantine (track 12)

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5 songs I can’t get enough of: April 7, 2014

1. Beat Up Car by Taking Back Sunday

I know I’m totally bias since this band is my favorite band in all the lands, but this song makes me feel things deep inside. Not only do the escapist lyrics appeal to me (So if you’re interested, I’ll take you anywhere. I’ll buy some beat up car, we could get out of here. I’ll take you anywhere that you wanna go), but the vocals are stronger than ever and when the chorus hits, I feel the tunes in my soul. This is the most perfect song for this time of year as it’s beginning to warm up to spring – roll those windows down and blast this song and feel like you’re flying.

 

2. Yellow Paper by Royal Teeth

Since Spotify recommended this band to me a few days ago, I haven’t been able to get enough of them. I’m obsessed with their entire debut full length Glow (listen to this album now before you do anything else), but this song gets me every time. It’s slower than most of its surrounding counterparts, but it’s so sweet and mellow. The two sets of vocals are so smooth in this song that they almost melt completely together. It’s beautiful.

 

3. Haunt On by The Stationary Set

This is the title track from an album that I’ve listened to way too many times to count. Even when I was first jamming to this song, I wanted to sing along so badly that I’d throw in the words I knew and just ad-lib sounds for the rest. I can feel the passion in this song and that is something to take notice of. This song slowly builds on itself and about three minutes in, if you’re not feeling this song on a personal level, I’m worried about you. I love how the build up takes most of the song, then the band goes all out for a bit and then after some heartbeat-ish drumming, it’s over. Just, ah. So good.

 

4. The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn from The Broken Circle Breakdown Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

I just want to go ahead and say that this is not my normal style of music. I know I live in a small town in Southwest Virginia, and I know my area is ripe with bluegrass, but I’ve never really gotten into it. If you’ve seen this film, this will make sense to you. I guess that’s what does it for me – having seen the film and knowing the emotional impact this is going to give you in the film, this song is just perfect. The male vocals start it out, with some light banjo picking and after a bit, female vocals work in until everything picks up and you have a howling good time. But for real, all the instruments come together in such a beautiful arc that it’s hard not to at least appreciate it. (Also, I know I’m a music blog and not a movie blog, but this movie is one of the best movies I have ever seen – check it out)

 

5. Memoria by Fairweather

I just discovered this band a couple of days ago and if you’re in need of some new rock tunes, check out this self-titled album that just came out last week. This song in particular is my personal favorite from the album – probably because of the pulsing drums and insanity of the guitar workings. This band isn’t all prim and proper polished kind of rock, so turn away if that’s something you look for. I love the sounds that make me feel like I’m at a rock show – as if I could close my eyes and envision it surrounding me.

 

What are you all listening to right now?

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Interview: The Elephant in the Room

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed the debut record by The Elephant in the Room. Lead singer and guitar player Joe was nice enough to answer some questions:

Back to the Music: How/when did the band get started?
Joseph Savino Jr., Guitar/Vocals: The band got started about three years ago. Me and Alfred have been in bands together since we were in eighth grade. Mostly metal and one crazy cover band. After getting bored with doing the cover thing, we built a home studio and just started writing.teitr

BTTM: Were you always sure you wanted to be involved with music in some way?
Joe: Music has always been a big part of our lives. Once you start playing music, it’s just something that you fall in love with and always want to do.
BTTM: How was the band name chosen?
Joe: We took a long time to choose a band name. We just never got around to it and already started booking shows. Every promoter would ask us our name and we had nothing to give them. To get them off our back we just threw out the name ThunderLips. That name only stuck for a few shows. We had a hard time finding a name that we thought fit us. Going through a bunch of conspiracy theory books, we came across “The Elephant in the Room.” Knowing the meaning of the saying, it just fit perfectly for the band name. We like to be the band that is hard to not notice.
BTTM: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up? Do you feel you can hear those influences in the album?
Joe: We butt heads sometimes when it comes to music but some that we can all agree on I would say would be Weezer, Muse, Radiohead, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Elvis, The Beatles, Queens of the StoneAge. I think you can hear a little bit of everything that we like in our music.

BTTM: How did you come up with the idea to do a KickStarter for the record?
Joe: We came up with the KickStarter idea after we found out Casey was going to work with us. We knew we had to do it, and knew the only way to make it happen was with the help of a KickStarter

BTTM: Why did you feel that was the right venue compared to the other fundraising sites?
Joe: Honestly, it was the only site that we knew about at the time.
BTTM: How did it feel when your goal was met and you knew this album would become a reality?
Joe: It was an amazing feeling when we hit that $5k mark. For people that have never even met us to put their own hard earned money to back us made us feel really good. We owe it all to our backers.

BTTM: Was there a backup plan in case the Kickstarter didn’t go as predicted?
Joe: We did not have a backup plan. We knew if we worked hard enough to get the word out we would make our goal.

BTTM: How was it working with Casey? What insights did he offer that may have changed your perception of the music or the album?
Joe: Working with Casey was such an amazing experience, he made it very easy and comfortable. Within the first hour, you would think we were friends for years. He was just that easy to get along with. He opened up our minds a lot when it came to suggestions with the music. He would have ideas that we would never have thought of and it would make a good part into a great part.

BTTM: How did the chance to work with Casey come about?
Joe: Alfred managed to book an Acoustic show at 10th Street Live in Kenilworth, NJ with Casey and us both on the bill. We talked a lot that night with Casey and were able to stay in contact with him. Going out on a limb, Alfred asked him and he said he was totally down to do it. 

BTTM: How long did it take to record the album?
Joe: It took about a month to record the record.

BTTM: What’s the song that you’re most proud of off of it?
Joe: We worked so hard on this record that every song is something we are proud of.

BTTM: Where will you be going from here? Is there a tour planned?
Joe: We plan to promote the album a lot. We will be booking as many shows as possible and hope to plan a tour in the near future.

 

Keep up with The Elephant in the Room on Facebook and Twitter. Their debut CD The Collective and The Individual is available now!

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The Elephant in the Room: The Collective and The Individual

Remember a while ago when I made that post about supporting bands that you love and believe in? Tonight’s review is a direct result of that KickStarter that I supported – and proof that it counts for something!

Through a KickStarter program,cover The Elephant In The Room were successfully able to fund the manifestation of their debut album, produced by Casey Crescenzo of The Dear Hunter. The result of a lot of hard work is an eleven-track disc that will leave you reeling when when you realize this is their debut CD.

The Collective and The Individual  begins with Left In The Dark, a song that instantly reminded me of The Mars Volta. The guitar work is so on point in this song, it will blow your mind.  Besides the beginning that left me with chill bumps, there’s a great breakdown with about a minute left in the song that deserves a cheer on its own.

Monsters follows this powerful first track with plenty of steam. The rhythm of this song reminds me of early AFI mixed with with The Mars Volta and that’s a mix I’ve never considered before this song. The vocals and the guitar heavily play off each other in this jam, each growing more and more frantic with energy until the chorus hits and breaks the spell.

Ghosts stands as my favorite song on the record. The guitar work has such a bouncy feel to it until the chorus comes down and then it’s time for everyone to jam together. I’ll walk through walls and I’ll talk to you in your sleep. I’ll keep you cold when the sun’s beating on your face. I’ll make you believe when I’m a ghost. The breakdown and subsequent group sing-along near the end practically makes me giddy. This is a jam you’re not going to be able to listen to on low volume. Trust me and go ahead and turn it up before it even comes on.

What You Don’t Know Won’t Hurt You is a close second for favorite song on the album. This one stays at a faster tempo the whole way through, differing from the songs directly encasing it and keeping things interesting. The bass guitar is the real spotlight of this song, coming on strong, keeping everything glued together and allowing itself some time to shine.

The beginning fifteen seconds of Never Believe What You’re Told is some of the best musical work I’ve heard from any album this year. Don’t get me wrong – the song itself is strong, but those first fifteen seconds. Unbelievable.

I’m particularly interested in the last track on the album. We Will Meet Again closes the album out in more than one way. It begins very slow, almost muted and hushed, almost like it’s hiding behind a curtain, with a barely-there pick up. The vocals are almost chant-like in nature which is almost thrown off balance by the obvious rock music tones in the background. Almost.

Self-professed progressive rock meets enjoyable pop, The Elephant in the Room comes out strong on their debut album. When I donated to their KickStarter campaign after a chance Tweet they sent me, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was so blown away with what they were producing before, I knew they deserved a chance to show what they really are made of. I eagerly awaited the KickStarter progress reports, and a few days ago when I received the album download link, I felt like Christmas had come early. This album truly is a great one, and one I will be listening to for a while. Do yourself a favor and take a peek.

Keep up with the band as they celebrate the release of the record and see what they’ll be up to in the months to come on Facebook and Twitter. If you want to hear this record (and believe me, you do) you can stream the album here and buy the album when it’s officially released tomorrow (October 29, 2013)! and stay tuned for an interview with the band.

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State Champs: The Finer Things

I was doing some browsing on Twitter today in search of some interesting bands to catch my eye. I’ve fallen into a comfortable nest of listening to rock bands of various sub-genres over the last few weeks, so I’m in a mood for something heavier. Luckily, I stumbled upon a lot of tweets about State Champs. I had never heard of this five-piece New York pop punk band, but I’m glad there’s some Twitter buzz going about them. The Finer Things is their debut CD on Pure Noise Records out officially on Tuesday (10/8).statechamps

Elevated kicks off the album in high fashion with the perfect marinade of pop punk and punk rock; the guitars are full of energy and the drums are bouncing on a trampoline in the background. The vocals are some of the best I’ve heard in a new-to-me pop punk band in a long time. I started listening to this album out of curiosity, not really out to write a blog post, but then thirty seconds into this first jam, I realized I had stopped everything I was doing and it had every ounce of my attention. I knew at that time I had to open up a blog post and write out a reaction to this one. This may go down in history – or at least in the best-albums-of-the-year history.

I love a song that’s slow in the beginning and then punches you in the face (Chiodos are pure royalty at this). Deadly Conversation gets in a good fist to your nose before you know it. The guitar work in this jam is mesmerizing. Unless something is really great or I’m specifically listening for it, I don’t pick out certain instruments to listen to in particular (sorry, I don’t play, I’m just here to listen and write) but the guitars in this song had my specific attention more than once for their dedication to the craft.

I can tell pretty instantly that Over The Line will be one of my favorite songs on the album. This song takes pop punk and spins it like a top. There’s a certain frantic, impatient nature to this song that I’m immediately drawn to. Every single instrument is played out almost like someone has pushed the fast-forward button, but the band remains in control and turns it around in their favor and works it the entire way through.

Mind Bottled begins so perfectly, giving vocals a couple of seconds alone before adding in drums and guitars slowly in layers. This song is almost like a roller coaster – it speeds up, slows down, goes for a loop, and sometimes stops you at full halt. It’s really close to perfect. Was it all worth it? I built the highest bridge only to burn it. Was it all worth it? All you love you gave when I returned it.

Easy Enough wraps up the album on cruise control. I feel like the majority of the song was taken down a few notches except for the guitar work during the verses, lending the song a certain imbalance in places that the rest of the instruments have to work to keep things level (hint: they succeed). This is a great note to take out the album on – I would’ve felt weird about the lineup had this song been in the middle of frantic songs. They also do me a great favor and end the album on one note instead of fading out. Thanks, guys. It’s the little things.

This will go down on my favorite albums of 2013 list for sure. I almost feel empty thinking I had no idea this band existed until today. Please do yourself a favor and take a listen to this album. This is what pop punk is all about.

 

Key Tracks
Prepare to Be Noticed (track 4)
Over the Line (track 5)
Mind Bottled (track 9)

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Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2)

Well. Justin Timberlake, you go years and years without any new music and then you open the flood gates on me.Justin Timberlake - The 20-20 Experience 2 Of 2 Album Download

The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2) begins with the funky beats of Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want). I’m on the fence about this song already and it’s only the first listen. There’s a lot of jungle, animal, etc references and an exuberant amount of Timbaland-style beats going on. It may be too much. Or this may just be my first listen response. I can say the actual animal sounds are taking it a bit too far – I’m here to listen to JT, not monkeys and lions, I mean really.

The first song on the album I actually like is TKO, the second single to be released from this half of the 20/20 Experience. This song tones down the experimental sounds a bit (just a bit, though) and does have an interesting beat. I would still be a-okay with a few less weird sounds going on in the background. Is this Justin’s Yeezus? Could be.

Murder has a great beat that I’m really digging and a great cameo from Jay Z. And if the lyrics are about Jessica Biel, well, congratulations, honey.

Drink You Away is so far away from the level of the six songs before it that I actually checked my iTunes to make sure I was still on the right album. This song has a definite bluesy country feel…and it doesn’t fit in at all.

Amnesia is a song I can fully get on board with. Vocals and background music are strong enough in this song that neither is overpowering. The emphasis is on Justin’s voice for once on this album and that was a much needed transition. The beat on this song is to die for and I’d say this song will end up being my favorite on the record.

I almost can’t handle how much I love Not A Bad Thing. The lyrics almost made me throw up they’re so cute, but I love it a little more every second.

So. It seems like the album picked up after Murder and stayed strong all the way through the end (including the seemingly random, so far unnamed Pair-of-Wings acoustic song that’s tacked onto the end of Not A Bad Thing). Do I like it better than Part 1? No. It may grow on me, though, cause it did take me a few listens to accept Part 1. It just doesn’t seem like the cohesive unit that Part 1 manages to be. I love Justin, and I always will, I’m just side eyeing him a little bit on this half.

 

Key Tracks
Amnesia (track 9)
Not A Bad Thing (track 11)
Murder (track 6)

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The 1975: The 1975

New release day is one of my favorite days of the week.  Is it just me, or are the albums you’re excited for all released on the same day – or at least in close vicinity to one another? Then you have a cluster of albums you can’t wait for and you can’t decide which one to listen to first. That was my morning on this Tuesday. I finally decided to have a go with The 1975’s debut album first and I was certainly not disappointed with my choice!

debutI told you guys on the last post that I was absolutely obsessed with a couple of songs from these dudes. One of my best friends sent me a track a few weeks ago and they’ve been on my constant rotate since. At that time, all Spotify was offering me was one EP – which, don’t get me wrong, was fantastic, but I needed so much more. Today, the alt rock  band from Manchester finally released their debut disc – with sixteen tracks!

The first song, The 1975, is a quiet lead-in – you’re interested, engaged, you’re in there. The band pulls you in and straps you to the roof of their vehicle right off in track 2 with The City, a song that I played on repeat from the EP. This jam is the perfect way to open up this album – it leans more to the indie rock side of the band and keeps things calm in case you still needed to get a feel for what you were listening to.

I still can’t get over what a good tune Chocolate is. If you haven’t listened to this song, please drop everything right now and get on board. It won’t get out of your head, but I swear it’ll be a fun ride.

I decided today that this band sounds like lace if it were crumbled up, melted down, and transformed into a sound. Talk! is the perfect explanation of that. Sometimes there are spaces that feel so airy and peaceful, like you’re drifting along a cloud, and then sometimes the chorus kicks in for denser parts that are the real meat of the sandwich. Sometimes there’s a scratchy feeling, but the overall composition is glorious.

Settle Down is one of my favorites on the album that really shows what this band is capable of reaching. There’s a fun, funky vibe to this song that monopolizes everything else going on in your life at the moment that this song is playing. If you don’t drop everything just to listen to this song, you’re lying. The lyrics are particularly captivating in this one: You’re losing your words, we’re speaking in bodies, avoiding me and talking about you. You’re losing your turn, I guess I’ll never learn, cause I stay another hour or two.

I was completely blown away by She Way Out. The guitar on this track gave me chills throughout and everything meshes together so well. If this song isn’t part of their live show, there’s a problem somewhere.

Pressure is rocking my world. This song almost feels like you’re hearing it from behind a curtain, but it’s so perfect with everything that’s going into the song and the lyrics are just minimalistic enough to not overpower the music or vice versa.

The album wraps up with Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You, an eerily soothing song with nothing but incredible vocals and a divine backing piano. This song is haunting in the most beautiful of ways. I know it’s me that’s supposed to love you, and when I’m home, you know I got you. Is there somebody who can watch you? Is there somebody who can love?

This album is wonderful. Hands down the best album I’ve listened to in a long time. And don’t forget, this is the band’s debut full length. I can’t wrap my mind around it. There is not a single song on this album that I want to skip over. The only down side to the album? I just found out the release from Target has five bonus tracks. Looks like I’ll be buying it a second time…

 

Key Tracks
Chocolate (track 4)
Settle Down (track 9)
Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You (track 16)

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