Tag Archives: album

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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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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Don’t forget to support the bands you love and believe in!

Recently, I had some exposure to Kickstarter as my place of employment launched and successfully funded an amazing project. It’s a great place for people to come together and support a goal – and how fun it is to see the project through after it’s funded!

I don’t usually do this here – in fact, this is a first. I rarely make posts that aren’t album reviews unless they’re little messages or updates, but this is something that just struck me.

I was jamming out to The Dear Hunter today while I was doing some graphic design at work and I happened to tweet about it. A couple of hours ago, I got a reply from a band who will be heading into the studio with Casey Crescenzo in May to record their first full length record.

The Elephant Room could use our help in funding this album through their Kickstarter campaign. It’s so important to support up and coming bands that you believe in. I can never stress that enough. That’s why here at Back to the Music, I really try to write about a mix of people you know and bands you may have never heard of.

With programs like Kickstarter, we’re able even more than ever to show these smaller bands that we believe in them. This band has until Sunday, April 7 to reach their goal. Believe me – go listen to their songs on Facebook and you’ll see why I didn’t hesitate to donate to this Kickstarter.

Click here to see their campaign page, watch a video from the band, and read a little bit about their goals.

 

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Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience

Ladies and gentlemen, Justin Timberlake is back – and so am I.

It’s no secret that I’m an absolute sucker for some good pop music. I loved the boy bands and bubblegum pop of the 90s – and I still do, if we’re being really honest. Even though I was first and foremost a Backstreet fan, I enjoyed me some *NSYNC. When Justin Timberlake broke out and started doing solo records, I didn’t know whether I should be offended or excited (Lance Bass was always my favorite). Eventually, I gave in to the sweet chords of Cry Me a River. You know when the last JT record was out? I was a junior in high school. Now I’m nearly two years out of college. Thanks, JT. Thanks a lot.jt

The album starts out with the smooth crooning of Pusher Love Girl – a song I was initially very skeptical of when I saw it performed live in Jimmy Fallon (anyone else watch Timberweek?). Now that I’ve listened to the album, I am absolutely hooked on this song. Nothing is better than Justin’s sweet vocals slipping like caramel over a slow jazz-oriented beat. This song is liquid gold and you won’t be able to resist it.

I can’t seem to resist the sweet talking Strawberry Bubblegum. I know, I know. The song is titled Strawberry Bubblegum and there’s mention of blueberry lollipops and flavors and all. But Justin Timberlake is singing so beautifully and this song rocks almost like something you’d hear in the ballroom of a sea-themed party in the mid 70s. Something about it reminds me of waves and I would love if Justin wrote a song like this about me.

My favorite song off the album has to be Tunnel Vision. This song has more of a classic JT style to it. The music is pop tinted with some R&B/urban style courtesy of Timbaland. This song really just makes me want to dance.

A close second in the my favorite song on the album race has to be Let the Groove Get In. This song just doesn’t stop from the very first second all the way until the end, coming in at an impressive 7 minutes and 11 seconds. This one almost sounds like something to the likes of Senorita from JT’s first album – just updated to 2013 with an extra splash or two of funk.

When Justin first announced he was about to put out new music, I was ecstatic. When Suit & Tie came out, I was skeptical – it took forever for the song to grow on me. But when I heard Mirrors, I knew it was okay to be excited for the album again. If I had to pinpoint one song on this entire album that was quintessential Justin Timberlake, I would seat you right next to this song and bring you a candle for the table. This song has enough of a funky beat to keep your head nodding, but is slow enough to allow JT to do his thang. Most of the songs on this album are either really slow or really fast – this is such a happy medium that I want to give it a standing ovation.

The album wraps up in the slow variety with Blue Ocean Floor, a ballad with barely any instrumentation behind JT showing off his exceptional vocal chords. Make fun of him for the Ramen noodle hair all you want – this man can sing (and he can produce it live). This is a beautiful song, but if I hadn’t read that there was a Part 2 of this album coming, I wouldn’t like it for a wrap-up of the album.

Welcome back to the music scene, Mr. Timberlake! This is a great album – well worth the wait of seven years – and I can’t wait until he throws out Volume 2. Though the songs are on the incredibly long side (the shortest song clocks in at 4 minutes and 49 seconds), they keep my attention with the differentiation of tempos and beats. This is going to be on repeat for a long time.

 

Key Tracks
Mirrors (track 9)
Tunnel Vision (track 5)
Pusher Love Girl (track 1)

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Ellie Goulding: Halcyon

After watching the Vice Presidential debates, I need some good music to mellow me out before I settle down for sleep. I’ve enjoyed the tracks by Ellie Goulding that I’ve heard from the radio, but I’ve never taken the chance to sit down and listen to her music extensively. Sometimes I’m not sure what to make of this genre of music. It’s such a strange mix of things – pop, techno, dance – and it’s so popular right now. I also don’t know how to take the performances. Ellie performed last night on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and while I enjoyed the song, I was so confused. Tangent aside, we’re going to have a listen to her new album Halcyon.

Don’t Say A Word starts the album off slowly, swelling until Ellie’s perfectly shaken and stirred vocals start in with perfect symmetry. This song is the right song to start off an album by easing your audience into the pool. The song really takes flight by the end and I’m drawn in and excited for the rest of the album.

I love My Blood. What a beautiful track! The sing-song, back-and-forth notion of the piano and the vocals is just enough to move the song along and make you feel like you’re floating. This is one I’ll be coming back to.

Only You really brings Ellie’s voice to the foreground. I realized while listening intently to this one that her voice reminds me of a strange mix of Baby Spice and Macy Gray. Can you all hear that?

Lyrically, Figure 8 is a great track. Not to mention, there is a great drop of the bass – or beat? – in this song that left me on pins and needles. I chased your love around a figure eight, I need you more than I can take. You promise forever and a day, and then you take it all away. The music behind these lyrics swirls you around and almost leaves you feeling like you just got off a fair ride that takes you around and around in continuous circles. It’s brilliant.

Dead in the Water wraps up this album, leaving you alone as quietly as you were brought into this world of Halcyon. The track has the strange echoing effect as though you’re listening to this actually underwater. It’s a neat effect, especially with the dainty vocals that are present in this one. Ellie’s voice is wonderfully gruff in this song, really coming through strong.

I really enjoyed this album – a lot more than I expected. I enjoy the single Lights, but I never figured Ellie Goulding would pump out an album like this. Maybe I underestimated her and didn’t see her for what she really is before going into this. But the reality is this: she’s making music that doesn’t sound like every other pop track out there today. Between her seductive voice and the psychedelic beats that some of these songs offer, this album is a really fun listen. This is definitely going into my CD player in my car.

 

Key Tracks
Figure 8 (track 6)
My Blood (track 2)
Only You (track 4)

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I Call Fives: I Call Fives

I feel like my life and my taste in music lately has been so scattered. Everything got derailed a few weeks ago and I’ve had a hard time getting back into the swing of real life. Sometimes you just need to go back to some solid pop-punk. I haven’t written about any great pop-punk bands lately and a certain band has been at the very top of my to-check-out list and I figure I may as well make that a reality. We’re going to have a listen to I Call Fives‘ self-titled disc tonight!

The album blasts out with Late Nights, a track that instantly connects me right into the genre – and then the band at large. This song really reminds me of New Found Glory if they were singing a track by Senses Fail. It’s got the right amount of rage and the right splash of annoyance to really bring it full circle for me. This is a promising start.

Obvious hits me with some lyrics that made me laugh out loud: I’d have to climb into a casket to get as low as you just went. Great pop-punk bands really bring out these zingers and it never fails to amuse or amaze me.

Two Sides of Every Story has to be one of my favorites on the albums. The vocals are strong in other songs, but really seem to be in command in this song. This is a very in-your-face track and I bet it’d be a blast to see live.

We Were Right Together and We Were Wrong Together is a short track, clocking in at one minute nad fifty-nine seconds, but is impactful in that short time. It’s hard to make amends when you turn your back on your friends. Also, can I get a moment of silence for the amazing title? Thank you.

The album wraps up with All You’ve Got Left. While it’s a bit slower than it’s predecessors, it’s a different side of the band that comes off successfully. The guitar work deserves a nod in this one because more than once it caught my attention by itself. The ending of this song, and subsequently the ending of the album, is so perfectly faded out with a repeating line that they couldn’t have had a better ending.

I’m glad I moved this band to the top of my to-listen-to list because this is a fine album. I needed some pop-punk to give me a swift kick in the ass and I would recommend this one with two thumbs up. It’s nothing but solid pop-punk fabric and it’s a raving good time. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

 

Key Tracks
Sleep Well (track 11)
Two Sides of Every Story (track 8)
Backup Plan (track 3)

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The Apache Relay: American Nomad

I think sometimes, everyone gets lost in the hustle bustle of life. Things are pushed back in place of seemingly more important things, or important things lose their meaning because of unforeseen circumstances. I’ve had such a hectic schedule at work lately that I haven’t been able to write on the blog as much as I would like. I apologize for that – hopefully after today, things will calm down again. But what really led me to thinking about that was my day yesterday. I had the pleasure of attending the Bristol, VA/TN Gentlemen of the Road Stopover that was organized by Mumford and Sons. When I first heard rumors that they were coming to town (I live near Bristol), I couldn’t believe it. When they announced the Stopover was going to be here, I really couldn’t believe it. While it was a long, hot day almost entirely in the direct sunlight, it was bliss. At one point while Mumford was playing, I looked up at the lights and realized that was what I loved most in life. Nothing compares to being packed in a crowd of people who are fans of the band you’re seeing and you’re screaming the lyrics together as one.

If you don’t know much about the Stopovers, it was basically a let’s roll into town and invite all the local stores, vendors, restaurants, etc. out to one hell of a day where we bring 15,000+ people into one small area. It was fantastic. It also meant that Mumford needed bands to play the other slots during the day since it was set up as a festival of sorts, which also gives added exposure to other bands. My friends and I got to Stage 1 and had the pleasure of hearing The Apache Relay play first. And while it was a change in schedule and they were originally slated to play Stage 2, boy am I glad they played Stage 1. With a thirty minute set, they had excellent, unique sound and a phenomenal stage presence. They were also very kind as a whole – I got to meet a few of the members and they were gracious and took time to speak to us and thank us. After this experience, I knew I had to listen to their album. And this is what the real point of this post is.

Their 2011 disc American Nomad starts off with Can’t Wake Up, a song they played live when I saw them yesterday. It’s a slow starting track that has all the potential for an explosion on stage that has an even better end result than the build-up. The song is easy going, but chock full of beautiful noises. Michael Ford Jr.’s voice was so captivating live and translates just as well on recording. His voice is gentle and smooth while remaining powerful when the time comes. He has incredible control over his vocals in the live show, even when the song takes over and major rocking out is required.

Mission Bells slows it down in the most delicate of ways. This band has a great knack for using the tambourine to their greatest advantage. It was busted out many times yesterday during the two sets I saw them do. I also should mention here that Kellen Wenrich’s fiddle playing is superb and this song showcases that (also the man has mad dance moves).

Lost Kid was my favorite song that I heard them perform and it remains my favorite on the disc. The drumming really kicks it up a notch in the beginning of this song before the song really comes at you full force with an array of instruments backing the drumming creating perfect harmony and a wonderland in my ears.

I also had the fortune of seeing Watering Hole performed twice. This song shows real blues influence at the core. Ford’s vocals are as spot-on as ever in this track. Maybe it’s the influence of seeing it twice live, but I think this song out of all of them may perfectly show the band’s pure talent from every corner. Everything is so wonderfully meshed together in this song that it takes a couple of listens to really hear all the instruments working as one and as a whole.

The album wraps up with Some People Change, a slower song that is a beautiful wrap-up to a great album. This track is calming and peaceful and again makes excellent use of a good tambourine. The guitar and the fiddle stand out in this number, lulling so quietly and perfectly it was almost as though to put you to sleep.

As I expected, the album was as great as the live show that these guys put on. I was impressed yesterday after I saw them, and I remain impressed right now after listening to this album. There’s something special in this band that needs to be noticed. Incorporating folk, indie and blues styles into a rock music blender, The Apache Relay create some tunes that you won’t soon be able to shake. I’m going to be listening to this for a while. (And here’s an incentive: Amazon has this record for $5!)

 

Key Tracks
Lost Kid (track 6)
Watering Hole (track 7)
Can’t Wake Up (track 1)

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