Tuesday, March 2, 2010

New Lifehouse: bland, but not necessarily boring

by Amy Willard

With their first single “Halfway Gone” released back in October many were expecting Lifehouse to return re-energized in their fifth album, Smoke & Mirrors. The upbeat tempo and synthesized vox were a misleading preview to a record that can be better described as both raw and reserved.

There are 12 tracks on the standard version (13 if you order the full album) and 17 total for the deluxe, that all feature a familiar Lifehouse formula of midtempo melodies and earnest croons of lead singer, Jason Wade. At first listen, one will notice, and probably hone in on the fact that Smoke & Mirrors falls short on diversity in comparison to its popular predecessor Who We Are.

The simple beats and even simpler lyrics are not quite enough to establish significantly memorable tracks, but on the deluxe version one will find a more distinctive Lifehouse, as “Here Tomorrow Gone Today” boasts a dynamic change with its energized tempo and distorted vox. Although many of the songs follow a similar pattern, perhaps there is beauty in the bland as fans are introduced to a Lifehouse that is a little more stripped down than the one they are accustomed to.

Contrary to its name, Smoke & Mirrors, does not attempt to mislead listeners by getting caught up in overtly complicated metaphors. Rather, Wade does away the overbearing complexity, by directly preserving the emotion of familiar situations as he simply sings the reality, “Too long we’ve been denying, now we’re tired of trying, we’ve hit a wall and we can’t get over it” (“It Is What It Is”).

Although the songs may not stand out amongst other releases of its genre this year, the toned down, yet heartfelt melodies are certain to appeal to many. Do not expect Smoke & Mirrors to revolutionize music of today, but rather serve as inspiration for a more genuine focus in songwriting.

Song recommendations: “All In” “Halfway Gone” “Smoke & Mirrors” “It Is What It Is” “Here Tomorrow Gone Today”

Smoke & Mirrors is available in stores and online. You can also catch Lifehouse at the 1st Mariner Arena on March 18 as they kick off their four month tour with Daughtry.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ume entertains with new EP

By Sarah Rutz

Coming at us from Austin, Texas, Ume is a three-piece outfit that’s catching the music scene’s attention. With their brilliantly executed combination of musical instruments and vocals, their new EP continuously entertains listeners, from the beginning of the cd to the very end. Their infectious and unique sound makes it hard for people to not want to move along with it, and the Sunshower EP evokes that feeling excellently.

With five tracks of melodic, driving punk, lead singer Lauren’s voice carries listeners easily from one track to the next, leaving little room for disappointment in the entire EP. It’s a cohesive effort at creating something new for listeners of all types of music—fast paced tracks like “The Conductor” compliment slower tracks like “Sunshower”. The lyrics give all listeners a connection to the band that is often hard to achieve and sometimes even lost with some artists, but Ume keeps everything consistent, clear, and exciting.

The EP is available on iTunes and other digital stores. If you prefer a hard copy, head on over to http://www.umemusic.com/ and purchase it through their merch store, or catch a Ume show and pick one up there.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All American Rejects make comeback with long awaited release

By Sarah Rutz

It’s been three years since the world has heard any new music by Oklahoma’s The All-American Rejects, and for diehard fans of the band, the wait was well worth it. When The World Comes Down, AAR’s third studio album, has the band rocketing back onto the scene with as much power and vigor as they did with 2005’s Move Along. It’s a good, easy listen, and worth the extra few weeks of waiting that listeners had to endure for it to be released.

The first single off the CD and quite obvious as the standout track, “Gives You Hell,” is a pop-rock infusion that is probably the only song on the entire disc that somewhat reminds listeners of what the Rejects’ old stuff sounded like. In itself, it’s a high-energy track that really establishes this Oklahoma quartet as a band. The rest of the songs on the CD, like “Fallin’ Apart,” incorporate the piano and string ensembles with guitar, bass and drums to give listeners something new to experience, while Catherine and Allison Pierce appear as guest vocalists on “Another Heart Calls,” giving the song even more expression.

Compared with some of The All American Reject’s older recordings, When The World Comes Down may not be able to produce hit singles like their previous release. This time around, however, they do deliver a full-length CD with all of the elements that people look for—a few sappy songs, some rather edgy, and a couple that we’re not quite sure how to absorb, but still enjoy. Regardless, When The World Comes Down is AAR’s homecoming for the music scene, and it’s proven to be a hit with their fans, and the single has won over a new group of listeners.

It’s a good effort at combining their old sound while dabbling with something new. The All-American Rejects is the same band that they’ve always been, and they’ve stayed true to the music that their fans adore in addition to throwing in some experimental, but successful new sounds out to the crowd.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fall Out Boy pleases with "double madness" in 5th release

By Sarah Rutz
photo by Amy Willard
Joe Trohman of Fall Out Boy performs at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC.

After delaying the release due to Election Day conflicts, Folie A Deux, Fall Out Boy’s highly anticipated fifth studio album, has left little to be desired from fans who have been there from the beginning, and those who maybe have just started listening to the Illinois quartet. Even for people who haven’t had the opportunity to go out and purchase the CD yet, chances are they’ve already heard the catchy single, “I Don’t Care,” a high energy anthem with lyrics to match, which gives a little taste of what else Folie has to offer to listeners.

The entire disc demonstrates Fall Out Boy’s dedication to their music and need to develop each CD as individual and maybe even better than the one before it. In this case, Folie a Deux supercedes 2007’s Infinity On High, showing how the band has matured musically in just a little over a year, and as a band in general. Produced by Neal Avron and Pharrell Williams, the thirteen track effort is a little different from what most people would probably expect from Fall Out Boy, but still distinctly carries their name and a somewhat signature sound that the band has managed to create over the years.

The opening track, “Disloyal Order Of Water Buffaloes,” echoes the achievements made by 2007’s Infinity with a mix of organ, powerful guitar, and of course, Patrick Stump’s distinctive vocals as well as gang vocals in the background shouting a catchy mantra of “detox just to retox.” As an introduction into Fall Out Boy’s latest conquest on the music world, the premiere track blends both their old sound with something new and unexpected from the band— almost an infusion of all of their previous albums, creating something both new and exciting. Following the first track come other strong sounds, including the danceable "Ameica’s Suitehearts” and “The (Shipped) Gold Standard,” with creatively strong lyrics and distinct messages.

Several tracks on Folie A Deux are backed by an all-star cast: Fall Out Boy brought in acts like labelmates William Beckett (The Academy Is…), Brendon Urie (Panic at the Disco), Gabe Saporta (Cobra Starship) and Travis McCoy (Gym Class Heroes), and also Lil Wayne and Elvis Costello to assist with songs like “What a Catch, Donnie” and “Tiffany Blews,” giving the CD even more vigor and power than it already had. If that’s not enough, there are several remixes out there of both hit tracks “I Don’t Care” and “America’s Suitehearts,” and the latter is soon to be followed up by a music video featuring Hey Monday’s Cassadee Pope.

Fall Out Boy has certainly put all of their effort into this album and everything that went along with it--from relentless promotion and letting listeners stream the album via MySpace, to the Citizens For Our Betterment phenomenon that went along with all the album’s hype. And all of the buzz surrounding this release is completely worth it—Fall Out Boy’s Folie A Deux is one that is worth picking up, listening to, and is a great addition to any pop/punk music collection.