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(Be my critic)

The Mission District (Cassie) [10 Apr 2009|12:52am]

photo credit: www.myspace.com/themissiondistrict


Upon listening to The Mission District’s “Heartbreaker”, I am instantly reminded of bands such as Metro Station, Melee, and Cobra Starship – bands that I enjoy regularly on warm and sunny days. The keyboard and upbeat tempos lend to a rather energetic and unbelievably catchy chorus that compel me to repeat the song after the first go-round.


But there is something different from the other bands here. In some points of the verses, the lead singer, David Rancourt’s voice, sounds straight out of the 80’s. Rancourt says, “We didn’t want to write a self-indulgent and arty record. We wanted to write a pop record. We wanted to have big choruses that you could sing along to…” and that is something that comes across in a big way. After a couple of plays, I already know those choruses and am singing along. Apparently these guys are very familiar with catchy.


photo credit: Gemma Conway


Other Mission District songs like, “So Over You” and “The Age of Pretending” showcase some 80’s style synthesizer and vocals highlighting dance-inspiring qualities. On “The Best of You and Me”, a whole different sound is displayed – one with more typical pop-rock beats, without the electronic feel. Their songs don’t all sound, which keeps me entertained. With lyrics like “I will break your heart tonight cause this is what we do/This time I swear I’ll get it right/ I’ll break your heart in two,” some might say that these tracks aren’t too profound, but The Mission District succeeds in what they set out to accomplish: catchy, fun, and genuinely good pop music. This will definitely be in my stereo next time I’m thinking of having a dance party.

(Be my critic)

Falling Up's new album, Fangs! (Jackie) [10 Apr 2009|12:50am]


Hailing from Albany, Oregon the trio that makes up Falling Up--Josh Shroy (drums), Jeremy Miller (bass, keys) and Jess Ribordy (vocals, guitar and keys)--is anything but mundane and ordinary.

There is no real musical “genre” you could classify these three guys in. Part rock, part ballad, part science fiction and part everything else, their classification of themselves on MySpace as “experimental” is very fitting.

With their sixth album Fangs!, released on March 24th, the spiritual band further pushes the boundaries of time and sound with their “experimental” music. From the get-go, Fangs! sounds like something few listeners have probably ever heard before. Ribordy’s voice is at the very least, haunting, with just the right amount of near-creepy thrown in. The sound becomes almost spaceage-esque when Ribordy’s voice combines with the electronic effects the band has laid over tracks like “Lotus And The Languorous.”

Many of the songs are chock full of sheer ominousness, making them feel like the supporting soundtrack to an intense battle scene from Star Trek or a J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novel. Other tracks, like “Goddess of the Dayspring, Am I,” are more upbeat and even ethereal in their musical style.

On the title of the album, Ribordy says, “Fangs sums up a very reactive type of scenario. We often think of Fangs relating to snakes or poison, which represent the idea of biting and damage. It’s a very reaction-based record where something is always happening. Whether it be good or bad, it’s always significant.”

And significant this album is. From its out-of-this-world-infused songs, all the way down to the song titles; most of which are quite complex and sound like they were taken directly from a chapter in a sci-fi novel, with names like “Streams of Woe at Acheron” and “The King’s Garden.” 

If Falling Up’s goal is to push musical boundaries, they have definitely done so with Fangs!.

(Be my critic)

The Bigger Light's debut album Fiction Fever (Jackie) [10 Apr 2009|12:47am]



Named from a line in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” The Bigger Lights is made up of J.K. Royston (guitar/vocals), Dan Mineart (bass/vocals) and singer Topher Talley and they charge at listeners full-speed with their brand of upbeat, adrenaline-pumped rock.

Hailing from Fairfax, Virginia, the band will celebrate the release of their debut album, The Fiction Fever, on April 7.

With an energetic mix of pop and rock, songs like “Closer (Time Stops Breathing)” and “Apocalypse!” use enthusiastic vocals and harmonies mixed with heart-pounding guitar background and solos to pump the music through the stereo and straight into the listener’s ears.


Their song titles reflect the band’s enthusiasm and energy with names like “Revved and Ready” and “Goldmine Valentine,” the latter undoubtedly being the stand-out song on the album with Topher Talley’s voice shifting to an almost haunting whisper at the opening of the song with the band noticeably relying heavier on minor keys.   

Even “When Did We Lose Ourselves,” which most people would probably expect to be a somber ballad based on the song title, is a fantastic pop/rock anthem highlighting Royston’s guitar skills and is likely to inspire any audience to stand up and sing along.



With the  infectious choruses and vocals on The Fiction  Fever, it’s safe to say that listeners will be left humming and singing “if this is it, we’re dead set and ready for it” for a long, long time.

(Be my critic)

New Found Glory's Not Without a Fight [10 Mar 2009|12:23am]


Not Without a Fight is the best possible title for New Found Glory’s eighth studio album. Dripping with determination and ferocity on this release, New Found Glory has found the perfect combination of punk rock and maturity and proves that they’ve still got it and they’re not going anywhere.

The title track of the album is called “Right Where We Left Off.” Instead of being a direct pick up from where Coming Home finished, this album is a better integration of the maturity, sharpness, and melodic complexity of Coming Home and the NFG brand of pop punk that they made famous with Catalyst and Sticks and Stones. The tracks are drum-heavy and have catchy guitar riffs contrasting Jordan Pundik’s prominent clean tenor vocals.  The bass on each track throbs like the heartbeat of the band which could make anyone’s chest pump with the amp—a perfect concoction for moshing.


The gang vocals on tracks like “Don’t Let Her Pull You Down” and “Such a Mess” contribute to the fighting spirit of the album. This is supported by the intro of “Such a Mess” which is similar to Four Year Strong’s Rise or Die Trying with its heavy bass and clean guitar riffs that creates a really powerful sound. Songs like “This Isn’t You,” “47” and “Tangled Up” prove that it’s not about being thick-skinned for NFG; it’s about saying exactly how they feel, but giving it a kick in the ass. Even though they’re songs about frustration with love, they’re still
pissed off and unforgiving as Jordan sings in “This Isn’t You,” “Your words break me down like a wrecking ball, I’m so sick of it all.” “Reasons” is the perfect tie between past and present New Found Glory with an acoustic intro and heartfelt lyrics that progress into a chorus of pounding riffs.

A lot of bands promise to return to their previous sound and many can’t manage to re-conjure up their most perfect moment.  New Found Glory promised Alternative Press in their issue of the Most Anticipated Albums of 2009 that they were going back to their roots for this album and not only have they been successful, but they’ve also managed to retain the life lessons they’ve learned along the way.  Congrats, NFG.  You got your fight back.


To follow up with their new album release, New Found Glory is going on a seven week tour with Bayside, who released their forth studio album Shudder this past September, Set Your Goals, who is now recording a follow-up to 2006’s full length Mutiny, and Verse, who released their studio album Agression this past
June. They’re coming at you fast, rowdy, and full of new music so check out the
tour and keep your eyes open for a review of the show.

(Be my critic)

Anarbor's new album Free Your Mind by Justin [10 Mar 2009|12:20am]


Anarbor’s new EP Free Your Mind hits the shelves on March 10, and if you are a fan of music, I suggest you pick it up.  I’ve been listening to it almost non-stop since I got it for review (I paused briefly to sleep once or twice) and I’ve yet to get tired of Anarbor’s high energy, catchy sound.  Hopeless records made a good decision picking these guys up.

Reading up on the band, the first thing that caught my eye was their honesty.  They are Pop-Rock.  They call themselves Pop-Rock.  They make a point to not have any instrument on their album that they don’t play live.   To quote their guitarist Mike Kitlas, “The distinctive sound we are reaching for is rock and roll… We are going for a very raw and real sound for this record.” They stuck to this mantra on every song. You get the feeling listening to this album that the songs would sound very similar if you were listening to the band practice in a garage, and that’s not a bad thing.  Every song feels genuine and real.

The two founding members of the band, Mike Kitlas and Slade Echeverria, have been friends since kindergarten.  They met up with their drummer, Greg Garrity, in middle school, and finished up their lineup with Adam Juwig on guitar shortly thereafter.  After listening to them, it’s not hard to tell that these guys have pretty much grown up together.  Every piece of the band seems to both stand out on its own and support the other pieces equally.  It’s obvious that they all enjoy working
together, and they do it well.

My favorite song on the album, hands down, is the closer, “Always Dirty, Never Clean”.  In it, they put the cookie-cutter music industry on blast. Every song ends with a very simple, yet poignant question: “What the f*ck happened to Rock and Roll?”  I myself have asked this question on countless Nickleback-related occasions.  They go on to challenge the “image before talent” mentality of pop music with the last line in their chorus, “Music is what you hear, and not what you see.” Preach on Anarbor. Preach on.

I am definitely looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this band.  They’re currently on the Take Action Tour with Cute Is What We Aim For, Breathe Carolina, Meg & Dia, and Every Avenue.  If I can catch one of these shows, I’m definitely going to.  I suggest you do the same.

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