Archive for April, 2009

Review: New Found Glory, “Not Without A Fight”

New Found Glory, Not Without A FightAfter twelve years, most bands are either thinking of ending their careers or still trying to make hits that they know people (and their fans) will buy. New Found Glory has enough of a fan base that despite the album leaking months before the release date, thousands upon thousands bought the album on its street date. As a new fan to the band, I wasn’t sure what all the hype was about until I looked these guys up. This band has been around for just over a decade and is still churning out records left and right, touring relentlessly and hitting up festivals over the summers as always. So the question comes down to this: does New Found Glory still have it?

First off, let me just say that records after a greatest hits album can sometimes be rough on an artist. Fans can be ruthless, asking for old sounds in a new world, especially when a band has been around for 12 years like NFG. Going back with Mark Hoppus as their producer for Not Without a Fight, he’s gone on record to say that the band has felt much different, “bearing a whole new enthusiasm about music.” Evidence of this is seen on the album’s lead single, “Listen To Your Friends”, a straight pop/punk song that showcases all the band’s talents vocally, lyrically, and musically. It’s probably one of the best tracks on the record, which makes it seem fitting that they picked it for the first single. Many songs showcase teenage and young love, including the surefire hit “47”, in which features the chorus of, “I called 46 times, and you answered on the 47th”. The band seems big on keeping kids enthused about sticking with their friends, since many of the songs seem to talk about a break up and then friends coming to help out. This is a definitely positive message that kids can pick up from this band, which shines light in so many dark places.

Steady beats and raw guitars abound on tracks like “Don’t Let Her Pull You Down” and “Tangled Up”, and pretty soon after only a brief 17 minutes, you’re already half way through the album. Sad to say, the album goes quite quickly after the sixth track as well, but the songs are still just as good as the first half. “Reasons” boasts an acoustic guitar over a punk-flavored chorus to make a decent ballad, and probably has the best vocals from lead singer Jordan Pudnik on the record. Overall, Not Without A Fight showcases some excellent tracks from the veteran band, and proves they’re around for the long run, kind of like their friends MxPx, who seem to also have been around for ever and a day. This band isn’t going anywhere yet, watch out.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: Anberlin, “New Surrender”

Anberlin, New SurrenderAnberlin has only been around for seven years, but in that time they’ve released some of the bigger releases from Tooth & Nail Records, including the breathtaking masterpiece of Cities from 2007. Cities saw Anberlin move from the standard rock/alternative band to a mainstream contender, and the band signed to Universal Republic Records, finishing their contract with Tooth & Nail. Cities was also quite a bit of a departure into a much more mature and solid rock sound, implementing various instruments into the mix rather than just sticking to the guitars, bass and drums. It seems that the new label wanted the band to put out some new material to market, and New Surrender was released this past summer to the masses, after a b-sides collection finished their contract at Tooth & Nail.

While it may seem that the band hurried to get this release out to fans, in actuality New Surrender is the record that the band has spent the most time on in the studio. Stephen Christian has gone on record to say that the first three records took between 3-5 weeks in the studio to write and record, while New Surrender took a solid 8 weeks. So, in theory, since the band worked harder and longer on this album than the rest, it should be the best, correct? In my opinion, it isn’t. In fact, I feel it’s a step backwards. While the record has some excellent tracks (“The Resistance”, “Disappear”, and the ballad “Breaking”), the complete feel of the record is lacking. Let me explain.

Anberlin’s first two albums showcased pop/rock sounds all the way through, but Never Take Friendship Personal was a significant improvement from Blueprints for the Black Market. Then, Cities came along. The album basically redefined what the band has been doing for years, and it was much more mature within both songwriting and overall sound. Fans were impressed and it was definitely a highlight of the band’s career, garnering lots of hits. New Surrender feels like it lacks the mature bite of Cities, and feels like a step back to the days of NTFP. More distortion and sing-song choruses about, particularly in songs like “Haight Street”, and the popular “Blame Me! Blame Me!”. Stephen’s vocals seem to be missing the emotion that was prevalent on Cities and even NTFP. “Miserabile Visu” serves as the finale to the new album, and sounds like the band was trying to recreate the passion and emotion from the finale of “(Fin*)”. While it is an elegantly-performed song, it just doesn’t seem to work on the same level.

That isn’t to say the entire record is bad, as many of the more upbeat tunes showcase what Anberlin is known for. If I could move New Surrender to another place in the band’s career, it would replace their third record, and Cities would have been the newest album, as it seems to be the most mature and well-written album from the band. In the end, New Surrender is a decent release from the Tooth & Nail veterans, but it’s definitely missing things that their previous albums have made prominent.

Star Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

Review: Red, “Innocence & Instinct”

Red, "Innocence & Instinct"Red came onto the scene in 2006 with their debut record, End of Silence. Immediately they were likened to the sound of Linkin Park, save for their tendency to stay away from the rap-rock hybrid sound. The band achieved monumental success with plenty of hits from that record, and were revered for their use of violins mixed in with a hard-hitting rock sound. Through excessive touring and a re-release of their debut, the band saw their fan base grow largely, and now in 2009, the band has released their highly-anticipated second album, Innocence & Instinct. Lyrically, the album features songs of dark places and the light that can be found in Christ, and never leaves the listener lost in the darkness it ventures into.

Aiming to be a concept record of the fight inside of each Christian, the record significantly tones down the hard rock edge that made their debut so successful. Much of the record is almost a rehashing of what the first record was: hard rock guitars mixed with epic violin sounds, and simplistic lyrics that a first time listener can pick up easily. This process is repeated, almost to a T on songs like the first single, “Death of Me”. The sophomore record sees the band take what they were known for, for the past three years, and reduce it to a mainstream CCM feel. Sadly, this seems to be the trend for groups that garner a large amount of success as soon as they debut. Where the band would have normally screamed or turned the guitars up louder, the lead vocalist holds back his talent and the music is turned down.

The album isn’t a total loss, of course. The songs have the CCM rock sound, but some tracks tend to be harder than the usual songs we’ve come to be used to on the radio. More tracks, such as “Never Be The Same” incorporate acoustic guitar which wasn’t heard on their debut except for on some of the piano based songs. It adds a more stripped down feel of Red that many fans will embrace and find a love for, certainly. One other thing that makes this album a bit more worth it is the bonus tracks on the iTunes version. If you’re one of those people that still goes out and buys the physical CD, you’re in luck, as these extra tracks are available online for $.99 downloads. Bonus track “Overtake You” is another hard track that is more like something you’d hear from their debut, yet has some elements that show improvement. I wish there had been more tracks like “Overtake You” on the whole of the album, as it would have made the record better as a whole.

Overall, Innocence & Instinct will impress and satisfy fans who have been waiting three years for new material from the Dove Award winners. The record features enough CCM material that the radio stations will be spinning this one more than their debut, and we’ll have to wait and see if the band turns up the volume again on their next release.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Through Windows

“I’ve watched my life through windows…”

Deas Vail is a little band from Russellville, Arkansas, and have been one of my favorite bands since I heard their debut All The Houses Look The Same in 2005. An interesting fact, their name is from both Latin and French, meaning “Humble servant of God”.

I say all this to explain the name of this blog. For years, I feel like I have lived my life inside of something, inside of my family, inside of my own mind, and never trying to live outside of those walls that have always been there, even if I never saw them before. Sometimes, at high points in my life, I’ll have seen my life through a window of that wall, longing for what lays on the outside. In the past year, God has spoken and acted in my life in ways I never thought possible. Through wanting more in life at a Bible college in Pennsylvania, to a struggle-filled summer of fear and doubt, and arriving at a tiny music college to study the art of doing music business correctly, God has walked with me, and carried me during the times I felt I couldn’t go on.

I’m starting this blog to show my life outside those windows, the life I saw through windows of my old life. What you’ll see here won’t always been intense. It won’t always be amazing. What you’ll see here is how I feel about music, what drives me in it, my thoughts on both the music industry and albums as they’re released, and a whole bunch about my passions for it all.

I hope people will read this, and that people will appreciate (or disagree with, if they will) the things I talk about here. And if no one reads it, at least I know I’m doing what God has called me to do.