Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Music Review: Deap Vally - Femejism



Way back in 2016, I went to see Wolfmother perform in Orange County, CA.  Wolfmother was great, but what I left the venue really thinking about was the opening act, Deap Vally.  Deap Vally is a female hard rock duo that kicked ass on the stage that night.  I checked out their debut album and liked it and in late 2016, they put out their second album, Femejism.  The crazy thing is I normally don't care for female vocal bands, but this band connected with me.  Style wise, I would say that Deap Vally is The White Stripes meets Joan Jett.

What I really like about Femejism is the albums attitude.  This album shares a message about female empowerment in the male dominated rock music industry.  The songs also are about a female sexual independence and a woman's place in the world.  I'm a guy, so these lyrics don't really speak to me on a personal level, yet I love the attitude in which they are delivered.  It makes the songs work.  Songs that are seriously badass include Smile More, Royal Jelly and Two Seat Bike.  There a couple filler tracks on the album, but overall, this album is worth checking out for hard rock fans.  I also recommend seeing Deap Vally live and they are great live.




GRADE:  B

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Music Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen - The Ride



Here is a weird concept for me, in Britain there is an entire generation of young rock bands who grew up on and are influenced by Oasis.  This is weird for me because I don't think of Oasis as being around that long, but they have been.  One of the new bands making a splash in Britain with their Oasis influenced rock is Catfish and the Bottlemen.  I discovered this band watching them on the Conan O'Brien show and I liked their performance enough to check out the album.  Their album, The Ride, is their second album and it debuted at #1 in Britain.

So how does a new Oasis influenced band sound to these ears?  Pretty damn solid.  Listening to the entire album, it is evident that Oasis is their biggest influence, but they don't try to sound exactly like them.  I think Catfish and the Bottlemen are a little more mellow compared to classic 90's Oasis.  They are also a little more clean sounding.  In other words, I think they played it a bit safe by making sure the entire album is a perfect fit for the radio.  This isn't a bad thing, it is just the main difference I hear compared to Oasis.  The Ride is a cool album and it has a lot of songs that are easy to listen to and enjoy.  The songs 7, Oxygen and Soundcheck are all killer songs that would satisfy any Oasis fan.  There are a couple average songs here and there, but overall it hits the spot.

  

GRADE:  B

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Music Review: Eric Hutchinson - Easy Street



Eric Hutchinson is a pop singer/songwriter who really should be a lot bigger than he is.  He writes catchy pop songs, has a great voice and is very talented.  Perhaps the fact that he can write his own songs, plays instruments, can sing (without auto-tune) and produces his own album is a reason that people don't give him a chance.  Whatever the case may be, Easy Street is Hutchinson's fourth solid solo album and you should give it a listen.

Easy Street continues with Hutchinson's pop fused soul music that is very positive in not just style, but lyrically as well.  The songs on this album, like all his albums, feels very upbeat in style and substance.  Each song features melodies and choruses that hit the spot.  While I do like the album, I feel this is his weakest album of the four he has released.  While all the songs on the album are good, this album lacks the handful of great songs he usually has on his albums.  I also don't like the fact that this album only has eight new songs and then two remixes of songs from this album.  Those remixed songs are filler and I have no interest in that.  Put two more new songs on the album for goodness sakes!  Complaints aside, songs that I really like include Dear Me, Anyone Who Knows Me and Bored To Death.  If you've never heard of Hutchinson, I'd recommend checking out his album Moving Up Living Down (which is excellent) first and then check out the rest. 




GRADE: B




Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Music Review: Zakk Wylde - Book of Shadows II




Zakk Wylde is one of my favorite guitarists.  He got his start as a teenager playing guitar for Ozzy Osbourne and he helped Ozzy achieve some of his biggest commercial success as a solo artist.  His writing had a huge influence on the Ozzy classic, No More Tears which was a huge album.  When he hasn't been working Ozzy, he has had his own projects including Pride and Glory, Black Label Society and his excellent solo album, Book of Shadows.

Book of Shadows came out in 1996 and is pretty much an all acoustic album that has hit legendary status among Zakk Wylde, hard rock and metal fans.  There is no doubt in my mind that the album features some of best writing and singing of his career.  20 years after that release, Zakk finally gave the fans Book of Shadows II which continues the original's tone and style.

I was pretty excited about this album after Wylde announced he was going to release it, but like with most sequels that come out decades after its predecessor, it failed to live up to expectations.  While one could argue that having high expectations is unfair to the new album, but upon repeat listens, I just don't find the songs to be as good overall.  Book of Shadows II starts off strong with its first five songs all being good.  After that, the songs become...well...boring.  I wouldn't say any of the songs are bad, they are just dull.  The album does end on a stronger note with its last couple songs, so that helps it a bit.  Songs on the album I really like include Autumn Changes, Lay Me Down and The King.  While I appreciate Zakk trying to do duplicate Book of Shadows, at this point in his career, I think it makes more sense for him to continue to put out music with his band Black Label Society who still kick kick ass.




GRADE: C+

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Music Review: Aaron Lewis - Sinner



I have mentioned on here before that I don't really like country music as it is just not my thing, but every once in a while, something connects with me.   Aaron Lewis is the lead singer of one of my favorite nu-metal bands, Staind.  One of my favorite things about Staind has always been Lewis' vocals, so when he came out with a solo EP back in 2011, I was pretty excited.  Imagine my surprise when I heard the album the first time and it was a country album.  A strange thing happened though and I actually liked it, well, most of it.

Sinner is Lewis' third solo release and is his second full length album.  When listening to the album, there is no sign of the Staind days at all as this is a real country album.  I have no idea what country purists would say, but to this country music novice, this sounds like some real country music.  In fact, I recently listened to country legends Alabama to get a feel for real country music and I think Lewis' album fits.  Lyrically, the album is like most country songs I've heard: America, whiskey, trucks and sticking to your grandparents core values.  Now, for me, those types of lyrics get old pretty quick, but with Aaron Lewis singing it, I like most of it.

Some of the songs that stand out on the record for me are Sinner (featuring Willie Nelson), Northern Redneck and That Ain't Country.  While the vast majority of songs on this album are all good songs, one of the issues I have with country music in general, is an issue here too.  That issue is I really don't care for country music ballads and this album has too many of them in my opinion.  Except for the song Mama, I get bored with them upon repeat listens.  I'd really prefer Lewis putting more upbeat songs on the next album because I really like those.  Of course, that is just me and like I said, most of the songs on this album are good, so don't let that deter you if you dig Aaron Lewis or country music.




GRADE:  B

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Music Review: Sixx AM - Prayers for the Blessed



It is always good when a band can give you one solid album in a year, but for a band to give you two full length albums in one year that are great is a rarity.  Early in 2016, Sixx AM released the excellent Prayers for the Damned and by the end of 2016 they followed that up with the very good Prayers for the Blessed.  Sixx AM is a band started by Nikki Sixx which used to be just a side-project for him, but now that Motley Crue is done, it has become his number one priority.  Two studio albums in one year proves that.

When it gets down to it, Prayers for the Blessed is really a continuation of Prayers for the Damned.  You can tell all these songs were written within the same time frame.  The creativity must have been flowing like crazy because this album has songs that equal the quality of the songs on Damned.  Originally I thought Blessed would basically be the throw away tracks from Damned, but that just isn't the case.  These songs have focus and purpose.  A few of the stronger songs are We Will Not Go Quietly, The Devil's Coming and the emotional Helicopters.  The only misfire on this album is their remake of Harry Nilsson's 1972 classic, Without You.  I'm just not sure why they added this to the album.  Don't get me wrong, it is a good cover, but for some reason, the song interrupts the flow of the album in my opinion.  Besides that, Prayers of the Blessed is very strong and just a slight step down from Prayers for the Damned.




GRADE: A-