Alt Tuesday

Alt Tuesday: Passion Pit

September 4, 2012

Electronic music can be viewed in a lot of ways. Sometimes it seems cheap and synthetic. Sometimes things like dubstep culture seem to threaten the integrity of the alternative and indie scenes, where bands are constantly struggling to make music their careers. However, once in a while, electronic music can fuse perfectly with alternative music. The result: an album that is creative, innovative, and very well thought out. Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit has done just that with his new release Gossamer.

Although known for his signature falsetto vocals, Angelakos writes and programs all of the parts for Passion Pit. He is a one-man-band of sorts and the group’s debut album, Manners, gained popularity very quickly within the alternative scene. Angelakos was faced with the large task of avoiding the “sophomore slump” with his follow up, Gossamer. And he nailed it.

From start to finish, Gossamer is pure gold. The opening track and lead single “Take A Walk” blasts the listener with catchy synths and well-orchestrated dynamics. The second track, “I’ll Be Alright,” is programming genius, strategically using vocal squeaks and heavy distorted keyboards to brighten up the somber, self loathing tone of the lyrics.

The album carries on with “Carried Away,” this album’s “Little Secrets” equivalent, and “Constant Conversations,” which is an interesting, catchy R&B (yeah… really) track.

The rest of the album is not at the same level as these first four tracks, but that does not mean the songs don’t hold their own. The rest of the songs are still catchy and fun with very real lyrical content.

The album outlines Angelakos’ struggle with bipolar disorder, which turned into drug use and strain on his engagement with his fiancée. He tells all on the closing track, “Where We Belong,” which outlines a failed suicide attempt. The lyrics on this album are all very personal and very genuine and add a lot of personality to an electronic album. Personally, I think this is going to be one of the most important, groundbreaking alternative releases of the year.

Alt Tuesday: Summer Assignment

May 1, 2012

So it is the last Alt Tuesday post of the year. Are you sad? Because I sure am. But I’ve decided that instead of giving you ONE album to digest, I’m going to assign my loyal readers a huuuge homework assignment for the summer. The following albums are some gems that I think will make for really good summer jams.

Grouplove — Never Trust A Happy Song
Grouplove is a band that knows what the hell they’re doing. They formed kind of just for S’s and G’s, but ended up getting picked up and putting out a pretty big album. They got playtime on television because Apple used their song “Tongue Tied” in a commercial. Check out that track and “Colours.” Really bright, generally upbeat songs laced with high, occasionally gritty vocals and solid harmonies.

Foster The People — Torches
Honestly, I’m not going to go ahead and argue that Foster The People has made an album that you are going to be dying to get back to every time you are wondering what you should listen to now. But there are a lot of light hearted, really fun songs on this album. Good for summer dancey music. And who doesn’t love to rock out to good ol’ “Pumped Up Kicks” every once in a while?

Blink-182 – Take Off Your Pants And Jacket
I don’t know about you guys, but Blink-182’s old stuff reminds me of being a kid and that’s awesome if you ask me. Take Off Your Pants And Jacket is one of the quintessential pop punk records that a lot of modern day pop punk kids grew up on. Travis Barker’s drumming is somewhat revolutionarily thoughtful while Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge continue to produce really catchy pop punk melodies. If you like fast, fun music lined with profanity and undertones of true emotional distress, take a listen to this one. And even if not, listen to “Happy Holidays, You Bastard” and try not to laugh.

Phoenix — Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
This album is honestly just associated with good vibes for me. Everyone’s jam a couple years back was “1901.” Maybe it’s time to dust off the album that that came off of. Phoenix writes very mature and thoughtful new age music, lined with keyboards and bright guitars. And despite the fact that english is Phoenix’s second language, the band still turns out lyrics that are far more clever than a lot of the people who are in their scene. Give this one a shot no matter what. Very accessible.

Reel Big Fish — A Best Of Us… For The Rest Of Us
SUMMER = SKA. ALL DAY ERRY DAY. But seriously, if you have a hankering for some good ska but you don’t know how to get into it exactly, try this album. It is line with really really fun upbeat music from front to back. It is at the top of my “Going To The Beach” playlist for sure.

Have a good summer, people. Thanks for following my posts. Be back Fall 2012.

Alt Tuesday: Brand New

April 17, 2012

So there aren’t a lot of albums that I say “I feel like emotion x. I should listen to album y.” But The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me by Brand New is one of those albums. Lead singer and primary song writer, Jesse Lacey, wrote the album when he was feeling depressed and stressed out, and honestly it covers those emotions just about perfectly. This is definitely my “bummer/I don’t want to talk to anyone” album.

The album as a whole draws largely on the influence of The Smiths and other post punk bands of the ’80s. But don’t be deceived. This is a very modern sounding record that draws upon two main sources to formulate its sound. There is the older punk sound that Brand New captured in their earlier records fused with the finesse that bands like Manchester Orchestra and Say Anything promote. Essentially, (from my guitarist/songwriter perspective) there are a lot of creative guitar parts. Brand New plays with reverb and delay a lot and uses a lot of distortion and power chords for those big choruses.

The album focuses mainly on the concept of depression and struggling to find God in the scariest most brooding situations. The opening line of the album (from the track “Sowing Season”) sets the tone pretty quickly, as Lacey sings, “Losing all my friends / Just losing them to drinking and to driving.”

The album wanders on, hitting stand out tracks like “Millstone,” “Not The Sun,” and “Jesus” that use Brand New’s signature “LET’S USE A MILLION DIFFERENT VOCAL TRACKS AND HAVE IT WORK PERFECTLY” style.

One potential criticism of this album would be the fact that as it goes on through its 12 tracks, it is very easy to get a little lost and forget which track you are listening to. It is very easy for songs to be good, but not stand out enough for you to really be affected in a different way by a different song. However, this is just a minor flaw in an otherwise well crafted piece of art.

I will leave you with this YouTube video of “Luca,” with the side note that even as a fan of this album for several years, I still get scared when it comes in loud at the end of the bridge (You’ll know. I promise).

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