Monday, April 30, 2007

PlayRadioPlay! – The Frequency EP

Band: PlayRadioPlay!
Album: The Frequency EP
Release Date: April 24, 2007
Label: Island

As I previously mentioned PlayRadioPlay! has been on my radar for a year or two, and I’m thrilled that the project is not only still chugging along, but that he’s been signed and released an actual EP. PlayRadioPlay! is a solo projected headed up by Texas teenager Dan Hunter. I read that his music has essentially stemmed from the unfortunate loss of his father a few years ago. After struggling with drug abuse and addiction, Hunter has reemerged as a much more positive person, and he bills himself as an all-loving hippie (partially due to his long hair).

Unlike some of the albums I’ve been reviewing lately, The Frequency EP was immediately endearing. It didn’t take a few listens for me to really get into, in fact about thirty seconds into the first song I was remembering why I’ve loved PlayRadioPlay! since I first heard it. Hunter’s music style is light and easily described as happy, yet under the surface his lyrics tell a much more serious story. His pain and personal turbulence are easily apparent, yet his musical and vocal style makes for an uplifting experience.

The first track “Bad Cops Bad Charities” echoes his ‘straight-edge’ lifestyle without sounding self-righteous like so many people who call themselves XXX do. His lyrics are thoughtful and endearing and remarkably catchy. The chorus of the track “The big stars that crash cars and get paid / To say lines and pay fines and get laid / I don’t have to look to see / That that place isn’t me” will have you singing along by the second time the verse comes around as Hunter’s youthful voice makes his songs accessible and instantly lovable.

The autobiographical “Even Fairy Tale Characters Would Be Jealous” taints the Hellogoodbye-eque beat with some history of Hunter’s drug-tinged past. However, this uplifting song illustrates his complete turn around. This inspiring story shows that no longer does he rely on drugs for a high; instead his enjoyment of life comes through love and passion.

The six song EP ends with an electronic cover of “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. The cover is interestingly different, yet accurate. Overall, this EP is extremely enjoyable, especially for fans of Hellogoodbye or The Postal Service. However, Hunter’s uniquely youthful voice and thoughtful, self-inspired lyrics set him apart. He is currently on tour through much of the South. PlayRadioPlay! will be featured at The Bamboozle in New Jersey as well as several stops on the Warped Tour. For more information about his tour or to hear some of his songs, visit his myspace. Finally, you can expect a full-length debut later this year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Upcoming: This Week!

First off I’d like to apologize for being a few days later than usual (without warning) getting my last review up, but today I finally posted it, and you can find it here. With that said, I’d also like to buy myself a little bit of leeway for this week’s release as well. Starting this Thursday at my school (the University of Hartford) is the annual Spring Fling, which is basically 4 straight days of heavy drinking. So, I can’t exactly promise that I’ll have the time or the physical ability to write my review in a timely fashion. I’d still like to get it done on time, but I don’t want to make any promises.

With that out of the way, this weeks review will be the “Frequency EP” from PlayRadioPlay!. For those of you who aren’t familiar with PlayRadioPlay! it is (last time I checked at least) a solo project of a young man from Texas. I first heard of him through a friend on Purevolume, a year or maybe even two years ago. I was instantly taken with his catchy synthesized tunes, and now that he’s releasing an EP (out today) I’m really excited about it. I really hope it came out good because I’d be very happy to see him succeed. So, if you’re interested in checking out some of the music head over to his myspace!

Waking Ashland – The Well

Band: Waking Ashland
Album: The Well
Release Date: April 17, 2007
Label: Immortal

I’ve been a fan of Waking Ashland, for a while, basically since their debut, the “I am for You EP.” At the time when I was first turned on to them, piano rock had a stranglehold on me and their infectious sound immediately grasped me, particularly the track “The Politics of Life.” However, since then my tastes have changed quite a bit, but as they continued to release more music (the “Telescopes EP” and “Composure”) I still found pleasure in listening to their lighthearted and often upbeat sound. So, as the release of their latest, “The Well,” drew nearer I wondered if their genuine charm would hold up to my evolved tastes or if their not-quite-so-unique sound would leave me hoping for something more.

I am pleased to say, that they kick it off right! As soon as I began my first listen I was immediately grabbed by the indie sound of “Salt Lake Jam.” However, as the CD wore on I found myself losing interest, and fast. After the fifth track (of twelve) I found it hard to continue listening. Not that the music is bad, it just isn’t very interesting after the first half. It seems that somewhere along the line they lost faith in their newer sound, and reverted to what they do best.

The instantly lovable “Salt Lake Jam” starts off the album with some brooding piano and a perfect sprinkling of blues guitar. This foot-tapper ebbs and flows perfectly as it builds to high points and lets off steam at just the right moments. Jonathan Jones’ vocals are strong here and show that his always-pleasant voice has been even further refined since we last heard him. “Diamonds in the Hillside,” the album’s fourth track, shares a lot with its opener. It has a very deliberate pace and some more, well placed blues guitar. Its theme of change is easily discernable in the obvious and unfortunately uninventive lyrics. Yet, it still retains Waking Ashland’s signature charm.

“Handful of Names” is upbeat and poppy but has an interesting and somewhat-unique allure. The chorus is extremely catchy and will probably have you signing along by the second time it comes around. While it teeters on the edge of being a bit too repetitive, it is instantaneously endearing. Picking up next is “Your Intentions” which is an equally poppy number, that sports a bit of vocal dimension that gets away with sounding a bit strained at times. While this pair of songs don’t carry the same indie growth of “Salt Lake Jam” and “Diamonds” which frame them, they’re nestled nicely and provide an acceptable balance.

Expecting this nice pattern of old and new to continue I found it easy to accept “Change” for its slow pop sound. It is after all this very sound that stole my heart just a few years ago. Following this is where, even on the first listen of the album I began to lose interest. During “Sinking is Swimming” I found myself thanking my lucky stars that the uninteresting track garnered with uninventive lyrics was rather short. It slows down the waning CD and unfortunately “Mark Like Mine” doesn’t do much to change the pace. While it certainly picks up from its comparably slow start, it doesn’t offer much of anything new. It, like most of the rest of the album is easily forgettable and repetitive.

The only bright star of the remaining tracks of the CD is “Money” which seems to share a very similar piano line as my favorite “Salt Lake Jam.” Aside from this, it has just about everything I love in one song; some good piano rock, handclapping, and the whole band joining in an energized chant. While it’s a last minute switch to the new and improved style, it is just too little too late to save the CD for me. While overall the album grew on me after a few more listens, I just can’t find what I was hoping for all along. However, if you’re content with some more of the same, you should be pleasantly unsurprised. While not all of the tracks in this release show the progress of my “Salt Lake,” “Diamonds,” and “Money” their sound is overall much more refined than it has been in the past. Jones’s voice is improved and polished. The musicianship is quality, yet there seems to be an overall lack of creativity, in much of the music and even in the lyrics. Although the album started with a new and addictive flavor, it turns bland pretty quickly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Upcoming: This Week

Today, April 17, 2007 saw the release of “The Well,” from Waking Ashland. This is their second full-length album and fourth release. While at the moment I can’t offer any judgment on the latest release, I can tell you based on prior experience that they could be likened to bands like Copeland and Sherwood. So, if you’re a fan of those bands and are new to Waking Ashland, maybe you should check out some of their older stuff, and check back for my review of “The Well.” As usual my review will be up by the end of the week, and also, please check out my technology blog, here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bright Eyes – Cassadaga

Band: Bright Eyes
Album: Cassadaga
Release Date: April 10, 2007
Label: Saddle Creek

Cassadaga tells the full story that last month’s Four Winds EP hinted at. And believe it or not, our favorite tortured songwriter is still coming down and still finding himself, oh and he still hates Bush. However, just because some of the motifs remain unchanged does not mean that Cassadaga is a pure and simple rehash. Much to my pleasure, it is potentially one of the best-produced and most full albums from Bright Eyes. The tunes are ripe with melodic backup vocals and are a strong showing from the full band.

As you may have noticed, if you’ve read some of my other reviews, I’m just not a fan of excess talking in albums, whether it is introduction or dénouement. While the song at the heart of “Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed)” is earnest and telling of the albums themes, you have to suffer through nearly four minutes of babble framing the six minute song. What I concluded about “Four Winds” previously holds true. However, now, within the full context of the album the songs questioning air emanates more fully and much more true.

The complete sound of the full band rings true in the high points of “If the Brakeman Turns My Way,” and in “Hot Knives” and “Make a Plan to Love Me.” The backup vocals shine brightly in the sometimes-rough sound of “Hot Knives.” This song gives great insight into the album’s theme. The song is about finding oneself and moving on. Ultimately this theme of change is central to Conor Oberst’s tone for the album. Amongst its at times Irish-esque violins “Soul Singer in a Session Band” brings questions of musical direction to the forefront, hardly a new topic. Yet, Oberst’s coarse charm gives this nearly exhausted focus new life.

Part of Oberst’s soul-searching revolves around substance abuse. It becomes openly apparent in “Cleanse Song” comes right out and says it. Possibly one of my favorite moments of the disc comes in this song “On a detox walk / Over Glendale Park / Over sidewalk chalk / Some rope read ‘start over.’” The theme slightly hidden under a creative guise but is easily interpreted in “If the Brakeman Turns My Way.”

What would a Bright Eyes release be without some quibbling with George Bush and some questioning of religion? In “Classic Cars” Oberst states: “And I keep long for that blindfold faith,” which furthers “Four Winds’” suggestion that “The Bible's blind, the Torah's deaf, the Qu'ran's mute / If you learn them all together you get close to the truth.” “No One Would Riot for Less” is full up with politics: “From the madness of the governments / To the vengeance of the sea,” which seems to lend itself to the ever popular topic of war in Iraq and possibly [Bush’s] handling of hurricane Katrina and New Orleans.

Among the homogenous sound of the full band, “Middleman” is a clear stand out, which emphasizes the CD’s overall country or folk sound. It’s got a western moving sound to it almost spectral at times. In Oberst’s search for himself he finds that “The gray areas are mine / The in-between, the absentee.” As if in his journey he has lost his identity and now waivers in limbo unsure where to go next.

Within the folk twang of “I Must Belong Somewhere” I sounds as if out hero has finally found his place. “Everything, it must belong somewhere / I know that now, that's why I'm staying here,” could it be true? Just as we’re beginning to believe that finally maybe our grief-stricken musician has found himself and found sobriety the album’s final track “Lime Tree” seems to contradict this comforting thought, where yet again Oberst’s trademark agonized words surface. Yet, this is a perfect ending for the Bright Eye’s fan. What would become of this brilliant songwriter if he were perfectly happy?

I like to think of it as musical schadenfreude on the part of Bright Eyes fans everywhere, but it is Oberst’s tortured soul that fuels his poetic lyrics. And yet again, his witty take on personal suffering makes for a brilliant album. And this time, Cassadaga is absolutely full not only of talented songwriting, but also it is bursting at the seams with shining music to accompany his distressed prose.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Upcoming This Week

Out today is Cassadaga from Bright Eyes. You can expect a review of the LP by Friday. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out my review of the Four Winds EP which is the precursor to Cassadaga. Also, until then don’t forget to check out the links to Bêtise and Taciturn to the right.

Anyone Can Comment

If you haven’t noticed, you're now allowed to comment whether you have an account or not. Just the other day I realized that comments were set to only allow Google or Blogger members to comment. So, in the spirit of letting anyone voice their opinion I set it to allow anyone to comment. Now if you’d like to comment, feel free to do so! This goes the same for Bêtise. Have a nice day!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Live: Sound the Alarm with Sandlot Heroes with Exclusive Live Video!

Tonight there was another small show at the Hawk’s Nest on campus. It’s funny how it almost exactly mirrored last week’s show. Two bands, one better than the other by far, and hardly anyone in the crowd. I suppose no one in the crowd isn’t a big deal financially because the university pays them to come, they don’t rely on ticket sales, but it can’t be so much fun for the bands.

Sandlot Heroes opened up. They’re pretty basic pop-punk, the hometown hero type. I can’t say they were bad, but they weren’t exactly impressive. One of the best things they’ve got going for them is the drummer’s girlfriend, who is quite the looker. Joking aside, their songs are catchy, but lack depth. They display all the telltale signs of a small time band, which isn’t necessarily bad. The typical four-piece is complete with guitarist/lead singer who’s got the gelled up almost punk-esque hair, his short and built companion complete with hat, the odd-man-out bassist, and the not-quite-Travis Barker-drummer. He even had the Famous Stars and Straps fitted, just not quite enough tattoos. Their performance wasn’t bad but far from perfect, but at the price of free, I can’t complain too much.

The treat of the night was Sound the Alarm, an oh my god, real band, on an actual label (Geffen). Their performance was tight, both in sound and stage antics. As is often the case, after seeing them live, I appreciate them a lot more than I would have otherwise. I’ll actually be looking into their CD, which is out in June. Although, I feel I might have been a bit of a dick when I confessed I might not end up paying for it. I did, however, contribute a few bucks to the beer-fund and snatched a two-song sampler, which I got signed by two of the members.

Their songs are fairly catchy and full-bodied. They’re not just a few chords and whiney vocals. Instead it is clear that there is real musicianship behind their work, and for this I commend them. They also explained that this was the first time they played through their entire album (except one track) live and I have to say it was thoroughly enjoyable. This was also the first time they played “Fight For” live. And guess what! I got a video of it!

Check out some of the photos below (and the video of “Fight For”). Plus check them both out on myspace!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Academy Is… - Santi

Band: The Academy Is…
Album: Santi
Release Date: April 3, 2007
Label: Fueled By Ramen/Atlantic

When I first began Audiosyncratic I wasn’t sure how I was going to work the reviews. It basically came down to me wondering if I would base my reviews strictly on opinion or if I would take each release for what it was and analyze it fairly. I’ve got to say that I feel like thus far I’ve done a pretty commendable job of sticking to the latter. With every CD I’ve reviewed I did my best to compare it to its predecessors and evaluate it for evidence of growth of the band. So, I’d say that I’ve been overall, quite fair to each album that I’ve reviewed, and I hope you agree.

On that note, I’d like to say, in comparing Santi to their previous full length, Almost Here, I just simply cannot find much good to say about it. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I was ever a huge fan of theirs, but Almost Here certainly earned a considerable number of plays, in fact, sadly, because of it The Academy Is… is ranked 19 on my top artists of all time on They have quite a bit going for them. They first got picked up by Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy) in Chicago and were signed to Fueled By Ramen, with the likes of Panic! At the Disco and the aforementioned Fall Out Boy. As it seems, FBR is the perfect breeding grounds for pop-punk bands to launch into stardom. I wholly anticipated that they would steadily gain fame (as they have been touring with Almost Here under their belts). Now, however, I just can’t see it happening, although maybe the changes found here (that I find disappointing) will be just what they needed to make it big, and signing with Atlantic seems like that might be the case.

Upon the releases opening with “Same Blood,” I was initially impressed. It starts with a harder introduction and fades into a calmer body. The song features William Beckett’s vocals as usual, but this time around they seems much more refined, sweeter and softer, and more melodic. The second track “LAX To O’Hare” is when it took its first turn for the worse in my opinion. The music at times seemed busier than their older stuff, which wouldn’t be bad if it didn’t seem too chaotic, and almost messy. The guitar seems recycled for the previous songs and at times the vocal style, simply reeks of Panic!.

“We’ve Got A Big Mess On Our Hands” was the first song to surface, a few months ago, and it’s apparent why. It is immediately more accessible than the previous two tracks. It is more like their older material, in that it is catchy and singable. In this vein also comes “Neighbors,” which might be my favorite track on the album. It is certainly the catchiest on the album and bleeds rock anthem. It’s got personality and fortunately this keeps its repetitive nature from dragging it down.

“Sleeping With Giants (Lifetime)” was the first time I could put my finger on just what it was that I don’t like about Santi. It seems to me that it is over produced; I would assume this is most strictly the fault of producer Butch Walker. Someone should have told him to lay off, but I suppose if you’re trying to formulate the next pop album of the year, you’ve got to listen to him. It comes, then, as no surprise to me that he has produced artists like Pink, Lindsay Lohan, and Avril Lagivne. “Bulls In Brooklyn” also stinks of his talents medaling. It’s got a manufactured sound, and by that I don’t mean synthesized, I mean that it comes from a formula. I’d say that this formula is probably borrowed partially from the likes of Fall Out Boy, which is also not a surprise.

While The Academy Is… haven't lost everything they had going for them, just the essential substance that defined them is almost gone. It’s hard to say if it’s their fault or that of their label, which is clearly in the moneymaking business. It is unfortunate to see a band, which not only had potential to go places, but also a distinctive brand, be snatched up by a major label and forced into a pop would-be sensation cookie cutter. To go off slightly on a tangent, it was Atlantic that signed The Format and attempted to force them into the same situation. Thankfully they gladly left and in turn made a song about it. Just listen to “The Compromise” on their latest, Dog Problems (my favorite album of 2006), and you’ll get a pretty good picture of what seems to have happened to The Academy Is…. Fortunately for them, not all is lost, they’re well on their way to pop-stardom, they’ve just been processed by the machine that is the recording industry.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Upcoming for this Week

Coming out tomorrow (4/3/2007) is Santi from The Academy Is. I’m planning on reviewing this as usual, by Friday. I’ll be posting again to remind everyone, but next week Bright Eyes – Cassadaga will be out on Tuesday. Also, please head on over to my tech blog, and check out my recent entries (a whopping seven, I think in two days).

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Moog with The Crash Moderns, Live

I said that I intended to blog some of the shows that I go to, and tonight was the first one that I’ve been to since then. Tonight, March 31 The Moog played with The Crash Moderns at The Hawks Nest (a super small venue) at my school, The University of Hartford.

The Crash Modern was up first. They played five songs, and from what I heard on their myspace prior to the show, the songs were instantly recognizable. They’ve got a pretty bland pop-punk sound, but they put on a fairly good live show. I suppose I must have liked them a sufficient amount because I ended up buying their five song EP at the end of the night. I talked to them afterwards for a few minutes and they were super thankful that I was buying their CD and thanked me for coming out.

This past week I checked them out on myspace (as I’ve already eluded to) and I really wasn’t very interested in them, but I decided that I’d go because it’s always enjoyable to see live music. I’ve got to say, though, that they were a lot better live than I was expecting. It’s clear that they are well rehearsed and their music was tight. One of the biggest drawbacks that I noticed, from their recordings was their lead singers voice. However, throughout the course of their set, his voice fit perfectly with their energetic live style.

The main attraction of the night was The Moog, who came all the way from Budapest, Hungary. They were also very good live. I’d say that from what I heard prior to the show, that I was even less interested in them than I was with The Crash Moderns, but after the show I was much more impressed with them. Their first single, “I Like You” is catchy and fun, both recorded (which can be found on their myspace) and live. Like their counterparts they were also very well rehearsed and sounded tight. The biggest drawback of their set was their lead singer. It was not that his vocals were lacking live, but it was his performance. As much as I tend to poke fun at lead singers with gimmicks, he could have used one. While he was singing he stood complacently, and while he was not, he also stood blankly.

Overall I enjoyed the show, especially the fact that it was free. If I had a bit more money on me I might have also opted to buy The Moog’s CD although, I’ve got to say it was a little bit pricey ($13 for 10 tracks).

I took a plethora of pictures of The Moog and videos of a bunch of their songs, which you’ll find below. I encourage you to check out both bands, and I wholeheartedly suggest The Moog. After seeing them live, I’ve grown an appreciation for what I had heard from them before.

I made The Crash Moderns sign their EP

All videos should be working!