Track by Track CD Review: Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto [2011, Parlophone]

Posted on by Ricky in Albums | Leave a comment

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a full eleven years since Chris Martin walked through the rain on the beach and delighted everyone with his simple ode to a women not named Gwyneth. That track of course, was Yellow and started the English band Coldplay on a steady rise to the top of the charts. Arguably one of the biggest bands in the world, Coldplay are now back with their fifth album, Mylo Xyloto. Having not really paid attention to the band since A Rush of Blood to the Head, I decided to have a good listen to see what the 2011 version of Coldplay has to offer.

Mylo Xyloto
Must be the oddest title ever, but I’m not going to bother looking what this song title means. Probably something Gwyneth Paltrow discovered on the way to finding herself. How did some actress go from such a sweetheart to such an annoying figure in a span of ten years?

Hurts Like Heaven
I’m enjoying the quick pacing, soaring guitar and synthesizers on this song. If this song was released by a bunch of kids from Brooklyn (or someone in Toronto/Montreal), I’m pretty sure all the bloggers would be all over it. It’s one of the weird states of blogging today, once a band has been dismissed as a mainstream act, I feel like they have almost a disadvantage on the internet. Rolling in the millions of dollars they have helps I guess.

The strings section that starts off this track seems to be directly ripped off from some medieval adventure movie where a bunch of rag tag characters discover either a really attractive princess or a temple. Also, sounds a lot like “pair of dice” instead of “paradise”

Charlie Brown
The opening parts of this track (some high pitch rewind effect first used in Bigmouth Strikes Again) reminds me of a Passion Pit song. Where are they now? The guitars are soaring in this one though, seems tailor made for an epic arena concert moment where Walmart moms are wetting their Lululemon pants as Chris Martin pretends like he’s going to go into a crowd but then runs back on stage just to play the piano for it song’s “tender” closing moments.

Us Against the World
Tender acoustic number that evokes memories of starry nights. The whole ‘us against the world’ theme sounds like something Bono would have written in the 80s.

Every Teardrop is a Waterfall
I can’t help but feel like I’ve heard this track before, but it’s pretty catchy in the beginning but descends into your normal Coldplay yearning and long pronounciation of each word choruses.

Major Minus
I listened to this track twice because I wasn’t really paying attention the first time. Not the most memorable track although the line “us against the world” is once again used.

Nothing to really say here

Princess of China
Not sure what Rihanna has to do with China but I guess when Coldplay comes a’callin, you don’t say no. She doesn’t really add much to it though. The dual vocal part of “you really hurt me” adds a nice bit of drama to an otherwise unmemorable song, I guess. If Coldplay really wanted to go with an edgier track, they probably should have enlisted Nicky Minaj.

Up in Flames
Slow piano falsetto number that is probably quite swoonable to a certain demographic. It’s easy to dismiss this as another Coldplay slow track but fact is most bands would give an arm and a leg to write a song like this, but since it’s Coldplay, let’s dismiss this as another slow Coldplay track for you to hold your smartphone in the air.

Don’t Let it Break Your Heart
The title reminds me of the Backstreet Boys song “I’ll never break your heart” which isn’t the best way to start off a song. In this track, pounding pianos are accomanpied by a rousing guitar riff that given other lyrics could probably pass as a song played by born again Christians in a church or something. It’s quite soaring, the church people would close their eyes, put both their hands in the air and then get down on their knees or something. Some might even faint from all the glory.

Up With the Birds

Overall, it seems pleasant enough. Despite the band claiming this is a concept album with a more industrial rock direction, Coldplay will always just sound like Coldplay. I don’t really think that’s a big problem for them since their sound has made them millions of fans worldwide. Would I listen to this regularly? Probably not. Would I be annoyed if someone I was in a car with decided to play this on a road trip somewhere? Probably not.

Dan Mangan: Nice Nice Very Nice Liner Note Review

Posted on by Wade in Albums, Everything | 1 Comment

Dan Mangan - Nice Nice Very Nice (2008)

I did something stupid this summer. I bought a CD. I know, crazy shit.

I picked up Dan Mangans’, now almost immortalized album, Nice Nice Very Nice (2008) at Backstreet Records in Fredericton. Since my parents’ car didn’t have a USB hub, I had to buy a CD to fill my hour long car trips to my grandparents house. I had heard most of the tracks on NNVN over the past three years and quite liked most of them, so I figured this was a safe way to spend $20.

The thing about CD’s is that they have liner notes and unless you actually buy one, you are missing out on this part of the musical experience that the artist intends you to have. Inside the CD jacket of Dan Mangans’ album, right above the lyrics, is a brief statement about each song. These comments, although short, are very charming and personal statements about the songwriter, the song, or life in general. I enjoyed reading them so much, I feel compelled to share some of them with you, my downloading mp3 friends.

Road Regrets – In March of 2007, driving from El Paso to Austin, I drank 64 ounces of cheap gas-station coffee in a day; it was disgusting.

Robots – My cell phone died and I went for five days without a mobile before a new one arrived in the mail. The first day was terrifying – the other four were glorious.

The Indie Queens Are Waiting – I don’t think I’m the only person who feels that waking at 10AM to the promise of eggs over-easy and a newspaper, good company and a general sense of wellbeing sounds like a good start to the workday.

Sold – I played a gig for an advertisement agency awards gala – they asked me to play some upbeat material, and this was all I had. It was a laugh/cry moment.

Fair Verona – ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is about many things, I think. Sure it’s about romance and love, but it’s also about the impending influence of history in the present, reputations, grudges and fear. People who ostracize those who wander outside the status quo often do so because they don’t have the cahones to be so bold.

Tina’s Glorious Comeback – One day, they tore down all the old rain-worn wooden bus shelters that visually defined, for me at least, the way Vancouver felt when I was a kid. It occurred to me that those bus stops, place every two blocks along every thoroughfare in the city, were like strategically scattered reminders of life on the west coast. They replaced them with futuristic looking metal bus stops with handles built into the benches so homeless people couldn’t use them to sleep on.

Et Les Mots Croises – There are many things my friends make fun of me for. One of them was the time I got screwed by Ebay – another is this song.

Set The Sails – Eventually, we’ll all turn off the televisions and hide in the woods.

For a listen to the new Dan Mangan album, Oh Fortune, head over to CBC3 for the podcast where Grant Lawrence talks to Dan about the album and plays it track for track.

Half Hearted CD Reviews: The Drums – Portamento, Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix

Posted on by Ricky in Albums, Rickys Random Articles | 2 Comments

Inspirations can come at any time and any place. Sometimes these inspirations lead to great ideas. Most often, they lead to ideas that might seem great at first, but slowly degrades into something else. Welcome to my review of two release of albums from bands that are looking to take the next step in their respective careers.

English band Bombay Bicycle Club has had a rather popular run in England on the strength of their first two albums – Flaws and I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose. Both albums took elements from both folk and rock to create a space that sounded both sincere and raw. Their stateside popularity has been surprisingly meager, but I suspect it is because they came into popularity around the same time as two other “club” bands – Tokyo Police Club and Two Door Cinema Club. Perhaps the indie kids just couldn’t handle all these club bands at the same time. Perhaps it was this lack of recognition that forced the UK band to lean more towards the rock side of things with their new album – A Different Kind of Fix. Released on Monday, the bands third album aims to take the band into a more electric guitar based direction which will hopefully direct them into uncharted popularity territory.

While England’s BBC took a more slower approach to success, The Drums just blasted to the top of the indie band du jour pyramid last year with their self titled debut. Drenched in 80s new wave nostalgia, the album charted extremely well and songs such as Let’s Go Surfing and Me and the Moon made it’s way into the hearts of indie music fans everywhere. The bands second album, Portamento is released a mere 14 months after their self titled debut and hopes to build upon the success of the original and further cement the American band’s status as the go to band for mopey guitar songs.

So why review these two albums together, you ask? Well, they were both in my inbox and both looked interesting. Somehow I decided it would be a good idea to put them into one playlist, press shuffle and guess who sang what. It seemed like it would become a nice unbiased review of the material, but it didn’t work out that way.

Here is what notes I had.

Puts on playlist

Song #1: I know this song is by Bombay Bicycle Club, because I accidently took a peek. It could pass for The Drums too I guess, it’s got those gentle 80s retro Cure-esque guitar riffs. It’s pretty catchy and the chorus has a nice melody. I guess this song is called Book of Revelations

Song #2: This song is definitely by Bombay Bicycle Club, the’s pace is too slow. “Put all your worries off” doesn’t sound like something The Drums would sing. This track is actually quite pleasant and some nice synthesizer sequences to it. The coda for this song has a very trimphant feel to it, although I think it would benefit from some strings. What song wouldn’t benefit from strings though? This is definitely a track that can close out a show. All English bands seem to have one song with a rousing ending, I wonder if it’s a part of the manifest.

Guess: Bombay Bicycle Club
Fact: Bombay Bicycle Club – Favorite Day

Song #3: I guess the lead singer from the two bands have different voices, as Jonathan Pierce has a slightly higher pitched voice than the dude from the other band. Musically, this track is a quintessential Drums song, it has that 80’s romanticized guitar riff, personal lyrics (“I’ll never hate you/but you’re hard to love”) about the singers lover or best friend or spurned love. Say what you will about The Drums coping other people’s sounds, they make really catchy pop tracks and this song is one of them.

Guess: The Drums
Fact: The Drums – Hard to Love

Song #4: Song 4 starts on almost the exact drum beat and guitar riff as song 3, so this is probably the Drums. I am starting to think that this dual review is going to go nowhere since I now know the two bands have distinctly different voices. I am guessing this song is called “Please Don’t Leave”. This song also has the whole “repeating some words with increasing frequency” trick that they already used on the last song. Less catchy and more whiny than the last track.

Guess: The Drums – Please Don’t Leave
Fact: The Drums – Please Don’t Leave

Song #5: Definitely Bombay Bicycle Club track. Although when they sing in falsetto, it makes me think it is a Drums track. Actually, I’m not sure anymore. This might be a restrained Jonathan Pierce singing. I’m going to say this is Drums song now, based on the lyrics “You came along..I gave you my home”. This guy should write dialogue for Gilmour Girls or something. The lyrics from this album seem to be quite personal and about two minutes in the track has descended into the same guitar riff that the band used in the previous two songs. I wonder if this is a concept album built around two main riffs. Jonathan Pierce’s “Huuuuh Oh Huuuuh Oh uh-huuuuuuuuuh” is the new Brett Anderson “lalalalala” it seems. He has done it almost every song so far.

Guess: Bombay Bicycle Club, then the Drums
Fact: The Drums – What You Were

Song #6: The Drums once again, based once again on Jonathan’s use of “Huuuuh Oh Huuuuh Oh uh-huuuuuuuuuh” only this time he adds “dolululululu” at the end. Can’t trick me, my friend.

Guess: The Drums – Do lu lu lu lu lu lu
Fact: The Drums – If He Likes It Let Him Do it

Song #7: Definitely a Bombay Bicycle Club song, Jack Steadman’s voice is quite different than Jonathan Pierce’s. This track also does not sound like an 80s love song. I like the usage of strings (although it might be synthesizer based).. The track has a serious confessional rock feel to it, but I can’t really make out what he’s saying, despite the crystal clear vocals. I guess I’m just not good at picking up accents. It’s a nice break from hearing three songs in a row with the same chords though.

Guess: BBC
Fact: Bombay Bicycle Club – Bad Thing

At this point, I realized that

a) This article is too long
b) This is kind of lame
c) I need to get back to work

So I put an end to it.

Is this a review? I don’t know. What I do know is that The Drums new record is catchy, but relies on the same tricks as the first record and the new Bombay Bicycle Club record ditches the acoustic songs of the previous album, leans towards louder and harder compositions but retains the same essence that made the band a hit in England.

Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix is in stores now
The Drums – Portamento is in stores September 12

The Drums – Money by WorkItMedia

Bombay Bicycle Club – Shuffle

Concert Review: The Black Keys, Molson Amphitheatre, July 7 2011

Posted on by sarahw in Albums, Everything, Music | Leave a comment

The Black Keys

In the span of 1 year The Black Keys‘ live shows have become, to quote Austin Powers, “Tight like a Tiger”.  On top of that the release of their sixth album has catapulted them into international stardom.

The Black Keys saw moderate fame up until 2010, with their signature modern blues grit.  However, they got to the point that most artists get to after a decade of almost cracking the popular music nut and enlisted pop wizard producers like Danger Mouse to write a best selling album called Brothers.  Hey, I’m not knocking them at all, Brothers is a bop-your-head crowd pleaser of an album without a doubt! But, with mainstream success a band always seems to lose a bit of their scrappy, gritty charm.

After navigating the maze that was the Honda Indy track, having a stranger assist my boyfriend and I haul our bikes over a fence and subsequently shimmying under said fence…we made it to the Molson Amphitheatre, albeit 2 songs late.

The Black Keys have perfected their live shows.  Other bands take note, they followed the illusive ultimate rock concert formula:

Act One (Songs 1-6): Play some old favourites, get the crowd moving, excite the diehard fans.  Keep it low-key by having only the original band members on stage with minimal stage effects and lighting.

Act Two (Songs 7-16) : Gather more musicians on stage to complete the band and use bright lights and rustic decor for chord emphasis.  Play the new album plus songs featured on the Twilight, Hung, Baseball playoffs and Grand Theft Auto soundtracks while peppering some tunes with extended drum and guitar solos – THE CROWD GOES WILD.

Act Three (Encore Songs 17 & 18):  Bust out an enormous “your name in lights” sign that takes up the entire backdrop and keep alternating from BLACK to KEYS which incites people to chant “BLACK” “KEYS” faster and faster at the top of their liquored up lungs.  Shred two more fan favourites with super-extended guitar solos and then leave in a blaze of glory with fans high on shred-tasticness.  THE F’N END.

This, my friends, was the Black Keys show.

Humour aside, it’s a sad reality that very few other bands come close in musical prowess these days.  You don’t often see finger picking and slide guitar at pop performances, a sure sign of instrument mastery.

These guys have live shows nailed, they are one of the few bands who can go from small underground tavern to Madison Square Garden and still have fans leaving feeling fulfilled.  Do yourself a favour a grab tickets next time The Black Keys are in town.