The Good Stuff (My Blog)

Brian Fallon: Sleepwalkers (2.9.18) | Album Review

Labels: Island Records
Genres: Alternative Rock | Heartland Rock | Indie Rock
Favorite tracks: “Forget Me Not,” “Etta James,” “Her Majesty’s Service,” “My Name is the Night (Color Me Black),” “Watson,” and “See You on the Other Side”
Rating: 8.5/10

I didn’t really get into The Gaslight Anthem until about sometime last year when I listened to their fifth and final (for the time being, at least) album Get Hurt. What I really liked about the album was the band’s brand of punk rock music: a mix of punk rock with some Heartland Rock and some Folk Rock as well. Two of the biggest aspects of the album that I really liked, however, was the lyrics that the band members provided as well as the emotionally raw and gravelly vocals by the band’s lead vocalist Brian Fallon. Though I did not realize it at the time, 2014’s Get Hurt would be the band’s final album for the time being, and when I did finally find out that they had been on hiatus since 2015 and that they would not release new material, I was a bit disappointed. It really seems to be the case that once I get into a new band or artist, they stop making new music at around that time. I just can’t seem to catch a break sometimes, you know what I mean?

But, what I did find out is that Brian Fallon, the band’s lead vocalist, decided to pursue a solo career, ultimately stripping the punk rock sound that made him and his band staples in the genre and going for a more straightforward Heartland Rock sound with some Indie Rock leaning to it. His 2016 album Painkillers really shows that Fallon’s idea of branching off into a solo career can really work. With standout tracks like “Steve McQueen,” “Among Other Foolish Things,” “Nobody Wins,” and the title track, the album really makes for a very enjoyable listen, consisting of catchy but very well-crafted tracks about love and heartbreak and just about everything in between. Considering that it was his debut album, however, he could not experiment with the instrumentation that much, which does not make it a bad album, but it did leave me wondering what the album could have been.

That’s where Sleepwalkers comes in. Fallon’s follow-up to his 2016 release shows Fallon’s progression as a solo artist. While Painkillers can be considered a pretty much straightforward Heartland Rock album, Sleepwalkers really plays around with that overall sound. “My Name is the Night” has a very bluesy sound to it. “Her Majesty’s Service” and “Neptune” have a very country sound to it. There are even some jazzy tracks on the album as well. “Little Nightmares” has my favorite line from the entire album: “And all I want is to let you know but my words get lost and haunt the back of my throat.” I am going through something that has me feeling like this line in this song. There is just something very poetic about it and I can’t seem to get it out of my head, or rather, my throat…

I would have to say that my absolute two favorite tracks from the album are “Etta James” and “Watson.” “Etta James” was perhaps the first song from the album that I really, really enjoyed. It is a powerful, but somewhat gritty rock ballad about finally having a long-lost love in your arms. The chorus of the song is perhaps one of the most epic and explosive of the entire album. And of course, it makes more than a few references to the late great jazz artist Etta James. “Watson” is basically an epic love song about wondering what would happen if the person that the narrator loves wasn’t there with him. Again, the chorus of this track is simply epic and it has another of my favorite lines of the album: “Watching detectives chase the one that got away.” It really plays into the narrator’s fear of loneliness, especially with the line that appears in the chorus: “I worry when I get old, I’ll be lonesome.” There is a good chance that the song makes a reference to the Sherlock Holmes character John Watson, but that’s just a guess from me.

So, this album is definitely one of my favorite albums of the year. I definitely see this album as a few steps above his debut solo album and is pretty much on par with a lot the albums that he released with The Gaslight Anthem. Brian Fallon has concocted another wonderful album filled with themes of love, heartbreak, loneliness, optimism, insecurities, and just about anything you can think of in between. Because of this and his wonderful execution of his signature Heartland Rock sound, I give this album an 8.5 out of 10. I will definitely be coming back to this album multiple times and I can see it making my end of the year list.




Always be awesome and thanks for existing,


Justin Timberlake: Man of the Woods (2.2.18) | Quick Album Review

Labels: RCA Records
Genres: Americana-Pop | Contemporary R&B | Country Pop | Electropop
Favorite tracks: “Midnight Summer Jam,” “Supplies,” “Say Something,” “Flannel,” “The Hard Stuff,” and “Young Man”
Rating: 4.5/10

I was very disappointed in this album. I liked the idea of what Justin Timberlake and The Neptunes (consisting of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) were trying to go for, but it was simply not executed well at all. Even the best songs from the album don’t have that many good aspects to them. This mix of country pop, Americana, R&B, and pop really wasn’t mixed together well and it provided a very jarring and jagged listen. Songs like the Chris Stapleton-featured “Say Something” and the very soothing “Flannel” (though I don’t understand what the hell that outro with Jessica Biel was about; seriously, what the hell was that???) are what I consider to be high points of the album, but that’s really saying a lot. Maybe over time, I can grow to appreciate, or even somewhat like, this album, but I honestly do not see myself doing that. I will say, however, that the second half of the album is much stronger than the first, so that’s a big plus for the album.

I really hate to “hate” on this album so much, considering that I really like Justin Timberlake and the way his career has progressed from being a part of the Mickey Mouse Club to being a part of one of the most popular boy bands of all time to being one of the most  popular and best-selling pop artist ever. He also seems like a really nice guy, but I cannot say that this album was as remotely good as the rest of his career has been. Maybe this is a small hiccup in an otherwise flawless musical career, but whatever it is, it doesn’t bring sexy back. This album gets a 4.5 out of 10 from me, and that’s as high a rating I can give it.

Always be awesome and thanks for existing,

Anna Burch: Quit the Curse (2.2.18) | Album Review | Cross Examinations

Labels: Polyvinyl Record Company
Genres: Bedroom Pop | Bummer Pop | Dream Pop | Indie Pop | Shoegaze
Favorite tracks: all of them, but specifically “2 Cool 2 Care” and “What I Want”
Rating: 9/10

I was going through a slew of videos on YouTube one day, and I happened upon the music video for “Tea-Soaked Letter” by Anna Burch. Something about the video and the overall song really intrigued me, so I watched the music video for “2 Cool 2 Care.” I was hooked. Then I realized, that she had just released her debut album–Quit the Curse–under Polyvinyl (the same record company that Jeff Rosenstock’s POST- was released under). While this is Anna Burch’s debut solo album, this is certainly not her first album; she has also done work for the folk-rock band Frontier Ruckus, a band in which I have never even listened to before.

So, what did I think of the rest of the album?

Well, to put it plainly: I loved it.

The opening track–“2 Cool 2 Care”–starts the album off strongly. It is clear from the very first song on the album that Anna Burch delivers a very dreamy, vibey type of pop music that is heard especially through her guitar work, and her voice just drives that aesthetic even further. From what I can gather, the song is about the narrator’s boyfriend who often ignores her and takes her for granted. It has one of my favorite lyrics of the entire album: “From what I can see, reciprocity is boring / But I am tired of unrequited love stories.” Also, the music video for this song is awesome. The execution of the hula hoop scene was done to perfection. The album’s third track–“Asking 4 a Friend”–has a definite 90s grunge to it, something of which I was surprised to hear on a modern indie pop album.Every other track on this album really follows the same sort of sound, an indie-ish dreamy pop sound that fuses another awesome sound that really puts each song other the top. The album’s closer–“With You Every Day”–finished the album off on a strong point and really makes me want to hear what she has to offer in the future.

Anna has this certain charm about her that I just find irresistible. It shows throughout her debut album full of what she describes as “bummer pop.” This album is definitely one of my favorites of the year so far. Throughout the album, there is a subtle Countrypolitan tinge that I just can’t help but close my eyes and smile at. It is a very vibey album. With just nine tracks, it is a very quick but very worthy listen. I give it a 9/10.

I’m going to provide two songs for this review because only one song simply wasn’t enough. Hope you enjoy.

Always be awesome and thanks for existing,

The Plot in You: Dispose (2.16.18) | Album Review | Cross Examinations

Labels: Fearless Records
Genres: Electronicore | Experimental Rock | Metalcore | Post-Hardcore
Favorite tracks: “I Always Wanted to Leave,” “Feel Nothing,” “The One You Loved,” “Paid in Full,” “The Sound,” and “Disposable Fix”
Rating: 8.5/10

As I said in my track review for “Disposable Fix,” I came upon The Plot in You via Fearless Records’ YouTube channel. I was very reluctant at first to listen to it because I knew that The Plot in You was more of a Metalcore/Post-Hardcore kind of band after researching them. Despite this, I watched the video. And the video actually made me kind of excited to listen to the album in full. To read the track review I did for the single “Disposable Fix,” click here.

Before the release of “Disposable Fix,” I had never heard of The Plot in You. I did listen to about half of their previous album, 2015’s Happiness in Self-Destruction. I generally liked what those songs had to offer. I felt that they had not reached their full potential with that album. I think that they started tapping into their potential with this album.

While this album has strong Metalcore and Post-Hardcore influences at its core, there is something looming underneath them. Throughout the album, the listener can hear some experimental aspects to the tracks as well as some electronic elements to them as well. Actually, the experimental and electronic parts of the album really seem to come to the forefront of the album, but that certainly does not take away from the entire album’s hard and aggressive side. On the contrary, many of the songs have forceful guitars playing throughout.

One of the biggest things I noticed throughout this album was the contrast of those hard, aggressive, and forceful songs (“Feel Nothing,” “The One You Loved,” and “Paid in Full”) and the softer, more vulnerable songs (“I Always Wanted to Leave” and “The Sound”). The final track “Disposable Fix” seems to be a happy medium between the two.

I really love Landon Tewers’ vocals throughout the album. He seems to alternate his screaming vocals and his gravelly, soulful vocals very well. Tracks like “Rigged” and Disposable Fix” really showcase Landon’s vocal ability. I also love the lyrics that Landon provides on each track. He often goes into his own personal life and sings about it, specifically his drug use (“Disposable Fix” and personal relationships (“I Always Wanted to Leave” and “The Sound”).

When I first heard the cursing in “Disposable Fix,” I was a bit taken aback by it. That was simply because I had not really known what to expect from the band. After listening to the song, I knew what to expect from the album. Landon does curse (perhaps unnecessarily at some points) on a few of the tracks, but I think that most of the cursing is very well-placed. I’m not sure what I think of “Fucked with too many petty bitches, ain’t got time for this shit / Those peasant pussies probably took it, but you’ll take what you get.” Just kidding, I love it. I just wanted to type that out to feel good about myself. Plus, I love the alliteration with “peasant pussies probably.” I’m an English major. I like words.

Overall, I think this album is a great introduction to the genre of Metalcore/Post-Hardcore. I have often found myself shying away from those types of artists/albums because of the excessive amounts of screaming. This album–while it does have a fair amount of screaming on many of its tracks–really does not have the screaming as the focal point. Also, the inclusion of the newer electronic and experimental sound might have something to do with that. It really makes me want to listen to other artists of the same genre (I have already listened to acts like While She Sleeps, Hands Like Houses, Wage War, among others, and I have really enjoyed their music). The only gripe I have about this album is that it’s too short. The running length of the album is just a little under thirty-five minutes and–while I love the majority of the album–I really wish that the band could have provided more for me on this album. Maybe one or two more songs that really rounded the album out well. If not for that, I probably would have given this album a 9 out of 10, but life just isn’t that easy, is it? No, I’m gonna have to put my foot down and give this album an 8.5 out of 10. I know that may seem harsh, but I have to draw the line somewhere, you know?

I’m gonna include two songs for this review because this album was just that good and because it’s my stinking blog. I can do whatever the heck I want!

Always be awesome and thanks for existing,

The Regrettes: Attention Seeker (2.23.18) | EP Review | Cross Examinations

Labels: Warner Bros.
Genres: Garage Punk | Power Pop | Punk Rock | Riot Grrrrl
Favorite tracks: “Come Through,” “Red Light,” and “Teenager in Love”
Rating: 7/10

On January 13, 2017, The Regrettes graced listeners with one of the catchiest and most upbeat punk rock albums of the year, Feel Your Feelings Fool. It was certainly one of my favorite overall albums of the year, coming in at number two on my Top 15 Rock Albums list. I really enjoyed the quirky, upbeat punk rock sound fused with some 60s doo-wop music that the band provided in the album as well as the lyrics that the young and talented Lydia Night wrote for each track. While there were some things in many of the songs that I, a twenty-two-year-old guy, might not relate to or even understand, I found myself going back to the album time and time again. I still think that it is very deserving of that number two spot I gave it.

So, as 2018 started to roll around, I wondered what The Regrettes would do for a follow-up. They did release a Tegan and Sara cover of “Back in Your Head” that I found particularly enjoyable, but as always, I simply wanted more from The Regrettes. And on February 9th, I got exactly what I wanted. A new song. “Come Through,” the EP’s lead single, was released and I couldn’t have been happier. In the song, we hear the band’s signature upbeat guitar work and 60s doo-wop melodies. Lydia is singing about a jerk who has done her wrong, and you can just hear how fed up she is with this guy and the music video provides a funny visual as to what the song is about. I was going to do a track review of the song, but I decided against it when I found out that it was just going to be on an EP and not an album. I can tell you that I certainly Regrette that decision. (Wow, I hate myself.)

The second track from the EP–“Red Light”–is another upbeat punk rock song. This particular song, however, is happier and provides a narrative about a relationship that the narrator wants to be in no matter what. It really makes me want to nod my head every single second of the song.

The EP’s third track–“Teenager in Love”–is perhaps my favorite on the entire EP. When I was first listening to the song, I thought to myself Wow, this really sounds like a 50s/60s doo-wop/teenage tragedy song. Then, after a few more moments of listening to the song (still on the first listen, mind you), I realized Wait a minute! This IS a 50s/60 doo-wop/teenage tragedy song! This song was originally recorded by Dion and the Belmonts back in 1959. The Regrettes do the song justice and it is already one of my favorite tracks of 2018 so far. This makes me want to hear what their rendition of songs like “Runaround Sue” or “Last Kiss” or some other song from that era.

The final two tracks–acoustic covers of “Hey Now” and “A Living Human Girl” from their debut album–are decent enough. For some reason, I don’t really gravitate to an artist’s acoustic renditions of their previous songs. Hardly ever do I enjoy an acoustic track such as these two, but I still do enjoy their acoustic renditions of the songs. If you hear of me saying that I like a cover of a song (whether it’s an artist’s acoustic take on one of their previous songs or another artist’s take on the song), it is probably really good. These, sadly, just do not do it for me.

Overall, this EP is a good appetizer for what’s to come, or perhaps a nice dessert after what already came. Either way, I would say that it is definitely deserving of your time and worth a listen. The first three tracks are certainly high points of the EP, “Teenager in Love” perhaps being the highest point of those high points. I give this EP a 7 out of 10.

Always be awesome and thanks for existing,

Ingram Hill: Look Your Best (9.27.10) | Nostalgic Album Review | Cross Examinations

Labels: Ingram Hill | Eager Bill Music | Rock Ridge Music
Genres: Alternative Rock | Indie Rock | Pop Rock | Post-Grunge | Roots Rock
Favorite tracks: “Broken Lover,” “Lady Gray,” “As Long As I’m With You,” “Hey Girl,” and “Miss Kennedy”
Rating: 7/10

Let’s go back in time a few years for an album review.

When I was about fifteen or sixteen, I was really big into Alternative Rock, Pop Rock, and Adult Alternative music. I really can’t tell you why; I just was. Perhaps the reason is that Matchbox Twenty fell into this category of music later on in their career, and I just happened to love Matchbox Twenty probably a bit too immensely at that time of my life. Either way, that genre of music was what I would listen to almost all of the time so I would peruse iTunes almost daily to find anything that was categorized under that brand of music. That was when I found Ingram Hill’s 2010 album Look Your Best.

The Memphis, Tennessee, natives had a very promising beginning of their career being signed to Hollywood Records after having released Until Now in 2002 by way of an independent record company. Their first album with Hollywood Records June’s Picture Show would garner a lot of attention for the band in 2004, but their second album Cold in California in 2007 would not do as well commercially as their debut (though it did a lot better critically). The band would ultimately be dropped from Hollywood Records and be left to fend for themselves if they wanted to continue making music.

That’s where this album comes in. Three years after Cold in California, Ingram Hill signed a deal with Rock Ridge Music, the label that they would release their next three albums under. The first of which was their 2010 album Look Your Best, which is also coincidentally their first attempt at releasing music through an independent label since their 2002 effort Until Now. While I did not listen to the album in its entirety when I first found out about it (because I did not have the money to buy it and Spotify wasn’t as big of a thing back at that time), I really enjoyed two of the album’s tracks: “Lady Gray” and “Hey Girl.”

The band reminded me of both Tonic and Train, two alt-rock bands from the nineties who seemed to have a very rootsy sound. Justin Moore’s voice (no, not the country artist Justin Moore) actually kind of sounds like Emerson Hart’s voice, the lead vocalist for the band Tonic. It’s a coincidence that I mention Emerson Hart because he actually produced five of Until Now‘s eight tracks. I did not know this at the time, but when I found out about that just a few days prior to me making this post, I have to say that I kind of impressed myself.

But to the album: This album is not one of the best albums to ever be released, but it does provide a lot of great songs about love and relationships (which seems to be a big theme for any band of this particular genre).

The album’s opener “Broken Lover” is a very catchy track with crunchy guitars that kind of reminds me of how a Pop Punk song might sound. “Lady Gray,” perhaps one of the album’s most popular tracks, is very anthemic and seems to be about trying to get out of a depression or a bad relationship. My fifteen-year-old dumb ass thought it was about a loving relationship, but once I actually read the lyrics, I realized that I was oh so wrong. Aren’t reading the lyrics great? You can finally realize how dumb you are for thinking that the lyrics said or mean one thing, but they actually say or mean something else entirely. Just great.

The album’s third track “As Long As I’m With You” is a very touching song about not being hurt as long as you’re with the one that you love. This is perhaps the album’s most popular songs because (as of February 13, 2018, at 1:58 PM) it has a little over 71,000 plays on Spotify (30,000 more than the song with the second most plays on the album, “Broken Lover”). The album’s fourth track, and perhaps my second favorite, “Hey Girl” is a song about trying to tell a beautiful girl that doesn’t feel as though she is beautiful. This song would have definitely been a great song choice for One Tree Hill. Easily one of the best songs on the album.

But the song that I think really puts this album over the top is the album’s seventh track “Miss Kennedy,” which happens to be a song about encountering a beautiful woman backstage during a show on the road and having a great night only to have to basically not see each other after that night. I really like how Moore made the song sound charming and inviting. It definitely makes for a very interesting listen.

The other five tracks on this album are great as well. I would definitely recommend listening to the album in full because you can hear the Post-Grunge and Roots Rock sound that they’re perhaps best known for throughout. I am a bit ashamed that I wasn’t able to listen to the album in full when I first found out about it, but now that I have, I simply can’t stop listening to it. This album gets a 7 out of 10 from me for having great melodies and harmonies coupled with a sound that I just so happen to love. They haven’t released an album since 2012, but they are still active on the road. I hope that they find the inspiration to make another album because if it would be anything like this, I would definitely buy it and listen to the hell out of it.

Always be awesome and thanks for existing,

Montgomery Gentry: Here’s to You (2.2.18) | Album Review | Cross Examinations

Labels: Average Joes Entertainment
Genres: Contemporary Country | Country Rock | Neotraditional Country
Favorite tracks: “Better Me,” “Drive on Home,” “Feet Back on the Ground,” and “King of the World”
Rating: 6 / 10

Montgomery Gentry was a staple in my childhood when it came to country music with songs like “She Couldn’t Change Me,” “Speed,” “Hell Yeah,” “If You Ever Stop Loving Me,” “Gone,” and “Something to Be Proud Of” always in rotation for me. After the release of their sixth studio album Back When I Knew it All, I would find myself straying away from Montgomery Gentry and country music in general, but I still always enjoyed their older music. Fast forward nine years later and Troy Gentry, one-half of the veteran country duo, dies in a helicopter crash. A staple of my childhood as well as other people’s lives gone. At least, that’s what we thought. Apparently, they had an album in the works. And now we have Here’s to You. What did I think of this album?

Honestly, it’s not as strong as I thought it would be, considering the situation surrounding its release, but it still provides many of the main country bullet points. This album is filled with country ballads (“Better Me,” “Feet Back on the Ground”), country rockers (“Shotgun Wedding,” “Get Down South”), and a drinking song or two (“Needing a Beer,” “Drink Along Song”) because who doesn’t need a country drinking song, am I right? While they maintain their classic mix of country rock and neotraditional country music, they do stray a little bit on the track “Get Down South” where we hear Montgomery Gentry delving a bit into the rap genre. It’s not as overt as some modern country acts, but it still isn’t one of their best songs. The track “That’s the Thing About America” is an over-the-top patriotic to me. Maybe that’s because I am part of the “bleedin’ hearts” that thinks he can walk on the flag, but I digress.

I consider this a very average country album, and I really hate to say that considering the death of Troy Gentry, but I cannot deny what it is: an average country album. There are certainly high points on the album that comment on trying to make yourself a better person (“Better Me”), getting back to your roots (“Feet Back on the Ground”), and finding happiness in nature and the simple things in life (“King of the World”). The rest of the album, however, is very predictable. You basically know pretty much what to expect. That being said, I still think that the album is better than most modern country albums out there and actually does provide a country sound that I fondly remember from my childhood, so I give this album a 6 out of 10.

[R.I.P. Troy Gentry. You were a big part of my childhood. We all miss you.]

Always be awesome and thanks for existing,

Dashboard Confessional: Crooked Shadows (2.9.18) | Album Review | Cross Examinations

Labels: Dashboard Confessional | Fueled By Ramen
Genres: Acoustic Rock | Alternative Rock | Emo Pop | Indie Rock
Favorite tracks: “We Fight,” “Catch You,” “About Us,” “Heart Beat Here,” and “Open My Eyes”
Rating: 5.5/10

Let me start off this review by saying that I never really got into Dashboard Confessional during their musical zenith back in the mid to late 2000s, so I’m not really that familiar with them or their music, except for their song “Vindicated.” I like that song a lot. Last year, they released an EP of four covers (which I thought was a very solid EP). My favorite among the covers was their rendition of The 1975’s “Sex,” which I happen to enjoy more than the original. With that EP released a year before their first album in nine years released, I was actually excited to hear the new one. And now that it’s out, I wonder why I was even excited in the first place. This is their big return after nearly nine years?

Don’t get me wrong, there are some gems on this album, such as the album’s lead single “Heart Beat Here” and the Lindsey Stirling-featured track “Open My Eyes,” but it pretty much ends there. The other seven songs on this album (which is just under thirty minutes) really don’t offer much more for the album. The opener “We Fight” is a decent enough anthemic emo/indie song that continues to grow on me every time that I listen to it and the following two tracks–“Catch You” and “About Us”–are decent enough as well. Many of the other songs, however, really don’t. “Belong” featuring Cash Cash has this sort of EDM/tropical house sound to it that really doesn’t match Dashboard Confessional’s sound at all. I really question why this was put on the album.

Honestly, this album was really underwhelming for me. And while there were a few really good songs on here, I just don’t see myself revisiting this album that much. Tracks like “Heart Beat Here” and “Open My Eyes” are definitely some of the album’s highest points while I would consider “Belong” the album’s lowest point. “We Fight,” “Catch You,” and “About Us” are decent enough songs that could be enjoyable if you are in the right mood. I give this album a 5.5 out of 10 because it had just enough behind it to keep me listening to it for thirty minutes. I will definitely revisit “Heart Beat Here” and “Open My Eyes” many times in the future.

Always be awesome and thanks for existing,

The Plot in You – Disposable Fix: Track Review | Cross Examinations

(February 2, 2018)
Labels: Fearless Records
Genres: Electronicore | Experimental Rock | Metalcore | Post-Hardcore | Post-Rock

“You’re not a victim of shit / I put myself on the back burner / Held myself back for you / I’m a disposable fix”

A few days ago, I got a YouTube notification from Fearless Records for a music video by a band that I had never heard before. The band’s name–The Plot in You–kind of intrigued me, so I thought What harm could come from watching this? I went into this music video thinking that I wasn’t going to like it because the majority of Fearless Records acts lean more toward the Metalcore/Post-Hardcore side of music. So what did I think of this song?

Let me show you in a gif what my face was like during my first run-through of the video:

[Yes, in that scenario, I was Jesus Christ.]

This song is not what I expected at all and I really love it. I love the overall message of how the narrator of the song is experiencing a bad drug episode (as the video would indicate) and he is trying to talk himself back to reality. While the first minute-and-a-half of the song is quite slow, it picks up at about the 1:30 mark. The best part of the song, however, is around the 2:15 mark when the music is really silent but then starts to crescendo into this freaking awesome guitar solo provided by Joss Childress. One of the other aspects of the song that really makes it great is the vocals provided by Landon Tewers, who provides a very soulful approach (at least for the first minute and thirty seconds of the track) before going into a more aggressive vocal delivery after that 1:30 mark. It all wraps up with an amazing outro where I think the narrator of the song is basically saying that he’s done with drugs (I think it’s cocaine specifically) and he has nothing to lose now that he’s quitting. Or it’s about breaking up with a girl. One of the two.

Honestly, this song actually makes me very excited for the band’s new album Dispose (which is expected to be released on February 16 this year). I am honestly not a big fan of Metalcore music (at least not now anyway; I used to be when I was about fourteen), but this song was really well-executed and I loved the lyrics and the meaning behind them. I loved the instrumentation that the band provided. I have listened to this song too many times in the past few days. Seriously, it’s that good of a song. Take a listen for yourself and see what you think about it. It has a bit of a slow burn affect to it, but once you listen to it a few times, it really kicks.

Favorite lyrics:

“And you never take time to look through / Everything I try, try to do for you”
“And you, you, you need to prove, prove, prove you’re in it / And let go of every fear you had”
“It’s just a show and I’m the one that takes the blame”
“Don’t stop faking, my conscience ain’t afraid of you yet / And if your soul’s still fading, I’m done contemplating with it”
“You’re not a victim of shit / I put myself on the back burner / Held myself back for you / I’m a disposable fix / I’m only stating the facts for you / Now I got nothing to lose”

Always be awesome and thanks for existing,

Monthly Music Madness: January 2018 Edition | Cross Examinations

One month down, eleven more to go. January is officially over and we were greeted with a number of great and not-so-great albums. Here is a list of eleven albums from the month of January that I felt that I needed to mention. These albums are in no particular order, but you can definitely tell which albums I liked more than others. Enjoy.

Post- by Jeff Rosenstocka2522175680_10Release Date: January 1, 2018
Labels: Quote Unquote Records | Polyvinyl
Genres: Indie Rock | Post-Hardcore | Power Pop | Punk Rock
Favorite tracks: “Powerlessness,” TV Stars,” “Melba,” Beating My Head Against a Wall,” “9/10,” and “Let Them Win”
8 / 10

This was the first new album that I listened to in 2018, and I have to say it started off the year on a freaking high note. With this being my introduction to Jeff Rosenstock, however, I did not know what to expect on this album. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I know that Rosenstock is a big name when it comes to Punk Rock and this album pretty much solidifies his reputation as he goes into some very political and personal topics.

“Powerlessness” is probably one of the catchiest tracks on the album. “TV Stars” delves into the selfishness of TV stars and how they really don’t care about people that aren’t TV stars. “Melba” is another fast-paced and catchy song that you can’t help but bob your head to. “Beating My Head Against the Wall” is a nice, short Punk Rock song about disagreeing with somebody who thinks politically different than you. “9/10” (which is literally the ninth song on an album of ten songs; I see, you Jeff Rosenstock, you ain’t that slick) has a bit of a folk ballad feel to it and is about getting high and riding on the subway. “Let Them Win” is an epic closing track that basically says that we’re not gonna let “them” (which I believe is anyone trying to bring us down for whatever reason) win.

Overall, this album was a great album to hear right out of the gate. After a year of experiencing and suffering through the Trump presidency, it was a breath of fresh air to hear this album. With a mix of fast-paced Punk songs and slower-paced Indie Rock songs, I would have to say that my introduction to Jeff Rosenstock was a good one. For an album that has very little Pop influence on it, it is still definitely one of the catchiest Punk Rock albums I have ever heard. This album is an 8 for me, and I would not be surprised if this album makes the year-end list for me, maybe even top five.

This album is available as a free download on his Bandcamp page: Post- on Bandcamp

Entertainment by Waterparks
Release Date: January 26, 2018
Labels: Equal Vision
Genres: Alternative Rock | Electropop | New Wave | Pop Punk | Pop Rock | Synthpop
Favorite tracks: “11:11,” “Blonde,” “Peach (Lobotomy),” “Not Warriors,” and “Lucky People”
Rating: 7 / 10

Back in late 2016, when I was scrounging for albums to put on my year-end lists, I came across Waterparks’ Double Dare, due to a few of my favorite music reviewers on YouTube praising that album highly. After a few listens, I felt that it was indeed one of the best rock albums of 2016 (a solid 8, 8.5 for me, to be honest), so I put it at number seven. After that, however, I never listened to it again until October of 2017, with the release of the new album’s lead single “Blonde.” I realized, after listening to it many more times, that it was a great album. With songs like “Gloom Boys,” “Stupid for You,” and “21 Questions,” it was quite obvious that Waterparks would be one of the brighter spots in the Pop Punk industry.

So now, just about fourteen months after the release of their debut album, Waterparks have come out with their sophomore release, Entertainment. That’s a pretty quick turnaround if you ask me, but I would have to say that their follow-up album holds up really well compared to Double Dare. With this album, however, we hear a slight deviation in their Pop Rock / Pop Punk sound that was very prominent on their debut album and their releases beforehand.

Overall, this album is a step down from their first album, but it still has a lot of memorable tracks. With the inclusion of the new Electropop/Synthpop sound, I can’t help but wonder if that’s the sound that they’re going to fully delve into on their next album. Either way, this album gets a 7 from me and could definitely make it on the year-end list. Who would have thought that a mix of Pop Punk and Electropop could work out on a full-length album? Who could have thought? WHO IN THE WORLD! (I’m looking at you, Fall Out Boy).

Songs of Praise by Shame
Release Date:
 January 12, 2018
Dead Oceans
Alternative Rock | Garage Punk | Indie Rock | Post-Rock | Punk Rock
Favorite tracks:
“One Rizla,” “The Lick,” “Gold Hole,” “Friction,” and “Angie”
6.5 / 10

I was browsing through what Bandcamp had to offer a few days after I listened to the new Jeff Rosenstock album and I found this album. Upon first listen, I really enjoyed it. I liked the gritty but also atmospheric style that was scattered throughout the album. Upon second listen, I realized that many of the songs start to repeat themselves, especially in the track “Tasteless” where “I like you better when you’re not around” is repeated for about the last minute of the track. Other than that, this album is a fairly solid first release by a band that definitely has a lot of potential if they fine-tune everything about their sound and style. Tracks such as “One Rizla” and “Angie” are definite high points on the album. This album gets a 6.5 out of 10 from me.

Culture II by Migos

Release Date: January 26, 2018
Labels: Quality Control | Motown | Capitol
Genres: Alternative R&B | Southern Hip Hop | Trap
Favorite tracks: “Superstars,” “Narcos,” “Stir Fry,” “Gang Gang,” “Flooded,” and “Motorsport”
Rating: 4 / 10

This album is a huge step down from their previous album, and I didn’t like that album much to begin with. This album is plagued by never-ending filler content that basically repeats itself through each track. While there are some tracks on this album that I could definitely see myself listening to sometime in the future, I just don’t see myself coming back to this album as a whole. They mainly rap about the same topics (women, drugs, money, how they’re awesome, and all that good stuff) and they repeat many of the same words over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again (the Drake-featured “Walk It Talk It” comes immediately to mind). Had this album been cut down by at least half, I would have possibly enjoyed it much more, but they felt the need to include twenty-four tracks and we’re graced with one of the worst albums of 2018. This album gets a 4 out of 10 from me, and that’s me being as generous as I can be.

Swell by Tiny Moving Parts
Release Date: 
January 26, 2018
Triple Crown | Big Scary Monsters
Emo | Emo Revival | Indie Rock | Math Rock | Pop Punk | Post-Hardcore
Favorite tracks:
“Smooth it Out,” “Caution,” “Wildfire,” “It’s Too Cold Tonight,” and “Malfunction”
7 / 10

Swell was my introduction to Tiny Moving Parts. I had actually never heard of them before this year, so I had no expectations of what they would offer other than that they were a Minnesota emo band. What I was given was another great Pop Punk album. I definitely enjoyed the subtle influences of Math Rock music into their songs. Even the Post-Hardcore influences are sprinkled throughout the album as well. This is a very quick album, barely exceeding the thirty-minute mark, but every song on here is very raw, intense, and very emotional, so I think that actually calls for a brief running length if you ask me. I give this album a 7 out of 10.

Cadet Carter by Cadet Carter

Release Date: 
January 26, 2018
Labels: Uncle M Music
Genres: Alternative Rock | Indie Rock | Pop Punk | Post-Hardcore | Power Pop | Skate Punk
Favorite tracks:
“Car Park Song,” “Loose End,” “Indiscreet Romance,” “Don’t Fail Me,” and “About You”
Rating: 7.5 / 10

Another Bandcamp find, this Pop Punk band hails from Germany (apparently there’s a big independent punk scene there). This is their very first album and they have no prior music before 2018 (at least, to the very best of my knowledge). Throughout the album, you will hear headnodic instrumentation and perfect harmonies from the band. The “ba-da-ba-da-ba-da” at the beginning of “Car Park Song” would usually turn me away from the song (because of the Pop influence that it shows), but I have to say that it goes very well with the more aggressive tone of the song (not that it’s aggressive in “hey, I’m gonna kill you” type of way, but I think you get what I mean). I have a feeling that it’s gonna be stuck in my head for a long time. The intro to “Indiscreet Romance” kind of reminds me of “Check Yes, Juliet” by We The Kings.

Overall, this album is very catchy and has some very good moments. I cannot really think of a song on here that I fully dislike, but I can definitely say that this is easily one of the best Pop Punk albums of 2018 so far. It is also a very quick listen, just a little over thirty minutes, so it’s over pretty quickly. It kind of makes me want more from them. This album is a 7.5 out of 10 for me and I have a very good feeling that this will be one of the albums that I listen to throughout the year.

Collateral by Phillip Phillips

Release Date: January 19, 2018
Labels: 19 Recordings | Interscope
Genres: Adult Alternative | Blue-Eyed Soul | Folk Rock | Pop Rock
Favorite tracks: “Magnetic,” “Part of My Plan,” “Don’t Tell Me,” “Dance With Me,” “Her Mystery,” and “Into the Wild”
Rating: 7 / 10

Phillip Phillips’ career has been a bit rough since winning season eleven of American Idol back in 2012. While he released his debut album less than six months after he won the reality show and another one two years later, it seems as though he has released his second album Behind the Light in relative obscurity. While I stopped listening to his music after The World from the Side of the Moon, I always wanted Phillips to have a promising career and wondered what the future would provide for him. Nearly four years after the release of his second album, he finally releases his third album Collateral. It is definitely his best album that he has released so far.

The beginning of “Magnetic” reminds me of the beginning of “Face” by Brockhampton, but the song is a very strong opener for Phillips’ third album. “Part of My Plan” is a very well put together ballad. “My Name” reminds me of something that Collective Soul would have done in the 90s and is one of the albums hardest rockers. “Sand Castles” is a song that has a very dark and ominous sound to it that is basically about the crumbling structure of a relationship. While “Love Junkie” is by far the worst song on the album, I cannot help but nod my head when I hear the crunchy guitar that is provided with the track. “Into the Wild” is a very strong closer for the album that is very anthemic and at times inspirational.

This album really shows Phillip’s progression and growth as a musician and a songwriter. It is filled with a few well-meaning ballads and a few hard rockers and a little bit of everything in between. I definitely think that this is his best album so far and is very deserving of the 7 out of 10 that I rate it. A very solid pop release.

On Life Support EP by Timeshares

Release Date: January 9, 2018
Labels: Timeshares
Genres: Alternative Country | Alternative Rock | College Rock | Pop Punk
Favorite tracks: “Life Support,” “Bat City,” and “Ladder”
Rating: 7.5 / 10

Another project that I found on Bandcamp, Timeshares’ On Life Support is an EP that reimagines the classic Grunge/Post-Grunge sound that was prominent in the 90s. When I listen to this EP, I hear traces of Seven Mary Three and maybe a little bit of Oleander. You know, the Grunge bands that had limited success on the radio but still managed to gain a loyal following and have a consistent career as an independent band. All of the songs on this EP are songs that I enjoy, especially “Ladders” which has a storytelling element to it that just makes the song so much better.

There isn’t a video for any of the songs on this EP, so I will just provide a link to its Spotify page: Timeshares // On Life Support (Spotify). It is also available as a free download on Bandcamp: Timeshares // On Life Support (Bandcamp).

Encore by Anderson East

Release Date: 
January 12, 2018
Labels: Elektra | Low Country Sound
Genres: Americana | Blue-Eyed Soul | Pop Rock | Roots Rock
Favorite tracks: “King for a Day,” “This Too Shall Last,” “House is a Building,” “Sorry You’re Sick,” “If You Keep Leaving Me,” and “Girlfriend”
Rating: 8 / 10

I was introduced to Anderson East back in late 2014/early 2015 when iTunes released “Find ’em, Fool ’em, Forget ‘Em” as a free single (back when they did that sorta thing; they really need to start doing that again). I really enjoyed Anderson’s raspy voice and bluesy instrumentation, but for some reason, I never really listened to his album that dropped in July of 2015–Delilah–that the song was on. When I saw that he released an album this year, I told myself that I was going to listen to this album, no matter what lie or excuse I would tell myself. And boy, am I glad that I did.

While the single I listened to back in 2015 was very bluesy and soulful, everything on this album is both of those things and more. The album kicks off with four great songs–“King for a Day,” “This Too Shall Last,” “House is a Building,” and “Sorry You’re Sick”–and each of those four songs are as bluesy and soulful as the last, and they even incorporate a bit of a jazzy feel to them as well. “This Too Shall Last” is probably my favorite song on the album because of the progression from the verses to the chorus. On certain moments on the album, I can hear traces of Chris Stapleton (which is very coincidental–or not–because Stapleton helped write “King for a Day”).

This album was probably the biggest surprise for me in the month of January. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from the album when I first went into it, but after a few listens–oh my goodness, is it good. From the very soulful “This Too Shall Last” (I keep mentioning it for a very good reason) to the grandiose and tongue-in-cheek “Girlfriend,” this album really showed me what Anderson East can when he puts his all into it. This album gets an 8 out of 10 from me and I could definitely see it being on my year-end list.

Ephorize by cupcakKe

Release Date: January 5, 2018
Labels: cupcakKe
Genres: Alternative Hip Hop | Dirty Rap | Hardcore Hip Hop | Trap
Favorite tracks: “2 Minutes,” “Cartoons,” “Duck Duck Goose,” “Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” ‘Total,” “Meet and Greet,” and “Single While Taken”
Rating: 7 / 10

This album was another surprise for me. I had only heard cupcakKe on a few tracks with Charli XCX when she released her two mixtapes in 2017, and I didn’t really care for them. This album, however, changes my opinion of her completely. Throughout this album, we hear some very sexually-charged and explicit tracks–like “Duck Duck Goose”–and some personal tracks on she started out and her experiences as a rapper. “Crayons” is a song for the LGBT community that can seem a bit explicit but has a really good message within its lyrics. She makes many references on this album that I understand, especially on the “Cartoons” track. On “Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” cupcakKe really impresses with her wordplay, specifically in the second verse: “Saying “first of all” will lead to a first degree” and “You cross me, I’ma cross you back
/ With the cross on a first-aid kit.” “Self Interview” comments on the double standards between men and women. She also provides some very funny lyrics throughout the album as well. My favorite: “Hope the dick don’t look like a midget / I love midgets but the dick need some inches” (from “Spoiled Milk Titties,” though it is sadly my least favorite track on the album.

Overall, I think this album is great. I love that there aren’t any features on here, so we pretty much just get cupcakKe on the entire album. I really love her more sexually-charged tracks (though they might have made me a bit uncomfortable at first) and I love her more introspective stuff (though I wish she would have done that just a bit more so I could get a better understanding of her and who she is). It was also very well-produced and each song sounds as diverse as the last. I give this album a 7 out of 10.

Hallelujah Nights by LANCO

Release Date: January 9, 2018
Labels: Artista Nashville
Genres: Contemporary Country | Country Pop | Pop Rock
Favorite tracks: “Born to Love You,” “Long Live Tonight,” “Greatest Love Story,” “Singin’ at the Stars,” and “Hallelujah Nights”
Rating: 7 / 10

In an industry filled to the brim with Country Pop rockers, it is always a good feeling when you finally find an artist that actually provides good music and still falls into that category. Brandon Lancaster, the band’s lead vocalist, is definitely a songwriter by trade crafting eleven tracks that are radio-ready and just make you want to bob your head and tap your toes throughout the entire album. I definitely hear some of the more classic Neotraditional sound, as well as their signature modern Pop Rock that could be played on a Pop music radio station and even a bit of a Country Rock sound to it as well. This album is a very solid release for LANCO, and I give it a 7 out of 10.

And there we have it. One month down and eleven more to go. Obviously, these are not all the albums that I listened to in January this year; they are just the albums that I felt I really needed to comment on. Throughout the year, I ams sure I will listen to more albums that came out during this month, and I may or may not comment on them per blog post, but we will see. See you in February.

To listen to the eleven songs that I have chosen from these albums, here is a Spotify playlist: January 2018: Favorite Songs of the Month.

Always be awesome and thanks for existing,