Album Review: Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface

When I first heard of this band, I had no idea why they were called Manchester Orchestra. After all, they aren’t an orchestra, and they definitely aren’t from Manchester the last time I checked. But after listening to this album I think I have more of a clue. An orchestra has so many different little parts building up to make a symphony, and this band is the same in many ways, at least in this. Their music is very lovingly and carefully created, with loads of clever details building up to create some incredible songs. Still no idea about the Manchester part though.

If I had to choose one word to describe this album, it would be ‘atmosphere’. All of the songs add together to create a melancholy soundtrack, and it works extremely well. Despite this, all of the tracks have a their own traits, making each song unique. This works perfectly, because all of the album sounds like one whole soundtrack, but doesn’t sound samey enough to be boring. One particular song that stands out to me is ‘The Parts’, the most stripped-back song on the album. Despite this, it still creates a moody feeling throughout, and the sound of the acoustic guitar is somehow soothing but never stays enough to make the song an less atmospheric.

As I mentioned earlier, all of the songs convey a similar feeling, which makes this album feel like it could be the soundtrack to a film or something similar. This is quite fitting as this is the band’s first full project after soundtracking the 2016 film Swiss Army Man. This melancholy atmosphere stretches from tracks like ‘The Mistake’, with lyrics like ‘I don’t want to die alone’, which is as dark as it is relatable, all the way to tracks like ‘The Sunshine’, which has more of a folky feel.

All of this continuity builds up to final track ‘The Silence’, which is only silent in name. It is a track that slowly builds up in terms of music, and then back down again. It is a seven minute odyssey of a track, creating a beautifully moody sound, and drawing this album to a close perfectly. Lots of albums are a great collection of songs, but this is something more; a beautifully working machine of an album. Take any of the songs, and it wouldn’t feel the same, but all together, this is a masterpiece. Truly one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.

Best song: The Silence

Score: 10/10

My Top 100 Songs: 70-61

70. Dead! – My Chemical Romance

In my opinion the best song from The Black Parade, this is an infectiously catchy song featuring some incredible guitar work and an amazing guitar solo. That’s really all there is to it.

Find it on: The Black Parade (2006)

69. If It Means A Lot To You – A Day To Remember

This was a massive change of style for A Day To Remember, and it suited them perfectly. In an album full of heavy guitars and screams, they changed things up for one, amazing acoustic duet, full of emotion. The change in style would be jarring, if the song wasn’t so perfect.

Find it on: Homesick (2009)

68. You’re Gonna Go Far Kid – The Offspring

The Offspring are kings of making catchy, energetic pop-punk, but this song goes a long way above their usual high standards. With a catchy rhythm and melody, you’d struggle to find a better song in their whole discography.

Find it on: Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace (2008)

67. Omen – The Prodigy

I never really got into The Prodigy, but one song that I think they got extremely right was this one. The sheer volume of the song, coupled with some great synthesiser work means this is a song that never fails to fill me with energy.

Find it on: Invaders Must Die (2009)

66. Doubt – Twenty One Pilots

I hated this song originally, feeling like the rapping was lacklustre and the electronic elements grated on me, but after a few listens I began to think the exact opposite. This is another song that fills me with energy, and I feel like the lyrics are some of the best on Blurryface.

Find it on: Blurryface (2015)

65. Everchanging – Rise Against

There are both an acoustic version and a regular version of this song, but I’m counting both versions here. The acoustic version has more of a sombre, regretful mood whereas the original is filled with anger, I feel like both work just as well. This is the first ever song that Tim McIlrath wrote, and I think that to write something this good at such a young age is incredible.

Find it on: The Unraveling (2001)/Long Forgotten Songs (2013)

64. Kung-Fu Lovin’ – Royal Republic

This song showcases exactly what Royal Republic do best – sheer energy mixed with great guitar and catchy hooks. I guarantee, this one’ll get inside your head for weeks to come.

Find it on: Weekend Man (2016)

63. Dammit – Blink-182

This comes from the earlier, punkier era of Blink-182. Complete with a fantastic riff and incredible drumming, early Blink doesn’t get much better than this.

Find it on: Dude Ranch (1997)

62. Supersonic – Oasis

Unlike everyone else in the world, I don’t think Wonderwall is Oasis’ best song. In fact, I don’t think it’s that great at all, but we’ll get to that another time. This song shows the Gallagher brothers at their best, creating great rock music with an incredible chorus. This is what they do best.

Find it on: Definitely Maybe (1994)

61. Knights Of Cydonia – Muse

This six-minute epic shows of everything that Muse do well. Insanely good vocals, awesome electronic influences, fantastic guitar work and even more. In my opinion, Muse will never write a song as technically good as this.

Find it on: Black Holes And Revelations (2006)

Come back in another two weeks for the continuation of this list!

EP Review: Best Ex – Ice Cream Anti Social

Best Ex are a band who have evolved. Originally named Candy Hearts, they released a couple of albums as a punk band before making a massive transformation. Lead singer Mariel Loveland recently stated in an interview that ‘Candy Hearts turned into an extension of my anxiety … Best Ex takes everything that Candy Hearts was but without my no-good anxiety’. Obviously this is great news, and it is clear that this EP has been made with much more freedom.

There is a clear difference between this and Candy Hearts music though. Gone are any aspects of the punk from the previous album, replaced by a collection of warm synth sounds and soft, melodic vocals. There is a clear difference in the lyrics too – a new sort of confidence seems evident in Loveland’s voice, contrasted by a more vulnerable edge. Her vocal ability seems to have improved too. All of this has added together to make a lovely little EP, full of songs to sing along to in your bedroom. The warm, happy sound mixed with the vulnerable lyrics are a great combination.

All 6 tracks of the EP show how far this band has come, and even though a couple of songs slightly miss the mark, it shows promising signs from a talented band. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Best song: See You Again

Score: 6/10

Album Review: Goldfinger – The Knife

John Feldmann is a busy man. Not only fronting Goldfinger, he has produced some of the best rock albums of the last few years. Blink-182’s California, Panic! At The Disco’s Vices And Virtues, and Good Charlotte’s The Young And The Hopeless are just a few of the albums he has worked on in his illustrious career as a producer. If that doesn’t speak for itself, then I honestly don’t know what does. But in his time as a producer, he has had less time to spend working with his band; before this the last Goldfinger album came out in 2008 – nine years ago. But recently he has taken a short break from his busy producing schedule to work on his own band’s album.

Having said that, the band is barely recognisable from what it was back in 2008. In fact, Feldmann is the only member who has remained. Instead of the old members, Story Of The Year’s Philip Sneed, MxPx’s Mike Herrera, and Blink-182’s Travis Barker have joined Feldmann in creating this new album. Some famous names for sure – but is it all for show?

The answer to that is a resounding no. The album bursts into life with 90’s pop-punk styled ‘A Million Miles’, complete with incredible drumming by Travis Barker and a fantastically catchy hook; a Feldmann speciality. It’s clear that even though most of the band has changed, the music still has all the heart and quality you’d want and more. ‘Orthodontist Girl’ has not only the odd charm and humour of a Blink-182 song, but a sterling performance from guest star Josh Dun, whereas ‘Tijuana Sunrise’ takes on a slower but no less energetic ska sound.

In the nine years he’s been away from his band, John Feldmann has not lost the ability to make some great songs. I shouldn’t be surprised, given the albums he’s produced, but the quality of this album really shines through. I will definitely listen to this one again.

Best song: Put The Knife Away

Score: 7/10

EP Review: Night Argent – The Fear

There’s something special about Night Argent’s sound. The production is as massive and epic, and electric elements are used heavily throughout. Having said that, the guitars are always more than present in the mix, driving their songs along. It’s something like if you took the production from Smoke And Mirrors by Imagine Dragons, mixed it with the electronic parts of Twenty One Pilots’ Vessel, and turned the guitars up a lot in the mix. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, it really is.

It’s great to have so many different sounds mix together to make something so special. But they don’t just rely on their influences to get them through. These songs stand up fantastically on their own. Their sound is melodic, epic, and complex, creating some massive choruses like in the fantastic ‘Dreamcatcher’, but showing they can turn it down a little in tracks like ‘Dream Of The Ocean’, creating a beautiful soundscape to back up the melodic vocals.

In this EP, Night Argent have created a sound that sounds so comfortingly familiar, yet so widely different from any other. It’s difficult to describe, so do yourself a favour and give it a listen. You won’t regret it.

Best song: Dreamcatcher

Score: 9/10

Album Review: In This Moment – Ritual

In This Moment seem to have changed a lot as a band since their last album. Gone are the promiscuous lyrics, replaced with what seems like a whole new vocal style by vocalist Maria Brink. The metal riffs are still there, but not turned up nearly as much as in previous albums. Not just this, but electronic elements seem to be used a lot more liberally, and the  The band have completely shed their skin, and thrown themselves into this new album, but is that for the best?

The album is a bit longer than average at 50 minutes long, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the band have chosen quantity over quality. The biggest example of this is a creepy cover of Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’. Sounds weird doesn’t it? Well I won’t disagree that it’s a strange song choice for a metal band, but it is pulled off incredibly. The creepy edge shows the song in a whole different light, and I, for one, love it. But can the rest of the album live up to this?

Well, not exactly. The problem with having such a great track early on is that it sets the bar a little too high for the rest of the album to follow up. Having said that, the album has a lot of good stuff to offer up. For example, ‘Oh Lord’ shows Maria Brink’s voice working absolute wonders, showing a gritty aspect to her voice that has always been there, but never as obviously as here. This belongs to the same style as ‘In The Air Tonight’, a creepy ballad led by Brink’s voice. To contrast this, songs like ‘River Of Fire’ show a lot more metal tendencies. These are not completely in the style of their older hits, showing a bit more of a ‘horror’ themed touch, but definitely hark back to them. Finally, ‘Black Wedding’ is another highlight, not only acting as a nod to a similarly named Billy Idol song, but utilising the talents of Judas Priest singer Rob Halford.

In conclusion, this album is a brave step for In This Moment. The decision to move on and try a different style of music was one that really worked. And while the album doesn’t completely work in some places, it deserves a lot more credit than if they had created a carbon copy of a previous album. It pays to experiment, and this experiment has worked.

Best song: In The Air Tonight

Score: 7/10

EP Review: Bellevue Days – Rosehill

Despite having released 3 EPs now, Bellevue Days are a fairly new band. But they are a band I’m fairly excited about, given that their first two EPs have been highly spoken of by Rock Sound. Not only this, but they have already been likened to bands like Brand New, and to gain that sort of praise at this point of your career isn’t just rare, but extremely special. You’ll be pleased to know that the band have delivered just as much on this, their third EP.

Musically, this EP is fantastic. The band switch effortlessly from clean, atmospheric guitar to heavy distortion many times over in this record, a skill hard to find. The lyrics are yet again pensive and vulnerable, moving from soft to harsh perfectly, just like the music. This isn’t instantly catchy, dancefloor music, but it has more of a complex edge, relying on perfect composition and honest lyrics rather than catchy hooks to do it work.

Every track on this EP is worthy of a place, coming together to create one of the most complex, honest, and vulnerable records I’ve heard this year. But to really experience its’ beauty, you’ll have to listen to it yourself.

Best song: Dead Summer

Score: 9/10