Foo Fighters - Wasting Light Review

Barring the presence of some sort of insect crawling its way past the sphincter and into the gastrointestinal nether region, you just can’t help but root for Foo Fighters. They’re likable, funny, humble, provide fist-pumping catharsis, and know how to have a good time while providing the same good time to their large fanbase. That’s not enough to make them a quality rock band, so lucky for them, they’ve also supplied an astonishingly (almost depressingly) high percentage of the really good mainstream rock gems of the last fifteen years. And that good will not only suited them but gave them an advantage against harder-to-please critics—their first few albums each had two or three mild/modest/mediocre tracks and the rest were great while nowadays they’re more inclined to release an album with two or three great tracks while the rest are mild/modest/mediocre.

May
09
2011
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Doug Stanhope - Oslo: Burning the Bridge to Nowhere Review

In Doug Stanhope’s new comedy album of his live show in Oslo, Norway, he begins his set by telling his Norwegian audience of the misunderstanding that took place when he bought Applesinjuice (that’s how it’s spelled) only to find that a beverage that sounds and is almost spelled like apple juice in their country is actually orange juice. “Thank you,” he says with a chuckle when they applaud him, “for my clever observation.” It’s a joke meant to sound as if a middle schooler with comedy aspirations wrote it. What is to follow, however, is nothing that would originate from a mere adolescent – not your typical one, at least. It’s raw and raunchy, it makes no apologies for its many offenses. Listening to the album, Oslo: Burning the Bridge to Nowhere, is like listening to that rowdy and entertaining friend who spins compelling stories and commentaries over lots of drinks, using all sorts of colorful words and descriptions to express himself, and having a good time doing it.

May
04
2011
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Emery - We Do What We Want Review

In January, Devin Shelton, the co-bassist, vocalist, co-song writer and founding member of post-hardcore band Emery, announced his departure from the band. Shelton’s announcement came just days after his former band made public their plans to release a fifth album with Tooth & Nail Records. The album, titled We Do What We Want, is one of the bands hardest and yet least varied collection of songs to date. Though Shelton didn’t announce his departure until after the recording for the album had been done, his contributions are limited to a single song on We Do What We Want. After hearing the new album, it can be questioned whether or not this band should have even carried on using the Emery moniker. A band that relied heavily upon the dueling vocals of Shelton and fellow song writer Toby Morrell like Emery did, sorely misses the dynamic that gave them their signature sound. This dynamic was cut back to the barebones on the band’s last album, the paltry …In Shallow Seas We Sail, so maybe it’s no wonder that Shelton decided to jump ship before it sank into the shallow sea.

May
01
2011
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Radiohead - The King of Limbs Review

Since Radiohead has spent a good portion of their career being cutting edge innovators, audacious deconstructors, and malleable superstars, they can’t afford to come up short of an epic game-changer every damn time they release a new album. It’s a cruel disadvantage, but that’s the fallout when you blow minds nearly every outing. It has become such a burden that, not too long ago, Thom Yorke declared that Radiohead would no longer be making albums. Making them had become too much of a burden on their collective nerves and psyche (“We can't possibly dive into that again, it'll kill us”). If pressure to do something genius every time out wasn’t enough, the painstaking, psychologically-damaging process of creation was proving far too taxing. Even though The King of Limbs’ very existence is contradiction, Yorke wasn’t being a sleight-of-hand master when he made the statement (at least, not as of yet).

Apr
28
2011
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Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane Review

The funny thing about Union Station is that the general public probably recognizes the two most identifiable members of the group in a musical capacity other than their nearly two decade run with the famed bluegrass band. Some may be familiar with Alison Krauss due to her recent Grammy winning team up with rock god Robert Plant, her stint with the Grand Ole Opry or her work on movie soundtracks. Likewise, most people’s familiarity with Dan Tyminski comes from his part in reviving and charting the classic folk song “Man of Constant Sorrow” in 2000. Krauss set in motion the hiatus of Union Station over the last few years to tour with Plant and partake in other musical ventures; Tyminski and the other talented Union Station musicians found other projects to occupy their time. Now seven years after the band’s last album, Krauss, Tymisnki and the members of Union Station reunite to give us the new album Paper Airplane.

Apr
21
2011
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PJ Harvey - Let England Shake Review

One of PJ Harvey’s greatest confessed fears is repeating herself. Over her twenty-plus year career, she has provoked and challenged her listeners in numerous ways, chief among them her unwillingness to meet any of them halfway or match expectations. While there was certainly connective tissue between her first two albums (the raw, intense Dry and the rawer, intense-r Rid of Me), the engineering and instrumentation style differed sharply enough to define each by their packages. Everything since has veered wildly in unpredictable directions, touching on blues, pop, folk, jazz, industrial, piano balladry and more; she even matched the stylistic departures through her own appearance, which shifted dramatically for each album release.

Apr
20
2011
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Jihae - Fire Burning Rain Review

Three years ago I named the cover for Jihae’s Elvis is Alive as the strangest album artwork of 2008. Curiously, I heard very little of the New York songstress since Elvis, which was her sophomore release. That is until Fire Burning Rain came across my desk.

Feb
10
2011
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Red - Until We Have Faces Review

The hard rock band Red walks a fine line. Not only do they associate themselves with the modern hard rock sound that has so deplorably plagued rock radio over the past decade, they also have a mundanely generic name and they’re widely acknowledged as a Christian rock band which, needless to say, can often spell disaster for the mainstream acceptance of a band. It seems that there is a lot going against Red and yet somehow they’ve managed to stand apart from the absolute landfill of similarly sounding rock bands. Red’s debut, End of Silence was a refreshing take on the already tired genre and their follow up Innocence & Instinct was their finest effort, a breezy rocker with an interesting conceptual theme. With high expectations, Red’s third album Until We Have Faces rides in with the wind at its back. As one of the finest examples of a band that has taken strides to give listeners a gratifying experience by taking a popular genre and doing surprising and rewarding things with it, it’s sad to see Red regress to a state of absolute banality. With Until We Have Faces Red has not only fallen victim to lazy regression, but their color-by-numbers approach has given us an album that falls into the crowd of eerily similar sounding modern rock albums; none of which I could recommend with a clean conscience.

Jan
31
2011
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The Decemberists - The King Is Dead Review

If you were a critic of the Decemberists' ultra ambitious, bordering on pretentious, prog/rock/folk epics that either made grandiose appearances on albums ("The Island") or that filled EPs (The Tain) and full lengths (The Hazards of Love) all on their lonesome, The King is Dead may be for you. Despite overwhelming praise from myself and my partners in crime here at JustPressPlay (we named the album our favorite of 2009), the Decemberists' last album, the fantasy driven conceptual rock opera The Hazards of Love, had its detractors. Some thought that the band had gotten a little carried away with their bombastic '70s prog-folk amalgamation. Many yearned for the return of the band's humorous character studies set to catchy British folk scores that highlighted their early albums. In response, or maybe in reprieve, the band's 6th full length album sees Colin Meloy and company stripping down their sound, taking a stab at poetic lyrics rather than broad narratives and yet, despite a big change from what we've began to become accustomed to with the Decemberists, has still provided us with probably one of the very best albums we will hear all year.

Jan
28
2011
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Nicholas Stevenson - Phantom Sweetheart Review

After the release of his EP The Aeroplane Darling over the summer, Nicholas Stevenson hits the music scene with his first full length album entitled Phantom Sweetheart. This thirteen track album navigates through Stevenson’s creative mind in some positive ways. After listening to the album and gazing at some pretty interesting artwork on his personal website www.nicholasstevenson.com, it's easy to see that his imagination is quite broad.

Jan
24
2011
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