Arctic Monkeys – Suck it and See
The band that has been praised for bringing British Rock and Roll back received mixed reviews in recent years especially after their 2009 stoner rock / Josh Homme produced bonanza – Humbug. Now, the Monkeys are back and much moremature, if not better than ever. The band return with their best album and a strongcontender for album of the year, Suck it and See is an amalgamation of everything the band has done through the years. From moments of thrash rock to Britpop to stoner rock to jangling guitars and clever lyrics, Alex Turner and the boys have crafted a perfect rock and roll album. With a bare record of artwork, they allow the music to speak for itself and it speaks very strongly. In manyways, Humbug needed to happen in order for the band to learn and growand now they have reached their most exciting climax. Let’s hope they sustain it.
FINAL GRADE: A+
August Burns Red – Leveler *
So many metal bands talk about how their new stuff returns to their roots, sounds heavier but more melodic, blah blah blah. They all say the same crap and rarely deliver. However, August Burns Red's fourth full-length, Leveler, actually does. In spades. The boys combine the vocals and intensity from Messengers with the smart, progressive, epic melodies of Constellations. At the same time, they push themselves forward asmusicians on Leveler, both in technicality and songwriting. The album features immersive and sweeping soundscapes but simultaneously, songs like "Internal Cannon" have not one, not two, but THREE different hooks to reach out, grab you by the throat, and never let go. For a band that already wrote what most acts would consider a career defining work in Constellations, Leveler shows the desire to not settle or play it safe but to keep growing, evolving, and exploring. August Burns Red does something so few bands ever achieve--establish their sound and yet not make the same album over and over. As of this writing, Leveler is the clear pick for Heavy Album of the Year. A+
Frank Turner – England, Keep my Bones
England’s new voice of the people and folk – punk returns with an album that is sure to have people talking and listening. Frank Turner is no stranger to music, the former Million Dead front man has been making a successful solo run for years and serves up his most articulate and strongest effort to date. England, Keep my Bones finds the singer discussing everything from politics, religion, music and his hometown and his love for his country and his fear of letting everything great about Britain fall by the waste side. A must listen for the open minded and a must listen for those that love a good sing a long and story.
FINAL GRADE: A
Eddie Vedder – Ukulele Songs
The Pearl Jam front man goes alone for his first official solo outing and does wonders. Inspired by his love of Hawaii, surfing, Mother Nature and of course the simple pleasures a ukulele can bring, Eddie Vedder has made a record that will make you fall in love with music all over again. Ukulele’s seem to be a rising trend in music these days, Vedder does it wonders with an album so beautiful, it captures the spirit of the place that inspired it in a bottle as well as the spirit of summer and launches the essential beach going record. With some help from The Swell Season and Frames front man Glen Hansard and Cat Power’s Chan Marshall lend a few vocals, the album is breathtaking and a must listen.
FINAL GRADE: A
My Morning Jacket – Circuital
The jam monsters return with a new album of chomping guitars, thunderous rhythms and musical intensity. My Morning Jacket take their love of all things rock and blend it into a very focused record that not only stirs the listeners mind but paints a picture as it plays out. With the band becoming one of the premier live bands around, they have honed in their stage skills into a great rock and roll record.
FINAL GRADE: A-
The Cars – Move Like This
For the first time in 25 years, The Cars original line-up are back. Just as good as they were when they first broke onto the scene, Rick Okesek and his band of merry men know how to write the perfect pop-rock tune and never lose touch. Move Like This is just what fans of the band have been waiting for and after all this time, they still got it.
FINAL GRADE: B+
Beyonce – 4
The biggest pop star on the planet returns and what a return it is. A record worthy of every person who is hearing it to move like they have never moved before, Beyonce fires on all cylinders and keeps her title as the Queen of Pop and goes for glory with 4. Taking samples from Major Lazer and inspiration from Fela Kuti to Prince to Florence and the Machine, Beyonce proves she is her best when she is just having fun. With a crew of talented producers from Diplo to Kanye West to writers from Diane Warren, Chad Hugo, Babyface, Odd Future’s Frank Ocean, she goes for the heart and the hips. From beautiful ballads like “Best Thing I Ever Had” to the hip-hop heavy “I Miss You” and the current smash “Girls Who Run the World,” 4 is all about her and for that we appreciate it.
FINAL GRADE: B+
The Antlers – Burst Apart
The Brooklyn three piece return with theirfourth record and gun for commercial success. Burst Apart’s predecessor was the heavy and beautiful, Hospice, a concept record about losing a loved one to cancer, Burst Apart takes no stories but goes right for the same emotional impact. The Antlers know how to layer sound and make themselves sound as beautiful even when they are breaking your heart. A record worth giving your attention and time to.
FINAL GRADE: B
Danger Mouse & Daniel Luppi – Rome
The great American producer teams up with the great Italian composer with some help from Jack White and Norah Jones and produce a beautiful soundtrack to a film that does not exist. Rome is the soundtrack to a fictional film created by Danger Mouse and Luppi as the basis of their music, Jack White and Norah Jones play the two leads / lovers in the film and music’s story line. Rome takes you to the eternal city and whisks you away on a Vespa and gives you the curiosity only Fellini could of the city he loved so much. For fans of any of these artists or classical music, this one is for you and to add to your collection.
FINAL GRADE: B
Bon Iver –Bon Iver
Kanye’s favorite lo-fi hero returns with a lush, yet minimal album, that will surly gain him more attention that it’s predecessor. It’s not really a self-titled record but more coordinates, as if he is a city and state, just like the song titles themselves. Justin Vernon’s second album is a dense combo of musical arrangements, studio secrets and lyrical passion that make him more of the wandering musician wearing his heart on his sleeve rather than the mountain man we all pinned him for. It has been an incredible ride for Vernon since For Emma, Forever Ago’s release in 2009 and he will surly not disappoint fans, in fact, only gain more with his latest output.
FINAL GRADE: B
Sam Roberts Band – Collider
Canada’s Sam Roberts Band return with a traditional rock and roll record that will please fans old and new. On the band’s fourth album, Collider, Sam Roberts Band take their Beatles and classic rock influence to a higher level of appreciation. For those looking for a new band with an old sound, Collider is the record and Sam Roberts is the band.
FINAL GRADE: B-
Blondie – Panic of Girls
The punk/ glam / hip-hop Queen and King’s return and are in fine form. Panic of Girls, Blondie’s ninth record and first since 2003’s The Curse of Blondie find Debbie Harry and co. resurrecting their youth and fine form for a new generation that probably knows they just for their hits. For fans it will be a rekindling of what once was for new ears, go back to the older material.
FINAL GRADE: C+
Flogging Molly – Speed of Darkness
The Irish-American Celtic punks return for album number five and it sounds like all the other records they have released before. Nothing new or different from a band with friendly bar room singalongs and catchy hooks, it is just another day in the office for Flogging Molly. One to add to the collection for hardcore fans.
FINAL GRADE: C
The Wombats – This Modern Glitch
Liverpool trio return with album number two but fall flat --- way flat. 2008’s debut from The Wombats - A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation displayed a band with such promise and like their contemporaries, Arctic Monkeys were ready to take the music world by storm, even Paul McCartney at one point praised the band and wanted to work with them, now it looks like that dream maybe over. The band’s sophomore album, This Modern Glitch shows a band with such promise forcing themselves to be clever and catchy and bring us the same fun and flair they once did. The Wombats are a band far too talented for a mediocre and uninspiring record such as this. We only hope they bounce back.
FINAL GRADE: D
*Denotes that review was written by The Rock(jock). The Rock(jock) is Kyle Andrukiewicz, Officially A Yuppie's Loud Rock guru.