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Selfish Machines, huge step forward for Pierce The Veil

mardi 10 décembre 2013      Selfish Machines

Selfish Machines was released in 2010 and is the second studio album by the Californian band Pierce The Veil. Always considered as a "background band" compared to other post-hardcore groups, Pierce The Veil struck a blow with this second album and made themselves a name on the scene.

The first distinctive feature is undeniably Vic Fuentes' voice, which release something pure and innoncent and is very recognizable. It perfectly fits the band's music style, and the singer knows how to use it to make it sound right.
The first song, Besitos, especially Tony Perry's amazing piercing guitar work, remembers us of Mexican or Hispanic sounds (which could be seen as a kind of tribute, since the Fuentes brothers -singer and drummer- come from Mexico). Following tracks are very stunning and energetic, and fans often consider Caraphernelia as one of the band's best songs ever. This track was written by Vic Fuentes after he broke up with his girlfriend Cara, and the singer himself knew from the beginning he wanted Jeremy McKinnon (singer of A Day To Remember) to sing with him on this song, to provide it some heaviness with his deep screams, contrasting with Vic's cute and nasally voice.

Some songs may be a bit less rousing, but there are very strong tracks on this opus, such as The New National Anthem or Bulletproof Love, a poppy and funny song which was also very appreciated by fans.
But one of my favorite songs on this album is Million Dollars Houses (The Painter), written for the Fuentes' father - even if some others consider this song as a misfire... I absolutely don't.
The album's last track, The Sky Under The Sea, is also a great track, with both great instrumental and vocal parts.

Selfish Machines is very thoughtful and a great achievement for the quartet, who made a huge step forward and asserts itself as a great post-hardcore band. This album was hitting on repeat a few years ago, but Pierce The Veil has now proven its worth with the release of its third album Collide With The Sky and their fanbase growing worldwide...

The 1975: Manchester's rock phenomenon takes off

lundi 25 novembre 2013      The 1975 [Explicit]

The band was created in 2002, but it had to wait 2012 to finally sign a contract with an independent British label, Dirty Hit, and settle on a name, The 1975. Since a few months, this name slowly arises and appears on blogs, websites and music magazines. They even signed for their American distribution October 2012, and their first headline tour in the USA took place this Fall.

The four British from Manchester set up the band when they were only 15 and used to do small shows in bars and clubs of their town. Their first EP Facedown was only released August 2012, short before the second, Sex, November of the same year. A British tour followed then and last until Spring 2013.
Going one step further, the four musicians released two others EP: Music For Cars in March 2013 and IV in May ( that they may make up for lost time?) and go back on the road and on stage, doing among others openings for Muse or  The Rolling Stones.

Their first "real" album was released September, 2nd 2013 and includes a reworked version of Sex and the hit Chocolate. It is really pleasing and easy to listen to, which could reassure those who thought they were another "one hit wonder" band that only seduce because of the physical appearance of their members. Well, we have to admit that they are quite pleasant to look at, but they don't make too big a deal out of this and stay a bit mysterious, which makes us focus on music. 
The voice of the singer Matthew Healy is very enjoyable to listen to, sometimes enchanting, sometimes rousing, always genuine. Regarding the instruments, some songs are a bit more unskillful, without being catastrophic either. Rock and electronic sonorities sound well when mixed together, and despite the band's various musical influences, it succeeds to make a coherent package out of its album.
Lyrics investifate various themes as discovery, sex, love, drugs, death or fear, all quite redundant in the universe of rock.

The 1975 proves with this first album that they are a cohesive and very stable band (its line-up didn't change since its creation eleven years ago, which is quite rare in the world of rock music), on which we'll have to reckon in the future. Let's hope they will stay as prolific in the upcoming years as they were in the past months, and that they'll keep improving their sound.
Anyway, the band has here a first album of high quality, which bodes well for what is coming next!

Best tracks: Chocolate - Girls - Sex

Recharged: Linkin Park revisit their last album

dimanche 03 novembre 2013      Recharged

They had already done it for Reanimation, released in 2002, which exclusively included remixes of their albums Hybrid Theory and Hybrid Theory EP, Linkin Park are now back with Recharged, a compilation of the remixed songs of their fifth album Living Things (some even call it "Reliving things"). Between both, we can also tell that the band released Collision Course, another album of remixes featuring the rapper Jay-Z.

Some fans criticized their two previous remixed albums, pretending there were no "real" ones, because they included no new songs and did not fit to the rock/metal input of the band. But it should be noted that Linkin Park has always been strongly influenced by electronic music (one of the members, Joe Hahn, is even DJ), remixing their songs seems to be rather fitting then.

For Recharged (released October 29th, 2013), the Californian band even worked with the famous DJ Steve Aoki for a bonus track, A light that never comes - see the official clip below. Other professionals also participate to the recording of this album, entirely produced by Rick Rubin and Mike Shinoda, MC of the band. 

I had loved Reanimation, and was very excited to hear Recharged for the first time. The album pleased me, this "electronic" side of the band doesn't bother me at all, I find on the contrary that it sounds very good. However, I cannot help myself from having some regrets if we compare the two albums I quoted before.
I found the first one exceptional and very elaborate, there were even titles which were entirely rewritten (Points of Authority became Pts.Of.Athrty, Papercut became Ppr:kut, and so on), providing the CD a unique cachet. I found the work way less achieved on Recharged, titles were exactly the same, which made it less charming. I got a similar impression when I first listened to the tracks, but I believe I was expecting a Reanimation - Part II, and both albums may be characterized by the same principle, they do not exactly sound the same.

On both CDs, some voice parts were added or modified for the remixes. Each title is unique (mostly because the DJs and other artists featured are not the same from one song to another), still fitting to the original version but appearing in a new light (like Powerless, way more energetic). Some tracks sound more electro or dubstep, others have rap and hip-hop rhythms, this album allows the band to explore new genres without losing its identity.
This is a fresh perspective for Linkin Park, which doesn't always please to everyone, but which truly pleased me with Reanimation. I even consider this album just as good as those some would call LP's "true" albums.

Once again, the band seduced me with Recharged (notice it isn't too hard, I would follow them wherever, I am not exactly the most objective person able to talk about Linkin Park), even if I doubt they are going to convince their whole fanbase.

Nevertheless, this brand new track featuring Steve Aoki, A light that never comes , deserves a special mention and does fairly justice to the band's talent and to Chester Bennington's vocal performances.

Drake comes under the spotlights with Nothing Was The Same

vendredi 04 octobre 2013      Nothing Was The Same (Deluxe) [Explicit] [+digital booklet]

Catapulting to fame after his duets (and nightlife dramas) with the famous Rihanna, we could see Drake drink champagne in his Grammy Awards, acting in the TV series Degrassi, partying in LA or NYC high class nightclubs... but we barely heard solo songs from him. Nothing was the Same is yet his third studio album.

And this album is pretty good, venturing from real hip-hop sounds to bittersweet R'n'B. Drake shows he is a serious rival to Jay-Z, Kanye West and the others great US rappers. Indeed, it's a good start for him because Nothing Was The Same is the second highest first week sales of any album in 2013 with more than 658000 copies, just after Justin Timberlake's 20/20 Experience (with sales of 968000).

The Canadian was surrounded by the best of rap artists to produce and record this third album: there are here featurings with Jay-Z,  Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Swizz Beatz, Timbaland and many other famous rappers. Success was not due to pure luck, which we can guess with the two singles released from the CD, Started From The Bottom and Hold On, We're Going Home.
Drake may not have revolutionize his music, but he improved some imperfect details and took some audacious risks in order to produce a higher-quality sound, which would make him gain credibility to those who still considered him like the outsider of the US rappers.

Aside from the two singles already released, other tracks also stand out - in a positive way. Pound Cake, featuring Jay-Z, is more than seven minutes long on a psychedelic background and Drake proves he has reached his mentor's level. Special mention for Wu-Tang Forever, which is a kind of tribute to the Wu-Tang Clan and contains a sample of their track It's Yourz.

Nothing Was The Same seems to mark Drake's dawn to the pantheon of US rappers. The young man (26 yo) has now his place in the sun and the audience seems to have answered the call... it remains to be seen whether his future records will confirm this trend.

The Selection goes on: America integrates the Elite

vendredi 20 septembre 2013      The Elite

As you may have noticed it in my review of The Selection, the first volume of the trilogy written by the talented author Kiera Cass, I really enjoyed reading the adventures of the young woman America Singer, her ex-boyfriend Aspen and the Prince Maxon.

Just a reminder - 300 years in the future, the United States have been taken over by China and become Illea, a monarchy divided into eight castes (the Twos and Threes are the top while the Eights are left out of the society and rejected by all the others). To pick up the Prince Maxon's future wife, a giant cast is organized throughout the Kingdom: thirty-five girls between 16 and 20 are selected to integrate the Selection, a kind of reality show during which the girls live in the royal palace and try to draw the Prince's attention, who will have to choose his bride-to-be.
In the first book, we follow America (and her strong personnality...) entering the palace. Even if she is still thinking of Aspen, she will attach herself to the Prince Maxon, much more vulnerable than he would let believe. But Aspen is recruited by the Royal Guard and holds a position in the palace, which leads him to see America every day.

The young woman's feelings for Maxon intensify in this second volume, The Elite, going against what remains of her love for Aspen. America is one of the six "survivors" of the Selection, alongside competitors, each more obsessed with the crown (and incidentally with the Prince) than the last.
Maxon doesn't hide he has a thing for our young heroine, but the King does not seem to like this former Five and her revolutionnary ideas very much. Threatened by the other girls, America will have to face a dilemna: does she have to tell Maxon that she shares his feelings and accept he could put an end to the Selection to marry her, or does she better leave everything there and go back with Aspen, who has always been here for her? It will only get harder and become a struggle with her own personnality for America, who will have to be strong enough to make these hard choices.

I literally devoured this second volume, as fast as the first one; the characters are still endearing (or ghastly for some others...), many unexpected events come turn the game around entirely in the palace, and above all, I wanted to know: Maxon or Aspen?
Over the course of the chapters, I went through an ocean of emotions, my heart did rollercoasters and the end of the book left me hungry for more, frustated the story ends here - for now - and maddening because I will have to wait Spring 2014 to know what is going to happen next to America. The Elite follows on from The Selection: unlike many other literary series, I found the second volume equal to the first one. Once I had closed the book, I just wanted to re-open and re-read it.
I was completely enchanted by the moments America spent with Maxon, upset when she went back to Aspen (my preference was clearly for Maxon since the first volume, I am 100% part of the "Team Maxon"). I felt like I was in the shoes of the heroine, I thought with her, wondered how she could behave, which decisions she should take...

Kiera Cass does not simply tell a story, she takes us with the characters so that we feel like we know them "IRL". Even if the end of this book was more or less what we could expect, I still can't realize that America managed to survive this entanglement of unexpected events which occur throughout the book.

Before I say too much, I am going to conclude this review by advising you - if it's not already done - to begin reading this young adults series by Kiera Cass, of which we have not heard the last!