Ears Wide Open


Album reviews

Two Door Cinema Club – Gameshow

After a 4-year break, the Irish band Two Door Cinema Club is back with a 3rd record, Gameshow. This album was quite anticipated, as we hadn’t heard the band playing for a couple of years.

Indeed, in the middle of their 2014 tour, the singer Alex Trimble, who got sick and stressed, ended up at the hospital. The upcoming shows were cancelled, and the band members went on separate ways. It was the beginning of a serious break, as there was not much communication within the trio. As the boys said in several interviews, this break as necessary, since they got really tired of playing lots of shows in a short period of time without having a life on their own. Plus, being 24/7 together started to be difficult as staying with the same people can be unhealthy, no matter how you like them.

For these reasons, rebuilding their own identity was a must in order to start afresh as a band. For me, this goal was reached, since the new record is completely different from its predecessors. As the band said, Gameshow is an experimental record. It’s something unique and that we’ve never heard before.

As a matter a fact, Two Door Cinema Club’s wish was to bring some disco influences on the album that we can definitely hear. Indeed, although the band has always been known for putting pop influences in their songs, this record is even more pop and filled with a bunch of electronic sounds. Here, I’m thinking about Bad Decisions, the first single of the album, a funky and groovy, which makes it really entertaining.

Although this album is experimental, some influences from the previous records can be heard. Here, I’m thinking about songs like Good Morning and Je Viens de Là, whose melodies, notes and guitar riffs remind me of Tourist History, the band’s first record released in 2010.

However, in my opinion, other songs like Gameshow or Surgery don’t sound like Two Door Cinema Club and don’t reflect the album’s spirit. Indeed, Gameshow is a lot more rock than the rest of the record, especially in the chorus. The song is not that bad in itself, but for me, it doesn’t bring anything to the album and is kind of off topic. As for Surgery, the negative point is Alex’s vocals, as modified voices are not really my cup of tea, especially if it’s way too artificial.

Generally speaking, Gameshow is a great record. When listening to it, we can tell that it’s a Two Door Cinema Club album right from the start. Indeed, entertaining songs are what the band does best, and this record is exactly what you need to hear when you feel down in the dumps.

Kings of Leon – WALLS

3 years after the release of their album Mechanical Bull, the Followill brothers and cousin, AKA Kings of Leon, are back with a new record, WALLS (We Are Like Love Songs).

This album is the beginning of a new chapter of the band’s career, as it is very different from the previous ones. Indeed, after some strong tensions within the band/family, the boys from Nashville decided to gather again in LA in order to start working on a new record to start afresh and do something completely different from what they had done so far. New studio, new producer, and new sounds: this project was quite ambitious.

Without further ado, let’s start with the good points of this record.

Caleb’s vocals & Jared’s bass lines

Caleb Followill’s voice is one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard and is probably what made me love the band in the first place. As usual, it is perfect in this record. The song that best brings it out is Conversation Piece, a wonderful and touching ballad the singer wrote for his wife, which is, in my opinion, the most beautiful song on the record, along with WALLS, the most perfect song I’ve heard in a while. It is so exquisite that it gives me chills every time I listen to it.

As for his younger brother Jared, the bass lines are really good. As a bassist myself, I think Jared’s always been a great bass player, and I think he’s done a pretty good job on this record. I’m thinking about All Around the World as an example, a funky song that is pretty different from what Kings of Leon had done so far but that suits them quite well.

A well-balanced mix of signature sounds and Pop influences

When I first saw the album’s artwork, I fell that I was going to hear some pop influences for sure. And to be honest, I was a little bit afraid of the result, because for me, Kings of Leon have nothing to do with pop music. I know that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but as a record’s artwork reflects its content, I had this impression right away. Actually, when I first listened to the album, I didn’t really recognized the band, but the songs that I hadn’t heard as singles have been growing on me since then. After listening to the whole album several times, I can actually notice some influences from the previous albums. Let’s take the example of one of my favourite songs on this record, Find Me. In my opinion, this song could have featured in Mechanical Bull, the band’s previous record that came out in 2013. This song perfectly reflects the band’s wish to incorporate new sounds without changing their identity drastically, as it mixes well both Kings of Leon’s signature guitar riffs and the use of vintage synths, instruments the band hadn’t used on their previous albums.

Little cracks on the WALLS

However, although Kings of Leon is one of my favourite bands, saying that the whole album is perfect would be lying. While some songs I didn’t really like in the beginning have been growing on me, a particular song still doesn’t work for me, Over.

The main reason why I don’t like this song is because for me, it doesn’t sound like Kings of Leon and they can do so much better than that! In my opinion, this song doesn’t bring anything to the record because when I listen to it, I feel like I’m listening to a loop that goes on and on and on. Nathan’s drums patterns and Jared’s bass lines keep repeating themselves, and for this reason, there’s a clear lack of contrast between the verses and the chorus. Furthermore, Caleb’s voice isn’t brought out enough, as the notes are quite the same during the entire song, except at the end, when he finally reaches higher ones.

Another reason why I don’t like Over is because it reminds me of Arcade Fire, a band Markus Dravs, Kings of Leon’s new producer, has worked with. And the problem is that I don’t really like this band (Arcade Fire fans, please don’t hit me). By working with a new producer, the band wanted to step out of the comfort zone they had gotten into when recording Mechanical Bull, which is actually one of my favourite Kings of Leon albums. I understand that the band needed to start afresh and try new things, but a song like Over doesn’t work for me as it doesn’t suit the band.

I also have the feeling that this song came totally out of the left field, as it has nothing to do with the rest of the album. In my opinion, a good record is a record that tells a story and whose songs come one after the other in a smooth and natural way. The record starts really well with excellent songs such as Waste A Moment, and suddenly, Over kind of spoils everything, especially since it comes right in the middle of the album. I’m not saying that Over is a bad song in itself. I’m just saying that it’s doesn’t work well as a Kings of Leon song.

In a nutshell, I wouldn’t say that WALLS is an exceptional album as others are way better. But I still think the band did a good job. Once again, the Followills managed to show how talented they are and will never stop surprising us.

Sum 41 – 13 Voices

If I had to choose one word to describe the new Sum 41 album, 13 Voices, I wouldn’t find any. I mean, waw, what a comeback! The words are kind of missing right now. I had been waiting for this for quite a long time. Some might say that it’s been only 3 years since the band decided to take a break. However, 3 years without Sum 41 feels like an eternity, especially since this band means a lot to me and to a whole generation that has never stopped jumping to massive punk-rock hits such as In Too Deep or Fat Lip.

After the release of Screaming Bloody Murder in 2011, the band went on tour, and decided to take a break in 2013 in order to start working on a new record. Unfortunately, nothing went as planned, as Deryck Whibley (lead singer & guitarist), got serious health issues. When I learned that he was suffering from serious alcoholism and that his liver & kidney had shut down, I thought that he wouldn’t make it out alive, and so did the doctors. Fortunately, Deryck got out of the hospital but still had to learn how to walk & play music again.

After the frontman’s fight to recover and the massive support of the band’s fan base, Sum 41 are back with an album which is, in my opinion, one the best records they have ever made. Let me give you the three main reasons why I love this album so much.

It tells us a touching & poignant story:

Usually, lyrics are not the first thing I focus on when listening to an album, although I can’t deny that they are of the highest importance. But this time, I think that it is the main strong point of this record. As you may know, this album is basically a chronology of Deryck’s recovery and his evolution as a person since his hospitalization, as the song Fall to Rise says. But for me, the song that best illustrates the moving aspect of 13 Voices is War, which is my favourite song of the record and, in my opinion, one of the best songs Sum 41 have ever made. Deryck wrote it when he thought he was never going to get better and that he would never manage to be sober again. What really touched me is that this song is, as Deryck said in many interviews, a “battle cry”. Indeed, it deals with the war he waged on himself when being torn between two options: surrender, or fight & push forward in order to get better and start afresh. As I’ve always considered music as a means to give hope, I think that War is exactly what a song should be: a story people can identify with. In my opinion, this song has the power to save people’s lives, as it saved Deryck’s.

It is musically powerful and innovative:

I think that we all agree by saying that Sum 41’s records have always been the very definition of power. But considering the break the band took for 3 years, I have the impression that the amount of energy that the boys used to put in their songs has been multiplied when listening to the new record. Indeed, unlike Screaming Bloody Murder, released in 2011, this new record has lot more punk-rock influences and is therefore a revival.

First of all, I think it’s important to remind that during his recovery, Deryck was more afraid to know that maybe he may never play music again than never be able to walk again, which is absolutely incredible and shows how much this man loves music. According to me, we can really feel that Deryck missed making music when hearing the album, and that’s what makes it so powerful.

Then, obviously, I couldn’t write about the new Sum 41 record without talking about the comeback of Dave Baksh that had left the band 9 years ago. It feels good to hear his guitar solos again, doesn’t it? Thanks to his return, the band is now composed of 3 guitarists bringing lots of powerful riffs & a strong distortion that were kind of missing on the previous album.

As I said, this record is a new beginning for Sum 41, not only as a band with its former guitarist and a new drummer (Frank Zummo), but also musically speaking. Indeed, as Dave Baksh said in an interview, 13 Voices is a clever mix of Sum 41’s signature sounds and new ones. By the way, I think that we should all be open-minded and appreciate bands’ choices to try something new. Everybody evolves and most of the time, it’s for the better! And it’s the case for Sum 41. Indeed, in this new record, the band worked with new instruments, such as strings (violin, cello…) in Breaking the Chains and the opening song A Murder of Crows, which is, by the way, the best introduction song the band has ever made. I think that this choice was quite judicious as it enhances the powerful guitar riffs even more and proves that classical music instruments and electric ones are a perfect match.

It is filled with the Sum 41 metal influences that we love:

Sum 41 are well-known for putting metal influences in their songs. According to me, these influences were missing in Screaming Bloody Murder but they are definitely back in this new record! I’m thinking about the song There Will be Blood as an example. The song’s guitar riffs are certainly the ones that I like the most on the album, as they remind me of the previous Sum 41 eras. Personally, when l listen to the album, I can notice some kind of similarities with other upbeat and energetic records such as Does This Look Infected? or Chuck, which proves that the band managed to try new things while keeping their identity.

Frankly, I can’t find any negative points on this album. However, the only thing that the band could have done in order to improve it is adding songs that don’t relate Deryck’s story in order to slightly balance the lyrical content.

Honestly, I started to be worried that the boys might not come back. But now, with this incredible revival, Sum 41 have still a wonderful career ahead!

Green Day – Revolution Radio

Well, here we are! 4 years after the release of the trilogy ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré!,Green Day is back with its 12th studio album, Revolution Radio. This band has always been one of my favourites and Billie Joe, Mike & Tré have always been dear to me. For this reason, I was really happy to learn that they were back in the studio, and to be honest, I was a little bit worried that it might never happen again.

Indeed, as you may know, the boys had been through a lot since 2012. From Billie Joe’s meltdown on stage at the iHeart Radio Music Festival & his entry into a rehab program to Mike’s wife’s & touring guitarist Jason White’s serious health issues, the situation didn’t count in the favour of the boys who had to postpone some tour dates during the promotion of the album trilogy.

As these albums didn’t work the way they had expected, the band decided to take a break in order to find inspiration in new experiences, enhance their creativity and start afresh. In order to do that, Billie Joe created a new studio in Oakland, California, Tré wanted to rediscover his drum set, and Mike decided to take some bass lessons to go back to the basics.

According to me, all this process was absolutely necessary as the band kind of lost itself when recording the trilogy. Green Day wanted to do something really ambitious, but for me, three albums in one year was too much to handle. Of course, it was a great challenge to overcome, but the result was a little bit disappointing: in my opinion, the songs were too similar to one another and musically speaking, Green Day had done much better in their previous records. As paradoxical as it may seem, the albums were so overthought that the result was really simplistic.

Well, as they say, efforts pay off and today, I’m so happy to tell you that Revolution Radio is a great success! I have noticed a huge difference between the trilogy and this new record. Indeed, by producing Revolution Radio by themselves, which didn’t happen since Warning in 2000, the boys could work as a trio and enhance their creativity without any in-between people to influence their work. I think that Green Day needed that. This record is shorter than the 3 previous ones as a whole, but it is definitely stronger, which proves that quality is way more important than quantity!

What I like about the album

Well, the first thing that I really like about Revolution Radio is that it is a politically charged record. If you’re a fan like me, you know that Green Day is a politically committed band and I missed this characteristic, which, according to me, is one of their main strengths. According to the band, the aim of this record was to reflect the current state of violence in the USA, which is definitely the case when listening to songs such as Bang Bang or Revolution Radio, the first songs to be written two years ago which would eventually become the first singles of the album.

On the one hand, Bang Bang is a song about mass shootings that have been occurring in the USA and the act of immortalizing such atrocities through photos and videos on the internet. What makes this song really provocative and powerful is that Billie Joe wrote it from a mass shooter’s point of view. Writing from a first-person perspective has always been one of Green Day’s signature styles, and it still works really well as it allows people to immerse themselves in the songs.

On the other hand, Revolution Radio was written by Billie Joe after seeing protesters in the streets of Manhattan following the shooting of the Afro-American teenager Michael Brown by a policeman in Ferguson. In my opinion, this song could have totally been on American Idiot, as it reminds me a bit of the spirit of the band’s most famous record.

What I also like is that these politically-charged songs are mixed with more personal ones. I’m thinking about Still Breathing or Ordinary World, the latter being the perfect song to end a record, especially when it’s been pretty energetic from the beginning. You wouldn’t say no to a little bit of calm after the storm, would you? By the way, Ordinary World is the perfect song to wake up in the morning, just saying!

The second thing that I like about this album is that we can notice some influences from the previous records, especially 21st Century Breakdown, which is the album that made me love Green Day. Indeed, Somewhere Now & Forever Now remind me of 21st Century Breakdown & See the Light, as they are the intermixed debut and last songs of each album (second to last in the case of Forever Now). Furthermore, Bouncing of the Wall reminds me a little bit of Horseshoes & Handgrenades in terms of notes, rhythm and guitar riffs.

What I don’t really like

Because perfection doesn’t exist, I would say that the main weakness of this record is the song Youngblood, which according to me was not necessary as it doesn’t bring anything special to the album, but it’s still nice to listen to. Green Day decided to make it a single, but I think that they could have chosen other songs such as Outlaws, which is one of my favourite songs on the album.

In a nutshell, as you understood, I loved this album. Although I wasn’t really fond of the first two singles when they came out, they grew on me and listening to the whole record made a lot more sense. Now, I can understand what the boys wanted to do and in which direction they wanted to go. I feel like the Green Day that I’ve always loved is back, and I couldn’t be happier!

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