Welcome to Musical Druggernauts

Unlike your ordinary, run-of-the-mill music blog, Musical Druggernauts is dedicated to providing you with pertinent album release reviews, and do so in our own unique way. The fact that you are even reading this section means a lot, but please stop reading this and read about what hot new albums we have reviews for. Why are you still reading this? Since, we have grabbed your attention even further, if you like what you read, please send us any artist/band album that you feel would make for a great blog review. You can stop reading this now, we promise.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Albums That Rocked Our Socks!

Hey there, Druggernauts!

Well, the year is about to come to a close and because the world is supposed to end at some time today, every word we type is all the more important. This will surely go down as one of those sacred texts that the next civilization on Earth will discover (once they reinvent the internet that is). Rather than do our usual thing of reviewing a new album for the week, we thought that it would be good to do something different and make a list of yours and ours favorite albums for 2012. Although we can't really choose our favorite albums of the year in any numerical fashion, rest assured, we are here to provide you with what we felt really summed up a great music year. Without further adieu, check out what we have on our top 10 list. Until next year, Druggernauts!!!

Click the "Watch on Youtube" link on the videos so you can watch! (for copyright reasons)

Kendrick Lamar - good kid m.A.A.d. City

Rarely does an artist prove that you don't have to have a radio smash to sell records and generate a mass following. Lamar is a true master of his craft and his debut album is definitely something that everyone should open their ears to.

Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

Few bands are able to branch out these days and garner a real following. With a ton of blog buzz and a debut studio album that has taken years to bring to fruition, Alt-J shows that timing is everything.

Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

Anyone who isn't living under a rock knows who Frank Ocean is by now. In short, he is his own genre. Real artistry is not dead and Ocean proves this.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - The Heist

Many acts jump at the first opportunity to sign to a major label. Macklemore, however, has shied away from this and proven that while it may be exponentially more difficult to manage all facets of your career, the reward is definitely worth it.

Imagine Dragons - Night Visions

No rock band's debut album has sold more albums in its first week in the past six years than Imagine Dragons. The scary thing is that they only continue to grow and the ceiling doesn't appear to be remotely in site for this Vegas based band.

John Mayer - Born and Raised

He's been on the scene for over a decade and remains able to not be bound to one particular genre. "Born and Raised" is the album he has been waiting to write for several years and with the question of will he ever be able to sing again looming, this would be an honorable way to walk off into the sunset.

Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan

The wait finally came to an end this year and the Dirty Projectors came out with a new, full length album. As one who listens to them would expect, they only continue to get better.

The Lumineers - The Lumineers

With a massive hit, "Ho Hey," under the belt and a sound that is refreshingly organic, The Lumineers show that bands don't have to sacrifice who they are as musicians to make it big.

Ellie Goulding - Halcyon

With two top 40 radio hits under her belt already and a voice that is intoxicatingly different from the norm, Goulding breaks the conventional norm by being a non-bubblegum pop female artist.

Jack White - Blunderbuss

Jack White finally decided to make a solo album and lord are we happy he did! He may be an extremely awkward person (so we hear), but he has the musical gift for writing and creating bad ass guitar licks.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bruno Mars - Unorthodox Jukebox

            Bruno Mars broke into the major music scene almost three years ago with his feature on B.oB.’s hit song, “Nothin’ On You.” Since then, he has gone on to pen some of his own hits, which have included the platinum selling hits, “Just the Way You Are” and “Grenade.” With his first album, Doo-Wops and Hooligans, Mars has shown that he has a specific niche in the music marketplace and that he is a force to be reckoned with. Now, the time has come, for his sophomore effort, titled, Unorthodox Jukebox, which hit stores earlier this week. His new, hit single, “Locked Out of Heaven,” paying a certain homage to The Police, has climbed to the top of the charts and made any doubters into resonant believers. The future seems even brighter than before, but does Unorthodox Jukebox pack the same punch as its predecessor? Only one way to find out…
            The opening track off of Unorthodox Jukebox, “Young Girls,” is an interesting choice to say the least. It is a confessional of sorts, in which Mars battles with who he is. Garnering this critical acclaim as an artist by being in the celebrity limelight has affected him in an adverse way of sorts it seems. Rather than come out with a happy-go-lucky song, Mars delivers a punch right in the stomach. He wants to stay true to himself, but isn’t sure exactly what that means anymore. Pretty thought provoking stuff, whether you can fully relate or not; in the end, we all question our core selves at times, so in some tangential manner this song strikes a nerve.
            With a kick drum that doesn’t let up throughout the entirety of the song and a heavy array of synthesizers, “Young Girls” sounds like a faster version of Mars’ earlier hit, “It Will Rain,” minus the grand, operatic hook.  This is not one of his type-A songs, but more importantly, it serves that greater purpose in opening Mars up about his own life. Making this the opening track, he is bleeding himself out for the rest of the record. From the second verse alone, this is apparent:

    “I get lost under these lights

     I get lost in the words I say

     Start believing my own lies
Like everything will be okay

     Oh, I still dream of a simple life

     Boy meets girl makes her his wife

     But love don't exist when you live like this
     That much I know, yes I know

With this now being the reported second single from the album, it is evident that Mars wants to let the world know that his musical styling and topics are not limited.
If this can reach a big audience, who knows, but being Bruno Mars sure as hell doesn’t hurt!!
            Continuing down this tunnel of self-discovery, Mars strikes it big with “When I Was Your Man.” This song is great because of its simplicity. Absent of an overly produced track, the elegant sound of the piano is all that is needed, coupled with captivating melody. Gavin Degraw would definitely want this song on one of his albums in another life. Heartbreak and regret is a poignant theme throughout this album, but in this track it is done with such sophistication that it is vicariously felt through the pain in Mars’ voice.
            Having only the piano is a gutsy call because the strength of the song rests entirely on the melody. Fortunately, the Smeezingtons (Bruno’s writing crew) get this and do not disappoint. The verses are brutally honest and the chorus is something that cuts through the surface and brands itself on our heartstrings.  Love is something that requires our full attention and effort, like anything worthwhile, and fully understanding this is something that comes only after the fact, more times than not.  Thankfully, the world has Bruno Mars to help us learn. He writes in the chorus:
    “Hmmm too young, too dumb to realize

                 That I should have bought you flowers and held your hand

     Should have gave you all my hours when I had the chance

                 Take you to every party cause all you wanted to do was dance

                Now my baby is dancing, but she’s dancing with another man.”

Other great tracks include, “If I Knew,” “Natalie,” and “Treasure.”  Overall, it’s a great effort from Mars, but is it an album that is great throughout? No.  His own sound is standing in the backdrop for a lot of these records. Vibes reminiscent of The Police, Phil Collins, and Peter Tosh, make it appear like he is just overtly implanting his influences into his own material.  Nothing wrong with this, but people fell in love with him because he was so original in the first album. Hopefully we can see that side of Bruno soon enough again. Until then Druggernauts!!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Florida Georgia Line - Here's To The Good Times

It’s been a while since we last wrote a review on a Country album, so what better time than the present to dip our toes into that old, but familiar water? You know you missed drinking that Jack Daniel’s old no.7 while reading so we are here to please. With that, Florida Georgia Line’s debut full-length album, Here’s To The Good Times has just been released and is the perfect choice for this week’s review. After meeting at Belmont University, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley began penning songs together, followed by the release of several EP’s.  With a track that is already garnering critical acclaim, will their album live up to all the hype? Take a double shot of those Country “Vitamins” and read on to find out!
The winter weather is upon us. That is, if you count a bitter chill of sixty degrees in Los Angeles. Sorry, New York, we got all the good weather. Even though the holiday season is upon us, Florida Georgia Line’s hit, “Cruise,” shows that summer is also a state of mind. Reaching the top spot on Hot Country Airplay this week, this infectious country hit satiates our desire to pop open a cold one on a hot Summer’s day, sit back into our chairs, and get that ever-sexy farmer’s tan.
            Opening their debut album, Here’s To The Good Times, with “Cruise” is a great call, setting the tone for the rest of the album.  Tyler and Brian’s vocals aren’t shy in starting things off. Harmonizing from the get-go, followed by a fun little electric guitar riff, it’s easy to see that this is a feel-good Country anthem that is going to be hard to dethrone. All of the typical instrumentation is there, with plucked banjo fill-ins to accompany the rhythm guitar as well as drums that help drive the record.
            In the end though, the reason that this song is so saccharine to the ears is simple – it’s all about the melody.  Not even listening to the words of the chorus, your head will be bopping up and down without your knowledge of even doing so. It flows so effortlessly and seamlessly that even a non-country fan has to respect how perfectly crafted a track it is.  For those that do find themselves tuning to that Country station on the reg, however, these lyrics are a great representation of pure Country: “Baby you a song you make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise/ Down a back road blowin’ stops signs through the middle every little farm town with you/In this brand new Chevy with a lift kit, it’ll look a hell of a lot better with you up in it/So baby you a song, you make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise.” There is no denying that a lot of country songs do not translate at times, especially to a broader audience. When a song of this genre strikes gold, however, it strikes it big. “Cruise” is no exception to the rule.

Nothing gets a songwriter more excited than a great concept and “Tip It Back” is a prime example of such. What says you’re over the workweek and ready to let loose? Hubbard and Kelly would tell you those three special words – Tip it back. Each verse is equally as clever as the next, playing on the phrasing. Furthermore, it demonstrates how intriguing this group is as songwriter’s in their own right. Hubbard and Kelly in the 2nd verse write, “When that barkeep brings you change just tip it back/When you’re two steppin’ with your baby, man tip her back/When you don’t get paid for next week, but need some drinkin’ cash, find that coffee can stash and tip it back.”  Even though the stereotypical themes of love and drinking are addressed, their ability to put an entirely different spin on it makes it a refreshing view on the subject matter. It’s a toast to the good times and something everyone feels at least once a week.  The end of a long day or week should always be celebrated properly – “Whether it’s a cold beer, tequila, or a double shot of Jack.”
“Round Here,” “Here’s To The Good Times,” and “Hell Raisin’ Heat Of The Summer” are other top notch tracks that any Country enthusiast is sure to enjoy. Like Love and Left shook the music world with “Angel Eyes,” Florida Georgia Line seems to have taken note and wants a piece of the action. If anything, emerging country bands continue to show that they can go toe-to-toe with solo acts, making for quite the amicable camaraderie. Without a doubt, kick off those Cowboy boots (if you’ve got them) and check out Here’s To The Good Times. You won’t be disappointed. Until then, Druggernauts!!!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Phillip Phillips - The World From This Side Of The Moon

Winning American Idol over the past several seasons has been a mixed bag. People like Scotty McCreery have shown that a Southern draw does translate to sales, even if a bland stage presence accompanies it. You have the Carrie Underwood’s and the Kelly Clarkson’s who continue to dominate their specific genres as well. And then there are the Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks’s of the world. For one reason or another, they never were able to garner that fan support, despite winning the decade long hit TV show competition. And that brings us to the newest winner of American Idol, Phillip Phillips, whose first full-length studio album, The World From The Side Of The Moon, is out now. Can it follow the trend of his hit single, “Home,” which became the anthem for the US Women’s Gymnastics team this past summer, or will it fall short like the Russians? Read on to find out!!!
            What better way to start off an album review then by taking a look at the first track? Yeah, we think that’s a smart bet too.  “Man On The Moon” starts off with a bluegrassy acoustic guitar arpeggio that entices the eardrums from the get-go. And then the drums kick in, followed with what sounds exactly like Dave Matthews scat singing. Is this the right CD, you think to yourself? You check your computer screen and highlighted is the artist name, Phillip Phillips. Talk about a curveball.
            The melody is something that you would expect from Matthews himself and the background banjo accompaniment adds a subtle yet overarching sound to the chorus. Lyrically, the writing is there, but that is besides the point. There is nothing new and fresh here like there was in “Home.” That said, it’s sounds great, even if you feel like Dave Matthews 2.0 is what you are getting.  Surely, this can’t be said for the entirety of the album, right?
            Going down the track list the signals are clear—stoners all around may have found their new summer concert Messiah in the form of Phillip Phillips. “Tell Me A Story” is a beautiful track that centers on the poignancy of love and life and how delicate it all is in the grand scheme of things.  There is a beautiful optimism that flourishes here, despite sounding exactly like something that DMB would write, both melodically and lyrically. This is definitely the song to play for when you are feeling a little more overdramatic than usual.
            “Wanted Is Love” continues this trend, but is such a massive song, not necessarily in terms of possible radio airplay, but in overall quality.  A tranquil string section starts things off on the right note (no pun intended).  Followed by this is what can be described as a soft and gentle piano sound. It’s almost as if you’re ready to hear 2Pac start rapping the first verse from “Changes,” but I digress.
            There is a seductiveness in this song that helps add some more depth to Phillips’s sound. In the hook, he sings, “Wanted is love, now go and sing/You know you gotta hold on to what you love before it’s gone away” --indicative of the building anticipation that he sings with. Rather than stay in the same register, Phillips mixes in some falsetto to shake things up a bit. His voice is like smooth sand paper, if that were such a thing. The coarseness of it is what makes it pleasant, yet when he really belts out it goes away, resulting in a much more clean sound. This begs the question: Is he sounding more Dave Matthews on purpose?
            Without a doubt, the best track on the entire album, aside from “Home,” is “So Easy.”  It may be because of the fact that it is something that sounds entirely his own. There are no real overt comparisons that can be made. The hook is simple, getting you in the frame of mind to want to blast this on a summer’s day. It’s a happy-go-lucky pop song about love that just works. The lyrics are also strong, thanks to up and comer writer/artist, Wrabel: “Like the ocean pulls the tide in just to hold it close/like a rain pour in a rainstorm makes the flowers grow/You’re the reason I believe in something I don’t know.” A true master of his craft, Wrabel helps Phillips paint the perfect picture in his listener’s mind. It’s too bad more of this prowess doesn’t lend itself throughout.

            In the end, The World From The Side Of The Moon is a great first album effort. There is no dross. It just sounds a lot like Dave Matthews. But this comparison raises an important question: Does it even matter? Sure, originality is key and Phillips will continue to develop as an artist, but does this take away from having an album that plain sounds great? You be the judge. Until then Druggernauts!!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

One Direction - Take Me Home

           The time has come and there is no trying to hide from it. One Direction is out with a brand new album, Take Me Home, and millions upon millions of teenage girls are calling in sick to school, suffering from hot flashes. With two albums releasing in the US in the same calendar year, any person that isn’t a diehard Directioner may be a little reluctant to listen to new material. After all, good things take time, right? Their sound is the definition of powerhouse pop, but have they set the bar too high, too early? Read on to see if their sophomore effort sinks like the Titanic or swims good like Frank Ocean (we can’t resist puns).
            “Kiss You,” the next single off of Take Me Home (according to idolator.com) follows the same tracks as “Live While We’re Young” and throws our ears into Pop overload. Like the first single, it’s a driving beat with infectious harmonies on the chorus that grabs your attention. The melodies are what make the song a complete standout, however. It’s a fast paced track, but the lyrics don’t feel forced. There is a controlled chaos in a sense when it all comes together. Girls will definitely be happy hearing this on the radio. It’s hard to determine if this is the proper next single, however. It’s especially harder when the album has so many great songs.
            Being the avid fans of Ed Sheeran that we are at Musical Druggernauts, we can’t pass on reviewing one of his penned tracks. “Little Things,” written when he was only 15 years old, is possibly the most poignant and beautifully written record on the entire album. From the first pluck of the guitar, Sheeran’s musical sensibilities shine through, giving an added warmth and honesty to it. Lyrically, this is one of those songs that every guy should learn so he can swoon that girl he has been pining for. “I know you’ve never loved the crinkles by your eyes when you smile/ You’ve never loved your stomach or your thighs/The dimples in your back at the bottom of your spine/But I’ll love them endlessly, “ he writes. Proof that talent doesn’t have an age restriction.
            Sticking to a multi-layered acoustic guitar sound in the background shows that simplicity is sometimes the best answer. There is no need for handclaps or boisterous drums here. As eloquent as this song is, it really does serve a greater purpose in bringing the One Direction sound full circle. Without “Little Things” this album wouldn’t feel quite finished.

But what song is the stand out on the album you ask? It’s hard to put baby in a corner, but if a gun was at our heads, we’d have to go with the sentimental hit, “Last First Kiss.” The song is catchy, but the lyrical idea is what sets it apart from the rest. This notion of a last first kiss is something that a ton of female teenage fans will let fester in their minds, thinking that Zayne or one of the other boys will make this a reality for them. Yeah…probably not going to happen, but hey, keep thinking happy thoughts.
           The song's buildup is spot on. A simple acoustic guitar leads the charge followed by a drumbeat that helps to propel the song even further. It’s not until the chorus hits that the raw emotion of the song turns into a full-fledged pop masterpiece. By not throwing everything at the listener at once, the anticipation grows exponentially. “Last First Kiss” has a sound that is crisp, but not overly clean. A rocking electric guitar riff nearing the end also helps to drive home the point that quality is not sacrificed in making a commercially appeasing record.

            Lyrically, the idea of a last first kiss is ingenious. (Why couldn’t I think of that?!?!) It does a multitude of things: satisfies the dreams of every teenage girl and also serves as a platform that they are maturing. The chorus goes as follows: 

            “Girl what would you do?
            Would you wanna stay if I were to say,
            I wanna be last, yeah
Baby, let me be your, let me be your last first kiss
I wanna be first, yeah
Wanna be the first to take it all the way like this”

Although some critics have said it seems to insinuate that it’s about going all the way with a girl, I see the lyrics in a different light. If anything, they point to a more mature undertone, where they are looking to find that right girl. They also come off as vulnerable by asking said person what they would do if they asked them this very question—something all reticent guys could take a page out of. Step yo game up!
Some other songs that stuck out include: “Heart Attack,” “Back For You,” “Change My Mind,” “They Don’t Know About Us,” “Rock Me” and “Nobody Compares.” Honestly, just listen to the entire album. Sure, it may be a guilty pleasure to some, but anyone who appreciates great Pop, will definitely appreciate Take Me Home. This is the definitive Pop album of the year! Until then Druggernauts!