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, September 28, 2012

The Killers - Battle Born

It’s been a long time since The Killers have come out with a studio album. Four years to be exact. Their last album, Day & Age, was a relative commercial success, but stylistically it just wasn’t up to par like that of Hot Fuss or Sam’s Town.  Those are two of the better alt rock albums of the decade, so you can only blame yourself for being so damn good….sorry, Brandon and gang. Upon finding out that a new album was in the works, it only seemed right that we cover it.  Furthermore, 2012 looks to be the year for Vegas-based bands, begging for a reassessment of the city motto: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” So get out your glow sticks and your twenty dollar priced pina colada cups that you brought home from roaming the strip late at night  and check out our review of The Killers’ fourth full-length studio album, Battle Born.
            The first single, off of Battle Born, “Run Aways,” is one of those familiar sounding songs that you see yourself having listened to while watching Risky Business or some other iconic 80s Tom Cruise movie. The instrumentation pays a certain homage to that of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, respectively. As much as it sounds reminiscent of such rockers, there is a reaffirmation that Flowers’s writing and melodies shine through. It’s a song with lyrics that resonate, something that Flowers has always had an apparent talent for. In the first verse, we see that The Killers are back to their old ways. Flowers writes, “Blonde hair blowing in the summer wind/A blue eyed girl playing in the sand/ I’ve been on the trail for a little while/But that was the night she broke down and held my hand.” From reading this verse, the words hold such weight that they could be taken as a stanza from a poet laureate of sorts. There is no sacrifice in quality here.
            In addition to this, the piano and acoustic guitar strumming, along with subtle sounding drums, give off this Tom Petty-esque feeling as noted before. By the time the chorus hits, however, a drowning drumbeat builds up the anticipation, followed by the heavy down strokes of from an electric (guitar).  Simply put, it is a great choice for their first single.

“Here With Me” is another one of those special gems. It’s a beautiful track that continues to give off this 80s type sound with rich guitar textures and Flowers ‘s distinct voice. It’s a slower type rock love song that you would see Springsteen singing if it was 30 years earlier. It’s nice to see the contemporary lyrics in it though: “I don’t want to see your pictures in my cellphone/I want you hear with me, don’t need those memories in my head/No I want you hear with me.” It’s a song, which, like rest of the album, is a melting pot of sorts in terms of inspirational direction, garnering influences from the old school Rock heavy hitters.  
The track that epitomizes a decadent sense of reconstituting both past and present sound, however, is “Heart of A Girl.“ It’s one of those songs that you listen to for the first time and then you hit the back button right after it’s over.  It is as if with this song, we are slipping further away from the present in a way. A very “Sweet Jane” vibe is felt from the very get-go, making any Velvet Underground fan, shed a single metaphorical tear. The guitar tone sounds just as it did forty years ago. A subtle, groovy bass line mixed with higher fretted notes give it that rich, sweet twang. It’s a happy sounding song, yet lyrically melancholic. This makes it all the more beautiful, however. Flowers writes:

I can see the time dripping down the clock,
We’ve been trying to hear that ancient refrain,
It’s the one that knows us when our heads are down,
And reminds us of the place,
From where we came.
Where we came.
Daddy daddy daddy,
All my life, I’ve been trying to find my place in this world.
Baby, baby, babe, I’ve got all night,
To listen to the heart of a girl.”

The consolence of a father’s voice in a world teeming with questions of uncertainty and do I or do I not belong here, help give claim to this notion that we are indeed not alone. These are not just words coming from a rock star, but words from a man who is writing something based closely to his own heart, even if it’s not that of a girl’s.  By the end of the song The Killers bring us back to their more contemporary sound that got them first noticed.
All in all, The Killers are not your average Rock band. They might not be your exact cup of tea even. They are, however, musical geniuses that everyone should have some form of respect for. Flowers is one of those songwriters that we should cherish, especially in a world where even bands are starting to not write their own stuff. Battle Born is an organic album that begs eager ears, vying for something real, to listen to. Like our Vegas brethren, keep calm and rock on. Until then Druggernauts!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Carly Rae Jepsen - Kiss

Carly Rae Jepsen gained massive attention this past summer with her chart topping, number one hit on the Billboard Top 40, “Call Me Maybe.” With Scooter Braun and Justin Bieber at the helm, Jepsen’s rise to popularity was really a no brainer. The song sparked a ton of Youtube covers ranging from the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad (which I’m sure every male has seen at least a thirteen times) as well the Harvard baseball team performing a choreographed number all while in a van on the way to or from a game. Even if you can’t stand the song or the image she personifies, there is no denying that the song is catchy and refuses to leave your brain. That said, with newfound success, it’s time to see if all this is just a fluke or if Jepsen is a voice that is going to be heard for years to come. This is her sophomore album after all and she’s not a cutesy teenager like you think she is. She is actually only a few years away from turning 30. So does she have what it takes? Read on for this week’s review of Jepsen’s new album, Kiss.
            “Tiny Little Bows” is the first track to hit your eardrum, unless you press skip, but lets not get overly technical. The song starts off promising with very poppy dance-techno production that will make you feel transported into an episode of Miami Vice. Unfortunately, that is the highlight of the song. Jepsen’s voice has no passion. She seems very monotone throughout the song, lacking that same teenage exuberance she had in “Call Me Maybe.”
The most important step for an emerging artist is not the first hit, but the second. What I mean by that is that the first hit has to be huge (obviously), but the second has to be even larger to help garner enough attention that says to people, hey this person has something to say, maybe I’ll check out their album. “This Kiss” is the second single, not counting her collaboration with Owl City.  The synths are heavy in the track—further propelling us into this 80s dance pop time warp that seems anachronistic. Stay modern, Carly. It worked before, right? It feels more like background music to a Richard Simmon’s workout video, where he tells us how great and mighty we are. I think the real problem doesn’t lie in the production as much as it does in the melody and lyrics. It’s too generic, even by pop standards. The chorus—“This kiss is something I can’t resist/Your lips are undeniable/This kiss is something I can’t risk/Your heart is unreliable/Something so sentimental/You make so detrimental…”— is ridden with frivolous lyrics. The main problem, however, is that in the first verse she talks about having a boyfriend and now she is talking to some other guy, insinuating an act infidelity; not so innocent. It’s more like a track 9 song—filler— than an actual song that should be on Top 40 radio. In short, it pales in comparison to “Call Me Maybe.”  

So what is the saving grace of this album? “Tonight I’m Getting Over You” seems to be the answer. This song has a great buildup, unlike “This Kiss,” giving it a heightened sense of emotion when the chorus finally kicks in. Lyrically, the clichés are still present at times, but there is a lot more meat on the bone here. This verse especially got to the heart of it:
“Stuck in a real bad dream
And man it feels so new to me
Should be in your arms, but I'm begging at your feet
It's been a real hard night
And I just hold my pillow tight
It won't love me back, no,
It's not you and I.”
There is something endearing in what Jepsen is speaking about on this track. You believe her. If she did this for the majority of the album it would then be worth listening to again and again.
            Also, check out "More Than A Memory," if you are feeling in that sad, yet poignant mood. The melody and lyrics live up to Jepsen's potential as an artist. It's these songs that get us, the listener, attracted to seeing what else she has to offer. 
There is a lot of dross in this album. It’s not catchy like Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. There, I said it! Realistically, Jepsen’s sound is still not fully developed at this point. Yeah, she is pop, but there is nothing about her that sets her apart from the other pop princesses. She seems lost in the shuffle. That said, good for her on making it to this stage in the game. A lot of people would give anything to be in her shoes. The next step is staying on the mountaintop. Can she stay there? In a few weeks we may have a better idea.  Until then Druggernauts! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE

You’ve probably already heard, and if you haven’t, then listen carefully, R&B vocalist Frank Ocean’s new album channel ORANGE is very, very good.  You’ve most likely already heard Frank Ocean at some point, whether it was his own voice or not.  After Katrina hit New Orleans, the Louisiana native left his dorm at the University of New Orleans and headed for Los Angeles to give music a shot.  After cutting a Demo CD and handing it out around town, Ocean landed a songwriting gig for artist including Brandy, John Legend, and Justin Bieber.  Ocean gained notoriety as a songwriter and was signed by Def Jam in 2009 as an individual artist.  In early 2011, while working with Odd Future, Ocean released the mixtape Nostalgia via his Tumblr account.  Later that year he appeared as a featured artist on Beyonce’s 4, Tyler the Creator’s Goblin and Jay-Z/Kanye West’s Watch the Throne.  Def Jam released two singles off Ocean’s mixtape including “Novacane” and “Swim Good” which reached 17 and 70 respectively on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart.  Now, after help from fellow producers Pharrell Williams, Malay, and Om’Mas Keith, we are left with channel ORANGE for our ear’s enjoyment. 

The heartbreaking opening track, “Thinkin’ Bout You” reminisces about a first love as Ocean demonstrates his range, from smooth verse vocals to a falsetto that will raise goose bumps the first time heard.  Ocean exhibits his writing ability with heartfelt lyrics, pouring his emotions into the track as he sings “It will never get old, not in my soul, not in my spirit, keep it alive, we'll go down this road 'til it turns from color to black and white.”

“Super Rich Kids” will have your head nodding, eyes closed, and while the feeling of the song may have you tapping your toes, the lyrics deal with a much more serious matters.  Ocean examines the life of a super rich kid, “too many joy rides in daddy’s Jaguar, too many white lies and white lines.” The theme’s deal with white-collar drugs, rebelling against parents who aren’t around, and pretension.  The song contrasts the interlude “Not Just Money” where a mother scolds her son, explaining the necessity for money in order to live comfortably.

The nearly 10 minute ballad titled “Pyramids” tells Ocean’s encounter with a modern day Cleopatra who is “Working at the pyramid tonight.”  The beautifully written song will keep you on the edge of your seat if you’re listening carefully, yet the production of the song yields to a larger audience than musical connoisseurs, and is sure to be heard in your favorite club.  Concluding the song is a mystical guitar solo done by none other than John Mayer. 

I’ve merely scratched the surface of this album.  To fully comprehend its depth, themes, and greatness you really have to take the time and listen to the 17 long track debut album for yourself.  I promise you will not be disappointed.  Frank Ocean has made a grand entrance to the music industry with channel ORANGE, one of the best debut albums of 2012.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dustin Lynch's Self-Titled Debut Album

       I know what you’re thinking: “Country music?!?!?! What the hell is this all about?” Hear me out people. Highlighting new and exciting music means showing no bias to any genre, which is why Dustin Lynch’s self-titled debut album is the perfect choice for us here at Druggernauts to introduce those sensitive ears of yours to a country album that is worth talking about. So get out your Jack Daniel’s and take a shot as you read this.
       Dustin’s journey is reminiscent of a lot of country singers, such as Eric Church and Taylor Swift, to name a few. Upon graduating from high school he set out to Nashville in 2003, dedicating himself entirely to the craft of songwriting. That was nine years ago and it’s just until this year that Lynch has begun to really garner a national following. A lot of people who don’t listen to or live in that world of country music, think of it as nothing more than talking about shots of whiskey, tractors, and pickup trucks. Well, yeah, it is all those things, but that is just the surface layer of what makes country, well, country.  Rap is stereotyped as just about getting paid, drinking expensive vodka, and getting with women, yet a lot of people love it. Just trying to put things into perspective for everyone. Now that that’s done, lets get into the album itself.
       What else could be a greater first track than something titled, “She Cranks My Tractor?” It’s one of those good time, rock-a-billy type songs that one would envision seeing at a great southern bar or even line dancing, if that tickles your fancy. This song is the perfect example of what a country song should sound like. The elements are there, both lyrically and in the instrumentation. “A girl like that is what a country boy’s after/She cranks, she cranks, she cranks my tractor,” Lynch writes. Alluding to the cliché of “revving someone’s engine,” Lynch gives it a little country flare.
       The first single off the album, “Cowboys and Angels,” takes a different musical route to that of “She Cranks My Tractor,” however. The beauty in the song doesn’t lie in the energy of it, but rather the melody and lyrics. It’s a heartfelt broken down cowboy song of sorts.  Lyrically, Lynch makes a great analogy between men and women, comparing them to cowboys and angels. While the two are seemingly disparate, somehow they mesh perfectly. “I’m hell on wheels and she’s heavenly, I’d die for her and she lives for me,” he writes, helping further paint the picture of how two types of people from opposite ends of the spectrum can "make it work," as they say. Lynch has that definitive southern twang in his voice that is so rich and sultry that it feels comforting in slower songs, such as this one. There is a reassuredness in his voice and in what he writes that evokes a man who has been through the wringer once or twice, resulting in these great songs.

       One of the poppier sounding songs, if you could classify it as that, would be “Yeah Yeah Yeah.” Like a great pop song, the hook is what makes this song bob your head up and down. In it, he writes, “Yeah Yeah Yeah look at you lookin’ all drop dead beautiful/Whoah oh oh/Girl you got it, got it goin on tonight." By no means are these lyrics groundbreaking and highly original, but that is why it comes across as more of a pop element type of song. The lyrical content is simple, but the melody and musical arrangement are the essence of it all.
       If you’re not a country listerner at all and you actually read this ‘til the hopefully not so bitter end, I thank you. Sure, you probably took an extra shot or two while reading this, but who can blame you? As a fellow Druggernaut it’s all about spreading those musical horizons after all! As always, please send us any artist/band albums that you would like to have us cover. Later, Druggernauts!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dispatch - Circles Around the Sun

After calling it quits supposedly forever with the concert dubbed “The Last Dispatch,” band members Brad Corrigan, Pete Heimbold and Chad Urnston went their separate ways in the music industry.  Urnston fronted the band “State Radio,” while Corrigan and Heimbold pursued solo efforts.  Like so many great artists however, the bands retirement was short lived, and in less than three years Dispatch was once again playing together live in sold out venues.  After three sold out concerts benefiting charities in 2007, one show in 2009, circling rumors, and the release of their first studio album (Dispatch EP) in over ten years, the band announced a reunion tour for 2011 that kicked off at Red Rocks.  In 2012 dispatch toured the UK and on April 2nd announced they will be performing a North American tour for their album “Circles Around the Sun” which was released in late August.  Needless to say, Dispatch is back my fellow fans!

The album’s opening title track, rings true with the Dispatch many of us grew to love in the 90’s with explosive energy, beautiful harmonies, and shredding guitar leads, yet it is obvious that in the 10 years since their last full length studio album the bands writing, style and production has evolved.  The title track sets the vibe for an intricate album, that brings us back to the days of “Bang Bang,” while pushing forward and expanding the band's horizons.

The next track titled “Not Messin” keeps the energy level high with rhythmic lyrics, southern guitar leads, and an interlude with heavy drum rolls that comes back to the final verse with force.

The next two tracks titled “Get Ready Boy” and “Sign of the Times” chug along like a freight train as this album continues to progress.  “Sign of the Times” slowly evolves and builds around repetitive lyrics into a jam song sure to last twice as long in concert.

At the heart of the album, “Josaphine” offers a familiar sound as Urnston sings over jazzy guitar and soft drums as Heimbold and Corrigan chime in with harmonies.

The second half of the album slows down beginning with “Flag.”  “Come to Me,” best demonstrates the bands attempt to expand their sound. Heimbold sounds reminiscent of Lou Reed as he sings with little range.  As the song concludes Heimbold, Urnston and Corrigan chant, “I don’t want to come down” over heavy distortion, and we are offered a sound hardly in the same genre as the ‘98 acoustic hit “The General.”  

“Never or Now,” like Josephine, brings Dispatch back to their earlier days; off beat guitar strokes and prominent harmonies combine to make hip swaying, jamming music.  “We Hold a Gun” beautifully and somberly slows down the album while “Feels so Good” leaves listeners with a cheerful vibe as Dispatch sings, “the sky is opening, the world is shining on your day, it feels so good now…”

Overall, “Circles Around the Sun” dips its toes into Dispatch’s past, providing a nostalgic glimpse into the bands first four albums while progressing and venturing on to new musical horizons.  Long time fans will find a familiar sound in title track, “Josaphine,” and “Never or Now” but may be skeptical of the new direction Dispatch has taken in the songs “Flag,” “Come to Me,” and “We Hold a Gun.” It is obvious that Urnston, Corrigan, and Heimbold have each ventured in different musical directions over the past ten years and “Circles Around the Sun” is a valiant effort to patch each of their unique and evolved songwriting styles together.  However, the seams are apparent, and the album is not as cohesive as their previous four albums from the late 90’s. 

Imagine Dragons - Night Visions

You may hate us for covering the same band within a span of a few weeks, but rest assured, this is something you want to read and will be blasting in your Prius (eco-conscious males) and Jettas (half the female population it seems). Imagine Dragons first full length album, Night Visions, is out now and we here at Musical Druggernauts are so stoked to be able covering it! If you didn't read our post about their EP Continued Silence, feel free to check it out and then see what we think of the new tracks. 
Night Visions is one of the biggest emerging band releases of the year and to say that it doesn't disappoint would be a disservice. A number of songs will be familiar to those who have been blasting their EP since Valentine's Day: “Radioactive,” “It's Time,” “On Top Of The World,” and “Demons.” Although the other two tracks “Round and Round” and “My Fault,” which were two of the stronger songs on the EP, didn’t make it, these other songs have seen commercial success in being synced to various film and TV spots, making it a clear choice as to why they transferred over to the full length album. Enough about that! Time for the new stuff!
“Tiptoe” is one of those songs that makes you feel a variety of emotions, infusing synthesizer piano elements reminiscent of “Miami Vice” and an overriding pop sound that could be correlated to last year's breakout band, Foster the People. The song starts off with a dramatic bass piano introduction, helping build up the anticipation; then it hits you like a ton of bricks and Reynolds (lead singer) shows off his vocal chops: "In the morning light let my roots take flight/watch me fall above like a vicious dove." The stark contrast that Reynolds creates with his lyrics resonates on a totally different level then most alternative rock bands. Searching for recognition is an apparent theme in this song, calling out those who bring others down; that there is no reason to be dragged down by such people, but to "tiptoe higher" says Reynolds. It's taken the band over three years to get to this point, knowing that it is a long journey to get to where they want—if anything, their newfound success is an indicator that good things do happen to those who rise above. Even with a powerful message, the songs instrumentation and production is so catchy that even if you don't dissect and take the lyrics in, it still is a powerful song.
“Amsterdam,” which could very well be the next single, is one of those songs that you can immediately recognize. The rich, full bodied guitar riff is what makes the song, in terms of instrumentation. It is what sets it apart from being just another poppy song, giving it its own inherent voice. Not many recognize the difficulty it takes in having a certain uncanny knack for writing lyric and melody. Reynolds just gets it. Not to say that other mainstream artists don't, but he is of the select few. The verses and choruses are transitionally smooth and getting to really show his range in this particular song, Reynolds doesn't come up flat at any moment. He is a pro's pro, musically speaking. 
If you're looking for that heartfelt love song that you can play when away from your significant other don't fret, “Every Night” is a perfect fit for such emotional distress (feel free to get the Ben and Jerry's if that's your thing). The song itself is not overly slow, but slow enough to get the sense that this is meant to be a sappy pop love song. "Searching to find myself, but all I found was you...I'm coming home to you," Reynolds writes. Anyone who has been at this crossroads knows this is all too true. At times we let go of the ones we love and cherish when we need them most. “Every Night” is thus a form of self-reflection, delineating that more times than not, we shun those that are there for us, thinking we can do it on our own. 
Check out this awesome preview!

Night Visions is one of those albums that is sure to not disappoint! Give it a test run on Spotify and if you like it, go buy it!!! Great bands deserve the support! Also, they are currently touring with AWOLNATION, so check out their website to see if they are at a venue near you! Until then Druggernauts!