Check out my album reviews for issue 99 of Smash Magazine, including PVRIS, Turnover, Hawthorne Heights, Highly Suspect, and Bring Me the Horizon.
PVRIS – Hallucinations EP & Acoustic Single
As a band that blurs the line between rock and pop, the latest release from Massachusetts trio* PVRIS, Hallucinations, with its synth-driven track “Death of Me” and its dance-worthy beats on “Nightmare,” leans more toward the band’s pop side. But even if the electropop sounds aren’t your thing, the dark lyrics on the poetic five-track EP are beautifully written, painting imagery that shifts from forlorn to hopeful to bittersweet seamlessly. PVRIS followed up the release of this EP with an acoustic single of its title track “Hallucinations” that reminds us Lynn Gunn’s voice can be transcendent when you strip away the layers of studio production. The band is set to release its next full-length album in early 2020 with new label Warner/Reprise Records (who also released the EP) and are opening for Halsey on half of her Maniac World Tour. Expect the fanbase for this band to only continue to grow, whether you are a part of it or not.
*Drummer Justin Nace left the band on January 30, 2020, just three weeks after the Halsey tour announcement. No replacement has been named as of this review, but the band will still open on the Maniac World Tour.
Turnover – Altogether
Imagine being tucked into a leather booth at a shadowy bar washed in the glow of soft neon pink and blue lights where apathetic patrons sip fancy cocktails and lazily smoke cigarettes while a band plays softly in the corner. That is the atmosphere the new Turnover album, Altogether, creates. With a lounge vibe from start to finish, complete with an 80s saxophone cameo, this album is the most cohesive of the four full-length Turnover albums but may be just a little too generic, polished, and repetitive. It’s a good neutral album to play in the background when immersed in intense research for a paper or report, at a dinner party for your boring friends, or when you want to zone out on a dark car ride, but don’t expect to find your next favorite song amongst the ten smooth tracks. Instead of giving this a spin, I’d suggest digging back in the Turnover catalog and jamming the chill second wave emo jewel, Peripheral Vision.
Hawthorne Heights – Lost Frequencies
Hawthorne Height’s latest album, Lost Frequencies, is a compilation of new tracks, rarities, and covers. This explains why these thirteen songs run the gamut from emo gold to mediocre dribble. The album starts off strong with two new songs: “Hard to Breathe” and “So Hopelessly.” Both have the classic Hawthorne Heights sound that reminds us why they are emo royalty. Next are the ballads. The new song “When Darkness Comes to Life” would be fine except for the cringe-worthy last line of the chorus “let’s be one nation” that sounds like it should be sung by Mouse Rat. “The Perfect Way to Fall Apart” is the only descent slow song of the bunch. Then come the covers. Bruce Springsteen’s “No Surrender,” and on the flipside, Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” are just too 80s pop-tastic for a band that once sang, “cut my wrists and black my eyes.” The two best covers are “Pet Sematary” (Ramones) and surprisingly, “Machinehead” (Bush), because they retain the grit of the originals but are different enough to be interesting. “Butterflies” (Kacey Musgraves) is ok, but “My Name is Jonas” (Weezer) and “8” (Billie Eilish) are forgettable. My advice, stream songs one and two and ditch the rest.
Highly Suspect – MCID
Rock band Highly Suspect is back with their third and most experimental album to date, MCID. MCID (which stands for “My Crew Is Dope”) is peppered with tracks from one end of the rock spectrum to the other. From a hard-hitting collab with French heavy metal band Gojira, to a hip-hop laced track with warble-rapper Young Thug, to a heartfelt ballad with alternative darlings Nothing But Thieves, the transitions can be dizzying, and long-time fans may be disappointed by the shift in the band’s sound from one moment to the next. Lyrically, the album leaves singer (and often on this album, rapper), Johnny Stevens vulnerable and exposed, painting a picture of a past heartbreak that sounds straight out of a soap opera (Billboard rock chart topper “16”) and reveal his inner turmoil over his substance battles (“Upper Drugs” and “Snow White”.) If you enjoyed the band’s past two albums, you can skip your way through this one and pick and choose your favs. And, no, you didn’t hear the lyrics wrong on “These Days.” Yes, he does say, “you wish that I was playing with your butt.”
Bring Me the Horizon – Music to listen to~dance to~blaze to~pray to~feed to~sleep to~talk to~grind to~trip to~breathe to~help to~hurt to~scroll to~roll to~love to~hate to~learn too~plot to~play to~be to~feel to~breed to~sweat to~dream to~hide to~live to~die to~go to
~and be confused to. If you’ve ever wondered what it sounds like in BMTH’s Oliver Sykes’ head when he’s drunk or tripping, this surprise-drop EP is for you. If you’re an old school BMTH fan, this is not the EP for you. While BMTH have released electronic tracks before (see Suicide Season Deluxe Edition and The Chill Out Sessions), those songs were remixes of their metalcore originals. This EP is new tracks that occasionally sample sounds from their 2019 EDM laced Amo while further driving away fans that were already annoyed by that release. To quote a lyric from Amo, “This shit ain’t heavy metal.” I take that back. One track has a taste of metal: “Underground Big.” You wouldn’t know it though unless you make it past the first four minutes of electronic beats and Bexey rap to the unexpected yet brief Lotus Eater assault which is then followed by nineteen minutes of disjointed sounds and Oli mumbles. The one high point of the EP is the much-anticipated Halsey collab “¿” but it’s doubtful this is the track people were hoping for. I’m just going to play the 2019 BMTH single “Ludens” on repeat instead and forget this mess.