Check out my album reviews for issue 102 of Smash Magazine, including Blaqk Audio, Sleeping with Sirens, Bright Eyes, and Neck Deep.
Blaqk Audio – Beneath the Black Palms Album Review
Essentially the electronic alter ego of AFI minus a few members, duo Davey Havok and Jade Puget, a.k.a. Blaqk Audio, have returned to their dark, synth, dance party glory with their fifth studio album, Beneath the Black Palms. At just under 40 minutes, this twisting, writhing, mass of songs that dip low, “1948,” before making you throw your arms up to wave your glow sticks during “Tired Eyes,“ is a wonderful trip through Havok and Puget’s synth-pop minds. The highs and monotone lows of “A Distant Light” alone are a journey. Released just over one year after their last album, Beneath the Black Palms mixes all the unique sounds its predecessor Only Things We Loved needed. Give it a listen if you feel like having a virtual macabre dance party while you continue this never-ending social distancing.
Sleeping with Sirens – How it Feels to Be Lost, Deluxe Edition Album Review
What’s not to like about a Deluxe Edition of an already amazing album? Fans get to hear new material and labels get to keep cashing in on a good thing. Sounds win-win… unless it feels like perhaps the label pushed a little too hard for those extra tracks. Don’t get me wrong, “Talking to Myself” is a solid single that could have slipped onto the first cut of the album, and the acoustic version of “Leave it All Behind” reminds us of the softer side SWS can so beautifully navigate. But the acoustic version of “Agree to Disagree” takes a song singer Kellie Quinn said at their last show here at House of Blues was ‘their heaviest’ to date and just desecrates it into a country-alt-rock mess that farm emos could slowly line dance to. And while the acoustic version of “Ghost” is perfectly adequate, it is nothing compared to the haunting original. In my opinion, “Talking to Myself” should have been released as a single with the acoustic version of “Leave it All Behind,” but then I guess you couldn’t have repackaged the full album to sell at a higher price then.
Bright Eyes – Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was Album Review
If there is one shining spot in 2020, it is the glorious return of Bright Eyes. After nearly a decade away, Conor Oberst has brought back our favorite indie, emo, folk band to grace us with poetic perfection once more. Lyrically complex, Down in the Weeds has no shortage of emotional turmoil, examining Oberst’s life as a man who has attempted to mature since we last saw him drunkenly slur and stumble across the stage but has still come up short. (See “Comet Song”: ‘Although I told you many times I’m not much of a man / You held out hope believing that at least I might pretend.‘) Musically, the album takes just as many twists and turns, never failing to surprise, including a successful integration of bagpipes onto “Persona Non Grata.” While it’s unclear if this is just a spectacular burst back onto the scene for Bright Eyes or a final flourishing outro, Down in the Weeds is the album we didn’t realize we needed but are lucky to have received.
Neck Deep – All Distortions Are Intentional Album Review
All Distortions Are Intentional marks the fourth studio album for Welsh band Neck Deep, and while it starts heavy in pop-punk, it does diverge from Neck Deep’s niche genre a tiny bit as the tracks progress. Perhaps not as much of a departure as the band would have liked as they have discussed their desire to be a recognized name outside of the pop-punk world, but it does try to introduce some new elements to their sound. A concept album, All Distortions takes place in the fictional Sonderland, which is also the title of the opening track, and while I commend them on tying the album together with a central thread, the tracks flow but don’t form the unforgettable masterpiece they were obviously going for. Stand-out songs include “Sick Joke” and “Empty House.”