Sunday, February 26, 2012

Album Review: Sleigh Bells - Reign Of Terror

I can't make a hipster claim to Sleigh Bells and say "I saw them before they became famous" or "their first album was the best" or "I remember when Alexis Krauss was in RubyBlue" or even "I have the first three albums by Poison the Well when Derek Miller was still in the band". All I can say is that I gave "Reign of Terror" a chance listen and became an instant fan of their rocking guitars mixed with explosive beats and Alexis Krauss's brand of riot grrl vocal delivery. 

After many repeat listens of the album, I imagine that I'm in an alternate universe where sporting events such as Girl's Roller Derby and Skateboarding are the most popular activities to rally behind in high schools across America. All the cheerleaders have tattoos and piercings and skulls emblazoned on their hoodies and baby doll tees. All the guys wear jean jacket vests fitted over motorcycle jackets with buttons and patches of punk and hardcore bands covering every open space. In a way, the music of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller could very well crossover a lot of metal heads and pop fans seeking the next female diva to follow and obsess over. 

The guitar crunches of Miller's Jackson guitar echo the best of teen angst while Krauss's vocals inspire raised fists and punk rock couple slow dancing respectively. The first track "True Shred Guitar", opens up to a roaring audience that can easily fool the listener that they've mistakenly bought a live album. "Born To Lose" and "Crush" continue the arena anthem rock vibe, while "End Of The Line" could inspire many audiences to pull their lighters out for a power ballad moment.

"Leader Of The Pack" is not a Shangri-La's cover and sounds like it was influenced by Nirvana's catchier songs. "Comeback Kid" is an infectious, catchy, rocking anthem and is a clear cut single that should be blasting on radio stations everywhere if they had any balls. "Demons" comes off as Black Sabbath meets Bikini Kill, while "Road To Hell" and "You Lost Me" harken back to early 60s girl group melodies mixed with muted power chord guitar crunches. 

The closing songs "Never Say Die" and "D.O.A." chug along with a sense of unresolved anxiety and urgency that inevitably cause the listener to hit repeat on the album to remind them that the same album was rocking their eardrums 36 minutes before. I look forward to experiencing the tour that accompanies this album release. Sleigh Bells Rock!

- Mike C.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Album Review: Lana Del Rey - Born To Die

When I first heard the song "Video Games" by newcomer, Lana Del Rey, I didn't like it at all. It was sluggish and didn't seem to have any drums anywhere in the song. Little did I know that this song slowly seeped into my subconscious like an invisible Trojan horse waiting to unlock my brain to a near irrational fanaticism. When "Born To Die" was finally released, I found myself listening to the entire album over and over and my account captures this shamelessly. 

On this debut album, we get the songs that every one's heard on various satellite radio stations and music blogs, such as "Born to Die", "Blue Jeans", and the ubiquitous "Video Games". Each of these songs sound more vibrant and defined on the album than by themselves on the radio, whether it's merely a psychological observation or not. Stand out tracks that no one gets to hear yet include "Off To The Races", where we hear LDR almost rapping. "Diet Mountain Dew", despite it's hilarious title, has a sultry vocal with a hip hop beat. "National Anthem", which starts off with a string section similar to "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by the Verve, has a couple of lyrical cringe moments, but delivers an epic punch. "Dark Paradise" channels the balladry of Madonna. "Radio" could possibly be my favorite song on the album with it's slow building structure and melody warping into an epic bridge/chorus that leaves me with goose bumps. LDR also uses the word "Fuck" on this song, so I would recommend buying the uncensored version of this album from an independent record store like Indy CD & Vinyl and not from Target or Walmart. "Carmen", "Million Dollar Man", and "Summertime Sadness" all showcase LDR's sultry vocal ability, while the album closer, "This is What Makes Us Girls" gives us an r&b flavor style of her singing. 

This album has already topped the charts in 11 countries and it deserves all the success it gains. I no longer hate "Video Games" and have even sang it at my local karaoke (very horribly). If you dislike LDR, I would recommend giving this album an open minded listen. If you are already an LDR fan, then this album will get many repeated plays on your player of choice. 

- Mike C.