New Album Review

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 3/27

NFG wins the “Fight” by TKO
Alex Hofford

For the last decade or so, New Found Glory has been one of the staples of the “pop-punk” genre and continues to influence numerous bands that spring onto the musical scene. Their latest album, Not Without A Fight, makes the statement that they aren’t going anywhere and accurately showcases why they won’t be the next band to fizzle out in an ever-evolving musical landscape.

New Found Glory has successfully combined the “sounds” from their previous ventures into one sonically cohesive album. The introductory track, “Right Where We Left Off,” hooks you from the opening guitar riff and assures the listener New Found Glory is back to doing what they do best: creating fist-pounding, roll-the-window-down songs that will grab anyone’s attention. Songs like “Don’t Let Her Pull You Down” and the first single, “Listen To Your Friends” have the spirit of their self-titled release with cautionary tales of girls with bad intentions and infectious choruses that will have you singing along word for word.

Other songs like “I’ll Never Love Again” and “Such A Mess” resemble last year’s hardcore-influenced Tip Of The Iceberg EP with hard-crunching guitars and drum beats that hit you square in the chest and leave you breathless. Even when New Found Glory wants to slow down the pace of the album with more melodic songs like “Reasons” and “Heartless At Best,” they don’t ruin the flow of the album and allow a welcome reprieve before the next track picks the speed back up.

Lyrically, the LP is a bit cheesy at times. The track “47” details one failed phone call attempt after another, and lines like “Maybe our intentions were wrong from the start/So answer me so we don’t fall apart‚” may be cringe-inducing to some. However, New Found Glory has never been one to write poetically intricate lyrics with some deeper, more profound meaning. Their words are simple, get straight to the point, and are honest enough for anyone to be able to relate to them.

The album’s producer, Mark Hoppus (of Blink-182 fame), has created an album that isn’t over-produced yet still allows every instrument to shine on each track. With so many of the band’s styles culminating onto one disc, it could have been a daunting task to blend all of them into one consistent record without each song feeling drastically different. However, he pulls it off gracefully, and New Found Glory sounds the best they have in years.

Not Without A Fight is a paradigm of the pop-punk craze from earlier in the decade. With the mantra “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” New Found Glory have recorded an album old fans and new listeners will enjoy. This album is one “fight” you shouldn’t miss.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

WKNC Pick of the Week 3/10

Matt Ward is worth the time
Susannah Brinkley

Matt Ward is a musical time traveler.

Known for his old-fashioned songwriting, his prodigious guitar talent and his deep, raspy voice, the tunes on Ward’s new album Hold Time offer a nostalgic look back to folk, rock ’n’ roll and Americana roots. The Oregonian’s sixth full-length album is a true step back in time.

At first listen, Hold Time sounds a lot like its predecessor, Post War. The tracks offer the same crooning voice and wistful, poignant lyrics that can be heard on Ward’s other albums from the last decade. While Ward has focused on themes like love and wartime in his previous albums, this time he’s focusing on God, mortality and mainstream Western religion.

The songs seem to run together, though, and only a few seem to stand out, but not by much. “Jailbird” is classic Ward, which is full of his trademark guitar playing. “For Beginners (AKA Mt. Zion)” and “Epistemology” both have foot-tapping beats reminiscent of those on Post-War and Volume One, Ward’s delicious, 70s-esque collaboration with actress Zooey Deschanel as the charming duo She & Him.

However, Hold Time brings in some new talent for the mix. Ward is known for his covers and collaborations, and it is welcoming to hear guests Lucinda Williams, The Decemberists’ Rachel Blumberg, Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle and DeVotchKa’s Tom Hagerman in addition to Deschanel.

The charming “Never Had Nobody Like You,” featuring Deschanel, evokes the saccharine sounds of She & Him, making one’s mouth water for a Volume Two. On “Lonesome,” Ward pairs with Williams for a very long and awkward tune. Deschanel drops in once more for a lush cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” and Lytle steps in for “To Save Me,” whose fast pace seems out of place among Ward’s more quintessential melodies.

Though it’s been almost three years since Matt Ward put out a solo album, he’s still been quite the busy guy. After the release of the esteemed Post-War in 2006, Ward toured the States. Then, in 2007, he teamed up with Deschanel to record and release Volume One, with which he (and Deschanel) followed another tour.

And the release of his new album Hold Time last month coincided with the launch of yet another tour, which unfortunately won’t be coming to North Carolina like the previous ones.

But that shouldn’t prevent anyone from listening to Ward’s latest. Whether you’re a sucker for old-time melodies or just looking for something different, Hold Time is worth the time travel.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

WKNC Pick of the Week 2/24

Matt & Kim aims for the sweet spot with ’Grand
Jon Gomes

Matt & Kim, in all its lackadaisical glory, is an indulgence. The bubbly Brooklyn duo is the musical equivalent of Cinnamon Toast Crunch–sweet, sugary and perfect for those late Saturday mornings after you’ve slept for ten hours.

Just spin its self-titled debut from 2006 and listen for yourself. The album has the haphazard energy of a second grader after a bag of Sour Patch Kids. There’s an air of excitement and mild chaos, but the music isn’t in your face. On their latest release Grand, Matt and Kim have maintained their pop sensibilities while exploring new dynamics.

The opener, “Daylight,” encapsulates the album’s carefree mood. A triumphant piano riff cascades over a jaunty marching rhythm while synthesizers drone and wail in the background. The carpe diem lyrics evoke memories of summer, with lines like “Open hydrant, rolled down windows / This car might make a good old boat / And float down Grand Street in daylight.” The track is the perfect anthem for sunny afternoons and captures the positive vibes of Grand.

The album’s upbeat energy is channeled into the next track, “Cutdown.” A buzzing bassline underlies gentle synth strings that launch into a beautiful, drum-heavy crescendo at the end of the track. As quickly as it built up, the momentum slows down a bit with the wistful and slow “Good Ol Fashioned Nightmare.” This shift in dynamics makes Grand sound more varied and mature than its predecessor. Matt & Kim delve into slower, more relaxed moods throughout the album in tracks like “Turn This Boat Around” and the outro remix of “Daylight.”

Of note is the impressive production quality–clean and loud. In particular, the drums have a powerful presence that lends itself to the album’s energy. The rhythms on Grand sound huge, especially in “I Wanna” and “Don’t Slow Down.” Both are unrelentingly upbeat tracks driven by Kim’s lively percussion and Matt’s frenetic synth work. As with The Black Keys or Death From Above 1979, it is hard to believe that all the music comes from only two people.

The drums drop out completely for “Turn This Boat Around,” which is carried completely on vocals and simple keyboard parts. The calmness quickly turns into madness with “Cinders,” a short instrumental that spirals upward into synth-and-drums euphoria. Grand closes with an interesting, stripped-down mix of “Daylight,” which nicely ties back to the beginning of the album. The entire album is only a scant 29 minutes long–just like the weekend, because you’ll wish it lasted longer.

Full of energy and free of care, Grand revels in its youthfulness. Pop music is meant to be fun music, and this album convincingly validates that claim. The next time you find yourself in the middle of a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon, put this record on. You won’t regret it.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

WKNC Pick of the Week 2/17

House music that’s meant for dancing
Milton Welch

The term “electronic music” encompasses lots of styles of music, and as much as any the pulsing 4/4 of house, techno, and electro. Josh Wink of Philadelphia extends this pulse across a long play release When a Banana Was Just a Banana―truly long: all tracks except “Minimum 23” are over nine minutes. Each makes a subtly different approach to layering synthesized sounds over robotic beats.

Running at more than an hour and a half, Wink’s release embraces once futuristic realities of contemporary music and how we listen to it now.

These songs are meant for dancing.

“Stay Out All Night” is a flashy homage to the 303 synthesizer updating dance club sounds from the nineties.

“Airplane Electronique” then takes off into bright harmonies and bending pitches.

The bright reverberating splashes of the currently circulating single “Counter Clock 319” builds with springy enthusiasm.

Like those songs, “What Used to Be Called Used to Be” at over ten minutes will more likely be heard on an iPod, a computer or thumping out of some club’s speakers than on commercial radio.

In an online interview, Wink discusses how many of these songs were written over the last few years of his travel as a DJ, so in all likelihood many of these songs have already had a fair share of club play.

It is worth noting that Wink’s own record label, Philadelphia’s Ovum Recordings, is releasing When a Banana Was Just a Banana.

Wink’s LP is a smart, driving collection of songs, but unlike mainstream popular music contemporary new electronic music from Ovum and similar labels is generally released as EP length material.

One EP that is of particular interest is the upcoming release of Kikomoto Allstars’s House Music EP on International Deejay Gigolo Records.

The Berlin techno label consistently releases electronic music that is at once surprising and envelope-pushing.

Kikomoto Allstars is the name of an Australian electronic producer and DJ whose songs are new, yet filled with retro nods to U.S. club sounds.

The title track is a deliberate nod backward from the global dancefloor of the 21st century to the early dancefloors for electronic music in such cities as Chicago, New York, and Detroit.

The second track of the E.P. “Bending Time” sizzles percussively around a modulating tone then breaks into a phasing handclap suspended amidst propulsive yet ambient bass of very low frequencies.

Both Josh Wink’s When a Banana Was Just a Banana LP and Kikomoto Allstars House Music EP are dancefloor ready, but their appeal goes further than the ease of cutting a rug to them.

The clever syncopations and dazzling sound palettes of these mostly instrumental tracks are both historic and futuristic.

These releases suggest the complex appeal of listening to electronic dance music whether dancing at the time or not.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

WKNC Pick of the Week 2/10

‘Firmament’ is entrancing
May Chung

I don’t know why instrumental bands even bother to name their songs if collectively they all flow so well. This is none more potent than the tracks off of Firmament, the new release from the Raleigh-based trio Gray Young. The group has graced the Triangle scene before, with the lulling Kindle Field E.P., but this is a more personal progress. The album’s epic miniature symphonies of soaring post-rock anthems evoke a forceful pounding of drums and bass, culminating in a cathartic slumber. It leaves many a listener moodily swaying in its brilliance.

While one cannot help but notice obvious similarities to bands like Explosions in the Sky, Caspian, Mono, and The Appleseed Cast, to name a few, Gray Young exploits its own familiar sound with gravitational potential. The soft, breathy vocals complement the melodic blare of guitars and bass. It’s forceful and gloomy, but ethereal and infectious. Gray Young does not bother with extremely long songs that tend to be a staple on most instrumental albums (Hello, Godspeed You Black Emperor!). Instead, the band focuses on creating a poignant parting in the album openers “Provenance” and “Convoy”, eliciting a meditative simplicity as brief and wistful as fading autumn leaves.

The droopy strumming does tends to wear off near the end of Firmament, however, as the band sluggishly relays the remainder of the record. The songs start sounding more and more alike as the album starts to thin. The strange murmurs of“(Ghost Notes)” clouts an otherwise vivid instrumentation, but the cascading forays are only minor in the album’s overall beauty.

I think what makes Gray Young special is their local sensibility and the sense of pride it creates for people of Raleigh and all of North Carolina, just as the same way Explosions in the Sky do for Austin, Texas. But geographical sentiments aside, Gray Young is a rhythmic harvest. The warm and distorted guitars tones in “Tilling the Wind” and the steady bass solo in “Cavalcade for Sundown” are rare finds in the recession-worn era of disbanding groups and suffering local music shops. But the soft teasing of brooding intensity, none more prevalent than in the luscious “Firmament” pleads a change, or a “new era of responsibility” if you will.

The thing about post-rock instrumental bands is that no member is more primal than any other. It’s all a collaborative effort. Gray Young, post-rockers they are, give their all to this equivocal intimacy, and receive the same incandescence tit-for-tat. Music this raw and delicate deserves more than to be mentioned or placed on a soundtrack of some television drama. It should be enjoyed beyond the scope of Raleigh’s backyard. It should be sought for.

Gray Young will be playing a CD release show with Goner at Slim’s Downtown on February 20th.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 2/3

Animal Collective releases best album yet
Seth White

Named after the famous Maryland venue, Merriweather Post Pavilion is Animal Collective’s ninth record and its finest one to date.

It’s hard to describe the sound of AC to someone who has never heard them. Their songs have only a thin layer of typical structure and enough melodic repetition that may turn away your average listener at first. But much like Radiohead’s Kid A or Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot after a few listens your mind reaches past the barriers of traditional music and discovers the real genius ahead.

On its latest album, the band continues to experiment with all possible sounds blending psychedelic, electronic and progressive rock into new sounds all their own. “In the Flowers” but the turn it takes after that is what makes this album so special.

The vocals of Avey Tare (David Portner) and Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) then become reminiscent of The Beach Boys and The Beatles and combined with the high pitch synthesizer and the pulse beat drum welcome you to their own style.

The following track, “My Girls,” captures of the essence of the album as a whole. It builds a slow start that rises to a peak that isn’t there. Instead you are left drifting pleasantly from one note to the next until they slowly disappear. The lyrics, “There isn’t much that I feel I need / A solid soul and the blood I bleed,” retract to innocent childish ideas and routines, the overall theme.

“Summertime Clothes” starts out with a militaristic stomp which then glides to a catchy verse–chorus–verse outfit and back again. At the center of the song, the varied and competing vocals will cater to any of AC’s former fans needs and will attract the attention of first time listeners.

The album ends on one of their best, “Brother Sport,” a phenomenal upbeat closer about moving forward.

Animal Collective has continually changed their sound from one album to the next. Even though each album has been wonderful in it’s own way, Merriweather Post Pavilion takes the cake by combining all the best previous elements together to find a perfect niche for the band.

Merriweather Post Pavilion won’t catch everybody. Listeners who hear bits and pieces will be lost in confusion, but those who truly take the time to let this album run it’s course will be left nothing short of inspired. And if nothing else at least take a look at the cool album artwork.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 1/27

Colourmusic’s eccentric new album is a hit
Chris Cioffi

Innovation and creativity are two of the elements to look for when listening to a new band, and the new Colourmusic album has both in spades. The ear candy that one can expect while listening to Colourmusic’s first full length album is almost overwhelming at times.

Whimsical, charming music is a guilty pleasure of mine, and f, monday, orange, february, venus, lunatic, 1 or 13 is as whimsical and charming as they come. Their poppy sounds and beautiful song-craft make listening to this album an exciting experience. Conceptually, the band has tried to fashion songs that evoke feelings specific to an individual color.

On previous EPs, for instance, they have tried to evoke the color red, but this time around, orange is the focal point. This eccentric fact wasn’t immediately obvious and came from researching the album, but on subsequent listens the orange vibe in their songs does in fact seem to come through.

One could believe that picking a single color would be limiting a band’s sound, but Colourmusic is able to transcend those limitations and puts forth thirteen beautiful tracks that not only stand individually as extremely catchy tunes, but flow as a complete and solid album. When listening to this album, you will catch yourself involuntarily singing along to the catchy songs such as “Put in a Little Gas,” and my personal favorite, “Winter Song.”

Eccentricity is their trademark, and Colourmusic has built an engaging mythology around their blend of performance art and publicity stunts. On many occasions, the band has been known to stage the death and subsequent resuscitation of band member Nick Turner onstage.

They have also been known to hypnotize particularly appealing members of the audience in failed attempts to con them into sleeping with them.

Sometimes all four band members dress alike, grow similar beards, and even date the same girl merging themselves into one stage personality, whom they call Roy G. Biv. According to Wikipedia, another publicly-known interest of the band is going to local malls while on tour and pulling the old “dollar on the end of a string” trick.

Generally, one member will act as string-puller while the others crouch behind a potted tropical plant with their Fisher-Price PXL-2000 video camera, attempting to acquire footage for the video of one of their latest songs titled, “Don’t Hollah fo That Dollah You Di-int Get”.

Colourmusic has put out one of the better albums released recently. The experience is definitely worth a trip down to the local record store to check out this eccentric entry. Who knows, you might find your new favorite band!

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 1/20

‘Onmyradio’ Fails to Disappoint

When Musiq Soulchild stepped on the scene in 2000 with his classic debut album Aijustwanaseing, he carried on the tradition of Neo-Soul music started by artist including Erykah Badu and D’angelo. From “Just Friends” and “Love” to “Don’t Change” and “B.U.D.D.Y.”, Musiq has remained a consistent force in the realm of Neo-Soul for almost a decade. With his latest release “Onmyradio”, the 30 year old Philly native fails to disappoint.

For Musiq fans, the release of the first single from “Onmyradio”, “Radio” was a confusing. The crunk track does nothing to compliment Musiq as an artist or appease his fan base and failed to chart. With the state of R&B as it is, the watered down production, uninspired vocals and no originally, one would wonder why Musiq, would try and conform. Thankfully, the poor choice of a lead single is in no way indicative of the remainder of the album.

“OnMyRadio” opens with the up-tempo, hard hitting, bass driven “Backagain”, where Musiq explains how he thought he was over a break-up, until they came back.

“Until”, reminiscent lyrically of Stevie Wonder’s classic “Always”, tells of how he’ll love his significant other until the end of time. It is one of the albums stand-out tracks.

The second single, “IfULeave”, a duet with the Queen of Hip/Hop R&B Soul, Mary J. Blige is a well balanced duet of back and forth banter between a couple on the verge of a break-up. Production-wise, it is similar to”Teachme”, a gem released from Musiq’s last album, “Luvanmusiq”.

Momentum comes to a stand still with “Special” and “Deserveyoumore” On “Special” the melody and beat are competing with each other and “Deserveyoumore” sounds like a 70’s bland love song by an all male vocal quartet.

The piano driven “Dearjohn” is a letter explaining how Musiq, lacking the courage to break up in person instead opts for a pen and piece of paper. The sadness in Musiq’s voice, remorseful lyrics, vocal arrangement, harmonies and production make this the best track on the album.

Next, “Loveofmylife”, is equally endearing and gross as Musiq sings how he “can loose a car, even body parts”, but could never live without the love of his life. Feeling the recession, “Moneyright”, an up-tempo electro-pop groove has Musiq pledging to give his love all they desire once he gets his funds together. In terms of production, where as John Legend has “Green Light”, Musiq has “Moneyright”, minus Andre 3000.

On “Someone” Musiq delivers what he does best. Love ballads. The dulcet melody and beautiful words express how we all want someone to love us despite our imperfections.

The only other feature on the album, “Iwannabe” featuring Damian Marley infuses a bit of Reggae and Caribbean vibe on a song surely to make you want to move.

“Sobeautiful” is another moving love ballad where Musiq displays how his vocal prowess has matured in the past 8 years trying out his falsetto.

Albums are often judged by their first single, but there are exceptions to every rule, “Onmyradio” being one. Musiq, although with a few missteps, has stayed true to who he is as an artist while remaining relevant. Although “Onmyradio” may not be Musiq’s best, it is a solid effort and a solid effort from Musiq is still better than what’s currently playing—on the radio.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 1/13

Ladyhawke makes excellent debut with retro-flavored pop
Jon Gomes

A lot of things came out of the 80s. Some were good and some were terrible. As a distinct and influential genre, new wave music falls in the former category. Synthesizers and drum machines will forever be associated with the 80s, but they have found their way into modern pop music. Singer/songwriter Phillipa Brown, professionally known as Ladyhawke, has incorporated the best elements of new wave into her self-titled debut album. Fresh yet familiar-sounding, the album instantly makes an impression with its retro feel.

The first track, “Magic,” starts off with bubbling synthesizers and a dance beat on electronic drums—two quintessential new wave elements. Ladyhawke demonstrates her vocal prowess during the stripped-down verses. Her ability in writing pop hooks shows in the next track, “Manipulating Woman,” with its infectious chorus and subdued guitar riffs.

The most recently released single, “My Delirium,” is one of several addictive tracks on the album. The pounding beats and anxious vocals escalate into a shimmering, synth-heavy chorus. The end result is a powerful dance floor anthem with a hook that lingers in your head for days. The same effect occurs with “Another Runaway.” Though sugary, it is the perfect marriage of pop melodies and classic new wave tones. Rich synths and a lively rhythm section underscore Ladyhawke’s yearning lyrics.

A bit rawer in sound, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” stands out with its crunchy guitar riffs and smooth vocal harmonies. It is followed by another upbeat number entitled “Back Of The Van.” Again, Ladyhawke takes the formula for a great pop song and improves upon it with beautiful, inspired synth and guitar parts.

The 80s influence is most apparent on “Paris Is Burning.” The main hook is reminiscent of “Cars” by Gary Numan—definitive new wave. The next track, “Professional Suicide,” almost sounds like it could be an old Depeche Mode song.

The album returns to a more modern sound for the next few songs. Another dance floor track, “Dusk Til Dawn” features sultry vocals and fat synths layered on a prominent four-on-the-floor rhythm. It contrasts with the airy mood of “Crazy World,” easily the most pop-oriented track. Things come to a close with “Morning Dreams,” a calm and swirling ballad.

In the end, Ladyhawke makes an impressive debut with this album. Her songwriting is solid and the production makes for a great listening experience. She also plays all the instruments on the album, and she plays them well. However, Ladyhawke’s true skill lies in her ability to weave retro elements into modern pop songs. Imagine if Cut Copy or Goldfrapp did an audio version of “I Love the 80s.” Add in a healthy dose of energy and the result is this album.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

Ladyhawke = Official Back to School Jam

Ladyhawke’s self titled debut album is the cure for rainy day and/or back-to-school depression. Her sound is like something straight out of the eighties: spunky, upbeat pop that I highly recommend putting on your Ipod for the walk to class. It will put some dance in your step.