New Album Review

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 4/22

‘Love at the End of the World’ is bland in the end
Drew St. Claire

As the tag on this album informed me, “Sam Roberts is from Canada.” Now, I have no problems with our neighbors to the north–I’m a huge fan of hockey and I’ve always adored their delicious syrups. But, I have to concede that Love at the End of the World falls just a bit short of American quality.

The album starts off with its title track, and showcases a lot of the positive aspects Mr. Roberts has going for him and his version of indie rock. The intro has a folksy Western pulse to it, and after Sam’s vocals come in, it melts into a rock beat that is reminiscent of the Raconteurs or JET, but a little bit more subdued. His voice is interesting and similar in timbre to John Lennon or Liam Gallagher from Oasis, but with accents of Steely Dan.

“Stripmall Religion” opens up exactly like something from the Coldplay catalogue, but Roberts’ voice works well in lieu of Chris Martin. The song then transitions into a simple Pinback-style rhythm and some decent lyrics about isolation and disillusionment in modern American, or I’d suppose Canadian society.

One of Roberts’ last good stands on the album is “Them Kids.” Opening with a Minus the Bear-type vibe and breaking into a happy danceable tune about nostalgia for a day when kids knew how to rock n’ roll, “Them Kids” is an example of where the Canadian’s music shines. But, with the small exception of tracks like “Fixed to Ruin” and “Oh Maria”, the album doesn’t offer much of anything new.

It just sort of fades into the background with a steady melody, only reminding me of its presence ever so often with a jolt from one of the more lively tracks. The softer parts don’t have enough to say to make me want listen closer, and most of the louder parts don’t offer more than a tempo for clicking my tongue.

If you’re very involved with the indie rock scene, you’ve probably already bought this album or you know there is no way you would ever buy it. If you are not quite that knowledgeable, I’d recommend a stepping stone or two before you decide on this one. Your money might best be spent on something guaranteed to please, like Pinback or Arcade Fire. Better yet, you could try checking out some of the local bands, like Red Collar and Birds of Avalon.

In short, Love at the End of the World is like the maple syrup they make in Sam Roberts’ homeland – sweet and flavorful at first, but after a while it just gets bland.

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 4/7

‘Homesick’ bridges gap for fans
Brian Dimsdale

A Day to Remember has been around for a while. The band, whose humble beginnings date back to 2003, has put out three albums, including the band’s latest, Homesick. They have toured relentlessly, creating a major following and making them a heavy contender in the alternative music scene. Over the years ADTR has tweaked their sound in order to combine catchy guitar riffs and an overall pop-punk sound with the signature metalcore voice of lead singer Jeremy McKinnon. Homesick proves that ADTR have finally reached the pinnacle of the pop-punk/hardcore sound that they have been striving for.

From the get go, Homesick grabs hold of your eardrums and doesn’t let go. Consisting of amazing vocals, heart throbbing beats and a number of vocal guests including Mike Hranica from The Devil Wears Prada and Sierra Kusterbeck from Versa Emerge, this album keeps you hooked throughout the entire 40 minutes. The first track, “The Downfall of us All”, sets the overall mood for this album with gang vocals followed by McKinnon screaming “Let’s go!"‚ and a guitar riff that gets your blood flowing and adrenaline pumping. From that moment on, the album takes you through twelve tracks dealing with the band’s inner turmoil of life on the road while missing their loved ones and the town they grew up in.

The album presses on with melodic tracks that have a catchy and pop-punk sound, such as "My Life for Hire"‚ and "I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made of?”, all the while intermingling McKinnon’s powerful voice and the ear-busting guitar riffs that the band is known for. From there the album transitions straight into the track “Mr. Highway’s Thinking About the End”, which has a sound reminiscent to the likes of Underoath’s Define The Great Line.

Midway through Homesick, the track “Have Faith in Me”, a song about never wanting to leave a loved one, starts off to a beautiful guitar solo helping to slow down the tempo. McKinnon’s soothing voice helps to bring the listener back out of the trance as the beat picks up with the lyrics “I said I’d never let you go, and I never did/I said I’d never let you fall, and I always meant it.” Just as you think the album is going in one direction, the next track “Welcome to My Family” hits you like a ton of bricks. It wakes you up and shows that ADTR has gotten transitioning from pop-punk to metalcore down to a science.

Homesick is A Day to Remember’s best album to date, intermingling what normally would be considered conflicting sounds into an alternative rock masterpiece. The band has bridged the gap for listeners on either side of the music spectrum and will continue to rule the pop-punk/hardcore scene, until they truly do become homesick, which hopefully won’t be any time soon.

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 3/31

The Decemberists present the ‘complete’ album with ‘The Hazards of Love’
Seth White

The Decemberists have given me hope that the concept of an album is still alive. On their latest, The Hazards of Love, Colin Meloy and crew tell the dark story of two lovers, William and Margaret, and the two antagonists that attempt to foil their plans, the Queen and the Rake. The album’s seventeen songs are perfectly crafted and woven together with common themes and solid transitions. In an interview with Paste Magazine, Meloy commented that Hazards was initially set to be a musical but then reinvented as a rock opera.

An instrumental prelude slowly starts off the album and blends into part one of the title track, there are four altogether. “The Hazards of Love 1” resembles their earlier works complete with acoustic picking, rich upright bass and well-read Meloy’s lyrics circling about “lithesome maidens.” This formula is immediately shed on the following song, “A Bower Scene.” Here, distorted electric guitars thump power chords reminiscent of “Ziggy Stardust” or The Wall. What surprises me the most about this new sound is how well it actually works for the Decemberists, the changes from folk to rock are pulled off effortlessly here.

After an instrumental interlude about halfway through the album, “The Rake’s Song” kicks in. An eerie song featuring thick drums about a widower murdering his children, he pays for that at the end of the album. Following this is “The Abduction of Margaret” – here, the band revisits the sounds of “A Bower Scene” and pushes them to new boundaries.

Shara Morden of My Brightest Diamond is brought in to do the vocals of the Queen. Here, her voice is emotionally empowering and downright evil especially over prog-rock guitars on “The Queens Rebuke” and “The Wanting Comes in Waves.” Along with Morden, the Decemberists brought in My Morning Jacket’s front man, Jim James, to help out with background vocals on various tracks.

The last track, “The Hazards of Love 4,” brings the album to its tragic close as William and Margaret are swept off and drowned by the river. The song is a gentle finale with a wonderful steel guitar solo sandwiched in between the last duet by the two lovers.

There are drawbacks some might see to this take-it-or-leave it concept album. Each song flows right into the next leaving no real breaks – great for an album but causes it to lack the singles of its predecessor, The Crane Wife. But for what it’s worth, they aren’t missed here. As a whole, The Hazards of Love is a conceptual masterpiece from start to finish that Decemberists fans will cherish on their first listen.

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

New Music 3/22 – 3/29

Ever wonder what were the hottest new tracks of college radio or what the DJs were spinning at WKNC? Wonder no more! Here are the latest, freshest, and most off-the-chain albums of the week.

Hey Kids, Play This New Music

Gray Matter, Assistant Daytime Music Director

Red Red MeatBunny Gets Paid
A re-release of a classic album. One of the best examples of experimental folk/blues ever.

Mirah is a particularly weird singer/songwriter type. I like this album quite a lot.

More experimental folk, this much more twangy. One of the singers sounds like a bluegrass singer which I would normally hate, but I kind of like this band.

Bonnie Prince BillyBeware
Sounds like Bonnie Prince Billy, if you don’t know what Bonnie Prince Billy sounds like, listen to some Bonnie Prince Billy.

Mi AmiWatersports
Good weird [expletive]. Extreme falsetto vocals with drum and bass rhythms.

Soft TagsWinchester Mansion, and Projectors
Soft Tags sent us their two older albums, neither quite as good as their newest, but they have some worth hearing tracks.

New Music, Local Music, most importantly: Awesome Music

Mick, Local Music Director

There is so much good new local music I can barely contain myself. I’m not eloquent in describing this stuff, so the best way to do this is to listen the stuff yourself. You won’t regret a single second of it.

Red Collar“Pilgrim”
I mean, what do you want me to say? It’s Red Collar’s album, at long last. If you don’t know, then put it in your CD player right now.

Benji Hughes “A Love Extreme”
Not the traditional local; he’s from Charlotte. Some dancy, some poppy, eclectic as a whole. This is a double album, and it’s awesome and hilarious all at once. Lots of short, catchy tunes that you’ll be singing along with after one listen. I don’t really know how to describe it other than this so play the [expletive]!

Nathan Oliver“Cloud Animals”
Some great new indie-pop from Nathan Oliver. Better than his last, a bit harder, and certainly more interesting  (this review brought to you by Gray Matter).

Embarrassing Fruits“Community / Exploitation”
Hot damn, I really think this may be the best CD I’ve received as local music director. This album is like a reincarnation of Pavement, with the same slacker rock approach plus constant complaining about a girl. Every track is awesome. Really, really awesome.

Joe Romeo & The Orange County Volunteersself-titled
Some combination of folk rock, surf rock, and Americana. Really great, twangy tunes that are heartfelt and simply beautiful. This guy knows how to write music. Play it!

Whew. As always, there is more on the horizon. For now, check these out and keep rockin the local stuff.

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