Album Reviews – 9/11/09

Say Anything - Say Anything

Say Anything / Say Anything / RCA

Star Rating 3.5

Every romantic nerd’s favourite John Cusack film inspired a punk rock band so much as to choose its title for its name. Now, it’s inspired that band to make its title the name of their new album. Well, okay it’s just a self-titled album – but what a great movie right? The piano and violin heard on s/t definitely mark a progression for the group. The band even goes a little existential on “Mara and Me,” as singer Max Bemis stops the song, in order to say “Wait a second, I can’t write the same damn song over and over again.” The album is sort of top-loaded, leaving some bizarre slow-paced songs that I hesitate to call ‘ballads’ for the last five tracks. Of these “Ahhh… Men” is most entertaining. Bemis’ idiosyncratic lyrical flow is part pretentious and part bratty. Perfect for the sophisticated inner punk in you.

Download: “Mara and Me,” “Ahhh… Men”

The Swell Season - Strict Joy

The Swell Season / Strict Joy / ANTI-Records

Star Rating 3.5

This is another very personal album from Glen Hansard (also of The Frames) and Markéta Irglová, both of the Oscar-winning film Once. There are some lovey dovey duets that are given new depth considering their recent romantic split. Some relationship highs and lows (“Feeling the Pull” and “I Have Loved You Wrong”) are present, but there’s nothing as touching as the slow building “Falling Slowly” off Once. The delicate instrumentation fits the tunes, but the two are capable of more. There are no Oscar winners here.

Download: “Feeling the Pull”, “Low Rising”


Bon Jovi - The Circle

Bon Jovi / The Circle / Universal

Star Rating 3.5

It’s kind of sickening to hear Jon Bon Jovi sing about losing his pension on the syrupy “Work for the Working Man,” but if you can stifle that reflex — Jon Bon’s actually done a lot of charitable work, if that helps — there are some big choruses and satisfying guitar solos on The Circle, the group’s eleventh album. If you work somewhere that keeps the radio dialed on a soft rock station you’re probably already sick of the lead single “We Weren’t Born to Follow” (If you haven’t heard it, I recommend you download it and listen to it every fifteen minutes, this ought to be enough to simulate for you a very real phenomenon striking workplaces everywhere). There’s plenty of other slow-paced anthemic rock for the people who teased out their hair and rocked out to “Livin’ On A Prayer” in 1986 to easy-rock out in their mom jeans and sweat pants today.

Download: “We Weren’t Born to Follow”


Flyleaf - Memento Mori

Flyleaf / Memento Mori / Universal

Star Rating 3.5

Memento Mori,’ or, if you’re not fluent in the dead tongue of Latin, ‘be mindful of death,’ proclaims Texan group Flyleaf on their latest album – their first since 2005. Well, the group might be mindful of death, but if the angsty and heavy rock tunes on their latest album have anything do with it, Flyleaf has actually just given itself a substantial new lease on life. A hard rock group with a female singer in front of a band that can throw down gravelly grooves like Godsmack is going to inevitably have comparisons drawn between itself and bands such as Evanescence or Lacuna Coil. Listening to some of the heavier tracks on Memento Mori, like “Beautiful Bride,” those seem like apt parallels to make, but it’s the work lead singer Lacey Sturm (né Mosley) does on less domineering tracks that make her stand above her peers. Sturm’s voice is more Kelly Clarkson than Amy Lee, and somehow this goth-rock princess makes you feel a little less dirty, though not that much more mature, as you listen to Memento Mori than you might listening to the latest from Lacuna Coil.

Download: “Swept Away,” “Chasm”


Dashboard Confessional - Alter The Ending

Dashboard Confessional / Alter The Ending / Universal

Star Rating 3

In the last “Rocky” picture, Rocky Balboa, Rock tells Paulie he’s thinking of getting back in the ring and, without missing a beat, Paulie says “what, you haven’t peaked yet?’ Someone should’ve asked Dashboard frontman Chris Carrabba that. Carrabba, besides having a name that is very tempting to spell incorrect in an exaggerated manner, has also had some trouble in the hit-writing department as of late. I challenge you to name a Dashboard Confessional song since “Vindicated,” which, despite being featured on the 2006 album Dusk and Summer, has actually been around since 2004 on the Spiderman 2 Soundtrack. In order to get back on track, it seems he’s turned to some of the other musicians in his heart-pouring niche for inspiration. By ‘inspiration’ I mean some rather liberal lifting of riffs and vocal melodies from Brand New songs on “Get Me Right” and “Until Morning.” Carrabba borrows Bruce Springsteen’s “Queen of the Supermarket” and turns it into “Belle of the Boulevard.” Well, Carrararbarabara (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist) is no Jesse Lacey and is certainly no Springsteen. He’s definitely peaked.

Download: “Everybody Learns From Disaster”

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