The White Stripes / Under Great White Northern Lights / Third Man Records
A collection of raw and distorted cuts from their 2007 trans-Canadian tour, Under Great White Northern Lights is fun in a twice removed kind of way. The recorded crowds seem to be having a great time bearing witness to Jack and Meg roar through some of their most famous tracks, including “Fell in Love With a Girl,” “Seven Nation Army,” and “We Are Going To Be Friends” – and also a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” a regular live treat from The Stripes. So, what I’m driving at, I guess, is that if I were making a “fun” chart ranking White Stripes live experience, this album would rank in at a solid third place. Behind of course actually going to the concert and the Under Great White Northern Lights DVD filmed by Emmet Malloy that documents the entire Canadian tour with live footage and candid interviews.
Download: “Jolene”, “Seven Nation Army”
From First To Last / Throne To The Wolves / Rise
For the last few years, it seems as if From First To Last have been fenced in. Numerous line-up fixes (who’s still counting?) and changing of personnel has caused them to lose their unique voice as fast as they’ve lost their fans. But instead of trying to pick the lock that has them caged, the Florida post-hardcore band has scaled the fence with Throne To The Wolves. A remarkable step-up from past material, the record is an adrenaline rush from start to finish, lined with tingling solos (“Going Lohan”) and endings (“I’ll Inoculate The World..”). Guitarist Matt Good has firmly taken his place as frontman as is voice propels every track whether he’s singing at his best or tearing up a vocal storm. With rapid technical drumming and melodic hooks, it’s the type of music we’ve heard before but’s contagious to the point it makes you want to venture through mid-2000s’ Warped Tour compilations. “Congratulations to you, I guess,” wails Good; well its about time we give From First To Last the respect they deserve.
Download: “Cashing Out”, “You, Me, And The Significant Other”
Serj Tankian / Elect The Dead Symphony / Warner
The cerebral lyrical style and operatic technique of System of a Down’s Serj Tankian has always propelled the music of that band beyond the realm of mere heavy metal into a genre all on its own. Maybe that’s why the transition onto a stage, next to a symphony orchestra and performing his entire Elect the Dead solo album, feels like such a natural move. A number of songs not on Tankian’s solo debut, including “Blue”, “Gate 21” and “The Charade” turn up on this album, with the latter proving most moving of the additions. If you want to feel really cultured, try to forget that he’s singing in English and you might be able to convince yourself you’re actually listening to an opera. If this were the 18th Century, masses would flock to hear Tankian’s enrapturing voice with just the sort of accompaniment provided him by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra – but hopefully he would’ve been able to avoid that nasty “castrato” custom.
Download: “Sky Is Over”, “Empty Walls”
Flobots / Survival Story / Universal
This rant isn’t about who came first, Flobots or Flipsyde, but there certainly are a lot of similarities: Two American hip hop groups fusing different flavours of rock to their sounds; both have a collection of politically charged songs under their belts; Flipsyde’s latest album was called State of Survival, Flobots is Survival Story… you get the idea. The point is, on their last album Flipsyde must have decided they were tired competing unsuccessfully against more popular groups like Linkin Park or more talented acts like Cage; they added a sexy lead female vocalist and now, I guess, have decided they’d rather compete with Black Eyed Peas. I wish them luck. On Survival Story, however, Flobots have stayed pretty much the same.
Strings and phat basslines typify the instrumentals of most songs, while MC Brer Rabbit and a mad pack of others air social and political complaints. Production from Mario C. (Beastie Boys) makes for a smooth listen, as do Rabbit’s lyrics, but there’s scarcely any grit that makes the sometimes vague political messages of Rise Against, Anti-Flag, Against Me!, or Rage Against the Machine more believable. Would it have been too much to ask for a parental advisory sticker? Call me old-fashioned, but if a major label-signed hip hop group isn’t even going to drop an F-bomb or two, I’m not sure I believe they’re all that upset with the establishment in the first-place
Download: “White Flag Warrior”
The Audition / Great Danger / Victory
With three albums in three years, is it safe to say The Audition try too hard? The pop punk quartet from Chicago have constantly been classified as a group to watch but its unclear what critics and listeners are suppose to be waiting for. Great Danger has promise, especially with singer Danny Steven’s unique sound, but it tries to be more sugary than a knock-off box of Pop Tarts. The eleven tracks are radio friendly and will most likely appeal to their intended audience, but until they break out of their cardboard box and unveil the potential found in older songs like “The Ultimate Cover Up”, they won’t be rewarded with the starring role they want.
Download: “Can You Remember?”