Review: Lori McKenna – The Tree

Lori McKenna

Lori McKenna has been releasing albums since 2000, but I had no idea until her 2016 release, The Bird and the Rifle. I enjoyed that album, but her new album, The Tree, is one that quickly roped me in. I’ve mostly known her work through the songs she writes for other artists, but this new album is one that all country fans should be listening to.

“A Mother Never Rests” immediately sets the tone for the album. The acoustic guitar and McKenna’s vocals go hand-in-hand. Her songs don’t need to have a huge production behind them to be catchy either. You might not hear her on the radio as much, but I’ll just keep playing the album on repeat to get my fix in.

One of the songs that really stuck with me as I continued listening to the album was “People Get Old.” It’s instantly relatable, because there’s really no disputing the song title. People just get older, with the rare exception of tragedies that happen when people are young. We’ve all lost someone simply from old age.

The following song, “Young and Angry Again,” is one that I found myself just wanting to play on repeat. The melody on it is fun and the chorus is catchy. The album closes out with “Like Patsy Would” and I love the nod to Patsy Cline. It’s a fantastic note to end the album on and you can tell that McKenna draws influence from Patsy.

This is a record that I’ll be listening to for quite a while. It’ll probably be one I listen to even more as fall comes around because some albums just go nicely with certain times of year. Overall, I loved this record start to finish.

If you want a copy of The Tree by Lori McKenna, you can pick one up over at Amazon.

Review: Vacationer – Mindset

Vacationer - Mindset

At times, Vacationer might sound like The Starting Line, but despite Kenny Vasoli’s involvement in both bands, Vacationer is inherently different. If The Starting Line is the band that gets you pumped up with its pop-punk hooks, Vacationer is the band you just chill out to. Don’t get me wrong, Mindset still has energy, but it comes in a different form.

Vasoli is joined by Ryan Zimmaro (drums), Michael Mullin (keyboards), Greg Altman (guitar), and producers Matthew Young and Grant Wheeler. Mindset marks the third album from the band, but it’s the first that I really dived into. This is a band that just slipped by me. “Magnetism” was a nice selection for the first single since it encompasses the whole tone that the album is going for.

Summer jams can be anthemic, but this album feels like one a lot of people would listen to all summer long just because of the feel good vibes that it gives off. “Strawberry Blonde” is a light-hearted song that you can’t help but bob your head along to.

The beats on the album never feel overproduced and they know how to take a backseat to the vocals. Some songs are more bass-heavy than others, but that’s perfectly fine. It gives you more dynamic songs as you listen through it from top to bottom.

Mindset comes to a close with the 5 1/2 minute track “Companionship.” The song encompasses the lighter moments with bass-heavy ones as it builds and falls. It’s a nice culmination of the album and there isn’t much more I can say other than telling you to go listen to this album. I was pleasantly surprised when I first hit play and I’ll be spinning this quite a few more times throughout the summer.

You can pick up Mindset by Vacationer over on Amazon.

Review: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The Word is Murder

Anthony Horowitz has been writing books for a few decades now. Despite that, I hadn’t read any of his work until I wound up with a review copy of The Word is Murder. The book was released in the U.K. last year, but it’s just now making its way to the U.S. Magpie Murders caught my attention, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading it just yet. This felt like the perfect opportunity to dive into a book by Horowitz.

The Word is Murder is a Sherlockian novel where we see that the author inserts himself into as one of the main characters. He’s a writer who follows a former police detective, Daniel Hawthorne, as he solves a mysterious murder. Putting himself in the book is one of the most meta things that Horowitz could do and it works so well.

I found myself not wanting to put the book down because it was such a compelling story. It wasn’t until semi-recently that I binged my way through Sherlock, and this book captured a similar essence that the show did even without Sherlock being in it.

Just when you think you know who committed murder, the story takes a turn and everything you thought was wrong. There are also moments when you’re reading it and your thinking is in line with that of Horowitz in the story. You read this from his perspective, so naturally you might find yourself agreeing with his version of what happened.

The book is clever and fascinating. It’s not often that I fall in love with an author immediately after reading a single book by them, but that’s what happened here. Thanks to The Word is Murder, I’ll be going back and reading previous books from Horowitz. His attention to detail and ability to create an intriguing story make the mystery work so well.

Grab a copy of The Word is Murder via Amazon.

Review: Chuck Palahniuk – Adjustment Day

Adjustment Day

Chuck Palahniuk makes sure that you aren’t prepared for Adjustment Day in any way, shape, or form. The book puts chaos on display as people run for their lives, just trying to make sure they survive it. Gaysia, Blacktopia, and Caucasia play on today’s current political climate in a bit of a terrifying way.

Chuck Palahniuk does satire well and it’s on full display in this book. The story revolves around a manifesto-like book that can be compared to Mein Kampf. This brings about Adjustment Day, which is meant to be a fresh start, should you make it out in one piece. All crimes, warrants, and debts will be erased for those left standing.

While Fight Club is still my favorite piece of work from Palahniuk, I love that he doesn’t hesitate to poke fun at it in this. He calls it “seemingly transgressive.” He also has some fantastic descriptions in this book that just bring the pages to life.

Aside from the Fight Club reference, many other pop culture references can be found throughout. One of my favorites is when the book mentions that it was debated to kill Mr. King. Naturally, the first thought would be Martin Luther King Jr., but instead, they mean Stephen King. Having him killed was debated because he “had almost convinced white people of the majestic uncanny powers blacks kept under wraps.” So not only does he take a jab at his own work, but he tosses Stephen King into the fun, as well.

Adjustment Day is a book that isn’t afraid to offend anyone and everyone. At times it’s harsh and unpleasant, but such is life. While Adjustment Day might not be real, in a way, it felt like it could be if things keep going downhill from here. Once you get going, you won’t want to put this book down.

If you’re interested in buying a copy of the book, you can do so via Amazon.

Review: Hot Mulligan’s Pilot shows us that pop-punk isn’t dead

If pop punk really is dead, Hot Mulligan didn’t get the memo or just didn’t care. Pilot takes the genre to a different level. For a while now, I’ve found myself growing out of wanting to listen to pop punk a lot. There was a stretch where I really enjoyed it and it just kept tapering off for me. Hot Mulligan hit the “refresh” button on pop punk.

If an opening track doesn’t set the tone for an album, you’ll be doomed from the start. “Deluxe Capacitor” instantly let’s you know what you’re in for with Pilot and that’s fantastic. “All You Wanted By Michelle Branch” was the first song I heard off of this album and I still get a kick out of the title.

One things that makes this album stand out is how varied the guitar sounds are. They aren’t strictly using power chords, which pop punks have been known to do. The lyrics are quite relatable, too. “Good Ol’ Mr. Rags” has a line that mention missing someone even though you just saw them. Have you ever been so close to someone that a day without them feels weird? It’s something a lot of people can relate to.

Hot Mulligan gives off a vibe of the band being like a family and it shines at the end of “Scream Mountain” when things get quiet and it’s just an acoustic guitar and their voices. James Shotwell wrote about the band’s live performance in their hometown on March 10 and described the band’s infectious energy, which they also display on Pilot.

Pilot takes you on a journey of growing up, learning lessons, and just living life. We all do it whether it feels like it or not. This albums rips through 11 songs and they’re all worth a listen. I highly recommend doing so.

You can grab a copy of Pilot via Amazon now.

Review: Barely Civil – We Can Live Here Forever

Barely Civil embrace their Midwestern roots on We Can Live Here Forever. The band is currently located in Wausau, WI, which is a town you’ve probably never heard of if you aren’t from the area. However, the band makes you feel right at home with them with this album.

The layered production on the album stands out in different ways as you listen through. “I’ve Been Getting Headaches Lately” is fairly in your face from the start with the music, but then you have a song like “Eau Claire? Oh, Claire.” that starts off on a softer note. The latter adds a level of intimacy, even as the music’s dynamics change.

More often than not, I can’t personally relate to a lot of the songs that I enjoy. My life really hasn’t been all that eventful, but I still understand when songs are relatable for others. Not everyone is going to relate to every single song a band puts out, but Barely Civil brings you in and they let you understand what their lives are like.

You can hear the emotion coming through with every note that Barely Civil plays. The music mirrors when things are intense and when it is time to slow things down a bit. The beginning of “Handwritten House” is a perfect example of this. It’s a stark difference from the opening track, but it still fits in with the album, especially as things build up towards the middle of the song, just to come back down as the vocals start up again.

The back half of the album doesn’t let up one bit. “You With a Cap, Me With a Baseball Bat” starts off the back half with a quick pace. The songs rips. “Stark” is a song about taking things back to the good days and it’s filled with nostalgia. The album closes out with “I Am Drowning,” which is a depressing song title. However, it starts off with “Wait, is there a click or no click?” to lighten up the mood briefly. Acoustic tracks always feel more intimate to me, just because of the fact that it’s usually just the singer and a guitar. That’s how they end the album and it makes perfect sense. They’ve already let you in, so why not end it on an extremely personal note? Some electric guitar comes in at the end and the build up halts just before the album ends.

We Can Live Here Forever shows off not only how skilled the band is, but just how much of an impact their home has had on them. In that sense I can relate. Maybe not with the city I specifically live in, but with Southern California as a whole. There’s no doubt that someone’s home affects them in one way or another and Barely Civil’s way of telling us all about it is through this album.

Review: Hungover Re-Release Wilt with Three New Songs

Hungover repurposed their Wilt EP from 2016 for their upcoming release of the same name. The new version of Wilt includes three new songs, which is just a taste of what they’ve been working on. The band plans to work on a full length release and do a lot of touring this year.

The re-release kicks off with “Three’s Company,” which is one of the new songs. It starts off the album on a good note. The vocals shine in the song and it was a good choice to kick things off with one of the new songs. “Around” is a song that switches up the pace with putting the acoustic guitar front and center. However, the full band comes in with about 50 seconds left in the song and swing back to end on a softer note.

“Exit – Stage Left” is a guitar-driven song that has more of a punk vibe to it at times. It’s also the second of the new songs. “Sleep Alone” is the third (and final) new song on the record, which is also the closing track. The song is about being put down by someone and letting go of them. The song acts as a freeing experience and with that, the records closes out on strong note.

The band’s talents and tastes are on full display with Wilt. Their range in sound shows that they have a lot of potential. I recommend giving this a listen. Even with it largely being a re-release, it’s worth listening to for those new songs. I can’t wait to hear what they release next.

You can order a copy of the record via Smartpunk Records and it’ll be out on March 30th.

Review: Household – Everything a River Should Be

Everything a River Should Be marks a big change for Household. The band was once a hardcore band and now they’re blending rock and emo for a new sound. The Minneapolis trio makes the transition seamlessly. Bands are meant to progress and sometimes that calls for a whole new sound.

When “Away” starts, you instantly feel how personal the lyrics are. However, “It’s Easy to Feel Rotten” is the song that draws you in even more. The title is more than relatable. How many times have you just felt rotten about something? The feeling is a common one.

Household didn’t completely leave their hardcore roots behind. You still get hints of it here and there if you listen closely to the drums and guitar. The music and vocals do feel more melodic, though, which is the main change. Frankly, the music sounds way more polished now than it did before and this style better suits the band.

“Misizibi” slows things down and shows off the variety of skills the band has. Not everything has to be at a breakneck pace and this album has a good range of dynamics. The track sequencing keeps the album moving along nicely, too. The album closes out with “Bloom,” which takes its time to tell a story about a relationship. The singer’s vulnerability is on full display here and it closes out the album wonderfully.

I’m a big fan of the direction Household took with this album. Everything a River Should Be oozes with personal lyrics and you can tell the band gave it their all. I highly recommend checking this album out. You can find purchase and streaming links here.

Review: Hurry Tackles Life on Every Little Thought

Hurry is the project of Matthew Scottoline, Rob DeCarolis, and Joe DeCarolis. It initially stemmed from Scottoline’s solo work and has morphed into something new. Every Little Thought comes after 2016’s Guided Meditation and a three song EP, Casual Feelings. Put simply, Every Little Thought is an album about life. However, is anything ever really that simple?

The album’s title track kicks off the good vibes while still being contemplative. There’s a day-to-day struggle that’s very clear in these songs. From the first song to the last one, Hurry doesn’t pull any punches on letting you know how they feel. “Time and Time Again” is a song that focuses on forgetting things and doing so fairly often. Our memory is a funny thing and often I find myself wondering why I forget certain things and hold on to things I would much rather forget.

Despite having some heavy subject matter, Every Little Thought is an upbeat album. It’s a refreshing change of pace from sad, heavy songs feeling the need to sound that way. Sometimes albums like that are so hard to play on repeat, but that’s not the case here.

Hurry is a pleasing band to listen to and this is an album that deserves to stay on repeat for at least a few spins. With each listen, I enjoyed the album more and more. You really get a feel for the relationships mentioned throughout and it makes you feel like you’ve known this band for quite some time, even if you really haven’t.

Every Little Thought came out on February 23, 2018 via Lame-O Records. I recently wrote about the label’s rise within the Philly music scene and this is just another wonderful band you can list on their roster. If you want a copy of the album, it’s available in physical and digital formats.

Review: The Dangerous Summer – The Dangerous Summer

The Dangerous Summer last released an album in August 2013. The band has had it’s ups and downs (as a lot do) and they’ve returned with their self-titled album. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of the band who knows everything about them by any means. I do recall getting into some of the songs on Reach for the Sun and ending up with a promotional poster for War Paint, but since then, I haven’t kept up much with them.

Their self-titled album launches with “Color” and you instantly feel how personal the lyrics are. That feeling sticks throughout, but “Ghosts” really hits a home run with it. It’s one of the stronger songs on the album that picks up the pace a little bit before slowing back down with “Luna.”

AJ Perdomo is the last remaining original member of The Dangerous Summer. With his vocals, though, the songs still sound similar to what we’ve previously heard. Without him, this would just be a different band altogether. With new members backing him, it’s natural that the music will sound a little different and it’s a welcome development.

However, even with how much thought and care is put into the lyrics, the album didn’t quite click as much as Reach for the Sun did when I was first introduced to the band. That said, it’s not that this is a bad album. It’s just one that needs to sink in some more. Some people connect with intensely personal songs in ways that I don’t always feel like I do. My life honestly hasn’t been that eventful for a lot of scenarios to be relatable. But I still find things I like in songs that I can’t fully relate to. This one is going to take some more time, but I still suggest giving it a listen to see if the band’s new sound is one you enjoy.

You can grab a copy of The Dangerous Summer on Amazon.