A Casual Fan’s Take on ‘Science Fiction’ by Brand New

Brand New - Science Fiction

Brand New is a band that I didn’t get into until after they released Daisy, so it’s hard to consider myself anything more than a casual fan. I haven’t listened to their albums hundreds of times. Despite that, I do happen to own Your Favorite Weapon and Deja Entendu on vinyl. However, there are albums I have bought before and haven’t ended up listening to the records as much as I thought I would. So buying vinyl isn’t always an accurate representation of how much I enjoy or listen to a particular album.

Their latest release, Science Fiction, piqued my interest. I remember telling Jason Tate on a podcast we did that they weren’t on my most anticipated list, but I would still listen whenever a new album came out (or something to that effect, anyway). And I honestly wasn’t in a rush for it to come out. When the limited edition vinyl dropped, I wasn’t concerned about getting my hands on a copy. When the album started showing up in the form of various rips on the internet, I started to get interested. Hoping it would be up on Apple Music shortly thereafter, I waited. It didn’t come right away so I gave a single listen to the hour plus file. Initially, I actually heard about 10 seconds on YouTube but stopped because it didn’t seem like it was great quality.

That first listen gave me an inkling that I’d enjoy the album more than I expected to. While listening to it, it’s like I forgot about everything else the band had done before, because frankly, it didn’t matter to me if this was or wasn’t like their previous stuff. My opinion on albums simply comes from whether I enjoy them to not. I’m perfectly fine with bands who change their sound over time and bands who don’t get a bit stale.

This album never went on repeat for me. I wanted to sit with it between listens so it all wouldn’t blur together. When it finally hit Apple Music, I gave it a second listen. Having the track listing was a huge plus, too. Now I actually knew what songs were playing, which is always helpful.

“Lit Me Up” starts with a spoken word bit, and I’m not a huge fan of those. It takes about two minutes to get to the actual music and once it gets there, it’s a wonderful opening track. It grabbed me and kept me interested in the rest. “Same Logic / Teeth” gives a new look at what Jesse can do with more screaming that expected.

It’s hard for me to sit and listen to albums that are over an hour long. I prefer the ones that run around the 40 minute mark. That feels like the sweet spot to me, but I will make exceptions, especially when the album flows like this one does. It never felt like it was an hour long album because I easily took to it.

If you’re wanting a full on breakdown of this album, you won’t find that here. I’m just a casual fan who really enjoys this listening experience. Is this the end of Brand New? If it is, that’s fine. And if it isn’t, that’s fine, too. Don’t get me wrong, I respect everything this band has done for music over the years, but I’m not a hyper-fan and there’s no shame in that. This is a great album and it feels like the band took their time because they wanted to get it right. And they sure did.

Grab a copy of Science Fiction over on Amazon.

Review: Envy On The Coast – ‘Ritual’

Envy On The Coast - Ritual

Envy On The Coast returned with Ritual on June 30th. It was a long wait from Lowcountry to the new EP. That album came out in 2010 and it somehow doesn’t feel like it was quite that long ago. That was also right around the time I actually found out about the band, so it was a shame when I didn’t get to hear anything new from that after discovering them. The current lineup consists of Ryan Hunter and Brian Byrne, so there have been some changes, but I’m still glad to have them back.

While I haven’t always enjoyed the direction a band takes when they make new music, I can understand it. Artists can’t keep making the same music with each release. Ritual sounds like Envy On The Coast, but it doesn’t sound exactly like their previous releases. It doesn’t have any extra audio bits like “Southern Comfort” does, and they’ve dialed things back just slightly. “Manic State Park” starts with a more upbeat feel to it than most of their songs before. Ryan and Brian did note that this wouldn’t be a reunion, but more of a reincarnation instead.

“Lioness” is a song that talks of wanting to make a mess again. The lyrics tell a story of essentially wanting to go back to a destructive way of living. The writing really stands out on this EP as it has in past releases. Overall, the six songs given here are just enough to keep me wanting more. Sure, it’s not the best thing that’s ever come from Envy On The Coast, but I’m okay with that given the circumstances. If you haven’t checked this out simply because of the lineup changes, I highly encourage you to do so. There are still some of those aspects of the previous incarnation of the band present.

You can grab a copy of Ritual via Amazon.

Review: Lost In Society – “Kid” + “True”

Lost In Society Flexi

Lost In Society recently released a 7” flexi with two new songs on them. Luckily, the songs are also available digitally for your listening pleasure. The two songs are similar in tone, but quite different in the fact that “Kid” runs almost four minutes while “True” runs just 34 seconds. All the band is asking for is less than five minutes of your time and you should absolutely give it to them. I don’t listen to too many new punk bands. I got into the Menzingers, and I love them. Then, I saw Lost In Society live at Programme Skate & Sound in Fullerton, CA and wanted more bands like them. I’m sure if I look hard enough, I can find some more. But Lost In Society have a rawness to their sound that I love.

“Kid” is able to send a longer message due to it being a longer song. It’s not a two minute banger that we often see in punk, but it’s still a jam. The chorus is one you can sing along to after a single listen of the song. “True” sends a powerful message still, even with its brevity. It’s cool to see a band just release something like this. They had two songs ready and they gave them to us. Give them a listen and you’ll see what I mean by the rawness of this band. They’re a refreshing sound when you tend to spend your time listening to a lot more polished and radio-ready music.

Review: Baron Fig Vanguard Notebooks

baronfigvanguardBaron Fig was kind enough to send me some of their new Vanguard notebooks. I received the blank plus, ruled flagship, and dot grid pocket notebooks. One of each size and one of each paper type made it easy to see what works best for me and in which size. Ever since buying the dot grid Confidant from Baron Fig, I haven’t really wanted to go back to ruled. However, having three packs allowed for me to hand a couple out to friends and family. The blank plus is great as a sketchbook, so I gave one to a friend who does art. My mom was looking for something to write in recently and she really liked the size of the ruled flagship. So it works out for anyone who’s looking for either multi-use notebooks or ones to fit a specific need.

Paper quality is another aspect that Baron Fig has down. If you’re a pen user like myself, you’ll find that your everyday pens don’t bleed through to the other side of the page. This is something that always drove me crazy with the cheaper school notebooks I would always have. The paper is thick and well-made. I also love the stitching that holds the notebook together. The yellow also makes it instantly recognizable as a Baron Fig notebook. Altogether, each size has a perfect use and with how well put together they are, it’s hard to not want to use them daily. I highly recommend these if you tend to use notebooks everyday and would like a variety of size and page type.

Review: James Bond: VARGR by Warren Ellis

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James Bond: VARGR collects the first six issues of the comic by Warren Ellis and Jason Masters. James Bond has been tasked with taking on the workload of the fallen 008. It’s supposed to be an easy task, but twists and turns make it otherwise. Bond is on his toes the entire time and ready for everything that eventually gets thrown at him. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll leave it at that and you’ll just have to read it yourself to find out more. Ellis does an outstanding job with making Bond contemporary and even funny at times.

I’ll admit that I haven’t been exposed to much of Bond. Unlike most people I know, I haven’t watched the movies except for pieces here and there. Shame on me, I know. This comic is absolutely going to change that. It was entertaining and Bond as a character seems right up my alley. Long story short, I have no excuse for not paying attention to the 007 world.

Masters did a great job on art and matched the tone of Ellis’ writing perfectly. He knew when to turn it up a notch with the blood and violence. I found issue one to be the darkest as far as the coloring goes, simply because it mostly took place at night. I would have loved to have a little more clarity on night scenes from Guy Major on colors, but that wasn’t a deal breaker on this for me. Overall, I enjoyed the six issues, plus the extras at the end, and will be looking forward to reading the next storyline in a collection. You can pick up a copy of the book here.

Review: ‘Cyborg Vol. 1: Unplugged’ By David F. Walker

Cyborg is a character I’m not super familiar with in the DC world of comics. I was pleased to see upon starting Cyborg Vol. 1: Unplugged that he was a hero known to Batman, Wonder Woman, and Shazam. There were a ton of people who contributed to this book, but the main ones were David F. Walker as writer, Ivan Reis on pencils, Joe Prado on inks, and Adriano Lucas with the coloring. And this is the point where I remind you that there may be spoilers. The trade covers issues 1 – 6.

As I mentioned, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Shazam all know and work with Cyborg, which is how the comic opens. It was a little unclear why they were all working together, but in the midst of doing so, Cyborg learns he can regenerate himself after being killed. And that’s about all I was able to gather from the first few issues. It was a bit hard to follow at first, but the later issues began to clear a lot of that up. I’m not sure if this was because I had a digital copy, but since Cyborg’s thoughts and message notifications had different lettering, they were at times hard to read because the letters didn’t seem thick enough and the colors weren’t enough of a contrast. I did have an advance copy, so it could have been fixed when it went to print, but it made it a bit difficult to read certain sections and hurt the flow of the comic.

Really what I learned with reading a Cyborg comic was that I’m not nearly as familiar with some DC characters as I thought. The Metal Men made an appearance and I had no clue who they were other than that they were there to help. They help fight the technosapiens and Cyborg starts to formulate a plan for how to beat them once and for all by getting rid of a virus that seems to have been uploaded in them. This is when the storyline gets better to me as we can see what’s going on and how the multiverse is involved. Overall, I thought it was a middle-of-the-road type of story. Maybe it’s because I have more to learn about Cyborg as a character, but this arc just didn’t grab my attention as much as I was hoping.

Review: ‘Batman Vol. 8: Superheavy’ by Scott Snyder

Batman Volume 8: Superheavy is the latest trade in Scott Snyder’s run of Batman. Greg Capullo is the penciler, inks are done by Danny Miki, colors are by Fco Plascencia, and letters are by Steve Wands. This was actually my first exposure to Snyder’s Batman so I’m a bit late to the game. I didn’t mind the few spoilers that came with this arc, and here’s your warning that there may be some in this review.

The story arc was an interesting idea to me, but I’m not sure it hit as well as it could. This volume covers issues 41 – 45. It opens with Jim Gordon being asked to be the new Batman, which is an interesting choice considering the age difference between him and Bruce Wayne. It would have seemed more ideal to find someone either currently serving in the military, like Jim Gordon had previously, or as Gordon mentioned, to choose someone who was going through the rigorous training to be the next Batman. I was, however, a fan of the high tech suit. It’s not the traditional Batman suit we’re used to, but I felt like it was keeping up with the times of ever-changing technology. The fact that it could move on it’s own and obey basic commands brought a new aspect to how Batman fights.

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Review: Pinegrove – ‘Cardinal’

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Pinegrove are a band that I didn’t know existed up until a few months ago. And honestly, this album shocked the hell out of me. It’s one that will be talked about all year and easily end up as a favorite on many “end of the year” lists. The band would fall under the alt-country genre even though this feels like a rock album. It’s laid back vibe and the inclusion of some twang here and there contributes to that alt-country tag. But, let’s not dwell on the genre and get this out of the way: this is a damn good album.

I’m sitting here, listening to the record again, just to make sure I haven’t gone crazy and I still enjoy it just as much as the first time I listened to it. I do. The opening of “Old Friends” is one I’m not sure I can get tired of. The band has had rotating members the last few years, but Evan Stephens Hall and Zack Levine have been the constants with their songwriting and drumming, respectively. Evan gets out a lot of emotions in these lyrics and you can see the progression from Cardinal beginning with “Old Friends” and coming to a close with “New Friends.” It’s like getting to feel for an entire chapter of someone’s life in just 8 songs. Personally, I would have loved a longer album, but I think any additional tracks may not have had the same effect.

It’s gut-wrenching how relatable songs can be and that’s no different on this album. I’m sure we can all relate to the transition from old friends to new ones. This album offers everything in between. “Aphasia” is a stand out track. It deals with just being relieved to have even said anything at all to the point where it doesn’t matter what it was. This seems a bit ironic considering how great the songwriting is. Then again, it’s probably easier to write something down and say it generally than it is to say something directly. Some of the most powerful lyrics can be found in “New Friends” with the trio of lines “I resolve to make new friends // I like my old ones but I fucked up so I’ll start again // What’s the worst that could happen?” hooking you and sinking you in one swift motion. Needless to say, I’ll be listening to this album still at the end of the year. So instead of spending more time reading this, I encourage you to go check it out.