By: Derek Jung
Derek: For a band that started in Seattle, Washington, I've always thought that Band of Horses' sound would be more at home in the southern back country, rolling over the calm Appalachian mountains. The band burst on the scene in 2006 with their debut album Everything All The Time which included the indie Pandora Station staple "The Funeral". And while at the time I thought the band would ride the reverb-infused, folk-rock wave like My Morning Jacket, to whom they've frequently been compared, Ben Bridwell and gang have trail-blazed their own path during the last decade. Their previous two albums saw an attempt at writing more straightforward, accessible indie rock, but for the most part they weren't been able to repeat the blockbuster level of success that they saw on their first two albums, including my personal favorite, 2007's Cease To Begin.
Their new album, Why Are You OK, sees a return to form for the band, with over half of the album harking back to the band's earlier distinctive style of grandiose, dreamy, full-sounding indie folk songs. Album opener "Dull Times/The Moon" begins like a foggy dream, gliding over its first four minutes and lulling us to sleep while Bridwell softly sings "Home is where the heart/ home is where you are" as if this was what he was dreaming about. The second half of the song explodes into one of the strongest hooks on the album, as if Bridwell finally woke up from his stupor. This balance of old and new is critical to the flow of the album. Lead single "Casual Party" is a good example of a song that stylistically is more like their recent albums, yet works because it fits into the overarching sound of the album.
I think I'm one of the only people who disliked the cameo by Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis on "In A Drawer", whose backing vocal doesn't blend well with the song, but I can understand what they were going for (nostalgia, etc.). Generally, I think the song as a whole just fell flat.
If this is the balance that we're going to see from Band of Horses, I think they've hit the best medium that they possibly can.
By: Derek Jung
Derek: With over twenty-five years under their belts, The Red Hot Chili Peppers don't really have anything else to prove to solidify their place as one of the biggest rock acts in the last half century. The core group members of Anthony Kiedis, Flea, and Chad Smith have been together since 1988, with the former two having been together since 1983, and their sound has been consistent during that time. For me, the only question surrounding this latest installment was the newest member, guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who became a full member of the band when John Frusciante left to pursue his own creative passions. Klinghoffer's first studio album with the band, 2011's underwhelming I'm With You, left many fans clamoring for Frusciante's return. As it became more and more apparent that Frusciante was not returning, apprehension about the next chapter of the Klinghoffer Era began. What we hear on The Getaway is a big step in the right direction for the band, with Klinghoffer finding his own footing and identity as well as paying tribute to the styling of his predecessor just enough to give the hardcore Frusciante fans a taste of what they remember.
There are only a few super rock jams on this album, but that's ok. What we get instead is a thoughtful, melodic album from a band that has aged and matured very gracefully compared to other bands from the same era. The fact that they're still releasing culturally relevant albums is a testament to not only their music, but also their undying commitment to doing what works for them. Lead single "Dark Necessities" is one such example; it begins slowly before exploding into a slap bass groove with complimentary hand claps. Flea's skiing accident, where he broke his arm and reportedly had to relearn how to play bass, made me wonder just how much slap bass was going to be on this album, but it is chalk full of great bass lines. The bridge on "Goodbye Angels", probably my favorite song on the album, has some great slap bass before Klinghoffer gives his most John-like solo on the album. All in all a fantastic song.
There are a few misses on the album, the biggest being "Detroit", where the combination of Anthony's shrill vocal and poor mixing makes for a difficult listen. But this is by far the worst hiccup on an otherwise solid album. Yes, the standard Chili Peppers lyrics remain - "California" is mentioned on album opener, "The Getaway" - but this has become more an expectation from Anthony Keidis' songwriting than a complaint, and for an album titled The Getaway, Anthony and gang don't sound like they're in a hurry to leave The Golden State.
By: The Busted Amp Staff
Derek: In 2010, I read about an up-and-coming neo-soul band on my favorite music website at the time, Antiquiet, and their debut album Pickin' Up The Pieces soon became one of my favorite albums of the year. Their blend of throwback soul with modern pop aesthetics was refreshing, and the obvious Motown influences were enough to sound familiar, yet not enough to be a complete rip of the decades-old soul sound. A few years later, the band's sophomore release More Than Just a Dream departed from much of the throwback sound in favor of a more pop forward, singles focused record, and their resulting commercial success signaled a new, reinvented chapter for Fitz & the Tantrums. The one constant between the two eras was the captivating and energetic live shows, which I had the pleasure of seeing twice, once in each album cycle. While I was happy to see the band gain more fans and continue putting on great shows, I was apprehensive of where their sound was heading. My worst fears were realized on this album.
The transformation of Fitz & the Tantrums from a neo-soul band into a generic, soulless pop band has been completed. Michael Fitzpatrick, like Dr. Frankenstein before him, has created such a grotesque monster of an album that I fear nothing can save the band that I once knew and loved. Whereas their debut had beautifully written songs about heartbreak and loss, this album has lyrics like "It's complicated / When we get naked / But I can take it / (I love to hate it babe; I can't say no)". The music isn't much better. Just as the lyrics are dumbed down on this album, so has the music, which features forgettable dance beats, terrible synths, and a complete lack of depth outside of a few admittedly catchy hooks sprinkled throughout the 36-minute runtime. I have to wonder why Noelle Scaggs continues to take the backseat in the group; she has been featured less and less as a vocalist despite her obvious talent. At this point is she really anything other than a hypewoman telling the crowd to "put their hands up" during their live sets? She certainly doesn't contribute anything of note on this album outside of one bridge on "Complicated".
There's no doubt that the singles on this album like "Handclap" will see airplay on both radio and TV, but this is nothing more than a shallow, poorly produced, poorly written pop album.
Joseph: A lot of times when a band drops a pop-heavy album, I will enjoy it far more than Derek does. Fitz's sophomore album, More Than Just a Dream, was a textbook example of this: I was ok with Fitz & the Tantrums having more pop influences than neo-soul on their album. After all, "The Walker" had one of my favorite hooks of 2013, so there's no doubt these guys have the ability to blend the two genres together. Buuuuuuuuuut we will agree on this pile of crap.
What are you doing Michael Fitzpatrick? I really want to think that he's just trying to express himself creatively, but my cynical side is screaming sellout. And I just might have to let my cynical side win out here, because I KNOW Fitz & the Tantrums have more talent than this. I think that's what really gets me here and why I'm right down in the gutters on this travesty with Derek: I know these guys can do better. Even from a pop perspective this album lacks hooks on almost every song besides "Handclap" and "Burn it Down." Noelle Scaggs has nothing to do here, and can take the title of "Most talented musician completely wasted" to this point this year, and AGAIN my cynical side comes up at this point because part of me thinks she has nothing to do only because Michael Fitzpatrick knows she's a FAR better singer than he is, so he wants to limit her role as much as possible. I hope that's not true but dear Lord I can't shake that thought out of my head.
Ultimately, this album is a disaster. I can only hope that at this point Fitz and the Tantrums attempt to bring their fans back to their neo-soul side with a "triumphant return to their roots" or something, but with Michael Fitzpatrick seemingly settling into his newfound love of the electronic genre with a recent (and very lackluster) collaboration with Cash Cash, I'm not holding my breath. As it stands this may be the most disappointing fall for a group that I have ever seen.
By: Derek Jung
Just as Spring has kicked into full gear, so have the lives of The Busted Amp staff. While Joseph and I have been increasingly busy with our day jobs, that doesn't mean we haven't been listening to great new music. Instead of giving full overviews for these albums, I've decided to provide some quick thoughts on the ones that peaked my interests.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.