Monday, November 30, 2015

Pentatonix - "PTXmas"

Pentatonix - PTXmas
2014, RCA

1. Angels We Have Heard On High
2. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
3. Carol of the Bells
4. The Christmas Song
5. O Holy Night
6. This Christmas
7. Little Drummer Boy
8. Go Tell It On the Mountain

This album came out a bit before their official Christmas debut, That's Christmas To Me. I picked this up in an effort to find every last Pentatonix Christmas song that exists. Naturally, it's great. I mean, it's friggin' Pentatonix so it's pretty impossible for it to be bad. I don't think they could be bad if they tried. I think if they intentionally tried to be bad it would probably just be "above average." Anyway, it's more Pentatonix Christmas music. If you like Pentatonix, then you'll want this album. If you don't... well... you're just wrong.

Useless Fact: That's Christmas to Me has been reissued as a deluxe edition with extra tracks! Argh! We just got the extra tracks on Itunes, even though I'm still strongly tempted to get a hard copy for the vault.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pentatonix - "Pentatonix"

Pentatonix - Pentatonix
2015, RCA

1. Na Na Na
2. Can't Sleep Love
3. Sing
4. Misbehavin'
5. Ref
6. First Things First
7. Rose Gold
8. If I Ever Fall In Love
9. Cracked
10. Water
11. Take Me Home
12. New Year's Day
13. Light In the Hallway
Bonus Tracks:
14. Where Are U Now?
15. Cheerleader
16. Lean On
17. Can't Sleep Love (feat. Tink)

We love Pentatonix at our house. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you like music and can't find something to like about these guys, you're going to want to see a neurologist or something because something is wrong with your head. While the group has proven they can make any pop song better than the original version, this is the first time they've done an album full of original songs. It's great, of course. Their knack for fusing acapella with pop sensibilities remains and produces some of the best pop songs I've ever heard. Seriously, "Can't Sleep Love" is an almost perfect pop song. Other songs, like "Water," and "Sing" will get stuck in your head for days. "Light in the Hallway" is an amazing tune with layered vocals and poignant lyrics and one of my favorites as well.

I do have a couple quibbles though. One, it seems like Scott (the one who looks like a Twilight vampire) gets a lot of lead time here. One would almost be tempted to think he's the lead singer with the other folks backing him up. He sings lead on a good share of the songs here. That's not bad, per se, but for a group with this much talent in its ranks I'd like them to share the spotlight a little more. Each person does seem to have their own song (Kirsten's is "Water," Avi's is "Light in the Hallway"), but I like it when they work as a team more like on their covers and Christmas stuff. Also, there's a few songs that sound a little too radio friendly. Stuff like "First Things First" and "New Year's Day" conform more to the pop standard I think. One of the things I like about the group is that they break away from the standard modern pop sound. Anyway, minor things aside, Pentatonix is great and we'll probably be listening to it well into next year.

Useless Fact: Scott and Mitch (the little one) have a You Tube channel called "Super Fruits." My wife tells me it's very amusing.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Coheed and Cambria - "The Color Before The Sun"

Coheed and Cambria - The Color Before The Sun
2015, 300 Entertainment

1. Island
2. Eraser
3. Colors
4. Here To Mars
5. Ghost
6. Atlas
7. Young Love
8. You Got Spirit, Kid
9. The Audience
10. Peace to the Mountain

Well... it had to happen eventually. I knew at some point Coheed and Cambria would have to make an album without a concept. The question, of course, is can a band whose stock and trade has been convoluted concept albums their entire career even pull something like this off? The Color Before The Sun might not overthrow my favorite Coheed album (Good Apollo, Vol. 1 if you're wondering) but some of the songs on here are some of the best of their career and that is not an exaggeration. Song's like the haunting "Ghost" or the uplifting and energetic "Atlas" leave their mark for days in your brain. "You Got Spirit, Kid" recalls some of the bouncy radio-friendly tunes like "Blood Red Summer" or "The Suffering." The album closer, "Peace to the Mountain" is altogether different being one of my favorite Coheed songs of all time.

It's kind of weird to listen to Coheed lyrics that make sense! The band is far less angsty and dark on this album and the hope and exuberance for life shines through. This is a good thing as I don't think you can only be angsty so long before it starts sounding fake. This is certainly the most optimistic record they've ever done. Again, this is not a bad thing. I'm happy to see the band evolving and challenging themselves. While as a whole  The Color Before The Sun isn't quite as compelling as some of their other albums, the songwriting is still top notch and contains some phenomenal songs. I have no reservations about the future of the band anymore.

Useless Fact: I think "Atlas" is actually the name of singer Claudio Sanchez's son.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Queensryche - "Condition Human"

Queensryche - Condition Human
2015, Century

1. Arrow of Time
2. Guardian
3. Hellfire
4. Toxic Remedy
5. Selfish Lives
6. Eye9
7. Bulletproof
8. Hourglass
9. Just Us
10. All There Was
11. The Aftermath
12. Condition Human

Let me start this review by first saying, THANK YOU TODD LA TORRE! His addition to the band following Geoff Tate's ouster has reinvigorated these guys. They are full of passion and fire now - it's obvious they are glad to be Queensryche again. The real Queensryche - writing real Queensryche songs, instead of being Tate's mediocre vanity project. This fire was apparent on the self-titled release from 2013, but that album - while enjoyable- was rushed and light. This one however... for me it's the best album since Empire. The band is on point here and the album is much more substantial than the previous offering. It's full of great instrumentation and strong hooks. Just one listen to the blistering opener, "Arrow of Time" and you just know - Queensryche is back. Some people say that this album sounds a little like Empire or Promised Land but I disagree. I don't think it sounds like the previous albums (save for shades of "Anybody Listening?" in the title track). I think it sounds fresh, new, and modern. It's like we got an album from an alternate universe where the Hear in the Now Frontier and later never happened. I particularly like tracks like "Bulletproof" where La Torre just belts it out with all of his heart.

I don't think the album is perfect, though. I do think the lyrics aren't quite to the quality standards of the heyday of Queensryche. At times they seem a little generic and don't quite pack the punch that one might be used to from the classic albums. Also, the cover are and liner notes are really dark and a bit hard to read (a nitpicky gripe to be sure). Still, while I don't think this is quite a "classic" it shows a definite upward direction for the band. Honestly, I think the next one is going to be the definitive La Torre-era album and I heartily look forward to it. Until then I will enjoy this album secure in the knowledge that Queensryche's name and legacy is in good hands.

Useless Fact: Fear not, Tate fans! Tate still has a mediocre vanity project. It's called Operation: Mindcrime and the debut album, The Key, should come out... at some point. Don't ask me when because I neither know nor care.