Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Mowgli's - Kids in Love Album Review

The Californian septet is back with their nostalgia-filled, summery sophomore album (under Photo Finish and Republic Records), appropriately called Kids in Love. Reflecting on the emotional struggles that exist in the eccentric, always-changing worlds of twenty-somethings, Kids in Love feels like a young adult’s diary that is written in melodies and rhythms rather than in scrawled, hasty handwriting.

However, Kids in Love wouldn’t be a Mowgli’s album if it didn’t promote the message of love, world peace, optimism, and kindness; the mantra of the band is essentially “be kind to everyone!” The band’s sophomore effort delivers on this message, smothering listeners in optimism; the Mowgli’s are absolutely relentless with their positivity, and they are determined to kill everyone with their kindness, one listener at a time.

Though this message is certainly met with more than a few cynical, annoyed eye rolls, The Mowgli’s deliver this idealistic ideology in a way that is goddamn catchy. Kids in Love expands on what The Mowgli’s know best: love.

Kids in Love is a more polished version of their major record label debut, Waiting for the Dawn; in their most recent LP, the band relies less on the harmonies that were so overpowering and frequently used on their first album. In Kids in Love, individual members are allowed to standout more as they do not have four or five other voices clambering on top of theirs. However, The Mowgli’s didn’t lose their signature singalong choruses in their new, more mature album. 

The Mowgli’s waste no time to start promoting their inspirational, positive message; starting the album off is “You’re Not Alone”, a song that reassures people that they are, quite frankly, not alone. Whether the listener wants to or not, they are going to feel loved by the end of the album’s 40 kindness-filled minutes. Jokes aside, “You’re Not Alone” works as a fantastic album opener as it hooks listeners in immediately with its infectious clap-along rhythm.

"You’re Not Alone” flows right into the album’s biggest single so far, “I’m Good”. The tune has a more relaxed feel with its light melodic phrases and instrumentation. Complete with a simple, memorable, singalong chorus, The Mowgli’s reassure listeners that if they are living life the way they want to, then they are doing well for themselves.

Starting with a quiet crescendo that climaxes into a ripping, heavier guitar riff that is quite unexpected of the usually acoustic, calm Mowgli’s, “Bad Dream” is one of the more dynamic tracks on the album. “Bad Dream” starts off with loud melodies and stomp-along rhythms, but this high-energy feel is traded in for a slow, psychedelic one during the bridge. The track’s energy returns ten-fold during the last 45 seconds, and because of its drastic changes in speed and mood, “Bad Dream” might be on its way to becoming a fan-favourite.

Transitioning into “What’s Going On?”, yet another relatable track that reflects the confusion of young adults who have no idea what they’re going to do with their lives, Kids in Love never loses its energy (nor its positive message) for the beginning of the album.
Next up is “Through the Dark”, the first single to be released off of the album. At a slower pace than the second single, “I’m Good”, the album’s fifth track then launches into “Whatever Forever” With its singalong chorus and hand-claps, “Whatever Forever” is a phrase that will soon be tattooed on many fans (it’s already inked on a couple of the band members).

“Make it Right” is the slowest, sleepiest track on the new LP, giving it a well-needed breather. Taking a page right out of Waiting for the Dawn, “Make it Right” reverts back to The Mowgli’s comfortable, acoustic style that fans of their previous album have grown accustomed to.
The energy picks up again with the next few tracks, starting with “Love me Anyway”, one of the most unique, dynamic songs on the album. Opening with a catchy rhythm that erupts into the perfect scream-along chorus that is complete with its fair share of indie rock “oohs”, “Love me Anyway” tells the all-too-relatable tale of two less-than-perfect lovers that just might be perfect for each other.

“Love me Anyway” flows perfectly into “Shake me Up”, an infectious tune that could potentially be a new single for the band. Next up is “Home to You”, which has a chorus that pays homage to their debut LP; with its enthusiastic count of “1, 2, 3, 4!” and its laidback feel, “Home to You” sounds like it could belong on Waiting for the Dawn in the best way possible.
The second-last track is “Kids in Love”, which is one of the highlights of the album with the same name. With its fast, dance-y pace, yell-along chorus, and engaging guitar riff, it hooks listeners in immediately as soon as the first note drops. Reminiscing about young love, “Kids in Love” sums up their sophomore effort pretty well.

Closing Kids in Love is the calmer-yet-gloomy “Sunlight”, which brings the album to a jarring halt. With its misty guitar riffs and dreary vocals, the summery spell that the album casts is abruptly broken with a spout of rain. Though “Sunlight” sounds the exact opposite of what its title suggests, there is no better way to end the album than with one of its most interesting tracks.

Kids in Love is a great album for young people that just need reassurance that they are doing the right thing, and who better to hear it from than a great band? Their most recent LP shows a growth and maturity from Waiting for the Dawn, as The Mowgli’s are beginning to experiment with new, heavier styles.
However, their message of love and positivity is not lost within their new sound; in fact, it rings louder and clearer than it ever did before. “I’m Good” sums up their message and the band as a whole perfectly as they sing, “I wanna see another love revolution, I found a way to be a better person. If we come together like we should, we could all be good.”

The Mowgli’s are one of the most selfless, inspiring bands out there, and they are working on creating this love revolution, one catchy LP at a time.


Monday, 20 April 2015

The Griswolds and Walk the Moon @ The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, 08/04/2015

Toronto needs some cheering up; the weather has been absolutely dismal for the past couple weeks, but Wednesday night was the first sliver of sunshine that the city has seen in a long time. Dedicated fans lined up hours before the doors to the Danforth Music Hall opened, waiting underneath a grey sky and relentless, pouring rain with little-to-no shelter. However, fans had the perfect motivation to stick it out; Walk the Moon was here. The Ohio-natives (as they constantly remind fans) brought a dash of vibrant colour and temporary sunlight to a black-and-white city with their positive, infectious music.
Hundreds of poncho-and-face-paint-clad fans poured into the venue at 7:30, thankful to get out of the cold. Soon enough, torn ponchos littered the floor as fans of all ages crowded closely together, including a pack of nine year-olds that rolled up to the venue in a limo, one boy sticking his head out of the window shouting a “Don’t you wish you were me?” at the shivering fans.

The opening band were the Australian-born Griswolds, and they waltzed out on stage donning shirts that said “Canada” all over them. “We decided to get some souvenirs while we were here!” one member quipped in an Australian accent that made all the fans yell in delight.
The singer, Chris Whitehall, gave out a congratulations to the fans for waiting outside so long in the cold. Whitehall admitted that he went out there for a bit, but then thought “fuck it”. With shaggy blonde hair and a crooked smile, Whitehall played the part of a stereotypical surfer boy, which went a long way in warming up the crowd: stooping down to pick up a flower crown that one fan had tossed up on stage, Whitehall placed it on his head and kept it on for the remainder of the set, an action that was met by a chorus of cheers. Australian heat radiated off the quartet as they thoroughly entertained their audience, playing songs off of their debut album Be Impressive.

Their optimistic, catchy tracks had everyone dancing, whetting the crowd’s appetite for Walk the Moon. The Griswolds’ sound complimented the headliner’s sound perfectly, so the Australian-natives did a fantastic job as an opening band.

As The Griswolds left the stage, the crowd packed tightly together: the lack of a barricade between the fans and the stage caused people to lose their minds. Everyone began to push closer to the stage for a chance to touch the pure sunshine that is Walk the Moon. The anticipation continued to build, and fans began to get restless, constantly checking their phones for the time. All of a sudden, “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King erupted from the speakers. Many fans felt as if they were being reborn as Walk the Moon sauntered onto the stage, met with the lion-like roaring of the crowd.

The band immediately launched into their sophomore album’s opener, “Different Colors”, which the crowd sang back whole-heartedly. As soon as the first note dropped, people were dancing, full of the band’s positive energy. The room instantly became stifling, which was a welcome change from the wind and rain outside.
“Different Colors” flowed effortlessly into “Tightrope”, one of the band’s bigger singles off of their self-titled debut album. People lost their minds by this point, and every time the singer Nick Petricca stepped closer into the audience, the crowd surged forward, creating a pulsating body of people all singing and dancing in unison. Walk the Moon tends to unite fans as one single community, one single family, and they managed to pull it off again that night at the Danforth.

Next up was “Down in the Dumps”, a track off of their sophomore effort Talking is Hard, followed by “Spend Your $$$”, which had everyone dancing, including the band. Walk the Moon obviously loves what they do, and their happiness spread to every single member of the crowd like some kind of blissful, lively plague.

Opting to play a fan-favourite off of their debut, the suggestive “Shiver Shiver” came up next, causing all the ladies to sing the sexy lyrics while pointing at the band (mainly at the bassist, Kevin Ray). Following “Shiver Shiver” was a spectacular performance of Talking is Hard’s “Avalanche”.

“UP 2 U” was next on the band’s handwritten paper plate setlists, and every fan anticipated the upcoming beat drop. When it came, everyone lost their minds and pushed forward, trying to touch the golden ray of sunshine that is the bassist Kevin Ray.  

“Work This Body”, another fan-favourite off of Talking is Hard, had the crowd spastically dancing, whether they knew the lyrics or not. Walk the Moon was basking in the energy of their audience, smiles spreading from ear to ear, mirroring the ecstatic grins of every fan.

Next was the highly-anticipated “Portugal” from the band’s most recent sophomore album, which was a surreal moment for many fans. The majority of the crowd knew every word, and people were singing back every lyric with as much passion as Petricca himself. Once again feeding off of the ecstasy of the crowd, Petricca launched himself into the sea of bodies, having a few intimate moments with some of the fans. The sea of people surged forward like an ocean tide, pushing themselves up against the stage as if it were the coastline, but never receding.

Even when Walk the Moon slowed it down with the perfect 80s-prom tune “Aquaman”, the crowd remained standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a unified mass, trying to get as close as they could to the stage. The band picked up the tempo again with “Lisa Baby”, a track off of their debut, which satisfied a lot of their older fans.

“Lisa Baby” flowed into “Jenny”, a fan-favourite off of their first album. Kevin Ray, with his blinding smile, starting swaying his hips in time to the track, which was met by a deafening chorus of screaming. However, Ray, with his eyes shut, seemed oblivious to the noise, immersed in the sound of his own music.

After “Jenny”, Petricca got the crowd to be quiet for the first moment of the night, and it was then that fans knew he was going to make his infamous speech. His mischievous eyes flicked around the venue, his gaze resting on a couple of faces, and he flashed a brilliant smile. Petricca said that he recognized some people in the audience, but he saw a lot of new faces, too. “Those of you who haven’t been to our show before, this is your initiation into the family”, he said with a sly, mysterious look in his eyes. Bringing his hands to the centre of his chest, he clutched his t-shirt, urging the crowd to do the same. Enticing the crowd, he began to instruct everyone to take “all that shit” and sadness that each audience member might be feeling about their lives in that moment, “gather it all up in your body, and push it out of you”. He raised his arms above his head, and the crowd mimicked his movements, everyone holding their own ball of anger and stress. Petricca continued, saying that he wanted the crowd to push “all that shit” above their heads, as if it were a car, and to let it go. The band then launched into “I Can Lift a Car”, the final song on their debut album, instructing the crowd to lift their worries above their heads during the chorus. There were no strangers in the venue anymore: every member of the audience was now a part of the same family in this magnificent moment, without a single worry or care in the world.

Following “I Can Lift a Car” was Walk the Moon’s most recent single, “Shut up and Dance”. “This is our last moment together”, Petricca said, teasing the audience, saying that they had to make it count. Immediately, Petricca felt the crowd’s excitement, so he began to shake his ass, much to the delight of fans. Once again, the crowd surged forward, trying to catch the last few glimpses of sunlight before they would be thrown back onto the wet streets of Toronto. After “Shut up and Dance”, the quartet exited while waving at their protesting fans.

It wasn’t long until Walk the Moon were called back onto the stage for the encore, beckoned by loud chants of “W-T-M!” As they made their re-entrance, the restless crowd began to scream, “Anna Sun! Anna Sun,” begging for Walk the Moon to play their biggest single. “Sorry guys,” Petricca teased, flashing his sly smile, “but not yet.” The band launched into a magnificent cover of The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” instead, much to the surprise and delight of the crowd.

The foursome wrapped up their set by reminding everyone that they are “Walk the Moon from Ohio” and by waiting for the last possible second to give fans what they wanted: “Anna Sun”. Every audience member sang each lyric back to the band as one being, and the spell of unity was broken as soon as Walk the Moon exited the stage, immersing the city of Toronto back into darkness.

Playing the perfect combination of both oldies and new tracks, Walk the Moon is a fantastic act to witness live; they sound exactly the same both within the studio and outside of it. Also, their infectious dance-y style and positive energy are a lot more powerful when in an intimate concert setting, providing a different, deeper connection to the band that one cannot experience when just listening to a recording.

The audience may have entered and left the concert as strangers, but in that moment with Walk the Moon, everyone was family.

Personal Highlight: Nick Petricca’s motivational speech before playing “I Can Lift a Car”, but Petricca shaking his ass to “Shut Up and Dance” is a close second.

Top Ten Albums of the Decade - So Far

With this decade being half over, it seems appropriate to create a list of the top ten albums of the 2010s so far. The albums on this list are ones that have certain qualities that set them apart from the countless other indie/alternative albums that come out every year. So far, the decade has brought music lovers many stunning, experimental debuts, sophomore efforts, and expanding discographies, and the world can only hope to see more as the 2010s draw to a close.

10. The Black Keys – Turn Blue (2014)
Must-Listen: “Turn Blue”
The first album on this list is The Black Keys’ Turn Blue. The Black Keys are no strangers to the music scene; Turn Blue is the duo’s eighth studio album, giving them an experienced edge. One of the more intriguing aspects of The Black Keys’ music is their skilled guitar riffs, and the album is full of them. Though their newest LP maintains the band’s signature, slightly bluesy vibe, Turn Blue has a slower, psychedelic, almost groovy feel to it that is relatively unexpected. Their most recent LP shows that the twosome will never stop surprising their fans, no matter how many albums they release.
9. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence (2014)
Must-Listen: “Brooklyn Baby”  
Lana Del Rey has been given a hard time ever since her debut under her current moniker was released in 2012. Critics harshly wrote that she couldn’t sing, calling her debut, Born to Die, dull. However, that didn’t stop her from being nominated for a Grammy. A few years later, she returned with her sophomore effort that had critics eating their words; her beautiful, sultry voice takes centre stage on Ultraviolence, which is darker and more emotional than her previous album, and this impressive growth is why Ultraviolence has earned a spot on this list.
8. PUP – PUP (2013)
Must-Listen: “Guilt Trip"
“PUNK’S NOT DEAD!” some dude yells as he discovers this band for the first time, and he is absolutely correct; the existence of Canadian punk band PUP proves that the beloved scene is still alive and kicking. Their self-titled debut is angry, with screaming guitar riffs and barking vocals. Full of head banging and sweat, PUP is everything that a punk album should be, and then some.

7. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (2013)
Must-Listen: “Hannah Hunt”
Winning a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album, the New York foursome’s impressive third LP is an outstanding one at that.  The members of Vampire Weekend are known for their quirky style and even quirkier lyrics, which have only become more polished in Modern Vampires of the City. Eccentric and unexpected, the fact that the album won a Grammy truly says it all.

6. Arctic Monkeys – AM (2013)
Must-Listen: “Arabella”
The Sheffield foursome are known for their sexy swagger, and they brought every bit of sex appeal they had for their fifth studio album. Dripping with black liquor and red lipstick, AM is the sexiest album out there. From the seductive lyrics to the ripping, sultry guitar solos, singer Alex Turner croons about sex, women, and more women. With every single LP that the Arctic Monkeys produce, they show a growth in style and maturity, and AM is no different.

5. M83: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011)
Must-Listen: “Reunion”
The French band’s sixth studio album bears a closer resemblance to a book or a movie than it does to an album; Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming tells a fantastical tale full of nostalgia, love, and regret. M83’s music is magnificent, from the lyrics to the instrumentation: their sound transports listeners to another world, which is why their most recent LP lands a spot in the middle of this list.

4. Passion Pit – Gossamer (2012)
Must-Listen: “Constant Conversations"
Passion Pit is certainly unconventional, from their lyrics to their instrumentation. Using the voices of children in a few tracks that are coupled with the singer’s falsetto, the band brings a certain quirkiness that is quite refreshing. Passion Pit’s sophomore album Gossamer is absolutely delicate and beautiful, as it completely reflects the struggles that singer Michael Angelakos has battled his way through. Gossamer disguises its darker meanings by burying deeper lyrics in a light, poppy synthesiser sound. The album gives fans a look into the raw emotions of the band, providing a personal connection between the two that has never been seen before; fans are able to relate to and find solace within the hardships so beautifully represented through the band’s lyricism at a deeper level, which is what makes this album so special.

3. Haim – Days are Gone (2013)
Must-Listen: “Falling”
 Taking third place is Haim’s badass debut album. Very few things are better than a band made up of three kick-ass, musically-inclined sisters. Haim, with their long hair and high-waisted shorts, brought the world a fantastic debut that turned more than just a few heads: Days are Gone is full of gorgeous harmonies and lyrics that young adults will have painted on their walls or tattooed on their wrists. Haim’s debut is the perfect summer album (not to mention the perfect breakup album), alternating between sugary, sweet tracks and complete badass stomp-alongs. The band brings the California sunshine with them on this debut, and a sophomore effort is highly anticipated; Haim is one of the greatest musical discoveries of the decade.

2. Foster the People – Torches (2011)
Must-Listen: “Houdini”
The runner-up is the Los Angeles natives’ stunning debut album. Even though Torches is packed full of poppy synthesizer melodies and ridiculously catchy beats, it is the singer Mark Foster’s impressive falsetto that is the album’s main strength (or at least it’s the aspect of Foster the People’s music that gathers the most amount of attention). Foster stretches his vocal chops all throughout the album, and his voice combined with the band’s inventive lyricism makes Torches a great standalone effort of 2011.
1. Tokyo Police Club – Champ (2010)
Must-Listen: “Breakneck Speed”
Topping the list is Tokyo Police Club’s impressive sophomore album, released in 2010. Dripping with a child-like nostalgia, this album truly feels like home, whether it’s someone’s second listen or one hundredth listen. Champ really is the best of Tokyo Police Club: with excellent lyrics and quirky guitar solos, TPC stuck to what they know best with Champ, but made it more polished. Champ shows off a growth within the Canadian skinny-jean clad quartet, displaying a maturity within their musicianship that had never been seen by fans before. Champ is a truly astounding LP that puts an end to the notion that Canadian music sucks.

Honourable Mentions:
Not quite making it onto the top ten list, these two albums are still worth a listen.
 The Zolas – Ancient Mars (2012)
Must-Listen: “Strange Girl”
The Canadian band’s sophomore album is surprising in the way that it is completely different from their debut, Tic Toc Tic, but The Zolas are no strangers to getting a complete musical facelift every few years. The most interesting thing about the band is that every time they release a new single or LP, it is always unexpected and unpredictable, and this album is no different.

Alt-J: An Awesome Wave (2012)
Must-Listen: “Breezeblocks”
The only word to describe Alt-J's An Awesome Wave is “bizarre”. Alt-J is definitely not a band for everyone, but the English quartet is so unique that the risks they take with their music can only be admired.