Every Open Eye, CHVRCHES (2015) Review

After I talked so much about this album in my review of Chvrches’s debut, The Bones of What You Believe, I thought it’d be fitting to review it. What we have here is Chvrches totally swerving the sophomore slump and getting right to the good stuff.

Every Open Eye

I view Every Open Eye as an improvement over their debut album. The group expanded upon everything that made their debut so successful. The lyrics here are tighter, the instrumentals and vocal samples more effective, and Lauren’s voice sounds better than before. Every Open Eye sounds very similar to The Bones of What You Believe, but the delivery here is more even and well-rounded than the debut, especially the production.

My main complaint with The Bones of What You Believe is the production. For lack of a better word, it is uneven. I believe the band was experimenting with a few different production styles on the debut, but they never really honed in on one set style. Every Open Eye is the complete opposite. Here we have Chvrches expanding upon one definitive production style. The production on this album is huge, and this album’s greatest strength is the production. Every Open Eye is a very cheerful album; quite the antithesis to The Bones of What You Believe, which is a darker affair. Chvrches sounds triumphant on tracks like Make Them Gold and Bury It, both of which deal with overcoming hardships and bettering yourself.

High Enough to Carry You Over and Empty Threat deal with similar topics as well. Tracks like those help to give the whole album a much happier feel than The Bones of What You Believe. Because of that, the debate of The Bones of What You Believe vs. Every Open Eye is a tough one, and it really does come down to the darker album vs. the cheerier album. It’s all personal preference, but I simply adore how hyperactive this album is. Chvrches is just everywhere on this album. They do the fast-paced blazers like Never Ending Circles and Keep You On My Side, but Chvrches also balances those tracks out with stuff like Down Side of Me and Afterglow. Afterglow, the album’s closer, is simply beautiful. It’s one of Chvrches’s simpler cuts, but it is so effective. The entire song is composed of just two things: Lauren’s voice and a synth track. Those two elements work beautifully together and create some mesmerizing moments.

The pacing of these tracks is insanely good. I still find it hard to believe that this is only the group’s second effort. Chvrches writes song like songwriting is a craft they’ve been honing for years and years. I even think the songwriting is a step up from their debut. All of the tracks here are extremely memorable, and the length of the album is just perfect. The album clocks in at a total of 42 minutes, which is just enough time for Chvrches to come in, make their mark, and leave without overstaying their welcome. But yeah, Chvrches alternates between faster paced stuff and more mellow tracks perfectly. What I’m getting at is that this creates epic contrasts between songs like High Enough to Carry You Over and Leave a Trace, making the album feel like a completely immersive listen.

The performances from every band member is really high caliber stuff too. Lauren Mayberry’s performance is pretty comparable to her work on the debut. She’s definitely improved as a vocalist, but their isn’t that drastic of a change. Although, she has changed up her vocal delivery just a little bit. Like when she needs her voice to be soft and fragile on Afterglow, she is able to expertly communicate her emotions through her timbre. Her highs are also cleaner on this album than they were on the debut. She hits some higher notes in stuff like Empty Threat and Make Them Gold.

Speaking of vocal performances, Martin Doherty’s voice is leaps and bounds better than it was on the debut. There is only one track he has lead vocals on here, and that is High Enough to Carry You Over (which is an awesome song!!). Simply put, he comes off as a better singer here than he did on the debut. Her delivery is tighter and his voice is less shaky. One thing about the debut that really irked me was that his voice was so drastically different than Lauren’s. I don’t think his voice fit the dark sound of the debut, but here, we have a much cheerier Chvrches. His voice is extremely welcome in the context of the album’s sound.

Iain Cook, who plays bass for Chvrches, is featured much more prominently on this album. The two cuts his bass plays a huge part in are Playing Dead and Make Them Gold. In those two tracks, his bass, along with Lauren’s voice, adds a human element to the electronic soundscape. His bass tone is great; it rumbles and booms alongside the blazing synths in the verses to Playing Dead to create a truly unique mix of sounds.

It’s been about three or four months (and about 30+ listens) since I’ve first heard the album, and it still floors me whenever I listen to it. Even when I nitpick about the band’s production or performance here, it’s hard for me to come up with legitimate complaints about this album’s missteps. The entire effort is extremely well rounded, and such an improvement over the band’s debut. Even the songwriting, which was immense on the group’s debut, has managed to improve.

The Verdict

Every Open Eye is a must hear for 2015. Chvrches manages to improve every single element that made their debut as acclaimed as it was. Every Open Eye is by far the greatest electronic pop album I’ve ever heard. Actually scratch that, it’s one of the greatest albums I’ve ever had the chance of listening to. Definitely pick this one up if you’re looking to either expand your taste or dig into some newer pop music.

The Bones of What You Believe, Chvrches (2013) Review

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Top 5 Speak Now Songs

Introduction

This is the first piece I’m doing on Speak Now by Taylor Swift, my first album of the month here on The Hammer! Speak Now can flaunt many things, among them an excellent performance from Taylor (and her backing band) and extremely dense songwriting (all solely done by Swift herself). Speak Now features many fan favorite tracks and of course a lot of huge radio hits. My favorite aspect of Speak Now is the almost ethereal feeling the songwriting has. It was on this album that Swift truly cemented herself as one of the greatest songwriters of the 21st century.

For my first piece based on Speak Now, I’ll be showing you all the top 5 greatest songs from the album:

5. Superman

I actually start off with a bonus track from Speak Now, Superman. There were 6 bonus tracks to Speak Now, with three of them being original songs, and I believe Superman is the best original song from the deluxe edition of the album. Superman has an excellent driving feel to it and features some heartfelt vocals from Taylor. I love the chorus of the song:

“I watch superman fly away
You’ve got a busy day today
Go save the world I’ll be around
I watch superman fly away
Come back I’ll be with you someday
I’ll be right here on the ground
When you come back down”

Her backing band actually sounds pretty heavy on this song. They add a lot of weight to the sound and save it from sounding too light. I’ve also always thought the length of the song is perfect at about 4 and half minutes. The song focuses on Taylor wishing for this Superman character to come swoop her off her feet and fly her around the world. She claims she’s loved this man from the “very first day” and that she’s been “lovestruck and looking out the window” for him. It’s a touching little song and long has been one of my favorite bonus tracks to any of her albums.

4 . Enchanted

At number 4 I have the most atmospheric track on Speak Now, Enchanted. When I spoke above about some of these tracks having an ethereal feel to them, Enchanted is a great example. The intro is soft with lush underlying keyboards to it, then, when Taylor’s vocals climax, the song explodes into this magical, emotionally charged ballad. The entire song has those underlying keyboards which help to make the whole thing very memorable. Enchanted has long been a fan favorite and it’s one of the most popular songs from Speak Now. It’s popularity can be attributed to many things, but mainly Taylor’s haunting vocal performance. Out of all the songs on Speak Now, Taylor sounds most believable on this track. She alternates between these soft whispers in the beginning of the song and these memorizing highs later on in the track. I love everything about Enchanted, it’s a definite standout from Speak Now.

3. Speak Now

Number 3 on this list is none other than the title track, Speak Now. Upon my first few listens of Speak Now, this one was an immediate favorite. Still to this day, it’s my most played song from Speak Now. Speak Now is the catchiest cut from the album, bar none. I also think it’s one of the best story-driven songs Taylor Swift has ever wrote. The song deals with a woman struggling to make the man she loves realize that he is marrying the wrong girl on his wedding day. And don’t worry, the song does have quite the happy ending. Taylor’s performance here is awesome, I love how she delivers lines here like:

“I hear the preacher say, “Speak now or forever hold your peace.”
There’s the silence, there’s my last chance.
I stand up with shaking hands, all eyes on me.
Horrified looks from everyone in the room
But I’m only looking at you.”

Lines like that she delivers at a rapid fire pace that she normally doesn’t attempt. The title track holds some of my favorite lyrics from the entire album and Taylor’s performance on the song is top notch. If I ever meet Taylor Swift, I am definitely going to ask: who was wearing the gown shaped like a pastry, the bride or the bridesmaid?

2. Better Than Revenge

For number 2 I have the most risqué song Taylor has ever written, Better Than Revenge. This song is probably the biggest departure Taylor has made from her sound, especially given the context of the song. Speak Now is largely a country/pop album and doesn’t stray very much at all from that sound. So, hearing Taylor Swift rip into some pop/punk for a track really sticks out, and it’s damn good. Better Than Revenge is aggressive and feisty. Better Than Revenge is an empowering song, and features some of Taylor’s greatest lyrical moments, just take a look at the chorus:

“She’s not a saint
And she’s not what you think
She’s an actress, whoa
She’s better known
For the things that she does
On the mattress, whoa”

I mean, damn. Taylor would never write lyrics like that after Speak Now (at least, not yet anyways). Plus her deliverance of these lines is simply spellbinding. She has so much attitude on this track. The instrumentals on this one totally rip. The guitar solos and power chord runs are a perfect match for Taylor’s newfound cockiness. One other thing I want to touch on is the layering of her vocals. Now, I love the production on this track, it is beautiful. My favorite aspect of it is Taylor’s multi-layered vocals. Throughout the entire song you have Taylor’s regular voice that spits out the main lyrics while underneath it all you all you have her saying things like “Time for a little revenge” or “Think about what you did”. I love this side of Taylor, it’s a shame that no other song in this vein would ever be recorded. Also, the live version of this from Speak Now World Tour live can’t be missed!

1. Long Live

Long Live, for a short while, was my favorite Taylor Swift song of all time. What an emotionally packed stunner this one is. The song stays pretty tame until she starts telling her fans what to do in the event that she dies. The song is both morbid and triumphant. No Taylor Swift fan wants to face the fact that one day Taylor Swift will die, but Swift herself is pretty adamant in the song about talking about it. The line in question that I’m referencing (where she speaks of her death) is this one:

“Can you take a moment
Promise me this:
That you’ll stand by me forever
But if God forbid fate should step in
And force us into a goodbye
If you have children someday
When they point to the pictures
Please tell them my name”

Really rough stuff, but beautifully composed. Taylor Swift’s performance in this song is another knockout, especially the way she delivers the chorus. All in all, Long Live is the greatest song from Speak Now, and one of the most emotionally charged songs Taylor would ever lay down.

“And the cynics were outraged
Screaming, “this is absurd”
‘Cause for a moment a band of thieves in ripped up jeans got to rule the world”

Conclusion

Thank you all for reading, and I promise to upload two more pieces based around Speak Now before my review on the 31st. Also, drop a comment and tell me your favorite songs from Speak Now, I’d love to see them.

As always, I’ll keep you all posted if there’s any changes to my schedule, cheers!

Want more Taylor Swift? Check out my review of her sophomore effort, Fearless!

Album of the Month, May 2016:

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The Book of Souls, Iron Maiden (2015) Review

(WARNING: Below are tour spoilers)

I remember the weekend I picked this album up. It was early September and I picked up both this one and Bad Magic, the final album from Motörhead. Truth be told, I was a little more excited to listen to Bad Magic and see how it fared because Iron Maiden albums never disappoint!

I still have eerily vivid flashbacks of seeing If Eternity Should Fail (the opening track) live at the opening night of The Book of Souls Tour in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Seeing the lights dim and hearing the keyboard intro blare over the PA all with Bruce standing over the smoking cauldron was spellbinding. It was as magical as I envisioned it being the first time listening to this album. I’ve put off doing this review for some time because the new album hype took a lot longer to wear off than I would’ve thought. I remember back in June when I first read the news of the new album and I thought to myself, “not one, not two, but three songs over ten minutes? Sign me up!”. I called so many of my friends to tell them about the new album. I was excited to hear this album, and it exceeded my every expectation.

The Book of Souls is a long listen. At 92 minutes, this is the longest studio album they’ve ever done. While the album is two discs (and people love comparing and contrasting disc one to disc two) it has to be experienced as one cohesive listen. The Book of Souls is an aggressive album. This fact is pretty well cemented here by the rockers like Speed of Light (which kicked so much ass live) and Death or Glory. They’re short, punchy, and not at all progressive. These tracks hearken back to the golden days of Piece of Mind and Powerslave (two of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time) and that’s really a great thing. It’s not like the band is trying too hard to throwback to the golden era of Maiden, instead tracks like those play out like old Maiden meeting new Maiden. While the album has its share of Adrian Smith co-written bone shakers, there’s plenty of progressive Iron Maiden on this album. It actually shows pretty early with track 3 The Great Unknown, an excellent progressive Iron Maiden song. After The Great Unknown, Iron Maiden kinda alternates between these rockers that sound like tried and true, blue blood Maiden and progressive epics. Also, the production definitely helps all of the songs here. It helps to accent the aggressive, punchy side of the album while also added an atmospheric touch to the longer, more progressive tracks. The production I’d say is more of that muddy Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley/Steve Harris collaboration we Maiden fans have gotten used to on the past two albums or so. Overall, disc one is pretty aggressive what with tracks like If Eternity Should Fail, Speed of Light, and the title track, The Book of Souls, while disc two is much more experimental.

Disc two has the Bruce Dickinson masterstroke Empire of the Clouds, which clocks in at just over 18 minutes. You don’t need to be an Iron Maiden fan to know that that is their longest song thus far in their career. When I first heard the album, I thought the closer was rather bloated, and was an improper way to finish out the album. Now my attitude towards the song has changed, but remnants of my original opinion remain. I honestly do think the song is rather forced and I am glad they didn’t play it live. That being said, there are some pretty badass parts of the song and there’s a lot of really nice melodies in there too. It’s really no surprise to me that many Iron Maiden fans view this as their best track ever. It’s really something every Iron Maiden fan should hear once in their life.

The progressive tendencies of disc two aren’t all manifested in the finale of Empire of the Clouds. Shadows of the Valley, track 8 and the 2nd song on disc two, is a highly underrated Iron Maiden song, and I think it’s one of their best from the 2000’s.

“Into the valley of death, fear no evil.
We will go forward no matter the cost!
Into the valley of death follow me now,
Bring me your souls and I’ll make it our last.”

Some awesome solos in that one too, like the first one played by Janick Gers. That one may as well be my favorite solo from him:

I still can’t believe how unhinged the solos are on this album, all of them totally rip! I want to focus for a bit on the songwriting first before talking too much of the performances here. The Book of Souls features above average songwriting for reunion era Maiden. I think the songwriting is the strongest on the disc one. There’s an excellent balance created between ragers like If Eternity Should Fail and Speed of Light and the 10+ minute epics The Book of Souls and The Red and the Black. The balance is kinda skewed on disc two mainly because of the 18 minute closer. I find that disc one really has outsanding pacing while disc two drags pretty hard. That being said, disc two does house two of my favorite reunion era Maiden songs, Shadows of the Valley and The Man of Sorrows (I would of killed to have seen The Man of Sorrows live!). Also, Adrian Smith’s solo in The Man of Sorrows is god-like, simply amazing.

The performances from everyone here, especially the Three Amigos, are really top notch. I found Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers to all be in top form on this album. The Book of Souls rivals Powerslave for Iron Maiden’s greatest guitarwork ever. Seriously, just look at The Man of Sorrows or The Red and the Black and tell me those aren’t the greatest guitar lines any of the three have ever laid down. Bruce’s vocal work here can be most compared to his work on A Matter of Life and Death, his voice comes off as deep and powerful. He really drives the epics on the album too. Now, I would’ve liked to have seen a little more experimentation from Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain; those two play it pretty safe throughout the whole album. While no member of Iron Maiden is really being affected or slowed down by their age (in fact, these guys are without a doubt playing better than any other group of 50 year olds I can think of!), you can tell Nicko has been aging quite a bit. Everyone else on the album proves to have a lot of vigor and youthful energy while Nicko’s effort is a little more laid back. Again, he’s not dragging the band, but he’s not taking risks with his playing like he did on A Matter of Life and Death or Brave New World. Overall, overjoyed with Iron Maiden’s pretty stellar performance on the Book of Souls.

The Verdict

Iron Maiden’s fifth reunion era effort proves to be quite the rocking affair. While Bruce’s cancer diagnosis scared the heavy metal world at first, he sounds better (and clearer) than ever here; his vocal work is insanely strong on The Book of Souls. The Book of Souls also features the most daring Iron Maiden guitarwork to date! The riffs and solos are so tight and just memorizing. While I believe both Brave New World and A Matter of Life and Death have a slight edge over this one, The Book of Souls is Iron Maiden’s most inspired effort to date. Adventurous, driving, and atmospheric, The Book of Souls will not disappoint fans of Iron Maiden and heavy metal alike.

Pure Heroine, Lorde (2013) Review

I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not that I keep choosing debut albums to review honestly. As I mentioned in my previous review, I love a great debut album, but it’s rare to see a debut that is hailed as the greatest thing an artist has done/will do. Lorde is a rare case. “Well, does Lorde happen to disappoint with her debut?” You may ask. I’m gonna have give that a strong “no”.

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(Note: above is the cover for the Japanese edition of the album. I wanted to put it here because Lorde is very pretty)

Pure Heroine is one of the most impressive debut albums of all time. I am extremely convinced that a debut of this caliber only happens every so often, especially in modern pop music. New Zealand native Lorde (who’s real name is Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor), at the ripe age of 16, manages to nail every single element that goes into a successful debut, and then some. The young Ella sounds years older on the album than she actually is, this is definitely a positive seeing as most of the subject matter handled on the album can be considered fairly mature. This is one of those albums that the public hears and immediately asks, “where can this sound be taken?”. That is an hugely difficult question to answer. I think whatever musical road Ella chooses will be the right choice for her voice and for her music; she’s a smart girl and I have nothing but faith that she will choose to progress her sound in a way that is beneficial to her and her fans. As it stands right now there is heavy speculation that points to a Pure Heroine follow-up being released sometime this year.

Pure Heroine, throughout the three years its been on shelves, has proven itself to have immense staying power. Years before I was a Lorde fan, she was a household name. Believe it or not, the music industry doesn’t just hand out heaps of attention to artists who don’t deserve it. Lorde’s debut album is a unique experience. The stripped down soundscapes created throughout the album’s 37 minute run-time (56 with the bonus tracks, I will touch briefly on the album’s length shortly) are the perfect match for Ella’s smoky vocal presence. On tracks like 400 Lux and Still Sane, there’s some interesting contrasts created by her voice and the instrumentals. These back drops of dreamlike instrumentals and beats are both intensified and lessened by Ella’s ethereal vocals. She has certain qualities, like the somewhat coarse texture of her voice and her unique pronunciation of words, that really give Pure Heroine this exotic, unusual flavor. Again, her vocal presence is intense and lends heaps to album’s energy.

Ella’s vocal performance carries the record. Her vocals progress throughout the release, but the base traits stay the same. The base traits of Ella’s voice are such things like her unwillingness to leave the mid-range of her voice. She doesn’t sound monotone (in fact, quite the opposite), though she never attempts any vocal gymnastics she’s not comfortable with. The texture, and accent, of her voice also largely stays the same. Now, she does go from smoky cool on tracks like Tennis Court to having a cocky arrogance on songs here like Glory and Gore; she changes up her attitude and her approach to delivering the lyrics, but never will I mistake the voice behind the songs as being none other than Lorde. I like that aspect. Her voice has room to grow throughout the entire album (which she does utilize that space effectively) but her vocals are so strong and captivating to begin with that she doesn’t feel the need to experiment heavily with styles in her voice. I appreciate the fact that she takes control of her vocals and remains the dominant force on the album.

The run-time of the album and also the pacing is something I want to touch briefly on. The pacing of any album can be a deciding factor on how the whole listening experience plays out. Pure Heroine, to no surprise, is paced beautifully. The album is 37 minutes, and feels like just that, a 37 minute album. Not a minute shorter or longer. It hits the sweet spot of not flying by all too quickly and also never dragging itself down. The pacing wouldn’t flow as well as it does without competent songwriting. Ella, and her producer Joel Little, wrote and composed all of the tracks on the extended edition of the album save for the cover of Swingin Party by The Replacements (which, the extended edition adds 6 songs to the standard edition’s 10). Ella’s talents lie in her rich voice, but also in her songwriting abilities. Each track here flows wonderfully into one another and creates a magically cohesive sound. One of my favorite transitions on the entire album is from confessional White Teeth Teens to the anthem A World Alone. You go from the brilliantly composed lyrics of White Teeth Teens:

“I won’t be smiling but the notes from my admirers
Fill my dashboard just the same, ah-ahah!”

To the melodic demands laid forth in A World Alone, it’s wonderful:

“Raise a glass cause I’m not done saying it!
They all wanna get rough, get away with it.
Let them talk cause we’re dancing in this world alone.”

On the subject of the songwriting, Pure Heroine can flex a dense atmosphere that most artists only dream about having on their debut. This rich atmosphere can partly be attributed to the memorably somber songwriting. Many components of Lorde’s sound come together at all the right times that create the thick atmosphere heard on Pure Heroine. The easiest one to observe is of course Ella’s gloomy voice combined with the bare bones beats of the album. I’ve touched on it quite a bit throughout this review, but having Ella’s defiantly characteristic voice against these deep, bassy sonic landscapes is simply electric. There’s an unadulterated energy that’s emitted from that meeting of the album’s two driving forces. I’d even go as far to say that is what makes this album, hearing Ella’s vocals over those beats creates quite a unique concoction. I don’t want to call the atmosphere heard on Pure Heroine downtrodden, maybe dark would work a little bit better. The atmosphere has a unique sort of antisocial/outcast vibe to it that really helps to deliver a touch more authenticity to some of Lorde’s deeper tracks here (see: A World Alone and Ribs).

I believe there are two main elements that equally construct good songwriting: recognizable lyrics and competent instrumentals. Here and there, there are odd cases where that is not always true, but that idea has held for close to all of the albums I’ve listened to. The lyrics on Pure Heroine are unparalleled for a debut album. My favorite here may as well be the line from White Teeth Teens that I showcased above, but there are plenty of others that are simply genius. Even the bonus tracks from the extended version of the album add quite a few outstanding moments to Pure Heroine’s already eventful lineup of songs. I’ve always loved this line from Bravado (a song originally from her Love Club EP back in 2012) where at first she compares finding her bravado to a quick process, but then she redacts the statement and says it’s something that happens more naturally. She comes to contradict herself again in the song too, it’s an extremely interesting listen:

“It’s a switch flipped,
It’s a pill tipped back, it’s a moon eclipsed the world,
And I can tell you that when the lights come on I’ll be ready for this.

It’s in your bloodstream,
A collision of atoms that happens before your eyes.
It’s a marathon run or a mountain you scale without thinking of size.

The subject matter of Pure Heroine is surprising mature and thought out given a lot of things. Ella must be extremely smart to want to have written about these topics at such a young age (atleast, smarter than I); a lot of the songs here like Tennis Court and Royals deal with class differences and have this underlying theme of aristocracy. In fact, Lorde’s name was inspired by her overwhelming interest in class structure and hierarchy. Other songs here like Team and Still Sane deal with these subjects too, but not to the extent that they’re covered in the opening track, Tennis Court, and Royals. Teeth surprising serve as another reoccurring lyrical topic. The most obvious examples are in White Teeth Teens and No Better. In White Teeth Teens, she equates having pure white teeth to being of nobler birth and of a higher class; while in No Better, she states having all of your front teeth is simply bliss. The one overarching theme in all of Pure Heroine is growing up in a modern, digital world, where things aren’t always as they seem. This is expressed best in Ribs when she states:

“This dream isn’t feeling sweet.
We’re reeling through the midnight streets,
And I’ve never felt more alone,
It feels so scary getting old.”

All of the bonus tracks here are extremely good listens, but my favorites have to be No Better and Million Dollars Bills (Million Dollar Bills is actually my favorite Lorde song); all of the bonus tracks also happen to have loads of great lyrics too. I’ve already looked at Bravado, but I want to take a look at Love Club (another song originally from the Love Club EP. To my knowledge, No Better and Swingin Party were the only two recorded simply for the extended edition). Love Club features pillow like beats and trance inducing backing vocals. Lorde finds a unique flow throughout the song. Her voice dances and skips above the beats at a rapid pace until it finds the chorus. The timing of her voice in the chorus is more laid back than it was in the first verse, but there’s something a little off about the timing. Her voice syncopates extremely well with the beats in the song. It also features some of my favorite Lorde lyrics:

“There’s something about hanging out with the wicked kids.
Take the pill make it too real,
The other day I forgot my old address.
I’m sitting pretty on the throne
There’s nothing more I want
Except to be alone.”

I wish I could go through the entire album and show you all my favorite lyrics from each track, but I’d end up spending way too much time on each song, making this review way longer than it needs to be. Hands down, Pure Heroine has the best lyrics I’ve ever seen for a debut album. I can say this, if you liked the lyrics above, then check out Glory and Gore, Team, 400 Lux, and her breakthrough single, Royals (which is a phenomenal song). If and when Lorde releases the follow-up to Pure Heroine (it is inevitable), she is going to be faced with the monumental task of living up to this album’s glory. Ella gives off this vibe the entire album that she’s been writing and recording songs like this for decades, even though she was only 16 when this album was produced. Not only is she gifted with a unique voice, but she also comes off as just smart enough to pull off tracks here like Still Sane and A World Alone excellently; by that, I mean she sounds very believable throughout tracks like those. I feel like I can relate to Ella as well through Pure Heroine. I believe this was a very personal project for her to put together. It sounds like all the subject matter she deals with throughout the album’s 16 tracks were deeply personal subjects for her, and it definitely shows in her performance.

The Verdict

Hands down, one of the greatest debut albums of all time. This is the kind of album veterans and vanguards of the genre release 15 years into their career, not to kickstart it. I don’t think modern pop music will be graced with such a carefully crafted debut such as this for a long time. Everything here from Ella’s stunning, unique vocal presence, to the deeply intimate lyrics and expertly crafted beats, every element present on the album comes together to make an excellently atmospheric experience. Pure Heroine is one of the greatest debut albums music has practically ever seen. A must own for any fan of pop music.

Stone Deaf Forever! Top 10 Motörhead Openers

The art of opening an album is a skill that takes quite a few years for any artist to perfect. Luckily, Motörhead had 40 years and 20+ albums to work with. On this list, I’ll be ranking the top ten greatest opening tracks from Motörhead albums.

10. Ace of Spades (from Ace of Spades, 1980)

I kick off this list with the gold standard for Motörhead openers: Ace of Spades. The opening track from their seminal 1980 album of the same name is iconic, filthy, and blistering fast. There is no other way to crack open Motörhead’s proto-speed metal slab of heavy metal history than with a bass line like that! Every member of Motörhead at this time (Lemmy, Eddie, and Philthy Animal) shine brilliantly on this track. Not to mention Lemmy throws out some of his most recognizable pseudo-philosophical ramblings of all time on this song. It is impossible to be a Motörhead fan and not have lines like this memorized:

“Pushing up the ante, I know you got to see me!
Read ’em and weep, the dead man’s hand again,
I see it in your eyes, take one look and die!”

9. Dead Men Tell No Tales (from Bomber, 1979)

While I enjoy Bomber a little bit less than Overkill, its opener is pretty much on par with the other 1979 classic. The production on Bomber is often viewed as kinda hit or miss, but it’s just perfect on Dead Men Tell No Tales. There’s plenty of bite to Lemmy’s voice and his bass tone is simply rocking. Fast Eddie Clark has some of the greatest solos of his career on this opener too and Philthy Animal gives this one a swinging mid-paced chug that really makes this one beat out any other mid-paced opener Motörhead would attempt in the future.

8. Sucker (from Kiss of Death, 2006)

Truth be told, I’ve always been more of a fan of Kiss of Death than Inferno. Kiss of Death is a much more well-rounded release than Inferno was. It all shows in the opener, Sucker. I love the production on this song, it’s so punchy! You know those Motörhead tracks that seriously border on being speed metal rippers? Sucker is one of the worst offenders. This song really gives you a taste of what’s to come later on in Kiss of Death, and that is top-notch Motörhead!

7. Iron Fist (from Iron Fist, 1982)

I am a Motörhead fan that will hear no blasphemy against Iron Fist! In fact, this album is in many ways superior to Aces of Spades. Iron Fist flaunted a sound that was much more deeply rooted in the NWOBHM and the album also happens to play into a few tropes and conventions that were created by the movement; and because of that, I think the album receives a little more flack than it should. Iron Fist is a damn good Motörhead album! The opener, Iron Fist, is pretty much just as iconic as Ace of Spades, every metalhead knows it:

“Flying hooves don’t make a sound,
Flying hooves don’t touch the ground!”

6. On Your Feet or On Your Knees (from Bastards, 1993)

There are many Motörhead fans, such as myself, that’ll tell you that Motörhead’s 1993 album, Bastards, embodies everything the band has ever stood for: hellraising, partying, and having a damn good time. Really, that’s not a false statement. On Your Feet or On Your Knees’s take no prisoners, beer drinking attitude speaks largely of the album’s sound. The sound on Bastards is huge, invasive, and simply doesn’t give a shit. Motörhead really hit the nail on the head with the production here as well. It’s gritty and abrasive, a perfect fit for the album, I love it.

5. Back At the Funny Farm (from Another Perfect Day, 1983)

Listen, top notch!

Ahh, Another Perfect Day! What a killer album, and a true underdog of Motörhead’s 80’s catalog of albums. The opener Back At the Funny Farm has some excellent lyrics to it and has one of the greatest opening moments of any Motörhead track. This is also the first Motörhead song ever to feature Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy fame. It’s impossible to talk about any song from Another Perfect Day and not mention the production. The production here is an acquired taste, but by that I mean it’s not as full as Motörhead’s past two albums were. If you can get past that you’ll find that Back At the Funny Farm is an excellent Motörhead song with some of the best lyrics ever written by these guys.

“I really like this jacket but the sleeves are much too long!”

4. Born to Lose (from The Wörld is Yours, 2010)

Putting this rocker on the list wasn’t subject to much debate really. Born to Lose has long been one of my favorite Motörhead songs of all time! There’s just something about how this song grooves that is so infectious. Mikkey Dee is the real star of this opener, he seems eager to prove why the likes of Lemmy and even King Diamond consider him one of the greatest drummer of all time. Also, Phil Campbell lays down some of the greatest Motörhead riffs I’ve ever heard here!

3. Deaf Forever (from Orgasmatron, 1986)

Yes, I talk about Orgasmatron maybe a little too much on this blog. Can’t blame me really, it’s one of the greatest heavy metal albums from the 1980’s. Deaf Forever really caught my ear from the start. It accomplishes everything a successful opener should: it engages the listener and it gives the listener an excellent sample of the album they’re about to hear. The atmosphere on this track is dense. It really gives off a great mix of war, pain, and suffering, you know, three subjects Motörhead loves touching on.

2. Rock ‘N’ Roll (from Rock ‘N’ Roll, 1987)

This here is the one Motörhead album I’ll defend to my death. What a great album Rock ‘N’ Roll is! It’s strange because after the blistering speed metal attack of Orgasmatron, Motörhead opted to not continue with the sound on that album. Instead, Rock ‘N’ Roll is more of a back to basics affair, but it’s a quite good affair! The title track showcases their new, simplified style and all its glory perfectly. It should also be noted that this was the album that spearheaded a lot of legal troubles the band had in the upcoming years with their record label.

1. Overkill (from Overkill, 1979)

It should come as no surprise that this track is #1 on this list. Overkill is the greatest heavy metal song of all time, and you can quote me on that! Everything about this song is legendary: the bassline, the endless solos, the lyrics… Motörhead laid down some serious sonic overkill on this track. I think the lyrics here definitely embody everything heavy metal should stand for:

“On your feet you feel the beat, it goes straight to your spine,
Shake your head you must be dead if it don’t make you fly!
Don’t sweat it, we’ll get it back to you!
Don’t sweat it, we’ll get it back to you!”

Album of the Month: May 2016

Hello again! This is the other feature I’m rolling out today, Album of the Month! The album I choose for the month is one that I find extremely good, and it’s one I want all fans of music (and my blog) to check out! Without further ado…

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Speak Now, Taylor Swift (2010)

Often considered Taylor Swift’s magnum opus, Speak Now was her 3rd album and the follow-up to the excellent Fearless. Throughout the month I’ll be doing various pieces based on the album all ending with a review on the very last day of the month! Enjoy, and play loud!

Buy it here!

Cold Steel, You Scum!! My Heavy Metal Playlist For May 2016

Hey guys! This is one of two new features I’m starting today on May 1st. I wanted to give you all a look at the heavy metal playlist I’ll be playing throughout the month of May! I encourage you all to check it out if any of the bands on here interest you:

Cold Steel, You Scum!! May ’16

  1. Toxik – Think This (from Think This, 1989)
  2. Cirith Ungol – Blood & Iron (from One Foot in Hell, 1986)
  3. Bolt Thrower – Eternal War (from Realm of Chaos (Slaves to Darkness), 1989)
  4. Fates Warning – Kyrie Eleison (from The Spectre Within, 1985)
  5. Grave Digger – Rebellion/The Clans Are Marching (from Tunes of War, 1996)
  6. Helloween – (Walls of Jericho) Ride the Sky (from Walls of Jericho, 1985)
  7. Manilla Road – Tomb of the Serpent King/Butchers of the Sea (from Voyager, 2008)
  8. Motörhead – Overkill (from Overkill, 1979)
  9. RAGE – Shame On You (from Trapped!, 1992)
  10. Running Wild – Raw Ride (from Under Jolly Roger, 1987)
  11. Saxon – Witchfinder General (from Lionheart, 2004)
  12. Sodom – In War and Pieces (from In War and Pieces, 2010)
  13. Tankard – Beyond the Pubyard (from Beast of Bourbon, 2004)
  14. Entombed – Chaos Breed (from Clandestine, 1991)
  15. Bathory – Under the Runes (from Twilight of the Gods, 1991)
  16. Napalm Death – Taste the Poison (from Enemy of the Music Business, 2000)