Gorillaz Change Things Up With New Audiovisual Series, “Song Machine”

by Jared Moser

Gorillaz, a band that has remained a mystery for almost 22 years, present their new project, Song Machine. Created by British musician Damon Albarn and cartoon artist Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz are a virtual band of four animated characters: 2-D (vocals), Murdoc Niccals (bass), Noodle (guitar), and Russel Hobbs (drums). These four animated musicians make up the band’s faces and story-telling element through altered interviews, music videos, and virtual concert experiences. Since their self-titled debut dropped in 2001, Albarn has released many other hits under the name Gorillaz. Albums such as Demon Days in 2005 and Plastic Beach in 2010, reached sixth and second on the U.S. Billboard Hot 200.

Following the underwhelming release of their sixth record The Now Now in 2018, Gorillaz bring us a new project titled Song Machine. In an unorthodox way of releasing new music, Albarn plans to release individual audiovisual episodes consisting of a new song with a music video of sorts, implementing real video with the animated characters weaving in and out of reality. With one episode out already, and an entire season planned out, it’s exciting to see this creative way of releasing music.

Episode one, “Momentary Bliss,” featuring Slowthai and Slaves, is a single that packs more than enough Gorillaz feels into about four minutes. It begins with a smooth, melodic guitar riff, weaving in and out of the spaced out drums and gentle vocals from Albarn. It has a soothing “vibe” feel that sounds amazing, but it sadly gets cut off, and slowly transitions into a tuba-like keyboard and synth section. Slowthai, a British rapper who found his fame in 2019, raps over the ever-building chorus, which gets busier and more crowded as the song grows. When the song hits its climax, everything builds, from the keyboard, guitar, and drums to the vocals and background vocals.

As energetic as it is, nothing is leading the charge in this section of the song. Many things are lost and washed out due to the congested chorus. The drums have potential because of how punchy and crash heavy they are, but they’re buried under two or three layers of synths and guitar. This build happens once more, only to fade out into a beautiful section identical to the introduction, only this outro implements melodic piano behind the guitar, drums, and vocals.

“Momentary Bliss” isn’t flawless, but it’s enjoyable, and I would go back and listen to it on my own. Though the middle section isn’t my favorite, due to its congested chorus and length, the beginning and end carry the song for me. The rap section isn’t bad, but it could have been used in a much more impactful way. It seemed as though it’s written as a bridge section rather than the body of the song. If the intro and outro could have been the heart of the song, it would have been spectacular.

Overall, “Momentary Bliss” has production that’s decent, it’s never flat, and all the different elements of the song have depth, hearing distant background vocals and sound effects from the other fictional characters. I’m curious to hear whether this is a taste of what the rest of Song Machine will sound and feel like, or if every episode will house something special.

Check out the video for “Momentary Bliss” here (NSFW: language):

Locals On Love

love music heart headphones wallpaper

It is that lovey-dovey time of the year again! Whether you are a sucker for Valentine’s Day or think that it is just another Hallmark holiday, you cannot deny a good love song! The Chicago-land music scene has pumped out many gorgeous ballads and up-beat anthems recently with themes ranging from “I have a crush” to “I have found the one”. Struck by Cupid or not, these tunes by some of my favorite local musicians are sure to melt your heart. 

1.) “Crush”- Ava Morse 

Listening to this song, I was taken back to 7th grade where I had my first major crush. His name was Jake and his resemblance to Kurt Cobain was uncanny. “Crush” will turn the nostalgia dial all the way up! Ava does a wonderful job at explaining the special feeling that you have when you crush on someone. Listening to the song, you can practically feel all those butterflies in your stomach! It is fun, sweet, and catchy. Warning: “Crush” will be stuck in your head for several weeks after your first listen.  

2.) “Loving You”- The Darling Suns 

I can picture this song being featured in an Indie film where two people embark on a road trip to anywhere and fall in love along the way. “Loving You” makes me think of a long drive or picnic in the park with that special someone. Sadly, it is not the best time to set up a picnic in snowy Chicago right now. However, this song will warm your heart! The Darling Suns know how to write a song that pulls every last heart string and that is proven by their debut full-length album “Midnight Feelings”. My favorite lyric from this tune is: “Love like a best friend or not at all”.  

3.) “Just Kidding, It’s Trust”- Each Day 

Each Day does a fantastic job encompassing the vulnerability it takes to love and be loved in their song “Just Kidding, It’s Trust”. It is scary to be open and let people into your heart! Despite how a great amount of people can relate to this, I have not heard many songs that have this message. The soft harmonies and melodic guitars make “Just Kidding, It’s Trust” a beautiful listening experience. My favorite lyric: “You have my heart and the power to hurt me”. 

4.) “Sexy Woman”- Saltwater Tap 

Although “Sexy Woman” is not claiming to be a love song, it talks of two people who find themselves in their own little world. The line “So here we find ourselves sitting In esoteric, solitary song” makes me think of a couple who is alone in a state of mind that only they can understand. The instrumentation is stunning. The violin contributes greatly to making it as moving of a tune as it is. “Sexy Woman” is a great song for one to slow dance to with their lover. 

5.) “Our Wedding”- Peter Hunt and The Great Outdoors 

Peter Hunt and The Great Outdoors is known for the lively, big sound that they have in every song they put out there and “Our Wedding” is no exception! With the vibrant horns, bright acoustic guitar, and witty lyrics, this song will leave you with a smile on your face the whole time. It is a song that is perfect to listen to when daydreaming about walking down the aisle with that special someone someday. This one is definitely a favorite of mine on their new album ‘Downers Delight’. 

6.) “I Do”- Christian JaLon

Christian’s angelic and powerful voice soars in “I Do”, a song all about believing in love. “I Do” speaks of being swept by love unexpectedly, which is something many of us could relate to. Although she did not see this love coming and does not know what the future holds, she is confident in her bond with this person. The part where all the vocals layer up that starts at 2:45 gives me chills. There are many parts that leave you breathless on Christian JaLon’s album, ‘If You Let Me’. My favorite line is: “I’ll be the sunflower to your summertime”. The music video is also extremely charming and would be a great viewing for you and your sunflower.

7.) “She’s There”- Larry Anthony

“She’s There” is such a great tune to walk down the street to. The beats add a bouncy-feel to this feel-good, electric song. Larry Anthony sings about young love and overcoming obstacles like long distance. The music video is equally as vibrant and fun. There is another layer of genuineness that is added to it with the female love interest in the video being Larry’s real-life wife, Emilie Lesniak. I cannot handle this extreme level of cuteness!

8.) “Cheers”- Sam Trump

This song is possibly the most romantic song that I have ever heard. Sam Trump praises the love that he has found in “Cheers”. This love is strong, passionate, and long-lasting. Sam’s smooth voice and the sultry groove sets an intimate tone. It is a beautiful song off of a beautiful album titled ‘Love Notes’. ‘Love Notes’ is the perfect album to listen to with your person this Valentine’s Day.

If these songs do not make you believe in love, I do not know what will. Click here to check out these and some more local love songs in a playlist! Do not forget to request your favorite Chicago-land artists every Sunday from 8-10 pm for Local Chaos!

Green Day’s Father of All…What, Exactly?

by Jared Moser

Dropped on February 7th, Father of All… is Green Day’s thirteenth studio album. Originating in California, the world-famous pop-punk band follows their 2016 album, Revolution Radio, which hit number one on the Billboard Hot 200, with this ten song record.

While seemingly lacking musical direction with their ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! albums in 2012, Green Day got back on track with a pretty solid album in 2016, carried by hit tracks such as “Bang Bang,” “Revolution Radio,” and “Still Breathing.” Fast forward four years, and Green day has given us Father of All…. Unfortunately, I don’t even know what this is.

With ten songs, the album somehow only clocks in at a little over 26 minutes. The album kicks off with a track that gives off a false sense of hope for the album. “Father of All…” is a powerful and fun way to introduce the album with quick and creative drums, and distant alternative indie rock vocals. It’s a pretty average Green Day song, though; by no means should it be the best song on any album. To put it lightly, the fun stops there.

The rest of the record is boring, repetitive, and lacks creativity. The only standouts are “Oh Yeah!,” “Stab You In The Heart,” and “Junkies on a High.” Honestly, I wouldn’t even go back to listen to these; they’re so mediocre that they stand out against the rest of the bland nothingness of the rest of the album. Billy Joel Armstrong’s vocal patterns are repetitive and boring, Mike Dirnt’s bass is non-existent, and Tré Cool’s drums are the same spiritless beat every song. The album has no message, no drive, and saddest of all, no Green Day flare that we know and love.

To make matters even worse, the record ends with the worst song on the album. “Graffitia” has the same unoriginal guitar riffs, and same beginner drum beat the entire song. The only reason it’s worse than the previous song on the record, “Take the Money and Crawl,” is because it’s a minute and nine seconds longer.

I do have to keep in mind, though, that if I was listening to this album and it was made by a no-name band, it actually wouldn’t be that bad. But, to know that this album was made by Green Day, a band with an absolute beast of a discography, world-wide respect, and a previous record that was really enjoyable, is just saddening. I hold Green Day to such a high standard that when they put out something this mediocre, it’s going to seem so much worse than it might actually be.

Father of All… sounds like everything that people disliked about punk bands in the 90s that Green Day didn’t do. The only rewarding characteristics I can get from listening to this are the experimental flare that “Father of All…” and “Junkies on High” bring to the album, which I appreciate. I’m giving Father of All… a 3/10, and I hope Green Day can come out with something more worth listening to in the future.

My Chemical Romance are Back!

Anyone who has listened to one of my shows on FM89 knows how much I love the band My Chemical Romance. So, when they announced last October that they’d reunite after almost seven years of being broken up, I freaked out. They reunited for one show on December 19th at a venue called the Shrine in LA, and it sold out in less than 2 minutes. Since then, the band has been dropping teasers for different shows abroad, causing fans in the US to become a little impatient for the suspected North American tour.

On Wednesday, the band released a theatrical video on their Youtube channel and their website that explored every era of MCR, from the beginning with I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, to the end with Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. Finally, at the end of the video, the US tour dates began to flash across the screen, starting in Detroit and ending in Las Vegas. For fans in Chicago, it was announced that MCR will be headlining one of three days of Riot Fest in Douglas Park, Saturday, September 12th.

Tickets for the US tour went on sale last Friday and within a few hours, every show had sold out. This prompted the band to announce a second show in their hometown of Newark, New Jersey, as well as three more shows in LA. After these final few announcements, and only 6 hours after the first tickets had gone on sale, every single date of MCR’s North American tour had completely sold out, an impressive achievement, seeing as every venue the band is playing is a stadium holding thousands of seats.

As for me, the minute I heard My Chemical Romance will be headlining Riot Fest, I went ahead and bought myself an early bird 3-day pass. I go to Riot Fest every year regardless, but I’m especially not going to miss out on my first chance to see the band that started my love and passion for music and dark imagery. This band has been such a big influence in my life, and the life of die-hard fans around the world. It feels so good to have them back.

Show Spotlight: Midgard and Beyond

A brand new show is coming to FM89! Midgard and Beyond will take you on a musical journey every Friday night from 8 to 10. Just in time for the show’s arrival, we’ve received a transmission from the host, Loremaster Peefnor:

Salutations, mortals of Earth. I am Loremaster Peefnor, and I come baring excellent news! Your typically drab Friday nights are about to be enlightened like never before.

I type to you now from the Nexus of Infinity, a distant place far beyond your reality. Here, I am able to observe all the realms, including your own. I have gathered many tales of brave heroes, mighty battles, and sorrowful sights. Their conduit of deliverance is METAL, and only the finest I can get my hands on.

The keepers of rock most pure at FM89 have allowed me to hijack your station’s feed from 8 to 10 p.m. every Friday night so that I may share from my ever-expanding library. Expect an emphasis on progressive, power, and symphonic metal from across the seas. Later in the show, from 9 to 10 p.m., I shall tell you a story from a different world, all while I weave its parts together with tangentially related METAL.

My word count grows thin and my fingers weary. Keep well, mortals of Earth, until next time.

Tune in every Friday night from 8 to 10 for Midgard and Beyond!

Show Spotlight: Sakura Sunset

A brand new show is coming to FM89! Hosted by Matthew Lundeen, Sakura Sunset is a two-hour celebration of the best of Japanese rock. Tune in every Thursday night from 6 to 8 to hear tracks from artists you simply won’t hear on any other station this corner of the world. There are plenty of segments spotlighting artists and tons of songs that any savvy anime fan will recognize.

Matthew feels it’s important that this music is celebrated, and he wants others to enjoy it as much as he does. He says, “Watching anime introduced me to a slew of bands from Japan across all kinds of genres. I grew to really appreciate how much music can move you without completely understanding the words. This show is a product of that; it gives me an opportunity to expose the audience to music they normally might not hear.” Tune in every Thursday night from 6 to 8, and hear what you’ve been missing!

Review: “Dominion” by Hammerfall

by Nick Keseric

I recently reviewed Dragonforce’s newest album, Extreme Power Metal, and my thoughts on Hammerfall’s newest album, Dominion, are eerily similar. I would both critique and commend both bands as one thing: consistent. Hammerfall’s early albums were amazing, and at the time were very fresh. As they went on, Hammerfall got better and better…until they peaked, and then kept on at the same level, fluctuating a bit every album.

Barring 2011’s Infected, most of Hammerfall can be described as “templar metal” – lyrically, there’s a low fantasy vibe to most of their music. Musically, Hammerfall stands somewhere between full-on power metal and classic heavy metal, and that’s very evident on Dominion.

The album opens up with “Never Forgive, Never Forget,” something that sounds a lot like it belongs on 2009’s No Sacrifice, No Victory. The slow opening that quickly builds up energy really brings you into the album, and the rest of the song keeps up that high energy.

Following up Never Forgive is “Dominion,” the titular song. Both “Dominion” and “Testify” are a bit slower than some of the other songs on the album, but more than make up for it by being powerful. Both Joacim Cans’ vocals and the backing vocals sting hard in these tracks, and both Oscar Dronjak’s guitar work and the drum work of David Wallin on these songs hit just as hard.

“(We Make) Sweden Rock” is one of those “metal songs that glorify metal,” as well as being an anthem for the band, and it works well for that, though it brings up an issue I have with the album. The album, lyrically, skirts the usual “templar metal” themes of the band, and “(We Make) Sweden Rock” brings me out of that immersion the band brought me into. Even worse is when it’s followed by “Second to One,” It’s almost obligatory for Hammerfall to include a ballad-style song on their albums, and while “Second to One” is good, it serves to bring the album a bit away from their usual themes. “Scars of a Generation” and “Dead by Dawn” sort of bring it back, but it’s not until “Bloodline” that the album really feels like “templar metal” again.

“Bloodline” would have worked well as a title track for the album just as well as “Dominion” would have; for that matter, with the intro track “Battleworn” in front of it, it would also worked very well as an opening track. “Bloodline” certainly feels a lot more “power” than “heavy” by Hammerfall standards, and its follow-up, “Chain of Command,” stays with this theme. A lot of the tracks between “Testify” and “Bloodline” feel kind of in the middle. Finally, we end with “And Yet I Smile,” a sort of metal-ballad that ends the album really well.

All in all, Dominion is a good palette of what Hammerfall has to offer: some powerful songs at the front and more melodic yet still hard hitting hits at the end. It’s still not the band at its height, but it is the band doing what it does well.

Dominion gets 3.5 out of 5 stars. It’s a bit run-of-the-mill for Hammerfall at this point, but they still made a good album that fans will enjoy.

If you’re interested, you can listen to Dominion on Spotify here.

I also recommend checking out Napalm Record’s Dominion Track by Track on Youtube, for a little bit of context into the songs on the album by lead singer Joacim Cans.

Review: “Extreme Power Metal” by Dragonforce

by Nick Keseric

Dragonforce is one of my favorite bands, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been excited by any of their new releases. I first started listening to them shortly after they released their 4th album, and I was less than impressed with their 5th album, especially as their original vocalist ZP Theart had left. I haven’t really gotten into any of their more recent albums; I’ve given them a listen, but very little left a strong impression like the material on their first four albums. I can safely say however that with their new album I’ve gone back to being excited by Dragonforce’s new material.

I was a little hesitant at Extreme Power Metal; I wasn’t a big fan of their newer music, and the fact that the album name was reused from an earlier song (E.P.M, from their album Ultra Beatdown, was an acronym for Extreme Power Metal, a term they use to refer to their specific style of power metal) but I was pleasantly surprised to find a solid album.

“Highway to Oblivion” is a strong opening song that really shows you what the band is about. It’s nothing too new, but it’s a great addition to the band’s library. Following “Highway” is the over-the-top (both in name and in sound) “Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred Machine.” Marc Hudson’s vocals really shine here, giving the song that “epic” feel that Dragonforce is so apt at creating. Both of these songs clock in at just over 6 and a half minutes, which is where Dragonforce’s ability to carry on their “extreme” guitar melodies shines the most.

“Heart Demolition” is also an excellent tune, although lyrically it clashes with Dragonforce’s usual motifs. Unfortunately, as one gets further into the album, the songs stop impressing as much. There’s not a single bad song on the album, but the further down in the track list a song is, the shorter it is, and a lot of the shorter songs just don’t impress as much as the longer tracks.  “Razorblade Meltdown” is one such track; good, but if I was putting together a Dragonforce playlist, I just wouldn’t include it since it would get in the way of the band’s other, better work. “Razorblade” manages to at least have a memorable music video – a rather fun video where the band more or less goes full “Tom and Jerry” on each other – but that’s the only thing keeping it from joining “Strangers” and “In a Skyforged Dream” in being forgotten when I’m not listening to the album.

The most notable songs on the album are definitely “The Last Dragonborn” and “My Heart Will Go On.” I stand by “Highway” and “Shred Machine” being the best, but “Dragonborn” and “My Heart Will Go On” are unique. “The Last Dragonborn” is a tribute song to The Elder Scrolls video game series, particularly Skyrim. It’s a nice tribute song, but it completely clashes with the band’s sound and is a weird inclusion on the album. Going from “Shred Machine” to “The Last Dragonborn” and then back to “Heart Demolition” is a huge whiplash. Ending the album is “My Heart Will go On,” a cover of the theme from Titanic. It starts with a chiptune cover of the intro, but the rest of the instrumentals of the song are almost unrecognizable as a cover of “My Heart Will Go On.” That said, the vocals still sound like the original song, keeping it recognizable, and the end result is that Dragonforce made a cover of Celine Dion that still sounds like a great Dragonforce song. And, despite being one of the shortest songs on the album, it never really suffers from the usual mediocrity that the shorter songs suffer from.

Extreme Power Metal is a typical Dragonforce album in many ways. Their longer songs really shine with their unique style, even if they’re nothing new for the band. The shorter songs slap less hard, but are still worth a listen. It’s something that fans of the band will enjoy, and even casual listeners of the band will find it enjoyable at least. It’s certainly my favorite album of theirs post-Ultra Beatdown, for what it’s worth.

Extreme Power Metal gets 3.5 stars out of 5; a better-than-good album in many ways, but not the best Dragonforce has released.

If you’re interested, you can find Extreme Power Metal on Spotify here.

I also recommend checking out the music videos for “Highway to Oblivion,” “Heart Demolition,” and “Razorblade Meltdown” on their official YouTube channel.

Coldplay’s Take on Our Society’s “Everyday Life”

Review by Jared Moser

When I heard Coldplay were releasing a new album, I didn’t know what to think. Part of me was ecstatic, considering their previous album, Head Full of Dreams, was released a whopping 5 years ago, and they’re one of my favorite bands. The other part of me was worried, because there’s a lot of pressure to cap off the decade with a creative bomb shell.

Dropping on November 22nd, Everyday Life is a double LP, separated into two parts, Sunrise and Sunset, each with eight songs. The album attempts to look at today’s society through music, which explains why it’s the first time (out of their eight studio albums) that a Coldplay album is explicit. It’s on the slow side, even for Coldplay, with what I like to call “Imagine Dragons Syndrome,” where an album has a couple of standout songs and the rest seems like filler. With this in mind, Everyday Life has maybe four standout songs, and a couple of others that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I can sense won’t age very well.

The album starts off with a melodic symphony piece, “Sunrise,” similar to the intro track to Viva La Vida, “Life in Technicolor.” It gives an all-instrumental taste of what the rest of the album’s aesthetic is. Though slow, I don’t mind it, because it sets a nice foundation for the album.

Within the first few songs, “Trouble in Town,” stands out among the others. It has a slow, melodic feel, and in place of the bridge, they use a recording of an argument between two men in the city. This is a cool way to bring the grit of reality into the album early. As the men argue, the music swells, developing into a Pink Floyd-like instrumental breakdown around the men yelling. It’s early place in the album gives the rest of the album hope.

The next stand out song is “Daddy,” and while it’s extremely slow, Coldplay implement a classic piano ballad, while lead singer Chris Martin sings softly about father and son issues. From the point-of-view of a son reaching out to his father, seemingly needing him, the father and son relationship is open to interpretation.

While not radio material, “Cry Cry Cry” is my favorite song on the record. It consists of Martin singing softly, alongside an altered voice that sounds like a young child, providing the song with a sense of innocence, over a short and sweet piano piece. Throughout the song are fuzzy crackles and pops, making it seem like you’re listening to vinyl; it’s a fantastic addition that gives the song texture. “Cry Cry Cry” combines the band’s simple and catchy style with their new raw and unfiltered sound, sounding like a classic hit from the 50’s or 60’s with the production value of today.

“Arabesque,” “Orphans,” and “Everyday Life” are some other standout songs of the album for me. From the vocals, sound, and overall feel, they’re essentially what the rest of the album lacks, though I’m not sure Coldplay wanted the whole album to be as production-based and radio worthy as these songs.

Chris Martin said this album is very personal and unfiltered, and the decision they made was to be totally raw and pure. That could explain why the band isn’t doing much promotion or touring, with the exception of an SNL appearance, and a gorgeous live stream of the album being performed in Jordan when it debuted, literally timing it with the sunrise and the sunset.

Even with “raw and unfiltered” as a goal, Everyday Life somehow lacks quite a bit of depth and substance, leaving you unsatisfied when the 53 minutes of music comes to an end. On the surface, the album is beautifully produced and poses “woke” and deep issues. However, as you dig deeper and deeper, it comes off as muddy and has a very unfocused message. It’s an above average album for just any band, but not for a monumental band like Coldplay, leading me to give Everyday Life a 5/10. At the end of the day, though, I’m a Coldplay fan at heart, and I’ll continue listening to, and enjoying, whatever they put out.

The Faim at Chop Shop in Chicago

On October 6th, I had the opportunity to see and photograph an up-and-coming band out of Perth, Australia, The Faim, at Chop Shop in Chicago. The band is currently touring their debut album, State of Mind. From the start of the show, it was evident that the band was going to have quite a stage presence. With their booming punk-alternative sound, the room was filled with music and the crowd was invested. It was the type of show where you could rock out even if you didn’t know a single word to any song.

With the amount of crowd surfers and people singing along, you could tell that every person in the crowd had been looking forward to that show, and rightfully so. The Faim had a way of bringing everyone in the crowd together for a truly unique experience that night. If you’d like to check out their sound for yourself, they released their debut album ‘State of Mind’ earlier this year, and if you ask me, it is worth the listen.