Category Archives: Album Reviews

The Sheens – 163EP Album Review

NYC’s The Sheens 163 EP Review

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The first time I saw New York, I had to spend most of the time in a 14th floor hotel room watching Freakazoid! for three days, and the only view out the window was the biggest multi-lane highway I’ve ever seen.   My second trip to the area was more fun, but not exactly a bulls-eye.  I was still relatively young and reckless, so what was supposed to be a relaxing, fun-filled trip turned into four fun, drunken days at the Chelsea Star Hotel (a hostel) with a raucous group of the friendliest Canadians (are there other types of Canadians?).  I pick up accents easily and merely being in such close contact with them for those few days caused me to carry a Canadian accent for several weeks after we left.  My regards to Nova Scotia.

By day three, we were all threatened with eviction from the hostel when the cleaning lady saw that the only dresser in the 8 person room was completely covered with empty liquor and beer bottles. We had intended to see a band from upstate New York called Merit at Arlene’s Grocery. However, someone decided that mixing the Rum that was left with the Tequila that was left was a good idea. My point is I got on the train, as usual, but instead of making my way to the venue, I found myself at Strawberry Fields trying desperately to figure out how to get to the Ghostbuster’s fire station.  I made up for this stupidity by going to see Neko Case at the Nokia theater on my last night in the city.

The reason for that little jaunt down memory lane is because The Sheens actually remind me of the band that I had intended to see on that trip. And, The Sheens play Arlene’s Grocery pretty frequently, it seems. So, maybe it’s not a total coincidence.

163EP starts off perfectly with a song called “Dynamite”. It rises with a little bit of rattling guitar, a quirky, bouncy bassline, and what sounds like a very subtle use of the bassier end of a piano. Once the vocals kick in it’s almost too obvious that this song would be infinitely more fun in person, in a dark, dingy, sweaty club. Dance-ability is high, but not in a totally obvious way. You could stand there, fold your arms, scowl and have a perfectly decent time watching the band play this song. You could also take off your jacket, double check your laces, and hit the dance floor just as easily and you’d be almost guaranteed an amazing time.

Continuing on, “Do You Love Me” achieves more of the same, but with a slightly more punk rock feel. The lyrics are basic and don’t offer anything particularly impressive, but they are sung with heart and sincerity and that’s really all that I’m after, anyway. It’s rock and roll without an agenda.  It doesn’t care who you are, what you make, or how you dress. If you like to kick back, let loose and shake your hips, The Sheens are on your side. They just sound…friendly. The vibe is unpretentious, humble, and most of all, genuine, and it is very refreshing and appreciated to hear.

The most defining aspect of their sound is the way that they are able to slide into every song like it’s a favorite sweater.  The guitar jangles and rattles, the bass follows in with a grin on it’s face, the cymbals shiver  a little before Cat starts singing.  “Hey Little Something” is an upbeat, sing-along that hums at a steady pace before giving way to “Dark Side”.  Her voice, as well as the music, seems to take a slightly melancholy detour, but along with the opener this track is a favorite.  “Every Night, Every Day” gets back on track with more up-tempo romping before unceremoniously ending the EP.

This record hit me with some happy, albeit fuzzy, memories that I hadn’t visited in a while. I got visions of seeing stranger after stranger go past, never to see the same face twice.  The bright lights of Time Square at night.  The sex museum on 5th Ave and a fantastic gypsy musical off-broadway. I can’t really compare The Sheens to anyone, aside from the aforementioned Merit, because I haven’t heard anything quite like them. The city breathes the sound into the music and to experience one without the other is really like reading half a book or watching half of a movie. Most of their shows seem to be in the NYC area but hopefully they will tour soon. In the event that they don’t, just writing this has made me nostalgic and I think it’s time to start planning a new trip back to the big city. This time I will be able to navigate the subways and make it to the venue. Who else is in? I’m serious.


Hemingway Pretend To Care Review

Hemingway Pretend To Care Album Review

Fuzz and grunge flood out of Hemingway’s latest release Pretend to Care, reminding one of a summer in the late 90’s.

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The Portland outfit seem to fit into their mold well, echoing the style of Built to Spill with less talent. Vocals drown to the sea of distortion and play along drums, with lyrics that everyone who has been to high school can relate to.

Apart from the semantics of this album, the flow throughout is solid, songs cling together in unison and are well displayed. Vocals ranging from almost spoken verses to shouting to drive the point home. The opener, “Constellations” leads with a chug and crash repetition of 90’s euphoria; off the bat we see where this is going. If you’re one who believes that the music styles of mid to late 90’s and flannel jackets wrapped around your waist really should have survived the turn of the century, then Hemingway’s have what you desire.

The third song, “So Predictable” begins the same as the others yet transcends into bridges and breaks, showing the ability to step outside of the styling that Hemingway seem so comfortable with; more power chords pumping over loud crash drums, palm mutes and spoken vocals, yet a second verse shouted reminds one of a young Brand New, followed by a bridge that reminds one of recent Brand New. Originality is not found here, yet the music is discernible to its own influences.

On the Hemingway Facebook page, the members are listed by only their first names. A notable notion to the album itself, while the music is well played and quality of recordings are good, this album sounds like music written by Ryan, Ben, Jared and Justin in Ben’s basement. Although infatuated with the idea of four friends making music together that they all love, one cannot discern them from their influences.

Near the end of the album is the Dinosaur Jr. riddled track “Southeast,” a fuzz bass leads into a octave slide riff with the same almost spoken vocals of a coming train and “no one wants to live a life alone.” Palm mutes and chugs lead into a melodic guitar riff of pull off’s and repetitive notes, building drums and vocals, carry you away as if the train had arrived, then exploding into another chorus. Well structured and with purpose, the album resolves leaving a lingering feeling to start it over and enjoy that 90’s summer once again.

For fans of Dinosaur Jr., Brand New’s first album, 90’s Portland garage rock

Andrew Corbit

New Market For Rise Against

Rise Against Black Market Album Review

Rise Against is a rare band that’s proven an ability to transcend multiple rock genres. They cut their teeth as a punk band, are hugely popular with hardcore fans and have a dominant position on active rock playlists.

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In July, these socially conscious Chicago rockers dropped their seventh album, and their first offering in three years. On Black Market, we still hear much of the sound their fervent fans have come to enjoy, mixed in with a few new twists, primarily to a more mainstream sound. Listening to the lyrics, there’s also a more prominent focus on relationships, with fewer songs about social and political issues.

The album kicks off with an interesting twist. “The Great Die Off” begins with a beautiful string arrangement; a placid and relaxing start to the album, but it is oh so brief, before it evolves into a violent explosion of rock ‘n roll. Beautiful! This diverse social commentary with violent themes is a great start to The Black Market, and just might be the best track on the album.

The first single off of the album, “I don’t Wanna Be Here Anymore” is a gritty rocker that is absolutely everywhere on rock radio. It’s a crossover song that fits into just about every rock ‘n roll genre and is destined to be on many year-end Best Of lists. The song, about a relationship nearing its demise, kick starts with ferocious drums from Brandon Barnes, who plays a prominent role throughout The Black Market.

“Tragedy and Time” is another good example of the more mainstream slant that is pervasive on the album. The song has good harmonies and nice melodies – like so many other pop rock tunes. Decent stuff, but I’d be curious to see whether it is embraced by longtime fans of the band?

The album does feature a few cuts that will certainly appeal to Rise Against’s passionate hardcore fan base. “The Eco-tourist In Me” thankfully jettisons them back to their hardcore punk past. It’s fast, it’s aggressive, and it’s a cry for action – a familiar and fitting combination for the band. “A Beautiful Indifference” is a thrasher cut from the same cloth. Good stuff!

The most intriguing cut on the album is “Sudden Life,” a hopeful song which is masterfully produced. It features Tim McIlrath at his most vulnerable and the vocals are tremendous. The lyrics are intelligent and provoking on this track and throughout the album, a longtime trait for Rise Against.

All told, I loved about half of the album, but was lukewarm towards the rest. If you haven’t purchased the album yet it, grab it below and let us know your thoughts?

Rock On!

A Welcome Dose of Midwestern Charm


The Midwestern Charm Album Review

Like all good Rock And Roll Animals, I always have beer and rock music on my mind.

Someone mentions Milwaukee and the first thing I used to think of was the former. Milwaukee and beer go hand-in-hand, right? Hell yeah, even their first-place baseball team is named the Brewers, but if you really think about the brews from this Wisconsin city, well most of them… how do you put it… well, they suck. But, that’s okay, because ever since we started this little blog, we’ve come across something else that Milwaukee does pretty damn well: The hometown of Les Paul, not surprisingly, brews up killer, soulful rock music.

A few years ago we wrote about an excellent song from The Wildbirds, then last year, Broken Birdie fell in love with Midnight Reruns, and just this week we heard the excellent new offering from the shores of Lake Michigan, with Growing Pains, the second album from The Midwestern Charm.

Growing Pains kicks off with an addictive track, “Bloodbath.” The catchy tune features distinctive vocals from primary song-writer, Connor La Mue.  It’s straight-forward American rock ‘n roll – poppy, jangly, garage rock that’s eminently listenable. The song blends nicely into “Can’t Stand It.” another excellent offering, this time featuring pristine, catchy guitar work, and powerful vocals reminding me a bit of John K Sampson (The Weakerthans).

The eleven song album offers a nice blend of indie rock.  Unfortunately, with today’s conservative corporate ownership of most alternative rock stations, this band probably does not have a clear radio hit on the album, but there are a handful of songs that simply put are damn good rock tunes.

The band offers a diverse glimpse into their abilities and a wide array of songs.  I applaud them for taking a few chances, but their slower offerings just did not hold the same appeal, and were often easily forgettable. But, the upbeat rockers are the songs in their wheelhouse, and the place where I think they shine the most; songs like “Lush,” “General Drag,” and it’s fantastic blistering lead-in “With A Lime,” definitely demand attention.

It’s clear that there’s good stuff brewing in the Milwaukee rock scene.Check out Growing Pains and let us know your thoughts. Just promise us to grab a nice American Craft brew before you slide on the headphones.

The album can be streamed here: Growing Pains
Rock On!
Mike G

Stuck On Adelitas Way’s New Album

Rick DeJesus of Adelitas Way
Rick DeJesus of Adelitas Way. Photo:,

Adelitas Way STUCK Album Review

I’m a sucker for melodic hard-edged rock. Sadly, it has become increasingly difficult to find in today’s vapid hard rock landscape. But once in awhile I come across one of those albums that absolutely nails it; albums like Adelitas Way’s forthcoming release, Stuck.

In the sweltering sun of Welcome To Rockville I caught their blistering set and counted down the days to the July 29th release of their third album. Then, we got a glimpse of what we were in store when they released “Dog On A Leash” the excellent aggressive lead single, which instantly ratcheted up my expectations.

I’ve come to expect to be disappointed with so many active rock albums that are weak – albums featuring one or two solid tracks surrounded by a sea of crap. But not this time. Nope, Stuck absolutely delivers. This is a masterpiece destined for year-end best of lists. It’s one of those rare albums that defines a band and jettisons them into the rock ‘n roll stratosphere. It’s Adelitas Way’s equivalent of Metallica’s Master Of Puppets or the Scorpions Love At First Bite, an offering that takes a band from solid rockers to bona fide stars.

The previous comparison to The Scorpions is an apt one, as these American rockers feature excellent hard rock guitar, at times gritty and raw and at others beautifully honed, and all of it masterfully layered throughout. Throw in thunderous drums and diverse balanced vocals from Rick DeJesus and it’s a killer combination. There’s a common hard rock thread through all of the tracks, and the songs are generally catchy as hell, but happily, they’re a diverse grouping of tracks that all stand on their own.

“Dog On A Leash,” like most of the tracks on Stuck, is sharply produced music that still retains a welcome gritty edge. The album offers a diverse glimpse into the Las Vegas quartet’s considerable talent.  There are a handful of killer tracks throughout the album, the best, “Different Kind Of Animal” is one of the most balanced, rich rockers I have heard in years. “Keep Me Waiting,” “Save The World.” “We Came” and “Blur” are all future active radio hits cut from the same cloth and excellent offerings.

On the other end of the spectrum is the keyboard driven “Something More,” the tender ballad “Drive” and the built-for-stadiums anthem “Undivided,” all tracks that scream for well-deserved attention.  There’s not a weak track on the album, and it’s a must buy for all hard rock fans.

Rock On!

P.S. As good as this album is, they also put on a great live show. You’ll be able to catch Adelitas Way touring this fall with The Pretty Reckless, including four September dates here in Florida. The full tour schedule follows below the break.

We’d love your thoughts in our comments section, and we hope you consider Following Us / Liking Us for future rock music coverage.

Check out our Adelitas Way Concert Photos

09/10/2014 Boston, MA House of Blues*
09/12/2014 Silver Spring, MD The Fillmore*
09/13/2014 Philadelphia, PA Theatre of the Living Arts*
09/15/2014 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade*
09/17/2014 Myrtle Beach, SC House of Blues*
09/18/2014 Jacksonville beach, FL Free Bird Live*
09/19/2014 St. Petersburg, FL Mahaffey Theater*
09/20/2014 Lake Buena Vista, FL House of Blues*
09/21/2014 Fort Lauderdale, FL Revolution Live*
09/23/2014 Mobile, AL Soul Kitchen*
09/24/2014 New Orleans, LA House of Blues*
09/26/2014 Austin, TX Emo’s*
09/28/2014 Houston, TX House of Blues*
09/30/2014 Tempe, AZ The Marquee Theatre*
10/02/2014 Reno, NV Knitting Factory *
10/03/2014 Portland, OR Wonder Ballroom*
10/04/2014 Seattle, WA El Corazon*
10/05/2014 Vancouver, B.C. Vogue Theatre*
10/08/2014 San Francisco, CA Regency Ballroom*
10/10/2014 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern*
10/11/2014 Anaheim, CA House of Blues*
10/12/2014 San Diego, CA House of Blues*
10/16/2014 Salt Lake City, UT The Complex*
10/17/2014 Denver, CO The Fillmore Auditorium*
10/25/2014 Indianapolis, IN Deluxe @ Old National Centre*
10/28/2014 Columbus, OH Newport Music Hall*
10/29/2014 Cleveland, OH House of Blues*
10/30/2014 Toronto, ON The Sound Academy*
11/01/2014 Montreal, QC Olympia De Montreal*
11/04/2014 South Burlington, VT Higher Ground Ballroom*
11/06/2014 Portland, ME The Asylum*
11/07/2014 Hampton Beach, NH Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom*
11/08/2014 New York, NY Best Buy Theater*
*Marks dates with The Pretty Reckless – additional dates will be announced throughout the summer.

Bleachers’ Strange Desire

Jack Antonoff at The Big Ticket
Jack Antonoff at The Big Ticket

Bleachers Strange Desire Album Review

Jack Antonoff has seen it all in his brief but eventful career in the music world and has quickly established himself as a talented musician with tremendous potential.

Growing up in the New Jersey suburbs and generally feeling like an outcast as he watched the cool kids from the safety of the bleachers, Antonoff turned to music. He toiled on the road in a few bands (Steel Train), before teaming with Nate Ruess and Andrew Dost to form fun. back in 2008.

We all know what happened with the ascension of fun. They scaled to the top of the Pop Rock charts, culminating the trip with a successful showing at the Grammy’s, and Antonoff was a huge part of the band’s success. During the journey, Antonoff found himself in a relationship with a movie star girlfriend in Lena Dunham, and toured the world in front of a rabid fanbase. A talented songwriter, he’s written with and for huge pop stars, while honing his reputation as a talented musician and up-and-coming producer/arranger.

While touring across the world with fun., he recorded incessantly for an album he notes “was recorded literally all over the place.” He admits that when he returned to the studio, there was some garbage in those tapes, but quite a bit of interesting stuff, as well. The results of his labors was the eleven song Strange Desires released last week.

My first thought after listening to the album was “BIG.” Big arrangements, big ideas, big feel, maybe too “big”… Antanoff is an unabashed fan of John Hughes movies and their critically integral soundtracks, and there’s no mistaking the influence those soundtracks have had on Strange Desires. For a handful of these opulent songs, it works well, but truthfully, at some point it just became too much.

Think back to the films and the artists on the Hughes’ albums, Flesh For LuLu did not always offer up that lush John Hughes production we heard in “I Go Crazy.” For every “Pretty In Pink,” the Psychedelic Furs had a few “Imitation of Christs.” On Strange Days, there’s just too much John Hughes influence. That’s not to say there isn’t some killer music on the album, as there are a handful of songs that are well worth adding to any playlist.

The first single, “I Wanna Get Better” is pure musical genius. The introspective track is the best song on the album, and will likely be one of the defining songs of 2014. The lyrics reflect on the challenging times experienced growing up, but finish with a clear tone of optimism.  The song, which was our website’s Song Of The Week back in may is absolutely addictive.

Throughout the album, you’ll definitely have pleasant musical flashbacks to fun. Vocally, Antonoff is no match for Nate Guess, but his vocals are captivating in their own way, and shine most on the stripped down surf rock offering “Wake Me,” which is just a great song.

A handful of other tracks would have been perfectly suited placed smack dab in the middle of a flick like Some Kind Of Wonderful. Primary among these lush arrangements, which are catchy as hell are “Like A River,” “Roller Coaster” and “Reckless Love,” ambitious songs harkening back to sonic images of Jesus and Mary Chain, OMD and Simple Minds. Listening to the excellent “You’re Still a Mystery,” I felt like I had discovered the sequel to “Melt With You,” that Modern English could never deliver.

There were a few not so pleasant mysteries on the album, as well. The pairings with both Grimes and Yoko Ono (why? why? why?) were weak.  I really can’t understand the logic for either being included on the album, and hope to never hear either again.

But, forget those two tracks, because all told, it’s a good album, and one that will translate excellently when Bleachers hits the festival circuit this fall.  My recommendation is to listen to the entire album and grab the half-dozen or so that best fit your tastes.

Rock On!

For fans of Antonoff’s other band, check out these 2012 fun. photos from our collection.



Melanie Martinez – Dollhouse EP – Music Review

Melanie Martinez – Dollhouse Review

I don’t want to bore you by numerating the reasons why I dragged my feet so much with this e.p. Suffice it to say that Broken Birdie is a lazy bum who spends too much time under bridges.

I downloaded the music and let it play through, and then did it again, and again. The only thought that came to my mind that first day was “Melanie Martinez owes either Lorde or Lana Del Rey, or both, some serious royalties. Somebody call an ambulance, Melanie bit the shit out of Lana’s style!” After more thought, though, that’s hardly fair. Beginning that line of thinking is taking the exit to old-age where I start becoming a person that “just doesn’t get it”. It’s already happened to hip-hop. I don’t understand rap anymore, but that’s another article altogether. Music like Ms. Martinez has put together on the Dollhouse e.p. might borrow, it might lift, it may be shamelessly influenced by the aforementioned artists, but can you blame her? Being that this web-site is called Rock and Roll Animals, some of you may not have a clue what i’m babbling about. This isn’t rock and roll. It’s not even close, but lest we fall into the trap of becoming old before our time, we must allow “rock and roll” to transcend it’s traditional sounds and antics.

Dollhouse starts off with “Bittersweet Tragedy” which is anthemic in it’s presentation. It’s large, it’s fluid, it’s like standing on a deserted beach with your feet sinking into the sand and staring at the water. You can see the wave building that will ultimately smash you into the ground, but you can’t take your eyes off of it, can’t even think of moving to safety. You are drawn to the thing that will destroy you, and it’s one of the most common, irrational human actions that I can think of right now. In short, this is one of the most venomous love songs I have heard in quite some time and I love it.

Track two, “Carousel”, certainly pushes the circus/carnival analogy with it’s funky pipe-organ sound at the beginning. The song is catchy, but some of the word-play is a little bit corny, and I don’t foresee this track having very much replay value at all.  Unless you work for a carnival, of course.

Following that the e.p. takes a rather unexpected, dark turn. After several listens “Dead To Me” begins to sound like an extremely thinly veiled death threat. More likely, however, it’s simply dramatics that I can not relate to. It’s a very catchy song, but to avoid the risk of sounding like an obnoxious ass I think that I’ll just move on.

Rounding out the e.p. is the title track “Dollhouse.” It’s an angsty song about how a seemingly perfect family is, in reality, flawed and tragic. It’s simple, it’s dark, and, again, it’s catchy as hell. It’s certainly the most radio-friendly track on here.  As a side note, I love it when people refer to weed as “cannabis”.  There’s something very haughty about it, and it’s also quite charming in a strange way.

Ernest Hemingway said “In order to write about life first you must live it.” Melanie Martinez has heaps of potential to become a serious force in music, but at the tender age of 19 I don’t think she’s been dragged through enough dirt, yet. As of now she is a young girl singing songs for young girls, but hopefully with experience she will blossom into a uniquely talented artist that will establish an identity of her own. “Bittersweet Tragedy” is the gem of this e.p. and I hope to hear more from her in the future.

Broken Birdie

Man On Earth Album Review

Man On Earth Album Review

I literally get dozens of albums a week in my InBox and it is basically impossible to listen to everything that comes through the mailbox, but this offering from Man On Earth, a band totally unfamiliar to me, caught my attention.

First, the email came from a band member, bassist Adam Root, and that always makes a positive impression to me, as I have a great deal of respect for hard-working passionate bands.  Their bio mentioned linkages to three bands I have a great deal of appreciation for: Theory Of A Deadman, Fun., and Lenny Kravitz, and they have a relationship with a professional hockey team (sure it’s just the Islanders, but still…).  Interest piqued, I downloaded the album and took it for a spin, and I was not disappointed.

The eponymously titled album is a fun offering that boasts big, powerful rock songs; music that should translate excellently on stage. At times gritty garage rock, pop punk and mainstream rock, it’s a nice mix of songs that will appeal to most active rock fans. We immediately get good insight into what the albums has in store for us with the hard-driving drums and aggressive bass line that kick-off the subtly titled first track, “Bang Bang Bitch.”

Throughout the album, the New York City band’s talent and diversity is frequently on display. “If Not Then, When” boasts searing guitars, and “On Our Own” is bouncy pop punk that rekindles fun memories of Sum 41. “We Are The Dreamers” is borderline sappy, but Steven Nathan’s vocals and lyrics are worthy of attention, and the tender Knopfler-esque guitar damn near beautiful.

My favorite track is the radio hit-in-waiting, “Lost In These Lights.” It’s a little slicker and poppier than most of the tracks. It’s a clean, well-produced, catchy tune that would feel perfect blasting through any car stereo.

As noted, there are a handful of highlights, but the record is at times a little uneven, and there are a few tracks that will get minimal play on my iPod, but overall, it’s an album worth owning from a band that should be on the radar of rock fans throughout the country.

Rock On!

Check out the album on iTunes: