A few fun Alt-Rock offerings on the radar for this Hump Day. Among the many dozens of songs floating across our eyes and ears in our InBox over the past week, these are our favorites from the Alt-Rock universe. Because you love this new music as much as we do, check out our Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post to sample a slew of our other favorites from over the past year.
I remember the first time I listened to Never Trust A Happy Song, and immediately realized I had discovered a fantastically creative new band. Five years after Grouplove’s smashing debut, one of RARAs Farm’s 2011 Albums of the Year, the Los Angeles quintet is poised to release their third album, Big Mess, which is bringing back some of those same warm feelings.
Spreading Rumors Album Review
If you’ve seen any of my past Grouplove reviews, you’ll recall that they’re at the top of my list of upcoming artists. Their breakthrough debut album, Never Trust A Happy Song, was in our Top 5 Rock Albums of 2011, and their live show has been great both times that I’ve caught them.
I’ve been anxious to hear what they have to offer on their follow-up release Spreading Rumors. Would it be the next step in their evolution as a rock solid artist, or the dreaded Sophomore slump. As it turns out, it’s a little of both.
The first track, “I’m With You” starts with a gratuitous 2:00 extended musical intro before melding into a fairly lame by their standards Vampire Weekend-esque offering which is quite frankly probably the worst song they’ve offered to date. Certainly an ominous start to their second full-length offering.
Fortunately, the tenor of the album takes a 180 degree turn on the very next track, “Borderlines And Aliens,” which felt like a nice extension of the fine music the band proffered on Never Trust a Happy Song. The guitar riff in this one is addictive; accompanied by strong vocal trade-offs from Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper, it’s a raucous rocker, and a song that should have kicked off the album.
“Ways To Go” is the sweetly saccharine first single from the album. It’s a keyboard and drum machine driven guilty pleasure. The keyboards are simple, yet simply addictive and the boy-girl vocal trade-offs perfectly harmonious. “Raspberry” is my choice for best single offering on the album. It’s an excellent, well-balanced track that highlights what the band does best: strong vocals, powerful drums, driving bass and slick guitar work; and it’s catchy as hell.
One of my favorite tracks was “Sit Still” which strayed nicely from the keyboard driven cuts that dominate Spreading Rumors. Plenty of acoustic guitar and superb drumming from Ryan Rabin carry this song and make it one of the most diverse offerings on the album.
On one of the band’s few offerings that is not powered by Zucconi’s voice, Hannah Hooper takes a turn in the spotlight. “Didn’t Have To Go” nicely spotlights Hooper’s wide vocal range, and through two albums is the best showcase for her talented voice,
“What I Know” and “News To Me” are two other strong tracks that nicely spotlight the band’s under-emphasized guitar playing ability, and “Shark Attack” is a fun quirky cross between Surf Punks and The Go-Gos.
Is it as good as their debut? No, but there aren’t many recent albums that are. Spreading Rumors has a handful of mediocre tracks but it also offers a nice selection of excellent offerings. Check it out and let us know what you think.
Grouplove Gives Back
On these hallowed blog pages, we’ve frequently asserted that they’re one of the most talented young bands on the Alternative rock scene. And, as their popularity continues to grow, the members of Grouplove are developing into quite the philanthropists, as well.
The talented quintet joins forces with Reverb and Rainforest Alliance to headline the 2013 Campus Consciousness Tour, kicking off October 24th at Ohio’s Kent State University. The quck tour has the band playing a dozen shows before wrapping up at Colby College in Maine. (See the full schedule below)
Each stop on the tour will feature a live performance by Grouplove – who just released their second full-length album Spreading Rumours, featuring the Top 5 hit single “Ways to Go.” We recently caught them in Philly, and they put on one hell of a show – Philadelphia Show Review. They will be supported on this tour by two up-and-coming artists, Saints of Valory and The Knocks.
Each tour stop will also feature an on-campus “eco-village” where students can learn about sustainability while enjoying activities, giveaways and contests, including a chance to score a meet-and-greet with the band. Grouplove’s Hannah Hooper will also be joining up with students who take the Rainforest Alliance pledge to “Follow the Frog” to collaborate on “Art for Activism.” Prior to joining Grouplove, Hooper was already an accomplished visual artist, having graduated from the Parsons School of Design and being a part of NYC’s Lower East Side art scene. As the band’s art director, she is responsible for creating all of Grouplove’s visual art, including album cover art, tour posters, stage design, and merchandise.
“We are delighted to be teaming up with the Rainforest Alliance and Reverb to tour greener while encouraging college students to be more eco-minded at our shows,” said Hannah Hooper, co-lead singer and keyboardist of Grouplove. “Students are the leaders of tomorrow. Through the Campus Consciousness Tour we hope to inspire students to lead the way toward a more sustainable future.”
24 Kent, OH Kent State University
25 Clinton, NY Hamilton College
26 Fredericksburg, VA University of Mary Washington
29 Rochester, NY Monroe Community College
30 Columbus, OH Ohio State University
6 Worchester, MA Clark University
8 Washington, DC American University
9 Ewing, NJ College of New Jersey
15 Somerville, MA Tufts University
16 Waterville, ME Colby College
Grouplove Philadelphia Concert Review
I recently found myself obligated to make a trip to Philadelphia. Typically not a preferred destination, this time I was thrilled to be going once I realized that Grouplove was taking their Seesaw Tour to the city on the same night.
The City of Brotherly Love might just be the most inaccurate nickname ever. Philly is generally not a friendly place. Their sporting venues are dangerous places, their drivers are rude, politicians are sketchy… You get the picture, but there’s one very notable exception. These miscreants know how to rock. For decades, Philadelphia has been a city that rocks, birthing such stellar acts as The Hooters, The A’s, and Cinderella. In addition, the city is a favorite tour stop for all of the iconic names in rock and roll. On this night, they got to witness some future icons.
Philadelphia rock music fans are fantastic, and they make every show in the city just a bit more special than in most other locales. I had caught Grouplove last fall at Florida’s Next Big Thing festival and loved their energy and charisma, not to mention their music, but I was truly excited to see them in a rock ‘n roll city like Philadelphia. They did not disappoint.
On this tour, the talented quintet are playing two shows in each city; night one, a raucous rock affair and night two (this night) a more laid back acoustic show. I was thrilled to be able to secure a ticket for the acoustic night, because these five are superbly talented and creative, and I was anxious to witness the different spin they’d offer on their unique blend of pop rock.
The sold out venue, Underground Arts, in the industrial Callowhill part of town, was an excellent backdrop for the set. After a nice warm-up set from up-and-coming Australians The Rubens, the electricity in the crowd was palpable. With fog drifting from the rafters, front man, Christian Zucconi took the stage to a loud ovation. He slid behind the piano for an unaccompanied solo as his band mates joined him for a slick version of “I’m With You.” From there, they kicked into “Itchin’ On A Photograph,” and the party was on.
If this night was the more mellow acoustic show, I can’t imagine the previous night’s fervor at Union Transfer. The band just oozes energy and offers non-stop superb, fun rock music. The set was maybe the slightest bit toned down; we saw the keyboards eschewed for piano as an example, but it was still a rollicking good time, and a nice night to showcase the band’s talent.
At different times in the night, we saw lead singer / whirling dervish, Hannah Hooper, drummer Ryan Rabin, and Zucconni slide behind the piano. Phenomenally talented guitarist Andrew Wesson, took a turn behind the drums, and bass player Sean Gadd took lead vocals on several songs. But, most of the focus was directed to Zucconi and Hooper. They complement each other fantastically, often deftly trading off boy/girl vocals, all the while appearing to be having an absolute blast.
Aside from their musical talent, these guys all sing extremely well, which resulted in unusually crisp five person vocals at numerous times throughout the night.
There truly wasn’t a soft spot in the entire set, where we were able to enjoy numerous fun twists:
- “Chloe” – Was introduced by Rabin and offered our first chance to see Gadd drop his bass and deliver lead vocals on a powerful, fun tune that had the crowd in a frenzy.
- “Close Your Eyes” – Practically in mid-sentence, Zucconi began to howl, the crowd eagerly joined in, feeding nicely into the opening of this softer offering.
- “Ways To Go” – I was wondering what they’d do with their current keyboard driven hit, and they offered a great spin. Rabin on piano, Wessen behind the drums, Gadd on bass, and Hooper and Zucconi killing the fun vocal duet.
- “Cruel and Beautiful World” – Tender vocals, and phenomenal guitar work from Wessen. Just beautiful to listen to (wish I had recorded this one).
- “Getaway Car” – featured an xylophone solo, and Gadd again on vocals.
- “Tongue Tied” – Another fun party, this one had the crowd singing along perfectly, and sounding fantastic.
- “Lovely Cup” – the entire crowd danced to this one, which spotlighted Gadd’s superb bass.
- “Philalalaladelphia” – Yeah, it’s not a real song, but the night before, they wrote two lines while hanging out in Rittenhouse Square. It was silly stuff, but damn if they didn’t turn it into a three minue crowd infused party. Only in Philalalalaladelphia!
In between, there were plenty of deep cuts, ample representation from all three of the band’s releases, a nice cover and creative alternate versions. An hour and a half of fun stuff in a lovely, loving atmosphere.
Follow Us on Twitter or Like our Facebook t0 receive alerts. Here are the photos, not great, but some decent shots: Grouplove photo album from this show. Also, here are some older photos to fill your needs Grouplove at The Big Ticket
(see the full setlist below)
I’m With You
Itchin’ On A Photograph
Close Your Eyes
Ways To Go
Cruel And Beautiful World
Love Will Find You (cover)
The Mowgli’s Waiting For the Dawn Album Review
Fresh on the heels of their absolutely addictive single “San Francisco,” Los Angeles based The Mowgli’s have released their first full-length album Waiting For the Dawn, giving us a chance to see whether they’re a one-hit wonder, or a band built to stand the test of time. Without a doubt, it’s the latter. This album is a masterpiece, and clearly one of the highlights of 2013 thus far. It’s a cool summer groove just overflowing with sweet summer rock ‘n roll gems.
In a refreshing change from much of the music dominating today’s airwaves, The Mowgli’s offer up a host of tracks about love, hope and unity. They’re an octet comprised of five LA childhood friends and three more recent acquaintances from the Midwest. It’s a marriage that works very well.
Waiting For the Dawn is an uplifting collection of lyrics accompanied by fantastic music. Many of the tracks feature Boy/Girl lead vocal trade-offs or animated group gang vocals. It’s one of the reasons the band reminds me of an arranged marriage between Grouplove and Of Monsters and Men; heady stuff as those bands each finished in our Top 5 albums of the year in 2011 and 2102 respectively.
By now you’ve surely heard the zippy “San Francisco.” It’s a clever catchy song that just oozes the essence of summertime (featured in our Songs of Summer 2013). The rest of the album offers up similar sonic pleasures. “The Great Divide” is actually a more hit-worthy selection than “San Francisco.” It’s a more upbeat song with a catchy riff and better lyrics. “Clean Light” is another strong cut; this one dominated by shouts and whistles that will surely leave you reminiscing about the fine music of the aforementioned bands.
There are a few tracks out of their typical comfort zone that work with varied degrees of success, including my favorite track “Time.” It’s the most stripped down song, just a few acoustic guitars and captivating vocals. It starts as a song of desperation, but weaves into a hopeful paean. “I get so down about this world some times. I cannot understand people, no not at all. But I hope to see a change in man, I hope to see us love one another, and I know we can.” Good, good stuff.
The band is comprised of eight members, which lends nicely to their propensity to offer sensational harmonies, the fun gang vocals, and lots of slick musical vignettes. “Leave It Up To Me” features a few nicely placed guitar solos and some sweet melodica. “Emily” is another gift, it’s a subtle musical orgy with so many intricate instrument switches weaving in and out. The album offers up a bit of perfectly placed cello, stand-up bass, mandolin and trombone, and who knows what kinds of percussion. It’s truly a creative masterpiece, and one that is immaculately produced.
Pick it up and give it a listen (linked below), as this one is going to be one of the albums that defines the year.
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2012 was blessed with some fantastic rock songs, and it has taken weeks to whittle down the long list of worthy songs to find the 25 best of the year. Not quite sure this is perfect, but damn sure that these are 25 great rock songs. Check out the list and see if you agree.
At the conclusion of the list, you’ll find a playlist on iTunes that links to all 25.
25. “It’s Time” – Imagine Dragons: It’s Addictive. It’s always cool when the drummer is lead vocalist. It’s great to hear a viola in a rock tune. It’s good stuff.
24. “Bully” – Shinedown: Love the message in this one, and the song is pretty damn good, too. One of three bands with two songs on this year’s list.
23. “Little Talks” – Of Monsters and Men: It’s Mumford & Sons with a bit more of an edge from the amazingly talented band out of Iceland.
22. “45” – Gaslight Anthem: Great straight forward rock tune from the Garden State’s newest successor to the Boss. Also love the lyrics and the 45 metaphors.
21. “We Take Care of Our Own” – Bruce Springsteen – Yup. still on top of his game. At times this reminds you of vintage E-Street band, but it also has a nice modern flair, and a big sound.
20. “Oh Love” – Green Day: What’s old is new again. this one brings back nice memories of songs from across the band’s past two decades. Billie Joe sounding great again.
19. “Love Interruption” – Jack White: The sparse arrangement works great. The guitar and Wurlitzer fling you back into the 60’s but the vocals and lyrics are totally 2012.
18. “Ho Hey” – The Lumineers: Amazingly successful debut song from American Indie rockers that’s impossible not to singalong to and as a nice bonus, it features nice mandolin.
17. “Gold On the Ceiling” – Black Keys: Great organs, hand claps and a blast to listen to. Dan Auerbach channels his inner Paul Rodgers. Nice guitar solo, too. They had two songs on last year’s list and two more this year!
16. “Simple Song” – The Shins: Beautiful harmonies, chaotic guitar played off against sweet piano and James Mercer singing fantastically.
15. “Reboot the Mission” – Wallflowers: Jacob Dylan makes a killer comeback – with a ska single! And, joined by Mick Jones of The Clash. Super cool.
14. “Tongue Tied” – Grouplove: Another great song off of 2011’s Never Trust A Happy Song. It’s a blast to listen to with great boy/girl vocals and stellar music.
13. “Hold On” – Alabama Shakes: It’s an instant classic with such a comfortable Southern Rock feel, coupled with Brittany Howard’s soulful vocals that evoke memories of the great Janis Joplin.
12. “Burn It Down” – Linkin Park: The same roaring electro-power rock we’ve come to expect from the lads from Aurora, California – this time with even more memorable hooks.
11. “Breathing Underwater” – Metric: Excellent song in which Emily Haines offers up beautiful vulnerable vocals in a song about a relationship still struggling to survive against the odds. The only band with two in our Top Dozen.
10. “Default” – Django Django: A cool dance rock track that at different times reminds me of surf rock, classic T-Rex and 80′s new wave. Yeah, it’s a crazy mix, but it’s pretty damn fun.
9. Polarized – Luke Dowler – Great song about a relationship that just isn’t working. The music is excellent, but the lyrics are phenomenal. So many different scenarios where they are perfectly fitting. Every time I hear this, I think about our dysfunctional government (both parties) in the nation’s capital.
“He’s left, you’re always right
Polarized, You think he’s weak because he won’t decide
We’re disconnected – we’ve been infected
We’re building up defenses – protecting deadly interests”
8. “Kill Your Heroes” – AWOLNATION – My favorite inspirational lyric all year in a song that is both powerful and addictive. “Never let your fear decide your fate.”
7. “Little Black Submarines” – Black Keys: Really two songs in one love the tender opening, and LOVE the electronic jam on part two – sweet, powerful guitar and drums.
6. “Runaways” – The Killers: They’re back after a four year hiatus, this saga is a Springsteen-esque anthem that is pure old school Killers. Brandon Flowers at his best.
5. “What Makes a Good Man?” – The Heavy: Soulful rock from the Bath, England quartet with screaming guitar that would make Jack White proud.
4. “Youth Without Youth” – Metric: A great driving beat on a song that reminds me a bit of the most rocking Smiths’ tunes. This is a dark one about a young person who has grown up in a troubled environment and raced past their youth.
3. “Danny, Dakota and the Wishing Well” – A Silent Film: It’s a grandiose rocker you’d have expected from The Killers. Love the keyboards, the vocals and the story!
2. Unity – Shinedown – Soaring melodies, Brent Smith’s superb vocals and fantastic guitar in yet another uplifting song from one of the year’s best albums, Amaryllis.
1. “Everybody Talks” – Neon Trees: OK, so, this is a wee bit overplayed – Got it. But it is an absolutely fantastic song. Tyler Glenn’s vocals are mesmerizing, and the guitar and drums are pure old school rock.
Let us know what you thought. Was your favorite on our list? Also, we’d love to see what you think about our 2012 Rock Albums of the Year.
As I looked back on the 2012 rock landscape and reviewed the year’s best rock music, I realized that I’ve definitely become more of an Indie Rock fan over the past few years. 2012 brought us lots of great Indie rock, but we also heard some rocking albums in the mainstream. You may see a few albums here that you’re not familiar with, but I implore you to check them out. You’ll open your ears to some killer new rock, and impress the hell out of your friends. (After each selection, you’ll find a link to check them out on iTunes as well as our recommendations if you just want to grab a few tracks off of each album).
So, here are the Farmer’s Dozens in reverse order. The two dozen best rock albums of the year:
Bonus Selection: Each farmer’s dozen comes with a bonus, so here are two: Grouplove, Never Trust a Happy Song and The Black Keys, El Camino. Both of these albums would be at the top of our 2012 list… if we had not already recognized them in 2011. Here’s our Top Rock Albums of 2011, to see what else we visionaries were thinking last year.
23. Lovedrug, Wild Blood – These Indie rockers out of Ohio are powered by Michael Sheppard’s unique voice and a nice Kickstarter campaign. Best tracks: “Premonition” and “Ladders.” Read our full review
21. Green River Ordinance, Under Fire – Great rock ‘n roll harmonies from this quintet out of Forth Worth. They offer up a diverse selection of tunes on another self-funded effort. Best tracks: “Dark Night” and “Lost in the World.” Read our full review
20. Mumford and Sons, Babel – A nice follow-up to their hugely successful 2009 release Sigh No More for these barrier-breaking folk rockers. Best tracks: “I Will Wait” and “The Boxer” (Simon and Garfunkel cover).
19, Dinosaur Jr., I Bet on Sky – The Massachusetts Alt-Rockers continue to put out solid Alt-Rock with their distinctive brand of guitar rock. Every song is good on this one. Best tracks: “Rude” and “Pierce the Morning Rain.”
18. Luke Dowler, Polarized – Dowler’s music offers raw vocals with an urgent passion, mixed with poignant lyrics about world affairs, relationships and deep personal faith: Good stuff from Big Sky Country. Best tracks: “Polarized” and “Gun.” Read our full review
17. Jack White, Blunderbuss – White breaks away from the shackles and structure of his former band mates in The White Stripes and Raconteurs and it works nicely. Best Tracks: “Love Interruption” and “Trash Tongue Talker.”
16. The Shins, Port of Morrow – Fantastic lyrics, beautiful harmonies and rock and roll that just oozes likability I just wish these New Mexico natives would put out album more often than every four years. Best tracks: “Simple Song” and “It’s Only Life.”
15. Muse, The 2nd Law – The band, built for stadium rock, took some chances on this, their sixth release. This stuff is nothing like what we’ve heard from them before, but it is intriguing and captivating. Best tracks: “Madness” and “Survival.”
14. The Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten – Talented New Jersey rockers who offer up their most polished record to date. Strong heart felt rock and roll with excellent lyrics. Best tracks” “Too Much Blood” and “45.” Read our full review
13. The Killers, Battle Born – Brandon Flowers and the band never disappoint. One of the year’s best produced albums and it shows the band moving in a more mature direction. Best tracks: Runaways” and “Miss Atomic Bomb.”
12. Neon Trees, Picture Show – Everybody talked about “Everybody Talks,” but this album was much more than one hit. Tyler Glenn is a future superstar and highlights his broad talent throughout the band’s third album. Best tracks: “I am the DJ” and “Everybody Talks.”
11. Django Django, Django Django – Hip, cool, groovy, rock ‘n roll with an oddly familiar feel considering this is the band’s debut. Mixes the best of the sixties, eighties and modern times. Best tracks: Default” and “WOR.”
10. Metric, Synthetica – From the opening lines of “Artificial Nocturne,” where Emily Haines offers “I’m just as fucked up as they say,” this album demands your attention. Some deep introspective tracks disguised as excellent pop rock songs. Best tracks: “Youth Without Youth” and “Breathing Underwater.”
9. Thousand Foot Krutch, The End is Where We Begin – The songs are positive Christian rock but these guys don’t slam you over the head with their beliefs. It’s solid, active rock music that any hard rock fan will enjoy. A very diverse selection from a band returning to their Indie roots. Best tracks: “War of Change” and “All I Need to Know.” Read our full review
8. The Wallflowers, Glad All Over – Jacob Dylan continues to evolve as a musician and has never sounded better than he does now. Excellent music with soulful vocals on a selection of tracks guaranteed to grow on you with each listen. Best tracks: “It’s a Dream” and “Reboot the Mission.”
7. The Drowning Men, All of the Unknown – They’re back with their second full-length album release, their first on Flogging Molly’s Borstal Beats label, which builds on the success of their fantastic debut album Beheading of the Songbird, and shows the talented quintet continuing to grow. These Indie rockers remind me a bit of the layered harmonies of Arcade Fire, with a clear West Coast U.S. bent. Best Tracks: “A Fool’s Campaign” and “Lost in a Lullaby.” Read our full review
6. Green Day, ‘¡Uno!‘ – Billie Joe Armstrong needs to be recognized as the prolific rock songwriter he is. He and his longtime band mates never fail to put out good music and this is another prime example. A great fresh punk/pop sound from our favorite So Cal trio. They released three good albums this year, this one was the best of the bunch. Best tracks: “Oh Love” and “Let Yourself Go.”
5. Fun., Some Nights – So much more than “We Are Young.” This masterfully produced album is a great vehicle for the talented vocal stylings of Nate Ruess and is packed with memorable addicting ditties. Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost round out the trio and lend their voices to create impressive harmonies throughout. On Some Nights, Fun. has developed a unique sound and carved a nice niche in today’s Alt-Rock landscape. Best tracks: Why Am I the One” and “Carry On.” Read our full review
4. Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal. This talented Icelandic band has taken advantage of the revitalized interest in folksy rock courtesy of Mumford and Sons, but have kicked it up a notch. Great, fun rock songs with amazing boy/girl vocals and meaningful lyrics; as well as a few tracks that are strictly fantasy adventures like the addictive “From Finner.” Best tracks: “Mountain Sound” and “Little Talks,”
3. River City Extension, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger – The second release from this talented octet out of New Jersey is a musical and lyrical journey well worth a listen. It’s a folk rock/Americana album packed with original sounds and with each listen a different track stands out. Joe Michelini, the band’s singer and guitarist is the primary songwriter and he takes us through a varied collection of memories. He offers: “Half of this record is love songs, and the other half is ‘I’m sorry that I fucked up’ songs,” and he writes about both in a compelling way. Best tracks: “Glastonbury” and “Ballad of Oregon.” Read our full review
2. Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball – I had just about written off the sage of the Garden State, but this is one of Springsteen’s best efforts in years. The music is superb, and the lyrics even better. It’s a bitter, but honest look at what Corporate Greed and idiot politicians have done to his country, and Springsteen pulls it off by surrounded the words with excellent music At times, he evokes memories of the E Street Band’s greatest anthems, at other times he has us heading down an entirely new path, such as the Celtic rock feel in the fantastic “Death of My Hometown.” Best other tracks: “We Take Care of Our Own” and “Wrecking Ball.”
1. Shinedown, Amaryllis – I loved “Bully” the moment I heard it and was pleasantly surprised to hear the excellent diversity on the rest of the album. It’s aggressive, powerful, passionate rock that’s impossible to put down. The Jacksonville based band has only put out four albums in their decade plus together, and each one has gotten just a little bit better. Rolling Stone hated the album, which in itself is proof that it’s mainstream rock for the masses. Amaryllis is one of the best hard rock albums in years and it’s packed with great songs. Best tracks: “Unity” and “I’m Not Alright.”
There you have it – the best rock albums of 2012, according to me. Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section.