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Download. Listen. Discard.

Dan Brombach | Wednesday, September 19, 2012

 

Maroon 5 haters, go ahead and pass this review over, but since “She Will Be Loved” was the first song I ever downloaded, I feel I have an obligation to talk about the band’s latest album “Overexposed.”

Blunders aside (“Ladykiller,” “Fortune Teller”), Adam Levine and company really shine in a number of songs, especially “One More Night,” a catchy track describing a man’s desperate attempt to free himself from a dysfunctional relationship.  

“Daylight” and “The Man Who Never Lied” are also enjoyable songs echoing Levine’s recent relationship problems. I’m surprised Adam Levine has any problems with women to write about, though, since I know plenty of girls who would fight to the death Hunger Games-style for the chance to date him.

It may not be my favorite song, but a review of “Overexposed” would be incomplete without a discussion of the smash hit, “Payphone.”  

In my opinion, what could have been a good yet overplayed song is marred by the brilliant, thoughtful lyrics of Wiz Khalifa, who spends a solid 30 seconds of “Payphone” cussing and griping about his haters. 

You certainly do have haters, Mr. Khalifa, but spewing lyrical garbage on a Maroon 5 song is probably not the best way to shut them up.

 Honestly, his verse sounds like a third grader’s Mad Lib, if the only words they could use were money, cars and a few phrases the child’s teacher would likely classify as “potty language.” At the end of the day, there was simply no place for Wiz Khalifa on such a benign and lighthearted track. The subject matter just doesn’t mesh.

Overall, I was mildly disappointed by parts of “Overexposed,” but would still recommend downloading the album.

Let me preface this review by saying I’m not a rabid Dave Matthews Band fan. I don’t wear Dave t-shirts, I don’t own the band’s entire discography and I don’t drive around the country in a Volkswagen bus following their concerts.  

A truly devoted Dave fan might scoff at this and call me an unbeliever, but I believe my moderate stance allows me to see past the cult-like haze surrounding the band’s music and make an honest analysis.

“Away from the World,” the latest album from Dave Matthews Band, is nothing more than pleasantly average. Many of the songs return to the melancholy, laidback vibe of the band’s earlier releases, with mixed results.

My favorite track, “The Riff,” is quiet and musically simplistic, but its lyrics are deep and undeniably sad. The song is told from the perspective of a husband coping with the pain of growing old and watching the passion slowly squeezed from his marriage. The husband reflects, “Funny how time slips away / Looking at the cracks creeping across my face.”

Other, more upbeat, highlights from the album include “Gaucho” and “Belly Belly Nice,” a song that brings more of the jazzy sound Dave Matthew’s fans have come to expect. If you enjoy listening to Dave and crew jam out for 10 minutes, I would also recommend “Drunken Soldier.”

The album is not great, but it’s certainly worth a listen. It’s a fact many will enjoy “Away from the World” simply because it is “classic Dave.”  However, if you ever use that phrase around me, there’s a good chance we will never be good friends.

Allow me to use an analogy to express my disappointment with The Killers’ new album, “Battle Born.”

The Killers were my high school sweethearts. It was puppy love from the first time I listened to “Hot Fuss” and experienced the peppy vocals and crazy synthesizers of “Somebody Told Me” and “Smile Like You Mean It.” The band’s fresh sound and irreverent lyrics (“Somebody told me / You had a boyfriend / Who looked like a girlfriend”) never failed to keep me interested.

However, listening to The Killers’ newest effort, “Battle Born,” was like having this musical high school sweetheart leave for college, discover fro-yo, gain the Freshman 15 pounds and then elope with the bass guitarist from Nickelback.

Whenever I start making Nickelback references, that’s when you know things are getting real.

Overall, the album is uninspired, repetitive and beats the theme of being young and restless like a dead horse. “Runaways” and “Carry Me Home” are certainly two bright spots, but these songs alone are unable to shoulder the rest of the album’s dead weight.

Lead singer Brandon Flowers whining about the fragility of youth and innocence is definitely not what made me fall in love with The Killers. In fact, if The Killers don’t pull a U-turn on emo music highway and go back to the fun, avant-garde sound of their earlier albums, I may even call it quits and break up with my musical sweetheart.

At this point, The Killers wouldn’t even deserve a face-to-face breakup. I’d do it over Skype instead.

 

Contact  Dan Brombach at dbrombac@nd.edu 

The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. 

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The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

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Download. Listen. Discard.

Dan Brombach | Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Passion Pit’s new album “Gossamer” packs a quirky and satisfying punch that should make it a rewarding download for new and established fans alike.
“Gossamer” is like Passion Pit’s adorable, slightly awkward second child; it doesn’t quite fill its big brother’s shoes, but that’s no reason to abandon it on someone’s doorstep.
“Take a Walk” is the album’s most recognizable song, combining a peppy beat with surprisingly serious subject matter. The track provides a grim account of financial and personal struggle in post-recession America, yet is still a great song to jam out to while walking to class.Taco Bell certainly enjoys “Take a Walk,” because it recently began using the song in its television commercials. However, what Taco Bell needs to understand is that alternative music is not what drives people to eat their mystery meat tacos at one in the morning.
“Love is Greed,” my personal favorite track on “Gossamer,” continues the album’s interesting trend of layering introspective lyrics over Passion Pit’s uptempo, experimental sound. Taking a look at the complexity of human relationships, the song asks the difficult question, “If we really love ourselves / How do you love somebody else?”
If I knew the answer to that question, I would be writing self-help books and consoling hysterical women on “Dr. Phil” rather than reviewing music for a college newspaper.
Fans of Passion Pit’s hit song “Sleepyhead” will enjoy “Cry Like a Ghost,” which also uses synthesizers and voice distortion techniques to create a distinctly surreal sound.
Gossamer drops off slightly from Passion Pit’s last musical effort, “Manners,” but is still an album I would definitely recommend downloading.
I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not a fan of country music, but Zac Brown Band really impressed me with their latest album, “Uncaged.”
For “Uncaged” the band taps into their signature Caribbean-inspired vibe, resulting in both the highlight (“Jump Right In”) and lowlight (“Island Song”) of the album. “Jump Right In” is a fun, upbeat track I can see myself blasting on Fridays after class, filled with the band’s usual amount of tropical references. It can get annoying how frequently Zac Brown Band songs mention palm trees, sand and adult beverages on the beach, but hey, there are worse things in the world.
Other highlights include “Natural Disaster,” a folk-sounding ode to a beautiful woman whose fiery disposition “wrecks everyone she meets,” and the more soulful “Lance’s Song,” a song about a musician receiving his “silver invitation” to play for “the big band in the sky” after a career filled with disappointment.
I would urge those people on the fence about country music to give the album a listen. Zac Brown Band successfully avoids the twangy sound and shallow lyrics found in many country songs, making them a refreshing change of pace in a genre I feel has grown increasingly stale.
Those of you familiar with DJ Khaled may know him as the MC/producer responsible for a dizzying number of popular hip-hop songs in the past 10 years. By bringing together long lists of A-list rappers on the majority of his tracks, Khaled has made a career riding to success on the coattails of those with actual talent.
However, not even the likes of Kanye, T.I. or Big Sean could salvage the steaming garbage heap that is Khaled’s new album, “Kiss the Ring.” Khaled can usually be relied on to churn out at least one song per album I enjoy, but “Kiss the Ring” left me completely empty handed, with no tracks standing out as remotely download-worthy.
My greatest complaint is that rather than actually rapping, Khaled spends a solid portion of the album doing shout-outs to friends and various locations. Five seconds of such shout-outs may be acceptable occasionally, but a solid minute of his whiny rambling only makes me want to throw my iPod at the wall.
Overall, the album is an indictment of Khaled as a no-talent, wannabe musician. In fact, I saved a special place for it in my music doghouse, right next to Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter 4.”

Contact Dan Brombach at
dbrombac@nd.edu
The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.