Review of Switchfoot’s The Edge of the Earth

by Dylan Looney

Photo: wikipedia.org

Photo: wikipedia.org

Alt-rockers Switchfoot, known for their crossover hits like “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move,” will be performing this Saturday here at ETSU. To celebrate, I’ll be taking a look at their most recent release, last year’s seven-track EP, The Edge of the Earth. Coming just eight months after the release of their album/documentary, Fading West, the EP contains one previously released track, also titled “Fading West.” Strangely enough, the song wasn’t on the album of the same name, but it was featured as a bonus track on their 2013 EP, which was named, you guessed it, Fading West. To many, this may seem strange until they learn that The Edge of the Earth consists of unreleased material from Fading West. Led Zeppelin did something very similar with their track “Houses of the Holy,” which was left off the album of the same name but was used later for Physical Graffiti.

The EP opens with the previously mentioned “Fading West,” in which the laid-back garage rock vibe mixes with strings to create a downright Beatle-esque track, and a catchy one at that. The second track, “Against the Voices,” is another strong number with the clever use of vocal effects in the beginning. I presume this is to represent the “voices” which frontman John Foreman is singing about. I particularly like the lyrics in this song, such as “’Cause everybody knows/The hardest war to fight/Is a fight to be yourself/When the voices try to turn you into someone else.” Up next is “Skin and Bones,” a darker song that comes across like something from Nine Inch Nails. The next two songs are “What it Costs” and “Slow Down My Heartbeat,” both of which have a strong U2 influence. Of the two, “What it Costs” is the stronger track overall, with nice touches of acoustic guitars and an emotional vocal from Foreman. Although the band has distanced itself from the Christian music scene, the lyrics in “Liberty” are pretty clearly addressing the Man Upstairs. Lastly, we come to the title track, “The Edge of the Earth.” The song’s instrumentation, which includes mandolins, shows Switchfoot following the ever-growing Americana trend in alternative rock. The song also has an excellent vocal performance by Foreman, whose range is much higher than is shown throughout most of the EP. All in all, Edge shows an established band tipping their hats to their California surfer roots while still being willing to experiment, and aging much more gracefully than many of their 2000s post-grunge peers.

Welcome Back!

by Dylan Looney

As the back seats of cars and beds of trucks unload all over campus, moving students into their dorm rooms, ETSU gets ready for another school year. With the new fall semester comes the return of my music blog posts here at the East Tennessean. I’m excited to be continuing this blog and I have great expectations for this year. I’ll not only be covering new releases and music news, but I’ll be taking another look at the Billboard Top Ten, some more blasts from the past, and even more nooks and crannies of the musical world. I’ve also been working on a surprise coming around October that looks to be a great deal of fun, so stay tuned! Thank you all for reading and whatever you listen to, keep the music going!

One Semester In: Thank You!

by Dylan Looney

Dylan thanks

Well, it looks like this will be my last post of the semester. I can’t begin to express the appreciation I have for all of you who read these weekly ramblings from a music nerd from Grainger County, Tennessee. Looking back to the beginning of this semester, it’s amazing how I had no idea this blog would even exist. Now, it seems like the most natural thing in the world to vent my musical fascination into this outlet. I certainly hope it has been entertaining and educational (edu-taining?) for you all.

In the couple months I’ve been writing for this blog, we’ve looked at the appeal of Taylor Swift, the ins-and-outs of the world of music awards shows, and my bitter frustration with Queen’s “Bring Back that Leroy Brown.” Most likely, the high point of the semester for me was getting the awesome opportunity to interview T-Pain and Dev backstage at their concert in March. I also particularly enjoyed writing the AC/DC piece and sharing my excitement over their triumphant return to the stage. All in all, you can expect more album reviews, interviews, and editorials from me next fall. Remember, you can leave comments on these articles and suggest any reviews you would like to see in the future. I would love to see what you all can think of!

I’d like to thank not only all of you for reading, but I would also like to show my appreciation for some others who have helped make this blog possible. First of all, I want to thank Emily from my Literary Criticism class for telling about the opening for this position. I’d also like to thank all the folks at the SGA and Buctainment for making the T-Pain and Dev interviews a reality. Many thanks also to my editor Laura Traister and Dylan Chesser at the East Tennessean for all their help. I’d also like to give a big shout-out to my friend Jasmine for being my beta-reader and taking a look at the pieces before they’re submitted to be posted. Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to thank my amazing family for all their support and enthusiasm. I’m blessed with the opportunity to write this blog, and I hope to only get better from here. See you all in August!

Yelawolf- Love Story Review

By Dylan Looney

Yelawolf Love Story album cover

Alabama-based rapper Yelawolf has managed to walk a thin line quite well, acknowledging his rural Southern roots while not falling into the tractor-rap territory of Colt Ford and The Lacs. He has even managed to slowly incorporate Southern rock and Country elements into his music (even going from rapping to full-on singing) and still keep his hip-hop cred, carving out a niche of his own. Yela’s second major label album, Love Story, crosses the genre lines even more than any of his previous releases, with songs such as “American You” having major rock and even country crossover appeal. Adding to this is the high presence of Yelawolf’s singing on the album. While he is not necessarily an outstanding singer, he can carry a tune, and his voice has a certain charm to it, all with very little obvious use of vocal effects. Strangely enough, the more melodic elements may be Love Story’s strong suit, despite Yelawolf’s strong lyrical rapping. The lyrics of songs like “Heartbreak,” “Have a Great Flight,” and “Disappear” show a more personal side of Yela than he has ever shown before. “Disappear,” for example, is from the perspective of the rapper as a child, writing to his absentee father. It comes across like a psychiatric patient being forced to relive a painful childhood memory and has the ability to make listeners uncomfortable if they came expecting something along the lines of his earlier releases like “Daddy’s Lambo.” Then again, the whole album has an underlying theme of darkness and vulnerability to it that makes it an interesting listen.

The only guest appearance on Love Story comes from rap superstar and album producer Eminem, who features on the single, “Best Friend,”a dark track with various religious imagery in the lyrics. The song begins with Yela’s mellow and melodic delivery, with Eminem coming in with a rapid, hard-hitting verse. “Best Friend,” “Heartbreak,” “Til it’s Gone,” and “American You” are the stand-out tracks for me on the album, with earlier-released material such as “Tennessee Love” holding up nicely alongside the newer songs. If I have any problems with the album, it’s that Yela’s rapping sometimes gets a little too fast for its own good, turning portions into a twangy mess. There are also recurring lyrical themes and phrases that border on becoming repetitive (“Slumerican,” Outlaw Country references, and references to his home state of Alabama being a few). Altogether, on his worst day, Yelawolf is the sketchy Eminem-wannabe that hangs out at gas stations at 1 a.m. At his best, he’s everything Kid Rock set out to be in the late ’90s-early 2000s, and Love Story shows him at his best. It’s been great watching him grow and change as an artist. I’m interested in what’s in store next.

Overall Score: 4/5

Remember, you can still comment any suggestions for reviews you would like to read!

Record Store Day 2015

by Dylan Looney

This past Saturday, independent record stores across the world celebrated the 8th annual Record Store Day. According to the official Record Store Day website, the event was created in 2007 by various record store owners and employees to “celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1400 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally.” The first Record Store Day was held on April 19, 2008 and has quickly become an event in the music industry, particularly due to vinyl’s return to popularity in recent years. This year, record stores in every continent besides Antarctica (sorry, vinyl-collecting penguins) stocked new recordings and special re-releases just for the occasion.

Some of the more interesting releases this year were from Metallica, who performed at the first-ever Record Store Day in San Francisco in ’08. The metal titans re-released their original 1982 demo tape, titled No Life ‘til Leather, on actual cassette tape, just as it was originally heard. Another metal band with a major release was Slayer, who debuted their first new recording since the death of founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman, a track titled “When the Stillness Comes.” On the lighter side of the spectrum, ’80s synth-poppers A-Ha produced a 7” picture disc of their hit single “Take on Me,” featuring images from the song’s iconic video. The biggest overall vinyl sellers of the day were the White Stripes’ “Get Behind Me Satan” on red-colored vinyl and hip-hop duo Run the Jewels, with their EP Bust No Moves .

As for me, I didn’t have the money to purchase any of the Record Store Day exclusives, especially now that many of those who bought them are selling them on the Internet for much more than the original price (some collectors will buy anything). However, I did decide to go out and support our local record store, Back Door Records. I bought the 2001 reissue of The Ramones’ Rocket to Russia on CD, which is my favorite Ramones album and was a steal at $8. I also got a free Roadrunner Records sampler CD containing tracks by Stone Sour, Slipknot, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Black Stone Cherry, and several other hard rock and metal acts.

While the next Record Store Day isn’t until the next third Saturday in April, I highly encourage you to take a trip to a record store the next time your wallet and schedule allow it. I understand that in a world full of legal/illegal downloading, streaming services such as Spotify, and the ease of pulling a song up on YouTube, the physical copy seems outdated. However, there is definitely something to be said about flipping through a lyric booklet or looking at an album cover while listening to the CD/record/cassette/whatever that drags you into the world that the artist has created with the album. A little old school? Obviously, but judging by the growing popularity of things like Record Store Day, old school still has its place in the hearts (and headphones) of music-lovers in 2015.

AC/DC Return to Headline Coachella: A Fanboy’s Review

by Dylan Looney

acdc lasvegasweekly

Photo: lasvegasweekly.com

First things first, as the title implies, I am a huge fan of the band AC/DC. They are the band that made me want to play guitar, and I have dressed up in lead guitarist Angus Young’s trademark schoolboy suit on multiple occasions. Yes, I am that kind of fan. Needless to say, I was stunned at the announcement that rhythm guitarist and band leader Malcolm Young would be forced to retire due to complications from dementia, which had severely hindered his ability to play. Likewise, I was dismayed when it was reported that drummer Phil Rudd had been arrested for drug possession and for making death threats (as well as hiring a hitman, but that charge was soon dropped). It looked as if I was watching the band self-destruct before my very eyes.

However, AC/DC has faced similar situations before. Many thought the group was over after the death of legendary frontman Bon Scott in 1980, but that same year, the band recruited vocalist Brian Johnson and recorded the classic Back in Black, which has sold more copies than any other album besides Michael Jackson’s Thriller. In a similar move last year, the group brought in Angus and Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young on rhythm guitar as well as former drummer Chris Slade. Stevie has filled Malcolm’s shoes before, playing on the North American leg of their 1988 tour, which made a stop in Johnson City.

The band’s latest album, Rock or Bust, was released last December and is one of their strongest efforts since the ’80s. Tracks such as the title track and “Baptism by Fire” roar with an intensity and a hunger that may have been inspired by the group’s recent loss of Malcolm (Phil Rudd’s legal issues didn’t occur until after the album’s recording, but the band reports that his behavior at the time was quite erratic). The band debuted the new lineup to 24.8 million viewers at this year’s Grammy Awards, performing the new track “Rock or Bust,” followed by their 1979 classic “Highway to Hell”. Watching the performance, it was clear that the band I loved had no intentions of going away soon and that time did not hinder their ability to deliver a great performance. Soon afterward, it was announced that they would be headlining the Coachella music festival, which is usually an unwelcome place for acts of AC/DC’s ilk. Sure enough, many were unhappy with AC/DC’s presence at the festival usually reserved for the hipper-than-thou artists of EDM and indie rock. Again, it seemed the band had something to prove.

“I hope you guys like rock ‘n’ roll,” quipped Johnson after thundering off the first song in their Coachella set, “’cause that’s all we do.” Surely enough, the band was aware of their detractors, and was determined to silence them, or at least drown them out. For their first full live performance in six years, the band put on an amazing show, with Johnson’s vocals and Angus’s guitar sounding better than they have in years as they pounded out classic after classic. Tracks from the new album made an appearance as well, albeit a little shaky in parts due to not being rehearsed and played for as many years as, say, “Back in Black” or “T.N.T.” Possibly the biggest surprise of the night was the revival of a couple songs that have been left off the set list for years, such as “Have a Drink on Me” and “Sin City.” Both were executed perfectly and were a big treat for the die-hard fans.

As Young head-banged and duck-walked all over the stage, blood dripping from his skinned knees, it seemed as if the band were winning over the Coachella crowd. This impression was driven home as Angus emerged from a confetti-spraying platform in the middle of the audience and later ran through the masses on his way back to the stage, all the while playing the guitar solos for “Let There Be Rock.” It must have been an amazing experience for those in attendance, as I could even feel the excitement coming through my laptop screen and earphones while watching fan-recorded videos on YouTube (usually, I despise people holding up their phones all throughout a concert, but in this case, I had to make an exception). If I were to have any complaints, it would be the aforementioned shakiness of the newer tracks, but I’m sure they will get ironed out throughout the tour. I also miss Malcolm’s presence on stage. While Stevie does a fine job at his uncle’s guitar-playing, his backing vocals leave much to be desired and lack the signature eerie, croaking tone of Malcolm’s. Altogether, the performance showed a band with a new fire underneath them, and it made me very proud to be a fan.

A Beginner’s Guide to Music Awards

by Dylan Looney

These days, it seems like every major (and every other minor) network has its own music awards show. While it’s always fun to get some musical performances on TV, the awards themselves often take a backseat, appearing as an afterthought. To help clear up this swirling mass of bright lights and teary-eyed speeches, I have highlighted the major award shows, as well as a few of the less-popular ones.

  • Grammys (1959)

Network: CBS

Who Votes: Submitted by record companies and individuals for nomination, voted for by members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS)

The Grammys (short for Gramophone Awards) are considered the granddaddy of all music awards and are typically the most high-profile. While the selections of the NARAS are often controversial, much prestige comes with a Grammy win or even a nomination. For this year’s awards, a 30-second advertisement cost one million dollars, even though ratings have been declining for the past few years.

 

  • Academy of Country Music Awards (1966)

Network: CBS

Who Votes: Members of the Academy of Country Music Awards

As the oldest of the several country music awards, the ACMs are the genre’s equivalent to the Grammys. Shortly after its creation in 1966, the ACMs were followed by the similarly-named CMAs (which are voted by broadcasters) in 1968. Afterwards came the CMT Music Awards (country’s version of the VMAs) and recently, the American Country Awards in 2010 (Now the American Country Countdown Awards). While all these claim to be the biggest night for country music, the ACM awards remain the most prestigious, especially the coveted “Entertainer of the Year Award.”

 

  • Dove Awards (1969)

Network: Up

Who Votes: The Gospel Music Association (GMA)

Founded by famous gospel singer Bill Gaither, the Dove Awards recognize accomplishments in the world of Christian music. Awards are given in a wide variety of genres, from pop to country and from rock to Southern gospel. Even Christmas and Instrumental performance awards are given. Although the awards have been hit with some controversy, particularly with the GMA’s definition of what qualifies as “gospel music,” the awards have been taking place almost as long as its secular equivalent, the Grammys.

 

  • Juno Awards (1970)

Network: CTV (Canada)

Who Votes: Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS)/Expert Panel

The Juno Awards is the Grammys to our friends north of the border in Canada. They keep it almost exclusively Canadian too; only Canadian citizens who have also lived in Canada for the last six months of the eligibility period are eligible (This rule is lifted for the aptly-named “International Album of the Year” award.) The Juno Awards also doubles as the induction ceremony for the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. No word yet on how many awards were won by Robin Sparkles for her smash hit, “Let’s Go to the Mall.”

 

  • American Music Awards (1973)

Network: ABC

Who Votes: A poll of the public and music-buyers

Created by Dick Clark for ABC after losing their contract with the Grammys, the AMAs differ from the Grammys by selecting winners based on public opinion.  Because of this, the AMAs have less categories and do not focus on less mainstream genres such as classical, jazz, world music, or heavy metal.

  • MTV Video Music Awards (1984)

Network: MTV

Who Votes: Fans via online polls

While the Grammys may be the most established awards program, the VMAs are certainly just as prolific. The VMA ceremonies are often less of a black-tie affair and are more geared to the youth demographic. The wild events have often led to iconic moments, such as Madonna’s wedding dress-clad performance of “Like a Virgin,” as well as conflict and controversy (Miley, anyone?) Another unique feature of the VMA is that the awards go towards music videos instead of the music itself, making it the only awards show of its kind.

 

  • Billboard Music Awards (1990)

Network: ABC

Who Votes: No one. Winners are decided based on Nielsen data for album sales, downloads, and airplay.

Originally airing on the Fox network, the awards were cancelled in 2007 before being resurrected in 2011 on ABC. The new version of the BBMAs brought a new statuette and award name changes from “____ of the Year” to “Top ____.” What makes the Billboard Awards stand out is their use of cold, hard statistics to determine winners instead of votes of fans or academy members. To quote an Adidas shirt, “Stats Don’t Lie.”

  • Revolver Golden Gods Awards (2009)

Network: VH1 Classic

Who Votes: Fans via web polls

Fans of hard rock and heavy metal have always felt spurned by mainstream awards shows. Many claim the voters are ignorant of the genre, citing controversial wins in the Grammys “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance” category by flute-rockers Jethro Tull in 1989, as well as last year’s victory by comedy-metal group Tenacious D’s performance of Dio’s “The Last in Line.” The Golden Gods Awards is the only awards show centered on hard rock and metal, featuring extended performances by some of the biggest names in classic and modern metal. However, some fans still claim the show focuses too much on classic metal and metalcore artists. Go figure.

 

  • iHeartRadio Music Awards (2014)

Network: NBC

Who Votes: Fans on iHeartRadio.com, except the Instagram Award, in which voting takes place on, well, Instagram.

The iHeartRadio Music Awards is a newcomer to the awards show scene. The show primarily focuses on pop music, although some country artists, such as Luke Bryan and Brantley Gilbert, have been nominated and won awards as well. The awards have unique categories, like “Best Lyrics” and “Best Fan Army.” The show is the lone music awards show on the NBC network and can be seen as NBC’s attempts to compete with monsters like the Grammys and the AMAs.

 

Well, there you have it. I hope this shed some light on your awards season. I’m sorry if I missed any important awards shows (as well as the How I Met Your Mother reference).

By the way, if you have any suggestions for albums, songs, etc. for me to review, feel free to put it in the comment section. See you all next week!