Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Quick Review Of Some Of The Best Summer Releases For 2014

This past summer saw a lot of quality music being released. And while I wanted to provide in-depth reviews on all of the new music that came out, summer got away from me. By the time I caught up, it was October. Rather than sweep these releases under the rug and/or ignore their very existence, I thought a better approach would be to provide quick reviews instead. Here’s my quick take on some of the biggest and best releases this summer.

Ace Frehley – Space Invader 
Blown away! Those were the first two words to enter my mind after completing my first listen of Ace Frehley’s latest disc, Space Invader. Between the exceptional guitar work, hard rocking sound, and overall “old school” feel of the record, I was extremely content.

Admittedly, I was not a huge fan of Ace’s previous release Anomaly, so my expectations for this record were not very high. I enjoyed Anomaly when it was first released, but the album just didn’t have staying power with me. However, Ace’s hard work and dedication to Space Invader really paid off. And no one is happier about that than me. (All right, there are probably a lot of people happier about it – but I’m still pretty damned happy). As a lifelong Kiss fan, I want to see every member of this band, past and present, succeed in a huge way. With Space Invader, Ace is certainly heading in that direction. Long time fans will love the return to his roots (think early Frehley’s Comet), while new fans will just enjoy having some true, ass kicking, rock and roll.

Ryo’s Rating: 8 (out of 10)

The Clarks – Feathers & Bones 
It took a while, but The Clarks finally released some new music this past summer. And while the wait was a long one, it was certainly worth it. From the opening track of “Feathers & Bones,” the Clarks just nail it! Their signature style and sound that has made them a household name in Pittsburgh is all over their latest release. Simply put, this could be their strongest album since 2000’s Let It Go.

Scott Blasey’s vocals sound better than they ever have, even after almost 30 years of singing his ass off. Lead guitarist, Robert James’ guitar work is sincere and strong, providing the appropriate lift in all the right places. And the rhythm section of Greg Joseph on Bass and David Minarik Jr. on drums provide a steady backbeat that pulls everything together.

In short, if you haven’t given The Clarks a try – pick up Feathers & Bones. It’s worth your money and your time.

Ryo’s Rating: 8.5 (out of 10)

The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt 

The latest release by New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem just might be their best record yet. Starting off with the hard and heavy “Stay Vicious,” the band has produced some of their most memorable music. By taking chances and expanding their boundaries, The Gaslight Anthem are able to break away from the adult contemporary labeling and move into uncharted territory.

Get Hurt has a more polished and mature sound. All of the recording and touring the band has done over the years is paying dividends in the form of their most enjoyable music yet. The band also finds themselves on the precipice of huge success. With a massive fan base in England and a headlining performance in their home state of New Jersey, The Gaslight Anthem have arrived on the doorstep of greatness. I have no doubt that they will kick it in come 2015.

Ryo’s Rating: 9 (our of10)

O.A.R. – The Rockville LP 

It’s no big secret that I am a huge fan of O.A.R. It’s also no big secret that I have high expectations for this band and that their last release, King, was rather lacking in the good songs department. So when I heard that the band was going back to basics for The Rockville LP, I was excited. I just wanted to hear a return to the music that made me fall in love with the band. A sound they had slowly travelled away from over the last few years.

I’m happy to report that the band achieved their stated goal and so much more in returning to their original sound. O.A.R. progressed y growing and maturing their music like a good cheese or a fine wine. The Rockville LP is short, sweet, and extremely defined. And while it only contains 10 songs and clocks in at approximately 42 minutes, it’s obvious that the band went for quality over quantity.

With some of their best work to date in songs like “Two Hands Up,” “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off,” and “Favorite Song,” O.A.R. continues to produce masterpiece music. The new material sounds exceptional live and fits right in with the plethora of classics the band performs on a nightly basis. If this is what the latest incarnation of O.A.R. is going to sound like, then I can’t wait to hear more new music from them.

Ryo’s Rating: 7.5 (Out of 10)

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye

It’s been a while since I listened to anything new from Tom Petty. His last couple of releases didn’t have anything to draw me in, based on what I heard on the radio. But when I heard “American Dream Plan B,” the lead single for Hypnotic Eye, I just knew that I had to see what the rest of the record was like. Unfortunately, none of it was as good as the lead single.

The record does not really hold up well. After “American Dream Plan B” it tends to fall apart. The rest of Hypnotic Eye lacks that spark and punch contained in the lead track. The songs seem to venture off in unknown directions and never really come to fruition, meandering just for the sake of meandering.

I really wanted to like Hypnotic Eye but I just can’t. Petty, like many aging artists from the 70s rock era, has changed his sound too much for me to enjoy. Some people may like it, and he obviously likes it, but it does not resonate with me. He’s gone from hard rocker with a twang voice, to deep blues and hillbilly rock. That just doesn’t do it for me. Ultimately, Hypnotic Eye was a disappointment.

Ryo’s Rating: 6 (out of 10)

Rise Against – The Black Market 

Let me preface this small review by stating that I am a huge fan of Rise Against. Ever since learning about the band a mere three years ago, I have fallen in love with them and all of the wonderful music they create. So I was very much looking forward to their latest album, The Black Market. The wait was certainly worth it as The Black Market is one of the greatest albums Rise Against has ever released.

Lead singer Tim McIlrath sounds better than ever. I’ve always admired his voice and his ability to carry a tune, but it appears that he has taken his talents to the next level on The Black Market. Songs like “I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore” and “Tragedy + Time” showcase his talents in ways that previous songs have not. And like past Rise Against albums, every song on this record has the potential to be a huge hit. Rise Against has not only stuck to their strengths, but they’ve increased them this time around, producing wonderful melodies and harmonies that fans of the band and modern punk rock are certain to love. The Black Market just may be the best record released this summer.

Ryo’s Rating: 9 (out of 10)

Theory of a Deadman – Savages 

Coming off what I thought was their worst album ever Theory of a Deadman had a lot of making up to do with Savages. I was almost afraid to give it a try, but I suppose every band is allowed to have one questionable album. And after learning that Alice Cooper was a featured guest on one of the tracks, I was hopeful for this new record from one of my favorite bands.

It is with a big grin that I can say Savages is a definite improvement over The Truth Is… And while it’s not quite up to the level of Scars & Souvenirs it is a solid album that finds the band the returning to the style of music that made me fall in love with them in the first place. Lead tracks “Drown” and “Blow” are enjoyable modern rocking songs that set the pace for the rest of the record. The title track, “Savages,” is the song that Alice Cooper guests on and it is possibly the best song on the album. It was spectacular to see Alice Cooper performing with Theory and it made for an incredible song.

Overall I was happy to see Theory make a comeback with Savages. It’s a fun record that returns the band to their true form. That’s great news for this fan.

Ryo’s Rating: 7.5 (out of 10)

And that’s my quick take on some of this past summer’s releases. Summer releases rock!

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