Maps for Travelers “Change Your Name” Review

No Sleep Records has quietly been putting together one of the strongest rosters among indie labels, maybe in history. Bands like The Swellers, Balance And Composure, Sainthood Reps, and Maps For Travelers, have signed on to this haven for bands that deserve to be heard.

Maps For Travelers, hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, kick off their debut with one of the heavier tracks on Change Your Name, “Good Life”. The guttural screaming during the choruses only sets the tone for the album, which leads into their heaviest track, “Life On Repeat”. But aside from heaviness, the musicianship is top notch. This isn’t just chugging guitars and scream/sing vocals. Moments of “Life On Repeat” sound as if they belong to a totally different song, or even band, altogether.

“Matter Of Time” is when Maps For Travelers begin to really find their footing. Perhaps one of the most radio ready songs on the album, “Matter Of Time” brings to mind label mates Balance And Composure. As do a few others, “Swoon” and “456”.

While Maps For Travelers are talented musicians, the one thing they lack is a true defining sound. That actually seems to be an issue with No Sleep Records. Most fans of “the scene” know and appreciate Balance And Composure, but Sainthood Reps is like Brand New-Junior, and The Swellers were (as they are breaking up) grown up skate punk. In fact, in their entire career, their farewell album was their worst. But I digress.

Overall: 3.5/5 Maps For Travelers is a good band. Musically talented, even if they lack identity. Fans of Brand New, Balance And Composure, and Thrice would enjoy Change Your Name. If you’re at all into the scene, this is worth checking out.

Creed “Full Circle” Review

Creed disappeared from the world, reformed as Alter Bridge with new singer Myles Kennedy, and no tears were shed. Creed had worn out their welcome by the time Weathered, their third album, was released. Most likely due to the immense popularity of songs like “With Arms Wide Open” and “Higher”.

Fast forward eight years. All original members of Creed have reunited for the aptly titled Full Cycle. Creed, as a band, seems to be rejuvenated. Mark Tremonti’s guitar work has always been tight, but on Full Cycle, he brings some of his Alter Bridge style into the mix. Scott Stapp even sounds different. It could be that he’s sober, but he doesn’t sound so much like an Eddie Vedder rip off like he used to. This is most noticeable on “A Thousand Faces”, one of the strongest songs of the bunch.

Creed is heavier and yet, at the same time, more radio friendly than they’ve ever been. “Rain” is the closest thing you will hear to “With Arms Wide Open”, but it’s far from a cheap remake. Even the softer moments are more upbeat. Nothing on Full Cycle sounds like another song, yet the feel of the album evokes memories of Human Clay and My Own Prison. Tremonti’s voice is present again, where it seemed to be either missing or drowned out in their later work.

Overall: 4/5 Former hardcore fans have probably been enjoying this album since it was released. Having just purchased this, four years after it’s release, I have enjoyed it so far. I once was a hardcore Creed fan, and enjoy both Alter Bridge and Tremonti. It takes me back to 1999 when I got Human Clay. Most reviewers probably panned this album, but it’s probably their best work. It’s the only Creed album I can listen all the way through without wanting to skip a song.

Creed

Top 10 Albums of 2012

It’s that time again, where I rank my favorite albums of 2012. This completely opinion, so let me know what ranks in your Top 10 and if you agree with any of mine.

10. Motion City Soundtrack – “Go”
9. Lit – “The View From The Bottom”
8. Say Anything – “Anarchy, My Dear”
7. Yellowcard – “Southern Air”
6. The Gaslight Anthem – “Handwritten”
5. Further Seems Forever – “Penny Black”
4. Thousand Foot Krutch – “The End Is Where We Begin”
3. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “The Heist”
2. Linkin Park – “Living Things”
1. Imagine Dragons – “Night Visions”

Imagine Dragons, the newest band on this list, takes the cake with their debut full length, “Night Visions”. It was a beautifully crafted album with such great detail put into every song. Guitars, bass and drums are merely the core of each song, but mandolin, viola, synth and atmospheric elements make their way onto the album, making Imagine Dragons sound larger than life. Much like The Killers, who are also from Las Vegas, Imagine Dragons are destined for arena rock from the get go.

Honorable mention goes to the following:

Three Days Grace – “Transit of Venus”
The Used – “Vulnerable”
Redlight King – “Something For The Pain”
Papa Roach – “The Connection”

My favorite EP’s this year were courtesy of Punchline (“So Nice To Meet You”) and Blink-182 (“Dogs Eating Dogs”). The most disappointing album of the year goes to John Mayer’s “Born and Raised”. While it had a few songs that were worthy of repeating, most of it seemed monotonous and boring.

Yellowcard “Southern Air” Review

In 2011, Yellowcard released their first album since taking a break after 2006’s Paper Walls. In 2012, they spent little time after releasing When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, getting right to work on the follow up, Southern Air. Southern Air picks up where every Yellowcard album has left off, pumping out pop/punk songs with catchy choruses. Of course, Yellowcard was always a little different for having ballads and heavier subject matter than just girls and growing up.

Growing up was never one of their muses, until now. With each member in their mid 30’s, it would be ridiculous to write as if they were still kids. Ryan Key sings about coping with growing up without feeling like a “grown up” (“Awakening” and “Here I Am Alive”). Other subject matter includes losing a child (“Ten”) and moving back to the town he grew up in (“Southern Air”).

Yellowcard has always been more emo than punk. On WYTTSY, the song “With You Around” mentioned singing along to a Saves The Day record. On Southern Air, the song “Telescope” starts with an uncanny ripoff riff of “Work” by Jimmy Eat World. All they need now is to sing about The Get Up Kids and The Cure, and they will have the complete set.

Overall: 4.5/5 This really is a great record. Lyrically and musically, this is their strongest album to date. It is definitely not getting the press it should. While there is nothing to compete with the success of “Only One” from Ocean Avenue, there are still radio hits on Southern Air.

Unsigned Artist of the Month

Matty Ches is a Detroit area based musician with a knack for writing catchy hooks. He is currently working on his first full length album, after releasing 2 EP’s as a solo artist, 1 EP with his former band Turning Autumn, and 1 EP with He Cried Wolf. His original material can be heard at http://www.facebook.com/mattchesleymusic but you can catch some acoustic covers on Youtube. See his unique cover of “Dance, Dance” by Fall Out Boy below. Enjoy!

Lit “The View From The Bottom” Review

Opening like an 80’s arena rock anthem with “C’mon”, Lit’s fifth studio album, and first in 8 years, declares itself as a pure rock album. And it sticks true to it’s declaration on The View From The Bottom.

Even though Lit hasn’t released an album since 2004’s self titled, the Popoff’s and company haven’t forgotten how to rock. With track’s like “C’mon”, “Same Shit, Different Drink” and “The Broken”, Lit has re-established themselves as a true rock band. At the same time, “You Tonight” and “She Don’t Know” display the strongest hooks of the album, reminding people that they’ve never been short a catchy chorus since 1997’s Tripping The Light Fantastic.

Best known for their hits “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Miserable”, Lit was steadily putting out catchy rock songs every two years until drummer Allen Shellenberger was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2008. The band had taken a break from recording, but with Shellenberger’s illness, decided to take a lot more time off. Following his death in 2009, Lit began working on The View From The Bottom in 2010. Finally released in 2012, the result was well worth the wait.

This is as strong as Lit, Atomic and A Place In The Sun, and as catchy as those albums as well. AJ Popoff has not lost an ounce of his voice, and working with Butch Walker does not hurt the song quality one bit.

Overall: 4.5/5 Well worth the wait. Every song could be a hit. Song topics range from girls (“You Tonight”), drinks (Same Shit, Different Drink), friends (“The Wall”) and of course, mourning/celebrating Allen Shellenberger (“Here’s To Us”). Despite touring with 90’s has-beens like Marcy Playground and Sugar Ray, Lit has a lot more to offer than A Place In The Sun. If you liked that album or even the two or three songs you’ve heard by Lit, pick this album up. Totally worth it.

Linkin Park “Living Things” Review

Say what you will, about the experimental albums and the first two albums, Linkin Park knows how make an album worth listening to. A Thousand Suns was a complete album, with a theme and with varying styles that made for a great listen. Living Things is not much different. While there may not be an evident theme, it is a complete album worth listening to. And the best news of all for fans of the first two albums, this is the closest thing to Meteora you are probably going to hear from the California sextet.

While this is a return to form, there a lot more electronics used in the sound of Linkin Park these days, taking the place of the record scratching by Joe Hahn. If you think back to Hybrid Theory, “Cure For The Itch” was a prelude to the sound now. There is still Mike Shinoda rapping (“Lost In The Echo”, “Lies, Greed, Misery” and “Until It Breaks”), Chester Bennington’s brutal screams (“Lies, Greed, Misery” and “Victimized”), and the token Transformer’s theme when it’s released in a year or two (“Burn It Down”).

This time around, all the elements represented in prior albums are present here. Mike Shinoda continues to expand his singing repertoire, and as in every album before, there is an instrumental track. Songs like “I’ll Be Gone”, “Roads Untravelled” and the album closer “Powerless” are continuing proof that Linkin Park was and is more than a rap/metal group. Their sound is so expansive it’s always been hard to pigeonhole them to a particular sound from the nu-metal era. They have transcended time and “what’s-cool-today” to become one of the biggest and most loved groups in the world.

Overall: 5/5 With exception to the lackluster Minutes To Midnight, Linkin Park can do no wrong. The first two albums have always been among my favorite albums of all time, but I grew tired of LP with their third album. A Thousand Suns opened my eyes again to the greatness and Living Things has improved upon everything done in their first four albums. I try not to be biased, but this is just wonderfully done. Rick Rubin and Mike Shinoda producing together makes Howard Benson’s work look amateur. And that’s saying something.