Back from the Dead: Citizen’s ‘As You Please’

Citizen has been an ever-evolving band since the release of their 2013 album, “Youth.” The dark themes paired with heavy instrumentation and lyricism made it a fan favorite. Songs such as “Sleep” and “The Summer” set the tone early for a band still craving experimentation.

In their second album, “Everybody is Going to Heaven,” Citizen took an even heavier approach. Mat Kerkes’s vocals were much more morbid with heavy bass instrumentation. The album was almost haunting. “As You Please,” however, is the perfect mixture of the pop punk and post-grunge sound Citizen has been dabbling in.

The album opens up with their lead single “Jet” which has to be one of the best songs on the track list. Fuzz-toned guitars manned by Ryland Oehlers and Nick Hamm steadily start the song off as the drums and bass create the full sound. The shoegaze-esque instrumentation is accompanied by Mat Kerkes’ well-developed voice. He shows off his pipes and even a falsetto in the chorus, proving he has matured as a vocalist. Tracks like “In the Middle of it All,” “World” and “Flowerchild” also show off his vocal talent.

Many fans love the nostalgic sound of “Youth,” but those who say it’s better than their most recent release are completely wrong. Here’s why. “As You Please” is a post-grunge effort with heavy yet atmospheric instruments that are crisp and well-defined. For example, “Fever Days” starts with ethereal plucking that was previously unheard in Citizen’s discography. A heavy bass-driven riff then cuts off the entrancing guitar as it subtly rings throughout the song. It fills up the empty sound accompanied only by sustained guitar notes and drums. Kerkes’ aggressive vocals is the last, satisfying touch to this perfect Citizen song.

“World” is another passionate song that is well written both musically and lyrically. With its bright guitars, crisp drums, rich bass and ambient backing vocals, the song is finalized with some of my favorite thought-provoking lyrics. In the post-chorus, Kerkes sings “Split me open/Let the air out/I’m your old friend,” with so much gut wrenching grit and emotion that I can’t help but shed a few tears. His songwriting is some of the most profound and eloquent out there and, for once, it forces me to pay attention to the words, not just the instruments.

“Fever Days” and “World” are definitely favorites for their unique musicality – which was missing from the band’s previous albums. I appreciate bands that aren’t afraid to experiment in different genres, but still maintain their established sound, like Citizen. “As You Please” shows fans that change is necessary. In a scene that tends to always sound the same, this album is step forward in musical experimentation and progress.

Favorites: “Jet,” “In the Middle of it All,” “Fever Days” and “World”

Least Favorites: “I Forgive No One” and “You are a Star”

Featured Image by Chloe Muro.

It’s All It’s Cracked Up To Be

After releasing their first self-titled EP in 2006, Fleet Foxes quickly swept the indie folk scene. It wasn’t until 2008 when they released their second EP “Sun Giant” did the band start to make a greater impact in the indie music world.

After their 2011 release “Helplessness Blues,” the band’s then drummer and now superstar extraordinaire Josh Tillman a.k.a. Father John Misty decided to leave. Fleet Foxes then went into hibernation not too soon after.

Fronted by Robin Pecknold, who sings and plays guitar, along with now permanent members, Skyler Skjelset (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Casey Wescott (keyboards), Christian Wargo (bass guitar) and Morgan Henderson (upright bass, woodwinds, violin, percussion), Fleet Foxes have risen out of their hiatus with a new piece of artistry titled “Crack-Up.”

This album works to be something separate from prior releases, but still holds true to the band’s indie folk roots. With tracks like “Third of May / Ōdaigahara,” the wave of instrumentation washes over with a driving piano and bass lines that carry Pecknold’s voice and remind listeners what Fleet Foxes are all about. The song is like the ebb and flow of waves on a shore. Moments of nothing but an acoustic guitar and whisper-like vocals cut to the same driving guitars and percussion.

Other notable tracks include “Fool’s Errand,” an eerily upbeat rhythm that crescendos into a love song driven by Robin’s drawn-out lyrics. Although past albums were as genuine and raw, this album’s lyrics stand out as even more emotionally charged. When the hard hitting music subsides and it’s just Pecknold’s voice, this album has something more intimate.

If you’re already a fan of Fleet Foxes, dive right in to this album and don’t look back. If you’re looking for an album to sink your teeth into and want to find your new favorite band please be sure to give Fleets Foxes’ newest effort “Crack-Up” a wholehearted listen.

Featured Image: https://consequenceofsound.net/2017/03/fleet-foxes-detail-new-album-crack-up-share-sprawling-third-of-mayodaigahara-listen/

Illenium’s Sophomore Album Is A Journey

“Dude you gotta check out this Illenium guy!”

In the past, some of my friends have told me to check out this random EDM DJ/producer, but I never listened to them.

One day within the month of August, I decided to let Spotify DJ and play random songs for me on my drive. The immersive sounds of the bass line and the featured vocals of Annika Wells in the song “Crawl Outta Love” captivated me and left me wanting more of the future bass artist.

A month later, Nick Miller, better known as Illenium, released his sophomore album “Awake,” consisting of 13 tracks that all play a crucial role in the journey it takes you on.

The album starts off peacefully with “Needed You,” featuring Dia Frampton singing com vocals that compliment the build up of the song. The uplifting beat of this song picks up the overall tone of Illenium’s work within “Awake.”

“Crawl Outta Love” picks up where “Needed You” left off and takes things up another level, with lyrics that paint a picture of a relationship that should have never been – one side struggling to forget memories of the past.

Things slow down for a bit with “No Time Like Now,” which then prepares us for “Free Fall” featuring RUNN. Her smooth vocals are the main buildup before the drop, which then takes things back to that immersive sound of the synths and bass.

“Where’d You Go” pulls off a feel good vibe similar to the one that Porter Robinson and Madeon’s single, “Shelter,” radiates. Though neither a rise nor a fall, this track keeps us in a neutral position of an uplifting state of mind, waiting for more to come.

The chords of a guitar and the sound of the drums welcome you to the world of “Fractures” featuring Nevve and her soothing, high notes. Synths, drums, bass, guitar chords and vocals all make a recipe for a work of art that should be heard.

“No Time Like Now,” is one of those falls within the album that showcases the calm elements that make up part of the Illenium sound.  

One of the most beautiful songs within the album has to be “Leaving.” At first, the song starts out really slow with audio of a woman leaving a voicemail. This song is full of surprises, and gathers every single awesome individual aspect of Illenium into one: surprising, uplifting, and emotional. This song is one of the best tracks in “Awake.”

“Lost,” featuring Emilie Brandt, switches things up with a change of tone and pace that is very unique for the album as a whole. The same feeling is found in Illenium’s “Sound of Walking Away,” featuring the high the vocals of Kerli.

“Taking Me Higher” starts to hint that the journey is coming to an end soon, and plays a part in one of those massive falls of energy that are seen within “Awake.” A rise is brought back once again with “Feel Good” and “Beautiful” reminding us that the album is not complete just yet.

Illenium, along with the musical group Ember Island, decided to end things with a soft vibe through “Let You Go.” The title, positioning and delicacy of the track signify closure, but the lyrics beg-to-differ, creating a deeper message than the soft melody of the song would convey at first listen.

Illenium shows how he can integrate rises and falls within “Awake,” making it feel as if he was performing a solid live-set.

“Awake” is definitely a valuable gem for the EDM community. It’s a journey; a journey where every single emotion one can possibly feel is conjured by each song – songs that no one could ever get enough of.

 

Khalid’s ‘American Teen’: A Track by Track Album Review

1. “American Teen” – The song kicks off with arpeggiated piano chords and synth, New Wave beats that accompany Khalid’s rich, soulful voice. He sings about the opportunistic and sometimes careless life of a teenager, and his desire “to get the hell out of” his now former high school. “American Teen” is a generational anthem about happiness, finding oneself and youth’s simplicity. However, it is not until the very end (when Khalid and his friends have a campfire jam session) that listeners get a feel for being a true American teen.
2. “Young Dumb & Broke” – “Young Dumb & Broke” gives off a “Young, Wild & Free,” by Wiz Khalifa, type of vibe. This song cherishes the recklessness of the teenage lifestyle and even pokes fun at the “teenagers never listen” stereotype (“Yadadadadadadada”). In the end, however, the theme is mediocre and overplayed with a rather simple beat. Overall, the song is good, but one of my least favorite tracks on the album.
3. “Location” – This song brought Khalid into the limelight with its simplistic, but beat driven, production. The staccato piano riffs along with the smooth-like-butter vocals give this song a laid back, atmospheric vibe. Unlike other R&B artists, who got their start from hype tracks, Khalid’s first hit is a slow jam with clean vocals and sharp production. Usually, people over hype the most popular track on the album, making me dislike it. However, this song proved me wrong and has established Khalid as a powerhouse performer and songwriter.
4. “Another Sad Love Song” – Despite its title, “Another Sad Love Song” is one of the more upbeat tracks on the album and is also one of my personal favorites. The chorus is electrifying and catchy, while Khalid continues to incorporate a New Wave production style. It’s simple, but allows his soulful voice to carry the entire song. Catch me jamming out to this in the car.
5. “Saved” – Another favorite and one of his earliest works on SoundCloud, “Saved” is a song with smooth guitar picking and a bass line that rings throughout. This chill, vibe-out tune is the type of song you listen to in the car during a night drive. The jazz influences compliment Khalid’s deep, sultry voice while keeping up with the modern, beat driven production. Not until the very end does the song climax with a persistent beat and a harmony sung three and four octaves higher. Listen to this song – you won’t regret it.
6. “Coaster” – On the slower side of the album, this song starts with echoing “oohs,” simple piano tri-chords and Khalid’s smooth voice. His voice is the star of “Coaster” and a true talent (especially during the layered chorus). This ballad talks about previous lovers who lost the spark they once shared and now must find a way to move on. A somber song with emotions felt by any listener, this track shows Khalid’s ability to compose and deliver a different style of song.
7. “8TEEN” – The refrain, “So let’s do all the stupid sh*t that young kids do,” completely exemplifies Khalid’s running theme of being a teenager. Although this track shares the same message as “Young Dumb & Broke,” the lyricism and composition is more smoothly executed. The catchy piano chords echoing in the background, the synth sounding bass and the lyrics without the overdone “wild and free” message are refreshing. I definitely prefer this over track two on the album.
8. “Let’s Go” – Another song that emphasizes Khalid’s love for being a reckless teen, “Let’s Go” is a complete bop about just not giving a care. I can definitely see this song being sampled and remixed at a rave or house party. Anthem like, but composed well, I dig this track and you will too.
9. “Hopeless” – I love the addition of New Wave elements such as the experimental drum samples and vibe-y piano chords in this album. Khalid is definitely influenced by many ’70s and ’80s rock artists, as well as soulful R&B. “Hopeless,” however, doesn’t do it for me. This is a forgettable track that gets lost in the other standouts.

10. “Coldblooded” –  Who hurt you, Khalid? “Coldblooded” is about the heartbreak that left him sad and longing for love. This slow jam also isn’t a standout for me. It lacks the beat driven production and doesn’t flaunt Khalid’s true vocal talent. The only part of this song I could get into was the very end, and that feeling was fleeting.

11. “Winter” – Best song on the album. I’m not even going to explain. Please, listen to it.
12.Therapy” –  “Therapy” tells the story of a girl who’s his “addiction.” The feelings he has for her give him a high that he can’t escape. In so many tracks, Khalid doesn’t give us excessive sounding runs and bellowing falsettos. Instead, he has a soft, yet powerful and warm, voice that puts listeners in a relaxed trance. His unique vocal prowess is what stands out in this song. This talent is evident throughout the album, making Khalid a rare rising star.
13. “Keep Me” – The upbeat tempo track, “Keep Me,” opens with a more pop approach, compared to the majority of the other songs. The soft, finger style guitar is accompanied by a heavy but complimentary beat as Khalid sings about the imperfections of the girl he loves. There are more electronic influences (the crashing “cymbals,” voice remixes and sampled loops) incorporated to achieve the reoccurring New Wave sound.
14. “Shot Down” – With this song, Khalid changes it up. Instead of synthesized New Wave drum elements, he takes a more natural production approach. The harmonious intro, the repetitive piano chords and the steady snapping and percussion elements define raw talent. Even the lyricism that tells the tale of an overpowering love is ever so simplistic. “Shot Down” and “Coaster” are the tracks that prove Khalid is a versatile artist. With him, less is more.
15. “Angels” – At 19-years-old, Khalid is a poet. “Angels” is a fitting song to conclude “American Teen,” with piano keys that mimic those heard in church choirs. There is no overproduction or autotune – just keys and a heavenly voice draping me in warmth. Besides the musicality, the lyricism is genuine and vibrant, making listeners feel like they’re actually surrounded by angels. This final track leaves listeners speechless, and Khalid has really outdone himself by creating art so perfect. “Angels” is a bittersweet track that merely signals the beginning of this young teen’s stardom.
There isn’t much left to say about this album. This is an amazing debut for the El Paso singer, Khalid, and it has set the bar high for himself, as well as other R&B singers in 2017. “American Teen” is one of the best albums of the year and I give it a 4.5/5.