Album Reviews, Music

Review: Jimmy Eat World – Chase This Light

Good ideas are hard to come by. They come and go, come inspired, leave blank, and altogether, avoid you when you need them most. Just ask any serious artist, writer, or musician, because at some stage it is inevitable that their proverbial well would soak up its last drop of good intention. For Arizona pop/rockers Jimmy Eat World, this impasse came in 2004 when try tried to follow a hugely successful pop-soaked album with a collection of songs fighting to stay commercially viable while trying to gleam with the kind of depth the band had reached with both Static Prevails and Clarity. In truth, Futures did boast moments of quality- songs like “Work” best showed the band tight roping the fine line between radio friendly arrangements and the introspection and intimacy of their pre-Bleed American material. Even Bleed American, bursting from its seems with hit after hit, had its fair share of deeply emotive songs (see “Hear You Me” and “My Sundown”), and Jimmy Eat World are certainly no strangers to the concept of writing music accessible to both general audiences and those who actively seek a more personal connection to the artists they listen to. They write pop music that certainly sounds like pop music, but pop that resonates with far greater depth than their counterparts.

It is this idea, the taking of plucky melodies and easy to emulate song arrangements, and combining them with more abstract lyrical and narrative meditation, that separates Jimmy Eat World from your average pop/rock band. And after struggling to recapture the form of their massive 2001 effort, Jim Adkins and cohorts have begun the process of rejuvenation with Chase This Light; an earnestly capable album that is not only easy on the ears, but written smart enough to appease older Jimmy Eat World fans raised on the band’s pre radio chart days. Opening number “Big Casino” is simply screaming to be heard; with an anthemic Adkins metaphorical wailing over razor sharp riffs catchphrases of loneliness and acceptance; “I’ll accept with poise, with grace / When they draw my name from the lottery / And they’ll say all the salt in the world couldn’t melt that ice.” The band then reach dizzying heights with a trio of tunes culled together to end an album of albums- the title track, evoking the graceful melancholy of previous tunes “Work” and to a degree, “For Me This is Heaven,” while the closing “Dizzy” is similar to “My Sundown” in its patient build up and gentle conclusion. With “Firefight” however, the band excels to a new musical apex; perfectly constructing the melting point between lighter fare and the explosive nature of punk/post-hardcore guitar work. It’s scintillating to say the least.

Moreover, Chase This Light’s strongest quality is perhaps its consistent tone- a greater continuity over the album’s songs from beginning to end. While Futures boasted some high points, it was marred by weaker songs that felt out of place and written out of time to the rest. It however doesn’t hide some of Chase This Light’s more subdued moments, where the band appear to dally too long in a given musical space. The acoustic driven “Carry You,” while a capable down-tempo tune, lacks the kind of momentum built over the preceding songs. Similarly, “Electable (Give It Up)” sounds a little hollow; packed with a chorus of empty “woah woahs” while the following “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues,” moody and all, comes across as a little too sullen, muting Adkins and the rest of the band.

The lull aside, Chase This Light exhibits the kind of intelligent songwriting music fans (especially fans of Jimmy Eat World) should demand on a consistent basis. The majority of it is concise in its craft, and near perfect in its execution. Jimmy Eat World may have some way to go to once again be beamed all over the airwaves with such demand, but as Chase This Light proves, rediscovering that inspiration, no matter how far from completion they may be, goes a long way. (Interscope)

Standard
Music

Thrice rediscover their fire

ThriceAfter a seemingly dormant period of musical indifference, Thrice have returned better than ever. With half of their lofty 4-EP album The Alchemy Index in stores today (Volumes 1 & 2: Fire and Water), the band have shown incredible growth with their latest effort.

While the wait to fulfill The Alchemy Index’s completed vision extends until next year, Fire and Water have exhibited incredibly musical and artistic evolution- proving the band can indeed write ambitious material, while remaining immediate and effective. Proof of such amplification can be heard in Fire’s opening track, the raging “Firebreather.” Like it’s moniker, it evokes rage and passion, yet remains alluring in how it appears/sounds. It is perhaps, the most essential track the band have written since their material on 2002’s The Illusion of Safety– except its reward is tenfold. Judge for yourself after the jump. Continue reading

Standard
Music

Armor for Sleep find redemption

Smile For ThemCaught in the pull of the lights and dreams of Los Angeles, Armor For Sleep sing very openly about the struggles of dealing with Hollywood’s “lights, camera, action” practice. Their plight for sense amongst the glitz is clear in very name of their latest collection- Smile For Them– a blatant stab at the constant surveillance lifestyle of fame and fortune. It’s on the album cover and it’s in the songs (“Smile For the Camera,” “Stars In Your Eyes,” and the closing grace of “Stand in the Spotlight”).

Yet, the album’s most enduring moment, it’s closest connection to Armor For Sleep’s humble New Jersey roots, is the track “Hold The Door.” Escaping the literal meanings of the words sung, it speaks of momentary failure- the feeling of isolation and loss amongst the ever changing nature of our world. But as the chorus comes crashing in, there is a great sense of redemption, of finding one’s place in his or her immediate surroundings; amongst the ruins of yesterday and the hopeful gleam of tomorrow. It is melancholy in its grace, emotive in its urgency, and a beautiful indication that Armor For Sleep have found their place in their evolution. Listen for yourself… Continue reading

Standard
Album Reviews, Music

Review: Dashboard Confessional – The Shade of Poison Trees

Dashboard Confessional’s biggest hit was arguably 2004’s “Vindicated,” a song fitting for its place on the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack with its larger than life emotional histrionics and perfectly crafted melodies. It was a summer song of love and hope, anger and despair, and everything that seemed to embody Dashboard Confessional, and in a sense, Chris Carrabba himself, as a songwriter. Yet, he was unfairly characterized as emo’s poster boy, pegged as that soft-spoken, but talented songwriter who wrote “Screaming Infidelities” over and over again until the strings would inevitably unravel. Confirmed by the able but rather flaccid sounding Dusk And Summer last year, it appeared as if Carrabba had done everything he could in “full-band” format- writing some great radio tunes, playing out the stadiums, landing a prominent spot on a big movie soundtrack and entering at regular places on hit charts. The connection seemed lost, at least from an audience’s stand point- the songs were there, but the once prominent affinity between singer and listener appeared rather lifeless.

So how does Carrabba rekindle the magnetic relationship between his songs and his throngs of listeners? Well, as cliché as it first sounds, returning to his roots has produced some truly wondrous results. The Shade of Poison Trees is the first time since 2001’s The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most that Carrabba has appeared without the distinct air of trying to sound as big as possible, and what’s most clear upon listening is how connected he appears again. From the opening strums of the rather dapper “Where There’s Gold,” Carrabba’s songwriting once again takes center stage- literally, as all the enhancements of his more recent work are all but gone. Replacing the loud guitars and in-studio twiddlings is this re-found envy of every heart-sleeved boy dreaming of writing that perfect song for that (not so) perfect girl.

Songs like the achingly beautiful “The Shade of Poison Trees,” and the fuller sounding “Clean Breaks” and “I Light My Own Fires Now,” prove that he really doesn’t need anything but himself and a guitar to write a great song. Even on the tracks where Carrabba reaches for more conventional ground (like the peppy single “Thick As Thieves” or the U2-sounding “The Rush”) he is able to find the right balance between pop and lonely bedroom melodrama. Carrabba has always had a more caustic tone to his writing- straying away from more conventional lyrical overtures and formulaic expressions of love and bitterness- and it once again takes shape on his latest; see the refrain in “Where There’s Gold”; “Where there’s gold / there’s a gold digger.” Similarly, the album’s most interesting track is an example of Carrabba eschewing his own blueprint- shifting the viewpoint away from first person narrative to more observant of outlooks in “Matters of Blood and Connection,” a tale about a charlatan who parades with the working class while hiding his/her true blue blood upbringing. Its anecdote is sound; “With daughters and sons of privileged elite / The fortunes from shipping and industry / The futures in yacht clubs and tales / So why do you speak with that accent now / Everyone knows you’re moonlighting here” and a welcome curve from the conventional Dashboard lyrical imagery.

Musical growths aside, the best parts of the album are undoubtedly the moments that are most personal. It seems as if Carrabba has once again found his place in his craft. The deeply personal songs, like the aforementioned “The Shade of Poison Trees,” and the grand closing of “The Widows Peak,” perform in unison with his more outreaching numbers- working seamlessly together. The Shade of Poison Trees is stellar, and the best work Carrabba has done since The Swiss Army Romance. (Vagrant)

Standard