31 March 2011

Rise Against, Endgame (2011): Album Review

This is a band I admittedly don’t care about. The last time I listened to the majority of an Against Me! - I’m sorry - Rise Against album was in the backseat of my friend’s Jetta; and I couldn’t help but notice the irony of two middle-class suburban kids decked out in foreign made clothes semi-listening to some angry, progressive rock music. I think that experience aptly sums up the average listener: they like the music, but are generally oblivious to the message beyond some vague sense of “injustice sucks dude!” I mean, the kids who the lyrics actually speak to are generally way beyond listening to anything so ‘mainstream,’ and I’ve found that there is a huge disconnect between what the audience for the band should be, and what it actually is. With that said, I kind of dug this album. The tracks are fairly polished, which will undoubtedly be a drawback for many fans, but I think it adds some accessibility and general pop-awareness that was previously missing. This album reminds me in many ways of Against Me!’s breakthrough album, New Wave, the album that thrust the band into the mainstream and saw the group embrace more pop elements into their soundscape. And while many longtime fans hated Against Me! for partially abandoning their punk roots, many listeners (me being one of them) thoroughly enjoyed the new sound and direction. Same thing here. Songs about global politics, injustice, and the general shittiness associated with modern society are all intact, but so is a more conscious attempt to arrange songs in new and exciting ways. This results in discernible distinctions between tracks (which is more than I can say for most new Indie releases, I’m looking at you Best Coast), although the second half finds the band falling back into the same routine.

This album definitely draws from the zeitgeist of America being a falling super-power and many songs explicitly deal with the end of the American empire. In fact, “Survivor Guilt” begins with a brief exchange about the failing of the U.S. and would probably best serve as an introduction to the album. Endgame begins to wear thin around this point however; and while the songs themselves are still individually unique within the world of their established sound, it becomes difficult to sit through songs like “Broken Mirrors” and “Wait for Me” simply because of their repetition. Also, the signature combination of earnestness and sincerity gets pretty old. I wish the band would, at least for a few songs, sing about something different. At multiple times I felt like I would be much more into this CD if there was just one song that was totally removed from any of the previous ones. Mainly though, the music rocks. And I say that seriously. I find that a lot of ‘rock’ music lacks the ability to actually get my heart rate up or include guitar riffs/solos that I remember beyond the first listen. That isn’t the case here; the music is fast-paced, fairly creative, and compliments Tim McIlrath’s unique voice. Oddly enough, and this is something I’ve found with all Rise Against songs, the choruses are very sing-along friendly. I can’t help but imagine this band playing huge arenas because of their inviting harmonies, and I hope this album moves the band closer to that.

In the end, I actually found myself partaking in what bothered me so much about every Rise Against fan I’ve met. I was pumping my fist along with the music and focused my energy towards some vague feeling of angst and wrongdoing, pretty much ignoring the majority the song’s lyrics. But I guess that’s their thing. This band is so good at getting you amped up, that only upon listening to the album a second time do the deeper song meanings come to the surface because you aren’t so distracted by the band’s energy. This is a good thing, and I retract my previous judgments about fans of this band. Although this sound still isn’t my cup-of-tea, it has enough rock, and now pop, sensibilities for most to enjoy. And while the album lulls right after the midway point, it ends on a high note. As much as the band probably intended for this album to be consumed as one piece, I would recommend downloading the following and not worrying about skipping the rest: “Architects,” “Help Is On the Way,” “Make it Stop,” “Midnight Hands,” and the 90’s bass totin’ “Endgame.”

Adele's 21 works best for Crying 16-year-olds.

 When non-music enthusiasts hear the name Adele they usually exclaim, “Oh I love her!” Then you ask them what their favorite song was by her and they all say 'Chasing Pavements'. Granted, this song is very good, and very catchy. Considering that was the song that brought her into the collective of America's mind, most people should know her for this song. But will Adele Adkins from little ol' North London be able to move on from this hit and not be a one hit wonder?

Well in her new album, “21”, Adele already has hits like her song, 'Rolling in the Deep' climbing up the Billboard charts. There are good and bad points to this album though and it's about half and half so we'll start with the bad.

Like in her last album, Adele has some songs that keep a simple background mix with boring riffs and beats. It's almost like you could erase the background music from the song all together and you wouldn't tell much of a difference. In some of the songs, all you can pay attention to is the background and you can't even really listen to the lyrics. This really washes the lyrics away and makes them forgettable to say the least. In a couple songs, it's like Adele heard from her producer that she has to hold back her voice, and almost chain it up. Compared to the last album, she used to be all over the place with her vocals. Up, down and all around the scale she went without holding notes very long, sort of like Christina Aguilera. This album doesn't have that though, which comes with a mature feeling that the album has. But holding back her vocals was not a good move and when she actually lets them go, that's when the album soars.

This album does have a more mature feeling to it. She definitely gives it an older, more distinguished feeling that has just the right hint of jazziness to it. At times her voice is reminiscent of Aretha Franklin and blows you away as it floats through the notes. When you get caught up in one of the songs, it won't let you go, and you won't be able to just stop listening. She really tries to spice up the background music. While sometimes it doesn't work out right, she is doing what she needs to to grow as an artist, and it's good to see she's going somewhere. She also uses different background instruments that make it more creative, even giving one song a sort of country twang. Most of all, when Adele sits at the piano and sings out, s*** starts going down in a good way. That is probably the best part about this album.

This is a sad album. Adele just got her heart broken and you can really tell it here. The mature feel really mixes with the heartbreak well so if you're looking for some songs to cry your eyes out to, then look no further.

If you liked the last album, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to like this one. Adele changes a lot in this album and it's a totally different animal than the last one.
Finally, the best songs on this album are: 'I'll Be Waiting', 'One and Only', 'Rolling in the Deep', and 'Take it all'. I rate it overall a 6 out of 10, but it has a couple of 10's on it though. Don't buy the whole album, but definitely pick up some of the songs on it.