Breaking Benjamin Album Review: Dark Before Dawn (2015)

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Dark Before Dawn, the fifth album from Breaking Benjamin. After about six years, the band is back with highly anticipated new material.

In green is my opinion. I am quite familiar with Breaking Benjamin’s newer material. It was actually Robert who introduced them to me years ago! 

In blue is my cousin Robert’s opinion. He discovered Breaking Benjamin through Halo, and he considers them to be one of his top five favorite bands.

Let’s start our track-by-track review!

Dark

If you have ever been to Outback Steakhouse, you are probably familiar with the Bloomin’ Onion. The Bloomin’ Onion is a massive arrangement of deep-fried onion that is offered as an appetizer. This opening track is essentially the Bloomin’ Onion, as it is a substantial piece that builds anticipation for the main course. Dark is comprised of raw drumming, intense vocalization, and curious electronic noises. This suspenseful song opens up the album with intrigue.

Breaking Benjamin starts off the album with Dark, an all-instrumental song. It is an interesting mix of sounds that sets the listener up for the rest of the album.

Failure

Failure is classic Breaking Benjamin at its finest. The guitar is still loud, the chorus is still tight, and the vocals are still layered. The brief guitar solo that inserts itself into Failure is a real treat that sounds wicked, adding flare to an otherwise straightforward song. Failure marks the revival of Breaking Benjamin, stating the band is back and they are ready to pick up where they left off.

Failure, the first single to be released by the band since their hiatus, is a song that sounds like classic Breaking Benjamin. The more and more I listen to Failure, the more I love it! You will get hooked to it right away. It has been stuck in my head for weeks because of how catchy it is.

Angels Fall

Angels Fall is an ice cube on a warm day. It is a refreshing track that is neither overbearing nor soft. Angels Fall is simply pleasant.

Angels Fall starts off with an intro that reminds me of Blow Me Away, the song that got me into the band. I love the tempo of this song and how it is not as heavy compared to the band’s other songs. I also love Ben’s vocals on this track.

Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence is a disgusting feat that is hard, angry, and heavy. The guitar riff is nasty, the vocal melody has a fantastic Middle Eastern vibe, and the growling is hardcore. Breaking the Silence is off the rails and engaging. I enjoy the heck out of this sledgehammer of a song.

Breaking the Silence starts off heavy and stays that way. In this song, we get some awesome screaming vocals along with a sick guitar riff. This is the sound I have been missing for years, and my ears are happy to hear it again. If you love metal, Breaking the Silence is the perfect song for you.

Hollow

Hollow is a cool song, though it does not peak until it nears its end, at which point a dirty riff takes over and a solo kicks in, raising the energy of the song to a whole new level. The ending riff bears resemblance to Linkin Park’s Hit the Floor, which explains why it sounds so heavy. The riveting solo bit at the end of the track is simply kickass. Hollow is a satisfying track that explodes at its conclusion.

Hollow starts fast and shows no signs of slowing down. The band hits with the vintage BB sound that we love, and I am completely fine with that. What caught my attention with Hollow was the fact that we hear a little guitar solo near the end of the song. It is very rare to hear a solo like that from this band and now I crave more of it. This track sounds like it could be off of the band’s previous album, Dear Agony.

Close to Heaven

Close to Heaven is a song that begins as a Middle Eastern-styled simmer and morphs into a dramatic release. Close to Heaven is the glorious result of calculated patience paired with fresh vocal melodies. Because Breaking Benjamin slowed down a bit, the music and the melodies resonated with more depth. Close to Heaven is an epic track that can be considered one of the gems of the album. It stands out among the pack.

Close to Heaven is the oddball of the album for me, as it sounds a bit different from the other songs. The song showcases what Ben is capable of doing with his vocals, which is especially nice for the new listeners, but other than the vocals, I am not a big fan of this song. It is not bad, but it is not great either.

Bury Me Alive

Bury Me Alive sounds like a scrapped take of Breaking the Silence. It offers hard guitar and aggressive growling, as does Breaking the Silence, yet this song features less energy and less ingenuity. Bury Me Alive should have been omitted from the album, as it does not present anything new. Overall, it is a fine song but it is no special snowflake.

The beginning of Bury Me Alive reminds me of another song by the band, though I cannot remember which one. I love how heavy this song is with the loud guitar and Ben’s powerful vocals. Old time fans will likely grow to love this song, though I feel as if the tempo should be faster.

Never Again

Never Again is a positive song that still manages to retain a subtle moodiness. Skewed guitar accents add a grim layer to the track, making it all the more intriguing. While these accents are played sparingly and are mere nuances, they still manage to increase the individuality of the track. Never Again is a passionate song that does well for itself. In the end, it is no giant.

Never Again hits you hard right after Bury Me Alive. After carefully listening to the lyrics, I find it to be an uplifting song. I feel like this song has a strong meaning or story behind it, and I am always a fan of songs that tell a story. Once again, the track’s sound is nothing new from the band, but as I have said previously, I am okay with that. Breaking Benjamin has always had a great sound so there is no need to try to change it, especially after being gone for 6 years.

The Great Divide

The Great Divide doesn’t do it for me. The seemingly pleasant lyrics are washed out by electric guitar. For a moment in the song, an acoustic guitar replaces the electric as if someone in the band realized that this song would be much more cohesive without the loud noise. This results in a small segment of the song being enjoyable. I cannot help but wonder why the band decided to take this song in a heavy direction. The vocal melodies were solid, but the guitar and all-out drumming tainted the Great Divide. I would love to hear an acoustic cut of this track, however.

The Great Divide has a sick drum beat that made me think I was going to get some awesome heavy metal song. Sadly, I was wrong. Just like Angels Fall, it is not as fast or as hard as other songs on the album. At least the guitars still hit hard! The Great Divide is still a decent song despite its reservation.

Ashes of Eden

Ashes of Eden is built upon beautiful guitar-playing. Easily the most relaxed song of the album, Ashes of Eden contains delicate violin, passionate (albeit modified) vocals, and conservative drumming. Ashes of Eden is a unique track that offers a refreshing change of pace from the louder songs that define Breaking Benjamin. This may be one of the few songs that calls for lighters to be cracked at a Breaking Benjamin concert. I enjoyed Ashes of Eden, although it could have benefit from less repetition in the lyrics.

Hold the phone. We aren’t getting smacked with hard riffs, loud drums, or heavy singing? Instead, we get a calm, soft song called Ashes of Eden. This song is just beautiful! I love the softer-sounding instruments along with Ben’s soft vocals, which show how great of a vocalist he is. The lyrics are also powerful. My only complaint is that the song should have been longer. Unless you cannot stand soft rock or softer songs, Ashes of Eden will be a song that you will enjoy.

Defeated

Defeated features a gnarly guitar riff that is sure to pump up the listener. This track is solid, delivering Breaking Benjamin’s signature sound and concluding the album on an uplifting note. Breaking Benjamin began this record with a song titled “Failure” and ending with the lyric “no longer defeated.” I think it is safe to say that Breaking Benjamin is back.

We go from soft to the exact opposite. With a song title like “Defeated,” I expected a song about self-struggle and a person trying to fight through it. This song delivers that message exactly. I can see Defeated being used in fantasy movies or video games when the main hero is trying to defeat the main enemy/boss, such as the evil emperor or dragon. I just wish the song was not so repetitive.

Dawn

Dawn is an ambient track that is a welcome comedown from the heaviness that previously transpired. I enjoy ambiance when it has feeling. After all, it is easy to make noise and call it psychedelic. Dawn succeeds because it has emotion and cohesion behind it. With Dawn serving as the cherry on top, Dark Before Dawn comes full circle with this satisfying little track.

Dusk started off the album and now Dawn ends it. The guitar in this track is pretty and reminds me of the soft intro to Metallica’s One. Dark is an interesting track to end the album, but I like it because of its soothing nature. After six years, Breaking Benjamin gives us a wonderful album to be happy about. The band resisted being sucked into the mainstream trap and stuck to their roots. Many people may hate the fact that they did not change their sound, but why would they change it when they know their fans still crave their old sounds? Thank you, BB, for sticking to your roots. It was well worth the 6 year wait! Thank you all for reading. We’ll see you next time!

My Top 3

Failure

Breaking the Silence

Close to Heaven

Rob’s Top 3

Failure

Breaking the Silence

Ashes of Eden

Dark Before Dawn marks the successful return of Breaking Benjamin. The album is warmly familiar, a safe yet satisfying installment in Breaking Benjamin’s discography. Dark Before Dawn is a solid T-Bone that is sure to please fans and impress those who are just getting to know the band. Pop a bottle of champagne and have yourself a Bloomin’ Onion. Breaking Benjamin has returned.

~Juck

Juck’s Thoughts on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

I’m in the process of watching every Bond movie, from the first to the most recent. I will be giving my thoughts on each film as I go along. Not many people have seen every Bond film, and so I feel that this should be an interesting journey. The franchise has been around for 50 years for a reason. Let’s get started!

on her majesty's secret service

Please take a look at the man in the picture above. What do you see? I’ll tell you what I see. I see a man with an ass-chin. I’ll tell you what I do not see. I do not see James Bond. This man-no, this wooden board-was chosen to replace Sean Connery as 007. I will refer to him as ‘Wooden Board.’ I am doing him a favor by not mentioning his name because, if I were in his position, I would not want my name to be attached to the “performance” he delivered in this error of a film.

Wooden Board was neither charismatic nor interesting. He was not charming. He was not cool. He was not interesting. Instead, Wooden Board was just there. He may as well have been wearing a black morph suit. Or, better yet, he may as well have not been there at all. He had one single line that was funny, in which he mentions “a stiffness coming on.” That’s it. Wooden Board’s time as Bond peaked at that line.

The flaws of this film, of which there are many, stem from the directing. The cuts were unusual. Rather than looking natural and fluid, they were choppy and awkward. This poor camerawork yielded action sequences that appeared forced and ridiculous, almost cartoonish. I did not enjoy the action in this film in the slightest. As I have said, the botched cutting corrupted the experience entirely.

Majesty'sSS-Bond (6)

I had a bad feeling about the film from the moment that the opening titles appeared. The opening song didn’t have a singer, which I found to be incredibly odd. Why fix what wasn’t broken? The arrival of Wooden Board as the next Bond did not call for such a seemingly pointless change.

Thus far into the series, the Bond films have retained campiness and corniness. This film pushes such campiness and converts it into ridiculousness. I found myself saying, “What?” on multiple occasions. There are a host of scenes and instances that are unbelievable, even for Bond. There is a montage in the film in which Bond frolics around a garden with a lady. By the end of the montage, Bond has bought a ring for her. Because of the choppy editing and sloppy cuts, I can’t be sure that that is what happened, so take my description of this montage with a grain of salt.

In the end, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is joyless and devoid of fun. The dialogue is boring, the action scenes were poor, and Bond was a wooden plank. This film felt its age and then some. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is my least favorite Bond thus far. If you have any interest in seeing this film to see how that one guy did as Bond, squash it. There is no payoff. There is no development of the Bond character. There is no substance. Let us all collectively erase this Bond installment from the pages of history and from the racks of retail stores.

~Juck

Alex Turner Album Review: Submarine (2011)

Leave a comment down below to request an album for me and Robby to review. Any artist, any genre, we’ll give it a chance!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Submarine by Alex Turner, the soundtrack of the film Submarine.

In green is my opinion. I am familiar with some of Alex Turner’s work, from the Last Shadow Puppets to the Arctic Monkeys. I have not seen the Submarine movie.

In blue is my cousin Robert’s opinion. He too is familiar with the Last Shadow Puppets and the Arctic Monkeys. He has not seen the Submarine movie either.

Note that this soundtrack is being reviewed purely as an album. We are not reviewing the music in relation to its use in the Submarine movie. Let’s get started!

Stuck on the Puzzle (intro)

Alex, you tease. You gave us a great verse with pondering piano and curious acoustics. You led us to believe that we would be getting a full song, but nay. Stuck on the Puzzle is a nice little tidbit that teases what is arguably the best song of the album. How can you hate this brief little bite of a tune?

We start off the album with a mellow song that does not even last for a minute. It sounds so nice, but it is just too short. I love the acoustic guitar. This track reminds me of being on a tropical island.

Hiding Tonight

Holy chill. Alex might as well be sleeping. The guitar might as well be sleeping. The violin might as well be sleeping. I might as well be sleeping. The acoustic and electric guitars are gentle yet pleasantly apparent, pairing well with Turner’s relaxed voice. Hiding Tonight is a floating track that may very well add some pounds to your eyelids.

Hiding Tonight makes me want to lie down on a hot summer day, shut my eyes, and take a nice nap without getting a sunburn. Turner’s voice is so pleasant that anybody can fall in love with it and relax to it. Just like the previous song, Hiding Tonight also has an island/beach vibe.

Glass in the Park

The electric guitar is the highlight of this track. When the guitar pings, it sounds delicious. Its tone is on point. Alex Turner delivers another relaxed vocal performance, though he is more awake than he was during Hiding Tonight. Perhaps Turner recorded this song after drinking a single sip of coffee.

This song is so dope that I almost fell asleep while listening to it. Songs don’t usually do that to me. Once again, it is the mix of Turner’s voice along with the soothing guitars that makes everything chill. Just forget about life for a bit and listen to this four minute beauty.

It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind

Entirely acoustic, It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind is a quiet song with a nice melody and some solid lyrics. I am fond of the “pepper in the pill” concept mentioned within the song. The acoustics in this track are lovely as well. It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind is a stripped-back track that manages to stand on two legs despite its simplicity.

It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind is a song I would love to learn how to play on the guitar. I feel like it is one of those songs that you can play and sing when you are with a group of people. It is calm and soothing. This song would be perfect for a coffee shop scene or a bonfire.

Stuck on the Puzzle

Hell yes. Stuck on the Puzzle is like bombazz mac and cheese. It just clicks. It works. It is goodness. In this song, the bass and the drums mesh together effortlessly, the wonky guitar is incredible, and Turner sings with confidence. Stuck on the Puzzle is an anthemic song that is rockin’ like bombazz mac and cheese is rockin’. That is, it’s rockin’ a lot.

Fun fact: I suck at puzzles in real life and in video games. Stuck on the Puzzle showcases the beautiful lyrics that Alex Turner often comes up with. I feel like this could be a love song, thought I cannot completely put together its meaning (No pun intended). Either way, this song is pretty, and sounds like it could be an Arctic Monkeys tune.

Piledriver Waltz

Piledriver Waltz is a ball (no pun intended). The lyrics are captivating, the vocal melody is entrancing, the piano is strong, and the music is successfully moody. The way that the track slows down as it reaches its chorus is remarkably compelling. Piledriver Waltz has soul and many shades of melancholy. I enjoy the heck out of this song.

Wooooo we’re going on Dancing With the Stars!!! Oh wait, we’re not? Good. I would be the first one gone anyway. We end the Submarine EP with another beautifully written song. The lyrics are wonderful and I love the piano! Piledriver Waltz is another track that I can relax to. I think this song would sound majestic acoustically. Thank you all for reading another review. I hope you are still awake, because this EP does make you sleepy.

My Top 3

Glass in the Park

Stuck on the Puzzle

Piledriver Waltz

Robby’s Top 3

Glass in the Park

It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind

Piledriver Waltz

The Submarine EP is a soothing listen. It isn’t overbearing and it isn’t boring. Instead, this six-track midget of an album makes quite the impression. Alex Turner did a swell job with this T-Bone. If there were more tracks that were as impressive as those included here, this record could have very well been a Filet. Take a listen to this tiny album and judge for yourself. The worst that could happen is wasting 19 minutes of your life.

~Juck

Juck’s Thoughts on You Only Live Twice

I’m in the process of watching every Bond movie, from the first to the most current. I will be giving my thoughts on each film as I go along. Not many people have seen every Bond film, and so I feel that this should be an interesting journey. The franchise has been around for 50 years for a reason. Let’s get started!

James-Bond-007

You Only Live Twice starts with a hearty dose of intrigue. At the beginning of the movie, Bond dies. Of course, you know that the agent must be alive, but I was left scratching my head as to how he survived the attempt made on his life. If my memory serves me right, this instance would mark the second attempt to trick the audience into buying Bond’s death. The first instance, which was included in From Russia With Love, was a poor gimmick that was so campy I could roast marshmallows over it. This time around, however, the evasion of death was cool, albeit ridiculous.

The best thing about You Only Live Twice is that its events unfold at a fast pace. Because the plot was brisk, the direction of the story was unpredictable at times. A few minor twists and turns certainly helped the movie to remain fresh.

You Only Live Twice is undoubtedly the best-looking Bond film released thus far. Japan is living, the sets are beautiful, and the picture is clearer overall. It was a joy to watch this Bond movie because it was aesthetically pleasing. In addition, the action is intense and hilarious. Well done yet campy in many ways, I enjoyed the heck out of the fight scenes. Check out this scene, it’s a good time.

Bond does some solid spy work in this installment of the franchise, bringing us closer to modern Bond. In fact, You Only Live Twice is the most modern-feeling Bond film yet. Of course, the special effects are not up to par with what filmmakers can achieve today, but in terms of pacing and style, You Only Live Twice is pretty relevant. If I were to stumble across it while watching TV with no prior knowledge about its release year, I wouldn’t consider it to be as old as it is. (You Only Live Twice was released in 1967).

Alas, this movie has a dire shortcoming. When the film hits its halfway point, it assumes a campy, taking-oneself-too-seriously kind of tone. Things slow down and, before you know it, Bond is Japanese.

japanese-bond

Yes, this is Bond’s Japanese disguise. Ah, blatant racism. Remember the days when you were a staple of Street Fighter?

Anywho, despite some ridiculous moments , the movie is not absurd. It is easy to poke fun at, sure. But the absurdity doesn’t spoil the fun.

A moment that I am surprised does not live in Bond infamy is the staring contest between Blofeld and Bond when the count-down clock ticks down. The camera literally shows Bond staring at Blofled and Blofeld staring at Bond, back and forth, back and forth. 

bondvillains-donald-pleasence-blofeld-590x350bondstare

And so, while the movie feels new and stylish for its first half, its second half lags and throws the audience back to the campiness of the previous films. It is clear that there was lots of Austin Powers influence pulled from the second half of this movie. Regardless, You Only Live Twice is the first Bond film to put its foot in the door of modern Bond. It’s a good one.

~Juck

Citizen Cope Album Review: The Rainwater LP (2010)

Leave a comment down below to request an album for Robby and I to review. Any artist, any genre, we’ll give it a chance!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Rainwater LP, Citizen Cope’s fourth album.

In green is my opinion. I am very familiar with Citizen Cope’s music. I have seen him live.

In blue is my cousin Robert’s opinion. He is a rising Citizen Cope fan and is excited to listen to this album.

Here we go!

rainwater

Keep Askin’

Sometimes, when I’m feeling lazy, I want Ramen noodles. To prepare the noodles, I put water on the stove. I put the heat on high so the water can boil. If Ramen noodles came in Keep Askin’ flavor, however, I would put the water on medium heat so I could achieve a slow boil, because that’s exactly what this song is. Cope’s simple acoustics are given muscle by the backing drums and piano. The pairing of sad lyrics with Cope’ smoky voice helps to create a gloomy vibe. Keep Askin’ starts off the Rainwater LP on a relaxed note.

Keep Askin’ is a relaxing song to start off the album. Nice acoustics with simple drums and chill piano give the song a coffee shop feel. As a matter of fact, when I eventually buy this album, I am going to add it to the playlist at my dad’s donut shop! Anybody, regardless of age, can be hooked to this song.

Healing Hands

Healing Hands is pure soul. The song is incredibly smooth, equipped with groovy bass, grooving drums, and grooved up melodies. Cope’s lyrics are down to earth, a feature that is typical of the artist. The honking horns are sweet additions to the song, as is the whining guitar solo at the end of the track. The entire track seems to be a love letter to Bill Withers, whose subject matter and sound is comparable to that which defines Healing Hands. I love this song.

With a song title like Healing Hands, I thought this would be a gospel-influenced song. Instead, we get a song with a sick drum beat and powerful lyrics that relate to the world today. I love this track because of Cope and his vocals. The guitar bit at the end is a nice touch as well.  I would love to hear this grooving song live!

I Couldn’t Explain Why

I Couldn’t Explain Why is a cool track. Cope’s acoustics ring loud, the bassist is doing his own thing, the drummer is chugging along, and the organist accents the song. The lyrics aren’t incredibly profound, but the song grooves along nonetheless. I Couldn’t Explain Why is an easy, solid track.

I feel like I have heard this song before, though I do not remember where. Once again, I love the acoustics and drums. Cope’s vocals keep me sucked into the track. I get a good vibe from this song, but I couldn’t explain why.

Lifeline

There’s nothing tricky about Lifeline. It’s simply truth. Cope doesn’t have to come out with a 50-piece orchestra or a guitarist who plays with his toes to make his message heard. Instead, he picks up his guitar, has his buddy hop on the piano, and sings. The result is Lifeline. This song is packed with emotion, which fuels Cope’s strong message. Lifeline is a stellar track from Citizen Cope.

Wow. This is such a sad song, yet it makes you want to stay strong no matter what happens. That is Cope’s message here. I may not be a huge Walking Dead fan like my cousins, but I can easily see this song fitting into that show or any other show that has depressing moments that make you want to burst into tears. Lifeline is a powerful song, and that is why I like it. Life may be depressing at times, but stay strong and everything will get better.

Off the Ground

Off the Ground is the closest that Citizen Cope has come to incorporating reggae into his music. The steady piano and repeating guitar are pulled straight out of the reggae genre, and the execution of both elements are successfully executed in the style of Citizen Cope. The entire track has a positive vibe. Off the Ground is a joyful, uplifting track.

(If you dig Citizen Cope’s reggae side, check out his 2006 collaboration with the Easy All-Stars on their reggae version of Radiohead’s Karma Police. It’s a bit flat, but worth a listen regardless).

If you need something to cheer you up after that last song, then Off The Ground is for you. This song reminds me of a paradise setting and puts me in a great mood! Grab a friend or someone close to you, get in the car on a sunny day, roll down the windows, play this song, and just drive until sunset. Grab a drink, sit with friends, and chill to this solid track. That is how good Off The Ground is. We need more songs like this one!

Jericho

Jericho is an usual track. It features electronic elements and steady drumming behind Cope’s echoing voice. The highlight of the song is undoubtedly the air horn. Some people go nuts over cowbell, declaring that every song with cowbell needs more of it, but I’m not one of those people. I’m all about that air hornThis track gets two thumbs up because it has air horn. Jericho is the oddball of the album, but it’s a damn cool one.

Hold the phone. Where are the acoustics? Am I going into a trance? Did I have a little too much fun? Jericho shows the creative, techno side of Cope. It features the one noise that songs need: air horn! I know Juck is going to be listening to this song for a while. Sure, I’m not the biggest fan of techno-like music, but the sick beats and the creative mind of Cope make it easy for me to like this song. Oh, and did I mention air horn?

The Newspaper

Sideways? Nope, it’s the Newspaper. No, not the newspaper that is tossed onto my driveway every morning in ratty plastic, but the Newspaper by Citizen Cope. This song is a dark groove that is fit for a serious cop show. I’m not talking about NCIS with LL Cool J and Edna Mode from the Incredibles. I’m talking about something closer to True Detective. The Newspaper is a fantastic track that is fit for vibing. The lyrics create some vivid images and the music is tight. I love the Newspaper. (Once again, not the newspaper that remains on my driveway to be run over for a week before I bother to pick it up. I’m talking about the Newspaper by Citizen Cope).

The intro to the Newspaper reminds me of Citizen Cope’s hit song Sideways. I always like it when artists make a song that sounds similar to one of their older songs. The lyrics are interesting, as they talk about crimes which you often see in the newspaper, but they also acknowledge the fact that the newspaper is not always truthful. Good job, Cope. You and I both know that the media is crammed with BS that fills people with their propaganda!

A Father’s Son

If Jericho had a baby with the Newspaper, you would get A Father’s Son. It’s kind of ironic, actually. A Father’s Son. Get it? Anyway, the buzzing from Jericho and the dark tone from the Newspaper mix to create a cool track with strong verses and a fantastic chorus that excels both lyrically and musically. The drummer deserves props for his work on this track. He kills it. He doesn’t pull anything fancy, but he doesn’t have to be all over the place to be impressive. A Father’s Son is a sick track.

A Father’s Son is a funky song that features the sickest drumming on the entire album. The bass and guitar are sick as well. Cope’s vocals are tight as ever. I am hooked to this song because of how well the instruments blend together. Honestly, I would not mind hearing an instrumental version of this song.

Lifeline (Barefeet version)

After months of owning this album, I only now distinguished the difference between the original version of Lifeline and the Barefeet version thanks to Robby, who caught the difference right away. This Barefeet version does not include piano. I can’t help but wonder why Cope didn’t simply call this version acoustic, as he sings the “barefeet” lyrics on both recordings. I enjoy this track, but it seems an odd addition to the core album. Cope took a track that already had few instruments and took away one of two. In the context of the album, the recording is unusual, but in the end, Lifeline (Barefeet version) still remains a solid piece of music.

I’m not sure what “Barefeet version” is supposed to mean, but it seems that this track is just Lifeline with no piano and only guitar. I like the sound, but why make it a part of the album and not a bonus track or something like that?

Keep Askin’ (Acoustic version)

I’m surprised that this track isn’t called “Keep Askin’ (Barefeet version).” Sometimes I crack myself up. Okay, I’m focused. Keep Askin’ is built to be played acoustically, so I’m glad this recording made the album. This recording is quieter than its counterpart, making it an even more relaxing alternative to an already chilled-out song. What would have been even better to include in place of this track is a live acoustic recording of it. Regardless, the Rainwater LP ends on a relaxed note thanks to this track.

How did Citizen Cope know that I wanted an acoustic version of this song? I actually prefer this version of Keep Askin’ to the original because, in my opinion, the acoustic sound fits the song better. This song could have been a bonus track, but I do not mind it being on the actual album. It is a nice way to end a great album! Thank you all for reading another album review!

My Top 3

Healing Hands 

The Newspaper

A Father’s Son

Rob’s Top 3

Healing Hands

Off The Ground

The Newspaper

The Rainwater LP is Citizen Cope’s most consistent album. Each and every song fits within the same mold. Cope’s predominantly acoustic style makes this record a chill listen. The tracks are groovy and soulful, driven by emotion. An outstanding effort by Citizen Cope, the Rainwater LP is a strong T-Bone. I highly recommend purchasing this album.

~Juck

The Top 10 Robbyisms of Wave Three Album Reviews

Those who read the album reviews that are posted here on Gamerscene know that none of them are complete without the opinion of my cousin Robert. There are occasions where Robby says something that is unintentionally hilarious. Now that we have 30 album reviews completed, I am going to dive into the most recent wave of 10 and pick the best Robbyisms. Let me know in the comments which Robbyism you find the most hilarious. This list was a blast to compile, and hopefully it’s even more of a blast to read. A fresh list of Robbyisms will be made at each increment of 10 album reviews. Let’s get started!

(the ranking of the Robbyisms are completely determined by my own personal opinion)

10. “Yo ho ho and away we go on a mellow voyage on the great blue sea.” – Robert on Phil Wickham’s Sailing On a Ship

Robert’s pirate jargon is on point. This comes as no surprise, as he is formally known as Robbie the One-Eyed Robber of the High Seas.

rob pirate

Notorious in Spain, Portugal, and Ethiopia.

9.“I first thought that On my Mind was about a murderer or something, but then Swoope started to rap about buying stuff. It is so confusing that it annoys me.” – Robert on Swoope’s On my Mind

8. “No, I do not want to hug ya and squeeze ya.” – Robert on the Cinematic Orchestra’s Channel 1 Suite

Robert’s harsh rejection of any hugging is hilarious. He shoots down the mere thought of it right away.

7. “ Jesus will always be there to help us get through our lives. Jesus Lord of Heaven reminds us of this, and helps us to remember to pray to him every day/night/both.” – Robert on Phil Wickham’s Jesus Lord of Heaven

Rob’s use of slashes is remarkable. 

6. “Believe me: being quiet, isolating yourself, and not caring about anything is a terrible way to live. I have a friend who is like that, and my buddies and I always try our hardest to change him.” – Robert on Skillet’s American Noise

Robert is basically Spider Man. He swings in to save the day with his super friends. 

5. “Page’s solo is heavy, loud, and obnoxious in the best way possible. If you hate it then you hate music.” – Robert on Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused

CASE CLOSED.

4. “Sorry, no hably espanol, so I cannot understand anything being said in this song.” – Robert on Santana’s (Da Le) Yaleo

Rob’s Spanish error is completely forgivable because he tried.

3. Whenever that solo starts, I blast the song and play air-guitar, even if I am in the car! Of course, I still have a hand on the steering wheel. I’m not that stupid! – Robert on Pearl Jam’s Alive

Robert practices safe driving and busts out a mean air-guitar solo.

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A masterful solo on New Year’s Eve.

2. “You may find that screaming annoying, (like my mom) but that is what makes Chris a great singer.” – Robert on Chris Cornell’s Mission

Nuff said.

1. “Hold the phone…is that Cee-Lo I hear? Wait, why is there crap in a Santana song?” – Robert on Santana’s Do You Like the Way (featuring Lauryn Hill and Cee-Lo)

Robert straight up calls Cee-Lo crap. Not Cee-Lo’s music, not Cee-Lo’s voice. No, Rob calls Cee-Lo himself crap. And this is why I love Robert.

Let me know which Robbyism was your favorite! Thanks for reading! Request an album and support the album reviews, as Robby and I have no intentions of stopping them. Wave 3 has been completed. 

~Juck

Led Zeppelin Album Review: Led Zeppelin (1969)

Leave a comment down below to request an album for me and Robby to review. Any artist, any genre, we’ll give it a chance!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Led Zeppelin, debut album from Led Zeppelin.

In green is my opinion. I am familiar with some of Led Zeppelin’s music and would like to delve deeper into their discography, as I enjoy most everything that I have heard from them.

In blue is my cousin Robert’s opinion. He was named after Robert Plant. It’s safe to say that he is a Zep expert. He grew up listening to the band and collects their music. Led Zeppelin is his favorite band.

Here we go!

Good Times Bad Times

Good Times Bad Times is a rocking song. Despite its short length, the track is a full package. John Bonham establishes a fast pace with his wired drumming and Robert Plant adds edge to the track with his crisp voice. Jimmy Page’s iconic guitar riff is commendable, but it is his speedy guitar solo that stands out in the grand scheme of this compact song. Good Times Bad Times is excellent, and considering the fact that it is the first song on the record is a great indication that there is more talent to be heard.

Good Times Bad Times lets you know right away what Led Zeppelin is all about! It features killer guitar work from the legendary Jimmy Page, pounding drums from John Bonham, smooth bass from John Paul Jones, and characteristic vocals from Robert Plant. Good Times Bad Times is a short yet rocking song that starts off the album on a great note.

Babe I’m Gonna Leave You

The acoustics in this track are intricate and thought-provoking, complementing the reflective nature of the lyrics incredibly well. Robert Plant’s scream right before the two-minute mark is astounding, sending the song into an intense thrill ride. The way that this song swells to explosions and recedes to calm multiple times makes is a dynamic feat. The explosions retain a Spanish vibe while concurrently hinting at metal, a genre that Led Zeppelin is often credited with pioneering. All the while, this song is primarily acoustic, a quality that adds to its intrigue. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You also teases a bit of psychedelia, making it an ever-interesting song that I dig immensely.

Shockingly, Babe I’m Gonna Leave you is a cover song, though nobody remembers the original because of how awful it sounds in comparison to this version. Right off the bat, the acoustic guitar lets you know how depressing this song is. Almost two minutes into the track, we get one of Plant’s most iconic screams that make your ears feel as if they are going to bleed! The drums and guitar flow nicely with the acoustics, and Plant’s high octave vocals lead you to think that he must have been really upset with this breakup. I love this song because of Plant’s vocals and how they can sound so peaceful yet so destructive at the same time. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You is a beautiful breakup song that will leave you in awe.

You Shook Me

You Shook Me is a head-bobbing, slow-blues track that packs a punch. Plant starts off the track singing with Page’s guitar, creating a smooth dynamic that suits the bluesy vibe. The bass and drums keep the train moving slowly, allowing the guitar and vocals to permeate. Both the organ and the harmonica are gracious homages to the genre of blues that are executed with precision. Page’s skewed-sounding guitar solo is an absolute joy due to its inclusion among a blues mold. Plant drives the song home powerfully. You Shook Me is an innovative piece of music that is truly remarkable.

Feeling the blues? That is what You Shook Me is all about! I love me some blues, and Led Zeppelin is definitely no stranger to the genre. Those continuous guitar and bass riffs thrown in with some Page magic is pure genius. We get some nice keyboard action in the song as well. The drums may be simple, but the vocals are jam packed with energy! The harmonica solo, which is followed by a wicked guitar solo, gives off a Western-blues feel. Plant’s screaming at the end of the song is unforgettable and has an early heavy metal sound. You Shook Me is just some damn good blues!

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused begins with sleuthing bass and proceeds to accelerate into a blues-rock jam. Plant flaunts his insane vocal talent, angrily biting and growling the lyrics. The guitar is on fire throughout the entire song. When Plant begins to sing with the guitar, the track enters trippy territory that is accented by Bonham’s calculated drumming. After that spacey section, Page takes the wheel with a solo that can be used to define classic rock in its sound and style. Dazed and Confused is a Zep giant, and rightfully so, as it is masterfully executed and high in passion.

Oh man, where do I begin with one of the greatest Led Zeppelin songs of all time? The bass is killer, Plant’s vocals are energetic as ever, the pounding drums are crazy, and the guitar riff is unforgettable. Before arriving at his solo, Page shows off a bazaar technique in which he plays his guitar with a violin bow. That is freaking awesome. Page’s solo is heavy, loud, and obnoxious in the best way possible. If you hate it then you hate music. This song is my favorite off of this album, and it is my third favorite song by the band. Dazed and Confused is simply a masterpiece.

Your Time Is Gonna Come

Old school. Your Time Is Gonna Come is a road-tripping song twinged with a gospel chorus. Plant’s lyrics, paired with raw acoustics and bright organ, communicate an uplifting message. The band is more reserved on this track than on others from the record, but it’s a fine tune nonetheless. Your Time Is Gonna Come is easy to swallow and easy to enjoy.

On this track, John Paul Jones shows off how creative he is by manning an organ and putting it to good use. The organ is what really makes this song great. This track contains some easy acoustics that are similar to those included in Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. If for some reason you don’t like the heavy sounds Zeppelin has, then this song is for you. Plant’s calming vocals are paired with easy, western-sounding guitar. The song also has a gospel vibe to it. Your Time Is Gonna Come is the oddball of the album.

Black Mountain Side

Black Mountain Side is a short song in which Jimmy Page plays some acoustic guitar while a hand-drum beats in the background. Together, the two instruments mesh to create an Indian sound. While the song is certainly fine, it doesn’t offer anything extraordinary. I would imagine that Page expands on this piece in the live show, but on the record, Black Mountain Side is simply flat.

Black Mountain Side is just a nice acoustic song. Page shows off how he has mastered the acoustic guitar by producing something relaxing. I would love for other artists who primarily play acoustic guitar (like Dave Matthews) to give this number a try!

Communication Breakdown

Communication Breakdown features some remarkable vocals from Robert Plant, but the song is quite repetitive. Regardless of how revolutionary the guitar riff may have been at the time of this record’s release, I’m not blown away. The lyrics and the instrumentation don’t impress me a whole lot. Perhaps this track was meant to be a fun quickie, but in that, it’s lacking in substance.

We go from a calming acoustic song to a heavy-hitting heavy metal song. The band does not hold back with Communication Breakdown. They just throw the heavy sound in your face. I never knew that someone could just belt out vocals like that! This song also reminds me of punk rock, a genre that was unheard of at the time of this record’s release. Communication Breakdown is an interesting track that shows what Zeppelin is capable of.

I Can’t Quit You Baby

I Can’t Quit You Baby takes us back to blues! On this track, Bonham’s drumming is crisp, Page’s guitar-work is smooth, and Plant flaunts his vocals. Jimmy Page dominates the scene with his guitar solo, though Bonham’s drumming is notable throughout Page’s stand. I Can’t Quit You Baby is wide open, ripe for jamming. The band does a great job with I Can’t Quit You Baby on the record, but I would bet that it’s an even greater feat live.

Zeppelin clearly means business with I Can’t Quit You Baby. The guitar once again has that blues vibe. That’s what the first Zeppelin album is all about! Page once again steals the show with his mastery of the guitar. I love this song because of how Page just goes all out and does not give a crap!

How Many More Times

My initial thought upon hearing this track was: ‘Money by Pink Floyd?’ I wonder if Jones had a hand in inspiring the famous Floyd bass-line. Anyway, this track is rocking. It goes from straight rock to ambient territory to a funky jam and back to rock. It incorporates elements from across the album, tying together Led Zeppelin I into a tight, impressive package. How Many More Times is a fantastic track that closes this album properly. That is, with a bang.

Three words: whole lotta bass! I love that bass-line we get in the intro. Page syncs with the bass perfectly with his unforgettable riff. The drums tie in well and Plant’s vocals are great as ever. I just love how everyone in the band is in perfect synchronization on this track. They produce something that you would never think would come out of a band from the late 60s. This is why Zeppelin is the greatest band ever. They are just so creative with everything they do! Bonham’s pounding drums, Page with the flawless guitar magic, Jones with the sick bass, and Plant once again taking us away with his vocals! Everything that is Led Zeppelin is in this song, yet many people overlook it. I do not know why they do, because this song just kicks butt. Yes, it is long, but the 8 minutes is totally worth the listen. How Many More Times is a great way to end one of the greatest debut albums of all time, and probably one of the most important blues rock albums of all time. As always, thank you all for reading yet another review. Rock on, viewers, and let Zeppelin take over your mind! Take it away, Plant!

My Top 3

Babe I’m Gonna Leave You

You Shook Me

Dazed and Confused

Rob’s Top 3

Dazed and Confused

Babe I’m Gonna Leave You

You Shook Me

Led Zeppelin I is an incredible album. Robert’s the Zep expert, so I won’t harp on about the band’s influence on the face of music today, but it is important to note how large of an impact this album had. The rock-blues record is one of intensity. Zep set a high bar for themselves with their debut album, as it included both grand giants and subtle treats. The variety on this record is what makes it such a pleasure to listen to. Rock, blues, gospel, folk, funk, and sounds that had yet to be defined in 1969 are mixed together in this one album. Led Zeppelin I is a Filet. Throw this CD into your music collection. It’ll shake you.

~Juck

The Last Shadow Puppets Album Review: The Age of the Understatement (2008)

Leave a comment down below to request an album for me and Robby to review. Any artist, any genre, we’ll give it a chance!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Age of the Understatement, debut album of the Last Shadow Puppets. This supergroup, comprised of Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane of the Rascals, released this single album as a side-project. They have yet to release a second as of 2015.

In green is my opinion. I am familiar with some of Turner’s work with the Arctic Monkeys as well as his solo album recorded for the film Submarine.

In blue is my cousin Robert’s opinion. He is familiar with indie rock and knows Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys.

The Age of the Understatement

If John Wayne was to ever be raised from the dead, he would be raised from the dead to this song. Fit for a western, the Age of the Understatement is a dynamic explosion featuring electric guitar, horn accents, and cinematic strings. The lyrics are well written, giving the music more edge than it already has. Somebody needs to throw this track into a western. Perhaps Tarantino could put it in his upcoming Hateful Eight. The Age of the Understatement is a fantastic track that introduces the album properly.

The album begins with a cool, horror-sounding introduction that leads into a sick, Muse-like arrangement. I could not help but notice that the Age of the Understatement sounds similar to Muse’s Knights of Cydonia. Knights of Cydonia is my favorite Muse song, so the similarity between the two tracks is by no means a bad thing. I like the western sound this song has due to its galloping drum beat. I cannot think of a better song to start off the album.

Standing Next to Me

Standing Next to Me is essentially a catchy hook. This track is defined by solid lyrics and a lovely orchestral arrangement. The song’s vocal melody faintly emulates that of Elton John’s The Trail We Blaze, which was featured in the remarkable movie The Road to El Dorado. Perhaps that is why I feel the song was built for adventuring. Standing Next to Me is a brisk, pleasant track that is easy to enjoy.

Damn it, why do great-sounding short songs always leave you wanting more? To me, the Last Shadow Puppets provide a modern take on the Beatles. I don’t like the Beatles, though I do like this song thanks to the violin and the guitar. The two instruments always make a great pair, as showcased by Standing Next to Me.

Calm Like You

Hell. Yes. From this day forward, Calm Like You will be my theme song. “I can still remember when your city smelt exciting” is the lyric of the album. The track is a Bond theme. The orchestra is booming, the electric guitar is smooth, and the horn is so slick that it’s unbelievable. Strong vocals are delivered on top of the outstanding instrumental elements, selling Calm Like You as a meaty song. This is an excellent track.

Calm Like You is yet another song that has an Oasis/Beatles vibe. Alex Turner steals the show, as his voice is just magnificent. His vocal delivery makes you feel as if you are listening to an Arctic Monkeys song. Calm Like You is satisfying despite its short length. 

Separate and Ever Deadly

Ah, English people. Pronouncing ‘butter and crumbs’ like ‘boater and chromes.’ This is why your own people left your country and established colonies in swamps. Anyway, Separate and Ever Deadly is a fine track. The song is certainly high in energy, though it does have a minor flaw. I feel that the track was too short for its own good. The breaks in the songs teased drama and retreated back to a rapid-fire pace. If the Shadow Puppets slowed down to flesh out the brief breaks, Separate and Ever Deadly may have felt more wholesome and less rushed. Regardless, the track is still solid.

Separate and Ever Deadly begins with bluesy guitar that progresses to become more western-sounding. I love this song’s fast tempo and interesting lyrics. I hope the Shadow Puppets keep these upbeat songs coming. I really do enjoy them!

The Chamber

Relaxed vocals paired with elegant strings give the Chamber an old-school vibe. There is something about the vocal delivery that makes the song seem as if it could have come out of my dad’s CD collection. The Chamber is a nice song, though it’s not a grand spectacle as are some other tracks on the record.

The Chamber is a simple yet beautiful song. For me, the bass steals the show. In addition, I love the odd-sounding outro to the song. The Chamber is one of those old-school songs that our parents would probably enjoy.

Only the Truth

Somebody needs to put a leash on that electric guitar. The orchestra, inclusive of crisp horns and strings, gives dramatic flare to the already rocking song. Only the Truth swells to a climax of grand proportions, making it a memorable track that further showcases the cinematic sound that glazed across this entire album.

An epic battle awaits, and Only The Truth can set you free. As a person who plays a lot of RPG titles, I can definitely see this song fitting into plenty of these games. This song just screams ‘prepare for battle’ with its tempo and its mosh of different instruments that raid your ears. I love this song for that reason.

My Mistakes Were Made for You

Constructed as if intended for a Bond film, My Mistakes Were Made for You is smooth like cream. Alex Turner’s voice is sleek, the drumming is relaxed, and the orchestra is crisp. Both the electric and the acoustic guitars stand out from one another, creating an interesting dynamic within the song. While simple, the bass adds a significant layer to the track. Yet again, insightful lyrics are included with the top-notch instrumental package. My Mistakes Were Made for You is an incredible feat.

The beginning of My Mistakes Were Made For You reminds me of an intro that would be included in an Arctic Monkeys song. This makes sense considering that Turner sings for the Arctic Monkeys as well. Once again the orchestra is pleasant to listen to, as is the western-sounding guitar. This is another solid track.

Black Plant

Black Plant contains two personalities. The first personality is that of a woman who has a glint of mischief in her eye. Defined by an energetic string melody, horn accents, and breezy drums, this side of the song is pleasant despite (or perhaps due to) the dark overtones. The second personality is that of a woman who is accustomed to throwing tables at other people. Turner explodes with a condescending tone, and angry buzzing that sounds straight out of GoldenEye from the N64 pops up as well. Trust me, I’ve played the game enough times to know its sound effects when I hear them. Ah, nostalgia. Black Plant is a moody track that I approve of.

The beginning of Black Plant sounds incredibly familiar, though I cannot pinpoint what it sounds like. Regardless, I love how the strings give the song a dark and spooky sound. Its early-2000 vibe makes it a joy to listen to.

I Don’t Like You Anymore

I Don’t Like You Anymore might as well be a Chris Isaak song. It’s got brooding lyrics, it’s got depressing electric guitar at the forefront, it’s got an organ, and it’s got attitude. All that’s missing is an overhanging cloud of suicide contemplation. The song quickly accelerates from sadness to frustration to all-out anger. The structure and progression of the song specifically reminds me of Chris Isaak’s Go Walking Down There. I Don’t Like You Anymore is a classic-sounding song that is full of passion. I dig it.

I Don’t Like You Anymore starts off slow, picks up in the verse, and then decelerates in the chorus. I love how this song is constantly fluctuating in tempo. Once again, the ending sounds like something out of a horror movie.

In My Room

The Last Shadow Puppets tease the James Bond theme at the beginning of this emotional outburst of a song. The orchestra comes out loud and fiery to complement Turner’s angry vocals. As was the case with Separate and Ever Deadly, however, this song could have benefit from taking its time. In order to fully sink in, In My Room should have stuck around longer, as the entire track is constantly moving forward at such a fast speed. More theatrical than cinematic, In My Room is listenable but rushed at its core.

In my room, I have furniture, Shark-signed pucks, a bunch of trading cards…oh wait, we’re talking about the song? This track starts off sounding like the 007 theme. Once the song gets started, a dark, mysterious tone is established by the organ and violin. I love the effect created by that particular combination. I suppose a room can be a scary place.

Meeting Place

The Last Shadow Puppets take us on a trip to a tropical hotel for a holiday. See how I used British terminology to fit the occasion? The Meeting Place employs irony, pairing a cheery instrumental background with breakup lyrics. The entire track is pleasant, enhanced by the distancing effect placed on the vocals. Usually, I feel that vocal distancing detracts from songs. Meeting Place is undoubtedly an exception. It is a solid, individual song that is, without question, the happiest of the album.

Meeting Place starts off with a nice violin intro and evolves into elevator music with lyrics. I mean that as a compliment. The song has a smooth tempo and some sad lyrics. I like this song, but I certainly do not want to go to this meeting place.

The Time Has Come Again

The Shadow Puppets get acoustic on us. The acoustic melody is pleasant, strengthened by the restrained orchestra and Turner’s easy vocals. I enjoy the soft side of the Last Shadow Puppets, as it’s a breath of fresh air. The Time Has Come Again is a cool little tune that ends the album on a satisfying, mellow note.

The Time Has Come Again for Juck and I to review the final track of an album. I love how this song has an acoustic guitar as its focal point. It is pleasant to the ears, much to the credit of Alex Turner. The Last Shadow Puppets have released an album that reminds me of the Beatles in the sense that they recorded short, solid songs that blend a variety of genres and sounds. If you want something that is totally different from what you are used to listening to, look no further. I love this supergroup and I hope we get more albums like this one.

My Top 3

Standing Next to Me

Calm Like You

My Mistakes Were Made for You

Rob’s Top 3

The Age of the Understatement

Only The Truth

The Time Has Come Again

The Age of the Understatement from the Last Shadow Puppets is a one-of-a-kind album. Its blend of rock and orchestra is remarkably effective. Each track on this album offers something individual. The tunes are breezy, the lyrics are strong, and the music is outstanding. This group needs to reunite to write the next Bond theme. The Age of the Understatement is a must-own Filet, charred on the outside and tender on the inside. Check it out immediately.

~Juck

Swoope Album Review: Sinema (2014)

Leave a comment down below to request an album for me and Robby to review. Any artist, any genre, we’ll give it a chance!

*requested review*

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Sinema, Christian artist Swoope’s second album.

In green is my opinion. I have never listened to Swoope, though I am familiar with some other Christian artists.

In blue is my cousin Robert’s opinion. He too has listened to a handful of Christian artists, but Swoope is new to him as well. He does not consider himself a fan of rap, though he does enjoy some albums that the genre has birthed.

Sinema

This album takes off with the collective explosion of psychedelic synthesizer, booming horn, and dramatic piano. The synthesizer sound seems to have taken notes from Pink Floyd’s On the Run. I approve. Swoope’s lyrics, which seem to discuss a dysfunctional relationship, are accented by what sounds like Asian flute, a cool element which harkens back to both Mike Shinoda’s verses on Linkin Park’s Nobody’s Listening and Jay-Z’s Big Pimpin’. The entire track is blanketed by an edgy tone that comes across as genuine. The inclusion of the voicemail dialogue at the beginning and end of the track indicates that Sinema will be a concept album with a linear story. I found this song to be intriguing, full of bold elements and solid lyrical delivery.

We start off the album with a generic breakup song. I can tell that it has some meaning, but all in all, it sounds like a track that you would hear again and again on the radio.

On my Mind (feat. J.R.)

The synthesizer returns. This time, however, it isn’t emulating Pink Floyd. Instead, its melody is closely reminiscent to that of The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Can’t Stop. Once again, I can dig it. Swoope doesn’t merely recycle the melody. Instead, he throws some decent verses on top of it. The chorus is a daring blend between a voice that could be coming from Elvis and the vocal distancing effect akin to that which is widely employed by the Black Keys. On my Mind is more about the blues-infused beat than the lyrics, but this track is still a fresh one.

On My Mind sounds like the Nine Inch Nails song Closer. That being said, I’m not a fan of the electronic junk thrown into this song. I can’t even understand its meaning. You know that a song is bad when you use words like “dag.” I first thought that On my Mind was about a murderer or something, but then Swoope started to rap about buying stuff. It is so confusing that it annoys me.

TGC 2 (feat. Sho Baraka)

Call this song “Submarine,” because that sonar is righteous. In fact, the entire beat is rocking. The nasty bass, the sharp claps, and the scratches hold their own among the electronic sounds that are laced throughout the song. The occasional dual-layering of vocal tracks in which one track is drastically dropped in pitch creates an effect similar to that created in Eminem’s resurrection in Bad Guy. Swoope’s lyrics are clever and his delivery is on point. TGC 2 is a fantastic track.

I do not hear anything true, good, or creative in this song. I think the song is about sin or something, but, once again, I cannot understand it. I like how Swoope uses the turntables though. They remind me of Linkin Park, which is always a good thing.

#SameTeam (feat. Tedashii, Yaves, Dre Murray, Jgivens, and John Givez)

The “yeah” that rings out throughout the song, at first, seems to be an intentional nod to Jay-Z’s N****s in Paris. As it turns out, the signature “yeah” originates from a 1959 recording of a track titled Baptizing Scene from a compilation called Southern Folk Heritage: Sounds of the South. This inspiration is certainly more fitting for a Christian artist. With the origins of the sample clarified, I can proceed to criticize #SameTeam. Swoope seemed to be aiming for an epic rap collaboration in the same vein as Drake’s Forever, but the whole thing comes across as underwhelming. The passing of the mic isn’t dynamic because the rappers don’t do much once they have the mic in hand. The artists don’t distinguish themselves from one another in such a way that makes the listener eager to hear who is next or contemplate which of the group they identify with the most. The beat does not fluctuate, remaining constant throughout the seven minute track. If a rap artist wants to craft a seven minute song, there must be hills and valleys. Driving on a dirt road for five hours isn’t much of a dynamic experience. #SameTeam was unimpressive.

Anytime you see a # (this is a number sign, or “pound”, not that made-up “hashtag” crap), you know the song is not going to be good. I do not know who these featured people are, but I want them to be quiet. 7 minutes is way too long for #SameTeam. I could not stand listening to this song.

LSD (feat. Christon Gray)

LSD features a beat ideal for the bedroom. The soft instrumentation fits the lyrical content of the song, but the track’s mood sharply contrasts with the edgy atmosphere established by the first few tracks. In addition, the lyrics are weaker than those in previous songs. I personally prefer the darker side of Swoope. LSD, essentially a hip-hop soul track, has an old school vibe that doesn’t sit well with Swoope. His first tracks indicate that he is moving the genre of hip-hop forward, namely Christian hip-hop. I hope that LSD was only a detour on this journey that is Sinema. LSD is not Swoope’s best.

When I first saw the title of this song, I wondered, “How the heck does that go with Christian music?” After listening to the song, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that Swoope is comparing LSD with sin, because both are terrible for you, both are dangerous, and both are addicting. The connection is an interesting one that works really well. Just listen to the song a few times and you will be able to piece together the connection between drugs and sin.

Bow Down (feat. Tragic Hero)

Bow Down is the Christian anthem of the album. While the previous tracks are laced with Christian messages, Bow Down is an all-out praising of Jesus. The chorus’s melody is reminiscent of that of Y2K’s White Wine, an interesting similarity. Still, the lyrics and beat in Bow Down are straightforward. A strong majority of Christian albums that I have listened to suffer from being safe at one point or another. Bow Down is the track on Sinema where Swoope plays it safe.

Yeah, that’s right. Bow down to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ! Kick Satan and any other false God out our life and make way for Jesus! Great job there, Swoope. Way to tell that to people! I like Bow Down for that reason, and I hope you all feel the same way as I do.

Best of Me (feat. Natalie Lauren)

Heck yes. Best of Me is on point. The lyrics, music, and female vocals mesh together to create an uplifting track. The beat is individual, the wordplay is impressive, and the essence of Sinema returns. I had almost forgotten that this record was built as a concept album until the voicemail bit returned at the end of the track. Best of Me’s beat reminds me of that in Atmosphere’s Sunshine. As a whole, this is a song that is ideal for a summer cruise in a convertible. I enjoy this pick-me-up track.

I love the intro to Best of Me. I wish the entire song featured more Natalie in place of Swoope’s rapping, but in the end, I don’t mind the rap because it is very uplifting. It’s true that nobody is perfect and nobody will ever be. For once, I am able to easily pick up a religious connection in one of Swoope’s songs.

Right Side

That bass is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. The sudden explosions that follow the chorus are absolute madness. Swoope could rap about peanut butter sandwiches over this beat and it would sound nasty. It must be noted that the chorus is slightly ridiculous, however, almost verging on Lifestyle-leveled ridiculous, but the bass goes so hard that I find it difficult to care. Bounce to Right Side. Yes, nuns, you may bounce to Right Side. It’s a Christian song. Now that would be a sight to see.

On our right side we have our angels. It is true that we should never let them go. We always need an angel to help us to move on in our lives no matter what happens. I’m not sure if Swoope is referencing angels when he is talking about the right side, but that is how I interpret the lyrics. If the reference is in fact regarding angels, then I like the song.

Beauty and the Beast

As a rap song, Beauty and the Beast is satisfactory, not bad by any means. As a Christian rap song, Beauty and the Beast is fit for the top of the pile. No Christian artist that I have listened to is as bold as Swoope. He doesn’t hold back from discussing real-world issues that plague individuals. His catalog isn’t dominated by worship songs. Worship songs are fine, but they are ideal for church, not for the car. Music that dominates is music that is accessible. I could easily play this song (or this entire CD, for that matter) for a friend and expect him to dig it right away. Beauty and the Beast is a cool song.

Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme? Oh, we aren’t talking about the Disney movie? Beauty and the Beast (the song) talks about lust, and its dangers. What I find interesting is the message of how living a sinful life leads to death. To me, the song tells how lust is a deadly sin, which is why I like Beauty and the Beast. It shows the good and bad side of love.

Before Goodnight

Before Goodnight is riddled with pain. From the screeching sounds to the strained electric noises to the lyrics, Before Goodnight is a release of emotion. The lyrics are fine and the beat is serviceable, but the track doesn’t do much for me. In addition, I’m not a fan of the generic auto tune effect placed on Swoope’s voice. The track ends with Swoope’s girlfriend nagging him to call her back. While this voicemail is obviously a part of the story for the sake of constituting a concept album, it certainly isn’t pleasant. Even if Before Goodnight was a great song (which it isn’t), I wouldn’t opt to listen to it upon knowing that Maya would be roasting me every time I played it. I’m not a fan of Before Goodnight.

Before Goodnight is another song about lust and relationships. We get it by now, Swoope. We know that you are in this troubled relationship and whatnot. You do not have to keep making songs about it like Taylor Swift. I do not like this song because we have heard other songs like it on the record already.

Sin in Me

Clearly the climax of the album, Sin in Me is a cinematic track that brings Swoope’s story to a close. Swoope’s delivery is right on, the beat is strong…and then Swoope gives the listener the middle finger. SPOILER ALERT: It was all a dream! I don’t feel cheated, exactly, because I wasn’t into Swoope’s story like I was into Gladiator. Then again, I feel like I’ve been left hanging. Nonetheless, the climax was effective. The outpour of emotion felt genuine. Sin in Me is gimmicky in its conclusion, but it’s gimmicky in a way that sounds good. A lot of Christian music is gimmicky without sounding good, so I’ll take it.

Sin In Me is a deep song in which the lyrics strongly complement the title of the song. I can just picture Swoope walking through a rainstorm feeling like crap because of all the sins he knows he’s committed. On this track, his sins finally catch up to him, and he realizes all the pain he has caused. Swoope then realizes that he has to ask the Lord for forgiveness for his evil ways to make things better. Sin In Me is my favorite song on the album because it is a deep, dark song that fits my musical taste.

Fix My Heart (feat. Denise Powell and Propaganda)

There we go. The Christian single off of the album. Fix My Heart is light and frothy, an ice cream cone on a summer’s day. Compare it to the heavy-hitting TGC 2 and you will be able to observe the full spectrum of Swoope. Fix My Heart has some nice lyrics and a soft backing track ideal for reflection. The chorus is beautiful, perfect for a worship session. Fix My Heart is a moving song, a perfect way to close Sinema.

We end the album with Fix My Heart, a song incredibly different from the previous track. Swoope knows he is a weak and sinful servant, but rather than giving his life away, Swoope asks God for forgiveness. I noticed that there were a lot of TV show names thrown into this song, which I find really freaking clever. Fix My Heart is the perfect way to end Sinema. After all of the sins that have been committed, Swoope knows to ask God to forgive his sins and to help him to become a better person. That is a great message that I really love.

My Top 3

Sinema

TGC 2 (feat. Sho Baraka)

Best of Me (feat. Natalie Lauren)

Rob’s Top 3

Beauty and the Beast

Sin In Me

Fix My Heart (feat. Denise Powell and Propaganda)

This album was a pleasant surprise. I did not expect Swoope to deliver such an introspective, inventive rap album. His beats are tight, his lyricism is impressive, and the messages in his songs come across as fresh despite the fact that they have been conveyed before. I enjoyed this T-Bone. I recommend it to all who enjoy the Christian genre, as it offers a freshness that the genre so desperately needs.

~Juck

Citizen Cope Album Review: The Clarence Greenwood Recordings (2004)

Leave a comment down below to request an album for me and Robby to review. Any artist, any genre, we’ll give it a chance!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Clarence Greenwood Recordings, Citizen Cope’s second album.

In green is my opinion. I am very familiar with Citizen Cope’s music and background.

In blue is my cousin Robert’s opinion. He has heard some of Citizen Cope’s music before and is excited to take a closer listen to this album.

Nite Becomes Day

This grooving song begins with a piano riff reminiscent of that included in Let the Drummer Kick It, the hit single from Citizen Cope’s debut album. Because of this similarity, Nite Becomes Day is warmly familiar to those who are acquainted with Cope’s work. The way that all of the instruments mesh together to create one big head-bob makes this track an ideal album opener. The fact that Cope is singing thoughtful lyrics on top of the groove is remarkable. Nite Becomes Day is a fantastic track.

Everything in this track just sounds right. I love how Citizen Cope’s bum bah flows from start to finish. His vocals have a rap vibe to them, though he ultimately remains true to a bluesy sound by incorporating piano and simplistic guitar. I get a kind of Stevie Wonder feel from this song, which is by no means a bad thing.

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso is a fascinating track that feels like a full package despite its simplicity. The lyrics are both dark and cryptic, giving the song a healthy dose of intrigue. Because the meaning of the song is up to interpretation, Pablo Picasso is just as much a poem as it is a piece of music. The steady strumming and R&B-styled beat gives the song rhythm that is meant for vibing. I enjoy Pablo Picasso immensely.

I honestly thought this song would be about Picasso. I was wrong. As it turns out, Pablo Picasso is a deep track about a guy who falls in love with a lady on a billboard…I think. It is definitely a strange song. Honestly, it is sad that someone would fall in love with a famous person on a billboard, but I guess there are crazy people like that in the world. Hey, at least he appreciates the beauty of art.

My Way Home

Coming off of Pablo Picasso, My Way Home is a track that doesn’t offer anything interesting. Citizen Cope’s vocals are moreso akin to shouting than to singing. The loud instruments that blare behind Cope muddy the sound of the song, making it a release that stunts the pleasant, easy sound that this album begins with. My Way Home isn’t a song that I often opt to listen to.

My Way Home starts with a quick intro that directly connects to the previous song. I love the chords and the message Citizen Cope delivers with this track. I think he is saying that no matter what the world throws at you, fighting through it will always lead you to the brighter side. My Way Home communicates a powerful message, strengthened by the fact that it is one we all can relate to.

Son’s Gonna Rise (feat. Carlos Santana)

Son’s Gonna Rise is an anthemic track that sounds like a blend between Eminem’s Lose Yourself and Jay-Z’s Heart of the City. Son’s Gonna Rise is a song that was built for speeding down the highway. The lyrics are uplifting, the instrumental is energetic, and the guitar provided by Carlos Santana is raw. Son’s Gonna Rise is rocking.

Wow! Anytime Santana is brought into a song, you can bet it’s going to be good. Son’s Gonna Rise makes me want to get up and dance. The guitar solo is the selling point for me. It just rocks your socks off. I found my self head-bobbing to this track. We need more songs like this in today’s music.

Sideways

Undoubtedly Citizen Cope’s most popular song, Sideways may be the Ain’t No Sunshine of this generation of music. The heartbroken lyrics accented by simple chords, grooving bass, and emotional strings beckon comparison to Bill Withers’ masterpiece. Citizen Cope sings the song with passion that comes across as genuine rather than showy, selling Sideways as a song that comes from the heart. It’s hard not to love Sideways.

Finally, we arrive at a chill song on the Clarence Greenwood Recordings. Once again, Citizen Cope delivers powerful and relatable lyrics. Sideways reminds us to live, laugh, and of course, love!

Penitentiary

Penitentiary is a sinister-sounding song that is driven by a nasty piano-and-organ combo. Picture Dracula playing the piano in his empty mansion as lighting is striking. A weightier song, Penitentiary remains a solid piece of the album.

I love the slow tempo that comes with Penitentiary. It has a nice rhythm to it, as well as some more great lyrics. The lyrics urge you to free your mind and find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Hurricane Waters

Hurricane Waters is a poppy R&B song. The entire song as a single unit is one that isn’t very dynamic. The verses merely float aimlessly, as if they were stranded at sea. (See what I did there)? The chorus is undoubtedly stronger than the verses, but the song still remains monotonous. Instead of progressing, the track sounds as if it is on autopilot. Some could find it boring. I simply find it to be uninspired.

We all know that I love water, but I also love hurricanes and the patterns they make before crashing onto shores. Hurricane Waters is soulful and uplifting. I love the drum beat that stays constant throughout the whole song. 

D’Artagnan’s Theme

If you would ever like to bask in your sorrows while downing a bottle of your preferred liquor, look no further. D’Artagnan’s Theme swells to an overwhelmingly emotional climax when it reaches its chorus, exploding into a cinematic sound that requires a montage with rain, crumpled love letters, and tears. Lots of tears. This song speaks. I dig this track a whole bunch.

Sweet, another chill song! Citizen Cope’s words literally leave me speechless. The guitar and piano pair well together. As I see it, this song is about war and soldiers. I absolutely love D’Artagnan’s Theme!

Bullet and a Target

Hell yes. Bullet and a Target flows like a fresh-flowing river. The strings from Sideways return, adding an emotional layer to Bullet and a Target that culminates with the strong acoustics, grooving drums, and excited clapping. The lyrics are incredibly rhythmic, working in tandem with the fast pace of the music. Bullet and a Target is a song that can amp you up, get your heart beating, and show you one heck of a time.

I get a rap/hip hop vibe from this song. What I love about Bullet and a Target is that the lyrics make sense. They’re not about drugs, sex, or money despite a hip hop feeling. In addition, the instruments sound great together. Bullet and a Target is a great song with an interesting meaning.

Fame

Fame is a chill song that throws together honking horn, sharp organ, easy drumming, and relaxed vocals. The lyrics are straightforward, certainly not as complex as others included on the album. Regardless, Fame is a satisfying song that is exactly as long as it should be, avoiding an overstayed welcome.

I am not a fan of Fame. I am struggling to understand the meaning of this song. The lyrics are weird. For example, Cope mentions Bob Marley. I’m not sure if Marley is simply mentioned for reference or if he is integral to understanding the meaning of the song. Cope also talks about the Irish folklore regarding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Was Cope high or something when he thought of this song?

Deep

Deep is a chill instrumental track. I personally find Awe, an instrumental piece from Cope’s following album, Every Waking Moment, to be more dynamic and more interesting than Deep. Nonetheless, this song is still serviceable. In the case of the Clarence Greenwood Recordings, Citizen Cope says goodbye in a humble way, closing his second album on a quiet note.

We conclude this album with Deep. I do not think any of us expected the album to end with a drum solo. Many may find this track to be stupid or lazy, but I don’t. I always appreciate when a song is solely instrumental. There are plenty of great songs that are only instrumental, from Moby Dick to The Call of Ktulu to YYZ. I would have liked for more sounds to be combined with the drums, but Deep is still a solid song. I would not have made it the last track of the album, though.Thank you, Juck, for exposing me to Citizen Cope. His music is different than what I typically listen to and I love it!

My Top 3

Pablo Picasso

Son’s Gonna Rise

Bullet and a Target

Rob’s Top 3

Son’s Gonna Rise

Sideways

Hurricane Waters

The Clarence Greenwood Recordings is a fantastic collection of songs. Of all of Cope’s albums, this is certainly his most muscular. The grooves are tight, the lyrics are excellent, and the overall sound is pure Cope. This powerful T-Bone is absolutely worth a listen. Pop it in your car and you may find that it’ll remain within the player longer than you expected.

~Juck