Album Review:: Saved | Now, Now

It’s been 6 long years since Now, Now released their emo indie album Threads, that gave us the contagious taste of aggressive strumming and vocals filled with ethereal emotional tension. With years to write and produce the follow up, there comes pressure to deliver the perfect album of originality, newness, and pleasing the masses. Though Now, Now already teased us a year in advance with “SGL” that left us anticipating more. The first single only showed a glimpse of Saved–some slow ease into the departure of the familiar gritty sounds of guitar and the first introductions of an indie pop beat.

It’s not an easy feat to switch music stylings, unless you’re Taylor Swift of course. Though Now, Now saw an opening with Saved. With the introduction of the new softer acoustic tones and upbeat synths, Saved is a more subdued emo that focuses more on moody upbeat melodies. It’s more trendy indie pop. Tracks like “MJ”, which pays tribute to the King of Pop, and “Yours” showcases this new direction with electric melodies at the forefront. Though, not songs you’d want to dance to if you listen closely, which creates a bit of confusion. Instead we enter a new realm of taking serious lyrics of love and creating a new feeling of melancholy around it.

However, the duo behind Now, Now have not completely ditched their emo roots that brought their claim to fame. Dalager’s unique and lazy alto vocals float heavy melancholic lyrics about lovers through songs like “Can’t Help Myself” and “Window.” You’ll find yourself coming to terms with a road trip album with songs like “Drive,” which is a personal favorite of mine. Emotional tension delivers strong in the midst of synths, drum machines, and vocals as smoke in a smoke filled room. We see this in the title track, “Saved,” where as the tempo builds, so does the electric drum beats and echoed vocals. Meanwhile, “AZ” will entice older fans to revisit and unravel the layered vocals of Dalager’s the synth lead guitar solos.

Now, Now delivers a solid album that maybe older fans weren’t expecting, but it gives the band much needed space to shape their own style and fill an cross between of indie pop and emo music that doesn’t overlap often. I hope to take Saved on solo road trip into the horizon one of these days.

Release Date: May 5th, 2018
Rating: 3.5/5
Runtime: ~45 minutes

Track listing:
1. SGL
2. MJ
3. Can’t Help Myself
4. AZ
5. Window
6. Holy Water
7. Yours
8. Saved
9. Knowme
10. Drive
11. Set It Free

Review:: Damage With Care | Moving Units

Moving Units proved to be ahead of their time marrying dance music and punk since 2002; the vocals glorifying this unique union. Now with their fourth album Damage With Care out, the band has found a home with their catchy electronica-like tunes with guitars and drums turning rock shows into dance parties.

It’s a winning formula of indie vocals, EDM, and low-key rock melodies that’s found throughout their latest album that is sure to keep all types of fans coming back for more – whether it’s at Coachella or at an underground club. The album’s opener “Hyatt Girls” kicks off with explosive catchy tunes and the singe of indie-punk energy that is familiar with longtime fans. The song is the highlight that’s able to turn the craziest mosh pit into
the emo kid’s version of a dance party.

The energy mellows down through the rest of the tracks and is heavily influenced by indie-pop notes. The listener is carried into a journey of very similar songs that work together like a story.  Low key synth beats with the shrill thrums of guitar in “War on the Floor” and “Teacher” create consistent beats to keep any beach party going til’ dawn. “Fragile Magic” has a futuristic sound that’s a bit edgier contrary to the name while the album closes with “House of Dolls,” a more disco-like song not signaling the finality but asking for one more time and maybe for another replay.

Moving Units is all about the art of bringing some dance to the rock aspect.  Every song is only one piece of a very solid album begging to be played over and over again.  The melodies on Damage With Care are enough to get your feet moving and head shaking, but the eerie vocals bring an unexpected element that really brings together contrasted interests. It’s hard to pick just any song to single out that shines above the rest.

Release Date: April 8th, 2016
Run Time: ~33 minutes
Rating: 3.5/5

Moving Units.jpg

Track listing:
1. Hyatt Girls
2. Opposite of Rhyming
3. Wishful Thinking
4. American Infantile
5. I Don’t Mind
6. Fragile Magic
7. Going Out
8. War on the Floor
9. Teacher
10. House of Dolls

Review:: The Kids Will Be Fine | Young Rising Sons


They’re young and they are
definitely rising, at least in popularity.
Up-and-coming band Young Risings Sons is keeping to their style of heavy
drum work and creative arrangements. The band’s debut EP, The High, received high praise with hits like “High,” which was
featured in a Pepsi commercial, and “King of the World.”  With their new found success, the band has
refined their latest EP, The Kids Will Be
for a more radio-friendly sound and melancholic lyrics. The five new
tracks definitely feature some highlights, but there is still polishing to do
for the perfect set of songs for their next record.

While Young Rising Sons has the
characteristics of any other alternative band trying to make it big, the unique
vocal arrangements make the quartet stand out from the pack. I have high
appraisal for lead singer Andy Tongren.
The consistency that Tongren carries in his tone melds perfectly with
the acapella-style chorus on tracks like “Somebody” and “F**ked Up.” The
layered vocals stay in the background with Tongren’s voice at the forefront.  This is certainly a different way to approach
a chorus in a rock song.

The EP resembles a sort of bell
curve of energy.  The Kids Will Be Fine starts off with a softer, slower track, but
then jumps into three high energy songs, and then finishes with a soft,
uplifting ending. The first song, “Coming
Home,” is the soft-rock opening which may tempt you from listening to the rest
of the EP.  There is an element missing
which doesn’t really quite hit the mark, but the lyrics delve into a
nostalgic path.  

The second track, “F**ked up,” is the party song that not only
will make you question why you are partying, but also keep you dancing. The track features pretty pessimistic lyrics set to infectious drum
beats and signature gang vocals. The next two tracks, “Flesh and Bones” and “Ghost of Me,” are
the highlights and where the band really nails it in the technical works and
rawness of the words that are sung. The bell curve dips to a perfect spot where
the melody has just enough energy to keep these songs on repeat. “Somebody” wraps the five wraps the EP with a
wistful and slow ending.  

Young Rising Sons takes us through a bit of a roller coaster of
tracks, but it is definitely worth the ride.
The band is trying different things, where some elements work and others
don’t. It’s only a taste of what to expect in their full-length album
and trust me – you’ll want to listen.  

Release Date: October 16th
Run Time: ~18 minutes
Rating: 3.5/5

Track listing:
1) Coming Home
2) F**ked Up
3) Flesh and Bone
4) Ghost of Me
5) Somebody

Written by Zarrin Alam

Zarrin’s Top Songs of 2015

My top 20 consists of songs with more of an optimistic note
with a dash of Halsey. Indie pop and a bit of pop punk was my choice of music
this year, so I’ve listened to artists like Fall Out Boy and Twenty One Pilots
heavily over the past 12 months. However,
The Colourist has blown me away with their indie pop style and light-hearted
vibes. 2015 was a mixture of new things
and nostalgia for me, but a little more hope for 2016. Check out my playlist below!

1. The Kids Aren’t Alright – Fall Out Boy
2. Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots
3. Shut Up and Dance – Walk the Moon
4. Hold Me Down – Halsey
5. I’m Good – The Mowglis
6. T-Shirt Weather – Circa Waves
7. All Over – Cruisr
8. LA Devotee – Panic! At the Disco
9. Cecelia and the Satellite – Andrew McMahon in
the Wilderness
10. R.I.P.
2 My Youth – The Neighbourhood
11. It’s
Alright – Kid Astray
12. Until
You’re Big Enough – Mayday Parade
13. Sound
of a Broken Heart – Jukebox the Ghost
14. Smile
– The Royal Concept
15. When
I’m Away – The Colourist
16. Frail
Love – Cloves
17. Monogamy
– Self
18. Diet
Soda Society – The Maine
19. Ride
– Twenty One Pilots
20. Reflections
– MisterWives

Review:: Pilot Waves | Icarus The Owl


Icarus the Owl first took the pop-punk world with their signature technical style.  After taking the time to refine their music and work with their new label [Blue Swan Records],  the band has released their fourth album, Pilot Waves, which takes on a more clear-cut sound but keeps with their signature instrumental intricacy. The album provides what lead singer Joey Rubenstein calls, “a mental landscape.” The tracks are a mixture of heavy and light songs that maintain Icarus the Owl’s pristine quality, one that keeps the old fans coming back for while inciting newer fans.

Pilot Waves leaves a lasting impression with the eclectic group ranging from a screamo-esque style to softer folk-type elements. Songs like the album opener “The Mad Machine” set a more serious tone, stringing together intense guitar riffs with Rubenstein’s
incredible voice. Though not every song carries such intense notes –  tracks like “Dinosword” and “Werewolf Tea Party (Who Invited Valeria Boone?)” bring out the lighter side and give a more infectious punk feel with tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

For those who aren’t used to the progressive punk sound, you’ll find moments where you are caught off guard by the weaving of unstructured and interestingly arranged vocals.
“Pearls and Blue” provides us with one of these surprise moments. The track starts off with an almost calming effect, but halfway through the song bursts into a charged melody, almost like listening to two different songs.  Rubenstein’s voice knows how to cut through the artistic melodies as most pop-punk singers do, but he provides a level of intricacy that brings together odd time signatures and tempos that many don’t. The track “Peak and Valley Lines” showcases Icarus the Owl’s efforts by masterfully combining layered vocals and light guitar riffs to create a punk orchestra.

Icarus the Owl brings a crisper and more technological-based punk sound on Pilot Waves. While Pilot Waves is more polished than previous albums, there is more of a balance between complex instrumental notes and charged lyrics that really can only be described as a “mental landscape.” Pilot Waves propels Icarus the Owl into the pop-punk world with a refreshing twist though it may take a second to get used to.

Release Date: October 16, 2015
Run Time: ~40 minutes
Rating: 3.5/5

Track listing:
1. The Mad Machine
2. I Am the Delorean
3. Prague, 1842
4. Dinosword
5. Peak and Valley Lines
6. Werewolf Tea Party (Who Invited Valerie Boone?)
7. Skysweeper
8. Pearls and Blue
9. Mantis
10. Pilot Waves

Written by Zarrin Alam

REVIEW: Inside Out | XXI

In an attempt to dismiss the haunting memories that followed their last album, XXI released Inside Out to pave a fresh path for a newer, cleaner sound to their hardcore metal genre. After the death of original vocalist Eric Gentry, the remaining members
of A Feast for Kings regrouped to create XXI, named in tribute to Gentry’s age when he passed. XXI delivers a solid album filled with heartfelt lyrics in tones of progressive screamo music, but Inside Out doesn’t astound as much as it could, playing things a bit safe within the metal core sub-genre.

As the dust around them settles, XXI emerges as a progressive metal band, challenging the gritty textures that come along with other hardcore bands.  XXI carry cleaner vocals
and sleek rock melodies, with the right amount of screamo added in. Tracks like “Alive” and “Misfit” are upbeat, but the pain resonates in new lead vocalist Carson Butcher’s hard-hitting notes.

Inside Out
starts off with two strong tracks that have the biggest impact on the album – “Say It Again” and “Hanging by a Thread.” With hard-hitting melodies, the pair of tracks
provides enough emotion to carry the rest of the ever-melding albums. While most of tracks are consistent and flow together, there are moments where it feels like you are listening to one continuous 30-minute song.   As muddied as it got at times, the album does have surprisingly strong end in “Way You Love Me,” with layered vocals over a slower rock melody to bring things to a close.

The last tracks seem to blend together for a continuous flow of clean cut vocals with the highs and lows of screamo, which at times is pleasant but leaves you craving for a bit more. It’s easy to lose yourself in the tracks, which each individual listener can choose to be a good thing or bad. Inside Out has the makings for a great rock album but there is definitely more of a focus on getting lyrics over perfecting the unique sound to their music.

Release Date: September 18th, 2015
Run Time: ~37 min.
Rating: 3/5
Songs to check out: “Say it Again,” “Alive”

Track listing:
1) Say It Again
2) Hanging by a Thread
3) Counting Me Out
4) Wasn’t Enough
5) All I Want
6) Misfit
7) Cut Me Open
8) Alive
9) Without You
10) Way You Love Me

Written by Zarrin Alam.

Review:: Pretty Speeches | Poema

There’s something about sisters in bands that up the level of coolness, and Poema’s.  Poema’s new EP Pretty Speeches is perfect for those long summer night roadtrips that you will want to start taking after you listen to these five tracks.  Sisters, Elle and
Shealeen Puckett balance their angsty cool pop with a folky twang that keeps you hip and hipster at the same time.

The duo, who hails from Nashville, goes for more pop in Pretty Speeches, which we can hear in tracks “Get to Me” and “Forget You In LA.” The latter has a familiar message of heartbreak, but with mellow vocals and an experimental melody filled with west coast vibes.

However, it’s not the typical pop music you’d expect.  There’s a certain laid-back approach with angsty drawl vocals paired with folky, smooth melodies.  It’s like a combination of 80’s pop with early 2000’s pop.  You can hear edgier laidback vocals in “Enough Messing Around” which has a bit of authority and vengefulness behind the song.

The opening track “Go Away” has a Hawaiian twang that combines effortlessly with lazy-but-not-so lazy vocals. You can also hear a bit of alternative country twang that pay homage to their Nashville home. “Madeline” is a slow and smooth song to end the EP.  The vocals are enchanting that follow a simple and ethereal guitar melody.

Pretty Speeches
sums up what we expect from our perfect summer. They tease us with five songs that have us daydreaming about long cool nights, beach vibes, and endless time to do nothing. Poema manages to capture the essence of cool girl indie pop music in their new EP and leaves you wanting more.

Release Date: July 10th, 2015
Runtime: ~21 minutes
Rating: 4/5
Recommended songs: Go Away, Madeline

Track listing:
1. Go Away
2. Enough Messing Around
3. Get To Me
4. Forget You In LA
5. Madeline


Review:: Strictly Roots | Morgan Heritage


Morgan Heritage aren’t newcomers to the reggae scene, recently releasing their tenth album, Strictly Roots. I’m a beginner when it comes to reggae music, but Morgan Heritage has found a way to bring in new fans while keeping their old ones.  Their easygoing sound combines a mixture of pop elements and traditional reggae style to put a modern twist on the genre.

The title track “Strictly Roots” is the perfect opener for new fans of the genre It’s straightforward in introducing the rest of the album, with its easy beat and layered vocals. “Light It Up” is a listening experience to remind that you that their music is not about the bad times, but instead reggae is about fun and good vibes. Older fans might get a bit confused because Morgan Heritage introduces a more pop sound in their reggae, but they still can appreciate the homage to their roots. “Child of JAH” has remnants of
their traditional reggae style with slight mainstream undertones.  Its lyrics are meaningful and hail to their Jamaican roots.

The tracks continue to feel more and more modern as you listen to the rest of the album.  The reggae style becomes more of a base line for the pop-style vocals.  There’s a mixture of rap, jazz, and layered vocals but the messages behind the songs still invoke positivity and relaxation. “Sunday Morning” is one of those tracks that plays with pop-reggae
infusion – it’s smooth and upbeat while still incorporating pop elements.

Morgan Heritage’s twist on reggae music in Strictly Roots draws a newer fan base that might be more open to exploring the rest of the genre.  While older fans might miss the traditional aspects of the band’s sound, they still hold on to the fact that they are
redefining what the genre could bring to mainstream music.  They’ve already shown what they can do when you mix a wide variety of sounds, and it’s pretty amazing.

Release Date: April 20th, 2015
Runtime: ~50 minutes
Rating: 3.5/5
Check Out: “Child of Jah,” “Celebrate Life”

Track listing:
1) Strictly Roots
2) Child of JAH
3) Light It Up
4) Rise and Fall
5) Perform and Done
6) So Amazing
7) Wanna Be Loved
8) Why Dem Come Around
9) We Are Warriors
10) Put It On Me
11) Sunday Morning
12) Celebrate Life
13) Keep On Jammin

Review:: Unseen | Tayler Buono

While it’s not the extraordinary, Taylor Buono’s new EP Unseen is definitely the breath of fresh air you need from the current state of music. In fact, I feel a bit nostalgic listening to her new EP. It has remnants of music from the early 2000s with its simplicity of
lyrics and melodies.   Unseen has six tracks that can appeal to any age group, especially a younger audience. However, Buono proves to be the rising artist who is still searching for her place in much with her new EP.

Only 20-years old, Taylor Buono comes with a very light and clean cut voice. It’s a voice perfect for songs about love and heartbreak as these six tracks show us. Her songs have a personal touch as draws from her own experiences. Some are about the highs of love like the track “It Only Gets Better”, which aspires the optimistic side of love that most singer/songwriters stay away from. The opening track “Lucky in Love” is very bubbly and makes you feel like you’re jumping on clouds.

Buono also shows a sadder side by opening up about past relationships.  The track “What If It Was” explores a relationship that couldn’t be and is accompanied by piano. She sings us through what could have been, but still keeps hope. Buono paints the picture of a
failing relationship in her title track “Unseen.” Buono showcases herself as the voice for teenagers who, right now, don’t have many singers advocating for them.

On its own, Unseen is simplistic and showcases Taylor Buono’s voice very well. However, with the advent of female singers, Buono might find herself swept up with the others. She might be able to hold her own if she refines the direction she wants to go with a full length album. Unseen has the potential to be something great, especially with Buono’s ability to bring bittersweet emotions come alive with her songs. There’s no clear path of what to expect from a future album.  However, I do know that Taylor Buono brings
back the simpler moments of music.

Release Date: Jan 13th, 2015
Rating: 2.5/5
Runtime: ~22 minutes
Songs to check out: Unseen, What If It Was

Track listing:
1. Lucky In Love
2. Let It Die
3. What If It Was
4. I Like
5. Unseen
6. It’ll Only Get Better

Interview With:: Nick Santino

We recently sat down to chat with Nick Santino about success, playing with Hanson and his latest release, Savannah. We recently reviewed the album, which you can read by clicking here!

You can read the interview below!

The last time we spoke with you was right before you hit the road for the Vans Warped Tour where you played in the Acoustic Basement. Following that, you hit the road again on your own headlining tour, The Long & Winding Roadshow -which is such a great name, by the way. What drives you to constantly tour and hit the road?
I love being on the road. It’s where the songs really come to life and become something special.  I love interacting with all of the people who come out to the shows.  I love it just as much as I love being in the studio making new music.

You previously shared with us that being solo allows you to be more honest and more yourself. What other positives and negatives are there in touring solo compared to touring in a band? How are you adjusting to it?
I enjoy playing solo shows yeah. It gives me a bit of practice to get my stage banter right and to be honest and true to myself as well as the people there.  I love playing with a band for the energy it brings and the over all good time it is.

I think everyone has a different way of defining how and when they make it, whether it’s a radio single or playing sold-out shows.  How do you measure your success? 
I think if you are able to do what makes you happy then that is being successful. If you want a family, a nice house, a good job and you eventually get that and you’re happy, that is success.  I think some people have big dreams and goals and that’s great to have. I just like to set mine a bit lower and gradually work my way up the ladder.

Savannah has a more melancholic theme to it than your previous album Big Skies. How was the writing process different for this EP?  Can we expect more songs like this on your next album?
I went into writing Savannah with the feeling of wanting to do an EP that would fit the season.  Something cold and wintery and I think I accomplished that.  I’m sure I’ll continue to make this kind of music but theres no telling what I’ll write next. I don’t set out to write in a certain genre. I don’t like having rules or guidelines. I let the songs write themselves.

My favorite track off of Savannah is “How to live with a Ghost”.  It’s kind of hauntingly beautiful, just to be punny.  What was your mindset writing this song? 
I wrote this song a year ago and I wanted to put it on Big Skies.  I’m glad I waited til now
because I wasn’t sure how exactly I wanted it to sound.  I think when I was gonna use it on Big Skies I made it more upbeat and had sort of a shuffle to it.  I think it was the best move to wait.  This song has such a strong message and I think it speaks louder with this chilled out vibe it has now

In your song “Rio” you talk about heading out to Mexico, and you happened to go to Mexico to play with Hanson.  Was that strategically planned or just a coincidence?
Just a coincidence .  I had actually never been to Mexico before I wrote that song. I for some reason kept singing the line/melody “We used to go to Mexico” and thought it sounded pretty so I rolled with it..

Speaking of Hanson, how excited were you about playing with them and how was the experience?
They are great.  That whole getaway was great and I hope we can do more things together.  David Ryan Harris was also a part of it and him and I were talking about writing some music together.  Everyone there was amazingly talented and I was honored to be a part of it.

When you’re not writing new songs or playing gigs, what do you like to do during your off-time?
I’m lazy.  I do normal boring people stuff.  Netflix, laundry, cooking, design work.  I try and stay busy. I like taking guitars apart and rebuilding them. Just anything to keep sane.

For more on Nick Santino: Facebook | Twitter