Review:: Halo | Ballyhoo!

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Ballyhoo! epitomize summertime. I mean, they just do. It’s almost unfair how easily this band encapsulates the season.

On their first release following their 5th studio album, Pineapple Grenade, the group enlisted John Feldmann’s proficiency for the forthcoming EP. While it’s only three songs, one of which being a cover, it still does what a Ballyhoo! release should do – it provides music to tap a foot to and sway along with.

“Halo (Beautiful Day)” kickstarts the short EP in playful fashion, calling for a day spent out in the sun. When “No Good” follows, the group’s trademark vibe continues. While neither of the songs seem to make a drastic departure from what we’ve grown to expect from the group, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s a 3-song EP, I’m sure I speak for a lot of people when I say that I didn’t anticipate any enormous stylistic changes.

The cover of Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song” closes out the short record with high energy and does great justice to a Top Ten song. Howi Spangler’s vocals are a good fit to the vibe that Mars’ lyrics provide, while Nick Lucera’s bassline chugs along energetically in spot-on ska-punk/reggae fashion.

Like I said, the Halo EP isn’t a huge game-changing endeavor. But, to be disappointed by that would be unfair. For the better part of nearly twenty years, Ballyhoo! have made a name for themselves by having fun and doing what they love, and their music reflects that philosophy. So while we may be getting more of the same with this handful of songs, is that really so wrong?

Release Date: June 17th, 2014
Rating: 3/5
Run Time: ~10 min.

Tracklist:
01. Halo (Beautiful Day)
02. No Good
03. The Lazy Song (Bruno Mars Cover)


Written by Eric Riley

Review:: The Deep End | iTCH

Following the encouraging reception of his Manifesto EPs, the release of his debut full-length is a crucial step forward for the UK’s iTCH. His time spent fronting the now-deceased ska/punk group The King Blues built him a reputation for his social consciousness and his no-holds-barred attitude, and while he may be performing a new genre, his fierceness and intensity are completely intact.

What makes The Deep End such a triumph is the way it fearlessly takes on its challenges. Each song divides the album into a dozen individual segments which could exist on their own, but still succeed as a whole. The start of each new track brings the start of something totally different, and the pleasant surprises continue throughout.

While his individual efforts are exceptional, the collaborations written here are even grander. On the introductory “Life is Poetry,” producer all-star John Feldmann’s sudden, interjected choruses are the first of many moments that take you by surprise, with Roger Manganelli adding the same clean-vocal contribution to “The Bottom of the Glass” later on. Matisyahu’s part, featured on the wonderfully-playful “Laugh,” makes for perfect anthem for the upcoming summer.

The record’s first single, “Homeless Romantic,” features Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazarra delivering upbeat choruses in between iTCH’s verses about vagrancy and violence. And while the subject matter feels harsh and painful, the two perform it optimistically, dedicating “The grit in your eyes is proof / what don’t break us makes us damaged. / Yeah it’s savage, but fuck it, we manage. / It takes more to make us incapable / we’re invincible, that’s inescapable. / Achieve the unthinkable fast / refuse to be defined by your past. / So let us all stand up and raise your glass / for the homeless romantic.”

Following the dirty, electronic “Like I’m Drugs,” Megan Joy brings a charming female piece to the lighthearted “Another Man,” which leaves iTCH begging and bickering for her attention over a doo-wop dancehall romp.

Even with the large amount of standout tracks here, it took “Not My Revolution” the shortest amount of time to stand out from the rest. BC Jean’s vocal involvements, which include her beautiful chorus or her soaring riffs, are perfect. Meanwhile, the track is one of the few instances where the tempo stays low throughout, with iTCH revealing his demons while still keeping his chin up.

No matter the topics discussed, whether grimy or glamorous, iTCH doesn’t let the overall positivity falter away. Even on his darkest moments here, there’s still light. And that leaves a lasting value that extends further than just catchy music and witty lyricism. Due to his personality or the positivity it brings along with it, or more likely a combination of the two, there’s a certain natural genuineness that he carries into his music, and that’s what puts him onto a new level. He has said that this is the best record that he’s ever released, and with the sort of freedom and creativity that can be heard within each and every second and note, it’s hard to argue.

Release Date: March 25th, 2014
Rating: 4.25/5
Runtime: 43:50

Tracklist:
01. Life Is Poetry (feat. John Feldmann)
02. Sun Goes Down
03. Homeless Romantic (feat. Adam Lazarra)
04. Laugh (feat. Matisyahu)
05. Like I’m Drugs (feat. Dani Artaud)
06. Another Man (feat. Megan Joy)
07. The Bottom Of The Glass (feat. Roger Manganelli)
08. Not My Revolution (feat. BC Jean)
09. The Deep End
10. Children Of The Revolution
11. Best Shot
12. Ricochet


Written by Eric Riley