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Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys by Morgan Catanzaro

My Propeller

The British alt-rock band Arctic Monkeys have finally released their third album since 2007, titled Humbug, in July of 2009.  The first single of off the album, Crying Lightning, debuted at number 12 on the UK singles Chart; far better than the bands last album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, which had two singles debut in the Top 74 respectively, although all twelve songs from that album landed on the Top 200 Charts.

Humbug takes on a new sound entirely, especially compared to Favourite Worst Nightmare, which was more of a fast-pace record. Humbug demonstrates a slower, almost soulful sound that is Brit-Indie Rock in its entirety.  Arctic Monkeys have already been celebrated as an extremely accomplished and talented group, even though they have only created three full albums and one EP, and have already taken on a risk in their second album by changing around their “sound,” it’s really no wonder that the band would go in such a different direction. And it’s that re-invention and success that got them many compliments (such as being considered equivalent or even better than Oasis and The Strokes by the UK media) and almost as much criticism. There is no doubt, however, that this album will get the band many award nominations and chart hits.

I was pretty disappointed in the music video for their second single, My Propeller. It did live up to their new Indie-Rock sound, but it was extremely boring to watch. The whole video consists of two-toned colors of cream and a dark teal, so the band members were not extremely distinguishable unless you know what instrument they play. The other half of the video, the parts that were not of the band members, are just random things like a girls eyes, lips, random hands, an eagle, etc., but all in that same boring, two-tone color. I wouldn’t recommend wasting time watching the video, but the album itself is definitely worth listening to.

CD Reviews from Morgan-Jessie James, Morningwood and Foreign Cinema

Jessie James
(Self Titled: Jessie James)
Island Def Jam Records

I will only say this one time, and one time only: I am not a country music fan. Granted I have my ‘Guilty Pleasure’ songs, like Honky Tonk Badonkadonk by Trace Adkins, Who’s Your Daddy by Toby Keith, Taylor Swift, and that ever popular Cotton Eyed Joe song (I have yet to learn the dance), but I would much rather keep them off my iPod and on a hard copy disk that I can enjoy in solitude.

Jessie James is country music singer that I would keep on repeat in a CD player, in my room, while in solitude (to save my reputation, of course). She’s got some power country-twanged vocals that remind me of my younger days where I’d jam out with my mom to her Shania Twain CD while we cruised in our ol’ 1992 Pontiac Grand Am. Kickin’ it old school. I do recall seeing James’ music video for her single Wanted on MTV awhile ago, and if I took the time to wait to see who the singer was, and then remember her, she must be something to look out for. So if you like Shania Twain, Gretchen Wilson, and wear Guy Harvey shirts a lot, go pick up Jessie James’ self-titled album now!!

(Diamonds & Studs)
Capitol Records

Everyone has heard the song Nth Degree, right? Well, if you haven’t, then you are seriously living under an anti-pop culture rock. The “Morningwood” concept was sparked by a conversation between the duo Chantal Claret and Pedro Yanowitz at a cocktail party in the Dakota Building on Central Park West, and came up with the name the next morning. After their self-titled album, which dropped in 2006, gave them the cred they needed to continue making sweet music, even after their first album was quite a flop. Diamonds and Studs has more of a rock vibe compared to the ’06 album, and really emphasizes the talent these two have. They create great music together. If you have a chance, take a listen to some of the songs off this album (you can also hear some of their songs in the Sex in the City Movie and the single is the theme song for Daisy of Love!), and then check them out on tour with Jet and Papa Roach this November.

Foreign Cinema
(Non-Synchronous Sounds)
Parallax Sounds

I’m currently struck by sounds that should be in some crazy, dark, overly-artistic intellectual Sundance Film or, at least, in the crazy Donnie Darko sequal S. Darko. Foreign Cinema is comprised of Dave Han, the San Fran singer/guitarist of the band Astral, and contributed bass parts by Natty D, who resides in Goiania, Brazil. Foreign Cinema describes their genre as, “shoegaze, triphop, and dub… balances light and dark, with ethereal warmth and interjected groove to create a romantically dark world…”

Well… interesting description.

Honestly, I don’t know what the genre “shoegaze” is, nor do I know of “triphop” or “dub.” I don’t know how I can even express my opinion on this. Basically, if you watch a lot of weird indie films, or have seen either Donnie Darko or S. Darko, then you’ll understand what I mean by weird. Artistically weird. I can’t say that I like it at all since it confuses, so I’m going to leave with this: If you know those odd genres, like crazy indie films, and like Depeche Mode (They have a cover of one of their songs on this EP) then go ahead and take a whack at it. But if you start seeing giant bunnies that make you do really crazy stuff, like flood your school, than don’t say I didn’t warn you. (If you get the reference, kudos)

CD Reviews by Morgan

16 Frames
Where It Ends
(Verve Music Group)

Here I am, sitting on my bed with my laptop at hand, typing, while the fifth track of 16 Frame’s debut album Where It Ends plays on my iTunes and I’m in love. Of the few CD’s and bands that I’ve happened across randomly, and the even fewer that I’ve written for The Rock Star Stories, I’ve never completely fell in such a deep, compassionate LOVE within the first minute of listening. 16 Frames is an LA based band led by singer and songwriter Steve Sulikowski and are dripping with a classic alternative rock sound that is just amazing. The band itself has already had songs featured on hit primetime television shows like Kyle XY, Private Practice, and the last season finale of the ever popular Cali-based show The Hills. Now, when I first happened upon a picture of the band before I had even listened to their music, I was immediately struck with “Cold War Kids.” The band had only made that first impression because Sulikowski honestly reminds me of the singer of the Cold War Kids, therefore I believed I’d be reviewing a wannabe British rock band but it wasn’t the case at all. It’s just as they described on their website’s bio: “Precisely 35 seconds into the opening track…the clouds part and a monumental chorus breaks through.”

Yeah, that pretty much explains everything.

Vienna Teng
Inland Territory
(Zoe Records / Rounder Records Group)

“Artist: Vienna Teng
Album: Inland Territory
Genre: Unclassifiable”

When I see the genre category “unclassifiable” I generally get a little nervous as to what to expect. Thankfully, Teng’s music is anything but “unclassifiable” in that sense. Vienna Teng is another one of those folksy-pop female singer/songwriters that tend to worm their way into the music scene and are one in a few. She strikes me as a more gospel version of Michelle Branch, since her voice sounds like it belongs in a church service choir. It’s a perfect match for her folk-pop song. Teng, who has several albums and preformed on David Letterman’s Late Night Show, is a California resident who made her way here with her parents from the island nation of Taiwan. Though, as I said in the review of Lisa Hannigan’s single “I Don’t Know,” I’ve never been a huge fan of folksy singer/songwriters, but there’s always and exception to the rule. I’m captivated by her voice, unique lyrics, and her amazing talent at playing the piano. If you love folk-pop singer/songwriters like Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, and Anna Nalick, pick up Vienna Teng’s album and you won’t be disappointed.

Zap Mama
(Heads Up International; Concord Music Group)

I want to write out my opinion of just my first impression of the CD itself before I listen to the music… The cover itself looks harmless enough, but nothing that would interest me in the least. Her name wards me off on its own. And, by looks of it, one of her songs may be… French? (Its title reads: “Non, Non, Non,” or “No, No, No” for those who know nothing of the French language). Okay. Let’s listen…

Bien sûr, le CD est en français!

Well, the SINGER speaks French anyways.

Zap Mama is actually a Walloon, hailing from Brussels, Belgium, and belongs to the afro-beat/pop/jazzy/folk genre. I was pretty excited to hear music in French, since I’m still taking the language and I find it fun to see how much I actually understand, but this was, uh, not what I was expecting. To put it bluntly: No, I do not like it. At all. It’s a bit too… European maybe? There isn’t much I can really say about it. Zap Mama blends together a strange mixture of music that just odd in general and left me thinking, “what is this? And, why is this?… I don’t know.” Listen to this if you like being left with the feeling of not knowing who you are anymore.