Naked and Famous: Simple Forms
TNAF’s third release builds upon their previous efforts. It may not be groundbreaking and definitely has some of the same, but there are without a doubt some killer dance tracks here that continue to show what these guys are capable of. I’ve always viewed them as a more subdued Passion Pit, less big beats and more melody, while still making people want to dance. “Higher” kicks things off with a monster chorus fit for radio play, and there are hints of other single-worthy tracks buried in here. But overall there is a bit more darkness and emotion here, likely due to lead singers Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith’s breakup that almost ended the band completely. Still plenty of 80’s synth pop aplenty, so worth giving a few spins.
NOFX: First Ditch Effort
NOFX may be considered “over the hill” by punk standards, but have had no hints of slowing down with respect to touring and album releases in the last 10 years. While technically this is the longest gap between albums (4 years), it doesn’t lose any of the classic NOFX sound. These songs are loud and fast, totaling in at 13 tracks in just over 33 minutes. With song titles like “I’m a Transvest-Lite” and “Bye Bye Biopsy Girl,” their only slightly offensive brand of humor is still intact. It also has the most lighthearted dedication to the infamous “Sid and Nancy” I have ever heard. The guys are also not afraid to tackle serious issues, such as in “Happy Father’s Day,” yet this is not as political of a record as some of their releases since the turn of the century, most notably The War On Errorism. It covers more dark and personal issues where Fat Mike reminisces about his past on opening track “Six Years On Dope,” exclaiming “I was a human trash can, shortening my life span.” And there is an incredible tribute to Tony Sly, lead singer of No Use For a Name, who committed suicide in 2012, even after Fat Mike’s own label put out a tribute album that same year. These guys can still craft catchy punk tunes and continue to make fans actually listen to their lyrics, both to chuckle and also reflect on serious subjects like drugs, parents and family, dysfunction in relationships, and the future and current state of our youth.
Lady Gaga: Joanna
I always knew Lady Gaga was an incredibly talented musician. When she first started to dominate the radio waves, I did some internet research and found a few interesting YouTube videos from her past, when she was simply just Stephanie Germanotta, and only had a piano and her beautiful voice on stage. Then a few years later I heard her performances on Howard Stern and again noticed how talented she was. I was waiting for her to pull a John Mayer and move away from pop music and release a much more toned down album, devoid of the high production value and elaborate theatrics. It was my understanding that Joanna would be that album. While there are hints of it in there, specifically with lead single “Million Reasons,” title track “Joanna,” and the last few songs on the deluxe version of the album, I wanted more. I wanted something even more stripped down, almost like an MTV Unplugged performance. While this is definitely a step in the right direction, and I did enjoy about half the songs on the album, it still seems like Gaga has a lot more talent to show, at least in her recorded releases.
Grouplove: Big Mess
Grouplove always seemed like a bunch of kids who, in another life, lived in Haight-Asbury during the summer of 1967. Their debut album, Never Trust a Happy Song, which was a reflection of that, a group of fun, poppy rock songs with a lot of non-sensical lyrics yet very enjoyable to listen to. They’ve kept that sound to some extent, but their follow-up, Spreading Rumors, was a bit all over the place. There were elements of their first album in there but layered with more electronic beats and overall inconsistency. Their newest release, Big Mess, has more in common with their second album than their first. Tracks like “Do You Love Someone”,”Standing in the Sun”, and “Hollywood” all could compliment Happy Song very well. And “Traumatized” has some of the most ambitious guitar work I’ve heard from them. “Cannonball” sounds very much like a Sleigh Bells song, while “Good Morning” would make a great single. Overall not a ton of evolution here, but a solid third release from the band which gives me hope for what’s to come.