This is a big week for us here, as we welcome the onset of autumn. The Killers have released their first album in five years, while Fergie has her first in eleven. We have another album from Canadian songstress Lights, and two post-hardcore bands with new music: Circa Survive and Sleeping with Sirens. Check it all out below, starting with the return of everyone’s favorite Springsteen impersonator:
The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful
This has been a long time coming – the culmination of a long career for Brandon Flowers and company that has produced a total of five albums as well as a rarities record, which by now is much adored by their fans and critics alike. Flowers came into his own on his second solo record, 2015’s The Desired Effect. Before this, especially indicative on the previous solo work, 2010’s Flamingo, he was considered jokingly too much of a Springsteen knockoff. Since then, luckily, Flowers found the right amount to represent his hero, and utliized his own talents to formulate a beautiful collection of albums, each better than the last – starting with the last Killers album, Battle Born. The sound the band has cultivated over the last fifteen years is a blue-collar one, by way of Vegas. The glitz of the strip poured itself all over the first album, and by the time it was clear that Flowers’ fandom of Bruce would color everything after, it was Sam’s Town. Perhaps letting loose his intentions too early, it was only a matter of time before they got it right. Wonderful Wonderful takes off like a shot with a rocket of a song in the titular track, followed quickly by the first single “The Man” which I reviewed favorably enough earlier this year. The Killers certainly aren’t stuck in a “Rut” like the next song suggests, as it continues to climb favorably towards the peak song, “Run for Cover”. Unfortunately, despite the perfection of that Thunder Road sound Flowers has always desired, it stumbles towards the end, with a strange namedrop or two and a bit too much of sentimentality and nostalgia. Then again, wasn’t that what most critics complained about with Bruce?
Key Tracks: Run For Cover / Tyson vs. Douglas / Rut / Out of My Mind
Fergie – Double Dutchess
Upon first listen, I wasn’t a fan of this, the newest record from former Black Eyed Peas vocalist Stacy Ann Ferguson. Turns out I was focusing on the dark spots on an otherwise eclectic album. The bright spots overshadow those bad songs (“Like it Ain’t Nuttin” is obnoxious, “MILF $” is repetetive and uninventive) – as highlights include when she works with others. “Enchante” combines her vocals with a very danceable remix from Axl Jack, while the top song is a collaboration with Nicki Minaj, called “You Already Know”. Fergie has always been divisive to me – I hated BEP’s “My Humps” and at the time derided it as exploitative, but she’s at least grown into utilizing her sexuality for evocation rather than sensationalism. The good news is there are also songs that highlight her operatic voice to its utmost: “Life Goes On” and the endcap “Love Is Pain” take the instrumentals a step back and allow Fergie to showcase her true talent, a melodic range that evokes more emotions that beats ever will.
Key Tracks: You Already Know / Love is Pain / Save it Til Morning
Sleeping with Sirens – Gossip
I was a big fan of the pop-punk era that descended in the early 2000’s alongside bands like Fall Out Boy, Blink-182, Paramore and Panic at the Disco. From there, as the decade ended, a number of bands formed on the back of that movement with a genre called pop-core. No longer so hardcore as bands like Korn, Limp Biskit, but with more of an aesthetic resembling those previous pop-punk groups, these bands like Pierce the Veil, Cloud Nothings and Metz were able to keep the feeling alive. Sincerity while having as much energy as possible was present in the lyrics, yet there was no longer the broken vocals that defined the screamo subset. Here we are almost a decade after the birth of that genre, and one band stands above the rest with their fifth album: Sleeping with Sirens. This collection of highly enjoyable, if not earnest ballads are well worth the money you might drop on them – from namedropping Game of Thronesin “Empire to Ashes” and wishing for time travel in “I Need to Know” there’s still a lovelorn cadence that bolsters Kellin Quinn’s crowing vocals. While I’ve heard from the band sporadically since their debut, I have to admit that this is the finest of their work so far.
Key Tracks: I Need to Know / Legends / Cheers
Lights – Skin&Earth
Much like Sleeping with Sirens, singer-songwriter Valerie Poxleitner was someone I’d overlooked after a sub-par first record. Perhaps I wasn’t into their semi-nouveau sound…I’d hazard a guess that since downbeats were the hallmark of EDM and Skrillex, I didn’t expect much from Lights (same as I thought post-hardcore was a fad unnecessary of review: eg SwS). With Skin&Earth, Lights truly comes into her own, forming an album that truly captivates what I think she’s been going for over the past decade. Songs like “Kicks” showcase the breathy vocals Lights is all about, while providing an energetic instrumental background. Other tracks, like “Giants” trick you into thinking it’s more of the same, but flip the switch on the downbeat at the last minute, slowing it down for the chorus and making you focus on what she has to say. Another thing I didn’t realize is that Skin&Earth is apparently a concept album, one that has a companion comic book – something I can definitely get behind, and will be sure to pick up as soon as I can find it. Suffice it to say, Lights has made something special this time around.
Key Tracks: Savage / Kicks / Skydiving
Circa Survive – The Amulet
Much like Lights’ new album, The Amulet seems to be a concept-bound work, albeit in the same way many post-hardcore bands tend to be. Unlike Sleeping With Sirens, who appear to have branched out on their latest, Circa Survive are content with continuing on via the same old tired sound they’ve gone with over their decade plus on the scene – in fact, continuing from where band members initially came from, forming after leaving such bands as Saosin and This Day Forward. Luckily, these guys know how to play their instruments, so it’s capable background music. Unfortunately the whole thing gets tired after a while and begins to blend together in one long song. Shame, but longtime fans will likely not mind.
Key Tracks: Never Tell a Soul / Flesh and Bone / Tunnel Vision
Next week we’ll head into the fall with a brief review of the summer’s best, as well as new pop records from Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus!