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Cory T. Shaeffer "HockeyFanatic" RSS Feed (Pittsburgh)

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Kings of Suburbia
Kings of Suburbia
Price: $20.99
35 used & new from $8.04

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Such a Predictable Change in Sound.., October 25, 2014
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This review is from: Kings of Suburbia (Audio CD)
Oh, so many a pop punk band have turned electro-lite that it has become expected. Being away for 5 years is an eternity in the music business, and many of Tokio Hotel's fans have simply moved on. But the most fascinating thing about this band is not how long it's been since their last album, but the fact that almost nobody even noticed they were gone. Most pop punk bands who turn electronic don't experience much success (ask Faber Drive, if they still exist). But still, Tokio Hotel had the audacity to record "Kings of Suburbia," a straight up electro pop album, mixing their old sound with that of Owl City. The annoying auto-tune, which was the only bad thing about their 2009 album "Humanoid," is back with a vengeance on this album, and is perhaps even more prevalent, making this album sound dated the minute you turn it on. There are a few good tracks with hooks, particularly "Love who Loves you Back." But there are moments that are flat out embarrassing too, particularly "Girl Got a Gun," which is one of the worst tracks I have ever heard. The album's closing song steals a melody from a very well known Coldplay song. You'll know which one I'm referring to immediately, assuming you make it that far into the album without turning it off. It's not surprising to see a band that was once so promising go this route and produce such lean returns, considering they had five years to write good songs for this record...but it is nonetheless depressing. 2.5 stars.


Kings & Queens of the Underground
Kings & Queens of the Underground
Price: $10.00
37 used & new from $9.13

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome Back, Old Friend, October 21, 2014
Being that this is only the second proper studio album of all new material released by Billy Idol in the last 21 years, longtime fans will certainly be thrilled to hear new music from him. Back in 2005, following a 12 year gap since 1993's techno-rock filled "Cyberpunk" (which was not a commercial or critical success), he returned with renewed vigor, as "Devil's Playground" was close to a metal album; by far his heaviest offering. He was still in good voice back then, and Steve Stevens was excellent as usual.

Now, over 9 years since that album, arrives his brand new effort, "Kings and Queens of the Underground." It's immediately apparent that his voice has aged somewhat, but it's not entirely a bad thing, as it suits the songs on this record quite well. This is overall a more eclectic mix of the post-punk, new wave pop rock that made him famous in the 1980's. The lead single, "Can't Break Me Down," is so catchy that it will stick with you long after you hear it, and its sound is more modern than the sound of "Devil's Playground."

"Bitter Pill" was co-written by Eric Bazilian of the Hooters, who has written several massive hits for other artists (Joan Osborne's "One of Us," Cyldi Lauper's "Time after Time.") His influence is immediately heard on this song, as Idol almost sounds like a more sinister, British version of Springsteen. Perhaps the finest moment, however, comes on the synth driven track "Save Me Now," which recalls Duran Duran and Simple Minds in all their 80's glory. Of course, the effort is helped a great deal by the production of Trevor Horn. Idol sounds like he is enjoying himself again, so let's hope it's not another decade before he drops us another postcard. 4.5 stars.


Modern Vintage
Modern Vintage
Price: $9.99
52 used & new from $8.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's Modern.....but not Vintage, October 17, 2014
This review is from: Modern Vintage (Audio CD)
It is frequently said of modern rock that it is easy to write and play, since the songs don't need great hooks, great guitar, or good vocals. While that may be a stretch, it is a more simplistic style of music. To the credit of Sixx AM, they do attempt to expand on the tired formula a bit, adding electronic elements into the mix, and on a couple of tracks, even a horn section. Not all the experiments work (witness the album's closing track, the wretched "Before it's Over," one of the worst rock songs I've ever heard), but for the most part, they do.

The band has, however, sacrificed some of it's harder edge in favor for poppier tunes, including an odd techno infused cover of The Cars ballad "Drive." Overall, there are some great tunes here, but one would be hard pressed to say that "Modern Vintage" is a better album than their previous one (2011's "This is Gonna Hurt"). At best, the songs do flow together into a cohesive album, making it a good listen. But this is not metal, and it's certainly nothing even close to Motley Crue in terms of style. At the end of the day, it's just a solid rock album; one that any number of bands could have produced. It's certainly an enjoyable listen, and fans of their previous work will enjoy it for sure.


Everything Will Be Alright In The End
Everything Will Be Alright In The End
Offered by Moonlight Shadow
Price: $11.42
59 used & new from $6.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Weezer Bounces Back in a Big Way, October 16, 2014
The thing about Rivers Cuomo is that he is capable of making a great record at any moment. Without question, he is an excellent songwriter, but the band's work ever since 1996's "Pinkerton" has been inconsistent at best. The Green Album, from 2001, had some great pop songs, but it wasn't on par with the first two records, mostly because Rivers did not stretch his creative abilities enough. The albums that followed (Maladroit, Make Believe, The Red Album, Raditude, and Hurley) each had some great moments, but they were too few and far between.

So hard to believe it's been 18 years since Pinkerton, but Weezer has made, in the opinion of many, their third best album here with EWBAITE. Enlisting the help of producer Ric Okasek again, the band positions itself right between the Blue album and Pinkerton; the sound could be described as a hybrid of the two. Individually, it may not be as spectacular as either of the first two albums, but as a whole product, it stands right with those albums. "Lonely Girl" is without question one of the best songs Rivers has ever wrote. But what makes this album special is the fact that there are no bad songs on it. Every track is crafted marvelously, with excruciating detail. Layers of distorted guitar, mixed with pop hooks and ambient harmonies - this is the Weezer we all fell in love with two decades ago. Everything may or may not be alright in the end, but Weezer is making great music again. Welcome back, Rivers, we've missed you.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 20, 2014 10:52 AM PDT


Sweet Talker [Deluxe Edition]
Sweet Talker [Deluxe Edition]
Price: $15.71
57 used & new from $10.58

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Dull, From Beginning to End, October 16, 2014
Sometimes, an album just stinks. For whatever reason, the sound quality, the mixes, the songwriting, production values, etc, it all just does not work. This album sounds rushed and underdeveloped. This is a shame, because on her first two LP's, she got almost everything right. The best song on here is the massive hit "Bang Bang" featuring NIcki Minaj and Ariana Grande, and while it is entertaining, it is far from a good song. Only fragments of melody, and a chorus that rips off Wham's "Wake me Up Before you Go Go."

Ms. Cornish can certainly sing, but on this album, there is little along the lines of cohesive material for her to wrap her majestic voice around. It all feels like patchwork; an album made by professional songwriters that never really sounds like her own. The uptempo songs have hooks but they don't stick; and the ballads are bland and go nowhere, not surprising considering that one of them was written by Sevyn Streeter. One of the few tolerable tracks on here features Lindsey Stirling on violin, which is an odd fit, and the song was written by The Dream and Tricky Stewart, former hitmakers from a decade ago. This makes the album's opening track "Ain't Been Done" almost a self parody.

It's apparent that Jessie J felt the need to get an album out there and have a hit, as new artists are emerging left and right (Tove Lo, Tinashe, Iggy Azalea, Charli XCX). But rather than offering something for everyone, this album offers nothing to no one. It's frustrating to hear a great voice with nothing to sing; it's even more frustrating to hear the way this album was rushed and patched together. These songs would not even have been b-sides to the tracks on her last album, "Alive," and I'd suggest picking that one up instead.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 22, 2014 7:53 PM PDT


Resurrection
Resurrection
Price: $13.98
44 used & new from $8.50

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pop Punk Resurrected, October 8, 2014
This review is from: Resurrection (Audio CD)
Say what you will about New Found Glory, but this band has become one of the most reliable and consistent acts in all of rock. They stick to their guns on "Resurrection," an appropriate title considering that the sound is almost a throwback to the immediate urgency of their debut a decade and a half ago. The scene has changed a lot in those years, and the lyrics on this album (which are exceptionally well written for a band of this genre) drive that point home.

Before describing the album in detail, it should be noted that back in 2006, NFG released a more mature work which was titled "Coming Home." It received incredible reviews, but its slower sound caused it to be rejected by many NFG fans. So, in 2009 they released "Not Without a Fight," on which they may have over-corrected a bit, turning up the guitars so much that they buried whatever pop hooks were present. Then on 2011's 'Radiosurgery," they focused perhaps a bit too much on pop, meaning they over-corrected again. While both those albums were great, they left fans thinking the band was capable of better. It should be noted that on "Resurrection," the band has delivered, finding the perfect sound to fit them.

"Stories of a Different Kind" will immediately take fans back to the days of their earliest work, whilst on "Stubborn" and "Ready and Willing," the band shows a more mature side without losing their edge. Not a single bad song here either; even the ones that don't take hold right away still sound good. This album is good enough to restore one's faith in sensible, melodic pop/punk. It has enough riffs to keep you on edge, and also the right amount of pop hooks to keep you coming back for more.


Queen of the Clouds
Queen of the Clouds
Price: $10.00
27 used & new from $7.32

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tove Lo's "Queen of the Clouds" is Everything an Electronic Pop Album Should Be, October 7, 2014
This review is from: Queen of the Clouds (Audio CD)
Tove Lo is yet another name in what is seemingly an endless list of female electro pop singers, but what sets her apart is the sheer passion in her vocal delivery, and pristine beats, and the tight songwriting. Tove Lo (who has written hit songs already for several artists including Icona Pop) has mastered the difficult task of creating an album that is sensual without being sappy and boring, sexual without sounding trashy, and pained without sounding overwrought and melodramatic. Tove's songs hit hard and are dancefloor ready, but there is a deeper groove here.

You will not find a better pop song all year than "Timebomb." It's the kind of glorious, hook filled single that other artists of this genre only wish they could make; the type of song that could top the charts foe weeks. The ballad "Not on Drugs" is immediate but at the same time dreamy, with a chorus sweet like sugar that does not wear thin after repeated listens. There's just so many great tunes here, and the bonus track of the deluxe edition "Love Ballad" is ridiculously good and it's a shame it's not on the standard issue of the album. Highly recommended, not a 4 or 4.5 star album, but a true "5."


...The Stories We Could Tell
...The Stories We Could Tell
Price: $11.88
39 used & new from $7.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Big is Still at the Top of their Game, October 1, 2014
Mr. Big always got lumped in with other "hair" bands from the late 80's and early 90's, but the fact is that they never really fit that description. Sure, they are capable and have at times played that style, but for the most part, their sound has always been influenced by classic rock. It's a heavy, driving, mid-tempo sound with the occasional scorcher and the occasional ballad mixed in.

This album is a proper follow up to 2011's excellent comeback album, "What If.." Obviously some reviewers on here disagree, but this may, after repeated listens, be just as good as anything the band has done. They don't break any new ground, but this effort will certainly please their fans and anyone else who likes this style of rock. The band is in fine form as always, and about half the songs take hold with killer hooks. Similar to their last album, there are no bad songs on the record whatsoever; even the less spectacular moments are tolerable. "What If.." was a lot to live up to, but the band proved that they still have a lot of stories to tell, and anyone who listens certainly won't regret it.


Blood & Lemonade
Blood & Lemonade
Price: $10.99
33 used & new from $7.25

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American Hi Fi Drops an Excellent Album out of Nowhere, September 18, 2014
This review is from: Blood & Lemonade (Audio CD)
Pop punk is often criticized for it's simplicity, but then again, American Hi Fi never really were pop punk per se. They were lumped in with bands such as Blink 198 and Sum 41, wrongfully so, but all along these guys have been more of a power pop band. That is never more evident on their latest release, "Blood and Lemonade," which is actually not a good album, but a great album.

All the way back in early 2001 (cannot believe it's been a decade and a half ago!!) these guys had a radio hit called "Flavor of the Weak." Since then, they have released albums sporadically, and scored a minor hit back in 2005 with "Geeks get the Girl." Since then, several of the band members tour with Miley Cyrus as members of her band, and they sporadically have released 2 albums in the past 9 years, the other being 2010's uneven "Fight the Frequency." While "Frequency" was more pop punk sounding (aside from a ballad which sounded curiously like Oasis), this album finds the band more mature, and cranking up the guitars. This new mature heavy sound has made the band sound similar to late 70's Cheap Trick, and it has resulted in one of the best power pop albums of the year. The song titles are short, often one or two words, the melodies simple but very tight and catchy, and the band seems to genuinely be having fun here. Do yourself a favor and pick this album up if you are a fan of catchy power pop that hits hard but in a fun and catchy summer day kind of way.


Strange Desire
Strange Desire
Price: $7.99
69 used & new from $1.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Pop Album with Substance, September 18, 2014
This review is from: Strange Desire (Audio CD)
Perhaps the best compliment one could give a writer (and performer) of pop-rock music is that the songs are sugary sweet, stick in your head, but don't wear think with repeated listens. This album is a throwback to mostly the synth pop era of the 1980's, but Bleachers ups the ante by adding in poignant lyrics, a driving bass line, and lively instrumental performances, making this a moderately hard hitting pop album, assuming such a thing does exist.

Finally, a pop album that an intellectual listener can appreciate. This album has more "teeth" than other pop releases by current bands. Witness the driving synths of "Rollercoaster," which recalls, as one reviewer put it, "Depeche-Springsteen." The ballad "Reckless Love" flows beautifully, while "Like a River Runs" recalls Rattle and Hum era U2.

But what truly pushes this album across the goal line is that there is not a bad song on here; aside from a guest appearance by Yoko Ono, everything is cohesive and consistent. So many people have tried to duplicate this sound and have failed to do so effectively, but Bleachers manages to pull it off in grand fashion.


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