As the feel good heat of the Western Hemisphere summer nears and approaches arts patrons the world over, so it seems a brand new sorcerous episodic ARM segment touching down on a gauntlet of unrelated and loose singles accompanied by rapid (vapid?), forthright, passionate, and gate-kept opinions. It is a jolly and momentous round up of enthusing one-off, lead, and follow-up records alike—in some cases anticipating a pre-announced full album release, whilst in others simply dangling the pendulum of disparate speculation and excitement for more to come in front of thirsty music pundits’ noses. A few of these are long-awaited, highly-anticipated returns to form, others flat out surprise drops, all with the addition of a perhaps once unthinkable crossover no one really asked for, yet in twenty-twenty (surgery) hindsight of its release genuinely asserting its rhyme and reason.

Philadelphia-native and 2000s lo-fi indie royalty Alex G does truly appear to be back on his dragged feet as of late, following almost three years of near noble silence since offering the mystical, God-forsaken, and form-less art pop exploit House of Sugar—a quasi-benchmarking essay in late stage capitalism’s induction to morph purposeful noise and tender melody in a hodgepodge of feels. Mere months ago, the 29-year-old Domino Recording Company talent showed up and delivered on the unlikely role of principal scorer for Jane Schoenbrun’s coming-of-age horror drama We’re All Going to the World’s Fair soundtrack. The Utopia-distributed, Sundance Film Festival-premiered feature-length film comes through attached to a glowing, foreboding, and glacial 13-track OST album, wholly curated by Alex G. Such an extra-curricular outing by the normally insular and elusive singer/songwriter features both a “Main Theme” opener and an “End Song” coda reprising the motion picture’s primary musical and lyrical undercurrent. Both manage to effortlessly gallop alongside the frail and cathartic razor’s edge courtesy of the Frank Ocean-protégé’s trademark musical ethos. Bone-less bendings leaning from the edge of gloomy bedroom pop leakages atop of a self-deprecating throne. Pure, raw, and untouched Alex G canon.

Perhaps more relevantly, just weeks after the release of said full OST project, the six-string troubadour saw fit to also dish out what for all intents and purposes oughta be considered the first real lead single from his yet to be announced forthcoming ninth studio album cycle. Unveiled officially on 23rd May, “Blessing“‘s three minutes and change of uncut 90s alt-rock-borrowed distortion, mixed with a tight straightforward rhythm section, comes and goes as a flickering tide of melting sonic verses and intelligently woven counterpoint melodies—delivered in a suspiciously forlorn beck-and-call whispering mode that results ever so out of place vis-a-vis the balls to the wall synth layering earmarking the cut’s post-chorus, or outro. Deceivingly enough though, the singular tune wonderfully sticks its experimental landing, and actually proves to render itself more and more memorable with time, unfolding ounces of sticky and addictive replay value with each listen: it’s esprit d’escalier galore if there ever was one.

Meanwhile, Lord Pretty Flacko himself blessed the mainstream hip-hop lore with the comeback hit single “D.M.B.” (aka DAT$ MAH B!*$H) earlier in May—a hallucinating chopped-and-screwed tape-mounting experience masquerading as his very personal joie de vivre ode to both narcotics and women, to be understood as fitting marijuana and Rihanna’s descriptions. The experimental number was first teased online as part of an advertisement for disgraced Swedish fintech company Klarna as far back as summer last year, and is slated to be appearing on A$AP Rocky’s speculative and crowdsourcedly-named forthcoming fourth studio album, ALL $MILES. Sonically, the RCA Records-earmarked song is a warped and invertebrate psychedelic rap cloud of multi-layered overdubs, spanning viscous samples, a sweet and endearing electric guitar lick, as well as an expansive and spastic drum machine syncopation—sporting the joint venture trademark production of a slew of co-signs including grime heavyweight Skepta and D33J.

Soaked and buttered in many of the stylistic aesthetic inklings prevalent on his formidable last major project Testing—coasting through everything from sly vocal manipulation to phasers set to stun—”D.M.B.” reveres in a ridiculously elliptical and hivemind hook (“Roll my blunt, fill my cup, be my bitch / Hold my gun, load it up, count my slugs / Yeah, they don’t know nothin’ / Roll my blunt, be my bitch / They don’t know nothin’) and rises above the fray by way of the endulced, serenading, and heavenly bridge kicking in 2:40 minutes into the track: “Baby / It’s been a little time since we both / Felt full since our first encounter / And baby / Don’t let another n**** try my baby / Girl you know I’m one call away / It’s nothin’ / And baby / My angel and my Goddess, when my head get clouded / You’re my soulmate, my Goddess / And baby / Took a little time in a gray place / For nothing, nothing“.

Elsewhere, it is a bona fide meeting of the underground hip-hop minds the one that finds 44-year old musician, songwriter and record producer Danger Mouse sculpt modularly poignant tapestries of soulful spine-bending backtrack beats for the unparalleled and envelope-pushing wordsmithing craft of The Roots’ mainstay MC Black Thought. Cheat Codes, the brand new back-to-back collaborative LP set for release at the tail end of summer, sees its anticipatory lead up campaign already in full steam mode inasmuch as two abstract and elusive teasers unveiled ahead of its full street date on 12th August. “No Gold Teeth”’s cleverly laced, dramatically sensual samples paved the promotional way with a somewhat soft surprise drop in early May, piercing through with Black Thought’s both life-affirming and tongue-in-cheek sixteens alike. Lending a substantial urgency to every verse, the joint ushers into gangster territory in a ‘heat of the moment’ fashion, hitting a runtime cul-de-sac before one quite wishes to realise, despite its formal two minutes and a half of clockwork.

A few months later—and sequenced right after the aforementioned dental blonde on the full length’s tracklist—the dusty and rough-around-the-edges stream of posse consciousness inertia encapsulated by “Because” significantly upped the realness ante. Trading fierce and inflammatory flows navigating through a smokey, cavernicolous, and woody production whilst periodically getting re-centered by Dylan Cartlidge’s affable refrain, Philadelphia-native Tariq Luqmaan Trotter, Joey Bada$$, and Russ get (listeners) in meticulous line and build upon each other’s pamphlet of maximes and truisms about notions of survival of the blackest/fittest as well as success’ fatalist nature. With such additional guests poised to be featured on Cheat Codes‘ remaining joints as the above A$AP Mob leader Rocky, the late MF DOOM, as well as A-list rap collective spinoffs like Run the Jewels and Griselda Records’s very own Conway the Machine, it’s safe to say that the anticipation is running high for what might well turn out to be one of the most essential hip-hop listens of the year.

Lastly, there are so many ways in which a Taking Back Sunday and Steve Aoki collaboration could have gone terribly, irreparably wrong in 2022. Out of the myriad of parallel universes that cohabitate our existence, it’s both baffling and flabbergasting that the one graced by our very own human sentient presence would have been the one to gestate it. And to think that it’s not that TBS were scraping their creative barrel out of content saturation anxiety as of late. On the contrary; aside from questionable band anniversary bundles, throwaway acoustic B-sides left on the cutting room floor, a legitimate Weezer cover song, as well as the upteenth reissue of their modern emo classic Tell All Your Friends, the Long Island alt rock veterans have essentially kept quiet and passive for nearly seven years since the straight up no frills alt rock of Tidal Wave. During that time, really nothing much to report—absent the regrettable departure of founding member and rhythm guitarist Eddie Reyes in 2018, their cutting ties with California-based indie Hopeless Records, as well that Fuckin Whatever side supergroup project. Hence why, the improbable outfit pairing between John Nolan, Adam Lazzara, Mark O’Connell, Shaun Cooper and the 44-year old American DJ, record producer, and Dim Mak record executive strikes as all the more haphazard.

Yet amazingly so, the riveting musical joint venture revealed around a week ago on “Just Us Two” panned out strong and convincing throughout. Thankfully, the one-off collab follows admittedly more of a third act Taking Back Sunday trademark formula with the sparkled addition of peppered Aoki flairs on top of it, rather than the other way around. This manifests primarily in the form of the DJ’s bouncy, elastic, and spacious synths playing second fiddle in accompany mode to the odd 6/8 song’s principal edgy refrain (“I remember the way that it felt / I remember the way that it felt / Watched the sun go down / Sitting on your roof / And the air was thick / Yeah our heads were too / Watched the sun come up / Sitting on your roof / Yeah, the air was thick / It was just us two“), as well as the anthemic and triumphant post-chorus group chants. However, one can’t help but feeling like it’s giant shame lost on our zeitgeist’s ears, for if it weren’t for today’s jeopardising goldfish memory span, the latter are made of the stuff that could define a generation: “These are the days / Always remember / These are the days / Always forever“.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.




2022, Domino Recording



2022, RCA Records



2022, BMG Rights Management



2022, Dim Mak Records


BIG WHATEVER | 2021-05-02

By the looks of it, this next one ahead of us is set to be a kaleidoscopic and densely chromatic summer. At the very least, as far as our musical forecast is concerned. You ask both alt-psych rock supergroup Fuckin Whatever and singer/songwriter Ryan Adams. Amidst recent notable music unveilings, including but not limited to Sir Paul McCartney, The Offspring, and The Blossom, it has emerged that the self-billed “Beach Boys for the nihilist TikTok generation” as well as the Pax Americana Recording Company-founder both saw fit to time the release of their respective highly anticipated forthcoming projects within a week-span from one another, dating early June. Incidentally, both the Taking Back Sunday, Circa Survive, and Grouplove-distilled quartet—composed of selected key members from each of the aforementioned original outfits and responding to a somewhat questionable name—and the American heartland rocker opted for an artistic inclination veered to design and portray their soon-to-be-unwrapped sonic tapestries through tints and tinges aplenty.

Counting Circa Survive’s and Saosin’s Anthony Green, Taking Back Sunday‘s Adam Lazzara and John Nolan, as well as additional percussion from Benjamin Homola of Grouplove amongst its ranks, Fuckin Whatever is a postmodern and analogue side-project gestated throughout longstanding kinships minted as part of the alternative/emo rock scene over the past two decades. The group’s debut self-titled five-cut extended play is out on 4th June on Philadelphia-based boutique imprint Born Losers Records, and features zero—yes, zero—electric or amplified instruments on tape. Co-frontman and Taking Back Sunday vocalist Lazzara clarifies how the record is instead made up of “[…] pretty much 80% mouth noises and 20% Ben slapping things around the house”, hence banking on rudimentary a cappella arrangements and visceral percussive rhythms to paint collective mental and spiritual landscapes made of rainbow-shaded rays and holographic skies.

It thus probably comes as no surprise that all three teasers dropped in anticipation to the full mind-bending gesamtkunstwerk dabble in pretty strong abstract, deconstructed, and psychedelic territory. This is perhaps best exemplified by their trippy and hallucinating lead single “Trash“—revealed to the public under purposefully elusive and mysterious circumstances in early February as part of a decisively understated roll out. Facts started to become clearer around the drop of the band’s second preview cut, coming by way of the funkier and more immediate groove-pop of “I’m Waiting On You“, about a month later. Fastforward to just weeks ago, the rather hippie and free-experimentation quartet—whose inception can be traced as far back as a remote USA parking lot during the 2016 Taste of Chaos tour—released what is poised to be the final taster before the full collection of tracks sees the multicoloured light of day: “Original Sin“. The record also marks the rated-R outfit’s official debut on licensed digital outlets (their first two songs were only made available through DIY platform Bandcamp in alignment to its Bandcamp Fridays initiative), showcasing an even more heightened songwriting sensibility in the guise of arguably the stickiest tune of the three.

On his part, former Whiskeytown-frontman and alt-rock prodigy Ryan Adams seems to have chosen to stick to dropping the reported trilogy of full length LPs he initially announced back in 2019 after all, albeit with a re-tooled roll out sequence. The first in the series, the unplugged-affine Wednesdays, whilst initially slated to be the second one after Big Colors, was actually already surprise-released this past December as the first instalment. Big Colors on the other hand, which was supposed to inaugurate the triplet body of work two years ago, has now officially been recycled and repurposed as what appears to be the principal creative statement of intent for the 46-year old poet, scheduled as second chapter with a worldwide street date pencilled in for 11th June (a third and final double album titled Chris is reported to drop later in the year). Clocking in at just below forty minutes of runtime and spanning twelve cuts in total, the project is shy of three songs that were initially announced to be sequenced on Big Colors when Adams first announced the saga (two of which, “Dreaming You Backwards” and “I’m Sorry and I Love You“, ended up making the cut on Wednesdays, which in turn saw its own tracklisting shrink from the original seventeen to just eleven).

On 23rd April, the hypnotic and ethereal “Do Not Disturb” got lifted from its second tracklisting position and used as first single off the upcoming studio full length by Adams and Pax Am. Standing as the eighteenth solo LP from the singer, the record is fiercely shaping up to employ a host of hazy, sun-soaked, and hollow color schemes in order to refract its outgoing tinctures through the lighthouse it was meant to act as in the first place. In the words of Ryan himself:

Big Colors is the soundtrack to a movie from 1984 that exists only in my soul. It’s a cliché inside a watercolor painting of neon blue smoke rising up off summer streets in the night.

It’s the most New York California album I could cut loose from my musical soul, and for me as both a guitar player and songwriter, this is the zenith point dream time.

While I won’t be able to match this album for its depth and broad color forms in the future, this is the sound of my soul and a door to a place I’ll be returning to again.

The treasures in our past are the shamanic visions of the future when the destination is dream zone 3000. This is that.

I’m only dreaming in Big Colors now.

The above excerpt is clearly paining a broad illustrative brush, though one can’t but rejoice over the blissful electric alignment of summer pigments and tones that both Big Colors and Fuckin Whatever are presently affording us to worship and adore. A radiant, glowing, and iridescent portal through which, all of a sudden, tracking the right mapping to one’s life wholesomeness does not seem too arduous and impenetrable anymore. These are budding creative fragments teaching us that colouring outside the lines is a purpose’s ultimate defiance—the only heightened and levitating cosmic field where black and white are declassed to archaic ends of a continuously superseded dialectic spectrum of movement, light, and electromagnetism. One that, instead, embraces the ultraviolet and the infrared as its lowest common denominators, and transfuses a brave new proto-sphere made of decaying palm trees, dour neon signs, and ephemeral sunsets culminating into a… big whatever one wants it to be.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.



Yes indeed. It’s true. I was going to entitle this written prose Two Decades Under The Influence, or a similar derivative, toying with the idea of sliding in an intended fan-verified pun, recycling and distorting the title of one of Taking Back Sunday’s most distinguished and memorable cuts repurposing it for recounting the bells and whistles of the New York outfit’s celebrations of twenty years as a rock band. Yet, after stumbling upon one review after another from media outlets and publications on the Interweb employing exactly said double entendre, I profusely discarded the embryonal idea, letting it symbolically escape out of my conceptual editorial window. Don’t get me wrong here, it’s a brilliant and funny witty little joke that addresses and presumably pleases both long-time avid supporters as well as occasional in-n-out “fast-food” listeners of the group, but hey, enough is enough and we all know that even a delicious tomato soup meal can become nauseatingly redundant if repeatedly served every single day. Notwithstanding the above, however, there should at this point be an important content disclaimer for the whole entire esteemed readership willing and wanting to continue progressing with a perusal of the present blogpost; this owned and operated body of text deals with the most influential band on yours truly, a band that started it all for this site – one that even named this web property, for Christ’s sake – and a group whose compositions and performances have even made it onto my very epidermis and heart, straight as an arrow, multiple times.

What one should take away from such an eloquent and explicit warning, I figure, is that a miscellaneous semiotic salad of insider knowledge, pre-existing notions, double entendres, puns, and subtle wordplay references are to be abundantly expected throughout this creative appraisal. For better or worse, whether we like it or not, I can’t help it and you can’t either. It all starts with the title appointment of this post ending up being Twenty-Twenty Surgery, partly honouring a much overlooked and under-appreciated track off Taking Back Sunday’s biggest and most successful album, Louder Now, but mainly inherently implying a birthday wish to the band for as many more years of thriving artistry as the ones they’ve just left behind them. Anyway, I guess this is the final call to provide you all with the newsflash component of this update, before we get irreconcilably lost in digressive by-topical rabbit holes. Yesterday, Friday 11th January 2019, was a majestically important day for Taking Back Sunday. Yesterday, the alternative rockers officially released their fabulous career-retrospective 21-track compilation, dubbed Twenty for the occasion. The LP aims at celebrating and cherishing their best work over a long and accomplished journey as a band, that started at some point back in 1999. This 20th anniversary collection of tracks features shortlisted best-of cuts off all of their seven studio albums, starting from their 2002 seminal and trailblazing angsty emo debut Tell All Your Friends coming all the way to their most recent solid rocker LP Tidal Wave, dropped in 2016 to decent critical acclaim.

What’s gnarly about this compilation is that Taking Back Sunday actually included two brand new songs in it, both written and recorded just after the start of their last tour in support of Tidal Wave a few years ago. The first of two numbers, “All Ready To Go“, doubles as de facto promotional single for the wider release, and sounds very much like a big, dense, stomping amalgamation of all the differently related arena rock sounds the band has been flirting with ever since their 2010 reunion with the original formation, involving founding members John Nolan on guitars and Shaun Cooper on bass (although, to be honest, the track’s sound aesthetics lean more skewedly towards Happiness Is and Tidal Wave, than their 2011 come-back eponymous release). “All Ready To Go” kicks in heavily with a signature Mark O’Connell drum fill beat and a bouquet of water-falling guitars, before making space for a calmer and fuzzy bass-driven verse, flowing into a grand and potent chorus in which lead singer Adam Lazzara warningly shouts “I was livid and you weren’t listening / It didn’t matter cause you were leaving / You were all ready to go / You were all ready to go / You were all ready to go / Already gone“, perhaps uncannily alluding at the recent bittersweet departure of other founding long-time member and rhythm guitarist, Eddie Reyes. Nonetheless, it’s on the second exclusive new track, “A Song For Dan”, that the group seriously sets their artistic phasers to stun, with a sensational and heartfelt piano-led song discussing survival’s guilt and weaving in both an epic structural crescendo and an overall dramatically outstanding vocal performance by Adam:

To switch it up from such a melancholically somber spot, here’s a little piece of trivia for you all: it turns out it was drummer Mark who actually started it all for the track, coming up with the initial rough melodic draft as well as the overarching thematic subject matter the song ended up encapsulating: “You’re too far gone / To know where it goes / And I know you’re not coming home / Done too much wrong to know what’s right / And it’s too late to say goodbye“. Albeit perhaps surprisingly to some, those familiar with the Long Island emo veterans should know that Mark is not new to coming up with excellent and beautiful “early-days” riffs, licks, and motives that provided the backbone foundation for some of Taking Back Sunday’s most convincing and solid songs in their entire discography, such as the punk-rock stunner “Tidal Wave” or the gorgeously dark, vintage, sunburnt gem “This Is All Now“. Maybe it isn’t that surprising after all, that for a seasoned twenty-year-old band, who during the course of its life went through multiple incarnations, transformations, and line-ups – including charismatic scene veterans such as Jesse Lacey, Fred Mascherino, and Eddie Reyes – the longest serving member to date would be that best equipped to faithfully originate and translate the group’s zeitgeist into a sonic consensus that can still speak and resonate in such a captivating way with the audience. A special mention here is also due for frontman Adam – incidentally the other longest active member in the band – who after ramping up on his sound engineering and production knowledge by attending a specific programme on the subject during his spare time, saw fit to double as sound engineer for said two new tracks, saving the quarter a substantial amount of money and awkward producer-artist conversations in the studio.

Obviously, Taking Back Sunday is bringing the whole celebratory shebang on a global album-play tour, whereby for most legs of the live run faith and fortune will decide which combination of their first three albums (Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want To Be, Louder Now) the group is going to perform in full when and in which city. Which brings up a good point, frankly an unavoidable one whenever best-of compilations come into play; namely the quality and nature of the actual shortlist of songs that made the cut for the retrospective musical statement. So, let us get this right: Twenty, despite its name, actually sports twenty-one songs, two of which are the brand new tracks we just went through above. That leaves us with nineteen repertoire songs, split between seven full length albums to choose from. A quick skim through the tracklist reveals how some records (Louder Now, with four tracks) are more represented than others (New Again, self-titled, and Happiness Is only provide two tracks to the compilation). Which is obviously fine and, truth be told, pretty legit and in line with the mainstream fans’ appreciative leitmotiv over the years, let alone the actual commercial success of some of those albums. However, there is one big elephant in the room that oughta be addressed at this stage, since we’re looking back at the whole artistic evolutionary arch of the group: New Again. The album that no one seems to enjoy and fully appreciate, fans and band alike. A personal favourite, but whose recording sessions in the studio were rumoured to be among the hardest and toughest the band ever had, with newbie lead guitarist Matt Fazzi acting as the wild card/odd man out and the unpleasant blather heard sneaking through the grapevine alleging that all of Eddie Reyes’ guitar parts got secretly re-recorded, unbeknownst to most in the camp at the time. New Again was the studio effort supposed to follow the world-wide stirring exceptional success and excellence of Louder Now, only failing miserably both in terms of fans/critical reception and sales.

Look, I always have and forever will carry a ginormous soft spot filled with admiration and adulation for the 2009 LP (read: New Again, for the fast foodies). As far as a full album-listening experience goes, its curated sonic roughness, compositional resilience, patchwork of odd experimental time signatures, aggression of crunchy delivery, sublime guitar/bass work, and lyrical baggage, simply speak to me on a higher level than any other work outputted by the band, full stop. With that being said, I do believe that there are overall better individual songs found elsewhere in the New York outfit’s catalogue. Case in point, Where You Want To Be’s “A Decade Under The Influence“, “This Photograph Is Proof“, or “One-Eighty By Summer“. Still, to me New Again as a full length remains watertight, bullet-proof, and coherently unified from start to finish. Don’t @ on this one, as you wouldn’t even be reading these very lines on this very site if it weren’t the case. Yet all things considered, if Twenty as a collection of tracks walks like a duck, it should quack like a duck, and it is therefore only fair and compliant it faithfully reflects the band’s premiere musical output over the past twenty years in form of a best-of mixtape, in a relatively objective fashion and with the greater mass audience good in mind. With all this said and done: Dear Adam, John, Shaun, and Mark, here’s to another twenty years of marvellous career and success, continuing on your prime path of mending broken hearts, helping us decode relatable life experiences, enlightening darker times. But perhaps more importantly, here’s to maintaining a twenty-twenty vision on your mission to providing warmth and comfort to a myriad of scattered yet unified fans around the globe by way of goddamn good rock and roll tunes. We’re the lucky ones. 152.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time. And happiest 20th birthday to Taking Back Sunday this time around.




Hello there y’all. I’ve probably never been more distracted when drafting an ARM blogpost before and this really does come as a warning. I’m in the middle of moving house and country of residence, lord Ryan Adams just dropped a thunderous and tenacious collection of 19 (!) B-sides to his recent, critically acclaimed, and ARM-grilled album Prisoner and, last but definitely not least, Californian soul-punk outfit letlive. split indefinitely two days ago to my overwhelmingly unpleasant surprise. Yet, I really want to gift my musical impressions to the world as well in regards to San Pedro, CA-based indie legends Cold War Kids’ highly anticipated sixth studio album LA Divine, which came out early last month on Friday 7th April.

However, before I dig into the main bit of this piece, I feel I owe letlive. a short, impromptu obituary that will hopefully help demonstrate my love and affection for the band and, most of anything, the impact they’ve had on me. As I spotted their official goodbye statement a couple days ago on my social media feed it was one of those moments where the first thing you do is rub your eyes and re-read the whole thing, just to double- or even triple check that you really saw what you saw. I guess I’ve been quite lucky and fortunate in my musical fandom life so far as I almost never had to go through such a frightening realisation for the bands I love most and I will never betray or forget. Whilst it’s true that Nirvana and The Police, arguably my top favourite musical representations of all time, were actually already defunct and no more by the time I even started getting into them, other major artistic and incredible living influences on me such as Taking Back Sunday, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam or even Blink-182 are all still rocking stronger than ever. Yet letlive., who became an immense part of my life and world-perception around 7 years ago and have gone on deeply affecting me ever since, really feel like the first true, real-time musical abandonment in my life.

Letlive.’s music, energy, devotion, and lyrics all felt to me more urgent and necessary than almost anything else out there, whilst their profound carefulness for longstanding racial and social issues served as endless inspiration to say the least. Moreover, experiencing the Los Angeles-based post-hardcore band live in concert was a whole universe and life-changing occasion of its own, as I humbly tried to account for in this note. Losing them as a musical outfit is an irreplaceable loss not only for my very own artistic spectrum but for the wider alternative and counter-reacting scene as well, as possibly now more than ever the world and music would have needed their protesting rage, insurgent rebellious nature, and willingness to fight back against the establishment. With this I’d just want to thank them for having existed and wish all of the members’ very well in this hard but apparently necessary decision.

II. 2002 – 20XX. F O R E V E R Soul Punx. II._Forever

Back to our regularly scheduled programme, namely Cold War Kids’ latest 14-track effort LA Divine. I kind of have this theory where I think no good and superior art critic should ever review the same artist twice, as I feel doing so would detach them too much from that necessary fresh outlook that tends to kick in when someone is reviewing something for the first time, ultimately swallowing the critic into a subjective, self-reflecting and precedent-leaning rabbit hole that at the end of the day doesn’t benefit anyone. Thus, since I’m not a good and superior art critic myself, I feel ready to blindly omit the fact that almost exactly two years ago I already wrote – rather negatively – about Cold War Kids’ previous record Hold My Home.

The pre-release promotion for LA Divine was a rather ambitious one, with as much as four singles with correspondent music videos released in anticipation of the 44-minute long full-length effort. Incidentally, the San Pedro-native five piece decided to gradually release all first four songs on the tracklist in chronological order, paving the way with sparky and energetic lead single “Love is Mystical” on 2nd February, followed shortly after by the introspective and slower “Can We Hang On?” on 2nd March, and wrapping up with the Bishop Briggs soulful collab “So Tied Up” as well as 5-minute epic “Restless” in short succession just weeks before the full album release. Looking back, this really does feel like an interesting and perhaps counter-intuitive choice, as the four tracks aren’t too dissimilar from each other at all – that is, piano-heavy, chorus-driven bangers that all lean more than one hand in both sounds and vibe towards Cold War Kids’ previous LP Hold My Home – whilst the rest of LA Divine has so much more to offer indeed. Truly noteworthy out of the singles-bucket are the opening track, with its potent intentions in both beat and lyrics, as well as “Restless”, a rather beautiful tribute to Los Angeles and its ability to shape love relationships (“I don’t get jealous, I get free / Everything good comes back to me / It seems like wherever you are / Is just a better place to be“) all embedded in carrying melodies with a groovy piano and catchy verses doing most of the job.

As previously hinted at, this album has way more to offer and enjoy though than its singles (unsurprisingly, given that with its 14 tracks LA Divine marks Cold War Kids’ longest release to date). As our good ol vinyls teach us, this record too is shaped in such a way to be divided into four main bits/themes, sequentially separated by something close to an interlude, or skit, or even filler, depending on what one prefers to call them (“LA River”, “Wilshire Protest”, and “Cameras Always On”). For instance, the first psych/lo-fi interlude “LA River” is followed by what is arguably the album’s most exciting part, with great cuts such as the live-like uplifting “No Reason to Run” as well as the gangstery “Open Up the Heavens”, which presents some of the best vocal harmonies on the whole album and comes with irresistible badass-guitars.

“Luck Down” and “Ordinary Idols” make up the main third bit of LA Divine, with the former being a solid enjoyable indie tune and the most aggressive and sped up cut of the LP, whilst the latter arguably representing one of the dullest and most boring moments, only to be partially saved by quite sublime lyrics (“Why would you idolize me? / There’s nothing I got that you don’t / You keep on fantasizing / I’ll always be the underdog“). It follows the social media/instagram-hysteria critique skit “Cameras Always On”, which then throws the listener to the final part of the record and boy, that is one hell of a closure. Both the gentle and beautiful “Part of the Night” as well as the spacey and ambient-driven “Free to Breathe” make for an excellent wrap up with a rising and extremely inspiring note. This is true especially for closing track “Feel to Breathe”, which sees Cold War Kids at their songwriting best whilst at the same time surprising the listener with unexpected guitar arpeggios and wonderfully sung by frontman Nathan Willett.

Overall, LA Divine might as well be Cold War Kids’ most inspired and coherent album in a decade, with the band’s signature groovy and R&B piano once more dominating all major tracks and undoubtedly entailing some of the band’s best songs ever written (see “Restless”, “Part of the Night”, “Free to Breathe”). Yet, the album does come with highly skippable moments as well (see “Can We Hang On?”, “Ordinary Idols”), while here and there one can’t help but feel like some of the material on this records just sounds a bit too second-hand and recycled from previous work, above all 2013’s Dear Miss Lonelyhearts and 2015’s Hold My Home  (doesn’t “Love is Mystical” sound just like it could’ve come out of the same writing session as Dear Miss Lonelyhearts’ and Hold My Home’s lead singles “Miracle Mile” and “All This Could Be Yours”?). In other words, LA Divine could certainly have benefitted from more guitars and edgy sounds and less predictable piano-formula. It’s a shame, but nothing to despair. Cold War Kids might have been ok with rendering their home town of Los Angeles divine this time round, hopes for a switch to their songwriting abilities are high for what’s next to come.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.




2017, Capitol Records



I know it’s been a fairly high amount of ARM instalments on these premises lately, hence why I won’t be framing this very one as yet another one of those and, even though it most certainly deals with and celebrates the power of music, just putting out a friendly warning that Everything Must Swing might never have gotten this political before. Getting straight to the point and without unnecessary clicks-generating namedrops, in the past couple years the Western socio-political world has come to exist in a seemingly never ending state of widespread dysfunctional crisis and democratic disenfranchisement, mostly through forms of radical political movements gaining decisional power and by consequence hurting both economics and well beings of societies at large. Whilst I’m aware that, luckily, there have been many shapes and forms of protests over time (and one of them many has made its way into this site before) – principally because protest and countermovements can be of different nature intrinsically and by design – there’s one particular initiative leveraging the power of arts and music more specifically that I’d like to bring to every reader’s attention.

The initiative I’m referring to is a music compilation album put together and curated by Taking Back Sunday‘s lead guitarist John Nolan, brilliantly called Music for Everyone and out just a couple days ago on 30th March via Collective Confusion Records and Californian Hopeless Records’ charity arm label Sub City Records. All proceeds from digital sales of the compilation will help support non-profit organisation American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a movement that for over 100 years has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties of people. Music for Everyone is a mighty 27-song compilation that features rare or unreleased music by an incredibly rich and talented bunch of artists ranging from punk legends Anti-Flag to rapper Gift of Gab, from emo-icon and former My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero to modern generation singer-songwriters such as Dave Hause and Kevin Devine. Not missing from the collection album’s tracklist is of course John Nolan’s very own Taking Back Sunday, who contributed with an exclusive new acoustic cut entitled “Just A Man”. This is John Nolan himself speaking about some of the reasons that brought him to put together such a massive collaborative effort:

“I also wanted to give artists an opportunity to express something about what’s gone on in this country over the past year and what’s coming in the next ones. I needed that for myself and wanted to connect with other people who needed it. And I wanted to take that need for self-expression and channel it into something bigger than all of us.”

The compilation and its stamp are quite clearly directed at angrily pushing back and expressing widespread discontent towards the recent election of Donald Trump as 45th president of the USA, as the main curator goes on explaining:

“In the next four years, there is a lot of potential to see policies that will discriminate against people of color, Muslims, women and the LGBT community. The ACLU has a long history of fighting discriminatory and unconstitutional policies and I wanted to do something to unite people in support of that fight.”

While there is little to add to such a noble and honourable intent, I do believe that the  inspiring and positive initiative brought forward by Music for Everyone could and should be applied in many other contexts regardless of background and geographic specifics, as in the end it’s all about those values of incisiveness, togetherness, tolerance and freedom that are currently being put under threat in so many geopolitical circumstances. If anyone feels that said values should indeed be protected and reinforced across the board whilst realising that so much of the free world is currently underway to limiting individual rights, then the least one could do would be to show some support by contributing to the cause by purchasing the album on its dedicated Bandcamp page. It’s a Name-Your-Own-Price (NYOP) model whereby each of us – very much in the spirit of the whole campaign – can freely decide how much to donate towards the project and the benevolent actions of the ACLU, starting with a price of $10.

As of now the compilation album is only available digitally in all its formats (download, streaming, etc…), and according to a recent Facebook Q&A session with John Nolan physical and vinyl releases might be planned for the future, depending on early successes of the initiative. Music-wise, as one can imagine with a tracklist of 27 songs, the album is extremely varied and rich in genres and sounds, carrying the listener through sonic journeys of punk rock draft tunes (Anti-Flag’s demo opener “Buried the Shame”), beautiful and heartbreaking songwriting intimacy (a live performance of “Honest Man” by wonderful Travis Hayes), upbeat dystopian scenarios (“I’m Paranoid” by Brett Newski), dirty and muddy existential anger (Frank Iero’s “Getting Into Heaven Can be Hell”) and, of course, more or less veiled punches in President Trump’s face, with the aforementioned Taking Back Sunday tune “Just A Man”, the vulnerable and addictive “sinn” by Cameron Boucher and anthemic hope closer “The Day After Tomorrow” as only some of the many highlights across these 90 minutes of protest music.

In a present world increasingly afflicted by humanitarian and identity crises across the board, there was never a more important time to state that we all were born in this together and that our energies are doubtlessly better spent elsewhere than in close-minded populist narratives and actions. Very much like our human race, music has always been there from the beginnings, crafting in itself a universally coded language driving progress and connection among nations, borders and ethnic groups. The Music for Everyone initiative is just a catalysing spark that is very much up for grab and re-invention, re-interpretation, and re-appropriation in other political and societal scenarios, acting so much as inspiration as it does as concrete localised initiative benefiting the immediate concrete actions of the ACLU. Let’s embrace this, let’s pick our own organisations to endorse and let’s try to push back at the injustices of present times, reminding everyone possible that just like music, freedom is for everyone.

Before we wrap up, make damn sure you read more on the various ACLU’s commitments to stand up for human rights in the wake of the recent US presidential election:

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.




Yet another saturated and exciting musical phase (after what honestly was a pretty dull and modest first month of the new year) approaching yours truly, with new releases planned and expected soon from the likes of Ryan Fu**ing Adams – kind of a big deal because of thisthis and even this – and indie rock kings Cold War Kids, as well as brand new music already announced for later on down the year by mighty Blink-182, 30 Seconds to Mars and Linkin Park. It is with such an uplifting and reinvigorated spirit in mind that I’m immensely excited to introduce you all to today’s artist, featured in 2017’s first ARM instalment: meet Pennsylvanian punk-rock minstrels The Menzingers.

After the Party is The Menzingers’ fifth studio album and comes after almost four years of restless touring in promotion of the moderately successful Rented World, released in 2014. This new effort is out on influential and devoted punk-rock Hollywood-based indie label Epitaph Records, founded by legendary Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz more than 30 years ago and that over its history has released major productions by seminal, genre-defining bands such as Pennywise, Social Distortion, Descendents, and, obviously, Bad Religion. It is precisely within such a sonic framework that one should broadly position The Menzingers, as more or less explicit influences of the outfits above and a handful more are easily to be found along the band’s catalogue so far. After the Party, which at time of writing came out officially yesterday, 3rd February, overall delivers a solid, 13-track release cutting at just under 45 minutes of unstriated and uncompromising melodic punk-rock which is overwhelmingly driven by loads, loads of guitars. Personally, it’s been quite some time I hadn’t revisited such a genre – which for me in the past had been taken care by folks like Rancid, The Gaslight Anthem and potentially a bit of Against Me! – and if anything it really felt good immersing myself in such waters again. Yet, even after repetitive listens, the album sort of leaves you a bit dry and longing for something more that was missing once closing track, albeit singularly convincing, “Livin’ Ain’t Easy” calls the curtains.

In fact, I guess the biggest problem of this record is its first half, with unfortunately really only presents  the wonderfully composed and melodically rich “House of Fire” at number six for future talks. This is despite side A of the album having included two of the three major singles releases off of After the Party, namely the pretty predictable and over-heard “Thick as Thieves” (number two on the tracklist) and the following, rather dark cut “Lookers”, which despite an interesting and touching intro kind of loses itself one minute into the song and at its best results too self-referential. Furthermore, album-opener “Tellin’ Lies” might even be ok for opening live shows and festival slots but in all frankness is not far from the exact reason why this kind of punk-rock simply got too boring at one point in history. “Midwestern States”, at number four, is certainly a pretty good song on average, though definitely not something to be remembered and quite possibly not one of the songs that will stuck with the listener after the album is over. The following “Charlie’s Army”, instead, is likely to be the worst track on the whole entire record, with not only a slim vocal lead but also heavy, at times disturbing disynchronization between all instruments included. Definitely one that could have been left off the final track listing.

Fortunately, things start to get much better with the album’s middle song “Black Mass”, a sweet semi-acoustic ballad that entails great vocal emotion and superior lyrics (“We used to want to take the back roadsBut now we found a distance shorterYou used to call me darlingNow you prefer more formal“). Moreover, at number nine on the tracklist we find “Bad Catholics“, which was released as lead single late last year, arguably a right decision. The track is among the catchiest and radio-friendliest on After the Party and despite a wonderful and tempting main guitar riff doesn’t overstay its welcome and ends up at 2:52, making it the second-shortest song on the whole album. What follows is “Your Wild Years”, which alongside the aforementioned “Black Mass” contains some of the best words on the record highlighting and romanticising multi-ethnical backgrounds in form of an unusual love declaration, possibly more needed now than ever given present political times in the USA. Yet the very best of After the Party is without doubt found in its last two, closing songs “After the Party” and “Livin’ Ain’t Easy”. The former and title-track almost completely reaches songwriting and execution perfection mixing up raw emotion, fuelled guitars and drops of Taking Back Sunday, Bruce Springsteen and Foo Fighters here and there, which made me connect to it in a very intense fashion. Also, the intro guitar riff might be among the best in a good while within the recent punk-rock pantheon. Speaking of guitars, album closer “Livin Ain’t Easy” also decides to deliver chills down the listener’s spine via electric six strings, with its leading guitar lick wrapped up in beautiful reverb and chorus effects probably very reminiscent of last year’s Moose Blood’s Blush. Extremely well done and appropriate closing track.

There’s a lot of regret in me after listening to After the Party as a whole, precisely because of the last two tracks’ beauty and effectiveness. What I mean by that is that if it weren’t for the handful of boring and rather dull songs included in the LP (“Tellin’ Lies”, “Charlie’s Army” and “The Bars” leading the group), this album could’ve been really, really good and (already!) landed straight to this year’s list of best releases. Yes, because there are indeed songs that are truly exceptional (“Black Mass”, “Bad Catholics”, “After the Party” and “Livin’ Ain’t Easy”), and this Menzingers’ effort could have become a classic if, for example, released as an EP with its best of. However, in my opinion there are too many flaws to be acknowledged as such and sadly After the Party really can’t be labelled as more than an average, solid record. Yet, my love for certain, selected tunes might as well be catalysed precisely by those other poorer moments on the record, allowing them shine and emerge in contrast to the remaining ones and with regard to an overall perspective. And I guess this is exactly the splendour and magic of music: hard to explain and different for everyone. So please go on and come persuade me that this album is a masterpiece if you truly believe so, I’d be all ears.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.




2017, Epitaph Records



Alright folks, here we are. The time has finally come. After having hyped about it for months hinting at it through this Summer’s most anticipated releases list and scrupulously analysed one of its single’s music video, my very own and utterly personal take on Taking Back Sunday’s 7th LP Tidal Wave is here. The 12-track, 48-minute long record dropped almost exactly a month ago (16th September) and was released on independent Californian label Hopeless Records, as it was the case for their previous effort Happiness Is. The album was recoded and produced in North Carolina by Tell All Your Friend-magician and Taking Back Sunday’s longtime friend Mike Sapone, who again worked on their 6th LP too. In fact, if you’re keen on learning more about the whole album-making process and behind-the-scenes insights from the Sioux Sioux studio in Charlotte (NC) where everything took place – which to me is as equally fascinating as the finished product itself – the label recently put out a nice making-of video reportage of the whole recording process.

Actually, because of the existence of said footage and so as to preserve some of its exclusive value, I’m going to spare you the majority of the details as well as the background of what led the actual album to be recorded alongside some of the main creative narratives behind it, trying to get straight to what in the end represents the essence of it with no further ado: the music itself. However, there is one thing I’d like to mention indeed, namely the fact that this record represents the first time in the band’s history that the same line-up has released three records in a row. That is, up until this point the NY outfit always changed at least some parts of its formation before completing a third consecutive album with the same one (they got close after 2004’s Where You Want to Be and Louder Now two years after, only to be disrupted by shaky departures of bass player Matt Rubano and lead guitarist Fred Mascherino before 2009’s New Again [!] was put out). Moreover, the realisation that this very personal and to be fair not very impressive accomplishment is to be obtained with the OG line up that started it all in the first place, I think speaks for something that makes the gestation of Tidal Wave a little more special.

For this record the band abandoned the not very fortuned choice of a “preface”-like instrumental opener to dances (see Happiness Is), but rather come straight to the point with “Death Wolf”. And boy, oh boy, do they get straight to the point with a fast, edgy, and punky rollercoaster that in some ways is set to deceive the listener after its first ambient-y overture minute. This track is right to be placed at number one for many reasons, and even after a solid good month of repetitive listens to the whole effort to me it’s the one that stays with you long after you’ve pressed stop. It’s got everything I like about this band: it’s raw, emotional, groovy, unpredictable and its lyrics are quintessential Adam Lazzara and John Nolan (the band’s lead lyricists). Moreover, the song’s hilarious, juxtapositional and at times genius “music video” makes for an even better listening experience. Plus, how cool is it to have a song called “Death Wolf”?! Just dope. The record continues with a duo of tracks, “Tidal Wave” and “You Can’t Look Back”, that were the ones already known to the large public being the first and second lead singles off the record. The title track at number two is an unapologetic tribute to some of the band’s main influences (The Ramones, The Clash, pure punk-rock more in general) and might as well be one of the catchiest songs Taking Back Sunday has ever written. To me a wonderful choice for both a title tracked-song and a first leading single. Fun fact is that, apparently, if it weren’t for drummer Mark O’Connell insisting on developing the song’s first raw ideas coming from John Nolan, the track might as well never have made the cut into the record. As for the following, third track, I’d spare you any more commentary and simply refer to a recent piece where I take a look at its music video (warning: it’s highly interpretable!).

The record then carries on to what might arguably be its most sophisticated and sonically mature part, showcasing the triade of songs “Fences”, “All Excess”, and “I Felt it Too”. At the same time, these tracks also represent some of the biggest departures in the band’s previous sounds, proposing solid and cohesive modern-day rock songs that encompass elaborated guitar sounds and unexpected electric/acoustic switches (“Fences”), incredible melodic feel entangled with signature emotional rawness (“All Excess”) as well as cradling, stripped down, and somehow hypnotic soundscapes that just don’t make you leave until the last note (“I Felt It Too”). From there, the album gets picked up by “Call Come Running”, a song that might have easily competed for first single from the start and that sees the band wearing their 80s influences pretty unapologetically offering another big, harmonic chorus similarly to what has long characterised one of Taking Back Sunday’s most widely appreciate traits. Next on the tracklist is “Holy Water”, and I have no shame in explicitly saying that, alongside “Death Wolf” and “Fences”, it is up there for the contender of personal favourite of the whole record. The track delivers emotionality from all its components and does a fantastic job in mixing songwriting, structure, and sound effects in a sustainable way that just works. In many ways it’s one of Taking Back Sunday’s best songs ever, in that I feel it enables each member to shine justifying their contribution in a way that actually enhances the creative constellation of the musical outcome without falling into risky self-referential schemes. “In the Middle of It All”, next one on the list, changes the landscape yet again pulling a lot of the band’s past sounds but reverting them back into a rocky production that has rarely been left so “dirty” and “gainy” ever before. Also, take a closer listen to Mark O’Connell’s drumming on this one, really going the extra mile delivering one of his best performances.

Tidal Wave, the artwork of which is as usual reported below and as a good friend of mine made me aware, has too many (more or less subtle) references to Nirvana’s Nevermind to go unnoticed, approaches its end with a trio of acoustic-led tracks, which from an overall musical standpoint could even make sense but unfortunately doesn’t really convince. My feeling is that one among the three tracks could’ve been left out (“We Don’t Go In There”?), a decision which by the way would’ve landed the record on to eleven tracks, which has always been the case for all previous Taking Back Sunday albums. While both “Homecoming” and “I’ll Find a Way to Make It What You Want” definitely have great ideas and display some interestingly looking-forward folk/americana influences, I just can’t abandon the sensation that the three tracks presented like this in a subsequent row are hard to sustain. Shame, because as just hinted at it would’ve been enough to simply drop one tune and it would’ve made for an even more brilliant record, overall. In other words, this kind of track listing ending has sometimes found me quitting the album listening experience at its peak, i.e. just after “In the Middle of It All”, not so much for lack of excitement to carry on but rather for impending fear of bringing this record “back to normality”, where it definitely shouldn’t be.

With that said, Tidal Wave is no doubt up there in the pantheon of Taking Back Sunday’s best work, representing a perfect snapshot of where the band is at right now both personally and artistically. There’s a lot of maturity, sound development, and lyrical refinement to be found among the twelve album tracks. In this regard, one of the things that work best here to me are song transitions, as they’re never hard placed or in any way forced, making for an extremely seamless and streamlined listening experience and giving even more legitimacy to the concept of “album” as a whole. The overall feeling is that with this release the band is at its most transparent and honest it has ever been, while one can totally tell that something special was started again by the original line up when they reunited with their 2011’s self titled record. The musical and lyrical narrative of the current incarnation 2.0 is there to be grasped with full force and in a much more tangible way than ever before, and this is successfully accompanied by innate compositional talent too. All in all, to keep this progress going, it simply looks like the NY alternative rock veterans have no other choice other than to ride this (tidal) wave for many, many other years to come.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.




2016, Hopeless Records



Watch the video first:

So last Tuesday my favourite band of all time Taking Back Sunday released a new single off their upcoming seventh studio album Tidal Wave (out on 16th September on Hopeless Records) titled “You Can’t Look Back”, which obviously got me overwhelmingly excited and all. Then, a couple of days and hundreds of plays later, I stumbled across a very funny and interesting article reminiscing about early Noughties punk-rock/emo nostalgia in which the author scrutinises frame-by-frame and with extreme meticulosity the band’s cult music video for fan-favourite track “You’re So Last Summer” released in late 2003. I immediately really liked the idea – less so the form and method used though – and hence thought to myself that, considering that thus far within my critically-acclaimed music review feature Alex Reviews Music I’ve only considered full records and or live shows, I might as well have a try myself at considering a music video as fundamental unit of my analysis. So here I am taking a closer look at the New York emo veterans’ latest single disguised as official music video (do they even still exist?!) directed by Anthem Films‘ DJay Brawner, also responsible for the band’s videos for Happiness Is‘s singles “Flicker, Fade” and “Better Homes and Gardens“. Yet, before I’d dug into any kind of reasoning or reflection and therefore somehow influence someone’s understanding of the track, I’d like you, my reader, to immerse yourself independently into the video hence why I copied it at the top of this page. Please do have a look at it before continuing reading if you’re interested in what I’m writing about.

The video starts off with a young man in a bright jeans jacket picking up a girl from what one understands might be her job place then driving off across desolated desert streets with a middle-range pick up truck. The couple then appears to be riding through unpaved roads before joining other friends at an outdoor party surrounding an impromptu fireplace on an empty clearing, all in an extremely joyous and intimate way. Nothing too spectacular so far. But more importantly, nothing that could somehow be misinterpreted or that is left hanging searching for meaning. This is when Taking Back Sunday themselves come into the game, as we find  – in order of appearance – lead guitarist John Nolan, drummer Mark O’Connell, singer Adam Lazzara, bassist Shaun Cooper and rhythm guitarist Eddie Reyes all already gathered around the festive rendezvous.

It is exactly from this point in time onwards that finding a common and indisputable meaning to the developments in the video, especially when paired with the enigmatic lyrics, becomes truly hard. That is, for example, as soon as the couple of leading actors joins the rest of the group I start noticing dark expressions and moderate discomfort on frontman Adam Lazzara’s face, who in the end is the one not only writing but also singing the lyrics in question. This impression doesn’t fade with time as Adam incidentally remains the only one not pouring with joy and light heartedness even when the lead actors mix themselves up with the rest of their friends and everyone else seems to be having a good time. In fact, this theory appears to be confirmed from minute 2:47 onwards, as an unexpected dramatic twist hits the so far linear and harmonic plot of the video, when Adam suddenly starts throwing up tons of blood from the depth of his stomach and searches his way through the crowd surrounding the fire, seemingly unaware of the whole thing.

Adam then starts to touch, approach and cover up other people with the dark blood coming out of his throat while every single one of them doesn’t bat an eye and keeps going on with what they’re doing. At one point, he then reaches for the lady who got picked up by the main character at the beginning of the video by touching her shoulder but even herself, albeit with a small and quick sign of awareness, ignores him altogether and keeps flirting with her alleged fiancée. Adam then collapses on the floor suffering in pain and rolls on his sides while at the same time covering himself up with sand and everything else that’s on the ground, before walking away from the feast and the group of people on a small path, not without falling back down the hill and adding to the existing damage even more. The video ends with Adam reaching the young couple’s truck parked not far from the party starting its engine seemingly ready to leave.

I guess my overall interpretation of the music video depends greatly from a few lines of the song’s lyrics that to me seem to ornament and complement the actual development in the visual story line. These verses are “I’m not the same man / not since you came in”, “Still feel the same way / Still don’t know where I’m going”, “I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long” as well as “Don’t know how you did it other than you did / I was there beside myself in my own skin”. My takeaway from them is that the young lady who joined the party with her man at the beginning of the video is the one Adam is (metaphorically) referring to in the song and obviously played an important part in his life, most likely sentimentally. Then, as soon as she joins the game he starts losing control of himself and so begins his physical downfall until he needs to leave the gathering altogether (“I’m not the same man / not since you came in”). Since he doesn’t seem able to explain such kind of reaction (“Don’t know how you did it other than you did”) he thus seeks time for himself and acquires ownership of one of the only things that could take him back to her later on, her fiancée’s car (“I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long”).

At heart, the track sounds to be about not being able of letting go of the past but at the same time convincing yourself that looking at the rearview mirror is only making things worse. As with all best songs, there’s much juxtaposition to be found and while for a great part it is a song about emotional weakness – not least when considered alongside its music video – after having listened to it one can’t help but feeling motivated to overcome said challenge and convincing themselves that moving forward in order to stop suffering about the past is not only an option but also the right one.

All in all, the beauty of art pieces is precisely that everyone is allowed the privilege of drawing different meanings and interpretations from them, sometimes very far off from what the creator first might have wanted to transmit, and this latest music video by Taking Back Sunday is probably no exception. I’ll leave you below with the complete lyrics for the song, perhaps they might help shed some clarity on its original meaning for the band and Adam most of all, looking back at how it all ties together with sounds and images. Or did we not just learn that we can’t look back?

[Verse 1]
I was living day to day
As the meetings they would suggest
Sitting pretty having one foot out that door
I didn’t know how to act
Started running and I didn’t look back
Still feel the same way
Still don’t know where I’m going
Oh, then you let me in
I don’t know how you did it other than you did

You cut your wrist and said ‘come get you some’
It only works if you don’t look down
Bought the ticket, now you’re on the track
You can keep it but you can’t look back
You can keep it but you can’t look back
You can keep it but you can’t look back
You can keep it but you can’t look back

I didn’t know what I was looking for
And come to think I wasn’t looking at all
I’m not the same man, not since you came in
I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long
I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long
I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long
I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long
I’m not the same man, not since you came in
I’m going to get you if it take me all night
I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long

[Verse 2]
I was nearly four states away
Mamma calling from the other end
Something about someday a woman’s gonna need you most the time
I didn’t know how to act
I started running and I didn’t look back
Still feel the same way
Still don’t know where I’m going
But now I’m in it until the bitter end
So if you’re gonna do me then you do me like that




Don’t know how you did it other than you did
I was there beside myself in my own skin
Unfamiliar, I tried it on and liked the fit
I don’t know how you did it other than you did
I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long
I don’t know how you did it other than you did
I was there beside myself in my own skin
Unfamiliar, I tried it on and liked the fit
I don’t know how you did it other than you did
Don’t know how you did it other than you did
I was there beside myself in my own skin
Unfamiliar, I tried it on and liked the fit
I don’t know how you did it other than you did
Don’t know how you did it other than you did

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.




A bunch of months ago I wrote a little something about Taking Back Sunday lead guitarist John Nolan‘s new solo album project in collaboration with PledgeMusic and about how the whole thing really got me excited and all. Well, as you all know time goes by really fast and we’ve eventually come to the point when John officially released his second full-length album entitled Sad, Strange, Beautiful Dream through a jointed partnership between the aforementioned crowdsourcing music platform and Collective Confusion Records, who’s primarily taking care of the physical copies of the release. Besides the amount of cool stuff worth a mention related to the chosen promotional strategy, such as the variety of pre-ordering packages or the fact that 10% of all the money collected through the album’s sale will be donated to a pediatric facility in Memphis, TN (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital), I’ve now taken some time to give the full record, released digitally yesterday 24th July, a proper listen and I feel like I’ve got something to say about it. Also, it kinda makes sense to follow up on the matter on a more technical-musical note, doesn’t it?

John already unveiled a number of tracks over the course of the pre-release period, such as album opener and teenage era-teller “American Nightclub 1999”, the brilliantly titled – but possibly less convincing arrangement – “Drinking Your Way to Confidence” as well as existential-ballad “How Much”, although this latter one went through a substantive sound-polishing if compared to the early released version and arguably became the absolute best track on the record, mixing terrific melodic songwriting with a perfectly raw-edgy instrumentation delivering an immersive sappy feeling (How much can we control? / I don’t know / As much as we can). A little less than a month ago John then released the mastered version of the sparkling and lyrically-terrifying “Street Robbery Blues”, undoubtedly the most energetic and fast tune on the whole album entailing a very interesting uplifting-dark juxtaposition between the lyrics and the music itself. Yet, with the exception made of “How Much”, the best material on the album was not revealed until its full release.

“War is Peace” leads the list of never-heard-before songs on the album and immediately feels like it could have been born out of a raw idea for a Taking Back Sunday song, presenting a properly distorted rock band-modus instrumental base alongside a galloping tempo. The track is followed by the folky-acoustic “Next to You (In New Orleans)”, which probably depicts the lowest point of the record as it results incapable of really taking off in its own terms. The provisional down-status is suddenly mightily overcome with a consecutive couple of triumphant songs that really stand out on the whole. “I’ll Be Home Soon” is a piano-led ballad that truly gets under the listener’s skin and also delivers a quite catchy chorus, something that’s absolutely not to be taken for granted when it comes to slowed down ballads: well done John. It follows the album’s title track, which in some ways does sound a little out of context with its abundance of synth-fillings and indie-pop dyeing but which, after a few listens, already begins to make sense again, not least because it does really encompass traces of sadness, strangeness and beauty in a dreamy atmosphere. After a re-interpretation of 2012 track “C’est Le Fin Du Monde”, originally released on a split 7″ with indie rock band Mansions and the sonic perfection of the previously mentioned “How Much”, John Nolan’s second solo album comes to a close with the brilliant “I Will Be Released”, a sing-along choir anthem curiously and romantically written with his wife Camille.

In a way it’s truly funny and misleading to read on his artist’s description on PledgeMusic that he’s being labelled as folk-acoustic musician, because Sad, Strange, Beautiful Dream seems to confirm he’s actually not, and even at the times when he probably is, the record feels the most vulnerable (cf. “Next to You”). Given the quality of this last effort, he should feel no shame at all to confidently present himself as a modern alternative-rock act, not least given the mighty studio collaborations he took advantage of during the recording process. Yet, tags and label don’t really matter at all as soon as one realises where musical quality lies and that it shouldn’t be constrained by arbitrary boundaries at all. This is precisely what John Nolan has apparently come to realise with this record: with precious songwriting, instrumental rawness, lyrical honesty, and a little experimentation he’s delivered his best musical outcome to date.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.







Don’t fear another straight and plain ARM blogpost. I think I’ve done enough of them in the past months. I mean, just look at the last blogposts (although I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to tackle my temptations to just do another one considering the vast amount of cool releases happening in this pre-summerish period). This one certainly still deals with the magic of music, the mother of all arts, yet in a slightly unconventional and unlabelled form. Essentially, it tries to narrate and report what it felt like to watch my all time favorite rock and roll outfit, named Taking Back Sunday, two times in less than three days over the past weekend. Yes, that is all true, and kind of a great big deal for me, to be honest. Friday 22nd May I got to see them at tiny and intimate Rhythm Factory around Whitechapel, London, while the following Sunday I caught them from front row at alternative-rock/punk Slam Dunk Festival South in Hatfield, about half an hour train ride from central London. Two very different yet somehow connected and complementing experiences, which reminded me once again why this is the band I couldn’t really live without.

Having had seen them three times before this shocking one-two combo in three days, I guess I was at least a little bit pre-warned of what it would feel like having them standing a few metres away from me playing those very tunes that mean so freaking much to myself. Still, every single time their show somehow takes a new form and it transforms itself in a sort of unprecedented experience, at least as far as I’m concerned. Their gig at the Rhythm Factory, supported by new UK emo sensation Moose Blood, was literally surreal, not only because of the venue’s 200–300 people capacity (which of course automatically turns the show’s tangibility of an usual arena-band into something unlike all others), but also because of the true collegial atmosphere and the feelings of complicity that one could breathe by just standing somewhere in front of the narrow-mini stage. Also, the temperature was almost (literally and figuratively) too hot to be true, even before Taking Back Sunday would take the stage everyone was already soaked, so imagine the intensity as soon as they kicked off with latest album Happiness Is’s opener “Flicker, Fade”. Litres, litres, and litres of sweat alongside soaring singing and screaming were released into the air that night, guaranteed. Come on, just take a quick look at the picture below I took on-the-go in between two songs (it was probably before a mighty rendition of “A Decade Under the Influence” and right after majestically wrapping up old timer “Timberwolves at New Jersey”), it’s as if it’s sweating itself, isn’t it? You can almost see drops of rock and roll sweat trickling out of the frame. I assume this explanation excuses me for the poor graphical quality.

I reported Taking Back Sunday’s setlist of their Friday show at Rhythm Factory further below, adding up tunes to a little more than an hour of spectacular entertainment. Personal highlights were with no doubt never-heard-live-before “How I Met Your Mother”, Happiness Is’s b-side and one of their hardest but still somehow most melodic songs, “Better Homes and Gardens”, an intense moment for everyone attending and arguably among the standout tracks off of their latest effort, alongside a live-welcome back of “Spin”, at least with regard to UK soil according to frontman Adam Lazzara. The setlist was more or less replicated at their Sunday show at Slam Dunk South, with the only exception of the omission of the latter mentioned song, probably for time reasons. The context and scenarios were quite different on that occasion, and despite the fact I was able to get up basically until the first row, the whole thing looked indeed much more like a bigger occasion, not least because they were playing the main stage at an outdoor festival. Taking Back Sunday got the set slot between Don Broco, who played just before them, and main headliners You Me At Six, and therefore, quite understandably, the crowd wasn’t there just for the NY emo veterans, as it was the case for me, for instance. Thus, I felt a little more isolated among teens waiting in the vicinity of the front row for You Me At Six for the whole day, yet that didn’t stop me from losing my mind once again. Bearing in mind the sound distortion one gets when at the first row at a big open air festival, the band sounded and looked amazing. Particular mention should be made, in this case, for dance number “Stood a Chance”, personal favorite “Error: Operator” and, obviously, closing gems “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)” and “MakeDamnSure”, which got the major portion of the crowd go crazy, myself included.

All in all, this past one was certainly one of the most intense weekends I’ve ever had. I’m so glad I was able to make the most out of Taking Back Sunday’s most recent visit to the country I’m currently staying in. I’d do this again a million times, and probably will again in the future, would the possibility arise. These experiences enrich me enormously. And deliver me something priceless, which it’s not so much the fact that I got a guitar pick from Eddie Reyes or that I had close encounters with singer Adam Lazzara including a half-singing into his mic, but rather the confirmation that the connection and emotional intensity that this band is capable of catalysing in me is unlike anything else. I guess I can’t do nothing but thank them for what they do.

Taking Back Sunday’s setlist at Rhythm Factory, London (22.05.2015):

  1. Flicker, Fade
  2. What’s It Feel Like to Be a Ghost?
  3. Number Five with a Bullet
  4. How I Met Your Mother
  5. Liar (It Takes One to Know One)
  6. Stood a Chance
  7. Timberwolves at New Jersey
  8. A Decade Under the Influence
  9. Faith (When I Let You Down)
  10. You’re So Last Summer
  11. Better Homes and Gardens
  12. Error: Operator
  13. You Know How I Do
  14. Spin
  15. Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)
  16. MakeDamnSure

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.


TBS_Rhythm Factory