All posts by Philip Terry Graham

About Philip Terry Graham

Altwire contributor from Sydney, Australia, writing reviews and insight articles. Also the author of 'Finding Isaac' and 'Seeds of a Dandelion', and the producer behind the Sounds of the Cosmos ambient music project!

Monstercat Embraces Categorization, and Confuses Fans, with New Imprints

In the EDM scene, news from one of the fastest-growing labels in the business has surprised and confused many followers. Canadian electronic music label Monstercat, which saw an unprecedented amount of growth last year following a rebranding and a collaboration with Rocket League developers Psyonix for the game’s new soundtrack, have announced that they will be categorizing their music onto two new imprints called as “Monstercat: Uncaged” and “Monstercat: Instinct”. However, with the announcement being accompanied by vague language offered by the label and a lack of information, the Monstercat community has been mostly left to speculate over the nature of the two brand new imprints, namely on YouTube and Reddit. The overall confusion has mostly hindered what was otherwise described as the label as its biggest change yet.

In open writings featured on Monstercat’s website, its CEO Mike Darlington has described Monstercat: Uncaged as the “continued evolution of the music that defined our early years”, and focuses on the “core elements” of live events, bass music, and gaming to “create a compelling experience for our community.” In contrast, Darlington described the Monstercat: Instinct imprint as a representation of “an important development in the tastes and interests of the Monstercat family” that will “develop the unique stories” of the label’s artists through an “exploration of art, creativity, and beauty.” The focus of both Uncaged and Instinct lie on a spectrum of tradition and experimentation; Uncaged is the brand the label intends to use for music that resembles and evolves upon the harder, bassier sounds and genres that defined the label during its early days, while the Instinct brand will be used for music and genres that stray outside of Monstercat’s box, including more melodic and poppier tracks.

Ultimately, these imprints only extend as far as branding, and do not represent any actual change to the corporate structure of the label itself. Contrary to a popular belief held by the community in the hours following the announcements of Uncaged and Instinct, the label is not splitting itself into two, and will be continuing to publish tracks under the Monstercat name with the same catalog system used since the release of Monstercat 004 – Identity. The imprints mostly exist as a very simplistic way of categorizing the different musical styles of the label, who have often prided themselves over the years in the diversity of the artists on their roster and the music they publish. They have gone as far as to organize individual YouTube channels to enforce this new system of categorization, with Monstercat’s original YouTube channel, currently sporting 6.6 million subscribers, being re-purposed into the new channel for the Monstercat: Uncaged imprint, and a brand new YouTube channel being created for the Monstercat: Instinct imprint.

Adjustments to the weekly schedule for Monstercat’s releases has been adopted as well, alongside the new changes to the label’s dynamic. Prior to the changes, three tracks were released per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The schedule will now see four tracks released per week, with tracks published on the Monstercat: Uncaged imprint being released on Mondays and Thursdays, and Monstercat: Instinct tracks being released on Tuesdays and Fridays. As per tradition, Monstercat will continue to take breaks on weekends, also contrary to a rumor which spread before the announcement of the new schedule that the entire week, including weekends, would be occupied with amenities. In addition, Monstercat’s flagship Call of the Wild podcast will move its broadcast day from Tuesday to Wednesday each week. It is not known at this time, however, if the time of the podcast’s live broadcast will change as well.

Also unknown is the future of Monstercat’s staple series of compilation albums that release a new entry every few months. Since May, Monstercat has been releasing compilations under the “Monstercat Uncaged” name, when it was being used as a blanket name for the label’s self-described “movement” of sorts that encompassed a series of concerts and compilation albums decorated in new, stylistic artworks. The first three albums, Monstercat Uncaged Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3, compiled the music published by Monstercat in the months prior, regardless of genre and musical styles. With the new focus on categorization, and the adoption of the Uncaged name by one of the two new imprints, it is unclear whether the label will continue releasing compilation albums consisting all genres and styles, under the Monstercat Uncaged name or a new name, or if there will be a brand new Monstercat Instinct series of compilation albums, with the current Monstercat Uncaged series aligning its focus with the new imprint.


Following Monstercat’s brand new direction, and its upcoming releases? Be sure to follow Altwire for the latest news and reviews on Monstercat and its artists!
Image credits Featured banner image all rights reserved by Monstercat.

Six Great Albums You (Probably) Missed in 2017

At the top of the end-of-year lists that music websites and magazines will put out around this time of year, you will recognize the names of a few incredible and well-crafted albums. Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. Lorde’s Melodrama. SZA’s Ctrl. Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory. What these albums have in common is that they were lucky to be released to massive commercial success, along with critical praise. Some incredible and well-crafted albums, however, don’t see the exposure and commercial success that these albums had, and therefore are often missed for many end-of-year lists. With an average of less than a million plays on Spotify and ordered by release date, here are just six of them, though they are an incredible six that deserve much more recognition than they currently do.

———

Fenech-Soler – Zilla

Created during a difficult time in the history of the band, following the departure of namesake founding member Daniel Fenech-Soler and drummer Andrew Lindsay, the remaining members of Fenech-Soler, bothers Ross and Ben Duffy, still managed to craft a record that stays true to the spirit of the band, which specializes in unique, experimental electronic rock soundscapes. Zilla is a very reserved album compared to their last two albums, though maintains the “glorious, unashamed pop” sound that defined the band’s career among the underground synthpop scene thus far. The Duffy brothers sought a shift in focus on instrumentals than complex lyrics, with sounds inspired by disco and “old soul vocal harmony groups”. Their result is an album driven intricately by the strings to create a sophisticated-sounding album without most of the actual sophistication. It’s simple, fun, and a very enjoyable 48-minute album from start to finish.

Spotify · Apple Music · Google Play

———

Kraftwerk – 3-D The Catalogue

Live albums without crowd input are not relatively new concepts; session albums and, more simply, albums recorded with the crowd instructed to hush during the songs, have been around for a long time. Live albums recorded completely without a crowd, however, is an interesting, yet effective way to breathe new life into music such as the legendary catalogue of Kraftwerk. Long-time fans of Kraftwerk’s pioneering electronic music will thoroughly enjoy founding member Karl Bartos’ new renditions of the band’s iconic discography spanning, and I kid you not, four-and-a-half hours of content across eight discs on a compilation titled 3-D The Catalouge, a ‘sequel’ of sorts to their remastered studio album compilation The Catalouge, released eight years earlier. The live album also provides a unique insight into how the modern Kraftwerk performs their songs, without the distraction of the crowd. It is absolutely surreal experience, and utterly interesting.

Spotify · Apple Music · Google Play

———

Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley

Words can’t describe how beautiful Every Valley by Public Service Broadcasting is. The niche of the band, setting music to archival news and documentary audio, continues on this exceptional concept album that tells the story of the mining industry in Wales. Bringing a new perspective to its rise and fall, Public Service Broadcasting emphasize the tragic ironies and the lessons that haven’t been learned from an industry that affected an entire nation during its dominance over the economy and its sharp, sudden collapse. Backed by a full brass and string orchestra, the band successfully does one of Britain’s most sorrowful stories justice, with a masterful conduction of composition, themes, sampling, and storytelling that also pays respect to the men and women affected by the decline of the industry. Throughout 2017 there has been no album quite like it, and that in its own says a lot about the idea of the album on paper, emphasizing the achievement of how well it was pulled off in practice.

Spotify · Apple Music · Google Play

———

The Chain Gang of 1974 – Felt

For an experimental indietronica project such as Kamtin Mohager’s The Chain Gang of 1974, big-room pop choruses and upbeat, catchy tunes were probably the last thing most followers of Mohager had for The Chain Gang’s fourth album. Lo and behold, that’s the direction he went in, and it worked surprisingly well. Felt is an absolute marvel in underground electronic music, embracing pop music sensibilities while keeping the charm of Mohager’s signature experimental style. The album is full of absolutely magical moments dominated by lofty synth and guitar riffs that shine brilliantly among all the sparkly textures that the album presents. Never have chords sounded so enchanting as they do on Felt.

Spotify · Apple Music · Google Play

 ———

Various artists – Rocket League x Monstercat Vol. 1

For the diverse range of pure talent that Canadian electronic dance music label Monstercat houses, there hasn’t really been an album with any coherent structure that properly celebrates the collective heart and spirit of Monstercat without individualizing each artist too much that particular ones are largely ignored. With the opportunity to create the soundtrack to the ever-evolving and exponentially growing sports video game Rocket League, came the chance to change that, and with that opportunity they accomplished that. Rocket League x Monstercat Vol. 1 is a spectacular compilation that brought some of Monstercat’s best artists, from Rogue to Tokyo Machine, Tristam and others, to create a thematic soundtrack based on Mike Ault and Hollywood Principle’s signature vibrant EDM sound with their original soundtrack for the game. The album serves as concrete proof that a Monstercat compilation with a unified theme and sound can work, bringing out each featured artist’s creative splendor to the table to craft many different musical applications based on the same common idea, fitting perfectly as not only a video game soundtrack, but more specifically as a worthy successor to Mike Ault and Hollywood Principle’s original Rocket League soundtrack.

Spotify · Apple Music · Google Play

———

Red Vox – Another Light

Having expressed on multiple occasions their desire to create a more experimental album, Twitch streamers Vin and Mike of Red Vox succeeded in creating a sophomore follow up to their debut that exceeds all expectations and elevates the band to a new level of artistic prowess. Another Light sees the band take notes from psychedelic and progressive rock, translating the idiom of changing your perspective and seeing things in another light into a transportive experience that places the audience in a spacious, freeform musical adventure accompanied by Vin’s soothing voice and the swift chemistry between Vin’s guitars and Mike’s drums. Emotional lyrics and diverse production make Another Light another kind of beast all together.

Spotify · Bandcamp


Image credits  Featured image released by Paul Hudson under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license · Artwork for ‘Zilla’ all rights reserved by Fenech-Soler and So Recordings · Artwork for ‘3-D The Catalogue’ all rights reserved by Kraftwerk, Klingklang, and Parlophone · Artwork for ‘Every Valley’ all rights reserved by Public Service Broadcasting and PIAS Recordings · Artwork for ‘Felt’ all rights reserved by Kamtin Mohager and Caroline Records · Artwork for ‘Rocket League x Monstercat Vol. 1’ all rights reserved by Monstercat and Psyonix · Artwork for ‘Another Light’ all rights reserved by Red Vox.

[Album Review] Red Vox – Another Light

The “sophomore go-around” from the enigmatic Red Vox is, to put it simply, pure magic. Another Light, the latest album from the Staten Island rockers, traverses many styles, song structures, and lofty emotions, backed by a thrilling pantheon of enigmatic and spacious sound and production over the course of its 13-track, 48 minute and 51 second run. From the very start, lead singer ‘Vin’ and drummer ‘Mike’ intended the band’s second album to be a more experimental voyage, and it shows well. The album oversees a vivid blending of psychedelic and progressive rock vibes into a record that encompasses a large array of different soundscapes, all sharing a very mystic, fantastic, and astronomical atmosphere.

From the moment it starts, the opening title track, the audience is sent directly to a beautifully-crafted world dominated by some well-crafted guitar riffs and texture-populated production. Fittingly, this transportation is justified with its lyrics, which contextualizes the dreamy and hallucinogenic sound of the entire album with a theme of perspective; “The future’s brighter than you’ll ever know / If you ever frame your mind and see it all / In another light”, Vin sings in the song’s opening verse and refrain.

The majority of the album, in many ways, is carried by two particular strengths of the band, the first being Vin’s incredibly talented voice work. His coarse, mostly monotone voice is soothing to the ear and a great accompaniment to the equally as soothing music. Even on moments when Vin breaks the monotone barrier for dramatic effect, it works incredibly well to emphasize the emotionally-driven lyrics of Another Light. This shines the brightest on “Tell Me”, where Vin transforms into a character with Shakespearean-like dramatics to drive home the tragedy painted in the song of the lack of communication between the persona of the song and their significant other. The sheer belligerence of “Reno”, one of the album’s heavier cuts, serves as another example of Vin’s ability to characterize the mood and atmosphere of a track simply through the will of his own voice. The laid-back, drunken persona of the song is acted incredibly well by Vin, successfully painting a silly, yet charming adventure in the far-from modest town of Reno, Nevada.

The second strength of the band that carries Another Light into high levels of quality is the colorful chemistry between the guitar riffs and melodies played by Vin and producer Joe Pecora, and the masterful beats laid down by drummer Mike throughout the musically adventurous album. Very rarely do you hear the guitars and drums dance so beautifully together in rock music, and here is most certainly an entertaining sighting of such an occurrence. This is most noticeable in places such as the twin tracks “I’m So Happy” and “I’m So Sad”, and “Memento Mori”, where the guitar melody and riffs are practically pegged to the drum beat in terms of tone, texture, and even composition. When the beat is low key and slow, the guitar is too. When the beat picks up and starts driving upwards, the guitar transforms into a speaker-surfing riff machine. When the guitar launches into an impressively soaring solo, the drums go absolutely wild. This creates a great resonance that pays off in contributing to the album’s mostly psychedelic feel, allowing the audience to get lost in the inability to distinguish between certain parts of the song. Great music often plays off the idea of creating a singular collective piece, rather than a sharp focus on a particular element, and Another Light is a brilliant example of that.

In contributing to the kaleidoscopic soundscape, the lyrics that decorate Another Light, and form its strict thematic elements, are surprisingly emotional, as aforementioned. Successfully serving as a transportive work, it challenges the audience to see the world in another light, as the title of the album, and its opening track suggest. Throughout the album, Red Vox puts the audience in the shoes of people in a vast array of emotional situations, mostly sharing the idea of the personas talking, or reaching out to, somebody else. While one is free to speculate any of a boundless number of different interpretations to the album’s lyrics, it does suspiciously have the tropes of a cathartic album, evidenced by the repetition of the narrative idea of people reaching out to others. We probably won’t know the band’s true intentions behind the lyrics, since they’ve mostly been zip-lipped about the greater meaning behind their songs. Then again though, speculation is always fun, and Another Light provides a great platform for that type of conversation.

A year ago, I wrote in a review of their previous album, What Could Go Wrong?, that Red Vox had great potential and that their debut was a great first leap to take, and it’ll be exciting to see in what direction Vinny and Mike will decide to take their next big leap.” Well, their next leap indeed was a gigantic one, pulling a spectacular amount of refined elements to create an experience that can be offered by so very few. It’s a fantastic effort from the band, resulting in an album that will go down on record as a beautiful adventure to take as frequently as possible, with the assistance of a handy replay button!


Image credits – Artwork for ‘Another Light’ and ‘Reno’ all rights reserved by Red Vox.

[Album Review] Eminem – Revival

Revival is a very intriguing record. There’s no doubt that the myriad of mixed reactions that Eminem’s latest album has received signals that there are problems with it, and the consensus would be correct in assuming that. However, Revival’s case is a very unique in that it suffers from what I personally call the ‘Midnight syndrome’, where each half of the album is practically night and day in quality. The first half of the album is littered with poor quality, whereas the second half is decorated with some moments of pure brilliance.

I won’t go into this review without noting first that there are two exceptions to this. The album’s opening track, the surprisingly downbeat and intimate “Walk on Water”, is a well-mixed mesh of expression and distress that sees Marshall Mathers vent his frustrations about the process of song writing. It serves as a really great opening to an album consisting many vents, contextualizing what seems to be the ultimate purpose of this album and many other previous albums put out in his career – a source of emotional release put on a public pedestal for all to witness. “Untouchable”, the album’s fourth track, similarly achieves success in this manner, being a vehicle for Marshall to vent his frustrations with the treatment of African Americans in United States society, especially by certain police officers and law enforcement. Harsh irony plays a dramatic role in the track, which begins from the viewpoint of a bigoted police officer, set to a emphatic rock beat that pushes the song’s very button-pressing hook, Nobody can tell me shit ’cause I’m a big Rockstar!”  

All the other tracks in Revival’s opening 43 minutes is a very long drag. The album’s production is laden with many inconsistencies that practically ruin the illusion of atmosphere that high-budget albums are normally competent at holding down well. This is exemplified even in tracks such as “Untouchable”, where the rock beat seems rather low-fidelity and mixed a bit too low to be truly satisfying to the ear. Ear-piercing electronic hi-hats that have polluted the music charts make many appearances throughout the first half of Revival; “Believe” is the biggest sinner in this regard. It makes this part of the album incredibly difficult to listen to at a particularly high volume.

A common criticism towards Revival has been the choice of music and genres on this rather sonically diverse record, though this isn’t a particularly fair criticism. For example, Marshall’s adventure in the soundscapes of trap music in “Chloraseptic” isn’t inherently bad simply because the genre is too ‘generic’ for an artist like Eminem, as his fan base often press in critical comments aimed at the track. The problem is how he chooses to perform along such a wicked, bass-heavy beat – the same generic ego-laden lyricisms that have plagued the genre’s rise to mainstream popularity over the past three years. Marshall’s lyrics are certainly more creative and entertaining though, with the track’s hook being a reference to the brand of throat pain medication that both Eminem and featured vocalist PHresher claim that their detractors will need after they’ve been “at their throats”.

Lyrics can be a source of frustration through the majority of the first half of Revival, however. The sensitive “River”, which features a lofty passage from Ed Sheeran, alternates too much between formal and informal speech, muddying the song’s story of a love triangle that results in an abortion. Marshall also makes another apology track on Revival, this time towards his former wife Kim Mathers on “Bad Husband”. With the new cliché he has conceived, it is impossible not to compare the track with “Headlights” from The Marshall Mathers LP 2, an incredible track that embraces the raw emotional weight of Marshall’s relationship with his own mother. Here, on “Bad Husband”, there’s two major problems that drag the track down from being an effective emotional experience. The first is the rather straightforward lyrics that seem rushed and lacking in vision. There really isn’t a coherent narrative or strong metaphorical verses that properly carry Marshall’s emotions to the track’s audience. The second is the choice of beat, a rickety drum beat populated with an enormous population of hi-hats that distract the audience from the lyrics themselves. For comparison, the strength of “Headlights” comes from its incredible bass-boosted piano chords that properly elevate the emotional nature of the story Marshall is trying to tell.

With the many problems of the album’s first half, both musical and lyrical, one could imagine that the second half has a lot to make up for, but interestingly enough, it satisfyingly does! The entire stretch between “Framed” and the final track “Arose”, while not perfect, is a pretty incredible 34 minutes for Eminem, especially compared to the tracks that proceeded it. “Framed” returns to the creepy yet fun horrorcore beat and goofy lyrics that Eminem is best known for, and he pulls off the old style just as well. The track isn’t complete without its incredibly meme-able hook, which solidifies the hilarious ironic serial killer character the track portrays. The beautiful intertwining of comedy and creative lyrics continues in “Heat”, which completely trumps the rather flat sexual innuendos of the album’s first half, especially in “Chloraseptic”.

Speaking of ‘trumping’, another thing that the closing half of the album does so much better than its opening is the obsessive expression of outrage towards the current Trump administration. Eminem attempted a more serious take on his frustrations towards Trump and other Republican Party politicians in the album’s ninth track “Like Home”, which played out as an extending-of-the-hand to like minded people. It is quite the disappointing deflation of the issue though, as the track doesn’t seem to serve much purpose other than being a straight-up political anthem that chicken slaps the government sloppily with criticism without saying anything that hasn’t been said already by other artists in the music industry in the past three years of Trump’s political dominance. In the album’s fifteenth track, “Offended”, the seriousness is swapped out for a more loose and comedic tone, and this seems so much more effective at entertaining the audience while improving the chicken slapping with a sterner grip and application of harder force, through the use of some savage jokes and more colorful criticisms aimed at Trump, his administration, and Mitch McConnell too. It also works better as the track itself is not Trump-centric, but forms part of the greater idea of Eminem as an output of controversy, which he lampoons gleefully throughout the track.

The use of samples are also another thing that the second half of the album executes better than the first. “Remind Me” uses an incredibly choppy and poorly edited sample of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” to emphasize the track’s theme of self-reflection-based relationships, even if the track it sampled for the hook doesn’t share those themes at all. “In Your Head”, which is the starring highlight for most Eminem fans on Revival, samples the legendary “Zombie” by The Cranberries and is more successful at its intentions. The original song, written as a sorrowful and rage-induced reaction to the escalation of The Troubles in Ireland, carries the emotional weight and transfers it astonishingly well to a track about Marshall’s inner emotional struggle, paralleling his life with the fight of innocents against the violence of The Troubles. It is probably the most profound description of his life that Marshall Mathers has ever put to paper, and it’s a very valuable insight into his inner workings.

Revival’s beautiful two-part finale, “Castle” and “Arose” continues this valuable insight through to the very end, combining a very downbeat and sombre atmosphere with a coarse venting of negative emotions towards past events in his life, centering especially on his drug overdose and near-death experience in 2007, and a powerful recognition of the effect this had on the direction of his career. It is a tearful finale that mostly takes place in the context of letters being written by Marshall to his daughter Hailie Mathers, and later from his presumptive death bed after his overdose, with the latter accompanied by an impactful bass drum beat that emphasizes the urgency of what Marshall envisioned would’ve been his last words. While the album made many mistakes in its first half, Revival makes a lasting impression on the audience with this soaring high note that it ends on. This is not to say that the album is completely redeemed, however, simply that it succeeded in closing out with a spectacular finale.

For what its worth, Revival is a good effort by Eminem to put out an album that will fit well as part of his legacy. It isn’t a particularly great album, with many errors and oversights made in production, music, lyrics, and the alike, especially during its first half. It feels equally balanced, though, with outright awesome moments that get all the elements right, even at the expense of outshining a majority of the rest of the album. Ironically, it is a necessity, since most of the album deserves to have something to stand next to for a distraction. Revival will be most remembered for these particular moments of brilliance, but it won’t outweigh, or be outweighed by, the moments of mediocrity that have clumped together in the album’s first few tracks. Ultimately, its title is a bit funny, as from what it seems, the album arrived at the hospital dead on arrival, but was miraculously revived, albeit with the disease that initially killed it still swimming around in the veins.


Image credits Artwork for ‘Revival’ and promotional photograph all rights reserved by Eminem, Aftermath Entertainment, Shady Records, and Interscope Records.

An Incoming Train Wreck – The Fan Response to Train’s New Sound

There seems to be an exodus of sorts occurring among fans of Train, the band behind the early-2000s radio hit “Drops of Jupiter” and the lively and energetic 2009 album Save Me, San Francisco. Their next album, A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat, will be releasing later this week, boasting a brand new sound influenced heavily by modern pop rock. It follows many left-turns made by the band in the past few years which included the departure of founding member Scott Underwood and the transformation of the band from a modest three-piece to a mass ensemble of live musicians, a Christmas album in 2015, and even a fully fleshed-out cover of Led Zeppelin II released last year. It’s quite the adventure taken by a band with such a large following, but it seems that the following itself is largely not pleased with the detours that they’ve been taken through.

Over the past few weeks, the band have been releasing new tracks from their upcoming album that releases worldwide on 27 January. The conglomerate of these previews consists a sound that is radically different from the band’s previous discography, which was mostly traditional rock and country-like folk. Instead, A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat goes in a direction that is more reminiscent of today’s pop rock sound – flamboyant choruses, mechanical big-bass production and relatively simplistic lyrics accompanied by catchy and repetitive melodies. For a majority of Train’s fan base, whom have been comfortable with the mostly stripped, acoustic-driven folk sound of the band for over a decade, have displayed quite the resistance to the new album. They have shown no fear or remorse in harshly criticizing the band on social media, often describing the new sound as “overproduced”, and routinely accusing the band of selling out to the mainstream. Comments on the band’s new music have ranged from smart remarks to anger-fueled tantrums.

One commenter made a particularly colourful criticism of the album’s production – “I don’t know who it is forcing Pat to mail in vapid, robotic music for the masses, but whoever you are, please knock it off.” Another commenter expressed their anger in this way – “I’ll come back to you if you bring Jimmy and Scott back and do real music, I feel like this is completely selling out of what made you Train and just giving in to whatever is popular.” The lyrics of the new album, especially those of “The News” have also come under fire by the band’s fanbase, with one pointing out, “He’s so in love with her that he’s acting like an unhinged maniac? I feel we just get lost in this metaphor that gets set up and then just keeps being expanded upon without being fully explained or brought to a focal point.”

Others have also publicly renounced their support for the band, with a particular alleged long-time supporter stating in response to the announcement of dates on the Play That Song Tour, “I’m sad I won’t be going this year. Train has been my favourite band for years and have seen them 5 times. But I just really dislike this album and I wonder what happened.” Ticket prices have also been a source of anger towards the band – “$157 for lawn seats at the Colorado show. Sorry train, been a fan before everyone knew you but not paying that price, I can buy your entire catalogue for that”; a remark by another alleged long-time fan. Some fans have gone further and have also addressed guitarist and founding member Jimmy Stafford’s rather confusing “part-time” relationship with the band, with a commenter stating that “[it] would be nice to the fans to stop guessing if the [Sail Across the Sun cruise] will be his last time with the band.”

For the most part, the fear of judgement that would usually be a factor for a member with a dissenting opinion in most other fanbases is moot on Train’s pages, since it’s become quite the norm these days for any Train fan to express their disappointment publicly and have considerable support behind them. Top comments on posts made by the official Facebook page for Train are usually negative ones, with comment sections of posts previewing new songs from the album often being filled with angst. The only comments with double-digit “likes” these days on Train’s Facebook page are usually passionate expressions of outrage or disappointment.

One could easily dismiss these opinions as voices of a vocal minority – Train still have 4.6 million “likes” on Facebook and 452 thousand followers on Twitter, right? Well, these numbers, correct as of 23 January 2017, used to be bigger. This time last year, Train had over 200 thousand more likes on Facebook. Over a thousand have also jumped ship from Train on Twitter since November 2016. The stats are part of a greater downward trend for Train that started since Bulletproof Picasso, the band’s last original studio album released in 2014, and was largely influenced by the aforementioned questionable decisions by the band including the cover of Led Zeppelin II, which was released to mixed reviews both by critics and fans.

The loss of followers on social media is quite a contradiction to the usual pattern, in which a band gains a slate of new followers in anticipation of a new release, or after a new release. Compare with other artists on the same level of popularity as Train; The xx, whom released I See You earlier this month, gained over 74 thousand new likes on Facebook since the release of “On Hold”, a track from the album, in November 2016. In the same time, Train had lost 24 thousand likes. To even further emphasize the unusual situation Train has gotten themselves into, even Gorillaz, whom had also put out controversial new music deemed by its fanbase to be poor, have still gained followers on Facebook. Since the release of the Gorillaz’s track, “Hallelujah Money” on 19 January, they have gained 8 thousand likes on Facebook. In similar four-day time frames after the release of Train’s “The News” and “Drink Up”, both tracks from their new album, Train had lost a thousand likes each time.

Frontman Pat Monahan, while stating that “every album I’ve ever been a part of writing has had a fair amount of difficulty”, has described A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat as the “most fun and fulfilling” album he’s made with the band yet. While the new sound is, in an objective way, refreshing to hear after a couple of albums with the same general sound, it’ll be ultimately up to fans to decide whether or not what he considers to be “fun and fulfilling” is the right direction for the band to take both musically and commercially. From what we’ve seen so far, the answer is most likely going to be… no. With outrage and disappointment aplenty across Train’s fanbase, it’s unlikely that a band in decline will be able to propel A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat to any kind of weightful commercial success with the lack of support they have evidently been receiving in the past few weeks and months.


A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat will be released by Columbia Records on 27 January 2017 through iTunes and Google Play, and will be available to stream on Apple Music and Spotify the same day. Be sure to follow Altwire and “like” us on Facebook for more updates on Train and more!

Coldplay’s Kaleidoscopic New Video for “Up & Up”

“Up&Up”, the enigmatic closing track from Coldplay’s radiant and vivid new album, A Head Full of Dreams, has been graced with a music video of its own. The fourth track from the album to be decorated visually, it follows the track’s release as a single, earlier in April, following up on the success of “Adventure of a Lifetime” and “Hymn for the Weekend”.

Directed by Vania Heymann and Gal Muggia, the new video paints visual splendor to the tune of the album’s optimistic, heaven-soaring finale, with imaginative shots that turn the logically impossible into psychedelic reality. Imagery includes, but is not limited to, a bald eagle flying through the ocean, a dropship parachuting planets, whales dancing above New York City, swimmers in a washing machine, a gymnast backflipping through artillery fire, the Golden Gate Bridge crossing over a pond,  and a giant Chris Martin laying his head on a mountain face. Chroma key effects dominate the video’s visuals, which are mostly made up of vintage footage that seem to noticeably associate well with the song and album’s colourful sound. You can check out the video for yourself, below:

Springboarding off their new album, Coldplay have been many places recently. They met with and, in some cases, beat Adele in the charts, performed at the Super Bowl, made a splash in India with the “Hymn for the Weekend” video, and recently kicked off their ambitious A Head Full of Dreams Tour, which aims to visit stadiums all across the globe, including embarking on their first stadium tour of the United States. The new video for “Up&Up” serves to add even more to the band’s new found character, conceived within the creation of arguably their most creative album yet. You can read Altwire’s review of A Head Full of Dreams, written back in November, here!


“Up&Up” is available as a single through Parlophone, on iTunes and Google Play! A Head Full of Dreams is also available now through Parlophone, on the band’s official website!

AltWire Album Review: Kygo – Cloud Nine

Electronic dance music. A fine art in the sense that it’s a masterful way to dictate the energy and atmosphere of a room full of ravers. But not so much in the eyes of the average critical and analytic music buff, whose home lies in well-crafted, live instrumentation and audacious songwriting. Usually, electronic dance always has a habit of throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at the listener. This happens with the volume turned up to eleven and an explosive electronic riff usually substituting for the refrain. But then you have exceptions such as Norwegian deejay Kygo’s debut album, Cloud Nine. Cloud Nine is a unique, downtempo take on a genre usually filled with loud noises. Traditionalists of EDM will probably hate the album’s calm and collected nature. However, Cloud Nine‘s marquee of catchy riffs, vibrant and spacious atmosphere and ensemble of incredible vocal talent will be a crowd-pleaser for casual listeners.

Cloud Nine clocks in at 55 minutes, consisting a joy ride of many different musical emotions across 15 unique tracks. It does this while keeping a philosophy of calm and tranquil musicianship. This is something you’d never see Avicii, Zedd, or any of the mainstream EDM artists take on. The album earns its name for a warm and relaxing experience that will have you feeling like you’re floating on “cloud nine”. There’s never an array of many different electronic melodies flying at once. There aren’t any loud drums or earth-shaking bass to be found. There is only the attractive craftsmanship of Kygo and his ability to create soulful songs out of the same “verse-buildup-drop” structure of the traditional EDM track. He accomplishes this electronic music production by regressing to simply a melody and its chords. For example, on the album’s most commercially exposed track, “Stay”, there are only three parts to the song’s “drop”: a warped piano track playing the chords, a simple synth melody and a smooth drum loop. All 3 parts are within a comparatively slower tempo than the average 140 BPM EDM track.

In various tracks, a particular live instrument becomes the feature of the track, setting the track’s mood and atmosphere with it. In “Raging”, it’s a dancing acoustic guitar. In “Happy Birthday”, it’s a commanding piano performance. Finally, in “Not Alone”, it’s a tranquil electric guitar. Some tracks bring the same instrument into the forefront, but employs them in a different way to match the intended color of the sound. “Serious” also features an electric guitar, but with a more passionate edge. This theme of the album helps give each track its own unique style and flavor. That’s what prevents Cloud Nine from becoming a 55-minute dud of aimless electronic music that sounds alike throughout.

Another strength of Cloud Nine stems from the host of amazing vocal talent featured on the album. Kygo managed to round up some rather gifted individuals. These individuals are both well-known inside and outside the mainstream and execute the album’s various vocal exercises. The biggest names on the album, John Legend and Foxes, both give some powerful performances on “Happy Birthday” and “Oasis” respectively. Legendary Australian duo Angus and Julia Stone also make an appearance on Cloud Nine. They kick out some fun and enchantment on closing track “For What It’s Worth”. Another fellow Australian, singer-guitarist Matt Corby, lays down a sensual and stimulating hymn on “Serious”.

Our hearts are like firestones
And when they strike, we feel the love

Of course, no album gets pressed onto the store shelf without carrying a few flaws. While the near-entirety of Cloud Nine‘s music and vocal talent is flawless, the album’s songwriting itself is there, existing as a substantial weight on the enjoyment of the lyrically-minded audiences. The album’s biggest weakness is it’s rather disposable lyrics. They seem to be made up simply as a reason to have vocals on the album. The track list of Cloud Nine consists mostly of poppy love songs and cheesy inspiration songs. “Firestone” has Conrad Sewell singing, albeit in a wavy and enjoyably hypnotic tone: “Our hearts are like / firestones / and when they strike / we feel the love”. The cheese is real.

Repetition is the bane of good songwriting, and unfortunately, Cloud Nine succumbs to a hell of a lot of repetition. It is not only confined to various repeats of choruses and hooks, but even deathly repetition of singular words or phrases. In the intro to “I’m in Love”, James Vincent McMorrow shouts the title of the song 23 times in a row. Yes, you heard me, in the intro alone. Foxes’ ethereal performance on “Oasis” includes of a three-line chorus where the phrase “You’re my oasis” is repeated twice. Even Angus and Julia Stone’s performance on “For What it’s Worth” is wasted on repetition. They sing the phrases: “We were kids / trying to make it up / as we go along / as we go along” and “For what it’s worth / I was only trying to / wake you up” four and eight times, respectively.

Come take my heart of glass, and give me your love
I hope you’ll still be there to pick the pieces up

There is a grand exception to the disappointing offering in songwriting, though. That exception is the song “Fragile”, spearheaded by a powerful performance by British pop icon Labyrinth. In what seems to be a sharp deviation from the corny love songs, “Fragile” draws it’s themes from the classic metaphor of the shattered heart. This falls in line with Labyrinth’s trademark of unusually artful songwriting. “Come take my heart of glass / and give me your love / I hope you’ll still be there / to pick the pieces up / ’cause baby, I’m fragile”, he sings.

kygo-review-footer

For it’s rather disappointing lyrical effort, Kygo’s Cloud Nine more than makes up for it. It makes up in the form of some well-crafted, calm and collected electronic music that keeps to the form of the traditional EDM song structure…while avoiding the precarious jumping of the shark. Throughout its length, it delivers a relaxing experience through a minimalist style of production that creates a space of elation and composure in the otherwise noisy world of electronic music. Cloud Nine is backed by strong and stunning performances by a diverse range of skilled vocalists, from all kinds of fames and fortunes. For the average EDM listener used to the big sounds and heavy lines, it might be a bore. For the songwriters’ crowd, it might be a whole bunch of inedible corn, with the exception of “Fragile”. However for the casual listener, it will be nothing less than a delight.

Album Rating: B

Radiohead Finally Release “Burn The Witch”, Alongside Eerie New Music Video

Weeks of speculation, rumor and inventive teases by Radiohead, including completely going dark on social media for 48 hours, is finally starting to come to an point.

Legendary British art rock band Radiohead are ,yet again, on the verge of releasing a new album. The amount of fans anticipating this album possibly number millions across the world. Their new track, “Burn the Witch”, had been teased by the band through mysterious – and rather unsettling – leaflets sent out to fans in the past week. These leaflets recited the lyrics “Burn the witch / we know where you live”.

The new song, which has been described by some as a surreal take at a cult-like society, is backed by a frantic string arrangement. This string arrangement is accompanied by Thom Yorke’s signature drowsy, yet hypnotic, vocals. The track was released as a single on iTunes, with artwork that featured creepy white-eyed figures, mostly staring at the viewer.

The release of the new track was also promoted with a candid and creative clay-mation music video, directed by Chris Hopewell. According to Hopewell, the video was, “conceived, designed, built and animated in 14 days”. The video’s narrative is loosely based on a 1973 horror film. The Wicker Man, is a film where a detective stumbles into a cult-like village of pagans, in search of clues to the disappearance of a little girl; perfectly complimenting the song’s objectively anxious and uneasy nature. You can watch the perplexing new video below:

Photo Credit – Pigeonsandplanes.com


“Burn the Witch” is available as a single now, through XL Recordings. You can download the new track on iTunes or Google Play! News on Radiohead’s hotly-anticipated new album will be coming soon; stay tuned to Altwire!

The Temper Trap Unveil New Album; Premieres Electronic Rock Opus “Fall Together”

Australian indie rockers The Temper Trap have finally pulled back the curtains on their long-awaited third studio album. The new record, entitled Thick as Thieves, has been three years in the making, and will feature production work from Grammy award-nominated producer Malay, who had previously worked on Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE and Zayn Malik’s Mind of Mine. In addition to the announcement, the band also premiered a new,  electronically-charged track from the album, “Fall Together”; the second cut from the album released by the band, after the spaciously-produced title track was released as a single in February.

Thick as Thieves will notably be the band’s first without founding member and lead guitarist for over a decade, Lorenzo Sillitto, who had parted ways with the band in October 2013, citing a need to “try new things”, after what he described as “an experience I will never forget and one that changed my life.” The Temper Trap had reached stardom in Australian music culture and achieved international success with their first two albums, 2009’s Conditions and 2012’s self-titled The Temper Trap, the former of which certified Platinum in Australia and Gold in the United Kingdom.

Along with the new album’s official release date of June 10, 2016, the band also unveiled the album’s light-hearted artwork, which features two children identically dressed in camo shorts, white singlets and werewolf masks. The band also debuted the album’s fifth track, “Fall Together”, a song where profound lyrics describe a tangled love-hate relationship between two people. A triumphant electronic rock opus, the track features a perfect equilibrium between instruments and electronics, contrasting the heavyweight electronic and pop rock-centric sounds of the band’s previous studio album. You can check out the brand new slice from Thick as Thieves down below:


Thick as Thieves will be released by Liberation Records in Australia and the United Kingdom and by Glassnote Records in the United States on June 10, 2016. You can pre-order the album on iTunes. A limited-edition 10″ white vinyl version of the album is also available to pre-order in Australia through JB Hi-Fi.