Friday, December 16, 2011

CFW Rocks: Most Anticipated New Music of 2012

2011 had some really good music, but 2012 may just top it with some potential returns and brilliant up and comers. So, here it is in no particular order:

1. Lacuna Coil - Dark Adrenaline - The Italian six-piece hits stores for the first time since 2009's Shallow Life. In a move that surprised many older fans, they returned to the studio with Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Bullet for My Valentine) in an attempt to return to their (In a) Reverie roots. Cristina and company claim that the album (out January 24th) is their heaviest album to date. "Trip the Darkness" and "Kill the Light" seem to suggest a much darker record (no pun intended) than the glammier Shallow Life.

2. Shinedown - TBA - Shinedown attempts to recreate the magic of The Sound of Madness with their upcoming fourth record. They returned to the studio with Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance) and "Bully" the upcoming first single off of their new album impacts radio at the beginning of next year. It'll be interesting to hear whether the album is an extension of the ├╝ber-successful Sound or whether they go back to the sound of Leave a Whisper, that first netted them a platinum record.

3. Nine Lashes - World We View - The five-piece Birmingham, AL band goes major in 2012, putting out World We View, joining Tooth and Nail while hitting the road on Redvolution 2012 with Red and Thousand Foot Krutch. Songs like "Anthem of the Lonely" and "Adrenaline" give a glimpse into an album that is sure to be on top of year end lists as their independent Escape was in '09.

4. Fireflight - Now - Fireflight returns with their fourth album and will dominate Christian rock radio yet again when their album hits on March 6th. They've consistently put out a record every two years since their existence and have consistently rocked with every release. "Stay Close" is no different. All secular rock radio needs to do now is give them the break they deserve.

5. Hurt - The Crux - After a critically acclaimed acoustic tour, Hurt will put out their sixth album on March 27th. Hurt is an anomaly in the world of major labels. Most bands would crumble after leaving or getting dropped from a major label. Hurt's response was 2009's independent release Goodbye to the Machine, an album that I consider their best release to date. Hurt moves to Carved Records for this release and I'm happy their new single "How We End Up Alone" will be one of my first music purchases of the new year.

6. Valora - I Waited For You - After a successful remix of Breaking Benjamin's "Blow Me Away" featuring lead singer Syd Duran's vocals and after following the workings of this band for the last three years, Valora finally releases their highly anticipated Hollywood Records debut on April 3rd. I Waited For You is a multimedia concept record of sorts that features a free downloadable comic book with the accompanying upcoming record.

7. Trapt - Reborn - After No Apologies and an independent album featuring a collection of re-recorded past hits, Trapt returns in April with yet another independent release. Trapt recorded "Bring It", that will likely appear on the upcoming release and it's sounds as if Trapt is going back to the sound of their self-titled that netted them their biggest hit to date, "Headstrong".

8. No Doubt - TBA - After two solo Gwen Stefani records and over 10 years on the shelf, No Doubt attempts to reclaim the throne with their upcoming sixth record. A successful tour with Paramore in 2009 inspired them to return to their ska and reggae roots for their upcoming record which should be out by next year.

9. Halestorm - TBA - Halestorm returns next year with their female-fronted classic rock flair. The four piece from Pennsylvania has been recording since the end of the Avalanche Tour and have already given fans bits and pieces of the sound of the next record with songs like "American Boys".

10. Oh No Fiasco - TBA - After tour dates with bands such as Red and Framing Hanley in 2010, Knoxville outlet Oh No Fiasco will be releasing their debut with Eleven Seven Music sometime in 2012. Their catchy synthy rock will be sure to gain the attention of droves of new fans.

11. Nine Inch Nails - TBA - After holding the last live show almost two years ago and having successful stints in movie scoring that landed Trent Reznor a Golden Globe AND an Oscar, Reznor intends to focus on bringing Nine Inch Nails back in 2012. Most fans will be happy with just about anything as it was thought that Nine Inch Nails was pretty much never going to release any more new music.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The 2011 Dubbies

After two years, I've brought back my personal awards in the world of music, The Dubbies, not to be confused with dubstep...WOBWOBWOB!!

Eight awards will be given out this year and I think the bands I've recognized for nomination are very much deserving.

Headbanger of the Year:
Trivium-In Waves
Underoath-Paper Lung
Straight Line Stitch-Conversion
Dark New Day-Come Alive
Dead By April-Within My Heart
Times In Grace-Strength in Numbers

The winner is:
Trivium-In Waves. Trivium washed away the competition with this brutal number. It was the uncompromising Trivium that many fans thought they'd lost with their latest albums, but it was also really catchy and I think that made a lot of new fans for Trivium this year.

Female Fronted Band of the Year:
Icon For Hire
Within Temptation
Don't Wake Aislin

The winner is:
Evanescence. Amy Lee and company came back in a big way this year with their self-titled effort. It was proof that they could stick around through all of the drama and, unlike The Open Door, worked this time.

Music Video of the Year:
Rise Against - Make It Stop (September's Children)
Red - Feed The Machine
Stone Sour - Hesitate
Seven Day Sonnet - Farewell to Good Days
Seether - Country Song
Underoath - Paper Lung

The winner is:
Rise Against-Make It Stop (September's Children). Rise Against is one of the few artists who gets better and better with music videos over time. This video (and song) about the recent teen suicide/cyberbullying trend is gutwrenching but, as all of their videos, makes you think and makes you want to act.

EP of the Year:
Charetta - A Nation Distracted
Don't Wake Aislin - Don't Wake Aislin
Dead Fish Handshake - Dead Fish Handshake
Periphery - The Icarus EP
Cavo - Sounds From the Hollow
Crosses - Crosses

The winner is:
Charetta-A Nation Distracted. Charetta is a band that has been under the radar for far too long and this EP shows their growth. The first full-length gave them the catchy songs, but this EP is showing off their songwriting and storytelling.

Best New Artist:
Memory of a Melody
Eye Empire
Park Lane
Icon For Hire

The winner is:
It's a TIE! Noctura and Vestascension! It was hard to give it to one artist, but these two artists are great. Noctura this year deserves it for where they came from to get to where they are at this point and Vestascension because they give so much to their fans.

Record of the Year:
Thrice - Yellow Belly
There for Tomorrow - Hunt Hunt Hunt
Freestate - Home
Periphery - Jetpacks Was Yes 2.0
Red - Feed the Machine
Blindside - There Must Be Something in the Water

The winner is:
Thrice-Yellow Belly. Thrice is the most diverse band I've ever known and it's going to be hard to see them go into hiatus for the time being.

Song of the Year:
Charetta - Bully
Vestascension - Then We Are Here
Eye Empire - More Than Fate
Revis - From That Point On
Evanescence - My Heart is Broken
Twin Atlantic - Free

The winner is:
Vestascension-Then We Are Here. This was a wide open field, but I felt that Vestascension had the best song on this list. You don't have to make a song for radio to have a song that gets recognized for its greatness.

Album of the Year:
Evanescence - Evanescence
Dark New Day - Hail Mary
Red - Until We Have Faces
Freestate - Unify
Eye Empire - Moment of Impact
Thrice - Major/Minor

The winner is:
Freestate-Unify. Best album of the year hands down. All of the entries here deserve recognition, but Freestate put out another album that churns hit after hit. Freestate's debut Surrender was no fluke. The album of the year goes to Freestate.

Great year for rock music and I'm looking forward to more in 2012.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2011: The Year in Musical Fail

By now, most of you will have already pegged the biggest musical fails to be Rebecca Black's "Friday" and Metallica and Lou Reed's Lulu. However, there is still more fail where that came from this year.

1. Guns n'Roses' disastrous Rock in Rio performance of Mr. Brownstone.
This is Mr. Brownstone as it was performed at Rock in Rio in 1991.
This is Mr. Brownstone as it was performed at Rock in Rio in 2011.
Any questions?
Axl has always been considered one of the greatest lead singers in the history of hard rock music. However, that fateful night this past October was embarrassing to his own legacy. Axl looked like Yosemite Sam really let himself go and I was surprised that he was able to fit himself and his ego in that gaudy-ass coat.

2. Bill O'Reilly attacks socially conscious rapper Common.
Bill O'Reilly continued his attack on mainstream rap music this year by attacking Common, who read poetry to kids in the White House. Bill O'Reilly was offended that they invited Common to the White House because of foul language in his lyrics and his radical political views on defending Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu Jamal amongst other alleged cop killers.

It then led to Jon Stewart obliterating O'Reilly both on his Daily Show and on Bill's own show The O'Reilly Factor. I could even sort of understand why Mr. O'Reilly has attacked other rappers such as Ludacris and Cam'ron because of their lyrics. However, Common is the least offensive rapper in the mix. I've got about 435 reasons to be angry about Washington more than I do some rapper that gets invited to the White House.

3. The Year in Kim Kardashian
Yes, Kim Kardashian invaded music this year, too. In fact, it's more of a fail than her marriage ever was this year. The year started off when she was invited to go on stage at a Prince concert. It's bad when a middle aged lady knows more what to do on stage than Kim does. It's even worse when Kim's had practice. No, not that kind of practice, this would think that that would be the worst of it, but we're not done yet.

Somehow, Kimmy K. thought she could be the next Apollonia by starting her own music career. And then this happened. Get off the stage, Kim...and take The Dream with you.

4. Limp Bizkit: Don't Call It a Comeback
Yes, Limp Bizkit attempted to return to their glory days by releasing Gold Cobra. And it actually did make sense seeing as other acts such as Hollywood Undead were becoming popular. Unfortunately for Limp Bizkit, many people were trying to forget those days where they wore their red Yankee cap backwards and arbitrarily grabbed their crotch. You want a visual representation of the music on Gold Cobra?

That covers it. Within the year, Limp Bizkit left their longtime home at Interscope Records.

5. Nickelback honors the Thanksgiving tradition of being the invitee that nobody actually wants there.

How hated do you have to be to be petitioned to go away? Nickelback performed at Detroit's Thanksgiving game against the Green Bay Packers, which many fans thought was cruel and unusual punishment. They lost to the Packers and had to listen to Nickelback for the halftime show. As of this post, they haven't won a game since Nickelback performed.

Well, as you can clearly see, there's much more to the year in suck than you may have previously thought. Now let us never speak of this year this way again.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

2011: The Year in Viral Music

2011 marked an unforgettable year in music that went viral.

The video and song that set the tone for this year was Rebecca Black's "Friday". It trended and trended and yeah. Most everybody hated it, but most everybody was parodying it too. The song got so popular that it had been in the I-Tunes Top 100.

The song got so popular that it became the product of a lawsuit. The song's views got to a point where Youtube wanted to profit off of it even further, charging users to play the entire song and eventually pulling it and its millions of views. Not long after, the video returned to Youtube and has continued to amass an insane number of views.

It's gotten to a point that Rebecca Black has been granted a legitimate chance to have a music career. Her two followup videos, "My Moment" and "Person of Interest", have amassed over 30 million Youtube views.

No genre has benefitted from viral music as much as rap has. Last year's biggest viral hit was "The Bed Intruder Song".

The most controversial viral video this year was Mr. EBT's "My EBT". On the one hand, many people thought it was funny, but conservative commentators were quick to jump on its message saying that far too many people abuse the country's welfare system. It was because of this that the duo that made it (Money Maine was the producer) onto the news having to explain their stance on the song.

The Black Friday anthem of the year clearly went to Mr. Ghetto's "Wally World". If you're going to shake your ass while pepper spraying people in the face just to get that discounted X-Box, this is the jam to do it to. This is one of those videos that they would have probably shown on BET's Uncut back in the day at 3 o'clock in the morning. I want to hate it, but it's just so damn catchy.

Not everything turns out to be so bad it's good. Take Boston duo's Karmin, who's "Look At Me Now" video was amongst the top viewed videos of the entire year with almost 50 million views. In fact, most of their covers have at least 10 million Youtube views. They played Ellen, got commercial spots on the NBA Finals, and eventually got signed to Epic Records. Their debut album will hit stores next year and marks a change in traditional means for discovering new talent. This is the new tradition.

I just wonder what viral video can do the same next year.

Monday, November 28, 2011

CFW Predicts The 2012 Grammies (or tries to...)

This Wednesday night, the focus will yet again be on CBS as the 4th annual Grammy Nominations Concert will be on and we'll find out the big nominees for this upcoming year. This year is going to be particularly interesting as the awards have contracted from the previous year, eliminating 31 categories. While I think that plays a bit of a role, I don't believe that it will completely change who dominates nominations on Wednesday night.

Record of the Year:
Adele-Rolling in the Deep - If Adele is not a shoe in to sweep nominations in the Big Four (apart from Best New Artist which she's not eligible for), I don't know what to think about NARAS.
The Civil Wars-Barton Hollow - The "Lady Antebellum" of this year. If you don't know them yet, you will know them on February 12, 2012. Interestingly enough, the duo toured with Adele earlier this year.
Bruno Mars-Grenade - Bruno Mars was largely ineligible as an artist last year, but managed to get nominated SEVEN times, more than any male artist last year. He's going to be another major nominee this year.
Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga-The Lady is a Tramp - Tony Bennett is going to get recognized in the Big Four this year and I think that NARAS is still trying to make up for Gaga not being nominated for Best New Artist a few years back.
Gym Class Heroes & Adam Levine-Stereo Hearts - I think this gets in because it's current and is inescapable right now. It's fresh in Grammy voters minds.

Alternate Pick:
Black Eyed Peas-Just Can't Get Enough - As the group gets ready to undergo a hiatus, don't count Black Eyed Peas out for a nomination for Record of the Year. Their formula is a hit with NARAS.

Best New Artist:
The Band Perry - Had a pretty sizable crossover hit with "If I Die Young" that will probably lead them into this category.
The Civil Wars - I think they're going to have a big Grammy night and may surprise a lot of people in this category.
Jessie J. - I hear a lot of artists tweeting about her and that damned "Price Tag" song. Best way to tell if someone's worth nominating is to listen to artists first.
Nicki Minaj - I don't see how she doesn't get nominated here. She's on everyone's songs and visibility goes a long way.
Tyler, The Creator - The Grammies are never a group to shy away from controversial figures. Tyler and his OFWGKTA gang were easily the most talked about artists on music sites this year. Many people that don't have Twitter will wonder who this guy is.

Alternate Pick:
Jackie Evancho - The Esperanza Spalding of this category for those that don't follow talent reality competitions. The girl is only 8 days older than my sister, but has amassed amazing sales with Dream With Me, an album that debuted at #2 this past year with over 160,000 copies sold.

Song of the Year:
Taylor Swift - Back to December - She won the Album of the Year category just two years back, she's going to get recognized in the Big Four at some point.
Bruno Mars - Grenade - The only male artist that has any potential at competing with the ladies that dominate this category.
Katy Perry - Firework - This song is going to get recognized. It just has to. Katy had too big of a year not to get recognized in the Big Four.
Adele - Rolling in the Deep - I believe that Adele is a shoe-in in this category. If she doesn't get nominated for Record, she gets Song or vice versa.
Lady Gaga - You And I - Gaga again gets recognized, but this time for her own work.

Alternate Pick:
Mumford & Sons - The Cave - They'll get the Arcade Fire treatment as the little indie rock darlings that could.

Album of the Year:
Adele - 21 - If this doesn't somehow get nominated, I will eat my blog post.
Tony Bennett - Duets II - What a way to go out on top. Finally got a #1 album and may have a chance to win AOTY.
Beyonce - 4 - May not be her best effort, but NARAS LOVES Beyonce and will recognize her in a major category.
Bruno Mars - Doo Wops and Hooligans - Again, Bruno's album had not been eligible the year prior, but the singles off of it have made it a clear candidate for AOTY.
Taylor Swift - Speak Now - Three albums with two nominated for Album of the Year? Never has an artist so young received the accolade of Album of the Year, let alone get nominated twice by the age of 21, but if anyone can do it, it's Taylor Swift.

Alternate Pick:
The Band Perry - The Band Perry - Country always represents a big chunk of voters, so don't be surprised if you see The Band Perry getting recognized in yet another Big Four category.

I think Rihanna gets snubbed in the Big Four as many felt she had been the year before. I think Gaga not making the Album of the Year wouldn't be entirely shocking. I don't think Born This Way had as massive an appeal as they would have wanted it to.

Google Plus: Another Social Networking Failure?

Before I begin, I just want to say that I like Google's company overall. They own Youtube and have the most recognizable search engine available. Having said all of that, it seems as if Google Plus, their latest social network is not very far away from becoming the next Google Buzz.

The problem has nothing to do with the functionality of the actual site. That's always fixable. What is not is the time that it has taken them to implement something as simple as business pages. Google Plus debuted in June, but they didn't start business pages until earlier this month. In the world of social networking where instant gratification is key, 5 months is a long time to wait.

In the meantime, Facebook took some of the qualities that made Google Plus unique (such as posting for certain circles) and made them their own. They now have their own "hangout" feature collaborating with Skype for video chatting.

Google's Music Store is even having its own issues. Facebook is trying to get their own music store off the ground and once it does that, even though Google was first in launching, Google can't even say they're a legitimate competitor with Facebook...merely an alternative.

I really would like to see Google be competitive with Facebook because I think that feature wise, they could potentially outperform Facebook. However, if Google Buzz was any indication to how they intend to handle Google Plus, there's nothing that would get Google out of the doldrums at that point and they will have failed yet again.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A band a day...We As Human

After a successful independent full-length and EP, We As Human, originally from Idaho, have been given an opportunity from their mentors Skillet (more specifically lead singer John Cooper) for major label success.

We As Human is:
Justin Cordle-Vocals
Jake Jones-Guitar
Justin Forshaw - Guitar
Dave Draggoo-Bass
Adam Osborne-Drums

We As Human just released a major self-titled EP that is buzzing and ready to explode onto the active rock scene. The EP was produced by mega-producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Evanescence, Deftones). Most hard rock bands on a major label would their edge. We As Human takes their message to a new level.

If you like Red, you'd probably like the song Double Life, but there's a little bit of something for everyone on their major debut EP. If you do a bit of snooping around Youtube, you ought to check some of their earlier stuff as well. They'll also be doing quite a bit of touring with Skillet as well, so look out for dates!

Mark my words, 2012 will be the year We As Human rules rock radio, Christian or otherwise.

The Social Music Experiment

About a year and a half ago, I was "working" and when there wasn't much to be done I was writing down ideas for a website that I was thinking about during the doldrums of the music industry. I didn't finish it, but I wanted to post the ideas that I had in the hope that someone would get where I'm going with the idea.

I didn't even come up with a name for it, so I just simply called it the Social Music Experiment.

Goal: To connect fans to artists and labels as never before, creating the greatest social networking site that caters to music fans. In a time where people download music for free, we need to reward the people that purchase music and promote discovery.

A point system would:
1. Reward people that buy music online either digitally or physically through SME.
2. Reward people that successfully promote unsigned artists through referrals.
3. Reward gift cards for digital music, electronic stores, band merch, and concert tickets (depending on, of course, how many points you earn).

Goal #2: To connect artists to other artists and labels in ways not previously connected before.

1. Artists would post videos of auditions either for labels or for bands if they would like to be recruited. Of course, Youtube exists, but it would make it a lot easier for labels to sort through the B.S.

2. There would also be a Band Aids portion of the site where bands post classifieds to find their missing pieces.

3. Bands can also post blogs, vlogs, performances, and whatever they see fit on their page.

The difference between the SME and other social networking sites would be the intimacy and less junk to have to go through to find your favorite bands and artists of the present and future.

Perhaps the site would grow to eventually host major music festivals...even an online exclusive festival to the website where bands of different genres play music live for all who listen.


I seriously can't be the only one bummed about the Christmas season. Why, you ask? It's because Christmas music is back in season. It's the most marketable time of the year when seemingly everyone and their mother decides to release a Christmas record and/or song. Hell, even Jim Jones of the Dipset squad put out a Christmas EP.

Even worse is when radio stations attempt to one up each other by playing Christmas music earlier and earlier in the season. Instead of going the traditional route of starting the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday for you pepper-spraying, gun toting shoppers out there), radio stations have been starting as early as Halloween. The Monster Mash has been replaced by Justin Bieber, truly making this the Nightmare Before Christmas.

Is NOTHING sacred anymore? Is Korn going to turn Jingle Bells into a Dubstep Christmas?

Is Lou Reed going to read the lines of Carol of the Bells as James Hetfield randomly screams I Am The Santa?!?

As a little kid, I used to love when my family broke out the Salsoul. But it's overkill now. Over overkill.

I can't be the only one. Please tell me I'm not the only one.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Reflections on Thrice's Hiatus

After 13 years as a band, Thrice's Dustin Kensrue announced on the Thrice main site that they would be taking a break as a full-time band so that members of Thrice can focus on family life.

The news is not entirely surprising, but nonetheless unfortunate for many fans.

This past year Thrice put out Major/Minor, an album that many critics are saying is amongst the best in their vast catalog.

In a bit of an homage to drummer Riley Breckenridge's Three Things blog for the OC Weekly, I'll post the three things to remember Thrice by (in the case they don't ever release any new music).

1. Versatility: Thrice's eight albums show how much Thrice has evolved. They started out as a post-hardcore band and then seamlessly transitioned through many different genres of music including indie rock, electronica, metal, and even the blues. For that very reason, Dustin Kensrue is arguably the most versatile vocalist I've ever listened to.

2. Consistency: As diverse as Thrice's albums have been, the result has always been positive. I think their influence on other and future bands has not yet been fully realized, but give that another 5 years.

3. Humanitarianism: One of the positives of Thrice's consistency is the fact that a portion of the proceeds of all of their albums has gone to a charity to help others in need. That humility started when they were at Sub City/Hopeless and has continued at their current home at Vagrant Records.

If Major/Minor is the last work that Thrice ever puts out, then it was a proper curtain call to one of the best bands out there.

Three Songs To Remember Thrice By:

1. Deadbolt: The highlight of Thrice's early catalog and the one word everyone yells out at a Thrice concert that hasn't heard that song yet. Think of it as their "Freebird".

2. Image of the Invisible: This was the lead single off of my favorite Thrice album Vheissu. Perfect lead single that had not only style, but substance as well. It serves as the battle cry for Invisible Children, a charity dedicated to ending the use of child soldiers out in central Africa.

3. The Whaler: A seemingly obscure choice in comparison with the other two, but a song that I personally feel best shows off the lighter side of Thrice. Beautiful harmonies and such a contrast to some of their heaviest works.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Music Is Not A Competition...

J. Loren of Hurt said something that struck me during the Hurt/Dead Fish Handshake show last Saturday.

Paraphrased from his rant, he said that "Music is not a competition." J. Loren meant it as a way to say that musicians are all in this together and I thought that was the one thing, aside from their amazing performance, that I took home with me.

Hearing stories about some bands that have argued, fought and pulled off of tours because of such competition, it really means a lot for a musician to come out and say that.

In today's industry, musicians of any genre need each other now more than ever...a union of sorts, not just to protect themselves from label greed, but to protect their intellectual rights as an artist and to sell as many albums as possible by promoting each other. I think the greatest complement an artist can get is the recommendation from another artist.

Matthew Paul, lead singer of Dead Fish Handshake, reinforced the statement by saying that scenes barely exist anymore because bands are mostly into themselves instead of uplifting the scene they're involved in. This fragmentation of music scenes is not good for the artists that are forced to go it alone or for the music scene its self.

Sure, bands can compete for airplay and sales, but ultimately bands need to bolster each other to survive and to succeed. There needs to be camaraderie within a town or city so that bands can continue to support each other and support themselves.

United, scenes stand. Divided, they fall.

Live Review: Hurt/Dead Fish Handshake (Acoustic) 11/19/11 @ Architekt Music in Butler, NJ

"If you don't mind, we're gonna rock the fuck out."-J. Loren (Hurt)

And that they did. And that they did. Hurt took their "Acoustic Experience" tour to the middle of nowhere New Jersey on Saturday evening for an unforgettable set.

Hurt, who is planning a release of their fourth album in March (The Crux), proved that you don't need the chug-chugging of guitars to rock a crowd.

Openers Matthew Paul (lead singer) and Rob Ferreira (guitarist) of the band Dead Fish Handshake (a band name that will likely go into the Rainbow Butt Monkeys Hall of Fame) started the night off with a great acoustic set that featured songs off of their March 2011 debut Across State Lines, a song off of the upcoming album that they're recording this winter and a great cover of Mad Season's River of Deceit, one of the greatest songs of the 90s. As odd as their name is, their set was great and managed to hold their own considering they were opening for a nationally renowned band.

And then there was Hurt. For those of you who've never listened to Hurt, they're a hard rock band that has elements of country and classical music rolled in with a singer/songwriter sensability. It's rare for a hard rock band's strength to be in their songwriting. J. Loren, in my opinion, is the most talented songwriter in the entire genre and the performance on Saturday night reinforced that.

Hurt played an expansive 18-song, two hour set that spanned the entire band catalogue, including their debut self-titled album from 2000. You can tell that the band really puts a lot into their work whether it comes to studio work or live performances. Each performance had such intricacy that I felt like I was watching Hurt record an acoustic album live (which they should clearly do after the release of The Crux). J. Loren's vocals were incredible to the point that even his whistling was on key. The fans themselves sang the end of Assurance on key as well.

As good as some of the other shows I've been to this year were, Hurt's acoustic performance at Architekt will go down as my hands down favorite. Hurt is an example of a band that could be on a major label, independent, or self-released that can put out the same spectacular result no matter the obstacles thrown their way. I'm so glad that they haven't folded under the weight of the crumbling music industry.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A band a day...Cyrenic

Cyrenic started largely as a one man project under Brian Zuckerman, the lead singer. Zuckerman self-recorded and self-produced the band's first two efforts, The Whites Of Our Lies and A New Meaning. He sang, played guitar, bass, did the programming and produced the whole enchilada...with some help from his friends.

As the project became more successful, Zuckerman desired to play these songs live and after the creation of A New Meaning, the band played their first shows. Their new album Dying to Live is highly anticipated and marks the first time Zuckerman is recording a full band effort.

Cyrenic includes:
Kevin Holmes - Guitar
Don Pastorius - Bass
Keith Pereira - Drums

The band's sound used to be a bit more melodic and perhaps even a bit poppier such as with the song Let It Burn. Even though we got a taste of what the album may sound like with their new single Built of Sand, the sound of the band is definitely trending in a heavier direction. Their sound can be most compared to Rains, a band often associated with Evans Blue. Cyrenic's Dying to Live hits digital stores on November 22nd, giving us something we can all be thankful for aside from just stuffing our faces with turkey.

You can currently pre-order their new album on their website, but you can also download a Cyrenic sampler, which features material from their first two albums here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two bands a day?!? Hope Kills Fear/Park Lane

Two great bands, one great lead singer. For about 15 years, Carley Coma has been rocking stages. He started in the great math metal band known as Candiria, but ever since, he's embarked on two more mainstream-ish efforts.

The first of which is a local area band that I've actually had the pleasure of seeing live, Hope Kills Fear, which just so happens to be one of my favorite band names ever.

Hope Kills Fear includes:
Julio Arias - Guitars/Vocals
Steve Richards - Guitars/Vocals
Joe Fazio - Bass

Hope Kills Fear displays more of a religious side to Coma. The reason this band exists is because of a really bad car accident that took members of Candiria to the hospital. Coma underwent a spiritual awakening while healing and the lyrics are largely inspired by it. Hope Kills Fear would fit in perfectly on a bill that features the likes of a Decyfer Down or Red.

Just on the name alone, you can tell that they're all about positivity. It's so easy for bands to focus on negativity and offer no solutions, but Hope Kills Fear looks to change that with songs that include "Surrender" and "Save Me". If you like my description, I think you should check them out on ReverbNation.

The second band that I'd like to mention is Park Lane. Park Lane seems to be on the fast lane to success with their first tour being with the reformed Fuel under first lead singer Brett Scallions.

Park Lane includes:
Mike Keller - Guitar
Grayson Hurd - Guitar
Clayton Wages - Bass
Cameron Stucky - Drums

Park Lane is a bit more on the secular side of things and, while they may wind up garnering a bit more mainstream attention than Hope Kills Fear, it doesn't make Park Lane less heavy. In fact, their debut album Letters From The Fire is just that; fiery and uncompromisingly heavy.

Park Lane has already toured the country and with songs such as "The Edge" and "Silence", they're destined to break rock radio even though they're still somehow unsigned.

I recommend checking out songs like the ones I mentioned on their ReverbNation page.

Maybe you're not familiar with Carley Coma, but the truth is that he's been one of the best lead singers out there that you have not yet heard. His versatility really pops out with these two great bands.

A band a day...Memory of a Melody

They say everything's bigger in Texas. I believe that thanks to the big, chunky sound of up and coming San Antonio band Memory of a Melody.

Memory of a Melody is:
Mario Galdos- Vocals
Wade Sigue - Guitar
Roel Castillo - Guitar
Joel Martinez - Bass
Robin Lopez- Drums

Memory of a Melody has been around for 3 years, but has been waiting for the perfect time to unleash their debut album Things That Make You Scream. Based on the amount of time it took them to make this record, it's clear that Memory of a Melody is all about crafting and perfecting their sound. That's not to say that their sound is not meant to be a little rough around the edges.

Their balance of melodic and heavy is not exactly for Mama Bear and not exactly for Papa Bear, but just right.

Their success thus far has earned them shows with Chevelle, 10 Years, and Framing Hanley to name a few. The success of their debut album seems to give them the ammunition to explode all over the airwaves in the coming year. They are quickly becoming a favorite of a lot of unsigned hard rock fans.

You owe it to yourself to check out the title track to their debut, "Break Away", and "Mask", all of which are available for free download on their ReverbNation.

Metallica: The Thing That Should Not Be?

Metallica is scheduled to release Lulu this coming Tuesday in the States, a collaboration with fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Lou Reed, who went in as a member of Velvet Underground (one of the band's biggest influences). The album has been streamed for the last couple of weeks on their website, earning universal panning and parodying the likes of which even St. Anger never saw.

Unquestionably, Metallica's first five albums alone (Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, ...And Justice For All, Metallica) were enough to send them into the Hall of Fame.

However, fans have been separating those five albums (in some cases, even separating Metallica) from the newer Metallica for years. It's either "hit or miss" from Load onward or many fans just can't be bothered to listen to the newer Metallica.

Is Metallica ruining their legacy with recent albums that have been critically destructive or do they still hold their place as one of the greatest hard rock bands of all time?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Radio on Autopilot

When you listen to the radio, do you tend to listen at around the same time of the day? Try that for a week and find out how many times you listen to the same song at any particular time. Find out whether it's one song or more than one song.

I was listening to a station at work and they played Lady Gaga's Edge of Glory at the same time every day. I know this because every time I came in at around the same time and they played Edge of Glory.

This is not the first time this has happened. I remember back in my high school years when Janet Jackson had the song "Go Deep". Don't get me wrong, I love me some Janet, but every time I got on the school bus, that song played for about two, maybe three weeks.

I can't be the only one who's noticed this happening for an extended period of time. There's no excuse for these major radio stations to go on autopilot and not switch things up every now and again. It's bad enough you hear the same 4 or 5 songs every hour, but playing them at the same time as yesterday? Someone please get me my I-Pod.

Referring to radio stations, you are the radio station. You are the tastemaker. Consumers are occasionally naive, but they're not stupid. They're gonna notice if you're half-assing and are likely to ask for their I-Pod's like I did.

Clear Channel just got rid of a considerable chunk of DJ staff just this week. It sounds like Clear Channel is intending to centralize their business in select markets, which could mean playing music from remote areas or having DJ's from completely different areas of the country announce local news. They already syndicate some morning programs, but this could mean that you may be eventually be hearing the same song in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the same time as you would in New York City.

Again I ask, have you ever dealt with a station that plays the same song at around the exact same tme? What do you think this Clear Channel reorganization means for the individuality of radio stations?

The League of Extraordinary Djentlemen...Djent: The Next Big Thing?

Djent is a relatively new term to most mainstream rock music listeners. It's a onomatopoeic term that describes the sound an electric guitar makes, but the genre takes it to a whole other level.

Meshuggah is considered to be the pioneer of the genre. Djent is progressive metal that uses unconventional time measures and uses the guitar sound to give it the sheen of heavy that it displays on each and every song.

In this entry, apart from simply mentioning what it comes from, I'd like to recommend a few Djent bands to listen to.

After shows with Dream Theater and Fair to Midland, Periphery seems to be the band primed for the most success. Misha "Bulb" Mansoor created the band out of his own musical productions on guitar searching for the perfect vocalist before finally going with Spencer Sotelo in 2010.

Vocals, while present, don't seem to always be the main attraction in Djent as is the case with Animals as Leaders, an instrumental metal band that toured with Underoath and Thursday amongst others.

Djent hit the US, but its effect is largely felt overseas as well.

TesseracT has largely been put on a lot of the same tours that the previous two mentioned have been on. While they're not seemingly as popular as the other two, they seem to be growing steadily in the same direction. I've started to get into this band quite heavily myself in the last couple of months.

Finally, one Djent band that hasn't fully started that should be big in 2012 is Being, which is being produced by two Periphery members, one current (Misha Mansoor) and one former (Chris Sabol).

While there are specific characteristics of Djent, the bands and the differences between them are different enough that there's something for every metal fan.

Check 'em out!

A band a day...Vestascension

In this blog entry, I discuss my favorite music discovery of the entire year to date, Vestascension.

Vestascension is:
Mike Semesky: Vocals
Josh Clark: Vocals/Live Guitar
Justin Gosnell: Guitars/Keys/Programming (also the band manager)
Nathan Heavel: Bass
Mike Chubb: Drums (recently departed the band)

Vestascension is self-described as a progressive dream rock band from Frederick, Maryland, but prove to be so much more.

Their influences are as vast as the sound they ranges from dreamy ambient music to djent metal...sometimes even on the same song.

Vestascension has really been around for years, but didn't really start making music heavily until this year. They had a great idea where they would release one song a month for every month on the first day. Not only would that music be released every month, but it would be released every month for free.

I didn't catch on to this band until about April of this year which is around the time they put out Then We Are Here. That song seems to be their highlight thus far as it displays everything that is beautiful about this band's music. It's a band that is as intense as any without having to rely heavy on screaming vocals or omnipresent guitars.

That's not to say that they don't have great music that features guitar work. Lifoliage, which features members of bands from other local metal bands such as Periphery (whom I credit with my discovery of Vestascension), displays brilliant guitar work.

They aren't going to be a radio band (like a lot of the bands I like to post about), but I think that's what makes their sound refreshing.

Apart from the musical aspect, Vestascension takes their concept a step further by changing with the seasons. Their online presence changes with the time of the year. Their merchandise also changes with the seasons. There aren't any bands out there that take the total package into account and Vestascension looks to change all of that.

Unlike most bands where I can recommend a song or two for you, since everything they've released to date is a free download on their BandCamp page, I would suggest you download anything that's available. There's literally something for everybody.

Unfortunately, they've fallen behind schedule in their monthly music releases due to the recent departure of their drummer, but they are still plugging along.

Keep track of their progress on Facebook and Twitter!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

1991: The Stars of the Music Industry Collide

1991 was a landmark year in music.

Just to give you an idea of how important it was:
Nirvana - Nevermind
Metallica - Metallica
Pearl Jam - Ten
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Guns & Roses - Use Your Illusion I & II
REM - Out of Time

Yes, it was THAT big. Many of these artists' biggest albums came from this year alone. These were the albums that made these artists household names. Most of these artists still exist with the exceptions of Nirvana because of Kurt Cobain's 1994 suicide and REM, who just called it quits on September 21st of this year. Most, if not all of these artists, are in consideration for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if they aren't already in it (Metallica & REM).

What makes this year so special aside from all of these major albums being released is that it seems as if this was the industry at its finest moment.

Rock wasn't the only genre that was dominating the charts (though this is also one of the last times we would see so many rock acts dominate the chart).

Mariah Carey (Emotions), Michael Jackson (Dangerous), and Garth Brooks (Ropin' The Wind) (all among the top selling artists ever) also released major albums this year. Don't worry MC Hammer, Spin Doctors or Color Me Badd, we didn't forget about you guys (though I'm sure some of us would probably would like to).

Think of all of the tributes that just came out for Nevermind recently. All of those acts coming together for just one artist. One album.

The very reason Metallica can put out an album like Lulu is because of the self-titled, the best selling album of the Soundscan era and the inspiration for me listening to rock music in the first place.

Pearl Jam just recently celebrated their 20th anniversary with a documentary the likes of which you'd expect from National Geographic.

Red Hot Chili Peppers released their 10th studio album, I'm With You, in August achieving #1's all over the world.

And Guns & Roses...exist.

Many of the songs from these albums that came out 20 years ago are played almost sounding as relevant today as they did back in 1991, getting played as much as songs that are popular in 2011. All because of 1991.

My questions to readers would be:

Of all of the albums that are listed here, what album that came from that year influenced you the most?

Will there ever be a year as big in music as 1991 ever again? Is there a year that you feel was bigger sales/influence wise?

CFW Rocks Resurrected!

I've decided to resurrect CFW Rocks, an old blog of mine in which I recommended artists to listen to.

I'd been doing some writing for Sidestage, but because that site has gone under, I am claiming this website back!

CFW Rocks will feature a mixture of the old CFW Rocks and Sidestage. Not only will I recommend new rock artists to listen to, I will also write about things about the music industry that interest me and will hopefully interest you as well.

I'd like to thank my friends, more specifically Matthew Hahn and Tracie Boyle, who both got me to start blogging my thoughts in the first place, Mike Herman who I've recently worked with on Emurg, and Jay Rushing who thought I was talented enough of a writer to take over Sidestage.

Thank you for keeping me going.