A taste of new music, October 15

The Avett Brothers
Magpie and the Dandelion

For a band that has established itself by writing numerous happy-go-lucky folk songs, the Avett Brothers Magpie and the Dandelion is probably one of their most ambitious and emotional attempts at songwriting.

Magpie and the Dandelion is stained with a lot of heartbreak and pain, specifically in songs like “Good to You,” a song dedicated to bassist Bob Crawford’s daughter who recently sturggled with a brain tumor. Another track that is relatively depressing is the ballad “Vanity,” where the lyrics discuss the concept of love as being worthless or futile.

Besides going through a different theme in terms of lyrics on Magpie and the Dandelion, the instrumentation on this album is about the same for the Avett Brothers. Their classic stringed instruments from guitars, banjos and pianos do not take absence at all and the vocal harmonies are as good as they’ve ever been. – SF

Pearl Jam
Lightning Bolt

Lighting Bolt is quite at home in the rest of Pearl Jam’s expansive discography. The rockers of early 90’s fame are not necessarily breaking any new ground, but are certainly proving that they have what it takes to produce a record that is just as full of rock and roll and as its predecessors.

Modern production lends a clarity to the album that helps to reinforce and strengthen their latest effort. Eddie Vedder’s iconic vocals are focused and put to good use, boasting surprisingly delicate falsetto and his usual but trademark gritty rock voice.

While the band sounds polished and clear, it is still the same old Pearl Jam. They deliver, though in that respect, they have many times before as well. Fans will hear more of the legendary same, with what sounds like an inexplicable modern twist. – GP
The Head and The Heart
Let’s Be Still

Part folk, part indie-pop, The Head and the Heart’s new album houses moments that shout and moments that cry. The songs here are sweet and reverb laden, full of warm, lush guitar and drum tones. The band is absolutely confident in its songs and their thoughtful progression.

Tracks like “Josh McBride” materialize slowly over soft acoustic guitar picking, banjo, piano, vocal harmonies and drum parts that never intrude and only help to build the song up. Other songs are not so subtle and take advantage of clear bass lines and driving rhythms, often stomped out by both the bass drum and the members themselves, it seems; the auxiliary percussion and clapping hands on “Shake” are both pleasant and fitting.

While Let’s Be Still is not immediately memorable, multiple listens are the only way to get to the bottom of the thick layering of instrumentation, harmonies and vocal trading between members. – GP

Fall Out Boy
Pax-Am Days

As a means to release a special edition reissue of last year’s Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy is including eight bonus tracks with it, aka Pax-Am Days.

These additional tracks, which could ultimately be described as an EP, display a side of the Chicago outlet that hasn’t been seen in a while, which is why it may receive numerous thumbs up by some of their more veteran fans.

The entire EP is punk influenced. Each track, except for the last one, (“Caffeine Cold”) does not surpass the two-minute mark and contains fast guitar riffs and thumping bass lines. The lyrics, though not very complex, are constantly repeated and get stuck in your head, especially in songs like “Hot to the Touch, Cold on the Inside.”

The EP is made by Patrick Stump’s vocals, which do not get lost in the instrumentals; it actually shines brighter than anything on these songs. – SF


After receiving high marks from their unsigned, self-titled LP in 2011, indie rock/pop duo Cults returns with their sophomore album Static.

The first thing that makes a huge difference between this album and their debut is the production quality. Being signed under Columbia Records for this 11-track outing versus a self-released album gives the listener the opportunity to hear the instrument variation that Cults uses. From the organs on tracks like the opener “I Know” to the use of banjos on “We’ve Got It,” the instruments alone makes the album worthwhile.

While the melodies and rhythms are strong in nearly every track, the vocals seem to take a backseat in the process. Lead singer Madeline Follin’s vocals have a very airy and atmospheric tone that can sometimes disappear with rock-heavy tracks like “I Can Hardly Make You Mine” and “Keep Your Head Up.” Follin’s style doesn’t change much at all through the album, but Static is still a nice improvement for the duo. – SF

We Are Scientists
Business Casual

Upon hearing the first few seconds of Business Casual, you might expect to be disappointed. “Dumb Luck” however, is catchy, melodic and bouncy, with stinging, electric guitar tones buzzing through pleasant vocal harmonies.

The short EP, only five songs, keeps your attention with plenty of interesting and varied sounds like creative drum parts, excellent juxtapositions between acoustic and electric guitar tones, and keyboard melodies laid underneath the sometimes fast and sometimes slow songs.

Even the song demo that We Are Scientists decided to include is good; its gritty approach and demo quality production are beautiful after hearing the bold and well made songs preceding it. The final song on the EP is an excellent cover of the famous Berlin song “Take My Breath Away”, true to the original and featuring wonderful, ephemeral slide guitar and slow, churning drums. – GP

-Reviews by Sam Fatula (SF) and Greg Perciavalle (GP)