Album Reviews for Weezer, Bartees Strange, Vance Joy and David Knudson

There have been so many albums to review over the last couple of months that it has caused a bit of a backlog in our workflow here at Powered By Rock.

Thus, we are going to bust out 4 reviews in one article today. 

Enjoy the reviews, and make sure to check out the music!

 

Weezer - SZNZ: Summer - 4.0 out of 5 stars

I am still baffled by what Weezer is doing with their SZNZ album. I get the concept of all the songs are inspired and related to a particular season.

What I don’t understand is the lack of cohesion between the songs on any single EP (ergo, season). 

This album is full of more rocking songs in general, but the problem is that 

The first song (“Lawn Chair”) is all about rebuking God and his poor design of Earth and humans. 

The next song (“Records”) is about jamming out to your favorite records. While it is probably the best song on the EP, it is just so weird to hop around subject matter with such a carefree attitude.

It’s almost as if frontman Rivers Cuomo is saying, “I have something to say,” but then it goes in a different direction which takes away from that message.

Blue Like Jazz” is about the least meaningful song I have heard from Weezer in a long time. The lyrics are almost nonsensical, but they are just so trite that the song is pretty much ruined by them which is a pity, because the arrangement of the song is pretty decent.

I kinda like “The Opposite of Me” for its complexity and very catchy hook. I am just not really sure if the complexity flows well enough or not.

The best and most endearing song on the album is definitely “What’s The Good of Being Good?” Cuomo details his lack of a wife and children and how doing all the cool things in his life isn’t enough without someone to share it with.

The song does take a weird turn at the end when he mentions that a friend stabs him in the back and steals his woman. I am not sure if that is autobiographical or just thrown in there for more substance.

The song does rock pretty hard though.

Cuomoville” also rocks pretty hard, and the overall sound of the song is pretty good. The subject matter is pretty all over the place, and I have no real idea what’s happening other than he might be talking about God and how in his own life and house, he doesn’t need God or religion or any dogma to be happy. It’s all done in such a random lyrical way though.

Overall, I think if the messy subject matter could be more concisely tamed, then these songs would be so much better. I don’t think Cuomos puts as much time into the lyrics of songs these days as he is releasing albums as fast as possible.

 

Bartees Strange - Farm to Table - 4.7 out of 5 stars

This might be my favorite album out of these 4 albums on this review, and I can say that I like Farm to Table even more than his first album, Live Forever (2020).

Bartees Strange has been doing some great things since his debut album dropped almost 2 years ago including a heavy dose of touring and putting out this album.

This album is what I can best describe as a lot of Mumford & Sons style music splashed with a bit of Childish Gambino in some songs.

Strange is a great guitarist, he has a ton of energy, and his voice is incredibly smooth with a robust range that literally feels like he can put out a song in any genre and fit right in.

The lyrics are damn good too. I really don’t have a bad thing to say about this album at all. I think everyone should be putting on their top lists of the year and playing the hell out of it.

The vibe is definitely a summer album as well, but the subject matter is a bit darker.

Songs like “Wretched” really showcase Strange’s inner monologue and reflection that point to his inner struggles with finding out his own identity. It’s also by far the most dance ready song as it has a full on club sound to it.

Then there is the song “Hold The Line” where Strange reflects on the tragedy of George Floyd at the hands of the police.

He posted his inspiration for the song on social media:

“I wrote this song shortly after George Floyd was killed. Right around when all the protests really picked up in DC. I remember seeing his daughter on TV talking about the death of her dad. It really broke my heart - seeing her have to grow up so much in that moment, so fast. Wrote this one thinking of her.”

You’ll even get his own rap style at times like in “Cosigns” where it feels like he indulges in the habit of feeding his own ego (as rap is known to do), but when Strange does it, you feel like he is highlighting it as a problem not an actual lifestyle goal.

I think the song “Tours” is one of my favorites on the album. It’s a song reflecting on his childhood as the son of a military father. It is one of the most intimate songs I have heard from Strange to date, and it is pretty damn good. .

It also has a bit of a double meaning as his dad would go on tours of combat, and now Strange himself goes on musical tours to support his music career.

If you are not listening to Bartees Strange yet, this is your chance to check him out. He’s an inspirational musical that puts his heart and soul into everything he does.

 

Vance Joy - In Our Own Sweet Time - 4.3 out of 5 stars

I was caught by surprise that Vance Joy had released an album. I am not sure why or how I didn’t know that he had a new album coming out, but color me shocked when Spotify brought it to my attention.

I have heard quite a few songs from Vance Joy, but I had never actually sat down to listen to a whole album to this point. I can say I was pleasantly surprised that the songs were all pretty good. 

I would say that they do get a bit repetitive in style to some degree as he has pretty much honed in the singer-songwriter style of music that fits him. 

I did quite like “Solid Ground” which is a good folksy, rock song and “Catalonia” (newest single off the album as well) which is more of a club banger than a typical Vance Joy song.

There are some smooth rock songs on the album too like “Way That I’m Going” and “Every Side of You.”

I think my biggest gripe is that the first 6 songs feel fresh, but then the next 6 songs sort of feel like the same formula and order of the first 6 songs. 

The best song of the second half of the album is “This One,” in my opinion.

Overall, it’s a good record, and if you like Vance Joy, you are going to get some enjoyable tunes. Just don’t expect a ton of variety.

 

David Knudson - The Only Thing You Have to Change Is Everything - 4.5 out of 5 stars

This is the debut solo album from David Knudson - former lead guitarist of Minus The Bear. He teamed up with Sam Bell to put this album together (Bell also provides vocals on many of the songs).

Any guitar player on Earth is going to know that Knudson is one helluva player, and his overall style is incredible. With the use of looping and effects, he can transform sounds into songs, and the often guitar tapping wizard uses his go-to techniques to bust out some really incredible riffs throughout this album.

Overall, I think there is a bit more of a laid back vibe for this album than most Minus The Bear albums, but the orchestration of the sound has a very familiar feel to it.

Varv” is the lead track off the album, and as an instrumental, you will actually be surprised at how cool of a song it is without any vocals or anything else going on.

I am probably biased, but my favorite song on the album features Jake Snider (former lead singer of Minus The Bear). The song is called “Jealous Time Steals.”

The whole album is definitely a lot of awesomeness, but it may not be for everyone. It’s more of a “musician’s pick” sort of album, but anyone who listens to it will definitely find at least 3 or 4 songs that they can point to and enjoy just for the great songs that they are.

I will say that the album does have a bit of a boogie to it. So, you can definitely see a lot of the songs on the album being played while hosting a party or dinner at your home. Classy!