End of Year Last Minute Album Reviews - Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Sino Hearts, Arctic Monkey, Car Becomes Airplane, Last One Down and The Black Halos
This year I have been incredibly busy with so many different aspects of content creation for Powered By Rock that inevitably a decent amount of good records slip by without me being able to review them. Normally, I put this into the “Missed Connections” catalog, but that’s only when I can get the time to write a review for a single album.
Right now, I want to run down 6 albums that I have been wanting to get around to, and for reasons explained above just haven’t gotten to yet.
Some of the bands are well known, and others are indie bands with a lot of talent looking for more exposure. Make sure to check out those bands, because if I am taking the time to review them, then they are worth a listen.
Let’s turn this mother up to 11 and go!
First up, let’s talk about one of my favorite bands…
4.0 out of 5 stars - Arctic Monkeys - The Car
Okay, so it seems like Arctic Monkeys will never turn back the clock and start playing their more uptempo, guitar-driven rock tunes going forward. That’s both whole-heartedly disappointing, but also refreshing in some ways.
My reason for giving the lower score on this album is that while it’s cool to see the band progress beyond their indie rock roots, I have never really gotten into the lounge style rock music that they are cementing themselves in now.
If this wasn’t Arctic Monkeys putting this album out, I wouldn’t even review it or rate it, to be honest.
I was perfectly okay with the last album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino being a space/jazz concept album. I am a sucker for concept albums.
But to double down on this genre is just a bit overboard in my opinion. I think if they wanted to really be even more creative, they would have done something even different than anything else they made before rather than just rehash the same style of the last album.
That said, there are some good tunes on here – specifically “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball.”
The whole album feels like a 70’s movie score for a macabre musical, but I also don’t really get what is happening between the songs, within the songs, or even what sentiment some of the songs are trying to convey.
4.6 out of 5 stars - The Sino Hearts - Lightening the Darkness
This album was released back in July on Otitis Media Records in the U.S., and it absolutely rocks. The band’s singer is shockingly from Beijing, China which in itself is absolutely unique, and the band formed in Austria in 2014.
The sound is a bit of Ramones mixed with The Beatles mixed with surf rock, and it sounds really cool.
Another modern band that has a similar sound would be Decent Criminal - one of my personal favorite bands.
I don’t think there is a single bad song on this album, and if you like rock music, I highly encourage you to listen to this album, because you are almost guaranteed to jam out to it.
From the opening track “Goodbye Tonight” ripping in with a great rock riff to songs like “Falling Out of Love” which spins out a 60’s rock style to the final song “Teenage Superstar” which is like a punk rock ripper straight from the Ramones-core sound that a lot of punk fans will instantly enjoy.
4.3 out of 5 stars - Last One Down - Failing Dreams
Last One Down is a punk band from Reno, Nevada that put out music in the vein of bands like Face to Face, No Use For a Name or Pennywise that bring some melodic skate punk sounds to a genre pretty heavily stacked already.
Their new album Failing Dreams came out in September.
They do a pretty fair job of making catchy songs and being technically good at what they do.
I like this album, and I have rocked out to it a few times. Especially good for listening to while exercising. That said, I did want to give some fair critiques that I think should be mentioned.
My big reason for not scoring this album higher is mostly just because it sounds a lot like what’s already out there in many ways. The songs are all pretty good, but there’s nothing really different about this album than a Face to Face album, for instance, and obviously, if you like Face to Face, you are going to prefer them to put out their music.
I am not saying that Last One Down isn’t legitimately good. They are. I just would like to hear a bit of variation on the album as opposed to the same type of song 12 times in a row, because I bet it would sound awesome if they decided to vary just a little bit from this straight up skate punk sound. Hell, even just throw an acoustic song in the middle for a bit of a break.
I know that I am sort of just talking to myself about this, because most skate punk bands will stick to that same formula. I just personally kinda get a bit jaded after hearing the exact same thing without a fresh take on it after 30 or so years of the same thing.
That said, the song “In Circles” is an absolute banger, and probably the most unique song on the whole album.
I am always impressed with skate punk drummers technical abilities, and Last One Down is no different. Insane drumming, and the bassist is a beast as well.
4.5 out of 5 stars - The Black Halos - How the Darkness Doubled
I gotta say, I was quite hesitant to check out punk band The Black Halos’ new album How The Darkness Doubled mostly because I think I judged the band as “older” and “retreading the same sound.”
Well, I was definitely wrong. Look, the band IS older in age (been playing in the Vancouver punk scene since 1994), but their sound is actually still pretty goddamn rocking, and I will say that regardless of what you think when you go into an album, if you listened to this album with just your ears, you will be absolutely jamming the whole time.
The music shreds. Like REALLY shreds.
The vocals are not over produced, and they actually all sound good. I could easily liken their sound to Rancid in their heyday, but it isn’t totally stuck on that sound entirely. The vocals just have that Lars Frederiksen sound that a lot of fans will be cognizant of.
I think I am just a sucker for a band that has a bit of rasp without being a glam rock band or a hardcore punk band. Using rasp in melodic ways like Dickie Barrett from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones is a thing of beauty, and The Black Halos are right in that wheelhouse.
The band is incredibly talented, and I think they definitely deserve a bit more recognition even though I am going to flat out say that their sound isn’t for everyone. It’s pretty niche-specific, but I do think you can easily listen to them without having to be a super fan per se.
4.6 out of 5 stars - Car Becomes Airplane - Baby’s First Release
The New York based indie rock band Car Becomes Airplane was not on my radar at all until the band reached out to me and asked if I could check out their music, and I am glad they did.
They are totally weird, but they have a really cool sound and make really good songs without having to resort to technical tricks.
I guess there is a bit of shoegaze sound layered over the grunge here, and those are two genres that I have been known to enjoy (though I never liked the term “shoegaze” it just seems like a way to trivialize “good guitar rock”).
One word of advice if you check this album out though, “DO NOT STOP LISTENING TO IT.”
The first song “In My Garden” almost seems like it is made to throw people off or something, because it is just incredibly repetitive and strange, but once you hear the whole album or even get through the next song, you will see that the band is pretty damn good.
That song “Teacher’s Pet, Pt. 2” is excellent, and definitely has some punk vibes to it.
The band has a lot of songs with people’s names in them. But they also have odd names like “69 Foot Plummet To My Death and Yours.”
They definitely bring a creative spin to their art rock style, but they have great harmonies and melodies overall that inspire singing along to.
I really like the song “BWPV” for that reason.
4.4 out of 5 stars - Red Hot Chili Peppers - Return of the Dream Canteen
I will be honest, when the Chili Peppers put out Unlimited Love earlier this year, I considered not listening to any future releases from them because I just didn’t really like the album at first, and I figured they were too out of touch with their own music to make good songs anymore.
After a few listens, that album got a bit better, but I still don’t go back to it now that it has been out for a few months.
While I may not come back to Return of the Dream Canteen that often either, the overall quality of songs on this album are MUCH better than the last one.
Right from the start on “Tippa My Tongue” you FEEL like THIS is what you want to hear from RHCP. I will say I hate some of the weird ass voices Anthony Kiedis makes at times, but I don’t even notice them as much these days due to years of getting used to it.
“Peace and Love” is another good track to start the album as well, and “Reach Out” is a great change of pace song that helps change the pace of the album up overall (and then rocks out at the end).
The song “Eddie” is a tribute (in some sort of way) to Eddie Van Halen, and while I don’t really get what’s happening with the song as it is in first person from Eddie Van Halen’s perspective, it probably has one of the single best guitar solos from John Frusciante from any of his work with RHCP.
The whole album is much more like a good Chili Peppers album, and I would say that I enjoy it much more than I ever thought I would after listening to the last album.
I will say that not every song is fantastic, but overall, they are pretty good. There are 17 songs on this one. So, if you like the band, you are likely going to find a handful to really dig into and jam out on.