Sunday, December 27, 2015

CAGE THE ELEPHANT- 'TELL ME I'M PRETTY' (ALBUM REVIEW)

 By: Connor Glowacki

Image result for cage the elephant tell me i'm pretty cover     Kentucky rock band Cage The Elephant stormed onto the rock scene back in 2008 with hit songs like 'Ain't No Rest For The Wicked', 'Back Against The Wall' and 'In One Ear' that stormed the air waves and pushed their self-titled debut album to sell over 500,000 copies in the United States and be certified gold.
     Their debut showcased a band that had influences of alternative rock and blues in their veins with a sharp sense of songwriting and crafting melodies. The band followed it up with 'Thank You, Happy Birthday' in 2011, which featured the hit 'Shake Me Down' and found Cage The Elephant showing off their punk and grunge influences.
     But it was the band's third album, 2013's 'Melophobia' that saw the band start to create their own sound by adding psychedelic elements into their music. 'Melophobia' has become their most critically acclaimed piece of work and even earned the band a Grammy nomination. Over the course of these three albums, Cage The Elephant have steadily improved and transitioned from being one of the top young bands to now a consistent staple in the rock scene.
     Just two years after 'Melophobia', the band announced news of a new album titled 'Tell Me I'm Pretty'. The new album has The Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach at the production helm and it is the band's first departure from Jay Joyce, who produced all three Cage The Elephant albums to date.
     That being said, let's go track by track and take a look at 'Tell Me I'm Pretty'.


1.) 'Cry Baby'

     The song starts with this thick, muscular guitar riff that quickly transitions to a slower tempo with some brass strings in the background. It has a real sixties vibe and you can hear influences of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. You specifically hear these influences in the song with lead singer Matt Schultz's almost reserved-like vocals where he sound eerily similar to John Lennon.
     With lyrics like "I think it's pretty strange. Watching the passerby. Crawling all over one another, trying to get ahead in life", 'Cry Baby' seems to be displaying a criticism of the capitalism mentality. The buildup of the chorus and the guitar tones in the song make it sound very similar to a song that  The Black Keys would write.
     The best part ends up coming when 'Cry Baby' changes tempo during the outro. You hear Cage The Elephant just jamming naturally and sounding like themselves for the first time. It's not an 'in your face' type of song, but 'Cry Baby' gets a message across. Overall, it's not a bad way to start out an album.

2.) 'Mess Around'

     'Mess Around' was the first single released from 'Tell Me I'm Pretty' back in October and right upon the first listen I got very annoyed because it sounds like a carbon-copy example of a Black Keys song.
With the fuzzy-sounding guitar riffs and the garage-rock filled reverb that soak up the vocals, 'Mess Around' sounds like Cage The Elephant attempting to be a Black Keys cover band.
Image result for dan auerbach
Dan Auerbach, producer
and lead singer of The Black Keys.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
     The lyrics revolve around a girl that has the ability to charm and seduce with her attitude as well as her beauty, but some of these lyrics are just damn cringe-worthy. "The heat is rising and only getting hotter, ready to blow. I think I'll pour myself a glass of water, let it flow." I get that line is about the sexual tension involved, but for a lyricist as sharp and descriptive as lead singer Matt Schultz has been, these lyrics are just so bland and hit-or-miss.
     Auerbach plays the guitar solo on the song, but it adds nothing.  Schultz said in an interview that this song was inspired when he saw hip-hop duo Outkast at a festival. 'Mess Around' does have a southern rock sound, but it doesn't sound like it was influenced by Outkast (which would've been really cool). This was a very weak and disappointing lead single.

3.) 'Sweetie Little Jean'

     This song is about a girl in Schultz's neighborhood growing up who was kidnapped and murdered.  "Sweetie Little Jean' brings more of the band's psychedelic vibes that they found great success with on 'Melophobia', thanks to the intial drum fills, keyboard patterns and vocals.
     The falsetto vocals during the chorus perfectly capture the psychedelic-pop vibe and also fits the content of the lyrics. The upbeat instrumentals don't really fit with the melancholic lyrics, but for me it all just seems to work.
     The lyrics tell a story about the sad conclusion that the girl isn't going to be found alive. It has the theme of letting go and the song succeeds at being able to emotionally connect.

4.) 'Too Late To Say Goodbye'

      I'm not a huge fan of the pitch-altered vocals and fuzzy guitars and bass. Schultz does a good job at displaying the apporpriate amount of emotion during the chorus, of a love that may be doomed but is too late to get out of.
     I like how the lyrics tell a story of Bonnie and Clyde. Schultz said in an interview that he wanted to write the song from Bonnie's perspective about falling in love with the wrong guy, but that he also wanted it to be relateable to experiences in his own life.
     'Too Late To Say Goodbye' is a good song, but the instrumental doesn't change in variation enough for me to call it a great song. Again, it's not bad, but also not particularly memorable.

5.) 'Cold Cold Cold'

     This might've been one of my favorite songs off of the album. I really enjoyed the two guitar riffs that opened the intro and they helped set a cool, dark mood for 'Cold Cold Cold'. Lyrically, it sounds as if Schultz is talking to a doctor or a counselor and is saying that he needs someone in his life, either for love or as a friend. The vocals sound reserved and help showcase the intimacy of the song and the distorted guitar solo near the end added an extra element. Still, I feel like with some more urgent instrumentation that it could've grabbed me even more.

6.) 'Trouble'

     'Trouble' is interesting because with the delay ridden guitar and the high pitched falsetto intro, it sounds more like a Coldplay song.
     Lyrically, it's about the narrator wishing that his lover would help him evade the vices that have been hurting him throughout his life. I get that the vocals have to sound quiet and relaxed, but they sound almost too relaxed. There's no drama or energy in this song that can help me get emotionally invested into it.
     That being said, it's a nice standalone song due to the acoustic textures surrounding the introspective lyrics. But like with many songs off of this album, an element feels missing that was there on earlier Cage The Elephant albums.

7.) 'How Are You True'

     This is a song about overcoming hard times and finding a way to carry on. It's a tried and true theme, but it did feel universal. Again, it could have been imporved by the need of some energy that would have matched and then contrasted with the acoustic guitars and drum patterns. And with lyrics like 'the light will guide you home', this song feels more like Coldplay with Black Keys instrumentation than it does Cage The Elephant.

8.) 'That's Right'

     'That's Right' is a much needed uptempo number after several downers, but I just can't stand these fuzzed filled guitars because they take away the melody that was trying to be established by the keyboards.
     And I can't get into the lyrics. "I get in trouble cause I speak my mind. Sometimes I like it when I make you cry". With the lyrics that he frames, Shultz isn't coming across as a sympathetic figure.
     I love fun, upbeat rock songs about partying and having fun. You can do these songs right, just look at Guns N' Roses. At this point, I'm starting to realize that the sixties vibe that Cage The Elephant was going for just isn't working.

9.) 'Punchin' Bag'

     This song opens up with a unique strings based intro, but then the fuzzy-distorted guitar riff ruins any melody that was being established.
     'Punchin Bag' is a bout a woman who is an abusive relatinoship and is ready to fight back. I like the theme and the upbeat tone and tempo that the band decided to do to create a more triumphant tone, but I also feel like that there needs to be some kind of urgency for this type of subject matter. This song again feels like Cage The Elephant sounding like The Black Keys, which at this point I'll blame Auerbach more than the band, but this song could've been better.

10.) 'Portuguese Knife Fight'

     I'll be honest. This title made me laugh at first, but it wasn't a good way to close out an album. I did like some of the psychedelic guitar tones that Cage The Elephant were adding and they helped pick up the song's pace, but there isn't anything about the song that is memorable. It honestly sounds like many songs off of The Black Key's album 'El Camino'. I can't think of anything else to say because it's just a lesser version of 'Mess Around' and that's saying something.

FINAL VERDICT:

Image result for cage the elephant
Photo courtesy of MTV.com.
     'Tell Me I'm Pretty' only lasts for 38 minutes, which makes for a quick listening experience. This album feels like a step back for Cage The Elephant because there isn't a single song that is memorable and you would want to go back to, like songs off of their previous three records. I appreciate the band changing their sound from album to album and going for a retro sixties rock style could have paid off in successful dividends.
     However, the production from Auerbach create a bland sound that is too similar to other bands, but doesn't contain the same type of energy or raw passion that makes Cage The Elephant special. The songwriting had its moments, but oddly lacked its typical consistent descriptive nature.
     Cage The Elephant is now four albums into an electric career and are still one of the more exciting rock bands around. But with four albums under their belts, they are not the same young, up and coming band they were back in 2008. Bands get older and end up changing their sounds and styles of songwriting. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it also doesn't mean that every album is going to automatically be any good.
     Unfortaunetly, while 'Melophobia' might be hailed as an underrated gem and the band's best piece of work, 'Tell Me I'm Pretty' will most likely be forgotten within a few months.

RATING: 

2.5 OUT OF 5

STRONGEST THREE TRACKS: 1.) 'Cold Cold Cold'     2.) 'Cry Baby'    3.) 'Sweetie Little Jean'

Any thoughts on the new Cage The Elephant album 'Tell Me I'm Pretty'?

Leave a comment below or on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

N.W.A AND DEEP PURPLE LEAD THE 2016 ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME CLASS

By: Connor Glowacki

Image result for n.w.a actual group
     The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2016 class was announced today (December 17) and the five acts to gain admittance were rock bands Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, Chicago, musician Steve Miller, and hip hop collective N.W.A.

     Cheap Trick, Chicago and Steve Miller, all acts who found huge popularity in the 1970s, were nominated for the first time this year. Meanwhile, N.W.A. becomes just the fifth hip hop group to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, after Grandmaster Flash, Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy.

     There's no question that the critical and commercial success of N.W.A.'s biopic 'Straight Outta Compton', released earlier this year, helped their cause since the group had been on the ballot three previous times.

     As with any announcement of this magnitude, there were notable acts who were snubbed and left out for another year. Among those who did not make the cut included singer Janet Jackson, alternative rock icons Nine Inch Nails and The Smiths, and funk band Chic, who surprisingly have been turned away for a record 10th time.

The 31st Induction Ceremony will take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 8.


Did the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voting committee get it right this year?

Did the right acts get in? And who should be admitted next?

Voice your opinion and leave a comment below or on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Friday, December 4, 2015

EX-STONE TEMPLE PILOTS FRONTMAN SCOTT WEILAND, DEAD AT 48

By: Connor Glowacki

Image result for scott weiland
Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone
     Scott Weiland, the musician best known for being the frontman of rock band The Stone Temple Pilots, is dead at 48.

     A statement was made by management this morning on Weiland's Facebook page that he had died in his sleep while on tour with his current band,  Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts.


     The Stone Temple Pilots grew to commercial fame during the grunge years of the early 1990s and released hit songs such as 'Vaseline', 'Big Empty' and 'Interstate Love Song'. The band's song 'Plush' ended up garnering the band a Grammy in 1993 for Best Hard Rock Performance.

     Since the band grew to fame, Weiland's addiction to drugs also increased, ranging from alcohol to crack and heroin, which included several arrests.

     When Stone Temple Pilots went on a hiatus in 2003, Weiland teamed up with several former members of Guns N' Roses to form the rock outfit, Velvet Revolver, which also found commercial success. Stone Temple Pilots did reunite in 2008, but broke up in 2013 after a lawsuit by band members against Weiland. Velvet Revolver also broke up due to disagreements over touring and drug use.

     Weiland's noted deep baritone has been referred to as an important voice in the grunge movement of the 1990s.


Feel free to share your thoughts with a comment below or on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.



Saturday, November 28, 2015

HEISMAN WATCH/RANKINGS #2

By: Connor Glowacki

We are approaching the end of the college football season and are only weeks away from crowning a new winner for the Heisman trophy. With a weekend full of exciting matchups on the way, here is 'CKG, From The Sidelines' updated Heisman rankings.

1.) Alabama Running Back Derrick Henry
2015 Stats: 249 Carries. 1,526 yards. 21 TDs.
Year: Junior

Image result for derrick henry
Photo courtesy of Sporting News.
     In a year full of talented running backs crowding the top of the Heisman field, Henry has been the sole back to emerge as the frontrunner. He has scored at least one touchdown in every single game this season, run for over 125 yards in seven games and has been the most consistent out of all of the Heisman candidates. It doesn't hurt that Alabama is also currently ranked second in the College Football Playoff.
     Like wide receiver Amari Cooper a year ago, Henry is the number one offensive threat for the Crimson Tide and has still been able to display physical toughness and breakaway speed against defenses.
     If Alabama beats Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Sunday and make the College Football Playoff, Henry should continue the tradition of Alabama running backs winning the coveted trophy.

2.) Oklahoma Quarterback Baker Mayfield
2015 Stats: 226/329. 3,209 yards. 33 TDs and 5 INTs. 120 carries. 343 yards. 6 TDs.
Year: Junior

Image result for baker mayfield
Photo courtesy of Dallasnews.com
     I originally had Mayfield making the Heisman Top 4 in our last Heisman watch in September and the junior quarterback has taken his game to a whole new level to put Oklahoma at number three in the College Football Playoff.
     Mayfield has maintained a 68% completion percentage and has shined in the brightest moments. In games against ranked teams like TCU and Baylor, Mayfield has thrown five touchdowns to just one interception.
     He reportedly suffered a concussion against TCU, which limited his statistical offering, but if he plays and leads the Sooners to a victory over rival Oklahoma State and keeps the Sooners in the College Football playoff, Mayfield might steal the Heisman trophy away from Henry.

3.) Clemson Quarterback Deshaun Watson
2015 Stats: 241/344. 2,944 yards. 26 TDs and 10 INTs. 118 carries. 642 yards. 6 TDs.
Year: Sophomore

Image result for deshaun watson
Photo courtesy of Sporting News
     There is no doubt that Watson deserves to be in the top tier for this year's Heisman trophy. Watson leads the number one team in the College Football Playoff rankings and has done it with an impressive 70.1% completion percentage and an ability to combine his passing skills with his athleticism to run the football.
     But the thing that I think will hold back Watson from winning will be a weaker schedule, compared to other finalists in the field. You can't blame Watson for  the conference that his university plays for, but would his numbers be as great if he played in the same conferences that Henry or Mayfield play in week after week?
     He'll come back for his junior season next year and will probably be THE Heisman frontrunner, but right now Watson should just enjoy the ride he and the Clemson Tigers are on.

4.) LSU Running Back Leonard Fournette
2015 Stats: 239 carries. 1,582 yards.  17 TDs.
Year: Sophomore

Image result for leonard fournette
Photo courtesy of BleacherReport
     I know that Fournette has had three subpar games that have accumulated into LSU's three game losing streak. After rushing for at least 150 yards in his first seven games of the season, his total of 230 yards in the past three games is disappointing. But consider this.
     LSU's passing game has been completely nonexistent and can't take any pressure off of Fournette and the ground attack. When defenses start packing as many as nine defenders in the box, Fournette isn't going to always be able to carry the team on his shoulders at the position that he plays.
     AND he still has more yards than Henry even with the three game losing streak. His Heisman chances might have to be delayed for a season, but if LSU beats Texas A&M on Nov.28 in Les Miles' swan song and Fournette has a huge game, he could be back in the running.

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

5.) Stanford Running Back Christian McCaffrey
2015 Stats: 260 carries. 1,546 yards. 7 TDs. 34 receptions. 416 yards. 3 TDs.
Year: Sophomore

6.) Navy Quarterback Keenan Reynolds
2015 Stats: 33/68. 652 yards. 5 TDs and 0 INTs. 201 carries. 1,009 yards. 18 TDs.
Year: Senior

7.) Florida State Running Back Dalvin Cook
2015 Stats: 185 carries. 1,475 yards. 16 TDs. 19 receptions. 207 yards. 1 TD.
Year: Sophomore

Are Henry and Mayfield the favorites to win the 2015 Heisman? Can Fournette make a comeback?

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or sharing your thoughts on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.


Friday, November 27, 2015

LES MILES ERA LIKELY OVER AT LSU

By: Connor Glowacki

Image result for les miles
Photo courtesy of wcbi.com
     According to various media reports, LSU's game on Nov.28 against Texas A&M will be the last one with head coach Les Miles in charge of the program. Miles reportedly spoke to the LSU Gridiron Club, a booster organization, on Nov.27 where he indicated the Texas A&M game would be his last with the program.

According to ESPN, sources have indicated to the media organization that boosters have already agreed to a $15 to $20 million buyout with Miles and his staff.
     The source also said that current Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher is currently the top target in LSU's upcoming search and even though a decision hasn't formally been announced, LSU leadership is reportedly heavily in favor of a change.

     It's been a roller-coaster of a season for the LSU Tigers who at one point were the second ranked team in college football with an perfect 7-0 record and a Heisman frontrunner in sophomore running back Leonard Fournette. Since then, the Tigers have lost three straight games, the first time this has happened for the program since 1999 and are currently stuck in fourth place in the SEC West. Due to struggles over the last few seasons, speculation of Miles' job security dramatically increased during the losing streak.

     Since becoming head coach of LSU in 2005, Miles has won a national championship title and two SEC championships. He has also won 77.5 percent of his games, which is the best winning percentage for any coach in the modern era at LSU.


Is LSU making the right choice with a reported change?

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or send me your thoughts on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Monday, November 16, 2015

SPORTS ROUNDUP (WEEK OF NOV.8)

By: Connor Glowacki

This edition of 'Sports Roundup' focuses on Missouri, Ronda Rousey and the craziness of college football, with a little of my opinion mixed in.

*RONDA ROUSEY

Image result for ronda rousey holly holm knockout
Photo courtesy of eonline.com
     In what many are calling one of the most shocking upsets in the history of MMA, Holly Holm knocked out Ronda Rousey in UFC 193 in the second round with a powerful kick to the head on Nov.8.
     Holm, a veteran boxer from New Mexico moved to a perfect 10-0 record with the victory. Rousey, a former judo olympian had won all 12 of her previous MMA fights and a win over Holm would've given Rousey her seventh straight championship belt.
     Holm landed some vicious early shots to Rousey's head as the fight started and continued to dominate in the second round with an insane kick to the head that dropped Rousey to the floor.
     This is Rousey's first loss of her MMA career, but I think it's important to remember that some of the greatest fighters of all time, specifically Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, both lost at some point and then came back and fought with a vengeance.
     Maybe Rousey got a little too cocky for her own good, but the fact that mainstream public is playing any attention at all to women's MMA is a testament to what Rousey has accomplished. And that might be more of a victory in itself.

*COLLEGE FOOTBALL CRAZINESS

Image result for oklahoma baylor
Photo courtesy of USA Today.
     Four teams in the top 10 lost this past weekend in college football. Sixth ranked Baylor lost to 12th ranked Oklahoma 44-34, thanks to 166 rushing yards and two scores from Sooners running back Samaje Perine, ninth ranked LSU lost for the second week in a row, and seventh ranked Stanford and 10th ranked Utah lost to unranked Pac-12 teams.
     But the big surprise to me was LSU running back Leonard Fournette failing for the second week in a row to accumulate 100 rushing yards.
     Yes, his incredible pace that he began the year was never going to be maintained, but with running backs Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliot putting up more consistent performances at this point, Fournette is in no way a lock now for the Heisman.

*UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI

Image result for university of missouri protests
Photo courtesy of MSNBC.
      After months of protests due to racism/racial tension not being adequately handled on campus, the university's president Tim Wolfe resigned, in part, because of the football team's decision to boycott their game against BYU on Nov.14.
     This is a story that transcends sports due to the aspects of race, culture and politics all around. It's just a shame that it took the football team and the chance of the university losing millions of dollars for change to start taking place.
     If the football team hadn't of intervened and the graduate student died from his hunger strike (thankfully, this didn't happen), what would have been the university's response?


What were the other big sports stories of last week?

Let me know by leaving a comment below or on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Friday, November 6, 2015

COLDPLAY TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM, 'A HEAD FULL OF DREAMS', IN DECEMBER

By: Connor Glowacki

Image result for coldplay
Photo courtesy of Pitchfork
     Just one year after the release of the melancholic and partially break-up inspired album 'Ghost Stories', British rock band Coldplay announced today (Nov.6) that they will release their seventh album, 'A Head Full Of Dreams' on Dec.4.

     According to a release, the new album was recorded in Los Angeles, Malibu and London and was produced by Stargate and Rik Simpson. Both producers were involved in Coldplay's two most recent albums, 2011's Mylo Xyloto and 2014's 'Ghost Stories'.     And unlike 'Ghost Stories', 'A Head Full Of Dreams' will feature guest appearances by Swedish pop singer Tove Lo, British rocker Noel Gallagher, and, perhaps a surprise, pop star Beyonce.

     In an interview with Sirius XM radio this week, frontman Chris Martin said, "We just wanted to make this big, colorful, joyful thing called 'A Head Full Of Dreams'. This is an interesting bit of information due to the fact that 'Ghost Stories' was reportedly partially inspired by Martin's 'conscious-uncoupling' with his ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow.

Image result for coldplay a head full of dreams cover art
The cover art for 'A Head Full Of Dreams'.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
And since the release of 'Ghost Stories', there have been rumors that 'A Head Full Of Dreams' could be Coldplay's final album.

The band also released the first single from the album today called 'Adventure Of A Lifetime' that can be immediately heard and downloaded when the album is pre-ordered on itunes.

Tracklisting for 'A Head Full Of Dreams':

1.) 'A Head Full Of Dreams'
2.) 'Birds'
3.) 'Hymn For The Weekend'
4.) 'Everglow'
5.) 'Adventure Of A Lifetime'
6.) 'Fun'
7.) 'Kaleidoscope'
8.) 'Army Of One'
9.) 'Amazing Day'
10.) 'Colour Spectrum'
11.) 'Up & Up'

How do you feel about a new Coldplay album, and possibly their last one as a band?

Are you excited? Interested? Don't Care?

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.



Thursday, October 1, 2015

HEISMAN WATCH AND RANKINGS #1

By: Connor Glowacki

Four weeks of the 2015 college football season are now in the books and since we are roughly a third of the way through the season, let's take a look at who the early contenders are for this year's Heisman trophy.

*Note: These rankings will be based off of opinion of the players' performance.

1.) LSU Running Back Leonard Fournette
2015 Stats: 73 carries, 631 yards, 8 TDs
Year: Sophomore

photo courtesy of FoxSports.
     In a year where the top stars in college football have been at the running back position, Fournette has stood at the top of the class. In just three games this season, he has run for over 200 yards twice and has run for at least two touchdowns in each game. Even more impressive, he completely torched two fellow SEC defenses, in Mississippi State and Auburn, and is averaging over 8.5 yards per carry.
     With his combination of speed and utter strength, fans are beginning to understand why the sophomore running back has been compared to the Minnesota Viking's Adrian Peterson.
     It is early, but Fournette could end up being the first running back to win the Heisman in six years if he can keep this play up.

2.) Georgia Running Back Nick Chubb
2015 Stats: 71 carries, 599 yards, 6TDs
Year: Sophomore

photo courtesy of atlallday.com
     If it wasn't for Fournette, a strong argument could be made that Chubb is the favorite for the Heisman trophy.
     After filling in for Todd Gurley Jr. a year ago and playing extremely well, Chubb now has full reigns of the Bulldogs offense and he has once again taken advantage. He is averaging just under 8.5 yards per carry and has run for at least 120 yards in each of Georgia's first four games.
     He's finally getting the credit that's been due, but Georgia's schedule hasn't been as tough as LSU's so far, due to their toughest games being against weaker South Carolina and Vanderbilt teams. Still, Chubb is right up there with Fournette.
     It's a shame that the two teams won't play each other in the regular season, but if LSU and Georgia meet in the SEC Championship game in December, that game could end up settling the Heisman race.

3.) TCU Quarterback Trevone Boykin
2015 Stats: 99-153, 1,470 yards, 14TDs and 3INTs
Year: Senior

photo courtesy of dallasnews.com
     Boykin is the top quarterback right now in the Heisman race and you could make the case that he is so far playing the best football of his career at TCU. He's completing over 64 percent of his passes  and is averaging over 9.7 yards per attempt, both the highest of his four year collegiate career.
     Boykin has been very good so far, especially in a comeback victory over Texas Tech where he threw for 485 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-52 victory over the Red Raiders. Add in the fact that he can be a threat on the ground and Boykin has the opportunity to pile on a bunch of stats this season.
     Boykin was a Heisman contender last year, which means he'll have name recognition towards a lot of college football fans, but right now, he is firmly behind the two star running backs.

4.) Oklahoma Quarterback Baker Mayfield
2015 Stats: 74-110. 1,062 yards. 10TDs and 2INTS.
Year: Junior

     This might come off as a surprise, but I would give Mayfield an early edge here over several high profile collegiate running backs.
Photo courtesy of lubbockonline.com
     Mayfield has taken control of the Sooners offense and has showcased playmaking ability in Oklahoma's 3-0 start. Mayfield is completing over 76 percent of his passes and, most recently threw, for 487 yards and four touchdowns in a 52-38 win over Tulsa.
     What might be more impressive is that Mayfield led the Sooners in a combeack 31-24 victory over Tennesssee. Yes, his stats weren't that great, he completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions, but he showcased a lot of confidence and resolve in a nationally televised game that I think will cause people to pay more attention.
     Mayfield could fade out of the race with some bad games, but I have a feeling that he'll stick around.

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:

*Ohio State Running Back Ezekiel Elliott
2015 Stats: 77 carries, 455 yards, 5TDs
Year: Junior

*Alabama Running Back Derrick Henry
2015 Stats: 67 carries, 422 yards, 8TDs
Year: Junior

*California Quarterback Jared Goff
2015 Stats: 92-133. 1,240 yards. 11TDs and 3INTs.
Year: Junior

*Texas A&M Defensive End Myles Garrett
2015 Stats: 18 tackles, 6.5 sacks.
Year: Sophomore

Who do you think is an early contender for the Heisman trophy?

Leave a comment below or tell me what you think on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

SPORTS ROUNDUP (WEEK OF SEPT. 20)

By: Connor Glowacki

In our new series 'Sports Roundup', we take a very quick look at a few of the biggest events in the sports world from the past week. These are quick little notes if you missed any of these moments or wanted to hear about them again.

For the week of September 20:

NFL Week 3

Michael Vick will fill in as the Steelers
starting quarterback in Roethlisberger's absence.
Photo Courtesy of sportsnaut.com
     The third week of the NFL season was full or surprise performances and surprise injuries. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to be carted off the field during the Steelers 12-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams and was diagnosed with a sprained MCL.
     That's very lucky news for Pittsburgh, as Roethlisberger is expected back into the lineup in 4 to 6 weeks.
     The Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Green Bay Packers all stand at perfect 3-0 records to start the season.
     The Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, and Detroit Lions, on the other hand, are the only winless teams left in the league.
     It's even more surprising for Baltimore and Detroit, since both teams made the playoffs just a season ago.

Mets Clinch NL East

     The New York Mets clinched the NL East title on Sept. 26 after they defeated the Cincinatti Reds 10-2. It's both the Mets first division title and postseason appearance since 2006.
Photo courtesy of NYPost.com
     The Mets had great pitching all season coming from the likes of a young trio that includes Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard, but it wasn't until their acquisitions at the trade deadline of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and to a lesser extent  infielders Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, that the Mets offense caught on fire and the team was able to separate itself from the rest of the pack.
     With the Mets' win, the Washington Nationals were officially eliminated from playoff contention. And with the dugout brawl between Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon on Sept. 27, Washington has just about finished one of the most disappointing seasons in recent baseball memory.

Yogi Berra

Photo courtesy of neilleifer.com
     New York Yankees Catcher and Hall of Famer Yogi Berra died on Sept.22 at his home in New Jersey. He was 90.
     To this day, Berra is regarded as one of baseball's greatest catchers, having a career that spanned over 19 years and winning 10 World Series as a player. In addition, Berra appeared in 14 World Series, won three MVP awards, and made 15 straight All Star Games.
     Berra had a .285 batting average and hit 358 home runs during his career. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
     However, a lot of people will still remember the number of famous quotes that Berra said off the field, which are now described as 'Yogi-isms'. Some of those quotes include "it ain't over till it's over" and "baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical."


Any thoughts on 'Sports Roundup' and how we can make this series better?

Let me know what you think in a comment below or on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

WINNERS AND LOSERS FROM THE 2015 NBA DRAFT

By: Connor Glowacki


     With the picks made and the 2015 NBA Draft officially in the books, let's take a look at some early winners and losers from this year's draft class.

WINNERS

1.) Minnesota Timberwolves

     It's easy for the team with the number one overall pick to fare well on draft night, but the Minnesota Timberwolves made some solid moves that could get them on a quick path to relevancy in the league.
Karl Anthony Towns
Photo courtesy of kykernel.com.
     Minnesota was AWFUL last season, finishing with the worst record in the NBA at 16-66. But they already had several young talents that were slated to be building blocks for the team's future.
     Guard Andrew Wiggins won the Rookie of the Year award after averaging just under 17 points per game. And guard Zach LaVine also showed promise during his rookie season after showcasing his dynamic athleticism and averaging over 10 points per game.
     By drafting Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns with the first overall pick, the Timberwolves now have a player in the post who is a menace on the defensive side of the ball and has shown steady improvement on offense. Duke guard Tyus Jones will be a solid backup for the often injured Ricky Rubio.
     Minnesota has a very good young core of Wiggins, Towns, LaVine, and Rubio, along with several veteran players. They are most likely still a year or two away from really competing for a playoff spot, but for the first time in possibly a decade, the Minnesota Timberwolves appear to be heading in the right direction.

2.) Los Angeles Lakers

     The Los Angeles Lakers had luck on their side as they received the number two selection back at May's NBA Draft lottery, but it appears they made great use of it by drafting Ohio State point guard D'Angelo Russell.
D'Angelo Russell
Photo courtesy of Draftexpress.com
     By picking Russell over Duke center Jahlil Okafor, the Lakers will focus their attention on finding a big man in free agency with their eyes set on Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, Portland Trailblazers forward LaMarcus Aldrige, and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love.
     Many NBA analysts and experts have said that Russell could end up being the star from the 2015 draft class. In an ultra-competitive Western conference where top point guard play is critical, the Lakers finally have one to pair up with aging star guard Kobe Bryant.
     With Russell, guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Julius Randle, Los Angeles has several quality young players to help support Bryant. With a key acquisition in free agency, the Lakers could be back in the playoff picture next season.

3.) Miami Heat

     The Heat had a disappointing ending last season by missing the playoffs and finishing with the 10th overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft. But that might've turned into a blessing as the Heat were able to take Duke forward Justise Winslow with that tenth overall selection.
Justise Winslow
Photo courtesy of USA Today
     Winslow became an x-factor during Duke's national championship run by being able to create his own shot, attack inside the post, and hustling on every possession.
     If the Heat are able to bring back guards Dwayne Wade and Goran Dragic in free agency, the addition of Winslow to an already solid lineup of forwards Chris Bosh, Loul Deng, Josh McRoberts, and center Hassan Whiteside could make the Miami Heat a dark horse contender in the Eastern Conferernce next season.
     Winslow could also benefit from dropping to number 10 because he'll be able to contribute to a winning team immediately and not have to be stuck on a rebuilding project. Overall, the Miami Heat may have gotten the steal of the 2015 NBA draft in Justise Winslow.


LOSERS

1.) New York Knicks

     Knicks President Phil Jackson's selection of the 7'1" 231 pound center Kristaps Porzingis, with the fourth pick in the 2015 NBA draft, drew sharp criticism from NBA analysts and fans alike throughout the Barclays Center.
Kristaps Porzingis
Photo courtesy of Draftexpress.com
     Porzingis seems to be a talented young player with a really good head on his shoulders. He's tall, can handle the ball and can shoot from outside making him a perfect 'stretch four' in the NBA. Porzingis has a lot to learn about playing the NBA game, compared to the European game, and he seems to be the type of player who is going to put the work in.
     That being said, most experts are saying that it's going to take at least three years before Porzingis might be able to play at a high level in the NBA. And even if he's getting comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol, he's also getting comparisons to Darko Milicic. Basically, it's unknown how well Porzingis is going to be able to translate to the NBA.
     Meanwhile, forward Carmelo Anthony is coming off a knee injury and will be 31 by the time the season starts.
     Porzingis is not going to make the Knicks better in the short term so Anthony is pretty much stuck in New York. Yet, it's hard to feel bad for Anthony when he'll make over $20 million next season and could've chosen to play for the Chicago Bulls.
     Hopefully New York Knicks fans will give Porzingis a chance because he has a lot of potential, but they'll be subjected to several more losing seasons.

2.) Philadelphia 76ers

     General Manger Sam Hinkie appears to be very convinced at following his 'plan' for rebuilding the Philadelphia 76ers. Hinkie has traded away numerous assets and young players, like guards Michael Carter Williams and Jrue Holliday, for more and more future assets.
Jahlil Okafor
Photo courtesy of the Washington Post
     For the third year in a row, Philadelphia took a young center early in the NBA Draft. After Nerlens Noel in 2013 and Joel Embiid last year, Jhalil Okafor was taken on Thursday night. Selecting Okafor wasn't necessarily a bad move.
     He was a dominant force offensively at Duke last season and was projected to go as high as the top overall pick. For the 76ers to land him at number three was a steal and if he can improve his free throw shooting and defensive production, Okafor could turn out to be great.
     But will he be able to fit with Noel and Embiid. Noel showed a lot of promise, especially on defense, last season after sitting out his entire rookie season to injury in 2013. Embiid sat out the entire 2014 season due to injury and has reportedly suffered setbacks coming into this season. Will one of these three center be used as a future trade asset? Would the 76ers even think about playing three centers on the court? And who are they going to surround these centers with? Okafor was a good selection by the 76ers, but the long term direction of this irrelevant franchise remains cloudy, at best.

3.) Kentucky Guard Aaron Harrison

     Harrison, along with his Kentucky teammates, was projected to go somewhere in the first round of Thursday's draft. However, he ended up going undrafted. Not only must it have been tough to watch four of his teammates get drafted in the top 13 picks, but to also watch his twin brother, Andrew, get selected at number 44.
     There's still a chance that Harrison could get picked up by an NBA team, but the thought of losing guaranteed money must've knocked his confidence down a peg or two.

Any thoughts on Thursday night's NBA Draft?

Leave a comment below or send me a comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

EVERETT GOLSON TRANSFERRING TO FLORIDA STATE

By: Connor Glowacki

     After leading the Fighting Irish to the National Championship game in 2013, former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has decided to transfer and play for the Florida State Seminoles this fall.
     In a statement to FOX Sports, Golson declared that, "after much thought and careful consideration, I will utilize my fifth year of eligibility to join the Florida State Seminoles. To coach Jimbo Fisher, the Florida State football team, staff, alumni, and fans, thank you for allowing me to become a part of the Seminoles family. I can't wait to get started."

     The six foot, 200 pound quarterback graduated from Notre Dame this past Saturday and will look to replace Jameis Winston, who led the Seminoles as a redshirt freshman to a national title. Winston played two seasons at Florida State, won a Heisman trophy, and only lost one game as the Seminoles' starting quarterback.

Golson led the Fighting Irish to
the national championship game
back in 2013.
Photo courtesy of Chatsports.com
    After leading Notre Dame to the national championship game in the 2012-2013 season, Golson had to leave the team and school due to serving an academic suspension in the 2013 season.
     He returned as the team's starter last season and got off to an exceptional start. Critics even named him as an early contender for the Heisman trophy after Notre Dame's 5-0 start.
     However, the Irish finished the season on a 2-5 slide and Golson committed 22 turnovers. He ended up being replaced by freshman quarterback Malik Zaire.

     During his career at Notre Dame, Golson threw for 5,850 yards and 41 touchdowns, compared to 20 interceptions. He also ran for 14 touchdowns and 581 yards for the Fighting Irish. Other schools that Golson was considering included Florida, South Carolina and Alabama.
     Florida State finished the 2014-2015 college football season ranked fifth in the country behind Ohio State, Oregon, TCU, and Alabama.


Will Golson, at quarterback, make Florida State a legitimate national championship contender?

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or sending me a comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

MUMFORD & SONS- 'WILDER MIND' (ALBUM REVIEW)

By: Connor Glowacki

Photo courtesy of Twitter
     British rock band Mumford & Sons has risen to extraordinary heights since the release of their debut album 'Sigh No More' in 2009. The musical quartet, comprising of lead singer Marcus Mumford, guitarist Winston Marshall, keyboardist Ben Lovett, and bassist Ted Dwane, incorporated traditional folk instruments into their music.
     After introducing the banjo, mandolin and resonator guitar in 'Sigh No More', the band's sound immediately resonated well in the mainstream music community and after hit singles 'Little Lion Man', 'Winter Winds' and 'The Cave', 'Sign No More' went on to sell over three million copies in the United States.
      The band's followup, 2012's 'Babel', continued Mumford & Sons' rise to stardom as it debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, featured a HUGE hit single in 'I Will Wait', sold over 2.7 million copies in the United States and even won a Grammy Award in 2013 for 'Album of the Year'.
     These two albums featured the acoustic instrumentation that created a nu-folk revival in the mainstream in the early 2010s. Similar folk acts, The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, Avett Brothers, and Phillip Phillips all found success after Mumford & Sons had paved the way for folk acts to gain national recognition.
     However, despite all of the band's success, they have been criticized by several music critics for their  songs sounding too similar to one another. They have been also criticized for using the same lyrical themes in their songs, and that compared to other folk acts, their music is very simplistic, to a fault.
Cover art for 'Wilder Mind'
Photo courtesy of Consequence
of Sound
     So after two albums based around folk music, Mumford & Sons declared in an interview with Rolling Stone back in March that the band was ditching the banjo and plugging in the electric guitar for their third album, 'Wilder Mind'.
     How does their foray into alternative and indie rock fare with 'Wilder Mind'? Here is a track by track breakdown of the new album from Mumford & Sons.


1.) 'Tompkins Square Park'

     Tompkins square park is an actual 10.5 acre public park in Manhattan of New York City. Since the band decided to record in the Big Apple, it's easy to understand how they could find new places as inspirations for this album.
Actual Tompkins Square Park
Photo courtesy of nyc.grid.com
     Instrumentally, there is a clear, melodic guitar opening with a repeated drumming pattern. Mumford & Sons showcase their trademark vocal harmonies during the chorus and the song maintains a steady tempo throughout. Marshall's guitar solo is covered in reverb and distortion and even though it's technically simple, it fits naturally with the rest of the instrumentation.
     Lyrically, Mumford talks about wishing to meet his lover for one last time to try and reignite the feeling that they once had for one another.
     "Oh babe, I've never been so lost. I wanna hear you lie. One last time, just one last time." But he knows that he'll inevitably be out of her life by the end of the night. "And oh babe, can you tell what's on my tongue? Can you guess that I'll be gone? With the twilight."
     Even if his doubts are preventing him from being able to commit with this woman, Mumford kind of comes across as a jerk for blatantly ditching the woman that he apparently 'loves' and saying to her face that he's just going to take the easy way out and leave.
     There are no acoustic guitars or banjos anywhere on this track, but I really like the synthesizers on the outro that perfectly segue-ways into the second track.
     Overall, it's a pretty good album opener. The instrumentation is different and unique for the band, but the lyrics resemble the type of content that's been on their last two albums.

2.) 'Believe'

     'Believe' was the first single released from 'Wilder Mind' back in March and it has peaked at #31 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's not yet the smash hit that 'I Will Wait', 'Little Lion Man' or 'The Cave' became, but there's still time for the song to pick up steam commercially.
'Believe' has been gaining
comparisons to U2 and Coldplay.
Photo courtesy of USA Today.
     'Believe' is very atmospheric and muscially sounds alot like fellow English band Coldplay. It starts off fairly slow, but kicks up by the final third of the track once the electric guitar and drums kick in.
     Mumford does an excellent job at selling the emotinoal impact of the lyrics that speak once again to the uncertainity of a relationship. With lyrics in the chrous like, "I don't even know if I believe. Everything you're trying to say to me", it will very well in a stadium setting.
     Don't get me wrong, this is a good song. But, I would've LOVED this song if there were acoustic guitars in the song's first half that increased the tempo a little more and prevented it from dragging until the electric guitars came in.
     'Believe' stumbles at points, but just like 'Tompkins Square Park', it's another good song that starts off 'Wilder Mind' on a strong note.

3.) 'The Wolf'

     The song starts off much more aggressively than the first two tracks with the combination of electric guitars, electric bass and pounding drums that give a visceral edge to Mumfod & Sons' new sound. The riffs and melody lines are extremely catchy and have been stuck in my head sver since the song was released.
     Marshall, Dwane and Lovett rip into their instruments throughout the song and feel musically uncaged by their newfound 'electric freedom'. Mumford belts out the vocals during the choruses and the final outro of 'The Wolf'.
     The title of ths song plays off the children's story character of the wolf very well by alluding the wolf as a danger to a relationship. There's a possibility that the woman will fall for the wolf, OR that she will find someone better. And just like the previous two songs, you can hear the band's new musical influences. The influences that are easy to hear on 'The Wolf' are Kings of Leon and Bruce Springsteen.
     It's a fun, energetic song that will defintely be a HIT at concerts.

4.) 'Wilder Mind'

     After three strong songs to kick off 'Wilder Mind', we finally have our first disappointment and it's in the title track. Instrumentally, it's pretty minimalistic. Yes, it sounds like an electronic drum set, but there are also synthesizers and a muted piano melody line courtesy of Lovett.
     Similar to the other tracks, Mumford is utilizing his lower vocal register more frequently than he ever did on 'Sigh No More' and 'Babel'. It's nice seeing him show restraint, but the song doesn't go anywhere sonically. The musicality doesn't impress and the song is lyrically once again about a deteriorating relationship.
     The title track is a bit of a let down after the positive showing from the first three songs.

5.) 'Just Smoke'

     Even with the electric guitars, bass and pianos, these instruments aren't adding anything to the lyrics and basic structure of the song 'Just Smoke'. The song lyrically talks about the feelings between two lovers who are on the verge of breaking up. Part of the song discusses the desire to just have their feelings of love taken away, rather than not being able to handle the feelings with their lover. "Tell my thoughts to resign and lift you from your mind. I'm not ready, I'm not strong enough to cradle the weight of your love."
     The lyrical template of 'Wilder Mind' so far appears to be focusing on maintaining a relationship despite various fears and doubts. The lack of themes in these songs can get tiresome, but this has ultimately been the primary subject matter that Mumford & Sons have discussed in their previous albums.
     Meanwhile, Mumford & Sons is claiming to be a full-fledged rock band, but the overall aesthetic of their music still feels folky to me due to the reverb soaked instrumentation and the imagery of the lyrics.
     So far, outside of 'The Wolf', the electric instruments are actually bringing less energy throughout 'Wilder Mind'.

6.) 'Monster'

     And just like that comes another slow, downtempo affair. However, the lyrics place a different story on 'Monster' than on the other songs off of the album. It tells about the fighting that is occurring in a relationship and how the woman appears to be cheating on Mumford and using her beauty effectively to get what she wants and prevent him from leaving her. "I saw you late, last night, come to harm. I saw you dance in the devil's arms."
     Mumford later gives the woman a declaration that he will not be treated as inferior. But the negative light then shines brightly on him as he attempts to convince his lover that being with him is more important than her chasing her own individual dreams. "So f--- your dreams and don't you pick at our seams. I'll turn into a monster for you, if you pay me enough, None of this counts, a few dreams, plowed up."
     So is Mumford the actual monster? Or are he and his lover both monster-like? Mumford doesn't even seem to show remorse for the mistakes he's made in the relationship! Not even the instrumentation can save the disappointing lyrical storytelling that make up 'Monster'.

7.) 'Snake Eyes'

     After three poor songs in a row, 'Snake Eyes' was a much needed energy jolt for 'Wilder Mind'. It opens with the mix of a violin and an electric guitar repeating the opening riff. The piano and drums begin to slowly build during the first chorus and it eventually builds up to a faster and louder piece of music.
     The electric guitar finally erupts in the second verse and combined with the bass lines and drumming, we have a much needed increase in tempo. Mumford erupts vocally in the third chorus and the outro showcases throbbing cymbals and pounding drums that are mixed with a pounding power chord progression on multiple electric guitars.
     It's like Mumford & Sons is actually giving themselves a chance to rock out and jam with one another at full volume. Outside of 'The Wolf', 'Snake Eyes' has been the only song where Mumford & Sons have really showcased themselves in this new arena rock mold.

8.) 'Broad-Shouldered Beasts'

     'Broad-Shouldered Beasts' alternates between different levels of dynamic sounds fairly well and it's easy to tell that the band shines brightest once they create a large wall of sound by the end of the song with all of their instrumentation.
     There are piano chords, ringing cymbals and an extremely soft guitar section playing in the background. However, in the softer moments when Mumford is trying to display a more intimate setting, it feels as if he is about to fall asleep due to the mumbling nature of the softer vocals. There is an apparent lack of energy and urgency that is desperately needed to pull off those pre-climatic moments.
     Lyrically, the song talks about Mumford trying to take his lover out for a night in the city, in an attempt to help her loosen up, but she ends up falling back into her world of fear and cautiousness. Mumford declares in the chorus that he will be there to support her and that he will be her 'broad shouldered beast' when she needs him to be.
     The song is decent, but it doesn't have any kind of lasting impact to make this a standout track.

9.) 'Cold Arms'

     Mumford & Sons are really doing their best to channel other indie, alternative bands, such as The National, Coldplay and Snow Patrol throughout 'Wilder Mind' and that continues to be evident on the song 'Cold Arms'. It's the shortest song on the album at two minutes and 49 seconds and focuses on a strumming electric guitar. Mumford does what he can to enhance the song vocally, but it doesn't showcase much of a melody to let him passionately wail out any of the lyrics.
     It lyrically talks about how there may have been a fight between the two lovers and how the fight was necessary, in order to allow to allow both individuals to freely speak their minds. "And I know what's on your mind. God knows I put it there. But if I took it back, we'd be nowhere. You'd be nowhere again."
     Yet the truth ended up bringing more trouble to the relationship and as Mumford sings, "I guess the truth works two ways, maybe the truth's not what we need", there is a realization that perhaps a false sense of happiness is still the better alternative.
     I actually enjoy the lyrics on 'Cold Arms', but unfortunately the instrumentation doesn't back up the urgency in the lyrics.

10.) 'Ditmas'

     So 'Ditmas' is the complete opposite of 'Cold Arms' because the instrumentation allows the band to play to their strengths, but the lyrics completely fall flat. The loud electric guitars and natural drumset provide a necessary beat and sense of tempo.
     I really like how all of the instruments blend together so well during the chorus and the drums and cymbals, in particular, push the song to a faster and more energetic place.
     Lyrically, 'Ditmas' is another song about Mumford trying to figure out the relationship with his lover and they ultimately decides that the best way forward is for him to leave. BUT now Mumford and the woman are having second thoughts. "And so I cry, as I hold you for the last time in this life. This life I tried so hard to give to you. What would you have me do?"
     The lyrics and storytelling in 'Wilder Mind' are resembling a complete soap opera. There is no sense of passion, excitement or anything to make these lyrics more interesting. Quite possibly the worst song on the album.

11.) 'Only Love'

     The softer moments in 'Only Love' actually work because of the rich vocal harmonies during the chorus. They remind me of the Mumford & Sons that I really enjoyed as a traditional folk rock outfit.
     Mumford is angry at himself for messing up in the relationship and making his lover feel like a fool. "And I rage and rage. But perhaps I will come of age. And be ready for you."
     Finally, Mumford takes some accountability for ruining the relationship, instead of consistently placing blame on the woman for being too 'cautious'.
     The hook is what makes this song and the combined voices on the final chorus provide a great wave of a crescendo. It makes 'Only Love' a truly underrated song that I think could be a sleeper hit among Mumford & Sons fans.

12.) 'Hot Gates'

     The final track off of 'Wilder Mind' is supposed to allude to the entrance of the underworld and Hades. The title refers to a battle against life and death.
     The lyrics make it sound like Mumford is singing to a lover or a friend who is experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts. "But even in the dark I saw you were the only one alone. At these hot gates, you spit your vitriol though you swore you wouldn't do this anymore."
     It's great to hear a song about a different theme than just of the failed romantic relationship. The song and album ends on a triumphant note with tight instrumentation mixed into the final verse. "Let my blood only run out when my world decides. There is no way out of your only life. So run on, so run!"
     'Hot Gates' is a great way to close out 'Wilder Mind' and is easily one of the better tracks off of the album.


FINAL VERDICT

Photo courtesy of Billboard
     I'll always give an artist credit for experimentation. Certain acts that I have covered this year, including Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar and Zac Brown Band all experimented on their albums to varying degrees of success.
     Mumford & Sons' 'Wilder Mind' showcased a new electric sound for the band that is aimed to present themselves now as an alternative arena rock act.
     There are some songs, like 'The Wolf', 'Snake Eyes' and 'Hot Gates', where the new instrumentation bring forth a new sense of life and energy into the band. But then there are songs like 'Believe' and 'Just Smoke' where the new electric sound could have frankly been better executed.
     The problem that I'm having with 'Wilder Mind' is that when you pair some of these electric sounds with the earnest lyrics and storytelling, it just doesn't match up evenly together. On their first two albums, the band had countless songs full of lyrics about relationships and love, but when they were paired with a high energy acoustic guitar or a concentrated banjo pattern, it created triumphant and joyous moments for the listener. For most of the songs on this album, the low-key electric sounds don't bring any additional life to the lyrics.
Photo courtesy of Consequence of Sound
     I am in no way saying that Mumford & Sons needs to transition back into folk rock, even though that is the genre I prefer them in. They can make future songs and albums more dynamic by adding more effects and creating bigger and louder moments using their electric instruments.
     But I will say that with their previous albums, even though the instrumentation appeared formulaic and the lyrical themes could have been more diverse, it was easy to identify what Mumford & Sons was all about and who they were in terms of their sound.
     With this indie rock sound on 'Wilder Mind', the band is sounding similar to groups like The National, Coldplay, Kings Of Leon, and U2.
     But now I'm starting to wonder. Who are they really as a band?
   


RATING: 3 out of 5

BEST SONGS:

1.) 'Snake Eyes'              2.) 'The Wolf'              3.) 'Hot Gates


What did YOU think of the new Mumford & Sons album, 'Wilder Mind'?

Did you like it? Hate it? Agree or disagree with this review?


Leave a comment below or send me a comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.
   

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

ZAC BROWN BAND- 'JEKYLL + HYDE' (ALBUM REVIEW)

By: Connor Glowacki

Cover art for 'Jekyll + Hyde'
Photo courtesy of
zacbrownband.com
      Zac Brown Band have been a powerful staple in country music ever since their 2008 major label debut album, 'The Foundation'. 'The Foundation' garnered great reviews for the band's songwriting and catchy hooks and produced mega hits songs like 'Chicken Fried', 'Toes', 'Whatever It Is', 'Highway 20 Ride', and 'Free'. The album would go on to sell over three million copies in the United States and brought Zac Brown Band huge mainstream recognition.
     After 'The Foundation', the band saw continued success in their two follow-up albums, 2010's 'You Get What You Give' and 2012's 'Uncaged'. More hits came for the band, but during this process, Zac Brown Band began to gain a reputation as one of country's best touring acts due to their expanded repotire and musicality.
     Their music combined country with southern rock, folk and even reggae at certain points. In 2013, the band teamed up with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl for a more southern rock based effort in the aptly titled, 'The Grohl Sessions'. Recently in concerts, Zac Brown Band has performed covers of songs from artists like Queen, Metallica, Billy Joel, and even Pink Floyd.
Photo courtesy of country1071.com
     When preparing to release their newest record, 'Jekyll + Hyde', frontman Zac Brown stated in several interviews that the album was going to showcase more experimentation from the band and allowing themselves to stretch their growing musical influences.
     So how does 'Jekyll + Hyde' stack up? Here's a track by track breakdown of the country band's latest release.

1.) 'Beautiful Drug'

     'Jekyll + Hyde' begins with the song 'Beautiful Drug'. It starts off with a fast, menacing banjo riff that mixes a separated strummed acoustic guitar before fading into the background by the beginning of the first verse. The song has lots of studio effects that include elements indicating electronic aesthetics mixed with a slightly distorted electric guitar.
     The lyrics talk about Brown describing his girl as a beautiful drug, "Lipstick and heels, pull me in. Get me hooked like a junkie. You got me feeling so high."
     The chorus is the example of an ultimate sing-along with lyrics, "You're such a beautiful drug, I can't get enough. Addicted and I'm dying for a hit of your love." The lyrics are okay enough, but this kind of subject matter has been done so many times from artists in other genres and done better by those other artists.
     As the chorus erupts, 'Beautiful Drug' transitions into this dance track with propulsive, throbbing beats. There are synthesizers everywhere and it just doesn't feel like an organic Zac Brown Band song. The electronic dance music (EDM) sounds and instrumentation will confuse a lot of listeners. The band did say that 'Jekyll + Hyde' would be an album filled with experimentation pulling from different musical genres, but 'Beautiful Drug' sounds like a weird attempt to gain a crossover hit on Top 40 radio.
      Zac Brown Band end up tackling other genres throughout 'Jekyll + Hyde', but 'Beautiful Drug' is a complete mess that should have NEVER happened.

2.) 'Loving You Easy'

'Loving You Easy' resembles music
from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone
     The latest released commercial single from 'Jekyll + Hyde' opens with a clean guitar riff and drums following right behind. Musically, 'Loving You Easy' sounds like a Motown song from the 1970s. Something like Smokey Robinson and the Miracles would have done. Or if compared to a song by a modern day artist, it sounds similar to 'Sugar' by pop band Maroon 5.
     Violins and shakers accompany the guitar part during the chorus and includes strong vocals by Brown, especially when the song moves up a key in it's latter portion.
     Lyrically, it's about how Brown believes that the woman he is in love with is such an incredible person and that nothing could be better than life with her. "Every morning when you come downstairs. Hair's a mess, but I don't care. No makeup on and shining so bright."
     This kind of subject matter has been done to death so many times before, but the instrumentation is tight and Brown sings the lyrics with such an earnest delivery and intensity that it makes up for the bland lyrical structure.
     The Motown vibes of 'Loving You Easy' still doesn't fit well to me for Zac Brown Band, but it's defintely better than that mess of a song 'Beautiful Drug'.

3.) 'Remedy'

     After two disappointing songs to start off 'Jekyll +Hyde', 'Remedy' shows Zac Brown Band playing to their strengths. It's finally a natural country sounding song, which includes their notoriously excellent vocal harmonies. Add that with the violins and other instrumentation and this finally sounds like a Zac Brown Band that audiences will love.
     The lyrics revolve around loving one another in an attempt to create peace and to make the world a better place. Even though these types of songs have been done before, 'Remedy' is still inspirational and has provided the most emotional impact by far on this album.
     The vocals are fantastic by Brown, especially when he is hitting some of these ridiculous high notes by the end of the song. With a backing choir supporting him, Brown showcases why he is one of the more well-regarded singers today in country music. Another thing that I really liked about this song was the catchy mandolin and banjo solo after the chorus that led the way into the third verse. Overall, 'Remedy' is a very solid track.

4.) 'Homegrown'

Photo courtesy of Facebook
     'Homegrown' was the first single released from 'Jekyll + Hyde' all the way back in January and it has become a legitimate hit after peaking at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 at country radio. It's a song about appreciating the simple things in life that are right around you and not worrying about things out of your control.
     I really enjoy the banjo instrumental during the verses and the vocal harmonies that strengthen during the chorus.
     It's a classic arena-country song from Zac Brown and is also very rootsy and country for what is currently being played on country radio. It follows the themes of previous hits like 'Chicken Fried', 'Toes' and 'Knee Deep'. 'Homegrown' should end up being a fan favorite for the rest of the band's career.

5.) 'Mango Tree' featuring Sara Barielles

     It's actually not too surprising to see singer-songwriter Sara Barielles as the featured guest on 'Mango Tree'. Zac Brown Band has previously included several singers as featured guests on their previous albums.  Most notably Jimmy Buffet on the song 'Knee Deep' from 2010's 'You Get What You Give' and Amos Lee on the song 'Day That I Die' from 2012's 'Uncaged'.
Barielles duets with Brown on 'Mango Tree'.
Photo courtesy of Billboard
     'Mango Tree' is very jazzy and also contains elements of big-band. It's retro, but cool in the sense that this band appears to be determined to not be defined by a specific genre.
     Barielles enters in the second verse and fits very well with the stripped back arrangements. Barielles and Brown combine to form great harmonies during the chorus and it turns out to be a great duet.
     It's really easy to be impressed by the band's technical musical ability, by being able to play multiple instruments in different genres. I really like 'Mango Tree' and think that this jazz style suits Zac Brown Band well. It's a style that they should continue exploring in the future.

6.) 'Heavy Is The Head' featuring Chris Cornell

    My personal favourite genre of music remains to this day to be alternative rock. When I heard that Soundgarden's Chris Cornell would be a guest on this song, I knew that this song was going to ROCK. Very distorted, metallic guitars open the song and Cornell hauntingly wails the chorus, "Heavy is the head, who wears the crown."
Cornell features on 'Heavy Is The Head'
Photo courtesy of Pinterest.
     Lyrically, the song talks about subjects rebelling over a tyrannical king or head of state and a call to arms in order to overthrow that leader. Yet it's also about the burden that heads of states feel when they are on top of their own perch. "Loved by few and judged by many, he bears that weight alone."
     Brown effectively pulls off the raspier rock vocals and sounds similar to Dave Grohl, but Cornell shines as he showcases his dynamic vocal range.
     Again, I appreciate the risks and experiementation that Zac Brown Band is taking and while the experiments with EDM and Motown don't exactly work, their forays into rock and jazz have been excellent so far.




7.) 'Bittersweet'

     'Bittersweet' leads off with a beautiful strings intro that morphs into an acoustic guitar interlude. But after about three and a half minutes of acoustic guitars, the song abruptly kicks into a second gear with roaring electric guitar that create this large wall of sound.
     'Bittersweet' talks about Brown losing someone very close to him and escaping to the ocean. But instead of drinking away his problms, he remembers the positive memories that he shared with that individual. Even though the memories may be positive, they are still bittersweet.
     It's a gut-wrenching, powerful song that does a great job of conveying the appropriate emotions needed in order for the listener to be able to understand and relate to it.

8.) 'Castaway'

     After the slow and jazzy 'Mango Tree', the hard rocker 'Heavy Is The Head' and the somber, instrospective number in 'Bittersweet', it's nice that 'Castaway' is just a laid back and fun summer song.  It's filled with acoustic guitars and ukuleles and is about letting go and being a castaway from the everyday grind for just one night.
     It contains hints of reggae music that is embedded into the instrumentation and the vocals. However, it conceptually feels too close to previous feel good summer songs like 'Toes' and 'Knee Deep'. But it was a much needed energy shift that balances out 'Jekyll + Hyde'.

9.) 'Tomorrow Never Comes'

     An acoustic guitar riff opens up 'Tomorrow Never Comes', but it then changes into another thumping beat that leads into a bass drop of folk-tronica music.
     Lyrically, it's about living for the moment as if there is no tomorrow. It's such a played out topic, but the lyrics are still semi-inspiring. And unlike 'Beautiful Drug', the mix of acoustic guitars and the banjo with the syntheitc beats works better than it probably should. It's sounds an awful lot like the song 'Hey Brother' by EDM artist Aviici.
     Once again, I appreciate Zac Brown Band for taking some risks with their instrumentation and several times it does work throughout 'Jekyll + Hyde'. But EDM is a bad fit for the rootsy, organic sound that the band is able to naturally project.
     It's a lot better than 'Beautiful Drug', but they need to just stay as far away as they can from EDM at this point because they can't pull it off well.

10.) 'One Day'

     'One Day' contains an opening with a mix of a twang filled reverb electric guitar and violin. "One day with you is all that it takes to bring me back again. I fall, I'm always careless, never concerned where I land."
     The instrumentation is solid and the vocal delivery is also on point due to Brown being able to deliver the lyrics in such an earnest manner. 'One Day' is a nice and relaxing love song, but it just doesn't catch my ear enough or have that interesting of a melody to keep me engaged.
All in all, it's a decent filler track.

11.) 'Dress Blues'

     This is actually a cover of singer-songwriter Jason Isbell's song of the same name. It'a about a United States marine who was killed in action. A song about patriotism and ultimate sacrifice that was beautifully written by Isbell and will hit home for anyone with a relative/significant other in the military or serving in the military themselves.
     It's somber with lyrics like, "Maybe 18 was too early, maybe 30 or 40 is too. Did you get your chance to make peace with the man before he sent his angels down for you?"
     Zac Brown Band does a solid job at making the song their own with their own interpretation, but credit should be given to Isbell for penning a wonderful dedication to fallen soldiers.

12.) 'Young And Wild'

     'Young and Wild' is a much more carefree song than 'Dress Blues'. It'a about reminiscing about the rebellious days of teeneage youth. Even with learning from the mistakes you made in the past, you would do it all over again so that you could gain those same experiences and memories.
     It's a pure country instrumentation with a steel pedal guitar providing a twang-like echo and background violins. It's introspective, but also has a tight groove within the instrumentation to make the song fun.

13.) 'Junkyard'

     'Junkyard' might be one of the better songs off of 'Jekyll + Hyde' for tackling the issue of child abuse. It's an intense and slow-cooking country-rocker with distorted and muddy base and guitar lines, creating this giant wall of sound that can't be destroyed. And in the middle of the song is this Celtic or Irish interlude with drum loops that create so much more chaos and the tension before the tempo just explodes by the end of 'Junkyard'.
     With lines like, "And he says, 'You're as sick, as you are lovely, and in need of a hand'. He tells me, you are never worthy but I was just a child you see...that's my reality", the song combines great storytelling with gripping realism that will take the listener slightly aback. The intensity of the lyrics matched with the intensity of the instrumentation makes 'Junkyard' a great song that will be the deep album cut that listeners will constantly flock back to.

14.) 'I'll Be Your Man (Song For A Daughter)'

     'I'll Be Your Man (Song For A Daughter)' is a calm island-tinged folk country song that is able to relax the listener after the intense 'Junkyard'. Lyrically, it's a song about a father singing to his daugther that he'll always be there for her and that she should go out and try new things, dance when no one is watching and to just enjoy life.
     It's also a heartfelt moment where Brown sings to the daughter character that until she finds a man to fall in love with and get married with, he'll be her man and will always be one phone call away. It's a song about the passage of time and life that alot of people can relate to and I wish that this was the final song on the album.

15.) 'Wildfire'

     It's not that 'Wildfire' is a bad song. It has tight harmonies from the band members and an interesting groove that contains twang filled electric guitars and violins, but it's a lazy filler track.
     If it were anywhere in the middle of 'Jekyll + Hyde', I think I would've liked the carefree party vibes of 'Wildfire' more, but after a song like 'I'll Be Your Man (Song For A Daughter)', which is a perfect album closer, 'Wildfire' feels extremely clumsy and out of place. Unfortunately, it closes 'Jekyll + Hyde' on a weaker note.

FINAL VERDICT:

Photo courtesy of Pinterest.
     Well, 'Jekyll + Hyde' did provide the experimentation that Zac Brown had promised. But at least the band was willing to take numerous musical risks in a genre that contains artists playing it way too safe a great deal of the time.
     Credit should be given to all of the band members for stepping up their technical performance for this album. To be able to play different genres of music is astounding and stretches where Zac Brown Band can take their music in the future.
     The heavy rock sounds of 'Heavy Is The Head' and the retro jazz track 'Mango Tree' are perfect examples of what worked really well, while the EDM influenced 'Beautiful Drug', 'Tomorrow Never Comes' and the Motown flavored 'Loving You Easy' tended to fall flat on their faces.
     The great thing about experimental albums is that the audience's response to certain tracks tend to usually let the band know which sounds they should pursue for future projects. Outside of the missteps of their experimentation, the main problem with 'Jekyll + Hyde' is that the album, at times, drags and lasts over an hour throughout its entire length. If Zac Brown Band decided to cut a few of the weaker songs out, 'Jekyll + Hyde' could have been a great album because it would've felt more cohesive.
     'Jekyll + Hyde' is an album that allowed Zac Brown Band to stretch its musical limits. And in a genre that produces more and more albums from major artists that sound too polished, this new project was a nice change of pace.
     My hope is that the band learns which musical genres work to their strengths and then apply those strengths to their next album. If Zac Brown Band does that, their future fifth album could end up being their best piece of work.

RATING: 3 out of 5


BEST THREE SONGS

1.) 'Heavy Is The Head'        2.) 'Mango Tree'          3.) 'Remedy'


Any thoughts on the new album from Zac Brown Band, 'Jekyll + Hyde'?

Like it? Dislike it? And did their experimentation pay off?

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.