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.