Album Review: Boston Manor’s Be Nothing. (is everything but nothing)

bostonmanor

Released on: September 30, 2016

Record Label: Pure Noise Records

Genre: Rock

I discovered Boston Manor by sheer luck on Spotify. I would admit that I had a soft spot for  anything related to the state of Boston, and knowing that it was a post-hardcore/emo/punk bank fanned my enthusiasm further.

Upon further research, I found that the band had released two EPs (“Saudade” in 2015 & “Driftwood” in 2014) prior to the release of their very first LP that I was about to review. I’ve not heard of them and was surprised to learn that they have been a band for about 4 years now.

It’s also interesting to note that none of the songs in either EPs has been featured in this LP either – a good thing, as I usually see it as a lazy way to fill tracklists to make an LP an LP when bands do that; with a couple of exceptions such as Anarbor.

And contrary to what I was expecting, Boston Manor actually referred to “one of the ancient manors of Middlesex” in London. It comes with an interesting history that explains its Jacobean facade which stood the test of time way back from 16th century, and now it remains in what’s known as the Boston Manor park. There’s even an underground station named after it – do check out this wikipedia page if you’re interested to read all about it.

Honestly, one would never have guessed that this is the five-piece post-hardcore English band’s first full-length album from the very first guitar note that ignited the start to a kickass album in their first track “Burn You Up”. The song demonstrated the overall energetic and raw power Boston Manor had to offer, and as aptly sung by lead vocalist Henry Cox: You’d better get used to this.

The next track, “Lead Feet”, is one of my favourites from the album. The lyrics were impeccable, and the guitars and drums supplemented it perfectly. I do not quite understand the storyline behind the music video though.

 

The loud and raw emotions in the first few tracks were switched to a much more sombre mood in “Broken Glass“, which honestly, did not need much to accentuate Cox’s soothing vocals, although it later erupted to a fantastically distinct Boston Manor guitar riff for its ending verse.

The band reminded its listeners that they were better when they play it loud, which was evident in the following tracks “Kill Your Conscience” and “Cu“. There is a subliminal juxtaposition in lyrical sense next to Cox’s half-wails and melodic guitar riffs in these songs. “Forget Me Not” is arguably one of the best tracks of the album, especially for its catchy lyrics:

I’m trying to remember

Forgot the date of your birthday

But I suppose it doesn’t matter

You won’t remember anyway.

For a debut album, Be Nothing. is considerably one of the most well-produced post-hardcore/rock album of the year. Comparing to the veterans in the scene (*cough* A Day to *cough* Remember *cough*), Be Nothing. is a pop-punk masterpiece with its raw emotions that had been spilt over from its amazing songwriting sorcery and addictive guitar riffs. Their debut album successfully proved the band’s true potential that was previously not exemplified in their two EPs.

Boston Manor is definitely a band to watch out for, and in the words of Cox in “Burn You Up” – we had better get used to this  😉

OVERALL GRADE: B+

DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND LISTEN TO: Lead Feet, Broken Glass, Forget Me Not

TRACK LISTING:

  1. Burn You Up
  2. Lead Feet
  3. Laika
  4. Cu
  5. Broken Glass
  6. Kill Your Conscience
  7. Forget Me Not
  8. This Song is Dedicated to Nobody
  9. Stop Trying, Be Nothing.
  10. Fossa

Album Review: Rainie Yang’s 年輪說 (Traces of Time in Love)

tolit

Released on: September 30, 2016

Record Label: EMI Records and Entertainment

Genre: Mandopop

After her previous highly-acclaimed album 雙丞戲 (A Tale of Two Rainie), expectations are high for the next one. I haven’t been following Rainie Yang, so the album drop of 年輪說 (Traces in Time with Love) came as a surprise to me.

Her album opens with the title track, 年輪說 (Traces in Time with Love), which features jazzy instrumentals and the singer’s raspy and sweet voice that we are all familiar with. When I first listened to it, I don’t feel much – even after watching the music video. But the lyrics were pretty meaningful so props to that.

Her second track, 單 (Being Single), is when I felt that the album has truly started. The chorus was powerfully charged in this love ballad and is probably one of the more memorable songs in this album. It is what I truly felt is authentic in a Rainie Yang song, unlike the first one. The music video also made me tear a little 😦

Yet another love ballad, 與我無關 (Not My Business) might seem unassumingly boring, but the mood builts up from the second verse onwards and the instrumentals juxtaposed with her vocals were perfect. I wished the record label had created a music video for this track instead of 年輪說 (Traces of Time in Love).

The overall sombre mood of the album is occasionally switched up with upbeat tracks in 我們 (Us) and 現代之形象 (Modern Image), and sadly, both of which are also one of the more forgettable tracks of the album.

The star track of the album easily belongs to 觀眾 (The Audience), a love song that is unrivalled. I am still very obsessed with the music video, which featured Mike He, Show Luo, and Wilber Pan.

MikeWillShow.png
Top to Bottom: Rainie Yang & Mike He in 惡魔在身邊 (Devil Beside You, 2005); Rainie Yang & Show Luo in 海派甜心 (Hi My Sweetheart, 2009); Rainie Yang & Wilber Pan in 不良笑花 (Miss No Good, 2008)

Anyone familiar with the emergence of Rainie Yang in the Mandopop scene would know that she started out by acting in dramas alongside these heart-throbs as her fellow love interests on-screen. Of course, if you ask me; my favourite of the three dramas would definitely be 不良笑花 (Miss No Good). My god, Rainie Yang’s character is absolutely hilarious and memorable up to this day. Wilber Pan’s acting sucked in that drama though, so I was sorely surprised at his acting chops during his short cameo in the music video:

Someone did an amazing interpretation of the music video, and explained how Yang’s different hair colour in her three relationships is a recurring motif of each stage in her love life:

第一段感情:我以為那是愛
頭髮的顏色為藍色
我以為的愛 原來不是我所想的,愛情裡沒有熱忱也沒有甜蜜,也許我們更像朋友。

第二段感情:我希望你愛我
頭髮的顏色為紅色
對於你,我是熱情的,我想要並且主動的想親近你,但卻被拒之於外。

第三段感情:我以為我愛你
頭髮的顏色為紫色
是紅色與藍色的混合
我希望你愛我,也以為那是愛
我們交往了三年 你向我求了婚 就這樣 我活在自以為愛你的謊言,但看到戒指那剎那才發現,原來只是習慣有你。

最後步入禮堂:原來這才是愛
頭髮的顏色為棕色
穿上婚紗這一刻,我了解到了,真正的愛,就是可以做原本的自己。

(Credits to Cathy Chang via YouTube comment)

Another worthy track to check out is 愛唷 (Oh, Love), a style that I have probably never heard Rainie Yang tried before. The piano and her vocals adjusting the mood between being melodic and cheeky is very refreshing, and the music video is also really cute, albeit a little bizarre.

Judging from the number of music videos that have been released on her YouTube channel, it seems as if the record label is trying pretty hard to promote the album. Unfortunately, Yang definitely have so much more to offer than what she did in 年輪說 (Traces of Time in Love) – the album just isn’t fantastic.

I would probably recommend a few tracks to my friends if they ask about it, but it is not worthy of a thorough listen for new listeners of Rainie Yang who demand to be impressed. I also found myself popping this album on repeat during intensive studying sessions for its soft jazz and easy listening tracks, which is good if that’s what you are looking out for. For now, I’ll continue to play 雙丞戲 (A Tale of Two Rainie) on repeat because I prefer her melodramatic and *emo* tracks much more. 😛

年輪說 (Traces of Time in Love) is an album that exemplifies Yang’s maturity and is definitely a great step ahead of 雙丞戲 (A Tale of Two Rainie), yet it proves to be lacklustre in its entirety as compared to her previous masterpiece. 年輪說 (Traces of Time in Love) would be sufficient to pacify Yang’s diehard fans, but it is not going to create new ones.

OVERALL GRADE: C+

DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND LISTEN TO: 單, 與我無關, 觀眾, 愛唷

TRACK LISTING:

  1. 年輪說 (Traces of Time in Love)
  2. 單 (Being Single)
  3. 與我無關 (Not My Business)
  4. 我們 (Us)
  5. 相愛的方法 (Method of Love)
  6. 現代之形象 (Modern Image)
  7. 觀眾 (The Audience)
  8. 愛唷 (Oh, Love)
  9. 點一盞無聊的小夜燈 (A Boring Night Light)
  10. 想睡的戀人噢 (Oh, Lover)

Andy Black’s “The Shadow Side” Album Review: This is Hell (Amazing), Yes

Andy-Black

Released on: May 6, 2016

Record Label: Republic Records

Genre: Alternative Rock

When I first heard that Andy Biersack was coming up with a solo side project, I was slightly apprehensive at first because I wasn’t sure how he would fare without the whole “Black Veil Brides” facade. You cannot blame me – after all, like thousands of BVB fan(girls), I grew up watching Andy as a frontman/vocalist of Black Veil Brides. After Hot Topic released an exclusive video of the-song-that-never-made-it-to-his-record-anyway  “They Don’t Need to Understand” two years ago, I immediately knew that I have to check the record out when it is released.

 

The Shadow Side features 13 radio-friendly tracks, lasting 49 minutes in total. It revolves around his distaste for societal norms and his pursuit on his “shadow side”. It didn’t seem to borrow much references or musical influences either, as it has a grandiose pop-rock sound that only the man himself could reproduce.

My favourite track, “We Don’t Have to Dance” is everything the record is supposed to be. The track demands the listener to play it on repeat for about half a day to truly listen to the vocal and lyrical potential Andy Biersack has to offer.

From the first second when the synths kicks in to the last of his whispers, it has easily captivated with the groove; and the catchy chorus that sings “We don’t have to talk/we don’t have to dance/we don’t have to smile/we don’t have to make friends” just blew every other track out of the water. Personally, I feel that this particular track is the most meaningful to me because it seems like a personal reflection on relationships that resonates with how I feel about them in general.

You’re never gonna get it, I’m a hazard to myself

I’ll break it to you easy, this is hell

This is hell

You’re looking and whispering, you think I’m someone else

This is hell, yes

Literal hell

 

Can I just add that I really love the music video as well? The music video’s tasteful take on film noir cinematography effectively adds an alchemical touch to the mood of the video and complements the philosophy of the entire record.

However, if you like what you heard, don’t get too excited because the rest of the tracks may disappoint.

The likes of “Put the Gun Down“, “Drown Me Out“, and “Beautiful Pain” are what I would define as filler tracks – you’ll hear the repetition in lyrical style, melodies and riffs. It’s almost like pulling out a track from the latest Black Veil Brides record (oops?).

It is also notable that Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio (and now Blink-182 too) lends his vocals to the bulk of the second verse of “Stay Alive“, a track that sounds passionately positive and totally amazing; it is as if there’s two angels singing to keep you alive on this track. Although I wished Matt had more vocal time, it was a perfect balance between the two singers as they are both easily distinguishable.

If you’re looking for a record to get you through a tough period in your life, this could be worth poppin’ your eardrums for a listen. The Shadow Side is nothing short of positivity, lyrical maturity, and is definitely a fitting debut full-length album for the frontman of Black Veil Brides. I’m just puzzled why “They Don’t Need to Understanddid not make it to the final cut of the record because I really liked it a lot better than the filler tracks.

I’ve heard that he has recently entered the studio with Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance) and producer John Feldmann (Sleeping with Sirens) for what seemed to be his sophomore solo record, so this will definitely not be the last we see of Andy Black.

I love it how Andy Biersack has evolved so much as a musician since his early Black Veil Brides days. Andy Biersack has such an artistic voice and individualistic musical direction – there’s just something about him (aside from his good looks) that will keep me wanting more from him as a solo act. 

Who knows, he could be our 21st century’s David Bowie.

 

OVERALL GRADE: B

DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND LISTEN TO:

We Don’t Have to Dance, Stay Alive, Drown Me Out, Paint It Black, Louder Than Your Love

TRACK LISTING:

  1. Homecoming King
  2. We Don’t Have To Dance
  3. Ribcage
  4. Stay Alive (featuring Matt Skiba)
  5. Love Was Made To Break
  6. Beautiful Pain
  7. Put the Gun Down
  8. Drown Me Out
  9. Paint It Black
  10. Break Your Halo
  11. Louder Than Your Love
  12. Broken Pieces
  13. The Void