Album Review: The Queen Is Dead by the Smiths

British music during the mid-1980s was quite synth-heavy as new wave was the genre that defined the decade. However, a backlash against this style of music would occur which can be seen in bands like the Smiths. The Smiths came out of Manchester in the mid-1980s and released four pretty popular albums, including The Queen Is Dead, their best album in my opinion.

The album cover of The Queen Is Dead

The Queen Is Dead can simply be described as an indie or alternative rock album with its sound being a fusion of the rock music of the 1960s and contemporary post-punk music. It features Morrissey’s melancholic lyrics paired with his unique voice and Johnny Mar’s compositions. Many of the songs are fairly sad as demonstrated by “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”.

“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is a beautiful song about a man by his lover’s (or soon to be lover’s) side. The man wishes to stay by her side forever and even die beside her. “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is the Smiths’ signature song and one of my personal favorite songs of all time. With its synthesized strings, Morrissey’s voice, and Mar’s guitar, the song is just absolutely beautiful.

It would only be around a year later when the Smiths would break up. They would release another album not long after their breakup, but it’s not nearly as good as The Queen Is Dead in my opinion. The Queen Is Dead is a 10/10 album and you have to check it out!

Album Review: I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One

Sometimes, we find our favorite songs in mundane experiences. Whether we get the recommendation of a lifetime from our friends, or we find a catchy song on the radio, the event is different for everyone. Still, we all have that one mind-altering experience with music. I first discovered Yo La Tengo through their heartwarming song titled “My Little Corner of the World.” After playing it on loop for hours on end, I finally listened to Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, and I was shocked to find that this was more than a series of simple folk songs.

Album Cover Art for I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One by Yo La Tengo

I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One was released in 1997 by indie rock band Yo La Tengo. Most known for its various inspirations and genres, the album flips from acoustic folk-inspired tracks to glimpses of noise pop. For instance, tracks like “Autumn Sweater” and “The Lie and How We Told It” use catchy drums and blissful guitars to create homey, nostalgic tunes. Other tracks such as “Sugarcube” and “Deeper into Movies” use heavier guitars and distortions to take louder, rock-inspired approach. Despite these differences, Yo La Tengo masters each genre they tackle, and the end result is always interesting.

The most surprising track on I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One has to be “Center of Gravity.” Despite being the only bossa nova track of this project, it easily became my all time favorite song for its groovy percussions and different vocals. Still, each song in this project is different, so you never know what to expect once the track number changes. Yo La Tengo uses this unpredictable nature to their advantage. From beginning to end, I admired their musical variety instead of pushing it away. Even if you favor one genre over another, I guarantee you will find something to love about I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. Give this album a shot!

Album Review: evermore (deluxe version) by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift. We all know her, or at least I would hope everyone knows who she is. Her career began back in 2006, when she was just sixteen years old. Her debut single, Tim McGraw, will always remain in the back of my head.

This album opens with the track, willow, which I’m sure many of you have heard at some point on the radio. It is not one of my absolute favorite songs on the album, but I don’t dislike it either. I think it is a very good introduction into the complex album of evermore.

The fifth song on the deluxe version, tolerate it, is one of my all time favorite songs by Taylor. The piano in the beginning just suits the lyrics so well and I enjoy it so much. The bridge of the song has to be my favorite part though. You can really hear the anger and emotion in her voice and I love it.

My all time favorite song by Taylor is on this album. The song happiness, is absolutely one of the best songs I have heard throughout my life. The lyrics are incredible and the bridge is absolutely amazing. The way the song starts of soft and then progresses into a more aggressive tone is just so clever to me.

In conclusion, I rate this album a 9/10. I love it overall, but there are a few songs that I wouldn’t listen to on a daily basis. I do recommend listening to this album, even if you’re not a fan of Taylor Swift; I can guarantee you will discover at least one song you enjoy.

Extended Play (EP) Review: Jar of Flies by Alice in Chains

Thanks to the unexpected success of Nirvana’s Nevermind, alternative rock (especially grunge from Seattle) became one of America’s most popular genres of music during the 1990s. Many bands saw their heyday during this period, including Seattle’s Alice in Chains (AIC). They were an extremely successful band, but had a variety of internal issues such as lead singer Layne Staley’s heroin addiction. After their 1993 world tour, the band found themselves homeless and then moved into the London Bridge Studio in Seattle where they lived and recorded their 1994 extended play (EP) Jar of Flies.

The cover of Jar of Flies

Unlike the majority of their work, Jar of Flies heavily features acoustic guitars, primarily out of the band’s desire to relax and make music. It still features electric guitars and has elements of grunge. Out of all of the songs on the EP, “Nutshell” has to be my favorite.

“Nutshell” heavily features acoustic guitars and, unlike a good chunk of their songs, doesn’t feature major vocal harmonies from guitarist Jerry Cantrell. Instead, Layne Staley sings his heart out on this gut-wrenching piece. This has to be AIC’s saddest song which has only become more depressing with the 2002 overdose of Staley. The song is now dedicated to him.

Jar of Flies was the first and only EP to top the Billboard 200. It was also the first AIC release to do so and deservingly. All the songs on the EP are amazing and are worth your time. I give it a 9/10. Check it out when you have the chance.

Album Review: COSMIC by Bazzi

Although this album came out in 2018, I still listen to it daily. It is so insanely good and I would recommend it to everyone, no matter what kind of music you like.

The opening track, Dreams, is so beautiful. In the beginning, there is this sort of ambience. It is a comfortable ambience though. To me it sounds like the wonderous world of REM sleep, which is when we have dreams.

The second track, Soarin, is incredible. It instantly starts out strong and it just keeps getting better and better. I love the beat of it and the chorus. The ending closes out the track so well and I love it so much.

The sixth track on the album, 3:15, might be my all-time favorite song by Bazzi. I loved it when the album was just released, and I love it even more now. This song was what made me fall in love with music in general. I memorized all the lyrics in one night, and I don’t think I will ever forget them.

The last song I will be talking about, Cartier, is another one of my top five songs by Bazzi. The vocals are very pretty and I feel like it really shows of his vocal range. The end of the song fades out and it sounds like it was just meant to be.

Album Review: Nevermind by Nirvana

During the 1990s, alternative rock (especially Seattle’s grunge scene) exploded to the forefront of mainstream culture. At the head of this explosion was Nirvana’s sophomore album, Nevermind. Released in 1991, it unexpectedly became a massive album that would go on to define the 90s.

The album cover of Nevermind

Nevermind is the quintessential grunge, the sort of hard, alternative rock that came out of Seattle, album. It primarily features harder-edged songs such as the iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that make good use of loud-quiet-loud dynamics, something Nirvana picked up on from the Pixies, another alternative rock band. My personal favorite songs off of the album have to be “In Bloom.”

“In Bloom” starts off with an explosion of sound but then quiets down to the point where Kurt Cobain is singing a tad bit above a whisper. The song becomes loud once again, as it goes with a large number of Nirvana songs. While this song is one of the band’s most popular songs, it makes fun of the sort of people who sing Nirvana songs but don’t understand their meaning.

When Nevermind was originally released, it was not expected to become the decade-defining hit it become. Nevertheless, it did. Nevermind is a classic and for good reason. I give it a 10/10. You have to check it out!

Nevermind by Nirvana is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Album Review: Document by R.E.M.

The popular music of the 1980s (new wave) is notable for placing a hefty focus on synthesizers. However, many groups wouldn’t follow new wave’s format, choosing to play jangly guitar rock. The most notable of these groups, at least in the United States, was R.E.M. R.E.M. was very mainstream in the 1990s but was primarily relegated to college campuses during the 1980s, at least until they released their breakthrough album Document in 1987.

The album cover of Document

Document is filled with fun and serious jangly alternative rock songs. It’s very guitar heavy and the guitars are heavier than the guitars on R.E.M.’s previous releases. The album also has quite a few hits, such as “The One I Love” and “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”.

“The One I Love” may seem like a simple love song, but is actually much darker in nature, as seen in the line “A simple prop to occupy my time.” Either way, radio stations helped push this song to number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, R.E.M.’s first top ten hit. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” is about just what it sounds like, the end of the world. It’s a great, fast song, one of my favorites from R.E.M. Funnily enough, streams and downloads of the song greatly increased with the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, a good thing in light of bad circumstances.

After Document, R.E.M. became massive and would reach an untouchable position in the 1990s, becoming an American institution. We can attribute this to Document’s success. I give it a 9/10 as it’s definitely worth your time. Give it a go when you have the chance. You won’t regret it!

Album Review: young forever by Nessa Barrett

Nessa Barrett was originally known for being popular on the very popular social media platform, TikTok. She would post videos with other well-known people on the platform, and this is what caused her to “blow up.”

Nessa began her music career in 2020. Back then, I knew about her, but didn’t necessarily listen to her music. To be honest, I only really knew her by her name.

When she released her album young forever in October of 2022, I was instantly captivated from the start. I’m not a huge fan of pop music, but I feel like she really puts her own style into her work.

The opening track, tired of california, is just so relatable to me. The chorus is extremely catchy and I honestly can’t get enough of the song. There is a child choir in the background during the end of the song, and it really pulls it all together.

One of my top 5 tracks on the album, dear god, is so incredible. The vocals are beautiful. There is this sense of calmness in the melody, and I think it is amazing.

Another one of my favorite songs on the album, lovebomb, is so relatable to me. The lyrics are so captivating and I fell in love with the song the very first time I heard it. You can truly hear the emotion in her voice. It is so raw and honest, which I appreciate.

Album Review: Invitation to Her’s

One of my favorite relics from nostalgic summers is the music I discovered as the weeks passed. From windy summer nights to morning heatwaves, my fondest memories from those three-month vacations are the playlists I used to make. As I take a trip down memory lane, the first album that reminds me of those “good old days” is Invitation to Her’s.

Album Cover Art for Invitation to Her’s by Her’s.

Indie pop band Her’s released their second album, Invitation to Her’s, in 2018. A year after its release, I came across this project and quickly fell for the duo’s witty lyrics and catchy soundscapes. More specifically, I was captivated by the duo’s ability to balance each track on this album. From groovy instrumentals to clever bridges, Her’s contrasted their low and punchy vocals with soft falsetto melodies. In just a few moments, some of the best songs on this album would feel like a completely different experience.

“Harvey” and “Love on the Line (Call Now)” were by far my favorite tracks on the album, most likely by nostalgic bias. The groovy instrumentals and catchy lyrics immediately kept me hooked onto their music, and their riffs would replay in my head for days on end. Other songs, such as “She Needs Him,” transitioned from a lively song to a dreamy, slow-paced instrumental solo. Her’s knew when and how to balance their tracks; some songs had their moxie settle until the end, and others turned to a different tune.

Although some songs like “Breathing Easy” and “Under Wraps” were not as upbeat as the other tracks on this album, their soft and lounge-inspired soundscapes were just as compelling. Each song on Invitation to Her’s was unique in its own way, which is why there is at least one song that will impress you. For this reason, this album has been my go-to recommendation for years, and I find myself coming back to those blazing summers from the moment their drums kick in. Whether we’re stuck in another freezing winter or blossoming into a new spring, Invitation to Her’s is an album for every season and every music fan. Give this album a try; you won’t regret it!

Album Review: Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience

The 1960s were a wild period of time. Simultaneously, we’d get some of the best music of all time from the 60s. One artist associated with the time’s counterculture and music is Jimi Hendrix, the best guitarist of all time and my favorite “classic rock” artist. During his short yet influential career, he released three studio albums with his band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and their debut, Are You Experienced, is one of my favorite albums of all time.

The original album cover of Are You Experienced

Are You Experienced is a psychedelic hard rock album. Hendrix was influenced by many genres of music ranging from R&B to free jazz to blues. We have fun, fast songs and great, layback songs such as “Fire” and “Red House”, respectively.

“Fire” is one of my favorite songs in general and I can see why. It’s very happy, fun, and energetic. It’s influenced by soul, funk, and jazz. “Fire” is also one of Hendrix’s most popular songs. Jimi Hendrix’s bandmates do such a great job of complimenting his guitar work.

“Red House” is definitely one of the bluesy songs on the album with it having a 12-bar blues structure played by the Experience’s bassist. What makes it special is Hendrix’s guitar work which never seems to blow me away.

I own Are You Experienced on vinyl and I have to say, it’s a great listen. It’s a 10/10 album that never ceases to entertain me. I highly recommend listening to it. It’ll blow your socks off!