Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Play the Angel plays perfect radio rock

February 14, 2010

Ever since Nirvana became the world’s most prestigious rock band by playing distorted pop songs, the line between pop and rock has been blurred. To me, it’s pretty much an attitude at this point. Modest Mouse is a rock band, mostly because they sneer at anything and everyone who doesn’t fit into their ideas of the way things should be. Even though Three Days Grace, Hinder, and even Nickelback play “rock’n’roll” by modern standards, they are pop bands. They are pop bands because they act like preening pop stars and not like rock stars (i.e. hedonistic excess does not a rock band make).

Play the Angel is one of the best pop bands I’ve heard in years. They play “rock” by the radio’s standards, but they don’t have any of the attitude of a rock band. And that’s a good thing, because they embrace their pop star aesthetics and give the people what they want. There are five songs on this EP: straightforward rock’n’roller, major-key powerballad, dance-rock tune, whoa-oh pop-punk tune, and Gavin DeGraw-style emotive piano ballad. They have real names, of course, but they each fit excellently into their own radio niche. “So what?” you say. “Bands do that crap all the time.”

Yeah, they do, but they do one of the genres better than the other. Play the Angel does all five right. They could release every song off this EP as a radio single and, with proper label backing, they would have five number one hits. Their songwriting is just that good. Their vocalist has an incredibly appealing voice that’s a tad lower than Tyson Ritter of the All-American Rejects but just as emotive. Their production values are pitch-perfect. The band knows when to get out of the way of the vocals and when to crash in for the emotional payoff. Play the Angel does everything right.

If you like anything on rock radio right now, from Fall Out Boy to Hinder to Panic! at the Disco to Paramore to All-American Rejects and anything in between, you’re going to absolutely fall in love with Play the Angel. I don’t have a clue why this band hasn’t shot to the top of the charts yet. They’ve got every piece of the puzzle in line. They just need to see the right guy at the right gig who turns them into mega-stars. Cause, geez, they’re infinitely better than Nickelback. And that crap still sells millions. Again, if you turn on the radio and like anything you hear, Play the Angel is there for you. It’s that good.

Sprockets create quality record for fans of the "in between"

January 6, 2010

Las Vegas based alternative pop/rock group Sprockets give their listener an intense, solid experience on their latest album, Medicated Empty.  I would say they fall into the category of “well-groomed Warped-Tour esq.” bands.  The 13-track album exudes creative writing and well-rounded musicianship.  While some may call them pop/rock, don’t be misled into thinking they are another lovestruck boy rock band.  Their sound is much darker, and the content is at times quite heavy.

The album starts out with title track, “Medicated Empty.”  Singer and lead guitarist Brodie Knight Vans says in a statement that the song was inspired after the “nowhere” feeling he experienced from medication after surgeries.  With lyrics like “Medicate your thoughts with substance that rots away the memory/Instead of pain I’d rather feel empty,” the song goes from mellow, gentle guitar to powerful alternative rock.  The pacing of the song reminds me of the old Brand New days.

Two of my least favorites are “Safety Nets and Fastened Windows” and “New Years Day.”  The only reasoning behind this is that the first has vocals that hint at the dirty rock sound of commercial rock bands like Hinder.  On the second, I just can’t get past the lyrics “f*cking in the parking lots/taking shots of everclear/celebrating the new year.”  This song just screams “young, male angst,” unlike much of the rest of the album, which has a broad and emotional appeal.  However, I am not discounting the catchy beat, which can surely rally a crowd at a show.

The album ends strongly with “Flood Lights” and “The Sound of Existence.”  Both songs exemplify the pop-punk genre perfectly, with the latter showing reminiscence to Rufio and much more pop-like than other songs on Medicated Empty.  Overall, fans of the “in-between genre” will enjoy this record.  By “in-between” I mean not quite hardcore and not quite pop-punk.

There is nothing particularly unique or unusual about the band’s overall sound, but credit should be given when credit is due: it’s solid.   There is definite influence from the band’s producer/engineer Mike Herrera.  Does his name sound familiar? Yep, he was also the founder and lead vocalist of MXPX.

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