Album Review: Marianas Trench – NEW Album – A Goonies Adventure

1600x1600srI’m sure you have heard about 5 Seconds of Summer’s new album, the new single by Ariana Grande, and are waiting patiently for the next Justin Bieber album.  During all of that, Marianas Trench has yet again slipped under the radar with their fourth studio album Astoria.  Josh Ramsay, Matt Webb, Mike Ayley, and Ian Casselman bring a mix of the decades with the deep baritone voices and harmonies of the 50s, the swinging beat of the 70s, and the modern sounds of today’s pop, combined with a little 80s soundboard mixing.

The album brings the listener through a 17-track storyline of an adventure of love, loss, and an end of a life chapter.  The storyline theme is roped in their last two albums, Masterpiece Theatre and Ever After.  In this album it seems to be an end of an era.  They combined elements like the shortened instrumental sections connecting the major tracks like in Masterpiece Theatre, and lyrics that reflect songs from Ever After.

Ramsay as always, is on point and in “Burning up” he is all over the vocal scale with the backing of 80s sounds like drum machines, heavy synthesizers, and a nice electric guitar hook.  The opening lyrics is full of metaphors that connect to the style of music that is heard throughout the album like “Been dead as a disco” or “Baby I’m new wave.”  He continues to tie in other musical references, but to the lyrics of his own music, like in “Dearly Departed” where he takes song titles from his last two albums and ties them into an entire verse as a simple ukulele is strummed in the back ground with a light vocal harmony:

“Every masterpiece I’d write again
You’ll always be my porcelain
I crossed my heart
But I stuttered too
So truth or dare
Was I good to you
Haven’t had enough of you all to myself
Still right beside you
In sickness and health
For ever after
You will be my home
And there’s no place like home”

He brings back the Jackson 5 style in “Shut Up and Kiss Me” through lyrical repetition and iconic opening instrumental of a piano key swipe like in Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”, which he mimics with strings.  The emotion in Ramsay’s voice is full of energy, youth, and honesty as a chorus of singers lend in harmonies inspired by the original soul brothers of the Jacksons.

The way a Marianas Trench album can go from the life of the party to a basic acappella sound in perfect harmonies is talent you don’t hear in most albums today.  Their lyrics make you think, question the past, question life, and question your choices that have brought you to your current life point.  The last song in the album “End of An Era” brings a close to a chapter with a huge orchestra sound as the band of guitars and rock n’ roll drums fall into place at the close of the album. Marianas Trench ends a chapter on saying goodbye to something or someone and as the listener, I have said goodbye to a chapter in my life by starting a new in Los Angeles which has been less than easy. Sometimes you need to take a leap and hope you land on your feet, especially when you feel like you are standing still. So in the words of Marianas Trench:

“I’m so afraid of trying something new
Cause every start begins
With saying goodbye to you
Our heart divides an unrequited view
But my heart is overdue”

Check out their new album here!

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My 2015 Songs of the Summer

The last official day of summer is September 22nd, and as fall approaches, you reminisce on all the memories that you have collected over the last few months, and you realize another chapter of your life just ended.  For me, I had some life changing events occur, such as making a big move across the country, leaving the only life I have known on the east coast, and embarking on a new adventure at an amazing company in the dance industry in Los Angeles.  As I look back on all these changes, there is one thing that remands constant in my life; the music is never silent.

Flipping through Billboard Magazine, I noticed that most of the songs that slammed the charts over this summer don’t even touch my top ten favorites.  So, here are some of the songs that have been drowning out the constant noise of LA as I ride the train home.  They allow me go to my happy place where my world is whatever I want it to be.

Bea Miller – “Force of Nature” – This sixteen year old singer, signed to Disney’s Hollywood Records is starting to blow up the music scene.  Granted, she had some help from participating in the X Factor, but I think what really sets her apart from the other young singers is she doesn’t need the bells and whistles to have her voice shine.  The first time I heard her sing was an acoustic cover of “We Can’t Stop” with Boyce Avenue.  “Force of Nature” is basic.  It is basic in the good sense, that sometimes all you need is an acoustic guitar and a great voice.

Marianas Trench – “One Love” – Lead singer, Josh Ramsey never ceases to amaze me with his song writing abilities, his voice, and the harmonies of the men that make Marianas Trench.  “One Love” was recently released last week in anticipation of the release of their new album “Astoria.”  All the other songs that have been released as singles thus far have been a twist of sarcasm to the mainstream pop world.  “One Love” is a series of statements and questions that are constantly running through your mind.  Questioning your choices.  The affects of those choices:

“What if we could find a way to try to heal?
What if there’s no stopping us yet?
What if the one true love’s the only one that you get?
What if there was still a reason not to go?
What if there was still a little bit of hope?”

Seriously Josh Ramsey?!  I cannot understand why Marianas Trench is not lighting up the Billboard charts.  Society you need to get on this level ASAP.

Alessia Cara – “Here” – She has just broken into the Billboard 100.  I have been obsessed with song since May.  Granted, I didn’t feel that these lyrics fit my 20 year old self, but totally describes my almost 30 year old self.  Ice cream and my best friends sound like a better idea than a party:

“But honestly I’d rather be
Somewhere with my people we can kick it and just listen
To some music with the message (like we usually do)
And we’ll discuss our big dreams
How we plan to take over the planet”

Icona Pop – “Emergency” – I love the piano, the thing that sounds like a horn, but it definitely isn’t, and that constant rhythm line that carries the tune.  This song is catchy and will make you tap your foot and ultimately jump out of your seat and start dancing to that bass line.

Years and Years – “Shine” – This three piece British electronic group exploded when they released their single “King.”  Personally, I like “Shine” more as it gives an R&B side to the group and is highlighted with what they do best by mixing their synth machine and keyboard that makes their vocals glow.

5 Seconds of Summer – “She’s Kinda Hot” – I know this one has been on the charts and it is totally deserved.  As you have probably come to learn, I love the pop-punk and punk-rock scene.  I think it is epic that a band now is starting to bring back the sounds of Simple Plan, Green Day, My Chemical Romance, and Blink 182 to the radio, and new generation of youngsters.  Now, I am not saying 5 Seconds of Summer is any of these bands, but I love the loud guitars, the in your face and abrasive lyrics, and the encompassing drums that brings you into that full rock sound of not being able to hear when you take out your headphones.  I think this lyric sums up the scene that was big in late 90s and it is making a come back – “We are the kings and the queens of the new broken scene.”

Drumroll please…my all time favorite song of the summer is…

Sigala – “Easy Love” – This British DJ mixes The Jackson 5’s “ABC” and a full blown remix of popular songs, which gives you some easy listening, a pop of color, and a full on explosion of sound that makes it the perfect summer song.  It even gives you some cues on when to start clapping a long.  Also, the music video has two of my favorite things – danceable music and talented dancers.  So, here is my vote for the 2015 summer song anthem.

What Makes A Hit Song?

MixBoard

What makes a hit song?  For the past four days I have been listening to the hottest hits from the 80s, 90s, 00s, and today to try and see if any pattern emerged, but each decade had it’s own focus of popularity from 80s hair bands to 90s grunge, garage bands and boys bands to 00s pop/ punk artists.  What I discovered is that many producers and writers from past decades are still writing and producing hits for today’s artists and a lot of them have work with one another in some capacity; either producing on the same album or even on the same hit song.

First, you have Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins.  He worked on Brandy and Monica’s ‘Boy is Mine’ in 1998, Destiny’s Child’s ‘Say My Name’ in 1999 as well as with Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Janet and Michael Jackson, and most recently on Ariana Grande’s new album My Everything.  Another well-known producer and writer is Max Martin.  Think of the most popular pop songs from the 90s through today, Max Martin probably was involved as either a writer, producer, or both.  He worked on Ace of Base’s ‘I Saw the Sign,’ Britney Spears ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time‘ to today’s artists such as Maroon 5’s ‘One More Night‘ to Taylor Swift’s current hit ‘Blank Space.’  I have mostly touched on pop and R&B producers but what about rock?  Well, for Rock it seems that Desmond Child is your man.  He has worked with artist such as Aerosmith, Jon Bon Jovi, Chicago, Joan Jett, and KISS, but he also has crossed over into the pop genre with artists such as Katy Perry, Jesse McCarthy, and Ricky Martin (Click here for hit producer playlist).

I could continue to give you a list of other reputable producers that have helped created some of the most recognized music  of yesterday and today, but let’s switch back to my original question and that is “What Makes A Hit Song?”  What I have discovered is it is an artist’s team (artistic and business), how the mass public relates, and what is currently the popular genre in today’s youth.  The teenage years are when you start to find yourself, discover who you are as a person, extremely emotional, as well as being more open-minded to music.  The fans and the branding are what guides the success of the next superstar.

So, what about the artists that have an amazing sound, but don’t have a Billboard hit?  In the music industry, if you have become popular in America you have “made it” in the industry, but what about those bands that have an amazing sound and their lyrics are like poetry?  Mariana’s Trench is one of those bands.  They were signed to Cherrytree Records (associated with Interscope Records) in 2013.  Mariana’s Trench has a huge following in their home country (Canada) selling out arena tours, as well as become a multi-platnium and award winning artist, but in the United States they haven’t even touched the Billboard Charts as a band.  It should just be all about the music.  If you have great music then it should be recognized on all levels, in every country, but unfortunately that is not how business works.  It seems to come back to branding and building an image as well as how that image is perceived by the fans.  Continue to discover new music.  Check out other artists that your friends are listening to, and become a promotional fan for a new artist that you have created a passion for in music.

Check a Marianas Trench Playlist here, as well as other music lead singer and guitarist Josh Ramsey has done collaboratively written and produced with other artists.