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!


Band Spotlight: Against the Current

Girl fronted bands have been blowing up in the music scene over the last few years.  There is Paramore, The Pretty Reckless, Prvis, Echosmith, and now Against the Current.  Recently signed to the record label Fueled By Ramen (March 2015), Against the Current (ATC) is a three piece pop-rock band that consists of Chrissy Costanza (lead vocals), Daniel Gow (guitar and vocals), and Will Ferri (drums) from Poughkeepsie, New York.  Formed in the Summer of 2011 meeting through mutual friends and were originally a five piece band which also included Jeremy Rampala (guitar) and Joe Simmons (bass).  Ultimately, they have grown into the badass band they are today with a more enhanced musical sound, stronger stylized lyricists, and a fan base that I have watched grow on YouTube from a little over 100,000 to over a million followers.

In an interview with Maria Sherman the band stated that they utilized YouTube as a way to build their fan base outside of playing local gigs at pizza hangouts.  They were a band for about a year before ATC created their YouTube channel where they not only did covers of popular songs, but released original music.  The first cover they released was Good Time (Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen) as well as their first original Thinking.  Releasing both at the same time I thought was music business genius.  Fans of Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen searching online could come across ATC’s cover as well as their original music to help gain a new audience.

For the past four years ATC has done all the business related together as a team from packing up and sending merchandise, to spending a week to record and write in the studio to release new music for their fans.  The one support they have had before the label is a manager to helped book them all over the world.  For a band that just got a record deal in 2015 they have played sold out gigs in not only the United States, but in England, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Canada.  Now having a record label behind them they can focus more on their music as well as get a promotional push from the label to reach a radio level of success.

Their most recent EP Gravity has the potential to have radio hits, especially the song Talk.  Right now, the radio sound has been blowing up with 80s synth music (Taylor Swift, The Bleachers) and the comeback of electric guitars with groups like 5 Seconds of Summer and their 2014 break out hit She Looks So Perfect.  Chrissy Costanza has a powerful voice that has a range to be able to go from a hard rocker chick to a soft ballad.  Personally, I like her voice when it is on a bit of an edge.  The song Talk has an aggressive sound with the start of simple chords of a guitar and soft drum beat that explodes within the first twenty seconds.  Costanza’s ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude I think is the power every girl wishes they had when dealing with a boy that messing with their head; the younger generation has a great role model coming up with Costanza.

Against the Current’s push to go against the grain by releasing original music through YouTube along with covers gave them an edge in getting recognized by a label.  Their push to play outside their hometown, wanting the music to reach more than their inner circle coupled with the drive to do their music their way has a stead fast determination sure to take them far.  As their name is derived from the last line in The Great Gastby, “So we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past.”

Music Video for Against the Current’s Talk.  Click here for ATC website.

Martin Kierszenbaum – The Genius Behind Cheerytree Records

cherrytreerecords“A mom and pop shop in a department store.” That is the way Feist describes Cherrytree Records. Ten years ago, Martin Kierszenbaum started Cherrytree under the Interscope-Geffen-A&M umbrella at Universal Music Group, but it was a long road getting there. His love of music began as a child. Since his mother was a piano player he began lessons at eight years old and at ten he started to learn music theory and began songwriting. From there he started bands in high school and college where he was not only writing songs, but producing and mixing their work as well as being the manager of the band that dealt with the club promotors. This allowed him to hone his skills as a negotiator at a young age as well as meet people in the industry at a personal level. Kiersenbaum is one of the few music executives I have discovered so far that has finished school.  He went to University of Michigan for his bachelors degree and University of Southern California for his Masters in Communications Management (Songwriter Universe, Dale Kawashima).

During graduate school was where his music executive climb began.  He got an internship at Wing/ Polygram Records where he eventually got a job in the mailroom.  In 1989 he was hired as a publicist in the International department at Warner Brothers Records. He spoke Spanish because he grew up in Argentina which was the tipping point that got him the job. At Warner Brothers Records he worked with artists like Madonna, Jane’s Addiction, Devo, B-52s, Prince, and Rod Stewart.  He eventually moved to A&M Records where he was a publicist that work with Sting, Sheryl Crow, and Bryan Adams. In 1998 A&M was bought out my Universal Music Group and Interscope-Geffen-A&M was born. Kierszenbaum was kept on as Head of International under Jimmy Iovine. At this level he was able to work with artists like Eminem, Vanessa Carlton, and the Black Eyed Peas.

Kierszenbaum is the best of both worlds. “His advice and mentoring come from being a musician and not purely from a business standpoint” (LATimes, Melinda Newman). Jimmy Iovine recognized this and Kiersenbaum began doing A&R work for Interscope while managing his international publicist responsibilities. His first signing was an Italian Opera singer, Alessandro Safina. Safina didn’t do well in the U.S. partly because the PBS special that was create for the artist’s coming out was released around when the September 11th attack happened. It goes to show that it is all about timing. On a positive note Safina sold 250,000 copies in Sweden so Interscope looked at as a success.

In 2005, Cherrytree Records was born. Kierszenbaum signed artists such as Lady Gaga, Far East Movement, LMFAO, Roybn, Ellie Goulding, and Tokio Hotel. In the LA Times he stated “I don’t sign things of the moment, I sign things of the moment to come.” He has a gift of signing artists that are ahead of the curve, but still can connect to the mainstream.” Let’s take Lady Gaga as an example. She was a young kid who decided to drop out of college for a music career, but she had a vision for her music. She wanted to create an identity and a brand like Prince. She was the future and Kierszenbaum knew that because he was able to connect with her on a personal level. With his publicity, musicianship, and international background he was able assist in co-writing four songs on her album (The Fame), do a 40-part series introducing Gaga to the world, as well as break her to number 1 in the Swedish market before she became big in the U.S.

I think Jimmy Iovine said it best, “His musical background gives him a feel for the records the artists want to make, and his international mindset gives him the advantage in breaking them on a worldwide level” (Hollywood Reporter, Ashley Lee). Kierszenbaum is constantly on the look out for artists who have a point of view, a distinctive voice, and an extraordinary repertoire. In 2013 he signed a band from Vancouver Canada named Marianas Trench. Led by Josh Ramsey (co-writer of Call Me Maybe), he has great musicianship, a way with words, and heart in the last three albums the band has created. I look forward to the plans that Cherrytree has for Marianas Trench and if it is anything like Gaga everybody better be on the lookout for the fireworks.

Click here for a playlist of the artists that have been and are on Cherrytree Records.

Concert Review – Walk the Moon & The Griswolds at the House of Blues (Boston, MA)

On, April 11, 2015, I jumped up and down like an idiot at the House of Blues as Walk the Moon commanded the stage to a sold out crowd.  For those of you who don’t know who Walk the Moon is, they are a pop-rock band from Cincinnati, Ohio  and consists of members, Nicholas Petricca, Kevin Ray, Sean Waugaman, and Eli Maiman.  Their name comes from the song ‘Walk on the Moon’ by The Police and gained their first hit on the radio airways of the alternative stations with ‘Anna Sun’ in 2010.  In 2014, their sophomore album ‘Talking Is Hard’ was released where the first single to hit the billboard 200 charts was ‘Shut Up and Dance.’

Now that you are educated back to the concert.  The opening act was an Australian group named The Griswolds.  This young band far from home has a young sound, but their music has a real 80s flare.  That techno sound with a mix of rock n’ roll of guitar, bass, and the drums as the musicians add in lyrics and simple backup vocals to give it that danceable beat.  A personal favorite of mine that they opened with was ’16 Years.’  A synthisized type keyboard with various rhythm instruments such as a tambourine and drums as you hear an elegant bass line and the guitar came in strong as they break into the chorus.  These Aussie boys I’m sure will be making waves soon in the states as they gain more confidence on stage and really learn to command the crowd at live shows.  What a band to learn from like Walk the Moon!

Walk the  Moon is the whole package.  They are not only great musicians and songwriters, but they are fantastic entertainers.  The start of the show had these crazy neon lights of various shapes and sizes, as well as neon lights that surrounded many of the instruments.  These lights exploded on the stage in strobe like form as they opened with a song from their new album, ‘Different Colors’.  As I watched the crowd you could tell that almost everyone there were such devoted fans from the lip syncing of the lyrics, to the the dancing around, clapping to the beat, and the waving of arms side to side as each start of a song got the audience more and more excited.

Nicholas Petricca (Lead singer) was constantly interacting with crowd through each song transition.  As Petricca asked who was a Walk the Moon show virgin it felt like we were joining a cult.  As he asked all us to put our hands up in the air and let all the bullshit fly out and to just dance it out.  This led into their hit song ‘Shut Up and Dance,’ which is awesome.  They closed the show out with ‘Anna Sun,’ which goes to show that no matter what happens we always end up back at the beginning.

Check out the video below that MsTabularasa put together of some epic movie dance scenes as it is intertwined with Walk the Moon’s ‘Shut Up and Dance.’