Arcane Roots - 'Curtains'

Arcane Roots are the most promising band that have yet to really hit it huge in the world of English music. Their sound is unmatchable by even the biggest bands, tapping into an undisputed energy and bombastic nature that just isn't found anywhere else. Their new song 'Curtains' treads into new territory for the band, but they still ace it all the way through.

The most striking part of the song is that it's not a quick-to-build-up song like tracks found on their last release, 2015's Heaven & Earth EP. Songs like 'Slow Dance' and 'If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves' featured short, energetic bursts before truly torpedoing into unrestricted energy. 'Curtains' is a different beast. It builds slowly, moodily, and darkly, primarily consisting of synths until it reaches its climax. Vocalist Andrew Groves shows a lot of restraint in his voice, his melodies swaying with defeat.

The synth composition is something new for the band. They haven't had a song yet where synths and electronics were the primary focus for over half of the record. Arcane Roots' recognizable wall of sound is still present, though; the song ends with a barrage of epic distorted guitars and Groves' signature belts, bringing a victorious and violent conclusion to the track. Synths ring high in the background behind Groves' angered screams and the thrilling, bursting guitars. This is where the band reaches those unfathomable heights - the song's build is the climb, and when the guitars come in, you jump from the peak.

Arcane Roots is a band that can change everything about themselves and still exceed with flying colors. 'Curtains' is a step in a new direction, and it's the most confident first step any band has ever taken. They take risks that few would dare to, and that danger invigorates them to create truly monstrous soundscapes that you've never even imagined could be possible. They've been plotting all this year - 2017 is on the horizon, and it's time they make their mark.

Rating: 96 / 100

Top 10 Songs of 2015

Last day of 2015, so let’s wrap it up with another Top 10 of the year: My top 10 songs of 2015. Another set of tough choices, but here they are. This is solely based off of my opinions - not looking at charts or popularity. Just the songs I enjoyed the most from the year! Be sure to check out my Top 10 Albums of 2015, too. Click on the song titles for my review of their respective albums!

10. Father John Misty - “Bored In The USA”

No one does satire better than Father John Misty. “Bored In The USA” off of this year’s I Love You, Honeybear offers the perspective of an ordinary citizen being bored with life. Throughout the piano ballad, Mr. Tillman offers many questions that get your head thinking. The song is clever enough to grab the laughs of any middle-aged individual (looking at you, Dad). Hell, the crowd laughing of a soap opera is even featured in the track! That’s gotta be indicative of something. There’s too much fantastic lyricism too comment on. “Bored In The USA” is the best satire of 2015.

9. Radiohead - “Spectre”

This song was only released a week ago, but it’s had enough of an impact to earn it a spot on my Top 10. Had it been given more time to grow on me, it would’ve definitely scored a higher spot. Before Sam Smith made it to the cinematic opening of Spectre this year with “Writings On The Wall”, Radiohead were approached to create the theme instead, offering “Spectre” on Christmas Day. Best Christmas gift, period. The song has the ominous vibe Radiohead so perfectly radiates in all of their music, and features their signature syncopation and a beautiful symphony backing Thom Yorke’s haunting voice. There’s so much in this song that it’s hard to single out any specific element. The symphony sends chills down my spine. The song is everything any fan would want of Radiohead. Hopefully the hype of their forthcoming album lives up to this huge track.

8. Kendrick Lamar - “The Blacker The Berry”

2015 was a big year for hip-hop. A lot of ground was broken. Perhaps the biggest contender in the rap race this year was Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. “The Blacker The Berry” is a demanding track, Kendrick going off with dirty verses and a giant beat accompanying the ominous instrumental. The subject of the song is politically charged all the while sliding in the message of internal struggle. “The Blacker The Berry” is the best hip-hop song of the year, and it deserves all the praise it should get.

7. Fall Out Boy - “Twin Skeleton’s (Twins In NYC)”

Fall Out Boy came triumphantly into the new year with American Beauty/American Psycho, edging deeper into pop rock than they had before. “Twin Skeleton’s (Hotel In NYC)” is the most cinematic song on the album, featuring Patrick Stump crying out his vocals. This is the best song on the “rock” half of the album, featuring some great (while still admittedly subtle) guitar work throughout. The harmonies towards the end of the song are what make this track so big, ending the album on such a haunting note. Andy Hurley’s drumming can’t be ignored - it’s fantastic on this song! “Twin Skeleton’s” is a giant song to end a great album.

6. CHVRCHES - “Afterglow”

Afterglow” is the most subtle track on CHVRCHES’ new album, Every Open Eye. In the same way, it is the most beautiful. The song features Lauren Mayberry singing over an atmospheric array of synths. There’s not much to the song, it’s very stripped down. The song is the biggest highlight on the album for it’s simplistic beauty - everything in it is perfect, for what it does have going on. Definitely a song that’s hard to grasp at first, but is an amazing one to experience all the same.

5. Bring Me The Horizon - “Avalanche”

Bring Me The Horizon continued their evolution that began with 2013′s Sempiternal with this year’s That’s The Spirit. While the new effort doesn’t match what Sempiternal began, the album is still undeniably great. With lots of fantastic songwriting, and the band distancing itself form it’s metalcore roots, the band is continuing to focus more on the words than the aggression. “Avalanche” is the peak of this album, where Oli Sykes opens up his heart to needing a cure for his pain. Perhaps a cliché subject (though important all the same), but the song gets across the emotions and message very well, and is definitely one of the best songs of the year.

4. 10 Years - “From Birth To Burial”

10 Years returned this year with a follow-up to 2012′s Minus The Machine, with this year’s From Birth To Burial. The self-titled track of the album is one of the best songs of the year, 10 Years bringing everything they’ve got into one track. The ominous piano buildup explodes into a bustling track with a huge riff and loud playing. Perhaps what really sells this song to me is Jesse Hasek’s rapping before the first pre-chorus, which reminds me a lot of Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. Regardless, this song is huge in its own way, and all the ways 10 Years have built themselves up to be.

3. Muse - “The Globalist”

Muse promised a sequel to the fan-beloved track, “Citizen Erased” would make it onto Drones. That song ended up being the progressive rock anthem, “The Globalist”, the story of the rise and fall of a dictator. Beginning with whistling akin to Ennio Morricone’s “L’Arena” and a huge symphony, the drama of the tracks begins early. Matt Bellamy continues with his reverb-filled slide guitar as the verse kicks in with the rest of the band. Perhaps one of the moments in music from this entire year is the heavy part of this song, the giant riff (taken from a previous jam known as the “Helsinki Jam”) in the bridge of the song is as metal as Muse have ever gotten, with a countdown to the firing of a nuclear missile and the marching of an army helping make this part so loud. The bridge concludes with a Spanish-influenced solo before concluding with one final piano ballad - a send-off of sorts. Sure, the track has it’s faults - perhaps it would’ve been better as three separate songs instead of one, as to better the flow, but it is undeniably a huge track that deserves a place on this list.

2. Arcane Roots - “Slow Dance”

Arcane Roots returned to the scene this year in a big way. Coming off of their first full debut album, Blood & Chemistry, the trio had a big weight on their back to follow it up. With this year’s Heaven & Earth EP, the band smashed all expectations. Introducing it in July with “If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves”, fans knew to expect something absolutely huge. “Slow Dance” comes from this very EP, and is everything you’d want from the trio and more. From a buildup opening that blows into a massive breakdown and chorus, this song will have you on your feet in no time. Excellent guitar work and vocals by Andrew Groves add to the sheer massiveness of this track. If you haven’t heard it yet, check it out. 

1. Muse - “The Handler”

It’s probably unfair of me to include Muse on this list twice, but it’s warranted for me. But this year, Drones was huge. Muse at the top of their game (perhaps not lyrically, but definitely from a jam standpoint) with their back-to-basics approach. “The Handler” is a combination of everything Muse is made of. With the huge arena-filling opening riff to the wah-filled bridge harkening back to the band’s old b-side, “In Your World”Bellamy’s fantastic vocals and lyrical play (”trance formation”? Hmm) contribute to making this song the most massive song of the year, if the demanding riff and incredible bass work didn’t already win you over. The song is an absolute beast live, too.

Honorable Mentions

  • Justin Bieber - “Love Yourself”: a track that you couldn’t have expected from Bieber before this year, but is definitely a standout from 2015. 
  • Halsey - “Castle: the song that kicked off the rebellion that is BADLANDS, and the most demanding track on the album.
  • Years & Years - “Foundation: the darkest track the trio has to offer, and the one that’ll be trapped in your head for weeks.

Thanks everyone for a great year. It’s been an adventure for me, and I’m sure it has been for many others. If it wasn’t the greatest year, hold on. Everything will find it’s right place. Here’s to 2016, it’s gonna be a big one.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

2015 is coming to a close, and it’s time to whip out the top ranking albums (in my opinion) from the year. It’s been a long one... but there have been some absolute gems of albums released this year. Without further adieu, here’s my top 10 albums of 2015.

Click the links for my in-depth review of the album!

10. Aurora - Running With The Wolves

Kicking off the Top 10 of 2015 is an artist who is set of dominating the pop of 2015. Aurora hails from Norway, and has already been dominating B-lists for radio stations upon the release of her debut EP, Running With The Wolves. The short EP features four beautiful pop songs, which all will leave a lasting mark on the listener. Aurora can be noted for her enchanting instrumentals (see: “Runaway”) and pure voice. Every song is beautifully written, especially “Running With The Wolves” and “Little Boy In The Grass”. Aurora will march into 2016 and absolutely dominate it, if the quality of her music is any indication of her future success. Fingers crossed - who knows what the radio will be attracted to...

9. Loma Prieta - Self Portrait

This hardcore punk outfit from California made a huge mark on 2015. Loma Prieta took a “happier” approach on their relentless punk this year with Self Portrait, the powerful successor to 2012′s I.V. The album is punk at its core, but is different from the zeitgeist of punk in many ways. “Satellite”, the closing track, for example, is everything a punk rock song should be, but it is undeniably happy in tone. The band with this album almost becomes a heavy The World Is A Beautiful Place, most evidently with the song “Never Remember”, though “Merciless” can be passed as a punk version of Deftones’ “Change (In The House Of Flies)”. The album shows a clear progression of the band’s sound, but still stays true to who they are. It delivers some of the heaviest jams of the year, too. That’s always a plus!

8. Halsey - BADLANDS

Halsey had the most triumphant debut of the year. BADLANDS captures the rebellious of Nirvana, the pop appeal of Fall Out Boy and Justin Bieber, and the brooding instrumentals of Sia and Imagine Dragons. With all of these coming together, it’s hard to go wrong. Admittedly, since it’s initial release the album has lost some of its initial hype, but I’ll be damned if “Castle”  doesn’t give me chills. Halsey, rather than a follower of the past, seems to be a leader. A leader of the same rebellion Nirvana led back in the day - she’s the voice for the lost ones of this generation. “New Americana” is the modern day equivalent of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (though the latter will always be the most relevant). Lyrically, there are much stronger songs than “New Americana” - “Castle”, “Colors”, and “Gasoline” are all fantastically written. “Castle” and “Control” have the biggest and best instrumentals on the entire album. Halsey’s crafted a new rebellious wave of pop that has set a precedent that is sure to set off a huge new generation of artists looking for a voice.

7. Years & Years - Communion

Debut albums were huge this year. Years & Years burst seemingly out of nowhere in 2014 with their huge dance tracks “Kings” and “Take Shelter”, both of which can be found on Communion. The album showcases more than just the dance jingles the band executes so well - a darker and more intimate sound to the band can be found in the breathtaking opening track “Foundation” (which sounds like Radiohead meets Diplo) and the acoustic version of “Ready For You”. The band’s trademark electronic dance bangers are still the vocal point of the album, with new tracks “Worship” and “Border” giving the perfect vibes for the club and for love. Olly Alexander’s vocals shine throughout the entire album, his melodies full of emotion, brought higher by the soaring electronics. Years & Years have one of the most memorable debuts of the year under the belts - may this carry them further in the future. It can only go up from here.

6. 10 Years - From Birth To Burial

If you wanted big rock jams this year, you needed to listen to 10 Years’ newest release. The album is the band taking the atmosphere of Minus The Machine and adding a heavier touch to it. The album opens up with the title track, which is one of the biggest songs of the year, where Jesse Hasek draws from Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda for a quick rap verse. “Triggers & Tripwires” and “Crimson Kiss” showcase the band’s heavier side, while “Luna” and “The River” shine the spotlight on the band’s songwriting ability. The closing duo, “Miscellanea” and “Moisture Residue” are a fantastic way to end this massive album. The lead single of the album “Miscellanea” sees Hasek reaching really high for some notes and a piano bridge that is the vocal point of the heart-wrenching “Moisture Residue”. The song brought some of the band’s biggest jams, and definitely some of the biggest headbangers of 2015.

5. Bring Me The Horizon - That’s The Spirit

Being that Thirty Seconds To Mars is my all-time favorite band, I truly enjoyed a lot of this album. Bring Me The Horizon has continued their evolution of sound that began with Sempiternal with this year’s That’s The Spirit, which took the band even further from their post-hardcore roots. This album is more alternative rock than it is hardcore, though Oli Sykes’ vocals are just as powerful as ever. His screaming and singing are the best part of the album, and what carries it so far. “Doomed” and “Follow You” show his ability to write fantastic songs, while “Avalanche” and “Throne” (the latter of which truly play to the influence Linkin Park has had on them) are the big jams. “Drown” is as close to Thirty Seconds To Mars as the band has gotten, though “Happy Song” and “Oh No” use the crowd vocal elements as critically as Thirty Seconds uses them. This is a band who has evolved into something different and more powerful than ever before. This is the powerful evolution of Bring Me The Horizon, that will only continue to spiral upwards into something more incredible.

4. Fall Out Boy - American Beauty/American Psycho

2015 was a big year for Fall Out Boy. An album full of huge anthems that would stay popular throughout the entire year, very big performances at some of the biggest events in music, collaborations with Demi Lovato (for a version of “Irresistible”) and a variety of hip-hop artists (for the remix album, Make America Psycho Again)... you name it, Fall Out Boy probably did it. This album brought back some of the punk/alternative rock anthems Fall Out Boy are known for, while being tossed up with many pop and electronic elements. The band even brought out some tributes throughout the album, sampling Mötley Crüe in the title track, Suzanne Vega (who even sang her own melody for her song, “Tom’s Diner”, for their use!) in “Centuries”, and even The Munsters theme song in “Uma Thurman”. The singles of the album, while all memorable in their own right, the tracks on the second half of the album are were the band truly shines. “Novocaine” brings out some impressive vocals by Patrick Stump, and the driving beat of the song paired with the distorted vocal line and rolling guitars pair for an immense song. “Twin Skeleton’s (Hotel In NYC)” takes a cinematic approach, one of the only songs that shined both on the album and the remix album (that Joey Bada$$ verse!). The harmonies at the end of the song end the album on such a high note, leaving the fans wanting more. Fall Out Boy brought out all of the biggest anthems of the year in 2015.

3. CHVRCHES - Every Open Eye

CHVRCHES burst onto the synthpop scene back in 2013 with their groundbreaking The Bones Of What You Believe and have finally followed up this year with the anthemic Every Open Eye. The trio took everything that shined with their previous effort and combined it with a brighter sound to craft the best electronic and pop album of the year. Singles like “Never Ending Circles” and “Clearest Blue” established CHVRCHES ability to dominate the charts and brought the album the attention it deserves. The band, while admittedly not doing much to separate this album from their debut, did experiment a bit with some songs. “High Enough To Carry You Over” (and bonus track “Follow You”) features Martin Doherty on lead vocals for the first time, while “Bury It” shows a thicker side to CHVRCHES’ electronic ventures, with a thick bass guitar track in the background. Lauren Mayberry’s fantastic vocals and harmonies throughout the album are another shining example of what makes the album so beautiful; the incredible “Afterglow” that concluded the album might just be the most beautiful songs of the year. CHVRCHES took electronic and pop music to a whole new expectation, earning them the third spot in the Top 10 of the year.

2. Arcane Roots - Heaven & Earth EP

From the English underground rock scene burst Arcane Roots, who in 2013 released their massive debut album, Blood & Chemistry. After fairly extensive touring around their mother country, as well as some other European stints supporting the likes of Muse and Biffy Clyro, the band finally returned to the studio this year to record the follow up. Instead of offering a full record this time, new music came in the form of a new, intense EP that stands as a pristine example for future brit-rockers to follow. The album kicks off with the huge banger, “If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves” that features vocalist Andrew Grover singing, tortured on top of atmospheric piano chords. The song sums up the album fairly well - strong soft moments, an anthemic chorus, huge breakdowns, and a massive explosion of an ending with all of the songs elements conjoining into one cohesive wall of noise. Another single from the album, “Slow Dance” brings back some of the urgency of their previous efforts and the beginning track, where tracks like “When Did The Taste Leave Your Mouth” and “Leaving” bring that intense radio-rock that could dominate any airwaves and will get the crowds jumping to the beat. The closing track, “Vows & Ceremonies” is a call to love, running away to live your life. It brings back some of the lighter rock from tracks like “Hell & High Water” from their previous album. Arcane Roots have truly crafted a masterpiece of an EP with their signature sound that will continue to dominate Brit Rock for ages to come.

1. Muse - Drones

Muse have always found ways to keep their sound fresh and exciting, whether it be the indie/alternative sounds from their debut Showbiz to the heavy, fast-paced apocalypse rock of Absolution, to the electronic anthems found in The 2nd LawDrones saw Muse exploring the concept of drone warfare, following a protagonist becoming a mindless killer and then escaping the clutches of their oppressors, all the while taking their sound back to the basics. The track is filled with huge rock tracks like “Reapers” and “The Handler”, big jams like “Psycho” and “Defector”, and even the good pop jingles Muse are well known for hitting out: “Dead Inside” and “Revolt”. “The Globalist” is a ten-minute, progressive epic about the fall of a dictator, the successor to an older Muse gem, “Citizen Erased”. The song modulates out of the beautiful end of the main narrative, “Aftermath”, and segues into the final a cappella track that the album draws its name from, a prayer to all of the nameless souls lost in war.

Drones is a challenge to modern warfare, and it should be approached. Can we really stand back and let attacks happen from behind a computer screen? Can we continue to mindlessly destroy entire cities with the click of a button? Muse brought upon this message with powerful music backing it, earning them, in my opinion, the best album of 2015. 

Honorable Mentions

  • Adele - 25
  • Bea Miller - Not An Apology
  • Björk - Vulnicura
  • Coldplay - A Head Full Of Dreams
  • Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
  • Grimes - Art Angels
  • Halestorm - Into The Wild Life
  • Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$
  • milo - so the flies don’t come
  • MUTEMATH - Vitals
  • Purity Ring - Another Eternity

That’s a wrap for this year... another Top 10 list and a wrapup of the fourth quarter is still to come. Thanks for sticking with me throughout the year, and may 2016 be a great year for music.

Arcane Roots - Heaven & Earth EP

Massive riffs. Soaring melodies. Giant breakdowns. Arcane Roots will give you all of that and more in their triumphant new EP, Heaven & Earth. The forerunners of the upcoming wave of powerful Brit Rock artists, Arcane Roots have finally delivered a follow-up to 2013′s Blood & Chemistry. One would’ve thought it impossible to match the sheer intensity of the band’s previous effort, but this EP, while only containing five songs (and a hidden sixth track), proves to have smashed expectations.

Go into this EP expecting to be completely satisfied for all of your rock needs but still demanding more. Right from the get-go, the lead single and opening track “If Nothing Moves, Nothing Breaks” proves to be a monster of a song. Opening atmospherically with piano and the cries of Andrew Groves’ pleas provide for a huge statement to open this EP. Nothing will stop you headbanging to this song - the heavy section in the first verse will make sure of that. Moving into a lighter, ballad-y territory is “When Did The Taste Leave Your Mouth”, showcasing Groves’ talent as a vocalist and his songwriting ability. This one’s bound to be a massive crowd pleaser (not to mention how incredible a live band these guys are). “Leaving” does not let up the promise this album has, marching forward with driving force, chanting of triumph: “They’ll be dying to prove you wrong,” warns the chorus. “Slow Dance,” while no “Triptych,” brings some of the technicality Arcane Roots fans have come to love from the trio and works off of the sudden explosions of energy that “If Nothing Moves, Nothing Breaks” also had. The EP concludes proud and unrelenting with “Vows & Ceremonies,” featuring a happier sound than much of the rest of the EP. Definitely the album’s most radio-friendly track! The upbeat sound doesn’t distract from the jams - while relatively simple compared to the rest of the album, the song channels the band’s inner Coheed & Cambria and brings the feel-good, foot stomping vibes to close the album out. A hidden track is found at the end of the song, if you sit through a minute or two of silence. I’m not sure if it has a title - but it speaks for itself, no title needed. It’s a short, albeit beautiful, ending to the album, beginning with Groves harmonizing with himself over a delay-heavy guitar and piano before the full band kicks in for one last hurrah.

Leave it to Arcane Roots to bring one of the year’s biggest releases, in an EP that bursts with energy and charisma only they are capable of creating. Each song is long, only “Vows & Ceremonies” clocking in under five minutes (just barely), but each is a journey to be experienced. Arcane Roots have brought to table a defining EP, showcasing their growth as a band and as artists since their debut LP. Evolution at its finest.

Favorite Tracks: Slow Dance; If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves; Leaving

Least Favorite Tracks: If I had to pick one... When Did The Taste Leave Your Mouth

Rating: 9/10

My Top Albums of 2015:

  1. Muse - Drones
  2. Arcane Roots - Heaven & Earth EP
  3. Halsey - BADLANDS
  4. 10 Years - From Birth To Burial
  5. Fall Out Boy - American Beauty / American Psycho
  6. CHVRCHES - Every Open Eye
  7. Halestorm - Into The Wild Life
  8. Years & Years - Communion
  9. Bring Me The Horizon - That’s The Spirit
  10. Purity Ring - Another Eternity