Weezer — “Pacific Daydream”


Weezer defies all criticism. For years, critics have griped over Weezer’s songwriting as generic and clinical. Don’t believe me? Look at these two Pitchfork quotes from two different album reviews from two entirely different writers:

“This is still a Mk. III Weezer album where songs are constructed more like sitcoms: each has a single premise based on a rigid structure and a comforting predictability, and each can be experienced in virtually any order,” – Pitchfork’s “Hurley” review and a pompous way of saying the album could be worse.

“On ‘Make Believe,’ [Cuomos] personality has vanished beneath layers of self-imposed universality, writing non-specific power ballads and whoah-oh-ohing a whole lot in lieu of coming up with coherent or interesting thoughts.” – Pitchfork’s “Make Believe” review which is clearly more aggressive.

These aren’t just cherry-picked album reviews from Weezer’s arguably worst albums: I just simply am not a gutsy-enough critic to turn this review into a research paper on why critics hate much of Weezer’s discography. I’d advise you to check Metacritic to get an idea of their critical reception yourself and maybe you’ll see why their Metascore is below average. Take that average with a grain of salt as access journalism is often responsible for many overly-positive reviews (see Wall Street Journal’s “What Happened to the Negative Review?”).

Weezer just doesn’t seem to learn from their mistakes or at least can’t focus enough on the issue at hand to solve it. In a sense, they defy all criticism as they continue to truck along with a cult following and some mainstream appeal, albeit losing fans in the process of appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Now for the album at hand, “Pacific Daydream,” Weezer’s 11th studio album following their best-received record the “White Album” since 2002. This album’s conundrum is it really doesn’t know what it’s focus is other than being different. Musically, the album is stretched across several genres whether it’s electronica like on “Feels Like Summer,” power-pop like on “Get Right,” or synth-pop like on “Happy Hour,” the record gets around a lot. The problem is a majority of the songs are just mediocre. It’s like the old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” There’s a lot of okay songs on this record but little makes me want to play anything on repeat or give me much to talk about.

Lyrically, “Pacific Daydream” is an introspective record all about frontman, Rivers Cuomo, personal rediscovery. This introspectiveness was something I felt was lacking in “White Album” and was promised in the forthcoming “Black Album” which is still to come apparently. I admire Cuomo’s authenticity in his songwriting, after all, it was that kind of vulnerability that made “Pinkerton” a platinum album. There are also many great hooks on this record like “Feels Like Summer,” “Weekend Woman,” and “Get Right.”

The problem with “Pacific Daydream” goes back to what critics have been saying since 2005, Cuomo’s songwriting is just too formulaic or simply too non-specific. “Beach Boys” is a good example of using ambiguous, seemingly random lyrics in its first couple verses and the unmoving chorus where Cuomo’s professing his love for The Beach Boys doesn’t help.

The formulaic style may not directly stem from Cuomo himself but rather his producers or any possible corporate pressures. Cuomo annotated “Feel Like Summer” on Genius and revealed his struggles with “powers that be” over preventing a auto-tune effect on the first line to the chorus. It makes me wonder if there were other places that outside influences muddied up the music’s intended sound, which may also explain the overly primped and clean production on this record.

Overall, “Pacific Daydream” feels as much like a step backward as it does not moving at all. Weezer wants to maintain a personal authenticity and originality but continues to record generic material. I believe most fans aren’t looking for another Pinkerton or Blue album but I do think we’re all in need of at least Green or White album. Overall, I give Pacific Daydream a 4.3/10.



What I’m looking for. Score (0-10) Examples of Scoring
Innovation 2 10- Creates entire genre.

8- Creates a new niche or sub-genre

6-pushes current genres limits

4- pushes their own limits

2-little change

Uniqueness (of either artist or album) 4 10-Never before seen (has influences still)

8-More than 3 unique qualities including sound, person, story, etc.

6- 2 unique qualities

4-1 unique qualities

2-Lowest possible score because everyone is unique :^)

Songwriting 5
Lyrics 6
Artist’s technical ability 8
Production 5 10- Perfect Balance

5- Over-produced more than not (or even under produced)

0- Sounds horrible

Theme 3 10-powerful theme throughout

5-theme but kinda sucks

0-no theme or organization

Length/Flow of Album 3 10-Songs reinforce each other, album isn’t hard to listen to, and the transitions are smooth/appropriate

5- 2 of those things

0-none of these things

Longevity 3 How relevant will it be in 5, 10, 25 years.
Personal Enjoyment 4 10-peak enjoyment

5-indifferent

1-Couldn’t hate album more

4.3 100 max

How a nobody from nowhere began writing about somebodies from somewhere (relatively) Pt. 2

Catch-up: For those who may not be aware or want a refresher to where I left off in this story, go check out Pt. 1 here: https://wp.me/p8pLKi-cc

I had just discovered the perfect band to interview and now it was time to gear up for it.

My advisor helped me write a professional-looking email to send them the next day and the response came back shockingly quick. I can’t remember the exact narrative and times but the drummer of the band, London Van Rooy, agreed to a phone interview that weekend during the afternoon before a show they had later that evening.

With a time set and everything, I started googling up information and taking notes wildly as I went. I listened through every one of the projects chronologically spending extra time on their most recent LP and most popular EP. I was a regular junior reporter with my notebook full of questions and important facts like album titles and band members names/roles.

At this point, I had only ever done two or so interviews ever and the few people I did talk to before were nowhere as cool sounding as these guys were to me. And to top it all off, I had never done an interview over the phone.

The whole dynamic of not being able to use non-verbal cues to help communicatepepe silvia.jpg had me on edge. To cope, I began writing all of my notes and questions on to sticky notes and hanging them all over the wall of my dorm room, sorting them by color and type. I remember my roommate walking in to find me looking like Charlie from “Sunny.”

I’ve found that nerves like these never quite go away and the best way for me to deal with them is to just prepare.

When the time finally came to call London, I felt more exhilarated than nervous and I actually abandoned my plans a little bit as we started talking. I explained to London that this was my first time doing an interview like this and he was very understanding and patient with me. He’d cut up and we were able to joke a little bit.

Had I talked to someone that wasn’t as relaxed as London I may have shut down and failed the interview completely. I was comfortable knowing that London got butterflies in his stomach before shows still and that it was normal to be nervous about what you cared about. He even offered to send me a free T-shirt.

I’ll link the article I wrote with the interview down below but the take away for me was to not take yourself so seriously and let loose a little or else you lose a valuable human element.

You should take the job seriously and make sure you prepare but don’t forget the absurdity of the situation you are in. Another important take away is to always make sure you get complete quotes!

I was so nervous and focused on writing everything that I didn’t get a single complete quote in my interview, only bits, and pieces. The lesson learned there was to prioritize note-taking, record interviews and ask your interviewee to repeat themselves if necessary.

So ya, embrace the inevitable screws up and learn from them. My first taste of true music journalism and it was bitter-sweet but I was ready to do more.

I’d like to continue writing more about my descent into the madness that is music journalism as I feel this one interview wasn’t the only thing that got me hooked. It was just the first time I was truly exposed to it. With that said, I’ll be turning this into a reflective series that I can have a little fun with.

But anyway, thank you Small Leaks Sink Ships for being awesome and I promise to do a proper spotlight or album review on them soon.

Here’s a link to the interview published in The Stallion back in April 2016.

https://www.abacstallion.com/single-post/2016/04/13/Getting-personal-with-Small-Leaks-Sink-Ships

Check out this Small Leaks track off their newest album.

 

How a nobody from nowhere began writing about somebodies from somewhere (relatively) Pt. 1

Untitled design

I first started musing with the idea of becoming a writer after my podunk colleges’ newspaper let me write a couple album reviews and news items for them. My confidence was growing as well as my addiction to music journalism, but what set my mind on music journalism as a career came when the paper’s advisor approached me about setting up an interview with a band of my choice.

Of course, my naive self could only think to say “I can do that?” in response.

Now I understand the possibilities college press opens up for you and manipulative nature of newspapers recruiting strategies. It’s all part of a ruse to reel in young and usually sucky writers such as myself into doing more for the paper to keep it afloat until real talent shows up. But it was also more than that.

It was a call to try something new. It was a chance to get out of my comfort zone and experiment; and what better time to do that than freshman year of college?

I remember going back to my dorm that night and searching for hours on Spotify for a band with fewer than 10,000 monthly listeners. I was looking for a band I knew would likely say “yes” to any and all publicity they could get and also a band I could pretend to enjoy enough to actually get through the assignment.

Finding that level of obscurity and talent in a band was a struggle (who would’ve guessed, right?). I eventually checked out the discovery playlist Spotify curates for subscribers and landed on this little gem here.

This four-person, avant-garde troupe based out of Portland fit the target listening count I was looking for at the time and I guessed they were a laid-back group from their star wars t-shirts and unassuming looks (sorry guys if y’all read this. You looked cool to me!). I wasn’t expecting to check every box I set so confidently but I knew I had the band.

Cliff-hanger time: I know most people won’t read on to the second part of this (it’s a silly expectation to have that people would want to read this anyway) but I’d rather split this into two shorter pieces I can give more attention two than one long piece with a rushed conclusion.

Also, I’d like to post more consistently and this seems like a better way to work it. Anyway, to my couple of regular readers and other readers who I also appreciate greatly, thank you for the time and be on the look-out for the part 2 where I get into the interview as well as the final result.

Feature photo courtesy of Shelby Evans: Check her work out here

http://acquiringthetaste.blogspot.com/

 

Dwight Yoakam to perform in Tifton, Nov. 2

Grammy-winning and multi-platinum country music artist Dwight Yoakam will be performing live on Thursday, Nov. 2 at the UGA Campus Conference Center in Tifton. The show is being produced by the same companies (Six String Southern Productions and Mcalpin Entertainment) responsible for bringing in talents like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, and Travis Tritt.

Credited as a genre-bending country artist, Dwight Yoakam drew in music fans of all different tastes with his blend of honky-tonk and bluegrass sound. He has 12 gold albums and 9 platinum or multiplatinum albums with five of those albums topping the Billboard Country Albums chart with 14 songs peaking in the Top 10.

Yoakam has also been featured in many publications like the Rolling Stone, where he made their Top 100 Country Songs of All Time list.  In addition to his prestigious music career, Yoakam built a successful career as a film and television actor rubbing elbows with thespians like Jodie Foster, Tommy Lee Jones, Jared Leto, and Matthew McConaughey.

Doors open at 6 p.m. with performances starting at 7:30 p.m. opening with the Craig Brown Band of the Detroit, described as the city’s most beloved bartender, cook, and ping-pong champion. Tickets are still available for purchase at ticketalternative.com or by phone at 877-725-8849.

Tickets are still available here: https://www.ticketalternative.com/event/dwight-yoakam

 

Suggestion Sunday: ‘Hiding’ — Modern Baseball

Modern Baseball’s legacy as dynamic modern emo

Nothing leaves a more sour taste in a music snob’s mouth than the mentioning of pop-punk and emo. I’ve found myself holding my tongue more than once around other concert-goers in fear that such blasphemy would turn them off from great bands like Jeff Rosenstock and Joyce Manor who deserve their attention. Modern Baseball is one of the few groups I’m comfortable as announcing as emo right from the beginning because of tracks like “Hiding.”

Lyrically:

What “Hiding” does to make it so unashamedly emo is by enveloping the listener in its vivid poetry and ironically confessional lyrics given the title. Guitarist, Jake Ewald, says he wrote this song as a “life update from where ‘Coals’ ( a track off the band’s first record) left off.” On “Coals,” Ewald was just entering college feeling excited but unwittingly foolish. In contrast, “Hiding” delves into the disillusion his old-self had from the surreal perspective of post-graduation.

“Made mistakes
The plants died young, like all good things
But I wish my small self-had known
How much water to use”

I love this line because it’s a beautiful analogy to relationships and how over-eagerness can run people off. The imagery feels childish and innocent, drawing out the differences between his current-self and his old-self in a clever way.

Musically:

The track follows a simple chord progression with every critical incision made into Ewald’s psyche within the lyrics reflecting an amplification of sound. This is done through seemingly random guitar plucks and explosive but quickly subdued drumlines accumulating into a release of all the subdued energy climatically.

It’s in the layering of all the different strings, percussion, and synths that makes Modern Baseball so much more dynamic and multidimensional. Although this is a commonly used song-structure for many bands, the layering really is what nails it making it such an intimate track while also being a pit-starter at shows. We all hope the band returns from its hiatus to continue innovating the modern emo sound.

Don’t botch music fest coverage, use these 3 tips by Emily Bloch

EmilyI’m here in Dallas, Texas for the National College Media Association Convention running around the conference center learning tips and tricks from working professionals in journalism. As cliche as it might sound, my favorite seminar I attended today was Emily Bloch’s “How To Cover A Music Festival Before You’re Old Enough To Drink At One” where she talked about things like creating a narrative from bowties and Fruity Pebbles to organizing a festival plan that optimizes the work-to-bathroom-break ratio.

Here are three tips she shared which really stood out.

  1. “You can interview musicians and not get lame answers” — Look for different ways to engage musicians. If one of them is wearing a Smiths shirt or has a Talking Heads tattoo, ask about it. You may only get 10 minutes with artists before their “handler” takes them away so be sure to have a list of questions in priority from most important to least. Be sure to get creative too. One of the interviews she has done was over Cuban coladas because the band she talked to commonly used coffee in their lyrics.

  2. “You still have to breathe” — This quote is as real as it gets when it comes to the sheer intensity of covering a music festival. Bloch takes it to another level when comes to her work ethic. She’s covered 13 bands in eight hours before so she knows the kind of efficiency it takes to cover a fest. It all comes down to logistics and preparation; make a schedule, do the research, bring the essentials but don’t forget to set aside time to sit down, eat a sandwich and take in the environment.

  3. Don’t write cold” — No this doesn’t mean bundling up in your favorite blanket and heating up some hot chocolate so you can write better. She means the day’s not over until you’ve written that last set review, artist interview, or final preview. You’ll have a better story and remember more if you write the day-of while your brain is still hot and processing all the stuff you saw today. You can “trim the fat” the next day and correct any mistakes you likely made writing that late.

For more sweet tips and tricks, check out her website at https://emilybloch.com and follow her on twitter at @emdrums

Also, check out this kick-ass clip of her’s.

Emily Clips

Wolf Alice — “Visions of A Life”

London alt-rock band, Wolf Alice, arm themselves with punk power-chords and epic vocal arrangements continuing their streak of solid professionally recorded projects. Ever since the band’s EP “Blush,” Wolf Alice has remained a favorite within the oversaturated genre of alt-rock due to their tasteful use of folk, electronica, and grunge elements in the creation of their expansive soundscapes. “Visions of a Life” maintains this signature style by creating a complex fusion of dreamy shoegaze imbued with grunge’s off-kilter delivery creating a volatile mix; one moment cool and captivating but the next thrilling and gnarly.

 The band’s frontwoman, Ellie Rowsell is only 25-years-old but she sings about feelings most people have during their tumultuous years of high school. Roswell is not too far removed from this age group: much of the lyrics on the record compel the listener to believe she is currently facing these struggles because of her sheer intensity. The band’s intricate layering of sounds over her grandeur vocals emulate her state of mind so vividly I forget I’m just listening to a dumb, gushy love-song, like on “Don’t Delete the Kisses.”

Roswell simulates the moody teenager fumbling through an assortment of emotions, balancing rage and gentleness; anxiety and comfort. The best illustration of this is the album’s first two tracks. It starts with “Heavenward,” a mellow, spacey and angelic ballad celebrating friends the band has lost over the years, immortalizing them in a “small heaven,” a song to remember them with. However, Roswell quickly turns-a-corner on the second track, “Yuk Foo,” expelling a frenzy of teenage frustrations, boldly flicking-off the world and changing the tone of the entire record unexpectedly. “Yuk Foo” is an awkward inclusion no matter how you organize the album but Roswell seemed aware of how self-destructive the song and her attitude were on the track and just doesn’t seem to care as long as you go down with her. It has its charm but is ultimately off-putting.

The track “Sky Musings,” delves into the crippling effects of anxiety by plunging the listener into Roswell’s mind during a freak-out on a commercial plane. By narrating the attack with hushed spoken-word and a steady, synth-beat mimicking an erratic heartbeat, Roswell creates a simple yet tense scenario accurately capturing the psychological damage caused by over-thinking.

Followed shortly afterward is “Space & Time,” a track about the uncertainty the future holds and a desire to travel ahead in time just to know for sure it will all be okay in the end. Although Roswell is anxious about this, she is not having a panic attack on the same level as “Sky Musings,” and in fact, finds comfort in the idea that if she were to just travel into the future she would likely see exactly what she wants.

It’s interesting to see how different her attitude and the tone of the songs are from one another. “Sky Musings” worries so much about the present and is ultimately irrational while “Space & Time” worries so little about the future presenting an upbeat and optimistic view of a very rational fear. I find comfort in this idea as well, that our minds and the way we approach things ultimately decide how we feel about something.

Although this album isn’t entirely a sophomore slump, it feels weaker overall in comparison to the band’s previous works. The chaotic mix of singles early in the record seemed forced, especially with “Yuk Foo.” The front-loaded singles stir things up some but the album ties itself together nicely as it goes on. However, I’m not sure how often I’ll be replaying this album into the future due to the nature of its cliched theme. I give Wolf Alice’s “Vision of A Life” a 6.5/10 but recommend their previous works along with some of the singles from this record.



What I’m looking for. Score (0-10) Examples of Scoring
Innovation 4 10- Creates entire genre.

8- Creates a new niche or sub-genre

6-pushes current genres limits

4- pushes their own limits

2-little change

Uniqueness (of either artist or album) 7 10-Never before seen (has influences still)

8-More than 3 unique qualities including sound, person, story, ect.

6- 2 unique qualities

4-1 unique qualities

2-Lowest possible score because everyone is unique :^)

Songwriting 7
Lyrics 8
Artist’s technical ability 9
Production 7 10- Perfect Balance

5- Over-produced more than not (or even under produced)

0- Sounds horrible

Theme 7 10-powerful theme throughout

5-theme but kinda sucks

0-no theme or organization

Length/Flow of Album 5 10-Songs reinforce each other, album isn’t hard to listen to, and the transitions are smooth/appropriate

5- 2 of those things

0-none of these things

Longevity 5 How relevant will it be in 5, 10, 25 years.
Personal Enjoyment 7 10-peak enjoyment

5-indifferent

1-Couldn’t hate album more

65 100 max