The Dream Is Over – PUP

An unpublished micro-review written as part of my Top 10 Albums of 2016 list.

As has been reported far too many times because it’s a cool frickin’ fact, PUP vocalist Stefan Babcock was told “the dream is over” by the doctor who examined his vocal cords, thus giving birth to the album’s tongue-in-cheek title. But as 10 tracks of the dirtiest, catchiest punk rock we’ve heard in years would go on to prove, the dream is anything but over for the Toronto outfit. Continue reading

The Colour In Anything – James Blake

An unpublished micro-review written as part of my Top 10 Albums of 2016 list.

Effortlessly swinging between soulful piano ballads and speaker-busting post-dubstep, James Blakes glues it all together on The Colour In Anything with his smooth, emotive voice. Through his natural tone and deconstruction of traditional song-structures, the London-based R&B artist somehow manages to make electronic music that sounds like a live performance, every single time. Continue reading

Crime Waves – Cicada Radio

This review originally appeared in Issue 05 of Lamplighter Magazine in Fall 2015 and subsequently on LamplighterNJ.com in June 2016

Following up a great record is a difficult affair. If you experiment with a new sound, you’ve changed too much and abandoned your core audience. If you stay true to the sound that your fans grew to love, you’ve become a one-trick pony. Really, anything less than a masterpiece is often considered a failure as far as sophomore albums go. It could even be argued that it’s wiser to hang up the gloves after that first well-received album than to submit to the inevitable criticism of a sophomore effort, though Wayne Gretzky might disagree with the sentiment. Well, after a record like 2012’s No Fate But What We Make, which was a refreshing blend of garage punk and post-hardcore in an otherwise stale crowd of loud music, Cicada Radio are clearly playing with a handicap. Crime Waves, a six-track EP and their second album under Killing Horse Records, was released in December of 2014, and the comparisons began. Continue reading

Underground Redefined

This feature originally appeared in Issue 04 of Lamplighter Magazine in Fall 2014 and subsequently on LamplighterNJ.com in May 2016

There is a music school in downtown Summit, in the basement of the Mondo building, that focuses primarily on the instruction of rock instruments. You wouldn’t know if you had passed it before, because there are no signs on the street.

Whether it’s word-of-mouth or just pure curiosity that leads you through the street-level entrance, you’ll find a black door inside that reads ”World of Rock Music.” The few who do enter descend a long set of stairs into the music school, passing through more black doors and a series of tight hallways in which every inch of available wall-space is decorated with random photos and musical memorabilia, like the interior of a Hard Rock Café. Continue reading

A Walk In Hell – Voodoo Terror Tribe

This review originally appeared in Issue 04 of Lamplighter Magazine in Fall 2014 and subsequently on LamplighterNJ.com in May 2016

With a name like Voodoo Terror Tribe, there are only a few sounds you should expect from this Rockaway four-piece. And if their name didn’t clue you in, an album title like A Walk In Hell certainly would.

Their latest release is five tracks of pure, unadulterated metal. So pure that you probably shouldn’t even bother listening if you’re not the sort of person deeply excited by those first few chorus-soaked notes of “Enter Sandman.” Continue reading

Bloom & Breathe – Gates

This review originally appeared on LamplighterNJ.com in January 2015

Bloom & Breathe is a fantastic album. Let’s just get that out of the way now, because as a music reviewer, it’s my responsibility to be a critic. Even when something is already very good, I’m supposed to tell you how it could’ve been better. I’m going to do just that, but before I do, I need you to understand that the New Brunswick post-rockers in Gates have truly created an incredible album, no matter what shallow criticisms I dig up for this review. Continue reading

A Personal Statement from Our Music Editor, Mike King

This editorial originally appeared on LamplighterNJ.com in July 2014

I was fourteen years old in the winter of 2004 when my brother, two friends, and I decided to start a punk rock band called Waking Dream. For the record, fourteen is young enough to find nothing wrong with wearing your own band’s t-shirt to your own band’s first show, and it’s young enough for your father to think it his responsibility to give that band an embarrassing pep-talk onstage before that show. Continue reading

Carve Away, I Still Remain – Handed to the Thousands

This review originally appeared on LamplighterNJ.com in February 2014

The guys in Handed to the Thousands understand heavy. I don’t say this because their latest effort, Carve Away, I Still Remain, is bone-rumblin’, knock-your-pants-off heavy. I say this because it isn’t. The truth is that you have to know the rules in order to break them. Handed to the Thousands have clearly studied the excessively de-tuned breakdowns and incomprehensibly guttural vocals of their melodic hardcore contemporaries. Studied, and then rejected. What results is a mature and balanced eight-song EP that will both surprise and delight those familiar with the more aggressive genres, without giving in to stale clichés. Continue reading

Empathy – Duo

This review originally appeared on LamplighterNJ.com in September 2013

Look. Hip-hop has devolved into a circus of mildly talented rappers with over-inflated egos giving shout-outs to themselves and their earnings. Up-and-coming acts often make the lyrical mistake of either following in those footsteps before they’ve actually earned anything to brag about or running in the opposite direction with deep, philosophical bars about social injustice. Fortunately, seventeen-year-old Dillon Carmichael, operating under the stage name Duo, has released Empathy, an album for those hip-hop fans who neither want to think too little nor too much. Continue reading

Why You Should Be Upset Trees Above Mandalay Is No Longer Making Music

This feature originally appeared on LamplighterNJ.com in September 2013

After nearly seven years, pop-rock veterans Trees Above Mandalay decided that they will no longer be making music. So what, right? Hasn’t the New Jersey alternative music scene always been a revolving door for its local acts? They’ll be replaced soon enough, won’t they? Au contraire, my dear reader. Bands of Trees Above Mandalay’s caliber are few and far between. I would even go so far as to say that they were in a class of their own during their tenure. Now that class has graduated, and the freshman prospects don’t look so great. So you’ll understand how disappointed I was when I stood in the barely quarter-full room at Mexicali Live on the night of Trees Above Mandalay’s farewell show. Why weren’t more people upset about this? Why weren’t more of us there to say goodbye to the band we all once thought would make it big? Continue reading