Slow Heart – Balance and Composure

An unpublished micro-review written as part of my Top 10 Albums of 2017 list.

After 2011’s Separation and 2013’s The Things We Think We’re Missing, Balance and Composure were quickly proving themselves to be one of my favorite alternative acts. It was harder than punk rock, but not quite as self-serious as octane rock, either. So when 2016’s Light We Made featured a toothless brand of indie rock from the Doylestown locals, it was a big let down for me. Continue reading

After the Party – The Menzingers

An unpublished micro-review written as part of my Top 10 Albums of 2017 list.

Sometimes a record just finds you at the perfect time in your life. When you first fall in love. After a bitter break-up. Or, in the case of After the Party, as a late 20-something feeling like your wild years are getting further and further behind you. Continue reading

After Laughter – Paramore

An unpublished micro-review written as part of my Top 10 Albums of 2017 list.

Though “Hard Times” was the album’s first, higher-charting single, “Rose-Colored Boy” was the song of the year for me, both in quality and theme. “Just let me cry a little bit longer/I ain’t gon’ smile if I don’t want to/Hey man, we all can’t be like you/I wish we were all rose-colored too,” vocalist Hayley Williams sings in the year’s catchiest chorus, giving voice to those of us tired of pretending it’s all going to get better next year. Continue reading

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An unpublished micro-review written as part of my Top 10 Albums of 2016 list.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An unpublished micro-review written as part of my Top 10 Albums of 2016 list.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

A Walk In Hell – Voodoo Terror Tribe

This review originally appeared in Issue 04 of Lamplighter Magazine in Fall 2014 and subsequently on 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 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

Carve Away, I Still Remain – Handed to the Thousands

This review originally appeared on 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 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