January 2015 New Releases

So I decided to take a break from my 1993 project the other day and double-back on the new releases from 2015. I just started playing them in order of release, regardless of whatever “mood” I might have been in, which made for interesting listening since consecutive albums were often not at ALL similar. I actually found it helped me really appreciate (or at least discern) each release, as opposed to binge listening genres, which can often make certain albums get lost in the shuffle. Meanwhile I wrote down some quickie thoughts on each one along with a rough stab at ratings. Figured I’d throw them up here on the blog just so it would at least *feel* like I was writing for a purpose. My apologies if some of my thoughts lack context. I wrote them more to remind me of what I thought than to try and explain it to someone else.

Anyway, here’s January’s releases. Dates and record labels are to the best of my knowledge without doing any heavy research.

Miss Behaviour – Double Agent
Released: January 6, 2015 (AOR Heaven)

Keyboard-heavy melodic rock pop pap with weak, high register vocals which also suffer from slight accent issues. Guitar work is too muted. Kinda reminds me of Savannah, but even softer. Not a good way to ring in the new year.
PRO-1, VOC-0, MUS-1, SNG-0, MIS-0 *** 2

Richie Kotzen – Cannibals
Released: January 8, 2015 (Headroom Inc.)

Typical 70’s style funk-rock from Mr. Kotzen, sounding very Sly & The Family Stone on numerous tracks. Quality work, and the songs are pretty varied, but it’s just not my bag. He remains mostly a mystery to me.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-1, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 6

Guster – Evermotion
Released: January 13, 2015 (Nettwerk Records)

Surprising 80’s pop sound from a band that made their bones in the 90’s delivering rootsy indie rock. Very shiny. I really dig what they do here and the album flows very smoothly, with a couple of really great tracks and no real bad ones.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-1, SNG-2, MIS-2 *** 8

Serious Black – As Daylight Breaks
Released: January 20, 2015 (AFM Records)

German melodic hard rock that tiptoes up to a more progressive/traditional metal line, but doesn’t quite cross it. There’s also some splashes of classical-inspired instrumentation mixed in, like Hans Zimmer-type stuff. Grows on me with repeated listens, although not likely to ever blow me away.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 7

The Decemberists – What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World
Released: January 20, 2015 (Capitol Records)

Van Morrison-inspired singer/songwriter stuff. Tremendous songwriting throughout, with nearly every song reaching out to me in some way. Love the vocals, love the arrangements. Easily one of the best albums of the year.
PRO-2, VOC-2, MUS-2, SNG-2, MIS-2 *** 10

Fall Out Boy – American Beauty/American Psycho
Released: January 20, 2015 (Island Records)

I’ve developed a soft spot for the sound these guys deliver, a very over-produced yet energetic pop rock. A bunch of fun, interesting songs, even if the instrumentation lacks any real standout musicianship. God damn these guys write catchy stuff.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-1, SNG-2, MIS-2 *** 8

Screaming For Silence – Screaming For Silence
Released: January 20, 2015 (*independent*)

Typical modern hard rock, complete with alternate sing/screech vocals. Man, I wish that trend would just go away. If you can sing, SING! This blatant stab at “credibility” by shrieking through the chorus does nothing for me and fails to convince me that you’re feeling anything more than uncreative. Solid music, but nothing I can’t get from somewhere else. Just lost in a sea of bands that sound *exactly* the same.
PRO-1, VOC-1, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-0 *** 5

Storm The Sky – Permanence
Released: January 20, 2015 (Rise Records)

The album cover somehow tricked me into thinking this was something altogether darker than it is. Instead it’s a repeat of Screaming For Silence (see above), except the vocals are a little more Linkin Parky and prone to a bit more shouting (you know, for contrast). They do more fun stuff with electronic shading though, so that’s a plus.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-0 *** 6

Level 10 – Chapter 1
Released: January 27, 2015 (Frontiers Records)

Dio-inspired, guitar-driven hard rock from vocalist Russell Allen, he of Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob and assorted other projects. Good crunchy guitar work with a couple of memorable tracks. A perfect release for genre listening but not something I’m gonna reach for when I want to listen too close.
PRO-1, VOC-2, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 7

Nightingale – Retribution
Released: January 27, 2015 (Inside Out Music/Century Media Records)

Pretty excited for this first release in 7 years from Dan Swano’s side deal and overall I’m not disappointed. His vocals are just unique enough within the traditional metal market to catch my ear and his writing has matured significantly over the years (at least when I consider his death metal roots). Really need to listen to this more, particularly without a ton of distraction, as there’s enough interesting stuff going on to make me know there’s something there worth hearing. File alongside latter days Opeth.
PRO-1, VOC-2, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 7

Papa Roach – F.E.A.R.
Released: January 27, 2015 (Eleven Seven Music)

Not sure I could distinguish this from any of their other albums, nor any of a dozen other bands of the genre, which is not meant to be as harsh as it sounds. I like the sound and the feel, I just wish it would develop more personality. Good for a listen when I’m in the mood for that type of thing, but lacking in any songs that demand my attention.
PRO-1, VOC-1, MUS-2, SNG-0, MIS-1 *** 5

Jorn Lande & Trond Holter Present Dracula – Swing Of Death
Released: January 27, 2015 (Frontiers Records)

Another year, another Jorn Lande project. I loved his heavy, husky vocals back in 2000 when I first discovered him, but a decade-and-a-half of almost yearly new releases has worn me down. Nothing really new or fresh here, outside of a level of theatricality which is hit or miss with me. Perfectly fine European guitar rock, but these elaborate concept pieces don’t make for great casual listening.
PRO-1, VOC-1, MUS-1, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 5

Sweet & Lynch – Only To Rise
Released: January 27, 2015 (Frontiers Records)

Surprisingly dull guitar work from George Lynch, who couples with not-my-favorite vocalist, Stryper’s Michael Sweet, to deliver a pretty bland dose of guitar rock. Did George finally just run out of riffs? For the sake up the upcoming Lynch Mob album, I hope not. Otherwise this things just kind of sits there. Comes off very much like what it is: one of those Frontiers-driven projects where the label gets a bunch of melodic rock luminaries together and hopes for magic. It worked with L.R.S. last year, not so much here.
PRO-1, VOC-1, MUS-1, SNG-1, MIS-0 *** 4

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