Rocktober Reviews

caitlinhardee

Wake up, September has ended. It’s now Rocktober, that magical month of fabulous new music. With the economy still lurking in the dumpster, you don’t want to be wasting your funds on crummy albums. For inspiration, check out this guide to the best four releases of the past week, and an overview of promising music for the rest of the month.

Tokio Hotel, Humanoid

Don’t try to get through airport security with this album in your bag. They’ll confiscate it as a massively dangerous weapon and toss you in a holding cell, where you’ll shake in miserable music withdrawal.

Tokio Hotel’s new album, released both in their native German and translated into English, is more or less completely unfair to the listener. In case Bill Kaulitz’s silk-over-sex voice doesn’t snare you, the lyrics will. Case in point: “Geisterfahrer,” in which the singer-songwriter crafts a shattering narrative. The concept of a Geisterfahrer, a kamikaze driver in the wrong lane on the Autobahn, manifests as a quietly tormented lover seeking his missing love at all costs. Celestial female backup vocals twine with Kaulitz’s voice to create an anthem to love that teaches Chris Martin a thing or two about emotional impact. The instrumentation on the albums is no less impressive, showcasing an epic, soaring sound relief on first single “Automatic,” which prompted critical comparisons to U2, Coldplay and Angels & Airwaves. With layered choruses of shocking power on “Komm/Noise” and “Hey You,” the insidious catchiness of “Darkside of the Sun,” the hard, dark rock medley of title track “Humanoid,” and the uninhibited sensuality of “Pain of Love” and “Menschen suchen Menschen,” these two albums are firing on all cylinders.

What’s an automatic fan to do? Buy many, many copies, of course.

AFI, Crash Love

If there’s one musical critique that makes me laugh, it’s when fans howl that the new stuff isn’t as good as the old stuff. With the Sept. 29 release of AFI’s new album Crash Love, accusations of “selling out” and “going soft” festoon the front page of its listener reviews on iTunes. I started listening to AFI with their last album, Decemberunderground, so for me, Crash Love is a faithful continuation of their sound. Those searching for the early, hardcore punk with rough, screamo vocals will be disappointed. This album carries tightly coiled power in the instrumentation, but Davey’s vocals hold a consistent smoothness, even through the angry first single “Medicate.” The trademark of this album seems to be powerfully layered background vocals. They mingle with gorgeous, snarling basslines on “Beautiful Thieves” and “End Transmission,” and feature in practically every other track. Some tracks seem overly chaotic: with “Cold Hands” in particular, the instrumentation seems to trip over itself, at times overpowering Davey’s vocals. Regardless, it remains extremely catchy and listenable, and the album as a whole is darkly beautiful. The whispering bridge and drums on “Fainting Spells,” followed by percussive clapping and screaming choruses, are a recipe for addictive listening. I’ll be singing loudly along to Crash Love on the next interminable drive from Walla Walla to Seattle.

La Roux, La Roux

If Imogen Heap woke up, had five cups of coffee, went to the studio, and made an album with Lady Gaga’s production team, the result might sound something like La Roux’s newly-released, self-titled debut album. The tracks alternate between hypnotic and infectious. Singer Eleanor Jackson’s voice dances lightly over flawlessly crafted beats, ranging from bell-like and fluid in “Fascination” to gritty when she sings, “You don’t want me, you just like the attention,” in “I’m Not Your Toy.” Her vocals are all different consistencies of sweetness. Like eating a giant Pixie stick, listening through La Roux leaves you tingly, amped-up, and wanting more. With the album nominated for a Mercury Prize and La Roux up for Best UK & Ireland New Act at this year’s European Music Awards, more is likely forthcoming.

Paramore, Brand New Eyes

With Brand New Eyes, Paramore retains the startlingly unique musical flavor established on All We Know Is Falling and Riot!. That flavor is hidden somewhere in the dualism of Paramore’s sound. Coupling low, thrumming guitars with Hayley Williams’ melodic muttering, and frenetic instrumentation with her soaring vocal acrobatics, they attain an intoxicating blend: calm danger, unconscious seductiveness, low-key indie lightness and wild, pure rock. The lyrics have matured since Riot! as evidenced by the cutting wit and anger in “Ignorance,” the abstract imagery in “Brick By Boring Brick” and the light nostalgia of “Feeling Sorry,” which comes across both like a ballad to lost love and as the antithesis to the love song. The album offers both hard, driving songs and soft, acoustic ballads, and avoids the commercial anthem sound of Riot!. For those who thought Paramore were just pop-rockers with crazy hair – it’s time to look at them with brand new eyes.

More Great Releases

Sept. 29: Alice in Chains, Black Gives Way to Blue
Oct. 6: Lights, The Listening; Noah and the Whale, The First Days of Spring
Oct. 20: Electric Six, Kill
Oct. 27: Sting, If On A Winter’s Night; Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Night Castle; Weezer, Ratitude