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Have Heart – The Things We Carry (2006) September 5, 2008

Posted by Jordan in Album Reviews/Thoughts.
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This is sincere, passionate, aggressive East Coast hardcore.

One ace in the hole that Have Heart benefit from tremendously is their vocalist, Patrick Flynn. If one takes time to read some of the lyrics, they¬†are almost perfectly balanced between having convictions and not being afraid to stand up for them, while not outright attacking opposing beliefs to the point where it becomes tiresome. For the music itself, HH manage to mostly avoid a common pitfall that the vast majority of bands who play this style of hardcore fall into, meaning that all the songs on this cd have their own personality, and even when HH re-uses certain elements (gang vocals, two-step parts, fast circle pit parts, etc.), you never really catch yourself confusing what you’re currently hearing with the previous track. They also throw just enough wrenches in the mix to keep you guessing, like the awesome drum intro on “Armed With A Mind”, the almost-instrumental “Old Man II (Last Words and Lessons Learned)”, and the incredible build-up in “Machinist”.

To touch on the studio side of things, Jim Siegel’s production suits this style of music very well. Unlike most other metal/hardcore albums, he actually makes sure that the bass plays a role, instead of being buried behind a thick wall of layered guitars. Check out Death Before Dishonor’s albums for other good examples of this. The production works alongside the composition itself to make the record very pleasing to the ear – it’s energetic, youthful, and ferocious, without being monotonous. In my opinion, Have Heart are one of the best around at taking the spirit of old-school hardcore and injecting enough fresh elements and thought-provoking lyrics to keep it interesting. To the unfamiliar ear, this cd, like most hardcore, is an acquired taste, but if you’re into this style, go grab it.

8.5/10

Cartel – Chroma (2006) September 3, 2008

Posted by Jordan in Album Reviews/Thoughts.
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Aside from random thoughts on whatever I happen to be listening to, I’ll put up some album reviews from time to time, like so.

OK, if you’re even mildly into pop-punk, pop-rock, or anything of that sort, you MUST own this album. I know this band can be really divisive, but as far as I’m concerned, this is incredibly well-performed pop-rock that’s not only nearly flawless, but listening to it is just flat-out FUN. The production is as you would expect from this kind of music: a strong mix on the vocals so they sit right up front, bright guitar tones, punchy drum sounds, etc. I own hundreds of CD’s, and there aren’t too many that I can honestly say that, beginning to end, there’s no weak point. Well, this one comes extremely close, with “Save Us” being the only track that I sometimes skip over. Other than the two singles, “Say Anything (Else)” and “Honestly”, which are both outstanding, I really like “Burn This City” and “If I Fail”. The last three tracks also hint at different possibilities for future albums. “Q” and “A” close out the CD in spectacular fashion, being over 11 minutes long when listened to back-to-back, as they’re meant to be. “A” incorporates mild electronica and piano into their trademark sound, and even brings back an anthemic section of the lyrics from “Burn This City”, but it’s all done so seamlessly that nothing ever seems unusual or out of place.

The lyrics, as you might expect from a pop-rock album, are largely focused around topics like love and searching for truth, but there’s enough variation so that you don’t find yourself rolling your eyes. They’re written to be easy to connect with, and to also be easy to dig a little deeper with, if you want. It might not be the deepest or most introspective album you’ve ever heard, but that’s not what it’s intended to be. These guys are fully aware of what they’re doing, and you can tell by listening to the album that they have a lot of fun with it and make no pretense whatsoever to be anything more than what they are. Great, great stuff that’s perfect for those days when you’re in the mood to just drive and sing way too loudly.

8/10