Saturday, April 12, 2008

10 New Albums You Should Buy...Part 1/5

R.E.M.- Accelerate

R.E.M.'s first album since 2004 is a rather short and familiar affair, but the album's 35 minutes of deep lyrics, catchy riffs, and intelligent songwriting is a welcome return to form for one of the finest lyrical bands to ever receive mainstream success. Compared to the band's phenomenal first 8 albums from the 80s through mid-90s, Accelerate isn't exactly a revelation, but the album is a triumph compared to nearly every other album the band has released since. There are a numbers of reasons for this, most notably the return of the band's original heavier sound, but the most significant aspect of R.E.M.'s music has always been lyrics. Using recent political events as motivation, the lyrics on Accelerate are some of the band's best and most aggressive in over a decade. Whether or not you agree with their politics, the sheer intelligence of the band comes through in their lyrics, and the album can be recommended purely on that alone. Granted, there isn't much on this album that R.E.M. hasn't done better on past records, but the intelligent songwriting of the band is in fine form. When Accelerate is at its best (such as on the album's fantastic opener "Living Well is the Best Revenge" and the single "Supernatural Superserious"), this is the best R.E.M.'s has sounded in years. This is partly because the band seems to once again be less concerned with their sound and more concerned with the intelligent lyrics that made the band great to begin with, but also in part because this is the first R.E.M. in far too long to sound like it was made for a reason bigger than simply for the sake of making an album. Accelerate isn't exactly a masterpiece, but it a step in the right direction for a band that once again seems capable of making another masterpiece.

Key tracks: Living Well is the Best Revenge, Supernatural Superserious, Accelerate

Grade: B

Apocalyptica- Worlds Collide

Released last September in Europe, it's taken a long 7 months for Apocalyptica's latest album to reach American soil. Thankfully, the album will finally be available this Tuesday, and it is highly recommended to both longtime fans and newcomers to Apocalyptica's unique sound. For those aforementioned newcomers, Apoclayptica's brand of "cello metal" may seems like an odd idea at first, and you would be correct in assuming that. However, the extraordinary talent of the band's three cellists not only proves that "cello metal" is workable, but also that Apocalyptica is one of the most unique and talented band in the metal scene today. The band has made a name for itself with fantastic covers of classic hard rock and metal songs (most notably by Metallica), but Worlds Collide is an entirely original album that ranks as both the band's most prolific original effort and as their most accessible offering to date. The band's uncanny ability to replace lead, rhythm, and bass guitar parts with cellos and still be able to create an authentic metal sound is just as strikingly beautiful and impressive today as it was when Plays Metallica by Four Cellos was released in 1996, but the band has only improved since then. Now, with the help of guests vocalists such as Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour), and Till Lindermann (Rammstein), the band has evolved into a project that is not only unlike anything else in music today, but also represents career highlights for many of the guest musicians featured. Regardless of what you think of their original bands, each vocalist provides a unique sound that couples with Apocalyptica's increasingly impressive and varied songwriting to create songs that iare every bit as good, if not better, than the best the guests' respective bands have recorded. Longtime fans of Apocalyptica's classical approach may be disappointed to find a more pop-like structure to many of the songs (especially the radio friendly "I'm Not Jesus" with Corey Taylor and "I Don't Care" featuring Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace), but there's still enough beautiful instrumental pieces to please all but the most unforgiving of fans. The album's highlight is the absolutely beautiful "S.O.S. (Anything But Love)," which features Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia on vocals. Much like the album's other vocal tracks, the structure is more pop-like and radio friendly, but the sheer beauty of the lyrics and contrast between the band's three cellists and Scabbia's beautiful vocals make this one of the finest tracks released last year. Now, it's finally available in the United States, and even though the album may not entirely satisfy every Apocalyptica fan as a whole, it does an exceptional job of making one of the best and purest sounds in metal accessible to the masses without entirely changing what made the band great in the first place. Worlds Collide may not be on many top 10 lists come the end of the year, but it's more than deserving of a place in any music fan's collection.

Key tracks: Helden, Last Hope, S.O.S. (Anything But Love)

Grade: B+

Part 2 coming tomorrow.

1 comment:

tad said...


Nah, just kidding. I know (or hope) you are going to put them on there. If you can can you please review Joe Satriani's new album?