#reviewoftheweek / SOJA - Amid The Noise And Haste

Reggae has broken into pop and rock music throughout the past few decades, and many artists have made it their trademark sound from as far back as the Police to Sublime in the 90's and 311 over the past two decades. SOJA have been making music for quite some time, and in this very vein, however, this is the album that will surely catapult them to become just as much a household name as the aforementioned bands. Their previous album established them as a force within the genre, but it's this album, with the inclusion of guest artists like Michael Franti and Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, that will have SOJA in the mix at pop and alternative rock radio alike. Their blend of reggae and rock, coupled with their powerful and potent lyrics is sure to have music lovers taking notice. The first single "I Believe" (which features Franti and roots/reggae artists Nahko) is a happy song that has a sing-a-long chorus that is very reminiscent of Michael Franti's style of reggae rock. "Your Song" (featuring Marley) blurs more genre lines, emulating Marley's mix of hip hop tinged reggae. Politically charged lyrics and protest-style songs are staples on SOJA releases, and the standout on this one is "Promises And Pills" which at the core is a song about the perils faced by young military veterans being assisted in their reintroduction into society after returning from overseas deployment. SOJA's music is fun and important, and it's that mix that makes them stand out amongst their peers and influences, and why "Amid The Noise And Haste" is possibly the band's best yet.


#reviewoftheweek / Marc Broussard - A Life Worth Living

A very mellow and soulful record, Marc Broussard returns with his signature blues and soul meets pop meets southern rock and country sounds. Now, that's a lot to mix together, but in his gumbo, it all fits and tastes well together. The lead single "Hurricane Heart" actually dips a bit into all of those genres, setting the stage for what's to come on the other eleven tracks. The album takes you up and down through different tempos and moods, but the entire record is as chill and fun and heartfelt as the cover art depicts. It's entirely about life, and living, and a life worth living as the title suggests. Other standout tracks are the very bluesy "Dyin' Man" and the soulful centerpiece of the record "Man Ain't Supposed To Cry." Broussard reminds us on this album why we all gave him a shot as he brought us a very new look at the music that can come from his home state of Louisiana. This entire record is a testament to the state, the soul of the artistry that comes from the bayou, and Broussard's many musical faces.


#reviewoftheweek / Trevor Hall - Chapter Of The Forest

Rooted deep in spirituality, Trevor Hall's newest album picks up right where his last left off. He has the uncanny ability to mix rootsy folk rock with his eastern religious spirituality, delivering catchy and fun, yet poignant tunes. The album's standout track is the mellow "Green Mountain State" which is a virtually stripped down voice and guitar song with heartfelt lyrics. "Wish Man" is the catchiest song on the album, and most likely the one that most listeners will be drawn to this album by. Unlike previous albums, this one is not dipped in pop music, and most likely will stand on it's own as a complete piece, rather than be identified or defined by it's individual songs. Other key tracks include the title track and "Obsidian" which features guest vocals by tourmate Nahko. Hall is a poet that happens to also set his poetry to music. As a listener, it's easy to get lost in the music and words and experience everything on a higher level, and that's a great thing.


#reviewoftheweek / Angus & Julia Stone - Angus & Julia Stone

After having done a few solo albums, the brother/sister duo of Angus & Julia Stone have returned with their biggest album to date. The album was produced by the legendary Rick Rubin who has worked with everyone from Johnny Cash to the Beastie Boys. Marking the first time the duo has written songs together, the two deliver a stunning array of new music that sets itself apart from anything they've done in the past, both together and solo. The album is full of catchy hit-worthy songs that elevate their traditional acoustic folk sound to more of an indie rock feel, while still maintaining their roots. "Grizzly Bear" and "Death Defying Acts" are two standout tracks that could have appeared on any A&JS album in the past. Songs like "A Heartbreak" and "Heart Beats Slow" show off a bit of maturity for the duo, showcasing elevated lyrics and their great ability to play off of each other, sharing lead vocal duties simultaneously, something that was sparse on previous releases. Despite the fact that they hail from Australia, this album has a very distinct Laurel Canyon/Southern California vibe that differs from the beach-ready acoustic stuff they have showcased previously. This is the album that will firmly plan their sound on American soil, and most likely skyrocket their popularity stateside.


BURN THIS / August 2014

  1. Guster "Long Night"
  2. The Shins "So Now What"
  3. Bahamas "Stronger Than That"
  4. Brett Dennen "Out Of My Head"
  5. Matt Hires "Heartache Machine"
  6. Grant Harrison "Just A Little More Often"
  7. Phillip Phillips "Unpack Your Heart"
  8. Matt Nathanson (featuring Lolo) "Headphones"
  9. Robert Francis & The Night Tide "Pain"
  10. Angus & Julia Stone "Heart Beats Slow"
  11. The Wind And The Wave "It's A Longer Road To California Than I Thought"
  12. Jon And Roy "Where'd My Light Go"
  13. Trevor Hall "Wish Man"
  14. Rebelution "Count Me In"
  15. Nahko & Medicine For The People "Warrior People"
  16. SOJA (featuring Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley) "Your Song"
  17. The Dirty Heads "Radio"
  18. Pepper "Push"
  19. Matisyahu "Broken Car"
  20. Three Legged Fox "We Are Electric"


#reviewoftheweek / "Wish I Was Here" soundtrack

Zach Braff hasn't directed a ton of movies, but the ones that he has directed have contained killer soundtracks. Case in point: "Garden State," which helped to launch the career of Cary Brothers and bring The Shins into the spotlight in a huge way. The same is to be said for Braff's latest "Wish I Was Here," which is both a drastically different movie and it's soundtrack is a different sounding compilation. This movie and music is very different from Braff's first, imparting a very introspective and somber quality. The soundtrack features two great new tunes by Bon Iver and The Shins as well as a terrific collaboration between Coldplay and indie songstress Cat Power. In addition to the new tunes, Braff digs deep into the archives for classics from Paul Simon, Gary Jules, and Badly Drawn Boy, and even includes Bon Iver's hit "Holocene" as well. Newcomers, Hozier and The Head And The Heart also contribute to the album, with The Head And The Heart's song closing out the album and summing up the compilation in the best way. The only (albeit minor) miss of the compliation is the lack of the inclusion of "Tangled Up In Blue" by Bob Dylan, which appears in the film, but not on the album. Zach Braff knows how to curate music and this album is proof that not only is he a great actor, writer, and director, but has a great ear for music and how it contributes to a film, driving it forward and developing emotion and connection to the visuals on screen.


#reviewoftheweek / Jon And Roy - By My Side

Hailing from north of the border in Canada, Jon And Roy bring their folk sound south mixing elements of the beach and the campfire through their acoustic stylings and sing-a-long storytelling. Their latest release is an abbreviated collection, however, it's packed full of great tunes. From the first single "Where'd My Light Go" to the title track, each song showcases how simplicity can seem complex through straightforward music and lyrics. This album can be both a great introduction to Jon And Roy's music or a welcome addition to their catalogue for the season fan. Either way, Jon And Roy continue to show their talents are at pace with even the most popular artists.


#reviewoftheweek / John Butler Trio - Flesh & Blood

John Butler Trio has always brought a unique twist to rock and roll and folk music since they formed and began putting out music. Their latest incarnation features a new drummer, but they're doing everything fans have come to expect from their music. This time around, however, they've left the harder stuff behind for a more rootsy and folksy sound. Each song tells a story, many from John personal life, while mixing lyrical excellence with some of the funkiest and, at time, mellowest instrumentation. "How You Sleep At Night" and "Spring To Come" are excellent specimens of the lyrically driven folk songs on this album. The funky stuff comes on the form of "Livin' In The City" and the first single "Only One." JBT bring elements of reggae and some killer electric guitar solos together on the album's longest song "Blame It On Me." The album is titled well as the band and it's namesake's flesh and blood are connected to each and every song on the album, and is a solid, and possibly the most connected, set of songs JBT has released to date.


#reviewoftheweek / Conor Oberst - Upside Down Mountain

The Bright Eyes singer is fully involved in his solo career, and this latest album has him transforming into a full blown modern singer/songwriter with roots in indie, folk, and a bit of jam rock. Conor Oberst is not an emo indie kid any more. This new album is a masterpiece in it's own right, drawing influences from his own career of excellent tunes and bring in a bit of rootsy folk rock similar to the likes of bands such as Dawes, The Head And The Heart, and The Lumineers. The best thing about the album is the connection the listener can make to the lyrics, drawing themselves into Oberst's world with his vivid imagery and witty observations. The standouts on the album are the radio-friendly "Zigzagging Towards The Light" and "Hundreds Of Ways" which showcases an excellent horn section. Conor Oberst is all grown up on this album and is securing his place amongst this generations top singer/songwriters. It is truly one of the year's best collections of music with some of the year's best compositions as well.


#reviewoftheweek / Matisyahu - Akeda

After being dubbed the Hasidic reggae superstar, Matisyahu is turning the tables once again. On his latest, he mixes his reggae with everything from sweeping spiritual melodies to hip hop and jam rock. The debut single, "Watch The Walls Melt Down," is sure to become as popular as his previous hit "King Without A Crown," simply because it is catchy and has pop rock reggae energy. There are surprises around every corner including songs like "Broken Car" and "Hard Way" which are less in your face and more in your soul. "Black Heart" and "Surrender" are sure to be great live staples as they showcase every aspect of Matisyahu's live energy in the studio. "Confidence," which features guest vocals from Collie Buddz, is the album's heaviest reggae tune, and reminds us why Matisyahu is who he is in the music world. Matisyahu has proven once and for all on this album that he is the real deal when it comes to his music, and there is certainly nothing gimmicky about it.