eli @kampsin

there's no relief in bitterness

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Hello Fascination by Breathe Carolina
Music Reviews - July 28, 2012

Synthlines that are merely stitched together, with a mixture of clean and screamed vocals, are to blame for a 49-minute adventure that bends the limits of a good flowing piece, at the high cost of lasting effect. With tracks that would feel at home in an anthology of post-hardcore, a catalog of dance, or as the backdrop for a chase scene in an episode of Phineas & Ferb, Breathe Carolina's Hello Fascination is a nugget in the land of variety. Many of the tracks swap catchiness for assortment, making for an interesting, but far from enduring entry in the electronic/dance directory.

Few songs stood out from the pack, but the tracks that did were phenomenal. The title track's guitar part, mixed with an electronic aura builds up to a chorus that never really climaxes, yet does the song justice with serene, clean vocals, mashed up in a flurry of screamo and dance concord. A cool breakdown lacks clear direction with overpowering synths and an uttered bridge, but bellowed cries amid the final seconds cement the tune in a laser-sealed, neon coffin. "I.D.G.A.F." is a chief case of music penned specifically to rouse a need to shout along from a listener irate with the outside world. A seemingly offbeat synthline with an ambitious augmentation, "I.D.G.A.F." (an acronym for "I don't give a" … … … friend?) is without doubt the climax of the album in atmospheric terms. An auto-tuned chorus can stir a bit of trouble in an effort to sing along, but the identifying lyrics are prominent. The daring conglomeration warrants a more enthusiastic bridge, but is quite inconspicuous, prior to a final synthline and chorus that feel entirely tacked on primarily to lengthen the final product.

"I Have to Go Return Some Video Tapes," an homage to a Christian Bale line in the movie "American Psycho," only lacks a catchy chorus in the effort to beseech the listener. A bridge redolent of Chiodos' Craig Owens' vocal stylings and a polished mix of screaming and singing successfully set this track apart from its predecessors.

With an absence of any tracks worth sharing among friends, it's no surprise that Hello Fascination saw minimal chart success, only reaching #43 on the Billboard 200. The tracks often lack mixing critical to the listening process, but can throw the listener from their chair in a heartbeat with the sometimes - emphasis on sometimes - transcendent melodies and monotonous dance beats. Stick to these singles and steer clear from "The Dressing Room" on Tap Tap Revenge 3, and you may very well be able to consider yourself a fan.

Bat Out Of Hell by Meat Loaf
Music Reviews - July 28, 2012

Sure, everyone's heard of Michael Jackson's Thriller, the number one selling album worldwide of all time. But those same people should be familiar with, or make themselves familiar with the 5th album of the list. Meat Loaf (I don't mean the meat dish consisting of ground meat, that's all one word) hit it big in 1977 when collaborating with composer Jim Steinman to produce Bat Out Of Hell, a piano-rock experience selling over 200,000 albums worldwide a year, still. The 43-minute album consists of only seven tracks, some over eight minutes long, but never grows dull.

Side One:
Opening with "Bat Out Of Hell," the album immediately demonstrates a style that will become iconic to Meat Loaf, in that he can seamlessly switch styles mid-song (sometimes even mid-sentence, see: "Paradise By The Dashboard Light"). "Bat Out Of Hell" came about as Steinman's attempt to write the "most extreme crash song of all time." The lyrics, which enter after a dramatic 2-minute intro focusing on piano (another critical aspect to Meat Loaf's success) and guitar, tell the story of a star-crossed lover who loses his way, and ends with a dramatic motorcycle accident sparked by the failure to notice a "sudden curve 'til it's way too late." The motorcycle sounds incorporated into the song were the work of guitarist and producer Todd Rundgren, rather than an actual motorcycle.

"You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth" follows the 10-minute anthem album introduction telling the story of a boy experiencing what I'm sure is a common occurrence in any relationship as he describes: "You took the words right out of my mouth. Oh and I swear it's true, I was just about to say-ay, 'I love you (lo-ove you)'," over an instrumental accompaniment reminiscent of Puerto Rican singer José Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad."

When compared to the coming gems on side two of the album (for the new age techies out there, yes, at one point CDs, ignorantly called "records" at the time, had 2 sides!), "Heaven Can Wait" and "All Revved Up With No Place To Go" are weak additions to the Meat Loaf catalog.

Side Two:
When presented with the challenge of writing a "simple song," Steinman produced this treasure, a play on the Elvis single "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You," with the kind of clever wordplay one has come to expect from Steinman after the first 21 minutes and 39 seconds. "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad" sees Meat Loaf (he performs the songs, Steinman writes 'em. Get it?) breaking the heart of a woman whom he needs… whom he wants … but one whom he can never love.

Track 6 in your iTunes library (which falls between Mayday Parade and Men Without Hats when sorted by artist, right?) is the most captivating song of the album, sure to produce a smile as the listener will go from trying to understand some sort of complicated love story - to rooting for the protagonist as he tries for a "homer." "Paradise by the Dashboard Light (a duet with Ellen Foley)" is divided into three chapter-like chunks. The opening of the song sees our boy and his girl reminiscing of a night parked under the stars, with potential to become hot n' heavy, set to a 50s-like diner type of melody and an anthem-ic chorus. But the listener is guaranteed to be caught off guard about three minutes in as… Well, I won't ruin the surprise. A baseball broadcast set over an almost disco feeling hook sets the stage for an increasingly sexy night. The rest of the song is sure to leave the listener satisfied, amused, and exhilarated.

The "closer" (in marching band terms) is unfortunately a total letdown following my (sorry for the personal opinion here) absolute favorite song of the 70s. "For Crying Out Loud" pressures a common male frustration, as Meat Loaf proclaims "For crying out loud, you know I love you!"

And I'll leave you with only a few parting words: for crying out loud, buy this album!

K.O.D. by Tech N9NE
Music Reviews - July 28, 2012

Littered with skits, rapper Tech N9NE (hailing from Kansas City)'s new album never loses its flow. A member of the often overlooked horrorcore genre, Tech N9NE's lyrics are reminiscent moreso of a metal band than a rapper (and when was the last time a rapper had meaningful lyrics?) The album "K.O.D.", an acronym for "King Of Darkness," is separated into three lyrical sections, but each song/skit leads smoothly into the next, with the album telling a story of its own.

Part 1: Anger:
Prior to the album's introduction, a warning to the listeners of what's to come, Show Me A God, the first single from the album tugs at religious belief as Aaron Dontez Yates, better known by his stage name Tech N9NE, asks for proof of a God in response to his mother (to whom he has dedicated the album) falling ill. Track 3, Demons features a guest verse from Three 6 Mafia, but Demons and Blackened The Sun can turn the listener away before Strange Music Box, with its catchy synthlines and killer rhymes. Tracks 6-8 are very lacking in melody and are hard to listen to, but had I stopped here, I would've missed every gem on the album.

Part 2: Madness:
Beginning with an interesting track featuring very bare drum machine sound over a "hunterish" rap, Madness seems to be a collection of short, often disturbing stories. The Pick Up (Skit) is an introduction to In The Trunk, a hopefully fictional story of Yates' endeavors as an entrepreneur selling albums out of his trunk. Pinocchiho (his spelling) is absolutely ridiculous, and Horns (feat. King Gordy & Prozak) almost gets annoying, but is thankfully followed by a skit and one of the most iconic songs of the album, It Was An Accident (feat. Alan Wayne). Alan Wayne, an up-and-coming rapper from the KC area sports an unforgettable guest verse as he tells a tale of a day, which would only classify as an accident in the most twisted sense.

Part 3: The Hole:
Track 17, Low, is an autobiographical account of Yates' trouble in coping with his mother's sickness, as well as other personal experiences, all while at the peak of stardom (being labeled for a time as "number one independent rapper in the world.") Leave Me Alone is iconic to rap of today and wouldn't be out of place in the ranks of today's mainstream rap. K.O.D. (introducing Mackenzie O'Guin) is Yates' vision of a more perfect world and is almost haunting when accompanied by the ghostly piano and Kerli-"esque" vocals of Mackenzie O'Guin (presumably new to the scene as the album liner "introduces," rather than "features" her). The Martini (feat. Krizz Kaliko) ends K.O.D. fittingly, as "the martini," in movie terms, is used by directors to describe the last shot of the day while on set.

As a full album, "K.O.D." is easily the best rap album I've heard, also receiving a rating of 9/10 from RapReviews and 84/100 by famous music publication Billboard. Its bass-heavy beats never lack, and the captivating storytelling throughout the entire album should easily suffice its lack of radio hits. Take a chance, be independent, and find a new act to introduce your friends to.

Up All Night by One Direction
Music Reviews - July 28, 2012

I tried to hate them. I really, really did. I scoffed at their performance on Saturday Night Live, and it was all I could do to contain my laughter when someone requested "What Makes You Beautiful" at The Wildcat 91.9, which is why it pains me oh so very much to make this announcement… – I, Elijah Stephen Kampsen listened to One Direction's "Up All Night" in its entirety, and I, well, I liked it! It seems the sensation that's sweeping the pre-teen nation is the seemingly perfectly engineered One Direction. Now, I say "perfectly engineered" specifically because people joke about Disney "designing" our next pop icons. But this is not a joke. An album this perfectly poppy could only be the result of major scientific advancement.

"Up All Night" opens with the infectious lead single "What Makes You Beautiful." My first reaction upon beholding the guitar melody and cowbell intro was "well, maybe this won't suck as bad as I'd thought." Boy was I right. The single helms the pop-authority only associated with such major market successes as Hot Chelle Rae's "Tonight Tonight." "Gotta Be You" opens with a masterfully-crafted synthetic symphonic string number which soon dissolves into the equivalent of a prepubescent rendition of The Verve's iconic "Bittersweet Symphony." I had a hard time determining whether the chorus was an apocalypse of auto-tune or a completely killer chorale - courtesy of Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson.

Another highlight of the album (warning: the highlights all come pretty early) is the inconceivably contagious "One Thing." If I could only say "one thing" about this track, it's that I truly hate how much I like it. If you thought it couldn't get catchier than "What Makes You Beautiful," you're in for quite the popsicle (that's Kampsen-slang for "summer treat"). Next, the acoustic synths of the effectively slow "More Than This" are truly mesmerizing, redolent of Adam Lambert's somber "Soaked."

It is at this point that I truly wish I could say it only gets better, but I suppose my avid followers have come to trust me and thus expect only 100% accurate journalism. It is for this reason that I am legally (probably) obligated to say that it's all downhill from here. With the exception of "I Want," which I will discuss shortly, the solid remainder of the album soon liquefies into the mere definition of "generic radio pop." The boys wanna stay out way past curfew in "up all night." They don't want to "na na na na na" in "I Wish," and they want to be told a lie in "Tell Me A Lie"… It's altogether shoddy blah blah blah. "Taken" does offer some truly shallow lyrics for a truly shallow lady – "You only want me when I'm taken / Now that you can't have me, you suddenly want me." Relatable? Sure. Poetic? About as much so as "roses are red."

What I really want is more tracks like "I Want" on the album. It briefly breaks the mold of the wholly lackluster final 70% of the album with its jazzy and unique style, but the success is short-lived. "Everything About You," "Same Mistakes," "Save You Tonight," and "Stole My Heart" offer nothing more than a garbled soundtrack for PG teen romance, ending the album on a slapdash note.

I had to restrain myself from noting individually that nearly every song has aspects of an Adam Lambert single, but that's not a bad thing. The high points of "Up All Night" are truly high, and the low points really don't dip to an unlistenable low. It seems "Up All Night" would have made a truly great 4-song EP – my picks?: "What Makes You Beautiful," "One Thing," "More Than This," and "I Want."

Wow. Now that I've openly admitted these five guys' rule over my heart, I feel I need to redeem myself in some way. I think I'll go enlist.

Go Download: "One Thing"

The Hearts Of Lonely People by Isles & Glaciers
Music Reviews - July 28, 2012

When word of a new Craig Owens project hit the virtual streets, I choked on my bowl of Berry Colossal Crunch at the announcement of Isles and Glaciers. Featuring members of Chiodos, Cinematic Sunrise, Emarosa, Pierce The Veil, and The Sound Of Animals Fighting, this post-hardcore "supergroup" (Stop rolling your eyes. The people whom this review should appeal to will be familiar with this list) released their debut EP (extended play), The Hearts Of Lonely People, early this year. A collection of 7 electronic-heavy, heavy electronic anthems should suffice as a breakthrough for the particularly hard to schedule band (seeing as all the members have primary projects to focus on).

Opening with the instrumental track "Kings and Chandeliers," Hearts wastes no time preparing the listener for 25 minutes of pure bliss (with just a hint of rage). The intro blends seamlessly into the first vocal track, "Hills Like White Elephants" as Craig Owens (who honestly was Chiodos prior to his departure in 2009) serenades the listener with a falsetto more fitting to a James Blunt cover band, but iconic to Owens who sports a Shakespearian-inspired tattoo across his upper chest reading "All The World's A Stage." Also inspiring the title of the disc, "Hills" sports a recurring, almost haunting, echo not differing to that of a heart monitor aside a hospital bed.

"Clush" begins with a seemingly distorted hook, laying the groundwork for a beautiful harmony. Craig Owens makes his entrance as the chorus, definitely worthy of a crowd echoing back to the star-studded, though fittingly dark, stage, sends chills down a metaphoric spine. The hymn falls into silence as the plucking of a string instrument sends the track off appropriately.

"Empty Sighs & Wine" might as well be Panic! At The Disco revival (just a tinge heavier) as the lyrics ("I want to tell you, by the way, I think I ruined your party…") bring the troubled listener down to a pop radio level, and introduce them to an awful new synth setting on their Casio keyboard. Track 4 fades into track 5, "Oceans For Backyards," another instrumental filled with an evocative bell kit melody layered atop a distorted keyboard similar to that of the cursed keyboard of MSTRKRFT.

"Oceans" seems to serve as a second introduction to "Viola Lion" (can you have two introductions on an album?, because it doesn't feel like an interlude). With a talent for penning metaphorical magic, it is likely that the lyrics spanning much of the album should not be attributed to Owens. A deficit of poetic aptitude can only be at fault for "bury me, bury me, diamonds, diamonds, are you all in the sky?" But it's almost worthy of rooming in my iTunes library primarily for said "evocative bell kit melody."

A 7-minute ballad leaves the listener in a sort of "what did I just subject myself to?" state of mind, as the album caps off wide of the mark. If album art and a guest list are enough to sell an album (they are, trust me), then this debut should perform extraordinarily well, but if readers are willing to put their faith in my listening ability (trust me), save yourself $6 and help me push "Clush" to a full bar of popularity on iTunes.

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