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Albums of the Week

One Direction
“Midnight Memories”
Columbia, Nov 2013

After stealing the hearts of millions of pre-teen girls everywhere, One Direction seems to be on top of the world, reaching multi-platinum status. On their new album “Midnight Memories,” the boys play around with a lot of ideas, with music ranging from alternative rock to a Mumford & Son’s-ish folk sound.

The alternative rock side of the band shines in the title track of the album, thanks to skilled guitar riffs, especially coming from a pop boy band. But on “You and I,” the band devolves back into what they do best, with slow, sappy acoustics and lyrics: “Not even the gods above can separate the two of us/nothing can come between you and I.” It’s likely to play at a lot of school dances.

By far the best track comes with “Little Black Dress,” made up of uneven beats and classic-rock guitar solo that sounds like a Rick Springfield or Survivor song, not often heard from boy bands. The verse, “I wanna see how you move for me baby,” will play on repeat for days on end, thanks to its catchiness.

“Through the Dark” cashes in on that Americana-folk edge. It comes with fantastic, fast acoustic strumming and stomping. “Story Of My Life” continues that pace, and it sounds good on them.

But then the band goes into pop-rock territory again with “Does He Know,” an easy throwback to Rick Springfield’s “Jessies Girl.” There are minor differences in the tempo but the instrumentals are almost identical. In keeping with that ’80s era of music, “Diana” follows in echoing vocals and percussion.

The boys have drifted from cliché happy pop sounds which often hypnotize younger fans. Their evolution is palpable with the numerous rock influences emerging from “Midnight Memories.” Though different from their previous works, I’d say they’re heading in the right direction.

Polar Bear Club
“Death Chorus”
Rise, Nov 2013

If you’re a fan of pop punk band Polar Bear Club, it quickly becomes obvious within the first minute of “Death Chorus” that lead singer Jimmy Stadt mixes things up by changing his vocals. Rather than a scratchy scream, he sings a new range of notes to give the illusion of a higher pitch. This allows Polar Bear Club to break through and steer away from the many bands that are similar to them, such as Fireworks, The Swellers, Transit, and Such Gold.

Stadt’s voice sounds best in the moving yet cold track “Siouxsie Jeanne.” It’s the slowest song on the album and has a bittersweet theme. The reminiscing track “When We Were College Kids” gives a fond look back at good times, which all listeners can relate to. Musically, the album is dripping in energy, simple guitar riffs, soaring melodies, and edgy harmonies.

Polar Bear Club comes back with the clearest, freshest sound of all time from their dirty garage punk past. While not perfect, the change of vocal style signals great new things to come from the band and their ability to create more diverse music.

Title Fight
“Spring Songs”
Revelation, Nov 2013

For the ADHD more edgy listener, “Spring Songs” is for you. Title Fight comes back with the same rowdy, loud musicality on their new EP.

The stage dive-worthy opening track “Blush” is the most jarring on the album. It leaves the listener begging for more thrashing instrument playing, which is given in the following tracks. There is a very tightly strummed urgency to the tempo of each song on the EP, especially in “Be A Toy.”

They’re quintessential Title Fight: rambunctious, young and a bit rebellious.Though I am quite fond of this EP, there isn’t really any new twists or jaw-dropping changes that make a single track stand out. It’s simply Title Fight.

Lady Gaga
“Artpop”
Interscope, Nov 2013

Lady Gaga has always been known for her weird, eccentric style and acts, but she may have gone overboard with “Artpop.”

Though she created such a huge shtick, thanks to the popularity of songs like “Bad Romance,” “Pokerface” and “Born This Way,” it feels like she overcompensates in her “look” to make up for her lack of music-making skills.

Sure, her ridiculous, in-your-face outfits and unique sideshow concerts attract many. But when listening to her catalogue of music, songs that didn’t top the charts sounded like fillers and nothing more. Mostly, they are lukewarm and lack creative writing.

And so is the case for every song off Gaga’s “Artpop.” The writing appears even worse (In the track “Dope”, she literally repeats “need you more than dope” over and over again). The sound comes off as discomforting noise—and, quite frankly, I just don’t get it. “Gypsy” ends with her merely naming places (“Russia, U.K, Paris / I’m Italian, Asian kompai / Africa, India, I’m a gypsy, I’m a gypsy, I’m a gypsy / I’m Latin-American / I don’t speak German, but I try / Someday in Jakarta…”) The chorus to almost every song remains overly repetitive.

I get that Lady Gaga is trying to create an unpredictable personality, but the way she expresses it in song sucks. Overall, this is a really disappointing album. I’m sorry to the thousands of Lady Gaga fans everywhere, but I just don’t get her music.

Cheap Time
“Exit Smiles”
In The Red, Nov 2013

When a new band has the ability to take music from decades ago and remake the same turbulent sound of classic punk-rock and grunge, I’d say it’s astounding. Cheap Time perfects this way of playing on their newest album “Exit Smiles.”

Vocalist Jeffrey Novak opens the album sounding like many idols of classic punk, such as Iggy Pop and Joe Strummer. He takes the listener back to the 1970s, punk’s blooming time. “Kill The Light” plays the same riff over and over again, while Novak’s voice rarely moves to a different note. It restores punk’s simplicity. They maintain the crackling and tricky melodies in “Slow Variety,” another track sure to entice mosh pits aplenty.

The thing that makes Cheap Time stand out is not only their ability to make the listener feel like they’re traveling through a brilliantly guided tour through the decades of punk, but how well they do it. The authentic punk style they’ve recreated shows the versatility of the group’s abilities to make sweeping waves of sound that classic punk listeners miss. They certainly know what they are doing and apply it almost perfectly to their music.

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