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Hoobastank – Fight or Flight

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Well over 3-and-a-half years since 2009’s For(N)ever and just about 3 following a slick “Ghostbusters” cover, Hoobastank returns with Fight or Flight, marking a fresh start and more creative control over material. Now on independent label Open E Entertainment, Hoobastank feels like it’s still shaking off the big label blues, just realizing that the band can stretch its limbs and get steady on its feet.

That said, the first three tracks sound like a middle finger held high at the Top 40 ethos—maybe Island too, but there doesn’t appear to be any acrimony. Opener “This is Gonna Hurt” walks the crossover plane of metal and post-grunge confidently, uninhibited like a shrieking kettle on top of a stove. Plus it has a pretty entertaining video, a sort of The Metamorphosis, Falling Down and Death to Smoochy hybrid. “You Before Me,” an athemic love song, will be sure to get crowds banging their heads at a live show. “The Fallen” sounds like a knowing nod to “Crawling in the Dark.” But it’s not a retread at all; the vocals are much more assured and mature.

“Can You Save Me” is a dip into the indie pool; the guitar work is organic and fluid. The track is a good companion piece for the paean-to-the-road “No Destination,” destined to be a tour theme and hallmark. “Destination” demands to be heard, but at the same time has a spiritual quality to the lyrics with its introspection. Hoobastank is spilling out the past 23 years here; the material isn’t so much catharsis as it is a chronicle, so we’re left to wonder what will come next on this new road for the band.

“Slow Down” charms with its dreamy and beachy opening, and serves as part of Fight or Flight’s calmer side. The track has a great hook and probably the best harmonies on the album. Everything is kicked into high gear again with “No Win Situation,” fast-paced and pumping.

Hoobastank has a knack for the melodic on this album. “Sing What You Can’t Say” displays the band’s strong suit for a honeyed moment full of emotion. “Magnolia” is a sing-songy piece that adds to Fight or Flight’s emotional climax. It builds and surprises.

“Incomplete” is breezy and fun. The closer “1000 Words” is a refreshing change of pace, almost like a medieval bard song and kiss goodbye to the Hoobastank that once was—something this unusual ought to continue to appear in the band’s future catalog. Ballads are a strong suit for Hoobastank, anyway.

Fight or Flight is a highlight amongst the band’s album. Hoobastank sounds like it’s finally found a comfortable songwriting niche. There’s still some need to settle into the new label digs—the thrashing sounds are earnest but the guys could channel their maturity into them. It’s a brave new world—don’t be afraid to experiment.

CD Reviews

Transistor-on Takes “The Way Back Down” on EP

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Transistor-on calls their goods “fuzzed out reverb music,” and in the spirit of post-rock, EP The Way Back Down is full of that melodious texture and sensation. Recorded at The Cottage with Damon Moon, The Way Back Down is a mere four tracks. But those songs make a satisfying sampling of a band with a big future ahead.

Atlanta duo Joey Piersante and Chris Armistead offer up a hazy fugue state that is the blueprint for this coming summer, showing that they can run with the best of the lo-fi crowd with their unique rhythms and finger-picking. The minimalist use of instruments that whip up the dream poppy wall of sound succeeds in taking the listener in a layered, chill journey.

Tracks like “Calling Out” and “Solar Flare” are so catchy (the former with its title refrain; the latter with its main guitar melody), that they etch onto your brain and trick you into thinking these are songs that have been around for maybe 20 years or so already.

Reviewers are throwing out comparisons—and they’ll continue to—of Transistor-on to Explosions in the Sky. The similarities are there for sure; both bands share a genre, after all. But saying only “they remind me of Explosions in the Sky” overlooks the fact that Transistor-on are stepping out in earnest on this EP, sounding comfortable in their skin without being jaded. Plus, having smoky vocals on the tracks adds to the spacey miasma and mystery that serves as the overarching feel of the record. The singing on “Empty Planet,” for example, highlights the track’s slow burn into its rocking guitar-driven crescendo.

Though the last piece on The Way Back Down is called “Exit,” by no means is that a harbinger of the band’s future. Transistor-on closes with a sure-footed tapestry of distortion and crisp rhythm, wrapping up a consistent and skillful release that definitely marks their arrival.

The Way Back Down is available to stream on SoundCloud or for purchase on iTunes. The gorgeous photo cover by Richard Casteel.

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Muse “Drones” Review

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Emily Hearn Saves Time in a Bottle on “Hourglass”

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Emily Hearn’s sonic journey on Hourglass shows that she is a woman coming into her own, figuring out the knots of past heartache, the bliss of newlywed life, and the passage of time.

Time acts as the overarching narrative on the record; Hourglass spans the two years following the Athens, GA native’s debut Red Balloon and 2013 EP Promises. “We fall in or out of love as time moves us,” she explains. “We learn life-changing lessons as time goes on. We figure out how to handle important relationships as time shapes us. We decide who we want to be and what we believe as time reveals our priorities. And ultimately, we grow older as time goes by.”

Hearn sings wistfully “Oh, to be young, and to have time” on the third track “Oak Tree,” longing for the naïve feeling that time would never move forward, or at least not so fast. She frets over seeing her parents age so quickly. The existential worries of a twenty-something come delivered in a package of a catchy, infectious chorus and clap-along-able melody.

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