Tuesday Ten: Musical 180’s

By | September 23, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Even if you’re convinced that a band changing their sound is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, it’s perfectly natural for someone’s music to develop and shift from album to album. But every once in a while, those shifts are so dramatic that the early work ends up sounding like it was released by an entirely different band than the more recent material—especially if you listen to songs from each era back to back. In this week’s Tuesday Ten, our writers explore ten bands who have undergone this sort of musical 180 over the years.

A Rocket To The Moon

Starting as a solo pop experiment for vocalist Nick Santino in his bedroom, A Rocket To The Moon was born in 2006 and has since evolved drastically. The simple pop of his very first album Your Best Idea was comprised of auto-tuned vocals over uncomplicated melodies and generic beats, but that style of pop proved popular enough to catch the attention of a lot of fans and led Santino to blow up on Myspace. Eventually, Rocket changed into a full band pop rock outfit a couple of years later to become the band we are most familiar with today. The band swept us all up with their sticky-sweet hit “Dakota,” which is your typical teenage girl anthem. I jammed this song all through my freshman year of high school, completely obsessed with that cheesy movie kind of love story the song describes. Santino just might be the male equivalent of Taylor Swift. However, as the band grew, they progressed more and more into the acoustic, folk side of their sound. On the band’s final album, Wild and Free, they traded in sharp electric guitars for softly strummed acoustic ones, a humming violin, the gentlest tap of a snare drum, and even the twang of a steel guitar to take the band to the verge of country music. It’s a different sound to say the least, but one that A Rocket To The Moon have made their own. Lyrically, the music is still very similar, spanning themes of first love and the freedom of youth. The new music carefully rides the line between a pop sort of folk and lighthearted country. It’s a perfect soundtrack to those lazy, warm afternoons when you need something sweet as tea. Santino proves he can still sing a crazy catchy song, and his voice lends itself particularly well to the new sound. Even after the band’s breakup, Santino has kept with the genre and delved even further into country and folk through his solo project. While I’ve never been a country fanatic, I do like folk music, especially the brand Santino created with A Rocket To The Moon; this is one 180 I can definitely get behind. (Hannah Pierangelo)

blink-182

A friend of mine has a theory that everyone can find at least one blink-182 song that they like, and I think that’s mostly due to the band’s long 22 years together; their sound had to grow up with them. People obviously change a lot over such a long duration, and the guys of blink were no exception. The music they made in their teens and early 20s (Buddha, Cheshire Cat, and Dude Ranch) was based on jokes, out-of-tune guitars, and the frustration that comes along with growing up; but “growing up” is a theme they’ve never lost, despite now being adults with wives, children, and responsibilities.

blink’s sound became more polished around the time of Enema of the State and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, and they no longer sounded like they recorded in a garage. When I reached my last couple years of high school and was scared of my impending adulthood, those two albums were all I listened to for weeks. I have a vivid memory of sitting in gym class listening to “Going Away To College” and almost getting goosebumps because that song made me feel like I wasn’t alone in those scary “growing up” thoughts. When blink released their self-titled record, both their sound and songwriting appeared more mature than we had ever witnessed—probably because all three guys became fathers shortly before this record was dropped. The bathroom jokes were gone, replaced by the much darker topics of lost love, loneliness, and mental illness. To top it off, their sound was colored with synthesizers, strings, and bells, diverting once again from their roots. And after a four-year hiatus and each member working on other side projects, blink’s sound on Neighborhoods was completely reformed. Their current sound still gives off a more alternative rock feel, but I’ve always felt like the guys took the vibes from their hiatus side-projects (Angels & Airwaves, +44, and the thousands of bands Travis drummed for during that time) and incorporated elements from each. For example, so many guitar riffs on Neighborhoods are reminiscent of +44, and certain lyrics feel like they could easily fit into an Angels & Airwaves tune. Fans of blink can listen to the band grow from silly teenagers into legendary musicians over the years, and the music can take them through their own maturation into adulthood. (Danielle DeSisto)

Brand New

Brand New are the archetypal “punk goes indie” band—you know the kind. They went to Long Island hardcore shows, started a band, and made angsty music for kids to feel misunderstood to. Writing fast tunes about their ex-girlfriends, shitty friends, and the bittersweet memories of high school, the band first made their mark with their debut, Your Favorite Weapon. This era-appropriate sound was short-lived, but the angst dragged its feet through each release as their style evolved. In other words, Brand New grew up. (It’s hard to write songs about high school and cater to teens when you’re in your mid-twenties and you want to experiment.) The band’s sophomore release, Deja Entendu, was a careful compromise of the angsty pop punk of YFW and the stone cold emo/indie rock that the band wanted to test the waters with. The album allowed the band to try out some fancy reverb pedals and do a lot more than just playing a bunch of power chords and shouting about their breakups. Jesse Lacey reserved the raging shouts for the choruses or bridges of songs and carried the verses with his “handsome and smart” vocals.

The band brought out their deepest and darkest side on their third release, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, exposing the intimate articulations of depression, existential crises, and being alone. The instrumentation got more ambient and intricate and the vocals more diverse, ranging from full-out belting screams to haunting whispers. It was easy to see that the band was trying to take on a more mature and produced sound, but also wanted to be more thematic in their songwriting, and more creative in their execution. With their most recent release, Daisy, the band simply wanted to make a record they loved without really considering how fans may react; this yielded an experimental noisy record featuring different soundscapes, samples, and atmospheres to create a visceral and emotional experience for the listener. The album hops from no-frills indie rock to grunge to industrial to straight up unidentifiable. While the new sound was a bit polarizing to many fans, others found that it breathed new life into the band. And if you really dissect Daisy, it’s not all that different from Devil and God. The band used both albums to try new things; some liked it and others were disappointed that it didn’t sound identical to previous releases. But if there is one thing to understand about Brand New is that they will always be autonomous in each release; they call the shots and will always write according to what is relevant to them. Whether it’s screaming through a distortion pedal over deafening feedback or angrily shouting over four chords, Brand New will always be Brand New, and loyal fans will understand their progression. (Ethan Rose)

Bring Me The Horizon

If you’re a casual listener of Bring Me The Horizon, you might think that all of their music sounds heavy. But this is idobi Radio, and here, we don’t take music casually… and neither do you. Sure, the dramatic breakdowns, unclean vocals, and escalating riffs are all constants in their releases over the years, but Bring Me The Horizon have travelled from one end of the spectrum that belongs to the world of metalcore to the other over the past decade they’ve spent as a band, with four studio albums and three EPs to date. If you’re feeling particularly nostalgic, go back in time to when the band were in their teenage years with their first EP, This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For. Raw, harsh vocals seem to grate against sharp guitars for irresistible mosh-inducing anthems; if you could bottle the wall of death into a song, that’s exactly what the EP is made of. Fast forward two more years: Bring Me The Horizon released their debut Count Your Blessings, a thunderous record that doesn’t falter for a moment. The guitar work was furious and warped, and the drumming managed to match the set pace without becoming too overwhelming.

The band experimented with a whole new sound in Suicide Season, however. Long gone were Oli’s venomous growls and the overpowering of guitar distortions; gang vocals and chugging riffs were a staple of the sophomore album. By the time There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret was released, Bring Me established confidence in their sound, having stepped back from the onslaught of aggressive tones from their debut. And they showed it well by bringing in orchestral instrumentals that gave the music another dimension of depth. But the most significant change in the band’s sound came in the form of adding keyboardist Jordan Fish to the lineup during the writing of Sempiternal. The record is just as heavy and intense as Bring Me The Horizon’s first EP, but the similarities stop there. Electronically-layered sounds accentuate Sykes’ new vocal style that even delves into the realm of clean singing, showcasing the most mature, emotionally-charged lyrics we’ve seen from the band yet. And it has plenty to do with Sykes’ past with addiction, addressing his struggle head on, which stands in stark contrast to their “Party till you pass out, sleep till you’re dead” past (“Football Season Is Over”). In the band’s ten years, Bring Me The Horizon’s journey from furious metalcore/deathcore to a hard rock-influenced metal has expanded the definition of “metal” in the music world, and they’ve still got more up their sleeves. (Emily Yee)

Fall Out Boy

There’s a lot of things you can call Fall Out Boy, but don’t you dare say they’re safe. The band is known for taking big leaps of faith to try to avoid becoming stagnant, whether it be having Jay-Z give the introduction to their album, or coming out with a song after a four year hiatus that sounds nothing like their older material. In the beginning, FOB came out during a booming period of the pop punk scene, and their breakout album Take This To Your Grave has matured into a cult classic. Fast forward to 2014: the band just released their most recent single “Centuries”, a powerhouse radio hit with samples and a modern sound. Their discography offers a wide variety of sounds, starting with the angsty anthems set forth on TTTYG with gritty guitars, lyrics meant to be screamed out of car windows, and something refreshing at the time. Each album seemed to be a step toward a poppier sound, but still with a FOB twist on it. And throughout the years, as Patrick Stump’s voice grew, so did the production of the albums. Take Folie A Deux, where Stump stretches three octaves and features everyone from Elvis Costello to Lil Wayne, all the while dipping into many different genres, constant key changes, and an overall unique mish-mash of sound. Over the years they’ve become the kings that came from the Warped scene to arenas, and with that a backlash against them has come into fruition with a minority that like to cry out words like “sellouts”. But if Fall Out Boy are regarded as sellouts for that, then I guess I’m buying in, because I have full faith that they’re on the verge of another great record. (Joseph Britton)

Hellogoodbye

I first heard Hellogoodbye years ago when “Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn” spread like a virus through my middle school. Their goofy electro-pop punk charmed adolescent hearts worldwide with the following hits, “Bonnie Taylor Shake Down” and “Here (In Your Arms)”. After leaving scene staple Drive-Thru Records, however, the band took a major turn in their sound. Beginning with 2010’s Would It Kill You? and continuing into their latest album, Everything Is Debatable, you’ll discover they’ve morphed into an indie pop band in the same vein as Passion Pit and Atlas Genius. The band still has electronic elements and Forrest Kline’s youthful voice, but they’ve significantly smoothed out the edges on their music. The lyrics now form existential love songs, rather than the simple high school pinings of the band’s first two releases. The music videos as well contain less and less of the self-deprecating humor dominating their first videos, featuring a stoic Kline floating through the woods instead. While Hellogoodbye’s new sound is a logical maturation within the context of the current music scene, I can’t help but feel incredibly nostalgic whenever one of those middle school jams graces my ears. (Catherine Yi)

The Maine

In the game of musical 180s, one name comes to mind before all others: The Maine. The quintet came together in 2007, and have since changed every rule in their own book. After putting out two EPs in their first year, they honed their skills to the maximum ability on their first full-length, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. Chant-alongs like “Girls Do What They Want” and piano-led pop songs like “Into Your Arms” ensured that they were considered one of the leading pop rock bands of the day. Even with remarkably catchy choruses and the 100% one-of-a-kind vocal stylings of John O’Callaghan, the band were lacking something important in this era of their existence. The missing quality was innovation, and its deficiency was apparent in their striking similarities to other late 2000’s pop rock acts. Fast forward two years to the release of Black & White, and for the most part, you’ll find more of the same pop rock action found on its predecessor. But looking back, the album was more of a fortune teller than we realized, with songs like “Growing Up” showcasing a mature vibe and slower tempo, and “Right Girl” boasting picture-painting lyricism wrapped in a pop beat. Had we been paying enough attention, we might have been able to predict what was to come on 2011’s Pioneer. In almost no time at all, the band threw out every old mindset on what their music was to be and came back in a more powerful way, with a brand new genre to their name: alternative rock. In the same way Black & White held traces of a cultivated, inventive future, Pioneer owned a few markings of their radio-worthy past; for the most part, however, it was an entirely new edition of The Maine. The songs were written in a whole new way, and passion was exploding from every single note. The Maine had found their niche, and no one could argue that. By bringing guitar riffs straight from the 90s, adding a knowledgable intensity to the drumbeat and bass line, and honing O’Callaghan’s strengths, Pioneer became known as an alt rock album with more emotion than a freshman’s first homecoming. After Pioneer came Forever Halloween, and the progression was as natural as they come. By diving deeper into alternative rock, the band managed to abolish every one of their pop rock qualities on the collection. The saddest of the tracks are absolutely crushing, and those with a more upbeat pulse are crafted in a way we haven’t heard since 1997. More jaded, and infinitely more emotional, the album earned every ounce of respect it now owns. So what’s next? With this much change in their history, we can never be sure. What we do know is a band with as much integrity as The Maine can only go up from here, and we can’t wait to see which star they land on next. (Emillie Marvel)

Never Shout Never

Over the years, Christofer Drew has traded in his acoustic guitar for a ukulele, and then traded that in for a harmonica and a banjo. He even got a haircut and traded in his solo act for a full-fledged band called The Shout. He’s pretty much been all over the place musically—ranging anywhere from entertaining the Warped Tour scene to channeling the likes of Bob Dylan—since bursting onto the scene under the moniker nevershoutnever! in 2008 (thanks, Myspace), but the impressive latest album is definitely what I consider to be his best sound yet. Of course, I sang (perhaps even still sing, but that’s our little secret) every song on The Yippee EP like a singalong, but nevershoutnever!’s transformation into NeverShoutNever! and ultimately Never Shout Never was welcomed. The band’s earlier EP’s had a distinct, boyish, and playful sound that leans a little more toward catchy pop music rather than their hippie-vibe tunes or their all-over-the-map experimentation. But when Drew stopped cramming all of his song titles into single words and using all lowercase (i.e. “bigcitydreams”, “smelyalata”, etc.), it was like he grew up. A more mature Never Shout Never—boasting a more mature voice as well—birthed a more sophisticated, developed project like Time Travel, which showed off Drew’s vocal ability and natural talent by perfecting just about any instrument he gets his hands on. It was with Time Travel that Never Shout Never essentially traveled through time from past to present, discovering uncharted territory that resulted in their latest albums Indigo and Sunflower. After listening to the latest 2013 release, it’s hard to believe the seasoned, developed sound is coming from the same Christofer Drew. Like a sunflower in full bloom, Never Shout Never shines bigger and brighter now than ever before. (Alyson Stokes)

Panic! At The Disco

Pretty. Odd. is probably the best way to describe Panic! At The Disco’s musical progression—so much so that it’s what they named their second album. Of course, anyone who’s ever spent more than two minutes observing frontman Brendon Urie (aka “the guy from Vine”) will completely understand that just one genre couldn’t possibly capture his talents. The synths, accordions, and organs of their smash debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out may have put them on the road to superstardom, but no one could guess what would come next. Their response to being shoved into the spotlight was…to completely reinvent themselves through Pretty. Odd., which came out sounding more like The Beatles than the Panic! we knew and loved (it was even recorded at Abbey Road). Where had the polished, overly ironic tones gone? Where was the drama? Where was the eyeliner? Nowhere to be found. But it wasn’t gone for long—Vices & Virtues brought back that theatrical element, becoming the happy medium of the previous albums, whilst moving into the less-polarizing world of alternative. As “Memories” says, “Should have known right at the start you can’t predict the end”; while there is still the “big sound” from their debut and mellow tones from their second album, it was still yet another change for the band. It’s almost like their trademark style is simply that they don’t have one, showcased perfectly by latest album Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die, which is—you guessed it—another stylistic turn. If you’d have said at the start of the band’s career they’d be putting out a dance pop record without a single “Really Long Song Title That Became Their Trademark”, they’d have laughed in your face. But to criticize any of the band’s eclectic discography would be wrong. With any other band, fans would have given up on them, but with Panic!, it’s so… them. There’s no point going into their discography with any expectations, other than having the time of your life. The glorious pop hooks present on every album may have been pulled about, dressed up, and revamped in so many ways, but they’re all essentially the same—irresistible, over the top, and completely unique to Panic! At The Disco. (Alex Bear)

The Reason

There was once a time when you couldn’t go to a Southern Ontario hardcore show without seeing at least three kids in The Reason’s, then trademark, crown hoodie; it was a natural part of the scenery (pun intended). The band’s aggressive early work fit perfectly into the burgeoning post hardcore scene of the time—a little corner of the world that bred success stories like Silverstein and Alexisonfire. So when The Reason released their sophomore record Things Couldn’t Be Better in 2007, it was a bit surprising for anyone expecting something they could throw down to. The down-tuned guitars and “Fuck you” screams of songs like “Red Skies At Dawn” were replaced with a more polished alt rock sound that even ventured into the world of indie pop at times (see “We’re So Beyond This,” their biggest radio hit to date). But any fans who were surprised by that turn needed to buckle up for what the band would do next. Their most recent full-length Fools and subsequent EP Hollow Tree saw The Reason fully embrace the jaunty alt country vibe that had, over the years, taken over Southern Ontario’s musical landscape. Where Things Couldn’t Be Better still showed traces of their earlier music’s lighter moments, Fools fully left The Reason of the past behind at the side of the highway. But all these stylistic shifts may have been for the best; while nearly all of their early 2000’s colleagues have long since broken up, The Reason are still truckin’ along. And thanks to the versatility of the band dude aesthetic, they’ve weathered the changes armed with flannel shirts, skinny jeans, and a smile. (Eleanor Grace)

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