Confused by Drones

I have been a pwoper Muser for a long time, and I have to admit I was a bit nervous about their new album. The singles they have released have given me mixed feelings: I went absolutely mental after the first sounds of Psycho, got really disappointed and nervous after hearing Dead Inside, was not that impressed by Mercy, got a little uplifted and hopeful after hearing Reapers, got ecstatic when I heard The Handler, and sort of liked Defector but wasn’t overly enthusiastic. The album as a whole was no different. I think they gave me the biggest music-shock of my entire life… After listening to their newest album Drones a few minutes ago, I am mostly amused and confused.
The album is once again driven by a story. Matt has said that “To me, ‘Drones’ are metaphorical psychopaths which enable psychopathic behaviour with no recourse.  The world is run by Drones utilizing Drones to turn us all into Drones.  This album explores the journey of a human, from their abandonment and loss of hope, to their indoctrination by the system to be a human drone, to their eventual defection from their oppressors.” Although there is a specific background story, I can hear the not so subtle hints of Matt’s break-up with Kate on the album, and it is not a very friendly album for Kate. Matt has said that he dislikes the Hollywood lifestyle, which Kate leads, and that has been one of the reasons for breaking up their engagement. When the album talks about being dead inside, being free from inter-societies, and home becoming a killing field, it is hard not to connect some dots.
The opener, Dead Inside, grew on me quite slowly. Some fans were thrilled to hear a new Undisclosed Desires and others (like me for example) started to lose hope to ever hear Muse that really goes under your skin. The drum-based songs are not my favorite, but luckily Dead Inside has some great guitar parts as well, and the message of the song is quite powerful.
Psycho is intro-d in by a drill sergeant and a rookie yelling (which continues in the song itself). For me the whole song is a huge wink for the fanbase. First of all, using a riff they have been playing live forever as an outro for Stockholm Syndrome. Secondly, the lyrics: “Your ass belongs to me now”. No other band can do that without pissing a lot of people off. For me, it’s just hilarious, and makes me feel like a fresh Muser once more. The song gave me hope after The 2nd Law, which is probably my least favorite Muse album so far.
Mercy, the third song on the album, first reminded me of U2 just like some of my least favorite songs on The 2nd Law. I have nothing against U2, but Muse have such a distinctive sound of their own, and they don’t need to copy anyone. Mercy was compared to Starlight by some fans. I wouldn’t make that comparison, but there are some old Muse sounds from the Black Holes and Revelations -era.
Reapers has an 80’s feel to it. The beginning really reminds me of Footloose, but the mood changes, and there are some fantastic guitar bits. Matt is really putting it out there. The outro gives the song a feel of a live performance. It is a bit weird to write an outro like that to include on the album, but I am not complaining! There is a funny bit repeated throughout the song where a man screams “drones”, and a robot voice answers what sounds like “huuuman”, but is “killed by”. It’s like the man screams and the drones answer. It’s funny…
The fifth song, The Handler, is a pwoper Muse song that has great mood, guitar, and chill-worthy vocals. In addition to Psycho, The Handler has the promised old Muse sound. It reminds me of Fury, Butterflies and Hurricanes, and Take a Bow. The Handler is absolutely one of the strongest songs on the album. Reading comments on fan pages on Facebook, it seems to be the favorite song on Drones for the majority of Musers.
Defector is preceded by an intro which is a speech by JFK. The melody and mood of the intro reminds me of Resistance, and Invincible. It’s quite lovely. Defector is not my favorite song, but it’s still one of the best songs on the album. It somehow makes me laugh, because I keep imagining Matt jamming and singing “I’m free-e-e-e”. I also feel strong fan-flashbacks when Matt says “bwoken”. The song has some weird lyrics like “Your blood is blue/ and your mind’s turned green/ and your belly is all yellow”. The blood and mind I get, but why is the belly yellow? I have written in my notes that the song is like an upbeat sequel to Uprising when the suppressors have been defeated.
The first unheard song, Revolt is the beginning of a very confusing second half of the album. It has an 80’s feel, and some U2-like qualities (especially the chorus). There is a synth on the background that for some reason reminds me of The Final Countdown. The song is strangely upbeat (musically and lyriclly), and as a whole very un-Musey. I myself love melancholy in music, so this is definitely not one of my favorites.
Aftermath is the most beautiful song on the album. It is stripped down, and I love the sampling in the beginning (monks singing). The song has a soaring synth, and amazing guitar parts. The song makes you stop and listen (and maybe cry a little). Lyrically it reminds me of Follow Me. Another un-Musey song, but in a good way. 
A massive song, The Globalist, begins with a promising cowboy whistle that makes you wish for another Knights of Cydonia, and wait for an explosion, which does come eventually but not in a scale that would blow your mind. The song changes constantly which reminds me of Queen’s ability to change style inside a song. Parts of the song remind me of Forced In, Resistance, and Sing for Absolution. Other parts remind me of United States of Eurasia, Explorers, Neutron Star Collision, and Butterflies and Hurricanes. It is like an ode to all of their previous albums, and it is a shame that the ending falls a little flat after eight minutes of greatness.
The last song, Drones, is so confusing that I’ll just write my immediate thoughts which I wrote down while listening to the song: “Matt has been to church? At Christmas?? Next Christmas I’ll sing this instead of carols: “Killed by drones”. This has to be the most confusing Muse song in existence… “Amen”?! WTF…” When the song ended I just walked around my apartment repeating what, WHAT, whaat. I can’t even describe the song, you have to hear it yourselves…
A while back I saw a picture of a tomb stone with “drones killed the fandom” written on it, because Matt had tweeted “new album killing it #MuseDrones”. I started to wonder whether the writing on the stone meant that the album is so good that fans die of eargasms or that it will divide the fandom, and thus kill it? After listening to the album myself, I really don’t know what is going to happen next. Half of it is fantastic, but the rest confuses me so much. Muse promised when they started to make the album that they would return to their roots and provide us with songs comparable for example to Origin of Symmetry. Most of the comparisons I can make are to the three previous albums: Black Holes and Revelations, The Resistance, and The 2nd Law. I’m sure many fans are very disappointed.
All in all, I can say that I like most of the album. It is not very coherent, but there are parts that made me say I love Muse once again. The Globalist is fantastic (forgetting the bad ending), but The Handler, Psycho, Reapers, and Aftermath are the strongest songs on the album. Muse were meant to provide a more stripped down album and maybe they did, but how much can you strip down Muse in the end anyway? I think they were faithful to their style of shocking a shitload of people while providing a few great songs along the way.
Drones on Spotify.
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The-other-Las-Vegas-band’s Second Grows on You

Three years has gone by since Imagine Dragons released their debut album, Night Visions. I myself first fell in love with their single Radioactive, after which I went completely mental for the whole album. Imagine Dragons have this amazing ability to create sound worlds that expand around you and put you in that exact state of mind they want you in. This year they released their second album Smoke+Mirrors, and although it is slightly more difficult than its predecessor, the band still remain masters of sound worlds.
Smoke+Mirrors mixes different styles more than the previous album. Some songs are heavier rock, others cross over for example to folk or pop with Indian or tribal influence. Although you could find different styles on Night Visions as well, it was still a bit more coherent than its successor. The fact that Smoke+Mirrors has been influenced by various genres and sounds makes it more interesting, but also a bit more difficult. The songs on the album are bound together with Dan Reynolds’ husky vocals that surprise with rawness and sometimes sudden sweetness. Other stitches of the patchwork album are the interesting beats, guitar solos, and the lyrical themes that run through the piece. Mixing different styles proves that the band is not afraid to experiment, and even sound ugly occasionally.
When I heard the first single of the album, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I Bet My Life reminded me of On Top Of The World from their first album. The song was never my favorite. The second single Gold I missed, but the third single Shots, which I heard next, did not make me swoon either. Once I lied down though and listened to the album through headphones, I was immediately hooked. Shots has the perfect opening line to start an album: “I’m sorry for everything, oh everything I’ve done”. It sets the mood, and the theme of making up for your mistakes runs through the whole album. The thing I love about the album though is that not all things can or should be apologized for. Their success with the first album can definitely be seen in the lyrics of some of the songs, for example Gold, which ponders who you can trust when everything you touch turns to gold.
An obvious strength of Smoke+Mirrors is the fact that although some of the songs are so stuffed with different elements (beats, whistles, guitar solos, chants) it never falls apart. Some of the elements are weird and can sometimes sound unappealing, but they work because they are part of a whole. Imagine Dragons have this ability to balance everything out with very straightforward sounds and songs thrown in the middle. It allows amazing mood changes like in the title song, Smoke and Mirrors. Funny thing about some of the loops used on the album is that they sound very Finnish, sometimes to the verge of being annoying. For example, Hopeless Opus has a loop that sounds like someone calling for a girl named Kaisa. It always takes my focus off the song, because it’s funny that it sounds so Finnish. The song has a brilliant Queen-like guitar solo by the way. Very I Want To Break Free.
My personal favorite on the album is Polaroid, mood-wise and lyrically. Other songs that are worth checking out are Shots, Smoke and Mirrors, I’m So Sorry, Friction, Dream, and Summer. The international deluxe version of the album includes five additional songs that are all definitely worth spending time on although they stretch the album to one hour and ten minutes. They showcase a more stripped down Imagine Dragons.
With all the different elements, the album needs a second listen before sinking in in all its power, but the second listen is definitely worth it. You can listen to the album here: Imagine Dragons.  To be consumed through headphones with eyes closed!
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Being the Politician

When the spring starts to run out and summer to emerge, my head changes the station from studying to leisure. Leisure basically equals releasing space in my brain to start doing things I have not done in a while, but which I very much enjoy doing. One of such activities is writing something other than academic texts. When I’m in the middle of a semester, I feel irrational guilt for even thinking about doing something other than studying, especially if it in any form requires brain activity. Blogging (believe it or not) is one of those things that require brain activity, and therefore is a major source of guilt. And there, yet again, is my annual explanation/apology for my absence!
Once again, the apologies are not what brought me back (to life), but rather a discussion that I had the other day. The thought has been stewing in my mind in different forms for a while, but only now manifested in its clearest form. Maybe it is the parliamentary elections in Finland that inspired me, but I realized that every time a friend of mine has a problem in their relationship and I am to give advice, I turn into a politician. I don’t mean that I lie or manipulate for my own ends, but simply that saying things straight in that situation is very risky. You have to be careful how you give your advice, and what advice is yours to give in the first place, because the last thing you want is your friend blaming you for giving bad advice, or worst of all that piece of advice destroying their relationship. So you dance around the subject, trying to give advice that is vague enough to keep your hands clean but at the same time useful for the friend in need.
Asking relationship advice from friends is a very natural, but also a very contradictory concept. You go to your friends usually to get a second opinion, to see every side of the issue, or to enhance your already existing ideas. Usually it helps to widen your view or makes you realize that what you have been thinking over and over again in your head is actually stupid. On the other hand, advice from friends can be very confusing, and make things seem more unstable than they were before. People also have the tendency to feel the need to follow advice especially if people they look up to and trust are the ones giving it. Friends are in that respect very influential, which is why being diplomatic is crucial. The more delicate the problem is and the more indecisive the friend is, the more careful you have to be.
When you think about it, not being able to be completely honest to the people who count on you the most is bonkers! The friend who asks for advice should be, and actually is, the one to have full responsibility of the decisions made based on the advice they themselves asked for. But human nature is twisted, and blaming others for bad decisions is easier than accepting the fact that the decisions at the end were yours to make.
So when giving relationship advice, suit up and face the camera.
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Supernatural season 10 foretold (*massive spoiler alert for people who haven’t seen all 9 of the previous seasons!*)

On the verge of season 10 of Supernatural, I thought it would be nice to try and make some predictions of what might be happening next in the series.
Supernatural started in 2005, and since then the Winchesters have gone from Hell to Heaven and Purgatory and back again. In the last episode of season 9, Dean turned into a demon, a prospect that was already offered  in season 3 when he sold his soul to save Sam, and went to Hell. Of course he was dragged back up by Castiel, avoided the fate but had done some damage downstairs by breaking the first seal and starting the apocalypse. After defeating Lucifer and Sam falling into the cage in Hell, we witnessed soulless-Sam, alpha monsters, the mother of all, found out about Purgatory, saw Cass explode and release Leviathans, learned about the word of God i.e. tablets that described the birth and destruction of angels, demons and leviathans for example. Season 8 focused on both the demon and angel tablet. Sam took as his duty to carry out trials to shut the gates of Hell forever by killing a hell-hound, retrieving a soul from Hell and curing a demon. Dean later found out that Sam would be killed in the process, and he stopped him from finishing the last trial. Sam collapsed anyway. At the same time Metatron fooled Castiel upstairs and made the angels fall. In the beginning of season 9, Dean asked help from the angels. One calling himself Ezekiel (later revealed as Gadreel, the angel who let the serpent into paradise) appeared and tried to heal Sam, but he was way beyond helping so with Dean’s assistance he possessed Sam and started healing him from the inside. Once Gadreel betrayed Dean, and Sam found out what Dean had done, he resigned from their brotherly relationship and declared it as business relationship. At the same time, they were terrorized by Abaddon, a knight of hell, a demon super soldier who wished to become Queen of Hell. Due to the situation Dean went into search of the first blade, a weapon that would kill Abaddon. To get the blade, Dean had to possess the mark of Cain, which was given to him by Cain himself. Crowley, who helped Dean to get the blade and the mark, forgot to mention that it would come with the cost of murderous tendencies and in the time of Dean’s death, would turn him into a demon.
After that little recap, I’d like to mention one more thing before going into my predictions about the upcoming season. Throughout the past seasons there has been the recurring theme in the relationship between Sam and Dean: They get into trouble and they save each other no matter what the cost. In season 9, Sam finally states that he does not want to be saved anymore and if something happens to Dean, he will finally let him go. In the end though, Dean tells Sam to let him die because he doesn’t like what the mark is doing to him, but Sam refuses and takes him to the bunker. After Dean’s death Sam blames Crowley and swears to make him fix Dean.
So, what do I think will happen in season 10 then? First of all, I think Sam is going to be as obsessed about saving his brother as he’s always been. I’m not sure what kind of demon Dean is going to be. Does he have a conscience or is he a ruthless killing machine? I think he’ll be a murderer in the beginning, but will begin to find his humanity. Sam will probably first think about killing Dean, because he is a monster now after all, but in the end he’ll try to cure him like he tried to cure Crowley in S8. The deal with the trials was left a bit open, but if it is possible to start where he left off, he might be able to shut the gates of hell in the process of saving his brother. Of course it would mean that Sam would die while curing Dean, but he seems to be ready to find peace. Although Dean told Sam to let him die in S9, I think he’ll resist when Sam tries to help him. Dean has more power now, and he can live an immoral sort of life without the consequences. The mark of Cain will make him murderous and immortal. Dean also told Sam in the end that he was proud of them, but I think the demon in him will bring out all the bad blood between them.
Another scenario is that Dean doesn’t fit into the demonic life, that his humanity is too strong, and the writers will come up with a whole new subplot for the season that will lead to another season. I hope this is not the case because knowing the writers they can easily go south..
And not to forget Castiel. In S9, he was left pondering upon his problem with the other angel’s grace inside him wearing thin. If the writers want to repeat themselves, Cass will make the same mistakes all over again, think he is above everyone else and start killing angels to feed on their grace. What I hope he will do is rip out the grace altogether and become human once and for all.
Crowley on the other hand is going to be the devil on Dean’s shoulder, and perhaps the angel too with his humanity pushing through. I don’t think he is ready to let go of his position as King of Hell, and wish to be cured altogether, but that would be an interesting twist.
If this was to be the last season, it would be very unrealistic to let Sam get himself killed while leaving Dean alive since Dean is notoriously stubborn and would not let his little brother die, and we would be right where we started. What might work is that they actually manage to shut the gates of hell with Sam still up and kicking, and retire, killing a few ghosts now and then. Another possibility is that they both die, which seems unlikely from the commercial point of view. Although season 9 was a huge improvement after  seasons 6 through 8 regarding plot, atmosphere and music, I am starting to hope that they end the show while it’s still worth watching.
So there’s a few things I think might happen in season 10 of Supernatural. If you have any other guesses feel free to share them!
I’m really excited about the first episode since it’s supposed to be a musical one, with Dean doing karaoke and all! Yay!
Season 10 airing 7th of October!

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Rawness and Rock’n Roll

The first time I heard Out Of The Black by a British garage rock band Royal Blood formed in 2013, I thought “there’s a new band I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on!” The second single Little Monster was immediately recognizable and made me swoon over their riffs and beats. There’s also something about  the singer’s voice that sends me over the edge. Soon after hearing the first two singles I wrote down the release date of their debut album and started waiting for it like a child waits for Christmas.
My wait was definitely not in vain. The album has been out for two weeks and I’ve listened to it more times than I can count. It’s a compact album, only 32 minutes as a whole, but it’s too good to get tired of. The sound is raw and saucy, but stylish and even sophisticated at the same time. Still there’s no tongue-in-the-cheek sort of compositions, but everything sounds like it’s been played for the sheer joy of playing. The only con is that some of the songs sound a bit alike, but all of them are great nevertheless. Lyric-wise the album is not very special, but the music more than enough compensates the lacking witticisms I much enjoy in my music. There are still some highlights in the lyrics and one of my favorite lines on the album is for the track Loose Change: “Cause all that glitters is gold, till the glitter gets sold and the money don’t fold”.
In all, the album makes me dance alone and scream the choruses like I’m on the front row of their show (which will soon happen I hope). With this debut, they went to the top of my list of bands I want to see before I die and my list wasn’t the only one. Their album spent almost two weeks as number one on the British charts and became one of the fastest selling rock albums in Britain. Also their live shows sell out in minutes. This band is on every rock lover’s lips at the moment and if they keep making music like this, they’re going to stick around!
Usually at the end of my review I recommend a few essential songs, but this time I just keep staring at the track listing and fighting the urge to write down every single song on the album. SO: listen to the 32 minutes of heaven and if you don’t like what you hear then, well, I’m sorry, I don’t do refunds.
Royal Blood on Spotify:
http://open.spotify.com/artist/2S5hlvw4CMtMGswFtfdK15
and on Youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/user/royalblooduk

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The Ordinariness is the Key?

The Finnish singer/songwriter Ronya made her debut in 2011 with her single Annoying. My first impression was that she really was annoying and so was her music. Somehow the track started to grow on me though and her first album The Key Is The Key that was released a year later, was soon playing on repeat in my room.  I thought she was something new and different in Finnish music scene. I admit that her album was a bit artsy and strange (which is probably the reason I was so fond of it). I went to see her with a friend of mine, and I remember my friend telling me after the gig that the songs were a little hard to listen to for the first time. I respected Ronya’s boldness to make music that wasn’t just basic pop that you constantly hear on the radio. Her album didn’t receive the popularity I thought it deserved.
Earlier this year she released her first single called Flame from her upcoming album. After listening to the song for the first time, I simply thought she had lost her edge and started thinking about commercial success. I think she deserves her success that is probably coming to her, but I wish she could do it in her own unique way. The song is decent, but it’s pretty average. It’s a song you hear on the radio tens of times a day by different artists. The guitar riff in the beginning and in the end is the only thing that reminds me of old Ronya, and perhaps some of the few lyrics. I’m not saying I object to change because I don’t, especially if it’s genuine and based on the artist growing up or moving on. I hope that is the case with Ronya because she obviously has talent. I object to change if it’s done only to achieve commercial success, but music business is indeed business. Getting attention and making money requires big promotion that is regulated by production companies and media. If your song is “too original”, the mainstream audience won’t like it and your music stays mostly as the enjoyment of underground audiences that is not as desirable to the artist as the other option.
Flame is a good song, it has a nice ambiance but it is also very ordinary. I hope Ronya’s second album has edgier songs than Flame. First singles and singles in general often hide what the full album is all about. I’m crossing my fingers that this one is not an exception!
Ronya on Spotify.

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Excuse me. Do you have a moment to talk about Jake Bugg, the saviour of British rock music?

Back in 2013, when I heard Spotify advertising Jake Bugg’s sixth single Seen It All, I immediately added it to my starred tracks for later listening. When I was lacking leisure time I added a lot of songs to my starred list on Spotify for a later listening and reviewing. The self-titled album from which that single was taken was released at the end of 2012 in the UK and early 2013 in the States. Since I live in Finland, I was even later to wake up to the glory of the newly hailed king of British rock music. I am spending all this time to explain why I am two years behind on writing this review, but the good thing is that I can kill two birds with one stone and also review Jake Bugg’s second album, Shangri La. Shangri La was released in late 2013 in the UK and the States. The newest singles have been released earlier this year.
First of all, I’d like to say that I usually go through some weird repelling phase when an artist is praised too much in the media before I’ve even heard a single song. With Jake Bugg, the fact that I live in Finland (where all good music reaches us about a year later than elsewhere or not at all), and also that I have had a little pause on following the British music press have protected me from this reaction. Then again hearing that some young bloke is actually said to be the saviour of British rock music really intrigues me.
When I first listened to both of the albums one after the other, I got a weird mixture of other artists and bands that those albums and the artist himself reminded me of. I’ve read that Bugg grew up with British rock bands such as Oasis and American legends such as Bob Dylan, and both of those are easy to hear in his own music. His self-titled debut album also reminded me of Elvis Presley’s earlier music, before the leather costumes in the 70’s. Especially the country elements and rawness of the rock sound send me back to junior high. The fact that an 18-year-old can sound like old rock legends sucked me further into the “he’s the greatest thing we’ve heard in a long while” -bubble. Of course Elvis was  also young when he started, Dylan too. Other musicians I found in his music, especially the vocals, were REM and even Placebo. The guitar sound in both of the albums reminded me of Eric Clapton (in a positive way if someone has doubts), and in Shangri La it reminded me of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Arctic Monkeys. One other reason that still keeps me in the bubble is that such a young lad can have the freshness of his age and at the same time the sound of the good old past. In the lyrics, you can hear the adolescence but also the maturity. It’s fascinating.
After listening to both of Bugg’s albums several times, I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer the debut as a whole, but some of the songs on Shangri La just set my heart a-beating. As a whole I’m not that fond of Shangri La. Its guitar sound just makes me float, but not all of the songs are that strong. And the guitar playing, all done by Bugg himself, is brilliant on both albums perhaps even more so on the second album. Especially songs such as Simple Pleasures and Kitchen Table. The first album sounds lyric-wise more personal, and the second comments more on the societal problems with Messed Up Kids, There’s A Beast And We All Feed It and even Simple Pleasures.
Even when I’m not as impressed with the second album, I’m going to put my hopes on Jake Bugg as perhaps not the saviour of Brit rock but as a huge step forward, and somehow weirdly backwards in a positive way in terms of the authenticity and originality of rock music and music in general.
As a conclusion I’m going to serve you with some of my favourite songs from the albums:
Jake Bugg:
Two Fingers. A great power song when everything is going to hell.
Simple As This.
– Broken. Heartbreaking and thought evoking.
Slide. Guitar=eargasm.
Someone Told Me.
Shangri La:
There’s A Beast And We All Feed It. Great comment on technology and media.
Slumville Sunrise
– Me And You
– A Song About Love. A love song that doesn’t make you gag.
Simple Pleasures. Perhaps the best song on the album.
 Jake Bugg on Spotify.
Jake Bugg on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/JakeBuggVEVO

 

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