Articles for the Month of February 2016

Stacked Like Pancakes Proclaims: ‘This Is Us’

MMM, tasty! Stacked Like Pancakes have dropped a new album.  This is their first release since 2011’s ‘We’re Not Insane’ and is called ‘This Is Us.’  Let’s see what this Baltimore based septet has in store for us…

 

  1. “These Are Odd Times to be Alive”- Ska punk meets hard rock meets funk in this opening track. Stacked Like Pancakes wastes no time when it comes to bringing the energy.  Great song!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Laughing at Me”- Few, in my mind have successfully married the ska and rap genres. Vocally this sounds a lot like Eminem; interjected with traditional singing.  Sorry gents, this one didn’t work for me at all.  Grade: C-

 

  1. “SFDD”-Wow! Get your feet moving for this lightning-paced, profanity-laced scorcher!  It is amazing to hear a horn section that plays this fast, making your heart race with every note.  This song will get stuck in your head, I promise!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Brown Leather Shoes”- The lone horns take the lead in this slower number. When I listen to this, I picture a man walking down the dark streets, in the rain, with his prized new purchase.  A little change of pace, and I dig it.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “It’s Too Late”- It’s time to take off your brown leather shoes and replace them with your checkered Van’s. Hit the dance floor people, in this pop punk anthem. Aside from the brief rap part near the middle, this is one solid tune.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Rule #32”- I am a big fan of instrumentals, especially of the ska-punk variety. This one grows a little long with me, but is enjoyable just the same.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Sway”- Leaning less toward the punk side, and more towards alternative rock-based ska, “Sway” is a nice feel-good song. Grade: A-

 

  1. “Planetary”- With blaring horns, “Planetary” starts out as a musical kick to the teeth and then backs things off a bit with its transition to a smooth reggae song. Just when the listener gets comfortable, the song changes again.  Both hard hitting and mellow at the same time.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Sharks in the Sky”- With short stipulated lyrics, this is a quirky song with elements of easy listening tunes from the 70’s. This one is going to grow on me, I know it!  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Dangerous Beginnings”- Musically, I’m not sure where to place this one. There is kind of a slow build which leads to the more aggressive ending.  It does not have an overly ska feel to it, and I imagine that this song could be sung by any popular singer today and sound right at home.   Grade: A-

 

  1. “Pimp for a Day”- This is your classic third wave tune.  There is nothing new or original here, but a great song none the less.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Catching Yellow”- “Catching Yellow” is another cheerful ska number. Stacked Like Pancakes does here what they do best and that’s constantly changing rhythms and styles.  Another winner.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Renegade”- After the skank-worthiness of the last tune, it’s now time to hold onto your porkpie hat. This song will knock that, and your socks off.  Straight up ska punk at its finest.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Money Sucks”- I normally am not a big fan of stripped down acoustic numbers. However, I really dig how they make reference to their other songs, in this highly addictive campfire sing along song. Grade: A-

 

  1. “Suburban Superhero”- Normally acoustic songs are found at the end, but this is a perfect closing track. I wonder if they end their concerts with this one as well.  Nice job guys!  Grade: A

 

 Stacked Like Pancakes boldly proclaim ‘This Is Us;’ in other words, they make no apologies for their signature sound.   Years ago, it was easy to place ska bands in either the traditional, upbeat or punk varieties, but recently the ska landscape has changed.  Bands have melded several styles from metal to emo to 90’s alternative to create new genre-melding sounds.  Stacked Like Pancakes can lead the charge in the, dare I say, 4th wave of ska.  Overall, this is a fantastic recording which is mixed very well. As mentioned earlier there are many different styles thrown in the mix from rap to hair metal.  The band succeeds most with the straight up ska-punk numbers such as “Suburban Superhero,” “Renegade” and “SFDD” however the variations in genres throughout is refreshing.  The only sour note for me was “Laughing at Me,” but hey you can’t blame the guys for trying.  Musically, the band is dynamic at every turn, even during the slightly slower numbers.  Vocally the lead seems to be plucked from an A Capella group or his school’s musical theatre program.  This softer vocal tone creates a unique sound especially when transposed against the harder sounding guitars. Another standout is the constant changing of rhythms found in most songs.  For the listener, this album is a whirlwind of surprises, making you wonder what style will show up next.  Overall I truly enjoyed this album and can’t wait to see what SLP can dish up next.

 

Overall Grade: B+

 

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It’s time to ‘Level Up’ with Bucket of Fish

Have you ever heard of Bucket of Fish?  Well you have now!  This San Diego 5-piece has a new album for your listening pleasure entitled ‘Level Up.’  Let’s give it a whirl, shall we?

 

  1. “Shouting Contest”- “Shouting Contest” begins with a garage rock feel and then quickly switches to a slower paced ska number. But wait, there’s more!  The song changes again with double kick-pedal to create a more rockin’ sound near the end.   Grade: B+

 

  1. “Friend of a Friend”- Excellent lead and backing vocals are found in this next song. There is a definite change of pace from the first track, with more of a smooth groove vibe.  I dig!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “January”- Ah yes, your classic 90’s third wave tune. You’ve heard this hundreds of times before, but have you heard it done this well?  The answer is no!  Great song.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Wrong Side of the Wall”- The horn section steals the slow with a twinge of Spanish flavor. I really dig the metal influenced instrumentation as well as the hair-metal inspired vocals just after the halfway point.  Awesome!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Overdrive”- This song has it all, from the tried and true ska guitar, to switching rhythms, to sweet vocal harmonies. Oh yeah, and the horns a great too!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “FYIGT”-It’s only 46 seconds long, but you’d be wrong if you think this is a filler song. Grade: B

 

  1. “Year of No Resolutions”- Like several of the songs before it, “Year of No Resolutions” melds several different styles into one, switching things up periodically throughout. Another winner!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Sorry”- If ska/punk and emo had a love child this is what it would sound like. Excellent merger between styles.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Future Self”- Probably the “punkiest” sounding song on the entire album. A solid tune, but not my favorite.  Grade: B+

 

 

Well kids, this one has me scratching my head a little bit.  Not because I didn’t enjoy the songs on this album (we’ll get to this in a bit), but rather it is difficult to clearly define where to place this band.  Sure they are a ska band at their core, however to the seasoned listener, it is not that simple.  Many of songs have a punk element; however the songs as a whole seem a bit more polished than your average punk number.  In addition, the lead vocalist lacks the typically crass-sounding voice of most punk singers (i.e. Less Than Jake).  Maybe they are an up-tempo ska band (i.e. The Planet Smashers)?  Sure there is that element as well, but I do not want to pigeon hole these guys here either.  At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter.  I really enjoyed this album for just that fact.  I have been listening to ska for almost 20 years and there is a comfort found in certain elements of this wonderful genre of music we call ska.  That being said I am also excited for this band that has not redefined the genre, but has tweaked things just enough to create their own signature sound.  Overall this is a fantastic recording that will rival any of the bigger acts out there (ska or otherwise).  The biggest standout here is probably the quality of the vocals, which at times almost seem out of place in the more punk tinged songs (should a punk singer really sound this good?).  He is so pleasing to the ears that he has one of those voices that could pull off any style of music from country to American Idol-style pop.  If that wasn’t enough, the backing vocals add even more depth to the already fantastic sound.  I also really appreciated the craftsmanship of most of the songs, with their switching tempos and styles.  The punchy horns and sweet vocals give them an almost Disney movie feel at times, much like the fun, fun songs from Suburban Legends.  There are albums that are good and then there are albums that remind you why you listen to ska in the first place.  This is one of those albums.  So if you ready to ‘Level Up’ your ska collection, pick up the latest release from Bucket of Fish.

 

Overall Grade: A-

 

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