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Early Thoughts: Bruce Springsteen's "We Take Care of Our Own"
01/20/12 at 01:49 AM by Thomas Nassiff
First off – thank everything ever that Columbia isn't sitting on this record for an entire quarter. The record was only played for label executives within the last couple weeks, and already the release date is announced for March 6, which will certainly provide a ramp-up to Springsteen's gig giving the keynote at SXSW and the rumored tour dates that surround that keynote address. However, if The Boss really is going to start touring in early March, his camp sure is waiting for the last possible moment to announce it.

Alright, so here's what we know: Wrecking Ball will be out 3/6/12 and it includes 11 "new" songs. I put the "new" in air quotes there because Springsteen diehards have heard the title track plenty of times. He wrote the song to dedicate to the closing of Giants Stadium back in 2009. "Land of Hopes and Dreams" is also listed in the tracklisting, but this is an old, old B-side from The Rising. In fact, "Hopes and Dreams" was technically released twice –*once in a CD single of the title track from that record, and again in an official live version on Springsteen's Essential compilation. Please don't judge me for knowing these things off the top of my head. One of the bonus songs, "American Land," has been a staple song in The Boss' encore since the release of the Seeger Sessions. Here's the artwork and tracklist before I delve into the song:

Tracklist1. We Take Care of Our Own
2. Easy Money
3. Shackled and Drawn
4. Jack of All Trades
5. Death To My Hometown
6. This Depression
7. Wrecking Ball
8. You've Got It
9. Rocky Ground
10. Land of Hope and Dreams
11. We Are Alive
12. Swallowed Up (Bonus Track)
13. American Land (Bonus Track)

The first song released from the album is the opener, "We Take Care of Our Own." Feel free to listen to the lyric video below as I dissect the track:

As one should with any Springsteen track, let's split this between the musicianship and the lyrics...

Musicianship: Quite phenomenally, this song provides a cross-reference to all of Springsteen's work within the past decade. The strings accompanying the entire track are reminiscent of The Rising era, with just one listen to "Lonesome Day" providing the perfect reference point. The background harmonies are pretty poppy and very much Working On A Dream-esque. Dream's problems stemmed from many places, but having remnants of the musicianship shouldn't make anyone upset. Sure, it was fairly straightforward, but this song provides much more depth. There hasn't been a Springsteen song with this much kick-drum in a long time –*in fact, I'm thinking all the way back to "Murder Incorporated" ... but I guess "Waiting On A Sunny Day" is a fair point to bring up here. Springsteen's vocals remind me of a cross between the almost whispered secrets on Devils & Dust and the more pronounced determinism brought forward in songs from Magic like "Long Way Home" or "Devil's Arcade." The vocals are easily my favorite part of the track. The only certain thing is the downright accessibility and infinite replayability of the track; a great opening song and a perfect first song to release. Regardless, let's hope for some depth in the guitars and accompanying musicianship in deeper cuts –*it should be a safe bet to count on those.

Lyricism: Despite being almost painstakingly simple, these lyrics will rouse up intense misguidedness. One listen to the chorus of, "Wherever this flag's flown / We take care of our own," shows you how energetic and patriotic of an anthem this song is, right? Wrong. This has happened before. In fact, I just wrote a term paper about this last semester. In 1985, on Born In the U.S.A., Springsteen's opening title track was mistaken by Reagan's campaign team as patriotic stance in favor of Reaganomics – quite the opposite. Delving into the lyricism of that song reveals a passionate stance in favor of the perpetual struggle of Middle America, and "We Take Care of Our Own" follows the trend to a T. It's almost scary, really, as Barack Obama –*a Boss fan himself –*seems absolutely capable of using this track as a re-election anthem, with images of fluttering American flags behind him. Breaking down a the verses will show us more than we need:

I've been knockin' on the door that holds the throne
I've been lookin' for the map that leads me home
I've been stumblin' on good hearts turned to stone
The road of good intentions has gone dry as bone

From Chicago to New Orleans
From the muscle to the bone
From the shotgun shack to the Superdome
We yelled "help" but the cavalry stayed home
There ain't no-one hearing the bugle blown

Where the eyes, the eyes with the will to see
Where the hearts, that run over with mercy
Where's the love that has not forsaken me
Where's the work that set my hands, my soul free
Where's the spirit that'll reign, reign over me

There is obviously more than one way to interpret the song's message. In my personal opinion, Springsteen is describing an American looking for the right path, trying to do the right thing and turning up empty –*"I've been lookin' for the map that leads me home ... The road of good intentions has gone dry as bone." The second verse is evidently a cry for help gone unanswered, while the third verse devolves into a man at a loss for work and faith. The chorus, to me, can go two possible ways. It's could be a mocking shot at the government, saying they take care of Americans, yet directly contrasting the struggling subject of the song. The government "takes care" of us, but we're all struggling. It could also be a commentary on the human culture to "take care of our own" ... as in, we are only concerned with helping ourselves and each other, while not willing to help out strangers.

Whatever way you choose to interpret it, the song is bound to raise dueling commentary. It's also bound to be put on repeat for hours. Wrecking Ball is sure to be a driving force in Springsteen's catalog.
Tags: bruce springsteen, wrecking ball, early thoughts
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Early Thoughts: Manchester Orchestra
04/27/11 at 04:03 AM by Thomas Nassiff

Manchester Orchestra has already cemented itself in an exclusive upper echelon of bands. With two full-lengths, I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child and 2009’s Album of the Year, Mean Everything to Nothing, the Atlanta natives have given themselves a name among a short list of bands that includes the likes of Brand New and Thrice.

Frontman Andy Hull has always been noted for impressive songwriting, and with Man Orch’s third full-length, Simple Math, listeners find Hull at his most sincere. The lyrics on opener “Deer” say enough: “Dear everyone I ever really knew / I acted like an asshole so I could keep my edge on you / Ended up abusing even those I thought of most / And I killed the kingdom with one move.” Hull has never been more introspective than he has been on Simple Math, allowing listeners a look into his relationship with his wife, Amy, and recent personal problems he has encountered.

Simple Math isn’t as good as Mean Everything To Nothing in a direct comparison, but it’s truly hard to compare the two. There are vast differences in Hull’s vocal stylings, the overall sound of the band and the overall sonic sphere of the record. It’s way less grungy, first of all, something that I was not stoked to find out at first. But there are still heavy hitters here, as “Mighty” comes across a bit like “Pride” on METN. “Pensacola” is probably my favorite so far, a lighthearted and catchy number on a record full of darker and more intimate songs. “April Fool” is a solid single, while the already-released title track features the most beautiful arrangements on the album. “Virgin,” which was debuted via SoundCloud yesterday, is another moneymaker on the record, perhaps the most powerful song present.

“Leave It Alone,” “Apprehension” and “Leaky Breaks” combine together to form a beast of an ending to this album. As a whole, Simple Math took a while to hit me. I started off thinking it was well short of a predecessor, but on a random listen outdoors while in the company of good friends, it all hit me at once for some reason. Hull seems to have written exactly the record he wanted to release, and you can’t help but feel happy for the guy, because as you’ll find out on this album, he’s had his fair share of tough times.
Tags: early thoughts, manchester orchestra
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Early Thoughts: The Wonder Years (two new songs)
04/23/11 at 10:57 AM by Thomas Nassiff
Y'all can just read it here, too lazy to copy/paste
Tags: the wonder years, early thoughts
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Early Thoughts: Forever the Sickest Kids
02/16/11 at 05:02 PM by Thomas Nassiff

Got a stream of the new Forever the Sickest Kids record today. I watched a teaser video for it last week which made me excited and made me seek out a contact to request it from. Turns out the excitement was extremely and holistically unwarranted. The video was a much different sound from FTSK’s usually repertoire, even different from what I view as the band’s last quality release, Underdog Alma Mater. Even about 1/3 of that disc was throwaway.

Anyway, it turned out that the teaser video was really just the last song of the album (“What Happened to Emotion”) with the vocals lowered down to none. So yeah, the instrumentals in the video ARE on the record, but the vocals don’t do any favors for it. It is, however, one of the two worthwhile songs on the band’s self-titled full-length. The other one is opener “Keep On Bringing Me Down,” which takes on an Underdog Alma Mater-type sound that made this band successful in the first place. The rest of the album is, for the most part, a watered-down and washed-up reincarnation of other boring pop rock circulating the cesspool at the moment. Don’t get excited for this record (although I’ll admit that my “excitement” was kept in check and I was hardly heartbroken by this lackluster release) because it’s just going to be a waste of time. I can’t imagine that UMG is even excited to hear this release because the fun-loving sound that this band had about it when they were signed is gone as well. I can’t even imagine too many tween girls getting excited when they hear this record.

Rating: Boring.
Tags: forever the sickest kids, early thoughts
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Early Thoughts: Yellowcard
01/25/11 at 03:51 PM by Thomas Nassiff
Haven't done one of these in a while, but I think the occasion calls for it.

Just got Yellowcard's When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes today. Comes out March 22 via Hopeless Records.

There's a good variety on the album...that's what I noticed first. People will compare it too much to Ocean Avenue. There are definitely a couple of sun-soaked pop songs on here..."With You Around" should be a single that receives some attention. Seems like a song that could even see radio play if radio trends swing back toward pop-punk.

Some slower stuff on here too..."Sing For Me" is mid-tempo and Ryan Key absolutely owns it. He might be better than ever on this record, but then again I could listen to him sing anything.

Ultimately I'd say this is in between an Ocean Avenue and Paper Walls sound but there is definitely some freshness presented here. My expectations were sky-high for this record, considering that Yellowcard introduced me to the scene, and they haven't been disappointed. A Yellowcard reunion is more important to me than any other reunion, really. I don't want to say too much here...rather leave it for the review, which is why I avoided a track-by-track commentary.

But it's extremely refreshing to see a band be able to take time off, get themselves together, and come back right where they left off in totally badass-ness without missing a beat. The closer might be the best song...gang vocals + violin....yummmm.

More to come in a real review soon. Probably going to be the length of a senior thesis.
Tags: early thoughts, yellowcard
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Early Thoughts: Senses Fail
09/19/10 at 10:46 PM by Thomas Nassiff
I really like this band. Never understood the hate on Life Is Not A Waiting Room because I spun that record for months when I got it. Anyway, The Fire drops on October 19, and I was excited to hear the album but I wasn't really expecting much. For whatever reason, I just had a feeling that the band would sort of drop off on this release...maybe it was because of all the negative energy from fans when they lost Heath. I was bummed by that because the guitar work on LINAWR was one of my favorite parts on that record.

The Fire might be heavier than any other Senses Fail release. That's another thing that I was worried about after hearing "Saint Anthony". There are some definite face-melters on here and it's the best heavy release I've heard in a bit. Although they aren't in the same genre per se, I think this beats Norma Jean's release this year, and I know a lot of people really enjoyed that record.

Opening track is very much a Senses Fail song. The band's trademarked sound is all over this record and it's just very refreshing to hear a band progress successfully and still keep their normal sound. I think a lot of people will find themselves liking Buddy's vocals more. His screaming parts are best but his singing has gotten better as well. Don't want to give away too much in the blog post, but everyone should be waiting for Drew's review of the record in October. "Lifeboats" is incredible. No songs that require being skipped. Top 20 record in 2010.
Tags: early thoughts, senses fail
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Early Thoughts: The Graduate
08/07/10 at 09:19 AM by Thomas Nassiff
I've tried to write this a few times. I don't really know what to say about this record....it's too busy saying it all itself. Only Every Time is breathtaking, creative, passionate, and flat-out impressive. To make a record so unique in this day shows tremendous talent from a group, and Only Every Time is definitely not like anything you've heard before. The Graduate have released one of the top five records of 2010 so far, and it's climbing up my list after every spin.
Tags: the graduate, early thoughts, only every time
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Last Updated: 08/27/12 (84,643 Views)
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