Album Review – Set It Off, “Duality”

set-it-offI fear it has been too long since I posted here. Obviously, I will need something quite enticing to gain back my audience. To those loyal viewers who stayed in my absence, you sure are in for a treat.

Meet Set It Off, a Tampa, Florida-based rock/punk group who have been making music for about 7 years now. The band is known for frequenting Vans Warped Tour, even this year when I am extremely underwhelmed by the lineup otherwise. Originally, this article was going to be an “Artist Recommendation” page. That was, until I realized I could not pick a few individual songs I liked above the rest and that this would be my new favorite band. Every song is unique, and while Set It Off have a track record of good music, Duality is their greatest feat yet.

So what makes this album so incredible, that I waited this long to share it? Well, the only way I can explain that is if I break it down track-by-track:

1. “The Haunting” – Even though “The Haunting” was not the first impression that I was given of the band, it definitely helped me decide on whether or not I would dive into this album. While cruising about 35,000 feet in the air, my overpriced and crappy plane wifi allowed me the signal to get through one song on this album: This one. After being impressed by the introduction, and recognizing a couple of other good songs, I decided I would save this LP for later listening. I am sure glad I did, as “The Haunting” has the angry, passionate tone that plenty of the album has to offer, which appealed to me. It is a great example of what to expect, though each song is given its unique style to set it apart.

9.25/10

2. “N.M.E.” – When I heard the first thirty-or-so seconds of this song, I began to reminisce about pre-hiatus Fall Out Boy. Then, at this moment, I realized that I liked this band even more. The production on this song is diverse and I love the many instrumentals that go into making this piece so enjoyable. It has a similar tone to the previous song, but a hook that I find easier to pick up and an even better rhythm to it.

9.5/10

3. “Forever Stuck In Our Youth” – Despite not being able to keep up some of the words, I still find myself blurting out this song all of the time. The pacing is excellent and the lyrics make this an awesome love song. I was a bit bummed out that the bridge is basically just a repetition of the hook, when this band has already proved that they have mastered this section of the song anatomy.

8.75/10

4. “Why Worry” – This was the first solo Set It Off song I heard, and introduced me to the style of the band’s sound. It is one of their more popular singles, with good reason. The rhythm to the song is strangely likable despite being a bit odd, and the tone combines joy and angst in the perfect way. I have a knack for lyrics that address the listener in a way that feels personal, and this song does that quite well. “Why Worry” also features a solid bridge and great transition into the final couplet of choruses.

9/10

5. “Ancient History” – “Ancient History” was the second song that introduced me to this band, and ultimately what made me begin to love them. The song has a flavor of pop but has an aura of emotion that makes it interesting. The chorus is short but easy to pick up and enjoy. Then the bridge comes in, and the whole feel of the song shifts. It really is remarkable how well this group can transition back and forth, and this is a prime example of it. Also, that guitar riff before it just makes me smile every time.

9.5/10

6. “Bleak December” – “Bleak December” is exactly what the title suggest: bleak and cold. The band goes back to its angry, bitter post-breakup attitude and acts like it never left. The song gets a bit more explicit, but the lyricism does not suffer from this. You can feel the high levels of “done” that the song portrays with whoever this lady is, and the calmer, more collected bridge affirms this attitude of wiping their hands of her.

9.75/10

7. “Duality” – As we reach the title track, we look back and start to see how much the album has made each song unique and intriguing to hear more. “Duality” only provides another example of that, as the production is some of the album’s best. The hook is long but finds itself stuck in your head with a simple brain-washing “Do-do-do-do-do” repeated a number of times. Of course, it is followed by another excellent bridge that gives the song’s style a bit of a darker feel.

9.25/10

8. “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing (ft. William Beckett)” – “Ba-Ba Black Sheep, have you any soul?” I wonder if this album is aimed at one girl, or if the band has just been screwed by so many devilish women? Regardless, this song is everything you would expect. More bitter feelings, but it does it with great analogies and an absolutely amazing chorus. The bridge sticks to the song’s original pace but switches up to some lyrics that are, well, not so friendly. I’m surprised this girl is “sleeping easy” after hearing these lyrics, but who doesn’t love a great breakup song about karma and deceitful women?

9/10

9. “Tomorrow (ft. Jason Lancaster)” – More Fall Out Boy vibes come forth in “Tomorrow”. I never said I didn’t like it, though. It is refreshing to get some optimism from the band after a couple of less smiley pieces, and while the song is Pop-y, it has a serious taste of Rock and loner-love Punk. Jason Lancaster shows that Set It Off aren’t the only ones who can make a great bridge as well.

9/10

10. “Bad Guy” – Something about this song feels a bit generic, but I still do enjoy it. I love the various sounds of the song and the pacing. The sound of “Bad Guy” gives the feeling that the album is coming to a close as it slows things down to close out. Not a whole lot to say about this one though, I enjoy it but compared to its predecessors it just feels a bit slow.

8.25/10

11. “Miss Mysterious” – If so some reason you decide not to listen to the whole album, make sure you go out of your way to listen to this one. The flow of it is elegant, the lyrics are inspiring and the meaning is very reflective. The song closes out the album perfectly, as it is literally a perfect song. The rhythm reminds me of “Drops Of Jupiter” and the meaning strikes comparisons to “What If”. These are both favorites of mine, so it is no wonder that this song is just beautiful to me.

10/10

So overall, the album averages out to about:

9.25/10

Duality is one of my favorite, if not the #1, albums I have ever heard. Each song is unique and enjoyable, and the 37 minutes it takes up is perfect for a shorter attention span like mine. I could give this whole album a perfect 10/10, but I know that no band will ever be that perfect. However, Set It Off comes damn close to being that. I honestly cannot wait to hear more from these guys, whether it be through their next album or live.

I highly recommend you listen to the full album, but if unable I would give the songs at 9.5 or over a chance. Stream it in full below and/or purchase it on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/duality/id911196612

Give the album some love on Spotify below:

P.S. – Did you miss me?

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Music Recommendation – Single – Falling In Reverse, “Just Like You”

falling-in-reverseIn an attempt to go out of my comfort zone and dive into the genre that is “Punk”, I gave Falling In Reverse a chance when I saw they released a music video for their hit “Just Like You”. I have never been a good nightly companion for the kinky Punk music, but I did find a spot in my heart for “Just Like You”.

The song is perverse, angsty, and talks about being lonely. It follows all of the rules to be “Punk” and might go even a bit overboard. I do find it quite catchy and found myself coming back to it more than I expected until it ended up becoming a favorite song of mine.

That being said, some of the vocals come off a bit raw and may not be your shy friend’s favorite tune. Falling In Reverse are not exactly known for light-hearted lyricism, but this might have a lower appeal rate. This is because it just tries too hard to check off every requirement in the “Is this really punk?” checklist.

Overall, I would rate the song at:

8.5/10

You can give the song a listen below (Song starts at 1:02):

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Throwback Thursday – The Get Up Kids, “Holiday”

the-get-up-kidsThe Get Up Kids are Indie-rock music back when it was good. The Kansas City-based band have released a number of albums and singles over the years since their formation in 1995, but “Holiday” might be one of their best songs. Their second album, Something To Write Home About, has always received mixed reviews since its release in 2000. However, it was ultimately the band’s biggest push as an Indie-rock band into mainstream.

“Holiday” is melodic and a great introduction into the album. The instrumental is compelling and the lyrics are signature early 2000’s punk, so hop aboard the teenage nostalgia train. The lyrics’ awesomeness makes the fact that the band wrote all of their music on this album even cooler.

Overall, I would rate the song at:

8.25/10

You can check out the throwback below:

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Throwback Thursday – Styx, “The Best Of Times”; “Too Much Time On My Hands”

I could not decide on which Styx song from their 1981 album Paradise Theatre I should write about, and then it hit me:

why-not-both

styx-paradise-theatreSo here I am, writing about two throwback songs, on a Friday no less! Guys, being a homeschooled high school student does not give you much breathing room for writing about music. Regardless, let’s talk about each of these songs:

“The Best Of Times” – My favorite of the two, and also one of my favorite Styx songs in general, is “The Best Of Times”. It was always like Elton John singing after getting kicked in the balls. The vocals were high but not irrationally so, and the pacing leads perfectly into the instrumental at the bridge. The whole song is a great listen and one of the best songs by Styx.

9.75/10

“Too Much Time On My Hands” – While “The Best Of Times” may be the better (and more popular) of the two, something about “Too Much Time On Your Hands” just does not get old when listening to it. The intro is intriguing, the lyrics are relateable and interesting, and the tune is so easy to enjoy. Of the two, this seems to get more play time, mostly because of how good the chorus. However, it does have a bit of repetition to it that should get old to others after a while, but somehow does not for me.

9.25/10

Hope you enjoyed, Styx have some great songs but Paradise Theatre definitely includes some of their finest works. Afterall, who didn’t love them in the ’80’s?

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Throwback Thursday – Peter Gabriel, “Shock The Monkey”

Peter-Gabriel“Shock The Monkey” is fascinating because it did everything that I want music to do now: It introduced a whole new sound to radio that no one had experienced yet. I’ve heard plenty of music by Genesis and Peter Gabriel due to my dad’s superfan status for the singer, but “Shock The Monkey” is one of Gabriel’s best.

The instrumental is entrancing, and Peter Gabriel’s echoing voice hits several notes easily. The lyricism is odd but quite humorous. They are mostly funny because they are metaphorical for love. Yes, “Shock The Monkey” is a love song.

After its release in 1982, the song saw success on Billboard. It was Peter Gabriel’s first charting, but mostly saw success in America. Overall, I would rate the song at:

9.25/10

You can check out the throwback song below:

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Throwback Thursday – Jim Croce, “Time In A Bottle”

Jim-CroceSometimes I regard artists who died young to be a bit overhyped, but my feelings for Jim Croce’s music is the exact opposite. Despite dying incredibly young at only 30 years old from a plane crash, Jim Croce created some beautiful music and his #1 hit “Time In A Bottle” may be the best example of what creative talent this man had to offer.

The ballad is soft (rock) and focuses heavily on the singer’s vocals, with a light acoustic guitar guiding the sound. Its inspiration comes from the discovery of his wife’s pregnancy in 1970, but has always applied to the singer’s death and how fans and lovers of good music felt after his passing. Lyrically, the song is a masterpiece and incredibly reflective. Those sick handlebars guarded the mouth of a talented singer, and Croce finds a way to show off his voice without pushing his vocal chords’ limits.

Overall, I would rate this song at:

10/10

I consider this a perfect song, and a piece highly deserving of #1 spot (even if it was only for five weeks). You can hear the song and take a trip down Memory Lane below:

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Music Recommendation – Single – Gemini Syndrome, “Stardust”

Gemini-SyndromeAnyone who was here for Rock music has probably left by now. It has been a good while since I have shared any kind of pure Rock or Alternative music, but Gemini Syndrome’s “Stardust” should start a pattern of writing about your parents’ favorite genre again.

That being said, Gemini Syndrome are probably closer to Metal than they are Rock. However, “Stardust” is most likely their most universally appealing track from their debut album Lux. It is everything your punk girlfriend will adore in a love song.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about the song. Vocals are a bit shakey, but conviction comes off alright and instrumentals are superb. The lyrics are slightly repetitive but the song finds a way to stay interesting. Overall, I would rate the song at:

8.75/10

You can hear the song below and see what you think:

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Throwback Thursday – Jefferson Starship, “Miracles”

miracles-jefferson-starshipHappy not-Thursday, and meet this week’s installment of Throwback Friday. Just roll with it as I share with you a classic that your parents may or may not have performed sexual intercourse to. Most likely, though.

Jefferson Starship’s biggest hit “Miracles” charted at #3 for a reason. That reason is mostly sex. Lovely 70’s hippie sex. I mean, I never went out of my way to notice the lyrics until I was a teenager and just kinda sat there wondering how I missed all of this as a kid. The song’s tone is actually a great mood setter, so I can’t blame the horny hippies.

I think my biggest complaint towards the song is the lyrics and their constant change from contempate-worthy to lack of depth. That, and how bloody long it is. The instrumental is very underrated though, and does its best to show off the talent on vocals while subtly carry the mood. Overall, I would rate the song at:

9/10

You can check it out and enjoy this throwback below:

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Music Recommendation – Single – Issues, “Mad At Myself”

issuesI have issues (ha) with calling “Mad At Myself” a “Metal” recommendation, per se, because I usually listen to it for Tyler Carter mostly. In case you have not figured out (or typed him into the search bar), Tyler Carter is a favorite singer of mine. “Mad At Myself” is a solid song but also important because I consider the weed of Metal music: it’s a gateway drug to liking the genre.

Issues may be the only reason I started listening to Metal (and We Came As Romans a bit). While I have only just starting scraping the surface (which Metal would probably be into, it’s a weird genre full of weird people), I can still say that Issues are my favorite Metal group. They balance their sound quite well and are probably the most appealing Metal group. “Mad At Myself” combines an upbeat Rock feel with a tough, but not unnecessarily harsh, tone.

Overall, I would rate the song at:

9.25/10

While an awesome and incredibly well-paced song, “Mad At Myself” is just a bit drawn out. Any Metal fan can appreciate the song’s value and find it a perfect balance for any listener, Metal junkie or not. Tyler Carter is still the biggest reason I listen to the song, and I think I would enjoy an acoustic version more (See “Hooligans”).

Go ahead and check out the song and its music video below:

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Music Recommendation – Single – Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, “Wally’s Battle”

pokemonI don’t normally cover video game soundtracks, but I can swing any way. Strike that, I am open to anything. While I come up for a better way to phrase my acceptance of any position (dammit), let’s talk about the song.

I love Pokemon, and that is something you may or may not have needed to know. In case you have not played and forgot your childhood when you exited the womb, Wally is a young trainer who basically sucks up until your last battle with him after you are exhausted from battling plenty up to that point. His theme, therefore, hints at a tough battle and a serious reformation in character when it starts with some nasty (in a good way) guitar riffs.

In Pokemon, the Ruby/Sapphire games are known for their heavy brass influence. Therefore, when you approach a song with such a major change in sound it keeps it serious. While this is not my favorite track in the games’ tracklist (that belongs to the Elite Four’s theme, which I will leave below), it is definitely the coolest and easiest the listen to while not in-game.

Overall, I would rate the track at:

9.5/10

This is some excellent composing by the creators of this game, and I highly recommend it. While it does take a massive dump on the original nostalgia on the battle, it does manage to replace it correctly with an even better theme. That being said, I have seen mixed responses to the major change in a “remake” type of game.

Regardless of that, you can hear the theme below along with my favorite, which is played relatively soon after it:

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