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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Favorites Friday – OneRepublic, “Secrets”

onerepublicOneRepublic has placed a couple of their hits into my favorites, but none of their songs compare in both quality and nostalgia to “Secrets”. It differs greatly from most Pop music while still finding a catchy rhythm and entrancing tune. The strings are glorious and Ryan Tedder’s vocals stand out from most band’s lead singers in its unique pitch.

The song is slightly repetitive, but the chorus is the best part. While I can shake that part off, I have to admit that the instrumental does tend to dominate the vocals, especially in the first stanza. If those strings weren’t so damn awesome, that could be a bit of a problem.

Overall, I would rate the song at:

9.25/10

Hoping you like this song, because I have plenty other OneRepublic songs to cover later. Consider them the T-Pain of Pop for AMP’s Favorites Friday; You will probably see them way more than you like. In the meantime, you can check out one of my all-time favorites (seriously, this just barely missed the list) below:

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Favorites Friday – Trey Songz, “Last Time”

Trey-Day“Last Time” has got to be one of my favorite songs by Trey Songz, and ranks up in my favorite all-time RnB songs. Though, it may not be the best song to post on Valentine’s Day.

“Last Time” is incredibly passionate and features a smooth rhythm that feels harmonized all the right ways and is paced quite well. Songz always struck up comparisons to R. Kelly when he first launched his career in music, and while that may no longer apply, Trey Day is a prime example of their similarities.

The biggest reason I love this song oh so much is because of how strikingly soulful it is, lyrically and rhythmically. The vocals are not perfect, but they contain the amount of passion, lust and desire needed to make the song feel meaningful (a subject that Trey Songz is probably experienced at dealing with). The song would end up placing in the Billboard Hot 100 briefly, but never got the attention I feel it quite deserved.

Overall, I would rate this song at:

9.25/10

“Last Time” might be a cheater’s anthem, but at least those bastards have a great taste in music. You may notice the chorus returns quicker than hoped for, but it has such a flow to it that its repetition really is not a bother.

You can check out one of my all-time favorite songs below:

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Music Recommendation – Single – Lloyd ft. Trey Songz and Young Jeezy, “Be The One”

LloydLloyd’s “Be The One” is everything you can expect from his most recent album to date, King of Hearts: Great rhythm, sensual vibes and quality singing draped over sub-par lyricism. However, back when I first heard this later in 2011, this song was my jam. Of course, the biggest reason I discovered it was from the massive success that Lloyd found with (the clean version of) “Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)”.

Lloyd has always been an underrated part of RnB, and for me his general absence from music has been disappointing. His music on King of Hearts was intriguing, but “Be The One” is probably the best song on the album. Having Trey Songz helps the cause quite a bit, and Jeezy’s verse is some of his best to me. Then again, a rap stanza is needed to make an RnB song actually popular. Meanwhile, production is complex and, though not incredibly original, gives the song an easy rhythm to it.

Overall, I would rate the song at:

8.75/10

“Be The One” is a killer RnB hit, save for the songwriting, which feels sloppy and a bit cringeworthy. The pieces are there to make this song great, and that is the biggest failure. I still highly recommend this song, which has been a favorite of mine for a good while, making it an all-timer on my list. You can hear it below:

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Favorites Friday – Chris Brown ft. Tyga and Kevin McCall, “Deuces”

Remember the days when Chris Brown acted like a deucebag? Well, more than he does now. As horrible as he was for a while, I always have to be the guy who points out at how amazing Brown’s music was around this time. His F.A.M.E. album stole the show, and much of the props have to go to this song’s success.

Can I say that this may be the only song I actually enjoy listening to Tyga rap? Of course, Kevin McCall steals the show, but the whole track is a masterpiece. Chris Brown sets the mood, Tyga opens up a bit, and Kevin McCall finishes it by not giving a single f*ck. The instrumental is spectacular and some of the best production I have ever heard to date, and this song ranks as one of the overall best songs I have ever heard for its genre.

Despite it not making my Top 50 this year, the song ranks in my all-time favorites and could easily break the cusp any year. The lyrics, the tone, everything about “Deuces” makes it a great break-up song. Overall, I would rate it at:

10/10

While this may be one of my most opinionated 10/10’s, this song is timeless and has been regarded by many as one of the best. Any RnB and Hip-Hop fan can see why “Deuces” is so critically acclaimed. And now for the quotable part: Anytime one of the artists says the word “Deuces”, I find the reflex to put two fingers in the air immediately.

Now you can check out one of my favorite songs below and enjoy with me:

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Throwback Thursday – Earth, Wind & Fire, “Fantasy”

Fantasy-earth-wind-fireThis is a bit of a special installment of #tbt. One of my favorite classic RnB hits has always been Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Fantasy”. This song was one of those tunes I had heard for years but never bothered to look up its name until just a few months ago. The song reached some Billboard acclaim, but never made it into the Top 10. However, my favorite tidbit about this song is the fact that it was inspired from the movie Close Encounters With The Third Kind, a film that has always been after my heart like my one true love or Alfredo-dipped Raviolis.

The instrumental diversity and overall balance between vocals and beat is a staple in making this song so easy to listen to. Despite being a bit lengthy, I still wish the song went on, especially with how well the vocal-less introduction does in conveying the tone of the music without any need for lyrics. The words are strange, but that just proves how notable the inspiration is.

Overall, I would rate this song at:

10/10

Pacing, balance, solid vocals, individuality: It’s all there. The song is complex but keeps to the subject and makes the song interesting throughout the entire five minutes. So meet another song I consider a perfect 10. If “Fantasy” was a woman (This is RnB, I have to talk about women), it’s got a rockin’ bod and a booty you can grab but does not overwhelm (at least it did in 1977).

So go ahead and check out one of my all-time favorite songs below and enjoy a trip down memory lane:

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Favorites Friday – Destiny’s Child, “Say My Name”

Destiny's_Child_The_Writing's_on_the_WallI actually forgot how much I loved this bloody-awful song until hearing it again recently. The weirdest part is that I cannot get past about two and a half minutes everytime I listen to it. Let’s rewind about three years; I am the cool reverse-hipster who will discover old music and treasure it years later. While I am proud of the man – nay, boy, who made it to his 18th birthday, I cannot confirm nor deny that he was for the longest time, how you say, a dimrod.

So I found “Say My Name” under the category “Songs featuring the girl from Destiny’s Child who I happened to be obsessed with at the time.” Believe it or not, I am not referring to Beyonce; For the longest time, I had a massive love for Kelly Rowland and her music. Beyonce does do the most work in the song, even when it was incredibly unneeded.

I never said “Say My Name” was a great song; I just think it is stupid catchy and has an essence of empowerment to the point I wish just one time I could be right in an argument. One of these days…

Have I even discussed the song? Overall, I would rate it at:

8.25/10

This song truly came close to making my Top 50 list this year, but nope. The bridge is incredibly lazy and the repetitive nature of the song means that the perfection that is “dat dope hook” as the urban teenager would call it, is the reason the song is so massively appealing.

Check out one of my favorite songs below, or just listen to it because you have a couple of minutes to kill:

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Favorites Friday – Future, “Turn On The Lights”

HaFutureve you ever had a song that you liked, but knew it was terrible and hid any acknowledgement of existence from others while you failed to pinpoint why it appealed to you as much as it did? Meet my candidate for that ever-so-specific category, Future’s “Turn On The Lights”. Any Future song, really, makes me question the quality of my choices in music recommendations. However, “Turn On The Lights” ended up being one of my favorite songs for two months and almost made the cut for the Top 50.

I do not expect you to like this song, or even tolerate it for more than 30 seconds, but somehow I found it to be incredibly easy to pick up and repeat. The rap verses are so vague lyrically just mumbling felt like knowing the lyrics. The hook and chorus always had the most style and was crafted well. Mike Will Made It was big in 2013, and his beat definitely tunes out the vocals a bit to make the song a bit more tolerable.

I will not waste time writing too much about “Turn On The Lights” as about 90% of the readers of this article will hate it. However, I found it catchy and it made me believe in my own singing skills when singing along to it. Overall, I would rate it at:

5.75/10

Go ahead and check it out below (or not) and hear one of my all-time favorite songs (somehow, I don’t know how or why but the song just makes me happy to hear):

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Favorites Friday – The Script, “Nothing”

the-script-science-and-faithHooray, it’s Friday! No, I work weekends, so the day’s timing in the week has nothing to do with my excitement. Rather, I get to be a bit more narcissistic than usual and talk about one of my personal favorite songs. It seems that I have not written anything about The Script yet some how, so you might want to know that my all-time favorite The Script song (and one of my all-time favorites in general) is “Nothing”.

This song is relateable, meaningful, and quite honestly, kind-of funny when you think about what the lyrics are saying. I cannot act like I would not act the same way (or haven’t before), and the catchy tune that goes along with the words always helps. The Script have always been solid, and “Breakeven” was a favorite song for a while, but they have yet to show me a song better than “Nothing”.

The guitar was subtle at first to ease into the vocals. The song takes shape as it continues and, as I always am quick to point out, set up a right pace. Overall, I would rate the song at:

9.75/10

You may have noticed this song in my Top 50 for this year. It always will be in my Top 50 for how much I related to it for a long time that summer when 8th grade was full of woes. For whatever reason, I could not say that this is a song I would go out showing everyone I know. Regardless, it remains one of the best songs I have ever heard and I highly recommend listening to it. So go ahead, check it out, or just give it a listen again below:

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Artist Recommendation – Sleeping Wolf

sleeping-wolfOftentimes I write about bands with a lack of publicity, but sadly this can lead to cheap sound. However, I was seriously impressed by the Alternative-Pop sound of Los Angeles band Sleeping Wolf. The duo of Jake Newton and producer Steven Solomon come together to make exciting music that features both upbeat rock and complex Pop beats.

Sleeping Wolf is working hard and finding their music slots in Netflix films for promotion. While working on their debut album, which is slated to be released anytime now, Sleeping Wolf has released plenty of excellent new music.

The songs have a Rock-influenced design and sound thanks to Newton, while each also has unique production and lyricism that can be often credited to Solomon. Together, these two make enjoyable music that can be quite the great pump-up to cause hype for anything. Hell, this stuff could make an accounting firm business party become a Rock-out-fest.

sleeping-wolf-2

My favorites by Sleeping Wolf are topped by Blindfold, which is one of my favorite tracks currently. Other favorites include one of the group’s bigger hits, Jennifer, and Come And Get Me. There is yet to be a song release that I do not like, and I have to chuck Sleeping Wolf into one of my favorite all-time artist recommendations.

Overall, I would rate the sound of Sleeping Wolf at:

9.75/10

The music is highly appealing and I would not hesitate to show anyone this group, though in a couple of songs either autotune can be a bit apparent for some tastes or would not hurt to add to high notes. While the vocals can have their ups and downs at times, the music as a whole is quite remarkable and I would highly suggest keeping an eye on this band with me as I write about them in the near future.

You can check out their SoundCloud and at the very least check out my favorites below:

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