Friday, June 28, 2024

Album Review: AFTERTASTE by Hey Violet


It's been a few years since I last did an album review, but I've been thinking about bringing them back. Today's release of AFTERTASTE by Hey Violet gives me a perfect excuse to bring this format back to my blog.

Previously, I reviewed Hey Violet's first album under that name, From the Outside. That album is one of my favorites of all time, so of course I had been waiting for a follow up album ever since. What I didn't know at the time was that it would be a seven year wait for Hey Violet's follow up album.

Hey Violet released a few EPs and plenty of singles in that time, but I am an album lover. It's not like those releases were bad or anything, but an album has some extra weight to it. There's a prestige to an album that an EP or single doesn't have. AFTERTASTE being an album puts it on a pedestal along with From the Outside and The Edge of Control in a way that those other releases won't be. Leading up to the release, I was a little bit worried that AFTERTASTE wouldn't stack up. And with this being release day as I'm writing this, I've only heard the album a couple times. My opinion could change in the years to come. But on day one, I think this is a fitting final album for Hey Violet. Yeah, I found out this would be Hey Violet's final album shortly before it came out. That sucks a bit as a big fan of the band but I'm happy we at least get one final album after all this time.

Musically, AFTERTASTE is much more mature than either of the previous two albums by the band. From the Outside was a dramatic departure from the style of The Edge of Control, but AFTERTASTE seems to bridge the earlier two albums' styles nicely. It's clearly a pop album first and foremost, but there's plenty of rock bite that was missing from From the Outside. If From the Outside was pure pop and The Edge of Control was pure rock, Aftertaste feels like a mix of both but with its own flair. Maturity is the word that comes to mind first when listening to Aftertaste, especially in contrast to the previous albums, which I would characterize as playfully immature and unapologetic of that decision. Aftertaste is an album made by adults. The song "Hazy", the album's closer, spells out the thesis of this album. Hey Violet is a successful band that made it in the music industry, but they've grown up now.

AFTERTASTE perfectly captures the feeling of early 2020s discontent. It's defiant, sarcastic, at times hopeless, and at other times rises above the hopelessness. It feels both deeply personal and also kinda universal in a way that the best pop music does. I feel like I can connect with this album today just like I connected with From the Outside all those years ago.

Hey Violet means a lot to me. I have the day I first discovered their music marked in my calendar as my Hey Violet Fanniversary - November 24, 2018, by the way. They're one of the few artists where I would preorder a new album as quickly as possible before even hearing it. Unfortunately for me, though, Hey Violet did not release AFTERTASTE on CD anywhere I could find it, so I had to settle for a digital download. That does bother me a little bit because I have the other two albums on CD, but I can't really blame them. Both CDs and Hey Violet are past their respective heydays. It still makes me a bit sad, though.

If you can relate to feeling the dread of the 2020s lately, you might enjoy this album. If you've ever been a fan of Hey Violet or their previous incarnation as Cherri Bomb, you probably owe it to yourself to hear their final word as a band. I'm not exactly expecting AFTERTASTE to be a massive hit or widespread success, but for the community of fans who love this band, it's something special and I am thankful we have it.

My favorite track from AFTERTASTE is Uncomplicated.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Why I'm making an album


I've been writing music since I started playing music. It's a key part of my identity as a musician that I write, record, and share music on a regular basis. For years, my creativity has been poured into my YouTube channel, and for a while I uploaded a song every week. I used to frequently have a queue of videos ready to go for months in advance. Recently, however, I've slowed down. Eventually that long queue of videos ran out, and my uploads dropped in frequency. I just haven't had the drive to write new music lately. But that doesn't mean I don't have a drive to create and a drive to make music. So, I decided it was time to distill my years of composition into an album. Here's why. 

Albums are important to me. If you've read my blog for a long time, you may remember my series of album reviews where I discussed how some of my favorite albums impacted me. Ever since I became interested in music, I have thought of albums as one of the pillars of musical expression. I love albums as a medium. I love how an album is both a collection of individual songs and a single work of long form art. Nearly every album tells some kind of story, and I love looking for that story even if it's just an indistinct feeling. Albums are an important part of music as an art form, and especially in the genres of music that I love. So it was only a matter of time before I took a crack at making an album again. 

This isn't exactly my first album rodeo. Way back in 2014, when I had only played guitar for about a year and some change, I wrote and recorded an album with some help from my friends. And in 2019, I wrote and recorded instrumentals for an album that was a collaborative project with one of those same friends. That album was never completed, but a handful of songs have seen the light of day. Those two albums were five years apart, and another five years has passed now. I guess that's just my album making cycle. 

For a while now, I've held on to the incorrect impression that if I were to create an album, I'd need to write an album's worth of new material. I found that prospect to be very intimidating, so it took until I realized it wasn't true for me to start making real progress on a 2024 album. At some point in the last month, I realized that I already had a back catalogue of songs I'd written for YouTube that would be perfect for an album. What if I just picked the best ten or so songs from my YouTube channel and recorded them the best way I knew how? That became the vision for this album. 

Almost all of the songs on the album have been heard on my YouTube channel before, but not all. Every song has been completely re-recorded, though. There are also new songs, completely new arrangements of songs, and one song so old it predates my YouTube channel entirely. This album features tracks written in 2014, 2018, 2019, and each year from 2021 to 2024. There are a couple of tracks that were made specifically for this album and have not yet appeared on YouTube, and a couple of songs so completely reimagined that they bear little resemblance to their original versions. 

I've written a lot of music that I like, but just uploading those songs to YouTube isn't really enough. I want to put the best music I've written since 2014 on an album. I want to do something bigger with these songs, and I want to have something to represent me that I can be proud of for years to come. I've already written music that I'm proud of, some of which I've been lucky enough to perform live. Now it's time to make a collection of recordings at the highest level I know how. It's an opportunity to push my limits and discover what I'm capable of. And it has also been five years. 

Right now, I'm nearly done laying down tracks. Mixing the record is about to begin, and I'm going to be extra thoughtful about this release process. I haven't settled on a name for the album yet, but I've got one that I'm probably going to use: Radio Rachel, coming July 2024.