Album review: Morbid Stuff by PUP

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Looking for your favourite album of the summer? Look no further.

Now here’s a band I’ve been sleeping on for a while.

PUP is a small band from Toronto who has exploded in popularity lately. Since forming in 2011, they’ve played shows all over the world, toured with bands like Hollerado, The Wonder Years, and The Menzingers, and played countless festivals including Osheaga, Warped Tour and Lollapalooza. They even appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers, so they’ve definitely begun to break out in the vital U.S. market.

I always had PUP on my radar, and tons of my friends and people I’d met at concerts were always recommending them. Toronto has a tendency to really rally around their popular local acts like July Talk, Arkells, and now PUP, so I was always hearing about the band on the radio or social media, but never actually heard any of their music.

Boy, have I been missing out.

PUP released their newest album Morbid Stuff this week, and it’s going to be on heavy rotation this summer.

Sound

Morbid Stuff is the perfect combination of punk, emo and indie, and their early ska roots shine through from time to time. Each song is fast-paced yet varied enough to keep it interesting, and it makes me want to dig out my longboard from hibernation and go for a ride around in the sunshine without a care in the world.

The way the vocals are mixed on songs like “Bare Hands” give you the feeling that you’re at a show, with the slight echo – or is it called reverb? (I have no idea, I know nothing about music). Either way, it sounds like everyone is packed into a small venue, singing along and having a good time.

If you like Bomb the Music Industry!, Sum 41 or Tokyo Police Club, definitely check out Morbid Stuff.

Lyrics

The lyrics remind me of being in high school, thinking the world was against me and dreaming of busting out of my hometown at 18 and never looking back. The album, on first listen, sounds quite upbeat and cheery – but the lyrics reflect vocalist and songwriter Stefan Babcock’s struggles with depression and can be quite, well, morbid.

But I like that about the album. Songs about depression and loss and heartbreak that don’t actually make you feel sad are so important. The lyrics are extremely relatable, yet the music is upbeat enough that it doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut.

I asked how you've been 
Not that it's any of my business
But you know me, I've always been a little masochistic

“See You At Your Funeral” – PUP

Top songs

Kids” – It took me a while to figure out what this song reminded me of, but it’s definitely got “Underclass Hero” by Sum 41 vibes going on. As the second song on the album, it really helps set the stage for what to expect, with pretty dark lyrics and themes of depression and hopelessness. But it’s a fun listen, nevertheless, and it’s a great angsty teen anthem.

Scorpion Hill” – This song tells a sad tale of a man trying to make ends meet to support his family, and some of the lyrics really fit the name of the album. But it’s the style of the song that I really like, because it follows the same sort of structure as a folk song by Mumford & Sons, with a slower first verse and the music picking up suddenly after that.

City” – Morbid Stuff follows the regular structure of having a slower song close out the album. The final track “City” slows things right down, but stays in tune with the rest of the album as it talks of love, loss and depression. The last verse picks things up again, though, and has some of those Sum 41 vibes that run through the rest of the album.

The final verdict

★★★★★ — Though PUP may not have as wide of an appeal as Canadian sweethearts Arkells, I firmly believe everyone should check out Morbid Stuff. While most of the lyrics fit the album title very well, the album doesn’t drag you down — the beat lifts you up and will leave you longing for the warm summer months.

There isn’t a song on the album that I dislike, and the album follows a similar style throughout while remaining varied enough so it doesn’t sound like the same song over and over.

Check out the album on Spotify here!

But don’t take my word for it…

Pitchfork: 7.9/10 — Ian Cohen acknowledges that sad lyrics don’t have to make you sad, calling Morbid Stuff a “safe, sweaty space to process your worst feelings,” alluding to the dark themes and catchy tunes that run throughout the album (Source).

NME: ★★★★☆ — Tom Connick calls the album “refreshing and sarcastic,” and praises the upbeat guitar lines and drumming for “keeping things from following the lyrical trudge into gloom” (Source).

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Artist spotlight: Good Cop Bad Cop

A quick look at one of the indie scene’s newest (yet oldest) members

This one has been on my radar for a little while, and it should be on yours too. Good Cop Bad Cop is a project by Arctic Monkeys’ drummer Matt Helders and Milburn vocalist Joe Carnall. Their debut self-titled album was released on digital platforms on March 29th, and if you’re a fan of either of the members’ other groups, you’ll want to check out their new album Good Cop Bad Cop.

So, who exactly are they, and how did they come to be? And the question on everyone’s mind (or at least mine!): what does this mean for Artic Monkeys?

About the band

Fans only learned of this collaboration between Helders and Carnall earlier this year, when they teased a short clip of what they were working on on social media.

Then, a month later, their debut single “Silk and Leather” was released. According to DIY Mag, this song is what spurred the whole project as Carnall, who writes the music and lyrics for the band, sent Helders an early demo of the track and Helders offered to produce it. It was the perfect opportunity and timing for each of them, and thus Good Cop Bad Cop was born.

For Helders, having been thrown into the role of drummer when Arctic Monkeys first formed, as well as studying music production in school, this new venture isn’t entirely surprising.

Helders had been hinting at starting a side project since August 2018. He revealed on The Trap Set podcast that he was putting a lot of work into developing music and finding his own style, after having been more or less stuck with playing drums when Arctic Monkeys formed. If Good Cop Bad Cop is any indication, that style is more electronically-influenced than Arctic Monkeys, or than his work with Iggy Pop.

As for Carnall, his band Milburn released their first album in ten years recently, but as he said in an interview with Exposed, it’s been quiet for the band lately so now was the perfect opportunity to direct his attention to Good Cop Bad Cop.

If you’re like me and have never heard of Milburn, they’re known for their “witty lyrics, punchy vocal delivery, and pedal to the medal guitars and drums,” according to Elizabeth Manno from XS Noise. Milburn emerged on the indie-rock scene in Sheffield, UK around the same time as Arctic Monkeys back in the 2000’s, so Carnall and Helders go way back.

In a tweet posted just before the album dropped, Carnall thanked Helders for his “generosity and support” in producing the album, which he referred to as his “baby”. It’s clear that this album is the result of two talented, driven musicians who wanted to create something they could be proud of and channel their energy and curiosity into.

About the album: ★★★☆☆

As for Good Cop Bad Cop (the album), I would give it an overall review of: “not bad”. Like I said before, if you’re a fan of Arctic Monkeys, you’ll probably dig it. You can hear some of Helders’ influences on the album, as “End of Level Boss Part 1” sounds like Queens of the Stone Age (whose frontman Josh Homme worked with Helders in Iggy Pop) and “End of the Beginning” is reminiscent of The Strokes, who influenced the sound and style of Arctic Monkeys.

Some of the lyrics on the album are questionable, like “Oh, we’re Times New Roman and they’re Comic Sans”, but in general the album has a clear style throughout and is a fun listen.

So, while the project isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it’s a great little indie album that should please fans of Helders’ and Carnall’s work, though it may just leave them pining for more Arctic Monkeys or Milburn.

But don’t take my word for it…

NME: ★★★☆☆ — Andrew Trendell of NME gave the album 3 stars out of 5, noting that their new “retro-futuristic” sound signals a “new chapter” for Helders and Carnall (Source).

Check it out for yourself…

Check out my favourite songs from each band featured in this post below, and be sure to check out the full self-titled album by Good Cop Bad Cop on Spotify.

Good Cop Bad Cop – “End of the Beginning”

Milburn – “Last Bus”


Arctic Monkeys – “Flourescent Adolescent:

Top 10 Cody Simpson songs over the years

A look back at Cody Simpson’s best songs to mark the release of his latest EP B Sides: Part the Seas, out March 15th

You may be thinking you recognize Cody Simpson’s name, but if you haven’t checked in with him in a few years then you won’t recognize his sound today. Over his nearly 10 years in the music industry, Cody’s evolved from bubble-gum pop to a unique mix of guitar riffs and island vibes. He’s the Australian Shawn Mendes, a young guy who’s tragically known more for his cheesy pop songs than his musical talent.

Cody Simpson’s latest release B Sides: Part the Seas, is a 4-song EP released as a follow up to a similar set of b-sides released earlier this year.

Each song on the EP has a slightly different vibe to it, from dark and brooding songs like “Siren Song” to cheery tracks like “That’s What Love Is All About”. Over all, the EP is fun to listen to, and its short run-time leaves you wanting more. It’s a far stretch from his debut album in 2010 that featured one guitar, a Garage Band drum loop, and a heavily auto-tuned pre-pubescent boy’s voice.

Now, his style and talent hold up against the best of them, and I think it’s only a matter of time before his name is known by more than just the girls who grew up with his posters on the wall. But that’s not to discredit his early work — it got him where he is today (which, I should add, is on Broadway) and it’s undoubtedly infectious and catchy, so I couldn’t leave it off the list below.

Top 10 Cody Simpson songs over the years

1. All Day – 2010

Cody’s debut EP 4U is an overly produced effort clearly targeted to a younger female fanbase, but “All Day” features one of my favourite lyrics of all time:

"This young girl, she's so cute / every time I see her wear a fresh pair of shoes"

2. Not Just You – 2011

One of his first slow ballads, “Not Just You” was on heavy rotation when I was a moody teenager who thought breaking up with my high school boyfriend meant I’d be alone for the rest of my life. It’s heavy on the cheese — but it’s basically this generation’s “End of the Road” by Boyz 2 Men.

3. Summertime Of Our Lives – 2013

“Summertime of Our Lives” was one of the first songs that made it clear that Cody’s sound was evolving. It was released on Surfers Paradise, his second full length album, and it’s a chill tune with simple instruments that allow Cody’s voice to shine more than in previous records.

4. Surfboard – 2014

If this list wasn’t ordered by release date, this song would be number 1. “Surfboard” deviated a bit from Cody’s usual sound at the time, with heavier guitars and some synths thrown in here and there. As the title suggests, the song does stay true to Cody’s overall style, a bleach-blonde surfer-bum from Australia who is one with the ocean.

5. Home to Mama (feat. Justin Bieber) – 2015

This song kind of came out of left field, surprising fans with a new sound and a long awaited collab with Cody’s Canadian counterpart and pop powerhouse Justin Bieber. With strong John Mayer and Michael Jackson vibes, “Home to Mama” signals a change and a maturity in both Cody and Justin’s sound, and ushered in a period of change in Cody’s music.

*”Home to Mama” isn’t available on Spotify – but check it out on Google Play Music.

6. Still Smiling – 2015

“Still Smiling” is a Jack Johnson-esque track that appeared on Cody’s first album as an independent artist. With more control over his sound, Cody’s music shifted away from over-produced pop music for good, and into his signature island/acoustic vibe. While he may have attempted this with Surfers Paradise, songs like “La Da Dee” and “Pretty Brown Eyes” made it pretty clear his label was still pushing him down the popstar path.

7. Ramona – 2017

In 2017, Cody announced the formation of a new band under the name Cody Simpson and the Tide and released their debut EP Wave One. The name change cemented the fact that Cody was reinventing himself, and “Ramona” proves that Cody’s really living his best life with his new-found freedom to experiment with heavier guitars and raggae vibes.

8. Underwater – 2019

“Underwater” has a similar vibe to “Surfboard” which is probably why I like it so much. It was released on Cody Simpson & The Tide‘s second EP Wave Two, and it’s a funky track with more drum beats than Cody’s more laidback tunes.

9. No Longer Blue – 2019

“No Longer Blue” came out in the first set of B-Sides released this year. It’s another slow ballad that shows off Cody’s pipes, backed only by a simple guitar melody. It’s a deeply moving song that talks about love and loss and a man’s connection to the ocean — a fitting track from the Ocean Advocate for the United Nations Development Program.

10. Part the Seas – 2019

The title track of his latest EP, “Part the Seas” is a fun guitar-heavy track that could easily be the theme song for a Daniel Craig James Bond film. Cody’s music has a come a long way since his debut as Australia’s answer to Justin Bieber — and his maturity and creative energy is on display on his latest EP.

Listen for yourself

Check out B Sides: Part the Seas by Cody Simpson on Spotify. After that, take a trip down memory lane and listen to my playlist of the Top 10 Cody Simpson songs over the years.

Cody’s newest EP
The 10 best Cody Simpson songs over the years

Join the conversation

Think I left Cody’s best song off the list? Let me know in the comments what your favourite Cody Simpson songs are over the years.

REVIEW: Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1

Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1

★★★★☆

Out March 8th, 2018 | Check it out on Spotify

I’ll admit it: I’ve never really listened to Foals, but I think that’s going to change. I also got them mixed up with Band of Horses (it could happen to anyone!) and was about to write about how I saw them play at Osheaga in 2014, but, well… That was Band of Horses.

And yes, this is a pretty high profile album to be writing about in my first ever (published) album review, but I won’t pretend to be any sort of expert on the subject. If you’re like me and find yourself asking “what should I listen to on Spotify this week?” then my reviews should be good enough to give you an idea of what you’ll like or dislike.

New to Foals? Check out this playlist on Spotify to get caught up.

Quickie album review

★★★★☆ — Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1 is the first in a two-part album, with Part 2 set to come out this fall. To me it sounds a lot different than some of their earlier music, which can be a good or bad thing depending if you prefer a band to evolve over time or stay the same album after album. I’ll break the album down by overall sound, my favourite lyrics and the top songs to give you an idea of whether or not it’s something you’d like.

Sound

Each song on ENSWBL sounds a bit different, with some being more safe-for-radio than other more, uh, musically experimental songs. I would mention the plethora of different instruments and production techniques used on this album, if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t know what they’re called. I’m not a music major!

But I can tell you that the singles that came out at the beginning of the year didn’t really give listeners an idea of what the rest of the album would sound like, as they fall more firmly in the safe-for-radio category, as most singles usually do.

Lyrics

If you listen to music for the lyrics, this may not be the album for you. Not to say the lyrics are bad, but on the first listen I had no idea what lead vocalist Yannis Philippakis was saying. I find it similar to Bon Iver in that way, in that you know the lyrics are probably deep and meaningful and will be tattooed on someone’s arm at some point, but they’re masked by the synthy sounds.

When you do really listen (or just look up the lyrics online), it’s evident that the overall theme of the album isn’t exactly uplifting. The lyrics can be interpreted in many ways, from commentary on the state of the world we live in to deadbeat dads to failing relationships — but what stands out more to me is how the music is mixed, as the vocals combine with the beat to create an experience and tell the story of pain, fear, and heartache.

If the devil wants me /
Tell him I got high /
'Cause life is what you make it /
You got yours and I got mine

“In Degrees” – Foals

Top songs

“Exits” — The single that most everyone has probably heard is a totally different experience than the rest of the album, but that’s not a bad thing! It’s a gentler tune with lyrics you can understand and sing along to on your drive to work.

“White Onions”: — A song you can dance to on an indie record always holds a special place in my heart (and my music library). A little more intense than the rest of the record, but in a fun way.

The final verdict

Spotify’s new music section can be daunting, so if you’re pressed for time and just want some easy-listening, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you’re looking to step outside of your indie comfort zone, give Everything Not Saved Will be Lost, Part 1 by Foals a listen.

It doesn’t sound like the same song repeated for 40 minutes, which can get a little exhausting as the sound changes with every song. Fans of the band will surely enjoy it and look forward to Part 2 later this year, but those new to the band may find it harder to get into if they’re looking for a gentler indie-rock sound to go with their Saturday morning coffee, like me.

But don’t take my word for it…

Reviews from around the web

NME: ★★★★★ — Tom Connick for NME called the album Foals’ “best album to date,” giving it a perfect 5 out of 5 stars (Source).

Exclaim: 7/10 — Anna Alger for Exclaim! speaks highly of the album’s lyrics and the band’s ability to “juxtapos[e] fearful subject matter with undeniably danceable music” (Source).

Join the conversation

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and like I said, I’m no expert. Tell me what you think of the album or call me on something I got wrong in the comments below!

Let’s jump into it

Hi reader! I’m glad you’ve found my blog, and I’m sorry for how empty it is… But rest assured, in the coming weeks, it’ll be filled with (amateur) music reviews, lists of my favourite new music, short bios on up-and-coming bands, and anything else I feel like posting! 😉

I’ll be honest — I’ve never studied music, and never written a music review before. But my purpose here is quite simple: to provide short reviews (and a summary of reviews from around the web) on music from Spotify’s New Release section. As a busy 20-something balancing school and work, I know how daunting it can be to pick new music to listen to, so I hope to help you find the best new music to listen to each week.

And yeah, it’s been done before (shout out to BIRP!, my favourite indie music blog/playlist site), but I’ll do my best to provide you fresh content and make things interesting each week.

Leave a comment if there’s anything you’d like to see here, and I look forward to jumping into this project for you!