Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Lifehouse - Smoke & Mirrors

Release Date: 03/02/10
Genre: Rock

Wow. It's been so long since I've review something. Sorry. Music discovery isn't really my hobby anymore. During my off time (in the world of blogging) my taste and style has changed, but I still give credit to two artist that gave me my start. Although I'm still awaiting for Michelle Branch to prove me wrong/right, Lifehouse has released music that has polarized my inner love for them. Needless to say, I went into Smoke & Mirrors with very little expectations.

Review: Being a superfan has compelled me to believed that everything they do will be great. I struggled with this during the Who We Are era. I kept silent. Lifehouse already changed my life. Despite having a sound that was modern, I couldn't lashed onto their songs like I've done with their prior albums.

When I heard "Halfway Gone" back in October, I made a joke to myself that they should use more auto-tune before realizing that the song had actually used the technique. It's not a strong song, but when I hear it on the radio, it's fun and makes me smile. These types of songs have its place. So for that, it's fine. Another song on the album that I already heard would be "From Where You Are," which I wasn't on board with originally. It's such a downer, but now that it has a home on Smoke & Mirrors, it's a really beautiful song. The atmosphere in it almost feels pure.

Onward to the new stuff, album openers have always been a strong attraction in Lifehouse's albums. "All In" is a very traditional song with the soft verse, loud chorus. Anyone who isn't picky will find themselves enjoying the song. It is a bit predicable, but they hit all the good spots so all is forgiving. They follow it up with "Nerve Damage" which has a very unstable tone. Contrast to the rest of the album, Nerves is a dynamic chuck of meat to chew. There's a section of the song where for 20 seconds, the gas pedals is floored. Over time, the song wears itself out and it's not the 10/10 song it first cut out to be, but the first few listens are really grand.

Still, "Nerve Damage" is something the majority might agree, but on the other end, "Here Tomorrow Gone Today" is a very very very interesting song. It's on the deep end on the Lifehouse registry and I'm sure will have fans disagreeing on. Personally, the song makes me laugh because the groove gives it a 80's new wave flow and I feel like it's a less serious song despite the aggression, like the band is having a fun time recording. But is it good? Hard to say. It's so different that it holds my attention, but for me, I won't be listening to it on repeat.

A new first for the band is a song where Jason doesn't sing lead. As much as I admire him, Jason's vocals alone don't impact me anymore. With Bryce singing on "Wrecking Ball," I immediately believed the words. I am not saying Jason is fake, but Bryce sounds like a natural performer here. Not too much or too little. He delivers the words convincingly. With some of the vocal tweets, Jason sounds awkward in some of the songs.

The most notable one after "Halfway Gone" would be "Had Enough." This song in particular really pushes the chorus to the front. Jason sounds really produced. Maybe they wanted to make bury the verses just for the chorus to stand out, I'm not sure. It doesn't ruin the song, but because I am a fan, I can hear it. Is it necessary? That's what I'm wondering. I can hear the same happening on "By Your Side," but that song has so much love in it that I'm okay with it. Would it sound better if the vocals were more clean? Who knows. "By Your Side" is a sweet song and your mom will love it.

Your mom might also like "Falling In", but I hope it doesn't get played on the radio. Tune out and it's a pretty melodic song, but the lyrics are forced rhymes. This song made me cringe on the first listen and I'm still embarrassed by it. Everytime I see your face/My heart takes off on a high speed chase. Seriously? that's rubbish. You have to have real low standards to think this song is amazing. Still, it's okay for background music.

The title track and the album closer really reflect the 90s alt-rock roots. Both are good album cuts and depending if you like the tracks surrounding them, I think it'll affect your opinion on them. Without comparing it to anything and taking those two songs on face value, I'm enjoying them for what it is. "Smoke & Mirrors" is the type of song I imagine the guys making when they are in their mid-30s. It's a long road trip song. While "In Your Skin" reflects on some of the band's past work.

Lastly, "It Is What It Is" is beautiful. If you can only listen to one song, make it that one.

1. All In 8/10
2. Nerve Damage 7/10
3. Had Enough 7/10
4. Halfway Gone 6/10
5. It Is What It Is 9/10
6. From Where You Are 7/10
7. Smoke & Mirrors 7/10
8. Falling In 4/10
9. Wrecking Ball 9/10
10. Here Tomorrow Gone Today 5/10
11. By Your Side 7/10
12. In Your Skin 7/10

Summary: Lifehouse took their time on this one and it shows. The choruses really shine here and each song feels fully developed. In the overall picture, the change in sound isn't that far from where they stood, but in the songs where they attempted to step outside their element, They didn't reach new heights. Everything sounds pleasing enough and the melodies keep it fun. I just wished they didn't alter Jason's voice so much.

Key Tracks: All In, It Is What It Is, Wrecking Ball
Rating: 6.9/10

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