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CD: This Is War

Reviewed by Kristy Plaza
17, Duarte HS

Ever since I listened to 30 Seconds To Mars’s album, A Beautiful Lie, I’ve been hooked. And listening to the band’s latest album, This Is War, only made me love them more. 

The powerful lyrics on the first single, “Kings and Queens,” inspired me: “We were the kings and queens of promise/ We were the victims of ourselves/ Maybe the children of a lesser god/ Between heaven and hell.” By using words like “we” and “us,” front man Jared Leto is including the audience in the songs. When I hear this song I feel like standing up and singing along, because I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself.

Every song has a message. When I listen to “This Is War” I feel the need to fight for what I believe in. 

The song “Vox Populi” makes me understand the true power of unity. The title is Latin for “the voice of the people.” And that’s exactly what the band is trying to be. At the beginning and end of the song, fans (who were recorded and added to the CD) are singing the lyrics. They say: “This is a call to arms/ Gather soldiers/ Time to go to war.” Then Leto follows it up with: “Here we are at the start/ I can feel the beating of our hearts.”

The rhythm of every song is repetitive but hypnotic. The music and words need to be repeated so that the band’s message can get across: the world isn’t perfect, nor are people, but there is hope for change as long as we fight for it.

CD: Thank You Happy Birthday

Reviewed by David Garcia
16, Monrovia HS

I think one of today’s best indie bands is Cage the Elephant, which was formed by two brothers and their friends from Kentucky. Cage the Elephant’s new album, Thank You Happy Birthday, is excellent. Instead of the screaming rock and blistering speed of their self-titled debut album, the band incorporates elements of punk, grunge and pop rock. They re-invented their sound, something I’m always excited to hear bands do.

The album opener, ”Always Something,” is already a new direction. The buzzing keyboards and twanging guitars are a tribute to 90s grunge. They create an eerie soundscape for the dark lyrics, which deal with murder and paranoia. Despite the intense lyrics, I felt that they were more about how everyone has issues we can’t avoid. 

“Shake Me Down” is a solemn number that’s punctuated by bursts of drumming and electric guitar. The lyrics paint a picture of hope in dark times: “All my life/ I have seen/ People walk into the sea/ Plagued by constant misery … Their eyes cast down/ I’ll keep my eyes on the sun.” It’s more pop rock than most of their music, but I thought it was one of the best songs on the album.

Halfway through the album, the band returns to the ruckus rock of their first album with “Sell Yourself,” about the pressure to sell out in the music industry. Singer Matthew Shultz screams out the lyrics, almost as if he’s rapping, pausing only to allow guitarist Lincoln Parish a few moments for a chaotic solo. It’s a song that will pump you up and have you bobbing your head to the lightning-fast tempo. 

The band finishes on a lighter note with “Flow,” a slower song with a tinkling guitar riff that you’ll be humming to yourself later. Thank You Happy Birthday is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.

CD: Parachutes 

Reviewed by Jaanvi Sant
13, San Marino HS

Parachutes is British alternative band Coldplay’s debut album, which was released in 2000. I became intrigued by this CD months ago when I heard the soft melodies blaring from my guitar teacher’s speakers. This is now one of my favorite records.

The songs on Parachutes focus on emotions like love and heartbreak. Lead singer Chris Martin’s voice is so pure that I can almost feel what he is feeling. A song that I love is “Trouble,” which is about regretting past mistakes. “Oh no, what’s this?/ A spider web and I’m caught in the middle/ So I turned to run/ The thought of all the stupid things I’ve done.” The piano chords in the intro set a sad tone for the rest of the song. The emotion is so real and direct that I feel like I can identify with it more than I can with pop songs.

I like listening to Coldplay at night, because the soft acoustic guitar and drums soothe me and put me to sleep. I don’t ever feel lonely when I listen to each relatable song, especially “We Never Change.” Martin sings, “So I wanna live in a wooden house/ I wanna live life and always be true/ I wanna live life and be good to you/ And I wanna fly and never come down/ And live my life and have friends around.” My life changed when my parents got divorced, and even though I became more serious and introverted, I still longed for a close family. The slow tempo and drawn-out guitar notes remind me of hard times, but also of how I got through them with the help of music.

Every song, even the 46-second-long “Parachutes,” is packed with sincerity and heart. Parachutes is simply beautiful!