Review Rundown V.16: Runner Runner, the Red Chord, All Time Low, NCIS Soundtrack, Picture Me Broken

This edition of the Review Rundown offers takes on new releases from Runner Runner, the Red Chord, All Time Low, NCIS: the Soundtrack Vol. 2, and Picture Me Broken.

File Under: Powerpop Cover Song Goodness
Runner Runner – “Under the Covers” (Unsigned): Sure, covers albums have literally been done to death, but they are almost always worth a listen. OK, besides some of the of “Pop Goes…” records and “Guns N Roses Tribute: Bring You To Your Knees.” Cover records are especially good when they surprise you, such as is the case with Runner Runner’s “Under the Covers” EP. This disc is kicked off with a song that most every band and their mom has covered in Third Eye Blind’s ‘Semi-Charmed Kind of Life,’ but the bands take on it is near perfect, and it is really tough to imagine the vocals getting any better, but they do. Runner Runner continue to take us all down memory lane, tossing in mint condition takes on Jimmy Eat World’s ‘Sweetness’ and Maroon 5’s ‘She Will Be Loved’ before unloading the albums best work in an acoustic cover of the Goo Goo Dolls ‘Slide.’ The song choice itself is superb and the execution could not have been better. There are a couple of knocks on this disc though, and with the good comes the bad. First, why is this disc only six tracks? With the bands talent and pure potential they could have done so much more given a full slate of songs, but beggars can’t be choosers. Second, the album was mostly flawless and mistake free before the closer, an unnecessary and cover of U2’s ‘With or Without You,’ packed with enough synth and scene pitfalls to send you running for the nearest barf bag. You’re better off kipping that track. You’ve been warned. (www.myspace.com/runnerrunnermusic)
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Slide’

File Under: Exhausting Metal Wizardry
The Red Chord – “Fed through the Teeth Machine” (Metal Blade): “Fed Through the Teeth Machine” is sonically massive, a true force. It is an album that dares, no, begs to be reckoned with, but all that try will be leveled and left in a wake of their own ashes. This record is physically imposing – it imposes its will on the listener. It’s a presence, from its impenetrable vocals swirls and growls and militant drumming to the dominating guitar windmills. The riffing is so sharp, enough so that your ears perhaps may never be the same. Apparently the Red Chord got the memo about Metal Blade artists this year – they cannot release a bad album, in fact they have to release a career defining work (as many have already done, see Behemoth, Evergreen Terrace, Black Dahlia Murder). The Red Chord did not disappoint with “Fed through the Teeth Machine.” It far surpasses expectations because of exhilarating affairs (‘Embarrassment Legacy,’ ‘Floating through the Vein’) and floor punching, circle pit starters (‘Hour of Rats,’ ‘Ingest the Ash’). It is exhausting from bell to bell, as it still kicks ass in its weaning moments with dizzying spells of dissonant and jarring tech/thrash metal (‘the Ugliest Truth,’ ‘Face Area Solution’). This record is the band work the band has cut thus far in their young career and that has so, so much more to offer us all, thankfully.
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Demoralizer’

File Under: Acoustic Powerpop
All Time Low – “MTV Unplugged” (Hopeless Records): As if All Time Low weren’t amiable and relatable before, dropping the bottom out just exacerbates their maddening sonic appeal. The bands new “MTV Unplugged” session, finds All Time Low at their most raw and surprisingly most vulnerable yet – stripped down with nothing but a guitar and a smile. Well, they are fully clothed, but they are naked in a sense. Without a barrier between them and the crowd, the band is at their best. The albums handful of tracks translates brilliantly to an unplugged setting, showcasing the obvious fact that All Time Low has just as good chops moving from electric to acoustic. They show love to their entire body of work to date, well almost, with the set list. They include two songs from their highly touted debut EP “Put Up or Shut Up” (‘Coffee Shop Soundtrack,’ ‘Jasey Rae’), two from 2007’s “So Wrong, It’s Right” (‘’Dear Maria, Count Me In,’ ‘Remembering Sunday’) and two from 2009’s chart topping “Nothing Personal” (‘Weightless,’ ‘Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)’). The bridge of ‘Remembering Sunday’ is one of the many highlights of the affair, with Kate Voegle filling the shoes of Juliet Simms, who handled the duties on wax and in the studio. The mark of a good is its ability to be effective while standing alone, free of effects and studio tricks, and if All Time Low’s “MTV Unplugged” session proves nothing else. It proves that this band writes some pretty damn good songs. (www.myspace.com/alltimelow)
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Jasey Rae’

File Under: Exclusive Tracks As Seen on TV
Various Artists – “NCIS the Soundtrack Vol. 2” (CBS Records): Who has the ability to get the likes of Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp and Otis Redding together in the same place at the same time? Mark Harmon and NCIs, that’s who. Well, maybe not so much Mark Harmon, but the show, and its latest soundtrack, “NIS the Soundtrack Vol. 2.” This follow-up to the show’s massively successful Vol. 1 soundtrack features 12 tracks, nine of which are exclusive only to this collection and the show itself. You see, the uber-special thing about this particular soundtrack is that every single one of these songs will be played during an episode of the show. This soundtrack is a pretty even blend of both old and new, established artists like Norah Jones, Joss Stone and Sheryl Crow, and emerging artists like Saosin, Sick Puppies and Keaton Simmons. In addition, the record plays host to an exclusive new track from Michael Weatherly. Although he may play a special agent on television (Anthony DiNozzo), he plays a musician in real life. This isn’t the first time a NCIS cast member has cracked the shows soundtrack. On Vol. 1, Cote de Pablo (Ziva David) and Pauley Perrette (Abby Scuito), under the name Stop Making Friends, made an appearance with an exclusive track. “NCIS the Soundtrack Vol. 2” gives fans a little taste of everything, but its strongest quality is its loyalty to new music. This show, this soundtrack, they give artists both old and new a shot at the big time, their chance in the sun if you will, by not only including their work on this release but also on national television. That’s something that other syndicated shows should take heed of, because it’s good for these bands and also the industry, and good things for the music business don’t come around too often. (www.cbs.com/primetime/ncis)
Grade: B
Go Download: Saosin – ‘Move Slow’

File Under: Estrogen Fueled Screamo
Picture Me Broken – “Dearest, I’m So Sorry”: There is definitely a lot to like about Picture Me Broken. Already at a young age, the band has already won an MTV VMA Breakout contest and released a pretty sterling debut in their “Dearest I’m So Sorry” EP. And there isn’t a whole lot not to like when it comes to that EP – haunting melodies, swirling guitar driven hooks and lasting vocals that seamlessly transition from clean and chaste to aggressive and insistent. Frontman Layla Allman, daughter of famed Allman Brother Greg, has some fierce chops, although the music stationed directly behind her doesn’t always match her talent level. At times, “Dearest I’m So Sorry” tends to come off as generic, and even though Picture Me Broken are of the plug and play variety, there is no question they can write solid songs. Allman is the true focal point of things – as well she should be – because she can pick these songs up and carry them on her back when need be. Although the production is a bit too crisp throughout, the bands talent level still cuts through, lading to songs that fans of the entire screamo genre will flock to, proof that even when Picture Me Broken sound sonically exposed (‘If I Never Wake Again’), they can hit the gas and be in full assault mode a few minutes later (‘Live Forever’). With “Dearest, I’m So Sorry,” Picture Me Broken succeed in holding nothing back. (www.myspace.com/picturemebroken)
Grade: B-
Go Download: ‘Breaking the Fall’

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