Fresh Earworms – Haken “Virus” Review

UK’s Haken has returned with “Virus”, a thematic and conceptual follow up to their 2018 album, “Vector”, with references to classic tracks like “Cockroach King” from 2013’s “The Mountain”.  Their new album and sixth overall, is one of their finest albums to date.  Haken began work on “Virus” back when writing “Vector” in 2017 and the timely title was purely coincidental with the current pandemic.  Serving as both a terrific new album for fans and a great entry point for those just beginning their journey with the band, “Virus” captures the band in peak creative form.

What I’ve really come to appreciate with Haken’s output is their refusal to stay in one lane for too long.  Similarly to bands like Between the Buried and Me and Leprous, every album since their debut pushes them further both in terms of technicality, songwriting and even genre.  While “Affinity” is a hard album to top for me personally (and is one of my favorite prog metal albums period), the band is really doing some incredible work on “Virus” and they deserve to net an even bigger audience with this one.  Haken has created a story arc that expands across multiple albums but it still manages to feel contained and fresh.    

First track and single, “Prosthetic”, absolutely rips.  This is one of Haken’s heaviest tracks to date.  The chorus is catchy and I love vocalist Ross Jennings’ work here. The guitar solo is also top-notch.  This opening section gives me strong “Honor Thy Father” vibes.  While Haken has always clearly had some inspiration from Dream Theater (and let’s be honest, what prog band in the last decade or so doesn’t), they’ve always found unique ways to sprinkle their influences in.  

Next up is “Invasion” and one of the other singles released prior to album launch.  This track is really hooky and has several really tasty riffs.  I’m particularly fond of when the vocals kick in at the beginning.  The chorus is also catchy and there is some great interplay between Connor Green on bass, Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths on guitars and Raymond Hearne on drums throughout.   

The third track, “Carousel”, might be my favorite track on the album.  It features excellent vocals from Ross but I also really dig the structure and sound here.  It goes in unpredictable directions and features excellent musicianship from all members.  I particularly love where it goes around the four minute mark.  Also, that absolutely stunning segment a little after the seven minute mark.  This is probably unintentional, but nonetheless, I appreciate the lyric regarding “sinking in the mire” which reminded me of the vastly underappreciated track, “Beneath The Mire”, by Opeth.  Regardless, “Carousel” is Haken crafting one of their best songs to date. 

The fourth track, “The Strain”, reminds me of a few tracks from “Affinity”, mainly “Red Giant” and “The Endless Knot”.  It certainly sets itself apart though.  While this song took the longest to sink in for me, over the many listens, it has finally opened up for me. I particularly like the section in the middle of the song where Ross sings “When did we make our peace, violence?”  The outro is also a strong finish to the song.  

The fifth track, “Canary Yellow”, gives me chills.  Really epic and beautiful all in the span of four minutes.  The ending of this one is truly amazing and I can’t wait to hear it live.  I may be alone here but parts of this track remind me of the song, “The Garden”, from Rush.  

Also, they produced another music video for this track and it’s really wonderful too.  It reminds me a little of Jess Cope’s videos for Steven Wilson, which is to say, this video is gorgeous.      

The behemoth “Messiah Complex” follows and this is one of the bands best long tracks.  They’ve consistently had at least one lengthy track since their debut, “Aquarius”, and while it isn’t their longest, it’s a great mix of what Haken does best.  It also references “The Mountain”, in the lyrics and songwriting.  I also appreciate what Diego Tejeida is doing on keyboards during this song (and throughout the album).  He is a balanced player that can be front and center one moment and then he will layer thoughtful and subtle keys underneath the rest of the band members.  Anyhow, this song comes to a momentous close and will surely become part of the bands setlists in the future.  

The final track, “Only Stars”, is short and sweet.  It wraps up both “Virus” and previous album, “Vector”, beautifully.  It’s reminiscent of “The Path Unbeaten”, which though that was a bonus track on “The Mountain”, tied everything up neatly.  

Haken worked once again with Adam Nolly Getgood on the mix and in my opinion, this is one of their best sounding albums.  If you enjoyed “Virus”, I also highly recommend checking out the instrumental mixes that come with the deluxe edition as it’s a real treat to hear all the layers underneath the vocals. 

“Virus” is now available digitally on ITunes and Amazon, while the deluxe physical edition can be found on Century Media’s site.

Big Mood Music

Mercury’s no longer in retrograde, but I’m still feeling that VIBE. The universe keeps spewing off big dick energy, keyword: dick, and we deserve a curated playlist to help us trudge through its mess. I’ve done the dirty work for you and dug up some f*ck off favorites and feel yourself flavors to entice your eardrums. Let’s kick it off! “Alexa, play PS GFY by Griz!”

Yas live sax! Yas sock-it-to-ya lyrics! We stan an honest electro-funk king! Grant Kwiecinski, better known as Griz, is a 28 year old Michigander, who has far more success than me at this age. It’s true, we can’t all mix live instruments with electronic beats and still turn it into political commentary… But Griz can, and you should see him live at your next music festival.

Fun fact: Dan Luke is the younger brother of Cage The Elephant frontman, Matt Shultz. With the gift of genetics on his side, Dan launched his own band aptly titled “Dan Luke and The Raid,” characterized by easy breezy beachy beats that’ll catch on the tip of your tongue.

Brokenhearted? Damn, sucks for you!

Jusstttt kiddinnngg, we’ve all been there. It’s a bummer. And lovelytheband is here to help. With a vibe reminiscent of Two Door Cinema Club and Foster The People, lovelytheband thrives in the love lost-and-found department.

Don’t judge a song by the film it appears in and take a moment to embrace the beauty that is AN ANDERSON PAAK X JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE collaboration! “Don’t Slack” dropped TODAY and so did I! #Deceased

Grouplove is back and better than ever! If your anger manifests as an indie pop banger, this is that banger.

Rock out with your empowerment out! – I made that phrase up, let’s goooo! Doja Cat is a triple threat: singer, rapper, producer. An Angeleno through and through, Doja Cat brings justice to my hometown: the valley.

And speaking of rap, Rhapsody is climbing the hierarchy. I mean hellllooo, she’s already collaborated with Kendrick Lamar. “Oprah” will have you throwing money out your car window… so contain yourself! And dance along to the good beats instead.

“Fvck Somebody” is a MOOD. Ever felt trapped by a partner? GUILTY! The Wrecks relate, and they have a beautifully quirky music video to match.

I don’t know about you, but I could never get enough Dylan Minet. *He’s soooo cute!* The star of “Thirteen Reasons Why” is a breakout musician in his band Wallows, and I’m DEFINITELY NOT BIASED OR ANYTHING. “These Days” nails our lack-of-commitment-culture. “I need to know if you’re feelin it or I’m wasting my time.” — THIS. But just to be clear Dylan, I’m totally feeling it please slide into my DMs…

Bad date? I CAN RELATE. “It’s Not All About You” touches me so deeply it sees my soul. Clyde and Gracie Lawrence are dynamic soulful siblings on the verge of a Finneas x Billie moment.

There you go, a solid hour of music to kick your day into high gear. New fave song? Tell me in that comment section!

10 #TBT Hits We Can’t Forget

Anybody else feel old when you search for Jojo and this pops up:

Instead of this:

I’m scared. WE MUST NOT LET OUR ICONS DIE! What happened to our beloved Jojo? Where did she go? A battle with Jojo’s record label forced her into the abyss, and it’s our collective responsibility to bring this superstar back into the spotlight. Can I get a YAS KWEEN?!

I’m afraid we’re losing touch with the musicians who defined us and their one-off hits that got us through prom and finals. Just this week, I met up with my beloved friend and music aficionado, Brian Mates, who admitted: he’d NEVER HEARD OF MIKA:

Therefore, as a self-described wanna-be festival-going groupie, I feel a moral obligation to introduce some, or rather, reintroduce the majority of you to those throwback tunes by singers and bands that we *should* know and love. Cue some indietronica courtesy of Passion Pit:

Two Door Cinema Club shreds, and their longevity proves it. They’ve churned out hit after hit since 2010, but I hold steadfast to the belief that “I Can Talk” is their greatest… Admittedly, I might have a slight bias based on my OBSESSION with this video:

And speaking of shredding: Sleigh Bells. That’s it, that’s the post.

It would be a sin to exclude the ever-brilliant Jenny Lewis, who stole my heart as Rilo Kiley’s indie-rock frontman. Lewis was, and still remains, a force to be reckoned with.

In today’s episode of badass women, Lily Allen spits major truth on “Not Fair” and it’s all too relevant. Ladies, this one’s for you:

Phoenix makes a bad day into a great song in “If I Ever Feel Better,” and guess what?! It works! I prescribe one listen per cry session.

“Such Great Heights” brings back all the feels. I only listened to it fifteen times… per car ride to school….

Last but not least, “You Only Live Once” with 133million+ views. I’m not dancing, YOU ARE!

We stan a good throwback! Any throwback faves? Drop them in the comments below.

An Ode To Anderson Paak

It was a summer’s eve in 2016 when I stumbled upon Anderson Paak, performing to a Paak-ed house at Coachella’s Mojave stage. Truth-be-told, I was chasing Kendrick Lamar. My entire weekend setlist revolved around where Kendrick might pop up, and once again, I was right. Sweat drenched and sardined between scantily clad festival goers, I popped a squat and readied myself to recline until Kendrick made his appearance. But when Paak took the stage, seducing us with sweet tunes from his album “Malibu,” I was immediately TRANSFIXED.

Anderson Paak is, hands down, the best performer I’ve ever seen live. FIGHT ME. I DARE YOU! He’s the ultimate musical multi-hyphenate: drummer, rapper, singer, producer, pianist… Paak’s soothing, jazz-imbued rap performances radiate pure, contagious joy. If you’re still not convinced, allow me to name drop a few of Paak’s friends, who’ve either collaborated on a song or shown up to accompany a live performance: Stevie Wonder, Dr. Dre, Smokey Robinson, Eminem, to name a few… It’s no surprise, though, that my favorite Paak collaboration just happens to be about, well, me! Just listen to those lyrics: Jet black hair baby jet black hair. 😉

If you think I’m fangirling too hard, I’m not the only one. Sorry to throw you under the bus Billie…

If it’s any consolation, I’LL THROW MYSELF UNDER THE BUS TOO:

Paak has a song for every mood. He’s soulful. He’s jazzy. He’s funky. He’s dynamic. His music videos are as finely tuned as his albums, and one can only hope to be as cool as Paak’s son someday (48s):

Paak’s authenticity shines through in his perspective on growing up in Oxnard. The raw lyrics and edgier sounds shift from the calmer vibes of Malibu.

Anderson Paak has longevity. He seamlessly switches between rap, jazz, and hip hop, all while joining in on the instrumentals. Paak’s signature “Yes Lawd!” is here to stay. In fact, I just stumbled upon a Justin Timberlake x Anderson Paak Instagram post. Do we smell a collaboration?