Tracking New Music Releases with Zac Wittman: Tears For Fears, Conway The Machine,, Marillion, caroline

Written By Zachary Wittman, Music Columnist

Over spring break, there was a bit of a dip in huge album releases. Several anticipated albums from the likes of Kanye West, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Current 93 and many more were either delayed or released through a platform that I am unable to access. Even so, the past two weeks were still full of wonderful gems.

Tears For Fears – The Tipping Point
Pop Rock
Released February 25, 2022

4.5 Globes out of 5

I have had a fairly constant list of favorite albums for a long time now. The legendary ‘80s masterpiece “Songs From The Big Chair” by Tears For Fears has been firmly in my top 10 albums since I was a little kid. They are truly one of my favorite bands and have been such a powerful mainstay in my musical taste my entire life.

“The Tipping Point” is a reunion album of sorts. Drummer Manny Elias and keyboardist Ian Stanley have been absent from the band since “Songs From The Big Chair,” leaving the band a twosome in the form of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith. Smith was absent for the two albums Orzabal fronted in the ‘90s but returned for the group’s “final” album “Everybody Loves A Happy Ending” in 2004. Since then, the band has not been up to much. Tensions between the two have been high for decades, but only in the past few years have they patched things up. Thus, their seventh album marks nearly an 18-year gap.

They really hit it out of the park on this one. Hearing Smith and Orzabal trade off vocal passages again feels so invigorating. The two are such incredible pop songwriters, and it feels like they haven’t been out of the game for a day. To get the negatives out of the way, the production is immaculate, but it doesn’t exactly fit with some of these songs. The album would’ve benefited from full-on sleek production from the ‘80s like their first three, but this one sounds slightly off, due to the modern recording technology used. “Long, Long, Long Time” would especially benefit from this. “Rivers Of Mercy” has the potential to be even more ethereal if it didn’t feel stuck in this weird rut of production styles. The lyrics on some of the tracks, such as “My Demons,” feel bland and downright corny at times. That is about all of the negatives that are to be found.

Every hook on this album is memorable. “Break The Man” is the most euphoric the band has sounded since “Sowing The Seeds Of Love.” “No Small Thing” and the title track show that the band are still exploring different sounds this late into their career. A Tears For Fears album wouldn’t be complete without a Beatles style song, and “Master Plan” is exactly that. The backing vocals and piano work scream Lennon and McCartney. Just as all of the Beatles rips the band does, this one is excellent. The gentler moments of “Please Be Happy” and “Stay” also work just as well as the more anthemic cuts.

Tears For Fears are truly an important band to many people, me included, so it is nice to see them putting out such great music again. Anyone who likes pop music new and old will like this record. The boys have done it again.

Conway The Machine – God Don’t Make Mistakes
East Coast Hip Hop
Released February 25, 2022

4.5 Globes out of 5

This album should be called “Conway Don’t Make Mistakes” because it is one of the best hip hop releases of the year so far.

Conway is a relatively newer rapper, as he had not released any material until he was in his thirties. Despite this, he quickly made up for lost time by releasing numerous EPs and mixtapes. His second album, “God Don’t Make Mistakes,” is arguably his best work yet.

It seems like Conway knew this would be his breakout album, as he details much of his beginnings on these songs. For example, “Guilty” details the near-fatal shooting that left Conway’s face scarred. As he says on the track, he is glad to be alive and will make people move past his appearance with his rapping abilities.

His slightly slurred delivery is iconic in its own right and makes him one of the most enticing rappers working right now. He delivers each line with such heartfelt purpose that you know he means it when he talks about loving his younger siblings or that he is a living legend. His charisma makes you invested in each word and truly believe that he is better than your favorite rapper because he said so.

So many rappers say that, but Conway is one of the few to make you believe it. The production switches from classic boom bap like on “Lock Load” and “Drumwork,” to the ever-great chipmunk soul on “Tear Gas” and “So Much More.” Every feature feels like it adds a lot to the respective songs, but “Tear Gas” is on another level. Lil Wayne and Rick Ross both deliver such fun and energetic verses that make this song a clear standout.

The beats are crisp and sound incredibly inspired. The production throughout feels slightly psychedelic, but not enough to be distracting. The keyboards on “Babas” are just dripping with soul and the tremolo guitar in the background almost pushes the song into trip hop territory. The title track features Conway’s own mother in what seems to be a reenactment of when he was gravely injured. While jarring, it does provide a satisfying end to the album’s concept.

As this is the true second album from Conway if mixtapes aren’t counted, his growth between this and his debut is monumental. This is a project that a veteran rapper would hope to make. Exciting things are ahead for Conway, and I cannot wait to see where this road takes him. – This World Is Going To Ruin You
Released March 4, 2022

4 Globes out of 5

For a moment, excuse the mess that is the hardcore scene. Brimming with gatekeeping, machoism and physical violence, it is not a very inviting place. However, the music absolutely rules. have seemingly made nu metal somewhat cool again through their metal genre blending debut “Errorzone” in 2018. Four years later, they’ve returned with an even more brutal follow-up.

The storm of pandemonium across this album can be a sensory overload at times, but those who can handle the waves will find themselves thrashing along. are as violent as their music sounds. Destroying stages, platonically scuffing with fans in the pit and starting unnecessary beefs with their peers. In traditional metalcore fashion, they seem genuinely unpleasant through and through. They seem to channel that to make some of the most effective metal in years. “Fear In Non Fiction” is a real neck breaker of changing tempos and morphing passages. Geoff Rickly of Thursday fame provides some clean guest vocals as well. “Wherever You Are” is a foreboding slice of darkwave that shows another side of the band that is just as enthralling as their metal roots. The simple piano motif sounds like pure evil in the haunted house kind of way.

For better or worse, many of the tracks on the album are under two minutes. They do not overstay their welcome, but it would’ve been nice to hear songs like “Magazine Beach” or “Inside Design” expanded upon. The former has one of the best riffs on the entire album, while the latter teases turntable scratches in the last two seconds that really make me wish they were present across the whole album in pure Limp Bizkit fashion. Closer “Funeral Sound” channels Deftones at times, especially with the vocals at the beginning. Speaking of which, the vocals are so low in the mix that they do not hit with the same force that they should. The mixing otherwise is great, but this is such a missed opportunity.

If you are a fan of metal and can get past the needless acts of bravado the hardcore scene puts on, then check this out. have certainly dropped one of the best metal releases this year, so this is definitely worth a listen. Next time, add more turntable scratches please.

Marillion – An Hour Before It’s Dark
Progressive Rock
Released March 4, 2022

3.5 Globes out of 5

Progressive rock is my favorite genre of music, but the genre tends to follow the trend of artists having a classic period and then trailing off. Marillion have had multiple peaks, with there not really being a slog of an album run in their career. That being said, “An Hour Before It’s Dark” is starting to show the wear and tear of the band.

Right off the bat, Steve Hogarth’s age is showing in his voice. He is a bit shaky at the album’s start, but as the record progresses, he falls back into the groove. He still has a good voice, even if it isn’t as powerful as it once was. Steve Rothery still shreds on the guitar, delivering enticing solos and melodies throughout the record.

The rest of the band somewhat phone it in, but the performances work fine enough. The album’s pacing is very rough. Marillion are known for having lengthy songs, but the choice to break certain songs up into individual tracks makes the record feel longer than it is and also reads as a tactic to boost streams. There are four suites that are broken into multiple tracks, and each of their individual tracks could have been homogenized into the parent suite and no one would notice.

Sure, the closer “Care” would be 12 minutes instead of four shorter tracks, but no one listening to Marillion in 2022 is going to care that they write long songs. It really breaks up the flow of the album. The two shorter songs in the middle of the album are fine. “Murder Machines” features some eyerolling lyrics from a once very scholarly band, but “The Crow And The Nightingale” picks up the slack with some lovely choir elements.

The “Sierra Leone” suite features some enticing storytelling and feels like the band is back on track. The real meat of the album comes in with the aforementioned closer “Care.” This sprawling song is filled with ambient passages, energetic guitar solos and lots of energy. It is a little too-little-too-late, but at least the band ended the album strongly. This song is truly amazing, with the final section being some of the best music the band has made in a very long time.

This is certainly only an album for fans. It is awesome to see old friends continue to make music together that they believe in and that’s exactly what Marillion is doing. Even if the end product is just alright, it seems the band truly love to do what they are still doing. This album will likely grow with time. Given the way their album cycles have peaks and valleys, I have no doubt their next album will be an improvement.

caroline – caroline
Released February 25, 2022

4 Globes out of 5

As rock music expands in every direction, genres get harder and harder to pinpoint. Modern day post-rock has splintered into so many forms that few bands sound alike. The point of the genre has been to utilize rock instrumentation in a non-traditional format and caroline do just that and more. Despite the name, caroline is an eight piece musical group based out of London.

Their debut self-titled album is marketed as the first step in the band’s ever evolving sound. As it stands, this album takes the classical influenced side of post-rock and leans into it heavily. Violins and cellos take up a large portion of the album’s instrumental basis alongside drums and acoustic guitars. There is barely a trace of traditional song structure across this album, as the strings add textural drones and lyrics either repeat ad nauseam or read like a poem.

The album begins in a more familiar place, with “Dark Blue” being one of the least challenging songs on the record. The hypnotic strings and hazy vocals feel somewhat warm and inviting. “Good Morning (Red)” is borderline emo at points and will certainly find its way onto the playlists of many sad indie kids.

After these two songs, the album takes a dive into more difficult territory. “Engine (Eavesdropping)” has a wonderfully chaotic breakdown of each member improving in a free-form freakout. “Skydiving Onto The Library Roof” is an easy album highlight, also featuring an anarchic improv section, but this time set to a horn riff that drips with melancholy. The structure of this track works incredibly well, with the hold and release of the climax creeping up in a fashion that makes you not even realize you’ve experienced a crescendo.

“Natural Death” also reaches these highs, but a bit more on the nose due to its more in-your-face instrumentation. The lyrics on this track are soulsuckingly depressing and work as a purging of emotions as the album closes. The tracks in between range from short interludes to extended Appalachian folk influenced passages. The tracks often feature field recordings, ambience and various hard cuts in production, giving the album a haunted vibe.

Few albums in recent years treat space better than this. There is room to breathe, as the silence between notes are as important as the ones played. There isn’t a lot that sounds like this out there. As far as debut albums from small experimental bands, this is one of the better ones in recent years. There is so much potential here, so caroline will be a band to track. If this album was released 25 years earlier, I’m sure many people would sing its praises in the same way as many once forgotten and now rediscovered post-rock, slowcore and emo albums of the era are now today.