ALBUM REVIEW: Palisades – ‘MIND GAMES’

A brave advancement in genre bending

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MIND GAMES (2015) opens with a genre-ambiguous intro, the curiosity of the listener growing with each measure until the initial drop about thirteen seconds into the song that alerts audiences that this album will be filled with a heavy matrimony of mean breakdowns and filthy beats. From start to finish, the album challenges the listener with a fluctuation of energy causing a constant internal battle involving whether to get up and dance or start a mosh pit. Rave or mosh?

Having such a choice at all makes this album intriguing, because Palisades makes both options seem so appealing. They understand each genre so inherently that each part is done incredibly well. Their inclusion of pop also makes the songs insanely catchy, the kind of melodies that linger in one’s head for days. Some of the credit for this burst of maturity in Palisades’ songwriting can be attributed to writing and recording with Erik Ron, whose work with Saosin, Hands Like Houses, Panic! At the Disco and Motionless in White speaks for itself. Erik Ron knows how to channel a band’s creative vision. He is a true muse who excels at his craft.

Every single aspect of this album feels natural and cohesive, a difficult feat when combining so many different musical styles and popular trends. From the album art to the track-list to the visual content, each facet of MIND GAMES is methodical and precise. The album cover looks like someone’s iTunes on his or her iPhone playing a song from the record. This image immediately familiarizes audiences with the idea of playing the music before they even hear it. This idea appears again in the lyric video for “Player Hater’s Ball (feat. Blackbear),” the first single released from the album. The video displays the lyrics as a text conversation, instantly recognizable by presumably everybody. Even the song titles contain hints of Palisades’ descision to cater to a very specific audience. For example, “Come Over and Watch Netflix” gives a nod to the overwhelming public love of Netflix and the contemporary dating scene as well as single life, both of which involve watching Netflix. Their very carefully constructed theme of pop culture give a solid cohesion to MIND GAMES and illustrates Palisdes’ awareness of the importance of recognizing such trends.

Something that MIND GAMES utilizes far better than any other work from Palisades are the velvety smooth vocals of bassist Brandon Sidney. Although Brandon showed off his pipes in the poppy little love song “Sydney” from Outcasts (2013), he never really had consistently significant roles vocally. Luckily that is not so in MIND GAMES. More than a few songs feature Brandon’s honey-like voice, which exquisitely balances out the rowdiness of the music as well as Lou Miceli’s vocals. His parts are so aesthetically striking, one might assume them to be guest vocals. In “No Chaser” and “Like a Drug” his parts cool down the otherwise fiery aspects of the tracks. His parts in “Come Over and Watch Netflix” help make that track particularly appealing. The song already has extreme radio potential as well as a prospective candidate for more trance-y EDM show. The smooth vocals ad an R&B vibe to the track, rounding out the song nicely and adding to it an alluring sensuality. Lou’s vocals offer the same amount of passion as his work in Outcasts, but he does scream less in MIND GAMES. This is slightly upsetting because his screams conjure such powerful emotions, but the music and content fare well without as much screaming.

Many songs have more than just the club banger influenced beats, but also similar lyrical content. For example, the third track “Bad Girls” has sexually driven lyrics similar to many popular rap songs which are normally deplorable, but in this case, only further demonstrate Palisades’ dedication to their style. Other songs still have the lyrical strength found in Outcasts, which include a lot of underdog related turmoil and struggle, but the more playful lyrics throughout MIND GAMES fit better with the overall direction they took this time. “True Blood” probably contains the most similarity to an Outcast track; however, it still has the more advanced electronic elements from MindlessMindless.

MIND GAMES is a perfect blend of pop, EDM, hip-hop and hardcore. It is a true advancement into a more open-mindness and musically awareness.