Sound — 6
Angels & Airwaves essentially formed as a direct result of Blink-182 breaking up (or going on hiatus, depending on what you want to call it) in 2005, and was formed with the intention of crossing lines between different mediums of expression. In line with that, the band has released both albums and short films. Primary songwriter, Tom DeLonge, reunited with Blink-182 in 2009, which has caused some delays in releases and tours by Angels & Airwaves. "The Dream Walker" is the band's fifth studio album, and is the first part of a project which is supposed to include short films, graphic novels and animations based around a character named Poet Anderson. The album contains 10 tracks and has an approximate runtime of 40 minutes and is being released by To The Stars Records. While "Paralyzed" was released first, in early October 2014, the band insists the first single is actually the second song released, "The Wolfpack," which was released in late October. The short film, "Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker" was released in November and won Best Animation at the Toronto International Short Film Festival. Tom DeLonge and Ilan Rubin are credited with all the instrumentation and vocals on the album according to Wikipedia (as unfortunately I haven't got a chance to get my hands on a physical copy of the album to check any liner notes). Also of note, Matt Wachter (bass, synths, backing vocals) was replaced earlier in 2014 with Eddie Breckenridge.
The album opens up with the track "Teenagers & Rituals," with a piano melody that has more instrumentation slowly stacked on top of it and somewhere around the minute mark has me nodding my head along with the track. "Paralyzed" is the second track from the album, and also the "second" single from the album - it has an interesting intro that is actually very engaging, and it kind of blows up into a very full sounding track. The track has some very pop punk vocal delivery, and is one of the few songs where Ilan Rubin's backup vocals serve a large part in the song. "The Wolfpack," the "lead" single, is up next. "The Wolfpack" has a synth melody that is really infectious to me, and won me over pretty early on in the track. "Tunnels" reminds me of U2 for some reason I can't quite name - it isn't a bad track, though. "Kiss With a Spell" reminded me from the very opening of some of the weirder new wave music of the '80s, and pretty much stayed in that range for the entirety of the song. "Mercenaries" has an extended instrumental opening, but when the lyrics come in at around the one minute mark the song is one of the most conventional pop punk tracks from the album. "Bullets in the Wind" is kind of crazy, and I guess I get kind of hung up on the lyrical theme which centers around being blown around aimlessly like "bullets in the wind," but in reality, bullets don't really get blown around, they're traveling too fast. I just can't get over the concept to enjoy the song. "The Disease" is another song where I'm trying to get past the concepts in the lyrics, but on this one I'm lost because maybe I'm not getting it, but it seems like he's describing a one night stand (or else just going home with someone for the first night) like some type of transcendent experience - or maybe I'm just not getting what he's saying with this one. "Tremors" is pretty much a straightforward pop song, with all the pros and cons that go along with that. The album closes out with the track "Anomaly," which opens up as an acoustic track, which is a nice change, even though it sounds way more like a Blink-182 song than anything by Angels & Airwaves.
Lyrics — 6
Tom DeLonge has one of those voices that has really become almost an expectation with pop punk music, and as Angels & Airwaves is a slightly different kind of band it takes me a minute to re-adjust my expectations from the band. He actually does an extraordinary job for the type of music he's trying to create, though I would like to hear more dynamics in the volume and compression as it can seem a little 2 dimensional at times. Ilan Rubin is credited with backing vocals on the album, but his backing vocals go mostly unnoticed when listening to the album.
As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the song "The Disease": "Take a little look at yourself/ Watch a soul leave the cemetery/ Find a little fight in those eyes/ And awaken to light across the sky/ Dream a little harder this time/ I'll await you to make the journey/ Letting go the love realize/ It's as much of the end, as is the ride/ I await you again/ I can feel your touch/ I call your name to the wind/ And into the nightfall my love/ Carry up the worst of yourself/ To a maze so in ordinary/ Get a little taste of it all/ And awaken so new, your friends, a child/ If you want to stay through the night/ Hear the footsteps and sullen stories/ Feels like the night of your life/ All the reason to brave the smiles." I feel like Tom is trying to transcend the more simple concepts from his pop punk songs with Blink-182, but I don't always feel like he's successful.
Overall Impression — 7
Tom DeLonge and other members of the band have previously stated they see themselves as being similar to Pink Floyd, and honestly I have to say that those are pretty brave words from a band that is barely escaping being labeled pop punk. They do layer in more synth-laden melodies and such, but their song structures aren't progressive and the band isn't really breaking any rules. I'm not saying their music doesn't have any value, but they definitely aren't what Tom and gang are describing themselves as, either. The "lead" single, "The Wolfpack" is my favorite track from the album. At the end of the day, this album doesn't measure up to what the band portrays it to be, but it isn't a horrible album, either. It is kind of like junk food in the world of music, though not completely without nutritional value - kind of like raisinets.