Music Quickspins

QUICKSPIN: Ashton Irwin – Superbloom

Ashton Irwin shares some of his biggest life struggles in his debut solo album

After not hearing Ashton Irwin’s voice in a solo setting since his falsetto in “If Walls Could Talk” in 2018, he released his debut solo album Superbloom on Oct. 23.

With Irwin being the drummer for 5 Seconds of Summer, his voice was never truly put forward in 5SOS songs. In contrast, Calum Hood, the bassist, had a solo song in the group’s latest album CALM, “Wildflower,” as well as in Youngblood, “Babylon,” which was a bonus track on the album’s deluxe edition. Yet, Irwin is the first of the pop-rock band to pursue a solo career.

After announcing he had been focusing on his solo career in September, Irwin released his 10-track album exactly a month later. Instead of being in Luke Hemming’s (5SOS’s lead singer) and Hood’s shadow, Irwin is now at the forefront of the album. There are zero collaborations in this album, which could have been done on purpose to emphasize the “solo” part of the next step Irwin is taking in his career. Regardless, it also highlights how intimate this project felt to him.

Naturally, the drums on this album shine, given that Irwin mains on the kit in 5SOS. The electric guitar is also prevalent. Both these instruments particularly stand out in heavier and more uptempo moments, as heard in “SCAR” and “Greyhound.”

There are slower and calmer songs as well, such as “Skinny Skinny,” in which we can truly hear the vulnerability in Irwin’s voice. This makes sense as it’s about body dysmorphia, one of the many personal struggles he shares in Superbloom.

We can also hear violin in some gentler songs, for example, in “Sunshine.” This track envelops us with its warmth, making us smile and want to see the sunshine Irwin is talking about (“See the sunshine / Just like the first time / Not just today / Not just tomorrow / But now ‘till / Forever and ever”).

In most songs, Irwin builds up the tempo, leading to an instrumental (or instrumental-dominated) passage then slows it down. This allows us to truly process and think about what Irwin is saying, while enjoying louder instrumental passages. After which he brings us back to a slower pace, making us leave his alluring world and come back to our own reality.

The young drummer turned alternative singer-songwriter did an amazing job at delivering many strong messages related to some personal problems he struggled with over the past few years.

In the interlude “Matter Of Time,” Irwin discusses his battle with alcoholism (“Darkness shows up / Don’t you let it grow / The light will shine in / Then your heart will know”). He also talks about overcoming depression in “The Sweetness” where he flawlessly opposes the two main emotions he felt: total darkness and indestructible hope. (“When the darkness creeps into / Your basement / When the darkness / Takes it all away again”) as opposed to (“When the sweetness / Seeps into your bloodstream / When the sweetness / Makes you love your life again”).

This album is all about perfect balance. Irwin contrasts opposites, almost to validate that feeling bad is as normal as feeling good. He combines light and darkness, joy and sadness, fantasy and reality, offering us all the possibilities.

Stepping into multiple roles for the first time, Irwin clearly put a lot into the creation of Superbloom. As singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he worked on the details to make sure he was sharing his story the way he wanted to while hoping to help others who are facing similar problems.

Rating: 10/10

Trial track: “Have U Found What Ur Looking For?”

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: 5 Seconds of Summer – CALM

5SOS reveal their growth and improvement in their new album

After disappearing for two years and releasing Youngblood in 2018, 5 Seconds of Summer has returned with their fourth studio album, CALM.

The album starts off with loud songs, such as “No Shame,” and “Easier,” in which the bass and drums are prominent. After the fifth track “Teeth,” the album shifts to softer, calmer tracks, like “Wildflower,” and “Best Years.”

The Australian pop-rock band gave us exactly what we needed during this quarantine: incredible music to enjoy. Songs like “Teeth” have you dancing around to catchy beats while screaming the lyrics (“Fight so dirty but your love so sweet/ Talk so pretty but your heart got teeth”).

Yet, the profound lyrics heard in “Old Me” have you reflecting on the old you (“Shout out to the old me/ And everything he showed me/ Had to fuck it up before I let you get to know me”). This will, undoubtedly, make you think of all the mistakes you’ve made but don’t necessarily regret, as they probably made you into the person you are today.

Also,  lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Luke Hemmings explained the meaning of the 12 songs in an interview with Apple Music. “You’re not the person that you were when you were younger, but also you have to do these things and make mistakes to move forward and grow as a person,” he said, explaining “Old Me,” and possibly the album, along with their 2016 disappearance.

Taking time to explain the meaning of every song is extremely helpful for fans as they can understand what the songs mean to the band, as well as their purpose in releasing the album.

Rating: 9/10

Trial Track: “No Shame”



The Chainsmokers know how to get lit

Flames, fireworks, motor bikes, lasers and suspended metal fixtures — this and more were part of The Chainsmokers’ show at the Bell Centre on Oct. 9. But before all that, Lennon Stella and 5 Seconds of Summer (5SOS) performed their sets.

Visually, Stella’s stage production was underwhelming. There was no décor or props of her own. All we got was Stella, her guitarist, and drummer. Unfortunately, she was often overtaken by backing tracks or aggressive, auto-tuned-sounding vocoder harmonies. The crowd was only able to hear Stella’s true voice during an acoustic version of “Like Everybody Else.” This was the highlight of her 30-minute set along with her performance of “La Di Da.”

After an excruciating near-20 minute wait, four-man band 5SOS hit the stage – Luke Hemmings, lead vocals; Calum Hood, bassist; Michael Clifford, lead guitarist; and Ashton Irwin, drums. They started with their 2014 hit-single “She Looks So Perfect,” the perfect tune to kick-start the show, both for nostalgic 5SOS fans and anyone prone to tapping their feet to a catchy beat.

There was a well-balanced assortment of tracks off their newest album Youngblood like “Want You Back” and “Ghost of You,” current singles “Teeth” and “Easier,” and hits from the past like “Amnesia” and “Jet Black Heart.” The 17-song set, which lasted a little over an hour, was enjoyable and it looked like they were having as much fun performing as we were watching.

Each member took the time to say a few words. Like many artists that visit Montreal, they seemed to unashamedly proclaim their affinity for the city. Hemmings jokingly tried his hand at French while Clifford, on behalf of the band, expressed their unique connection with the city and its creatives. While Hood most notably expressed his enthusiasm through the use of several profanities, Irwin’s comments caused quite a stir. He excitedly let fans know how happy they were about playing in Montreal after a five year absence. However, dedicated fans let him know that they had, in fact, visited July 13, 2016.

After ending their set with “Youngblood,” the band walked off stage and there was another nearly 20-minute wait for the duo everyone was waiting for.

With metal structures falling into place over the stage, the DJ duo of The ChainsmokersAlex Pall and Drew Taggart – along with drummer Matt McGuire, walked on stage holding up a flaming stick each (Olympics style). The crowd went wild when they started their set with insane visuals of smoke, steam bursts, and lasers.

The Chainsmokers performed the next two hours with such intensity and energy that resonated with and through the crowd. Without expectations of how their set would pan out (we mostly went for 5SOS), there was a certain shock value with everything the DJs did on stage.

After “Sick Boy,” which Taggart performed in a metal sphere suspended in the air, 5SOS came back on stage to perform a rigorous rendition of “Who Do You Love” halfway through The Chainsmokers’s 15-song set. Taggart asked the crowd who was ready to dance and picked a young woman out of the crowd. As soon as the bass dropped, she did the floss, kicked up her leg, did a cartwheel and landed in the splits.

Throughout the rest of the show, there were more flames, lasers, steam bursts and a light show happening all at once. By the last song, Taggart was standing at the top of the metal structure on stage, maybe 50 feet up, looking like he was living his best life.

All in all, The Chainsmokers put on an impressive performance. It might have been because we had no idea of what to expect, but it was definitely a show to remember.


Photo by Jesse Di Meo

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