The lead-up to Mike Shinoda’s new solo album, Post Traumatic, has been packed with nothing short of sheer excitement. Since January, we have been slowly given view of Mike’s grief and growth following the passing of Chester Bennington last July: seven songs and accompanying music videos (with an eighth coming tonight) have been released prior to the album’s release date on June 15th. We’ve also had the opportunity to see Mike perform some of these new tracks – especially at his two shows in Los Angeles a few weeks back. Recently, Mike has announced a slew of listening parties for members of the LPU – both in the United States and abroad. The first took place at Warner Bros. Records in Burbank, CA on May 30th, and thankfully, the LPAssociation had the opportunity to sit in on this listening party and preview the whole album prior to its release. In this review, I will run through the tracks one-by-one and offer a few quick reviews of the already released tracks (for those who haven’t heard them yet), as well as more in-depth reviews of the tracks we have not yet heard. I should first say that, even though it feels like Mike has put out the whole album already, we have truly only heard about half of it. There is so much more left on this album that are a part of Mike’s story over the past year, and I genuinely believe they are worth listening to. With all that being said, here’s the rundown of Post Traumatic: 01 \\ Place To Start (2:13) “Place To Start” was the first track that Mike released, alongside two others, on the “Post Traumatic EP” back in January. The song feels heavy – a deep ambience establishes itself as Mike slowly enters with, “I don’t have a leg to stand on – spinning like a whirlwind, nothing to land on.” This track is short, but it has a quick build and release as Mike closes with some truly heartbreaking lines – “I’m tired of feeling like I can’t control this, I’m tired of feeling like every next step’s hopeless” – as well as some voice messages from close messages nearby, which include Dave “Phoenix” Farrell and Mark Fiore, among others. 02 \\ Over Again (3:50) “Over Again” is, and remains, the most devastating track on this album. As Mike has described, the first verse wasrecorded and written on the day of the band’s tribute show to Chester back in October, and the next verse was written and recorded the following day. The song is a literal and in-the-moment account of Mike’s feelings – “I think about not doing it the same way as before, and it makes me want to puke my fucking guts out on the floor.” It doesn’t take long on this album for Mike to hit hard on the unrivaled challenge and fear following the loss of his close friend and bandmate – “You think it’ll be a challenge? Only my life’s work hanging in the fucking balance.” The song builds into the sad, repetitive, and all too true chorus – “Sometimes you don’t say goodbye once, you say goodbye over and over again, over and over and over again.” 03 \\ Watching As I Fall (3:31) This song is our first glimpse, I feel, at the nuance of grief. Mike himself has commented that at first, this song feels dark. You are blasted with a crunchy drum blast into a synthetic beat accompanied by an ongoing sweeping riff in the background as Mike details the struggle of his own grief and as others spectate. “Thinking I’m okay, but they’re saying otherwise. Tell me how I look but can’t look me in the eyes.” As the song builds into the final chorus, his voice accompanied by vocoded layers, he hits the point harder – “They’re watching as I fall to somewhere down below, but maybe I’m just falling to get somewhere they won’t.” But then again, he reminds himself and us as listeners that this is life, there’s nothing or no one to blame, and that we must do all we can with the time we have. 04 \\ Nothing Makes Sense Anymore (3:33) This song sets a unique tone on the album – as I listen to the music, it feels to me like entering ruins or long empty halls of a large temple. The chord progression in the background begins muffled, and as the song progress it ebbs and flows in and out of clear and sharp tone that surrounds the listener that during the choruses are layered with strings. The lyrics on this track feel as dark as the music does: the track is all about the disruption and the accompanyingconfusion, grief, anxiety, and stress that Mike and so many others felt following Chester’s passing. Mike makes use of opposites and imagery to emphasize how shaken up he is, “My inside’s out, my left is right, my upside’s down, my black is white.” In short, when life is suddenly not the same anymore, it is terrifying. 05 \\ About You (feat. Blackbear) (03:26) This song stands out immediately from the previous tracks – musically, it is more upbeat – as a slow trapbeat is accompanied by catchy synth riffs that change and evolve throughout the song. Lyrically, it is our first real glimpse at Mike trying to move on and write new music as he grieves. On a fundamental level, the song shows us Mike’s struggle with writing music; how even if a song is not about Chester, it still ends up feeling like it is about him. “Even when there’s no connection back to you in any line, all of a sudden it’s about you and it gets me every time.” Blackbear’s influence on this song is apparent on this track, and he is also featured on the bridge of the track, which leads into an outro of a distorted layering of Mike singing over and over: “Even when it’s not about you, about you, all of a sudden it’s about you now.” 06 \\ Brooding [Instrumental] (02:31) Now the songs you haven’t heard yet come up. Brooding is a terrifyingly eerie instrumental. The song opens with alingering high pitch and dark atmosphere, that slowly leads into piano and guitar chords that will vaguely remind you of “Drawbar.” About fifty seconds in, the song shifts entirely into a pounding and syncopated beat that will catch listeners by surprise. The chords make their way back into the track, and the song ends with distorted echoes. 07 \\ Promises I Can’t Keep (3:22) This song opens with a sound that vaguely reminds me of “Good Goodbye,” and as the song settles into a beat, Mike sings his way through deep uncertainty. We have all seen Mike face questions time and time again about the future of Linkin Park, and if the band will ever resurface in some new iteration after Chester’s passing. On this track, Mike wrestles with the vast unknowns that he and even his bandmates now face. “I had so much uncertainty, ‘til that moment I lost control. I got no worse enemy than the fear of what’s still unknown.” The choruses close with the titular line, Mike stating that he realizes that “there will be promises I can’t keep.” The song features a really nice bridge that will remind listeners of the synth solo in “Jornada del Muerto.” 08 \\ Crossing A Line (4:02) This song marks the beginning of a notably different second half of the album (which I’ll get to later). As you all likely have gathered by now, this song is notably more optimisticand upbeat in its lyrics and sound. The song feels hopeful,Mike directly facing his fear that in pursuing this solo venture he will alienate his bandmates and friends who may think he does not care about them or the career they built together. However, as he emphasizes, he knows that he and the band will find answers, but that for him to get closer to what he’s looking for and to heal, he must take this step. While this song feels more conventional and more accessible than the other tracks, it still holds a lot of weight as a marked shift in the dark tone of the record. 09 \\ Hold It Together (3:25) And just when you think things are looking up, Mike reminds you that grief is not a linear process. Through all this growth and hope that his effort is getting him somewhere, he still faces indescribable grief. “She said, ‘Are you okay?’ I don’t have my head on straight.” Juxtaposed to a Justin Timberlake-like, more pop-toned beat in the background, Mike says it straight up: “I’m just trying to act normal so they won’t know, I’m just trying to hold my shit together.” This song feels very in-the-moment, describing how Mike begins to feel this way after seemingly unrelated and otherwise commonplace events in his life. This song may hit some people even harder than the opening tracks, because it catches you after an otherwise optimistic track and speaks to the real day-to-day struggles of dealing with loss and disruption. 10 \\ Ghosts (2:54) Mike continues describing his ongoing day-to-day struggle on this track, though I’m still trying to wrap my head a bit around what Mike is really speaking to. This piano-driven hip hop beat sits behind a more in-the-moment view of Mike’s contrasted behavior and thoughts from day and night (another tap into the ongoing theme of opposites and extremes on this album). “When the lights go down, I see things I can’t explain calling out my name. Holding every memory close, tonight is for our ghosts.” Though I can’t say this is what Mike means, I feel Mike is more literally talking about getting through a day to feel the real brunt of his loss at night (another recurring lyrical theme on this album is Mike’s sleeplessness following Chester’s passing). 11 \\ Make It Up As I Go (feat. K.Flay) (3:29) This song opens with K.Flay (who has a really beautiful but very unique voice) singing the song’s chorus, “I don’t know what I’m chasing, I don’t know who I am.” The song transitions into what I could only describe off the cuff as a bouncy beat, and Mike begins to rap. On this track, Mike openly lays out more of the ups and downs, seemingly diving into moments of being lost or reckless (he refers to washing the taste of “bad decisions” out of his mouth). The song presents another element of the instability Mike feels – his feelings, his confidence, and his attitude are both fickle and can sway to extremes. K.Flay is a welcome voice and contrast on this track, and is in my opinion a really nice feature on the album. 12 \\ Lift Off (feat. Chino Moreno and Machine Gun Kelly) (4:00) This song is starkly different from much of the album. A very deliberate, space-like atmosphere is set from the get-go, and is carried through all the lyrics. On this track and the next, Mike finds his confidence and his swagger – delivering battle raps that will remind listeners of Hybrid Theory EP and even of LIVING THINGS – “I just spent six months recharging my batteries.” Chino sings a delicate chorus (much of which I couldn’t gather in a couple of listens), and Machine Gun delivers and equally swag-heavy verse to accompany Mike’s. This song needs more listens, especially to better show what Mike is saying here, but it does feel like Mike is finding his mojo at this stage in the album, “lifting off” (so to speak) from what has otherwise been a very grounded and perhaps entrapping time in his life. 13 \\ I.O.U. (2:42) This is about as thug of a beat and rap as Mike has ever made. A machine gun beat pattern runs through the song, and Mike finds a return to form – reminding the rest of the world that he truly never left, and that while others may feel now they can take their turn, Mike insists it’s not time yet. “I eat ‘em, delete ‘em, they’re barely beginners… tell ‘em take an I.O.U.” Like the previous track, this one needs more listens, but this song and the last are really different from everything else on the record – but in the context of the album, it does suggest Mike rediscovering his confidence and swagger. 14 \\ Running From My Shadow (feat. Grandson) (3:24) Fitting with the ups and downs of the record, this song shows us how Mike is repeatedly brought down to earth – Mike must continue to wrestle with the past and with his current predicament – knowing there are several big questions unanswered and lots of challenges he has yet to face as Linkin Park’s future remains an unknown. This song sounds very akin to what we might hear from Linkin Park, with a guitar and synth driven beat that ultimately leads into grandson’s soft bridge and a heavy guitar breakdown that will remind listeners of The White Stripes or Sleigh Bells. 15 \\ World’s On Fire (3:15) I didn’t take enough notes on the musical feel of this song, but what I can tell you is that this song resonates with the same hopefulness and warmth that one might have felt with “Crossing A Line.” I also wrote down, “U2 meets Blackbear,” whatever that means. This song feels like a pseudo-love song to Mike’s family and loved ones, describing the trouble and distress of all the recent events in his life and the outside world and how those close to him get him through. “Fucked up is an understatement, I can’t wait for this year to end… when the world’s on fire, all I need is you. I don’t always think to say it, but it’s true. When I just want to disappear, you’re the one that keeps me here.” The song has the same personal touch that was present on songs off of One More Light, and is one that will leave you smiling. 16 \\ Can’t Hear You Now (3:27) The closing track reminds me musically of “Until It Breaks,” and brings us back to some of the swag-style battle rap that we hear a few tracks prior. As Mike raps, he reflects one last time on the ups and downs of his grief, but now we start to see that there is some resolution in his feelings. On this track, it feels like he is directly talking to his grief and perhaps even to people who may have doubted him. “I’m somewhere far away where you can’t bring me down. I woke up knowing I don’t have to be numb again.” Musically, the song holds the same chord progression and some of the same running arpeggios that we hear on Steve Aoki’s “Darker than Blood.” It’s a nice closer, and leaves the listener with hope that one can emerge stronger and with positivity following very troubling and traumatic events in their life. Overall impression and takeaway: there’s a lot to take in on this album. It’s not just there are sixteen songs on this record, but it’s also that they carry a lot of weight for fans and for anyone who may be remotely familiar with the events of last year. Mike has described this album as an “in-the-moment” documentation of his feelings, the grieving process, and finding his way out of it – and that’s precisely what Post Traumatic is. As he’s accurately described, grief is not a linear process – instead it can be a very turbulent process with highs and lows, and Mike has done a good job of conveying those sways as you proceed through the record. The record also shows that grief is not just sadness, but it can also be lot of different feelings: anger, guilt, anxiety, paranoia, stress, tension, and listlessness. But in the end, the trend is upward and with time we can return to some sense of normalcy and find ourselves revitalized in different ways. And as you go through Post Traumatic, I'd say it's not that Mike had ever lost confidence in himself (I'm not sure he'd say that). Instead, I'd say that he has regained control after a period of his life where he felt he had none. Mike has spoken to this point many times as he's interviewed leading up to mid-June, but I think you hear that on this album - and I even think you see it in his demeanor. I think you can leave listening to this record knowing that the helplessness that comes with grief isn't permanent - perhaps this album's second-most prevalent theme. I'm personally really happy for Mike that he did this - as I'm sure getting back in the studio has helped him, hearing this music has helped me (as it probably has some of you). The in-the-moment lyricism of Post Traumatic lends itself to catharsis and to recovery. It's been an important album for us as fans to turn to - and even though the future of Linkin Park still remains an unknown, I think Post Traumatic will have been a very important album for fans even many years from now. - - - What track are you most looking forward to that you haven't heard yet off of Post Traumatic? Come and tell us on our forums!