Friday, April 27, 2012

Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come (Classic Review of the Week)

After seeing Refused play their reunion show last Monday I thought it would be appropriate for me to spotlight them for my classic review of the week.  It's been interesting to see how the public opinion on Refused has turned into something of a rollercoaster over the past few years.  When this record came out in the late 1990's the band was on the cusp of breaking up and most of us never saw these songs played live back then. 

Though, I recall after the band's demise this album becoming something of a breakthrough in that it seemed liked and accessible to a myriad of people coming from different perspectives. Despite it's technical musicianship and overtly political lyrics, the songs seemed to be well received by more than just fans of political hardcore.  The late 90's and early 2000's were ripe with the notion of "Damn, I wish Refused would get back together". 

The record was brilliant. There's this perfect blend of simplistic guitar work over complicated drumming and time signatures that helps the band maintain a technical background while simultaneously keeping the riffs accessible. Lyrically, this record was diving into social and political issues headfirst.  Perhaps it was the approach or maybe just the perspective, but this had a way of stripping some great concepts to their core and presenting them in desperate terms that carried an anthem-like value.

But then came the DVD. Yes, the DVD that chronicled the last days of the band with some post commentary entitled "Refused are Fucking Dead".  Just being honest here, but the DVD was not the most flattering for the band.  It painted them in the light of a bunch of guys who were good at what they did, knew they were good at what they did and had no problem talking quite a bit about how they were good at what they did.  For 90 minutes. Yeah. Despite how much we all loved the record when it came out, the DVD didn't provide much inspiration to those of us that had but this album in our "classic" status filing cabinet.

Then came the backlash. There were conversations where people would tell me how this record didn't hold up to today's standards.  Though I shared their disappointment in the DVD documentary, I still felt the record, it's songs and lyrics, were still completely relevant.  I also felt that these songs could completely crush a lot of what was being hyped as the next big thing in the current landscape of hardcore.

So yes, I paid my $37 and went to see Refused at one of the largest venues in New York City last week.  And yes, they lived up to every bit of precise musicianship, energy and passion that I thought they would. This record is still a classic, this band is still relevant, and there will never be another record like this. 

Download it here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

In Between - Demo 2011

In Between is from Baltimore and play a style of melodic hardcore that seems to straddle the fence between that raw style of pop punk (life Lifetime and Dillinger Four) and something more refined and radio friendly.  The songs fly by, most are not much longer than a minute. 

There are some catchy moments here within the fast paced movements.  The songs definitely take time, surprisingly, for some introspective moments where the guitar will ring out while the bass and drums carry the weight. "Different Language" sounds like a combination of Lifetime and Dag Nasty; and I don't mean that from an 'influence' point of view, I mean the riffs almost sound too close to the originals. "A Little More" takes a detour and slow things down, bringing the band to a bit more of an aggressive hardcore sound at times.  

For the most part, if you find yourself liking the Lifetime "Tinnitus" era of songs, then this will be right up your alley.  With this being the band's first effort, I think there's a good amount of potential here for them to come into their own.

Take a listen here.

Joyce Manor - S/T

Joyce Manor play a messy and raw version of what can come off as sounding something similar to Archers of Loaf.  It has that characteristic of landing somewhere between indie and pop punk. The guitar work is pretty creative and the drums have a very loose, open style which gives me a very interesting listen. 

Vocally, there's that gritty, almost off key sound that let's you know this is not for the masses persay (the vocals on "Leather Jacket" and "Ashtray Petting Zoo" remind me of "Reinventing Axl Rose"-era Against Me).  There's a good amount of tempo changing here between songs.  They do the mid tempo speed best as it seems to work well with their melodic harmonies.  By the time I got to "Famous Friend" I had made up my mind that this was something I was probably going to be listening to on a regular basis well after this review.

Some very good stuff here, with some catchy hooks that will get stuck in your head. 

Take a listen here.

As We Were - A Reason

As We Wereis a hardcore from Burlington, Vermont that add a good amount of versatility to their music.  There's a gleaming comparison to Have Heart and I think most of that comes from the vocal style on "What's Owed" and "Welcome Back".  Musically the band changes up tempos and moods to keep things interesting and I appreciate the attention to detail there.

Musically the band jumps from mid tempo hardcore, to extremely classic moshy style, and then can also add a good deal of melodics including clean guitar parts.  The production here is pretty spot on and allows the listener a good balance of everything happening. The drums have a nice, roomy sound to them which gives the songs a large, full sound. The guitars have the high gain, saturated sound that is typical of this style.  Lyrically we're dealing with some angry content that comes from the emotional neighborhood.  My favorite was "A Reason" which seems to be a very direct dialogue on the hardcore scene.

If you're a fan of Have Heart, Verse and Great Reversals, then As We Were will definitely quench your thirst.  There's not too many bands playing this style as well as this, and with as much variety.  All in all, not bad.  

Take a listen here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Light Black - Ex Wives

Light Black remind me a lot of a New Brunswick band from the mid 2000's called Make Me.  They have that noodly, clean guitar sound and busy drum work happening (very characteristic of what people are calling the "Kinsela-esque" bands these days, I suppose), though the vocals  opt to take an over the top approach to this music.  At times these vocals can be a little overbearing. 

Still, if you can grow accustomed to the vocals, you may start to recognize some of the fluid song writing happening here...or you may just wish the vocals were different. There are a couple of instrumental tracks here that grant your wish. Either way, Light Black gives you 10 tracks of this formula that are well produced and interesting.

I'm impressed by the caliber of musicianship here and generally love the way that bands like this can create some nice texture in their music.  This is a style that I'm not generally excited about, but I feel musically, this band has nailed it down.

Listen to it here.

Melissa and Paul - Live Hard 10"

When I listen to this I can't help but compare it to The Gossip, mostly due to it's soulful female vocals and guitar/drums format.  But if you're not familiar with that, Melissa and Paul are a duo from Northern New Jersey that play a style of music that seems heavily influenced by garage rock and classic rock. 

I'm impressed by the guitar work here, as it fills the space pretty well. Part of me is curious as to how this would translate in a live setting though. The concern being that it may sound empty without the studio magic here. The drumming is tight and precise, though not techincally overwhelming.  The production here seems to uses a good deal of reverb to emphasize a larger sound.  

"Yeah, I'm Alive" takes the band up a few gears to a faster place in time.  If you can picture the influences I mentioned before, swirled with some fast punk you can get some idea. They change gears completely for the slow and subdued "Ready to Die" (my favorite track out of the 5), giving the listener a look into their knack for versatility.  They take it down even further on "30 days", a soulful and inspired tune that revolves around some blues guitar work. "Lazy Man" had me thinking of my freshman years of high school listening to Hole's "Live Through This" at times. 

This is definitely worth a listen if you're not quite a fan of this genre, but want to hear a band that does it very well. 

Listen to it here

Friday, April 20, 2012

Team Dresch - Personal Best (Classic of The Week)

I'm going to talk about gender issues here. I'll do my best, but this is always a bumpy ride. In the mid 90's I remember a column in Heartattack zine in which the writer chose to do an interesting piece on some of the all female bands of that time. It pointed out that a good deal of the all female bands at that time were not very good musicians at all (Bikini Kill, Spitboy, etc) and I pretty much agreed with this assessment. Don't get me wrong, there were definitely a huge amount of untalented all male bands, sure. However, if you said an all male band were horrible musicians it usually didn't illicit being accused of sexism in most circles.

The premise of the article pointed out that many people were interested in what the mid 90's all female bands had to say, but to express any enthusiasm or awe for the musicianship was simply not being honest..rather it was condescending (why say "good job!" if you don't mean it?). There seemed to be more people just focusing on gender, rather than focusing on the quality of the music or if these musicians could even play their instruments. The male point of view seemed to be "they're good...for girls" and the female point of view seemed to be "finally...girls!".

But let's be objective here for a second and forget all about gender. We have to ask some simple questions. Is the music well done? Are these folks good at their instruments? Team Dresch was a band that, to me, was well ahead of just about every female band at the time in terms of musicianship. They didn't need to be told they were "good for being girls" or have their primary focus be "girls playing music". This musicianship spoke for itself. And while I understand the significance of the band in the "queercore" movement of the time and recognize the band's politics as equally important, it doesn't hurt that they could write some great, timeless songs in addition to their relevant social commentary.

That being said, I found this record in the late 90's and it was totally different from anything I was listening to at the time. The song writing has a dual female vocal that mostly maintains a melodic nature, but jumps out into scream in some rare instances. The guitars sit closer to the bright and jangly side of things at times, but when some nice heavier distortion is appropriate it's provided. The drum work is well done, precise and powerful; not too flashy, but enough to let you know the drummer has a good sense of what needs to where.

With exception of "Freewheel" (a gitty, upbeat country-esque track) the songs put all these ingredients to good use in creating a nice interpretation on punk and hardcore. The catchy bass line on "Hate The Christian Right!" launches the band into an angry assault, done with just the right amount of aggression to not sound forced. The palm muted stomp of "Growing Up in Springfield" and it's ingenious variations from clean to distorted guitar in the same verse are extremely impressive. There are moments like this throughout the record that make this collection of songs really stand the test of time.

Get it here.

Botch - An Anthology of Dead Ends

I've been playing what one could "technical hardcore" for some time now. Back in 2000 my room mate was desperately trying to get me to listen to Botch. There was something about it that made it impossible for me to really latch onto it. He said "Tom, this sounds similar to some of the stuff you write. How could you not like this?". A conclusion escaped me as I couldn't really put a finger on why I didn't like it.

Flash forward to 2006 and I go back to revisit Botch. Damn, what was I thinking? The band has a great technical sense and a creative approach at hardcore that keeps things interesting and intense. Perhaps the vocals get a little too forced sounding for me at times, but I'm willing to look past it since those moments are sparse.

"An Anthology of Dead Ends" presents 6 tracks of unconventional hardcore complete with intricate tempo changes, off time rhythms, tastetful guitar effects..not without the raw power and aggression to bring it to the next level. You'll find "Afghamistam" takes a detour with it's slow, melodic composition, creating a dark and moody track. A solid 6 songs here from a defunct band that have set the bar for technical hardcore to come.

Listen to it here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Lowest - Ep

The Lowest is from Poland and play a straight forward form of hardcore that also inserts some heavier sounds without sounding anywhere near some sort of "metalcore" genre. The heaviness here is pretty natural and doesn't sound forced. The vocals have a strained sound to them and their cadence keeps this from sounding like some silly tough guy band (despite yelling "motherfucker!" on "King of Pain"), which almost reminds me of Chokehold.

"Warmaker" has a nice beginning with some loose open notes that pick up to a nice mid tempo drive. I could have done without the guitar solo though. The song takes you to a few different places though and this is shown with the vocal/guitar break that errupts into a sledgy crawl. When you think it's over, the double bass erupts and carries some gang vocals in with it.

"Graveyard" changes things up, launching into a fast hardcore sound that almost has some d-beat influence to it. It falls into a bass drum and vocal solo reminiscent of Have Heart. "Like Glass" was the standout track for me due to it's experimental and gloomy nature. It has a very 90's sound which I'm a sucker for. A good record for fans of heavy hardcore.

Listen to it here.

Life Moves - Portions

Life Moves is from South Florida and play hardcore that has a nice mix of upbeat chaos with a more straight forward sound. There's a few things here reminding me of The Saddest Landscape at times, mainly the tangent style of the vocals mixed with some of the more straight forward octave chord guitar parts.

"Palm Trees" starts off the trio of songs and I find the vocals getting a little behind at times when things get chaotic. The song quickly jumps back on pace though and we get a good introduction track out of it. There's some nice variation that shows the band has some creative guitar work and attention to song structure.

"Bed Sheets" clocks in under a minute of run time and seems to serve as more of an interlude than actual song. "Folding" takes a slower approach and I couldn't find myself understand the blues guitar style that takes over about 1 minute in. It doesn't last too long and the song is back on it's way to present the band in more of a noodly light with some very note guitar and bass work. All in all, a nice effort by this band.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pianos Become The Teeth - The Lack Long After

I've watched Pianos Become The Teeth rise to some well deserved stardom in the past year and I can't say I'm surprised by their success. With "The Lack Long After" the band has perfected their use of dynamics to create some very introspective and dramatic compositions that are nothing short of spectacular.

If you're not familiar, I would describe Pianos Become The Teeth as having a melodic sound that works with the quiet-to-loud formula. It reminds me a bit of some older 90's bands, but perhaps with a bit more development and texture to their sound. Of particular note for the band's live show is the drumming, which is precise, hard-hitting and tastefully done.

This record shows the band refining their sound and stripping out some of the filler they may have been prone to on previous releases. There's definitely a lot less atmospheric instrumentation happening, with more of an emphasis on raw power here. It's a more cut and dry sound that communicates the band as much more streamlined now.

Listen to it here.

Cavalcades - Nothing Worse Than Empty

Cavalcades are from Scotland and play a mostly upbeat form of melodic hardcore that features mid gain guitar and strained, screaming vocals. There's a few bumps along the road where the musicianship seems to not be totally locked in. For the most part though, the band creates a pretty interesting texture of sounds and dynamics.

There seems to be an influence of some newer bands like Touche Amore here, but it's mixed with something more traditional in it's delivery. Lyrically the band seems to stick to more personal matters and gives you four songs that all seem to be about being lost and distressed.

The production quality could use a little help, though it doesn't hinder the listener's ability to get the full picture of what's happening. There's some interesting moments of drum placement here, specifically with the double bass work. "Half A Year" was the standout track for me here, due to it's epic ending.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Zachary Cale - Noise of Welcome

Zachary Cale is a singer songwriter from Brooklyn NY. On this record he is accompanied by a back up band in addition to several guest musicians. Each song has a pretty nice life of it's own. We're staying on the quiet, folk end of the spectrum, but there's some interesting additions to the mix.

Vocally I'm hearing something that sounds like mixing some of this alternative country genre stuff with Tom Petty with Bob Dylan. The words are slurred and have that "almost off-key" sound to them that provides a bit of grit. "Hello Oblivion" was the standout track for me due to it's quiet buildup and haunting melody. "Nocturne In G Minor" provides a nice instrumental interlude halfway through. There's some nice soundscape work with slide guitar and cymbal wash that creates and interesting atmosphere.

Songs like "We Had Our Day In The Sun" and "All To Order" are simply stunning with their subtle power. I would be interested to see how a live performance would translate and luckily, there are some Brooklyn dates coming up that I may be able to get to. A great record to calm your nerves and listen to on a beautiful day.

Take a listen here.

Dollores - Orphan

Dollores is a band from the Ukraine that presents a pretty interesting take on the screamier side of hardcore. While a lot of the bands in this genre are going for an over the top sound, musically, Dollores stays a bit more subdued and allows the vocals to travel to the breaking point alone.

Instrumentation like that in "Bondage" sounds strikingly similar to Mineral at times, with a contrasting vocal that screams with urgency over top. Bands like Carlisle and Jasmine made this melodic happy sound contrasted with screaming popular in the mid 90's and I haven't heard too many bands do it since. The strained female vocal style here reminds me a bit of Mahria and really makes the songs come alive. Lyrically, things seem to stay on the personal side and stay pretty compact (each song only just a few lines).

The production quality here is pretty clean and you can get an idea of what each instrument is doing at all times. Most songs feature a clean guitar intro into some mid range distortion. It's not quite as explosive as other bands in the genre, but the whole package works well together.

Check it out here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Basement - Songs About the Weather

This is my first encounter with Basement. I didn't know anything about them before hearing them, so I had no expectations. The record starts out with some very slow, strummed out chords and I'm thinking "Ok, mid tempo, melodic stuff". Out of nowhere this band blasts into full upbeat swing, sort of taking on a Lifetime sound.

From that point on, they seem to stay on that ground, doing something similar to Iron Chic and Lifetime getting put on shuffle. The vocals tend to have that gruff sound to them, similar to Small Brown Bike or Best Practices.

These songs have that "mature pop punk" sound to them similar to the afformentioned bands. There's plenty of upbeats and melodic chords, but there's something about the vocals that seems to carry an overall sense of defeat and melancholy. By the fourth track, "DUI", I was making up my mind that this band is doing something quite good.

This will probably make my "best of the month" list for reviews I've done thus far. Pretty damn good stuff here.

Listen to the whole thing here.

Harangue - Feeding The Wolf

Harangue comes to us from Toronto, playing a style of hardcore that employes both melodic and heavy elements. I'm reminded a lot of Rats Into Robots and possibly some small traces of bands like Takaru, Pills and Dirtdrinker.

The production quality here is very raw and untouched. All though I would really like to hear how these songs would sound with some better quality, the rawness lends itself to a bit of charm here. The grit works in this sense that it sort of shows that this band's song writing is great even without the studio magic of reverb and compression.

These two songs give you a pretty nice journey around what Harangue is all about. The songs have nice variation that never get stale, going from some upbeat melodics, to slow chugs, and even some nice off time chaos. The strained, distorted vocal compliments this nicely and wraps everything up like a nice bow on a gift box. Definitely interested to here some more.

Listen to it here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Threadbare - Feeling Older Faster (Classic of The Week)

For my classic this week I will delve back to the 90's hardcore neighborhood and talk about Threadbare. Why do I consider this a classic? When I listen to this record I hear a bit of what modern bands are doing today mixed with some classic 90's characteristics. The record has some interesting approaches on heavier hardcore that weren't quite explored just yet at the time. Putting this on for a listen today, I still recognize the genius at work here in the songwriting.

On "Feeling Older Faster" Threadbare takes a very slow and deliberate approach to their composition. It's avoids sounding like a drone and just opts to sound like a powerful, slow motion hardcore record. Every song has me picturing someone walking very slowly through a crowded street, taking time to lock in and stare at every face. The movements here are very slow and calculated.

With the exception of "Feed", which takes on a more upbeat rhythm, every song has an eery, slow stomp. Even "Relocation Policy" with it's rolling drums and powerful hits, still exhibits a very deliberate style to it. "Confessional" provides the trademark 90's acoustic interlude track here.

Still love this after all these years. Download it here.

Ringleader - EP 2011

Ringleader is from Canada and play some heavy hardcore that takes on a fast moving and punishing style to it. The vocals remind me so much of Bloodlet that I can't help but compare this to Bloodlet every time I hear it. The music maybe more similar to a more straight forward version of Breather Resist or perhaps Bleeding Kansas.

There's only two songs here, but I'm pretty hooked in after hearing just over 6 minutes of what this band has to offer. The guitar work here varies to include a nice mix of well placed higher screeching and straight rhythm palm muting. The drums also back things up extremely creatively, using good judgement when to make the space busy and when to sit back and let it groove.

Definitely interested to hear more of what this band has to offer in the future.

Check it out here.

Duck. Little Brother, Duck! - Survival Is Not A Workout

During the 90's there was band called Ethel Messerve, who singlehandedly changed my view of guitar playing with their wonderful off time compositions and pull-off style. It's been a while since I've heard a band come close to what they did back then..until today. DLBD is from Portland, Oregon and play a form of "math rock" that is raw and uncompromising, and perhaps the closest thing to Ethel Messerve I've heard in quite some time.

If you don't know what I'm talking about with my reference, I can attempt to describe this as very creative, off time, indie rock. The mid gain guitar, busy drums and walking bass keep things interesting while the sparse off key vocals swirl within each other to make it just catchy enough without sounding too poppy. There's a good amount of instrumental material on here as well, and some of it can get sort of "free jazz" sounding at times.

The musicianship here is pretty on target and has an explosive quality that makes every song move with general ease. Each person in this band can excel at their instrument, but there's no soloist here. This band plays together as a solid unit to make the whole package work. On average, the songs run about 6 minutes, so you can see this band packing a lot of action into each track.

Listen to it here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Birds In a Row - Cottbus

I feel like Birds In a Row have been touring the U.S. for what seems to be about 2 or 3 months now. I first saw them in France last summer and was impressed by the energy of their live show. The band seems to take influences from a few different places. You'll hear some straight forward hardcore, some introspective/epic parts and at times some very upbeat chaos. I can almost describe as mixing Modern Life is War with Amanda Woodward, then throwing in a little bit of Furnace to secure the chaotic end.

"Cottbus" gives you a nice idea of what the band can throw down. It's a solid release that doesn't have any filler; Just 7 well written songs that utilize the bands knowledge of dynamics and interesting textures. The Songs "Chat Noir" and "A Kid Called Dreamer" were the stand out tracks for me due to their use of such a variety of styles and tempos. The band changes gears for "Outro", an acoustic track featuring some nice, unpolished melodic vocals over acoustic guitar.

Listen to it here.

State Faults - Head In The Clouds

State Faults is a four piece band from Santa Rosa, California playing some very intense, introspective music that reminds me of a more upbeat version of Pianos Become The Teeth. There's a bit of a Who Calls So Loud/Funeral Diner influence in here too, which comes through mostly during the slower, more drawn out parts. The production quality is very well put together and gives you a great idea of what's happening. The vocals are mixed within the music, rather than on top of it, which gives a sound that is more cohesive.

There's almost a constant use of lead guitar work here, drenched in reverb to create an airy sound over the driving chords. On the intro of "Nothing Stays" the guitar almost takes on a piano-like sound with it's single note picking. The vocals have a raspy sound, very different from what is typical of this genre.

The use of gang vocals in "Quiet Steps" were extremely impressive and catchy, but I was turned off by the nasally melodic singing that followed. Thankfully this is the only instance of it throughout these 5 songs. Let's hope to see less it in future releases. Other than that, this is worth checking out.

Listen to it here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Tidal Sleep - S/T

Damn, this is good. The Tidal Sleep is a hardcore band from Germany that has a great melodic undertone to their music, but still puts forth an aggression that can get you out of your seat and wanting to scream along. I could describe this as perhaps not as dark as Modern Life Is War, though not as overbearing as Touche Amore. There's a subtle nature to these songs that seems to spotlight the entire band, rather than just one aspect.

The textured guitar work here is very well done and really creates something within the chord progressions that makes the musical space pop out. Effects like delay and reverb are used tastefully here. The vocals have a great, strained scream to them that translates desperation. With excellent placement that never sounds awkward or forced, the vocals work themselves into the music and become such a part of it, like another instrument all together. The drumming is powerful and works the dynamics of the songs in an impressive way. Distorted bass rumbles underneath and provides a strong foundation.

"Inkbreath" was the stand out track for me due to it's chaotic, fast paced versed that drops into the stop/start breakdown. It takes it's place among the well used melodic soundscapes of songs before it, but seems to take things a step further with it's chugging guitar and dramatic cymbal hits.

Listen to it here.

Minefield - Отъебись!

I have no idea what this band is singing about since all the titles are in Russian and there are no lyrics. If you ever wanted to hear how a Russian band would interpret 80's American hardcore, then you'd be interested to listen to Minefield. Hell, it's better than most American bands playing this style.

I really should learn some Russian though, as I think it would be interesting to see how this music is interpreted lyrically. Musically this is played well, but as with most of this genre I'm not totally blown away. Though, I find this more creative than the average band playing this style. Enjoy.

Listen to it here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Foxmoulder - Rapture/Ascend

Foxmoulder is from Toronto, Canada and play a chaotic and ever changing brand of music that reminds me very much of Caught in the Fall and some of the more chaotic aspects of Funeral Diner. Gritty, screeching guitars, busy drumming and a ferocious scream dominate the soundscape here, with a smooth bass backing it all up.

The recording is a little raw but translates a brightness that gets the bands sound across pretty well. There are some moments in here where the band uses interesting time signatures to create some very nice dramatic effects. With only 2 songs that clock in under 2 minutes each we only get a quick snapshot of where this band may take us, but it has me hopeful for the future of the next step.

Listen to it here.

Oddisee - Rock Creek Park

One aspect of music I haven't touched on here is my love for 1970's R&B and funk. I've always been a sucker for some old Isaac Hayes and Barry White. The seductive rhythms just really do it for me in terms of instrumentation. There are some moments of hip hop here, but the record mostly features some great instrumental tracks that drive home the rich, smooth feel of the album as a whole. Inspired by a quiet place for introspection, "Rock Creek Park" is described by the artist here:

"Rock creek park is & has always been one of my favorite places in Washington, DC. It has a way of aging with you & adapting to where you are in life. When I was younger, it was a place for skipping rocks, bike rides & imaginary adventures in the woods. As a teen it was a place where I played basket ball, had cook outs with friends & walked through with dates. As an adult it's my short cut through the city, my quickest way from Silver Spring to George Town. One thing it still is and always well be is my retreat.

Listening to the Black Byrd's "Rock Creek Park" inspired me to create an entire album around the park & my relationship with it. If the park were to have a soundtrack, what would it be? What does walking along the trails of the park sound like? What does driving on the narrow tree lined roads sound like? This album is my interpretation of Rock Creek Park through break beats, samples & live instrumentation."

"Still Doing It" opens the record up with a traditional hip hop approach, but is immediately followed by some very smooth, calming tracks like "Skipping Rocks" and "The Carter Barron" which take on a 70's R&B vibe to them in their instrumentation and feel. As the album moves on there's a wonderful barrage of smooth bass, whirling keys and a mix of both live and programmed drums. "Uptown Cabaret" was a little too upbeat for me and seemed slightly out of place with it's disco-like cadence. Things get right back on track with "Beach Dr." and move nicely from there.

Some of non-instrumental tracks feature hip hop styling by guests yU, Diamond District and Oliver Daysoul. The tracks are done well, with a more mellow style that fits the music pretty well. "For Certain" has moments of aggression peaking out, but just enough to not contrast the music too much. "Mattered Much" has a very soulful chorus that contrasts the verse pretty well. All in all, I enjoyed the instrumental tracks more, but definitely wouldn't skip on these tracks.

Listen to it here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Trainwreck - If There is Light, It Will Find You

Trainwreck came into my life a few years back and their live sound blew me away. I can describe them as a thick wall of heaviness that pummels you with precision, but still maintains a melodic overtone to it. "If There is Light..." is described by vocalist Andi in a statement:

"Taken from a poem by Charles Bukowski called 'The harder they try', 'if there is light it will find you' might sound a bit fatalistic and well, in some way it is, but it also offers hope. in this regard that line also works in contrast to the lyrics on this record: a lot of them might seem a little bit negative and depressing and that´s just what they are. i do believe that everyone tends to get depressed from time to time and i´m glad i have this outlet to get a lot of that stuff of my chest, but yeah, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it´s just the train steaming ahead of you... oh but don´t you worry, because tomorrow we will run faster, making for a great "Stand By Me"-esque escape. ps.: as always, the explanations offered are just my personal interpretations, feel free to read into the lyrics what makes sense for yourself. make your own noise. "

With an excellent mix of upbeat chaos that seamlessly transitions into a some very large breakdowns, Trainwreck is doing something here that I feel has taken on it's own voice and comes across in a refreshing and unique way. I can make some comparisons to bands with an epic feel, like Funeral Diner or Envy, mashed up with some heavier hitters, like Zann or Buried Inside. Their upbeat tendency keeps them from being pinned to any one style though, and this is where the band really stands on it's own feet. I can't recommend this enough.

Check it out here.

Xerxes - Our Home is A Deathbed

Xerxes is a hardcore band from Louisville, Kentucky who have been touring quite a bit as of late. I feel they have some of the same characteristics as the new crop of bands like Touche Amore or Pianos Become The Teeth in their delivery of emotional subject matter presented in a more hardcore format. Though, Xerxes seems to land a bit more on the aggressive side, while also showing the ability to execute some compositions with epic characteristics.

The music carries a mostly melodic nature to it, however the strained scream takes the forefront here and pushes the music into that more aggressive place. This is my only gripe with the production quality; the vocals take up a good deal of the space over top of the music. The tones and fullness of the instruments is all there though, and you can get a very clear idea of what this band is going for.

I can't help but be drawn in to this band when they are creating an intense, melodic soundscape. The vocals tend to be very heavy on the lyrics, straining to fit as many words as possible into every measure, instead of holding out a scream. It's adds to the intensity when it's pulled off right. The band works their dynamics pretty flawlessly here, going from quiet, to loud, to upbeat..all in a pretty concise package. The musicianship seems to be very much locked together, likes part of a machine all working toward a common task. Whether it's slower tracks like "Funeral Home" or more upbeat spastic numbers like "February", the band seems to put it all together without any loose ends.

Listen to it here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Short Week

No, this is not a new band with a super cute album cover.

I am going on an extended weekend vacation, so to my dismay I will not be delivering the usual reviews for Thursday and Friday. There will be lots of reading and cuddling with the dog pictured to your left for the next few days though.

I'll take this moment to do some shameless self promotion. My old band, Black Kites, recently played our last show and I'll be writing an article about it for Clones/Fashions. Well, actually it's written already, just have to do some minor fixes.

I'm also playing bass and doing vocals in a new band called Capacities, as well as playing drums in Less Life.

See you next week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ostende - Ciudades De Mimbre

Ostende is from Argentina and play a wild, chaotic brand of hardcore that I can only describe as an elegant mix between Reversal of Man and Orchid. Expect some very quick, off time drum work firing off busily underneath screeching guitars and wildly screaming vocals.

The whole record is executed very well. The recording quality is a little bass heavy, but the brightness of the guitars still shine through. Most songs clock in under a minute, but within that time the band has the ability to take you for a nice ride around their musical ability.

For the most part you're going to get a dark, melodic sound that rarely stays in a 4/4 time signature. Though, the band detours from time to time with some more straight forward fare. "Malformaciones de una reelección" is a small interlude track that features some great melodic guitars at it's tail end. The breakdown and drum work on "Los convencidos caminamos por la vereda de enfrente" has a great groove to it that contrasts the songs previous chaotic nature.

Definitely enjoying this.

Listen to it here.

Zombie Fight - Alive and Well

Zombie Fight comes to use from New York City and are about to release a new record called "Alive and Well". The band has a very varied style of hardcore that seems to take a little bit from multiple pots. Musically, there's an overall sound similar to some older Long Island bands like Silent Majority happening here, but with some other styles thrown in for more variety. The vocals take on more of the shout style, similar to a band like Bane with a little bit more throat.

The recording quality leaves something to be desired. The vocals are a little higher than I usually prefer and the drums aren't as "big" sounding as what usually works for this type of music. Still, the band can translate some good song writing through tape. There's some good use of dynamics here that can create some a nice epic effect(see "Who The Hell Are The Joneses" for example).

The band seems to make good use of upbeat melodic composition. Songs like "Reconnect" and "The Decision"(see the Iron Maiden-esque guitar work in here) begin with a fast hardcore sound drench in a set of melodic chord progressions. There's also a good amount of double bass open E chug parts here for folks of the "moshier" persuasion. They're pretty seamlessly placed so it doesn't come off sound forced. "Sick Of" surprisingly takes up a more classic punk sound at first; for the most part a full departure from the rest of the songs.

Lyrics here seem to be about keeping your head above water, just trying to live. Subjects like friendship, trying to deal with changes and compassion among people.

Listen to the track "We're Not Dead Yet" here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Laura Stevenson and The Cans - Sit Resist

Don Giovanni Records releases another gem here in the form of 13 great songs by this indie group that refuses to stick to any one format. This is my first listen to Laura Stevenson and The Cans and I admit to being much more than mildly impressed.

"Halloween Pts. 1 & 2" opens this record up with a beautiful build up into some explosive instrumentation. The dynamic here is well executed and had me thinking "Ok, I'm ready to hear more". Songs like "Master of Art", "The Healthy One" and "Peachy" take on a more fun, upbeat sound, that almost has a theatrical quality to them. Conversely you get songs like "Caretaker", "Finish Piece" and "The Weight" that have a very slow, serious presentation. This is clearly a great display of talent and versatility.

The epic waltz of "8:08" has some very strong vocal work and great musical dynamics, making me think, this could work for the triumphant scene in some indie film where the characters resolve their conflict. The accapella track, "Red Clay Boots", has a low fi sound to it that creates sort of a vintage sound and texture. I could have done without the horn section in "Barnacles" as they make the song sound a little on the "ska" side of things at times and sort of break up the nice vintage era sound the vocals carry.

Things come to a close with "I See Dark". The beginning is accordion led and soon gives rise to some experimental volume swells of noise and unsettled instrumentation. It comes together soon after in a clear, quiet waltz.

Listen to some songs here.

Cynarae - S/T

This is some heavy, wall-of-noise, stuff here. I'm getting a His Hero Is Gone vibe some of the time, but with a more modern twist..and certainly more attention to tempo changes. The bright production lends itself to a very "in your face" sound. The tones are monstrous and translate some huge power. The vocals seem to straddle the fence between a deep growl and a mid range scream. Perhaps there's two vocalists, or this is just one guy. It's just enough deep grown to where it doesn't bother me though. Musically, this is very similar to bands like Host or Pliant, who I've reviewed in the past.

For the most part this band is going to stay on the faster end of things, at times falling into d-beat territory. Things are slowed down for "The Phenomenology of Suffering" where the floating drums emphasis some discordant guitar in an interesting way. At times the song almost has a Converge feel to it, due to it's repetition and length. "Prostrate in Obeisance" brings things back to the faster neighborhood, but also provides a satisfying breakdown about 1 minute in to the song. "Pillars of Salt" brings things home with it's mid tempo stomp. It's epic ending featuring melodic guitars is a nice change from the previous material and ends this release on a strong note.

Lyrically the band seems to focus on the unraveling of humanity, culture and society due to over consumption and greed. I'm impressed with what I'm hearing here and hope this band does more. Good stuff here.

Have a listen here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mock - S/T

Mock has a new record coming on I Love To Hate Records. This is the first I'm hearing the band. Within the first two songs I detect an extreme likeness to Karate, both in vocal delivery and musical style. The production on this record is pretty flawless. The guitar has a very warm full tone backed up with deep (but articulate) bass and tight drums.

The band seems to maintain that low profile sound similar to Karate or perhaps some quieter Unwound material. Even a song like "57" with it's driving guitar and washy, crash cymbal drum beats still maintains a bit of a subdued nature to it. "An Hour From Now" shows the band relying heavily on more of Washington DC/Dischord records sound for a good deal of the song. It fits in with the previous songs, however the eerie guitar tone is distinguishable on this track.

Throughout the record you'll hear a number noodly guitar runs, coupled with interesting time signatures that typically steer clear of the 4/4 formula. About every two songs or so the band inserts short interludes that typically consist of some minimalist instrumental work.

Take a listen here.

The Catlin Elm / Coma Regalia - Split 7"

The Catlin Elm contributes two songs to this split 7". "Make This Your Life" has an urgent melodic drive to it that features non stop bass drum and high gain guitar squeals. The vocals remind me very much of some older 90's era bands of this style like Embassy or Introspect. The band does a great job on this track of intermingling guitars to create some nice texture. "Thoughtless Masks" is a more aggressive track that shows the band utilizing a chaotic waltz and speeding octave chords.

Coma Regalia has a very similar sound musically, though their recording is much cleaner and articulate. The band seems to spare some of the gain off the guitar, but makes up for it in the brightness of the mix and the great vocal placement. I enjoy the variation between all out screaming and the more melodic edge that happens later in the first track. "I Need Your Vote For Sexual Congress" begins with a stop/star combination of sharp chords. They level things off later with a melodic waltz topped with some fierce screaming, bringing the song to an abrupt end.

Two quality bands here doing some good things.

Listen to it here.

Ides - Demo MMXII

Ides play fast, angry hardcore. There's a good deal of fast drums, and noisy guitar that are intermittently broken up by some slow, carefully placed, breakdowns.

Although I don't think having a female vocalist should, in any way, be considered a novelty, I will say that the only thing that keeps this band from sounding like many others is the vocal style. There's a great female fronted shout that sometimes goes over the edge into a throaty scream. It brings the music to a different place than a simple arrangement of power chords.

Lyrics here focus on dealing with anxiety, internet addiction and general anger/disgust with modern life. I'd be interested in seeing this band play live.

Listen to it here.