Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Go Deep - Counseling

I'm usually not a fan of this 80's style hardcore, but the way this band pulls it off really sounds unique to me.  The vocals, especially, have a very nice projection to them in the way that they fall over the music. The lyrical presentation has a very honest theme to it which appeals to me as well.

When Go Deep is all out fast they seem to have that sound that stradles the border of punk and hardcore due to the guitar voicing (see the beginning of "Enthusiast" for the best example). Songs like "Elders", "Bundle of Joy" and "Enthusiast" also feature some nice modern breakdowns that are very well executed and never sound forced.

The band doesn't present anything all that new, and to be honest some of the faster drum work can sound a little sloppy at times, but the complete package works for me. 

Listen to it here.

Dead Dog - Don't Touch Me

Dead Dog is from Athens, Georgia and seem to join the garage rock team with noisy guitar and vocals that are just slightly off key.  The production quality is very raw and fits the genre well.

For the most part Dead Dog features a lead female vocal that can provide a anything between light crooning to excitable yelling. There's also a male vocalist that takes the reigns for a few songs and, although there is contrast, the varying vocals sound pretty consistent. 

This is music that doesn't seem to take itself too seriously and mostly focused on providing that fun, "get up and go" to it's listener.  At times I'm reminded of bands like the Dead Milkmen or Screaming Females, though this seems a little more streamlined and direct.

Get it here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hollow Earth - We Are Not Humanity

Hollow Earth are from Detroit, Michigan and we have here what seems to be a bit of a concept album that lyrically focuses on the problem of humanity taking more than we need.  Each song seems to very eloquently address an aspect of authoritarianism, oppression and cultural destruction.  The lyrics are well written and flow well within the body of the song, never coming off as forced or unfitting. 

Musically Hollw Earth brings you heavy hardcore that reminds me of bands like Morning Again, Culture, Indecision and Run With The Hunted.  There's definitely a nice 90's influence here, but with an updated twist of modern production and approach. The vocals bounce between a powerful scream and delibrate speaking. The guitars carry a high gain sound that punches through with clarity over the large drum production..

I can't help but comment on how well I feel these songs are put together.  It seems though there is a lot of attention to detail here where the flow of the songs and the musicianship were bonded and blended perfectly.

Listen to the whole thing here.

Kids - S/T

Kids come to us from Pennsylvania and play a fast, angry style of hardcore that incorporates a great deal of noise and some nice variation to spice things up. On average you're seeing songs clock in at under a minute, with a few going past that. The short bursts of 30 second aggression are well done and even fit in some nice transitions while the longer songs take a bit more time to stretch out, breathe, and show you a bit more of the band's musical canon. 

The production is very dirty and grity, but it adds to the bands overall presentation well. The guitars are distorted and noise ridden, while the vocals (which seem to be done by multiple people) maintain an angry and desperate scream. Lyrically, the band is pretty up front about how they feel.  These are prose that forgoe the abstract and go straight for a "matter of fact" approach that seems to mainly translate anger and despair.

While I'm all for d-beats and blast beats, the distinguishing characterists that Kids brings to the table is their seemless incorporation of different tempos and approaches in addition to the usual suspects.  They keep things interesting in a way that a lot of bands of this style seem to miss. "Mertle Beach...Murder Beach" was the standout track for me for it's discordant interlude.  I'll have the chance to see this band live next week and I'm pretty interested.

Have a listen here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Stockholm - Crawl

Stockholm is from Atlanta, Georgia and play a slightly mature version of pop punk that at first reminded me of a band like Lifetime. After the first track though the band slows things down and carry a more mid tempo power pop feel.

The production has a bit of an unpolished feel, but still comes across extremely clear.  There seems to be two vocalists trading off, both with having a pretty clean melodic voice, but avoiding any nazzle twang that this music is sometimes prone to. The guitars have a nice sound that seem to compliment each other.

"Crawl" opens the record off and is a bit deceiving due to it's fast pace.  The three tracks after remain in more of a mid tempo neighborhood, delivering something like later Get Up Kids.  They return back to their fast pop punk signature on their last track "Lost Cause".  If you find yourself a fan of the 90's emo bands like The Get Up Kids, Texas Is The Reason, etc, then you'll probably find Stockhom to work pretty well for your tastes.

Check it out here.

Beau Navire - Lumens

A while back I reviewed the Beau Navire/Republic of Dreams split which was my first introduction to the band.  On "Lumens" one can see a few changes. Some of these songs seem to have a more aggressive approach to them at times.  Of particular note is the production which seems to translate the band in an intense and desperate way.  All the instruments are pushed pretty hard, creating an "almost about to explode" sort of vibe to my ears.

These 10 tracks have a good deal of variation and dynamics.  When the band is doing all out chaos (see "Prisms") it's pretty explosive and relentless.  Things can also be brought down to a nice mid tempo feel that has more emphasis on the melodic sensibilities (see "Dead End, Start Over" or "Amongst Ashes"). 

Lyrically the band seems to fall into an abstract, yet political neighborhood.  Of particular note are songs like "Communique'" and "Disgust and Fate" which emphasize mass struggles of community.  Other songs fall into the personal realm, but maintain the abstract approach.

I have to say I'm please with where the band went compared to the split.  I'll definitely be playing this on a regular basis.

Take a listen to it here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Off Camber - Cat 4 Upgrade

I got to see this band last weekend and they were extremely impressive with their hard hitting brand of experimental hardcore that goes anywhere from straight trash to noodling guitar and off time drums. The strained female vocals provide a powerful and desperate scream over top.

The production could use a little bit of fine tuning, as there may be a little too much grit and unpolished tracking.  It works in giving you an idea of where the band is taking the songs though. 

Overall you get 4 songs that run all over the landscape of hardcore and punk while sounding pretty cohesive and exciting.  The musicianship is pretty experimental and takes some risks that end up paying off.  I get an overall 90's Ebullition records sound from the entire presentation, which only made me like it more.  

Take a listen here.

Courtesy Drop - What Makes This Place Worth Calling Home

At times Courtesy Drop has the gruff, Small Brown Bike sound for the late 90s and early 2000s.  Other times they are leaning towards something a bit more modern and come off sounding like Balance and Composure or other bands of that influence.

The band seems to excel at mid tempo melodic compositions that stay pretty straight forward to focus more on power and drive than technicality.  Some songs can be a bit more upbeat (see Tylenol and Fireball for example) while others stay a bit more tame. It works for them pretty well.  The mid gain guitar and non-deviating drums create a a pretty solid background to the gruff vocal style.  The production could use some cleaning up, especially the distant drum sound. It doesn't stop you from being able to get a good idea of the band's direction though.

"What Makes This Place Worth Calling Home Group Effort" seems a bit out of place as it sounds something more that would appear on a Pianos Become the Teeth record and takes the band out of the melodic position they were floating over for the four tracks before.  The melodic vocals on this track, unfortunately, went a little bit into the modern sound and left the gruff style behind at times. The "sing along" part in the middle was a bit confusing as it seemed they tried to showcase every kind of vocal style imaginable.  There's a bit more streamlined version of the song later on in the record that cleans up these small foibles, and really shows the power and potential the song has.

I was a little confused on "The Good Old Days" as the vocals don't come in until about 2 minutes in.  What's confusing here is the preceding 2 minutes is a wonderful verse/chorus tune that reminds a bit of very early Get up Kids material.  I feel the band could have easily inserted some wonderfully catchy vocals in there.

Have a listen here.

Between Your Mind and Tongue - Building the Foundations to Future Ruins

Between Your Mind and Tongue are from New Jersey and play an extremely varied style that incorporates screamy hardcore, prog, and even some influences of more traditional hardcore.  There's definitely a focus on experimentation here and at times the flow can seem a little jagged as they move from part to part.  Nonetheless, the band never gets stagnant as they cruise through a variety of influences.

The production quality is a little muffled, but can work for them, especially when they fall into some chugging guitar parts that emphasize their heaviness.  The screeching vocal work sits just right in the mix adding more power to the grand scheme of things rather than sitting on top.

There's only 3 songs here, but you get quite a picture painted for you.  The use of dynamics and quick changes is consistent throughout the tracks.  I find myself enjoying the noisy, dirty style of the heavier parts, as they pass up the generic hardcore route and opt for something that carries a more drastic and doom ridden sound.  Impressive stuff.

Check it out here.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cowards - Solitude

Though this EP is about 2 years old, I was just reminded of what a great record this is.  Cowards are from Duluth, Minnesota and play a style of hardcore with a good deal of twists and turns while still keeping an introspective melody.

I'm partial to the production here as it has just enough grit to translate a raw sound without the pitfalls of anything getting lost.  Crushing bass tone and mid gain bright guitars shine over some busy drums and deep throaty vocal lies just beneath the whole thing.  Think Ampere or Envy mixed with something a bit heavier. 

This EP mixes things up well, providing us with two short songs and two songs of a more epic scale.  Both formats work out pretty well for the band as they seem to execute both with ease. The longer songs will provide some slower moments that carry a drawn out jam quality to them at times while the shorter tracks are more fast paced with part after part firing away.  A good listen for anyone interested in bands like Ampere, Itto, For Want Of, etc.

Have a listen here.

Dead Letter Auction - The Bridge

Dead Letter Auction was from Fort Wayne, Indiana and play what many would call post-punk. That will give you some idea, but I'll forgo the labels here and just attempt to describe what I'm hearing.

Tight drums and solid bass create a nice foundation as the swirling guitars layer the music with some very nice texture.  This is all topped off by some vocals that remind me a bit of old Ebullition records bands or perhaps some later Dischord bands (Bluetip comes to mind). There's a high pitched whine to them, at times reminding me of Hot Snakes or Four Hundred Years. 

I found myself very impressed with this collection due to it's flow.  There's not a bad song here among the five.  "The Medium" and "The Mourning" are the most laid back of all the tracks, giving you a breather in a somewhat introspective manner. The production here is done pretty well as every instrument is able to occupy part of the mix evenly.  Definitely a band that has gone under the radar.

Have a listen here.

Friday, June 1, 2012

By The Grace of God - For the Love of Indie Rock (Classic Review Of the Week)

I was 17 years old when I found myself in the local record store gazing at the newest effort featuring some members of Endpoint (one of my favorite bands). Without hesitation I put my money down to purchase this cassette (The cassette purchase was mainly because I had a tape deck in the car and wanted to hear this immediately).  It hit my tape deck minutes later and I blasted it.  My initial thought was "this is what I love about hardcore".

By The Grace of God exemplified on this EP everything I wish hardcore could be; everything it can sometimes be; and the potential it can have. It's the kind of record made by the kind of people that have made me stick around all these years, hoping to catch these small, brief glimpses of greatness.

The sing along moments on songs like "Goliath" and "November's Lie" are among the most passionate ever put to tape. There's definitely that aspect of very traditional hardcore here, however it's flawless execution and passionate lyrics set this apart from any other in the genre.

I'm happy to have been around to experience this band when it happened back in 1996. This will always be one of the best hardcore records ever made, in my humble opinion.

Download it here.

Animal Faces - Anomie

Animal Faces open this record with a get up and go track called "Can't See Why" which instantly had me thinking they were sort of like what would happen if you mix Planes Mistaken For Stars with Kid Crash. 

The production on these songs is huge. A nice warm reverb collects the drums well, making them sound huge.  The bass has just enough mid range to make it stand out along side the bright guitars.  The vocals sit just right in the mix, complimenting the music as if they were another instrument.

This is some upbeat, fairly straightforward rhythm happening here, but it employs some really great musicianship which makes it stand out.  For example, the drumming on a song like "Breathe Lightly" takes a mid tempo composition and adds a great dimension of dynamics that really carry it with spastic rolls and precises pauses.  The guitar and bass work throughout these 6 songs carries some very nice playing, while giving a lot of attention to how each instrument affects the overall mood of the song. You can hear the band exemplify their best effort of musicianship on "Sleep Tightly", a 2 minute instrumental journey with many peaks and valleys.

All in all, I'm totally impressed with what I'm hearing here. "Watered Down" was the standout track for me, due to it's catchy musicianship and excellent vocal delivery. I can't believe how much good music is coming from Toronto these days.

Check it out here.

Burn Your Life Down - "Don't Try"

Burn Your Life Down has an EP coming out on Glory Kid Ltd soon and I was asked to take a listen and scribble down some thoughts on it. 

BYLD seems to take a low gain guitar approach to their sound which takes on a little rock and roll influence in it's delivery.  It took me a few songs to get used to the guitar tone, as it's a little different for this style. This probably translates well live, on recording though I find myself searching for a little bit umph from the chugs or a bit more sustain from the single notes.

The screaming vocals tend to have a bit of sassiness to them at times and other times they culminate into a frustrated spoken word. It's nice that they change and move with the songs and it definitely adds some nice dimension to the canvas. Overall I can detect some influences of Deadguy, Achilles, Breather Resist and Botch, both musically and vocally.

The song writing has some nice twists and turns which include mostly groove oriented guitar hooks that keep from the traditional fare. Picture lots of pull off guitar notes coupled with some floating 4/4 drums. Every now and then the band throws in some raging fast parts, but they're used sparingly to create more emphasis on the groovier elements. What you can hear on the link below is "Base Women", a sample track from the Ep. You'll get a nice variety of that frustrated spoken words, raging fast parts and groovy breakdowns littered through this one. This should help gauge where this band stands with you. 

Listen to the track here.

Best of the Month - May Review

As I said before, May was a slow month for the blog, but I did manage to find some hidden gems among the bunch.  My favorites for the month:

Itto blew my mind this month with their unique mix of technical musicianship (bordering on prog) and their desperate screamy sound.  Can't wait to seem the live on this tour they're doing.

Not on Tour doesn't really have the best name for a band, but they are pretty damn good melodic punk that has a some gruff edges to it.

Hop Along returned with a new album called "Get Disowned" that expanded upon their previous indie croonings and won me over. 

Nation on Fire probably play one of the most refreshing takes on fast hardcore coming from New Jersey at this point in time.  I hope this band keeps things moving.