Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: Hammer Hawk - Friendship Beverage

It's hard to let go of the past, isn't it? Always comforting (Unless it's associated with a bad memory), the past gives us a glimpse of what helped shape us into the people we are today. Sure, some of you may hate what you've become, but there's no denying you've become stronger because of it. That same self-appreciation/loathing has helped build countless bands over the years yearning to prove the past isn't dead, and that from the ashes, a mighty musical phoenix could burst forward,. giving us something familiar, but strangely new as well. Hammer Hawk fits this mold perfectly with their new EP, Friendship Beverage

With similarities to bands like Bear Vs. Shark, Hammer Hawk rides the wave that was, at once, the popular go to genre for smart, but dryly aggressive, alternative music. Nothing here is over the top, opting to draw you in with well constructed riffs and fitting vocals. These guys have been playing music for a long time (And good music at that), so they know what they're doing. It might feel like a bit of a passion project, but that usually leads to some of the best work a group of musicians can put together.

"Split Peas" feels a little empty, but what it lacks in musical potency it gains in its overall effect. The drums are slick and clean, and while the guitar and bass never hit you as hard as you would like, there's a serene feeling the song gives you that you can't ignore. It's surprisingly chill for an alternative track, which is a fairly unique trait in a genre that usually tries to ignore such associations. It's a fine track to be sure, but in conjunction with how strong the rest of the EP is, it does feel a little weak.

"Terrible Truth" is the catchiest song here, working well with a perfectly assembled chorus and balanced assault of clean and distorted guitar parts. It feels like a ballad, but doesn't fall to its usual mumbling and grumblings. "Up North" gets slightly Americana on us, digging into some country-esque drumming and breaking out parts that would make Willie Nelson jealous. Don't get me wrong, it's still alternative, but there's an enjoyable variance here that makes it stand out a bit, while still fitting alongside the rest of the cannon they're trying to create.

"The Road" and "Kindling" both come out strong out of the gate, relying of power rather than grace to get the job done. They're both catchy and melodic, but use their power in different ways. "Kindling" uses its aggressive chorus to pull the song along, feeling like a spazstic, but well oiled, train trudging along the tracks. "The Road" uses it power subtly, being not as forceful about it as "Kindling", but maintaining it longer and with more purpose. 

Friendship Beverage does feel like something you might have listened to on repeat about ten years ago, but that doesn't count against it at all. Instead, it makes you wish those ten years had never gone by in the first place, or at least, if those ten years had to go by anyways, that you'd spent it listening to more work by these fine gentlemen. Nostalgia is never something to frown down upon. It's something we should embrace, cautiously, with open arms. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Blog Is Still Up.....I Promise

Hey everyone, Shane here. It's been a few weeks since I last updated this site, but I promise you, reviews are coming. I've been dealing with some personal issues recently, and my time has been devoted to it. I will try my best to start getting reviews up again, hopefully as soon as tonight! Thanks for tuning in, and cheers!
- Shane, ESTSTM

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review: Parquet Courts - Tally All The Things You Broke EP

Parquet Courts can do no wrong. I said that awhile ago, when they released their album Light Up Gold , which went on to be my favorite album of the year. They displayed such an impressive grasp on how to make not only a song, but an album fun, that you forgot the majority of the songs on it were just over a minute long (And these guys aren't even punk). With Tally All The Things You Broke, the fun seems to be in short supply.

The opening track on the EP, "You've Got Me Wonderin Now", feels like the guys started right where they left off with Light Up Gold. It has that slight garage rock twinge to it that makes it feel edgier than it actually is, while not being musically oppressive. The drums are quick, and the guitars tinny strum leaves no doubt it's Parquet Courts you're listening to. The song also displays, what I felt, was a sense of humor with a random recorder playing a melody in the background throughout some of the chorus. It might rub some listeners the wrong way, but for my part, it doesn't feel out of place.

"Descend (The Way)" comes out of the gate strong, being harder than "You've Got Me Wonderin", but still walking the line enough to not quite cross into punk or garage rock territory. While the song fades a bit in the middle with random filler, it relies, like most their songs do, on the combination of its unique vocal stylings and simple, but uber catchy riffs, which are both strong enough to carry the song by themselves. It's a slight problem they had on their album as well, but maybe something they can fix in the future. 

From there, things start to take a bit of a nose dive. "The More It Works", despite its quick tempo and good song structure, feels a bit flat and uninspired. While it adds variety with a driving bass-line being the only melody throughout half the song, the fact its so prominent is what makes it weak in the first place. Clocking in at over 5 minutes, the song could have used a bit of a trim, which may have made the chorus, powerfully driven by a barrage of distorted guitars, also more impressive. Instead, things get stale pretty quickly, loosing its overall effect. "Fall On Yr Face" doesn't feel like a track they'd make, let alone play. It feels at home played by some crappy blues-rock band at some bar frequented by middle-aged divorcees looking to mix it up and get lucky. In other words, as far from their norm as possible.

The final track, "He's Seeing Paths", is as bewildering a track as any I think I've heard. Maybe the song is meant to be a joke, in which case, fine, you got a laugh out of me, congratulations. However, I don't think it is. It's as if they found their old casio keyboard and turned on some of the pre-made beats installed on it and decided to make a random, very terrible hip hop song. I get the necessity to change things up, but when you deviate so much from the course you set that no one, especially a solid fan, doesn't get what you're doing, it might be time to not do it again.

Tally All The Things You Broke isn't going to be shit on completely since it's only a 5 song EP, but it does give me cause for concern. This might have been more of a silly EP the guys released, meant more for themselves than their fans, but the fact they still took so much time and effort to make it is odd. Three of the tracks are solid, and while the last 2 are mind-numbingly stupid, maybe they just wanted to see what people would think of a different approach. So long as they don't do it again, I'll give them a pass on this one. - Shane

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Review: Hana Kim - Exodo

I don't believe individuals need to make a good first impression. We're subject to so much shit day in and day out that if we meet someone for the first time, and say its a day where maybe your car had a case of spontaneous combustion or maybe you were mauled by a stray bear, chance is, you're going to have an off day and that person can forgive you next time they meet you. Music isn't as forgiving. You have really one chance to make people either like what you're doing or despise what you're doing, and that's a much harder angle to work with. Fortunately, with Exodo, Hana Kim makes a fine first impression.

Hana Kim is not your prototypical singer/songwriter type. While some of the music might seem like pretty standard fair, what really struck home while listening to this album was the variety of sounds she was able to create. Typically, you face the wrath of of someone who plays solely acoustic music (and poorly at that) or you take your chances with someone who has a god complex, meaning they make their name the band name and probably have so much creative control over everything that you have to wonder if they paid the musicians to help them make their songs in the first place (Mostly because the music sucks). Kim, thankfully, doesn't succumb to either of these fates.

"Caravan", despite it not being the official single on the album, felt like one because of the atmosphere it manages to create. Normally, I wouldn't say songs with pianos as the only instrument would be up my alley, but this one feels dreamy. Mixed with Kims vocals, it really pulls an upset over the desired single "Mexico", which gets a double billing with an acoustic version later in the album. "Mexico" has that lounge-like indie rock vibe going for it, making it quiet but enjoyable, but it doesn't have the same power "Caravan" does. It's the smallest of complaints because she could have just had another song on her album instead of trying to force home her love for "Mexico". 

"Give It Up" and "Ruins" are subdued little numbers that showcase Kims vocal talents, which never takes long for you to notice. They have a jazz vibe to them, driving home the notion of that she feels at home singing in some hip lounge bar. Although the music never really takes center stage in these songs, it doesn't have to, because when you're a project all about the voice, the music takes a backseat to everything else. Still, it's usually decent enough to warrant a listen, and it's clear the musicians are talented, so they deserve some recognition as well.

Injecting some dance-like beats into the album is "I'd Do It Again", a slightly disco influenced track that is a breath of fresh air from the rest of the relatively easy going songs. It doesn't go all ABBA on you, but the guitar uptick is very reminiscent of the genre, and if I saw a disco ball come out during a performance of this song, I'd find it very fitting. "The Sun Stands Still" felt like a song Feist would make, overlapping acoustic guitar riffs with moody, harmonic vocals. It's catchy, but doesn't fall to repetitiveness, never overstaying its welcome long enough to do so.

Exodo is one of those albums I didn't know how I'd react to, but came away surprised with. While the musical styles aren't what I'd call favorites of mine, the album rubbed off on me in just the right way to make me more appreciative of them as a whole. Kim is very talented, and while some of the songs don't quite have the soul to them I was hoping, they maintain a sense of professionalism and class that keeps you interested the whole way through. I hope she continues doing what she does, and explores the world of music thoroughly, because with her skill, there's no telling what she could do with it. - Shane

Monday, October 7, 2013

Review: The Bloodshots - On Fire

I never got why people opt to buy Tylenol instead of going for the generic brand. Really, all you're buying is the name, both pills do the same god damned thing. Sure, the Tylenol looks fancier, but your headache induced from  a 8 hour marathon watching Alf is going to get cured the same way by literally the same combination of lab-created drugs. I know there's a comfort in knowing what you get, but 99% of the time, things work out regardless. The Bloodshots new album, On Fire, reminded me of this bizarre rant.

The Bloodshots play some of the most generic rockabilly I've ever heard, but I'm sure it's intentional. You can try to go psycho-billy, but once you've crossed that acid-enhanced line, there's often no coming back. It's a sub-genre that really never flatters anyways, but presses home with a comfortable familiarity to everything that makes it acceptable. Trust me when I say I mean that as a sincere form of respect, because I know calling something 'basic' can rub people the wrong way. All I mean is nothing ever strays from the ordinary.

"Waste Away", with its sweet Americana vibe induced into the song, really hit home for me. It still feels right at home as the music you'd want to listen to on your way to Vegas, but there's something unique here that plays into a different hand, and that's why I enjoyed it. It comes with its dark side, but only in the form of disappointment, and the reason for that disappointment is because there aren't more tracks like this on the album. But if we had that, this song wouldn't stand out in the first place, would it?

Songs like "Watchu Do" and "Straight To Hell" are more up-tempo songs that might enable you to break out the twist or skank or whatever dance moves you people do nowadays. "Straight To Hell" stands out over these two mainly because it has the slightest punk edge to it. You won't be doing a circle pit to it, no, but I can see whiskey-infused punks ganging up together to group mosh through whatever crowd might be watching these guys live. 

You have tracks like "La La La Love" and "You're A Cat" that walk the sensible line and never stray to be anything else but pure rockabilly, and then you've got other tracks like "Long Gone, So Long", which, well, do the same thing. It's unfortunate the genre doesn't have much room for maturation, because I know these guys aim to have one hell of a time making music, but everything remains very baseline. It's less the bands fault and more the people who never tried to be pioneers of the genre in the first place.

On Fire is like the vanilla ice cream of album, it's just kind of there and doesn't wow you, but doesn't make you want to vomit blood in disappointment either. If they can change their approach in the future, and try to blend in more genres and maybe add in a few surprises, The Bloodshots could stand a chance at really making a name for themselves in the world of underground rockabilly music (That sentence came across as more comical than I'd anticipated). But, for right now, they're as simple as you can get. - Shane

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Blitz Review: Death Lab - Demo 2013

Death Lab, despite its look, is something born out of love and passion. It's a project you're likely never to see in person because it doesn't seem to me anything more then a passion project. Once a three man band, Death Lab is now solely run by it's original creator, a man who simply (or maybe not so simply) goes by the name SylverA (Yes, the capital A was meant to be there). It's unfortunate since they (he) show tremendous knowledge and love of death metal within this new demo.

The first two tracks, "Choose Me Over Us" and "Make Yourself Up" are pretty standard death metal tracks that succeed because they don't try to stray from the safe confines the genre has previously set up for them. "Make Yourself Up" stands out, but simply because its chugging melodies and pounding double bass pedal-infused drumming really make it the catchier of the two.

"Betrayal Of Trust", with its short but impressively up-tempo break down, keeps the strong showing going on the demo. Again, it's nothing fancy, but it's clear a lot of work gets put into this, and with nary a mistake heard, it makes it that much more enjoyable. "Draw To A Close", a rather aptly named last track for the album, feels less taken care of as a song, sounding like it wants to impress you more with its guitar work than simply impressing you as an overall song.

"Lack Of Vision" comes across as more a combination of power metal and death metal, though not as epic as you might expect a power metal comparison to be. It's a solid track that bolsters a resume, but doesn't take the cake far as 'hit' songs go. And "Stray To Escape" never really clicks on any levels, which is sad because if they'd really concentrated on more harmonies and less solos and guitar noodling, it could have worked well.

Death Lab have released a nice demo here, and it's something I hope they do more of in the future. It's never fancy, or awe-inspiring, but good and catchy enough to warrant multiple listens. Considering it's one mans pride and joy to keep this project going, it makes it all the more impressive for it. And that's something I'm sure he aims to do every day. - Shane

Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: The Wheelers - S/T

I once heard someone compare a band to a glass of wine. It may not be the best analogy, but I get it. A glass of wine is thought of as elegant, refined and I guess the band represented those same qualities. Well if The Wheelers were to be compared to a type of alcohol, I'd say the remind me of a Four Loko. Most of you are probably thinking 'Well, that's not good', but hear me out. Yes, a Four Loko isn't really the most acceptable of drinks to bring to the party, but it's ridiculous, brash and out of control. All qualities I'm sure The Wheelers embrace fully.

These guys play a form of garage-punk that seems to harken back to the early nineties. They namedrop The Pixies as influences, but I don't quite see it, which is in their favor since The Pixies are impossible to replicate well. It's sloppy and fuzzy as hell, but they don't always keep the same sound flowing throughout the whole album, which is fine since as I've mentioned before with countless other bands, it's not good to keep yourself grounded with only one sound, better to spice it up a bit.

"Tarantino" and "Passive Aggressive" really display these guys punk attitudes, delivering quick, bass-heavy tunes that earn them marks for good song structure. They're not going to make them seem like modern day Beethovens or anything, but for a band steeped in fun, it's nice to know they have an idea of how a song should be constructed instead of just going with the flow. "Costello" treads the same style path as these songs, but feels more mature than the others, making it stand out as the best track on the album.

They go a little bit Sonic Youth sometimes, as evident by the tracks "Pedestrian" and "Ride By Fire". It could be because these guys use the bass so prominently throughout the album, but these two tracks really felt a little more experimental than the others. They don't toss around spaz-like guitar riffs, but there's something different and unbalanced about these two in particular that makes them feel different as a whole. Not a lot different, but different enough.

"298" and "So Much Rain" reinforce my opinion on them being influenced more by Fugazi than anyone else, coming out strong with shades of artsy post-punk. What's really impressive with these guys is that, while they may not have mastered all the different styles and sounds they use, they at least manage to mesh them together well, blending together something all together unique, whilst still being recognizable. 

The Wheelers self-titled album is pretty decent, and while it aims for a gritty perfection, things seem to fall just short of that because of some of the songs similar sounds. There's an overemphasis on bass here, and while that may be a format they love, it's something they should tweak in the future because of how some songs blend together. Still, there's an abundance of cool that oozes from their work, and I can see them really hitting their stride very soon. - Shane

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: Burning Palms - Church Of Ra

Music is an escape, or at least, that's what we're told. You see a lot of people live pretty hectic lives, and a lot of us can't appreciate what music does for us at any given moment. Not every artist has this ability, but those that are able to whisk us away from the mundane or terrible lives we lead are worth keeping around, because the ability to do such a thing is hard in its own right. Sometimes its because of the fun atmosphere a song can convey, and sometimes, its a magical, almost ethereal quality a band can produce that transports you away from our chaotic world and into one much more respectable. Burning Palms seem to harness this power with Church Of Ra

Hailing from Arizona, it seems Burning Palms have taken the magic the states desert landscape displays and harnessed it in their music. Fun, but spooky, Palms play a psychedelic form of surf-based-indie rock that many people try to harness nowadays, but almost none seem able to master. They are able to have their sound stand out because of these 'magical' qualities, and it's a refreshing reminder that maybe you can still beat that dead horse with a stick afterall, so long as that stick is a little different.

"Maze", with its simple yet catchy guitar riff and reverberated vocals, takes the cake on this album. It's one of the more energetic songs they play here, and though it doesn't have anything musically that really stands out above the others, what it does is manage to mold all their sounds together in one neat little package just right. It sounds a bit Best Coast-ish, but comparisons are going to happen, especially in this genre. "San Pedro" is equally impressive, but really feels more psychobilly than anything else.

"Drag" doesn't live up to its name and delivers a pretty strong, but methodical, tune. It's slower, but the chord progression is excellent, and the overlapping vocals really add another level to their already impressive sound. "Pyramids" and "Thorns" continue to almost seemingly non-stop assault of good music on this album, delivering short but memorable songs that live up to these guys expectations. It's nice they try to vary up speeds as well and don't try to stick with a quick, punk-as-fuck approach or a slow, drugged out of your mind approach. 

About the only blotch on the album is "Church Of Ra", the title track. It holds true to some of the same style points that define these guys, but there's something really missing here for me. I would not go as far as to say it's a horrible track, but it didn't seem to garner the same powerful imagery the others were producing, and when a band like Burning Palms work so well at creating moods, it's a bit of a let down.

Church Of Ra really impressed with its ability to transport you away from everything, but considering the songs were great on top of that, it really made it stand out. It's a dog eat dog world out there, and when you're slinging a similar sound a million other bands are trying to, you'd better be damn sure you find the niche that carves you a piece of the fame cake. Burning Palms have found there niche, now its just a matter of time before they get their cake. - Shane

-This release is able to be heard on bandcamp, but it is actually a cassette release, which you can buy from Lolipop Records. Here's the bandcamp link:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Review: The Latenight Callers - Songs For Stolen Moments

Somewhere, along route 66, in some hole in wall bar only the hardiest of swindlers go to you'll probably find The Latenight Callers playing. They're probably not swindlers themselves, but the style of music they play yearns for the most damaged, but adventurous of lost souls (I also doubt they've played some dive bar along route 66, although if they have, that's pretty cool). They aim for mysteriousness, seducing you with a strangeness only known to David Lynch movies. Or, at least, that's the general theme I got with Songs For Stolen Moments.

Sounding like a mixture of blues, gypsy-rock and rock-n-roll, The Latenight Callers feel like a band entrenched in the world of 'alternative lifestyles'. I'm not saying they try too hard to be different, but there's an unavoidable detection of malice towards normality. Sure, you might be a jackass and say 'Oh yeah? Well what's normal?', but you and I both know there are some things most people aren't too keen on, and these guys feel like the type of act that thrives off that. The whole time listening to this album I felt like I was watching an Ed Wood movie, or watching some basement burlesque show. Again, things a lot of people frown upon, but plenty enjoy. 

"Tourniquets" stood out for me on the album because, while it stays true to the rest of the albums style points, it felt a bit different. It sounds like a long lost Portishead song, thumping along at a methodical trip-hop pace while still adding in gypsy flair. There are a few other tracks on the album that try this approach ("Odessa" and "The Big Sleep"), but they don't blend it together as well as "Tourniquets" does. "The Big Sleep" comes close, and is a decent song in its own right, but doesn't come close to the same majesty.

When not dabbling in electronic themed music, they concentrate on what must be their staple: Gypsy rock. "Sleepless" and "Gypsy Moll" don't really stray off the fun but foreboding path gypsy themed music has come to show us, giving us something very easy to dance to but still feel entranced by. While they might come across as a tad too similar, it's not like they're mirror images of each other, and provide enough personal touches to work.

"Red Bricks, White Ghosts" feels jumbled. At first I thought they were sampling a song by Lady Soul used in the Sister Act soundtrack (I'm so happy I got to add in a Sister Act reference into this review), but it was pretty obvious early on it was just a similar sounding beat. Anyways, what I'm trying to say here is the beat feels way too loud, never really working with what the rest of the song is playing to. It's jarring, and when the majority of their album is kind of quiet in an odd way, it really frightens and bewilders you. "The Tease" also feels lethargic and uninspired, and maybe should have been axed off the album before they decided to print it off.

Songs For Stolen Moments was a surprise for me, mostly because it took me out of my so called 'comfort zone' and managed to cradle me so well to make me feel mostly comfortable and enjoy the ride. Sure, there are the occasional hiccups on the album, but most albums have these as well, and it's nice to be surprised now and again by something you didn't know what to make of in the first place. And that's something I think they strive to do on a daily basis. - Shane

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Blitz Review: HSY - S/T

You may not notice this too much, but there seems to be a desire to make pretty music nowadays. Yeah, there's plenty of punk rock and metal to go around, but the styles and production values leave a very clean taste in your mouth after you listen to them. Since the ye olde grunge days, we haven't really been given many bands that aim to sound as if they're music is being dragged through a huge pile of mud. HSY has aimed to changed that on their self titled EP.

Combining grunge with a Joy Division-esque sense of punk, HSY don't seem to care what finished product they give you, so long as it's fuzzy yet aggressive. The opening track, "Milk Chug", is a grainy bass-ridden tune that thumps along well with a simple, yet exceptional drum beat. It's a great opener, and I wish they'd left it for a full length album, but the fact it exists is nice in the first place. "Ladies Night" essentially takes the same approach as "Milk Chug", but is slower and more methodical in its rock delivery. Both songs have an echo of Sonic Youth to them, but they don't dive too much into the experimental to truly warrant a legitimate comparison.

"Waffles", the punkest song out of all of them, is quick and loud, but bares a slight resemblance to "Milk Chug", making it still a good song on it own, but with less of a lasting effect because of it. The other two tracks, "Slimeball" and "Tartar Mouth", are solid additions, with "Tartar Mouth" being the better of the two for its trudging bass riff and hardly recognizable vocal stylings.

HSY is a quick, but solid, EP. These guys have a pretty unique sound, and it'll be nice to see how they transition their growing experience into making a full length album. They may be content with making EPs forever, but I for one would like to hear a ten track album of their stuff. It may not be the prettiest music around, but I'll be damned if it's not some of the best. - Shane

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review: Storm Watkins - Mercury

Do we ever have to give credit where credit is due? I mean, people say that all the time, but do they mean it or are they just covering up their own disappointment by trying to look cool? Don't get me wrong, I've said it myself, but I've felt grimy afterwards, some form of guilt making me regret uttering that dumb quote. It has an almost passive tone to it, nearly lazy in the placated notions it tries to instill. But on rare occasions, it's really meant as a form of applause, signifying that whatever it is you've witnessed may not be fully known to you, but is good enough to warrant an appreciation. That is how I felt with Storm Watkins album, Mercury.

Watkins comes from the instrumental hip-hop crowd, populated by better known acts like Star Slinger. It's sample based, with simple beats thrown over them for good measure. Most songs in this genre are fragmented so as not to cry copyright infringement, but some of the songs on this album feel a bit too whole to warrant calling them truly 'fragmented'. They don't suffer much from this correlation, but I often wondered if he couldn't have tried a less simple approach (I also hate seeing musicians sued by other musicians. Not that he is being sued, but musicians cry foul way too often when samples of their songs are used). 

"My Everything" and "Quit Shuttin' Me Out" really signifies what Watkins can do with other people tunes. They're catchy and poppy, like the tunes he's sampling are, but are altered and structured in a better way than most artists like him try to be. Sampling R&B songs seems to be a staple in the hip-hop world, and it's a good thing Watkins stays within this trope because he shows what he can do when working alongside it. Sometimes the 'tried and true' method isn't a bad thing.

Others like "17" and "Sad Lexi" add to the strong showings on this album, working alongside previously made songs to create real numbers you can dance to. They all kind of have the same tone and feel to them, but if bands like Green Day have been given free passes in this department, Watkins should too. "By You" and "Love Reborn" feel sluggish and uninspired, and that's kind of hysterical seeing as, like I've mentioned a thousands times already, they're sample based. Sure, the blame is on him for choosing those songs to work with, but a small percentage of blame also has to go to the original artists for making what sounds like bad music in the first place.

Mercury is a pretty solid album, if not a little bit redundant. There are a bit too many dub-step horn samples sprinkled into the songs, and while some of the songs sound the same, they're varied enough and good enough to cut the album some slack. Watkins should stick to doing what he's doing here, because it's obvious he has talent, and will only get better with experience (Not that he isn't good right now, but, you know what I'm saying). And that's the credit I believe he's due. - Shane

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Blitz Review: Hellbear - Hellbear E.P.

Hellbear is like the gumbo of the metal world. To say they're thrash would be a lie, and to say they're black metal would be a lie to. They're a bit of both, but with equal doses of speed metal and power metal thrown in for good measure. In other words, you toss all your metal in a pot with some veggies and potatoes and, baby, you got a brutal stew going. At least that's the impression I get on this EP.

It only has 5 tracks, but doesn't need more than that to leave a lasting impression. "Shadowlands", with its relentless drum beat and trudging guitar riffs, comes across as slightly more hardcore than metal, but, again, these guys are a grab bag of metal genres, so things are going to sound different every song. "No Race, No Rome" retains a black metal undercurrent throughout the song, but still stays quick enough to not succumb to the morbid feelings you get from listening to that genre (Not that I don't mind a morbid feeling or two, but I like a metal song that doesn't make me feel like I'm in some gothic cathedral somewhere). This feels a bit hardcore as well, but I feel it may be because of the singing style more so than the music.

"In Sand We Sit" initially had me singing "The Ace Of Spades", but it's just because of the initial guitar riff and not because these guys are big Motorhead fans (Maybe they are, who knows, I try not to judge). It's thrashy and a bit death metaly, and comes across as the most complete track on the EP despite its maybe-unintentional association with speed metal legends. "Iron Made In China" is loud and slightly chaotic, but suffers from a head scratching beat that sometimes takes a bizarre turn for the worse. It's not a bad song by any means, but it doesn't feel like the rest of the song on the EP, substituting the fast-paced fun for instrumental masturbation.

The one hiccup aside, Hellbear really delivers on their EP here. Even the album art delivers, which is what made me listen to them in the first place. I hope they continue to blend the styles together as seamlessly as they do here, because if they do, they're one hell of band to keep an eye on. - Shane

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Blitz Review: Del Paxton - Worst. Summer. Ever.

This summer was a buzzkill. It was either so hot that your head would explode worse than an attack from those psychics in Scanners (Just type in "Scanners Head Explosion" on youtube) or the crowds were so unbearably huge anywhere you went that eventually you threw your hands up in the air in disgust. So maybe Del Paxtons EP title, Worst. Summer. Ever, added to it's enjoyment because I too thought the summer was the worst ever (Maybe they're being ironic and these guys were having amazing soirees every night). But really the only reason I enjoyed this EP was because these guys sound great.

They instantly come across as pop-punk, but with a late 90's alternative flair. "October" defines their sound better than the other songs because, if it wasn't for the vocals, you'd swear you were listening to something from 1998. It has hints of pop punk in it, and the vocals are reminiscent of that genre, but the music never opts to leave the sweet confines of it's safe alternative home. "Two Planes Away", while being slightly more subdued, still touts these same tropes. The vocals have harmonies to them, and the guitar parts cross into the punk realm occasionally, but nothing tries to blow people away suddenly with a fast drum beat. You can tell they kind of want to, but manage to keep their desires at bay.

"Surfs Up" and "Motion Sick" are pop-punk through and through, but they still don't try to be too aggressive for their own good. They're well crafted songs that show how much love these guys put into their music. Even if this type of music isn't your cup of tea, you can't help but marvel at the work they've done here, because 90% of the bands you probably like out there are incompetent fools who do nothing more than make beats on a computer and and call themselves a 'band' (It looks like it'll be a continuing trend for me to insult every electronic-based band on the planet in every review). 

Worst. Summer. Ever. is a great little EP that doesn't ask much from you, if anything. Musically, it may not be for everyone, but I dare you to find one fault with it. It's not everyday you come across something so simple yet gratifying. Maybe if this had actually come out earlier in the summer, if wouldn't have sucked so much for me - Shane

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: The Broonies - In Love Again

I feel like Indiana Jones when I look for music. No, no large boulders are going to chase me out of some temple, and I doubt a guys going to try and rip my heart out, but there's an unmistakable sense of adventure as you seek the dungeons and catacombs of the internet for new bands to listen to. Sometimes you find something so secretive and entrenched in its own microcosm that you feel like you've won the god damn musical lottery. In Love Again, by The Broonies, is one such album.

Hailing from San Francisco, The Broonies are the text book definition of low-fi garage punk. Bad levels and barely recognizable vocals are very present throughout, and yet it works for what they probably are: A hometown band who plays basement and living room shows for other local bands and friends. When exploring the bands story, I found almost nothing aside from some random youtube videos, which lead me to this very conclusion. Not every band needs to tour the country and make a ton of merch to be appreciated. All you need is find them online.

"Kidnapper Van" and "I Ain't Mad At Ya, Honey" are the quintessential songs that define who these guys are, in a nut-shell. Quick, with tinny guitar riffs that are probably only played with 2 chords, they ooze a sense of fun that reinforces the idea they're not doing this for anyone but themselves. They probably enjoy playing in front of fans and friends, but when the production value is so minimalist, it scatters any idea that they want to become famous. At least not nationally.

They go a little surf-rock occasionally, with tracks like "10 Speed" and "Workin' Hard". They're a nice deviation from the rest of the garage rock songs on the album, but only "Workin' Hard", for lack of a better phrase, really works here. It's clear these guys are more into their up tempo punk-like stuff, but at least they try to vary their sound. It's something they can work on in the future, if these are even still together in the first place. 

"Deli Girl" and "Villain" round out the album with a little more aggression to them, shifting themselves into the punk direction permanently. None of the tracks on the album opt for any fancy notions about what they are, staying rooted in a sense of humility. A lot of people feel the need to overdo what they do because they feel they're simple in the first place, but whether it derives from laziness, or a genuine understanding of music, The Broonies show a great capability of making entertaining music here.

In Love Again retains a fun vibe throughout most the album, and while there are some bumps along the way, nothing shakes the enjoyable foundation built early on in the album. It'd be nice if these guys did more shows, or ventured out of their comfortable California confines (Maybe they have, maybe this is a re-release and they're touring the countryside right now.....but I doubt it), but there's a merit to staying hometown heroes. It makes an album like this stronger and forces you to see, if you're in their area, if they're playing a show. It might take you some time to discover them, but it's worth the adventure. - Shane

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: Sea Stars - The Unknown

Our generation is loud, crass and often out of control. I'm into those qualities sometimes, but it will usually become too much to handle. We live in a time where everything has to install instant gratification, and nothing can take its time to get to you. Be here now, buy this now, hell, even the music people make today feels like they have no time to really put care into it. It's sad, because there is plenty of stuff out there that is the polar opposite of this truth we've come to accept everyday. Not everything has to have dub-step beats and a million pieces of electronics to make us happy. This is something, I believe, Sea Stars knows very well.

Atmospheric, and rooted in a basic, but not simplistic version of indie-rock, Sea Stars are the kind of band you grab a cup of tea and chill out to. It never goes out of its way to impress, but doesn't have to because the power is in the mood it creates, not the beat its creating. It has a folk vibe to it, however it doesn't succumb to the generic tropes one needs to be considered so. 

"Bittersweet" and "The Devil & The Man" have a country vibe to them, but they both stay rooted enough not to wander into Garth Brooks territory (I know nothing of modern country, can't you tell?). They're fine deviations, if not altogether remarkable additions to the rest of the album because they almost don't blend in with the feel of the remainder of the album. But "Colors Of The Sun", which has a slight psycobilly touch to it along with the country notes, sticks out because of its structure and toe-tapping catchy-ness. Not trying to say they're not capable of some stellar, catchy riffs once in a while, but when a band opts for atmosphere instead of focusing on the genre, the music can often feel a little bland.

It also has to be mentioned that these guys must be influenced by The Swell Season, because if not, "Sweet Mourning" and "Long After" could pass off as knock offs to most people who wouldn't know better. That's a compliment, trust me, because even if they don't listen to The Swell Season, the mere fact they sound like them is a testament to their songwriting skills. They're both indie, but folk-oriented, and with a pop tweak to them that makes it pretty accessible to just about anyone. It's good because everyone kind of needs something to chill them out in this hostile world, and songs like these two deliver that vibe in spades.

Sea Stars have done a pretty nice job here on their debut album. They feel more mature and polished than a band making their first record, and, while not perfect, its strenghts far outweigh the few weaknesses it has. It's nice to have bands like this still being formed in our time, because if we didn't, we all might be a little bit too stressed out for out own good. - Shane

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: Shark Valley Sisters - Prince And The Punk

Some people will tell you if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. Well, no, actually you do have to work, and very hard too, at what you love or else what's the fucking point in trying in the first place? The whole idea behind loving something is your dedication to it, knowing you'll do just about anything to ensure it's continued growth with you. Rob Elba and Fausto Figueredo, who make up Shark Valley Sisters, must feel this exact passion and dedication behind making music, and it's quite evident on Prince And The Punk.

These guys, though not together till now, have been playing music since the late 1990's. That doesn't make them spring chickens, but what it gives them is the experience to know how to tweak a sound just right, and have the experience to craft a great sound. Mixing alternative riffs with garage rock beats and the occasional punk rock melody, Shark Valley Sisters are clearly products of their generation, but that really adds another level to their music. It doesn't angle for a nostalgic value, but gets it anyways, and that's a credit to their desire to hold onto a simpler form of music making instead of succumbing to the wave of nonsense we've got going on today.

"Maggots" and "Song 9", though short, deliver very catchy alternative riffs that, as mentioned, have a bit of a punk rock vibe to them, but don't succumb to it's overall attitude. Being a 2 piece, these guys also make the songs simple, which is also a breath of fresh air in an age where a one man band will have 400 pieces of electronic equipment on stage at any given time. I feel like Avril Lavigne had a point when she asked us: 'Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated?'. Why did we indeed. The digital age has made us a very lazy generation, but it's nice to see bands like S.V.S kicking it old school and reminding us it can still be done right.

Avril Lavigne references aside (I actually referenced her in my blog....upsetting), these guys stay relatively true to themselves and their audience, occasionally sounding a little bit like a grunge band, but not circa 1991 Seattle. "Hum" and "The Evil And The Stupid" don't sound like Mudhoney or anything, but they've got a chord progression to them that was unmistakable. It adds to the overall 'flavor' of them album, because these guys must have some amazing and varied inspirations, because its very clear they just love music. Keeping with one sound is hard enough, but managing to blend all those retro (Wait.....are the 90's now officially retro? Shit, I'm getting old) sounds together and have them come out whenever they see fit is amazing.

Prince And The Punk is a terrific listen, and the knowledge these guys have of alternative-styled music has really payed off for them. There isn't anything to warn you about, because musically, they know what they're doing. Some people might not be into the vocals (I call it 'David Byrne Style' vocals, where it sounds more like talking than singing), but I personally love it, and feel it adds to the overall product of the album. Maybe we should all work as hard as these guys do, because, if we did, maybe we'd love what we did as much as they do. - Shane

Monday, September 2, 2013

Review: The Alcove - Never Looking Back

Whenever you visit a friend at his home, about the only thing you ask of him is to make you feel comfortable, at ease. Not so hard, right? Unless he's insane and treats his guests like Leatherface would, you're probably safe to assume such things. Same goes for music. You're not literally in someones home when you listen to an album, but it's similar in that you have the right to want to feel at peace while listening to it. Never Looking Back, a new album by The Alcove, tried hard to deliver this.

Genre wise, they're relatively generic, mixing a basic indie-rock vibe with an old school pop mentality. If you use the word 'pop' today, most people think of those abominations One Direction, but it's really meant to describe a jangly vibe. This might also be one of the first bands I've reviewed that also seem like they're genuinely happy people, which, don't worry, doesn't totally count against them. It's unmistakable how upbeat they are, and it shows in the music. Maybe they're all grumpy people who would rather see my head on a spike, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. 

"Travelling On" and "Are You Cold?" stand out as their most complete pieces, emphasizing a desire to turn those frowns upside down (Did I really just write that? Shit.). Again, they come off as chipper, but at least they didn't like it block their song-writing abilities, which they have in spades. "Travelling On" sounds like a ska-band hijacked by Belle And Sebastian, with an uptick to the guitar that feels more at home played by a dude with a checkered belt. It's not all the prevalent in the song, but it still had me questioning it's usage, more so because it felt like they were winging it instead of playing a part they'd prepared. But with "Are You Cold?", the uptick works better, and feels more attached to the song it's accompanying. This is really a minor detail, as both these songs are solid, it's just worth mentioning the momentary displaced feeling I had.

While they do have a 'sound', they tweak it just enough throughout the EP to not make it grating. "Summer Haze" feels like the illegitimate child between reggae and dream-pop, a little bit Marley, a little bit Soundlab. An interesting mash up of genres to be sure, but it didn't quite work for me on this one (It's the first time I've heard the mash up too, so, not a good start). While "Lisbon" closes out the EP with a solid track, theother 2 tracks on the EP, "Cheers" and "Growing Pains" never amount to much, succumbing to their weak song structures and style choices.

Maybe the title of their EP was telling me something as I listened to it. I actually can't be too harsh on it, since I liked half the songs on it, which is a lot more than some albums I still claim to 'like' have. But there is an undeniable spirit to the music that is missing here, an awkward feeling I couldn't seem to shake. Once they stick with a voice to their music and pursue it better, they've got the chance to be a very decent pop group, but for now, I feel like I've intruded into a house I was invited to in the first place. - Shane

Friday, August 30, 2013

Review: Sabertooth - Sheol

I like my ear drums. I don't know what I'd do without them, especially considering how much I love music, but I'm a bit neglectful of them sometimes. How, you ask (I know you didn't ask)? Well, it's simple. I find bands like Sabertooth, who pillage my hearing with their vicious audio assault. I have no one to blame but myself because I willingly put myself in the line of fire with this one. Only, this time, my ears weren't just ringing in pain, but in pleasure.

These guys are hardcore, a genre I used to be very familiar with, but have since distanced myself from for really no good reason (There just isn't much good hardcore out there these days really I think). It's a bit on the tough-guy side, but outside of the vocal stylings and occasional chugging breakdowns, it's kind of unique. I'm not saying it's going to change to world of hardcore music forever, but they've deviated enough from the doldrums of hardcore to create something often chaotic and almost manic. It's loud, with riffs that don't always seem standard for music of this caliber. 

"Spiders" really took a hold of me because I felt it didn't match what the other songs were doing 100%. I'm not saying the other songs all sound the same, but there's a somberness here that is undeniable, and while "Spiders" doesn't seem to be singing about helping mankind or donating money to a animal rescue shelter, it does play peppier, more punk vibe than just spazy hardcore. It's break up the cloud that looms over you while the album is playing, and even a guy like me who loves clouds needs a break from them now and again.

However, tracks like "Sheol" and "Necro" assure you that you are indeed listening to a legitimate hardcore album. They've got most of the tropes you've come to know and love about hardcore music (If you even like hardcore music that is), so any of you out there looking to whip your hoodie on and start some random living-room mosh-pit will be thrilled to know these songs deliver. Others like "Brother" and "Drones" don't deliver quite as much as the others, but they have enough going for them to be fine additions to the album and not just forgettable piles of shit.

Sheol is good, and while it's a bit shrill and occasionally abrasive, nothing deviates the goodwill towards it too much to really warrant saying anything bad about it. There is plenty of room to improve their sound, but what they have right now is a pretty good building block. My ears might be cursing me out right now for listening to it, but just wait till I listen to it again after I finish writing this review - Shane

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: Bad Sports - Bras

I looked at my calendar when I was listening this album. Much to my dismay, it was still 2013.

Not that I'm not too down on our day and age, but when something makes you feel like you're in another era, it sucks to be reminded you're still in the present. Bad Sports album, Bras, had the distinct pleasure to ruin my day as their Buzzcocks and The Clash influenced brand of garage-punk-rock reminded me of an era I know a lot about, but never witnessed: The late 1970's.

It's not to say these guys are mimicking those bands or that era exactly, but there's a brash style here at play that really seems to take you back. "Nothing In This World" and "Eddie Bender" really emphasize this idea, rocking away with simple chords and an aggressive, but not Animal from The Muppets like speed. These guys are American, so maybe a slight comparison with MC5 will suffice with these songs, but as an overall comparison, it doesn't truly work.

Bad Sports manages to grind out a few punk rock songs as well with "Hypothetical Girl" and "Washed Up". They both feel like they have a bit of straight up rock'n'roll vibe, but they don't wander too far from the punk path, which are their saving grace. It'd be interesting to see them concentrate more on songs like these, but punk is a fickle mistress, and I totally understand their desire not to be a one trick pony.

"Let Me In" and "Rich City Kid" are the two tracks I took the least away from. It's not that they're bad, but they don't live up to the potential the other songs left for them. Maybe I'm being too harsh on them, because they're rock songs first and foremost, but it clearly isn't these guys bread and butter. It shows that they put more effort into their garage rock and punk material, so maybe they should concentrate on that in the future.

Bras is actually very solid, and I love what these guys are doing for the most part. This is one of those works that feels incomplete being listened to online. The dose of nostalgia it gives you really commands you to listen to it on vinyl (I don't know if they're releasing it on vinyl or not, but they should), and it surely will take you back to a time where things still sucked, but people just seemed to get past it a little bit better.  - Shane

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: Weekends - New Humans

The music world is confusing. You have a lot of people who are content with simply defining bands as one genre, like 'rock' or 'jazz'. It doesn't fully detail what they sound like, but a person has a general perception of how to mentally approach a band. But on the polar opposite end of the spectrum, are the people who simply confuse you too much by trying to be too scholarly in describing what a band sounds like. Post-wave. post-punk, post-rock, what the hell is that?  I mean, I know the terms because I've been around enough to know them, but to anyone else, it's really off-putting. Thankfully, most people just tell you to check out a band instead of trying to be pretentious about it. The combinations of these experiences, really, is how I found out about Weekends new album, New Humans

All you need to know, really, is that these guys are very grunge-like in their approach. See? That's not too hard to imagine. It's of course modern, so it doesn't try to follow the tropes of 90's grunge too much, except for the fuzzy guitars. No one needs to go further than that, because you have to leave some room for imagination to take over in a persons brain before they listen to them. 

"A Defining Love", "Basement Love" and "Trust" were the three tracks I took the most away from on the album, mainly because of how crisp and polished they felt above the others. Grunge doesn't normally correlate with the words 'crisp' or 'polished', but, over the other songs on the album, these felt whole. That's not to say the other tracks don't feel like songs, because, obviously they do, but there's an unmistakable care that seems to have been put into these three. 

Some tracks, like "Conspicuous Waste", do sound as if you've found an underground grunge band from Seattle in the 90's. They're very sluggish and trudging, and yearn for you to watch old-school re-runs of Beavis and Butt-head on a bootleg VHS (That's the best 90's slacker comparison I could come up with). They don't stay nostalgic long, as "Soaked" and "June Echo" sound very modern and more like rock tunes, instead of straight up grunge tunes.

I listened to this album three times just to get everything right, because it took a little while for me to warm up to it. There are other bands like them out there, but they're one of the only acts I know who have made grunge come back in a positive way. Maybe they won't call themselves that, and maybe other people will take twenty minutes intricately describing their sound, but, to me, this is what they come across like. But the only part you need to take away is how good this album is. - Shane

Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: The Conquers - Demo EP

I like things that are a little worn. Big reason I like to shop at used clothing stores is not because it's hip to do it, but because the clothes are already broken in. The aged, beaten aesthetic of it is also pleasing, but the fact that I don't have to sit uncomfortably with a pair of pants for weeks until they feel right is a huge plus. This preference really carries into a lot of things, including music. While music isn't 'torn' or 'beaten', the production value could be described as such, signifying a bands work is poorly produced. I often like this, and feel it enhanced my perception of The Conquers album, Demo EP.

These guys play a very rag-tag version of ska-punk, but it's so rag-tag it's endearing. I don't think these guys take longer than 15 minutes to make a song, and why should they? Both genres are about having fun, and there's no fun to be had in trying to make an epic punk song. Yes, I stated the production value bit in the opening paragraph because their album is under-produced. Levels are off, the vocals get way too loud and it sounds like the drums are made out of cardboard. But those are all good things really.

"It's My Job To Keep Ska-Punk Elite" really stays true to their 'ska-punk' definition, delivering a solid number that'll make you skank, then turn around and punch a dude in the face (You know, if you're into that type of thing). What really let me down with this tune though is that there aren't any others like it on this EP. Sure, it's good to broaden your horizons, but when this sound is the exact definition of what you claim to be, but you don't have any other examples like it on your album, it's a bit of a misrepresentation. Only the song "Awkward" delivers on this promise as well, but it's really more a ska tune than a ska-punk tune.

Let down aside, these guys still manage to produce some solid punk tracks, like "I Promise" and "Third Wheel". They have an early Saves The Day vibe to them, and before you go making snarky comments about Saves The Day, check out their early work, you'd swear it wasn't them. Anyways, The Conquers clearly have a fixation towards upbeat pop-punk , and that enables them to do a lot here. For the most part, ska-punk can get boring if not done properly, so it's nice they're angling for some different styles as well.

The Demo EP, while sounding like it was made with a $5 microphone (Been there before), at least enables these guys to show their potential. I really wound up digging a few tracks pretty hard, and it's clear they really just want to have some fun while making pop-punk songs, with occasional ska riffs thrown in. It might feel a little worn, but it fits like a glove - Shane

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: New Cassettes - The Art Of....

There's a person inside of you who doesn't come out until you're alone. Maybe not all of you, but some of you. See, many of you have to keep up an appearance to others, because you can't be seen any other way or else you'll be ridiculed for it. That might be a generalization, but more often than not you won't come clean to liking something unless you're alone. New Cassettes sound like the type of band you wouldn't admit to liking to your friends with the album, The Art Of....

Combining an alternative-indie sound with a pop-punk backbone, New Cassettes come across as very accessible, never really straying from the path of good, but not memorable music. "You Won't Stop" offers up a catchy tune that glides along with a disco-like beat, but even when it stands out as one of the better tracks on the album, it never really feels fulfilling. Even "Lighthouse" and "Carnivals", which are respectable in their own right, don't last with you because everything has the same sort of tone. While a song might try to be a little edgier, it never develops into something else, relying on the same tired method that the previous song employed. It's really a shame since, when they're hitting their stride, I could see these guys becoming something more.

"Huey Lewis" and "Recover/Retreat" have less life in them than the fly I had to kill in my room because it wouldn't stop flying around my face like an asshole. I just wanted to make that analogy because I thought it'd be funny, but really, they feel life-less. Being inspired by other great bands like these guys are (Check out their facebook and see), I can see what they're trying to do, but, at least for me, it fails to live up to it's intended potential.

New Cassettes have some decent songs on this album, but they're not enough for me to feel any sort of affection towards this album. At least with The Art Of..., they've made an appealing package to other people who are less inclined to deal with snobbery, and are more interested in songs that will get your feet moving. You may not admit it to your friends, but I'll have no problem telling mine what I think of it. - Shane

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: Mallwalkers - Shake The Rust Off

Don't talk shit about rust belt cities. Yeah, they've fallen on hard times the last, I don't know, 40 years, but they have a resolve and culture to them that any major metropolitan area wishes it had (I'm looking at you, NYC). Within these cultural microcosms (Although I wouldn't call a cities style 'micro'), beautiful and often amazing works of art can spring forth, proving you don't need to live among the worlds wealthiest in LA or NYC to make your voice heard. Mallwalkers, who hail from Buffalo, NY, prove this with their record, Shake The Rust Off.

Mallwalkers exhibit a very prominent punk tone in their music, but it maintains a minimalist approach. The drums aren't fast, and while they have an aggressive tone in their voice, it's not screaming. I'd liken them to a mixture of Gang Of Four meets The Saints, but with more horns (Anyone has more horns than Gang Of Four), and both those bands hold a special place in my heart, so their similarities help their sound.

"Put Your Heads Together" is the crown jewel of the album, really defining the bands well-oiled, but fun, approach. It's slightly repetitious, but never feels annoying because of it, and keeps you wanting to dance the whole way through (If you aren't dancing already). Other tracks like "Shake It To The Flor" and "Brownified Beach Party" keep the lighthearted fun going strong, and really gives the strong impression that these folks are killer live.

Thankfully, they don't try to overstay their welcome with that sound throughout the whole album, instead trying their hand at some more punk-like fair. "Baby Pterodactly (I don't Wanna Be A)" and "It's Time" are close to the others in style, but they do manage to up the energy level enough to make them stand out. "Baby Pterodactyl (I don't Wanna Be A)" really takes the medal out of these two, giving the album some depth and proving you don't need to wear plaid pants or have a mowhawk in order to get punk-rock cred.

Even when some of the songs don't live up to what I'd eventually come to expect ("Going Downtown" and "Get You Back" really being the only two), I was always anxious to hear the next song. As an album, it doesn't drag, and as stand alone songs, nearly all of them are worthy listens. I might have a slight bias here because I use to live in Buffalo for 3 years, and enjoyed the music scene there immensely (Fashion Expo 1990, Mom And Dad Parade and A Hotel Nourishing being among my favorite acts), but really, Mallwalkers have done a great job here, and have hit their target, my heart, with their music arrow. You don't have to live, or ever have lived, in or around the rust belt to appreciate what Mallwalkers have done here. All you have to do is listen. - Shane

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Blitz Review: The Glendas - Keep Real

Confidence is something you gain over time. It's not about trying to be more than you are, it's about knowing who you are and what you're capable of. You can walk whatever walk you'd like once your confidence has settled in, and when it has, things get a whole lot easier. Keep Real, by The Glendas, proves these guys are sure about what they're doing.

Occasionally progressive, yet always brash, The Glendas play a very full sound for a 2 man band. It's reminiscent of Japandroids, but offers less fuzz and more of a straight forward rock vibe. Two man bands are a hard thing to pull off, but The Glendas manage it very well.

This 5 song EP offers up some pretty great tunes, even if one or two aren't as well-thought as the others. "Bow + Arrow" distances itself from the rest of the pack because of its attitude and catchy riffs. It's energetic, and builds up an intensity over the course of the song, but never releases it, which is a tease, but a good one. "Sore Eyes" and "Marionettes" are other sold additions, giving the band a bit of math-rock cred and establishing a variety of sounds they can work with in the future.

Only the other two tracks, "Keep Real" and "Wait Your Turn" sound a bit generic, but they're solid tracks on their own. I assume they make these to maybe appeal a wider audience, because as much as someone like me loves their more abrasive material, a whole albums worth might turn off potential fans, and that's something I totally understand. 

Keep Real is a solid EP, but more importantly showcases an emerging bands talent. Making a sound this large, with so few people, is incredible, and should be done by more artists. So check out the EP today! - Shane

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: Vampire Squid - S/T

Sometimes you can tell exactly what you're going to get just by looking at it. The whole 'Judge a book by its cover' mentality is frowned upon, sure, but there's no denying we all do it. That plate of spaghetti? Yeah, it sucks just as much as you think it's going to. Or that new film with Katherine Heigl in it? Don't bother, it got a 6% on Rotten Tomatoes (And besides, we all know to avoid Katherine Heigl films like the plague). But sometimes, that snap judgement isn't created by negativity, it's fostered by an unknown positivity.  That's what I felt listening to Vampire Squid's self titled album.

Vampire Squid (Which is one of the best band names I've heard in awhile) play a combination of death metal and grindcore, with occasional math-core riffs thrown in for good measure. That sounds like a chaotic hand to be dealt, but these guys manage to wrap it up neatly in one package, without either of those elements losing their punch. I've never heard of anyone trying something like that before (Or maybe I'm a bit too sheltered from the world of metal), so on top of them pulling it all off, the fact that they play it in the first place is a testament to their musical courage.

"Flying Fish Hooks" and "Just Keep Finning" (Catch a theme here?) are the finest examples of what these gentlemen are capable of. Occasionally brutal, yet melodic, they have a freshness to them that can't be denied. One second you're flipping tables over in mosh-like rage to the music, the next, standing in awe at the complex rhythms they're creating. It feels slightly like a metal band comprised of members who all have ADD and OCD, but that's a great combination to have for a band like this.

Even when a track like "Jellyfish Defibrillator" goes for the math-core approach more than anything else, it still manages to work. And what can I say about songs like "Somebody Please Kelp Me?" and "Licensed To Krill" that kind of isn't already in the title of those songs? OK, maybe just the fact these guys are pretty hilarious, but I'll go further and say that they're very strong death metal tracks, rounding out an already strong metal album.

Vampire Squid hits a home run here, and it's not hard to see why. When you work hard at your craft, but do it with a very grounded sense of humor, the end result usually works out in your favor. Too often do people take their creative projects too seriously, forgetting instead that people prefer a less heavy-handed approach to most anything. And that's something none of us have to judge to know it works. - Shane

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blitz Review: Duco - Frozen In Time

If someone labels something 'definitively' and then follows it up with an era like, say, the 90's, I think there's a part of our brain that in instantly split. On one hand, it's nice to have something sound like the past, on the other hand, it's disappointing they couldn't try something new, and had to regress to an older sound to make things work. With Frozen Time, Duco mostly succeeds in harnessing the positive side of this conundrum.

Funny thing is Duco does sound like they're from the 90's, finding common ground with acts like The Stone Roses and more alternative American fair like The Breeders. They manage to mesh these different, yet similar, sounds together to at least make something relatively original. 

"Behind The Curtain" and "Silent Peaks" stand out over the other tracks in the album because of their ability to pull of the 'laid-back cool' sound so many slacker bands used to employ in the 90's. I can just envision these tunes playing in the background while I slug a beer back on a cloudless day at the beach, not having a care in the world (I don't really have many cares at all, but it would almost diminish them completely). They're that cool, and that's a term I rarely use to describe anything.

Duco does manage to try other things with tracks like "Doors Of Perception", but more often then not I found most songs to have a similar structure to them. The chord progression also sounds the same on a few tracks, and that diminishes their strength overall, but it really isn't that big a deal. If people could forgive The Ramones for having nearly every single song of theirs being the same as the last, then we should do just fine with giving Duco a break.

Frozen In Time is a nice listen, and while is wanders into familiar waters too often, it doesn't diminish it's lasting value too much. If you're into feeling that old careless vibe again, or simply never let go of it, I'd say check out this album today. - Shane