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

Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: The Royal Veil - King Of The Ocean

You probably decided a long time ago what you were going to listen to for the rest of your life. Yeah, maybe you think you're brazen in some of your choices because, hey, who else will listen to Megadeath and Duran Duran back to back (I don't judge, but I needed two quick acts that didn't really stand out to me so I could make my condescending point)? What I'm trying to get at here is, sometimes you really need to get out of your comfort zone to not only appreciate the music you love but, on occasion, other music as well. King Of The Ocean had me thinking the same thing.

The Royal Veil liken themselves to the Mars Volta, which is sensible enough, but a bit misleading. Sure, they both have a strange fixation towards really long songs, and there's a prog-rock underbelly to their tunes as well, but it's there where their similarities die off. I actually got a bit of a early Incubus vibe from these guys, a la the Fungus Amongus days. There's a tribalness to their work that's fairly obvious, but it works for them unlike the thousands of other bands who try for something similar.

"Circle Of Violence", which clocks in at a whopping 11 minutes, stands out as the key track of the album not because of it's length, but because it never succumbs to it. It's a pretty simple alternative rock track, but it does enough to stay strong for such a huge amount of time. "Entity", which would be my exhibit A in showing why these guys sound like Incubus, really drives home a fun energy people can't quite make anymore. It doesn't do much, but it doesn't need to when you're having fun with it to begin with.

Another track, "Into The Sun", which might be their exhibit A as to them sounding like The Mars Volta, has another excessive time-frame (7 minutes long), but pulls it off with better melodies then "Circle Of Violence". It's something I wish they did more of in general, because it sounds like they enjoy creating and playing it more than their other material.

King Of The Ocean wanders into some dark waters a few times, going a bit too commercial for my liking. "Tonic" feels less prog-rock and more just hard rock, which isn't a genre I have much love for. A bias, sure, but if you execute a hard rock song well, I'll at least admit to it's merits. But this song feels stale, and has almost no use being around. "Waters" and "Entity 2" feel uninspired, and I'd rather there just not be a song on an album instead of uninspired ones. That may be a vicious gripe of mine, but I've got to be honest here.

This album took me out of my comfort zone, but I still managed to come back in one piece (Though barely). The Royal Veil aren't bad, but, at least on this album, they're not good either. They have their strengths, and should they focus on them, it could lead them to make a stronger album in the future. Maybe it's not always good to try different things afterall.  - Shane

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Review: Helen Money - Arriving Angels

Someone once told me 'You can do more with less'. That's a very McGuyver saying, isn't it? I mean, McGuyver made bombs out of a pencil, a piece of gum and a flashlight, so he definitely did more with less. But I never assumed music could hold that came principle. The singer/songwriter types, whose only instruments are an acoustic guitar, don't count, because they're really more about the story than the music. It's the other guys and gals who do solo projects without computers or synths that really work hard to attain this notoriety. With Arriving Angels, Helen Money can claim this honor as well.

Helen Money is, put simply, a cellist. But what she does with that cello may surprise you. Mixing avant-garde sensibilities with metal and punk themes, Helen Money destroys your ideas of what a solo performer can do. Having first seen her on youtube playing her rendition of "Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing" by The Minutemen, I roughly knew what I was getting into. Of course, things have a way or surprising you.

"Radio Records" and "Beautiful Friends" feel very thrashy, erasing the doubt in your mind that a cello couldn't play brutal music. They never try to be too experimental, instead creating an atmosphere that looms over you long after the song is done. "Shrapnel" sounds like the song that would play to a criminals hanging in the wild west. It's foreboding, and drives along with an unassuming drum beat that pummels you with it's dread. It's the kind of song you get great ideas from because of the inspiration it gives you.

When not crushing your soul with metal themed songs, Helen Money manages to find her classical roots. "Midwestern Night Dreams" displays her talent as a cellist first and foremost, sounding more like a free-form jam session then an actual song. I like the inclusion of this song into the album because it shows her range and ability to work with various genres of music. She could have made an album of nothing but minimalist metal, but she throws this in for good measure, helping break any monotony that might have built along the way.

Arriving Angels actually came out in February, so I'm a bit late to the game, but I still felt the need to review it because of it's originality. There's nothing here that screams of pretentiousness, and that works in Helen Moneys favor. An artist could get lost in their own admiration doing something different, but she stays grounded in making cool music first and foremost. With this album, it proves her skill as a musician and purveyor of original music, and that makes her all the more worth while to follow. So, for those of you out there struggling to find your musical identities, take a note from Helen Money, and try to do more with less. - Shane

Friday, August 9, 2013

Blitz Review: Fox Brothers - Wake The Wolves

Jealousy will consume an individual to no end. Once you get a whiff of someones effortless similarities to something you do, your body can't help but wince thinking about why you couldn't do the same. Can you get rid of this jealousy? Absolutely, it's more of a pain in the ass then anything. Having said that, I have to admit to a twinge of jealousy while listening to The Fox Brothers EP, Wake The Wolves.

Now these 'kids' (I'm going to use that term loosely here) say they're in high school, and whether or not that's true, it doesn't have any effect in how I view the music. What it enhances, really, is how I view their raw talent, which they seem to have a lot of. Somewhere between commercial pop and indie-rock, The Fox Brothers (Who seem to have a love of Wes Anderson as well) are way ahead of whatever age bracket their in. Assuming they're not 30 year olds posing as teenagers, I'll go ahead and say they're young.

"Wolves", which has a very fifties feel about it, and "The Strangest Times", which comes across almost too sweet but stays mature enough not to wander into teeny-bop territory, are the best additions to the EP. They display an understanding of song structure unknown to even people my age (I'm young, but not watching nickelodeon while nobody watches young), and it proves they could continue this strong showing in the future.

Others like "Astronauts" and "Bonnie And Clyde" don't falter either, but remain more basic then the other tunes. It's important for songs like these to exist for these guys because most people have the attention spans of some boxer who's been hit in the head a bit too many times (I'm actually sure they have perfectly fine attention spans. Please don't beat me up ex-present-or future boxers). But you know what I mean. People need things to have a flow to them, instead of always being too different or too similar.

Wake The Wolves is a nice EP in that we get a glimpse of young artists not afraid to try something different. Hopefully, they stay humble enough to continue making unique music, and don't lose the drive to keep playing it as they get older. That's something all of us could take a note from. - Shane 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Blitz Review: Year Of Scummery - S/T

There's a reason punk has become such a defining genre over the last 40 years. Well, there's multiple reasons, but one of the strongest ones is how universal it is. You don't need to play minute long songs, talking about how the man keeps you down while drumming faster than Animal from the Muppets. It's more about the way an act carries themselves, and simply does their thing instead of focusing on the main tropes of punk. Year Of Scummery seem to fall into that category.

Year Of Scummery play folk music first and foremost. That seems to be what they're really concerned about, and that's good. "Cams Cry Song" and "Life's Short" are the best examples of what they're capable of, delivering punk-infused folk songs that are as varied as the roots of folk are themselves. They often wander into gypsie-like territory, but they stay grounded in their original intent. 

"Laverton" plays more like a traditional folk song then one with punk rock sensibilities. It's a nice addition to the album in that it at least stands out from the others, which by the end, begin to sound a little similar to each other. "When Times Get Hard", which, for me, had the best melodies on the album, is further proof that these folks are at least very talented, and should they continue to pursue a musical career, might find themselves with a little underground success.

While a few songs sound the same to me, and the vocals don't always come across as polished, Year Of Scummery at least proved to me that this style of music isn't dead in other parts of the world. These are capable musicians who could do great things with a sound like this, and given some more time, could garner a little fame from it as well. - Shane

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Review: Thee Dang Dangs - For The People

Bands are a brand, and it's an unfortunate way to look at them, but it's true. And like a brand in the business world, you have to make your product stand out more then your competitors, in this case, bands in the same genre as you. That means hard work, originality and talent to round out your finished product. With Thee Dang Dangs album, For The People, the product is as fresh and original as I bet they hoped it would be.

"Pieces Of You", which plays like some sort of lost ballad, displays the typical tropes bands like these usually have, in other words, reverberated vocals, highly treble based guitar riffs, etc. What sounds basic actually comes across as very original because they know how to tweak the differences just right to make it stand out. In a world littered with bands like this right now, it's a welcome change of pace to not be bored by a familiar sound like theirs.

Instrumental tracks like "White Buffalo" and "Pray For Rain" are cool additions to the album, reminding me that an instrumental track, when done well, can add to an albums overall impact instead of hurting it. "Lips Around Your Spine" and "Breathe On Me Young Frankenstein" are more garage-rock influenced songs, giving the album a big energy boost. They're good songs, and saying they gave the album an 'energy boost' isn't an insult, it's just a fact of life. Thee Dang Dangs style is varied, and I love that, because it gives us a sense of mystery. Not every song has to sound the same.

"Kingdoms Lost", which clocks in at 6 minutes, remains my favorite track on the album. It combines almost all the styles they created along the way on the album, and puts them together in one awesome track. It's amazing they're able to keep my attention with it, because I have the attention span of a six year with a handful of pixie sticks. It just proves they have a presence, or essence, about them that drowns out your lifes background noise and forces to you listen to only them.

For The People is great, and at first, I was very skeptical about it. I don't like to doubt a band before they've even finished playing one song, but when so many bands have the same approach, it's hard not to have some lingering doubt in your mind. But Thee Dang Dangs proved me wrong, and I'm glad they did, because they've given us, in my opinion, one of the best albums you'll hear this year. And that's a brand I can get behind. - Shane

Check out the album here!

Free Hidden Gems: Napoleon's Dogs - S/T

Free Hidden Gems is a new post about, well, free music you can download online that you probably wouldn't know unless some devotee, like me, posted it for you. That's about as much an explanation as I need.

The Free Hidden Gem of the day belongs to Napoleon's Dogs, hailing all the way from Glasgow. It's only a 5 track EP, but songs like "Submission" and "Control" are catchy enough to warrant the free download alone. They sound a little bit like Interpol, but with a dancier vibe to them, which is refreshing to hear in todays almost stagnant musical world. It's a little rough around the edges, but these guys are young, and I know it's hard to get people together to make a band in the first place, so when they make a new full length album, I'll be a little more critical and not just say, 'Hey! You! Download this!' (Although, as I wrote this, I did my work and found out the band was breaking up anyways, but might as well have some good, free music, right?). 

Check out and download the self-titled EP here!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Review: Son Of Rams - S/T

There's a reason so many bands try to emulate the sound of the sixties today. Well, there's a multitude of reasons, but the biggest one is how iconic the sound is. For its time, it was a huge culture shock to an already jostled population, constantly worried about communism, Vietnam, whether or not they were going to miss The Andy Griffith Show, I mean, the list of terrors were endless. Psychedelic music took a stronghold, and shit hit the fan. It was dangerous, but not to the teenagers who would later become our parents, and certaintly not to us, the children they had and introduced the music to. It was iconic, displaying a lasting power really no other era of music can try to ever overtake (I'm looking at you 90's). With Son Of Rams self titled album, I could tell they too felt the eras overpowering influence. Maybe a bit too overpowering.

"In Kind" and "No Concept/No Logic" sound like bootlegs from some unknown British Invasion band. That's really a testament to how true these guys are to their craft, echoing a nostalgic cool a lot of bands try today, but fail to succeed at. "7th Wonder" adds another solid track to the album, really driving home an obvious influence by The Beatles. These were really my three favorite tracks on the album, and should be examples of how the band should approach their sound going forward. 

Son Of Rams also sound like they were influenced by the Brit-pop phenomenon of the late nineties, which, really shouldn't be mentioned since those bands tried to sound like The Beatles too. But with songs like "This Wisdom" and "Flying Tigers" adding a bit of a poppier vibe to them, it had to be mentioned. They're both terrific genres to try to copy, while making your own, and for the most part, Son Of Rams do that. They haven't fully mastered the sound yet, but once they do, these guys could be big in a heartbeat.

Some of the songs on the album fall short of their desired goals, and that may be the only big problem I have with this album. "Ancients", "Spanish Mansions" and "The Veteran: James Page" are fairly weak additions to an otherwise good album. They're not bad songs, I turn off bad songs instantly. They just felt lethargic and uninspired, which made me a little upset since their album was really flowing at a great pace. Even the Rolling Stones had songs I felt weren't great, so Son Of Rams needn't worry about anything. 

Son of Rams is worth a listen for the nostalgia alone. But these guys really know how to write a rock song, and that's worth a listen as well. It may not be the best album I've listened to this year, but it certainly adds them to an ever growing list of bands I need to keep an eye on going forward. And that's iconic in its own right - Shane

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: Mountains For Clouds - Maybe It's Already Everywhere

I've always felt you could hear if a band was having fun while listening to an album. Somewhere among all the beats and vocals, a sense of pride and enjoyment could be felt pulsing through their music, affecting you as much as it did them. Put that fun on hold and your sound is punished for it, giving the audience a faux version of your music. With Maybe It's Already Everywhere, Mountains For Clouds thankfully focus mostly on the fun of making music.

Mountains For Clouds are equal parts experimental, emo and alternative. It's a sound that used to be big when I was in college, where bands like Minus The Bear made a killing playing it. Honestly, there's a slight focus on the emo more then anything else, and that's fine since the vocals never sound like one of your typical, run-of-the-mill pop-punk emo band singers. The singing actually feels sparse throughout the album, which is a small problem I had with the album as a whole. The levels also feel off with the vocals, which can be frustrating if you're one of those people who sing every word of every song at every live show you go to (My voice is actually considered a weapon of mass destruction, so I never sing at shows). 

Outside of the technical issues, Maybe It's Already Everywhere really builds its strength with its melodies. Songs like "Bear Country (Bring A Rifle)" and "Why I Fight Dragons" (Why are these guys so hostile towards these lovable beasts?) prove to be their strongest additions, simply because they're more melodic in nature and not as free-form as the others. Don't get me wrong, they're both still very experimental, but they definitely have a structure to them, which is essential for bands with this type of approach. 

"Give Up On Giving Up", "Half Measures" and "Sorry I Didn't Realize I Was Already There" display the most prominent emo themes in the album, sounding more subdued in both style and tone. They showcase the bands ability to stay grounded in their style, while being able to explore different themes. I may never have really given this type of music any real thought outside of bands like Minus The Bear, but this album at least proved to me its something worth giving a second look at it.

As the album finished, I came to the conclusion that I didn't have many gripes with it. "I Am Nothing More Than I Ever Could Have Ever Been", which may be the most ridiculously hard title for a song to say I've ever seen, comes across as too emo and too barren a song to warrant inclusion in the album. It lands itself smack dab in the middle of the lineup, and adds almost nothing more then a showcase for the singers vocal talent. Speaking of the vocals, it seems like they're occasionally a bit off, which is fairly common with a genre like this.  Most people will completely discount what I have to say about the vocals, and that's fine, because it's more of a personal preference anyways. I'm just very picky when it comes to them..

Mountain For Clouds sound like they like to do what they do, and its obvious when you listen to the album. You never get the real sense that these guys are doing it for the notoriety, because, why would they? This style of music has always been more of an underground sensation anyways, either shying away from success intentionally or being too experimental for the DJ's to play them. All that would do is ruin their enjoyment - Shane

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review: Sail This Ship Alone - Coma

You may not want to believe this, but there is such a thing as 'too much of a good thing'. Thankfully, you never wind up hating the thing there's too much of, but you get frustrated, or sick, of it real quick. With Sail This Ship Alones new album, Coma, the frustration built very slowly.

S.T.S.A plays math-core, slightly reminiscent of The Dillinger Escape Plan, but a lot looser in terms of cohesion and a hell of a lot more chaotic. As where Dillinger has a slight melodic tone to their chaos, S.T.S.A sounds like one of their members started playing a song, and a bunch of talented nine year olds joined in on the jam session. A bunch of talented nine year olds who liked math-core that is. 

"Wrong Turns" sounds like the tightest song on the album, giving the chaos a sense of purpose. It has an unusual beat, even for a math-core song, and that made it that much more fun to listen to. Others like "Death Awaits" and "Amnesia" are solid tracks, really driving home the energy and sense of rhythm one needs to make music like this. In high school, I would often scoff at bands like this because of their nearly anarchistic ways of playing. Thankfully, I matured enough to understand the complexities it took to make hardcore like this possible. You have to have actual talent to play this kind of stuff.

Even with all their talent, S.T.S.A made me yearning for a bit more then they gave me. "Steppenwolf" and "Abort Self Destruction" are two tracks that are littered with too many things going on in them. Part of the allure of math-based hardcore is that there is this wall of sound that hits you when you listen to it, but it's not brutal. Its complexities are meant to be celebrated, and analyzed as you listen to them. Grindcore and speed metal are meant to be listened to for their brutality. Math-core, not so much, and that's something these two tracks did for sure.

This is a small example of what they do, but it's clear S.T.S.A has plenty going well for them. With Coma, they've established themselves as great musicians with promise, which, whilenot being the most glowing of reccomendations , is something worthy of notice. And you can never get enough of that. - Shane

Friday, August 2, 2013

Review: The Underground Youth - The Perfect Enemy For God

It's fun to have a band silence you with its power. Its happened so rarely that I almost can't remember the last time I just sat down and listened to an album all the way through, shutting the fuck up and just letting the album take me over. That's not to say the album is a favorite of mine, or is free of ridicule, it just means it has that certain something, that power that commands your attention enough to be taken to another world, musically. The Perfect Enemy For God is one such album. 

The Underground Youth play a very retro form of post-punk, sounding as if they're straight out of the eighties. Reminiscent of bands like Joy Division, The Underground Youth never try to copy much, instead focusing on infusing their sound with a dash of energy that keeps you from feeling depressed or lethargic (Much like Joy Division does for me). It may not be noticeable to everyone, but when you've been subjected to as much 80's post-punk as I have, it's a welcome change of pace.

"In The Dark I see" and "Rodion"  usher in such a sense of cool that I almost felt guilty for liking them. There's a pretentiousness to cool I've never felt fully embracing, but with these songs, I was fine with it. They're mature, and not pompous, which aids in their likability. "Tokyo Blue" and "Masquerade" lower the energy level a bit, but what they lack in vigor they more then make up for in atmosphere. As somber and drone-like as these songs are, they still manage to grab your attention, filling the air with such a sense of mysteriousness that I almost felt uncomfortable with it. 

Even when a song clocks in at nine minutes, like "Veil" does, The Underground Youth never manage to bore you. You can say they're not your thing, but there's no denying their music demands your immediate concentration. "Juliette" and "In Sofias Reflection" round out the album, providing solid tracks that don't bore you, which is incredible since most bands filler songs always feel uninspired. I might get some unkind words from my friends here in the states, but the British really do know how to do music right. So do we Americans, but they do have the upper hand on us a bit.

The Perfect Enemy For God is the perfect album to be alone with. Not that I want any of you to be alone, but there's just something to listening to this album by yourself. and not having any outside influences around the mess it up for you, that gives you such a sense of relief. It put me at ease after such a terrible day at work, and when an album can do that as quickly as theirs did, it generates plenty of respect. - Shane

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review: The White Whales - Lakestate

Most things in life have a set time for their creation. Babies? Yeah, you got roughly 9 months for that sucker to bake in the stomach til he comes screaming into this world. Brownies? That's about 20 minutes at 350 degrees (I didn't consult a brownie box to see if I was right, I was just lazy and chose numbers I thought was right). But music? Well, there's a finite amount of time for you to play it (With old age and such), and there's a finite amount of time for your to craft your sound until you simply get too old or too bored too care anymore, but for the most part, you have all the time in the world. This premise stayed with me as I listened to The White Whales new album, Lakestate.

The White Whales sound a lot like The Killers, which isn't meant as a jab to them, it just seems clear that these guys probably listen to them on their free time. Everyone has their influences, and thousands of bands wouldn't be here today if they didn't try to sound almost exactly like one of their favorite artists. It's more of recommendation than a warning.

Songs like "Transfiguration", "Flowers" and "Fake History" provide instant examples of what this band is trying to play. Mixing new wave themes with alternative-rock sounds, The White Whales try hard to be different, but retain much of what their predecessors set up before them. This too, is more of a recommendation than a warning, but it's more to the band. I never want to see a band fail, but when you're a near clone of a band that already does everything better than you do, it might be time to rethink your approach.

"Babe The Blue Ox" drives home an edgier vibe to their material, which honestly made it so much more enjoyable to listen to. "Grappling Iron" tries to do the same, giving the album a much needed adrenaline boost. If only they'd tried to add in more songs like these, or at least balanced out their sound a bit, Lakestate might have been a better album.

Others like "Do Not Let Me Go" and "Lakestate" give the album some depth, but leave almost no lasting value. It's a pity because it's clear these guys are talented, but they're not giving it their all. Sometimes the vocals seem a pitch or two off, and sometimes the levels aren't balanced right on the album. It's kind of like these guys had an endless stretch of really bad days and just said, 'Fuck it!', throwing their arms up in disgust and deciding to finish the album no matter how it sounded. I'm probably way off on that, but that's the optimistic side of me working here.

Lakestate doesn't feel like a finished album, and that's one of my biggest problems with it. Somewhere along the ways, these guys gave up on trying to do something good and decided to settle on something unfinished. They know what they're doing, and given some time, they could produce an album that would make me forget this one completely. I guess I'll need more time to find that out. - Shane

Blitz Review: Eastern Phoebes - Sprouts

Normally, a 5 song EP wouldn't warrant a review. It's really too short an album length to be considered, and I would simply tell people about it in person instead of writing about it on my blog. Thing is, I had to take exception with Sprouts by Eastern Phoebes. To say I loved it would be an understatement. 

The bands sound is pure pop, but not radio pop like we know today. It's retro pop, but modernized, which makes it easily accessible for fans of Foxygen and the like. The opening track, "Monsoon", which has a very easy but powerful drive to it's beat, is accentuated by a simple keyboard part that gives the song a surprisingly darker tone then I would have thought. It stays fun though, never going out of its comfort zone and introducing the band instantly as one to keep on your radar.

"Rolling Nightmare, I believe In You" and "Easter Blade", which sound like songs The Beatles might have written if they were given more time, display a maturity I've rarely seen in a band this underground. Both of these songs deserve to be on the radio, and for good reason. They're well constructed, the vocals are nice and they bring us back to a time when music was made simply for the art of it, and not the monetary gain of it. If for no other reason then these two songs, you should pick up this album.

The other two tracks, "Science + Mysticism" and "If I Could Ever Disappear", are fine additions to the EP, balancing out the album with a few solid songs. They maintain the bands approach, and don't try anything weird or tacky, which is a tremendous relief considering a lot of the acts I've reviewed have tried to do something too different to warrant it  a success. 

Sprouts is essential listening, and I don't feel weird saying that. I can't say enough about how much I love this bands sound, and how, if only for 14 minutes, they made me forget about my problems and the people who deliver them to me on a daily basis. Do yourself a favor and listen to it now. - Shane