Thinking About College by Hopeless Romantics feels like the stream of conscious of a typical person in their early twenties living in a first world country. Hence that will be the audience who is most likely to relate to this music. I can’t see anyone above the age of twenty-five relating to most of the themes and topics.
The singer’s voice is reminiscent of Conor Oberst and the music revolves around a couple of acoustic guitars. It’s not the most innovative music that came out this year but does contain some decent songwriting.
The EP starts off with “Final Goodbye.” It revolves around a young person who confides in a best friend about her hesitance to get married. The narrative is unambiguous and the vocals are filled with morose - a mix between a slacker and Conor Oberst.
“Monday Morning” is full of lyrics that pretty much every teenager or person in their early twenties experiences. Lyrics like, “I totally forgot I had band practice with my best friends” and “My mom gave me money for the books I can't afford I work a dead end job, four hours a week and I can't take this shit anymore” are an inner monologue for most young guys before they become men years later.
“Brain Fight” is basically about a young person who has the luxury of being able to attend college and complaining about how horrible everything is including their own thoughts. Lyrics like, “I'm in a death-match with my textbook it's slowly shattering parts of my brain” don’t make you feel sympathy or empathy but instead make you think you want to shake this person and tell them how good they have it that they can have a hot shower or even a home at all. The closer “Third Semester” is basically more of the same about college, depression and stuff that young people do.
Being in your late teens and early twenties is a confusing time for most people. You don’t know how to handle your emotions especially sadness, you question the world around you and most are basically confused about what they want to do with their lives. If nothing else Thinking About College is a reflection of those sentiments by people in that demographic for people in that demographic.
I’m the same age as Conor Oberst and when I was nineteen I remember relating to his music because he was singing about his own experiences of life, which were similar to mine. Thinking About College can serve that purpose to the nineteen year olds of 2016.
You sort of have to respect a band that can poke fun of themselves - especially a bunch of young guys who haven’t even graduated high school yet. Our Moms Drove Us Here isn’t only their band name but probably a very real reality for the band members Liam (vocals), Paul (guitar/vocals), Tyler (bass) and Connor (drums).
On the band's recent release Constant Winter they play basic rock/alternative music. Truth be told they sound like a high school band. The music is derivative, not overly complex and sounds like a bunch of dudes jamming out.
The band starts with “Amazing” which sounds similar to ‘90s punk like Green Day and even The Offspring. It revolves around a couple of power chords, a steady bass and drums. Right off the bat the band isn’t quite in the pocket. However the song is relatively catchy but nothing too out of the ordinary with this track.
The lyrics on “Don't Forget About Me” are hilarious considering how young these guys are. He sings “My entire life I've been terrified of winding up alone / Of growing old and having no one / Just me all by myself / I don't want that to happen / Not to anybody / It makes me want to scream this one thing.” Don’t sweat it guys you have plenty of years and relationships left to even start to think about worrying about that. The song is again pretty catchy but whoever is singing will have to work on hitting the right notes especially when going into a high octave,
“Party in the Desert” fares better than the first two songs on the EP. It is more ‘70s punk based which sounds good on them and the vocals are delivered well. It’s another simple song revolving around a couple of distorted power chords. The last song “April 22” is about young love. Break ups, heartbreak the normal stuff young people go crazy about.
The most important thing for Our Moms Drove Us is that they are having fun. That's what high school bands are all about and in fact 99% will be done by college if not sooner so you have to enjoy it while you’re young. That being said you never know what can happen and maybe Our Moms Drove Us Here will continue to improve and one day be able to let their wives drive them to that gig.
I remember making recordings back fifteen years ago when my friends and I would jam out in my mom's basement. We’d take a tape player, press record and listen to the results. That's what I felt like I was listening to when I hit play Four Walls by The 460.
The songs are very basic guitar rock containing mostly distorted power chords, drums and maybe a bass. There is some singing but it’s barely audible. Seriously, I wouldn’t have even have noticed that any one was singing if it weren’t for the lyrics on Bandcamp.
The EP starts with “Come With Me” which contains some decent riffs but is held back by the sub-par recording quality. Apparently, the vocalist sings on this song, which I wasn’t even aware of. He sings, “come with me ill take you awayyyy / I need you to stayyy / don’t leave me alone when will you come home.”
The next song “Angels Of Death” is a loud, ruckus song. I honestly couldn't hear a single word on this track even though there are lyrics on the Bandcamp page. At least I heard someone singing on the next track “Heart and Soul.” The EP ends with “Julie (Run Run Run),” which is another song where all I heard was guitar and drums .That being said it felt like a highlight.
Everyone has to start somewhere and The 460 still has a lot of work ahead of them. I enjoyed the punk vibe in which these songs were delivered but the band will have to up the ante on the recording quality at some point if they hope to garner some attention, the most important aspect being able to hear the vocals. I couldn’t say whether I like the vocals or not because I had no way to judge.
Torch Cricket, is so named for the insects that shared Nate Braeuer's basement music space. But for as much as Braeuer's songs can be quaint and cloistered, they hardly brings to mind a dank basement—rather open spaces that simply fade into the dark: dusky parking lots defined by dim street lights or victorian attics dotted with furniture clad in dusty sheets. Overtly minimalist, Braeuer's soundscapes are lined with ringing pulses of piano chords, accented but the occasional bell-set and layered with smooth, just-above-baritone vocals that are as important in their delivery as they are in their lyrical content.
Braeuer's sound is simple and resoundingly poignant in the style of both singer-songwriters old and new. There's a clear invocation of yesteryear's poetic composers—from Leonard Cohen to Warren Zevon, but there's also a contemporary element, a bubbling post-millennium-malaise akin to the likes of The National or Ben Gibbard's stark vulnerability.
While the classic piano delivery and slowly drawn out vocals are effective at establishing the environment, it's the vivid imagery of the lyrics that spells out the shapes and colors within. The song, “Etiquette” perfectly captures the juxtaposition of familiar and foreign on holiday trips home: “When your childhood friend hands you his business card, on a Christmas night in your hometown bar, you wonder if this life has gone a little too far,” Braeuer sings, before later describing “drunk tiptoeing through your childhood home.” In just under two minutes, Braeuer pulls the listener in with relatable moments while telling a brief and wry story. On the track, “You May Never Change,” Braeuer focusses on the failed aspirations of aging and underachieving, asking “what if” with the beautifully simple line, “meanwhile, out West, there's a piercing light you fear might be marvelous.” His delivery skips like a stone over the already rippling and ringing piano lines, wobbling just enough to add to the vulnerability of the lyrics.
There's an edge of urgency buried in the subtext: as much is the musical structure is as conventional as apple pie, you can just barely detect some mysterious spice mixed into the crust. It's no surprise that Braeuer is a classically trained musician—his playing, deft respect for tonality and utter restraint in use of accenting notes all bear the watermarks of a musical pedigree. But the whole endeavor has the raw feeling of somebody taking a shot in the dark, which makes sense, as the album has only come into being after Braeuer realized that, despite gigging and writing for years, he's never bothered to properly capture the songs.
The album was recorded recorded, mixed and mastered by Lance Koehler at Minimum Wage Studios in Richmond, Virginia. The recording is simple, straightforward and effective—every note and lyric rings out with crystal clarity, yet the intensity of delivery is maintained, so at times the piano and vocals will dance around eachother in the mix.
Torch Cricket is a surprising deep and microscopically nuanced album hamstrung only by it's brevity. At a brief seven songs, including an instrumental intro, it leaves the listener looking for more. However, as desire to want more content out of an album is seldom a bad thing. I can easily recommend Torch Cricket to any fans of singer-songwriter music, contemporary or classic.
Stoner rock. Psychedelia. Dream rock. You get the drift, man. People argue to no end about where this band or that album fits within any number of subsets, but, Hearing Tree is a rare exception. They fit the bill in a more general sense, transcending the various compartmentalized characterizations to hit the general appeal of a sort of all inclusive, Frankenstein version of the genre. On Eyes, the Colorado rockers build layered songs in a few different directions, from shoegaze to metal, while staying firmly rooted in their drone-y, stoner rock sound.
Hearing Tree start with a fairly standard formula: guitar heavy—both ringing, picked out chords and distorted walls of sound, with bass and drums primarily relegated to a support role, and vocals alternating between nonexistent, unintelligible-but-ultimately-emphasizing the melody, and occasionally taking on a more prominent role in a song or chorus.
They take this formula and apply it in a few different directions. The opener, “DPDR” begins with a riff that could be described as a stepbrother—bearing an uncanny resemblance, but still distinct—of “You,” from Radiohead's first album, Pablo Honey. The clear reverence for early Radiohead is present elsewhere and throughout, but luckily always plays out more homage than imitation. By the next track, “Empty,” the sound is leaning towards the likes of Minus the Bear and the next few songs jumps from Explosions in the Sky-style wall of sound to the thick, crunchy and seemingly metal inspired song, “Bones."
“Sun in the Rain” is one of the most polarizing tracks on the album, having clear vocals a few cool different riffs—including a bridge with a descending progression that's among the record's best—but the line, “feels good to feel the sun in the rain” is repeated ad nausea, droning on to the point that it detracts from an otherwise standout song.
While the album finds the band going in different directions, some of the best moments are the songs in between those different directions. “Imagine” blends, shoegaze droniness with sweeping lead guitar riffs in the style of that early Radiohead, as well as that bands then-proclivity for adding a couple of more guitar layers to each verse/chorus/bridge each time it comes around.
Eyes also builds energy as the album progresses. So, while the heaviest song, might be found mid-way through (see “Bones,” above), the last few songs really capitalize on momentum that's been established and bring a simmering level of intensity. The final track, “Star Command,” seems like a victory lap— revisiting a lot of the elements that were present on the album and harnessing built up energy.
The album was recorded and mastered by Kris Smith (who's notably worked with the Dropkick Murphys) in the band's hometown of Fort Collins at Downtown Artery. While there's decent amount of compression (that could just be from streaming...), the lead guitar(s) always stand out from the backing wall of sound. It's also worth nothing that effects aren't overused on the album, unlike many artists of a similar ilk where overuse of flange and reverb can become nauseating.
Hearing Tree have recently added a third member and announced plans to return to the studio imminently. If this album is simply a first step we can look forward these guys taking an already strong sound and running with it!
Punk rock was originally shorthand for quick, fast, dirty rock n’ roll or whatever anybody could make, before it got taken over as another fascist fashion statement. Anything without a leather jacket or liberty spikes was gobbled up liberally by punk poseurs who never bothered to learn the roots of their own tradition, and the seemingly vast, endless possibilities of punk rock dwindled down to a dribble.
With the endless availability of cheap music gear and recording equipment, this punk primacy is finally starting to bleed and blend into other styles - in the case of Truro, UK's Sombre, psychedelic rock.
There's been a rising tide of interesting psychedelic rock so far this century with bands like Ty Segall, The War On Drugs, Mac De Marco, et al. redefining what we can do with phasers and flange. It's, quite simply, stoner jams for a different kind of stoner, one that maybe holds down a job or goes on vacation. Instead of "psychedelic rock" being used as a mock-up paisley faux-light show, like psych retronauts have done for years, instead they blend psychedelia's vibrant magentas and cyans with punk's energy and don't-give-a-toss attitude.
Lesser was recorded in a small, soggy apartment, over the span of ten days, as practically an example of how a record should never be made. There was no control booth, no mic stands, no power cleaner. Hell, even the songs weren't finished! Instead, Sombre's Theo Dorian set out only to write and record a song a day, as a means to get something done and finished.
Dorian must have golden ears, if this is what he turns out in less than two weeks. Lesser doesn't sound nearly as hissy or fizzy as you would expect from the rudimentary gear and fast production schedule. Lesser is actually surprisingly clean, which lets Dorian's keen melodic sensibilities shine through. Verses are punctuated with wobbly flanged guitar - the perfect blend of psychedelia, punk rock and pop, as explored by the likes of Television or the early romantic post-punk of Felt.
The poppiness makes punk's in-your-face intensity a little easier to relate to, being slightly tempered instead of screaming in your ear. Likewise, the pop and punk update psychedelia into being something new and vital, instead of some faux-vintage time trip.
For anyone that likes (and misses), the whip-smart slack cynicism of late '90s Indie rock bands like Modest Mouse or Pavement, you'll dig the hell out of Sombre, as well as purveyors of new wave psychedelia like Ty Segall, Connan Mockasin or Mac De Marco.
If someone can make a record this good, this fast, the majors better be worried! Time to step up your game, Warner!
Chicago's Statistician tells a claustrophobic tale of murder and isolation with pounding, shrieking, pummeling fury.
In the suburbs, every house tends to look the same. You could live next to someone for decades and never really know what's going on behind the front door. While this suburban darkness is not a new source for commentary or criticism - as it's been touched on from everything to David Lynch's Blue Velvet to The Ice Storm to The Virgin Suicides, we all know there are serpents living in the suburbs.
Idle Hands tells the story of Joseph and Josephine Kestian, whose lives erupted in violence and tragedy on Oct. 26, 2010, when Josephine was strangled to death by her son Joseph. Statistician's singer, Andrew Pohl, lived next door to the Kestians, and was asked to help sort through the rubble of the tragedy. The Kestians turned out to be a little bit of hoarders, as well as harboring homicidal intentions, and Pohl was left to sort through the psychic debris in what he described as "one of the heaviest experiences of his life."
Statistician turned to music to process what they'd seen. Idle Hands, a short, confrontational six-track EP, is the result.
Statistician plays a particularly leaden form of post-hardcore, which is to say that high, shrieking, cathartic vocals and aggressive, speed-balling percussion gives way to mighty muscular metal breakdowns, like a wall of stacked cardboard boxes coming down on your head.
Andrew Pohl sticks mostly to the yowling, pained hardcore scream, which beautifully channels the psychic sludge of the Kestians, but can be a bit difficult to listen to, after a while. It's fitting for the subject matter, and no more abrasive than any black metal; it's just shrill and shrieking as an aerial drone, setting your teeth on edge after a time, like a dinner of 9-volt batteries.
Pohl's lyrics pry into the inner worlds of the Kestians, which means that occasionally, you can pick out the hardcore vocals intoning, "I painted the garage / I planted the garden," amusingly banal observations on a life you'll never understand, delivered in the style of pathos and id.
Statistician is bringing an interesting mix of different styles and a unique, personal touch to their metal/hardcore hybrid. This is to be applauded, as the emo/post-hardcore/metal continuum has a lot of rich ore to be mined, but it tends to attract blind followers, who do nothing to push the form forward.
For anyone who digs some of the early post-hardcore gems like Botch and Cave-In, you'll dig the hell out of Statistician. Idle Hands is a great break-out EP, showing their range and musical talent on a difficult subject matter. Like houses in the suburbs, punk-influenced bands might all look the same on the outside, but you have to inspect the foundations and the crawlspaces to find the real deal.
Everybody's been there: hungry at home without the proper ingredients to make one of your go-to recipes—but, in a moment of ingenuity, you somehow manage to cobble together enough cupboard staples and refrigerator mainstays to concoct a unique dish that's more than just the sum of its parts. Red Sun Project have done something similar with Liquid Moments, rummaging through the last couple of decades of indie, alternative and modern rock to whip something up that sounds familiar without coming off as overly derivative.
On Liquid Moments the Israeli duo have put together just over a dozen songs featuring dynamic vocals, layered harmonies and restrained-yet-prominent guitar-work that showcases an aptitude for both slow-burning jams and high-energy pop-rock catchiness. The more upbeat songs draw easy comparisons to Muse, while other tracks capture some of the bright, ringing guitar arrangements of the aforementioned band's lighter British brethren, Coldplay—although without the cheesy pop elements.
Red Sun Project is effective at ratcheting the intensity level up and down while still sounding musically like the same band. In the style of great ‘90s alt-rock albums from the likes of Stone Temple Pilots and The Smashing Pumpkins, Liquid Moments has tracks that rock out (“Go Ahead”), catchy single-ready songs (the title track, in particular), acoustic ballads (“In Your Light”) and quite a bit in between.
But while the instrumentation and song construction keeps the album on one track, Red Sun Project's alternating between its male and female vocalists create a bit of an uneven sway as the album barrels forward. The vocal melodies are fairly consistent throughout, but unfortunately the range of the two singers is not. Male vocalist Gilad Bloom excels on a couple of songs when he's at the top of his range, nearing or singing in falsetto, but on others gets muddled in the middle range. It's hardly his fault, and wouldn't be noticeable if his tracks weren't always bookended by Jenny Pakman's crazy pipes. She sings on a slight majority of the tracks and simply put, blows away every performance with both vocal acrobatics and evident earnestness.
It's also worth noting that the vocal arrangements and harmonies themselves—helmed by both members of the band, are very impressive. Pretty much every song involves harmonies, some layered beautifully and staggered almost in rounds, other mixed superbly into the background so that you don't overtly notice them as much as you just sense the depth they add to the song. The album's opener “Stranger” features particularly cool harmonies (as well as generally being a great song for getting the pulse of this band).
Finally, the production on the album is superb. Recorded by Tom Allon at Lool Records and mastered by Yogev Samina, Liquid Moments manages to clearly capture and delineate all of the individual elements without sounding spare or sterile. The end result is an album where it's easy to pick out the lyrics and individual instruments, but also easy just to flip on in the background and enjoy it as a whole.
At the end of the day, Red Sun Project serves up a familiar-yet-unique blend of indie rock, spiced with sincerity and delivered with aplomb.
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Close friends and musicians Jared Bardugone and Jared Mancuso are in fact the Jared Project. The duo released their debut The Battle Between Love and Fear a couple of years back and recently released Songbook. This is a certified pop album that is quite varied. I thought some of the songs and styles worked better than others but more on that later.
One thing I can is say from an aesthetic standpoint is this album is fantastic sounding. The duo recorded the album at home using Logic and the results are far better than what you might expect from that setup.
The album starts with “Start Again” which feels hyperbolically optimistic in a good way. It’s catchy the first time you listen to it and I thought this vibe fits the band. The song doesn’t drag and the song goes by before you know it. Next up is “The Traveler” which revolves around one primary guitar pattern strummed on the acoustic guitar and vocals. This is another solid song and a style that works for the band. The Jareds switch off singing verses and eventually combine. Nice job.
Some of the songs such as “Vegas” were a bit too poppy in an Orange County, California type of way for my liking. Other songs like “Wolfpack” have a party vibe that could fill a dance floor. A highlight was “Saturn.” The instrumentation and mix on this song is exceptional. I dug the vibe and thought the vocals were exceptional. You can hear a tinge of Postal Service here. The band actually rocks out on “Queen Of Alabama” while “Don’t Know Nothin’ Bout Love” is a bluegrass inspired hoedown.
There are certainly some gems on this album but the band hasn’t quite honed in on their own sound. They hop around from genre to genre instead if combining them into something that feels undeniably their own. I think this is certainly possible for the duo and wouldn't be surprised if we heard something a little more cohesive from them in the future. Till then there are definitely some songs on this album for everyone.
Sometimes you just have to work with what you have. In the case of Treat Burns and his release Outlines in which he didn’t have much access to recording equipment so he used his looper pedal. After recording the parts on the looper he would transfer them to his computer to mix and master. The results are nowhere near studio quality but serve as a solid foundation for Burns and showcase some of his talent.
Outlines is a complete instrumental album that really revolves around the guitar. Burns also plays violin and viola but that doesn’t show up here. Hopefully, we can hear some of his chops on a future release where he combines all those strings.
Outlines starts with an effective intro entitled “Violent & Often.” Burns utilizes a sample in various effects to produce an atmospheric soundscape. It leads into another atmospheric piece called “Ambedo.” The vibe is serene and relaxing with a low energy. A good jam to put on after the bars close and you want to take it down a notch.
Burns showcases more ingenuity with “Milo Must be Freezing” which sounds electric. A soft kick drum keeps a subtle beat while guitars flicker back and forth. “The Fireworks Display” felt like a transitional piece that lead to the more lively “EightSixFiveFour.” He closes with the most avant-garde piece entitled “That’s The Thing.” The guitars are bright borderline psychedelic while the bass simply provides the low-end.
Burns shows some potential with this release but also clearly falls into a case of wait and see. He has some great ideas and if can get the production up a couple of notches and continues to define a style he should be in a good place.
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