Photo Gallery by Leo Burke ( Leo Burke )
Artist/Band: Joanna Gruesome
Location: The Sinclair - Cambridge, Ma.
Date: August 27, 2014
You can view the entire set from this show here.
Photo Gallery by Leo Burke ( Leo Burke )
Artist/Band: Perfect Pussy
Location: The Sinclair - Cambridge, Ma.
Date: August 27, 2014
You can view the entire set from this show here.
Photo Gallery by Leo Burke ( Leo Burke )
Artist/Band: Love Of Everything
Location: The Sinclair - Cambridge, Ma.
Date: August 27, 2014
You can view the entire set from this show here.
The Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania
Record Label: EMI / Martha’s Music
Release Date: June 19 2012
If there’s one problem I have often as a critic/reviewer, it’s having too much music. See, I love music a lot, and one can never listen to enough music at any given point in time. Well, I don’t realize sometimes that there is a limit as to how much “new” (whether it’s a new release or just new to me) music I can handle at once, and if I’m not careful, I can overwhelm myself a bit. At the same time, however, I do try to listen to stuff as much as I can, just in case that happens, so I can review certain records sooner and make more room for more. Truth be told, this finally happened. It hasn’t happened all year until now, which is still a good feat for me, considering how much new music has come out this year so far. Even when I know I don’t need new music, if I see something that I want bad enough, I’ll get it, then regret it a bit later, because I don’t have room. I usually make room, but even so, it might be difficult.
It all started a week ago when I went to my local Walmart store. I went because I got some lunch with my parents, and they went over to Menards, a Home Depot-esque store, to get a new ceiling fan for the living room. I didn’t want to go, because I figured I’d be bored, so I went over to the Walmart next door, just to look around. At first, I didn’t find anything, and I was just about to leave when I came across a copy of Chicago alt-rock band The Smashing Pumpkins’ eighth record, Oceania. Usually, I would have just passed it by, but not this time. For starters, I wanted something a bit different. I had been listening to a lot of pop-punk, and still kinda am, but I wanted to have something to break that a bit. Secondly, the album was from 2012, and I don’t mind reviewing albums that aren’t very old. I did also see that Oceania was the band’s most recent record as well, and I have a rule of thumb when listening to groups I’ve never listened to before, and that’s just I’ll either listen to their debut or their most recent record first, just to see if I’d like to listen to more. Because it was their most recent record, I was a bit more curious. The thing that sold me, however, was its price point. For only $5, I was much more curious and intrigued by the record than say, if it was $10 or more. Even if it was around $7 or $9, which is usually what Walmart prices their CDs at, I would have probably given it a shot. But for $5, that’s not a bad deal at all. My gut told me to listen to the LP, so I decided to buy it and listen to it. Now that I’ve listened to it for around a week, what do I think?
Well, for starters, my gut feeling was right, because this album is really awesome. I swear, my gut feeling is almost never wrong. Oceania is quite a solid album, and a very interesting one, both for its sound, and the circumstances behind the record. See, while I’m not familiar with this band too much, I did do some research just to see what went into the recording and writing process. Frontman Billy Corgan wanted to make this record an “album within an album” and release songs one at a time, but he went back to the album format because that idea got stale pretty quickly for people. The end result was Oceania, a 60-minute alt-rock record with pop elements. See? I told you, the reader, that this record had an interesting sound. “But Bradley,” you jest, “Bands do that all the time! I’ve heard of many alt-rock bands who have a pop/pop-rock sound!” Well, this band is just really good at it, I guess. They’re also quite unique in some aspects, mainly just how they present this sound. At its core, it’s an alt-rock album, and pretty straight forward, but in a lot of tracks, such as “My Love Is Winter,” “One Diamond, One Heart,” and “Pale Horse,” synth and electronics are heard, and it’s quite interesting. They aren’t obnoxious pop dribble that people would complain about, but they work seamlessly with the rock aspect of their sound. It works very well, and I really commend the band on combining these two ideas in a nice way. It’s an alt-rock record with pop influence. There’s also a bit of prog-rock influence, including bands like Genesis and Yes. That’s the most evident on the longer tracks on the record, such as album opener, “Quasar,” and the one-two punch of “Pinwheels” and the title track. These three songs really showcase an atmospheric part of their sound, and it, too, works very well for them. On paper, this sound kind of weird, right? An alt-rock band combining pop and prog-rock sounds rather odd, but The Smashing Pumpkins really pull it off.
This wouldn’t be a complete review without talking about Corgan himself, and honestly, he is a huge reason I enjoy this record. His vocals are rather strange, but in a good way. They’re also unique, but he can sing very well. His knack for melody and hooks is nice. He’s not some alt-rock singer that doesn’t know what a melody is, but he’s the opposite. Corgan is a great songwriter, lyricist, and vocalist. I really love everything he does on this LP. That does lead me to the one problem I have with this LP, but it may not be a problem to you, depending on your taste. The biggest problem I have is its length. At around an hour, this record can be exhausting. It does kind of feel its length, but it’s only because there are so many big ideas and interesting song structures and each song is unique and really expansive. There’s no time to breathe, essentially. That’s not a bad thing, per se, because if you enjoy unique, long, expansive, and albums that are basically an experience, you’ll dig this for sure. And I do like albums like this, but I don’t usually care for really long records, unless they’re done very well. This is certainly an exception to some degree, but I can’t say I’m in love with it that much to where it doesn’t bother me, especially when I have a lot more to get to. In the end, though, I’m glad I bought a copy and I’m glad I heard it. It’s a great record, and worth a listen.
Overall rating: 9/10
A Loss for Words – No Sanctuary
Record Label: Rise Records
Release Date: October 25 2011
When it comes to music tastes, a few years can make a huge difference. I started reviewing records in 2011, but my interest had risen for a couple years prior to that. I loved talking about music and listening to it. I was definitely a “music fan,” and I wanted to talk about music, but I wasn’t sure how. Well, I would read Alternative Press Magazine (I remember the first issue I ever read was in 2008 with Panic! At the Disco on the cover), and read the album reviews in the back. I’d either agree with what was about a certain album, or completely disagree and wish I could tell the reviewer my own thoughts. A thought struck me one day – why don’t I review records? I’ll be getting my opinions out there, and people will be able to see them. In 2011, I wrote for a couple of music websites, and honestly, my reviews weren’t very good. Regardless of the quality, my tastes were different, too; one of the first albums I ever reviewed was Boston pop-punk outfit A Loss for Words’ third album, No Sanctuary. I had hardly listened to pop-punk before reviewing this, and I don’t remember being all that into the album. Well, fast forward a couple years, I love pop-punk now. One of the first albums I went back to was that one, but I wanted to wait to actually review it until I had a copy. Sadly, that was a long while. Well, I finally do have a copy now, and I gave the album a couple spins just to see how I feel about it before writing this. The question of the hour is, do I enjoy this album more today, or am I still not into it?
When I said I love pop-punk, that should have sort of gave away how I feel about this record. Well, to some degree, anyway. I’m definitely more apt to listen to and review this record now, since I’m more knowledgeable on the genre now. And honestly, No Sanctuary is a great LP. Last year, I reviewed the band’s fourth LP, Before It Caves, and I really enjoyed that album. It was one of my favorite of 2013, and it showed the band going into a more pop-rock direction, at least having more of a pop element to their sound. The songs weren’t fast, and forgettable, but the vocal hooks courtesy of vocalist Matty Arsenault were the focus of the album. After hearing No Sanctuary again, I do have to say that I enjoy this LP just a bit more. I don’t like this more because it’s “tr00 pop-punk” or anything like that, but it’s just a more interesting album. The only problem I really had with Before It Caves were the lyrics. Most of the lyrics weren’t really that interesting, and that’s surprising, because No Sanctuary has a lot of great lyrics. And in pop-punk, vocals/lyrics matter. Arsenault is a great vocalist (if you haven’t heard the band’s acoustic EPs, including 2012’s Returning to Webster Lake, get on that), but the lyrics on Before It Caves were rather lackluster for the most part. On No Sanctuary, the band does focus on the pop-punk side of their sound, and the songs are pretty quick and fast-paced, but the lyrics are much more enjoyable and interesting to listen to. Songs like “Pirouette,” “The Lost Cause I Used to Be,” and the title track are absolutely fantastic. Heck, everything is just great on here. Arsenault’s vocals at top notch, the lyrics are really good, and the instrumentation is great as well. This is just a pop-punk album that’s great all around.
There is only one nitpick I have with it, but before I get to that, I will admit that this album isn’t really anything unique or really worthwhile. This band isn’t the best pop-punk band ever, but at the same time, everything is still great, like I said. This is a case of a band that just does what they do well, and that’s why I like it. Arsenault’s vocals are quite unique, so that alone makes this album worth a shot, especially if you’re a pop-punk fan. But my sole nitpick with this LP is that basically every song is set up the same way. I know that’s a bit weird for me to say, because pop-punk band is based on a formula, but at the least song structures are the same. They’re all structured the same way, and because of that, the songs have a hard time really standing out. Arsenault’s vocals and his choruses are what do separate the songs, but the instrumentation doesn’t quite do that. Other than that, this album is really enjoyable. If you’re a pop-punk fan, this is a must-listen. There’s nothing I can say, other than that, really.
RIYL: State Champs – The Finer Things, I Call Fives – Self-titled, & With the Punches – Seams & Stitches
Overall rating: 8.8/10
Kiesza – Hideaway EP
Record Label: Lokal Legends / Island
Release Date: July 22 2014
The pop music landscape is at a very interesting place at the moment; I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. See, EDM aka “dance music” is basically what people want to hear right now. At least, it’s some of what people wish to hear. If it’s not EDM, it’s “retro-pop.” You know what I mean, right? Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, and Bruno Mars released records in the last couple of years that had this kind of sound. Heck, Jesse McCartney just released his fourth LP, In Technicolor, and it features a 70s disco-pop sound, which works very well. A lot of what also has been coming out is an 80s pop resurgence. Bands/artists such as Bleachers and Betty Who are really capitalizing on this, so what happens when you combine all of these things? What happens when you combine retro-pop and EDM? Well, that’s where Canadian artist Kiesza comes into play. Real name, Kiesa Rae Ellestad, the 25-year-old singer-songwriter has been in music for a long time, but only recently got popular with debut single, “Hideaway.” Honestly, I’ve never heard of Kiesza whatsoever, but that changed earlier this week when I was at my local Target store, because I had some time to kill before work. I wanted to get the new album, Get Hurt, from The Gaslight Anthem, but alas, Target didn’t have the album. Before I left, I figured I’d look around a bit, and that’s where I came across Kiesza’s debut EP, Hideaway for $5. Because it was cheap, and when I looked her up, she sounded promising, I picked it up. I waited until after I got home from work to give the EP a listen, so what did I think?
Well, now that I’ve had it for the week, it’s decent enough. I do enjoy Hideaway a nice amount, but I don’t love it or really anything close. There are some things I love about this EP, but as a whole, I’m not all that into it. For starters, however, let’s talk about what works, shall we? And that’s simple: it’s Kiesza’s vocals and the overall sound. She has a great voice, and it really shows throughout the EP. See, the sound of the EP is an indie-pop meets 90s pop meets EDM. It’s a strange combination, but it works quite well, to some degree. While I’m not all that into EDM, the sound on this EP is nice. It’s not just reliant on dance beats, but there’s some form of melody and vocal hooks as well. There’s an attempt at writing pop songs, and she ultimately does a solid job with it. Her voice does get some time to shine, and her voice really shines on the last track, a cover of the Haddaway track, “What Is Love?” In a surprising twist, the song is played as a ballad, with a piano riff quietly playing in the background while Kiesza’s vocals just shine. I mean, her voice is beautiful on this song, and one can really feel the emotion behind her voice. It’s absolutely stunning, and it’s easily the best song on the EP. The sound of the EP is also worth mentioning some more, because it is rather unique. I’ve heard EDM, and indie-pop/retro-pop separately, but not together. There is some of dichotomy between the two sounds, and there is somewhat of a balance. Her vocals still get time to shine, along with getting the lyrics across, but also having time for a dance beat and some more energetic moments.
Despite how both the vocals and sound really work for me, everything else ultimately doesn’t. There’s just nothing else really making me want to listen to this EP over and over. The sound is interesting, but my biggest problem with the EP is that each song sounds the same. Each song has a similar formula, minus the “What Is Love?” cover, which again, is the highlight of the EP. When the highlight of the EP is a cover, that’s not a good sign, even if the cover itself is great. Each song kind of has the same sound to it, just different melodies, lyrics, and dance beats. They all have the same structure. Even the other standout track, third track, “So Deep,” succumbs to this. That song is fascinating because it has an R&B kind of sound to it, but in the bridge of the track, there’s a really stupid dance beat thrown in there. It makes no sense, and it kind of kills the mood of the track. There’s no need to throw a dance beat. The song was great up until that point, and it’s just totally unnecessary. This EP does sort of highlight why I don’t care for EDM. All of it sounds really bland and boring to me, but this EP does have a step above what I’ve heard, because it does try to incorporate an indie-pop sound, and frankly, that part of her sound is much more interesting. If she ditched the EDM stuff, and went for a more pop sound, I could get behind that. While I do like this EP, and there are some really good things in it, in the end, it’s just decent. There’s not too much that really sticks out at me, and even what does stick out, isn’t overwhelmingly great. Her voice is really enjoyable, though. Seriously, listen to the cover of “What Is Love?” It’s beautiful. I do like Kiesza enough to really want to see where she’s gonna go in her career, because she has potential. For a debut EP, it’s not bad, but not really my cup of tea, either.
Overall rating: 7.5/10
Northlane – Singularity
Record Label: We Are Unified / Distort
Release Date: March 22 2013
I hate to start off a review sounding like a jaded music fan, but if I had to be honest, most “heavy” music really isn’t for me. Let me clarify what I mean by this, though. When I say heavy, I mean genres like metalcore, death metal, deathcore, post-hardcore, and any other genre with metal or core in the names, basically. Well, almost any, anyway. It’s not that I have some personal vendetta against these genres, like they murdered my family or something, but I’m just all that into them anymore. Maybe it’s because that I’m getting older and my tastes are changing, or maybe it’s that I used to like that kinda stuff a lot, so I just want to stay out of it. It could be a combination of both, for all I know, but one thing is for sure – I don’t listen to this stuff as much as I used to. Just a couple months back, I did have a bit of a deathcore kick, getting acquainted with the genre after a few years, and honestly, I still do enjoy it somewhat. Not as much as I used to, but I know good stuff when I hear it, so I don’t mind giving that stuff a chance still. It’s just that I won’t usually go out of my way to listen to it. Unless it’s a band that I do know something about, and have a feeling that I will enjoy.
That’s where Aussie metalcore/hardcore group Northlane comes in. I’ve had recommendations to listen to this band for a long time now, but never bothered to take a listen until a few months ago, all because I was at the mall and saw a girl wearing one of their shirts. I listened to the band’s sophomore LP, Singularity, once in full, and while I liked it, I didn’t want to get into it just yet. It kinda passed me by, but I’ve been thinking about the album for the last couple weeks, and I decided to see if I could find any copies online. Well, as my luck would have it, I did come across a used copy on Amazon for $3 (not including shipping and whatnot). I knew that I had to order it, so as I usually do when I find something that good online, I ordered it. I got my copy just the other day, and managed to get acquainted with the album again. Now that I’ve had it for a few days, how is it? Honestly, Northlane is a band I have mixed feelings on. On one hand, I really like their brand of metalcore meets “djent” and hardcore, but at the same time, they also embody why I don’t listen to this kind of music anymore. Let me stress this, however: I do like this album a lot more than I, well, “don’t.” I don’t dislike it, but there are just some problems I have with the LP. That’s common for just about anything, but they’re not surprising.
There are some things that really work about this album, and the biggest thing is its overall sound. This band reminds me a lot of metallic hardcore band To the Wind. Both bands have rather different sounds, but the same idea, just in reverse. To the Wind is a hardcore band with metallic guitar tones, while Northlane is a metalcore band with hardcore guitar tones. They’re similar because of how they approach these sounds. I do really like enjoy the vocalists of both bands, and on Singularity, vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes is quite good at what he does. His voice is really good, and really enjoyable, and I have no problems with his vocals at all. It fits perfectly with the music itself, and the same goes for To the Wind. The problem is, this is a double-edged sword. Well, the bands’ sounds, anyway. To the Wind is a band that I wish I could love, but I really can’t, because while their sound is very unique, they don’t really do much with it. The same goes for Northlane. I really enjoy their sound, but it’s just stagnant. Sure, they’re unique, but that doesn’t mean squat if you don’t utilize that and do something about it. Northlane really don’t. Each song kind of just bleeds into the next, minus the rather annoying instrumental track that doubles as the title track. It features an audio clip of philosopher Terence McKenna, and it’s just a pretentious “wake up, sheeple” excerpt about how we shouldn’t be focusing on celebrities and blah blah blah. It’s really cliché, and really boring to listen to. The band acts like they’re making a huge revelation when they really aren’t. The lyrics as a whole I sort of have a problem with, too; they’re not bad, per se, but just kind of boring. There’s nothing that really stood out to me.
And that’s kind of how I feel about the record itself. Aside from the band’s sound, there’s nothing really overwhelmingly great about his band. Their sound is really good, and the instrumentation is enjoyable, but that’s the only memorable thing about it. Individually, the songs just bleed into one another, and there’s really not all that much worth coming back to. I can see why people do love this band, and they are pretty good. In terms of metalcore, they are unique and interesting, but they just don’t really grip me in the way that I want them to. If you like this band, that’s awesome, because they do have a unique sound, but they’re just not really for me, I guess. I do want to see where this band will go in the future, because they have potential. Heck, To the Wind just released their sophomore record last month, and it marked a bit of a progression, so maybe whatever Northlane do next will be the same.
Overall rating: 8/10
Four Letter Lie – Like Structures
Record Label: Artery Recordings
Release Date: August 5 2014
As many of you may know, especially if you’re a regular reader of my reviews, you know that I like collecting CDs. I have hundreds in my collection, and I’m adding to it constantly. I love music, and I love having physical copies of records that I really enjoy. Out of every reason I love collecting CDs, there’s one reason in particular that really sticks out to me. Back before the internet (which is way before my time), people only had what was on the radio and what was in stores. Listening to “underground” music was rather difficult, but now, it’s frankly just as easy to find an unknown band as it is to listen to the radio. I don’t listen to the radio much, but I do go in music stores, or at least, stores that sell music. And that leads me to said reason I love collecting CDs. Simply put, you never know what you’ll find in stores. Well, you can go online and see if they have certain albums in stock, but if you go in absolutely blind, just to browse (like I usually do), you never know what you’ll come across. For me, that’s a really exciting thing. Going back to what I said about people not having the internet to find music, that’s kinda how I was for awhile. The internet existed, and was in full swing, but I really didn’t use the internet to find music all that much. I do a lot more now, but websites like Noisetrade and Bandcamp didn’t exist, so finding music (free or not) that was unknown and/or underground was a bit difficult for me. I’ll admit that I usually do go into stores, kind of already knowing what I want, but if I see something that catches my eye, or that I’ve wanted to listen to, I’ll take a listen.
A couple of weeks back, I was in my local Best Buy store, and I was just looking around, not really looking for anything in particular, since I didn’t have much that I really wanted, and while I was just browsing, I came across the newly released EP from post-hardcore group Four Letter Lie, entitled Like Structures. This stuck out immediately to me, because I’ve always wanted to listen to this group. They’re one of the most prolific post-hardcore groups in the scene, and I did read awhile back they were gearing up to release a new EP. It had just come out a couple days beforehand, so this was totally new. I decided to buy a copy, considering it was only $6, and I was excited to bring it home and give it a listen. I can’t say I had expectations for this EP, even though I kind of knew what to expect. Well, surprisingly, I was a bit thrown off by what I found. Instead of a straightforward post-hardcore EP, I found something a bit more interesting. Four Letter Lie isn’t your average post-hardcore band, and that’s a good thing. Like Structures is an EP that infuses post-hardcore with southern-rock/metal. The guitar tones on this EP are very southern-sounding, and there’s a lot of impressive guitar riffage throughout it. Lead guitarist Connor Kelly is very good at what he does, and honestly, one of the best parts of this EP is him. But I also really enjoy vocalist Brian Nagan, who has a very harsh and aggressive scream. His vocals are great, and easily my favorite of the EP.
Unfortunately, aside from those two things, there isn’t too much for me to keep coming back to this EP. Despite the length of the EP only being 17 minutes, its biggest problem of how boring it is. There really isn’t much song structure or memorable moments in this thing. Clean vocalist/bassist Anthony Jones has a real weak voice and doesn’t really contribute anything interesting to the experience. His vocals are just that of the cliché clean chorus vocalist in the genre and nothing more, which is a shame. This is my first experience with the group, and it’s a shame, because for being such a high profile group and their first release in five years, they could have done more to make this stand out and be interesting. Instead, it suffers from having an interesting sound, or at least a couple of interesting things in their sound, and everything else just being rather bland and forgettable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I heard this, because the vocals and guitar work are impressive, but everything else really isn’t. There’s just not enough to keep me coming back to this. A few listens is fine, but this isn’t an EP I can see myself really going back to constantly.
Overall rating: 8/10
He Is Legend – Heavy Fruit
Record Label: Tragic Hero
Release Date: August 19 2014
I’ve never been the kind of critic, reviewer, or whatever you wish to call me, that likes to compare two bands/artists to each other. Well, I do occasionally, but not their music directly. I’ll compare bands’ careers, or just specific aspects to their sounds, but not the bands themselves. The reason I bring this up is simple, and let me ask you, the reader, a question (that you don’t need to answer aloud, because I won’t hear your answer, thanks to this being the internet). Have you ever listened to a band and weren’t all that into the group, for one reason or another, but then listened to a similar band and thought Band B was much more successful in their execution of whatever sound Band A was going for? I try not to compare bands directly, but sometimes it happens, especially when you find a band that just does a particular style of music better than another one.
For me, there’s a perfect case of that, but I will say express a bit of a disclaimer. Being that people get upset over others’ opinions, usually ones that differ from their own, it’s not that I dislike the band I’ll be talking about, but I just didn’t particularly care for the record of theirs I’ll be talking about. With that being said, earlier this year, Australian psych-rock/post-hardcore band Closure In Moscow released sophomore LP, Pink Lemonade. I was pretty excited for this record, because I loved their debut, First Temple. I even pre-ordered it on iTunes and I was really excited to hear it. I did get an advanced stream of the LP, but I only listened to it once and waited until the album came out. Well, I was severely disappointed, because the album wasn’t very good, honestly. That’s coming from just one man’s opinion, but I found the same severely disappointing and boring. It wasn’t boring in terms of lacking energy, but it wasn’t anything interesting. The album was just a hodge-podge of ideas, seeing which ones stuck to the wall. It was so off the wall, and so chaotic that I had a hard time really getting into it. The album didn’t know what it wanted to be. Was it a post-hardcore LP, a pop LP, or a psych-rock LP? The album itself didn’t even know. Some songs specifically were great, but as a whole, the record just felt lacking and underwhelming. Not to mention, the record was an hour long, and records with very long running times can either be really good or painful to listen to. And after a handful of listens, Pink Lemonade really fell to the wayside, as some records do.
A few months later, I got an email from Tragic Hero Records themselves with a chance to review the new LP, Heavy Fruit, from hard-rock/psych-rock/stoner-rock/post-hardcore band He Is Legend. I’ve always wanted to listen to this band, but never got around to it. I was definitely interested to hear their new LP, so this would be a perfect change to listen to them. I wasn’t too sure of what they sounded like, so I did some research, and like Closure In Moscow, they were a mix of a lot of different genres. That made me much more curious to listen to the LP. I’ve had it for the last few weeks, but I’ve only begun to listen to it, mainly because I wanted to wait until the album came out to really talk about and get into the record. Now that I’ve heard it a handful of times, here’s where my comparison comes in. See, Pink Lemonade by Closure In Moscow is a record that had good intentions. In theory, it sounded interesting, and to some degree, it kinda was. It kept me on my feet, and it’s a record that had some interesting ideas. The problem is, not all of the ideas were all that good, and it was so inconsistent, I really had a hard time enjoying it as a cohesive unit. Where Closure In Moscow failed, He Is Legend really succeed. Both albums are very similar: they’re psych-rock/post-hardcore records that are about an hour long and feature really zany album titles (both about food, coincidentally) and song titles. He Is Legend may be slightly different for having a more hard-rock sound to them, and if anything, that makes them a bit more interesting. Sure, Closure In Moscow did also have a funk/R&B aspect in their sound, but I felt as though they didn’t utilize it enough. He Is Legend really does utilize their hard-rock influence, by having many aggressive and really memorable guitar riffs running through many songs.
I’m going to pretend that Heavy Fruit is my favorite LP of the year, or anything like that, but it’s still really damn good. The album does manage to stay consistent, but not overly consistent, meaning that each song sounds exactly the same. There are plenty of memorable moments throughout the LP, such as opening track, “No Visitors,” “Be Easy,” “Spout Mouth,” and a few others. Everything on here is quite unique, and definitely worth at least one listen. The only problem, however, and my biggest problem with the LP, is its length. Even with Pink Lemonade, one of many problems I had with it was the length, and thankfully, Heavy Fruit is good enough to where nothing on the record itself really bugs me that much (it just doesn’t blow me away, per se, despite how unique the band is), it’s just the length that does. With long albums, and not only on Pink Lemonade was this prevalent, but most long LPs have a tendency to repeat ideas, and this album does, too. Heavy Fruit does repeat a lot of the same ideas and formulas, which can get old after awhile, at least depending on what kind of music you enjoy. If you like this hard-rock meets psych-rock kind of sound, you’ll dig this a lot, but if you’re like me, and not really into hard-rock (I love psych-rock, honestly), this might not do too much for you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very unique, and I do enjoy this a lot more than most hard-rock albums I’ve heard in the last year or so, but at the same time, its length is what kind of keeps me from really loving it. If the album was maybe 45 – 50, I could get a bit more into it, but because it nears an hour, it’s a bit too much for me to really handle.
One thing is for sure, however, I’m glad I listened to this album. He Is Legend is a very unique band, and I can see why people love this band. This band is insanely unique, and I love the sound on this record, but length does hinder my enjoyment of the LP. Regardless, I still enjoy it a lot. It’s certainly worth a listen, whether or not you’ve heard of this band. Even if you’ve never listened to a song of theirs in your life, it’s still worth it. I’m really happy I got the opportunity to review this LP, because it’s definitely one of the more interesting ones I’ve heard all year. It does beat Pink Lemonade by Closure In Moscow, and I feel as though this album had the same ideas as that LP, but Heavy Fruit executes the ideas much better. And while that may not mean anything to you if you haven’t heard Pink Lemonade, but it’s the same thing for any two bands that sound similar, where one is just blatantly better and more interesting. Heavy Fruit is definitely the more interesting record, and if you had to choose, this one is worth more of your time.
Overall rating: 9.3/10
Scouts Honour – The Last Four Years EP
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: September 21 2013
In a recent review of Chicago pop-punk act Bonfires’ debut EP, We All Talk About Dying Like We’ve Done It Before, I talk about how with all of the bands in the pop-punk scene, it’s difficult to filter which ones are worth talking about and which ones, well, aren’t. That can be a tough choice, considering this thing called “differing opinions,” and people like different things. Not that it’s a bad thing, of course, but while I may think we should stop focusing our efforts on generic bands in the genre, such as Real Friends and Man Overboard (whom aren’t bad, but just not worth talking about), and talk about the more interesting groups, such as Transit and Citizen, someone else may disagree and/or share the opposite opinion. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course, but in the end, it just falls on whomever is talking about these bands. As a huge pop-punk fan, I love to talk about the genre and all of these bands, and whenever a band comes along that I really enjoy, I just have to talk about them. For the last few weeks, I’ve been on a pretty vast pop-punk binge, mainly unknown/unsigned bands that I’ve found on Bandcamp. One band that caught my interest was Illinois band Scouts Honour. Well, I didn’t actually find that band on Bandcamp, but on a random pop-punk blog that I came across, and while looking at the older posts, I found a link to their debut EP, The Last Four Years. I listened to a bit of the opening track, and because I liked what I heard, I decided to download The Last Four Years, and listen to the whole thing. How was it?
Well, it was quite impressive, actually. I’m not too surprised that I’d say that, considering that I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the pop-punk bands I’ve heard lately. Well, the unsigned ones, anyway. I’m definitely happy that I managed to find another one, and while I’m not surprised that I found yet another unknown pop-punk band to add to the list of ones that I enjoy, I am just surprised at how much I like this band and this EP. You see, what makes Scouts Honour stand out is simple: they have a pop-punk meets easycore kind of sound. If anything, they just remind me of bands like New Found Glory and Four Year Strong who are/were easycore bands at some point in their careers. Heck, Scouts Honour even has a song called “Breakups and Breakdowns,” and the song starts off with a breakdown (which is done quite well, may I add; it’s really one of my favorites off the EP). While their sound is rather unique, since not many pop-punk bands really have this sound anymore, I still won’t say that The Last Four Years is really anything spectacular. Don’t get me wrong, this EP is certainly memorable, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment, but I’m not going to act as though this band is the best pop-punk band to ever exist. This is a good example of a group that is just really good at what they do, all the while having some kind of memorable element.
For Scouts Honour, it’s two things: their easycore element that I just described, and their vocalist, Kyle Weinmann. That’s not a surprising thing, considering that most pop-punk is reliant on their vocalist to be the focal point, and if you have a lackluster vocalist, that can be a huge problem. For Scouts Honour, however, it’s not. Weinmann is my favorite part of this group. His vocals are fantastic. He’s got a very booming voice that’s well suited for the genre, but he can also carry a tune and his vocal melodies are great throughout the EP. On tracks like “Broken Hands,” “Nothing Is Over,” and “Breakups and Breakdowns,” the choruses are insanely catchy. If you’re not careful, you can definitely find yourself humming or singing these choruses. Weinmann’s got a knack for hooks and this EP really shows it. His lyrics are also really enjoyable; one of my favorites is on “Nothing Is Over,” which is sort of a cute little song about how Weinmann doesn’t want to end things with a girl and he wants to do whatever he can to make things last, and if she needs to talk or needs him around, he’ll immediately be there. A song like EP opener, “Tell Me Everything” is another example. It’s a very bitter track, but he can pull it off well. It’s a breakup track, and the first few tracks on here are just that, but they’re all really well written. I found myself really relating to these songs, because I’ve been there before as well.
There’s just a lot to come back to on this EP, and the vocals/lyrics are the main thing. That doesn’t mean the instrumentation isn’t as good, or whatever, because it’s just fine. I really enjoy the easycore sound that this band has, and the use of breakdowns is never annoying or obnoxious (A Day to Remember is really guilty of that, to be honest, although they aren’t an easycore band at this point, more like metalcore), and they don’t scream whatsoever. Not that screaming would be a bad thing, but I like how this band opts for just clean vocals. Their sound works well for them, and I can really get behind it. I’m really fascinated to see what these guys do next. They’re definitely a band to watch, that’s for sure.
Overall rating: 9/10
I Call Fives – First Thing’s First
Record Label: Open Your Eyes
Release Date: December 23 2008
For many bands, member changes are inevitable. It’s really hard to find a band these days that hasn’t had one member leave, or get fired, due to whatever circumstances. It could be anything, really, but the most important thing is that members come and go, for the most part. Most of the time, it’s never an “important” member, but what happens when it’s a vocalist? That’s a really big part of a band, and as much as I hate to say this, the vocalist does make up a big part of the group. He or she is the face of the band, so to speak. A band can change a lot if you introduce a different vocalist, basically. Enter New Jersey pop-punk outfit, I Call Fives, who just went on a hiatus, unfortunately. As a huge fan of this band, I was pretty bummed about it. But on one hand, I wasn’t surprised that they announced it, because of how inactive the band has been for the last couple years, ever since the release of the band’s debut self-titled album (which came out on my birthday, may I add) in 2012. It seemed like the band was back, but alas, they just went on hiatus again. I took that as a good opportunity to listen to the band’s back catalog, because I had always wanted, just never got around to it. In one big haul, I downloaded the band’s sophomore EP (because physical copies aren’t available), Bad Advice, download a free acoustic EP, Gives Bad Advice, and ordered their debut EP, First Thing’s First. The reason I brought up having another vocalist and a member change is because for the band’s debut EP, they had a different vocalist. The band’s current vocalist, Jeff Todd, has been with the band since 2009, being on everything after First Thing’s First. But for that EP, the band had a different vocalist, named James Corbi. I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Corbi, since I had never listened to anything with him before. I was still excited to listen to the EP, nonetheless. Well, I’ve had it for the last couple weeks, so what do I think of this thing?
While a lot of music fans prefer a band’s older material, I’m the opposite in most cases, and this band is no exception. No, this EP isn’t bad, and it’s actually really good. I just can’t say I’m as big of a fan of this as I am with the band’s work with Todd. The only thing that never changed was the band’s instrumentation, and that’s ultimately what I love about this EP. I always loved the band’s throwback instrumentation, channeling early 00s pop-punk groups. It’s catchy, but also has a punk edge to it. It works very well, and the instrumentation is top notch throughout the entire EP. It’s not as refined as their later work, and a bit rough around the edges, but enjoyable all the same. It’s just that Corbi’s vocals aren’t as enjoyable for me as Todd’s. There’s a reason for that, however. It’s not because I’m only accustomed to hearing Todd’s vocals, but I just find Todd’s vocals more interesting and unique. I always liked his nasally voice, but Corbi’s voice doesn’t really stand out in any way. It sounds a lot like most other pop-punk vocalists, and does nothing to stay memorable. His lyrics aren’t half bad, but again, nothing really memorable, like Todd’s lyrics. And that’s how I’d really describe this EP. It’s really good, sure, but only because of the instrumentation. While Corbi is a solid vocalist, he just doesn’t bring the same charm and unique flavor that Todd did. I still enjoy it, to some degree, and it’s definitely worth a listen if you enjoy I Call Fives’ other material, but I’m glad that Todd is (was?) the vocalist for the band now. That doesn’t mean I straight up dislike the band’s first vocalist, but after hearing First Thing’s First, I definitely prefer the rest of the band’s discography. But this isn’t bad, by any means. I do really enjoy it, but it’s the instrumentation that does really stick out at me. If you do like pop-punk, or this band, and haven’t heard this yet, give it a shot. It’s certainly worth at least one listen.
Overall rating: 8/10
I Call Fives – Gives Bad Advice
Record Label: No Sleep
Release Date: May 24 2010
Acoustic EPs in the genre of pop-punk have sort of become a cliché now, haven’t they? Every pop-punk band does it, at least the big ones. It’s not a problem at all, honestly, since some of these bands really can pull it off. Heck, State Champs is releasing one in October, and I love that band so much. Their vocalist is awesome, and can easily pull off an acoustic EP. A Loss for Words, a very similar kind of band, having a vocalist with a pop/R&B-esque vocal range, released their second one in 2012, and Transit released one in December of last year. These bands are great, and they really pull it off, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t starting to become a trend with these bands. The Story So Far just released one in June, and while it’s not a bad EP (very fascinating, actually), they’re a band that really can pull off the acoustic sound. At least not perfectly, anyway. Another one of these bands to release an acoustic EP was New Jersey band I Call Fives back in 2010, entitled Gives Bad Advice. The band released their sophomore EP, and debut on No Sleep Records, entitled Bad Advice in May of 2010, but just a week later, the band released Gives Bad Advice, a free EP to coincide with the release of Bad Advice. This EP is a little bit different, however. It’s not a standard acoustic EP, featuring just one or two new songs, plus acoustic renditions of old ones. No, it’s four new songs, but with a really interesting idea. Vocalist Jeff Todd took fan questions on Tumblr, and wrote the “answers” to those questions as songs. It’s an interesting idea in theory, so does the EP itself actually hold up?
Yes, yes, and a million times yes! The idea is executed very well, and I’d argue that these four songs are some of the best in their career. The reason why this works isn’t just in the lyrics alone, which are a huge part of it, but it’s the instrumentation itself. While I enjoy acoustic EPs to some degree, I’m not a huge fan of acoustic music in general, really. Acoustic instrumentation is usually pretty boring to me, and doesn’t nothing interesting to keep and hold my interest. Some releases are exceptions, however, including this EP. The songs are written as full band tracks, but just done acoustically. The acoustic guitars are rather layered throughout the entire EP, and it’s very impressive. Actually, the band did record one track, “For the Best,” as a full band for a split EP. I haven’t heard the whole song, but I’d really like to. As for the lyrics, this is my favorite part of the EP. Not only does Todd give a great performance throughout the EP, the lyrics are great, too. The songs mainly deal with relationships, both the good aspects, “More Than I Can Handle,” and the bad, “Down,” and “For the Best.” Don’t get me wrong, these are all great tracks. The lyrics are surprisingly written very well, and these are some of the best songs I’ve heard by the band. But the opening track, “This Town,” is the odd-song-out in terms of subject matter. It’s still a bit cliché, considering the song deals with Todd’s hometown, and how he’s made lots of memories with his friends, but at the same time, it’s very bittersweet. You can almost feel Todd’s nostalgia, and it’s really heartwarming.
Normally, I don’t really care that much for acoustic EPs, unless they’re done remarkably, and this one is. There’s a lot on here that I just absolutely love. This EP is absolutely stellar. And to think, I came across this on accident. I was looking on the band’s Wikipedia page to see what else they put out, and I came across this EP. It’s a free download, too, but you may have to some digging on the interwebs to find it. If you’re a fan of this band, pop-punk, or just acoustic music in general, check this out immediately. This is easily one of their best releases. The self-titled debut album will always have my heart, but this is a close second.
RIYL: Transit – Futures & Sutures, The Story So Far – Songs Of, & A Loss for Words – Returning to Webster Lake
Overall rating: 8.8/10
I Call Fives – Bad Advice
Record Label: No Sleep
Release Date: May 25 2010
A couple of weeks prior to me writing this review, New Jersey pop-punk act I Call Fives announced their hiatus. It wasn’t too surprising, because the band hasn’t been too active for the last two years, but at the same time, it was still upsetting. It bummed me out a bit, coming from a huge fan of the band. I got into them in 2012 when their debut self-titled LP came out. I pre-ordered it for my birthday, and its official release date was on my birthday. And over time, that album’s really meant a lot to me. The themes and lyrics on the record still apply to me today, and it’s just one of my favorite pop-punk records. When their hiatus was announced, I decided it was time to listen to their back catalog. I knew they had a few EPs that I haven’t listened to yet, so I bought the band’s first two EPs on No Sleep Records’ webstore, the label the band signed to in 2010, and I also downloaded one that was for free. The first EP that came was 2010’s Bad Advice, because it was a digital download, and this is a record that’s monumental and important for two reasons: it marks their debut for No Sleep Records, and it’s their first release with current vocalist, Jeff Todd. Yeah, the band had another vocalist at one point in time, and I never knew that until just recently. I’ll talk about the band’s first EP, First Thing’s First, soon, but spoiler alert: I like it, and their first vocalist is just as great as Todd.
Regarding the band’s sophomore EP, Bad Advice, I had a feeling that I would enjoy it quite a bit. I already knew what the band sounded like, thanks to both the band’s third EP, Someone That’s Not You, and their debut record. Their sound is pretty simple – good old fashioned pop-punk that brings to mind early 00s pop-punk bands, such as The Movielife, New Found Glory, and Fall Out Boy. Heck, on their self-titled, they have a song called “Stuck In ’03,” where they reference both Fall Out Boy’s Take This to Your Grave, and New Found Glory’s Nothing Gold Can Stay. Just because their sound simple doesn’t mean they aren’t good, and this band isn’t good, but instead, they’re great. This band is one of my favorites, which is another reason why their hiatus kinda bummed me out. I mean, bands like Real Friends and Man Overboard are popular in the scene, but bands like With the Punches, that broke up in 2013, and I Call Fives will go unnoticed.
After hearing Bad Advice, it’s exactly what I thought it would be, if I had to be honest. It’s the same kind of sound as the self-titled record, just with different melodies and lyrics. It’s not a bad thing, by any means, because I love their sound. Todd is a very unique vocalist, having a nasally kind of sound, but very enjoyable. If you like the self-titled record, you’ll dig this EP, too. Or vice versa. If you like this EP, you’ll like the self-titled as well. Bad Advice is different enough to say that it’s separate on its own. There are a lot of memorable moments on the EP that keep me coming back to it, especially the lyrics and hooks from Todd. I will admit that it does sound a bit “rough around the edges,” meaning that it’s not as refined as their later releases, but that’s not really a bad thing, either. The production is still nice, and Todd’s voice is still very enjoyable. It’s just that the overall sound isn’t too different, just not as refined. The best way to say it is simple: if you like this band, and like one of their releases, you’ll like this, too. It’s not a bad thing to say that, it’s just that this release isn’t all that different from their last couple releases, but it’s still worth a listen.
RIYL: With the Punches – Seams & Stitches, A Loss for Words – No Sanctuary, State Champs – The Finer Things
Overall rating: 8.5/10
Bonfires – We All Talk About Dying Like We’ve Done It Before
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: July 15 2014
With the amount of pop-punk bands in the “scene,” it’s kind of difficult to keep up with a lot of them, especially more “local” and “unsigned” bands. It’s also difficult to decide which ones are truly worth your attention. And honestly, if you’re a fan of the genre, most of these bands are worth your attention in some way. There are some that I used to care about, but realized they’re the most generic bands in the genre and don’t care about them anymore (I’m looking at you, Real Friends), but for the most part, bands that I’ve loved for the last couple of years, I still love today. Bands like Fireworks, I Call Fives, Transit, and many others either have released great records, whether they broke up, or just aren’t as good anymore, or still are releasing great records. But there are also newer bands that crop up through the woodworks, and one of those bands is Chicago group Bonfires. This band would have went right past my radar if it weren’t for how I tend to look up new pop-punk bands on the site, Bandcamp, seeing if any bands have free records/EPs up that I can download when I feel broke. And seeing how they’re from the Midwest, like myself, I thought it would be nice to check out a relatively local group. All the band has out currently is their debut EP, We All Talk About Dying Like We’ve Done It Before, so I downloaded it for $1. I might be broke a lot of the time, but I can spare a dollar on a band’s EP, and even if I wasn’t all that into it, I wouldn’t be paying a lot for it, if anything at all.
Thankfully, the EP is great, and I’m also a bit surprised by that. I’m always surprised when unsigned/unknown pop-punk bands are so good, like they could be signed to any number of pop-punk labels and they’d fit right in. Bonfires is one of those bands, to be honest. At the same time, however, I’m not going to pretend that they’re the most interesting and unique pop-punk band I’ve heard. This is an example of a band/EP that’s just really damn good for what it is. On one hand, that’s great, because this is a band that’s really good. They’re not the most unique band I’ve ever heard, but there’s enough here to keep me coming back. At the same time, there’s just not much I have to say about this band/EP that I already haven’t said about other bands before. I will say, however, that We All Talk About Dying is a really impressive debut pop-punk EP. What keeps me coming back to it is both the really nice and tightknit instrumentation, but pop-punk’s focus isn’t quite on that. It’s on the vocalist, and vocalist Zech Pluister is great. His lyrics are also really interesting, especially the title of the EP. The lyrics come on opening track, “Waiting,” and I’ll admit, the EP’s title is kind of what drew me to this. The lyrics also stray from typical pop-punk clichés, and talk about things like that. That’s pretty heavy subject matter, but the band tackles it well.
The only thing that I don’t like about this EP is how short it is; it’s only around 13 minutes, and honestly, that’s a bit too short. If they included a couple more tracks, and made it around 17 – 20, I’d be more into it, but if you’re not paying attention, the EP can be over in a couple seconds. The EP surely makes an impact, but if you’re not paying attention, you might miss something. And I guess that’s a good complaint. It’s not like there’s anything about it I really don’t like within the EP, and that does mean I do want to hear more, so there’s a brightside to it. I’m definitely excited to see where this band goes, because this EP isn’t really anything too great, but this band has a lot of potential, and if there are any labelheads from a pop-punk label reading this, keep your eyes out for this group. They could go places, I’m sure.
RIYL: I Call Fives – Self-titled, With the Punches – Seams & Stitches, & State Champs – The Finer Things
Overall rating: 8.5/10