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September 2014
16
The Color Morale – Hold On Pain Ends Record Label: Fearless Release Date: September 2 2014 Consistency is a word that I don’t often enjoy using when describing a band, and there are a couple of reasons for it. I’m the kind of music fan that likes it, heck loves it, when his favorite bands experiment, or progress in some kind of way, even if it’s really subtle. For instance, on the new record, Get Hurt, by The Gaslight Anthem, it’s not too much different from 2012’s Handwritten, but there is a lot of subtle progression within it. The band basically took notes from each of their records, and from the frontman’s folk/blues side project, and compiled them into a record. For awhile, it sorta bugged me, but then I realized that album is a good introduction to the band, and was a very logical progression for them. On the flip side, I just don’t like when bands either regress, meaning doing something they already did on a previous album, or watering their sound down to any degree, or remain stagnant. One band that I’ve never gotten into for being stagnant was pop-punk outfit Yellowcard. The difference with them, however, is that Yellowcard is quite unique, having a violinist in the band. But each album I’ve heard by them sounds the same to me, and I just could never get into them. Their consistency is somewhat forgivable, but when a band who isn’t known for pushing the boundaries of their genre turns stagnant, that’s a problem. Illinois metalcore band The Color Morale is a band that I’ve been sort of a fan of for the last five years, when debut album We All Have Demons was released. I think it came out in my junior year of high school, back when I was pretty into metalcore and post-hardcore. When they first stepped onto the scene, they were a pretty fresh band, having a very talented vocalist in the form of Garret Rapp, and very clean guitarwork with a dash of technicality. Honestly, though, I’ve gotten bored of this group, and here’s why – their last three LPs, including third album, and first for Fearless Records, Hold On Pain Ends, all sound the same. Their debut album was merely a collection of tracks, as how most albums are set up. It wasn’t too unique, but really interesting. I never quite got into sophomore LP, My Devil In Your Eyes, but I did at least enjoy third LP, Know Hope somewhat. The problem is, those two albums sounded pretty similar. They both featured a change in Rapp’s style of screaming, having a more raspy sound (similar to Austin Carlile of Of Mice & Men on their newest record, Restoring Force), and lyrics about, well, hope. The band was more so turning into an “inspirational” band that the post-hardcore scene really likes to capitalize on. The thing is, they always remained pretty sincere about it. Even if I wasn’t too into them anymore, I couldn’t really get mad at them, because they do genuinely care about what they’re talking about. Their messages may be really bland, cliché, and really cheesy at time, it’s harmless. They’re doing a good thing, and I can’t get mad at that, right? The Color Morale basically has a shtick going for them, and it’s just their positive messages about hope. Other than that, they’re just kind of a generic metalcore band with nice guitarwork and a good vocalist. That’s literally how Hold On Pain Ends sounds. It sounds exactly like their other records, and I’m not sure which album is more boring, this one or Real Friends’ debut record. Coincidentally, they’re both on the same label. This album is just horrendously forgettable. It’s not interesting in the slightest, and I found nothing to even remotely latch onto. It’s the same recycled themes, guitar riffs, ideas, song structures, you name it. There’s nothing about this LP that feels fresh or progressive for the band. They don’t do anything different here. I went into this record, hoping for a change, and that’s not what I got. I got a very long, boring, snooze-fest of a record. Again, it’s hard to be mad at this band, because they do tackle very heavy topics, such as suicide and mental illness, and on one hand, I’m glad it’s being talked about. On the other, The Color Morale doesn’t talk about these things in an interesting way. They aren’t clever, they aren’t unique, they aren’t anything, basically. They regurgitate the same ideas that they’ve been talking about for the last five years. This album is just so forgettable, it hurts. It’s not a horrible LP, mind you, but at the same time, it’s just not good. I will say that if you do enjoy this band, or even just metalcore in general, you might like this. Heck, if this is the first album you’ve listened to or will listen to from them, you’ll like it fine, too. It’s just, all of their other albums sound exactly the same, hence why I’ve never gotten into them. There’s not much else to say about this record, but if you want to listen to it, go ahead. It just did nothing at all for me, and it’s a shame, because this band does have some nice things within them, but overall, their sound is pretty blasé. Overall rating: 7.3/10
-Bradley

The Color Morale – Hold On Pain Ends
Record Label: Fearless
Release Date: September 2 2014

Consistency is a word that I don’t often enjoy using when describing a band, and there are a couple of reasons for it. I’m the kind of music fan that likes it, heck loves it, when his favorite bands experiment, or progress in some kind of way, even if it’s really subtle. For instance, on the new record, Get Hurt, by The Gaslight Anthem, it’s not too much different from 2012’s Handwritten, but there is a lot of subtle progression within it. The band basically took notes from each of their records, and from the frontman’s folk/blues side project, and compiled them into a record. For awhile, it sorta bugged me, but then I realized that album is a good introduction to the band, and was a very logical progression for them. On the flip side, I just don’t like when bands either regress, meaning doing something they already did on a previous album, or watering their sound down to any degree, or remain stagnant. One band that I’ve never gotten into for being stagnant was pop-punk outfit Yellowcard. The difference with them, however, is that Yellowcard is quite unique, having a violinist in the band. But each album I’ve heard by them sounds the same to me, and I just could never get into them. Their consistency is somewhat forgivable, but when a band who isn’t known for pushing the boundaries of their genre turns stagnant, that’s a problem.

Illinois metalcore band The Color Morale is a band that I’ve been sort of a fan of for the last five years, when debut album We All Have Demons was released. I think it came out in my junior year of high school, back when I was pretty into metalcore and post-hardcore. When they first stepped onto the scene, they were a pretty fresh band, having a very talented vocalist in the form of Garret Rapp, and very clean guitarwork with a dash of technicality. Honestly, though, I’ve gotten bored of this group, and here’s why – their last three LPs, including third album, and first for Fearless Records, Hold On Pain Ends, all sound the same. Their debut album was merely a collection of tracks, as how most albums are set up. It wasn’t too unique, but really interesting. I never quite got into sophomore LP, My Devil In Your Eyes, but I did at least enjoy third LP, Know Hope somewhat. The problem is, those two albums sounded pretty similar. They both featured a change in Rapp’s style of screaming, having a more raspy sound (similar to Austin Carlile of Of Mice & Men on their newest record, Restoring Force), and lyrics about, well, hope. The band was more so turning into an “inspirational” band that the post-hardcore scene really likes to capitalize on. The thing is, they always remained pretty sincere about it. Even if I wasn’t too into them anymore, I couldn’t really get mad at them, because they do genuinely care about what they’re talking about. Their messages may be really bland, cliché, and really cheesy at time, it’s harmless. They’re doing a good thing, and I can’t get mad at that, right?

The Color Morale basically has a shtick going for them, and it’s just their positive messages about hope. Other than that, they’re just kind of a generic metalcore band with nice guitarwork and a good vocalist. That’s literally how Hold On Pain Ends sounds. It sounds exactly like their other records, and I’m not sure which album is more boring, this one or Real Friends’ debut record. Coincidentally, they’re both on the same label. This album is just horrendously forgettable. It’s not interesting in the slightest, and I found nothing to even remotely latch onto. It’s the same recycled themes, guitar riffs, ideas, song structures, you name it. There’s nothing about this LP that feels fresh or progressive for the band. They don’t do anything different here. I went into this record, hoping for a change, and that’s not what I got. I got a very long, boring, snooze-fest of a record. Again, it’s hard to be mad at this band, because they do tackle very heavy topics, such as suicide and mental illness, and on one hand, I’m glad it’s being talked about. On the other, The Color Morale doesn’t talk about these things in an interesting way. They aren’t clever, they aren’t unique, they aren’t anything, basically. They regurgitate the same ideas that they’ve been talking about for the last five years. This album is just so forgettable, it hurts. It’s not a horrible LP, mind you, but at the same time, it’s just not good. I will say that if you do enjoy this band, or even just metalcore in general, you might like this. Heck, if this is the first album you’ve listened to or will listen to from them, you’ll like it fine, too. It’s just, all of their other albums sound exactly the same, hence why I’ve never gotten into them. There’s not much else to say about this record, but if you want to listen to it, go ahead. It just did nothing at all for me, and it’s a shame, because this band does have some nice things within them, but overall, their sound is pretty blasé.

Overall rating: 7.3/10

-Bradley

September 2014
15
Joel Crouse – Even the River Runs Record Label: Show Dog Universal Release Date: August 19 2014 If there’s one genre of music that I never thought I’d be into, it’s country music. Before you tell me either how much it sucks, how much you love it, or how you just don’t care, hear me out. See, I don’t hate country music, or anything like that. It’s just, I’ve been quite impartial to it. I never really cared for it up until recently. It’s weird, because my parents are huge fans of it, and have been for years, so wouldn’t that mean I’d like it, too? Well, no, not really. I had one of those “rebellious” phases when I was around 12 or 13, so I had to like whatever they didn’t. Granted, that phase did turn me in the direction of music I still love today, so I don’t totally disown that phase, but the mentalities I had were rather annoying, nonetheless. It was when I heard about country singer Kacey Musgraves in the beginning of the year that I stated to care more about the genre. She challenged the stereotypes and clichés of the genre and was a rather “progressive” artist, and honestly, I really dug her last album, Same Trailer Different Trailer Park. It was a really enjoyable country-pop LP that had a lot of things to offer and a lot of things to enjoy. Because of that, I decided to listen to more country music. I haven’t heard too much, namely albums by Eric Paslay, Dan + Shay, Jana Kramer, and Hunter Hayes. These are all country-pop LPs, with the exception of Paslay, whose self-titled is a mix between traditional country and country-pop. The thing is, I enjoy pop music a lot, so these albums were a bit more accessible to me, compared to more traditional and old school country music. Even though I haven’t heard much that really interests me, I’m still all for listening to more artists and groups in the genre, but none have really popped out at me. Except for Nashville artist Joel Crouse, that is. Crouse is a very young artist at 22, only a year older than I am, and that’s why I had never heard of him until I took a random trip to Target one morning when I had some time to kill before work. I found debut LP, Even the River Runs, for a nice price, and I listened to debut single, “If You Want Some,” just to see what he’s all about. While the track was a decent “party” song, it was harmless and adorable, so to speak. It wasn’t about getting wasted, or anything like that, just having a good time with friends, and Crouse was inviting a girl along, presumably a girl he has feelings for. It was a nice track, regardless of the lyrics. I liked the instrumentation a lot, and Crouse’s voice has a nice sense of charisma and charm to it. The lead single was good, just not great. Aside from that, I figured that most albums are like that – the lead single is usually pretty good, or even just decent, but the whole album could be better. For only $7.99, I couldn’t really go wrong, right? Well, I did get it, hence why I’m writing this. I’ve given the album a lot of spins within the last week and a half, so what do I think? I’ll be darned, the rest of the album is a lot better than the lead single. If you’re reading this, thinking that Even the River Runs is going to be a “bro-country” album, don’t think that. It’s really not. The lead single isn’t even like that, and really has no references to beer or alcohol at all. Sure, it does talk about partying, but nothing of that nature. In fact, “If You Want Some” is the only song of its kind. That’s the only “party song” on the record. The rest of the record feels, well, “older.” I don’t really know how else to put it, because Crouse sounds older than he really does. Not by his voice, but the lyrics. The lyrics are definitely the best part of this record. By no means are they going to blow your mind and you’ll find your new favorite record, because this album isn’t perfect, but if you’re looking for a good country album that isn’t reliant on the tropes of “bro-country,” you’ll love this LP. Crouse deals with mainly love and relationships on the record, and yeah, that seems cliché right off the bat, and even the song titles can give off that vibe, such as “Why God Made Love Songs,” “I Never Said I Was In Love,” and “You Can Break a Heart Like That,” but surprisingly, these songs are great.

Lyrically, the album does deal with relationships, but in a very realistic, and wise way. The three songs I mentioned just now are three of the best, all dealing with different things. “Why God Made Love Songs” is just a track about Crouse talking about love songs in general, and how these songs can have a lot of importance to someone, with both verses talking about a young couple and an older couple. The first verse is about a young couple at a high school football game and falling in love for the first time, while the second verse is about an older couple who puts on a 45” of the song they heard when they first met in 1963 and how they fall in love all over again when they hear it. Album closer, “I Never Said I Was In Love” is the token song that’s about how Crouse lost a girl he loved and he’ll never get her back. The thing is, this is done insanely well. He talks about how he never showed her or told her that he loved her, and that’s what did the relationship in. He never put that love and care into her that she deserved, and she waited as long she could. When she didn’t get it, she left, and Crouse regrets it. He doesn’t try to get her to cheat on her new boyfriend or even asks for her back. He just admits he screwed up, and it’s a very admirable thing to admit. It’s a very respectful song in that regard. The way he frames himself, not only on this track, but the whole entire record is great, too. The instrumentation also really holds up on this LP. It’s nothing really worthwhile, but it mixes that traditional style of country, mandolin, acoustic guitar, banjo, and what have you, but the pop hooks are there in full force. Going along with that, Crouse’s voice carries these hooks and these songs with ease. Like the instrumentation, by no means is he the best vocalist ever, because I’ll admit, his vocals are my least favorite part of it. He may not have the most powerful voice, but it’s his delivery and his lyrics that I really enjoy. He’s a very earnest and honest musician, and I can really hear that when listening to this LP. Its main focus is on the lyrics, and that’s how most country music is. But the songs are catchy, and they are really enjoyable to listen to. If you are looking for a good country music album, and already have found every record that you think you’d enjoy in the genre, give this one a spin. It’s definitely worth your time. Overall rating: 8.5/10
-Bradley

Joel Crouse – Even the River Runs
Record Label: Show Dog Universal
Release Date: August 19 2014

If there’s one genre of music that I never thought I’d be into, it’s country music. Before you tell me either how much it sucks, how much you love it, or how you just don’t care, hear me out. See, I don’t hate country music, or anything like that. It’s just, I’ve been quite impartial to it. I never really cared for it up until recently. It’s weird, because my parents are huge fans of it, and have been for years, so wouldn’t that mean I’d like it, too? Well, no, not really. I had one of those “rebellious” phases when I was around 12 or 13, so I had to like whatever they didn’t. Granted, that phase did turn me in the direction of music I still love today, so I don’t totally disown that phase, but the mentalities I had were rather annoying, nonetheless. It was when I heard about country singer Kacey Musgraves in the beginning of the year that I stated to care more about the genre. She challenged the stereotypes and clichés of the genre and was a rather “progressive” artist, and honestly, I really dug her last album, Same Trailer Different Trailer Park. It was a really enjoyable country-pop LP that had a lot of things to offer and a lot of things to enjoy. Because of that, I decided to listen to more country music. I haven’t heard too much, namely albums by Eric Paslay, Dan + Shay, Jana Kramer, and Hunter Hayes. These are all country-pop LPs, with the exception of Paslay, whose self-titled is a mix between traditional country and country-pop.

The thing is, I enjoy pop music a lot, so these albums were a bit more accessible to me, compared to more traditional and old school country music. Even though I haven’t heard much that really interests me, I’m still all for listening to more artists and groups in the genre, but none have really popped out at me. Except for Nashville artist Joel Crouse, that is. Crouse is a very young artist at 22, only a year older than I am, and that’s why I had never heard of him until I took a random trip to Target one morning when I had some time to kill before work. I found debut LP, Even the River Runs, for a nice price, and I listened to debut single, “If You Want Some,” just to see what he’s all about. While the track was a decent “party” song, it was harmless and adorable, so to speak. It wasn’t about getting wasted, or anything like that, just having a good time with friends, and Crouse was inviting a girl along, presumably a girl he has feelings for. It was a nice track, regardless of the lyrics. I liked the instrumentation a lot, and Crouse’s voice has a nice sense of charisma and charm to it. The lead single was good, just not great. Aside from that, I figured that most albums are like that – the lead single is usually pretty good, or even just decent, but the whole album could be better. For only $7.99, I couldn’t really go wrong, right? Well, I did get it, hence why I’m writing this. I’ve given the album a lot of spins within the last week and a half, so what do I think?

I’ll be darned, the rest of the album is a lot better than the lead single. If you’re reading this, thinking that Even the River Runs is going to be a “bro-country” album, don’t think that. It’s really not. The lead single isn’t even like that, and really has no references to beer or alcohol at all. Sure, it does talk about partying, but nothing of that nature. In fact, “If You Want Some” is the only song of its kind. That’s the only “party song” on the record. The rest of the record feels, well, “older.” I don’t really know how else to put it, because Crouse sounds older than he really does. Not by his voice, but the lyrics. The lyrics are definitely the best part of this record. By no means are they going to blow your mind and you’ll find your new favorite record, because this album isn’t perfect, but if you’re looking for a good country album that isn’t reliant on the tropes of “bro-country,” you’ll love this LP. Crouse deals with mainly love and relationships on the record, and yeah, that seems cliché right off the bat, and even the song titles can give off that vibe, such as “Why God Made Love Songs,” “I Never Said I Was In Love,” and “You Can Break a Heart Like That,” but surprisingly, these songs are great.

Lyrically, the album does deal with relationships, but in a very realistic, and wise way. The three songs I mentioned just now are three of the best, all dealing with different things. “Why God Made Love Songs” is just a track about Crouse talking about love songs in general, and how these songs can have a lot of importance to someone, with both verses talking about a young couple and an older couple. The first verse is about a young couple at a high school football game and falling in love for the first time, while the second verse is about an older couple who puts on a 45” of the song they heard when they first met in 1963 and how they fall in love all over again when they hear it. Album closer, “I Never Said I Was In Love” is the token song that’s about how Crouse lost a girl he loved and he’ll never get her back. The thing is, this is done insanely well. He talks about how he never showed her or told her that he loved her, and that’s what did the relationship in. He never put that love and care into her that she deserved, and she waited as long she could. When she didn’t get it, she left, and Crouse regrets it. He doesn’t try to get her to cheat on her new boyfriend or even asks for her back. He just admits he screwed up, and it’s a very admirable thing to admit. It’s a very respectful song in that regard. The way he frames himself, not only on this track, but the whole entire record is great, too.

The instrumentation also really holds up on this LP. It’s nothing really worthwhile, but it mixes that traditional style of country, mandolin, acoustic guitar, banjo, and what have you, but the pop hooks are there in full force. Going along with that, Crouse’s voice carries these hooks and these songs with ease. Like the instrumentation, by no means is he the best vocalist ever, because I’ll admit, his vocals are my least favorite part of it. He may not have the most powerful voice, but it’s his delivery and his lyrics that I really enjoy. He’s a very earnest and honest musician, and I can really hear that when listening to this LP. Its main focus is on the lyrics, and that’s how most country music is. But the songs are catchy, and they are really enjoyable to listen to. If you are looking for a good country music album, and already have found every record that you think you’d enjoy in the genre, give this one a spin. It’s definitely worth your time.

Overall rating: 8.5/10

-Bradley

September 2014
14
The Swellers – Running Out of Places to Go (Reisue) Record Label: No Sleep Release Date: May 24 2013 A couple of months ago, Michigan band The Swellers called it quits. They kind of did in a really subtle way, too. They left just how they lived – very nonchalant and quiet. They were never one of the most popular pop-punk bands, but they weren’t just limited to their hometown, either. People know who they were, myself included. I was never a huge fan of theirs, and honestly, I had planned to listen to last LP, The Light Under Closed Doors, for quite some time. If you’ve been paying attention to my reviews, you would know that I did, actually. I reviewed the LP last month, and I absolutely loved it. It was one of those records, like labelmate Allison Weiss’ sophomore LP, Say What You Mean, that I wish I had listened to last year, because it would have surely hit my album of the year list. The Light Under Closed Doors is not my first run-in with the group, however. While I would consider my first actual run-in last year, when I did listen to 2011’s Good for Me, I did get a glimpse of the band in 2012 when I listened to and reviewed the band’s EP to come after that, Running Out of Places to Go. The band left Fueled By Ramen, and were unsigned for a long while, going back to No Sleep for their last LP.  Before that, however, they independently released Running Out of Places to Go, a short little EP that was just about their experiences at the time, including moving forward and making the best of a bad situation. It was a nice little EP, from what I remembered. I honestly didn’t remember that I reviewed the EP until recently when I looked, and sure enough, there it was. Well, what led me to re-review it, and listen to it a second time was No Sleep Records having a Back to School sale, where CDs were 50% off. The album itself was already only $4, but because of the sale, it was $2, so I ordered that, along with a couple of other records I really wanted. I’ll admit, this is the one I was least excited to listen to. Not because I don’t like it, but I’ve already heard it. Now that I have heard it again, and I’ve spent a couple weeks with it, I do enjoy this EP a lot more. Not too much more, but I still enjoy it a lot. In fact, I like it more because I’ve gotten much more into the genre, so I’ve grown to appreciate the EP and what the band has done for the genre.  Looking over my review now, a lot of my feelings are quite similar towards the EP. For instance, the best thing about this EP are the lyrics. I love the themes of moving forward and standing tall despite hardship, because I’ve been feeling that way and telling myself that recently. The tracks “Hands” and “Let Me In” have some great lyrics that showcase those things, with the former track talking about how the narrator is tired of things to change on their own and he’s tired of writing songs that people can merely relate to, not songs that he personally believes in and loves as well. The latter track is about realizing that you only have yourself, really. Well, there are people you can count on, but at the end of day, the only person you should really live for is yourself. The other tracks on the EP follow these sort of themes, but the lyrics are fantastic. My favorite part of this group were always the lyrics, and vocalist/guitarist Nick Diener is just fantastic. He doesn’t necessarily have the best voice I’ve ever heard, but it’s still great. And that’s how I feel about the instrumentation, too. It’s nothing really worthwhile, but it’s done well, either way. They have a sound pretty similar to bands like Transit and Daytrader, mixing pop-punk and indie-rock together. The Swellers was a more pop-punk band, but that sound was there. The title track definitely has that sound, and is a great song instrumentally as well. The whole EP is fine instrumentally, but it’s the lyrics that shine. The reissue, that came out with No Sleep, has two bonus tracks, but they’re merely acoustic tracks of “Hands” and the title track. I don’t usually care about acoustic versions of songs, but these are done quite well, too. They aren’t just merely songs with an acoustic guitar, but if these were the finished and/or original version of the tracks, I wouldn’t care, because these are great. The songs are definitely worth hearing, so what are you waiting for? Get a copy of Running Out of Places to Go! The sale on No Sleep is over, but you can still get the EP for only $4! For six songs, that’s a pretty sweet deal. Sure, The Swellers are broken up, but you can honor their memory by listening to them, right? I would recommend it, at least. RIYL: Transit – Listen & Forgive, The Wonder Years – The Upsides, & Daytrader – Twelve Years Overall rating: 9/10
-Bradley

The Swellers – Running Out of Places to Go (Reisue)
Record Label: No Sleep
Release Date: May 24 2013

A couple of months ago, Michigan band The Swellers called it quits. They kind of did in a really subtle way, too. They left just how they lived – very nonchalant and quiet. They were never one of the most popular pop-punk bands, but they weren’t just limited to their hometown, either. People know who they were, myself included. I was never a huge fan of theirs, and honestly, I had planned to listen to last LP, The Light Under Closed Doors, for quite some time. If you’ve been paying attention to my reviews, you would know that I did, actually. I reviewed the LP last month, and I absolutely loved it. It was one of those records, like labelmate Allison Weiss’ sophomore LP, Say What You Mean, that I wish I had listened to last year, because it would have surely hit my album of the year list. The Light Under Closed Doors is not my first run-in with the group, however. While I would consider my first actual run-in last year, when I did listen to 2011’s Good for Me, I did get a glimpse of the band in 2012 when I listened to and reviewed the band’s EP to come after that, Running Out of Places to Go. The band left Fueled By Ramen, and were unsigned for a long while, going back to No Sleep for their last LP.

Before that, however, they independently released Running Out of Places to Go, a short little EP that was just about their experiences at the time, including moving forward and making the best of a bad situation. It was a nice little EP, from what I remembered. I honestly didn’t remember that I reviewed the EP until recently when I looked, and sure enough, there it was. Well, what led me to re-review it, and listen to it a second time was No Sleep Records having a Back to School sale, where CDs were 50% off. The album itself was already only $4, but because of the sale, it was $2, so I ordered that, along with a couple of other records I really wanted. I’ll admit, this is the one I was least excited to listen to. Not because I don’t like it, but I’ve already heard it. Now that I have heard it again, and I’ve spent a couple weeks with it, I do enjoy this EP a lot more. Not too much more, but I still enjoy it a lot. In fact, I like it more because I’ve gotten much more into the genre, so I’ve grown to appreciate the EP and what the band has done for the genre.

Looking over my review now, a lot of my feelings are quite similar towards the EP. For instance, the best thing about this EP are the lyrics. I love the themes of moving forward and standing tall despite hardship, because I’ve been feeling that way and telling myself that recently. The tracks “Hands” and “Let Me In” have some great lyrics that showcase those things, with the former track talking about how the narrator is tired of things to change on their own and he’s tired of writing songs that people can merely relate to, not songs that he personally believes in and loves as well. The latter track is about realizing that you only have yourself, really. Well, there are people you can count on, but at the end of day, the only person you should really live for is yourself. The other tracks on the EP follow these sort of themes, but the lyrics are fantastic. My favorite part of this group were always the lyrics, and vocalist/guitarist Nick Diener is just fantastic. He doesn’t necessarily have the best voice I’ve ever heard, but it’s still great. And that’s how I feel about the instrumentation, too. It’s nothing really worthwhile, but it’s done well, either way. They have a sound pretty similar to bands like Transit and Daytrader, mixing pop-punk and indie-rock together. The Swellers was a more pop-punk band, but that sound was there. The title track definitely has that sound, and is a great song instrumentally as well. The whole EP is fine instrumentally, but it’s the lyrics that shine.

The reissue, that came out with No Sleep, has two bonus tracks, but they’re merely acoustic tracks of “Hands” and the title track. I don’t usually care about acoustic versions of songs, but these are done quite well, too. They aren’t just merely songs with an acoustic guitar, but if these were the finished and/or original version of the tracks, I wouldn’t care, because these are great. The songs are definitely worth hearing, so what are you waiting for? Get a copy of Running Out of Places to Go! The sale on No Sleep is over, but you can still get the EP for only $4! For six songs, that’s a pretty sweet deal. Sure, The Swellers are broken up, but you can honor their memory by listening to them, right? I would recommend it, at least.

RIYL: Transit – Listen & Forgive, The Wonder Years – The Upsides, & Daytrader – Twelve Years

Overall rating: 9/10

-Bradley

September 2014
14
Allison Weiss – Remember When Record Label: No Sleep Release Date: July 22 2014 Last year, I happened to skip out on listening to New York indie-rock, power-pop, and pop-punk artist Allison Weiss’ sophomore record, Say What You Mean. That may be a statement, because yes, I did miss the album when it came out, but the reason I bring that up is simple – it’s a damn good record. If I had heard it last year, it would have been one of my favorites come the end of the year. I wish I did, and I beat myself for skipping it after it was released. I remember listening to one of the songs on the record when the single came out, and I didn’t pay much attention to it. I probably wouldn’t have even listened to it this year if Weiss hadn’t announced new EP, Remember When. I was almost going to pre-order a copy of it, but I decided to listen to her stuff, because I was really new. I got a copy of Say What You Mean, fell in love with it, and really wanted to listen to Remember When. It’s just, it took awhile for me to get a copy. It wasn’t an EP that I really needed to listen to, per se, like it was urgent on my list, and I already had a lot, anyway. But at the same time, it was an EP that I really wanted to hear before the year ended. Well, a month later, I finally got it. And it was all thanks to No Sleep Records’ back to school sale they just had. Every CD was 50% off, minus pre-orders, so I decided to pick this up, along with The Swellers’ Running Out of Places to Go, and Balance and Composure’s Separation. I loved those as well, but the last one out of those that I’ll be talking about is Remember When. Since I really enjoyed Say What You Mean, and really liked whatever song I heard from Remember When, I definitely was excited to hear it. Now that I’ve had it for awhile, what do I think? It’s no surprise for me to say that it’s great, considering that I just said I loved her last album. This EP is a very nice and logical progression from that album, if you will. I wouldn’t say it’s as good, but that album really hit me in the right way lyrically, whereas the lyrics just don’t hit me as hard here. Don’t get me wrong, her lyrics are still great, but not every track hits me as hard as Say What You Mean did. If anything, the lyrics are where Weiss shines most. On a song like the title track, she recalls memories that she’s had with a former significant other, and basically says that she misses that person. And on closing track, “Take You Back,” she says that she’ll take back a significant other, even when they treat her like garbage. As someone who’s been in that position, that song hit me quite hard. Her lyrics are certainly her strongest point, either way. Weiss has been known for writing “breakup” songs, meaning songs that you can listen to when you’re falling out of love, and just out of a relationship. Say What You Mean was a perfect breakup LP, while this one is a bit all over the place. It’s not quite a breakup record, but it’s also not a happy one, either. Oddly enough, the cover of “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn doesn’t feel so out of place; Weiss turns the track into a very melancholy indie-rock track that sounds really nice. Aside from the lyrics on the EP, the instrumentation and Weiss’ vocals are really nice, too. Weiss has a really nice sound, not quite being indie-rock, power-pop, or pop-punk, but her sound has elements of all of them. This EP is much more on the indie-rock side, not being too energetic, minus the opening track, which doubles as the title track. The instrumentation is easily my least favorite part of the EP, and it was on Say What You Mean, too, but it’s still nice. Weiss’ vocals are also quite wonderful. Her voice isn’t necessarily really great, but it’s her earnest and quirky delivery that I really enjoy. If you do enjoy indie-rock, and/or pop-punk, however, there is a chance you’ll really love her stuff. Heck, if you liked Say What You Mean, like I did, definitely check this out. I wouldn’t say it’s anything mindblowing, but another solid EP from a very solid artist. Overall rating: 9/10
-Bradley

Allison Weiss – Remember When
Record Label: No Sleep
Release Date: July 22 2014

Last year, I happened to skip out on listening to New York indie-rock, power-pop, and pop-punk artist Allison Weiss’ sophomore record, Say What You Mean. That may be a statement, because yes, I did miss the album when it came out, but the reason I bring that up is simple – it’s a damn good record. If I had heard it last year, it would have been one of my favorites come the end of the year. I wish I did, and I beat myself for skipping it after it was released. I remember listening to one of the songs on the record when the single came out, and I didn’t pay much attention to it. I probably wouldn’t have even listened to it this year if Weiss hadn’t announced new EP, Remember When. I was almost going to pre-order a copy of it, but I decided to listen to her stuff, because I was really new. I got a copy of Say What You Mean, fell in love with it, and really wanted to listen to Remember When. It’s just, it took awhile for me to get a copy. It wasn’t an EP that I really needed to listen to, per se, like it was urgent on my list, and I already had a lot, anyway. But at the same time, it was an EP that I really wanted to hear before the year ended. Well, a month later, I finally got it. And it was all thanks to No Sleep Records’ back to school sale they just had. Every CD was 50% off, minus pre-orders, so I decided to pick this up, along with The Swellers’ Running Out of Places to Go, and Balance and Composure’s Separation. I loved those as well, but the last one out of those that I’ll be talking about is Remember When. Since I really enjoyed Say What You Mean, and really liked whatever song I heard from Remember When, I definitely was excited to hear it. Now that I’ve had it for awhile, what do I think?

It’s no surprise for me to say that it’s great, considering that I just said I loved her last album. This EP is a very nice and logical progression from that album, if you will. I wouldn’t say it’s as good, but that album really hit me in the right way lyrically, whereas the lyrics just don’t hit me as hard here. Don’t get me wrong, her lyrics are still great, but not every track hits me as hard as Say What You Mean did. If anything, the lyrics are where Weiss shines most. On a song like the title track, she recalls memories that she’s had with a former significant other, and basically says that she misses that person. And on closing track, “Take You Back,” she says that she’ll take back a significant other, even when they treat her like garbage. As someone who’s been in that position, that song hit me quite hard. Her lyrics are certainly her strongest point, either way. Weiss has been known for writing “breakup” songs, meaning songs that you can listen to when you’re falling out of love, and just out of a relationship. Say What You Mean was a perfect breakup LP, while this one is a bit all over the place. It’s not quite a breakup record, but it’s also not a happy one, either. Oddly enough, the cover of “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn doesn’t feel so out of place; Weiss turns the track into a very melancholy indie-rock track that sounds really nice.

Aside from the lyrics on the EP, the instrumentation and Weiss’ vocals are really nice, too. Weiss has a really nice sound, not quite being indie-rock, power-pop, or pop-punk, but her sound has elements of all of them. This EP is much more on the indie-rock side, not being too energetic, minus the opening track, which doubles as the title track. The instrumentation is easily my least favorite part of the EP, and it was on Say What You Mean, too, but it’s still nice. Weiss’ vocals are also quite wonderful. Her voice isn’t necessarily really great, but it’s her earnest and quirky delivery that I really enjoy. If you do enjoy indie-rock, and/or pop-punk, however, there is a chance you’ll really love her stuff. Heck, if you liked Say What You Mean, like I did, definitely check this out. I wouldn’t say it’s anything mindblowing, but another solid EP from a very solid artist.

Overall rating: 9/10

-Bradley

September 2014
14
Balance and Composure – Separation Record Label: No Sleep Release Date: May 10 2011 PA pop-punk/indie-rock band Balance and Composure is one band that I’m late to the party on, so to speak. I’ve always wanted to listen to them, and I finally had my chance in late 2013 when I came across sophomore LP, The Things We Think We’re Missing, at my local Hot Topic. I know, it’s weird, right? Well, it’s weird for two reasons – people don’t usually see bands like that in Hot Topic, because the store has a weird reputation for having only “scene” bands, like Sleeping With Sirens, Pierce the Veil, and the like. I know that’s really stupid, but that’s how people think. The second reason is that, believe it or not, Hot Topic used to sell CDs. Another record I picked up there last summer was pop-punk outfit Citizen’s debut LP, Youth. How cool is that? Anyhow, I randomly came across The Things We Think We’re Missing, only knowing that they’re a well respected pop-punk band with an indie-rock influence, similar to Transit, one of my favorite bands in the genre. Well, I absolutely loved the record, and it became one of my favorite albums of the year. It really blew me away, and if I loved that LP, I knew I had to check out debut record, Separation. Fans of the group have been raving about that record for the last couple years, but it was just a matter of time until I was able to visit it. See, a lot of new records have been coming out in 2014, and it’s been really hard for me to visit other albums I wanted to visit. For instance, I really wanted to dive more into Bruce Springsteen’s discography, but I just never had the chance until now.  The same goes for Separation, but when I had the change, I struck while the iron was hot, so to speak. Their label, No Sleep (which is a great label, may I add; they have some great bands and artists, including The Swellers, who broke up sadly, Allison Weiss, Major League, and many others), was running a back to school sale recently, and CDs were all 50% off. You didn’t have put it a coupon code or anything, they were marked down already. If I had waited a week, I could have ordered something else I got a week prior, I Call Fives’ debut EP, First Thing’s First. That was already on sale, but I could have gotten it even cheaper. Oh well, I digress. I did want to order some other albums, specifically ones I wanted to listen to, including Separation, The Swellers’ Running Out of Places to Go, and Allison Weiss’ new EP, Remember When. I got all of those for less than $14, so I was very pleased to order them. Separation was the one I was most excited to listen to, because out of all those artists, Balance and Composure is my favorite. I will say, however, they’re all great. I did review The Swellers’ last LP, The Light Under Closed Doors, and Allison Weiss’ last LP, Say What You Mean, very recently, and both of those albums are fantastic. 

Nonetheless, this review is about Separation, so now that I’ve had the album for almost a couple weeks, what do I think about it? To be honest, it’s a masterpiece. There’s really no other way I can describe it, other than that. Well, that would be a short review, but there is a lot more I have to say. While this album is very impressive, I still gotta give the upper hand to The Things We’re Missing. Everything in this record really comes together to make for a very interesting, engaging, and just impressive LP, either way. I loved everything about The Things We Think We’re Missing, and it’s the same here, but just not as extensive. Vocalist Jon Simmons is still just as great, his lyrics are really clever and intelligent, and the instrumentation is fantastic as well. Everything just comes together nicely. The record would feel a lot different if just one thing was out of whack, but it’s not, fortunately.

There are a few differences, however. And the major one is the instrumentation. It’s not a bad difference, but on Separation, the band has a bit more of a pop-punk sound. On the band’s last record, the sound was much more melancholy and drawn out, and I’ll admit, that’s the main problem I had with it. Not that it was done terribly, but the somber instrumentation combined with the album’s length of 48 minutes made for an exhausting listen after awhile. The opposite is present here; the album is a bit more energetic, and songs like “Void,” “Galena,” and “I Tore You Apart In My Head” aren’t too energetic, but they do have some energy to them. They’re a bit faster paced, and it’s a bit more interesting to listen to. Simmons’ vocals are a bit different, too; they’re slightly rough around the edges. His vocals are still unique and very good (I really loved his vocals on the last LP), but they’re just not as powerful as they are on The Things We Think We’re Missing. And that’s not a bad thing, either, because it’s easy to overlook. There’s somewhat of a focus on melody and choruses here, but it’s not the main focus. The main focus is to develop atmosphere, and a very flowing record, which like the last record, it does. The album does feel very cohesive and unlike the last record, I don’t feel as exhausted listening to this one. They’re about the same length, about 48 minutes, give or take an odd number of seconds, but Separation is a bit more cohesive and not as exhausting. I can sit through this album much easier because it’s not as somber, at least instrumentally. Lyrically, it’s quite somber, and the whole record is filled with great moments, including the tracks I mentioned earlier. Essentially, how one feels about this LP will come down to personal preference. If you like this album more, that’s understandable, and if you like The Things We’re Missing more, that’s also understandable. Both albums are impressive in their own right, and what’s good in one is great in the other. The vocals on TTWTWM are a bit more impressive than on Separation, but the instrumentation is a bit more impressive on Separation than on TTWTWM. Overall, however, I do like that record just a bit more. The overall listening experience was a bit better, and even technically speaking, The Things We Think We’re Missing is just a bit more impressive. The somber instrumentation may have been a bit of a distraction, but it was still great. The songwriting was very impressive, and I do love that album just a tad more. Either way, this album is great, too, so like I said, regardless of which one you enjoy more, there’s no denying they’re both great LPs. I’m surprised this band isn’t bigger than they are, honestly, and that’s a shame. They’re one of the more unique bands in the genre, so here’s hoping they get the recognition they deserve.


RIYL: Daytrader – Twelve Years, Transit – Listen & Forgive, & Citizen – Youth Overall rating: 9.5/10-Bradley

Balance and Composure – Separation
Record Label: No Sleep
Release Date: May 10 2011

PA pop-punk/indie-rock band Balance and Composure is one band that I’m late to the party on, so to speak. I’ve always wanted to listen to them, and I finally had my chance in late 2013 when I came across sophomore LP, The Things We Think We’re Missing, at my local Hot Topic. I know, it’s weird, right? Well, it’s weird for two reasons – people don’t usually see bands like that in Hot Topic, because the store has a weird reputation for having only “scene” bands, like Sleeping With Sirens, Pierce the Veil, and the like. I know that’s really stupid, but that’s how people think. The second reason is that, believe it or not, Hot Topic used to sell CDs. Another record I picked up there last summer was pop-punk outfit Citizen’s debut LP, Youth. How cool is that? Anyhow, I randomly came across The Things We Think We’re Missing, only knowing that they’re a well respected pop-punk band with an indie-rock influence, similar to Transit, one of my favorite bands in the genre. Well, I absolutely loved the record, and it became one of my favorite albums of the year. It really blew me away, and if I loved that LP, I knew I had to check out debut record, Separation. Fans of the group have been raving about that record for the last couple years, but it was just a matter of time until I was able to visit it. See, a lot of new records have been coming out in 2014, and it’s been really hard for me to visit other albums I wanted to visit. For instance, I really wanted to dive more into Bruce Springsteen’s discography, but I just never had the chance until now.

The same goes for Separation, but when I had the change, I struck while the iron was hot, so to speak. Their label, No Sleep (which is a great label, may I add; they have some great bands and artists, including The Swellers, who broke up sadly, Allison Weiss, Major League, and many others), was running a back to school sale recently, and CDs were all 50% off. You didn’t have put it a coupon code or anything, they were marked down already. If I had waited a week, I could have ordered something else I got a week prior, I Call Fives’ debut EP, First Thing’s First. That was already on sale, but I could have gotten it even cheaper. Oh well, I digress. I did want to order some other albums, specifically ones I wanted to listen to, including Separation, The Swellers’ Running Out of Places to Go, and Allison Weiss’ new EP, Remember When. I got all of those for less than $14, so I was very pleased to order them. Separation was the one I was most excited to listen to, because out of all those artists, Balance and Composure is my favorite. I will say, however, they’re all great. I did review The Swellers’ last LP, The Light Under Closed Doors, and Allison Weiss’ last LP, Say What You Mean, very recently, and both of those albums are fantastic. 

Nonetheless, this review is about Separation, so now that I’ve had the album for almost a couple weeks, what do I think about it? To be honest, it’s a masterpiece. There’s really no other way I can describe it, other than that. Well, that would be a short review, but there is a lot more I have to say. While this album is very impressive, I still gotta give the upper hand to The Things We’re Missing. Everything in this record really comes together to make for a very interesting, engaging, and just impressive LP, either way. I loved everything about The Things We Think We’re Missing, and it’s the same here, but just not as extensive. Vocalist Jon Simmons is still just as great, his lyrics are really clever and intelligent, and the instrumentation is fantastic as well. Everything just comes together nicely. The record would feel a lot different if just one thing was out of whack, but it’s not, fortunately.

There are a few differences, however. And the major one is the instrumentation. It’s not a bad difference, but on Separation, the band has a bit more of a pop-punk sound. On the band’s last record, the sound was much more melancholy and drawn out, and I’ll admit, that’s the main problem I had with it. Not that it was done terribly, but the somber instrumentation combined with the album’s length of 48 minutes made for an exhausting listen after awhile. The opposite is present here; the album is a bit more energetic, and songs like “Void,” “Galena,” and “I Tore You Apart In My Head” aren’t too energetic, but they do have some energy to them. They’re a bit faster paced, and it’s a bit more interesting to listen to. Simmons’ vocals are a bit different, too; they’re slightly rough around the edges. His vocals are still unique and very good (I really loved his vocals on the last LP), but they’re just not as powerful as they are on The Things We Think We’re Missing. And that’s not a bad thing, either, because it’s easy to overlook. There’s somewhat of a focus on melody and choruses here, but it’s not the main focus. The main focus is to develop atmosphere, and a very flowing record, which like the last record, it does. The album does feel very cohesive and unlike the last record, I don’t feel as exhausted listening to this one. They’re about the same length, about 48 minutes, give or take an odd number of seconds, but Separation is a bit more cohesive and not as exhausting. I can sit through this album much easier because it’s not as somber, at least instrumentally. Lyrically, it’s quite somber, and the whole record is filled with great moments, including the tracks I mentioned earlier.

Essentially, how one feels about this LP will come down to personal preference. If you like this album more, that’s understandable, and if you like The Things We’re Missing more, that’s also understandable. Both albums are impressive in their own right, and what’s good in one is great in the other. The vocals on TTWTWM are a bit more impressive than on Separation, but the instrumentation is a bit more impressive on Separation than on TTWTWM. Overall, however, I do like that record just a bit more. The overall listening experience was a bit better, and even technically speaking, The Things We Think We’re Missing is just a bit more impressive. The somber instrumentation may have been a bit of a distraction, but it was still great. The songwriting was very impressive, and I do love that album just a tad more. Either way, this album is great, too, so like I said, regardless of which one you enjoy more, there’s no denying they’re both great LPs. I’m surprised this band isn’t bigger than they are, honestly, and that’s a shame. They’re one of the more unique bands in the genre, so here’s hoping they get the recognition they deserve.

RIYL: Daytrader – Twelve Years, Transit – Listen & Forgive, & Citizen – Youth

Overall rating: 9.5/10

-Bradley

September 2014
08
Thousand Foot Krutch – Oxygen: Inhale Record Label: Self-released Release Date: August 26 2014 Each one of us has our own unique music taste, and honestly, no two persons’ tastes are going be completely the same. We all listen to different music, so no two people will listen to the exact same things, at least down to a tee. You may like the same kinds of bands as somebody, but your tastes won’t be completely the same, thanks to a bunch of different variables, such as how many bands/artists you’ve heard, what your favorites are, what your least favorites are, etc, etc. For instance, I love pop-punk and I have friends who enjoy it as well, but I really don’t like a lot of the bands those friends do. That doesn’t mean their taste is any more or less valid than mine, because as the Nostalgia Critic once said, it doesn’t matter what you like, it’s just how well you can explain your liking for it. In other words, you can have a genre or two in common, but either listen to totally different artists/bands in the genre, and/or have completely different opinions on said artists/bands. A lot of the time, however, your friends can really shape what you listen to. That’s not to say people listen to things because it’s cool or their friends like it, but sometimes, you can be turned onto a record or band, thanks to a friend’s suggestion. And honestly, word of mouth promotion is fantastic. But what happens when you have friends who listen to different kinds of music? Even if you’re suggested something from someone that you’re not sure you’ll enjoy very much, it’s always best giving it a shot. My taste has been built from giving things a random chance, and look where it’s gotten me. Last year, I made a friend, who is frankly my best friend, who really enjoys hard-rock, and modern-rock. There’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but it’s interesting, just because I never listened to that stuff. In the last eight years I’ve been into music, that kind of music is one genre that I’ve never really touched. Of course, I’ve heard of bands within the genre, just never listened to them. And because I met him, he always suggests bands for me to listen to, and heck, has even sent me some albums from bands he enjoys in the genre. I did find a few gems in the genre, but overall, I really cannot say I’m hugely into this stuff. I do enjoy it somewhat, but not enough to tickle any kind of fancy. One band that really stuck out to me was Canadian trio Thousand Foot Krutch. In fact, he sent me a copy of the band’s 2012 record, The End Is Where We Begin, because he had an extra one. I did end up enjoying that album a lot, but for reasons that I enjoy a lot of records – it was unique, kept my attention, didn’t get boring, and it was just really enjoyable. See, TFK are an interesting band. While I don’t care for the genre much, they have a hip-hop/rap edge to them, so to speak. As in, vocalist Trevor McNevan raps at various points in the record, and aside from being a stellar vocalist, he’s also a decent rapper. I really enjoyed that aspect to their sound, because it made them stick out more than being a boring radio-rock band with a good vocalist.

The thing is, I can’t say I was too interested in hearing their other work, so when sixth album, Oxygen: Inhale was announced, I wasn’t too interested. My friend is a huge fan, though, and wanted me to check it out. Well, it was streaming on iTunes Radio the week prior to it coming out, and I gave it a quick spin to see how I felt about it. I did like the album, but to be honest, I didn’t see myself going back to it. There was a special coupon the band was offering to get the album for even cheaper at Best Buy, and for a cheap price, I couldn’t say no, especially if I liked it, so I gave it one more spin to see if I was into it. Obviously, I must have heard it again if I’m writing this review, so the question is, did I like it enough to get a copy? Well, no, not really. The thing is, this album isn’t bad, per se, it’s just not that interesting. Going into this LP, I was told that there would be more rapping and more hip-hop elements on this record, but right off the bat, there was barely any of that. It’s a pretty straightforward album, and while that’s not a bad thing if it’s done well, hard-rock is one of those genres where having a straightforward sound can either work against you or to your advantage. And unfortunately for me, TFK is one of those bands where it just doesn’t work.  This album is split into two categories – “heavy” songs with aggressive guitar riffs that dominate the track or “soft” tracks that serve as ballads usually. I really liked The End Is Where We Begin for its variety, but the thing that kills me in regards to this LP is its total lack of variety. There are some subtle nuances, such as lead single “Born This Way” having a southern-rock sound to it, which is easily one of the most memorable tracks, and McNevan does rap on a few tracks, but it’s more of a nu-metal sound, rather than hip-hop. And like I said, the band just doesn’t work for me when they’re being a straightforward alt-rock, hard-rock, or radio-rock band. They’re just somewhat boring. The lyrics are pretty bland at various moments, albeit written somewhat well, and relatable to an extent, they just don’t do much for me. I never really enjoyed the band’s lyrics too much, and even the instrumentation feels the same. It’s done well, sure, but still not that interesting. The songs have a similar formula to them, and it just wears thin. The only thing that really keeps this album afloat for me is McNevan himself, at least his performance vocally. His lyrics are decent, but his vocals were always what stuck out to me. His vocals are phenomenal, but the thing is, I wouldn’t get a copy of this LP just for his vocals alone. There’s gotta be something more, but there isn’t. This is an example of an LP that I want to like more than I do. I really want to like this album much more, but I just find it decent, I suppose. If anything, this album is rather underwhelming. Not to say that I was expecting a great record to blow me away, I was hoping for something interesting, and engaging, but this really isn’t. This a pretty standard hard-rock record with some nu-metal influence, and if that’s what you enjoy, you’ll like this fine, but if you’re like me and prefer hard-rock or even just music itself with a bit more variety to it, look elsewhere. It’s worth a listen, for sure, but it’s not a record that I’d run out and buy. Overall rating: 7.8/10
-Bradley

Thousand Foot Krutch – Oxygen: Inhale
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: August 26 2014

Each one of us has our own unique music taste, and honestly, no two persons’ tastes are going be completely the same. We all listen to different music, so no two people will listen to the exact same things, at least down to a tee. You may like the same kinds of bands as somebody, but your tastes won’t be completely the same, thanks to a bunch of different variables, such as how many bands/artists you’ve heard, what your favorites are, what your least favorites are, etc, etc. For instance, I love pop-punk and I have friends who enjoy it as well, but I really don’t like a lot of the bands those friends do. That doesn’t mean their taste is any more or less valid than mine, because as the Nostalgia Critic once said, it doesn’t matter what you like, it’s just how well you can explain your liking for it. In other words, you can have a genre or two in common, but either listen to totally different artists/bands in the genre, and/or have completely different opinions on said artists/bands. A lot of the time, however, your friends can really shape what you listen to. That’s not to say people listen to things because it’s cool or their friends like it, but sometimes, you can be turned onto a record or band, thanks to a friend’s suggestion. And honestly, word of mouth promotion is fantastic. But what happens when you have friends who listen to different kinds of music? Even if you’re suggested something from someone that you’re not sure you’ll enjoy very much, it’s always best giving it a shot. My taste has been built from giving things a random chance, and look where it’s gotten me.

Last year, I made a friend, who is frankly my best friend, who really enjoys hard-rock, and modern-rock. There’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but it’s interesting, just because I never listened to that stuff. In the last eight years I’ve been into music, that kind of music is one genre that I’ve never really touched. Of course, I’ve heard of bands within the genre, just never listened to them. And because I met him, he always suggests bands for me to listen to, and heck, has even sent me some albums from bands he enjoys in the genre. I did find a few gems in the genre, but overall, I really cannot say I’m hugely into this stuff. I do enjoy it somewhat, but not enough to tickle any kind of fancy. One band that really stuck out to me was Canadian trio Thousand Foot Krutch. In fact, he sent me a copy of the band’s 2012 record, The End Is Where We Begin, because he had an extra one. I did end up enjoying that album a lot, but for reasons that I enjoy a lot of records – it was unique, kept my attention, didn’t get boring, and it was just really enjoyable. See, TFK are an interesting band. While I don’t care for the genre much, they have a hip-hop/rap edge to them, so to speak. As in, vocalist Trevor McNevan raps at various points in the record, and aside from being a stellar vocalist, he’s also a decent rapper. I really enjoyed that aspect to their sound, because it made them stick out more than being a boring radio-rock band with a good vocalist.

The thing is, I can’t say I was too interested in hearing their other work, so when sixth album, Oxygen: Inhale was announced, I wasn’t too interested. My friend is a huge fan, though, and wanted me to check it out. Well, it was streaming on iTunes Radio the week prior to it coming out, and I gave it a quick spin to see how I felt about it. I did like the album, but to be honest, I didn’t see myself going back to it. There was a special coupon the band was offering to get the album for even cheaper at Best Buy, and for a cheap price, I couldn’t say no, especially if I liked it, so I gave it one more spin to see if I was into it. Obviously, I must have heard it again if I’m writing this review, so the question is, did I like it enough to get a copy? Well, no, not really. The thing is, this album isn’t bad, per se, it’s just not that interesting. Going into this LP, I was told that there would be more rapping and more hip-hop elements on this record, but right off the bat, there was barely any of that. It’s a pretty straightforward album, and while that’s not a bad thing if it’s done well, hard-rock is one of those genres where having a straightforward sound can either work against you or to your advantage. And unfortunately for me, TFK is one of those bands where it just doesn’t work.

This album is split into two categories – “heavy” songs with aggressive guitar riffs that dominate the track or “soft” tracks that serve as ballads usually. I really liked The End Is Where We Begin for its variety, but the thing that kills me in regards to this LP is its total lack of variety. There are some subtle nuances, such as lead single “Born This Way” having a southern-rock sound to it, which is easily one of the most memorable tracks, and McNevan does rap on a few tracks, but it’s more of a nu-metal sound, rather than hip-hop. And like I said, the band just doesn’t work for me when they’re being a straightforward alt-rock, hard-rock, or radio-rock band. They’re just somewhat boring. The lyrics are pretty bland at various moments, albeit written somewhat well, and relatable to an extent, they just don’t do much for me. I never really enjoyed the band’s lyrics too much, and even the instrumentation feels the same. It’s done well, sure, but still not that interesting. The songs have a similar formula to them, and it just wears thin. The only thing that really keeps this album afloat for me is McNevan himself, at least his performance vocally. His lyrics are decent, but his vocals were always what stuck out to me. His vocals are phenomenal, but the thing is, I wouldn’t get a copy of this LP just for his vocals alone. There’s gotta be something more, but there isn’t. This is an example of an LP that I want to like more than I do. I really want to like this album much more, but I just find it decent, I suppose. If anything, this album is rather underwhelming. Not to say that I was expecting a great record to blow me away, I was hoping for something interesting, and engaging, but this really isn’t. This a pretty standard hard-rock record with some nu-metal influence, and if that’s what you enjoy, you’ll like this fine, but if you’re like me and prefer hard-rock or even just music itself with a bit more variety to it, look elsewhere. It’s worth a listen, for sure, but it’s not a record that I’d run out and buy.

Overall rating: 7.8/10

-Bradley

September 2014
07
Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten Record Label: Topshelf / Count Your Lucky Stars Release Date: August 19 2014 In a review of Florida singer-songwriter Chuck Ragan (also the frontman of punk group Hot Water Music)’s debut solo LP, Feast or Famine, I open the review talking about how there are some genres I just don’t care for, and one of those is the singer-songwriter genre. No, I didn’t go into the record and/or review wanting to tear it apart, to which I’ve seen critics do, and it’s not pretty. If anything, it makes your review a little less credible by not giving an album its day in court, essentially. But instead, I talk about how there are exceptions to my taste, basically. I may not care for a whole genre, but that doesn’t mean I won’t listen to any albums in said genre that come my way that may be interesting. Feast or Famine was certainly one of them. I don’t love the album, really, but it was quite enjoyable. The same feelings I have towards the singer-songwriter genre, I also have towards “emo” music. No, I’m not talking about bands like Sleeping With Sirens, and Pierce the Veil that are somehow considered “emo,” but bands like Jawbreaker, Jimmy Eat World, Piebald, The World Is a Beautiful Place and I am Afraid to Die, American Football, Mineral, and groups like that. I’m certainly not one to usually say what is and isn’t “real music,” unless it’s really extreme, like calling Mumford & Sons death metal or something to that effect. Calling a band like Sleeping With Sirens “emo” is a bit of an insult to the actual genre, I think.

Anyhow, I’ve just never been a big fan of that kind of music. And I don’t really know why. Is that I’ve just never listened to much of it? Well, no, I’ve listened to a handful, including records by Jawbreaker, Jimmy Eat World, and Piebald. They’re all fine bands, but I just never got into the genre as a whole. With that being said, I don’t know what compelled me to listen to Michigan duo Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)’s sophomore record, You Will Eventually Be Forgotten, but maybe it’s because the band’s label, the self-created Count Your Lucky Stars Records, had the album for pre-order on their Bandcamp page for only $5 until the day it came out. I decided to take advantage of that, since I’ve always wanted to hear a full album by them. I’ve heard of them for quite a long time, but just never have listened to them too much. Well, I got an email to download the record when it came out on Tuesday, so when I got home from work that day, I downloaded the record and gave it a listen. I’ve given it a handful of spins since, so what do I think about it?

Well, honestly, I can’t say I dig this LP all that much. Okay, let me explain what I mean, because there’s a lot more to the story. It’s not that I straight up dislike this thing, but there’s a reason why I’m not really into emo music. And this LP really showcases it. I guess it’s not that I dislike genre as a whole, but I like certain aspects of it. If anything, I really enjoy the instrumentation. I do like how quiet and somber this genre of music is, but it seems like this kind of music is only really meant to be listened to when you’re in a certain kind of mood. Because I’ve been in a really uplifting and good mood lately, I’m not necessarily in the mood to listen to this LP. The instrumentation does sound quite nice, but it’s so slow-moving and kind of drags on a bit after awhile. The album is only 38 minutes, so it’s not very long, per se, but the songs just sound the same to me, and I have a hard time really getting into any of them. The main reason for that are the vocals. I really like the instrumentation of this record, having very jangly guitar tones that are rather beautiful and really pleasant to listen to, but the vocals just drive me nuts. I never liked “whiny” vocals all that much, and the vocals on here are rather grating to listen to. I just don’t care for the vocals whatsoever, and it’s a shame because I want to like this album more than I do. It’s not bad whatsoever, and I’m glad I listened to it, but this album was kind of a let down. On the brightside, I do know one thing – this genre isn’t necessarily for me. If you love emo music, you’ll probably like this fine. It’s a solid album for what it is, and I can appreciate its existence, but it’s ultimately not for me. Overall rating: 7.5/10
-Bradley

Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten
Record Label: Topshelf / Count Your Lucky Stars
Release Date: August 19 2014

In a review of Florida singer-songwriter Chuck Ragan (also the frontman of punk group Hot Water Music)’s debut solo LP, Feast or Famine, I open the review talking about how there are some genres I just don’t care for, and one of those is the singer-songwriter genre. No, I didn’t go into the record and/or review wanting to tear it apart, to which I’ve seen critics do, and it’s not pretty. If anything, it makes your review a little less credible by not giving an album its day in court, essentially. But instead, I talk about how there are exceptions to my taste, basically. I may not care for a whole genre, but that doesn’t mean I won’t listen to any albums in said genre that come my way that may be interesting. Feast or Famine was certainly one of them. I don’t love the album, really, but it was quite enjoyable. The same feelings I have towards the singer-songwriter genre, I also have towards “emo” music. No, I’m not talking about bands like Sleeping With Sirens, and Pierce the Veil that are somehow considered “emo,” but bands like Jawbreaker, Jimmy Eat World, Piebald, The World Is a Beautiful Place and I am Afraid to Die, American Football, Mineral, and groups like that. I’m certainly not one to usually say what is and isn’t “real music,” unless it’s really extreme, like calling Mumford & Sons death metal or something to that effect. Calling a band like Sleeping With Sirens “emo” is a bit of an insult to the actual genre, I think.

Anyhow, I’ve just never been a big fan of that kind of music. And I don’t really know why. Is that I’ve just never listened to much of it? Well, no, I’ve listened to a handful, including records by Jawbreaker, Jimmy Eat World, and Piebald. They’re all fine bands, but I just never got into the genre as a whole. With that being said, I don’t know what compelled me to listen to Michigan duo Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)’s sophomore record, You Will Eventually Be Forgotten, but maybe it’s because the band’s label, the self-created Count Your Lucky Stars Records, had the album for pre-order on their Bandcamp page for only $5 until the day it came out. I decided to take advantage of that, since I’ve always wanted to hear a full album by them. I’ve heard of them for quite a long time, but just never have listened to them too much. Well, I got an email to download the record when it came out on Tuesday, so when I got home from work that day, I downloaded the record and gave it a listen. I’ve given it a handful of spins since, so what do I think about it?

Well, honestly, I can’t say I dig this LP all that much. Okay, let me explain what I mean, because there’s a lot more to the story. It’s not that I straight up dislike this thing, but there’s a reason why I’m not really into emo music. And this LP really showcases it. I guess it’s not that I dislike genre as a whole, but I like certain aspects of it. If anything, I really enjoy the instrumentation. I do like how quiet and somber this genre of music is, but it seems like this kind of music is only really meant to be listened to when you’re in a certain kind of mood. Because I’ve been in a really uplifting and good mood lately, I’m not necessarily in the mood to listen to this LP. The instrumentation does sound quite nice, but it’s so slow-moving and kind of drags on a bit after awhile. The album is only 38 minutes, so it’s not very long, per se, but the songs just sound the same to me, and I have a hard time really getting into any of them. The main reason for that are the vocals. I really like the instrumentation of this record, having very jangly guitar tones that are rather beautiful and really pleasant to listen to, but the vocals just drive me nuts. I never liked “whiny” vocals all that much, and the vocals on here are rather grating to listen to. I just don’t care for the vocals whatsoever, and it’s a shame because I want to like this album more than I do. It’s not bad whatsoever, and I’m glad I listened to it, but this album was kind of a let down. On the brightside, I do know one thing – this genre isn’t necessarily for me. If you love emo music, you’ll probably like this fine. It’s a solid album for what it is, and I can appreciate its existence, but it’s ultimately not for me.

Overall rating: 7.5/10

-Bradley

September 2014
07
Driver Friendly – Unimagined Bridges Record Label: Hopeless Records Release Date: July 15 2014 The concept of “hype” is something I’ve written about, and how it can affect expectations and reactions on records. In the pop-punk scene, there aren’t many bands in the forefront who are really carrying the torch the genre. I mean, I get that bands like Real Friends, and Man Overboard have their fans, but they just don’t appeal to a guy like me, who wants grit, substance, and something different. That’s why it bums me out how these bands are at the forefront, while bands like Fireworks, Transit, and Balance & Composure are just hiding in the background. With that being said, when a “new” pop-punk band comes around and stirs up a lot of hype, I perk up like my cat when he sees ham or chicken. This “new” band I’m talking about is Texas pop-rock/pop-punk outfit, Driver Friendly. Despite being around for the last 12 years, they didn’t release any music until 2006, and even then, they didn’t really get noticed until 2012, when the band got signed to esteemed record label, Hopeless Records. You know, the home of bands like The Used, Taking Back Sunday, Bayside, and The Wonder Years. When you’re signed to Hopeless, that’s a pretty big deal. The band released an EP last year, but I never got the chance to listen to it. I was going to, but I ended up having too much, so I wanted to listen to the band’s debut record, Unimagined Bridges. Frankly, the album title makes me think of 2013’s Unimagine by Hands Like Houses, even though they’re totally different bands in totally different genres. It took a few weeks, but I finally ordered a copy of the record, and have spent some time with it. The question is, how is it? If I could express the motion or act of sighing in a review, I’d do it right now. Heck, just imagine me sighing, because this is one of those records that I just have mixed feelings on. On one hand, I really don’t think this band is worth all of the hype that they’ve been getting for themselves, but on another hand, I do hear potential. It’s not that I even dislike this record. On the contrary, I do enjoy it, just not as much as I was hoping. There’s a lot on this LP that I just don’t really care for. If anything, I just find a majority of this album decent. The thing is, this band isn’t generic, and that’s why I hear some potential. The thing that really works for me is the band’s sound. Their brand of pop-rock meets pop-rock is really interesting. The instrumentation never really goes one way or the other; there are some tracks with a pop-punk influence, but others with a pop-rock influence. Heck, on the lead single “Stand So Tall,” there’s an appearance from The Wonder Years’ frontman Dan Campbell, so that means they have some pop-punk cred, right? All jokes aside, their sound is what I do enjoy about this album. Going beyond that, I also really enjoy the songwriting at various points, specifically the hooks and choruses. Songs like “What a Predicament!,” “Stand So Tall,” “Bad Way,” and “Deconstruct You” all have very nice hooks, and even if I’m not really into the song as a whole, or certain parts of it, I do like the choruses. The choruses on this LP are very catchy, surprisingly. And that’s one thing that pop-punk lacks at times – catchy hooks. It can be loud and fast, but also be melodic and catchy. I gotta give credit to where credit is due: this band does a good job of that.

Unfortunately, the only thing that really works for me is the band’s sound. Everything else just doesn’t do anything for me. Vocalist Tyler Welsh is a big reason as to why I’m just not into this as I want to be. It’s nothing against him personally, such as he’s a bad guy or anything, but I don’t really find his voice that interesting. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s also quite weak. Compared to the very wonderful instrumentation, his vocals are just lackluster. His voice isn’t generic, unlike Dan Lambton of Real Friends, but he has his own sound. I can commend him for that, but Welsh’s voice just doesn’t do anything for me. It’s a personal preference thing, but I just find his voice kind of lackluster. His voice isn’t as powerful as one would expect. He doesn’t really have much of a range, but like I said, the choruses on this album are quite good, surprisingly. Not to mention, the lyrics on this record are also really lackluster. There isn’t really a moment on here that I liked or remembered. A lot of it just really blends together, but I will admit that “Stand So Tall” is a track with lyrics I do like. It’s just about standing tall during times of strife, and I enjoy those themes a lot. But other than that, there really isn’t a single moment on this LP that I remember lyrically. The album’s lyrics aren’t too interesting, and because of the vocals being lackluster and the lyrics not being memorable, I don’t find myself really wanting to revisit this LP that often. I do think this band has a lot of potential, however. Hopeless wouldn’t have signed them if they didn’t, but I just don’t see what’s so great about this group. Sure, I like them, but I don’t love them, either. They just don’t have that “oomph” that I look for. The only thing that’s really worthwhile here is the instrumentation, which is a bit different for a pop-punk record. Other than that, I find myself slightly bored listening to this album. Not because it lacks energy, and there’s a lot of it, but there’s nothing too interesting, or memorable, especially in the lyrics, which is a driving focus of pop-punk. Nonetheless, this band does have their appeal. If you like pop-punk with more “pop” and less “punk,” you’ll like them, for sure. I can sort of overlook the vocals, but the more I listen to the record, the more I realize that what’s keeping me from loving this album are the vocals and lyrics. They’re just a bit too lackluster and weak for my tastes, but they’re a band that I would say I at least like. There’s nothing god awful or offensive about this record, so it’s worth a handful of listens, at least. It’s just nothing that I’m really all that impressed by, at least only impressed to a degree. Overall rating: 8.3/10
-Bradley

Driver Friendly – Unimagined Bridges
Record Label: Hopeless Records
Release Date: July 15 2014

The concept of “hype” is something I’ve written about, and how it can affect expectations and reactions on records. In the pop-punk scene, there aren’t many bands in the forefront who are really carrying the torch the genre. I mean, I get that bands like Real Friends, and Man Overboard have their fans, but they just don’t appeal to a guy like me, who wants grit, substance, and something different. That’s why it bums me out how these bands are at the forefront, while bands like Fireworks, Transit, and Balance & Composure are just hiding in the background. With that being said, when a “new” pop-punk band comes around and stirs up a lot of hype, I perk up like my cat when he sees ham or chicken. This “new” band I’m talking about is Texas pop-rock/pop-punk outfit, Driver Friendly. Despite being around for the last 12 years, they didn’t release any music until 2006, and even then, they didn’t really get noticed until 2012, when the band got signed to esteemed record label, Hopeless Records. You know, the home of bands like The Used, Taking Back Sunday, Bayside, and The Wonder Years. When you’re signed to Hopeless, that’s a pretty big deal. The band released an EP last year, but I never got the chance to listen to it. I was going to, but I ended up having too much, so I wanted to listen to the band’s debut record, Unimagined Bridges. Frankly, the album title makes me think of 2013’s Unimagine by Hands Like Houses, even though they’re totally different bands in totally different genres. It took a few weeks, but I finally ordered a copy of the record, and have spent some time with it. The question is, how is it?

If I could express the motion or act of sighing in a review, I’d do it right now. Heck, just imagine me sighing, because this is one of those records that I just have mixed feelings on. On one hand, I really don’t think this band is worth all of the hype that they’ve been getting for themselves, but on another hand, I do hear potential. It’s not that I even dislike this record. On the contrary, I do enjoy it, just not as much as I was hoping. There’s a lot on this LP that I just don’t really care for. If anything, I just find a majority of this album decent. The thing is, this band isn’t generic, and that’s why I hear some potential. The thing that really works for me is the band’s sound. Their brand of pop-rock meets pop-rock is really interesting. The instrumentation never really goes one way or the other; there are some tracks with a pop-punk influence, but others with a pop-rock influence. Heck, on the lead single “Stand So Tall,” there’s an appearance from The Wonder Years’ frontman Dan Campbell, so that means they have some pop-punk cred, right? All jokes aside, their sound is what I do enjoy about this album. Going beyond that, I also really enjoy the songwriting at various points, specifically the hooks and choruses. Songs like “What a Predicament!,” “Stand So Tall,” “Bad Way,” and “Deconstruct You” all have very nice hooks, and even if I’m not really into the song as a whole, or certain parts of it, I do like the choruses. The choruses on this LP are very catchy, surprisingly. And that’s one thing that pop-punk lacks at times – catchy hooks. It can be loud and fast, but also be melodic and catchy. I gotta give credit to where credit is due: this band does a good job of that.

Unfortunately, the only thing that really works for me is the band’s sound. Everything else just doesn’t do anything for me. Vocalist Tyler Welsh is a big reason as to why I’m just not into this as I want to be. It’s nothing against him personally, such as he’s a bad guy or anything, but I don’t really find his voice that interesting. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s also quite weak. Compared to the very wonderful instrumentation, his vocals are just lackluster. His voice isn’t generic, unlike Dan Lambton of Real Friends, but he has his own sound. I can commend him for that, but Welsh’s voice just doesn’t do anything for me. It’s a personal preference thing, but I just find his voice kind of lackluster. His voice isn’t as powerful as one would expect. He doesn’t really have much of a range, but like I said, the choruses on this album are quite good, surprisingly. Not to mention, the lyrics on this record are also really lackluster. There isn’t really a moment on here that I liked or remembered. A lot of it just really blends together, but I will admit that “Stand So Tall” is a track with lyrics I do like. It’s just about standing tall during times of strife, and I enjoy those themes a lot. But other than that, there really isn’t a single moment on this LP that I remember lyrically. The album’s lyrics aren’t too interesting, and because of the vocals being lackluster and the lyrics not being memorable, I don’t find myself really wanting to revisit this LP that often.

I do think this band has a lot of potential, however. Hopeless wouldn’t have signed them if they didn’t, but I just don’t see what’s so great about this group. Sure, I like them, but I don’t love them, either. They just don’t have that “oomph” that I look for. The only thing that’s really worthwhile here is the instrumentation, which is a bit different for a pop-punk record. Other than that, I find myself slightly bored listening to this album. Not because it lacks energy, and there’s a lot of it, but there’s nothing too interesting, or memorable, especially in the lyrics, which is a driving focus of pop-punk. Nonetheless, this band does have their appeal. If you like pop-punk with more “pop” and less “punk,” you’ll like them, for sure. I can sort of overlook the vocals, but the more I listen to the record, the more I realize that what’s keeping me from loving this album are the vocals and lyrics. They’re just a bit too lackluster and weak for my tastes, but they’re a band that I would say I at least like. There’s nothing god awful or offensive about this record, so it’s worth a handful of listens, at least. It’s just nothing that I’m really all that impressed by, at least only impressed to a degree.

Overall rating: 8.3/10

-Bradley

September 2014
07
Chuck Ragan – Feast or Famine Record Label: SideOneDummy / No Idea Release Date: August 7 2007 I’ve been a music critic, reviewer, or whatever you wish to call it, for the last few years now. At least, that’s when I started taking it much more seriously, and reviewing new releases, or just whatever albums I find. In that time, I’ve learned to be confident about my opinions, and express them no matter how “popular” or “unpopular” they may be. For example, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m slowly getting more into county music. At least, the country-pop side to it. On the flip side, I’m also more in touch with my music taste. Over the last seven years I’ve been into music, I know what I like, and I know what I don’t like. When you really pick an album apart, and listen to it in depth, you can really find what you don’t like about it. Is it the vocals, lyrics, instrumentation, or just something about it, whether it’s the sound, its length, etc, etc? As a critic, that’s what I do. I point out things that I like and don’t like in albums, or just in general. I talk about things I like, I dislike, or just find okay, whether it’s records, artists, bands, or even genres. It’s certainly possible to be a music fan, meaning you enjoy all kinds of music, but not be into certain genres.

For example, one genre that I don’t really care for is folk/acoustic music. I’ve never really liked acoustic versions of songs, unless they’re done well or interestingly, and folk music is the same way for me. Only a few folk albums I really enjoy, but other than that, the genre just bores me to tears most of the time. That’s a personal preference, of course, so not everyone will think the way I do, but over the years, I’ve learned that I just don’t care for most of it. What I also have learned is that there exceptions. Even in genres that I don’t normally enjoy, there are good records/bands in it. The folk/acoustic albums I really enjoy are those exceptions. Two folk records that I’ve heard this year are considered exceptions, those being Front Porch Step’s Aware and Chuck Ragan’s Feast or Famine, the latter being the subject of the review, if you haven’t figured that out yet. Front Porch Step has been making waves in the pop-punk scene, despite being an acoustic solo project, of all things. The thing is, Front Porch Step has a pop-punk influence, and ultimately, Front Porch Step’s sound is just pop-punk done acoustically. And if you like acoustic versions of pop-punk songs, you’ll love Front Porch Step.

The latter record, however, is a bit different. You may know Chuck Ragan as the frontman of punk outfit Hot Water Music. Just a couple days to writing this review, Ragan posted a photo of his bandmates on his Facebook page, saying that it’s been 20 years since Hot Water Music got together. How crazy is that? They’ve been around for 20 years, but I digress. Ragan’s inevitable solo career began in 2007 with the release of debut record, Feast or Famine. I’ll admit that I’m not too into familiar with Hot Water Music, even though I do have a copy of 2012’s Exister, and the album is pretty good. It still holds up a couple years later, but I never got a chance to get into their stuff even more. But for the last few weeks, I’ve seen Feast of Famine in my local FYE store, and being rather curious about it. I looked up the album when I got home one day, and thought about giving it a shot. It could be something I enjoy, so last week, I decided to buy it, and give it a listen. With that being said, what did I think?

Well, Feast or Famine was a wonderful surprise. Despite being a debut record, it’s still very impressive. I do have some slight problems with the LP, but let’s talk about what works first. And that’s pretty simple, Ragan himself, and the instrumentation. Ragan is one of those vocalists who has a very gruff and “manly” kind of voice. That sounds stupid, but he reminds me a lot of vocalists like Bruce Springsteen and Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem. In fact, Ragan brought Fallon out for his annual acoustic tour a few years back. It makes sense why, because they both sound similar. I would say that Fallon has a “better” voice, but Ragan is good, too. And it’s interesting to hear him on an acoustic, folk, and even alt-country album. He sounds a lot less throaty and his vocals have some room to breathe and room for some melodic. I wouldn’t say Ragan’s vocals are amazing or great, but they’re enjoyable, to say the least. He can definitely carry a record like this. It’s softer, more subdued, but still interesting and enjoyable to listen to. The instrumentation is also very interesting on this LP. As I said, it’s a folk, alt-country, and acoustic record. But instead of just having an acoustic guitar, there are a few other things. Ragan channels his inner Bob Dylan at some points to include a harmonica (which does sound great), and a fiddle. There is a nice amount of variety in the instrumentation, so I can sort of get into this. At least it’s a little bit different than every other folk album I’ve heard, whether it’s for Ragan himself or the instrumentation. There’s only one major problem I have with this LP, and it’s the lyrics. It’s not that they’re awful, but they’re boring. To put it bluntly, these lyrics are boring. There are very moments on this LP that I connected or enjoyed lyrically. It’s really bland, and does nothing for me. I just can’t get into the lyrics and that’s what prevents me from really enjoying this record. Again, they aren’t bad, but just rather boring. I do have a couple more nitpicks with the LP, one of which I’ve already mentioned, how Ragan’s voice isn’t necessarily great, but his voice is unique enough to carry the record. My other nitpick is something about the instrumentation. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy it, and while there is some variety, it just seems to switch between a few different things, such as the harmonica, and fiddle. Having that variety is nice, but the album seems to have a formula running through it, and being that it’s around 45 minutes (the last track is around 11 minutes, and the last seven minutes of it is just ocean waves crashing on a beach), that’s a bit too much. The variety is there, and I do applaud it, but the songs just seem to recycle themselves at times. A lot of it does sound the same, which is an oxymoron, I know. It’s got an enjoyable sound, and I do like that aspect of it, but the album does wear thin with more listens. Not totally thin, as I do enjoy it, and it’s an interesting record, but when you really pick it apart, the album just has a formula to it that will either work or it won’t, depending on your preferences.


And for me, it kind of works, because everything is rather well written, except the lyrics that bore me to tears, but it just sounds similar throughout the record. No matter what, I’m glad I gave this album a chance, because exceptions do exist. And this record is one of them. Is the best record I’ve ever heard? No, not really, and it’s not even the folk album I’ve heard, but this is Ragan’s debut, so it makes sense that it’s still a bit rough around the edges. I have really wanted to give his other records a shot, and even listen to some Hot Water Music albums. I did like Exister, but I never listened to their other albums, so I really need to get on that at some point. In the meantime, if you do enjoy folk/acoustic music, or even country/alt-country, you certainly may enjoy this as well. Overall rating: 8.8/10
-Bradley

Chuck Ragan – Feast or Famine
Record Label: SideOneDummy / No Idea
Release Date: August 7 2007

I’ve been a music critic, reviewer, or whatever you wish to call it, for the last few years now. At least, that’s when I started taking it much more seriously, and reviewing new releases, or just whatever albums I find. In that time, I’ve learned to be confident about my opinions, and express them no matter how “popular” or “unpopular” they may be. For example, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m slowly getting more into county music. At least, the country-pop side to it. On the flip side, I’m also more in touch with my music taste. Over the last seven years I’ve been into music, I know what I like, and I know what I don’t like. When you really pick an album apart, and listen to it in depth, you can really find what you don’t like about it. Is it the vocals, lyrics, instrumentation, or just something about it, whether it’s the sound, its length, etc, etc? As a critic, that’s what I do. I point out things that I like and don’t like in albums, or just in general. I talk about things I like, I dislike, or just find okay, whether it’s records, artists, bands, or even genres. It’s certainly possible to be a music fan, meaning you enjoy all kinds of music, but not be into certain genres.

For example, one genre that I don’t really care for is folk/acoustic music. I’ve never really liked acoustic versions of songs, unless they’re done well or interestingly, and folk music is the same way for me. Only a few folk albums I really enjoy, but other than that, the genre just bores me to tears most of the time. That’s a personal preference, of course, so not everyone will think the way I do, but over the years, I’ve learned that I just don’t care for most of it. What I also have learned is that there exceptions. Even in genres that I don’t normally enjoy, there are good records/bands in it. The folk/acoustic albums I really enjoy are those exceptions. Two folk records that I’ve heard this year are considered exceptions, those being Front Porch Step’s Aware and Chuck Ragan’s Feast or Famine, the latter being the subject of the review, if you haven’t figured that out yet. Front Porch Step has been making waves in the pop-punk scene, despite being an acoustic solo project, of all things. The thing is, Front Porch Step has a pop-punk influence, and ultimately, Front Porch Step’s sound is just pop-punk done acoustically. And if you like acoustic versions of pop-punk songs, you’ll love Front Porch Step.

The latter record, however, is a bit different. You may know Chuck Ragan as the frontman of punk outfit Hot Water Music. Just a couple days to writing this review, Ragan posted a photo of his bandmates on his Facebook page, saying that it’s been 20 years since Hot Water Music got together. How crazy is that? They’ve been around for 20 years, but I digress. Ragan’s inevitable solo career began in 2007 with the release of debut record, Feast or Famine. I’ll admit that I’m not too into familiar with Hot Water Music, even though I do have a copy of 2012’s Exister, and the album is pretty good. It still holds up a couple years later, but I never got a chance to get into their stuff even more. But for the last few weeks, I’ve seen Feast of Famine in my local FYE store, and being rather curious about it. I looked up the album when I got home one day, and thought about giving it a shot. It could be something I enjoy, so last week, I decided to buy it, and give it a listen. With that being said, what did I think?

Well, Feast or Famine was a wonderful surprise. Despite being a debut record, it’s still very impressive. I do have some slight problems with the LP, but let’s talk about what works first. And that’s pretty simple, Ragan himself, and the instrumentation. Ragan is one of those vocalists who has a very gruff and “manly” kind of voice. That sounds stupid, but he reminds me a lot of vocalists like Bruce Springsteen and Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem. In fact, Ragan brought Fallon out for his annual acoustic tour a few years back. It makes sense why, because they both sound similar. I would say that Fallon has a “better” voice, but Ragan is good, too. And it’s interesting to hear him on an acoustic, folk, and even alt-country album. He sounds a lot less throaty and his vocals have some room to breathe and room for some melodic. I wouldn’t say Ragan’s vocals are amazing or great, but they’re enjoyable, to say the least. He can definitely carry a record like this. It’s softer, more subdued, but still interesting and enjoyable to listen to. The instrumentation is also very interesting on this LP. As I said, it’s a folk, alt-country, and acoustic record. But instead of just having an acoustic guitar, there are a few other things. Ragan channels his inner Bob Dylan at some points to include a harmonica (which does sound great), and a fiddle. There is a nice amount of variety in the instrumentation, so I can sort of get into this. At least it’s a little bit different than every other folk album I’ve heard, whether it’s for Ragan himself or the instrumentation.

There’s only one major problem I have with this LP, and it’s the lyrics. It’s not that they’re awful, but they’re boring. To put it bluntly, these lyrics are boring. There are very moments on this LP that I connected or enjoyed lyrically. It’s really bland, and does nothing for me. I just can’t get into the lyrics and that’s what prevents me from really enjoying this record. Again, they aren’t bad, but just rather boring. I do have a couple more nitpicks with the LP, one of which I’ve already mentioned, how Ragan’s voice isn’t necessarily great, but his voice is unique enough to carry the record. My other nitpick is something about the instrumentation. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy it, and while there is some variety, it just seems to switch between a few different things, such as the harmonica, and fiddle. Having that variety is nice, but the album seems to have a formula running through it, and being that it’s around 45 minutes (the last track is around 11 minutes, and the last seven minutes of it is just ocean waves crashing on a beach), that’s a bit too much. The variety is there, and I do applaud it, but the songs just seem to recycle themselves at times. A lot of it does sound the same, which is an oxymoron, I know. It’s got an enjoyable sound, and I do like that aspect of it, but the album does wear thin with more listens. Not totally thin, as I do enjoy it, and it’s an interesting record, but when you really pick it apart, the album just has a formula to it that will either work or it won’t, depending on your preferences.

And for me, it kind of works, because everything is rather well written, except the lyrics that bore me to tears, but it just sounds similar throughout the record. No matter what, I’m glad I gave this album a chance, because exceptions do exist. And this record is one of them. Is the best record I’ve ever heard? No, not really, and it’s not even the folk album I’ve heard, but this is Ragan’s debut, so it makes sense that it’s still a bit rough around the edges. I have really wanted to give his other records a shot, and even listen to some Hot Water Music albums. I did like Exister, but I never listened to their other albums, so I really need to get on that at some point. In the meantime, if you do enjoy folk/acoustic music, or even country/alt-country, you certainly may enjoy this as well.

Overall rating: 8.8/10

-Bradley

September 2014
07
Transit – Keep This to Yourself Record Label: Run for Cover Release Date: August 17 2010 I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but when talking about a band’s discography, most fans usually like the “older stuff” more. I never understood why. For instance, Chicago pop-punk turned pop-rock band Fall Out Boy is one of those bands where people seem to only like the older records, and completely disregard everything after 2007’s Infinity On High, which is my favorite LP by them, combining both a pop sensibility along with their signature pop-punk sound from their prior two albums. Is it because fans think they “sold out”? I don’t think so, considering that Infinity On High was on their major label debut. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I like the band’s newer records, because they’ve progressed as artists and musicians. Their first couple records are pretty rough around the edges, despite still being good. Don’t get me wrong, I like all of their records as well, but I just don’t understand all the hatred for their last couple records. And it seems that liking a band’s newer stuff is in the minority. Well, unfortunately, I like a lot of bands’ newer stuff more than their older stuff. A band’s newer material is usually not as shaky, immature, or rough around the edges, so to speak.  Another band that fans seem to act this way towards is fellow pop-punk band Transit. The Boston group, like FOB, has been one of my favorite bands for awhile. Only now, however, have I decided to revisit their earlier records. Even though there were only two albums I needed to revisit, not counting a few EPs (although I have heard a couple of those as well), I still wanted to listen to them. I recently revisited the band’s latest LP, Young New England, and I really liked it, so I wanted to hear their records prior to 2011’s Listen & Forgive. I started with 2011’s acoustic EP, Something Left Behind, and that EP blew me away. It was right at the time the band started to become more than just a pop-punk band, mixing in acoustic and indie-rock influences. Something Left Behind was great, but the thing is, a lot of the songs were from their older material, prior to that even. Despite not knowing the original versions, the acoustic versions were awesome. Well, the album before that, 2010’s Keep This to Yourself, was next on my list. I ordered a copy off FYE’s website, as I did with a few other albums, and I’ve spent a couple of weeks with it now. How is the album? Well, there’s a reason that I mentioned I like a band’s newer material more than their older material, because honestly, Transit is one of those bands that I feel that way about, the same with Fall Out Boy. Don’t get me wrong, Keep This To Yourself is a solid record. I do really enjoy it, but I’ll be honest right off the bat – it’s not my favorite Transit album. In fact, it’s got some huge problems, but at the same time, what works here does really work, so my feelings are slightly conflicted. I do like the album more than I don’t, but I don’t love it, either. You don’t have to love every single thing your favorite bands do, and I hope people realize that. You can be critical of your favorite bands, and you do not need to be a blinded fanboy/fangirl. Anyhow, what works about this LP is really simple – the vocals and lyrics. Vocalist Joe Boynton has always been my favorite part of this band, and that’s no exception. Heck, hearing the original versions of songs like “Please, Head North,” and “Hope This Finds You Well” is great. Even the rest of the tracks are great, mainly lyrically and vocally. I will admit that Boynton’s voice is a bit rough around the edges, so his distinct vocals don’t sound perfect, but they’re still unique and enjoyable to listen to. Every single track is a joy to listen to lyrically and vocally, and that’s the same mentality I have towards 2013’s Young New England, because while I have come around to the album, the things I like most about that are its vocals and lyrics as well. If you dig Transit’s vocals and/or lyrics, you’ll like them fine here. Nothing really has changed in that department. It’s the instrumentation where things are a bit different. See, Keep This to Yourself is just a really fascinating album. It may not be perfect, as I said, but it’s very interesting. While Listen & Forgive combined indie-rock, pop-punk, and “emo” very seamlessly, this record shows Transit at a very weird point in their career. Many times while listening to this record, I wasn’t sure if they were a pop-punk or indie-rock band. My biggest issue with this album is how inconsistent it is. Sure, it’s a Transit record, but it’s just so inconsistent with how it sounds. Some songs are pop-punk jams, such as album opener “Dear: Anyone,” “Please Head North,” and “I Was Going to Cross This Out,” while other tracks, such as the title track, “The Downsides,” and album closer, “Love, ___,” have more of an indie-rock driven sound. And honestly, it just feels awkward a lot of the time. It’s good, but at the same time, it’s not combined as seamlessly as Listen & Forgive. With that LP, they basically made that sound their own. This album feels like a strange mash-up of genres. They don’t know what kind of band they are yet, even if everything is done fine. The instrumentation is still done well, but it’s just not as interesting to listen to as Listen & Forgive or even Young New England, where they take advantage of the “pop” in pop-punk. This album just feels like they weren’t sure what they wanted to do, so they tried to throw in some indie-rock influences, and just threw it at the wall to see what stuck. It feels awkward, strange, and it doesn’t work as well as a record like Listen & Forgive. I’d be lying if I should I couldn’t see why fans would like this album a lot, or even love it, but it’s not my favorite of theirs. If you want to hear how this band sounds as a pop-punk band, however, this is actually an interesting record to listen to. It’s worth a listen, it’s just not their best record. And that makes sense; a lot of bands don’t just release their magnum opus with their first record. Ones that do never seem to live up to those expectations ever again, according to fans, and that may explain why fans of Fall Out Boy disregard their other records, considering that Take This to Your Grave is considered a pop-punk classic. In all honesty, however, I don’t think that LP is really worthwhile. It’s a basic pop-punk record that just does what it does well. It’s not necessarily generic or bland, but it’s nothing truly amazing, either. I seem to be in the minority who thinks that, but oh well. Transit is a great band, and this album is worth a listen, whether you’re a fan of pop-punk or the band in general. If you’re like me and haven’t listened to the band’s earlier work, give this a shot. Overall rating: 8.8/10
-Bradley

Transit – Keep This to Yourself
Record Label: Run for Cover
Release Date: August 17 2010

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but when talking about a band’s discography, most fans usually like the “older stuff” more. I never understood why. For instance, Chicago pop-punk turned pop-rock band Fall Out Boy is one of those bands where people seem to only like the older records, and completely disregard everything after 2007’s Infinity On High, which is my favorite LP by them, combining both a pop sensibility along with their signature pop-punk sound from their prior two albums. Is it because fans think they “sold out”? I don’t think so, considering that Infinity On High was on their major label debut. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I like the band’s newer records, because they’ve progressed as artists and musicians. Their first couple records are pretty rough around the edges, despite still being good. Don’t get me wrong, I like all of their records as well, but I just don’t understand all the hatred for their last couple records. And it seems that liking a band’s newer stuff is in the minority. Well, unfortunately, I like a lot of bands’ newer stuff more than their older stuff. A band’s newer material is usually not as shaky, immature, or rough around the edges, so to speak.

Another band that fans seem to act this way towards is fellow pop-punk band Transit. The Boston group, like FOB, has been one of my favorite bands for awhile. Only now, however, have I decided to revisit their earlier records. Even though there were only two albums I needed to revisit, not counting a few EPs (although I have heard a couple of those as well), I still wanted to listen to them. I recently revisited the band’s latest LP, Young New England, and I really liked it, so I wanted to hear their records prior to 2011’s Listen & Forgive. I started with 2011’s acoustic EP, Something Left Behind, and that EP blew me away. It was right at the time the band started to become more than just a pop-punk band, mixing in acoustic and indie-rock influences. Something Left Behind was great, but the thing is, a lot of the songs were from their older material, prior to that even. Despite not knowing the original versions, the acoustic versions were awesome. Well, the album before that, 2010’s Keep This to Yourself, was next on my list. I ordered a copy off FYE’s website, as I did with a few other albums, and I’ve spent a couple of weeks with it now. How is the album?

Well, there’s a reason that I mentioned I like a band’s newer material more than their older material, because honestly, Transit is one of those bands that I feel that way about, the same with Fall Out Boy. Don’t get me wrong, Keep This To Yourself is a solid record. I do really enjoy it, but I’ll be honest right off the bat – it’s not my favorite Transit album. In fact, it’s got some huge problems, but at the same time, what works here does really work, so my feelings are slightly conflicted. I do like the album more than I don’t, but I don’t love it, either. You don’t have to love every single thing your favorite bands do, and I hope people realize that. You can be critical of your favorite bands, and you do not need to be a blinded fanboy/fangirl. Anyhow, what works about this LP is really simple – the vocals and lyrics. Vocalist Joe Boynton has always been my favorite part of this band, and that’s no exception. Heck, hearing the original versions of songs like “Please, Head North,” and “Hope This Finds You Well” is great. Even the rest of the tracks are great, mainly lyrically and vocally. I will admit that Boynton’s voice is a bit rough around the edges, so his distinct vocals don’t sound perfect, but they’re still unique and enjoyable to listen to. Every single track is a joy to listen to lyrically and vocally, and that’s the same mentality I have towards 2013’s Young New England, because while I have come around to the album, the things I like most about that are its vocals and lyrics as well. If you dig Transit’s vocals and/or lyrics, you’ll like them fine here. Nothing really has changed in that department.

It’s the instrumentation where things are a bit different. See, Keep This to Yourself is just a really fascinating album. It may not be perfect, as I said, but it’s very interesting. While Listen & Forgive combined indie-rock, pop-punk, and “emo” very seamlessly, this record shows Transit at a very weird point in their career. Many times while listening to this record, I wasn’t sure if they were a pop-punk or indie-rock band. My biggest issue with this album is how inconsistent it is. Sure, it’s a Transit record, but it’s just so inconsistent with how it sounds. Some songs are pop-punk jams, such as album opener “Dear: Anyone,” “Please Head North,” and “I Was Going to Cross This Out,” while other tracks, such as the title track, “The Downsides,” and album closer, “Love, ___,” have more of an indie-rock driven sound. And honestly, it just feels awkward a lot of the time. It’s good, but at the same time, it’s not combined as seamlessly as Listen & Forgive. With that LP, they basically made that sound their own. This album feels like a strange mash-up of genres. They don’t know what kind of band they are yet, even if everything is done fine. The instrumentation is still done well, but it’s just not as interesting to listen to as Listen & Forgive or even Young New England, where they take advantage of the “pop” in pop-punk. This album just feels like they weren’t sure what they wanted to do, so they tried to throw in some indie-rock influences, and just threw it at the wall to see what stuck. It feels awkward, strange, and it doesn’t work as well as a record like Listen & Forgive.

I’d be lying if I should I couldn’t see why fans would like this album a lot, or even love it, but it’s not my favorite of theirs. If you want to hear how this band sounds as a pop-punk band, however, this is actually an interesting record to listen to. It’s worth a listen, it’s just not their best record. And that makes sense; a lot of bands don’t just release their magnum opus with their first record. Ones that do never seem to live up to those expectations ever again, according to fans, and that may explain why fans of Fall Out Boy disregard their other records, considering that Take This to Your Grave is considered a pop-punk classic. In all honesty, however, I don’t think that LP is really worthwhile. It’s a basic pop-punk record that just does what it does well. It’s not necessarily generic or bland, but it’s nothing truly amazing, either. I seem to be in the minority who thinks that, but oh well. Transit is a great band, and this album is worth a listen, whether you’re a fan of pop-punk or the band in general. If you’re like me and haven’t listened to the band’s earlier work, give this a shot.

Overall rating: 8.8/10

-Bradley

September 2014
05
Issues – Black Diamonds Record Label: Rise Release Date: November 13 2012 Vocalist Tyler Carter has his fair share of drama over the last few years. For a couple of years, he was the frontman of GA post-hardcore band Woe, Is Me, whose debut LP, Numbers, I really enjoy. I revisited the record earlier this year, and I still enjoy it a nice amount. In 2011, he left the band due to “creative differences,” and had plans to release a solo EP. While he’s released a few solo tracks, the plans for that got put on hold as Carter announced in early 2012 plans for a new band, called Issues, with former members of Woe, Is Me that include former harsh vocalist and former keyboardist of Woe, Is Me Michael Bohn and Ben Harris. The funny thing is, Harris left the band before the debut EP from Issues even came out. I remember when the band released their debut single, “King of Amarillo.”  What caught my attention was both Issues and Woe, Is Me released debut singles on the same day, both talking smack about the other band. This “feud” was slightly drawn out, and has since blown over, considering Woe, Is Me’s breakup.  Despite their first single from last album, Genesis, being god awful, I will admit that “King of Amarillo” was rather interesting, nonetheless. When I first heard it, I don’t remember being too into it. It came out at a time when I didn’t really like “core” music anymore. I wanted to stop listening to, in order to run away from my past, where I used to like that stuff. I’ve come around to it now, and I really enjoy Issues’ self-titled debut, even though that took some time to come around to as well. I always thought the band did have potential, thanks to Carter’s voice being great, and having an R&B sound, making his vocals stand out in the scene. I didn’t really dig the debut EP, Black Diamonds, when it came out in 2012, but ever since I listened to the self-titled, it made me more curious to revisit it. I’ve spent some time with it, so how do I feel about it now? Do I like it more or do I not care for it still? Well, like Issues’ self-titled, I do like this a bit more now. I’ve come around to it, and while there are some things I don’t like about this EP, it still holds up okay. It’s not as enjoyable as the self-titled, but what works, well, works pretty well. And the main things that work here are the instrumentation and Carter’s vocals. Carter’s vocals are the best thing and the saving grace about this band and EP. Let’s face it, if Carter wasn’t in this band, I doubt many people would care. Carter is still one of the better vocalists in the “core” music scene, and for good reason. His voice is great, and I definitely don’t mind listening to it over and over. That’s the saving grace of the EP. The sound is quite interesting, too. The band’s sound is kinda weird, as they combine nu-metal with post-hardcore and pop/R&B. And sometimes, this sound works very well, but other times, not so much. There were a few tracks on the self-titled that I didn’t care about, and the same can be said for this EP. Both the EP and the record are kind of mixed bags. You’ll enjoy it all, most of it, some of it, or not at all. I enjoy most of it, at least. Thankfully, the EP is about half the length the album was. One thing is for sure, however, most of this band’s sound really isn’t generic. At least as a whole, anyway. The pop/R&B sounds work very well for them, and thanks to Carter’s vocals, and even the nu-metal parts work somewhat. What definitely carries it is Carter’s vocals and how catchy and infections his hooks and choruses are. While the band isn’t necessarily generic, having really catchy moments on the EP really helps. I can’t quite say that the rest of the EP works too well, sadly. While Carter’s vocals are great, Bohn’s vocals always bored me. I never found him to be a great harsh vocalist. His screams aren’t bad, but just boring. They don’t get much of a reaction out of me, but I can tolerate his vocals for Carter’s, at least. There is one guest spot on the EP, and that belongs to Attila vocalist Chris “Fronz” Fronzak on the track “Love Sex Riot.” It’s not too hidden that I despite Attila, and Fronz is a god awful vocalist and lyricist. Most of Attila’s fans seem to hate mainstream hip-hop and whatnot, but they listen to Attila, that talk about drugs, booze, and sex. Logic, right? And that’s unfortunately what “Love Sex Riot” is about. It’s easily the worst song lyrically, and probably my least favorite Issues track. Seriously, look at these lyrics that Fronz “screams”: “It’s a LOVE SEX RIOT / You’re invited! / Oh, here I am to get the party popping! / Six rounds of shots and now we’re never stopping / Just close your eyes and let your fantasy play / Sex, drugs and violence is my anthem, OH!” Did you hear that? I just sighed while typing those lyrics. Thankfully, the rest of the EP isn’t that stupid, and Fronz doesn’t necessarily “ruin” the whole EP or even the song. While the lyrics are stupid beyond belief, the instrumentation isn’t half bad on that track. It’s a more R&B track, but it works decently. There are some good moments lyrically, and my two favorite tracks on this EP, “The Worst of Them” and “Princeton Avenue,” showcase how everything can come together to make a really good song. And these tracks are easily the highlights. They both have a similar sound, although the former track doesn’t really feature much screaming, allowing Carter’s vocals to really shine through. It also features lyrics about a relationship gone awry, but it’s something I can relate to quite well. It deals with Carter being with someone that keeps breaking up with him and pushing him away, only to turn around and wanting him back. It’s one of “those” kinds of relationships, and I know that very well. And in the track, Carter basically says enough is enough and says that he won’t be around anymore. The latter track is rather interesting, as it deals with Carter speaking about a man who abuses his wife and daughter, asking the listener in the chorus, “What’s a man who lays a hand on his lover and calls it tough love? What’s a man who can’t take a stand for his daughter?” One could almost wonder if Carter is speaking about his own father, but the bridge is a really nice R&B breakdown, per se, and it sounds great. As I said, this EP is a real mixed bag. It’s not necessarily anything great, but I’d say I like it a lot more than I used to. I don’t quite enjoy this more than the self-titled, but for what it is, it’s fine. If you dug the self-titled, you’ll probably like this, too. Maybe not as much, because it doesn’t really feature any standout tracks, minus the two I mentioned (“Love Sex Riot” is also sort of a standout track, but only for Fronz’s god awful screaming and lyrics). Even so, this isn’t a bad debut EP. Black Diamonds does show what the band will be capable of a year and a half later, and even if I’m not absolutely in love with it, it is a solid EP, nonetheless. If you do listen to it, and you’re not into, I couldn’t blame you, but it is still rather unique, even if there are some generic breakdowns and what have you. It’s still got enough unique flavors to make it worth multiple listens. If anything, there are very catchy moments on it, thanks to Carter that make it worth it. Heck, Carter is really the only reason to come back to this EP, and this band as a whole. That sounds mean to say, because the instrumentation is still kind of interesting, but Carter easily steals the show, and it’s clear to hear why. If you do like Tyler Carter, this is totally worth a listen. Overall rating: 7.3/10
-Bradley

Issues – Black Diamonds
Record Label: Rise
Release Date: November 13 2012

Vocalist Tyler Carter has his fair share of drama over the last few years. For a couple of years, he was the frontman of GA post-hardcore band Woe, Is Me, whose debut LP, Numbers, I really enjoy. I revisited the record earlier this year, and I still enjoy it a nice amount. In 2011, he left the band due to “creative differences,” and had plans to release a solo EP. While he’s released a few solo tracks, the plans for that got put on hold as Carter announced in early 2012 plans for a new band, called Issues, with former members of Woe, Is Me that include former harsh vocalist and former keyboardist of Woe, Is Me Michael Bohn and Ben Harris. The funny thing is, Harris left the band before the debut EP from Issues even came out. I remember when the band released their debut single, “King of Amarillo.”  What caught my attention was both Issues and Woe, Is Me released debut singles on the same day, both talking smack about the other band. This “feud” was slightly drawn out, and has since blown over, considering Woe, Is Me’s breakup.  Despite their first single from last album, Genesis, being god awful, I will admit that “King of Amarillo” was rather interesting, nonetheless. When I first heard it, I don’t remember being too into it. It came out at a time when I didn’t really like “core” music anymore. I wanted to stop listening to, in order to run away from my past, where I used to like that stuff. I’ve come around to it now, and I really enjoy Issues’ self-titled debut, even though that took some time to come around to as well. I always thought the band did have potential, thanks to Carter’s voice being great, and having an R&B sound, making his vocals stand out in the scene. I didn’t really dig the debut EP, Black Diamonds, when it came out in 2012, but ever since I listened to the self-titled, it made me more curious to revisit it. I’ve spent some time with it, so how do I feel about it now? Do I like it more or do I not care for it still?

Well, like Issues’ self-titled, I do like this a bit more now. I’ve come around to it, and while there are some things I don’t like about this EP, it still holds up okay. It’s not as enjoyable as the self-titled, but what works, well, works pretty well. And the main things that work here are the instrumentation and Carter’s vocals. Carter’s vocals are the best thing and the saving grace about this band and EP. Let’s face it, if Carter wasn’t in this band, I doubt many people would care. Carter is still one of the better vocalists in the “core” music scene, and for good reason. His voice is great, and I definitely don’t mind listening to it over and over. That’s the saving grace of the EP. The sound is quite interesting, too. The band’s sound is kinda weird, as they combine nu-metal with post-hardcore and pop/R&B. And sometimes, this sound works very well, but other times, not so much. There were a few tracks on the self-titled that I didn’t care about, and the same can be said for this EP. Both the EP and the record are kind of mixed bags. You’ll enjoy it all, most of it, some of it, or not at all. I enjoy most of it, at least. Thankfully, the EP is about half the length the album was. One thing is for sure, however, most of this band’s sound really isn’t generic. At least as a whole, anyway. The pop/R&B sounds work very well for them, and thanks to Carter’s vocals, and even the nu-metal parts work somewhat. What definitely carries it is Carter’s vocals and how catchy and infections his hooks and choruses are. While the band isn’t necessarily generic, having really catchy moments on the EP really helps.

I can’t quite say that the rest of the EP works too well, sadly. While Carter’s vocals are great, Bohn’s vocals always bored me. I never found him to be a great harsh vocalist. His screams aren’t bad, but just boring. They don’t get much of a reaction out of me, but I can tolerate his vocals for Carter’s, at least. There is one guest spot on the EP, and that belongs to Attila vocalist Chris “Fronz” Fronzak on the track “Love Sex Riot.” It’s not too hidden that I despite Attila, and Fronz is a god awful vocalist and lyricist. Most of Attila’s fans seem to hate mainstream hip-hop and whatnot, but they listen to Attila, that talk about drugs, booze, and sex. Logic, right? And that’s unfortunately what “Love Sex Riot” is about. It’s easily the worst song lyrically, and probably my least favorite Issues track. Seriously, look at these lyrics that Fronz “screams”: “It’s a LOVE SEX RIOT / You’re invited! / Oh, here I am to get the party popping! / Six rounds of shots and now we’re never stopping / Just close your eyes and let your fantasy play / Sex, drugs and violence is my anthem, OH!” Did you hear that? I just sighed while typing those lyrics. Thankfully, the rest of the EP isn’t that stupid, and Fronz doesn’t necessarily “ruin” the whole EP or even the song. While the lyrics are stupid beyond belief, the instrumentation isn’t half bad on that track. It’s a more R&B track, but it works decently.

There are some good moments lyrically, and my two favorite tracks on this EP, “The Worst of Them” and “Princeton Avenue,” showcase how everything can come together to make a really good song. And these tracks are easily the highlights. They both have a similar sound, although the former track doesn’t really feature much screaming, allowing Carter’s vocals to really shine through. It also features lyrics about a relationship gone awry, but it’s something I can relate to quite well. It deals with Carter being with someone that keeps breaking up with him and pushing him away, only to turn around and wanting him back. It’s one of “those” kinds of relationships, and I know that very well. And in the track, Carter basically says enough is enough and says that he won’t be around anymore. The latter track is rather interesting, as it deals with Carter speaking about a man who abuses his wife and daughter, asking the listener in the chorus, “What’s a man who lays a hand on his lover and calls it tough love? What’s a man who can’t take a stand for his daughter?” One could almost wonder if Carter is speaking about his own father, but the bridge is a really nice R&B breakdown, per se, and it sounds great.

As I said, this EP is a real mixed bag. It’s not necessarily anything great, but I’d say I like it a lot more than I used to. I don’t quite enjoy this more than the self-titled, but for what it is, it’s fine. If you dug the self-titled, you’ll probably like this, too. Maybe not as much, because it doesn’t really feature any standout tracks, minus the two I mentioned (“Love Sex Riot” is also sort of a standout track, but only for Fronz’s god awful screaming and lyrics). Even so, this isn’t a bad debut EP. Black Diamonds does show what the band will be capable of a year and a half later, and even if I’m not absolutely in love with it, it is a solid EP, nonetheless. If you do listen to it, and you’re not into, I couldn’t blame you, but it is still rather unique, even if there are some generic breakdowns and what have you. It’s still got enough unique flavors to make it worth multiple listens. If anything, there are very catchy moments on it, thanks to Carter that make it worth it. Heck, Carter is really the only reason to come back to this EP, and this band as a whole. That sounds mean to say, because the instrumentation is still kind of interesting, but Carter easily steals the show, and it’s clear to hear why. If you do like Tyler Carter, this is totally worth a listen.

Overall rating: 7.3/10

-Bradley

September 2014
05
Spoon – They Want My Soul Record Label: Loma Vista Release Date: August 5 2014 I reviewed The Killers’ debut LP, Hot Fuss a few weeks ago, and while I didn’t care for the album too much (minus a few aspects to it that I did like), I kept thinking as I was listening to it that indie-rock has changed a lot in the last few years. The thing is, I wouldn’t say it’s for the best. No, I’m not one of those jaded fans that misses the old days, or anything like that, but the genre has surely changed. I used to really enjoy it a few years ago, but now I hardly care about it. I have reviewed a handful of indie records this year, but in terms of new ones, I’ve only reviewed nine, not counting the album I’ll be talking about today. In other words, I’ve been looking for an indie-rock/pop album that really surprises me this year. Sadly, though, I haven’t found a record like that. Last year, the two albums that really blew me away were The 1975’s self-titled debut album, and Haim’s debut LP, Days Are Gone. Here we are, three-fourths into 2014, and no indie-rock has surprised me or did much for me. The only one that came close was Bad Suns’ debut LP, Language & Perspective, but it certainly wasn’t a masterpiece. While I do like the record, it still had some problems that really prevented me from loving it. After that, I was on the search for an indie record that I’d end up absolutely loving and spinning constantly. Well, that’s where Texas outfit Spoon comes into play.  Prior to the release of eighth album, They Want My Soul, and first for the band’s new album, Loma Vista, I was never familiar with Spoon. I’ve heard of them, but never have listened to them, unfortunately. And when the album was released, I saw plenty of critics praising the heck out of the LP. I wasn’t familiar with them, so I passed on it one morning when I went to Target. But that weekend, I decided to get it, seeing as how I didn’t have much that I wanted to listen to, and it was on sale until that day, so I thought, why not? And sometimes, those “why not” purchases are the best, because I can safely say that They Want My Soul is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year, plus the best indie album I’ve heard all year. A lot of critics are praising this LP, and add me to the list. They Want My Soul is a beautiful album for many reasons. Everything about this LP just works, whether it’s frontman Britt Daniels and his very vague but interesting lyrics to the instrumentation that has a lot of subtle nuance and hints of unique flavor. The best part is, this is my introduction to the band, and I ultimately had no idea what to expect when going into this record. What I found, however, has really blown me away. Heck, I fall in love with this album the more times I listen to it. It’s just that great. They Want My Soul is a bit of a “grower,” however; you know, the kind of record that takes a few listens to really settle and digest. At first listen, it felt a bit underwhelming, but the cleverest (Is that a word? Microsoft Word is telling me it is) thing about it is how Daniels and co. opt for the “less is more” mentality. Sometimes that’s really true, and while They Want My Soul is a bit of a “simple” LP and while songs like “Rent I Pay,” “Outlier,” and “Let Me Be Mine” are pretty straightforward tracks, they are really catchy and enjoyable to listen to. “Outlier” in particular is a really interesting song, because along with “Inside Out,” both tracks make for the most subdued or minimalistic tracks, using very quiet and almost ambient synth sounds. The former track is interesting for another reason, but I’ll get to that shortly. Another track that really sticks out to me is “Knock Knock Knock” and it’s easily one of my favorites on the LP. This song has a hip-hop beat that combines itself with an acoustic guitar riff that just sounds amazing. The song itself is quite interesting, too, but the instrumentation is really what I love about the track. Even tracks like “Rainy Taxi” and album closer “New York Kiss,” that are rather simple, also have subtle nuances to them as well. Heck, “New York Kiss” features some really odd synth lines, and make the song much more interesting. In fact, the whole LP is like that. It’s a pretty simple and straightforward indie record, but it’s filled with a lot of unique little touches that make the album fantastic. Not to mention, the songwriting itself is really solid, so even if those touches weren’t there, I’d most likely enjoy the LP anyway. Now that brings me to the vocals and lyrics, which are my favorite things about the record, hands down. Britt Daniels isn’t the most powerful vocalist I’ve ever heard, and he doesn’t really have a huge range, but he’s a really unique singer. His voice is still nice, and fits very well with the music itself. On tracks like “Inside Out,” “Do You,” “New York Kiss,” and “Knock Knock Knock” his vocal performance is fantastic. But it’s the lyrics that really sell it. The themes of this album are simple – they deal with love, and the ups and downs that come with it, and the album’s title – “they” want your soul. Who wants your soul? Well, on the title track, Daniels claims that “card sharks, street preachers, sellers, palm readers, post sermon socialites, park enchanters and skin tights” all want his soul. The song seems to talk about Daniels’ disdain for religion. He never really explains in depth what his beef with religion is, but his lyrics are quite vague. It’s the songs that deal with relationships that work a bit more for me, aside from the very vague track “Outlier,” which I mentioned earlier. That track has some of my favorite lyrics on the LP, talking about how a woman that Daniels once knew (whether it was a girlfriend or just a friend, the song never quite states it) and how she used to be part of the counterculture, but over time, she’s embraced the “mainstream” and has become everything she swore she was against. There’s even a jab at the film, Garden State, which I found rather funny. Not because I’ve seen it, but “hipsters” praise the heck out of that film, and Daniels just insults it, essentially. Another track that deviates from love and relationships is opening track, “Rent I Pay,” which has Daniels talking about how he’s entitled to success, and despite making so many records, he still has to pay rent and he’s scrimping to get by, despite being a musician. Other tracks like “Let Me Be Mine,” “Knock Knock Knock,” and the cover of “I Just Don’t Understand” do embrace the relationship topics, but at the same time, they’re done quite well. If there is one little nitpick that I do have with this album, it’s that I will admit that the most simple tracks, such as “Rent I Pay,” “Inside Out,” and a couple of others aren’t as interesting as songs like “New York Kiss” and “Knock Knock Knock.” That doesn’t mean they’re bad, and on the contrary, every song on here is great, but these tracks are just a slight bit underwhelming compared to those songs. It’s not a huge problem, or even much of a problem at all, but there are a few tracks that really don’t compare to the tracks that are really good here. Nonetheless, I do have to say that They Want My Soul is my favorite indie-rock album of this year. I’ve heard a handful, and while they were all decent or good, this one really hits it out of the park. It’s simple, but unique. It’s catchy, but full of substance. It’s got big ideas, but still subtle. It’s chock full of great songs, melodies, and lyrics that will keep you thinking. In other words, They Want My Soul is a fantastic record, and if you’re an indie-rock fan and haven’t given this thing a shot, do yourself a favor and check it out right now. You definitely won’t regret it. Overall rating: 9.5/10
-Bradley

Spoon – They Want My Soul
Record Label: Loma Vista
Release Date: August 5 2014

I reviewed The Killers’ debut LP, Hot Fuss a few weeks ago, and while I didn’t care for the album too much (minus a few aspects to it that I did like), I kept thinking as I was listening to it that indie-rock has changed a lot in the last few years. The thing is, I wouldn’t say it’s for the best. No, I’m not one of those jaded fans that misses the old days, or anything like that, but the genre has surely changed. I used to really enjoy it a few years ago, but now I hardly care about it. I have reviewed a handful of indie records this year, but in terms of new ones, I’ve only reviewed nine, not counting the album I’ll be talking about today. In other words, I’ve been looking for an indie-rock/pop album that really surprises me this year. Sadly, though, I haven’t found a record like that. Last year, the two albums that really blew me away were The 1975’s self-titled debut album, and Haim’s debut LP, Days Are Gone. Here we are, three-fourths into 2014, and no indie-rock has surprised me or did much for me. The only one that came close was Bad Suns’ debut LP, Language & Perspective, but it certainly wasn’t a masterpiece. While I do like the record, it still had some problems that really prevented me from loving it. After that, I was on the search for an indie record that I’d end up absolutely loving and spinning constantly. Well, that’s where Texas outfit Spoon comes into play.

Prior to the release of eighth album, They Want My Soul, and first for the band’s new album, Loma Vista, I was never familiar with Spoon. I’ve heard of them, but never have listened to them, unfortunately. And when the album was released, I saw plenty of critics praising the heck out of the LP. I wasn’t familiar with them, so I passed on it one morning when I went to Target. But that weekend, I decided to get it, seeing as how I didn’t have much that I wanted to listen to, and it was on sale until that day, so I thought, why not? And sometimes, those “why not” purchases are the best, because I can safely say that They Want My Soul is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year, plus the best indie album I’ve heard all year. A lot of critics are praising this LP, and add me to the list. They Want My Soul is a beautiful album for many reasons. Everything about this LP just works, whether it’s frontman Britt Daniels and his very vague but interesting lyrics to the instrumentation that has a lot of subtle nuance and hints of unique flavor. The best part is, this is my introduction to the band, and I ultimately had no idea what to expect when going into this record. What I found, however, has really blown me away. Heck, I fall in love with this album the more times I listen to it. It’s just that great.

They Want My Soul is a bit of a “grower,” however; you know, the kind of record that takes a few listens to really settle and digest. At first listen, it felt a bit underwhelming, but the cleverest (Is that a word? Microsoft Word is telling me it is) thing about it is how Daniels and co. opt for the “less is more” mentality. Sometimes that’s really true, and while They Want My Soul is a bit of a “simple” LP and while songs like “Rent I Pay,” “Outlier,” and “Let Me Be Mine” are pretty straightforward tracks, they are really catchy and enjoyable to listen to. “Outlier” in particular is a really interesting song, because along with “Inside Out,” both tracks make for the most subdued or minimalistic tracks, using very quiet and almost ambient synth sounds. The former track is interesting for another reason, but I’ll get to that shortly. Another track that really sticks out to me is “Knock Knock Knock” and it’s easily one of my favorites on the LP. This song has a hip-hop beat that combines itself with an acoustic guitar riff that just sounds amazing. The song itself is quite interesting, too, but the instrumentation is really what I love about the track. Even tracks like “Rainy Taxi” and album closer “New York Kiss,” that are rather simple, also have subtle nuances to them as well. Heck, “New York Kiss” features some really odd synth lines, and make the song much more interesting. In fact, the whole LP is like that. It’s a pretty simple and straightforward indie record, but it’s filled with a lot of unique little touches that make the album fantastic. Not to mention, the songwriting itself is really solid, so even if those touches weren’t there, I’d most likely enjoy the LP anyway.

Now that brings me to the vocals and lyrics, which are my favorite things about the record, hands down. Britt Daniels isn’t the most powerful vocalist I’ve ever heard, and he doesn’t really have a huge range, but he’s a really unique singer. His voice is still nice, and fits very well with the music itself. On tracks like “Inside Out,” “Do You,” “New York Kiss,” and “Knock Knock Knock” his vocal performance is fantastic. But it’s the lyrics that really sell it. The themes of this album are simple – they deal with love, and the ups and downs that come with it, and the album’s title – “they” want your soul. Who wants your soul? Well, on the title track, Daniels claims that “card sharks, street preachers, sellers, palm readers, post sermon socialites, park enchanters and skin tights” all want his soul. The song seems to talk about Daniels’ disdain for religion. He never really explains in depth what his beef with religion is, but his lyrics are quite vague. It’s the songs that deal with relationships that work a bit more for me, aside from the very vague track “Outlier,” which I mentioned earlier. That track has some of my favorite lyrics on the LP, talking about how a woman that Daniels once knew (whether it was a girlfriend or just a friend, the song never quite states it) and how she used to be part of the counterculture, but over time, she’s embraced the “mainstream” and has become everything she swore she was against. There’s even a jab at the film, Garden State, which I found rather funny. Not because I’ve seen it, but “hipsters” praise the heck out of that film, and Daniels just insults it, essentially. Another track that deviates from love and relationships is opening track, “Rent I Pay,” which has Daniels talking about how he’s entitled to success, and despite making so many records, he still has to pay rent and he’s scrimping to get by, despite being a musician. Other tracks like “Let Me Be Mine,” “Knock Knock Knock,” and the cover of “I Just Don’t Understand” do embrace the relationship topics, but at the same time, they’re done quite well.

If there is one little nitpick that I do have with this album, it’s that I will admit that the most simple tracks, such as “Rent I Pay,” “Inside Out,” and a couple of others aren’t as interesting as songs like “New York Kiss” and “Knock Knock Knock.” That doesn’t mean they’re bad, and on the contrary, every song on here is great, but these tracks are just a slight bit underwhelming compared to those songs. It’s not a huge problem, or even much of a problem at all, but there are a few tracks that really don’t compare to the tracks that are really good here. Nonetheless, I do have to say that They Want My Soul is my favorite indie-rock album of this year. I’ve heard a handful, and while they were all decent or good, this one really hits it out of the park. It’s simple, but unique. It’s catchy, but full of substance. It’s got big ideas, but still subtle. It’s chock full of great songs, melodies, and lyrics that will keep you thinking. In other words, They Want My Soul is a fantastic record, and if you’re an indie-rock fan and haven’t given this thing a shot, do yourself a favor and check it out right now. You definitely won’t regret it.

Overall rating: 9.5/10

-Bradley

September 2014
05
This Time Next Year – Drop Out of Life Record Label: Equal Vision Release Date: January 10 2012 It’s always exciting listening to bands or artists that you’ve wanted to listen for awhile, isn’t it? Even if it doesn’t go well, it’s still exciting to really examine why an album does or doesn’t work. Heck, that goes for any record, but it’s even more fascinating when it’s of those you’ve been excited to hear, or have wanted to hear for awhile. Just recently, I went through a huge pop-punk kick, mainly getting albums that I’ve already heard (but not for a few years) and downloading / getting albums/EPs from unknown and/or unsigned bands that aren’t very well known. I just went on another music haul recently, and in that haul, I got a couple of albums that I’ve heard before, but it’s been a few years, a new album that just came out, an album from a band that I already love that I haven’t heard yet, and an album from a band that I’ve always wanted to listen to.  Well, the band in question was CD pop-punk outfit This Time Next Year, and the band’s sophomore LP, Drop Out of Life. I’ve been getting really into the genre for the last couple of years, and this is a band that I never got around to, for whatever reason. The sad thing is, the band broke up the year I started getting into the genre, which was 2012. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing, only because if I wanted to dive into their discography, I wouldn’t have to wait for any new records to come out. I could just jump into it, which is what I did with 2012’s Drop Out of Life. I managed to get a used copy for only a few dollars off of FYE’s website, and that’s where my haul took place. I’ve had the record for a few days now, and I already have a good idea of how I feel about it. Was this worth visiting, or is This Time Next Year a band I won’t be revisiting this time, next year? All stupid puns aside, Drop Out of Life is a very fascinating album, but not for the way you, the reader, may think. It’s fascinating, because I like this album, but I don’t, at the same time. Well, maybe that’s not the right way to put it. It’s not that I dislike it, it’s just I find it rather underwhelming. On one hand, I do enjoy it, but on the other, it’s a bit disappointing. See, This Time Next Year is one of those pop-punk bands that was decent, but not really all that memorable or unique. Heck, that’s exactly how I would describe Drop Out of Life. It’s decent enough, but it’s not really memorable. And that frustrates me, because I was really excited to hear this. It’s not really a bad album, per se, it’s just kind of forgettable. Think of every single cliché of the genre that you’ve ever heard, and put them into a single record. That’s what this album is. Is that bad? No, because I do like a lot of pop-punk bands that aren’t necessarily original, but still memorable. Bands like I Call Fives, With the Punches, and State Champs are perfect examples. It’s just, This Time Next Year is not all that great or memorable. Drop Out of Life is a very boring album, and these are the kinds of album I just hate talking about. It’s not that I don’t want to, but there’s just not a whole lot for me to really say here. Heck, This Time Next Year is just doing their best impressions of bands like New Found Glory and The Movielife. I wouldn’t say there’s no point in listening to this band, because if you like pop-punk, you’ll probably like these guys okay. You may even love them, but for me, I just don’t see anything too interesting or unique here. Each song sounds exactly the same, the vocalist is just doing his best Jordan Pundik (of New Found Glory) impression, and the lyrics are just clichéd and bland. They’re on the same tier of bands like Real Friends, Man Overboard, and other groups that are just decent. They’re not really interesting, unique, or even the slightest bit memorable. This album just kind of goes in one ear, and out the other. Would I say this album is bad? No, just painfully average. There’s nothing that sticks out, and nothing that begs me to listen to it over and over. Everything is just okay, and that’s not a good thing. I mean, if you do like the genre, as I said, you’ll probably enjoy these dudes, and they are a band I might listen to every now and again, but I probably won’t be touching this LP all that much in the future. It just sucks, because I was so excited to hear this record, and it kind of let me down. It’s not bad, per se, but really boring and uninspired. Thankfully, guitarist Brad Wiseman is in the band Misser with Transit guitarist Tim Landers, and that band is streets ahead compared to This Time Next Year. If you want to hear their guitarist in a much more interesting band, check them out. This Time Next Year is a band that wouldn’t hurt to listen to, but only if you’re a diehard pop-punk fan. If you’re not, you might not like this band, or record. Overall rating: 7/10-Bradley

This Time Next Year – Drop Out of Life
Record Label: Equal Vision
Release Date: January 10 2012

It’s always exciting listening to bands or artists that you’ve wanted to listen for awhile, isn’t it? Even if it doesn’t go well, it’s still exciting to really examine why an album does or doesn’t work. Heck, that goes for any record, but it’s even more fascinating when it’s of those you’ve been excited to hear, or have wanted to hear for awhile. Just recently, I went through a huge pop-punk kick, mainly getting albums that I’ve already heard (but not for a few years) and downloading / getting albums/EPs from unknown and/or unsigned bands that aren’t very well known. I just went on another music haul recently, and in that haul, I got a couple of albums that I’ve heard before, but it’s been a few years, a new album that just came out, an album from a band that I already love that I haven’t heard yet, and an album from a band that I’ve always wanted to listen to.

Well, the band in question was CD pop-punk outfit This Time Next Year, and the band’s sophomore LP, Drop Out of Life. I’ve been getting really into the genre for the last couple of years, and this is a band that I never got around to, for whatever reason. The sad thing is, the band broke up the year I started getting into the genre, which was 2012. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing, only because if I wanted to dive into their discography, I wouldn’t have to wait for any new records to come out. I could just jump into it, which is what I did with 2012’s Drop Out of Life. I managed to get a used copy for only a few dollars off of FYE’s website, and that’s where my haul took place. I’ve had the record for a few days now, and I already have a good idea of how I feel about it. Was this worth visiting, or is This Time Next Year a band I won’t be revisiting this time, next year?

All stupid puns aside, Drop Out of Life is a very fascinating album, but not for the way you, the reader, may think. It’s fascinating, because I like this album, but I don’t, at the same time. Well, maybe that’s not the right way to put it. It’s not that I dislike it, it’s just I find it rather underwhelming. On one hand, I do enjoy it, but on the other, it’s a bit disappointing. See, This Time Next Year is one of those pop-punk bands that was decent, but not really all that memorable or unique. Heck, that’s exactly how I would describe Drop Out of Life. It’s decent enough, but it’s not really memorable. And that frustrates me, because I was really excited to hear this. It’s not really a bad album, per se, it’s just kind of forgettable. Think of every single cliché of the genre that you’ve ever heard, and put them into a single record. That’s what this album is. Is that bad? No, because I do like a lot of pop-punk bands that aren’t necessarily original, but still memorable. Bands like I Call Fives, With the Punches, and State Champs are perfect examples. It’s just, This Time Next Year is not all that great or memorable. Drop Out of Life is a very boring album, and these are the kinds of album I just hate talking about. It’s not that I don’t want to, but there’s just not a whole lot for me to really say here. Heck, This Time Next Year is just doing their best impressions of bands like New Found Glory and The Movielife.

I wouldn’t say there’s no point in listening to this band, because if you like pop-punk, you’ll probably like these guys okay. You may even love them, but for me, I just don’t see anything too interesting or unique here. Each song sounds exactly the same, the vocalist is just doing his best Jordan Pundik (of New Found Glory) impression, and the lyrics are just clichéd and bland. They’re on the same tier of bands like Real Friends, Man Overboard, and other groups that are just decent. They’re not really interesting, unique, or even the slightest bit memorable. This album just kind of goes in one ear, and out the other. Would I say this album is bad? No, just painfully average. There’s nothing that sticks out, and nothing that begs me to listen to it over and over. Everything is just okay, and that’s not a good thing. I mean, if you do like the genre, as I said, you’ll probably enjoy these dudes, and they are a band I might listen to every now and again, but I probably won’t be touching this LP all that much in the future. It just sucks, because I was so excited to hear this record, and it kind of let me down. It’s not bad, per se, but really boring and uninspired. Thankfully, guitarist Brad Wiseman is in the band Misser with Transit guitarist Tim Landers, and that band is streets ahead compared to This Time Next Year. If you want to hear their guitarist in a much more interesting band, check them out. This Time Next Year is a band that wouldn’t hurt to listen to, but only if you’re a diehard pop-punk fan. If you’re not, you might not like this band, or record.

Overall rating: 7/10

-Bradley

September 2014
05
Arrows Over Athens – Myths, Monsters & The Maker Record Label: Take This to Heart Records Release Date: July 16 2013 Free music is a great thing, and most people would agree. I don’t mean finding album leaks or anything like that, but legally free music. And another great thing is getting free music when you’re not even expecting it. See, a couple weeks ago, I came across the pop-punk outfit Traditions on Absolutepunk.net, because the band premiered a music video for a song on debut EP Cycles (which I really enjoy, may I add; check them out if you enjoy pop-punk), and the band is signed to a very small label called Take This to Heart Records, but even with their small roster, I really like them a lot. I found the label’s Bandcamp page, and went through their roster to see if there was anything else I liked. I found another band called Life On the Sideline (whom are also really good, check them out as well), and ordered EPs from them and Traditions. Well, a week or so later, a package came from the label with both records, even though I ordered them a few days apart (I should have just ordered them at once, since they’d have the same address and it would save them money on shipping, but oh well, I’m dumb sometimes). And inside was another EP, from pop-punk/pop-rock outfit, Arrows Over Athens. The EP was entitled Myths, Monsters & The Maker, and I was surprised to find it in there, but what I think they did was that since I paid for shipping on two different things that they sent together, they wanted to make it up to me by including an EP that would be about the same price as the shipping that I paid for the other albums. Since the EP was free, and honestly, I had been looking at it, anyway, I was more than eager to listen to the EP. The question is, how is Myths, Monsters & The Maker? This is definitely one of those times where getting free music out of the blue is a good thing, because this EP is fantastic. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of unknown pop-punk bands, and this is another one that I can add to the list of good ones. Arrows Over Athens is also one of the more unique ones for a few reasons: they have two vocalists, one of which a female vocalist, and their sound is a nice blend between pop-rock and pop-punk, not quite leaning towards either side. These types of pop-punk bands don’t exist too much anymore, so it’s refreshing to hear a group like this. And ultimately, these things that make them unique are also what works about them. What I like most are the two vocalists, Randy Burligame, and Michelle Herrick, who also double as guitarist and bassist, respectively. Both vocalists are rather different, but have great chemistry. I know that a lot of you are waiting for me to make a Paramore comparison, and the band themselves do on their Bandcamp page, directing saying they sound like them, and I sort of agree. But not merely because they’re a rock band with a female vocalist. I really hate how any pop-rock/pop-punk band with a female vocalist is immediately compared to Paramore. That’s not how it works.  Anyway, while Herrick does genuinely sound like Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams, it’s their sound that makes me think of Paramore, specifically the band’s sophomore album, Riot. That album also tried to blend pop-rock and pop-punk, and while it’s not my favorite Paramore album, it did it rather well. This EP is the same way, and does mix the two sounds quite well. Burligame is a decent vocalist himself, but to be blunt, Herrick’s vocals are a bit more interesting to me. Burligame can sing and his voice isn’t bad, but I don’t know, his vocals just don’t do as much for me. I also would argue that Herrick does steal more of the show here, but that’s not a band thing, because her vocals shine consistently throughout the EP. And that does help with the songwriting and instrumentation. The band’s instrumentation isn’t all that original, but it’s the songwriting that works to its advantage. The songwriting is rather unorthodox; the EP flows nicely, but each song is quite different. The opening track, “Thirty Years’ Peace,” is an upbeat pop-punk track, while closing track, “Marathon: 490 B.C. (Times Have Changed),” is a pop-punk jam with a piano riff closing the record off. It’s a stark contrast, but does work well. There are only two things that don’t really work too well with this EP, and they’re sort of big things. I already mentioned one thing, vocalist/guitarist Burligame, and how his voice doesn’t do a whole lot for me. Although, I do have to give him props for his guitar work. The guitar work on this EP is great, along with the rest of the instrumentation. It’s just his vocals don’t do a whole lot for me, as I said. The other thing are its lyrics. The lyrics on here aren’t bad at all, and there is one line that I absolutely love, which is from the song “And I Will Move the Earth,” that goes, “Don’t visit me when I die / You were never there / Never there when I was alive.” That’s an ingenius line, but the rest of the EP doesn’t quite have any moments like that. There are a couple of songs that do tackle religion, but they aren’t really that interesting. They’re just your average songs that basically denounce religion, but don’t actually talk about it. The UK hardcore group, Architects, had a song on their newest album, Lost Forever // Lost Together, where they talk about religion, and how if God were real, or at least confirmed to be real, what would He say about the world and the people in it? It was an interesting song that didn’t bash religion or say it was awful, but just asked an interesting question. This band seems to dislike religion, and while that could be an interesting subject matter, they don’t quite do anything with it. The EP is totally worth a listen, so don’t make it seem like that the two problems I have with it really hinder my enjoyment. I mean, they do, but not by much. They’re easy to overlook, especially if those things usually don’t bother you. Either way, however, the good things on here are really good, so by all means, give this a listen. If you either enjoy pop-punk or pop-rock bands, or like bands that combine both genres, you just might like this, too. I’m glad that I got a copy of this totally unexpectedly, since it was definitely worth it. RIYL: Paramore – Riot, The Academy Is – Almost Here, Bayside – The Walking Wounded Overall rating: 8.3/10-Bradley

Arrows Over Athens – Myths, Monsters & The Maker
Record Label: Take This to Heart Records
Release Date: July 16 2013

Free music is a great thing, and most people would agree. I don’t mean finding album leaks or anything like that, but legally free music. And another great thing is getting free music when you’re not even expecting it. See, a couple weeks ago, I came across the pop-punk outfit Traditions on Absolutepunk.net, because the band premiered a music video for a song on debut EP Cycles (which I really enjoy, may I add; check them out if you enjoy pop-punk), and the band is signed to a very small label called Take This to Heart Records, but even with their small roster, I really like them a lot. I found the label’s Bandcamp page, and went through their roster to see if there was anything else I liked. I found another band called Life On the Sideline (whom are also really good, check them out as well), and ordered EPs from them and Traditions. Well, a week or so later, a package came from the label with both records, even though I ordered them a few days apart (I should have just ordered them at once, since they’d have the same address and it would save them money on shipping, but oh well, I’m dumb sometimes). And inside was another EP, from pop-punk/pop-rock outfit, Arrows Over Athens. The EP was entitled Myths, Monsters & The Maker, and I was surprised to find it in there, but what I think they did was that since I paid for shipping on two different things that they sent together, they wanted to make it up to me by including an EP that would be about the same price as the shipping that I paid for the other albums. Since the EP was free, and honestly, I had been looking at it, anyway, I was more than eager to listen to the EP. The question is, how is Myths, Monsters & The Maker?

This is definitely one of those times where getting free music out of the blue is a good thing, because this EP is fantastic. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of unknown pop-punk bands, and this is another one that I can add to the list of good ones. Arrows Over Athens is also one of the more unique ones for a few reasons: they have two vocalists, one of which a female vocalist, and their sound is a nice blend between pop-rock and pop-punk, not quite leaning towards either side. These types of pop-punk bands don’t exist too much anymore, so it’s refreshing to hear a group like this. And ultimately, these things that make them unique are also what works about them. What I like most are the two vocalists, Randy Burligame, and Michelle Herrick, who also double as guitarist and bassist, respectively. Both vocalists are rather different, but have great chemistry. I know that a lot of you are waiting for me to make a Paramore comparison, and the band themselves do on their Bandcamp page, directing saying they sound like them, and I sort of agree. But not merely because they’re a rock band with a female vocalist. I really hate how any pop-rock/pop-punk band with a female vocalist is immediately compared to Paramore. That’s not how it works.

Anyway, while Herrick does genuinely sound like Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams, it’s their sound that makes me think of Paramore, specifically the band’s sophomore album, Riot. That album also tried to blend pop-rock and pop-punk, and while it’s not my favorite Paramore album, it did it rather well. This EP is the same way, and does mix the two sounds quite well. Burligame is a decent vocalist himself, but to be blunt, Herrick’s vocals are a bit more interesting to me. Burligame can sing and his voice isn’t bad, but I don’t know, his vocals just don’t do as much for me. I also would argue that Herrick does steal more of the show here, but that’s not a band thing, because her vocals shine consistently throughout the EP. And that does help with the songwriting and instrumentation. The band’s instrumentation isn’t all that original, but it’s the songwriting that works to its advantage. The songwriting is rather unorthodox; the EP flows nicely, but each song is quite different. The opening track, “Thirty Years’ Peace,” is an upbeat pop-punk track, while closing track, “Marathon: 490 B.C. (Times Have Changed),” is a pop-punk jam with a piano riff closing the record off. It’s a stark contrast, but does work well.

There are only two things that don’t really work too well with this EP, and they’re sort of big things. I already mentioned one thing, vocalist/guitarist Burligame, and how his voice doesn’t do a whole lot for me. Although, I do have to give him props for his guitar work. The guitar work on this EP is great, along with the rest of the instrumentation. It’s just his vocals don’t do a whole lot for me, as I said. The other thing are its lyrics. The lyrics on here aren’t bad at all, and there is one line that I absolutely love, which is from the song “And I Will Move the Earth,” that goes, “Don’t visit me when I die / You were never there / Never there when I was alive.” That’s an ingenius line, but the rest of the EP doesn’t quite have any moments like that. There are a couple of songs that do tackle religion, but they aren’t really that interesting. They’re just your average songs that basically denounce religion, but don’t actually talk about it. The UK hardcore group, Architects, had a song on their newest album, Lost Forever // Lost Together, where they talk about religion, and how if God were real, or at least confirmed to be real, what would He say about the world and the people in it? It was an interesting song that didn’t bash religion or say it was awful, but just asked an interesting question. This band seems to dislike religion, and while that could be an interesting subject matter, they don’t quite do anything with it.

The EP is totally worth a listen, so don’t make it seem like that the two problems I have with it really hinder my enjoyment. I mean, they do, but not by much. They’re easy to overlook, especially if those things usually don’t bother you. Either way, however, the good things on here are really good, so by all means, give this a listen. If you either enjoy pop-punk or pop-rock bands, or like bands that combine both genres, you just might like this, too. I’m glad that I got a copy of this totally unexpectedly, since it was definitely worth it.

RIYL: Paramore – Riot, The Academy Is – Almost Here, Bayside – The Walking Wounded

Overall rating: 8.3/10

-Bradley

September 2014
05
Troubled Coast – Awake and Empty Record Label: Pure Noise  Release Date: October 9 2012

In a recent review, I talked about free music and how when you get something that you didn’t expect, mainly a free album or something like that, it can be a great thing. I ordered some CDs from Take This to Heart Records, and they included another EP for free, and I ended up really enjoying it. Well, let’s go one step under that, and talk about music that’s really cheap and how that can be a really great thing as well. Recently, Pure Noise Records was having a back to school sale, and everything was around 15% off. I looked for anything that I might be interested in, and I settled on one thing – CA hardcore/pop-punk/spoken-word band Troubled Coast’s debut LP, Awake and Empty. The reasons I got it were pretty simple, but also very logical. I got it because I’ve wanted to listen to that band for the last couple years, and because the CD was only $5. Actually, it was only $4.25, thanks to the sale. For being a full length album and only being less than $5, I was hooked. I mean, if I didn’t like the record much, that wouldn’t have been a problem, since with shipping, I only paid less than $9. I can’t say I wasn’t excited to listen to this, however. I was never too into hardcore until last year, so now that I’m more into the genre and bands like that, I really wanted to hear this band’s music again. To me, they always came off as one of the more underrated bands on Pure Noise. Heck, they haven’t been too active in the last couple years since Awake and Empty was released, but they haven’t broken up at all. But now that I’ve had the album for a couple of weeks, how is it? Was this record worth getting for under $5, or am I just going to put this on every now and again, but mostly just forget about it? Well, if you wanted a positive review, you’ve come to the right place, reader. I’ve had a couple of weeks to really spend some time with this LP, and I have to say, I really enjoy it. Awake and Empty isn’t without its slight faults, but I can ultimately forgive them, because what works about this album really works. And it’s a combination of everything, really. I’ve said this about a couple of other records, but this is an example of an album where everything just comes together perfectly to make a cohesive and unique piece of music. From the vocals, instrumentation, lyrics, and just overall sound, everything comes together to make for a very fascinating and interesting album. There’s just a lot to enjoy on this record, but two things really stick out for me – the overall sound, and vocalist Mike Scornaienchi.  The band’s overall sound is kind of interesting to talk about, because it’s not just one specific thing. Their sound is composed of spoken-word, hardcore, and pop-punk, to some degree. What really intrigues me about Troubled Coast is how their appeal can cross over to a few different genres. For example, if you like bands like La Dispute or Being As An Ocean, you’ll enjoy Troubled Coast. If you enjoy hardcore groups like To the Wind, and Counterparts, you’ll probably enjoy Troubled Coast. And if you like pop-punk, mainly bands like Balance & Composure and Citizen, you’ll like Troubled Coast, too. They don’t just sound like one specific band, but many of them. Their sound is hard to classify, but I like that about them. Even just in a single track, their sound can rotate between all three of those things. Vocalist Mike Scoraienchi is another big reason why I love this band and this record as well. I won’t say he’s the best vocalist, but he brings a lot to the table on this LP, not only just in terms of lyrics. I do enjoy the lyrics on this LP, but they really aren’t my favorite part of it. Where he shines is in his vocal performance. His spoken word delivery is very compelling and passionate, and the same can be said for his screams. The clean vocals are my least vocals here, but his cleans aren’t bad, either. They’re not used often, which is a huge plus, too. It’s just, they’re used on choruses and they’re kind of bland. That’s not a bad thing, per se, and like I said, they’re used sparingly, so it’s not a huge problem.


Aside from the clean vocals, there’s just one problem I do have with this LP, and it’s not with the songs themselves. I love the LP, but this album reminds me a lot of Relief, the debut LP from My Iron Lung, released in July of 2014. I love that album, too, but these albums are sort of similar. Not only similar in sound (My Iron Lung have similar guitar tones, and only feature screams, not spoken-word or clean vocals), but in terms of how the LPs are set up. See, my biggest problem with Relief is the same problem I have here. There’s a set formula to this record that becomes noticeable with each passing listen. Each song sounds the same, basically. This can become a problem for some, but honestly, I do love the sound of the record enough to overlook it somewhat. And not to mention, the album is only 31 minutes. Because of how short it is, I can forgive the repetition of ideas and formulas. Their sound is already unique, so in a sense, it’s not a bad thing that they use a formula. But the album can get boring if you aren’t careful, since this is one you, the listener, do need to actually pay attention to. There aren’t too many “hooks” or catchy moments, just like with Relief, and if you aren’t paying attention, you might not be too into this album.  This record and band definitely aren’t for everyone, either, which I can totally understand. Heck, it took me a long time to come around to La Dispute, since I was never used to the spoken-word style of their vocals, but their newest LP, Rooms of the House, is spectacular. If this record interests you, even in the slightest bit, it’s worth a listen. At 31 minutes, it’s worth at least a single listen, and if you don’t want to revisit it again, that’s understandable. But if you do enjoy either spoken-word, melodic hardcore, and/or pop-punk, you might want to give this a listen. I seriously think this band is one of the most underrated bands on Pure Noise, so give them some love. I’m really glad that I ordered Awake and Empty for only around $4, since it was one of the best purchases I’ve made in quite some time, and I really hope they haven’t broken up or anything like that. I’d love to listen to more of this band, so here’s hoping they release something new sometime in the future. RIYL: La Dispute – Rooms of the House, Being As An Ocean – How We Both Wondrously Perish, & Balance & Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing Overall rating: 9.5/10
-Bradley

Troubled Coast – Awake and Empty
Record Label: Pure Noise
Release Date: October 9 2012

In a recent review, I talked about free music and how when you get something that you didn’t expect, mainly a free album or something like that, it can be a great thing. I ordered some CDs from Take This to Heart Records, and they included another EP for free, and I ended up really enjoying it. Well, let’s go one step under that, and talk about music that’s really cheap and how that can be a really great thing as well. Recently, Pure Noise Records was having a back to school sale, and everything was around 15% off. I looked for anything that I might be interested in, and I settled on one thing – CA hardcore/pop-punk/spoken-word band Troubled Coast’s debut LP, Awake and Empty. The reasons I got it were pretty simple, but also very logical. I got it because I’ve wanted to listen to that band for the last couple years, and because the CD was only $5. Actually, it was only $4.25, thanks to the sale. For being a full length album and only being less than $5, I was hooked. I mean, if I didn’t like the record much, that wouldn’t have been a problem, since with shipping, I only paid less than $9. I can’t say I wasn’t excited to listen to this, however. I was never too into hardcore until last year, so now that I’m more into the genre and bands like that, I really wanted to hear this band’s music again. To me, they always came off as one of the more underrated bands on Pure Noise. Heck, they haven’t been too active in the last couple years since Awake and Empty was released, but they haven’t broken up at all. But now that I’ve had the album for a couple of weeks, how is it? Was this record worth getting for under $5, or am I just going to put this on every now and again, but mostly just forget about it?

Well, if you wanted a positive review, you’ve come to the right place, reader. I’ve had a couple of weeks to really spend some time with this LP, and I have to say, I really enjoy it. Awake and Empty isn’t without its slight faults, but I can ultimately forgive them, because what works about this album really works. And it’s a combination of everything, really. I’ve said this about a couple of other records, but this is an example of an album where everything just comes together perfectly to make a cohesive and unique piece of music. From the vocals, instrumentation, lyrics, and just overall sound, everything comes together to make for a very fascinating and interesting album. There’s just a lot to enjoy on this record, but two things really stick out for me – the overall sound, and vocalist Mike Scornaienchi.

The band’s overall sound is kind of interesting to talk about, because it’s not just one specific thing. Their sound is composed of spoken-word, hardcore, and pop-punk, to some degree. What really intrigues me about Troubled Coast is how their appeal can cross over to a few different genres. For example, if you like bands like La Dispute or Being As An Ocean, you’ll enjoy Troubled Coast. If you enjoy hardcore groups like To the Wind, and Counterparts, you’ll probably enjoy Troubled Coast. And if you like pop-punk, mainly bands like Balance & Composure and Citizen, you’ll like Troubled Coast, too. They don’t just sound like one specific band, but many of them. Their sound is hard to classify, but I like that about them. Even just in a single track, their sound can rotate between all three of those things. Vocalist Mike Scoraienchi is another big reason why I love this band and this record as well. I won’t say he’s the best vocalist, but he brings a lot to the table on this LP, not only just in terms of lyrics. I do enjoy the lyrics on this LP, but they really aren’t my favorite part of it. Where he shines is in his vocal performance. His spoken word delivery is very compelling and passionate, and the same can be said for his screams. The clean vocals are my least vocals here, but his cleans aren’t bad, either. They’re not used often, which is a huge plus, too. It’s just, they’re used on choruses and they’re kind of bland. That’s not a bad thing, per se, and like I said, they’re used sparingly, so it’s not a huge problem.

Aside from the clean vocals, there’s just one problem I do have with this LP, and it’s not with the songs themselves. I love the LP, but this album reminds me a lot of Relief, the debut LP from My Iron Lung, released in July of 2014. I love that album, too, but these albums are sort of similar. Not only similar in sound (My Iron Lung have similar guitar tones, and only feature screams, not spoken-word or clean vocals), but in terms of how the LPs are set up. See, my biggest problem with Relief is the same problem I have here. There’s a set formula to this record that becomes noticeable with each passing listen. Each song sounds the same, basically. This can become a problem for some, but honestly, I do love the sound of the record enough to overlook it somewhat. And not to mention, the album is only 31 minutes. Because of how short it is, I can forgive the repetition of ideas and formulas. Their sound is already unique, so in a sense, it’s not a bad thing that they use a formula. But the album can get boring if you aren’t careful, since this is one you, the listener, do need to actually pay attention to. There aren’t too many “hooks” or catchy moments, just like with Relief, and if you aren’t paying attention, you might not be too into this album.

This record and band definitely aren’t for everyone, either, which I can totally understand. Heck, it took me a long time to come around to La Dispute, since I was never used to the spoken-word style of their vocals, but their newest LP, Rooms of the House, is spectacular. If this record interests you, even in the slightest bit, it’s worth a listen. At 31 minutes, it’s worth at least a single listen, and if you don’t want to revisit it again, that’s understandable. But if you do enjoy either spoken-word, melodic hardcore, and/or pop-punk, you might want to give this a listen. I seriously think this band is one of the most underrated bands on Pure Noise, so give them some love. I’m really glad that I ordered Awake and Empty for only around $4, since it was one of the best purchases I’ve made in quite some time, and I really hope they haven’t broken up or anything like that. I’d love to listen to more of this band, so here’s hoping they release something new sometime in the future.

RIYL: La Dispute – Rooms of the House, Being As An Ocean – How We Both Wondrously Perish, & Balance & Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing

Overall rating: 9.5/10

-Bradley