Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Midwest Blue

October 27, 2003

This band, Midwest Blue, comes out of Chicago. On first glance, it would be simple to pass them off as just another pop-punk nuisance. But while that may be the immediate impression, if you listen on, you will find that MWB is really a roots-emo band.

“Remembering to Forget” opens up with four pop-punk songs. I heard them and groaned, because they were average punk songs, and I didn’t think I was going to be able to stand another album of mediocre punk music. Even worse, they stretched the songs out really long. I was about to condemn this as junk until track 5 (“Ignorance”) rolled around. It did a complete 180, pulling out a hardcore riff as an intro, and fleshing out the song as an emo/hardcore punk song. “Ignorance” is the best song of the genre I’ve heard since Anberlin’s “Readyfuels”, due to the great riffs and good vocals. Yet, saying it’s the vocals doesn’t say it all, because the vocals and the lyrics act as one entity. The vocals on “Ignorance” work perfectly, swooping high to be emotional and dropping low to be gritty and harsh. On the rest of the songs, they’re somewhere in the middle, having a nice, full tone that’s easy on the ears, but not especially amazing. Also average are the lyrics. Much better than a pop-punk band’s, they’re normal emo fodder, slightly confusing but not too much so. But when the lyrics are paired with the vocals, they become as emotional and moving as any emo band could ever hope for. The angst and confusion that went into their creation comes right back out to the listener, and it is fantastic. With that as a permanent overtone, the rest of this album is a semi-dark yet hopeful mix comprised of acoustic guitar, piano, strings, and slow, contemplative rock. It creates a very restrained feel to the album, and it works beautifully. Highlights include the semi-punk emo-ness of “Sunday Face”, and the 8-minute masterpiece of a closer, “Berlin”.

This album is so diverse that it borders on too diverse. If they had not written the first four songs, this would be my favorite album right now.  Tracks 5-11 are beautiful, complex, creative, and have a feel that not many other bands capture. It’s not depression, it’s just deep, contemplating thought. You should get this album, even if you don’t like punk. It’s not really punk anyway. They just want you to think that.

Read: www.midwestblue.com

Listen: www.mp3.com/midwest_blue

Buy: www.post436records.com

Fourbanger

Fourbanger stats: 5 years, 4 members, 3 albums, 2 member changes, 1 extremely polished, veteran band. As a result of all of that, Fourbanger knows how to make a really awesome punk song. This group of 12 songs will make your heart beat faster. Definitely.

If there’s one thing 4b doesn’t do, it’s drag out songs. The longest song is 3:22, and the rest of them have an average of under 3 minutes. Don’t be confused though. They pack a lot in. The first thing that hits you is the vocals. They have two singers, and they switch off lead vocal abilities. The second thought that hits you is “Wow….they are both really freakin good!” If they were in separate bands, both those bands would be highly talented. Put them together and you have an excess of talent. They make up for this in great arrangements, and extremely tight, well-crafted countermelodies and harmonies. But still, they don’t waste a second, cramming in nothing unnecessary. Breakdowns hardly hold a place in the 4b formula of punk, but when there is one, dang it’s good. Their guitars aren’t as showy as most punk guitars are, and that makes them a much more cohesive unit. After listening to this entire album, I can find only one semi-showy riff. Don’t take this wrong. 4B has some extreme riffs. It’s just that they know when to scale back their egos for the better interest of the song. That’s a highly veteran move. The bassist is extremely talented as well, as clearly shown on “Sunday Afternoon”, where he gets a solo. Highlights here include the wild tempos and dynamics of the aforementioned “Sunday Afternoon”, and the best-of-everything  “6 AM”.

This is a punk band that knows what it wants to be when it grows up: a punk band. This no mediocre pop-punk. This is blistering stuff that contends with Blink and NFG for your attention. If you consider yourself a fan of pop-punk, get this album. They are on the brink of breaking in. I don’t usually say that for punk bands, cause punk bands are a dime a dozen. But these guys………they’re the real deal.

Read: www.fourbanger.com

Listen: www.fourbanger.com

Buy: http://www.smartpunk.com/product.php?item_id=6141

Upstate

October 26, 2003

And now, a friendly reminder from your local government: RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! THE TECHNOLOGY HAS TAKEN OVER THE WORLD! THE ROBOTS RULE EVERYTHING! HIDE! HIDE!

Ok, that odd announcement actually does have correlation to this review. Due to the wonders of super-powerful technology, Upstate has released this album without ever playing a show together. In fact, they wrote all five songs without ever seeing each other’s faces. And if that’s not enough, the band is split between two states (Colorado and Ohio)! And yet, they made a rock band. Now, that’s determination. That’s heart. That’s frickin weird.

Also, this album has some seriously spacey vibes. This album starts out with a quick acoustic pattern and a drumbeat until the vocals come in. Those three elements carry this album, so it’s no surprise that they are the first three introduced. An electric guitar also lays the occasional ditty on top of it all, but it’s mostly non-existent. The same goes for a keyboard. The music created sounds like a cross between Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Star Sutra. It possesses that same aura of spaciness, that eerie, paranoid sound that characterizes both Star Sutra and Pink Floyd. It also has the classic guitar vibes of the era, best exemplified in Led Zeppelin. It’s not dated though. It’s very infused with modern melodic structure. Not that the melodies are happy ones. All of the melodies here are in a minor key, even when the instrumentation is in a major one, making a very odd song when they criss-cross. The vocals themselves have a weird effect on them, and they sound like System of a Down when SOAD slows down (think “Roulette”). These songs all have the same vibe going on, but none of the arrangements get repetitive. The only thing that’s a real negative here is the fact that the vocals don’t have much scope or range. They start to sound a bit monotonous by the end.

In the end, this is a nice EP, full of dark pop songs that flow well on the ear, but aren’t aiming to make moods brighter. It’s amazing to think that this band has never played together. It just sounds so good. Kudos to them, for pioneering what may become a new trend in the music world. We really need another one (die rap-metal die) so let’s hope this is the one.

Read: www.friendlypsychicsmusic.com

Listen: www.friendlypsychicsmusic.com

Buy: www.friendlypsychicsmusic.com

Fell Far Behind/Chasing the Dream EP

October 23, 2003

fellfarbehindFell Far Behind/Chasing the Dream EP
Best Feature: Combination of driving guitar lines with vocal harmonies.
Genre: Emocore/Metal
Website: http://www.fellfarbehind.com
Label: PumpkinEater Records (http://www.pumpkineaterrecords.com)

Fell Far Behind has the ability to combine their individual talents and passion for music to produce a four song EP (Chasing the Dream) that hits you hard at the beginning with the title track, grabs your attention and holds it through tracks two and three (“Honest Eyes & Just Once”), and leaves you begging for more at the end of the fourth song (“Simple Wishes”). This EP is best listened to loud, on good quality speakers or headphones, because it deserves that much attention.

Musically, Fell Far Behind is the sound of metal, emo, and hardcore in a blender. The result is a unique blend of passionate, emotional vocals accompanied by a thick drumming and driving, raw guitar lines which are sure to quicken the pulse. It’s obvious that each individual member of this band loves what they do, has immense talent at their instrument of choice, and consistently puts out 100% effort. This gives Fell Far Behind the potential to rise above the “everyday” band, as they have some of the same key elements that helped bands such as Thursday, Thrice, and Silverstein attain popularity, as well as an unique niche within the genre.

The only real weakness that I could find was that, while the heavy guitar lines are stellar, they cause the songs somewhat to blend into one another. It’s great for continuity but there are no surprises- nothing really to shake things up. In spite of this, the overall quality of their music is good enough to keep the sound lively.

I highly recommend picking up the EP, but if you do and you’re anxiously awaiting more, look for their full length coming out in January 2005 (according to their website).
-Andrea Goodwin

Fell Far Behind/Chasing the Dream EP

fellfarbehindFell Far Behind/Chasing the Dream EP
Best Feature: Combination of driving guitar lines with vocal harmonies.
Genre: Emocore/Metal
Website: http://www.fellfarbehind.com
Label: PumpkinEater Records (http://www.pumpkineaterrecords.com)

Fell Far Behind has the ability to combine their individual talents and passion for music to produce a four song EP (Chasing the Dream) that hits you hard at the beginning with the title track, grabs your attention and holds it through tracks two and three (“Honest Eyes & Just Once”), and leaves you begging for more at the end of the fourth song (“Simple Wishes”). This EP is best listened to loud, on good quality speakers or headphones, because it deserves that much attention.

Musically, Fell Far Behind is the sound of metal, emo, and hardcore in a blender. The result is a unique blend of passionate, emotional vocals accompanied by a thick drumming and driving, raw guitar lines which are sure to quicken the pulse. It’s obvious that each individual member of this band loves what they do, has immense talent at their instrument of choice, and consistently puts out 100% effort. This gives Fell Far Behind the potential to rise above the “everyday” band, as they have some of the same key elements that helped bands such as Thursday, Thrice, and Silverstein attain popularity, as well as an unique niche within the genre.

The only real weakness that I could find was that, while the heavy guitar lines are stellar, they cause the songs somewhat to blend into one another. It’s great for continuity but there are no surprises- nothing really to shake things up. In spite of this, the overall quality of their music is good enough to keep the sound lively.

I highly recommend picking up the EP, but if you do and you’re anxiously awaiting more, look for their full length coming out in January 2005 (according to their website).
-Andrea Goodwin

FIF Concert

October 22, 2003

Jackson Waters’ set (a band, not a guy) was pretty short. As I walked in a few minutes late after my buying frenzy, they were already on their last song. They featured an acoustic guitar along with the regular rock’n’roll instruments. Their unbridled rock sound was dramatic and gripping, compelling me to actually listen. I hadn’t even heard their name yet, but they commanded attention. I highly enjoyed their one song (stupid long merch lines) I went over to see if they had any cds available, and had an amusing chat with some band members over shirt prices (1 for 10 bucks! 2 for 20! Such a Deal!!!). I think they hate me now, but that’s ok.
Cameron Jaymes (a guy, not a band) was up next. I tried to check this guy out beforehand, but he doesn’t really exist. Despite the promoter’s claims of “famous”, this acoustic Dashboard Confessional wanna-be from California doesn’t have a website, a record label, or press releases, and only has one demo cd. His acoustic rock set would’ve been enjoyable, had I not been at an alt rock concert. While listening to his high voice, average melodic ability, and run-of-the-mill guitar lines, I took advantage of the chairs inconspicously placed about the room and saved energy.
The artist formerly known as Holland, not yet sporting a new name and but do having another guitarist, graced the stage next. The hooky dark pop/rock band also showed off their new stage presence. Their previous shows that I have witnessed have been sadly devoid of this, and this time around, they at least showed some glimmer of it. They played a set comprised of songs off their old release “Photographs and Tidalwaves”, as well as two new songs. I hope the new ones will get better before album form because they were a messy bunch of distortion and sliding, slippery guitars under moaning, slightly offkey vocals. Definitely not a highlight. “The whole world” got people jumping, and some earlier songs even brought about the demise of crowdsurfing. Oklahoma is just too conservative.
Bleach is one of my favorite live bands. They have stage presence to make other bands gnash their teeth in jealousy. If your hair isn’t standing up at the end of the performance, you just weren’t close enough. Their wild stage antics drove the audience nuts. They played songs strictly off their two T&N releases, the 2002 release “Again, for the First Time”, and their new CD “Astronomy: Legacy of a Hero” which released the day after the performance, but was sold at the concert anyway. Their driving pop punk anthems off of “Again…” were mixed with darker, mellower pieces off the new album. Their highlights were the heart-pounding “Found You Out” and the hauntingly beautiful and eerie “Jaded Now”. Their ‘last song’ was actually about 5 songs, and it was very satisfying.
Finally, the headliner Five Iron Frenzy took the stage, tearing the cover off the place. Their show is a mix of wild humor, wacky videos, self-parody, music parody, and all out ska.

Street To Nowhere

October 16, 2003

Street To Nowhere

Demo

What do you expect from a band that labels themselves “Punk, Ska, Rock, Emo”? I mean that’s four definitive genres right there. I can see two or maybe even three genres being crossed, but four?? It could possibly happen in Seattle, because that’s the breeding ground all whacked out music these days.  But anywhere else?  I’m not so sure it can be done.

A dark acoustic guitar leads us into “Stab Wound Sighs”, which is a dark emo song with a punk chorus. Street to Nowhere (from here known as STN) uses the acoustic often throughout this demo, and they reach good results with it. They use electrics in this song as well, and it creates a slightly maniacal, frantic feel to the song. Finally, they use dramatic, sweeping crescendos as often as possible, and it enhances the overall feel greatly. At the top of the last crescendo, they have two guys singing, two guitar melodies, thrashing drums, pulsing bass, and most of the audience raising their fists in the air.  “The Parkman Ghost” shows off the impressive vocal range that the lead singer possesses. It has definite rock influences, but this song clearly displays their pop-punk chops (they feature group yelling backup vocals, something only punk can pull off). Good pop-punk has to have a good melody, and appropriately, the chorus is more infectious than the flu. Besides being an obvious nod to Kurt Cobain, “Suicide (Is So April 94′)” is an acoustic punk song that sounds so much like Calibretto that it was eerie. The vocals even possessed some of the same intonation. But, they separate themselves by using things such as guitar swoops, electric guitars, and a set of anti-suicide lyrics.

This shocked me. It was a bright, nearly flawless fusion of rock, punk, and emo. There wasn’t any ska, but hey, don’t believe everything you hear. Pushing the limits of traditional music is a good idea. But Street to Nowhere is bettering that. They push the limits of traditional music and sound awesome while doing it. The best three-song demo I’ve ever heard, hands down (Sorry Suicide Pact). You will be hearing more from these guys, most likely on your radio.

Read: www.streettonowhere.com

Listen: www.mp3.com/streettonowhere

Buy: N/A (whole album available at above address.)

Photocell

October 15, 2003

Photocell is a new band. Verrrrry new. They played their first show not even three months ago. Yet they are touring with bands such as Mock Orange and Red Animal War. Yes, the one on Deep Elm records that you adore, or at least SHOULD adore. There must be a reason for such awesome tour mates.

That reason is: Photocell is a band that prides itself on being mid-tempo. In a world of either fast music or slow music, not many bands are of medium tempo. Photocell shows this off by crafting all three of their songs in the same style. Plodding, brooding, angsty guitars with thick reverb and emotively minor vocals dominate the sound for all three tracks. They throw in some creative breakdowns and some interesting guitar tricks, but for the most part this feels like emo overkill. Contributing to the negative feel is the inconsistency of the vocals, which fluctuate between a bit of a drone and a bit of a whine. When the focus is off them, they are pretty tolerable and even enjoyable. But, if you cast the spotlight on them, as is done in the song “Let It Die”, they melt in the heat and become pretty bad. The drums are intricate and tasteful, gaining some credibility for this.

I’m getting the feeling that they’re going for opus-in-three-movements idea here, because all three songs keep the same theme but introduce new ideas to it. That’s a hard idea for a major label band to finish (It took Thursday forever to do it), and for an indie band, it’s next to impossible. But, attempting greatness and falling short is better than shooting low and succeeding. Therefore, this is a good starting point for Photocell.  There are some definite ideas to be developed, but they just bit off a little more than they can chew this time.

Read: http://photocell.post436records.com

Listen: N/a

Buy: N/a

Boxing Lesson

October 14, 2003

In the world of CD art, The Boxing Lesson would be considered minimalist. The booklet, the back art, even the art on the disc itself is just one picture in various forms. In the musical aspect, they might be considered minimalist as well. But that’s just an incorrect label slapped on them because they play quiet music. Their melancholy meld of dream-pop, psychedelica, and shoegazer is easily accessible, but also easily taken for granted. When you relax, you just take in skin-deep stuff, and never really get into the musicality that makes it so relaxing.

As for musicality, it is intense throughout. Each of these soft, sweet epics possess sleep inducing guitar parts, but they are in tempo and distinct, unlike some. They do get a radiohead-like distortion quality at times, but mostly the melodies are fluffy like pillows. The drums and bass are extremely good supporting actors: they contribute often and well, but never steal the spotlight. Also good support are the dreamy, swooping vocals. Despite the high talent and quality of the vocal lines, they serve strictly as an afterthought to the music. In fact, most of these songs could be without vocals and still be pretty good. That’s a big thing to say, because these songs average a length of 5 minutes and 45 seconds. If you’ve ever listened to a six-minute slow song, you know it’s either fantastic or positively horrid. Usually bands can’t even pull off one, but TBL packs two fantastic ones on one album. It was so good that I, a music critic who separates work and play, felt compelled to play this in my spare time. In fact, One of the two six-minute tracks, the best track from the album (“Hard To Fake”) is so comforting that I used it as the coveted ‘Last Song of the Night’.

I give The Boxing Lesson the tin medal (the highest award I can give) for creating an ambitious album that succeeds on all cylinders. It’s soft, it’s creative, it’s intricate, it’s beautiful….What else can you ask for in an album? A pleasant sleepiness overcame me when I finished listening to this, and it will get you too. That yawn is proof that The Boxing Lesson is doing their job right. Congratulations.

Read: www.theboxinglesson.com
Listen: www.mp3.com/the_boxing_lesson
Buy: www.cdbaby.com/theboxinglesson

Anchor

Anchor. Cooking Time: 22 minutes and 45 seconds Feeds: Your hunger for good rock music. Ingredients: Modern rock, hard rock, emo, together or separately. Instructions: Place disc in CD player. Prepare for an experience. Play music. Get excited. Repeat steps 3 and 4 liberally.

As if getting us ready, a guitar windup leads us into the brooding, thundering bass of “All the Uncertains”. The song is a dark, heavy anthem, but one that never resorts to screaming. It hooks you with the emotion that bleeds into the vocals. Vocals make or break a band these days, and this time they make it. John-Henry Velez’s voice is strong and secure, filling the space allotted to him by the instruments. His choruses are powerful, but not deadly like hardcore. Another instance of power is the dense sound that is Anchor’s trademark. Their guitars chug away at power chords and other thick patterns to create a cutting edge modern rock sound. They dabble in other genres, as noted above, but they are a rock band first and foremost. This is most clearly shown on “Prodigal”, the catchiest rock song I’ve heard since “The Red” by Chevelle. Another great song is the side trip into emo, “Everything’s Gray”.

When I heard this, the skies opened up and the modern rock holy grail fell out of the sky. Any of these songs would be a number one hit if they were signed. Fierce but never sharp, they portray their power in a crushing wall that is still able to retain melody perfectly. That’s what makes them so good…they blend all their influences 100%. It’s uncommon, and because of it, someone’s going to regret not signing these guys. And it will be very soon. Secure yourself a copy of this EP, hold onto it, and let it appreciate. In a couple years, when they’re ridiculously famous, you can sell for 100 bucks on Ebay.

Read: www.anchorband.com
Listen: www.mp3.com/Anchor___Marietta__G
Buy: info@anchorband.com

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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