Jamas Cafe, Holly, MI
Saturday, November 19, 2005
The night started off with a slow in-and-out crowd in the small café, but soon the venue found itself full of lively, young, dedicated local music fans. The house was not packed, but as Cambian set up, people were on their feet, trying their best to get a peek at what this young new talent has to offer.
Still seeking a singer, Cambian recruited (literally minutes before their set) Dustin Totten, currently singer of [url=http://www.independentclauses.com/id215.html] Fighting Courtney[/url]. Their hard, pressing style of rock electrified the room full of rowdy teens looking to soak up any music there was to be offered. But not only did Cambian stand, they delivered to a tough crowd seeking validation for every cent of their dollars. With the floor shaking, walls rocking, and Totten screaming, Cambian dished out solidly appealing hits of their alternative/rock style, delivering one of the better performances witnessed in a long while.
Next was Toro Toro!, the youthful, experienced, and talented grindcore band that has been quietly raising a buzz in the scene (as much as a grindcore band can be quiet, that is). As they set up, the crowd appeared to double in size, with each crowd member anxiously awaiting their always-exciting shows. Opening up thunderously, Toro Toro! didn’t let up for a second relentless in their goal to rock the hardest. They succeeded and surpassed the expectations of all in their 5-songs song set: tossing a mic stand, breaking the mic twice, and providing water for the audience. They weren’t willing to be contained by their given small space and refused to hold back.
If ever given the opportunity to see either band, I highly recommend you do so. The show was hardcore indie: small room, small crowd, 100% all about the music. The modest crowd full of only the deepest of music enthusiasts struggled with their small containment, but the bands pushed the boundaries outward, providing enough in performance to make up for the conditions. Shaking the floor and leaving everyone deaf is the true meaning of it all in the end anyways- and those were definitely accomplished. There were more bands that played that night and every set was great, but Cambian and Toro Toro! were the only ones to deliver every essential element of a good show. For
that, they are recognized.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Hidden in Plain View / Lorene Drive / The Commercials
The Championship, Lemoyne, PA
Since I was driving to this show from school rather than my house, it added an extra half hour to my commuting time. Being quite possibly the worst planner in the entire world, I arrived at the tail end of the opening band’s set and thus cannot offer any commentary on said band other than: “Get better so you don’t play first and I miss your set.”
That being said, I shall move on to the next opening band: The Commercials. Aaahhhh, The Commercials. What can I possibly say about them that hasn’t already been said in one of my previous reviews of their performance? Typical and somewhat stale indie rock blah blah blah. You get the drift. The band I really came to see was Hidden in Plain View, who I had seen play a year or so ago and put on a good show, so I was excited at the prospect of seeing them again.
I had only heard of Lorene Drive, the band that played after the Commercials. And by heard of, I mean I had heard the name of the band and had never been exposed to any of their music. Thus, I was not sure what to expect from them. However, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised with their set. Everything about them was exceptionally high energy, and even though the singer doubled as what I presume to be the rhythm guitarist, he managed to captivate the audience with his antics. They played a brand of poppy post hardcore that I imagine would only be mildly engaging without the lively show they put on, but definitely worth a listen nonetheless. In a sea of oftentimes cookie cutter bands on this genre, Lorene Drive has the potential to be a success if given time, experience, and exposure.
Unlike the previous band, I had high expectations for the headlining band Hidden in Plain View, which I will affectionately refer to as HIPV. This acronym causes a slight misunderstanding sometimes when I wear a t-shirt bearing this abbreviation rather than the full band name and somehow the P is obscured for whatever reason. i.e. “Hey! Why are you wearing a shirt that says ‘HIV’?” …and giggling ensues [editor's note: the "p" is hidden in plain view]. Aside from this unfortunate acronym (which isn’t nearly as bad as Saves the Day’s, I might add), the band puts on a great show. The only other shortcoming aside from this was the bassist’s Over It shirt, which makes me question his personal taste in music; but no matter, as long as his band continues to make quality music.
Perhaps the highlight of HIPV’s set was my personal favorite song of theirs “20 Below”, which the audience took great pleasure in singing along with. Another interesting segment was when their drummer had a drum-off with the guitarist, who actually could match his drumming skills beat for beat, showcasing the band’s well-rounded musical talent. If you’re a fan of oftentimes high energy indie / post hardcore rock with feeling, I strongly recommend you check out HIPV the next time they tour near you. OR, if you have the misfortune of living in the middle of nowhere, pick up their CD. Disregard the Drive-Thru label; in this case it’s rather deceiving.
Nordaggio’s Coffee Shop, Tulsa, OK
November 18th, 2005
Some acoustic-toting guys that you see in coffeeshops only play originals- and you wish they wouldn’t. Some of those guys play a lot of covers- and you wish they would just play their own stuff. Josh James is definitely one of the latter guys, as was clearly evidenced at his sets at Nordaggio’s recently.
Basically, Josh James has two sounds- one for covers and one for his own stuff. His own stuff is moody, deliberate, and downtempo- much like Iron and Wine without the wispy vocals. Two of his best tunes- “Home” and “Nothing to Lose”- play out like orchestras of emotion, unleashing excellent guitar ditties and breathy, emotive vocal lines around every corner. “Nothing to Lose” is especially notable for its vocal lines, and is easily the best song that James has in his arsenal.
But he’s not a one-trick pony- his more upbeat stuff, while not as good as his slow stuff, is mildly reminiscent of Bob Dylan in its delivery (now I know there are a couple of indie hipsters out there who just stopped reading the Independent Clauses for that comparison, but hey, it’s what I heard). One thing it’s not reminiscent of is the Beatles- and that lead to major problems in James’ set.
As before noted, James enjoys to play cover songs- especially ones penned by Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starr. Unfortunately, his vocal tone and strum patterns are not conducive to playing these songs- the guitar playing is adequate but not inspired and the vocals are overly loud and highly strained. In some songs, it was almost painful to listen, as James began to sound gaudy and misplaced in the coffeeshop he was playing in. He did some covers adequately, but for the most part, his 3-set stand of covers and originals could’ve been pared down to one set of originals. When you get better crowd response from your originals than from the supposedly ‘crowd-pleasing’ originals, it’s a good sign to tone back your quantity of covers or choose more fitting ones.
Josh James sounds good when he’s playing what he’s good at. When he ventures out into waters charted by others, it all starts to go awry. Thankfully, it’s a pretty easy fix.
We recently had the privilege of asking the dual songwriters of NYC-based indie-poppers Nemo a couple questions. We were pleasantly surprised at the often-hilarious results – we think you will be too.
Read a review of their debut album Signs of Life here[link to nemo review].
IC: How and when did the band come together?
Luke McCartney: Nemo was formed in November/December 2002. Dennis and I were playing in another band that had run its course, but we knew that we played very well together. We wanted to continue writing songs and felt that starting anew was a good place to begin.
Dennis Tyhacz: We were pretty excited with the results so we spent the better part of 2003 recording the “Signs of Life” LP, and we started playing shows in early 2004 as a four piece band.
IC: Why did you choose your name from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?
LM: It took awhile to find the name, but when we saw the name, it just stuck. I think name recognition is important so people remember who you are and what you sound like and identify the band name with the sound of the band. For example, when I think of Television, I can hear Tom Verlaines voice and distinctive guitar playing in my head. I also initially liked the metaphor of the band being at the helm of something new, like the Captain of the Nautilus.
DT: We thought the name “Nemo” was catchy and let’s be honest, it’s easy to remember. Half the time you go to see bands you’re like “What was that band called again?!”
IC: How do you write the songs, seeing as there are two songwriters?
DT: Some songs will start as guitar parts, or a melody, to which the other person will contribute, and in other cases a song might be fully conceived by Luke or I, then the other person will add a part (or parts) and make suggestions.
LM: But, no matter how little or great the other persons contribution is, it is an invaluable one and can be very integral to a song.
DT: In the liner notes you can see who basically wrote what particular song and who played the various instruments & it’s pretty true to that I’d say. Some of the songs were conceived of years before the record came out. Luke came up with the main riff to the “Signs of Life” title track in early 2002, maybe earlier, and that main part in “Swimming in the Rhine” I came up with in ’96 or 97 when I was still in college & listening to Mazzy Star. I was a big fan of David Roback’s slide playing. “Swimming” is alittle faster & alittle more intricate then what he’d do, but I was a big fan of those Mazzy Star LPs.
IC: Do the two of you write the parts for all the instruments, or do you let others who aren’t ‘in the band’ write the parts?
DT: Well, Luke & I basically recorded all of the vocals & instruments on the record, and Chris Plyem laid down all of the live drum parts, except for “Harbor” on which I did a primitive drum-beat then we delayed it. Nemo is definitely Luke & myself, but Chris really deserves credit for carrying the songs with his amazing drum parts, and his parts definitely gave the songs the ‘energy’ they needed. We’d give him a suggestion about what kind of tempo we’d want, and then he’d blow us away, basically.
LM: He took them to a place we couldn’t conceive.
DT: As far as the instrumentation goes, it’s 100% Luke & myself. The Fender VI, the guitars, basses, keyboards, the glockenspiel, the experimental sounds, feedback, sleigh bells, basically all of it.
IC: Do both of you write lyrics?
DT: Yes, we both come up with the lyrics on our own for the most part, but I think on “Harbor” we actually pieced the lyrics together line by line. Luke would come up with great vocal & lyrical parts for stuff and I think he had a notebook full of lyrics. Some of my lyrics were from years before. The lyrics for “Hampshire Brush” I wrote probably back in the late 90’s, whereas “The Chariot” I wrote pretty much with the song’s recording. Same with “Aviator”.
IC: Some of your songs are very short- how do you determine when a song is ‘done’?
LM: Actually, I think we were pretty surprised at how short some of the songs were when we finished recording them because prior to and during the recording, we didn’t really pay too much attention to how long they were. When you’re recording and you really get into a song, listening to the mix hundreds of times over, you tend to lose track of time. I think we felt that each song had all its fundamental parts and didn’t need anything extra, so essentially my answer would be that they just felt done.
DT: If you look at Guided By Voices, they have some songs that are pop gems that last a minute & a half, sometimes less. To have a 17-song record, and for the pop format we were working in it works really well and you can listen to the album straight through pretty easily, and I don’t know of too many 17-song LPs that allow you to do that. Sometimes after a second chorus you want to hear an outro as opposed to going to a bridge and then having everyone sit through a third verse or chorus, thus in some cases losing the power of the song. We did whatever the songs would dictate back to us, basically. When you leave the listener wanting more it isn’t really a bad thing. The power of “re-play” shouldn’t be underestimated, if anything it should be celebrated. Ironically our next album has some longer songs on it, but again, this was the songs’ decisions not ours. We follow the songs, not the other way around!
IC: How did you record the album?
LM: The album was recorded and mixed on 2 Korg D-16 digital recorders. I can’t say enough about this recorder, for our purposes at the time and our limited budget, this recorder did the job nicely. We recorded the live drums for the album in an upstate cabin, and all other instrumental and vocal work was completed in our Brooklyn apt., much to our neighbors dismay.
DT: Once we were done recording it, we tried mastering it in various studios in Brooklyn that either had shitty monitors and/or were basically clueless as to what we wanted. Finally we ended up at the Vic Thrill Salon in Brooklyn shortly before it was bulldozed and we mastered it there. I think this record is one of the final projects to come out of there, cause 2 months later it was gone & being converted to condominiums, which is a real tragedy. Sam McCall was working for Vic as an engineer and we basically kidnapped him afterwards and made him play bass for us. He used to put CDs in the microwave for his amusement and ours. It did more for the mastering process then you can possibly imagine.
IC: Why do you have such a wide variety of sounds on the album?
LM: I think that stems from us not inhibiting ourselves or limiting ourselves to any certain distinguishable sound. We really experimented a lot when coming up with the different parts for each song. I think we just felt like doing whatever we wanted and didn’t want to confine our musical expression to any one sound.
DT: Luke and I have fairly eclectic tastes, and the record probably reflects that. Every song on the album more or less sounds like a different band, and if anything it makes the album more fun to listen to. The common strengths of the first Velvet Underground LP, or the last one “Loaded”, or “Kiss Me” or “Head on the Door” by The Cure, just as random examples is that every song on those records sounds like it was recorded by a different band. They almost sound like compilation records. One of the common problems of an awful lot of bands these days (don’t want to name names) is that every song on their albums more or less sound the same. Then the band goes out and plays live and it’s like “Same sound, boom. Same Song”. It’s like “Come on already”.
IC: “Killer Bees” sticks out like a sore thumb on the album- why did you choose to include it?
LM: For exactly that reason, thank you.
DT: Not to mention it’s what, 1:15 long?…how sore can your thumb be?! Put a band-aid on it and quit your whining!
IC: A majority of the lyrics on “Signs of Life” are vague and universally applicable – did you plan it that way, or did it just happen?
LM: I don’t think we planned it that way. The lyrics like the music were experimented with until they felt right. I have notebooks from the past 15 years that I sometimes refer to for lyrical phrases or lines that might work with an idea I have for a song today. I’ve always liked poetic lyrics and those that make one think a little deeper than shallow observation. As an artist, musician, poet, writer, or whatever one may be, it is important to strive for something deeper and more meaningful. If we don’t, we are defeating ourselves and submitting to the simplistic, emotionless expression of feelings and thoughts through sound-bytes, catch phrases, and double-speak.
DT: Luke & I wrote the lyrics for the record separately, but we spent a lot of time on them cause once they’re done, they’re out for public consumption and there’s no turning back to tweak things. For me, I’m really into lyrics that can’t be interpreted that quickly, and leaving things open to interpretation can give depth to the material. In “The Chariot”, it’s “So the river rang true, said a clown on a bicycle”. Sort of like well, how true is the River then? Not true at all. Basically, it’s lyrical irony or sarcasm I guess. I always liked Lou Reed & Leonard Cohen. “She held onto me like I was a crucifix.” You know Dylan couldn’t write a line like that, it was definitely Cohen. There’s something about a line like that that can make your skin crawl. I think Luke feels the same way for the most part, but he also has songs like “The Burn” that are fairly direct, and “Eternity of This” is direct as well, despite certain lines I wrote like “the sky empties the sea” which I guess was my way of saying the world (or the person in the conversation) doesn’t make sense really.
IC: A lot of lyrics have to do with the sea, as well. Is there a reason for that?
LM: I think the sea is referred to in a few songs, namely “Eternity of This”, “Northern Light”, “Metropolitan”, and “Odyssey.” I always loved the Odyssey, an epic tale in which the ocean plays a major part. The ocean has always been a place of expansive mystery and folklore so I think it’s probably a natural reaction or feeling towards something that is totally out of our control and intrigues us and suspends our imaginations. On the album, there are a lot of references to other places in nature like the sky, the stars, and the earth, but there are also references to mankind’s interaction with these places and general observations of mankind’s state on earth. So, there definitely is a reason for the sea reference, but that is only part of the bigger picture.
DT: Whatever man, the ocean is a big well of mystery right? It’s a sponge of inspiration I suppose. Where are you going with this? The band name? The next record we’ll make about the 9 planets and throw everyone off guard. Or better yet, how about astronomy, ostriches, and Spanish Cuisine? That sounds like a good mix what do you think?! If anyone has any good ideas email us: nemo’nemony.com
IC: How has the critical and fan response been to the album?
DT: Critically, the album did really well and the bulk of the reviews we got were very positive.. Left Off The Dial said it was “One of the Best Albums of The Year”, so I have to say we’re pretty excited about the response. It did well at College Radio and NPR played it on their “Morning Edition” show too. To this date, in all seriousness, I have yet to meet a single person that said they didn’t like this album after hearing it. It sounds silly but it’s true. There’s at least one song on this record anyone could like, basically. I think Luke would say the same thing. It’s spreading throughout the net like crazy too. We’re getting tons of email on our Myspace page from people all over the world saying how much they dig the songs. Iceland, Germany, The Philippines, Korea, you name it. How bad can that be for a record recorded in an apartment in Brooklyn? People can buy it on our website: www.nemony.com.
IC: Are you writing for a new album? How’s that coming along?
LM: Yes we are, it should be finished soon. It’s coming along nicely. We’ve upgraded our recording equipment so the song quality will be much better than the first time around. The songs themselves are just as dynamic as the first album, but the overall feel of the album will be totally different. Stay tuned.
IC: Where do you guys see yourselves in 5 years?
LM: Hopefully in a better time than we are now.
DT: And drinking some red wine and doing music. We’ll also be reading Independent Clauses to get through the hard times as well!
IC: What are you listening to right now?
LM: Himalaya, Magic and Spirit by Oliver Shanti and Friends – it eases my mind…and drowns out the friggin’ semi’s rolling down the boulevard ;).
DT: Not to be self-centered but our next record for the most part cause we’re in the middle of recording it! That, Fischerspooner, and Motown.
-Interview conducted by Stephen Carradini, November 2005.
Alphabetically Ordered Watch List
Usually I put lists in order by preference- the band I’m most enjoying goes first. This month, I wanted to put them all first, so I put them in alphabetical order. Check them all out- you probably won’t like every single one (the genres range from Bryan Kitchen’s mellow ambient to Remainder 3’s heavy post-grunge), but you’re bound to like two or three.
Band: The Alpha and the Omega
Album: Back to the Fold
Website: www.purevolume.com/thealphaandtheomega + www.thealphaandtheomega.com
Bottom Line: Dense rock sound that combines Pink Floyd-esque psychedelia with modern rock ideas to create a very ethereal mood.
Band: Designated Johnny
Album: Back Down EP
Website: www.purevolume.com/designatedjohnny + www.purevolume.com/backdownep
Bottom Line: Gleeful, swaggering, attitude-filled ska that is conducive to dancing, yelling along, and generally going nuts.
Band: Bryan Kitchens
Bottom Line: Kitchens is armed with highly absorbing ambient guitar epics that unfold elegantly. His songs get better each time you hear them.
Album: Southern Glitch EP
Website: www.purevolume.com/remainder3 + www.remainder3.co.uk
Bottom Line: Smashing Pumpkins-esque slabs of grunge chased by moody, melodic, temperamental sections in a great example of true post-grunge.
Band: Ringer T
Genre: Mellow indie / folk
Album: This Place
Bottom Line: Caught between folk and pop-rock, this band makes some seriously beautiful and lightly rocking music that’s perfect to chill to. It’s your call on which side (folksy or poppy) is better.
Band: This is Rocket Science
Bottom Line: Whirling, dreamy, passionate songs that are propelled by equal parts fuzzed-out guitar, distant vocals, and galloping drums.
What Makes a Hardcore Band Tick?
Ah, I am a happy person. In the past 3 months I have received three good hardcore albums. It’s a rare occurrence, not only because Independent Clauses caters more towards the mellow indie bands but because good hardcore bands are becoming rarer and rarer. It really seems like every kid out there thinks he can play in a hardcore band just because he tunes to a drop-D and screams lyrics about death and destruction. This is how hardcore ends up with the incorrect stereotype of violent, blood-thirsty animals. Believe me- its wrong. I’m a hardcore kid and I’m a vegetarian, so there is no way I could be blood-thirsty.
Hardcore, when done correctly, is truly an art form and a difficult art form to master. On the surface it seems like it may be some very angry young men who jump around, punch each other, and bang on guitars. When you examine hardcore closely you find that it is actually a carefully laid out plan of disorder. Each dissonant chord, each off beat hit is carefully planned to come together, as are the player and instruments that they use.
Every decent hardcore band needs at least two guitarists, one to play lead and another to play rhythm and every now and then play a contrasting line. It helps if the band can find a third guitarist who can constantly play contrasting lines. These guitarists should work in standard tuning if at all possible. It makes the guitars sound so much fuller and stronger. The guitarists should also play medium-heavy gauge strings. This keeps the guitar strong but does not compromise the quality of the sound.
The bassist must play a five-string bass. This is something that gets over looked by a lot of bassists. They figure they can just tune down. Wrong. The five-string gives you a much larger range and the chance to do things you didn’t think you could do. Once again it allows you to work with a standard tuning and a lighter gauge string. A lot of bassists will play a four-string with a .140, .115, .90, .75 set up tuned to a drop-C that doesn’t allow for the tone to shine through. A five-string allows for that C to be used but a standard tuning to be used as well. This allows for the range and the quality that is necessary.
Vocalists need to remember that random screaming isn’t the key. Just as if they were singing, they need to find a pitch, or level of growl, to vocalize their lyrics. A vocalist who screams in different ways each line is painful to listen to and is damaging their voice. (For more on this topic read Bob Nanna’s prose in Revolutions on Canvas)
Hardcore musicians must remember that they are not creating a train wreck, they are creating planned chaos. Because that is what hardcore is: emotionally charged, controlled chaos that delivers a kick in the teeth.
The Militia Group: A Bi-Polar Label of Fun
A Refreshing Glass of Music for a Summer Afternoon is the latest compilation album that your bi-polar friends at The Militia Group have released. The label, made famous in the indie community by RUFIO’s Perhaps, I Suppose… puts out the oddest collection of music. Their releases range from up-tempo “I wear my pants 3 sizes to small and sing like I was castrated at age 8” emo/pop-punk acts such as The Rocket Summer to acoustic indie rock such as Denison Witmer to excellent heavy ambient rock like The Beautiful Mistake. This compilation album reflects the bi-polar attitude of the label perfectly.
The Militia Group is just one of those labels that, although you may feel that you should beat up half the guys on the label, you love just because. They really give the listener a chance to hear quality music of many different genres- and that is really something that has to be admired, even if the comps are more bi-polar than middle school classroom.
Check out The Militia Group next time you need music and don’t know what to get. For those who like the heavier, darker material, check out The Beautiful Mistake, The Jealous Sound and Umbrellas. If you are into boys who are missing “the boys” check out The Rocket Summer, Lovedrug, Cartel, and Brandtson. And if you are into the mellow indie stuff check out Denison Witmer and Reeve Oliver. Check this label out if you haven’t before, they are one of the best indie labels out there.
Band Name: The Futurists
Album Name: Axis and Allies EP
Best Element: Strong, developed indie-rock sound
Label Name: n/a
Band E-mail: email@example.com
It is difficult to write a review for this EP, because I’ve been listening to the songs on this EP for months while waiting for this EP to get formally released. These songs have pretty much become a staple of my listening, right along side my Death Cab and System of a Down (odd, I know- but it’s the truth). And in the same way that it’s difficult to criticize System because they’re so darn innovative, or criticize Death Cab because their sound is so immaculately thoughtful and melodic, it’s hard to criticize the Futurists because they’re so amazingly together.
The Futurists don’t have any of the flaws that plague the early stages of the indie-rock band. Their vocalist has an immense range, is almost always on top of tone, hits the notes he goes for, and has the confident swagger of a mature front-man. When he hits falsetto in “The Superhero”, it’s spine-tingling. When he mocks his target in the unabashed “Dare I Say?”, it’s perfectly done. There’s just nothing to knock in the vocal performance.
The band backs it up, to say the least. They have an uncanny hold on how their sound fits together, and they seem to know their instruments inside and out. Whether it’s laying down a bombastic track that just torches the place (“Amaranthine”), building up an epic (“The Superhero”), or rocking out a song so good that they split it into two parts (“Masquerade” and “Masquerade Pt. 2”), they just know their stuff.
The guitars are heavy, but not so heavy that you can’t hear individual notes within the chords. When they go for solos, they aren’t gaudy- they fit with the sound in brilliant ways (see the fist pumping, finger-burning solo on “Amaranthine”). The riffs themselves are pounding, pulsing, and generally awesome. They never fall into repetition, and every single riff on the EP is ear-catching and repeatable. The bass and guitars work in tandem to achieve this effect, actually lending credence to the mantra that the bass is supposed to help out the guitars.
The drummer is extremely talented- knowing exactly what to put to the music to accomplish a certain feel. In “Amaranthine” he throws down a nearly dance-rock beat that gives the song the extra boost it needs to be the best track on the album (it happens again on the solo section in “Film Noir”). On “The Superhero”, he slowly builds his drum part along with the rest of the instruments to achieve the intense climax that they hit. The swagger of “Dare I Say?” is largely provided by the drums, and the straight-forward, punch-in-the-face rock of “Film Noir” is definitely held together by the solid beats provided.
Basically, The Futurists are the best guitar/guitar/bass/drums band I’ve heard in a long, long time. When you can break new ground in today’s over-crowded indie-rock world armed with nothing but the most basic of setups, you’re onto something good. And that’s exactly what the Futurists have done with the Axis and Allies EP- burned up the competition with nothing more than the stuff your band’s got in its practice space. They really are the future.
This month’s feature is a highly international version of the Singles Review, as almost all of the bands come from somewhere that isn’t in the United States (Russia, Japan, Canada, France). Here’s to world unity- or at least musical world unity.
Song: For a Minute
Band: The Cold Within
Genre: Emotional Hardcore
Album: Burden of Reason EP
Label: Eternalis Records (http://eternalisrecords.free.fr)
Bottom Line: When I think Emotional Hardcore, I think of the sound that The Cold Within puts out.
Emotional Hardcore (the real type- if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read here) is, like every other genre, a little bit subjective. One may say that The Cold Within isn’t nearly emotional hardcore, and some may say it hits the nail on the head for old-school emo. I’d be in the latter, as the fuzzed-out screams, manic spoken/yelled vocals, and charging (but not brutal) guitar sound of The Cold Within’s “For a Minute” are less abrasive to me than regular metal or hardcore. While the song is aggressive, the sound never becomes abusive. The guitars never hit the block chords and hyper-distortion of hardcore, nor break into the precisely timed heavy chords of metal- instead, The Cold Within relies on heavily fuzzed out guitar tones to get their point across. By using this unique guitar tone and having a very tasteful drummer, the mood throughout “For a Minute” is extremely well-cultivated- another sign that it is emo and not metal. After four minutes, the song culminates in a furious, charging, fitting end. An excellent show by an up-and-coming French band.
Band: See The Light
Genre: Emotional Hardcore
Album: The Cold Within/See the Light Split
Label: World of Illusion Records (www.worldofillusions.fr)
Bottom Line: A Japanese emo band discovered by a French label getting reviewed in an American publication.
See The Light is a hard-working, mature Japanese emoish band. They’ve been around for eight years, gone through multiple member changes, and through all that they’ve worked at making their sound better and better. All that is evident in “Itukano”- an excellent song that showcases all that See the Light can do. It starts off hard, with guitars blazing, throats shredding, and drums flailing. The guitars still retain melodicism, though- a characteristic that takes on full shape later in the song as they morph from a blazing emo band into a slower, more emotional group. This part of the song is particularly impressive, as the screamer takes his raspy, excellently-fitting scream and chucks it out the window, preferring a sung approach. And unlike many bands, where the quality goes out the window when the singing starts, Tashiro can really put out when it comes to notes and rhythms. It’s pretty much a toss-up as to which side of the band is better, actually- the melodic side is genuinely pretty, while still retaining the complexity, energy, and excitement of the balls-out rock side. It’s a good predicament to be in, and it cements See the Light’s spot on the singles list for this month.
Song: We Are Squirrels and This Is Nuts
Band: The Love Machine
Bottom Line: Jubilant indie-pop that revels in odd instrumentation and loud noise.
When the first things you hear in a song are a playful guitar line, sleigh bells, and handclaps, you know you’re in for a great indie-pop song. The Love Machine definitely delivers on that premonition with “We are Squirrels and This Is Nuts” (I love this song name). The next significant instrument to arrive on the scene is a huge synth line with a tone ripped straight out of the eighties. A more conventional instrumentation comes in for the verses- although when layered with the charming lead vocals and snappy background vocals, it’s no less interesting. The song drifts in and out with the instruments, eventually climaxing in a triumphant indie-pop explosion: lead vocals dancing on top of loud guitars, a dance-laden drum line, background vocals all over the place, and a bouncy bass line. And just like that, the song cuts off. It’s a playful ending to a playful song- and with that, these Canadians prove that their music is fun music played by fun people for fun listeners.
Genre: Russian Ska
Bottom Line: You haven’t heard anything like this.
It’s really hard to describe Russkaja because it’s so ridiculously unique. If this wasn’t IndependentClauses.com, where we go to great lengths to find new stuff, I’m sure you wouldn’t believe me if I told you that Russkaja is a bunch of Russians living in Austria, drinking Vodka, and playing Ska heavily influenced by Russian Folk music. Yes, “Gop-Stop” has ska guitars, Russian folk instruments, party-hearty minds, and Russian-language vocals all thrown in a pot. It starts off with a perky bass line, a rousing horn section, a skank-till-you-drop drumbeat, and a guy yelling vaguely in the background. Group vocals come in, and there’s no resisting: it’s dance time. There’s a couple of solos thrown in for good measure- a fiddle, an accordion, a trombone. Basically, it’s sheer ska madness. Russian ska madness. And you thought Ska was dead. Never, my friend. Never.
Song: We Are A Li(v)e
Genre: Mellow Electronica
Album: Bluskreen – Selections
Bottom Line: Your antidote to the Postal Service.
So the Postal Service got big and now they’re everywhere. They’re still great, but they’re definitely getting on my nerves a little bit with their ubiquity (and for those who say Fall Out Boy is worse, I agree….much, much worse). That’s why Bluskreen is such a breath of fresh air. Yes, Bluskreen is mellow, melodic indie-electronica that doesn’t sound like the Postal Service. There are minor similarities, but for the most part, Bluskreen’s mellow transmissions deal more in mood than in pulsing beats. The underlying piece of “We Are a Li(v)e” is a beat, but it’s not all-important- the many other layers of sound here (piano, strings, guitar) are just as important, if not more important, than the underlying beat. This layering of sound is Bluskreen’s greatest perk- the layer may be a simple one, but when paired with other layers, the sound can become full and beautiful. And yet, this still sounds effortless. Excellent to chill to.
Song: Don’t Sleep in the Subway
Album: EP 3
Bottom Line: This band is cool to the core.
“Don’t Sleep in the Subway” is built off of three things: a hyperactive bassist, a suave vocalist, and a drum beat to hold it all together. The bassist carries the song, putting out the melody and moving the song along, all while exuding an aura of coolness. The vocalist, reminiscent of Steve Bays from Hot Hot Heat but with the added perk of tone, glides along on top of the bass line, also exuding an aura of coolness. His vocals are pulled back and distorted just a tiny bit- just enough to make you say, “Man, that’s pretty cool!” There’s also some background vocalists, laying down a quirky, hilarious “Oh! Oh-oh!” line. The drumbeat is simple and solid, giving backbone to the piece. There’s a guitar that throws in chords too, but it’s really just color. The keys are pretty interesting, but they’re atmosphere as well. The band really has a grasp on its sound- although the song is comparable to many bands, I couldn’t pin them down to one overlying comparison. Their spacious, charming, ultra-cool pop is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Band Name: Seven Revolutions
Album Name: Carolina
Best Element: The quality of the screaming.
Label Name: 13 Star Records (www.13starrecordings.com)
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
These guys are going to be compared to Atreyu, partially because their label makes that comparison, and it is not fair. These guys make Atreyu look like a bunch of kids messing around. Yes, the same mix of Hardcore, Metal and Post-hardcore is used but Seven Revolutions is on a whole different level than Atreyu. Seven Revolutions takes a formula that has been overused and was never all that great in the first place to a level that makes it interesting to listen to. And that’s what music is about, right?
At first glance you would probably write these guys off as another metalcore band. They have the traditional five-man setup: one vocalist, one on vocals and guitar, a second guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer. They have the pissed off “my ex-girlfriend should die” lyrics and the cross between singing and screaming. Yet they are truly different.
Honestly, at first I didn’t like the album. I’m not a metalhead and the first few songs make you feel like you are listening to the illegitimate children of Metallica and Kill Your Idols. But as I listened to it I realized that I was listening to Metalica and KYI’s spawn- their awesome, amazing spawn.
The band’s versatility is amazing. Many bands that make their living through metal/hardcore stick to the same chords, same riffs, and same solos for each song, never playing anything but metalcore. Seven Revolutions, on the other hand, willingly steps out and pulls from other genres to develop a sound that sticks with you. What amazes me about this album is the way each song sounds natural. Nothing seems forced on this album.
These guys really put out a great product, and working with producer Carson Slovak (Guitarist/Vocalist for Century, Tribunal Records) was a great idea. These guys have the potential to be a true force in the hardcore scene as long as they move away from the Atreyu comparisons. Carolina is truly one of the best albums of the year.