Saturday, December 16th, 2006
Haste the Day / Calico System / Heavy Heavy Low Low / Flee the Seen
The Championship, Lemoyne, PA
By the eve of December 16th, I had just finished a long week of finals (semester number 7 out of 8, I might add) and I was ready for some good not-so-old-fashioned fun in the form of a good rock em’ sock em’ show. Scott (whom you may know as one of the IC’s editors) also happened to be ready for such a thing, so we ventured out together on this chilly December night to do just that.
Due to lack of parking and having to walk what seemed like miles to the venue, we missed the first band to play, but I have seen them before and I don’t think we missed anything spectacular. The first band we saw, Flee the Seen, I had heard of previously, as a co-worker knew them and told me how absolutely amazing he thought they were, and while they were ok, I felt they crossed genres far too much. They had the whole gimmick thing going, with a female vocalist who also happened to be their bassist, but at times it was impossible to tell when one song ended and another began. Also, this may seem sexist, but I can hardly stand female vocalists in hardcore bands, or rather, their high pitched screaming and growling just grates on my nerves so much that I can’t get past that to listen to the music the band as a whole puts out. But I’m allowed to say that; I’m a girl. I’m not denying that they were talented and had some catchy songs, but their abrupt style changes mid-song did little for me.
Heavy Heavy Low Low played next, and they lived up to all of my expectations. They were the primary band I was there to see, and they play a brand of hardcore/spazcore akin to early Fear Before the March of Flames, Ed Gein, and The Number Twelve Looks Like You. They played an insanely good set, with both the bassist and one of the guitarists in and on top of the crowd at one point. They’re opening for Thursday, Murder by Death and Fear Before the March of Flames this winter, so if that tour comes to your city, I highly suggest checking it out. The band that followed them, Calico System, also brought down the house. They had the most violent and intense set, and the vocalist established a connection with the crowd and never let it waver. During their performance they even gave away a free t-shirt to the kid that moshed the hardest during one of their songs. If that isn’t an indication of an excellent set, I don’t know what is.
The headlining band was Haste the Day, whom I never particularly cared for prior to seeing them play. However, they were clearly a crowd favorite and did have an excellent stage presence, though their wireless set up definitely helped. They were slightly more metal than the previous bands and it showed through their well executed guitar solos and dual vocalists, much like bands such as From Autumn to Ashes and UnderOath, who both also have singing drummers. Lancaster natives August Burns Red were also in attendance to support their former tour mates Haste the Day, as was a gigantic blow up MOSH Santa. Any band that’s good enough for both Santa AND the guys of ABR is good enough for me!
– Allison Frank
Band Name: Linda Sundblad
Album Name: Oh My God!
Best Element: Not a bad track throughout
Genre: Female pop
Label Name: Monza Music AB
Band E-mail: n/a
If a young Madonna had recorded True Blue twenty years later, it might sound a little bit like Linda Sundblad’s Oh My God! From the crackling album opener “Cheater” to the lead single “Oh Father,” which flirts with the interplay between sexuality and religion, Sundblad brings back sparkly eighties pop and manages to make it sound more authentic (and classic) than most of her peers.
It’s quite an achievement for the lead singer of the now-defunct pop/rock band Lambretta, a group known more for their pop hooks than their adventurous attitude. Now, unbridled and borrowing the best from Gwen Stefani and fellow Swedish songstress Robyn, Sundblad explodes with a solo debut that presents an absolute kaleidoscope of pop styles. Nearly everything is successful, but clear standouts are the boisterous “Back in Time” and the unfortunately titled “Who (Q-Boy).” The latter is perhaps Sundblad’s most eerily Madonna moment. A twisting confection of a story-song, it bursts with unpredictable energy and verve, gliding on hook after glorious hook. Later highlights include hip-pop electro dance tracks “Keeper” and “Beautiful Boys,” though really the entire album is one long, wild ride with Sundblad’s charismatic, playful voice always at the center.
With Oh My God!, Linda Sundblad has easily crafted the female pop album of the year – and the best thing about it is that it sounds completely effortless. Those expecting a retread of the sound that rocketed Lambretta to fame are going to be surprised by this. Instead, Sundbald has fashioned herself as the pop star that Gwen Stefani promised us, but ultimately failed to deliver. A-
Key Tracks: “Who (Q-Boy),” “Oh Father,” “Back In Time”
Tracks to check out:
(all can be sampled on [Hits From Another Planet)
Loveninjas – “I Wanna Be Like Johnny C”
“I Wanna Be Like Johnny C,” the new single from Swedish group Loveninjas, possesses the kind of shimmering pop melody that groups like Pulp and more recently The Upper Room excel at. I actually know shockingly little about the band, but I think that this song speaks for itself. It just keeps building and building until it bursts into an anthemic rave. In fact, I would put it right alongside Pulp’s “Common People.” In a lot of ways, it’s very similar and a nice compliment to that classic. Plus, the whole thing’s pretty funny… in a serious way of course.
Emmon – “Wake Up Time”
Emmon was the lead singer of Swedish pop/rock band Paris and has now gone solo. In addition to doing remixes for bands like the fabulous Melody Club (and supporting them on tour), she’s released this brilliant debut single. Although it seems to be a bit underhyped on the radio, it is completely deserving of massive hit status. File this next to the new Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Kylie tracks and don’t forget to buy her debut album The Art And The Evil when it comes out February 2nd.
All That and a Bag Of Chips – “Take Me To Your Leader”
All That and a Bag Of Chips incorporates elements of Bowie, the Ark and even a bit of Tim Curry. It’s a mixture made in heaven as far as I’m concerned, and their first single “Take Me to Your Leader” utilizes this sound to great effect. Glammy verses gradually build up to an explosive chorus that sets the track into spastic motion from that point on. ATAABOC hail from Norway, though they sound like they could have come out of America in the early-to-mid eighties.
Pleasure – “Out Of Love”
I really think this is one of the best tracks of 2006. Like fellow favs Alphabeat and Lucky Soul, this is pop music but it’s not vacuous in any way. High quality, unique melody, spare disco beat…it is absolutely essential – brilliant, even, in its simplicity. Pleasure is the work of Fred Ball, Norwegian DJ and pop music creator extraordinaire. An album is promised in February, though I can’t wait if it’s anything as good as this (and judging from second -and completely different- single “Back to You,” it is).
Juvelen – Hanna
Juvelen calls himself the “one man boy band.” I think he’s selling himself short, because he is far more interesting than that – too interesting for any label, in fact. Juvelen (means “jewel” in Swedish) is receiving mountains of hype in Sweden, and for good reason. His current single “Watch You Step” is a fine slice of catchy post-Prince pop, but I like “Hanna” better. “Hanna” is the kind of pop song that I seriously can’t imagine anybody disliking. It’s the kind of thing that Outkast promised us in that brief period where they made good pop… a wicked, surprising track that still manages to be conventional, catchier-than-should-be-allowed pop. In between sparkling synthesizer and funky guitars is pure genius.
Band Name: Knife the Symphony
Album Name: Knife the Symphony EP
Best Element: Intensity
Genre: Artsy Punk Rock
Label Name: Phratry Records
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Sometimes I attempt to understand the thought process of certain artists. My thinking usually runs along the lines of “what the hell were they thinking when they did this?” For example, what were the Red Hot Chili Peppers thinking when they released a double album (Stadium Arcadium helped make up my sleep debt), or why does this dude have to scream when he could make his point in a more calming way. Regardless of all this, questions mainly arise when bands try to do something new by releasing a concept album. Don’t get me wrong, I love concept albums, but they only seem to move to one of two extremes: either they fall flat and are disregarded or they become legendary.
After reading about Knife the Symphony and listening to their self-titled debut EP I’m going to go ahead and assume that this was meant to be a concept album (mostly in their philosophy). They claim to “cut away the mundane and consumed” and bring back the “lost art of playing music” with “unity between bands, between styles and between scenes.” With all this talk of knifing “corporate control” and the “mainstream” I feel like I should be hearing the sounds of prison inmates fighting with their makeshift toothbrush shivs; instead all I hear is artsy punk rock. Knife the Symphony starts their release with “Common Elements,” a simple guitar driven track with some fairly repetitive lyrics. “Solemn Solon,” despite its misleading name, proves that KTS can be more interesting. While Albers was yelling about egos and faith, I had a flashback to June of ‘44 (not the year). At least KTS is wielding some hefty lyrics about everything from personal problems to global conflicts. “Summer’s Decay” uses its driving rhythm to its advantage, but lags when it comes to vocals. As in a few of the other tracks, the vocals seem sprawled and disconnected. While it fits the style, it is more of a distraction than anything. Beyond that, KTS has an intense and energetic feel throughout the EP.
Knife the Symphony is the first band I have come across in some time that truly fits its description. This EP will leave you spent, but after a few listens KTS grows on you. I am no big fan of the scream/yell of lyrics, but this release has taught me that intensity has to be in every aspect of the music before it can be effective. This is one strength that Knife the Symphony has pinned down, making them a force to be reckoned with.
Band Name: Johnny Boy
Album Name: What I Have to Give, Let it Be Enough
Best Element: Sounds like nothing that’s been done before
Label Name: n/a
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Johnny Boy’s debut effort may just be the best punk album of the year. And… it’s not even punk. Like the bustling city awash with fireworks depicted on the album’s cover, Johnny Boy creates a busy, epic soundscape of trumpets, air traffic, bells… and that’s just on the first track. More importantly, the London duo carry an anything-goes attitude throughout the whole of the record, something that’s been sorely missing in modern pop music.
Nothing on Johnny Boy quite reaches the dizzying heights of former single “You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve.” It is quite possibly the most brilliant down-with-consumerism song that’s ever been recorded. From the very first listen it sounds like a long-lost classic, all shimmering doo-wop vocals and instrumental grandeur. It is undoubtedly on the short list of perfect pop songs recorded this millennium. “Johnny Boy Theme” and “All Exits Final” nearly match the success of “You Are The Generation…,” while other tracks (namely the boisterous “Living In The City” and sing-along “15 Minutes”) go for a dancier approach. Most everything on Johnny Boy sounds like nothing that’s ever been released, which is an absolute credit to those involved, given the cyclical nature of the pop scene.
The only time the record takes a dip is with a pair of tracks, “Springer” and “War on Want,” which are too sparse in actual vocals to garner much attention. More successful is “Bonnie Parker’s 115th Dream,” which sounds frighteningly like something Adam Ant would concoct if he was still making music. While Johnny Boy is a dense, sometimes challenging album, those listeners that stick around will be rewarded with one of the most refreshing pop debuts in a good long time. A-
Key Tracks: “You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve,” “Johnny Boy Theme,” “All Exits Final”
Band Name: Joe McCready
Album Name: Simple Songs
Best Element: Smooth, casual, easy melodies
Genre: Acoustic Pop
Label Name: N/a
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Joe McCready’s Simple Songs came with a hand-written letter talking about the deterioration of Christian music and the need for innovation in how it is made, marketed, and considered. As this is one of my primary causes, McCready had my attention before I even popped his CD in my player. My attention wasn’t lost as I heard his music, either, as Simple Songs is a strong start for any acoustic artist, Christian or not.
Joe McCready falls in the space between Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson – more pep than the chilled-out surfitudes of Johnson, but not as hill country hip-hop as Mraz. The vocals owe a debt to Mraz, as their rich melodies and clipped rhythms seemed snagged out of Waiting for My Rocket to Come, while the guitars are much smoother and prettier than would be expected to back up such a rhythmic approach to songwriting. The lazy tempos that characterize much of this album’s acoustic tales are a tribute to Johnson.
But as with all good artists, the product is more than the sum of its parts. The songs are genuinely catchy and enjoyable, from the swaggering pop of “Buttercup” and “Gets Around” to the layers of instruments in “In a Moment’s Notice” to the sweet “Never Lost.” The album does get a bit long at 17 songs, but the melodies which McCready delivers make it a worthwhile listen. You may not be able to remember which song was which, but you’ll definitely remember humming along without knowing the words because the melodies are so casual and bubbly.
Those who aren’t a fan of this style of music in total will not enjoy McCready, but if you’re a fan of acoustic artists you will like this. This is a good start for a promising artist – if he continues to develop his talent, as well as stick to his lyrical guns as a mixture of Christian and secular issues, he could be a very exciting force in the music industry.
Band Name: Fairmont
Album Name: Wait and Hope
Best Element: Fantastic Songwriting
Label Name: Go For Broke Records
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I take Fairmont for granted. I’ve gotten so used to Fairmont putting out a really good album every year or so that I almost forget to stop and praise the album like I should. To me, Fairmont is one of those bands that even if you don’t listen to them for a while, they’re still there as one of your favorite bands. They transcend the curse of “out of sight, out of mind,” and that’s incredible when you take into account how many bands I hear every year.
Take the title track of their latest album, for example. “Wait and Hope” starts out with a slick piano/bass riff accented by simple drums and Neil Sabatino’s wonderfully unique vocals. It graduates into a stomping diatribe before getting quieter into the infectious centerpiece of the song that’s delivered not with an exuberant explosion, but a pensive, wry smile. It’s completely unexpected. They throw in a solo section next, where a harmonica is featured in addition to guitar. It’s the sort of song that is so completely comfortable and accessible that it seems like you’ve been listening to it forever.
Part of this songwriting prowess comes from the fact that Neil Sabatino has been writing bitter, guitar-minded indie-rock like this for a long, long time. As the central figure in Fairmont, he shines throughout as lead vocalist and primary songwriter. From the stomping riff in “Suspicion Haunts the Guilty Mind” to the menacing “Tuesday Night Danbury” to the wonderfully charming and perky closer “Andy Goldfish Dreams of the Ocean”, Neil Sabatino changes up the mood with ease throughout, giving the album the amount of twists and turns it needs to keep a listener’s attention for 12 songs. One thing stays the same throughout, though: they all demand to be sung along to. And it’s not the type of sing-along quality where the whole song is an excuse to have a monster chorus (although “Today I Was Thinking About You” almost commits that sin)– it’s the type of sing-along where every single part of the song is just so well done that you want to hum everything. I memorize these types of songs very, very quickly, and so will you.
Sabatino, for all of his songwriting variety, doesn’t change up the mood of the lyrics. He prefers instead to keep a generally sneering and bitter mentality with the occasional shot of guarded optimism to temper the otherwise bleak landscape. Titles like “Happiness is a Million Miles Away,” “Lack of Luster” and “Since Day One I’ve Been Plotting Your Death” prove the former, while “Today I Was Thinking of You” proves the latter.
But it’s not all Sabatino – the duo of Hambone and Andy on bass and drums provide a very important and solid backdrop for Sabatino’s guitar and vocals. Hambone’s bass antics are especially important on the title track, while crashing bass and drums make “Fredo” the impressive song it is.
Fairmont is the cream of the crop when it comes to guitar-based indie-rock, and they prove it with Wait and Hope, which is guitar rock done so impeccably that you can’t help but love it. If you like literate, intelligent indie-rock with a great attention to detail and a liberal dose of attitude, Fairmont will be in your corner. If you don’t, well, Fairmont can get you interested in that sort of thing.
I think it is highly underestimated how much work music is. Music is often maligned as an industry that is all green rooms, sightseeing, playing to huge crowds, and having a blast in the studio, and it’s really not that. There’s stress at every level of music, whether it be trying to figure out how to not get your stuff stolen during a show cause the venue’s in the bad side of town, driving long hours through boring countryside, playing to no one only to see people in filing at the end of your set to see the headliner, or lots of hours in the studio playing parts over and over again to get them just right. Not to mention countless hours spent writing the material that pleases the critics and fans.
Then, on top of all of that stress, balance the business side of the venture – making merch, selling merch, buying equipment, trying to get paid for shows, trying to make gas for the van, and (oh yeah) eating.
Then, on top of that, put the stress of putting the band before family, friends, and relationships – which is what is required of the position. Also balance a parade of dead-end jobs you work only to get money to finance the band – coffeeshops, bookstores, fast food, substitute teaching, waiting tables. Lose jobs, gain jobs, put on your resume that last job was terminated when band went on tour (can you do that and still get taken seriously?).
Then get screwed a couple times by bigwig hotshots in the industry. Then get a breakthrough song. Get screwed some more. Gain fans. Sleep on floors. Make friends on tour, lose friends at home (unless they’re in other bands). The reason scenes are important is so musicians have friends, cause all their non-music friends are long gone.
This job isn’t a 9-5 job – it’s a lifestyle. And yes, if you get signed to a major, you get perks like 6 months off to write an album. But the living and dying of most bands is in that part where you balance all of that crap for love of a dream. What is the dream? To play that one show to a sold out audience. To have the audience go nuts, singing along, screaming, loving you. To perform. Is it worth the stress? Is it worth the burned out shell of a life you might be forced to return to if your band goes under? Is the reward really worth the effort?
Band Name: Don’t Die Cindy
Album Name: Most Imperfect Skies
Best Element: The melding of many genres into one
Label Name: Cake Records
Band E-mail: www.myspace.com/dontdiecindy
I must admit that I began Don’t Die Cindy’s Most Imperfect Skies with some trepidation. According to their website, “if you take the atmospheric feel from bands such as Pink Floyd and Radiohead, mix it with the intoxicating beauty of Sarah Mclachlan and Coldplay, and add influences from Copeland, Twothirtyeight, Die Radio Die, No Doubt, Cave In and Year of the Rabbit, you have Don’t Die Cindy.”
I remember thinking, “If that’s true, this band is amazing, but can this be true?”
It was. Though some songs are less impressive than others, some songs on this CD could have been written and performed by a superband composed of members of Coldplay, Pink Floyd, and Death Cab for Cutie.
“Mr. Handsome” begins with a guitar riff that could have come directly from a Photo Album-era Death Cab song. After the riff, there was screaming. Towards the middle of the song, there is this ethereal, Pink Floyd-esque space rock synth section.
After the synths, it sounds as if vocalist Patrick Hosey is channeling Coldplay wunderkind Chris Martin. Sadly, this vocal brilliance is followed by more screaming.
Even aside from the screaming, vocally this album is only mediocre.
Despite the vocal slips, this album shines musically. “Unclothed and Honest” could very well have been a cut on Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head. “Leave it at That” is catchy in its own right, and the guitar riff at the beginning is quite interesting. “Green Room” is driven by intense yet melodic guitar playing; parts of it remind me of Jet’s Get Born with a twist of punk.
The wonderful thing about this album is that, though it is similar in some respects to the work of other artists these similarities enhance the album rather than dominating it. Make no mistake; Don’t Die Cindy has a sound all its own.
Don’t Die Cindy has effectively combined punk rock, indie rock, classic rock, and a heavy dose of screaming. The result may sound quite strange on paper, but for reasons I can’t fully explain, Most Imperfect Skies just works. Give it a listen.
Band Name: Denelian
Album Name: False:Positive
Best Element: Spot-on re-creation of the 80’s sound
Genre: New Wave Revival
Label Name: N/a
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Y’know, here’s to hipster-ism. I’ve actually called out a band or two on having Joy Division or New Order roots before, and yet I’d never heard either band except for the most cursory listens (radio play, etc). But when I heard Denelian, I heard a sound that sounded so vintage 80’s that I had to go back and listen to both bands to prove to myself that I wasn’t being completely off-base by calling Denelian a band that belongs in 1985.
I’m not. Denelian is so in touch with their 80’s new-wave roots that the only band that sounds more like New Order might be She Wants Revenge. That said, this is a decent album– it just makes me feel a little bit lost in time
There’s pretty much everything you’d expect in a new-wave band- buzzy, sweeping synths; low-pitched, deadpan, warbling vocals; blocky beats; ringing guitars; perky bassist. One of the few things that differentiates Denelian from their 80’s brethren is the use of real drums, which provides a human aspect to tracks such as “Lost # 2 (In a Room)” and “Fallen Apart.” “Fallen Apart” is the track that calls into play whether Denelian might be the bridge between Coldplay’s X&Y and New Order’s Low-Life, as the modern production attached to the vintage sound sounds surprisingly like something that might appear on Coldplay’s newest album.
“Lost #1 (In the Bowery)” features some very excellently done piano, but the background synths and the vocals make it unable to shake 80’s comparisons. “Kiss Me” and “When I’m Quiet Enough to Hear Your Heart Beat” are pure 80’s pop – think “Friday I’m In Love” or “In-Between Days” by the Cure. It’s really uncanny how well they’ve studied the 80’s sound, and it makes for extremely fun listening, as these two tracks are the highlight of the EP.
Denelian’s EP False:Positive sounds like the 80’s, but if you like the 80’s sound, you should be rejoicing. They’re very good at what they do, and you will enjoy it. If you’re not a fan of the 80’s or the new wave revival that’s going around (should we call it old wave by now?), then you may want to check out some other electronic artists instead.