Rosematter – Shooter’s Gonna Choke
Fun and energetic pop-rock.
Rosematter explodes out the speakers from the very first second of their debut album, Shooter’s Gonna Choke. Lying somewhere between blink-182 and Paramore, Rosematter tackles the pop-rock genre with a balls-to-the-wall attitude that gives an undeniable energy to the entire album.
The music is bright and catchy, especially due to guitarists Matt Bozievich and Lucas Corish. There’s not too much crunch to bog down the sound, but there’s enough to make it feel like you can bang your head while you’re happily singing along. They also pull off some great, if somewhat standard, riffs. The real star here, though, is vocalist Katie Kolos. As Wayne Campbell of Wayne’s World might say, “That chick can wail.” It’s Kolos’s voice that really makes the music come to life.
The band obviously has a nerdy side and a good sense of humor. The tracks on Shooter’s Gonna Choke have titles that have nothing to do with the songs and are generally some sort of pop-culture reference, such as references to Ghostbusters II, Spaceballs, Chuck Norris and Fievel Goes West. These titles that you can laugh off just add to the fun of the album.
Some of the stand out tracks include “Do, Re, Egon,” “Chuck Norris Jokes Aren’t Funny Anymore,” “Your Mom Doesn’t Count as a Fan, Jesse,” and “I Drink to Prepare for a Fight (Tonight I’m Very Prepared),” all for being particularly more catchy and fun than the others, whether for particularly good vocals, lyrics or guitars.
In fact, every song is catchy and every song is fun, which leads to one problem: they ultimately start to blend together. However, with the overall quality of each song, it’s not that big of a problem. A little more variety in tone would have been welcome. Something like a ballad would have been nice, but even so, the album is a hell of a lot of fun to listen to.
The newfound Oort Record label is really finding some good talent and people should be looking out for Rosematter. There is a lot of potential here.
Säh – 06/06 EP
Last Minute Records
Incredible instrumental post-hardcore with a strong emotive quality.
Quite often people ask me why I listen to hardcore or post-hardcore. Those who are questioning me say that there is no point in listening to music if there are no discernable lyrics. I’ve been told that hardcore isn’t even music because you can’t understand the lyrics. I often try to point to the fact that a song consists of far more than lyrics and that lyrics are often distracting from the art that is coming out of the amps and drum sets on stage. Säh’s 06/06 EP is proof of my theory: a five-track EP that lasts over an hour with almost no lyrics. Yes, Säh is the proof that lyrics in no way make a song.
Trying to describe Säh is somewhat akin to Lewis and Clark trying to describe the Rocky Mountains (this metaphor has nothing to do with the fact that I’m currently flying over the Rocky Mountains, or that the first time I listened to this album I was driving through the Rocky Mountains). The 06-06 EP is subtle, yet impossible to ignore. It’s gentle and brutal all at once and its recipe seems obvious only after you have listened to the EP.
The recipe? Three young men from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, two drum sets, two guitars and a desire to create music, not a record deal has produced an epic in a time when music has become a series of short stories. The music focuses on creating moods as it flows through mellow and heavy riffs. Säh never quite creates a steady melody, yet their sound never succumbs to the chaos that could be created by such a mixture. These guys sound like they want to be The Felix Culpa minus vocals – the wonderful thing is they are succeeding.
It is incredibly hard to justly describe an instrumental album that is as emotional as the 06-06 EP. The listener does not feel the same after listening to the EP and each experience is a different one. The EP is completely jarring and relaxing at the same time. While these guys will never be radio-friendly it will always be something you can put on to space out to.
Scott Landis’ Top Ten of 2007 List
And once again we’ve made it through to produce yet another set of Top (fill in your number of choice) Albums of the Year list. Yet this year it’s a little different. If you look back to the July edition you’ll see my top 5 of the first half of 2007. Surprisingly, three of those five albums made it into my top ten of 2007. Now here’s the list.
1. Magnetic North – Hopesfall
This has nothing to do with the fact that they just broke up. It has everything to do with the fact that this was possibly the most listenable album I have heard since…well, since A Types was released in 2004. Despite line-up change after line-up change after line-up change, the Hopesfall name has managed to consistently promise high quality music. If you don’t have this album, go out and get it.
2. In Rainbows – Radiohead
It seems cliché, but this is a great album. While I was a huge fan of Pablo Honey and The Bends, Kid A and Hail to the Thief were a bit too spacey for me. In Rainbows picked up where The Bends left off. I only bought the album on a whim and it turned out to be an album that I could listen to over and over again.
3. Colors – Between the Buried and Me
I’ve always kind of been “kind of” a fan of BTBAM. If they were in town for a show, I would go see them, but they had never blown me away. Colors changed that. While everyone knows that BTBAM is an incredibly hard-hitting metal band, no one had been exposed to their ability to produce more than metal. Songs like “Sun of Nothing” and “Informal Gluttony” showcase an instrumental and creative side that I did not expect. Oh, and did I mention that this is a metal album that you can actually listen to straight through? And that it’s an eight-track album that clocks in at an hour and four minutes?
4. Dancing Down a Fine Line EP – The Brakemen
Ah, there is nothing like a top ten list that goes from brutal metal to alternative country. The Brakemen have managed to keep my attention since I received their album last summer. Their brand of alternative country mixed with a Bruce Springsteen sensibility makes for a great EP.
5. m(US)ic – Dameira
I really have to credit the discovery of this album to ADD. If I had not stopped studying at Borders last spring I would not have found this album sitting on a listening station. There is nothing better than a band that combines a listenable sound with interesting music. Dameira is a band that does exactly that and it makes for an album that is completely worth taking a listen to.
6. Versions – Poison the Well
What happens when a band takes almost three years to write an album, drops from a five-piece to a three-piece and jumps from a major label to an indie powerhouse? Magic. Versions, while a slight step away from the brutal hardcore of their past, is a melodically brutal album that was well worth the long wait. With great albums like this coming from Ferret I can promise you that they won’t be the relegated to minor player status for long.
7. The Big Dirty – Every Time I Die
Speaking of great music coming from Ferret, Every Time I Die’s fourth full-length release did anything but disappoint. After 2005’s lackluster release Gutter Phenomenon the guys of ETID knew they needed to bring the heat with their next album. They certainly delivered the heat needed to beat back anyone who said ETID was down for the count.
8. 06/06 – Säh
This is possibly the best hour of instrumental music I have ever heard. The band, based out of Marquette, Michigan, features a guitarist, a drummer and a drummer/ guitarist and almost no lyrics. The EP is spectacular for driving or relaxing or just really any time.
9. The Alchemy Index Volumes 1&2 – Thrice
Since Vheissu, all Thrice fans have wondered if the band would embrace their heavy side that they became so well known for or if the darker, more melodic sounds of Vheissu would become the sound of Thrice. Then the Alchemy Index was released and Thrice fans found that both sounds would be the new sound of Thrice.
10. Kill the House Lights – Thursday
Yes, I know there were only seven new songs on it. And I know I’m a little biased since they’re my favorite band. But…they were seven good songs. Also, the DVD is an awesome documentary of one of the greatest examples of the rise from basement band to selling out the Starlight Ballroom.
Shalini – The Surface and the Shine
Electric Devil Records
Clean, fun guitar-driven power pop influenced by the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Shalini’s fourth full-length album The Surface and the Shine is a refreshing step back in time. If you appreciate pop music of the past, this album is for you. Shalini plays guitar and bass, and also writes all of her songs. Traces of Motown, punk and alternative-country can be heard throughout The Surface and the Shine, but it never strays too far from its catchy pop feel.
The album begins with “Gloria in Transit,” an up-tempo, danceable shout-out to the 60s. This song’s simple chorus is packed with harmonies that give it a celestial, floaty feel. It is a good opener for the album because it sets up many of its characteristics right away, such as the catchy guitar riffs, pop influences from days gone by and backing vocals in the chorus. These elements can be seen in nearly every song following “Gloria in Transit.”
The song “The Surface and the Shine” definitely deserves to be the title-track. The buildup to the chorus uses the organ that builds tension, which is a great climax of the song. This song is potentially the best on the album because its strong delivery stands out. Then, to add some variety after the faster songs, comes “Where Are We?” with a more country feel. Later on in The Surface and the Shine, the song “Escaped Velocity” follows in this same vein.
Another standout track is “Lipstick + Allusion.” This song begins with playful “ooo-ooo’s,” and the phrase “reading all my junk mail” is delivered with irresistible sass. The album closes with “Magenta Rules,” which pairs a more hard-rock electric guitar part with soaring, pure, slower-paced vocals. The song fades away at the end, where a punchier ending may have been more powerful, but the song is nonetheless a good closer because of its unique blend of genres.
Shalini’s vocals are always perfectly on pitch, but at times her delivery seems a little too clean, leaving the listener desiring for a little grittiness or more passionate emotion. Her songwriting, however, is what’s important about The Surface and the Shine and where her talent is very apparent. This album is good, clean fun from a skilled female musician and songwriter.
Sohodolls – Ribbed Music for the Numb Generation
Modern rock with an unrelenting sex drive.
If listening to the modern electric rock of Ribbed Music for the Numb Generation doesn’t create an urgent need to strip off a few layers, it’s not the fault of the Sohodolls. A compact and portable orgy, Ribbed Music for the Numb Generation is edgy rock laden with blatantly sexual lyrics. Like a lover, it’s an ever changing interchange of seduction and a cold shoulder. It’s Barry White for a modern generation.
Claiming influences from such a range of artists as Missy Elliot to Nirvana, the Sohodolls are truly a sound of their own. Their sound is a mix of electric, punk, rock and roll and lust, and it’s anything but dull.
Starting off with one of the released singles, “Stripper,” the Sohodolls are clear in their message. In a song describing the world of strip clubs and numb women, the rhythm and guitar is cool and Maya von Doll’s voice could narrate a wet dream.
Many of the songs feature a similar sound, but the band shows some diversity in “Bang Bang Bang Bang,” a calm cool in the midst of harder, edgier rock. “I’m Not Cool” is also a change from the electric rock style featured in songs such as “Stripper” and “Right and Right Again.” But even though it’s jazzy and upbeat, the lyrics remain in the lusty and emotionally charged theme of the entire album.
It’s all about love, sex, fear and the streets at night. What else could you expect from a band who promises to “show you all the pleasures of Soho,” and wants to be “your poisoned dish, all sick senses enhanced?”
In the words of the Sohodolls, they are “hotter than your average bitch.” They’re a one night stand you can experience over and again. Just remember to use protection when listening.
Stephen Carradini’s Top Ten of 2007
Jim Ward – Quiet EP
500 Miles to Memphis – Sunshine in a Shotglass
David Shultz and the Skyline – Sinner’s Gold
Novi Split – Pink in the Sink
OK Tokyo – Sums/Electro Metro single
Bees and the Birds – S/t EP
Free Diamonds – By the Sword
Ringer T – Around the Bend EP
ReedKD – The Ashes Bloom
(tie) First to Leave – Forging a Future
Josh Caress – The Rockford Files
The Art of the Encore
By Megan Morgan
At a recent concert at The Opolis in Norman, Oklahoma, indie-popster Ben Lee voiced to the audience his plans for the “encore.” The weather was quite chilly that night, and because the backstage of The Opolis is actually outdoors, Ben lamented the fact that he and his fellow band member would be forced to go outside in the freezing air before coming back. The Australian musician said that he feels that audience members want an encore because it makes them feel like they “got their money’s worth.” Ben Lee added humorously that he did not want to cheat the concert-goers by foregoing an encore, so he merely turned his back on the audience for a minute or two while remaining onstage. When he felt that enough time had elapsed, he turned back around again and played his encore.
This concert experience, while being pretty hilarious, sparked me into thinking about the art of the encore. What do bands make of the importance of encore performances, and how do audience members feel about them? As it turns out, opinions range quite widely on the topic.
Juston Stens, drummer of the 60s-influenced rock group Dr. Dog, thinks that if multiple bands are playing a show together, encores should be performed by the final act in the lineup when necessary.
“I think encores are good for headlining bands to include in their sets,” Stens said. “It is a good way to catch your breath for a short break… If we are supporting another band and an encore is requested, we would never do it unless the headlining band was right there cheering us on as well.”
Stens also said that he believes encores should be spontaneous.
“We don’t ever plan an encore,” he said. “We create the night’s set list about ten minutes before we play based on how much time the venue will give us. When the set is done we leave the stage with no intention of an encore, but if it is requested by the audience we treat it the same way as our set list and pick two or three songs ‘on the spot.’”
However, some concert-goers believe that unplanned encores are becoming a rarity. Tarrant County College student Lauren Carter said that she feels that most encores are premeditated.
“Personally, I would prefer an unplanned encore, but I think that it has become an impossibility,” Carter said. “Even on [video game”> Guitar Hero, on one of the load screens, it mentions how lame you become when you start planning your encore set list. I’ve gotten the chance to see a few bands twice on the same tour, and I know that they play the same set for every encore. Unplanned encores just don’t happen anymore.”
Solo artist and Starlight Mints member Ryan Lindsey has another differing opinion about encores. His opinion varies depending on whether he is performing or attending a concert.
“Generally as an audience member I like to see an encore, depending on whether I’m into the band,” Lindsey said. He also added that, “as a performer, I do sometimes feel the opposite. I usually make several jokes about it, especially if there’s no chance of one. I would only take an encore if I was asked. But I have taken a few, when I knew for sure the audience didn’t want one. That usually makes for an awkward couple of minutes. But it’s fun to talk about afterwards.”
If Wake Forest freshman and concert-goer Austin Shrum was in attendance during one of these shows, this might make him angry.
“If you’re good enough where the fans are going nuts and are calling ceaselessly for just one more glimpse…then congrats, you have earned your encore,” Shrum said. “Don’t plan an encore before your performance because you think you’re badass… that’s not the way.”
Lindsey and Shrum’s opinions clash again when it comes to a performer’s attitude about taking encores.
“I don’t view it as arrogant if a band takes an encore,” Lindsey said. “Performers have been taking encores for awhile because they’re asked for it.”
Overall, it seems that the art of the encore is a delicate one, but one that a band or performer’s reputation could balance on. Whether it is scheduled or impulsive, the encore happens. Carter said that despite the fact that she thinks encores are nearly always planned, she still wants to see them.
“Even if [the encore”> has become a planned thing that you know you’re gonna get,” Carter said, “It’s still part of the whole concert experience, and always the end to a great night.”
The Illustrated – Alphabaggage
Highly energetic punk that morphs and changes in sound.
When popping in the Illustrated’s Alphabaggage into the stereo, I was treated with an intro full of odd drum hits, censor beeps and confusion, which “prepares” the listener for what is to come. The Illsutrated can not be written simply off as a punk trio. While most of the album centers around punk songs, they also throw the listeners wild cards, such as the bluesy “The Zahir,” to show what they are capable of. While these types of song are not always well placed and sometimes slow down the album, it is good to see that they can do more than play in the style of punk.
The instrumentals in the songs are usually tight and have enough variation to keep listeners interested and intrigued. The best part about these guys is that their best tracks consist of imagery of monsters, destruction, and non-seriousness. The vocalist screams out the words “breakfast of champions!” angrily and rebelliously on “God bless you Gatorade,” showing that these guys are not trying to incite a revolution but are having a good time.
However, on many tracks the singing can come off as dopey and very near laughably bad. Yet, the fact that their lyrics are either humorously ambiguous or apocalyptic makes this a punk-sounding album that doesn’t leave one groaning at genre clichés at every turn. I will eagerly wait to see what The Illustrated has planned next for the listener.
– Tim Wallen
The Kindness Kind – A Novel
Don’t be a Lout Music
A highly polished indie band that derives its sound from dream pop and minimalism.
For an indie band, The Kindness Kind sure sound ultra-polished on their debut album. Deeply rooted in a pop sound, this is an advantage for The Kindness Kind. Their music is full of gentle soundscapes and a lead singer (Allessandra Rose) that sounds similar to Regina Spektor in nature. It seems like they took the elements they wanted from both The Cocteau Twins and pop music, then made an album that is highly accessible.
Because The Kindness Kind has a light poppy sound, A Novel can get old pretty fast. But The Kindness Kind really take off when there songs are more energetic and raw sounding. On “Midnight Flights,” Rose’s lyrics layer nicely over the gritty guitar and much needed attitude and excitement is given to their sound. When Allessandra Rose has more energy her voice is quite good, but that doesn’t happen for much of the album.
“August Eighth” and “Don’t be a Lout” are perfect beginnings and endings to the album, and they sound like textbook perfect dreampop instrumentals. It’s surprising actually, because the last track and the first track are not very similar to the meat of the album, which is unfortunate. But for the most part, The Kindness Kind is music you can play as background music; at times a good listen, but ultimately forgettable when it stops.
The Neighborhood – Our Voices Choked With Fireworks
A complete and very enjoyable pop/rock album with upbeat, mature songwriting.
Of the 14 tracks on The Neighborhood’s Our Voices Choked With Fireworks, ten are full pop-rock songs (four are intros, outros or interludes). Of those ten full songs, only four of them start out the song with the lead guitar riff (of those four, two are acoustic songs). In short, this band loves to build up their songs from nothing to something – they chose to immediately introduce the lead melody of a rock song only twice on a fourteen-song album.
The reason I point it out is that their enjoyment of patience and subtlety is exactly what sets The Neighborhood apart from other bands. The Neighborhood is great because they can wait up to three minutes to introduce the killer line that makes the song. They make you wait. And that is brilliant.
In addition to being astonishingly well-written for a first album, their sound is unique. Along with patience in songwriting comes patience in performance – rarely do the guitars freak out into clichéd strumming or chord mashing. They rock by having a ferocious drummer in Matt Duckworth, filling up the sound with lots of complexity and by playing really, really loud. The fact that there are very few instances where they kick it into all-out mode makes those few times even more precious: the Who-esque ending of “Your Longest Day,” the final chorus of the rip-roaring “Hot Water” and the conclusion of the gargantuan 4-minute-plus (!) crescendo in “The Television Set” being notable examples.
Vocalist Phil Rice has an instantly recognizable voice – a warm, resonant voice with a huge range that can turn from comforting and mellow to harsh and punishing on a dime. It’s an amazing instrument, and it puts the Neighborhood’s music in a whole other level.
The bass work is prominent throughout, and it is the primary way that it is possible for the Neighborhood’s pieces to extend as long as they do without delivering the payload. On the psychedelic, otherworldly “Oh the Lights, Oh the Colors,” Mai delivers a coiling, groove-heavy bass intro that sets the tone of the song before Rice and his guitar come in thirty seconds later. It’s one of the best tracks on the album, as the separated strumming of the guitar, the grooving bass and solid drumming produce a song that is a joy to listen to.
The Neighborhood has rock-fist fast songs (the aforementioned sweaty dance-a-thon “Hot Water,” “Stand Up, Chin Up, and Say”), beautiful slow songs (the gorgeous “That’s Okay,” the delicate closer “Fireworks”) and amazing pop songs (“Slingshots and Cannons,” “The Television Set”). It’s a total and complete album in every sense of the word – energetic performances of memorable and exciting songs that fit within a distinct and unique sound while still maintaining a wide variety of moods and tempos. There’s not much more you can ask for in a band.