Woven Green wears everything on its sleeve. Even the band’s name points toward its philosophy; while not necessarily “green,” the members of Woven Green espouse taking care of the earth, being unified with each other, and loving one another. The lyrics bear no subtlety; Woven Green is what it is, and it’s not hiding it.
The same aesthetic carries over into the songs on their self-titled EP. They have a sound similar to what you might imagine from the themes presented; a few parts wah-pedal funk, a few parts upbeat acoustic pop, a few parts middle eastern instrumentation. They wear their influences on their sleeve, not trying to hide. This total honesty is to be commended, as posturing, irony and cynicism has become the norm in independent music.
Thankfully, Woven Green meets their honest aesthetic with songwriting skill. Woven Green has taken steps to make their songs not just your average song. “Sixth Sun” experiments not just with middle eastern instruments, but with middle eastern chord structures (which are unusual to the western ear, but intriguing!). “Between Worlds” uses strings in an unusual breakdown of sorts. “Generation Zero” has an extended guitar solo. “Wild Love” has a violin solo in the way that other bands would have a guitar solo. It’s these touches that make their songs better than the standard upbeat acoustic-pop fare.
This four-song EP establishes Woven Green as a band that wants to take a tired genre and make it interesting again. I hope that their creative energy and unique ideas keep flowing to future releases. Their songwriting skill makes them a band to watch for fans of John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band, OAR, Jason Mraz and others of the like.
Las Vegas based alternative pop/rock group Sprockets give their listener an intense, solid experience on their latest album, Medicated Empty. I would say they fall into the category of “well-groomed Warped-Tour esq.” bands. The 13-track album exudes creative writing and well-rounded musicianship. While some may call them pop/rock, don’t be misled into thinking they are another lovestruck boy rock band. Their sound is much darker, and the content is at times quite heavy.
The album starts out with title track, “Medicated Empty.” Singer and lead guitarist Brodie Knight Vans says in a statement that the song was inspired after the “nowhere” feeling he experienced from medication after surgeries. With lyrics like “Medicate your thoughts with substance that rots away the memory/Instead of pain I’d rather feel empty,” the song goes from mellow, gentle guitar to powerful alternative rock. The pacing of the song reminds me of the old Brand New days.
Two of my least favorites are “Safety Nets and Fastened Windows” and “New Years Day.” The only reasoning behind this is that the first has vocals that hint at the dirty rock sound of commercial rock bands like Hinder. On the second, I just can’t get past the lyrics “f*cking in the parking lots/taking shots of everclear/celebrating the new year.” This song just screams “young, male angst,” unlike much of the rest of the album, which has a broad and emotional appeal. However, I am not discounting the catchy beat, which can surely rally a crowd at a show.
The album ends strongly with “Flood Lights” and “The Sound of Existence.” Both songs exemplify the pop-punk genre perfectly, with the latter showing reminiscence to Rufio and much more pop-like than other songs on Medicated Empty. Overall, fans of the “in-between genre” will enjoy this record. By “in-between” I mean not quite hardcore and not quite pop-punk.
There is nothing particularly unique or unusual about the band’s overall sound, but credit should be given when credit is due: it’s solid. There is definite influence from the band’s producer/engineer Mike Herrera. Does his name sound familiar? Yep, he was also the founder and lead vocalist of MXPX.
I love chronology. Keeping track of dates and reconstructing timelines is one of my favorite hobbies/mental gymnastics. That’s why I know exactly when I was introduced to post-rock. I was brought up on Christian punk rock (of all the odd places to start from), and so on August 27, 2004, I went to go see Last Tuesday, Philmore, Sleeping at Last and a bunch more at Hear No Evil fest. Stuck in the middle of the punk and emo was this post-rock band named Ember Days. I was so awed by their sound that I bought their EP and an XL t-shirt, because that’s all they had left.
Ever since then, I’ve loved post-rock. And that’s why Post Harbor‘s “They Can’t Hurt You If You Don’t Believe In Them” is near and dear to my ears right now. Post Harbor takes elements from all over the post-rock spectrum and combines them into one incredibly impressive album of sweeping, varied music.
They kick the doors in with “Ponaturi,” unleashing a riff-heavy guitar attack that sounds more like Tool than Sigur Ros. They slam through the riff several times, then pull back into an intricate calm section that features atmospheric synths (in the Appleseed Cast, “I’m about to fight you” atmosphere) and weaving guitar lines. They spend the rest of the album drifting back and forth between heavy and loud, making the most of both of their skills.
They waste no time, closing down “Ponturi” quickly in favor of their statement song “Cities of the Interior.” “Cities” is eight and a half minutes long, almost a minute of which is fade-in and fade-out. In between are heavy guitars, anthemic riffs, a nearly two-minute long section of nothing but vibraphone (or similar percussion) chords, electronic noodling, synthesizers, strings (violin and cello), and sparingly (but pleasantly!) used vocals. In short, Post Harbor throws everything into “Cities of the Interior,” and the return on investment is immense. The track is easily the best thing that Post Harbor has to offer, and it never feels like it takes as long as it does to run its course. The track is simply breathtaking, and there’s no other way I know of to explain it.
Even though the most complex and satisfying track is set at spot number two, that’s not to diminish the quality of the rest of the album. The ebb and flow of the album is perfectly done, with quick tracks flowing seamlessly into quieter ones with no jarring changes. “Alia’s Fane” starts out with the sounds of rain, humming synths and strings; it’s peaceful and wonderful. The rest of the song slowly fades in, and it’s just glorious how the whole thing unfolds. Three songs later, “For Example, This is a Corpse” takes a midtempo approach to math-rock with some serious guitar noodling and rhythmic complexity. That leads in to the final track, “Intro,” which is a delicate, percussion-less piece that floats along on a creaky piano line and background noises.
This album has all of the post-rock idioms rolled into one: guitar noodling, buildups, atmospheric pieces, overarching melodies, heavy parts, quiet parts, heavy/quiet/heavy parts, all of it. The members of Post Harbor studied post-rock, took it apart and put it back together expertly on “They Can’t Hurt You If You Don’t Believe In Them.” Post Harbor has set the bar for best album of 2010. Let all comers come. It doesn’t come out till February, but you can hear clips on their website.
There is nothing wrong with the genre of modern rock. When done correctly, it can be just as powerful as your best indie-rock songs or indie-pop tunes. It’s just that there aren’t very many bands like Chevelle, Bush, Glori-H and (okay, I’m prepared to take some flack for this) Linkin Park. There are, however, plenty of sucky bands like Three Days Grace, Nickelback, Staind, Puddle of Mudd, and the like. It’s a true statement that modern rock has a disproportionately amount of sucky artists in its ranks. I don’t know why this is, exactly. But just because there are lots of sucky ones doesn’t stop me from being able to laud a good one when it appears.
And When Summers Gone is a good modern rock band, despite the horribly punctuated name (I have to stop myself from putting a [sic] after every use). Their debut album December features catchy riffs, a solid rhythm section, intense vocals that fit well without sounding forced (mostly), and a general mood that makes it feel real and honest instead of overproduced and bloated.
“Ocean Boulevard” is the standout here, with a charging guitar line accented by syncopated drumming and snarling yet melodic vocals. Every part meshes together, and the song feels like a whole. It doesn’t feel forced or contrived, but like the natural outflow of the band. In the same way that Anathallo sits down and indie-pop glory comes out, When Summers Gone sits down and modern rock comes out. It’s almost definitely not that simple, but the finished product makes it feel that way. And that’s good news for the listener (which is good news for the band).
“Embers” is another hard-charging tune that only misses being the highlight by having a slightly out-of-control vocal line throughout. If the vocals weren’t so passionate as to miss bits here and there (this is, after all, an indie release), the song would easily top “Ocean Boulevard,” as the start/stop, loud/quiet songwriting is the tightest on the album. The band plays with emotions effectively on “Embers,” and that’s a good sign.
If When Summers Gone can hang together and make some more songs, I see good things for them. Their songs are tight and their sound is cohesive. They can write and make it feel natural, which makes me want to listen to their music over others in the genre who just feel contrived as a marketing ploy. They do have issues with vocals in places, but that’s stuff they can smooth out. December is worth picking up if you’re a fan of Bush, Chevelle, or modern rock in general.
Sexstone has an identity crisis. They’re really good at being a pop/rock band, but they aspire to be a modern rock band. Their songwriting is really solid, but they force tones and inflections onto the sound that just don’t belong in the songs they’ve written. The vocals, which are clear, impassioned and without grit whatsoever, are often pushed to sound gritty, because that will fill the sound that they want to make on The Painful Side of True.
The same problem affects the guitars. The guitars throughout are chock full of distortion, but it’s just not necessary for these songs. They’ve got a set of melodic tunes with a great vocalist, and they spend all of their time covering up the true melodic qualities of their sound with distortion and “grit.” The best moments on this album come when they drop the pretenses and just write good songs, like “Wait for Me (Soldier’s Song),” “Lift” and the beginning of “You Know.” Both of them have some distortion, but not a lot.
Sexstone writes solid, entertaining melodic rock songs. They do not need to be covered up with machismo and distortion as much as they are. I hope that they grow into using their melodic talents in the forefront of their sound instead of as an aside to “rocking.”