The Bitter Poet’s “Guy’s Gotta Breathe” is a manic, almost unhinged anti-folk stream of consciousness anchored by literate, specific lyrics and Kevin Draine’s engaging vocal performance.
Over a charging electric guitar line, Draine laments in rapid-fire style relationships current and past, potential apartment hauntings, old laundry, Simon & Schuster, the way coffee tastes three hours after it’s made, never being able to go back to your favorite restaurant, and various other slights (great and small). It is a whirlwind 2:46. His voice moves from a grumble to a howl throughout the song, keeping the listener close with his tenor’s ratcheting tension. The tension finally explodes at the end of the tune, providing a fitting end to the wild ride.
If you’re into The Mountain Goats’ lyrics (or their unhinged moments, like “Psalm 40:2”), you may find The Bitter Poet to be incredibly appealing. In the way of all unique things, the song does takes a moment to adjust to–Draine does not mind dropping you in en media res to his take on things. After you settle in, it’s really impressive and calls for multiple listens.
“Guy’s Gotta Breathe” comes from the upcoming Trail of Glitter, which drops May 6. You can check out tour dates and more info on where to buy the record at The Bitter Poet’s website. If you’re in NYC, you can also check out NYSolo6, the monthly singer/songwriter showcase that he runs.
With Blood on My Hands provides a very moving experience. The EP’s theme centers around the anger and hurt of having your heart ripped from your chest. With this album, Sweden’s Sounds Like Violence has taken this overused and abused theme and given it new life. The anger is white hot, passionate and communicated well through their explosive sound and cleverly worded lyrics.
The lyrics are poetically written and far from contrived. They are angry and beautiful all at the same time—an expression of pure, raw emotion. It’s almost as though the EP tells a story, with the opening track “Nothing” being an introduction to the heartbreak and the closing track “The Greatest” showing that, while he is bitter and angry, he is moving on. In between are some stellar lines, such as “I called up my first love/it must have been ten years since we last spoke/I said: hi, how are you?/What have you been up to since you cut my heart out?/Is it there somewhere?/Does it fit in there?/In your nice apartment” (from “Heartless Wreck”), which paints a very vivid picture. Another great example of their stellar songwriting ability appears in “Were You Ever In Love With Me,” painting a poignant picture of falling in love and being forced out of it when the relationship ends: “You make hurt a very good name/and lies is your best friend/love, I was so in love with you/I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
If you’re into comparisons, Sounds Like Violence could be compared to both The Killers (with their Euro/indie-rock undertones) and At the Drive-In (with their crunchy guitar riffs and gritty vocals). It is a unique combination and it works. The Killers are very evident at the beginning of “Glad I’m Losing You,” while At the Drive-In is interwoven throughout the EP.
Having said that, in a sea of copycat indie rock artists, Sounds Like Violence is a gem, and With Blood on My Hands is an album not to be missed. Their sound is angry, bitter, gritty and captivating all at once. They are honest and real, with a performance that comes from the (broken) heart and keeps you hooked.
Vacillating between surprising brilliance and heart-rending cynicism, Standish Arms’ first full-length release The Reasoning Engineis brimming with pop hooks and riddled with witty lines. From the country swing, do-do-dos and snaps of “Binary Cold” to the unfailingly sing-able “Great Lengths” to the many other foot-tapping melodies and well-placed pauses, The Reasoning Engine is one of those discs I found myself leaving in the car CD player. Brad Caliman is the soul of Standish Arms, a project that has grown from bedroom four-tracks and snippets of “captured noise” into a viable full band.
My favorite track “Great Lengths” develops from a simple guitar and trumpet gliding over a muted drum kit. Caliman’s lyrics truly shape the song, as a line referencing a ballerina devolves into a few waltzing bars before returning to the initial mood. A verbal metaphor turned rhythmic… sheer brilliance! Following this, a snare build-up is eclipsed by guitars and a full ensemble as Caliman wails his most powerfully memorable lines: “We’ll go / to great lengths / our heads / we can’t escape / talking circles / voices are powerless / we can’t find a purpose / but we’re hopeful / ever hopeful / we will compromise.”
Where The Reasoning Engine falls a bit short is the wavering ability of Caliman to hold the notes he writes. Brad Caliman’s voice—at times a bit overly airy for the punk-tinged guitar lines—hovers lightly over sometimes bitter, often rhythmically syncopated, always penetrating lyrics. Whether his near-misses are intentional or not, we cannot tell. This isn’t horribly noticeable, and what is lacking in this department is made up for in the penetratingly honest words and irresistible pop feel of the entire album. I think with a bit of polishing, this project has a chance to break from the ranks of also-rans and radio-station dust-collectors; anyone who can compose songs as Caliman does certainly has a future in songwriting.
Where many singer-songwriters have difficulty prying poetic phrases into their songs, lyrical gems seem to be Caliman’s standard fare. Wordplay dominates the songs on The Reasoning Engine. From slant-rhymes cutting through “Stack the Facts” (“both rooms reek the perfume / of smoke from the jokes next door”) to the sensitively honest “Blinders” (“…couples so closely bound / parading insecurities all over town / what would you do for a hand to hold? / a 98.6 to keep your 97 from cold?”) to his ability to create mood through sensory associations in “Two Birds in a Flock” (“…Eskimo kiss, passionless / polar cap landing / regardless, still standing / regardless, still standing up”), Caliman is certainly a songwriter to look out for.
With some vocal polishing and a continued development, I see Standish Arms becoming a very good band. Fortunately they’re young, and haven’t reached their potential. Consider me interested.
Band Name: Weather
Album Name: Calling Up My Bad Side
Best element: Piano “highlights” make their sound unique.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label name: Cake Records (http://www.cakerecords.com)
Band e-mail: email@example.com
In a 1980’s-U2-meets-Dave-Matthews-Band-meets-Ben-Folds-Five fashion, Weather has created an album of 11 original tracks that seek to please.
There really are no “weak” songs on Calling Up My Bad Side; each track has the potential for radio success. High points include the song “Calling Up My Bad Side,” which has been sent to college radio stations, and “The Bitter End,” a beautiful track which demonstrates Weather’s ability to combine the efforts and talents of each musician into a musically cohesive unit.
The addition of a piano to what would otherwise be your typical alternative rock band is what makes Weather’s sound unique. Their similarity to Ben Folds Five starts and ends here, because they take the addition of the piano and stretch it out, using its ethereal quality to further enhance the emotion of each song, whether it be upbeat or more serious and sensitive.
Weather’s lyrics are not incredibly poetic, and can even be a bit cliché at times, but they are incredibly honest. There is a lot of telling of emotions. They don’t leave much to interpretation, but they do write lyrics that are able to provoke feeling in the listener and give him or her something to relate to.
While their overall sound and style is not truly groundbreaking, Weather’s Calling Up My Bad Side is worth listening to and even has a little replay factor.
“Intelligent hardcore” is not a phrase you hear often. In fact, the words seem to comprise a serious oxymoron, just like the term “happy hardcore”. But, humor aside, The Letdown excels at the aforementioned genre of intelligent hardcore. In fact, I hope they start a movement with this EP.
The odd moniker of the genre is explained when you look at the song titles. One is in French, and another contains a word you’ve never heard before: semaphore. Take a glance at the lyrics, and you’ll understand even better. These guys are very intelligent and can write extremely well. Their lyrics are truly poetic, as most actually rhyme. They give their take on three topics mostly: love, death, and society. They bitterly cry for their love life, even though they never say the word love. When talking of death and society, they are violent, using graphic, vivid terms to portray their emotions. Yet they never curse, showing that you can be hard without being coarse. They are so good that that I read all the lyrics in succession, which I don’t ever do.
Musically, it’s hardcore with some tipping of their proverbial hat to its roots. It’s basically your average melodic hardcore: a mix of screaming and singing over thrashing riffs and subdued melodicism. It throws in some tender moments, and some other non-hardcore moments, but it doesn’t break much new ground for the genre. Then again, it sounds good, and it’s basically a vehicle for the vocals and lyrics anyway. The vocals which deliver the passionate writings that I talked of earlier are varied throughout. They manifest themselves in various states of frenzy and calmness, but they are always excellent. Their backup vocals are very well done as well, solidifying the feel the lead vocals give off. The powerful breakdown of “This Form of Murder” and the all-out frenzy of “A Contour in Lipstick” feature the best The Letdown has to offer.
Contrary to their name, The Letdown is highly exciting. To the person who listens to hardcore often, this will be nothing new, but good nonetheless. But to the occasional hardcore listener, there will be a plethora of stuff to investigate here. Great lyrics, thrashing riffs, singing, screaming, and all the power to pull it off with gusto. Hardcore has been given a bad rap, as a genre for people who hate everything, have no lyrical talent, and only enough musical talent to thrash angrily. But there is hope. The road that leads to hardcore getting the respect it deserves begins in the recovery room.