1. “Away” – Heart Beach. Heart Beach is out-Pixie-ing the Pixies with this churning slice of plodding bass, washed-out guitar and yearning vocals. A+.
2. “Cavity” – Kuzin. Sometimes the vocal hook that seals it is in the verse, and so it goes with the yearning killer line of this track. You’ll be humming this one for a while.
3. “Gone Past” – Lore City. A lot of people want to invoke shoegaze, but few bands really inhabit the idea of the sound overwhelming a person in their entirety the way that Lore City does here. Slow movement, pounding drums, howling vocals, synth sheen over everything: this is how you create a wall of sound in 2015.
4. “He’s Not Real and He Ain’t Coming Back” – Twin River. The synth-laden, reverb-heavy soundscapes on this track recall the slow motion of the band’s titular geographical features. Let it wash over you.
5. “Wasting Time” – The Phantoms. The alt-rock drama of Anberlin meets Blur influences in vocal delivery for this high-contrast track.
6. “Dotted Line” – Bombay Harambee. Guitar rock with demonstrative, impassioned front men will always have a home. This particular brand makes me think of a slowed-down Arctic Monkeys.
7. “Fourth Quarter Funeral” – Velcro Mary. The thick, bassy guitars in this power-pop song fill up the track, but they never make the song feel leaden. Instead, the track moves sprightly along on a Foo Fighters backline and a snarly vocal line that never explodes.
8. “Universe” – Faith Healer. Some perky garage-rock with a mumbly female lead vocal creates a very cool vibe.
9. “Actual Alien” – American Culture. Scuzzy guitars; gated ’80s drums; distorted, nasally vocals. Sounds like a great entry into American garage rock culture to me.
10. “Time For Us to Move” – Full Trunk. We really should thank the Black Keys for re-popularizing blues rock. There are few ways to vibe harder than on a good blues-rock riff, like the one here.
So I didn’t post much in June, so all of the June singles are getting posted now. This means that instead of one mix, there are two: a loud one and a quiet one. I’ll start today with the loud one.
1. “Strange Thing” – DL Rossi. Pedro the Lion has left few followers in the emotive alt-rock space, but DL Rossi is a welcome addition to the space. He also brings in Bazan’s qualms with Christianity, although Rossi seems to hold fast to the tenets of the faith while contending with some practices of Christianity. Also, he has a Mumford-ian penchant for dramatic f-bombing.
2. “Glaciers” – The Trouble Starts. Daniel G. Harmann has completed his transition from bedroom indie-pop hero to rock band by dropping his name off the front of the group. Here’s a roiling, churning example of the newly-christened group’s output. Foo Fighters’ fans will approve.
3. “All the Lights in New York” – Autumn Owls. The fractured folk of Autumn Owls casts its foggy, urban, streetlight glow on you. You smile uncertainly, and step forward into the gloom.
4. “We Are the Dreamers” – The Stargazer Lilies. Shoegazer Lilies, maybe, plus some Portishead dread and staccato stomp. Overall, a very different dream than Teen Daze’s chillwave dreaming. But still quite engaging!
5. “Be Someone” – Post War Years. The Postal Service + Passion Pit = Post War Years. Clicky, hooky, fun, and now with 100% more xylophone!
6. “Cut Free” – The Alibis. Yo, this ’90s-style Brit-pop track is all about the excellent bass player. I look forward to more fascinating work from this band.
7. “Bystander” – Shotgun No Blitz. Shotgun No Blitz might be the best possible pop-punk name, calling up youthful games, playful but aggressive contact, friendly agreement, and speed. And the spread offense, which I just like.
8. “We’re the Kids” – Parade of Lights. New formula for massive single: use the word kids, employ that specific synth noise, and crank the bass. MONEY.
December is an inadvisable time to be releasing/submitting music, as bloggers are caught up in the “best of” cloud that descends over the month. But The Gorilla Press cut through the haze with their submission, which blasts off at the speed of the Foo Fighters. Nothing like thrashing drums, overdriven guitars and clanging piano to catch attention.
The assertive “On Fire” kicks off A Natural Thing (Unnatural to Me), which shows the Chicago five-piece in their finest indie-rock attack mode. But there’s a great deal of texturing and careful attention to instrument tone, which points to the band’s strong suit: a post-rocker’s sense of tension and restraint that allows The Gorilla Press to slink about as a muscled-up version of Local Natives or a Animal Collective-ized Radiohead (“The Night You Walked With Me,” “Whale in the Sea, Part 1”) when they’re not throwing down the rock.
Both of these comparisons are desirable, unless you’re one of those people who thought “My Girls” was too whatever or wishes that every Radiohead song was “Paranoid Android.” It’s not every day that a song like “To the Hills” comes along, balancing post-rock arpeggios with real muscle. They aren’t just crushing the distortion pedal; they’re laying down heavy grooves to get their power. It’s a refreshing twist that’s actually (kind of) like “Paranoid Android.”
The Gorilla Press‘s careful attention to the details of rocking results in A Natural Thing (Unnatural to Me) delivering the goods. With Chicago missing The Felix Culpa, a lot of bands are going to have to step up to the rocking plate; The Gorilla Press is a good first step toward coping with a Felix-less world. Fans of any variety of rock should take note.
Every once in a blue moon, Independent Clauses covers modern rock. South Cry‘s album is literally called Blue Moon. I took that as a challenge.
If we’re going to count modern rock on its playing field, we need to be checking for anthemic riffs, soaring vocals, vaguely dark moods and guitar solos. By the 2:00 minute mark in opener “Paradox,” South Cry has delivered all of these things. They’ve even thrown in acoustic guitar for good measure. This band sounds more like Creed than Creed does (and, in this context, that’s a very good thing). And, although critically maligned, Creed sold a bajillion albums. This bodes very well for South Cry.
It helps that they’re actually good at all of the aforementioned parts. The vocalist has a powerful croon that stays locked in to the notes, even when casting off lines nonchalantly (“Lord of Sound”). And their riffs are pretty great too; I had my iPod on shuffle when “L.I.A.R.” came on, and I thought it was a Foo Fighters song at first. Other tunes call to mind Lifehouse and even Silversun Pickups (who, in turn, call to mind Smashing Pumpkins).
The members of South Cry are a bunch of guys from Brazil trying to break into the American scene, but you would never know from the sound. They sound like a melodic modern rock band through and through. If you’re still lovin’ that modern rock sound, you should check these guys out post-haste. Blue Moon is a great collection of modern rock songs that showcases vocal and guitar prowess.
With their first full-length release from 2007, Our Future Is History, Long Island alternative band Black Suit Youth places themselves into a place that lies somewhere between Rise Against and Foo Fighters. The Rise Against comparison comes from the band’s songwriting style, which sticks with fairly heavy guitar riffs (but not so heavy that it goes into hardcore or metal) and rapid, driving drums and bass. Singer Bryan Maher’s voice is a deep and rich baritone and as he belts out his notes, it is reminiscent of Foo Fighters’ singer Dave Grohl, hence that comparison.
All this, unfortunately, leaves the band feeling derivative but still enjoyable. The simple fact here is that, while the band has some good lyrics and some hefty guitar work, there’s not really a terribly strong sense of personality here. The main impression one gets is that Black Suit Youth, formerly known as The New York Dynamite, still hasn’t quite found themselves – despite the name change. Sure, the music is catchy and without a doubt marketable to alternative radio stations all over the country, but it just doesn’t say “We’re Black Suit Youth, this is our song.” There’s no sense of identity – the band tries very hard to stand out, but at the end of the day, Black Suit Youth’s music won’t leave enough of an impression for the band to stick in the listener’s mind. I’ve listened to the album three times today for this review and, still, none of the songs stick out in my mind.
One pitfall that many bands fall into is thankfully avoided in Our Future Is History – the tendency to write songs that sound too similar. There is a fine amount of variety here. While there may not be any genre-bending between songs to make them really stand apart, they differentiate mainly through diversity of rhythm. However, the band is so hellbent on rocking out that they never take the time to slow down, save for a few select sections. Maybe it’s cliché, but how about a ballad? Maher’s got the vocal cords for it, and writing a ballad doesn’t make anyone a pansy.
This is one band that could benefit from an experimental stage – playing around with different sounds and styles could provide a gateway to finding a real sense of identity. While they could easily get on the radio now, it seems unlikely that anyone serious about music would take them seriously.
P.S. – The album art has to be about the most bizarre I’ve ever seen. It features a slightly pudgy, tattooed dude in black pants, a studded belt and a tucked-in wife beater, with cheetah’s heads for his man boobs that are spitting lightning while his face is blurred and some kind of cherub dances on his shoulder while he’s standing in a field at sunset. Yeah, weird.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.