This month’s feature is a highly international version of the Singles Review, as almost all of the bands come from somewhere that isn’t in the United States (Russia, Japan, Canada, France). Here’s to world unity- or at least musical world unity.
Song: For a Minute
Band: The Cold Within
Genre: Emotional Hardcore
Album: Burden of Reason EP
Label: Eternalis Records (http://eternalisrecords.free.fr)
Bottom Line: When I think Emotional Hardcore, I think of the sound that The Cold Within puts out.
Emotional Hardcore (the real type- if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read here) is, like every other genre, a little bit subjective. One may say that The Cold Within isn’t nearly emotional hardcore, and some may say it hits the nail on the head for old-school emo. I’d be in the latter, as the fuzzed-out screams, manic spoken/yelled vocals, and charging (but not brutal) guitar sound of The Cold Within’s “For a Minute” are less abrasive to me than regular metal or hardcore. While the song is aggressive, the sound never becomes abusive. The guitars never hit the block chords and hyper-distortion of hardcore, nor break into the precisely timed heavy chords of metal- instead, The Cold Within relies on heavily fuzzed out guitar tones to get their point across. By using this unique guitar tone and having a very tasteful drummer, the mood throughout “For a Minute” is extremely well-cultivated- another sign that it is emo and not metal. After four minutes, the song culminates in a furious, charging, fitting end. An excellent show by an up-and-coming French band.
Band: See The Light
Genre: Emotional Hardcore
Album: The Cold Within/See the Light Split
Label: World of Illusion Records (www.worldofillusions.fr)
Bottom Line: A Japanese emo band discovered by a French label getting reviewed in an American publication.
See The Light is a hard-working, mature Japanese emoish band. They’ve been around for eight years, gone through multiple member changes, and through all that they’ve worked at making their sound better and better. All that is evident in “Itukano”- an excellent song that showcases all that See the Light can do. It starts off hard, with guitars blazing, throats shredding, and drums flailing. The guitars still retain melodicism, though- a characteristic that takes on full shape later in the song as they morph from a blazing emo band into a slower, more emotional group. This part of the song is particularly impressive, as the screamer takes his raspy, excellently-fitting scream and chucks it out the window, preferring a sung approach. And unlike many bands, where the quality goes out the window when the singing starts, Tashiro can really put out when it comes to notes and rhythms. It’s pretty much a toss-up as to which side of the band is better, actually- the melodic side is genuinely pretty, while still retaining the complexity, energy, and excitement of the balls-out rock side. It’s a good predicament to be in, and it cements See the Light’s spot on the singles list for this month.
Song: We Are Squirrels and This Is Nuts
Band: The Love Machine
Bottom Line: Jubilant indie-pop that revels in odd instrumentation and loud noise.
When the first things you hear in a song are a playful guitar line, sleigh bells, and handclaps, you know you’re in for a great indie-pop song. The Love Machine definitely delivers on that premonition with “We are Squirrels and This Is Nuts” (I love this song name). The next significant instrument to arrive on the scene is a huge synth line with a tone ripped straight out of the eighties. A more conventional instrumentation comes in for the verses- although when layered with the charming lead vocals and snappy background vocals, it’s no less interesting. The song drifts in and out with the instruments, eventually climaxing in a triumphant indie-pop explosion: lead vocals dancing on top of loud guitars, a dance-laden drum line, background vocals all over the place, and a bouncy bass line. And just like that, the song cuts off. It’s a playful ending to a playful song- and with that, these Canadians prove that their music is fun music played by fun people for fun listeners.
Genre: Russian Ska
Bottom Line: You haven’t heard anything like this.
It’s really hard to describe Russkaja because it’s so ridiculously unique. If this wasn’t IndependentClauses.com, where we go to great lengths to find new stuff, I’m sure you wouldn’t believe me if I told you that Russkaja is a bunch of Russians living in Austria, drinking Vodka, and playing Ska heavily influenced by Russian Folk music. Yes, “Gop-Stop” has ska guitars, Russian folk instruments, party-hearty minds, and Russian-language vocals all thrown in a pot. It starts off with a perky bass line, a rousing horn section, a skank-till-you-drop drumbeat, and a guy yelling vaguely in the background. Group vocals come in, and there’s no resisting: it’s dance time. There’s a couple of solos thrown in for good measure- a fiddle, an accordion, a trombone. Basically, it’s sheer ska madness. Russian ska madness. And you thought Ska was dead. Never, my friend. Never.
Song: We Are A Li(v)e
Genre: Mellow Electronica
Album: Bluskreen – Selections
Bottom Line: Your antidote to the Postal Service.
So the Postal Service got big and now they’re everywhere. They’re still great, but they’re definitely getting on my nerves a little bit with their ubiquity (and for those who say Fall Out Boy is worse, I agree….much, much worse). That’s why Bluskreen is such a breath of fresh air. Yes, Bluskreen is mellow, melodic indie-electronica that doesn’t sound like the Postal Service. There are minor similarities, but for the most part, Bluskreen’s mellow transmissions deal more in mood than in pulsing beats. The underlying piece of “We Are a Li(v)e” is a beat, but it’s not all-important- the many other layers of sound here (piano, strings, guitar) are just as important, if not more important, than the underlying beat. This layering of sound is Bluskreen’s greatest perk- the layer may be a simple one, but when paired with other layers, the sound can become full and beautiful. And yet, this still sounds effortless. Excellent to chill to.
Song: Don’t Sleep in the Subway
Album: EP 3
Bottom Line: This band is cool to the core.
“Don’t Sleep in the Subway” is built off of three things: a hyperactive bassist, a suave vocalist, and a drum beat to hold it all together. The bassist carries the song, putting out the melody and moving the song along, all while exuding an aura of coolness. The vocalist, reminiscent of Steve Bays from Hot Hot Heat but with the added perk of tone, glides along on top of the bass line, also exuding an aura of coolness. His vocals are pulled back and distorted just a tiny bit- just enough to make you say, “Man, that’s pretty cool!” There’s also some background vocalists, laying down a quirky, hilarious “Oh! Oh-oh!” line. The drumbeat is simple and solid, giving backbone to the piece. There’s a guitar that throws in chords too, but it’s really just color. The keys are pretty interesting, but they’re atmosphere as well. The band really has a grasp on its sound- although the song is comparable to many bands, I couldn’t pin them down to one overlying comparison. Their spacious, charming, ultra-cool pop is definitely one to keep an eye on.