Album: S/t EP
Best Element: Auxiliary instrument
Genre: Pop/rock (that doesn’t suck)
As long as this emo/screamo, “The Used complete my life,” “I can’t wait to love the next band Myspace features for the day!” craze continues to dominate the airwaves I refuse to pick up the remote or turn on the radio. It would truly be a godsend if Fall Out Boy truly fell out. And don’t even get me started on Panic! At the Disco. The last time anything received this much attention Jesus Christ himself was raising from the grave. But what’s so sad about the current state of pop music, or more precisely the rock sect of pop music, is not the fact that the music is so obnoxious- although some of it most certainly is- but the fact that it all sounds the same.
Yet right when I build up enough bravado to put my true feelings into writing, right when I think the future is doomed to sound the same, a young band from Dallas, TX, and their recently released self-titled EP CD makes me think twice, sort of. Stellamaris, still just toddlers at two years in the making, rightfully belong with the Militia Group. They’ve taken the worth out of today’s pop rock, and made it, say, good. They’re emotional, but not emo. They’re catchy, but not poppy. They’re simple, but not shallow. But above all and most importantly, they’re not wearing girl pants.
Of all the groups that Stellamaris have shared the stage with (Action Action, Cool Hand Luke, As Cities Burn), their sound most resembles that of Lovedrug. Nathan Pettijohn’s vocals are nothing spectacular, but they’re admirably humble, and in that sense enjoyable. He’s like that kid on the B team who tries his heart out but will never be as good as the lazy ass prick playing A team. As far as instrumentals go, Stellamaris present a simple rhythm and lead guitar section, as well as a percussionist who fills the void. But what pushes this EP over the boundaries of mediocrity is the additional instrumentalists and friends they enlisted the help of—horn players, additional percussionists, string players, etc.
Recorded in drummer Alex Bhore’s living room and mastered by Michael Fossenkemper (Grandaddy, The Rocket Summer, Matisyahu), Stellamaris’ six-song EP is a solid release. I don’t often use this phrase, but Stellamaris are chockfull of potential, and their newest songs show it. Although this release is the follow-up to a 2005 full-length record, the group is still young. By no means am I implying that this EP is a masterpiece. But give these five some time. It’ll be worth it.
Band: Exist (Jesse Thomason)
Album: S/t EP
Best Element: Easily listenable guitarwork
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Jesse Thomason, now performing an acoustic/electric act under the moniker Exist, has been writing and performing with an assortment of groups for eleven years. Recently obtaining some credit from Seattle’s AIDS project Hope’s Voice , two of the singles from his second EP have been placed on the Hope’s Voice compilation which will be touring college campuses across the nation starting in 2006. And to top it off, Thomason has established an independent record label known as Infiltrate Records, which subsequently just released his third EP.
Exist, who call Bryan-College Station, TX home, can best be described as acoustic soft rock, but easy listening wouldn’t be far off. Thomason’s voice is heavy and strong and often carries a raw edge very similar to that of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, yet the instrumentals produce a dichotomy. Exist’s guitar style is often that of Spanish parentage, and at times feels nearly classical. Thomason clearly enjoys playing with harmonics, as they’re used on nearly every track. And percussion on this EP is nonexistent.
Unfortunately, the five tracks on this EP lack enough breadth to be worth describing as separate entities. Each song flows nicely with the next, but when all is said and done one cannot recall when one song ended and another began. Jesse Thomason is a gifted musician, but alas, that’s not enough to set him apart from the millions of other artists striving to make successful careers for themselves. If you’re looking for a quick, easy listen, this will suit you just fine. If you’re looking for something different, you better keep looking.
Band Name: Delft
Album Name: S/t EP
Best Element: Lush, organic, revelatory songwriting
Label Name: N/a (this is a crime)
Band E-mail: delftband’yahoo.com
Delft have adopted a sea turtle as their mascot, and made the sea their motif. I can’t think of a better thing to represent their sound than the sea. Even when the band is playing quickly, as they do often, their indie-rock sound seems filtered through a dreamy sieve that gives it a thick, fluid, underwater feel. Part of this is due to the fact that the band’s chemistry is so intense that I wouldn’t be surprised if they hit wrong notes together, but it is also due to the subdued tones of the instruments.
Yes, Delft is light on the distortion, preferring a much more full-bodied, melodic sound. Even though they have two guitars, a bass, drums, and keys, they never let their sound get cluttered or frenetic. The main idea always comes through solidly, and the rest of the instruments act merely as supporters of the main idea, as is evidenced by the beautiful “Weather Report,” where they start out in full band mode before paring it down to simply the piano line and vocals. The piano gives way to a guitar section, where the rest of the band supports the guitar line that is slowly taking precedence. This completely collective songwriting style gives Delft’s songs an amazing clarity unmatched by many who have ‘made it’ in the indie world.
These songs are extremely beautiful, but they also have the power to rock out, as “Weather Report” does about 5 minutes in. The guitars kick in the overdrive (still not too much, mind you) the drums stomp, and the vocals soar over the passionate thunder. It’s the kind of moment that must be simply rapturous in concert.
The drums contribute a great deal to the clarity of Delft’s sound- in an unconventional move, they contribute a great deal of energy to Delft’s sound without a great amount of noise. The abundant snare, closed high hat, and toms don’t muddy the sound like a great deal of cymbals would, and even when there is a consistent cymbal (as occurs in the middle of “Take”), the mixing is so expertly done that it doesn’t interfere with excellent bass lines or shifty guitar parts.
In the end, Delft is one of those bands that has such amazing songs that I feel dumb trying to explain them in words. Just listen to the stuff- it’s amazing. If you’re a fan of complex, unique, melancholic, beautiful, emotional music, then Delft is your band. Probably my best find of the year so far- now if they could only release a proper album….
Stereo Underground’s self-titled EP starts off positively punky on “Don’t Take It So Hard”. By the introduction of a second guitar and percussion give it a classic rock feel. The full song is a fresh sounding mix of both. The vocals are a mid-range, not high, but not low either.
A good drum riff, some electronic sounds, and vocals with effects create an ethereal, spacey feel for “Autumn”. A midtempo song, the classic rock vibes can be felt here as well, but not as strong. “So in Lonely” showcases the same classic rock style as the first song, but with smoother vocals, instrumentation, and production. Pop sensibilities are evident, as this song has great ‘yeah yeah’ background vocals and a catchy chorus. It also features an interesting instrument that sounds like a distorted harmonica.
“I Won’t Cry” slows things down by featuring an acoustic guitar. The verses are repetitive, but the chorus is great, filled out with second guitar and background vocals.
The lyrics on the album are nothing special, drifting between cryptic emo-style writings (Autumn) and more down to earth writings (Don’t Take It So Hard), but they touch on topics we’ve all heard before. Also, some songs were repetitive, but those are my only qualms with this. A great collection of songs, combining classic rock, space rock, and emo to create something cooler. 7 out of 10.
This album starts out with sounds of a thunderstorm rolling in. Some people don’t like thunderstorms, most are just ok with them, and some love them. That twelve-second intro sets a good analogy towards the entire album. I’m just ok with thunderstorms and All Against Adam.
The first riff introduces “She Needs Me” with a clichéd guitar run with placed drop-ins of bass and drums. The high, warbling, we’ve-heard-this-all-before vocals jump in, and we find that they like to go for soaring vocal lines (lead and backup) for their not-so-deep lyrics. They are mostly about relationships, but without a poetic tact that sets some bands apart. “Girl In Green” shows some promise, not in instrumentation (which isn’t cliched this time but still not completely original), but in vocals, with a catchy melody and effective backup vocals. The line “Girl In Green” is always sung a cappela , creating a fresh, darker feel. ‘Sensitivity’ gives us a moody, ethereal intro that had me waiting for the problems to start, and I was surprised to find that they didn’t. This is my favorite song on the album, as it held my interest with its moody, restrained groove. After a return to pop-punk cliché’s in “Lost Cause”, they impart on us “One Last Chance”. A heavy, dark punk tune, it including a foray into screamed backup vocals, which were unexpected, but done with taste. The melody on this is my least favorite, as it sounds strained, too high and a tad off-beat at times. The lyrics are worthy of a song of this nature, and probably the best on the album.
I sense there is creativity to be mined in this band. They just need to have someone tell them what’s been done before and what hasn’t. Their darker music intrigues me more than their opposite end of the spectrum, because (I know this by being in a band) it is hard to write original pop-punk. The well is empty, the mine explored. There is promise for AAA, but right now the product is rough. 5 out of 10