Threefold is Chicago’s favorite gimmick punk band. Now, all of you have the impression that gimmick is a bad word. It’s not. It just means a trick, a hook. Threefold has more gimmicks than a used car salesman, both vocally and musically.
“The Night In Question” opens up with some tight two-person harmony. That’s the gimmick on this track. It’s seriously cool. Once the intro is over, the guitars come in, playing some above average riffs. They aren’t the most creative things on this planet (See Ettison Clio), but they aren’t bland. They make me want to move. The happy, upbeat vocals also make me want to move. At least, on some tracks they do. On other songs Threefold presents a raw, emotional front that is gritty and even more pleasing to the ear than the upbeat tracks. The dark punk elegy “She Caught Bitch”, which even includes a choir, features this. The powerhouse vocals are complimented by a writing style that is sometimes intense and personal, and sometimes light-headed and no-brainer. For example, the lyrical gem “A Pessimistic Spin on an Optimistic View” expresses the emotions after the end of a “28 month” relationship, while “Shabbona Dr.” is about the lazy days of summer, featuring the lyric “Hangin on your rooftop….throwin shit at cars.” Nice. Moving on…. Throughout “The Night In Question”, they dabble in many ideas (the aforementioned ‘gimmicks’) like falsetto vocals, screams, vibes, keys, bass features, and even an acoustic song. Some meet with more success than others, but none is ever awful.
This is CD seems like it should be disjointed, but it’s not. It barely hangs together, although I’m not sure why. The songs fluctuate between having a catchy hook, nice guitars, good vocals, and great lyrics, to having none of the above. It’s annoying after a while, because you know they can rock, but this song just doesn’t do it!! But it’s never awful. Analysis aside, this is enjoyable. Certain tracks are worthy of repeating (multiple times), and some aren’t worthy of listening all the way through once. They will be extremely good once they find the keys to good sound: internal editing, and consistency. Right now, it’s an above average punk cd (but not that far above par).
Boss Tweeter is a rock band with a catch. They only have an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar in the band. They occasionally have one guitar player switch to a bass, and since this recording they’ve added a drummer. Even so, this leaves the sound slightly unfilled, mostly because they want to rock out, and you need a full band to do that well. Some bands with no bass can hide it well (See Fairmont) but they don’t try to rock out. Boss Tweeter does.
Boss Tweeter is steeped in history. They have elements of classic rock, surf rock, modern rock, and even funk thrown into their sound. The references make it sound eclectic, but it’s a highly accessible sound. The surf rock feel permeates the instrumental intro, and although it was a good riff, clocking it in at over two minutes kills it. They have a tendency to run long on some songs, but cut some songs short. They make up for this less-than-amazing songwriting with amazing lyrical quality. The lyrics throughout are poetic and cryptic, yet they can be related to easily (at least by me). Example: “Silence falls on deaf ears, and screaming comes to those who’ve heard it much.” They are the best thing about this demo, because all 6 tracks that feature vocals (2 songs are instrumental) have these powerful lyrics. That’s consistency. The vocals to back these up are of medium volume and range, but have a slightly nasal intonation which leads to them being slightly weak at times. It’s apparent that the singer knows his flaws, and does his best to hide them. That’s all well and good, but some parts just needed to forge through the problems and give us the raw, unbridled form we see in other places. Just when you thought you had the BT formula down, “Intermission” introduces a bass and challenges the idea that funk died in the seventies. They pull it off pretty well, as they don’t sing to it. That leads to track 6, and by this track, it’s apparent that this two-guitar format works best when one guitar is featured and the other accompanies, instead of both sharing joint duties. The two standout tracks (“Pedigree” and “Catch The Ghosts”) both use this method of feature and accompany.
Boss Tweeter has some problems. They have moments of weak sound, weak vocals, and weak songwriting. Thankfully, the first two are recording problems and the third can be fixed. If we get past that, Boss Tweeter is putting some spunk back into classic rock, and some of the fun. But the real thing is…If lyrics were knives, Boss Tweeter would have the meat cleaver in a world of butter knives. They’re that good.
Best element: Calamitous breakdowns and brilliant riffs.
Genre: Hardcore-tinged rock.
Label: Action Heights (www.actionheights.com)
I listened to no more than two songs off this album before I knew it was going to be one of this year’s best. When you combine an excellent singer with hardcore-tinged modern rock that’s actually original, nothing but positive results can occur.
The Phoenix Rising is all about rock; their choruses, their breakdowns, their very style is all about adrenaline. Their pulsing, riff-driven rock is wild, chaotic, and tough to pin down, as elements of electronica, space-rock, and emo infiltrate their sound. The drums are thrashing, the bass actually plays a part, and the guitars pound away; it’s safe to say that this rock rocks. It gets even better when the vocals appear; the vocalist sounds like Further Seems Forever-era Chris Carrabba; flailing, wailing, empowered, and excellent. If FSF released “The Moon is Down” with their guitars cranked to full, more anger, and an affinity for calamitous instrumental sections, “Lullaby” would be it.
From the wicked, stomping breakdown in “Shadows and Silhouettes’ to the brilliant riff from “Awakening” to the eerie gravity of “To Paris in a Coffin” to the pure cathartic bliss that is “Mid-July”, this album will leave an impact on you. “Lullaby” is the album to repeat this year, and The Phoenix Rising is the personification of a thunderstorm: merciless, unrelenting, and a wonder to behold.
Building a Factory makes music the right way….Music for music’s sake. They don’t even press CDs….they burn ‘em and sell ‘em at shows for cheap. I mean that takes class. I give that a couple of stars in itself. This is an anthology of all their recordings, which is six songs over 4 years.
The element that strikes you most after listening through this once is that almost all of their songs have the same feel. It’s moody, but it’s not slow or self-absorbing like some moody songs can be. They use a lot of reverb and other tricks to make it sound this way. For the first 3 or 4 songs it’s really cool, because they throw in a lot other stuff to mix it up, but by the end it gets a bit old. Not enough to turn off the song, just a bit of “Hey…that sounds familiar.”. They have many things going for them though, like fantastic vocal performances, well-done screams, and inventive intros. In their best moments, they create a complicated mix of grumbling bass over melodic, yet dissonant guitars. A sound this twisted and intertwined just makes you want to pump your fist in the air. It’s well shown on “The Lottery”. Other than that, they have driving chord structures that are pretty common. Their highlights are “Cancel the Culture”, which is nearly six minutes of cavernous, immense rock, and the artsy, yet highly listenable rock of “Of All The Places The Cue Ball Could Have Gone….”.
If you play these songs in chronological order, it’s obvious to see that Building a Factory has matured substantially. They have a great past, and the future is getting even better. Even though I commend their efforts at making music accessible by not pressing CDs, I look forward to a real album by them someday. Cause it will be really good.
The Attika State is a rock band from Southern England. I’ve always had good experiences with British bands (see Hiding With Girls and #1 Defender) and this one doesn’t disappoint.
“The Attika State Presents….” opens with “The Downside of Perfect”. The highly melodic vocals are most definitely British. Not a bad thing, but a noticeable thing. Another insta-notice is that this band applies to the school of post-punk. They’re heavy, but not that heavy, not leaning towards emo, but not towards punk either. The harmonizing technique throughout this album is reminiscent of Brand New. “Downside” presents all of these ideas very well, but the second half is much better than the first half…my jaw literally dropped (note: does not happen too often). “Relief Wax” starts off less rock-oriented, and has a studied technicality that wasn’t apparent on the first track. The vocals take a much more prominent place, and they step up well, making this track work. At the end of the track, it rocks out in post-punk style before dropping to a beautiful solo-guitar melody to end it. The song is quite amazing. “Vinegar Hill” has a long intro and a poppier feel, but by the middle they’ve returned to their post-punk ways. Very satisfying, and very cool.
The Attika State has it going on. They have distinct markers of their style apparent throughout this demo, with one of them being a musical confidence that radiates with every chunky chord that is slammed out. Another is the smooth meld of styles into their music (pop, rock, punk). Students of music, be prepared. They may not be inventing the genre, but The Attika State will certainly perk your ears.
Buy: N/A (whole album available at above address).
Shade Seven, indie pop/rockers from Oklahoma City, OK, have produced an album that wasn’t supposed to be. It was supposed to be promotional….but they just are too good to keep music hidden. Everyone wanted to hear the new stuff from them, even if it wasn’t exactly finished (or ever scheduled to be finished). What results is this.
The first chords of “My Brightest Star in The Sky” tell us that Shade Seven has matured a bit. They have an outlook that includes less dreaminess and more straight out rock. This is not what I expected, and the first song wasn’t that great. I gave them the benefit of the doubt though. Track two confirms the horror that we have witnessed: Shade Seven has changed for the worse. All the weaknesses of the first track are back for the second: old, boring riffs; a foreboding minor key; no characteristic solo; more emphasis on vocals. The last feature wouldn’t be so bad if his voice were fit for rock. Unfortunately, his voice is not. The vocals have always plodded along slowly, slightly off-time and wandering, which fits perfectly for dream-pop, but for rock everything has to be precise and defined or else it sounds awful (note: there are some exceptions to this, but few and far between). In fact, these features stick around for all four tracks. The highlights here is the adequate mix of new and old on “Another Car Ride”.
In this world of “That’s cool…what’s next?” mentalities, every band must mature (aka change) or die. Shade Seven has not done it well. Their new music is a mix of 80% cliché indie rock and 20% dreamy pop/rock they excel at. Their creativity has been dropped so they can sound like everyone else. They even have a scream in one of their songs, which is the ultimate sellout in today’s music scene. This leads me to conclude one thing: This whole maturation sequence reeks. This was better off not existing.
Shade Seven isn’t a very descriptive name. Some bands can instantly be placed in the correct genre just by hearing their name. It’s a good bet “The Death Ratchet Brigadeers” are going to be some form of metal. It’s also safe to say “Skies Are Greenish” will be a poppy, quirky band. But Shade Seven is a nondescript name, emitting no solid genre ideas. Therefore, it means that EVERYONE should check them out!
By the end of the first song, it’s obvious that Shade Seven is a pop/rock band that prides themselves on artistic merit and not how many fans mosh at their concerts. Their music is not shoegazer pop, but it has a dreamier feel than your average pop/rock band. That first song is called “Montclair Parc” and it has an average amount of everything. It’s medium tempo, not the fastest, but not the slowest song on the album. It’s not the most passionate, but it’s not the least, either. It’s just a very nice intro to the CD. A less full sound appears next on “Distant Fireworks”. The vocals take a bigger part in this song, and they succeed, because “Distant Fireworks” sounds much more pointed than the “Montclair Parc” does, while still keeping the dreamy pop groove. This band has a definite affection for the guitar solo. All five of these songs feature one in some place. They aren’t showy or massive, just little countermelodies or extra melodies that enhance the songs oh-so-well. A fast-paced, almost punk intro blasts us into “Forget July”. They downgrade into more dream-pop for the verses, but rock it out for the chorus. With a lot of variation, this song is one of their best. “Through the Tape” continues the trend towards punk. It’s not quite punk….but it’s very close. The solo here is the best out of all five. The closer (“Redwood”) returns to the feel of “Distant Fireworks”, with a hint of anthem mentality evident in the chorus.
Shade Seven isn’t out to rock your face off. They’re out to impress you with their musicality, soothe you with their melody, and make you smile because of the delicate beauty it possesses. And, not coincidentally, Shade Seven impresses, soothes, and makes you smile. There’s not much to dislike here, unless some music gets “Too Quiet for You”.
Keane Li is a one man rock band. He specializes in the darker, aggressive aspects of rock while tinting everything with a melodic strain that usually comes through in the vocals. Sound confusing? Read on…
This album is a rock album. Granted, there are other things here (including two very good acoustic songs), but his best work is totally rocked out. It’s fast, it’s rocky, but it’s never particularly hard because his vocals are very melodic. His voice that can come off as whiny or well placed, depending on the range and use for that particular song, though. In easier terms, songs with good vocals and songs with bad vocals fluctuate throughout the album. All but one of these songs is pulled off in low-fi setting, which contributes to the inconsistent vocals. It also puts an interesting feel to his dark and moody songs, while creating an odd, almost undercooked feel to his happier rock. He likes to make his songs long…most over four minutes and some over five. Some bands can pull this off with a liberal dose of variation, but Li uses the time to repeat things he’s already sung or played. He also tosses in guitar solos (in a very Seventies fashion) which appear throughout the album and are a scattered bunch of hits and misses. He does feature some songs that have all the parts in place, like “Red”, which would be a commanding rock song if it weren’t low-fi (It’s still great anyway), and “Beautiful People”, which isn’t just complimented by me. It won Online Rock Festival’s Category of Original Song.
Keane Li has the thing some bands envy: talent. It’s hidden in the fuzz and extraneous noise that’s trapped in low-fi recordings, but it’s there. If you’re willing to look, you’ll find some good music here. It won’t blow your mind (see Glori-H), but it will keep you interested well.
Buy: N/A (whole album available at above address)
Euphobia, along with having a great name, has a style that would at first glance be classified as pop punk, but it’s so much deeper than that. There’s method to all madness, and this pop punk is definitely madness. But madness is a good thing, right?
A statement that must be said: They love their intros. Every instrument either gets its own or is involved in one. They even have an intro to the CD; a random, hilarious discussion about a CD Cover. There are plenty of them scattered throughout this massive 18-song-long ordeal. To alleviate the monotony that usually comes with long albums, they keep their songs short and show us a range of punk styles. There’s that overused dark style, which they do expertly, even if only for 55 seconds on “White Flags Up”. There’s lightning punk, which shows them spitting out lyrics as fast as possible, which is quite nice, because I haven’t heard too many bands try it. To correspond with speed, there’s also midtempo rockers. They don’t really excel here, as their vocals fall off track, but with all the other styles to see, it can be passed over easily. They even have an acoustic song thrown in for variation. Finally, they have a great amount of pop punkers. They do well in these, because they have either one or two singers singing at all times. Both are talented, all excelling at different parts of their art. The melodies between these two are one of the best things about this CD. Their guitars are hooky, like all punk bands. The middle of this CD is the best musically, as the beginning is the same old stuff as everyone else has and the end feels a bit long. The bassist shines throughout, creating intricate, moving lines that catch your attention instantly. He renews more than one song from the depths of the SOS (same old stuff). A showcase of their talent is most definitely “Around” and the most inventive riff appears on “Song One”. “Song One” is actually not song one…but twelve. It’s an instance of their good humor, which is shown throughout, and especially on the nutty acoustic ballad “My Dad”.
This is punk the way it should be. Low-fi, joyous, and completely carefree. There are 18 songs of pure playing because they want to. There is no hidden agenda. There are no ambitions of becoming rock and roll gods (ok, maybe a few). This is sheer, straight up, no holds barred music for the sake of making music. It’s only downfall lies in the fact that they gave us so much stuff to work with. Some of the songs could have been cut, and this would be a stronger disc as a whole. Still, it’s worth shouting about. 7.5 out of 10