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Month: November 2004

Soulfire Before Sunday 60 Foot Swell

Then again, it is for charity…

Soulfire/Before Sunday/60 Foot Swell

Central Church of the Nazarene, Tulsa, OK

Nov 6, 2004

Charity concerts are always interesting. This was a charity concert for “Project Yellow Crayon”, a church-run charity that gives to the extremely underprivileged in Tulsa’s shady area of town. All the bands went in for free- all the proceeds went to the charity.

Unfortunately, it seems that the event was overstaffed and under-audienced. By letting everyone in the church volunteer, no one bought tickets. Heck, I was a volunteer, and I don’t even go to the church- I just have connections. Safe to say, I could’ve run the concert 16 times better and gotten a much bigger response. But on to the music.

After looking at Soulfire’s merch table, my friend Brent looked over at me and said, “Looks like a Pillar rip-off…”. I perused their merch, and I came up with pretty much the same idea. From the shirt designs to the slogan to the logo, it all looked reminiscent of Pillar’s material. When they took the stage, the music was reminiscent of Pillar’s hard rock too- only not as rocking and less hard. It felt watered down in the highest degree, and as much as I tried to listen to them, I couldn’t help but feel the urge to snicker. Their over-the-top banter paired with their lack of musical prowess to support it created a nearly cartoonized feel. To their credit, they did have at least one good idea per song- but never more than that. Soulfire wasn’t just disliked by me- they didn’t do much for anyone in the crowd.

Soulfire removed themselves from the stage, and the band with quite possibly the world’s most boring name came onstage: Before Sunday. I mean come on- that’s just devoid of creativity. Get SOMETHING better….

Thankfully, their music was not so devoid of creativity. Sounding a bit like U2, a bit like Coldplay, and a bit like British worship megaliths Delirious?, Before Sunday hit the stage hard and well with their infectious melodic rock. Whereas Soulfire alienated the crowd with hard-rock posing, the guys in Before Sunday included the crowd the right way. Mixing up their set with fast songs and slow songs, they effectively immersed every type of music fan there in their musical amalgam. Their most memorable song was a cover of “My Glorious” by Delirious?, as the audience latched on to the instantly hummable chorus and just belted it out along with the singer. The rest of their set was great too, especially one song in which the lead singer took the time to teach the audience the vocal line. The kids went nuts over that- and I did too. It was great fun, and I regretted seeing Before Sunday leave the stage.

Sixty Foot Swell is like a Christian version of the Killers- all bass, no guitars, and all they want you to do is dance. Their rock set was primarily dance-rock cover songs like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Scooby Doo”, which were great fun both to listen and dance to.  Even better, the vocalist sounded a lot like Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins when they slowed it down and rocked it out in a completely artistic way. The slurry waves of sound that they created when originals were played were simply fantastic, and I’m sad to report that there simply weren’t enough originals of that quality in their set. I had to leave part-way through their set- it was mildly annoying.

Before Sunday took home the prize for ‘best band’ here- no matter how much the dance rock was fun and hard rock was loud, it was no match for the artistic presentation of Before Sunday. They just couldn’t measure up.

-Stephen Carradini

Dead Cliche-Street To Nowhere

This month’s feature is of totally independent bands. These six bands have had no label support whatsoever, and still turn out amazing music. These are the DIY warriors…

Song: Dead Cliche
Band: Street To Nowhere
Genre: Rock/ Indie
Album: N/A
Label: Unsigned
Bottom Line: Very original. You’re either gonna love it or hate it.

With a unique voice and style, songwriter Dave Smallen presents us with “Dead Cliché”, an upbeat folk-rock song. Finding its strength in its lyrics and melodies, the song opens with the quick, Dave Matthews-ish guitar part. With the verse curiously sharing some similarities with music of the Colonial Period in American history, the songs slows to a darker, more melancholy chorus with the song’s title being repeated. Certainly writing a distinctive song, Street To Nowhere may not appeal to everyone. However, with the undeniably atypical qualities, the band will stand apart from the crowd. And certainly, with the largely homogeneousness of bands today, that may not be such a bad thing.

Song: Impossible
Band: Evy Potter
Genre: Acoustic
Album: N/A
Label: Unsigned
Bottom Line: Refreshing solo female acoustic act.
With soft, melodic vocals, great lyrical content, and a strong arrangement with guitar and piano, Evy Potter has written herself quite the enchanting song. After a dissonant intro, Evy brings us into the verse with a storytelling quality, immediately painting a picture of days gone by. Avoiding the tendency that many artists succumb to of cluttering their songs with needless instrumental additions, the piano is used subtlety enough as to not take any attention away from the vocals, while still providing harmonic color to the tune. Her gentle voice and refreshing melodies give the song a lift, elevating Evy above many other solo acoustic acts. With great production and professionalism, critics would easily agree that “Impossible” is on par with the work of many more established acoustic acts.

Song: Motion Creates Emotion
Band: Westcott
Genre: Indie / Rock / Post Hardcore
Album: Awaken the Dawn
Label: Unsigned
Bottom Line: If you don’t already know them, you will soon.

Opening with a mix of strings and acoustic guitar, “Motion Creates Emotion” plays with the perfect balance of the rock, post hardcore, and orchestral genres. While the verse has a sort of Trapt feel to it with its delicate guitar work, the chorus takes on a more hardcore quality. After a brief interlude of strings and light guitar, Westcott turns the song to full intensity with multiple voices shouting the final chorus:

We grow strong with time.
Our tears will flow like wine.
I want to be young.
I want my memories back.
You can’t share them they’re mine.
Shudder to think what I had.

For fans of rock/hardcore, this song will prove to be an infectious one, and surely leave you wanting more.

Song: Live Without
Band: Cranky Jam
Genre: Rock / Pop / Folk
Album: Live Without
Label: Unsigned
Bottom Line: Fan of early-mid nineties rock? This is your band.
Cranky Jam, hailing from Geneva, Switzerland, find gold with their simple yet driving song “Live Without.” Resembling rock bands of the nineties like Live and specifically The Cranberries, the band proves that less is more with this 4-chord straight up rock song, led by the raw, melodic voice of lead singer Karine Novell. Holding back in the verse, the band charges forward to produce the thunderous chorus, sure to have the Swiss crowds singing in unison. These changes in dynamics make the song structurally balanced, and thus provide the listener with quite the enjoyable experience. Some may say that rock is dead, but apparently someone forgot to forward that memo to Switzerland.

Song: Take Me Home
Band: Stage Fright Remedy
Genre: Acoustic / Rock / Folk Rock
Album: N/a
Label: Unsigned
Bottom Line: This brother and sister duo is going to be huge, very soon.

Opening with the guitar line from Taylor Clark, reminiscent to that of Dashboard Confessional, we are soon greeted with the stunning voice of his sister, Rachel, 20. Through her captivating lyrics, the song will quickly put the listener in a sedated mood, a result of the placid guitar work, beat, and melodies. As if having this combination of guitar and vocals in the family wasn’t enough, Taylor joins in the singing for some harmonies to further the belief that this family/group has an overabundance of talent. If only there was some more siblings to play the drums and perhaps piano, Stage Fright Remedy would likely already be in the limelight. However, with the two members, they seem to be doing just fine.

Song: The Places We Go
Band: The Natural Anthem
Genre: Alternative / Pop Punk / Rock
Album: The Places We Go
Label: Unsigned
Bottom Line: Great song. Very promising band.

Comparable to such bands as The Starting Line and The Early November, The Natural Anthem present us with “The Places We Go,” a well-crafted pop-punk track packed with hooks and a sing-along chorus that will be stuck in your head for days. From a mid-tempo verse, the song builds in the pre-chorus and finally culminates in the chorus with the teenaged anthem-like chant:

“These are the places we go in our hearts,
these are the dreams that we pull back down,
these are the days we’ll remember for the rest of our lives,
it’s never going to get easier for me to say goodbye.”
While there are many bands out there playing in the pop/punk genre, be sure to not write off The Natural Anthem as just another one. With songs like “The Places We Go,” the band sets itself apart from the pack, proving that they have something to offer. Do yourself a favor and listen to this band.

-Michael Schwartz

Offset Missing Ace

Almost More Band Members than Audience!

Offset/Missing Ace

The Pinkeye, Tulsa, OK

Thursday, Nov 4, 2004

I’d never been to the Pinkeye before this show, so I really didn’t know what to expect when I went out to take in a show there. In fact, I got lost on the way, because I was expecting a venue much, much bigger. In reality, it looks like the Pinkeye supports about 50 people. They probably cram a bunch more in there for good shows, but it’s basically a one-room shack with a two story ceiling. While some may scoff, on first glance I thought “excellent for a concert!”

It was good for Offset: their pummeling, raucous melodic emo echoed off the walls of the cramped building like a tornado, and by the time two songs were down, my ears were trashed- ringing like a busted school bell. The stage at the Pinkeye is tiny, like everything else, but the band made the most of it, nearly hitting each other in the face as they flailed their instruments around. The lead singer was kinetic, as he bent, bounced, moved, and pretty much just gave his all to the music. The songs flew by- with the crunchy guitars, empowered vocals, and emphatic drumming, there really wasn’t anything to hold these songs back. The best moment of the show came when the lead singer looped the mic around his neck, ran over to the drums, and started playing a tom roll as the drummer went off on a drum solo. It was seriously sick- complete and total awesomeness. Offset’s stage antics and powerful stage presence make them one of the best emo bands I’ve ever witnessed live.

In some odd turn of fate, the promoter/venue stuck the nationally touring emo band Offset first, then the local pop-punkers Missing Ace last. Maybe it was to keep the crowd there or something- but if definitely wasn’t because Missing Ace was better. Their pop-punk was on the better side of wretched- well-played, energetic, but lacking substance in the worst way. They had technical difficulties throughout the first song, resulting in only half the band playing through it- in one song, the bassist was tuned wrong, resulting in the song collapsing about 20 seconds in- in another, the patch cords on the lead guitar died. I’m not sure how much of that was Missing Ace’s fault, but all of it counted against them in my mind. I went with the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule, and so I left when they joyously proclaimed “We’ve got two songs left!”

In the royal mismatch of the century, Offset crushed Missing Ace. The twenty or so people who were there enjoyed Missing Ace more than Offset though- it makes me sad to see that our scene is that degraded. Or maybe it was just the Thursday night.

Matt Shaw-Ghosts in the Concrete

mattshawBand Name: Matt Shaw
Album Name: Ghosts in the Concrete
Best element: Great flow throughout the entire album.
Genre: Indie electronica
Label name: Burning Building Records
Band e-mail: matt’

Call it a wake-up call. Call it a check-up. Call it OK Computer, Pt. II. But most importantly, call your friends, because Matt Shaw’s debut full-length is not only musically entrancing, it’s lyrically enveloping.

The first thing that hits the ear when “Ghosts in the Concrete” hits your stereo is an electronic ditty that instantly caught my attention. Having been a fan of the Postal Service since I got their album about a year ago, I’ve been snapping up anything that has to do with electro-indie, or as my friends call it, mellow techno. Whatever, guys.

Anyway, of all these mellow electronic indie popsters, I’ve never found one as good as the Postal Service- no one seems to be able to carry the melody, the instrumentation, the beat, and the mood as well as Tamborello and Gibbard can. Until Matt Shaw, that is.

After that little introduction, “Constant Movement” cues up- a paced little song with a highly downtrodden, highly indie vocal line and a rather simple backdrop. It basically establishes who Matt Shaw is and what he does- Take the Postal Service’s ideas, drop the corporate sheen from them, rub some dirt in the cracks, and show up at a coffee shop full of beatniks and disaffected college students.

“Transition” comes next- a continuing the lyrical themes of “Constant Movement” while placing more emphasis on the beat, creating a hollowed out sound that fits the forlorn vocals perfectly. The lyrical theme that runs constant through the first two songs as well as the rest of the album is life in the 21st century- rushed back and forth, feeling paranoia (“Android”) and frustration (“The Argument”), all the while becoming slaves to money (“Currency”), medicines (“The Remedy”), and memories (“The Fields”).

The tough part about this album is that after the first two songs, there’s really nowhere to go in this review. The first two songs that I showered praise on? They’re the least rewarding tracks on the album. The rest are segued together from song to song- creating a solid string of music in the listener’s mind, and imprinting both the message and the melodies. The most resonant statement is the poignant “The Argument”, which stretches the limits of syncopation and spoken word to create a genuine tug between the vocals and the instruments, accenting the internal chaos of our age. The genuinely inspired song segues out with Matt Shaw repeating the ominous portent of “repetition”- then fades into what can only be classified as an electronic hymn. The stark, jittery, regal presence of the ditty that appears is nothing short of mind-blowing- and it’s just one little electronic instrument! It’s tough to come away from Matt Shaw not feeling inspired in some way, whether it’s out of happiness after hearing “The Fields”, or out of paranoia after hearing the grave “Android”, or out of sheer awe after hearing “Descartes”.

The gravity of the experiment that Matt Shaw has pulled off here is fantastic- he’s managed to craft a mellow electronic indie-pop concept album that never alienates the listener, never freaks out into self-indulgent tangents, never languishes by inserting filler songs, and never loses the hummable qualities that make good indie-pop. This album can’t come along at a better time- we need to remember what living is all about, and what good music is. Matt Shaw gives some insight on both here.

-Stephen Carradini

The Pale-Gravity Gets Things Done

thepaleBand Name: The Pale

Album Name: Gravity Gets Things Done

Best element: Singable, happy, lovable.
Genre: Piano-driven pop


Label name: Sidecho Records
Band e-mail:

I desperately miss the Ben Folds Five. Ben Folds is still running around doing his solo thing (which I love as well), but he’s not taking a band with him. The world needs a piano-led pop band- it’s just part of the world’s greater order. Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Elton John, Billy Joel, Ben Folds Five- every era has had a piano led band that people can get behind. There’s just not that type of thing in this era, unless you count Coldplay, but they’re too serious in their music.

The Pale is here to change that. Although not as heavy into keys as any of those bands, their music is still brilliant keys-based pop- from the perfect, escape-inside-this vocals, the effective guitar work, the beautiful keys backdrops, to the extra songwriting touches that make a song (Sleigh bells, oh-oh’s, stuff like that).

Yes, the Pale is ridiculously likeable, and unlike so many bands that are ridiculously likable, there’s actually some good songwriting sense behind their songs! The standout track here is the title track “Gravity Gets Things Done”- a song that actually doesn’t have any piano in it. The rhythm guitars punch with just the right amount of aggression as the second guitar plays some really cool chords for contrast, while the vocals offer up the most infectious melody I’ve heard since the Killers’ “Somebody Told Me”. The song has a crescendo towards the last chorus, and a decrescendo away from it, making this a stellar song in all aspects.

The only problem with this album is the thing that plagues so many good albums- tracks that would be good on other albums feel like filler due to the outstanding quality of songs placed next to them. Case in point: “Reasons to Try” is a great upbeat pop song that’s sandwiched between the sentimental “How to Fit In” and the morose, yet entrancing “The Crash”- both of which kick “Reasons to Try” in the butt. It’s not that “Reasons to Try” is a bad song- it’s just not enjoyable because the other ones here are SO enjoyable. This problem can only be avoided by refining the songwriting craft and making all of an album’s songs amazing.

The charming sheen of “Wake-Up Call” includes a trombone; and there’s nothing more hilarious than that- period. The second-best track here is definitely “We Never Fight or Disagree”, based out of an intricate guitar line and a hilariously sarcastic lyrical idea- the song starts out proclaiming how a girlfriend and a boyfriend never fight, then describes how they actually fight a lot and they’re just fooling themselves. It’s hilarious, yet sadly true in some places. Social commentary….man, this just keeps getting better.

Pop albums were not made in vain- all pop albums are made to be enjoyed by happy people or to cheer sad people up. The Pale’s “Gravity Gets Things Done” actually succeeds in doing that- the charm, finesse, and charge of The Pale is taking them to great heights in the pop world- so much so that they occasionally overshadow themselves. I cannot wait for more material by the Pale.

– Stephen Carradini

Renminbi-The Great Leap EP

renminbiBand Name: Renminbi
Album Name: The Great Leap EP
Best element: Consistent sound.
Genre: Indie-rock with math leanings.
Label name: N/a
Band e-mail:

Renminbi’s “The Great Leap” EP is an interesting little character. It falls a bit on the quirky side of music, but it’s not dismissible as pure Modest Mouse-ian self-indulgence because of the poppy element still retained in it. It walks a really fine line though- a very fine line.

The majority of this seventeen minute EP is instrumental- two songs feature a substantial amount of vocals in them (a third, “Under Hudson”, uses them basically as color), but neither instances of vocals are worth writing home about. They’re pretty cool, but overall not as cool as the guitars. The guitars clang in a very math rock mentality, playing angular patterns and forms over strong a strong backdrop of bass and drums. It’s not completely math oriented though, because they still incorporate melody into some of the songs. In these songs, the focus is off the math-based guitars and on the chunky, post-Ramones block chords that stomp through their music. This combination of chord stomp and angular note riffs forms the band Renminbi- they don’t often stray from that pattern.

After multiple listens, this starts to feel like backdrop music more than a statement in itself- the highly cohesive sound and the lack of extra instruments just do a number on them. Even they do the most they can as a nearly vocal-less three-piece, they still can be out-ornamented by another band holding more musicians in it- because when you don’t have vocals to fall back on, it’s simply a matter of “How cool can we make the music?” And the coolest instrumental three-piece in the world is going to hard-pressed to beat the coolest four-piece, five-piece, or even six-piece instrumental band.

To their credit, they’d be really cool live band, because the raw production style sounds as if it would transfer to live shows very well.

Renminbi has definitely established their sound with this EP- now they need to grow on it, whether in new instrumental directions, more vocal tracks, or more instrumentalists. It just can’t take the beating of repeated listens.

-Stephen Carradini

Page France-Come, I’m a Lion!

pagefranceBand Name: Page France
Album Name: Come, I’m a Lion!
Best element: Ethereal, trance-inducing mood.
Genre: Acoustic pop/folk
Label name: Alvah Recordings
Band e-mail:

Occasionally, a band comes along that makes me wonder why they haven’t been discovered yet. Some bands are just too amazingly talented, amazingly hip, amazingly ‘in’, and amazingly talented to be left in obscurity. Then I realize that because they’re amazingly talented, they probably have an inordinate amount of dignity, which means that they could never sell out to corporate types.

That’s definitely Page France. Page France plays a unique brand of acoustic pop/folk that is helplessly charming, disarming, and smile-inducing. The focus of this album is not on deep lyrics- the deft wordplay used here forms songs that don’t make any sense at all. Each verse and chorus seems to be a separate idea, and nothing ever flows. That’s not to say the lyrics are bad; on the contrary, they’re highly quotable and enjoyable. Just don’t try to find any cohesive meaning throughout a song.

No, the focus here is on the jubilant guitar exultations of Michael Nau, the head behind Page France. Nau’s guitar compositions are playful, comfortable, and strangely endearing- it sounds like a fairy tale on tape. The dramatic, profound “Love and Interruption” has a solid base of upbeat guitar, upon which is layered warbly, silly electric guitar notes and a simplistic cymbal hit as a guitar line. It sways like the ocean and it feels like a good nap- it’s the quintessential relaxation song.

But if you’re into something with substance, something with intense songwriting skill, check out the album-topping “Bridge”, which boasts a delicate guitar line accented by both male and female vocals. The melody here is downright beautiful, and the synthesizers charm the feel of the ocean right out of the Pacific. Once the sincere female vocals chime in, the song is already melting the listener into a puddle. The song crescendos even more, and it’s a little slice of bliss as Nau pours out “Oh I don’t feel a thing, but I want to be real, as you are….as you are…” It just doesn’t even match up to the words I’ve put with it- it’s so good.

The rest of the tracks here are all just as good, based mostly off soft drumming, full, yet never loud, guitars, quirky melodies, and tasteful synthesizer arrangements. “Air Pollution” features a choir in the background of the chorus- “Slippery” bounces like a basketball and is much more charming. “We Remain as Two” is a simply stunning piano elegy- the hushed piano and lackadaisical melody fuse together to form a beautiful, beautiful cap to a great album.

If you’re a listener, Page France’s debut is something to get, and quick. If you’re an acoustic guitar player, this is something to aspire to. If you’re a record label exec, this is something to look into- because this is something irresistible. No one can resist the playful charm of Page France’s “Come, I’m a Lion!”- everyone falls prey to the beautiful acoustic pop/folk.

-Stephen Carradini

One True Thing-Finally

onetruethingBand Name: One True Thing
Album Name: Finally
Best element: Stellar female vocals
Genre: Indie Rock
Label name: Play the Assassin (
Band e-mail:

Don’t be surprised if you get your hands on a copy of One True Thing’s Finally CD and can’t stop listening to it for weeks. Don’t be surprised if you hear One True Thing tearing up the radio in the near future. There’s nothing to be surprised about. They are just that damn good.

One True Thing’s lyrical ability is stunning, lightly poetic, yet to the point. They are able to write songs which are honest without being overbearing. It is easy for the listener to relate to them and feel involved in the emotion being conveyed. Lyrics are, of course, always subject to interpretation, but the songs appear to range in subject from themes of love lost (“Do You Remember”, and the amazing “Wish I Was Everything”), self doubt (“Will I Make It?”), aging and death (“Bloom”), clandestine romance (“In a Whisper”), watching a strong person deteriorate (“Watch You Fall”), and child abuse (“Dearest”).

The thing that separates One True Thing from the rest of the indie-rock pack is Melanie’s superb vocal talent. Her voice complements the strength of the lyrics by taking the emotion to a higher level. She is able to sing forcefully or softly without sounding forced or unnatural, which lets her interpret the emotions of these songs effortlessly. Her voice, as well as the band’s overall sound, is similar to The Sundays and Sixpence None the Richer (without being quite as poppy).

Finally, for the person who wants a little bit of visual stimulation to go along with the auditory experience, this CD has enhanced CD features, which include live videos for “Monster”, “Who’s Amazing”, and “Sound of my Voice” (which is previously unreleased).

So don’t be surprised when your radio starts being taken over by sweet vocals and strong indie-rock- we warned you in advance about One True Thing.

-Andrea Goodwin

The Modern Day Saint/Sonny-Tennessee Isn’t Too Far Away

moderndaysaintBand Name: The Modern Day Saint/Sonny
Album Name: Tennessee Isn’t Too Far Away
Best element: Two incredible bands on one CD.
Genre: Emotional punk
Label name: Fork In Hand Records (
Band e-mail:

The beauty of combining The Modern Day Saint and Sonny on one CD is that they complement each other very well. It’s hard to tell where The Modern Day Saint ends and Sonny’s music begins, aside from the change in the voice of the singer. This makes for a split EP that is a good listen from start to finish because both bands are sure to appeal the listener.

Modern Day Saint has the first three songs on this EP, and all three are superb. Their overall sound is in the vein of Taking Back Sunday if they had Blake from Jawbreaker/Jets to Brazil on vocals. The opener “Training Wheels Off” is a hard hitting, intense song which draws the listener in, contrasting well with the second track, “My Summer Home is a Hospital”, which is a more sincere and poignant track. They finish up with “Stretching the Truth Till it Hurts”, a song with catchy hardcore guitar riffs and vocals that are easy to sing along to.

Following The Modern Day Saint is Sonny. They start out with “Penmanship Counts”, which is an intense, poetic, and emotive song. They follow this up with “Getting Back, Getting Better”, a slightly catchier, but still poetic song describing the difficulty of a covert relationship. They round out the CD well with “Really a Wonderful Night”, which has a very somber sound, accented by the addition of a piano to their instrumental repertoire, and powerfully emotional and poetic lyrics.

Thus, a great split for fans of emotional punk. You know who you are- go get it.

-Andrea Goodwin

Devices in Shift Full

Band Name: Devices in Shift

Album Name: Velas Para La Enferma
Best element: Intense care and preparation of all aspects of the album.
Genre: Indie Rock


Label name: Ask an Enemy Records
Band e-mail:

If nothing else, Devices in Shift is unique. I have never heard anything quite like DiS- when I started to think they were an emo band, they sampled some random noise clips- when I started to think they were a rock band, they threw down a reggae-influenced break. And then on top of that, they throw in 17-41 second interludes that move the storyline along. Did I mention that all the vocals here are distorted?

Okay, so I just introduced a lot of material there- but that’s exactly what DiS does- Devices in Shift hits you with all guns blazing and never lets up. There’s two very, very in-depth parts to Velas Para La Enferma– the musical side and the lyrical storyline. Since this is a music mag, we’ll go for music first.

Like I said before, the boys of DiS leave out nothing, creating a self-indulgent monolith of an album that reads like a book and engages faster than most literary works. The best track here is the punchy “Slit Throat Syncopation”, which starts out on acoustic with some forlorn vocals before pouncing all over it with a double pedal riff, a distorted vocal clip that sounds enraged, and a weak guitar line- creating a very odd amalgam of sound. They drop to a verse, which is more normal, featuring straightforward drums, some spoken word clips, and cascading guitar licks. Okay, so it’s not really normal- I just said it’s more normal. They torch through the rest of the song, getting heavier and heavier, leaving the listener breathless.

“This Nail Needs Hammering” has a reggae influence to it- just try and imagine that: A chaotic emo-ish band funneled through Bob Marley. Anyway, they pull it off well, as the drums and bass work very well together, and the signature cascading reverb on the guitar creates an aura of organized chaos. The yelled vocals here are catharctic and empowering- I empathize. “Symphonic Liberal Disaster” is just outright freaky, as the swirling guitars mesh with odd radio samples in very strange ways. The pulsing bass doesn’t help much either- it feels like footsteps coming towards you.

And the rest follow in turn. Every song is a nuclear disaster- every song begs to be repeated. Every song is unique- every song is unexpected in its own way. It’s truly stunning.

The lyrics and artwork work together to form a theme- suicide, murder, and blood are heavy here. The lyrics- as best I can decipher them- follow a girl who has been gang-raped, as she goes through denial, hatred of the world, sleeplessness, and eventually self-hatred. She turns to cutting herself- the picture on the cover of the album is the girl drawing a line on her arm. She doesn’t die, even though the inside art shows the knife and some blood in a sink. No, she doesn’t die, because the picture on the back of the album is her with a bandage on her arm and traces of the line still visible. She goes nuts (“The Last Known Conformist”) and kills herself (The poignant yet destructive “Velas Para La Enferma” charts this). The inset art behind the CD shows a chalk outline of her body with candles placed around it.

All that is told in the first person- none of it is laid out plain for the listener. This is one of the best lyrical albums I’ve seen in a long time- it made me think, and think hard. I was truly impressed by the amount of care put into the lyrics.

If like intelligent hard music, you won’t get any better than “Velas Para La Enferma”. Devices in Shift has created a ridiculously good album as a debut- and I don’t know what other praise I can shower on this, otherwise I would. If you like emotional music at all, this is your album of the year. This is just insanely good.

-Stephen Carradini