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Month: September 2009

Serious Music that's not hard to Stomach(er)

Stomacher is a band that knows what it is doing. Everything, from the art to the songwriting to the recording techniques, is highly stylized. No part of this album “just happened.” I don’t know what the people in this band are like, but I’m willing to bet they’re a lot like the guys in ’90s staples Live: serious about all aspects of their music and equally as passionate.

The music of Sentimental Education is serious music. These guys take their craft very seriously, and it shows.

Proof that The Felix Culpa is Alive and Kicking

In terms of what you should play to get famous as a band, The Felix Culpa wins. In terms of what you should do to get famous as a band, they have failed miserably. They released their first album Commitment in 2004. It was generally heralded as awesome by people like Alt Press, and (yes) Independent Clauses. They followed it up in 2006 with an EP/DVD set (Thought Control), which was again met with raves. They then promised a full-length album, which had everyone in the scene drooling (yes, including us).

Odd genre names aside, For.The.Win. is brief but effective

Upon reading the press release that accompanied The Black & The Blue, the debut full-length from San Jose, CA, band For.The.Win., I saw that they called themselves “Bay Area Posi-Core.” I’m going to be perfectly honest with you folks, I don’t have the slightest idea what “Posi-Core” means. Nevertheless, I trudged forth and listened to this brief eleven song CD, trying to determine what this “Posi-Core” of which they spoke was.

And really, I still don’t know. However, what I did hear sounded to me much more like the “gruff punk” sounds of bands like American Steel or Red City Radio. Maybe “Posi-Core” and “gruff punk” are similar genres, I don’t know. But I liked what I heard from For.The.Win.

The band seems to draw off punk and hardcore for a snarling, melodic and yet simple style of music. It’s not exactly anything I’ve never heard before, but these guys pull it off effectively. The opening track, “Let It Begin,” is very effective at grabbing the listeners attention with its catchy chorus refrain of “Let the revolution begin/I hope it never ends.” At two minutes, the song is almost tragically short, because it’s enough fun that I found myself wishing there were more verses.

From there, some of the songs become a little less memorable. This is most likely due to the fact that most of these songs are incredibly short. Only six of the eleven tracks on the CD are longer than two minutes, and only two of those six are over three minutes. The album is simply too brief. There’s some obvious songwriting talent, but it’s hard for any of the songs to really stick with you because the album is so short at less than twenty-two minutes total.

Stand outs in the album are definitely the opener and closer, “Let It Begin,” and “Die Young,” as well as “I’m An Outsider,” which sits near the middle of the album. With The Black & The Blue, For.The.Win. displays some strong song writing abilities and musicianship, but they don’t show as much of it as they could because the album is over as soon as it begins.

Night Flowers displays a multi-faceted sound

A snarling, devil-may-care attitude used to be one of the defining characteristics of rock’n’roll. When that attitude folded into post-grunge’s misogynistic machismo (in approximately 1995, when grunge’s rebellion had completely metamorphosed into radio-readiness), indie-rock picked up the emotive banner, effectively abandoning the gritty bad boy image for an excess-is-rock’n’roll mentality or emotions-are-rock’n’roll ideology.

All this to say, I was really pleased to hear Night Flowers‘ snarly attitude. It’s dangerous, sexy and attractive (not about being dangerous, sexy and attractive).

Give Yourself a Hand(s)

Post-hardcore, as I define it, is hardcore music with emotions and melodies running through it. These emotions present themselves through singing, yelling and spoken word (as opposed to the traditional screaming, growling and roaring of pure hardcore). The melodies come through in the guitars or in the vocals.

Inside that definition, Hands is a pretty fantastic post-hardcore band. They have the heavy guitars and occasional low-throated growl of hardcore, along with other hardcore aesthetics. There aren’t many blastbeats, but there are some pretty heavy sections. Contrasting against those incredibly heavy moments are pieces of heartbreaking beauty, like the acoustic-driven “Communion” and the single electric guitar of “Ignorance.”

The End is Only the Beginning

Peasant’s single for “The End” is a compelling little teaser. The two unique folk tunes enclosed here (as well as an acoustic version of said single) are intimate yet not overly introspective. It feels like I’m getting a personal performance from Peasant, but it doesn’t feel like he’s moping about, regretting his life (as the work of Elliott Smith, et al, tends toward). The melodies contained in “The End” bring immediate comparisons to the work of Bon Iver, but these melodies are much more confident and much less rickety than Justin Vernon’s contributions. Peasant seems sure of himself on these songs, and that confidence is a rare thing in folk, a world where unsocialized white boys are the gold standard.

Band with crazy name releases 7 inch vinyl

Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)” has got to be one of the all-time strangest band names I have ever encountered. First of all, it’s seven words long. Seven. Secondly, not only does it incorporate punctuation, the name includes different kinds – both exclamation points and parenthesis. It makes me wonder what their fans call them. Maybe just “Empire! Empire!”? (But then do you have to say it with a raised voice?) Or what about “E.E.I.W.A.L.E.”?

Americans Abroad Amuse an American Abroad

Blitzen Trapper at Camden Barfly, London—9/14/09

“Welcome to the wild forests of Oregon,” singer/guitarist Marty Marquis advised the multinational crowd at the Camden Barfly in Camden Town, London Monday night. The pre-show air of international banter revealed an odd mix of Germans, Canadians, local Brits, and Scottish, though by the end of the evening all stood in the mysterious, foreign foliage that serve setting for the lyrical stuff of Blitzen Trapper’s full-blown pastoral Americana indie rock.

And what full-blown pastoral indie rock it is.

I'm Lost in The Woods

The Woods are an experimental folk band, heavy on experimental. There are five songs here that run for twelve minutes on The EP Logue, and not one of them is easily categorized. If the “blink and you miss it” nature of Half-Handed Cloud’s fragmented pop songs collided with the mellower moments of Good News for People Who Love Bad News and then became friends with the wide-eyed, carnival-esque folk of Page France, you might have a good cover band for the Woods.

But that still doesn’t appropriate all that they are. From spoken word sections to gorgeous melodies that appear only once (so maddening!) to clever guitar licks that don’t get the focus they deserve before morphing into something else (also maddening!) to the plaintive and picturesque “Place I” (which is the only fully-developed idea here, speaking from a purely traditional pop standpoint), The Woods cram more beauty and oddity into twelve minutes than some bands cover in a lifetime.

It’s more like a painting than an actual album, and (lo and behold) that’s exactly what they wanted to do. They didn’t name any of the pieces, per se; they titled them with “place”, “person” or “thing.” They want the listener to understand more about a certain point of reference because of these songs, as opposed to enjoying the songs for their melodies and rhythms. As Ian Dudley says in the final track, “Just because I’m singing, that don’t make this a song.”

The Woods seem to know exactly what they are doing, and they’ve created a very, very pretty release. It’s a very confusing release, if you’re not used to or not a fan of experimental work, but it is a good release nonetheless. For fans of Devendra Banhart, Animal Collective, and the like. You can download it for free here.