Self Defense Family - Try Me
by Aaron Mook
This is my first time listening to Try Me, and I feet the need to write about it despite it deserving a proper review. At 2:48 AM, from a tattered couch, I can’t fathom typing the words for each unique emotion that’s swept over me after an hour and 19 minutes. Thus, I simplfy:
Try Me is not for everyone. Try Me is everyone. Try Me is challenging and abrasive. Try Me is heartwrenching. Try Me is disappointing, at first. Try Me is unforgettable. Try Me is the sad truth no one ever speaks, but you and your friends speak, because you loathe that everyone ignores it. Try Me is the very definition of what it is to be human. Try Me is the smell of your grandmother’s home that you hate as a child but miss as a young adult, and the memories that bring tears at the realization that you will never have them again. Try Me is the hope that perhaps you will have something better. Try Me is far from perfect, and it doesn’t try to be. Try Me is meant to be heard alone, late at night when your mind is running lose. Try Me is every little tiny minor detail of the story they never let you in on. You can and should eavesdrop on Try Me, and be brave enough not to forget the cynical sounds of nostalgia and smug, ‘just desserts’ attitude you’ve always wanted.
As I said before, this may end up being the official review; if it is, I apologize. A record like this deserves words tough to type, and perhaps that’s why these lyrics hit closer to home with each repetition. Like In Utero or Kid A before it, Try Me is the kind of lesson you’re glad and slightly ashamed of learning when it’s through. Hate it, love it, cherish it. Self Defense family never had a fuck to give, never had a reason to be profound, and yet, here they are: the most self-aware artist of the past decade.
That is all.
A Balance Between-Negative Space
1.7.14/Broken English Records
by Aaron Mook
Musical dry spells seem to be somewhat common at the top of a new year. Perhaps this is actually due to a lack of album announcements and release dates, or (more likely) it’s the result of laziness and eggnog hangovers on our part, but luckily, A Balance Between has set out to shatter expectations and start 2014 on the a strong note. Throughout their debut EP Negative Space, the band vows to take post-hardcore back to its prime and channels classics such as Thrice’s Vheissu and Circa Survive’s Juturna while simultaneously cementing their own identity in the scene, and in the regard, Negative Space is a refreshing success.
From the crashing guitars that introduce opener “Your Own Hell”, we are given a sense of unbridled emotion we like to expect with debut releases. Paired with a fleshed out and fitting production, each instrument hits as hard as the others, topped with vocalist Jeremy Hernandez’s mid-range croon. This mix is hardly contained to tracks in the same vein, as even the slow-burner “Reaching Out” brims with equal bouts of musical force and calming optimism. While the lyrics may not always cross the line as something to write home about, they fit nicely within the context of the music and this itself is enough of a surprise to stand out amongst a community of peers the prefer to play it safe.
The band does a wonderful job of exhibiting a sense of variety and direction throughout the EP. Larger-than-life riffs dominate “Ocean”, just to lead into the sprawling six-minute title track. “Negative Space” attempts to slow things down, giving each instrument its time in the limelight before a haunting, stripped down interlude and jam session of an exit. If these songs are good, they merely provide support to Negative Space's standout centerpiece, “The Ruse”. “The Ruse” rivals several classic post-hardcore gems as a glimpse towards something better, a slice of progressive aggression we can hope might take part in whatever step comes next for A Balance Between.
While A Balance Between may have yet to reinvent the genre (as letlive. very well may have last year), they certainly have done a hell of a job reinvigorating it. Negative Space spews the energy and creative highlights we’ve come to love from young bands, both building from their peers and doing what they do better than anyone in recent memory. At a time when we are generally recovering from the year previous and looking forward to later releases, A Balance Between have cannonballed into the community in a risk vs. reward scenario that will almost certainly pay off as we can now keep a welcome and watchful eye over this talented group of newcomers.
Key tracks: There’s only six tracks and none of them are bad, but “The Ruse” is extraordinary.
For fans of: Circa Survive, Thrice, Deftones
Zac and I wrecked kind of debated what this piece should be labeled as, seeing as the record was released last year, but since it’s not a formal review- focusing more on WHY ‘Sunbather’ was the best reviewed record of 2013- I’ve decided to call it Revisited. Sort of.
Deafhaven’s Sunbather - Revisited
by Zac Djamoos
Out of every single album released last year, Deafheaven’s Sunbather was the highest reviewed. Averaging the scores of every major publication that reviewed this record, it would be given a 92%. This is the first time aggregate website MetaCritic found a metal album to be the highest-reviewed album since the site began over a decade ago. In a glowing review, Pitchfork’s Brandon Stosuy called the album “a modern classic;” Gray Currin of Spin declared the album “practically filmic” in its “brutal and blissful” sonic twists and turns; AbsolutePunk’s Drew Beringer went a step further to say this record was not only “the best album many will hear all year,” but even “one of the three best albums I’ve heard in the past five years.” And reading this now, you probably had no idea what Sunbather even was.
In short, it’s a black metal album. But that’s a horribly simple description, and does no justice to the layers and layers of sound present on this album. It’s evident straight from the cover: there’s no spider-webby band logo, no black or navy hues, no Norse gods engaged in battle. Instead there is a sunburst of pink with the album’s title spelled out in large white letters. It’s an incredibly pretty cover for a metal album - which is appropriate, for Sunbather is an incredibly pretty metal album.
Part of the beauty of Sunbather is in its crossover appeal. There are no breakdowns to be found in the album, no pulverizing guitar solos, no lyrics about killing nor any other metal cliches. Rather than shred, Kerry McCoy’s guitar lines seem to shimmer. His riffs are often coated in delay and reverb to give a dreamier effect. While Daniel Tracy’s drumwork features metallic blast beats aplenty, his percussion is not meant to crash and overwhelm, but to punctuate and emphasize. When he comes in with lightning-fast drumrolls thirty seconds into album opener “Dreamhouse,” he’s not delivering typical metal instrumentation, he’s advancing the story along. It’s accessible to people who like any kind of music. All that really makes Deafheaven a metal band is vocalist George Clarke, who possess a high pitched banshee wail that could aggravate some listeners and definitely take time to adjust to. However, they’re mixed back in the music, creating just another layer of sound - they’re treated like an instrument. Plus, the album is designed so that there are four main movements, and between those three spoken-word-but-otherwise-instrumental interludes.
On your first listen through Sunbather, you’ll enjoy it (given Clarke’s vocals don’t grate on you). But it takes more than that for the album to truly sink in. On your first listen, you won’t grasp that what Clarke is shrieking in the last verse of “Dreamhouse” is perhaps the most beautiful verse written by any vocalist of any genre last year: “I’m dying. ‘Is it blissful?’ It’s like a dream. ‘I want to dream.’” You might not hear the sample underneath the feedback in the instrumental bridge of “The Pecan Tree.” You may not catch Clarke’s voice break at the end of that song. You likely won’t even notice when “Dreamhouse” ends and first interlude “Irresistible” begins. But it’s things like that that make the album even more enjoyable. In the album’s final minute, Clarke assures you that “I am no one,” but you can’t help but feel that isn’t true. Clarke is someone real and someone human, and so are McCoy and Tracy. They are genuine, passionate people who’ve created one of the most genuine, passionate albums of the year.
I Am the Avalanche have announced their third full-length, Wolverines, to be released March 18th via I Surrender records. You can preorder the record below as well as stream a brand new song, “The Shape I’m In” at Esquire. What do you think of the song?
You can now download You Blew It!’s new full-length, Keep Doing What You’re Doing (due Jan. 14), for just $5 via their Bandcamp. You can’t beat this deal (while still supporting the band), folks. What do you think of the record?
Human Animal - Dark Days
by Aaron Mook
A few nights ago, I wrote a piece about the state of my local scene here in Erie, Pennsylvania. The piece attempted to explain the legacy we called Lake Effect Hardcore, the state of the scene now and what has changed in the past 15 years. This was a triumph to me, not only because it was being published in a local zine but also because it broke the typical review/interview/feature format I was used to writing (not that this is a bad thing). The rush that came with interviewing certain “key players” in the community provided me with a rush of nostalgia involving my brother and I’s youth, but also reminded me of a review I have been sitting on for close to a year. It’s a review that deserves to be rewritten.
Throughout the entirety of Human Animal’s debut EP, Dark Days, the band not only surpasses the expectations set by members’ prior outfits but shatters Lake Effect’s dormancy entirely. In a scene that had admittedly taken a tumble over the past ten years, Human Animal manages to build from their roots and act as a breath of fresh air where many other generic hardcore acts have become stale. Look no further than the title track, which wastes no time opening the EP with a wailing guitar solo before picking up the pace and getting the blood pumping with every “woah-oh” or gang vocal that trademarks Dark Days. The guitar solo is no isolated incident either, most notably making a return during “Out Cold”. This is all building up to what is easily the EP’s strongest track, “Swine Flu”. Fast and furious, the standout is essentially relentless and acts as a ‘sum of all parts’, eventually leading into a massive breakdown led by vocalist EMS’s howl of “I’ve seen your kind before…”.
Perhaps most impressive about the release is its pristine production, which certainly stands out for a local act so young in their career. Mixing the instruments in a way where each have their own destructive moments (particularly the devastating drumwork on “Faded Pictures” and the crashing guitars of epic closer “Time Tells All”), Dark Days' production is just tight enough to match its execution. For those of you who may not have felt the wrath of the Lake Effect, you're probably wondering, “Why should I care, Aaron?” Let's put it like this- in five songs and 16 minutes, Human Animal has managed not only to reinvigorate a local scene but release one of my favorite (and only) traditional hardcore EP's of the past three years, incorporating distinct metal edge. And, it's offered on Bandcamp as a free download. I didn't write this review with any obligation; I wrote this review because Human Animal could easily crush much of the competition presented by their peers. Prepare to embrace the Effect.
BandCamp link: http://humananimal.bandcamp.com/album/dark-days
Key tracks: There’s only five, and they’re free via the above BandCamp link below. However, these music videos are dope:
"Swine Flu": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Id5Vpb5imc
"Dark Days": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBlIDbw8yi8
For fans of: Madball, Terror, xRepresentx
Hopeless Records is now streaming the new Neck Deep full-length, “Wishful Thinking”, via Youtube. What do you think?
Built by Max Bemis, Chris Conley, Coby Linder and Dave Soloway
Written by Jess Scutella
A meeting of the minds. A preternatural twisting of different species. A wonderfully mixed album that deserves your ear, regardless of its age and initial criticism.
Two Tongues is the capitalization of two dynamic and masterfully divergent singer-songwriters. The fact that I have to tackle this piece as an argument to persuade you to listen to this project is almost laughable, because this album was the impetus to much of what is today in the energized and expressive emo, indie punk music milieu. Yet here I am, explaining why a wordsmith psychopath (Max Bemis and Coby Linder of Say Anything) and pop-punk legends (Chris Conley, Dave Soloway of Saves the Day) have more than earned your listening in their collaboration, and why their album was unrightfully pushed under the tide and not given the respect it deserved.
I plan to be terse so you will instead spend time finally picking up this record. First, we hear some beautiful and challenging dialog between Bemis and Conley; which is intriguing on its own. Imagine your two favorite band’s singers, both of which emerging from totally different pasts and writing experiences, brought together to smash their differences into headphones. The real and insane lyrical babbling of Bemis, along with the smooth wails of Conley are tampered over some dynamic and fulfilling guitar patterns (“Crawl”, Wowee Zowee”). I even caught some parallelism in guitar riffs to Saves The Day’s 2011 Daybreak. It was like foreshadowing with the musical genius of Saves The Day’s comeback ( Soloway and Conley).
Editor’s note- Soloway left the band before Daybreak.
Further, the drum strategies were perfectly maneuvered (“Come On”), as always, by one of my favorite and most creative drummers in the genre, Coby Linder. From pulling off accents that deliver the vocals in a more full presentation to remaining reserved to fill out the beat and rhythm. If drummers know anything about Linder, they should be able to pick up his little nuances immediately.
As for the strange underground dismissal of the album, we at FKIS remain quite confused. I thought maybe some of the flak it garnered was from the itchy STD fans still complaining about Conley’s natural voice change, or perhaps the fan drama surrounding Bemis and his strong relationship with Sherri Dupree. I never thought it to be the content of the album, is its material is both strong and diverse enough (“Tremors”, “Try Not to Save Me” respectively) to stand out against hundreds of the pop-punk releases over the past five years. People simply need to give it a full bridled chance.
Just so you know, the most interesting aspect is that this band’s existential status is still active. This leads the oh-so-wanting me to think that more could be coming from this collaborative makeup. And man do I hope so.
Editor’s note- Word on the street is, a new record is halfway completed and scheduled for release later this year (as well as a new Say Anything album!).
Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrScutella, and if you would like to talk to me more email me at Scutellajess@gmail.com. Thanks for reading words.