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27.9.12

California Wives – Art History

I’ve never been much of an art buff myself but I’d gladly sign up for Art History 101 if California Wives (nevermind that they’re all dudes from Chicago) are teaching it! On their debut full-length they lay down tunes that harken back to the days of yore with hushed vocals, sweet synth sounds and 80s guitars to create a dreamy sound that’s very pleasing to the ears.

As you work your way down the tracklisting, you may find that they stick to the same formula throughout the entire album. Yet in spite of its lack in variation, all of the songs on here managed to keep me dreaming of afternoon naps and road trips with “Born To Run”, “Blood Red Youth” and “Light Year” as my personal favorites.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.vagrant.com 

http://www.californiawives.com

The Heavy – The Glorious Dead

It’s weird that The Heavy aren’t any bigger than they are right now. They’ve been known as the next big thing since 2007 and one of their previous singles has even been used in the season finale of Entourage but still things aren’t quite happening for this UK outfit.

I’m not sure why that is because “The Glorious Dead” is a damn fine album that is filled with a catchy mix of soul, funk and rock. Opening track “Can’t Play Dead” is a soulful zombierocker, “Curse Me Good” is a more mellow tune that would make for a great single and the actual first single “What Makes A Good Man?” can easily stand right next to the best of the Black Keys. And while we’re namedropping the Black Keys,  check out “Same Ol’” as well which is another blues stomper.

These guys have the ‘stick to vintage but keep it contemporary’ sound down pat and the result is an impressive album. Here’s to hoping they finally get some more recognition!
Score: 8.5 out of 10
http://www.pias.com 

http://www.theheavy.co.uk

Murder Construct – Results

Murder Construct is a partnership between members of Cattle Decapitation and Exhumed who felt they just weren’t releasing quite enough sick tunes already even though Exhumed released an album last year (“All Guts, No Glory”) and Cattle Decapitation released one earlier this year (“Monolith Of Inhumanity”).

If you’re into extreme metal, this will definitely fulfill your needs. There’s nothing pretty about the songs on “Results” and I’m thinking that melody is a dirty world in these guys’ universe. But what they lack in melody, they more than make up in speed and sheer aggression. Listening to their bludgeoning mix of death metal and grindcore is much like getting the shit kicked out of you for half an hour.

Just like a solid beating though, it only hurts in the beginning and after a couple of songs the lack of variation causes a kind of numb sensation and you end up rolling with the punches instead of resisting.
Score: 6 out of 10
http://www.relapse.com 

http://www.murderconstruct.com

Landscapes – Life.Gone.Wrong

Following up the “Reminiscence”  EP, these UK natives are back at it with their first full-length. Striking just the right balance between melody, atmosphere and aggression is not easy but these guys make it seem easy on “Life.Gone.Wrong”.

Tapping from the same vein as Verse, Defeater and La Dispute among others, Landscapes effortlessly weave together swirling guitar lines, a hard-hitting rhythm section and a rather desperate sounding vocalist with a bleak outlook on life. It all adds up to an album that builds up tension in the nicest of ways before letting it all go in one big cathartic climax.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://cityofgoldrecords.bandcamp.com 

http://www.facebook.com/landscapesuk

Cheap Girls – Giant Orange

Over the course of two albums and a bunch of splits, Cheap Girls have gotten consistently better with every single release. “Giant Orange” – the band’s third full-length and first for Rise Records – is no exception. Is it merely experience or the help of producer Tom Ga… no wait, Laura Jane Grace? I don’t know and I honestly don’t care. Fact is that this album kicks ass!

This Lansing, Michigan outfit has always been heavily influenced by 90s acts such as the Gin Blossoms and Dinosaur Jr. without simply ripping them off. But this album sees them truly coming into their own with a sound that pays tribute to the bands that came before them while at the same time sounding all crispy and fresh. Check out opening track “Gone All Summer” which is as good a blueprint of this band’s sound as any other song on here. The guitars are buzzing away nicely, there are extremely catchy hooks ,the drums sound huge and the guitar solo would make J Mascis proud.

Cheap Girls are not exactly breaking new ground on here, but they have perfected their sound and ended up with an album without a single song that falls short. And I for one am happy that I can keep on going through life claiming that I like cheap girls… ha!
Score: 8 out of 10

http://www.riserecords.com 

http://www.cheapgirls.net

Green Day – ¡Uno!

Green Day is back! But where do you go after you’ve released two rock operas? Well, you simply release not one, not two… but a whopping total of three albums. “¡Uno!” is the name of the first instalment and the other two will follow over the next five months. 

“¡Uno!” sees a return to the more straight-forward pop-punk tunes that got them famous in the first place. Think “Dookie” if you will. No more concept albums about suburban Jesus figures and whatnot, just honest pop-punk. The only difference being that these guys are now around the age of 40 and it’s a bit awkward to hear them sing about wanting to kill the DJ. Like Fred Durst still singing about how he’s still doing it all for the nookie. The song itself is catchy though and closely related to the most danceable moments The Clash ever offered. Elsewhere they reminded me of The Jam (“Nuclear Family”).

Most of all though Green Day sounds like Green Day with a great mix of singalong choruses, tons of energy and a whole lot of fun. So much fun even that Billie Joe Armstrong had to check himself into rehab! I don’t know about you but I’m ready for part two and three…. Let’s hope that this will be one trilogy that doesn’t suck.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.repriserecords.com 

http://www.greenday.com

Band Of Horses – Mirage Rock

If you have heard 2010’s “Infinite Arms”, then you already know that the band around Ben Bridwell headed for calmer waters. And while it was a really good album, I felt it wasn’t quite up to the level of its predecessor. I admit, it was a helluva lot to live up to. So how does “Mirage Rock” compare to Band Of Horses’ previous releases?

Well, they’re off to a good start with “Knock Knock”, which is also the first single. With plenty of handclaps and lots of oohooooh moments, this is Bridwell at his most exuberant. “How To Live” is already a little more mellow and sets the mood for acoustic cuts such as “Slow Cruel Hand Of Time” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone”. Oh, and then there’s closing track “Heartbreak On The 101”, a song that will tug at your heartstrings like few others songs will this year.

It’s all seventies rock and west coast pop on “Mirage Rock” and as a result the songs on here have a timeless quality about them while still sounding fresh.  Think The Eagles, The Rolling Stones (“Electric Music”) or Neil Young (“Dumpster World”). It may take a couple of listens for the songs to get under your skin. But once they do, you’ll find “Mirage Rock” to be a near flawless autumn album.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.columbiarecords.com 

http://www.bandofhorses.com

The Dirty Panties – I Am A Robot

Apparently girl power didn’t die with the demise of the Spice Girls! The Dirty Panties are an all-girl punkrock band who won’t be pushed around, have been around since 2001 but have only just now gotten round to releasing their debut full-length. That’s eleven years! It didn’t stop them from already becoming ‘iconic’ in Vegas and beyond if I am to believe the bio sheet… which I guess puts ‘em right up there with Elvis and Celine Dion?

“I Am A Robot” comes with 13 songs, all of ‘em loud and in your face. Not sure if we needed another cover of “Money (That’s What I Want)” but hey… what you gonna do about it? They try to keep things as varied as possible throughout the album with mixed results (“Overt” and the title track really are crap) and Melanie Ash has a pretty good voice. Unfortunately those are pretty much the only good things about the album. Plus the whole album sounds like it was recorded for 5$.

I don’t mean to be harsh but if this is the best you can come up with after having been around for eleven years, then maybe it just isn’t in the cards for you.
Score: 3 out of 10
http://www.squidhatrecords.com 

http://www.thedirtypanties.com

21.9.12

Jr. Juggernaut – Wake

I was a teenager in the nineties and so the sounds of alternative rock and the sight of flannel shirts will always make my heart beat a little faster. And that’s why a band like Jr. Juggernaut immediately has my sympathy.

On their second album (“Wake”) they sound very much like a band from that era that everybody overlooked back in the day. I’m even thinking that the Jr. in their name is not just there because it sounds good. Just like J Mascis, these guys sure love their guitars loud and vocalist Mike Williamson has that same kind of apathy going on in the vocal department while he is rocking the fuck out.

If you are too young to know who Dinosaur Jr is (even though they just released a new album as well), think Cheap Girls. The country twang that always seems to be lingering around somewhere in the background, gets played out more in a song like “Give Me My Son” and it adds a little variety.

Which brings us to the album’s only flaw… all of the songs kinda sound the same and it’s not as if they were that original to begin with. But just like their slacker heroes, I’m sure that Jr. Juggernaut doesn’t really care about that. 
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.paperandplastick.com 

http://www.facebook.com/jrjuggernaut

Supreme Commander – Paper Tigers

On their debut full-length, DC’s Supreme Commander (featuring former members of Daycare Swindlers, Latchkey and Wake Up Cold) cranks out some seriously fun tunes that combine the best of 80s hardcore a la Dag Nasty along with some of that NYHC bounce that I came to love about H20.

This results in short energy blasts with just the right amount of melody thrown in to keep things interesting. These guys aren’t going to blow anybody’s mind with “Paper Tigers” but this should be quite the party live. I know it was in my living room.
Score: 6.5 out of 10
http://www.basementrecords.net 

http://www.facebook.com/supremecommanderdc

Tantara – Based On Evil

Damn, this is some old school thrash… think Destruction, Exodus and Slayer. There are only eight songs on “Based On Evil” but they all seem to go on forever, constantly switching between hard-hitting parts and more atmospheric, instrumental bits. This has all been done before a really long time ago and I’m pretty sure that just by looking at the cover, you’re gonna know whether this is one for you or not.
Score: 4 out of 10
http://www.indierecordings.no 

http://www.facebook.com/tantarathrash

Youth Pictures Of Florence Henderson – Small Changes We Hardly Notice

It’s hard to picture anything this warm and gentle to come out of a harsh and cold country like Norway, but the boys and girls (there’s seven of them in the band) that make up Youth Pictures Of Florence Henderson get to call Oslo home. And it’s there that they write songs that are nothing short of epic.

With the shortest song clocking in at just under five minutes, this band likes things long… as you can probably already tell just from looking at their band name and the album title. The four songs on this EP all consist of layered guitars, horns, shifting rhythms and hazy vocals that can turn into screams that all shift in and out of focus as the song unfolds itself.

The best description I can come up with is a mix of Explosions In The Sky and Sigur Ros with comprehensible vocals.
Score: 7 out of 10
http://www.cylsrecords.com 

http://www.ypofh.com

Kite Party – Baseball Season

Kite Party is apparently already working on a new album, but I only just got my hands on “Baseball Season”. This Philly-based band self-released the album around this time last year but it’s gotten the vinyl treatment just now thanks to Animal Style Records.

These guys keep a brisk pace throughout all nine songs that come with the kind of jangly guitars that many hipster bands would envy all the while staying true to the spirit of mid 90s emo. There is nothing overtly catchy about these songs yet somehow they stuck with me…  I think it’s the way the guitars swirl around all over the place with repetitive ease while the vocalist lays down some sweet vocals. Kite Party is also very adept at creating more atmospheric parts like the percussion-drive chanting towards the end of “Buried In Dogs”.

They rock a little harder in “Southpaw” which won’t floor you but it does get you safely to closing track “We Won’t Survive” which comes with a trumpet that they smuggle in in the most subtle of ways towards the end.

I for one am looking forward to their upcoming album and if you’re one of the lucky bastards attending this year’s Fest, you might to check these guys out.
Score: 7 out of 10
http://www.animalstylerecords.com 

http://kiteparty.bandcamp.com

Fighting With Wire – Colonel Blood

When Fighting With Wire first combined their love of nineties rock and punkrock on 2008’s “Man Vs Monster”, they ended up with a pile of rave reviews, tours with Biffy Clyro and Million Dead among others and a major label deal. And so off to Nashville they went to record the follow-up with Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Deftones,…). That was two years ago. But thanks to Xtra Mile “Colonel Blood” is finally seeing the light of day on October 1st.

Was it worth the wait? Well, it’s not an instant classic but there’s plenty of goodness to be found on Fighting With Wire’s sophomoric release if you like distorted guitars, catchy hooks and big choruses. Just like the Foo Fighters, these guys manage to mix noisy rock tunes with pop sensibilities into slick anthemic rock tunes like “I Won’t Let You Down” and “Graduate” that should work especially well live.
Score: 7 out of 10
http://www.xtramilerecordings.com 

http://www.fightingwithwire.co.uk

Just Like Vinyl – Black Mass


Just Like Vinyl is a new band around The Fall Of Troy’s guitarist/vocalist Thomas Erak. And after having heard “Black Mass”, I’m fairly sure he really likes his emo / post-hardcore. How do I know? Because that’s what I’m hearing on “Black Mass”… I know, sometimes I’m genius like that. The atypical song structures, a weird riff that jumps in out of nowhere, whiny vocals… it’s all present and accounted for. And it’s really not good at all.
Score: 4 out of 10
http://www.superballmusic.com 

http://www.justlikevinyl.com

Everyone Dies In Utah - +//- (Polarities)

These Texans already seem to know where they are going to end up, but not before they try to tear it up with some metalcore tunes. I for one am hoping that retirement will call them to Utah soon enough because the songs on offer on “Polarities” are way too predictable… and as a result, boring.

Frantic drumming, guitars that go chugga chugga, one vocalist that screams his lungs out and another one that chips in with choruses deemed too cheesy by the Linkin Park crew… oh, and synth sounds that are layered over every single song without serving a single purpose. We’ve all heard it before and while it already didn’t sound great first time around, this is even worse.
Score: 3 out of 10
http://www.facebook.com/tragicherorecords 

http://www.facebook.com/everyonediesinutahtx

Fang Island - Major

“Major” is Fang Island’s second album and just like their debut, it’s basically one big tribute to fun. I think it’s impossible to listen to this and not start grinning ear to ear. You can try it if you want but you’ll fail miserably. Not that ‘miserably’ is a word that has much to do with this album. There’s just something about so much unbridled enthousiasm that is contagious and when the band members describe their music as ‘everyone high-fiving everyone’, you’ll know what they mean the second you hear opener “Kindergarten”.

It’s noisy , it’s incredibly poppy and almost too happy-sounding! It’s like listening to a Weezer album without the mediocre songs. Or think of an updated version of Rush if that makes any sense. Feel free to pump your fists while listening to “Make Me”, sing along to the chorus of… well, every song on here and don’t forget to hug everyone around you in the pit as you bask in this band’s sun-soaked harmonies.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.sargenthouse.com 

http://www.fangisland.com

Stepdad - Wildlife Pop

Following up their “Ordinaire” EP, this Michigan-based outfit cranks up the pop factor on “Wildlife Pop”. If you’ve already heard their previous single “My Leather, My Fur, My Nails” (which you’ll find on here as well in a reworked version), you know what you’re in for. Ridiculously slick pop tunes with layers of synths, 80s throwbacks, catchy choruses and a whole lot of falsetto courtesy of vocalist ultramark. Yeah, I’m guessing that’s not the name his mother gave him either.

Okay, so “Pick And Choose” gets a bit too sugary. But if you listen to “Jungles” or “Treasure Hugs”, you’ll find “Wildlife Pop” to be a particularly fun album to spend an afternoon with to get in the mood for that night’s party.
Score: 7 out of 10
http://www.blackbellrecords.com 

http://www.stepdad.us

Wintersleep – Hello Hum

Canada’s Wintersleep hooked up with The Flaming Lips’ not-so-secret weapon/producer Dave Fridmann to record their fifth album. And basically, “Hello Hum” is everything you’d think this combination would sound like.

The band’s indie rock is still very much the same but Fridmann made the vocals sound a bit spacier and introduced some more experimental atmospherics. This becomes clear from the get-go as “Hum” kicks off with all kinds of percussion taking off in the background. The synths that bubble up in first single “In Came The Flood” and carry the song home are pretty awesome as well.

Not everything on here comes with an equally full sound. “Saving Song” for example is as stripped down as it gets and it gives the song the kind of melancholy I love about fellow countrymen The Weakerthans. It is followed by “Rapture”, a sweet upbeat tune that’s another album highlight.

“Hello Hum” makes it clear that Wintersleep is a band that’s comfortable enough in their own skin to fool around with their sound in order to keep things sounding fresh. Well, mission accomplished.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.rollcallrecords.com 

http://www.wintersleep.com

Make Do And Mend – Everything You Ever Loved

As much as I liked “Bodies Of Water”, I thought that Make Do And Mend took a giant leap forward on 2010’s “End Measured Mile” with their slicker take on post-hardcore. Two years later they’re back already with a new full-length (their first for Rise Records) and holy shit, they pulled it off again!

If you have heard their previous album, then “Everything You Ever Loved” doesn’t hold any surprises. That doesn’t mean it’s any less impressive though. There’s just something about the way these guys come up with the most amazing guitar leads, how they play with dynamics and top it all off with gruff vocals and big choruses, that sets them apart from the pack. Check out “Disassemble” or the more mellow “Drown In It” and get to know your new favorite band!

Score: 9 out of 10http://www.riserecords.com 
http://www.makedoandmend.me

Gallows – Gallows

There are few things that have as big an influence on a band’s sound as the vocals. So anytime a vocalist is replaced, there’s that question… will they still be as good? When the news came that former Alexisonfire guitarist/vocalist Wade MacNeil replaced Frank Carter (who wanted to focus on Pure Love), hardcore fans all over the world asked themselves… will they still be as good?

Gallows’ first sign of life with MacNeil – the “Death Is Birth” EP – was promising but it’s with their new self-titled full-length, that these guys proves that yes, they are still doing just fine. The album opens with a spoken word intro before they unleash their particular brand of hardcore punk fury and they just keep on coming at you from there.

Gallows had that thing that set them apart from other hardcore bands by sounding melodic and menacing at the same time and luckily that vibe is still intact in songs such as “Everybody Loves You (When You’re Dead)” or “Vapid Adolescent Blues”. And by the time “Cross Of Lorraine” comes around and hits you straight in the face, it’s fair to say that Gallows did another kickass job.
Score: 8 out of 10
Venn Records

http://www.pias.com 
http://www.gallows.co.uk

Trapper Schoepp & The Shades – Run, Engine, Run

Remember the Shoop Shoop Song? It’s in his kiss and all that? Well, these are Trapper Schoepp’ songs and they have absolutely nothing to do with Cher whatsoever. This Milwaukee-based outfit likes to play rootsy rock tunes that tap from the same vein as Whiskeytown.

While you normally think of this music as being performed by men and women who’ve already lived a long and hard life, this guy is just 21 years old. Please don’t hold it against Schoepp and his Shades though because songs like “Tracks” and “To Have You Around” are some of the better ones I’ve heard all year in the genre.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.sideonedummy.com 

http://www.trapperschoepp.com

19.9.12

Lipona – Networks

Lipona already made quit an impression on me with “Atlas” and the “Pigeonholed” EP and they now solidify their status with “Networks”. This Florid-based outfit combines skate punk with more progressive influences into kickass songs that are melodic as hell. With plenty of harmonies a la Bad Religion, a fierce rhythm section and tons of shredding they will have no problem winning you over.

If you are into the likes of A Wilhelm Scream, Strung Out or Crime In Stereo, you pretty much have no choice but to pick up a copy of this one. Check out opening track “Followers”… it pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Lipona.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.disconnectdisconnectrecords.com 

http://lipona.bandcamp.com

Wolves At Bay – Only A Mirror

This Hamden, CT outfit was formerly known as Dear You but apparently the name was taken and so they changed it to Wolves At Bay. I can fully understand that the other Dear You didn’t want these guys’ competition because “Only A Mirror” is an impressive debut full-length.

Blurring the lines between post-hardcore and punkrock, Wolves At Bay have a knack for writing tunes that are as melodic as they are raw. Think of Make Do And Mend or Balance & Composure and you’ll get the picture. There’s plenty of variation offered here with a song like “I Have Nothing To Offer” showing off the band’s edgier side and “Breaking In Two” which comes with a focus on atmosphere and a slightly mellower vibe.

All this makes “Only A Mirror” a very convincing and consistent debut and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think that these guys have never done anything else than making music together.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

http://www.animalstylerecords.com 

http://www.facebook.com/wolvesatbay

The Classic Crime – Phoenix

“Phoenix” is a pretty fitting album title for a band that parted ways with their label and was all of a sudden free to do as they please. With the help of Kickstarter and their fans, they got the necessary funds (and more) together to record the follow-up to 2010’s “Vagabonds”.

The “One Man Army” intro does a good job of setting the mood with its brooding tone, before blossoming into this massive chorus. It’s a formula that you’ll hear a lot throughout the album as these guys like to build up tension with bombastic string arrangements, vocal harmonies, rhythms and the likes before letting it all loose in the chorus. Second track “You And Me” is as fine an example as any. It’s extremely slick and catchy yet comes with just enough power to keep me interested.

Halfway through the album they tone it down on “The Precipice” and decide to pull our sensitive string with a more mellow song. The thing with elaborate arrangements is that it quickly becomes too cheesy and this one is a bit borderline. Luckily it’s followed by the somewhat bluesy “Let Me Die”, which is a way better ballad.

Overall “Phoenix” is an above-average emo / alt rock album that’s enjoyable from start to finish if you can bear all the bells and whistles they added and don’t mind a couple of sappy moments.
Score: 7 out of 10
no label
http://www.facebook.com/theclassiccrime


La Armada – La Armada

When I still lived at home my mom used to ask me why the singers always had to scream whenever I was listening to a hardcore album. I don’t  think she ever really got it. La Armada is another band with a singer that screams and who is probably angry about something. What that is I couldn’t tell you because the lyrics are all in Spanish and all I remember from Spanish class is ‘me llamo Thomas’.

Thanks to the lyrics sheet I was able to figure out that they’re angry about pretty much everything that has to do with capitalism. I’m not sure if it’s lost in the translation or not but the lyrics are so serious that they become laughable at times. Luckily their hardcore with additional metallic crunch is easier to enjoy even if it’s somewhat repetitious.

All in all this self-titled album is fun enough to listen to for a couple of songs but unless the cure for cancer is hidden somewhere in the lyrics, I’m not sure if this one will cause a lot of waves.
Score: 6 out of 10
http://www.fatsandwichrecords.com 

http://www.myspace.com/larmada

Close To Home – Momentum

“Momentum” opens with the kind of intro that Linkin Park seemed to have patented. There are synths, there are beats… and then the guitar kicks in along with some whoo whoo gang vocals and suddenly the bands sounds like a crossover between A Day To Remember and Funeral With A Friend with their balls still attached. The pop-punk seems to have taken somewhat of a backseat on this one and got replaced by melodic post-hardcore.

Maybe it’s the new vocalist’s influence (Andrew DeNeef took over from Nick Stien), but thedefinitely made some changes for the better on “Momentum”. Whereas their last album really didn’t do it for me, “Momentum” is actually fun to listen to. They don’t blindly follow the formula anymore where the verse comes with screams before going into this clean-sung chorus. Instead they mix it up and so you’ll have a song like “Pirates Belong At Sea” that’s mostly clean and upbeat and then they hit you with a breakdown that comes out of nowhere.

It’s not like these guys are reinventing the genre or anything but as far as this kind of releases goes, “Momentum” is looking to become one of my guilty pleasures.
Score: 7 out of 10
http://www.razorandtie.com 

http://www.facebook.com/officialclosetohome

Bob Mould – Silver Age

As you grow older, one finds himself with more time to contemplate, look back and think about life’s great questions. Not quite so with Bob Mould who on “Silver Age” claims that he’s ‘never too old to contain his rage’. And that’s how come on his new album he churns out 10 songs in less than 40 minutes that are all pounding drums and loud guitars.

Maybe he got inspired again while contributing to the Foo Fighters’ latest album… who knows? Fact is that after tinkering with half-assed ballads and electronics on his last solo albums, Mould is back with an album that sounds like the logical follow-up to his output with Sugar back in the nineties.

With the help of Superchunk’s Jon Wurster and Verbow’s Jason Narducy, the former Hüsker Dü member makes “Steam Of Hercules” sound exactly like what you’d expect a song with that title to sound like. He also lets the guitars do most of the talking on the other songs without ever forgetting to inject the songs with the necessary pop sensibilities.

Mould is touring this year and playing Sugar’s “Copper Blue” in its entirety. Go check that out, then pick up your copy of this album and see how well the two sets of songs go together!
Score: 8.5 out of 10
http://www.mergerecords.com 

http://www.bobmould.com

Propagandhi – Failed States

“Failed States” is the follow-up to 2009’s “Supporting Caste” and marks Propagandhi’s first album for Epitaph. I have to say that the two of them teaming up seems like a logical choice. After all, just like Bad Religion these guys have been rallying against the world’s injustices for years while cranking out fast-paced tunes. Oh wait, isn’t that the definition for punkrock? Nevermind.

The intro of “Note To Self” might led  you to believe that these Cannucks have gone all post-whatever on our asses but once the song settles in, it’s back to shredding as usual on total thrashfests such as “Rattan Cane” and “Cognitive Suicide”.

These guys refine their songwriting skills with every single album they release and as a result continue to blur the lines between punkrock and metal. It’s heavy, it’s fast and it’s melodic… it’s Propagandhi!
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.epitaph.com 

http://www.propagandhi.com

NOFX – Self-Entitled

Being obnoxious in a good way is not given to many but after almost 30 years Fat Mike has made it into an art form. Which makes “Self-Entitled” a lot of fun to listen to! I know that a review for a new NOFX album is about as useful as a roasted pig at a Muslim party but that line right there brings does make a nice link to the opening song “72 Hookers” in which Fat Mike offers us the way to world peace...  after all, suicide bombers like blowjobs as much as the next person!

“Self-Entitled”  turns out to be your typical NOFX album (gasp!) with Fat Mike’s witty observations about politics, religion and everything else that’s wrong in the world, nicely wrapped up in catchy and highly melodic punkrock tunes. It does seem this time around they sound just that little darker, a little faster and a little edgier than on “Coaster” and I’m seriously digging it.

Two songs that on here set themselves apart though are “Down With The Ship” and “I’ve Got One Jealous Again, Again”. Fat Mike has never been one to write much about his personal life but these two seem to deal with his recent divorce. They do blend in with the more serious tone of the album though.

Overall this is yet another solid addition to NOFX’ extensive back catalog and one that gets them a high score on the ‘are they still relative?’ scale.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.fatwreck.com 

http://www.nofxofficialwebsite.com

10 Years – Minus The Machine

Never heard about these guys but apparently “Minus The Machine” is already the band’s sixth album and having started out in 1999, they’ve already outlived their own name.

The new album starts out with the title track and comes with a distinct Chevelle vibe and after that they sound like a POD clone on “Battle Lust”. Yup, apparently 10 Years is another one of those bands that still like to dabble in what people refer to as alternative metal. The kind of music that only still exists in the US. Think Puddle Of Mudd, Staind or any other band that comes with a misspelled name. And while they’re not even doing a bad job in that genre, I seriously doubt anyone is still waiting for an album like “Minus The Machine”.
Score: 5 out of 10
Palehorse / ILG
http://www.10yearsmusic.com


Krakow – Diin

From Bergen, Norway comes Krakow, a post-metal outfit that combines a doomy Neurosis vibe with the sludge groove of Mastodon. The result is called “Diin” and while it won’t exactly make you a happy camper, it exudes a kind of bleak beauty that is pretty badass.

Armed with a rhythm section that keeps plodding along over repetitive riffage and eerily detached vocals, they will only slow down for the odd ambient passage to score even more points in the creepy factor. It’s like listening to a bunch of stoners trying their hand at death metal only to end up with these tripped out sludge fests that will sneak up on you before closing their hands around your throat. Not the kind of blunt force trauma a death metal band will hand out but hey, being strangled slowly will make you end up equally dead as a shotgun blast to the face.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://wwwdarkessencerecords.no 

http://www.krakowofficial.com

Murder By Death – Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

Murder By Death is back with a new album… so let’s rejoice! But in a gloomy way… don’t do anything too crazy like smiling. It wouldn’t suit the music which is once again pitch black and once again comes with Adam Turla channeling his inner Johnny Cash over orchestral indie rock tunes that are pretty friggin’ impressive. And while we are rejoicing, please welcome (don’t applaud… it’ll seem too festive) multi-instrumentalist Scott Brackett of Okkervil River and Shearwater fame who helps bring the songs to the next level by adding touches of piano, trumpet, accordion or mandolin.

Calling this alternative country is cutting it a bit short. The tunes on “Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon” are energetic and while they are rooted in country, they still rock. And with the help of Sarah Balliet’s cello, the songs tend to sound even darker and give everything a gothic vibe and overall brooding atmosphere. And then just when you’re ready to reach for your Xanax after opening track “My Hill” or “No Oath, No Spell”, they whip out the whiskey in an upbeat song like “I Came Around” so you can make it safely through the rest of the album.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.bloodshotrecords.com 

http://www.murderbydeath.com

Sacri Cuori – Rosario

Apparently spaghetti westerns never really went away… well, maybe the movies did but people are still writing soundtracks to them. Take Sacri Cuori for an example, an Italian band who just released “Rosario”, which is basically a soundtrack to a movie that never got made. Better get ready for lots of mental pictures of tumbleweeds dueling in the street, horses entering the saloon and cowboys galloping off into the sunset. Well, something like that anyway. Then throw in some femmes fatales in a smoky bar (“Out Of Grace”) and a couple of rock n roll instrumentals (“I Ee-Show”) and you’re there!

With the help of Jim Keltner (Bob Dylan, Stones, Beatles), David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Isobel Campbell, Calexico’s Joey Convertino and a bunch of others, they’ve brought the desert to Italy in songs like “Garrett, West” and “Sundown, Rosa” and did a damn good job of it. Think Calexico, Ry Cooder and Tindersticks.
Score: 7 out of 10
http://www.decorrecords.com 

http://www.myspace.com/sacricuori

James Iha – Look To The Sky

I think we’re still a long way ago from reading the first article about James Iha in which the words ‘Smashing’ and ‘Pumpkins’ are not mentioned. So yes, James Iha is best known as the guitarist for Smashing Pumpkins, but since then he has also played with A Perfect Circle, Melissa Auf Der Maur, Fountains Of Wayne and The Sounds. Boom! That’s quite the resume… And on top of that “Look To The Sky” is the good man’s second solo album after 1998’s “Let It Come Down”… yeah, that’s 14 years ago.

Nothing is worth waiting for fourteen years, but “Look To The Sky” is nonetheless a pretty solid collection of songs that sometimes hints towards Fountains Of Wayne and Nada Surf (“To Who Knows Where”, “Summer Days”) but that can just as well take a turn for the bluesy (“Appetite”) or the more gloomy (bonus track “Dark Star”). No matter which path Iha decides to follow, the songs are pleasant enough to listen to. The only downside is the guy’s voice which seems devoid of any human emotion. It’s one of those things that doesn’t really bother you though… unless you start paying attention to it.

Something else worth noting is the amount of guests… Ihad had more people contribute to this album than I had attending my last birthday party. Which may say something about me but that’s not the point of this review. See if you can spot Tom Verlaine (Television), Mike Garson (David Bowie), Nick Zinner and Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Nathan Larson and Nina Persson (A Camp), Sara Quin (Tegan & Sara), Adam Schlesinger (Fountains Of Wayne)… and that’s just naming a few!
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.theendrecords.com 

http://www.jamesiha.com

Incubus – HQ Live

Over the course of one week in the summer of 2011 Incubus took over a warehouse in West Los Angeles and turned it into what they describe as a mix between an art gallery, pop up store and living room where fans got the chance to get up close and personal with the band in instrument clinics, q&a sessions, video chats and large art canvases. Every night the band ended with a fan-created set list and on the last night they played their new album (‘If Not Now, When?”) in its entirety. At the same time all this was streamed and fans from all over the world got to pitch in through Twitter, Facebook, Livestream, TweetBeam and YouTube. This release comes both with a CD and a DVD portion.

The CD is a pretty good collection of Incubus tunes and everything sounds great. One thing that is pretty obvious though is that their more recent material isn’t quite up to the same level as their older tunes. Something you probably already know if you’ve heard the new album.
The DVD comes with more songs from the entire Incubus catalog and is mixed in with interviews and snippets of the HQ live sessions. It’s all very elaborate and nicely done but in the end this release still boils down to a live DVD of the band in a more intimate setting. One for the fans!
Score: 7 out of 10
http://www.legacyrecordings.com 

http://www.incubushq.com

12.9.12

John Coffey – Bright Companions

Thanks to their fans, John Coffey got to go to Sweden to record their second album with Pelle Gunnerfeldt (Refused, The Hives). Which is a match made in heaven for a band like John Coffey who sound like a caged monster on “Bright Companions”. Their explosive and slightly chaotic mix of punk, hardcore and rock ‘n roll swagger is energetic, dirty and at times very catchy, which is proven from the get-go with “Announce” and “Dirt & Stones”.

“Whispers” and “Me Vs I” are two songs that don’t quite live up to the abovementioned songs but the situation is rectified immediately by “Oh, Oh, Calamity” and single “Featherless Redheads”, which comes with one of the strongest choruses of the album.

Overall “Bright Companions” rocks pretty hard and I’m sure that in a live setting these guys will bring the house down.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

http://www.redfield-records.de 

http://www.johncoffey.nl

Masked Intruder – Masked Intruder

While looking up info about this Wisconsin band, I came across an article that said Masked Intruder attacked singing group members in a church hall with a machete. Seems pretty hardcore, right? Well, turns out that it wasn’t about these masked intruders even though they are supposed to be a bunch of ex cons that have perfected their pop-punk songwriting skills and vocal harmonies behind bars and have lyrics like ‘You just can’t charm a lady with a knife. But that sucks. ‘Cause it’s all I know how to do’. Those lines could be perceived as creepy by the female populace if they weren’t wrapped in sappy pop-punk tunes that are ridiculously catchy and well-executed.

Taking cues from early Lookout! bands such as Screeching Weasel as well as doo wop bands, these guys managed to write a song like “Unrequited Love” which comes with the line ‘Every single day is lonelier than the last / Cried so many tears that I had to wring out my mask’. Or how about “Heart Shaped Guitar”, a duet with Mixtapes’ Maura Weaver? It’s about as good as ”Stick ‘Em Up” which is no doubt going to be a live favorite.

This self-titled album is one of the best collections of songs about love and well, armed robbery that I’ve heard in a long time and no doubt one of the most fun pop-punk albums you’ll be likely to hear this year.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
http://www.redscare.net 

http://maskedintruder.bandcamp.com

Thieves – Achiever

Texas’ Thieves storm out of the gates with the title track and almost stumble over one another before going all out in a blaze of posi pop-punk. Apparently this 8-song EP is a concept album about overcoming your obstacles and ending up a better person… which seem like standard pop-punk lyrics to me so calling this a concept release might be overdoing it a little.

They are doing a solid job though and take cues from everyone from The Wonder Years to Set Your Goals and New Found Glory. The production leaves to be desired but if there’s one thing these Thieves achieve, it’s that they have plenty of potential that should appeal to all the pop-punk fans out there. A band to keep an eye out for!
Score: 6 out of 10no label
http://www.thievestx.com

Dikembe – Broad Shoulders

After assuring us in the opening track that they are always in motion, Gainesville’s Dikembe launches into more angular guitar antics on “Apology Not Fucking Accepted”, which leads up to the message that they are so mad they can’t see straight. So we’re two songs into the album and we already have always in motion, mad and well, you can add honest to the list as well which should already give you an inkling of an idea what these guys sound like.

“Broad Shoulders” sounds so typically Midwest emo that I just naturally assumed these guys were from Minneapolis . Turns out they’re from Gainesville. Guess that works out well for them because they can sleep at their own place after playing The Fest 11… which is less than two months away. Plenty of time left though for you to pick up a copy of this album and memorize the singalong part in “Librarians Kill For That Kind Of Quiet”!

This is a solid debut but if I would have to point out one flaw it’s that none of the songs really stand out and they do start to blend together after a while. Then again, pretty much every song comes with this cool little part that sneaks up on you out of nowhere and spices things up for a bit.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.tinyengines.net 

http://dikembe.bandcamp.com

Young Turks – Where I Lie

Young Turks is the name of a relatively new hardcore band out of Portland that is fronted by former Broadway Calls bassist Matt Koenig. These guys previously dropped a 7” but with “Where I Lie” they released their debut full-length. Turns out they have no problem keeping things as intense throughout an entire album as on a 5-song 7”.

With influences gathered from all the hooks and crannies of the hardcore scene, Young Turks managed to create an album that’s loud, in your face, fast as fuck and aggressive as all hell. The meaning of the word ‘subtle’ is clearly wasted on these guys. But listening to a song like “Three Goggles” that just explodes in the beginning before growing towards this somewhat melodic climax with gang vocals, subtlety can go fuck itself for all I care.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.animalstylerecords.com 

http://www.youngheartsbefreetonight.com

Verse – Bitter Clarity, Uncommon Grace

Verse called it a day in 2009, played a couple of shows again two years later and are completely back now with their new album. Does it sound like what I was hoping for? Well, it’s still Verse but in a more mature form and it’s because of albums like “Bitter Clarity, Uncommon Grace that I don’t necessarily think reunions are a bad thing.

Opener “The Selfish Of The Earth” is without a doubt the best song this band has ever written… it’s like being swept up in a tsunami and thinking only about how pretty that wave was as you’re slowly drowning. That song is the absolute highlight of Verse’s new album right there and it’s pretty much impossible to follow up.

They did give it a try though and ended up with a solid set of atmospheric hardcore songs that are pretty badass in their own right. Vocalist Sean Murphy still has that intensity that many other singers can only dream about… doesn’t matter if he’s shouting, screaming his lungs out or doing a spoken word kind of thing… he always delivers while the rest of the band is making quite a ruckus . New are the three instrumental “Segue” interludes that only add to the general atmosphere and overall dynamics of the album. It’s kinda like what Paint It Black did on “New Lexicon”.

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is… it’s good to have you back!
Score: 8.5 out of 10
http://www.bridge9.com 

http://www.myspace.com/verse

Reel Big Fish – Candy Coated Fury

Back when I first started listening to punkrock, I listened to skapunk quite a bit. Bosstones, Link 80, Reel Big Fish, Mad Caddies, Save Ferris,… you name it! So it’s not that I hate the genre or anything but honestly, I think the time has come for these guys to call it a day because with “Candy Coated Fury” they have reached a new low.And that’ saying something if you look at their output from the last couple of years.

You still get the same angry lyrics over happy go lucky tunes but it all feels so contrived and uninspired! And let’s face it…. Songs like “PS I Hate You” and “Your Girlfriend Sucks” might be funny if you’re about to hit puberty, but coming from guys who are well in their thirties, it’s… well, kinda sad actually. Derivative dribble without any redeeming qualities!
Score: 3 out of 10
http://www.rockridgemusic.com 

http://www.reel-big-fish.com

Nations Afire interview

Nations Afire consists of former and current members of powerhouses such as Rise Against, Ignite and Death By Stereo. They recently released their debut full-length "", which is out now on Redfield Records. Check out what vocalist Nik had to tell us.

PRT: Who are you and what is one album on your iPod you wouldn’t want people to  know about?Nik: I am Nikolas Hill, and one of my guilty pleasures musically is probably James Taylor, not that I should feel guilty over it. He is an amazing songwriter and a perfect antidote to my burned out ears after a long tour playing hard rock and punk hardcore (my first true love musically).

PRT: Can you give me the history of Nations Afire in one minute or less starting… now!Nik: We formed in 2009, as the four we are now, auditioned vocalists, found a great dude named Steve Ludwig, did a 5 song e.p. with him, did a small amount of touring. In 2010 we reformed without him on vocals and spent the better part of 2 years writing and showcasing for labels, decided that we know better what to do musically than any record label and wrote and recorded our debut record in late 2011 at the blasting room studio on our own dollar.... Now we are in Europe on an amazing tour! Boom!

PRT: How did members of Ignite, Rise Against and Death By Stereo get together to start a band?Nik: We came together out of mutual respect for eachother as musicians, we knew eachother from our various bands touring for years. The band came out of a want to start something we all loved musically and see what happens.

PRT: How exciting is it to be able to start over with a new band and building things from the ground up?Nik: It's very exiting of course but truly a lot of hard work. It's humbling in the best way possible.

PRT: Together you have years and years of experience of being in well-known bands. Obviously you guys have contacts and such that other beginning bands don’t have but at the same time people will have a lot of expectations. Do you think this all works for or against you?Nik: It did give us an enormous leg up on our first attempt at becoming a real touring band, but in truth we have all put in many years of hard work to get to where we are now, so it all kind of evens out to me. People were very interested to hear what this band of individual talents would sound like, our other bands definately set the expectations quite high but that sort of pressure breeds good music for me.

PRT: For the people out there who haven’t heard you guys yet… if Nations Afire was the lovechild of two other bands, which acts would’ve had sex and which position were you conceived in?Nik: Hmmmmmm, I'll answer your disgusting question with an another question; who would want to see the Foo Fighters have sex with the Cro-mags? And why on earth would we imagine their positions? I hope that was helpful...

PRT: In an interview from 2009 I read that you were planning to release the first full-length in 2010. Two years later it’s finally coming out. What’s with the delay?Nik: Aside from losing our original singer and reforming, we took more time than we needed to write the best record we could. We had been writing music together for a solid year and a half to finally get the right group of songs that represented our vision; a powerful melodic hardcore and punk influenced Rock record. The best of us all was poured into each song, as you know you get only one chance to write your debut record and we wanted ours to be the very best.

PRT: The album is called “The Ghosts We Will Become”. I thought it was a solid mix of Rise Against and Ignite but with a lot of more straight-forward rock influences. Was it a conscious decision to slightly move away from straight-up punkrock or was it just the way the songs turned out?Nik: To me we are hardcore at heart but our music comes out rock due to our musical chops, we play rock n roll with a hardcore intensity . We are fans of all types of music and it shows.

PRT: You just got off a European tour… will there be a lot of touring the rest of the year as well?Nik: Yes, I believe we are already talking about 2 more separate Europe tours within the next year, so expect us in your city soon!

PRT: What is one thing you’d like to achieve with Nations Afire that you haven’t been able to do with your previous band?Nik: For me personally it's my first official frontman/ lead vocal attempt, it's been really amazing so far with the support of fans and the guys in the band, every show we play is a huge accomplishment for me and I think we all are very happy with every little success along the way. Being a musician is such a blessing, it's all gravy from where I'm standing.
Thank you to everyone who came out to support our "The Ghosts We Will Become" tour, it means the world to us!

Handsome Foxes – Don’t Care

Handsome Foxes is a new band out of Raleigh, NC with members from The Ethnographers among its ranks. On this 5-song EP they churn out this mix of hardcore, punk and indie that is pretty damn infectious. Opener “City Of Oaks” is a one-minute introduction that pretty much says it all. There’s a good beat, plenty of melody and the way the clean and more gruff vocals go together works wonders for Handsome Foxes.

Unfortunately they make it clear that they “Don’t Care” because the quality of the recordings is poor at best.But that’s something that can be easily fixed on a next release which will no doubt blow us away seeing as there’s plenty of talent to go round in this band. For now though you can head over to their bandcamp page and download this one for free if you are into the likes of Balance And Composure and Tigers Jaw!
Score: 7 out of 10
http://www.phmrecords.com 

http://handsomefoxes.bandcamp.com

Big Awesome – Birdfeeder

Big Awesome is a three-piece from South Carolina who have this indie take on powerpop going on on “Birdfeeder”. Or just call it nineties emo with Braid influences and be done with it.  The four songs on this EP come with enough bounce and energy to get you on your way but they’ve added all these intricate little guitar swirls and busy start/stop rhythms to show off their Minus The Bear appreciation. But then there’s “Drawing A Line In The Sand” which sounds like The Menzingers.

For just four songs they have quite a lot going on but pull it off nicely and if they can keep this up throughout a full-length, they might just live up to their name.
Score: 7 out of 10
no label
http://bigawesome.bandcamp.com

Joshua Radin – Underwater

Four years after “Simple Times” Joshua Radin is back with a new album. “Underwater” is an equally solid release with a dozen new songs in which Radin once again gets to show off his songwriting skills.

With his stripped sound and subdued yet warm voice that’s barely more than a whisper at times, he will charm the hell out of you. Opener “Tomorrow Is Gonna Be Better” is a fine example of what’s to come but ”Anywhere Your Love Goes” is just as good. The addition of a subtle string arrangement actually makes it even better. And the highlights just keep on coming from there… there’s not a single song on here that feels like filler or that stands out in a negative way.

If you’re looking for another mellow singer-songwriters mellow, this is the guy. Think early Josh Ritter or Jack Johnson… whose names also start with a J. Coincidence? Think about it…
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.sorecordings.com 

http://www.facebook.com/joshuaradin

The Riot Before – 2005-2007

The Riot Before may have broken up a couple of months ago but they didn’t leave us empty-handed. After talking about it for a year, this collection of the band’s early works has finally seen the light of day.

It comes with all the songs from “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades”, “So Long” and their side of the split they did with Broadway Calls and it sounds like well, an early version of what we heard on “Rebellion”, which is their most accomplished album if you ask me. Not bad at all but with 22 songs it’s a bit much to sit through in one session… one for the fans!
Score: 6.5 out of 10
http://www.say-10.com 

http://www.facebook.com/theriotbeforerva

Forever Came Calling – Contender

Forever Came Calling’s debut is off to a strange start with a short one-minute opener that has the vocals way too low in the mix before it is cut short after which the band launches into “For The Wolves” without looking back. It’s a fast as lightning pop-punk song that fits right in with all the other pop-punk bands that have been blowing new life into the scene.

They keep the tempo high throughout the other eight songs and with the album clocking at just under 24 minutes you can hardly accuse these guys of wearing out their welcome. “I’ll Be Better, I Promise” comes with a strong Taking Back Sunday vibe, an influence that shines through a couple more times, especially in the vocals. Other than that this is a solid pop-punk album. Actually one of the better ones I’ve heard this year. And if it weren’t for the awkward start, “Contender” would’ve gotten an even higher score.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.purenoise.net 

http://www.facebook.com/forevercamecalling

A Tragedy In Progress – Mechanical Weather

Psst, come here. I’ll let you in on a little secret… A Tragedy In Progress is not really a new band. It’s the entire line-up of Across Five Aprils who decided to go on with a new sound as A Tragedy In Progress (the name of the first Across Five Aprils album) after a couple of reunion shows.

“Mechanical Weathers” sets off with a cool intro that contains a famous speech from 1940’s “The Great Dictator”. It helps set the mood for some decent  post-hardcore with Rise Against influences that comes with plenty of melody and some sweet atmospheric guitars and – thank you! – not your typical sing/scream vocals. Instead we are treated to clean yet powerful vocals that work wonders for the tunes.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Across Five Aprils but with “Mechanical Weather” these guys delivered a solid album.
Score: 7 out of 10

http://www.phmrecords.com 

http://www.facebook.com/atragedyinprogress