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Able Baker Fox interview

If you haven't heard of Able Baker Fox yet, you're missing out on a treat. They've released a very solid debut album with "Voices". But what else can you expect really when you put members of Coalesce, The Casket Lottery and Small Brown Bike together, right?
PRT: Who are you and what would you like to tell our readers about yourself?
Mike: Hi, I'm Mike Reed. I play guitar and sometimes sing in Able Baker Fox.

PRT: Who else is in the band and why would my mom like them?
Mike: Ben Reed, Nathan Ellis, and Jeff Gensterblum are the other guys in the band. You're mom would probably like them because they are nice guys and they smile a lot.

PRT: You’ve previously played in bands such as Coalesce, The Casket Lottery and Small Brown Bike which means that people already have certain expectations of Able Baker Fox right off the bat. Do you feel that works for or against you?
Mike: I like to think the music is all that really matters. It helps having our other band's names attached to Able Baker Fox because our old fans are probably more willing to give it a listen. But as soon as that first songs starts, I would think all bets are off.

PRT: If Able Baker Fox was the lovechild of two other bands, which bands would’ve had sex and which position were you conceived in? And don’t say The Casket Lottery and Small Brown Bike!

Mike: Wow, umm...I guess I would say Pearl Jam and Jawbox. I'll leave the rest up to your imagination.

PRT: All four of you live in different cities which implied that you all wrote separately and then shared the files online. Does that kind of writing take some getting used to?
Mike: A little bit. We had some experience with it before when we did the The Casket Lottery/Small Brown Bike split, but back then we did it just by sending CD's through the mail. This time was all done via MP3's and email. It was nice not having to worry about practice schedules. We just worked on our parts whenever we had time.

PRT: Would your debut have been a completely different album if you’d written it the old-fashioned way with weekly band rehearsals?
Mike: Yeah probably, but I'm glad that we did it this way. It makes it less stressful and everyone can work on their parts on their own. You don't have the pressure of writing parts at practice - which can not be very fun. This was great because we were already done with most of the writing at our first practice, so we just kicked right into the songs.

PRT: The album is called “Voices”. Is that because there’s three of you singing? Was it hard to decide who would sing what or was it just whoever wrote that part that ended up singing it?
Mike: Nathan suggested the title "Voices" and we all just liked it. I think we did a pretty good job of balancing everyone's vocals. We went into the studio with a general idea of who was going to sing what, but there were a few times where we traded parts because someone else just did it better.

PRT: I’ve been listening a lot to the album over the past couple of weeks and the track that keeps popping out is “Whispering”. It seems to be a little different from the rest… do you get that comment a lot?
Mike: Yeah, that one was written a long time ago. Plus it's in a different tuning, so I think that has a little to do with it.

PRT: With an album called “Voices”, a song called “Whispering” and another song called “Stuttering”, would you say you are obsessed with speech?
Mike: Ha, I never noticed that. That must have been our collective subconscious working on that one.

PRT: It looks like you’ve only been playing shows in Chicago for now. Are there any plans for bigger tours? Maybe even Europe now that the album is out here as well?
Mike: We're playing The Fest 7 in Gainesville (FL) this year, but no plans for any big tours right now. We're all pretty busy with life, work, school, and other bands right now, but you never know.

PRT: Are there any goals left you’d like to achieve with Able Baker Fox that you haven’t been able to get around to in any of the other bands you’ve played in?
Mike: I think all of us would like to make it over to Europe someday.

PRT: Any last words for our readers?
Mike: Thanks!


An Albatross – The An Albatross Family Album

An Albatross comes out with their new album called “The An Albatross Family Album” and proves mathcore stays boring and unlistenable even when played by hippies. I’m sorry but there’s just no way that I’m ever gonna get this kind of spazzed out, psychedelic punk meets freejazz. No matter how many times I listen to bands likeThe Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower or The Locust, I simply don’t get it. It annoys me. It makes me nervous. It gets me agitated. It ties my stomach in a knot. It does a whole lot of things but the fact remains that I don’t get it.
Score: 4 out of 10

Pompeii – Nothing Happens For A Reason

Pompeii rises from the ashes (haha) with “Nothing Happens For A Reason” and things are off to a good and instrumental start with “Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads”. Besides the Back To The Future reference that I dig, the way the song keeps on gaining momentum is damn well done. Don’t get any ideas though, the rest of the album comes with vocals.

These guys have a knack for writing pretty songs where guitars chipper away and a cello adds that little extra bit of warmth to go with the beauty. Vocalist Dean Stafford has the kind of voice that goes well with indiepop and Death Cab is definitely an influence for those guys who are well on their way of being said band’s equal if they keep writing songs like “False Alarm”.

It’s nice to see how Pompeii progressed as songwriters compared to their debut (“Assembly”). They might want to cut some of the songs short to keep people begging for more but other than that I can see good things happening for this band in the near future.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Bridge And Tunnel – East/West

Bridge And Tunnel is a term that all of the commuters in New York know all too well but I doubt they all know the band that goes by the same name. Which is a shame because with “East/West”, Bridge And Tunnel have released an album that is damn impressive. These two dudes and two girls like to mix up the vocals with Jeff Cunningham and Rachel Rubino trading places at the mic and bassist Tia Meilinger chiming in every now and then. Only drummer Pat Schramm couldn’t be bothered because he’s too busy pounding away behind his kit.

Not only do they feed off of each other vocally, the guitars and bass have a nice way of coming together and then drifting apart again as well. I’d like to assure everyone now that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a band that sounds like a crossover between Braid and Hot Water Music…. check out “East/West”! I doubt you’ll regret it if you like the Midwestern sounds of the nineties.
Score: 8 out of 10

Cruel Hand – Prying Eyes

Holy fuck, do the people over at Bridge Nine ever sleep? They just keep on cranking out quality HC releases, one after the other. Despite hearing horror stories about people taking on a second and even a third job to be able to afford all these releases, I don’t have any real problems with this situation. Especially if they manage to maintain this level quality.

Latest proof that they do is “Prying Eyes” by recent B9 signee Cruel Hand. What originally started out as a side-project for a couple of Outbreak members, has now evolved into a hardcore powerhouse. “Prying Eyes” is all over after 23 brisk minutes but it’s all these dudes need to getin, get the job done and get out.

They storm out of the gate with “Above And Beyond” and just keep on plowing ahead from there, throwing in killer metal-influenced breakdowns left and right (check out “Wisdom Pain”!). Think of Madball and you’re heading well in the direction of knowing what to expect of “Prying Eyes”.
Score: 8 out of 10

Off With Their Heads – From The Bottom

Oh Minneapolis, how I wanna come visit you! See the sights, eat the food and check out your bands. Not in the least Off With Their Heads who just released “From The Bottom”, an album that hit me about as hard as a surprise left hook can when thrown by some drunk dude at a show. Come to think of it, this could very well happen at a Off With Their Heads show. It’s not hard to imagine a crowd all riled up by these incendiary songs while drinking and belting out the choruses along with the band.

With gritty yet melodic vocals spitting out well-written lyrics over a sturdy poppunk foundation, it’s easy to think of that other Minneapolis act, Dillinger Four covering streetpunk tunes (“Until The Day…”).

“From The Bottom” is a vintage No Idea release and just a very solid album overall. Check ‘em out live when you get the chance and share a beer with ‘em later on… I doubt they’ll decline.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Dillinger Four – C I V I L W A R

It’s sometimes easy to forget what you liked about punkrock to begin with all those years ago with whatever the flavor of the month is that is being sold off as punk. It always makes me feel like an idiot every time I tell someone I listen to punkrock. Luckily there are still bands out there like Dillinger Four to remind us what it’s all about. Even though it did take them six years to release “Civil War”, I’ll forgive ‘em. What can I say? I’m a nice guy.

“Civil War” is easily D4’s most polished, poppy and accessible album but it still has everything you love about the band. Two buzzing guitars, vocals that swirl around each other, fast-paced drums and intelligent lyrics that tackle everything from the celebirty cult (“Parishiltonisametaphor”) to personal integrity (“A Jingle For The Product”)… it’s all there making “Civil War” well worth the wait.

And next time when someone asks me what kind of music I listen to, I won’t have to plant that sheepish grin on my face befora admitting all flustered that I sometimes kinda listen to punkrock, I’ll just hand ‘em this album and let them find out for themselves.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Dead To Me – Little Brother EP

Following up 2006’s “Cuban Ballerina”, Dead To Me is back with a 13-minute long EP that is pure poppunk meets rootsrock bliss with a hint of reggae. The buzzsaw guitars, catchy melodies and Jack’s vocals all mix extremely well resulting in songs that’ll have you singing along in no time.

You can still hear a little of One Man Army’s streetpunk in the guitars but other than that this is more The Gaslight Anthem meets The Dickies than anything else. While opener “I Don’t Wanna” would’ve fit right in on “Cuban Ballerina”, it’s songs like “Ran That Scam” that show a new direction for Dead To Me and after having heard “Little Brother”, I’m curious to see what they’ll come up with next. I want more dammit!!!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Bronx – The Bronx III

Lock your door, close the windows, safeguard your wife and children… The Bronx are back in town! Without a doubt THE band to go to when you find yourself asking if there really aren’t any bands left that make rock n roll or hardcore sound dangerous. These guys will rip your fucking head off and hang it in front of their amps. And you know what? You’ll fucking love it!

Album number three for The Bronx is once again called “The Bronx” (who needs a name when your music does all the talking) and it is simply put amazing. These guys just keep on growing with every album yet they always maintain what they’re all about: unbridled energy, a whole lot of passion and scorching guitars. As soon as opener “Knifeman” kicks in I found myself in awe and by the time “Inveigh” ended I had a hard time picking my jaw up from the floor. Mind you, “Inveigh” is only track two. And it just keeps on going from there… it’s like injecting adrenalin straight into your heart while you’re strapped to a rocket that’s about to go off.

Shit’s intense and vocalist Matt Caughthran still has the kind of singing/screaming voice that a whole lot of people would kill for. “The Bronx” is not for the weak at heart, it’s an album without room for improvement and it is quite simply one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. Can you tell I’m a fan?

Oh, look out early next year for their mariachi album (“El Bronx”)… no joke!
Score: 9.5 out of 10

Chad Vangaalen – Soft Airplane

Some people get held prisoner in a basement for years, Canadian songwriter Chad Vangaalen holes up in his underground chambers voluntarily to piece his songs together with the help of a very old ghettoblaster. And we are thankful he does. Because no doubt, his recording conditions are a big part of the charm.

Next to being a songwriter, Vangaalen is also a painter. I’m not so much a fan of his drawings but all the more-r of his songs. What makes him stand out is not just his fragile voice but also his ability to use a wide variety of instruments and still make things sound cohesive. Whether it’s a banjo-drive folk tune like opener “Willow Tree” or electro-experiments (“Phantom Anthills”) , “Soft Airplane” is a collection of songs that never fails to grab your attention.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Coast – Expatriate

The Coast… never heard of them. Me and pretty much everyone else I think. Which is a damn shame because on their debut full-length these Canadians hang eleven songs out to dry and all of them are worth your time. Like a mix between Death Cab and Tokyo Police Club with U2-esque parts, “Expatriate” is filled with amazing indiepop gems that’ll charm your pants right off. The reverb on the guitars, the inviting voice of Ben Spurr and a knack for writing melodies are even better when put together.

Don’t let the uglyass cover throw you off, this is really good stuff if you like your music melodic and mellow. And hey, it’s not too late to be one of the hipsters who in a couple of years can tell everyone: The Coast? Yeah, I’ve been listening to those guys for a while now. I only liked their first album though. And then walk away while holding your cool and barely being able to suppress a smile. Go hipsters!
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Mark Pickerel And His Praying Hands – Cody’s Dream

Original Screaming Trees drummer Mark Pickerel has just released his second album with his Praying Hands and it’s a goodie. Along with ex-Posies drummer Mike Musburger, Young Fresh Fellows bassist Jim Sangster and guitarist Johnny Sangster, Pickerel cranks out thirteen songs that take the listener on a trip past country noir, Americana and sixties pop. Kinda like a more lighthearted version of Nick Cave. Sounds tricky, but Pickerel is as good a tourguide as you can find and manages to slap all those influences together into very tasty tunes with “One More Cup Of Coffee” and “I Promise” as my personal favorites.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Born From Pain – Survival

The dudes in Born From Pain shuffled things around a bit which led to bass player Rob Franssen taking over the mic while ex-Setup guitarist Andries Beckers is now playing bass. Oh, and they have a new drummer as well… Roy, formerly of 37 Stabwoundz.

But rest assured, “Survival” still sounds like Born From Pain… heavy as fuck and with the message that no matter how fucked up things are in the world, we should not give up and try and change things. I think there are a couple more melodic riffs thrown in here ande there a la Pro-Pain but other than that Born From Pain is still doing the same thing. And more importantly, they are still delivering with “Final Collapse” as my personal favorite.
Score: 8 out of 10

Hot Club De Paris – Live At Dead Lake

No bashing of the French for these Liverpudlians! No, these jumpy bastards rather occupy themselves with writing music which resulted in a new album called “Live At Dead Lake”. I bet you they write a whole shitload of songs, then take five of them together and cram them in one track. Just like on their debut the rhythms stumble over one another while the guitars jangle off in all directions.

Sometimes this works for them (“I Wasn’t Being Heartless When I Said Your Favourite Song Lacked Heart”, “Hey! Housebrick!”) but unfortunately most of the time, it’s a little nervewrecking to listen to. There’s definitely a lot of potential here as the abovementioned songs more than adequately show but first they need to learn that restraint can be a beautiful thing.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

At The Spine – Vita

Ashamedly I have to admit that I had never heard of At The Spine before and when I began looking them up on the net I read all about how hardhitting they were and about metallic crunch and stuff. So I was thinking that this was a completely other At The Spine. But it’s not.

Apparently songwriter Mike Toschi took his backpack and travelled all over Europe, came back a much more mellow person and then started writing for what would become “Vita”. It’s like listening to Fugazi playing cover songs of 90s alt-rock bands. Or the other way around. Whatever. All that I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed “Crumble” and “Transsylvania”. 13 songs might be a little too much and the artwork doesn’t really do a good job of selling the music but other than that “Vita” is one fine release.
Score: 7 out of 10

Jackson United – Harmony And Dissidence

Guess that Jackson 5 reunion won’t go through as planned but at least we have the new Jackson United album to help us soften the pain. And no, that’s not Michael and Bubbles’ new project, it’s Chris Shiflett with a little help from his brother Scott (Face To Face) and a couple of friends including fellow Foo Fighters Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins.

“Harmony And Dissidence” kicks off nice enough with the anthemic “21st Century Fight Song” and then flows seamlessly into the bouncy “Undertow” that comes complete with a verse that would make Joe Strummer proud. Shiflett simply keeps charging ahead with fast-paced punkrock songs from there on with “The Land Without Law” and the more mellow “Trigger Happy” as just a couple more highlights.
Score: out of 10

Mercy Mercedes – 1.21 Gigawatts

North Carolina’s Mercy Mercedes is a fun band and their EP “1.21 Gigawatts” is a fun release. That’s not always necessarily the case. Fun guys can write a shit album and a bunch of complete assholes can write a fun album. But here it all comes together nicely. Unless these guys are indeed assholes but I’m assuming they’re not because I’m an optimist by nature. Or nurture. But that’s a whole different debate.

“1.21 Gigawatts” is filled with happy happy joy joy poppunk that contains enough sugar to send a diabetic into shock. Come to think of it, “The Perfect Scene” probably means certain death for a diabetic. But it all sounds so incredibly catchy that the guy/girl probably wouldn’t even mind.

Honestly, any band that has a song called “Dr. Huxtable” can’t do wrong by me. I’m a nostalgic… shoot me. Fans of Sugarcult or Plain White T’s should have a field day with this EP. Expect the full-length early next year!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Swingin’ Utters – Hatest Grits

Yes! After a couple of years the Swingin’ Utters resurface and I find myself asking how I got by all this time without some new Utters tunes. It’s not a new album hence the ‘b-sides and bullshit’ subtitle but hey, I’m not complaining! As far as collections of 7 inch singles, album B-sides, compilation songs and covers (obviously these guys are serious Cock Sparrer fans) go, this one is definitely way up there. Then again, I didn’t expect anything less.

The album closes with a couple of acoustic takes on Utters songs and after a whopping 32 songs, it’s finally over. Like I said, it’s not a ‘new’ album but it certainly does feel like one and it’s more than good enough to fill in the time between studio albums.
Score: 8 out of 10

Star Fucking Hipsters – Until We’re Dead

Star Fucking Hipsters is a bunch of friends from Choking Victim, Leftover Crack and the Slackers getting together to crank out that crack rock steady beat. Whether you’re into poppunk, hard-as-nails punkrock or bouncy ska… it’s all here on “Until We’re Dead”. It’s also highly melodic, catchy as hell and the addition of lots of keyboards and the male/female vocals help add to the diversity.

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, it is. Except for the inane lyrics. If I was still in high school I’d be all over the lyrics, picking out the cool sloganesque leftists oneliners to write on my book covers. But I’m not which is why I think the lyrics to “9/11 Was (An Inside Joke)” and “Zombie Christ” are pretty dumb.

But anyway, if you focus on the music rather than the lyrics, you won’t be disappointed.
Score: 7 out of 10

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Is It The Sea?

The number of releases that Will Oldham is cranking out is damn near stupifying. It would be easy to dismiss his live recordings because well, you don’t want to be working all year round just to afford all of the man’s releases. It would be a shame though to miss out on “Is It The Sea?” because it is yet another great release.

Recorded during his tour through Scotland and Ireland back in 2006, Oldham was backed up by a local band called Harem Scarem and a percussionist that goes by the name of Alex Neilson. The addition of sweet female vocals, fiddle, melodica and banjo to the good man’s gloomy voice make the songs sound more upbeat and happy-ish compared to the studio versions.

Very simply put… I highly recommend “Is It The Sea?”.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Rat City Riot – Load Up

Hailing from San Diego but hardly ever there because of always being on the road. Rat City Riot really does play streetpunk. After “Dirty Rotten Games” and the “Open Road” EP, “Load Up” is the latest chapter in the band’s history.

Expect to hear twelve songs that live up to all of the streetpunk characteristics. The songs are fast, in your face, raw yet melodic and the vocalist sounds like he was dragged behind the van with his mouth scraping over the concrete on more than one occasion. Excellent material to sing along to while downing a couple of beers. A solid streetpunk release. Nothing more and certainly nothing less.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Black Light Burns – Cover Your Heart

Wes Borland is back with another Black Light Burns album and this time around he’s paying tribute to the ones that influenced him. With covers from PJ Harvey and Fiona Apple to Duran Duran and Lard, it’s fair to say the man has an eclectic taste. And what’s more, he succeeds in giving all of them the Black Light Burns treatment. What that is? All of the originals are punked up and have been noise-warped but are still recognizable. Good, dark stuff and it proves that Borland can do more than strut around stage in a silly costume while playing “Nookie”.

To make it a full-length rather than an EP, you’ll also find some instrumental outtakes from Black Light Burns’ previous release “Cruel Melody”. Think of a mix between NIN and A Perfect Circle, both of which are bands that I enjoy a lot so I’m digging this even though these compositions never even come close to reaching the same level of the abovementioned bands. But if you add it all up, “Cover Your Heart” is a decent release that’s worth more than to be labeled as just a quick way to make a buck.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Vessels – White Fields And Open Devices

Let’s face it, there isn’t a lot more that can be done in the post-rock scene that hasn’t already been done by now. Battles, Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai… they’re all great at conjuring up a storm but by now we’ve all heard it a bunch of times. It’s in that crowded scene that UK’s Vessels now drops a full-length entitled “White Fields And Open Devices”. No idea what the title is about but I do know that these Leeds boys are ready to play with the abovementioned big guns.

While Vessels is musically handicapped because of the restrictions that come with playing in an instrumental rock band (although they do break that rule a couple of times), they managed to record an impressive album that deserves to be heard a lot more than a whole host of other post-rock bands out there. Things go from quiet to apocalyptic in seconds and they do both equally well. Nice job guys!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Draytones – Up In My Head

Here’s another band that rips off from The Beatles and The Kinks. Then again, if you’re going to steal, it’s always better to steal from the best. And The Dratyones play their songs with so much enthousiasm, that you can’t really hold anything against them.

Whether you’re looking for a slow one to smooch on with your girlfriend (“On The Way”) which is then again followed by a surfsong called “Don’t Talk To Me”, these guys have got it all for sale on “Up In My Head”. “Summer’s Arrived” is another cute song that thrives on a Hammond organ. And it just keeps on going all the way up until “Flowers On The Bridge” proving that you don’t need an original sound to make an okay album that fans of acts like The Rascals will like.
Score: 6 out of 10


Larry Jon Wilson – S/T

Larry Jon Wilson might not be as well-known today as some of the guys he ran with in Nashville back in the seventies (Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson,…) but that doesn’t mean he didn’t know how to write a mean country song.

After an absence of 28 years, Wilson is back doing a Johnny Cash. This self-titled album is filled with songs stripped down to the bare minimum of acoustic guitar, the occasional fiddle and Wilson’s impressive booming voice spinning colourful stories. And it’s all he needs to make this an impressive and authentic album that holds up when compared to Cash’s “American Recordings” or Kristofferson’s “This Old Road”.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Kiss The Anus Of A Black Cat – The Nebulous Dreams

I wish I could say that the music on here is as brilliant as the band name but unfortunately their drone meets folkdoom is just boring beyond belief. It’s like listening to Jim Carrey making the most annoying sound in the world in “Dumb & Dumber” times ten. No, make that a hundred. Which is about as long as the first song lasts.
Score: 4 out of 10

The Trews – No Time For Later

The Trews call Nova Scotia home and are hard at work to get their name out there. They’ve already got Canada covered, now it’s time for the rest of the world to meet this rock outfit where new and old are blend together nicely.

“No Time For Later” is filled with the kind of songs a lot of rock bands would kill for. It’s a mix of modern rock like Gin Blossoms used to play with lots of 70s rock influences, making it sound timeless and modern at the same time. Might not make a lot of sense but check out “Dark Highway” or “Paranoid Freak” – both of which make the Black Crowes pale - and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Or the glammy “I Can’t Stop Laughing” which is just ridiculously catchy. Want ballads? “I Feel The Rain” and “Man Of Two Minds” will hit the spot just right. These guys have all the bases covered and they never disappoint.

Simply put, “No Time For Later” is a fun album that can almost make me forgive Canada for spewing out crap like Nickelback and Bryan Adams.
Score: 8 out of 10

Phantom Planet – Raise The Dead

Phantom Planet delivered the theme song for The O.C., played in Sabrina The Teenage Witch and could be found on the Not Another Teen Movie soundtrack. Okay, so the O.C. theme song was okay as was the show but exactly how afraid should one be of those other two facts? Or of the fact that this is poprock inspired by the musings of cult leaders such as Charles Manson and David Koresh. Consider me afraid!

Luckily, “Raise The Dead” turns out to be okay… little bit of Muse here, some of Bowie’s glamrock there topped off with a couple of pinches of The Strokes or danceable punk not unlike the Decaydance acts et voila. Hardly original but I’m thinking they should reach their target audience nicely with this mix. Count in the marketing campaign which includes a phone number you can text in order to get an ‘exclusive message from the band’ and yeah, they’ll sell well. Or wait, wasn’t rock music supposed to be rebellious and spontaneous?
Score: 6 out of 10

The Touchers – Blithe

The Touchers call Montana home and have already released five other albums prior to “Blithe”. Somehow I’d never heard of them before but count on the fine folks over at Mental Records to get this album out there so people can experience one huge nineties flashback.

Because that’s exactly what this is with the kind of jangly, out of control indie rock that brings back memories to The Pixies. Ah, sweet memories! Vocalist Bipolar Ben did a great job of chasing the meters into the red one last time before calling it a life (he passed away in 2007) and leaves an impressive legacy with this last album that will be played quite a few times at PRT headquarters thanks to songs like “History Of Strange Fruit” and “Vampire”.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Jumpercable – S/T EP

Very cool debut from an in your face HC band that took a cue or two from acts like Minor Threat. They race through nine songs in less than ten minutes. The drummer sounds like he’s got somewhere else he needs to be and can’t get out of the studio fast enough while the rest of the band can’t do anything else but keep up with him, resulting in ferocious songs and no doubt hilarious situations where the vocalist looks towards the drummer and says ‘dude, I can’t bark this fast’ while catching his breath.

This is scorching material and I’m already looking forward to a full-length that – who knows! – might even last a full quarter of an hour!
Score: 8 out of 10

Saints Never Surrender – Brutus

From Fort Wayne, Indiana come the Saints that Never Surrender with an album that’s equally lethal as the killer it’s named after. Take hardcore, put some real passion behind it and this is what you get. A vocalist that screams his head off, guitar noodling a la Shai Hulud, powerful drumming and a couple of gang vocal moments that make sure things don’t get too monotonous in the vocal department.

Sounds like something you’ve heard before? Yeah, probably. But these guys do it really well and have a lot of energy going on. Plus they have three guitars and bands with three guitars are always cool. The artwork comes courtesy of tattoo artist Dusty Neal and looks exactly like the kind of tattoo you regret the moment you wake up with a terrible hangover. But don’t let that stop you from checking out “Brutus” because this is a perfectly good melodic hardcore album.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Mogwai – The Hawk Is Howling

Scotland’s favorite post-rockers recorded a new album and it looks like they were having fun again with the titles. Or what to think of songs called “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead” or “The Suns Smells Too Loud”?

As funny as the guys themselves might be, all the more serious is their music. Very serious stuff. Very long as well. But not innovative. Mogwai is still using their old formula (quiet, loud, louder, loudest, quieter, quiet) for pretty much every single song on “The Hawk Is Howling”. But they do it so well that I’m not gonna complain. This album is once again a trip from start to finish.

The abovementioned “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead” sounds a lot like “I Know You Are But What Am I” and is a nice way to start off an album. Next up it’s time for “Batcat” and I have hardly ever heard Mogwai as angry as on this track. Put it next to “Kings Meadow” however (a couple of songs down the tracklisting) and it’s the complete opposite because “Kings Meadow” is not only very quiet but also kinda boring. Luckily there are more songs in the vein of “Scotland’s Shame” which cover up the small blemishes that can be found here and there. Because in the end Mogwai is still doing what they do best… blow shit up slowly.
Score: 8 out of 10

Los Campesinos! – We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Is it because I’ve already gotten used to “Hold On Now, Youngster” or has the sound of Los Campesinos!’ really become less chaotic? I’m not sure but I do know that their enthousiasm is still unmatched. Or how many bands do you know that go in the studio to record an EP a couple of months after their debut came out, only to emerge with a complete new full-length?

This Cardiff-based 7-piece has an engine aboard that runs on rocket fuel and with a combination of violin, synths, male/female vocals, itchy guitars and barely restrained hysteria, they come off sounding like Arcade Fire on speed. Their indie pop bubbles with melodies, vocals and instruments that all seem to be in constant turmoil over who should get the spotlight for the next five seconds and in the end this all somehow leads to balanced and well-thought out compositions.

The opening song goes to full speed in about 5 seconds but it isn’t until “Miserabilia” and the title track burst out of the speakers that you are in awe. They somehow manage to keep the momentum going until halfway in the album when there are two lesser songs (especially “The End Of The Asterisk” is kinda annoying). But after that they come back to their senses and manage to go out with a bang.

I highly recommend this album to anyone who likes their indie pop energetic as fuck!
Score: 8 out of 10

Senses Fail – Life Is Not A Waiting Room

New Jersey’s Senses Fail is back for another round with their smell, touch and sight still not functioning properly. Album number three is called “Life Is Not A Waiting Room” (thank god, because the chairs in those places are usually horrible) and on it they crank out a whole lot of poppunk meets emocore.

And it works great for these guys. Like a louder Taking Back Sunday or Saosin, they slave away over bouncy rhythms, melodic guitars and singalong choruses. “Family Tradition” and “Four Years” are two fine examples of songs that come out the speakers with a running start. But basically the entire album is one big adrenalin/sugar rush. Even if you don’t like this kinda music, Senses Fail’s cuts are simply too slick to stop. Those of you who are still mourning over the loss of The Movielife can rejoice, pick up “Life Is Not A Waiting Room” and watch the pain fade.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Academy Is – Fast Times At Barrington High

With the help of producers S*A*M* and Sluggo (because what’s in a name after all), The Academy Is deliver another hook-filled album filled with little rays of sunlight. Focusing on the senior year of high school, “Fast Times At Barrington High” (if you haven’t seen “Fast Times At Ridgemont High you should be ashamed!) is fun to listen to from start to finish even though the lyrical content deals with kids on the brink of adulthood and all of the problems that come with it.

This could’ve resulted in a total cheesefest but luckily vocalist William Beckett is a prime songwriter who has a knack with words. The rest of the band is great at cranking out Jimmy Eat World meets Blink 182-ish anthems with slick guitar licks and catchy choruses, making this a rock album that lives up to the expectations without having any filler aboard. Job well done!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Virgins – S/T

The Virgins out of NYC have a hip sound where they combine The Strokes with disco and a little bit of funk. So expect jangly riffs, danceable rhythms and a vocalist who sounds like he’s got more important things to do. Throw in lyrics about the kind of people you see in TV shows like Gossip Girl and cocain brunches and you know just how wrong this could be.

Could. Because The Virgins’ self-titled release is actually quite okay. Nothing too earthshattering (which is next to impossible in this genre if you ask me) but tracks like “Rich Girls”, “Murder” and “Hey Hey Girl” even have me tapping my feet.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

The Change – The Deer Moss Murders

The Change is yet another band from Sweden that lives up to that country’s fine musical tradition. Think of a more straightforward Refused with a crush on The Bronx and tada… you’re looking at “The Deer Moss Murders”.

It’s a concept album that tells the story of a small town where people are losing their minds and start killing one another. I’m not a big fan of concept albums in general but honestly, if you didn’t know about it you would never notice this was one. They keep their foot down on the gas most of the time and charge ahead, cranking out song after song until they’re all played out after 12 songs of energetic rock. Nothing more, nothing less!
Score: 7 out of 10

Banner Pilot – Resignation Day

Melodic and gritty poppunk. It has proven to be a winning combination for bands like Jawbreaker and The Lawrence Arms and it’s working out pretty good as well for Minneapolis’ Banner Pilot.

Two years ago they already dropped an EP called “Pass The Poison” and it’s good to see these dudes can keep things just as interesting throughout an entire full-length. Screeching Weasel, Dillinger Four and the abovementioned bands, they’ve all done it before with the buzzsaw guitars and the snotty vocals. So it’s not like Banner Pilot is doing anything new but they do it oh so well on songs like “Empty Your Bottles” and “No Transfer”.

One things is for sure, Midwest punkrock rules and “Resignation Day” is simply more proof of that.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

AC/DC – Black Ice

AC/DC made a new album and it sounds like… AC/DC! What a surprise! So expect a whole lotta blues riffs, drums that just a keep on rollin’ and a vocalist who sounds like his dick got caught in a beartrap.

How much you’ll like “Black Ice” simply depends on the fact how much you liked these Aussies’ previous fourteen albums. Nothing much has changed even though the band does sound in better shape than on 2000’s “Stiff Upper Lip”. This may be due to the eight years in between albums or thanks to producer Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam) who helped the band purify their sound a bit.

Whatever the case may be, it’s time to get back in that school uniform and rock out with first single “Rock N Roll Train”, scream along with the chorus in “Big Jack” or get all riled up listening to “Spoilin’ For A Fight”.
Score: 8 out of 10