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26.10.11

Kings Go Forth @ Vooruit, Ghent // Oct. 31


If you're sick of watching cheesy horror flicks, dressing up like a vampire or handing out candy to kids with the risk of being perceived as a degenerate perv, come check out the amazing Kings Go Forth at Vooruit in Ghent on All Hallows Eve... they're living proof that soul music is still alive in 2011!

Click on the flyer below to order your tickets!

18.10.11

Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside – Dirty Radio

- by Thomas

Sallie Ford is Sallie Ford, a vocalist out of Portland, OR. The Sound Outside is bassist Tyler Tornfelt, drummer Ford Tennis and guitarist Jeffrey Munger. Together they form… yes, Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside and they have just released an album called “Dirty Radio”.

This outfit takes its cues from the past and leans heavily on 50s rock ‘n roll along with a healthy dose of soul, gospel and blues. “Poison Milk” takes you right to the cotton plantations while the percussion-driven “Against The Law” starts off hypnotising before building up to a loud climax. “Thirteen Years Old” is a nice slow jam whereas the opening threesome offer more straight-forward rock ‘n roll.

Without Sallie Ford this album would’ve probably not gotten as much attention but it’s her voice - which brings back memories of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday - that does it. I don’t think we’ve already heard all these guys and girl have to offer, but “Dirty Radio” is a pretty solid debut nonetheless.
Score: 7 out of 10
http://www.fargorecords.com
http://www.sallieford.com

Seahaven – Ghost

- by Thomas

“Ghost” is the debut by a band called Seahaven which counts Final Fight drummer James Phillips among their ranks. The songs on here sound like everything Brand New has ever written, condensed into one EP. That’s not a diss… it sounds pretty fucking awesome actually!

They come out swinging with the two heaviest tracks on here (“Plague” and “Birds”) before taking their foot off the gas for the next songs. “Love” sees them veer off in more of a pop-punk direction and comes with guest vocals from Set Your Goals' Jordan Brown.

“Ghost” is a very strong first offering by a new band and while they wear the influences on their sleeve, they definitely transcend being a mere copycat and have managed to mold them into something of their own. I’m pretty sure we’ll be hearing more from these guys in the future!
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.creator-destructor.com
http://www.myspace.com/welcometoseahaven

Victorian Halls – Charlatan

- by Thomas

After having released two EPs in 2008 and 2009, Victorian Halls signed with Victory Records and are now unleashing their debut full-length upon the largely unsuspecting masses. “Charlatan” is the name of the game and on it you’ll hear what the band themselves call emo disco-punk.

What that entails exactly? A lot of electronic beats and synth sounds wrapped in loud guitars… think of a party version of The Blood Brothers if you will. The music itself is decent enough even though it doesn’t make me want to dance. Then again, nothing does. But it’s catchy and it sounds good even though I would classify it as a guilty pleasure.

Victorian Halls does struggle with one problem though and that problem is called the vocalist. He sounds pretty much exactly like the hysterical girls I imagine attending the band’s shows and no, that’s not a good thing.
Score: 5.5 out of 10
http://www.victoryrecords.com
http://www.myspace.com/victorianhalls

These Hearts – Forever Ended Yesterday

- by Thomas

Looking at the cover, I thought I was going to hear a mix of pop-punk and hardcore and that’s exactly what you get from These Hearts. It’s just unfortunate that it’s not a very good mix. On the one hand you get uninspired poppy parts with a whiny, high-pitched vocalist, on the other hand there are some heavy breakdowns that serve absolutely no purpose and which don’t fit the songs. At all. This is kiddie punk made for and by children and has absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. The one point they do get is for the song title “Denial Is Not Just A River In Egypt”.
Score: 1 out of 10
http://www.victoryrecords.com
http://www.myspace.com/thesehearts

Chad VanGaalen – Diaper Island

- by Thomas

Chad VanGaalen is a Canadian singer/songwriter who I imagine to be living in some cabin in the woods where his Macbook is fired up by a generator. Every now and then the man makes the trip to the big city to hand in a new disc full of cute little pop songs that come with just enough of a bite.

I never quite know what to make of his albums… the only certainty seems to be the ugly as fuck artwork. On “Diaper Island” VanGaalen opens with some harmonies that would get a nod of approval from Camp Fleet Foxes while guitars gently fuzz in cuts like “Replace Me”. And that the man has a sense of humor is proven in “Shave My Pussy”. Everything on here is melodic enough but there’s always this eccentric edge to the material that prevents me from truly getting involved with “Diaper Island”.
Score: 6 out of 10
http://www.subpop.com
http://www.myspace.com/chadvangaalen

Panda Bear – Tomboy

- by Thomas

Lemme start this one off just like my Handsome Furs review… When Noah Lennox isn’t writing songs for indie darlings Animal Collective, he’s making music for his side-project Panda Bear. Under that moniker he pretty much became the spokesperson for chillwave. And you know what I learned while listening to “Tomboy”? Chillwave is boring as fuck.

Voices float in and out of focus backed up by some synth sounds that are covered by delay and reverb. I’ve read a bunch of reviews where this is being compared to the Beach Boys… if that were true and Brian Wilson and co. sounded anything like this, I doubt they would still be a reference today. Some may call this hypnotising, I just think it’s plain annoying.
Score: 3 out of 10
http://www.paw-tracks.com
http://www.myspace.com/pandabear

Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital

- by Thomas

When Dan Boeckner isn’t writing songs for indie darlings Wolf Parade, he’s making music with his wife Alexei Perry for side-project Handsome Furs. “Sound Kapital” is already the couple’s third album and once again we are treated to a bunch of electropop tunes.

Unfortunately the beats and synth sounds on here don’t sound all that different from the soundtrack to one of the computer games I used to play in the early nineties and as cute as it sounded then, it’s just plain boring now. And not even the naked lady on the cover can redeem that fact.
Score: 4 out of 10
http://www.subpop.com
http://www.handsomefurs.com

Mazes – A Thousand Heys

- by Thomas

Mazes is yet another new UK band that draws inspiration from the slacker movement of the nineties. Think Pavement, Sebadoh, Teenage Fanclub. There’s nothing original to be found on “A Thousand Heys”… just sloppy yet poppy tunes that will charm the hell out of you. And kudos to them for managing to make it all sound fresh despite the lack of new ideas thanks to nice mix of harder and more mellow tunes coupled to solid hooks.
Score: 6.5 out of 10
http://www.fat-cat.co.uk
http://www.mazesmazesmazes.com

Wet Paint – Woe

- by Thomas

‘Woe is me’ is an expression that pops up in my head every now and then when I’m listening to yet another shitty album, wondering why the hell I ever began a zine. Not so during Wet Paint’s second album, which is actually worth listening to.

Former Absentee guitarist Babak Ganjei started this band and on their sophomoric album they sound a helluva lot like Pavement/Sebadoh/ Sonic Youth. They won’t be winning any prizes for most innovative band that way, but it does lead to some pretty decent slacker tunes that will please all the nineties nostalgics out there!
Score: 7 out of 10
http://www.recordsrecordsrecords.com
http://www.myspace.com/wetpaintwetpaint

EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints

- by Thomas

EMA aka Erika M. Anderson used to be in a noisefolk outfit called Gowns with her former boyfriend, Ezra Buchla. When both the band and the relationship imploded, Anderson was ready to pack up and head back to South Dakota. Luckily she recorded “Past Life Martyred Saints” first because it turned out to be one motherfucker of an album.

On it you’ll see lo-fi and hi-fi hooking up in opener “Grey Ship” while “Milkman” is as catchy as noise can possibly be. While the light in Anderson’s life seems to be turned off permanently, there are still enough pop influences to keep things bearable in spite of her brutally honest lyrics. Throw in some things that go bleep in the night alongside the distorted guitars and you have an album that is as painful as it is beautiful. Think Cat Power meets Sonic Youth and you’re there!
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.souterraintransmissions.com
http://www.cameouttanowhere.com

Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams

- by Thomas

Time to get your shoop shoop on! The Dum Dum Girls are back and while their second album mostly deals with the passing away of frontwoman Kristen Gundred’s mother, it is a real pleasure to listen to.

Dee Dee, Jules, Bambi and Sandy still sound like the daughters of The Ronettes and The Ramones, but they’ve shaped up their songwriting skills considerably since 2009’s “I Will Be”. This might’ve taken away some of the reckless abandon of their bubblegum-garagepop, but you are treated to more depth in return. Make sure to check out “Teardrops On My Pillow”, “Hold Your Hand” and my favourite, “Bedroom Eyes”. Or shit, try on “Just A Creep” for size with that cute little surf guitar line!

If your autumn is still looking for a soundtrack, these Phil Spector aficionados will provide it.
Score: 9 out of 10
http://www.subpop.com
http://www.dumdumgirls.com

Skarhead – Dreams Don’t Die!!!

- by Thomas

I doubt anyone was waiting to hear Lord Ezec cover everyone from Outburst, Killing Time, Warzone, Sick Of It All, Cro-Mags, Murphy’s Law, SOD, Leeway and Bad Brains right down to Cindy friggin’ Lauper, but here you go anyway!

“Dreams Don’t Die” is the name of this completely unnecessary album and it comes with lots of Lord Ezec’s cronies contributing vocals… Terror’s Scott Vogel, Leeway’s Eddie Sutton, Sheer Terror’s Paul Bearer and a bunch of noble unknowns such as Ivan Murillo, Stress The Whiteboy, Adlib and someone or something called Eye-Ra-Haze.

Nothing on here is original… well, logically seeing as they are all covers… but even the song choice isn’t surprising and a hardcore cover of a hardcore song doesn’t leave much room for interpretation and innovation. Feel free to skip this!
Score: 4 out of 10
http://www.iscreamrecords.com
http://www.myspace.com/skarheadmusic

The Walkabouts – Travels In The Dustland

- by Thomas

“Travels In The Dustland” is the first new Walkabouts album in six years but it was well worth the wait. “Travels In The Dustland” is a collection of songs about the desert and on the album Chris Eckman and his friends sound like the bastard child of Calexico and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds.

With a bit of pedal steel here and some organ there alongside plenty of string arrangements that are draped over various songs, The Walkabouts take you on a trip through vast landscapes and open skies. Eckman sings on most of the songs here but there are a couple of goosebump moments that come courtesy of Carla Torgerson as well. And while the dustland does not seem like a very hospitable place, even downright gloomy at times, it does deliver some heartbreakingly beautiful songs with “They Are Not Like Us” as the absolute highlight.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
http://www.glitterhouse.com
http://www.thewalkabouts.com

13.10.11

Scott H. Biram – Bad Ingredients

- by Thomas

Scott H. Biram – the devil’s one man band – is back with a new album filled with songs about cursing, drinking, fucking and more drinking. Or killing a chicken. On “Bad Ingredients” Biram played pretty much every instrument himself and recorded the whole thing in his own studio. It’s a lo-fi motherfucker that sounds like Left Lane Cruiser (“Victory Song”) one minute and like all hell broke loose the next (“Dontcha Lie To Me Baby”). In between Biram shows his mellow side in “Open Road”. And that’s just four songs in!

Later on we’re treated to the heartfelt waltz that is “Memories Of You Sweetheart”, the R&B-ish “I Want My Mojo Back” (with a guest saxophonist) and the raucous “Killed A Chicken Last Night” in which his stomp board is flat out destroyed. This is real music written by a guy who spits as hard in the face of adversity as his guitar amp spits out fuzz and feedback.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.bloodshotrecords.com
http://www.scottbiram.com

Blink 182 – Neighborhoods

- by Thomas

Eight years after Blink went on an indefinite hiatus, the boys are back and out to prove they have become men in the meantime. On “Neighborhoods” there are no more poop jokes like on “Dude Ranch”. And while there’s certainly something to be said for more mature lyrics, it’s weird coming from Blink 182. It’s like watching the cast from American Pie reunite only to then have them play in a new adaptation of “Sense And Sensibility”.

All would be well though if they hadn’t touched the music. Unfortunately they have. And so the majority of the songs on here do not sound like they could’ve come off of “Dude Ranch” but more like a continuation of Angels & Airwaves or of Blink’s way too serious self-titled album. It’s a shame because what Blink did best was writing unpretentious and fast pop-punk songs. “Heart’s All Gone” is one of those songs that takes me back to 1997. But even there they felt the need to add a completely unnecessary interlude. Maybe it’s some burning desire to prove that they are ‘serious musicians’? I don’t know but it simply doesn’t work.

Maybe I’m old enough to be a nostalgic, but I would’ve preferred to hear another album full of short blasts about being dumped or taking a dump instead of this. Not a complete clunker like other reunion albums but no instant classic either.
Score: 6.5 out of 10
http://www.dgcrecords.com
http://www.blink182.com

The Mattless Boys – The Mattless Boys

- by Thomas

The Boys have been surfing the punkrock wave since ’77 with even the likes of Paul Weller giving them the thumbs up. When several members of the band started a side-project in 2009 without guitarist/songwriter Matt Dangerfield, they adopted the Mattless Boys moniker (ha!) and they’ve now released their self-titled debut after having played several shows in the second half of 2010.

Expect to hear a bunch of entertaining punkrock songs that are quite catchy and come with plenty of rock ‘n roll influences. I doubt it will make any ‘album of the year’ lists but it’s entertaining enough if you’re into the likes of well, The Boys.
Score: 6 out of 10
http://www.drummingmonkey.de
http://www.myspace.com/themattlessboys

Cryssis – Simple Man

- by Thomas

When two guys called Dick York and Vom Ritchie met back in 1981, they started a band called Cry Dyann and wrote a bunch of pop-punk songs. Those never saw the light of day thanks to a shitty management and the band then called it a day in 1983.

Years and years later the two of them ran into each other again and seeing as history has a tendency to repeat itself, they started a new band. This time around they call themselves Cryssis, which is just a terrible, terrible name if you ask me. Anyway, on “Simple Man” you’ll hear a bunch of rather unremarkable songs with simple riffs and plain vocals that won’t hurt anyone to listen to but that won’t impress anyone either.
Score: 5 out of 10
http://www.drummingmonkey.de

Turbowolf – Turbowolf

- by Thomas

Turbowolf is one of the latest bands to rise up from the UK underground. They recently signed with Hassle who will be releasing the band’s self-titled album next month. These guys have already been tearing up stages with everyone from Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster and Pulled Apart By Horses to Korn and Dimmu Borgir. Enough with the facts sheet… onto the music!

These guys have managed to heap together an impressive amount of different sounds and climbed out on top of them. It’s like listening to Gallows playing CKY covers while trying to sound like a 70s rock band. Throw in some keyboards along with a firm grasp on pop aesthetics and you’ll find yourself listening to killer tracks such as “Seven Severed Heads” and “The Big Cut”.

It’s not really a question of whether you’ll like this album or not, the hardest thing is trying to decide whether you want bang your head or dance or look like a complete spazz trying to do both at the same time.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.hasslerecords.com
http://www.myspace.com/turbowolfband

12.10.11

Bridge And Tunnel – Rebuilding Year

- by Thomas

The commuters that make up Bridge And Tunnel are back with the follow-up to 2008’s “East/West”. For this one they teamed up with J Robbins and came out with another winner called “Rebuilding Year”. Opener “Synchronized Swimming” is a six-minute long trip that engulfs every aspect of Bridge And Tunnel’s sound… beautiful, messy, rocking, chaotic, mathy... it’s all present and accounted for. “Outgrowing Pains” shows a faster, grittier side of these guys. And girls! There’s two girls in the band, adding even more variety with their vocal contributions.

If you’re looking for some fine melodic indierock tunes that occasionally bare their teeth, “Rebuilding Year” is not a bad place to start out.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.noidearecords.com
http://www.myspace.com/bridgeandtunnelmusic

Living With Lions – Holy Shit

- by Thomas

Living With Lions’ follow-up to “Make Your Mark” originally came with artwork referring to the bible as the poo testament and picturing Jesus as a turd. This sparked quite a bit of controversy in Canada with people criticizing the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent On Recordings (FACTOR) for helping fund the album, causing Living With Lions not only to change their artwork but also to completely refund FACTOR and release the album as a non-FACTOR supported project. Freedom of speech? My ass! But it did get the band some extra publicity.

Anyhoo… “Holy Shit” is a fine poppunk album that in spite of the original artwork and album title does not say a helluva lot about religion, but all the more about girls. Think older Blink mixed in with a gruffer Rise Against vibe… the vocals are great thanks to new vocalist Stu Ross (formerly of Misery Signals), the guitars are loud and there’s plenty of catchy melodies to get hooked on.

We’ve already had quite a number of solid pop-punk releases this year (The Wonder Years, The Swellers,…). Feel free to add “Holy Shit” to that list!
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.redfield-records.de
http://www.facebook.com/livingwithlions

Dub Trio – IV

- by Thomas

Dub Trio is called Dub Trio because they play dub (mixed in with metal) and there’s three of them in the band. Sometimes things just aren’t that far-fetched. Mike Patton is a fan and I liked their previous album as well. They’re back now with a new album called “IV”, thus named because it’s their fourth album. They sure do like to keep things simple.

I’m not sure what happened to them in between albums but this new one sounds more than ever like a bunch of different parts slapped haphazardly together. The biggest mistake on here is called “Ends Justify The Means”, a song (and I use that term very loosely) consisting of nothing more but a bunch of sounds pasted together. It’s incredibly boring and the same can be said about most of the album.

Granted, it’s already harder to keep things interesting when you’re an instrumental band but that can’t be an excuse for a piece of crap like this.
Score: 3 out of 10
http://www.roir-usa.com
http://www.dubtrio.com

10.10.11

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lenses Alien


- by Thomas

When Lou Reed was asked to describe The Velvet Underground’s sound, he said they sounded like cymbals eating guitars. Hence, the band name. On album number two, Cymbals Eat Guitars take a bit from 90s alternative acts such as Pavement (mixing louder with mellow parts and plenty of unexpected twists and turns) and mix it up with progressive parts to arrive to songs like 9-minute opener “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)”. There are definitely parts in the song (and in the other tracks) that have their merits but overall this is just too much. There are too many tempo changes, psychedelic parts that suddenly switch to pure noise before vocalist Joseph D'Agostino goes falsetto on our asses with the rest of the band joining in to keep things fun. It’s like watching an overexcited puppy pee on everything. It’s all fun and games until he starts pissing all over your legs. Experiments are cool and all but if an album takes so much work as “Lenses Alien” to get into, then it’s just not one for me.
Score: 4 out of 10
http://www.memphis-industries.com
http://www.cymbalseatguitars.com

Wolf Gang – Suego Faults


- by Thomas

Wolf Gang isn’t much of a gang seeing as it it’s just one guy called Max McElligott who does pretty much everything. Knowing that, it’s easier to think of that other Wolfgang dude rather than a bunch of tough-looking guys. But comparing McElligott to Mozart might be taking things a bit too far. Sure, “Suego Faults” is filled with the kind of pop ditties that sound retro and fresh at the same time and that will make you think of acts such as MGMT with a bit of Killers kitsch mixed in. And granted, the guy does write catchy as fuck pop songs that sound great thanks to producer Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips), but let’s face it… “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” this is not.
Score: 6.5 out of 10
http://www.warnermusic.com
http://www.wolf-gang.co.uk

Des Ark – Don’t Rock The Boat, Sink The Fucker


- by Thomas

Des Ark’s second album comes with a title that immediately made me like this release. It even has the word ‘fucker’ in it. People just don’t use fucker enough. Fuck? Sure! Fucker? Not so much. On top of that “Don’t Rock The Boat, Sink The Fucker” comes with some pretty swell tunes. Which is good because apparently it took three years to write the fucker. If it would’ve sucked after three years of working on it, I would’ve felt bad thrashing the album. But seeing as there’s no need, you’re talking to one happy fucker.

The songs on here don’t exactly reflect the album title though. The gentle and sweet sounds that emanate from this shiny little disc don’t seem to have much use for the word ‘fucker’. There is room for an ‘asshole’ though in “Bonne Chance Asshole” but she’s wishing him good luck which is kinda sweet. And then there’s “FTW Y’all!!!”… so okay, the word ‘fuck’ is present there but technically speaking, it’s hidden in the abbreviation.

Anyway, enough about the cursing. The rich arrangements on here coupled to Argote’s delicate guitar sounds and ditto voice are simply a pleasure to listen to. Most of the songs trickle along gently with a great sense of melody and when the song demands it, she has no problem unleashing a storm to drive her point home. Like in “Ashley’s Song” for instance, one of the better indierock songs I’ve heard in some time.

This is definitely a captivating album that makes me wish my copy didn’t arrive with scratches on it making it impossible to hear the last couple of songs. In any case, if you’re into indierock you need to check out this fucker!
Score: 8.5 out of 10
http://www.lovitt.com
http://www.myspace.com/desark

Troubled Coast – Letters


- by Thomas

Whereas Troubled Coast’s earlier work was a get in, get the job done and get the fuck out kind of approach to hardcore, “Letters” shows a much more restrained band that has grown tremendously over the course of just two years. Plain shredding and pure speed have been mostly traded in for more atmospheric parts and cathartic screaming. That’s not to say they’ve forgotten how to hit the gas, they still apply speed when it’s called for like in opener “Amends”.

With “Letters” Troubled Coast has definitely earned its place in the post-hardcore scene alongside acts like La Dispute and early Thrice. One to look out for? I like to think so!
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.creator-destructor.com
http://www.myspace.com/troubledcoast

At Our Heels – Misanthropy And Godlessness


- by Thomas

“Misanthropy and Godlessness” is At Our Heels’ debut and as you can tell by the title, happy music this is not. This California-based duo plays the kind of darkened hardcore made popular by most of the Deathwish roster. Which in my eyes is still a good thing.

Expect to hear 13 short blasts of pissed hardcore with a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of depression mixed in. There’s your straightforward, fast-paced cuts (“Unholy”, “Sink With Me”) right alongside sludgy slow burners (“Graves”, “Nom Sum Qualis Eram”), making for a fairly varied offering. All in all, “Misanthropy And Godlessness” is a very decent debut by a band you should keep an eye on.
Score: 7 out of 10
http://www.creator-destructor.com
http://www.myspace.com/atourheels

Reckless Kelly – Good Luck True Love

- by Thomas

Like Monty Python once said… and now for something completely different. Reckless Kelly is an Austin, TX-based band that I had never heard of before. Apparently “Good Luck & True Love” is already their seventh album and the follow-up to last year’s “Somewhere In Time”, a tribute to honky-tonker Pinto Bennett.

Yes, that’s right… I said Texas and honky tonk, that means we’re talking country here. These guys don’t sound quite so reckless on “Good Luck & True Love” but if you’re looking for some solid country tunes, then you’ve come to the right place. Vocalist Willy Braun has the perfect voice for this kinda music with just the right amount of grit mixed in while carrying a melody. Meanwhile, the rest of the band is delivering the goods on the driving “She Likes Money, He Likes Love” or the mellow “New Moon Over Nashville”, the latter of which comes with a nice fiddle. Time to get your boots on!
Score: 7 out of 10
No Big Deal Records
http://www.recklesskelly.com

Maria Taylor – Overlook


- by Thomas

Four albums into her solo career, Azure Ray’s Maria Taylor still isn’t easy to classify. On “Overlook” she sounds all soft and sweet one minute, a little grittier the next. The songs are mostly folk and roots oriented but there’s room for some fooling around with electronic sounds and a couple of experiments.

The songs themselves are nice enough… easy to listen to, at times a little dreamy. Taylor moved to Alabama a while ago and she lets us know that the nights can be cold there in “Happenstance”, a short but oh so sweet song and “Like It Does” is another slow one that won me over.

But opener “Masterplan” takes too long to lead up to a disappointing climax, “Matador” comes with a solo that sounds like they gave a guitar to a retard and told him (or her – I don’t want to discriminate when it comes to retards) to improvise. And the whole second half of the album is simply too weak to leave much of an impression.

I’m sure Maria Taylor can do a whole lot better and because of that, “Overlook” just isn’t good enough.
Score: 5 out of 10
http://www.affairsoftheheart.de
http://www.mariataylormusic.com

Ten Second Epic – Better Off

- by Thomas

Writing a solid poppunk song is not as easy as it seems. Most people think you just need a bag of power chords, a couple of melodic hooks, lyrics about girls and a vocalist with a whiny voice. While they are right about the first three things, one thing you do not need is a girly singer. That’s something Canada’s Ten Second Epic understands perfectly well and so they found themselves a good set of pipes in the form of Andrew Usenik. While the rest of the band excels at using power chords and writing melodic hooks, Usenik is penning lines about girls. And that’s how come ten years down the line, Ten Second Epic sound better than ever on “Better off”.

Right from opener and first single “Young Classics” up until closer “Northstar”, these guys managed to write an album’s worth of entertaining poppunk. Fans of Sugarcult are free to rejoice.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.hasslerecords.com
http://www.myspace.com/tensecondepic

The Icarus Line – Wildlife

- by Thomas

The Icarus Line these days is pretty much just frontman Joe Cardamone. So much so even that the working title for “Wildlife” was Joe Cardamone versus The Icarus Line. Anyway, the man’s desire to keep on going is admirable but unfortunately “Wildlife” doesn’t hold up next to the band’s earlier work.

The repetitive nature of the songs may be fun for once but don’t exactly invite repeated listens. At best the material on here sounds like some sort of polished demo and it reminds me from time to time of what a band like Middle Class Rut is doing. Unfortunately for Cardamone, Middle Class Rut is doing a better job.
Score: 6 out of 10
http://www.cobraside.com
http://www.myspace.com/theicarusline

Cage The Elephant – Thank You Happy Birthday


- by Thomas

A dumb band name, an even dumber album title and ugly-ass artwork. Yup, this one does not have a whole lot going for itself on first sight. Luckily I’m objective as hell (cough) and so I started listening to Cage The Elephant’s second album.

Opener “Always Something” isn’t all too convincing with Matthew Shultz’ bored vocals. But hey, “Aberdeen” sounds like a Pixies leftover and has me nodding along every single time. “Indy Kidz”, “Sell Yourself” and “Sabertooth Tiger” are all pretty raw songs that go boom, whereas the band’s poppier side shines through in songs like single “Shake Me Down” and “Rubber Ball”.

It’s not that this is a bad album but they never manage to drag me into their angsty world and leave me feeling very unattached.
Score: 5.5 out of 10
http://www.virginrecords.com
http://www.cagetheelephant.com

Enabler – Year One


- by Thomas

Enabler is a sick Wisconsin-based outfit that means business on “Year One”. Having previously served time in outfits such as Trap Them, Todays Is The Day and Dead To Fall, they already learned the ropes and waste no time getting down to the nitty gritty.

“Year One” is pretty much the band’s discography up until now on one shiny disc, including the “Eden Sank To Grief” and “War Begins With You” releases. With a friggin’ relentless mix of punk, hardcore and grindcore, Enabler will pummel your ass into oblivion as they dish out menacing riff after menacing riff alongside blastbeats, chugga chugga shredding and badass vocals. Think of Nasum, Napalm Death and Cursed rolled into one and you’ll get the gist of it. Not exactly the kind of songs you’d play to get a party started.
Score: 7 out of 10
http://www.creator-destructor.com
http://www.myspace.com/enablermilwaukee

The Ladybug Transistor – Clutching Stems

- by Thomas

Indie poppers The Ladybug Transistor are back with another batch of songs. “Clutching Stems” is the band’s first new material in four years and it’s basicallymore of the same from this band around Gary Olson. They’ve been through a bit of a rough patch when their drummer passed away but decided to forge on with the help of a new drummer alongside several other newbies.

None of the songs on here are bad, they’re all pleasant enough and easy on the ears. But they never really jump out and grab you. Olson still sounds like a light version of Morrissey (I’m sure there’s a joke about Morrissey’s weight in there) but they seriously need to spice things up in order to even slightly impress.
Score: 5 out of 10
http://www.fortunapop.com
http://www.theladybugtransistor.com

V/A – The Revival Tour


- by Thomas

The Revival Tour is becoming something of a tradition. Started by Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan in 2008, the tour has been promoting folk music ever since with a revolving cast. This year they’re coming to mainland Europe for the first time and it’s fair to say I’m spyched!

Joining Chuck will be The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon, The Loved Ones’ Dave Hause and Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano, all of whom will be backed up by Jon Gaunt on fiddle and Joe Ginsberg on upright bass.

If you already want to know what the shows are going to be like, there’s now an 8-song comp with two contributions from each of the players. Whether it’s the harmonica-enhanced “Bedroll Lullaby” or the lap steel guitar on Dave Hause’s “Pray For Tucson”, it’s all good!
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.therevivaltour.com

Jukebox The Ghost – Everything Under The Sun

- by Thomas

Following up their 2008 debut, Philadelphia’s Jukebox The Ghost is back with another happy happy joy joy album full of twitchy rhythms and hyperactive piano tinkering. “Everything Under The Sun” is filled with energetic and melodic pop tunes that unfortunately don’t leave too much of an impression.

Now, of course I’m already a cynical asshole by nature so I find overtly happy people kind of suspicious. If however you like the idea of an ADHD version of Billy Joel, then the brassy “Nobody” or the singalong-y “Carrying” might be just the thing for you.
Score: 6 out of 10
http://www.yeproc.com
http://www.jukeboxtheghost.com

Now, Now – Neighbors EP


- by Thomas

Formerly known as Now, Now Every Children, Now Now recently dropped their first release through No Sleep Records after having spent some time on Afternoon Records. It’s my first encounter with the band and it’s a good one.

The five songs on “Neighbors” are a treat to listen to, not in the least thanks to vocalist Cacie Dalager who delivers her lines in a very lush yet sweet kinda way. The two guys in the band back her up in the most efficient of ways, letting the songs meander slowly and letting enough room to breathe. Opener “Rebuild” is an instrumental cut that could be used in a future Sofia Coppola movie before the band shows a ‘louder’ side of themselves with “Giants”.

It’s not that the songs are overtly catchy. There’s just something about them. They get you in a dreamy kinda state, a state I like to be in. And on top of that they recorded the whole thing by themselves. So kudos to them!
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.nosleeprecs.com
http://www.myspace.com/nownoweverychildren

Design The Skyline – Nevaeh


- by Thomas

Wow, these guys sound about as bad as they look ridiculous! Previously known as Extra Large Kids, Design The Skyline is a Texas-based band that tries to mix deathcore, metalcore and all other kinds of –core with whiny emo singing and lots of keyboards. I think I’ll just call this crapcore. It doesn’t exactly help things that they seem to have the attention span of a hamster and that their material is all over the place. Hell, “Destroyer” even sounds like a runaway Cradle Of Filth song… yikes! And because an image says more than a 1000 words…. well, here ya go…


Score: 2 out of 10
http://www.victoryrecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/designtheskyline

Jungle Rot – Kill On Command


- by Thomas

As soon as opener “Their Finest Hour” kicked in, I found myself looking around for something or someone to trash. My choice fell on my elderly neighbour. Unfortunately she didn’t understand the concept of moshing which took away a little of the fun. While smacking her around, I was trying to explain to her that these guys have been playing mid-tempo death metal with a bit of hardcore mixed in since the early 90s.

By the time “Demoralized” came around, I drew blood for the first time while I was in the midst of pointing out that Jungle Rot’s material comes with a ton of groove and that their riffage is highly effective despite being kind of simple. I then proceeded by bringing out my baseball bat during “No Mercy (From The Merciless)” to show her what I meant with ‘blunt force trauma’.

I’m still not sure if she was still conscious when “Life Negated” came around but it didn’t really matter. I was psyched enough for the both of us. Now, let’s get her to the hospital and see about that new hip.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
http://www.victoryrecords.com
http://www.myspace.com/junglerot

Forty Winks – Bow Wow


- by Thomas

At first I thought someone sent me the new Lil Bow Wow album who had matured, dropped the Lil part and gone through some severe stylistic changes. But no sirree, “Bow Wow” is actually the name of Forty Winks’ latest album. I’m not even gonna go into the album cover but let me just say that it didn’t exactly make me want to listen to the album.

Despite all those prejudices, I popped in this disc and instantly started a one-man party. Booty-shaking rhythms, flaky guitar riffs, catchy keyboard sounds, thumping bass lines and an the kind of happy-go-lucky vibe that you’d normally associate with ska permeate this album and make it incredibly easy to listen to. “One Last Round” sounds like a lost Less Than Jake song, “I Feel Dead” comes with a sweet surf vibe and closer “Ain’t Good Enough” is just a solid punkrock song. I’m pretty sure these guys have been listening to a lot of music from the 70 before deciding to write a bunch of ridiculously catchy songs. The result is called “Bow Wow” and it will most likely be one of the most underrated albums of the year.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.endsounds.com
http://www.myspace.com/fortywinks

Samiam – Trips


- by Thomas

Five years after “Whatever’s Got You Down”, Samiam is finally back with a new album. This one’s called “Trips” and it sounds surprisingly fresh for a band that’s already been around since 1988. Doing a band part-time helps take off the pressure I guess and if it delivers an album that’s as fun as this one to listen to, then I’m all for it.

It’s that trademark mix of solid riffs, up-tempo rhythms and a good sense of melody that does me in every single time. These guys stem from a time when emo wasn’t a dirty word yet and they don’t hesitate to inject their punkrock with it. Add a crisp production and some damn fine songwriting and you’re looking at a very solid album.

Check out the opening combo of “80 West” and “Clean Up” to get you going and then just move on down the tracklisting from there. “Freetime” is Samiam at their most anthemic and “El Dorando” may be five minutes long, it never gets dull. Not even for a second. If these guys keep on releasing albums like this, I don’t have a problem with the fact that I have to wait five years for the next one to come out.
Score: 9 out of 10
http://www.hopelessrecords.com
http://www.myspace.com/samiam

Pearl Jam – Twenty


- by Thomas

When Cameron Crowe is making a 2-hour documentary about Pearl Jam out of 20 years of barely used footage, you can consider me psyched! I’ll have to wait a bit longer to actually see the movie but now there’s already the soundtrack to tie me over.

It comes in a nice digipack… one disc with the music from the movie and another disc with a bunch of rarities including a demo of the 1990 Temple Of The Dog song “Say Hello 2 Heaven”. Even when going for a Pearl Jam classic, Crowe went out of his way to deliver it in a version that would stand out. Like the live version of “Alive” from one of Pearl Jam’s first shows ever.

And then there’s “Betterman”, recorded at Madison Square Garden. Vedder is completely drowned out as the crowd takes over and belts out the words. It’s for those fans that this soundtrack and documentary are made. Here’s to 20 more years of kickass rock ‘n roll!
Score: 9 out of 10
http://www.sonymusic.com
http://www.pearljam.com

Kevin Devine – Between The Concrete & Clouds

- by Thomas

Kevin Devine has been a pretty busy guy over the years. When he wasn’t releasing solo albums in which the spirit of Elliott Smith lived on, he was collaborating with members of Brand New or recording an album with Manchester Orchestra under the Bad Books moniker. And now he has a now solo album out that isn’t really solo anymore. Whereas he was merely flirting with a full band on “Brother’s Blood”, he’s gone all out this time around. There isn’t a single song on “Between The Concrete & Clouds” that’s just Devine and his acoustic guitar. Instead we are treated to some most excellent indie tunes like “The First Hit” and the title track, which bring up welcome comparisons to Nada Surf and Death Cab.

All of the songs on here are mellow and breeze by… not in a carefree, uneventful kinda way. The songs are just so well arranged and well-written that they form a very cohesive album that is a treat to listen to. Longtime fans might feel let down by the direction Devine is heading in with his ‘new’ sound and his ‘simpler’ lyrics but meanwhile I’m enjoying the shit out of this album!
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.razorandtie.com
http://www.myspace.com/kevindevine

Kasabian – Velociraptor!


- by Thomas

The band that sounds so much like Oasis that even the Gallagher brothers like them is back with “Velociraptor!”, their fourth album already. On it they build further on what they achieved with “West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum” without repeating themselves.

So expect to hear rock n roll anthems with a fair amount of ennui mixed in (“I Hear Voices”, the title track), some flirts with hip hop rhythms courtesy of producer Dan The Automator (“Days Are Forgotten”) and a couple of ballads (“Goodbye Kiss”). Sounds good up until now? Well, I’ve honestly never been a fan of the band… if the guys in the band already sound bored with the music they’re playing, why the hell should I get excited about it? And there’s a fair amount of clunkers on here as well… “Acid Turkish Bath” sounds like a Kula Shaker leftover and single “Switchblade Smiles” has a bit too much of a Republica vibe going on to be considered pleasant.

I guess that leaves me still not being a fan of Kasabian… the British press might not agree with me but they just don’t leave much of an impression
Score: 4 out of 10
http://www.columbiarecords.com
http://www.kasabian.co.uk

Ghost Knife – Kill Shelter, Yes!


- by Thomas

As if the Riverboat Gamblers wasn’t enough work yet, vocalist Mike Wiebe felt the need to start another band called High Tension Wires. For most people that would be enough but since neither band had the ability to jump at the chance whenever a show came up, Wiebe found the solution. Start another band!

With the help of the former rhythm section of J Church, Ghost Knife came to life and you can hear what that sounds like by listening to their debut, “Kill Shelter, Yes!”. Or you can finish reading this review. Duh!

Ghost Knife differs from Wiebe’s other bands by sounding more like a garage-y indierock band rather than a punkrock band. You’ll hear echoes of The Pixies in the band’s laidback approach but there’s no denying that producer Mark Ryan (Marked Men, Mind Spiders) got his say as well by letting the band sound all warm and loose. Just pick up this album… that’s basically what it boils down to. There’s no way you’ll regret it.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
http://www.endsounds.com
http://www.myspace.com/ghostknifemusic

Mariachi El Bronx – II


- by Thomas

Hardcore punks playing mariachi music… you have to admit it sounds like a joke. But on their debut these LA natives already showed that there was no punchline involved, just some very good songs. And apparently there’s just no stopping them because album number two is even better.

With the addition of Ray Suen on violin, Mariachi El Bronx’ sound is fuller than the first time around. You can also hear that they’ve grown even more comfortable in their roles… the arrangements are amazing, Matt Caughtran sounds better than ever and that trumpet just does me in every single time. Whether you’re talking about opener “48 Roses” or the mellow “Revolution Girls”, it’s all good. Hell, they even have a theme song now! Time to get out the sombrero, the tequila and let’s have a party!
Score: 9 out of 10
http://www.atorecords.com
http://www.thebronxxx.com

Polar Bear Club – Clash Battle Guilt Pride

- by Thomas

On “Clash Battle Guilt Pride” Polar Bear Club seems to have experienced a major growth spurt. From cub to bear so to speak. Their first two albums were already some of the best post-hardcore albums I’ve heard in recent years but this time around they’ve really upped the ante.

Opener “Pawner” starts off in a way unlike any other Polar Bear Club song … just some strummed chords on a lonely guitar with Jimmy Stadt belting over them, before bursting wide open towards the end. They then segue right into the catchy “Killin’ It” which comes with big guitars and plenty of singalong parts.

On the new album, Polar Bear Club has shifted even more towards heavy indie rock without losing sight of their hardcore upbringings. With cuts like “Screams In Caves”, “My Best Days” and “Life Between The Lines”, this has turned out to be a very solid album. Even better than what I expected from them. Contender for Album of the Year? Hellz yeah!
Score: 9 out of 10
http://www.bridge9.com
http://www.myspace.com/polarbearclub

Thrice – Major/Minor


- by Thomas

Standing still equals dying fast. It’s something that the guys in Thrice must really believe in because they keep on releasing albums at a frenetic pace without ever sounding the same. From their hardcore beginnings to the experimental “Vheissu” or to the let’s-just-try-it-all project that was “The Alchemy Index”, Thrice never ceases to push themselves.

So it can’t really be a surprise that “Major/Minor” is once again different from the stripped down blues-rock of “Beggars”. Maybe the changes are not as radical as they have been in the past but they’re there. They’ve dropped the bluesy influences and replaced them with some good old-fashioned grunge guitars and added a ton of groove. As a result, songs like opener “Yellow Belly” and “Blinded” rock a lot harder. Echoes of “Vheissu” and “The Alchemy Index” are present as well in “Anthology” or “Broken Lungs”.

“Major/Minor” finds Thrice in a comfortable position and they seem to be content with where they are. They’ve nailed down their sound, they play as tight as is humanly possible while still maintaining this raw feel and the album sounds amazing. I’m not sure how things can get better from here on out. Then again, that’s what I think every single time I hear a new Thrice album!
Score: 9 out of 10
http://www.vagrant.com
http://www.thrice.net

Saves The Day – Daybreak


- by Thomas

Four years after the release of the angst-driven “Under The Boards”, Saves The Day returns with a more positive outlook on life. “Daybreak” starts off with the five-part title track that hops from style to style, pretty much spanning the band’s entire career.

The same can be said about the following tracks. “Let It All Go” is poppy in the way poppy used to sound on “Stay What You Are”, still my favorite Saves The Day album to date. If you’re looking for something a little more crunchy however, try “Z” on for size.

2011 finds Saves The Day as a band who still doesn’t shy away from the occasional experiment, but who at the same time feel very much at ease with who they are. Honestly, one couldn’t ask for a more fitting closing piece to a trilogy of albums that started with “Sound The Alarm” and “Under The Boards”.
Score: 8 out of 10
http://www.razorandtie.com
http://www.savestheday.com