REVIEW: Girl K – “Girl K Is For The People”

Ok. This one might be a bit of a ramble.

I went to a show at The Hideout on October 5, 2019. The line up was Girl K, Slow Pulp, and Deeper. This turned out to be a memorable show for me, but I’d only see that in hindsight. It turned out to be the last show I saw pre-pandemic. It was also the last show I’d see in Chicago before heading to the godless north that is Minnesota. I’ve been wanting to talk about Girl K for a minute, and I’m happy to finally have the chance. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say they are one of my favorite bands going in Chicago.

My introduction to Girl K was in 2019 when the Reader did a quick write-up sometime before the release of For Now. Originally a solo project for Kathy Patino, Girl K was already a full band by this time. I was first able to catch them at Empty Bottle in June 2019. It was a Divino Niño record release show. And, for as great as Divino Niño and Bnny are, it was Girl K who really reignited my interest in the music coming out of Chicago. I was solidly old and suburban by that point, so I wasn’t keeping tabs on much of what was “local” at the time. Aurora was a million miles away from Chicago when it comes to music.

Anyway, no one is here for storytime. Let’s get down to brass tacks. Girl K stood out to me because of how unabashedly pop they were. Chicago music has always bent towards experimental sounds. There is a lot of fuzzed out psychedelia influence in that city. There is a lot of post-punk. Girl K wasn’t making that kind of music, but they never seemed out of place in that context. Girl K Is For The People only cements that.

The first thing about the new EP that jumps out to me is the influence of New Wave. You could put “Hah” or “Departures” on any 80s themed playlist, and no one would flinch. The way Patino’s voice plays off the keyboard on the former is a thing of beauty. The other is how many great hooks they can fit in a song. This was true in 2019 when the chorus from “Speed Racer” embedded itself in my head, and it’s still true in 2021. Like, that “give me love, give me proof, show me trust, speak truth” line in the titular song is gonna fucking stick forever. And that guitar on “Real Mad” is such a killer.

Girl K Is For The People feels like a game changer for this band. Sunflower Court and For Now are both great, and I’ll love them forever. But this new record sounds like a band on the cusp of something big. There are a handful of bands from Chicago that will always sound like home to me. Girl K is one of them.

Girl K
Take This To Heart Records
Bandcamp
Buy it

REVIEW: Parting – “Unmake Me”

I’m trying to find a way to start this that doesn’t include listing off bands and records from the “emo revival” (ugh). So, to yada-yada the intro, Parting is Keith Latinen from Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate), Ben Hendricks from Annabel, Gooey Fame from Dowsing, and John Guynn from Hawn & Son. The record is released by Count Your Lucky Stars. Ok, are we good?

Let’s get super up our own asses for a minute. Where did we land on the emo revival? Like, what is the “in summation…” statement? I know what it means to me, but what is the consensus? It’s been over a decade. There has to be something. I don’t bring this up because I’m a miserable bastard trapped in nostalgia. It’s a fair description, but it’s not the whole reason. Parting is an interesting bookend kind of a band. The members of this band helped codify the “revival” sound. They have released all-time genre classics. It only seems fair that they would put out a record to kind of tie everything together.

Unmake Me is the kind of music I made this website to talk about about. It’s reductive to say the record is genre “greatest hits” type gimmick. It’s not not that, but there is more to it. There are small touches throughout that give the record legs. Everything just works. From the electronics pulsing in “He’s Obviously Beekeeping Age” to the gang vocals closing off the record on “Living Proof.” Unmake Me speaks for itself better than most records can. It would be easy to float by on bona fides. It would be easy to shit out a record that’s just a sum of it’s parts. This isn’t that. This is a band who knows what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well.

It’s almost impossible to talk about Parting without addressing the Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) elephant in the room. The songs were written by Keith Latinen, it was put out on his label, and it has a similar vibe in a lot of places. The songs have more of a pop edge that his previous catalog did. The songs on Unmake Me also have a very frank delivery. It feels very adult. I don’t know if 20-something me would connect to a song like “Ratt Michards” or “He’s Obviously Beekeeping Age” the way 36 year old me does. Those songs are both an examination of fleeting moments. One is the realization that you’re pissing your time away. The other is the desire to have something last just a bit longer. These are songs that speak to an angst, but not necessarily the kind this genre is known for.

Parting have a debut that doesn’t sound like a debut. It’s a record made by people with years in the game. It’s a must have for people who love this genre. Grab the 10″ if you can.

Here’s to hoping I never have to use the phrase “emo revival” ever again. Let’s leave the wave designation to the ska kids.

Parting
Count Your Lucky Stars
strictly no capital letters
Bandcamp

REVIEW: Overo / Asthenia – “Split”

2020 has been a disaster, and independent music is not immune. The live show ecosystem has fucking crashed. This split from Overo and Asthenia is a product of that. It was originally meant to be supported by a Japanese tour in November. That didn’t happen, and here we are.

I’ve talked about Overo before, and it’s absolutely no surprise that their songs are both fantastic. Their sound harkens back to the post-hardcore/screamo scene that was really hitting it’s stride in the 90s. They wouldn’t sound out of place in the Gravity Records stable of bands. Their sound flies effortlessly between quiet and loud. Delicate and intense. The guitars and vocals from Lindsay Minton and Brendan Stephens work so goddamn well in concert with each other. They have a great give and take, and that would be the star of any show. That said, I want to talk about the rhythm section of a minute. The low end on these songs absolutely propel things forward. All the credit in the world to Mercy Harper and John Baldwin. The former on bass, and the latter on drums.

“Haunted by Heat” is an example of how you can have a disjointed song flow together by sheer force of will. It’s a segmented song where the different parts are punctuated by a combined blast of guitar, bass, and drums. It’s a song about loss and coming to terms with the end of something. Engulfed in flames, left to pick up the pieces. It’s followed by a 47 second ripper called “Near the End.” The lyrics are simply “she told me that love is not enough.” It’s direct and to the point. Things end, no matter how hard you try.

Asthenia were definitely not on my radar prior to this release. I have to admit that I am largely ignorant to the punk and hardcore music coming out of Japan. But, goddamn, I need to pay attention. Their style of post-hardcore works perfectly on a record with Overo’s. They kick off their side with “人間たち” (Humans). Hiroshi Sasagawa told FLOOD that the song is “various punchlines thrown together, kind of like At the Drive-In style.” It’s followed by “幽霊たち” (Ghosts), which is about grinding routine. It’s about how you end up floating through your life without living at all. It jumps from calm guitar and soft vocals to heavy distortion and screams. The quiet/loud, slow/fast dynamic absolutely drives the point home. You can be lulled into false comfort easily, and you have to fight against it.

There is a level of angst that is almost universal. You can feel it in these songs. We’re all treading through almost insurmountable levels of bullshit. Music like this serves as a catharsis. We have to fight through it. We’re witnessing the end of a lot of old systems, but we can build something better. We fucking have to.

Overo
Asthenia
Count Your Lucky Stars (US)
Scully (US)
Middle-Man (US)
Forge (JP)
strictly no capital letters (UK)
Pundonor (ES)
LilacSky (NO)
Polar Summer (RU)

(This record is a joint release by eight labels. Choose your own adventure depending on where you are located. Asthenia is putting it out on their own Forge, but I don’t have a link. Check their website, I guess?)

REVIEW: Cape Chacon – “I Can’t Muster It”

Indie pop gets little attention and even less acclaim. I don’t understand why. It’s not challenging in any musical way, but it’s a treat to see how bands exist within the parameters. We live in a post-Twee As Fuck world. It’s been codified and troped to hell, but it still has a vibrancy that a lot of punk offshoots just don’t. There has been a kind of renaissance in recent years with bands like Kitty Kat Fan Club and the Jeanines getting a fair amount of attention. Cape Chacon should be right up there with them, and I Can’t Muster It is a perfect addition to the indie pop canon.

Things start strong with a one/two punch. “All My Best Friends” lays out the thesis of the record, and “Crushin” introduces the conflict. Is that too “literary analysis” for a pop record? I’m just going to quote their Bandcamp bio then. “Indie rock that’s kind of like when you forgot your pencil in sixth grade but ur bff had an extra.” It’s a record about interpersonal relationships, both in celebration and reflection. “Antiques Roadshow” is about thanking someone for being great during a rough time. “LIbertarian” is about the challenge of staying friends with someone who is kind of shitty. It’s not super high stakes, and it’s relatable entirely for that reason.

My favorite thing about this record is how the songs aren’t structured like normal pop songs. I mean, shit, you might not even get a proper chorus in some of them. But the songs are still hooky as fuck. They also play with your expectations. Like, I’m going to go back to “All My Best Friends.” The song builds exactly how you would expect in the first verse. In a genre standard, a fast guitar part would have kicked in immediately. We get two more verses instead. But, goddamn is it great when that guitar kicks in right at the end. It makes an expected bit sound fresh as hell. It made me smile, and I love when that happens on the first song.

Cape Chacon weren’t on my radar, but they absolutely should have been. There’s sweetness to these songs, and a lot of heart. It’s pure bubblegum, and it fucking rules.

Camp Chacon
Bandcamp

REVIEW: Oblomov – “Steady Drip of a Broken Spout”

It’s hard to make an engaging emo record these days. I don’t want to get full “old man yells at cloud” about it, but I’m a little jaded when it comes to the genre. We have spent the better part of the last decade awash in shitty Kinsella rips and skramz nonsense. It’s hard to stand out, and it’s hard to write about. What does a band need to do to rise above the noise?

A lot of the more interesting bands to me are coming out of Canada. In fact, most of the stuff that jumps out from my inbox is coming out of Vancouver, BC. Oblomov is a trio that definitely represents that. Their sound is jagged and rough, but not completely abrasive. The easy description of their sound would be emo, but the kind that remembers it’s roots in punk and hardcore. They are extremely dynamic, and they can fucking go.

Steady Drip of a Broken Spout is a hard record to pin down. The record starts with “Feel Alive.” It has a strong Jets To Brazil vibe. “Airplane” hits at the halfway point, and it’s definitely a turning point in the record. It introduces spoken word bits all while maintaining the driving punk edge. Things can change at the drop of a hat, and it’s refreshing as hell. You got your requisite twinkly guitars, but the distortion adds an uncharacteristic edge.

A lot of this kind of music is guitar driven, and Ethan Reyes is certainly no slouch. It’s the rhythm section that stands out to me though. Darren Mountain and Colin Osler absolutely hold it down. Their bass and drum propel the record. It would be easy to let things spiral out of control, and I have to give them credit for reigning things in. Especially in the more intense moments. It’s the same thing that bands like Algernon Cadwallader did so well.

The emo revival thing has come and gone. The genre isn’t the new hotness anymore. We have gone back to the underground. This is a record that embodies what that means to me.

Bandcamp/Buy It

REVIEW – AANTHEMS – “Blood Fortune”

aabf

The cliff notes version of AANTHEMS would be that they are a duo from Vancouver, BC. They play a style of punk rock that borrows from post-hardcore, pop punk, and a little noise. They are a drummer and bassist, and they both do vocals. They will probably appeal to people who are stoked on the Latterman family of bands. But that’s dry a dry description, and also kind of boring. Let’s over-complicate things. AANTHEMS first popped up on my radar about five years ago. Their 2015 EP, Old Dogs, was a release I was really stoked on. It was a great 11 minutes of punk rock. They followed it up with another EP the year after. 2020 brings their debut full length, and it’s as solid as you would expect.

Blood Fortune is an angry record. These are songs about inequity, and the shortcomings of modern culture. These are well worn topics for a punk rock record, but goddamn do we need it right now. The vocals work especially well for that. There is a hardcore delivery to them. There is a lot of shouting, and a lot of pissed off energy. The band refers to their vocals as howling and yelling. That is very apt, and goddamn does it work. Especially given the overall sound of the music itself.

Not a lot of punk bands would base their sound entirely on bass and drums. This bands has a sound that is very heavy on the low end, but not in an oppressive way. It works so fucking well. I’m not encouraging everyone to start playing your bass like it’s a guitar, but AANTHEMS is proof that it can work. It is such a specific sound, and it really makes this record stand out. I think this record would suffer if it stuck to the traditional guitar/bass/drum set up. It would be just another melodic punk record in a world full of melodic punk records. Instead, we got a bass that propels the songs forward while the drum relentlessly drive the point home.

I’ve heard a lot of punk rock records over the years. It takes a lot to get me really invested in the genre these days. A lot of bands are content being a copy of a copy of a copy. AANTHEMS is not that kind of band. They bring an interesting sound to the table, and they fucking nail it. You wants a complex record of working class anthems, or just a great record to yell along with? This should be 100% your shit.

AANTHEMS
Early Onset Records
Bandcamp

 

REVIEW: Melkbelly – “PITH”

mbpith

Melkbelly is a noisy post-punk band that turns standard rock songs into a mess of lo-fi experimentalism. I’ve had a passing interest in them for a while now, but they never really clicked for me until I heard Miranda Winters’ solo record back in 2018. It put a lot of the songwriting into perspective. There are some great melodic songs buried in the noise, sludge, and experimentation.

Pith, as a record, is the deconstruction as final product. You have so many moments where you think this record is going to go in an expected direction, but then it just turns left. The album opens this way. “THC” is a straight forward, melodic song that devolves into extended noise. “Sickeningly Teeth” just keeps changing tempos to the point that it’s an uncomfortable, jittery listen. “Kissing Under Some Bats” is a three minute song that turns into the guitar repeating a single chord for damn near the rest of the seven and a half minute run-time. All while the background just layers and layers until it is a wall of noise. But, even at its most out there, the songs remain coherently songs. To keep this review Chicago centered, this is what I think U.S. Maple would have sounded like if they gave a fuck about theory.

It’s a very real possibility that someone from Chicago will read this and label me a suburban asshole who is missing the point. And, to be honest, they’d probably be right. All I know is that I love this record. It’s not an easy one to define, but it’s definitely worth a listen. Especially if you have an ear for melodic music that is covered in noise.

Melkbelly
Wax Nine Records
Carpark Record
Bandcamp

 

REVIEW: DayWaster – “DayWaster”

dwdw

Some of my favorite version of punk and hardcore come from places where punk and hardcore aren’t huge. A lot of great stuff has come out of the Midwest and the South, and we don’t really give it the attention it deserves. DayWaster seems like one of those bands. My knowledge of Paducah, KY is limited to driving through it on my way to Tennessee, but I can’t imagine there being a lot of youth counterculture there.

DayWaster is a hardcore band for assholes like me who generally don’t like the genre. It’s a hardcore band made up of people who are probably too talented for the genre. Every song, even the simplest sounding ones, have some shit going on in the background that you might miss if you focus on the overall package. “DW” opens the album with an intense Dead Kennedys vibe. “Stuff The Leg” has this start/stop riff going throughout that adds a stuttering tension to the song. It’s these little things that sell the record for me. You’re expecting some by the books 4/4 bullshit, but you get these little leads and shifts that add a lot of nuance and dimension. I know that sounds like faint praise, but I don’t mean it in a condescending way. In a genre where the norm is “angry dude yelling over simple chords,” this kind of stuff stands out.

So, I mean, I don’t know. I’m definitely not the target demographic for this record. I only have a passing interest in the genre. I don’t come from a small town scene. But, despite all that, this record worked for me.

DayWaster
Bandcamp/Buy It

 

REVIEW: bauwaves – “u r everything”

bure

You will see a lot of SST Records references when people talk about Bauwaves. I hate starting with that kind of reference, but it is very apt. From a musical and production standpoint, there is more than a little Hüsker Dü and Dinosaur Jr influence to this band. Most of the songs on u r everything would definitely fit on a playlist of stuff from Flip Your Wig or You’re Living All Over Me. Maybe throw some Lemonheads in there too. If that sounds appealing to you, go listen to the record. It can really be that simple. But, as always, I need to make everything a whole thing.

One of the greatest parts of early alternative rock was the way bands were willing to take chances. More specifically, that they allowed themselves to be vulnerable in a way that punk didn’t necessarily allow up to that point. Punk was still young, and in the throes of the nascent hardcore scene. The genre still had an angry, nihilistic edge to it. Alternative rock came out of that, but made some changes. Sonically, the music was still punk. Lyrically, it was something a bit different. The lyrics were more personal. The bands were able to express other emotions. It’s that tradition that Bauwaves is part of.

u r everything isn’t a fun record. It’s not a happy record. In fact, it is a profoundly sad record. These songs are Lew Houston telling you exactly what he was going through in detail. It’s a record about depression. It’s a record about angst. It a record about knowing that you are fucking up your life, but you just can’t seem to stop. That is what makes the record so goddamn engaging. You are listening to someone using music as a way to deal with trauma. It is a record of catharsis. You can hear this all over the record, but I think “Years Later” and “It Ain’t Real” are the strongest.

On their debut, Bauwaves make a 30 year old style sound fresh and vibrant. This style of alternative rock has largely fallen out of fashion, but it’s nice to see some people still care. Bauwaves are students of the genre, and they have added a great piece to the overall canon.

bauwaves
Salinas Records
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Strangers – “Good Enough”

sgeEP

I (relatively) recently was talking about Long Knives. When discussing them, I mentioned how much I liked Kris Moya’s songwriting. As luck would have it, I have more of their music to talk about. I should have talked about this back in May, but I’m the worst reviewer. Anyway. Strangers is Moya’s solo project. Being responsible for all the instruments and vocals, save for some of the backing vocals, Good Enough is a record that speaks directly to their influences. I feel like that is both appealing and intimidating for any musician. Your project will sink or swim based on your vision and voice. The proverbial buck stops with you. Luckily, this record swims.

One of my favorite things about this record is that it taps into a different part of the greater punk genre than Long Knives does. That band was firmly on the emo side of the fence, this project is definitely more on the indie rock side of things. Good Enough would sound right at home on a label like Salinas or Don Giovanni. This is the kind of music that will always appeal to me. To be honest, if you like that kind of stuff, I don’t know how you couldn’t find something to like on this record. You want a hooky pop influenced song? “Strangers” and “30 Day Free Trial” are there for you. An energetic, uptempo jam? “Like Fun Gay, Not Angry Gay” has got you covered. Shit, “If The Apocalypse Comes, Beep Me” closes the record in a way that does both.

My favorite kind of song is an undercover sad one. I think Good Enough is a record that speaks to that. Even an upbeat sounding song can have a bit of bummer introspection. “Like Fun Gay, Not Angry Gay” speaks to that. It’s got a triumphant sound to it, but lyrics like “When my body no longer feels unworthy of taking up space // When my brain is no longer filled with shame” speak to the struggle that has being overcome. See also: “If I’m busy then that’s why I’m still around // I keep myself busy, but it brings me down // I’m out of control when I’m alone” in the record closer. To me, that’s that kind of thing that makes the record worth listening to. Anyone can make an indie punk song. Actually using the genre to say something is when songs become great.

Strangers is a project that just appeals to me in almost every way. By any metric I have available, I would say this record has been super slept on. I hate RIYL statements, but this record would certainly appeal to fans of stuff like All Dogs or Swearin’. Ok?

Strangers
Bandcamp/Buy It