I hate indie rock. No, that’s not true. I hate how “indie rock” has become shorthand for some really generic, boring bullshit. There are a million “indie rock” bands in the world, and it is so hit or miss. My immediate opinion of twothirtytwo was that, honestly, they could have gone either way. To lazily classify the band as one thing or another, twothirtytwo are an indie/alternative band who are pulling some moves from post-punk. The good news is that they are pulling the right ones.
The Hope We Had is the latest in a series of singles and EPs the band has put out. Having done a bit of a crash course of their older releases, I can say confidently that It is also probably their best work to date. The music sounds better. The production is better. While they may have lost some of the “punk” from the post-punk, it still works beautifully. This is an EP, and band, that would fit into a Venn diagram of bands like Joy Division, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Interpol, and The Killers. While those comparisons would work for the music as well, they are especially true for the vocals. Andrew Clift has a voice that is deeper than the genre standard. It has a more baritone timbre to it. His vocal delivery plays perfectly for this.
As an overall record, The Hope We Had is accessible enough to play for fans of music played on alternative radio. It also has enough interesting things happening to appeal to your standard, snobby indie fan. It is very much a column A, Column B type record. The first three songs cruise along, and a pretty standard genre fare. Things really get interesting on titular track, “The Hope We Had.” That song really allows the entire band to flex their musical muscle. The guitar interplay is perfect, the rhythm section holds steady. There is even a pretty sweet solo in there. It is a song that shows how much the band is capable of.
There was a lot being stacked up against twothirtytwo. They are in a pretty packed genre, and needed to make something really great to stand out from the pack. They pretty much nailed it.
Rose Coloured Records
**Record will be out on September 8, 2014**
Playing emo music in 2014 has to be kind of hard. The market is flooded. There are a million bands playing every conceivable variation of the genre that exists. This is both a blessing and a curse for new bands. On the plus side, it is easy to just jump in and get carried away in the stream. In opposition, it is also a distinct possibility that no one will hear/give a shit about your band. It is in this atmosphere that Serpents are releasing their debut EP, Everything I’ve Had, I’ve Lost.
Serpents are a band that plays melodic emo (with tiny touches of alternative). They are pretty adept at it too. All seven songs on this EP have enough energy to work. The music, though a bit disjointed, adds a fair amount of texture. The vocals are very much of the hardcore family. Yelled, strained, and with some breaks here and there. The music is decidedly not hardcore. It, for the most part, plays more calm and even. It works pretty well, but it does have some issues.
The biggest issue is that the record, for as good as it is, doesn’t sound very good. The production, in my opinion, is a little wanting. The guitar gets lost in the mix and the drums sound flat. This record would have benefitted greatly from some beefed up production. I mean, the vocals are there. Serpents need to let the music have a similar sense of muscle and aggression.
This isn’t to say that they should go full screamo band or whatever. Their current style is great. They just need to tighten it up, and get production that does it justice. Serpents is a band with a lot of promise. They have a lot of raw potential. Everything I’ve Had, I’ve Lost is definitely rough around the edges, but all the pieces are there.
Punk rock is a very versatile genre. No matter what the “ugh, it’s just three chords blah blah blah” assholes says. It is a genre that has evolved, adapted, and become more and more interesting over time. A lot of things have grown out of the bare bones roots the genre has grown around. Hardcore, grunge, and emo are especially interesting. Having themselves spawned a million subgenres. This is an important fact when talking about a band like Castaway.
See, Castaway is a punk rock band that is very heavily built on those subgenres. They make music that is forceful, but still has an underlying melody. It is heavy, but not in a particularly metal kind of way. It is hardcore, but combined with some elements of grunge and alternative. There is a fair amount of heavy distortion and effects that brings out a bit of a shoegaze influence. It’s a mixture of things that work together perfectly, but it isn’t really any one of those things.
If nothing else, Castaway are probably more hurt by the constant need to genre label everything than helped. Space To Run is not a record that is going to be easily boiled down. That isn’t a big deal though. The only thing that matters is if it’s good or bad, right? Rest assured, Space To Run is fucking good. It is a solid 24 minutes of great riffs, great vocals, and overall great songwriting. Think somewhere between Lifetime and Daylight.
Space To Run is also a deceivingly adult record. The music has a certain youthful exuberance to it, but the lyrics are more mature than the sound would lead a listener to believe. It is a personal record that doesn’t necessarily play like one. You can put this on and treat as a melodic hardcore record. Just get hyped up on the music of it. You can also play it as a emo record, and focus on the stories told in the lyrics. It’s a great example of how your mood going in can change how you hear things.
Don’t let all the genre name dropping get confusing. Space To Run is a record that anyone who likes punk rock, or any of the various offshoots, can get behind. Castaway is a band who knows how to make a fucking record. You don’t have to take my word for it though. Just give it a listen, You’ll love it.
BandCamp / Buy It
Look, a band called Pissghetti who has an album that shares a name with an Avril Lavigne lyric is stacking the deck against themselves. Like, that is a lot to overcome. Especially when it comes to getting people to listen. I have to admit, I almost passed on even listening to this record for those very reasons. It was a snap judgement that almost made me miss out on a pretty enjoyable record.
So Much For My Happy Ending owes a lot of it’s sound to a lot of places. It’s a punk/indie record that sounds like it could have been released in the mid-90s. In some places it sounds like a less esoteric Pavement, in others like a regular punk rock record. This band would fall smack in the middle of a Venn Diagram of punk, indie, and alternative. It might not be terribly original, but it’s a fun listen from the word go.
Most notable to me is the strong wit and self deprecation that runs through the record. Pissghetti is not a band taking themselves too seriously, but they’re also not a joke. They’re touching on topics of regret, feeling inadequate, and general ennui that any teenager or 20-something can relate to. It’s just being done with a level of smirking that makes it ok.
But, in the end, I suspect that I’m not the target demographic here. It’s a solid record anyway. If you like some punk rock in your indie and self deprecation in your lyrics, give this record a go.
I’m not quite sure what to say about this record. I’ve written and rewritten this review a few times already. I just can’t find the right tone. But, whatever.
Museum Mouth have made a great record. My first instinct would be to get all hyped up and yell about how great it is. I’m not sure that would really be appropriate. All told, Alex I Am Nothing is a deceivingly mature record. It’s also pretty fucking heavy. I can’t say for sure, but it is a record that feels more rooted in fact than fiction. Even if it’s not, and it’s just a made up story, there is still a level of honesty that shines through from start to finish.
I said “deceivingly mature” up there because of it’s overall sound. It would be very easy to mistake this as just another punk rock record. Karl Kuehn’s voice is nasally and snotty in some places, forceful in others. The overall tone of the music is lo-fi indie/punk. The songs are catchy as hell, and don’t sound as serious as they really are. It’s easy to miss it. But, in any event, Museum Mouth continue to flex their muscle when it comes to catchy, lo-fi indie/punk. Alex I Am Nothing tracks in a very logical progression from 2012’s Sexy But Not Happy. There are touches of garage rock, indie, punk, and 90s alternative throughout.
But, as far as talking points go, let’s hit the main one. This is a concept record. As such, I want to talk about this record as a whole. Hopefully I can do it without being overly reductive. Alex I Am Nothing is a record about unrequited love and obsession. Specifically through the lens of a gay man who has feelings for a not gay man. It starts with love (well, lust) at first sight. It ends with acceptance, albeit a sometimes bitter version of it. Everything tracks in a realistic, logical way. You can’t help but see yourself in the story. You can’t help but feel bad about what an absolutely shitty situation it is. Museum Mouth has accomplished a tremendous thing. They made a record that tackles an emotionally fucked up topic, and they made it accessible.
Now that I got the review out of the way, I can get all hyped up about this record and yell about how great it is. To wit, every other record coming out this year is on notice. This record is unfuckwithable, and the bar has been set pretty fucking high.
Self Aware Records
Shit, so Late Bloomer. There is a lot going on with them. They’ve taken influence from a wide array of places, and they have compressed it down to a cohesive sound that is theirs. Their sophomore full length, Things Change, find them squarely rooted in that indie/punk sweet spot that bands like Dinosaur Jr. or Hüsker Dü were doing in the late 80s/early 90s. Maybe some grunge thrown in there too. But, they have managed to do it in a way that avoids being some shitty throwback band. It is them playing with those influences, not ripping them off.
Things Change is a great record that plays pretty loose with genre rules. It’s clear that Late Bloomer isn’t concerned with making one thing or another, they are concerned with doing what works for them. They fucking nailed that. You can label and genre this band a million different ways, but you’d be wrong. It’s too punk to be indie, it’s too poppy to be post-hardcore, it’s to grunge to be punk. The beauty of it is that they’re really all those thing. It’s definitely a column A, column b situation. The seamless transitions from genre to genre make this record special.
On paper, this record should be a disjointed mess. In practice, goddamn it works. A song like “Children” goes right into “Mirror” without any issues. All three band members can sing. All the songs can carry a different flavor. It is all works because this is a very skilled band. This is a cohesive album, not a collection of songs. It wouldn’t work if Late Bloomer didn’t have the skills to adeptly mix it all together into one of the strongest full lengths I’ve heard this year.
Tor Johnson Records (Buy It)
Self Aware Records (Buy It)
It seems the first talking point that most people bring up when discussing Little Big League is the collective pedigree of the members. It makes sense, but it is a little boring to do, right? It never really explains the project at hand. Let’s just sidestep that stuff and focus on the record. It’s pretty simple when we look at it that way.
Little Big League have a great LP here. These Are Good People is a great example of a band taking an almost decade specific sound, but avoiding the whole throwback gimmick. It plays primarily like a 90’s indie/alternative record. In a very straightforward way in some places, but filtered through college rock or emo in some others. Sometimes the guitar is twinkly, sometimes it jangles. The leads are simple enough, but catchy and hooky.
The most dynamic thing on the record is the vocals. Michelle Zauner’s vocals range from delicate and soft to high and powerful to rough and yelled. It adds a very diverse layer to what would otherwise be very genre normative songs. Shit, we get bits of each in the first three songs alone. The album opens with “Lindsey,” on with very powerful vocals. “My Very Own You” has moments of the more delicate side. “Dark Matter” gets rough at the end. This carries on throughout. It’s not for everyone though. Michelle Zauner doesn’t have a perfect voice. It ranges somewhere between Mimi Gallagher from NONA and Caithlin De Marrais from Rainer Maria (other people also say Karen O. So there’s that).
Long story short, everything pretty much works on this record. It may be walking down a pretty well worn path, but it’s still a lot of fun. It’s a record that can be put on and enjoyed. It’s not trying to redefine a genre. It’s not trying to revolutionize a scene. It’s comfortable and a little familiar. There’s not a damn thing wrong with that.
Little Big League