REVIEW: Little Big League – "These Are Good People"

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
Tiny Engines
Buy It

REVIEW: Pity Sex – "Feast Of Love"

Pity Sex had to put out a great full length. There are a lot of bands doing this post-punk/shoegaze influenced thing right now, and to stand out in that field is a feat in and of itself. Pity Sex was able to do that here. They proved they had the chops to do it on the Dark World EP last year. Feast Of Love only pushes that further. They were able to build on that, and refine it further. The final product is really a treat to listen to.

Something has clicked on this record. It manages to play in the effect laden and heavily distorted stuff without getting lost in it. There are still great pop moments. It never gets as dense as some shoegaze bands typically do. It walks the line between the two worlds well. On the previous EP there was a disconnect between the songs Brennan Greaves sang lead on versus the songs Britty Drake sang lead on. That is no longer the case on this record. Everything feels more cohesive. The band sounding more unified really makes this record work.

But, while on the subject of the dual vocals, I really wish there was more interplay. That is my only issue. They only really share one song (“Drown Me Out”), save for a few choruses or whatever here and there. Even on that song it is just splitting up the verses. They fully utilize everything else. The dual guitars, though heavily distorted for the most part, are able to work together to create an interesting sound. The strong rhythm section is able to shine through and play a great part. The vocals sound great, but it feels like they are missing something.

But, that said, this is still a great record. It can jump around to various styles and genres without getting disjointed. There is some great 90’s alternative influence on songs like “Keep,” which gets as close to The Breeders territory as anything I’ve heard in awhile. There is the kind of indie/punk style showing on “Honey Pot.” There is some clean, shimmery guitar work on “Hollow Body.” While jumping around too much can lead to an unfocused record, they are able to keep it reigned in enough. It all works together. There really is a little bit here for everyone. You can call this indie rock, post-punk, dream pop, shoegaze, or really any other genre name you want. It does a disservice to say it is only one or the other though. It’s a record that showcases and melds many things together, but never sounds disjointed. That’s really the best thing about it.

Pity Sex
Run For Cover Records
Buy It

REVIEW: Lemuria – "The Distance Is So Big"

With the release of their third LP, Lemuria is in a weird position. They continue to grow creatively, but there always seems to be a push back from the fans. There was a sizable group of people who were disappointed by Pebble. Those people were missing out. The main complaint seemed to be that it didn’t sound like what they wanted. It would have been easy enough for them to remake Get Better. But it wouldn’t have been genuine.

That said, The Distance Is So Big is a great example of that genuineness. The record builds on the more mid-tempo, post-hardcore influenced sound the band started playing around with on Pebble. It is, however, a slightly happier sounding record. If Pebble was the blood and guts record, The Distance Is So Big is other side of it. It excels in that the lyrical content has gotten stronger.

This record is really a showcase of Alex Kerns’ growth as both a songwriter and musician. His vocals have gotten stronger, and his range has widened. While he still has his usual delivery in these songs, he has gotten away from the almost monotone delivery of the past. It is a great change. This is most noticable on “Clay Baby.” This isn’t to say that Sheena Ozzella doesn’t shine on this record. While only penning one song, the songs she sings lead on continue to be among the strongest. She goes between mellow and poppy at the drop of a hat. “Bluffing Statistics” being a great example of the former, “Scienceless” being a great example of the latter.

This is really a nice middle ground between Get Better and Pebble. The moments of indie pop absolutely shine. The mid-tempo, post-hardcore nails it. The 90s alternative influenced songs shine. This is in part to the spot on production of J. Robbins. The addition of Max Gregor on bass is also a key reason. He adds a great amount of depth to the record. While the previous bassists have been great, he seems to gel with the band.

More or less, this is the perfect record for Lemuria to put out. Even the people who were turned off by Pebble can get into this. The record is a great middle between the prior full lengths. In a just world, they would be the biggest band in the world.

Bridge Nine
Buy It

REVIEW: Belgrade – "Belgrade"

Belgrade has produced a great LP here. Taking cues from various genres, they have melded together a really satisfying full length. This is an almost picture perfect indie rock. While it plays a little like one of those throwback type records that were popular a few years ago, it never sounds shitty and dated. The sincerity is there.

Going with the retro-y indie pop, all the hallmarks are there. It never gets too dense, so it avoids becoming shoegaze. There is still a lot of fuzz effects. It also fluctuates over to a more spacey type of production. The echo and reverb are turned up. The guitars get pretty fucking shimmery at points.
A lazy point of comparison would be Pershing era Someone Still  Loves You Boris Yeltsin. Specifically on the the third song, “Truth Serum.” It reminds me a little of “Modern Mystery.” However, this manages to walk that line without crossing over. There is enough going on here to avoid it getting too kitschy. It’s got a vintage sound, by way of 1990’s alternative/indie. The record feels similar to those old post-punk records that Flood used to produce back in the day. It’s clean, but not sterile. The songs feature extended instrumental breaks, usually in regards to an into or outro. It stays consistently midtempo and restrained. The vocals are spot on. The harmonies are great. The backing vocals are strong, but never overwhelming.

Overall, this is a solid record. It has an appeal for all shades of indie rock and alternative fans. Given the line up of this band, that is really no surprise. There are former/current members of various Philly and Jersey bands. With the experience comes the ability to make tightly crafted songs with pop hooks and appeal. Check it out.

REVIEW: The Get Up Kids – "Simple Science"

I am a pretty big fan of The Get Up Kids. When they broke up in 2005, I was totally not stoked about it. I had never gotten a chance to see them live. In 2008, they announced their reunion and I was fucking excited.

It was just going to be some reunion shows. Then they announced that they were start working on new material. October 2009 rolled around, and the first of their new songs was initially released on Daytrotter. It was the song “Your Petty, Pretty Things.” Now, no, it was not an epic return to Four Minute Mile or Something To Write Home About. It was, however, a great fucking track. It would not have sounded out of place on Guilt Show.

So, in November 2009, I finally got to see them live. They played at The Metro in Chicago, and it was a great set. It was enough to tide me over, but I was still waiting for their new shit. April 2010 rolled around, and the new record finally came out. I did not actually get it until May, because Interpunk apparently does not understand how pre-orders work. Either way, it was 4 new songs. Fuck yes. Did it live up to the hype I had built up around it? Well, yes and no.

“Your Petty, Pretty Things” showed up here. It was a lot cleaner sounding than their Daytrotter session version. It was your average mid tempo pop rock song. Not the return to midwestern emo I was hoping for, but generally great. This is basically what the other songs sounded like. Mid-tempo, catchy, you know the drill. “Tommy Gentle” kicked in with the killer vocal harmonies you expect with this band. “Keith Case” was a heavily distorted, almost droney, type song. But, everything I loved about the band was their. The vocal harmonies, the catchy pop hooks. There was no way I would not love this goddamn EP.

That said, there were some things that bugged me. I was expecting something more in line with Guilt Show. This was not really met. These songs are more experimental. James Dewees definitely did more with the keyboard and synth sounds on this record. Generally it sounded great, but the closing song “How You’re Bound” suffers because the damn synth is so high in the mix. That coupled with it being a 6 minute song made it stand out, but not for the best of reasons.

Long story short, it is a solid EP. If’n you were a fan before, you will be able to get down to this. It is not going to bring them any new fans. But, I do not think that was the point. I will give it a 3.5 out of 5. Totally enjoyable, but not something that will be in heavy rotation. Still one of my favourite releases of the year. And, man, when they drop their new full length this winter, I will be right there to buy it.

Buy It Here

REVIEW: Against Me! – "White Crosses"

There is a lot of hype around this fucking album. Depending on where you frequent, most of it is bad. The more vocal people at Punknews are bashing the shit out of it. But, how does it really stand up?

Well, if you really love old AM! stuff, you will probably not like this much. It does not have the same feeling to it as Reinventing Axl Rose or As The Eternal Cowboy had. I will, however, say that I think this album is better than Searching For A Former Clarity and New Wave.

My biggest issue with this record is that the lyrics are overly repetitive. The song “White Crosses” felt overly long due to this issue. “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” also suffers a little from this problem as well. But, that song being the lead single makes total sense. It is a great song. Is it repetitive? Well, yeah. But, it does not suffer as a result of it. The message it is trying to get across is clear. And, man, that shit will probably go over live like a motherfucker.

There is a less “punk” vibe to this album. It feels more like power pop, or Replacements influence alternative. It is still an album meant to challenge the listener. So many “punks” are going to sleep on this record. But, I almost feel like that was the point. It seems like the band finally decided to do what they wanted, and fuck the people who are going to hate it.

As far as filler, this records has it. “Spanish Moss” kind of dragged ass. “Ache With Me” is a generally alright song. But, as Jelone over at Punknews called them, the “chickuh-ah” vocal sound was fucking odd. It did kind of ruin the song. I kept waiting for Tom Gabel to pull out a Rod Argent and ask “what’s your name? who’s your daddy?” (as a side note, The Zombies were a fantastic band, but that fucking line always sounded kind of douchey to me. I wonder if it sounded as bad in 1968).

Minor gripes aside, this record is average. Nothing stands out as being totally fucking awesome. But, nothing stands out as being really fucking horrible. There are some missteps, but they are not too noticeable. In the end, i will give this album 3 stars out of 5. An average score for an average album. However, if this album is a sign of things to come for the band, I will look forward to it.