REVIEW: Long Knives – “This Is Your Life”

longknivestiylI think I love debut releases the most. They’re are my favorite things to listen to. I know this sounds pretentious as fuck, but I think debuts are the most pure recordings of a band. They’re full of promise for things to come. Long Knives have a great thing going on their debut EP, This Is Your Life. It’s a great introduction to a band with a great future.

Long Knives could be filed under a bunch of different genre tags, and would live up well to any of them. The most common thing you’ll see is some amalgamation of pop punk, emo, and indie rock. The “Recommended If You Like” name drops would have to include The Anniversary and The Get Up Kids. Throw a bit of The Promise Ring and Rainer Maria in there too, maybe? They cover a lot of bases, and take bits and pieces from a lot of places. Everything is tied together with driving, punk rock guitars.

“Bones” and “Unwelcome Guest” kick This Is Your Life off with a really high energy one-two punch. Long Knives are great at writing catchy, hooky songs. They have a strong pop sensibility. Those two songs show it, and really set a great tone for the EP. Even on a midtempo song like “Home” has a lot of kick. I also really love the vocals on this record. Specifically the way Kris Moya and Matt Bartels play off each other. The former is singing lead, but the latter provides great support. Harmonies, call and response, whatever. It works.

Long Knives have me really excited to hear what they do next.

Long Knives
Count Your Lucky Stars
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Football, etc. – “Disappear”

fbedFootball, etc. are a band that have consistently produced some of the most engaging examples of what indie and emo music have to offer. They definitely don’t seem to get the full credit they deserve. Especially in a world where everyone is content to be just another emo/punk band. There is something to be said for subtlety. There is something to be said for nuance. Football, etc. have plenty of both, and it makes for really good music.

Football, etc. has showed a great amount of growth over the years. They established their sound back in 2009, and have spent the intervening years perfecting it. They were a scrappy young band when First Down and their split with Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) came out. Disappear shows a band that has continually grown and refined their sound. Football, etc. have a sounded rooted in classic Midwestern emo, but they’ve become a cornerstone of the contemporary scene.

Disappear really solidifies that for me. It’s an EP that is really representative of what the band has done and can do. Lindsay Minton has gotten stronger as a vocalist, both in delivery and clarity. The added string section sounds on “Sweep” and “Open” add an interesting flavor to the sound. Everything else is pure Football, etc.. One of the best things about Disappear is the production. Football, etc. really made the right choice by working with J. Robbins.

This is a great EP from a great band. Football, etc. should be one of the biggest name in modern day indie and emo music. Let’s get on making that happen.

Football, etc.
Count Your Lucky Stars
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) – “You Will Eventually Be Forgotten”

eeiwaleywebfIt’s been five years since Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) put out a full length. Let’s be real though, it felt like a lot longer than that. And, oh, what a full length it was. What It Takes To Move Forward is a beautiful album from start to finish. It would be a fair question to ask if they could make a follow up that even meets the quality of that record. The answer is yes. Yes they fucking can, and have. You Will Eventually Be Forgotten has met and exceeded the expectations that led up to it. And of course it did. Keith and Cathy Latinen are amazing at what they do, and no one should be surprised.

It’s a little hard to write about Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) without touching on a few different subjects. The first being the sheer number of bands they exposed people to via split releases, tours, or releases on Count Your Lucky Stars. Like, it was through them that I found Dowsing, Joie De Vivre, and Football, Etc. The next obvious point is the sheer volume of releases they’ve put out. In the five years since the first the LP, they have released a boatload of 7 inches, either as splits or as EPs. Things have more or less been building to You Will Eventually Be Forgotten.

While not a huge departure from the earlier releases, You Will Eventually Be Forgotten is notable for how the songwriting has changed. Their older songs lived and breathed on more abstract, esoteric lyrics. The lyric here are entirely literal. The metaphors have given way to straight forward speech. These are lyrics that you can connect to outright, at face value. “Things Not Worth Fixing” is very much a story of getting out of college, having to move back home, and work a shit job that you feel you are above. “It’s So Much Darker When a Light Goes Out Than When It Would Have Been If It Had Never Shone” is a song about remembering an event celebrating grandparents’ anniversary, and how both grandparents became so intertwined in life that one shortly followed the other in after death. Album opener, “Ribbon” proposes that “there is always enough to get things done.” It bookends with “The Promise That Life Can Go On No Matter How Bad Our Losses” asking “is this still worth putting our lives on hold for?”

This is very much a record that tells 10 distinct little stories. The lyrics read like a biography of sorts. It covers childhood memories. There are stories of the unsure, exciting parts of an early relationship. It covers finding love and getting married. It is triumphant in parts, somber in other. It’s the mixture of exuberance and ennui that really makes the whole thing work.

The real crux of the release is the music. As it stands, it is not really anything unexpected for them. But, much like the songwriting itself, the music has been reigned in a bit. It has definitely built upon the songs from earlier in their discography, but has done so without retreading the sound they, and many other bands, have tread. It is going to be right up the alley of the genre purists who care more about style than substance, but it is also a record that bleeds authenticity. There is a certain level of brevity to these songs, and the album as a whole. You Will Eventually Be Forgotten is a tidy 38 minutes. It is much more focused than the double LP that preceded it. What It Takes To Move Forward clocked in at just about an hour. The difference in length is notable because both albums have the same number of songs.

“We Are People Here. We Are Not Numbers” is a great example of them recognizing the strengths of the older releases, but still evolving. It is a song that pushes the quiet/loud dynamic. Not in a Pixies or college rock way, but there is definitely a noticeable contrast. The song that immediately follows it, “You Have to Be So Much Better than You Ever Thought” is another song that has some bite to it. It feel more like a deep cut from their earlier releases. It kind of sits in the same territory that “So How Many Points Do You Have ‘Till You Gain, You Know, the Ultimate Power?” did. Otherwise, there are plenty of songs that will fit nicely in the “sad jams” tag they use on their BandCamp page.

So, to wrap this overly long review up, just go order this. Get it on vinyl, get it on cd, or get it digitally. Whatever works best for you. It is one of the best releases you’ll hear this year. That is a fact.

Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate)
Count Your Lucky Stars (Buy It)
Topshelf Records (Buy It)
BandCamp

REVIEW: Foxing – “The Albatross”

foxingI feel like we almost have to mention Foxing when discussing what emo music is in 2013. They represent how the genre has expanded to include a lot of outside influences. There is a whole lot to like about The Albatross. A genre defining record it isn’t, but it is a great snapshot.

The Albatross is an inclusive and encompassing record. It manages to seamlessly combine emo, post-rock, indie, and math rock. It can go from simple and twinkly to complex. There are touches of horns and strings throughout (though primarily on the interlude tracks). The vocals range from delicate to gruff to yelling depending on what song is playing. Foxing seemingly took a kitchen sink approach to song writing, choosing to do what they want instead of constraining themselves to one thing.

Foxing’s output to this point has been limited, but strong. A few splits and an EP showed that the band is very capable of making damn good music. The songs on this record sound genuine and sincere. But, as with any debut full lengths, there are some weak spots. There are a lot of references to the sea/ocean (which should be expected on a record called The Albatross, I suppose). The metaphors start to wear a bit thin towards the back half of the record.

I don’t know why I’m not really excited by this record. The production is great, the music is spot on, and it’s an overall enjoyable listen. The songs rise and fall in all the right places. The guitars get all twinkly right where they’re supposed to. The outside instrumentation adds some beautiful accents. There just isn’t anything that immediately stands out to me, especially with the slew of great genre records that came out this year.

It’s a good record, but I just don’t know if it’s a great record. But, given that this thing is already starting it’s second pressing after barely a month, it’s fair to say a lot of people might disagree. Maybe I’m just missing something.

Foxing
Count Your Lucky Stars
BandCamp
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REVIEW: Football, etc – “Audible”

So I know I just reviewed a Football, etc release a little over a month ago (specifically their split with Plaids), but we’re talking about them again. Coming off the strength of that split, we have their sophomore LP. Audible is everything I wanted a full length from this bands to be. I mean that without any hint of hyperbole.

When I reviewed their debut LP back in 2011, I was a little bummed on certain parts of the record. None of those things are issues here. One of the greatest improvements was on the production side of things. Teaming Football, etc up with Ed Rose was basically perfect. Everything sounds dynamic. Lindsay Minton’s vocals (and guitar) finally stand out. They are crisp and clear. That’s not to say the rest of the band doesn’t show up. Shit, everything sounds crisp and clear. Mercy Harper’s bass and Edward Reisner drums also shine.

What I’ve always liked about Football, etc is the songwriting. It has always stood out to me for how concise and exact it is lyrically. A lot of indie/emo bands tend to fall into overly elaborate lyrical traps. I have no problem with it really. It’s just a lot easier to connect to a lyrically straight forward song. “Blackout” and “Return” are perfect examples of this. Both are strong, and convey clear messages. I know it’s a weird thing to be stoked about. Why write a page when you can express your feelings in a paragraph?

In that spirit, I’ll cut to the chase. This is one of the best records of the year. Recently I’ve gotten a bit burned out of emo records. Football, etc got me out of that funk. They made a record that I could get really excited about. This should be right near the top of everyone’s lists.

Football, etc
BandCamp
Count Your Lucky Stars
Buy It

REVIEW: Dowsing – “I Don’t Even Care Anymore”

Dowsing are back with a new full length. As expected, it pretty damn good. Given how consistently good this band has been, the big question is how does I Don’t Even Care Anymore stack up to their past work? It’s got a lot to live up to, especially after how great It’s Still Pretty Terrible was. The good news is that is stacks up pretty well. If I’m honest though, nothing on this record instantly jumped out at me the way the last record did. It’s not that the record is bad. Quite the contrary. I Don’t Even Care Anymore is really quite good. There was just something missing for me at first listen. I guess, for me, this record is a grower.

The main reason for my lukewarm feelings toward the record is that it’s very similar to their previous full length. That makes sense. Why change things if you have a sound that works? It made the experience harder for me though. I was constantly drawing parallels to the old instead of focusing on the new. That’s a shitty excuse, I know.

Objectively, everything you would expect on a Dowsing record is here. They aren’t breaking any new ground here. They continue doing the poppy indie/emo they are so adept at playing. Of course it’s good. It’s just kind of a no-brainer. Similar to the newest Dads’ EP, I think the hype on this got a little out of control. That doesn’t take away from the fact that this record is good. Is it as essential as It’s Still Pretty Terrible? Maybe. Only time will tell.

Dowsing
BandCamp
Count Your Lucky Stars
Buy It

REVIEW: Football, etc. / Plaids – "Split"

I always get excited about split records. It’s basically a perfect format. Even if it’s just a quick split 7″. Since we are long past the days of the cheap-o compilation cds/records, these remain one of the best ways to find new bands that you might otherwise not be exposed to. This is the case for me here. I’m a big fan of Football, etc. I’ve not heard Plaids before now. I knew what to expect from the former, but had no idea  how I’d feel about the latter. This record is great.

Football, etc., who have a few splits under their collective belt already, came strong out of the gate. “Down The Field” is a great song. People who already know this band know what to expect. It’s a great calm, melodic indie/emo song. Lindsay Minton’s vocals sound stronger than ever. One of my issues with their full lengths was how her voice tended to get lost in the mix. They stand out perfectly. The same can be said for the music in general. Basically, everything here is stepped up. The song is strong, but it never loses the frailty of the prior full length.

Plaids was totally new to me. Hailing from Nottingham (UK), they also have a good number of splits going. This is a fucking punk rock band. They play around with sort of mathy, post-hardcore. That said, they manage to stay accessible. I don’t mean that in a weird way. These aren’t pop songs. Plaids’ two songs on here (“Eleven” and “Twelve”) are both dynamic and driving. They are aggressive. It’s a bit of a shock coming off the Football, etc. song. Not knowing this band, I was expecting another calm, Midwest emo-ish song. Two quick punk rock songs was a great surprise. This is a band to watch, man.

There is so much to love here. I can keep talking about it, but fuck that. Just go get it.

Football, etc.
Plaids
BandCamp (Football, etc.) (Plaids)
Buy It (CYLS) (sncl)
Count Your Lucky Stars (US)
strictly no capital letters (UK)