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.

Count Your Lucky Stars
strictly no capital letters

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.

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: 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
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
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)

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.

Count Your Lucky Stars
Buy It

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
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.

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

REVIEW: American Thunder Band – "Neither Here Nor Thayer"

It’s easy to get jaded. It’s especially easy to get jaded about music. When you listen to a lot of one kind of thing, you will eventually start to notice the same little tropes being used all the time. This isn’t a bad thing. It just makes it more fun when you find a thing that doesn’t hit the same notes every time.

That is what is great to me about American Thunder Band (formerly Texas Instruments). Neither Here Nor Thayer is a really solid 23 minutes of post-hardcore and emo. Unlike some other bands, they keep the punk roots of those genres in the front. While they play very close to those genres’ base, it makes it’s own name. I hear a lot of these types of records, but this one does not get lost in the shuffle. It’s pretty great is what I’m trying to say.
There isn’t a filler song anywhere near this thing. Making a full length with a relatively short run time only seemed to make American Thunder Band even more focused. Everything is precise and focused. When you hear the opener, “Spring Break 08 II,” you know what to expect. The tone was set, and every following song follows suit. “Good Hank,” especially vocally, has a sort of controlled chaos to it. Multiple voices all trading off and working together. “Eazy-E Can Eat A Big Fat Dick” is also fantastic. It has really nice guitar lead running through it, and gets really aggressive during the chorus. And, on the other side of the more post-hardcore instrumentation, “Butt World” is the most straight forward punk song on here.
This record is a fucking beast from front to back. Lyrically it’s introspective and moving. Musically, it’s agressive and cathartic. People will pigeonhole this as an “angry” record. That’s true to a point. People mistake yelling vocals for anger. There is a lot of emotion behind these songs, and you owe it to yourself to give it a go. Don’t fucking sleep on this.
Buy It (CYLS) (TIF)