REVIEW: Art Vandelay – “Dull”

dullLet’s get the obligatory shit out of the way. Something, something, Seinfeld reference, 1991/1992. Alright? Good. Art Vandelay has a really solid EP on their hands, especially for a band as young and early in the game as they are. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, though that isn’t the intent. To get right down to brass tacks, the bottom line is that Dull is a hell of a record.

Musically, Dull is a familiar sounding record. Without harping too much on genre tags, it’s very much a melodic punk record with copious touches of emo. It’s instantly recognizable. As far as contemporary bands go, there are a lot of commonalities with bands like Grown Ups, Tiny Moving Parts, and CSTVT. It’s melodic, but still gruff. The vocals are strong, and can go from a quiet, straight forward singing to a full on yelling. It’s exuberant and really sells the whole deal. This stands out most to be on songs like “Swell” and “Autodefenestration.”

Ultimately, there is a whole hell of a lot to like. Art Vandelay is a promising young band. They’ll accomplish a lot if they can keep building on this foundation. I’ll be excited to see how it goes. Really hard band to Google though.

Art Vandelay

REVIEW – RVIVR – "The Beauty Between"

RVIVR is a pretty polarizing back. It seems like even people who love this particular brand of punk rock have some kind of issue with this band. A lot of this can be placed on the cult of personality surrounding Matt Canino and Erica Freas. Everyone has an opinion about the band’s politics, and most people express it in very hamfisted ways.

That said, what about the music? Well, simply put, it is really fucking good. RVIVR have proven themselves to be one of the best, honest DIY bands going right now. They have the discography to prove it. Spanning multiple 7″s and EPs and the amazing self-titled full length, they have been putting out quality work since 2008. The Beauty Between only furthers that line.

“The Seam” opens this record like “Rain Down” did the last one. An extended instrumental intro before the vocals kick in. As an album opener, it more than sets the tone. Every song flows into the next one perfectly. The front half of this record is fucking loaded with greatness. Everything goes along briskly until the more mid-tempo “Paper Thin.” Everything after that (on the second half) just works together perfectly. If the first half was a bunch of stand alone songs, the second half feels like a theme record. While this is obviously partly true with the three part “Hunger Suite” songs, it follows through to the end of the record. Tracks 8 through 14 all flow seamlessly into each other. It’s actually really awesome.

There are so many songs on this record that could be considered “stand outs.” Most anything on this record could be readily made into a single. There were some uneven bits on the self-titled, but this record doesn’t suffer the same fate. Front to back, this album rules. “LMD” and “Rainspell” are certainly of note. Basically, RVIVR have once again proven that they are among the top tier of this kind of melodic punk.

Rumbletowne Records
Buy It

REVIEW: Bleeding Fractals – "The Dim Orange Lights"T

I’ve been meaning to review this damn thing since June. I get distracted. Anyway. Bleeding Fractals have been around for a few years, and they play a great bit of post-hardcore. If there is one thing I love, it is mathy punk rock. Bleeding Fractals provide that in spades. The Dim Orange Lights is 23 minutes of fantastic.

“Burning Styrofoam” kicks the record off in fine form. Loud, chaotic, but maintains a great melodic sensibility. Everything builds up to the album centerpiece, “Beautifully Awkward.” While this record never quite falls into full on emo territory, it certainly shares a certain sensibility. Personal, cathartic lyrics are the name of the game.

As a band, Bleeding Fractals are adept at making great music. The Dim Orange Lights is melodic in all the right places, but loud and mathy just the same. There is a lot going on here, and it sounds great. Production on post-hardcore shit, or punk in general, is always a little touchy. Too much and it sounds glossy and lame, too little and it sounds like shit. This record is just shiny enough, but never overpoweringly so.

This has had a good amount of spins for me since June, and I think anyone reading this should totally check it out. Don’t let a good thing pass you by. DIY bands need support, and this is a great chance to do so.

Bleeding Fractals
Stream/Buy (BandCamp)

REVIEW: Moon Bandits – "Straight Thinking Means Plain Speaking"

Punk rockers, no matter who they are, constantly love to talk about how self reliant and DIY they are. Post-1982 punk rock still maintains a certain level of the old hardcore ethics, and this isn’t necessarily a band thing. It does get troubling when things get real dogmatic real fast.

Like anything else, if you have to constantly try to convince people you are something, the smart money says you probably aren’t. This is what makes Moon Bandits as good as they are. This is a band that actually stands behind what they are talking about. As such, Straight Thinking Means Plain Speaking is a sincere and enjoyable record.

As a two piece centered around a banjo and a violin, this is a folk punk record through and through. The lyrics cover various topics, mainly sticking to a political bent, but also heavy on community. It is certainly accessible. While it is overtly political in places, it never gets hamfisted about the meaning.

As far as “folk punk” goes, it has a lot in common with bands like Rosa. However, it remains a two piece, and there is not a “full band” feel to it. Once again  this is basically banjo, violin, and vocals throughout.

As it is musically very simple (banjo, violin, and vocals), the lyrics are really the show here. There is a positive vibe about it. This is especially noticable in songs like “Community Love Song” and “It Starts Here.

The former having lyrics like this:

“We will learn from each other
As we build something pure
We’ll teach each other to live
Learn the meaning of secure
This is the end of servitude
We will learn to sweep our own floors
Teach each other to love
We need no less, no more”

The latter featuring the following lyrics:

“Cause it’s more than fuck the system man
It’s holding out your god damn hand
Cause it’s not pushing each other down
It’s pulling each other up”

Honestly, it is just a good record from start to finish. While Moon Bandits might suffer because of the bias against the genre in the overall punk world, they are certainly strong enough to make some waves. Folk punk may have lost some popularity, but bands like this are proof that there is still blood flowing.

Moon Bandits
Stream It/Buy It (BandCamp)**

**Download is pay what you want, but you can also buy a physical version directly from the band (link to that on the BandCamp)

REVIEW: Grass Widow – "Internal Logic"

There was a giant influx of throwback type bands a few years ago. It would be very easy to write Grass Widow as one of those bands, but that would be unfair. While they do share a similar aesthetic to those types of bands, they don’t rely on the gimmick as much as others do.

One of the bands strengths is the fantastic vocal harmonies. Raven Mahon (guitar), Hannah Lew (bass), and Lillian Maring (drums) share vocal duties. Generally all at once. This gives the relatively simple pop music a nice depth that is lacking in some of their contemporaries.
Musically, there is clear influence from a lot of things. You got some indie, surf, post-punk, and garage all filtered through some fuzzy indie pop. “A Light In The Static” serves as a great intermission track right in the middle. It features only guitar, and has a somewhat Latin (if not classical) feel to it. It is followed by a straight ahead fuzz rocker called “Spock On MUNI.” And therein lies the strength of this record. The great interplay between atmospheric tracks and straight ahead pop/rock tracks.
Basically, this is a document of a band honing in on their signature sound. Nothing about it would be out of place on their previous records (2009’s self titled and 2010’s Past Time). The band has a strength for writing bouncy, mid-tempo songs. It is a pleasure to see a band get better record to record. It is even better when they play to the strengths instead of trying to reinvent themselves and fucking up a good thing.

REVIEW: These Branches – "The Payoff"

Post-(insert genre) bands are always kind of hard to discuss. In the event of a post-hardcore band, Fugazi will always be name dropped. Or, also in the case of post-hardcore, people will call it emo. It is kind of a dumb thing that always fucking happens.

If we want to get involved with the whole taxonomy of music, These Branches are a post-hardcore band. Nick Hertzberg (Guitar/Vocals) and Bryan Batiste (Drums/Vocals) have made a great sounding record despite there only being the two of them. This is still a punk rock record, punk being something a lot of post-hardcore seem to have forgotten. The guitars can get a little noodly or jagged, and it is not a generic 4/4 type record. But, true to the purest aspects of punk, there is no bullshit here.

The four songs, while being rather involved musically, maintain a simple feel overall. This is a record that is about grievances. Be it personal or professional. The third track, “Purist,” is about how loyalty and community should trump commerce. It states it rather bluntly:

“Our hearts will go further than you’ll ever know.
We stick to our words, won’t follow the herd year by year.
You may call me a purist but we know the truth,
what you did and didn’t do.
A dollar meant more than the friends you abandoned it for.

The opener, “Profiteer,” is one of the strongest of the bunch. It is about the more shady side of the “business” (namely, club promoters). We live in a world where people are making a lot of money off punk music. Where DIY clubs are closing down, corporate sponsored clubs are on the rise. Like any corporate venture, they are more worried about money than art.

“Profiteer: won’t pay to play to you.
Learn to do your job, I’ll do mine, you do yours,
promoter before profiteer
Learn to do your job, i’ll do mine, you do yours,
artist before investment
won’t play to appease you”

Basically, we have a great EP by a great band. It is great to see DIY still being something important in the scene. Punk rock can still mean something. Pick this up.
P.S. I really like the cover art. Even if it is a little Punk-O-Rama Volume 8. Just saying.


“From these shitty jobs and moldy houses, shitty jobs and overdoses. The fact we survive at all is kind of a surprise”

Every goddamn time I start getting away from punk rock music, due to whatever bullshit reason, a band comes along and reminds me why I loved it to begin with. I was feeling that way in 2005, when fucking out of nowhere, I heard Latterman. It was their ” No Matter Where We Go…!” record. Instantly stoked. Two years later they broke up.

Fast forward to 2010, and I was starting to feel the same way. Luckily, RVIVR came out with their full length, and it is great. Now, I know everyone in RVIVR had previously been in other bands, but I do not know most of those. I knew that it had Matt Canino in it, and was more than a little interested. I would love to have had this record in the punk house years.

This is, more or less, not too far away from the type of stuff Latterman did. Melodic punk rock with (dare I say) little twinges of emo. Falls in line with the political/personal lyric split too. I recall reading a review of this, and having said review say something about how the lyrics sounded like “a self help book.” Is this a fair judgment, sure. But, a little posi never hurt anyone.

The split male/female vocals is what makes this stand out from Latterman. Erica Freas is the other vocalist (and also the guitarist), and she really sounds prefect for this type of music. The dual vocal stands out as a strengths on a number of songs, but the best being “Cut The Cord.” Her vocals are particularly stand out on “Real Mean” and “Cold In Your Bones.”

My one minor gripe with this record is the first track. I really can never get super stoked on, basically, instrumental only punk songs. Something about that always irks me. Had this record been one track shorter, and opened with “Edge Of Living,” I would not complain.

Honestly, I would feel bad giving this a 5 out of 5, because I feel like my Latterman bias would be partly responsible for this. But, I feel like that is what this record deserves. This record was in constant rotation for about 2 months. This was just what I needed. Fucking record of the year, right here.

Buy It! (Donation based download)
RVIVR (official site – WordPress)