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.

Overo
Asthenia
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: Oblomov – “Steady Drip of a Broken Spout”

It’s hard to make an engaging emo record these days. I don’t want to get full “old man yells at cloud” about it, but I’m a little jaded when it comes to the genre. We have spent the better part of the last decade awash in shitty Kinsella rips and skramz nonsense. It’s hard to stand out, and it’s hard to write about. What does a band need to do to rise above the noise?

A lot of the more interesting bands to me are coming out of Canada. In fact, most of the stuff that jumps out from my inbox is coming out of Vancouver, BC. Oblomov is a trio that definitely represents that. Their sound is jagged and rough, but not completely abrasive. The easy description of their sound would be emo, but the kind that remembers it’s roots in punk and hardcore. They are extremely dynamic, and they can fucking go.

Steady Drip of a Broken Spout is a hard record to pin down. The record starts with “Feel Alive.” It has a strong Jets To Brazil vibe. “Airplane” hits at the halfway point, and it’s definitely a turning point in the record. It introduces spoken word bits all while maintaining the driving punk edge. Things can change at the drop of a hat, and it’s refreshing as hell. You got your requisite twinkly guitars, but the distortion adds an uncharacteristic edge.

A lot of this kind of music is guitar driven, and Ethan Reyes is certainly no slouch. It’s the rhythm section that stands out to me though. Darren Mountain and Colin Osler absolutely hold it down. Their bass and drum propel the record. It would be easy to let things spiral out of control, and I have to give them credit for reigning things in. Especially in the more intense moments. It’s the same thing that bands like Algernon Cadwallader did so well.

The emo revival thing has come and gone. The genre isn’t the new hotness anymore. We have gone back to the underground. This is a record that embodies what that means to me.

Bandcamp/Buy It

REVIEW: Long Knives – “The Subject”

It’s been a almost four years since Long Knives released their excellent debut EP, This Is Your Life. It showcased a promising band, and was one of my favorite records of 2015. It’s been a long wait to get a full length, but it finally happened. Long Knives initially stood out to me because they sounded different. A lot of the emo bands at the time kind of felt like Kinsella retreads. Long Knives didn’t. Not to me anyway. And now, years later, a lot has changed. The “emo revival” hype has long since tapered off. It’s now kind of do or die when it comes to the genre. Either you go for it, break up, or changed sounds to better ride the wave of gets the most hype. I’m glad to say that Long Knives falls in the first category.

The Subject is a record that really shows Kris Moya’s growth as a songwriter. They are able to tackle complex matters in way that, while emotionally heavy, is also engaging and inviting. Personal songwriting is always difficult to judge because, I mean, there is no benchmark to measure against. You are listening to someone express their experience. These songs. while speaking to an entirely different experience than I have, still resonate. It ultimately comes down to feeling. Kris Moya, via the band’s Bandcamp page, addressed the records as such:

“The whole process of writing and recording Long Knives’ first full length ‘The Subject’ took about 4 years to finish. It was a lot of work. It emotionally and mentally drained me. There were times I wanted to scratch the whole thing because I wasn’t happy with it, but I’m really glad I stuck it out because we are proud of the songs. During the writing process, I made myself vulnerable because I wanted to raise awareness about mental illness, gender dysphoria, homophobia, white privilege, abuse, and consent. I know that these things can be triggering to others and it certainly is for me as well, but I want my voice to be heard so thank you to those that actually listen to this album. It truly means a lot.”

To the musical end, The Subject Is certainly still inline with bands like The Anniversary or The Get Up Kids. Especially with keyboard. That is a bit reductive though, I suppose. Songs like “Normal” and “Golden Lady” definitely skew toward that kind of hook heavy pop stuff. On the other end, “Temporary” is crunchy as fuck. “Home” and “Anticipate” are on the more ballad-y side of things. There is a lot to offer, and this band absolutely nails it.

Long Knives
Bandcamp/Buy It

REVIEW: Overo – “Cold Concrete​ / ​Shattered”

overo

Overo is a band that I was stoked about the minute I heard they existed. The band is made up of Lindsay and Mercy from Football, etc., Brendan from Perfect Future, and John from Rose Ette. I’m not going to bore you with a lot of introduction and bullshit. Suffice to say, that is a goddamn line up.

The release here is a two song demo/single. The two songs featured are solid post-hardcore, but they also embraces the emo and punk connections. Both have a strong quiet/loud dynamic, but in notably different ways. “Cold Concrete” nails that dynamic with the vocals. “Shattered” with the music. Lindsay Minton and Brendan Stephens have very different vocal styles, but they work really well together. “Cold Concrete” has the former’s singing delivery going head on into the latter’s more yelling/screaming delivery. “Shattered” features more vocal interplay, with both singing at the same time.

I really enjoy how the song play with the post-hardcore style in different ways. “Cold Concrete” has a punk aggression to it. It’s a short song that drives to it’s conclusion. There isn’t a lot of posturing, but there are great riffs. “Shattered” is more jagged and angular. It starts with a minute of delicate guitar work before it crescendos into a mathy kind of jam. The guitar lead is fantastic and the shift at the midway point is a thing of beauty.

The long and short of this is simple. You’ve got a band with a killer lineup making two of the strongest genre songs I’ve heard in a minute. If there was a release more in my wheelhouse, I sure haven’t found it yet. Here’s hoping we get more stuff from this band.

Overo
Bandcamp / Buy It

REVIEW: The Flips – “Exactly Where I Should Be”

I’ve spent a lot of time playing the genre purity game. Especially with punk bands, but especially with emo bands. I’ve overlooked, or written off, a lot of bands because of this. I never really trust bands who sound too clean, or too close to whatever “mainstream” sounds like. I mention this in passing because, despite being local, I probably wouldn’t have ever listened to The Flips. That said, I’m glad I did.

The Flips have been kicking around since 2011. They’ve got two full lengths, two EPs, and a split under their belt. In order to do my due diligence, I went back and listened to everything. There is a lot to like, and the band has shown a lot of growth. Their previous releases were raw and loud. Based on their latest EP, Exactly Where I Should Be, you probably wouldn’t expect it. The band had talent and heart though. It’s what stood out to me. They were still finding their voice, but they had potential. The first EP kind of had a Knapsack vibe going through it. The two LPs both had a darker, riffier sound. But, starting with Better Days, you could see the band starting to shift. Then the split with Pelafina took it further. It was, up to that point, the poppiest the band had sounded.

Anyway, that was a long walk to get here. Long story short, Exactly Where I Should Be is a shiny slab of emo influenced alternative rock. You know exactly what you’re getting as soon as “What’s the Plan?” starts. This is a record that is full of hooks. And that is exactly what makes a slower song like “Sadder Days (For Gene & Jo)” stand out. The former being a guitar jam that has a Jimmy Eat World vibe. The latter is built around the keys, and takes it’s time to reach the end. They are both definitely standout tracks. They also serve as great bookends. This isn’t to say the remaining three tracks are filler. In fact, I’d throw “Right Now” up near the top as well. It, along with “Promise Ring” and “The Point,” all propel the record forward with a great mix of emo, alternative, and pop punk. On a technical side, I love the production and the mixing. Everything sounds crisp, and nothing gets lost.

So, I mean, let’s wrap things up here. Exactly Where I Should Be is probably my favorite batch of songs The Flips have put out. I like bits and pieces of the older stuff. My main criticism, outside of a few lyrical missteps, was that the songs were all too long. That isn’t the case here. Even with a six minute song, this record fucking goes. Give it a listen if you haven’t already.

The Flips
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Two Knights – “Effing”

tkeffing

Two Knights, the duo of Parker Lawson and Miles DeBruin, are the epitome of a duo that knows how to fucking go. Find me a stronger two piece that plays this kind of music. Effing is the kind of record that will get pigeonholed as an emo record, but that only accounts for a small portion of what it is. It is an energetic, mathy, punk rock record that knows how to get the point.

The songs on Effing are all pretty short. Save the closer, “Lex Loser,” all these song barely break the two minute mark. Even that song is just shy of 03:21. It’s remarkable because these aren’t simple, punk rock riffs. “Stoned Legends Of The Hidden Temple” and “Lex Loser” are pretty aggressive in the guitar department. A bunch of nerds would be yelling about “twinkling” if they were slower. “I Ate an Entire Pizza During One Episode of The West Wing” is on the other end. It’s way more straight forward, A to B type song.

Two Knights have basically nailed the gimmick. They are a great blend of indie, emo, math rock, and punk. Two Knights are the kind of band that knows exactly what they want to do, and they know exactly how to do it.

Two Knights
Skeletal Lightning
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Football, etc. – “Corner”

fecornerlp

It’s kind of hard to write about Football, etc. at this point. I been writing about them for about as long as I’ve been running this blog. I first talked about them when I wrote up their First Down EP. I also covered their previous two full lengths (The Draft and Audible), their Disappear EP, and their split with Plaids. There isn’t much to say about them that I haven’t already said sometime in the last six years.

Football, etc is one of my favorite bands to have come out of that late 2000s emo scene. They were right there at the start of the emo revival (or whatever), and they’ve outlived many of their peers. In fact, Football, etc. are one of the bands I most associate with the current genre. They’ve put out consistently great records. They do that second wave emo sound better than most current bands going. They are a torchbearer. Corner is another example of all that.

Their third full length, and first on Community Records, is a distillation of the growth the band has experienced. While the songwriting and vocal performance from Lindsay Minton is still the goddamn show, it has become more and more about how the trio works together. Allowing certain pop influences to shine through have made the rhythm section of Mercy Harper and Daniel Hawkins an unstoppable force. “Foul” and “Nutmeg” are perfect examples of how the band can absolutely fucking go. Minton’s guitar is still out there twinkling, but things really pop when she gets some distortion going. Her vocal delivery sounds as strong as ever. There is a much more dynamic range than on records past. A song like “Space” wouldn’t​ be horribly out of place on a record like The Draft or Audible, but it certainly would be the outlier.

Corner is the sound of a band that has matured beyond being a “genre band.” You can still call them emo, and you’d be right. Football, etc. are much more than that though, and it’s great to see that they’re still growing.

Football, etc.
Bandcamp
Community Records (USA)
Barely Regal (UK)
Stiff Slack (JPN)

REVIEW: Sad Blood – “Legion Of Gloom”

sblog

Hey, remember when I wrote about Sad Blood back in November? No? Well, here is a refresher. I ended the review being kind of a snarky and saying:

“Will Sad Blood be another one of those one-and-done bands that flooded my inbox a few years ago? I hope not. I’d like to hear a lot more from them, because Ultimate Worrier is a hell of an introduction.”

Past me can stop worrying though. There is a new EP from Sad Blood. I would have talked about it back in May, but I’m the worst. Anyway. It’s really good. Legion Of Gloom is the logical next step after Ultimate Worrier. It’s still a Doomsday Device of emo music loaded with pop hooks. There is still a lot of Dowsing and Pet Symmetry going on here, but Sad Blood are making it theirs. They sound more comfortable and have really found their feet.

If anything, the music has gotten more on the power pop side of things. It’s actually very interesting to see the band start making those moves. There is almost a dissonance between how the music sounds and what the lyrics are. The music has only gotten poppier and more melodic. The lyrics remain ever in bummer territory. I like that kind of thing though, so it definitely works for me. They add lighthearted humor behind it though. It certainly helps when they are talking about feeling nothing.

Also, the handclap gimmick on “Ten More Years” is my favorite thing.

Sad Blood
Bandcamp / Buy It