REVIEW: Kill The Intellectuals – “All This Time I Was Writing An Album And I Thought I Was Just Living My Life”

ktiwritingI’ve written about Kill The Intellectuals before. Twice, actually. I’ve gone on about the prolific nature of Angela-Grace Foster as a songwriter. I’ve rambled on about genre tags and other music classification bullshit. I don’t really need to say too much more along those lines.

The thing that strikes me most about Kill The Intellectuals is that it’s an ongoing project made by someone who is basically still a kid. I know that sounds shitty and dismissive, but I don’t mean it that way. It’s actually one of Foster’s biggest strengths. They haven’t fallen into the trappings that older musicians have. The songs don’t have some jaded subtext. The lyrics are honest in a way that most musicians aren’t. It’s rare to find anyone who is so open in their songwriting. And it’s even rarer to find a musician with such a defined voice at such a young age.

Anyway, let’s talk about the record. All This Time I Was Writing An Album And I Thought I Was Just Living My Life fits very well in the overall oeuvre that is Kill The Intellectuals. Mixing the straight forward folk with the spoken word and experimental sounds, it is a really great representation of what they’ve been doing up to this point. It’s still a lo-fi, bedroom recording type record. It’s the little touches though. The overdubbed vocals on “Vacant Rooms” make for a really great sounding harmony. “Love Is The New Ibuprofen And I Am Hooked” is bookended with backmasking and spoken word. The two “Love vs Anxiety” songs show how a strong voice can carry otherwise simple and straightforward folk songs.

My opinion on Kill The Intellectuals is pretty simple. I’m always excited to hear something new things, and I hope to keep hearing more for a long time to come.

Kill The Intellectuals

REVIEW: Kill The Intellectuals – “Something About A New Exciting Future Called Promising Untold Happiness”

ktiuntoldhappinessI wrote about Kill The Intellectuals back in October. That I’m doing so again already speaks to the prolific nature of Angela-Grace Foster as a songwriter. Foster’s output in 2014 averaged to about a song a week. 51 songs across four releases. It’s remarkable that anyone can have that much material in such a short span of time. It’s even more remarkable that the quality doesn’t waver.

Something About A New Exciting Future Called Promising Untold Happiness is a much different kind of release than I Hope You Die Painlessly – With Laugh Lines And Wrinkles Around Your Eyes was. The main difference is in the overall aesthetic. It’s still lo-fi. It still has some echo and reverb in places. It just doesn’t have the same abrasive and aggressive tone. The electronic samples and sound collage influences don’t really appear either. It’s a much more straight forward type of record.

Something About A New Exciting Future Called Promising Untold Happiness lives and dies as a lo-fi, folk record. It, like it’s predecessor, is a great example of the bedroom/home recording thing. The songs are very raw sounding. They’re built around vocals and guitars. That doesn’t sound like much on paper, but it’s really important. The simpler the structure, the more strengths and weaknesses stand out. Songwriting deficiencies are easier to spot, and a concept can wear thin.

Foster doesn’t fall into these holes though. The songwriting is engaging. Every song plays a part in the overall story, and everything feels personal and open. It’s a style of writing that doesn’t work for everyone. This level of honesty and bluntness could come across as cheesy if done wrong. What I’m saying is that delivery matters, and everything is delivered perfectly. These songs are all specific to certain situations, but they manage to transcend that. “Anoxemia” is a song that, while being about a specific person doing a specific thing, comes across as a universal. To me it feels like a song about growing and trying to reconcile the past. That is a theme that gets covered a lot. It’s there in “Future Letter To My Past Present Self.” It’s there in “Another Needle Stuck In The Carpet.”

The experimental aspects that showed up on I Hope You Die Painlessly – With Laugh Lines And Wrinkles Around Your Eyes might have fallen by the wayside on this release, but the honesty and openness remain. And that is the kind of shit that matters.

Kill The Intellectuals
Tyburn Woods Collective
Buy It

REVIEW: Kill The Intellectuals – “I Hope You Die Painlessly – With Laugh Lines And Wrinkles Around Your Eyes”

ktiKill The Intellectuals is a project that lives in the margins. It would easily to classify as lo-fi folk music. It’s would also be easy to classify as bedroom music. Indie, folk punk, whatever. It’s not important. I don’t want to spend a lot of time classifying. Because, like any other piece of art, it should be about substance over style. It’s about how genuine it is. Sincerity goes a long way. Genre, production costs, and any other bullshit trappings don’t. What matters most is the heart and soul. Angela-Grace Foster, as Kill The Intellectuals, has made a record that is entirely heart and soul.

I Hope You Die Painlessly – With Laugh Lines And Wrinkles Around Your Eyes is a record that defies classification. It can be delicate and frail, it can be loud and abrasive. The vocals can range anywhere from singing to yelling to spoken word. The music can go from voice and acoustic guitar to voice over electronic samples and sound collage aesthetics. Songs like “Car Collisions” are built around acoustic guitar and electronic samples. “Fucking Up Yur Spine For Fun” is just static and speech. It’s a record that is emotional and disjointed in a lot of ways.

Overall, it seems to be a general portrait of the artist. Reflections on death and god. It is a record where you are completely exposed to someones entire psyche. It’s not an easy record. It’s not a background noise record. It is a record that demands your attention.

The guitar clips, there is a sustained tape hiss throughout, the vocals turn around on you at the drop of a hat. It’s so fucking hard to explain, but it’s also one of the purest records I’ve heard in a long time. Please, do yourself a favor, give it a listen. This is one of the most engaging 35 minutes of music I’ve heard this year.

Kill The Intellectuals
Buy It

REVIEW: Shitty Weekend – “Shit Week”

shittyweekendI love a little levity in punk rock. Bands who have a “message” or whatever tend to fall into some pattern of bullshit sloganeering. It’s totally fine to be on some serious shit, but it’s also fine to have fun with it. You can be political without being up your own ass. You can write a personal song without being schmaltzy. It’s the sarcastic, dry humor in the face of serious topics that made me enjoy Shitty Weekend.

Shit Week is a snotty, sarcastic record. It runs the gamut in song topics. There’s politics, job dissatisfaction, religion, and even a bit of punk rock navel gazing. It’s all about the delivery, and the band does it well. Yeah, it may come across a bit immature, but there is a lot of heart. Underneath it all is a very universal idea. To me that message is simple: you don’t have to kowtow to anyone else’s ideas or beliefs. You know what works best, and goddamnit, make it count. It’s as pure of a punk rock record as I’ve heard in a while. Yeah, it gets a bit goofy. Yeah, some songs aren’t “message” songs or whatever. And, yeah,  I may be reading too much into it. But that’s kind of my gimmick.

While it is a punk rock record, it does vary a bit stylistically. Being made up of members of The Taxpayers and Transient, the music hits quite a few stylistic points. It tends to stay more hardcore inspired and quick paced. It never loses the melody, but it definitely plays on the loud and fast idea. There is some influence of more folk punk in some places, and a bit of a old rock n roll vibe as well. The flourishes from the horn section add a lot of flavor to it as well.

Overall, it’s a damn fine record. It’s a bit out of my wheelhouse, and certainly not an all the time record. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good. If nothing else, it makes me nostalgic about why I got into punk rock to begin with. However long ago that was. Check it out.

Shitty Weekend
Secret Pennies Records
Buy It

REVIEW: Scrap Kids – "I Just Want To Play In Living Rooms"

I wish I would have gotten this review done sooner. This EP is really fucking solid. Scrap Kids is a one man folk punk band. Lawson David Bloom is drawing on a whole gamut of influences, including those that wouldn’t be expected for this particular genre. It is a great situation to be in.

To label I Just Want To Play In Living Rooms as just a “folk punk” record doesn’t seem fair. Yeah, it is, but there is more to it than that. There is so much fucking heart in it from the get go. “Soul Searching” is a hell of an opener. Simple and to the point. The use of electric guitar near the end, and the backing vocals, really ties it together. This is deftly followed up by “Sour Notes.” It is more of the same. Great, personal lyrics that are easily relatable and furthering the narrative of trying to find your own reason. I know that I make it sound contrived, but it is really great. When the yelling and gang vocal kick in near the end, it seems cathartic as hell. “It’s A Peej Thing” and “Brainwashed” are fucking killing it. There are elements of hardcore and ska in these songs that almost come out of left field. It is totally welcome, and doesn’t seem out of place. “Brainwashed” has a serious Battle Hymns era Suicide Machines or Against All Authority vibe to it. That is fucking killer.

I can’t stress enough how strong this EP is. People who are stoked on any version of “punk rock” can find something to like here. These are personal songs that also have a political bent. It never gets clubbing or overbearing. Punk rock needs more of this in the community. Don’t sleep on this.

Scrap Kids

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: Among Giants – "Truth Hurts"

So, folk punk is still a thing. It is a pretty fucking expansive genre, which probably explains the longevity and continued popularity. You have everything from the anarcho-punk rooted stuff on Plan-It-X to the more personal, emotional stuff. Like any other punk related subgenre, folk punk is both loved and derided by people depending on which part they hear. Among Giants fall into the latter variant, it is pure emotion that is devoid of the sloganeering bullshit. In short, Truth Hurts is a great record that has a lot of heart.

Among Giants play a great mix of indie, folk punk, and pop punk. The record flows at a pretty consistent pace, and it hits way the fuck more than it misses. It encapsulates the general angst of post-college aged kids, which is a much harder thing than it seems. From around 1994-2000 music for this age group was primarily disaffected and wallowing in some post-modern idea of “irony.” The music geared to that age range these days is similar in it’s jadedness, but remains optimistic. This is the strength of Among Giants as a band and Truth Hurts as a record.

“Late Nights” is one of the best album openers in recent memory. As it should, it almost perfectly sets the emotional tone for the remainder of the record. “Get Your Shit Straight” and “What’s The Point?” are able to paint optimism and frustration in a way that avoids getting preachy. The whole record plays to this narrative, and it is much to the strength of the overall thing.

While some points can get a little samey, Among Giants are able to keep things interesting by mixing the acoustic guitar and a guy stuff with the great full band stuff. This split occurs sometimes within single songs. It makes for an engaging listen. It might not reinvent the wheel, but it sure is good. This shit rules, ok?

Among Giants
Stream/Buy It (BandCamp)

*I’m still unsure if this is a proper full band, just a single dude, or some variation thereof. So, I just defaulted to a full band. So, yeah.