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)

Best of 2011

So, it is that time. Year in review lists are always kind of annoying. I will make a list now, then look back and disagree with myself later. Sometime in march, I will be pissed at my list. But, before I make the list, I guess I should do a quick thing.

2011 was an interesting year. It was really good at times, and really fucking terrible at others. A lot of stuff associated with this blog fell on the good side. Back in March, I dropped the Emo Is Not Dead article. Initially, it was just going to be a stupid article (not unlike the other “articles” I have written). It seemed like that shit struck a chord. As a result, I got a bunch of people coming here, I started getting promos, and I got my first troll. So, you know, that was pretty sweet. Thank you to all the awesome people who sent me promos, linked to shit I wrote, sent leads about things to check out, and just generally helped me make content happen. Ever since March, I have kind of been forced to feel like this blog is actually something worth doing. Specifically, thanks to Count Your Lucky StarsTiny EnginesSquare Of Opposition, and Topshelf for putting out so much awesome shit this year. I look forward to giving you all my money in 2012.

On the flip side, the latter half of this year has been a shit storm. Goofy shit kept happening, from the stupid MS diagnosis back in August to the current broken molar / swollen jaw I have now. Medically, this year has been stupid as fuck. The reason why there was a drop in content is due in large part to all that. I know that seems like a cop out, but it is what it is. I try my best to keep up with shit though. Whatever. On to the lists.

In no particular order, the top records of 2011 were:

FULL LENGTHS:

  1. Restorations – S/T
  2. Boris Smile – My Love Powered by 10,000 Practice Amps
  3. House Boat – The Thorns Of Life
  4. The Copyrights – North Sentinel Island
  5. Football, ect. – The Draft
  6. Candy Hearts – Everything’s Amazing And Nobody’s Happy
  7. Andrew Jackson Jihad – Knife Man
  8. Algernon Cadwallader – Parrot Flies
  9. Into It. Over It. – Proper
  10. P.S. Eliot – Sadie  
EPS / SPLITS / OTHER:
  1. These Branches – The Payoff
  2. Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) – Home After Three Month Away
  3. Grown Ups – Hand Holder
  4. You, Me, And Everyone We Know – Things Are Really Weird Right Now
  5. Family Lumber – Look To The Sidelines
  6. Dowsing – All I Could Find Was You
  7. Dikembe – Chicago Bowls
  8. Lemuria / Cheap Girls – Split
  9. Circle Takes The Square – Decompositions – Vol I. Chapter 1. Rites of Initiation
  10. Bonjour – Motivational Suicide
HONORABLE MENTIONS:
  1. Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) – On Time Spent Waiting…
  2. Lemuria – Pebble
  3. The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
  4. Laura Stevenson and The Cans – Sit Resist
  5. Thursday – No Devolución
  6. Spraynard – Funtitled
  7. Stage Fright Therapy – Stealing Salt Shakers Again
  8. Deer Leap / The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die – Are Here to Help You
  9. Timeshares – Bearable
  10. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Belong
OK. That is it. Anyone from Chicago going to be at the Dowsing / E!E! (IWALE) show tomorrow, I will see you there. Look for the giant dude wincing in pain. That would be me. Stupid tooth.
In closing, fuck all the bands that I like who broke up this year. Especially you, Snowing.

REVIEW: Football, etc. – "The Draft"

In my very short review of the Football, etc. EP, First Down, I was very clearly stoked on it. It was four songs of great emo music. They were coming across as one of the best contemporary bands in the genre. I still stand by that opinion, but maybe the honeymoon period is over.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this new full length is still good. The same points of praise still stand. The problem is, in full length form, it just does not feel the same. Having listened to this record many times, there is something about it that does not sit right with me. While the band is certainly adept at making great sounding 2nd wave style emo, they do not quite branch out beyond the formula of the genre. The average length of all 10 songs is about 3 minutes (shortest being 1:22, longest being 4:26. The rest all fall somewhere in the 3-3.5 minute mark). All are mid-tempo. More or less, you have 10 songs that are all pretty similar sounding. While it makes for a cohesive half hour (give or take) of music, it can also get kind of boring. Couple this with the fact that Lindsay Minton (guitar/vocals) tends to draw every word out (on damn near every song), and you have a recipe for a slightly sub-par release. My last minor gripe is the artwork. It looks ok, but kind of like someone resized the picture to LP sized on an old version of MS Paint.  And, it is more than a little Cure-y

But, this is by no means a bad release. The songs are generally good. Lyrically, the band remains spot on (with the exception of Lambeau). The honesty and conviction are there, but it is tempered by the somewhat repetitious music. Of special mention, the songs “X’s And O’s” and “Hail Mary” are fantastic. “Flood” might be my favourite track on the whole record. This record is a great example of how strong lyrics can make up for less strong instrumentation.

I know this review seems kind of negative, but I don’t mean it too. This band is still very strong in regards to the music they play. It is easy to draw lazy comparisons to Rainer Maria or to the vocal stylings of Kim Deal. But, my previous statements on this band still stand. If the whole post-emo indie rock thing is your bag (as it is mine), there is no reason why you should not own this record. There are some flaws, but it is still a great record overall.

Official Site
Bandcamp Page (stream some stuff)
Count Your Lucky Stars (U.S. Release)
strictly no capital letters (Europe release)

Emo Is Not Dead

Music, like everything else, is cyclical. A genre will come out, get over saturated, bastardized, and generally turned into a joke. The real aspect of that scene will go underground, and the scene will thrive again. This happened with ska (rather, ska-punk). That scene blew the fuck up due to pop acts like No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger, and the like. Due to the commercial expansion, and later collapse, lots of things of the scene were lost. Moon Ska Records closed it’s doors. Ska became a punchline. Music for band geeks to cover cheesy 80’s songs. It became a joke. However, with bands like Streetlight Manifesto, The Chinkees, The Slackers, and The Toasters (holy fuck, those dudes have been around forever), the scene managed to stay active. If not more underground.

The same is true for emo music. Like many people my age, I was first exposed to the genre via the early/mid 2000’s explosion of popularity. Shit, Jimmy Eat World managed to get a hit record. I was exposed through bands like The Get Up Kids, Thursday, Taking Back Sunday, and At The Drive-In. Those bands put out some great records. In some cases, I do not consider them “emo,” but they were certainly influenced by it.

Meanwhile, there was another big thing happening in the scene. It was the Drive-Thru Records era. That label was putting out record after record of radio ready “pop-punk” that was constantly getting classified as emo. Bands like New Found Glory, The Starting Line, The Movielife, and Something Corporate (ugh), were all getting tagged as being emo bands. Those bands were to emo what Reel Big Fish and Save Ferris were to ska. Ok for what they were, but totally muddying the scene. From the Drive-Thru bands, you had the further bastardization of what was emo. Most notably with bands like My Chemical Romance and Fallout Boy. The genre tag was getting applied to things that had nothing to do with the genre, and in some cases nothing to do with the greater punk scene in general.

Well, as is wont to happen, the scene became a joke. It became more of a term to describe bands catering to kids with shitty haircuts, a penchant for self-harm, and day-glo shirts. Bands like Braid, Mineral, I Hate Myself, Heroin, and the extended family of bands stemming from Cap’n Jazz fell by the wayside. Now it was shit like “I wish my grass was emo, so it would cut itself” or “how many emo kids does it take to change a light bulb? None, they would rather cry in the dark.” What the fuck happened?

Well, the real scene went underground. The mainstream thought it understood what emo was, while being totally unaware. Through labels like Count Your Lucky Stars Records, Square Of Opposition Records, and Tiny Engines Records, we are finally seeing good records coming out to wide release. There is a bunch of talk about there being a “Midwest emo revival.” I disagree with the phrase because, for some of us, the scene never died. There were always bands we could stand behind. But, of the newer crop, there is Snowing, Castevet (now CSTVT), Grown Ups, Perfect Future, and Football, Etc. They are plenty more, but those are my personal favourites.

It seems unlikely that the mainstream definition will ever change to being realistic of what the scene historically was (and currently is), but I do not think anyone expects it to. But, at least we can take back what is ours.

See also: Article  @ Chicago’s Newcity Music:
The New Emo: It’s back, living underground and thriving in Chicago

*the picture for this entry is of CSTVT. I do not know the source, but I got it from the band page for them on Punknews.org. Sorry.

REVIEW – Football, etc. – "First Down"

Man, I am so clever. Posting a review for a band called Football, etc. on Super Bowl weekend. Also, totally fucking up the review schedule I set. Anyway.

See, There was a time when the word “emo” did not bring to mind pictures of kids with swoop haircuts, lip piercings, and unfortunate day-glo tees. Back in the mid to late 90s, the 2nd wave of emo produced a rather impressive series of records. I mean, we are talking about big bands like Friction, Braid, Cap’n Jazz, American Football, Mineral, Rainer Maria, Camber, Texas Is The Reason, The Promise Ring, Sunny Day Real Estate and the first few releases by The Get Up Kids (to name a few). Yeah, this was what music taxonomy nerds would call “post-emo indie rock,” but my point remains.

Hailing from Houston Texas, Football, etc. put out this EP in July 2009, but they sound like they could have been contemporaries to the above listed bands. While this was just a four song demo, it had the touchstones of that (seemingly forgotten) sound. You have the twinkly guitars, the somewhat subdued vocals, and sincerity that most fucking “emo” records are missing these days. Lindsay Minton has a great vocal performance on here. Perfect voice for this type of music.

I am not going to fuck around with a track by track analysis or anything. It is a four song EP, and it is fantastic. They have a full length coming out in March via Count Your Lucky Stars Records. This EP is available for download at a few places (donation based/free), but I guess the actual physical release is out of print.

More or less, if you are a fan of that 2nd wave emo sound, check this out. It will not disappoint. I am not going to give it a x out of 5 star rating, because I decided I do not want to do that anymore.

Official Download via Bandcamp
Official Download If You Make It
Steam some stuff via Myspace