Haybaby is one of those bands that defy classification. They’ll come out of left field with something whenever you start to pigeonhole them. Blood Harvest only further solidifies that. Sleepy Kids was definitely a standout record of 2015, and Blood Harvest is definitely my favorite thing of 2016 so far. To borrow a sports journalist buzzword, this band has ridiculous depth. It’s not every band that can follow a Pixies-esque alt/indie song with a fucking hardcore rager. The beauty of Blood Harvest is there in the little things. It’s the way everything builds up great atmosphere. It’s a little sludgy sounding, it’s got kind of a sinister vibe, and it all fucking works.
My favorite thing about Haybaby is the way they’ve built this record. Like, ok. “Stupid” opens the record. It’s musically very sparse. It’s primarily being driven by Sam Yield’s bass and Jeremy Duvall’s drums. Leslie Hong’s guitar only really come into play around the hook. “Joke/Rope” has a similar vibe, but the guitar drives it a little more. It’s considerably less sparse. “Kramer/Dreams” builds further on that pattern. It employs the strong rhythm section, but it adds some very Pixies-esque guitar. Then all hell breaks loose on “What It Is.” It’s dense, aggressive, and vicious as fuck. Everything get reined in ever so slightly, and tension builds to it’s release by the time “Pig” closes the record. That is really an oversimplification though. Even the calmest and most atmospheric song can get angular and arty or disjointed and uncomfortable. It’s like a picture perfect combination of early 90s grunge/alternative and post-hardcore. The band really knows how to get that perfect rise and fall working.
Leslie Hong’s voice is totally integral to this record. She has a great range. She can sing very delicately, she can belt out, and she can yell. Anything the songs need, she can do it. I think my favorite kind of vocal on Blood Harvest is when she has this very dry, almost blasé delivery. That kind of things is on here quite a bit, on “Stupid” and “Joke/Rope” especially. Her vocals, like the band in general, seem to thrive in the genre blurring state of flux.She absolutely nails everything from start to finish.
It’s pretty easy to see the passion this band has. Haybaby just keep getting better.
Punk rock is a very versatile genre. No matter what the “ugh, it’s just three chords blah blah blah” assholes says. It is a genre that has evolved, adapted, and become more and more interesting over time. A lot of things have grown out of the bare bones roots the genre has grown around. Hardcore, grunge, and emo are especially interesting. Having themselves spawned a million subgenres. This is an important fact when talking about a band like Castaway.
See, Castaway is a punk rock band that is very heavily built on those subgenres. They make music that is forceful, but still has an underlying melody. It is heavy, but not in a particularly metal kind of way. It is hardcore, but combined with some elements of grunge and alternative. There is a fair amount of heavy distortion and effects that brings out a bit of a shoegaze influence. It’s a mixture of things that work together perfectly, but it isn’t really any one of those things.
If nothing else, Castaway are probably more hurt by the constant need to genre label everything than helped. Space To Run is not a record that is going to be easily boiled down. That isn’t a big deal though. The only thing that matters is if it’s good or bad, right? Rest assured, Space To Run is fucking good. It is a solid 24 minutes of great riffs, great vocals, and overall great songwriting. Think somewhere between Lifetime and Daylight.
Space To Run is also a deceivingly adult record. The music has a certain youthful exuberance to it, but the lyrics are more mature than the sound would lead a listener to believe. It is a personal record that doesn’t necessarily play like one. You can put this on and treat as a melodic hardcore record. Just get hyped up on the music of it. You can also play it as a emo record, and focus on the stories told in the lyrics. It’s a great example of how your mood going in can change how you hear things.
Don’t let all the genre name dropping get confusing. Space To Run is a record that anyone who likes punk rock, or any of the various offshoots, can get behind. Castaway is a band who knows how to make a fucking record. You don’t have to take my word for it though. Just give it a listen, You’ll love it.
BandCamp / Buy It
Shit, so Late Bloomer. There is a lot going on with them. They’ve taken influence from a wide array of places, and they have compressed it down to a cohesive sound that is theirs. Their sophomore full length, Things Change, find them squarely rooted in that indie/punk sweet spot that bands like Dinosaur Jr. or Hüsker Dü were doing in the late 80s/early 90s. Maybe some grunge thrown in there too. But, they have managed to do it in a way that avoids being some shitty throwback band. It is them playing with those influences, not ripping them off.
Things Change is a great record that plays pretty loose with genre rules. It’s clear that Late Bloomer isn’t concerned with making one thing or another, they are concerned with doing what works for them. They fucking nailed that. You can label and genre this band a million different ways, but you’d be wrong. It’s too punk to be indie, it’s too poppy to be post-hardcore, it’s to grunge to be punk. The beauty of it is that they’re really all those thing. It’s definitely a column A, column b situation. The seamless transitions from genre to genre make this record special.
On paper, this record should be a disjointed mess. In practice, goddamn it works. A song like “Children” goes right into “Mirror” without any issues. All three band members can sing. All the songs can carry a different flavor. It is all works because this is a very skilled band. This is a cohesive album, not a collection of songs. It wouldn’t work if Late Bloomer didn’t have the skills to adeptly mix it all together into one of the strongest full lengths I’ve heard this year.
Tor Johnson Records (Buy It)
Self Aware Records (Buy It)