REVIEW: Sunday Guts – "Leave It Go"

Hey, let’s take a break for a minute. I’ve been talking about so many emo records recently. I need to cleanse my palate. That said, let’s talk about Sunday Guts. They’re back with a new EP called Leave It Go. It is some really good guitar pop, and I feel like we could all use some of that.
Leave It Go is the follow up to last year’s Grey Tipi (which I looked at last September). Like it’s predecessor, it is four songs of hooky guitar pop. While “guitar pop” sounds like an easy enough classification, Sunday Guts seem to draw from various parts of the genres long history. There’s some Guided By Voices and Sebadoh in there. But there is also some British Invasion era stuff too (to my ears anyway). To the latter, I hear a fair amount of The Zombies and The Hollies.

Musically, the guitar is the star of the show. The riffs are catchy as all get out, but aren’t exclusively basic chord progressions. The songs keep your attention. The vocals are also noteworthy. The lead has some effects happening. They have a bit of fuzz and distortion. It sounds good. The backing vocals shine. Overall, it is kind of a lo-fi affair. Everything is clear, but remains far from over produced. It’s shiny without being slick.

As a two man band, Billy Kilgannon (Vocals/Guitar/Programming) and Victor Berger IV (Bass/Vocals/Keyboard) have produced some great work here. It is a natural progression from their prior EP. It is really great release, and really worth a listen

BandCamp (digital and physical)

REVIEW: The Eeries – "Home Alone"

Holy shit, I thought I was going to hate this record. No fucking way. Surprise of the year, you guys. The Eeries have a name, description, RIYL list, and genre tag that screamed “punk band playing garage pop ironically” or something. I guess there is a lesson in knee jerk reactions here.

Home Alone is a hell of a record. It is rooted in old garage pop from the 50s and 60s, but avoids the stumbling that often comes with that genre by expanding their net. There is some serious Beatles shit going on here. Not the experimental stuff, but their old pop stuff. This is especially notable in the vocal harmonies and general song structure. There is some pretty sweet surf parts too. This feels like a love letter to a genre, instead of some revival cash-in thing.
This kind of reminds me of The Hi-Fives (if you removed the Lookout! Records, pop punk affectation). There is some sweet shit happening here. Vocal harmonies that done quit, whoa-ohs all over the place, and an underlying sense of fun. Home Alone is 23 minutes of awesome. Check it out.

The Eeries
Stream It (Bandcamp)
Evil Weevil Records (Buy 7″)
Burger Records (Buy Cassette)

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: Candy Hearts – "Everything’s Amazing & Nobody’s Happy"

Let’s talk about Candy Hearts. I did a review of their previous full length last year. I ended the review saying “It is an average record from a band that shows potential to be great.” So, where do we stand now?

Everything’s Amazing & Nobody’s Happy is really a pretty fair extension of that record. They are a pop band that plays pop music. Clear punk influence, without being overly concerned about being “punk.” It has some cooler guitar leads, maybe. The production sounds cleaner. Not overly polished, but definitely shinier. As far as the few beefs I had with the previous record, this one puts those to bed.

Overall, this is the record this band needed to make. It is playing on the strengths of the previous full length, but not abandoning the reckless fun that goes along with the genre. The vocals are still a little rough sounding, (well, rough compared to the pitch corrected hell that is pop music), the hooks are catchy as fuck, and the energy is there in spades. If the previous record made me want to listen to other things, this record is the opposite. It is a record that keeps your attention.

There is no shortage of awkwardness and self-deprecation going on here.  On the song “She’s So Cool” we get the following:

“She’s everything I want to be

She’s everything someone would need
She’s everything they want
I’m not that girl
And I don’t think I’ll ever be that cool”
It is one of those songs that anyone can get stoked on. You figure everyone compares themselves to someone, and rarely do they quite live up to the expectations. This particular song does not quite fall in the same glad-handing traps that seems to be all the rage.

Although, yeah, we also have kind of the more optimistic side on “Good Enough”:

“Always sort of out of key
Addicted to caffeine and bad poetry
And not saying the things that I mean
You’re always sort of mad at me
Because I’m late for everything
And my socks don’t match and my hair is messy
Well, I know what you’re saying before you do
That I’m not good enough for you

I’m good enough for me and all the things that I want to be
It’s still alright to be down sometimes
Cause nobody is perfect and I know that you’re not worth it
It’s still alright to be down sometimes”

Basically, we get some pretty great songs about shit everyone can understand. Any record that can be universally understood without being pandering is always a good things. Songs about friends, relationships, and social awkwardness. Maybe a little twee, but who cares? Plus, any record with a song that features a chorus about listen to Jawbreaker is always good.
There is only one thing that bugs me. It is a minor quibble. But there are two songs in a row that are very Alkaline Trio-ish. The riffs in “When I’m With You” and “Something Special” are a little too “Fine Without You” and “Bleeder,” respectively. Not direct lifts, but pretty fucking close. But, that is kind of a minor point.
All in all, a great record. It is one of those records that sounds good on a sunny, summer day. Too bad it is already October. Luckily, Chicago is in the middle of Indian summer. Might as well give it a go.
One of the better records I heard this year. Sugary pop/punk at its best. Go pick this up.
P.S. I would be remiss not to mention this: yeah, Louis C.K.

REVIEW: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – "Belong"

After a great debut release, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart had set the bar pretty high. Their 2009 self titled record was an incredibly solid take on indie pop. Mixing together the heavily distorted guitars of The Jesus and Mary Chain, the effect heavy wall of sound of shoegaze, and the genre expected perishing alt rock voice. All in all, an enjoyable half hour of music.

In that same year, the “Higher Than the Stars” EP was released. It was kind of split as far as the sound. Some songs sounded like they could have been on the previous full length, but some were a little cleaner sounding. There was more straight forward pop songs to be found here.

In that vein, we have the new full length. Produced by Flood and mixed by Alan Moulder, this record sounds like it should have been released back during the 90’s post-grunge, alternative rock scene. This release has more in common with The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Siamese Dream” (or the more poppy stuff on “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness”), than it does The Jesus and Mary Chain (or My Bloody Valentine). However, this is all tempered with a heavy dose of new wave synthesizer, and a touch of the poppier side of The Cure.

The songs are still either slow or midtempo, the lyrics are still hit or miss, the general twee guidelines are still met, but it is a cleaner sound. Kip Berman shows he his vocals have range beyond a monotone drone. Peggy Wang steps up with the keyboard use. They have taken the next step musically while still falling well within the dream pop thing (by the by, how many subgenres does this type of music need?).

Lyrics are the tripping point here. With the cleaner production, comes clearer vocals. Realistically, the lyrics on these types of records are usually twee. But, with dense production, heavy music effects, and a general vocal drone, they tend to not stand out over the instrumentation. Unfortunately, that is not the case here. From the titular song (and album opener), we get the line “tell yourself / it’s not yourself / but, no one else / can make me know there’s no one else.” From “Girl of 1,000 Dreams” we get this “I know everything is so-so / I know you could just fly solo / But come on, we are gonna go go around the world, ’cause you’re the girl of 1,000 dreams.” Lyrically, this is what we are dealing with most of the album. But, pop music (indie or otherwise) has never been know for it’s lyrical prowess.

But, the album is not all bad. While “My Terrible Friend” suffers from dubious lyrical content, it more than makes up for it musically. It might be one of the catchiest songs on the album. “Heart in Your Heartbreak” is another stand out track for similar reasons. Catchy instrumentation might not save a record from poor songwriting, but it can certainly help.

Also, I want to make special mention of the album cover. It is simple, but good. Their last full length had this overly contrasted photo. It looked like something Tim Armstrong of Rancid would shit out for whatever band was releasing something on Hellcat Records. This is a major step up.

This is a generally good album. Maybe a little too poppy. Lyrically, it needs a lot of help. But, if you are a person who has a soft spot for twee, check this out. Not the finest example of indie pop, but certainly not the worst either.

Official Site
Buy It (Slumberland Records)