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: 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: The Lillingtons – “Project 313”

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The Lillingtons always feel like two different bands to me. There is the standard pop punk band doing standard pop punk love songs, but then there is the sci fi/horror/b-movie influenced band who put one of the best genre records ever (and two additional classics). The problem with the former style is that Kody Templeman does that style with way more gusto in Teenage Bottlerocket. The Lillingtons, despite being the older band, suffer as a result of this.

All that being said, after a roughly 10 year hiatus, what does a new Lillingtons EP sound like? Well, it kind of sounds like a Teenage Bottlerocket record. Ok, that’s a little shitty to say. It’s definitely a Lillingtons record, but it feels more Shit Outta Luck than Death By Television to me. The first two songs, “Until The Sun Shines” and “Rubber Room,” come off as retreads of things the band has already done. Like, “Rubber Room” feels like an ehhh version of “I Need Some Brain Damage” mixed with Teenage Bottlerocket’s “Welcome To The Nuthouse.” The other two songs are more in the b-movie side of things. “Project 313” is about being stuck on a rocket in space. “It’s On” is about a succubus, but is also a pop punk pastiche of 80’s cock rock.

Project 313 sounds exactly how you think it would. Simple pop punk in the tradition of Lookout Records and the Ramones. Genre fans will love it, genre haters will hate it, and no one will learn a goddamn thing. And isn’t that good enough?

The Lillingtons
Red Scare Industries
Bandcamp
Buy It

(Usually I embed Bandcamp or Soundcloud stream. Only one song was playable on Bandcamp at time of writing. Had to use a Spotify link instead, I guess. Sorry.)

REVIEW: Diet Cig – “Swear I’m Good At This”

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It’s not easy to make pop punk music. Like, ok, that’s not true. It’s mechanically easy to make pop punk music. It’s not easy to make pop punk music that can live and breath as it’s own thing. The genre purists are going to piss and complain no matter what. You’re derivative if you stick too close to the formula, you’re a trend jumping phony if you deviate. It’s fucking ridiculous. But let’s get down to brass tacks. Diet Cig is fucking good.

Swear I’m Good At This is exactly what any band would want their debut full length to be. Diet Cig has honed their indie pop influenced punk rock down to a science over the course of one EP and two singles. They are a two piece that sounds huge. Everything is firing, and everything works.

Swear I’m Good At This is in the fine tradition of records that sound happy but are lyrically kind of a bummer. There are songs about failed relationships. Songs about feeling lonely and hopeless. There’s some 20-something ennui. There are a couple fuck you songs directed to a society that really doesn’t seem to get what the fuck is going on. It’s musical sugar to cover up real life bitterness and I love it.

This a record full of singles and mixtape fodder. “Link In Bio” and “Tummy Ache” were absolute no-brainers to be lead of singles. “Barf Day” and “Bite Back” would fit perfectly on a bummer mix. It’s a record that is definitely going to appeal to an entire demographic of disillusioned kids just trying to find their voice.

This is the kind of music that exists to let you know you’re not the only one going through some shit. It’s 100% the kind of thing I loved when I was in my 20s, and I know some kid is going to be stoked on it. Diet Cig have all the potential to be huge, and I hope they everyone sees it.

Diet Cig
Frenchkiss Records
Bandcamp / Buy It

 

REVIEW: Earth Girls – “Wanderlust”

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Earth Girls feels like a genre departure for Liz Panella. In fact, this can really be said for all the current members of Earth Girls. Much of the band’s collective discography outside of Earth Girls tends to fall more on the hardcore side of things. Panella has a varied discography, including a lot of one off hardcore bands, Libyans being the most consistent. Joey Kappel and Antonio Holguin III have both been active in the Chicago punk and hardcore scene. The former with Boilerman and Poison Planet, the latter with Raw Nerve and Big Zit. It seems strange that they would come together to make a bubblegum pop punk record, but here we are.

Wanderlust is the perfect distillation of bubblegum and pop punk. Earth Girls have a sound that makes me think of what Helen Love would sound like if she edged more towards garage and punk rock than pop. Kind of like a Helen Love / Marked Men combination. The band has a very distinct sound, and it’s probably due to the pedigree the band has. They aren’t afraid to leave some rough edges on things. Those rough edges add a lot of heart to a record that could have gone glossy and shiny. This record could have gone full power pop by overselling the hooks. Instead they chose to combine the hooks with a driving grit. This is the kind of record that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Lookout Records circa the late 90s, early 00s.

The long and short of it is that this record rules. It’s catchy, it fast, and it’s a perfect summer record. My only beef is that it’s only about 21 minutes and it came out so late in the season. Otherwise, I really can’t complain.

Earth Girls
Grave Mistake Records
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEWS: Save Ends – “Hug Your Friends”

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Let’s start this out simply, as I’ve talked about about Save Ends a few times already. The stuff I said I loved about this band in 2012 and 2013 are the same things I love now. I don’t want to just be lazy and recycle the same talking points, so I’ll tackle this a little differently than I usually do. At least the intro paragraph anyway. I first heard Save Ends right around the beginning of 2011, maybe even at the end of 2010. The first song I heard was “The Art Of Throwing People In Volcanoes.”  I don’t remember where I heard it, but I remember that I was totally into it immediately. I still get excited when that song pops up in a shuffle, on Tumblr, or whatever. That song made me want to hear more. The point I’m clumsily making is that I’ve been listening to this band for a while now. Almost as long as I’ve been doing this shitty little blog, actually. I’m always impressed by what they put out. This was true of their self released EPs, it was true of their debut LP, and it’s still true now.

The easiest way to talk about Hug Your Friends would be to place it in the band’s overall discography. It does exactly what their older records did. It builds on the strengths of all their other works. It’s why a lot of the praise you’ll see for this mirrors the praise of the older stuff. The obvious starting point is the overall sound. This band is really good at finding that great middle ground between indie rock and pop punk. Even their slowest, most reserved songs still have that heart and energy behind them. The hooks, the big choruses, whatever. All those things are on this record, but maybe a bit more restrained. The tonal shift is noticeable, especially compared to the more driving songs on Warm Hearts, Cold Hands. I’ve seen a lot of Lemuria comparisons in the press leading up to the release. To borrow from that comparison, the stylistic shift is comparable to how that band transitioned from Get Better to Pebble. The songs still have drive and energy, but the EP definitely plays in a more melancholy territory. It’s really fucking good though, and that’s what matters. Genre descriptions be damned.

i always thought the strongest thing about Save Ends has always been the vocals. I love bands that do the dual vocal thing. It’s rare to find a band where both people singing absolutely nail it. It’s a really easy thing to fuck up. That is absolutely not the case here. Christine Atturio and Brendan Cahill both sound as strong as ever. It doesn’t matter if it’s lead, back up, or wherever they are on a song. The interplay between the two is always a great thing. “I Fell Asleep” and “Love Like A Home” showcase how well their voices play off each other in a split lead situation. The songs they take the lead on individually, “Smudge” for Atturio and “Sam’s Lament” for Cahill, show how solid they are at carrying songs on their own.

Hug Your Friends is a fantastic record from start to finish. It’s clear that they’ve spent the last couple years really focusing on songwriting. Everything sounds crisp and alive. It’s everything you would expect from Save Ends.

Save Ends
Black Numbers
Bandcamp
Buy It