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 shifting genre. Styles come and go. Geometers play a style that I really don’t hear much of anymore. They are bringing a fresh take on the gritty, post-hardcore influenced punk rock of bands like Small Brown Bike and Engine Down. Geometers have a definite late-90s / early-00s No Idea Records vibe to them. It’s pretty refreshing to hear bands still playing this type of music in 2016.
This does mean Geometers are walking down a pretty well worn road though. This EP lives or dies based on what they do with the sound. They do well to keep the energy up, they hit the perfect mixture between melodic and heavy, and they work in some great hooks. The vocals are great, and the production work of J. Robbins in a total plus. If anyone can produce this, it’s him. Really, almost everything about the EP just works.
“Sidearm” is probably the strongest song on the whole record. It’s also the loudest and most aggressive thing the band offers up. It fucking rules. This isn’t to take anything away from “On My Own” or “Title Fight.” Both songs are also really great, and the tonal difference between them and “Sidearm” really show a solid amount of range. Like, I’m honestly super into most of the songs. The only one I’m one I’m not feeling is “Arp.” It’s only a short, instrumental interlude. Nothing huge. It just kind of kills the momentum of the record. I would have probably 86’d it if I had my druthers. It’s not a bad song, but it doesn’t make sense to be placed where it is. It would have been perfect as an intro track though.
Minor gripe aside, Geometers have definitely added some new life to one of my favorite kinds of music, and goddamn am I happy to see it.
Middle Part is pop and noise. They are where those two sensibilities intersect. It’s weird, it’s abrasive, and it’s not for everyone. It’s really fucking good though. Let’s not bullshit around with some long write up. Middle Part is making aggressive, lo-fi music. There is a lot of noise, a lot of yelling, and a whole lot of muscle. This two piece from Harrisonburg, VA isn’t holding anything back this EP. They have a drum and a bass, but are way more than the sum of their parts.
There are a number of things this band excels at, not the least of which is the ability to make a hard left turn out of nowhere. Songs like “Dip Dip” and “Like Before” pull you in with an almost dancey, post-punk sound. The former shifts back and forth between that and a killer hardcore/noise combination. It’s disjointed and jagged, but it works. The latter is probably the most accessible song on the record, but even it plays around with time changes and styles. It’s shift is almost a pop to dirge to pop thing.
“Fight Song” is all aggression. Musically, vocally, whatever. In fact, Judy Hong’s vocals are what makes this record work for me. They can range anywhere from melodic and halting (“Like Before”) to just fucking shredded (“Fight Song” and “Dip Dip”). The vocals work so well with the distorted bass and pounding drum. The production work from Tristan O’Shea, who is the other half of the band, absolutely nails the mood of this record too.
There isn’t a whole lot more that needs to be said. If you want a record that will keep you on your toes, this is absolutely it. Check it out.
Too Far Gone Records
I appreciate bands like Sick Days. Specifically, I appreciate bands that aren’t afraid to throw things against the wall and see what sticks. Stay Warm is an EP that covers three distinct sounds, but never sounds like it was just thrown together. It’s a punk rock record at it’s core, but there are some outside moments, and interesting style choices.
The EP starts with the song “Crickets.” This song exemplifies the whole nature of what would come later. It starts of with vocals and a faint, delicate guitar. Then it shifts to really muscular, start-stop riffs with yelled vocals. It eventually transitions into a fucking killer punk rock song. It tracks something like indie to emo/post-hardcore to melodic punk rock.
The next two songs, “My Old School” and “Stay Afloat,” are generally straight forward punk rock songs. The former giving me a bit of a Jawbreaker vibe, think the “With Or Without U2” medley. The last song, “DeKalb,” is just guitar and vocals for most of the song, save for the full band picking up in the last 30 seconds or so. It stays very calm and indie sounding.
What does this all mean? Well, it means that Sick Days have a whole lot going for them. They are adept at playing multiple styles, and could logically branch off further. On the other hand, they could also pick one style and run with it. They seem to have it covered either way.
Sick Days @ Bandcamp
There are a million genre, sub genres, and sub sub genres in the world. Everyone likes to talk about them, and everyone likes to see bands fit into narrower and narrower categories. Trial Of Early Men are one of those bands that could probably be slotted into a wide array of sub genres, but let’s not muddy the water. This is a punk rock band making engaging music that throws its weight around.
Attachments, as a whole, is a record that is jagged, distorted, and loud. There is a lot of early emo and post-hardcore influence throughout the record, but it doesn’t really become a genre record in either of those ways specifically. There is edge, but there are also round corners. “Of Youth” is an example of the band mixing the more jagged sound with pop influence. “Nil Nil” falls the fuck apart towards the end in a really great way. It turns chaotic before pulling back together. It’s this split that makes Trials Of Early Man stand out.
They do the fuck out of the quiet/LOUD dynamic, both instrumentally and vocally. The music has muscle behind it. The vocals definitely highlight that by providing a great accent of their own. Gruff, but not in a boring beard-punk way. Aggressive and yelled, but not in a screamo way. It kind of makes me think of Guy Picciotto or Rick Froberg.
I have to admit, I am a bit out of my element here. Not because of the genre or sound, but because there is history behind this band. It isn’t a band of rookie kids who are just bashing things out. Trials Of Early Man is made up of members of Caretaker, Action and Action, CircusAct and The Good Wife. I have a huge blindspot when it comes to UK bands, and this is one of those times where it is super noticeable. I’m not really familiar with any of those bands. I’m an asshole from Chicago, I don’t know any better.
That is kind of a roundabout way of saying that this record lives or dies based on it’s own merit rather than past nostalgia. The good news is that is stands on it’s own feet. Definitely a record worth checking out for fans of punk rock, and the million offshoot post- genres it birthed.
Trials Of Early Man
Bandcamp / Buy It
Perennial really could have played it safe. They have a pedigree, being made up of members of Lion Cub and Aeroplane, 1929. It would have been easy to stick within the basic indie/indie pop framework. It probably would have sounded really good too. Perennial, to their credit, decided to forgo that. They decided to experiment with their sound. And it seems that they are all the better for it. Early Sounds For Night Owls is a record full of energy and aggression. It’s rough around the edges, and doesn’t hesitate to show teeth. Perennial would probably best be described as a punk rooted post-hardcore band. And Early Sounds For Night Owls has all things you would want from that genre.
The band wastes no time in showing what they have to offer. “La Fugue Pour Béton brut” sets a great tone. It comes in with high energy. It also has a very solid groove to it. It’s melodic, but not poppy. That is a phrase that came to mind a few times while listening to this EP. “Massachusetts Scenic Byways” is a definitely a rager, but never devolves into discordant, hardcore barking.
One of my favorite things on this EP is the transition from “Circle/Pivot/Circle” to “Early Sounds For Night Owls.” The former is a short, melodic interlude. Definitely a more delicate sound than is present on the rest of the record. It really feels like an extended intro to the latter than anything else. It helps build to a great payoff when “Early Sounds For Night Owls” breaks through.
There isn’t a whole lot more to say about this record. It’s a great combination of punk rock melody and driving post-hardcore. If that appeals to you, this is a total no brainer.
Bandcamp / Buy It
It’s hard to not group bands in a generational kind of way. Forever Losing Sleep is a band that you could easily put a throwback, nostalgia tag on. That might be the curse of playing this kind of emo music. Everyone wants to drop a 1990s reference. It’s accurate to a point, but it’s not fair. I Lost Myself Again is filled with things that could be perceived as callbacks to that era of the genre, but there is more to it than that.
Forever Losing Sleep is a band that understands what makes music engaging. I Lost Myself Again is built on the shifting quiet/loud dynamic. “Esprit D’ Escalier” starts the record on a very mellow, calm note. It mostly stays that way until the last minute, where it just sounds huge. It then drones out, but it’s buzzing fade out serves as the intro to “Twitch.” Everything really jumps off on the third song though. “Trophied” is a beast of a song, and it adds a great bit of heaviness and aggression that carries on throughout the rest of the record. In fact, the shifts in sound works brilliantly. Forever Losing Sleep are an indie/emo band with a great sense of melody, but what makes them stand out is that they allow themselves to just fucking go. Things can jump from calm to aggressive, and back again, at the drop of a hat. “Havre De Grace” is a perfect example.
This is a genre record, and it will appeal to genre fans. Forever Losing Sleep have made a very engaging emo/indie record. The tinges of screamo and post-hardcore only add to it’s power. There’s a lot of skill and promise in these songs. This is a band to keep an eye on, folks.
Forever Losing Sleep