REVIEW: Melkbelly – “PITH”

mbpith

Melkbelly is a noisy post-punk band that turns standard rock songs into a mess of lo-fi experimentalism. I’ve had a passing interest in them for a while now, but they never really clicked for me until I heard Miranda Winters’ solo record back in 2018. It put a lot of the songwriting into perspective. There are some great melodic songs buried in the noise, sludge, and experimentation.

Pith, as a record, is the deconstruction as final product. You have so many moments where you think this record is going to go in an expected direction, but then it just turns left. The album opens this way. “THC” is a straight forward, melodic song that devolves into extended noise. “Sickeningly Teeth” just keeps changing tempos to the point that it’s an uncomfortable, jittery listen. “Kissing Under Some Bats” is a three minute song that turns into the guitar repeating a single chord for damn near the rest of the seven and a half minute run-time. All while the background just layers and layers until it is a wall of noise. But, even at its most out there, the songs remain coherently songs. To keep this review Chicago centered, this is what I think U.S. Maple would have sounded like if they gave a fuck about theory.

It’s a very real possibility that someone from Chicago will read this and label me a suburban asshole who is missing the point. And, to be honest, they’d probably be right. All I know is that I love this record. It’s not an easy one to define, but it’s definitely worth a listen. Especially if you have an ear for melodic music that is covered in noise.

Melkbelly
Wax Nine Records
Carpark Record
Bandcamp

 

REVIEW: sewingneedle – “user error”

There is something to be said about a band who knows exactly how to communicate a feeling. On User Error, sewingneedle use the language of indie rock, post-punk, and post-hardcore to say a whole lot. It’s easy to get lost in the musical side of the presentation. The dissonance brings to mind the more mathy side of alternative rock. The rhythm section has a good amount of post-hardcore bombast. But, ultimately, there is a story underneath it all.

I always feel like Midwestern bands are bitter. Sometimes it’s just subtext, other times it’s just text. I might be reading my own Midwest bitterness into it sometimes, but I always hear it. On parts of User Error, I definitely feel a lot of it coming from sewingneedle. And I’m pretty sure it isn’t just my own bias.

For example, look at “Feel Good Music.”

Hire an agent, get some press
This week’s internet success
We are dangerous, salty, soused
Another quarter in the punk machine

You should have seen the beaming investors, flanked by adoring spouses
Wring dry who you can on your way to the middle.

Another example is the title track, “User Error.”

Bombing at the open mic to none
Sweating under hot Par Cans looking for the prompter
“Who’d you say inspires you?”
“The river Ganges, have you been?”

The record has a tone of dissatisfaction and indictment. There is a Control era Pedro The Lion type feel to it, musically and vocally. But with a 2018 vibe. Like, “Whirlybird” has a line about forgotten people’s eulogy being summarized as “less than, forward slash, number three. Sent from my iPhone.”

I know I’m doing a shit job putting this record over. I’m making it sound dire and not fun to listen to. That isn’t the case. The record is full of hooks. It’s got solid lyrics throughout. Basically, it’s a really engaging listen front to back. This should be right near the top of your list if you’re into mathy, post- type music. Also, y’know, I’ll always ride for a band from Illnois.

sewingneedle
Aerial Ballet Records
Already Dead Tapes & Records
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Ond Cirkel – “Svavelvinter / Vilda Syrener”

Hailing from Gothenburg, Ond Cirkel play a great mix of traditional post-punk and shoegaze. Their latest 7″ is a perfect example of the moody, reverb drenched sound those genres are known for. The emotion of the songs are evident immediately. The lyrics may be in Swedish, but you can catch the vibe almost immediately. You can hear loss and want. The two songs definitely live in different spaces though. “Svavelvinter” has a lighter sound to it. It is more led by the bass than the guitar. “Vilda Syrener” has a heavier sound. The guitars are more forceful. The vocals fall back in the mix a bit more too. The 7″ is great at mixing heavy and loud with delicate and atmospheric.

Ond Cirkel is a four piece band, but the sound is much bigger than that. Riikka Yrttiaho’s voice, even when it was further back in the mix, really sells these songs. She really takes command and is able to work the vocals as a complimetary sound to Marcus Lilja’s guitar. Those two elements work so well together. The rhythm section of Zacharias Tienhaara on drums and Isabell Kirstinä on bass also absolutely shine. I know that reviews of punk music tend to focus on vocals and guitar, but I want to make a special mention of the bassline on “Svavelvinter.” It absolutely makes that song. Having the bass drive a song isn’t uncommon in the genre, but it always stands out to me.

All in all, Ond Cirkel have really made a great record here. I know there may be a language barrier for some people, but don’t let that stop you. Make sure you check it out. And, if two songs aren’t enough for you, give their tape a listen too.

Ond Cirkel
Bandcamp

Song Of The Week (8/11/17) // See Through Dresses – “Lucy’s Arm”

See Through Dresses – “Lucy’s Arm”

From Tiny Engines:

See Through Dresses released its Tiny Engines debut End of Days in the Fall of 2015, introducing a wider audience to a sound both intrinsic and environmental, with stark contrasts between its principal songwriters’ devastatingly riff-heavy jams and endearingly honest confessionals. It showcased what the band can do in spaces where guitars and rhythms rule the roost.

If End of Days is its rock record, Horse of the Other World, out June 14th, is See Through Dresses’ dreamy opus. Recorded in 2016 in two locations — ARC Studios with Ben Brodin (Pile, First Aid Kit, The Good Life) and at the band’s home studio, Little Machine, by Mathew Carroll — it signals a sonic leap into a more ethereal, soundscape-driven aesthetic.

Reverb-drenched and synth-laden, Horse of the Other World blends Carroll and Bertuldo’s masterful mood creation and technical prowess while further exploring the depths of the band’s dynamics. “Pretty Police” mixes sparkle and bounce with brood, while “Violet” cuts sharply via crystalline keys and arpeggiated chords. Bassist Alex Kirts pumps the album’s bleeding heart and drummer Nate Van Fleet is tactical and creative. Their playing shines as the foundation of songs like “Lucy’s Arm” and “Herbivore,” whose climaxes are textbook See Through Dresses.

See Through Dresses are one of the best examples of modern post-punk. They mix classic shoegaze and dream pop elements with driving punk rock. They make art without getting pretentious.

Horse of the Other World is an A+ record from front to back. “Lucy’s Arm” is a hell of a single. Those shared vocals on the verses are fantastic.

See Through Dresses
Tiny Engines

 

REVIEW: Moral Straightjacket – “I’ll Be Your Rainbow”

msjibyr

Moral Straightjacket are a two piece band from Irvine, California. They’ve been steadily releasing records for a few years now, and their new EP is a great addition to that discography. I’ll Be Your Rainbow is a stellar three song primer of what this band can do.

Moral Straightjacket are primarily a “post-” band. The mix of post-hardcore and post-punk gives the band a bigger sound than duos usually have. The songs are primarily built around guitar and drum, but they don’t sound limited in scope or nature. I’ll Be Your Rainbow is a great example of a band doing a lot with a little.

The vocal duties on this record are split. One track for each member, and one featuring guest vocals from M. Blue Wizards (vocals by John) and Blood Orange (vocals by Lucas) provide bookends. The vocals are what really make this band stand out to me. John has a very standard voice in genre terms, and Lucas sings in a baritone voice that still isn’t very common in genre music (or rock music in general).

The three songs cover a lot of ground musically. “Blue Wizards” opens the EP, and it fucking goes. It has a very Repeater-era Fugazi vibe to it. “Evergreen” has a much more mellow vibe. M’s vocals hold court on this one, and goddamn does she sound good. The acoustic driven “Blood Orange” calms things down even more as a closer.

Moral Straightjacket has been around for a minute now, and they’ve got a really strong discography. There is no reason not to check this out. I’ll Be Your Rainbow is probably one of my favorite post- records so far this year. And, seriously, “Blue Wizards” fucking goes.

Moral Straightjacket
Ruined Smile Records
Bandcamp
Buy It

 

REVIEW: Orations – “Wych Elm”

orationswych

It’s easy to talk about Orations through the lens of “modern band does classic genre music.” Hell, that was my main talking point when I wrote about their previous EP. It’s really not a point worth revisiting because there is more going on. Orations are easily one of the strongest modern voices in this kind of music.

All that said, what’s new? Wych Elm is Orations honing their sound even further. The reverb is still there. The melodies are still top notch. Jess Collins still has one of the best goddamn voices. Wych Elm stands out by what makes it different from past releases. They still effortless emphasize the punk part of post-punk, but not so strongly as on the self titled EP. It’s still very “goth” sounding, but has more of a college rock type jangle when compared to to the more Siouxsie And The Banshees / The Cure vibe on Incantations.

Wych Elm is absolutely everything a first full length should be. It feels like a declaration of intent. Like a mission statement. It’s documentation of a band that knows exactly what they are and exactly where they’re going.

Orations
Bandcamp
Custom Made Music
Swiss Dark Nights