REVIEW: Parachute For Gordo – “Ten Metres Per Second Per Second”

pfgParachute For Gordo did a lot of things on Ten Metres Per Second Per Second that a lot of other bands of their ilk probably wouldn’t. Recorded live over just three hours, it is a record that has a very strong sense of urgency and power behind it. This is a band that, much like their labelmates in twothirtytwo, have carved out an interesting niche for themselves.

Parachutes For Gordo are, in the end, an art band. They also have a knack for making disjointed songwriting work. They primarily exist in the middle ground of post-punk and indie rock. They are a band that shifts everything within their songs. Tempos, styles, overall structure. Things can go anywhere at anytime. Ten Metres Per Second Per Second is a record built on experimentation.

This experimentation shows strongly on songs like “I Offered You A Small Dog In The Kitchen“ and “The Labrasaga – Part I: Labrador Deciever, Part II: LabraDoodlebug.” The former is one of the most straight forward songs on the record. It has an excellent rise/fall/rise dynamic to it. The latter is a song that, clocking in at around 16 minutes, shows exactly where this band succeeds. It is a song that is standard indie fare for the first half of it. At almost seven minutes in, goddamn, it gets heavy. It goes from a clean guitar that is kind of noodling about to a distorted riffing that is raw power. It then cycles back around.

While the loud/quiet/loud dynamic isn’t anything new, especially in indie and post-punk, Parachute for Gordo make it work. Ten Metres Per Second Per Second in energetic, raucous, and raw. It definitely stands out.

Parachute For Gordo
Rose Coloured Records
Buy It

REVIEW: Skull Practitioners – “ST1” (Tape)

ST1Skull Practitioners are a band that really show how pointless the genre splintering of music is. You could call them post-punk, psychedelic, garage rock, or straight up punk rock. Any designation you give them would work, but it wouldn’t be a fair representation of what’s going on. Their self titled cassette is very hard to classify. And, to a point, it feels like the classification would cheapen it.

Musically, this is a band who plays hard. There is a lot of muscle behind the guitar. The drums are fantastic. But, honestly, that might be the most cohesive thing on ST1. With the band having the influences they do, it makes the tape a touch disjointed. It fluctuates from arty noise to more traditional guitar rock. There might even be some New York no wave in there too? There is a lot going on.

The sheer amount of things happening is pretty clearly the point. Skull Practitioners seem to be taking a kitchen sink approach. They are throwing every influence in, and seeing what works. The good thing is that all the songs work. Maybe not as a single piece of music, but definitely as individual songs. But, still, a song like “Nelson D” doesn’t seem to belong on the same thing as “Another Sicko.” It doesn’t matter much though. ST1 is brooding, it’s distorted, and it’s just has a lot of bite to it. It’s definitely worth a listen. Even if it’s only to hear a band jump from a more garage rock sound to an almost James Chance type sound.

Skull Practitioners is a band made up of music veterans. Jason Victor, Alex Baker, and Ken Levine are definitely more than the sum of their parts. Nothing on here was done by accident, and nothing on here isn’t meant to be here. It’s a challenging listen, for sure. But, that said, I Skull Practitioners is a project that continues for more releases. I’d love to see what else they can do.

Skull Practioners
BandCamp / Buy It

REVIEW: twothirtytwo – “The Hope We Had”

twotirtytwoI hate indie rock. No, that’s not true. I hate how “indie rock” has become shorthand for some really generic, boring bullshit. There are a million “indie rock” bands in the world, and it is so hit or miss. My immediate opinion of twothirtytwo was that, honestly, they could have gone either way. To lazily classify the band as one thing or another, twothirtytwo are an indie/alternative band who are pulling some moves from post-punk. The good news is that they are pulling the right ones.

The Hope We Had is the latest in a series of singles and EPs the band has put out. Having done a bit of a crash course of their older releases, I can say confidently that It is also probably their best work to date. The music sounds better. The production is better. While they may have lost some of the “punk” from the post-punk, it still works beautifully. This is an EP, and band, that would fit into a Venn diagram of bands like Joy Division, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Interpol, and The Killers. While those comparisons would work for the music as well, they are especially true for the vocals. Andrew Clift has a voice that is deeper than the genre standard. It has a more baritone timbre to it. His vocal delivery plays perfectly for this.

As an overall record, The Hope We Had is accessible enough to play for fans of music played on alternative radio. It also has enough interesting things happening to appeal to your standard, snobby indie fan. It is very much a column A, Column B type record. The first three songs cruise along, and a pretty standard genre fare. Things really get interesting on titular track, “The Hope We Had.” That song really allows the entire band to flex their musical muscle. The guitar interplay is perfect, the rhythm section holds steady. There is even a pretty sweet solo in there. It is a song that shows how much the band is capable of.

There was a lot being stacked up against twothirtytwo. They are in a pretty packed genre, and needed to make something really great to stand out from the pack. They pretty much nailed it.

Rose Coloured Records
Buy It

**Record will be out on September 8, 2014**

REVIEW: Late Bloomer – “Things Change”

latebloomerthingschangeShit, 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.

Late Bloomer
Tor Johnson Records (Buy It)
Self Aware Records (Buy It)

REVIEW: King Woman – “Dove/Fond Affections” (cassette single)

kingwomanKristina Esfandiari has been responsible for some of my favorite music this year. She just released an EP earlier this year, Halloween Dream, as Miserable. Now, as King Woman, we have the Dove / Fond Affections cassette single. It’s her second release under the King Woman moniker. It really reinforces the idea that she is a wellspring of creativity. While she is still best known from her days in Whirr, it’s her solo material that is really worth noting. It is going to be interesting, no matter what it’s released as. She is able to conceptualize music in a way that goes beyond most shoegaze/post-punk/post-rock/whatever. If those genres are built around creating moods in a non-conventional way, then she is one of the best out there right now.

There are a lot of similarities between King Woman and Miserable. This isn’t surprising considering the nature of the projects. Both have very drawn out, ethereal vocals. Both deal heavily in effects and non-traditional music. But, and this is very important, the overall way those pieces fit is very different. Miserable took a more traditional shoegaze sound and beefed it up by including some very dense, heavy music. King Woman deals more in ethereal psychedelia, with some post-punk and psych-folk added for flavor.

There are two songs on the new single. One is an original, one is a cover. The A-side, Dove, spans 15 minutes. It adds a new dimension to what King Woman does. It is a drawn out, slow-burn of a song. It feels more similar to her work as Miserable than it does her earlier King Woman songs. It is expansive and atmospheric. It never gets as dense as Miserable did, but it maintains some of the power. It’s a hauntingly beautiful song.

The B-side is a cover of Rema-Rema’s “Fond Affections.” The King Woman version that appears here is closer to the cover This Mortal Coil did than it is to the original (kind of). It’s a hell of a cover though. While remaining pretty true to the post-punk origins of it, this particular cover is has more a drone influence. It’s moody and engaging in all the best ways.

In fact, “engaging in all the best ways” is a great way to sum up this release as a whole. It is a must listen for anyone who likes their music ambient, unconventional, and experimental. Grab this while you can.**

King Woman
The Native Sound
Buy It

**As a result of being out on The Native Sound, this is a very limited release if you want it on a physical format. In this case, it’s a cassette with a limited run of 150. If that is something you’re interesting in, better act fast. Otherwise, you’re going to have to get it digitally.**

REVIEW: Pity Sex – "Feast Of Love"

Pity Sex had to put out a great full length. There are a lot of bands doing this post-punk/shoegaze influenced thing right now, and to stand out in that field is a feat in and of itself. Pity Sex was able to do that here. They proved they had the chops to do it on the Dark World EP last year. Feast Of Love only pushes that further. They were able to build on that, and refine it further. The final product is really a treat to listen to.

Something has clicked on this record. It manages to play in the effect laden and heavily distorted stuff without getting lost in it. There are still great pop moments. It never gets as dense as some shoegaze bands typically do. It walks the line between the two worlds well. On the previous EP there was a disconnect between the songs Brennan Greaves sang lead on versus the songs Britty Drake sang lead on. That is no longer the case on this record. Everything feels more cohesive. The band sounding more unified really makes this record work.

But, while on the subject of the dual vocals, I really wish there was more interplay. That is my only issue. They only really share one song (“Drown Me Out”), save for a few choruses or whatever here and there. Even on that song it is just splitting up the verses. They fully utilize everything else. The dual guitars, though heavily distorted for the most part, are able to work together to create an interesting sound. The strong rhythm section is able to shine through and play a great part. The vocals sound great, but it feels like they are missing something.

But, that said, this is still a great record. It can jump around to various styles and genres without getting disjointed. There is some great 90’s alternative influence on songs like “Keep,” which gets as close to The Breeders territory as anything I’ve heard in awhile. There is the kind of indie/punk style showing on “Honey Pot.” There is some clean, shimmery guitar work on “Hollow Body.” While jumping around too much can lead to an unfocused record, they are able to keep it reigned in enough. It all works together. There really is a little bit here for everyone. You can call this indie rock, post-punk, dream pop, shoegaze, or really any other genre name you want. It does a disservice to say it is only one or the other though. It’s a record that showcases and melds many things together, but never sounds disjointed. That’s really the best thing about it.

Pity Sex
Run For Cover Records
Buy It

REVIEW: Bleeding Fractals – "The Dim Orange Lights"T

I’ve been meaning to review this damn thing since June. I get distracted. Anyway. Bleeding Fractals have been around for a few years, and they play a great bit of post-hardcore. If there is one thing I love, it is mathy punk rock. Bleeding Fractals provide that in spades. The Dim Orange Lights is 23 minutes of fantastic.

“Burning Styrofoam” kicks the record off in fine form. Loud, chaotic, but maintains a great melodic sensibility. Everything builds up to the album centerpiece, “Beautifully Awkward.” While this record never quite falls into full on emo territory, it certainly shares a certain sensibility. Personal, cathartic lyrics are the name of the game.

As a band, Bleeding Fractals are adept at making great music. The Dim Orange Lights is melodic in all the right places, but loud and mathy just the same. There is a lot going on here, and it sounds great. Production on post-hardcore shit, or punk in general, is always a little touchy. Too much and it sounds glossy and lame, too little and it sounds like shit. This record is just shiny enough, but never overpoweringly so.

This has had a good amount of spins for me since June, and I think anyone reading this should totally check it out. Don’t let a good thing pass you by. DIY bands need support, and this is a great chance to do so.

Bleeding Fractals
Stream/Buy (BandCamp)

REVIEW: The Dandelion War – "We Were Always Loyal To Lost Causes"

It seems like the longer I do this blog, the farther I get away from what people would consider “punk.” I deal with a whole bunch of post-(insert genre) bands and records. I find most of these releases to be more interesting than a lot of other things. The Dandelion War is one such band.

We Were Always Loyal To Lost Causes is a fine example of, I guess, post-rock. It is full of lush instrumentation. It is a record of space. Instead of coming at the listener, it invites the listener to get lost in the atmosphere. This is the strongest part of it. The Dandelion War provide an escape. Everyday life is full of distractions and a million things happening at once, so there is a lot to be said for getting lost in the music.

While it would be easy to pigeon hole this band as one of many genres, it doesn’t quite seem fair. There is a pop sensibility, but dream pop doesn’t quite work. There are plenty of effects, but it doesn’t get as dense as shoegaze. In the same way that Sigur Rós can mix and match, so too does this band. If you pull out your ambient rock bingo card, there is a little bit of everything involved.

All genre buzzwords aside, this album is great. Emphasis on album. While most bands are content to throw 13 potential singles together and call it a full length, The Dandelion War have clearly worked to make this a cohesive album. This might make it hard to single out a few songs as standouts, but it makes the end product so much better. Even coming in just this side of an hour, We Were Always Loyal To Lost Causes never overstays it’s welcome. It is ambient, inviting, and moving.

The Dandelion War
Deep Elm
Stream/Buy It (Bandcamp)
Buy It (Physical)

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: Ghost Heart – "The Tunnel"

Post-punk has always been hard for me to enjoy. I like The Cure, but could live without the three minute track intros. I understand that the extended musical passages are used to create atmosphere, but my attention span has been severely damaged due to years of short punk songs. As a result, Ghost Heart’s debut full length is a tough listen for me. It is an enjoyable release. What it lacks in brevity, it makes up for with quality. But, it is not one of those records that lends itself to the modern era of shuffles and singles.

My first experience listening to this record came via a trip back from O’Hare International Airport to Carol Stream. To me, that is the ideal situation for a record like this. It is a long, relatively calm record that is best for stretches of uninterrupted listening. Overall, it clocks in at just about 40 minutes. Of the eight tracks, only two are shorter than five minutes. One of those tracks is basically a short interlude, so that barely counts.

Anyway, what you have here is pretty solid post-punk. Very heavy on tribal drums. Clear guitars are king here. The is barely any distortion. Pretty atmospheric keyboards/synth sounds are also spread throughout. Things get intricate, but never get too dense. There is definite shoegaze influence, as far as being able to make so much work at any given time, but it never gets overdone. The best point of comparison would probably be Animal Collective. But, even that comparison is a little lazy.

Shit, I guess I should just sum this up in a pull quote or something. This record is a great bit of textured, atmospheric post-punk. Listen to it on headphones and be stoked.

Official Site
Friction Records
Buy It