REVIEW: Gadget and the Cloud – “October 31st”

gatcoctober31

Cork, Ireland’s Kelly Doherty makes some pretty great music under the name Gadget and the Cloud. October 31st is a hell of an EP, and is definitely worth checking out. It is a great instrumental electronic/ambient type sound. Strong influences from post-rock and electronic indie.

Things fluctuate between delicate and ambient and noisy and jarring. Everything has it’s own flavor. “Grove,” clocking in at just under three minutes, sets the tone perfectly. It is very chill, and almost droney. It transitions perfectly into “Flake,” which has a larger sound to it. It’s more cinematic, I suppose.

“Trace” serves as an interesting transition. It has a similar energy to the aforementioned songs, but has a darker sound to it overall. It works to ease into the darker sounding “October 30th” and “October 31st.” The former is very quiet, with a static sound throughout. It has an almost foreboding sound to it. “October 31st” kicks that up even higher.

Gadget and the Cloud is a very interesting project overall. There are bits and pieces of stuff like Boards Of Canada, Ricky Eat Acid, and Coma Cinema. Doherty never leans too heavily on any particular influence, and has a definite voice of her own. I can’t wait to hear more

Gadget and the Cloud (Soundcloud)
Bandcamp

PS: This is on Bandcamp, but more recent songs are already up on Soundcloud.

REVIEW: Pretend – “Tapestry’d Life”

pretendtl

Pretend are making a lot of noise with this record. People overwhelmingly love it. I saw a lot of people were calling it the album of the year on the day it came out. I don’t know how to really approach it though. Pretend is a hell of a band. They’re technically proficient, they’re really down to experiment with sound, but maybe not the band for me. Maybe I’m missing something. I don’t know.

Tapestry’d Life is a good, if inaccessible, record. It’s full of mathy instrumentation and constantly shifting time signatures. There are points where it can get a little unnerving and almost uncomfortable to listen to. This is only made more noticeable by the fact that eight of the nine songs clock in at over seven minutes each. Four of which are pushing 10 minutes, plus or minus. It’s a bit like listening to Slint or US Maple, but the songs just keep on pushing. Which is fine, y’know. It’s good, but definitely not for everyone.

Pretend have heaps of talent, and they know how to keep listeners on their toes. Things can get a bit disjointed, but an underlying pop sensibility keeps it a bit reigned in. You hear it all over the place, but especially when the guitar gets delicate kind of twinkly. It’s a post-rock record that doesn’t lean so heavily on being “cinematic” or huge in scope. But songs like “Blessings” and “Physical Flight” still sound huge in their own way. The music ebbs and flows, the production is right on the money, and everything just sounds good.

Does it live up to the hype though? I don’t know. Probably not. Not for me anyway. There’s a gang of people who love this record, and I totally get it. It’s well made, it’s engaging, and Pretend are definitely on top of their game. I just don’t know what kind of replay value this is going to have for me. Maybe I’m just sleeping on it like a dummy. Who knows? It’s a interesting listen either way.

Pretend
Topshelf Records
Bandcamp
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Happy 20th Birthday To Deep Elm!

deepelmrecords

Deep Elm records is celebrating their 20th anniversary. I wanted to take some time to talk about it. I’m 30 years old, so Deep Elm was already making moves when I was a kid. To put this all into context, I was 10 years old when they started, and 12 years old when the first Emo Diaries came out. Deep Elm has been a label for as long as I can remember. It is also a label that has been hugely important to me.

Brandtson’s Trying To Figure Each Other Out was probably the first Deep Elm record I ever heard. Admittedly, it was already a few years old by the time I heard it. My first exposure to the label was via one of those free samplers you got at shows. I got my hands on a copy of Sound Spirit Fury Fire (Deep Elm Sampler Vol. 3) at a show, and was introduced to a whole bunch of bands that I still listen to now. Camber, Pop Unknown. Brandtson, Benton Falls, and Planes Mistaken For Stars were all represented. They are also bands that get regular spins over a decade later. It was, and this is going to sound cheesy, a life changing compilation. It was my first major step into independent music. It was a lifeline to a vital scene that has been hugely important to me.

I use this phrase a lot, but authenticity matters. It does now, and it did back in 2001/2002. I was, by all accounts, a giant poseur back then. I listened to punk rock, but I didn’t really understand it. I may or may not have owned a Good Charlotte cd. I wanted desperately to fit in with the cool kids in bands that went to my high school. I never did, I was a fat kid with a mohawk and a Rancid t-shirt. I went to local emo and punk shows, but didn’t get it. I hadn’t really figured out how to use my bullshit detector. Deep Elm provided a path for me to walk down.

The records they put out were, and are, the definition of authentic. Genre didn’t matter, it was all about heart. It still is. I remember listening to Desert City Soundtrack for the first time. I remember the feeling I got when I first listened to Latterman on the way home from Tower Records. I remember the first time I heard Camber’s “Improbable Upside.”

I remember the first time I got an email from them. Not a form email or whatever, but an actual email. It was maybe a year or two into me doing this blog. I was just some dude who was running a blog on, at the time, Blogger. To get any level of acknowledgment from Deep Elm was huge. It motivated me to give a shit. I’m definitely still just a low level blogger at best. I’m not breaking bands, I’m not a taste maker. I talk about bands I like. I review records that I think are good. Even then, I was still important enough to get in contact with. That means a lot.

I hope Deep Elm is around for another 20 years. There is a shitty kid like me just discovering independent music, and this label has a hell of a lot to show them.

Deep Elm Records

PS: Deep Elm has their entire discography as Name Your Price. Go get a bunch of stuff.

PPS: That stream of Sound Spirit Fury Fire is missing some songs that appeared on the CD. Bummer.

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
BandCamp
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REVIEW: Grammer – “Awesome Knifes”

grammerThe best thing about music is that there are always new bands. There are always some young cats coming up to give a shot in the arm to anyone who cares to listen. Grammer, spelling error aside,  has a great opportunity to be one of those bands. Though we’re still in the front half of the year, this is one of my favorite self released things thus far.

Awesome Knifes is exactly the kind of debut record that a band needs. It has high energy and vibrancy. Taking cues from classic Midwestern emo, a little bit of post-rock, and some punk drive, it is a solid EP that tells a great story from front to back. Starting with “Astronaww, Man” and going straight through to “Cigarette Regimen,” it tells a contained story of youthful innocence working down to jaded adult ennui. It progresses in a logical way lyrically, and so does it musically. It opens with a delicate, Midwest sound that gets more aggressive as the record continues. It gets into the more punk side of bands like Dads by the time “Quit (Your Job)” and “Friends In The Hotel Industry” hit. It’s 100% my jam, man. This is a band with heaps of promise.

Without resorting to hyperbole that I may later regret, I think this might be one of the strongest debuts I’ve heard in a minute. Get the right label and promotion behind them, and this band could be huge. The potential upside of this band is almost unlimited. It’ll be smart to get in on the ground floor.

Grammer
BandCamp

REVIEW: Miserable – “Halloween Dream”

miserableThe first thing I noticed about Halloween Dream is how much beauty and soul there is on the record. While Kristina Esfandari is constantly getting the ex-Whirr tag, her solo material is strong enough to kill that talking point. As a solo artist, as Miserable, she’s made one of the most engaging records I’ve heard in quite some time.

Halloween Dream is record that shows how “atmospheric” doesn’t always mean “light.” Esfandari’s ethereal vocals weave beautifully in and out of reverb heavy, distorted music. When playing this type of music, it’s easy to use the production as a crutch. The denseness can cover up songwriting deficiencies, the reverb, delays, and distortion can make boring music sound less boring. That’s why it’s great when you hear it done right.

It’s easy to get lost in the music. It’s easy to put a record like this on, and just let it take over. One of my favorite parts of the record is how, even without actively listening to the lyrics, you can tell exactly what is going on. Esfandari projects so much with just her vocal delivery. You can hear the emotion, desire, and regret in these songs.

I feel bad calling this just an “insert whatever genre” record. To call it just one thing or another feels too narrow. It can be ambient and melodic in one part, then fucking heavy and dense in another. If I had to call it something, I’m not sure what i’d say. Metallic shoegaze with post-rock flair? Sure, why the fuck not? It’s beautiful.

Miserable (Facebook)
The Native Sound
BandCamp
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REVIEW: Foxing – “The Albatross”

foxingI feel like we almost have to mention Foxing when discussing what emo music is in 2013. They represent how the genre has expanded to include a lot of outside influences. There is a whole lot to like about The Albatross. A genre defining record it isn’t, but it is a great snapshot.

The Albatross is an inclusive and encompassing record. It manages to seamlessly combine emo, post-rock, indie, and math rock. It can go from simple and twinkly to complex. There are touches of horns and strings throughout (though primarily on the interlude tracks). The vocals range from delicate to gruff to yelling depending on what song is playing. Foxing seemingly took a kitchen sink approach to song writing, choosing to do what they want instead of constraining themselves to one thing.

Foxing’s output to this point has been limited, but strong. A few splits and an EP showed that the band is very capable of making damn good music. The songs on this record sound genuine and sincere. But, as with any debut full lengths, there are some weak spots. There are a lot of references to the sea/ocean (which should be expected on a record called The Albatross, I suppose). The metaphors start to wear a bit thin towards the back half of the record.

I don’t know why I’m not really excited by this record. The production is great, the music is spot on, and it’s an overall enjoyable listen. The songs rise and fall in all the right places. The guitars get all twinkly right where they’re supposed to. The outside instrumentation adds some beautiful accents. There just isn’t anything that immediately stands out to me, especially with the slew of great genre records that came out this year.

It’s a good record, but I just don’t know if it’s a great record. But, given that this thing is already starting it’s second pressing after barely a month, it’s fair to say a lot of people might disagree. Maybe I’m just missing something.

Foxing
Count Your Lucky Stars
BandCamp
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REVIEW: U137 – "Dreamer On The Run"

Post-rock is an interesting thing to tackle. The bands have to keep the rules of standard rock music in mind, while also trying to avoid sticking to them. It’s in that eschewing normal genre rules that allows for cinematic qualities, it helps create songs that can be sweeping in scope. U137 is a duo made up of Adam Tornblad and Oscar Gulbrandsen. These two are no strangers to this type of music, having three releases with Moonlit Sailor under their belts. To see them adding to the stable of wonderful post-rock that Deep Elm currently has makes perfect sense.

It’s hard to review this stuff as a collection of songs. The genre doesn’t lend itself well to picking out favorite songs, or fragmenting things down to “well, this part is cool.” In that regard, Dreamer On The Run is no different. The band made cohesive, engulfing record from front to back. U137 is made that work, plus they fit some great traditional indie rock flourishes in as well. The album works well as an entire piece.

Those indie rock moments are what makes this such an accessible record. You can be a total novice about this type of music and still get it. It never gets into the weirdness that some bands can. It remains very grounded, while still managing to shine. As an instrumental band, everything seems to serve double duty. Each instrument can provide the background colors, but can also carry the song in a traditional way. That said, this isn’t riffing indie rock.

I don’t want to sound like one of those nerd who talks about swirling music and sonic landscapes, but I kind of have to. “Dreamer On The Run” has a whole lot to like. It’s calm and ambient in places, it’s driving in others. Everything works, everything shines. Check it out.

U137
Deep Elm
BandCamp
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REVIEW: The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – "Whenever, If Ever"

The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die finally released their first LP. Well, released it digitally in order to combat it leaking a month early. Or whatever. Either way, it’s here. There was a lot of hype leading up to this. The reaction you see is very much dependent on which parts of the internet you frequent. Some people are already claiming it to be album of the year, some people are comparing it to watching paint dry.

No offense to the dude over at Dying Scene, but this record is actually pretty perfect. Anyone familiar with this band should already know what to expect. I feel like calling this exclusively an emo record does it a disservice. There is a lot going on here. While the record heavily features hallmarks of emo, it also touches on general indie rock and even on some post-rock atmospherics. What’s really nice is how it bring back some diverse instrumentation to the genre. First off, it adds great texture to the record. Plus, I always love when there are trumpet flourishes, violins, and piano/synth work on emo records.

Everything flows together well. Whenever, If Ever is an album, not just a random collection of songs. While each song stands on it’s own, everything works better as an entire piece. Every song could be a standout song. Every song could be the a side to a 7″ single. That’s not to say I don’t have some favorites.

I absolutely love the way some of these songs are connected and work together, almost like one long song. Songs four through six function like this. “Picture Of A Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay” flows perfectly into “You Will Never Go To Space,” which leads perfectly into “The Layers Of Skin We Drag Around.” These songs share a similar theme, and each song has a line that connects it back to the song before it. Be it talk of cars parked on lawns, or just the general fear of/desire to change. While it shouldn’t be, I feel like that is something special. A lot of albums always feel a bit disjointed. The band clearly went into this with the mind to produce a full, coherent album.

I can’t say enough good things about this record. The production is spot on. It is adventurous musically and lyrically. The band has stepped up their lyric game beautifully. Like I said earlier, it is basically perfect. Is it album of the year? Maybe. It’s only May though. Who can really tell just yet. It’ll be pretty fucking hard to beat though.

The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die
Topshelf Records
Broken World Media
Bandcamp
Buy It