REVIEW: Strangers – “Good Enough”

sgeEP

I (relatively) recently was talking about Long Knives. When discussing them, I mentioned how much I liked Kris Moya’s songwriting. As luck would have it, I have more of their music to talk about. I should have talked about this back in May, but I’m the worst reviewer. Anyway. Strangers is Moya’s solo project. Being responsible for all the instruments and vocals, save for some of the backing vocals, Good Enough is a record that speaks directly to their influences. I feel like that is both appealing and intimidating for any musician. Your project will sink or swim based on your vision and voice. The proverbial buck stops with you. Luckily, this record swims.

One of my favorite things about this record is that it taps into a different part of the greater punk genre than Long Knives does. That band was firmly on the emo side of the fence, this project is definitely more on the indie rock side of things. Good Enough would sound right at home on a label like Salinas or Don Giovanni. This is the kind of music that will always appeal to me. To be honest, if you like that kind of stuff, I don’t know how you couldn’t find something to like on this record. You want a hooky pop influenced song? “Strangers” and “30 Day Free Trial” are there for you. An energetic, uptempo jam? “Like Fun Gay, Not Angry Gay” has got you covered. Shit, “If The Apocalypse Comes, Beep Me” closes the record in a way that does both.

My favorite kind of song is an undercover sad one. I think Good Enough is a record that speaks to that. Even an upbeat sounding song can have a bit of bummer introspection. “Like Fun Gay, Not Angry Gay” speaks to that. It’s got a triumphant sound to it, but lyrics like “When my body no longer feels unworthy of taking up space // When my brain is no longer filled with shame” speak to the struggle that has being overcome. See also: “If I’m busy then that’s why I’m still around // I keep myself busy, but it brings me down // I’m out of control when I’m alone” in the record closer. To me, that’s that kind of thing that makes the record worth listening to. Anyone can make an indie punk song. Actually using the genre to say something is when songs become great.

Strangers is a project that just appeals to me in almost every way. By any metric I have available, I would say this record has been super slept on. I hate RIYL statements, but this record would certainly appeal to fans of stuff like All Dogs or Swearin’. Ok?

Strangers
Bandcamp/Buy It

Song Of The Week (7/1/19) // Black Adidas – “Be Cool”

Black Adidas – “Be Cool”

I have to be honest, I’ve been sitting on this song since fucking January. I am incredibly bad at running a music website. It was “officially” released a week and a half ago, so maybe I’m not the worst. Anyway.

Be Cool” is the new song from Black Adidas. The song feels like a fitting sequel to “Old Fashioned Rock N Roll” from last year’s self titled LP. Both revel in paying respect to the genre. But, if “Old Fashioned Rock N Roll” was a tribute to sound, “Be Cool” is a mission statement. It’s a song about going to a show, seeing a band, and just fucking going off. It’s a song about not worrying about anything, and just enjoying music you love. Sometimes that’s really what you need.

I don’t like doing RIYL type things, but there is a definite Social Distortion vibe running through this track. It’s got a classic punk sound, a great chant along chorus, and a killer synth line. I don’t know what else you could want.

Also, hell, let’s promo here. Black Adidas is running a sale on their Bandcamp this week (I actually have no idea for how long). Use the code “merica” for 30% their shit. Am I a shill if I do it for free?

Edit: Sale is done.

Black Adidas
Bandcamp

REVIEW: Sin Bad / Bad Wig – “Sin Bad Wig” Split

I have a bias. I want to say it right off the top. I grew up near Chicago, and I’ve been a Cubs fan for a long time. As such, it’s in my nature to talk shit on Milwaukee. It can’t be helped. But, hey, we’re not talking baseball. We’re talking music. To that point, this split record is fucking great. Sin Bad and Bad Wigs are both phenomenal bands who know how to write the hell out of a song. The split is a four and four gimmick, and it’s a great example on how goddamn hooky punk rock can be.

Sin Bad have the first half. Four songs in about 11 minutes. They definitely fall more towards the poppy side of the punk rock genre. Maybe Swearin’ by way of Dirt Bike Annie? I don’t know. Either way, the dual vocals of Audrey Pennings and Ben Woyak don’t mess around. The first inclination would be to call this pop punk, but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. Is it poppy? Absolutely. Is it punk? Yep. But I don’t think this band is too concerned about playing within that genre’s yard. Power pop, garage, it’s all here.

Bad Wig play have the second half. Their sound is much more rooted in garage rock. While these songs have a bit more grit to them, they sound positively shiny compared to the band’s 2015 EP (contrast this version of “Machinehead” to the one on there). The instrumentation is fantastic. Ryan McCrary’s guitar fucking kills. Their songs have a kind of retro sound. This band kind of made me think of the Gaza Strippers for whatever reason. I mean, I don’t know. There is a good helping of 90s garage punk in these songs is what I’m saying, I guess.

All in all, this is a great record. If one band does’t click with you, the other probably will. Both are great examples of what they do. Also, totally unrelated to sound, but I’ll always fuck with a record that can also be an answer on Jeopardy.

Sin Bad
Bad Wig
Kitschy Spirit Records
Bandcamp / Buy It

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: Overo – “Cold Concrete​ / ​Shattered”

overo

Overo is a band that I was stoked about the minute I heard they existed. The band is made up of Lindsay and Mercy from Football, etc., Brendan from Perfect Future, and John from Rose Ette. I’m not going to bore you with a lot of introduction and bullshit. Suffice to say, that is a goddamn line up.

The release here is a two song demo/single. The two songs featured are solid post-hardcore, but they also embraces the emo and punk connections. Both have a strong quiet/loud dynamic, but in notably different ways. “Cold Concrete” nails that dynamic with the vocals. “Shattered” with the music. Lindsay Minton and Brendan Stephens have very different vocal styles, but they work really well together. “Cold Concrete” has the former’s singing delivery going head on into the latter’s more yelling/screaming delivery. “Shattered” features more vocal interplay, with both singing at the same time.

I really enjoy how the song play with the post-hardcore style in different ways. “Cold Concrete” has a punk aggression to it. It’s a short song that drives to it’s conclusion. There isn’t a lot of posturing, but there are great riffs. “Shattered” is more jagged and angular. It starts with a minute of delicate guitar work before it crescendos into a mathy kind of jam. The guitar lead is fantastic and the shift at the midway point is a thing of beauty.

The long and short of this is simple. You’ve got a band with a killer lineup making two of the strongest genre songs I’ve heard in a minute. If there was a release more in my wheelhouse, I sure haven’t found it yet. Here’s hoping we get more stuff from this band.

Overo
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

YEAR END! – Top Records Of 2018

Hey, 2018 sure was thing. After almost a year away, I brought this blog back a few months ago. I plan on actually updating on a more regular schedule in 2019. But, that is a problem for 2019 Joe. Anyway, here are my top records of 2018. In alphabetical order, because it just makes sense.

BEST RECORDS:

  • Dessa – “Chime”
  • Dogbite – “True Lofi Will Find You In The End”
  • Drug Church – “Cheer”
  • Gouge Away – “Burnt Sugar”
  • Headlines – “MMXVII”
  • Heavy Mantle – “Weights & Measures”
  • Hop Along – “Bark Your Head Off, Dog”
  • Krimewatch – “Krimewatch”
  • La Luz – “Floating Feature”
  • Lala Lala – “The Lamb”
  • Late Bloomer – “Waiting”
  • Lilith – “I’ll Come Over B/W In Real Life”
  • Miranda Winters – “Xobeci, What Grows Here?”
  • Miserable – “Loverboy”
  • Mitski – “Be The Cowboy”
  • Mothers – “Render Another Ugly Method”
  • Nectar – “Knocking At The Door”
  • Ogikubo Station – “We Can Pretend Like”
  • Open Mike Eagle – “What Happens When I Try To Relax”
  • Restorations – “LP5000”
  • Tancred – “Nightstand”
  • Tanukichan – “Sundays”
  • There’s Talk – “Bathed Water Moon”
  • V.V. Lightbody – “Bathing Peach”
  • Worlds Greatest Dad – “Get Well Soon”

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

  • Absinthe Father – “Jane”
  • Ivy Sole – “Overgrown”
  • Petal – “Magic Gone”
  • Roy Kinsey – “Blackie: A Story By Roy Kinsey”
  • Smol Data – “Smol Data: An EP”
  • Snail Mail – “Lush”
  • Steady Holiday – “Nobody’s Watching”
  • Swearin’ – “Fall In The Sun”
  • Tony Molina – “Kill The Light”
  • Young Animals – “Disposition”

All things considered, Be The Cowboy was my favorite record this year. Or, at the very least, the one I listened to the most.

So, yeah. There you go. Here’s a Spotify playlist