REVIEW: Best Practices – "Sore Subjects"

Goddamn. I was waiting for more music from Best Practices. Sore Subjects is a follow up to The EP LP from last year. Everything that worked on that record is back in force here. Basically, this EP knocks is out of the park again.

With Will Killingsworth at the production helm again, the band has put together another solid record. Best Practices still play a hodge podge of pop punk, hardcore, and whatever else they feel like throwing in. What is notable about these new songs is how the band is giving them room to play out. Where every song on The EP LP was around two minutes or under, two of the four songs on this are actually longer than three minutes. I mean, it is still four quick songs, clocking in at about 11 minutes, but there is a little breathing room.

This is really a pretty natural progression for the band. It still has that low-fi production that made their previous effort sound so good. It is still the weird post-hardcore guitar lines thrown in with a poppy veneer. The vocals are still rough, but fantastic. There is just a few more colors added to the palette. Like the acoustic guitar intro bit on “Home For Halloween.”

Honestly, everything I said about this band when I reviewed The EP LP still holds true. Fuck whatever else your doing right now. Go listen to this.

Best Practices
BandCamp
Tor Johnson Records
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(updated 5/12/13 with label/buy it information)

REVIEW: Circle Takes The Square – "Decompositions: Volume Number One"

It has been eight years since Circle Takes The Square last put out a full length. The perfect As The Roots Undo came out way back in 2004, and has been many people’s only exposure to the band. Going that long between records is always a dangerous proposition. Bands will either maintain a cult following, or else people will just kind of forget about them. Personally, I was kind of in the middle of those options. I never forgot about them, as their self titled EP and aforementioned full length were pretty much on constant rotation until about 2010. I did, however, give up on ever getting a new full length. Even when the Decompositions: Volume Number One, Chapter I: Rites of Initiation came out back in 2011. I figured it was a one and done EP. Needless to say, when the new record dropped on 12/21/12, I was not even expecting it.

Decompositions: Volume Number One is a very dense record. It is a super cathartic release, and not really a record you put on just for fun. It is a record that one has to actively listen to in order to fully appreciate. As they are wont to do, Circle Takes The Square are all over the map with influences. There is metal, screamo, powerviolence, and even a little indie folk influences throughout. This much going on at once would be fucking disastrous in the hands of a lesser band. People generally use the term “atmospheric” to describe mellow, ambient things. This is an atmospheric record, but that atmosphere is more apocalyptic than calming.

Nine songs blast through in about 56 minutes. There are some sparse moments. Album opener, “Enter By The Narrow Gates”, starts with about a minute of chanting. The remainder of it’s almost seven minute run time is spent building to the release that is the second cut, “Spirit Narrative.” And, when it explodes, it fucking makes it count. It is a slow burn, but it keeps your attention. Once your work yourself into the record, it is business as usual. Business as usual for this band is not such a simple business.

The thing that sold me on Circle Takes The Square was the chaotic nature of their records. It would go from calm to full on chaos multiple times within a song. It can make things a little disjointed at time, but it keeps you involved. That is the only problem I have with this record. Everything seems more calculated. Nothing on this record feels very spontaneous. All the slow parts are where you expect them to be. It ebbs and flows in a way that would be comfortable in any other record, but seems out of place on a full length from this band. This isn’t a knock on the band, as this record is still amazingly engrossing. The problem is that they are so honed and aware of what they are doing that nothing stands out above all else. The record starts really strong. With the exception of album closer, “North Star, Inverted,” the bottom half of the record is a little less strong.  However, that fucking closer is one of the best things this band has done.

Pushing 11 minutes, “North Star, Inverted” is beautiful. It starts with a building drum, into a post-hardcore guitar part. Everything is generally what you expect, and then it throws a curveball. Two minute and 15 seconds in, you get a very calm acoustic guitar lead. It is basically a perfect song.

To wrap this overly long review up, this record is great. While it is lacking some of the exuberance of As The Roots Undo, it still fucking kills it. I didn’t even need to write this review, as anyone who is a believer in this band has already checked it out anyway.

Circle Takes The Square
Gatepost Recordings
BandCamp

REVIEW: Best Practices – The EP LP

Punk rock gets stagnant sometimes. When it does, something has to comes out of left fucking field. This is one of those records. This is a strange brew of pop punk, screamo, and hardcore. And, by god, it works like a charm.

Collectively, Best Practices are a solid fucking band. In it there are members of Weak Teeth and former members of Light The Fuse And Run, Jesuscentric, and Wow, Owls!. Add the fact that this was recorded by Will Killingsworth (from Orchid and Ampere), and you have the recipe for a great record.

Nine songs rip through in about 12 minutes. The vocals sound straight out of a hardcore record, but the music stays securely in a poppy, if not slightly jagged and angular, place. I honestly don’t really know how to explain this record. It is a short and fast pop punk record that is all hopped up on screamo energy. While things can get a bit crazy, there are great hooks all over this thing. This is one of the best punk record I’ve heard this year. Kudos, Best Practices.

Best Practice
Tiny Engines
Teeth Like Swords
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REVIEW: State Faults – "Desolate Peaks"

Holy cats, you guys. This is a fucking record. If you want a good distillation of what hardcore and emo can be, this is certainly a great example. State Faults (formerly Brother Bear) remind me why I love this type of music. To me, listening to Desolate Peaks is like hanging out with an old friend.

While this record borrows from a lot of things, it eschews the blatant style biting that a lot of screamo (or skramz, or whatever the fuck we’re calling it these days) bands seem to be doing. State Faults is able to navigate the middle ground between the chaotic screamo and the twinkly emo. The vocals are aggressive as hell, but the instrumentation hangs out in an inviting, melodic place a lot of the time. To my ear, this has some pretty obvious influence from bands like Antioch Arrow, Saetia, and maybe Maximillian Colby. For a boring comparison to more recent bands, this has a lot in common with bands like Caravels, Pianos Become The Teeth, Circle Takes The Square, and The Saddest Landscape.

Where this separates itself from the super chaotic bands of yore is in the grounded instrumentation. State Faults are fantastic at playing up the more jagged, hard line stuff while still maintain a bit of atmosphere and space. The production is great and makes the two book ends completely compliment each other. Unlike some other bands, the fluctuation of style sounds fluid instead of forced.

This shit rules. Check it out, ok?

State Faults
Tiny Engine Records
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