Music is hard to really critique when there is any level of nostalgia involved. It’s almost impossible to be unbiased in some way. Instantly there is a bit of a taint to it. It reminds you of something you already like or dislike, and then you have to overcome that bias. Otherwise, it just makes you think of things you already listen to, and there is a non-stop comparison. It’s ultimately not fair to what you are listening to. That is the main problem I’ve had with Viewfinder. They are a very talented band, but so much of my opinion of them is filtered through something else.
In general terms, Viewfinder is a band that is rooted in old alternative and college rock. Do You Even Want Anything? is a record that, if released 25 years ago, would have been a cutting edge release. Viewfinder share a lot of sonic similarities to Dinosaur Jr, Pavement, or the Lemonheads. They make music that is heavily distorted while maintaining a pop sensibility that shines through. “Orbs And Ooze” is a great example of what the band brings to the table. It’s a song that is built around a pretty simple, driving riff. The great vocal hooks in the chorus makes it really enjoyable.
The rest of the record plays very similar. The choruses are huge, the riffs are strong, and songs are the type that will stick in your head. The production is also perfect for the genre. Lo-fi enough to add character, but polished enough to makes everything pop. Songs like “Out Of Sight” and “Stroke Of Genius” show the strength of that approach.
Do You Even Want Anything? can get a bit throwback-y in places. Viewfinder are certainly talented enough to not let it stay that way too long. If you want a quick blast of nostalgia, then this record is for you. On the other hand, this record is also for you if you like good songs that have a lot of heart. Either way, give it a go.
Self Aware Records
I’m not quite sure what to say about this record. I’ve written and rewritten this review a few times already. I just can’t find the right tone. But, whatever.
Museum Mouth have made a great record. My first instinct would be to get all hyped up and yell about how great it is. I’m not sure that would really be appropriate. All told, Alex I Am Nothing is a deceivingly mature record. It’s also pretty fucking heavy. I can’t say for sure, but it is a record that feels more rooted in fact than fiction. Even if it’s not, and it’s just a made up story, there is still a level of honesty that shines through from start to finish.
I said “deceivingly mature” up there because of it’s overall sound. It would be very easy to mistake this as just another punk rock record. Karl Kuehn’s voice is nasally and snotty in some places, forceful in others. The overall tone of the music is lo-fi indie/punk. The songs are catchy as hell, and don’t sound as serious as they really are. It’s easy to miss it. But, in any event, Museum Mouth continue to flex their muscle when it comes to catchy, lo-fi indie/punk. Alex I Am Nothing tracks in a very logical progression from 2012’s Sexy But Not Happy. There are touches of garage rock, indie, punk, and 90s alternative throughout.
But, as far as talking points go, let’s hit the main one. This is a concept record. As such, I want to talk about this record as a whole. Hopefully I can do it without being overly reductive. Alex I Am Nothing is a record about unrequited love and obsession. Specifically through the lens of a gay man who has feelings for a not gay man. It starts with love (well, lust) at first sight. It ends with acceptance, albeit a sometimes bitter version of it. Everything tracks in a realistic, logical way. You can’t help but see yourself in the story. You can’t help but feel bad about what an absolutely shitty situation it is. Museum Mouth has accomplished a tremendous thing. They made a record that tackles an emotionally fucked up topic, and they made it accessible.
Now that I got the review out of the way, I can get all hyped up about this record and yell about how great it is. To wit, every other record coming out this year is on notice. This record is unfuckwithable, and the bar has been set pretty fucking high.
Self Aware Records
Shit, 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.
Tor Johnson Records (Buy It)
Self Aware Records (Buy It)
I feel like the new wave of shoegaze influenced bands get needlessly criticized. I guess the reason is because how revolutionary the genre was when it first started. I mean, come on, some of those shambling British bands just came way the fuck out of left field. In recent years we have seen a lot of bands mixing more spacious indie rock with the dense, fuzzed out shoegaze stuff. The Joy Formidable and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are great examples. In a similar way, Center Of The Sun has crafted a hell of a record.
Machine Gun is, at it’s heart, a pop record. While there are clear earmarks of the whole nouveau shoegaze thing, it never really insists on itself in the way some of these records do. While playing around with the genre norms, Center Of The Sun are able to maintain a pop edge. It can get kind of dense and gloomy sounding in spots, but there are some great melodies shining through.
What really makes this band so interesting is the very disparate range of bands all the members have been (or are currently in). Other projects run the gamut from metal to noise rock, to electro-pop. That such a wide array of projects could offshoot into something as fucking solid as this is kind of surprising.Everything just seems to mesh. Rick Contes’ and Chris Nolen’s guitars blend perfectly with Ally Hoffmann’s voice. The interplay is really fantastic. This shines through on songs like “Cease” and “Reckless Sea.” The rhythm section of Joe Elmore and Ben Gascho keep everything tight and moving.
For fans of the genre, there is absolutely something here for you. There are some great melodic, spacey bits in songs like “Turnabout.” There are some heavy, guitar led songs like “Reckless Sea” and “Home.” No matter what mood you’re in, they got you covered. Just great gloomy, fuzzy songs. There is a lot to like here.
In short, this record will appeal to all sorts of people. Indie rock fans, shoegaze fans, and even those chillwave nerds can get down to this. Check it out.