REVIEW: Strangers – “Good Enough”

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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

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: Sad Blood – “Legion Of Gloom”

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Hey, remember when I wrote about Sad Blood back in November? No? Well, here is a refresher. I ended the review being kind of a snarky and saying:

“Will Sad Blood be another one of those one-and-done bands that flooded my inbox a few years ago? I hope not. I’d like to hear a lot more from them, because Ultimate Worrier is a hell of an introduction.”

Past me can stop worrying though. There is a new EP from Sad Blood. I would have talked about it back in May, but I’m the worst. Anyway. It’s really good. Legion Of Gloom is the logical next step after Ultimate Worrier. It’s still a Doomsday Device of emo music loaded with pop hooks. There is still a lot of Dowsing and Pet Symmetry going on here, but Sad Blood are making it theirs. They sound more comfortable and have really found their feet.

If anything, the music has gotten more on the power pop side of things. It’s actually very interesting to see the band start making those moves. There is almost a dissonance between how the music sounds and what the lyrics are. The music has only gotten poppier and more melodic. The lyrics remain ever in bummer territory. I like that kind of thing though, so it definitely works for me. They add lighthearted humor behind it though. It certainly helps when they are talking about feeling nothing.

Also, the handclap gimmick on “Ten More Years” is my favorite thing.

Sad Blood
Bandcamp / Buy It

 

 

 

REVIEW: Slow Bloom – “Slow Bloom”

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My favorite punk rock records are the ones that sound like everyone in the band just said “fuck it” and just went as hard as they could regardless of the consequences. Punk rock is built on that energy. A lot of bands who try that end up playing fast, sloppy, amateur hour type shit. They mistake energy for speed. Good punk rock isn’t just stuff that is loud and fast. Good punk rock is something you can feel.

Slow Bloom is a band full of energy and heart. They play post-hardcore, but are still very aware of their punk rock roots. The songs sound gritty and dirty. It’s super welcome in a world where most punk rock bands have rounded of the jagged edges. They are also deceptively melodic and catchy. Underneath the screaming and distortion on “Phantom Tantrum” is a really great early 90s alternative rock song. “Veriforms” and “Deep Space” are what I think At The Drive-In would sound like if they weren’t too pompous and cool to be punk.

I don’t want to wax philosophically about a punk rock record. It’s on Bandcamp, it’s on Spotify. You can find it. My notes when I listened to this EP started with the phrase “dope as fuck.” Let’s just leave it there.

Slow Bloom
Bandcamp
Spotify

 

REVIEW: Sick Days – “Stay Warm”

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I appreciate bands like Sick Days. Specifically, I appreciate bands that aren’t afraid to throw things against the wall and see what sticks. Stay Warm is an EP that covers three distinct sounds, but never sounds like it was just thrown together. It’s a punk rock record at it’s core, but there are some outside moments, and interesting style choices.

The EP starts with the song “Crickets.” This song exemplifies the whole nature of what would come later. It starts of with vocals and a faint, delicate guitar. Then it shifts to really muscular, start-stop riffs with yelled vocals. It eventually transitions into a fucking killer punk rock song. It tracks something like indie to emo/post-hardcore to melodic punk rock.

The next two songs, “My Old School” and “Stay Afloat,” are generally straight forward punk rock songs. The former giving me a bit of a Jawbreaker vibe, think the “With Or Without U2” medley. The last song, “DeKalb,” is just guitar and vocals for most of the song, save for the full band picking up in the last 30 seconds or so. It stays very calm and indie sounding.

What does this all mean? Well, it means that Sick Days have a whole lot going for them. They are adept at playing multiple styles, and could logically branch off further. On the other hand, they could also pick one style and run with it. They seem to have it covered either way.

Sick Days @ Bandcamp

REVIEW: Trials Of Early Man – “Attachments”

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There are a million genre, sub genres, and sub sub genres in the world. Everyone likes to talk about them, and everyone likes to see bands fit into narrower and narrower categories. Trial Of Early Men are one of those bands that could probably be slotted into a wide array of sub genres, but let’s not muddy the water. This is a punk rock band making engaging music that throws its weight around.

Attachments, as a whole, is a record that is jagged, distorted, and loud. There is a lot of early emo and post-hardcore influence throughout the record, but it doesn’t really become a genre record in either of those ways specifically. There is edge, but there are also round corners. “Of Youth” is an example of the band mixing the more jagged sound with pop influence. “Nil Nil” falls the fuck apart towards the end in a really great way. It turns chaotic before pulling back together. It’s this split that makes Trials Of Early Man stand out.

They do the fuck out of the quiet/LOUD dynamic, both instrumentally and vocally. The music has muscle behind it. The vocals definitely highlight that by providing a great accent of their own. Gruff, but not in a boring beard-punk way. Aggressive and yelled, but not in a screamo way. It kind of makes me think of Guy Picciotto or Rick Froberg.

I have to admit, I am a bit out of my element here. Not because of the genre or sound, but because there is history behind this band. It isn’t a band of rookie kids who are just bashing things out. Trials Of Early Man is made up of members of Caretaker, Action and Action, CircusAct and The Good Wife. I have a huge blindspot when it comes to UK bands, and this is one of those times where it is super noticeable. I’m not really familiar with any of those bands. I’m an asshole from Chicago, I don’t know any better.

That is kind of a roundabout way of saying that this record lives or dies based on it’s own merit rather than past nostalgia. The good news is that is stands on it’s own feet. Definitely a record worth checking out for fans of punk rock, and the million offshoot post- genres it birthed.

Trials Of Early Man
Bandcamp / Buy It