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.

REVIEWS: Sad Blood – “Ultimate Worrier”

sadblood

Sad Blood has an EP called Ultimate Worrier. Like, come on. Of course I’m going to like this record. It is a solid emo EP, and the title is a pro wrestling pun. It is one of the most solid example of things that are 100% in my wheelhouse. This is a short EP, so I don’t have a whole lot to say about it. So I’m going to use this time to talk about some other stuff, while I talk about the record. Is that cool? Ok.

I’ve spent the better part of the last three or four years listening to every goddamn emo record that was sent to me. Everything from bands who use PR companies to bands who self released one thing and never did anything again. There is a level of burn out that comes from that. Not because the bands were bad, but because so many of them were really fucking good. That whole thing has died down a little. Most of the bands I’m hearing now play some version of alternative rock that was popular in the mid-1990s. My palate is cleansed, and I’m excited to hear emo records again.

Sad Blood is a perfect example of the kind of stuff I love. They’re an emo band, but with really strong pop influence. Their sound fit in very well with bands like Dowsing, Free Throw, and The Promise Ring. The three songs on Ultimate Worrier have a lot of life and energy behind them. It’s just great from front to back. I hate to pick a standout song, especially on EPs, but “Party, Animal” is a fucking jam. It’s a record that has exactly what you want.

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.

Sad Blood
Bandcamp / Buy It

REVIEW: Milkshakes – “Dog Years”

milkshakesdogyears

I’m a sucker for poppy, hooky music. Driving punk rock songs that also have those qualities are a total no brainer. I’m super into that shit. But, honestly, who isn’t? Well, I guess there are some dorks who probably aren’t. Whatever.

Milkshakes is a band that has actually been around for a few years now. Dog Years is their second EP, and third release overall (per their Bandcamp anyway). It is a quick four song, with a 13 minute runtime. It is a quick exercise in great indie/punk rock music. Superchunk and Osker influences are abound, with maybe a touch of The Get Up Kids and Knapsack too.

The songs have a way of working their way into your head. There are great vocal hooks, on “8:15” and “Cave In” especially. Dog Years is a fun listen, but certainly treads on well worn ground. It’s got a whole bunch of promise though. Milkshakes is a band that is maybe still trying to find their voice. They have the potential to be something pretty great once they do.

Milkshakes
Bandcamp / Buy It

REVIEW: Kill The Intellectuals – “All This Time I Was Writing An Album And I Thought I Was Just Living My Life”

ktiwritingI’ve written about Kill The Intellectuals before. Twice, actually. I’ve gone on about the prolific nature of Angela-Grace Foster as a songwriter. I’ve rambled on about genre tags and other music classification bullshit. I don’t really need to say too much more along those lines.

The thing that strikes me most about Kill The Intellectuals is that it’s an ongoing project made by someone who is basically still a kid. I know that sounds shitty and dismissive, but I don’t mean it that way. It’s actually one of Foster’s biggest strengths. They haven’t fallen into the trappings that older musicians have. The songs don’t have some jaded subtext. The lyrics are honest in a way that most musicians aren’t. It’s rare to find anyone who is so open in their songwriting. And it’s even rarer to find a musician with such a defined voice at such a young age.

Anyway, let’s talk about the record. All This Time I Was Writing An Album And I Thought I Was Just Living My Life fits very well in the overall oeuvre that is Kill The Intellectuals. Mixing the straight forward folk with the spoken word and experimental sounds, it is a really great representation of what they’ve been doing up to this point. It’s still a lo-fi, bedroom recording type record. It’s the little touches though. The overdubbed vocals on “Vacant Rooms” make for a really great sounding harmony. “Love Is The New Ibuprofen And I Am Hooked” is bookended with backmasking and spoken word. The two “Love vs Anxiety” songs show how a strong voice can carry otherwise simple and straightforward folk songs.

My opinion on Kill The Intellectuals is pretty simple. I’m always excited to hear something new things, and I hope to keep hearing more for a long time to come.

Kill The Intellectuals
Bandcamp

REVIEW: Forever Losing Sleep – “I Lost Myself Again”

flsilma

It’s hard to not group bands in a generational kind of way. Forever Losing Sleep is a band that you could easily put a throwback, nostalgia tag on. That might be the curse of playing this kind of emo music. Everyone wants to drop a 1990s reference. It’s accurate to a point, but it’s not fair. I Lost Myself Again is filled with things that could be perceived as callbacks to that era of the genre, but there is more to it than that.

Forever Losing Sleep is a band that understands what makes music engaging. I Lost Myself Again is built on the shifting quiet/loud dynamic. “Esprit D’ Escalier” starts the record on a very mellow, calm note. It mostly stays that way until the last minute, where it just sounds huge. It then drones out, but it’s buzzing fade out serves as the intro to “Twitch.” Everything really jumps off on the third song though. “Trophied” is a beast of a song, and it adds a great bit of heaviness and aggression that carries on throughout the rest of the record. In fact, the shifts in sound works brilliantly. Forever Losing Sleep are an indie/emo band with a great sense of melody, but what makes them stand out is that they allow themselves to just fucking go. Things can jump from calm to aggressive, and back again, at the drop of a hat. “Havre De Grace” is a perfect example.

This is a genre record, and it will appeal to genre fans. Forever Losing Sleep have made a very engaging emo/indie record. The tinges of screamo and post-hardcore only add to it’s power. There’s a lot of skill and promise in these songs. This is a band to keep an eye on, folks.

Forever Losing Sleep
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Bong Mountain – “You’re Doin’ Great!”

bongmountain

I find it really interesting to see how regional influences affect musical genres. This is especially in genres that have very established sounds and tropes. Pop punk, even more than emo, is one of the best examples. Every region has it’s own flavor, and bands tend to wear that influence on their sleeves. In that regard, Bong Mountain is Midwestern as fuck.

You’re Doin’ Great! is an EP that embodies the gritty and gruff pop punk that this region is known for. It’s got jagged edges to it, but it maintains a strong sense of melody. It reminds me a lot of bands like Signals Midwest, without some of the emo influence. Maybe some Mixtapes in there too?

All in all, this is a great introduction to this band. The onus is now on Bong Mountain to differentiate themselves from the crowd of bands playing this style. They definitely seem to be up to the task. If you’re into this kind of gruff pop punk, this will most certainly be a band you should watch out for.

Bong Mountain
Bandcamp

REVIEW: Blame Mary – “Blame Mary”

blamemaryst

There is something to be said for straight ahead punk rock. It’s a style that, regardless of how much weird shit I get stoked on, will always have a place in my heart. Blame Mary is a band that just goes. No frills, no bullshit. Blame Mary’s self titled EP is very much an archetypal punk rock record in a lot of ways. It’s an encapsulation of the short/fast/loud aesthetic that this kind of music was built around. It’s literally the kind of record that you could show anyone, and they’d say “yeah, that’s a punk rock record.”

The band burns through four songs in about eight minutes. It’s there and gone, and every song has a raw intensity. Most of this stems from how it was recorded. It was recorded live in studio, and the live on the floor style works perfectly for them. How you hear it is how they play it. It’s not been produced to death.

The trio is very adept at making a well worn genre sound fresh and vital. This isn’t easy to do, especially in the world of melodic hardcore or garage punk. Blame Mary’s stated goal is to create “simple music that is raw and soulful, while keeping to a very basic set-up.” They nailed it.

Blame Mary
Bandcamp

REVIEW: Kaji – “What Safe Means”

kajiwsmSincerity and authenticity matter. There is a lot of hubris and noise coming from bands. The music and delivery is intense as fuck, but they aren’t really saying anything. It’s a problem. Sincerity counts, everyone. This is what makes Kaji is a very compelling band. It’s what makes What Safe Means is such a promising record. They are sticking close to the genre staples in terms of sound, but they’ve got more than enough going on to be very engaging.

It’s a very good EP. It touches on a variety of topics, but it all that fall in a similar theme. It’s a record that discusses the concept of feeling safe. It’s a vulnerable record that filters the overall theme through topics like abuse, identity, and self worth. It can get a little heavy, but never overwhelmingly so. It’s not really a record that invites itself to quoting random lyrics out of context, and it’s not a record that really allows itself to be pigeonholed when it comes to content. This is an absolute strength if ever there was one. It shows that Kaji have made a singular piece instead of some random collection of songs.

It is, on the other hand, very easy to discuss from a musical standpoint. It definitely excels in the realm of post-hardcore. It also has a fair amount of a screamo influence as well. It’s really not hitting all the genre touchstones of the latter, but it has enough for it to be an apt description. The music is heavy, the vocals are forceful, and everything has a lot of muscle behind it. There is something here for anyone who enjoys music under the greater umbrella of hardcore and punk.

It would be easy to overhype things here, but I’m not going to bullshit you. This is an EP that is worth your attention. It has a lot of heart. It has a lot of passion. And, ultimately, it’s worth a listen based on that alone.

Kaji
Band Camp

REVIEW: Casper Elgin / Handwriting / C’est La Vie – “Triples Therapy”

triplesSplit releases are a vital part of any music scene. This is especially true for punk rock. There are a million band out there. You’ll never be able to work your way through all of them without a bit of assistance. Split releases are perfect for this environment. You get to hear multiple bands at once, decide if they sound good to you, and then instantly have a few new bands to explore. It’s almost the perfect kind of release.

Triples Therapy is a three way split between Casper Elgin, Handwriting, and c’est la vie. All three bands are, in one way or another, emo bands. They all represent a different style of that genre though. So, beyond being a nice introduction to three bands, it’s a split that is a nice introduction to the increasingly more fragmented world of emo music.

Casper Elgin play a more punk/emo sound. Think more along the lines of Dikembe or Snowing. So, as much as I hate to say the phrase, very inline with the whole “emo revival” thing. “My Pipes Are Primo, Champ” and “Wicked Man Of The Desert” are both pretty fair example of where this band (and genre) are heading these days. Both are really good offering, and both show a band with a lot of potential. This is a band that can do a lot if they pushed outside the genre a little more.

Handwriting is similar in tone. They also play a more punk/emo style, but they have a bit more of that old Midwest influence to them. They are taking some moves more from the Grown Ups or Algernon Cadwallader side of things. “Hooray! Everything Is Meaningless!” is built around the twinkly guitar building to a driving style more than more straight ahead riffing or whatever. They sound like, and are, basically an East coast band playing Midwest emo. Those two styles and influences work well together.

C’est La Vie, on the other hand, is kind of the outlier on this split. Rather than playing like the other two bands, they are more of a screamo band. Their one song on this split, “Meraviglia,” has a bit more going on. It’s three and a half minute run time is mostly spent building upon itself. It never gets too heavy. Quite the opposite, it actually stays pretty low key musically. The vocals are where most of the muscle comes from. It’s a strong song, but it never really pays off. There isn’t that release. It feels more like an intro song than a song song. Does that make sense?

Triples Therapy is a split that, if I’m being honest, is basically the sum of it’s parts. The bands play in a way that is perfectly acceptable within the genre norms. They are all strong enough to be enjoyed by any genre fan. I just feel like they’ve got more to offer than this split shows. They may need to step a little more outside the emo homebase. Otherwise, a great listen.

Casper Elgin (Band Camp)
C’est La Vie (Band Camp)
Handwriting (Band Camp)

REVIEW: Skull Practitioners – “ST1” (Tape)

ST1Skull Practitioners are a band that really show how pointless the genre splintering of music is. You could call them post-punk, psychedelic, garage rock, or straight up punk rock. Any designation you give them would work, but it wouldn’t be a fair representation of what’s going on. Their self titled cassette is very hard to classify. And, to a point, it feels like the classification would cheapen it.

Musically, this is a band who plays hard. There is a lot of muscle behind the guitar. The drums are fantastic. But, honestly, that might be the most cohesive thing on ST1. With the band having the influences they do, it makes the tape a touch disjointed. It fluctuates from arty noise to more traditional guitar rock. There might even be some New York no wave in there too? There is a lot going on.

The sheer amount of things happening is pretty clearly the point. Skull Practitioners seem to be taking a kitchen sink approach. They are throwing every influence in, and seeing what works. The good thing is that all the songs work. Maybe not as a single piece of music, but definitely as individual songs. But, still, a song like “Nelson D” doesn’t seem to belong on the same thing as “Another Sicko.” It doesn’t matter much though. ST1 is brooding, it’s distorted, and it’s just has a lot of bite to it. It’s definitely worth a listen. Even if it’s only to hear a band jump from a more garage rock sound to an almost James Chance type sound.

Skull Practitioners is a band made up of music veterans. Jason Victor, Alex Baker, and Ken Levine are definitely more than the sum of their parts. Nothing on here was done by accident, and nothing on here isn’t meant to be here. It’s a challenging listen, for sure. But, that said, I Skull Practitioners is a project that continues for more releases. I’d love to see what else they can do.

Skull Practioners
BandCamp / Buy It