REVIEW: Haybaby – “Blood Harvest”


Haybaby is one of those bands that defy classification. They’ll come out of left field with something whenever you start to pigeonhole them. Blood Harvest only further solidifies that. Sleepy Kids was definitely a standout record of 2015, and Blood Harvest is definitely my favorite thing of 2016 so far. To borrow a sports journalist buzzword, this band has ridiculous depth. It’s not every band that can follow a Pixies-esque alt/indie song with a fucking hardcore rager. The beauty of Blood Harvest is there in the little things. It’s the way everything builds up great atmosphere. It’s a little sludgy sounding, it’s got kind of a sinister vibe, and it all fucking works.

My favorite thing about Haybaby is the way they’ve built this record. Like, ok. “Stupid” opens the record. It’s musically very sparse. It’s primarily being driven by Sam Yield’s bass and Jeremy Duvall’s drums. Leslie Hong’s guitar only really come into play around the hook. “Joke/Rope” has a similar vibe, but the guitar drives it a little more. It’s considerably less sparse. “Kramer/Dreams” builds further on that pattern. It employs the strong rhythm section, but it adds some very Pixies-esque guitar. Then all hell breaks loose on “What It Is.” It’s dense, aggressive, and vicious as fuck. Everything get reined in ever so slightly, and tension builds to it’s release by the time “Pig” closes the record. That is really an oversimplification though. Even the calmest and most atmospheric song can get angular and arty or disjointed and uncomfortable. It’s like a picture perfect combination of early 90s grunge/alternative and post-hardcore. The band really knows how to get that perfect rise and fall working.

Leslie Hong’s voice is totally integral to this record. She has a great range. She can sing very delicately, she can belt out, and she can yell. Anything the songs need, she can do it. I think my favorite kind of vocal on Blood Harvest is when she has this very dry, almost blasé delivery. That kind of things is on here quite a bit, on “Stupid” and “Joke/Rope” especially. Her vocals, like the band in general, seem to thrive in the genre blurring state of flux.She absolutely nails everything from start to finish.

It’s pretty easy to see the passion this band has. Haybaby just keep getting better.

Tiny Engines
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REVIEW: Cayetana – “Nervous Like Me”

cayetananervouslikemeIf you want the truth, it is really hard to try and review this record. I’m sitting at the computer, wearing a Cayetana t-shirt, and trying to think of new ways to talk about how much I love this band. I touched on it briefly when I reviewed the Hot Dad Calendar single. In that review I said:

“I knew, from the minute I heard their demo/EP on If You Make It, that this was a band I was going to want to keep track of. And, goddamnit, I’m really glad I did. I can say without hesitation that the only thing disappointing about this 7″ is that it isn’t a full length. That isn’t hyperbole, it isn’t some bullshit. This is one of those rare times where you should believe the hype.”

And, to be honest, all that is still true. Any hype Cayetana gets is still 100% deserved. In fact, Nervous Like Me is definitely one of the top records of the year. I’ve been living with this record since June, when I got to see the band in Chicago. It is exactly what I would have wanted it to be. It’s a record that plays in the middle ground of punk and indie. The songs are melodic and catchy as all get out. But, and this is important, they still have a raw edge to them. This is evident from the get go. Augusta Koch’s vocals on the album opener, “Serious Things Are Stupid,” are still as raw as ever. It’s a rawness that just works perfectly with everything else. Be it the fuzzy, distorted guitar or the bouncing basslines. Especially on songs like “Dirty Laundry” and “Scott Get The Van, I’m Moving.”

The music is also totally on point. While Koch isn’t doing anything overly fancy with her guitar, she is definitely driving everything. Kelly Olsen’s drums are in touch with that more straight forward style as well. They push the songs. They get the song from start to finish in a more punk rock way. No noodling guitar, no overblown drum fills. What is refreshing is how the bass seems to be more up front. The bassline have some serious strength behind them. They are memorable. They are bouncy. The best comparison I can think of is that Allegra Anka’s playing reminds me of the kind of stuff Dan Andriano from Alkaline Trio did on Goddamnit. She adds a lot of dimension and character to what are otherwise very to the point songs. Her style of playing really shines on “Favorite Things.” She takes the scenic route instead of just doing Point A to Point B. And it fucking works.

Like, I have zero issues with anything on Nervous Like Me. The album versions of “Mountain Kids” and “South Philly” are great treats to people who liked the demo. “Animal” will be in your head for days. And, like, we can’t be friends if you don’t like “Dirty Laundry.” Never mind how strong “Serious Things Are Stupid” and “Hot Dad Calendar” are.

I don’t know what else to say. It’s pretty obvious that I love this record. If there was anyone who wanted a document of what great indie/punk sounds like, I’d point them in this direction.

Tiny Engines
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REVIEW: Dikembe – “Mediumship”

dikembemediumshipI love to watch a band progress and grow. Dikembe has been one of those bands for me. I initially checked them because of their connection to Wavelets. Dikembe first broke out with their Chicago Bowls EP back in 2011. I was fortunate enough to hear that right after it was released. I basically listened to that fucking thing for two or three weeks straight whenever I drove to work. The band has released multiple split releases and one amazing LP in the intervening three years. It’s now time for them to tackle their sophomore release. Things being what they are, there is a lot to live up to.

To be direct, Mediumship absolutely reached and exceeded the bar the band set for themselves. It is a very different record though. This is a record that breaks the band away from their previous emo/indie influenced punk rock. The songs have slowed down, the vocals are less forceful in many ways, and the overall presentation is something else. But, ultimately, it works. It really fucking works.

While they may be getting a little away from the sound they used to use, it still exists in many places on Mediumship. It’s just the band has gotten a bit more versatile with how they’re doing things. Broad Shoulders, as a record, was economical. It was punchy and too the point. Mediumship is a record full of songs given room to breathe. There are songs like “Las Vegas Weather” that have a very traditional, alternative rock verse. The chorus explodes, and flexes some post-hardcore influence. That is really the modus operadi of the record. Seemingly tired of being defined by one genre or the other, Dikembe are basically doing whatever the fuck they want. “24 Karats” is probably the best example of this.

That’s not to say it is so dramatically different as to be off putting. Songs like “Hood Rat Messiah” and the previously released “Donuts In A Six Speed” will certainly leave older fans satisfied. It’s enough like their old stuff to appeal in that regard, but it’s different enough to keep people interested. Basically, it’s not one or the other. While some of the exuberance of Broad Shoulders might be gone, Dikembe more than makes up for it in really compelling ways.

Tiny Engines
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REVIEW: The Hotelier – “Home, Like Noplace Is There”

hotelierI don’t like blowing smoke up anyone’s ass. That said, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, I was never stoked on The Hotel Year. Their debut full length, It Never Goes Out, just didn’t do it for me. It was a generally alright record, but it just wasn’t for me. It’s been three years since that record came out. Some time off, a name change, and a new record has done wonders. The Hotel Year is now The Hotelier, and Home, Like Noplace Is There is fucking great. If you ask me what a breakout record looks like, I’ll point you in this direction.

So, what’s different? To my ears, quite a bit. First and foremost is the development of Christian Holden as a vocalist. He comes across stronger, more interested, and more invested. His range is right on the money. Need a more calm, ballad delivery? Check. Need him to just belt it the fuck out? Double check. Another improvement is the that, without getting into the boring old trope of “maturity” or whatever, the lyrics have gotten significantly better. I mean, goddamn, how could anyone not feel the emotion in a song like “Your Deep Rest?”

This is a punk rock record first and foremost. The band is further embracing more “emo” tropes though, especially on songs like “Among The Wildflowers” and “Life In Drag.” The vocals on those tracks are pure fucking catharsis. The band weaves it’s way through tones and time changes, and the vocals reach their most extreme.

Home, Like Noplace Is There is a great example of the more “punk” side of emo music. It’s aggressive and rough, but still melodic and welcoming. If I was tentative about this band on their first record, I’m all in on this one. The Hotel Year is dead, long live The Hotelier.

The Hotelier
Tiny Engines
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REVIEW: Cayetana – “Hot Dad Calendar (b/w Ella)”

cayetanaCayetana is a band with a great story behind them. The story goes that Augusta Koch, Kelly Olsen, and Allegra Anka all learned their respective instruments right around the time they decided to do the band. This would be a red flag for anything else, but not here. This is a band that sounds like they’ve been playing together for a long time. True to the spirit of punk rock, they’re doing what they want and figuring it out on the way. When so many bands seem like they have everything mapped out from the start, it’s refreshing to see a band come together for the sheer joy of playing music.

I knew, from the minute I heard their demo/EP on If You Make It, that this was a band I was going to want to keep track of. And, goddamnit, I’m really glad I did. I can say without hesitation that the only thing disappointing about this 7″ is that it isn’t a full length. That isn’t hyperbole, it isn’t some bullshit. This is one of those rare times where you should believe the hype.

Much like their contemporaries in All Dogs or Waxahatchee, Cayetana play in the undefined middle ground between what is considered “indie” and “punk.” There are a lot of bands in that ground, but only a few have the heart to stand out. Both songs, “Hot Dad Calendar” and “Ella,” are perfect examples of the exuberance of punk. Augusta Koch’s vocals are raw and strong. There are imperfections, but that’s what makes her voice stand out. Allegra Anka absolutely shines through. Her bass lines are distinct and creative, but never overpower or over complicate. Her bass and Kelly Olsen’s drums just keep everything smooth and fit perfectly with Koch’s riffing, driving guitar.

I know I’m getting a little long winded here. This is a 7″ that clocks in at just this side of six minutes. But, I’m just really excited about what’s going on here. If a 7″ is supposed to build hype for a full length, then mission accomplished. Cayetana have all the pieces in place, and unlimited potential. So, Tiny Engines, how long until that full length?

Tiny Engines
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REVIEW: Save Ends – “Warm Hearts, Cold Hands”

REVIEW: Save Ends – "Warm Hearts, Cold Hands"

Finally, a Save Ends full length! This band impressed me from the first time I heard them back in 2010 or 2011. I’ve been anxiously waiting for this record for some time. That said, is the LP everything I’ve been hoping for? Was it worth the wait? The answer to both questions is yes. Save Ends have done a lot in a short time via two self released EPs. Ten Or Better showed a band with a lot of promise. Strength vs. Will showed a band right on the cusp. Now, on their debut LP, they are a band who made good.

Warm Hearts, Cold Hands is a great record from the start. “PunkORama 30” may be one of the best album openers. It builds up for about a minute into a great pay off. It exemplifies the band’s best trait. Namely, their ability to make poppy, melodic punk rock songs that are more than they seem. They write songs that can go from calm to driving at the drop of a hat. There are obvious indie rock influences that add a great texture. With guitars that shine through, and drums that drive home the point, they show that they aren’t fucking around from the get-go. They continue to prove it throughout the next half hour.

The dual vocals are another great part of this band’s arsenal. Christine Atturio and Brendan Cahill have an excellent give and take. They are able to split and share a song, but are also able to carry a song on their own. It’s easy to use dual vocals as a crutch, but that’s not the case here. “Always Knew” and “Kurzweil” are great example of songs primarily carried by one vocalist. “Skeptical Sons / Curious Daughters” and “Same Old Dice” are great examples of the shared vocals. Both work so well.

It’s easy to be jaded about punk rock. Sometime it feels like a lot of bands are just going through the motions. Save Ends show that there is still so much life left. I say that with absolutely no hyperbole. There is a lot of heart and depth to these songs. This type of music has been missing that lately, so it’s great to see. Warm Hearts, Cold Hands is a testament to what can be made when a band loves what they do. It’s been nice seeing this band grow. If anything, I’m even more excited about them now.