I keep (uncontrollably and negligently) using the hashtag #thenewbeat to group a bunch of upcoming hardcore and punk bands together. It's a play on Refused, much like the #musicjournalismisfuckingdead tag I've been using over the last few months. As the latter teeters between a joke and real distaste towards my last job (and I guess 'current,' since I'm typing this out), the former goes back to the track "New Noise," and vocalist Dennis Lyznen's use of the phrase over and over again to exposition the song. Like "The Wave" or the "Screamo" movement most publications deemed the second and third wave before it, it holds some meaning swallowed begrungendly with a grain of salt.
With that grain of salt, I want you to understand that in my terms, #thenewbeat means progression. It's about bands that may be paying homage to the Gravity and Dischord and Ebullition of the day, but in the context of things right now, sounds fresh. Fresh is sometimes growing out of the skin that made you famous or at least captured a buzz. It's about not wanting to write "hardcore" records anymore. It's about expanding your sound and finding comfort in new arrangements, because you're sick of the same old ride. It's happening. Title Fight's Floral Green is probably the most talked about last year, and with the new tracks from both sides of Touche Amore and Pianos Become the Teeth's recent split, the mindset that made fans of Thursday, Poison the Well and Thrice get cutthroat on each other over after the turn of each new release is happening within a contemporary scene once again. The torch was passed a couple of years ago, and now that these bands have some ounce of respect, what can they do with it?
Caravels has been one of those bands stuck between house shows and the small room. They're not wildly known by fans of some of the aforementioned bands, but they deserve a bigger following, especially after last year's Well Worn split with Gifts From Enola. In under 15 minutes, the band proved why they should be as big if not bigger than most of the more well known names within the contemporary hardcore and post-hardcore scene. (And you know what I'm talking about…not the Risecore shit. That is not post-hardcore. That is something of a mixture between glam-rock and metalcore.)
Before you read any longer, go listen to "Bone Voyage" and come back to what I have to say. You hear that? It's powerful. It tugs at your senses, and as the dynamics of the song builds and releases, it's hard to detach oneself from the heighten sense. With one listen to the first two tracks off the band's Floorboards EP, it's the same feeling. With Lacuna, the band's first proper full-length, some fans may be taken back a bit by how much the band has expanded into a more subtle and settling territory. The musical release of Lacuna feels more relaxed. It's the difference between War All the Time and A City By the Light Divided or The Artist in the Ambulance and Vheissu. All the albums are powerful, but the formers seem played out with force behind it, and the latter documents simply speak with feeling as the pieces flow along. That's what separates Caravels' full length from their former work - the flow. It's still a collection of songs lathered in anguish and anxiety, but highly concentrated in its stride and execution.
This is the line drawn across the timeline in any band's career - where it doesn't sound like pissed off teenagers being overly aggressive about their feelings and scribbling whatever ideas come out their heads into "art" or "music" or whatever. This is where your punk or hardcore band begins to showcase the confidence built in their initial buzz, while learning who they could be as musicians over time into something worth a lasting impression. Lacuna is not an album that's going to fit into the mold of the current trend, and that's fine. Ever since this scene started gaining momentum again, I've heard a lot of bands both nationally and locally "fit the mold." #thenewbeat is about staying as progressive as possible. While Lacuna will surely spark comparisons (Portraits of Past is the one that hits the mark for me), it's still one of the more finer executed steps forward in a circle that will soon grow stale in the years to come until the next #thenewbeat comes around in the cycle of the next ten years.
Okay, so I know I said I was stepping away for a while, but everything sort of happened so fast today. One minute I was reading texts and social feed updates from colleagues and readers about my decision to step down, and the next minute Cathy Pellow was updating the Sargent House Twitter feed with an announcement that I would be leaving Austin for Los Angeles to work at a company that's been a real dream of mine to get fully behind all these years. I'm excited as I am anxious. But I'm giving up everything to get out there and do this.
All these years I've been griping with how to change the industry, and now (like I've said in the past) I have the opportunity to do just that. Get into the belly of the beast while working with an amazing entity of this industry. I've always told people how much Pellow inspires me. Anytime I needed to call and talk, she answered. Anytime I needed advice or to think I wasn't crazy, she put not only my concerns, but my fears at ease. She's one of my biggest fans and mentors in my life.
This all fell into place at this unplanned, yet strategic lapse of short time. It's unexplainable because you never saw it coming, but it makes sense at the moment in the grand scheme of things. It's complicated, but somehow natural. Now, I'm about to bridge the gap here between jobs. As the first perk of my job, I've gotten a chance to listen to 184.108.40.206.0. If you were happy with the two tracks you've been able to hear so far, you'll fall in love with this record. While you can't denounce the skill and slickness of Animals, the band's sophomore album turns those skills into more formidable tracks. No British swagger is lost in the mix, but you get an album that's a cross between American Football's glorious self-titled and Local Native's Gorilla Manor. There are a ton of interesting layers to pull back with each listen, but it doesn't sound like a jaw-dropping show-off session. There are just a ton of savant pop songs. Like Maps and Atlases, Tera Melos and Portugal. The Man, This Town Needs Guns is another band that has figured out how to craft beautiful melodies within the spectrum of their instrumental prowess.
Sure, this may seem bias because of my association with Sargent House now, but I can say that I'm even more stoked that this is how I will be starting my year with the company.
There's always something to be said about an album filled with love, loss and regret. But writing sad lyrics and connecting them to a core audience of apathetic, moody, hormonal teenagers is like handing out free coffee on a cold day. There's a warmth we'll attach to under the grey of clouds and somber fixation of the short term depression we all feel when it comes to relationships. Big spoiler: No matter if it's a grade school flirt to an older long term run that fell apart, music and sadness are the perfect cheap beer and cheaper shot.
In the '90s, bands were king at constructing atmospheric, Seattle drenched sadness so thick you could pour it over pancakes. It pulled from the pop scene of the '80s greats of The Cure and The Smiths, but gave it a filthy background - a softer alternative to the nastier grunge scene. The Power of Failing, Diary, Water and Solutions, You'd Prefer An Astronaut, Comfort and many others. Then there were the larger outfits of Bush's Sixteen Stone and Eve 6's self-titled. The raw vigor either became pop friendliness for the radio or melodic punk groups such as The Get Up Kids and early Weezer records. If you don't think that the Blue Album is emo's first big notion of mainstream success post-Songs From the Big Chair, then you're fucking lying to yourself.
Beyond the three year hat trick of Control, Deja Entendu and Futures, it's hard to recall a record that has as much heart between it's riffs as the counterpoint of its lyrics. Last year's Separation may have come close. Just wait until your first listen of Basement's final testament, colourmeinkindness. It's the album Filter wished they wrote after Short Bus and a reminder that this "scene" and "emo" thing the media and ignorant quo has somehow pinned down all stems back to the alternative roots of our youth. The time when we didn't have a "free" archive to roam or large sites to "stream new music." There was the radio. There was MTV. There was a cover of Rolling Stone.
There are moments on colourmeinkindness where the vocals blend in with the rest of the instruments, a leveled playing field of harmony against harmony against harmony. While Title Fight's "Head in the Ceiling Fan" isn't a great snapshot of what the rest of the band's upcoming album has to offer, it's amazing to me that these younger bands are pulling from a time I can barely remember, but as I listen to these records, I suddenly recall them all too well. colourmeinkindness is a sonically driven album in the vein of HUM and Far (the ending "Wish" is the closer of the year thus far), but rocks a mood like a Sub Pop back catalog (the heavily SDRE driven "Covet") and at times a radio hit worthy of an opening spot with the Foo Fighters next to Make Do and Mend (the intense guitar work of "Spoiled") all blend for one of the most mainstream sounding, underground rock records I've heard in...well...a long time.
It's too bad Basement called it a day. colourmeinkindness should go down as 2012's best swan song.
A couple of weeks ago I made a passive-aggressive remark toward the current "scene" of music - that new wave of substance, that for the most part, is already beginning to have its own breathe of "I want to do that!" talent. Like the upward cycle we've been on in the last couple of years, my concrete evidence of the regurgitation and lack of bracing challenge among the punk community is the ramped return of "Recommended If You Like" lines I'm getting in personal messages and press releases all the same. "Hey, I've read reviews saying you like this, this and this band. I know you'll love THIS NEW BAND!" Do you? Or do you know that I'm a cynical asswipe who thinks this new band does sound like those bands that I like - only not good. It's happening. The same thing that pissed me off as a teenager with those stupid stickers that labels would put on CDs to dupe you into buying their newest signings with hopes to turn a buck - I'm really seeing that trend strongly coming back as of late.
While good music will always and does continue to exist and blah blah blah, I agree. What is good and what isn't can be hard at a time like this. We're at the "everyone's on the bandwagon to be genuine" train because it's the hit thing right now. No matter how deep you get into the underground, everyone uses the same tricks as the mainstream uses to get buyers to jump through hoops. It's marketing, and it's genius. You guys made vinyl big again, and because of it, now Hot Topic is cashing in. It's fucking genius. Still, you kind of have to wonder why someone would pay upwards of $300 for a second pressing of Deja Entendu and no one has re-pressed that yet?! The music world is a funny place that way.
I'm getting off track as usual.
Then there are the reunions. Numerous ones at that. Music seems, for the most part, pretty damn good right now. Great bands. Great albums. Great labels. Grand community of self-worth and an overall sense of great leadership from some - but with respected leadership comes blind following. It's not just in the "hardcore" or "punk" scene either. It's everywhere lately. Commercials seem like washed out, forced internet memes to sell a soft drink, and the nostalgia of how cool a Nerf commercial was in its appealing "camp" is room to remember when a band was a band to be a band and how that will never die, but unfortunately it takes time to be recognized by the general public years later.
At the beginning of the month, I was given an advance of Duck. Little Brother Duck!'s Don't Take Our Filth Away. It was captivating from the start. While I could pin down a lot of influences of what the album pulled from, those influences cross a spectrum of bands I would never see on tour together or who probably never even listen to each other respectively. I'm not saying Don't Take Our Filth Away is a game changer, but it's certainly fresh among a sea of "too closed-knit communities" of late. That's where a banner decade can take a turn for the mundane only years later. This is where we experience the final breath of the third wave and the drudge of the fourth through sixth thereafter. Duck. Little Brother Duck!'s full-length showcases dynamics, tempo shifts and enough gang vocals (which sometimes get a bit annoying) to keep some sort of heightened appeal all the way through, even though repeat listens draw on the album's ability to run together just a bit too much. Those aforementioned elements draw an A.D.D. listener like myself to the album's captivating core of "we can do anything here and do it with confidence."
In short, Don't Take Our Filth Away is the first record of 2012 to completely take me by surprise and bring me coming back for more just in the first day. It contains elements of everything I want to continue to see among the young underground today and the older rockers with sharp chops as well. Duck. Little Brother Duck! took me a bit out of some of the boredom of the last few months. My most anticipated records have come out swinging so far this year from bands that already had my attention, but this time the one inbox listen on a whim pulled me away from what I knew I'd enjoy into something exciting from left field. I want more bands to do this to an elitist shit like myself. Don't buy into what's around you, buy into the spirit of what lives inside you. Don't try to be a part of something, make what you're doing the thing to do. It's that sort of confidence that will keep music interesting and lessen the gap of lulls throughout the years.
I was talking with a friend about the new Pianos Become the Teeth record. He had heard it and I had not. He had heard it, and said it was so heartbreaking that he hasn't listened to it again since his first listen. That same night, I received the advance in my inbox. While Kyle Durfey's screams are inaudible at times, my first listen to the record still left me squirming. It is an all encompassing feeling. The next morning I e-mailed Seth over at Topshelf and he sent me a copy of the lyric booklet. (side note: I absolutely love the layout.) I sat there reading through as the album went along and was just shaken up.
The album is about the death of Durfey's father, but for anyone who has ever lost another very close to them, whether it was family or a friend, this record is for you. Death is a moment that can shake even the strongest to their core. As I've listened to this album numerous times since Tuesday, it still makes my nerves twist at certain parts.
I know a lot of people (including close friends) who have turned their noses up at my taste because it either sounds like "crying" or "screaming" or whatnot - and to be fair with them, there are a lot of "screamo" records that sound like the same old cry-fest over and over again. The ones that get them right though - those are the ones that are the most powerful and they also have something to say that generally resonates well amongst the times that showcase the most anguish. For Pianos Become the Teeth, they've captured the frustration and mental despair of losing a person you really care about.
There are so many records written about relationships and girls and politics and growing up and how being part of the working class sucks and so on and so on...
The Lack Long After follows suit with Wildlife in exploring the darker moments we have to face in life one day - records that aren't easily digestible in both their musical display or lyrical content. I think albums like that are necessary to break-up the monotony of getting excited about an album, but usually tossing it aside in a week for another with a new hook. It's an album that leaves you wanting a return to explore more of what it haves to offer and to take in its most discomforting of moments and wonder why you're connecting to it. Maybe it's my grandmother's soon inevitable and how Durfey is saying a lot of what I'm already feeling - but the piece itself speaks volumes. 2011 is just a strong year of bands in the genre of post-hardcore and hardcore saying something worthwhile again. The Lack Long After finishes out the year of solid releases within the already strong community.
"tell me about God, tell me about love, tell me that it is all of the above. say you think of everything in fear. I bet you're not the only one who does..."
Today I received one of the last of my most anticipated releases this year. In fact, it's been anticipated for over a year and half now. So with the growing time frame and word I was hearing from the front-lines, things were coming together progressively, aggressively and a few who heard the finished the project - unsettling. Upon my first listen of La Dispute's Wildlife, I can say it's one of the most uncomfortable records I've heard since The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me. But this is a different type of unsettling. There's no vague description of dismay, instead this is an album's worth of pent up frustration that's released in such a manner that certain parts of the record make you step back.
What's interesting about the album is the way the narrator is using these "stories" to figure out similar problems he's going through. There is nothing up for interpretation from each song. Each line is laid out like a journal entry. Each reflection isn't made of metaphors, there's not a ton of tongue-in-cheek wordplay but there is ton of description as the stream-of-conscious race of thoughts steamroll, build and swell along with the instrumentals.
A lot of people complain that La Dispute isn't "screamo" and blah blah blah, but the feelings of anguish I got when I first heard City of Caterpillar or Circle Takes the Square and later on with Raein and Still Life, it is easily present on Wildlife. No matter if its the old Portrait 10" my friend found yesterday or the chaos that is Orchid's final record (which is their best), there's an outlet of pain in this genre that you either get or you don't - and it's way past what version of the vinyl you get, it's about feeling in the depths of the grooves as the needle moves in and out of the trenches. I can also see why some people find it as being a crybaby's game. (I'm looking at you Jeromes Dream.) Like rebellion in punk and experimentation in post and politics in hip-hop - the screamo/post-hardcore scene is another distorted genre borrowing ideas from the prime numbers of rock and soul that came before it.
Soul is certainly the key term worth using here. Wondering if there's an epic "The Last Lost Continent" this time around? "all our bruised bodies and the whole heart shrinks" is that track. In under half the time of the former, it equates the fact that we all go through some sort of suffering, and even at the other end, there is that simple thought of "I hope that never happens to me" or even that time when you think you're having the worst day and you hear from someone close to you that their last 30-minute experience is something you wish to forever avoid if at all possible.
For anyone who ever told me that some of the music I listen to is noise, or crying or screaming, etc. - it's albums like this I want to give them at certain moments in their life when a pop song is blank slate of calculated hooks with the void of any meaning - an empty syringe. When music makes you shiver at any sort of introspective moment - that moment will stick with you. I have a feeling with a few more listens, Wildlife's delivery - though a bit different from the band's former release - might even be more powerful once each song sinks in the senses more. This genre has become a cliched, first person nuance of lyrics we've heard over and over again to the point where it looses any sort of meaning. Matched to the band's instrumental work and tone - this isn't an album of hope - it's just about trying to make reason out of third person viewpoint. A voice and approach I haven't heard from in a while
I'm not really a person to write these types of blogs. I don't generally believe in the hype machine, and I certainly don't believe myself to be any sort of one either. Since Evan and I have become friends over the last few months, I'm going to go out of my way to let you guys - and himself included - know what I think upon my first listen of his new album Proper.
I was a big fan of Stay Ahead of the Weather's EP. It's a great album that could be fit into that "pop punk" pseudonym of today, but it was more reminiscent of The Promise Ring than New Found Glory in that sense. To me, Stay Ahead of the Weather sounded like a more focused version of Into It. Over It.'s songwriting. I think Evan has taken that focused behavior and put it into Proper this time around as the next step. I remember sitting in my apartment with him over South by Southwest and him being very anxious and nervous about writing the next record, but he seemed like he wanted to keep pushing himself forward as well. He pulled it off here.
After my first listen, Proper reminds me of the direction of Based on a True Story with touches of Reconstruction Site craftsmanship. Fireworks and The Wonder Years stepped up the bar this year with their releases, and this release is another in the succession. The first five songs are really reminiscent of the splits (or Twelve Towns), but "Midnight: Carroll Street" opens up the album like a wound that bleeds of well done layering and pacing. "Connectict Steps" is downright perfect. "Where Your Nights Often End" is a song bands like Copeland wished they wrote - it's the standout the first time through.
Ending with "The Frames That Used To Greet Me" was another great choice. It shows through all the architecture of the pieces, these are just songs Evan probably wrote in his car while on tour or sitting in his apartment late at night. Proper's sound will be very "RIYL" to a lot of people, but in a comforting and nostalgic way. A lot of times we'll tell ourselves "Oh, this just sounds like that," and end up pushing it aside. Like a bunch of other great releases this year, you'll find yourself saying "Oh, this is great. Reminds me of this. I really loved that [record/song/etc.]" and find yourself coming back to the album more and more. The second half of Proper really sticks out and contains the strongest pieces. On one more strong point, I think Fall is going to be a perfect time for this release.