On a whim, I decided to check out Octaves a couple of years ago. Their debut, Greener Pastures, hinted at the notion that being a crafty metal or hardcore band wasn't dead in the water post-2005. Between 2009 and 2011, the whole Ebullition Records revival was in full effect. For other bands, Crank! Records worship has been growing steadily as well. In 2013, a lot of that is coming to the border of fourth and fifth wave territory. There is hope in bands like Canyons, Sohns, Full of Hell and a handful of others to keep things interesting and savant, but where would Octaves find themselves this time around?
Surprisingly, they've sort of shed their O'God the Aftermath referencing I heard on Pastures for something more interesting and more of a throwback. What Octaves nails on Which Way The Wind Blows is keeping the path of the song turning. There never seems to be a return or reprise in each track, just another exit, another riff and an evolving formula throughout. It may not crush like Charmer, but it certainly runs the classic record's course. Phil Fosler's vocals match closely to that of Former Thieves' Matt Schmitz, yet waxes a bit more poetic and a bit more clear over the instrumental fun house.
It sounds negative to say that Octaves is another band less reinventing and more of a graduate turning in a solid thesis on everything great that has already been done. That's what Which Way the Wind Blows is in the most positive light. There are times when you can tell Octaves wears a bit of humor right above the heart on their sleeve, and that is just another positive to add to their sophomore record. While much of the variation that exists across Which Way the Wind Blows has been heard in the likes of Drowningman and Breather Resist - it's just done so well at a time where it's needed to be noticed and hopefully continued to be built upon in the year(s) to come. Because when the "past decade" worship turns into "the last six months" worship, Octaves will stand-out with one of 2013's most interesting records, and possibly one of the best of this new era of bands to date.
Towards the end of the pedal loops and insanity of the stand-out "Soup and Sandwich," Foster says, "all I want is someone warm who wants to listen to my records." Here's hoping most will hear this one, because it certainly deserves the attention.
I've been listening to my friends' record for the last week. It's a record that's been worked on for the last year. It's from a band you probably never heard of, even though they're connected (down to the point of recording) with many a band that receives praise and glory through the news feed of this very site and others. It's not important to tell you who they are, but to tell you their current story and where I'm going to go with it. I, and a few people I have shown a few songs to, think the music is pretty damn good to good to pretty epic. I think it's a solid release, and at the most minimalist of output with the final product, it at least deserves to get heard by how many people can hear it. Then again, that's the goal of all music ever created, right?
There's no management, no label, no hype, no viral campaign, no six month outlook and no plans for a "spring tour" in the works. The only publicity the band has is a bio/press release I told them a year ago that I would write when they started working on the record. It is in fact an album, that when mastered at the end of the week, will be in a state of limbo. It was all funded out of the pockets of the three people who helped create the music. In this business, whether you are the one creating the music, pushing the music (management, publicists, booking agents) or writing about it (press outlets and Tumblr blogs galore!), it is all a "labor of love" with no job stability, 401K or guarantee of climbing the corporate rung based on a set output.
As someone who almost dropped out of it all, only to be blessed by a hand to pull me back in within a matter of days, I consider myself lucky and humble to be a part of a special minority of "people who actually give a shit" and still fuel their "labor of love" with a passion not lost in the muck of the day-in and day-out. I mean, I never thought I'd be happy filling out spreadsheets and taking inventory - but I also have a turntable on my desk - so fuck you society! I finally won!
Tonight ol' Nassiff texted me and asked me to read his response to Kevin Devine's Kickstarter campaign. While Devine didn't get an Amanda Palmer response just yet, he certainly won over my heart just by reading his statement about the project this morning. As someone who respects the hell out of Devine already, Nassiff also brought those sentiments home with his column tonight.
That being said, I still have my convictions about Kickstarter as a whole, and they are convictions I brought up with Nassiff over the phone after reading his column:
1) "The Whole 'DIY' Argument": You want to do something you love, well, fucking work for it. Nobody likes a fucking trust fund kid in the world of punk rock, but a kid who thinks he's so "punk rock" and "DIY" is just equally as annoying. That said, the only reason I have a laptop is because I had cancer as a kid, and I used scholarship money later given to me as a "survivor" to purchase one. It sometimes bothers me and still seems a bit shady. I mean, money to be able to purchase a laptop that I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise, or money towards cancer research to save lives. I know it's a ridiculous stretch of an example, but I'm trying to make a hyperbolic statement that every system is abused, and that everyone is going to cry "Why not me?!" like a child...always and forever until we're all rich with gold mansions and rocket cars. Coming from someone who has always busted his ass while people around him just "get things," I get it. I've lived that feeling of frustration many times, and probably will still experience numerous times over until I'm six feet under. It's why we'll always argue about free healthcare and why some people can't get food stamps with next to no income and others making a good five figures beat the system. Deal with it. Sometimes it's not the system, it's the assholes who have access to it. Maybe I shouldn't hate Kickstarter for my "work for it dude!" attitude, I should just hate those assholes.
2) "Incentives": Here's the biggest gripe I have with Kickstarter. The linear notes, phone calls and little prissy things that super fans eat up for a couple of extra dollars. Is it necessary to whore your work out like that? An extra 7", a show in your hometown (that's probably just going to be plotted on the next tour) and even a test pressing are all tangible, not insane incentives to have fans get more "bang for their buck" as they say. (Do people still say that?) Anyway, I just think there's a fine line between "investing" money in a project and getting a return of something so low. Why not just sign all the Kickstarter funded bundles? Are you that big that your signature is worth a couple of extra dollars? Would you charge me that if I came up to you after a show? Why charge me that now? And by far, my biggest complaint is the "thank you" section that some pay for. I've been "thanked" in a few releases this past year. Most of the time, I didn't even know. It's a special moment when you go, "Oh shit. Cool. But did I do anything?" I certainly didn't pay $5 for it. To me, it just sort of bastardizes the whole system.
The truth is, in the last decade of change throughout the industry, the old ways are finally crumbling. There used to be four big shots, and now there are three. No one gives a shit about last year's American Idol, X Factor or America's Got an Hour to Kill Because Worked Sucked at My Dead End Job or whatever "talent" show is making some phone company a lot of money. There are smart people in this industry that still care about music and know how to help people make money. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. I'm lucky enough to have met and known a few in my time, but they are a minority in the overly saturated market or "music business by the books" graduates. I get that Kickstarter could be a step in the right direction in helping bands like my aforementioned friends get their music to the masses because enough people believe it should exist on some tangible level in a business where most consumers would rather just steal it because that sort of consumerism has become the norm.
With progressions this past week with Bandcamp, it's a sign that Kickstarter is not the only means to a new business end in this industry. I'm just saying that the entire system of "crowd-sourcing" as it is deemed needs some work from the users and rewarders of the program itself. We're living in a time of great ideas and expansion. Don't become greedy like our corporate relics. Let's be fair, and show the next generation that this one killed the dinosaurs and finally learned from their mistakes.
It's been five days that I've been in Los Angeles so far. One day of training in the office, and two real work days. That's not the surreal part. The surreal part is being on the other side and looking in. There are things you can't repeat (duh) and you begin to see a bit of the opposite end of the spectrum you once worked on. In time, you'll begin to grow into the opposite polar end of being within the confides of the music industry (in this case management, product, tour planning, etc.), and far removed from the other end of publicity, fandom and consumerism. You can still be a fan, but I'm sure some of the "know" will take a bit of the magic out of it all somewhat. That's fine, I've slowly crossed into that emotion throughout the years, so yes, I now know that Santa Claus isn't real and that he didn't fuck the Easter bunny like most of the uneducated portion of America believes.
It's all smoke and mirrors, and if you're not aware of that, then you've obviously never heard of the Internet. It's disgusting, but it happens. Thankfully, I don't work for such a company, but it exists more often than not. I guess these companies haven't heard about the Internet either. In today's industry, who can you trust? That's why it's harder to get an album advance more than ever. It looks like now, even press releases will be hard to come by.
Then again, personally, that whole write-up is scum to me anyway, and is a mockery of something sacred.
But as I've mentioned in a previous entry, I have a project that's in the works to make sense of all the madness that's to come this next year. Rest assured, Cathy Pellow will be the first to read it. It's not going to be digitally transcribed through this blog or any other on the web, and it will be handwritten in a journal that my mother gave me for Christmas. There will be no names, and there will be no "tell all." It's about once again restructuring my writing into something else - the challenge of it all, and anything I have ever set out to do.
See, this past week, a good friend asked me how to get into the "writing game" or "journalism" business. After 3+ years of working during its bitter downfall, I want to tell him to run as far away as possible and get that law degree fast. It's not that "music journalism is fucking dead" because of things like this, it's for a lot of reasons, and few of which I had to get out of writing for the time being. (The irony is that I'm typing this now, right?) One of the biggest reasons is that I saw myself cycling similar thoughts about different records, different viewpoints on the industry and even catching myself contradicting my initial understanding or dismissal of certain information and/or social interaction. Another was the lack of long form in media. I don't necessarily blame it on the publication, I blame it on our spoiled nature of wanting things now and fast and cheap in the last five years.
Sure, prostitution is illegal, but we'll fuck anything if it's free, right? The death of print is not only in the death of the long form article, it's also in saying, "Why the fuck would I pay for a magazine that will take up space, when it's on the web for free and even gets to the point in a matter of minutes?" No one "has time" for the long form anymore. The progression of technology has somewhat become a crutch our mind can happen to lean against subconsciously within routine and time.
In following that line of thought, I will come to why I had to really step away: I was tired of being part of the subjective hype. Like I said in my final column last year, what's so great today isn't shit tomorrow. You can't wait four or five years to put out a record, because that's a long time where someone has come along to take your place in that listener, fan, consumer's mind. If you didn't make a big impact on that first run (that's a Catch-22 in itself - sophomore slump, forgetful third record, etc.), time is not on your side in this fast-paced, electronic dreamland of an entertainment industry. I found myself using "hype words" and "buzz phrases" in the excitement that half the time would just calm down some months and even years later. I found myself part of the problem, not the solution. It was fucking depressing to me in the last six months of the year.
Now, I'm sitting here very happy. I have no television - though I renewed my Netflix account for some entertainment escapism. I'm also trying to eat a bit better. Most importantly, I have a new outlook on life. A more positive one. I hope this year I can push all the negative tendencies I have for not only the slop most of America eats out the urinal some companies still are willing to produce, but my own apathetic views on the industry by now working within it. I thought about killing myself in 2012 multiple times toward the end because nothing in life and what I loved made sense anymore. In five days, the sun has looked bright over the hills these past few mornings when I woke up. To me, that's a great start to a new year.
After a week without my computer, I can finally inform you all my plans for the new year. I plan to finish the book on the post-hardcore scene I started within my free time. The other part of my free time will be to work on a journal outside of this one (a written one in fact) and will chronicle something special. It's taking my Consequential Apathy column into a gonzo state of experience and retort. Other than that, this year will be amazing for music. Sargent House's current release schedule alone is incredible, and that's just one label.
I get on a plane tomorrow night and get put into a new world, a new perspective and new rack of many hats to wear.
2012. The year that almost killed me.
2013. The year that....
...hoping for the best. I'll take on one giant at a time I guess. I'll always have a story to share with you guys. Thanks for listening for so long.
It's been pretty surreal to think about the last week. I've worked most of it at my shitty serving job, but in seven days I've also taken care of getting rid of my car, have figured out where I'm going to store and who I'm going to sell my possessions to, and just two days ago, my ticket was purchased to head to L.A. for the next album in my catalog of a life. With a whole month still left, there is still a ton of labor to be done after the ground work is now laid out, and so many people to say "bye" to...
...therein lies the biggest thing to cope with.
I've talked a bit about the environment we live and how it affects our daily intake of ideas, and most of the time, also our output as well. Some years back, when I first decided to move to Austin after college, many of my friends and acquaintances asked why I was moving to Austin and not New York or L.A., because for some reason, that's where they saw me fit. It's busy, crowded and usually the two largest birthplaces of hype and bullshit - two things I can't stand next to superficial behavior and "bro-ness" - as it's loosely defined. So I found comfort in the remote of Austin. That's not to say that all of that shit I hate doesn't live here, because it does.
But back to our environment: As much as I was a respected writer to some (I guess I'll use the term "was" since I'm no longer truly considered a freelance writer with my move into the other side of the industry), I couldn't have done it without the people I've met and interacted with, the experiences these past three years and especially my friends. They are inspiring. Their involvement in the smallest house show to the best venues. My closest friends with which I get fucked up with on the weekends and those I only get to see here and there. Their love of music and the arts and integrity keeps me sane.
When you pack it all up and move out to an area you're unfamiliar with, where do you go from there? The scenery changes, you start meeting people you despise, and the only comfort is that you're working for one of the most progressive entities in the business. You're working with bands that you believe can make a statement, but it's your job to make that statement last. You're not writing a review because an album captures you like no other, you're writing e-mails and press releases to push that band into the spotlight they deserve to get seen in among the saturation of an overly bloated industry that just can't take one more tiny wafer.
Friends and family keep asking me if I'm getting excited, like it's some kind of trip to Disney World or I'm seeing a band I've never seen before for the first time. There's a fine line between being excited and being anxious. "This is what you've been working towards..." and "You deserve this, you're going to kill it..." keeps coming up a lot. No one deserves anything in this life outside of shelter, food and warmth all tied back to one's own health. I haven't been healthy for a while. (That wasn't meant to be a "I had Leukemia as a kid" joke either.) But there has always been music. There has always been a build and a release. Sometimes there's a slow drone, and sometimes a bright melody. Even at our darkest moments, the ones we're a little fearful of, there is harmony in there somewhere. Call it hope, call it dedication to finding a light in all our confusion and frustration.
In 2013 I'll be plucked once again from familiar territory and thrown into something where it's "Titanic or Phelps." Over the phone she asks, "How organized are you?" Well, I've kept my sanity, finances and passion afloat for this long, I think having one focus is going to make that better. If that answer isn't enough, trying waiting tables for the Sunday brunch crowd in any restaurant within a mile radius of a church or two. Now that's sink or swim.
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.
The air is dry and it's not quite cold, but it's warm enough, and with this much people, no matter where you stand, there's a lukewarm vibe in the air. There are those here for some supreme elitist vanguard and some anticipating being floored. Half the room is sober, while the other half, myself included, are very much under the influence. All of a sudden, it washes over you. The building of the strings' quick frequencies and rising low ends. For two hours, you stare at a moving picture with focused musicians sitting in front of the visuals. They gain speed and grace and power into individual twelve minute grueling processes that exert forces of intensity, felt in anguish, afterthought and dreams of hope that pass through much of the crowd. The crowd not pushing through me to get somewhere out of focus, but the ones in awe stood still, slightly leaning in intrigue.
I stood there, leaned against the folded up benches underneath the staircase. It's a straight line to the stage. It's cornered, but the mix stage left is directed in front of me like a megaphone to the face. Again, there's a violent wash. Each song a new stream of conscious. I thought about the past, the anxiety about the future. I thought about the bridges burnt. I stood in a venue next to old friends I hadn't seen in some time. But time is relative and it passes. You think about the pockets of life. Your adolescent lack of responsibility through your rebellious teenage years and then learning more in the rapid time it takes you to go from drinking illegally to legally responsible for your own worth both physically and mentally. The friends on the couch next to you in one phrase of years, and the ones next to you in the next few phrases in the overall composition. Empty bottles, forgotten numbers, new friendships and a new day to experience each one when you get to open your eyes from rest. There's just as much beauty in the minor keys as their are in it's more vibrant counterpart. The truth is, I don't sleep much anymore.
After the burn of a cigarette, applause and the segue into the next climb of the mountain, I thought about the power music has without words. Words to interpret. The shifting of meaning in a line that means something completely else. There's a manipulation of a feeling through each movement of the hands, the quiet, loud, quiet, overbearing shift that channels grand opera house symphonies through tubes and more conventional and familiar instruments. There's a difference between sitting down to learn how to play a specific song and just sitting with your instrument trying to blossom and wither the music and motions inside your head and through your nerves. Words may not yet come, but in time, your lips are a steady hum and another frequency.
As those minor chords began to tower into a dark sentiment, I couldn't help but think of failure being the step before knowledge. The dark before the dawn. The anxiety of your next move and how its rush can build a small plant of hope. We live in a time of a cut throat society of survival. There's a good amount of ideas, but many rushed in the face "first-dom" culture we now socially live in, with cases of intellectual theft growing in numbers. Ideas where financial gain is a must, and social, educational and healthy priorities take a back seat. Twenty eight minutes, hours, days, months, years later and we live in times of InSecurity.
Music is a form of escapism. Like a good book or movie, it has the power to make us think past its intended mark. Interpretation will always be king. The thoughts we carry because of music is what's important, it's what gives music its truest and purest form of value. We're sanctioned by it. What we miss as critics and diehards alike is that we put the emphasis in judging the piece of art and not what the piece of art does to us as a stimulate. On the surface, there are a few records in my collection that the most highbrow bone in my body would scoff at, but there's a story as to why I still own a copy of it at a time where most would believe physical media has no real value.
I thought about all of this. As I sobered up during the final minutes of one of my favorite songs - and trying to take in what I just experienced - I was overwhelmed. There has been so much on my mind lately, that it all kind of came together in this sort of nuance of musical yoga and meditation. Back in the day a piece of candy was a tenth the price you pay for it today. Comics were a dime, and not part of some hoarders collection on a reality show. People sent postcards and traveled to see friends....now we have the automation of digital telegram at the precise moment we want to connect a feeling of laughter, pain, uncertainty, anxiousness and joy. We can see and hear each other in opposite rooms, across miles of wiring - without travel! We have the power to build a thriving empire of ideas, but nothing grand comes without adventure...
...or at least a Micheal Bay budget in the figures of say a Bad Boys 3.
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Austin, TX. October 3, 2012
My relationship with Code Orange Kids started with a t-shirt. A t-shirt a friend wore all of South by Southwest in 2011. It was a special year. A lot of special shows happened in small spaces, dupstep bars and pizza shops with an open window. Then a few months after I heard Embrace Me // Erase Me, I was on board. It was as violent as Trash Talk and contained a visceral snarl all Majority Rule and Converge. Then came Cycles, twice as long as the former and coated in new tricks, blends of harmony, sharper changes. Of all the passion and forward thinking that was brewing in the hardcore scene at the moment, Code Orange Kids stuck out. Within a year, four young kids, one a long time member of AbsolutePunk, were the biggest buzzed about hardcore band almost a year after seeing that shirt. In 2012, I watched as they tore a pizza parlor apart. Beer on the ground, miscommunication that almost started a fight, and a thrown mic, and me telling drummer Jami Morgan to put some fucking pants and t-shirt on after blasting through an intense 15-minute set.
As I housed the band this past South by Southwest, they were planning studio time with Kurt Ballou, and you could read the excitement across their faces. It's an excitement I've seen in a lot of faces as of the last few years. It's warming. They talked about ideas, about how this industry should work, and what they're going to do, and what's probably going to happen in reality. As I was sitting across the room from them, sick as a dog, already exhausted from two days of the festival, the band was gearing up to leave for something like their fifth show of the week, only beaten by my other roommates for the week, Former Thieves.
Here we are months later. So much short running releases, now Code Orange Kids had to showcase an LP. Holding someone's attention for 15 minutes is one thing, try at least 30. On Love is Love // Return to Dust, the band have taken the best elements of their two songs off their split with Full of Hell and melded them into magnificent long form. Hearing "Liars // Trudge" out of context of the album says a lot. It didn't sound right on first listen. But follow it with the harmonious "Colors (Into Nothing)" featuring Adam Mcllwee of Tigers Jaw and it's drainage into the harsh textures of "Nothing (The Rat)," and "sense" is clearly made. Writing a group of songs that flow together is one thing, but having them connect into the body of an album is few and far between these days.
A lot of people want to call Code Orange Kids the next Converge. I can see that. I feel like critics will cite Jane Doe in their work in upcoming reviews. I can hear and feel that. The final three songs of the album cement that notion. But I've been wondering who will ever take the next step after Fear Before the March of Flames really deconstructed brash hardcore with The Always Open Mouth. It hit me when I heard "IV (MY MIND IS A PRISON)" earlier this year. It's more than apparent in the thread and dirty needle of Love is Love // Return to Dust. 2012 has been an amazing year for hardcore, and this is the way it needs to be capped off. There are bands giving new harmonies to the genre in albums like Our Home is a Deathbed and Blame & Aging and I've Lost Everything. Then you've got hammers of anguish and hurt in I.V. and You, Me, and the Violence and the upcoming Real Spite. Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, along with Mountain Man's II and Sohns' Ripe/Rot, lies Code Orange Kids' debut full-length. It's emotional, it's unforgiving and most importantly, it's thought provoking and contains forward thinking in a genre that is often scoffed at for its misogyny and violent behavior shown by some that ruin it for many. The challenge has been set by a number of bands this year and 2013 is going to be the next big step. Native. Former Thieves. Caravels.
So it's coming up on three years (or something) that I've been a staff member here. It's crazy to think of the things that I've accomplished in these three years: the friends I've made, the things I've written and how it's gotten stronger but not quite to the point of excellence, and the challenges I've given to myself in each field of interviews to reviews to even this run down old blog. Pushing myself and pushing myself and pushing myself. It begins to tear, creating exhaustion and a rundown engine of sorts. This is being in a touring band. This is pushing your bands on your label that aren't selling as well as other bands, yet you still believe in their talent and poise. This is the hustle of the industry.
I hate it. I loathe it. I breathe it through my inbox every goddamn day.
This past week there's been a heated discussion about the workings of this site and other sites, for which we have partnered with to craft a larger community of news, ideas, features, thoughts, anguish and joy of our love of music. The right selection when we get in the car, or we want playing when we attempt to nervously land that kiss we've been thinking about all night. It's a sense that runs through many of us, but when I talk to many - I feel like it runs through few so deeply. Those people that I think it effects the most are the people I work with. It runs through our "Voices" sites. There is a wall called the Internet, and we're all sitting here yelling at it. Sometimes it talks back. Whether we tend to agree with it or not, we also tend to believe what it says most of the time. That's a scary thought for many reasons I can neither condone nor explain fully.
As one of those "free writers" for which half my networks know nothing of my lack of pay - nor do I think they care, because let's face it, at the end of the day it's a job to pedal. That's why you get paid, and I understand that. But through the muck and negative (a lot of which has been tossed around the social feed as of late), there is opportunity. Opportunity to be a complete ass clown of an opinion strewn across pages and pages of utter bullshit and contempt of uneducated and unmovable fandom alike. Every time someone questions my fiber to continue doing what I do for "free," I think of my friends in bands who have shitty part-time jobs like me; I think of my networks who have worked their way up from nothing; I think of the kind words I've been given - hesitant if they were in vain of personal gain - and just smile.
Writing for a huge publication used to be king. Then someone said, "Fuck it. I'll start my own." The variable that people tend to forget that separates one blog from another is content. Content is fucking king. Content is the fucking Walter White Jr. of this industry. It shocks, intrigues, stirs shit up and never backs down from its stance on or off of a contemporary and/or historical topic. When you're the master of your own domain (pun intended), you can run free and see what works and what doesn't. In the fast paced world of the Web, shit changes every day you're not paying attention. This is a game of chess you should plan on losing if you're not keen to a sense of surprise or uncomfortable feeling.
The truth is, I'm not sure what's next for me. I'm not sure if it lies here within the confines of AbsolutePunk or somewhere else. But no matter the location, I'm determine to make you all think. I'm even more determine to push my writing further. To question my own convictions on music, while testing your patience to hold a conversation without lashing out with your heart, instead of finding an understanding between the layers of the mixes. Lester Bangs died at the age of 33 taking three drugs and (supposedly) listening to the Human League's Dare. I wonder what his last thoughts were on the record, the song, the moment in time before his last breath. Was it understanding or was it nothing but more questions? Can I beat that? Can I write my best by the time I'm 32 and mix it with four drugs?
One of my co-workers is in his Fifties. While we were discussing a song playing over the speaker, he brought up a point when thinking of who the artist was: He not only remembered when he heard the song, he connected it to a time in his life and how old he was. He told me that's how he remembers music, by remembering the time in his life. That's his documentation. That thought hit me hard, because I sometimes think I'm the only one who thinks that as well. I work in an industry of hip denoucers. I work in a "buzz" time and "best new music" of sorts. I'm not that person. I'm just a sixteen year old kid who thinks NOFX's Pump Up the Valuum is the best fucking record he's ever heard - and it's damn funny too!
But now I sit here listening to Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band's 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons. That's far apart from my adolescence. That feeling of discovery and excitement still embeds itself in each new record I hear though. As I grow older, I always tend to think in the aforementioned mindset. To put it bluntly, that's the coolest fucking part of music. That's why I get up and write and put together features and shell out reviews for "nothing." I do it because I want people to be as excited about something as I am. I want people to connect to a sound, a destruction and a bloom of something special.
This is one of the most exciting times in music, and I'm truly grateful every day that I'm somehow a part of it. As one of my favorite bands once said, "The best things in life are free."
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.
When you grow older, the more you delve into the musical spectrum of what you think is special and what your friends are stoked on and what your favorite labels and media outlets shove down your throats with each passing day and... well, it can become tedious to dig through the dirt of it all. You see people get excited about something, then you listen and it does nothing for you. It's an ever passing moment that we all share, especially in this industry of fortified gatekeepers. It's why message boards are king: the argument and the political push and shove of our love of our favorite musical moments.
Today I got a listen to Hostage Calm's upcoming album, Please Remain Calm! and that aforementioned thought that has haunted me for awhile has now turned itself on me and my personal consumption of music. I'm not sure if it's because I hear something new every day to the point of being overbearing, but just because I'm the media, doesn't mean that what I'm about to say doesn't necessarily apply to you - the fans - because it does. As you grow older, you start to pluck bands out based on the taste that you've acquired over the years. I like noise. I like chaos. I like the control of it all. I like music that feels like it has an emotional hinge of uncertainty in its take-off and landing. As weird and obscure and name-dropping as I tend to get sometimes, it only follows how much I'm subconsciously looking for a new high to land in my inbox or through word of mouth with my friends.
In that, I tend to forget my roots sometimes. I tend to disarm myself from the shelve of records I've either sold because I grew out of the style or sit collecting dust or as a saved MP3 file on my external drive. Listening to Please Remain Calm!, I remember when there was no image. There were no MySpace pages. There were no forums or news sites. There was great storytelling. There were hooks worthy of the greatest Bass Masters. There was a feel of urgency, defeat and understanding to a record that carried through every listen and it meant something to you, and no one else. A band sounded like something new to you, not like something "going on at the moment" that everyone else is hooked on. Hostage Calm stand apart with their new record not just for the way it sounds and the progression they've taken, but because it's some of the cleanest and honest storytelling since The Wonder Years' Suburbia and its homage to The Weakerthans' Reconstruction Site before that. It's the simplicity of Through Being Cool, swagger of Life in General and confidence of Everynight Fire Works.
Please Remain Calm! is a record that reminds me that good music doesn't have to be found in the avant-garde or noise or thirteen minute dream-pop and sludgy shoegaze that I've immersed myself into these past years. As much as I hate myself for becoming an elitist shithead in this business, Hostage Calm has reminded me that I was once a kid with angst that just needed a good song to relax me. Now that I've turned 26 this past week, I still recognize a part of my angst that hasn't yet left me. As daunting and uncontrollable as life can sometimes get as the responsibilities stack up, we all need something to settle nerves, to give us hope, to understand we're not the only one who feels down sometimes when we're surrounded by ignorance. Hostage Calm reminded me today that 26-year-old me is still as scared of this world as 16-year-old me once was. Sometimes you just need someone to say, "I understand, and it's going to eventually be okay."
I'm not sure if I want to do this anymore. The moment money crossed my mind, I had to take a step back. Maybe I need to step away for a bit. I don't know. I wish I had more to say. I wish I had more to say lately especially.
Music, right now, is really good. We're going to be okay.
I'll be behind the scenes for a while after my next column. A few reviews. Not much more unless the moment strikes me.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, seriously, thank you.
The higher difference between a well written song and that of a math problem or riddle appreciated by few and held high among the majority that scuffs it. Where does the tangent of entertainment end and the construction detour of rhythmic changes and noise begin? Is there a middle ground, and if so, is that where all the best music lives? Does that make it harder on any artist to find that ground? To not be too liberal as to shove away an audience or too restrictive to never expand and try new avenues within their maturing skills? Who's to blame for that? Is it an audience whose core is made up of like-minded individuals who aren't always open-minded? There is always room for anarchy in our most anxious of nerves and methodical undertones of violence - physical anger asserted after mental frustration. We love to watch shit blow-up and the idea of minor destruction never completely leaves our subconscious after childhood. We think about it our every day actions: laughing at a person fall over, watching the news, all those blooper shows. What is it about some ambiance and noise that is attractive to some, and repulsive to others. But if you layer the sort of annoyance in a lush tune, you can sometimes sell it as artful pop? Or again, should that be in the consideration of "best music" found on a specific medium of measurement between harmonic and apocalyptic. What's harder to count? What's harder to hold - tension between bars and measures - or a constant rhythm across a bright chorus? Because of the subjectivity of music, there's no real answer - but I'm beginning to think we overlook the value of one song's point versus a "new favorite artist" (often read: hype machine) who is exploring something mocked only years earlier for something that's not that forward thinking still to people currently. Anyway, I'm sitting there eating a burger - drunkenly scrolling through social feed - and in seconds I'm watching Refused - almost a decade after hearing them - on a major Late Night show. It's all on my fucking phone. I had an aneurism, a hobo revived me for some change to get a burger.
I can't make this shit up.... well, most of it anyway.
There's a moment on "Silencer" where you can hear the anguish spew out of Aaron Weiss' vocals. It's hurtful and real. There are moments on Catch For Us the Foxes where i can't sit comfortably for a minute after the experience. When music crosses that boundary of overtaking any sort of senses, whether it be physically unnerving or mentally unhinging, I begin to wonder if there's a direct correlation between catching our thoughts off guard with a form of entertainment or our attachment to something we find solace in so much that we mentally absorb self-help pamphlets through the vocal counterpoint of instruments? I'm unsure. Today I was listening to a song and heard a line I never took notice to any of the other thousands of times I've listened to the track. I consciously know why I was responsive to the lyric, but how did I shut it out before? It's interesting to gather moss when dragging your body through the swamp of music we roam through daily, but I'm not sure how much of it we retain, or if we're ever aware of what we retain subconsciously parallel to what we block out for whatever reason. I often dwell on my inablities to tell you why I like a certain band or album or song because of the subjectivity behind it. That subjectivity lies in the connection felt or unfelt by the listener, the individual the "educated hype machine" against the grain of the day, hour, breaking life story none of us really take into account, but we all say we're professionals and music lovers at the same time. Then again, who wants to hear from a person with no feeling blabbering on about what is "savant" in style and glows in "mediocrity" from their point of view. Is seeing another point really going to change how I connected to a piece of art? Is it worth reading? For that matter, is it worth writing? I'm not sure. It boggles me sometimes as to the people who rely on other people's opinions, but more specifically - art and to a greater extent - entertainment.
Today I realized that as much as a brand or tour or marketing firm does their best to try and sell you a feeling, nothing is like the moment you're caught off guard by that perfect line against a note. There's a subjectivity and specialness about that moment that no asshole behind a computer or desk can write to detach that.