Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Alaska - Shrine

     When I think of the sprawling wasteland that is the Las Vegas valley, I rarely think of anything other than shattered hopes, dreams lost at the blackjack table and another early morning spent squandering your kid's college fund just to pay back your bookie. Sure, I may be speaking from experience, but that's beside the point. It's not often I encounter a band from that area who can make me feel the sort of joy, lightness and elation a really good Durban Poison joint makes me feel. I've found that in Alaska. Never before has there been a more befitting moniker. 
     This wonderful band of lovable goofballs have crafted a record filled to the brim with so many posi anthems it's almost impossible not to grin like a bastard the whole time you are listening to this. I mean, doesn't everyone need a little chill in their desert heat? This record has it all. A bit of twinkle and math, some truly beautiful indie rock flourishes and those completely necessary and totally well-formed buildups that every great post-hardcore band should know how to incorporate into their songs to make them more than merely mediocre. The vocals are strong and confident from the sung to the screamed and do so much more than just merely float along with the music. They act as another instrument entirely while complimenting the structure and adding another layer to the already swelling soundscape. Alaska has perfected the formula and effortlessly turned that shit on its ear. This is one of the most exciting records I've heard this year and one of my favorite releases of the last few.
     These aren't merely punk songs or emo songs or post-whatever songs. These are modern psychedelic masterpieces written with a flare for the dramatic and a true sense of urgency and dynamics. With lyrics that are vague & opaque enough to make even the most grizzled beat poet proud, I imagine this is what Syd Barrett would be writing were he a 20-something emo kid living in Nevada.
     On a side note, the gentlemen who make up this wonderful ensemble are some of the nicest, kindest, most respectable house guests a show promoter could ask for. So, that may make my love for them a bit biased. Either way, you would be a fool to sleep on this record.
     If you need a comparison, how about mewithoutYou jamming with Foxing while Manchester Orchestra takes bong rips behind the mixing board. Or not. Just listen, make up your own mind and form your own opinion. 

A City Sorrow Built - Ai

For my first post in more than half a year, I have decided to write about my favorite "shitskrmz" band from Indonesia. A City Sorrow Built have graced us all with one hell of a record in this, their debut full-length. After two stellar EPs, 'Ai' continues to compound on their beautiful, sorrowful, lush and expansive take on screamy, unhinged post-rock. The songs here don't really deviate from what they had created prior, most just building on an already solid foundation of ethereality, rage & somber reflectiveness. Through the myriad highs and lows represented here, we are bearing witness to a band struggling to find truth in a world that is decaying before their eyes, struggling to find solace in lost love and the wonder and uncertainty that is tomorrow. I'm really having a hell of a time finding bands to compare them to, but if you enjoy the sounds of bands such as We Never Learned to Live, Envy, City of Caterpillar, Serena Joy, Men as Trees, Single State of Man and/or Paris in the Making, I'm sure you will love everything about this record and this band in general. Essential doesn't even begin to describe it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Formula Helps Retain

I was adopted at 3 days old by a very strange and loving couple. They weren't rocket scientists or poets laureate or brain surgeons. They were just your typical, strong working class Midwesterners. They did their best to give me everything they could. I wasn't always the easiest child to deal with and lord knows I certainly wasn't anything short of a nightmare as I got older, but my mother loved me unconditionally and she instilled in me a plethora of invaluable life lessons which have made me the man I am today. Kindness, compassion and keeping your family & friends close have been rules that I have lived by my entire life. Denise Lorraine McCubbin succumbed to ALS at 55 and passed away in 2008 just 3 days shy of Mother's Day. There isn't a day goes by that I don't shed a tear in her memory and wish I could have just one more drink with her, one more smoke with her, one more hug, one more laugh... I miss you Mom. I can't wait to see you on the other side. I'll bring the schnapps.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Citycop - Loner

     'Loner' by Citycop is yet another favorite from 2014 which I haven't really had much chance to laud yet. Long before the record came out, I was at their house in Akron for a much needed visit when I got the chance to hear some early recordings of the songs. I knew then and there that it was going to be very special. I couldn't have been more right. This newest record has taken them to a plateau few bands will ever reach in their career. 
     The men in Citycop and I have been friends for quite awhile now, and I have been able to watch them grow and develop into the genre-destroying juggernaut they have become. When people ask me, I never have an easy time describing what they sound like. Calling them hardcore is selling them short. Calling them screamo is selling them short. Calling them emo is definitely selling them short. It's tough to classify a band who defy classification. Maybe if they were just your run-of-the-mill hardcore act, it would be a little easier to pigeonhole them... Maybe if they weren't so meticulous about making sure every note felt like it could be their last it would be easier to put them in a neat little box.
     One of the main things that set them apart, aside from the fact that each member of the band is a verifiable expert at their chosen instrument is Max's acoustic guitar. Now, there have been a couple screamo bands over the years to incorporate an amplified acoustic into their music, but none have been able to pull it off with the level of success and confidence that Citycop has. Max is certainly not your typical guitar player. He bleeds the notes out while incorporating everything from classical to jazz to middle eastern rhythms into his playing. His abilities are unparalleled. Todd is no different on the bass. He is like a spastic child possessed when he is on stage. Running, jumping, whirling and flailing all over like his very life depends on it. Eddie is definitely one of the most impassioned vocalists you will ever have the chance to watch. He feels the words like few others. And, Cody... The only thing I can say about Cody is that he is, without a doubt the best drummer out there, period. He is the modern, living embodiment of Gene Krupa. Bashing, smashing and destroying anything and everything you think you know about syncopation and beat. Alright, enough fawning over my boys, for now.
     It's nearly impossible to compare Citycop to other bands. They definitely stand alone. I will say, if you enjoy non-traditional post-hardcore and you are yearning for something new and completely out of left field, you would be smart to give this band a listen. If you have ever enjoyed the sounds of Thoughts Paint The Sky, With Horses In Her Eyes, Frank Zappa, Ginger Baker, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, American Football, Karate, Miles Davis and/or The Chicago Art Ensemble, you may have just found your new favorite band.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Empathy Compilation

     I don't have much info to give regarding the origins of this comp. or the label that put it out. The Bandcamp says the label is from New York, but that doesn't help much. With little to no info guiding me in the right direction, the one thing I know for sure is that the six bands featured on this thing are all super rad and feature a bunch of my friends and their stellar musical visions. This starts with a relatively quick blast from Wet Petals from New York, who turn out a song that wouldn't have been out of place on a Jihad record. The second song is from People's Temple Project who are also from New York. They turn out a 13 second ditty that is over as quick as it began. Song number 3 comes to us from Baton Rouge's own Secret Smoker. They don't disappoint with their always solid take on DC influenced emocore and the longest song on the record. Coma Regalia from Indiana grace the number 4 spot with their already legendary take on emoviolence. The always mysterious Oregon/Canada basketcases in мятеж blow up song #5 with their own unnerving noise/lo-fi/violence concoction. Finally, rounding out this thing is the always entertaining Waller from Maryland. They throw down a track that brings to mind equal parts Killdozer and Scratch Acid. Completely odd and strangely fitting after the emo onslaught that preceded it. All in all, this compilation offers up a few bands that some folks may not be familiar with, some they most certainly will be familiar with and a concept as strange and mysterious as the label that put it out.

Ice Hockey - Wavefunction Collapse

     Ice Hockey is family. Ice Hockey are my brothers. Ice Hockey were born on the mean streets of the Quad Cities, which is a cluster of towns in Iowa and Illinois situated along the Mississippi River. I was born there, too. As a young man doing everything in his power to get out of the Midwest, I never would have thought a band of this magnitude could come from a place like that. Little did I know that I would end up regretting that belief someday. 
     'Wavefunction Collapse' is their newest offering, and with it you will find some of the most chaotic, bombastic hardcore this side of Combatwoundedveteran and Reversal Of Man. Now, don't take that to mean these guys are some sort of fly-by-night copycat outfit. That couldn't be further from the truth. Ice Hockey are blazing their own trails and tearing down any preconceived ideas about what a screamo record is supposed to sound like. This isn't all blast for blast's sake, shirt collar tugging, fall on the floor for effect samecore. These songs take on lives of their own because everyone in this band is a master of their craft. There are fun, noodly parts that bounce along until the breakdown drops and crushes it all. There are odd, experimental/psyche parts that let you know these guys have listened to their fare share of Yes & King Crimson records. There are unrestrained bursts of pure, unadulterated rage that should make you scared for your own safety. There is a snarling, smiling beast with a microphone doing somersaults and cartwheels through the crowd. All of these elements come together flawlessly to create a final draft that is haunting, hopeful and damaged at the same time.
     I could go finish this review with a RIYL list and all that... It's not worth it. You already know if you want this band in your life. I can't change your mind. The one thing I know for certain and the truth to end all truths is this: I am so happy to have these fellas in my life and I am 100% convinced that they are one of the best punk bands in the world right now.

Shizune - La Voyageur Imprudent

Italy and screamo have gone hand in hand for years. With the likes of Raein, La Quiete, A Flower Kollapsed, Violent Breakfast, Endless Inertia & The Death Of Anna Karina paving the way for younger bands to carve out their own niche in a scene that has some really big shoes to fill. Shizune are filling those shoes with aplomb. This is the newest record from a band who have already proven themselves worthy of carrying the torch passed down from their progenitors. This is classic 90s influenced post-hardcore with very apparent emoviolence flourishes peppered throughout. Super passionate vocals sung and screamed in English, Italian, French & Japanese weave themselves seamlessly through tightly wound guitar lines that have an almost post-punk/goth feel, reminding me at times of bands like Echo & The Bunnymen or The Jesus & Mary Chain. That's pretty vague and I'm not sure if the band would agree with me on that one, but that is what I hear. If you can't get on board with a band experimenting and/or you don't like great post-punk, don't let that comparison dissuade you from checking this band out. This is a screamo record, through & through. Do you favor the Italian school? You will love this. Do you like Beau Navire, Disembarked, Vowel, Cavalcades & We Were Skeletons? You will love this. Do you appreciate DIY and the many facets that culture entails? You should support this band with everything you've got.