It’s almost summer time, and out on my side of the earth (California), it’s creeping faster than normal. If I’m being honest, summer is my least favorite time of year. I’ve never been a fan of the heat, and I tend to gravitate more towards the crisp fall air and the sound of rain tapping on the windows. But at the same time, there’s something oddly comforting and exciting about this time of year. It’s easy to have a romanticized perception of summertime, but one of my favorite pastimes is just to drive. Even if it’s
just down the highway, having a small taste of escape while cruising around, windows down and music blasting, is always welcomed. I’ve discovered some of my favorite bands and albums while driving, and that sense is always seemingly heightened during the summer months. Night Argent has become another one of those bands for me. Their self-titled EP is as infectious as it is creative, and it’s the perfect fit for those summer night drives.
There’s nothing to make you feel so powerless as complaining about the weather.
I really want it to be spring. It seemed like it would be a few times already, when the temperature and the sun have collaborated together to make a March day lovely, once or twice. And then, to my utter dismay, we’re back to the bite of winter.
It’s not that I don’t like winter. Winter can be great. And I realize that hoping for an early spring feels like hoping for global warming, which much smarter people than I say will doom us all. But in this early April, I am just so ready to sit on my porch, and ride my bike, and look up at the expanse of blue without having to wear a jacket, because for the past few days, I’ve been listening to exmagician’s excellent debut album, Scan The Blue, and dammit I just want to be outside all the time.
It’s not very nice for me to write about a band that people have barely heard of, that is just now releasing their first album with a proper record label, by talking about how lonely their sound is. I’m sure that the Montclair, NJ natives that make up Pinegrove would love to have many more fans and be making much more money, and to my ears, they surely deserve to.
But the best thing about Cardinal, Pinegrove’s short-but-sweet 8-song album, is the feeling that you might be listening to it alone, because the emotion it delivers is hand-wrapped in your own special package. The lyrics are conversational, direct in their words if not always their intentions. Singer Evan Stephen Hall has a nice voice, but he
never seems completely sure if he’s singing, letting an ache trespass into the musicality, along with a slight drawl that seems somewhat at odds with the band’s New Jersey roots.
The band’s sound feels that way as well, with a slight twang that betrays a deep American-ness, without being placed in any specific part of the country. There’s an almost country-ish sound in their music, differentiating their indie-rock with a little wistfulness. Though the band is relentlessly electric in their instrumentation, letting guitars crunch and drums smack while the bass thuds along, the structure of the songs can make them seem so very sparse, almost acoustic.
On no song is this feeling of sparseness used to better effect than on the second track, “Cadmium,” starting out with just a few weak ringing notes on the guitar and Hall’s voice, letting that ache do the work for a whole band, before coming together as the band that complements the sound of that wistful voice. Restraint is used to the best effect in the instrumentation—even when the sound becomes full enough to fill a room by the chorus, it never feels anything less than intimate, and no sound feels extraneous.
Pinegrove are starting to have a moment, moving out of Montclair to tour the country, and getting applause from critics with much more impressive resumes than mine. I imagine that people will soon start having heard of them. It makes you wonder at the power of intimacy, whether the band that sounds so great for their loneliness and their individuality can keep it up when playing to the largest of rooms.
It’s this feeling of restraint that makes any such worry absurd. Their music is beautiful in its solitude no matter how many instruments are playing. Pinegrove is able to be direct and close, imminent and personal, no matter how big their audience may become. Rather than sounding like a band you have to seek out, they sound like a band that’s singing specifically to you.
Release Date: February 12, 2016
Run Time: ~30 minutes
1. Old Friends
3. Then Again
7. Size Of The Moon
8. New Friends
Before I get started, I’ll say two quick things.
One – I have made no effort to ever hide my love for Forgive Durden’s Razia’s Shadow. It’s easily in my Top Five. And there will surely be a few mentions of it in the coming
paragraphs. Two – man, it’s great to have Thomas Dutton making music again. Here’s why:
On the debut album from glam-pop duo Cardiknox, made up of Lonnie Angle and Thomas Dutton, of the now-defunct aforementioned Forgive Durden, the pair packs California sun and New York City ambition into a dozen tracks, each one as infectious as the last.
I’ve always liked how Fearless Records handle their new signees. Where major labels will sometimes sign bands to deals off of the strength of a single, the independent Fearless has been known to have their rookies release EPs before delving into full-length territory. I don’t know why I like it so much, but I do. Maybe it’s because I don’t see it very much (though, if other labels are doing it too, I apparently don’t notice) or maybe
it’s because it’s a way of testing the water, who knows.
One thing that I do know is that, more often than not, these previews are a look at some of the best up-and-coming bands out there. This time around, with Orange County
four-piece Movements, we could be getting our first taste at something special.
The short EP quickly gets things moving, with a sharp guitar intro to “Kept” turning the ignition. Vocalist Patrick Miranda’s voice is a seamless mix of clean and gritty, with heavy screams woven in and out between softer vocals. With the open, storytelling penmanship and vocals that are at times more spoken-word than singing, Movements are sure to draw up comparisons to La Dispute or mewithoutYou.
Midway through, Outgrown Things hits its highest mark. Each member gives a highlight performance – Cressey’s basswork rumbles heavily along beneath Miranda’s strongest lyricism on the release, which is saying something for a release with better-than-average songwriting throughout. I don’t often pull individual lines out from songs to discuss, but with the combination of the words and their deliveries, a few struck me like lightning: “I guess I’ve always slept better in an empty bed.” “Hang me in the closet with the rest of your outgrown things” “A thousand miles and I still feel you like the thorn in my side / Running from my problems never worked, but I’m still lengthening my stride.”
On “Vacant Home,” Miranda sings a line that encapsulates the release as a whole. Looped in the background, he pleads “this vulnerability has left my struggling.” But it’s that vulnerability and that struggle that makes Outgrown Things such a success. The doubt and the questioning and all of those negative, introspective emotions carry weight during every second here. Whether it’s the worry that vision is always better in hindsight, or trying to force shattered pieces to fit together, the openness here is the real strength.
I can’t say for sure what or when we’ll be hearing from Movements next, but with what they’ve delivered on Outgrown Things, I’m confident that it won’t disappoint. We’re
pretty early into 2016, but we may have just been introduced to one of the
year’s best new bands.
Release Date: March 11th, 2016
Run Time: ~20 minutes
Check Out: “Worst Wishes,” “Nineteen,” “Hatchet”
There is an atmospheric sound coming from Hands Like Houses’ new album Dissonants. This full-length album is self-assured, loud, and confident; it is everything to love about music.
The dynamics of Thrice, the moody vibes from Deftones, and the heart-on-sleeve ambition from Thursday have influenced this Australian group. From schoolmates to an international rock band, Hands Like Houses have been hard-hitting stages all over the world. They have played Warped Tour twice and have toured with Pierce the Veil, Sleeping With Sirens, A Day to Remember, and The Amity Affliction, to name a few.
Money’s Jamie Lee is certainly not a stranger to self-doubt.
The band’s second album, Suicide Songs,
wears it on its sleeve. Literally—the album cover is a picture of the band’s
singer with a knife stabbing into his forehead, not to mention its overwrought
title. But despite lyrics that reflect the Manchester native’s neuroses, the
band’s work shows a confidence that outstrips any worries Lee or his mates may
have about their own worth. They take an ambitious swing, and it pays off.
had a debut album in 2013 that did an impressive job of sounding as epic as an
indie band of Money’s stature (and, *ahem*,
with their lack of actual money) could. They sounded like a normal-sized band
with the kind and amount of instruments fledgling indie rock bands normally get
their hands on, playing them with a bunch of studio tricks to make them sound
bigger and more momentous than they are. They fit into a trend that’s not uncommon but definitely not unfortunate—rock bands that use digital studios and artificial reverb to create a wall of sound instead of through the cramped recording style that Phil Spector and other analog wizards worked hard to make.
Money brought talented songwriting to the formula, elevated
with spacey textures that reached for magnificence. But for all the enormity of
the scale, their first album ends up feeling almost safe. It certainly had good
songs played well, but it fell short of true greatness, lacking a sense of intention
and immediacy that could have really pushed it ahead.
Two and a half years later, Suicide
Songs builds on the best parts of the band’s debut with the kind of
maturity that allows the band to revel in youth. They continue the sense of a
vast landscape that made their debut work, but they fill in the gaps of immense
space in between the reverb, building with energy and vitality in the places
that had before become inert. The instruments still echo—a single note on a
high guitar string will do the work of six for most of a verse, playing on and
sustaining until it melts into the background; the vocals call from across a
distance, like shouts to a microphone too far away.
But in between the standard rock instrumentation come more
baroque instruments to weave around the soundscapes—a string section and a
brass one take their part here and there to fill the songs with a substance,
along with a robust percussion section. All of it fades into the wall of sound
anyway, creating an especially full and lively texture. Money proves impressive
at finding the big moments, the crescendos and sudden reversals, building up
and tearing down the energy with excellent precision. It’s a sound rich with
emotion, highlighting the best parts of the song craft.
Lee’s voice becomes overwrought and tortured as he sings about
loneliness and frustration. His pipes are wounded and scarred, belting far
beyond his comfortable range. It brings to mind Patrick Stickles of Titus
Andronicus, a suitable comparison for someone so drenched in mopiness,
ambition, and somehow through all that, hope. On the two more stripped down
tracks—the title song, and the dramatic closer, “Cocaine Christmas and an
Alcoholic’s New Year,” which is exactly as overdone as it sounds but totally
pulls it off—he wails over instrumentation as basic as a piano. His voice
cracks and shatters, and he transforms into a drunken lush, shrinking from the
epic scope of the album’s biggest sweeps into a solitary moment.
It’s this mastery of scale that is the truly impressive feat of Suicide Songs. It masters the bigness
of Money’s previous album, and it masters these smaller bits as well. But most
importantly, Suicide Songs is an
album that understands the vast expanse between.
Release Date: January 29th, 2016 Rating: 4.5/5 Run Time: ~43 minutes
Track listing: 1. I Am The Lord 2. I’m Not Here 3. You Look Like a Sad Painting on Both Sides of the Sky 4. Night Came 5. Suicide Song 6. Hopeless World 7. I’ll Be The Night 8. All My Life 9. A Cocaine Christmas and an Alcoholic’s New Year
Full of regrets and recollections of heartbreak, Boroughs’
self-titled release is an honest, introspective look at internal dialogue
during hard nights. Though this description may make the EP seem dismal,
there’s an underlying theme of hope in each of the tracks on the six-song
In opening track “Keep it Up,” singer Kyle Neal repeats
“Nothing’s quite as bad” as the song closes out. The line comes off as a
personal mantra and reminder rather than a statement that’s meant to be
believed. The afterthought of “…until it is,” feels almost like defeat, but a
defeat that’s accepted based wholly on Neal’s delivery.
This cycle of guessing and second-guessing keeps on through the
rest of the EP, even more so in standout, “Stay With Me.” A wistful track
accented by spacey acoustic guitar work, the third song brings to light the
doubts of the first half and is the first of the selections that seem to dispel
some of the doubts of the internal dialogue.
Finishing out strong with final track “Enough,” the mood of the
EP pulls an about-face. Beginning with a rousing chorus, the themes in “Enough”
of acceptance and optimism are sure to stick in the minds of listeners even
after they move on to the next selection. Though Boroughs’ brand of
indie-folk-meets-alt-country may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s the
relatability factor that will have even casual listeners finding something
within the songs that resonates with them.
Release Date: December 4, 2015 Rating: 4/5 Runtime: ~25 minutes Check Out: “Stay With Me”, “Give it Time”
Track listing: 1. Keep It Up 2. Alive 3. Stay With Me 4. Give it Time 5. Anytime 6. Enough
Now in the fifth installment of the Panic(!) at the Disco
story, we’ve seen the changes the band has made from album to album, tweaking
everything and anything – sound, image, theme, roster (though that last one
can’t change much further). This time around, after visiting everything from
cirque-pop to psychedelic marching band to dark cabaret and everything in
between, Urie and Co. give us one
of 2016’s first noteworthy albums by delving into a brand new chapter –
With the first notes of the caffeinated chant-along
“Victorious,” Death of a Bachelor
starts quick and sharply. Followed by “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time,” the
pair risk canceling each other out. I enjoy champagne as much as the next guy,
but hearing it sung in back-to-back choruses is a bit sobering. On their own,
both are fun and catchy, though playing them in succession takes some of the
buzz away from each.
Luckily, single “Hallelujah” follows as a saving grace. Booming
and radio-ready, Panic! are the latest Fueled By Ramen alum to deliver using
this title. Urie’s vocals are crisp and focused, and the bandstand introduction
is one of a handful of Bachelor’s vintage
elements. “Crazy=Genius” brings along a horns section and dancehall drums to
swing to, while “Death of a Bachelor” enters sounding like an old file that had
trouble updating onto new media.
Unsettling of a statement as that may seem, it shouldn’t
eclipse that the title track is one of the album’s strongest songs, as well as
one of Urie’s strongest performances in Panic’s catalog. His voice is smooth
and suave throughout the verses, while soaring to massive heights in the
falsetto chorus. An optimistic, heartbroken ode to his departing lifestyle,
Urie serenades over the transition into the married life – “Happily ever after,
how could I ask for more? / A lifetime of laughter, at the expense of the death
of a bachelor.”
“LA Devotee” and “House of Memories” carry over some
leftover Too Weird to Live vibes,
adding in a brass section to help them adjust to this record. Bursting with
‘80s charisma and neon charm, they dig deep into your head and don’t give up. “The
Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” loosely follows this same formula – a mixture of
new tempo and classic elements – and the end result is good, though isn’t quite
It’s tough to think that it’s been about two and a half
years since Too Weird to Live was
released (I had to double-check – late 2013). In that time, Panic! at the Disco
has gone through yet another metamorphosis. In the end, we were given the
footnotes of the process. With a new life on the horizon, Urie treats Death of a Bachelor as his final crazed
night out with his old friend bachelordom, their one last hurrah under the city
lights before heading home to the suburbs.
Release Date: Run Time: Rating: 3.5/5 Check Out: “LA Devotee,” “Death of a Bachelor,” “Hallelujah”
Track listing: 1. “Victorious” 2. “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” 3. “Hallelujah” 4. “Emperor’s New Clothes” 5. “Death of a Bachelor” 6. “Crazy=Genius” 7. “LA Devotee” 8. “Golden Days” 9. “The Good, the Bad, and the Dirty” 10. “House of Memories” 11. “Impossible Year”
They’re young and they are
definitely rising, at least in popularity.
Up-and-coming band Young Risings Sons is keeping to their style of heavy
drum work and creative arrangements. The band’s debut EP, The High, received high praise with hits like “High,” which was
featured in a Pepsi commercial, and “King of the World.” With their new found success, the band has
refined their latest EP, The Kids Will Be
Fine, for a more radio-friendly sound and melancholic lyrics. The five new
tracks definitely feature some highlights, but there is still polishing to do
for the perfect set of songs for their next record.
While Young Rising Sons has the
characteristics of any other alternative band trying to make it big, the unique
vocal arrangements make the quartet stand out from the pack. I have high
appraisal for lead singer Andy Tongren.
The consistency that Tongren carries in his tone melds perfectly with
the acapella-style chorus on tracks like “Somebody” and “F**ked Up.” The
layered vocals stay in the background with Tongren’s voice at the forefront. This is certainly a different way to approach
a chorus in a rock song.
The EP resembles a sort of bell
curve of energy. The Kids Will Be Fine starts off with a softer, slower track, but
then jumps into three high energy songs, and then finishes with a soft,
uplifting ending. The first song, “Coming
Home,” is the soft-rock opening which may tempt you from listening to the rest
of the EP. There is an element missing
which doesn’t really quite hit the mark, but the lyrics delve into a
The second track, “F**ked up,” is the party song that not only
will make you question why you are partying, but also keep you dancing. The track features pretty pessimistic lyrics set to infectious drum
beats and signature gang vocals. The next two tracks, “Flesh and Bones” and “Ghost of Me,” are
the highlights and where the band really nails it in the technical works and
rawness of the words that are sung. The bell curve dips to a perfect spot where
the melody has just enough energy to keep these songs on repeat. “Somebody” wraps the five wraps the EP with a
wistful and slow ending.
Young Rising Sons takes us through a bit of a roller coaster of
tracks, but it is definitely worth the ride.
The band is trying different things, where some elements work and others
don’t. It’s only a taste of what to expect in their full-length album
and trust me – you’ll want to listen.
Release Date: October 16th Run Time: ~18 minutes Rating: 3.5/5
Track listing: 1) Coming Home 2) F**ked Up 3) Flesh and Bone 4) Ghost of Me 5) Somebody