Review:: Stuck In A Honey Trap | The Photo Atlas

Dance-punk is tricky. What if you’re too dancey? Punks won’t like that. What if you’re too punk? Nobody’s gonna dance to that. So, yes, dance-punk is tricky. However, not impossible. Take it from Colorado’s The Photo Atlas, a group that turns “energy” into a genre.

With bumblebee-like buzzing guitars (“Swear I’m Innocent,” the first single; “Shakin’ in My Skin”) and a dance tempo that practically moves your feet for you, there’s a definite feel of the self-produced nature of the album.
Alan Andrews’ high-pitch vocals could draw comparisons to anybody from the poppiness of Hot Hot Heat’s Steve Bays to Daryl Palumbo to Conor Oberst at times (example: the breakdown during “Tell Me Again”).
Throughout the album, the band’s speed and intensity never falters. The dual guitars of Andrews and Bill Threlkeld, backed by Mark Hawkins’ bass (which is given a bit of a spotlight during “Shakin’ in My Skin) and Josh Taylor’s drumming doesn’t relent for the half-hour span of the record. From the first chords of “The Glass Crashed” through the end fade-out of “Memory Like a Sinking Ship,” the intensity and energy are at an 11.
Stuck in a Honey Trap may take a few listens to digest. But that’s a good thing. What makes the album stick with the listener is the newness of the sound and the feel of it – some small aspects of it have been attempted before, but as a whole, this is a style that hasn’t really had its peak yet. With a headlining tour on its way, The Photo Atlas have a chance to make a pretty big impression.
Rating: 3.25/5
Total Runtime: 32 Minutes
Release Date: February 12th, 2013
1. “The Glass Crashed”
2. “Dress Code”
3. “Bleeding Colors”
4. “Swear I’m Innocent”
5. “Shakin’ In my Skin”
6. “Tell Me Again”
7. “Move It Darlin’”
8. “Screenplay”
9. “Memory Like a Sinking Ship”
The Photo Atlas is:
Alan Andrews – Vocals, guitar
Bill Threlkeld – Guitar
Mark Hawkins- Bass
Josh Taylor – Drums

Review By: Eric Riley

Show Review:: The Hush Sound.

Just because there’s a lockout during hockey season this year doesn’t mean that Saturdays in Boston aren’t entertaining. Luckily for us, when our sports bail on us, we’ve still got our music.

And when The Hush Sound rolled into Cambridge for a pair of concerts, the fans knew to expect something great.

Coming back from hiatus, bands always run the risk of having lost their original spark. Maybe their chemistry faded with time, maybe the fans outgrew them, or maybe it just isn’t the same way it used to be. Then again, in regards to the Chicago quartet, all of this is fortunately hypothetical, because they were as spot-on as I’ve ever heard them.

Opening their sold-out second show of the day (following a pick-the-setlist fan-voted matinee) with “Honey,” the group came out in full force, saying a quick hello before diving into a nearly uninterrupted seventy-minute set consisting of songs from all three albums.

With the exception of a few brief guitar tunings and applause breaks after each song, the show flew by. Crowd favorites like “Medicine Man” and “Wine Red” had fans singing along, while the slow “Magnolia” calmed down the sold-out room.

The highlight of the night was obviously the music, magnified hugely by the fact that a band who were an alumni a few weeks ago were now standing onstage again. But putting that aside, the group’s collaboration with one another is what was so key – cracking smiles and making jokes, constantly thanking the crowd and calling us beautiful (aww, shucks), it was an added level of awesomeness. The audience devoured their cheesy humor, including one instance of Salpeter paying homage to their Chicagoan roots by welcoming us to “TT Da Bear’s.”

After only a minute or so of a rest, they came back onstage for a short encore. Rob Morris and Greta resumed the show, with an acoustic rendition of “The Artist.” While the rest of the group rejoined the vocal duo, Salpeter messed around on her keys, practicing for her dream job – singing lounge-singer renditions of old Limp Bizkit songs, playing a quick (and tolerable) version of “Break Stuff.”

The night came to a close with the crowd-voted “You Are My Home,” a track they say they rarely get to play live and didn’t have time for at their earlier show. As the song faded out and the band said their second round of goodbyes, the crowd still cheered for more. But what the band did spectacularly was leave us with that – feeling satisfied, but still wanting more. They played a marathon set, hardly stopping to even hear applause, but kept the same high energy throughout.

As far as reunion shows go, it was brilliant. As a concert in general, had you not known about their previous hiatus, you wouldn’t have guessed that this band had ever taken a break.

Let’s hope they’re done with those.


  • Honey
  • Not Your Concern
  • Don’t Wake Me Up
  • Sweet Tangerine
  • We Intertwined
  • Love You Much Better
  • Magnolia
  • As You Cry
  • Wine Red
  • The Boy’s Too Refined
  • Carry Me Home
  • Molasses
  • Medicine Man


  • The Artist (acoustic)
  • You Are My Home (full band)

Date: November 17th, 2012
Venue: TT the Bear’s. Cambridge, MA.
Set time: 75 Minutes.
Openers: Tommy & the High Pilots, Destry

Written By: Eric Riley

Review:: Cinematics | The Epilogues


It’s an easy thing to make comparisons for bands. There are the obvious influences in certain genres – pop/punk bands pay homage to Fall Out Boy, Blink-182, Green Day, etc., things along those lines. That being said, there are those rare acts who, like a breath of fresh air, give you something you can’t quite place a finger on. Band in focus: The Epilogues. The fact that I can only think of one band off the top of my head to draw a strong correlation to (Vagrant Records alumni The Comas) is a pretty decent sign that I should be expecting something great.

The Denver quartet, comprised of vocalist Chris Heckman, bassist Jeff Swodoba, drummer Jason Hoke, and keyboardist Nate Hammond, throws together a mixture of sounds and styles into something entirely their own.

From the first notes of Cinematics, the guitar-hook and drum-roll intro of “The Shadow King,” the album delivers consistency that others neglect to provide. The smooth, gentle vocals and light strum of “Call Me a Mistake” lull you into a relaxation before Hoke leads the track into a heavier direction. Feedback and distortion connect this with the booming “My Misinformed ‘John Hughes’ Teenage Youth,” the first real standout on Cinematics. An echoing introduction repeats itself through a vocally-gorgeous chorus, supported by an eerie swirl of static-coated vocals.

Where “John Hughes” reaches for arena walls, the soft introduction of “Hunting Season” begs to be bounced off of the walls of dirty, sweaty, small clubs, not strictly due to the soaring vocals of Heckman, but the lyrics that support it – “Oh what have I become … / I can feel it now / Yet all the things I think I want are very things that push my friends aside / And I need them now, oh I need them now / I’m afraid it’s all for nothing.

The brief “Foxholes” winds into “Paradigm Shift,” a dance-inducing epic that grows more with each second. Featured on Rolling Stone’s site as a Daily Download, it’s an obvious choice to showcase The Epilogues’ skill set. Heckman’s vocals, whether clean or strained, are terrific, spotlighted by a supporting band performance that could make major-label bands feel like disappointed in themselves.

“Closer” brings a smooth shoegaze mood, while “Animals” is a dance-rock romp led by a heavy stomping drum and guitars that The Killers’ Hot Fuss could have used on a track or two. Tempo highs and lows counteract each other, dropping in and out without much warning.

A quickly-strummed acoustic guitar mirrors itself above a blipping kick drum until Heckman’s shouts lead into the chaotic “The Fallout,” filled with buzzing synth, precision drumming, and steady bass before fading away, bringing the title track in on its coattails. “Cinematics” is one-hundred-and-fifty-six seconds of the sounds of ebbing and flowing synthetic violins, pushing and pulling before arriving at “The Keene Act,” a nearly seven minute marathon that begins with the same swirling “Cinematics” ends with, and delivers another example of Heckman’s vocal range and capabilities.

With the exception of “Foxholes,” “The Wondrous World of Will Dupree” is Cinematics’ shortest track, timed in at just over a minute and a quarter. Somber, serene piano brings the listener by the hand into the finale “Saboteur,” a curveball of a song that starts softly before blowing the hinges off of the doors, morphing into a grand affair, ending Cinematics in perfect fashion.

The Epilogues are a do-it-yourself band, and always have been. A major label deal was within their reach, but it turned out that the cards weren’t dealt in their favor. However, the band took it in stride, taking their fate into their own hands. As a group, it seems they understand the importance of not wasting time. They’ve put a serious effort into producing a stellar album, and listeners’ time will not go to waste.

Rating: 4.25/5
Total Runtime: 48 Minutes
Release Date: November 6th, 2012

1. The Shadow King
2. Call Me a Mistake
3. My Misinformed “John Hughes” Teenage Youth
4. Hunting Season
5. Foxholes
6. Paradigm Shift
7. Closer
8. Animals
9. The Fallout
10. Cinematics
11. The Keene Act
12. The Wondrous World of Will Dupree
13. Saboteur

The Epilogues is:
Chris Heckman – Vocals/guitar
Jeff Swodoba – Bass
Nate Hammond – Keys
Jason Hoke – Drums

Written By: Eric Riley

Review:: Hide and Seek | The Birthday Massacre


There’s something to be said about consistency for bands that have been around for a while. Some bands drop off, while some age gracefully. For Toronto’s synth-goth six-piece The Birthday Massacre, they fall into the latter category. On their fifth record, Hide and Seek, the group delivers a half-hour story full of darkness and eeriness which fits perfectly with the season.

From the opening lines, there’s a bit of an odd feeling. The fading lead-in of “Leaving Tonight” could easily have been recorded in the 80’s, giving not only a sense of nostalgia, but delivering something that’s rarely given to listeners nowadays – something creative and new. The track itself is an upbeat synth-pop head-nodder, packed with a catchy chorus driven. However, the calm doesn’t last for long, as “Down” chugs its way on its coattails. The hardest song on the record shows an impressive range for the pocket-sized Chibi, mixing smooth, almost angelic clean vocals with heavy, gritty shouts.

Clinking chimes and wind accompany a building electronic sample and drums into the haunting “Play With Fire,” which is filled to the brim with innocent vocals and dark lyrics. “Need,” as odd as this comparison may sound, is the synthesized cousin of a Demi Lovato track. The vocals are very similar, both stylistically and talent-wise, providing for a genre-crossing song that pop fans of any age or scene can sing to.

“Calling” is another of TBM’s poppier songs, easily one of their most digestible to date. Meanwhile, the follow-up “Alibis” is heavily laced with creeping feedback and samples before becoming a hard-hitting chorus, backed by a dual-guitar performance from Rainbow and Falcore.

The upbeat introduction of “One Promise” is addictive, supported by the album’s catchiest chorus, spot-on vocals, mix-and-match choruses, and emotionally-powerful lyrics; “Watching from the back seat / waiting for the light to disappear. / I wonder where the night went / looking down the road that led us here. / I used to know you / but that was in another life. / And I can’t wait another night.”

“In This Moment” draws you in with a calm rainstorm and a building synthesizer beat. On both the longest and smoothest track on Hide and Seek, The Birthday Massacre fires on all cylinders. Lyrically and vocally, Chibi is perfect (When I was younger / The days all seemed to last so much longer / But that was once upon a time. / … In this moment / We pretend we’re all that matters. / We’re endless). Rhim’s drumming fits beautifully with Owen’s keys and the push-and-pull of Manor’s bass against Rainbow and Falcore’s guitars. If you’re looking for the one song to judge the album by, it’d be this.

The soft and somber “Cover My Eyes” is a pleading ballot that begs for security – “Cover my eyes tonight / Don’t let me see the light. … Forever I crawl / Forever I cry / I don’t know who I am anymore tonight.” If I weren’t keeping an eye on the screen, I wouldn’t have caught the flawless transition between “Cover My Eyes” and the concluding “The Long Way Home.” The album’s shortest song, coming in at just over two minutes, finishes up where not only its predecessor leaves off, but ties the album up with a bow. A dark, synth-swirled, chanting bow. Looking at the album art, these one hundred and thirty-six seconds fully embody the picture of the small child being led by the hand from the dark into the light. A feeling of grown independence and confidence washes the album away, repeating “Don’t let me go / Stay close to me / Don’t look behind us / there’s nothing to see. / Let me go / from here / I know it’s a long way home.”

Rating: 4/5
Total Runtime: 35 minutes
Release Date: October 9th

1. Leaving Tonight
2. Down
3. Play with Fire
4. Need
5. Calling
6. Alibis
7. One Promise
8. In This Moment
9. Cover My Eyes
10. The Long Way Home

Chibi – Lead vocals
Rainbow – Guitar, vocals
Falcore – Guitar
Rhim – Drums
Owen – Keyboards
Nate Manor – Bass

Written By: Eric Riley

Review :: Hold Your Own | Back To Normal


I’ve always been a sucker for mixed-gender vocals. The Forecast, 1997, The Hush Sound, Straylight Run, I could go on, all of these groups hold the highest spots on my playlists for most listens. The point I’m making is this – the dynamic between successfully combining a male and a female vocalist is something that can make a band stand out, or can make them irrelevant if done improperly. Luckily, Back to Normal avoided sounding forced, resulting in some very catchy pop-punk.

The short introduction shows us a peak into Orion Burke’s impressive drumming skills before melting directly into the group’s lead single “The Letdown.” Lead vocalist Sarah Camden’s voice is aggressive and sharp, delivering each lyric with precision. A slowing in the tempo halfway through repeats “We can’t be friends, no we can’t / because it never works in the end / but I’m trying, I’m trying,” looped continuously between Camden and her male counterpart, guest vocalist KJ Jones.

“#sorrynotsorry” takes an introduction right out of Four Year Strong’s playbook, and the trio nails it. Camden follows a quick drumroll into another heavy pop-punk hook, chased into a push-and-pull duet. This track is a surprise, when a breakdown and heavy screams come out of nowhere and disappear almost as quickly.

The acoustic “Keep Virginia Beautiful” is a gorgeous duet about leaving home and wishing for independence. Both vocal performances are stellar, strongly supported by a simple guitar and heartfelt lyrics – “And I thought you would be different / and I thought you weren’t like the rest / and I thought I could count on the one who kept me from hitting the ground / just before I lost my self respect. / The east coast may be home / but I want to go where no one knows my name.” Camden’s emotions seep out through every note, and provide for the best song on the EP.

“Rule Two” raises the tempo back to that of a basic three-piece punk song. The combination of the two singers meshes well, and the conversational feel of the lyrics boosts the effect. The EP’s second single, “Hold Your Own,” closes out the record. Another solid performance from Burke shines here, giving Camden a strong foundation for her vocals while Mike Frohnapfel gives steady guitar support. The repeated, drawn-out “O” sounds throughout make for an infectiously-catchy chorus that engrains itself in your head.

Back to Normal may be a simple three-piece from Virginia, but for a young band, they know what they’re doing. Vocally, Jones and Camden mesh well, which sometimes may be tough to do when trying to mix genders together. Given time to grow into their element and solidify their art, this band has some serious potential to do something great.

Rating: 3/5
Total Runtime: Approx. 21 Minutes
Release Date: October 9th,2012

1. Intro
2. The Letdown
3. #sorrynotsorry
4. Keep Virginia Beautiful
5. Rule Two
6. Hold Your Own

Sarah Camden – Vocals, bass
Mike Frohnapfel – Guitar
Orion Burke – Drums
* KJ Jones – Guest Vocals

Written By: Eric Riley.

Review:: Cinematics | Set It Off


Is “orchestral pop-punk” a musical genre? With A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out-era Panic! at the Disco, The Matches, and The Used circa Lies for the Liars, we’ve experienced our fair share of hyperactive string sections providing us with something new and catchy. Now, with Tampa’s Set It Off, we have another group headed in a great direction with their debut full length Cinematics.

“Thoughts That Breathe” is a brief 28-second introduction that makes you feel like you’re being dragged into the castle’s dungeon, a quick half-minute of eerie violins and creepy synthesizers before leading directly into “Nightmare,” which introduces us to fast-paced romp led by Carson’s high vocals back by additional strings and piano work.

The basic lead-in to “Swan Song” draws back the theatricalities of the previous few minutes, showing Set It Off’s ability to tone it down (a bit, the strings come back later on in the track) but still deliver. The lull doesn’t last long, with the delightfully-chaotic “Plastic Promises” following. Two minutes in, a shouted “Are you ready?” brings in a swaying choral combination of gang vocals, horns, and a brief Carson falsetto that teases something great before a lullaby carries the album into “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.”

At this point, this is the best point on the album. The band is cohesively great in all elements, and Carson’s vocals are spot-on (listen to him sing “internal clock” at 1:18). Another break from the music is a shout-out to “all insomniacs” set to swirling violins before a heavy breakdown and the grittiest vocals thus far.

“No Control” starts with slow piano and clean vocals, but these are quickly replaced as Danzinger summons the rest of the band to interrupt the brief peacefulness. The cleanest, most-classical use of the strings section brings us into “Dream Catcher,” where Set It Off shines. The album’s best and most positive song has Carson singing “It’s almost like I fell asleep / my doubts have seemed to fade / because I’ve opened up my eyes to see / I’m right where I plan to be today. / Cast your net, cast it out / and I hope to God you scream and shout / It’s everything you want and maybe more. / Doesn’t seem out of reach / hit the ground and run with both your feet. / Here’s a lesson that I hope to teach / believe you’ll be a dream catcher.”

Both “Freak Show” and “Distance Disturbs Me” give solid performances both vocally and musically, but neither really stands out after following the tracks before it. On their own, they are actually quite good, but fail to make many waves when placed between the album’s two highlights – “Dream Catcher” in the front, and “Dad’s Song” following them up.

Another slower song set to piano, “Dad’s Song” is a tribute to a father and a stellar performance, progressively building with each chorus of “So I’ll say I finally wrote your song at last / sorry that this one came out so sad. / Every tear I had / was shed for the man that gave me a better sense of life and meaning to motivate. / There’s no shortcuts to success / I’ll wait for his guiding hands / my guardian angel until the very end,” until the full band deliver a powerful outro played underneath a heartfelt Carson wailing “Tears can’t run dry when I start to cry / when I hear people speak of how / you’d be so proud of me. / And now I hope this song will reach your ears / that solved all my darkest fears. / I once was blind, but now it’s clear / wherever I go, I know that you’ll be near.”

The synth-infused “I’d Rather Drown” is an aggressive, gritty, middle-finger-in-the-air full of fast piano keys, witty lyrics, looping background vocals, and a catchy clap-track before fading away into “The Grand Finale,” a violin-filled perfectly-fitting conclusion we’d expect from Cinematics. It gives us our first taste of heavy screams, and the long wait makes them work even better.

With such a varying degree of musical tastes that Cinematics could appeal to, and an impressive tour resume over recent months to boot, there’s no reason Set It Off shouldn’t expect to see a spike in their popularity in the very near future.

Rating: 3.75/5
Total Runtime: <40 min
Release Date: September 18th

1. Thoughts That Breathe
2. Nightmare
3. Swan Song
4. Plastic Promises
5. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
6. No Control
7. Dream Catcher
8. Freak Show
9. Distance Disturbs Me
10. Dad’s Song
11. I’d Rather Drown
12. The Grand Finale

Cody Carson – Vocals
Dan Clermont – Guitar
Zach Dewall – Guitar
Austin Kerr – Bass
Maxx Danzinger – Drums

Written By: Eric Riley

Review:: Close The Distance | Go Radio


Following 2011’s Lucky Street, Go Radio have seriously stepped their game up to the next level.

This year, Close the Distance opens with a boom of “oh-oh-oh” in contrast to the siren wail that Lucky Street started with. From the first track, the what-bands-should-strive-for-as-an-album-opener “I Won’t Lie,” Jason Lancaster delivers consistent, perfect, heavy vocal performances, backed by upbeat piano, pop-punk hooks, and catchy choruses.

The string-laced “Baltimore” delivers a one-two punch followed by “Collide,” one of the higher tempo tracks on the record with a chorus that reaches for arena walls.

“‘Cause I won’t let you burn out tonight / let’s just stay here / Don’t breathe, ignite / And you be the reason, I’ll be the rhyme / We’ve both got way too much ahead to worry about what we’ve left behind / So you keep the beat, we’ll stay on time / and fill the pages with just how both our worlds collide.”

“Collide” drifts into the piano-driven lead single “Go to Hell,” a fist-pumping, gang vocal attack that comes out of nowhere, starting as just simple piano before Kopacz takes the reins.

Coupled with the power-ballad “Lost and Found,” the title track lifts the tempo back up to the pop-punk style we’ve known from Go Radio. The song itself has one message: run; “Run, like it’s time that’s chasing us / like you will never find enough / like you forgot the words “give up” / and live to close the distance.”

“What If You Don’t” is one of the best ballads of the season. Swooning violins creeping in beneath Lancaster and his piano will have crowds lifting lighters in the air. A mixture of clean vocals and Lancaster’s classic wail moves the listener through a tragic song of uncertainty.

Thankfully, “Things I Don’t See” instantly brings in a steady blend of pop guitar from Alex Reed and a head-bopping Matt Poulos bass line. The repeated use of a low piano song followed by an energetic pop track gives Close the Distance that little bit extra, tugging at the listener’s emotions and then carrying them through the next song.

“The Ending” lets Go Radio flex their muscles again as a whole, with spot-on performances all melding into one; hard vocals with heartfelt lyrics, pitch-perfect backing vocals, heavy drums, tempo-driving bass, and smooth guitars thrown into a blender.

Quick piano and soft vocals demand “Over Me” to be added onto breakup playlists and romantic-comedy soundtracks. As Lancaster picks up the pace vocally, the band drops in as he sings “Now all the hope and all the fear / and everything we built this year / is breaking down around us now / and falling with your perfect tears. / If love could lift us over everything / all we need’s a set of wings.”

Wind chimes and a rumbling breeze fade away with the end of the “Over Me,” hinting that a storm is on its way.

An echoing organ and piano accompany a soft, acoustic strum and somber Lancaster vocals. As the lyrical intensity rises, the strum increases, the keys hit heavier, the words pack more of a punch. By the end, Lancaster is screaming “And I had heart, but it left with your breath / and the notes that you said, I’ll remember them always / Just the thought that you’re here in my chest / keeps the thoughts in my head from the dark that is these days. / The pictures on the wall my dear / the holy ghost himself can’t make appear.”

Close the Distance is the most mature and heartfelt material we’ve heard from Go Radio. The combination of fast and slow tempos, sorrowful and optimistic lyrics, and the moodiness that listeners hope for makes for an experience that lasts.

Rating: 4/5
Total Runtime: 42 Minutes
Release Date: September 18th

Track Listing:
1. I Won’t Lie
2. Baltimore
3. Collide
4. Go To Hell
5. Lost And Found
6. Close The Distance
7. What If You Don’t
8. Things I Don’t See
9. The Ending
10. Over Me
11. Hear Me Out

Go Radio Is:
Jason Lancaster – Vocals, Guitar
Alex Reed – Guitar, Vocals
Matt “Burns” Poulos – Bass, Vocals
Steven Kopacz – Drums

Written By: Eric Riley

Review:: Between the Devil and Two Black Hearts – 8MM


I had no idea what to expect from 8MM. I had heard murmurs of the band for a while, but unfortunately, had never taken the time to listen before now. I recently read about the huge Kickstarter, about how they recorded the album in their bedroom (taking the Jamison Parker Sleepwalker route), and a few other small things. But what a mistake it was to wait.

Between the Devil and Two Black Hearts provides a rare spark that many artists tend to miss. The dual vocals between husband and wife Juliette and (Grammy-nominated producer) Sean Beavan is stunning. The melting of their two complimentary vocal styles strikes up comparisons to Codeine Velvet Club and Murder by Death, fitting perfectly when laid over smooth, looping guitars and electronic drums (“Around the Sun”), plucked country acoustic/electric combinations (“Between the Devil and Two Black Hearts”), or anything else they throw together.

“You Brought the Fire” gives Juliette’s vocals a chance to shine on the own, softly yet strongly, laced with a rumbling bass-driven introduction and background “who-who” support. “The Weight of You” and “The One” lyrically both feature a strong lust, almost entirely thanks to Beavan’s sultry vocals and powerful presence, though the masculinity is certainly felt.

The string-infused “Everybody Says” is a longing, heartbroken serenade for anyone holding onto the past that, vocally, could give Neko Case a run for her money. The coupled voices quietly plead “I’ve got nothing, I’m living with ghosts / and I can’t tell what hurts the most / Living alone or finding the pieces of you / Pieces they forgot, forgot to take. … and everybody says ‘Get over it.’” The song fades out and leaves an impact for six seconds or so of silence, before the finale, “Glimmering,” chants its way in.

A low heartbeat pulses beneath guitar strums and unison vocals, Juliette’s clean high key lending support to Sean’s grit. The chorus is a simple scale of calming “ahh’s,” leading into an anticipated but never delivered second verse, but rather the same heartbeat, muffled by heavy guitar feedback before cutting into silence.

After raising nearly $40,000 from fans and supporters, every cent is well spent and even more deserved. 8MM have had some small commercial success before, being featured on One Tree Hill, The Real World, and various other shows. However, their sound is easily digestible for any taste and could certainly reach large audiences given the chance. With Between the Devil and Two Black Hearts, I think they’ve given themselves that fighting chance.

Rating: 4.5/5
Total Runtime: 32 Minutes
Release Date: September 15th

Track listing:
1. Between the Devil and Two Black Hearts
2. Kin
3. Around the Sun
4. You Brought the Fire
5. The Weight of You
6. The One
7. Everybody Says
8. Glimmering

Written By: Eric Riley

Review:: Southern Air | Yellowcard

It’s been just under a year and a half since Yellowcard released, When You’re Through Sinking, Say Yes, their first record off-hiatus. The album drew consistent high reviews, showing hope for a band fresh off of a two year break. Now, in the summer of 2012 with the release of Southern Air, Yellowcard are back to take total control of the season and the scene that they have so strongly held onto.

From the opening riff of “Awakening,” this feels like a Yellowcard album – fast pop-punk that makes you feel like there’s some serious fun to be had somewhere. Key’s voice and lyrics are solid, and strongly complimented by Mendez, Parsons, Portman, and Mackin, who shines as always with YC’s trademark violinwork.

“Surface of the Sun” leads well from the opening track, laced with crisp strings and background “ohh-ohh-ohh’s” behind Key singing “We were born to be the ones / and burn like the surface of the sun / to show the faithless what we’ve done” before drawing into catchy-as-hell the lead single “Always Summer.” The track, which is one of the better pop songs you’ll hear this summer, features everything a Yellowcard fan, new or old, would expect from a single; Mackin’s string solos thrown between verses, accompanied by lyrics about letdown and love (“I just want to say I know I let you down / but I’m letting out / and I found a way that I can tell the truth / make it up to you”), all going hand-in-hand to make solid pop-punk music.

“Here I Am Alive” brings in guest vocals from co-Warped Tour 2012 stars We Are the In Crowd’s Tay Jardine. The duet of Key and Jardine’s voices flows perfectly, mixing with one another during a clap-along chorus of “They say you don’t grow up / you just grow old / it’s safe to say I have done both.”

The one-two combo of Mendez and Parsons flexes its muscles at the album’s halfway mark, “Sleep in the Snow.” With each further listen, the more it feels like an easy contender for the second single, with Key’s vocals stretching to high notes, a piano and violin intermission, witty lyrics, and a catchy “whoa-ohh” chorus.

“A Vicious Kind” lives up to its title. Portman gives a steady bassline beneath a hard-hitting chorus of “I want you to know I’m not sorry at all / you can’t buy forgiveness or blame me for the fall / All I ever wanted was for us to beat the odds / I thought we were lucky ones / but all your luck is gone.”

The soft-starting “Telescope” brings Jardine back for a second shift, along with All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth and Cassadee Pop of Hey Monday. With four fantastically-talented vocalists, the track seems like it could be overcompensating, trying to overstock on singers. But honest lyrics and an all around spot-on performance from all members makes this one of the album’s standout track.

The introduction into “Rivertown Blues” allows you no chance to catch your breath, jumping directly into a drum-heavy performance and giving Parsons a moment to take the reins. This is easily where Ryan Mendez shows his stuff, ripping into a solo at the tail end of the track before fading away.

Aside from Frank Turner’s “Long Live the Queen,” there aren’t many songs that I can think of that have taken me more than one try to get through or moved me on my first listen. But where “Rivertown Blues” hits you with hard drums and guitar solos, the acoustic “Ten” tugs on your heartstrings and sends chills down your spine. Key gives us some of the strongest, emotionally honest, and heart-wrenching lyrics I’ve ever heard, and though Yellowcard are known for being a rare band to utilize violin, its presence here is gorgeous and stands out as if it’s being used for the first time in their catalog. It is, easily, one of the most beautiful, haunting songs I’ve heard.

Thankfully, the retrospective “Southern Air” picks up our spirits and strongly closes out the record. For a band that has been around for so long, it’s refreshing to hear a hometown anthem on their eighth record, providing a strong finale to a solid album. As the album draws to a close, the chorus repeats “This southern air is all I need / breathe it in and I can see / camera sets behind my eyes / All the colors of my life / This southern air is in my lungs / it’s every word I’ve sung / It seems the only truth I know / This will always be home” before fading to a stop.

Southern Air is the type of album that will please any Yellowcard listener and make fans out of new ears. Throughout ten tracks and forty minutes, the band delivers a little something for any taste. Coming off of a well-deserved spot on this summer’s Warped Tour, and with a new tour lined up for the fall, this album gives ten new tracks to add to an already impressive list. To sum it up, Yellowcard have delivered us one of the summer’s better records and a breath of fresh air.

Rating: 4.5/5
Total Runtime: < 40 minutes
Release Date: August 14th

1. Awakening
2. Surface Of The Sun
3. Always Summer
4. Here I Am Alive (f. Tay Jardine)
5. Sleep In The Snow
6. A Vicious Kind
7. Telescope (f. Alex Gaskarth, Tay Jardine, and Cassadee Pope)
8. Rivertown Blues
9. Ten
10. Southern Air

Yellowcard is:
Ryan Key – Lead vocals, guitar, piano
Sean Mackin – Violin, vocals
Longineu W. Parsons III – Drums
Ryan Mendez – Guitar
Josh Portman – Bass
Written By: Eric Riley

Review:: Handwritten | The Gaslight Anthem

The Gaslight Anthem have always managed to keep a delicate balance between stardom and secrecy. Over half a decade and a handful of brilliant releases, they’ve grown to a household name and cover-star fame, yet still have not hit their deserved level of buzz. With the release of Handwritten, The Gaslight Anthem are sticking to their roots; simple, hard, and pure rock and roll.

The opening track and lead single, “45,” is a fast-paced radio-ready summer anthem (no pun intended), screaming “Hey, hey, turn the record over / hey, hey, I’ll see you on the flipside.”

What makes the album so unique is its simplicity. A handful of songs feature basic, yet impressively catchy choruses of nothing more than ay-ay-ayy’s (“Handwritten, Howl”) or sha-la-la’s (“Here Comes My Man”). That’s not to say Fallon’s writing skill has diminished with Handwritten. In fact, the lyrics are as strong as they have ever been.

“Mulholland Drive” showcases Rosamilia’s talents from start to finish. Opening with a quick up-and-down intro and closing with a swirling solo set under Fallon’s repetition of “Oh I’d just die if you ever took your love away.”

“Keepsake” shows remnants of the Horrible Crowes’ soul-filled, blues-driven Elsie, the once-off side project of Brian Fallon and Gaslight guitar tech Ian Perkins. Opening with soft drums before diving into heavy guitars and harmonica, the track leads beautifully into the impressive “Too Much Blood,” featuring a mixture of clean singing and low growls from Fallon that truly show his range as a vocalist.

“Howl” is one of the definite gems on Handwritten; a two-minute sprint with the catchiest and simplest chorus of the year (see above), showing the listener that less is more. “Biloxi Parish” slows the tempo back down, with screeching guitars that reach for stadium walls.

The following track, the lustful “Desire,” is reminiscent of Sink or Swim’s “I’da Called You Woody, Joe.” The chorus features Fallon pleading “I would give anything for the touch of your skin / Yes, I would burn here for years / Up in desire,” as the song ends, awaiting an answer.

The closing two tracks, “Mae” and the breathtaking “National Anthem,” go hand-in-hand with one another, and are two of the strongest songs in the Gaslight Anthem’s catalog.

“Mae” is a sorrowful look back at memories of youth and life. A quiet Fallon swoons “In my faded jeans and far away eyes and salty carnival kiss / That all my former lovers say was once magnificent / And still this city pumps its aching heart for one more drop of blood / We work our fingers down to dust / while we wait for kingdom come / with the radio on. / It’s been so long Mae, so long.” The four-minute sway is beautiful, and is only outshined by its follower.

“National Anthem” continues the trend of The Gaslight Anthem stepping it up with ballads (see “Blues Jeans and White T-Shirts,” “The Navesink Banks,” “Here’s Lookin’ At You Kid”). As a conclusion, “National Anthem” draws inspiration from American Slang’s “We Did It When We Were Young,” ending the album somberly with a tight grasp on our heartstrings. Soft violins play while Fallon sings, “And I remember she used to look so good in that dress / now she just screams how I promised her more than this. / Take it easy baby, it ain’t over yet. / So take what you need now honey / and do what you like / Don’t worry about me Mama, I’m alright / And if there’s something you need, and if there’s something you find / whatever gets you through the night.”

After releasing American Slang, Brian Fallon said he was unsure about whether he could ever write another Gaslight Anthem song. If that is the case, then we should all be thankful for The Horrible Crowes. Each time The Gaslight Anthem release new material, I feel like my expectations rise. They’re the type of band who refuses to settle for anything less than perfection, and that is what they continue to produce. If you’re searching for contenders for the best albums of the year, expect Handwritten to be on that list.

Rating: 5/5
Runtime: approx. 40 minutes
Release Date: July 24th

1. 45
2. Handwritten
3. Here Comes My Man
4. Mulholland Drive
5. Keepsake
6. Too Much Blood
7. Howl
8. Biloxi Parish
9. Desire
10. Mae
11. National Anthem

The Gaslight Anthem is:
Brian Fallon – lead vocals, guitar
Alex Rosamilia – guitar
Alex Levine – bass
Benny Horowitz – drums
Review written by: Eric Riley