Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Album Review: ‘LP3’ by Restorations

Artist:  Restorations (Official, Facebook, Twitter, BandCamp, Last.fm, AllMusic)

Restorations’ third album LP3 is a beautiful and brilliant mix of sounds that defies categorization while still sounding familiar and reassuring.  It is like an old friend that you haven’t seen in years--it’s recognizable and safe while feeling refreshing and exciting--and that is what makes it work so incredibly well.  Restorations have been honing their captivating mix of post hardcore, punk, progressive classic rock, indie rock, Americana, and emo with a penchant for big chords and rolling crescendos since their beginnings in 2008.  On LP3 they have perfected it.  After years of listening to punk rock, I’ve become very accustomed to the two to three minute long song; in fact, I am of the opinion that a song needs to have a reason if it is going to be more than four to five minutes long.  Restorations have completely destroyed that preconception with this record.  Many of the songs on LP3 are more than four minutes (the closing track “It’s Not” is over six minutes in length) and not once did I feel that the songs were longer than they needed to be nor was there a moment on this record that didn’t have me completely and utterly compelled.  Simply put LP3 is flawless perfection.  Easily one of 2014’s best releases.     

Album Review: ‘Fistful of Hollow’ by Swingin’ Utters

Title:  Fistful of Hollow (Fat Wreck Chords, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, AllMusic, Wikipedia)
Artist:  Swingin’ Utters (Official, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Last.fm, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

After 27 years and nine studio records, one would think that the Swingin’ Utters wouldn’t have anything new to bring to the table.  One would be wrong.  The Utters’ latest album, Fistful of Hollow is a testament to the never-ending growth and development of the band.  While still sounding like a Swingin’ Utters’ album, Fistful of Hollow adds another layer to an already complex musical history that has flawlessly mixed elements of punk, oi, folk, country, power pop, and college rock.  With the lineup solidified and bassist Mike Peck and guitarist Jack Darlymple now completely entrenched in the group, the Utters’ have forged a path with a strong and cohesive record that remembers the past while looking towards the future.  Fistful of Hollow proves that the Swingin’ Utters are far from being a nostalgia act and far from being done.  I suspect that the best is yet to come.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

Album Review: ‘The Great Explainer’ by The Great Explainer

Title:  The Great Explainer (Panic State Records, BandCamp, Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  The Great Explainer (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BandCamp)

The Great Explainer’s self-titled full-length debut is a fascinating mix of brutal vocals over catchy post-hardcore-played-through-the-lense-of-The-Replacements music.  At first the vocals can be a bit taxing with their defiant guttural nature, but after multiple listens, they begin to not only meld with the music but accentuate it.  The Great Explainer is a tight, tight band and that is on full display here.  From the opening of “Shadowcaster” to the closing of “Unapproachable” The Great Explainer is a record that works but it is one that challenges the listener to invest the time to truly get it.  This is by no means a criticism.  Far too often records don’t challenge the listener, or the ones that do only do so by presenting what is essentially controlled noise.  The Great Explainer have put together a record steeped in melody and hooks but ones that aren’t obvious or trite, thus requiring time to appreciate.  So like a good wine, The Great Explainer is a record that only gets better with time.   

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Album Review: ‘All Messed Up’ by Textbook

Title:  All Messed Up (BandCamp, iTunes, CD Baby)

Textbook’s fifth full-length album All Messed Up is 11 songs of Midwestern, pop punk indie college rock perfection.  Having boasted members of bands like Noise By Numbers, Dan Vapid & the Cheats, Not Rebecca, and The Bomb, Textbook is the quintessential Chicago band.  All Messed Up opens with the insanely catchy “Everything I’m Not” perfectly setting the stage for what is to come.  The record is filled with hooks and melodies and sing-along choruses that dare you to not fall in love with them.  What’s great about All Messed Up, and Textbook’s music in general, is the timelessly fun while simultaneously feeling nostalgic and fresh.  This is the kind of music that would have fit just as perfectly next to Flip Your Wig and Tim in 1985 as it would have next to Big Red Letter Day, Fore, and Come On Feel The Lemonheads in 1993, Indecision and Awake is the New Sleep in 2005, and All the Ways You Let Down and Who Would Want Anything So Broken? in 2014.  In other words if you are a fan of the likes of Husker Du, The Replacements, Naked Raygun, The Methadones, Buffalo Tom, Candy Hearts, or Beach Slang, then you need to give All Messed Up a listen.  I think you’ll love what you hear, lord knows I do!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Album Review: ‘Ordinary Life’ by The Tim Version

Title:  Ordinary Life (No Idea Records, iTunes)  
Artist:  The Tim Version (Facebook, MySpace, Last.fm, AllMusic)

The Tim Version’s fourth album Ordinary Life is nothing short of brilliant.  Perfectly mixing elements of punk (ala Hot Water Music), college rock (ala The Replacements), and alt country (ala Lucero and Drag the River), the result is a powerful blast of everything that is good in rock ‘n’ roll music.  The record moves effortlessly from high octane rockers (“For the Birds” and “Hello, Waterface”) to haunting ballads (“The Future Of Humanity Is Dogs” and “Die In Yer Sleep”) to mid-tempo anthems (“Plague Dogs,” “Funny Movies,” and “A Dream About Dean’s Dream”).  From top to bottom, Ordinary Life not only works but excels at being a top notch rock ‘n’ roll record that is easily one of the best releases of 2014.  My only complain is that this is my first exposure to The Tim Version.  This band is fantastic and is everything that I love about the modern punk scene and it bums me out that I am just hearing them now.  Needless to say, The Tim Version and Ordinary Life will be getting a lot of play in my house.  Fans of The Gaslight Anthem, Chris Wollard and the Ship Thieves, Against Me!, The Loved Ones, and the aforementioned bands need to give Ordinary Life a listen.

Friday, September 26, 2014

EP Review: ‘Storm Watch’ by Shallow Cuts

Title:  Storm Watch (No Idea Records, Amoeba Music)
Artist:  Shallow Cuts (Facebook, BandCamp)

Boasting members of Dear Landlord, Dan Padilla, and Madison Bloodbath and hailing from San Diego, CA, Shallow Cuts delivers a stellar EP in Storm Watch.  With a sound that is catchy as hell, pulling from the best of punk, power pop, and straight up rock ‘n’ roll, Shallow Cuts’ debut is a timeless piece of perfection.  From the opening hook of “The Mission” with its wink to Loverboy (which amazingly works and makes the classic rock number not suck simply by its association to such a great new song), to the closing crescendo of “Calamine,” Storm Watch is, simply put, flawless.  2014 has given us the debuts from two incredibly brilliant new bands; the first in Beach Slang and the second in Shallow Cuts.  Storm Watch is a must for fans of ridiculously catchy rock/punk/power pop and one of the best records of the year.

EP Review: ‘Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street’ by Beach Slang

Title:  Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street (BandCamp [Beach Slang], BandCamp [Tiny Engines], Tiny Engines Records, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, SoundCloud)  
Artist:  Beach Slang (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, BandCamp, Last.fm)

Beach Slang’s debut EP Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? is by far my favorite record of 2014 and I have been eagerly awaiting its follow-up.  Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street succeeds in every way that a follow-up release should by taking the energy and excitement of the previous release and adding to it new levels of nuance and passion.  The four song EP takes the band’s punk-as-seen-through-college-rock approach of Who Would Ever… and tweaks it by adding layers of deeper sorrow and heartache and touches of Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen.  The resulting sound is still clearly Beach Slang but displays a growth to this band’s already passionate and deep work.  While Cheap Thrills… is less in-your-face than its predecessor, the slower tempo and refined approach make it just as invigorating and powerful.  This band is seriously something special and one to watch.  I look forward to being a fan for many years to come.