1. Song: The Abrazo Lift
Band: The Cinderleaf
Genre: Emo Rock
Bottom line: Excellently done. Get it now.
"The Abrazo Lift" bursts out of the
starting gate with gruff yet palatable vocals. This is about the only time that the vocals are most important, because the
production on this song is such that the focus is off vocals and on other instruments –especially drums and guitars.
Due to this style, the band creates a groove very efficiently- even when it's just drums and bass, the song feels intense
and urgent. The two guitars work together very well in the verses, and especially well during the bridge, where they have
an unexpected call-and-response dialogue. That dialogue leads into the climactic
last chorus: two great guitar lines, double-tracked vocals, and flailing drums. Red Animal War would be proud to call this
song their own.
2. Song: Song Two and a Half
Bottom line: Unique
rock sound that incorporates a sax.
Less is more is definitely
not Abbadon's slogan. They throw a LOT of stuff into "Song Two and a Half", including an excellent blues guitar solo, funky
basslines, saxophone interludes, mellow music, grungy guitar settings, and raspy vocals sound like a dull razor- you know
the meaning is there, it's just clouded a bit by the dullness. All of that blends cohesively, somehow, to make a uniquely
Abbadon experience. You won't hear this type of rock anywhere else- it's sort've like my own personal Dave Matthews Band.
Abbadon is going places- you should go with them.
3. Song: Carnivaurs
Band: Big Brother
Genre: Art Rock
Bottom line: This is
pure and unadultered pretentious-rock bliss.
This mish-mash of a song starts out with synth noises under a sample of a robotic voice chanting the three slogans
of "The Party" from the novel 1984. If you're not aware, Big Brother is also from 1984, effectively
making this song (this album?) a concept piece about the novel. The song is a mix between Radiohead's contorted rock
on OK Computer, Billy Corgan's feeble, terrified whisper in "Eye" by the Smashing Pumpkins, and the crunching, thumping
electro-static of Nine Inch Nails. Fuzzed-out guitars lay the base for pianos, synth noises, wispy vocals, and other instruments
that cultivate an air of doom and gloom that will make you beg for more. This is inacessability at its finest- this is pretentions
at their highest- this is art rock at its extremes. You will not be dissappointed if you like art at all- Big Brother is the
torchbearer for the new-wave Art Rock.
4. Song: Grand Central Goodbye
Band: The Inheritance
Genre: Indie Pop
Album: The Inheritance
Bottom line: One of the most innovative
bands I've heard in a long time.
"Grand Central Goodbyes" reminds me of a band I once loved. Courage Riley was their
name, and they played Indie Pop that stole your heart, wrung it out, and put it back. They broke up, and it made me very sad-
but The Inheritance may be the ones to bring back the "Epic Indie Pop" genre. I absolutely adore the section of the song that
features distorted guitar over a piano melody, and then wailing vocals on top of that. The innovative sax solo is a little
long and repetitive, but it's very cool to try new stuff. The piano/harp breakdown (I bet that's the only time that's ever
been said) didn't really fit the song, but it's the only flaw- the climactic ending to “Grand Central Goodbye”
is just stunning. Everyone who likes mellow music should check out The Inheritance.
5. Song: Previews of the Hereafter
Band: One Last Thought
Genre: Melodic Hardcore
Label: N/a (sadly)
Bottom line: This is
the best new-school emo song I've ever heard.
No, you didn't read
that wrong. One Last Thought's "Previews of the Hereafter" is the best new-school emo song I've ever heard. An immensely talented,
riff-intensive bassist, two extremely talented sung vocalists (or possibly one brilliant vocalist who has a huge
range), guitars that are creative not only when they intertwine in single-note battles, but also when they chug. These chord
structures sound so new and exciting- I don't know if it's the setting they're put in, or whether the chords are actually
really cool- either way, the song is an exhilarating trip through emo. The bass riffs are excellent- they make the song worth
it on their own. If you like emo at all, "Previews of the Hereafter" will be the highlight of your day. Trust me.
6. Song: Three Dollar Keyboard
Band: Good With Guns
Genre: Indie Pop
Album: Winter EP
Label: Suckapunch Records
Bottom line: Strange, yet worth it.
Vocals can do strange things to music.
"Three Dollar Keyboard" starts out like a sweet indie pop song, with a nice acoustic line augmented by a chirpy little synth
line. Without warning –ok, maybe a little warning- dirty vocals reminiscent of abrasive punk bands Alkaline Trio and
Calibretto take the song in a whole new direction. The song bounces along well, but it shines most in the chorus, where the
backing harmony offsets the grating vocals to create a somewhat pleasant sound. The music itself doesn't lose any points-
the acoustic-led pop song is instantly endearing- it's just that the vocals take some getting used to. In the end, I ended
up thinking "Well....it <i>was</i> creative..."
7. Song: I Wanna Marry Conan
Band: Nerd Riot
I Drew a Radio and Some Flowers EP
Bottom line: Quirky
power-pop that will either grate your nerves or suck you in.
Female vocals, tin-can
drums, snarky little guitar line, bliptastic bass- you've got "I Want to Marry Conan O'Brien". It's an nintendo-ized version
of power-pop; and not the classy, upstanding Postal Service nintendo samples. This is the low-budget games that you played
cause they were funny- not cause they were hard (think Boogerman, people). This is not techno, but with a tweak here
and there, it could end up as such. What this song is: a blast of fun which may be too much for some people, who will succumb
to the pulsating undulations of the noise and bash their television set in hopes of stopping Conan O'Brien before he makes
fansters out of every pop band in the universe, rendering the unhappy listener senseless. If you like happy music though,
this will be right up your alley, and you'll gleefully repeat this musical anomaly.
8. Song: RUok
Band: Ten Seconds to Go
Label: Diary Records
Bottom line: Any punk fan is going to eat
This song starts off with a mellow intro- which was the first sign that we
may have a winner on our hands. Then again, it could be indicative of musical cliches as well. Either way, this song was going
to be fun to review- one to trash or one to praise. It turns out being the one to praise, as after the intro ends, a long
instrumental section is played, with some excellent guitar work, notable drum work, and overall good punk aesthetic. The vocals
aren't bad, but they're not much to speak of. They carry melody just fine. Instead, the best part of this song is the guitars-
they consistently do interesting things, unlike the vocals. It's quite a long punk song- and it's worth every second. Check
this one out.
9. Song: Like an Enemy
Band: Reason One
Bottom line: Metal done like I expect metal
to be done: Aggressive and loud.
This type of metal is the kind that
I'm happy to listen to in my home, but not live. In my home, I can turn it down till my ears are at a safe distance. This
is, in a word, aggressive. The guitars crunch, the bass thumps, and the vocals bark at an impressive volume. The only part
about this that ISN'T aggressive is the drums- they sound tinny and fake in this recording. Now granted, this isn't death
metal, but it's still plenty loud. On the negative side, the chorus is bland, and they do a good job of letting us hear
the lyrics. Yes, that is negative, because I don't want to hear them. They’re not that great. At all. So, all things
considered- it's a pretty good metal song, except for the chorus.
10. Song: Don't Mind Waitin'
Band: The Zoo!
Genre: Indie Pop
Bottom line: Fun, catchy, and talented.
Indie Pop is one of
my favorite genres; when it's done well, it's more fun than a punk band, catchier than any acoustic songwriter, and as talented
as any genre out there. The Zoo is a pretty good example of that. The acoustic-based vibe of this song intrigued me- the guitar/bass/drums
combo was really tight and clean. The extra guitar on "Don't Mind Waitin" had a really cool solo- and I usually hate solos.
The vocals have an odd timbre, and it gives the song a very unique vibe. It's
not a bad voice at all, as it even more quirkiness and fun to the band- and it makes the chorus catchy as all get-out. Thus,
The ZOO! lives up to all the attributes of good indie-pop: fun, catchy, and talented.
11. Song: All Girls Lie
Band: A Healing Season
It Really Feels Like EP
Bottom line: Look Ma!
Even though A Healing
Season isn't the greatest emo act out there, they're blissfully refreshing, thanks to the fact that they don't scream.
I listened to this song on edge, waiting for the ever-present, unneeded screams to appear. As I waited, I heard
some pretty solid emo, a little bit like Further Seems Forever, but without some of the melodicism and veiled punch that
FSF owns. This comparison was highest in their instrumental breakdown, which also happened to the crowning achievement
of this song. I give it extra points for the 'tell-it-like-it-is' title, too. Check it out if you're an FSF fan, but if you
don't like emo, don't bother.
12. Song: My Disease
Band: Tomorrow We Surrender
Bottom line: Pretty
good new-school emo that's worth the time.
Yeah- Tomorrow We Surrender is one of those bands that takes three
common, distinct forms of hard music and throws them together. This is actually a better envisioning of that blueprint,
as the screams have ferocity, the punk is not too poppy, and there are signs of the technical element that emo actually
once stood for. The sung vocals are the Achilles Heel of this band, just as in most new-wave emo bands today. Thankfully,
TWS has figured this out, and doesn't sing very much- which is excellent. The song retains power and clarity from the beginning
to the end, so I highly enjoyed their sound, and would not mind hearing an entire album's worth of material from them-
if I were in a rageful mood.
13. Song: On Your Way (To Unhappiness)
Band: Jim Gaven
Genre: Acoustic Emo
Bottom line: If you like mellow emo, check
Acoustic singer/songwriters can exist without
being emo- see Joseph Arthur or Guilford- but most just don't try to break out of the mold. Jim Gaven
is a resoundingly 'emo' singer/songwriter. Now, that's not to bash his songwriting- from beginning to end, "On Your Way (To
Unhappiness)" is a pleasant listen. The vocals stand out a bit from the rest of the slow moving song with their roughness,
but not so much that the two clash with each other. A great songwriting touch is the addition of female backup vocals, as
their small contribution sounds very natural. The three-part vocals at the 3:30 mark are excellent- although they stick
around for much too short a period. All in all, there's nothing to bash here- it's a solid song. It won't break any of Pedro
the Lion's land-speed records, but it's a pretty good mellow emo song.
14. Song: The Grass Isn't Getting Greener
Band: Never Forever
Genre: Indie Rock
Bottom line: Pass this time, but file them
"Come back to it next album" tab.
Pure indie rock is tough to find- usually
it's tainted with other genres. Never Forever is no exception- they have a lot of hardcore influences, but never enough to
call it hardcore. The guitar style is wrong for hardcore and the vocals don't scream hard enough or loud enough. Even
though the vocalist doesn't scream very much, the screams implemented are very effective. The melodic vocals aren't
the greatest vocals ever sung, but they fit with the hollow, gap-filled sound that the instruments create for this song. The
guitars feel right, but the drums here are overpowering and incorrect, creating an imbalance that sets the listener into
a confused state. The vocals are the only thing that keep this song together, and they barely hang on in the chorus. The best
part of the song is definitely the instrumental outro. Overall, there is much promise for this band, but they need to learn
to mesh better.
15. Song: Protect Yourself
Band: Out of Focus
Genre: Melodic Hardcore
Turning Hearts Into Halos
Bottom line: Pass this
If had to choose one genre that is dying, I would have to say hardcore. It's just getting way too
hard for me to find good hardcore songs these days. "Protect Yourself" by Out of Focus is a pretty average hardcore song until
the melodic section hits- where it promptly crashes and burns. The vocalist doesn't fit at all, and he's rhythmically off
from the rest of the instruments in the sung sections. The screams are okay- they're impassioned, but the tone of them just
isn't as strong or convincing as other melodic hardcore bands have captured (MewithoutYou or The Tokyo Smash, for example).
That's pretty much all she wrote on this one- nothing too exciting here.