It’s been about four months since I wrote about any record. I’m coming back with an easy one. Less Than Jake is one of my favorite bands. They have been since I was a teenager. It was Less Than Jake and the Bouncing Souls forever. Like, I’ve forgotten a lot of things over the years. The lyrics to every Less Than Jake record up to and including GNV FLA are still burned in my brain though. I definitely got away from this band after that. I never really listened to either of the Greetings EPs or See The Light very much. They were great records. I was busy reviewing every fucking emo revival record, or whatever.
There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to Less Than Jake. They are a band of veterans who know exactly where their proverbial bread is buttered. It’s why, in 2017, I can still put on any of their records and know I’m going to enjoy it. Is it predictability? Definitely. Could that be viewed as a negative thing? Absolutely. Not by me though, because I still love this goddamn band.
Sound The Alarm is exactly what you expect it to be. It’s an EP full of poppy songs with oddly bummer lyrics. Sound The Alarm would him every point if there was a template for a Less Than Jake record. “Call To Arms” is the classic punk with horns opener. Compared to their discography, it is probably the most Anthem-y. “Welcome To My Life” and “Years Of Living Dangerously” hit the laid back ska vibe. Both songs deal with friendships and relationships in different ways. The former being apologetic, the latter hits on the classic, reminiscent theme the band often uses. “Thing Change” is the strongest song on the record. It closes the record with the most Less Than Jake song they’ve recorded in years. Fast verses, great horn line, and a huge chorus.
It’s not really easy to write about Less Than Jake objectively. This band is wildly important to me, and I’m definitely willing to overlook things other people maybe won’t. Nostalgia is a hell of thing. Anything this band does is going to remind me of something I’ve done while listening to them. “Bomb Drop” makes reminds me of driving in a blizzard while listening to Borders And Boundaries. “Years Of Living Dangerously” reminds me of being sad and drunk while listening to B Is For B-Sides.
It’s a fucking Less Than Jake record. You know what it is. Don’t overthink it. It’s good, and it is another strong release in this band’s discography. I know everyone is going to try and compare it Hello Rockview or Losing Streak. Don’t do that. Just let it play. You’ll like it.
Less Than Jake
Pure Noise Records
2016 was on some bullshit, man. I didn’t dedicate a lot of time to the blog because shit just kept happening. I kept running into car related money problems. My personal life kept finding new and exciting ways to be terrible. And everything really kind of stopped after my dad died back in May.
I’m still trying to figure out how much longer I’m going to keep doing things here. I’m leaning more toward keeping up than I was back in October. I guess we’ll see where it all goes in the coming months. Anyway, here are my top 25 favorite records of 2016 in alphabetical order:
- Angel Olsen – “My Woman”
- Colleen Green – “Colleen Green”
- Computer Magic – “Obscure But Visible”
- Dowsing – “Okay”
- Flock Of Dimes – “If You See Me, Say Yes”
- Fucko – “Dealing With The Weird”
- Frankie Cosmos – “Next Thing”
- Haybaby – “Blood Harvest”
- The Hotelier – “Goodness”
- Japanese Breakfast – “Psychopomp”
- Kindling – “Everywhere Else”
- Kowabunga! Kid – “Wasting My Time”
- Magik*Magik – “MAGIK*MAGIK”
- Middle Part – “Middle Part”
- Miserable – “Uncontrollable”
- Mitski – “Puberty 2”
- Museum Mouth – “Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig”
- Nancy Pants – “Vol. 27 EP”
- Orations – “Incantation”
- Psychic Twin – “Strange Diary”
- Sad Blood – “Legion Of Gloom”
- Save Ends – “Hug Your Friends”
- Signals Midwest – “At This Age”
- Slingshot Dakota – “Break”
- Slow Bloom – “Slow Bloom”
That’s the list. Yes, I know there are some high profile releases that I didn’t include. Most glaringly, I passed on the American Football record and the Jimmy Eat World record. I know I’m supposed to love those records, but I really didn’t.
In the immortal words of the Wu-Tang Clan: if you want beef, then bring the ruckus.
The Lower Echelon play a kind of punk rock that doesn’t get much play these days. It is something in the middle of traditional, 70s style punk rock and the sardonic, sarcastic 80s stuff that permeated out from the West Coast.
Come To The Loud is a record that has more going on than an initial listen would cover. On the face of it, a song like “Dirty Princess” can come across as a little questionable. With proper analysis the lyrics actually get the point about bro culture and the weird fixation is has on damsel in distress tropes. This political tone is recurring. “All Against All” is more of a dirgey type song that touches how consumer culture and and financial system is rigged against normal people. “Flops To Lofts” has a similar tone.
As far as being a genre record, this record hits a lot of the touchstones. The songs are rough around the edges, the vocals even more so. It has the energy and heart that punk rock should have. If I had an issue with the EP it would be that the topics don’t necessarily get dealt with the weight they could be. There is a lot of bullshit happening in the supposed “progressive” world of punk rock, and masking the message in too much sarcasm tends to muddy the water.
But, look, let’s get down to brass tacks. The Lower Echelon are definitely on some punk rock shit, and this EP is definitely worth a listen.
The Lower Echelon
Computer Magic makes a kind of music that I really like, but really don’t talk about on here. I primarily focus on guitar based stuff in the indie and punk rock variety, mostly because that is the kind of stuff that is sent my way. I was really excited to get sent the promo stream of this though. Computer Magic is the stage name for Danielle “Danz” Johnson. Danz has been putting out music under this name since 2011. She has been very prolific in that time. Nine EPs and four LPs, including last years Davos. Most of these releases have been self released or on import from Japan.
Obscure But Visible is the new EP, and it is definitely a winner. It is very much in line with the music Danz has released thus far. It is reverb heavy synth pop that would slot nicely in that genre, or with indie pop stuff in general. The tone is wonderfully set by “Dimensions.” As the lead off for the records, it really embodies the dreamy sort of atmosphere that is present throughout the EP. There is also a very retro type vibe present on the EP as well. Especially on “Been Waiting” and “Gone For The Weekend.” Not retro like “it sounds old or dated,” but more in that it sounds what people in the past would assume “futuristic” music would sound. Does that make sense? It’s like an undeniable mixture of modern music and retro kitsch.
This EP is also a testament to Danz as a producer and creator. I always enjoy seeing the person creating the music also be the one producing it. Everything sounds great, and that is the reason. She knows where the vocals should sit in the mix, she knows how to get the atmosphere needed for the songs. It’s that personal touch that adds a lot of heart to things. Everything on here has passed through her hands. All the way down to it being released on Channel 9 Records, which she runs. This is the definition of DIY.
Obscure But Visible is a hell of an EP, and is definitely a melting pot of great things. It would fit in nicely in your collection, right by stuff from Broadcast, The Blow, or even Neon Indian. It’s pretty great.
Channel 9 Records
I can’t make heads or tails of post-genres sometimes. It gets especially troublesome when talking about a band like Cloak Of Organs. They could comfortably be listed under whatever post- genre tag you could rattle off. Post-metal, post-hardcore, post-punk, post-whatever.
Fuck it. Cloak Of Organs is a band that is not beholden to a specific scene or genre. They make music that is very melodic and airy in some places, but also very heavy in others. They’re self titled EP is the kind of record that would be at home in a metal collection as much as a shoegaze collection. It is an example of crafting atmosphere and texture.
The music is slow and brooding, and the vocals hit all the right “ethereal” hallmarks. This record sounds great in all aspects, musically and vocally. But, y’know, of course it does. This band is made up of Denver music veterans, and the combined experience means great things. The Nervous, Wovenhand, Planes Mistaken for Stars, and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club are all represented.
This is the perfect kind of record for fall. The music and the lyrical content both skew towards more dark topics. There are themes of body horror. There are themes of desolation. It’s not necessarily a “fun” record, but it sure is a great one. It’s definitely a great fall release.
Cloak Of Organs
Bandcamp / Buy It
Earth Girls feels like a genre departure for Liz Panella. In fact, this can really be said for all the current members of Earth Girls. Much of the band’s collective discography outside of Earth Girls tends to fall more on the hardcore side of things. Panella has a varied discography, including a lot of one off hardcore bands, Libyans being the most consistent. Joey Kappel and Antonio Holguin III have both been active in the Chicago punk and hardcore scene. The former with Boilerman and Poison Planet, the latter with Raw Nerve and Big Zit. It seems strange that they would come together to make a bubblegum pop punk record, but here we are.
Wanderlust is the perfect distillation of bubblegum and pop punk. Earth Girls have a sound that makes me think of what Helen Love would sound like if she edged more towards garage and punk rock than pop. Kind of like a Helen Love / Marked Men combination. The band has a very distinct sound, and it’s probably due to the pedigree the band has. They aren’t afraid to leave some rough edges on things. Those rough edges add a lot of heart to a record that could have gone glossy and shiny. This record could have gone full power pop by overselling the hooks. Instead they chose to combine the hooks with a driving grit. This is the kind of record that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Lookout Records circa the late 90s, early 00s.
The long and short of it is that this record rules. It’s catchy, it fast, and it’s a perfect summer record. My only beef is that it’s only about 21 minutes and it came out so late in the season. Otherwise, I really can’t complain.
Grave Mistake Records
Hey, remember when I wrote about Sad Blood back in November? No? Well, here is a refresher. I ended the review being kind of a snarky and saying:
“Will Sad Blood be another one of those one-and-done bands that flooded my inbox a few years ago? I hope not. I’d like to hear a lot more from them, because Ultimate Worrier is a hell of an introduction.”
Past me can stop worrying though. There is a new EP from Sad Blood. I would have talked about it back in May, but I’m the worst. Anyway. It’s really good. Legion Of Gloom is the logical next step after Ultimate Worrier. It’s still a Doomsday Device of emo music loaded with pop hooks. There is still a lot of Dowsing and Pet Symmetry going on here, but Sad Blood are making it theirs. They sound more comfortable and have really found their feet.
If anything, the music has gotten more on the power pop side of things. It’s actually very interesting to see the band start making those moves. There is almost a dissonance between how the music sounds and what the lyrics are. The music has only gotten poppier and more melodic. The lyrics remain ever in bummer territory. I like that kind of thing though, so it definitely works for me. They add lighthearted humor behind it though. It certainly helps when they are talking about feeling nothing.
Also, the handclap gimmick on “Ten More Years” is my favorite thing.
Bandcamp / Buy It