REVIEW: Lemuria – "Pebble"

Lemuria is one of those bands that has evolved with each release. Their first release in 2004, technically a self released demo, was more or less a pop punk record. It steered clear of the genre bullshit. It was not just reheated Ramones riffs. But, the energy was more that of pop punk. As time progressed, they started to play with their sound. Allowing songs to get a little longer, a little more complex, and a little more thought out. Especially lyrically. I mean, the lyrics and delivery on the song “Let’s Think About What Just Happened” (from the 2004 demo) are a little awkward.

Between then and now, the band put out some 7 inches and splits (notably they did a split with Kind Of Like Spitting. The split with them features the KOLS song that I named the blog after). They collected all their 7″ material and compilation tracks on a release called The First Collection in 2007. While being a compilation release, it has held up really well, and does not sound disjointed, save for maybe a track or two. For people like me, this was the first introduction to the band.

In 2008, they released Get Better. It was the debut full length, and was a a hell of a debut at that. This release kind of solidified what this band was capable of. Fast pop punk songs, mid tempo indie song, and great lyrics start to finish. In my opinion, there was no filler on that album. So, yeah, they set the bar pretty high for themselves.

So, in 2011, we now have Pebble. It is out on, oddly enough, hardcore stalwart label Bridge Nine. Which is kind of a weird pairing, given the style Lemuria plays vs. what B9 is known for. J Robbins did the productions, and I am a fan of his work. He has produced so many of my favourite bands, including Jawbreaker, Braid, and The Promise Ring. He did a great job. The tones are great. It sounds clean without sound over polished. So, that is great.

But, the record has some rough patches. It falls into, what I call, “I’m Henery The VIII, I Am syndrome.” Less Than Jake is guilty of this a lot as well. Basically the second verse is the same as the first. Not to shit on this type of thing, as it is pretty common, but it can get old pretty quickly. You have to make sure that the verse you are repeating is a hell of a verse. Not every song is guilty of this. The most notable offender is the song Pleaser. Which is about 90% made up of the lyric “I am hinting hard, I am a hard hinter. I am a pleaser, and I am hinting hard.” This song goes on for damn near four minutes. It is a great song, but I think it provides a good example.

The album opener, Gravity, is not what one would expect from a pop-punk/indie band. Very slow, very calm, sounding not unlike a song The xx would put out (sans the overused synth lines that The xx are so fond of). More or less, an ok song. But, not really indicative of the album’s tone. There is not really any fast songs, it is mostly a mid tempo affair, but it has all the catchy hooks one would expect.

Lyrically, this album just seems darker. I mean, Get Better had some less than cheerful lyrics (see Hawaiian T-Shirt or Lipstick). Pebble tops that. I mean, one of the most cheerful and poppy songs on is about sexual abuse. Seriously, check out the song Bloomer.

Sheena Ozzella sounds fantastic on the record. Her vocals sound better than ever. The same is true for Alex Kerns. They are very good at doing back and forth vocals. The vocals are mixed well, and stand out clearly over their guitar and drums, respectively. Looks like, on this release, the bass duties were filled by Kyle Paton. He has since left the band due to immigration troubles with Canada. As I mentioned previously, the bass sounds great on here. Check out the song Chautauqua County to see what I mean.

One issue I have about this record is that the songwriting does not have the split that Get Better (or even The First Collection) had. This record was very much the Alex Kerns show. Out of 11 songs, he wrote 10 of them. Lyrically, Sheena was only involved with the lyrics of the last song, The One. Which I think is one of the best songs on the album. I mean, yeah, the ratio usually falls in his favor. If you go to their site and look at the lyrics, he has more writing credit overall. But, I feel like this album was too reliant on him. I like him as a song writer, he has a demo album online of at If You Make It that was really good. I just wish Sheena had more songs on the album. I think this might have helped squelch the above mentioned Henery The VIII, I Am syndrome. Not a deal breaker by any means though. But, I really think I would have rather had a Sheena song instead of Yellowstone Lady. Just saying.

All in all, a good record. I think my expectations were really high for this, given how much I loved Get Better. This being out so early in the year, I am not sure how it will hold up against other releases this year. But, it has set the bar pretty high. If you like indie pop, do not sleep on this record. While you are at it, get their split with the Cheap Girls too.

Buy it from the band directly
Buy it Bridge Nine Records (where you can choose if you want CD, vinyl, digital, whatever).

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REVIEW – Football, etc. – "First Down"

Man, I am so clever. Posting a review for a band called Football, etc. on Super Bowl weekend. Also, totally fucking up the review schedule I set. Anyway.

See, There was a time when the word “emo” did not bring to mind pictures of kids with swoop haircuts, lip piercings, and unfortunate day-glo tees. Back in the mid to late 90s, the 2nd wave of emo produced a rather impressive series of records. I mean, we are talking about big bands like Friction, Braid, Cap’n Jazz, American Football, Mineral, Rainer Maria, Camber, Texas Is The Reason, The Promise Ring, Sunny Day Real Estate and the first few releases by The Get Up Kids (to name a few). Yeah, this was what music taxonomy nerds would call “post-emo indie rock,” but my point remains.

Hailing from Houston Texas, Football, etc. put out this EP in July 2009, but they sound like they could have been contemporaries to the above listed bands. While this was just a four song demo, it had the touchstones of that (seemingly forgotten) sound. You have the twinkly guitars, the somewhat subdued vocals, and sincerity that most fucking “emo” records are missing these days. Lindsay Minton has a great vocal performance on here. Perfect voice for this type of music.

I am not going to fuck around with a track by track analysis or anything. It is a four song EP, and it is fantastic. They have a full length coming out in March via Count Your Lucky Stars Records. This EP is available for download at a few places (donation based/free), but I guess the actual physical release is out of print.

More or less, if you are a fan of that 2nd wave emo sound, check this out. It will not disappoint. I am not going to give it a x out of 5 star rating, because I decided I do not want to do that anymore.

Official Download via Bandcamp
Official Download If You Make It
Steam some stuff via Myspace

REVIEW: Iron Chic – "Not Like This"

“I want to smash my face into that goddamn radio.”

Without rehashing the entire intro for my review for RVIVR, I really like Latterman. This is another post-Latterman band. So, now that is out of the way. With this band being a mish mash of Latterman and Small Arms Dealer, it had no option but to be great.

This album is pretty fucking fantastic. What you have here is an album full of anthemic punk rock songs. I overlooked this band in the beginning. See, I have a weird thing about album titles, and their 2009 EP title, “Shitty Rambo,” made me not even want to check the band out, even knowing the pedigree. Something about that name bugged the shit out of me. And, man, that was a mistake.

So, in 2010, this debut full length came out, and did not disappoint. The opening song “Cutesy Monster Man” might be one of my favourite “side one, track one” songs of the year. And, the strength of that song carries out through the rest of the release.

To me, though, the lyrics on this record are kind of dark (in a strangely optimistic way). For example, from the song “I Always Never Said That,” we get the following line: “if I hear another word about a better place, I’ll paint these walls with my fucking brains. You said I wouldn’t, but if I did, you don’t think I’ll go to hell for it.” This song is a pretty optimistic in the way it looks at how seriously things get taken, including things that probably are not so serious. And, that even if shit sucks, maybe you should just try and make the best of what you got. I know that sounds kind of simplistic and dumb, but it is a great idea.

Most of the record shares this vibe. In a time where shit sucks, and real communities seem to be non-existent, maybe the best thing is a record about how we all still have a chance. If we finally decide to not let ourselves get run the fuck over. Idealism is still alive in punk rock.

Like with RVIVR, I do not think I can give this a perfect score. I have that bias. But, this record is fucking great from front to back, it shares so much in common with what I loved about Latterman, and I think more records need to be as solid as this one. Let’s call it a 4.5 out of 5 (though, in my mind, it is a straight up 5 out of 5).

Buy It (donation based download)
Buy It (physical copy via Dead Broke Rekerds)
Official site (with full lyrics)

REVIEW: The Thermals – Personal Life

“Your love is so strong, it’s only a series of lies.”

It seems like every time I hear new stuff by The Thermals, it is a poppier (and better produced) version of their last album. If not for Hutch Harris’ very distinct voice, you would probably not assume that the same band who produced More Parts Per Million in 2003 was the same band who made Personal Life in 2010. The production and style is so different.

What does this mean for Personal Life? Basically, you have a slick sounding album that, while it does have a good number of strong songs, does not quite measure up to the bands strong back catalog. While I neither expect (nor want) this band to keep remaking the same album over and over again, I like them best when they are ripping through songs. If Fuckin’ A is the record by them that I measure their other albums by (which, honestly, it is), this one is a mild disappointment.

The song “Not Like Any Other Feeling,” for example, is pretty much entirely pushed along by Kathy Foster’s bass. Save for a lead riff that is basically only played at the beginning of the verse, only to go back to bass and drums after only a few seconds. Compare this to “How We Know” (on Fuckin’ A), which is another bass driven song, with the guitar basically being chorus only. The major difference being that the vocals in the latter had great delivery. It all sounded very urgent. The former has a vocal delivery that sounds pretty fucking lackadaisical.

With the exception of  “I Don’t Believe You” and “Your Love Is So Strong,” this record is more or less a plodding, mid tempo affair. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems like the energy of this album is just lacking. With the more “personal” flair to the lyrics, including some rather depressing moments, it seems like the album needs some fast to balance the slow. This does not really happen.

I know that this band can do a whole fucking lot more than they did here. The Thermals have always stuck close to writing pretty basic pop songs. This is probably the first album of theirs where that seems to be a weakness instead of a strength. This is the first record of theirs that does not seem to do anything better than the one previous.

All bullshit aside, I will give this a 3 out of 5. Will end up in my top 10 of the year, but barely. I am sure that the next record this band does will probably be their best.

Buy It (via Kill Rock Stars)
Buy It (via the band)
The Thermals (official site)

REVIEW: Best Coast – Crazy For You

“I lost my job, I miss my mom, I wish my cat could talk”

The hype around this band is huge. So huge that I had written the band off as yet another fucking “throwback” type band. You know, the kind that hipsters always end up being in love with. The whole kitsch thing always bothered me.

This album came out in late July, I did not hear it until around mid-October (mostly due to the insistence of my friend). Was the hype deserved? Eh, maybe. To a certain point, anyway.

Basically, you are looking at a throwback style indie pop record. So, all the trappings are there. low-fi, fuzzy guitars, 60’s influences vocals. The whole bit. What makes this stand out from similar bands, like Dum Dum Girls, is that this borrows more from Brian Wilson than it does the classic girl groups. The surf vibe gives it that California sound that this record was meant to have. Yeah, there are touches of garage, but mostly this is a surf pop record. That is mostly pretty awesome.

Lyrically, this is pretty simple. While some bands, let’s say Wavves, suffer from having overly simple lyrics, Best Coast seems to excel because of it. In the song Bratty B, the line “sorry I lost your favourite t-shirt. I’ll buy you a new one, a better one,” comes off sounding sincere rather than awkward and blunt. The quote that opens the review is from the song Goodbye, which is probably my favourite on the whole record. A whole lot of this record is written in the clear and succinct style found in classic pop music. The “I love you” and “I miss you” sentiments sound better that way to me. It worked for the Beach Boys, it worked for the Ramones, and it works for Best Coast

For the songs themselves, the opening song Boyfriend usually gets skipped. Same goes for Honey (though not skipped as much). To me the record seems more front loaded. The first six songs seem to be the best of the bunch. The latter six tracks have their moments, but all the strong, must listen songs are already over. This is a pretty common thing with music these days, I just do not get it. While the latter half is certainly not filler by any means, it just does not feel as strong (save for Bratty B, which is the stand out on the 2nd half).

More or less, the hype around this band was pretty spot on. Best Coast is not doing anything that has not been done before. Bethany Cosentino is obviously no Brian Wilson. For being a throwback type indie pop band, in a scene where there are plenty, Best Coast stands out. So, fuck it, lets say 4 out of 5. Yeah? This record is going to be on a lot of “Best Of 2010” lists, and it is totally fair.

Buy It.
Website (blog)

REVIEW: RVIVR – RVIVR

“From these shitty jobs and moldy houses, shitty jobs and overdoses. The fact we survive at all is kind of a surprise”

Every goddamn time I start getting away from punk rock music, due to whatever bullshit reason, a band comes along and reminds me why I loved it to begin with. I was feeling that way in 2005, when fucking out of nowhere, I heard Latterman. It was their ” No Matter Where We Go…!” record. Instantly stoked. Two years later they broke up.

Fast forward to 2010, and I was starting to feel the same way. Luckily, RVIVR came out with their full length, and it is great. Now, I know everyone in RVIVR had previously been in other bands, but I do not know most of those. I knew that it had Matt Canino in it, and was more than a little interested. I would love to have had this record in the punk house years.

This is, more or less, not too far away from the type of stuff Latterman did. Melodic punk rock with (dare I say) little twinges of emo. Falls in line with the political/personal lyric split too. I recall reading a review of this, and having said review say something about how the lyrics sounded like “a self help book.” Is this a fair judgment, sure. But, a little posi never hurt anyone.

The split male/female vocals is what makes this stand out from Latterman. Erica Freas is the other vocalist (and also the guitarist), and she really sounds prefect for this type of music. The dual vocal stands out as a strengths on a number of songs, but the best being “Cut The Cord.” Her vocals are particularly stand out on “Real Mean” and “Cold In Your Bones.”

My one minor gripe with this record is the first track. I really can never get super stoked on, basically, instrumental only punk songs. Something about that always irks me. Had this record been one track shorter, and opened with “Edge Of Living,” I would not complain.

Honestly, I would feel bad giving this a 5 out of 5, because I feel like my Latterman bias would be partly responsible for this. But, I feel like that is what this record deserves. This record was in constant rotation for about 2 months. This was just what I needed. Fucking record of the year, right here.

Buy It! (Donation based download)
RVIVR (official site – WordPress)

REVIEW: P.S. Eliot – Introverted Romance In Our Troubled Minds

General opinions would call this band “pop punk” or “indie.” I lean a little more towards the latter than the former. It is pop punk-ish, but it does not follow the rigid constraints of that genre. It has punk edge, but is not afraid to let the songs draw out, or throw in some actual musicianship. They steer clear of the whole “punk riffing” thing. It has a certain level of lo-fi production, which keeps the punk (and possibly even garage) influence. Generally, it stays pretty midtempo, there is some good fuzzy guitar noise. But, it takes the influences and makes it something else.

The vocals are what makes this record stand out. There are some verses where the lyrics do not fit the rhythm of the music (re: Hail Mary and Incoherent Love Songs). This does not make it sound bad, it almost has kind of a Willie Nelson thing. Yeah, there might be a few awkward syllables, but that is how it is supposed to sound. If you know what you want to say, sometimes you have to get a little off rhythm. Also, for the vocals, there are some great harmonies on this thing. There are some choruses that sound like they have old 1960s girls group influence. Even the first song in, you know these vocals were not going to fuck around.

That is not to say it is a perfect record. I think there were a few sequencing things. The song Tennessee is great, but it is kind of a slow song. It seems like there were better “side one, track one” songs. But, that is a minor flaw (I would have put Hail Mary as the first song [for anyone who gives a fuck about my dumb opinion]). Another flaw is something that tends to happen with these more indie/punk hybrid bands. The songs kind of fade together. While each song is enjoyable, a record with mostly midtempo songs and fuzzy guitar sounds eventually runs together. The last little issue I have is also a point I said I enjoyed earlier. Which is how sometimes the vocals get offtime. I count that as good and bad. It is good because it sounds interesting, but it is bad because there are sometimes the vocals are slurred and unclear at times. And that sounds, well, not good. It is a double edged sword. It sounds great most of the time, but sometimes bad. I had to read along with the lyrics, but even then, some stuff was hard to understand.

All in all, I will give this a 4.5 out of 5. Not perfect, but pretty fucking great.

P.S. Eliot blog
BUY IT (Salinas Records)