REVIEW: Sad Blood – “Legion Of Gloom”

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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.

Sad Blood
Bandcamp / Buy It

 

 

 

REVIEW: Camp Life – “An Ever-Growing Vision”

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I love these punk rock records that aren’t afraid to dip into indie rock and emo. I know it’s been done a million times before, but I don’t give a shit. I’m a total sucker for bands that are as earnest as they are urgent. Camp Life nail that formula on An Ever-Growing Vision.

The lazy explanation is that Camp Life feel like the middle of a Venn diagram where Joyce Manor, Glocca Morra, and Dear Landlord are the established sets. An Ever-Growing Vision is just a great punk rock record from start to finish. It’s gruff and driving, but with a melodic flair. There are little bits of that old emo twinkle, albeit distorted. The lyrics definitely fit those genre norms as well. A bit of anger, a lot of apathy, and a general sense of melancholy.

I don’t know. An Ever-Growing Vision just works, and Camp Life have made a really solid debut. The whole thing clocks in at just under eleven minutes, and it is well worth the time.

Camp Life
Ozona Records
Bandcamp
Buy It

 

REVIEW: Sick Days – “Stay Warm”

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I appreciate bands like Sick Days. Specifically, I appreciate bands that aren’t afraid to throw things against the wall and see what sticks. Stay Warm is an EP that covers three distinct sounds, but never sounds like it was just thrown together. It’s a punk rock record at it’s core, but there are some outside moments, and interesting style choices.

The EP starts with the song “Crickets.” This song exemplifies the whole nature of what would come later. It starts of with vocals and a faint, delicate guitar. Then it shifts to really muscular, start-stop riffs with yelled vocals. It eventually transitions into a fucking killer punk rock song. It tracks something like indie to emo/post-hardcore to melodic punk rock.

The next two songs, “My Old School” and “Stay Afloat,” are generally straight forward punk rock songs. The former giving me a bit of a Jawbreaker vibe, think the “With Or Without U2” medley. The last song, “DeKalb,” is just guitar and vocals for most of the song, save for the full band picking up in the last 30 seconds or so. It stays very calm and indie sounding.

What does this all mean? Well, it means that Sick Days have a whole lot going for them. They are adept at playing multiple styles, and could logically branch off further. On the other hand, they could also pick one style and run with it. They seem to have it covered either way.

Sick Days @ Bandcamp

REVIEW: Trials Of Early Man – “Attachments”

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There are a million genre, sub genres, and sub sub genres in the world. Everyone likes to talk about them, and everyone likes to see bands fit into narrower and narrower categories. Trial Of Early Men are one of those bands that could probably be slotted into a wide array of sub genres, but let’s not muddy the water. This is a punk rock band making engaging music that throws its weight around.

Attachments, as a whole, is a record that is jagged, distorted, and loud. There is a lot of early emo and post-hardcore influence throughout the record, but it doesn’t really become a genre record in either of those ways specifically. There is edge, but there are also round corners. “Of Youth” is an example of the band mixing the more jagged sound with pop influence. “Nil Nil” falls the fuck apart towards the end in a really great way. It turns chaotic before pulling back together. It’s this split that makes Trials Of Early Man stand out.

They do the fuck out of the quiet/LOUD dynamic, both instrumentally and vocally. The music has muscle behind it. The vocals definitely highlight that by providing a great accent of their own. Gruff, but not in a boring beard-punk way. Aggressive and yelled, but not in a screamo way. It kind of makes me think of Guy Picciotto or Rick Froberg.

I have to admit, I am a bit out of my element here. Not because of the genre or sound, but because there is history behind this band. It isn’t a band of rookie kids who are just bashing things out. Trials Of Early Man is made up of members of Caretaker, Action and Action, CircusAct and The Good Wife. I have a huge blindspot when it comes to UK bands, and this is one of those times where it is super noticeable. I’m not really familiar with any of those bands. I’m an asshole from Chicago, I don’t know any better.

That is kind of a roundabout way of saying that this record lives or dies based on it’s own merit rather than past nostalgia. The good news is that is stands on it’s own feet. Definitely a record worth checking out for fans of punk rock, and the million offshoot post- genres it birthed.

Trials Of Early Man
Bandcamp / Buy It

YEAR END! – Top Records Of 2015

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I’m keeping this list brief this year. Not too many bells and whistles, or whatever. It’s the end of January, so I really need to just post it. 2015 was a weird fucking year, and I didn’t keep up with this stuff the way I should have. 2016 should be better. Anyway, on with the list.

Top Records of 2015. LPs, EPs, and splits. In alphabetical order:

  • Adult Mom – “Momentary Lapse Of Happily”
  • Annabel – “Having It All”
  • Beach House – “Depression Cherry”
  • Big Awesome – “Party On”
  • Blind Mice – “Sunday Songs”
  • Bong Mountain – “You’re Doin’ Great”
  • Drowse – “Soon Asleep”
  • Football, etc. – “Disappear”
  • Haybaby – “Sleepy Kids”
  • Island Of Misfit Toys – “I Made You Something”
  • Jennylee – “Right On!”
  • Kindling – “Galaxies”
  • King Woman – “Doubt”
  • Kind Of Like Spitting / Warren Franklin & The Founding Fathers – “It’s Always Nice To See You”
  • Long Knives – “This Is Your Life”
  • mewithoutYou – “Pale Horses”
  • Pet Symmetry – “Pet Hounds”
  • Sheer – “Uneasy”
  • The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – “Harmlessness”
  • The Unlovables / Dirt Bike Annie – “Reunion Show”
  • Waxahatchee – “Ivy Tripp”

 

REVIEWS: Sad Blood – “Ultimate Worrier”

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Sad Blood has an EP called Ultimate Worrier. Like, come on. Of course I’m going to like this record. It is a solid emo EP, and the title is a pro wrestling pun. It is one of the most solid example of things that are 100% in my wheelhouse. This is a short EP, so I don’t have a whole lot to say about it. So I’m going to use this time to talk about some other stuff, while I talk about the record. Is that cool? Ok.

I’ve spent the better part of the last three or four years listening to every goddamn emo record that was sent to me. Everything from bands who use PR companies to bands who self released one thing and never did anything again. There is a level of burn out that comes from that. Not because the bands were bad, but because so many of them were really fucking good. That whole thing has died down a little. Most of the bands I’m hearing now play some version of alternative rock that was popular in the mid-1990s. My palate is cleansed, and I’m excited to hear emo records again.

Sad Blood is a perfect example of the kind of stuff I love. They’re an emo band, but with really strong pop influence. Their sound fit in very well with bands like Dowsing, Free Throw, and The Promise Ring. The three songs on Ultimate Worrier have a lot of life and energy behind them. It’s just great from front to back. I hate to pick a standout song, especially on EPs, but “Party, Animal” is a fucking jam. It’s a record that has exactly what you want.

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.

Sad Blood
Bandcamp / Buy It

Happy 20th Birthday To Deep Elm!

deepelmrecords

Deep Elm records is celebrating their 20th anniversary. I wanted to take some time to talk about it. I’m 30 years old, so Deep Elm was already making moves when I was a kid. To put this all into context, I was 10 years old when they started, and 12 years old when the first Emo Diaries came out. Deep Elm has been a label for as long as I can remember. It is also a label that has been hugely important to me.

Brandtson’s Trying To Figure Each Other Out was probably the first Deep Elm record I ever heard. Admittedly, it was already a few years old by the time I heard it. My first exposure to the label was via one of those free samplers you got at shows. I got my hands on a copy of Sound Spirit Fury Fire (Deep Elm Sampler Vol. 3) at a show, and was introduced to a whole bunch of bands that I still listen to now. Camber, Pop Unknown. Brandtson, Benton Falls, and Planes Mistaken For Stars were all represented. They are also bands that get regular spins over a decade later. It was, and this is going to sound cheesy, a life changing compilation. It was my first major step into independent music. It was a lifeline to a vital scene that has been hugely important to me.

I use this phrase a lot, but authenticity matters. It does now, and it did back in 2001/2002. I was, by all accounts, a giant poseur back then. I listened to punk rock, but I didn’t really understand it. I may or may not have owned a Good Charlotte cd. I wanted desperately to fit in with the cool kids in bands that went to my high school. I never did, I was a fat kid with a mohawk and a Rancid t-shirt. I went to local emo and punk shows, but didn’t get it. I hadn’t really figured out how to use my bullshit detector. Deep Elm provided a path for me to walk down.

The records they put out were, and are, the definition of authentic. Genre didn’t matter, it was all about heart. It still is. I remember listening to Desert City Soundtrack for the first time. I remember the feeling I got when I first listened to Latterman on the way home from Tower Records. I remember the first time I heard Camber’s “Improbable Upside.”

I remember the first time I got an email from them. Not a form email or whatever, but an actual email. It was maybe a year or two into me doing this blog. I was just some dude who was running a blog on, at the time, Blogger. To get any level of acknowledgment from Deep Elm was huge. It motivated me to give a shit. I’m definitely still just a low level blogger at best. I’m not breaking bands, I’m not a taste maker. I talk about bands I like. I review records that I think are good. Even then, I was still important enough to get in contact with. That means a lot.

I hope Deep Elm is around for another 20 years. There is a shitty kid like me just discovering independent music, and this label has a hell of a lot to show them.

Deep Elm Records

PS: Deep Elm has their entire discography as Name Your Price. Go get a bunch of stuff.

PPS: That stream of Sound Spirit Fury Fire is missing some songs that appeared on the CD. Bummer.