Perennial released their first EP back in 2015. Early Sounds For Night Owls was a quick four song record that I still don’t think got the attention it deserved. It had all the heart and intensity that you would want from a record, especially in a genre as driven as post-hardcore. It’s essential listening. Especially if you want to understand the artistic side of underground music. But that’s 2015, and it’s now two years later. Where do we stand?
The Symmetry Of Autumn Leaves is the new record, and it’s probably my favorite record of 2017 so far. I mean that with no hyperbole. Perennial have raised the bar. The Symmetry Of Autumn Leaves fucking goes. It’s one of those records where you can tell what songs are going to absolutely wreck the place live. “La Fugue Pour Béton brut” is definitely one of them. I feel like “Evergreen, un deux trois,” “Resolver,” and “Hippolyta” are definitely contenders too. Those songs are quick bursts of aggressive energy. Shit, the whole record is.
The evolution of Perennial’s sound is key to what makes everything work. First, the increased vocal presence of Chelsey Hahn adds a lot of depth. The way her vocals work with Chad Jewett’s is one of the many standouts on the records. Those two were the heart of Lion Cub, so it’s no surprise that they work so well together. To that point, the increased presence of the keyboards and sampling also change the dynamic a lot. That texture existed on Early Sounds For Night Owls, but that record still felt more guitar driven. The song that best shows that shift is “La Fugue Pour Béton brut.” That song appeared on the EP in 2015, and a reworked version shows up here. It’s the best.
The Symmetry Of Autumn Leaves is an amazing record from start to finish. It’s a perfect mix of art school punk and post-hardcore. The energy, the passion, everything.
Howling Frequency Records
Moral Straightjacket are a two piece band from Irvine, California. They’ve been steadily releasing records for a few years now, and their new EP is a great addition to that discography. I’ll Be Your Rainbow is a stellar three song primer of what this band can do.
Moral Straightjacket are primarily a “post-” band. The mix of post-hardcore and post-punk gives the band a bigger sound than duos usually have. The songs are primarily built around guitar and drum, but they don’t sound limited in scope or nature. I’ll Be Your Rainbow is a great example of a band doing a lot with a little.
The vocal duties on this record are split. One track for each member, and one featuring guest vocals from M. Blue Wizards (vocals by John) and Blood Orange (vocals by Lucas) provide bookends. The vocals are what really make this band stand out to me. John has a very standard voice in genre terms, and Lucas sings in a baritone voice that still isn’t very common in genre music (or rock music in general).
The three songs cover a lot of ground musically. “Blue Wizards” opens the EP, and it fucking goes. It has a very Repeater-era Fugazi vibe to it. “Evergreen” has a much more mellow vibe. M’s vocals hold court on this one, and goddamn does she sound good. The acoustic driven “Blood Orange” calms things down even more as a closer.
Moral Straightjacket has been around for a minute now, and they’ve got a really strong discography. There is no reason not to check this out. I’ll Be Your Rainbow is probably one of my favorite post- records so far this year. And, seriously, “Blue Wizards” fucking goes.
Ruined Smile 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
My favorite punk rock records are the ones that sound like everyone in the band just said “fuck it” and just went as hard as they could regardless of the consequences. Punk rock is built on that energy. A lot of bands who try that end up playing fast, sloppy, amateur hour type shit. They mistake energy for speed. Good punk rock isn’t just stuff that is loud and fast. Good punk rock is something you can feel.
Slow Bloom is a band full of energy and heart. They play post-hardcore, but are still very aware of their punk rock roots. The songs sound gritty and dirty. It’s super welcome in a world where most punk rock bands have rounded of the jagged edges. They are also deceptively melodic and catchy. Underneath the screaming and distortion on “Phantom Tantrum” is a really great early 90s alternative rock song. “Veriforms” and “Deep Space” are what I think At The Drive-In would sound like if they weren’t too pompous and cool to be punk.
I don’t want to wax philosophically about a punk rock record. It’s on Bandcamp, it’s on Spotify. You can find it. My notes when I listened to this EP started with the phrase “dope as fuck.” Let’s just leave it there.
Haybaby is one of those bands that defy classification. They’ll come out of left field with something whenever you start to pigeonhole them. Blood Harvest only further solidifies that. Sleepy Kids was definitely a standout record of 2015, and Blood Harvest is definitely my favorite thing of 2016 so far. To borrow a sports journalist buzzword, this band has ridiculous depth. It’s not every band that can follow a Pixies-esque alt/indie song with a fucking hardcore rager. The beauty of Blood Harvest is there in the little things. It’s the way everything builds up great atmosphere. It’s a little sludgy sounding, it’s got kind of a sinister vibe, and it all fucking works.
My favorite thing about Haybaby is the way they’ve built this record. Like, ok. “Stupid” opens the record. It’s musically very sparse. It’s primarily being driven by Sam Yield’s bass and Jeremy Duvall’s drums. Leslie Hong’s guitar only really come into play around the hook. “Joke/Rope” has a similar vibe, but the guitar drives it a little more. It’s considerably less sparse. “Kramer/Dreams” builds further on that pattern. It employs the strong rhythm section, but it adds some very Pixies-esque guitar. Then all hell breaks loose on “What It Is.” It’s dense, aggressive, and vicious as fuck. Everything get reined in ever so slightly, and tension builds to it’s release by the time “Pig” closes the record. That is really an oversimplification though. Even the calmest and most atmospheric song can get angular and arty or disjointed and uncomfortable. It’s like a picture perfect combination of early 90s grunge/alternative and post-hardcore. The band really knows how to get that perfect rise and fall working.
Leslie Hong’s voice is totally integral to this record. She has a great range. She can sing very delicately, she can belt out, and she can yell. Anything the songs need, she can do it. I think my favorite kind of vocal on Blood Harvest is when she has this very dry, almost blasé delivery. That kind of things is on here quite a bit, on “Stupid” and “Joke/Rope” especially. Her vocals, like the band in general, seem to thrive in the genre blurring state of flux.She absolutely nails everything from start to finish.
It’s pretty easy to see the passion this band has. Haybaby just keep getting better.
Punk rock is a shifting genre. Styles come and go. Geometers play a style that I really don’t hear much of anymore. They are bringing a fresh take on the gritty, post-hardcore influenced punk rock of bands like Small Brown Bike and Engine Down. Geometers have a definite late-90s / early-00s No Idea Records vibe to them. It’s pretty refreshing to hear bands still playing this type of music in 2016.
This does mean Geometers are walking down a pretty well worn road though. This EP lives or dies based on what they do with the sound. They do well to keep the energy up, they hit the perfect mixture between melodic and heavy, and they work in some great hooks. The vocals are great, and the production work of J. Robbins in a total plus. If anyone can produce this, it’s him. Really, almost everything about the EP just works.
“Sidearm” is probably the strongest song on the whole record. It’s also the loudest and most aggressive thing the band offers up. It fucking rules. This isn’t to take anything away from “On My Own” or “Title Fight.” Both songs are also really great, and the tonal difference between them and “Sidearm” really show a solid amount of range. Like, I’m honestly super into most of the songs. The only one I’m one I’m not feeling is “Arp.” It’s only a short, instrumental interlude. Nothing huge. It just kind of kills the momentum of the record. I would have probably 86’d it if I had my druthers. It’s not a bad song, but it doesn’t make sense to be placed where it is. It would have been perfect as an intro track though.
Minor gripe aside, Geometers have definitely added some new life to one of my favorite kinds of music, and goddamn am I happy to see it.
Middle Part is pop and noise. They are where those two sensibilities intersect. It’s weird, it’s abrasive, and it’s not for everyone. It’s really fucking good though. Let’s not bullshit around with some long write up. Middle Part is making aggressive, lo-fi music. There is a lot of noise, a lot of yelling, and a whole lot of muscle. This two piece from Harrisonburg, VA isn’t holding anything back this EP. They have a drum and a bass, but are way more than the sum of their parts.
There are a number of things this band excels at, not the least of which is the ability to make a hard left turn out of nowhere. Songs like “Dip Dip” and “Like Before” pull you in with an almost dancey, post-punk sound. The former shifts back and forth between that and a killer hardcore/noise combination. It’s disjointed and jagged, but it works. The latter is probably the most accessible song on the record, but even it plays around with time changes and styles. It’s shift is almost a pop to dirge to pop thing.
“Fight Song” is all aggression. Musically, vocally, whatever. In fact, Judy Hong’s vocals are what makes this record work for me. They can range anywhere from melodic and halting (“Like Before”) to just fucking shredded (“Fight Song” and “Dip Dip”). The vocals work so well with the distorted bass and pounding drum. The production work from Tristan O’Shea, who is the other half of the band, absolutely nails the mood of this record too.
There isn’t a whole lot more that needs to be said. If you want a record that will keep you on your toes, this is absolutely it. Check it out.
Too Far Gone Records