REVIEW: Slow Bloom – “Slow Bloom”

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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.

Slow Bloom
Bandcamp
Spotify

 

REVIEW: Haybaby – “Blood Harvest”

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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.

Haybaby
Tiny Engines
Bandcamp
Buy It

 

REVIEW: Geometers – “Geometers”

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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.

Geometers
Jetsam-Flotsam
Bandcamp
Buy It

 

REVIEW: Middle Part – “Middle Part”

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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.

Middle Part
Too Far Gone 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