REVIEW: Moral Straightjacket – “I’ll Be Your Rainbow”

msjibyr

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.

Moral Straightjacket
Ruined Smile Records
Bandcamp
Buy It

 

REVIEW: Lake Michigan – “Pylons, Telephone Wires, Trees In The Clearing”

lakemichiganpylonsLake Michigan is a project that really embodies the whole “bedroom recording” thing. It’s a genre that, by it’s very nature, allows for musicians to release a lot of material in a very short time. It’s a genre that seems to be built on simplicity and aesthetics. Since 2012, Christopher Marks has released about eight EPs (and one split with Hopelesstown).

Pylons, Telephone Wires, Trees In The Clearing is different from most of his older releases though. It stay true to past recordings musically, as the songs are still lo-fi and acoustic. The vocals that are what really struck me as different on this one. There isn’t a lot of signing on Pylons, Telephone Wires, Trees In The Clearing. Most songs are delivered with a deadpan, spoken word type approach. Even when there is singing, like in “Sober,” it’s still very flat in delivery.

These four songs made think of two things immediately. The first being old Bright Eyes songs. The second being old Kind Of Like Spitting songs. I hear a lot of “It’s Cool, We Can Still Be Friends” and “We Got As Far As Minnesota” (respectively) in these songs. Not in a shitty, derivative way. More in a shared experience way. I like Lake Michigan for the same reason I like those bands. They are projects built around strong songwriters who aren’t afraid to write honest, personal songs.

I’ve said it a million times before, but honesty counts. Pylons, Telephone Wires, Trees In The Clearing is an honest record. Marks doesn’t shy away from expressing vulnerability, nostalgia, or desire. Call it bedroom music, call it folk, or whatever else. It’s just good. Ok?

Lake Michigan
Ruined Smile Records
Wolf Town DIY
Bandcamp

REVIEW: Feature – “Feature”

 

featureA band that plays music that is fuzzed out and poppy is most certainly a band that I want to check out. Feature is a great example of that aesthetic working incredibly well. They are a band that mixes some solid influences together into a great package. Pop punk, indie pop, and garage influences pop up throughout. All working well together, and all a little fuzzed out.

This self titled cassette is actually a compilation release. It is made up of the band’s Culture Of The Copy EP and their songs from the Tourists split EP with Slowcoaches. This results in there being a sonic difference between the first four songs and the last three. This makes sense, as the band went from a duo to a trio in that time. The songs from the Culture Of The Copy EP sound a little quieter, and more on the indie pop side of the fence. The remainder play more like more muscular and riffy pop punk. Sonically, Feature remind me a lot of bands like Grass Widow or Vivian Girls. Especially in the vocal department. Their harmonies are unbeatable.

Feature are a band that is really easy to enjoy. This compilation of their work shows a good amount of growth in a short period of time. They are definitely worth a listen.

Feature
Ruined Smile Records
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEW: The Blue Period – “And Suddenly The Days Draw Long Like Light​-​Years”

blueperiodThe Blue Period is a band that, in the most basic of terms, plays indie/emo music. They definitely have that classic Midwestern sound to them. There are definite Owen / American Football influences. There are also similarities to more contemporary bands, like Football Etc. or maybe a little Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate). They have a very comfortable and familiar sound. That said, they aren’t overpowered by those influences. They definitely stand on their own feet..

And Suddenly The Days Draw Long Like Light​-​Years is a solid EP that really covers all the bases one would like it to. The dual vocals of Celia Macdougall and Chris Moore are definitely one of the best strengths of the EP. They are both strong enough to carry a song by themselves, but are also able to reign things in for great interplay. When they’re splitting songs, neither overpowers the other. A lot of bands in this genre are built on one lead vocal, so this helps set them apart from other bands. The rest of the genre staples are pretty routinely touched upon. The production is a little grittier than most similar records, but that is really a strength as well.

The Blue Period is a young band. They have set a really great foundation down on And Suddenly The Days Draw Long Like Light​-​Years. The biggest problem they have is with how crowded this genre is. There used to be a time where a band from the UK playing this style would have a certain novelty to them. This isn’t really the case anymore. I don’t know much about their local scene in Nottingham, but I’m starting to feel like there might be more Midwest emo influenced bands in the UK than we have here in the actual Midwest.

See, I’m from the Midwest. Illinois to be specific. There is a lot of history here for this kind of music. I remember a time when a million bands in the Chicago area played this kind of stuff. And I remember how difficult it was to find the good stuff. There are a lot of these kinds of bands in the UK now, and they are going to have a similar problem. The Blue Period have the potential to break away from the pack of indie/emo bands, they just need to get a bit more adventurous. It will be wonderful to see what they do next.

The Blue Period
Bandcamp
Ruined Smile Records
Good Post Day Records
Wolf Town DIY
Eat A Book
strictly no capital letters

REVIEW: Lake Michigan / Hopelesstown – “Split”

lakemichiganhopelesstownSinger/songwriter is a term that has really strange connotations to it. You can kind of blame the 1970s for that. In the US, for example, it’s a term that kind of reminds people of all that schmaltzy bullshit that came out after the folk scene died out. What it really means is embodied by both Lake Michigan (Chris Marks) and Hopelesstown (Will Canning). Simply, music written and performed by the songwriter. Lake Michigan and Hopelesstown are both acoustic solo projects. They both feature a strong influence from indie folk music. They execute is a little differently though. Those differences make for an engaging split.

Lake Michigan is, comparatively, more simple and somber. Being built mostly around lightly strummed acoustic guitar and hushed vocals. His three songs on the split are very calms, reflective, and personal in nature. In short, his music embodies a lot of what the whole bedroom music culture is all about.

Hopelesstown is similar, but with a bit of a different spin. The instrumentation, while still simple guitar at heart, has a more ambient and distorted sound to it. He adds a bit more fuzz to his three songs. There is a bit more vibrancy to these songs than the Lake MIchigan songs. A little more pop, as it were.

Both Lake Michigan and Hopelesstown have a lot of heart. Both show that a lot can be done with a little. Both document how great minimalism can sounds. And, ultimately, both show that very personal music can connect to anyone.

Lake Michigan (Band Camp)
Hopelesstown (Band Camp)
Ruined Smile Records
Lacklustre Records