Archive for April, 2017

I feel like Isotopes represent the stereotype of American youth culture perfectly. And they are of course from Canada. Formed in Vancouver, British Columbia, but they are currently based in Louisville, Kentucky, if I’m not off base. An athletic addition to the Ramonescore-landscape they describe themselves as Baseball Punk, and have set themselves out to educate the public about baseball’s etiquette and gameplay. 1994 World Series Champions kicks off with the first inning “What We do Ain’t Secret”, the title is a Germs reference and I love it. The music is straight up pop punk and shows us what is ahead on the record right off the bat. Though they are Canadian, Isotopes sound very European and could easily be from Italy if it wasn’t for the native North American accent. I have no idea who George Brett is and most of the Baseball references are lost on me. I also believe that, with the exception of a couple of Riverdales and old Oi! Songs, sports have no place in punk! I don’t feel like I’m getting educated on the subject through these songs either. That being said, Little Deuce Coupe by the Beach Boys is one of my favorite albums and I can’t stand cars either.

The song that has caught my attention the times I’ve listened to the album the most is “Indian Summer”. It’s a catchy little song and it’s definitely a highlight of the record. Other highlights are “Morganna” a very Riverdales sounding tune and “Rochelle Rochelle” that is very Ramones-y and catchy in its own way. The album is not bad, but it’s very generic. Many bands have done this thing before and better. I also feel like songs are a bit too repetitive for my taste. I keep on wondering; is the sandlot the place on the baseball field where there’s sand? Anyway, if you love to go to parties at the sandlot, whatever that is, this is the album for you!

Check it out here: https://theisotopes.bandcamp.com/album/1994-world-series-champions

RH

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Wow! I’ve found a solid contender for my best records of 2017 list. Imagine blending the upbeat positive sound of RVIVR with the rock’n’roll of The Dirty Nil, then mix in the powerful melodies and solid work ethic of Success, and you have the start of an idea of what Grand-Pop sounds like. The Bristol band’s songs are tight and uplifting, melodic and powerful, and Warren Mallia’s vocals are strong and confident, reminding me of a smoother version of The Dirty Nil’s Luke Bentham, with the way it dives and bends notes, while remaining rock-solid and powerful. There are amazing touches in the songs, like in the opener, “Drop Trow,” which starts hard and charges forward the whole time – until the 2:40 mark, when it suddenly gets quiet but for a single whispering guitar, before it explodes again several seconds later. “Nova Scotia” is a favorite track, probably as much for the vocal gymnastics as for the great melody. “On and On” has a minimalist feel to the melody, which I like, and the vocals are particularly strong on this one. Throughout all these tracks, the sense of melody is amazing, and the power rarely lets up. This is highly recommended!

Check it out here: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/eight-nights

PS

Image result for Peaness band are you sure EP

Peaness is a trio from Chester in the UK who perform gorgeous, bouncy indie-pop. Formed in 2014, this five-song EP is their fifth release. The harmonized vocals are smooth and pretty, just like the jangly guitar-driven instrumentals. The songs have a sunny feel to them, like a breezy island jaunt. You can almost feel the warm, balmy air blowing through your hair. And I wrote that line before I even saw that the second track is entitled “Seafoam Islands,” so there you are. The songs are catchy and sweet, and they remind me of some of the best indie pop of the 90s, perhaps because of the harmonized female vocals (the band is a trio of women) reminding me in some ways of the late, lamented Tsunami, which featured a pair of women on vocal duties. The opener, “Oh George,” is a light, airy tune, with hints of Britpop like Stiff Records was putting out back in the day. The aforementioned “Seafoam Islands” has a bit of a funky flair and the best harmonized vocals of the EP. “Same Place” is, I think, my favorite track, with a more modern indie-pop feel than the other tracks, with a definite jazzy influence in parts. “Skin Surfing” and “Ugly Veg” close things out, and are in also fun tracks. The instrumentation on this record is a little thin. I think Peaness may benefit from the addition of a second guitar, but I really like the sweet sounds.

Check it out here: https://peanessband.bandcamp.com/album/same-place-seafoam-islands

PS

This Canadian trio have been very busy. In just one year they’ve now put out four releases. This latest is, I think, their best yet. They’re harder and crunchier than ever on the four songs on this EP. Two of the tracks remind me a bit of Refused, the amazing Scandinavian punk band, with the shouted vocals, powerful melodic lines, and hard thumping bass, yet with a hint of funk and hip hop. Those are the opening title track and the second track, “Values.” “Warren” is more of a melodic punk track, and “10 Pounds” closes things out with a blend of the two styles. Another enjoyable EP from the frozen north.

Check it out here: https://loserpoints.bandcamp.com/album/ones-and-zeros

PS

Broken Field Runner’s latest release is a four-song EP in five tracks. The Albany, New York indie band plays songs that have a sadness running through them. Themes of loss and miscarriage run through the record. Punctuating these tracks at the start, middle, and end are recordings of a child reading the Bible story of the ejection of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The child reads in a very deadpan way, as a child reads without comprehension. This seems to represent the loss of faith that can go along with such a traumatic experience as miscarriage. The middle one of these is juxtaposed with a recording of a woman giving birth, adding to the feeling of confusion and pain. The songs themselves balance a delicate touch with power. “Expecting” is the first song, and it’s the most raucous of the EP, with a hint of fury in it.  “Skin Under These Nails” slows and quiets things down a lot, and the sorrow is palpable, especially as the song builds in intensity toward the end. “Wish You Were Here Instead of Me” has a simple melody and a slow pace, but the fuzzed guitars and deliberate tempo belie an underlying strength behind the despair that comes through in the song.  The title track closes things out with a short delicate song, very understated. This is a beautiful, sad record.

Check it out here: https://jetsam-flotsam.bandcamp.com/album/heavy-hanging-fruit

PS

POSI is a great advert for the UK’s DIY punk scene: melodically pleasing, without being cheesy; varied and engaging; lyrically inventive; and to top it off, an anti-The Sun song. Great Cynics play a kind of punk-y indie rock that feels grounded and relatable. They have evolved their sound a little since 2015’s I Feel Weird, partly because of the departure of bassist Iona Cairns (who is now doing her own thing in the fantastic Shit Present). As an album, I feel POSI works better as a body of work, with musical and thematic glue linking each song together, but Great Cynics don’t quite reach the heights of the stand-outs from the previous record (see: “North Street”; “Lost in You”).

I don’t know why it is (and perhaps I need to re-visit) but I couldn’t get into much Great Cynics did pre-I Feel Weird, but I now regard them as one of the cornerstones of the UK underground indie/punk scene. I think what differentiates Great Cynics from the masses, in a similar way to Martha, is both their inventiveness in songwriting and their personal touch. After listening to POSI, you feel as if you have taken a dive into lead singer Giles’s brain for half an hour. It’s the tales of the ordinary and everyday which do this most effectively: over the course of POSI, we hear about Giles watching Netflix on somebody else’s account, picking up a pack of Tyskies and standing outside Sainsbury’s in the rain.

Of course, all of this detailing of the commonplace may fall short if it didn’t resonate with bigger themes and ideas. POSI is essentially all about trying to remain hopeful and optimistic while living in London (“the most expensive place on Earth”) and going through all that entails. Like Apologies, I Have None’s debut album, POSI gives an insight into what it takes it get through day-to-day life in London (and all the friendships, romances, heartbreaks, touring that goes with that), but, its ultimate optimism is in contrast to the former.  Apologies sang about London being a ‘thief’ who made off with their perseverance and mental health; Great Cynics actually have a chorus where they proclaim that “happiness is a place in London”. Though, while everything on POSI is loosely framed around London, the best moments on the record concern the romantic: the euphoric, hook-filled indie rock of “Butterfly Net” and “Summer At Home” particularly stand out, the latter with the instantly memorable closing lines: “You don’t think that you’re special/ It’s what makes you special”. The other highlight on the album is where Great Cynics go overtly political with “Don’t Buy the Sun”, the first time that we hear Giles properly angry, saving his wrath for a tabloid rag and the hate that it perpetuates (and, in doing so, forms a great duo with Zatopeks’ own “Daily Mail”).

Check it out here: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/posi

DB

Image result for Joe Mcmahon another life

I am a little late to this party, but glad that I finally took a listen to Another Life, because it’s actually a really, really excellent record. If you were unaware, this is Joe McMahon, formerly of Smoke and Fire. They were a melodic punk band that released a couple of albums on Fat in the mid-‘00s. Minus a couple of hits, I never paid much attention to them, but the quality of the songwriting on Another Life suggests that I’ve made an error. This is a classic-sounding country rock record. If I were to read such a description, I would be probably quite put-off; this is not my genre of choice. There is not even much ‘punk’ influence or attitude on the record, except maybe the acoustic re-working of a former Smoke and Fire tune (“Neon Lights”). In contrast with the majority of punk-rockers-turned-singer-songwriters, Joe doesn’t do half measures and instead makes a full-on country-rock record that could that have come from the ‘70s.

So, what makes Another Life stand out? Well, primarily, it is the superior songwriting, as exhibited on the strong first half of the album. Joe is full of regret, bitterness, loss and hope. Opener “It All Went Black” hits you straight off the bat, with its mournful tales of ‘what could have been’. One of the record’s best lines is on this one:

“True love, well there ain’t no such thing/ Because being true is impossible to be in the world we live/ So, walk home and be free- the time has passed, for love or loyalty”

Joe’s vocals help ‘sell’ the songs: they are emotionally charged and pack a punch. “Chained to Ghosts” is one of my favourites and highlights Joe’s passionate vocals the best when he painfully barks out, “Everything’s gone blank”. The title track has a chorus which you will struggle to get out of your head. It also serves to underline the key theme explored on the record: contemplating the path not taken; thinking what could have been. If you’re bored of the whole ‘punk-goes-acoustic’ thing, Another Life may revive your interest.

DB