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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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ROUND EYE:
Round Eye: LP/CD
Don’t judge a book—or in this case a record—by its cover. I wouldn’t have been surprised to discover the artwork being used for the album containing some mystical transcendental meditation process. However, nothing could be further from the truth as Shanghai-based American ex-pats, Round Eye proceed to confuse and confound over seventeen tracks. To apply a single label to this band would be a total folly, as nothing would stick for long. The first track opens with a killer Greg Ginn-like riff which descends into a concussive blend of saxophone, bass, and drums before fading out with a more electronic vibe. From thereon in all bets are off as to what will follow, but at times it does encompass The World/Inferno Friendship Society, Captain Beefheart, jazz, punk, and doo-wop within its kitchen sink approach. It’s an intriguing and entertaining debut album which, even after numerous plays, leaves me somewhat bewildered as to where it’s coming from. –Rich Cocksedge (Ripping, runnamucks.com/rippingrecords.html)


SABERTOOTH:
Space Between: LP
I will shop a record based on its graphics and design. I think most browsing consumers do the same, visual stimuli being the first contact point and potentially being a major deciding factor (sans audio availability). Keith Caves’ art cuts, much like the dagger of the back cover, with Pettibonesque starkness. Inside the grooves of Sabertooth’s third and final release, according to Todd of Debt Offensive’s note, is pop punk/melodic hardcore from Calgary with nods to Lifetime and Kid Dynamite. Maybe it’s the fact that Space Between is the bookend of Sabertooth, but the songs carry a genuiness and honesty that carries beyond those foundations. The difference between being apt and loving what you’re doing versus being compelled and living what you’re doing. Melodic hardcore is often fun, but age it, run it through the experience mill, and Sabertooth is shouldering a deeper connection in listening experience, more akin to None More Black or Smoke Or Fire. Seek this one out, limited to three hundred. –Matt Seward (Debt Offensive, debtoffensiverecs.bigcartel.com)


SATURDAY’S HEROES:
Hometown Serenade: CD
The second album from Saturday’s Heroes, Hometown Serenade. While a bit too clean and polished for my usual tastes, the crisp recording quality suits Saturday’s Heroes’ sound nicely. The group comes from a small town in Sweden—and play up that small town image in their lyrics—but their musical chops are well beyond that of your local garage band. Each song features riffs with strong hooks, anthemic singalong parts, and furious leads. With fifteen songs, each clocking in at three minutes or more, this album might be a bit long for some attention spans, but if you’re feeling it, Saturday’s Heroes could be your new punk rock heroes for every night of the week. –Paul J. Comeau (Lovely, no address listed)


SCRAPS / NEEDLE EXCHANGE:
Split: 7”
At first I was a bit irked by the blank labels on the record, forcing me to read the etching on the vinyl to determine which side was supposed to be which. This was compounded by the layout on the back of the jacket not being clear as to which tracks were for which band, compelling a bit of detective work on my part to figure out definitively. I was finally able to locate the EP on one of the band’s Bandcamp pages. Germany’s Needle Exchange turned out to actually be on side A of the record, not side B, as the insert appeared to indicate. Detective work complete, I was able to turn my attention to the music. Needle Exchange play some damn catchy fuzzed-up and jangly punk’n’roll! Their two tracks definitely made me want to check out more of this band. The U.K.’s Scraps are musically as catchy as Needle Exchange. I wasn’t particularly stoked on their lyrics, but damn they have some great leads! I also appreciated the front cover image of each band’s name with a corresponding World War II aircraft from their respective nation. It was a neat way to set each band apart, while at the same time creating a bit of a battle of the bands-esque rivalry. Issues with labeling aside, this 7” is worth checking out. Both bands were good, but I’m definitely the bigger fan of Needle Exchange. –Paul J. Comeau (No Front Teeth)


SECND BEST:
Fact: CD
Secnd Best is the Portland, OR. punk scene’s perpetually underrated stepchildren. Despite its practiced harnessing of a Bad Religion-esque harmonized fury, its unaffected, irreverent NOFX-ian charm, and its slavish adherence to being, like, really for reals DIY, it just never seem to get the attention it deserves. Help remedy that injustice by checking out the new self-recorded, self-produced, self-released full-length Fact, a mother lode of fourteen tracks that deconstruct humanity’s complex relationship with authority through the lens of the 1961 Milgram experiment. Go ahead. Be the change you want to see in the scene. –Kelley O’Death (Self-released, secndbest.bandcamp.com)


SEE THRU DRESSES:
End of Days: LP
These six songs seem to pick up where this Omaha four piece left off with their self-titled full length. It’s a nice mixture of a number of styles, including shoegazer, power pop, and indie rock. (And is that some Silver Scooter influence I hear?) The fact that the Dresses have two vocalists (Sara Bertuldo and Mathew Carroll) adds another layer of possibilities to the band, which hits hardest when they tap into their emotional depths. The contrast in the last two songs is a perfect example. The fifth track, an introspective and sad tune “End of Days,” would seem to be the perfect closer, but then the band follows it with the last song “Drag Scene,” which leaves a little bit of hope with its poppy hooks (although it does seem tinged with a layer of introspection beneath the surface). It makes for a great one-two punch, giving me goosebumps—worth purchasing the album. –Kurt Morris (Tiny Engines, tinyengines.net)


SELF DEFENSE FAMILY:
“When the Barn Caves In” b/w “Alan”: 7”
Pretty neat. A pair of vaguely ethereal and halting tunes that bring to mind Lungfish, in that they kind of find a groove and explore it, expanding on its texture and depth. The vocalist here is very atonal—just this guy rasping and shouting himself hoarse—but it totally works. (Except that I think the refrain he’s singing in “When the Barn Caves In” is “I have no portion control,” which he sings so frequently that it begins to sound a little silly.) Still, this an odd little 7” that totally works. I’ve heard about these guys for some time; after this record, I’ll be looking into their catalog. –Keith Rosson (Iron Pier)


SELF DEFENSE FAMILY:
“When the Barn Caves In” b/w “Alan”: 7”
Sentimental, dramatic post-rock born from the fires of hardcore and gutters of punk. There are some mornings when nothing sounds better than Lungfish. The plodding tempo that helps the transition from slumber to labor. An emotional weight that can put some distance between your dreams and realities. Self Defense Family are chipping away at a similar sound/approach/gravitas. It’s solemn, it’s entrenched, it’s preparing for what lies ahead. –Daryl Gussin (Iron Pier, ironpier.net)


SHADOW LAUGHTER:
Nightmare Future: 7”
Shadow Laughter is from Tampa and play terrifically mainline oi/streetpunk, with retro lyrics about being punks and skins. Similar musically and thematically with the New England fashion punk bands of twenty years ago, this is oddly refreshing in today’s largely anti-mohawk scene. The cover art by James Von Sinn, the singer of Rotten UK, is great, too. This is easily my favorite record of the issue, and is one of the best streetpunk 7”s I’ve heard in ages. Oddly sincere given how time-tested its tropes are, Shadow Laugher is anything but laughable. Get on board. –Art Ettinger (Self-released, shadowlaughter.bandcamp.com)


SHELLSHAG:
Why’d I Have to Get So High?: LP
Shellshag might as well take a proverbial guitar and smash it into modern music, demanding that music be better. Don’t even worry if you don’t like getting high, this will get you chill and still keep you dancing. Besides, most of these are basically love songs. The vocals on “‘90s Problem”—especially on the intro/outro—sound like an aching love song that my grandfather would play me from the ‘50s, but the instrumental core makes me want to dance around every room I have ever been in (as the lyrics ask the question, “Why did I have to get so high?”). The only way I can get songs like “Rattletrap” or “Pretty Eyes” out of my head is by replaying the entire record, and I am not even bummed. Plus the art of the liner notes is seriously sick. This record—released on Don Giovanni, a label that houses the likes of Downtown Boys, Worriers, and Screaming Females—belongs in your collection. –Maddy (Don Giovanni, dongiovannirecords.com / Starcleaner)


SIC WAITING:
Derailer: LP
Punk rock from Oceanside, Calif. Guitar frenzy with less metal-sounding influence than some of their earlier stuff, and solid vocals. In the words of Kenny Bojarski (who heard I was reviewing this record and was all like, “You should just use my Facebook review”): “It’s like you haven’t eaten all day and In-N-Out is right down the street. So you get in the car but once the record starts playing all of the sudden you don’t want the closest meal available to you; you’d rather drive halfway across town to get that burrito because that record reminds you that you’re worth the best.” Well, I dig this record, too. I absolutely don’t like “A Red House and Bones” (too slow, just weird, and doesn’t do them any favors). Otherwise, in a way similar to Sic Waiting’s 2012 EP and pop punk in general, I absolutely adore like, one-fifth of it and the rest is pretty good. In this case, ten tracks total means two tracks I can’t stop listening to. On this release, those are “Active Alumni” and “The Salesman.” They remind me that I am worth the best. –Maddy (Felony, thefelonyfamily.com)


SICK THOUGHTS:
Self-titled: 7”
This single is so punk it’s not going to sell out and give you song titles. One side reaches a GISM level of speed, gravelly vocals, and inserted guitar parts. The other side is more of an oi-ish anthem with “fuck you” repeated several times. It’s an excellent no-nonsense single. Both songs resonate with me. –Billups Allen (No Front Teeth, nofrontteeth.co.uk)


SIEGE FIRE, THE:
Dead Refuge: LP
This is a crust band, much like many that have come before, and like those that will surely come after. It’s brutal, loud, and furiously fucking fast. Layered throughout the album are some pretty sweet hardcore breakdowns, but the majority of this record is a shit ton of sweet metal leads mixed with crunchy guitar riffs. If I had to pick anything especially distinguishable out from this band, it’d be the vocals. Very high pitched in tone, yet still gritty and gruff. The singer adds a level of intensity that I don’t think would carry over with any other vocalist; there’s a great amount of anger and desperation in his voice. And the lyrics are smart, as one would come to expect with this genre. You’re getting lines like: “This new world / a barren scar at the heart of a sovereign state.” I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again here, this is my preferred music to fall asleep to. Something about the absolute chaos of it really lets me relax. There are even a few songs that are just really atmospheric and chilling. For some people, mainly the crust uninitiated, it may come off as creepy and unsettling. But for me, it comes across as super melodic and comforting. –Kayla Greet (1859, 1859records.storeenvy.com)


SLOPPY KISSES:
Demo: CS
Part of me wants to dismiss this cassette on the grounds that most of the songs are kind of generic and their inspirations from ‘80s punk are obvious to a fault. But then there are songs like “Office Drunk,” which I think is very catchy song that has a good flow to it. Not a complete waste of time. Grade: C+. –Bryan Static (Self-released, sloppykisses.bandcamp.com)


SNOOTY GARBAGE MEN:
Self-titled: LP
Loud and heartfelt garage punk. This shit is so lo-fi my stereo can barely handle it. The requirements to make good garage punk are so threadbare, it can be tough to make qualitative judgments on records like this. What sets this record apart from other records of its ilk is the general vibe of schizophrenia that permeates throughout the entire release. Words garble together in both sound and visuals. The protective sheath of the record is covered in the endless ravings of a mad man, scrunched together in impossible-to-follow lines. I can’t decide if I necessarily like this record, but at least it’s interesting. Grade: B. –Bryan Static (12XU, 12xu.net)


SOFT SHOULDER:
No Draw: LP
Soft Shoulder have this odd familiarity about them that I can’t easily identify. They remind me of the very late-’90s into the early-’00s. Yet, they don’t sound dated. Art-damaged, post-punk, post-hardcore, post... post. There’s a minimalism here that gives the music a sharp edge. Guitars and bass stab and trudge forcibly forward while the vocals have a commanding presence. The material on the first side is okay—the songs have attitude and are catchy. It’s the B-side with the hypnotic sludge of “Repeat #3” that hooks me in. It’s a repetitive beat that brings to mind Can with its steady-yet-driving shuffle that stays the course for the most part as the rest of the song mutates, folds in on itself, morphs again, and then back. Sort of like a Morton Feldman composition—but punk and dirtied up. Listening to this change over the course of an entire side is pretty interesting—because the way in which it changes aren’t always expected—and the journey to how it started at point A and arrived at an almost entirely different song at point Z is what will keep you on for the entire ride. More of this, please. –Matt Average (Gilgongo, gilgongorecords.com)


SPACE WOLVES:
V: CS
Catchy, charming surf pop from a duo out of Buffalo. Without examining the box, one would almost be forced to assume such an album came from Burger Records or one of its sister companies. The songs aren’t complex, but their melodies are really good. It’s a simple formula but if you pump out a bunch of fun, fast songs, I’m going to enjoy it. Only one song on this thing is longer than two minutes. Perfect! The songs don’t sound too similar, the vocals drive the song as well as play off the guitar, and the duo use each other to propel the song forward appropriately. This is how you do a two-piece rock band. And lucky for me, these guys have four more albums for me to check out. Grade: A-. –Bryan Static (More Power, morepowertapes.bandcamp.com)


SPC ECO:
Dark Matter: CD
Dark, moody tunes rooted on laidback, funky beats and synths. They could’ve easily drenched the whole affair in soaring, effects-driven guitars and had one fucker of a shoegaze release, but instead opt for a sparse, spacey production with the few guitars in evidence serving as sources for sound effects instead of strumming. Perfect soundtrack for late night drives through the city or movie scenes of people doing just that. –jimmy (Saint Marie, saintmarierecords.com)


SPC ECO:
Dark Matter: CD
Moody, atmospheric electronica from an ex-member of Curve. Dean Garcia plays all the instruments here. Rose Berlin handles vocals. I tried to take this all in, but the autotuned, over-treated vocals were too tough to get past. The music is not bad, but Dark Matter is just not a record I would ever find myself listening to for any reason. –koepenick (Saint Marie, saintmarierecords.com)


SPIKE & THE SWEET SPOTS:
Strange Breed: LP
Spencer Johnson’s nasally vocals and mellow songwriting are front and center on the debut LP from this folky garage rock outfit. Both remind me of Daniel Johnston more than anyone else, though this is certainly smoother and cleaner than most of Johnston’s work. It’s a style that’s more than saturated lately, but there’s actually something really memorable and charismatic about these songs. There’s personality under the reverb. The shuffling drums and twangy guitars give it some cowpunk undertones—nothing overpowering, maybe just the hint of a neon cowboy glowing over a dusty motel. That kind of feeling. There’s a beautiful Shannon And The Clams cover somewhere in the middle that really rounds out the retro sound. –Indiana Laub (Randy, randyrecs@gmail.com, randyrecords.bigcartel.com)


SPLAT:
Self-titled: 7”
Rust Belt dumbpunk for fans of the first Wax Museums LP, Clerks, and that feeling when you meet a new person at a party and are able to share your wildest drinking stories with someone who’s never heard them before. It’s not so much an exchange of ideas, but an enjoyable display of degenerate behavior. Rich in flaws and filthy in fun-esque-ness. My only real problem is the lack of detail in the referencing of the Germs’ back cover art. And it wouldn’t be too big of a deal, except This Moment In Black History (who hail from the same locale as Splat) did a spot-on job with their It Takes a Nation… LP. Perhaps it’s the unconscious at work, and not a reference at all? –Daryl Gussin (Saucepan, saucepanrecords@gmail.com)


SPRAY PAINT / EXEK:
Split: 7”EP
I haven’t kept as close a watch on Spray Paint as I would like and should, since they are one of the better post-punk bands going these days. They are consistently delivering quality music, as I had expected from the Spock Fingers single from a few years back. These two songs are dissonant and noisy. “Country Singer” starts off with a repeating riff that is instantly jarring and dominates the room when the record is on. Then the bass kicks in and the song takes off with more speed. It ends abruptly to turn into “Yr Shedding” with spidery guitars that share space with a repetitive beat and more noisy guitar that recalls early-Sonic Youth kind of discordance. Exek are post-punk dub in the way of early PiL. The bass has that repeating riff that hypnotizes you and permeates your being as guitars come in with a sickly tone (think of the music in Dawn of The Dead when they’re in the news room studio). Vocals float just right above the music. Great song and I really want to hear more. One song is not enough! This record was pressed for Spray Paint’s Australian tour this past year. Get one! –Matt Average (Homeless, info@homelessvinyl.com.au)


STAPLES IN CARPET:
Beyond Belief: CD
This Seattle-based band specializes in hardcore steeped in mid-’80s punk/metal, wisely keeping on the punkier side of the fence for the most part. Some songs are a tad longer than may be good for ‘em, and on the whole, nothing really stands out enough to give the release some needed singularity, but neither is it offensive to the senses. It’s just kinda... there, which I guess speaks to some amorphous “promise” of something much better that doesn’t quite materialize. A bit more conviction in delivery? A bit more focus of intent? With this kinda stuff ye want it to take yer head off, leaving you going, “Whuuuut the fuck was that?!” Maybe next time. –jimmy (Staples In Carpet, staplesincarpet.bandcamp.com)


STATEN BRINNER:
Punk På Svenska: 7” EP
Punk På Svenska—or in English, Punk in Swedish—is a damn great EP in any language. These Swedes have harnessed the inherent power pop catchiness of the Buzzcocks and blended it with the brilliant brevity of any given Descendents cut. Infectious as fuck; the only drawback of listening to this 7” is the amount of times you have to flip the record in one sitting. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go flip it back to Side A for the fifth time. Sätt att gå, Staten Brinner. Way to go. –Simone Carter (Luftslott, info@luftslottrecords.com, luftslottrecords.com)


STATIC DAYDREAM:
Self-titled: CD
Static Daydream is the latest project from former Skywave and Ceremony member Paul Baker. Baker, in collaboration with his girlfriend Jamie Casey, weaves layers of reverbing guitar and ethereal vocals into a wall of noise. The two share vocal duties on the tracks “More Than Today,” and “Run into the Night.” The dual vocals drew my attention to these tracks and held my attention better than the majority of songs where Baker sings solo. The rest of the songs blended into one another, with little to keep my interest. I think this album will appeal most directly to fans of Baker’s past projects and will also have general appeal to fans of ‘80s and ‘90s noise pop, but I wanted more out of this than the well-worn paths on which it took me. –Paul J. Comeau (Saint Marie, saintmarierecords.com)


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