Whenever, if Ever
Self Defense Family - “Holy Trend”
Increasingly experimental punks Self Defense Family verge into some unexpectedly melodic territory on their new cut “Holy Trend,” which you can stream above. I hear a kind of medieval, Renaissance Fair quality in the guitar melody; as expected, it contrasts pretty harshly with Patrick Kindlon’s rather deliberately tuneless vocals. Anyway, I’m loving the lyrics in particular. For posterity’s sake, recall that Self Defense Family’s scorched earth single “Self Immolation Family” was my 10th favorite song of last year.
“Holy Trend” will appear on a forthcoming 4-way split that Self Defense Family will share with Tigers Jaw, Code Orange Kids, and The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die. More or less, these bands cover the four stylistic corners of relevant punk music right now, so it’s exciting to see them all represented on one release. Check out the tracklist below:
- 1. Tigers Jaw - “Fake Death”
- 2. TWIABP - “Beverly Wyatt”
- 3. Self Defense Family - “Holy Trend”
- 4. Code Orange Kids - “VI (Worms Fear God // God Fears Youth)”
Stream “Holy Trend” above via YouTube and pre-order a copy of the new split from Run For Cover/Topshelf Records. The record will be out on April 23rd.
Exciting. It looks like we may be getting a followup for my 4th favorite album of last year soon.
Stream: Deer Leap - Here. Home. (2012)
On the heels of their utterly stellar 2011 split with The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, the New Hampshire-based atmospheric emo group Deer Leap just dropped a new full length LP, entitled Here. Home. It might be worth noting that their pals in TWIABP have a similarly titled new album on the way called Whenever. If Ever. There’s also a band called Into It. Over It. Punk trends. are weird.
Jokes aside, this album is one of the most breathtaking and moving emo records I’ve heard all year. Deer Leap pulls off the post-rock/melodic emo combination better than just about anyone else out there, and Here. Home. is, on the whole, even better and more precisely-honed than anything from their side of the Topshelf split. Taking a cue from that split’s best track, the melancholic “Coffee and Keys,” Here. Home. features a more direct focus on lyrics than their past work, but maintains the post-rock primacy through tracks like the chugging opener and “What Is Dead May Never Die.” Musical touchstones include Moving Mountains and the eternally relevant Explosions In The Sky, whose direct influence on modern post-rock may never diminish.
Overall, Here. Home. is a fulfillment of the potential that this band demonstrated on that 12”, and at shows like the one I saw last August in Hamden CT. It’s a great record in its own right, and it’s nice to see this band standing on their own feet this time around, but it also makes me very excited for the new album from The World Is… If it’s anything like Here. Home., it’s going to be a very solid record.
You Blew It! - “The Fifties”
The Florida-based punk group You Blew It! has a new album out on Topshelf Records called Grow Up, Dude, which, in keeping with the emo revivalist trends of the past few years, harks back to the indie/emo sounds of the 1990s. While some recent bands have chosen to focus on recreating the more melodic sounds of groups like American Football, and others have explored emo’s more aggressive tendencies, You Blew It! constantly straddle the line between these two dynamics throughout Grow Up, Dude.
If you ask me, they fare better when they keep things toned down, focusing on nostalgic sadness rather than bitterness and contempt. “The Fifties” is the album’s best and most melodic track — a longing, guitar-based slice of nostalgia for a bygone era. Lyrically, it explores almost exactly the same themes as House Of Wolves’ “50’s,” one of my favorite songs of last year, as frontman Tanner Jones pines for “faking a life in the fifties” with the object of Jones’ affection.
Of course, as anyone who was around in the 1950s will tell you, life in that decade was a lot less pristine and wholesome as it’s often made out to be, especially for people in marginalized social groups. Still, it’s hard not to see the merits of naive escapism when it sounds as wonderful as this song does. As its title suggests, Grow Up, Dude is a record about becoming more mature, but “The Fifties” makes a strong case for You Blew It! doing the opposite.
Stream “The Fifties” above and purchase Grow Up, Dude from the Topshelf Records webstore.
Many months after I preordered it, I’m happy to say that my copy of Topshelf Records’ Fuck Off All Nerds compilation in memory of Mitchell Dubey has arrived. When I saw My Heart To Joy play their last show ever last May in honor of Mitch, I new that it was a truly special occasion and a once in a lifetime performance. I was so happy and proud when I found out that Topshelf Records had recorded the entire show and was planning to release a vinyl record featuring highlights from the sets of the eight fantastic bands that performed that night. Almost exactly a year after that show, I now have the record in my hands. Reliving that night brings back so many great memories, and I’m incredibly grateful to Mitch, Topshelf, and all of the bands that played for that.
The vinyl packaging is beautiful, featuring gorgeous art prints, a gatefold, and inspiring liner notes about Mitch. My copy came on shiny coke bottle blue vinyl, which features “Fuck Off” on the a-side and “All Nerds” on the back. Ben Sears did a great job with the layout. I really couldn’t be happier with this record. Just look at that tracklist and tell me you’re not upset that you didn’t get to go to this show. The best part of all of it is that all the proceeds from this record go directly to the Dubey family. If you want to, you can purchase a copy yourself and stream it over at the Topshelf Records bandcamp page. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this release. It would have made Mitch very proud.
By Surprise Announce New 7”
A year ago today, the New Jersey indie rock revivalists By Surprise released their debut full length on Topshelf Records. Entitled Mountain Smashers, that record received more physical spins from me than just about any other album released last year, and ended up placing at #4 on my Top Albums of 2011 list. Last night, without even knowing about the impending anniversary of its release, I gave Mountain Smashers a well-deserved fresh spin, and it sounded as great as ever.
To my great pleasure, I checked the Topshelf Records tumblr page today to find out that not only was By Surprise celebrating the anniversary of that full length’s release by selling the LP for just $6, but that they are also in the early stages of releasing a new 7” record. That currently untitled 7” will be produced by Mountain Smashers producer Dave Downham, and will be recorded at Familyre Studios, which has boasted such notable occupants as MewithoutYou and Sufjan Stevens. But don’t take my word for it; listen for yourself — Click the embedded link below to listen to a very drunk By Surprise frontman Rob Wilcox talk about the details of the release in what appears to be a very poorly impersonated southern accent.
Head on over to the Topshelf Records webstore right now to pick up the Mountain Smashers LP for just $6, and check out the official press release for this new 7” over at the Topshelf Records tumblr page.
Watch the video for “$600 Exorcism” from Mountain Smashers below.
Listening To: The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - Formlessness (2010)
I’m having the most nostalgic day today. Everything I’ve done in the past six hours has brought me right back to what was going on around April and May 2011. Back then, I would listen to this 7” over and over again every day, racking up dozens of plays for each song over time. Thinking about how far The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die has come as a band feels somewhat bittersweet in this light. In many ways, seeing them progress so much has made me very proud, but at the same time, part of me really misses those old days. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a personal connection to a set of songs as I have with this 7”.
An Interview: Derrick Shanholtzer [The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die]
Interview: Kyle Minton [9/25/2011]
A string of impressive EP releases, strange tumblr activity, and a plethora of tales of drunken travels and house shows seem to be the making of the band The World Is A Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid To Die. Derrick Shanholtzer, guitarist and vocalist of the band, entertained Nothing Sounds Better with a few questions concerning his band’s recent split with Deer Leap, Derrick’s view on downloading, what lies beyond the horizon for the band, and more. Read on for the full interview.
One of my favorite music blogs Nothing Sounds Better just did a great interview with Derrick Shanholtzer, guitarist and singer from The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die. Click through to find out information about the band’s excellent new split with Deer Leap, Derrick’s views on the band’s lyrics, and the group’s exciting plans for a full-length LP. I’d like to interview the group or a member from it at some point in person, and I need to work on seeing if I can set that up.
the world is a beautiful place and i am no longer afraid to die is good for connecticut.
Here is another song from our split with Deer Leap. “Mega Steve” got it’s name from our drummer, Mega Steve, who got this nick name from Peter from Algernon Cadwallader, who i think was drunk at the time. All hail MEGA STEVE .
If you like the song, please check out our split with Deer Leap
Also, check out a review of the full split HERE.
Deer Leap + The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die Are Here To Help You (2011)
What are Deer Leap and The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die here to help us do?
People who live outside of this state don’t really believe me when I tell them that Connecticut has a great music scene. In fact, most of the people inside this state don’t believe me either. I guess this isn’t a phenomenon that’s unique to Connecticut. Even now, with the internet having completely changed the way we share and listen to music, making it pretty much available to anyone with an internet connection, the underground is still underground, and a scene is still just a scene. I still find out about new local bands by word of mouth, talking to people at shows, and getting copies of demo CDs. I still talk to people outside of the scene about my favorite bands inside it. Maybe this is just the way punk works, but some things never change.
The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die means more to me than just about any other band from this state, and they’re always the first group that I bring up to support my claims about just how wonderful Connecticut’s music can be. When I heard it for the first time back in December, their debut 7” Formlessness resonated with me, and it quickly became one of my absolute favorite releases of last year with subsequent listens. I’ve listened to that record, in addition to its brief followup EP Josh Is Dead, their 2010 demo, and various bootlegs, so many times that I sometimes forget that their entire discography (prior to this split) only totals about 37 minutes. I also forget just how new this band is, having only formed last year and finally solidifying their lineup in the past few months. The truth is, I’ve been so satisfied with TWIABP’s music that I haven’t even really been waiting for more of it. To be honest, until I heard about this split, I was content to just go on listening to Formlessness a few more dozens of times. That says a lot about its replay value, which can’t be understated.
When I did hear about this split, however, I was pretty excited. I had considered the prospect of a TWIABP full length record before, which could potentially be amazing, but never thought about what was really the logical next step for the band: A split record. On this 12” split, which will be released on vinyl by Topshelf Records in the coming weeks, The World Is… hooked up with their friends Deer Leap from New Hampshire, a lesser-known band that I’ve been keeping tabs on for a while, mostly due to their association with TWIABP. I actually saw them live opening for Grown Ups along with The World Is… last month, and while I wasn’t hugely impressed by their performance, their new songs stood out as having a lot of potential. As it turns out, some of those songs appear on this split. Since their tracks take up the record’s first side, I’ll talk about them first.
Deer Leap is a trio who plays complex, atmospheric, indie emo, which seems like a pretty difficult thing to do as a trio. This probably explains why I wasn’t blown away by their live show, but thankfully they make up for their lack of live dynamics on the record. With the exception of a brief, 46 second intro track, their contributions are all fully fleshed out compositions that play out like post-rock songs, but with all the heart and tortured soul of the best emo songwriters coming through in the lyrics and vocals.
Although the three major songs that Deer Leap contribute here average over 4 minutes each in length, their lyrics are only a few lines at most. The heavy and emotional nature of the music often serves as a lead in to their lyrics, which vary in theme from harshly critical to surprisingly honest and almost sweet. On the intro track “Learned In People,” singer Keith Galvin covers both in the span of two lines. “Nothing I ever do is true / All I do, I do for you”. “Learned In People” fades without warning into “We Are Not Who We Are”, my favorite song from Deer Leap’s side. Its mood swings wildly throughout the 4:20 duration, and the song takes on many different faces as a result of this. It starts out as an aggressive math rock song with confusing and complicated intertwining riffs, only to switch to a classic twinkly emo track a minute later, and then finally into an Explosions In The Sky-reminiscent guitar-based anthem with a huge melodic crescendo once the vocals fade out. The beautiful vocal harmonies that bridge these two sections could be seen as yet another notable piece of the song, as they add an entirely new feeling of atmosphere to the song. You would think that all this variation in such a relatively short timespan would make the song feel disjointed and unfulfilled, but the band pulls it off admirably. Because of the brevity, “We Are Not Who We Are” never feels boring either.
The next song, “To Moscow And Quickly”, focuses more on the post-rock aspect of the band’s sound. Lyrically, it targets an unnamed “You” with one of the most biting lines I’ve heard recently: “There’s space at the root of all our problems and you’re to blame.” While it isn’t as much of an exciting listen as “We Are Not Who We Are”, it’s a little longer and a lot more focused. It’s good to see that the band can stand on solid musical ground when they choose to.
Deer Leap’s final song “Coffee and Keys” threw me for a loop though, because it bares little resemblance to any of the previous songs on the split both in terms of lyrics and music. Not only are there significantly more lyrics to this song than the previous ones, but they also seem to be composed differently. The lyrics of “Coffee and Keys” are a lot less abstract and vague than those of other Deer Leap songs, detailing specific events and the feelings that came from them. Maybe this is why it works so well as a closer, because it has a feeling of tangibility and realness that is absent from their other songs. It also seems to be a more musically simple track, with a repetitive guitar riff that plays throughout most of its length and slowly fades into the background as the song ends.
Deer Leap’s side of the split is great because despite the musical and lyrical variety of the songs, their are certain sounds and emotions running through all four that produce an undeniable feeling of cohesion. It was great seeing this band prove themselves on such a high profile release. Although most of my interest in this split was generated by TWIABP’s presence on it, I was surprised and impressed by Deer Leap’s contributions.
Of course, there’s a difference between being impressed and being blown away, which was my first reaction upon hearing the second side of this split. I know that I’ve hyped up The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die half to death, and that has no chance of stopping now. The four new TWIABP songs on this split simultaneously dispel any reservations that I’ve ever had in praising this band and reenforce everything that I like about them, all while demonstrating the group’s collective ability to evolve and adapt. They have done so brilliantly on this split, the four songs of which are easily the most impressive that they have released thus far.
Their half begins with “I Will Be Okay. Everything”, which perfectly sets the stage for the following songs with its stunning opening line. “No, we aren’t ghosts. Even ghosts have a home to haunt.” After this, the song explodes into something truly massive, rivaling Formlessness closer “Eyjafjallajokull Dance” in terms of sheer weight of sound, but outpacing it in emotion and pulse-pounding excitement. The band recently added a new member Chris Teti on guitar and trumpets, and you can definitely hear that they’re is a six-piece on this song. In addition to Tom Diaz, who has handled lead vocal duties on all of the past TWIABP releases, guitarists Greg Horbal and Derrick Shanholtzer are featured prominently on vocals. On “I Will Be Okay. Everything”, the three are all featured singing in quick succession, playing off each other and utilizing their distinct vocal and lyrical styles to produce something truly unique. It’s amazing how the combined work of three very different lyricists is more moving on this split than the single effort of any one of them could possibly be.
The strength of TWIABP has always been this sense of community that flows through their songs, and that has not disappeared at all on this release. In the complicated, emotional lyrics and communally sung/shouted vocals of all these songs, there is a feeling of strength in numbers. If you’ve ever shouted along to “Gordon Paul” at a TWIABP show, you know what this feels like, and the band does a great job of producing similar moments on this record.
If the previous song was that which set the stage for the new and improved TWIABP, then “Mega Steve” is a celebration of it. Here, Horbal harmonizes with Diaz while a powerful musical undercurrent flows beneath them. It’s the catchiest thing that they’ve ever put out, and also possibly the most joyous, at least until the song slows down and Shanholtzer takes over vocal duties. His rough-hewn shouted vocals sound from the distance, repeatedly urging the listener to “Remember when you were young”. Teti’s trumpet adds to the dark nostalgia that those lyrics conjure up. The ending adds a lot of depth to what would otherwise just be a joyful and upbeat (but still fantastic) song.
While both of those songs are great, I think “Bread For Brett” might be my favorite on the split. The track begins as an atmospheric mid-tempo piece with a militaristic drumbeat, but quickly transforms into the most uniformly upbeat song on the split once the vocals come in. Diaz and Horbal trade off verses almost playfully, working off each other yet again to produce a cohesive whole. The best moment comes when Tom emotively wails “Tear down your billboards, and all your streetlights!” right before Greg heads into his next verse. At the end of the song, as if it wasn’t great enough, they bring back the final shouted lines from Formlessness opener “Victim Kin Seek Suit”, giving them a new melody and a newfound sense of purpose.
The final track on the split is also the longest, and actually the longest song that The World Is… have recorded to date. “Wait… What?” is over 6 minutes long, and while some might expect a massive post-rock anthem as the closer, the band takes an alternate route. “Wait… What?” is melancholy and relatively low-key for the first few minutes, and only explodes in the traditional TWIABP fashion towards the end. Horbal and Diaz trade off verses again until Shanholtzer injects a needed aggression into the mix. At the end, the group finally brings the record full circle. “I will be okay,” Diaz sings in his particularly defeated sounding voice, before the rest of the band shouts back at him “EVERYTHING!” Wait what? Don’t think about it too hard. That’s how you close a record.
For Deer Leap, this is going to be the record that puts them on the map, in part because of the connection with The World Is, but mostly because their side is genuinely good. For The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, the split shows that they’re not just another band with one (or two) great seven inches, but that they’re actually on their way to becoming a great band — the kind that some people are going to really care about for a long time. If you ask me, they’re already there, but I’m just some kid from Connecticut.
My Heart To Joy - All of Life Is Coming Home (Live 05/14/2011)
This is the final song of their final set and will be on Fuck Off All Nerds: A Benefit Compilation in Memory of Mitch Dubey which we’ll be releasing soon.
Hearing this song live at this show was really one of the defining moments of my show going experience. I’ve already preordered the 12-inch and I can’t wait until it arrives.