In case you missed this yesterday, I’m putting out a new full length album in 2 weeks on May 24th. Read about it here and follow this blog for more of my music:
MY NEW ALBUM DROPS ON MAY 24th 2013, TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY.
As you probably know by now, it’s called Could Be Bitter Forever. That’s the thematically appropriate, self-absorbed cover art above. It will be available to stream and download on my BANDCAMP PAGE for FREE online at MIDNIGHT on 5/24. My band and I recorded it over the past four months at The Mannor in Wallingford, Connecticut with Ian Bates of Manners. I’m incredibly proud of how well this album turned out, and I look forward to hearing what you all think about it.
In addition to my contributions as songwriter, the record features a host of supplementary musicians and vocalists including some of my best friends. Could Be Bitter Forever is by far the most ambitious art project I have ever taken on, and it sounds better to me than I could have possibly expected, thanks largely to the work of the incredibly talented people who helped me make it. Check out the tracklist below and please reblog!
Could Be Bitter Forever (58:31) — out 5/24/13
- 1. “Improved Resolutions” (5:59)
- 2. “Plans For The Future” (2:03)
- 3. “A Published Author” (2:43)
- 4. “The Benefits Do Not Outweigh The Detriments” (3:21)
- 5. “Circulation” (7:27)
- 6. “I Learned To Be Alive In January” (3:47)
- 7. “No Exception” (7:41)
- 8. “Could Be Bitter Forever” (9:58)
- 9. “The Western Face” (4:54)
- 10. “Driving To The Hospital” (5:32)
- 11. “New You” (5:13)
PREMIERE: Milkshakes - “Distant”
I’m happy to announce the exclusive premiere of a new track from the Connecticut punk band Milkshakes, one of my favorite local acts and a group whom I consider very close friends of mine. This song, entitled “Distant,” will appear on their imminently forthcoming 4-song EP Exactly Where I Need To Be. Some readers may recall that I had this group perform an acoustic set and interview on my radio show last August. Admittedly, when one has friends in the music scene, it’s often hard to think critically and be impartial when appreciating their music. Make no mistake, however; my love for this band’s music has little to do with my love for them as people.
Many times I have seen this group play in basements and DIY spaces across the state, always conveying an unassuming self-effacement that stands in marked contrast with the quality and intensity of their performance. With mature grit and experiential vigor, this mostly-teenaged band sells their brand of emo-stained pop punk terrifically in their live shows, and on “Distant,” they come closer than ever to capturing that unfiltered angst in a studio setting.
In its 3-minute running time, “Distant” oscillates between the crunchy power chord punk of their excellent 2012 split with Wisdom Teeth, and a new, previously unexplored solemnity. It’s as catchy as anything on that split, but there’s an element of maturity present on this recording that wasn’t there in the scrappiness of those three tracks. When frontman Tim Diltz sings “I’m not waiting around for you” towards the end of the track, there is a knowing acceptance in his unexpectedly fragile voice, like a pat on the back from a best friend. His lyrics may be simple, but the sentiment that they express is profound and universal. As the rest of the band lurches behind him, guitars blazing, the listener can feel an overwhelming internal conflict expressed outwardly. This kind of translation is what punk has always been the best at accomplishing in comparison to other genres, and Milkshakes validate that notion with this track.
Exactly Where I Need To Be Tracklist:
- 1. Distant
- 2. Snow
- 3. Bleed Out
- 4. The Boy With the Wagon Tattoo
Donovan Wolfington - “Hell”
Riding on the success of their stellar last single "Spencer Green," the noisy New Orleans emo band Donovan Wolfington dropped a new track earlier this month. “Hell” rises up and ignites from the reverberant ashes of “Spencer Green, exploding with a drum roll and crunchy, lo-fi guitars before building into something more shoegaze-derived. After two minutes of rollicking, the song breaks down more immediately than its predecessor into a shuddering mess of guitar noise that ends with one final screamed expletive.
This band owes as much to No Age and Jay Reatard as they do Snowing, and their noisy take on twinkly emo is fresh and rewarding. In a year in which bands like Teen Suicide have breathed new life into the genre by virtue of instrumental diversity and atmospheric experimentation, it’s also nice to see a band like Donovan Wolfington going in the opposite direction — catchy punk rock melodies, noisily layered guitars, and distilled youthful energy.
Stream/Download: The Whoopass Girls - Headacher (2012)
The Whoopass Girls, a Montana punk trio, just dropped a brand new EP called Headacher, featuring an inspired and raw take on emo revival. You might recognize the band’s frontman Ethan Uhl from his solo work as Henry Bemis Is A Superhero, and the vocal cord-shredding howl that he uses so chillingly on his solo stuff definitely feels at home with the propulsive backing of a live punk band on this EP. Uhl’s songwriting, which has always been confessional to the point of occasional cringe-inducement, is still firmly rooted in personal loss, self-hate, and heartbreak, although he’s getting better at articulating those themes with more tact and subtlety.
Headcher's best tracks are those that retain a feeling of self-assured punk rock swagger while simultaneously dealing with crippling insecurity and pain in the lyrics. “The Scott Scharinger Shuffle,” named after the Dads' guitarist, is one such track, featuring a mightily fuzzy bass riff and tastefully sloppy drums as support for Uhl's distinctive shriek. It's impressive the way that Uhl communicates melody through his voice, even though he's not doing very much traditional singing, and “Scott Scharinger” stands out because of how deceptively catchy it is. Later on, “Tree Forts” manages to wrangle a tale of death in a horrific car accident into a familiar power pop chord progression, mixing energies and emotions into a confusing but largely appealing blend. It's the kind of emo song that leaves the listener wondering whether it's meant to be shouted along with in a room full of friends, or listened to solemnly at home, maybe with some candles lit or something. When the music cuts out and gang vocals come in at the end screaming that “nothing will feel alright now that you're not alive,” the answer is clear: somehow, it's both.
Stream the new Whoopass Girls EP above, and download it for free via bandcamp.
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.
Stream/Download: Teen Suicide - I Will Be My Own Hell Because There Is A Devil Inside My Body (2012)
Maryland-based noise punks Teen Suicide dropped a new record yesterday featuring the lengthy, dramatic, Brand New-reminiscent title that you see above. It’s going to require some time to process and wrap your head around, but if your tastes align with mine (like they should), you’ll be enjoying this a lot on your first listen. It’s like The Unicorns without the jokes, Snowing without the twinkle, or any given slowcore band without the whole “slow” aspect.
The production aesthetic is lo-fi, but not cripplingly so; although the somber keyboard-led tracks (“Cop Graveyard”, “Grim Reaper”) and the acoustic closer “Swallow” sound like they were recorded in a tin can, the faster, more aggressive full band tracks are mixed and mastered rather well. “Give Me Back To The Sky” builds with jangly guitars into a ramshackle singalong anthem with haunting female backing vocals, while the depressingly catchy “The Way We Were With People” features a Simpsons sample and multi-tracked vocals that sound despondent at first but become more and more ragged throughout its duration.
Throughout the record’s 25 minute running time, Teen Suicide makes a pretty convincing case for a new way to convey angst, sadness, and ennui. Instead of mournfully strumming an acoustic guitar or thrashing out in anger, they hone that bitterness into well-crafted noise pop songs with a pained, wounded heart at the center. On I Will Be My Own Hell…, that approach seems to be working wonders.
Stream/Download: I Kill Giants - We Can Live In The Exact Same Place (2012)
On the spectrum between ‘math rock’ and ‘punk’, the excitable Massachusetts band I Kill Giants definitely falls to the left. Their new record We Can Live In The Exact Same Place, released back in May, features a shouty version of the math rock noodlings of numerous bands on the Sargent House roster, condensed into just under 6 minutes of music (seriously). It has a youthful urgency to it, undoubtedly informed by the shockingly brief song lengths, that makes it seem like this band realized one day that it was of utmost importance to write and record a math rock album right now. The energy is endearing, even if it occasionally leads to sloppy playing and songs that don’t feel finished.
Despite the album’s 6-minute duration, there are moments that drag somehow, especially the completely unnecessary and pedantic spoken word piece “A Safe Return,” but thankfully that song is only 40 seconds. The remaining 5 minutes or so are otherwise pretty great, especially the anthemic opener “Life Instead Of Sleep” and the relatively long (1 minute) closer “Secret Tunnel.”
Stream We Can Live In The Exact Same Place above and download it via bandcamp for whatever you wish to pay. And, because it’s pretty fun and well-edited, check out the 30 second video for “Life Instead Of Sleep” below.
Stream/Download: I’m ok. - Fuck Everything EP (2012)
Willimantic, CT punks I’m ok. have come a long way since their early days, back when they were still called iwishididntexistrightnow. Their progress over the past couple years has culminated in a new EP called Fuck Everything, recorded and produced by Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak, who plays drums in the band and is also a member of the atmospheric emo group The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die. Although it was still home recorded at Derrick’s home studio The Handsome Woman, the production quality on this EP is way better than anything the band has put out before.
The three songs should all be familiar to anyone who has been tracking the progress of this band for a while, but the production is so improved that they practically sound like new songs compared to their older demo versions. “I’m Going To Quit Big Y” is a nihilistic, rambunctious emo anthem that culminates in an awesome shoutalong chorus of “Eat shit and die,” but “Twinkle Twinkle Death Star” is probably the best of the three, and certainly the most emotionally charged. The midway-point climax of the latter is probably the best moment I’ve heard in a twinkly emo song in quite a while. No word yet on whether this will see a release of any kind on Shanholtzer-Dvorak’s newly christened label Broken World Media, but I’m hoping that it will.
Stream Fuck Everything above and download it for whatever you want to pay on bandcamp.
Desaparecidos - “MariKKKopa”
After their surprise reunion announcement back in April, it was only a matter of time before we heard some new music from Desaparecidos, the punk band that Bright Eyes mastermind Conor Oberst fronted in the early 2000s. Although the group disbanded shortly after putting out their excellent 2002 record Read Music/Speak Spanish, Oberst is clearly angry again, and the new Desaparecidos single is testament to that.
This band was never about being subtle, but the gloriously titled “MariKKKopa” might be their most shockingly declarative political statement to date. Over a pummeling instrumental foundation of razorlike guitars, drums, and synth that should be familiar to any Desaparecidos fans, Oberst sets his lyrical sights on Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the racist profiling laws recently implemented in Arizona. He’s always been wont to use an ironic turn of phrase, but “MariKKKopa” drips thoroughly and completely in sarcasm and irony. “It’s time we had some justice for the white race on this earth,” Oberst sneers mockingly in the first verse.
There is something that feels very strange about hearing Oberst scream again, and at 32, he can’t quite do it as well as he did ten years ago, but it is remarkably refreshing to hear Oberst get so visceral. After the strange, disconnected Bright Eyes album The People’s Key last year, this new Desaparecidos track is pointing in a positive, angrier direction for Omaha’s former wunderkind.
"MariKKKopa" will be released as a 7" record tomorrow as a double a-side with "Backsell," another new track, which is currently streaming at Alternative Press. The 7” goes onsale at midnight tonight at the Desaparecidos website.
Stream/Download: Tawny Peaks - Tawny Peaks (2012)
The Montclair-based twinkly emo group Tawny Peaks has been accruing some impressive hype recently for a good reason. For one thing, they’re a remarkably young band. At least one of their members is still in high school, and their talented producer/guitarist Sam Skinner graduated just a few months ago. But more importantly, Tawny Peaks is also one of the most refreshing and interesting new groups to try their hand at this style in some time, regardless of their age.
With their brand new full length album Tawny Peaks, the five piece group have delivered a somewhat anomalous emo revival record — namely, one that resorts to neither the musical nor lyrical cliches that have become associated with the movement in the past five years. The band accomplishes this by taking a less hard-edged approach than many of their peers, exploring math rock territory openly throughout the record and maintaining an impressive production value throughout. On the spectrum from screamo to American Football, this band definitely sides with Mike Kinsella, employing noodly guitar lines that mostly retain a sense of purpose and vocals that rarely strain further than a pallid whine. The harmonizing vocals of Charlie Perris and Molly Grund stand out often on this record, particularly on tracks like “Collect Calling” and the gentle acoustic number “March Sadness,” which evokes the lush folk soundscapes of The Act Of Estimating As Worthless.
The clear highlight on this release is the closing track “Bring Back The Mountain,” a stirring, heavily emotive 8-minute anthem that distills the band’s mathy ramblings in its first half and builds up to a breathtaking climax in its second. Others, such as the opener “With Steps,” offer a more immediate pop catharsis than the powerful closer. With 8 tracks clocking in at a total of 36 minutes, Tawny Peaks is a relatively ambitious release by punk standards, especially coming on the heels of the Harris Harris EP last year. Although emo bands have a notoriously brief shelf-life, here’s hoping that there’s more to be heard from this particular group.
Stream Tawny Peaks above, and download it from the band’s bandcamp page. They seem to have run out of free downloads, but they’ve included a mediafire link as well if you want it for free.
Donovan Wolfington - “Spencer Green”
The colorfully-named Donovan Wolfington is a five piece punk group based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Although not particularly known for its punk scene, New Orleans has been a harbinger of musical progress for as long as anyone can remember, so it should be no surprise that this great new band hails from there.
The group debuted with a four track demo EP last year called Sometimes, Nostalgia, but their new single “Spencer Green” hints at some larger ambitions. The most interesting thing going on here is the production, engineered and mixed by Ross Farbe, who coated this track in a thin layer of reverb that accentuates the tactile qualities of the guitars and the searing rawness of the vocals in the verses. The song itself falls, rather predictably, somewhere between 90s emo and indie rock, but the production and instrumentation make it stand out among its emo revival peers nicely. Hints of synth and gentle female backing vocals contrast well with the screamed lead vocals and self-loathing lyrics, while the tasteful reverb wash gives “Spencer Green” some noise pop flavor.
On a conceptual level, this band clearly has their shit together — just as the lead singer begins to scream “Everything I planned is wrong,” the instrumentation around him falls apart into a mess of screeching guitar feedback and smashed cymbals. The effect works; this is a band to keep an eye on, as long as they don’t destroy themselves any time soon.
Stream “Spencer Green” above and download it for whatever you want to pay from Donovan Wolfington’s bandcamp page. This track will appear on a forthcoming album which should be out in the fall on Chinquapin Records.
EDIT: Derrick Shanholtzer informs me that the new record will also be released on casette on Broken World Media. Neat!
Everyone Everywhere - “$1,000,000,000”
Earlier today, the Philadelphia emo band and Into It. Over It. split pals Everyone Everywhere announced a new full length album called Everyone Everywhere, out August 7th on the band’s own record label. Along with the announcement, they debuted a tracklist, cover art, and a new single from the forthcoming LP. That single is called “$1,000,000,000” (yes, that’s one billion dollars) and it’s named after the approximate amount of money that they’re bound to make from record sales once the new album comes out.
Seriously though, this is some really nice, gently twinkling indie/emo. It’s as easy to lose yourself in the guitars and vocal melodies as it must be to get lost in the woods on that beautiful album cover. If this isn’t the sweet sound of summer, I don’t know what is.
Spirit Night - One Man Houses (2012)
Earlier this year, Derrick Shanholtzer from The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die unveiled Broken World Media, his boldly named new record label, and announced ambitious plans to release new music from his various bands in addition to other budding independent artists. Among the label’s very first releases comes One Man Houses, the new LP from the West Virginia/Brooklyn group Spirit Nights.
A project fronted by singer/songwriter Dylan Balliett, Spirit Nights has been kicking around for a while, but they’ve never made a record quite like this before. After releasing the moody, sonically disparate record What We Will Be in 2010, the group sought to craft a more focused and refined rock record. That’s exactly what they’ve done with One Man Houses, a visceral and direct punk album with forceful lyrics and an intensely coherent musical framework.
In a way, One Man Houses is reminiscent of Mountain Smashers, the 2011 record from New Jersey’s By Surprise — Both are jangly, straightforward, emo-tinged indie rock records, and both come from relatively unknown bands with heavily undervalued talent. The lyrical connections are pretty hard to deny as well — Try to find another pair of albums as sonically similar as these two that also bear explicitly stated references to the same American writers. For Spirit Night, it’s “Kerouac.” For By Surprise, it was Thoreau… and also Kerouac.
Like any great lo-fi indie rock record, One Man Houses boasts its share of ironic slacker sentiments. “I’m too busy reading Kerouac to drive my car cross country,” Balliett sings on one track. Overall though, One Man Houses leans more towards Pinkerton than Pavement on the indie rock lyrical spectrum. Balliett spends a great deal of his time oversharing about self-loathing and heartbreak, extolling the virtues of jerking off and taking pills to cope with “real pain” on “Better Off.” Elsewhere on “Living Room,” he reminds the lister that “[his] heart still breaks every month or so over little things.” You’ve heard this all before, of course, and many of the lyrics on this record unfortunately lack the individuality to separate Spirit Nights from their emotive peers.
Every once in a while, however, Balliett strikes a lyrical vein that indicates his true creative potential and sets a high standard for lyrical excellence that the rest of the album can’t quite measure up to. On the chilling penultimate track “The Last Time,” the album’s best and longest song, the band slows things down musically, allowing Balliett to explore disturbing and ambiguous lyrical territory to great effect. “I know where you keep your letters / And I know where you keep the bullets to your gun,” he sings with cold certainty, “I don’t want to have to kill you / I don’t want to have to kill anyone.” Although he offers hints throughout the song’s six minute length, its subject remains open to the listener’s interpretation. This kind of ‘anti-oversharing’ suits Balliett’s lyrical pen much better than the opposite style, which he stubbornly employs throughout most of the album.
The lyrics may be a little lacking in luster overall, but that shouldn’t discount the quality of the songwriting and musicianship throughout the record. One Man Houses shines with lo-fi luminescence and just enough grit to justify tagging this as “punk” in your iTunes. Tracks like the opener “Goodbye Jones” don’t straddle the line between indie rock and emo so much as they veer wildly and erratically between the two, taking the listener on a sonic joyride that’s actually a lot of fun, considering the singer is shouting about being along and miserable most of the time.
Among the highlights is the band’s version of “Rubberneck,” a cover of one of my favorite songs by David Bello, an enigmatic fellow West Virginian with a seemingly bottomless discography. They wrench the song out of its original acoustic context and mold it into a cathartic punk anthem, demonstrating not only the impressive malleability of Bello’s material but also the band’s remarkable talent as arrangers and interpreters. This is how covers should be done. After the “Rubberneck” cover, which comes in the middle of the record, Spirit Night goes on something of an experimental tear, flirting with earworm garage rock and even breaking out an acoustic guitar on “Living Room” before unveiling the previously mentioned masterpiece “The Last Time,” the second to last track.
The album ends on a less breathtaking note with a song called “Grasshoppers,” a straight up ripoff of Weezer's beloved “Surf Wax America” from their 1994 debut — enjoyable, but frustrating nevertheless. In its least interesting form, revivalist indie rock is appealing only in its similarity to the music of past indie rock records. At its best, it reminds the listener of why people continue to rip off bands like Weezer, Sebadoh, and Pavement in the first place. On One Man Houses, Spirit Night falls into the latter camp most of the time, but not as consistently as they ought to.