March turned out to be a massive month for solid releases all over the punk spectrum so let’s just dive in, first with the albums that need checking out and then the singles and EPs that have been spinning here at Wannabe Manor.
The Maine – You Are OK
You Are OK is a sprawling fusion of Muse-type arena alt-rock slumming it with some ‘90s emo revival (think Yellowcard and their ilk) that relies on the booming pocket of drummer, Patrick Kirch, and bassist, Garrett Nickelsen, while the vocals of John O’Callaghan weave in out and around the mix occasionally having moments that sound like any one of Muse, Arctic Monkeys, and, even, Maroon 5 in the delivery patterns. Don’t let that scare you off. This is particularly well illustrated on “Numb Without You”. One criticism that could come about is if you’re trying to pin down any specific punk influence here but it’s more in the realm of how the band plays some positively orchestral power pop that has some relatively hyper glossy punk riffs operating at all times. It’s more an attitude than a traditional aesthetic. The key takeaway here is that this is an extremely well put together, produced, and executed emo album that rewards multiple listens because of its depth.
FFO: The Academy Is…, All Time Low, and We the Kings.
Death By Horse – Reality Hits Hard
This Swedish band start the proceedings on their second full-length with a solid slab of Bad Cop, Bad Cop style pop punk with “Narcissist” but as you dig deeper into the album we get to sample a pretty wide swathe of styles under that veneer. The album title hints at the theme of this record being stories of how reality tends to take us all down a peg from time to time but the music here charges forward with “fuck it, we’re only here for so long” kind of attitude.
“Dear Jim” sees the band experiment with a little sharper edge with some riffing straight out of the Bad Religion school of punk before exploding into an expansive bridge. This song gives us a little deeper look into the band’s repertoire and it’s well worth it. “Cancer” is another tune that delves deeper into the band’s stylistic possibilities with a dramatic take on rising up to life’s challenges. It’s not exactly emo, hardcore, or pop punk so much as a melding of all of those things. “Dancing Alone” follows finely in the footsteps of fellow Swedes, Satanic Surfers, in its thrashy pop. Which means, of course the next track, “Little Boy”, spins out into a ska send-up that is almost like a slightly trashy version of early No Doubt??? So, you get the idea. There’s a LOT operating under the hood of this album but it’s all done with the utmost precision. Album closer, “Flood”, is as close to a ballad as this band gets and it is legitimately haunting in its own way with soulful vocals, wailing feedback, and a mournful piano riff. It begs the question what style can this band not do?
FFO: Masked Intruder, RVIVR, and Direct Hit!
Downhaul – Before You Fall Asleep
Richmond, VA’s Downhaul deliver a fun and intoxicating brand of indie tinged punk with sardonic vocals that make for a solid comparison to the Smoking Popes.”Wires/Enough”, “Bedridden”, and “Shelf Life” are exemplary nuggets of power pop goodness. There’s just enough quirky indie power pop on this record that lends itself so well to the vocal style. It’s somewhere between spoken and sung with the occasional shouted backup vocals giving us a nice contrast even though the band continue to chug along. Case in point, “Level Set”.
A remarkable thing about this album is in its consistency across all songs, even if that makes it difficult to pick out a favorite. That’s not a bad thing in this case. This band conjures up images of so many bands that play college tours bringing their supreme awkwardness in a way that almost anyone can identify with. The album closes with a charming enough track, “Ring Out” that reads like a call of arms to live life as it is and if that’s means doing it clumsily then so be it. There’s even a hint of the sardonic delivery of Motion City Soundtrack as we wave a temporary goodbye to this band until we inevitably come back to them.
nightmarathons – Missing Parts
This Pittsburgh, PA band is strikingly similar to the Menzingers, Banner Pilot, Iron Chic, and other bands of that ilk. On Missing Parts they take a ramped up Replacements vibe and leave you with an undulating kind of pop-punk that reeks of stale beer and nostalgia. A bit like Pittsburgh itself. The kind of arpeggiated, propulsive riffs on “Comeback” combine with some really great vocal turns by what sounds like almost everyone in the band getting a shout in on the track.”Reset” is more of the same as the album propels forward charging ahead on ennui laden lyrics like the shouted “why can’t I be you?”
“Closer” takes a more ponderous and anthemic tack from the unbridled approach of the first third of the album. Even with this temporary shift in the pace the band are still encouraging you to sweatily sing along with them because even if you don’t know the words it will feel like you do by the time their gigantic choruses hit. Those choruses pop up in pretty much every song on the record. Overall, this is just a hell of a good times made from bad moments kind of album and band. Do yourself the favor, you melancholy fuck, and check this out.
La Dispute – Panorama
One of the immediate things you’ll notice on this post hardcore stalwart’s latest effort is that it is a more shiny, burnished version of the band but also that Jordan Dreyer’s vocals are released into the mix in a way that demands you lock onto them in order to catch just what he’s saying. On “Fulton Street I” your attention is immediately drawn to his words as the band glistens behind him in a seemingly never-ending shift between tension and release.
Early on, it becomes transparent that the overwhelming narrative arc of this album is about grief, how we deal with it, and how we both live and love in the face of its inevitability. Deep and heady stuff but would you expect less from this band? The threads of frustration towards one’s capabilities and limits becomes the foundation that “Anxiety Panorama” is built upon. The helter skelter swells in the guitars mark time while drawing you into the cathartic cyclone wrought by these feelings. Really, what this album illustrates is our difficulties with life, death, and how we as the loved and loving factor into it all.
While it feels somewhat disingenuous to pick out tracks on their own from this album, I feel the need to highlight both “View from Our Window” and “Footsteps at the Pond“ but that is only to say that these tracks are landmarks along the way of what feels like an immersive work meant to be listened to front to back, the audience going along for the ride in its entirety. It calls into question just how the band will present the material live. I would not be surprised at all if they decided to perform it in its fullest form.
If any album living in the realm of “punk” in any fashion could currently also reside in the places where epic films or expansive novels go, Panorama is one of these, not because it is grandiose or impenetrable but, rather, that it is altogether and achingly human.
Dead Tired – Full Vol.
Dead Tired are a pretty old school hardcore band with hints at crossover in the mix with the aggressive yelp of George Pettit (Alexisonfire). Some references include Cancer Bats, Burn, and Comeback Kid. On “Exhausting People”, the riffing and jackhammer drumming recall Black Flag in overall menace and fury. On “Music Enthusiast Blues” we get treated to an interesting groove that just feels sinister before blasting off into hyperspeed that might remind people of bands like Reversal of Man.
This band has a lot going on as they shift seamlessly through different phases of more traditional styles of hardcore. A case in point is track that harkens back to bands old and not so old like Nation of Ulysses and Paint It Black on “She’s In My Eyes”. This track even devolves into a clap-along bridge that comes off sounding anything but contrived. There’s no mistaking the swagger on display here. If you’ve been looking for something new that can scratch that more old school hardcore itch, look no further.
Crafter – Lasting Efforts
This album comes off as a fistfight in a dark alley between Modern Life Is War and Crime In Stereo. The title track here stands out particularly for infusing the brutal yet somehow tuneful display with some of the best touches of melodic guitar playing between sledgehammer riffs. There are also some pretty hefty metalcore touches throughout this album but it definitely leans more on anthemic hardcore as seen on “No Action Taken”.
One of the more intriguing aspects of this band is the melody that pops up in certain situations all over the record. It reminds one of those moments by similar bands such as Boy Sets Fire. Over the course of 30 minutes the band delivers 11 bangers none moreso than “Burning on the Doorstep” and “Whatever It Takes”. This is a really fresh take on straight forward hardcore that never gets repetitive.
Problem Daughter – Grow Up Trash
This band produce an excellent cross between such acts as the Riverboat Gamblers, Off With Their Heads, late period Lawrence Arms, and hints of Teenage Bottlerocket. “Modern Stigmata” stands out in the early part of the album with some nicely done harmony vocals over a driving, melodic guitar riff and finished off by some excellent drumming. There’s an overwhelming dose of “whoa oh oh”s that make you think of the best elements of basement shows.
“Self Amusing Smile” starts with a downbeat riff as a curveball before the band jumps into a nice groove that eventually leads to a fun little break that actually winks at Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Overall, this is a really promising album of tight, catchy, short songs with plenty to come back for time and again. “Tired About It” brings us bouncing towards the finish long with an awesomely sing along-able track to give us a little more of that sugar rush before we close out the album. Overall, this album has the kind of energy and complex melodies that make it a worthy addition to your rotation.
Punk Rock Jukebox: EPs & Singles
Dinosaur Pile-up – Thrash Metal Cassette
This band is basically an updated version of the Hold Steady, Nerf Herder, Weezer, and the like but there’s a sharpness to it, particularly on the ridiculous groove of the song’s opening passage, that makes Matthew Bigland’s semi-Grohlian shrieks just sound like a whole hell of a lot of fun.
In Her Own Words – Rose by the Ocean
First, this before you click: *This video includes a portrayal of a suicide attempt. Please use your discretion and know that it’s okay not to watch.* If you are battling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, please know that YOUR LIFE MATTERS. Hope is real. Help is real. Your story is important.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help. You can contact Crisis Text Line by texting the word TWLOHA to 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
I strongly debated not including the link to this video or song because of its subject matter BUT I think this is a thing that needs to be more out in the open, not so that we can become desensitized to it, but rather so that we as a community can figure out ways to address it as the epidemic that it’s become. Now, ALL THAT SAID, IHOW are a fabulous kind of emo revival band. They are pitch perfect in song structure and catchy choruses with the kind of emotive lyrics that will pull in fans of any of the litany of late ‘90s/early ‘00s emo bands.
Brutus – Carry
This is just flat out interesting, genre-bending punk tinged emo prog something something by Brutus out of Belgium. They meld elements of hardcore, blackgaze, and post-rock to create a heady mix of music. Definitely worth checking out.
Moderntears’ – A Thousand Times EP
This Italian band delivers brutally melodic emotional hardcore. Super straight forward but very very good.
Bad Luck. – Drug Phase EP
Bad Luck. bring a kind of Alkaline Trio sound littered with My Chemical Romance type vocals that actually works really, really well here.
SPQR – Josephine
Tight art rock with deep punk influences; the band would have readily found a home in the ‘90s Dischord stable
Cold Wrecks – Long Island
Weezer-esque indie rock/punk that delivers the kind of tuneful pessimism that we thought we maybe left behind a few years ago but this band proves it still has power amongst a sort of loose, fuzzed out sweaty bar kind of way that works overall.
Sik Oheso – Bad Tide
This is some more Alkaline Trio-influenced low-esteem driven, from the sound of it anyway, type punk that, honestly, is pretty superbly fun. The downside is that it’s almost impossible to find info on this band. If you guys find out more, point us in the right direction!
Sly Withers – Sad Guy
This Perth, Australia band performs a slightly more amped up take on (early) Frank Turner’s style of down-in-the-mouth odes to potentially lost loves and nights spent under the influence of too much alcohol.
Bars of Gold – Atlantic City
Former Bear vs. Shark guys doing new BVS type things. This is an excellent, bouncy, herky jerky kind of emo-indie with shouty, Lee Ving-esque vocals that evokes comparisons to a number of unsung bands (see: Bear vs. Shark) that never quite broke through from the stables of Jade Tree and and Deep Elm in that late ‘90s/early ‘00s period. Seems like there’s a lot of revival of that period happening now, dunnit?
Down Memory Lane – Deja Brews
Similar in vein to Millencolin, Strung Out, and late ‘90s skate/pop punk with very clean vocals. This band out of Montreal delivers on a lot of that itch for hyper speed drumming, melodic guitars, and layered vocals. Good shit.
Liberties – Are You Ok?
Brutal hardcore, mosh breakdown, with melodic bits? Check, check, check. Decidedly un-tuff guy hardcore. More good shit.
Dance Gavin Dance – Head Hunter
I mean, it’s DGD. You should know what to expect but this song is a hell of a lot of fun. Listen to it loud and apologize to the neighbors later.
Parting Gift – Ensom
There’s a heavy vibe not unlike, say Periphery and that ilk, running through Parting Gift’s track here. For me, I loved the production and shoegazey influences as well as the overall momentum of the song. Signed to Fearless, it looks like this band is one to keep an eye on.
Antillectual – Truth Hits Everybody
This political Dutch band encapsulate what would happen If the Police had become a full on pop punk band as this track from last year showed. This cover of one of that band’s songs just drives the point home.
Blood Command – Return of the Arsonist
Prog-punk that has hints of Coheed and Cambria and other, more straight forward punk influences. This Norwegian band slays this style and are well worth checking out. You can grab the full EP here.
Crooked Teeth – Beg
This California based trio deliver some really solid alt rock/power pop that routinely shifts from the kind of ringing guitars that marked a lot of the ‘90s alternative scene before morphing into a giant wall of distortion. All of that provides the background for the plaintive vocals that will have you dad rocking your way to the repeat button.
Amygdala – I Hate to Say It
Harkening back to a lineage of bands such as Orchid and Reversal of Man, Amygdala, present a pulverizing, dynamic style of hardcore typified by angular and brutish guitars combined with piston-like drumming and screaming vocals.
Beach Slang – AAA
Led by a heavy dose of jangly, fuzzy guitars and wispy, plaintive, melodic vocals conjuring up the images of Minneapolis stalwarts such as the Replacements and Husker Du this might be one of the most addicting tracks on this month’s list.