The Top 5 Most Underappreciated Post Rock Bands

Pretensions aside, post rock is a genre that is standing in brackish water right now. I suppose it’s true that it is better to have a glutton of bands in a specific genre than not enough to find some enjoyable acts, but this genre is really testing the limits of what is considered plagiarism. In terms of looking at it as the rabid fan that I am, the overarching issue seems to be the exclusion of different influences. Post rock has been living in a bubble for so long that it rarely seems like it carries any emotional weight at all, and unfortunately it just doesn’t take long for bands to keep recycling the same drivel over and over again. Moody, subdued pieces build up to a climactic fury before it fades into obscurity; it’s becoming a familiar story to say the least, and unless a band does it extraordinarily well, it’s practically always a snoozefest for the listener.  In lieu of these points, I would like to direct you to some of the lesser-known post rock that are simply doing things just a bit differently than most out there. These are the bands that make me sit back and close my eyes, the bands that take me to the edge of a precipice and spring my eyes open, revealing all of the world’s problems and the beauty that surrounds us. You see, post rock in its purest form is really just trying to articulate that life is individually depressing but unilaterally beautiful, and thus worth it. That is my interpretation of it, and these bands bring these hard-to-explain emotions to light better than most.

1. Giants

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Giants have all of the makings of a great post rock band, but the thing that sets them apart from the myriad of others that sound similar are the stark differences in atmosphere that they employ. There are these passages of absolutely beautiful guitar work that create focused pieces of ethereal music, exploding into cathartic and majestic distortion. However, the most interesting oddity that makes them different is the meandering little guitar lines that are incredibly reminiscent of late-nineties Modest Mouse and the minimalist drums that accompany them; Giants aren’t afraid to sound bombastically larger than life one moment, and then morose and delightfully one-dimensional the next. It’s the aural equivalent of plodding along a path, one foot in front of the other, until you raise your head and see a vast expanse in front of you. Giants’ 2008 release Old Stories takes on a story of a fisherman at sea, and delivers perfectly. The somber atmosphere explodes at just the right moments, and they take ample time to build up to their individual water-soaked climaxes. Take a listen to the pensive and dreading “Fisherman’s Prayer” and watch it transition into the joyous and sun-filled conclusion of “At Last, Ashore”, and you’ll be able to see exactly why this band is so special. This is a band that can tell a cohesive story without any words, and one with a happy ending at that.

2. Joy Wants Eternity

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On the outside, it would be easy to assume that Joy Wants Eternity is just another post rock band. That’s certainly what I thought when I first listened to You Who Pretend to Sleep. It sounded formulaic to say the least, and after I purchased it, I didn’t come back to it for quite some time. One fateful night, I was tossing and turning in bed with a fever that just would not go away. Simultaneously sweating and freezing, I miserably tried to find something, anything to take my mind of my sickness. I chose Joy Wants Eternity, and 38 minutes later I was floored. The low feeling that everyone encounters when being sick was what it took for me to understand why this band was incredibly unique; they were beautifully melancholic. When I say that, I don’t mean that they had some pretty and depressing twinkly guitars that reminded me a dead dog; it was deeper than that. Whether Joy Wants Eternity is punishing the listener with spastic and fuzzed-out guitars (“Existences Rust”) or creating subtle mood with ambient-esque soundscapes (“Death Is a Door”), they are tapping into the human condition in a way that is incredibly difficult to do. Mellow keyboard work meshes with post rock bravado to create something that is starkly different.

3. Lavinia

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Much of this genre is about isolation; post rock often hints at the despondency associated with it. It is a logical theme to grace the music; after all, how emotionally affecting can a peak be without valleys? Lavinia take this idea to an extreme and are all the better for it, taking their brush and painting Impressionist valleys and Jackson Pollack-like peaks. Instead of bothering with any sort of positive climax, Lavinia take depressive atmosphere and superbly craft it into angry and aggressive pockets of music. Nate Schumaker’s vocals sound like Robert Smith from the Cure decided to try his hand at a heavier approach to music, these elements coalescing into some of the strongest songs of the genre. Hell, how they are able to make this angry music sound so beautiful is certainly beyond my understanding, but they are treading new terrain on a planet that appeared devoid of new life.

4. …Of Sinking Ships

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…Of Sinking Ships is a creation of ex-Hopesfall guitarist Chad Waldrup, and it’s about as unique as a one-man post rock outfit can get. In Hopesfall, Waldrup would utilize clean-sounding guitar to accent the more oft-used heavily distorted passages, which was a revolutionary stylistic departure from what a lot of melodic hardcore was seeing. With …Of Sinking Ships, Waldrup does the exact opposite, using the distortion of the guitar to create an underlying atmosphere and allowing clean guitar lines to breathe in all of their beautiful glory. The unique aspect of his music is that it focuses on the journey, rather than reaching any sort of definite destination. Instead of incredibly serious passages building up to cinematic explosions, OSS is content to take a gorgeous melody and jam on it for several minutes at a time, employing very small variations as the song goes on. It creates a hypnotic appeal, and sunny disposition heard in the majority of these songs give it a starkly different feel than most of his moody contemporaries. …Of Sinking Ships knows exactly how to have fun with an album, and luckily for us, Waldrup included us fuddy-duds on the guest list.

5. The Candlepark Stars

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There aren’t many post rock bands that are able to make music as beautiful as Kerry Muzzey. The man behind The Candlepark Stars moniker, he has continued to put out gorgeously-textured soundscapes that are incredibly affecting for years now. There is a contemplative atmosphere that exists in Muzzey’s work that allows for the listener’s mind to wander to its own set of desires and worries, and then float away into the relaxing and vast expanse. Sometimes music becomes too convoluted for its own good, allowing image and genre restrictions to edge out what really matters. The Candlepark Stars simply make beautiful music to remind you that the world is, well, beautiful. If it doesn’t seem like that novel of a concept to you, I’d say that you’d be hard-pressed to name an album similar to this gorgeous ambient-meets-post rock  hybrid. Sit back and enjoy a beautiful moment in life while this man guides you through it in your headphones; we certainly all deserve and need it.

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New Cathedral-Ghost

Ghost

New Cathedral want to haunt you with their new EP Ghost. I say that with complete seriousness, and even though it may sound cliche, this release is anything but that. It has become increasingly harder to provide listeners with a healthy dose of hard rock while still managing to sound passionate and original. In the the age of Internet gimmicks and banal, uninspired pop music, this band wants to provide you with nothing but an honest representation of how these four men view the world. Vocalist/guitarist Scott Perez has quite the set of pipes on him, leading the band with soaring vocals when the instrumentation is in full swing and using his lower register to provide passionate and hushed vocals among the ethereal atmosphere that is present. Many bands choose to employ the dichotomy of heaviness and contemplative atmosphere, but New Cathedral are able to switch back and forth with incredible ease without making it seem that two songs are being mashed together. “Emerald Eyes” starts off as an excellent mid-paced song, and builds up to an extremely climactic ending where Perez, gasping and screaming, ends the song on the heaviest note of GhostThe angular guitar riffing that is present in slower song “Stay” helps to build the Thrice-like verses and larger-than-life chorus. The drums provide a solid backbone with the occasional surprise fill, which suits the music better than anything else. There is a restraint and patience that is not present in many alternative and indie rock bands that this one possesses in spades. The perfect example of this is the epic and larger-than-life beginning to the last track “I Won’t Come Around Pt. 2”; the woah-ohs that dominate the chorus point show just how dynamic and exciting New Cathedral can be. The beautiful and energetic guitar solo that Ricky Stephens uses towards the end of the song is reminiscent of Dredg, and is a perfect example of how this band can take elements of the best parts of genres of music and employ them seamlessly and creatively in their music. The small details make all of the difference here, as the dirty bass riff and rapid-fire drums that sound off “Holy Ghost” segue perfectly into the catchy chorus.

The best part of Ghost is undoubtedly the atmosphere that is incorporated into it. For as anthemic as it is, the slower songs are so emotionally charged that it in itself makes the music almost palpable. It seems like the songs twist and morph into their own separate entities while keeping with a strong underlying theme. The maturity that this band has shown from their prior release to this one is staggering, and the obvious chemistry will propel them even further in the future. As a reviewer, there are some times when I feel as if I am phoning it in; looking for insight into an album that simply has not one iota of substance. New Cathedral has given me an album that has great songwriting value, interesting lyrics, and some incredible atmospheric layers to peel back. With bands like Thrice disbanding, I can safely say without being affected by hype that New Cathedral could potentially hold the flag for hard rock bands that have substance in the future. I implore you to have a listen to the whole album; the Ghost that haunts them is one that I am familiar with, and you probably are as well.

Rating: 4.1/5

New Cathedral Bandcamp

Hip Hop Classics: “Ironman” Ghostface Killah

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Circa 1996 Ghostface drops his first solo album and holy god damn. 
Even though the mood of the album can change at any moment, every 
track on Ironman kills it, so listen to it already. 
I could end this review right there.

But I won't. 

Though technically a solo album "Ironman" features many of Ghostface' Wu Tang colleagues, most predominantly Raekwon and Cappadonna.
The RZA on production keeps the samples and beats flowing throughout, drawing influence and sounbytes from blaxploitation films and 60's soul music. RZA is definitely the ringer on this album, check out some of the instrumentals for these songs. Spoiler alert; they are sick as hell.

Raekwon kicks off the album on "Iron Maiden" setting the tone for the rest of the album, mostly fast paced and always on point. GFK has a knack for channeling his anger and aggression into sick verses, but 'Ironman' features some tracks that show a more introspective and thoughtful approach as well, especially on 'All That I Got Is You' and 'Motherless Child' 

GFK's lyrical prowess has always been top notch, even in his first 
solo attempt it's obvious, dude was always bound for big shit in the future. The flow is so fast it would cause lesser emcee's to fold, but GFK always keeps it tight and effortless. 
Check out his bars on 'Camay' for an example, voice like butter son.

I could keep going on and on about this record, about how fucking talented every single person featured on it is, how GFK obliterated any doubts people had about him as a solo artist. But the fact is this, if you enjoy hip-hop and you haven't given 'Ironman' a chance yet, then time to stop sleeping.

TS Top Tracks:

'Iron Maiden'
'Winter Warz'
'Camay'
'The Soul Controller'


'Motherless Child' Video






  




Artist to Watch: Modern Baseball

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If you would have told me five years ago that an underground pop-punk band on a independent record label would have a record debut at #84 on the Billboard Top 200, I would have laughed in your face. Little would I have known that in 2014 Philadelphia’s Modern Baseball would make me eat my words. Not only does MB have the distinction of being on the same list as (and only a few places under) Nickleback and Justin Timberlake, but the record that made it all happen entitled You’re Gonna Miss It All also debuted at number #1 for vinyl sales.

Modern Baseball’s sound is an interesting blend of underground pop-punk and a more mainstream (and dare I say marketable) incarnation of pop-punk, creating a vibe that has a little something for everyone. You’re Gonna Miss It All consists of twelve fun, mid-tempo songs chock full of positive energy. At first glance, the melodies on this album, both guitar and vocal, are what make this release stick out. Upon further inspection however, one will find the honesty and earnestness of the lyrics as well as the sarcastic wit peppered throughout as that which will give this album staying power that pretty guitar chords alone would not be able to offer.

The fact that Modern Baseball not only made the upper half of the Billboard Top 200 but also has the #1 Vinyl release under their belt shows that we as listeners now have the power to give bands the recognition that they actually deserve. I personally think that Modern Baseball has earned the recognition they are receiving based specifically on how solid of a record You’re Gonna Miss It All is. You can decide for yourself by going to Run for Cover Records’ band camp and giving the album a listen. If you are a fan of any type of pop-punk then you probably wont be disappointed.

http://runforcoverrecords.bandcamp.com/album/youre-gonna-miss-it-all

https://www.facebook.com/ModernBaseball

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Head of the Family: Kid Dynamite


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In this installment of the Kid Dynasty series, we look at the Don of the family himself, Kid Dynamite. Kid Dynamite was started in late 1997 by ex-Lifetime guitarist Dan Yemin and former Lifetime drummer Dave Wagenschutz, both of whom had recently relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Yemin had been recording instrumental music on his own which had a sound reminiscent of early Gorilla Biscuits as well as some 7 Seconds and Lifetime influences. The duo decided to create a full band to compliment the music previously written by Yemin. Friend of the band Steve Farrell was brought in to take up bass duties. Now all that was needed was a singer to go with the band’s aggressive sound.

The band decided to hold tryouts in order to fill the vacant singer position. A decent amount of prospective vocalists came out including Jade Tree co-founder Darren Walters and future Strike Anywhere vocalist Thom Barnett.  In the end the guys decided to go with the young Jason Shevchuk to round out the line up. Shevchuk’s vocal abilities were seen as a great asset to the band, being able to produce an abrasive screams as well as a more melodic singing sound. Shevchuk also had a knack for creating catchy vocal hooks as well as bringing the “woah-oahs” that the band has since become so popular for utilizing. The band then recruited friends Collin McGinniss and Dave Haus as the only two roadies that the band would ever have (the importance of these two will become apparent in later articles).

Kid Dynamite would release their self-titled album that following year on Jade Tree records. The band embarked on a relatively long tour (one of only two) later that year. Whereas the band and the material they produced were very well received, the rigorous touring schedule would take its tole. Soon after that tour, bass player Steve Farrell would leave the band. Kid Dynamite had Grey Area member Vinnie Value take up bass duties while the res of the members looked for a more permanent replacement. They found that replacement in D. C. native and fan of the band, Michael “Spider” Cotterman. The band released their second and last full length entitled “Shorter, Faster Louder” in 2000. They then embarked on their second full American tour that year in support of the album.

Relationships within the band once again became strained. Yemin was finishing up his PhD. in Psychology and was beginning to practice. Shevchuk was finishing up film school and was considering a career in film editing.  Differing interests as well as strained relationships would lead to the break up of Kid Dynamite in late 2000. The band would reunite for a rash of reunion performances and festival appearances between 2011 and 2013 including “This is Hardcore” fest, “The Fest 10” and “Fuck Yeah Fest.” They announced in 2013 that there would no longer be any more reunion shows of any kind. Their last show was in New York with punk band, Joyce Manor as the opener.

Despite their incredibly short career, Kid Dynamite left a massive imprint on both the hardcore and punk rock scenes. Their sound inspired many bands of similar genres such as Shook Ones and Go Rydell. Proceeds from some  of their reunion shows helped a fledgling non-profit organization become a respectable business. Thanks to the emulation of their sound as well as the direct monetary support of non-profit agencies Kid Dynamite’s sound will impact music and the lives of those involved for many years to come.

Be on the look out for the next installment, where we will begin to delve in to the family tree with the family Consigliere, Paint it Black.

Artist To Watch: New Cathedral

It’s safe to say that ethereal vocals and the hard crunch of guitars are a winning combination in rock music; that truth doesn’t hold any less water with Floridian band New Cathedral. These four musicians would like to introduce you to their interesting yet familiar combination of pensive indie rock and gruff alternative rock. One look at the album art for their upcoming release Ghost and even their 2012 release Haunted would make it easy to see that this band has an inclination to dive deeper than the average rock band, and their music is all the better for it. Favoring uptempo and soaring vocals for the most part, they know when to scale it back in order to create mood and an emotional payoff for the listeners. The build-up for their song “Interlude” off of their 2012 release Haunted shows discipline and has an almost cinematic feel to it, as it hearkens back to a time when music wasn’t about fitting a few hundred notes into every thirty seconds of a song. It is simply soulful, catchy rock that begs to be heard.

Luckily, everyone is in for a treat from New Cathedral in the form of a streaming single called “Stealing Mirrors” from their EP Ghost, slated to be physically released on March 6th of this year. I know what you’re wondering, and it’s true; New Cathedral wants to be our Valentine as well, choosing to release it for early purchase on all of the major digital retailers on February 14th. While you’re blushing, head over to their bandcamp to preorder Ghost and have a listen to the catchy and polished “Stealing Mirrors”; you will also find their excellent EP Haunted up there as a free download. Follow the link, you certainly won’t be sorry.

Bandcamp: http://newcathedral.bandcamp.com/album/ghost

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NewCathedralFL

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Artist to Watch: Icarus the Owl

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Ever heard of a band labeled as a technically proficient progressive pop punk band with math rock tendencies? Yeah, me neither. That’s why I believe Icarus the Owl has something truly special going on with merely three albums under their belt. Releasing their self titled 3rd album off of a recently successful Kickstarter this last Friday (Feb 7th), Icarus just keeps expanding and improving upon their sound.

Icarus the Owl consists of 4 insanely talented musicians. While the band is very proficient on all their respected instruments, they aren’t technical for the sake of being technical; they are plenty capable of writing damn good music. The only minor complaint that I could say that I have, and the more common thing people tend to say when first hearing them, is that the vocals can be an acquired taste. The singing definitely isn’t bad by any means, Joey can soar from his middle to high register, but there is just something about his voice that can be a little off-putting on the occasion. If anything, he is just getting better with time. Icarus the Owl continue to try new things while still refining their sound, and while their particular brand of music might not ever get a mainstream success, I feel they deserve to be heard. Check ’em out:

And if you want to find out more about them and maybe buy some stuff (their music is also available at pretty much anywhere that sells digital downloads), have a look-see here:

https://www.facebook.com/Icarustheowl

http://icarustheowl.bandcamp.com/