On Sophmoronic the now seven piece band continues to explore the post-rock influenced sound that was first heard on their 2011 EP ‘Songs About Leaving Home’ and most obviously so on their more recent split release with local friends, Carved Our In Snow. ‘Sophomoronic’ is the bands first full length and also their final release which features some guest appearances including the addition of trumpet and cello.
Although identifying mostly with mid-western emo, within the past few years the genre has developed and maintain strong ties to bordering genres such as math rock and in Studying’s case, post-rock. On the song “The Passing of 34 Days” from their split release with Carved Our Names In Snow the band showcased their most obvious transition toward a post-rock sound. The bands taste for anthemic songwriting laden with the twinkly tremolos and the lush crescendos found in post-rock combined with the vocal aspects of mid-western emo make for a combination that couldn’t be more fitting. The album starts off with an apparent post-rock influence featuring reverb heavy guitars that chime along with rolling drums leading to a chorus featuring an ocean of smooth rising tremolos and horns which carries over to other songs on the album in various forms.
The whole album brings a refreshingly new youthful and energetic take to the genre, a presence that Studying did well on their debut EP, a sound that has developed and translated quite well throughout their short time as a band. It hasn’t been until now that this sound has been able to see a fully realized form and thankfully it has worked out quite well in the case of ‘Sophomoronic’. The album maintains a certain consistency; each song flowing together while still carrying enough variation to set themselves apart from one another. There are more straightforward moments on the album such as the song “Where Bluestone Meets Carrier” which is something of a ballad. The title track and ‘Goodbye, I Guess’ shows the band expressing a more agressive side featuring a transition to shouted / half screamed vocals. All in all each song continues the breathy sound that runs throughout entire album while offering something different calling for repeated listens.
Although consistent there are times where the songs do mesh together. The extensive use of reverb and cresendo-based song structure, as crucial as it was to the bands transition to a more post-rock sound, a sound that has set them apart from the bands they share the genre with is at the same time the culprit for the repetitiousness of the sounds here. While at times I do feel like this genre has been plundered of diversity I still feel like Studying has managed to not simply find a “niche” for themselves within it but has instead carved a name for themselves.
From the opening tracks glisteningly wintery guitar work to the albums dirgy wholly instrumental end this final album is a solid last release from a group of friends who know how to write something that is both catchy and relatable in such a way that it doesn’t sacrifice any of it’s artistic merits in the process. Although I’m sad to see this group split up I do think they are leaving on a good note with this release.
Can’t Fake Nature’s last EP was the crushing/delicate post-rock experiment You…. In the review of the aforementioned release, I said I looked forward to seeing where CFN would take their sound on their next release. Here they are with their second endeavour – another EP with the suitably nautical title High / Low Tide. The album description takes no hesitation in outlining their influences, namely Mogwai, Neurosis, Isis and Earth. Whilst the band’s confidence in flaunting these big names in the post-rock and post-metal scene made me a little wary of what to expect, I tried to go into High / Low Tide with an open mind, remembering the pleasant listening experience of You….
The first of the four tracks, Under Low Tide, made me wonder whether my fears might not have been completely unfounded. There is nothing wrong with the opening here, but it is far from original. Keep listening though – the last two minutes of the track seem to make up for this to some degree. Bringing to mind Earth’s HEX album, the finale is a very much the wild west on the open sea – untamed and exciting, making you wonder what’s still to come. It’s from here that the EP starts to get a little more intriguing, and less of a simple replica of what’s been done before.
Grinning High Tide is wonderfully balanced and varied. Never dwelling too long on one aspect of the track, it moves beyond the ‘crescendo-core’ gimmick that so many fledgling post-rock bands succumb to. As with You…, CFN show a wonderful ability to flit between crushing walls of sound and moments of delicacy. It’s worth noting that CFN do not make music for laptop speakers – some of the most intriguing aspects of the music are hidden in the background, driving a massive sound that soon breaks down leaving just a bare guitar that is eventually joined once again to take a new direction.
The variation here continues, with the beautifully contrasting end of Waves for the Psychonauts leading into Chant for the Narwhals, possibly the highlight of the EP. Crushing guitars are accompanied by quiet ethereal cries (which might as well be Narwhals for all I know), which breaks down into an almost ritualistic mix of chiming and distant voices. This is soon joined once again by powerful riffs that carry the song through to final, shimmering minute of music.
All in all, a solid second EP from these Croatian folks. Maybe one day we’ll see an album – a potentially worthy feat if they can keep on the variety and throwing some curveballs in to their tracks.
The great thing about reviewing smaller bands like Bird Sounds is that you get a real sense of authenticity in their music. Whilst these smaller artists don’t have the production capabilities of their more popular and better funded peers, the music they create seems that much more honest. They aren’t overdone and honed to perfection yet. And this can be wonderful in the right scenarios.
In their debut EP, Bird Sounds craft guitar driven post-rock in the vein of Explosions in the Sky, Mono or If These Trees Could Talk. Now, it would be a lie to say they are breaking any new ground here – but that’s not really an issue. Reflecting the occasionally loose sound, the entire EP has the feeling of an intimate live set (and it was, despite the cliché, recorded in one of the members’ garage). This links in to the aforementioned aspect of honesty – this EP feels almost like turning up to a local venue and experiencing this duo in the flesh. I feel this is something one has to appreciate with fledgling groups such as this – it gives the feeling of listening to music as it’s formed, before the hype and before the over-the-top focus on making every single aspect sound squeaky clean.
The music itself is a collection of four instrumental tracks under a classic guitar/bass/drums line-up. Unlike some more well known post-rock contemporaries, Bird Sounds don’t drag their tracks out through endless build-ups and crescendos. Rather, they come across as more straightforward instrumental rock with a tendency to create moments of soaring appeal. In particular, This Is Not A Song maintains a wonderfully moody aura despite the occasionally jarring drum track. This soon builds into some short and sweet upbeat meandering. However, I feel that A Bear Fight To The Death is where these guys really stand out, especially with regards to that ‘live set’ feeling. Much noisier than the other three tracks, this one has some great energy and is a worthy closer despite it’s 2:30 length. When it comes down to it, the authenticity of this release makes it an easy but enjoyable listen. If Bird Sounds ever follow this one up with an album, I sure hope they don’t sweat the small stuff.
Studying and Carved Our Names in Snow, two bands from Annandale, VA recently released a split together and if you’ve been reading you’ll know that I enjoyed Studying’s EP, “Songs About Leaving Home” a good deal. As far as Carved Our Names In Snow goes, this is my first introduction to their music.
Carved Our Names In Snow:
Carved our Names In Snow’s side of the split showcases the band exhibiting their energetic and powerful playing style, especially so on the drummers behalf who seems to have an affinity for beating the shit out of his cymbals and sounding great while doing it. The vocalist is nice and loud although fairly standard; from half singing to shouting which is expected for the style of music they play which gets the job done. “Facebank” is a mostly instrumental track aside from the end which features the band as well as members of Studying on gang vocals. Everything sounds clear, with the drums again being a standout piece of musicianship on this release. Although at times the output on their side of the split sounds live none of the instruments get lost, not even in the bombastically drumming on some of the more intense parts of these two songs, which in itself has it’s own appeal. It is obvious that their ability to create enjoyable tunes lies not in an attempt to write something structurally perfect but to belt out great jams, sloppy or otherwise. However, Where Carved Our Names in Snow fails to impress is the fact that so many bands out there are doing something similar to these guys; it’s not like it makes the music any less “authentic” or heartfelt but where the band stands is at an intersection of many others who are all pursuing a similar style to the point where it is necessary for a change in content not only in terms of Carved Our Names in Snow but within the scene itself in order to progress. In other words, the songs these guys produce are enjoyable and fun but it would be interesting to see the band branch out while they are still putting out short releases like these.
“The Passing of 34 Days” starts off with a post-rockish kind of vibe. Clean shimmering guitars and builds. It all ends with a gang vocals sing-a-long as the song comes to a close. The song is pretty much everything I enjoyed about their EP, “Songs About Leaving Home” with more of a post-rock flavor that I can only describe as early Mogwai and EITS meeting up to record an emo album. For some, that previous sentence may be an immediate turn off but once it quickly sinks it’s teeth it becomes apparent that this couldn’t be a more welcomed change in sound. Studying attempts to merge these two styles of music together and where they succeed is being able to do this seamlessly. The sound quality is top notch which on compliments the dramatic builds and tender guitar swells allowing the band to be as loud as they can be without sacrificing the short but lulls and quieter moments to poor production. Studying’s side of the split is only one track at just over 8 minutes long that displays this 7 piece band at their most dynamic and climactic making for a great song that I can definitely see being a hallmark of this band’s performance.
The release is a fairly short one being that it is a split but the content of these three songs makes up for the initial feeling of the abruptness of the split. Carved Our Names In Snow was a nice surprise given that this is my first time listening to any of their material and Studying delivers with a solid post-rock inspired song that sees the band moving into new territory.
Mont Saint Michel is the solo experimental music project of Tyler Stupalsky. ‘Sediment’ is the first release under the project name which according to the last.fm page is a collection of songs featuring a variety of guest production. Sediment is a series of five songs that pays tribute to the wall-of-sound characteristics found in shoegaze combining it with ambient music in even tasteful applications all in a compact and friendly span of 3 to 5 minutes.
The Ep begins with ‘Tributary’, a track brimming with guitar melodies and glowing ambient textures, one that starts off safe enough with but soon transforms into monolithically large pulsating slabs of psychedelic noise. The textures are so vibrant, melodic even, a concept that is carried on throughout the EP, specifically on ‘Midnight Special’. One of the most enjoyable aspects of ”Tributary’ is the unorthodox beat that randomly comes into the song, a risky and unexpected move that feels perfectly in place, one that shows that Mont Saint Michel is not afraid to take chances with a few unusual ideas. Seeing as this is the only track that includes beats, it is an idea that works so well in its application that I wouldn’t mind hearing more of it on future releases. Although experimental, ‘Sediment’ does not stray so far away from familiarity that it becomes completely alien. This familiarity is demonstrated on ‘Streets/Tears’, a slow moving ballad that begins with a considerably larger amount of traditional guitar playing further brings in a sense of musicality.
‘Sediment’ comes off very much like a mixtape, a collection of interesting ideas and experiments that gives the listener an idea of what to expect in the future which makes this experimental enough for the weirdos while staying formulaic and familiar enough for your average listener who has a bit of a sweet tooth for experimentation. Mont Saint Michel brings a stimulating pallet of familiar sounds and blends them with an adventurous amount of experimentation. The tone is bright, featuring a thin but present underlying layer of dreamy pop melodies; it is all very warm and welcoming while being mysterious enough to make you feel like you have discovered something new. It is like a summer day at the beach, just before it is about to rain; a strong and refreshing introduction to what is hopefully to come in the near future.
Sea Breezes was a short lived band from Baltimore. They are made up of musicians Justin Marc Lloyd, Kyle Steely, Mike Hallett, and Derek Flynn. Sea Breezes fuses the aggressive nature of screamo with spacey, atmospheric, noisy, and experimental sounds.
Sea Breezes music is often full of chaotic, complex, and eclectic melodies providing an overwhelming energetic presence that is maintained throughout this short release. The band rides on energy and emotion but can turn the fuzz off, sit back and let beautiful spacey melodies take over. There is a plethora of unique sounds to be heard; volume swells, modulation, and rotary chorus type sounds, all drenched in reverb and a multitude of other effects.
Two of the three songs are fairly short but impressively, they do a great job implementing some epic and truly powerful builds into their music within a short timespan. On “Faint Young” the band is present in their most complex and energetic, dripping with emotion. Beautiful guitar melodies speed up and slow down in mathy progressions. The track then mellows out into airy drifting ambience. There are some cool sounds to be heard on the track “Nothing is Real But Blue”, featuring a low static-like humming that is present beneath the bands playing which shows off some of the experimental tendencies that are a big part of their music.
Although the musicianship is always spot on, beautiful and clear, the guitars sometimes sounds trebly and lack definition. There are times where the band sounds like they’re playing in a tunnel which could be attributed to the amount of reverb on the guitars. but being that this is a demo it isn’t really much to complain about given that this is a demo and the sound quality is beyond most demos.
Sea Breezes picks out of a variety of enjoyable sounds from multiple styles and genres of music and blends them together while maintaining a certain amount of cohesion in that everything runs together smoothly and clearly. It’s not just another collage of enjoyable sounds but a proper mixture. There are definitely some cool sounds to be heard but knowing what Sea Breezes is attempting to do makes me wish that they had went all out in experimenting as this would have been a fantastic opportunity to make something truly different. It seems like they were onto some good ideas but in the end restrained by formatting them into a template when they could be so much more. Its not really so much that there is anything wrong with the music but I think my disappointment originates from not taking the risk of doing things wrong. At the end of it all Sea Breezes does manage to outshine their few shortcomings in that they excel at creating music that is different yet familiar at the same time.
Snailhead’s Sophomore release takes the title and the tracklist from a S&M movie from the seventies and it’s chapter titles and generates an mind-boggling 12 minute 39 second uptempo rock album in only the style that Snailhead would produce. Each tracks vocals build off of one another and focus in around the lyrics suggesting the title. This album has a focus on a nice light and popish melodies but with dark progressive rock undertones that I’ve only heard on a few British bands before, who generally use synth heavy backings for the vocals, and the drums leading every other part. Snailhead also does a great job at working with other unnamed artist, such as a local underground rapper and a handful of other great backing vocalists and friends. The band that stands out being the most similar to what I have heard in this album and just the style would be like Franz Ferdinand but with a harder rock sound with and a much better vocalist.
False Starts – A driving rock track with Snailhead leading the vox and the instrumentals. With the vocals shouting at the softer vocals blending perfectly together. A 52 second track that I can keep playing back to back and still hear new parts to it, this is one track that Snailhead should really work on making a full length track, as I feel that it should loop like 10 times at least. The guitar melody is really catchy rift, and the drums leave me wanting more of it in there but it’s just enough that it’s not drowning out any other part.
In the Bathroom – This track stood out as a great example of Snailhead with doubling and tripling the harsh vocals, with several friend also helping out. A great track on the slower portion of the album, it truly sounds like a Holywood ending scene track which is fitting for the second to last track on the album. It’s main melody would work for any “congrats you win” video game scene. This track is overloaded with detuned instrumentals in a good way.
To be honest this was a challenging album to review, as there was not a lot of content to it, and each track left me hanging as though I was wondering what is going to come next, in the same sense of having a track with no bridge or no breakout section, as each track was the breakout as an entirety which gave this album a great new concept, but it also feels incomplete resulting in the lowered score.