Sampler: “The Drew Thompson Foundation” Kicks Off This Week in Alternative

The Drew Thomson Foundation, Picsel, Melted, Tummyache

This week we’re bringing you four new Indie Punk tracks straight from the basement show. Enjoy!

Phone Ring by The Drew Thomson Foundation

There seems to be a lack of catchy, hook driven punk music so far in 2019. Luckily Toronto’s The Drew Thomson Foundation has come to our collective rescue with their infectious new single Phone Ring. Phone Ring is power pop gold with itsbouncy verses, sing-along choruses, and immediately relatable lyrics maligning the nightmare that is modern dating. For fans of Jeff Rosenstock’s pre-Worry material and he and Chris Farren’s supergroup Antarctigo Vespucci, The Drew Thomson Foundation may well prove to be the new sensation. Their knack for writing humorous and kind of dorky songs about relationships without being overly self-deprecating (or just plain creepy) is certainly Rosenstock-esque and if Phone Ring is any indication they have a lot of the same unconventional charm that helped turn Rosenstock into the cult icon he is today. Be on the lookout for The Drew Thomson Foundation’s promising debut self-titled LP this September, and until then jam Phone Ring below.

 Fucked Society by Picsel

Sometimes accidents end up turning into huge creative discoveries. For UK alt-pop band Broken Fires one such accident happened during the writing stage for their forthcoming sophomore album when they unintentionally wrote two, completely different albums. The first was the one they set out to write and the second was a collection of rowdier songs that they didn’t think fit the “Frightened Rabbit meets Tall Ships” vibe of the band. The result was Picsel, an indie punk side-project much more akin to Lower Than Atlantis, and their political new single Fucked Society. Despite being a scathing indictment of modern life in Britain, Picsel’s newest is delivered in a smooth and catchy fashion, crooning lines like “licking dirt from the soles of polished shoes/ As they continue to walk all over you,” and turning “There was a time when we were free to love our fucked society” into an almost uplifting sounding chorus. The four-piece’s pop roots seep into Picsel in the best way, allowing them to write big, catchy songs, but not impeding them with tropes like so many artists that make the transition from pop to rock. I personally am very excited to hear the rest of their debut LP Modern Life Discovery when it debuts this Fall.

Bigger Maggots by Melted

There’s thin sliver of sound between the skate-punk end of pop punk and hardcore punk. It’s the bands in this sliver that separate Free Throw from Title Fight or PUP from Drug Church. Melted is one of those rare bands. Hailing from Long Beach, CA, Melted have all the aggression of a band like Drug Church but with just a dash of pop punk sensibility. They’re the kind of band that doubles their guitars to make them punch harder and isn’t afraid to put the snare on the 1, but they’re also the kind of band to use non-shouted backing vocals and actually write choruses. Their most recent single, Bigger Maggots, their first since releasing their 2018 LP Thin Skin, is a fast-paced track about overcoming insecurities and anxiety. Reminiscent of early Posture and the Grizzly, it’s a perfect example of their aggressive brand of punk that defies expectations by also being unconventionally catchy. 

Median by Tummyache

Nashville, aside from Country and CCM, is known for a very specific rock sound, usually involving sleek, polished instrumentals and Ryan Adam’s-style vocalists. Breaking this mold in spectacular fashion is Tummyache, a punky garage rock outfit that pulls more from Mitski and Cherry Glazerr than the refined sounds their home city is famous for. Tummyache is the brainchild of songwriter/producer Soren Bryce as an outlet to explore her own existentialist reflections on meaning and the human condition through the use of absurdism. Median in particular shows Bryce balancing delicately between two extremes: the total dissolution of meaning altogether and the hope she acknowledges to be self-created that she nonetheless needs to survive. It’s hammering guitar sounds add a visceral, anxious subtext to the probing lyrics, creating the sensation of an all-out war in Bryce’s head that she is holding back, if only barely, with remarkable poise. Making a song that is simultaneously aggressively honest and fairly heady that also feels this nuanced is no easy task, but Bryce rises to the challenge with the precision of a veteran. Tummyache’s debut EP, Humpday, is due out later this year.

Sampler: New Of Monsters and Men Leads the Way

New music from Of Monsters & Men kicks off this week’s indie and alternative packed single sampler.

New music from Of Monsters and Men kicks off this week’s indie and alternative packed single sampler.

Alligator by Of Monsters and Men

It’s hard to believe that Of Monsters and Men has already been around for a decade. The Icelandic indie folk/rock/pop act has been making steady waves since 2011, when their first single Little Talks got picked up by then prominent Philadelphia Radio 104.5, a lucky break that propelled the band to international name recognition. Both Little Talks and the album it came from, My Head is an Animal, went number one in Iceland and the latter debuted at number 6 in the U.S. The album has since been certified platinum. Since that fateful debut, they’ve shown no real signs of slowing down. Their sophomore effort Beneath the Skin debuted at number three and earned them their first Grammy nomination, as well as TV appearances, a spot at Coachella, and the honor of being the first Icelandic artist to cross 1 billion streams on Spotify. Now four years later, Of Monsters and Men are back for round three with Fever Dream and its dynamic first single Alligator. Alligator has everything we’ve come to expect from the band: a lush enveloping soundscape, an immediately catchy stadium chorus and a bonus equally catchy bridge all wrapped together with the crisp indie-pop production that has been a staple of their sound since the onset. But this single also veers into some new territory for the band, namely a rhythmic, electric guitar driven “breakdown” in each post-chorus. It’s a choice almost reminiscent of Scottish arena rock icons Biffy Clyro and certainly the most “rock” thing Of Monsters and Men has gone for during their recent slide into more alternative sounds. It will be interesting to see if this new theme carries through the rest of Fever Dream when it officially releases July 26.

Find Me Out by Ronjo V

Austin’s Ronjo V are putting their own spin on a long tradition of meat n’ potatoes alternative in the line of Beck and early Wilco. Their newest single, Find Me Out, is a clinic on dynamic movement and layering; shifting between acoustic led rhythms, creamy leads, punchy electric chords, and tactful blues riffs that are both impressive and purposely understated. In fact “understated” is probably the best descriptor for Ronjo V’s whole operation. Nothing draws undue attention to itself, which often masks the fact that there’s actually a decent bit going on at all times, whether it be overlapping guitar leads in the latter parts of the verses or a subtle tambourine in the chorus. This creates a sensation of movement that is felt without always being heard and it also opens up exactly the amount of space needed to let the listener focus on what lead songwriter Ryan Joseph wants them to hear. And once he has your undivided attention Joseph doesn’t disappoint. A falsetto harmony marks a succinct, ear catching pre-chorus, before hitting an absolutely killer chorus that would have been guaranteed radio fodder ten years ago when alternative radio still played alt-rock. This is broken up by not one, but two guitar instrumentals, the first a plodding riff with vaguely Spanish undertones in the bridge, and the second a bluesy accent solo in the outro that calls to mind The Eagles. All in all, Find Me Out is a must hear for alternative fans as well as indie-rock aficionados looking for a little more rock in their indie; a stand out new single from a promising young project.

Anthem For the Weak by The Harmaleighs

Haley Grant is battling depression her own way. She is the lead songwriter for the emotive Nashville folk duo The Harmaleighs, alongside her compatriot and bassist Kaylee Jasperson, and like many other artists who struggle with depression, she is using her creativity as both a platform of expression and a weapon in the chemical war inside her head. Though many other artists have used creation as an outlet for processing their mental health, the way Grant goes about it is uniquely her own. The Harmaleighs’ new album She Won’t Make Sense, due out on August 2nd, is a conversation between Grant and her personified depression, which she names Susan. As the album goes on, Grant and Susan engage in a struggle for control, culminating in the final song I Don’t Know Myself which begs the question: “do the darkest parts of ourselves make us who we are?” On the opposite end of the album sits the most recent single, opener Anthem For the Weak, a dusty, melancholy folk song with cutting lyricism reminiscent of rising indie star Phoebe Bridgers. The song is a sonic departure for the duo, delving further into full-band soundscapes than their prior brand of sparse pop folk, and it pays off dramatically. The airy synth sounds, subtle organ, delay-heavy drums, and selectively used slide guitar create an atmosphere that captures the emotional unease and distance of depression to a tee, without delving too far into the soul-crushing existentialism typical of the subject matter. Instead Grant’s lyrics dance through light, catchy pop melodies that stick on the first listen, and they do so without compromising any of the desired impact. For these reasons The Harmaleighs’ impending album is one of our most anticipated releases of August.

I Don’t Wanna Take Too Much by The Brazen Youth

I’ve often heard it said, especially of music, that there is nothing new under the sun. The Brazen Youth are simultaneously the biggest proof and the biggest challenge to this notion. Formed in a 300-year-old farmhouse in rural Connecticut by middle school friends Nicholas Lussier and Charlie Dahlke, The Brazen Youth’s earthy, folksy, roots rock is filled with familiar tones, feels, and motifs. There’s the old raggedy piano, the sharp honk of the blues guitar, the shriek of the organ, and the storytelling lyricism, one part personal narrative and one part esoteric wanderings like many of the great songwriters that came before them. But somehow the music that they create is wholly their own, defying any apt comparison and masking any direct influences the songwriting duo may have had. The result is something incredibly rare: a sound that pulls you in with familiarity, but keeps you interested with unpredictable mystique. It’s as if The Brazen Youth have tapped into something beyond themselves, a living history much like their beloved farmhouse, something timeless and packed with nondescript emotional power. This distinct feeling is only hammered home by mystical lyrics like “I’d like to harness the most divine state” and “one collective human body/ 15 billion eyes just belonging to somebody.” It’s the kind of song that puts you in its own state of being, and when it’s over you can’t help but want to experience more. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until September 19 to hear the rest of their new EP 15 Billion Eyes, but in the meantime you can continue to cultivate your longing by playing I Don’t Wanna Take Too Much on repeat.

Just You by Steven Bowers feat. Meaghan Smith

Steven Bowers’ brand of folk music combines the storytelling tradition of writers like Jason Isbell, Ryan Adams, and John K. Samson with a larger than life, cinematic kind of spirit. His latest, Just You, takes on a almost post-apocalyptic type of character, not the violent and future-western apocalypse of Mad Max, but a reflective and emotionally present take on what is lost and the almost spiritual journey to reclaim it. “I wanted you when we were strangers/ then one you were coming over/ suddenly twenty, thirty years are going by.” But as time dissolves and takes with it its victims, Bowers pushes back in a triumphant flourish: “so build a fire from whatever kindling you can find/ when all the world is ending/ and it’s beginning all the time/ no goodbyes, no goodbyes/ polar bear looking for the ice/ Frankenstein waiting for the lightning/ one day your heart will reanimate/ just you wait.” Supporting his vivid images are swelling guitar, lush piano, stadium toms, and layers of harmonies whisping ethereally in the background. The result is a song bursting at the seems with emotion, dramatized enough to draw out a powerful reaction but realistic enough to still be real-world relatable, equally perfect for the climactic ending to an indie film or for listening while staring at the rain out your bedroom window.

Sampler: Skate. Better.

This sampler is for anyone who grew up playing Tony Hawk Pro-Skater games and promptly popped an ankle on their first drop into the half-pipe in real life. Enjoy four EPs that will take you back to that fateful moment in one listen:

EP by Why Not

Hailing from the twin cities of Minnesota, Why Not combine the mathy twinkle of Midwest emo with Philly style indie punk and a smattering of prog. EP is a whirlwind of groove shifts, gang shouted hooks, noodly guitar lines, and massive expansions into reverby space. Perhaps the best example of this comes in the penultimate track Thud. Dead., which substitutes a traditional chorus for a hard-hitting octave riff before turning on a dime into an off-kilter clean section layered with pitch shifting guitars. This then promptly changes time signatures before literally exploding into a heavy, groovy Chon riff that transitions seamlessly back into the faux-chorus. For an album so focussed on musicianship, EP is surprisingly fun and lighthearted. Of the four tracks, the only one that veers into really melancholic territory is the closing 10 minute odyssey Eighth Year, an impressive prog song complete with 5/4 time, noise and glitch sections, a minute long guitar solo, and a heavy-hitting slow-burn chorus where vocalist Henry Breen sings his most iconic line: “Now I’m standing tall/ I’m a tree/ Now I’m standing here/ Just to be me.” It’s altogether one of the most impressive emo/ indie punk EPs to come out in 2019, and a great surrogate for anyone looking to fill the void left in the wake of JANK’s demise.

Divide and Conga by King Punch

Ska-Punk is one of the most quintessential offshoots of 90s and 2000s punk music, but in 2019 it is unfortunately in short supply. Thankfully, London’s King Punch has come to the rescue with their newest EP, cheekily titled Divide and Conga. Divide and Conga is 14 minutes of infectious, skank-inducing, existential ska-punk reminiscent of 3rd wave legends Streetlight Manifesto, albeit a little more streamlined. Lyrically this fast paced EP comes out swinging. Opening track Sit Still ends with a double bridge with the ringers: “there always seems to be someone speaking for me” and “it was an itch to scratch/ then a bone to pick/ now a hill to die on/ boy that happened quick.” Second track Whole Lotta Love keeps up the punches with the kicker: “it’s hard to find time when you’re never free.” To round out the middle-aged angst, King Punch throw a curve ball for the fourth track on the album and cover the System of a Down hit Chop Suey!, turning a once visceral alt-metal track on its head with blaring horns and a halftime reggae chorus. Like most ska covers before it, it really shouldn’t work, but they manage to defy all odds and turn it into a humorous and thoroughly enjoyable closer to a very solid offering.

Gumiho by Gumiho

Seoul, South Korea’s Gumiho are bringing back classic, 90s hardcore punk. Their new self-titled EP is a flurry of aggression and angst delivered with the same fast and loose charm that once drew tons of disaffected youth to packed basement shows decades ago. Opening the album is the immediately catchy Destroyed Warranty, a NoFx style onslaught with a snare-kick K-punk chorus. This spills into the darkest and angriest track, Glittering Dreams with the haunting chorus: “it doesn’t have arms but knows how to use them/ it doesn’t have a face but knows where to find one.” Here Gumiho take a quick break from the blistering punk brand they’ve established and delve into more melodic territory with the serpentine -ing and the bouncy pop punk of Help Request. The reprieve is short-lived however, and soon they return to their prior form on the skate punk Twisted Mind, which transforms part way into a downtempo groove before handing the reigns to the last and perhaps the best track on the EP. We Create the Stars is old-school hardcore at its finest with plodding verses led by bass and toms and an explosive gang-shout chorus: “I’ll swing six feet/ You’ll swing in eight/ Watch the water flicker/ As our bodies hit the lake.” Throughout their eponymous record Gumiho prove that angsty music doesn’t have to brooding or gut-wrenching, in fact, in this case it can be a lot of good old fashioned fun.

Down the Path by For the Legion

What would a skate sampler be without EZ-core? For the Legion has been carving out a name for themselves in the European pop punk scene for the better part of a decade and their latest EP Down the Path shows the Swedish quartet at their melodic finest. It’s also their most mature record to date, taking a page from their peers Set Your Goals’ book on We Want You to Panic, a sing along anthem about the impending climate catastrophe complete with samples of panicked news anchors, and also touching on such adult themes as parenting and racial prejudice. It’s an album full of welcome growth in a genre with a major Peter Pan complex and a far cry from their earlier, more lighthearted and comic book inspired music. With experience comes perspective, and as long-time veterans For the Legion take this release as an opportunity to stand for what they believe in. Don’t worry that they’ve lost their edge though, because Down the Path is loaded with bangers, from the anthemic opener May, to the gutsy Thrown, the shreddy Always Out of Time, Never Out of Breath, and the subdued closing ballad Thin Air. They might be, as the name suggests, a bit more down the path, but For the Legion prove emphatically here that they still have a lot to give and they aren’t going anywhere just yet.

Review: This is Not the End by Spielbergs

FFO Japandroids, Jeff Rosenstock, Titus Andronicus

One of the most curious bands in the 2019 indie punk landscape comes, somewhat surprisingly, from Oslo, Norway. No one is really clear how the three-piece anthem-rock outfit Spielbergs became an indie darling overnight, including the band themselves. All three members had been earnest and active members of the indie rock and punk community in Norway roughly a decade ago, but after years of failing to break through they had all more or less moved on with their lives and settled in to steady 9 to 5 jobs. It was frustration with this regular life and the mundane cycles it slips into that caused vocalist/guitarist Mads Baklien and drummer Christian Lovhaug, now in their 30s, to get together and start jamming as “an adult youth group, thing.” They had no real expectations at this stage, they just wanted to make music that was fun to play. Shortly afterward their first single, Daisy! It’s the New Me, hit number 27 on a yearly Best Song’s list on one of Norway’s national magazines. The EP it came from, Distant Star, brought in rave reviews from both Stereogum and Pitchfork in 2018. 

A year later, Spielbergs are capitalizing on that sudden, unexpected momentum with their debut LP This is Not the End, and it’s already a forerunner for best punk/alternative record of 2019. Beginning with the opening power pop standard Five on It, Spielbergs craft a warm, fuzzy rock record packed with immediate lyrics, catchy hooks, and enough anthemic woah sections to draw in even the most casual listeners. It’s also a surprisingly diverse record. On Familiar and the nearly 8 minute odyssey McDonald’s (Please Don’t Fuck Up My Order) they dip into moody and cathartic post-rock. Sleeper tone’s down the fuzz for a moment to produce a quiet folk song, led by a solo acoustic and backed up by ambient tremolo soundscapes. Sandwiched between these is You All Look Like Giants, which sounds sort of like Dinosaur Jr. covering an Achtung Baby era U2 song. With a spread this wide it would be easy for an album to feeling jarring or disjointed, but Spielbergs place each foray into new territory perfectly in its proper context to create an impressively coherent piece start to finish.

Lyrically This is Not the End is a restless daydream, the musings of men longing for everyday fulfillment with none of the revolutionary aggression that is steadily becoming mainstream in punk music again. Baklien humorously quips that his lyrics essentially amount to “whining”, but that doesn’t stop them from being incredibly relatable. What’s more impressive is that their lyrics hit home so acutely, despite the band admitting that they aren’t very confident in their English and were worried the songs wouldn’t come out well. Even without taking into account the language barrier, lines like “we could be perfect!” in Distant Star, “what do you want/what do you hope for?” in We Are All Going to Die, or “I don’t want to be a part of your future” from Bad Friend make perfect hooks. The directness in these short lines make them easily to shout along with after one listen and the conviction with which Spielbergs deliver them make them cathartic as all hell.

The only major weakness of the record is the mix. While it’s not really much worse off than most punk records, the guitars have a tendency to dominate these recordings. Most of the time this is exactly the intention, but throughout the record the lyrics dip in and out of intelligibility under the sheer force of the fuzz. Even in the choruses, the biggest strength of the record as a whole, whole lines dissolve into just melodies, leaving you with the distinct impression of “that was catchy” without giving you the opportunity to really sing along. In the grand scheme of things this isn’t the worst issue to have however, as a lot of bands, including sludge metal darlings Baroness, manage to get by with much worse and even thrive in the critical arena. It certainly hasn’t held Spielbergs back either, their reception from both fans and critics has been nothing but positive. At long last these three punk scene vets have finally been given their due, and on this their dynamic debut and opus, they’ve earned it fair and square.

Score: 8.3 (Best New Music)

Released: February 1, 2019
Label: By the Time it Gets Dark

Sampler: 4 Downtempo Indie Singles for Your Rainy Weekend

It’s a Friday night in Pittsburgh and I’m sitting at our dining room table as the thunder booms outside. I should be used to the rain by now, we in Pittsburgh get less sunny days each year than even Seattle, but even after living here for almost 25 years I still slip into a general malaise every time it storms. If you too are stuck inside on this rainy weekend and feeling a bit gloomy, this week’s sampler series could be the perfect soundtrack to your day. Here are four new, downtempo indie singles that we thought deserved to be heard:

Not My Body by Sam Lynch

“This is not my body, no, they made a mistake” singer/songwriter Sam Lynch croons softly over subdued synth pads. Her delivery is at once stunning and haunting, occupying that perfect space between the hollowness of disembodiment and the rawness of yearning for something more. That yearning through uncertainty informs the central theme of Not My Body, the loss of one’s self and the probing question: “is it all a mistake?” As the track works its way into a powerful crescendo led by piano, distant harmonies and strings, her voice grows more convicted and she hits one final, emotive and relatable line: “maybe all that’s left are fragments of myself/ never feels like enough to be set so I drown it out instead.” If you have ever experienced the distinct sensation of looking yourself in the mirror and wondering what really makes you, well, you, then this song should resonate strongly.

In Between by Junaco

California indie rock bands are usually known for beachy sounds, but Junaco break the stereotype in grand fashion to create an immersive and emotive soundscape reminiscent of Wilco’s The Whole Love. Overtop the dreamy atmospheric guitars and laid back groove, vocalist Shahana Jaffer sings calmly and effortlessly as she weaves a story about letting go, leaving because you know you have to, but not knowing how leaving will change who you are. However, where most songwriters would convey this through a sense of restlessness, she delivers her story with what seems a lot more like acceptance. Her voice melds into the surrounding instrumental, creating a general feeling of interconnectedness in the track that mirrors the complex interconnected emotions of Jaffer’s lyrics. In Between is sad without being hopeless, happy without being exuberant, and resolute without being harsh, the kind of song that gains power with each repeat listen.

Between Worlds by I Am Oak

Continuing with the theme of transitions, Utrecht, The Netherlands’ ambient folk project I Am Oak ask a unique question on their newest single Between Worlds: “What do I do in the mean time when it’s mean time all of the time?” It’s a question with existential weight, but songwriter Thijs Kuijken asks it almost as if it were a passing idea, as if he were sitting on his porch deep in thought and just taking in the world around him. Nowhere to go. Nothing really to do. But Kuijken doesn’t seem upset, instead he takes a step back and watches, allowing everything to unfold. The instrumental captures this mood perfectly. Though I Am Oak is known for being a folk band, here they take on a sonic palette more akin to a downtempo Snow Patrol, building on a subdued beat and a hushed acoustic guitar, but flourishing in each chorus with distorted guitar and melodic piano. All of this comes together to create a lush, dynamic song that stops the listener in their tracks. 

Everyday by Joel Ansett

To end off our list is a track that’s a little bit more uplifting, but don’t worry, it’s still very downtempo and won’t break the mood. Joel Ansett is a Denver, CO songwriter whose music combines ambient, folk textures and writing with subtle nods to RnB. On his newest, Everyday, Ansett sings of love in hushed tones: “wisdom when I lose my way/ you’re the magic in all of this mundane.” It’s a beautiful line and also a perfect description of Ansett’s art as a whole. With very little melody from the instrumental and tons of open space he is able to create a song that feels more than a little magical; a track that is engaging and emotive even in its minimalism. To top it off it also has an immediately catchy hook: “I know more than ever now, I need you, oh I need you… I need you everyday.” It is a wonderfully peaceful song and the perfect way to finish off this rainy day sampler.

Sampler: From Emo to Psych Funk

In our new “Sampler” series here at Not a Sound, we want to curate compilations of short EPs that we love, but might not be able to devote full reviews to. This week’s sampler starts in familiar alternative territory and progressively works its way into more and more experimental waters. It’s a great place to try new things and expand your musical palette.

Animal Panic! by Antighost

Detroit, Michigan’s Antighost is unhinged, grungy emo at its best. As opener Gang of Hounds rips into its first chorus, lead singer Sean Shepard’s voice explodes like a dirty bomb, showering the listener with sonic shrapnel and setting the tone for the rest of the EP. These are aggressive, anthemic songs. The kind of songs Jared Leto once made a career out of, before he committed himself to small arthouse film roles and bastardizing popular comic villains. If you like AFI, Taking Back Sunday, or Rise Against, then this EP is tailor made for you. 

Released: February 23, 2019
Label: Unsigned

Split by Twelveyes/ Square Loop

“Everything you say just sounds like garbage, and I’m sick of throwing it out” Twelveyes shout in unison at the crescendo of Cancelled. Their brand of emo/pop punk crossover is reminiscent of emo revival heavyweights Joyce Manor, and their song, clocking in at a speedy 1:45, is a fun, but earnest dismantling of DIY scene politics. This transitions nicely into the sonically similar and equally stunted in length Too Much of a Bad Thing by their split-mates Square Loops, an immediate and relatable song about social awkwardness capped by the hook “I’ve gotten pretty used to always being anxious.” Fans of the more up-tempo emo revival bands such as the aforementioned Joyce Manor, Modern Baseball, or Free Throw will find lots to love in this brief introduction to both bands.

Released: June 14, 2019
Label: Unsigned

Bedtime Stories by Sawce

Sawce is that rare brand of music that is virtuosic and fast while mostly feeling laid back. Their particular brand of math rock lands somewhere between Chon, Tricot, and Enemies, maintaining the jazzy undertones and grooves of the former while texturally often pulling from the latter two to create a sonic palette that feels oddly subdued despite how busy it is. What sets them apart from similar bands is their emphasis on guitar melody, which leads the way in most every song but Mouth Noises, the lone song with vocals. Perhaps the best example comes on Good Morning where the song evolves to wrap itself around one smooth, semi-repeating guitar lead for the latter portion of the track. If you aren’t too familiar with math rock and want an easy entry point without any of the dissonant or frenetic tendencies of the larger genre, this is a great place to start.

Released: February 22, 2019
Label: Unsigned

Smell That Thunder by BLUFRANK

We don’t typically cover much electronic or sample based music, but the newest release from Cairo, Egypt’s BLUFRANK put off such a distinct and unique vibe that we couldn’t not share it. Led by Ragy Ahmed and Mohamed Rageh, BLUFRANK’s music mixes psychedelia with funk and lofi-hip-hop to create a dream-like sound that is part futuristic and part nostalgic. Vocals, provided by Ragy and guests, are mixed in a way that they act almost as instruments themselves, layering into the mix more for texture than as the focal point. It’s hard to draw comparisons to like artists other than their label mates in the SLOVVDK collective, so you’ll just have to follow your curiosity and check them out for yourself.

Released: March 30, 2019
Label: SLOVVDK

Kumori by Paul Loves Dolly

One of my personal quests as a writer and artist is to draw attention to music on the fringes. Pittsburgh’s Paul Loves Dolly writes short instrumental vignettes seemingly designed as soundtrack samples for art films. Kumori is a perfect introductory snippet to this niche market, the wide world of experimental, instrumental lofi music. Clocking in at only four total minutes it’s long enough to pull you into its vaguely dusty aesthetic, but short enough that you don’t end up trapped in lengthy soundtrack repetitions. Despite its clearly postmodern context, Kumori is also very listenable. The most out-there track is the first, Jet Engine in the Rain, which emulates exactly what its title suggests, but from that point forward it settles into more mood oriented music on the melancholic title track, and the tense Kitanai which sounds like it could be pulled directly from Borderlands 2. While this kind of music definitely isn’t for everyone, it’s an interesting collection for those willing to step outside their comfort zone.

Released: May 25, 2019
Label: Unsigned

Review: “Homewreckers: Sweet Apathy” by A Crash Republic

A Crash Republic’s energy is infectious throughout the EP, leaping from riff to riff, nailing satisfying hook after hook, and swinging into surprisingly virtuosic guitar solos in almost every song.

FFO Dropkick Murphys, Greenday, Four Year Strong

One of the joys of writing for a small music blog is sifting through artist submissions, hearing their pitches and deciding whether or not their music is a good fit for our blog. Generally these submissions come with a brief blurb where the artists describe themselves in the most alluring way they know how. Some are quite effective, others… not so much. Mostly these blurbs end up being basic genre descriptions, but occasionally you get a pitch that catches you off guard and raises a few eyebrows. For instance, when I received an email from a band claiming to be “an easy-core Dropkick Murphys”, I have to admit my immediate reaction was “there’s no way that sounds good.” After listening through A Crash Republic’s new EP Homewreckers: Sweet Apathy however, I also have to admit that I was wrong.

A Crash Republic is the kind of band that consistently shatters your expectations. When the opening track Last September kicks in it really does seem to be a Dropkick Murphys song minus the Celtic bits. It has the big power chords, the driving drums, and two vocalists that both sound miraculously like Al Barr each singing the same bar-fight melodies he was famous for. But once it hits the second verse the power chords give way to dueling easy-core guitars reminiscent of Four Year Strong, which should seem out of place, but somehow flow effortlessly out of the first chorus. Before you even have time to express how impressed you are by this, the lead guitar takes off in a bombastic solo the likes of which has been missing from rock music for the better part of a decade. It’s the kind of choice that feels over the top in the best possible way: definitely a little schlocky but so perfectly placed and cathartic that it outweighs the possible negatives.

A Crash Republic’s energy is infectious throughout the EP, leaping from riff to riff, nailing satisfying hook after hook, and swinging into surprisingly virtuosic guitar solos in almost every song. Because of the impressive musicianship and the memorable hooks the formula never gets boring either. This is aided by the central narrative of Homewreckers: Sweet Apathy, which is conceptually the first of three EPs about a man descending into anarchist ideology and committing himself to counterculture. Lyrically it lands somewhere in the vicinity of American Idiot-era Greenday or Die For Your Government-era Anti-Flag: anti-establishment anthems with enough pop sensibility to make you want to listen and enough grit to convince you they mean what they’re saying. It’s quite literally the kind of anarchy the whole family can get into.

All in all Homewreckers: Sweet Apathy is thoroughly enjoyable. One of the greatest strengths of pop punk as a genre is it’s ability to be fun no matter what the subject matter and A Crash Republic do not deviate from that norm in the least. While the content may not be the most earth-shattering thing we’ve ever heard, it’s the perfect subtext for angsty shout-alongs and push-pits, which is exactly what this kind of music is meant for. Unfortunately, as with most bands in this scene, A Crash Republic are the kind of band that you’ll like if you’re a fan of their native genres, but probably won’t have much appeal to you otherwise. They’re music is unique within their context, which makes them a must hear for fans of old-school pop punk, but they also don’t break the mold in way that makes them transcend their labeling. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that though, so pop Homewreckers: Sweet Apathy into the cassette deck of your 2002 Taurus and let the angst consume you.

Score: 6.8 (Solid)

Released: February 1, 2019
Label: Unsigned