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Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere

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I was excited that Thrice had finally returned from hiatus and I was geeked out that a new album from the band was on the way. I figured it would be excellent. What I didn’t think was that I was about to hear what is possibly Thrice’s best record to date (or at least my favorite).

To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere feels like both a natural progression and rebirth for Thrice. As I listen back through the band’s discography, TBEITBN fits in nicely without conforming to a certain trend. It might be, start to finish, the most melodic and singable Thrice record. It’s also one of Dustin’s best lyrical outings in a while.

Hurricane is easily the “chillest” opener on Thrice record yet. There’s an intensity to it for sure, but it sets the tone that Thrice is headed in a different direction. The album’s opener will sweep you away, pun intended, with its beauty and melody. On their recent tour, the band opened their set with the track, and you can understand why. Hurricane is catchy and draws you in. It’s a song that has all the makings of a hit radio single, but so does most of the record.

What I love about TBEITBN is the way that the intensity can rise and fall but the album doesn’t feel like steady. Blood In the Sand kicks things up a notch for sure. The politically charged song goes after people who let fear overtake them and drive their decisions. It’s a stand against violence and silence. Both lyrically and the vocally, the song is intense. But the catchiness of the hook is what drives the point of the song home.

The Long Defeat feels like a classic Thrice track in the making. Great hook, a driving melody, Kensrue’s great wordplay with the lyrics. It ranks as one of Thrice’s most beautiful songs in my book. Black Honey fits in the same vein of Blood In The Sand. Politically driven lyrical content that gives the song a super intense vibe. Stay With Me Jumped into my top 5 favorite Thrice songs the minute I heard the track. Not only is the song beautiful and catchy but it’s equally as heartbreaking. The musical shift at the end of the bridge into the chorus at the end of the song only heightens that sense of dread and sadness.

Death From Above is another political track that takes on the use of drones. The odd time signature combined with the heaviness of the chorus creates a really dramatic feel. The way the bridge lightens in sound and mood creates a really introspective feeling for the listener.

Kensrue’s lyrics have always been great, but they feel like he’s taken a turn since the band went on hiatus and we the listeners are reaping the benefits of that shift. This is a record you want to listen to with the lyrics in front of you. But it’s also a record you can listen to and find catchy and enjoyable and be ignorant of all the lyrical content if you like. The lyrics aren’t a hinge point that makes the record great. I just thing it enhances the listening experience.

I’m glad Thrice is back. To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere is perfect. 5 out of 5 Stars.

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Valaska – Inchoate

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My favorite part about this job is discovering and sharing new bands with people. So I was super to excited to get a stream of Chicago indie rock band Valaska’s new record Inchoate.

It took about 10 seconds for me to completely fall in love with Valaska’s and Inchoate’s opener, “Spring.”The joyful guitar riff that drives Spring feels like a summertime walk on the beach. Spring instantly takes me back to the early 2000’s indie rock scene, to bands like Trail of Dead, Grandaddy, Longwave, Death Cab For Cutie, and Interpol. Valaska doesn’t sound like any of those bands, but they remind me of that time in music that I loved so much. Spring is a fun, upbeat song that’s perfect for the summer season and road trip playlists.

The band instantly brings the energy down with the wonderful Hold Me Back. There’s an alt-country influence in the guitar riff that pays respect to a band like Wilco without completely immersing itself in the genre. Where Spring was the perfect road-trip playlist song, Hold Me Back is the ultimate late night drive jam. Vessel brings back more of the upbeat vibe but seems to fit comfortably as a bridge that makes the distance between the album’s first two tracks complete. Another outstanding guitar riff that tales me back to great indie records of the past.

On Violence the band starts to break out of their shell a little bit and Dave Valdez pushes his vocals further into something close to a yell as he hits the chorus of the song. Ghost has a great summertime/surfer vibe on the opening guitar riff. The theme that Inchoate keeps hitting is how perfect a record this is for summer. Human Condition is a song that would’ve fit comfortably on the Garden State soundtrack. It might as well be a Shins b-side.Minor reminds me of On A Wire era Get Up Kids.

It was love at first listen and that love didn’t wane over about a dozen listens. There’s a lot of nostalgia that Inchoate brings to mine, but it’s not even a specific band that comes to mind. Just a time and era when music was great. And that’s about as high a compliment that I can think to give a band. 5 out of 5 Stars.

You can give Valaska’s Inchoate a spin and purchase the record at https://valaska.bandcamp.com/album/in-cho-ate

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Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow

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Daniel Weyandt from Zao said Nothing’s Tired of Tomorrow was excellent. So I had to check it out.

I wasn’t prepared for the shoegaze awesomeness that was about to explode from my turntable’s speakers as I hit play but immediately I was in love with Nothing.

When Fever Queen starts, I was blown away. It’s up there as one of the best opening tracks of all time. If we just want to talk shoegaze, It’s Slowdive’s Alison good. The pounding, building drums and verbed out guitars instantly hooked me. Comparing the track to Alison is a good place to start because listen to Fever Queen gave me the same sort of feelings that I had listening to Alison for the first time. That feeling that you’ve stumbled upon something timeless and a song/band that will be one of your favorites forever. The Dead Are Dumb continue the Slowdive vibes for me. I know, I know, no bands wants to just be compared to another band. But if you have to be compared to another record, Souvlaki is a pretty good company.

From there, Nothing breaks out into their own a little more. Vertigo Flowers has a surf rock/laid back California cool vibe. It’s still fuzzed out dream pop, but less “dreamy” if you will. ACB brings some heavy to the table. Not quite post-metal/sludge/doom metal but one of, if not the, heaviest tracks on the record. I love the opening riff. Sure, if super fuzzed out, but that’s what makes it great. Nineteen Ninety Heave brings back the super shoegaze/Slowdive feel. Which I have to say, I love!

And I get it. I keep beating this Tired of Tomorrow/Souvlaki comparison drum. But we’re talking about a genre define and generational record in Souvlaki. And Tired of Tomorrow rings just as true and genuine as Souvlaki. When I make the comparison what I’m trying to say is that I haven’t heard a shoegaze record as compelling or moving as Tired of Tomorrow since Souvlaki. It’s high praise!

And what I love even more is when the bands veers into their own thing. Curse of the Sun balances being a balls of wall radio rock track with a super melodic indie chorus. Eaten By Worms continues to showcase Nothing’s love of 90’s alternative rock.

There’s a lot of nostalgia happening when I put into words what I love about Tired of Tomorrow. But when I’m just listening to the record I get lost in how beautiful and compelling it is. Yes, I reflect on what it reminds me of, but I also recognize that Tired of Tomorrow is good enough to stand up on its own without having to reach back. I mean, the 90’s are back right? Tired of Tomorrow works on every level. 5 out of 5 Stars.

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Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost

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There’s been a lot of hype around Holy Ghost. So I decided to give the record a spin. I mean, I live in Philadelphia now, so it only makes sense to keep up with the local scene.

I love that this is a true Side A/Side B record, with the first half of the record having been written by guitarist Jake Ewald and the second half by Brendan Lukens. And that information is good to have before diving into Holy Ghost. Because without it, the album seems disjointed and cohesive. But knowing that the album is literally spit in two gives it some perspective and makes the two sides more interesting.

The album’s opener/intro and title track, Holy Ghost, doesn’t really carry a lot of weight for me. I wish it was a little more fleshed out. As it stands, it really just serves as an intro into Wedding Singer and the actual start of the record. Wedding Singer I love! A stellar punk track that reminds me of Through Being Cool era Saves the Day. Most of Holy Ghost actually reminds me of that era of punk rock. Wedding Singer into Note To Self is my favorite moment on Holy Ghost. Note To Self is less fast paced punk and probably falls into the “emo” category, but it’s also the best hook on the record. Mass is a fun song in spirit but a smack of reality lyrically. Anyone who’s toured and been in love can relate to the lyrics of wanting to just be home and feeling like you’re missing out. Everyday is the mellowest track on the record and its emo perfection. The falsetto vocals at the ends of the first two verses is a nice touch. Hiding winds things down even more. It’s a slow progression to this point and the song goes from super chill to power ballad.

Side B of the record gets back to being super punk. Coding These To Lukens has a nice little mathy riff before the song kicks into high gear. Breathing In Stereo and What If are super pop punk tracks and remind me of Saves the Day more than any other tracks on the record. Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind has a pseudo 80’s new wave vibe thing going on. Just Another Face closes the album and it’s one of those moments where you feel like the band saved the best for last. It’s an excellent rock song and it kind of makes me wish the record had been more like this track.

Holy Ghost clocks in at 28 minutes, so it’s a quick listen. There are some great songs on Holy Ghost and some good songs. The only song that doesn’t ring a bell with me is the opening title track. But it did take me 6+ listens to really get in to Holy Ghost. I’m glad I kept going back to the record because there are some great tracks on Holy Ghost and knowing that there’s an A/B split helps gives the record some perspective. 4 out of 5 Stars.

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The Hotelier – Goodness

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Sometimes all it takes is hearing a track that’s not even on the record to hook you. That’s what Goodness Pt 1 did for me. The promotional song that played on the trailer for Goodness was beautiful and haunting and when it had finished I hit play again and made sure I was getting a copy of Goodness.

Goodness is the best record I’ve heard in 2016 so far. The songs are catchy as hell and Christian Holden’s vocals emit passion and emotion that really makes the songs compelling. For anyone who thinks emo is still a dirty word, Goodness is the album that should shatter that stereotype. Great grooves, killer hooks, punk attitude, great lyrical imagery. Shall I go on?

Where Goodness Pt 1 was calming and moving, Goodness Pt 2 is raw and boisterous. The melody is the same for both songs, so Goodness Pt 2 instantly feels familiar, but where Holden’s vocals swooned over an acoustic guitar on Pt 1, they swell and yell over a blistering drum track for a good chunk of the song. When the song finally explodes open and we get the great guitar solo, I couldn’t help but smile. It’s a perfect rock song.

Piano Player starts as a jangly tune but slowly gives way to the effect as if we’re hearing the band playing in another room somewhere. It’s an interesting effect that allows us to hear an off-key piano riff come skipping briefly in and out over the track as if a ghost is playing in the background of this house where the band is. The effect only lasts for the first verse and we’re left with an absolutely beautiful track. It’s clear by the second track that The Hotelier isn’t interested in convention and giving listeners a simple verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge arrangement all the time. Two Deliverances seems to have a change in tone from the first two tracks on the records. It’s got a lot more attitude. It’s not mean, just has an attitude on the verse and the riff that gives that track this swagger. It’s like the spirit of Mick Jagger took over Holden for the verses.

Soft Animal is my favorite track on the record. It almost feels like a companion piece to Piano Player. What really gets me about this track are the vocals on the hook. The verbed out “choir” vocals that sing “Fawn doe, light snow” serve as a beautiful instrument that enhances Holden belting out the other chorus lines (which change with each pass of the chorus). I originally thought that vocal line was just a group singing O’s until I looked up the lyrics. The melody on the song is beautiful and the first time I heard the song I knew The Hotelier was going to be my new favorite band.

Goodness is a record with the potential to define the “emo revival” and be a generational album that people will reflect on for years to come. Yes, it’s that good! Like I said, Goodness is my favorite record of the year so far. 5 out of 5 Stars!

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Sherwood – Some Things Never Leave You

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I ignored Sherwood’s first go around. Anything that would’ve been dubbed emo in the mid-2000’s I was fighting against as not being “pure” emo. Sherwood being signed to Myspace Records just made them an easy target to not listen to. Oh to be 22/23 and think you know everything about music. Thankfully, Sherwood has resurrected and given us new music so I can right the wrong I made in my early twenties.

Some Things Never Leave You is pop perfection and here just in time for all your summer playlists. The first thing that strikes you is the cleanness Nate Henry’s vocals. It’s not gritty or edgy or “punk” but clean and that lends itself really well to the emo pop sound that Sherwood has perfected. Outside/In is the records opening track and it hooks you instantly. An upbeat little pop song and if you’re really paying attention you’ll notice Joe Greenetz with a super great drum groove on the verse. It’s those small moments of great musicianship that could very easily get lost in the easy-going nature of the record.

Closer To You, Back Home, and Together Alone all have a great throwback 80’s vibe. Little Bit Better is one of my favorite tracks on the record. It’s just easy listening. New Year’s Eve, The First, and The Unknown are all great rock ballads. Bottle It Up is a straight up rock and roll anthem. Believe has some punk elements but doesn’t abandon Sherwood’s pop sensibility. Old Ways reminds me a lot of what Death Cab for Cutie has done lately. And I love that!

If I have any complaints about Some Things Never Leave You it’s that there aren’t those hooks that reach out and grab you and get stuck in your head for hours and days after you listen to them. As poppy and fun as this record is, there are no earworms.

Which doesn’t take away from how much I love this record. It’s a near perfect emo pop/rock record with a ton of musicianship and subtle intricacies in the arrangements to make it compelling multiple listens through. I am grateful for Sherwood’s return! 4.5 out of 5 Stars,

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Face to Face – Protection

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I knew I was going to like Protection. I mean, it’s Face to Face. I’m not sure how much the band would have to change their sound for me to be uninterested or disappointed. Thankfully, they delivered a killer record! I’d say Protection is the band’s best record in years.

Protection sounds like Face to Face. But Protection also feels like the poppiest and catchiest Face to Face record in a while, maybe ever. It wouldn’t be unfair to dub it “pop” punk.And that’s starts from the moment you hit play. Bent But Not Broken is a fantastic track to kick off the record. The riff on the bass is excellent and the hook is perfect. It’s everything you (I) have come to love about Face to Face. It’s a track that makes you want to keep listening. I Won’t Say I’m Sorry is a super fun, fast paced punk track. The breakdown of halftime tom hits on the first part of the pre-chorus gives the song a hint of pissed off punk rock. Double Crossed is an anthemic pop punk single! Great hook that’s catchy and easy to attach yourself to.

Face to Face balances really fast, intense punk tracks with fun pop punk tunes. But it’s all fun. Face to Face sounds like they’re having a lot of fun on Protection. Songs like See If I Care, Protection, Fourteen Fity-Nine, Middling Around, and And So It Goes, all have that “classic” Face to Face sound but it just sounds lighter. I don’t want to say it’s less serious, but you get the idea. Songs like Say What You Want, It Almost Went Wrong, and Keep Your Chin Up are pure pop punk songs.

There’s nothing I don’t like about Protection. It’s fun, good, punk rock. It might not be remarkable, but it’s enjoyable and fun. It’s the kind of record I imagine reaching for often. 5 out of 5 Stars.

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Zach Bolen – 1001

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When I put 1001 on, I didn’t give a second thought to Zach Bolen’s previous endeavors. I liked Citizens/Citizens & Saints, but I was never a “huge” fan, and so I didn’t want that to cloud my experience with Bolen’s debut solo outing.

There are moments on 1001 that I absolutely love. And other moments I feel a little indifferent towards. The album’s opening track, 95, is the gem of the record. 95 is a classic, hook driven, rock and roll song. The palm muted guitar that kicks off the track is simple, yet intriguing and makes you want that moment when the song opens up. It brings to mind classic tracks from the likes of Springsteen and Mellencamp.

After 95 I have a tough time to 1001. And it’s not because Bolen isn’t talent or that the songs are lacking. It’s just not my style and doesn’t appeal to me in the same way it might appeal to someone who is more interested in singer/songwriter acts or the Springsteen/Mellencamp side of music. But that’s just not me.

I love What They’ll Never Find, but I find myself wanting the song to take a twist that it never does. I do find the tempo change at the end of the track fascinating and unexpected. It’s not the twist I was wanting, but it’s still great and innovative. Holding You Close is a great slow jam. I love the verses and the subtle, alt-country vibe on the chorus. The riff the opens up Leave Me Alone is cool, and the way the chorus hits the first time is fantastic, busting out of nowhere.

The rest of the record strikes me as good, but unremarkable to my ears. Which again, is hard to say. Because it’s not bad. It’s a case of sensibilities not lining up. I look hook driven music. Bolen’s music is deep, alt-country infused, and personal. And it doesn’t have those hooks that grab me and instinctually draw me to the record. The super hooky tracks I love.

I give the record 4 out of 5 Stars. There’s a bunch of moments and elements I love about 1001. BUt as an overall record, it’s just not my cup of tea. But it might be yours. So give it a spin.

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Hope For The Dying – Legacy

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Dissimulation – concealment of one’s thoughts, feelings, or character
Aletheia – the state of not being hidden
Legacy – something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past

Each of Hope For the Dying’s record have been a progression forward. Each one hinting at the past and the band’s full body of work, while continuing to move forward and create something new and defined on its owned. I added the definitions for the titles from the band’s last 3 records because it hints at something. Dissimulation and Aletheia were opposites. Musically they had some similarities but listening to them back to back, with a critical ear, you hear how the records tell two different stories. And I like to thing that Legacy takes the best from both of those outings and creates something new, while paying tribute to the past.

While listening to Legacy, there were moments when I just had to stop and enjoy and marvel at the technical writing ability of Hope For the Dying. Moments like the “breakdown” on Flamed Forged really took me back and made me say “wow.”

It’s progressive metal that’s still metal. Look, I love Between the Buried and Me. But sometimes I feel like the progressive side of the music takes over and distracts. It’s great but requires you to pay attention and really appreciate what the band is doing. Hope For the Dying is interesting and if you take the time can really digest and appreciate the depths of the band’s talent. But you can also just listen to the record and enjoy it as a kick ass metal record without getting bogged down in the arrangements.

And I’ll also admit, this record sounds like Hope For the Dying. If you like the band, you’re going to like this record. They aren’t breaking new ground. Just building on what they’ve done and perfecting it. And you know what? It’s damn good! Sometimes you just need a band to be great. Hope For the Dying has always released amazing records and Legacy is just the next gem in their discography.

Legacy is an excellent metal records. The solos are great and the riffs slay. Hope for The Dying continues to push the envelope forward when it comes to arrangements and instrumentation, but the songs are always moving forward and cohesive. I’ve been a fan of the band ever since their debut ep and each record gets better and better. Legacy is another masterpiece. 5 out of 5 Stars.

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Ethan Luck & The Intruders – Record Store Day Digital 45″

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I’m a huge fan of Ethan Luck. He’s played on records I absolutely love and his solo material is always interesting an fantastic. I loved his last ep and wished I had given it a spin before I had put together my Best of 2015 list. Luckily, Luck gave me a change to make him a part of the 2016 list.

Luck’s Record Store Day diital 45″ features two of my favorite tracks from Luck yet! I’ve been waiting to hear more of Luck’s punk roots come out and on this 2 song single, they shine!

Both One Tracked Mind and Control are an ode to the influence of Social Distortion. Punk attitude, rock and roll vibes. It’s an emotion I haven’t heard from Luck’s solo efforts the last 3-4 years, and I love it. I’ve always known Luck as a punk at heart and finally, his solo efforts showcases those roots.

These are my two favorite tracks from Luck to date. 5 out of 5 Stars!

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