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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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Damien Jurado – Visions Of Us On The Land

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I have had mixed feelings about Damien Jurado’s working relationship with Richard Swift. The relationship has gotten better with each record and I think it’s produced some of Jurado most interesting work and a bunch of songs I love. Visions Of Us On The Land is Swift and Jurado’s best collaboration to date. By simplifying and streamlining the arrangements, the two have created a wonderful indie pop record that’s easy to listen to.

The highlight track on this record is Exit 353, and Jurado makes you wait for it. Super poppy, with a great, unconventional hook. The songs just moves along, verse to verse, and what I’m calling the hook is really just a refrain that ends the track. But it’s catchy as hell and long after you’ve spun the track the words will be echoing in your brain. Or maybe with age the refrain of “I was an old man” just sticks with me a little more than it used to. It’s an absolute gem of a song and easy to see why it was the lead single from the record. It’s also crazy to think that Jurado wasn’t even sure if the song had a place on the album.

Visions still has it’s fair amount of quirkiness. I get the vibe of Wilco covering Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds. And I don’t hate it. But I’ll be honest, a lot of the songs have a similar vibe. Which again, I don’t hate. What makes me like Visions more than the pervious Jurado/Swift outings is how scaled back Visions is. There’s a lot more space for Jurado to be Jurado with just a guitar and vocal.

There are a bunch of songs on Visions, and I like the record. But there’s only really one song that stands out and really does anything for me. It’s my favorite record Jurado and Swift have done together. But there’s not a whole lot here that grabs me. Even owning the vinyl, I find myself putting the record on and enjoying it, but not really stopping and diving in. I give the record 4 out of 5 stars. Good, but not great.

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Everything In Slow Motion – Laid Low

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From Hands’ Give Me Rest to Everything In Slow Motion, Shane Ochsner has been at the helm of some of my favorite records for the last 5 years. So I had high expectations for Laid Low.

Everything In Slow Motion’s Red and Phoenix were natural progressions for Ochsner from Hand’s Give Me Rest and Laid Low feels like the next progressive step forward. Listening to Shane on the As The Story Grows podcast talk about writing this record on acoustic guitar and building the songs from there gives the soundscape more depth. Oschner’s guitar tones and riffs have always been fantastic and the way the sounds build and explode on Laid Low is nothing short of amazing.

The opening riff on Coma that kicks off the ep is straight nasty. Miles McPherson played drums on the record and the extra tom hits on the verse give the groove a killer feel. The drums sound fantastic on the record. Even on the album’s opener, you can tell that this is Shane’s best guitar work to date. The piano on the track is a perfect addition and the extended build into the huge final chorus will send chills down your spine.

Bad Seasons feels more like a track from Phoenix in spirit. But Ochsner’s guitar riffs and effects give the song an added dimension. Layer upon layer of guitar riff creates this fantastic bed for the track and it makes it impactful moving when parts come and go. McPherson’s groove on the chorus is super interesting and unique, but it keeps it in the pocket. You feel like the song is getting huge but the drums stay steady throughout. I Am Laid Low takes you by surprise. It’s an absolutely beautiful song. Shane keeps the guitar pretty simple while the bass and drums provide more complicated rhythms and grooves for your listening pleasure.But it’s when the song gets heavy and Ochsner lets out this growl that I don’t remember ever hearing him do that my jaw dropped! He said on As The Story Grows that there was no screaming on this record. That’s not completely true. It might not be the most complex song on the record, but it’s intensity is unmatched!

You hear so many bands nowadays trying to pull of the ambient hardcore ballad. Runaway is the song they all want to write. The balance between the lightness on the verse and the heaviness of the chorus is perfect. And the breakdown is so unexpected which leads into a couple of half-time choruses that feel like they deteriorate until the song ends. Cappella ends the record on a beautiful, simple note.

Laid Low is perfect and I wish there were more songs! Ochsner has created another masterpiece and I will be wearing this record out! 5 out of 5 Stars!

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Into It. Over It. – Standards

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I only recently found out about Into It. Over It. Intersections was the only record on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Emo Album list that I wasn’t familiar with. So I picked up the album and loved it! So I was really stoked to see that Evan Thomas Weiss had a new record out for me to dive into.

I wasn’t quite ready for the shift in sound on Standards. I actually had to put the record to the side for a while and come back with fresh ears. And I’m glad I did. This is a record where it would’ve been real easy to make a rash judgement after one listen and talk about how much I disliked Standards because it doesn’t sound like Intersections (which I had only just discovered).

There’s a lot I love about Standards. Standards feels familiar and homey. Like a record you’ve spent years listening to. It reminds me at various points of great songs from Death Cab for Cutie, The Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World, Denison Witmer, and Dashboard Confessional. It’s also a record all to it’s self. It’s a soundtrack. No one song sounds like the next, yet the record still feels cohesive.

My favorite moment on the record is Your Lasting Image into Old Lack & Ivory. The haunting melancholy of Your Lasting Image is beautiful and instantly reminded me of and evoked the same emotion that Death Cab’s Brothers On A Hotel Bed did. It’s a beautiful song that pulls on the heartstrings. It transitions flawlessly into the even more sparsely arranged Old Lace & Ivory. The tiny sound of the drums populating an instrumental section before dropping out for something of a false build ends that songs beautifully.

Songs like Closing Argument, No EQ, Adult Contempt, Required Reading, and Who You Are Does Not Equal Where You Are are all incredible indie rock songs with interesting drum grooves and tight guitar riffs. Vis Major is a straight up rock and roll party song. And of course the record is full of simple acoustic songs ranging from light upbeat singer/songwriter to more poignant and heartbreaking.

The more I listen to Standards, the more I find and hear things I like. One of my favorite records of the year so far! And it very easily could’ve been one I missed. 5 out of 5 Stars!

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Deftones – Gore

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I was 13 when Be Quiet and Drive came out. I remember watching the video and being completely blown away by the song. I have been a fan ever since.

In a lot of ways Gore is unimpressive. Unimpressive because, well, we’ve all heard this record before. Lots of great grooves and sexy atmosphere underpinning the record, punctuated by heavy riffs and killer hooks. It reminds me a lot of Diamond Eyes, Saturday Night Wrist, and the self-titled record. It’s what you’ve come to expect from the Deftones. Which doesn’t make it bad. It just doesn’t leave much of an impression other than another really good record from the band.

The album’s opener, Prayers/Triangles , was the obvious and only choice for lead single. It’s really the only remarkable hook on the record. It’s the song you’ll find yourself singing over and over again. I wouldn’t be surprised if Phantom Bride got the single/video treatment. The quiet/loud construct creates a dynamic change and draws attention to the hook, making it a really compelling song. Geometric Headdress has a great hook, but it’s more melodic and serves the music rather than being a hook that’s going to get stuck in your ear.

Doomed User the heaviest track on the record. Proof that the band hasn’t lost it’s edge. Tracks like Hearts/Wire, Xenon, (L)Mirl, all have really great riffs and take a couple of listens to really digest al that’s happening. The title track could easily be a b-side from White Pony. Rubicon is an excellent closer and the Deftones really saved the best for last.

There’s a lot of interesting layers on this record, as there always are on Deftones records. It doesn’t grab me in the same way Koi No Yokan did and it feels more experimental than some previous efforts that had more “hits” on them. But it’s still the Deftones and it’s still a killer record. 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

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Rival Choir – I Believe, Help My Unbelief

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I was a big fan of Mouth of the South’s Struggle Well. It was a record I didn’t expect to like, but was actually quite fond of. So I was curious as to what type of shift in sound would come when the band changed their name to Rival Choir.

The sound on I Believe is both very similar and markedly different. It’s a shift you have to be a fan of heavy music to hear. I can hear the style the Rival Choir is going for. The “ambient” or raw emotional side of hardcore. Bands like The Overseer, Hands, and Underoath (their last 2 records). You can hear that sound coming through in the music. And Hands might be the closest comparison. But Rival Choir is still a heavier band than all the previous mentioned acts.

I personally found this record to be quite enjoyable, although ultimately a little forgettable. There was nothing that grabbed me and made say wow. No songs that took me by surprise or hook that got stuck in my head.

The album’s opener, Poured Out, is heavy and fast while adding this great melodic section. The breakdown reminds me of what I loved so much about Hand’s Creator. And that might be the highest compliment I can pay this record. At many moments it reminds me of that record. Garrett Metzger’s drumming feels a lot like Aaron Gillespie’s drumming on Underoath’s “Lost In the Sound of Separation.” Josiah Lyle’s balances screaming and a more emotional yelling on songs like Beggar that feel very similar to Cory Brandon’s work on Norma Jean’s “Redeemer” and “Anti-mother” records. Quiet Life has an excellent melodic vibe that sounds like a heavier version of The Overseer.

And I think that’s where this record falls short for me. I love the songs and the vibe of this record. But it reminds me of a lot of bands I already like. Which is fine, except is doesn’t make I Believe stand out on its own. It’s the small difference between a really good record and an album of the year contender. I like Rival Choir and I think this is a really good record! I will probably listen to it often. But I like I said, there’s no “wow” moment. It’s a good record. But it’s just missing something that would make it special. 4 out of 5 Stars.

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