Sunday, April 29, 2007

recs for 4/29

Cinematic Sunrise.
This is the side project of Craig Owens, singer for Chiodos. It's a lot lighter, based mostly on piano. A lot of people don't like the fact that his voice sounds so feminine, but I think it actually works better on this style of music rather than Chiodos'. You can catch them on Warped Tour this summer.

Minutes Too Far.
These guys sound a lot like early Fall Out Boy, the vocals in particular. It's catchy and fun, and their live show is captivating.

Everybody Else.
Powerpop from SoCal, this new addition to The Militia Group's roster will provide you with the perfect summer soundtrack.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

rock & roll before the devil comes to take your soul

Artist: Tyler Read
Album: Only Rock & Roll Can Save Us
Label: Immortal Records
Release Date: 4.17.07

Ever wonder what The Pink Spiders would sound like if they were from the deep south? Look no further, because Tyler Read is your answer.

Yes, Louisiana's Tyler Read have dropped their regular pop rock sound for something a little more rooted in the dirty south, and by doing so seemed to have kicked their talent up a few notches.

Only Rock & Roll Can Save Us blasts open with an arena-worthy anthem titled "The Killer," with the album's first hints at '70s rockers and their more modern counterparts like Jet or The Darkness. Tyler Read's kitsch level is somewhere between those two particular bands, which is the perfect balance between taking themselves too seriously and being completely ridiculous.

The CD's lead single, "Intentions," showcases heavy guitar riffs and a great vocal performance from Josh Johnson. However, I feel that this song, particularly the chorus, could benefit from having a slightly faster beat. In fact, I feel this way about quite of few of the songs on the record. Not to say that the songs are bad, but I feel Tyler Read is at their best when they are playing hard and fast.

The exception to this is the closing track, "Heaven." This hopeful track displays some of the best lyrics on the album:

I think this whole sky was meant for us / I can see the colors and the whites collide / Then the good morning will welcome us / And wish us into this brand new year

All of the members of Tyler Read are very open about their belief in Christianity. This does come across in the lyrics, but not in such a heavyhanded was so as to turn you off from the album. Their faith gives them the one factor that keeps this album from being straight up '70s rock - instead of the songs praising the ideas of groupies and promiscuous girls, they instead bemoan these facts. It's a refreshing change of pace, especially for this genre of music.

The big songs and catchy hooks on this album lend themselves perfectly to the hot summer afternoons that are quickly headed our way. I can't say I'll still be listening to this disc ten years down the road, but for now, I'll rock out with the windows down.

01. The Killer
02. Intentions *
03. Michael Jackson
04. Only Rock & Roll Can Save Us Now
05. All You Need Is Love, But
06. A Litmus Test
07. Baby's Got A Temper
08. Fire Away
09. Private School Girls *
10. Get Ready
11. Heaven *

* - standout track

For fans of: Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster, Agent Sparks, Rediscover

Monday, April 23, 2007

more recs from a show.

Brand New, Kevin Devine, & Manchester Orchestra at Rams Head Live, 4.21.07.

Rams Head Live is located in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD. It's a fairly small venue - perfect for seeing this lineup.

Manchester Orchestra were first on the bill. They're a young band that's been creating a lot of online buzz lately for their mature and powerful sound. I saw them last winter with Brand New as well, and I think they've improved a lot since then. I couldn't really get into their CD, but their show now is pretty intense. Frontman Andy Hull has a good voice and knows how to interact with the crowd. They only played for about twenty minutes, but they definitely made the most of it. Set list:

Wolves at Night
Where Have You Been?
I Can Barely Breathe
Now That You're Home
Golden Ticket

Throughout the night, various members of the different bands would come onstage to play on each others' songs, which displayed a sense of community and mutual respect not often seen onstage other than the obligatory shout-outs to tourmates. Both Kevin Devine and Jesse Lacey made appearances during Manchester's set.

I had been looking forward to seeing Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band for awhile now, as Devine's most recent CD, Put Your Ghost To Rest, is a near masterpiece of acoustic songwriting. His live show did not disappoint. It's hard to keep the attention of a crowd you're an opener for, especially when most of the time it's just you and a guitar. I can't remember all the songs he played, but the set included:

Shift Change Splits The Streets
No Time Flat
Bob Dylan cover
Holland 1945 (Neutral Milk Hotel cover)
Cotton Crush

On the last song, Lacey came out and played trombone for them. At some point there were as many as three drummers and four guitarists. It was really awesome to see.

Brand New took the stage around 10PM. Set list:

Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't
Jaws Theme Swimming
Me Vs. Maradona Vs. Elvis
The No Seatbelt Song
The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows
Sic Transit Gloria...Glory Fades
The Boys Who Blocked His Own Shot
Good To Know That If I Ever Need Attention, All I Have To Do Is Die
Play Crack The Sky
Sowing Season (Yeah)
The Archers Bows Have Broken
Jesus Christ
You Won't Know
Welcome To Bangkok

As you can see, the only song they played from Your Favorite Weapon was The No Seatbelt Song, which was a little bit surprising; usually they will at least pull out Soco Amaretto Lime as a crowd-pleaser. However, they did perform Good To Know... and Handcuffs, both of which they rarely, if ever, play.

The best thing about a Brand New show is the intensity of the crowd. I have never seen so much energy directed toward a stage before, with people screaming and singing their hearts out. That's exactly what happens - people just pour their hearts out during the show. Brand New means so much to so many people. There were people who had been waiting in line since 8AM. That's how much love there is for this group of men. It's a powerful thing to see and to participate in.

The new songs convey themselves much more directly in live form than recorded, particularly Limousine and You Won't Know, the latter of which tends to just degenerate into Jesse screaming "You won't know" repeatedly into the mic while the rest of the band dies away. I keep using the word powerful because it's the only word that I feel can properly describe what is happening.

One might think it odd to close with Welcome To Bangkok, one of two instrumental tracks from The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me. Live, it turns into a wall of sound that builds up and up and up and finally crashes. To perform it, every member of Brand New, Manchester Orchestra, and The Goddamn Band came onstage and wailed away on an instrument or two. There was so much going on, it was hard to know where to look. Four drummers, six or seven guitarists, eventually people just began to overturn instruments and play on other ones until it came time for the song to fade away. It was probably the most incredible thing I've ever seen at a show.

Technically, Brand New was very accurate, and they've begun to enjoy themselves onstage again. Lacey and Accardi headbutt each other, when Accardi is not in convulsions on the floor. Lacey keeps the banter to a minimum, which is kind of a welcome change from most bands who want to tell stories between songs.

Overall, a very successful show. I would love to see Manchester or Devine again if possible, and Brand New remains one of the best live acts I have ever had the pleasure of going to see.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

consider these your recs this week.

Cartel, Holiday Parade, and The Dangerous Summer at Lynchburg College, 4.14.07.

These three bands played LC's Spring Fling event, held in the gym.

The Dangerous Summer.

The Dangerous Summer was up first, and the place was still pretty empty. Most of the people who were there were still doing the other activities in the gym like henna tattoos or caricatures, so there were just a handful of us standing by the stage. I was hoping that they would be a little more energetic than they were, since their music is so poppy they could really have a good time with it. Still, they played all five songs from their EP and were good sports about the whole thing.

Holiday Parade.

By the time Holiday Parade went on, a few more people had gathered. Holiday Parade has been getting a lot of buzz with their latest EP, produced by Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount, both of whom were in attendance yesterday. This buzz is clearly not without reason. Andy Albert's vocals were near perfect, they had great enthusiasm, and are able to almost replicate the sound they have recorded.

Set list:

Crimson Red
My Philosophy
Abe Frohman
Driving Away
Never Enough

Their set was just plain fun - exactly what you'd expect from them. I hope they manage a tour soon, because I would love to see them again.


Cartel went on without much fanfare, but proceeded to rock just as hard as they did a few weeks ago at a sold out 9:30 Club.

Set list (as closely as I can remember):

Say Anything Else
Luckie Street
If I Fail
Matter of Time
New Song 1
Burn This City
Mistrels Prayer (typo and all)
Q & A
New Song 2

(Thanks to Elyse for sharing her setlist so it's correct!)

I will never get tired of Cartel's live show - it's really one of the best I've ever seen. Will Pugh just has so much power in his voice. Even though sometimes you can tell he's pushing it to the physical limit, he always hits every note. They play some things faster, like the end of "Matter Of Time," and on some songs like "A," they just turn it into an extended jam session.

I really love their cover of "Wonderwall". Pugh prefaced that one with "Some of you are old enough to remember this song. If not, I feel sorry for you."

The new songs sound great. They are more radio-ready rock, but there are traces of "Q" and "A" in them as well. I'm pretty sure two of them were the same ones we got on the Cobra Starship tour, and then the third new one added in as well.

This particular show was nice since it was in such a small venue, and everyone was of legal age so there was minimal pushing and screaming. It was odd to be right at the barrier and still be able to breathe.

The inclusion of "Fiend" in the set was a pleasant surprise. Occasionally they will play this song or "Write This Down," but not very often. The rest of the band left Pugh onstage with just an electric guitar for a very slow, ballad-like version of the song. It was truly beautiful.

Moral of the story? Next time Cartel comes to your town, make sure you're there to see it.

Friday, April 13, 2007

a touch, a kiss, a little bit of this.

Artist: This Years Anthem
Album: Where The Future Meets The Past
Label: Unsigned

Pop-punk these days is split between the pop leaning bands like Cartel and the punk leaning bands like Bayside. This Years Anthem is attempting to balance both of these camps, and they are getting some pretty good results.

Where The Future Meets The Past bursts open with with the anthemic "A Little Bit Of This." The song features a big hook in the chorus, and drops into a breakdown in the second half of the song. Their rough rock sound brings these two elements together wonderfully. Even if the breakdown isn't particularly well executed, it's a valiant effort that establishes the band's style for the remainder of the album.

The other songs on the album don't showcase hooks quite as intensely as the first track, but their pop-flavored version of post-hardcore rock continues throughout. Joe Heafy's vocals are raw and powerful. He may not have the world's most melodic tones, but his intensity and passion are what carries the songs.

The lyrics center around the regular themes of betrayal and revenge. They're not anything groundbreaking, but they suit the music just fine and make for good singalongs.

"Wreckless Hands" slows things down, which may not be a good thing for the band. As stated earlier, Heafy's voice is a little rough around the edges, which is made very clear on the slower songs. There's no doubt that the sentiments of the song are real, but the vocals could use a little work to make it more listenable. However, his voice goes along quite nicely with the acoustic guitar in "Voices That Got Me Through."

Luckily for the band, those two songs are the only non-rockers on the album. Everything else is intended to create a pit and give the crowd a chance to let out some aggression. All of them have very similar structure, but with repeated listens, each song begins to stand out on its own from the others.

Overall, This Years Anthem has a solid debut effort on their hands. They're literally making pop-punk, and with a little more time, they could evolve into the next big thing on the scene.


01. A Little Bit Of This *
02. My Friend Future
03. Guess What You Are
04. We All Knew
05. Underneath These Words
06. Wreckless Hands
07. Get It Together
08. Separate *
09. We Might As Well Be Strangers
10. Voices That Got Me Through
11. Practice What To Say
12. Promises And Lies *

* - standout tracks

For fans of: Set Your Goals, early Saves The Day, Halifax.

myspace | purevolume

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

all the others seem to think she's crazy.

Artist: Limbeck
Album: Limbeck
Record Label: Doghouse Records
Release Date: 4.10.07

Limbeck are known for their light, alt-country rock, and with their self-titled third studio album, they once again deliver us exactly that. Full of toe-tapping drumbeats and twangy guitars, Limbeck is the kind of album you play while sitting in your front porch swing on a summer day. The question is, are we getting anything new from the band with this release?

It seems so, with the rushing, swirling sounds at the beginning of "Trouble," which also incorporates a piano towards the end of the song. This trend of a wider range of instruments continues throughout the album, ultimately including elements like chimes, vocoders, and strings. This does a fair amount to expand the sound of the band. However, after that little bit of innovation, the band returns to the same old, same old.

Robb MacLean's voice is exactly the same, which is both a pro and a con. Pro, in the sense that his voice is perfectly suited to this style of music, and con in the sense that he doesn't have a lot of power and occasionally the music drowns him out where it shouldn't.

The majority of songs on this CD are of the lingering, meandering variety, with occasional guitar solos thrown in here and there. The subject matter tends to follow along with this style of song - most of them are about traveling: to places, from places, wanting to go places, wanting to stay in places. Clearly life on the road is what inspires MacLean.

As far as alt-country goes, it's fairly middle of the road. It's good music, but not top tier in the genre. I know it's a fairly limiting style of music, but I'd really like to see Limbeck try and push the expansion they have started with this album. More unusual instruments and different lyrical subjects, rather than the same thing over and over again. Because, as I said earlier, it's a good album but not really much in the way of new sounds. I feel like I've heard these songs before from this band. If I wanted to hear the same things over again, I'd stick in Let Me Come Home or Hi, Everything's Great.

01. Trouble
02. Big Drag *
03. Let Me Come Home
04. Bird Problems *
05. Keeping Busy
06. Reading The Street Signs
07. Wake Up
08. Let's Get Crazy
09. Your Story
10. Friends *
11. Sunset Limited

* - standout tracks

For fans of: Steel Train, Old '97s, Kevin Devine.

website | myspace | purevolume

Monday, April 9, 2007

nice to meet you, I'm your other half.

Interview: Relient K.

I had the chance to have a phone conversation with Matt Thiessen of Relient K, to talk about the new record, the old records, and everything inbetween.

PPJ: To start, can you tell us your name and what you do in the band?

Matt: My name is Matt, and I sing, play guitar, and play piano.

PPJ: How did Relient K get started?

Matt: Um, well, the one guy in the band, Matt, who I’ve known him forever, since second grade, and I guess we both started playing guitar around the same time in high school, and we were both into the same bands like MxPx and Slick Shoes and Ghoti Hook and bands like that, and so we just decided that we’d start to play our own stuff. So we did that, we had a bass player come from our hometown as well, but he only lasted two years in the band.

PPJ: What was the first album you ever bought?

Matt: The first album I ever bought was Counting Crows’ August And Everything After. Or at least on CD. I probably bought Aerosmith’s greatest hits on tape like back in sixth grade or something.

PPJ: How do you think Relient K has progressed between your albums? Why did you start to move away from all the pop culture references you had in your older songs?

Matt: Well, I mean, um, honestly it’s not necessarily an effort to move away as much as it is an effort to just make sure we’re not repeating ourselves all the time, you know? Like, we didn’t want to just get pigeonholed into being like, “Oh, it’s the band that, you know, tells jokes in their songs all the time.” I mean, I look at like, Bowling For Soup, for instance, and like, those guys are way cool or whatever, but you know everybody just kinda associates them with, “Oh, they’re gonna be silly all the time” and stuff. And whenever they wanna do a song that’s not totally dripping in pop culture references and humor, then nobody really gets it. Same with the Barenaked Ladies. It gets tough for those kind of bands to do serious songs and stuff. We just try to make sure we balance it enough that we don’t get put in that box.

PPJ: Is that why there’s no more bonus tracks on the CDs like “Skittles And Combos?”

Matt: There’s technically like a little bit of a bonus on the fourth album, it’s before the album started and you had to rewind. And then on the last one, the last song is eleven minutes long, and honestly, I really liked the way it ended the record and I didn’t want to put anything else after that. We’ll probably…we basically try to do the funnier sort of stuff in other ways like podcasts or tour journals. Or we’re still working on these episodes of this cartoon that we’ve been trying to do. There’s only the pilot out there, but we’ve got like three other episodes in the works, like flash animation cartoons.

PPJ: The furry woodland creatures episodes?

Matt: Yeah, yeah, the forest stuff. I’ll actually be working on that in a couple of hours here, probably.

PPJ: What kind of progression do you think will happen towards your next album? I know that’s kind of early to think about that, but is there anything you hope to see happen?

Matt: I don’t really know. I’ve been working on stuff already. We’re actually…we might do the next album, we might try and put it out really quick, and kind of make it completely different, as far as…well, I don’t really know if I should talk about this before I know for sure, but I’ve been working on kind of like a story or something to do instead of an album, and we’re trying to think of different ways to present it. I’ve got some really fun ideas and I think it would be kind of cool. We might treat it like an EP even though it’ll probably have like fifteen or twenty songs on it. But we just like to put music out there, and I think if we put out something that is a little bit different, I think that we’ll be able to put it out sooner than later.

PPJ: How did you get signed to Gotee Records in the first place?

Matt: We got signed to a developmental record deal, I think in the summer of 1998, and then we were on that developmental deal for two years until they finally put out our record. So we were kind of sitting around and waiting a whole lot in the beginning of this whole thing.

PPJ: And why did you choose to move up to Capitol?

Matt: It wasn’t our choice, really. I guess it ultimately was, but basically what happened is that Capitol Records and Gotee are under the same distribution company, so basically Capitol just decided to kind of Big Brother the band and say, “Okay well, ultimately all the money is going to the same place, so Gotee, we want to help the band promote this fourth record and then we’ll work something out.” So Capitol just kind of came in and basically started doing stuff that Gotee didn’t have the ability to do, and then that just kind of continued. We actually never signed a deal.

PPJ: Have you seen a change in the crowds at your shows since you started getting played on the radio?

Matt: Not really. It’s not like when we’re playing a show, I can’t really look down and kind of judge who’s watching you based on what they look like. I mean, obviously our crowd is a lot different on this tour than it was when we were opening for Simple Plan or Good Charlotte, you know? There’s at least guys coming to our shows now, which is always good, not just all the young girls. But yeah, I dunno. I mean, I got a bra thrown at me the other day, that used to never happen, maybe that’s the radio thing, I dunno.

PPJ: What does the title Five Score And Seven Years Ago mean?

Matt: Yeah, it’s not much of anything, it’s just that this is our fifth album and our first one came out seven years ago, and you know, the whole Abe Lincoln reference and whatnot.

PPJ: Your single “Must Have Done Something Right” was released online without DRM protection. What are your views on downloading music?

Matt: On downloading music?

PPJ: Yeah.

Matt: I dunno, I mean, I honestly don’t appreciate it when people just download complete records and don’t buy them and accept what I do for a living. It’s like an artist saying, “I don’t really appreciate the burglars breaking into the museum and stealing all my paintings without paying for them.” It’s kind of similar, I guess. You know, other than that, I like buying albums on iTunes, obviously I download it, but I pay for it. And I think at least being able to go to a website and stream it or whatnot is a very good indication of whether or not you’re going to like the record. I think the more preview you can get of something, the better. It’s just marketing, you know?

PPJ: Why did you choose not to have Mark Lee Townsend produce your new album when he’s produced all your previous ones?

Matt: It wasn’t really a choice like that. He did all our other four records, but it wasn’t like every time we were like, “Oh, we’re gonna use Mark no matter what.” Every time it came time to do a record, we thought of who we wanted to choose, then we weighed options and we talked to other producers. For the first four albums, it just made the most sense to have Mark do it because we really liked working with him and it was really easy. So when it came time to do the fifth one, it was the same thing. You sit down and you’re like, “Okay well, are we gonna use Mark or are we gonna use someone else?” You toss around ideas and I thought about calling Howard Benson, and seeing if I could get a hold of him to see if he’d wanna do it. So we did that and he ended up wanting to do it so it worked out really well as far as that goes. Mark still did two songs on the album so we still worked with him a little bit.

PPJ: Can you tell us a little bit about Relient K’s writing process?

Matt: It’s kind of changed over the years because we all used to live in the same town, and due to member changes, nobody lived in my town anymore that’s in the band, so I usually have to start writing and demoing on my own. Then I’ll email the demos to the guys and they’ll listen to them and tell me if they think they’re crap or not, and then if they like the songs we’ll get together and we’ll kind of work on them and take them to the next level. And then we just keep working at them from that point on. We’ll have to all get together and fly somewhere to practice for a couple weeks, so the songs have to be kind of started. You can’t just show up and not have anything to rehearse.

PPJ: How did Jon Foreman get involved with singing on the song “Deathbed?”

Matt: He’s just a good friend of mine. Actually, it’s funny, the song was only about seven and a half or eight minutes long and I knew I wanted him to sing on the record and I hadn’t decided where yet. I just started thinking about that song like, “You know, I could really use a better conclusion,” so I added like three minutes to the end of the song, kind of almost based around the fact that I wanted Jon to sing this part, and then when I started thinking about what he was going to sing like, it kind of became evident how the song should end. Even me having the idea to ask Jon to sing on the record probably helped the writing process quite a bit as well. I just sent him out some tracks and I sang the part that I wanted him to sing, and he sang it in his living room, I think. [laughs] He did it on his computer and sent it back to us, so I didn’t even get to see him while he did it. We have very mutual appreciation, and he’s kind of like a big brother to me, so I was really happy to have him involved in the record.

PPJ: You have a side project, Matthew Thiessen And The Earthquakes, and Dave Douglas has a side project called Agnes, are we going to be seeing anything out of either of those bands anytime soon?

Matt: Probably not anytime soon just because we’re just so busy right now, it’s really hard. When we do get a week off, sometimes we don’t want to just start working on other things, we want to take a break from music. Next week we’ve got all these acoustic shows and stuff in addition to playing actual shows. It’s funny, we’re playing Leno, then we have to play Anaheim that night, then we have to wake up at like five in the morning the next day to do like an eight hour video shoot, then we have to play in L.A. that night. It’s pretty crazy how busy we are. It’s a little bit tiring, but we get by.

PPJ: So, Jon Schneck collects comics, John Warne plays World Of Warcraft, and you all play Nintendo – what other hobbies do you guys have?

Matt: Well, I don’t actually play my DS that much, my girlfriend actually uses it [laughs]. Let’s see, we all play poker. I played poker last night with some of the guys. I won, which I’m happy about. We’ve actually been playing a lot of bocce ball on this tour. Sherwood bought us a bocce ball set and we’ve been playing with them. It’s been a slight obsession as of late. Matt Hoopes golfs, Dave is probably actually probably the biggest music guy, when he goes home he just works on music the whole time. I’m a big Cleveland Cavs fan and Ohio State Buckeyes fan, so I’m following sports and stuff like that. Those are some of our hobbies, I guess.

PPJ: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Matt: For me it’s just been drinking a can of Red Bull, sugar-free Red Bull. I think Jon Schneck will stick out his fist and give a little pound and say “Have a good show,” and that’s about the only thing that we do before every show.

PPJ: Do you have any plans for after the Mae/Sherwood tour is over?

Matt: A couple little things like doing some festivals, like radio type things. We’ve got a couple of those mapped out. Other gigs, like a show with The All-American Rejects, a show with Switchfoot, stuff like that all scattered about. Then a bunch of festivals, like Cornerstone, which is in Illinois and one of my favorites.

PPJ: Whatever happened to Dermike? He’s never onstage anymore.

Matt: Oh, he’s in my garage, yeah. We just kind of put him out to pasture for a little bit, and we’ll probably bring him back out at some point and have a resurgence of that good old guy.

PPJ: What are your favorite cities to play in?

Matt: That’s like a threefold question. My favorite city to actually walk around in and be in, and not even play in, is Seattle. My favorite city to play in because the crowd is so awesome is probably like Chicago or Minneapolis. And then the best city to play in because of the venue is probably Norfolk, Virginia, at the Norva. The venue’s just awesome, every time you’re there you just feel really comfortable and taken care of.

PPJ: Who are your favorite bands to tour with? Who’s the most fun to be out on tour with?

Matt: They’ve all been pretty great. We definitely love the guys we’re out with right now, Mae and Sherwood, they’re some of our best buds so we’re extremely happy to be on tour with those guys and having some fun.

PPJ: My last question for you is what are three up and coming bands you think we should be listening to?

Matt: One is Deas Vail, their record just came out like a month ago. That’s D-E-A-S V-A-I-L. Another good one is…well, I don’t know if they’re “up and coming,” but my roommate’s band Lovedrug, I love those guys. They just put out a new record. Hmm, who are up and coming bands? Well, they’re definitely not up and coming, but I heard the new Silverchair record and it’s just awesome.

PPJ: Yeah, it’s good, I’ve heard it.

Matt: Yeah, do you like it?

PPJ: I do, I like it a lot.

Matt: Yeah it’s good, but they’re definitely not up and coming.

PPJ: [laughs] No, but that’s okay. Well, that’s all I’ve got to ask you. Thanks so much.

Matt: Okay, thanks a lot – have a good one!

Thanks again to Matt for taking the time to do this interview, and to Bobbie Gale at Capitol for setting things up.

Relient K's new album, Five Score And Seven Years Ago, is now available in stores, and you can read my review of it here.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

separate back down to what we were.

Artist: New Atlantic
Album:The Streets, The Sounds, And The Love
Label: Eyeball Records
Release Date: 4.10.07

Jersey's New Atlantic have been touring hard for the last couple of years, putting out a handful of EPs on their own. They recently signed to Eyeball Records and their first full-length, The Streets, The Sounds, And The Love, comes out this Tuesday.

New Atlantic's brand of light, cheerful pop rock sees its most realized form yet on this album. Giovanni Gianni's voice is clear and understandable, and he is capable of hitting the higher notes consistently, something that is hard to pull off and still sound pleasing.

The sweeping guitars draw you right into the songs. It's easy to envision yourself driving with the windows down, wind blowing in your face, with this album playing in your stereo.

"Wire & Stone," which features backup vocals from Cartel's Will Pugh, is a small pop masterpiece, with its soaring hook and slightly more rock n' roll bridge. I'm quite sure this song will be a hit at some level, if not a huge one.

New Atlantic hasn't let signing to a label influence their songwriting style very much at all. The songs have more layers to them - background vocals feature much more prominently than on their previous releases, and the overall mixing of the songs is of much higher quality. Lyrically, some songs show advancement, "What It's Like To Feels Small" in particular:

holding back / I'll see you when the next few days pass through us / like ghosts that keep us even farther from home / We'll fall asleep knowing all the people we meet / will dissolve when home reminds what it's like to feel small

"So If You Try" is sonically very reminiscent of Cartel's "Matter Of Time," but not overpoweringly so. It ends up being a refreshing change of pace midway through the album.

The only older New Atlantic song that is included on this record is "Late Night Television." While this is probably my favorite New Atlantic song, I wish they had included a few others, particularly "This Time Around" or "Ashes Of A Future." "Ashes Of A Future" actually probably would have interrupted the flow of the album, but I think "This Time Around" might have fit in well with the newer songs. At the same time, it's nice to get a lot of new songs.

The Streets, The Sounds, And The Love is a beautiful record. However, I don't think New Atlantic are anywhere near their peak yet. This album is just the beginning - I think they have a lot of room to grow, and I can't wait to watch them do it.

01. Cold-Hearted Town
02. Wire And Stone *
03. Now That You're Gone
04. You Get Me *
05. What It's Like To Feel Small
06. I Won't Be Back
07. So If You Try
08. Safer Times
09. Late Night Television *
10. The Ever After
11. The Streets, The Sounds, The Love

* - standout tracks

For fans of: As Tall As Lions, Melee, Lovedrug.

website | myspace | purevolume

Thursday, April 5, 2007

songs from your past will play through the rain.

Mêlée - Devils & Angels.

Orange County quartet Mêlée have built a reputation over the last few years for making soaring, piano-based pop songs. They effortlessly continue this tradition on their major-label debut, Devils & Angels.

The album starts with "Built To Last," a radio-ready single that feels a little too slow to be the album's starting point, but is nonetheless beautiful. Chris Cron's vocals are clean and pitch-perfect, and the piano takes center stage. This is nice because, more often than you'd think, piano parts tend to get lost in the mix to the other instruments. However, producer Howard Benson takes care to not let that happen.

Before you think that maybe Mêlée only writes midtempo crooners, take a listen to "Frequently Baby (She's A Teenage Maniac)" If that's not the catchiest, most upbeat song you've ever heard in your life, I don't know what to tell you. It's energetic and fun without going overboard - it still sounds clearly like Mêlée.

Then we return to the slower side of music with "For A Lifetime," which is very reminiscent of their previous album, Everyday Behavior. It's great to see that Mêlée can keep their established style while finding a way to make their songs bigger and more epic. I can see this particular song being much more rock when played live.

Throughout the album, the lyrics cover a broad range of subjects, from the cliche ex-girlfriends ("Drive Away") to schizophrenia ("Imitation"). All these topics are covered effortlessly and still kept accessible.

"Can't Hold On" is a breathtaking ballad, possibly one of the most intimate songs Mêlée has ever written. It could easily find its way onto soft rock stations across the country.

"Biggest Mistake" is another crowd-pleaser in the vein of "Frequently Baby," and it even name drops Mitch Ryder's "Devil In A Blue Dress." How could you not love that?

The bonus track, "You Make My Dreams" is a Hall & Oates cover. It may be the scene thing to like Hall & Oates, but clearly Mêlée is doing this cover out of pure love for the duo. It's a perfect album closer.

Mêlée has been able to mature their sound just enough to make them viable to the mainstream (not that they didn't always have that potential), while still holding onto everything that makes them inherently who they are. It's nice to see a band grow like this without completely losing their heart along the way.

Standout Tracks: Frequently Baby (She's A Teenage Maniac), Drive Away, Can't Hold On.

Monday, April 2, 2007

rise, like a star you will rise.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Vince Scheuerman of Army Of Me. Vince unfortunately lost his voice last week, but graciously agreed to do this interview via email instead. So here it is, an insightful talk with one of DC's most beloved frontmen.

PPJ: For starters, can you tell us your name and your role in the band?

Vince: Hello, I'm Vince Scheuerman, I sing and play guitar.

PPJ: How did Army Of Me begin?

Vince: Long ago, in some dark basement in the District of Columbia, Dennis
Manuel, our drummer and I got together and jammed on 5 songs that I had written. Early on, I was just trying to be as good as Jeff Buckley (which is impossible), whose record "Grace" I listened to at least 3 times a day. Over time though, our sound and voice became our own, as the band matured. We added a bass player, and eventually another guitarist, Brad Tursi. We booked as many shows as we could, we were willing to play anywhere, in basements, back yards, community centers, and gymnasiums.. but we eventually graduated to rock clubs....

PPJ: You were called Cactus Patch before becoming Army Of Me. Were there any musical shifts there, or was it simply a name change?

Vince: Bands are always changing and growing, if not, they are getting stagnant. But when we changed our name, it was really because we couldn't envision ourselves being called Cactus Patch the rest of our lives. We asked ourselves, could you look in the mirror knowing that your band was called Cactus Patch, and take yourself seriously? The answer was no.

PPJ: What bands influenced you growing up?

Vince: Altar Boys, U2, The Alarm, The Levellers, James, Oasis, School of Fish,
Weezer, Sublime, Nirvana, The Beatles, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Green Day, Blur, Counting Crows, to name a few....

PPJ: Are those same artists still strong influences for you today?

Vince: Well, I can never erase what music has formed my musical taste and sensibility. But these days, I'm not listening to those bands like I did when I was younger. Of course, the next time U2 or Rufus Wainwright puts out a record, I'll listen to it and probably get some inspiration out of it. I'm currently looking for my next musical obsession....

PPJ: It's taken Army Of Me quite a few years to find a label home. Why is that?

Vince: It's taken Army of Me quite a few years to figure out who Army of Me is, and for everything to come together the way that it needs to. Looking back, I'm actually glad that our new record - Citizen - is our first nationwide release.

PPJ: What made you want to keep working at this through all that time?

Vince: Somewhere deep down, I always had the belief that we could write amazing songs, or that we had something to say. And all along the way, we had really encouraging people who believed in us and helped us to believe in ourselves.

PPJ: Why did you ultimately choose Doghouse Records?

Vince: Actually Doghouse had been wanting to sign us for a couple of years. So when the time came that we wanted to sign a record deal, we realized that Doghouse was the first one who had expressed interest, and they had continued to pursue us for a long time. We knew they were passionate about our music and that they believed in us, and that was really important to us.

PPJ: Has being from the DC area provided you with any noticeable advantages or disadvantages?

Vince: Being in a real city definitely has its benefits. In DC there is a music scene with a lot of history - bands that we loved growing up like Fugazi and Minor Threat. And there are some really great venues like the Black Cat and the 9:30 club. And when you live in a real city, there are always cool bands and people coming through your town... And DC is set in the midatlantic area where there are several other great cities so near by, like Philly, NYC, Richmond, Charlottesville, Norfolk, Pittsburgh, etc. So, it was a great central place to be. We received a lot of support early on from a radio station called WHFS, who put on the big festival called HFStival, that most people from the east coast have heard of. We got to play that several times... Then later on, another radio station, DC 101, gave us a lot of love. On top of all that, there are some really great bands from DC that we are friends with, that make up a cool scene.

One thing about DC that makes it a hard place to be a band is that the city is so transient. People come to DC, but never stay for very long, so it's hard to build a steady, solid home town fanbase. And not very many kids actually grow up in DC, it's more Maryland and Virginia suburbs. But that's ok, because people travel into the city to see shows...

PPJ: Has your approach to writing music changed over the years?

Vince: I've always written what sounded good to me. That sounds really simplistic, but it's really the case. Early on, I was influenced by Jeff Buckley, so I used to try to put 17 jazz chords in each song. But over time, i've simplified my songwriting. there's a fine balance where songs are simple, yet still interesting. That's where I try to live. To me, songs are about communication. You have something that you want to portray, or get across. If a song is too complicated, you start to lose people. But I also can't stand when songs are stupid or cliche... If you can say what you're trying to say in a unique way, that sounds cool, and everyone can understand it at the same time, then you've really accomplished something...

PPJ: How does it feel to finally be able to release a full-length album?

Vince: I'm very excited for people to hear what we've been working on. I love
our record.

PPJ: Tell us what went into the recording of Citizen.

Vince: During the summer of 2005, we traveled to Mathews, VA to a little tiny beach house where our producer had a studio set up. There we spent about a week recording demos for the songs Going Through Changes, Still Believe in You, and Perfect. It was these demos that got us our record deal... so in February and March of 2006, we traveled back to the beach house to finish the record. It was quite a process, sifting through all the songs, trying to decide what to record, what not to record. But eventually, we narrowed it down, and spent almost 2 months working on recording these songs. Each song has it's own story, and something unique about it... all in all, it was a great experience.

PPJ: What significance does the title Citizen hold?

Vince: Citizen is about loyalty, devotion, and love. The word comes from a line at the end of the song "Meet You At The Mouth"... where the lyric says, "You're a city on a hillside, in a country far from here. I will go there and be a citizen of you." This is a very human record that deals with change, desire, conversion, struggle, hope, love, and the human condition.

PPJ: How did you choose which of your older songs to include on Citizen?

Vince: Originally, the record was going to be only the last 11 songs we had written - all new songs. But at the last second, we decided to include one older song "Saved Your Life" on the record. It was a song that the guys in the band really like, and they wanted to include it on the record.

PPJ: Will you continue to play any of the other older songs at your shows?

Vince: Just because a song isn't on the current record doesn't mean we can't play it live. And who knows, maybe an older song could end up on a future record...

PPJ: You played at SXSW this year. Had you ever played it before? What was that experience like?

Vince: Yes, SXSW is insanity. There are thousands of band playing at all hours of the day and night. it's very easy to have a good time down there. I ended up having a little too much fun, i think, and trashed my voice. As of now, i'm still trying to get it back!

PPJ: You're also having a residency at The Black Cat. What exactly does that mean?

Vince: Traditionally, a residency is when you play a reoccuring gig at a club. The idea is that you keep going back until people realize that it's an event, and they show up. So, at the Black Cat, we've been playing the last Wednesday of each month - Feb, March, and April. We've got one more to go, the grand finale - April 25.

PPJ: What are your summer tour plans?

Vince: TBD, but we plan to be out on the road in support of our new record - Citizen.

PPJ: Lastly, can you tell us three bands you think we should be listening to?

Vince: The way you phrase that sounds like it's a music vitamin that you
should be taking, haha. sooo, today, you should really catch up on your
Vitamin B - Bob Dylan, Beatles, Beach Boys, Beck, Bjork, Blur, Ben
Folds, and Brendan Benson...

Thanks again to Vince for taking the time to do this interview. Also thanks to Chris Sampson at Red Light Management for arranging everything.

You can preorder Citizen at the Army Of Me online store, or pick it up in stores next Tuesday. You can also read my review of the record in the post directly below this one.

baby, I couldn't see, but at least it was loud.

Army Of Me - Citizen.

Army Of Me is a DC-based indie-pop band who have been around for nearly ten years now. Citizen will be their very first full-length release. It hits stores next week, and these are my thoughts.

I've been listening to Army Of Me since late high school, ever since I asked a friend about an AOM pin on her bag. I went to a show and fell in love with the band's wispy, heartfelt songs immediately. Needless to say, after so many years of demos and EPs, this LP has been highy anticipated.

Citizen begins quietly with "Perfect." Right off the bat, Vince Scheuerman's voice is spot on. He's found a way to balance having a wavering voice and still being able to convey strong emotion.

The next song, "Going Through Changes," is the album's lead single. It's always been one of my favorite Army Of Me songs. Now, there are a lot of older songs on this CD, and some people might complain that they weren't rerecorded differently, but I am glad they didn't mess with them. I really think the songs are great the way they are. "Going Through Changes" has the classic AOM song structure - slower, wordy verses, and a swelling chorus that sucks you right in.

The next two songs, "Rise" and "Meet You At The Mouth" are newer songs, one from the Rise EP and one new to this album, respectively. Both display some beautifully dark lyricism that we haven't ever quite seen from Vince:

there's a time for laughing / theres a time for weeping / there's a time for sowing / there's a time for reaping / so on your knees now / up on your feet now / the words won't come out when you're trying to speak out

"Meet You At The Mouth" also features heavy guitars (heavy by AOM standards, that is), which makes for a nice change up in sound.

"Thinking It Over" is another pretty new track, one that kind of moves forward lazily while still remaining interesting.

"Better Run" includes a piano, the first time AOM has ever recorded one to my knowledge. Vince's voice has a different effect against the sounds of the piano versus the usual guitar. There's a nice slow buildup to the introduction of other instruments into the track. Honestly, it's one of the most powerful songs we've ever heard from this band. This is how power ballads should be done.

The energy then gets stepped up with "How Long." It's interesting to hear Army Of Me play such a fast-paced song. They're good at it, but they're still better at a slower tempo. Vince sounds like he's having to try very hard to keep up with the music. So, it's a good song, but not their best.

"Walking On" and "2 Into 1" are also tracks that are good but not great. There isn't really a lot to distinguish them from a lot of their other songs.

"Back To Business" works superbly as an album closer - it's just hopeful enough to leave you feeling good at the end of the record.

Overall, this is a very solid debut LP. It's good to finally hear a large chunk of new AOM music, instead of just getting a few songs every couple of years. I wish they would experiment a little more with the structure of their songs. I'm afraid if they don't, people may lose interest in them quickly, and they have potential to be an indiepop mainstay with some of these songs.

Standout Tracks: Meet You At The Mouth, Still Believe In You, Back To Business.