Showing posts with label emo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label emo. Show all posts

Sunday, June 2, 2019

video review: '2waymirror' by gabbie hanna

So yeah, I found this better than I expected... actually, more or less exactly what I expected, go figure.

Anyway, next up is Denzel Curry, so stay tuned!

album review: '2waymirror' by gabbie hanna

If you're surprised that I'm covering this project, you haven't been paying attention.

Because I've mentioned before that I've watched Gabbie Hanna for some time now, for at least a couple of years, and I actually got into her content well before she started making music at all. Now you might be wondering why on earth I'm watching this - I'm clearly not her target demo in any criteria - but I've always been curious about framing, fostering a relationship with one's audience, and for Gabbie's brand of content to have survived so much, that speaks to her tenacity and work ethic.

That being said, I've been on the fence about her musical ambitions for some time now, mostly because she doesn't seem to cleanly fit into an easy box within the mainstream, and I question how much she should even go in that direction. She certainly has the presence and charisma and look of a pop act, especially given her commitment to dance... but you can also tell her other natural talents don't really fit in that lane. For one, there's her voice, which has a rough, throatier edge that I've always been convinced would be a better fit for rock or punk or emo - and that's not even taking into account her style of writing, which has a level of intricacy and poetry that'd be a natural fit for an act like Jetty Bones or Say Anything or even the old-school emo rap set - I remember seeing her 'Roast Herself' and being reminded of cadences from Sage Francis or Atmosphere, and that's high praise I rarely give! So packaging her into a mainstream-accessible pop package - when mainstream pop music is currently at one of its weakest points - it worried me that she'd play to a sound that was accessible but not the most flattering to her strengths, and given how she has a built-in, diehard audience, she doesn't need to do that. That said, I remember being pleasantly surprised by Emma Blackery last year, so what did I get from Gabbie on 2WayMirror?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Monday, March 25, 2019

video review: 'american football (2019)' by american football

So yeah, this won't get controversial, not one bit...

So not sure what might wind up next on the schedule after Billboard BREAKDOWN - could well be Resonators, given how my schedule is mutating - but stay tuned all the same!

album review: 'american football (2019)' by american football

I think there's a lot of people who forget that emo was a thing in the 90s.

Now granted, this was material I had to rediscover years later - I certainly wasn't that cool when I was eight or nine - but if you were in the right circles there was a vibrant reinvention going on after the genre kind of went quiet at the end of the 80s, and by the end of the 90s, the genre was on the cusp of a mainstream breakthrough... from a certain point of view. And that was the funny thing: for every band like Jimmy Eat World and The Get Up Kids and Dashboard Confessional actually moving units, there was still a thriving underground that was pushing the sound and scope of emo into more artistic directions, usually with inroads into the indie rock and college rock scenes. Many of these acts would lay the foundation for third-wave emo today... and in the midst of all of this in 1999, a band called American Football released a self-titled album. Now keep in mind that you could track the evolution and growth of emo just through certain members of the band - frontman Mike Kinsella was a founding member of Cap'n'Jazz who also put out one seminal full-length album before falling apart - but American Football was different if only because the ideas felt less organized, pulling from post-rock and free jazz and a windswept tone that lacked the immediacy of most midwestern emo, but remained as compelling. 

And as such, the alchemy was not built to last - after one album that was destined to become a cult classic, the band broke up and went on to various scattered directions both in and out of music... so fast forward to 2014, the self-titled album is reissued, and fans lose their shit, especially when there are hints that the band is reuniting. And to pretty much everyone's shock, not only did it happen they actually released an album in 2016, a second self-titled project right in the middle of the third-wave they inspired. And... well, it was good - not quite great but it never needed to be, a more rounded and accessible reunion that owes a little too much to Kinsella's long-running solo project Owen that had enough to hit the nostalgia centers of all the old fans of the first American Football album who settled down, got jobs, had kids, and put their yearning in the closet.

So I'd argue I was more surprised that American Football were putting out an album this year - it makes sense that the band would want to see more from their critical resurgence and a cult fanbase, but you can only milk nostalgia for so long. So with that in mind, what did we get from the third self-titled album from American Football?

Friday, March 1, 2019

video review: '-' by jetty bones

Yeah, it's a short one, but I'm really happy I found time to get to it - great stuff!

Next up... well, Resonators, but what to follow... stay tuned!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

album review: '-' by jetty bones

Yeah, we're going back into Bandcamp for this one - and yet before we begin, here's a quick observation. One thing I've noticed about a site where indie artists can literally upload damn near anything is that you don't especially find a massive pileup of undiscovered quality, even among the promoted material. If anything, it becomes all the more proof that's there's a normal curve to the quality: a metric ton of stuff that is decent or passable, not a lot of outright trash but also not a lot of immediate standouts. And more to the point, it becomes all the more rare you find talent that's immediately magnetic in front of the microphone - especially in indie pop where desaturated non-effort is the norm, not the exception.

Enter Jetty Bones, the project of an Ohio singer-songwriter Kelc Galluzzo who approaches indie pop rock with what I'd call a mid-2000s sensibility: strident vocals, a focus on hooks over vibes, and the sort of overwritten but biting lyrics that owe a noticeable debt to Paramore and the left-of-center emo that broke in the waves of Say Anything. Yeah, her debut Crucial States in 2016 had a rough case of what I'd describe as 'theater girl voice' and I thought the album could have afforded to be a bit longer - similar concerns I've got about this project here as well and the EP she put out in 2017 - but the writing and her knack for hooks was enough to get me on board, so screw it - what did we get from '-'?

Saturday, November 3, 2018

video review: 'nearer my god' by foxing

Yeah, I'm a little stunned I wound up liking this as much as I do... but yeah, it gets there SO well, and though late I'm happy I covered it - enjoy!

album review: 'nearer my god' by foxing

So over the past few months I think some folks have gotten the impression that I've been more harsh or negative than usual - and while it's true that I've found less albums that I'd say are easy fits for the best of 2018, let's flip the script a little bit and talk about a trend in indie rock that I've actually come to like a fair bit. See, as a part of the success of the third wave of emo in the 2010s, over the past few years we've seen an expanded wave of rock artists dig deeper into raw, emotive territory but harness a little bit more maturity and poise, splitting the difference between over-educated detachment and the painful realization so much of that will not save them anymore - don't look at me like that, we all get to that age!

And make no mistake, this is a thematic trend that might have been primed by the third wave of emo, but it's bled enough into indie rock and alternative rock that it's hard to not think the pretentious coffeehouse hipsters of the early 2010s are having midlife crises, from the wine-soaked breakdowns of the older guard like Josh Tillman and Matt Berninger to the over-educated angst of Will Toledo to the palpable angst of Deaf Havana and The Wonder Years. And somewhere in the middle, inhabiting an intricate blend of post-hardcore rage, post-rock atmospherics, and indie rock meticulousness, we have Foxing. And honestly, I should have tackled this band months ago, because from the reckless, ramshackle howling of their debut The Albatross in 2013 to the more intricate and reserved fragmentation of Dealer two years later, Foxing were definitely inhabiting this lane, and with their third album Nearer My God primed to blow everything up on steroids with their longest and most explosive project to date, I definitely wanted to take this in, so what did we get?

Monday, October 22, 2018

video review: 'last building burning' by cloud nothings

So yeah, this album was awesome - hard to tell how much traffic the review will wind up getting as we're dealing with indie rock that still seems a bit under the radar, but we'll see.

Next up, either Billboard BREAKDOWN or another great project that I can knock out quickly, so stay tuned!

album review: 'last building burning' by cloud nothings

Yeah, I won't lie, I was a little worried about this one.

See, I was among the few that actually seemed willing to get on-board with Cloud Nothings making a more accessible, borderline pop punk-friendly record in 2017 in Life Without Sound - no, it wasn't the razor-sharp explosion that characterized Attack On Memory which remains their best work, but I didn't expect that to return. And by hiring a second guitarist to flesh out the melodies, I actually found a lot to like on that project, an album that at least seemed wiling to push the band out of their comfort zone, both sonically and lyrically.

And yet given the rather mixed critical reception that project got, I wasn't surprised when buzz was suggesting the band was going to wrench their sound back into darker territory - and when I say 'dark', I mean hiring Randall Dunn, a producer most well known for Earth, Sunn O))) and Wolves In The Throne Room, the last being a black metal band. And when you hear that the band was intentionally looking to go back to the scuzzy, nastier era produced by Steve Albini... well, I had high hopes, but this might wind up as a very different animal than I was expecting. But hey, what did Cloud Nothings deliver on Last Building Burning?

Monday, October 1, 2018

resonators 2018 - episode #009 - 'rites of spring' by rites of spring (VIDEO)

First video of the night... and man, it's a fantastic one. But now up for the main event...

resonators 2018 - episode #009 - 'rites of spring' by rites of spring

The tricky thing about this series was always going to be where the line was drawn when it came to genre. That's the tough thing when you're on the cutting edge and subgenres are forking off of subgenres, and considering how much music critics and fans love drawing lines, I could very easily run into trouble by covering this act under the umbrella of a series looking specifically at 80s hardcore punk. On the other hand, as I've stated a few times already it makes sense to look at what came out the hardcore scene in its entirety, and since I've gone through a fair number of the albums that set the foundations for the genre, it makes sense to examine what was built upon them.

So the year was 1985, and the setting was Washington D.C. - we've already talked about the D.C. hardcore scene surrounding Bad Brains and Minor Threat, but by the mid-80s the scene was shifting - the original wave of hardcore punks were entering their mid-20s and a whole new wave of teenagers were flooding into the scene, using the excuse of the genre to get more raucous and violent. Now the roots of that change in the scene are complicated - some of it was demographics, but a pronounced theme of that era was machismo. And to be fair, this was endemic across American culture in the mid-80s, a hypermasculine ideal reinforced by the Reagan administration and an economy that had picked up a lot of steam, to say nothing of a reactionary media climate that loved to brand punks as thugs or outlaws. This was an era of swagger, cockiness, and no fucks given, and even though hardcore had a left-leaning slant, it's always been more complicated, which meant not only did a lot of young guys push a very different ideology, they had the bravado to saunter in and use the show as an excuse to get violent. And while some punks who shied away from ideology flourished, a lot of hardcore acts were either evolving out of the genre or quitting altogether.

But in D.C., Ian MacKaye was not going down without a fight, and in 1985, he and various other members of his independent label Dischord Records began forming new acts for what would be branded as Revolution Summer, beginning an active pushback against aggression at shows and the sexism that was leaking into the scene. Many of the acts wouldn't last beyond laying the groundwork for bigger bands to come, but one has survived and has become what so many have branded as the genesis of an entire new genre just adjacent to the infant post-hardcore. That's right, folks, we're going there, we're going the only album released by the band widely considered as the inspiration of emo, the 1985 self-titled record from Rites Of Spring - and this is Resonators!

Monday, August 13, 2018

video review: 'the great depression' by as it is

Well, this was a thing. Certainly a thing. And probably not one I'm going to revisit much soon...

Anyway, Billboard BREAKDOWN with entirely too much Travis Scott ahead, then probably Nicki Minaj - stay tuned!

album review: 'the great depression' by as it is

So I remember hearing some promising things about this pop punk band a few years back and while the production was perhaps a shade more polished and the lyrics a shade less interesting than I'd personally prefer, the hooks were pretty damn strong and that gave me hope for what could be next... and then I started digging through their next few projects and coming to the realization that it might be all they have...

Wait, didn't I already make this review for State Champs? Do you guys understand why I typically leave these bands for Jon over at ARTV if I can't tell most of their material apart? Now in fairness, As It Is did seem to have a slightly different formula, with the second singer and slightly more pop-centric production focus and slightly more emo lyrics... which seemingly came at the cost of good production and any sense of weight. Yeah, I hate to echo a lot of other critics here, but despite being a slightly more dynamic group, both As It Is records are a lot more uneven than I can really excuse and the hooks never quite had the same punch as Neck Deep or State Champs, to say nothing of the upper tier bands in this format - generally passable, but rarely better. And yet I was curious to give The Great Depression a full review - apparently the band had gotten darker and more ambitious in a dive towards more abrasive emo material, which is really the sort of edge that this group could desperately need, so I was definitely interested. So okay, what did we get with The Great Depression?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

video review: 'sister cities' by the wonder years

Man, this was long in coming - and holy shit, this was awesome! Definitely happy to have covered this.

Next up, before I tackle Laura Veirs, I've got a crossover in the works, so stay tuned!

album review: 'sister cities' by the wonder years

So here's something as a music critic I'm very conscious of, but I doubt is noticed by anyone else: the 'token' album. And even if you're not a critic you've probably seen evidence of this in "I don't like x genre but I like this". Now on the one hand the records that typically fall into this narrow category can hit universal appeal that even those who might not be fond of the genre can't deny the greatness, but when you have musical subgenres that don't tend to get critical respect, there's an air of condescension that comes with these picks that can be pretty obnoxious. Now I've already mentioned this can happen with artists like Kacey Musgraves, but she was making an obvious play for crossover appeal - what we're going to be talking about today are artists who are damn great within their own genre and yet get picked up as critical darlings as the 'token band' by folks and critics who'll never deign to go deeper.

And yet with a band like The Wonder Years, you'd think critics would have learned. Coming from the fertile intersection of pop punk and the 2010s emo revival, their early work may have been slagged as formulaic, but by 2011 they had hit a serious stride with Suburbia I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing, tapping into the decay of American suburbia and existential teenage angst on a much broader, more universal scale. This is a group that fused the layered, personal detail of emo with the huge hooks of pop punk, and it was a synthesis that won over fans of the genre very quickly, especially on their follow-ups The Greatest Generation and No Closer To Heaven, records that are pretty damn great even if I personally prefer Suburbia. But those records started to get picked up by some critics as their 'token' pop punk or emo act on year end lists, and as much as that could feel galling from the outside, it did mean their newest record Sister Cities was starting to pick up a lot more attention... which might have come a rough time, as many of the longtime fans were saying this record didn't quite hold up to earlier releases. But hey, I still wanted to cover it given that I've been criminally late to the party with this group before, so how is Sister Cities?

Monday, March 19, 2018

video review: '?' by xxxtentacion

None of you should be surprised by this. Fuck, I'm just waiting for the backlash train to roll in, especially considering some of the comments I made about relatability.

Whatever - I've got better hip-hop on the horizon to care about than this dreck, but before that, Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

album review: '?' by xxxtentacion

The key word of this review is enablement - because while I've gone off a number of times on Billboard BREAKDOWN how given the changing times and cultural norms it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense that a rapper like XXXTENTACION would have a career, much less flourish the way he has. You'd think given the domestic abuse charges and how so much of his art has not just referenced it but coaxed it through a blurry haze of malformed self-loathing to seemingly justify or excuse his actions that he would have thrown to the curb... and yet he accumulates hip-hop cosigns from artists you'd think would know better and ever-increasing chart success.

But I know the answer - and even if you're not a fan and you're just here to see me rip this record to shreds, you're probably not going to like my answer, because it's the sort of uncomfortable indictment of our relationship to artists that especially younger audiences probably aren't ready to address and why their defense of said acts in the face of critics like me seem so much angrier - just like it was with nu-metal nearly twenty years ago, just purified down by a social media environment that gives us the feeling that we are closer to the artist than ever before. But with certain Soundcloud rappers like XXXTENTACION it runs deeper - you don't aspire to be XXXTENTACION so much as you relate to him, reinforced by the homegrown, amateurish style that lets you imagine and project yourself onto him as the artist using the excuse of deeply held art to excuse your own acts. And it becomes personal, a siege mentality when critics or the rest of the world calls it out because by extension they're calling out a part of you out, a part you feel you already have to repress in the larger world, especially against a rising tide of culture that speaks against it. And thus come the blind eyes and the free passes en masse and as the success grows with the culture it nearly always becomes toxic for the artist with any self-awareness given the groundswell of enablement, and thus you see one of three cases: they turn on their audience outright, they acquire the means to ascend past their audience and sacrifice some of their relatability, or they burrow into that niche, an ever-shrinking ouroboros that will eventually consume itself. And if you think this hasn't happened before in artists that haven't trafficked in relatability, especially trending towards darker impulses, the stream of examples can seem endless with the benefit of history. Eminem. J. Cole. So much of nu-metal and pop punk and emo. Taylor Swift. 

Of course, there are cultural consequences to all of this, and the list of artists that realize it is slim indeed - hell, Eminem got it as early as the first Marshall Mathers LP and has been making self-conscious reference to it ever since. But for XXXTENTACION, he has nothing to pull him out of that spiral of enablement except when his audience gets bored and moves on when the music doesn't engage further - the fickle price of maturity and a refusal to evolve artistically in favor of doubling down, which is dangerous but expected when riding the subtle tides of cultural backlash... unless, of course, XXXTENTACION pulls a fast one and surprises his audience. Unfortunately, we're still in the midst of that wave's ascent and my role here is the critic who must smack this down as the amateurish dumpster fire that it's likely to be... but in theory I get the appeal of a record like this, and if it provides me the constructive context to address it properly, we might be able to address this properly. So fine, what did we get on ? ?