Friday, July 6, 2012


Debuting off of San Francisco based Owl Paw’s newest six song EP, Carry On, the first single “Sunrise” is a swirling mix of harmonious vocal rhythm's, upbeat guitar licks and soothing hums. The step into the sunlight begins with the head bobbing movement of lead singer/songwriter Derek Schultz’s hand over the his acoustic guitar. Soon joined by the rest of the band as an electric note rings out over the sonic landscape. The band bops up and down as the song progresses. A lonely violin enters the mix, morosely leading the song up to its climax and continuing on throughout the peppy chorus.
“But if the sun won’t rise/The body can’t die again” is chanted in a glorious three way harmony. Highs, lows and mids are all there and executed in perfect unison. A trailing voice echoes the group, yet it lacks the muster to properly accent the line. Leaving a slightly sour tone in the listeners ear. Continuing on in basic pop structure, “Sunrise” ends on a delicate note.  In a desirous, desperate cry for happiness the band sings, “When all I want to see is the sunrise/I’m already running late.” Soothingly tugging at the strings of any listener. 
The folk/indie musings of Owl Paws have long been in motion since their inception into folk world. Their 2011 self titled release captivated listeners with its acoustic ballads and smooth vocal melodies. With the release of Carry On, out in August from Urban Scandal Records, the band continues this legacy with a more full bodied and polished sound. “Sunrise” is the culmination of this hard work and proves to be some of their catchiest and most polished tunes yet. 

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rad Summer 2012

Straight out of Florida, land of retirement homes and vacation destinations, comes one of the most brutal, straight forward hardcore compilations seen on this side of the internet in many years. Featuring the likes of Code X Red, Clockwork, Losin’ It and more, the Rad Summer 2012 compilation brings some the best of the hardcore reality to the world. 
Released by Life to Live Records, this compilation clocks in at a rad 29 and a half minutes and unrelentingly brings the listener to their knees as each song progresses. Chock full of obscure and hungry hardcore champions, this comp spans the whole spectrum of the genre. Fast, aggressive, heavy, brutal, melodic, chugging, driving, dizzying, its all here. 
One of the more outstanding tracks on the record is Code X Red’s song “Never Again.” Straining, high pitch screams release over the ensuing wrath of the guitar and drum attack that backs it up. Circling around the listeners ears until one is dizzy, Code X Red brings the hate effectively in the style of Terror, Alpha and Omega, and American Nightmare. On the opposite side of the lens lies Clockwork. Bringing to the table a melodic style similar to Sinking Ships, Shook Ones and older Crime In Stereo, the bands submission “Ad and Subtract” shows great promise. A speedy intro breaks way into a pounding, toe tapping outro that brings to mind Polar Bear Club in its thickness and heart tugging movements. 
Other mentions within Rad Summer’s walls are Losin’ It and their song “No Apology.” A dragging bass lines calls for stage dives right off your bedside as the drums smack your ears. Releasing into a pounding, mosh heavy riff that brings to mind the aggressive days of More To Pride and Rivalry Records. Even more aggressive is the enormous open ended breakdown at the end of Modern Pain’s “Let Down” that is only countered by the melodic sounds of Tiebreaker’s “Take It Back” two tracks later. The later bringing to mind Verse and Shipwreck, at their more melodic moments. 
All in all their is something for every hardcore enthusiast within the sonic layers of Life To Live’s Rad Summer 2012 compilation. Make the summer even radder than it already has been by picking it up over at their bandcamp for a cheap dollar.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, June 29, 2012

Carry On

        Owl Paws, the band that has captivated the hearts and minds of the San Francisco Folk/Indie scene, continues their enigmatic growth with the release of their newest album. A six song EP full of upbeat indie-folk musings detailing the intricacies of life and love, Carry On showcases the development of the band from a purely acoustic based movement, as seen on their self titled debut EP, to the finely tuned troupe heard on this record. From the ethereal atmospheric layers of “Hoot” to the eerie downward movement that is “The Seed,” Owl Paws demonstrates their improvement as a band and the scope of their song writing abilities. 
         The long time standby for the band entitled “Singing Strong,” is a sobering consortium of airy guitars and vocal melodies meeting in a solemn bliss. Featured at the end of Carry On, “Singing Strong” is an old classic reworked for a new audience. Singer/songwriter Derek Schultz’s booming yet tame vocals expand across the track with seamless execution as a calming guitar intro begins the track, soon accented by the light touches of an acoustic guitar. As Schultz coons and pores out his soul about the woes of searching for love, the beautiful and calming touches of Brooke Dabalos can be heard rising above him. While soft and endearing, they do seem to be a tad overdone. A slide guitar precisely cuts into the tune at the halfway mark, slicing its way through the airy sonic layers of the band as the acoustic guitar carries the song along. The drums make their entry into the song a tad too late with an awkward snare roll that almost eliminates the warmth of the song. An upbeat bouncy outro accompanied by a light piano proves to be a solid finish to the song. However, nostalgia for the acoustic version of old burns deep. 
        The single of the album “Sunrise” rises above the rest and with its bubble gum guitar lines, bright vocal melodies and delicate chord changes. Transitioning from the downtrodden minor verses to the infectiously upbeat major choruses with simplistic ease, Owl Paws demonstrates their innate song writing abilities perfectly on this track. “But if the sun won’t rise/the body can’t die again” hum Schultz and Dabalos over the thumping bass lines of bassist Tim Vickers, while a soothing violin massages the surface of the sonic landscape. Bound to be on stuck in your head on those bright sunny days, “Sunrise” and its strong pop structuring deserves to be at the top of any playlist. On top of this the driving velocity of “The Field” pumps up the listener, as it beats down on you like the friendly rays of the sun on a hot summer day. “The Seed” however does quite the opposite, as the dripping piano of Deballos and trickling guitar lines of guitarist/vocalist Colin Hayes brings to mind those introverted rainy days of winter. While the musicianship of the song proves to be impressive, the song is erratic and it is not until the halfway mark that a steady structure can be heard. The band breaks out into a depressing downward spiral, filled with cavernous harmonies and cooing ohs, breaking down the emotional integrity of any listener. A very dark piece from a naturally bright band. 
This natural feel is sadly brought down, through no fault of the band, by the mechanized production of the drums. Despite this, the clarity in the record brings its potential to the forefront. A stepping stone from their folky debut EP, Carry On, shows a vast improvement in the bands dynamics and song writing ability. Potential revealed and medium's expanded, it is obvious that Owl Paws has much to prepare for in the future. To be released in late August by Urban Scandal Records, it calls for the prospective ears of the masses and the critical ears of the obsessive. 

Rating: 3.6/5

Sunday, June 3, 2012


       New York hardcore, perhaps the toughest sub-genre within the already extremely hot headed hardcore community, proudly provides a long standing track record of influential bands. (Cro-mags, Biohazard, Judge, just to name a few) New York never fails to eject pure brutality into an already intense genre. Provider continues that tradition with their latest seven inch release, Wasteland, now out on Life to Live records. 
Following the the footsteps of the aforementioned bands, while providing a strengthened modern twist similar to their contemporaries, Provider quickly slaps listeners in the face with Wastelands eleven minutes of pure aggression. Coming off as a mix of thrash infused hardcore, think Alpha and Omega, and “hardstyle” hardcore such as Trapped Under Ice, Provider stomps out all who oppose them on. Transitioning from quick breakbeat rhythms to enormous back bending breakdowns with simplistic ease and quietly returning as if nothing happened, proves to be the bands strong point. The opening track “Bonekeeper” forcefully demonstrates their prowess as its shoved down the listeners ear. 
A ferocious NYHC, hip-hop influenced guitar riff opens the song, leading up to an explosive entrance from the rest of the band complemented by a skillful dance on the hi-hat. The breakbeat continues full force, trampling all in its path. Soon, as if the the pure energy of the movement could no longer be contained, the band releases into a pounding movement, guitars slowly dripping down the listeners spine, like a knife being pushed in deeper. The lines “Count the ways I live in regret/Forever I pay this unending debt” are painstakingly stretched out over the section, seething of anger and angst. With an assertive “UH” as if signaling an attack, the song ends with a series of powerful chugs, complimented by a driving bass and creeping high hat/snare combo. 
The rest of the album continues in much of the same manner. Throat scratching, strained vocals litter the sonic landscape while the band swings to and fro in full force. Another highlight is the thrash filled “Losing Ground.” Brining to mind the best of Alpha and Omega as the band tears through the listeners ear drums. The album ends on a strong note with the quick chaotic explosion that is ”Curse.” Clocking in just under two minutes it is one of the most straight forward songs on Wasteland. A simple power violence/NYHC riff repetitively dominates, speeding up and slowing down in rhythm until the final moments when powerful chugs and a series of creeping floor tom hits take center stage. 
What Provider essentially provides, no pun intended, is the ability to showcase the best of NYHC. The metallic chugs, the painfully hardened vocals, the hip-hop inspired beats. It is all there. What is essential for the band now is to make their own niche within the genre. In a sea of fish only the strong survive, wether it be through pure aggression, originality or something more. Wasteland is a product of the school, and a pristine one at that. All Provider needs now is to break free. 
Rating: 3/5

Monday, May 28, 2012

Slave to the Mind

 Straight out of Zanesville, Ohio, Mind Crimes brings hope to all who stand oppressed. Their debut EP Slave to the Mind brings forth an aggressive outburst of disoriented youth through a potent mixture of melodic hooks and abrasive pummelings. Self-released April 30th, 2012 Mind Crimes impressively stakes their claim as a powerful force within the hardcore mentality. 
Focusing in on some of the basic mundanity of society; stress, work, religion and compassion, Mind Crimes tackle these issues in an easily accessible manner. Through straight forward lyrics and powerful vocals executed in true modern-hardcore fashion, these messages are delivered by the band with a great and powerful ease. This can be seen on one of the more impressive tracks on the record, the closer, “Echoes.” A slow drudgingly painful riff eases the listener into the song, Blacklisted comes to mind, soon to be quickly cut out by a powerful burst of guitar and drum noise. When this explosion of energy ends vocalist Drew Stoits emerges in the forefront. “Afraid to lose the love that he’ll give/If she doesn’t give herself to him.” Stoits vengefully declares, claiming victory for the downtrodden women of the world. 
Sex is a powerful tool, too often it is abused and turned into tool of power. Mind Crimes and Stoits forcefully use their awareness and the gift of the hardcore community to fight against these societal wrongs. The song comes to a powerful end in another Blacklisted-esque manner. Clashing guitars crash over and through the ears of the listener as the drums forcefully build up into a head bobbing, head banger outro of sorts. Thrash metal solo included.
Beginning at the end leaves much open space for investigation and Mind Crimes does not disappoint. From the Comeback Kid-esque melodic speedster “Mountains” with its turbulent circle pit ragers that cumulate into overpowering sing-alongs, to the standard hardcore fuck work jam “Managerial Slime,” (complete with an outstanding C3PO/Solo introduction and Kids Like Us influenced outro) Slave to the Mind provides a wide sampler platter of hardcore tastes. Sounding like Comeback Kid at one moment and Blacklisted the next, it is apparent that Mind Crimes are no newcomers to the modern-hardcore scene.
Perhaps what remains now is solidifying these influence into one cohesive unit. It comes with time, but for Mind Crimes it may not take long.Varying the songs leaves the listener with a certain level of excitement as to what will come next, however it  is tough to distinguish Mind Crimes from their predecessors. What they do have is pure anger and enthusiasm, it practically oozes from the pores of my macbook. This is crucial for any band, especially playing hardcore. Only originality and song structure leave something to be desired. The variance within certain songs takes away from the groove of the EP, melody abruptly transitioning to discordant can leave a sour taste in the mouths of many unless properly executed. All criticism set aside however, Slave to the Mind works as a great jumping point for Mind Crimes and is a solid example of the modern-hardcore’s influence on the scene today.
FFO: Terror, Comeback Kid, Blacklisted, Kids Like Us
Rating: 2.3/5

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


School is quickly coming to an end for me, at least till I'm old and bored with my life and decide to become a sophisticated student of graduate school. Regardless though finals are right around the corner and for the few of those who follow me here I would like to clue you into what that means. I will be experiencing a academic dull in my writings as the large portion of my free time will no longer be taken up my school work. No more historical essays need to be written. No more 6 page papers on the implications of SEATO in the 60s. No more 8 hour days spent in the library.

So in turn this gap will need be filled and will properly be so in the form of this blog. I plan on giving it a full reworking, perhaps even a new name. Expanding my focus from simply music reviews to all that is around me, and compared to my middle school self who did much of the same thing, this will be more inclusive than my pathetic excuse of a love life. I want to include my musings on life's aspects, socially, politically, culturally, whatever it may be. My journalistic work won't be put to an end however, as I already have two reviews lined up to be worked on and many more are planned. I also plan on including any restaurants I may go to in the future, after I finally manage to hold down a job again, any movies I see, books I read, articles etc... This will be a space for my criticisms and thoughts on the world around me. For those of you who know me, this is probably much needed. If my enthusiasm proves correct, which for my sake I hope stays at this level, this will all be occurring within the next few weeks.

 It's all very exciting.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Top Ten of 2011

1. Joyce Manor-Joyce Manor
The light, energetic full length from Torrance, CA’s Joyce Manor speeds by you very quickly, clocking in at only 18 minutes, none the less this power-punk four piece hit something special with this release. This album took a long time to grow on me, and now that it has I constantly feel that its duration is its only disadvantage. This release brings a constant sigh of relief and despite its formally structured songs remains fresh and invigorating throughout each listen. The pains of adolescence are cleverly disguised amongst simple yet elegantly and nasally sung melodies, jumping from morose disdain to agonizing pain. All the while the crunchy brightness of the guitars jump between the playful hits of the drums. Muddied enough to sustain depth, but bright enough to saturate the listener in the bright Southern California sunlight seen through shades of grey. 
For fans of: Weezer, Koloacaust, Big Kids, Tigers Jaw
2. Young Love-All Teeth
All Teeth’s brooding tales of heartache and despair began my year with a tremendous wallop of sadness complemented with scorching guitar tones and violent bass licks. The high energy, cameo filled, despairingly neurotic Young Love has remained a stand by throughout the year amongst many more positive records. Displaying the unruly power pain can produce when dispersed through art and especially through hardcore. Ghostly marching numbers, vicious circle pits measures and unrelenting breakdowns litter the album with each piece  adding to the looming cloud of darkness that is All Teeth. 
For fans of: American Nightmare, Black Flag, Converge, Suicide File

3. Major/Minor-Thrice
How does a band that naturally pushes the boundary of not only their own sound, but of their contemporaries as well, follow up such a momentous projects like The Alchemy Index and 2009’s rock spectacular Beggars. Major/Minor is how and it is perhaps the grittiest yet precise material Thrice has released to date. A demented brother of Beggars, mixing the post-hardcore remnants of their past with the matured groove rock of their present, Major/Minor establishes the band’s dominance in modern heavy music. Raw tones are combined with crystal clear quality to produce a contrast of purity and power, brilliant simplicity and melodious decadence as their words display themes of faith, relationships and depression. The sheer heaviness of this record is almost overshadowed by its cleaner moments, as a soft-loud dynamic is implemented on almost every song and furthermore is pulled off incredibly. Lead by Dustin Kensure’s slightly rough around the edges but still angelically clean vocals the band would make The Pixies proud. Baritone guitars in tow, Thrice managed to yet again wow their fans and the world. 
4. Separation-Balance and Composure
At times chillingly melodramatic, Balance and Composure’s debut full length solidifies what the band has been attempting with their handful of EP’s and splits. Produced by Brian McTernan, Separation displays the bands maturity, musically and emotionally and with McTernan’s experienced touch this maturity resonates beautifully. B&C’s transitions in the past have left many as lost and confused as their lyrics suggest. But with Separation’s explosive post-rock entrances and exits, textured alt/rock sequences and thunderous sonic landscapes they powerfully cemented their sound into the ears of 2011.
For fans of: Brand New, Seahaven, Neutral Milk Hotel, Nirvana
5. Winter Forever-Seahaven
A late release in 2011, yet perhaps one of the most anticipated. Seahaven’s second release and first full length took a large leap of faith with its refined sound. Swarming with a darker under current, the soul searching jaded innocence and reassuring warmth of their monumental EP, Ghost, is lost to the chilling matured winter winds. In reality, the only reason this record lands so low on my list is because I slept on it and have yet to receive the actual album. For now bandcamp streams have sufficed and provided me with the ground shaking, Your Favorite Weaponesque, pseudo-goth moments of heartbreak that only Seahaven can provide.  
For Fans of: Brand New, Balance and Composure, Crime In Stereo, As Cities Burn
6. Shed-Title Fight
Kingston, PA’s favorite hardcore/pop-punk group takes a refined step towards punk greatness with the release of Shed. An emotional swirl of home sick anthems, guitar bending good times and personal tales of woe and despair kept post-hardcore fanatics on their toes. Despite a slower tempo and tighter recordings their original style is more or less kept in tact on this release. Warm crunchy guitars flowing up and down the spectrum cushion the borderline yells of the dual vocalists, while clouds of darkness are felt throughout the album between mid tempo jams and high energy spurts. Societal norms are dissected, teenage heartbreak is recollected and introverts rejoiced as this album made a strong connection between ourselves and the world around us in the weary times of 2011.
For Fans of: Jawbreaker, Saves The Day, Polar Bear Club
7. Parallax Hypersleep Dialogues-Between The Buried and Me
Enter a world where boundaries are non-existent, genres seamlessly melt together in rhythmic cohesion creating a euphoric sense of confusion leaving listeners dazed and rubbing their necks. This world is the fantasy realm created by BTBAM and their 6th studio release, The Parallax Hypersleep Dialogues. Constantly expanding their trademarked brand of progressive metal, the Dream Theatre disciples take one step further towards metal’s valhalla. Parallax is less of a continuation of past releases as it is a new step forward. While 2009’s The Great Disconnect seemed to be a continuation of 2007’s epic masterpiece Colors, Parallax finds the band stepping into a new state of being, tapping into the unconsciousness of of vocalist Tommy Rogers while a soundscape of brutality and sensibility supports his nightmarish dialogues. Signature BTBAM elements; ferocious blast beats, huge drum tones, scale shredding movements, mind and genre bending sequences and paradoxical clean/rough vocals are all there, yet with a new sense of foundation and experimentation. An electrified sense of enlightenment surrounds the release, lush keyboards frequent the tonal soundscape and ethereal moments of despair and serene peace alike tease the ears. Very much looking forward to the finale to this. 
For fans of: Dream Theatre, The Human Abstract, Protest The Hero, \M/
8.Under Soil and Dirt- The Story So Far
Pop-punk. The word makes many shutter in fear. Envisioning hoards of hot topic fitted teenagers, parents credit cards in town, over flowing malls to get their hands on the latest NFG release brings a tear to ones eye. Maybe i’m just stuck in the early 2000’s, but regardless The Story So Far’s debut full length Under Soil and Dirt brought redemption to an otherwise xeroxed genre. Many eyes turned green with envy when observing the bands imminent explosion this year, but with a formula of straight forward heartfelt lyrics, hardcore influenced song structures, infectious pop punk vocal melodies and a strong sense of youthful angst, TSSF created a widely received expression of frustration and energy. 
For fans of: New Found Glory, Set Your Goals
9. Take Care, Take Care, Take Care-Explosions in the Sky:
The post-rock pioneers took a great leap forward with their follow up to 2006’s All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. While continuing the expansive, minimalist experimentations found on the bands previous records, Explosions also implemented new techniques previously missing from their catalogue. The layered, flowing movements that have been cherished by fans and contemporaries alike are continued on this record but along with them are breakbeat rampages and vocal experimentation, bold steps for a band so cemented in their own roots. 
For fans of: Radiohead, Pelican, This Will Destroy You

10. In The Pit of the Stomach- We Were Promised Jetpacks
Providing a strong sense of garage rock urgency, along with goth undertones of bands such as Interpol and The Cure, We Were Promised Jetpacks’s In The Pit of the Stomach quickly became the go to record for all my over the pond needs. Channeling the erratic energy of garage indie rock acts such as The Arctic Monkeys and The Killers and infusing it with post-rock ambience proved to be a match made in heaven for the band. Clouded visions of mourning and loss, internal struggle and and regret surround the listener while toe tapping rhythms cover up the sadness. Catchiness and depression, how could a band go wrong?
For fans of: Interpol, Arctic Monkeys, Explosions in the Sky
Honorable Mentions: Letters-Troubled Coast, Dig Up The Dead-Mansions, Little Hell-City and Colour, Monoculture-Sainthood Reps, Daybreak-Saves The Day, Parting The Sea Between Brightness and Me-Touche Amore, Rin Tin Tiger-Rin Tin Tiger, King of Limbs-Radiohead, Part and Parcel-Make Do and Mend, Digital Veil-The Human Abstract, Last Days of Rome-Daytrader

In review I feel there was a lot of good music I missed out on in 2011 due to financial issues, however what I did hear proved to me that 2011 was one of the better years in recent musical history. 

On that note....

I'm excited for a quite a few bands and their releases in the coming year, those being: Rise and Fall, Troubled Coast, Owl Paws, Converge, Ceremony, Rancid, Make Do and Mend, All Teeth, The American Scene, Deadhorse,Young Turks, Black Breath. And of course the supergroups Plebeians and Distances will continue to sell out arenas across the nation as well as put out respective releases this year. 

Feeling a good year for heavy music. 

Hope whoever read this enjoyed it as much as I did writing it. I know I haven't posted anything in a while but I'm looking to change that real soon, in fact a few new reviews are in the works. Also graduation is fast approaching and once I'm released from the organized institution of higher learning that is SFSU I feel my itch for writing will only be cured by nothing other than these posts and my other various projects.

2012 should be a good one.