Album-art-for-Ill'e-Grande-by-Analog-Rebellion Analog Rebellion – Ill’e Grande

★★★☆☆

A lot of pressure can come from being signed to a major label halfway through your senior year of high school, and that pressure is telling of Daniel Hunter’s early years as a Myspace darling with an Island Records imprint.

That brought Hunter’s brainchild, PlayRadioPlay! through the ether to much success within the  mid-2000 pop-punk and power-pop scenes. As these genres peaked and declined, Hunter’s musical visions changed in tandem with his departure from major label. To mirror this shift, he has been performing under the moniker Analog Rebellion for some years now.

The latest release from the North Texas native is telling of Hunter’s maturity as a songwriter and as a musician, as Ill’e Grande reaches for the heights of the self labeled “stadium lo-fi” medium as well as introducing diverse flows of tone and emotion.

There are moments of musical clarity here that demonstrate Hunter’s maturity since his early releases.

The album begins with the distortion-heavy, grinding title track. Hunter’s androgynous voice cuts through with the wail of far too much reverb (stadium lo-fi, alright), but confidently cuts through the thickness of the track.

“Goblin King” drives through as well, with prog sensibility inlaid in Bono-ian echoes, in continuing the album’s almost frenetic pace and grand size. The album’s middle and late sections aren’t as noteworthy, probably due to the lack of genre and tone shifts as compared to the front section. The level of musical consistency and a good ear for rhythmic blueprinting is strong, though, as no song is a total disappointment.

In the wake of Hunter’s abounded musicality, one cannot help but notice his tired use of motifs from the pop-punk age. “The Genre is Self-Aware,” while sonically impressive, is a lyric-less track that feels subjugated by a title that tries too hard.

These surface-level philosophical quandaries may have sounded cool on a PlayRadioPlay! album in 2005, but not today.

Hunter and his collaborators do well in appropriating different styles of alternative music without diluting too much of their own watermark, thus keeping true to a whole and consistent theme for Ill’e Grande—from the infectious groove of early New York millennium art-punk grinder “Hot Shit” to the jazzy flow of the wonderful closer “Sing with me Kelly.”

Many who attempt this end up sounding campy, seeming to try too hard to be something they can’t pull off. Analog Rebellion’s understanding of the difference and Hunter’s ability to treat that line is what makes an album like Ill’e Grande not only worthwhile, but actually noteworthy.

This should not go unnoticed, as Hunter’s musical evolution has allowed him to adapt to an ever-changing pop landscape. This isn’t to say that Hunter’s music has never been unimpressive, but he’s one of the few artists from his genre to be able grow with the musical trends of the 21st century, and do so without a complete 180 (looking at you, Sonny Moore).

The album may have some tried themes and motifs throughout, but they stand in homage to Hunter’s past more than eye roll-inducing triggers. Ill’e Grande is impressively mature and surprisingly enjoyable.

Analog Rebellion – Ill’e Grande tracklist:

  1. “Ill’e Grande”
  2. “Out of Your Mind”
  3. “Goblin King”
  4. “ATM”
  5. “Hot Shit”
  6. “Now I am a Cobra”
  7. “The Genre is Self-Aware”
  8. “Group of Theives”
  9. “Draw that Armadillo”
  10. “We’re Not Talking to Anymore Lawyers”
  11. “I am a Ghost”
  12. “Sing with me Kelly”
Cover-art-for-Steve-Hears-Pile-in-Malden-and-Bursts-into-Tears-by-Krill Krill – Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears

★★★★☆

Who knew an EP featuring both a life-threatening existential crisis and poop-based metaphors could be so good?

Experimental three-piece Krill set out to write a concept EP using the characters Steve and Mouth, both of whom are taken from Exploding In Sound labelmate Pile’s song “Steve’s Mouth.”

In the story, Steve wants to create something worthy of Pile’s praise, only to hear “Steve’s Mouth” and realize he and Mouth are characters in the song, hence the EP’s lengthy title, Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears.

It’s an interesting concept that ties the tracks together well, but in the end, the group’s innovative musicianship surpasses the story and ultimately makes for a bizarre, brilliant label debut.

Blending sounds from the likes of Fugazi and Pavement, Krill is definitely a handful.

The mixes are chaotic and dynamic; the lyrics are introspective and spewed lawlessly over heavily-distorted instrumentals; and the songwriting is intense and creative, all of which makes Steve one hell of a release.

Starting with the discombobulating intro to the title track, the story is introduced when Steve and Mouth are jealously discussing the greatness of Pile’s latest album. Krill’s unique skill becomes apparent from the beginning of “Steve Hears…”—the music is controlled mayhem, and Jonah Furman’s screeching, noisy vocals only become more severe as the EP progresses.

“Sweet Death,” the second track, is where things really pick up. Krill shows off its artistic, emotional side with Furman’s vocals looming fervent and intense, backed up by groovy bass lines and catchy guitar. Here, elements of Pavement singer Stephen Malkmus’s style begin to surface and Krill’s songwriting skill is fully realized. This track shows off everything great about the band, including both the obvious mastery of its instruments and the relentless passion expressed by each member.

However, “Sweet Death” throws the story off kilter a bit. Steve becomes pessimistic and suicidal, but this shift is never explained. The rest of the EP plays on that hopeless feeling.

Even though “Sweet Death” is the high point of Steve Hears, the EP never hits a slump afterward.

“Turd” is the most poignant song, and despite the inane metaphor, it’s a valid comparison as Furman sings, ”But I’ll never go down, ’cause that would just be way too easy/ I will never kill myself, but live forever.”

“Unbound Nameless Future” shows off the band’s more math-rock elements with its unpredictable timing and spastic drums. At this point, Steve feels lost and can’t see a future for himself, wishing he could live the simple life of a passing dog he sees on the street.

Krill portrays this disconcerting mental conflict through mass musical pandemonium as Furman aggressively begs a dog to take what’s left of a person he’s attacked.

After this outburst, closer “Fresh Pond” calms the EP down. Steve has seemingly given up, and drones on through life in a bored haze. Once again, musical dissonance gives the track an off-putting feeling, forcing listeners to empathize with the main character. Unnerving, jumbled, and repeated riffs close the last few minutes of the song, reflecting the monotony of Steve’s mind. It’s a fittingly uncomfortable, anticlimactic ending.

Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears works as a concept EP, but it also stands alone as five great songs. It’s hard to ignore the Bostonian three-piece, which hasn’t changed since its previous release, Lucky Leaves.

The EP plays as an ultra-meta joke, but Krill’s real skill and emotion bring it far beyond the realm of the sarcastic.

Krill – Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears tracklist:

  1. “Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears”
  2. “Sweet Death”
  3. “Turd”
  4. “Unbounded Nameless Future”
  5. “Fresh Pond”
Album-Art-for-DTCV-Hilarious-Heaven DTCV – Hilarious Heaven

★★★☆☆

About halfway through Hilarious Heaven, DTCV’s (pronounced “detective”) quirky and exploratory debut release, the murky picture that the band had painted of itself up to that point began to take a more defined shape.

Heaven, which packs 26 songs into just over an hour, is the work of seasoned players who are pushing the boundaries of their comfort zones. The 11-minute track “How Not to Be”–a winding journey through dissonant horns and stuttering drums punctuated with flute-driven breaks–attests to this point precisely.

Following the old-timey, top-of-the-hour radio introduction to the record, listeners are treated with two back-to-back songs that act as introductions to each half of the songwriting duo whose sounds bookend the wide range of tonality explored on Hilarious Heaven.

Guylaine Vivarat shows her hand first on “I Was Where Were You,” enchanting us from the offing with a throaty vibrato that will bring a blush to any bearded cheek. Laid over buzzing, bubblegum guitar that’s infectious in a Dinosaur Jr. kind of way, Vivarat displays DTCV’s ability to write a solid, catchy number—and thus the weird depths of the album will be given a little more credit.

James Greer, former member of the eminently credible rock band Guided by Voices, steps in on “Improving Ground” to relieve his female counterpart. Tinged with melancholy plucked straight from the early ’80s and a melody informed by that era’s brand of lo-fi rock, Greer’s matter-of-fact vocal manner brings to mind the image of a more refined–and possibly British–Frank Black.

Though the collaborative efforts on Hilarious Heaven are apparent, both Vivarat and Greer seem to remain consistent within their own bubbles, rather than working as a cohesive duo.

That’s not to say that they don’t complement one another—DTCV’s instrumentation melds with a heavy post-punk bent that tends to keep the album flowing no matter which pilot is in the jump seat.

Proof of that sturdy meeting point between Vivarat and Greer are tracks like “Alpha Waves in a Gelatinous Conductor” and “Tiptoe,” which demonstrate that while DTCV generally does not settle into an easily definable genre, the musicians know how to handle themselves no matter where they land on the spectrum.

Esoteric sound clips, many of which are in French and seem to be “found sounds,” act as intermittent bridges between tracks. Opting for this feature seems to better seat DTCV at the strange and conceptual intersection of weirdness that asserts itself through a widely cast net of influences. It allows for some kind of loose subtext to be on continuous repeat in the background, but can at times serve as a distraction.

Hilarious Heaven can be digested as a cerebral outing that, while long-winded, is well arranged into components of differing sizes, providing the audience with a wide array of context for DTCV’s sound. On the other hand, the process of wading through the protracted record can sometimes leave the aftertaste of a makeshift product composed of more carelessness than consciousness. Still, overall listenability and an abundance of personality will likely leave listeners’ appetites satisfied.

DTCV – Hilarious Heaven tracklist:

  1. “Everything Is Cinema”
  2. “I Was Where Were You”
  3. “Improving Ground”
  4. “Sundial”
  5. “Cars Missing Vol. 1″
  6. “Ghostery”
  7. “Hyperdoxxing at Dowager Inn”
  8. “Impostor Horse”
  9. “How Not To Be”
  10. “J’irai pas”
  11. “Alpha Waves in a Gelatinous Conductor”
  12. “Electrostatic Inc.”
  13. “(cis)x”
  14. “Soulsville USA”
  15. “The Sickness”
  16. “Contre Jour”
  17. “Cars Missing Vol. 2″
  18. “Windsor Hum”
  19. “Gone 2 Quickly”
  20. “The Wild Party”
  21. “Creative Class Dismissed”
  22. “Hotspurs of Nicely Light”
  23. “Los Angeles Street”
  24. “Tiptoe”
  25. “Gone 1 Quickly”
  26. “Shut Up”
Album-Art-for-Morgan-Delt-by-Morgan-Delt Morgan Delt – Morgan Delt

★★★★½

Morgan Delt doesn’t reveal a whole lot about himself. The Los Angeles-based musician and graphic designer hasn’t done many interviews, and the press photo that accompanies his self-titled debut looks like it was taken in 1968: the artist, in hippie hair and sunglasses, stands in front of trees that look painted into the scene.

Paired with the Morgan Delt record sleeve, on which he’s standing behind wildflowers, the phrase “lost classic” comes to mind—something reissue labels and record clerks like to toss off.

In just one listen, it’s clear that Delt is running with this paisley-decorated scenario. He could easily be mistaken for an old obscurity. On the other hand, he’s got a Facebook page, so he’s not exactly Sugar Man.

Delt’s debut full-length, which contains a chunk of the limited cassette, Psychic Death Hole (2012), is an acid-drop homage to Left Coast pop-psychedelia and folk—the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, the Byrds, and Tim Buckley come to mind, even the Beatles in their Meet the Maharishi period. He absorbs it all, then lays his own interpretation to tape.

Opener “Make My Grey Brain Green” is a Dalí-melt of sitar over vintage guitar fuzz, a bit of “Kumbaya” with one foot in the garage. Flanked by slaps of tambourine, “Barbarian Kings” invites a good bliss-out, but a dark undercurrent in Delt’s voice can keep the listener on edge.

He’s both sweet and sinister—selling you the brown acid with a smile but ducking out of sight before the trip.

It’s easy to dismiss a song called “Mr. Carbon Copy”—he’s got the aesthetic down pat—but one shouldn’t overlook its intricacies, like quick changes in tempo, a trick he also employs in “Little Zombies,” where a brittle quiver gives way to full-pluck chamber folk.

Delt nimbly moves from lush to lithe, never getting too serious, and the result is playful and listenable to the point of hypnotic repetition—a Fab Four-approved mantra.

“Sad Sad Trip” plays on atmosphere alone and doesn’t bring anything to the set but a little authenticity. Instead, “Little Zombies” and “Barbarian Kings” best lay out Delt’s expansive ideas.

Like a leather lanyard with collected beads, Morgan Delt is carefully crafted: tinkles of guitar are embedded in static, as from actual tape in a home recording. His trills, multiplied, echo fellow travelers of the British Invasion. Delt has done his homework, but the sound here is his own.

Morgan Delt – Morgan Delt tracklist:

      1. “Make My Grey Brain Green”
      2. “Barbarian Kings”
      3. “Beneath the Black and Purple “
      4. “Mr. Carbon Copy”
      5. “Obstacle Eyes”
      6. “Little Zombies”
      7. “Chakra Sharks”
      8. “Sad Sad Trip”
      9. “Backwards Bird Inc.”
      10. “Tropicana”
      11. “Main Title Sequence”
Album-art-for-Jesus-Sons-by-Jesus-Sons Jesus Sons – Jesus Sons

★★★★☆

Jesus Sons’ self-titled LP is a throwback to the days of affected rebelliousness, embracing the old-school mantra of “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.” Their name is a reference to Lou Reed’s famed song, “Heroine.” The album is a raw, psychedelic rock fest enshrouded in gnarly vocals, badass guitar play, and a Western Gothic feel.

Jesus Sons’ debut is a nostalgic trip down a dusty, dirty memory lane, with a sound like legendary rock ’n’ roll artists like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. Production is so sharp that every song from the beginning till the end feels and sounds old school, and lead singer Brandon Wurtz’s vocals sound intentionally fuzzy and abrasive.

Along with the old-fashioned feel and sound of the album, the tone makes Jesus Sons thrilling to listen to. The dark, haunting sound of the twangy, country music sprinkled with rattling melodies makes it the perfect soundtrack for Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy. Harmonicas are used extensively, giving the album an Americana flavor.

Some songs sound downright mean-spirited and rebellious.  On “Don’t Wanna Die,” Wurtz bellows huskily, “I want it all/I want it alive/Don’t do what I’m told/Don’t wanna die.”

“Don’t Wanna Die” is the perfect anthem for when it’s time to chug a bottle of Jack Daniels.

And once that Jack is about halfway down, it’s time to listen to “Ain’t Talkin Homesick.” Wurtz has a good time, going one step further and hollering Southern slangs like, “I ain’t got no money to spend/I ain’t go no women/I ain’t got no place to be.” The only turn off is the occasional “woooooo!” which is cheesy and annoying. If they had cut that whole thing out, it would have been better. Nonetheless, it’s a fun track with a catchy guitar riff and humpty-thump drum beat.

Other parts of the album sound like you’re walking into a ghost town. “Melt” evokes images of a barren wasteland laced with rattlesnakes and otherworldly screeches, warning anyone foolish enough to come to stay away.

“You Put a Spell on Me” is the ideal track to play driving along America’s loneliest highway, Route 50. It’s a repetitive, guitar-driven instrumental number that sets the scene for a lone cowboy to ride into the sunset.  Simple beats, rich guitar melodies, and a shake-and-rattle sound bring to mind America’s most rugged landscapes.

Jesus Sons is a straight-forward album that revives a genre popular five decades ago. The band is re-creating the soundtrack to the Wild West with classic guitar riffs, harsh vocals, and hard beats that will keep listeners on the edge. With a gritty, take-no-prisoners tone, it sounds like Jesus Sons wants to return to a time when music was dirty and aggressive, when wild head-banging was the best form of self expression.

It’s not for everyone, but for those who miss the good old days of rock ‘n’ roll, it’s got everything: a heart-thumping, head-banging, and foot-stomping hard rock attitude.

Jesus Sons – Jesus Sons tracklist:

  1. “All These Furs”
  2. “Who’s Around”
  3. “I Wanna Be Your Man”
  4. “You Put A Spell On Me”
  5. “Don’t Wanna Die”
  6. “Ain’t Talkin’ Homesick”
  7. “Out of Time”
  8. “Melt”
  9. “Going Down”
Album-art-for-Sun-Structures-by-Temples Temples – Sun Structures

★★★★☆

Temples couldn’t have picked a better time to release its debut LP, Sun Structures.

While it shares elements of beloved modern psychedelic rock bands like Tame Impala and MGMT, it also draws enormous influence from The Beatles, who are bound to be in the forefront of music fan’s minds worldwide as we come up on the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania.

Even though it draws from old-school influences, Temples sounds less like a blast from the past than the past projected into some mystifying, surreal, dream-like future. The charming elements of psychedelia  are still there: the hazy, high-pitched vocals and captivating instrumentals, the bizarre lyrics and clunky, distorted drums.

But the quartet adds an unending creative drive, bringing new elements to a relatively ancient genre. Whether it’s the exhaustive use of sounds and effects or supreme knack for making every song unique, Temples channels the energy of a number of influences to make one monster of a record.

Starting with the band’s breakthrough 2012 single “Shelter Song,” Sun Structures is immediately hypnotizing and engaging, never losing steam as it rattles and shakes through a psychedelic haze.

“Shelter Song” is a perfect way to introduce Temples, epitomizing all of its signature elements.

Singer and guitarist James Bagshaw’s voice is as warm and welcoming as ever, the recurring simple riff is both catchy and fun, and of course, the overall fuzziness ties the mix together with a shabby, vintage feel.

Temples’ other three singles are equally memorable, but there is much more to the debut than anyone could have predicted. The suave, melodic “The Guesser” jumps out as one of Temples’ best songs to date, along with the unforgettable chorus in “Test of Time,” which is undoubtedly the catchiest moment on the record.

It doesn’t stop here. Every track is memorable and sets itself apart in some way. Temples’ ability to do whatever the hell it wants is evident, especially in the invigorating “Move With The Season,” which could easily be the best song on the record. The group incorporates new influences into the song, namely Fleet Foxes, to make a groovy, fuzz-folk hybrid that shows each member’s skills.

But the insanity can’t go on forever. Slowing to an eerie, classical Spanish-esque hum, Sun Structures closes on its only soft number. In “Fragment’s Light,” Bagshaw sings sweetly and plucks alongside an overwhelming celestial soundscape, taking the music farther out into space than it already was. It’s a surprising change of pace, but a welcome one. Once it’s over, all there is left to do is play the album on repeat for the rest of eternity.

Trust the praise this band has gotten, not only here, but from countless others. If Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher claim you’re the best new band in Britain, you’ve got to be doing something right.

Temples – Sun Structures tracklist:

  1. “Shelter Song”
  2. “Sun Structures”
  3. “The Golden Throne”
  4. “Keep In The Dark”
  5. “Mesmerise”
  6. “Move With The Season”
  7. “Colours To Life”
  8. “A Question Isn’t Answered”
  9. “The Guesser”
  10. “Test of Time”
  11. “Sand Dance”
  12. “Fragment’s Light”
Album-art-for-The-Unnatural-World-by-Have-a-Nice-Life Have a Nice Life- The Unnatural World

★★★★☆

Musicians and masterminds Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga (together, Have a Nice Life) are back with The Unnatural World, a follow-up to their critically acclaimed studio album, Deathconciousness.

It’s their take on post-punk, a unique blend of shoegaze, noise, ambient, and industrial influences, all with a heavy dose of darkness. Released by Flenser Records and the band’s own label, Enemies List Home Recordings, the album succeeds in filling a soul with foreboding.

Aggressive and thundering, feedback-heavy bass characterizes opening A Side track “Guggenheim Wax Museum” and gives the distinct impression that a giant lumbers slowly throughout.

While several songs could be the soundtrack to sinking into a lake of black sludge (see: “Music Will Untune the Sky”), “Defenestration Song” is a jam for wallflowers dressed in black.

Slow-burning B Side kick-off, “Cropsey” is emblematic of everything good about post-everything. Beginning and ending with an audio recording of an interview with a young boy who was sent away because he was experiencing “discipline problems,” it stands out in the middle of the album with its hazy, reverb-soaked instrumentals and gorgeous, echoing vocals: “A song that I can sing along, I’ll just wait and track the soot-tracks home where I can be alone/Because I’ve been waiting everyone that I’ve been waiting on to show up and throw me out of here.”

That being said, The Unnatural World’s pièce de résistance is its closer, “Emptiness Will Eat the Witch.” Less ominous than other tracks, its low melodic line is nevertheless gripping.

“Emptiness Will Eat the Witch” is what people must hear while they close their eyes and wait to die.

The track features Have a Nice Life’s staple droning with instruments that sing alongside an endless chant, muddling where voices end and mechanical music begins. The duo shows its hand here, revealing that it’s a little maniacal, building a track lasting almost nine minutes that ends abruptly, cutting off lyrical guitar strumming mid-phrase, jarring listeners back into reality.

Have a Nice Life’s brand of noise, shoegaze, and post-punk isn’t pointlessly cacophonous; it’s enthralling. While the subject matter could seem overwrought, the impeccable execution and unique sound more than make up for any melodrama.

This sophomore album is unsettling, dank, and haunting, but Barrett and Macuga are experts at weaving beauty into the destruction, be it the vocals calling through the darkness, a simple piano melody, or a two-note guitar line. The Unnatural World is a symphony for the hapless, the downtrodden, and the misanthropes puttering through hopeless lives and an endless sea of grey.

Have a Nice Life- The Unnatural World tracklist:

  1. “Side A: Guggenheim Wax Museum”
  2. “Side A: Defenestration Song”
  3. “Side A: Burial Society”
  4. “Side A: Music Will Untune the Sky”
  5. “Side B: Cropsey”
  6. “Side B: Unholy Life”
  7. “Side B: Dan and Tim, Reunited by Fate”
  8. “Side B: Emptiness Will Eat the Witch”
Cover-art-for-Visionary-EP-by-Rigbi Rigbi – Visionary

★½☆☆☆

Rigbi’s new EP, Visionary, has a title that is a bit of a misnomer. The group, local natives of North Jersey, has played together for the better part of 14 years, but went official in 2011. And while each member’s work on the EP is telling of their musical ability and chemistry as a group, their approach to indie rock and songwriting is nothing close to “visionary.”

The EP is good, sure, but nothing makes it stand out in the world of indie rock, not even in the world of Jersey indie rock. The group’s bio claims it’s sound is a derivative of some amalgam of Keane (whose pop sensibility they lack), Weezer (perhaps in a world where Rivers Cuomo disavowed distortion from 1993 through the new millennium), and Vampire Weekend (not even close).

This isn’t to say that Rigbi makes bad music—on the contrary, in its best moments the group is gloomily bright, musically provoking, and emotionally engaging. But the band’s own descriptions of itself completely misguide the listener as far as sonic expectation, and moments of musical brilliance and connection are few and far between on Visionary.

The biggest misstep made by Rigbi is in the opening track, “Come Up,” where its otherwise airy brand of indie rock is replaced by a tired drum machine beat and an abrasive buzz saw synth.

Nowhere else in Visionary does this sound, or any like it, emerge, causing both a jarring shift in flow and a complete misdirection of sound. The three tracks that serve as breaks throughout the EP (at both ends and in the middle) feel more like incomplete tracks than transitions in such a short piece of work. Of these, the title track is the best poised to have become something fully developed, and something that Rigbi could have used to express its voice.

Despite its misgivings, Visionary does end on a good note with the highlight “Leaving Home.” The track slowly, delicately drives through as the band finds the sweet spot that it’s been looking for throughout the EP. The lamentation that “everybody is leaving home” sounds both sad and optimistic, creating the emotional depth that a lot of Visionary tries to reach but just falls short of.

Of the remaining tracks on Visionary, none really stand out in any way. “Take the Blame” is the most fully developed, with interesting guitar riffs and a fully developed sound, but suffers from strained vocal work and a tempo-shifted coda that would serve better as another track altogether.

Again, “It’s Elementary” starts out well enough, with a dynamic guitar break and a driving rhythm section. But in what seems to be Rigbi’s seminal misstep, vocal strain, both in range and in forced rhythmic placement (“its e-le-men-tar-y”) feels awkward. In addition, the originally smart groove of the musical intro is flooded by the poorly placed high pitches of distorted guitar that, in its blockishness, negates the original groove. Even if it is for just a couple of seconds, it’s enough to jar the flow of the track.

To be perfectly honest, Visionary seems tried. Sure, the talent and the production are there, but what it has in those areas, it lacks in synergy and flow. Awkward in its use of transition tracks, Visionary doesn’t help itself by sabotaging Rigbi’s otherwise unproblematic brand of indie rock with poor instrumentation choices and attempted emotional depth.

There is a lot of potential in Rigbi’s sound, as seen in EP highlight “Leaving Home,” a simple but strong testament to the abilities of the group. But Visionary just doesn’t click, and Rigbi’s effort falls short. Still, with musical and lyrical capabilities present,  don’t count the group out of future evolved releases.

Rigbi – Visionary tracklist:

  1. “Come Up”
  2. “It’s Elementary”
  3. “Hostage”
  4. “Visionary”
  5. “Take the Blame”
  6. “Leaving Home”
  7. “(((Hearts in a Row)))”
Cover-Art-For-The-Wild-Family-EP-by-The-Wild-Family The Wild Family – The Wild Family

★★★☆☆

Breaking up is hard, as Chicago four-piece The Wild Family clearly knows. Its new self-titled, debut EP is all about ladies, relationships, and discovering oneself.

The Wild Family consists of two brothers, lead singer and guitarist Jake and bassist Zack Schweitzer, along with lead guitarist Graham Young and  drummer Kevin Koreman. Young and the Schweitzer brothers started writing music together as college roommates in Chicago. Since then, their live gigs have evolved into a five-track EP.

Musically, the release is a mixed bag. The Wild Family is composed of exceptionally talented musicians. They will touch your heart with guitar-driven melodies that blend country music with indie-folk rock.

But at the end of the day, this EP is worth hearing only once. There are no memorable tunes; every song sounds like it’s been heard before.

The soft, mellow rock with a touch of pop music hardly makes The Wild Family unique, and the themes are all too familiar. The lyrics, upon inspection, become stale and uninspiring. To be fair though, the simple notes, soaring vocals, and creative songwriting skills give The Wild Family a pleasant, if not overly creative, sound.

The opening track, “Depths,” is an impressive two-part song that displays a peculiar dichotomy. The first part starts off as a folksy, slow ballad. Schweitzer’s vocals say it all: he sounds innocent, naïve, and youthful as he steps into the real world (he’s still in college), shouldering new responsibilities. After a brief pause, the second part of the song expands and it sounds like the whole band comes alive.

Things change up a bit with the second track, “White Shirt.”  It’s more lively and spontaneous; it almost sounds like parts of it were recorded live, and the production brings it to another level. The twangy guitar, strong chorus, and howling in the background is reminiscent of the Deep South. Instead of Schweitzer singing, Young takes over the mic, bellowing out in not too deep, but very gentlemanly vocals. His voice is surprisingly pleasant and fits perfectly with the song.

Young continues to sing in a very manly voice in “Empty Promises.” It lacks the vivaciousness of “White Shirt,” but the chorus is instantly catchy. Young’s vocals are emotional and bitter as he repeats the powerful chorus line, “Now you are alone/Now I am alone/So what the hell.” This chorus is a standout moment on the EP, delivering not only a memorable hook, but an emotional punch as well.

If there are two words to describe The Wild Family, they would be “extremely talented.” The young band’s debut benefits from stellar, detail-oriented production and musical ability. But despite the band’s immense potential, The Wild Family is not mesmerizing.

The EP feels like going to a favorite restaurant, ordering a favorite meal, and leaving less than satisfied. All the right ingredients were used, but the dish just doesn’t leave a lasting impression.

The Wild Family – The Wild Family tracklist:

  1. “Depths”
  2. “White Shirt”
  3. “Gold”
  4. “Empty Promises”
  5. “Granmaris”
Album-art-for-True-Love-Kills-the-Fairytale-by-The-Casket-Girls The Casket Girls – True Love Kills the Fairy Tale

★★★½☆

Hair-raising and eerie, True Love Kills the Fairy Tale is just in time for Valentine’s Day.

The Casket Girls, Phaedra and Elsa Greene alongside guitarist and drone-master Ryan Graveface, create a haunting sophomore album with Graveface Records. For the Savannah trio, this endeavor seemed to come out of a fever dream.

On Graveface Records’ website, Graveface regaled, “I dropped off a shit ton of songs to the girls to work on one night. I went back to check on their progress, because they weren’t answering their phones. I don’t know if they dropped acid or what, but I walked in and Elsa was sobbing and reciting poetry while Phaedra was just staring straight ahead writing it all down, like, catatonic.”

Their unorthodox methods don’t come as a shock upon diving into True Love.

Phaedra and Elsa lay down track after hazy track, all featuring diving, lilting melodies and the girls’ distinctive floating, breathy vocals.

This time around they tackle love lost, chemically-induced states, and filling the cracks between reality and fiction. Graveface brings an onslaught of gritty psych-rock to the table in intricate layers, a Graveface LP calling card. The album overall has a much more aggressive and grinding sound than its predecessor, Sleepwalking.

Opening track “Same Side” plays with fantasy and reality, holds down a metronome-like drum kick, boasts a sick drop into the thick of the song, and features the Greene sisters’ mesmerizing vocals calling, “We’re on the same side.”

In sharp contrast, “Day to Day” is a wall of sound that begs, “How did we get so low? How did we get so high?” Taking a melodic turn, “Chemical Dizzy” stays true to its title and integrates feelings of love and philosophical disorientation, beginning, “What came first, the count or the number?” and repeating, “You and I are like water and fire/Opposites only exist with each other,” and, “There’s nothing more dangerous than the wounded heart.”

Discussing the origins of True Love Kills the Fairy Tale further, Graveface recalls the Greenes giving him a CD. The pair didn’t remember what was on it or if it was any good. What he found when he listened was something remarkably cohesive given the addled condition the sisters were in. When the trio went into the studio to record, Phaedra and Elsa had to relearn the songs. They couldn’t remember a thing, as of someone else had written the record. “Very bizarre,” Graveface mused.

Bizarre is one word for much of True Love. Having grown up in a funeral home, the Greene sisters and their sound have a macabre edge.

This essence, mingled with their distinctive vocals, makes them stand-outs, but their shine is dimmed by tracks that are just okay, like “Ashes and Embers” and “Stone and Rock.”

Mediocre mixes aside, title track “True Love Kills the Fairy Tale” resurrects this electronic, often shoegaze, trio. The album’s static-filled closer, “The Chase,” chants “forgiveness” alongside a high-pitched synth melody, bringing closure to an album that begs big questions and was likely recorded out of an other-worldly state.

The Casket Girls are on an upswing with this record, albeit not a very romantic one.  True Love Kills the Fairy Tale is the soundtrack for a Valentine’s Day spent alone.

The Casket Girls- True Love Kills the Fairy Tale tracklist:

  1. “Same Side”
  2. “Day to Day”
  3. “Chemical Dizzy”
  4. “Ashes and Embers”
  5. “True Love Kills the Fairy Tale”
  6. “Secular Love”
  7. “Holding You Back”
  8. “Stone and Rock”
  9. “Perfect Little Soul”
  10. “The Chase”
Album-Art-for-Xiu-Xiu-Angel-Guts-Red-Classroom Xiu Xiu – Angel Guts: Red Classroom

★★★☆☆

On Angel Guts: Red Classroom, a full-length release that falls somewhere in the double digits of their discography, progressive art-rockers Xiu Xiu boldly shy away from convention.

If one is at all familiar with the band’s repertoire, “convention” probably doesn’t paint an accurate enough picture of Xiu Xiu’s esoteric, angst-ridden industrial-electronica. Yet this release pushes Xiu Xiu’s brand of New Wave experimental even further into alienation, challenging listeners with some of the most macabre and unsettling content thus far.

Angel Guts: Red Classroom alternately embraces and molests our notions of discomfort in its psychotic arms.

The album roils with disharmony. Xiu Xiu brandishes sharpened synthesizers like machetes, clearing the way deeper and deeper on a descent into a forest of madness.

Rarely does music do such a thorough job of blocking serotonin receptors and relegating listeners to a doomed ennui.

Save for a couple of more upbeat peaks in this looming mountain range of at-times-excessive tonal friction, the majority of the record swings on a downward arc, illuminating twisted visions in caverns on the path to the belly of the beast.

“I see it and I have no right to see it/I don’t even know what it is…/This might be the last time we ever feel love,” singer Jamie Stewart chokes out maniacally on “El Naco.” This track is a premiere example of how expertly Xiu Xiu can craft discomfort through masterful use of dissonance and spacing.

The song opens with distant church chimes plucking a lead that moves you to the edge of your seat, only to be elaborated on by atonal samples and a rising beehive of goosbump-inducing electronic fuzz.

A similar cataclysm of noise and ache are constructed on “A Knife in the Sun,” which crawls along the ground at funeral procession tempo. It’s unclear whether Stewart believes that the listeners are inching their way to a final resting place, or if they already reside in the land of the condemned.

Shrugging off taboo subject matter, Stewart proudly waxes poetic about psychosexual and violent musings.

His vampiric vibrato resonates as if broadcasted through an old radio, patched through direct from Transylvania. “Adult Friends,” which features ghastly samples of a squealing pig, conjures an aged portrait of the band corralling its mad carnival around a candle-lit alter.

Though the over-the-top noir of Angel Guts suggests a certain degree of injected shock-value, the band does pony up some seemingly impassioned melodies, like the synthesizer that lays the foundation for “Botanica de Los Angeles.”

The grisly chops and genuinely affecting horror-movie bits represent a real sense of urgency to communicate whichever level of Hell the songwriters feel trapped in. Those willing to delve into the cryptic lyrics and occult-leaning sonic textures will be rewarded will a surprising degree of relatability.

For new listeners to Xiu Xiu, plumbing the depths of its voluminous catalogue for a more accessible album to start with would be a wise choice. However, for devoted fans or those sound in resolve and not faint of heart, Angel Guts: Red Classroom is a lively tutorial from a band well versed in cultivating an ominous experience.

Xiu Xiu: Angel Guts: Red Classroom tracklist:

  1. “Angel Guts”
  2. “Archie’s Fades”
  3. “Stupid in the Dark”
  4. “Lawrence Liquors”
  5. “Black Dick”
  6. “New Life Immigration”
  7. “El Naco”
  8. “Adult Friends”
  9. “The Silver Platter”
  10. “Bitter Melon”
  11. “A Knife in the Sun”
  12. “Cinthya’s Unisex”
  13. “Botanica de Los Angeles
  14. “Red Classroom”
Modern Baseball - You're Gonna Miss It All Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All

★★★★☆

Genres of music are cyclical. In some cases this is merely annoying—see the resurgence of worn out ,’80s-influenced electropop—but in others, it’s a blessing. Modern Baseball’s You’re Gonna Miss It All is a throwback to the emo era that sounds neither tired nor forced.

Reviving the emo scene of past decades and adding modern indie-pop elements is becoming an increasingly popular trend, and such passion is much needed to counteract impersonal popular music. Thank the music gods for that benediction.

Though it’s been going on for years now, emo-revival is peaking in both popularity and quality now. The most recent addition to the ever-growing list of instant classics from this genre is You’re Gonna Miss It All, which plays closely to The Front Bottoms and You Blew It!

Combining genuine lyrics with musical influences that range from garage-rock jams to acoustic ballads, Modern Baseball has a charming, intimate air that springboards its music into the heart of all who get drawn in by the quartet’s celebrated songwriting.

Thankfully, the group hasn’t changed almost at all since its popular debut release Sports. If anything, it’s honed in on its best qualities and capitalized on them this time around.

Brendan Lukens writes more honest, melancholy lyrics on You’re Gonna Miss It All, and still sings in his outlandish style; guitarist Jacob Edwards, bassist Ian Farmer, and drummer Sean Hubber complement his unique characteristics with a limitless arsenal of even catchier instrumentals. The band employs a tighter mix, more elaborate songwriting, and a wider range of styles.

Essentially everything that made Sports so great was enhanced for the band’s sophomore attempt.

There are the moments on YGMIA that sound like they were pulled from Modern Baseball’s debut, specifically the single “Rock Bottom” and the exuberant “Broken Cash Machine.” Both have the quirky elements that have always made the Maryland quartet endearing, especially in the lyrics. Lukens shakily sings, “My head is on the verge of exploding/No amount of pizza or aspirin could help this from hurting,” over characteristically catchy, rhythm-heavy music.

But above all, You’re Gonna Miss It All has a lot of new experimentation. Songs like “Apartment” and “The Old Gospel Choir” have impressive, unexpected breakdowns that add entirely new elements to the music.

“Apartment” jumps from style to style seamlessly, opening with a slow, quiet riff and taking a running start into whirlwind verses and rhythmic breakdowns. “The Old Gospel Choir” runs much the same, slowing at the end in an epic, steady collapse.

There’s a bit of vocal experimentation as well, though it’s still predominantly similar to what fans have come to love. Single “Your Graduation” shows off Lukens’ sometimes hidden skills as a singer, exploring a more aggressive approach than he usually does. It’s a surprise, given his typically frail style, and a refreshing twist that makes “Your Graduation” one of the best tracks on the record. More variation like this would build on the band’s already wide scope and help intensify its dynamic catalog.

The most exotic song has to be the closing track, “Pothole,” which is nothing more than a soft acoustic elegy that perfectly ends the otherwise hectic tracklist. Lukens’ vocals sound more polished than usual, his lyrics more mature. It’s an unexpected turn of events, especially following the zany “Two Good Things,” but it fits impeccably.

You’re Gonna Miss It All is another first-rate release from a band that is proving to be one of the best in the emo-revival genre. Modern Baseball was able to fully realize its potential, releasing the rare sophomore album that outshines its predecessor.

Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All tracklist:

  1. “Fine, Great”
  2. “Broken Cash Machine”
  3. “Rock Bottom”
  4. “Apartment”
  5. “The Old Gospel Choir”
  6. “Notes”
  7. “Charlie Black”
  8. “Timmy Bowers”
  9. “Going To Bed Now”
  10. “Your Graduation”
  11. “Two Good Things”
  12. “Pothole”