Author: Alex Cragun

The Crash & The Draw
Relapse Records
Street: 04.07
Minsk = Old Man Gloom + ISIS 

After a six-year hiatus, Minsk is busting back onto the music scene with some great tunes. Hewn from the stony soil of Illinois, this album has craftsmanship stamped all over it. While it sounds like the sludge you find in your bathroom drain, there are distinct characteristics that give it a more orchestrated feel. Synth tones crash and flow throughout the album, and gossamer guitar lead-ins usually indicate that “this is the climax of the song.”  Some of the album sounds more like Air or M83 than a metal band—which I find to be wonderful. My only critique of The Crash & The Draw is that some of the tracks are simply too long. I love long songs, I love long albums, but there are songs on this album that over embellish and are unable to support themselves. If you are going to make an audience wait 10 or 15 minutes, you better have a strong coda. Overall, it’s a great album, but expect yourself to sit out for a few songs. –Alex Cragun

Old Wounds/Trenchfoot
Self-Titled Split
Molotov Records
Street: 06.18
Old Wounds/Trenchfoot = Bone Dance + Botch + Strife
I love this recent resurgence of hardcore bands doing splits—I get two great bands for the price of one. Old Wounds is a ruthless group from New Jersey and, for being so young, they’ve got a well-rounded sound in comparison to contemporaries. More melodic than their own recent album, Old Wounds open the album with “An Ode To Love,” a gloomy vignette. This is soon shattered by curt screams and sludgy guitars. Trenchfoot take up the majority of the split, and this band really should come to Utah because they would feel right at home. They sound like a lot like Converge and Gaza, but with a stronger sludge emphasis. “Comes To Mind” is the song to look for—the skin-beating, circle-pit-inducing fury is marvelous, but the guitar solo is the icing on the cake. Don’t fuck around, you jaded assholes––just get up and buy it. –Alex Cragun

Tom Bennett – The Man Who Shook The Trails of the Devil's HoundsTom Bennett
The Man Who Shook the Trails of the Devil’s Hounds

Sweet Salt Records
Street: 05.24
Tom Bennett = Caleb Followill + Woody Guthrie

Smokey vocals atop greasy slide guitar, this is a folky, bluesy good time. While I bristle at talk about spiritual matters and storytelling in modern music, I felt that Bennett’s album is good time to be had by all. A local activist, I first heard this local prodigy at a clean-air rally in 2013, and was amazed at the coarse but sexy vocals the man has. The album exhibit’s Bennett’s well-traveled story and love for traditional folk singing. Despite all the religious talk, I would highly recommend this. –Alex Cragun

Barking Irons
Fuck You
Skinflint Music
Street: 10.21.14
Barking Irons = The Business + Guv’nors

Clocking in at 12 minutes, Fuck You walks the heavily tread paths of Oi! Punk. I was immediately put off by the first song “Sovereign Nation,” a song about globalism or border security, I couldn’t decipher because of the phlegm-y, spit-laden vocals of Danny Irons. Beyond that uncomfortable political statement, this is a pretty solid album. Laced with some fierce guitar work and well cropped drums, it gets the job done. Particularly the song “Boots in Your Face,” which sounds exactly like what you’d expect it to sound like. The recording and mixing is a bit off for my personal preference, but this seems like their first foray as a band, so I’m not too worried. It’s not the greatest Oi! album, but when was the last time albums were more important than performances? –Alex Cragun

Ark Life

The Dream of You & Me

Greater Than Collective

Street: 08.19

Ark Life = Alabama Shakes + The Allman Brothers +
a John Prine ballad

These Denver natives will be a fixture of my 2014 summer. Their album sounds like having only 20 bucks in your pocket and driving in a POS car in the dry heat. Soulful and flirting with garage rock, this album has a really great arc in its overall structure. Harkening to the days of The Band, America and Canned Heat (I don’t make this comparison lightly), it made me yearn for the open road, shitty gas stations and endless fields of switch grass. I fell deeply in love with their brand of folky alt-country, which includes twangy guitars, crooning Wurlitzers and sonorous harmonies. With acts like Old Crow Medicine Show and The Avett Brothers making a national name for themselves, it’s easy to imagine Ark Life joining their ranks and touring across the U.S. Fill up your gas tank, buy this album and lose yourself in the open West. –Alex Cragun
Highway Cross
Run Dry
Toxic Pop Records
Street: 04.10
Highway Cross = Cloak/Dagger + Grabass Charlestons
Highway Cross sound like a grown up hardcore punk band. There are moments that have glimmers of Dag Nasty or Hüsker Dü in the eight minutes of charging guitars over semi-harsh vocals. Clearly these guys still have their roots in punk, but there are brief moments showing that they, as musicians, have a broader palette. You can easily classify the song “Ringing In My Ears” as hardcore, but the out of place major key, and pacing that is far from breakneck fast, say otherwise—I’d put this in the alt-country genre if it were slower. These guys could have the potential to cross genres if they felt inclined. “Run Dry” is the strongest song of the four tracks—the first half is at jogging pace with a The Hold Steady sound, but that is quickly kicked in the teeth by MDC speed and aggression. –Alex Cragun
Well Okay - Homesick for a House Fire

Well Okay - Homesick for a House FireWell Okay
Homesick for a House Fire

Street: 06.27
Well Okay = The Hold Steady + Andrew Jackson Jihad

Fans of locals Folk Hogan will like Well Okay. While it’s not as party-centric as our rowdy folk heroes, they will nevertheless enjoy the steadfast speed and passion in this album. Semi-political and confessional, the lyrics in this album will make your heart sink with sadness, much like Ghost Mice and Paul Baribeau. With raw acoustic guitar and hollow harmonica, Homesick for a House Fire is a tome about the blight of modern societal malaise. My only criticism would be that Adam Domnie needs to turn down the reverb and practice his long vocal tones. Other than that, this is a solid LP. –Alex Cragun

Cinema Cinema
A Night at the Flights
Lumiere Label
Street: 08.19.14
Cinema Cinema = Mutemath + Lightning Bolt

Prepare your earholes and assholes, because A Night at the Flights is going to blow ’em out. Steel wool vocals, complex rhythms—it’s everything I love about these guys. What’s different though is the maturity demonstrated here, which makes it better than their previous work. There are moments of meandering musical play, something you’d hear on a Pinback album. That is immediately shattered by punk speed and breakneck shifts (e.g. “Boxcutter”) indicative of Black Pus or Tera Melos. The album is mellower in comparison to their previous, but this isn’t saying much for an album with a two minute drum/bass groove with screaming, distant vocals. What I’m trying to say is that punk and noise-punk fans will like this album. EV Gold and Paul Claro deserve some serious praise for this album, I enjoyed every minute of it. Pick up this album even if it’s just to listen to “Gowanus Ghost.” –Alex Cragun

City Saints

Kicking Ass For the Working Class

Spirit of the Street / Rebel Sounds

Street: 04.04

City Saints = Cock Sparrer + Reviler

Starting out the album is “Gonna Ball,” a semi-cover of The Undertones’ “Get Over You,” which by my measure is spot on. A bit of boogy-woogy thrown into a heap of gravel and ash, this album is a working class party album. No politics, no agenda, just rock n’ roll weekend warrior aesthetic. Seriously, these punks are a tight group with the kind of chomps that make you wanna boot stomp the night away. The album is recorded in studio, but I want to see these guys live at Burt’s (opening for Booze & Glory or The Business) with the biggest, cheapest beer in my paw. Being from Gothenburg, they sound like they’re from Down Under, with clearly a lot of influence from groups like Motorhead and early-AC/DC. Pick this up for your next house party and skank the night away. ¬–Alex Cragun
ceremony l-shaped man album cover

ceremony l-shaped man album cover


The L-Shaped Man

Matador Records
Street: 05.19
Ceremony = The A Frames + Mode Moderne

“Aw ma gawd, Ceremony is abandoning hardcore,” said every review I found when researching this album. Fuck the haters, this album is awesome. Is it Ceremony? Not really. It’s more akin to a goth-surf song than the powerviolence you’re used to hearing from Ceremony. The rhythm is peppier than you’re used to hearing in a Joy Division album and the guitars jangle pretty fucking hard in songs like “The Separation.” There isn’t a hint of hardcore on this album—and that’s great. Sometimes I want an album to get me through the wage warrior days and sometimes I want an album to couch-lock to. Abandon any preconceived notions you’ve been fed and pick up this well balanced album. –Alex Cragun