Author: Matt Brunk

In The Making
A Wisher, A Liar
Self-Released
Street: 10.22.13
In The Making = A Thorn For Every Heart + LoveHateHero / Hidden In Plain View
 
First off, I like this album, so I’m going to get my biggest pet peeve out of the way before I get into it—this album sounds like it was recorded in a tin can, which is not a compliment. Getting past the quality of the recording though, I genuinely like these songs. They remind me most of A Thorn For Every Heart, minus a bit of technicality and with a little more pop-punk attitude. There’s a little bit of variety between the faster-paced “Life as a Montage” with its multiple overlapping vocals, and the aggressively emo ballad “Get This Right” that shows they’ve at least got some range. They clearly draw much from their post-hardcore predecessors, which is arguably a detriment, but it doesn’t sound any worse than, say, early Silverstein. It’s a promising start. –Matt Brunk
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Hawthorne Heights

Zero

Red River Entertainment

Street: 06.25

Hawthorne Heights = Taking Back Sunday + Framing Hanley + The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
I’m always excited for a new Hawthorne Heights release, probably due in large part to many angsty, teenaged nights playing their breakout emo anthem “Ohio Is For Lovers” over and over. Featuring their first foray into concept album territory, it’s too bad that the dystopia-themed lyrics don’t form the most coherent concept in the world, and it’s all fairly forgettable in the long run. Musically, Zero sounds like Hawthorne Heights—three guitars ripping consistent pop hooks and JT Woodruff belting out fittingly chantable melodies. While the formula is a little more confident and refined than usual, it’s also just maybe a tad over-polished. I still miss the regular screaming of their earlier albums, and the one or two songs on here with rough vocals in the background just don’t cut it. I particularly enjoy “Anywhere But Here,” and especially “Put Me Back Together,” with its catchy chorus that keeps getting stuck in my head. Hawthorne Heights have yet to make a truly bad album, though, and despite my caveats, I think Zero is decent enough—just don’t expect it to make much of an impact in the longterm. –Matt Brunk
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Sleeping In Gethsemane
When the Landscape is Quiet Again
Self-Released
Street: 04.10
Sleeping In Gethsemane = Pelican + Russian Circles
I don’t like posthumous releases, mostly because they tend to break my heart. Either it’s the last hurrah of a band that I loved and loathed to watch fall apart, or it’s a masterpiece by a band that I never knew and found long after too late. Sleeping In Gethsemane are the latter, and they’re doing a great job of breaking my heart. When the Landscape is Quiet Again is a brilliant instrumental album, from a masterpiece of a band that ended way too soon. Songs like opener “The Brave” are driving and intense, while songs like “The Fall” are therapeutic soundscapes, haunting long after they end. If you’re looking for another instrumental rock band to pick up, seeing as there are never enough, then I suggest grabbing this album. –Matt Brunk

 

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Secret Smoker

Terminal Architecture
Protagonist Music

Street: 11.26.13

Secret Smoker = Thursday + Fugazi

Proudly declaring themselves as the torchbearers of “passionate ’emo’… before the shopping malls got a hold of the genre,” Secret Smoker know exactly what they’re going for and they firmly hit that bullseye. Hypnotic, semi-atmospheric guitar lines laid over the top of muffled, occasionally understandable screamed vocals—fans of late-‘90s and early-‘00s emo are going to be pleasantly nostalgic. It’s almost hard to believe this isn’t a long-lost album of a band that got forgotten in the shuffle instead of a current group that’s still playing music. While detractors of the genre aren’t going to find anything to change their minds, Secret Smoker are more than welcome to scream in my ears all night long. If this is what the album sounds like, I can only imagine the surreal time-warp of their live show. –Matt Brunk

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Cold Summer
Self-Titled
Self-Released
Street: 07.01
Cold Summer = Hell Is For Heroes + Funeral For A Friend (Casually Dressed-era)

Starting the album with “Car Crash (In Progress),” featuring the only funky bass rhythm on the album, Cold Summer’s debut album is rough and extremely unpolished but still manages to leave me wanting more. While unfortunately funky doesn’t describe anything on the album except the intro, and they play solid but forgettable post-hardcore that all sounds familiar and doesn’t break any ground, the couple of memorable songs show a lot of untapped potential. Both versions of “Waiting” are easily my favorite songs on the album, and both give me something different to love: The rocked-up version just as powerful with its explosive fury as the softer version is powerful with its insistent, restrained tension. Obviously they know how to write a good song, but it feels like they’re holding themselves back, and it culminates in just another album to throw in the pile. –Matt Brunk

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Secret Policeman’s Ball
Teenage Crimewave
AGGRONAUTIX 
Street: 06.04
Secret Policeman’s Ball = Arcade Fire + Metric
Don’t let the shoegazer cover fool you—this is not your traditional indie-rock record. It’s sweepy and effect-laden, with soft and gentle melodics with moody, haunting female vocals—but that’s not all. Two minutes and 30 seconds later, the haunting vocals spiral offtrack into screeching howls, like something out of a death metal album. Unexpected, although more than welcome,  Secret Policeman’s Ball likes to play with your conceptions of who they are: Songs like “A Flock of Beagles” showcases a more traditional indie sound, and then throw it all away for another moody song—my favorite is “Sweaters.” Oh, and did I mention the 45-second-long hardcore punk tribute “Try To Find Shon A New Hat”? Good luck predicting what they do next. This is a great album that doesn’t feel like it’s conforming to your expectations. –Matt Brunk

 

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Heartless Breakers
Lighter Doses
Self-Released
Street: 01.14
Heartless Breakers = The Graduate + Jimmy Eat World (Futures era)
 
Hot off the heels of their Prescriptions debut EP last year, Lighter Doses is an acoustic breakdown of Prescriptions’ songs mixed in with a couple brand-new ones. As a companion piece to the original, it’s an interesting contrast that distills such pop-heavy and catchy songs until they fit into an acoustic setting. I think their appeal—for me—lies in the energy of the original songs. They don’t grab me as fiercely as the fully dosed versions did, but as a creative experiment, it’s hard to complain about any band willing to reinterpret and reconstruct their original vision. Bonus mention goes to “Burn and Bury” for its slow buildup and haunting strings—I don’t know if it’s in the works, but sign me up for a full dose of that one. –Matt Brunk
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Eli Whitney
We’ve Got Questions If You’ve Got Answers
Self-Released
Street: 08.09
Eli Whitney = Lostprophets + Brand New

Surprisingly dynamic, blending hard rock with a Lostprophets-esque post-hardcore sound, Eli Whitney’s debut album rocks. Highlights include the instrumental “Questions,” leading into the hard-rocking and intricate “Answers,” and definitely “Take A Picture, It’ll Last Longer” for its building intro and cathartic chorus. Occasionally, the vocals lose some of their power and the mastering clips in places, but play this album loud enough and you’ll be too busy enjoying it to notice. –Matt Brunk

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Polar Bear Club
Death Chorus
Rise Records
Street: 11.19.13
Polar Bear Club = Misser + Title Fight
 
While initial damage-control over the album focused on the less-harsh style Jimmy Stadt now uses due to throat wear after the last few albums, it’s not the vocal delivery that leaves this album weak and wilting. Aside from the truly awful “Siouxsie Jeanne,” it’s not an offensively bad album, but there isn’t much here that wouldn’t be filler on another album. While Clash Battle Guilt Pride had bite in every note, it’s hard to find the tiniest bit of tooth in Death Chorus—even with a title that should arguably have led to one of their hardest releases yet. “Blood Balloon” starts out promisingly enough—poppy and fun—but from there it’s downhill into a full album of vague and unremarkable songs. Sure, it’s not as bad as the new Saves The Day, but it’s still a toothless, uninspiring bore. –Matt Brunk
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Pink Frost
Sundowning
BLVD Records
Street: 09.03
Pink Frost = The Smashing Pumpkins – Billy Corgan + Foo Fighters
Oh, garage rock. I’m glad that you never die. Most often compared to 90s-era Smashing Pumpkins, except without Billy Corgan’s godawful nasally whine, Pink Frost are thick and noisy and energetic and also noisy. And yeah, there’s a lot of noise. “Western Child” starts the album off with a kick-drum-heavy buildup to a full-force wall of sound, immediately declaring the Pink Frost mission statement—loud rock with no fucks given. Taking things down the sparest notch with very Foo Fighters-esque “Ruins,” it reinforces the fairly in-your-face and obvious influences of their rock n’ roll ancestors, but it never feels stale and never wanes in energy. Anybody particularly sensitive to the similarities might learn to loathe it, but I’m still enjoying the hell out of Sundowning. –Matt Brunk
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