Your Friend = Lost Lander + Daughter + Local Natives
Almost as soon as Gumption’s opening song, “Heathering” began, I was brought back to my high school days when swigging whiskey around a fire with friends—who just all happened to be wearing flannels and each other’s secondhand boots—was a frequent occurrence. Vocalist Taryn Blake Miller has the same soft, soothing touch as many current indie bands, so I assumed that wasn’t the point of what they were trying to create. The funky bass lines and eerie, high-pitched alien noises were the most interesting part of the ambience lying beneath. The song “What Will I be in the Morning?” slowly grows to consume you in slowed, repetitive waves of resonating hums before fading away, giving a solemn & strong nostalgic feel. I get a very hopeful feeling that an album like Gumption would be an extremely intense live set, similar to Creepoid’s shows. Otherwise, it’s likely I would honestly be bored.
La Calavera = Airbag + VII-Sense
“La Calavera” means “The Skull,” and skulls mean death. Skull usually means “bad”—real bad—but in this case, it means good. La Calavera are “rock en español,” and as a whole, Anecdotas is acutely uncomplicated punk, slathered in power chords and rudimentary rhythms that are easy to catch onto. There is a uniform vocal range, never extending too far above or below the apparent comfort zone. The most noticeable components of Toao Garcia’s singing are the somewhat usual accidentals (pitches outside of key) or the J-rock-like vibrato. The lead guitar provides riffs during choruses that follow the intonation pattern of the vox, but the lack of harmonies from all instruments make the melodies sound two-dimensional. The only tool that clearly sets the songs apart was the use of reverb in “Suplica.” I find this particular kind of punk rock groove impossible to be background or easy-listening music, and could see La Calavera being great at live music bars. Their minimal components could end up blaring through crowds and be much more exciting live. “Tu Partida” sounds like a perfect OP for a sci-fi anime where the protagonist is a blue-haired, 14-year-old boy whose father was killed in front of him when he was too weak to know his own power, and now he’s spending 12 episodes learning to use his magic for revenge. If only the lyrics were available to verify just how accurate that image might be! Actually, Anecdotas in its entirety seems like a perfect soundtrack to an anime, and possibly may be the only way I’d listen to it again. The last track of the album, “No Quiero Ser Olvido,” stood out far above the rest, with gothic tones and a much darker vibe. Imagining these dudes in a visual Kei getup became strangely fitting at that point. Maybe La Calavera could find business in the anime industry … but I’m not suggesting anything. –Xena Jade
Waking Up With Wolves
124.14 // Transparency
Waking Up With Wolves = Local Natives + Paul Travis + Starry Cat
Patrick Swansborough creates a wistful environment for your mind to creep through with his project, Waking Up With Wolves. This (mostly) acoustic, one-man band is tranquil and gorgeous without ever being dull.
Swansborough has an alternative dreamboat sound to his voice—think Spencer Chamberlain‘s calmer little brother. The vocals, overall, are smooth and well connected. There are enough “oohs” in the world, and they should only be used sparingly, but as a common theme in 124.14 // Transparency, they feel tasteful and possibly just added on to enhance the dream like tonality of the album. The writing style consists of a pattern with a few lines of emotionally raw lyrics followed by a frequent instrumental break which, by default, caused me to have a moment of floating in space for everything to sink in.
“Seventeen Years pt. 1” is amazing as an opening song—it demonstrates Swansborough’s aptitude for all the right details in all the right places. There is a series of harmonics in the middle of the song that is absolutely breathtaking by being gentle and underused. Adding to the use of slow, simple riffs, the psychedelic ambience becomes too real. “Impaired Hearing” demonstrates a sentimental use of keys and a final dose of energy before124.14 // Transparency ends—a conclusion that was quite a bit different from the rest made me feel as if there is much more in store for Waking Up With Wolves, and I can only hope as much.
This is the kind of music that needs to be played live so that the atmosphere can be experienced in a surrounded sense. This is the kind of music that invokes a trance and will keep you and your attention there for the entire trip. There is nothing short of genius behind Waking up With Wolves. –Xena Jade
Stay the Same
Sunsleeper = Owen + Citizen + Into It. Over It.
Stay the Same envelops exactly the kind of lasting, thought-provoking energy on which indie-emo music has held its ground. The lyrics illustrate common self-reflective themes surrounding relationships, making the songs instantly relatable and full of heart. For the most part, each song exists as a story of its own, going through phases similar to that of a tantrum in structure. The title track, “Stay the Same,” is stripped down to vocals and guitar, leaving room for interpretation and mental wandering. The lyric “Yeah, I can change if I have to / Don’t ask me to change I don’t have to” is an honest, contradictory statement exemplifying human stubbornness and attachment, and it could not have been put any better. Like much downbeat indie music, every instrument’s part throughout Stay the Same is just as important as the others’. The passive-sad setting created within the time each song (or the entire album) begins and ends is dependent on the great compatibility among each musician in Sunsleeper. There is strong chemistry that makes their music easy to understand and empathize with. What is just as impressive is how clean and orderly every instrument is throughout the whole album—it all seems so smooth. The buildup near the end of “Maple Drive” packs an emotional connection that breaks down and diminishes about as quickly as it appears, but it leaves a lingering feeling of tenderness. Sunsleeper keep things simple, but when it involves the subject of mortal ambiguity, it may be harder to remain so straightforward. This release has definitely made that mark without demanding too much attention. Spend a short amount of time reliving all of your favorite/least favorite memories with this album. Stay the Same will make you sway physically and mentally. –Xena Jade
High Vibe Recording
Shine Bright = Underoath + I The Mighty
Shine Bright are freshly reminiscent of an age of hardcore that I think we all have a soft spot for. As such a short album, lasting just over 15 minutes, Lantern displays a wonderful amount of technical flair. Each song is amusingly different from the others, which leads me to believe that a great amount of time and energy was taken to perfect them individually. The detail is superb. No tool is overused, whether it be the triplets during the pre-choruses in “Moira” or the faint vocal harmonies throughout “Should Have Left.” “Moira” is a very 2006-’09 metalcore tune—think of the time before breakdowns and 808s became everyone’s ace cards. This song would be playing right after The Almost’s “Say it Sooner” on VH1 in the morning.
The poppiest song from the album, “Should Have Left,” comes straight in with a familiar-but-new achy feeling to it, a nostalgic sing-along song that is catchy and grows on you after repeated listens. “Line in the Sand” is an ambient musical interlude as well as the second track. In chronological order, this was the most inquisitive of all, for it suggests that Shine Bright have more to offer than superficial, aggressive bursts of energy in the form of four-minute songs, as one may assume at first glance. “Line in The Sand” completely fulfills the sense that Shine Bright are marketable and game-changing. I very easily could see this album performed in its entirety, with more ambient moods throughout the atmosphere to catch you and pull you in for the whole experience. I’m usually out for the bands making the most atypical noise, but I actually quite admire how these boys picked a well-known theme and danced with it ambitiously. Shine Bright really found their niche, and I’m excited to see what they release next. –Xena Jade
Hylian = Four Year Strong + New Found Glory + Scary Kids Scaring Kids
Listening to Hylian made me miss Myspace—not necessarily because they would have been added to my profile playlist, but because they would be all over the profiles of the scene (NOT emo) kids I was stalking, right after that “Dear Maria” song. For this reason, I initially forgot that Hylian are a new, local band, which is impressive. Hylian are the type of pop punk with catchy choruses that you undoubtedly will have memorized before each song is over, with enough metalcore breakdowns and bass booms to validate that this is actually hardcore music, not pop, god damnit. The two to three minute songs serve as short bursts of energy to deliver simple lyrics about how everything’s changed and nothing will be the same, accompanied by phrases that rhyme with “oh-oooh oh.” The only other conventional components Hylian are missing are some constant harmonies—or an acoustic version of their album. With lyrics like, “It feels like I’ll never be the same to anyone or anything I ever knew again,” I mean, everyone can relate. The undemanding nature of it all is a near-perfect success formula. Landscapes serves up some angsty emotions that probably would come up in therapy years later as underlying causes of prolonged issues that were stuffed up back when they really weren’t that big of a deal. Or, honestly, this album could be all about some chick who ate someone’s burrito. What I’m saying is, music is a good outlet. You do not have to be enveloped or listen to this album multiple times to understand (or enjoy) it. Everything is right in your face, and I believe Hylian is doing exactly what they sought to do. Although I am already over it, I’m 1,000-percent sure that any 13-year-old would eat this up and shit out their soul as trade for band merch. Put these dudes on Warped Tour already. –Xena Jade
R e a l m
Canopy Canvas = Flying Lotus + CMA
With a catchy, quick intro song, and then straight into a downtempo beat with chimes and bells galore, this release from Canopy Canvas is an addition to the growing ambient section of the vast EDM world. With no vocals throughout, the addition of non-electronic instruments was slightly unexpected in some songs, but they were pleasantly introduced in layers with the use of backmasking, pedal and harmonies. The use of instruments like keys and guitar kept my attention throughout, without being overused. There is an apparent chemistry that grows with continued listening, so on the surface it may be hard to get into if you don’t exactly appreciate music you have to have an acquired taste for. This album makes much more sense when played in order, although it may actually not make much of a difference when you’re zoned out (as I feel this project was intended to be used just for that sort of thing).