The Most Underrated Rock ‘n Roll Artist in the Past 5 Years – The White Buffalo

[It’s been a while since one of my pals has guest blogged on this here ol’ site, but when Frank reached out to me recently with something he wrote asking me to check it out, I just had to share it.  Great read by a great dude. – Brian]

As we gingerly step into 2018, our world has become consumed by politics.  Our news are politics, our “Funny-Shows” are politics, our comedians are politics, and with all of this, our world has become a house divided.  Before all this though, there was an even greater divide happening in a much more important arena, the music arena.

Over the past five years, rock ‘n roll has been the passenger on a downward trend, taking it further and further from the main-stream, and closer to obscurity. Some would debate that the greatest reason for this is the general malaise and declining quality of the rock ‘n roll form, while others place their bets behind the “Only Big Enough for One of Us” philosophy regarding the rap vs. rock debate.  Despite all the bluster and hot air one thing is quite factual, that as of last year, it is documented that hip hop has taken over the head of the pack in the music world.

With this seismic change in the musical landscape, artists that should have been on the fast track to super-stardom and all that entails have been pushed down into what was characteristically deemed the “independent” group.  Artists that should get the elusive radio play and playing to thousands of people at a time are lucky to get on college radio and play the back rooms of the established venues.  Those that should be in the limelight, have transitioned into unknown or the tombstone title of “niche”.

One artist that doesn’t belong in any of these secondary groups, one artists who stands on musical talent rather than glitz and bling, the most underrated artist in recent memory is The White Buffalo.

The White Buffalo, aka Jake Smith, can undoubtedly be placed at the top of the list of underrated artists in the shrinking rock genre of today’s musical society.  With vocals that range from haunting, as heard in “The Whistler” and “Come Join the Murder”, and travel up the spectrum to romantic, spotlighted in “Love Song #1”  and “Come On Love Come On In”, all the way to a tone that could be called soulful and introspective, divinely illustrated in “Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done”, or upbeat, like “Avalon”.

Smith’s music cannot be classified and gently placed into a nice tight fitting box.  It can go from straight rock ‘n roll to a little bit of twang, from bordering country to in your face melodic yelling.  And maybe there’s the rub – because with the push he’s gotten, it doesn’t make sense that he’s being pushed down into the lands of obscurity.

Case in point, ask the average, run of the mill, rock ‘n roll fan, what is the most popular show that they have watched in the last 10 years, that they still watch on Netflix, the show that had one of the best soundtracks ever, that they owned the t-shirts, the hoodies, the hats, and the merch, that they watched or recorded or DVRed EVERY TIME IT WAS ON TELEVISION, and most of them will say the same thing: Sons of Anarchy.  And this juggernaut of a show, Sons of Anarchy, was the first introduction for the White Buffalo to the masses.

Smith’s music accompanied some of the most disturbing, some of the most poignant, some of the most influential, and some of the most powerful scenes of the entire show.  When Clay gets his back tattoo blacked out in shame, enter “The Whistler”, or when Tara, Jax’s wife realizes her negative transformation and pulls a gun on Jax and then leaves him, scored by “Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done”, or arguably the most powerful moment of the show, when Jax rides his bike to certain doom in the series finale, there was only one song that could properly usher this show out and push the main character off of this mortal coil properly, and it was “Come Join the Murder” by the White Buffalo.

Smith had a spotlight shone on him from one of the most heavily watched shows of the decade, his music led in scenes that there was no going back from, and his music was the prototype for the entire soundtrack, and yet for some reason he is not shining his Grammys or counting his movie credits.  And there is no reason for that.  Other than the fact that he has been criminally underrated by the powers that be in the music industry, and this fact is in fact, a crime.

Since his contributions to SOA, he has not rested on his laurels, nor has he let the show define him.  He has put together three stellar albums: Shadows, Greys, and Evil WaysLove and the Death of Damnation, and most recently Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, which illustrates his stunning mix of the rock ‘n roll, deep, deep blues, and outlaw country.

Smith continues to prove that he is actually the preeminent musical story-teller in music today.  The White Buffalo’s music gives listeners a constant reminder that although one might look brash and gruff on the outside, the inside can be a cauldron of emotions and feelings and thoughts and ideas.  Every album is a different trip to a different place, exploring different roads to get to the destination.

The masses are missing some of the greatest rock ‘n roll that has ever been produced, and what is ever more disappointing than that fact, is that they don’t even know it.  The White Buffalo entrusts personal stories to the listener, that many people could relate to and enjoy.  The White Buffalo is the everyman, with a badass growl, a tender soul.  He’s someone you’d have a beer with anytime and the most underrated rock ‘n roll musician in recent history.

Seek him out, watch him, listen to him, go to his concerts – just do yourself a favor and enjoy his work.

-FS

 

Album Review: Sincere Engineer –Rhombithian

Sincere Engineer‘s  Rhombithian is the album I should not have sat on in 2017.

I cannot explain why I set the album aside when I was asked to check it out, but I will tell you that I regret not popping it in immediately.  To say this album is “sincere” is not just tongue-in-cheek, but absolutely accurate.

Deanna Belos may be a new name to me, but if you’re involved in the punk scene in Chicago, that is a completely different story.  I am sure you can Google her life story, but the highlights are when she picked up the guitar and began writing music as Sincere Engineer.

She mixes melodic punk rock with plenty of emotion and the result is a fantastic debut of an release on Red Scare.  This is the kind of album you can sing and scream do while holding back the tears.

“Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7” started things off right with a jam about memories brought forth thanks to a post corn dog-induced nap.  This track was full of enough emotion to make anyone just stop and think about those tough days of being uncertain and solo.  Luckily, there were more corn dogs to get through the moment.

The descriptiveness in “Ceramic Tile” reminded me I need to buy some more Windex.  In all honestly, Belos really knows how to paint a picture with her lyrics.

“Screw Up” clearly related to those on their worst point in life.  Christ, I feel like some of the things she sung on were directly taken from my adolescent years when I was a nervous wreck.  Bonus points for the “ding” in the middle of the track.

“Here’s Your Two Dollars” was a great track.  I loved the music throughout that kept things moving as Belos battled on verbally with her direct inner ethos.

I loved the upward feeling in “1K Rats” because I have felt that all too often in life.  New interaction always brings out the most in anyone.  Clearly the levels shrink in time, but when the moment is here, all you can do is think and gloat.

“Let You Down” as depressing as hell as it was to listen to, it just so honest.  I was reminded of the thoughts that hit me when the wrong words come out causing me to lie awake for hours.

“Keep You Company” not only made me feel old due to the content of young feeling, but also made me thankful I’ve been there.

This album contains some of the most honest material I’ve heard ina  long time full of scattered inner thoughts from loneliness to failing relationships due to a lack of self confidence.  Belos’s subconscious conversations put to music is the most real shit I have heard in a long time.

Not all punk rock is supposed to be fun and goofy.  Sincere Engineer reminded me of that in a big way.  If you are reading this and have not listened to Rhombithian yet, make sure you change that .  This album is amazing and had my ass not sat on it for so long, it easily would have topped my best of 2017 list.

Album Review: Story of the Year – Wolves

It’s been a while since I last got into Story of the Year.

Nothing against the band at all, but I think the last album I listened by them was their 2005 release In the Wake of Determination.

Hell, I remember vividly shooting their set that year at the Cleveland Warped Tour.  I was a big fan of them then and honestly, have no idea why they fell off my radar.

The funny thing is, their first two albums pop up on my slowly-dying iPod classic in my car once in a while, so it is not exactly like I omitted them from my life, I just never go to checking out newer material.

Clearly that ended today after checking out their newest release Wolves.  The St. Louis post-hardcore/punk/rock band released the album just last month, but it took me a minute to check it out.

Wolves is Story of the Year’s fifth full-length album and was crowd-funded in just 3 days upon the announcement of their campaign.  It is their first release in 7 years too.  The result is more emo rock album over the punky post-hardcore I once adored, but this isn’t a bad thing.  Honestly, the dudes sound more collected and mature and given the time-span of when I last really got into them, it makes total sense.

After the intro track, “How Can We Go On” just pounded my ears.  This was how I remembered the band.  Tons of sing-along opportunities, and a energy that easily sucked me in.

“Bang Bang” followed and instantly had me thinking how this track when played live would result in the entire venue jumping up and down screaming and singing.  I hesitated at first with the electronic synthesizer in the song that made it more Family Force 5, but honestly, it worked.

Upon hearing “Youth”, I thought “I Swear I’m Okay” was going to be all guitars and heavy,but things turned down a few notches and suddenly I was sitting there listening to a balled of sorts.  I did not quite know what to think of this one.  I guess I just was amped up with that intro.

“Can Anybody Hear Me?” was a synth-rock balled of sorts that had an 80s physique but was not in a mocking fashion at all.  Not going to lie, I enjoyed the hell out of this song.

“A Part Of Me” came back with the heavier sound I grew accustomed to…or so I thought.  This was another track that just slammed on the brakes and let the feeling pour out.

Luckily, “The Eternal Battle for Mike Cronin’s Soul (To Be Alive Again)” popped up, or I might have just put the album down.  This track was more my speed.  At times it was like Nine Inch Nails jumped in and offered some industrial beats.

“Good Night My Love” was an honest track I feel I have related to over and over in my life when it comes to relationships.  The song did not sound overproduced at all and if anything showcased how far their have come as musicians.

Secretly I was hoping “Like Ghosts” was going to be some outlaw spaghetti western track, but alas it was not.  I did like this song and I hate to say it, but the music at times was very Peter Gabriel and I mean that in a positive mention.

“Praying For Rain” closed the album down with a 7-minute track that really took the listener all over the place.  I loved just a minuter or so in when the guitars just busted in.  My favorite part though was the spoken word in the middle of the track.

Considering it has been 13 years since I could tell you everything about this band (and 7 years since they released new material), clearly they went through changes and fine-tuned their sound to their likening.  This is not a commercially released album forced out by a record label, but more of an underground release.

Overall, solid release by a band who has been in it for almost half of my life.  I dug the variety in Wolves even if I might not have been in the mood for the slower tracks while listening the first time.  I know I will revisit this album again in time.

Don’t expected an “Until the Day I Die” hit song on this album.  This is the album after years of heartbreak and misery that everyone who’s grown up probably can relate to in one way or another.

Check It Out: Alkaline Trio Announce Past Live Box Set Pre-Order

New year, new reason to spend money you should be paying your heating bill with.

Alkaline Trio has announced they are dropped the mother of all boxsets in 2018 to celebrate their band turning old enough to buy a 6-pack of Black Label legally in the state of Ohio.

Past Live is the bands full catalog but live versions that were recorded in Chicago over the past couple years in audio and video versions.

The bundles include:

Past Live Box Set 8xLP (Colored Vinyl):

  • All 8 LPs collected together in a box that is exclusive to the Past Live Deluxe Bundles. All LPs pressed on limited edition colored vinyl.

A 4 disc Blu-ray set features the band performing all 8 albums live in superior 5.1 audio for your listening and viewing pleasure:

  • Disc 1 – My Shame Is True – Goddamnit
  • Disc 2 – This Addiction – Maybe I’ll Catch Fire
  • Disc 3 – Agony & Irony – From Here To Infirmary
  • Disc 4 – Crimson – Good Mourning

The albums will be sold separately as will the blu-ray set.  The boxset however is only available though a bundle.  I have this feeling this will sell out fast.

Here is what the band had to say about this awesome collection:

We are proud to unveil a project we’ve been working on for a while now: Past Live. We recorded all eight studio albums live at our show at the Metro in Chicago, and now we bring it to you ONLY for limited time preorder (order by Feb 9). Each album will be a different colored neon vinyl to match the album cover. Additionally, we have a four-disc Blu-Ray (2 albums on each disc) that was recorded in HD and mixed in 5.1 surround sound. For our Super Deluxe bundle we’ve taken our old backdrops from over the years and crafted them in to large tote bags with a zip top and side pocket. Plus you will receive a custom sleeve for all eight vinyl, a band signed 12″x12″ screened and numbered art poster and a Past Live T-shirt.

These limited quantity super deluxe bundles will sell for $315. We will also offer the Deluxe (everything but the backdrop bag), for $275. Individual albums on vinyl and the Blu-ray are available to purchase ala carte.

Preorder yours now.  You have until February 9th to do so.  You can skip rent for a month, your landlord would understand.

http://www.alkalinetrio.com/
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Check It Out: Sweet Apple’s Music Video For “A Girl and a Gun”

As someone who grew up in the 90s, I have a strong appreciation for bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Guided By Voices.  It really should come to no surprise that I am a huge fan of Sweet Apple.

Sweet Apple features local heroes John Petkovic (Death of Samantha, Cobra Verde) and Tim Parnin (Sons of Elvis, Cobra Verde) along with J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr., Witch) and  Dave Sweetapple (Witch).

Sweet Apple’s 2017 release Sing the Night in Sorrow was one of my favorite albums of the year.  If you have not listened to it yet, you really should change that.

Today, the band dropped a crazy video for “A Girl and a Gun”.  You know the video is pure gold when you hear that Petkovic was actually arrested while making it.  I’d like to hear the details on that…

Check it out:

While you are at it, check out the video they released a few weeks back for “Everybody’s Leaving” starring Mark Boone Junior:

Check out Sweet Apple via the following links:
Facebook: facebook.com/sweetapplesongs
Twitter: twitter.com/sweetapplesongs
Website: sweetapplesongs.com