Category Archives: Alt Rock

Album Review: Needles//Pins – Good Night, Tomorrow

Family life has gotten the very best of me in a good way, and I have not been able to dedicate a lot of time to the blog as I would like to, but here I am for now while I have a few moments.

Maybe rather than giving excuses, I should just talk about this new Needles//Pins release that Chris at Dirt Cult Records threw my way to check out.

Before digging in deep here I need to admit how much I am eating up this album with each listen.  It is a start to finish jam that caught me by complete surprise.

Hailing from Vancouver, Needles//Pins is a three-piece punk band who have been around since 2009.  Perhaps not a well-known band here in the states, they caught a good chunk of my attention with their last release Shamebirds.  Needless to say, I was already excited to hear their new material. 

Good Night, Tomorrow is Needle//Pins’s third release (Dirt Cult Records / Mint Records) and clearly their best to date if you ask me.  The band showcases a much more mature sound with most of their tracks but without losing their edge resulting in a great listen.

Songs like “Violet”  and “Back to the Bright” begged to be memorized upon first listen for sing along opportunities.  Both of these songs impressed the hell out of me.

The mature sounding “Sleep” carried some great, catchy guitar playing, but it was the lyrics that won me over.  Personal, poignant , and to the point.

“All the Same” really reminded of the Replacements at times.  I am thinking due to the guitar playing and quick drumming mostly, but I am not complaining here at all.  This song ruled.

As someone who is obsessed with 80s punk/alternative rock, “Pressure Points”, “Untitled (You’re Fine)”, and “Something New” all turned into my favorite tracks on this album once I heard them.  Just check them out if you can, no explanation needed.

My appreciation for this band went out the roof after I heard “Tomorrow”.  Sick riffs, great hooks, group vocals, and a certain organ playing further proved my earlier statement on how Needle//Pins matured.  Folky, punky, and freaking amazing, this was the grand finale I was looking for.

For those of you who like the gritty sing along punk rock that has extreme replay opportunities,  y’all need to check out what Needles//Pins have put together.  Good Night, Tomorrow is one hell of a release that I plan on playing over and over again.  Think Iron Chic, Lawrence Arms, and Leatherface all mixed up in perfect proportions.  Trust me, you do not want to sit on this album.

Album Review: Heart Attack Man – The Manson Family

True story: I almost crashed my car this morning because the streets were a sheet of ice.

I was probably driving too fast, but that is not the point.

As I applied the brakes, my car just kept sliding right towards Brookpark Rd. with speed as oncoming traffic continued moving.  I lucked out at the last possible moment and was able to drift my car sideways to avoid crashing into anyone or anything.

So what the hell does this have to do with this album review you ask?

Well, as I sat there sideways at the edge of the intersection, I felt grateful that I was going to be able to get to work on time and listen to the new Heart Attack Man.  I’m quite serious about this – I planned on checking it out as soon as I got to my paying gig.

Cleveland’s Heart Attack Man originally was a solo project of guitarist/vocalist Eric Egan that soon turned into a band once Adam Paduch of Two Hand Fools took on drumming duties.  The duo specializes in creating catchy ass jams that carries equal amounts of alternative rock and indie rock.

Released on Triple Crown RecordsThe Manson Family is Heart Attack Man’s debut full-length.   Full of modern day struggles, the album refuses to hold back.

I knew I was in for something good the moment I heard opening track “Burn Down The Mall”.  Even though the tune was catchy like something Brand New might dish out, the song itself was just dark and melancholy.

“Sitting On the Fringe” was an anthem of just being fed up with everyone and everything while “Life Sucks” was an emo downward spiral, but damn it sounded so good.  “Cut Off At The Knees” also had this defeated sense of humbleness throughout.

“Surrounded By Morons” really reminded me of a long forgotten 90s band, King Missile, due to the singing style alone.  The song  was a literal opinion about living in over-populated cities.  The music that backed it was overly impressive with plenty of fuzz and riffs for all to enjoy.

“Taking Sides” easily was one of my favorite songs on the album.  A personable jam that I really can say I  could relate to over and over.  “Funhouse Mirrors” was another track I found myself getting into.

“Cool Kids Table” closed things down with a Weezer-like similarity, but far less sweet and innocent.  This song made me want to drown my sorrows in the cheapest beer possible.  The best part of this track was the sarcastic screams where you clearly can hear the frustration.  The more I think about it, this was probably my favorite cut off the album.

Heart Attack Man are one of the most exciting up and coming Cleveland bands out there right now in my opinion.  Sure, you’ve probably heard this statement so many times from everyone and their mother about every band out there, but have a listen of The Manson Family and I’m sure you’ll understand why I hold such high regard.

It’s not a happy album, but it is catchy and begs to be replayed over and over.

Song Premiere: Borders – Holiday

I’m very stoked to be able to premiere a track by a band called Borders for you all to enjoy.

Featuring Dustin Andrews, formerly of Of Us Giants, this alt rock band has put out one hell of a single and I was asked to showcase it on my site.  After I listened to it, I could not wait to share it.

Check it out:

Borders

Download Link: Borders – “Holiday”

Last year around this time, I was talking up Of Us Giants and was more or less shocked when the band called it quits before they even got to tour.  Things happen for a reason I suppose.

Borders pretty much carries the torch that was prematurely dropped by Of Us Giants.  I am looking forward to hearing their full-length titled Wandering Youth that should drop in May.

 

Album Review: Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield – Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith

ES_Cover_loWhat can be said about Elliott Smith that most people have not said already?  You either loved him or did not care for him.

Smith left his legacy suddenly years back in the worst way possible and his music has remained for the world to sulk upon when in need.

In 2003, Smith ended his life after suffering from depression for years.  I have no words for his choice on how he bowed out to the world nor will I even go into detail.

The 90s punk me was introduced to Smith’s self-titled album by some of my indie-loving friends years before “Needle In The Hay” was heard in The Royal Tenenbaums.  I’ll be honest and tell you that I never appreciated him until after his passing.  I remember liking what I heard, but apparently was too much in love with the SoCal punk scene.

The twenty-something-year-old-me back then was not impacted as much as present day me would have been.  I hate to admit it, but at the time I was not deprived of Smith’s talent when I learned of his passing.  Twelve years later, I have a different way of looking at his loss.

Next week, Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers and Kent, Ohio’s sweetheart Jessica Lea Mayfield will be dropping Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith, a covers album full of, you guessed it, Elliott Smith songs.

The album, dropping on Ramseur Records, is not a reinvention of Smith’s work, but more of an appreciation for someone they both were fans of.

Produced by Avett and recorded over the last three years at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC as well as at Avett’s and Mayfield’s homes, the album features renditions of twelve Elliott Smith songs.

It was almost haunting to hear Mayfield start out “Between The Bars”.  This version sent chills throughout my body.  I loved how Avett joined Mayfield but did not dominate the song.

I really enjoyed the piano playing that built up throughout “Baby Britain” and feel Avett nailed it when trying to recreate.  It started off slower with acoustic playing but soon jumped into a more upbeat cover.  It kills me thaSeth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smitht this was a more popular song of Smith’s and was all about his addiction, but it really is a great song.  (Side note:  I enjoyed this cover way more than Bayside’s 2008 version)

“Ballad Of Big Nothing” was just as depressing as the original on Smith’s Either/Or.  Not that i was expecting anything different, but the impact that Mayfield’s voice with Avett provided a different dismal angle.

I would have loved to have heard Avett take lead on their version of “Roman Candle”.  The distorted guitars were awesome but I really wanted to hear a more close to the original version of the signing to this amazing track.  I was rather underwhelmed on this.

The original version of “Memory Lane” always reminded me of something the Beatles might have done.  Hearing Avett slow it down a bit with a stings section made me think of the Beatles even more.  This was a great version of the original.

The collaboration of Avett and Mayfield only made sense seeing how they have been pals for years now.   For them to cover Elliott Smith songs was nothing next to brilliant.  The best part is how they chose what material to cover and how they each took turns taking the lead.  They reached all over Smith’s catalog including some hits and more obscure tracks.

This is the part where I encourage those who never cared for Smith to take a listen and hear his brilliance in a different dynamic.  Love him or hate him, Smith was an incredible songwriter.  This covers album proved that so well.

The album drops on March 17th and you can preorder it now by heading over to The Avett Brothers merch site.

If you’re lucky, you can even catch them live throughout March:
March
10   McGlohon Theatre, Charlotte, NC
11   The Birchmere, Alexandria, VA
12   Town Hall Theatre, New York, NY
14   Keswick Theatre, Glenside, PA (Philadelphia)
17   James K. Polk Theatre/TPAC, Nashville, TN
18   Southern Theatre, Columbus, OH
20   Athenaeum Theatre, Chicago, IL
22   Fitzgerald Theatre, St. Paul, MN
24   Boulder Theatre, Boulder, CO
26   Neptune Theatre, Seattle, WA
27   Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR
29   Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA
31   Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

Side note:  This powerful scene with Richie in The Royal Tenenbaums is beyond horrifying even more so when you think about what happened just a couple years later…  I am glad Avett and Mayfield did not cover this track.

Album Review: Purple – (409)

Purple - (409)2015 has not even started yet and here I am listening to a band I’ve never heard of before thinking to myself how deserving they are to drop on my best of 2015 list.

I know, I know, maybe I need to chill out a bit.  In all honesty though, I am dead serious about how much I enjoyed this act.

What would happen if you took Brodie Dalle (Distillers) and asked her to join the White Stripes with the soul purpose of mimicking 90s Sub Pop acts prior to the turn of the century?

Purple.

I speak not of the color, but of the boy-girl-boy Texas trio that literally has caught me off guard in a good good way.  They call their sound party rock and I could not agree more.

In January, Purple drops their debut (409) on Pias Recordings.  It is tough for me to even think that this is their first album given how well put together it sounds.

“Wallflower” started things off with a Detroit rock sound.  It was tough to gauge this band until about the halfway mark and suddenly I was loving what I heard.

“Leche Loco” carried an amazing similarity to 90s acts like Dinosaur Jr. and Bikini Kill as well as even good ol’ Jane’s Addiction.

“Beach Buddy” was a catchy track that was like a morph between Used Kids, The Strokes, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.  This fun beach jam was amazing.  I loved the back and forth singing between Hanna Brewer and Taylor Busby only for them to join together.

“Thirteen” was like Joan Jett met a hardcore version of The Faint.  Damn, this song was nuts.  I loved it.  The quick breakdowns and the heavy guitars with distorted vocal notes.  The video for it was even more insane.

“Target” had Brewer singing like a young Gwen Stefani and Juliana Hatfield but not without adding her own force in.  “Head On The Floor” continued with I am hoping the next song to be plastered all over the radio.  This track reeked of 90s alt-rock and was extremely enjoyable thanks to that Weezer bass riff.

With more of a blues rock feel, “Newborn” slowed things down a bit.  I felt this track proved how much talent this band holds.  Dan Auerbach, maybe you need to hit these kids up over Danger Mouse next time.  Seriously though, this tune was impressive.

“I like to party and ear a bikini” started off the final song “DMT”, a gritty punk jam that was heavy on the distortion and reverb.  Not sure how this will come off but, it is so nice to hear new music take queue from classic punk and alt-rock sounds from my younger years.

This album was full of wholesome pop-garage-punk-rock goodness with some  psychedelic flavor and even a little riot grrl-ish making for a truly refreshing listen.   If anything though, most of all, it was freaking fun.

This band is going places.  I know it.

The best part about this release?  It drops on my birthday.