Tag Archives: Album

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.

Album Review: Anti-Flag – American Fall

You know an album is good when you spend 15 minutes trying to compose an opening sentence for a review.

I’ve been sitting here thinking about how to introduce Anti-Flag and their release, but chances are you’re very well aware of who they are already.  I was unsure how to express how surprised at how great this album was from the moment it hit my ears.  I finally decided to just write this and move on with talking about the album.

No disrespect to the band at all, but the last couple of albums did not do that much for me.  American Fall, however, has completely blown me away from start to finish.  Think of the Clash mixed with Rancid and Green Day with a huge spilling of political and social opinion based on current events and tragedies for that matter.  I know that was probably a tough sentence to take in, but trust me, it works.

Punk rock, pop punk, ska, and even a smidge of arena rock was all thrown together in American Fall, the band’s 11th studio release.  Co-produced by Benji Madden of Good Charlotte, this album has Anti-Flag taking an entirely new approach with their musical abilities all while keeping on with their values.

“American Attraction” started out full-forced with an intro comparable to Green Day’s “American Idiot” but not in an overplayed way at all.  Same style, higher energy, much more appealing to my ears.  This was not what I was expecting to hear honestly, but I love the sound.

“When the Wall Falls” started off as an acoustic track and quickly jumped ship into a ska track.  This track reminded me so much of Rancid at times especially with that organ playing – I almost with Tim Armstrong had guest vocals on this track.  The lyrics of the song were almost frightening when you sit back and think about it.

I could not help but think how close-knit the band sounded in”Trouble Follows Me”.  I loved the bass line and overall harmony with the group vocals.  Very memorable song that got stuck in my head.

“Finish What We Started” carried this huge Clash resemblance which was totally welcomed.  In fact, this was one of my favorite tracks on the album.

If you do not know who “Liar” is about, you just don’t get it.  There’s really nothing else to say about this track.  The same goes with “Throw It Away”.

“Digital Black Out” was just insane.  At times, I thought about a politically charged Joe Strummer leading a revolution.  I really felt that Anti-Flag leaped boundaries in this track.  As much as I hate to say it, a track like this has the potential to take them to Rise Against levels.

“Racists” was a highly prolific punk jam that once again impressed the hell out of me.  I loved the energy and the overall lesson to absorb within their lyrics.

It sucks to think the current state of affairs is what is fueling Anti-Flag, but for what it is worth, I am glad they have a way to release it for others to consume.

Overall, this album was amazing.  From start to finish I found myself getting sucked into the tracks and memorizing the lyrics.  I can not even tell you how many times I have listened to this album.  It has turned into a go to album when I just want to get my blood flowing.

My only complaint about American Fall was that it was only 30 minutes long and I was just so hyped up and ready for 30 more.  If Madden was the cause of the band turning a little poppier on this album, I am fully on board for him to co-product in the future.  This is the best I have heard Anti-Flag sound in years and I am stoked to hear what comes next.

 

 

Album Review: Two Hand Fools – Falling In / Falling Out

Cleveland’s Two Hand Fools are back and have dropped their most important album to date in my opinion.

I’m sure you’ve heard this statement about various bands over and over by people, but honestly, I am dead serious stating this.

The rust-belt punkers are on top of their game in Falling In / Falling Out, putting out a release that has quickly jumped to the top of my best of 2017 list.

Comprised of quality dudes including Ryan Johns (guitar / vocals), Adam Paduch (drums), Tyler Sickels (guitar) , and Nick Schmitt (bass), it’s been 4 years since the band has dropped something and this specific release has actually been 2 years in the making.

With Paduch and Sickels focusing on Heart Attack Man most of the year, Falling In / Falling Out was put on hold until everyone could come together to support it together once it dropped.  Smart move if you ask me.  Hopefully the album releases soon as the band was not able to tell me an exact release date just yet.

I absolutely should mention that the cover art for this release was created by Cleveland artist John G.This is the band’s second full release.

At less than 30 minutes, this album sucked me in and had me wanting so much more by the end.  “Falling Out” complete with some sexy saxophone really got me excited (not in that way you perv) for the rest of the album and then suddenly “Spinning” started and I was sold.  I knew i would adore the rest of this album just after that song.

“Young Again” I think was written about a 40 year old blogger from Cleveland.  I kid about that, but this track had me reminiscing while listening to the harmonic track full of emotion and realistic thoughts.

I loved the compelling “Geraniums”, a track about self-realization and moving on. It’s not a very long song, but carries a sweet set of riffs, spot-on drumming, and is just fun to jam along with.

Following was “(Transitions)”, an instrumental tune that easily could have been pulled from the 90s.  This is the track that had me thinking to myself how mature this band has become.

The saxophone made a return in “Falling In”, an interlude of sorts and it was equally as sexy-sounding as the beginning.  This track moved into “Raindrops”, another short and sweet track that left a bite mark.

“Cut You Up” once again had the band doing what they do best – play together.  This was so genuine sounding and probably my favorite on the album that was far from being over-produced.  Perhaps a little deranged lyrically, I share that sentiment so naturally I dug this.

“No Tip” wasn’t too technical and because of it, it was an entertaining listen even if the somber track reflected a miserable serving.  Add in the ever important group vocals, and you have a damn fine song.  This was one of those emotional tracks that was just infectious to hear out.

“RGB” had some, you guessed it, sexy saxophone playing.  I clearly am joking about the sexiness and should say effectiveness because this song was 400 times better because of that woodwind playing throughout.  This was a hell of a track to end the album with.

I need to admit, the first time I heard Two Hand Fools years back, I was not sold.  In fact, I remember telling myself that they need to rearrange.  Who the hell am I to judge a hard-working group though?  I kept those comments to myself and kept on checking them out when I could.

I am glad I never dismissed them completely because since then they have become one of my favorite Cleveland bands.  I have watched them grow up and embrace who they are as musicians and to me, that is pretty goddamn amazing.

Falling In / Falling Out should serve as a solid testament of accomplishment to some pals who have been in it for 10 years now.  They really impressed me with this one.



Two Hand Fools play Mahall’s on Friday, Oct. 27 in support of this new release.

Album Review: Tim Barry – High On 95

There is really not much more I can say about Tim Barry these days except that the man is exceptional.

The former Avail frontman has made aging as a punk rocker just so appealing.  Taking each day in stride and being the best father he can be, you might just find inspiration in him just as I have.

His solo material is more of a storytelling process with the soul purpose of letting people hear him out.  Still containing his punk rock roots as well as life-long experiences, Barry just dropped an all new release on Chunksaah Records titled High On 95.

High On 95 is a mixture of acoustic tracks and collective jams with Barry’s family and friends.  Just as he has always done in the past, Barry has no problem combining folk, rock, and punk and  with his own personal touch making for an incredible listen.

The album was recorded once again by Lance Koehler at Minimum Wage Studios in Richmond Virginia.  According to Barry, “it’s just one take” and continued with, “Lance knows the more I do it, the worse it’s gonna get. You lose something when you play it more and more. So get it right.”

One take is all it took to make one hell of an album.

The personal “Slow Down” had Barry and his guitar recollecting life in a busy city and his transition to a small town.  The backing violin playing was so fitting on this track that seemingly aged from the beginning to the end.

The detail in the lyrics on “High On 95” almost seemed like personal memories of my own.  This track was built up with some guitar playing and simple piano playing.  What made this track even better for me was the video that his 4-1/2 year old daughter filmed all on a VHS camcorder.  Life goal right there folks, especially since I have my own little versions of me these days.  Check out the video below.

“O & Dp” was more of a song a close knit of friends would sign around a campfire.  I especially related to this track with lyrics that were personable with life events and self-expectation.

“Riverbank” was a memorable jam that might be one of the more produced songs I have heard by Barry in a while and I loved every second of it.  Friendly and real thoughts put into song while letting dogs run around the river just doesn’t get much more sincere.

The toe-tapping “Gumshoe Andy” brought back train-hopping memories of Barry.  You almost wonder who this gumshoe was and what his intentions were or if it was just an inner-conscious voice taming someone’s wild tendencies.

The observations in “Porter St.” are all to familiar.  This industrialization realization of a small town track has immediately become one of my favorite Barry tracks.  Just listening to it had me thinking and agreeing with what day to day life has turned into.

“Chelsea” was almost a Dear John letter of a track with Barry showing pleasantries followed by dismissal for being deceitful.  Friendly-sounding but stern, this tune was quick to take out the trash.

It was great to hear Barry’s sister Caitlin play violin on “Running Never Tamed Me” along with Barry. Christina Marie Gleixner provided haunting backing vocals on this track about the highs and lows of life and love as told to what I would only assume was Barry’s daughters.  This was one bummer of a track, but beautiful.

At 30 minutes total, High On 95 was an amazing listen that seemed to just fly by.  I have actually listened to it a few times now and some of the tracks became even more poignant once the lyrics were absorbed in my mind.  It’s the kind of album you think with, relate to, and just absorb.

People, including myself, have asked Barry for years if he would ever reunite Avail.  He always responds that he is not interested in doing that.  For a while there, I could not understand, but as the years have progressed with the releases by Barry, I am glad he didn’t.  This man has his priorities set to align with his future on his own accord.  Godspeed sir.

Tour Dates:
9/23 Richmond, Virginia @ Carpenter Theatre
10/05 Washington, DC @ DC9 Nightclub
10/06 Pittsburgh, PA @ Cattivo
10/07 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
10/8 Detroit, MI @ Smalls
10/10 Columbus, OH @ Rumba Cafe
10/11 St Louis, Mo @ Blueberry Hill
10/12 Chicago, Il @ Cobra Lounge
10/13 Indianapolis @ White Rabbit
10/14 Louisville, KY @ Haymarket
10/26 Ybor City, FL @ Pre-FEST
10/27 Gainesville, FL @ FEST
11/09 Garwood, NJ @ Crossroads
11/10 Philadelphia @ Underground Arts
11/11 Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Upstairs.
11/12 Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
12/07 San Diego, CA @ Casbah
12/08 Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
12/09 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
12/10 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill.