Warm Thoughts – I Went Swimming Alone

To me, Warm Thoughts (formerly Dad Punchers) has always been about getting the best out of the hand you’re dealt. The most recent record is no exception to that. Tied to past works by two songs (“Intangible” and “Your Haircut Man”) that have been previously released, “I Went Swimming Alone” is a collection of approaches to the problems of a twenty-something.

Elliot Babin, whose main job is being a drummer in Touché Amoré, started his solo project in 2012. Since then, it has come a long way. Warm Thoughts continues to provide us with angsty, driven “bummer punk”, but the sound on “I Went Swimming Alone” is a lot more polished, the songs are catchier. Almost all of them deal with different situations where you want what you don’t, or can’t, have. Most of them also include oddly specific anecdotes, but are very relatable nonetheless, since the key concepts are universal ones, such as the fear of being alone (see “Airport”) or being forgotten (see “Waiting For Me”), or – as in “Your Haircut Man”- the uncomfortable situation of “accidentally falling in love with your roommate” (for further relatability, replace with ‘anyone you shouldn’t be falling for’).

The entire record is permeated by a somewhat nostalgic feeling, the state of being unhappy, but at peace with it. It pretty much feels like you’re stuck in one of the frequently referenced daydreams. The creation of this atmosphere is something I can’t quite get behind, since it’s such a peculiar mood that is evoked over and over in every single song, but I am 100% here for it.

Faultless Rating: ✔✔✔✔✔

Song recommendation(s): Airport, Romance Novelist, Waiting For Me, Intangible

Advertisements

Casey – Where I Go When I Am Sleeping

Ever since the release of their debut album “Love Is Not Enough”, fans of Welsh band Casey have been anxiously awaiting the follow-up, and wondering how it would be able to do its predecessor justice. Would it be a lot quieter? Louder? Disappointing? You can’t create the same thing twice, after all.

“Making Weight” serves as a slow introduction, not building up sonically, but leaving the listener with a sense of suspense as to what will follow nonetheless. With lyrics reflecting on life with multiple illnesses, you get a taste of what’s to come. Guitar-driven and rhythmic, “Wavering” digs deeper into the heavy contents you should have braced yourself for by now. This album, in contrast to Casey’s first one, moves from interpersonal problems to intrapersonal ones. Centered around singer and lyricist Tom Weaver’s health issues, you learn some things that most people would be afraid to even say out loud, let alone share with thousands, potentially millions, of people.

As a contrast to the somewhat familiar sound of the first few songs, “Flowers By The Bed” and “Needlework” dip into new harmonies and explore the biggest fear of most hardcore aficionados: all-clean vocals throughout the entire song. But they will be relieved to find that the absence of yelling does not equal to the absence of desperation and sincerity. It rather connects to the fact that all components that contribute to Casey’s work are equally important, which is proven by the three instrumentals that somewhat serve to separate songs. They create an atmosphere for Tom’s words to swim in and let you catch a breath, but the soft, slow nature simultaneously evokes the feeling of floating in a dark body of water.

Writing about this record would not be complete without mentioning the elaborately crafted lyrics. As the record progresses, they evolve from a reluctant attitude and dwelling on misery to a hesitant inclination towards accepting the love you’re offered. Incorporating some clever wordplay, the last two songs lyrically allude to “Love Is Not Enough” and thereby tie the two albums together.

“Where I Go When I Am Sleeping” is concluded by a spoken-word paragraph about the past that will leave you in tears – well, if you have made it through this album without shedding a single tear, I don’t know whether it means you’re strong or cold-hearted.

Faultless Rating: ✔✔✔✔✔

Song recommendation(s): Wavering, Needlework, Morphine, The Funeral

Sorority Noise – Alone

‘Fragile’ is the first word that comes to mind when listening to “Week 51″ off of Sorority Noise’s lates 7”, “Alone”. ‘Dreamlike’ is another, caused mostly by the powerful orchestration. It’s the kind of song that would be playing during a timelapse in a movie when one character is lying on their bed, staring at the ceiling or sitting in a chair, staring out the window, while they’re stuck in some kind of paralysis, unable to continue with their lives as planned for some terrible reason. 

“Fermata”, the second song, evokes some entirely different feelings. With lyrics that appear simple at first, yet have a deeper meaning to them and are slightly morbid, to be honest, it is as much of a musical counterpart to the first song as one could expect on a B-side to Sorority Noise’s latest full length record “You’re Not As _____ As You Think”. 

“Alone” possesses the power of transporting the listener to the point when these songs were born. It is a place to revisit when you need to be grounded and clear your mind. A perfect fit for the blank left in “You’re Not As _____ As You Think”, “Alone” leaves you not alone, but lighter than you felt before. When the last note faded, so did everything I was feeling up until that point; a strangely cathartic experience.
Faultless Rating: ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ 

Citizen – As You Please

With their third full-length album, Citizen are laughing loudly into the faces of those who thought the quintet had nothing left to explore after releasing two records that instantly became essentials for every emo aficionado’s collection. In a world that incessantly creates new genres, “As You Please” proves that, even though Citizen might have already found their place, that does by no means imply that they’ve run out of ideas.

The opener, “Jet”, acts as a reminder to show us where Citizen are coming from and it already offers a glimpse of where they plan to take us in the next fifty minutes, too – spoiler alert: there are lots of experiments coming at you. Be it “In The Middle Of It All”, which starts with choir-like high-pitched vocals before launching into more familiar, somber tones, or “World”, which presents the band at their most melodic, almost drifting into pop-punk. “Discrete Routine”, a slow, piano-driven song in which, at first listen, nothing -except for Mat Kerekes’ vocals- suggests that this could be a Citizen song, even takes on a Brand New level of increasing tempo, volume and complexity. The dark, accusing lyrics suggest that these songs weren’t just written out of personal interest either.

Even those tracks with a simpler structure, like “Medicine” or “Control”, become special by the ever-present passion that acts as a fundament for every Citizen song. I’ve wracked my brain trying to find a negative thing to say about this record, but I have to disappoint you here. There are so many ideas squeezed into these twelve songs that you’ll discover something new with every listen. Despite, or maybe even due to, the tentative steps toward different elements, “As You Please” is as them as it gets… plus, there’s an extraordinary amount of catchy moments, hooks, lyrics.

Faultless Rating: ✔✔✔✔✔

Song recommendation(s): Control, Discrete Routine, I Forgive No One

Neck Deep – The Peace And The Panic

You could tell by the songs that had been released in advance that Neck Deep’s third full length album would be quieter, yet still very characteristic of the band. The result is a solid pop-punk album, this time with an emphasis on the “pop” part, rather than the “punk” part, as it used to be.

“The Peace And The Panic” – two polar opposites that don’t just reoccur in the title track “Motion Sickness”, but are in fact a fitting summary of the album. With a variation of dynamics spreading throughout eleven tracks, Neck Deep effectively demonstrate their versatility. Equally diverse in tempo and topics, it is particularly the teamwork on the lyrics within the band that proves successful, so that the subjects are sometimes of global (“Happy Judgement Day”) and other times of personal (“19 Seventy Sumthin’”, “Wish You Were Here”) importance. The former should, especially at a point like this, be much more present in music, so it is great to see one more band speak up. Architects’ Sam Carter’s contribution on “Don’t Wait” is an excellent example of a concise statement that could be capable of waking up those who otherwise wouldn’t care.

Nonetheless, you can’t deny that it’s not always easy to be original. Some songs, like “Motion Sickness”, “Where Do We Go…” and “Heavy Lies” pass you by, while others linger in your head for days after listening, be it for the lyrical contents or the riffs. Ironically, there’s something about “The Grand Delusion” that makes it sound a little off. Maybe that was intentional and I just didn’t see it, but, either way, hitting the lowest point at track number three and then just going up again is far from being the worst balance. Several songs have the potential of becoming a real tear-jerker, yet surprisingly, my personal highlight is the seemingly inconspicuous, but catchy and very Green-Day-esque “Critical Mistake”.

 

Faultless Rating: ✔✔✔

Song recommendation(s): Critical Mistake, Don’t Wait, Happy Judgement Day

 

Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile to the Surface

Their knack for the quiet and dramatic has always been present in Manchester Orchestra’s work. On some records it was rather underlying, while more explicit on others, so it’s not surprising that they chose to amplify it to the point of perfection on “A Black Mile to the Surface”. Carefully constructed melodies that complement front man Andy Hull’s extraordinary timbre, paired with complex, harmonic guitar parts and highly emotional lyrics carrying an almost unbearable weight – that’s what we already know, and what’s here to stay.

The addition of synth elements, however, benefits the creation of a somber, yet somehow content atmosphere, resulting in the birth of an abstract place you’ll never want to leave. You’ll find lyrics that speak in riddles, but you’ll almost certainly find fractures of yourself in a lot of them. You’ll find comfort, food for thought, as well as your new favorite song to cry to.

Unlike their former records, this album lacks a point that raises your feet off the ground, hitting your eardrums real hard, tearing out your heart. Where the previous ones grew loud, “A Black Mile to the Surface” fades from its comparably subtle buildups again and settles at a calmer tone. Less like a rollercoaster, more like a peaceful drive through the night. What some people might miss, I do not. This record is all that I didn’t know I needed.

Faultless Rating: ✔✔✔✔✔

Song recommendation(s): The Gold, The Moth, The Silence

Hundredth – Rare

Without a doubt – it takes courage to change your music style as vigorously as South Carolina-based Hundredth did with their latest release, “Rare“. Previously a band that would be associated with acts such as Being As An Ocean and Counterparts, their sound is now frequently compared to recent Balance and Composure and other rather shoegaze-y bands.

While it is a great thing to listen to on rainy, tired days -or really any day-, my problem with shoegaze is usually that, after catapulting you into that slow haze, it all just passes in a blur. You only started listening, like, two seconds ago, but the record has already come to its end and you don’t remember a thing. But this is the part where Hundredth prove that they are able to solve these potential problems. Their musical origins still shine through in the heavier guitars and drums, creating memorable riffs for almost all songs on “Rare”. The result is an album that, at first, seems to blend in with others of its kind: Defined by cohesiveness and not too many leaps out of the determined frame, you can easily lose yourself in this piece. Still, every song has something that makes it stand out, which stems partly from the hardcore influence, yet the newly incorporated elements play a significant part as well.  “Departure” with its high-pitched, dreamy guitars reminds you of Turnover’s “Peripheral Vision” and the chorus of “Disarray” will be stuck in your head for the next few days.

Speaking of which, there’s always a tense feeling when you don’t know what to expect from the clean vocals (which come with this change of direction). In this case, at least to me, it feels like the vocal and instrumental parts contribute an equal amount to the final product; something that is rarely found nowadays. The less prominent, heavily reverbed vocals allow the other instruments to display their versatility just as much as Chadwick Johnson gets to show that he can do melodic and quiet just as well as screaming his lungs out.

Both soothing and energetic, “Rare” is a very pleasant surprise in a music that is largely afraid of change.

Faultless Rating: ✔✔✔✔

Song recommendation(s): Hole, Youth, Disarray, Shy Vein