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

Interview: State Champs

State Champs have been touring almost non-stop for the past two years. Read on to find out what they have planned next, how they cope with being away from home, and more.

Faultless Sounds: If you had to trade bodies with someone in the band, who would you choose?

Tyler Szalkowski: That’s a tough one. Derek is too thin. Probably Evan, he has a great body.

Tony Diaz: Same, unanimously.

Tyler: He’s strong and defined, he looks nice with his shirt off…

Tony: He’s a drummer, so he has good cardio, he doesn’t get tired easily. I’ve got bad knees, bad ankles… That’s why I gave up on drums; I used to play drums.

Tyler: Basically, no one would want our bodies. Everyone wants Evan’s body.

Today is the last day of your European festival tour. What’s been the best thing about it so far?

Tyler: For me, it’s been checking out some new cities. We got to go to Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Hungary for the first time.

Tony: We really enjoyed just walking around each city. With a tour this big, we don’t have a lot of responsibilities, so we had a lot of time to go out and explore all these new places.

Tyler: The highlight is actually getting to enjoy it. Last time we were here, we were headlining, there was VIP and sound check and all that. So now we get to be tourists and that’s nice.

Does that mean you prefer being a smaller band on the lineup instead of the headliner?

Tyler: We’ve been headlining for the first four months of this year, so we’re good. Headlining means you get to play to all your fans; they’re there for you, and sometimes those shows are more fun, but when you’re supporting, you play to an impressive amount of new people. They both have their perks.

How would you describe the music you play in one word?

Tony: I would say “positive”. Derek’s lyrical message is very uplifting.

Tyler: Our songs tend to be very resolved. And if you are bummed out, usually by the bridge, you get the resolution. So “positive” is a good word. I feel as though for some people our music is “nostalgic”, in a way. It makes you want to drive with your windows down, in the summer time… It’s always some feel-good, sugar-rushed pop-punk. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s friendly.

Is that why you enjoy writing and playing pop-punk?

Tyler: We grew up on it. Tony is a couple years older than me. I grew up in the era of Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, The Starting Line, New Found Glory etc. and when we decided we wanted to make music, we wanted to write stuff that we liked.

You’ve started working on new music already. Will there be any collaborations on the new album?

Tyler: Maybe. Hopefully. We have to see who wants to collab with us first.

So, nothing planned yet?

Tyler: We have some stuff planned, but no collabs as of right now.

Tony: The door is always open. We keep a pretty open-minded look on our music; we don’t want to pigeon-hole ourselves into one thing, we won’t say that we’ll only do a collab if it’s this one person. We haven’t gotten around to it yet, but we’re open to any opportunity.

Tyler: We’re always looking to grow and adapt; can’t keep making the same record over and over. You have to evolve, too.

You said it would be a ‘new chapter’ for State Champs…

Tyler: Yeah, Kerrang! said that. That sounds really dramatic, and it’s not going to be that dramatic. It’s still going to sound like us.

Tony: We’re not going to put out a record where you’re like “what happened? who is this band?”.

Tyler: But there are going to be a couple tracks that go in different directions, but we do that already anyway. We always like to make a record with a core of songs that stay true to who we are and a couple on the outskirts that let us push in different directions and try new things.

You’ve been ‘around the world and back’. What has been your favorite day off?

Tyler: Mine was in Australia. There was this cove with a 20 or 30 ft. cliff, so we went swimming, cliff jumping, we played football… it was a really nice day with us and Neck Deep just hanging out.

Tony: We usually make the most out of a lot of our off-days, especially internationally. There’s not really any that outweigh the others. I liked any time that we spent off in Japan. It’s a really wild place.

Tyler: It’s a completely different world. It feels very futuristic.

Tony: There’s this one restaurant we went to: You pick your food and pay at a machine, and then you go in and you lay down your receipt and the only human interaction is when they hand you your food.

Tyler: That was great, it erased the language barrier. We don’t speak Japanese, you know, it’s very challenging.

You’ve been touring almost non-stop lately, which can take its toll on your mind and body. What do you do to clear your mind?

Tyler: Every one of us does different things. I go out and party a lot, I drink and have fun.

Tony: I just seclude myself and play video games or call home. I’ll face-time friends or family, that kind of stuff. We live with twenty-two other people on this bus; it’s us and Issues, and you’re around people all the time. Personally, I do value alone-time a lot, so it’s good for me to get away for a while and mentally reset.

Tyler: I’m very extroverted; I take comfort in other people. I go out and lose myself there.

What’s been your favorite music release so far this year?

Tyler: The Maine and Paramore are pretty high up for me. And I’ve heard the new Lorde record is very good.

Tony: I’m ready for the new Carly Rae Jepsen. I’m really into pop music. Paramore is my number one right now, though.

Tyler: I’ll also stick with Paramore.

Lastly, what is your personal faultless sound?

Tyler: My favorite sound is waves on a beach. Like a super relaxing, calming white noise. I love that shit. I’ll fall asleep to it; I’ll do anything to it.

Tony: What fires me up the most is like the “load screen” music from a video game or something, it just hits a weird, nostalgic note in me.

IMG_1572 - Kopie

Against Me!, Touché Amoré, Tim Vantol. Eventwerk, Dresden, Germany. 16/06/17.