A Belated Review of…If There Is Light, It Will Find You by Senses Fail

words by Mark McConville (@writer1990mark)rating 8

By powering through the music industry with songs describing heartbreak and addiction, New Jersey band Senses Fail have become an emo staple, a dark act, acclaimed for saying it as it is. Their music pinpoints struggle and hardship. Lead singer/songwriter Buddie Neilson is an addict staving off death and demons and desperately pushing away forces of evil and although their sound is negative, it hits home, it thrives and can be breathtakingly pulsating. Neilson is a wordsmith, there’s no doubt about that. He poetically melds together little notes, enforcing his words on the world like batches of letters, proclaiming his questionable sanity. He may explode like bombs at some point, sacrificing his body, but at the moment he’s yearning for closure and a clean mind. His life hasn’t been pretty as he has seen some horrific scenes, which have prompted him to fall by the wayside. Drugs and alcohol have been major players, conducting his existence for so long.

The band’s new record If There Is Light, It Will Find You is a stark, gritty listen. It rattles the bones and it will make you think. It’s memorable and sticks like glue, fastening its story onto the listener. Lyrically it dazzles but also tugs at heartstrings and we’re listening to a man subsiding into a dark abyss, clawing at coattails of an estranged lover, marking his grave. Neilson bellows about dying throughout the LP, screaming about graves and souring lust.

The album isn’t going to light up, ever, but it’s a strong contender for Senses Fail’s best work yet. Those guitar structures and sequences have been worked upon with great balance, and thought and meaning have been implemented graciously. On opening track Double Cross, those structured lines have been placed perfectly. Neilson sings out his lyrics of worth, describing music and its significance. He also utters about what he has to achieve to be fully noticed, what does he need to prove? Ancient Gods is a brilliant take on a ballad. Neilson sings about loneliness, describing it like a disease. The chorus is infectious, and again the instrumentals are punchy and perfectly composed. Is It Gonna Be The Year? is fuelled by rage, it’s unnerving. Again, it bursts like a blister. Neilson delivers a lyrical masterclass on death and why he doesn’t want to be a washed up old man. He wants to be saved and cocooned off from a fucked up world.

Senses Fail are a band who suffer. Throughout the new record, we hear word by word of Buddie Neilson’s struggles. He is a talented individual who is scarred and weighed down by life. Although music aids him in his pursuit of happiness.

EP Review: Soggy – S/T

BY LIAM MENZIES (@BLINKCLYRO)

There’s a certain therapeutic advantage that comes from writing music. While you may expect to hear this from an amateur musician (looking at you Jez) or a stoner (looking at you Jez), there’s actual evidence to support this notion: research puts it down to it being a sort of cathartic action that allows an artist to come to terms with emotions, expanding the toolbox of the person in question.

It’s no real surprise, then, to hear bands such as Soggy champion the curative benefits of music with emotion being the core factor of what they do, using the deepest, darkest parts of their depression to create their art. The day to day struggles that the Texas rockers explore here may not be groundbreaking but the way in which they execute them certainly allow the band to shine as another example in emo rock’s rejuvenation.

This is clear from, quite literally, the get go as introductory track Small Town gets things underway with a mighty, punky kick: already, it’s clear to see that Soggy wear both their idols and emotions on their sleeves with a clear Joyce Manor influence radiating from every orifice of this track’s angsty little body. In addition to this, there’s no way of shaking the similarities to Remo Drive, another new act who are championing in a new age of angsty punk with a dashing of emo. There’s the classic trait of worrying about being stuck in, you guess it, a small town but the extra layers crafted by the protagonist’s existentialism and constant fear save it from being just another rehash of a pop punk trope that has got very tedious.

As it continues, Soggy start to get more comfortable with the listener, albeit not for very long. Succeeding track Radicus Finch is evidence enough of this, showing a very varied form of instrumentals: one minute, the band become very laid back and chill before breaking into this hectic cataclysm and it all gives way for some unexpected, one-off stylings (just try to shake off those very sweet blips of percussion that hark back to The Front Bottoms‘ debut). While it may seem like the sound is what drives this track but it’s really the performance of all the members is what makes it a stand out on the EP. A notable highlight has to be, once again, lead vocalist Alexi’s vocals, wonderfully carrying a messy breakdown about inadequacy and change though Scott on guitar does manage to steal the show at the tail end of the song, showing the band is more the sum of their parts than a one man show.

This isn’t to imply that Soggy iron out all the flaw on this release: one notable complaint has to be the length of certain tracks though unlike their counterparts, the band tends to drag songs on too long rather than cut them short. While they’re pleasant to listen to, sometimes tracks tend to be border on filler which no bombastic breakdown can help fix. Thankfully, instances like this are very few and far between and 90% of the time, Soggy hit the mark with their own rendition of emo-punk goodness. Full of identity and progress, Soggy manage to mature via their use of their music as an outlet to let out all angst and rage. With their debut EP cementing the potential the band hold,  they aren’t set to outstay their welcome anytime soon.

8/10


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ALBUM REVIEW: You’re Not As ___ As You Think by Sorority Noise

by Rory McArthur@RoryMeep

Sorority Noise have never needed long to leave their mark. Debut record Forgettable clocked in at just 21 minutes, with the superb follow-up Joy, Departed just breaking the half hour mark. You’re Not As ___ As You Think is no exception, but its 10 tracks across 30 minutes cram in more visceral emotion than most bands manage across their whole discography.

Themes of religion and death dominate, with lyricist Cameron Boucher often found questioning his faith in the face of his own personal struggles. These struggles are beautifully and articulately dealt with across every track, painting vivid pictures of grief and depression. These lyrics are delivered with incredible passion, with Boucher’s vocals ranging from quiet, crackling whispers, to cathartic roars, pouring extra emotion into already devastatingly effective songs. Opener No Halo, for example, recounts Boucher skipping the funeral of one of his closest friends, instead choosing to visit his old home. Intensely personal tales such as this are a defining feature of the record, making
for an uncomfortable and almost intrusive listen at times, but one that ultimately feels vital. 

Considering the lyrical content of the tracks, they could easily all be quiet, pensive, and reflective songs in the mold of the bands It Kindly Stopped For Me EP, but this record is a different beast. Seamlessly interweaved with dark themes of the record are singalong chorus and melodies that are sure to have crowds jumping and screaming along at their packed-out gigs. Car, Where Are You? and Disappeared in particular are euphorically upbeat, yet mesh perfectly with their lyrical themes of mourning and death. A handful of tracks, such as the excellent A Portrait Of, contain soaring post-rock tinged sections, something which the band have used in the past to elevate their music beyond that of your typical ‘emo’ outfit. YNAAYT is not simply more of the same though. Gone is the guitar shred often present on the previous two records, and in its place is the sound of a band demonstrating their more restrained side. This serves as the perfect compliment to the intensely personal lyrics, and makes for tough listening on tracks First Letter From St. Sean and Second Letter From St. Julien, both odes to friends sadly lost.

Despite being a fantastic album overall, one small fault does come to mind. Across just 30 minutes, the record feels remarkably brief, with tracks such as the aforementioned Car, despite its quality, feeling as though they could have done with an extra chorus or two. This really is a nitpick, but when the rest of the album is so good, you can’t help but want a little more.

 Sorority Noise are an important band. Few others so openly discuss mental health issues how Boucher does, and in light of the sad hiatus of Modern Baseball, it is vital that we champion bands such as this who are bringing these issues to light. Furthermore, when a band are doing this alongside genuinely fantastic songwriting, you can’t help but feel they’re a bit special. YNAAYT is unlikely to be the band’s crowning achievement however. With the talent they have, they should top this record, and with that will hopefully come the notoriety and wide acclaim they deserve.

 Don’t let this gem go unnoticed, albums of this quality deserve to be heard.

 

9/10

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WEE QUICKIE: American Football – American Football (2)

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

To say that American Football are the epitome of emo rock would be putting it lightly. Despite only releasing one album and a subsequent EP, the influence the Illinois outfit have had on the genre is all too clear to see, paving the way for bands like Moose Blood, Basement and The Front Bottoms who owe so much for their self-titled release. Now, more than 17 years since their eponymous release at the turn of the century, American Football have returned to share what could possibly be the most overdue sophomore album in god knows how long.

The fact that American Football (2), or LP2 as I’ll call it for the remainder of the review, even exists is risky enough: the band may have been able to craft some timeless tunes such as Never Meant back during their creative peak in the 90’s but surely that doesn’t guarantee that lightning will strike twice? Whilst nothing that appears on LP2 is as iconic or as breathtaking as its predecessor, the quality of this belated release is still on the positive side of the spectrum. As always, Mike Kinsella, Steve Lamos and Steve Holmes have unparalleled instrumental chemistry, perfectly weaving in and out of one another to create some multi-layered and evoking songs that show that despite Kinsella professing he never intended American Football “to be popular , or even a band”, it’s clear that they still have the makings of a well-functioning machine.

One gripe with LP2 that could make or break it for certain listeners is the sincere lack of evolution. Play this directly after listening to their debut and the similarities become very apparent which could come down purely to homage, such as songs on LP1 had their track names as their finishing lyrics whilst on LP2 it’s the complete opposite , or an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of approach. With all things considered, however, LP2 is a worthy successor to LP1 and regardless of the fact that it may not reach the same heights, though who really thought it would, American Football still sound as unique and important as they did decades ago.

7/10

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The Front Bottoms – Needy When I’m Needy EP REVIEW

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

Managing to further refine their already solid pop punk and emo-fueled sound on last year’s Back On Top, one of the best records to be released in 2015, The Front Bottoms have treated fans prior to their UK tour with a two song EP. Titled Needy When I’m Needy, the release features b-sides that didn’t make the cut but upon listening to them, it’s hard to figure out how they didn’t make an appearance on their last LP.

Opening up with Joanie, the similarities between this and Wolfman off the GDP split EP are made pretty apparent: just like how the latter opens up with a shimmering instrumental akin to The Cure, Joanie kicks things off with an echoey guitar that paves the way off for one of the band’s most layered tracks to date. Brian Sella’s delivery of romance adorned quips is still music to the ears, never too droney and as smooth as butter, managing to give off that awkward aura that has cemented The Front Bottoms in the hearts of many introverts. Lines like “Do you ever think maybe I could be one of those things that you hate but eventually learn to love” further solidifies this and are further proof of the jump the band have made in terms of songwriting.

If Joanie represents the new and improved Front Bottoms then Tighten Up displays all the traits that veterans of the acts would describe as classic. Thankfully the step back in sound doesn’t affect the overall quality and still stands out as one of the better tracks the band have crafted over the past year or so. As a youtube comment under the official video puts it perfectly “the trumpet in this song made me nut”.

Needy When I’m Needy stands out as one of The Front Bottom’s most approachable releases to date, showing both sides of the emo outfit like no other release prior to this has. Whether you want to see a more mature and experienced take on their pop punk sound or you want to revel in nostalgia at the sound of horns and drums in unison, this is the EP you need in your life, fan or newcomer alike.

8/10

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WEE QUICKIE: Joyce Manor – Cody

Continuing the band’s tradition of short but sweet records, Joyce Manor return with their fourth record Cody, displaying an act who are maturing as fast as one of their songs can finish.

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

When Joyce Manor hit out with Never Hungover Again, a rip roaring pop-punk fuelled record full to the brim with angst and emotional transparency, the band managed to solidified themselves as one of the most entertaining rock outfits around, a view that had been upheld by their fans from as early as their debut record. With Cody, the band’s fourth record to date, the momentum hasn’t been dampened despite a few changes, one of the most important having to do with the group’s dynamic, swapping out drummer Kurt Walcher for Jeff Enzor.

Having recorded the album over two months with new producer Rob Schnapf, it’s no surprise that Cody is just as tight and compact as the rest of Joyce Manor’s discography, if not more so. There’s still the introspective lyrics that deal with some common themes such as romance as well as touching on some more personal ones like on Angel in the Snow where vocalist Barry Johnson harks on about “staying at home all day, afraid to live my life”. While Never Hungover Again felt more unstable and aggressive at times, Cody gives the impression of a band mastering their craft, coming across as more benevolent as they ever have before.

There may be less thrashing but Joyce Manor haven’t stripped back any audacity that they’ve displayed before and certainly don’t hold the listener’s hand, especially on the opening track Fake ID which, while having a silly line about Kanye West, ends on a pretty harrowing few lines. Cody may be over as soon as it has started but it’s a record fuelled by an act who haven’t lost sight of what they’re good at and a record that definitely benefits from repeated listens.

8/10

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ALBUM REVIEW: Real Friends – The Home Inside My Head

“If you think the band is some revolutionary thing, that’s very flattering, but we don’t try to go out and say we are the new Fall Out Boy or we’re the next Wonder Years” said Real Friends vocalist Dan Lambton in an interview with Rock Sound prior to the release of their debut studio album, setting the mantra from 2014 onwards. In a genre that can surprise as quickly as it can stagnate, it was surprising to have one of the most prosperous pop punk bands of the 2010’s to hit out with such a quote, leaving some fans with a new found respect for the band with others being apprehensive about the albums that were to follow.

Fast forward to now and we have the dreaded sophomore album that is as much a cliche in music as it is in the reviews that cover them. While the tracks drip fed in the build up to The Home Inside My Head‘s release gave listeners the impression that the band could focus more on high octane, riff heavy anthems and cut back on the emotional ballads that made up quite a chunk of Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing, the result is something that doesn’t feel like a step back for Real Friends but neither does it feels like they’re going anywhere either.

This isn’t much of a surprise considering some of the songs that appear on THIMH. Take Mess for instance, no doubt the highlight on this record, has lyrics that manage to be fresh for the act due to being about something other than a break up! All jokes aside, the crisp production value along with a catchy as all hell chorus makes the track feel like Real Friend’s have been working hard on their songwriting capabilities since MTPITSAWJC and, despite what they’re saying in the public eye, are making efforts to progress as a band.

However, this track, alongside Mokena and closer Colder Quicker which thankfully leaves the record on a high, distorted note rather than dwelling in self pity, are arguably the only real standout tracks on offer. Everything else, while not terrible, feels pretty banal in terms of both the band and the genre itself which may be an unfortunate byproduct of the Real Friend’s low aspirations to change. Repetitive and cliche lyrical themes can conflict anyone that approaches the albums as on one hand the familiarity may very well make itself at home though, personally, I’m reaching my threshold when it comes to pop punk acts making comparisons between their woes and sea related objects.

What needs to be said about THIMH is that for fans of both the band and pop punk, you’re going to leave satisfied: it ticks all the right boxes but still falls short in terms of being a fully fleshed follow up to Real Friend’s surprisingly solid debut record. A few golden tracks here and there makes this an album that’s worth a venture though one you’ll maybe be resilient to taking again.

-Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

6/10

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Album Review: Teen Suicide – It’s The Big Joyous Celebration, Lets Stir The Honeypot

Teen Suicide’s Its the Big Joyous Celebration, Lets Stir The Honeypot (their 5th and apparently final album) is a 26 track long, cacophonous bow. It encapsulates some of their key elements, and never loses the intimacy of lo fi that makes the genre, but is subtly different to their other albums; it feels more evolved and complete. Living Proof is a blur of extravagant, plucky bursts of guitar, which moves into The Big Joyous celebration by what sounds like a cassette tape click.

The second track has eerie vocals from Girlpool’s Harmony Tividad (she also provides additional vocals for Violets and Bright Blue Pick Up Truck) which mix with Sam Ray’s vocals, and the twinkling xylophone (excuse the pun) harmoniously. Obvious love has marching-band like drumming underpinned by a beeping sound. This is  Sam Ray, everyone. It’s Just A Pop song is clearer, and feels immensely personal, “I guess that I should sing it/ But I’m scared my heart’s just not in it.”, and the album continues to sprawl, and somehow creates a successful melting pot of lullaby, trumpets, and percussion (provided by Elvis Depressedly)

Its length allows Ray to create sketches of many characters and places; including Alex (Lying on her back, she says she wants to die), Nick (Nick is sick, he needs it quick) and Taylors dad. We don’t know who these people are but Ray’s portraits are enough to feel something for them.

The album is quite migraine inducing because it is so packed and simply noisy. It is an astonishing, remarkable, but difficult listen.

7/10

– Lily (@carrotflovvers)

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TRACK REVIEW: Sunrise Skater Kids – Rylo Ken

If you couldn’t tell from the release date of Sunrise Skater Kids debut album being April 1st then it’s worth mentioning the band are as much of a legitimate emo band as The Lonely Island are a hip hop act. After last year’s success with his satirical album Beating A Dead Horse, Jarrod Alonge is returning next month under this aforementioned parody band name with a bunch of guest vocalists set to join him as he pokes fun at a genre fronted by men in their late 20’s for girls and guys in their teens.

Varrick Jay, a friend of Alonge and frontman of Insomniac, is the lead vocals on SSK’s latest track Rylo Ken which is vastly different to the track that came before it Pit Warrior. The high octane, snarling guitar full sound has been swapped out for a calmer, acoustic one which won’t be anything new for anyone who has listened to music ever. The fact of the matter is though that no one listens to these songs for the instrumentals and breakdowns, enjoyable as they are, they’re here for the laughs and thankfully there’s plenty.

Showcasing a wit that Weird Al made a name for himself out of, we get a song from the perspective of Darth Vader’s number one fan Kylo Ren which perfectly suits a genre that is best known for being full of songs that are essentially just moaning about mundane things. Complaining about how no one will ever understand him and saying “I hate you Dad”, it’s clear Alonge has a clear knack for making hilarious tracks and hasn’t just went for whatever is popular to parody, instead choosing his subject matter carefully which results in some of the best comedic music I’ve heard since Ninja Sex Party.

With Sunrise Skater Kid’s debut album just mere days away, I’ll have my khaki shorts on and my pizza at the ready to witness what other side splitting stuff the “band” have to offer.

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TRACK REVIEW: Modern Baseball – Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind

Pennsylvanian emo, punk rock act  Modern Baseball showcase new material from their forthcoming album

Back in the 90’s, pop punk was fairly content in delivering jokes about fucking mums, getting drunk and farts, perfectly accompanying any and every party you could ever attend due to its catchiness and simplicity that made it accessible to pretty much everyone. After a while though, the same acts who made the genre what it is got sick of it and in turn  wanted to move on to better things: blink-182’s best album so happens to be their self titled release, their first non pop punk LP.

As the army of screaming teens will tell you though, pop punk isn’t dead and in fact has went through a sort of second wind. While we may have our goofy acts like blink-182, they are self aware to the fact that they are exactly that. With that comes another breed of acts who thrive on the loneliness, inner conflict and anxiety life throws at you: that’s where Modern Baseball come in.

Coming off the back of their well received sophomore record You’re Gonna Miss It All, Modern Baseball have spent 2015 recording their upcoming LP Holy Ghost, most likely listening to Weezer and crying in the process. Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind, released alongside Everyday to promote Holy Ghost, carries on the same tales of heartbreak that we’ve expected to see from the band and we find this out from the get go with a query about “did you ever love me” from a very forward Brendan Lukens.

Lasting just under two minutes, this track perfectly addresses trust or the lack thereof when it comes to relationships. In Lukens’ own words;

Trust is something every growing relationship needs. Without trust, all your conversations are just questions and doubts. I lost my best friend and partner, and didn’t know who to blame. “Apple” is a toast to looking at past mistakes as a chance to move forward.

Lines like “truth’s betrayal, I find it in the heat of the moment” paint the picture of this topic of trust being between Lukens and someone quite personal though it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for this to be him talking to himself like he did on The Waterboy Returns.

modernbaseball
Modern Baseball (L-R): Sean Huber, Jake Ewald, Brendan Lukens and Ian Farmer

Lukens has never been afraid to discuss his battle with depression and certain bits on this song like “I wish I felt the same way I did then” hark back to Fine, Great off the band’s last LP where Lukens addressed that all his problems are based off what has happened to him in his past. On this track, it seems like Lukens and co. have endured their grief and denial and are now onto accepting the now.

With what has been provided so far, there will definitely be more than a few smiles.

8/10

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