By: Nick Manduley
Central New Jersey ska-punks Backyard Superheroes have swooped in and saved us from the same hum-drum holiday music we’re forced to endure every year. The 8 piece skunit (ska unit) independently released a festive double-single, Let’s Get Elfed Up, on December 6th.
The first track, “This Christmas,” is a cheeky upbeat tune about cutting out toxic people from one’s life during the holiday season. Though the high-treble guitar is a tad harsh on the ears upon the first listen, the song quickly won me over with what could possibly be the catchiest (and least annoying, as far as holiday music goes!) chorus I’ve ever heard in a Christmas song. By the time the three-and-a-half minute banger reached its end, “This Christmas” had me singing along with enthusiasm. This song is a must-hear for anyone dreading seeing a particular family member (or members) this holiday season.
The release follows up with “Coal in My Stockings,” and from the get-go it’s clear that this song should be on every New Jerseyans holiday playlist. The track opens with a comical dialogue between a mother and son, who share a brief taylor-ham-vs.-pork-roll debate on Christmas morning before opening presents, only to find that Santa brought- you guessed it- coal. Packed with classic punk vibes and horn-section hooks, “Coal in My Stockings” is an anthemic shout-a-long for anyone less than pleased with their holiday haul.
Let’s Get Elfed Up, along with the group’s three LP’s and 2012 EP Falling With Style, are currently available on all major streaming services.
By: Nick Manduley
New Jersey punk outfit Pheller independently released their latest EP, No Blood, on July 27th. Diving into the 6-track effort is “The Ballad of Bobby Briggs,” which starts with some crunchy palm-muted guitars backing guitarist Matthew Piserchio’s passionately punk vocals. The track has a lot of energy; the pounding drums, dirty guitars, and larger-than-life melodies had me thinking “Alright, this EP is about to melt my face off.”
To my surprise, however, “Bobby Briggs” is followed up by the somber and rather mid-tempo track “Down.” Though it wasn’t the continuity I was expecting, the track won me over with its cheeky lyricism: “You watched my fall from grace / Just as the floor met my face.” This track features an acoustic guitar which, in my opinion, really rounds out the song, especially when that heavy chorus kicks in. “Down” is an almost anthemic tune, good for anyone who feels they “can’t seem to catch a break.”
The release pushes forward with “Vlog #2 Soaked on Splash Mountain,” which re-captures some of that initial momentum that was set by “The Ballad of Bobby Briggs.” This song feels like a party; the soaring harmonies and and catchy guitar riffs will have the listener hooked, and just like any good party, it flies right by. The song is a brief 2 minutes, and leaves the listener feeling like it ended almost as soon as it started. Luckily, this isn’t a party, it’s a song, and I can simply play it over and over again.
The album charges into its second half with “The Bottom” and “Dual Suns.” There is a lot of duality between these tracks, but I think they just might be my favorites from No Blood. “The Bottom” is an explosive, upbeat track, guaranteed to open up a push pit in your DIY basement venue. “Dual Suns” chases it with a 6/8 tempo and a catchy chorus to boot. As Piserchio belts “What’s the point anyway? Everything changes,” against that monstrous chord progression and spacey lead guitar, it’s clear that this track is the emotional powerhouse on No Blood. The album draws to a close with “Wounds,” which acts as one last upbeat, power-punk hoorah. Guitarist Nigel Pierson along with Piserchio offer some great lead guitar work; Corey Granese provides some soul-pounding unclean vocals as well.
No Blood is currently available on all major streaming platforms. Fans can download it for the “name-your-price” option on the Pheller bandcamp page.
By: Nick Manduley
Austin, Texas alternative pop artist Saint Loretto released his sophomore LP, Passage / S, on March 29th. Clocking in at 30 minutes, this album is on the shorter side, but if there’s anything Saint Loretto mastermind Evan Crowley has clearly figured out, it’s that less is more. The release kicks off with the brief yet catchy track “In Honor of Progress” which almost acts as a proverbial cover page. “Aisles” follows up with infectious synths, upbeat drums, and a guitar lick that’s sure to stay in your head. Crowley’s vocals meld wonderfully with the track; he has a sound and style that is reminiscent of acts such as The Killers and The 1975, but very much holds his own flavor. The track ends with a beaming guitar solo before charging into “Paris,” which is driven by a punchy bass guitar. As Crowley sings about spending “another weekend in paradise,” I can’t help but picture a place far away from my bedroom in the frigid, manic climate of New Jersey; preferably with warmer weather, great hispanic food, and reasonably priced mixed drinks.
Passage / S moves forward with “Control (Fool for You)” and “Closing Time (The Best of Times).” These tracks offer a bit more pop-rock tendencies, with the bass and drums clicking away together on “Control” and the driving force set by the guitars during the chorus of “Closing Time.” However, Crowley doesn’t skip on his flavor of synth-pop with these tracks. “Head Over Heels” features some amazing synth and keyboard work which paints the track with good vibes. “American Kids” is a powerhouse track that is pure party fuel, complete with a memorable guitar solo. The album begins to wind towards its end with “‘68,” a mid-tempo track with a lot of heart, and “Wide Awake (All This Time),” a slower jam befitting of a late night car ride with the windows rolled down. Passage / S ends with an acoustic guitar-driven, eponymous track, which is a chill and catchy conclusion to this release.
Passage / S, as well as Saint Loretto’s previous full length endeavor Depth / S, is now available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon.
By: Nick Manduley
With the progressive post-hardcore genre flowering into a vibrant online community over recent years, the interwebs have become flooded with wildly talented bands influenced by iconic progressive, math-rock, and alternative acts new and old; these acts include but are in no way limited to Yes, The Fall Of Troy, Thrice, Dance Gavin Dance, and so many more. Northern California experimental post-hardcore outfit Enso Anima put out a record in 2018 called Instability that not only draws on that type of influence, but also dips ventures into the realm of blues rock and the wide spectrum that is emo.
I’m not entirely sure what to call this release; it clocks in at a whopping 40 minutes, which one could argue is too long to constitute as an EP. At the same time, however, there are only 6 songs on the record. We could spend all day going back and forth about whether or not this release is an EP or LP, but it wouldn’t change the fact Instability is a must-have for anyone finding themselves getting into progressive post-hardcore.
Lead vocals are handled by drummer Nick Creary-Scher and rhythm guitarist Whitney Schuster. Together, their vocal performance helps to cultivate a melodic and, at times, aggressive atmosphere on Instability. From the haunting spoken word sections in tracks like “Cold in Atlantis” and “First Flight,” to the aggressive borderline-screaming and bone-chilling harmonies on the bluesy behemoth “Steam,” it’s clear that Enso Anima isn’t holding anything back in their latest release. Lead guitar and keyboards are provided by Shane Ward, who along with Schuster, paint each track with their musical prowess; if you’re somebody who appreciates quality guitar playing, you need this record. There is no shortage of spacey delay-laden tapping sections, screaming solos, or face-melting prog riffage on Instability. Tyler Francis is the bassist any band would be lucky to have in their lineup; his performance on tracks like “Cable Cars” and “Atlantis” are extremely tight and are in no way short on fills. It sounds like he truly feels his basslines rather than simply play them.
Though the band has yet to formally announce any new material, nor do they currently have any shows book for the end of 2019, I eagerly await to see what they have in store for us at the turn of the decade. Until then, Instability is available on all major streaming platforms. If you’d like to help support Enso Anima through their future musical endeavors, I highly recommend subscribing to the band on Patreon.
By: Nick Manduley
Hartford, Connecticut alt-rockers Bonsai Trees independently released their latest record Learn to Grow on May 3rd, 2019. In a bit under 40 minutes, the 3-piece from New England takes the listener on an emotional, rock-and-roll, hook-fueled journey leaving them anticipating what they’re going to do next; and if you’re a new listener, chances are this record will make you want to go back and listen to their previous releases.
Filled with cheeky indie rock tendencies, biting riffage, and the occasional emotive ballad-esque tune, Learn to Grow has a dynamic that any alternative rock fiend will feel a sense of familiarity with. Vocalist and guitarist James MacPherson has a singing voice that at times evokes the same feeling in my gut that I felt when I first heard The Killers’ Hot Fuss or Taking Back Sunday’s 2011 self-titled record. His performance on the opening track “Don’t” left me without a doubt in my mind that this was going to be an album I needed to review. The hook-filled, harmony-heavy song starts off with an infectious beat from drummer Nick Sokol and is guaranteed to get people dancing.
As the song ends with the chorus still reverberating in the listener’s head, the album pushes into the vicious tune “Vice Grips.” The track explodes with a mean riff, showing off some of the superb guitar work featured on this record, not to mention that wailing solo. “Shotgun” is similar in the sense that it’s also riff-centric; these songs are rather reminiscent of the Arctic Monkeys’ work on their earlier releases Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and Favourite Worst Nightmare. But these tracks do not speak for the whole record; songs like “I Love an Artist,” “Dark Parking Lot,” and “We Talked” showcase a more pop-influenced side of the band’s flavor of indie rock. They add to the dynamic of the record; it’s a sign of quality songwriting when an album has songs with a diverse range of style and sound, but still sounds like the same band playing throughout.
The album offers a darker, more somber tone with the track “Away From Me.” The pain conveyed on the track can be sensed by the listener as lyrics about gasping for air and one’s skull hitting the bathroom sink give way to an explosive full band chorus ladened with the lyrical hook, “would you get away from me?”
As the album draws to a close with the mid-tempo banger “Rose,” the listener is left with a sense of satisfaction, as if they’ve just closed the back cover on a really good book. Learn to Grow is currently available on all major streaming platforms as well as Bandcamp. The band will be embarking on a 12-day tour on November 12th, kicking off in New Haven, Connecticut at Cafe 9, and concluding on the 24th at Muchmore’s in Brooklyn, New York. The tour will make stops as far north as Toronto and as far south as Birmingham. Tickets can be purchased via the band’s website.
Bonsai Trees November Tour Dates
11/13 Malta, NY @ Wired Coffee
11/14 Buffalo, NY @ Sugar City
11/15 Toronto, Ont CN @ Indie Week: Cherry Cola
11/16 Muncie, IN @ Be Here Now
11/19 Birmingham, AL @ The Nick Rocks
11/21 Chapel Hill, NC @ The Cave
11/22 Richmond, VA @ Garden Grove Brewing
11/23 Washington, DC @ Velvet Lounge
11/24 Brooklyn, NY @ Muchmore’s
By: Nick Manduley
Pennsylvania math-rockers Good Game’s latest release, Good Luck Have Fun, is a soundscape of inventive musicianship, melodic vocals, and haunting harmonies. The three-track EP starts promptly with the explosive track “Supercollider? I Just Met Her.” The listener is immediately bombarded by beastly clean-toned guitar riffage, chase by vocalist Addy Harris belting out unapologetic lines about the “heteronormative sleep-paralysis induced American Dream.” The track then gives away to a cacophony of guitar tapping as the drums begin to break and Harris paints the mix with her soaring harmonies.
Good Luck pushes forward with the track “Rat City” which starts with some fun syncopated clapping as Harris and guitarist Brock Benzel sing the oh-so-catchy chorus. The track then bursts into a full band arrangement. There is absolutely something to be said about the musicianship here; these songs are as busy as they are executed with deadly precision and feeling. Guitarists Nate Sherman and Brock Benzel demonstrate their musical prowess quite effectively; bassist Chance Wells and drummer Dan Getty hold down an absolutely air-tight rhythm section.
The EP ends with the mid-tempo jam “First Snow.” This track is easily a go-to for a breezy autumn afternoon spent on your porch wearing your favorite hoodie, sipping on your hot beverage of choice. As the winter months creep over the horizon, I’ll definitely want to have this song in my Apple Music queue when my roommate and I are making the first snowman of the season. While the track remains consistent in tempo, the band changes the dynamic at several points, varying in levels of volume and intensity, while also giving way to calmer, more atmospheric sections.
Good Luck Have Fun dropped in March of 2018 and the band has not teased much new music, outside of a playthrough video of some new material which was posted to the band’s Facebook page last November. I eagerly wait to see what Good Game has in store for the world next. In the meantime, Good Luck Have Fun is available on all major streaming platforms and is available for free download on the Good Game bandcamp page. Fans who download the EP get these three tracks as well as instrumental versions for anyone who wants to learn these amazing pieces. The band has a tab book available for purchase on their bandcamp site, which contains tablature for every song off Good Luck Have Fun and their July 2017 release Don’t Blow It.
By: Nick Manduley
New Jersey rock trio Shred Flintstone independently released their newest record Lois on June 21st. Lois showcases the band’s groovy, psychedelic take on gritty garage punk. The release opens with “The Flood,” which starts gently with a reverb-laden guitar riff before a jangly drum beat picks up the track as fuzzy vocal melodies begin to paint the mix.
The record picks up the energy with the tracks “Nemo” and “Dit Urself.” “Dit” is what’s known in the local music circuit as ‘straight fire’- the infectious, nasty guitar riff immediately grabs the listener’s attention. This song is a textbook example of how to get a crowd moving. “Nemo” is a fun track that brings some pop flavor to the garage rock style, not to mention some super sweet harmonies courtesy of vocalist and guitarist Dan Barrecchia. Tracks such as “Bad Art!” is an anthemic, fuzzy punk song that will bring a rebellious vibe to any basement venue in the country. “What Luck” cheekily pokes fun at those who habitually opt out of attending gigs on account of being “kinda tired.”
“Kirby” takes us into the final leg of this eight-track journey with a wall of harsh feedback before breaking into an oh-so-danceable guitar riff. As noisy guitars and reverby vocals paint the tune, it’s clear that this track is a standout powerhouse of rock. The title track “Lois” shows the band’s funkier side; the track opens with an infectious bassline courtesy of bassist Jack Walbridge before Barrecchia joins in with some funky-fresh lead guitar. Drummer Joey Giambra effortlessly clicks away with Walbridge’s bassline as the track enters a wild guitar solo that slowly descends into a cacophony of noise, before breaking into one final chorus of straight-up punk goodness. The track ends with the hazy high-energy jam “Where’s My Dog?” Clocking in at a whopping six and a half minutes, this fuzzy punk ballad serves as the perfect ending to Shred Flintstone’s Lois.
Lois is now available on all major streaming platforms. Fans can catch Shred Flintstone on stage at The Saint in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Halloween night. They will be sharing the stage with Jersey rock heroes America Part Two. Tickets can be purchased via the event page on the official Shred Flintstone Facebook account.
By: Nick Manduley
Seattle indie rockers Great Grandpa put out their new single “Digger” on September 11th. “Digger” is the second single (following August’s “Mono no Aware”) off their upcoming record Four Of Arrows, due out October 25th via Double Double Whammy.
“Digger” is a somber track that starts with the calming strumming of an acoustic guitar accompanied with vocalist Alex Menne’s emotive, dreamy vocal melodies. Clocking in at just under five minutes, “Digger” is a vast mountain range of musical dynamics. From soaring chorus melodies laden with fuzzy, feedback-heavy guitars to reverby verses, with a healthy dose of intricate acoustic guitar arrangements, “Digger” holds back nothing.
Four Of Arrows drops this Friday (10/25) and will be available on all major streaming services. The band is currently touring on the west coast in support of the new record. Their next performance will be this weekend, taking the stage for two nights in a row at The Chapel in San Francisco on the 25th and the 26th.