Review: Valencia – This Could Be a Possibility

Valencia - This Could Be a Possibility

Anyone who’s been paying attention to emo/punk e-zine message boards over the last few weeks has undoubtedly noticed a certain buzz regarding one relatively new, obscure band. With each passing day, the buzz has slowly grown louder and louder, as more and more people have chimed in, claming that “this band will be an instant favorite,” and that “pop punk has found its savior.” Signed to I Surrender Records, Rob Hitt of Midtown’s label, Valencia is the band underground pop punk lovers have been raving over lately—and for good reason. This Could Be a Possibility, Valencia’s debut album, is exactly the kick in the pants pop punk has needed for a while now.

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Review: Sherwood – Sing, But Keep Going

Sherwood - Sing, But Keep Going

Sherwood’s sophomore effort his stores May 31st on Side Cho Records, and it just may be the happiest thing to hit your ears all year. In an explosion of pop and rock, Sherwood has not abandoned the style of music experienced on their self-titled EP, but rather embraced it. The EP was full of generic tracks that were easily forgettable, and it seemed like it was time for Sherwood to add some flair to their musicianship or forever be lost in the world of piano-pop emo rock. The EP had some moments of pop bliss to it, and Sherwood has taken those parts they did best and blown it up into an excellent full-length album. Well-produced and full of tender, beautiful melodies, Sing, But Keep Going is an outstanding pop record to transition the seasons into summer.

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Review: Jack’s Mannequin – Everything in Transit

Jacks Mannequin - Everything in Transit

“She thinks I’m much too thin, she asks me if I’m sick”

The opening lines of Jack’s Mannequin’s debut album Everything in Transit, Something Corporate singer/pianist Andrew McMahon’s side project, remind us all too well of Andrew’s recent struggles with leukemia. Written before his diagnosis, the lines turned out to be eerily prescient of his coming sickness. Though he appears to be making a speedy and full recovery thus far (let’s hope there’s no relapse), the sheer idea that we might have lost Andrew is downright heartbreaking and upsetting. It seems, unfortunately, that only when we lose, or are about to lose, someone that we truly appreciate them and all that they have to offer. Let us be thankful then, now and forever, for the breathtaking music that Andrew has given us and will continue to make. Let us never forget how truly fortunate we are to have Andrew with us.

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Review: The All-American Rejects – Move Along

All American Rejects - Move Along

One doesn’t exactly get scene points for listening to The All-American Rejects—with a loathsome, snot-nosed, teenybopper fan base ruining any semblance of “cred” the band might have built up before their sudden mainstream success, along with the sneers of contemptuous music elitists further exacerbating the problem, it’s easy to see why it may not be “cool” to openly like The All-American Rejects. I, however, don’t give a shit. Playing a brand of infectiously catchy, well written modern pop on their self-titled debut, The All-American Rejects exploded onto the MTV scene in 2003 with their falsetto-filled, harmony-saturated “Swing, Swing,” a song bemoaning the recollections of a former love. After a relatively lengthy wait of nearly three years, The All-American Rejects have returned with their highly anticipated Move Along, an album that falls short of extremely high expectations, but delivers just enough to keep dedicated fans (and the record label) happy.

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Review: Gatsbys American Dream – Volcano

Gatsbys American Dream - Volcano

Volcano is epic. Gatsby’s American Dream has matured to an entirely new level. From start to finish Volcano will make you dance, it will make you re-think music, and it will make your jaw drop – not just in places, but for 33 straight minutes. The diversity of this CD is absolutely stunning. Gatsby’s has fully maintained the trademark musicianship that made them so amazing in the first place. Some songs change time signatures and melodies like crazy, others shift directions completely in mid song, while others provide one unifying theme throughout – without choruses. Yet there are other tracks that contain choruses and radio friendly melodies as the band proves to us all that they are more than capable of writing pop music. The lyrics are insightful and deep, as throughout the course of Volcano the concept is revealed. The lyrics refer not only to a physical Volcano but also draw parallels to human emotion, boiling up inside us all, ready to erupt. The music and instrumentation itself is deeper than ever before, as many songs have countless dimensions. Every single time I listen to Volcano, I notice something different, something subtle. All kinds of percussion instruments are used as a supplement to songs, mainly claves as Gatsby’s digs into some Latin influence. The depth to the music is only furthered by the countless references to past Gatsby’s records. If you listen closely, you’ll hear a chord progression from Ribbons and Sugar, or a strumming pattern from Why We Fight. You might even hear a lyric or two from earlier records. Volcano is complete in every way, shape and form. 

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Review: Relient K – Mmhmm

Relient K - Mmhmm

Relient K has been through a lot as a band. They’ve released numerous full lengths and EPs on indie labels, writing super poppy Christian music with often goofy lyrics. They have songs about Thundercats, High School Tolo dances, and another song simply titled “May the Horse Be With You”. Enough said. But all of a sudden, Relient K has experienced a musical revolution. Their brand new full length, “Mmhmm”, is being released on Capitol Records. A major label release for this goofy band? Is it possible? The answer is yes. Relient K’s latest effort is a blast of pop-punk goodness. Every song has a killer hook, the vocals are smooth and melodic, the production is amazing, and the lyrics are *gasp* actually really good – and at times very mature. It all seems like a bit much for this 3-piece, but it’s time to believe it – Relient K is back with a much more mature formula for success.

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Review: Forgive Durden – When You’re Alone, You’re Not Alone

Forgive Durden - When You're Alone, You're Not Alone

Yet another great Seattle band has emerged, and their name is Forgive Durden. This super catchy pop-rock band has released an excellent debut album. When You’re Alone, You’re Not Alone is full of soaring choruses, tempo changes, varied instrumentation, and great production by who else – Casey Bates. Upon first listen of this EP, one will immediately hear the similarities to bands on Rocketstar Recordings – specifically This Providence and Gatsby’s American Dream. Full of technical breakdowns and amazing vocals by lead singer Tom Dutton, currently unsigned Forgive Durden is about to make a name for themselves. 

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Review: Sherwood – Sherwood

Sherwood - Sherwood

Sherwood’s album is an enjoyable mix of musical styles. With vocal stylings similar to Ace Enders (Early November) and drumming comparable to Copeland, Sherwood has followed a formula that has proven to be successful. Slow, emotional choruses and tight, crisp guitar work assist catchy verses. Fans of emo-rock will really dig what this CD has to offer. While you can detect the band’s talent instantly, there is definitely something lacking in each song. Every song has a good hook and a nice flow to it, but there is simply nothing unique about Sherwood, minus a few tracks – one of these being “Pray Forgive Me These Mistakes”. Synth drums move a slow ballad of a song forward. It’s a great testament to how awesome Sherwood’s vocals are. He really sounds like Aaron from Copeland in this track. Another track, “Anything You Choose” displays Ozma-esque keyboards while guitars twang forth an alt-country beat. This eventually falls into the same pattern as all the other songs, give or take a breakdown or two. Nonetheless, it’s still a fun album to listen to. Overall, it’s a solid effort. Check it out if you want something new to listen to you in your car while you drive home late at night.

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Review: Houston Calls – A Collection of Short Stories

Houston Calls - A Collection of Short Stories

There was once a time when I’d buy just about anything that came out on Drive Thru Records, based solely on the label’s reputation for putting out nothing but great pop punk albums. After losing some of their best (biggest) bands to major label Geffen Records (Something Corporate, Midtown, The Starting Line, New Found Glory) and a breakup (The Movielife), Drive Thru was left with the challenge of essentially rebuilding their label. With a depleted roster, Drive Thru signed a flurry of bands that, let’s just say, weren’t quite up to the Drive Thru standard of previous years (though, of course, many of these bands are now about to put out their first full lengths, so we may be delightfully surprised), in addition to starting a sister label, Rushmore Records. Thus far, Rushmore Records’ releases haven’t really done much to change the perception that Drive Thru is still under renovation—save one. Houston Calls’ debut full length, A Collection of Short Stories, is a ridiculously catchy, remarkably well written pop punk album that has restored both my and Jason Tate’s faith in Rushmore/Drive Thru Records. If albums like A Collection of Short Stories are what we can expect from the new Rushmore/Drive Thru, then Drive Thru is back, as good as ever.

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Review: MxPx – Panic

MxPx - Panic

They’re back. Modern-day punk legends MxPx have released yet another studio full-length after being a band for well over a decade. After their last album received mixed reactions (too poppy, overproduced), MxPx signed up with an indie label (Side One Dummy) and decided to return to their roots. Well, as much as they could. We all remember when MxPx claimed to be returning to their roots the last time – the result was the largely mediocre The Renaissance EP. This time around, it’s different. It’s a nice combination of MxPx circa 1996 and modern day MxPx. Overall, it’s a much faster album than their past 2 studio full-lengths, and for the first time in years (thank God) the production is excellent. While this record is a step in the right direction for the band, it’s far from a perfect record. On every MxPx album, there are one or two songs that are just pure crap, and Panic is no exception, but more on that later. After hearing the first five tracks to Panic, something became apparent – this is the album I wished MxPx had released after Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo. The tempo, the lyrics…everything would have matched up perfectly. Instead, they released the terribly produced The Ever Passing Moment, followed by the super-sappy pop-fest that was Before Everything and After. Mind you, I enjoyed both of these albums, but they were far below what the band was capable of. Keep in mind, MxPx is the reason I listen to music today – Life in General is my favorite album of all time.

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Review: Circa Survive – Juturna

Circa Survive - Juturna

Circa Survive’s debut record hits stores with an undeniable amount of hype behind it. Vocalist Anthony Green is one of the most respected and idolized singers in the scene today. He is of course known for his work in such bands as Saosin, Zolof the Rock and Roll Destroyer, etc. His latest endeavor comes courtesy of Equal Vision’s Circa Survive, a technical indie rock band with interesting time signatures and melodies. The music itself can be compared to Further Seems Forever, but with a bit more quirk to it. Anthony’s vocals vary from straight forward blasting of melodies (“Act Appalled”) to bizarre rhythms matched with slightly odd musicianship. The album’s opener, “Holding Someone’s Hair Back” is an example of Circa’s weird side. Still, the intentional clash between vocals and offbeats melds together nicely for a solid head-nodding tune. The second track, “Act Appalled,” is easily my favorite on the album. Saosin fans will love this song, as Anthony hits the peaks of his range and strains his voice on the higher notes. Listeners who are unfamiliar with Anthony’s style of singing will be pleasantly surprised at his ability to max out his range and turn each note into a second of raw emotion. The music is basic enough to let the song be driven by Anthony’s voice, which I see as a smart decision. 

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Review: Minus the Bear – Menos El Oso

Minus the Bear - Menos El Oso

Minus the Bear has returned with their highly anticipated sophomore full-length. The appropriately titled Menos El Oso (meaning Minus the Bear in Spanish) is different from the band’s previous works, but still distinctly Minus the Bear. MTB is known for electro-rock songs full of finger tapping work on the guitar, with lyrics about girls, booze, women, alcohol, and more drinking. While Menos El Oso is a bit toned down from their previous releases, the lyrics are still dark and witty, and the music is as unique as ever. Minus the Bear is so very different from other bands out there in the sense that they are extremely talented song writers. Instead of settling for cheap hooks and choruses, Minus the Bear writes songs that get better with ever listen. Menos El Oso is an album that I was grossly unimpressed with upon first listen. The overall tempo is slower than the band’s earlier releases, the music seems to be less technical at first glance (not really the case), and the whole album just seemed to drag. Then, after weeks and weeks of constant listening, Menos El Oso has grown to be one of my favorite albums this year. As it gets better with each listen, I realized that Minus the Bear has created a brilliant album, full of mid-tempo songs that contain melodies in all kinds of places. In almost every track, you’ll find yourself singing along to the guitar line or the bouncing bass line instead of the vocal melody. The songwriting displayed on Menos El Oso is outstanding.

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Review: Every Time I Die – Gutter Phenomenon

Every Time I Die - Gutter Phenomenon

”Gutter Phenomenon” was a term coined in the 1950’s to describe rock and roll and its “sinfulness”. 50 years later, Every Time I Die is a band from that gutter that stands out among the rest. With two chaotic-filled albums under their belt already, ETID has become the hottest thing out of Buffalo since those world-famous wings. With Gutter Phenomenon, ETID brings a different sound. This time around ETID brings less chaos, more structure, and refined singing from vocalist Keith Buckley. Still evident are the biting, intelligent lyrics and overall passion and intensity from the band. This isn’t the ETID you’re used to; rather this is an ETID that proves that overall they are great musicians. Produced by Machine (Lamb Of God, Armor For Sleep, Boys Night Out), “Gutter Phenomenon” is an 11-track rock and roll beat down. Along with Buckley, ETID is rounded out by guitarists Jordan Buckley and Andrew Williams, with Mike “Ratboy” Novak on drums. The bass was done by Kevin Faulk for the record, but he was dropped by the band afterward. While this may be a more mature ETID, they still have the same bite as before.

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Review: Allister – Before the Blackout

Allister - Before the Blackout

Before The Blackout, Allister’s third full-length album, refers to the many drinking binges lead man Tim Rogner went through before completing this album. It’s been three years since the Drive-Thru Record veterans released Last Stop Suburbia, and, after lineup changes, frustrations, and painful breakups, they are ready to give us a new offering of their pop-punk. Rogner, along with guitarist Kyle Lewis, bassist Scott Murphy, and drummer Mike Leveranz, wanted to add a more rock and roll style to this batch of songs this time around. What we get is a solid album that incorporates sing-along choruses, fist-pumping riffs, and persevering vocals. 

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Review: Nightmare of You – Nightmare of You

Nightmare of You - Nightmare of You

What do At The Drive-In, Taking Back Sunday, and The Movielife all have in common? Other than releasing genre-defying albums, they’ve also have broken up and each have produced two new bands. At The Drive-In gave us The Mars Volta and Sparta, Taking Back Sunday gave us a new TBS and the John Nolan-led Straylight Run, and the Movielife spawned I Am The Avalanche and Nightmare Of You. While TBS and Sparta have tried to recreate their older sound, TMV and SLR have drifted away from their previous band’s sound and have gave us something more original and fresh. When The Movielife broke up, Vinnie Caruana formed I Am The Avalanche and guitarist Brandon Reilly formed Nightmare Of You. While IATA began where The Movielife left off, Nightmare Of You follows in the vein of Straylight Run; a mellow indie band that features more accomplished and mature songwriting than before. Reilly is the lyricist, vocalist, and guitarist for NOY, while the rest of the band is rounded out by guitarist Joe McCaffrey, bassist Ryan Heil (although he joined NOY after the album was recorded, Lader played bass on most of the album) and drummer Sammy Siegler. Produced by Jason Lader, Nightmare Of You offers 11 dark pop songs that burst with memorable melodies, sarcastic lyrics, and great emotion. 

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