New feature alert. We know keeping up with new releases can be a chore, especially this time of year. The fall is so jam packed that it can be tough to keep track of what’s coming out, much less sort through and find the best records. Each week, one of our newest contributors, Philip, is going to make an effort to pick out at least 5 new records to spotlight which are worth your attention.
The Casket Lottery- Real Fear [No Sleep]
Quick Take: This is my essential pick for the week. It’s also a bit of a surprise; an album I never really asked for from a band I mostly forgot about. That’s not to say The Casket Lottery weren’t a great band; they absolutely were. It’s just that at this point almost twice as much time has passed between their breakup and now as they ever spent actually being a band in the first place. Also, with 2/3 of the original trio taking part in the recent Coalesce reunion, a new album from The Casket Lottery seemed ever more unlikely a scenario. But a new album we got nonetheless, and it’s really, really good. No longer limited to the confines of being a three-piece, The Casket Lottery have added 2nd guitarist Brend Windler and keyboardist Nick Siegel to the lineup. The band greatly benefits from that added musical dimension. Real Fear is heavy without being overbearing, catchy without being cliche, powerful yet earnest, and a total maturation of their established sound while staying within their expected framework. It’s a lyricially-biting, pseudo-nostalgic glance at the Kansas City rockers 10 years later, with all of the best elements of their past releases in a fresh context and no filler to suggest this reunion was anything but honest. Don’t let it pass you by!
Check Out: ”The Door,” perhaps the example of how The Casket Lottery built on their old framework and expanded upon it with additional band members to make something that’s familiar, fresh, and a lot of fun.
Click “Continue Reading” for the rest of my picks!
Candy Hearts- The Best Ways to Disappear [EP] [Violently Happy/Bridge Nine]
Quick Take: Confession: I was a bit late the the Candy Hearts party. And holy shit was I missing out. Their 2011 album Everything’s Amazing & Nobody’s Happy (I dig the Louis C.K. refrencing title) somehow slipped by me. It’s a great little piece of good old-fashioned, unpretentious pop punk. We’re in an era of the genre when it feels like every established female-fronted pop punk band is either a knee-jerk reaction to Paramore or the setup for a future televised singing competition waiting to happen. Candy Hearts are an immensely refreshing dose of a band that plays pop punk because they clearly love it, not because it’s a fad (though, at this point that fad is definitely on the decline anyway) and their singer just happens to be female. The Best Ways to Disappear takes the best elements of Everything’s Amazing and intensifies them, while shedding the parts that didn’t work. Much to their advantage, New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert handled the production duties (and released the album through his new Bridge Nine imprint label Violently Happy, which I imagine will be the pop punk wing of the legendary hardcore label). Gilbert’s pop sensibilities and pop punk versatility really helped focus the band’s sound and his fingerprints can be heart all over it, especially in regards to guitar tone. If their debut was more about happiness and state of mind, Best Ways focuses more on falling in love and the various states of relationships. Mostly uptempo, save for one obligatory acoustic track, the band still manages to show an impressive amount of range given the parameters of the style. If you’re looking for an energetic and emotionally well-crafted jaunt to remind you of why pop punk is so much fun in the first place, The Best Ways to Disappear is a must listen.
Check Out: ”Bad Idea,” the driving, lyrically honest, powerful, and downright fun opening track.
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The New Enemy- Darkness, She Was the Universe [self-released]
Quick Take: Canada isn’t typically the first place that comes to mind when we think about hardcore, yet just liked Fucked Up before them, The New Enemy have proven Toronto knows a think or two about bringing it. Unlike Fucked Up, however, The New Enemy are firmly and wholly rooted in the D.I.Y. ethic that was once a defining characteristic of the genre. Unsigned, seemingly unrepresented for the most part, and leveraging BandCamp as their only means of distribution to give away their album for free (with a “name your own price” option where all proceeds go to benefit a homeless shelter), it’s impressive to note just how high a level of artistry at which The New Enemy are operating. Darkness, She Was the Universe packs a big punch with mosh-ready, no-BS jams that are at all at once heavy, driving, thick, and visceral. Sonically, it’s pretty inline with your standard hardcore fare, but even though it’s a D.I.Y. effort, it doesn’t sound homemade (and it’s not- Simon Head and Enormous Door handled the production and mastering, respectively). It’s powerful and a true testament to what a band can accomplish without making compromises, and if you’re a fan of hardcore I suggest donating for a download to benefit a good cause.
Check Out: ”The Culling Season,” a concise, sonic-assult distillation of mosh-ready hardcore (with a momentarily deceptive, brief intro).
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IAMWE- Run Wild [self-released]
Quick Take: Another example of D.I.Y. in action, Arizona rockers IAMWE recorded their new album Run Wild through a successful fan-funded Kickstarter campaign then proceeded to self-release it digitally. Run Wild is a lush, textured synth-infused ambient piece of indie rock. It actually reminds me a bit of the new EP from Nashville’s own HalfNoise . Their Kickstarter campaign was for $8k (to subsidize an estimated budget of $20k), and if that’s truly what they spent, the band really utilized every resource at their disposal because Run Wild is a sweeping, layered, thoughtful piece of art. There’s a lot going on here, but beneath the horns, percussion, tasteful harmonies, and layers of keyboards, these songs have a very defined indie rock core that provides a solid technical foundation. Lyrically, the record explores a broad range of themes that bounce between introspective and very broad and ambiguous (and was apparently inspired and affected by the death of a 100-year-old elderly woman who the band had befriended). Vocalist Tim Maiden is perhaps the strongest piece of an already remarkably talented band- he projects a vocal resonance that really sells the weight and emotion of each song, and at his highest points reminds us a bit of Thom Yorke and Chris Martin. Run Wild is an atmospheric treat and another wonderful example of what can be accomplished through the power of determination.
Check Out: ”So They Say,” a percussive, layered indie romp with some powerful vocal flourishes and well matched brass.
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Move Out West- All’s Well on the Eastern Front [EP] [self-released]
Quick Take: Move Out West are yet another artist on my list that opted to go the fully independent route. Their new EP All’s Well on the Eastern Front is self-released through iTunes but just take one listen to the clean, quality production and huge pop hooks and you’d never guess that. After apparently going through a lineup change and a retooling of their sound, the Connecticut quintet have crafted a pop rock masterpiece deliciously dripping in big, stadium-ready singalongs and more musical and lyrical sensibility than many of their stylistic peers. Their sound lives somewhere between the honest, driving pop rock elements of Jimmy Eat World and the more radio-crafted, crowd-friendly tightness of All Time Low, though it’s hard to pigeonhole because All’s Well flexes an impressive amount of range over the course of its five tracks. Move Out West show that they’re capable of writing interesting, smart pop songs while still grabbing for mainstream viability and we’re excited to see where this talented new band goes from here.
Check Out: ”God Damn,” the anthematic, pulsing sing-along track (and first single) that just screams for radio play.
If you have any suggestions for upcoming releases you’d like me to consider for the list in the future, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at [email protected]. You can also find me on Twitter and find more of my entertainment writing here.