Cementing The Seams

The Plot Sickens

3:00 PM


I've been sleeping on this for a while now.

I realize that genre's aren't concrete and serve basically to lump together an asthetic abstract. They don't mean anything. My point is, genre is pretty much a wasted concept because nothing is properly quantified from the start. Mostly, when a genre buzzword is coined, it denotes a pretty narrow sonic focus. It never seems to last very long though. This bugs me. I wish that I could rely on a description of a band by genre alone to have some idea what they are supposed to sound like.

I think, probably, the most highly misrepresented genre is "screamo". I suppose it's because the word sounds like something it isn't. Even I find it hard not to think about multicolored, sideswept haircuts, dualing vocals and legions of kids wearing more than one belt clapping and pointing. In terms of sound this image is totally misleading. Screamo is much more understated, non-stylized genre. If you've run across the terms "scramz" or "emo-violence" it's because screamo bands can't call themselves that anymore without being completely misunderstood. Misnomers are a bitch.

2008 was a pretty good year for screamo really. Below are some stand-out releases.

Loma Prieta - Last City
Loma Prieta ("Dark Hill") sound like they are from Europe (or South America) but it's pretty common for American screamo groups to name themselves like somebody foreign. I suppose it's thematic of the genre though. The sound has travelled overseas and has really taken off. Loma Prieta aren't from Europe though, they're from California, and "Last City", their first proper full-length (with a new self-titled just around the corner) gives American screamo a good name. What I love about "Last City" is it's nuanced technicality. Loma Prieta play raw hardcore with a subtle beauty that could easily be missed if you aren't listening.

Raein - Nati Da Altri Padri
The near-legendary Italian group Raein returned in 2008 with a brand new LP that surprised a lot of people. Not because of any significant departure in sound, but because nobody knew they were writing it until it appeared. Pretty much, "Nati Da..." demonstrates why Raein are a ubiquitous name in European and American Screamo. This is what it's supposed to sound like.

Who Calls So Loud - S/T
Members of hardcore outfit Portraits of the Past and screamo giants Funeral Diner came together last year to create what can only be described as an epic. I think that's all I'm going to say.

It's still Indie Day and...

Another EP = Time for another bullet review!

- The Gifted Children are back with a bunch of new music that was released in March.
- The most recent release "Open Windows" is a jampacked, 11 minute EP that picks up where "Always Stay Sweet" (one of my favorite releases last year, which I reviewed here) left off.
- It has the same excellent mix of acoustic, electronic, short and poppy songwriting that makes Always Stay Sweet so endearing (and a new version of album highlight "A Forest")
- Oh, its also free! Along with tons of other music on their website.
- Also, they quoted me on their homepage. I love these guys!

For Fans of: New Pornographers, Capstan Shafts, Neutral Milk Hotel

Download "Open Windows" and others Here

The Gifted Children on Myspace

Today is Indie Day at Cementing The Seams. Now, I'm using "indie" in a pretty generic sense that describes an extremely common musical asthetic, but hopefully with these posts you'll realize what I mean.
Why Indie Day you ask? No reason really, I simply am excited about a couple of newer releases that fall into a genre that I generally find pretty tired. I used to love this kind of stuff but I've become more and more disconnected with it as it's become more prevelant and honestly over-appreciated (thanks Arcade Fire). Good news though, there is (obviously) still great indie music out there.

Now then, Travels are a Massachusetts duo comprising former members of Victory At Sea and Metal Hearts. Their new record "Hot Summer", which came out in February, is a solid work from beginning to end. Borrowing elements from all over the map, Travels create a sort of collage of songs that sound almost like they don't fit together, but its so carefully constructed that it's impossible to fault them. Travels aren't eclectic, but they know how to compile influences, putting together styles, sounds and instruments together to make a whole record of great music. It seems like there are a lot of male/female duo's making this sort of music lately (insert list of said artists here). Luckily, Travels makes it sound like a really good idea. "Hot Summer" isn't poppy or ambient, but finds a suitable middle ground that I feel like just about everyone should be able to appreciate.

For Fans of: A Weather, Pinback, Death Cab For Cutie

Travels on Myspace

As is usually the case, you can find a perfectly acceptable review of this record (and of every other record I like apparently) at Built on a Weak Spot. But if you’d rather just read it here I won’t hold it against you, but it’ll be more of a stream-of-conciousness story than a review.

My experience with The Life and Times has been all about anticipation. I first ran across them due to my infatuation with DC label DeSoto Records just before their debut full-length “Suburban Hymns” was released in 2005. It wouldn’t be until after I got it that I would find I’d been missing out on their first EP “The Flat End of the Earth”. Anyway, I was immediately excited that Allen Epley (of DeSoto’s Shiner) was writing new material. I recall hearing the opening track “My Last Hostage” (via DeSoto) and being completely blown away. I suppose now that I over-hyped "Hymns", but when I finally heard it, it fell a little short of my expectations. A follow-up to Shiner’s swan song “The Egg” it wasn’t, and nothing on the record matched the intensity or beauty of the opener. So, my first impression was that it was a bit boring, but in reality I was just listening for the wrong things. The more I realized "Hymns" wasn’t Shiner worship, the more I liked it.
Fast forward to 2008 and it happened again. The Life and Times announced a new LP and I got all giddy. Only this time I felt like I knew what to expect. “Tragic Boogie” turned out to be an indie-rock powerhouse and exactly as great as I wanted it to be. It maintains the bass-driven melancholy of “Suburban Hymns” and takes it to the next level in nearly every way. The Life and Times carve out niche for themselves which isn’t easily paralleled and is scarcely performed at an equal level. This is what indie-rock sounds like. It’s not boring, it doesn’t meander and the absence of swirly ambience sets it apart from many groups they will probably be compared to. At least for me, The Life and Times got it absolutely right this time.

For Fans of: Shiner, Roma 79, Calla

The Life and Times on Myspace

Medications performing "The Last of The Rest Was The End" at Fort Reno, 2005

The Run-down:
Medications are a three-piece from Washington, DC composed of Devin Ocampo and Chad Molter (members of Smart Went Crazy and Faraquet, two bands I adore beyond reason) and drummer extraordinaire Andrew Becker. Medications play post-hardcore math-rock (I like buzz words) at a level that is unassuming but incredible. Previously they have released a self-titled EP and an amazing full-length called "Your Favorite People All In One Place" Currently they are working on a new album which I have extremely high hopes for. Unfortunately it will be without the aid of Becker on drums, but I think they'll manage.

Why this video is awesome:
Evidently, at least at one point in time, Medications were the tightest band on the Earth. This is the type of thing I always assumed can't really be faithfully recreated, but after watching this (and two other must-see Medications recordings from the festival two years later) I realized that these guys probably vomit talent and can do such things easily. Watch Andrew Becker play the drums. Listen to Ocampo play those riffs. Watch Chad Molter squirm around like a fish (I'm kidding he's good too). I love this. Plus, it could hardly sound better.

5:07 PM

Canadian Rifle

Good news! As of today, the debut full length LP, titled “Visibility Zero” by Chicago punk group Canadian Rifle is available here at Residue Records. I haven’t heard it yet, so there isn’t much I can say about it other than I am totally excited. If you’re unfamiliar with Canadian Rifle, it’s not really surprising, but it IS a god damn shame. In 2007 the band released two excellent 7”s (which are now out of print as far as I know) that were each a punk-rock kick in the face. Reminiscent of late 80’s early 90’s west-coast hardcore, Canadian Rifle plays punk rock by definition with a catchy twist that makes you wonder why you would ever listen to any other genre of music. Their first 3 song 7” in particular is a 6 minute masterpiece. You should listen to this band.

For Fans Of: Youth Brigade, Leatherface, Jawbreaker

Canadian Rifle on Myspace

In the wake of the separation of Nashville, TN hardcore outfit Cease Upon The Capitol, two distinct side-projects remained. The more punk-oriented Sanctions, who had been a side project of former members of CUTC for some time, and the sonically closer screamo group Dolcim. Last year Dolcim released an excellent 4 song (new recordings of all of which can be found on their new LP) demo that flew the Capitol banner in a similar but equally distinguishable way. The slower, more contemplative sound of CUTC’s 2007 LP was set aside for a bit more frenetic, and much more exciting sound. On “Guillotine Ride” Dolcim harness the controlled chaos of emotional hardcore and create a unique atmosphere in a genre that can very easily seem repetitive. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes a certain screamo act stand above the rest, but there seems to be a handful of bands that know exactly how to play this type of music and keep it sounding new and unexpectedly beautiful. Oh, and just so we’re clear, you won’t find speedy thrash solos or dual vocalists or over-tuned drums on this record. So, misnomers aside “Guillotine Ride” is one of those records that just stands out. Period.

For Fans of: Cease Upon The Capitol, Ampere, Loma Prieta, Raein

Dolcim on Myspace

Youtube is a blessing and a curse. I won't get into the reasons but we all know it's true. Anywho, one of the best things about youtube is finding random live videos of your favorite bands performing, right? Occasionally I run into a video on youtube that makes me wish I was there. When I do, I'll put 'em up and tell you why. So, here's the first installment of the Best of Youtube Live:

The YMD Performing "Yah Mos Def is a Gang" in Philadelphia.

The run-down:
The YMD are an unconventional 2 piece hip-hop act from Philadelphia. Their acronymous name stands for The Yah Mos Def, a contraction Sacramento hardcore act The Yah Mos and seminal rapper-turned-actor Mos Def. Legal trouble with afformentined rapper caused the official change to The YMD. In 2008 they released their first official full length "Excuse Me, This Is The Yah Mos Def". The YMD are kids who grew up on east coast hardcore that opted for hip-hop as a means of expression. I suppose this makes them something (read: exactly) like the Beastie Boys. Thus, their songs are littered with references to hardcore, emo and punk acts (references to Fugazi and Floorpunch can be heard in the video along with some I probably don't understand). It makes for a pretty interesting listening experience. Don't be confused though, the lyrics may be of an unconventional subject matter, but sonically, the YMD are a hip-hop act through and through.

Why this video is awesome:
The seems completely familiar and totally alien at the same time. The band is freaking out, full of energy and the crowd has no idea what to make of it. The YMD brings hardcore to a pretty pure incarnation of hip-hop music. Everything seems completely out of place and harmonious at the same time. I hope I get to see something like this ever.

I think I bought this record in 2000 and I found it completely bizarre but I loved it. I was also like 15. Looking back on it, it’s not really so strange, but I like it even better now. Wicked Farleys are a long defunct 5-piece from Boston that put out 2 records in 3 years. Despite hailing from Bean Town they sound like they belong exactly in the middle of the interstate between Washington DC and Seattle (in reality this would put them somewhere in the vicinity of Lawrence, Kansas where they would be pretty out of place, but that isn’t the point of this metaphor). Dismemberment Plan meets Death Cab (who, as I recall, toured together)? Q And Not U vs. Sunny Day Real Estate? I don’t know, but they don’t seem that far off. I suppose what I mean to say is that “Sentinel and Enterprise” captures the angular franticism (this isn’t a word) of DC area post-hardcore and the anxious poppiness of similar era west coast acts (read: it's excellent).

For Fans of: Dismemberment Plan, Pinback, Les Savy Fav

Wicked Farleys on Myspace

Short albums deserve short reviews. Actually that isn’t true but this Put Your Heart Into This is getting one. A bullet review as it were.

- Above Them are an indie rock group from some place called Pontefract, West Yorkshire in the UK.
- Their debut EP “Put Your Heart Into This” is a throwback to late 90’s emo records (the band would probably disagree with this though).
- It pretty much sounds like Static Prevails. But it has Frame & Canvas moments.
- It is really good because I eat that shit up. If you do too, listen to this.

For Fans of: The Promise Ring, Jimmy Eat World, Blueline Medic, Scream Hello

Above Them on Myspace