14/1/2015

It’s always at the halfway point that I become disgusted at myself.

Halfway through the message, the thought, the glass, the cigarette.

Today I stare at the nitrogen in the air, breaking down the everyday into little particles of hate to file away and dredge up later in my mind.

Tonight I talk to you. Tonight I wade through that thick, hateful air and try to remember what I wanted to say. I spit at the mirror, coat the jagged edges of my nails in reflective paint and sink back into the embrace of the floor.

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[EP REVIEW] Short Stories – When Love is Lost

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While its titans haven’t exactly gone anywhere, pop-punk has been falling more and more from the public consciousness every year. The mid 2000s boom that saw bands like Mayday Parade, All Time Low and Fall Out Boy fill up stadiums seems to have run dry, as cookie-cutter metalcore acts using the ‘verb-the-noun’ naming template rush in to fill the gap. But as pop-punk’s diehard audience ages and the emo revival gathers steam in the underground, the genre has quietly mutated into something that’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Short Stories’ debut EP is a frenetic assignment from the modern school of pop-punkery. Like current scene heroes The Story So Far, Citizen and Basement, the group eschew the ‘sensitive boy’ vocal presence and instrumental that characterised the genre so heavily in the past, bringing more hardcore fire to the mix. When Love is Lost is tailor-made for passionate moshpits in sweaty rooms.

Don’t let that cover art deceive you; for an independent debut, the EP sounds extremely polished and professional. But where the EP begins to fall a bit short is its sense of deja-vu. Short Stories sound great together, but often fall into generic genre tropes, like on the beginning of the song ‘Spring Fling’, with a drumbeat and vocal melody that could have been copy-pasted from any number of songs from the past fifteen years. That doesn’t mean that Short Stories are simply going through the motions, however; there’s plenty of passion and nascent personality that keeps the EP engaging. The opener, ‘Here’s To Hoping’ progresses quite nicely and was a perfect choice to introduce this collection of songs, with its propulsive energy and fists-in-the-air chorus. Lyrically, there are a few potholes and stale moments (‘Look at the bright side/your heart is dead but your body’s still alive/look at the bright side/your chest’s stained red but love can still survive‘)
but behind the passionate delivery, they’re definitely forgiveable.

When Love is Lost showcases a band in their early stages, still hard to separate from their influences, but definitely promising. With a bit of maturity, I can see Short Stories cementing their place within the current generation of party punk idols.

3/5

Poem 2

Show me how to dismantle a soul

There has to be some mechanism holding it together
Some part where the springs are rusty or the glue’s weak
Some crack I can get my fingers into and pry it apart

Show me how to look at myself without blinking
Show me how to meet my own eyesIt’s harder than it sounds

Show me exactly how weak I am
The moss growing on my arms is weighing me down
The rust is catching up to me

And I’ve never been more terrified

[ALBUM REVIEW] Pity Sex – Feast of Love

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Feast of Love is the debut LP from these American kids, and it’s a transfixing freight train of a record. Taking cues from the shoegaze movement as well as old-school and contemporary emo, it’s hard to believe Pity Sex haven’t been around much longer than they have, so well-defined and crafted is their vision, and so comfortable they sound cranking out these living, breathing jams. Having two vocalists, one male and one female, who trade off lead-duties and harmonise so fantastically under the layers of heady mist adds to the atmosphere of intimacy and intoxication.

There’s an undercurrent of pop simplicity to all of this, and it draws the listener deeper and deeper into the sonic rabbit hole on tracks like ‘Honey Pot’ with its nursery-rhyme like chorus of ‘Honey pot, honey pot, I will take what I want’. There’s no high-concept pretenses here; Pity Sex are far more interested in telling personal, heart-on-sleeve stories, and despite the fuzz separating the listener from the singers, it’s all quite relatable, like all good emo should be. The desperation of ‘Drown Me Out’ and seductive melancholy of ‘Hollow Body’ come across loud and clear. I always like album covers that accurately reflect the mood of the album, and the sexual shenanigans going on here speak of the themes of love and lust that tie the songs together under its smoky, loud fog.

I don’t usually like music that sounds lazy and lethargic, but for Pity Sex, it unquestionably works. The subdued vocals of both singers Britty Drake and Brennan Greaves backed up with music that is often pounding and driving makes for a sensuous and intimate listen. The album is short, there’s no fat on its half-hour runtime, each song is refreshingly different from the last despite the same guitar fuzz showing up pretty much everywhere and nothing outstays its welcome. Its visceral soundscapes and dreamlike progression are pushed as far as they need to be to remain catchy and propulsive. In short, it’s fucking great. Buy it.

4.5/5

TRACK PICKS: ‘Wind-Up’ ‘Drown Me Out’ ‘Honey Pot’

TRACK SKIPS: ‘Drawstring’

[ALBUM REVIEW] Manchester Orchestra – COPE

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Manchester Orchestra, and its frontman Andy Hull, have never been the type to put all their eggs in one basket, nor have they been easy to pin down to any specific genre. Though they borrow heavily from the loud ‘n’ dirty ’90s rock canon, they aren’t strangers to innovation and subtlety either. On their last LP, 2011’s Simple Math, the band threw anything and everything onto the canvas, and most of it stuck. They embrace dynamics, not afraid to have syrupy string arrangements rubbing shoulders with huge, crunchy riffs, or gut-wrenchingly honest ballads stacked up against bombastic anthems, but their big strength is in the cohesion of it all. If Simple Math codified their ‘sound’ with its sheer variety, Cope is, if anything, a bit of a step backwards. Manchester Orchestra have always peppered their albums with huge riffs, (see ‘Now That You’re Home’, ‘I’ve Got Friends’, ‘Pensacola’) but Cope uses this aesthetic as its guiding star. The album hits far more than it misses, but it lacks the true nuanced beauty that makes its predecessors so impressive.

The single ‘Top Notch’ dropped well in advance of the album, and it had me quite excited. It has a seething, pounding and huge riff, and that chorus… Andy Hull’s impassioned wail soaring over the turgid sea behind it. I was surprised, when I finally got my hands on the album, that ‘Top Notch’ was its opening number, but it made sense… the band had previously stated that Cope would be an ‘unashamedly heavy rock record’, and to place ‘Top Notch’ where it was is a good choice to set the tone. Unfortunately, while the next few tracks are also great, it seems that the energy the opener brought to the table never quite goes away. It’s as if Cope plateaus right out of the gate. There are no ballads on here, far fewer softer moments instrumentally. Everything on here is catchy and Hull’s lyrics are still interesting (‘the invention of the ship/Was the invention of the shipwreck) but the distortion-heavy guitars never quite let up, leaving each song uncomfortably reminiscent of the last, and while the strings and synth that used to counter-balance them do show up occasionally on cuts like ‘Trees’. That’s not to say that Manchester Orchestra doesn’t do this sound justice, they certainly do, but this record doesn’t show them playing to their real strengths and sees them falling into a softer-verse/loud-chorus pattern that makes me miss the tenderness and variety of their previous albums.

But Cope suffers mainly in comparison. Someone unfamiliar with the band’s earlier output will still find an impassioned, balls-to-the-wall assault that packs more than its fair share of emotional punch, too. The title, Cope is reflected in the stories of resilience and letting go in the face of adversity. Reading like a Steinbeck novel, ‘All I Really Wanted’ is a standout, with lyrics about uprooting and facing the storm for the promise of a home, while ‘The Ocean’ sees its narrator casting his flaws into the metaphorical body of water. Its black-and-white cover is quite fitting too, for the stripped back crunchy rock contained therein. The sonic assault continues all the way to the final and title track, whose Sabbath-esque riff finishes things off in an equally epic fashion to the beginning.

The songs here are, for the most part, great tunes. And bombastic rock fits these guys like a glove. But listened through, the album becomes something of a slog, simply for its unrelenting energy, and it could definitely have benefited from some of the nuance and texture upon which Manchester Orchestra have built their name. Still, if you want big, beefy, passionate and literary noise, Cope has it in spades.

3/5

TRACK PICKS: Top Notch, The Mansion, Every Stone
TRACK SKIPS: Choose You

Poem #1

Two For No

I reach out and take a handful of awkward silence 
And I do my best to sculpt it into a conversation
I try to paint it in things I want to tell you
To tell the story of the last two years inside my head
Like a coma: I'm locked in. Two blinks for no, one for yes
Keep talking, keep filling the air with whimsical shapes
I'm listening, though my expression doesn't change
Where were you, when I fell asleep?
How many times did I add my voice to your cacophony?
Do I still have some cell, some bricked-in room inside your skull?
Do you ever wonder what's behind the wall?

I fashion you from stale air and bedrock inside myself
A living, immovable statue to my own longing
You don't speak, not anymore, because now you're made of stone