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Lithuania - Hardcore Friends (Cover)
Lithuania: Hardcore Friends
Lame-O Records
All I remembered about Lithuania is that they're in Hop Along's good books and that Heavy Hands was an EP that showed promise. I'd be lying if I said I kept tabs on them. That said, anything associated with Frances Quinlan's band is something I'm definitely going to drop whatever I'm doing and offer up a listen to. Hardcore Friends finds the two-piece finally delivering to their cult following and in a big way. Having minimal expectations really sat well as they jammed out a variety of tracks with so many influences, ranging from indie to punk to '90s emo. This definitely feels like a sleeper hit record for this year. [more]
Direct Hit! - More of the Same (Satanic Singles: 2010-2014) (Cover)
Direct Hit!: More of the Same (Satanic Singles: 2010-2014)
Red Scare Industries
Back in 2013 Direct Hit! absolutely killed it with their second full length and Red Scare debut Brainless God. There is no question that they gained a lot more popularity within the punk scene when that album came out. But what was Direct Hit! up to between when their first full length Domesplitter, which came out in 2011 and 2013 when Brainless God was released? They recorded several split EP’s with various bands on a few different labels. [more]
Boys Life - Departures and Landfalls [reissue] (Cover)
Boys Life: Departures and Landfalls [reissue]
Topshelf
It's no secret that when it comes to purist Midwestern emo from the '90s, one of the bands that immediately jumps to mind is Boys Life. When you think of them, they're right up there alongside bands like Mineral, Kid Brother Collective, Texas is the Reason and Christie Front Drive. They also impacted so many bands plying their emo trade today and whether these bands would admit it, you can clearly see how Boys Life imposed their sonic signature on modern show-runners. [more]
Looming - Nailbiter (Cover)
Looming: Nailbiter
No Sleep
Springfield, Illinois rockers Looming is a band to keep tabs on. Lead singer, Jessica Knight, has a unique style that gives the band a power that to me fits right up there with bands like Hop Along, RVIVR and War On Women. Their style is tempered to a much more accessible, indie, '90s rocker vibe but what makes Nailbiter stand out is that it feels different from like-minded music-makers out there. The album's main theme, as seen on the track titles, are about moving on, progression (especially from bad relationships) and positive change, which adds a bit more value, personally. It's a very altruistic and endearing record that stands above its peers. [more]
Frank Turner - Positive Songs for Negative People (Cover)
Frank Turner: Positive Songs for Negative People
Xtra Mile Recordings
Frank Turner sure has come a long way. The former Million Dead singer stepped away from hardcore a decade ago in favor of his acoustic guitar and singing rather than screaming. Time has seen Turner become more comfortable as a solo artist, and as a result his sound has become more fleshed out to incorporate more of a band dynamic. His sixth studio release, Positive Songs for Negative People, may only have Turner’s name on it, but this is the most complete band record of his career to date. “By the waters of the Thames,” Turner softly begins the acoustic “The Angel Islington,” using the geography of his native land to anchor the song both in lyric and title. [more]
Various Artists - Fat Music Vol. 8: Going Nowhere Fat (Cover)
Various Artists: Fat Music Vol. 8: Going Nowhere Fat
Fat Wreck Chords
For 25 years now Fat Wreck Chords has been a providing the punk scene with phenomenal releases that have influenced and inspired a countless number of punk rockers to start their own bands. If you are into punk rock, chances are at least one or two bands you listen to are or at one time released something through Fat Wreck Chords. The label is still thriving even ten (or so) years after the music industry had the rug pulled out from under it by the internet and it is still one of the biggest independent record labels around. [more]
Adult Mom - Momentary Lapse of Happily (Cover)
Adult Mom: Momentary Lapse of Happily
Tiny Engines
Stephanie Knipe's music has always been about survival, coming off novel in terms of ideas and strung along lines that can be perceived as depressive. However, listeners shouldn't misconstrue the words, because in peering deeper, Knipe's music, as seen on Momentary Lapse of Happily, is about overcoming emotional turmoil, eroding away life's guilt and persevering in the face of unnecessary drama and bigotry. Under the guise of Adult Mom, Knipe manages to touch on many conflicts in life yet again -- sexuality, gender and so many more traumas -- and through these experiences, Knipe brings forth one of the most personal indie/emo gems this year. [more]
Red Dons - The Dead Hand of Tradition (Cover)
Red Dons: The Dead Hand of Tradition
Taken By Surprise/Deranged
Distance is something Red Dons know all about. With members spread across the globe, even simple things like getting together to record a few songs can become complicated exercises in coordination. That probably explains why we've waited more than five years for a new Red Dons full-length, though the band hasn't exactly stayed silent during the period between records. Last year saw Red Dons team up with TV Smith for the A Vote For the Unknown 7-inch, while the previous year saw the release of the excellent Notes on the Underground 7-inch. The first thing that's clear on The Dead Hand of Tradition is that the band's formula hasn't changed. [more]
Elway - Better Whenever (Cover)
Elway: Better Whenever
Red Scare
Elway have a charm to them that's fit for fans of The Menzingers and The Lawrence Arms. A lot of this is built on Tim Browne's delivery as his vocals really elaborate on the stories he tells and it's most appreciated given the depth of songs they write. They always churn out relatable, seasoned punk that throw you back to the brash teen days before kicking your ass forward in time again to when you're older, working and coming home to a family. They tell wholesome stories and Better Whenever thankfully doesn't buck the trend. It sticks to script and continues to propel the band forward, strength to strength. [more]
Pavement - The Secret History, Vol. 1 (Cover)
Pavement: The Secret History, Vol. 1
Matador
Pavement could have and should have been bigger on MTV circa 1994. "Cut Your Hair" felt like that was the bullet that barely missed its mark. Nonetheless, their cult following has kept them alive as well as so many emo/indie bands nowadays that continue to spread the abrasive alt-rock magic Pavement and many others like them carved out. The Secret History, Vol. 1 is a new, 30-song anthology collecting EPs, B-sides, alternate versions of tracks, compilations tunes, sessions from the radio circuits as well as live recordings. It's pretty intimate and will be deeply appreciated (especially the outtakes) if you're a fan like me. [more]
John Nolan - Sad Strange Beautiful Dream (Cover)
John Nolan: Sad Strange Beautiful Dream
PledgeMusic
John Nolan seems far away from all the turmoil of the old Taking Back Sunday and Straylight Days. I expected the former to be bigger and better when he came back but it's been a disappointing ride since. I'll admit though that after taking some time, I realize that their musical direction's shifted with age and rightfully so. This has allowed Sad Strange Beautiful Dream to spread its wings and more so, it's a stark indictment of that maturity. It's nice to hear him leading you down a path of retrospection. If you loved Heights in 2009 or spotted potential in him as a solo act, this record will be quite pleasing. [more]
The Penske File - Burn Into The Earth (Cover)
The Penske File: Burn Into The Earth
Union Label Group
Burlington's The Penske File have a knack for churning out upbeat, melodic pop-punk but as the harmonica-led anthems indicate on Burn Into The Earth, they do so with a fresh twist. One that isn't too folky but one that delivers a certain charm which would be easily recognizable for fans who watched the band strengthen their sound over the past couple years. Grave Escapes was one of 2012's hidden gems, which yielded an even better follow-up just over a year later in A Restless Symphony but in terms of their most complete musical novel to date, this record accomplishes just that and much more. [more]
Worriers - Imaginary Life (Cover)
Worriers: Imaginary Life
Don Giovanni Records
You don't know Lauren Denitzio, but after years of listening to her work fronting first The Measure [SA] and now Worriers, you may feel like you do. That's because Denitzio's songs tend to be windows into her soul, not in a melodramatic, emo sort of way, but more along the lines of a intimate, late-night conversation with a close friend, perhaps while working your way through a bottle of wine. This general theme continues on Imaginary Life, and in many ways the album feels like a culmination of everything Denitzio's work has been building to over the years. If you're familiar with the band's 2013 release, Cruel Optimist, then you already know the sound. [more]
Rocky Votolato / Chuck Ragan - Kindred Spirit [10-inch] (Cover)
Rocky Votolato / Chuck Ragan: Kindred Spirit [10-inch]
Side One Dummy
Kindred Spirit is a very fitting title for the EP at hand, given the draw of singers/songwriters Rocky Votolato and Chuck Ragan. Both are heart-on-sleeve solo acts that make music for the fading twilight. In terms of vulnerable slow-burners, both guys continue to show why you can't go wrong with their musical brand which constructs windows for you to escape the confines of the world. On the heels of the another well-crafted album in Hospital Handshakes, Votolato sets the stage here and acts as the tension builder on his three tracks -- all soft, acoustic jams. [more]
Annabel - Having It All (Cover)
Annabel: Having It All
Tiny Engines
Every now and then, a record comes and sweeps you off your feet. Leaves you breathless and wanting more. We could all do with more days like these, right? Jump to Ohio's Annabel and a record I've waited on for years, anticipating the day when they'd show up and announce something that's more than just promise. Having It All ends up being both of these things -- a band stepping out into the light with a megaphone and producing an album that'll surely set the emo genre on fire. [more]
Ma Jolie - Jetpack Mailman [EP] (Cover)
Ma Jolie: Jetpack Mailman [EP]
A-F Records
Ma Jolie have grown from strength to strength with each release. 2012's ...Compared to Giants was a full-fledged assault of gritty pop-punk that never let up. It was fierce, breathless and clearly a band looking to make a statement right out the batting cages. Polars, which came just over a year later, geared down a bit, taking them for a more indie/melodic spin and showed a work in progress. It was all about fine tuning and refining a band that showed great technical skill but still seemed flustered and too frantic for their own good. [more]
Worthwhile - Old World Harm (Cover)
Worthwhile: Old World Harm
Hopeless Records
Worthwhile first caught my eye with "Unlovable (Lost Son)". What made them more interesting is how they shifted from a fast-paced melodic-punk sound into a more melodic hardcore style. Their older vibe was a bit catchier/poppier but it's how great they pulled off both versions that really hooked me. I've heard lots of fans describe their schtick as 'easycore' or 'softcore' but to me, it's akin (in a much more melodic and accessible vein) to what post-hardcore/screamo bands like Touché Amoré, Defeater and Departures put on the table. [more]
The Dwarves - Radio Free Dwarves [12-inch] (Cover)
The Dwarves: Radio Free Dwarves [12-inch]
Riot Style
There is no denying that The Dwarves are an unpredictable band both in the studio and on stage. So leave it to them to record a live album in a radio station in Estonia of all places. This live recording would become what we know now as Radio Free Dwarves. However this release has been three years in the making because it was recorded in 2012, which was right in between the time the fantastic albums The Dwarves Are Born Again and The Dwarves Invented Rock & Roll were released. The way Radio Free Dwarves is described is that it is a “12-song mini album” and that’s accurate. [more]
Milk Teeth - Sad Sack [EP] (Cover)
Milk Teeth: Sad Sack [EP]
Hopeless Records
At first glance, Milk Teeth's music reminded me of fellow UK outfit Basement. I heard the first track off this EP, "Vitamins," and figured why not. They seemed to have that grunge revivalist vibe to them. And that they do, but it felt like it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. However, as I explored Sad Sack I found that this is just one dimension to their game. In fact, as each track passes, you hear a band that's a student of rock, tapping into several genres such as emo, punk and post-hardcore as well. [more]
Rixe - Coups & Blessures [7-inch] (Cover)
Rixe: Coups & Blessures [7-inch]
La Vida Es Un Mus
Sometimes you're not aware that something's missing in your life until you experience it and realize what your existence has been lacking. In this case, that missing thing is French Oi. See, you didn't know you were missing it, did you? You'll realize it once you spin Coups & Blessures, the debut 7-inch from Rixe. 

While it's cliche to suggest that current act brings to mind the glory years of a genre, there are times when it's appropriate, and this is one of those times. The four tracks on Coups & Blessures would fit right in on any of those dusty old Oi comps that you bought in the '90s to further your punk education. [more]

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