Aspiga / Hanalei - Split [7-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Aspiga / Hanalei

Split [7-inch] (2012)

Jump Start

I suppose you could say this record uses the novelty of the split format by having the two bands with approaches coming from very different locations. Aspiga plays a style of punk rock that seems to be influenced by the '90s SoCal and Bay Area scenes while Hanalei is a solo singer/songwriter. Yet, there is something more cerebral to Aspiga's songwriting and something more earnest to Hanalei than you might expect. The two bands end up finding a dialog through the structure of the split that makes for a complete and satisfying seven-inch.

You'd think to call a record significant would identify its influence and lasting impression; I'd label Osker's Idle Will Kill just that. Though, I'd actually be hard-pressed to find any current band or even many past ones that are as clearly influenced by Osker's swansong as Aspiga. The two songs on the group's side are more focused and aggressive than last year's How I'm Not Feeling. Previously I had found Kevin Day's vocals to be the weakest part of the band but he sounds more certain of himself than ever before. Although, there is still a vulnerability as he sings "And I set fire to all my faith in others" on "Thanks But I Can Throw Myself Out" that might not ring as true in other hands. If you were to picture a voice somewhere between John K. Samson of the Weakerthans and Chris Fogal of the Gamits you'd have the right idea. It is a happy coincidence, as a listener, that Aspiga's best recording and production to date also serves to document some of theiur best songs to date.

Even though Hanalei has floated between spaces, going from solo records to a band and back, there has never been a question of whether or not this was Brian Moss' brain child. Even when backed by a full band, there has always been something personal that disjoints the idea of a collective. Continuing to develop the clean yet dense sound Moss had on 2010's One Big Night, the Hanalei side of the split starts off with a cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Cut Dead." It is the perfect choice for a Hanalei song because while the original is mostly a stripped down acoustic number, Moss is able to interpret the JaMC's wall of sound aesthetic in a way that actually doesn't come through as much on the original. There is more discernible intricate guitar interplay here and he maintains a slight reverb on the vocals that allow the cover to pay homage as well as express something new. "Get Done" is the real surprise of the record as it is a rocker the likes of which was relatively absent on One Big Night, but it is more poppy than any of the more driving songs on Parts And Accessories. "Get Down" actually ends up sounding like something off a New Pornographers record and I for one welcome the change.

With Aspiga putting its own twist on the pop-punk and Hanalei showcasing the solo punk rocker thing better than any of the other former vocalists running around with acoustic guitars, this split should prove to be one of the standout short-form releases this year.