Archive for the ‘Recent Discoveries’ Category

tigerjaw__68558_zoomAs usual, I’m a day late and a dollar short, seeing as Scranton, PA’s Tigers Jaw went on indefinite hiatus less than a month prior to the time of this post. Nonetheless, I decided to check out their stuff after a friend of mine mentioned the group recently. I’d heard of the band before, but I was always a little hesitant—for one, why does their name sound like a cross between Glassjaw and Tiger Army? Why is there no apostrophe between the “r” and “s” in “Tigers”? Doesn’t the tiger “own” the jaw? Without the apostrophe, it sounds like there are multiple tigers “jawing,” as in yipping and yapping and talking a lot.

But never mind all that. The music on Tigers Jaw’s self-titled second album makes up for any silly grammatical tangents my brain needlessly follows. They seem to be (well, seemed to be) one of several Pennsylvanian bands helping to revitalize the punk/emo genre in the 2010s, along with The Menzingers, Balance and Composure, Title Fight, and The Wonder Years. Good to see OBR’s home state of PA actually mattering in a legitimate scene of late!

Some classic emo influences appear here—The Get Up Kids, mostly, along with bands like Saves the Day and Sunny Day Real Estate. Tigers Jaw also seems to have listened to their share of more modern emo rock, like Bayside or Armor for Sleep. With lyrical lines like “Because you are everything and I am nothing” and “I’ve never felt that lost before / I just don’t feel incredible,” more judgmental listeners might focus too much on the “sad emo kid” side of the band, rather than realizing just how well such sentiments pair with the musical and vocal styling. In short, fans of emo (as in the musical genre, not the Hot-Topic/My Chemical Romance societal image) will like this, and haters will not.

Album opener “The Sun” is one of the strongest tracks, utilizing a standard guitar progression and catchy melodies and lyrics. Lead vocalist Adam McIlwee shines in this song and throughout the record. “Plane Vs. Tank Vs. Submarine,” a more acoustic-based track that often sounds like a dead-ringer for Armor for Sleep, is one of the band’s most popular songs. “I Saw Water” is easily one of my favorites—an all-around solid melodic emo song. “Chemicals,” “Between Your Band And The Other Band,” and “Heat” comprise the middle of Tigers Jaw. The latter is the shortest song on the record, but possibly one of the most memorable.

I read another review of this album in which the author claimed that Tigers Jaw sounds like the record Brand New didn’t write between Your Favorite Weapon and Deja Entendu. I couldn’t agree more, and I think the last four tracks of Tigers Jaw highlight that excellently. Simple, memorable, catchy, and classically self-deprecating, these tracks ensure that the album doesn’t trail off by the end. Album closer “Never Saw It Coming” even uses a bit of the vocals-yelled-from-a-far-away-room technique that Brand New pulls on songs like “Tautou.”

It’s too bad that most of the band’s members bailed, because an album like this would be a good one to see performed live, and expand upon in years to come. Oh well, can’t have everything. Speaking of things I can’t have… I kind of want pizza now. I suppose that’s thanks to the amusing cover art, which might seem goofy but is actually—take my word for it as a Pennsylvanian—rather fitting, seeing as there’s not a lot to do in the small towns of this state except eat pizza with friends, make music, and drink Yuengling tall-boys with aforementioned pizza. From the cover art to the melodic emo/punk tendencies found throughout, Tigers Jaw is refreshing, hunger-inducing, and just plain good.

~ J.M.

souvlakiIn my constant search for musical satisfaction, shoegaze has been a genre whose appeal mostly eluded me. In theory, I should like it—it’s slow, somber, droning, fuzzy, with blurry vocals—but I was simply never all that impressed with the sounds I was hearing. That may be slowly changing, though, with my absorption of Souvlaki, the second full-length by shoegaze stalwarts Slowdive.

Let’s back up. What exactly is shoegaze? It originated in the U.K. in the 80s and was so named by the British press because of shoegaze musicians’ tendency to stand still and look down, presumably at their shoes. In reality, the musicians were probably looking at their effects pedals, since the genre generally relies on guitar effects quite a bit. According to Wikipedia, the shoegaze sound is “typified by significant use of guitar effects and indistinguishable vocal melodies that blend into the creative noise of the guitars.” Slowdive is considered one of the first bands to take up this style, sometime shortly after genre-originators My Bloody Valentine. More recently, some relatively well-known American bands (Deerhunter, The Joy Formidable, and others) are incorporating shoegaze elements into their music, resulting in a sort of revitalization of the genre that is amusingly called “nu-gaze.”

Souvlaki is considered Slowdive’s pinnacle work. It’s also the most accessible, which makes it a good place to start. Leadoff track “Alison” is my favorite song on the record; it’s also arguably the band’s most popular song. A little up-tempo compared to the record’s other tunes, the song features a nice hook-laden chorus tucked behind that ever-present guitar fuzziness. Next up is “Machine Gun,” which delves into dream-pop territory thanks to the female vocal track and synth line. My other favorites are “When the Sun Hits” and the final track, “Dagger.”

My only complaint about the album (and maybe the whole shoegaze genre, really) is that the whole package leaves the listener with the impression of having to struggle to hear what’s going on. For one thing, it’s just mixed quietly. Secondly, the constant fuzziness, muddiness, and blurred vocals almost make you strain to hear what’s coming out of your speakers. I realize that those are kind of the characteristics of the genre, so I shouldn’t complain, but it’s still annoying.

Souvlaki is pretty cool. It’s a change of pace, and I’d contend that it serves as a good introduction to shoegaze. Imagine if the Smashing Pumpkins, the Cranberries, Radiohead, and the Beatles all mashed together somehow and took too many muscle relaxers. That’s kind of what it sounds like. Was that helpful? No? Well, here’s “Alison” to help you understand.

~ J.M.

relient-k-is-for-karaokeIn the interest of not mincing words, let me be blunt: I’ve never liked Relient K that much. I don’t hate them or anything, I just was never the biggest fan. They’ve always been a little too cheery, a little too happy-go-lucky/unicorns-and-rainbows for my taste. It doesn’t help matters that the first time I ever heard a Relient K song I was sitting in Sunday school. Most things I heard in Sunday school were a bunch of hogwash anyway, so I’ve probably subconsciously—and very unfairly—grouped Relient K in with talking snakes and immaculate conception, even though the band, to their credit, really doesn’t shove the religion thing down their listeners’ throats.

Having said that, I’ll definitely give Relient K credit for one thing: they can pull off a darned good cover song. That’s why I do enjoy their latest release, Is for Karaoke. The album consists of 14 songs by other bands, reimagined by Matt Theissen and company quite effectively. I say “reimagined,” but in truth, most of these covers stick pretty closely to the originals. Is for Karaoke spans a decent spectrum of pop music—from 80s classics to 90s rock to modern post-2000 hits.

Of course, my favorite songs are the songs whose original versions I already liked. As a huge Third Eye Blind fan, Relient K’s cover of “Motorcycle Drive By” might be my favorite out of the lot. Also notable are the covers of the Wallflower’s 90s hit “One Headlight,” Chicago’s (slightly cheeky) love ballad “You’re the Inspiration,” and Stone Temple Pilots’ “Interstate Love Song.” And although I think Weezer covers are a dime a dozen these days, the version of “Surf Wax America” here is certainly respectable.

If you like to imagine yourself running away with the circus, this version of They Might Be Giants’ “Doctor Worm” will tickle your fancy. If you’re a club-trotting 17-year-old you may enjoy Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” If you like modern pop, Relient K includes a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Baby” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” I barely know who those artists are, especially Barkley. How do you say his first name? Nar-rolls? Nar-whals? And I really think Justin Bieber could pass me on his way to the local Mini-Mart to purchase a cinnamon bun and I wouldn’t recognize him.

The real gem of the album, in my opinion, comes near the end: Theissen and the gang’s reworking of Toto’s “Africa” sounds just about perfect. The harmonies that Theissen and guitarist Matt Hoopes weave in the choruses are quite excellent. Even my mom liked it!

Sure, this album is a bit goofy, a bit tongue-in-cheek, a bit unicorn-y. Just like I think Relient K’s actual records are. But it’s still a fun distraction from your everyday musical routine. Sometimes you need some good ol’ fashioned fun. Give it a listen, but try not to picture that Sunday school pastor with the creepy mustache who smelled vaguely of peanut butter! (I just made that up, that never really happened.)



The other day a friend of mine, Joey Schuller, sent me a list of a bunch of relatively new bands in Pittsburgh right now.  One of them really stood out to me as a lover of 90s emo and who go by the name, Sprrws.  Now if you’re not really into emo, or think I’m talking about bands like My Chemical Romance for some terribly misinformed reason, think again.  I repeat: think again.  Sprrws are part of a new resurrection of the genre “emo.”  Seemingly taking vocal influences from acts like Knapsack and Jawbreaker while instrumentally comparable to the likes of contemporaries such as Seahaven and Latterman, bands like Sprrws are making 90s emo accessible again (or at least picking up where the genre left off).

Sprrws’ first release, Grey, starts off strong with my favorite song off the 4-track EP, “Floor.”  The song is filled with intensity, but the yelled back-up harmony is what really sets it apart.  The EP’s title-track, “Grey,” musters up a good bit of Hot Water Music influence, but manages to keep their own original revived-emo feel and sound.  “Sink” comes in as the shortest track at only 1:36.  Now, I’m pretty sure this wasn’t intended, but I can’t help but notice how the guitar distortion on “Sink” from 0:22-0:34 sounds so very similar to The Story So Far’s own scratchy, palm-muted guitar distortion, a well-placed feature.   “Just Like Me” finishes out the EP and showcases the lyricist’s ability to be characteristically emo in nature, very dismally honest and self-reflective, which really resonates not only on this track but the whole way through Grey.

It’s not very often that I discover a notable band without at least a ‘popular independent label’ (trust me I understand the contradiction of that phrase, but you know what I mean).  Even less of the time does that band have a following of less than three-hundred ‘likes’ on Facebook [sprrws].  I’m not saying any of those characteristics are what makes a band “good,” but one sure does seem to follow the other nine times out of ten.  When it comes to Sprrws, though, they are that one exception out of ten.  Sprrws is the one percent – take that, Liberals.

~ D.B.

OnTheImpossiblePas_Covert-smallI know, I know, I’m really late getting on The Menzingers bandwagon. I’d been hearing about the group for a while, and then even more after the critically-acclaimed On the Impossible Past came out in early 2012. For whatever reason I just never got around to listening to them—sometimes bands just fall through the cracks, you know? Finally, almost a year after its release, I’ve picked up On the Impossible Past to give it a try. As happens far too often in my haphazard musical sphere, I’ve been missing out.

On the Impossible Past appeared in a bunch of critics’ top-ten and album-of-the-year lists, and with good reason. It really is excellent. I think I’ve figured out why it’s so good, and why punk fans almost unanimously praise it so highly: On the Impossible Past sounds like a bunch of punk rock bands mashed into one. If The Lawrence Arms, Against Me!, Smoke or Fire, Gaslight Anthem, The Bouncing Souls, The Loved Ones, Left Alone, The Flatliners, The Swellers, and Social Distortion all had some kind of weird illegitimate punk baby, it would be named The Menzingers. That being said, it’s not as if On the Impossible Past sounds contrived or unoriginal—somehow they manage to channel all of those great bands but still sound completely like themselves. That astounding feat, coupled with good old-fashioned quality songwriting and passion, makes this latest Menzingers album nothing short of phenomenal.

Look, a Menzingers pint glass... they know what the kids want, don't they?

Look, a Menzingers pint glass… they know what the kids want, don’t they?

They tell particular stories with their songs, like Gaslight and Against Me!. They have that nostalgia for their hometown, like The Bouncing Souls or the Larry Arms. They pull off the whole tortured-soul “let’s-drink-and-smoke-to-forget-our-regrets” thing just as well as Smoke or Fire, Alkaline Trio, or The Flatliners do. They throw in half-time drumbeats during choruses at just the right times to dial up the anthemic quality—see “Casey,” one of my favorites, for an example. They sneak Americana-esque moments in a lot, too, like the beginning of “Nice Things,” which could almost be a Springsteen intro, or “Sculptors and Vandals.” “Gates” is another excellent track, as well as leadoff song “Good Things” and first single “The Obituaries.” Really, there isn’t a regrettable song on the album, even the relatively short title track, an evocative little ballad about cruising in and eventually crashing an American muscle car. Speaking of that, themes like the muscle car appear more than once throughout the album, making it feel like one big important composition. Which is exactly what it is.

Perfect for driving alone, driving with friends, singing along, sitting in bars, or drinking bourbon n’ Cokes alone in your room (or am I the only one lame enough to do that last one?), The Menzingers’s On the Impossible Past is, in my opinion, quite an accomplishment for a relatively young band. The buzz this album generated, and is continuing to generate, only promises good things. Wait… I didn’t even try that pun.

I’d say The Menzingers only did one thing wrong. Well, two, if we count the cover art (unless, perhaps, you like it). The chorus of “The Obituaries” finds The Menzingers insisting—repeatedly—that “I will f*** this up, I f***ing know it!” That’s where you’re wrong, my dear Mr. Menzingers Singer-Man. You most certainly will not, and did not, and don’t know it.

~ J.M.

Recently, I found myself in a discussion with a few friends of mine in a relaxing, low-lit basement.  We were sharing our current interests and new discoveries (you know, really doing something with our lives) while listening to a friend’s pick from the ole iPod classic – Norma Jean’s Meridional.  While sharing his recently revived interest in the hardcore genre, he mentioned that he favors the “Norma Jean-Type” bands of hardcore over the “Underoath-Type,” and I have to say I agree.  Bands like Converge, The Chariot, and Norma Jean have the upper-hand for me when it comes to hardcore.

I find that the bands with mostly melodic singing, or even just melodically sung choruses or verses, such as those in Underoath and The Devil Wears Prada, is what I stray away from when really enjoying hardcore.  My ears appreciate a passionate-felt screaming vocal or a hoarsely yelled talking-vocal in a hardcore act like contemporary Keith Buckley (Every Time I Die) very much as of late.  Bands that fit into this select category of hardcore also never, or very rarely ever, use the stereotypical fast sixteenth note double-bass drum and quarter or eighth note crash cymbal (or even worse: china cymbal) under some rhythmically palm-muted guitar and bass; also known as a “breakdown.”  If anything even reminiscent of a breakdown is introduced into a song fitting into this select-hardcore category, it is used sparingly [i.e. below “Deathbed Atheist” 0:59-1:09 which only lasts for 10 seconds] and manages to be unique in some way other than simply changing its rhythmic pattern.

After we all left my friend’s cozy basement and I went home later that day I strolled into my room, sat down, took a seat with a cold glass of cranberry-orange juice (don’t you dare question that stuff, it’s extremely delicious), and searched the vast clutter of the interwebs to find other bands that fit this select category of hardcore.  The more I hunted the more I noticed Norma Jean’s uniquely simpler approach compared to other bands that fit this type.  Norma Jean still had the same unsettled, raging sound as these other hardcore bands, but wasn’t as scattered and complex as Converge or The Chariot.

After listening to Norma Jean’s discography starting at O’ God, the Aftermath (i.e. Norma Jean’s first album with current vocalist Cory Brandan Putman) and listening through until Meridional (their latest album released in July 2010), I can’t come up with a favorite album.  They all seem to have the same ruthless hardcore sound of that select hardcore category that I’ve come to appreciate and love recently.  Though, if I was forced against my will to “pick a favorite or die a horrible death by the use of my father’s power tools” I would most likely choose Meridional because of its varied tunings and step toward a more atmospheric sound found in post-rock/metal bands like Isis and Neurosis.

So, all things considered, I’d have to say that Norma Jean is my favorite band within the hardest-of-hardcore genre, when I happen to listen to hardcore, and will probably remain so into the future.  Just recently the band went back into the studio in December with a relatively unknown producer, Joshua Barber, to record their sixth studio album.  A supposed “teaser song” [] of the record was released this past week called “Ahh! Shark Bite! Ahh” which, unfortunately, is almost definitely a joke, but when Norma Jean decides to quit it with the jokes already and release a got dayum album, I’ll definitely make a point to pick up a copy (or whatever the kids do nowadays).

~ D.B.

0000684230_500Onelinedrawing is something I did in 5th grade when I was bored in history class. It’s also the solo project of Jonah Matranga, singer of Far. And I’ll tell you what, it’s a far cry from Matranga’s original band. Heh, heh.

Onelinedrawing’s 2004 album, The Volunteers, is simply excellent. I’ve actually had it in my iTunes library for some time now, and for some reason it didn’t tickle my fancy when I first listened to it. I must have been sick or momentarily mentally challenged that day, because just about every track on this record has something worthwhile to offer.

Well, intro track “New York” is pretty forgettable, but then again it’s a 47-second intro track, so we’ll let that go. The real first song is “Over It,” which starts out on acoustic guitar but builds to include all the instruments of a full rock band. “A Ghost” utilizes a cool modified drum sound. The next track, “Superhero,” is one of Onelinedrawing’s most popular songs, and one of the most depressing. Depressing in a good way, though. My only complaint about the song is the refrain of “love will find a way,” which comes across as more than a little cheesy.

Then we come to “Stay,” which sounds like an Explosions in the Sky track, if EITS made shorter songs with vocals. One of my favorites, easily. “We Had a Deal” is a wonderfully bombastic rock song, and isn’t quite like anything else on this record, but it doesn’t feel out of place. “Oh, Boys” is interesting, mostly because of Matranga’s repeated line, “boys keep f***ing up my car.”  Next is “Livin’ Small,” one of the more low-key songs on The Volunteers, and another gem.

Third from the end is the saddest song on this record, even more so than “Superhero.” “Believer” sounds depressing both in its instrumentation and in Matranga’s haunted lyrics, which seem to show the singer coming to the realization that an ex-love is “truly through with [him].” Charming. But awesome if you like the occasional sad song.

“Portland” is the low point of this record, if you ask me, because the track is mostly five minutes of silence. Interludes are all well and good, but “Portland” is rather unnecessary. Maybe it’s supposed to serve as some sort of pun, suggesting that Portland as a city has nothing to offer. I’ve never been to Portland, but I sincerely doubt it has nothing to offer. So really I don’t know what’s going on with this track. Not to worry, though—The Volunteers rounds itself out with another lo-fi acoustic jewel, “As Much To Myself As To You.”

Acoustic and electric, soft and hard, quiet and loud, reserved and bombastic, happy and sad—Onelinedrawing’s The Volunteers is eclectic in the best way possible, and far from disappointing. Whoops, I did it again.

~ J.M.

To say that I missed the musical-releases-of-2008 boat would be quite the understatement.  While I was listening to the newest Mark Hoppus podcasts and catching up on crucial Drive-Thru Records releases The Out_Circuit released their sophomore album Pierce The Empire With A Sound, and I’m just now realizing the massive sound that somehow never made its way into my headphones until recently.

There aren’t many instances where I can say that I like a musician’s side-project more than their original band, but Nathan Burke’s The Out_Circuit is on a whole ‘nother level than his original post-hardcore band, Frodus (of which he played bass and sang in from 1997-1999).  The Out_Circuit is mainly the work of Nathan Burke (vocals, guitar, bass, keys), but also features a kind of unappreciated-post-hardcore/math-rock-supergroup who were really more of contributors rather than members: Andy Haram (Haram) and Matt Johnson (Roadside Monument) both on drums, Bob Massey on guitar, Chaz Barber (Brahm) on keys, and Paul Michel and Kevin Lamiell (Haram) both on bass.

After The Out_Circuit’s debut release in late 2003, Burn Your Scripts Boys, Nathan Burke packed up his home-base in Washington, D.C. and moved with his wife Rachel Burke (originally of Beauty Pill, but who is also featured on the groove-soaked track “Across the Light”) to Seattle, Washington.  Nathan was still determined on recording another album for The Out_Circuit before the move, but he wasn’t willing to compromise his new “Seattle-living” as he explained in an interview with Stereo Subversion, “This time around I had a lot of other responsibilities I didn’t have before – wife, kid, job, etc. – and what was most important for me was to not compromise those in order to make a record.  Music is still important to me, but it doesn’t define my worth.  I really got down to business when I worked on this thing because I had to.”

The Out_Circuit Pierce the Empire with a Sound

The first thing I noticed after listening through this album for the first time were the dynamics.  This trade mark juxtaposition of swooning atmosphere and harsh distortion follows throughout every song on Pierce The Empire With A Sound.  Just the same, the album starts off fierce with “Come Out Shooting” and really sets the mood for the entire album as it showcases Nathan’s harsh and sometimes guttural yelling as well as his surprisingly clean and soothing vocals in the calm chorus.  Later in the album, the songs “We”, “Scarlet”, and (probably the tracks most popular song) “New Wine” are among my favorite lighter-songs from the entire album.  They provide the perfect soundtrack for meditating (or studying for finals and writing papers of which I did both).  As if Nathan’s performance and musicianship isn’t enough to make this album a solid choice – it also features contributions from Thrice’s Dustin Kensrue and Teppei Teranshini.  Kensrue picked up main vocals on the hauntingly driven “The Contender” which seems to unexpectedly cut short at the end, and aside from a few keyboard duties, Teranshini produced and mixed the entire album as well.  Easily Pierce The Empire With A Sound’s heaviest song, “The Fall of Las Vegas” paints an eerie picture of a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas with droning, seventies-style synth and Sean Ingram’s (Coalesce) familiar hoarse shouting.  Although The Out_Circuit is considered mostly post-hardcore, it’s astonishing to notice that most (except for “Come Out Shooting,” “The Contender,” and “New Wine”) of Pierce The Empire With A Sound’s tracks are structurally built on from keyboards and synths – a pretty rare class of instruments as the basis for song structure in such a heavy record.

Overall, Pierce The Empire With A Sound is an album that transcends the typical post-hardcore sound and delivers something for any type of listener – from the technical musician hoping for a few poly-rhythms to the exhausted college student trying not to stab his computer screen – it’s a solid listen and a real shame that I hadn’t been turned on to it earlier.

~ D.B.


A solitary morning drive, an austere overcast sky, withered trees lurching like knotted fingers across the rolling Pennsylvanian hills…

And that’s about as far as I’ll go with this hippie-dippie drivel. But that general setting—a cloudy morning, driving home on back roads—was indeed the time and place in which I listened in full to my latest “recent discovery,” The Album Leaf’s first full-length, An Orchestrated Rise to Fall. The albums poignant instrumental compositions proved an apt soundtrack for the lonely drive back to my humble abode.

The Album Leaf is really just one guy—Jimmy LaValle. We all know that anyone named Jimmy must be awesome, so it makes sense that LaValle’s music is of a high caliber. He recorded and released An Orchestrated Rise to Fall all the way back in 1999. Legend has it that Jónsi, frontman of preeminent Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós, picked up one of the early Album Leaf recordings in a record store and liked it so much that he asked Jimmy LaValle to open for Sigur Rós on their next tour, exposing The Album Leaf’s music to a much wider audience and cementing LaValle as a legitimate creative force in the post-rock world.

My exposure to instrumental music is fairly limited—Explosions in the Sky, Andy McKee, Sigur Rós themselves, and a small smattering of others are all I’ve taken the time to really listen to. Now I’d have to add The Album Leaf to that list, because this record is worth hearing. One of my favorite parts about it is the percussion—in the songs that contain any, that is—and the way it doesn’t resort to Postal-Service-like quips and gurgles as backing tracks, like you might expect. Instead, the drum sounds (whether they’re played by a random percussionist or LaValle himself, I have no idea) are completely realistic, giving the album a more organic, full-band sound. Opening track “Wander” is a good example. If that’s a drum machine, The Album Leaf sure has me fooled.

My favorite tracks on the album are definitely “We Once Were (One)” and “We Once Were (Two).” They utilize a mournful synth part that really is perfect for driving alone, as cheeky as that may sound. “We Once Were (Two)” brings in the drums where “We Once Were (One)” leaves them out, providing an excellent backdrop for those keyboard segments. More melancholy acoustic-based songs like “Airplane” and “September Song” are equally memorable. The album ends with “Lounge Act (Two),” incorporating brushed percussion and a strange distorted voice part (I hesitate to call it a vocal track) that at times sounds very much like Radiohead.

An Orchestrated Rise to Fall made a distinctive moment out of an otherwise boring commute. Call me a sap if you wish, but I was—dare I say it?—moved. Remarkable, I know. The next lonesome morning drive I take, I’ll put on The Album Leaf again. It’s not often that a good album can make such an impression upon first listen.

~ J.M.


The new year seems as good a time as any to start listening to a band who titled their latest album Rebuilding Year. Bridge and Tunnel, hailing from New York and presumably named after a colloquialism for Manhattan commuters, is made up of former members of punk act Latterman. They seem to have given up Latterman’s catchy (albeit relatively standard) punk-pop sounds for a more aggressive indie rock/alternative approach, which I’m completely in favor of. Rebuilding Year, released in 2011, draws comparisons to bands like At The Drive-In, Cursive, Recover, and Sparta, and the album’s often chanted or shouted—rather than sung—vocals bring to mind fellow New-Englanders mewithoutYou and Thursday.

Sparta fans would probably also like Bridge and Tunnel’s previous release, 2008’s East/West. If I didn’t know better, I’d think some of the tracks on that record were unreleased Sparta b-sides; the vocals are less harsh and more dreamy than those on Rebuilding Year, many times sounding almost exactly like Jim Ward. East/West also boasts more math-rock guitar parts in the vein of Maps & Atlases or Minus the Bear. An indier Sparta paired with math-rock guitar? Sounds like a winning combination to me.

Rebuilding Year, though, leaves out the math-rock for the most part and tends to highlight the gruff vocal attack, giving an interesting punk twist (likely thanks to the members’ old Latterman days) to an indie rock record. And I don’t mean coffee-shop/70s-bicycle-riding/Marlboro-smoking/humanity-is-so-dumb-but-I’m-really-smart indie rock. I mean crafty electric guitar-based full-band indie rock with a punch. The band includes lighter moments that balance out the punchy parts well—check out the smooth beginning of “From Parasite to Host” or just about all of the last track, “Crooked Books.”

The music on Rebuilding Year is definitely not what I expected when I happened upon this group. From the deceiving album artwork to the yelling to the occasional charmingly-sung moments, Bridge and Tunnel kept me on my toes as I absorbed their sound, and they have successfully won themselves a new fan thanks to this record. They have a surprisingly large catalog—two full-lengths, a split CD, and a couple of EPs—for a band that doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. More to check out, I suppose. Overall, a rewarding and recommended listen.

~ J.M.