Posts Tagged ‘emo’

jew-damageLet’s be honest with ourselves here—there will never be another Clarity or Bleed American, simply because those records are modern classics, and Jimmy Eat World got older, and so did we. These days, I’m not expecting JEW to put out the next Clarity, because it’s not 1999 anymore, it’s 2013.

That being said, I don’t want them to abandon what made them excellent in the first place. I don’t think they ever completely did, but some of their previous records flirted with it, becoming poppier and more produced than I would have liked.

Damage is the closest Jimmy Eat World has come to returning to their classic emo/alternative rock roots in many years, and it is excellent indeed. The record seems to mix the older stripped-down emo sounds with the Futures-and-onward full-bodied aesthetic. In short, it’s a good mix of the old and new Jimmy Eat World.

Right off the bat, “Appreciation” hits the listener with an organic guitar-based approach that typifies most of Damage. It’s probably thanks to the bare-bones recording-to-tape approach used by producer Alain Johannes, a regular Queens of the Stone Age collaborator. The title track, “Lean,” and “Book of Love” are upbeat, jaunty pop-rock songs. Lead single “I Will Steal You Back” boasts one of the stronger choruses on the album.

“Please Say No” might be the “Hear You Me” of Damage; a gradually-building slow-tempo ballad with deeply personal and specific lyrics. The next two tracks step up the energy—the exceptional “How’d You Have Me” is full of driving guitar and catchy hooks, and “No, Never” is the closest thing to Bleed American/Futures-era Jimmy Eat World I’ve heard the band produce since those records were released.

JEW has always thrived in the open spaces—expansive, mid-tempo rock songs with emotive lyrics from frontman Jim Adkins. The superb “Byebyelove” is a great example: another standout for sure, and one of my favorites. Album closer “You Were Good” is a simple acoustic song that almost sounds like it could have been found on one of JEW’s lesser-known EPs like Firestarter, the self-titled EP, or Stay On My Side Tonight.

Along with guitarist Tom Linton, bassist Rick Burch, and drummer Zach Lind, Adkins has crafted another masterwork here with Jimmy Eat World’s seventh studio full-length. Although the record is rather short—ten tracks, clocking in at just over a half-hour—the band consistently pulls off what they do best: sweet and simple emo-rock songs that stick with you. 2013’s Damage is unexpectedly excellent.

~ J.M.

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.

Mae Destination Beautiful cover artThe year 2003 was a pretty genre-defining year in music – or at least in rock sub-genres.  The Postal Service released their debut album (along with bands like Copeland and The Format), Blink-182 released their self-titled album, and tons of the latest bands we listen to in 2013 were graduating from high school.  And as it just so happens on this particular day (February 25th) back in 2003 Mae released their debut album entitled Destination: Beautiful and showed a bunch of track-jacket-and-Dickies wearing emo kids how to actually have “happy” feelings for once.

I might just be amusing myself, but Mae had brought a new element to emo that I don’t really think was there before Destination: Beautiful – joy.  Before 2003 everyone playing the arguably indefinable genre of “emo” was singing about how sad they were about their feelings, relationships, and parents, but Destination: Beautiful accomplished something a bit different.  Even though these songs appealed to fans of the emo genre of the time, singer/guitarist, Dave Elkins, started singing about finding hope and all things generally uplifting.  Instead of putting marks on your wrist, Mae’s debut album would leave smiles on your face.

Mae starts off almost slow with the fan favorite “Embers and Envelopes.”  The song does a really good job of defining Mae’s signature sound for the rest of the album; spacey emo, distorted and palm muted guitars, catchy choruses, and keen drumming abilities provided throughout the album by the ever technical Jacob Marshell.  “This Time Is The Last Time” is a true measure of the album’s ability to be dynamic as it starts with an acoustic guitar melody, moves into a booming chorus, and finishes out with the same acoustic guitar.  The next track, “All Deliberate Speed,” is quite possibly my favorite track on the entire album.  The low bass and background harmonies that show up every now and then are almost eerie for such a generally cheery song.  I really think the drummer in me loves the technical rhythms between the guitars and drums, and the bass drum to hi-hat build until the end makes me levitate in my chair.  “Runaway” has most likely the catchiest chorus on the album.  “Sun” provides a change of pace (but only sort of, if that makes any sense) for the middle of the album with its piano ballad outro serving as a kind of album-interlude.  Also a favorite of mine, “Last Call” features the tight and packy snare that was a part of the trademark early 00’s punk/emo drummers.  The song “Skyline Drive” was written with Elkins’ previous band, Sky’s The Limit, and (if the album even has one) might serve as the album’s ballad.  With its poppy chorus and matching guitar and synth riff during the bridge and outro, I can see “Soundtrack For Our Movie” being poppy enough to air time on radio back in 2003, though it sadly never got the chance.  Easily the hardest track off Destination: Beautiful, “Summertime” provides my favorite outro on the release.  For all of you drumming aficionado OBR readers; notice how the snare sounds different compared to the other tracks, it’s warmer and has a kind of looser attack.  Finally, the album ends with the fittingly huge, uplifting, and appropriately named “Goodbye, Goodnight.”

Destination: Beautiful references driving and the sky in quite possibly every song.  Elkins has even mentioned before that around the time of writing songs for the album he would “gather [his] thoughts and eventually turn those thoughts into lyrics” during his long drives as a commuting student in college.  Having commuted to school for a year, I have to say, Dave Elkins crushed the nail on the head.  Destination: Beautiful is great album to listen to while driving or sailing or flying… or wearing that blue Starting Line t-shirt with a three leaf clover on it that is too small for you like it’s 2003.

~ D.B.

Sprrws

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.

As a longtime fan of Dashboard Confessional, and one who isn’t a 16-year-old girl, I’ve heard my share of ignorant comments, often followed by a prolonged groan:

“Dashboard? That’s that whiny tattooed guy, isn’t it? Ugghh.”

“That guy’s such a wimp. Let’s go cry ourselves to sleep. Ugghh.”

“That emo gasbag! Ugghh.”

What do all of these comments have in common, aside from being completely half-witted and irrelevant? They all focus on Dashboard’s frontman, Chris Carrabba. When people think of Dashboard Confessional, they picture Chris. With his doe-eyed good looks and fancy tattoo sleeves, Carrabba tends to steal the show—and there’s no question that Dashboard Confessional would be nothing without him. I would submit, however, that Chris’s teen-heart-melting presence tends to overshadow the people behind him—people who definitely deserve some limelight, especially Dashboard’s drummer, Mike Marsh.

Say what you want about Dashboard’s “emo” (whatever that means) roots and Chris Carrabba’s shrill ruminations on relationships. But please, never—NEVER, dear OBR readers—question the skill or professionalism of one of my favorite drummers, Mike Marsh. I would contend he remains one of the most underrated and underappreciated drummers in all of rock music. As a drummer myself, I think I have at least a little prerequisite to tell you how good he is. I apologize in advance if I start “nerding out” about drum stuff that no one understands.

Mike Marsh 1

Talented, professional, good loo–I mean, nice guy.

Let us begin with one of the first Dashboard songs I ever heard, “As Lovers Go.” It begins with the drum part, unaccompanied at first by guitars or vocals. As a young, naïve drummer, I was blown away: a jazz-style pattern in this music? More than a simple straight eighth-note beat on the ride cymbal? Don’t even get me started on the ghost notes on the snare or the hi-hat work in the pre-choruses. This stuff was revolutionary to 14-year-old me, and it remains just as impressive now as it was back then.

Go back even further, to the first Dashboard album I ever owned—2001’s The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most. Songs like “Saints and Sailors” and “Again I Go Unnoticed” wouldn’t be nearly as effective without the solid drum tracks bolstering them. In fact, the latter track has a purely acoustic rendering on The Swiss Army Romance album, and it falls miles short of Places’s version, if you ask me. Marsh’s quick drumming in the song drives the track along with energy and muscle.

In later Dashboard albums—2006’s Dusk and Summer and onward—Marsh has developed a wonderful minimalist style, letting his simple but solid beats and consistently high-quality drum sounds speak for themselves. Take mega-hit “Stolen” as an example; yeah, yeah, it’s a radio pop song, essentially, but I don’t care. Listen to that drum track! The way Marsh rations the bass drum during the verses, and only introduces the hi-hat afterwards, shows an incredible patience and musicality.

The minimalism continues: Dashboard’s most recent album, Alter the Ending, features Marsh’s tasteful percussion throughout. “Everybody Learns from Disaster” demonstrates Marsh maintaining a simple four-on-the-floor beat with the bass drum while playing some nice hi-hat parts over top of it. If you’re a real geek, check out the snare roll that takes Marsh out of the first chorus into the next verse. The beautiful little maneuver happens at the one-minute mark in the song. Perfection!

Alright, I’ll stop. There are plenty more examples—I could go on and on. If you don’t feel like listening to these songs, all one really needs to do is check out Dashboard’s performance of “Hands Down” on Letterman to see the power and energy Marsh contributes to the band. Ignore Chris’s silly haircut. Why, look, a convenient link!

Don’t dismiss Dashboard’s other members, either—I bet you didn’t know that talented bassist Scott Schoenbeck was a longtime member of legendary 90’s emo group The Promise Ring. Dashboard guitarist John Lefler is irreplaceable, and has a burgeoning solo career to showcase his musical prowess. And of course, our friend Chris deserves plenty of credit for his own guitar and songwriting skills. The point? Keep those silly comments to yourselves, Dashboard hecklers, and give some credit where credit is due! Especially to the talented and underappreciated Mike Marsh.

~ J.M.