Monthly Archives: July 2013

You Should Know…Evan Weiss

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by Vasilis, contributing writer

At a show earlier this year at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory (opening up for Matt Pryor and James DeWees of The Get Up Kids/Reggie and the Full Effect), Evan Weiss performed his set in an unfamiliar position: standing up. Holding nothing but his acoustic guitar, the burly, bearded singer-songwriter announced to the crowd that after seeing the scale hit 200 for the first time, his “new year’s resolution” was to lose weight. One of the ways he wanted to do this was to stand up instead of taking his familiar pose of sitting down while angrily strumming away at his acoustic guitar. The funny and friendly musician has made a habit out of inviting his audience into his life during his live shows with his hilarious, embarrassing and informative stories from his life and experiences, and he has always been one to let it all hang out and hide nothing from the crowd.

While he changed his guitar-playing stance, one thing certainly has not changed for the talented musician: his tireless work ethic. Evan Weiss fans can always expect new music, and it’s one of the most rewarding aspects of listening to him. Not only does he churn out song after song and album after album, but all of them are relatable, dynamic and wonderfully crafted. 2013 has seen perhaps his biggest crop of production yet, as Weiss is currently writing and recording music for FOUR different bands simultaneously: Stay Ahead of the Weather, Into It. Over It., Their / They’re / There, and Pet Symmetry.

What always strikes me is the fact that each band has its own distinct sound, yet each new album, EP, 7”, or song adheres to that particular band’s structure and never crosses over to another. To balance so many competing styles and collaborative efforts with different members is commendable and impressive. Just as impressive is the fact that Weiss is only 28 years old, yet has crafted a lengthy musical resume that most would love to have at the end of their career. Weiss had previously found himself in several bands, most notably with Damiera, The Progress, and Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start before making a name for himself.

While struggling to make a living, Evan Weiss embarked on what can best be described as an ambitious solo project under the moniker “Into It. Over It.” He planned to record one song a week for an entire year. The 52-song double disc album, aptly titled 52 Weeks, showcased his clever, insightful, and relatable lyrics and his varying influences, ranging from punk to indie to emo. Though it featured its fair share of misses, the album was a strong debut showing, featuring some of his most popular songs, including “Anchor” and “Pinky Swear”. It was well received and became the catalyst for the project to become his full-time occupation. Since then, he’s released Twelve Towns, a collection of songs from 7” and EPs detailing past experiences in 12 different towns, and his first proper full length LP, appropriately named PROPER.

But 2013 might be the most intense year the singer-songwriter has ever put himself through. He already has plans to release his second full-length under Into It. Over It. in the fall with popular independent label Triple Crown Records. In addition, he is in the process of writing a follow-up EP for his older, punk rock side project Stay Head of the Weather. The group released a five-song EP titled “We Better Get Goin’ If We’re Gonna” in 2010 and played only a handful of shows, yet still acquired a big enough following that people will request their songs at Evan Weiss’s solo Into It. Over It shows (and on occasion, he will break out the SAOTW song “No Sleep ‘Til Humboldt”). The group recently released their first new song “No Money, Mo Problems” on a 12” split with The Wonder Years called “Punk Is Dead. Get a Job.” The release only sparked the speculation and the desire for more music.

You’d think two bands would be enough, but Evan Weiss has also become a pivotal part of two new emo revival bands that have quickly risen up and released two of the better EPs of 2013. He plays bass, sings, and writes for Their / They’re / There, a band he formed with emo legend Mike Kinsella (of American Football, Cap’N Jazz, and Owen), leading to the release of their stellar debut six-song self-titled EP earlier this year. He also writes and sings for the band Pet Symmetry, who released a 2-song EP and another song on a split with the band Dikembe. They are currently on their first U.S. tour, which stopped late last week in Massachusetts, New York, and Long Island. The group is also tracking songs for their first full-length LP. Tired yet? Well Evan Weiss sure isn’t, because he is also producing the 2nd full-length LP for emo revival band “You Blew It!”, just another one of his many talents.

With so much recording, writing, producing, and touring, it’s safe to wonder how Evan Weiss does it and yet brings out a consistently solid quality across all these platforms. With so much music, it’s safe to label Evan Weiss as one of the most prolific songwriters in music today. In the fall, he returns to the road in support of Saves The Day to promote his new Into It. Over It full-length. If you’re a fan of Evan Weiss or just a casual observer and admirer, 2013 is the year to pick up some of his music and get on board. The train isn’t stopping, it’s only picking up steam.

You can check out Evan’s Nervous Energies session where he plays “Humbolt” acoustically by clicking here.

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Midyear Roundup Part Three

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by Cherie, contributing writer and editor

It’s hard to believe the year is already half over. So much new music has been released already, and much more is yet to come, and it is to my chagrin that I realize how little of it I have listened to thus far. I’ve stuck with my favorite artists and bands for the most part, though a few new ones have snuck in. Most of the albums that made my top list for the midyear roundup won’t surprise anyone who knows me well, though there are some new favorites on here as well.

Tape Deck Heart – Frank Turner

When I asked Vas to contribute to this article, I knew without asking that Frank Turner would be on both our lists. Vas is the one who introduced me to Frank Turner in the first place, and once I started listening to him I fell in love. Frank Turner’s newest release, Tape Deck Heart, is an amazing album and in my opinion, his finest work to date (though that’s saying something since all his work is solid). Frank Turner might have started out as a solo artist, but his backing band has solidified over the years to become the Sleeping Souls (the name of the band itself is drawn from the lyrics of one of Frank’s songs, “I Am Disappeared”). Despite the presence of the Sleeping Souls on Frank’s last album, Tape Deck Heart is the first album that sounds like it was written and developed as a full band. Its sound is fuller and more solid then on previous albums, where the backing band was more of an afterthought.

One might say that Tape Deck Heart is a breakup album, something that Frank has been honest about all along. Track after track presents an emotional slap to the face. It’s raw, it’s honest and it’s unapologetic. Perhaps that’s what makes it so utterly relatable. Anyone who’s ever had a relationship go bad can relate to Turner’s lyrics, whether that relationship was romantic or not. “Goddamn it Amy / well of course I’ve changed / with all the things I’ve done and the places I’ve been / I’d be a machine if I had stayed the same. / You’re still back where we started / you haven’t changed at all” he sings on the devastatingly raw “Tell Tale Signs.” Some criticize the album for being too melancholic, and lacking the hope and uplifting spirit of previous albums but the hope is still there if you look hard enough. In what quickly became one of my favorite tracks, “Polaroid Picture”, he reminds us that “everything changes” so we should“let go of the little distractions / hold close to the ones that you love.” It’s a simple concept but one that so many of us forget each day.

Favorite tracks: Recovery, Tell Tale Signs, Broken Piano

Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend

It’s been three years since Vampire Weekend released their hit album Contra. They began working on their next record in 2011 but the release date kept getting pushed back on the band until it was finally released in May 2013. The album experiments with auto tune on several tracks, most noticeably “Diane Young” and “Ya Hey.” I personally don’t understand the appeal that playing around with auto tune can have for artist, but as long as the auto tune is used creatively and not as a crutch for poor vocal performances I don’t really have a problem with it. “Unbelievers” sounds like a throwback to their earlier albums while still maintaining a more polished sound. It’s the perfect summer album. My advice to anyone who hasn’t listened to it yet is this. Go for a drive on a warm day, roll the window down and crank the volume. Ezra’s vocals shine through on the slower songs and the faster songs are guaranteed to put you in great mood as you dance along unconsciously.

Favorite tracks: Obvious Bicycle, Ya Hey, Diane Young

Once I Was an Eagle – Laura Marling

There’s not much that I can add about Laura Marling’s latest album that I haven’t already said in my review last month. Marling’s talent is undeniable and her latest album is nothing short of a masterpiece. She’s been compared from everyone to Dylan to Joni Mitchell and yet she crafts a sound that is uniquely her own all the same. Once I Was an Eagle might be her darkest album yet, but there’s hope in it all the same. It shows a level of growth and artistry that builds on her previous albums. I still find it hard to express why I love this album so much. It’s a flawless album from beginning to end and the sheer mastery of its execution baffles and delights me. I continue to be blown away by the sheer amount of talent and work ethic Marling possesses.

Favorite tracks: Devil’s Resting Place, Undine, I Was an Eagle

Honorable mentions:

Heart of Nowhere – Noah and the Whale. I haven’t had as much of a chance to listen to this as I would have liked, but just a few listens in I already love it. The violin parts, performed by Tom Hobden, have long been one of my favorite highlights of a Noah and a Whale record, and this remains true with this album.

Heartthrob – Tegan and Sara. I’m still amazed that Tegan and Sara are seven records into their careers and with every new release they give us something completely different. It’s not so much that they reinvent themselves, rather its more like they aren’t content to stay in one easily defined label. Their latest record is heavily pop based with a throwback feel to it.

If You Leave – Daughter. Elena Tonra creates hauntingly beautiful yet simple melodies. Her debut album features a few songs from her earlier EPs but most of the tracks are brand new. Its a solid debut album.

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Midyear Musical Roundup – Part Two

by Ryan, contributing writer

The frantic search for my overall recommendations for the first half of 2013 ended well, I think. I’ve got a lot of (sort of) new artists mixed in with a group that I’ve been a big fan of for years. I scrolled along the Wikipedia page of new releases in the first half of this year until I came along an entry that took me by surprise. I saw the name “Hugh Laurie” tucked in there and, naturally, I clicked the link. I was sure it wasn’t that Hugh Laurie, but I was wrong. The man that plays Doctor House does, in fact, make music. I followed this up with a conversation with a lady-friend in Vermont who recommended that I listen to “steve ummm shoot last name cant remember”. We figured out that it was Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) and I went to check out some of his tunes. Naturally, I was drawn in and fell in love with the music. (Side note: Steve Martin’s Twitter feed is hilarious.)

These recommendations are slightly biased toward things I would listen to in the sunshine (something that’s been lacking in Rhode Island lately). Hopefully these tunes will bring on some decent summer weather instead of heatwaves that alternate with week-long showers.

   

Like I said, I was really surprised when I saw Hugh Laurie on the list of artists that have released albums this year. What’s even more surprising is that he’s particularly adept at singing the blues and playing the guitar. On his latest album, Didn’t It Rain, he takes us on a journey through the musical styles of the American South. He doesn’t just touch on musical styles, however. He grabs these genres (R&B, soul, jazz) and dives straight into what makes them beautiful to listen to. Blending his own talents with the vocal and instrumental prowess of other artists such as Gaby Moreno, Jean McClain, Taj Mahal, and the Copper Bottom Band.

    The musical styles of the American South blend together seamlessly between tracks. One minute you’re listening to a blues track (Junker’s Blues, track two) and then you’re listening to a woman serenade you in Spanish (Kiss of Fire, track three). It all happens so suddenly that you’re caught wondering how he slipped all of this together. With the musical changes, Laurie’s vocal style changed considerably throughout the album. You don’t hear any of his English accent (presumably from years of honing his American accent as Doctor House). He can croon a jazz number (One for My Baby) and make you feel the pain only a woman can make a man feel through the blues (Unchain My Heart).

    If you’re familiar with my other reviews, you’ll know that I like to give each album a place and time that it would sound best and give it a theatrical setting where it would be most at home. Why? Because that’s the way my mind works. I’m very visual like that. Anyway… This album has a great depth and variety to it that makes it hard to pin down exactly where it would fit best, but I think that a lot of these tracks (especially the ones with female lead vocals such as Kiss of Fire and The Weed Smoker’s Dream) would be most appropriate in a dimly lit basement bar or jazz club. Grab a woman in a long dress and ask her to dance. As for the songs with Hugh or another male lead vocal (predominantly the blues tracks), I’d recommend you listen to these on a hot summer day. Grab yourself a lemonade, sit on your porch or in your sitting room and tap your foot to these tunes with a couple of friends.

 

    Steve Martin (that Steve Martin) has paired up with Edie Brickell to create a great album. I don’t think I have the appropriate knowledge to make a judgment on what genre this music is (whether it falls into folk, bluegrass, or what-have-you), but with my (also sparse) experience with bluegrass, it’s much slower than what you would usually hear with a bluegrass-heavy group. With bands such as Crooked Still, you have a whole band that plays regularly on the tracks. In this album, the banjo takes center stage alongside the vocal work of Edie Brickell (who has a wonderful voice). This slower, almost stripped down, approach to bluegrass/folk music still offers up energetic tracks (such as Get Along Stray Dog), but there are also some slower tunes to be heard on the album (such as King of Boys).

    As this is my first foray into the work of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, I’m pleasantly surprised that such a popular actor can team up with musicians and produce something so beautiful. It’s something that makes you feel like you’re in the heartland of America during simpler times. Honestly, I don’t have too much else to say about this album, except that you should grab yourself a copy and listen to it while you’re taking a lazy drive down some back-roads.

 

    Now, Coheed and Cambria have been one of my favorite bands since I was in high-school. The blend of music and story really spurred me on as a younger man to explore creative outlets (particularly writing). Seeing how the story unfolds in the lyrics and the extra story material that the band releases in interviews and comic books is truly an amazing thing. However, I don’t think that their latest endeavors (The Afterman double album) have been released in comic form, so it’s a little hard to pick apart how the story flows together with just the lyrics. However, with the power of the internet, I got a vague idea about the story within the second album, The Afterman: Descension (the 2013 follow-up to The Afterman: Ascension released in 2012). I don’t want to give away the story, but the basic gist of the second album involves the cosmonaut Sirius Amory trying to escape the Keywork (a network of energy that connects a system of 78 planets known as Heaven’s Fence). It’s pretty tricky to jump into if you’re not familiar with the story of Coheed’s previous sequence of concept albums collectively known as The Amory Wars and the first album of this sequence (The Afterman: Ascension).

    However, you shouldn’t let the lack of knowledge of the story deter you from listening to the music! Coheed and Cambria’s work as a prog-rock band is nothing short of amazing. Although many would be quick to dismiss the changes that the band has made over the past few years as negative, I see them as being integral parts of the genre. They’re being progressive and mixing stylistic changes within and between albums. As with their previous albums, you’ve got a mix of slow, acoustic tracks that punctuate slower moments of the story (Iron Fist) and punchier hard-rock tracks (Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant and The Hard Sell). All in all, the second half of The Afterman sequence is a great (albeit short) chapter of the story. Blast this one while you’re doing some heavy lifting (it helps me get through my shift while I load freezers with heavy boxes) or when you’re night-driving.

 

Notable Mentions:

 

Bye-Bye Borderline – Zeromancer

Yeezus – Kanye West

Disarm the Descent – Killswitch Engage

Holy Fire – Foals

The Gifted – Wale

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Midyear Musical Roundup – Part One

Imageby Vas, contributing writer

It’s a good thing we didn’t do a top 5, since I have already discussed my 4th and 5th picks (The Front Bottoms and The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, respectively) ad nauseum in my reviews. A special honorable mention goes out to indie pop punk group Mixtapes, who put forth their strongest effort to date with the infectiously catchy and well-crafted Ordinary Silence. Now, on to my top 3:

3) Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart

I wanted to write a full review of British country-folk-punk singer-songwriter Frank Turner’s fifth studio release Tape Deck Heart but I genuinely don’t think I could have done it justice. The album features 18 (that’s right, 18) new tracks from the songwriting machine, who wears his heart on his sleeve on every single one of them. To be able to use language as effectively as Frank Turner does to get his point across and make you live through his experiences is a gift. While 18 songs undoubtedly means there will be a few weaker or fillers on the album, that in no way detracts from how many strong tracks there are. “Recovery” raucously kicks off the album with a chorus reminiscent of “If Ever I Stray”. “Plain Sailing Weather” is the story of losing faith in love woven wonderfully with his masterful lyricism, excellent guitar playing and brilliant contributions from his backing band, “The Sleeping Souls”. His evolution as a musician from his first album to now has been a great ride for his die hard fans, and Tape Deck Heart is just another reward from the hard-working, constantly touring Frank Turner.

2) Streetlight Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve

For the longest time, I (along with any Streetlight fan who is well aware of frontman Tomas Kalnoky’s notorious perfectionism and the group’s long-running feud with their label, Victory Records) thought this album would never see the light of day. Even with the album’s release, Victory refused to give the band the album to the group so they can honor purchases from their site. Luckily, a leak found its way onto the internet (don’t they always) and the band encouraged fans to illegally download it instead of supporting Victory. Though only 10 songs long, the album clocks in at 50 minutes and is an epic adventure through a ska-punk roller coaster that is often unpredictable but never dull. The horn lines, which have always been the group’s strongest suit (the band has one trumpet, one trombone, an alto/baritone sax and a tenor sax) are as blaring and intricate as ever. The drums and bass continue to excel and Tomas displays his knack for witty and scathing lyrics. “The Littlest Things”, “With Any Sort of Certainty”, and “Your Day Will Come” are as memorable as any song the group has ever written and I’m sure fans will forgive their perfectionist attitude and the multitude of delays if this is the result we get. Sadly, the group has announced a touring hiatus following their two New Jersey shows this November, but chances are we haven’t heard the last of this 7-piece Jersey ska outfit.

1) The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation

I think I covered really everything I could possibly say about this album in my review from May 18th. The Greatest Generation, like their past two efforts, was captivating and truly inspiring to listen to in a way very few pop punk bands truly are nowadays. It breaks away from potential problematic clichés with its brutal honesty (both lyrically and musically) and its hopeful optimism. Soupy’s voice has never sounded better and the group’s music has never sounded more passionate, crisper, and more authoritative, as each member is given their moment to shine and grasps it defiantly. From the quieter opener “There, There” to the more pulsing “We Could Die Like This” and the aggressive “Cul-De-Sac”, each track is a journey through growing up, attacking failure and grabbing success in any way that we can. The album closer, “I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral”, is a song three albums in the making, a perfect epilogue to the trilogy about growing up and the start of a whole new chapter in the young group’s already very impressive career.

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