Saturday, December 26, 2015

Elliott: False Cathedrals [2000] — Album Review

Chris Higdon: Vocals, Guitar
Jay Palumbo: Guitar
Jonathan Mobley: Bass
Kevin Ratterman: Drums, Piano
Produced by Tobias Miller

1. Voices – 1:07
2. Calm Americans – 4:25
3. Blessed by Your Own Ghost – 5:01
4. Drive on to Me – 3:27
5. Calvary Song – 5:14
6. Lipstick Stigmata – 4:50
7. Dying Midwestern – 5:28
8. Shallow Like Your Breath – 4:30
9. Superstitions in Travel – 4:12
10. Carving Oswego – 4:30
11. Lie Close – 3:51
12. Speed of Film – 4:35
Total Runtime: 51:04

First, Merry Christmas everyone! And if you don't celebrate Christmas, then Happy Haunnakah, Happy Holidays, etc. I hope everyone's having a great holiday season. Now onto the review!
Elliott is one of the most criminally overlooked bands of all time, if not the most. And their second album, False Cathedrals is the best emo album of all time. Better than Clarity, better than Something to Write Home About, better than Through Being Cool, better than Pinkerton. False Cathedrals is a straight masterpiece. Anyway, enough gushing. Time for the review.
False Cathedrals opens with "Voices", a minute-long track of the sounds of people in a cathedral, with some piano in there. "Voices" bleeds into "Calm Americans", which is honestly one of the best songs ever written. Chris Higdon's voice is absolutely perfect. The keys, they're perfect. The guitars? Perfect too. There is nothing flawed about "Calm Americans". It transitions into "Blessed by Your Own Ghost", which is probably the weakest song on the record, but that's not saying much. Again, Higdon's voice is stellar.
Next is "Drive on to Me", another excellent song. More pop-punky than Elliott is used to, but amazing nonetheless.
"Calvary Song", which is one of the first Elliott songs I'd heard (the version on Songs in a Transit Wind), and it's got some stellar lyrics and vocalism, and again the instruments just mesh so well.
"Lipstick Stigmata", "Dying Midwestern", and "Shallow Like Your Breath" are all classics, and make a strong middle section for the record. "Superstitions in Travel" is a great song, Higdon trying something new with the vocals.
"Carving Oswego" (pronounced ahs•wē•gō) again has stellar lyrics and some epic guitar work. "Lie Close" does some experimenting with the guitar sound, and it sounds awesome. Probably my favorite song on FC.
And we close with "Speed of Film", an amazing closer and great song in general.
Overall, False Cathedrals hits every mark it aims for, and all of Elliott should be proud. It's honestly saddening that Elliott broke up in 2004, because I've heard from many people across the internet that their live shows were the best way to experience the band. Chris Higdon, if you're reading this, please release another album with Frontier(s) or get Elliott back together. I'm sure there are plenty of people willing to help Elliott with a reunion tour.

Voices: 10/10
Calm Americans: 10/10
Blessed by Your Own Ghost: 9/10
Drive onto Me: 10/10
Calvary Song: 10/10
Lipstick Stigmata: 9/10
Dying Midwestern: 10/10
Shallow Like Your Breath: 9/10
Superstitions in Travel: 10/10
Carving Oswego: 10/10
Lie Close: 10/10
Speed of Film: 10/10

Subtotal: 117/120
Bonus Points:
A+ Guitar Work: +2
Total: 119/120
Score: 9.9 Near-Perfect

Genres: Emo, Indie Rock, Alternative

Last Review: The Heart is a Monster by Failure
Next Week's Review: Unravelling by We Were Promised Jetpacks
Next Elliott Review: U.S. Songs

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Failure: The Heart is a Monster [2015] — Album Review

Ken Andrews: Lead Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Programming
Greg Edwards: Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Kellii Scott: Drums, Percussion
Produced by Failure

1. Segue 4 – 1:07
2. Hot Traveler – 4:51
3. A.M. Amnesia – 4:50
4. Snow Angel – 3:32
5. Atom City Queen – 3:57
6. Segue 5 – 1:21
7. Counterfeit Sky – 4:46
8. Petting the Carpet – 4:49
9. Mulholland Drive – 4:32
10. Fair Light Era – 3:08
11. Segue 6 – 1:14
12. Come Crashing – 4:01
13. Segue 7 – 1:08
14. The Focus – 3:35
15. Otherwhere – 3:22
16. Segue 8 – 1:59
17. I Can See Houses – 6:33
18. Segue 9 – 4:07
Total Runtime: 1:02:52

Do you remember 19 years ago? Probably not. I wasn't even alive 19 years ago. Well, The Heart is a Monster is Failure's long-awaited follow-up to 1996's Fantastic Planet, released 19 years later, in 2015. Most bands don't even last that long, forget get back together and actually release new material after that amount of time.
The Heart is a Monster opens with our first of several instrumental interludes ("segues", pronounced like Segway), "Segue 4", continuing the numbering from Fantastic Planet. In sharp contrast to Fantastic Planet, though, The Heart is a Monster has 6 segues, whereas Fantastic Planet only had 3. "Segue 4" is a spacey lead-in for "Hot Traveler", and does its job. Speaking of that, "Hot Traveler" has some really cool guitar at the start. And throughout. This was. The first actual song I'd heard by Failure. This is definitely a great song to start on. "Hot Traveler" definitely gives the rest of the album some solid footing. Next is "A.M. Amnesia", which, with its soaring vocals (for Andrews, anyway) and continued amazing guitar, is definitely a great follower for "Hot Traveler".
"Snow Angel" slows things down a bit, and lays out a solid tune.
I've been waiting for this one. "Atom City Queen" is freaking amazing. The opening guitar is epic. Friggin' excellent. The best part is when Andrews sings along with it. It's freakin' magical. We leave "Atom City" via "Segue 5", which sounds nice and does a good job connecting "Atom City" and "Counterfeit Sky". "Counterfeit Sky" is another atmosphere-heavy tune, with swelling guitar and booming bass kicks. "Petting the Carpet" is a nice song which leads to the ethereal "Mulholland Drive", with very atmospheric instrumentalism. "Fair Light Era" is also really good with the atmosphere, though it slightly misses its mark, but is great nonetheless. "Segue 6" gives off some feeling of isolation, and then a synth comes in to give you some company again.

"Come Crashing" is another ethereal number, like "Mulholland Drive", but not as slow. "Segue 7" breaks out the acoustic guitar and some keys, which sound perfect together.
"The Focus" and "Otherwhere" bring back the attention-demanding guitar and overall sound. "The Focus" keeps to the heavy side, and "Otherwhere" returns the spacey guitar riffs. "Segue 8" just brings out the feeling of space and feeling larger than life, a perfect intro to our closer, "I Can See Houses", which, I have to admit, isn't a very good closer. "I Can See Houses" is kinda boring, and drags on after a while. Afterwards, "Segue 9" descends the album into its twilight, and we end here.
Overall, The Heart is a Monster is an amazing album, even if it has its flaws. Failure are a very talented band and I look forward to what comes next.

Segue 4: 8/10
Hot Traveler: 10/10
A.M. Amnesia: 9/10
Snow Angel: 7/10
Atom City Queen: 10/10
Segue 5: 7/10
Counterfeit Sky: 8/10
Petting the Carpet: 8/10
Mulholland Drive: 8/10
Fair Light Era: 7/10
Segue 6: 7/10
Come Crashing: 8/10
Segue 7: 8/10
The Focus: 9/10
Otherwhere: 9/10
Segue 8: 8/10
I Can See Houses: 5/10
Segue 9: 7/10

Subtotal: 143/180
Bonus Points:
A+ Guitar Work: +2
Quantity & Quality!: +2
Total: 147/180
Score: 8.2 Excellent

Genres: Alternative Rock, Space Rock

Last Week's Review: Through Being Cool by Saves the Day
Next Review: False Cathedrals by Elliott
Next Failure Review: Fantastic Planet

Friday, December 11, 2015

Real Friends: Put Yourself Back Together [2013] — EP Review

Dan Lambton: Vocals
Dave Knox: Guitar
Eric Haines: Guitar
Kyle Fasel: Bass
Brian Blake: Drums

1. Late Nights in My Car – 3:22
2. Skin Deep – 3:02
3. Dead – 3:17
4. Dirty Water – 2:29
5. I've Given Up on You – 2:44
6. Old and All Alone – 3:16
7. Lost Boy – 3:11
Total Runtime: 21:17

Put Yourself Back Together is actually Real Friends' sixth release. It's also not on a label—completely self-released. Plus, the spine of the digipack has the title read from bottom to top instead of top to bottom like every other CD ever (I had to mention that.). For some relatively unknowns in Middle of Nowhere, Illinois, this is some pretty good stuff.
Put Yourself Back Together opens with Real Friends' first real "big" hit, "Late Nights in My Car", which definitely earned its popularity. "Late Nights" is a really good song. Next is "Skin Deep", which is another good track. The lyrics here really have their heart on their sleeve, and the guitars are quite intricate.
"Dead" has one kick-ass chorus, not to mention some great guitar work and drum work. "Dirty Water" has a chorus a bit on the boring side, but the guitars are nice.
"I've Given Up on You" is an acoustic effort, which is slow and a little boring. There's not much to it.
"Old and All Alone" brings back the familiar electric guitars, and the lyrics are again very well-written. We close on "Lost Boy", with some more stellar lyricism and guitar work.
Overall, Put Yourself Back Together is a great effort from a band with a lot of potential.

Late Nights in My Car: 8/10
Skin Deep: 7/10
Dead: 8/10
Dirty Water: 6/10
I've Given Up on You: 5/10
Old and All Alone: 6/10
Lost Boy: 8/10

Subtotal: 48/70
Bonus Points:
Total: 48/70
Score: 6.9 Very Good

Genres: Pop-Punk, Emo

Last EP Review: 1998 EP by Jimmy Eat World
Next EP Review: [Christmas Break]
Next Real Friends Review: Maybe This Place is the Same and We're Just Changing

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Saves the Day: Through Being Cool [1999] — Album Review

Chris Conley: Vocals
Vocal Era: Through Being Cool
Dave Soloway: Guitar
Eben D’Amico: Bass
Ted Alexander: Guitar
Bryan Newman: Drums
Produced by Steve Evetts

1. All-Star Me – 1:44
2. You Vandal – 2:28
3. Shoulder to the Wheel – 3:20
4. Rocks Tonic Juice Magic – 3:28
5. Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots – 2:38
6. Third Engine – 3:40
7. My Sweet Fracture – 3:52
8. The Vast Spoils of America (From the Badlands Through the Ocean) – 3:08
9. The Last Lie I Told – 2:24
10. Do You Know What I Love the Most? – 1:35
11. Through Being Cool – 2:04
12. Banned from the Back Porch – 3:00
Total Runtime: 33:31

Saves the Day's sophomore release, and the release that gave them a footing in the genre where they'd become a huge influence—Through Being Cool is a staple not only in StD and Conley's career, TBC is a staple in music itself (or at least it should be), and was the main catalyst for third wave emo.
TBC begins with an upbeat, catchy opener, "All-Star Me", which sets the tone for the lighter tracks on the album. Next we have fan favorite "You Vandal", which with its heavy guitars starts out a heavier song. Conley's lyrical imagery shines much better here than on Can't Slow Down. "Shoulder to the Wheel" returns to the upbeat without breaking flow, and bangs out another solid track. "Rocks Tonic Juice Magic", one of the more popular tracks off TBC, contains dark, somewhat horrific imagery, with lines like "And if not I'll take my spoons/Dig out your blue eyes/Swallow them down to my colon/Gonna burn like hell tonight". The guitars compliment the vocals perfectly.
"Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots" is next, returning to the upbeat, which is basically the pattern for the majority of the album, but it works well because unlike most other bands, the tone of the song doesn't affect the tone of the instruments, but they don't clash—Saves the Day are experts with album flow. "Holly Hox" opens with some killer drums, and lays down another great track. "Third Engine" and "My Sweet Fracture", which will forever be a double-track in my mind, are another heartfelt song followed by heartbreak. Conley's masterful lyricism continues to shine with lyrics such as "Could you tell me the next time that you're choking?/'Cause I'll rush right over/To shove some dirt right down your throat" in "My Sweet Fracture". Written by Dave Soloway, and debatably the weakest song on the album (though, that's not saying much), track eight is "The Vast Spoils of America (From the Badlands Through the Ocean)". The guitars are a little boring and the vocals aren't Conley's best.
"The Last Lie I Told", one of the shorter songs, along with "Do You Know What I Love the Most?" (which was written by Ted Alexander), have more interesting guitars and the vocals are great. Our title track, "Through Being Cool" is also among the shorter tracks, at only two minutes and four seconds, but it gets its point across. Conley's dark imagery returns with lines like "The next time you see Nick/Tell him I'm gonna stick some needles in his face". Our closer is "Banned from the Back Porch", with the heaviest guitars on the entire album. Conley's imagery isn't dark, but is just as vivid as ever.
Overall, Through Being Cool is an amazing album, and definitely one of the best sophomore albums of any band.

All-Star Me: 8/10
You Vandal: 9/10
Shoulder to the Wheel: 8/10
Rocks Tonic Juice Magic: 10/10
Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots: 8/10
Third Engine: 9/10
My Sweet Fracture: 9/10
The Vast Spoils of America (From the Badlands Through the Ocean): 6/10
The Last Lie I Told: 7/10
Do You Know What I Love the Most?: 8/10
Through Being Cool: 9/10
Banned from the Back Porch: 10/10

Subtotal: 101/120
Bonus Points:
Killer Choruses: +2
Total: 103/120
Score: 8.6 Excellent
Genres: Pop-Punk, Emo, Melodic Hardcore

Last Week's Review: The Artist in the Ambulance by Thrice
Next Week's Review: The Heart is a Monster by Failure
Next Saves the Day Review: Stay What You Are (hooray!)