I’m moving down to University this weekend, so I wanted to put together another submissions post before doing so, just so I don’t end up a few weeks behind whenever I settle in. Moving south shouldn’t change too much on here, and I’ll still be posting fairly regularly, so if you’d like to send anything over for consideration then please feel free – there are a few ways to do so on my contact page.
Bad Luck – Cold Bones (Album) If there was a checklist of things essential in a good punk rock song then Bad Luck would be scoring A’s by the end of the opening track on their reworked debut album Cold Bones, which has recently been released through Tragic Hero Records, home to the likes of A Skylit Drive, Finch and He Is Legend. There’s an element of hardcore to each of these artists, and there’s certainly a gritty edge to Cold Bones which sees the band blend in with their labelmates whilst favouring a more pop-punk take on a heavier sound. There’s some brief screaming on Threat Level Midnight (kudos for that song title), but for the most part Bad Luck’s debut merges a lighter, upbeat sound with a spiked edge and some great lyrics which fall within the pop-punk bell curve – expects songs about hometowns, friends and females, with token Mayday Parade-like acoustic song Lantern Park a brilliantly executed but slightly clichéd open letter penned by vocalist Dominick Fox, who spins relatable tales about his past throughout his band’s record, which hints at a very bright future. Bad Luck shift between a number of genres seamlessly, and their debut is pleasingly accessible; it’ll appeal to a spectrum of fans, and it helps that the music as a whole is generally pretty great. It’s packed full of hooks, memorable lines and solid instrumentation, traversing any soundscape it conjures with relevant ease. It’s seriously catchy; there’s some great choruses littered throughout (Graphic Novel(s), Wooden Townhouse) and the whole things is as convincing and enjoyable as it gets. Willoughby, the opening song I mentioned at the start of this short review immediately kicks things off with a relatable winner, beginning with the lines ‘Nobody wants me back, nobody loves me at all, I will be dying alone’ and ending with a verse of gang vocals which is basically the entire pop-punk attitude congested into a few lines, setting the tone for the record. Sandwiched between these two strong moments is an equally strong track, showcasing an enthusiastic down-but-not-out vibe, spirited and energetic before a brilliant final minute really raises the bar. I Wish The World Would End (Every Jan 10th) surges along, featuring some of the harshest vocals on the record, messy in a fashion which works well with lyrics which suggest everything isn’t okay as Fox yells ‘‘I’ve been bitter towards this, I’ve been better off’ before trailing off in a way reminiscent of Taking Back Sunday’s Ghost Man On Third. The record as a whole does borrow from this early 2000 crossover sound, and I can appreciate the similarities; in a sense Cold Bones is quite unique in that the bands message is familiar but it’s delivered in a way that stands apart slightly from the more modern bands, if that makes sense. It’s a nostalgia trip, both sonically and lyrically. It doesn’t always play it safe despite a few forgettable tracks, and it’s a release I’d definitely recommend, as much as I’d recommend keeping an eye on Bad Luck, there’s plenty here to suggest that the band could very well be the next big thing, much like Taking Back Sunday and Bayside when they broke through all those years ago. [8.5]
FFO: Taking Back Sunday, I Am The Avalanche, Teen Agers
Twin Cities – The Things You Say You Just Went Through (EP) ‘We play sad songs loudly. Wow music. Much yelling. So singing.’ Normally any kind of Doge reference would put me off an artist right away, but I’ll let it slide this time. Just this time. The lines above form the brief bio which features on Twin Cities’ Bandcamp page, and aside from the annoying meme reference it’s fairly accurate. These are indeed sad songs played fairly loudly, and there’s a cathartic punk vibe throughout the six tracks that feature on their EP The Things You Say You Just Went Through, which is brash, and at times rough listening, but for the most part is exactly the kind of release that’s keeping ‘sad songs played loudly’ seriously relevant. People love something that bums them out but also makes them want to move, and you’ll find plenty of those moments on the Wichita duos third EP, which has an emo edge reminiscent of the likes of Kind Of Like Spitting. Confessions along the lines of ‘because when I give it my all I find nothing there at all‘ and I just want my past to turn into something more‘ are frequent, and as a whole the themes tackled are mostly tried and true; lyrically there’s some weight to songs about growing up and growing old, leaving people behind and generally feeling left behind, but this kind of content is widespread and popular for a reason, and Twin Cities spark empathy with energy, be it through the gritty bounce of Settling For Second Best or the crashing Belmont Hills, which is absolutely electric, brimming with a painfully expressed emotion as vocalist Will Erickson yells ‘I just want to feel the same, so take me back home’. Following shortest track Repeated History slows things down, introducing some melodic guitars alongside a perking jaunt and some solid lyrics, and as I said earlier, although the lyrical content isn’t anything new TTYSYJWT is very well written in this regard; there’s plenty of relatable lines, and there’s some real heart behind the EP’s more intense moments, similar to likewise English duo Nai Harvest – there’s a pleasing similarity between the two artists despite the transatlantic divide. Closing track Record Sides is perhaps the EPs strongest track, featuring my favourite lines in ‘I live my life in record sides, 22 minutes at a time’. I get that, unlike the Doge reference (I’m trying), and as that line rings out during the EPs best chorus you get the sense that Twin Cities are very much onto something, and this notion sticks around long after the EP draws to a close after a humbling final thirty seconds.
There’s a great deal of promise here, although TTYSYJWT is held back slightly by some occasionally iffy production – as you’d expect from a duo making full-band music there are a few small missing pieces. Other than that, The Things You Say You Just Went Through is very good, and it’s an EP I’d definitely recommend. Check it out below. 
FFO: Nai Harvest, Kind Of Like Spitting, The Sinking Feeling
Russell and the Wolf Choir – The Ivy Leaf Agreement (EP) I’m a sucker for the singer / songwriter genre, and when I go into any project, the centre of which is a guy with a guitar I’m always hopeful, but unsure if the release I listen to will be one which sounds all too familiar. I don’t know a great deal about Russell Evans, the man (unsurprisingly) behind Russell and the Wolf Choir, but I know that The Ivy Leaf Agreement is the first of three EPs he’s recorded with the Wolf Choir side of the project, which consists of a full band, giving the five songs that make up this first EP a bolder, richer sound. For someone who was both eager and cautious I came out of the bands second EP very much satisfied and yes, The Ivy Leaf Agreement does more than enough to set itself apart from the multitude of similar artists in my iTunes library. The five songs / eighteen minutes that make up the EP are thoughtful, well written selections, honest and expertly crafted; this a graceful sort of release which erupts on songs like The Evening Wore On Part 1 into vibrant life and sits back on others, drifting along as is the case on Closure, which is whimsically woven. It’s a gentle listen, leading by the hand, but it shifts between genres easily, and because of Evans’ talent as a musician the solo-favouring moments are calm and collected, whilst the larger aspects of the band’s music stray into rock territory, ambitious. Opener I Think I Need An Editor displays both sides, beginning subtle, flickering on the edge as poignant lyrics ring out, before introducing layers and growing, rising from a smoulder to a fire. At over five minutes the track bides its time, and it’s on the longest track, and closer on which the EP really excels. Russell and the Wolf Choir aren’t exactly Death Cab For Cutie, but there’s a Transatlanticism feel to expansive finale Ivy Leaf Agreement, which again allows itself to grow, waiting almost as Evans sings ‘You see I’ve always been good at quitting / but I’m not too good at letting go’. There’s something endearingly elegant about the evolution of songs like this one, which continues to branch out after it’s seemingly reached its heights. The closer does perhaps go on for two minutes longer than it should, but it’s a solid note to end the EP on as the track begins to gradually fade much like it gradually began. The Ivy Leaf Agreement is excellent, and if it is the first of three EPs then I can’t wait to hear the next two. It’s currently set for release 6th October, and it’s well worth a listen when that date arrives. 
FFO: early Death Cab For Cutie, Kevin Devine, Manchester Orchestra
Past Haunts – Others (EP) I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a submission from South Africa before (very cool), but Past Haunts are from Cape Town, and Others is the bands second EP following last year’s Underwater Lullabies. It features five tracks of solid melodic rock / post-hardcore, along the lines of Exit Ten, with grandiose vocals ringing out over barraging instrumentation. It’s dark, ferocious, varied and technical, carrying some real punch, be it in the lyrics of opener Conscious Round or the crunch of following track Apparition, which relents part way through, smoothing out to prominent bass before biting back as the track climbs alongside shouts of ‘too many buried memories will be the death of me’. It’s very well done, as is each of the songs, and there’s a clear focus given towards each aspect of the band’s music. Subtle touches populate the instrumental side of the record; the band cite Moving Mountains as an influence, and Others shares a similar complexity, refusing to play it safe and instead exploring, with songs like Once Bitten constantly changing shape as vocalist / bassist Brett Allen-White (I might be wrong on that) gives his best vocal performance of the EP. There’s passion in his delivery – he reminded me greatly of Tim McIlrath (Rise Against) – snarling the heavier lines whilst always keeping the melody in his voice, and the lyrics as a whole are thoughtful and poetic much like the American band, relying on abstract imagery and introspection to convey everyday emotion.
There’s a genuine craft behind Others, and the band clearly care a great deal about the music they make, willing to experiment and push their sound further, perhaps most apparent on fourth track Gathering Lights, which is purely instrumental, almost four minutes of sprawling post-rock as guitars pierce and drums cascade. It breaks things up slightly before final track Paper Knife ends the EP on a high with a final thirty seconds which draws numerous comparisons to some of Touché Amore’s finest moments. As I just did then I’ve used a few bands as reference points in this short review, but as Others ends none of them really matter a great deal. This is the sound of a band well and truly finding their form, and it’s a huge step up from Underwater Lullabies, which I listened to briefly beforehand. 
FFO: Exit Ten, Rise Against, Gatherer
Electrets – Misfit (EP) Misfit is the debut EP from LA four-piece Electrets, and across its excellent eighteen minute line it toes the line between upbeat ska and gritty punk, with a decidedly retro garage feel which harks back to a better time. Be it the nostalgia of Meet Me At The Morgue or the crunch of the spirited Misfit everything is done with a fairly irresistible amount of charm. The former track pulls a The Smiths styled contrast; like Cemetry Gates there’s something oddly cheery about it as vocalist Tiff Schirz opens with ‘I’m one-third dead’ and closes with ‘I’m so happy’. It’s juxtaposition which is easy to appreciate, and her slightly washed out vocals carry a lot of the songs here, often quite grungy and reserved alongside a bouncing instrumental accompaniment. It’s a solid mix, and midway through the focus shifts with the storytelling Be Someone, which sees a more melodic vocal delivery take the lead, and this track is a firm highlight, beginning slightly more delicate and then picking up as it progresses whilst still remaining the tamest track on the EP, rolling but not quite rocking before I Can Be Better returns to the already pleasingly familiar dirty ska. Whatever kind of song it is that Electrets aim for they generally pull it off well, and each member of the band seems to rally off each other, making for a cohesive and confident listen throughout. Guitars are sharp and plucky, bringing in that ska feel I’ve referred to, although I’m likely misinterpreting it as a garage-rock edge, and there’s a few nice touches, be it the guitar solo of the opener or the keyboards which often add another dimension to music which is already rich. What’s more, listening to it, the general impression is that Misfit is one hell of a good time; there’s a whole lot of fun to be found in the catchy six songs which comprise it, and for a listener who perhaps misses a time when releases of this nature where more common it’ll serve as a welcome throwback. For an audience uneducated on the likes of The Ramones or Misfits it’s an enjoyable listen regardless, spirited and buoyant. If you’d like to get a taste of Electrets then you can do so below. Do I approve? Absolutely. 
FFO: The Distillers, Little Big League, The Ramones
The Big Forgive – Be Specific (EP) Ever wondered what it might sound like if Electric Six played spirited punk instead of whatever the fuck they play now? You haven’t? Me neither, but if they did it might sound a little like Be Specific, the debut EP from Oakland trio The Big Forgive. I’m thinking mainly Danger! Danger! Electric Six, not necessarily the equally ambitious Gay Bar, or the bands other song which is quite well-known – there’s something pleasingly extravagant about The Big Forgive’s music, and it’s something you pick up on a few seconds into their EP as Autoreply kicks off as a churning rollercoaster, and from here things continue to shift between weird and wild, with the two often blending seamlessly, as is the case on standout track Take Us With You, which has a charismatic, fuzzy bounce to it. There’s an eccentric nature to the band’s music, most notably in the helter-skelter vocals of Molly Armstrong, who seems to shift her delivery on a whim, rising and falling in theatrical fashion on most tracks, and although Matt Chapman can’t quite compete his vocals are very good, and listening to Be Specific you get the impression that the band aren’t holding back. The slightly unusual feel to the release suggests that the band pour a great deal of themselves into it, it’s tough to imagine the EP sounding this way if they didn’t – it’s carefree, with some real thought behind songs like How Real You Are and it’s a catchy affair, a good-time in almost every way it intends to be. Anything goes, and most of what The Big Forgive give is worth receiving, if only to try to decipher what’s going on, on an EP which is as bizarre as it is catchy. The Big Forgive’s music is unique, I haven’t heard a great deal like it, and although it’s delightfully wacky nature might not appeal to everyone I liked it; it’s refreshing to hear something different, and if you’d like to give the EP a listen you can do so below, with physical and digital copies available through Bandcamp. 
FFO: New Wave Against Me!, Reel Big Fish, doing something odd and doing it well
Drift Wood Miracle – Between Three & Four (EP) There’s something quite bold about opening your debut indie/rock EP with a haunting three-minute long acoustic track, but when that opening track is as good as 41 (Blue) is the move is a commendable one. Drift Wood Miracle are a four-piece from North Carolina, and their EP Between Three & Four isn’t afraid to throw a few curveballs, be it the spoken word French interlude which precedes But I’m Glad I Met You, or the aforementioned opener, which is a thoughtful, immersive piece of music. It’s followed by the brasher, harsh Typical, a stark contrast to the weaving melancholy of the opener, and in this sense the bands EP is a strange one; it’s constantly flickering between styles, and at times the band are difficult to pin down, some sort of musical enigma – albeit one worth investigating. The brief back-story that accompanied third song But I’m Glad I Met You described the song as ‘a lot of thoughts thrown together before we had to go eat dinner’ and, make of that what you will, but it does sound slightly jumbled, lacking the confident feel of the two tracks that precede it as the French opening leads into sharp guitars and drums before soon relenting to campfire acoustics and gang vocals. It presents another few changes in direction, and as a result it’s a song which is difficult to invest in despite there not being a whole lot wrong with it – Drift Wood Miracle are very good at what they do, showcased once Something None Of Us Fully Understand eventually rolls around after a piano section. The closer mixes the feel of the first two tracks to lesser effect; there’s a fragility to it, but also a great deal to energy as the vocals of Alex Phillips echo alongside darker instrumentation gathering momentum, eventually leading to a storming final crescendo, another contrast to an opening song which hinted at a very different EP.
Between Three & Four has left me slightly torn, and continues to do so after a number of listens. The bands curious approach is part of the appeal, but the EPs ‘artier’ moments, if it’s fair to call them that, often take some of the impact from its more cohesive selections. I liked the first two songs a great deal, but I’m not entirely sure about the last two. There’s no denying that Drift Wood Miracle are onto something, but perhaps they need to really decide what it is they’re onto to, because their debut EP doesn’t quite flow as it should. I could happily listen and sink to 41 (Blue) a dozen times in a row and not tire of it, but I found myself losing interest slightly once this song and Typical passed. That’s just me though, and if you’d like to give the EP a listen for yourself you can stream it below, with Between Three & Four also available as a ‘name your price’ download through Bandcamp. [6.5]
FFO: The American Scene, Fang Island, Keaton Henson
The Great Heights Band – Weird Thoughts (EP) The Great Heights Band, like plenty of pop-punk bands before them (Good Charlotte, All Time Low) hail from Baltimore, and Weird Thoughts is the four-piece’s debut, recorded in a tiny studio whilst frontman Neal Karkhanis juggled work and school. The band only played their first show a few months ago, and all things considered, with the stress surrounding its conception etc. Weird Thoughts sounds confident and buoyant. If there was trouble surrounding it then this a release which doesn’t sound troubled; It’s upbeat, spirited and catchy despite lyrical content which isn’t quite as jubilant as the instrumentation – common of the genre. Highlight Portland is exuberant, as is lyrical choice-pick Monster, and this is the general trend of the EP as Karkhanis sings and plays alongside plucky keyboards and charged, easy on the ears instrumentation. There are strong shades of Mark Hoppus in his vocal delivery – that deeper, rugged type of melody, and he’s complemented throughout by keyboardist Linette Gonzalez, with the two sharing a great duality on standout track Dwell On It, which ends up falling somewhere between +44 and Candy Hearts. It’s a summery song, every track has that feel to it, and like this song encourages some optimism the EP as a whole is one which can soundtrack a sunny day, fitting for a good time. In a sense, this nature is the EPs biggest strength, it’ll certainly appeal to fans of the genre’s bigger mainstream-type names, but personally speaking, I like my pop-punk to have more of an edge to it. Although there isn’t a great deal wrong with it, Weird Thoughts is too tame, more radio friendly pop-punk than any other variation of the genre. Sure, that’s no fault of the band, the sound they’ve picked is one they play well, but Weird Thoughts, outside of a few choice tracks, doesn’t do enough for me. It’s very much how I feel about artists like Hellogoodbye, a band The Great Heights Band have supported in the past. That’s just my preference though, and it goes without saying that if you like your music light and infectious then The Great Heights Band will be worth a listen, but if, like me, you prefer a little more bite, you should look elsewhere. You can decide for yourself by streaming Weird Thoughts through Bandcamp, or by watching the great video for Portland below. 
FFO: Transit, We Are The In Crowd, +44