REVIEW: Castaway - “Space To Run”

Punk rock is a very versatile genre. No matter what the “ugh, it’s just three chords blah blah blah” assholes says. It is a genre that has evolved, adapted, and become more and more interesting over time. A lot of things have grown out of the bare bones roots the genre has grown around. Hardcore, grunge, and emo are especially interesting. Having themselves spawned a million subgenres. This is an important fact when talking about a band like Castaway.

See, Castaway is a punk rock band that is very heavily built on those subgenres. They make music that is forceful, but still has an underlying melody. It is heavy, but not in a particularly metal kind of way. It is hardcore, but combined with some elements of grunge and alternative. There is a fair amount of heavy distortion and effects that brings out a bit of a shoegaze influence. It’s a mixture of things that work together perfectly, but it isn’t really any one of those things.

If nothing else, Castaway are probably more hurt by the constant need to genre label everything than helped. Space To Run is not a record that is going to be easily boiled down. That isn’t a big deal though. The only thing that matters is if it’s good or bad, right? Rest assured, Space To Run is fucking good. It is a solid 24 minutes of great riffs, great vocals, and overall great songwriting. Think somewhere between Lifetime and Daylight.

Space To Run is also a deceivingly adult record. The music has a certain youthful exuberance to it, but the lyrics are more mature than the sound would lead a listener to believe. It is a personal record that doesn’t necessarily play like one. You can put this on and treat as a melodic hardcore record. Just get hyped up on the music of it. You can also play it as a emo record, and focus on the stories told in the lyrics. It’s a great example of how your mood going in can change how you hear things.

Don’t let all the genre name dropping get confusing. Space To Run is a record that anyone who likes punk rock, or any of the various offshoots, can get behind. Castaway is a band who knows how to make a fucking record. You don’t have to take my word for it though. Just give it a listen, You’ll love it.

Castaway
BandCamp / Buy It

REVIEW: Fair Traitor - “Closer Now Than We’ve Ever Been”

I was recently talking about Gainesville, Florida. Specifically the greater “Gainesville Sound,” or whatever. Fair Traitor are a perfect example of what that means. Or, at least, what it means to shitheads like me who aren’t from there. In my mind, they are carrying the torch for all the classic punk rock by way of post-hardcore bands. It’s that sound that, in the hands of lesser bands sounds hacky and shitty. But, on Closer Now Than We’ve Ever Been, Fair Traitor shows how well that sound works when in the hands of a band who knows how to make it.

To be horribly cliched, Fair Traitor sounds like they should have been on No Idea in the mid to late 90s. This is a band who, musically, would have fit right in there with Finding The Rhythms or Forever And Counting era Hot Water Music. They have that gruff sound that has become representative of their region. There is a little emo, a little post-hardcore, and a lot of punk rock mixing together to be the total fucking package.

It is impossible for people who dig this stuff to not find something to like on Closer Now Than We’ve Ever Been. You need look no further than “Those Hippies Definitely Stole My Integrity Hoodie” if you want an aggressive, driving punk rock song. If you wants a more emo sounding song, check out “Majestic As Fuck.” If you want gruff punk rock with post-hardcore influence, just listen to the whole fucking record. Honestly.

It’s easy to write bands like Fair Traitor off as being just another band playing this kind of music. It would be a bullshit move though. Fair Traitor have found the heart, and life, in a genre that is pretty well worn. That alone is impressive. It’s more than that though. The songwriting is stellar, the music is top notch, and everything fucking works.

But of course it does. This is a band of dudes who have been doing this for a long time in multiple other bands. They aren’t some upstarts who are trying to cash in. These are veteran musicians who are doing it because they love it. What could possibly be more punk than that?

Fair Traitor
BandCamp / Buy It

REVIEW: Field Mouse - “Hold Still Life”

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I was briefly in Brooklyn last December. I was hoping that, in the week I was out, I’d be able to find out why there are so many great bands from there. My research was inconclusive. Let’s credit it to bridges or something. But, instead of a terrible conclusion based on terrible research skills, let’s talk about Field Mouse. Coming from the very fertile music scene in Brooklyn, they have made a record that will stand out from the pack. While the music they’re making fall into some very well tread tropes, they have managed to make the music their own.

Hold Still Life is a record that eschewed genre rules. You can call it a regular, adjective free indie rock record. You can call it an indie pop record. You can call it shoegaze, dream pop, or a million other genre tags that only nerds like me give a fuck about. All that shit aside, it is a good record. Hell, it’s a great record.

It’s the mixture of things that make it work. It’s an almost seamless mixture of straight ahead indie rock and dream pop/shoegaze. Songs can go from being driving to more dreamy and reverb heavy at the drop of a hat. You can have a song that is carried by guitars and drums lead into a song that is more reliant on synthesizers without missing a beat. The disparate styles are held together perfectly by the fantastic vocals of Rachel Browne. It’s driving and catchy, but then also a bit fuzzy and drawn out. Field Mouse is a band that exists in this weird open space where things that shouldn’t work somehow work.

The first three songs are a great example of the record as a whole. “A Place You Return To In A Dream” is a very straightforward rock song. “Water In The Valley” starts of with a great bass line, and has a more 90’s alternative (think The Breeders) sound to it. “Two Ships” is more driven by effects. It is a bit more spacey. And, really, the record carries on in this way for the remaining nine songs. “Netsuke,” which is right in the middle of the record, is all those things at once. Hold Still Life features a little from column A, and a little from column B. Then they throw in shit from column C through Z. Field Mouse are able to make it all work, and make it all make sense.

But, hell. It’s obvious that I really like this record. Field Mouse made a record that has so many things I love in one package. I mean, honestly. Hold Still Life is a record that you really should be listening to. Like, right now.

Field Mouse
Topshelf Record
BandCamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Dikembe - “Mediumship”

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I love to watch a band progress and grow. Dikembe has been one of those bands for me. I initially checked them because of their connection to Wavelets. Dikembe first broke out with their Chicago Bowls EP back in 2011. I was fortunate enough to hear that right after it was released. I basically listened to that fucking thing for two or three weeks straight whenever I drove to work. The band has released multiple split releases and one amazing LP in the intervening three years. It’s now time for them to tackle their sophomore release. Things being what they are, there is a lot to live up to.

To be direct, Mediumship absolutely reached and exceeded the bar the band set for themselves. It is a very different record though. This is a record that breaks the band away from their previous emo/indie influenced punk rock. The songs have slowed down, the vocals are less forceful in many ways, and the overall presentation is something else. But, ultimately, it works. It really fucking works.

While they may be getting a little away from the sound they used to use, it still exists in many places on Mediumship. It’s just the band has gotten a bit more versatile with how they’re doing things. Broad Shoulders, as a record, was economical. It was punchy and too the point. Mediumship is a record full of songs given room to breathe. There are songs like “Las Vegas Weather” that have a very traditional, alternative rock verse. The chorus explodes, and flexes some post-hardcore influence. That is really the modus operadi of the record. Seemingly tired of being defined by one genre or the other, Dikembe are basically doing whatever the fuck they want. “24 Karats” is probably the best example of this.

That’s not to say it is so dramatically different as to be off putting. Songs like “Hood Rat Messiah” and the previously released “Donuts In A Six Speed” will certainly leave older fans satisfied. It’s enough like their old stuff to appeal in that regard, but it’s different enough to keep people interested. Basically, it’s not one or the other. While some of the exuberance of Broad Shoulders might be gone, Dikembe more than makes up for it in really compelling ways.

Dikembe
Tiny Engines
BandCamp
Buy It

Here is a color version of this. It is a transparency, so that’s nice.

Here is a color version of this. It is a transparency, so that’s nice.

I made another thing.

I made another thing.

Hey, I made a thing.

Hey, I made a thing.

Anyone from the greater Chicago area who wasn’t at Township for Braid tonight made a huge fucking mistake. Seriously, you guys. They fucking killed it.

Seconds had a nice little call back to Scott Pilgrim.
Scott and Ramona also are in the background on page 255. Well, page 255 in the e-book version. Maybe different in the print version.

Seconds had a nice little call back to Scott Pilgrim.

Scott and Ramona also are in the background on page 255. Well, page 255 in the e-book version. Maybe different in the print version.