1. January 2011 Reviews

    Reviews from the January 2011 issue of Manual Dexterity

    After The Fall
    Good God this new After The Fall album is heavy and intense! Right from the start it’s all engines go. Eradication starts off strong and After The Fall’s all or nothing attitude drives the album throughout. This album is 25 minutes of cohesive chaos, like a plane crash where everyone escapes unscathed. (Mightier Than Sword)

    Here We Are Tomorrow
    Every time I hear a new release from Annabel, the level of stoked-edness goes up another notch. Each release tops the previous one, and Here We Are Tomorrow is no different. As much as I liked their full-length Each and Everyone, there was something about it that didn’t click with me. Here We Are Tomorrow is like a new friend, one that you instantly bond with and are comfortable around. Here We Are Tomorrow understands you. It knows what you’re going through and has your back. It’s that voice that talks you off the ledge and that shove that gets you to talk to that girl you’ve been crushing on. Trust in Here We Are Tomorrow and things will be all right. (Tiny Engines)

    Start From Scratch
    Antillectual may hail from the land of windmills, wooden shoes and girls in pigtails in milk maid like dresses, aka the Netherlands, but their sound is straight up American as apple pie. At certain times they sound like Anti-Flag, Rise Against and even Sweden’s Millencolin. They even have the mellifluously voiced Heleen Tichelaar singing on a couple tracks to add some female flare to the mix. With Start From Scratch being jointly released by ten different labels covering the U.S. and Europe, Antillectual is poised to take over the world with their music. Turn your back on your idols, and bow down to the awesome power that is Antillectual. (Square of Opposition)

    The Aquabats
    Hi-Five Soup
    I can honestly say that The Aquabats are my favorite band ever. Even though they’ve had some questionable material in their discography, they always put on a great show and always come up with the silliest shit that I have ever heard. Hi-Five Soup starts out with the classic sounding, albeit without horns, “The Shark Fighter”. Seriously one of their best songs from their last few albums. Many people are shitting on this album saying things like it’s directed towards the MC Bat Commander created Yo Gabba Gabba! audience. Sure “B.F.F.” sounds like it was made for The Aquabats next appearance on the show, but you’ve got to remember that this is the same band that wrote “Worms Make Dirt”, “Captain Hampton and the Midget Pirates” and “Canis Lupus”. Would critics be saying the same thing if Yo Gabba Gabba! didn’t exist? You can’t expect The Aquabats to release serious material, they’re superhero crime-fighters (read: 30+ year old dudes who wear costumes) for shit’s sake! I’m still bummed that they lost the horns, but I’ve come to accept it. They still got it, horns or not! (Fearless Records)

    Baby Teeth
    Much like the For The Heathers EP, this release was a challenge by the band to come up with songs on their own that related to the word “Boss” and not share it with anyone else in the band. What you get is three awesomely different songs. Abraham’s “Good Old Boss” is a slow Randy Newman like ditty that is most similar to Baby Teeth’s music. Jim’s song “You’re Not The Boss Of Me” is fucking outstanding! This song is a straight up rap parody of a Lonely Island song, only way fucking better than anything The Lonely Island could do. Finally, Peter’s “Boss Man” is a slow moving, fuzzed out bass, sample-ridden masterpiece. The dudes in Baby Teeth really upped the ante with this release and really showcased what they can do. (Self-Released)

    Shaking Hands
    Birthmark is the solo project from Kinsella cousin and collaborator Nate Kinsella. Nate’s music falls somewhere between his cousin’s, Tim and Mike. While not as abstract as Tim’s music and not quite acoustic as Mike’s music, Shaking Hands is a menagerie of layered instruments with Nate’s hushed vocals sitting on top of them all. Shaking Hands is quite a feat considering Nate played and recorded most of the instruments himself. (A Hidden Agenda Records) 

    I think the male society needs to use the term “boyfriends” more. Instead of saying to their wives that they’re going out with their “Boyz”, they should say they’re going out with their boyfriends. Makes sense to me. What else would you call male friend? I know the guys in Boyfriends are boyfriends. You can feel the chemistry oozing out all over this 7”. To this point, none of Boyfriends’ releases have disappointed and I wish they’d make a full-length already. (Slow Growth/Count Your Lucky Stars)

    Sea To Sky
    Made up of ex-members of some of Vancouver’s most well-known post-punk bands like All State Champion, By A Thread, and Daggermouth, Carpenter’s Sea To Sky is a mishmash of pop-punk and post-punk with some emo sensibilities thrown in. Sea To Sky is an all-around first-rate release. (Goldstock Records/Paper & Plastick)

    Damp Hay
    Featuring former members of Chicago’s adored Sidekick Kato, Damp Hay’s Middlewestern is as Midwestern as it can get. It’s got the feel of early Chicago emo bands and more recent punk and indie bands. This album has a great classic sound quality to it and I look forward to hearing more from this band. Download the album here. (Cassette Deck Media)

    Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate)/ Into It. Over It.
    Split 7”
    Oh Empire! Empire! how do I love thee? Keith and Cathy and co. always put out good music and I have yet to skip past a song of theirs. On the other side of this release, you’ve got Evan Weiss aka Into It. Over It. I’ve really enjoyed his EP releases lately. I thought that his 52 Weeks album was good, but hard to listen to in such a large dose. His latest split releases have really showcased his best work and I look forward to hearing more from him. (Count Your Lucky Stars)

    The End of America
    Steep Bay
    For the recording of Steep Bay, The End of America paddled across a lake in upstate New York to reach a family cabin. Once there they recorded the nine songs everywhere they could, in front of the campfire, in the cabin, on the porch and out on the lake itself. Steep Bay sounds pretty impressive considering where it was recorded. It’s reminds me a bit of Good Old War due to the acoustics and the harmonies. (Forest Park Recordings)

    Empty House EP
    I don’t know what the hell Joey Cook aka FIRS is doing anymore. FIRS started out as a lo-fi electro indie outfit, similar to his other band Pomegranates, then moved onto some spacey futuristic vibes with their full-length, Man In Space. The three song Empty House EP is practically 17 minutes of synth drone, with a 2 minute sparsely sung song sandwiched between them. Even though it’s kind of tiring, the synth drone of the first and last tracks is lush and beautiful. Keep it up Joey, I expect be surprised with your next release. (Self-Released)

    Football, etc.
    On “Away Game”, Football, etc. has a sound like Dianogah mixed with American Football. The bass just kills me, it drives the song like Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy. That plus the bouncy guitars and female vocals make me gush over their music like a elementary school crush. (Count Your Lucky Stars)

    Soundlab 1
    2011 needs Frodus. They deliver a swift kick in the ass that this industry needs. It’s been 10 years since their last studio album, And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea, and since that time, members of Frodus have been staying busy with many other musical projects, but none as influential or memorable as Frodus. Soundlab 1 is Frodus at their best. The time away from this band has not impacted their cohesiveness one bit. A repressing of And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea is due out sometime this year, and lets hope that they release some new material as well. (Lovitt Records)

    The Haunted Continents
    The Loudest Year Ever
    The Loudest Year Ever is as vintage as it is modern. Mixing 1950’s bop and soul with some 1990’s college radio alternative rock, the duo known as The Haunted Continents have made an compelling and memorable album. (Forest Park Recordings)

    Hightide Hotel
    Nothing Was Missing, Except Me
    After many delays, the much anticipated full-length release from Hightide Hotel has been released. I was kind of neutral on their previous releases, but Nothing Was Missing, Except Me is a really great album and excels over recent contemporaries releases within the same genre. (Runner Up Records)

    Into It. Over It./Pswingset
    Split 7”
    Like I said in the review for the split with Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate), Into It. Over It.’s best work has been on these splits and these two songs on this split with Ohio’s Pswingset are exceptional. Pswingset sound a bit like The Promise Ring in its early days, but with a modern feel. I’m patiently waiting for more from Pswingset before I make a decision on this band. What I’ve heard so far has been good, so I’m expecting more of the same. (Count Your Lucky Stars)

    Iron Chic
    Not Like This
    Featuring former members of Latterman, Small Arms Dealer, Capital, Get Bent & Jonesin’, Iron Chic is the next phase of it’s predecessor, Latterman. Shouted vocals and gang choruses fill Not Like This and the energy never stops. Not Like This was one of the finest feel good punk albums released in 2010, if not the best. They’ve got a great formula and sound that I’m sure will make them a favorite among many. (Dead Broke Rekerds)

    Love Of Everything
    Kangaroo Trick EP
    Bobby Burg is not happy. His latest release, the quietly released 4 song Kangaroo Trick EP presumably deals with the divorce with his wife and former band mate. With songs like “I Can’t Live” and “I Want You to Kill Yourself” you can assume this is the same kind of release that Joan of Arc band mate Tim Kinsella released with Boo Human, during his and his wife’s relationship ending. Even though the lyrics are dour, the music is upbeat and catchy. You can hear the frustration that Bobby puts forth in the song “Well That’s a Plus” and it’s kind of interesting to hear Bobby sound this way, since his last release was quite happy. It’ll be interesting to hear what Bobby releases next.  (Record Label Record Label)

    Human Hearts
    It’s been a tough road for Maritime. Born out of the ashes of the much loved The Promise Ring and Dismemberment Plan, Maritime was plagued with long-distance band members and label issues with the release of nearly every album. This year marks the release of their latest album, Human Hearts, on the much stable record label Dangerbird. With Human Hearts, I feel Maritime has finally hit their stride. Their early releases were hampered by the comparisons to The Promise Ring and the release of Heresy and the Hotel Choir marked a turning point for the band. The two cover songs that were released with the import version of Heresy was a foreshadowing as to what the material on Human Hearts would sound like. Human Hearts will take a few listens to get into, but don’t give up on it, this is truly their best work to date. (Dangerbird Records)

    Man Overboard
    Real Talk
    I am so in love with this Man Overboard album, that if I weren’t already married, I’d consider asking this sweet little album out. Odds are though, the line of potential suitors is a mile long. There are many bands that are doing the pop-punk revival thing right now and Man Overboard is seriously ruling them all. Real Talk is a real treat of an album and is right up there with New Found Glory’s 2000 self-titled album. (Run For Cover)

    A Short Collection of Short Songs
    Mixtapes just keep getting better and better with every release. A Short Collections of Short Songs has some fantastic songs that really hit you in the heart and deep in your soul. “Soups Whatever” is a great song, especially with it’s Lifter Puller reference. It’s just a simple acoustic song with some group choruses and the occasional piano, but damn it’s lovely. (Animal Style Records)

    Goes Canoeing
    I was a real big fan of Monument’s numerous demos and EPs they released a while back and was always wondering when they’d record a proper full-length. Goes Canoeing is a stunning piece of work that embodies the spirit of bands like The Promise Ring, Braid and Cap’n Jazz. It’s emo when it wants to be, but turns to noodley math rock at the flick of a switch. Goes Canoeing will reinvigorate your love of music and is one of those albums that will be the definition of the genre for years to come.  (Tiny Engines)

    Mountains For Clouds
    Some People Buy Scenery Like This
    I really enjoy it when I get an album that is surprisingly good. Some People Buy Scenery Like This is one of those albums where you know you’ve got something good right after the first song starts. This album is mostly instrumental and reminds me of Rooftops quite a bit. It’s something that sounds good in any environment or with any mood. (Count Your Lucky Stars)

    Greener Pastures
    Guttural, fierce, intense, ponies. Three of those four words describe Greener Pastures from Baltimore’s Octaves, but I’ll let you guess which one doesn’t. Octaves has the technical chops of Botch with the screams of Paint It Black. Greener Pastures is technical and dynamic and is entitled to a listen or two. (Hotfoot Records)

    Only Thieves
    Heartless Romantics
    Heartless Romantics is the epitome of American music. It’s filled with heart felt lyrics and blue collar anthems with a dose of slacker attitude. It’s albums like these that will be held close when shit gets its roughest, while other albums are stomped and burned. (Self-Released)

    The Reptilian
    Full Health
    If you’re familiar with The Reptilian, then you know what to expect from this release. They have a pretty standard formula that work for them and I enjoy it quite a bit. They continually keep things interesting from song to song and the raw energy is always on high. (Count Your Lucky Stars)

    Strange Behavior
    I’d like to think of Restorations as grown-up punk. It still rocks hard, but they’ve done enough to warrant having a little twang in their songs and perfectly OK to sing duets with a honey voiced lady. As expansive as Strange Behavior is, it represents only a small sliver of what this band can do and I expect them to do big things and have big things happen to them with future recordings. (Paper & Plastick)

    Run With The Hunted
    Run With The Hunted
    This may be a case of judging a band by its name, but Run With The Hunted’s name sounds like a tagline for a wilderness company or a sports team. Or something a jock would say as a final retort in an argument, “If you ain’t running with us, then you’re running with the hunted.” Luckily, their music speaks volumes about the band. They do a good job of letting the music flow on its own and don’t force or over do the screaming vocals. (Panic Records)

    Say Hi
    Um, Uh Oh
    To say that Eric Elbogen has been prolific with his Say Hi moniker would be an understatement. Since 2002, Elbogen has released seven albums, five of which were released on his own label, Euphobia. Um, Uh Oh is his latest and is a far cry from his early material Discosadness and Numbers & Mumbles. While those records were fun and quirky, Um, Uh Oh is frank and mature. Elbogen has always had clever lyrics and he puts them to good use on Um, Uh Oh. (Barsuk)

    So Adult
    Sharing band mates with Shook Ones, So Adult embraces the sounds from early Replacements and Superchunk albums, and adds their own imprint on it. Rookie is a cool cassette release that shows promise from this band. (Bermuda Mohawk)

    Hollow Realm
    Talons is an instrumental rock band from Hereford, UK and is the first instrumental rock band that I’ve heard to utilize violins as part of their sound. I think the violins really set Talons apart from other bands like Russian Circles. The violins add that feel of a backing orchestra to the already chaotic songs. Hollow Realm is a breath of fresh air to the instrumental genre and I applaud them for trying to stand out. (Topshelf Records)

    Tigers Jaw
    Two Worlds
    When I first heard Tiger’s Jaw self-titled album, I was floored. Everything about the sound and lyrics did it for me. Their following EPs were exceptional as well and I had high hopes for their full-length. Two Worlds is a good record. The problem for me though, is that the novelty of the band has worn off a bit and no longer has that feeling of something new and raw. A couple of the songs, “Coil/Recoil” and “Two Worlds” convey the feel of their earlier work, but the album didn’t match the hype I had built up for myself for it. (Run For Cover)

    Keep This To Yourself
    It’s got to put a lot a pressure on this band releasing such good music, album after album. Having to top an awesome release with another awesome release would make me quiver, but the dudes in Transit do it with style. They constantly “bring it” musically every time and leave little, if no room for disappointment. (Run For Cover)

    Vampire Hands/Daughters of the Sun
    Skull Judge
    The Daughters of the Sun side of this release is 17 minutes of noisy drone with some music starting halfway through. This is the first I’ve heard of this band and can say that this epic song has intriged me to hear more from them. Vampire Hands is a bit more straight forward rock. It took me a little bit to get into, but really enjoyed the classic rock/psych vibe to it. (Modern-Radio)