1. Reviews: Winter '13 - '14

    A Great Big Pile Of Leaves
    You’re Always On My Mind
    Kind of like a mixture of Minus the Bear and early Maps and Atlases, A Great Big Pile Of Leaves’ music is relaxing and just super easy to listen to. The only thing that I didn’t like about this album was that there was no distinguishable ender to the album. A lot of albums have a closing song that ends with a bang and some fanfare, like “A Few Screws Loose” from their previous album, but You’re Always On My Mind just ends as softly as it started. Looking past that minor flaw, You’re Always On My Mind is a nearly perfect album. (Topshelf Records)

    Acid Fast
    Rabid Moon
    Begging to be listened to, Rabid Moon, by East Bay punk rockers Acid Fast, is very persuasive. Just minutes into the album and you’ll be hooked. Rabid Moon has a East Bay influenced sound with alternating male and female vocals with fuzzed out guitars and catchy melodies. (Protagonist Music)

    Aidan Knight
    Small Reveal
    If you are looking for quiet, lush arrangements similar to Birthmark, look no further than Victoria, BC quintet Aidan Knight. The music on Small Reveal is sometimes slow, but has continual shifts throughout that keep it interesting. Like I mentioned before, the quieter moments are reminiscent of Birthmark’s tone, but less technical. I feel Small Reveal isn’t for everyday listening, but it is definitely something to put on during the relaxing parts of the day.
    (Outside Music)

    Allison Weiss
    Say What You Mean (Sideways Sessions)
    I had nothing but praise for the original version of this album released earlier this year and was excited to hear the reworked versions of these songs. The Sideways Sessions of these songs give the album a whole new life. Besides the melodies and lyrics, everything has pretty much changed. All new instruments and background vocals and a more exciting tone. After hearing both versions, it’s hard to imagine one without the other. Reworking old albums or songs is usually hit or miss, I’m looking at you Alkaline Trio’s Damnesia, but Allison Weiss struck gold twice with this album. (No Sleep Records)

    Arliss Nancy
    Wild American Runners
    While I have a lot of respect for the musicians in the Americana Roots Rock genre, it was always one genre that I could never get into. Fort Collins’s Arliss Nancy aren’t to blame. Their Wild American Runners album is damn catchy and well played. So well played in fact that they almost made me a fan of the genre. Almost. (Black Numbers)

    Balance and Composure
    The Things We Think We’re Missing
    I was a huge fan of Balance and Composure early on with their EPs and split’s they released, but something along the way changed. I’m not sure if the change was in me or in the band, but their music doesn’t have the same kind of pull as it used too. They are still an incredible band and The Things We Think We’re Missing is a pretty good album that current fans will surely adore. They have definitely reached that point where new bands coming out now are listing them as influences, but none of them have yet to come close to Balance and Composure’s style of post-hardcore. While it’s a good thing for B&C, the genre in general is getting quite stale.
    (No Sleep Records)

    Blake Hazard
    The Eleanor Islands
    Blake Hazard, previously one half of the indie rock duo The Submarines, steps out on her own solo effort with The Eleanor Islands after a split with husband and Submarines band mate John Dragonetti. The Eleanor Islands isn’t a rehash of Submarines tunes. It has no feeling of Hazard’s old band, besides her vocals, though I think fans of her old band would enjoy this as well. The songs on this album are more introspective and reflective and show a lot of diverse sounds. (Self-Released)

    Born Without Bones
    Baby
    Like their previous album, Say Hello, Born Without Bone’s Baby is another under the radar gem by this Massachusetts band. I’m sure they’ve garnered some label attention and it’s hard to believe they haven’t been picked up by someone yet, unless they prefer the DIY approach, which is fine too. Either way, people are missing out on this band and more people should be listening to them. (Self-Released)

    Braided Veins
    Future/Forever
    Formed from members of The Swellers, Empty Orchestra, Kid Brother Collective, and The Conqueror Worm, this Flint, Michigan band brings the rock n’ roll via large satchels flung over their backs. What I’m saying is there is a lot of rock to be heard on Future/Forever and it’s in the style of your favorite classic angular DC bands. (Save Your Generation Records)

    Broadway Calls
    Comfort/Distraction
    Broadway Calls have a similar style to early Green Day, but with less juvenile lyrics. It’s hard to believe Broadway Calls isn’t much bigger than they currently are. They had the pop punk style nailed down way before the current crop of pop punksters took hold of the genre. Comfort/Distraction is the pop punk album you should’ve been listening to all along. 
    (No Sleep Records)

    Brothers or Not
    Pioneer
    Brothers or Not, from Austin, TX, play a raucous style of southern tinged rock n’ roll. Pioneer may only be six songs, but there is more than enough music here to make Brothers or Not your new favorite band. (Better Days Will Haunt You)

    Calculator
    This Will Come To Pass
    I kept seeing posts about this band before and much more after the release of This Will Come To Pass and finally decided to check them out. The screamo/skramz genre is a tricky one where there are many different ways to approach the music. California’s Calculator perfectly blend screamo/hardcore elements while still keeping the music incredibly melodic. This album also shows so much growth from their previous releases that you’d think this band were decade old veterans and not just releasing their debut full-length. Fans of bands like Caravels, The Saddest Landscape, and Touché Amoré will surely love this album. (Self-Released)

    Captives
    Afteriamge
    As I mentioned in the Balance and Composure review, Captives in one of those new bands that have been influenced by B&C and kind of ape their style of music. Putting the comparisons aside, Afteriamge is a so-so release. They have a lot going for them, but they wear their influences too heavily on their sleeves. (Reveille Records)

    Cayetana
    Hot Dad Calendar
    A recent addition to the Tiny Engines Roster,
    Cayetana are a 3-piece female punk band from Philadelphia. There is something about how the singer sings that I find enticing. There is a lot of heart in her voice and it shines through the speakers. This 7” is only two songs, which is a drag, because I could listen to them all day. Hopefully they have a full-length in the works. (Tiny Engines)

    Charlie Clark
    Feel Something
    Scotsman Charlie Clark, former member of Astrid and Scottish “supergroup”, The Reindeer Section, returns to music with his debut solo EP, Feel Something. Even at only five songs, Feel Something features a number of collaborators contributing their voices to the songs. The music is mostly quiet, with flourishes of loud moments and is altogether beautiful. (AED Records)

    The Crash Bandits 
    Better Off
    Taking cues from Minneapolis bands that have come before them, The Crash Bandits have a sound that rivals Banner Pilot, Off With Their Heads and Dillinger Four. Their style of pop punk, that has some garage rock influences, hasn’t been played this well around these parts in a long time. Better Off is a surprisingly good debut album. (Self-Released)

    Crash of Rhinos
    Knots
    In 2011, Crash of Rhinos wowed everyone with Distal, and pretty much blew everyone away with their music. 2013 brings their highly anticipated follow up, Knots. If I could only describe Knots with one word, that word would be, epic. Everything on Knots is outstanding, from the vocals to the intricate guitar work. (Topshelf Records)

    The Crookes
    Hold Fast
    Sounding like a British version of Voxtrot and Spoon, Sheffield’s The Crookes music draws on decades of UK music influences. Hold Fast is an incredibly fun album that feels like an impromptu party happening in the middle of your pub.
    (Modern Outsider)

    Decades
    Decades
    While channeling Joy Division’s moody feel, Toronto’s Decades self-titled album is also spacious and atmospheric. Upon first listen, you may not think much of it, but as opener “Tonight Alive” rolls on, you almost have the need to hear the next song and this need continues throughout the album. 
    (White Girl Records)

    Deer Widow
    Deer Widow
    My first impression of this was that the singer sounded like Maritime’s Davey Von Bohlen, and the music has a definitive Midwest vibe to it. Deer Widow features members from nearly a half dozen Michigan bands and their experience definitely shows. While not as upbeat or poppy as I would have liked, Deer Widow’s self-titled album is still a great listen. (Save Your Generation Records)

    Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)/Malegoat 
    Split 7”
    What can I say about Empire! Empire! that I haven’t already said before. Nothing really. They are just a consistently interesting band that have a pretty standard formula that always works. So in short, their two songs are great, but you knew that already. This is my first time hearing Japan’s Malegoat and I was pleased with their two songs as well. Their songs have an angular D.C. vibe to them mixed with some 90’s midwest emo. Perfect combo! (Count Your Lucky Stars)

    Enemies
    Embark, Embrace
    Right off the bat, Ireland’s Enemies reminds me a lot of early Pele albums mixed with some heavier guitar sounds and their style of math-rock would make an abacus confused. Embark, Embrace is just one of the many awesome releases on Topshelf Records in 2013 and I’m happy the label is bringing this album to the masses. (Topshelf Records)

    Eric & Magill
    Night Singers
    Eric & Magill is one of the more exiting bands around today, just because of the way they make music while being continents apart. One half of the duo, Ryan Weber, teaches in Kenya, while the other half, Eric Osterman lives in Brooklyn. The music they create is inventive and fun and always interesting. Night Singers is definitely one of my more diverse and favorite albums released this year.
    (Self-Released)

    Eros and the Eschaton
    Home Address For Civil War
    The story of Eros and the Eschaton is summed up like this: real life couple, Kate Perdoni and Adam Hawkins, fall in love, have kid, tour the US in a motorhome, land in North Carolina, then make beautiful music together. The music they create is incredibly hard to pigeon hole. It’s part folksy indie rock, part orchestral synth. It’s epic, but still inspirational. It’s a lot of things and all of them original. Home Address For Civil War is quite an astonishing piece of work. (Bar/None)

    First Rate People
    Everest
    First Rate People is kind of like a Canadian version of The Polyphonic Spree, where they’ve employed between 4 and 40 people over the last few years and have a sort of collective of music makers anchored by two main songwriters Jon Lawless and Liam Sanagan. The music they create borders on club dance hits at times, but in a good way. The music is big without feeling commercialized, and more inventive than most anything played on popular radio. 
    (Self-Released)

    Foxing
    An Albatross
    St. Louis, Missouri’s Foxing have been around for a few years and have garnered some attention, but it wasn’t until their release of An Albatross that people started paying attention. Simply put, An Albatross is amazing. It’s more than just your standard emo album. It’s epically heartbreaking. The vocals are pained, there is real feeling behind them. The music reminds me of what The World Is… does, but with a lot less layers and outer space qualities. An Albatross may have a rural feel, but it’s themes are universal. (Count Your Lucky Stars)

    From A Fountain
    Milky Mile & Milky Mile II
    Milky Mile & Milky Mile II is the story of former National Eye member, Douglas Kirby, who headed back to his hometown of Sioux Falls, SD and over time, a massive warehouse became the home of a collective of musicians and the foundation was laid for Milky Mile & Milky Mile II. Both albums have a Bon Iver meets Birthmark sound to it and the songs are of the lighter tone. At 18 songs in all, Milky Mile & Milky Mile II is a very impressive collection of songs. (Self-Released)

    Game Night
    Pets Pets
    Similar in sound to A Great Big Pile Of Leaves, Knoxville’s Game Night sound lighter and more hook laden on this album, compared to their earlier releases, but the musicianship is still top notch.
    (Better Days Will Haunt You)

    Great Apes
    Thread
    Seems like every few years, Brian Moss, formally of The Ghost and Olehole, returns with a new punk band that knocks your socks off. Great Apes has been a band for a little while now and after a few EPs, Thread is their debut full-length. It’s no secret that Brian Moss can write a good tune. His work with Hanalei was always good and his previous project Olehole was excellent. Great Apes is no exception. Thread is a fantastic punk album that falls somewhere between Off With Their Heads and New Mexican Disaster Squad.
    (Asian Man Records)

    The Ground Is Lava
    Bottle Rockets
    Landing somewhere in between Algernon Cadwallader and Dads, Bottle Rockets by Ohio’s The Ground Is Lava is chock full of posi-vibes and youthful exuberance. Bottle Rockets is an extremely fun album. Its bouncy bass lines and solid drumming are the foundation for Jon Rogers energetic guitar work and vocals. The best examples of this are on the songs “Look, Babe, An Island (We Can Live On It)” and “Nobody Likes You, Booster”. Bottle Rockets is the best under-the-radar album to come out this year and you are missing out if you aren’t listening to it. (Self-Released)

    The Hand In The Ocean
    Tree/Forts
    Tree/Forts, the latest from Detroit’s The Hand In The Ocean, is some banjo driven folk songs full of earnest and integrity. Not usually something that I get into, but the banjo noodling keeps everything interesting and moving. Tree/Forts is an unexpected surprise that will find itself hanging around my iTunes library a little big longer.
    (Save Your Generation Records)

    Headroom
    Headroom
    Headroom, a new band from Ben of UK’s Nai Harvest, takes a different approach with this project and sounds reminiscent of bands like Basement and Daylight. At only four songs, this EP is only a bite of what’s to come from this band and leaves the listener wanting much more. (Self-Released)

    The Hidden Cameras
    AGE
    Once described by frontman Joel Gibb as “gay church folk music”, AGE, the latest from The Hidden Cameras, is an interesting experiment in music. The opener “Skin & Leather” has an epic sound similar to The Polyphonic Spree mixed with The Faint, but a lot darker sounding. All of the songs have a pretty similar sound to them and one of the songs has a slight two tone ska sound, slowed way down, with its guitar up-picking. While I’m not familiar with this Canadian indie pop band’s previous work, AGE, definitely warrants a listen or two. (Evil Evil/Motor)

    The Hotelier
    Home, Like No Place Is There
    Switching up names, from The Hotel Year to The Hotelier, the band remains the same, but the music has gotten better. It took me a few listens just to grasp how good this album was. I knew it was good from the get go, it’s just it is somewhat of a departure from their last album, It Never Goes Out. The change isn’t that drastic, it’s just a natural change that occurs as a band grows and their experiences and abilities grow. I feel like the transition between albums had the band go from being young punks to seasoned veteran punks, like the way Saves the Day sounded between Through Being Cool to Stay What You Are. It’s subtle, but noticeable. (Tiny Engines)

    Human Parts
    Human Parts
    This album has been getting a lot of heat just because the one guy used to be in Against Me! and the album isn’t spectacular. I can see where other people don’t like this album because it does have an amateur quality to it, but this album is pretty harmless and sometimes fun. I feel like as their debut album, they just recorded every idea they had, good or bad, and hopefully on future releases their music will have better direction and a more cohesive sound. (Thick Air)

    Hung Up
    A Mind’s Way Away
    Hung Up’s A Mind’s Way Away sounds like a perfect combo of early New Found Glory era pop punk mixed with present day pop punk attitude. Overall, A Mind’s Way Away has some gems and shows a lot of promise for this young band. 
    (Save Your Generation Records)

    Kittyhawk/Cherry Cola Champions
    Split
    This split between these two bands is pretty much a dream come true. Kittyhawk starts out the split with 3 new songs and they’re ok. I was a huge fan of their self-titled EP, but these 3 songs feel like they are lacking what that EP had. Whatever it was, I hope it returns for their full-length. Cherry Cola Champions finish out the split on a high note, even though the first song almost seems like a long intro into the second song. I kind of love what Cherry Cola Champions have been doing of late and these two songs are nearly perfect. (Flannel Gurl Records)

    Know Secrets
    S/T
    Eric Urbach and Meghan O’Neil, best known from their other bands, Static Thought and Punch, started Know Secrets to push past their comfort zones and create music that sounds nothing like either has played before and they certainly succeeded. The music on this self-titled release has a fast driven guitar rock sound that is easy to get into and a neat dynamic with Urbach’s and O’Neil’s mixed vocals. 
    (Better Days Will Haunt You)

    Lake Effect
    Genuine Bonds
    Three songs of lo-fi 90’s styled indie rock that are easy on the ears. Lake Effect keep things simple and it works well on this EP. (Self-Released)

    Les Jupes
    Negative Space
    The first thing you’ll notice about Winnipeg’s Les Jupes is their deep golden voiced lead singer, Michael Petkau Falk. Falk’s baritone pipes bellow above all the anthemic music which gives a feeling of a call to action. Like if Falk barked orders at you, you wouldn’t question him at all. Negative Space has a mysterious feel to it, but overall very interesting. 
    (Noise Trade)

    Living In Error
    Bath
    Bath, from Philadelphia’s Living In Error, fulfills that need for snotty 90’s inspired grunge/alternative rock. There a lot of bands rehashing that 90s alt/rock sound right now and Living In Error brings some much needed attitude to an almost stale genre. (Self-Released)

    Long Lost
    Save Yourself, Start Again
    Long Lost, the side-project of Joe B from New England’s Transit, sounds like a lighter version of Transit, but is altogether it’s own animal. It’s hard not to draw comparisons to his other band because his voice is such a large part of each band. Save Yourself, Start Again is an extremely well-written, heart felt, and sincere album. (No Sleep Records)

    Magenta Lane
    WitchRock
    WitchRock is the newest album from Toronto’s Magenta Lane and their first since 2009’s Gambling With God. Formed in 2003 by sisters Lexi Valentine and Nadia King, and their friend French, the band signed to a label as teens and struggled to be taken seriously. After taking a break after the release of Gambling With God, they began work on their WitchRock EP. Bouncing between sounding like the band Garbage and more recent indie pop bands, Magenta Lane still sounds amazing and should have no problem being taken seriously now. Coming back with such a strong release that WitchRock is, this release could be considered a middle finger to anyone who doubted them in the past. (eOne Music)

    Mixtapes
    Ordinary Silence
    After hearing so much Mixtapes in a short amount of time, I took a little break from the band and came back with the release of Ordinary Silence. Their latest album still retains that signature Mixtapes sound, but definitely shows them growing and expanding their sound beyond typical pop punk. The songs this time around sound better written, more thought out and they have perfected the balance
    between Ryan Rockwell’s and Maura Weaver’s vocals. (No Sleep Records)

    Mustard Plug
    Can’t Contain It
    An all around great ska album, Can’t Contain It is the latest and newest album from ska legends Mustard Plug. The one thing I love about this band, is even though they’ve been playing for nearly 20+ years, their sound has remained intact and they’ve only gotten better with age. Can’t Contain It retains all the energy from Evildoers Beware! while still pushing and expanding their ska sound. No pun intended, but you should definitely pick this up. 
    (No Idea)

    Native
    Orthodox
    While I somewhat enjoyed Native’s previous full-length Wrestling Moves, I wasn’t totally sold on it. After listening to their latest album, Orthodox, I finally understand what everybody else had already known, Native is fucking awesome. To sum it up briefly, Orthodox sounds like These Arms Are Snakes and Russian Circles had a fling and birthed this beautiful baby named Native. (Sargent House)

    Papermoons
    No Love
    Austin’s Papermoons are back with a stellar follow-up to their 2009 debut, New Tales. No Love shows Papermoons at their best. The songs have a quiet beauty that are on par with Maritime’s best songs, if not better. A lot of growth and change has occurred in this duo’s lives outside of the band between New Tales and No Love and No Love perfectly encapsulates that period of adventure between albums. (Deep Elm)

    Pity Sex
    Feast Of Love
    While Pity Sex’s previous EP Dark World, was pretty ok and had some good ideas, Feast Of Love is a much more well-rounded and fully realized release. From the opening track “Wind Up” to the closer “Fold” every track sounds the way it was intended to sound; perfectly fuzzed out with a bit of shoe gaze influence. (Run For Cover Records)

    Placeholder
    I Don’t Need Forgiveness
    It’s a good sign for a band when they can continuously top their previous releases and this is the case with the latest release from Pennsylvania’s Placeholder. Maybe it’s just because a lot of other bands are showing their 90’s influences more, but I Don’t Need Forgiveness feels like it conveys some of that 90’s college rock sound as well.
    (Black Numbers) 

    Polar Bear Club
    Death Chorus
    The first thing long time fans of Polar Bear Club will notice on their latest release, Death Chorus, is the change in lead singer Jimmy Stadt’s vocals. While the new cleaner sounding vocals took a few listens to get used to, they are ultimately for the better. I feel like this is the first release by them that I can 100% get behind since their The Redder, The Better EP forever ago. Overall, the whole album has a different feeling then the rest of their discography and the songs are more straightforward than some past songs. (Rise Records)

    The Polyphonic Spree
    Yes, It’s True
    I was looking forward to this album much more than a lot of albums this year and it doesn’t disappoint. Their previous album, The Fragile Army, and this one shows a great shift in tone from their two earlier albums. They’ve gone from a choral orchestral group and morphed into a theatre act. The music and arrangements are bigger and the tone is more pop orientated and fun. The only thing that put me a bit off on this album was the feeling that instead of it being a group working as one, it felt like frontman Tim Delaughter and his backing band. Tim’s vocals are more prominent on this album then I remember them being on their past and almost felt it was too much. A small fault that can be dismissed easily, especially when they have probably the best song of the year near the end of the album. Originally released as a single in 2012, “What Would You Do” makes an appearance on this album and it is still as stunning as ever and remains the best example of this band’s power. 
    (Good Records Recordings)

    Rathborne
    Soft
    Rathborne sounds like an indie band from Brooklyn, because they are a band from Brooklyn. Had you told me they were from Brooklyn before listening, my guess of what they sounded like would’ve been pretty close to what Soft sounds like. Clean vocals, bouncy rhythms, jangly guitars and quirky attitude. That being said, Soft is still pretty good, just a little predictable. (Dilettante/True Believer)

    Russian Circles
    Memorial
    It’s been a while since I’ve listened to Russian Circles and I missed their last couple of albums, but Memorial is just like I remember them being. They are still one of the best instrumental rock/metal bands around. Singer Chelsea Wolfe makes an appearance on the album’s closing title track. The song is something you’d never expect from Russian Circles and is just simply a very beautiful song. (Sargent House)

    The Saddest Landscape & My Fictions
    When You Are Close, I Am Alone
    Ever since the These Arms Are Snakes/Harkonen Like A Virgin split in 2004, I’ve been a fan of
    releases like this where both bands collaborate on one song together. Each band contributes a new song to this split, which are both great, then they join forces for the epic 13 minute closer “When You Are Close, I Am Gone”. It’s a great example of two bands, veterans of the genre and a relatively newer band, pushing the envelope of what their genre has become and doing something totally
    awesome. (Topshelf Records)

    Save Ends
    Warm Hearts, Cold Hands
    With alternating male and female vocals and a heavy dose of power pop punk, Save Ends’ Warm Hearts, Cold Hands, is an exhilarating debut album. Warm Hearts, Cold Hands has a lot more heart and feeling than most punk albums. Instead of blasting through songs with a quick delivery, the songs and vocals on this album are a little slower and have more of an impact. If you enjoyed their previous, Strength vs. Will, this album is definitely a must. (Tiny Engines)

    Scott & Rivers
    Album
    Chalk this up as a guilty pleasure, or a yearning for something from Rivers Cuomo that doesn’t suck. This album is a collaboration between Scott Murphy from Allister and Rivers Cuomo from Weezer that is mostly sung in Japanese and some English. Even though I don’t know what they are saying, I still get the Japanese language choruses stuck in my head, and I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed this more than any Weezer album in the last decade.
    (Universal Japan)

    Secret Smoker
    Terminal Architecture
    Baton Rouge’s Secret Smoker play music in the vein of Four Hundred Years and other Lovitt Bands of that era. There is also a slight Ten Grand influence in there as well. Terminal Architecture is great if you are looking for some mid nineties inspired emo/math rock. (Protagonist Music)

    Signals Midwest
    Light On The Lake
    Light On The Lake picks up where Signals Midwest’s previous album, Latitudes and Longitudes, left off. The thing that I really love about Signals Midwest is that their song lyrics are so deep and involved. Each song is a story or a string of stories of past experiences and instead of the typical verse/chorus/verse, the songs just tell the whole story. Singer and songwriter Maxwell Stern definitely knows how to pen a tune and Light On The Lake features some of the best songwriting released this year. (Tiny Engines)

    The Slow Death
    No Heaven
    Featuring members from other bands like The Ergs, Dillinger Four and Pretty Boy Thorson, The Slow Death are a band you probably already know about. This Minneapolis band had garnered plenty of attention already and were featured in Turnstile Comix #1. No Heaven sounds pretty much like their previous releases, but the vocals on this album sound a bit more coarse. (A.D.D. Records)

    Sombear
    Love You In The Dark
    Sombear, the side project from Now, Now’s Bradley Hale, is a surprisingly good electro-pop album that I thought would never find it’s way into my music collection. After hearing the initial singles, I wasn’t sold on the project, but listening to the whole album made me a fan. Love You In The Dark is quite a departure from anything Now, Now has done, but it’s refreshing to hear an artist distance themselves from their main band. (Trans Records)

    South Bay Bessie
    Too Late
    Their first release in 9 years, Flint, Michigan’s South Bay Bessie are back with their 2006 recorded, but never released, Too Late EP. Overflowing at the edges with pop punk smarts, Too Late sounds like it was written and recorded within the last year.
    (Save Your Generation Records)


    Speedwell
    Start to Finish
    One of emo’s lesser known, but still important bands, Speedwell existed between 1996-1998 and again between 2000-2003 and released a 7”, an EP and had a song on Emo Diaries #3. Start to Finish is a complete collection of everything Speedwell did during its existence, remastered beautifully. If you are unfamiliar with their music, they sound like a cross of early Promise Ring, The Anniversary and even a little bit of Texas Is The Reason. If 90’s emo is your thing, then Speedwell’s Start to Finish is a must. (Coolidge Records)

    Springtime
    South Hill
    Springtime reminds me of the punk music I used to hear in skate videos in the 90s, and I love them for that. (Tiny Engines)

    Tancred
    Tancred
    Tancred is the solo project from Now, Now’s Jess Abbott and is similar to what Now, Now does, but definitely has its own sound apart from Now, Now. Jess Abbott does an awesome job on this self-titled album. The songwriting is more confident and more complete than her past releases and the songs really show off her great voice. (Topshelf Records)

    Teen Agers
    I Hate It
    I found out about this album late and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. I Hate It is definitely one of the sleeper albums of 2013. Other people have compared them to bands like Hot Water Music and The Menzingers, but I get a big Millencolin vibe from them. Either way, this album rules. (Anchorless Records)

    Tennis System
    Part Time Punk Sessions
    Recorded in a single take, Tennis System’s songs on their Part Time Punk Sessions EP are blazing fast and have a unhinged energy to them. This EP is a follow-up to the well received 2011 release, Teenagers. Combining one part punk, one part lo-fi noise, and a small part psychedelia, Tennis System has embarked on something exciting for this release. (PaperCup Music)


    Their/They’re/There
    Analog Weekend
    After releasing an excellent EP earlier this year, Their/They’re/There is back with 3 more guitar melting songs. Even though Evan Weiss has been busy with his new full-length for Into It. Over It., I think some of the best music he has released this year was with T/T/T and Pet Symmetry. Matthew Frank’s guitar work on these 3 songs is unbelievably technical and mind-blowing and Mike Kinsella’s drumming is always on point. The highpoint of this EP is the last half of “Travelers Insurance”. The song slows down in the middle like it’s ending, then erupts into some crazy guitar noodling courtesy Frank and Weiss’s lyrics and vocals are at the top of their game. (Polyvinyl/Topshelf)

    Tim Kasher
    Adult Film
    Whether he’s doing Cursive, The Good Life, or his solo work like Adult Film, Tim Kasher is always a great lyricist and showman. Adult Film’s music sounds unlike anything Kasher has released before and is quite surprising, while the lyrics sound similar to Lovers Need Lawyers era The Good Life. Adult Film features a cameo by Laura Stevenson, she sings on “Where’s Your Heart Lie”, and a number of musicians, including Nate Kinsella, helped out with the music. (Saddle Creek)

    The Torches
    The Authority of
    Described on their label’s website as a “folk stomp” band, The Torches are pretty much a punk band with banjos and harmonicas. At first listen, I hated it, even more than I hate Americana Rock, but as I got through the songs, I hated it less and less. While I respect The Torches and their musical abilities, it’s unlikely that this album will find it’s way into my permanent music collection. 
    (Lujo Records)

    Tyler Daniel Bean
    Everything You Do Scares Me
    This new 7” from Tyler Daniel Bean contains two new songs that are pretty sweet. If I remember correctly, I enjoyed his last album a bit and these songs seem a step up from those previous ones. (Tor Johnson / Kat Kat) 

    Weekender
    Spanish Peaks
    Weekender is a quartet of shoegazers from Philadelphia and they must’ve know that I’m a sucker for fuzzed out bass and guitars. A couple of the songs are heavy in the distortion and some of them remind me of Oasis’s early tunes. (PaperCup Music)

    White Wives
    S/T
    Featuring members of other Pittsburgh bands like Anti-Flag, The Code and Dandelion Snow. The music is incredibly anthemic and kind of explodes halfway through the first song, “Yours”, with intense, fiery vocals. These 2 songs are a great introduction for listeners who may want to get into the band but don’t want to dive into their Happeners full-length first. (A-F Records)

    World’s Scariest Police Chases
    NOFX and Out Come The Wolves Dookie
    If you have the balls to call out NOFX, Rancid and Green Day in your album title, you better have the musical chops to back it up. Luckily, These Pittsburgh punk rockers do posses a Direct Hit! like ability to churn out loud and fast punk songs. 
    (A-F Records)

    You’ll Live
    Lost. Forgotten. Abandoned. Buried
    Four new songs from Florida’s You’ll Live that are also the named in the album title. The songs on this EP are pretty similar to the ones on their Above The Weather full-length. I really like how the music is usually upbeat, but the vocals are often screamed with great emotion. It’s a really cool contrast that makes You’ll Live interesting. (Dog Knights)

    You Blew It!
    Keep Doing What You’re Doing
    It took me until this new album from You Blew It!, to really get into this band. I remember checking out The Past In Present when everyone was talking about it forever ago and thinking it was kind of “meh” sounding. I enjoyed their Grow Up, Dude album somewhat, but none of it really stuck with me. On Keep Doing What You’re Doing, the band has reached new levels with the help of Evan Weiss as producer, who pushed the band to go bigger. Keep Doing What You’re Doing sounds a lot fuller and is one of those albums people will be talking about for years to come. (Topshelf Records)

    Yourself and The Air
    Spirit Mixers
    Mixing emo roots with shoe gaze and psychedelic soundscapes, Chicago’s Yourself and The Air creates an album full of beautiful songs full of energy and life. (Lujo Records)