When I started going to punk shows in Chicago last year, I knew it was only a matter of time until some enterprising label swooped in and began exposing the vast amounts of talent pouring out of the basements. So far, UK label Big Scary Monsters has stepped up, snapping up the UK rights to Native, and putting out records in the US for former Lion Of The North pop-punkers Grown Ups. Frenzied Chicago math trio Noumenon are the latest addition to the BSM stable, and Party Mathematics shows them to be quite deserving of the honor.

These technical, major-key, occasionally gang-vocaled whirling dervishes will assuredly invite comparisons to Fang Island almost immediately, and they won’t be far off. But Party Mathematics three sweaty dudes and a couple of mics aesthetic hit a familiar yet distinct pleasure zone from Fang Island’s grand-standing, occasionally eye-winking arena-ready solos and multi-tracked guitars. There’s an undeniable distance on Daisy, both in the recording and general approach that Noumenon traverse fiercely to distinguish their brand.

None of this is to say that either band is better or worse; simply to illustrate that they have different goals despite sharing more than a few of the same sonic benchmarks. As kick-ass and fun as Party Mathematics is, it still spends enough energy on the latter half of it’s namesake to keep it from having the same crossover appeal that an album like Daisy has.

Approach Party Mathematics with a clean slate and open ears. Listen for the magic of three insanely talented musicians getting together to have some fun, show some chops, and generally fuck shit up. Make sure to catch their live show as well, if you can. The entire EP is available for any price you choose, including free, on their Bandcamp site. Stream the whole thing below and consider tossing these hardworking kids a couple bucks for their tunes.

For Fans Of: Fang Island, Native, Don Caballero

MySpace //  Bandcamp

Brian B.

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So I wrote a decent sized proper review of this, full of words like ‘swelling’ and ‘amorphous’. It sucked. My arsenal of adjectives and turns of phrase isn’t developed enough to do music this powerful justice. The bottom line is this: Castevet are four insanely talented musicians who channel every last drop of their musicianship and songwriting skill into crafting these emotional behemoths. They are definitely rooted in punk rock, with all of the raspy vocals and quick blasting rhythms. But the amount of feeling and desperation and humanity they are able to wring out of their instruments with a simple change in tempo or flick of a distortion pedal is mindblowing. Simply put, this is some of the only punk rock you could safely describe as “beautiful”. It’s a shame that this album got locked up in label (the normally awesome Big Scary Monsters) bullshit; it was supposed to be released at the end of February but, according to the band, won’t see the light of day until May albeit with two bonus tracks and on a different label. I dumped plenty of praise on Summer Fences last year and The Echo and The Light builds on every success that record had and then some. The storm is gathering for Castevet and I couldn’t be more stoked.

For Fans of: The Casket Lottery, Explosions in The Sky, Hot Water Music, The Appleseed Cast

MySpace

– Brian B.




I’m certain you’re familiar with Cursive; you’re probably not familiar with this album. And that’s a tragedy. Overshadowed by “masterpieces” like Domestica and The Ugly Organ, Storms has fallen uncomfortably under the radar. It was released after the band had broken up in ’98, before they got back together in ’99, going on to become kind of famous. It sounds undeniably Cursive-like (at least rather Domestica-like), with a comfortable amount of youthful exuberance, minus the concept and storyline. Instead young Kasher opted to write what is undeniably his wittiest lyrical achievement. In a winding narrative about semantics (go figure) and really subtle yet relatable aspects of everything mundane and crushingly important, Cursive lyrically mirror what’s going on musically. There’s a lot of really rough, crunchy hooks, it’s singable on the surface, and then you realize what you’re singing and give a dissatisfied smile.

The pop punk hooks hidden under a mixture of Fugazi and Cap’n Jazz fetish are so much stronger on this album than anything Cursive’s ever done after it. Everything meshes in a thick, loose jumble of punk rock nakedness and enthusiastic beauty. The guitars will oft break down into a fury of gorgeous dissonance. Kasher’s raw hybrid shouting/singing soars, rips through his larynx and straight to the heart. It’s the sound of growing up.

But I would be lying if this review weren’t a huge nostalgia trip. It reminds me of being 13 and sense of revolutionary aspirations chipping away and people I knew and loved chipping away with it in a low- class suburban slow cooker of cheap drugs and consumerism. It reminds me of kissing girls and summer and walking around without a care. It’s that kind of album It’s as much a living, breathing experience as it is music, as all good music is. Of course I can’t give that to you in a few mp3s. You’ve got to live and breathe with it, on your own.

-Brian S



When one brings up metallic hardcore, a plethora of greats such as Botch, Converge, or Coalesce come up, and rightfully so. But it’s just not complete without dropping Cursed, who, in terms of sheer loudness, can bring any of the aforementioned bands to their knees. Recently broken up, these legendary Deathwish alumni left a powerful legacy in a longstanding tradition of angry, noisy, pissed off hardcore (see: Left For Dead). Whether achieving their numbing catharsis through one minute bursts of blackened power chords or long, twisting, sludgefests, Cursed are the sonic equivalent of a fist in the teeth of your boss, or maybe a douchebag relative over for the holidays, your pick.

Buy

-Brian S

No Age’s 2008 breakthrough Nouns led certain critics to aptly label their hazy, melodic thrashing ‘dream-punk’. Randy and Dean have apparently taken that label to heart, as their latest EP Losing Feeling contains their dreamiest, most melodic, and overall best songs to date. The opening title track is an expanse of urgent drums and clouds of chiming melodic guitars, while drummer/singer Dean Spunt lazily intones, sounding more on key than ever. ‘Genie’ lets Spunt focus on vocals alone over lilting, fuzzy folk. Meanwhile, ‘Aim At The Airport’ adapts the structure of some of their earlier, more experimental tracks while replacing the fuzz found on those with more of the same pleasant, melodic looped guitars found throughout the EP. ‘You’re A Target’ closes the EP with the single best song No Age have written thus far, the type of balls-out punk anthem that No Age do best, filled to the brim with gorgeous and unique guitar tones. While Nouns was considered one of the best records of 2008 and rightly so, I have a feeling it’s merely going to be considered the predecessor to whatever this band does next. It will be huge.

it’s been roughly a minute since i’ve posted anything that really rocks; my summer was mostly filled with beats, synthesizers, and drones for some reason. shouldn’t it be the other way around? i feel like you should be into rockier stuff in the summer and more electronic stuff in the winter. so it goes.

i’ve had Summer Fences sitting on my hard drive for awhile now, as I grabbed it shortly before moving in. I’ve seen these gentleman live numerous times now, and I should have known better than to sleep on this album. hell, i was smart enough to post and play the hell out of their three-song unmastered demo tape, i wonder what got into me? regardless, Summer Fences is all at once gorgeous, expansive, catchy, energetic, and passionate. drawing as much sonically from Explosions In The Sky as early Against Me!, with an obligatory dose of the clean-toned Chicago/midwest emo, Castevet establish their strengths early and ride them straight on through.

“between berwyn and bryn mawr”, sounding slightly cleaner than its first appearance on the aforementioned demo, opens with an EITS-ish shimmering guitar cloud that shortly leads into an arpeggiated build. when those raspy shouts first hit from within such clean surroundings, its a wonderful shock. always kept at the perfect level in the mix, the vocals always spice up the pristine compositions with an element of intensity and passion without overwhelming. “i know what a lion is” is rolls and gallops along over an instrumental seven and a half minutes. “stranger, you know” wasn’t on the demo, but its melancholy guitar and desperate vocals make it a wonderful anthem and definite highlight.

what i’m trying to say is that these guys do everything pretty much exactly right. the production and mixing perfectly matches the scrappy beauty of the songs, the rhythms and melodies are complex and intricate, and the vocals beg to be sang along with, even if you don’t know the lyrics. these guys work hard, play hard, and create some heartbreakingly beautiful music. here’s to them.

BUY

the sound quality is crap in this video, but I’m glad someone caught this set on some sort of tape, because it was stupendous.

my fellow americans, we really need to step up our game. we’re getting shown up on home turf, guys. the dizzying chaos of screamo that was born and bred in basements from washington, d.c. to san diego has been slowly creeping across the European continent for the better part of this decade, slowly mutating as it spreads. bands like france’s daitro and sed non satiata and italy’s raein, not satisfied with the short bursts of noise that have trouble finding any context outside of sweaty, cramped basements, have taken the style and reconstructed it from the ground up. they’ve succeeded in molding a new style that is incredibly listenable, complex, nuanced, and well-produced without ever cutting back on the emotional intensity that drew them in to begin with. the european hardcore scene, where Norway’s Kaospilot have achieved veteran status, seems equally as focused on making great music overall as they are on being intense and loud.

Shadows, Kaospilot’s first full-length since 2003’s self-titled outing, slashes and burns its way across huge, meandering song structures and extremely nuanced instrumentals. i cannot say enough about the production here; it is absolutely massive. the drums and bass blast and pound every scream and riff down to the bone, forming a near-indestructible skeleton for Kaospilot’s ambitious hardcore. like many of their peers in the European emotional hardcore scene, their ear for dynamics in both tempo and volume sets Shadows a few tiers above so many basement thrashers.

When you have bands like Kaospilot who are as passionate about musicianship and great sound as they are about playing emotional hardcore, the results are always explosive and exciting. While Americans like Cease Upon The Capitol/Dolcim and …Who Calls So Loud have begun to experiment with varying song structures and dynamics in their hardcore like City Of Caterpillar did in their shortlived heyday, it is the Europeans who continue to drop monumental theses on emotional hardcore that set the bar at new heights with every release.

i wonder what they’ve got in the water over there?

(i know i said i would post this yesterday… fail. look out for The Thermals later tonight.)

so i saw a couple bands this past saturday night out in the illustrious burgh of Logan Square. i have enough fun out there that every time i get to hop on the Fullerton or Diversey bus, i know i’m in for a solid night. this trend continued on saturday night.

we arrived to find just the right amount of people buzzing about; not jammed, but not awkwardly underpopulated either. we made a bee-line for the basement and watched the final song of the first band, a Kansas City folk-punk duo whose name I sadly forget. sorry dudes.

the above bros, better known as inbirdseye from northern indiana, played next. i was excited to hear them after downloading one of their tracks off shock mountain, and they impressed the hell out of me. their mathy, anthemic indie rock was perfectly suited for midwestern basements, and they all meshed incredibly tightly. inbirdseye’s biggest strength seems to lie in their ability to make these big, detailed songs sound pretty laid-back and effortless. real solid dudes, i hope to see them again. you can find a link to their three song demo here.

Illinois folk-punk battalion Elephant Gun rounded out the night, and they were a blast from the opening. I wasn’t sure what to expect when i saw all the horns and violins and pianos in such a setting, maybe some sort of rustic, sensitive brand of indie Americana or whatever. Every single member of the band was a joy to watch and played well, and their energy never got spread too thinly across everyone. All of the vocal trade-offs and instrument switching added to the ramshackle nature of the music, but they always stayed focused and energetic. any fans of earlier Against Me! or World/Inferno Friendship Society will find a lot to like here.

p.s. you can now purchase digital copies of His Hideous Heart’s new album on CDBaby. High quality, DRM-free, no bullshit. Click here!

i actually already posted this album once back when i was on tumblr, but whatever. if there’s any album that deserves a repost, it’s the power of failing. most people will probably tell you that EndSerenading is the better of the two mineral full lengths, but the raw energy of TPOF is impossible to deny. i would give anything to have seen these dudes in their prime. if you can think of a better one-two punch than ‘gloria’ and ‘slower’, leave it in the comments.