Review: Mixtapes – Ordinary Silence

Originally published by PopMatters, June 27th, 2013

Since the dawn of the album, fans have incessantly clamored for artists to recreate the nostalgia of their first LP. Rather than embracing progression or experimentation, listeners have, for the most part, lamented a group’s decision to push the boundaries of their sound and abilities. With Ordinary Silence, the sophomore album from Dayton, Ohio’s Mixtapes, the band gives their fans exactly what they said they wanted—and it’s not pretty. 

A year removed from the release of their debut album, Ordinary Silence is nothing short of a rehashing; an unremarkable effort in scrappy pop-punk redolent of NOFX and ‘90s-era Lookout! Records signees that shows little to no development, and is at times derivative of itself. Nevertheless, Ordinary Silence isn’t all bad—in-fact, it’s quite decent. The guys and girl in Mixtapes are a talented bunch of young musicians adding more than effortless bombast to the pop-punk genre. Branded by their stream-of-conscious approach to songwriting, male/ female dual-vocal delivery, and a prolific output of singles, splits and EPs over a short three years, Mixtapes have carved out a comfortable niche for themselves in modern pop-punk. Unfortunately, the band proved to be too comfortable this go-around, as Ordinary Silenceplays tired and disappointing, considering the group’s strong track record thus far.

Review: City and Colour – The Hurry And The Harm

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Originally published by PopMatters, June 7th, 2013

City and Colour is many things to many different people. Depending on who you ask, the moniker from which Dallas Green releases his solo albums will imaginably conjure a flurry of, “that guy from Alexisonfire”, for his work as the guitarist and background vocalist in the popular post-hardcore band, “Canadian celebrity”, on account of his three platinum-certified albums, equal number of Juno award wins, and of course, his relationship with MuchMusic and So You Think You Can Dance host, Leah Miller. Perhaps most common though, is “acoustic singer-songwriter”, considering the nature of his back catalog. But, on The Hurry and the Harm, Green’s latest full-length album, a more appropriate term likely lies somewhere between “band leader” and “frontman” – a trend started with 2011’s Little Hell.

For his fourth album and 22nd overall release, The Hurry and the Harm is an extremely solid effort. The title track of which opens the record with a tasteful and anchored acoustic guitar-led jaunt through swelling pedal steel accents and Green’s effortless vocal delivery. Unlike it’s title, the song neither hurries, nor harms; it’s careful, well-calculated, and like the remainder of the album, a safe coming out that reaches for the center. “Harder Than Stone” follows more involved than the former, introducing multiple guitar tracks, both of strumming and picking varieties, and the underlying pulse of a strong bass. Upbeat, the track is busy with varied instrumentation, yet is arranged in a way that allows the song to breathe and focus on Green’s lyrical articulation.

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Review: Lights & Motion – Reanimation

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Originally published by PopMatters, April 24th, 2013

There are two factors by which the genre of post-rock should be judged by – a litmus test, if you will. One, does it challenge and/or dispel the false notion that at the center of rock music presides a frontman and “proper” song structure? Two, and perhaps most important, does it take listeners out of themselves and into ethereal, ambient and otherworldly realms of which anything and everything is possible when guitars and percussion collide? If this is to be true, then Reanimation, the debut LP from Sweden’s 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist, Christoffer Franzén (aka Lights & Motion), is a near-perfect post-rock album. Bound the single thread that is Franzén’s solitary performances–improvised, layered and manipulated – is a 67-minute epic that ebbs and flows through sweeping reverb, lush textures of orchestrated strings and sonically crushing melodies.

Of the post-rock groups recognized by the majority of mainstream indie rock listeners, Lights & Motion most closely resembles Explosions in the Sky in the band’s habitual use of rock’s standard guitar, bass and drums. And while Reanimation is chock-full of the non-traditional percussion often found in the genre, it’s Franzén’s use of this trinity in creating such majestic and euphoric movements that will astound most. No bones about it, Lights & Motion’s Reanimation is quite possibly the greatest debut album in post-rock history.

Review: Broadway Calls – Comfort/ Distraction

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Originally published by PopMatters, April 12th, 2013

It’s a well know fact that pop-punk, as we know it today, is a genre built on the backs of three-piece bands; a long and rich tradition, including the likes of such veteran acts as Blink-182, Green Day and MxPx. These tight units of drums, guitar and bass have become ubiquitous among purists and the mainstream alike as tried and true and seminal. More remarkably, the masters behind the genre are still accepted and celebrated within the tight knit DIY scenes of their ancestry long after entering into radio rotation. Now, some 20 years since these aforementioned artists released their first 7-inch, Broadway Calls—with their third full-length album, Comfort/ Distraction—have cemented a place in this legacy.

It’s been a long road for the Oregonian trio, involving a myriad of record labels, stop-gap releases, a hiatus and multiple near-breakups. If this record—an exemplary effort in pop-punk excellence—proves one thing, it’s this: When a band thoroughly counted-out and well past their prime (by anyone’s assertion) is able to focus their energy into an urgency, not only will this produce their best album yet, but the best the genre has seen this year; not to mention, one with more energy and agility than any band fresh out of their teens would possess on their debut LP.

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Husband. Writer. Record Collector. Born in Miami, living in New York City.

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