This week was flyin’ by with tons of new songs from so many spectrums, I could barely even keep track of them all!!! We went all over with this TopCast, capturing a wide-range of genres from reggae to punk-rock to jazz. Please sit back and enjoy last weeks 8 top posted independent tracks in this weeks TopCast RUNDOWN!
This weeks RUNDOWN is personally my favorite so far. So many great posts from last week it was a close call for who made it. These are the viewers favorite posts, with sounds from all sorts of genres. Enjoy the TopCast.
Just a quick heads up to fellow pop-punk fans: head here to stream what’s set to be one of the best releases in the genre this year, and check out the video below.
Narrative: A kid grows up and gets ready to leave home.
Performance: In a garage. Perfection.
Song: One of the catchiest celebrations of nostalgia since “Good Riddance.”
Why You Should Watch It: This one’ll either hit you right in the chest, or it won’t. It’s a simple look back on a dude’s life as he gets ready to move away. Nothing spectacular about the photography or concept – in fact, Saves the Day tackled similar material with the classic video for “At Your Funeral”:
Much like the beefy, down-to-earth pop punk they play though, whatever The Swellers’ video lacks in flash, they make up for in heart. If you’ve ever lived in a small town, had band practice in a garage, or had trouble saying goodbye, you’ll instantly connect with this. You might even have a few hairs stand on the back of your neck at some point.
Either way, good luck getting the song out of your head.
“I miss it, too…”
By: Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL|Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC
Oh, pop punk. Dearest friend, cruelest enemy, my poison, my mainstay, my first love and my mistress still. I’ve been writing almost a month and still have yet to disclose the nature of our relationship to the people.
The first time I heard “What’s My Age Again?” I was slain. It was hands down the catchiest song I’d ever heard. I probably should’ve been put off by how much of my mom’s old “Boston” records I heard in it, but, alas, I was too young to recognize cheese. Doesn’t matter. Even if I had I don’t know if it would’ve made a damn bit of difference. Anthony Bourdain craves his street food, I crave those double time drums, shouted vocals and pogo pits (also, Troma movies and gummi bears – but that’s a blog for another time).
This craving lead me to NOFX, Green Day, Bad Religion, Lagwagon, New Found Glory, Jawbreaker, upward and onward into the early ‘aughts, emo, and acne. Now I’m twenty-four and my horizons are broad, but I’m always looking for my new fix.
Enter Half Hearted Hero. Right off the bat: minor quibble, but they’re losing points for the name. I know, picky, picky, but c’mon- it kinda sounds like they’re playing a high school talent show, and nothing could be further from the truth.
How this band is not buzzed into space by now is one of the great mysteries of our time. Did aliens crash at Roswell? Where’s Jimmy Hoffa? Who cares. The real question is why haven’t we given these dudes the pop-punk crown and a nice big steak.
I know, I know, we’re in the midst of a pop-punk renaissance, what with The Wonder Years, Yellowcard, Man Overboard, Set Your Goals, Four Year Strong, and maybe even Blink (!) releasing albums at some point this year, there’s a lot of strong competition. Many of these artists bring a fresh musical perspective to a tired genre, infusing it with elements from hardcore or indie (similar to what’s happening in rap, though there’s a good argument that rap itself never really got tired – just its hitmakers), but for my money, no one’s doing it as well as Half Hearted Hero.
Their new EP, Running Water, blasts through six tracks on the back of necksnapping drums and splintery, complex guitar leads, all held to earth by bass playing cast in concrete. It’s a cocktail of Rufio’s intricate catchiness cut with Moneen’s passion and earthy emotion. The back-to-back bullets of tracks four and five – “The Wheels” and “Mirrors” – capture the best of what HHH brings to the table.
“The Wheels” opens with one of the most angular, pleasurably syncopated riffs I’ve heard all year and never lets up – though I don’t know which guitarist Clinton Lisboa or AJ Mills to thank. Vocalist Anthony Savino belts intelligent lyrics with passion (“Another empty page and I wonder what to lay upon it/Maybe an apology/A declaration of remorse”) and the acoustic outro lets the listener gulp some air before the band drops the mammoth jam that is “Mirrors.”
If Blink 182 are the big, shiny, mindless Michael Bay of pop-punk, Half Hearted Hero are Werner Herzog, blazing headlong into the wilderness with a passionate cry. Call bullshit on the genre if you want, but turn this track up – even on some cheap headphones – and try not to get lost in the first twenty seconds. The climbing riff, the pulverizing stomp of the kick twelve seconds in: it’s heavy music for light people. The guitars don’t stop, but they never feel lost. Bands that play this technical style of pop-punk often find themselves careening through songs lead by a handful of guitar parts that are repeated ad-nausea. Not so much of that here –Lisboa and Mills play each note with precision and purpose, building on what came seconds before and driving the piece to one epic guitar solo and at least two climaxes.
Some would argue that this aversion to repetition will keep the band from crafting the hooks needed to get to the next level in their career. For pop radio that relies on an unwavering verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure (and let’s face it, leans rather heavily on the “chorus” part of that equation) that’s probably true, but there are moments in each song that will wrap around your brain and not let go – see the outro of “Five Points” or :25 into “Start Where You Are.”
Catchy as their peers? Maybe not. Bad name? Sure, but if those are the two biggest knocks against a band with this much skill, passion and intelligence they’re barely knocks at all. Wherever Half Hearted Hero go from here (barring “hiatus”) I’ll be following.
The frustration of being pigeonholed can tear a band apart. It’s easy to forget musicians’ influences are drawn from all kinds of genres, and that their interests tend to spill well outside the group that puts them in the spotlight. Day in, day out, they beat the pavement to a pulp to try and make (or keep) a name with the same handful of bandmates and songs, playing to crowds who expect – demand, actually – the sound they first fell in love with.
It’s no wonder so many bands splinter into side projects, solo albums and straight out meltdowns.
Person L’s Kenny Vasoli is one of these musicians. He avoided the meltdown, but after his first band – The Starting Line – dissolved after their album, “Direction,” didn’t do well, he shed his radio-ready skin and exposed a more mature, unpredictable artist than the guy that wrote the pop-punk classic “Best of Me.” Much like ex-Drive Thru Records label mate Ace Enders (who ended his own group, The Early November, around the same time) there was always a hint that Kenny’s musical mind was functioning on a different plane than his peers’. Whether it was the surprisingly raw lyrics of “Bedroom Talk,” or the complex layers of “Island,” even The Starting Line’s singles veered away from “standard.”
Here, on his second full length as Person L, “The Positives,” Vasoli dabbles in lyrically light instrumental rock on the opening track “Hole in the Fence,” before pivoting into “Good Days” and “The Positives,” two cuts that take cues from midwestern 90’s emo. The latter opens with a guitar triplet and noodly organ that sounds like someone chopped and screwed an America Football track.
All this leads to the track that stands as the beating heart of the whole endeavor; the one that burrows in the brain and kicks it straight in the pleasure center: “Goodness Gracious.” This is the kind of reinvention that most frustrated pop artists can only dream about. Sure, Vasoli released an album and three tracks worth of great music between the death of The Starting Line and this, but here is where he finds his new voice. The track makes full use of the unique grit n’ howl in his throat and pairs it with an amazingly dirty riff that calls to mind the exciting, bluesy simplicity of a Hendrix line. The guitars are gloriously distorted and fuzzy, so much so that they create their own feedback in the opening four count. There’re horns, shouts, and even some sort of deadened cowbell around 1:25 that adds to the frenetic, danceable energy.
Take a listen:
He follows this up with the sock hop chord progression of “New Sensations,” that sounds like it has a Chuck Berry co-write, and from there the album trails back off into more experimental territory. While enjoyable, nothing else comes close to the one-two punch of these tracks.
Whether Person L’s next release remains as scattered, or if it will it focus on the blues elements that prove most successful here remains to be seen, but it’s definitely something to listen for.
By: Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC
Gettin’ into that Beach Boys vibe with Wavves from Southern California as they lay down their latest video for “King Of The Beach”. This is what it would be like if the Beach Boys got ‘Beastie’ on them. These guys really show you how to take advantage of the lovely weather in SoCal, just living life and having a good time no matter what the circumstances. Definitely a really fun video to match the hit people loved all last year. Check out the “King Of The Beach” album along with their latest work on “Summer Is Forever” EP.
There are few experiences in life more satisfying than discovering a band that pisses off your parents/neighbors/civilized human beings within earshot. Cranking up an obnoxiously loud, manic whirlwind of guitars, bass and drums is like communion for those who worship rock n’ roll.
Sure, a good hook, a well constructed song; those things can also bring joy, even rapture on occasion, but nothing – nothing – beats hearing some out of touch flunky, be they young or old, shout those four magic words:
“Turn that crap off!”
– which I’ll go out on a limb and say is exactly the reaction the maniacs in Monotonix got at their first show when they started in Tel Aviv, Israel. Luckily for those of us stateside, they tired of the few venues that would accept them overseas and decided to import their madness to our shores.
In the center of their storm, drummer Haggai Fershtman finds a deep-pocket stomp for singer Ami Shalev and guitarist Yonatan Gat to lay their squeals, hoots, hollers, riffs and wails over. Gat’s leads lie somewhere between The Stooges and the White Stripes, while Ami howls like he escaped from the asylum the Ramones sang about but never actually visited.
Their live shows are part performance art, part concert, and infamous for living up to exactly what the sound promises: non-stop dancing, crowd surfing, broken instruments, the occasional fire and complete, utter insanity. Just watch:
Also, watch them take a show outside:
Track below is from the “Where Were You When It Happened?” EP. Their newest LP “Not Yet” just dropped and was produced by Steve Albini (Nivana, The Pixies).
Blast it, enjoy it, and for God’s sake, don’t ever turn it down.
Chris Cullari | Beat Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL| Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC |
*Click the album cover to check out the track list and donate!*
The independent music community is a beautiful thing, and when it comes together to support a cause, the results are always special. In this case, a number of like-minded bands have donated tracks to create a compilation to raise money for our brothers and sisters in Japan.
As Soupy, singer of “The Wonder Years” explains in the press release:
“Last Friday we woke up in Maryland to read the news about the earthquake that struck Northern Japan and as the hours rolled by, things seem to go from awful to, well, worse than awful. News of tsunamis, floods, fires, radiation leaks and more poured in as we sat feeling helpless in the van. The idea struck to maybe text a few of our friends to see if we could get five or six songs together for a short comp to benefit the victims of this tragedy. I think it really speaks to the sense of community we have in this scene that within the two hour drive to Delaware, over 20 bands agreed to be a part of this. The comp is a collection of primarily rare, hard to find or unreleased recordings. The storefront was donated to us by Limited Pressing and currently, Paypal is allowing you to send money to charities without taking any fees. This means that, aside from the standard fee Paypal may take out when money enters an account, 100% of the money will be going to Americares to help the Japanese.”
As a human being, you can know your money is going to ease the immense suffering overseas and as a music fan, you’re getting a collection of unreleased, rare, and hard to find tracks from a cross-section of the major players in the current (pop) punk/indie/DIY scene. The track listing is no joke – Transit, Man Overboard, The Wonder Years, Valencia, The Swellers, Koji, Balance and Composure – these are the dudes you need to know. Kind of reminds me of the “Welcome to the Family” days of Drive Thru.
Go. Download. If you can afford $5, you can afford $10. These stand-up dudes are going above and beyond to offer something in return for your help.
“Stay Young” by Save Your Breath:
By: Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC
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