Archive for the Reviews Category

Review: Bramble

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on April 6, 2010 by jeffathearingaid

Artist: Bramble

Album: H.A.G.S. (Had a Great Summer)

Quickreviewquickreviewquickreview!

I stumbled on this folk band a couple weeks ago on a myspace band hunt and quickly became accustomed with their wholesome, folksy sound. they sing of trains and nature and love. Swimming in rivers and watching the seasons change.  It’s very positive, relaxing music. Here is a quick review of their recent EP, HAGS.

One of the things that makes Bramble so appealing is just their simple, down to earth feel. They have pretty standard, but wide-ranging, instrumentation for a folk band with an accordion, acoustic guitar, banjo, tambourine and mandolin all worked into the recording. Nothing is too spectacular in the instrumental area, but it doesn’t need to be. For Bramble it’s all about the songs. These songs are expertly crafted. The bouncy opening track is just begging to be played on a sunny morning on the way to a state park or the beach or something. Each song gives off a certain feel. In “Trains X” we explore a fleeting relationship that lasts for but a few days, until the lovers must part ways. The accordion really takes the lead in theis song and carries the fun rhythms.

“Colors” is the stand-out track on this EP. It captures the feeling of longing and loneliness that comes with fall, turning into winter, but it also manages to stay in style with the rest of the album, which is very warm. The song opens with harmonies and a folksy hook that I can’t get out of my head, and plunges into the mid-tempo song about changing seasons. The lyrics in “Colors” overshadow all the other songs, finding symbolism in autumn and the turning of the leaves. “Kicking through these piles of leaves up to your ankles got me thinking/ What a thing it is to find such joy in something else’s sorrow/ What a life to live to see such yesterdays and await tomorrow/I see the difference in the context, something dies and something’s born.”

The background singing is less than glorious, but the lead singer is a joy to listen to. He has a clear, earthy voice that really makes these songs work.

This a tight, soulful band. Their songs are optimistic and joyful. I instantly get into a great mood when I hear the opening song, “Fruit of the Moon”. Bottom line is it’s fun, poetic folk music that’s strangely beautiful.

You can find Bramble by clicking here or going to their myspace.

~Jeff

Review: Bomb the Music Industry!

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on March 9, 2010 by jeffathearingaid

Artist: Bomb the Music Industry!

Album: Adults!

Download it for FREE HERE.

Excited by nothing!

Rosenstock fans rejoice! New release from BtMI! I’ll be completely honest and say that I’m not a huge fan of BtMI’s earlier recordings! They have a few good, even great songs but I really wasn’t a fan of their recordings. There was too much clutter, more often than not you couldn’t hear the vocals or the guitar was scratchy or there was just something that detracted from the recording.

On a completely different note I really enjoyed this new EP! The only real reason why I downloaded it was because it was new and free, but that’s not why I think that you should download it. It’s just a really well made album and nothing is really grating and all the tracks meld together nicely. It isn’t as frantic as earlier releases. It’s much more organized.

Jeff Rosenstock is still writing great songs. This EP is filled with catchy horn lines, epic chord progressions (I’m looking at you “Sanawon”), and the usual bouts of self-loathing that come with the Rosenstock territory. Out of all the songs, “All Ages Shows” and “The First Time I met Sanawon” are what kept me listening to this album. “All Ages” has this pretty air about it. It isn’t gritty punk or upbeat ska. It just has this great waltz feel to it that builds to a cathartic chorus (featuring Laura Stevenson’s voice!).  “Sanawon” is one of my favorite third wave songs right now. It’s just plain FUN.

So all in all I feel like BtMI! is in a great place right now. I’m looking forward to more stuff like this. You probably won’t like this if you’re hung up on the earlier albums but seriously give it a chance. It’s a little more mellow and better thought out. Oh yeah, did I mention Laura Stevenson sings in “All Ages Shows”? That’s enough for me.

4 Rosenscreams out of 5.

~Jeff

Review: La Dispute

Posted in Reviews on February 20, 2010 by Ryan

Artist: La Dispute
Album: Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega and Altair

Listen to it here

La Dispute is a progressive hardcore, ambient band based out of Grand Rapids Michigan. They released Somewhere At the Bottom of the River in November, 2008 but recently released a benefit EP during December, 2009. The band is currently planning to tour the United States from March through May, record in the later part of March, and is also working on a European tour.

Sound / Musicianship

Most music that falls anywhere near the genre hardcore is not my cup of tea. The growling and breeing and constant chug patterns annoy and bore me and I have nothing else to say about them. However, while La Dispute appears to draw a heavy amount of influence from the hardcore genre, they excel past it by incorporating many other feels and styles while avoiding the repetitive cliches that are usually found with many hardcore bands.

The overall sound of this album blows me away. The very start of the album with “Such Small Hands” doesn’t start with cutthroat beats or heavy hitting guitars; it starts slowly, building up from a clean guitar and then cutting out to a fade right at the end. Both this fade and the shortness of the song (second shortest on the album) leave the listener wanting more right away. And more is definitely given.

From there on, La Dispute tackles the listener with a barrage of sound and does not give up until the end. However, while the album puts a lot of focus on developing heavy, intricate feels, nearly every song contains a break to less chaotic style with ambient, clean guitars and a slower pace. While many musicians are able to do such a thing, La Dispute does it in respect to the lyrics and how the song is progressing as a story. Each transition appears to be very well thought out and sets the listener up for a very emotional listen.

The thought that goes into simply the structure of the songs begins to show the musicianship that the band has. The songs are complex, switching from one style to another, emphasizing certain sections and feelings, all while maintaining a solid musical background. The guitarists work very well together with maintaining a balance with one another. There are times when both are playing the same part, others when a lead part is very clearly featured, and even other times when there is only one guitarist is playing. “Andria” and “Said the King to the River” both come to mind as great examples of the guitar balance. How the guitar lines come together is overall very well thought out and I am very impressed with how the guitars come together to create the melodies and backgrounds of the songs. The drums and bass are also very consistent with holding the base of the songs, and no part of the album seems to go off time or lose the beat. If listening carefully, some parts of the album explore different time signatures with “New Storms For Old Lovers” starting off in 3/4 and almost taking a waltz feel at times, and parts of “The Last Lost Continent” going into even different feels.

I usually do not have much to say about vocals or lyrics, but both of those things strike me as unique in this band. As mentioned, the songs all flow like stories and have certain feelings and emotions attached to each section. What really emphasizes these emotions is the vocals and the lyrics. The vocalist goes from roaring highs, to soft spoken word passages and the amount of dynamics that are portrayed throughout the album really set the album up to be so unique. The lyrics themselves fit the highs and lows of the vocals and songs. While many of the lyrics can come off as personal experiences or even story-telling of something else, the listener is able to relate overall to what is being said.

With all these compliments, there are some noticeable things about the album that I do not personally enjoy. While this band exceeds most hardcore bands I listen to, there are still some generic riffs and melodies that come up throughout the songs that don’t come off as strong as others. “Damaged Goods” and “Then Again, Maybe You Were Right” come off as the most strong examples of this. However, these lacking parts can mostly be looked over as the rest of the album seems to compensate.

Quality / Originality

The quality of this level is high. The band took its time in the studio and with mixing and mastering, and the final product is something for the band to be proud of. All the instruments come out great, and in particular, the guitar tracks were put together very well and extremely well balanced simply on a production level. Everything comes through as it should.

There are not many other bands that sound anything close like La Dispute. The music, vocals, and overall feel would be recognizable to me anywhere and the band is obviously on the track to something great. While parts of the songs could be split up and found through many other bands, what makes La Dispute great is that they have taken the best aspects of so many styles and put them together with amazing dynamics to create a very well developed and original album.

Overall Impression

This record is very solid and one my new favorites. I’ve been listening to La Dispute for only two months now, but I keep finding myself coming back them. The songs are catchy and intricate, the lyrics deep and powerful and just so many aspects of this CD are worth listening to. I would highly recommend listening to this album if you are interested in listening to anything that is able to have raging highs and emotional lows. Even if you don’t particularly like La Dispute, any person should be able to respect the music they are making.

-Ryan

Review: Atlas The Atom Smasher

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on January 27, 2010 by Ryan

Artist: Atlas The Atom Smasher
Album: Doubletree Demos

Download it here

Atlas The Atom Smasher is a progressive punk / skacore band based out of Massachusetts. Doubletree Demos is a set of demos recently recorded by the band and released free to the public. The band hopes to record a full length album in the near future.

For this review, Ryan and I (Jeff) will be doing back to back takes on each of the songs individually.

“Josh Tracy Vs. The Rebel Alliance”

Ryan: This is a pretty standard introduction to the album, nothing too special about it. It starts everything off with a Star Wars sample which is pretty neat and then goes on to about thirty seconds of thrash. It’s heavy and would be enjoyable live but there’s not much else to say about it.

Jeff: Epic opener in my opinion. A dissonant rant introduced after a Star Wars sample. Loud, fast, epic. Not much of a song really.

“Yankee Ingenuity”

Ryan: Probably one of my favorite songs of the set. The transition from the sudden stop at the end of the first song works well into transitioning to the subtle bass intro of this song. Structurally, the verses are pretty straightforward but the guitar behind it is interesting and catchy, while the lyrics take a interesting stab at one being a good person means. The chorus is very catchy as well and is supported by a very tight trombone line. As the song progresses through the bridge, intricate trombone and saxophone parts come together to create unique melodies and to help build to the end of the song. This one constantly stays in my head.

Jeff: A very differently structured song with no clear chorus or verse, but rather two parts that mesh into one another at the middle of the song. Trombone parts are really well written and (DISCLAIMER) yes it’s hard to hear them because IT’S A DEMO. Not all the songs are very well recorded and they aren’t meant to be. That said the songwriting and overall style is brought to the forefront. The solid horn lines really add flavor and the hits that bridge the two parts of the song together do well to create tention and release it in the final part of the song. A very well crafted song.

“American Youth”

Ryan: The verses and bridge of this song begin to stray away from the dark feel that has already been established in earlier songs. Again, straightforward verses but full of thoughtful lyrics. The chorus is catchy as hell with gang vocals echoing over the entire thing. The song is pretty simple but definitely a good listen, building up to a calm ending. Parts of this song seem over developed, such as random piano in one part, and gang vocals rather than a single vocal over the chorus. However, it’s still a decent song.

Jeff: A great song in my opinion. The chorus is catchy and you can never tell if they are in a major or minor key which creates an uncertain feel. Of course singing about Katrina victims and bigoted CEO’s helps with that too. The ska bridge turns into a musical odyssey leading back to the chorus riff. The rambling chords remind me of Fatter Than Albert. Ends with a really great trombone line that you heard in the chorus hopefully. Ignore the synth line after the first chorus. Why is it there? Aaron Hibbert knows.

“Too Tall”

Ryan: Probably the slowest and most laid back on the album. That’s not a bad thing, but of all the songs it appeals to me the least. The song plays with interesting feels and time signatures and flows very well, but the overall sound is too eerie and almost, in some ways, too “whiny” for me. I don’t have much to say about it, but you’ll probably either love or hate this track.

Jeff: The first time I listened to this song I really didn’t like it. Awkward time signatures, dissonant lines and a really strange chord substitution in the chorus. Then I heard them do it live and everything meshed pretty well. It’s hard to listen to though. Love/hate relationship with this song.

“The Snowmiser Suite, Part II: Heatmiser”

Ryan: The fast gripping verses, heavy breakdowns, melodic lines by the saxophones and overall tightness of this song really appeal to me. The song rips through with hard hitting lyrics and harsh guitar parts. It switches from hardcore punk to just plain hardcore / metal and the transitions are done very well. The song also includes an interlude designed to go to the next song which is also put together well. The feel of an interlude is achieved, but the guitar solo that goes over it feels generic at points. But the traditional blues solo feel might be on purpose. I’ve been informed a Part I to this suite will be written eventually.

Jeff: Brutal melodic hardcore-thru-megaphone punk. Excellent lyrics here too. Not much to say other than it’s the second part of the “Snowmiser Suite”. Motifs include screaming “WE’LL BE OK!!”. I heard part one the other day. Pretty awesome.

“The Snowmiser Suite, Part III: Mother Nature”

This is my favorite song on the album and my go to song to make me feel better for the past couple months. It’s dark, it has its negative feel, but it also has a sense of optimism to it. It’s a linear song, no repetition to verses or chorues but it all works well and everything, between guitar parts and memorable saxophone lines, stays in your head and works to create a somewhat sad, but optimistic feel. A high energy finale comes right before the outro, yelling “We’ll be ok,” and I only wish this part had been developed to go on longer. The end of the song slows down in a similar way to “American Youth” and fades out to a calm ending.

Jeff: This song is one of the best songs on the album. Steps right off with a solo guitar playing the verse progression. This is one of the more positive songs they’ve written and it really shines. Hopes for the apocalypse and raining fire is some of the imagery conjured from the depths of Mister Hibbert’s soul. But those are only the consequences if we do not learn to put aside our differences and learn to cherish our time on earth and to cherish the time with each other. That’s what I got out of it at least. Of course the choral-style  vocals while singing “We’ll be ok, we’ll be alright” makes the song’s scale feel large. I don’t know any other way to express that but it’s a larger than life song. A great closer for the Snowmiser Suite.

“Soundtrack”

Ryan: This is my second favorite song on the album. From the start, the band plays with different time signatures and feels. The vocals come in packed with a punch, tackling opinions on religion. A heavy guitar part lines the verses as well which adds to the almost urgency of the song. The song continues, rising at points, slowing down but never that much until after the second chorus. After a short interlude, a dramatic bridge comes in with passionate vocals backed by tight drumming and just a solid chord progression. It all works up to build back down, but then crescendos to a final outro. The song hits every high and low it can in five minutes and wraps the album up very well.

Jeff: This is my favorite track on the album. Every time I listen to it I get emotional. It’s five minutes of soul wrenching poetry dealing with atheism and confronting yourself and the need for salvation when you know it won’t come. The build from the guitar plucking to “Stars fall” is simply amazing and the part that follows is very well  done. All the tension built up from the whole album is released finally ending with “Take me down, take me home” in the style of “We’ll be ok”. I’m not a huge fan of the fade to acoustic thing but it rounds off the song nicely.

Final Thoughts

Ryan: This is a very satisfying demo. Yes, it’s a demo, the quality could be improved, not everything is totally clear, some edges are rough, but that’s all fine. Although it is a demo, the energy and passion of the band seem to be expressed very clearly still. All the parts of the songs work together to bring together dark tones and high optimism; deep despair and a search for a higher understanding. The lyrics tackle topics of morality and to me that adds to the depth of the album. What is being said is backed by the music and there’s a point to it. I highly suggest listening to this set of demos. I hope there’s more to come in the near future.

Jeff: This is definitely a band to watch and see live. They don’t play out often but keep your eyes peeled. Overall these demos were really impressive. These guys have great song-writing skill. The thing is they don’t really fit in with either the hardcore or ska genres. I would call them melodic hardcore but it’s different from most bands like that. They are by no means generic and  will surprise with dissonance and with beautiful melodies. It’s not really fun music  but it’s got artistic merit and emotional merit. Can’t wait for new songs and more shows.

We’ll be ok.

~Jeff/Ryan

Review: Venetia Fair

Posted in Reviews with tags on January 19, 2010 by jeffathearingaid

Band: The Venetia Fair

Album: The Circus

Insert crazed scream here.

So I saw this band a year ago, last summer and I was taken aback by their style and their stage presence.  The whole band gets into the performance and throws everything they have into putting on a good show. And that’s precisely what it is. The lead singer was absolutely crazed on stage, twirling the mic and wrapping the cord around himself. The facial expressions were priceless. Not enough to make you want to leave but just enough to make you want to stay.

Speaking of a good show, their new album, The Circus, came out recently and a few days ago they put it up for free on their PureVolume page, so I jumped on the opportunity.You should too (apparently it’s only free until Wednesday).

Here goes. The album opens up with some crazy wailing guitar and organ riffs, cut by the talented vocalist, Benny Santoro. So about a minute in I’m already going “what the…” And then the chorus starts. A catchy pop chorus out of the chaos that was the (for lack of a better term) “verse”. It seems like someone’s enraged mind in music form, and the singer’s psychotic tremolo only reinforces this imagery. The wave of chaotic chord changes and start and stop is unpredictable. As soon as you’ve lost all bearings the chorus comes back as a safety net and you think that maybe there is some structure to this. This break-neck pace doesn’t cease but for a moment in the beginning of “Let’s Just Forget About This”, and then resumes again.

And this is just the first half of the album. They split up the album in half so the first four songs have the theme of lost love and the final six songs are part of The Circus saga. The sinister riff that opens up “The Ringleader” chimes the starting bell for another musical ride full of synthetic trumpet lines and screaming vocals.

It is definitely an interesting idea to write a narrative, or a whatever they have here, about the circus, and it definitely fits their sound. They’re a circus of their own, talented and willing to put on a show with a freakout factor. I enjoy all of the songs in the Circus, blending math rock, gypsy and power pop into a neat, but chaotic package. “Gullinkambis’ Return” is a good example of this with walking bass lines and screamy vocals and syncopated guitar lines. All of the songs are worth a listen just because of the lead singer. Not that the band is boring but his erratic vocals add character to the songs and a level of feeling to them. And it’s seamless. It’s always believable.

My major complaint with this album is that some of the songs sound empty. Especially the ones where the melody is in the synth. It’s a production issue but some songs sound just plain synthetic and it sort of clashes with the vocal style. Also synths are no replacement for a horn section! It sounds trasparent when they try to imitate a fanfare or a counter-melody. The chorus in “The Sideshow” is a perfect example of this. A real trumpet would make this epic line sound 100 times better.

So all in all this is a solid album. However it’s not for everyone. The erratic changes of pace and the genre mixing may be a turnoff to some. I think think it’s worth it just for the vocals and the ridiculous songwriting. Pick up the album if you’re into gypsy music, but can stand to listen to bands like Fall of Troy (maybe I meant that the other way around). Like I said. Not for everyone.

If I had to rate it I’d give it 3.5 Freaks out of 5. And I don’t give out 5’s so it’s more like a 3.5/4.

~Jeff

Review: Do It With Malice

Posted in Reviews on December 22, 2009 by Ryan

Artist: Do It With Malice
Album: Symphonic Homicide

Download it here

Do It With Malice is a five piece band from Buffalo, New York with roots in ska, metal, punk, jazz and various other genres. Symphonic Homicide is the band’s debut full-length album. The band recently came back from a year-long hiatus and is now back in full swing writing and searching out shows.

Sound / Musicianship

Overall, Symphonic Homicide is well-constructed and unique listen. The band includes a variety of sounds in throughout the album: songs such as “Paranoid” and “Mark My Words” show a heavy amount of metal influence while “That’s What She Said” follows a punk / ska sound and “Blind” displays elements of jazz and straight up rock. The musicians in the group flow from one style to the next with very little effort and construct one of the most developed listens in today’s music scene.

The album features a large horn section (trumpet, trombone, and baritone, tenor, and alto saxophone all play at one point or another), though now the band only has a multi-talented wind player I believe. The use of the horns is of consistent quality but not overwhelming; often the horn lines back the choruses or bridges without stealing the attention from the crafty vocals. The main melodies are well-developed and show a significant amount of thought has gone into them. “Malicious Intent” starts the album and is purely instrumental and one of the clearest examples of how the horns work on different levels with various polyrhythms and harmonies. “Paranoid,” “Symphonic Homicide,” and “That Guy” feature exceptionally unique phrasing by the horns. Some creative use of horns on the album also include double tracking of the same saxophone, and the use of more horns than the band was physically able to play at one time.

The guitar work and the overall work done by the rhythm section is stellar. Although the band has two guitarists now, the album features a single guitarist creating guitar parts that incorporate elements of the rhythm and lead guitarist very well. Heavy riffing is shared in the same breath with clean, thoughtful chord progressions. A variety of rhythms are used for the clean guitar parts which is a plus because many ska bands resort to similar strumming patterns song after song. The drums are on spot and definitely set the base for the rest of the band while standing out at the proper times. The bass lines are exceptional and show a high level of talent on the instrument. Watch a video of this band to understand.

I don’t have much to say of the singing, but it also comes to an impressive level. Much of it is actually quite fast but done without the difficulty that most singers seem to have. The words flow very well and many of the songs have catchy lyrics throughout all the parts of the songs.

With all of these positive points, there are two distinct negative aspects that stood out when listening to this album. Although the guitar work is very well thought out, some of the tones that were chosen for the album are somewhat annoying and at times do not fit well in aspects of the song. At times, songs such as “Paranoid” and “Symphonic Homicide” create awkward transitions from heavy to clean. Also, there is a lead saxophone track that is on the album of which the tone can be annoying. It is obvious the tone was achieved on purpose, but to some it may come off as almost whiny.

Quality / Originality

The overall quality of the album is high. The musicianship is clear and the thought that has gone into this album is apparent. None of the tracks appear to have any mistakes on them, and on a purely aural level, all the tracks are well mixed and thought has been placed into how many tracks are on the album. I find this album to be highly original among other bands in the ska, punk, and even metal scene. Most of the songs are catchy, though still creative, and each are worth listening to on the album. My only complaint of all the songs is that “Blind” is a rather generic compared to the rest of the album. It’s rather straightforward going back between verses and choruses with only a solo section to provide a break.

Overall Impression

Personally, this is one of my favorite albums of any local band put out anywhere, in any musical genre. I’ve listened to every song well over fifty times and still find each one to be interesting and worth my time. I am honestly surprised this band is not more well known because there is so much appeal to the band. I would recommend this album to anybody and nearly have only positive comments for it. Some of the tones take a getting used to, but once overcome, you will find yourself listening to a quality album

– Ryan

…and now for something COMPLETLEY different.

Posted in Reviews with tags on December 16, 2009 by Sebatthehearingaid

Hi I’m Sebastian, fellow reviewer for Hearing Aid. I’ve been around for a little while but this is my first post. I am going to be focusing more on the Metal and Hardcore side of things here at the Hearing Aid. Not that I don’t share the same appreciation for ska and punk as Jeff and Dean.

Now lets get rolling shall we!

Album: Lullabies for the Dormant Mind

Artist: The Agonist

aaaagh...

Overall, this album is a vast improvement over The Agonist’s previous release, “Once Only Imagined”. Vocalist Alissa White-Gluz shows tremedous improvement in her voice, both in style and range. A huge surprise came in the form of her performance of “Swan Lake Op. 20 Act #2 -Tchaikovsky” done A Capella. No really. She recorded all the parts and the result is something so beautiful, that it redefined for me what you could do on an album. As before, Chris Adolph and Danny Marino’s guitar playing is quick, precise, and technical. Fitting well along with the almost theatrical quality of the album. All the songs and atmosphere take you to a big dark opera. Alissa switches seamlessly between a huge powerful operatic voice and growls that can make the best say “That’s a girl?” This is one of my favorite albums this year, and would recommended this to any fan of music. The only thing I don’t like is one of their guitars. I think it looks funny.