Hours turn into days, days turn into weeks, and they all seem to fly on by the closer we get to 2020. I keep revisiting artists that I’ve covered this past year and to my own surprise, I’ve bounced through an exorbitant amount of releases. That’s not counting the ones I’ve passed on simply because I’m limited and pressed for time. Thankfully, things are looking up, things are changing. 2019 I’ve rid myself of the fat that’s been weighing me down, both figurative and literal. I’m fortunate to keep the days going by surrounding myself with likeminded individuals who push and pull whenever it’s needed. It’s been time for changes, which I always welcome. I know, I’m being cryptic but life is what it is.
Right now, I just can’t get enough of certain things like this guy, Jeff Parker. Some of you know the name, while others, well, this is your introduction to him here. As part of ILLTET, Tortoise, and Isotope 217, his guitar work fascinates me. He just released a single, “Max Brown, Pt. 1” (International Anthem) which is off his 5th solo album that’s set to drop in 2020. The instrumental track, of course, fascinates me, with nimble guitars, horns, drums/bass, and handclap percussion. It’s setting me up for something great, I’m sure, in the new year.
Sitting here just, listening. This week, my inbox was literally overflowing with requests but being as we’re so closely sandwiched in between holidays, some things get missed or ignored. Music is so easily accessible in the 21st century, things are easier to find reference points. Let me explain.
The Long Island, NY hardcore sextet Rule Them All just released the new Dream About… EP (Flatspot Records) which opens with the title track. With hard-edged guitars leading the way, it’s not difficult to find oneself grimacing, pumping fists in the air and swaying rhythmically along to the music, which is catchy as fuck. But as I continue on through the rest of the release, I’m uneasy. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked that question. Yes, yes, yes, I always say I understand that comparisons are cheap but sometimes they’re warranted and I’m completely broke.
Now, depending on perception, this could be a good or bad thing but Rule Them All seems to take me to 1992 when Rollins and his post-hardcore had crowds feverishly crazed with the Rollins Band’s The End Of Silence. Whenever Rule Them All finds their groove, vocals are sometimes similar to that of Rollins’. Don’t get me wrong, The End Of Silence was a good album back when it was released, and listening to it today, it brings back fond memories. End comparison.
The one good thing about Rule Them All here is the frenetic energy the band has, it never lets up. “Doomed To Consume” tears right through from beginning to end and occasionally has that swinging hardcore 1-2-1-2 beat going while “The Alienation” is a full-frontal assault. But it’s “Look Inward” where the band’s more intensive hardcore roots seem to rise to the surface. The wall-of-guitars are unrelenting barely pause to catch its breath.
While not a bad release, Dream About… leaves me wanting more. What that actually is, I’m not sure but Rule Them All is still young and has a bit of time to find an identity all its own.
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I’m one of those that remember the New Rising Sons, formed out of the ashes of a couple of New York post-hardcore bands (Texas Is The Reason and Into Another) when Garrett Klahn and Drew Thomas decided to try something new and different. The band released an EP back in the late 90s, then signed to a major label that failed to release any further material. Now after 20 years, the band’s material finally sees the light of day in the form of Set It Right (Arctic Rodeo Recordings)
As soon as the album begins, its poignant direction was obvious. It was a time when Oasis ruled the airwaves and so many other artists were attempting to ride the lightning but failed poorly. New Rising Sons though, could have ridden that lightning and made it thunderstorm because as soon as Set It Right begins, the sheer pop sensibilities are captured within “Thieves And Angels.” It’s easy to fall in love with the song filled with harmonies, drive, and horns.
The band wasn’t about throwing all their eggs in one basket though, they filled the album with more English-influenced tracks of the time. “Endless Calls For Fame” wraps guitars around great vocal deliveries while “Hey Hey My Sister” has a singular rhythm that’s pretty captivating. Then there’s “Monday’s Highs” which strikes as thunderous as a pop song can. It’s surrounded by crunchy guitars, a perfect vocal melody, and dreamy horns.
New Rising Sons was yet another group caught in the clutches of the clueless machine that makes bad decisions with the musical lives of others. Set it Right could have been an album that could have catapulted the group to another level. We’ll never know now but we have it now.
What’s there to say about Austin, TX’ Capture Phase that just released its debut with a 3-song self-titled EP? The quartet, made up of J. Wade Allen (guitar/vocals), Zach Chicoine (guitar, vocals), Justin Stigall (bass, vocals), and Jordan Cope (drums), all come from different groups (Honey and Salt, Ballerino, Mode Dodeca) but it seems musicians are all-inclusive and supportive in Austin. That in itself is a beautiful thing. Now while the bands all have prog-rock influences, Capture Phase takes a different approach here, with math-rock sensibilities that stay grounded in rhythmic patterns while volleying guitars against one another
The band makes quick work of its contemporaries, and it’s not done with malice but skill. “Minute Man” has several stops and starts but always moves in one direction with occasional dynamic shifts. It’s challenging to say the least but so entertaining and nonconforming. “Phase” changes the pace a bit, with suave guitar rhythms, dissonance & leads and clever vocal harmonies juxtaposed against those that are howled. The more subdued “Bone Consulate” doesn’t take a backseat as the vocal interplay between guitarists can be heard with instrument interplay seamlessly working together perfectly.
Again, what’s there to say about Capture Phase and its music? Well, it’s pretty badass!
Thinking what J Hacha De Zola sounds like isn’t something you should let someone tell you about, it’s something one should experience firsthand. Like other groups and artists that washed through underground and mainstream circles that never conformed to industry standards (i.e. World/Inferno Friendship Society, Tom Waits, early Firewater, Motherhead Bug), it’s the stuff of legend that will no doubt reverberate as myth of when gods walked the earth. Yes, I’m referencing Zola’s music because it may one day rub shoulder to shoulder with some of those amazing releases only heard in whispers.
Today J Hacha De Zola drops his UnPOPular EP (Caballo Negro), three songs, all covers, of mainstream female artists who I don’t follow but know their names. Zola tackles Billie Eilish’s “Bury A Friend” and I can’t help but picture Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, tiptoeing around with a blade in his hands. Yes, again I have to reference the Lemony Snicket books because scoring either the TV show or the film, which featured Jim Carrey as Olaf, is something anyone could picture Zola handling after listening to this one. But it’s Halsey’s “Nightmare” where Zola adds a Latin edge to it, taking me back to my childhood of house parties filled with my mother’s friends of Afro-Latinos. Things come to an end with Lorde’s “Writer In The Dark.” While it’s similar to the original, Zola takes it over the top giving it a treatment, I doubt Lorde would have ever thought of.
UnPOPular is the work of a madman, and I’m sure Zola will continue to push boundaries. It’s quite fascinating.
In one year, it seems Czarface attempted to go the route constantly traveled by Guided By Voices. Last week the group released the vinyl version of The Odd Czar Against Us (Silver Age), the group’s third release this year. They’ve kept listeners waiting until today to drop the digital/CD version of it.
It’s never easy to reinvent oneself but Esoteric & 7L and Inspectah Deck were able to accomplish that as the voices and music behind the anti-hero they created, Czarface. It seems with The Odd Czar Against Us the sound has evolved. I won’t spend too much time with the new release because diehards, hardcore fans of the group, would pick up an album filled with dissonance if Czarface was involved.
To say this record is bugged out would be an understatement but don’t misunderstand me. We get the same thing Czarface as always offered up: dope beats, poignant lyricism, and straight-up swagger. What the group gives listeners in addition to that is the occasional odd beat like on “Brother Czarquis,” Caribbean-tinged rhythms on “Call Me,” and they dip their toes in with 80s electronic beats on “Dear Computer.” The juxtaposition works here within the context of the album, and of course, it would have! It’s Czarface.
With or without reinvention/evolution, Czarface remains a project that is impassioned and filled with intensity. The Odd Czar Against Us is a testament to that.