A Brighter Birth
Richmond • May 19, 2015
Over the course of the last year, Ryan Micklos wrote the songs for A Brighter Birth as accounts of his everyday life, recording them at home over time. His previous EP, Stilthouses, showcased a handful of relatively unremarkable acoustic songs, save for the quality of the production and a healthy variety of supporting instruments. Micklos’ new album, in stark contrast, is lighter on guitar and heavier on ambient electronic music that he plays almost entirely by himself. The results are strangely hypnotic, like Tycho fronted by a traveling minstrel. “It’s Even” sounds like an M83 Nintendo soundtrack with a number of electronic interludes to smooth over the transitions. “Lost B Boys” is an apt reference to the vocals of The Beach Boys, but the synth fizzles are straight from Love and Rockets. The waltzing guitar on “Whisper in the Wind” charmingly evokes a Fleet Foxes cover of Kansas. This soothing lullabye of an album ends before you expect it to, but when it does, you’ll be happy to play the whole thing over again.
Virginia Beach • June 6, 2015
The album starts off with a quote from an SNL sketch with Vanessa Bayer interviewing NOFX where she asks, “So, punk is dead. Nobody skateboards anymore. Why are you still here?” If you already find punk passé, you won’t be impressed with this release. Anyone who cherishes the catalogs of Epitaph or Fat Wreck Chords, however, will be listening to Bad Korea on repeat. Quick and dirty, their power chord-fueled irreverence runs rampant through nine songs, each under three minutes. As their Bandcamp page admits, “Bad Korea is a punk band that probably should have existed in 1998.” Smells like Warped Tour 2016.
Norfolk • June 16, 2015
Zach Gehring, the man behind Demons, has been a long-time guitarist for the Norfolk-based band Mae, an association that brings some anticipation this new side project. It’s clear Gehring has been at work refining a different sound while lyrically wrestling with existential crises, a combination that helps this release stand out. Imagine Pedro the Lion’s somber songwriting hitting a grungier stride ten years earlier, then infuse it with Conor Oberst’s earnestness. In short, it’s a layer cake of alternative and indie rock as the unofficial soundtrack to Søren Kierkegaard’s subjective truth. Eat a slice, if you want.
We Hear The Ocean
Richmond • May 12, 2015
We Hear the Ocean is a collection of drum circle mantras done right. Jameson Price and Laney Sullivan disarmed my cynical prejudice in a cocoon of tribal rhythms and harmonium. I envisioned I was listening to an alternate-reality Beirut, shipwrecked and stranded in the Pacific. Either that or I just enrolled in my first yoga class and I’m surprised to find that I’m actually enjoying it. “Smoke And Rock” has some fun percussion and the guitar-driven “Give Of Your Hands” reminds me of M. Ward. The real treat, though, is the title track, best appreciated in it’s hypnotically soothing music video form.
Pain In The Yeahs
Chesapeake • April 16, 2015
Tied between the tree of Tangerine Dream and the horse of Suicide, Esoterica is oddly accessible for dark wave synth pop. Pain In The Yeahs have collected all the trappings of a sleeper hit that remains just deranged enough to dodge any unwanted daytime gigs. “Goths On The Beach” sounds like a lost B-side by The Cure. “Fire For You” has a touch of Twin Shadow that makes it the catchy single of the bunch. “Dark Triad” pulses with Kavinsky-tinged obsession. James Wagner clearly knows what he’s doing and you don’t have to wear black to appreciate it.