28/01/15 ~ hovvdy – ep

lo-fi pop from Austin, Texas, USA

Review ~ Us & Us Only – Bored Crusader ~ by Rob Arcand

Sometimes I wonder about a time when music was not only an IRL manifestation of online content. When everyone bombs the internet with aggressive PR emails, glossy VEVO accounts and an overwhelming number of soundcloud links, it’s sometimes crazy how much production goes into online branding for bands who may not have earned it yet. Especially in a genre like ‘emo revival,’ a term which has reached global ubiquity thanks to bands like The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die, Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate), and You Blew It! *breathes*, it feels like there’s a lot of bands out there aggressively marketing hundreds of ho-hum releases that make even the most devout emo fans roll their eyes.

In comes Us & Us Only; a few days ago, the Baltimore legends quietly released a stunning three-track EP titled Bored Crusader over on Steep Sounds and within the its brief 8-minute run time, the release packs an incredible punch of crass guitar harmonies, subdued synth lines (do I hear a violin?!) and impressive arrangements and production. Fronted by Kinsey Mathews, Us & Us Only has been making noise in the Baltimore scene for the last few years, quietly putting out a string of stunning releases online. After seeing these guys open for Attic Abasement this summer at Club K, I was floored by their live presence, which on this release, they’ve paired perfectly with some hi-fi elements of a Topshelf-tier mainstay, while maintaining a sound that carved out their place as hometown heroes to begin with.

On “Hex,” Matthews bellows, “Traverse the town by broomstick/ Leave home/ Fake sick/ Traverse the town by broomstick/ Lay low/ Move quick.” These heartfelt lines about cutting toxic relationships become a manifesto as the band thunders into the track’s most climactic moment. As the EP proceeds, tracks cover themes of loss, loneliness and the afterlife with the poise and nuanced talent of a skilled lyricist who’s clearly put time in the craft.

I’m continually left thinking, for once, about just how honest these tracks feel. After growing slightly tired of emo-leaning things as a whole, this EP sits in a really refreshing place and a testament to what I found in emo to begin with: honest lyrics, soaring energy and an unmatched sincerity not seen elsewhere in the music industry. If anything, these tracks have got my heart racing at the thought of a potential full-length from these guys and, more wholly, I’m left feeling optimistic about the state of emo (or ‘emo revival’) in 2015 thanks to little bandcamp gems like this one.

Text by Rob Arcand
Photo by Us & US Only

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Review ~ you bury me by PINE ~ by Lukas Foote

If you enjoy sweet, innocent vocal melodies and songs about heartbreak and cigarettes, then Ottawa’s Indie-Ambient-Emo band – PINE will suffice your needs.

PINE 2

PINE’s you bury me was produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Cory Bergeron at Pebble Studios in Ottawa. The simplistic yet colourfully intriguing album artwork was done by Kyan De Vere. The EP’s title: you bury me is the English translation of the Arabic word “Ya’aburnee” which according to PINE’s Bandcamp means “A declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them” and that’s exactly what PINE’s debut EP is bursting at the seams with in the form of lyrical content on the issues of abandonment and wrenching heartbreak.

What I find really impressing about you bury me is how PINE can communicate such immense sadness all in just a sheer 15 minutes. Every song on this EP is packed with such dreamy reverbed guitar tones. The drumming is crisp yet steady while maintaining a heavier style. Not to mention the gentle female vocals to accompany the songs as well as the noteworthy tempo changes from drawn-out intros to rhythmic/clashing outro’s.

One of the most creative things I dug on “you bury me” was the second track off the record “Father//Layla”. The first verse of the song is directed at the Father from Layla’s (his Daughter) point of view. The second verse tells the story from the father’s perspective, which gives the song a new dimension that we don’t see in music nowadays I feel. It is a unique way to compile a song because it gives the listener emotional vibes that that resonates with us in a connective way that not many songs get across.

PINE’s you bury me will have you not only wet head-to-toe, drenched in a whirling pool of reverb, but also by the tears you will inevitably shed after listening to this huge of an EP.

Text by Lukas Foote
Photo by Pine

FILIP ZEMCIK PRESENTING SAMUEL WELLS OF ACAB ROCKY

Samuel Wells is a young musician from Victoria, British Columbia. I first came across his name when I started listening to Jackie Trash and later on released their album on cassette. He then started a new band called ACAB Rocky with similar lo-fi sound as JT. This year he released two ambient albums under his own name. However, now he and his pals from ACAB rocky are going to release their new studio album. When I first heard the new single Matches, I immediately fell into it and have decided to ask Sam a few questions about his music projects and his life in Canada.

sam wells

You are releasing in the near future a new album with a completely different sound than previous releases. How have you decided to do your studio album?

Well we have always just made the music that was appealing to us. When we started working on a new studio album, we were listening to a lot of math rock, and emo music so naturally it melded into what we were doing.

Did you have a clear idea before recording how the new album will sound?

Both yes, and no. When we went to Vancouver to record we definitely knew we wanted all the layered guitar parts, but a lot of the synth work that shows up on the EP was added during the mixing stage, and just came of experimentation.

ACAB Rocky is three-piece band. Do you have a lot of time to practice?

We practice pretty frequently to stay tight for shows.

What’s the story behind your name?

When we first started the project we just chose it as a joke. “ACAB” is a very typical punk saying that we just thought was sort of funny. Eventually the band name will change, but it’s alright for now.

You are all pretty young. Are you on the same page with the plans for the band?

We like to take things one step at a time. I think we all definitely want to tour, and put out another record in the near future. Other than that though we haven’t thought a whole lot about what exactly we’re going to do.

I assume you are all from Canada. How did you guys all met?

Well, Oliver (drums) and I grew up together as kids. We’ve known each other for about 13 years now. As for Colt (bass) about 3 years ago we started a very short lived punk band with another friend of ours which Colt was a part of. When ACAB started playing live we needed a bassist so we brought in Colt, and he has since become a full time member of the band.

Does your hometown of Victoria have any music community?

Indeed it does. It has a huge punk and metal community. As well as fairly sizeable folk community. Victoria is a pretty artistic town so there is always plenty going on.

Which bands from your area would you recommend to listen to?

Pinner and is a great lo-fi garage-y band that I love very much. Also Woolworm (who are actually from Vancouver) is as extremely underrated band.

Have you ever thought about moving somewhere else? Where it would be?

Being that we’re all still in High School it’s hard to say exactly what will happen, but I think Oliver and I plan to move at some point. I’ve always found places like Olympia appealing, but as of late have also been considering Montreal.

Recently you have started a solo project with a more ambient, experimental feel. Have you been creating the songs for a longer time period or it is just a recent thing?

For quite a while now I’ve loved ambient and experimental music. Maybe 4-5 months ago I just started making it out of boredom, and found it extremely enjoyable. I threw it online to see if anyone would be interested, and it’s been going quite well. I plan to release a full length sometime in the middle of this year.

Which bands have shaped your music taste when you were growing up?

I grew up on some modern classics like Neutral Milk Hotel, and bands of that sort, but a few artists who have shaped what I do would be Mount Eerie/The Microphones, Steve Reich, Tim Hecker, Swans, Slint, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Women.

Was having a band your dream? How did you come to play music?

I grew up around a lot of music. My father, brother, and cousin are all professional musicians so I think it was implanted in my head at a young age that I could in theory do that. I always played some kind of instrument, but it wasn’t till I turned 15 that I started taking it a bit more seriously.

What do you find the most difficult about writing lyrics? What’s your inspiration?

I have trouble writing directly about myself. I find it easier to just write about characters. Even when singing in first person it’s more than likely not directly referencing myself. I also write a lot of my lyrics while recording, and just see what happens.

What is your biggest dream regarding the ACAB Rocky or your solo project?

Personally I’d love to see something I put out get a vinyl release, as I collect vinyl myself.

And here is the new ACAB Rocky’s single:

Questions by Filip Zemcik
Answers by Samuel Wells from ACAB Rocky

Review ~ Fox Academy – Luxury Beverage ~ by Rob Arcand

What it sounds like: Julia Brown, Adore, 1996, flatsound

Cutesy music in 2015 is nauseating; as ukulele youtubers and casiopop bandcampers consistently churn out different shades of the same regurgitated twee novelty, the Internet often feels incredibly over-saturated with a feigned claim to cuteness. With every scan through new releases, the amount of simply weak attempts at ‘indie’ endear we’re continually inundated with as listeners is overwhelming.

Luxury Beverage, the new album from Portland duo Michael Todd Berland and Christian Novelli, understands this; beneath this thinly veiled cuteness, the duo merges a self-aware nuance of this DIY twee aesthetic with eerie, deeply melancholy undertones. The album is continually seeped in a shameless cuteness; with track titles like ‘i see yr cute decor,’ ‘perrywinkle murder mystery,’ and ‘lavender blood’ and continual references to softer colors, stun guns and grape soda, the pair continually return to youthful cuteness and nostalgia thematically. But unlike others that use clichés of cuteness to compensate for a feigned authenticity, Fox Academy seem obsessed with using a clearly transparent cuteness to thinly veil deeper mental health issues. Much like Julia Brown’s first album, to be close to you, Fox Academy use indulgent twee melodies and arrangements from cheap keyboards, jangly guitars and skittering drum machines to craft an endearingly sweet album musically, further adding to the almost uncanny valley effect of the lyrics. Like a cuteness stretched so far that it’s slightly frightening, the album indulges in both the sappy and the sinister; on ‘lavender blood,’ the duo write, “turn into dust it’s dripping from my gums/ its not enough/ stay neat and healthy/ you need to help me.” Lines like this ooze simultaneously sweet and sinister undertones and give the overall feeling of the album the rough equivalent of looking at a discarded doll, one-time occupying a place of love and affection, but now resigned to a dusty and broken place in the bottom of a dumpster far from home.

Where many of the Internet’s pseudo-cute clichés seem to force-feed themselves through cute vibes in an attempt to compensate for a lack of originality, Fox Academy has internalized this cuteness and attempt to use elements of this wide-eyed youthfulness to speak to the more troubling elements of adolescence.  At times, the lyrics seem to recurrently return to troubling, alienating moments of middle class youth. On ‘vampire banquet,’ the duo write, “ivory ceilings burgundy walls, theres blood i can feel it, as we float through the halls/ and as I start to spin the whole room gets dim,” contrasting images of the comforts of a middle class youth (ivory ceilings and burgundy halls as means of wealth and ‘image’ of the suburban middle class) with ambiguously eerie images of blood (could this be a stand-in for self-harm?) and spinning, a clear image of dysphoric disorientation. Ultimately, Luxury Beverage impressively moves beyond many twee clichés to become a deeply nuanced album, oscillating between a self-aware embrace of DIY clichés and the eerie, darker tones of a jaded middle class youth.

Text by Rob Arcand
Photo by Fox Academy

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Review ~ Deeply Flawed by MOLLY DRAG ~ by Lukas Foote

Residing from the same small town as Molly Drag’s founder: Michael Hansford of Midland, Ontario- that has the population of 10,000 people all snuggled right into the shores Georgian Bay is where I was first introduced with Hansford’s musical projects. I was aware of Michael’s music since the other band he’s currently in: The Raspberry Heaven, was just a solo acoustic act, and if you wanted to travel further back into time of the Midland music scene, I would even bring up the first band I ever saw Michael perform in, which would of been the Post-Hardcore band: Demi Cassanova. Whom from what my 13-year-old mind can remember rocked the walls (literally) of Native Friendship Center’s in northern Ontario.

ghost

Molly Drag is Michael Hansford’s newest project however. An emo, experimental, shoegaze one. Majority of this LP was recorded in an apartment building in London, Ontario as well as a place known as Satans Cove also in London. Michael himself produced this LP alongside with Jake Jackman and was entirely mastered by David Newell.

To fully understand and grasp this LP I feel you need to know a bit about where it comes from. Deeply Flawed is derived from stories about Michael himself, stories of his friends/peers and his hometown of bittersweet Midland. A thing that I enjoyed about this LP were that the lyrics in it were not entirely about his own self-struggles and situations, but rather a combination of other stories he has heard through others. The lyrics contained depressing content and a lot to do with emotions, love, drugs and relationships. What I really dug in this LP was the spoken word segments in throughout the album too in such songs as “Upbringing” and “Sacrifices Speak”.

The really creative thing I found notable in Deeply Flawed was the track layout. The track layout of this LP was organized in my opinion to feel as if I were hearing a theatrical performance. The track “Sacrifices Speak” gave me the impression of the song being a reflection/a look back thus far on the record. It served as an intermission break if you would and I found this really artistic.

Another noteworthy thing I found in Deeply Flawed was not only the significant dynamics between the acoustic and electric guitars heard throughout, but also the synergy between Michael and every person featured in this album. Such tracks as “Deflowered” with Ryan Sweet or my personal favourite “Bleeding Out” with Emily Hathaway exemplify this.

Molly Drag’s Deeply Flawed will have you waving around in a sonic ocean of ambience. Rocking you back and forth with the feeling of despair, heartbreak and homesickness…in the greatest way imaginable.

You can buy cassettes and CDs via Hellur Records.

Read interview with Michael Hansford here.

Text by Lukas Foote
Photo by Molly Drag

FILIP ZEMCIK PRESENTING MOLLY DRAG AND THEIR ALBUM DEEPLY FLAWED

Molly Drag is new sad-pop project of Michael Hansford from London, Ontario, Canada. I have known Michael for a long time. We worked together on a cassette release on our label Z Tapes under his other moniker The Raspberry Heaven. He also did two reviews for START-TRACK and we talked a lot about music. Now, his new project Molly Drag has recorded a new 76 minutes long LP, and I have decide to ask him some questions.

michael hansford

The first time I came across your name it was connected to your previous project, The Raspberry Heaven. Why have you decided to start a new one under different name? Does it mean that your old moniker is dead?

The Raspberry Heaven is a band only now. We only write and play shows together. So it’s not a moniker of any sort. Molly Drag, however, is only me. I write it, and sometimes will have a backing band.

Your new album is finished and you posted on your facebook that it depicts your last 4 years. Have you been writing these songs for a longer period of time?

Basically these songs have been kicking around either on paper or in the back of my mind. I kept them messy for a while, and then my good friend Jake Jackman came over and helped me come up with the idea to record a double album. I already had the “molly drag” title in mind for a solo project. The songs poured out very naturally after we started. And for basically two months, I would work, walk an hour home, record all night. It was quite cathartic.

ghost

Is it hard to write and sing about topics that are connected to your life?

Yeah, it’s difficult sometimes.  But also relieving. It feels good after a while.

Most of the songs have sad, emo vibes. Is it coming from your personal feelings or it is a music style you feel good in?

Most of it is storytelling of things that have happened. Some of the stories aren’t even mine, but from friends of mine. It feels good being able to be honest through you art or whatever.

You live now in London, but you grew up in Midland. Do you miss your hometown?

I actually got to visit Midland over the holidays after two years without being back. It was crazy. Living in London is cool, but I will always have a deep love for where I grew up and how beautiful it is in the winter.

molly drag

When you moved to different town, did you try to fit in? Have you became part of a music community?

No. I just went to college. Started meeting people. Went to shows. And then I found myself opening for Bif Naked at Call The Office here in London, and then the music thing turned into a weekly thing. It happened very fast actually.

What are some of your favorite bands in the area you live?

There’s so much good music in London right now. Currently, I’m really into Raised By Swans, Single Mothers, Drew Thomson’s solo stuff, Heart Attack Kids, Hindsight, First Ghost… there’s so much I’m forgetting I think, but yeah, the scene is strong here right now.

Did you ever consider moving somewhere else? To another country?

I would love to move to Boston, or even Philadelphia so I could get to see all my favorite bands, but I’ve always wanted to move to France for the food.

molly drag 2

You work closely with Fog Lake from other part of Canada. How did you become friends with him?

Aaron from Fog Lake and I have been talking for a long time, around 2 years almost. We collaborated on an old Raspberry Heaven song. Then this past summer, we did a short tour together and I filled in as an extra guitarist for his live act. It was so cool because I think his music is absolutely stunning.

Do you have any dreams connected to your music?

I just want to be able to keep recording my own albums and playing shows with other cool people. I really want to start touring more with friends and make new friends.

What are your plans with this new project?

I am hoping to play some shows out in Seattle with the Hellur Records family. Zayn and the guys from the band Mixtape Minus have helped me so much in order to release this album properly. It means so much to me. I really want to go party with those guys.

Have you consider touring USA or other countries?

A tour in the east coast of the states would be cool. I’ve always wanted to play a show in Philadelphia, or New Jersey or something. I really want to travel a lot more this year and would love to tour after I release this album.

Molly Drag’s new album is coming out tomorrow (10/1/2015) on Hellur Records, listen to it here:

Read a review of Deeply Flawed written by Lukas Foote here.

Questions by Filip Zemcik

Answers and photos by Michael Hansford from Molly Drag

07/01/15 ~ Tapes – Tapes

chillwave from Austin, Texas, USA