erik van rheenen

We Cool? We Cool. Why Jeff Rosenstock Matters

by Erik van Rheenen

Most “this band means a lot to me” stories follow a certain narrative tack. They start with discovering the band as an impressionable, bright-eyed teenager, probably introduced by a wise older sibling, a mixtape burned from a best friend’s CD-R drive, or maybe headphones shared with a crush on a long ride somewhere, falling in love over four chords and split earbuds. That’s followed by enthusiastic discography-diving, tracking down the most obscure B-sides and splits that bootleg music blogs offered under their proverbial trench coats. And the stories usually culminate in finally sharing the same sweaty, small room with that band, shouting back the lyrics you fell in love with as your slightly younger self. Sound familiar? Probably.

So maybe it’s poetic justice that my story of how Jeff Rosenstock’s music brashly marched its way into my heart waves a casual middle finger to that narrative before dismantling it completely.

When I found myself gravitating towards ska-punk in high school – I didn’t go as far as to wear all-checkered-everything and sign up for skanking lessons, but an impossible number of Less Than Jake and Goldfinger songs occupied prime real estate on my iPod — I became tangentially familiar with Rosenstock’s foray into the genre with The Arrogant Sons of Bitches. I figured that, like a more punk Paul McCartney, Rosenstock just felt like filling the world with silly ska songs.

But lets bypass all the childhood nostalgia bullshit. I discovered Bomb the Music Industry! in college, in a soundproofed radio station tucked in the basement of Syracuse University’s student center. I was a freshman who wore his dorm room key on a lanyard, thought naming a fledgling radio show “Stage Dives and Sing-alongs” was cool, and trekked half a mile every Monday at 6:30 in the morning, wind whipping in my face, so I could settle into the WERW (What Everybody Really Wants!) studio for two hours and test just how soundproof those station walls were.

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Writing Musicals, Not Tragedies: The Story of Panic! The Musical

Our scene is no stranger to musicals (see also: American Idiot and Razia’s Shadow), but Panic! The Musical is a new breed of jukebox musical. The project, already fully cast and slated for a June workshop, is a labor of love with Broadway aspirations, created by a group of loyal Panic! At the Disco fans fearlessly led by director and creator Alexis Acar. Editor-in-chief Erik van Rheenen spoke with Acar and book writer Christina Rose Sabia about the story behind the musical, and how the self-professed “dynamic duo” took their mutual love for Panic!’s music to make their musical a reality.

by Erik van Rheenen

In some regards, Panic! The Musical has existed in some way, shape or form since Alexis Acar first clicked play on a rough early demo of “Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have” on Panic! At the Disco’s MySpace page. She was 13; Panic! At the Disco was a newly no-longer blink-182 cover band out of Las Vegas. But it really wasn’t until last summer, when Acar joked around about how the always-changing stylings of Panic! (for those keeping score at home: vaudevillian antics on A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, Beatles worship on Pretty. Odd., artful pop since then) would make for a bona fide musical that the joke seemed less like a funny passing thought than a straight-faced good idea. And thus Panic! The Musical (henceforth referred to as P!TM for my own sanity and the sake of Word not going berserk on my errant punctuation) started becoming a thing.

Even as a longtime Panic! fan, Acar’s background skews less alternative and more theatrical. She started on a professional opera track, and always boasted a passion for theater. That’s the intersection where her love for Panic! crosses her love for Broadway; Panic! too refuse point-blank to relinquish their own bombastic theatrical leanings.

“Their music is theatrical, especially on Fever, and they incorporate musical theater into alternative music,” Acar explains, “And to capture that, we have to be as creative and as passionate as the band is about their own music. Every single line of their lyrics is intentional, and we want to portray the same eccentricity and uniqueness. We want fans to leave inspired.”

It’s funny, because at first glance, Acar and P!TM’s book writer, Christina Rose Sabia, don’t exactly look like Rodgers and Hammerstein — Christina Rose Sabia draws from a musician’s perspective instead of a traditionalist theater one, saying that she brought “a more rock-inspired” vision to P!TM. “I’m hoping we open up the demographic,” she says, “I want to see a hard rocker sitting in the front row and feeling the same magic as they would at a concert.”

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Of Beauties, Psychos, and Wiz Khalifa: The Reinvention of Fall Out Boy

by Erik van Rheenen

Fall Out Boy’s announcement for this summer’s co-headlining tour with stoner rapper extraordinaire Wiz Khalifa and college-kid favorite Hoodie Allen nearly drowned in a riptide of fan backlash, a maelstrom-of-sorts swirling with expected-if-closed-minded comments sticking the band with the obligatory “sellout” stamp and raised wavering eyebrows about FOB’s resolutely un-pop-rockish tourmate.

So here’s a lifeline: the Boys of Zummer lineup makes sense, if not from a spelling standpoint (not fixing that “Z” makes me rebel against my internal copy editor) than from a ticket-selling one. My only real problem with the tour is the co-headliner — I wish the boys of FOB hitched their star to a more technically adroit and refined rapper than Wiz Freakin’ Khalifa — but the mixed-lineup bill, especially with two artists with absolutely inescapable songs, will get butts (and, presumably, well-hidden, sneaked-in blunts) in the seats.

While the staunchest of the new-Fall-Out-Boy-sucks crowd can’t fault FOB for scheduling a high-profile, big venue tour alongside a Top 40 mainstay (I’m almost making this sound like Monumentour, Part Deux yeah?), the gripe I’ve read most often is that touring with Khalifa — as opposed to, say, Paramore or Panic! At the Disco, again — is equivalent to a betrayal of the band’s roots.

 “These aren’t the same guys who played basement shows and DIYs in Chicago,” says the prototypical new-FOB-sucks fan, “They barely play anything off Take This to Your Grave in concerts anymore.”

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POZ Review: The Front Bottoms – Rose EP

by Marie Scarsella, edited by Erik van Rheenen

The Front Bottoms didn’t start out as a serious band. Their first songs were recorded in one take, not mixed or mastered, and immediately thrown on the Internet. They’re also named after vaginas. But that doesn’t mean their early songs weren’t top notch, and that they didn’t evolve into something that’s a bit more serious. With their latest release, Rose, that progression is evident, and its turned those old, unmastered tracks into something totally new without losing their personality.

“Flying Model Rockets” opens the EP, and it has a little more punch than its original version. It’s slightly faster, slightly more jangly, and slightly more powerful in its new form. “Lipstick Covered Magnet” follows suit, incorporating a faster pace and cleaner gang vocals. The incorporation of the cleaner chanting adds an entirely new facet to the already multidimensional song. While it was always a strong track for the band, this version makes it hit just that much harder. 

“Awkward Conversation” is the EPs rawest track, however, it is not raw in the sense that it is gritty or poorly recorded. Instead, it’s raw emotionally. Singer Brian Sella spills his heart on the acoustic track, and despite its simplicity, the track’s intensity builds with each strum.

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POZ Review: State Champs - The Acoustic Things

by Becky Kovach, edited by Erik van Rheenen

A little over a year ago, I found myself reviewing The Finer Things, the debut full-length from a lesser-known Albany pop punk band called State Champs. That album completely blew me away, leading me to make the lofty declaration that State Champs was “poised to be the scene’s next break-out band.”
Looking back, that prediction doesn’t seem so far off. The guys of State Champs have been hard at work this past year, from touring with bands like New Found Glory, Bayside, and Motion City Soundtrack, to spending the whole summer on Warped Tour, to co-headlining this fall’s Pure Noise Tour. This is a band that has been working tirelessly to make a name for themselves - it’s certainly paying off.
State Champs recently released The Acoustic Things, a – you guessed it – all-acoustic EP featuring five tracks from last year’s debut as well as two new ones. And just as The Finer Things succeeded in making a fan out of me, so The Acoustic Things solidified my belief that State Champs is one of the finest bands to come out of this scene in several years.
One of the things that immediately caught my attention upon discovering State Champs was the range in frontman Derek Discanio’s voice. His vocals are passionate and powerful, and display a control that is rare in someone so young, especially in pop punk music. The Acoustic Things allows Discanio to shine even brighter, the album’s softer nature and quieter melodies providing an emotional backdrop for his powerhouse vocals.

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An Urge To Learn How To Do Backflips: American Beauty/American Psycho

by Jesse Richman, edited by Erik van Rheenen

I’m trying to put together cogent thoughts, but “American Beauty / American Psycho” keeps careening by on repeat and I keep finding myself gasping for breath like I’ve been white-knuckle dodging trees and asteroids in some Star Wars contraption. I’ve never heard Pete Wentz’s bass snap and pop with such precision. Patrick Stump is going so rapid-fire that his ability to form words can’t keep pace with his heart; he repeatedly devolves from sentences to repeated catchphrases mid-lyric before abandoning words entirely for whoa-a-oh-a-ohs, and every time heart over head seems like the right choice, the obvious one, the only one, really. Meanwhile, Joe Trohman has never used absence so well, the empty space between his sporadic chunky riffs create a vacuum that sucks you forward like a vortex, and then there’s one moment where he randomly buzzes in for 10 seconds to drop some opening-bars-of-“When Doves Cry” Prince freakout shit.

Why? Why not! Fall Out Boy have always been unabashedly maximalist, but since “My Songs Know…” they’ve been pushing one variety of maximalism harder and harder. I think maybe they realized “Centuries” was the breaking point of that sound, because “American Beauty / American Psycho”  doesn’t just turn the dial to 11, it invents a new dial with a 12 on it and then lines in an overdrive pedal. (Don’t think it’s a coincidence that both halves of that title are movies that pushed the bar on what movies could be, groundbreaking in their day). We’ve moved beyond hip-hop beats, beyond chasing down the things that outpaced rock in the last decade, and onto some new shit. The result is almost Cold Cave-y at times, totally enveloping and ever accelerating, like a bone-rattlingly loud synth strapped to the back of a Ducati.

British synth-pop mainstays Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released an album in 2011 called History of Modern; the title track, which shares some distant sonic kinship with “AD/AP” (really, give it a listen, I think you’ll hear it too), speaks with wonder about the eschaton, the end of time. The song is celebratory, even as it describes the world unwinding – “Everything you take, everything you gave/All the things you’ve found, all the things you’ve made/Everyone you lost – and saved/Nothing will remain, cradle or grave.” Good, bad, it all ends and begins anew. At its best moment, the song drops into a hushed pre-chorus – “there will be no song/when the final voice is gone” – before exploding outward into a starburst of joyous synths, a big bang of angels weeping or blasting horns or whatever angels do (both seem appropriate here).  It’s worth losing everything, the best along with the worst, because even the best in this world couldn’t match the wondrous possibilities of starting anew.

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Why Branding Burns Out Creativity

by Erik van Rheenen

Four Year Strong sprung a corker of a surprise on the pop-punk community by announcing both the flawlessly follicled Worcester outfit’s deal with Pure Noise Records and return to the recorded music fray with the Go Down in History EP — with a marathon stint on the Vans Warped Tour to match. Fans heralded the summer of 2014 as a kind of redux version of 2009. The “Easycore Revival” banner was unfurled. The band was back to chugging out hardcore-tinged pop-punk, the tracklist boasting the same kind of silly movie-referencing song titles that were part of Rise Or Die Trying and Enemy of the World’s none-too-serious charm. Listeners rediagnosed their malaise for 2011’s In Some Way, Shape, or Form and its grungy, alternative rock leanings as three year’s worth of selective amnesia. It’s like the album AbsolutePunk reviewer and occasional PropertyOfZack contributor Thomas Nassiff called (albeit fairly), “ a beast of a heavy, radio-y rock group” buoyed by a veering, Rise Against-ish turn towards the alternative charts and an “’okay’ overall performance” never happened. Easycore is back, baby!
 If Nassiff, an incredibly savvy writer with his finger pretty firmly on the pulse of the vein of pop-punk popularity, thought In Some Way, Shape, or Form was the first step towards Four Year Strong’s ascension to radio airplay and kicking down the door of being an amphitheater playing, name-brand rock band, well, why the hell isn’t Go Down in History the same kind of mature alt rock as its forerunner? I’ll take the blame and freely admit I spurned ISWSOF as the moody older brother to RODT and EOTW, an album that stands in the corner with its arms crossed, biting the inside of its cheeks as its two more famous, playful younger brothers run amok and get into all kinds of juvenile antics. I missed the rabble-rousing sing-alongs and breakdowns and lyrics that just felt right finger pointing to. Whether I was pointing them at Alan Day and Dan O’Connor in concert, or at the ceiling of my car didn’t matter. Those records were fun, and ISWSOF was dour, straight-faced, and serious.

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Warped Tour Warriors: Why We Have the Right to Complain

by Erik van Rheenen

On Friday morning, Texas Standard Time, Houston will ring in the twentieth iteration of the Vans Warped Tour, ringing in a proud summer-long tradition of punks and scene kids alike (and everyone in between) making the pilgrimage to the nearest arena, outdoor music center, or oversized parking lot for a day of catching sets from their favorite bands and grumbling under their breath as they get blindsided by spurts of unlistenable metalcore or feeling the wub of EDM pulsing from some sidestage as they unfurl their map, trying to remember where the fuck the Tilly’s stage is this year.
“What are they doing in the lineup?” They’ll ask, presumably with a roll of the eyes, or perhaps a disapproving shake of the head. “This isn’t the Warped Tour I remember.”
Warped Tour lineup discussions have always — at least in recent memory — been peppered with critiques from armchair concert bookers (same diagnosis as Armchair Quarterback Syndrome, but with delusions of being Kevin Lyman instead of, say, Peyton Manning), but 2014 in particular has levied enough jaded old-punk thoughts to be fathomed into constellations of complaints.
Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Warped Tour officials made audible complaining a criminal offense during this year’s tour, punishable by being forced a microphone and a half-hour slot of covering Ronnie Radke raps in the Acoustic Basement tent, a cappella.
Does all our faultfinding and nitpicking of each five-band burst of an announcement we do actually get us anywhere?
There are two schools of thought on the issue — well, that’s at least the case in my one-man How Can We Fix the Monolith That is Warped Tour mental think tank — but unlike the two Robert Frostian diverging in the yellow wood, both schools converge at the same conclusion: we, as fans, have all the right in the world to let fly our complaint flags.

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POZ Review: La Dispute - Rooms Of The House

by Adrienne Fisher, edited by Erik van Rheenen

La Dispute has never been a band that bothered mincing words. Both their previous records are wordy as hell and confidently approached their lyricism from a literary standpoint, but Rooms of the House could almostbe better considered as a collection of short stories rather than a grouping of songs. It’s not unusual for any contemporary artist to rely on anthemic statements or everyman anecdotes to leverage a connection with a fan base, but La Dispute has always somehow gotten their listeners to rally around lyrics that are more artistically done and don’t exactly boast a general, unifying sentiment (“I think I saw you in my sleep, darling” being a prime example - no one knows why we freak out over that line, but we definitely do).
Even if your prowess doesn’t lie in dissecting the meaning behind words, the subtle way that the songs on Rooms just work together develops a tangible sense of wholeness, much like how a series of rooms make up a house. The use of repeated scenes or symbols create an interconnection between songs that any student of literature would recognize immediately, and as every good writing student knows, it’s always better to show what you mean, rather than tell what you mean. That’s probably the strongest thing that La Dispute has brought to the table on this record - things like the repositioning of furniture or the radio in the background may be unimportant in their own standing, but their repeated presence, referenced over and over by the narrator, create these snapshot scenes and stories that the songs delineate with obsessive and vivid detail.

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Friday Discussion: Our Favorite Side-Projects

We all have our favorite bands, but little makes some of us more excited than when we hear members of those bands are starting a new project, whether it be solo or with other musicians. There’s just something special about waiting for a mysterious project from one of your favorite artists with no idea of what it could sound like. We’re doing a Friday Discussion this week on PropertyOfZack on some of Our Favorite Side-Projects. Check out our list below and feel free to reblog with some of your favorites as well!

Jack’s Mannequin
Though it transitioned into a longer lived project than Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin did start as a simple side-project for Andrew McMahon to try something new, something different. Never could he have expected a near-death battle with cancer and such a wave of support, but that’s not the point of Jack’s Mannequin. Everything In Transit was and still is an album that touched so many in a way SoCo came close to, but never truly hit. Whether you view it at a summer album or a perfect record, there was a certain breath of fresh air that Jack’s Mannequin started with that still lives with so many people today. Jack’s follow-ups to Everything In Transit either met or failed expectations of many fans, but the band kept an extremely large and dedicated fan base until its end. The transition for Andrew McMahon from Something Corporate to Jack’s Mannequin remains impressive in itself, and it will be even more interesting to see what happens with McMahon’s solo career. - Zack Zarrillo (@zzarrillo)

Box Car Racer
blink-182’s Untitled is regarded by most fans as Mark, Tom, and Travis’ best work. But if it weren’t for Tom and Travis escaping to Box Car in 2002, we may have not seen the two incredible albums that we ended up with. blink were always known as a light-hearted pop-punk band, even if Take Off Your Pants And Jacket saw a little bit of an edgier and darker side to the band. Box Car Racer was the first true signs of anger, aggression, sadness, and even hopelessness from Tom DeLonge, and it was an album that resinated with so many blink-182 fans. Though the project was of the main reasons for blink’s hiatus in 2005, there’s just no question that the album was integral for the creation of Untitled. Box Car Racer seems like it will be one of very view projects that will not get some sort of reunion tour in the future, and I would imagine that many feel that that is okay. - Zack Zarrillo (@zzarrillo)

Bad Books
I could list 1000 metaphors combining two awesome things and compare that to Bad Books. Superheroes. Foods. TV shows. Sports teams. Blah Blah Blah. All comparisons would fall short. Taking the storytelling abilities of Andy Hull and slamming them into the unique outlooks and viewpoints of life from Kevin Devine is an indie rock super group goldmine. Two albums into their catalog, the band has proved they are not only a part of the the scene, but also quickly becoming the ring leader of the modern day “brat pack” consisting of Devine, Manchester Orchestra, Brand New, Thrice and the rest of the Favorite Gentlemen collective. Not only is there no denying that this group has more talent than the whole of most indie labels, there is also no avoiding the addiction that comes from giving them a spin. - Josh Hammond (@endless_rambles)

When Your Heart Stops Beating is not my favorite blink-related record, but it may be top 3 for me. Untitled seemed like much more of a “Tom” record for blink, and it was fantastic. Seeing what Mark could do all by himself lyrically on +44’s only record was incredibly interesting following the release of Untitled. I would argue with anyone that Mark’s lyrics throughout the record are the best of any blink project, and that it is a musically sound record as well. There was a certain anger, urgency, and pain in the lyrics of When Your Heart Stops Beating, and it was felt. Another +44 album would be welcomed any day as long as it could rival the original release, but it may be a project better left dead like Box Car Racer as well. - Zack Zarrillo (@zzarrillo)

What do you get when you cross Transit’s Tim Landers and This Time Next Year’s Brad Wiseman? A project that’s less pop punk than you’d think. Misser’s debut, Every Day I Tell Myself I’m Going to Be a Better Person, is an exercise in optimism, and the indie touch the duo liberally applies to their sound keeps the positivity from sounding cliché. Landers and Wiseman trade off vocal performances, a la early Taking Back Sunday, and songs like “Time Capsules” and “I’m Really Starting to Hope the World Ends in 2012” stack up well against both of their respective bands’ discographies. With TTNY defunct and Transit’s new album wrapped up, I’d love to see some more Misser happen.  - Erik van Rheenen (@TheVandyMan)

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Why The Way We Listen to Music Matters (An Elegy For Ruby Red)

by Erik van Rheenen, edited by Jesse Richman

This is a story about a boy and his headphones, and it opens in the grey days of autumn, two years ago.

When I stepped out of the bleak, wind-whipped Upstate New York fall and into the fluorescent lights of the Syracuse University bookstore, I had only two things on my mind: the long train ride home to Erie, and the new headphones that would keep me sane on the trip. The over-ears around my collar — a cheap pair of sleek blue Skullcandy ones – were terminally afflicted with intermittent crackling and less-than-admirable sound quality. My knowledge of headphones was casual at best. I didn’t care if the low end bottomed out. I didn’t pay enough attention to notice if the headphones lost the bass and highs in the shuffle. As long as they sounded all right and felt good, I was sold.

Twenty minutes later, I plunked a thirty-dollar pair of bulky red headphones on the counter for the cute blonde co-ed, earning her work-study cash the hard way, to ring up. I figured they’d make a suitable replacement for the nearly-busted pair hanging loosely around my neck. I trekked back up to my dorm, adjusted the new pair (the brand, Ear Pollution, proved nearly unresearchable for this writer) comfortably over my ears, and listened to Keasbey Nights in proper, my feet dangling off my bed as I laid on my chest with the liner notes. I didn’t think I’d one day be writing parting remarks for headphones that were less a music delivery vehicle and more a wiry extension of myself. I didn’t think they’d have a story worth telling.

A snapshot of two whirlwind years, in the frame of a still life: those headphones rattling against the window of the Erie-bound Amtrak as I listened to Streetlight Manifesto and fought sleep. Those headphones sinking into the cheap pillow of an early morning flight heading for a weekend jaunt in Philadelphia. Those headphones rekindling my love for The Mountain Goats’ Tallahassee on a day-breaking, rollicking Greyhound bus to Cleveland, and for The Sunset Tree during a red-eye flight to Spain. Those headphones helping me survive sickness in a cramped train to Seville, and again on a bus back from Ronda, where I learned that the aching American sadness that bleeds from On the Impossible Past was just as longing and nostalgia-inducing against the backdrop of the Spanish countryside.

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POZ Review: A Day To Remember - Common Courtesy

by Erik van Rheenen

Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Art demands context, and oh boy, does Common Courtesy have context in spades. I mean that in its most literal sense: there’s a decent possibility that it would take a wheelbarrow to tote around the backlog of court documents and recording contracts and legal mumbo-jumbo that have surfaced from Victory Records v. A Day to Remember. Context is everything for Common Courtesy — there’s a strong case to be made that the Ocala natives’ newest record already marks their finest hour. They did things their way, shot a middle finger skyward at Victory Records, and released the album they wanted to release on their own terms. I was impressed with ADTR’s ethos without having to plug in my headphones and listen to a single goddamn note. (Though, for the record, the album does open with a resilient “fuck yeah!”)

But, setting the moral victory and court drama aside — I know, bad pun, but my thesaurus is on the far side of my desk and I’d have to move to get it — there’s still the question of whether or not the album is objectively any good. And if I hadn’t followed the court proceedings and listened to Common Courtesy from the comfort of a context-free Hoover, I’d say…kind of.

Opener “City of Ocala” crosses the usual A Day to Remember hallmarks of the checklist — mosh call, chugging riffs counterbalanced by power chords, lyrics about coming from their hometown — and I’m not sure what to tell you if you expected anything different. Six years removed from For Those Who Have Heart, you probably have a grasp on your ADTR fanhood by now: you’re either going to burst out laughing when Jeremy McKinnon yells “brace for impact” on “Right Back at it Again,” or you’re going to jump into the pit and start flailing like a giant squid trying not to get de-limbed. Pick your side accordingly.

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POZ Review: Aaron West And The Roaring Twenties - We Don’t Have Each Other

by edited by Erik van Rheenen

The most remarkable thing about coming home to you is the feeling of being in motion again; it’s the most extraordinary thing in the world.
“Going to Georgia” — the best Mountain Goats song not named “Up the Wolves” — revels in a sense of placid simplicity, its melody as light and crisp as a zephyr sweeping off the Atlantic, spanning the coastal state, a breezy tailwind at singer John Darnielle’s back as he triumphantly crosses the Macon county line. But “Going to Georgia” isn’t the classic that it is because of the beauty of its simplicity — the tangle of emotions and characters that Darnielle lyrically weaves shines as brightly as the “Going to Georgia” narrator’s Southern-bound odyssey. Like Darnielle’s often-sung-about Alpha Couple — a married couple always a few steps from the brink of complete disintegration — the narrator and his significant other in “Going to Georgia” are also marked by ambiguity, which makes the song’s sense of romanticism imperfect and beautiful.
You smile as you ease the gun from my hand; I am frozen with joy right where I stand.
It’s telling, then, that Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties bookend their debut record, We Don’t Have Each Other, with a cover of the Mountain Goats’ standard. In his album-long character study of Aaron West, a Brooklynite stuck with a failed relationship, there’s something altogether Darnellian about Dan Campbell’s songwriting — a sense of coming to grips with religion (We Don’t Have Each Other abounds with Catholic imagery), a lyrical portrait of a flawed protagonist, and a slow, sad kind of cathartic triumph make Campbell’s character sketch a truly emotional gut punch of a listen.
I’ll shy away from sharing more lyrics than I have to here, since, as is a hallmark of Campbell’s discography, We Don’t Have Each Other rewards repeat listens as much as it floors listeners on initial impact. Unlike some concept records that weigh themselves down with needless exposition and meandering interludes, Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties cut the chase and get right down to the long and short of it all. I won’t say much, for fear of ruining the sense of discovery and exploration that comes from a keen ear for Campbell’s lyrics, but West’s story is as captivating as the taut musical arrangements that surround it.

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POZ Review: Fall Out Boy - PAX AM Days

by Adrienne Fisher, edited by Erik van Rheenen

So, these PAX AM Days songs that Fall Out Boy’s done are quite the mess, aren’t they? But a good one, I think – one that I don’t think necessarily needs to be cleaned up. Two days in the studio and eight almost-completely impromptu songs later sound just as rough as you’d expect them to sound. And that’s not a bad thing – as FOB stated, this studio session was a mostly an experiment and isn’t supposed to be considered a new record by any stretch of the imagination. And if you take at just that, the eight songs are a total blast as a rollicking, sandpapery dash through the skin-and-bones style of punk rock that came far beyond your time or mine. It’s not really supposed to be “the next step” for the Chicago boys’ career; instead, it’s a reminder that the urgency and edge that characterized FOB’s earliest work is still in there somewhere, which can be difficult to remember when you consider the big, glossy stadium songs of more recent releases.

And to the casual observer, these raw songs sound punk as fuck, emphasis on profanity. It’s direct, it’s visceral, it’s super vintage sounding in both production and musicality. This sounds like the kind of shit that’s playing in really cool record stores that always sounds kinda familiar but I can never quite put a finger on it. The lyrics are mostly elementary (“this is eternal summer,” “let’s see who burns the truest in the flame,” just to cite a few) and the production is purposefully shitty (all recorded to tape, often when the band didn’t even realize it was for a take). But hey, all that aside, the rough and tumble burns fast and fun - only one of the nine songs is longer than two minutes - so it’s a perfect example of grabbing inspiration by the balls and tracking whatever comes flinging out. (Yes, the metaphor is there on purpose.)

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POZ Review: Seahaven - Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only

by Steve Ciccarelli, edited by Erik van Rheenen

No matter what we do, time marches on. Days pass, things change, and hoping for anything to the contrary is a dead end. But acceptance: that’s what opens the doors of possibility. And on Reverie LagoonMusic For Escapism Only Seahaven goes through each of those doors searching for some kind of completion and find it to varying degrees. As with all good stories though, this one is more about the journey than the destination.
Is a good story always what fans are looking for? Beginning the album with a slow-moving haunter like “Fifty-Four” is just the shock to the system that people looking for manic pace and guitar crunch aren’t expecting. This is the kind of song that has been hiding away in the band’s subconscious, influencing parts of their own material. Here it’s the opposite of a call to arms, instead a plea to look inward. “Andreas” is a grower, the kind of song that will cause one of those inadvertent head bobs that we all catch ourselves doing sometimes. It’s kind of relaxing in the way some early Death Cab is: you’re invested, but more comforted than alarmed.
“Silhouette (Latin Skin)” is strong in the 90s alt-rock department. Guitars act as the rhythm layer while all of the hook and dynamic comes from drums, bass and that Smashing Pumpkins-esque string section. “Wild West Selfishness” builds on its infectious guitar part with effect-laden drums and a melody that goes from miserable to hopeful and takes you with it. It moves deliberately until you’re caught off guard with a good old Seahaven crushing ending. Then “On the Floor” begins. It’s another change of pace, another sleight of hand and that makes the beautiful, echo-soaked guitar and vocal that much more effective. There’s nothing for Kyle Soto to hide behind here and he’s all on display. It’s a highlight, for sure.

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POZ Review: Vanna - VOID

by Zac Lomas, edited by Erik van Rheenen

There is an old business adage that states if you do not evolve, then you die.  This statement applies not only to prehistoric animals and start-up companies, but also to bands, and Boston Massachusetts’ quintet Vanna are no exception.  After seven years, five studio LPs, three lead vocalists, and multiple shifts in sound, Vanna may as well be evolution incarnate.  Latest album VOID is no exception to the rule, as the band’s Pure Noise Records debut once again marks a stylistic change, similar to 2013's The Few and the Far Between.

While The Few and the Between found vocalist Davey Muise tapping into the more guttural portion of his vocal range, VOID sees the front-man tapping into more high pitched squeals that still manage to embody the ferocity necessary such powerful lyrics.  This vocal shift is noticeable, but any change in intensity is not, and the album opens with the title track “VOID’s” delectably destructive nature. Muise’s screams of “watch this black hole consume you” and “stare into the great unknown” imply an existential crisis that resonates throughout the entire album’s eleven tracks.

“VOID” immediately crashes into “Toxic Pretender” and while front-man Muise’s love of all things Americana is well-documented, nowhere is it more apparent than in this track’s opening lines of “Mine eyes have seen no glory so I rip them out today, ‘cause when was the last time I looked at you without looking away?"  Muise uses this inversion of the classic Civil War era fight song as a direct assault on someone whose personality is both fraudulent and noxious.  The vitriol Muise channels is perfectly complemented by guitarist Joel Pastuszak’s haunting clean vocals, whose subtlety undercuts the chaotic nature of the track.  

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POZ Review: Cartel - Collider

by Becky Kovach, edited by Erik van Rheenen

Pop punk veterans Cartel skyrocketed to commercial fame in late 2005, following the success of singles “Honestly” and “Say Anything (Else)” from the band’s debut full length Chroma. The result was endless touring and, a couple years later, the writing of a follow-up in conjunction with MTV’s famed “Band In A Bubble” experiment. 

Remember them? 

That self-titled album was released in 2007. For many people, it marked the end of the commotion surrounding Georgia’s claim to pop punk fame, leaving Cartel scrambling to maintain the connections they’d built with their fans.

Since then, Cartel has continued to produce music that should have placed them at the very forefront of the scene. But for reasons this writer can’t begin to understand, many fans have failed to keep up since Chroma, leaving Cartel one of the most underrated and underappreciated bands I’ve ever come across. 

Collider is the most recent addition to the band’s discography, and it is everything a Cartel album should be: polished pop punk with crisp tones, angelic harmonies, and exhilarating melodies. It is bright and optimistic despite the fact that it deals with all the doubt the band has struggled with throughout its stop-and-go history. 

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POZ Review: Gnarwolves - Gnarwolves

by Zac Lomas, edited by Erik van Rheenen

There are no statistics in punk rock.  There are no quarterback ratings, no batting averages, no plus/minus, and no field goal percentages – just songs.  However, I’d like to argue for adding just one statistic into the punk rock mix, that statistic being stage dives per minute, because never have I ever witnessed more stage dives in a single set than when I witnessed the chaos of a Gnarwolves show.  The band’s ability to incite the masses of youth that attend their shows to disregard all bodily safety is purely uncanny and this energy is exactly what the band squeezed into their debut self-titled LP.

Gnarwolves is brash, bold, and bombastic in ways that every punk album should aspire to be; but more so, the album is not simply a hollow middle finger directed at a passing pig, it is a complete artistic statement that speaks volumes to the depth and intelligence of the three Brighton Boys.  As if Gnarwolves weren’t already aware that this LP would be under much closer scrutiny than their prior three EPs, they titled the opening track of Gnarwolves “Prove It,” which is immediately followed by ten tracks of them doing just that. 

Following “Prove It’s” mixture of big hooks, catchy choruses, and up-tempo verses is “Boneyard,” the album’s second single, which boasts one of the album’s defining lines in “We make a toast to being lonely because it’s better than drinking alone.”  At first glance the song feels like a tired teenage anthem of debauchery and drunkenness, but vocalist/guitarist Thom Weeks’ lyrics speak to more than that.  Weeks’ shouts of blacking out over and over again aren’t celebrating his alcohol use, but rather emphasizing the hardships one continually forgets with the help of countless cans of K Cider.  Weeks touches again on this theme in “Bottle to Bottle” where he sings that, “If we start drinking heavily the walls might stop shrinking.” 

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POZ Review: Pentimento - Inside The Sea

by Zac Lomas, edited by Erik van Rheenen

The other day, I was driving in my car with a friend who is quite novice to all things “punk” (whatever that means). I was telling him about Against Me! and Laura Jane Grace, while playing tracks off of New Wave. Eventually, he asked me what was my favorite thing about punk music. What defining feature jumped out and grabbed me by the collar and said, “listen!” My answer was simple: honesty.  When I listen to a band, I want to know that every chord is heartfelt and every piercing scream is genuine.  Pentimento deliver said honesty on their latest release, Inside The Sea, once again proving that in a world of gimmicks, scams, and novelty bands, there are still people out there writing sincere songs.

Pentimento made a huge splash at the tail end of 2012 with the free release of their self-titled album and the ensuing legal melee with Panic Records, but the boys from Buffalo are relentless and hit the studio once again to track what they describe as their most urgent set of recordings to date.  The four song EP opens with “Not So Young,” lyricist and drummer Mike Hansen’s candid take on the pangs of adolescence. The subtle hum of a Telecaster, blended with Hansen’s crisp snare rolls welcome listeners inside the proverbial sea as vocalist Jeramiah Pauly sings about “The kind of young where I thought I was friends with everyone.”

Even to the casual listener, it’s easy to discern some of pop-punk’s more overt tropes, so it’s safe to say that one has heard his or her fair share of songs tackling the subject of romantic dejection. At first glance “Just Friends” seems to fall right in line with the entire Ataris discography, but its title is misleading to say the least. “Just Friends” proves within the first few lines that this isn’t a track for the rejected-self-entitled “nice guy” misogynist whose delusional belief in the “friend zone” proves just why society still needs feminism.  Rather, lines like “I’m in between déjà vu & delirium, remembering things that haven’t happened yet” speak to the fragility and complexity of maintaining human relationships, whether they are romantic or otherwise.  Hansen’s introspective narrative tells of the discrepancies between what one deserves and what one believes they deserve, in a heartfelt, yet crushing manner.

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POZ Review: Yellowcard - Lift A Sail

by Becky Kovach, edited by Erik van Rheenen

After more than a decade, the men behind Yellowcard are reinventing themselves. In “Illuminate,” Ryan Key sings: ”We hope to run from what’s been done/Look for a future no one else has sung.” This is a message that the band clearly took to heart. Lift A Sail is Yellowcard’s biggest album yet, a sweeping and illustrious rock album no one could have foreseen. And it’s safe to say that this one is a game changer.  

Opener “Convocation” prepares listeners for the journey they are about to embark on – its openness is as beautiful and bright as it is tender and stirring, and it is a sign of what’s to follow in the next twelve tracks. Not because of the tone or the lightness, but because of how big the track truly is. And while many fans are sure to draw comparisons between this and its Lights and Sounds counterpart, it is worth nothing that “Three Flights Up” closes in upon its piano centric melodies, whereas the layers of elegant strings in “Convocation” continue to swell until its conclusion. 

“Transmission Home” picks up where “Convocation” leaves off: with hollow, booming drums before diving into a crunchy guitar melody. The verses are grounded and clear-cut, contrasting with the spacious choruses that have Key pleading into the void: “I will send a transmission home/To say that I’ve been out here too long alone/And I wanna come down now.” The bridge brings him back down with its sweet piano melody and soothing violins, while the synths sparkling just beneath the surface lend an ethereal awareness.

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