Save Ends, “Warm Hearts, Cold Hands” LP

cover - save endsFun times with indie-pop from Boston’s Save Ends. Their debut full-length after several years of EPs, Warm Hearts, Cold Hands is a harder-edged Dollyrots or Mixtapes. It’s super-poppy, and the whole album is pretty much “Harmonies! Energy! Riffs!” for its entirety.

Save Ends really aim for energetic songs, but the lyrics drag everything down. It’s not that the music isn’t good — the riffs are catchy, the keys are nice when they come through, and the bass and drums make for a head-nodding beat. It’s more that the songs contain lyrics talking about falling down, blood draining from arms, things breaking down, and feeling alone.
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Signals Midwest, “Light On the Lake” LP

cover - signals midwest light on the lakeIt took the second run-through on the turntable to notice it, but Signals Midwest frontman Maxwell Stern sounds a lot like Bomb the Music Industry’s Jeff Rosenstock. If I remember correctly, I really liked their last album, but this one kind of refuses to stick in my mind.

The guitar solo on “In the Pauses” grabs your attention first and foremost, if you’re not a BTMI fan. It’s one of the few moments Light On the Lake‘s first side that doesn’t work in the loud-quiet-loud dynamic that’s become almost de rigeur for punk bands these days — quiet spoken parts, then big anthemic choruses.

It’s great for singing along and fist-pumping, but the fact that Signals Midwest actually do more guitar-wise than just strumming or rocking power chords gets lost in these songs that are, honestly, more like pieces from a Broadway musical than rock ‘n’ roll.
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Springtime, “South Hill” 7-inch

cover - springtimeIs it lazy to describe Springtime‘s South Hill 7-inch as post-Cro Mags hardcore, fronted by Henry Rollins? Something about Springtime makes me want to start shorthanding every reference.

The group’s quite good — don’t get me wrong. This is actually one of the heavier releases Tiny Engines has put out. It’s just that the whole thing is very ’90s: specifically, early-to-mid, pre-pop punk / emo explosion. The vocals are still getting spit, but melodicism tempers the anger.
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State Lines, “For the Boats” LP

cover - state lines for the boatsThe latest from State Lines, For the Boats, is the album everybody’s been wanting since Brand New failed to make Your Favorite Weapon 2: The Favoriting. It’s that perfect messed-up mix of pop hooks and emotional letting-go that so hooked everyone who grew up on a steady diet of New Found Glory and Saves the Day, but were left wanting something more substantial than the usual Drive Thru Records fare.

However, while the first part of the record seems to be straight from the emo-pop handbook, replete with cracked voices and power chords, it begins to stray from the path with the last two songs on the first side.
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Run, Forever, “Settling” LP

cover - run forever settlingThe first long-player from Run, Forever in a year and a half — and the first recordings from the band in over a year — Settling is an album that’s been long-awaited. Now that it’s out on Tiny Engines, what do we have?

Run, Forever’s sound on Settling is the natural successor to the late ’90s / early ’00s acts who filtered alternative rock through a pop filter (i.e., the entire Drive Thru records roster). On this LP, Run, Forever flip the equation, filtering alterna-pop through an indie rock filter.
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Jowls, “Cursed” 10-inch

DOG164 JACKET FINALThey still make screamy, angular indie rock, thank heavens. I’d been afraid that screamo had co-opted this style of delivery almost completely, but JowlsCursed, out now on Tiny Engines, comfortably delivers screaming and impassioned lyrical delivery from breakdowns and mall hair.

Cursed is jam-packed with metronomic pulses which abruptly shift, lurching and jerking into another cyclical section, which will itself be punctuated by agonized vocals. The first side’s three songs hew so closely to this template that it’s almost as if it’s one long song, each track seperated but nothing but a quiet drum roll.
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Run, Forever guitarist Anthony Huebel on the trio’s new album (also, cats)

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Pittsburgh punk trio Run, Forever recently released their second LP, Settling, via Tiny Engines. It’s been over a year since the band last released any new music, and they’re celebrating the new album by setting out on a tour with labelmates State Lines. The tour hits Kansas City’s Art Closet Studios for a show with Emo Side Project on Sunday, January 13. Singer and guitarist Anthony Heubel spoke with us via e-mail about the new record, touring, and cats.
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Restorations, “A/B” 7-inch

cover-restorations-abTo be frank, the majority of the releases on Tiny Engines don’t make much of an impression on me. They’re pleasant enough bits of post rock indie / emo, with all of the bands strongly influenced by latter-day Dischord acts and the loud-quiet-loud aesthetic of the many Deep Elm acts who preceded them.

Specifically, I’ve never quite understood the acclaim many fans give to Restorations. They’re nice enough, but the songs they make tend to bore after a bit. An entire LP of their material might’ve been the biggest struggle I’ve ever had listening to an album for review.
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Red Collar, “Welcome Home” LP

cover-red-collar-welcome-homeMake no bones about it — the Gaslight Anthem comparisons that Red Collar receive are not without merit. They both have their Springsteen leanings, writing songs about times gone by, with a certain wisp of nostalgia about them. However, I’d argue that Red Collar’s Welcome Home LP on Tiny Engines has more to do with the likes of Drag the River and the various punk-fueled Americana acts than sons of New Jersey.

Alternately, you could see them as taking from Americana-fueled punk acts. Avail certainly plays no small part in songs like “Dodge K Car,” a rollicking bit of anthemic rock ‘n’ roll that sets the second side of this album apart from the first. Honestly, aside from the a-side track “The Old Piano Roll” (with its really excellent guitar fade-out that reminded me of nothing so much as the end of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Civil War”), the first half of Welcome Home is a pretty monotonic set of music. It required a good amount of convincing myself to flip it over, convinced as I was that the second batch of tracks was going to be a slog.
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Restorations, “Restorations” LP

(Tiny Engines)

Admittedly, I wasn’t a fan of Restorations‘ debut EP for Paper + Plastick, referring to it as plodding and “dull.” Their self-titled full-length – thankfully – is an improvement. It’s still a strange amalgam of post-punk and Americana, but Restorations have managed to pull the similar elements from both genres together more tightly together. The rambling rhythmic structure of Americana’s country roots meld perfectly with the high arpeggios of post-punk, which have a high, lonesome sound all their own. And, of course, those vocals, gruff and raspy, could easily fit into either genre.
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