Review of Ascend/Descend’s ‘Murdock Street’ at Modern Vinyl


Whereas every other d-beat record I’ve heard sounds like it was recorded inside a trash can, Ascend/Descend’s Murdock Street gains its power from the fact that this is hardcore recorded like high-end black metal: each aspect of the quartet stands out, shining brightly. The separation between everything on Murdock Street sounds streamlined, but by no means is that any kind of “not punk enough” slag on the Boston hardcore band. If anything, it makes everything that much more distinct.

Read the full review at Modern Vinyl. Published 8/24/16

Review of Moment’s “Thick & Unwieldy From All Our Layers” at Modern Vinyl

moment cover

Man, if I’d heard Moment when I was 19, I’d have been a fan for life.

The manner in which Moment connects the disparate elements of East Coast punk rock from the late ‘90s and early ‘00s is amazing to say the least. It’s melodic, but rough-edged, and there’s this combination of catchy, hook-laden choruses with breakdowns which absolutely fascinate.

Read the entire review of Moment’s Thick & Unwieldy From All Our Layers at Modern Vinyl. Published 6/5/16

Weak Teeth, “So You’ve Ruined Your Life” LP

cover - weak teeth so you've ruined your lifeA more appropriate record for holiday release, I can’t possibly imagine. Weak Teeth‘s sophomore full-length, So You’ve Ruined Your Life (out not from Tor Johnson Records) continues the anger and frustration the group started with on their debut single, and refines and focuses it even further than they did on What A Plague You Are.

The stark imagery of the cover gives a clue as to what you’ll find on the 12 inches of vinyl within the jacket. Weak Teeth rage against world destroyed by political infighting, but what really seems to come through is the yearning for something with meaning. “I’m Better Than OKay” sums it up best, with “a constant burden that you can’t know or understand” being the throughline of So You’ve Ruined Your Life.
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Death to Tyrants, “Untitled EP” 7-inch

cover - death to tyrants untitledWriting about instrumental post-rock is really one of the hardest things to do, which is a goddamn shame, because Death to Tyrants‘ new untitled 7-inch EP for Tor Johnson Records is absolutely wonderful. Maybe we’ll just talk about that. How does that sound?

Death to Tyrants work the whole hardcore angle of the various “post” genres more than anything else, but it’s the way in which the group takes it on that really keeps me putting this back on the turntable for another go-around. Each song has a groove around which the entire song revolves, and to which everything returns time and time again, working as the backbone and framework for the whole piece.
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Late Bloomer, “Things Change” LP

coverEver since Late Bloomer debuted “Use Your Words,” I’ve been foaming at the mouth to hear all of Things Change, their sophomore LP on Tor Johnson, Lunchbox, and Self Aware Records. I tried to hold back until I had the LP in my hot little hands, but caved and listened to it streaming a few weeks back.

This all goes to say that Things Change is an album which — once you’ve had a taste of it — you want to hear in its entirety, over and over again. “Use Your Words” was and is an excellent introduction, kicking off the album in a way that reminds me a lot of any number of bands I hear in the mid to late ’90s, but more in terms of tone than specific sound.
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Bloodpheasant, “Traum” LP

cover - bloodpheasant traumThe newest Tor Johnson Records release, Bloodpheasant‘s Traum, showed up a while back, and it took me nearly a week to get to listen to it. I’m usually prone to throwing whatever Paul’s sent in the mail straight onto the turntable after I get in the house, but somehow, this languished on my coffee table for the better part of six days.

The reason I say all of this is to emphasize how bummed I felt halfway through opening cut, “A Bird and Its Wings.” I could’ve listened to this all last week, but no — I had to do productive things instead of getting lost in this Rhode Island quartet’s twangy, apocalyptic doom.
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Alpha Owl, “3 Song EP” cassette

cover - alpha owlAlpha Owl‘s “Boscage” single is an amazing package. Hand-typed liner notes, letterpress artwork, and it’s just amazing. Lots of work for a three-song EP, especially something that’s limited to a production run of 100.

The music took me a little more to get into. It’s energetic stoner metal that acknowledges that Black Sabbath wrote “Paranoid,” as well as “War Pigs,” if that makes any sense. The EP isn’t all plodding sludge — it’s actually upbeat and makes you want to do that thing where you play air guitar and wiggle your fingers. It involves lots of epic soloing, some insane riffage, and some pounding drums that make me wish this hadn’t been mastered so high. Were there more of a low end, this could conceivably level a house.

This might be the most fun release Tor Johnson has put out. It manages to rock like a hardcore band, but still evokes every evening spent smoking too much weed and raiding your parents’ LPs for Hawkwind and Led Zeppelin records. Granted, the vocals are occasionally just a little out of reach of the singer’s range, but it ends up lending the whole affair a sense of desperation that wouldn’t otherwise be there. For a first release, it shows a lot of promise, and I can’t wait to see where Alpha Owl heads next.

Tyler Daniel Bean, “Everything You Do Scares Me” 7-inch

cover - tyler daniel beanFor a release that never gets into screaming, pummeling drums, or crazy riffage, Tyler Daniel Bean‘s Everything You Do Scares Me 7-inch from Tor Johnson Records is super-intense. Y’know how “emo” was once shorthand for “emotional hardcore”? That’s what this is — it doesn’t get you with volume, or in-your-face musical acrobatics. The intensity comes from the heft that that music carries.

There’s a weight here that conveys loss beyond just words. “Year of the Snake” rises at one point to seem like there’s going to be a breakdown. From there, it gains some propulsive drums, but it fades out to a slow instrumental bridge that sounds the way it feels to shake with anxiety.
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Best Practices, “Sore Subjects” 7-inch

cover - best practices sore subjectsThe more I listen to them, the more I think Best Practices are a hardcore band playing garage rock. A lot of it has to do with the drumming, which has that energetic backbeat, steady as a goddamn metronome.

On Sore Subjects, said drumming (courtesy Paul Denichio, whose Tor Johnson Records teamed up with Willow Tree Records to put this EP out) has a looser feel than most hardcore drumming. It doesn’t sound like Denichio is going to put his sticks through the skins.
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Tor Johnson Records, “Ten Year Anniversary Omnibus” 7-inch

cover-tor-johnson-10-yearTor Johnson Records is a label from which I’ve happened to get a couple releases for review over the past couple years. Over the course of that time, I’ve gone from being a curious outsider to an actual fan of what the label’s putting out.

Their Ten Year Anniversary Omnibus compilation 7-inch was something for which I’ve been waiting for ages. While I got my download pretty much instantly after ordering the record, the actual physical vinyl took a while to get here.
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