Monday, 30 July 2012

Merchant Ships

Merchant Ships were an emo/screamo band from South Bend, Indiana and Sturgis, Michigan. Unfortunately, their tenure was plagued with inner turmoil. Despite this, they still managed to put out a decent amount of material in a relatively short amount of time. Merchant Ships began in July 2008, and broke up in May 2009. Within this time frame, they put out numerous EP's (I Want To Forget About Everything Bad That Ever Happened, Ever, Bummer Times Demo, and The LOL Cats Demo). They also put out a song ("Old Grey") on the Simple Days Compilation and a re-release of Bummer Times Demo with three additional songs in 2010. Upon their break-up, they released a compilation of most of their recorded work at the time, including IWTFAEBTEHE, the original version of Bummer Times Demo, "Old Grey", a new song titled "Something Paul Revere", and an early version of "Dying", which would later appear on For Cameron. It also included The LOL Cats Demo (with abbreviated names), but apparently the band isn't very fond of it, that's why most versions floating around the internet are without it. This compilation was titled SHIPSOGRAPHY. Merchant Ships reunited late 2009, possibly early 2010. In May 2010, they signed to Count Your Lucky Stars (THE emo label). They put out one thing on CYLS: For Cameron. After a tour, they broke up in July 2010. Members went on to form bands such as Midwest Pen Pals, Jefferson Park, and William Bonney.

Merchant Ships mix clean, noodly guitar playing reminiscent of bands such as Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader with the high-pitched intense screams of Raein and Saetia. Or something. Lots of gang-vocal sing-alongs too. Their earliest work features some pretty standard emo-y stuff, but as they progressed they began to explore more unique song structures and musical ideas. They integrated some experimental components in their music, such as spoken word in "My Journey To The Weed Den" or "Sleep Patterns". They've also got some kickass acoustic jams. Just good shit all around. Catchy as hell, but still very emotional songs, amazing lyrics, great guitar work; everything is just really solid and coated in awesomeness. Yeah.

Here's everything they did. I don't know if the artwork is real for The LOL Cats Demo, or if the artwork for Bummer Times Demo is for the three-song or six-song version. And sorry I couldn't find any artwork for "Old Grey". Ah well, enjoy.

1. I Won That Jousting Match Because Of My Iron Horse
2. Drinkin' Music Is Better Than Sober Music
3. Long Term Relationships Were Only Cool When Divorce Wasn't
4. Hidden Track

1. My Journey To The Weed Den
2. We Don't Need Luck To Make It
3. The First Time I Got Fucked Up Was To The Party Song By Blink-182
4. Coffee, Hot Showers, And Hangover Jams
5. Long Term Relationships Were Only Cool When Divorce Wasn't

1. Old Grey

1. Birthday!
2. Let's Exchange Word Vomit
3. Emo Songs
4. Birthday! (Acoustic)
5. If A Bear's Hungry (He Will Eat)
6. If A Bear's Hungry (He Will Eat) (Acoustic)

1. My Journey To The Weed Den
2. We Don't Need Luck To Make It
3. The First Time I Got Fucked Up Was To The Party Song By Blink-182
4. Coffee, Hot Showers, And Hangover Jams
5. Long Term Relationships Were Only Cool When Divorce Wasn't
6. Old Grey
7. Birthday!
8. Let's Exchange Word Vomit
9. Emo Songs
10.  Something Paul Revere
11. Dying

1. Things Left In Last Year
2. Dying
3. Sentinel
4. Sleep Patterns
5. Good Weekend
6. Something That Matters

Monday, 2 July 2012

Pianos Become The Teeth

Pianos Become The Teeth are a screamo/post-rock (shall we just call it post-hardcore?) band from Baltimore, Maryland who formed in 2006, and are a testament to why music is such an amazing thing. Few bands have graced this planet who make such hauntingly beautiful and chilling music as these living legends have and will for all of eternity (I refuse to accept any notion implying that they are anything less than immortal). Taking their cues from bands such as Envy, City Of Caterpillar, Funeral Diner, Explosions In The Sky, and Thursday, they have constructed masterpieces that will pervade the frames and fill the veins of all blessed enough to have immersed themselves in them. Now, onwards we shall proceed with the fanboy fellation.

1. All Children Make Mistakes
2. Idiosyncracies

This is PBTT's first ever release, though I'm not even sure if was ever officially released. It's a demo, recorded in 2007, consisting of two songs that would later be re-recorded for their proper debut, Saltwater. The first song, "All Children Make Mistakes", is one of their more straight-up post-rock songs. Gentle, delayed guitar, volume swells, melodic bass lines, soft keys, some electronic tampering reminiscent of This Will Destroy You, and of course the very important crescendo, which ends up being very anti-climatic, in a good way. There's also a tad bit of singing near the end, which was left out of the Saltwater version. The second song, "Idiosyncrasies", is much more atypical of the band. Pulverising rhythm section, the guitars being awesome, and Kyle and Matt doing some great vocal work. Then the end kicks in, where the band calms down and fades out while some great keyboard work becomes the focus. Oh, and I'm not sure if that's actually the artwork, but it looks awesome so I see no problem there.

1. Gift Of The Giver
2. Your Sister's Handwriting
3. All Children Make Mistakes
4. Idiosyncracies
5. Houses We Die in
6. Interlude

This is the band's first official release, an EP  (though it's long enough to be considered a full-length, it clocks in at 27 minutes) titled Saltwater put out in 2008 by Doomed By Dawn Records. This album, along with the demo and Ezra Joyce split, differs from their later releases because of the inclusion of keyboard player/vocalist Matt Williams. The inclusion of a second vocalist provides unique dynamic not present on their later releases (though Kyle does use multiple vocal tracks), especially since Matt both sings and screams. However, in my opinion (as always), his voice isn't that great (maybe it's just because Kyle's is so good, I don't know). His keyboard playing is also a great addition to the mix. Sometimes it's melodic, sometimes it's synth-y. It's a unique component. The rest of the band is more or less doing what they do best, but are still sort of rough around the edges. To me, Saltwater doesn't set such a distinct atmosphere like their later songs/albums do, and therefore doesn't leave as strong of an impression. This is not to say that this album isn't as good, it's just more of an indication of the amazing things that the band will do. The guitars still interweave beautifully, but the tones aren't lush (though this is most likely a result of the lower-quality gear and recording). They also haven't mastered the art of seemingly blending post-rock elements with post-hardcore ones. The drums are powerful, but not pummelling like they later will be. Even the vocals aren't quite as developed as they will become. Lyrically, they tread fairly similar ground, T.S. Eliot-inspired stuff, but aren't quite as powerful or emotionally hard-hitting as they will become (though they're still great). I'm sorry, I'm being completely redundant here. All in all, Saltwater is a very solid album, albeit not as strong as what they would release later. That should sum it up. Seriously, this is some awesome stuff, I don't mean to keep shitting on it. I'm just trying to avoid being biased. But yeah, this is pretty good. It took me a while to get in to though, since Old Pride was my introduction to them. Not that this is significantly different, it just wasn't Old Pride to me. Give it a few more listens if you're having that problem, you'll come around. Quick side note: since I wrote this (this post has been kicking around as a draft for a while) I've been listening to Saltwater quite a bit, and thoroughly enjoying it. Since I don't think anybody actually reads this, I'm just going to leave my above statements there. I still stand by them, but I don't think I'd be as negative the second time around.

Pianos Become The Teeth/Ezra Joyce (2009)
1. Pianos Become The Teeth - Creatures Of Habit
2. Pianos Become The Teeth - Houses We Die In
3. Ezra Joyce - Holmes And Chicago
4. Ezra Joyce - The Depletion Of Suns

In 2009, PBTT put out a split with New Jersey's now-defunct Ezra Joyce. EJ contributed two songs, and PBTT contributed one for sure, but I'm unsure of the second. "Creatures Of Habit" is a monster of a song. It's their longest to date, and probably one of their most "epic", though that's not entirely because of the track's length. The second, if it is supposed to be on here, song is another version of "Houses We Die In", which originally appeared on Saltwater. This re-recorded version is faster and the production is cleaner (a note on the production: it's slightly different than "Creatures Of Habit", which makes me believe even more so that this song didn't appear on this release. But it's possible that they were just recorded at different times, in a different studio, different engineers, I have no idea, but still put on the same album. Any insight on this would be much appreciated). Overall, I prefer this version, but they're both bewildering. It's also the one they use in the music video, which is also awesome. I don't usually care for videos, but that particular one is pretty cool. This is also the last album to feature Matt Williams, who would be missed if they didn't go and make Old Pride.

1. Filial
2. Quit Benefit
3. Sleepshaker
4. Prev
5. Pensive
6. Cripples Can't Shiver
7. Jess And Charlie
8. Young Fire

Here we go. Old Pride was originally released in 2009 by Blackjaw Records, but re-released in 2010 by Topshelf Records. This is their first LP (unless you count Saltwater), and arguably their best (but let's face it, both albums are sonic perfection). Everything they've done in their already-amazing career just comes together on here, and oh my, is it gorgeous. From the opening arpeggios of "Filial" to the final riff of "Young Fire", everything just screams sincerity. This is one of those albums (and they are one of those bands) that you know are going to impact many generations to come, and kids 20-30 years from now are going to look back on and just go "Damn". The post-rock influence emerges most clearly, but is perfectly blended in with the other aspects of their playing which I can't even properly describe besides as being a true work of genius. The drums are just crushing. From the bass drum intro to "Cripples Can't Shiver" to the flurry of "Jess And Charlie" (those are probably terrible examples since they're right beside each other on the track listing), everything is done right. I think that best describes their drummer. Kevin, I think his name is. He does everything right. He knows when to keep things simple and subtle, but also when to just burst out in a drumming frenzy, where he is literally working every inch of the kit in insanely technical passages (but it's never obnoxious). His build-ups are perfect, and he can come down on a crash cymbal like no one else. This guy is a beast of a drummer. The bass is also perfect (get used that word being used to describe them). It's not incredibly complex, but compliments every other component of the band. His playing really reminds me of Paul Hinojos from At The Drive-In. And of course, the vocals. Kyle's got to be one of my favourite singers/lyricists ever. Lyrically, he tends to dwell in metaphors and unique imagery, so he tends to be pretty oblique and therefore open to interpretation. This is not always the case though, as exemplified by "Cripples Can't Shiver" and especially on their next album, The Lack Longer After. Vocally, he is heart-shredding. To use a cliché, his voice is "dripping with emotion". When applied to him, there's nothing but truth. Just listen to the build-up in "Pensive", or anything they've ever done for that matter. Old Pride. 8 songs. Every one is pure perfection. I could say so much about each one, but I feel like I should leave this as a single entity instead of dissecting it. If you can't already tell, I love this album/band with every ounce of my being. I don't really know what else to say besides "amazing". A note on the artwork: on the physical versions of this album (both LP and CD) the band name and album title aren't on there, yet most pictures of the cover I find on the interwebz have the titles. Maybe it's a digital thing, or the titles appeared on the first version, but removed on the Topshelf release. Maybe it was just done to clarify that it's an album cover and not a picture of some pretty horses. I don't know. It's awesome either way.

1. The Saddest Landscape - Death Becomes Us
2. Pianos Become The Teeth - New Normal 

Following Old Pride, they put out a split with the legendary band The Saddest Landscape, again on Topshelf Records. Both bands contributed one song. PBTT's contribution, "New Normal", is a blistering beauty that stands out even among their already stacked repertoire. This particular song propels them into a sonic fury of pure energy. It sounds as if every member is putting everything they've got into it, to the point that they sound like one seething and pulsating unit, bound to each other in the production of these convulsing airwaves. And oh my, is it sweet. I'd say it's also a lyrical high-point as well. I'd provide examples, but would just end up quoting the whole song. Seriously, these lyrics are just chillingly truthful, and hauntingly beautiful. One a semi-unrelated note, if you haven't heard The Saddest Landscape (the other band on the other side of this split), I highly, highly suggest you check them out. "Death Becomes Us", their contribution to this split, is included below, but seriously just get everything by them. Now.

1. I'll Be Damned
2. Good Times
3. Shared Bodies
4. Such Confidence
5. Liquid Courage
6. Spine
7. Sunsetting
8. I'll Get By

Finally, their most recent release. The Lack Long After is the band's second full-length (or third, depending on what you think Saltwater is) and was put out in 2011. It carries on the sound that they've been working with, and displays a development in their technical prowess, which had been consistently increasing. The musicianship is incredible as they keep tightening themselves as a group. Needless to say, it is filled to the brim with awesome riffs, drumming and bass work. The production is also top-notch, as is Old Pride. Everything's just really solid, you get the point. One slight change I noticed was in the vocals. Maybe it was just because I had adjusted to the Kyle's voice by the time this album rolled around, but I found the vocals to be clearer. There are also some moments where he breaks his usual screeching in favour of a almost singing-like thing, as seen in parts of "I'll Be Damned", "Liquid Courage", and the beginning of "I'll Get By". I personally love the slight changes. This album also shifts lyrically from their previous material. Every song (with the exception of "Shared Bodies") is about Kyle's dad passing away. His battle with multiple sclerosis is touched upon in "Cripples Can't Shiver" from Old Pride, which means he passed away in between the two, which is only a two-year gap. This makes for some visceral and scathing lyrics and vocals (that sounds like we're benefiting from his pains, though that is true in a strange, albeit comforting, way). The lyrics on here I find to be much more personal and relatable than in their previous work, though all of that is also incredibly crushing. There are times where I almost feel uncomfortable reading/listening to them, such as certain parts in "Such Confidence", because it feels as if I'm intruding on someone's deep and personal secretive feelings. Kyle's pretty open and vulnerable here. Though, like I said, I find despite it being about such a distinct topic, it can still be applied and meaningful to others, and that's where the power is here, and every song is absolutely perfect in terms of lyrics, vocals, music. Hell, everything they do is. What more can be said?

1. Pianos Become The Teeth - Hiding
2. Touché Amoré - Gravity, Metaphorically

So, they just put out a split with the great Touché Amoré, who I'm sure you know, today (January 8th) as a co-release between Topshelf and Deathwish. It's great, perhaps not to the extent that some of both band's previous material, but awesome nonetheless. PBTT's contribution is a song called "Hiding", which is somewhat of a deperature from their usual sound. This is most evident in Kyle's vocal delivery, which is much more toned down and practically sung for the majority of the song, with his usual style only breaking through a few times. The entire song is much calmer and melodic than anything they've done in the past, which in my opinion is a welcome break from their usual stuff (though it is an amazing sound).

1. Ripple Water Shrine
2. April
3. Lesion
4. Old Jaw
5. Repine
6. Late Lives
7. Enamore Me
8. Traces
9. The Queen
10. Say Nothing

Here's their newly released third full-length album. It's out on Epitaph, and is quite a departure from their previous work, though still just as chill-inducing and gripping. They tone down the screaming and distortion in favour of clear, melodic singing, and retain the orchestral post-rock build-ups and tones they had before. They dismiss the frenzy in order to bring a dark, pulsating, passionate and full sound that has some amazing production work on it (courtesy of Will Yip, of course). This is definitely different for them, but an absolute masterpiece all the same!

1. 895
2. Dancing

This is a 7" they released for Record Store Day 2015. It contains two songs that were recorded during the Keep You session. Both songs are definitely solid, and very much in the same vein as the material on Keep You, of course.

1. Fake Lightning
2. Charisma
3. Bitter Red
4. Dry Spells
5. Bay Of Dreams
6. Forever Sound
7. Bloody Sweet
8. Manila
9. Love On Repeat
10. Blue

1. Out of Sight
2. Genevieve
3. The Tricks
4. Easy
5. The Days
6. Mouth
7. Skiv
8. Hate Chase
9. Buckley
10. Pair

Pianos Become The Teeth can destroy and rebuild a person. I've had the honor of seeing them twice, and it is an experience everyone should have. They are incredible, everything's spot on. They remain "exciting" while still retaining the highly emotional aspect present on the records. Not many bands can do that they way they do. Thus why they are one of the greatest, and that's why I consider myself lucky to be able to be around while they are. It's insane to think that they will be what a band that people in years to come will look back on and go "Fuck, I wish I could have been around then for that". Kind of like what Rites of Spring is to me. Ehh, bad example. Maybe At The Drive-in would be more appropriate, and I'm sure some of you must share that sentiment. Hopefully they'll be around longer though, of course. Enough of what they will be. Right now, at this very moment, they are an amazing band still playing shows and writing songs, and for that we are all quite lucky. Anyway, that concludes my possibly longest (and certainly most conceited) post on the great Pianos Become The Teeth.

Age Sixteen

Age Sixteen were a screamo/emo band from Baltimore, Maryland who were active from 2008-2010. Despite their somewhat brief tenure, they managed to put out a slew of solid material, most notably their sole LP, Open Up Finders, Please, which I highly recommend you check out, if you haven't already. Besides that, they put out one split, a handful of demos and a tour sampler.

Age Sixteen's music is characterized by the use of two distinct dynamics. You guessed it soft/quiet and harsh/loud. This band goes from frantic, chaotic spasms (but still retaining a sense of melody) to beautifully serene and light passages. All the while featuring this amazing, shimmering guitar tone playing noodle-y parts. This is an obvious nod to bands such as Suis La Lune, of whom they are often compared to. Rightfully so, since they do sound similar.  . The vocals, on the other hand, warrant a comparison to Bear vs. Shark (in addition to Suis La Lune, La Quiete, etc.). Though the similarities aren't quite as clear-cut as the band's similarities to their influences, there is still a trace of BvS, especially in the more aggressive parts. Age Sixteen, like Bear vs. Shark, also implement some softly spoken passages as a contrast to the abrasive screaming. There are obvious differences, of course. AS tends to be a bit more visceral, and more high-pitched than BvS (and 'cuz you know, Mark Paffi is inimitable). They also occassionally utilize gang vocals, an emo/hardcore essential.

Here's everything this awesome band has put out. Enjoy.

1. In Lieu Of

Note: This song would later be re-recorded for their LP with the new name "Two Seconds".

1. Peter Pan Complex
2. Everything Is A Tide
3. Fabric

1. Fabric
2. As Personal As A Greeting Card
3. The Lion And The Gazelle

1. Peter Pan Complex
2. As Personal As A Greeting Card
3. Everything Is A Tide
4. Fabric
5. Two Seconds
6. Dear Judas
7. Empty Nest
8. Seasick
9. The Lion And The Gazelle

1. The Emperor/Why Relive A Closed Chapter?/From The Top Of My Heart

1. Wren Lloyd - Ergotism
2. Wren Lloyd - Radical Edward's Dream
3. Wren Lloyd - Purple Skeleton
4. Wren Lloyd - Clump Spirit
5. Age Sixteen - Why Relive A Closed Chapter?
6. Age Sixteen - The Emperor
7. Age Sixteen - From The Top Of My Heart
 8. Age Sixteen -  Seven (Sunny Day Real Estate cover) 

Note: I don't know which cover is the proper one. I prefer the first one, but to each their own, I suppose.

1. Peter Pan Complex
2. As Personal As A Greeting Card
3. Everything Is A Tide
4. Fabric
5. Two Seconds
6. Dear Judas
7. Empty Nest
8. Seasick
9. The Lion And The Gazelle
10. The Emperor
11. Why Relive A Closed Chapter?
12. From The Top Of My Heart

Note: This is a discography LP Age Sixteen just self-released, there isn't much information out there surrounding it, so who knows if they reunited or anything

1. Peter Pan Complex
2. As Personal As A Greeting Card
3. Everything Is A Tide
4. Fabric
5. Two Seconds
6. Dear Judas
7. Empty Nest
8. Seasick
9. The Lion And The Gazelle
10. The Emperor
11. Why Relive A Closed Chapter?
12. From The Top Of My Heart