Tuesday, July 17, 2012

List for the Insomniac

July  17, 2012  --  12:29 A.M.

1. Backbone - June Divided
2. Chameleon - Fools For Rowan
3. We're Animals - Those Mockingbirds
4. Save Yourself - Adora
5. Dancing in a Rainstorm - Ratham Stone
6. Run Right Now - Tigerface
7. Heart Attack - Cosmoscope
8. Get Big - The Telephones
9. Tobin - Flightless Buttress
10. Never Surrender - WeSurrender

Friday, July 13, 2012

Breaking Backbones with June Divided

Since June Divided released their debut EP The Other Side of You in February 2011, things for the Philadelphia quartet have been a nonstop whirlwind of activity. Riding the success of songs like "If You Were Here" and "Breathless," and in particular the EP's lead single "Bullet," these alternative rockers are redefining the depths of their sound that straddles the space between Paramore and Jimmy Eat World. True, the Paramore comparison is an inevitable reality since Melissa Menago's vocals exhibit the same power as Hayley Williams', yet the band's true influences (by their own words), like Jimmy Eat World, Thrice and Foo Fighters speak volumes more than any surface comparison can. In addition to The Other Side of You, the music video for "Bullet" was an undeniable triumph for the group, and elevated the single to a whole new level. The concept for the video owes to a new-age horror flick with the filming as something that the band can be immensely proud of.

But today isn't about June Divided's first EP; it's about their first full-length album, Backbone, that dropped earlier this week on July 10, 2012. Taking what they did with producer Alec Henninger on The Other Side of You and amping it up to a whole new plateau, June Divided (working with Henninger again) find themselves exploring a vast new territory with tinglingly exciting possibilities. Though not a part of the music itself (and a seemingly lost art), it is worth noting the artwork for the album: simple, powerful and memorable, the album's cover adds to an already exciting feeling that's coursing through my veins as I hit play on the first track.
The first song I hear from the album, however, is not the opening track (which is the song "Waves"). Instead, I (along with everyone else who's been following the band on Facebook) was treated to the album's lead single "Secrets" upon its release a few weeks ago, and from second one, the song is completely unforgettable. The driving guitar chords set down by Melissa Menago and Chris Kissel tear through my speakers at lightning speed, and the powerhouse rhythm section of Keith Gill and Lenny Sasso blasts down anything that might be left standing. As the intro quickly fades and bleeds into a pulsating verse, Menago's vocals climb up over and cut through the air like a hot knife through butter. Gill's drumming is especially on point and the fills and rolls that come crashing down make for an exceptional end result: a track that thunders with power enough to match the attitude that it drips with. Clearly an excellent choice for the album's lead single, "Secrets" ensures that June Divided won't stay secret for long.
One thing that Backbone certainly has going for it is a track listing full of must-hears. Case in point is its title track which is an immediate classic in the band's catalogue. Kissel's guitar riff is addictive and rips with hellbent intensity through my ears, vibrating through the roaring peaks set up by Sasso's pounding basslines. Menago nails the vocals perfectly, and proves once again that June Divided is no ripoff band: these guys have their own groove and own the hell out of it. With Kissel's notes resonating in the foreground, Gill's drums carve out the bombastic cliffs that Menago's vocals do swan-dives off of. Not an outlier by any means, "Backbone" would certainly be my choice for the album's second single if I had any say at all, and is currently receiving the airplay it deserves on my show Underground Takeover.
Including other five-star tracks like" Waves," Skin and Bones," "Drive," and "Yellow House," Backbone is a smash success of a first album for June Divided. Combining explosive rhythms with clever and poetic songwriting, the Philadelphia quartet craft an instant classic for alternative fans in the new decade. (Seriously, it's no wonder these guys landed a bunch of dates on the 2012 Warped Tour). Resilient and powerful, Backbone will now act as a spine for all future June Divided works to grow from. Bottom line? You have to listen to this album: now.

Key Tracks from Backbone: "Secrets," "Backbone," "Waves," "Skin and Bones," "Yellow House"  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On the Other Side of Bullets with June Divided

It's been a while since I gave you guys a brash and powerful female-fronted group to sink your teeth into, but that all changes today. I've been listening to this band for months now, and they've been on regular rotation on my radio show Underground Takeover since this winter passed. Drawing influences from bands such as Jimmy Eat World and Explosions in the Sky, June Divided is a hard rocking quartet from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania whose sound is a mix of energetic vocals and meditative instrumentation.

June Divided

Comprising members Melissa Menago (lead vocals and guitar), Chris Kissel (lead guitar), Lenny Sasso (bass), and Keith Gill (drums), June Divided dropped an explosive recording with their EP The Other Side of You in early 2011. Bombastic in its execution and powerful in its unflinching grip, The Other Side of You blew me away from the moment I started listening to it. It's a mix of soaring vocals tiptoeing on razor-sharp guitar riffs and balanced out with powerful rhythmic pulses.
The first song from the EP that grabs hold of me is also the EP's lead single: "Bullet." Accompanied by a devastatingly powerful music video, "Bullet" is immediately unforgettable in the opening sequence of drums and guitar notes. Kissel's guitar riff is contagious and addictive, and when Gill starts counting in on the high-hats (and then on the bass and snare drums), it's all over and I'm hooked. As Menago's sultry vocals begin a jagged cut through the instrumentation, the slice comes to splitting fruition as in the last line of the verse she belts it out high and far. With Kissel's guitar building over itself again and again, it all comes crashing down in the second that Sasso's basslines rip the ground apart, and with Menago's vocals climbing higher, the chorus of this song is as brilliantly crafted as any I've heard. It's no accident that this is the song that June Divided chose to be their leadoff single for the EP. One of my favorite things in the song is Gill's drumming, and I don't think I can give enough praise to this rhythm section; Gill and Sasso lock tightly to provide a thud-boom-crash dynamic that is certainly not lost on anyone who pays attention to it. With Menago adding rhythmic chords to Kissel's beautifully simple fretwork, the guitar section of the song is rough and rugged in all the right places, and smoothed over with a nice little hint of polish by Menago's heady vocals. If the song itself isn't enough for you (and it damn sure isn't for me, because every time I hear it I want more), then the music video that June Divided released for the track has gotta be. Portraying the band in simple performance scenes as well as an interesting story line, the music video for "Bullet" is for fuel for the fire. Like the title suggests, the body of "Bullet" is simple, powerful and unforgettable. Definitely the first must-hear song off The Other Side of You.  

At just under four minutes, "Bullet" is also shorter than some of the other songs on the EP. The opening track, "If You Were Here" clocks in at five minutes and spends every one of the making a case for June Divided. The opening riff that Kissel provides definitely has a '90s flavor to it, almost with that same sort of alternative rock feel that I loved when I first heard Counting Crows or Jimmy Eat World. But things get really 21st century really fast: Menago's vocals saunter in like it's the most casual thing in the world, and moving from the light taps he's been adding to the high-hats, Gill begins a choreographed dance with Kissel, trading powerful beats for hard-edged chords. Sasso sits back a little, content to drive the rhythm just under the surface, but the song would already be lost without his lines. One of the things that I love about "If You Were Here" is that it's not too over the top: Menago goes to town on the choruses and the stop-start rhythm of the guitar chords lends to a post-'90s dynamic. Yet it's not overdone, not too lost in itself, and still the track emerges from the tunnel strong and vital, like the sound of light just after a storm. The bridge of the song is not anything too ambient or experimental, but for that reason exactly I'm not lost in trying to follow it. A solid track to open what promises to be a great EP, "If You Were Here" showcases only a little of what June Divided are capable of.
One of the clear stand-out tracks on the EP must be the title track. "The Other Side of You" has a blasting rhythm that is like a shot of adrenaline in the night. The guitar chords are hypnotic and the vocals slice like a knife through hot butter, with melody that bleeds through every drum beat to every inch of the track. On "The Other Side of You," June Divided experiment with song dynamics that seem to be a slight departure from those on "If You Were Here" and "Bullet," but they only do so making sure they absolutely nail the final result. I know that a lot of people are going to label Menago's vocals as being Paramore-esque, and while her range and power are slightly reminiscent of Hayley Williams, her style is all her own. This band is certainly no Paramore knockoff, and on "The Other Side of You" nothing could be clearer.

Six songs strong, The Other Side of You is a brash and brilliant first step for the Pennsylvania band. But that's not all these guys are capable of, and certainly not all they're doing. Released just a week or so ago, June Divided let loose the first track from their forthcoming album Backbone, titled "Secrets." If this song is any indication of what I can expect on the full album's completed version, then I can't wait to hear the finished product.
With power and attitude enough for a mountain of bands, June Divided takes cues from bands like Jimmy Eat World and expands on what they set out to do. Nothing about this band is half-assed, and The Other Side of You is certainly one of my picks for a favorite EP, especially in the last few months. Backbone is sure to be this band's breakout success, but don't be fooled: The Other Side of You is where everything started, and if you're looking for an EP that will make your ears thank you, this is it.

Sounds Like: Jimmy Eat World, Paramore, Explosions in the Sky

Key Tracks from The Other Side of You: "Bullet," "The Other Side of You," "If You Were Here," "Perfect Storm"

Check out June Divided more at: their Homepage, Facebook, and Myspace 

Monday, June 4, 2012

List for the Insomniac

June 4, 2012 -- 1:15 A.M.

1. My Damage - The Product
2. Private Hell - Howling Dollhouse
3. Dancing in a Rainstorm - Ratham Stone
4. Jennifer - Orpheus
5. Mercy - Sumo Cyco
6. I Can Be Your Man - BrokenRail
7. What This World Owes - The Breakpoint Method
8. Ain't Dead Yet - Delta Rose
9. End of the World - Deap Vally
10. Run Right Now - Tigerface

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Diamond Eye to Record Debut Full-Length This Summer

Yes, it's been a couple weeks since I had a brand new post for you guys, so I apologize that final exams are sucking the life out of me. But I do have a quick tidbit of sick news that will make up for everything.

Diamond Eye

NRN43 and Underground Takeover veterans Diamond Eye will be traveling to Los Angeles this summer to begin recording their debut full-length album with Grammy Award-winning producer Bob Kulick! Kulick's credentials range from production work the Motörhead (for which they won a Grammy in 2004), Dee Snider, Alice Cooper, KISS and more. I can't wait to hear what comes from these sessions. The Diamond Eye demo that I got my hands on a couple of years ago was certainly a promising start for this Australian powerhouse. Followed by the live DVD/CD Alive and Kicking, and more recently by the EP Sound of the Guns, the Diamond Eye demo, was my first peek into this band's inner core. Brace yourselves for a bombastic, octane-driven teleportation back to the glory days of metal. Diamond Eye are coming, there's no stopping these guys now!

Friday, April 13, 2012

List for the Insomniac

April 13, 2012 -- 12:03 A.M.

1. The Afterparty - Fight the Fear
2. Never Back Down - Manic Bloom
3. Never Look Back - Darling Parade
4. Snake Skin - The Life Review
5. Asphyxiate - Cold Black
6. Ocean - Neverblue
7. Bullet - June Divided
8. Loser - 3 Pill Morning
9. My Escape - BrokenRail
10. Chameleon - Pixikill

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Getting Pathological with Waking Elliot

It's been a little while since I gave you guys a great record review, but no worries, I have a lot coming up! Today is one of those days, and I'm sure that this will have been worth the wait. I've been listening to this EP for the last couple months and have been liking it more and more with every subsequent listen.
Formed in late 2009, Waking Elliot is a Connecticut-based five-piece that are pushing the boundaries of female-fronted alternative rock in the best of way. I got my hands on the band's EP Simply Pathological, and have been obsessed with the sound that's coming through the speakers. Comprising members Mary Carson (lead vocals), Allyson Brown (keyboard and vocals), Evan Forstrom (guitar), Kevin Bieler (bass), and Rob Jeffrey (drums), Waking Elliot's sound is a mix of Paramore-style vocals with the a more Meg & Dia musically alternative approach. One of the things I love best about the EP from the start is the artwork. Perhaps that doesn't really fit in with a music review, but anyone who knows anything about the music industry knows that a snazzy-looking cover and artwork certainly help a band to define its persona, and in that respect, Waking Elliot certainly understand the basic tenant of eye-catching artwork.

Waking Elliot; From left: Forstrom, Brown, Carson, Bieler, and Jeffrey 

But you guys came here to hear about the music, so here we go. Simply Pathological is rife with edgy guitar riffs married to slick and sexy vocals, dumped over rolling rhythms and sing-along choruses. One of my immediate favorite tracks from the EP is "Hide and Seek." The intro riff is brilliantly simple and amazingly addictive. Carson's vocals tip-toe a tightrope between soft and sugary and adrenaline-infused power. Rolling off her tongue like little demons creeping from the depths of a shattered psyche, Carson's lyrics are brilliantly matched by Bieler's bass, and as Forstrom shoots up the song with high-octane notes and dragging palm-mutes, a sense of hyper-paranoia descends, and this track is just incredible. The interlude of the song brings the rise of Brown's keys, eery in the twilight against the backdrop of Jeffrey's high-hat taps. The energy is hair-bristling, and as the interlude ends in a crescendo of power and pleasure, Forstrom takes off in a solo that is as neurotic as it is searingly catchy. Blending high above with Carson's vocals, Forstrom and gang crash down, and with the sudden ending in silence, I'm left breathless in the dark, like a patient in a sanitarium. "Hide and Seek" is a 2:45 minute triumph for Waking Elliot, and if this was the only song I heard, it would still be enough to blow me away.

Waking Elliot's EP, Simply Pathological

But Waking Elliot are far from done. "One-Two" is the lead-off track on the EP, and from the start, Carson's voice and Brown's keys make for an epic intro. Like a dim-set street scene, I can see the fog rising as Carson is joined vocally by Brown as Bieler and Forstrom take their cue from Jeffrey's snare taps and work their way into the black satin-laced track. Forstrom's guitar chords grow in intensity with each passing chorus, and at the moment that Carson and Brown take a second to breathe, he lets loose with a mini-solo that skips along Bieler's bass-blasts to land smoothly in Jeffrey's snare-cracks. The loud-quiet-loud dynamic is a clear Pixies throwback, and adds to the overall power of the song in a way that makes "One-Two" a brilliant choice for the EP's first track. By the end of this epic ballad, I'm dying to hear more, and Waking Elliot have hooked me indefinitely.
My initial favorite track on the EP, though, is also the song I've had on regular rotation on my radio show, Underground Takeover. "Truth or Dare" is brilliant in its simple deception and misdirection. Seconds 1-10 are Carson's vocals laid nicely over Brown's keys and Jeffrey's drumming, and although the rhythm is somewhat fast-paced, nothing prepares me for the hurricane that follows. As Carson's last whispers float from the speakers, Forstrom and Bieler stomp onto the scene with a guitar-bass dynamic that screams passion and power. To add to the drowning effect of the music, Brown joins Carson on vocals, like two sirens surrounding me in the night as Bieler, Forstrom, and Jeffrey come at me from all sides. The best part about this song, though, is the bridge, which bursts at the seams with high-octane fumes and fury. Forstrom lets loose with a blistering riff that drills into my head, and as the tempo picks up, Carson and Brown vocally bring the house down as Bieler keeps pace with Jeffrey's gut-busting rolls. The absolute high-point of the song is when the bottom falls out, and Jeffrey crashes hard on the kit just as Brown and Carson take off to soar vocally overhead. As Carson's voice echoes into oblivion, Forstrom and Brown dance around their intertwining melodies. With Brown's keys draining out, Carson comes down just one more time, fading away on Brown's softening keystrokes.

The last stand-out track on Simply Pathological is also Waking Elliot's music video debut. "Second Star to the Right" is the ballad on the EP, and is certainly a change-up compared to "Charade" or "Truth or Dare." Starting with a mellow and resigned guitar riff from Forstrom and piano progression from Brown, "Second Star to the Right" builds from the first chorus into an epic track, buoyed by Carson's broad vocal range and the rhythm team of Bieler and Jeffrey. I'll be the first to say that this track was one that took me a few rotations to appreciate, but I hit a point where I was struck by the ethereal quality of the intermingled vocals between Carson and Brown set against the heavy-yet-melodic instrumentation of Bieler, Forstrom, and Jeffrey. A heavy ballad that finishes the EP in the best of ways, I can now understand why Waking Elliot chose this as the track for their debut music video. It doesn't fall into the category of the catchy 3-minute single for the first music video; instead it's heavy, epic, and as Carson's voice cuts through Forstrom's palm-mutes and Brown's keywork, "Second Star to the Right" is the best way for Waking Elliot to show all sides of their sound.
Just as comfortable in heavy romantic songs as in cropped and clever tracks, Waking Elliot are not a band to be ignored, and as the last of Brown's keys fade on the EP, I'm left dazed and wanting more. There's no feeling better than that for any music journalist, and there's just no better way for a band to finish a recording. At just over 20 minutes, Simply Pathological is a must-hear EP for anyone looking for the next alternative sensation gracing the music underground. I can't wait to see what Waking Elliot come up with next, because with the ability and potential this group shows, they won't be underground for much longer.

Sounds Like: Paramore, Meg & Dia, Evanescence, Hey Monday

Key Tracks from Simply Pathological: "Truth or Dare," "Hide and Seek," "One-Two," "Charade"

Check out Waking Elliot more at their: Homepage, Facebook, and Myspace  

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