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

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