August Spies is the new solo project from Justin Schlosberg. Those might know him as the front man from the English post-hardcore band Hell Is For Heroes, however, his first EP titled Corruption of The Human Heart is a clear deviation from his previous work. The EP is filled with melancholic, bittersweet songs about darkness, addiction, love, and loss. Those who appreciate the broody sounds of Tom Waits, Nick Cave or Matt Berninger (The National) will instantly enjoy these intimate songs as Schlosberg takes his voice and songwriting powers in a new creative direction.
“This Is How It Ends” is the lead single from August Spies and from the beginning drums and slightly distorted guitar strokes, you know this is a totally different but welcoming sound from Schlosberg. The grand and immersive baritone vocals describe a tale of a tragic romance which is then solidified when Schlosberg belts out the words “stand by my side” to begin this saddened but triumphant chorus line. Towards the end of the song, the pain we hear in the vocals are taken over by a screeching guitar solo, which matches the tone of the tragic love anthem.
Throughout Corruption of The Human Heart the songs are complex and filled with conflicting emotions. One moment you will be reminded of depressed emotions, then next rejoicing in a certain joy. “Accidents Happen” proves this when it starts with a slow driven piano slowly building to an uplifting climax filled by reverbed guitar melodies and violin.
The title track “Corruption of The Human Heart” steps more into the folk territory as Schlosberg’s vocals are joined with soft female vocals to perform a dramatic duet. The story between both vocalists is so profound and their voices complement each other, which makes me want to hear more from the two of them. However, the song is placed in the middle of the EP and because of its tonal shift from the previous two songs, it, unfortunately, becomes the weakest of the five tracks.
Listening to the EP you may find yourself overcome by hopelessness, but this is when “Put Your Hands Together” comes in perfectly timed and takes you to a more optimistic place. It might be the most cheerful of all because of the use of a singing choir underneath Schlosberg’s vocals. The repetition of the choirs’ chants establishes an empowering feeling leaving you on a high.
The last track “You Killed My Love” finishes the EP with a dark and slow melody. The piano repeats this heart-breaking melody and becomes even more theatrical when Schlosberg’s somber vocals climb to a powerful loud punch, which then eventually and slowly dissipates as the song ends.
Corruption of The Human Heart not only showcases Schlosberg’s full talents as a dynamic vocalist and songwriter but his ability to capture moments of deep sorrow in ways that make the listener feel inspired. Schlosberg’s August Spies is an exciting solo project that I will be eagerly waiting to hear more from.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.