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Brandon Wiard – Painting a Burning Building

To date there are countless indie acoustic bands singing about love, loss, cigarettes and late night fast food. However, Brandon Wiard’s Painting a Burning Building begs not to be tossed into the old vintage storage trunk just yet.

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To date there are countless indie acoustic bands singing about love, loss, cigarettes and late night fast food. However, Brandon Wiard’s Painting a Burning Building begs not to be tossed into the old vintage storage trunk just yet. He’s a just a boy trying to get through this world in a slightly starry-eyed daze of contentment and peaceful musing. And if there is a lady companion, then everybody raise a glass and throw some money into his open guitar case because his candid, yearning, stream-of-consciousness serenades must be working.

Clearly Brandon Wiard is indie rock/pop. I’d almost like to say Midwestern, but somehow I get a coastal feel from it. What sets him apart from the rest of the acoustic junkies is that for one thing, his last name is pronounced ‘wired.’ Yeah, I thought that it was ‘weird’ too. Actually I kind of liked it that way…

Anyway, some will say he sounds like Ben Kweller, Wilco, Teenage Fanclub or Elvis Costello. I say … I’ve never really listened to any of them too much so I couldn’t really tell you. But if you’re like me and uneducated in the ways of the above mentioned bands, let me further confuse you. While listening to Painting a Burning Building, I couldn’t help being reminded of Rilo Kiley in their Takeoffs & Landings days but if Jenny Lewis was John Mayer. And rocked harder.

Another thing I find interesting about Wiard is that he’s a leader of the underdogs. Musically speaking. I’m surprised I haven’t heard this on the radio before. It’s perfect to blast driving now the highway to Nowheresville or pop into the walkman for those thoughtful walks on the beach. But only if you’re thinking of the one you fancy.

Personal faves include “Miss Michigan,” “Permanent Smile,” “Caroline,” and “Old Heartless Sun.” I might have to send a plea to The WB to use “Miss Michigan” in one of their angst teen dramas. And whoever Caroline is, she’s a lucky girl. Wiard’s a skilled songwriter- he’s got all the instrumental elements down to pluck that certain heartstring (my personal favorite being the moog. And no, not just because it’s fun to say … ok maybe a little). The piano solos are sure to get stuck in your head, and I’m a sucker for any crazy medleys hidden in the back tracks. They’re odd, completely differently styled, but amusing. Of course the lyrics are of the most important elements, and boy are they something. There’s not really one theme you can use to characterize Wiard, but you’re sure to hear many a tune about girls, moving on, growing up and disillusioned society. It’s all neatly packaged with drums, guitars, violins, and pianos and of course that crazy moog. And throw in a choir, why not.

Painting a Burning Building is definitely worth a listen. If anything, it’ll inspire you to start your own band. Or at least start writing poetry. I can’t say much for the title of Wiard’s sophomore album, but I suggest he keep doing what he’s doing. And if painting burning buildings inspires him, let’s just hope he doesn’t get burned in the process.

(self released)

Reviews

Crossed Keys – Saviors

Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds

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Crossed Keys Saviors

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.

(Hellminded Records)

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Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”

A glorious sound of a time gone by

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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.

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