Humans are destroying the world, and if you ask Jim Beck from Cassels, he’d say; “If you reflect on humanity’s contribution to the planet as a whole, we totally deserve to die.” But if you listen to their debut album The Perfect Ending, you can at least grab a glimpse of humor in our inescapable demise. Let me tell you ladies and gents, this album is one big ball of magnificence. From start to finish, there are unexpected bursts of instruments, from soft to hard sounds, and no two songs are the same.
“A Snowflake In Winter” made me fall in love with the album, 20 seconds in. There’s a grungy, dooming sound found throughout the album but firstly presented to us in this song. It explodes almost immediately, but the chorus is one big hazardous eruption and the deeper you delve into the album, you realize this is just the beginning of big bangs.
There is a special moment or outstanding instant in each song that catches you by surprise but always fits perfectly into the song. “All The St John’s Wort In The World” has a gradual approach, and again features a chaotic chorus. There is also a crazy mashup of instruments towards the end, which is this song’s ‘special’ moment. “Mink Skin Coat” has a slower pace and a kooky guitar, but even though it is more of a stripped-back song, it hits 3 minutes and turns into a wild crashing of instruments, yet another unexpected ‘special’ moment of the album.
“Melting Butter”’ is a chaotic instrumental. Although missing lyrics, it certainly is not lacking anything. The highlight of the album is around the fourth minute in this song. That slowed down but heavier disruption always grabs my attention and, in my opinion, is always a good idea in a heavy song. Chaos is the key to this album. It is a chaos that has been performed perfectly. Jim and Loz Beck have produced a sound where it seems like they just play whatever comes to mind, it’s not too over-thought but in turn, have composed absolutely epic stuff.
“In The Zoo They Feed Him Nuts” is a song about sexual assault and victim-blaming. This is a great example of storytelling through music. The music accompanying the lyrics fit really well and evolves as the story does. I particularly love the drums in this one. “The Perfect Ending” has a booming intro with the change of tempos. It’s like at first it is heading one way then suddenly, it’s heading the other. There is no pattern to this one! But that is why the album is epic. The song arrangements are so entertaining and unpredictable. “The Queue At The Chemists” references depressing issues yet makes you laugh, and there are some radical instrumental moments. It is now evident that Cassels have a habit of throwing some heavy drops at the ending of their songs, and “The Queue At The Chemists” drops it hard.
Cassels are the band that reassures you that genuine, no bullshit music is not dead. The Perfect Ending is pure anarchy in the most flattering way. No two songs follow the same composition and it keeps you in suspense of what will happen next. Gosh, I love an unpredictable song, and this is an entire album of them so it’s a big tick of approval from me. I couldn’t tell you which genre they fit into perfectly, and neither can they, and I think that is why they have produced such a fresh album, they haven’t followed any rules. I hope Jim and Loz keep away from the traditional thinking of making music and stick to however they create their songs.
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.
Pine – Pine
Pine’s debut album is a kind of hypnotic melancholia
Where did Ottawa’s Pine come from? It’s a question worth asking after listening to their painfully gorgeous self-titled debut album. Pine use the phrase “doom and gloom never sounded so sweet” to describe their sound, and true to that, this 11-track outing is filled with the kind of hypnotic melancholia that became the playbook for a great many Midwestern emo bands that emerged in the late 90s/early 2000s. The biggest difference here is that while Pine have the heartbreak down pat, their musical sense of loss is lifted slightly by the airy, more wistful sounds of their guitar-strewn songs. Sure, there’s a lot that sounds like a great Mineral record or a Gloria Record album, but there’s also traces of Florida indie/emo band The Rocking Horse Winner and at times, bands like Rainer Maria.
Pine are buoyed by the great vocal work of Darlene Deschamps. Her voice soars through tracks like “Memento” and the terrific “Lusk”. The latter in particular is a great example of how Pine lull you into a sense of calm before it explodes in a collage of symphonic distortion and post-rock twinkling. In “Sunder” they ascend to louder, more expansive sounds. The song is a great combination of thick, fuzzy guitars, mid-tempo percussion work, and that pained vocal delivery that gives the song an extra punch in the guts.
The album took an impressive 2 years to finish, and you can hear the trials and tribulations of that gestation period through the songs. There’s pain, sadness, anger and frustration in songs like the intro “Within You” and the more new emo-esque “Swollen”, but also beauty, and as the album concludes, a sense of incredible catharsis. The record SOUNDS great too, with production values (by a production team that includes Will Yip, who has helmed records by Circa Survive, Braid, Saosin, and the Bouncing Souls to name a few) adding to the grand cinematic finish of the record.
For those who love what emo was in the mid to late 90s will find much to like about Pine just as much as those who like Explosions in the Sky and their post-rock brethren. Pine have been crafting their sound over the last few years and while their previous EP Pillow Talk showed a solid foundation, this new self-titled record is the work of a band close to the height of their abilities. Moving, beautiful, and littered with life’s roller coaster of emotions as songs, Pine is definitely recommended listening.