It bothers me profusely to hear people automatically pigeonhole music into genres based on where the artist is from. I understand that certain styles of music are more prevalent in different areas on the map, but many critics could still stand to be a bit more careful to the geographical genre filling. Odds are, if you’ve ever even heard of British singer-songwriter David Ford before this piece, you’ve heard him being compared to recent hot-property import James Blunt. Blunt, whose pop-drenched falsetto of easily listen able singer-songwriter tunes about the beautiful one who got away, which garnered him so much attention on both sides of the pond before his arrival; are now having his bashed by critics on both sides, for being a little bit too accessible, and a little bit toopop. Whatever.
What bothers me more than anything is that Ford is a hugely more talented songwriter than Blunt; and to have his name become nearly synonymous with the “You’re Beautiful” pop-smith grossly misrepresents what is to be found on Ford’s debut solo record, I Sincerely Apologize For All The Trouble I’ve Caused. Unlike Blunt, Ford just carries himself as so much more a mature songwriter than Blunt ever tried to be. Look no further than the gorgeously heartbreaking balladry of album opener “I Don’t Care What You Call Me” for a songwriter at a very high level of talent, making phenomenal music.
“It’s so liberating to make a record when there’s no label involved,” Ford had to say on the recording process. “There’s no pressure to reach any commercial points, when there’s no producer, saying, ‘Well, if we edit that to three and a half minutes we could get it on the radio.’ There are no compromises on this record. Every second of every song is there entirely because I want it there.” From most, statements like that could come off as pretentious, self-indulgent, and a bit “too” freethinking. With some artists, with complete freedom things tend to occasionally turn out a bit ridiculous. Thirty minute songs of nothing, auditory tributes to Samuel Beckett; you get the point. Thank goodness that with Ford, these pitfalls are almost never the case.
Things peak, without a doubt, with the track “State Of The Union.” With lyrical poetry more poignant than plenty in the college textbooks, Ford has put together a track that is, alone, entirely worth buying the album just to hear. With everything building, until finally in the last verses, Ford is near-drowned in sound; singing his heart out in the midst of a whirlwind of instrumentation and passion swirling seemingly uncontrollable around him. “Get you coat, ’cause the righteous are leaving / ‘Cause they can’t work out what the hell to believe in / It’s a shame…” It is indisputable that Ford’s lyricisms are purely stunning. Things slow down a bit toward the middle; with the songs all still being quality, but tending to blend into one another a bit more than desired. Highlighted by introspective pieces like “Cheer Up,” and “Katie,” the middle of the record is more than worth listening to just to make it to the gorgeous throughout, near-nine minute album closer: “Laughing Aloud.” This is the epitome of a man just bearing his soul, flaws and all.
The songwriting reminds me of an amalgamation of Matthew Good’s dry wit, the sparse disposition of Damien Rice, the rambled philosophy of Conor Oberst, the pretentious (though unflinching) quality of Ryan Adams, and the seeming importance of Bob Dylan all dripping from every word. This is one of the best albums of the year, no matter where on the globe it comes from, or where on the map you are. If you miss Ford’s Apology, you surely need to make amends.
(Independiente / Columbia Records)
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.