This album is a journey worth taking; a musical expedition that takes you to places far away. Places you never thought an album could take you, let alone a hardworking and meticulous band from the suburban landscapes of Langhorne, PA. With sounds ranging from the profound reverberations of surges and streams roaring high above in outer space to the rumbles from those thunderstorms off in the distance, this album is as organic as a summer night.
With a full-length long overdue for Days Away, the extended wait has been well worth it. After years of progression and tinkering, the band have finally found their forte. I’m extremely impressed with how much Days Away have taking songs from their past and have tweaked them just enough to get them to a point where they are undivided and whole. Those who have followed the band from their early demos and EP material will be smiling from ear to ear when they hear just how far along some of these songs have come. They have gone from simple, pop rock tracks to multifaceted and complete songs that are marked by a deep intricacy. A perfect example of this would be the song, “Keep Your Voices Down,” which has been softened and toned down from the original version to fit into the scheme and mood of the full-length. The new version might take awhile to grow on you, but when paying attention to the overall frame of mind of the album, the change is a positive one.
That’s the most prominent and striking aspect of this album, how each and every song connects and bonds to each other creating one of the most complete albums in this genre for a long while. You probably won’t find many songs that stand out or over power any of the others because I believe this album was meant to be listened to as a whole, not through individual songs. I really admire the effort and initiative that Days Away have poured into this full-length in terms of that idea of creating an album that is comprehensive and absolute.
From the opening track “God And Mars,” the pace is set as the song explodes and lets the listener know they’re in for quite a ride. This song provides a great introduction as to who Days Away are. From the divergent and stirring voice of vocalist/guitarist Keith Goodwin to the drumming of Tim Arnold, the mood, energy and instrumentation is established. From there, everything just flows as evenly as can be. The captivating sound of Days Away gives you the feel like you have heard this before but it’s still quite unlike anything else that is out there today. With the added keyboards of Bryan Gulla, the sound of the band is given another layer that really keeps the sound animated and lively. When listening to this album, don’t be surprised if you feel as if you are floating above the clouds, especially on songs like “Mirrors” where the ear piercing wails fill up the song’s hard-hitting parts.
Another aspect that really pushes Days Away to elevated heights is how much each band member’s playing style and technique coincides with each other. It goes back to that whole perception of this album being as complete as possible. From the calming guitar lines that often find faint, tempo changes that really match up well with the subtle yet authoritative piano notes; everything just fits into a tight package. So when the album closes out with “T. Kline’s Decline,” a 6+ minute, larger-than-life song that is clearly a work of art, the journey begins to wind down … but only for Mapping An Invisible World, because Days Away are just beginning and there is so much more to be heard.
(Fueled By Ramen)
The Ritualists – Painted People
The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music
After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.
“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.
“Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.
“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.
There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.
The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk
It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.
Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.
From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).
Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.