Emerson Snowe is the solo project from Brisbane musician Jarrod Mahon, also known as the bassist of The Creases. His debut EP That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll is an inspiring collection of songs spanning across two years, which explores the internal struggles and dealings of his own vices, while also addressing love and romance. The EP is honest in its approach, as Snowe leaves everything on the table with his very personal lyrics.
“Human” is the recent single from the EP, filled with a breezy, summer feel, garnered by the bright guitars, catchy chorus and the repeated phrase “Like a human”. Snowe is talking to his parents in this song as he almost pleads to him how he wants to be better and not let them down. The cheerful and warm tones continue on “Our Home”, with simple strumming guitars and sugary, sweet lyrics, like “Finding one another, learning to care for one another”. “If I Die, Then I Die” from the beginning appears to be a dark and somber song, however, once the chorus comes in, Snowe sounds as if he accepts the inevitable fate of death.
Throughout That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, upbeat instruments are cleverly juxtaposed with his lyrics to give a sense of uncertainty, while Snowe searches for personal discovery. This is most notable on “Boy In Control”, where Snowe brings back those bright and sweeping guitars, while he describes his mental state and the feeling of losing control. The tone then shifts with “Could You Love Me” with a mellow, unhurried sound accompanied with an organ-like synth. This is a romantically driven song with softly sung vocals to make it sound more dream-like. Snowe explains his favorite dreams about the person he loves and puts forward the rhetoric question “Could you love me like you do / When I am dreaming?”.
The tempo is once again lifted with “Sunlight”. A simple yet effective synth chord progression, matched with a heavy snare that moves the song along to a moderate march, helps make this one of the catchiest songs on That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll. The EP finishes with “You Say”, an optimistic song that leaves you in a state of peacefulness.
That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll allows you to step into the rich mind of Emerson Snowe, as he explores the fundamental ideas of self-reflection, acceptance and personal growth. There is no doubt Snowe is capable of creating memorable and upbeat hooks, but it’s his lyrics, describing the internal battles of life, which will connect with you on a much deeper level. Those who have not seen or heard Emerson Snowe before will be pleasantly surprised with his debut EP.
Emerson Snowe’s That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll is out now via Liberation 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.
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.