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Foreign Talks – Foreign Talks

It is hard to pinpoint that switch in our consciousness that defines the difference between genuinely enjoyable music and something that’s just a bit naff. Foreign Talks definitely falls into the latter.

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Indie is a very loose term these days. Everything seems to be indie. From music to fashion, games to film, and everything in-between. Indie pop is no exception. What then constitutes an indie pop band, you ask? It was originally “a genre whose defining conventions were identified as jangling guitars, a love of ’60s pop, and melodic power pop song structures.” These days it may not be so defining, however elements would tend to lean to the softer side of rock n roll.

Whatever its meaning, it’s oh so hot right now and indie is definitely “in”, which subsequently means it’s ready to fall and be replaced with the next big hit. Thanks guys.

Foreign Talks’ self-titled debut album, set for release April 16, certainly aims to cash in on the current wave of intense indie popularity, however it’s overdone and under realised. They seemingly lack any original style, sounding more like a hybrid of Jason Mraz, San Cisco and Local Natives, mixing semi-rap verses and bouncy melodies with perfect group harmonies.

I may be sounding overly critical of this young (not one member is over 20yrs old) new band (formed in 2011), but with good reason. I love indie music, but I also love innovation, artistic flair and artistry, and isn’t that how it began in the first place? By attempting to step away from the mainstream while still being accessible? Think: The Smiths, Velvet Underground and more recently, Sufjan Stevens, The Shins and Bon Iver, just to mention a few.

The opening track “Denial” has potential, as does “Stay The Same” and “The Spell”. Elements of musical ability are there, but more often than not the need to mature rises up with every song. Reminding one of a high school band that would play the occasional house party rather than the next musical sensation. But who knows, the teen audience is a strong one and perhaps that’s where they will find a home full of adoring fans.

It is hard to pinpoint that switch in our consciousness that defines the difference between genuinely enjoyable music and something that’s just a bit naff. For this particular reviewer however, Foreign Talks definitely falls into the latter. 

(Expunged Records)

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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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