The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” best applies to the debut full-length album from Philadelphia’s Kitty Kat Dirt Nap. By just looking at the name of this band and then glancing at song titles such as “(Getting Caught Enjoying) Phil Collins” and “(Hold Me Closer) Tony Danza,” you wonder if this band is just good for a few laughs. Not the case though, not even close.
Kitty Kat Dirt Nap are one of the most clever and witty bands out there today. They manage to keep things as light hearted as possible, but when the music hits, they can be as serious as possible. With a unique name and matchless song titles, you definitely can see that there are some light bulb’s going on upstairs as well as an intense sense of humor. The music however is so much more than a goofy band name and laughable titled tracks; the music is newly baked and inventive.
With a strong pop influence making its way into the music with buzzing guitars and an energetic synth keyboard, you get the general idea of the unique blend of music incorporated into the sound of Kitty Kat Dirt Nap. The use of keyboards and synthesizers are used in a very exceptional dynamic. First of all, it’s not just used as background filler; it’s used to lead these songs in terms of rhythm and catchiness. At times I can definitely hear 80s influences with the keyboard sound, but then the guitars and drums are used in more traditional rock fashion and the merge turns out to be very engaging. The keyboards and synth also incorporate many innovative, eccentric type sounds and hooks that give new meaning to power pop.
This album also does an admirable job of using the dual male/female vocals attack. There is such a great delight and joy in hearing the combination of guitarist Adam Eckhoff and synth-queen Robyn Montella trading off vocals. Eckhoff gets loud and stern with his vocals and Montella sweetens everything up when her turn comes to step in and sing. They blend so well together and it has to be one of the strongest aspects on their debut full-length album. They know when is too much and when is too little in terms of the vocals.
Kitty Kat Dirt Nap definitely gets a massive edge in delivering an album that in many regards, offers something extremely distinctive. There is a little something in Kitty Kat Dirt Nap that I think everyone can relate to. There is humor, fun, anger, sincerity, emotion, and probably a few other things as well. I kind of like that and I think most other people do too.
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.