If by chance there is an Appleseed Cast sized hole in your musical heart, then there’s no better time to introduce yourself to Lakes. Hailing from the Midwestern emo bastion city of… Watford, England, the quintet are a sparkling breath of jangling, introspective, guitar-heavy emo/indie that bands like The Appleseed Cast, Christie Front Drive, and Mineral become known for. Yet Lakes, while showcasing many similar traits to the aforementioned bands on The Constance LP, have enough that helps differentiate them from the genre’s past. Take the opener “Constance” for instance, where their brand of emo is infused with some shimmering pop and a little bit of Clem Snide. In “Reindeer”, they take a more uptempo route (think Braid), while “Geneva” finds Lakes adopting more guitar twinkling and mid-tempo melodies. Lakes features dual vocal work- male and female- that adds a nice dynamic to the songs. It is part of the many textures that The Constance LP has that makes the release more than just a new band finding joy in a sound thought long gone. Truth is, while the music of Lakes is associated with a certain place, a certain time, much of their music at least feels current. Attribute that to perhaps, the more spry nature of some of their compositions.
If you haven’t deduced yet, the song titles are all names of lakes, and while it gives the album a thematic bond, the songs fluctuate enough that the music never flatlines. The terrific “Placid” is the album’s finest moment- complete with male/female call and response vocals and an air of pop urgency that makes for a great outing. The song evokes the more vibrant sounds of what emo became as it found popularity and moved out of the metaphorical basement, finding a closeness to pop-punk and that ilk. Hesitant to say it but if you squint a little, the song sounds a little bit like The Starting Line on Say It Like You Mean It (not that sounding like The Starting Line is a bad thing). Songs like “Lucerne” and “Tahoe” maintain an airiness to them, while soft-spoken closer “Erie” is a nice, serene moment.
With a resurgence in Midwestern emo’s mainstream appeal, there is more than room for new bands like Lakes to find their place. It’s 2019 and we have new albums by both American Football and The Appleseed Cast, so why not something new that’s old? The Constance LP is a strong debut for Lakes. It may not shimmer quite like Two Conversations did, but The Appleseed Cast didn’t find that until at least two albums in. For Lakes, the future is bright.
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.