Longwave – There’s A Fire
Longwave have turned in a complex, heartfelt, experimental rock album that just feels massive, but never clumsy.
I’m trying as hard as I can to make this review brief, lacking the rambling (read: boring) style that my reviews can often delve into. I’m going to try extra hard to make this one a curt little piece so I can drive home exactly how good an album There’s a Fire is. The album is a leap forward from Longwave’s last full length, The Strangest Things, and miles ahead of the bands formerly used as comparison points (Strokes, etc.) This is an album filled with rock songs so anthemic, (I refuse to use U2 in reference to anthemic- when was the last time you felt a rush listening to “Vertigo”?) your ears might give out. Longwave have turned in a complex, heartfelt, experimental rock album that just feels massive, but never clumsy.
The album begins with a mission statement of sorts with its title track. A tense keyboard line, powerful drumming and an uplifting guitar melody buoy poetic, slightly existential lyrics, like “in the end it’s all the same / when there’s no one left to blame whether your dancing in the light, or crawling on all fours.” This is one hell of an extraordinary opener. If there is one word that might seems foreign in the above, it is certainly “poetic” in reference to the lyrics. Longwave, while always being able to craft impeccable rock songs, were never extraordinary or especially effective wordsmiths (“I am everything you wanted, I am everything you need” was the refrain from the hit, “Tidal Wave” off their last album). On There’s A Fire, they stretch themselves while also acknowledging their flaw- the songs’ lyrics are often brief, natural realizations- Bright Eyes they ain’t.
Track two, “Underworld,” is just as jarring, sounding as though it were recorded underwater (rumor has it the album was originally a concept piece about a sea creature) with distant, muffled drums, and singer Steve Schiltz providing a delicate falsetto. Halfway through the track, however, the song abruptly changes into a psychedelic freakout. A similar progression occurs in first single, “River (Depot Song),” where the song’s moody aggravation surrenders to an extraordinary two minute guitar solo at its end. I could gush this much over every track on the album, save two, both of which suffer lousy production at the hands of the normally great John Leckie (who has produced albums by The Stone Roses and Radiohead). “The Flood” could be a great track, were it not for the pretentious, ineffective echo attached to Schiltz’s voice, and “Tell Me I’m Wrong” sounds like pop-punk made by robots, with blips and beeps all over an otherwise adequate rock track.
For every flaw on the album, there are three or four successful experiments, like the reworked “We’re Not Gonna Crack,” (originally appearing on last year’s Life of the Party EP) a straight ahead mosh worthy agro-rocker, or the bossonova percussion on “Down in Here.” However, just like The Strangest Things, the band has saved its real gems for the albums conclusion. “Fall on Every Whim” is a touching, sprawling ballad most bands wish they could write. “Underneath You Know the Names” a plodding, victory lap of a song, closes the album in high style.
Longwave recorded There’s a Fire in an old house in upstate New York, away from their stomping grounds of Brooklyn, and save a short EP, it was the first material from the band in nearly three years. Leave it to a band like Longwave to wait for all hype to die down before they actually deserve it again.
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.