What does it say about an artist when a listener can most accurately predict the expected duration of the artist’s career moments into scrutinizing their work? The truth of the matter is that side-projects, in-betweeners, hold-overs and career stopgaps have become a pollutant in the blossoming of great spanning musical portfolios. Longevity has become novelty in more than one respect. On one hand, long serving artists remain testaments that the writing of song is far greater than merely looking for means to pay off debts, scoring late night tour bus ménages and a vapid home for music television to pimp. There is of course the flipside to this coin; longevity in career also means Aerosmith making the same crazy-crying-amazing song for the hundredth time, and Def Leppard hocking their crap at Wal-Marts across America.
Still, in times of such fickle romance, any band that has several decent-to-good albums within them deserves certain praise. Because lets face it, once a group stumbles across any marketable trait, it will be whored out to every conceivable outlet imaginable. So it is with great joy to discover that Loretta, brimming with expendable talent and guile, have yet to be obliterated by the hollow call of “next big things” (congratulations to all of you out there who so eagerly tag bands with this truly repulsive condemnation; we critics who yearn to tear down fragile egos falsely massaged by clueless pundits thank you for the endless supply of tripe we can throw our bile at) and fashionable spreads. Simply put, Loretta’s cross breeding of U2’s finer songwriter moments with Sunny Day Real Estate’s (an accurate portrayal if there ever was one) sheer emotional sheen puts them in a class unknown to many.
It would not be an unimaginable thought if we were to someday see Loretta’s members repose in the majesties of revolutionary music videos, accepting awards donned in Ray-Ban suaveness while undertaking humanitarian tours of Africa. Much like their Irish brethren, they eschew the norms of modern plastic songwriting and undertake the far daunting task of creating aural novels of thought, emotional resonance and profundity. The first single, “The Fire,” is very much in tone with this majestic building of connectivity. Structured with soaring vocals and sweeping guitar melodies, “The Fire” echoes with powerful instances of sonic optimism – building solid plateaus before fast reaching far into the clouds of a seemingly unreachable auditory swagger. Equally impressive, “Collide” adopts a far more solemn approach and a tune that could have easily been plucked off SDRE’s Diary, save from the beautiful, arching refrain that is both stunning and yearning.
Much of The Translation is built around the concepts of greater, more patient songwriting. There is no real, overwhelming sense of immediacy, yet it does little to detract from the music (except in the mind of those who bear short attention spans: you can keep watching TV) – instead the songs unfold in more intricate, grander steps. From the reflective pull of “Adonais” (showcasing spirited guitar work The Edge would be proud of) to the more ominous tenor of “The Morning After,” (their most Thom Yorke inspired moment) the album puts before anything else the importance of sound-as-vision.
Such great things can be said to those who have not forgotten the significance of endurance over reflexive means to attention. Loretta’s The Translation is in a word, inspired. With attention paid to the idea that songs can be long lasting, it displays certain magnetism and a keen sense of longevity that has become an elusive trait. It could very well be their Joshua Tree.
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.