Ogikubo Station is the musical collaboration between Maura Weaver (of Ohio pop-punk band Mixtapes) and Mike Park (of Asian Man Records, Skankin’ Pickle, Bruce Lee Band, Chinkees) that is part jangly indie rock, part pop-infused punk. It’s an engaging combination that serves to show that collaborations can still come from an organic, genuine place. Instead of filling album titles with prominent feature spots, Ogikubo Station is what it sounds like when artists like making music together, whether far or near.
For Ogikubo Station, it has been quite far as there are some 2000+ miles between the two (California and Ohio). Their previous work has often seen the two send each other pieces of music that would be then pieced together. But if you’ve listened to their 2018 full-length, the wonderful We Can Pretend Like, you’ll know that they’ve made it work- managing to sound as organic as musicians in a studio together. What makes their latest 3-song EP Okinawan Love Songs even more rewarding is that Weaver and Park spent a good amount of time in the studio together to get these new songs done. It doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any music “over the wires”, Okinawan Long Songs features the bass work of Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano, who sent his bass parts in from Florida, all to be assembled by Park in the studio. The results are all worth the effort as the two original songs here are more than just a continuation of We Can Pretend Like, they are a measure of warmth and joy that comes from a genuine love for the art you craft.
The opening cut “Would I Break My Heart Enough for You” takes cues from Rainer Maria and The Anniversary; but with a sound that is a little more pressing. “Spend Some Time With Me” is a little more mid-tempo Midwestern, akin to the sounds that made waves in the late 90s and early 2000s and buoyed by the best of formulas: simple chords and simple melodies. The biggest improvement over their full-length is perhaps the tones of the guitars; sounding less distorted than before and finding this sort of jangly grace that doesn’t stray too far from that formula. In a way, it sounds timeless. The final track of this short outing is their rather wonderful, lo-fi cover of They Might Be Giants’ “Dr. Worm”. Meant to resemble TMBG’s “dial-a-song” sessions they made available from 1983-2006, it’s a nice analog touch to this mostly digital world. The cover itself does more than hold its own to the original and serves as a vehicle for both Park and Weaver to have some creative fun (and another opportunity for Weaver’s great vocals to shine).
What’s not so great about this EP? Well, it’s short- more a double A-side than an EP- but those grievances are superficial. Think of it as a quick teaser to what could be forthcoming.
Park’s legacy is one that continues on as both the proprietor of one of the most-loved independent labels in existence, but also a musician whose love for music above all else shows in the multitude of bands he’s done and is currently in (3… but maybe 4?). Ogikubo Station could be his best- in part because of the symphonic, almost perfect harmony he finds musically with Weaver. We can only hope there will be plenty more of Ogikubo Station to come because Okinawan Love Songs is a great burst of musical joy.
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.