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Paul Brill – Sisters EP

Sisters features just four musicians. The results have been magnificent; in simple beauty the music has become even more serene, somber and comforting.

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Miss Siena Jones is a tired woman; the bright city lights she once dreamed would blanket her night sky had deceived her. They left her with a bitter taste in her mouth, and so jaded and discouraged, she packed her big city dreams and moved away to a place called serenity. Once treading on glass ceilings and boardroom bureaucracy, she now works at the local grocers, splitting her time between cash registers and the typewriter she hopes will someday share her story.

On lazy Sundays when the only thing that seems to move are hands on a clock, she spends the afternoon tucked away, eyes closed with this Paul Brill CD in her stereo. She has a million stories in her head; tales of debauchery, scandal and laughter synonymous with her previous life. But when she’s alone on these Sundays, there is a certain calming. The voice that escapes her speakers does her soul wonders. The serenade of Brill’s voice layered on top of the somber guitar work of tracks like “Basement Song” and “Whiskey Gone” lets her bask in the serenity she craves. The piano filled “Hazel Eyes” is like a falling leaf outside her door; comfortable, simple, but filled layers of instrumental luminosity and depth. It is this simplicity that has turned her life around – like Paul Brill himself, who on this EP has taken a more minimalist approach. From the multi-member milkweed band that adorned his Halve the Light album, Sisters features just four musicians. The results have been magnificent; in simple beauty the music has become even more serene, somber and comforting.

For Siena Jones, the music of Paul Brill has given her solace in her time of need. The old station wagon that made the trip with her sits comfortably in her driveway but seems to have found its final resting place. The post country heartache that permeates from this record has found its way into Siena’s heart. She knows that while she no longer revels in the bright lights, she can close her eyes on a Sunday afternoon and let this heartfelt record bring a smile to her face.

(Scarlet Shame Records)

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Crossed Keys – Saviors

Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds

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Crossed Keys Saviors

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.

(Hellminded Records)

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Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”

A glorious sound of a time gone by

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Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.

I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).

To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.

Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.

While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.

Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.

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