Hey kids, did you like that movie Garden State? I know you liked The Shins because you were seen buying the soundtrack the moment you got out of the theater. You just had to have that song that would “change your life.” Well Rogue Wave isn’t The Shins and despite their commonality in the indie pop/rock genre, this album is not another Shins album.
The first track, “Every Moment,” begins with a muted guitar melody playing in the background as Zach Rogue’s vocals crisply shine through the haze. Once the harmony drops the instant likeability of this band becomes increasingly evident. When the second track (“Nourishment Nation”) starts, the bouncy guitars and springy vocals force me to bop my head like a four year old listening to some type of new Barney track. I remember when I first heard this album this was the song I instantly wanted to know all the words to, only so I can run around singing the lyrics and forcing the song into the sub-conscience of anyone listening to me.
“Be Kind + Rewind” is the kind of song that makes you want to take a walk down to some area where autumn leaves fall all around you while you take in the beauty that the recent frost brings. Delicate vocals and an acoustic guitar are reminiscent of your common singer songwriter. Rogue’s soft yet soaring vocals are incredibly heartbreaking even when he’s singing the theme for all video stores, “Please be kind and rewind.” How is it that this man can turn such a mundane phrase into something worth a deeper look- a heavier analysis? The answer evaded me as I listened to the rest of the album, which in its own right has as many thought provoking and astounding moments as “Be Kind + Rewind.”
After listening to the entire album I’ve made the conscience decision to not relate them to The Shins because this is a band/man that has enough talent and musical insight to produce an album that draws from many influences. Traces of Elliott Smith, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Death Cab for Cutie can be found in this album and to say that this release is primarily influenced or completely similar to one band would be a misrepresentation of the entire album. Go out, current Garden State soundtrack listener, and experience something familiar but a little bit different. Zach Rogue has constructed an album worthy of praise- one that needs no mention of their label mates.
(Sub Pop Records)
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.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
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.