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The Parlotones – China

The Parlotones push their creativity, but there are a few misses caused by an uncertainty of what the band wants from their transitioning sound

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The Parlotones, who may not be known to some but have a long history of 20 plus years playing together, have released their newest and long-awaited studio album. China is an album that showcases the diverse sounds the band has picked up along their many years of experience and delves into some new experimental elements we’ve never heard before by the band. 

The new wave and synth-pop sounds on the first song “Antidote” is an intriguing way to open up on their tenth studio album. This, however, is then quickly changed up when we move on to “Leave a Light On”, which is a more acoustic pop/rock song. It is reminiscent of large arena bands like Coldplay, to which the South African four-piece are no strangers to, even so much as playing the opening ceremony at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. This is where the band is most comfortable, but it plays it too safe, as this is what they have already built their sound around. 

China has its hits when The Palotones push their creativity, but there are a few misses caused by an uncertainty of what the band wants from their transitioning sound. The album sometimes feels confused about what it wants to be. Are they sticking true to their modern rock roots? Or are they making a transition to pop/rock, by infusing electronic elements to enhance and layer their tracks – like similar bands have been doing? China has its hits when The Palotones push their creativity, but there are a few misses caused by an uncertainty of what the band wants from their transitioning sound. The album sometimes feels confused about what it wants to be. Are they sticking true to their modern rock roots? Or are they making a transition to pop/rock, by infusing electronic elements to enhance and layer their tracks – like similar bands have been doing? 

“Downtown Love” is a nice mellow change up from the other songs on the album. A tender, slowed down melodic piano, accompanied by backing vocals creates a catchy ballad style song. “Twilight Years” sounds like the band’s previous works and this is easily heard as it feels like the members know exactly what they want to achieve out of the song. One of the great surprises on China was when the band manages to successfully pull off their own modern rendition of The Water Boys’ “The Whole of the Moon”. 

Overall, there are some great moments like “Welcome The Wonderful” and “I Feel Over Nothing”, where synthpop and new wave tones are used well to compliment the voice of Kahn Morbee. There are also the modern rock songs that The Parlotones are known for, in older works like “Twilight Years” and “For Now”, which works especially well with some added punk inspiration. For fans of the band, this album will feel familiar but fresh, others though may be puzzled as to what exactly The Parlotones are about.

(OK! Good 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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Pine – Pine

Pine’s debut album is a kind of hypnotic melancholia

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Pine

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.

(No Sleep Records)

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