Why would one decide to pick up a release entitled Metaphysics for Beginners? Why did I decide to pick it up? Well I saw the name Sufjan Stevens and said “Hmm, seems about right.” Little did I know that this compilation would consist of intricately odd musical arrangements and songs that included some of the most competent driving beats I’ve heard in a long while.
The first track I listened to was the Sufjan Stevens song titled “How Can the Stone Remain?” It’s the type of song that a newer fan of Stevens would dismiss as completely unrealistic and something out the ordinary for their folk star but as an older fan knows this is just Stevens blending two of his earlier sounds together to form a quiet yet musically complex track. Stevens pulls the concept of such experimental backing music from his early Know Your Rabbit days and the hushed, slowly released vocals from the more singer-songwriter influenced A Sun Came (which incidentally was just re-released with new cover art) to create this mish mash of wonderful electronic beats and breathy yet effortlessly timed vocals. Needless to say I think it’s a bitchin’ song.
After my initial ‘I gotta listen to the Sufjan song!!’ I decided to take it from the top and began to actually listen to the entire album as a whole. I was surprised to find myself actually liking the odd mix and match of these tracks. It begins with a man beat boxing while someone lightly “raps” over said beat. A perfect way to introduce a compilation filled with random songs that sometimes include electro beats and other times include straight edged guitars with quirky vocals. The second track by the Detachment Kit is a perfect example of how this album can make use of the same intricate formula without the electro beats. It begins with a stark guitar riff that leads us to the lead singer’s vocals which despite being nowhere near technically great are perfect for this band and this song. Somewhere near the chorus the music just explodes and I can honestly say at that moment the band hooked me. All of the instruments combined and the vocals, as distorted as they are, shine through the heaviness of the music.
Kind of Like Spitting’s “You Got Served,” sounds like something out of the Conor Oberst songbook. An acoustic guitar and soft, concise vocals make up this short little ditty that is fit snugly between a hazy, dreamlike Summer at Shatter Creek track and a rollicking Make Believe track. This is what this album is all about; showing the world that there is more than what you typically hear out there. Every track on this compilation has some good in it and one is bound to find something worth their time if they really gave it a listen.
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.