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Waking Ashland – Telescopes

Waking Ashland bares quite a bit more in common with soft-spoken beloved indie kids Copeland

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It can be quite amusing at times to check out which artists a band chooses to describe themselves as similar to, and try to associate their sound with. Take for instance California based emo-indie-piano band Waking Ashland. On their band’s official biography, they compare themselves first to Jimmy Eat World and Weezer; both being terrible, terrible representations of what’s to be found here. Waking Ashland bares quite a bit more in common with soft-spoken beloved indie kids Copeland, and the like. They continue on a little further to mention notable inspirations such as pop genius Elvis Costello; and he’s about the only one I could truly give them with no guilt on my conscience.

Waking Ashland sounds quite a bit like a toned down version of Andrew McMahon’s Something Corporate, as well; keeping the piano in the forefront–as opposed to relegating it mostly to the background  like McMahon does. This is a complimentary comparison, and fans of softer emo-indie will surely fall in love with the deliciously digestible tunes found here on Telescopes. It should also be noted that this release is only a seven-song EP; and their first release on new label home Immortal, after leaving the indie-Christian record label Tooth & Nail for a decidedly more mainstream home. The change of labels also comes with a step up in maturity in songwriting from their ’05 debut LP—Composure—with Telescopesshowcasing such solid gems as the easy pop title track, the soft paced “Flowers On A Wall,” and the slowly building effort closer “Reseda.” They even light things up a bit on the near-driving centerpiece track “Under The Gun.”

The lyrics here aren’t nearly as bad as they could have been, either. So, when lead singer Jonathan Jones earnestly sings near-emo cliches such as; “Two miles between you and me / but there might as well be an ocean … we might as well be strangers / ’cause I’m flying kites into the wind … and I’m painting pictures with all your lost letters / hoping just to carry on,” you can’t help but just about believe him. It may not be the most poetically executed stuff; but it’s still more than catchy, and relatable, enough to carry just enough resonance to register.

As I mentioned earlier; Waking Ashland remind me a heck of a lot of Copeland in their Beneath Medicine Tree-era. If you’re a fan of that record, I can almost guarantee you’ll love what Waking Ashland has put together here. Even if you’re not, Telescopes is still a nifty little piece of melodic emo-indie rock. At it’s best, this record serves as some interesting, inspired tidbits of what we can hopefully expect from Waking Ashland in the future.

(Immortal 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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