Review: Hot Mulligan’s Pilot shows us that pop-punk isn’t dead

If pop punk really is dead, Hot Mulligan didn’t get the memo or just didn’t care. Pilot takes the genre to a different level. For a while now, I’ve found myself growing out of wanting to listen to pop punk a lot. There was a stretch where I really enjoyed it and it just kept tapering off for me. Hot Mulligan hit the “refresh” button on pop punk.

If an opening track doesn’t set the tone for an album, you’ll be doomed from the start. “Deluxe Capacitor” instantly let’s you know what you’re in for with Pilot and that’s fantastic. “All You Wanted By Michelle Branch” was the first song I heard off of this album and I still get a kick out of the title.

One things that makes this album stand out is how varied the guitar sounds are. They aren’t strictly using power chords, which pop punks have been known to do. The lyrics are quite relatable, too. “Good Ol’ Mr. Rags” has a line that mention missing someone even though you just saw them. Have you ever been so close to someone that a day without them feels weird? It’s something a lot of people can relate to.

Hot Mulligan gives off a vibe of the band being like a family and it shines at the end of “Scream Mountain” when things get quiet and it’s just an acoustic guitar and their voices. James Shotwell wrote about the band’s live performance in their hometown on March 10 and described the band’s infectious energy, which they also display on Pilot.

Pilot takes you on a journey of growing up, learning lessons, and just living life. We all do it whether it feels like it or not. This albums rips through 11 songs and they’re all worth a listen. I highly recommend doing so.

You can grab a copy of Pilot via Amazon now.

Review: Barely Civil – We Can Live Here Forever

Barely Civil embrace their Midwestern roots on We Can Live Here Forever. The band is currently located in Wausau, WI, which is a town you’ve probably never heard of if you aren’t from the area. However, the band makes you feel right at home with them with this album.

The layered production on the album stands out in different ways as you listen through. “I’ve Been Getting Headaches Lately” is fairly in your face from the start with the music, but then you have a song like “Eau Claire? Oh, Claire.” that starts off on a softer note. The latter adds a level of intimacy, even as the music’s dynamics change.

More often than not, I can’t personally relate to a lot of the songs that I enjoy. My life really hasn’t been all that eventful, but I still understand when songs are relatable for others. Not everyone is going to relate to every single song a band puts out, but Barely Civil brings you in and they let you understand what their lives are like.

You can hear the emotion coming through with every note that Barely Civil plays. The music mirrors when things are intense and when it is time to slow things down a bit. The beginning of “Handwritten House” is a perfect example of this. It’s a stark difference from the opening track, but it still fits in with the album, especially as things build up towards the middle of the song, just to come back down as the vocals start up again.

The back half of the album doesn’t let up one bit. “You With a Cap, Me With a Baseball Bat” starts off the back half with a quick pace. The songs rips. “Stark” is a song about taking things back to the good days and it’s filled with nostalgia. The album closes out with “I Am Drowning,” which is a depressing song title. However, it starts off with “Wait, is there a click or no click?” to lighten up the mood briefly. Acoustic tracks always feel more intimate to me, just because of the fact that it’s usually just the singer and a guitar. That’s how they end the album and it makes perfect sense. They’ve already let you in, so why not end it on an extremely personal note? Some electric guitar comes in at the end and the build up halts just before the album ends.

We Can Live Here Forever shows off not only how skilled the band is, but just how much of an impact their home has had on them. In that sense I can relate. Maybe not with the city I specifically live in, but with Southern California as a whole. There’s no doubt that someone’s home affects them in one way or another and Barely Civil’s way of telling us all about it is through this album.

Review: Hungover Re-Release Wilt with Three New Songs

Hungover repurposed their Wilt EP from 2016 for their upcoming release of the same name. The new version of Wilt includes three new songs, which is just a taste of what they’ve been working on. The band plans to work on a full length release and do a lot of touring this year.

The re-release kicks off with “Three’s Company,” which is one of the new songs. It starts off the album on a good note. The vocals shine in the song and it was a good choice to kick things off with one of the new songs. “Around” is a song that switches up the pace with putting the acoustic guitar front and center. However, the full band comes in with about 50 seconds left in the song and swing back to end on a softer note.

“Exit – Stage Left” is a guitar-driven song that has more of a punk vibe to it at times. It’s also the second of the new songs. “Sleep Alone” is the third (and final) new song on the record, which is also the closing track. The song is about being put down by someone and letting go of them. The song acts as a freeing experience and with that, the records closes out on strong note.

The band’s talents and tastes are on full display with Wilt. Their range in sound shows that they have a lot of potential. I recommend giving this a listen. Even with it largely being a re-release, it’s worth listening to for those new songs. I can’t wait to hear what they release next.

You can order a copy of the record via Smartpunk Records and it’ll be out on March 30th.

Review: Household – Everything a River Should Be

Everything a River Should Be marks a big change for Household. The band was once a hardcore band and now they’re blending rock and emo for a new sound. The Minneapolis trio makes the transition seamlessly. Bands are meant to progress and sometimes that calls for a whole new sound.

When “Away” starts, you instantly feel how personal the lyrics are. However, “It’s Easy to Feel Rotten” is the song that draws you in even more. The title is more than relatable. How many times have you just felt rotten about something? The feeling is a common one.

Household didn’t completely leave their hardcore roots behind. You still get hints of it here and there if you listen closely to the drums and guitar. The music and vocals do feel more melodic, though, which is the main change. Frankly, the music sounds way more polished now than it did before and this style better suits the band.

“Misizibi” slows things down and shows off the variety of skills the band has. Not everything has to be at a breakneck pace and this album has a good range of dynamics. The track sequencing keeps the album moving along nicely, too. The album closes out with “Bloom,” which takes its time to tell a story about a relationship. The singer’s vulnerability is on full display here and it closes out the album wonderfully.

I’m a big fan of the direction Household took with this album. Everything a River Should Be oozes with personal lyrics and you can tell the band gave it their all. I highly recommend checking this album out. You can find purchase and streaming links here.

Review: Hurry Tackles Life on Every Little Thought

Hurry is the project of Matthew Scottoline, Rob DeCarolis, and Joe DeCarolis. It initially stemmed from Scottoline’s solo work and has morphed into something new. Every Little Thought comes after 2016’s Guided Meditation and a three song EP, Casual Feelings. Put simply, Every Little Thought is an album about life. However, is anything ever really that simple?

The album’s title track kicks off the good vibes while still being contemplative. There’s a day-to-day struggle that’s very clear in these songs. From the first song to the last one, Hurry doesn’t pull any punches on letting you know how they feel. “Time and Time Again” is a song that focuses on forgetting things and doing so fairly often. Our memory is a funny thing and often I find myself wondering why I forget certain things and hold on to things I would much rather forget.

Despite having some heavy subject matter, Every Little Thought is an upbeat album. It’s a refreshing change of pace from sad, heavy songs feeling the need to sound that way. Sometimes albums like that are so hard to play on repeat, but that’s not the case here.

Hurry is a pleasing band to listen to and this is an album that deserves to stay on repeat for at least a few spins. With each listen, I enjoyed the album more and more. You really get a feel for the relationships mentioned throughout and it makes you feel like you’ve known this band for quite some time, even if you really haven’t.

Every Little Thought came out on February 23, 2018 via Lame-O Records. I recently wrote about the label’s rise within the Philly music scene and this is just another wonderful band you can list on their roster. If you want a copy of the album, it’s available in physical and digital formats.

Review: The Dangerous Summer – The Dangerous Summer

The Dangerous Summer last released an album in August 2013. The band has had it’s ups and downs (as a lot do) and they’ve returned with their self-titled album. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of the band who knows everything about them by any means. I do recall getting into some of the songs on Reach for the Sun and ending up with a promotional poster for War Paint, but since then, I haven’t kept up much with them.

Their self-titled album launches with “Color” and you instantly feel how personal the lyrics are. That feeling sticks throughout, but “Ghosts” really hits a home run with it. It’s one of the stronger songs on the album that picks up the pace a little bit before slowing back down with “Luna.”

AJ Perdomo is the last remaining original member of The Dangerous Summer. With his vocals, though, the songs still sound similar to what we’ve previously heard. Without him, this would just be a different band altogether. With new members backing him, it’s natural that the music will sound a little different and it’s a welcome development.

However, even with how much thought and care is put into the lyrics, the album didn’t quite click as much as Reach for the Sun did when I was first introduced to the band. That said, it’s not that this is a bad album. It’s just one that needs to sink in some more. Some people connect with intensely personal songs in ways that I don’t always feel like I do. My life honestly hasn’t been that eventful for a lot of scenarios to be relatable. But I still find things I like in songs that I can’t fully relate to. This one is going to take some more time, but I still suggest giving it a listen to see if the band’s new sound is one you enjoy.

You can grab a copy of The Dangerous Summer on Amazon.

‘Camila’ Is A Reintroduction Filled With A Personal Touch and Epiphany

“Crying in the Club,” the first solo song from Camila Cabella was the world’s first teaser in what was to come from the 20 year old singer – or was it? It’s a mid-tempo sultry dance track that sampled part of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie In A Bottle” for the chorus. Going from a group to solo act encompasses a whole new set of challenges. The heat of the spotlight is just on you alone and the world has to get acquainted with that person – sans a career that feels like a separate entity.

“Crying In The Club” is also not present on Cabella’s debut album. In fact, the album itself is disposal of what you thought you knew. Initially, Cabella’s album was going to be titled The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving. While this concept given it’s due within the 10 song personal narrative of her first album, this is a reintroduction. Like a person who left a long time relationship, Cabella gets to properly acquaint herself with the world. “Camila” is just right.

The album starts with “Never Be The Same,” which may throw you for a loop because the opening organ ushers you into a mid-tempo ballad. Right from the beginning, it sets the tone for a personal, emotional experience and not just a pop album that will start off with quintessential top-40 song. The whole album does a balancing act between energy and rumination. Regrets and optimism.

Songs within “Camila” highlight the singer’s strengths creatively. The music arrangements don’t overtake the narrative, but they add to them. There’s a lot of use of piano and sometimes, modern pop formations that guides you into her vocals.  “All These Years” one of the first songs on the album that uses an acoustic guitar open allows Cabella to interweave harmonies that add fullness to her impressive vocal range. There’s another showcase inside the latter half of “In The Dark.”

Cabella and executive producer Frank Dukes come together to make personal touches all throughout the album. They not only play to her strengths as a singer, but nods to her Cuban-Mexican heritage, as well. For instance, the part that the Spanish guitar plays midway through the dance hall vibe of “Inside Out” or the Pharrell-produced hit “Havana,” that sounds like a testament tot the flavors of her hometown in Cuba.

Two themes that run concurrently and eventually clash into each other are control and love. The Skrillex-produced reggaeton tinged “She Loves Control” is a summary of Camila’s personality.  “don’t you try taming the storm” However, with love, you don’t control every outcome with another person involved. You can only surrender to that feeling and hope to not be broken by someone else’s free will. The piano ballad, “Consquences” within the chorus of how love is this combustible element.

When you’re on your own and in a famous position, there’s this need to separate the real from the fake. We tend to think the existence of celebrity with an overabundance of superficially. Cabella is figuring that out both within an particular individual (“In The Dark”) and the L.A. ecosystem (“Real Friends”). Cabella is very much a confident woman who is still figuring things out on this new journey.

“Camila” is a debut solo album from a person who is actively in the process of molding who they are and what they want to be. This is on the outside of expectations or encased within a collection of people. In 2012, Cabella became a part of Fifth Harmony – a collective. Despite all the success, sometimes you just want more.  At 20 years of age, it’s fascinating to walk through a 33 minute journey with something that she can truly call her own.

Review: Lizzy Farrall – All I Said Was Never Heard

Lizzy Farrall

Lizzy Farrall’s All I Said Was Never Heard fits right in with the likes of Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers. The EP is intensely personal in the same way. Plus, Farrall’s voice is a refreshing one to hear. “Broken Toy” is fairly stripped down, which puts a huge focus on the vocals. The song is one about being alone and trying to get over someone. “I’ll forever be that broken toy on your shelf” is a powerful line. A broken toy on someone’s shelf is usually there because there’s some sentimental value to it, but maybe it’s not quite worth trying to fix.

“Pack Of Wolves” has more meat to the music, but it’s not overbearing. The drums are pretty sparse, never taking over in any sort of flashy way. While the music sounds simple, the lyrics are the more complex part of the songs. In this song, Farrall sings of being a lone wolf, so there’s a theme of being alone or feeling that way, at least.

The next two songs, “Better With” and “Better Off,” tie into each other nicely. At the start of “Better With,” the guitars are more driven and there’s a prominent bass line once she starts singing. Farrall’s voice meshes well whether it’s a full band behind her or something more stripped down. For such a quick listen (the EP is about 17 minutes), she packs in a good variety of songs. “Hollow Friends” closes out the EP with a similar vibe that “Broken Toy” started it with.

Lizzy Farrall is an artist everyone should at least give a listen to. She’s a skilled songwriter who deserves the attention. All I Said Was Never Heard is solid all the way through and is an EP I’ll keep returning to. If you’re interested (and I hope you are), you can grab yourself a copy via Amazon.

Review: Toy Cars – Paint Brain

Toy Cars - Paint Brain

Toy Cars pack a lot of themselves into Paint Brain in just over half an hour. The albums starts with the title track and it sets the tone for the rest of the album. Each song tells a personal story and you can’t help but get invested in what the band is telling you. It’s as if you were just sitting around and getting to know them through various stories. When songs get that personal, it makes them enjoyable to listen to.

The band also has a consistent sound throughout the album. Even when a song slows down a bit, it gives off the same vibe that the faster songs do. The guitars certainly stand out in Paint Brain. In a song like “Swim,” the guitar is much quieter when the song starts, but about a minute in, it starts to hit a little harder. Plus, the full band fills out the song more. There’s a nice balance of knowing when to keep things simple with just the guitar and vocals and when to bring in the rest of the band. Instead of just having the song be one or the other, they make both work without making it feel like a totally different song.

The dynamics of the record make it a constant joy to listen to. You can tell that the band invested time into each of the songs. “Jimmy & Quinn” is an instrumental track that works as a nice bridge from “Erie” to “Tread.” It’s a relaxing little moment before going into the final two tracks.

I’ve been recommending Toy Cars to people quite a bit lately and it’s for a reason. This album is wonderful to listen to. With my podcast listening habits, I don’t come back to albums quite as often as I’d like, but I’ve already done so with this one. Give it a listen and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Book Review: Smoke City by Keith Rosson

Smoke City

Last year, Keith Rosson released The Mercy of the Tide. I dove into the book not knowing what to expect since he was an author I hadn’t read before. There’s always that moment when you try something new and you aren’t sure how it will go. However, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the book. When word got out that he had a new book, Smoke City, on the way, I knew instantly that it would be something I wanted to read.

Smoke City tells a tale of three strangers hitting the road together, traveling from Oregon down to Los Angeles, CA. Marvin Deitz is a complex character who has so much history to him that you never stop learning something new as you read through the book. Mike Vale is a bit more rough around the edges when we first meet him, but things smooth out along the way. Casper makes himself the third man on the road trip by hiding in the van before Mike and Marvin make it out of Oregon.

The three are an unlikely group, but that’s what makes the story so compelling. One wouldn’t think that a story that largely involves being stuck in a vehicle would be exciting, but the three different personalities and everything they see along the way makes it work. Not to mention, the “smokes” that are causing chaos in California play an interesting role.

What Rosson does is he makes you care about these guys who aren’t the best guys in the world, but they also aren’t the worst. Mike has so many problems piling up that it’s hard not to feel bad for him even if he had control over at least some of those problems. He writes these complex characters in a way that doesn’t feel dense. You aren’t getting everything all at once. Instead, things are coming piece by piece, just as if you were in the van with them and getting to know them. It’s a clever way to rope you in.

Smoke City is a journey. Three people who feel like they’ve hit rock bottom or just need a fresh start make a trip that changes all of their lives. Additionally, Marvin is a reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, which provides a separate storyline detailed in his journals. He doesn’t reveal why exactly he’s in LA until he tries explaining it to Casper at one of the studio parking lots. There’s always this anticipation with Marvin because he’s aware early on that he’s only supposed to have a limited time to live. The book keeps you on your toes and it all pays off in the end. This is a satisfying read, so be sure to check it out.

Smoke City is out on January 23, 2018 and you can grab a copy on Amazon.