Review: Dead Leaves/PINE – Split EP

by Deanna Chapman

Dead Leaves and PINE worked on a split EP that will be released this Friday. While PINE had a couple more minutes on the EP than Dead Leaves, you still got a great feel for both bands and an equal amount of songs at two each. If you’re into pop punk and looking for some new bands to listen to, this split would be a good start. Both bands have thoughtful lyrics and the melodies to go along with them.

Dead Leaves kicks off the EP with “I’m Sorry Darling” and PINE follows with “Waste.” Each of these songs is a solid representation of the bands’ musicianship and songwriting abilities. Dead Leaves then follows with “Recycled Air” and PINE closes out with “Lopri.” I found all of these songs to be extremely enjoyable and as I mentioned earlier, gives you a great feel to the bands. This EP is a fantastic introduction to both bands if you’ve never listened to either of them. I highly suggest streaming and/or grabbing a copy of the EP here.

Review: Sundressed – ‘The Same Condition’

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by Deanna Chapman

Sundressed quickly became a band I greatly enjoy. They recently released The Same Condition via Take This To Heart Records and it’s a stunner of an EP. The lyrics and melodies are well-written and catchy as hell. Four songs is just enough to keep you satisfied and it’s an EP you’ll definitely want to listen to over and over again. This just may be the pop-punk EP of the year that surprises people with how good it is. The EP kicks off with “Good As You,” which starts out with just guitar and vocals and builds up to a full band. It sets the vibe for the EP with catchy but honest lyrics like “If I was as good as you, I’d be enough to be with you.” Following suit is “Beck and Call,” my personal favorite on the EP. This is a must listen and will be on my list of best EPs this year.

Review: Pentimento – ‘I, No Longer’

Pentimento hail from New York and work their asses off to create awesome music for their fans. The band isn’t a full time gig, but when they work on it, it feels like it should be. I, No Longer is the new LP from the band and it’s an emotion-filled ride when you give it a listen. The album starts off with a quick song in “Small Talk For Strangers.” You instantly get an intense, personal feeling from the lyrics and that continues throughout the album. Personally, the lyrics were hands down the most important part of this release. They’re precise, while still being catchy.

I had listened to Pentimento prior to this release, but this is the first time their work really stuck with me. Which leads me to “Stuck Forever” on the album. The song was first released on a 7" that marked the bands first release since 2013. This was released back in July and had a lot of time to sink in with fans and let them know what to expect from I, No Longer. It’s a great song to start with and I recommend checking out “Sink or Swim” and “Tell Me,” as well. Those three songs are solid and some of my favorites off the album. I didn’t find myself wanting to skip any songs and none of them really felt like “filler” songs. If you’re a lyrics person, I hope you enjoy this album as much as I do. It’s easily a contender on my end of the year list. The album is available via Bad Timing Records here.

Review: The Jam – ‘Fire and Skill: The Jam Live’

by Deanna Chapman

The Jam will be releasing Fire and Skill: The Jam Live on Ocober 30th via Universal/Polydor. This is absolutely for huge fans of the band. The release consists of six CDs of live performances by the band spanning from 1977 to 1982. You will also get a 72 page book, five postcards, rare memorabilia, photos, and an essay with the box set. The overall track total is 121 songs, all of which were remastered at Abbey Road. What more could the ultimate fan of The Jam ask for?

The live performances take place at the 100 Club, Music Machine, Reading University, Newcastle City Hall, Hammersmith Palais, and Wembley Arena. Only 11 of the live tracks were previously released, so you are definitely in for quite an experience. There are some repeats of songs, but I found that it gives you a chance to hear any changes the band made to their live songs over the years and how those songs fit in with various sets. Now, 121 songs is a lot to listen to, but it also means you have a lot of songs to pick and choose from if you so wish. This is by no means something to listen to in one sitting (unless you want to, of course). You can experience bits and pieces of live sets and come up with your own set list in a way or you can enjoy each performance with it’s respective CD. The songs are fast, fun, and witty. But if you’re going to be listening to this box set, you already knew that.

Overall, I would really only recommend this for anyone already a fan of The Jam. It can be a bit overwhelming at times with the amount of songs, but in doses it’s a great listen. You get the extras and you get the live show banter as if you’re there, which is completely worth it. You’ll take in nearly six and a half hours of The Jam with this release. And if that doesn’t scream ultimate fan, then I don’t know what would.

Review: Run Forever – ‘Run Forever’

by Deanna Chapman

The first time I heard of Run Forever was earlier this year when they had signed to No Sleep Records and released Big Vacation earlier this year. I was instantly a fan of the EP and wanted to hear more. Now the band has released their self-titled album. “Big Vacation” was the only song from the EP to make it onto the album, which is perfectly fine by me, the more Run Forever songs, the better. The song covers the mediocrity of a 9 to 5 life, something that is relatable for many of us. The songs mix mellow vocals with dynamic music to bring them to life. The record contains a wide array of emotions and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

“Shifting Responsibility” starts off big with some loud and fast drums and guitars. It eases up about twenty seconds in and the vocals come in. It builds back up as the chorus comes around and it’s one of the more upbeat songs in the first half of the album. The song moves into “Separate Bedrooms,” which is a song about Anthony Heubel’s mom and the general ups and downs of life. It fits in perfectly with the overarching emotional theme of the album. The song is beautifully stripped down and easily became one of my favorites off the record. “Company Card” and “Weight Under Me” round out the end of the album. “Company Card” felt like the more experimental song on the album with some electronic sounds mixed with acoustic guitar to open the song. It also happens to be the shortest song on the album, but still fits in well. “Weight Under Me” closes out the album and feels bass-driven more so than most of the songs. I think it’s a fitting song and a strong close to the album. No Sleep definitely made a fantastic choice by signing Run Forever and I look forward to what’s next from the band. This is an album I’ll be listening to for a while. If you’re interested you can grab a copy over at No Sleep Records or on iTunes. But whatever you do, at least give it a listen.

Review: Better Off – ‘Milk’

by Deanna Chapman

This month, Better Off released their sophomore album, Milk, via Equal Vision Records. It is their first release on the label and anything but a sophomore slump (I’m starting to think that just might not be much of a thing anymore). The band’s influences are immediately discernible as Brand New, Jimmy Eat World, and the likes. It probably helps that Arun Bali of Saves The Day produced the record, too. Does the band have a similar style to these bands? Of course, but they still put their own spin on it. 

“Empty Handed” starts with a guitar riff that flows into a great hook. It was the right choice for an opening track to grab the listeners attention. I’d like to say this song sets the tone for the album, but this band has so many varying styles that you can’t pinpoint it with just one song. I’ve never been a stickler on what genre a band is or isn’t, so there’s no point in trying to fit Better Off into just one. They’re a good band, plain as that. About halfway through the album you hit “Interlude” and get a nice 92 second dose of hardcore music. You get some acoustic thrown in there with “Unhappy” and the majority of “A Lesson In Loving.” The latter roars into full band mode in the second half of the song and finishes off strong. See what I mean? There’s just too many styles to fit them into one box. 

Honestly, I never felt the need to skip any of the songs on the album and that’s a good sign that the album really is great. “Myself In A Pill” is a solid ending to an album with creative, clever lyrics that manages not to be super cliché or cheesy. This album absolutely lived up to the hype surrounding it for the lest couple months or so. Be sure to give this album a listen. You can pick it up on Amazon or iTunes (or stream it on your service of choice, of course).

Review: The Obsessives – ‘Heck No, Nancy’

by Deanna Chapman

The Obsessives are the “babies” on Near Mint considering they just recently finished high school and recorded Heck No, Nancy on their spring break. A band so young has room to grow and hone their sound. The Obsessives are off to a great start with this release. The pop punk scene has grown exponentially and sometimes the talent gets jumbled in with the mediocre. Let’s go ahead and get to why this band and their new album are worth listening to. 

Heck No, Nancy has been building up quite a good amount of buzz in the scene, and rightfully so. The album starts off with “Daisy” and it’s one of six songs on the album that runs under three minutes. The Obsessives throw some punches and do so quickly. This was the debut album that almost didn’t happen, but I’m sure glad it did. It my be safe to that we’re looking at the new faces off pop punk, which is refreshing since it seems we’ve been overwhelmed with bands doing 10 year reunion tours instead of creating new material or hearing new bands. “Ouch” is one of my favorites on the album with it’s melancholic vibes. They may sing about some typical high school problems, but let’s remember, they literally just finished high school. The Obsessives are one of the best new bands this year and if you aren’t listening to them you’re missing out. I could go on, but I’ll spare you the agony of that. Just go listen to Heck No, Nancy and hopefully you’ll see as much potential in them as I do. 

Grab a copy of the record over at Near Mint.

Review: The Painted Hands – ‘Rapscallions’

by Deanna Chapman

The Painted Hands is a band that will likely make you rethink everything you thought you knew about music in New Orleans. I frequently associate New Orleans with jazz music and a whole lot of great food that I’m missing out on. That changed when I was sent Rapscallions by The Painted Hands. It’s the bands debut, post punk album. And this definitely makes me wonder how much other music I’m missing out on from New Orleans.

Let’s return to The Painted Hands, though, and their debut album. The six piece band has four members shouting out lyrics at any given moment, yet the lyrics are catchy and the melodies are a joy to listen to. As soon as the album started, I got the vibe that these guys were born in the wrong decade. I felt that the music would have been perfect around the tail end of The Clash’s career. They have that same tone and attitude with their music. The album starts with “Pecan Pie” and the lyrics that instantly stood out were “what I like’s what I like.” It’s such a simple statement but at the same time it says so much. I was drawn in and that song seemed to be the perfect choice for the album opener. If you’re a fan of 70’s punk music and the post punk that evolved from that, chances are you’ll like these guys. I also suggest checking out the title track and “Daddy Issues.”

I love being sent music by bands I’ve never heard of for this exact reason: some of them will stick and you’ll greatly enjoy them. I’m glad this band contacted me and I hope you’ll check them out.

Review: Noah Gundersen – ‘Carry The Ghost’

by Deanna Chapman

I need to start off this review by thanking Jason Tate. If it weren’t for a recommendation I saw on his site, Chorus.fm, (and the x amount of times he’s mentioned him on the AP.net podcast since) I may have never heard of Noah Gundersen. Once I saw the recommendation, I went to go listen to last years release, Ledges. Nothing has been the same since. I instantly fell in love with the music and that’s why I think this new album, Carry The Ghost, is the best album I’ve heard all year. 

Noah Gundersen sings with such raw emotion that it’s nearly impossible to not feel a plethora of emotions while listening to this album. One of my favorite songs is “Jealous Love.” He knows how to make a song heart wrenching and beautiful all at once. This album is full of songs like that. It reminded me of the amount of emotion Adele and Sam Smith out into their albums. If you ask me, that’s some pretty damn good company. The album starts with the piano driven “Slow Dancer” and I don’t think any other song could have introduced the album the way this one does. It starts out with just piano and after just over a minute the full ban comes in to put some power behind the outstanding lyrics. I could go on about all thirteen songs on this album, but that would take a while. So give this song, “Jealous Love,” and “Topless Dancer” a listen to get a taste of the album. If you like acoustic music in general, you’ll find a good amount of everything in this album even within the full band pieces. I know this is an album I’ll be listening to for a long time to come.

Review: Safety – ‘Congratulate Me, I’ve Lost My Mind’

I have listened to so many great EPs this year that it almost makes me wonder if they’ll become the new norm. It would allow bands to experiment with more styles and get music out more consistently rather than waiting for enough material for a full album. Safety’s *Congratulate Me, I’ve Lost My Mind* was no exception when it comes to great EPs. “The Shadow Over Brooklyn” kicks off the EP and instantly made me feel like I should have been playing whatever the latest Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game is. The band just has that kind of vibe – high energy and guitar heavy. Those happen to be two things I greatly enjoy in songs. You just want to jump around and sing along. The band switches it up a bit with them intro to “Ultraviolet Light.” I absolutely adore the opening to the song with its slow pace building up into what the song will become. It’s always good to see some versatility in a band, especially when the release is only five songs.

The EP is a quick hit of guitar driven, catchy songs. The lyrics were smart, catchy, and a complete joy to listen to. It’s going to be tough to pick some of my favorite EPs this year, but this one has a good chance of making the list. If you love yourself some guitars, then do yourself a favor and listen to this.