Review Roundup: The Casting Out, The Dirty White, The Forecast, Icarus the Owl, My Own Private Alaska, and Save Your Breath
The first thing that will hit you when listening to The Casting Out‘s self-titled record is the vocals. Firstly, this is because they dominate the record. Secondly, it is because Nathan Gray used to be in a band called Boysetsfire (you may have heard of them), whose guitarist, Josh Latshaw, is also in The Casting Out.
The Casting Out is a pretty straightforward melodic punk rock band. There isn’t a whole lot to talk about other than the band’s catchiness, but this is a pretty flat record. Unfortunately, the band’s best moments are at the very beginning (“Everybody Down!” and “Let it Bleed”). Afterwards, the album starts to feel a bit flat and monotonous.
I feel this way solely based on The Casting Out being The Casting Out. Despite that, it is always difficult to listen to an ex-band’s new related projects, and have them be plainly average.
Although primarily a noisy rock band, “Mighty Prehistoric” starts off The Dirty White‘s Vs. Evil Circles like a stoned-out TV on the Radio, utilizing a sinfully catchy chorus to draw your attention; “Dabney Coleman Pt. 5″ follows it up by using those fun-to-play-and-to-listen-to! octave chords; “Diamond J” features a Led Zeppelin-esque main riff, and drum-dominated verses; “We Don’t Hunt” is a stoner rock gem; “Dry Bones” is a primarily instrumental jam track; “Goocher” is a punked out rock track; “There Were Helicopters” is another mostly instrumental track that is very riffy, and “Oj and the Isotoners” closes out on the album like one giant finale. The point of this track-by-track rundown? To emphasize this point: this band knows how to write some rawk.
The Dirty White’s appeal is just how much of a rock band they are, without caring about being a rock band. They just do what they do, and what they do is play catchy, kick ass rock’n'roll.
The Forecast is a record that I haven’t listened to in about a month, and yet I can still remember every catchy chorus and bridge on the album. If that doesn’t make it worth a listen, I don’t know what does.
As a band, The Forecast sound like a male-fronted (with female backups) Paramore (the pop rock kings/queen if you ask me). They are intelligent songwriters that seem to know exactly what each song needs, whether it be acoustic guitars, a verse variation or a certain melody. I highly recommend checking out “Illinois” as starting point; a pop punk verse leads into one of the best melodies this side of a broadway play, before breaking into a superb bridge. It is followed up with “Lost at Sea”, in which vocalist Dustin Addis takes on his best Jake Snider impression before engaging in a duet with Shannon Burns to finish off the track. ”I’ll Set You Free” feeds off the previous tracks, throwing in a tinge of Blink 182 and local Torontonians Arietta as well.
These three songs define the band’s sound throughout the record: expect a lot of catchiness.
The Spotless Mind will surprise you. Combining sounds from Minus the Bear, Protest the Hero, The Human Abstract, and poppy emo bands like The Audition, Icarus the Owl have a sound that can throw you off; rarely do they sound like the same band from one track to the next. Despite this, all fourteen tracks feature major hooks and catchy choruses that make The Spotless Mind a joy to listen to. What is even more surprising than the band’s combination of sounds, is their individual skill at their respective instruments; Joey Rubenstein‘s vocals range from everything from desperate screams to American Idol-cleans (in a good way, trust me); As guitarists, Rubenstein and Tanner Russell work well together, combining hardcore-based rhythms and riffs and guitar tapping and tricks; Ryan Warrell‘s bass playing works as a backdrop for both the guitarists and Brian Fowler‘s dynamic skins-play (this dude’s fills are whack).
The only drawback to the record are those flashy leads; sometimes they all start to blend together, but fortunately, as I mentioned, the band’s sound varies enough that it is easy to get over.
Simply, The Spotless Mind could find a place as one of my favourite albums of the year.
It is unfortunate that my first real experience with progressive “art” rock came in the form of The Pax Cecilia‘s Blessed are the Bonds; few albums are as honest and emotionally touching. That said, despite having a similar, piano-based art rock sound, My Own Private Alaska have created a solid effort in Amen.
Amen‘s selling point is its dark and depressing nature; Matthew Miegeville‘s vocals are not immediately attractive, but become a major part of the band’s sound and dynamic. Tristan Mocquet‘s piano playing is undoubtedly the centre of the record; it is not uncommon to hear a beautiful melody become something sinister by the end of a track. Yohan Hennequin‘s drumming isn’t masterful, but he makes use of the sonic space that is given to him.
Many tracks on Amen seem to go through phases; “Broken Army” goes completely silent before settling into a ballad-like state, “Die For Me” builds to a screamo-esque climax, “I Am An Island” rotates between weird noises and screams. The grand scale of Amen makes it a difficult record to get through (especially since a lot of the songs are long) in one sitting, but that isn’t a knock on the quality of the music itself.
Again, piano-based music like this will always be compared to Blessed are the Bonds, an album that, as far as I am concerned, is masterful. Regardless, Amen is certainly a unique piece of music that deserves your attention.
Out of the plethora of pop-punk bands that have seemed to emerge lately, Save Your Breath are one of the best, and I can’t even put my finger on exactly why. It isn’t the long, interesting song titles. It isn’t the melodic guitar lines and vocals. It isn’t the guitar solos and unique bridges.
Oh I know, it is that all of these things work together. Where other bands attempt all of these things, Save Your Breath are actually able to do all of them. Now, I realize that Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy is an EP, and may not translate entirely well to a full-length, but at eight tracks, it gives an in-depth look at the band’s abilities.
Do you remember the band Lit, and their classic one hit wonder “My Own Worst Enemy”? If Lit had been a band with more than one good song, Save Your Breath is probably what they would sound like. Pop punky goodness.