Sleep Weather – “Two Wheels Spinning”

(Photo Credit: bandcamp)

Grade: B

With emo, as we know it today, changing seemingly other week, it’s refreshing to hear a bit of a throwback band. Georgia’s Sleep Weather ride the waves of some their predecessors, with a louder and harsher sound then most emo bands today. It’s a little reminiscent of early, punk-influenced emo instead of the “twinkly” sounds of today.

This EP, the band’s first, is a tight four songs that hint at a bigger sound than expected. This comes partially from post-rock and hardcore influences that become apparent at certain points, and partially from the screamed vocals of Chris Branigan and Hunter Rawls. The vocals sound screamo-based, although comparing something to screamo isn’t usually a compliment. But the guttural vocals help drive the band’s heavy sound, in a crowd where many emo vocalists opt for cleaner and clearer vocals than the past. This is used the best on the album’s closer, “My Mountain,” where the music largely dies away during a great breakdown and the screaming vocals are harshly coupled with the quieted music.

The band, also consisting of Chris Slyfield on bass and Allen McCleese (with Branigan and Rawls on guitar), largely sticks to midtempo music. When it all comes together, it resembles Algernon Cadwallader’s brief existence as the emo revivalists who set the template in 2011, only to have most bands approach a more harmonious sound. The band sets itself apart in the first song, “Grasoline,” an almost painfully slow and long-winded song that’s more post-rock than it is emo. The band is, at times, in no rush to hit their climax. Their music is not necessarily heavy and it is not overly fast, but it’s very forceful. Sleep Weather have an angrier sound to them, consistent throughout the EP.

The EP’s production is a little too rough at times, but they’re just starting out, so it’s easily excusable. And the genre they play isn’t exactly classifiable. It’s like screamo, but more inventive and eclectic, and not rushing immediately towards volume. There are a lot of post-rock influences hidden in their energy and songwriting, but they most closely resemble our current Midwestern emo – just not as “twinkly.” “Two Wheels Spinning” is a promising release for a young band. They might just find an audience in people who are tired of this current, cleaner wave of emo.

The album is available for streaming and download here.

If you like this try: Rites of Spring’s legendary 1985 self-titled, and only, full-length album. While more punk-based, it shares the rougher qualities of Sleep Weather.

-By Andrew McNally

Grammer – “Awesome Knifes”

(Photo Credit: bandcamp)

Grade: A-

Key Track: “Quit (Your Job)”

“Twinkly emo” is a terrible name for a genre, but it’s impossible to ignore the almost meteoric rise of emo’s fourth-wave. (It’s practically founded this blog). Fourth-wave emo has risen like drug rock did in 1967, thanks largely to now-defunct bands Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader channeling Midwestern second-wave bands. Since then, pop-punk and punk bands like the Menzingers, Dads and Modern Baseball have fallen inline with the genre, as have more creative bands like the collective The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die’s discordant six minute songs about volcanoes. But bands like Grammer – properly from the Midwest – invoke a simpler, 2011 sound that’s somehow now a throwback to a throwback.

Grammer’s debut EP is five songs and roughly thirteen minutes, and really feels like the EP’s of the subgenre’s two origin bands. All five songs are midtempo and are grounded by those (ugh) twinkly guitar rhythms that dominated pretty much every song Snowing ever recorded. Opening track “Astronaww, Man” even sounds a little like Snowing. They seem to channel a few different specific influences throughout the EP. “Coy Wolf” matches Algernon Cadwallader in it’s harsh vocals ugly pairing over clean riffs. “Quit (Your Job)” sounds a little like Dads, with more of a chord-based punk sound. But this isn’t copying predecessors, because Grammer have their own sound. They’re a little grittier, and their lyrics about childhood and life eschew complaining for apathy.

The people in Grammer – Maxx on vocals, Dakota and Miles on guitar, Grady on bass, and Alex on drums, are good musicians and songwriters. This EP fits nicely into the ever-increasing qualifications of fourth-wave emo, without sounding like it’s trying to. It hints at indie and punk, and hints at some emotions and lyrics thematically different than most emo bands. And there are surprises – like the great false ending to “Cigarette Regimen.” “Emo” has become an umbrella term over the last year, for any sort of sad, poetic, relatable, twinkly, fast, slow, loud, soft combination desirable. Grammer are more straightforward than most, and “Awesome Knifes” is a promising EP for a proper, no-frills, Midwestern group.

The EP is available for stream and downloading here.

If you like this, try: It should be obvious here that I’ll mention one of two bands. So try any releases by Snowing, if for some reason you haven’t already.

The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – “Whenever, If Ever”

Photo  Credit: Top Shelf Records

Photo Credit: Top Shelf Records

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay,” “You Will Never Go To Space,” “Ultimate Steve”

The band trying to claim their prize for current longest name have released their full-length debut on the glorious Top Shelf Records. The band – often abbreviated, or called “The World Is” for short – is a six-piece from Connecticut. They differ from Top Shelf’s normal bands, who fall under the umbrella term of ‘modern emo’ (here’s looking at you, Snowing). They are definitely a modern emo band, but one that is even more original than their label-mates. Their first EP’s, “Formlessness” and “Josh Is Dead,” were four and three tracks, respectively. But in those three tracks the band established themselves as one that was not afraid to play around with lo-fi influences that can also include group choruses and screaming intensity.

Those previous EP’s showed that The World Is was not afraid of recording a quiet and toned-down piece that builds to a big and loud payoff later on the album. While bands will often do this in a song (think: nearly every Sonic Youth song), The World Is does it as arcs. Two songs might be separate ideas that contribute to a booming climax a song later. It’s all very unique and often very wrenching. Their first full-length, though, suffers from too much build-up and not enough pay-off.

That is not to say the album is not good. It’s great, it’s absolutely great. Even in it’s outwardly subdued moments, the band can easily create an uneasy feeling, a sense that something is not right. They competently do this in every one of the album’s ten songs. This is what emo sounds like now, inspired equally by shoegaze, experimentation, other current emo bands, and probably suburban CT life. The World Is is one of my favorite bands out there now, they’re pioneering a wholly new sound. “Whenever, If Ever” just needs one or two more pay-offs of screaming vocals to separate the quiet moments. Still, this album is unique. It has its faults, but it is extraordinarily original. And at the end of the day, a band making some faulty quests into new territory is largely better than one sticking around in familiar territory.

If you like this, try: Their old EP’s, mentioned above. All are available on Spotify and Bandcamp. Alternately, “Fun” by Algernon Cadwallader or “I Could Do Whatever I Wanted If I Wanted” by Snowing. Check out every band on Top Shelf Records, if you’re truly interested.

-By Andrew McNally