Sup, Muscles? – “More Feelings”

Grade: A-

Key Track: “It Totally Would Have Happened”

In an ever-growing emo scene, bands have to become more and more adaptable – twinkly guitars and lyrics about basements aren’t going to cut it anymore. It’s becoming a bloated scene, and bands have to find ways to stand out from the crowd. Pittsburgh’s Sup, Muscles? come ready to answer the question. While sticking to emo principles, their debut EP comes alongside less straightforward songwriting, dual vocals, and occasional saxophone.

Sup, Muscles? bill themselves as having a female lead singer (Molly Spear). So when the opening track, “I’m Resilient” starts, it’s surprising to hear a man singing. But after about a minute and twenty seconds, the song re-energizes itself and Spear takes over. What follows is a song that is both rhythmic and despondent, in a way a lot of emo bands aren’t entirely capable of achieving. It’s both fun and utterly desperate. The same goes for most of the five-track EP. The band balances different emotions instead of just playing an onslaught of sadness.

The band, consisting of Spear, Jacob Campbell (guitar/vocals), Trevor Wedekind (guitar) and John Paul Zigterman (drums), creates their appeal in the music and it’s songwriting. Three of the five tracks have tempo changes where the band essentially stops and regroups before various increases in volume/speed. It’s a little much, but it works on a track-by-track basis. It works the best on “Danica,” where the track does literally stop for a moment, before warping into something else. The songwriting is also a little math-y at times, complex and changing. “Drinking Alone Can Only Take You So Far” and the climax of “Something About Ghosts” offer the most intense moments, the former courtesy of rough energy, and the latter of dual, battling screams.

For the most part, the band focuses more on music than lyrics, but they do offer little slivers of wasteful gold. The climax to closer “Something About Ghosts” has singer Campbell screaming “I am a ghost” while Spear is screaming “You’re the living.” It’s a particularly affecting double line, especially considering that the lyrics prior aren’t the aspect that grab you.

“More Feelings” is a promising debut. It’s got more to offer than most by-the-books emo groups: dense music, tempo changes, reliance on screamed vocals. It never quite decides on a tone, and that’s fine, because it creates a bit of a disconnect. It makes the music feel like the band is trying not to care, even though they do – you know, like good emo. Spear’s songwriting is strong, and the band is creating music that is consistently surprising. The tempo changes do get a little exhausting, but Sup, Muscles? are clearly a band that take the time to perfect the uniqueness of their songs. It’s tough to break out into emo these days, but “More Feelings” is a solid start.

Listen for yourself here.

If you like this, try: House Olympics’ “…And My Mind is Restless,” another emo EP that relies on heavier vocals.

-By Andrew McNally

One Hundred Year Ocean – “Where Were You While We Were Getting High?”

Photo Credit: Bandcamp

Grade: B+

A four-track EP from the six-piece collective One Hundred Year Ocean moderately resembles the growing band that includes some of the same members, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. The four tracks on this EP are more consistent in tone, but bare resemblance to the great emo band.

It is tough to really establish an idea across only four tracks, so nothing is overly fleshed out. But there is a distinct sense that the band is toying with song structures. The build-ups that are frequent among similar-sounding bands are present, just not at the usual points in the songs. There is a feeling that the music, just like the music of The World Is…, is not based on songs but one large idea, and the songs are just fragments of it.

The volume is steady on the album, as the verses seem to fit in with typical structures. So the band seems to operate as a bridge between standard music and the experimental and drawn-out sound of The World Is…, combining elements of both. There is a slight humorous edge to the band, too, evident in the title of the EP and on the song title “Soco Amaretto Bud Light Lime” (a take on Brand New’s “Soco Amaretto Lime”) and in the darkly catchy lyrics of opener “Hospital Town.” It is difficult to expand an EP into something great, but One Hundred Year Ocean is doing a pretty unique thing. It is distinctly emo-based, with elements of punk and a little room for experimentation.

If you like this, try: “Whenever, If Ever” by the aforementioned The World Is… (just released last month, scroll down only a little ways for a review)