House Olympics – “…And My Mind is Restless”

(Photo Credit: bandcamp)

Grade: B+

Key Track: “Everest”

All hail the Midwestern emo scene, it seems to produce winner after winner. The same goes for House Olympics, a new group with a decidedly heavier influence from Bloomington, Indiana. The band takes it’s influence from emo’s more punk roots, opting for heavier vocals and more straightforward guitar volume but keeping the genre’s poetic lyrics. Their first release, the “…And My Mind is Restless” EP is four songs of angry music and mixed emotions, all of which feels purposefully unresolved.

As with many emo bands, the band – TJ on guitar and a pair of Adams on drums and bass, with all singing – makes an effort on unique song titles. The opener, “Get #rekt Steve Jobs,” is instrumental, but sets the tone with a forceful rhythm that builds upon itself, to drum up intensity going into the first proper song, “Tossing, Turning, Treading.” “Tossing” is equally forceful, at least at first, with some strained, screamed vocals and the punk-emo blend at it’s strongest. But the song takes time for an extended breakdown, so it isn’t just a blast of energy.

“Everest” is a more lyric-based song, with clearer vocals and lyrics about going to great and sometimes violently emotional lengths to figure out your personal issues, without any resolve. “I would be willing / To get hit by a car / Just to knock the sense back into me.” The lyrics are pretty typical of emo – introspective and sad, rough and filled with questions that don’t have answers. It’s the EP’s most emo-based song, and possibly the best song. The finale “Super Smashed Bros” (another great title), meanwhile, is a more punk-based song, with a deceivingly emo rhythm played over some distant-sounding drums, until the song builds into a long and grinding climax. Layered vocals and a crunching guitar add to what becomes a dense and loud finale, a little unsuspecting at the beginning of the song. Despite only being four songs, House Olympics manage to give their EP a strong intro and outro.

House Olympics benefit from having all three members sing – their different voices are noticed throughout the EP. Where the vocals are particularly throaty in “Tossing,” they’re sometimes clear and even spoken in “Everest.” This, alongside the punk/emo mix, helps the four songs to stay unique from each other, while maintaining a cohesive sound for the young band. “…And My Mind is Restless” is a promising release, as House Olympics are able to develop their own sound without rehashing what their predecessors have done. It’s within the realms of emo and punk, but isn’t truly either. It’s loud and emotional, and properly conflicted in both it’s tone and it’s themes.

The album can be streamed and downloaded here.

If you like this, try: I’ve come across a number of punk-influenced emo bands lately, so I’d link House Olympics up with Grammer and Sinai Vessel.

-By Andrew McNally

Sinai Vessel – “profanity [ep]”

(Photo Credit: bandcamp)

Grade: A-

Key Track: “cuckold”

The guys in North Carolina’s Sinai Vessel were once approached after a show by someone, who may or may not have enjoyed the show, who called their music “punk for sissies.” The phrase “punk for sissies” is now draped across the band’s bandcamp page, as a source of inspiration. Taken in a non-derogatory way, the phrase fits the band – they’re punk, but one that’s smarter and more personal than most. There are hints of emo in their music, often in place of punk energy. Their new EP, “profanity,” is a solidly well-rounded listen that examines maturity and confusion, in a manner that switches from angry to introspective.

The EP doesn’t exactly start with any punches. Opener “cats” aligns itself a little closer to some twinkly emo than to punk, even if it’s examining small town religion. The vocals, as they are across the EP, are forceful, but the more midtempo music sets the tone of the EP – melodic and reflective, not always going for volume. The second track, “greatham,” is simply a forty second interlude. “cuckold,” possibly the EP’s best song, is a little louder and packs a secret punch in both it’s power and it’s poetry.

“drown around” matches the melodic and powerful nature of “cuckold,” with it’s screamed vocals and honest lyrics. Sinai Vessel are not focused on pulling intense punches, but the EP’s midpoint is it’s most forceful and loudest section. “flannery” is a very honest track, with the line “good country people with bad city hearts” repeated throughout. It serves as a slower song, and possibly the most developed on the whole EP. And “index on the oval” is a heavy and drawn-out finale, one that fits the EP well.

The band, consisting of Caleb Cordes on guitar, bass and vocals, Nathan Larson on drums and David Wimbish on horns, can easily create an atmosphere of cerebral and vulnerable punk, a largely untapped market. Sinai Vessel can be loud when they want to, and can even stretch themselves in post-punk (like on “index on the oval”). But they don’t overdo anything – they’re content playing midtempo and melodic rock most of the time. “profanity” is an eclectic work, one that shows Sinai Vessel have different intentions than most punk bands. Where the vocals are often intense, the music isn’t necessarily, and it’s a blend that entirely works. Sinai Vessel might be “punk for sissies,” but it’s punk for smart and despairing people, too.

You can stream and download the EP here.

If you like this, try: For the sound of Sinai Vessel, the emo-punk blend of Sleep Weather that I happened to have just reviewed. For the idea of Sinai Vessel, check out the band Swearin’, a relatively calm and poetic band that still qualifies as punk.