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.

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