Prawn – “Kingfisher”

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Scud Running” “Absurd Walls”

Emo revivalists Prawn’s new album is full of light, airy and melodic songs that are often vague in tone but practiced in music. Though it has it’s weak moments, Prawn have been an uniquely line-teetering band for years, and “Kingfisher” only goes to continue it.

A Kingfisher is a bird. Specifically, a type of bright, distinct and goofy looking bird. One that has been known to eat fish. In many ways, a kingfisher is everything that Prawn is not. Prawn is vague and unassuming, at first. Their music isn’t showy, especially for emo. It’s rhythmic and often lucid, blending together into something that’s surprisingly pleasant. So a kingfisher makes sense, as the band spends the album threatening to be consumed by various existential forces (much like a fish getting swallowed up). It’s either ironic or totally fitting that Prawn have spent the last few years hanging out in the limelight of the emo revival. While some (Snowing, teen suicide) made news with almost immediate breakups, and some (TWIABPAIANLATD, the Front Bottoms) strain themselves to make something jarring and original, Prawn have been building their own blend of guitar rhythms and aligning melodies that’s more soothing than it is jarring – something that isn’t designed to make as immediate of an impact at first.

And “Kingfisher” is certainly filled with those interesting melodies. The album starts and ends with strings, that fall away for the eight songs in between. And the album does dissolve into straight rock – happening infrequently enough that it’s a surprise each time. Loopy guitar rhythms are big in emo these days, but Prawn bring it up a notch by relying equally on melodies that are either very repetitive or different throughout. “Prolonged Exposure” is a guitar-heavy track that emphasizes this, as is “Absurd Walls,” where twin guitar rhythms compete in the background, one giving way to sounding like a siren. Prawn have learned to embrace both slower, ambient songs, and louder, rocking ones, and hit every notch in between on “Kingfisher.”

On a lyrical note, the album does get kind of frustratingly vague. It’s filled with typically deep, sad, statements, often opting for philosophical questions about some hypothetical, impending disasters rather than any direct and reflective poetry. Sometimes, like on “Glass, Irony” it can work, with the line “It’s hard to hide in dire straits” shoved to the forefront of the song. Other times, like on “Thalassa,” it gets clunky. “I’m glad you found clarity in ambiguity” is repeated a few times at the song’s climax, a line that doesn’t exactly sound fresh. Some of the songs could’ve used some clarity themselves.

But “Kingfisher” is still a very strong release, one that’s both pleasant and devastating. Prawn are at the top of their game and, even if the top of their game is positioned in the genre’s background, then it’s what they’ve learned to excel in. At times sweet, at times sour, “Kingfisher” is just as good as we’ve come to expect from Prawn.

“Kingfisher” is out tomorrow, 8/12, on Topshelf Records.

Perfect Pussy – “Say Yes to Love”

(Photo Credit: Pitchfork)

Grade: A

Key Tracks: “Driver” “Interference Fits”

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one before,” Meredith Graves coyly sings on “Advance Upon the Real.” But there’s no stopping Perfect Pussy – there isn’t anything quite like this. In fact, it’s one of the only decipherable lines on the album. Perfect Pussy’s raw, cheap and ferocious punk energy is breathing life into music. The noise-punk band came together after Graves was asked to form a fake band to play in a scene of the 2013 film “Adult World,” and they ended up recording. They released their first EP, “I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling,” rather unceremoniously. But it was quickly picked up by major markets and by the time this debut LP came out (which wasn’t long), it was already hotly anticipated.

The first EP was four songs and roughly 13 minutes long. “Say Yes to Love” is double that – eight songs and 23 minutes. The whole album is characterized by relentless and chaotic energy and teasing intros and fade-outs. The volume is pushed to the max throughout, surrounded by reverb, power chords and lo-fi production. The chords themselves are deceivingly pop-punk, but Perfect Pussy are far too riotous to be considered it. The only song that isn’t all-out is the keyboard-prevalent closer, the ominously named “VII” (ominous because the EP’s song titles were in Roman numerals, suggesting parts V and VI exist). Even then, it’s a booming closer. The band’s intensity is thanks in part to the muffled production. It’s like the medium between Melt-Banana and Potty Mouth, recording with the production quality of Teen Suicide.

Fade-outs, reverb and tempting intros are a large part of this album. The opening song, “Driver,” waits a very teasing eleven seconds before the opening chords. “Big Stars” and “Interference Fits” have long periods of reverb at the end of the song, as if providing a quick break for the listener. And “Advance Upon the Real” has a little over three minutes of tape delay, at the end, in which some notes and chords in the background are just barely audible.

The vocals are improved on this album. On “Feeling,” Graves’ voice was so buried under the music that it was barely audible. They’re at least audible here, although the lyrics are almost entirely unintelligible. They might be taking a Lightning Bolt approach, burying the lyrics under fuzzy vocals to add a shroud of mystery. One of the album’s only other truly unmistakable lines is in “Interference Fits” – “Since when do we say yes to love?” – just intelligible enough to let the listener know what a red herring the album’s title really is. What follows, is Graves dubbed twice over herself, singing three different things at once.

Perfect Pussy have been one of the biggest bands to watch for 2014 and, no, they’re probably not going to become a household name, but they’re making waves in the music world. “Say Yes to Love,” even in its lighter moments, is intense. 23 straight minutes of vicious energy, fronted by Graves’ shout-singing (and Garrett Koloski’s machine-like drumming). Perfect Pussy have emerged from an otherwise empty Syracuse scene, and they’re here to stay.

If you like this, try: Potty Mouth’s “Hell Bent.” It’s not half as intense, but it matches PP’s pop-punk chords and lo-fi production.

-By Andrew McNally

Pity Sex – “Feast of Love”

(Photo Credit: Brooklyn Vegan)

Grade: B-

Key Tracks: “Wind Up,” “Fold”

“Feast of Love” is the full-length debut for the hyped lo-fi band. The quartet plays a shoegaze-inspired band of emo. The album is equal parts alt-pop, emo and traditional shoegaze walls of sound. Sonically, despite the creative blending of genres, the album could use for some expansion. It is only twenty-seven minutes long but it feels a little tiring. Part of it is the shoegaze itself, it as a genre can often tire and frustrate the listener in the best possible ways. But part of it is a lack of individuality amongst the songs. The album feels like one drawn-out idea, and that’s generally what an individual shoegaze song is to start with, so a full album of similar ideas gets really bogged down. Still, it is a creative blending of genres and is it at times challenging and staggeringly original.

The lyrics are often tough to decipher, which is pretty characteristic of shoegaze (Godspeed You! Black Emperor did away with them entirely). This recent revival of lo-fi emo groups is often accompanied by poetic lyrics that are almost too easy to relate to, that result in heart-wrenching songs. Pity Sex is no different, with some great, poetic lyricism happening. Unfortunately, some of it is buried under walls of guitar.

“Feast of Love” has its faults, but it shows promise as a debut. It is tedious but creative, and is definitely worth a listen for people intrigued by the lo-fi emo revival and shoegaze. Pity Sex is currently on tour with two of the best young bands in America today, Dads and The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die.

If you like this, try: The aforementioned bands, or check out the work done by the bands Teen Suicide and Julia Brown for something wickedly lo-fi.

-By Andrew McNally