Weepikes – “We Are Weepikes”

Grade: A

Key Tracks: “Bad Valentine” “Flatliner”

“We Are Weepikes” is probably a very fitting name for the Finnish avant-pop group’s latest release. The band, which consists of Pasi Peni on vocals and guitar, Jyrki Lehto on guitar, Tomi Nuotio on bass and Ari Reiska Lehtinen on drums, is coming off a 13-year hiatus. Originally forming in 1994, they released a couple EP’s before disbanding in 1997. The reformed in 2010 and, after releasing a couple EP’s, dropped the longer “We Are Weepikes” in February of 2013.

The album has a distinct Lou Reed feel to it.  It is guitar-heavy, and stays melodic without venturing into catchy. Unlike most avant-pop groups, Weepikes focus more on the “avant” than the “pop.” Peni’s vocals align with Reed’s slightly gritty, melodic talk-singing. That’s the most apparent on “Flatliner,” a nearly six minute track of spoken word chaos.

“We Are Weepikes” has a little bit of a lo-fi feel to it, and the whole album has a heavy energy that resembles that of a 90’s alternative band. The last part of “Bad Valentine” has a particularly heart-pounding energy to it. Plus, the album is capped off with two remixes, and because they don’t exactly fit with the more straight-forward blasts before them, they actually strengthen the album’s avant feel.

“We Are Weepikes” has a hybrid alt-pop spirit, gleefully different without being too unapproachable. The band channels 60’s pop-rock and avant-garde, and every song is unique and memorable while still fitting in with every other song. It is simply a great release, and it won’t be attractive to everyone but it should fine a healthy audience.

The album can be streamed and purchased here.

If you like this, try: Another recent bandcamp release, The Raspberry Heaven’s “Nascent Meadows.”

-By Andrew McNally

The Raspberry Heaven – “Nascent Meadows”

(Photo Credit: bandcamp)

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Substance” “Meadow & Her Missing Wolf”

I don’t know of anyone, myself included, that’s been clamoring for a hybrid of pop melodies and emo sympathies, but that’s what makes the Raspberry Heaven sound so engaging – it’s something you didn’t know you wanted to hear until it starts playing. The band, independent and based out of Ontario, is self-described as “sad pop,” a misnomer that describes their music pretty accurately. It’s the soft subtleties of traditional pop, with the sadness and occasional lack of restraint of emo.

While some current emo-leaning bands are pushing up the volume, “Nascent Meadows” never gets much above a speaking level. Uninformed listeners could mistake “Nascent Meadows” as some sort of a lo-fi project, but it’s simply a reserved album. This is where the pop element comes in – nearly every song is kicked off by piano or acoustic guitar, creating a warm sound. The music is engaging, which strengthens the lyrics.

And that’s where some of the album’s more emo qualities come in. The lyrics are honest and personal, poetic and original. The album deals with rough topics, and it feels reflective of the people on the other side. Musically, the album treads into some different territories. “Substance” has a bit of a guitar wall at the beginning, and saves room for some gang vocals (as do a few other moments on the album). The album feels reminiscent of some of today’s lighter emo bands, if they decided to take a semi-departure from the genre.

What makes so many great albums work is hearing the musicians behind it feel invested in what they’re doing. The Raspberry Heaven – made up of Michael Hansford on Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Piano and Percussion, Jamie Chute on Vocals, Guitar and Keyboards, Rian Gravelle on Vocals, Darcy Robichaud on Guitar and Vocals, and Phillip Child on Percussion – are passionate about the music they’re creating. “Nascent Meadows” is very real and honest, and it’s evident that the band put a lot of effort into the making of the album. It’s soft and personal, and it only expands when it feels the need to. It’s a very interesting release – it seems to exist in a genre that feels foreign to listeners but natural to them. It’s got a haunting foundation-less deja vu because of it. “Nascent Meadows” will make you feel right at home, in a place you’ve never been.

The album can be streamed on their bandcamp page.

-By Andrew McNally