This Is Exploding
Until the Next Red Light
This Is Exploding is average, whiny emocore: complaining and ruminating over tedious aspects of a whitebread life. There's a twist, though, like somebody said, "What if we take a passable emo cracker band and threw in a capable riff-rock guitarist?" I know that there's a lot more people up north, and therefore a lot more diversity, but argh! The singer can sing, if he weren't so upset about whateverthefuck, and the guitarist really is good. He won't stick with this band for long. Sometimes it seems that they are so mismatched that the guitarist just does a really good job while the band goes on about their schtick. The styles very often don't mesh.
I could describe this whole thing to you, and if you're an eighteen-year-old "Undecided" major with a lot of money and a penchant for Blink-182, it might turn you on. But best I can tell, music fans around here seem to sort through the shit too well to get hooked on the likes of Until the Next Red Light. (CL)
(self-released; This Is Exploding -- http://www.thisisexploding.com/)
Sleep With You
Though it sounds like a genuinely talented group of musicians put Transcendence's Sleep With You together, it would be my recommendation that they hire a new writer and composer before attempting to create another album. It seemed like they used pieces of other popular songs in order to create their "original" work, and it didn't fly, although the band probably does well if playing cover tunes on the live circuit.
Of course, it is possible that this album would, in some instances, appeal to the masses, based on some songs that become popular on pop music stations. While originality is important to some of us, after all, it isn't important to all music fans. Hence, I cannot determine if these talented musicians may or may not achieve any further success. With the skills they do possess, though, I urge them to keep on trying! (AC)
(self-released; Transcendence -- http://www.transcendence.com/)
Holy crap. Okay, first off, just let me say that this is easily the weirdest thing I've listened to in years. Freaky, freaky shit. Treasure Mammal appears to be two guys, mad scientist geniuses Abe (guitar, sampler, theremin, drums, and vocals) and Nick (drums, drum machine, guitar, and "sing[ing] about the reservation," according to their Website), and whatever they're smoking, keep it the hell away from me, because it sounds like it might just do permanent damage. Musically speaking, Secret Treasures is all over the map, swinging from ear-shredding electrofuckery and sample thievery ("Intro," "Professional Organizer," "Jesse Spandex," "Bear Claw") to sloppy, Mudhoney-ish rock ("Rio Grande") to the craziest party-funk/soul this side of Har Mar Superstar ("Handlin Business," "Spring Break," "Dance Party").
The weirdest thing about this disc, though, is that, well, I'm still listening. Insane though it certainly is, Treasure Mammal has also somehow wormed its way into my brain, to the point where I can't stop hearing Abe shrieking "Spring Break Oh-Four!" over and over again in my head. And for some reason, I don't mind. (JH)
(self-released; Treasure Mammal -- http://www.treasuremammal.com/)
Treephort is a band of punk rockers with a seriously twisted sense of humor. Treephort concerts routinely feature members making out, throwing up, and dousing their thongs with hairspray before igniting them with a lighter. Why, then, does Enchanted Forest have a cartoon forest on the cover? Perhaps it's because these same goofs have a nerdy, Dungeons & Dragons-playing side to them, as well. This record is chock full of clever song titles like "The Only Artist You'll Ever Be Is A Sandwich Artist" and "Jesus Would Play This Show For Free." Most songs are college-rock, lo-fi, or pop-punk. Each track is different, showing that these pranksters are capable of all kinds of rock and roll mayhem. Sometimes clever, sometimes annoying -- you will enjoy this record but feel a little sick at the end. (KM)
(Springman Records --P.O. Box 2043, Cupertino, CA. 95015; http://www.springmanrecords.com/; Treephort -- http://treephort.swizcorp.com/)
Why do people do this to themselves? Folks, let me give you a quick glimpse into the murky realm known as ReviewerLand: appearances do matter. No, I'm telling you not how to dress or that you need to bathe regularly (although I'm sure that's helpful in other areas), but that you need to make sure you're presenting yourself and your music the right way. Professionalism helps; a good-looking CD sleeve beats the hell out of a photocopied scrap of paper, even if the CD inside's still a CD-R. You'd be amazed at how hard it is for us reviewer folk to get past the immediate negative impression made by a crappy-ass-looking album.
Laura Tsaggaris doesn't have that particular problem, mind you -- her CD, Proof, looks as beautiful as it sounds. What gets Ms. Tsaggaris, instead, is the more subtle area of, well, genre positioning. See, when I get a one-sheet and CD that focuses on shots of the artist strumming his or her guitar, especially paired with minimal, arty layouts, the first thing that comes to mind is "folk." And sadly, I tend to associate folky music with goofy late-night singalongs at the campus rec center. It's fun, sure, but not necessarily something I feel the need to really give a damn about, and when I get a CD that looks like it falls into that category, I tend to come up with prejudgements about it, in spite of all my best efforts. Now, I know, I know -- never judge a book by its cover and all that. That's kind of my point, though: we all know that, but we do it anyway. Ever bought a CD just because of the cover? I know I have, and sometimes it's been great, but sometimes I've kicked myself afterward.
Okay. Now that that's all out of the way, let's get to the reason why I'm fussing so much about this -- basically, it's because Proof is damn good. Despite the "positioning" stuff I mentioned above, it's not a folk record, but rather a lush, melancholy pop gem of a breakup album. It's not necessarily the kind of thing I listen to a lot of the time, but it's amazingly captivating even still. The closest real comparison I can come up with is to Alanis Morrisette (particularly on the opening track, "Hard"), minus that aggravating warbling -- for some reason, they both seem to me to share a similar range, if not similar lyrical interests. Like Morrisette, Ms. Tsaggaris isn't the greatest singer in the world, but she's got a clear, real voice and knows how she can use it.
Beyond that, she's got an intensity that renders that whole singer-songwriter/folk thing moot -- she's not here to plink gently at her guitar (no offense intended, by the way, to people who do that) but rather to rage and moan and exorcise some demons. And that's what rock, not folk -- at least, not the modern kind -- is about. Take the title track, "Proof," for instance. The song is an increasingly desperate cry to a loved one, asking what Tsaggaris needs to do to get their attention, and it begins with a quiet piano but then sucks the listener in nicely as both the song's momentum and instrumentation builds to a pained crescendo. Hell, if there was a little distortion on the guitars, and a guy was singing, we'd call it "emo"; it's got the same build-and-explode dynamic.
There are other highlights here, as well, like "High Tide," which gets a little jangly but actually comes across as angry and dark-sounding, the stark and pretty "Firefly," and the bluesy "Letters," which looks to be a bit of a tribute to Bob Dylan. "Birthday Tune" is almost reminiscent of Aimee Mann (or, rather, of Jon Brion's production of Aimee Mann), while "I Just Can't Share" makes me think of a torch song, and yet both seem to fit together as effortlessly as puzzle pieces. The only song on here that doesn't really grab me, in the end, is "Halloween," and that's mostly because of all of 'em, it's the one "predictable" folk tune (well, okay; it's as predictable as a folk song about somebody getting dumped while in costume on Halloween can be). On the whole, Proof leaves me feeling a bit surprised -- from the setup, I certainly wasn't expecting something as good as this. (JH)
(Overtime Records -- 3217 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 78, Washington, DC. 20008; Laura Tsaggaris -- http://www.lauratsaggaris.com/)