Our flock of New Borns may be a bit smaller this week but we can promise you, it’s not at the expense of quality. What lay before you are some of the tastiest tracks from the some of the most intriguing artists of 2016. So settle in and get cosy, these musicians mean business.
Artist Modern Baseball
Album Title Holy Ghost
Label Run For Cover Records
Genre Pop-punk, indie-rock, emo
Moments Of Real Friends, Neck Deep, Parquet Courts
Stand Out Wedding Singer, Everyday
Modern Baseball are founding members Brendan and Jake, drummer Sean and bassist Ian, four clear-eyed best friends from Philly. Now the chosen ones of pop-punk are playing their hearts out while wearing them on their sleeves. Holy Ghost is their third album, following in the footsteps of 2012’s self-recorded Sports and 2014’s You’re Gonna Miss It All. Described by the band as containing their “most open and honest songs to date”, Holy Ghost marries punk sentiment with irresistible, chart-topping energy.
Modern Baseball have been through a lot together; love and loss, ultimately bringing the band closer and giving them very personal experiences to write about. The deliberate maturity in their song writing shines through the album’s deceptively raucous rock and roll production. In an artistic move, the record begins with the minute long title track ‘Holy Ghost.’ As its name suggests it’s a haunting, harmony-filled prelude of the candid song writing Modern Baseball are renowned for. Feeling like the calm before the storm, ‘Holy Ghost’ builds with overdriven guitars in the last moments to merge seamlessly into second track ‘Wedding Singer,’ and with that the album hits the ground running.
Despite the band having outgrown the University basement scene they started in, Holy Ghost stays achingly loyal to the authentic Modern Baseball aesthetic. ‘Note To Self’ is lush with imagery of ‘empty cans and cigarette butts lining dirty parking lots’. ‘Mass’ is crash-cymball heavy and carries the weight of long distance love, packing a punch in just shy of two minutes. Jacob’s American punk vocals tell the world about his sleepless nights, wishing it was ‘last summer’ and he wasn’t constantly on tour. ‘Everyday’ is one of the more melodically tasteful songs the album has to offer, a mark of the band’s evolution as they tighten up and focus their gaze. ‘Look me in the eyes and act like I don’t know how shame works’ is a taste of the bold lyrics that run through the songs.
Middle track ‘Hiding’, starts as sweet as the slow dance song at an American high school prom. It is melancholy and droney, straying from the rock-infused power chords that drive Modern Baseball’s big melodies. Off the back of previous song ‘Everyday’ it takes the tender, tuneful baton and runs with it a little further before building up to a harmony heavy, pop-punk crescendo. The song finishes with an electric pulsing reminiscent of a hospital heart machine; leaving no moment of silence before the next song ‘Coding These To Lukens’ begins. We’re back to alt-rock riffs made to be played to a pit of die-hard student fans, another song that is unconventionally short but as smart as it is sweet.
Closing song ‘Just Another Face’ finds its name in the anthemic hook that arises in the chorus, echoing the timeless cry of a young misfit (like Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ or Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’).
The songs on Holy Ghost are catchy to say the least. To say more, they are breathtakingly complex. It’s clear why Modern Baseball quickly became the cut above their pop-punk peers: the winning combination of a clean cut pop-punk sound, unparalleled song writing and artistically insightful production choices propels Holy Ghost out of the ballpark (baseball pun intended).
Album Title: Ullages
Genre: Indie Rock, Post-Punk
Moments Of: The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen
Stand Out: Euphoria, Velvet
Despite the self-depreciating inclination of the album title, Leed’s Eagulls show a lot of confidence on their sophomore album Ullages (which is also an anagram for the band’s name). It’s pretty boring to read about how a band has “grown up” and found a new, more “mature” sound – yet Eagulls have done so in a way that sparks interest instead of eliciting the habitual scroll down. Trading the brash urgency of their self-titled début for a calculated, steady and carefully crafted group of tracks, it does indeed reflect maturity and proficiency that comes with years if working together as a touring band.
Making a distinct impression with their début album, Eagulls‘ first record was a scrawling, abrasive post-punk influenced record that allowed them to tour globally and make well-trodden rounds of the festival circuit. The DIY feel of their earlier EP’s caught the ear of the local scene, where the début allowed them to show off all their material that captured their sound within the scope of a very English sounding punk and post-punk leaning album. The most characteristic factor of their sound (along with a jagged, almost grunge feeling guitar tone, chorus-laden bass and galloping drums to hold it all together with perfect precision) was singer George Mitchell’s grazing, almost caustic vocal style – shouted with an insistence that forced you to hold on for more. This matched well with their sound at the time, where a harsher vocal style complemented the heavier guitars and faster tempo of these older songs.
Ullages sees Mitchell’s voice under much more control – there is less of a sense that it could derail at any instant. His voice spends a lot less time in the red and focuses much more on constructing a story with melody. Equally, the instrumentation has mellowed to display a versatility in the band’s ability to write an intricate, captivating bunch of songs. Cuts like ‘Velvet‘ swell with an atmospheric quality, poised to explode – but really never eventuates to much more than a glowing ember. Not that this is really entirely bad, it’s just that it’s not what you would have expected from such a historically fierce sounding band. ‘Lemontrees‘ opens with a potentially menacing rhythm line, but is rounded out with the complementary vocal and guitar melodies that glide smoothly around each other. Mitchell’s lyrics still revolve around generally bleak subject matter, which were described in an interview as to generally describe his relationships with the people around him – not necessarily pessimistic viewpoints, but they can often come across that way due to his particular style of vocal presentation.
Ullages represents a band who are not afraid to shift the focus. This may unsteady previous fans who revel in the blistering presence felt on Eagulls, but it may also open them up to a new spectrum of audience, who appreciate a band that are happy to embrace their influences and grow as a band.
Album Title: Alas Salvation
Label: Rough Trade/Fat Possum
Genre: Garage Punk
Moments Of: The White Stripes and The Last Shadow Puppets
Stand Out: Harbour the Feeling, Take It and Alas Salvation
Yak bring the noise on their first full length album, Alas Salvation, redefining punk with their adrenalized live sound. The London-based trio are one of these few hype bands that actually deliver, their début album, every bit as gritty and loud as their EP. Not only have they just dropped one of the most anticipated albums of the year, but their live show is rumoured to be one of the ‘must sees’ in the rock scene.
Alas Salvation is an album overdriven with crunch and squeals. The bass seems to overpower the rest of the instrumentation, like the dial’s been turned to full on the stereo at a 12 year old’s birthday party. Unlike said birthday party, front man, Oliver Burslem runs wild like a drunk, maniac screaming and wailing over the band in true garage-punk style as he repeats the words “again and again” on the band’s début single ‘Hungry Heart’.
The record has an overwhelming feeling of disarray to it, like its dodging invisible projectiles before gathering itself together again and heading in the right direction. Songs like the title track ‘Alas Salvation’ and ‘Curtain Twitcher’ are part of the reason for this. They give us a tiny snippet of supercharged punk anthems, before abruptly finishing and leaving us yearning for more. In this way they act as a sort of palate cleanser, both settling at just around the 2 minute mark, with the purpose of preparing us for a slight change in direction.
At any time throughout the album you constantly expect to be surprised by a sudden outburst of fuzzy guitar. At other times you don’t need to wait in anticipation. From the get go on tracks like ‘Victorious (National Anthem)’, sludgy bass and impossibly shrill guitar dominate the airwaves, just like they do time and time again on ‘Use Somebody’ and the album standout ‘Harbour the Feeling’.
Borrowing swagger from The Last Shadow Puppets, ‘Take It’ explores a more nuanced side to the band’s song writing. Rolling guitar and elongated vocals make this one of the most interesting cuts from the album, as it slowly descends into a chaotic explosion of screaming, equal parts guitar and vocals that is. In a similar fashion, the tracks ‘Smile’ and ‘Doo Wah’ start with a more laid back approach before arriving at their own fuzzy breakdowns.
While its easy to see that Yak have lived up to the hype, it feels like ‘Alas Salvation’ just ever so slightly falls short. The lacklustre ‘Interlude’ tracks spring to mind and highlight the only real flaw of the album, taking away from any sort of cohesion that existed in the first place. Having said that, there’s no doubt that this album is a triumph for the band, a strong offering of garage punk anthems, charged up and riding upon waves of fuzz.