Slowly but gradually catching up on all these albums from the last two months (even if it does mean a shorter review than normal)! — All reviews below by Nathaniel Lay
CLOSE UP ON THE QUIET ONES – Land Ho
[Independent] – Verdict: 8/10
CUOTQO have an early 2000′s screamo sound to them that could have easily propelled them to stardom within that scene (if it were still around). Their sophomore EP, Land Ho, shows a lot of potential for the band. The vocals are both melodic and strained at times, which works great. Instrumentally, the band shows a capable variety to expand into further genres whenever they choose to do so. “Your Own Personal Coma”, the opening track, is one of the most memorable and energetic tracks of the bunch; however, I think the slow song, “If You Play That Card, I Swear (Featuring Dee Marie)”, is the best song of the album. It’s quite beautiful, and Dee’s contributing vocals are wonderful (The Ethnographers!). Land Ho becomes increasingly more entertaining with repeated listens, so definitely give it a chance. There’s a good distance covered in their formula, fitting them nicely into several genres.
TURNOVER – Magnolia
[Run For Cover Records] – Verdict: 6.5/10
Turnover features some very smooth vocal work, and the instruments have a great indie rock groove to them, but the overall feel of the album is much too interchangeable throughout. A good chunk of the tracks seem to start the similarly (and play out similarly for that matter), making it hard to differentiate between songs. The thing is that the members all play into one another brilliantly, which causes a lack of variety in the album. There are some stand out tracks, though. There’s “Seed” (a solid, slower song), “Like A Whisper” (which has a young-angst grab to it), and “Flicker and Fade” (the acoustic track near the end of the record). Magnolia isn’t a bad record at all, but it does have trouble making a memorable impression (even with repeated spins). Maybe with another year or two of touring behind their backs, the band will return with something more varied.
THE STORY SO FAR – What You Don’t See
[Pure Noise Records] – Verdict: 8.5/10
For those not yet familiar with The Story So Far, they have a gruff and energetic punk rock sound that is both engaging and catchy, despite their minimal use of the “pop hook” or “swimming melody” many other bands of the genre rely upon these days. As a result, this band has a very honest grab to them. “Small Talk” has a jab to its structure, making it easily memorable; “Playing the Victim” is one of the catchiest anthems of the record; and “Empty Space” sounds like a mix between a call to arms and a punk anthem about giving up. What You Don’t See is a very enjoyable punk rock record worthy of the underground elites, and mainstream hard hitters.
A ROCKET TO THE MOON – Wild & Free
[Fueled By Ramen] – Verdict: 8/10
A Rocket To The Moon have really grown over the years. Early on, they were very much a pop/electro mix (when that formula was crazy popular for a couple years), but on Wild & Free, the band sounds more country than anything else. Considering that is a genre I usually dislike, I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed this record. Everything is very smooth, melodic, and sweet sounding. In fact, this rocket is composed of some excellent writers and players. That much is instantly clear with the opening track, “Going Out”. All of the songs are upbeat and catchy (even the slower ones are, in their own merit), and would play perfectly with a warm, breezy day on the beach. Speaking of which, you really should blast “Whole Lotta You” the next time you go to the sands and ocean. “Another Set of Wings” is another favorite, even if it is a little similar sounding. Much of Wild & Free is fun, beautiful, and soothing. That’s a good combination, in my opinion. Like with their last release, A Rocket To The Moon have surprised me. There is a lot more to these guys than I thought possible in their early days. Definitely check out Wild & Free, even if country and pop isn’t your cup of tea. You may just find these songs stuck in your head as well.