Album Review: The Sherlocks’ “Live For The Moment”

“Live For The Moment” starts on a high note with the single “Will You Be There?,” a rollicking, good-spirited banger carried along by a foot-tapping riff. The band doesn’t allow for a moment of rest, launching instantly from there into hit single and crowd-pleaser “Live For The Moment,” another fun-filled sing-along instigator. Things get a bit deeper below the surface from there, but there’s a constant sense of playfulness and a feeling that everything will work out in the end. “Chasing Shadows” takes a more bittersweet route, leaving the chunky guitars behind momentarily for silvery instrumental melodies and reflective lyrics. The album continues on this slightly lower-paced, more emotional track until “Turn The Clock,” where “Live For The Moment” reaches its lowest point emotionally, but one of its highest points musically. “Turn The Clocks” is a beautifully orchestral track which wrestles with not being able to “live for the moment,” and feeling as though life is on hold. It is, in many ways, the antithesis to the message given in the single “Live For The Moment,” and in the rest of the album as a whole. Things pick up again with “Last Night,” and the album ends with “Candlelight,” a sweet love song that combines the carefree hopefulness of “Will You Be There?” with the depth and emotion of “Turn The Clock,” and ends with a fantastic orchestral finish.

The Sherlocks accomplished a lot on their debut album. Each song is catchy and appealing in its own way, and the album encompasses an impressive emotional and musical range for just twelve songs. “Will You Be There?,” “Live For The Moment,” and “Chasing Shadows,” all tracks that had been released before the album came out, are still the catchiest and are bound to be the most well-known. But it doesn’t feel as though The Sherlocks were aiming for a record chock-full of anthems. The middle segment of “Live For The Moment” is thoughtful and rueful, sometimes verging on despondent. Enough singature indie rock instrumentals remain to ensure that the songs don’t feel disconnected from the rest of the album, but they are a marked difference from the first few tracks. “Last Night” and “Heart of Gold” never quite build back up to the relentless, fast-paced fun of the beginning, but they don’t need to. By the time the first bars of “Candlelight” begin, The Sherlocks have already shown us a softer, unsure side to themselves as well as a more untroubled, relaxed standpoint. With “Candlelight,” they tie the whole album up with a bow on top. It’s sweetly melancholy, it’s fun, it’s cinematic, it’s the best of The Sherlocks.

“Live For The Moment” proves that The Sherlocks are destined to be much more than a few catchy singles. They have what it takes to catch an audience’s attention and hold it.

Favorites: “Will You Be There?,” “Chasing Shadows,” “Candlelight”

Similar to: Dirty Laces, Blossoms, VANT

Listen to “Live For The Moment” here.

Related – Discover: The Sherlocks

EP Review + Interview: Blank Parody’s “A Tension”

Listen to “A Tension” here.

There’s a long tradition of rock bands who cover dark subjects coming off as melodramatic and full of themselves. Thankfully, Blank Parody don’t fall into this trap. What makes the difference between over-the-top and solid, exciting material? For this West Midlands band, it’s all in the tone. Too dark and you risk alienating listeners, too light and you don’t get the point across the way you meant to. From vocals to guitar riffs, this is a band that figured out how to go straight down the middle, hitting the bulls-eye with their just-dark-enough sound.

Vocalist Joby Fitzgerald delivers tortured lyrics alternately as snarls and shouts, with a healthy dose of Davey Havok-esque goth flair thrown into the mix. A seething mass of frenzied guitar riffs and rumbling basslines tangle with breakneck drums to make sure things never slow down over the course of the six-song EP. On the few occasions when Fitzgerald’s vocals are isolated, it’s a welcome respite from the franticly-paced  instrumentals. But by the time the drums kick back in, you’re ready for more.

“Dark Pretenders” sets a high bar for the rest of the EP, with hints of indie rock catchiness alongside heavy, driving riffs and growled vocals. It doesn’t ease you in, but rather throws you in the deep end of the pool, and hopes you’ll learn to swim by the end of the album. If goth-tinged alt-rock is an interest of yours, you should stay long enough to learn to do the backstroke. “Still Stuck Here” and “Marching Through The Smoke” are both grand and anthemic, the former with a monumental chorus and the latter with quirky guitar rhythms and pop vocals.

It would have been easy for the album to become bogged down in too much dark, heavy substance, but Blank Parody find a way around that with touches of pop and indie to lighten things up and provide a break from the constant tension. At times, the instrumentals on “A Tension” can be overwhelming, drowning out Fitzgerald’s vocals and leaving you to muddle around in a sea of interlocking rhythms. But aside from that, and a bit of unnecessary repetitiveness, the EP is a very impressive debut. “A Tension” proves that Blank Parody are a band to watch, and cements their place as one of the strongest up-and-comers in the alt-rock scene.

Favorites: “Marching Through The Smoke,” “Thickened Pulse,” “Underachiever”

Similar to: Throw The Fight, Bad Seed Rising, Rust Belt Lights

Interview with vocalist Joby Fitzgerald:

How did the band meet?
Liam and I have known each other since school but we barely spoke until a couple of years after we left and started college. Liam, Connor and I have always played in separate bands growing up but in summer 2014 we decided to form a band together after a few jams showed off everyone’s strengths combined. Liam and Connor are step brothers, they’ve always been in bands together, and mine and their families are pretty close so the chemistry was already present. The search to find a bassist who also shared that chemistry finally came to an end when Liam heard the strumming of a guitar coming from his neighbour’s house when he was at university. That’s when Freddie joined the band.
Which artists have had the biggest influence on you?
We all have our own different influences, and that individually adds to the unique sound of the band when combined. When me and Liam are writing we look to Brit Pop bands like Pulp and James, they have a huge impact on the way we put melodies and lyrics together. In terms of the guitars Liam’s into really fuzzy fast paced rock and grunge bands like Nirvana and Muse. Connor’s quite into his prog rock bands like Dream Theatre and Toto, so this adds a highly technical element to the rhythms. A lot of the more textural aspects on the EP come from Freddie’s love of bands like Foals and Alt – J. We’re also collectively really into Bloc Party, The Smiths, Biffy Clyro, Tigercub, While She Sleeps, Billy Talent and Radiohead to name a few. We’ve always got these bands on playlist when in the studio to help us get inspired.
What’s the music scene like in Birmingham?

Pretty live! There’s a pretty big heavy scene, bands like Failure Is An Option, Light The Skies, Dead Hands and Crime And Punishment 2011 are out there constantly playing shows just absolutely killing it. Then there’s some ace indie and psychedelic bands around, Veda, Yung Jimmy’s Big Ideas and The Pagans are all pretty wicked, really lovely guys too. Everyone’s really cool and appreciative of what everyone’s doing, there’s a big feeling of support and community for bands starting up in Birmingham and there’s a hell of a lot of talent about. My advice to the locals – get out and go see a show. Like, now!
You’ve recorded ten tracks already, how did you narrow it down to six for the EP, and why?
I think we already knew what songs we wanted to release before we recorded them, or at least as we were recording them. We wanted the EP to showcase our sound. Its very easy to stick a load of very different sounding tracks together and show the musical diversity of the band but as a first EP the aim has always been to nail our sound. Especially with Jim Pinder’s incredible abilities as a producer on board I think we’ve hit that nail on the head, so we’ll now feel more comfortable branching out on the next release. Which, fyi, is already demoed and sounding tight as shit.
One of the main themes on the album seems to be trying to get away from something. Could you speak to that?
Yeah, a lot of the EP is about getting through all the hard stuff life throws at you. It’s quite an optimistic record in a sense though as the lyrics are really all about pulling through and moving on, learning from your mistakes. ‘Keep Marching through the Smoke’ and all that jazz.
There’s also an interest in masks and pretending. Where did that come from?
To me the masks symbolise trying to be someone or something else. I think they’re quite relatable. We’re also just really big fans of cabaret and concept records, Liam and I are really into Sergeant Pepper era Beatles and Stardust era Bowie, so we don’t mind finding excuses to dress up. The lyrics to our past single ‘Locket Picture’ really payed homage to quite a theatrical video so we went out there and shot it. The masks actually ended up symbolising far more than what we imagined they would at face value and became quite strong representatives for the messages and meanings the song holds. You guys ain’t seen nothing yet – our next video features a magician!
“A Tension” has a lot of dark undertones. Was it a difficult process writing and recording?

Most of the songs were written and demoed over a few weeks. I’d say at that time I was probably at the lowest point I’d been at in my life, I know Liam was going through a pretty heavy phase too. I think writing the songs really got me through it all. It wasn’t difficult to write, it actually made things a lot easier. I love being in the studio especially with Jim who I’ve worked with for years. It’s gonna be interesting getting back into the studio as we’re both in much better places now. This record was about fighting your demons, I think the next one is going to be about learning to live with them.
What is the most important thing you think listeners should take away from “A Tension”?
The record is about fighting your demons, whatever form they come in. It’s a six track narrative about hope and positivity and sticking two fingers up to anything trying to drag you under. I want listeners to take away a lot of optimism and security, and instill faith in the idea that whatever you’re going through, it’s going to be okay, because you’re going to find a way of making it okay because you’re solid and you’re gonna pull through.

Where did the band name Blank Parody come from?
 
Liam heard it in a university lecture. From what he’s explained to me the phrase ‘Blank Parody’ means a humourless pastiche of what has gone before. So it’s the point where society stops attempting to be original and realises that anything new is in some way going to be nothing more than an amalgamation of what’s gone on before. Liam’s got a pretty funky sense of humour so he saw that as being a great way of branding an up and coming rock band. It also looks fantastic on T-shirts.
What are your plans for the near future?
We’re gonna be gigging as much as we can and getting back in the studio to record EP number 2. We always think really far ahead in terms of what songs we want to get out. We’ve had the tracklist for the next EP for about 6 months and I think it’s gonna blow this release out the water. Other than that, who knows what’s round the corner.

EP Review + Interview: Marina City’s “Terminal”

Marina City began writing for “Terminal” in 2015, and ended up writing a total of 60 songs. Lead guitarist Todor Birindjiev explains that the band didn’t hit their stride until they’d written over 30 songs, and found the writing style that would lead to “Terminal.” From there, the band were determined to narrow it down to 5 fantastic songs, knowing that this EP is their potential last hurrah. “One of the hardest parts was narrowing down that number to only five songs, and as a matter of fact we had to fight hard to have ‘Better Weather’ make the EP. The process of eliminating songs was both stressful and difficult, but in the end what we truly wanted on the EP was five singles,” says Birindjiev.

The five singles that did make the final cut certainly showcase the band’s talent and range. One of the recurring themes of “Terminal” is the idea of duality. The record could be the end of Marina City or the beginning of a new era for them, and the band encapsulated this idea with the word “Terminal.” In keeping with this idea, the EP fluctuates between all sorts of genres, lyrical ideas, and moods.

One of the high points on the EP comes on the central song “Better Weather,” which embodies the sort of duality the band are striving for. Lead singer Ryan Argast’s trembling, emotional vocals are almost painfully delicate, until they build into a cathartic chorus. “Something we take pride in is our dynamics. That word could be used describing our personalities, our song writing, our live show, or even our track listing. We put ‘Better Weather’ in the middle because it breaks up the two Soul/R&B tracks and furthers the two songs in the same key. It felt like it flowed better. You’re on a roller coaster when listening to ‘Terminal,'” explains Argast.

Next, “Thieves” is an R&B-inflected dance anthem, propelled along by carefree basslines and drums. “I would have to say I’m the most proud of ‘Thieves’ personally,” says basisst Aaron Heiy. “I definitely went out of my comfort zone when writing my bass lines for this song. My bandmates pushed me in the right direction during the writing process. Also, very fun to play live and the most groovy song on the EP.”

The EP ends with “Dreamers Never Die,” the strongest track on the record. It’s an ode to dreamers, both a rallying cry and a promise: ‘we are coming, the future is ours.’ It’s an interesting choice of closing song for a band that isn’t sure if this will be their last chapter or not. Or perhaps not. The songs seems intended towards fans, a promise that even if Marina City ends here, dreams and dreamers will continue long after. “‘Dreamers Never Die’ is about pushing forward and taking over the world regardless of what the world throws back at you,” says Argast.

Overall, “Terminal” is a solid twenty minutes of sentimental pop-rock, emphasis on the pop. There’s a distinct shift on this record to a lighter, poppier medium, which was both a natural and conscious decision for the band. “We’ve always skimmed the lines of being more “poppy” so when we were writing we felt like we opened a whole new door of possibilities with electronic sounds, synthesizers, and production. In the end it helped convey the message and mood lyrically of all these songs,” says drummer Eric Somers-Urrea.

If you hear hints of mainstream pop on “Terminal,” that’s not an accident. “I tapped into a lot of top 40 hits for production noises, and vocally I channeled the likes of Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, Ed Sheeran, and other great singers of our time. I wanted to have a infectious soul/R&B tone to all vocals on the EP,” explains keyboardist/vocalist Matthew Gaudiano.

Those mainstream pop themes run side by side with rocking guitar riffs and combative vocals. In keeping with “Terminal”‘s theme of being a dualistic record, Marina City make sure that they can’t easily be slotted into one genre. “You can argue it’s a rock record or a Pop/R&B record,” Argast says. “The genres are all over the place on this record and that’s fine with us. We didn’t set a genre in mind when writing Terminal.”

The thread that ties the EP together is the subject matter. “You have to be in an environment that you may need help picking yourself up in,” says vocalist/rhythm guitarist Brian Johnson, describing the perfect environment for listening to “Terminal.” “For instance, just coming out of a bad break up or needing a lift from something that mentally drained you. This EP can give people confidence to get through the hard times and enjoy the great ones when they come.” There’s a strong feeling of now-or-never on this record, of Marina City putting everything they’ve got into it, no matter how unexpected or risky. With this idea comes a host of inspiring lyrics and combative instrumentals, delivering Marina City’s possible final message.

In the end, whether “Terminal” is a last hurrah or a fresh start, it is refreshing in its optimism, spirit, and freedom. It is clear that this EP was created without boundaries. “What I want people to take away from this EP is that Marina City can not be defined as one genre. I want people to believe that Marina City is a lifestyle, something that can be listened to every day, while at the same time have special meaning to each person that listens to it,” declares Gaudiano. From R&B hits to pop-rock anthems, “Terminal” goes where it wants. It’s power comes from feeling both old and new, somehow simultaneously world-weary and fresh-eyed.

Favorites: “Dreamers Never Die,” “Thieves,” “Better Weather”

Similar to: The Gospel Youth, Fall Out Boy, Boston Manor

Listen to “Terminal” here:

EP Review: Midnight Divide’s “Dichotomy”

“There’s something about the space between days, that brief moment where the world is asleep and imagination runs wild that brings out the best in cinematic alt-rock band Midnight Divide.” That’s the first sentence that comes up on Midnight Divide’s biography page. And it’s clear as soon as you listen to “Dichotomy” that it’s no lie. Each song feels wild and imaginative, refusing to be contained within one genre or idea. With an abundance of synths and electronic elements, the EP feels by turns whimsically untethered and drowned in soundscapes. “Animal Eyes” and “Ketamine” are vicious and bold, relying more heavily on guitars and drums to get the message across. The delightful Royal Blood-esque vocal melodies of “Animal Eyes,” along with the hip-hop elements to “Ketamine” show Midnight Divide’s wide-spread influences. “Fireline” and “Talking” are softer, resplendent in their smooth, chiming synth melodies and gently rolling drums. The band have struck a balance between quiet and loud, angry and sad, rock and electronic.

There is no more fitting title for this EP than “Dichotomy.” It’s almost off-putting how opposite the two sides of the EP are. If not for the crescendos at the end of “Fireline” and “Talking,” it would be hard to tell all four songs were by the same band. But this seems to be the desired effect. “Animal Eyes” and “Ketamine” are violent and aggressive. “Fireline” and “Talking” are pained and heartbroken. There isn’t ever one way to look at something, or one way to feel about someone. And that is a truth that Midnight Divide embraces and runs with. As it turns out, it’s a fantastic foundation for an EP. The versatility of the intention, emotion, and musical themes behind the songs on “Dichotomy” make for a wild ride, in the best way possible.

Favorites: “Animal Eyes,” “Ketamine,” “Talking”

Similar to: YONAKA, Black Foxxes, Royal Blood

EP Review: Smallpools’ “The Science Of Letting Go”

“The Science Of Letting Go” is sweet, catchy, and relentlessly fun. “Million Bucks” launches you into a playfully synth-filled world of late-night summer drives and naive romance. “DJs & Porsches” keeps you there. Full of alt-pop rhythms and mischievous, care-free lyrics, it’s a slight change in pace from the more filled-out indie pop style of the rest of the album, fantastically wild and free. “Centerfold” is all shimmering guitars and melancholy lyrics, still catchy and dance-ready, but with an undercurrent of unhappiness. “Passenger Side” is what would happen if The Chainsmokers met Circa Waves, combining radio-hit catchiness with a dash of indie. If there’s a stand-out track on the EP, it’s “Passenger Side,” which seems as though it should get old quick, but steadfastly refuses to stop being catchy and fun, and picks up right where “Lovetap!” left off, all effervescent melody. The EP ends with “Mother,” a cinematic ballad that closes the EP on a sorrowful yet optimistic note. By the time the EP ends, you’re ready to see the best in everyone and everything, and looking for serendipity around every corner. The latest addition to the Smallpools catalog doesn’t lack for fun or appeal, and brings with it a delightful versatility and sense of story. “The Science Of Letting Go” is, aptly, the perfect record to listen to if you want to let go and live a little.

Favorites: “Million Bucks,” “Centerfold,” “Passenger Side”

Similar to: SAINTE, We’re No Heroes, COIN

EP Review: Milk Teeth’s “Be Nice”

On “Be Nice,” Milk Teeth don’t mess around. They don’t go for subtlety, or any large degree of metaphor, but instead choose the time-honored method of saying exactly what they mean. The opener “Owning Your Okayness” kicks things off with vocalist Becky Blomfield singing about wanting honesty in relationships. Next, “Prism” is a straight-forward attack on jealousy, amped up with scuzzy guitars and callous vocals. “Fight Skirt” is a take-no-prisoners battery of a song filled to the brim with distorted guitars and punk energy, the song on the EP that most resembles any track off “Vile Child.” For their finale, Milk Teeth start slow, with a delicate acoustic opening to the last track “Hibernate.” The song quickly builds into a driving chorus, replete with screamed harmonies from Billy Hutton, before the EP ends with one last acoustic recitation of “Hibernate”‘s refrain: “Don’t let me fuck it up.” It’s a short and sweet message, that encompasses most of the elements that bring “Be Nice” together. There’s the frank punk ethos that keeps things moving along at a steady, no-nonsense pace, coupled with Milk Teeth’s everpresent vulnerability, and of course, the band’s signature grungey punk sound. “Be Nice” is a fantastic taste of what’s to come for Milk Teeth.

Favorites: “Owning Your Okayness,” “Fight Skirt,” “Hibernate”

Similar to: Can’t Swim, Sorority Noise, Boston Manor

EP Review: VISTA’s “Long Live”

VISTA don’t hold back on their newest release. It takes an ambitious group to tackle the concept of finding an oasis among a dystopian society. And it takes talent to pull it off. But that’s just what VISTA have done. Hope Vista’s vocals deliver all the urgency one would expect of someone caught in a dystopian society, making the plotline believable. For anyone (and I hope this is everyone) who has read a dystopian YA novel like “The Hunger Games” or “Divergent,” or watched the movies, “Long Live” is familiar. This EP carries all the tension and break-neck speed of a head-over-heels thriller, rushing straight from “Allegiance” to the fantastic climax of “Henchmen” and taking no prisoners along the way. VISTA gives us the danger, the emotion, and the story all in seven songs.

Hope Vista is the fierce and engaging heroine, independent and determined. Guitarist Greg Almeida makes sure that we don’t lose interest by supplying depth and texture, filling out the world we’ve entered with explosive electronic melodies and guitar riffs that demand our attention. If you’re not rooting for VISTA by the end of this release, you’d have to be the sort of person who cheers for the villains.

While the two book-ending tracks are the strongest, the power and energy doesn’t waver throughout the EP. “Long Live” is a vicious battle cry, using production to make the track sound larger-than-life. “Part III” shows us VISTA’s softer side, and showcases all the confidence and earnestness that have been on display for the entire album in a different setting, before the duo launches into the closing track. Almeida and Vista’s dueling vocals on “Henchmen” finish “Long Live” on a brilliantly audacious, self-assured note.

Favorites: “Allegiance,” “Long Live,” “Henchmen”

Similar to: As December Falls, VersaEmerge, Icon For Hire