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Artist of the Month
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May 2015
The Weaks
"Bad Year
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On the heels of last year’s, debut EP The World Is A Terrible Place & I Hate Myself And Want To Die, The Weaks, led by a pair of former Dangerous Ponies Chris Baglivo and Evan Bernard, have released their full-length debut Bad Year via Lame-O Records.
 
The record wastes little time jumpstarting into the aptly titled “Kick It,” with its bass-thudding lines rolling into catchy, emotive power-pop mode, cleansed with a bit of synth before unleashing one of the album’s many blasts of guitar solos. “Nevermind” (an homage to Nirvana) reflectively takes the positive spin on a failed relationship, streamlining percolating instrumentation with stable yet aching vocals. The album’s title-track cracks through melancholy with a lyrical disposition harnessing polished twin guitar licks between trudging percussion-led transitions, destined for fiery flashes of solo prowess. With an aggressive, smashing instrumental storm, “Black Box” takes the ball and runs with its relatable crushing narrative, hooking you in as a silky synth slips in amid the treacherous landscape. 
 
“Dysania” is the cup of coffee that pushes the covers off. With its guitar-led jog, loosening into a bass-charging surge, it quickly reaches maximum speed. Tongue-in-cheek earnest yet humorous lyrical tones – “Too much blood for just two hands/and there’s so much shit we’re gonna need two vans” – set the mood whilst sprinkling in clean flares of guitar, maintaining that downhill thrust. The song contextually blends a pent up instrumental energy and memorable vocals to create a natural anthem feel. Turning a leaf, “I Don’t Wanna Be An Anarchist (Anymore)” melds percussion and synth, delivering a sincere yearning for change with that heart-throbbing, interwoven bass-drum combo, adding a real inside-looking-out perspective. 
 
Strumming acoustic guitar and a spacey synth serve as foils in “Welcome To Earth,” zooming in and then peering out in a battle of loneliness and self-exploration, once again enjoying a creative out there spin on a common searching topic. The closing track is another nod & wink to Nirvana and Hop Along frontwoman, “Francis Quinlan Will Have Her Revenge On Philadelphia,” embracing a snarky attitude with matching (rough around the edges) momentum-gathering guitar meets an avalanche of backend, delivering a mixed emotion-filled message “Who’s going to pull your weight if I leave you behind... Please stay with me. 
 
Bad Year embraces its Weezer power-pop influences, allowing listeners to join in on the emotionally personal ups and downs, while still coming away refreshed. It’s another great find for rising Philly indie label, Lame-O Records. - Michael Colavita

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Album Review: Ten Stories - mewithoutYou

Album Review: Ten Stories - mewithoutYou

One of the more compelling narratives mewithoutYou’s career has lent itself to is the band’s quest to find solace in its faith. At first, they seemed utterly lost in it; their first two records, [A-->B] Life and Catch for us the Foxes, are feverish, frantic post-hardcore albums characterized by heavily distorted guitars and Aaron Weiss’s panicked poetry on the conflict of faith in a secular world. They revisited this conflict on Brother, Sister, but with a sense of triumph deftly characterized in its final lyric: “I do not exist, only You exist.” Still, this surrender that made Brother, Sister a record of cathartic victory swallowed It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright. The very title of their fourth LP suggests the born-again zealotry that defines it. Drawing inspiration not from conflict but from joy and folk tales, the post-hardcore sound totally eschewed in favor of Jeff Mangum-esque storytelling and vocalizing. It’s All Crazy! was a hugely divisive record, and more importantly, one that seemed to mark the end of an arc - mewithoutYou were no longer mewithoutYou as we knew them.

Which brings us to Ten Stories, and also begs the question: What will mewithoutYou do having now escaped this narrative that has defined the band for their entire career? Nothing too crazy - Ten Stories finds them as they always have been, playing upon their past without bowing to it, the result being a record that sounds both distinctly theirs and unlike anything they’ve done before. The opener, “February 1878,” is a riff on one of the classics in the band’s back catalog, “January 1979,” but though mewithoutYou have given specific songs sequels before, “February 1878” isn’t a sequel. It has verses with Weiss’s once-prominent wild-sermon delivery, but its riff is lighter; its chorus more demure. “January 1979” details a car crash Weiss witnessed, and the apathy he couldn’t escape from feeling. “February 1878” is about an elephant in a circus train. The link between them is analogous to how Ten Stories fits into mewithoutYou’s catalog. The sound on Ten Stories bears traces of mewithoutYou’s more aggressive roots but is too light to truly align with that phase in their career. At the same time, it’s also nowhere near as insistently folksy as It’s All Crazy! What we have is a wedding between the two eras, a little rugged, but also a little inspiring as Weiss’s intricate lyricism is brought out not over chugging rock or campfire songs but gentle, mostly straightforward indie rock.

And about those lyrics: Ten Stories is what it says it is, a collection of fables populated by animals and Weiss avatars, and though the stories themselves are confusing to make sense of without the aid of liner notes, they’re too well-orchestrated and articulated to glaze over. There’s a dense record here you can make sense of with a little extracurricular effort, but there’s also a powerful one you can simply hear and get. Exemplified in the cyclical closer “All Circles,” Ten Stories is a record whose strength lies in its catchiness. Weiss sings of many things on Ten Stories, but he signs off with one triumphant realization: “All circles presuppose they’ll end where they begin, and only in their leaving can they ever come back round.” It’s a simple message that resounds over the preceding record and is almost too explicit to not apply to the band itself. As mewithoutYou have entered a new phase in their career, “All Circles” reminds us that though they may have arrived at one answer in their journey, they aren’t done searching. And though Ten Stories is packed with worthy additions to mewithoutYou’s catalog (particularly on its wilder second half), Ten Stories is defined by the future it promises. Itmay not be as drop-your-jaw stunning as Brother, Sister or [A-- >B] Life, but it is good - very good, actually. Enough to make you believe that with this new sound, they can create something of that caliber again. Until then, enjoy Ten Stories for what it is. It will reward you. The album is available for purchase HERE. - Adam Downer

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