Category Archives: Pop-punk

State Champs: The Finer Things

I was doing some browsing on Twitter today in search of some interesting bands to catch my eye. I’ve fallen into a comfortable nest of listening to rock bands of various sub-genres over the last few weeks, so I’m in a mood for something heavier. Luckily, I stumbled upon a lot of tweets about State Champs. I had never heard of this five-piece New York pop punk band, but I’m glad there’s some Twitter buzz going about them. The Finer Things is their debut CD on Pure Noise Records out officially on Tuesday (10/8).statechamps

Elevated kicks off the album in high fashion with the perfect marinade of pop punk and punk rock; the guitars are full of energy and the drums are bouncing on a trampoline in the background. The vocals are some of the best I’ve heard in a new-to-me pop punk band in a long time. I started listening to this album out of curiosity, not really out to write a blog post, but then thirty seconds into this first jam, I realized I had stopped everything I was doing and it had every ounce of my attention. I knew at that time I had to open up a blog post and write out a reaction to this one. This may go down in history – or at least in the best-albums-of-the-year history.

I love a song that’s slow in the beginning and then punches you in the face (Chiodos are pure royalty at this). Deadly Conversation gets in a good fist to your nose before you know it. The guitar work in this jam is mesmerizing. Unless something is really great or I’m specifically listening for it, I don’t pick out certain instruments to listen to in particular (sorry, I don’t play, I’m just here to listen and write) but the guitars in this song had my specific attention more than once for their dedication to the craft.

I can tell pretty instantly that Over The Line will be one of my favorite songs on the album. This song takes pop punk and spins it like a top. There’s a certain frantic, impatient nature to this song that I’m immediately drawn to. Every single instrument is played out almost like someone has pushed the fast-forward button, but the band remains in control and turns it around in their favor and works it the entire way through.

Mind Bottled begins so perfectly, giving vocals a couple of seconds alone before adding in drums and guitars slowly in layers. This song is almost like a roller coaster – it speeds up, slows down, goes for a loop, and sometimes stops you at full halt. It’s really close to perfect. Was it all worth it? I built the highest bridge only to burn it. Was it all worth it? All you love you gave when I returned it.

Easy Enough wraps up the album on cruise control. I feel like the majority of the song was taken down a few notches except for the guitar work during the verses, lending the song a certain imbalance in places that the rest of the instruments have to work to keep things level (hint: they succeed). This is a great note to take out the album on – I would’ve felt weird about the lineup had this song been in the middle of frantic songs. They also do me a great favor and end the album on one note instead of fading out. Thanks, guys. It’s the little things.

This will go down on my favorite albums of 2013 list for sure. I almost feel empty thinking I had no idea this band existed until today. Please do yourself a favor and take a listen to this album. This is what pop punk is all about.

 

Key Tracks
Prepare to Be Noticed (track 4)
Over the Line (track 5)
Mind Bottled (track 9)

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The Monsters I’ve Met: Lights Out!

There’s really nothing I love more than opening up my email inbox and exploring all of the bands that I receive emails about. For someone who loves music as much as I do, it’s basically like Christmas every day. Today, I’m going to jump into an album from The Monsters I’ve Met, a metal/hardcore/electronica band who just released their first album, Lights Out!

Intro kicks the album off and sounds almost like the album is going to be instrumental – think Explosions in the Sky if they were dressed up as a dubstep impersonator. I wasn’t sure what was going on until the album launched into Sink or Swim in the most intriguing of ways. The song begins with the strange electronic sounds that carry over for continuity, but then blaring vocals invade your ear drums. Soon, the chorus kicks in and sounds like a pop-punk band you’d catch on a small stage at Warped. I wasn’t sure this band was anything out of the ordinary until I really got into this song. It’s really such a strange thing to mix electronic, screamo (is that what the kids are still calling it?), and smooth pop-punk. I know a lot of bands tried it when I was still heavy into this style of music, but none pulled it off quite like this.

The title song, Lights Out!, is where the money is. This was the first song I listened to when I was checking the band out and I was thoroughly impressed and entertained by this number. I don’t know which part I enjoy the most – actually listening to some great hardcore tunes or hearing the strange mix of electronica and hardcore and pop-punk.

When Friends Become Phobias not only has an awesome title, but has a different vibe, which is impressive for six tracks. This track is darker, less on the pop-punk side, more focused on the other two. This song almost has an old school hardcore feel to it with the intensity of the guitars and drums at some places.

Throwing you for a loop one last time on Every Word You Said, The Monsters I’ve Met approach this track in a more melodic and slowed down manner. I can’t decide if this song is off-putting in it’s severe difference or if it’s a brilliant change to wrap things up. I’ll get back to you on this.

The Monsters I’ve Met is comprised of four musicians that are former members of bands like A Beautiful Silence, Bury the Gods, and Famous Last Words. They formed in January of 2012 and hail from Michigan. You can check them out – and listen to their album for free – on Facebook here!

Key Tracks
Lights Out! (track 3)
Sink or Swim (track 2)

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Crash! Radio: For You, From the Heart EP

I’m always such a sucker for great bands that are female-fronted, but if you hand me a pop-punk band that’s fronted by a female, I’m putty. Tonight we’re going to have a listen to For You, From the Heart, the brand new EP from Ontario pop-punk band Crash! Radio.

Be With You begins the EP like you’re hearing an old record player or television with some scrambling and tuning before the music kicks in with soft vocals and guitar strums. Instruments are slowly added over the vocals and the sparse guitar until the first verse jumps in front of you. The guitar work takes spotlight by a minute into the song, but then. Oh, but then the song really kicks in when the chorus hits you full in the face. The vocals and the lyrics are so on point that it’s hard to tear your attention away, even on repeat listen. The first chorus melts back into the next verse like soft butter and then floats, giving the song a new dimension after that first chorus. This band also knows how to work a drum kit into the song and inadvertently into your spine. Not only does it hold the song up, but it keeps you  nodding along, almost willing the song along with your mind. The band also doesn’t try for a pesky ending when it’s all said and done – the song just slowly disintegrates into the atmosphere with a guitar still buzzing and the sound of the drums echoing in your heart.

Walk Away makes its entrance next with a softer greeting. Again, the vocals melt into the song that then is layered on top of by other instruments. This song is a powerhouse, point blank. The lyrics mildly remind me of Destiny’s Child’s song Say My Name. The story paints a picture of deceit and a chorus that’s bittersweet. Now I’m here, writing you this song in the hopes that you may sing along to these words that broke my heart and tore me apart, yeah you tore me apart. And I want you to know, I wouldn’t have let you go, I would have loved you so, but now we both end up alone. Lyrics that are relatable in some sense – even if not entirely – are so essential to music’s general being in our lives. Isn’t that what we all want – to be understood in the simplest human sense? Crash! Radio really hits that note with this song.

Happy Hellos Are Sorry Goodbyes wraps the EP up with a song title that I could just eat up. The song delivers on top of the amazing title, giving a great ending vibe. Its lyrics are more upbeat than its predecessor and it has more of a carefree, let your hair down and dance vibe. There’s also a great breakdown that really shows some bass lines which always impresses me considering the largest part of bands don’t really feature the bass as much as they should. The song slows down and then picks right back up like a rocket taking off and soars for the rest of the time.

Even though this EP is just three songs, those three songs really make an impact on you and leave you wanting more. That’s an important part of bands, wanting more. This is definitely a band to keep an eye on. The world needs more kick-ass pop-punk groups with female leads.

If you want to have a listen to this EP, head on over to their Bandcamp page. You can also catch up with Crash! Radio around the internet on Facebook and on Twitter by clicking these links.

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I Call Fives: I Call Fives

I feel like my life and my taste in music lately has been so scattered. Everything got derailed a few weeks ago and I’ve had a hard time getting back into the swing of real life. Sometimes you just need to go back to some solid pop-punk. I haven’t written about any great pop-punk bands lately and a certain band has been at the very top of my to-check-out list and I figure I may as well make that a reality. We’re going to have a listen to I Call Fives‘ self-titled disc tonight!

The album blasts out with Late Nights, a track that instantly connects me right into the genre – and then the band at large. This song really reminds me of New Found Glory if they were singing a track by Senses Fail. It’s got the right amount of rage and the right splash of annoyance to really bring it full circle for me. This is a promising start.

Obvious hits me with some lyrics that made me laugh out loud: I’d have to climb into a casket to get as low as you just went. Great pop-punk bands really bring out these zingers and it never fails to amuse or amaze me.

Two Sides of Every Story has to be one of my favorites on the albums. The vocals are strong in other songs, but really seem to be in command in this song. This is a very in-your-face track and I bet it’d be a blast to see live.

We Were Right Together and We Were Wrong Together is a short track, clocking in at one minute nad fifty-nine seconds, but is impactful in that short time. It’s hard to make amends when you turn your back on your friends. Also, can I get a moment of silence for the amazing title? Thank you.

The album wraps up with All You’ve Got Left. While it’s a bit slower than it’s predecessors, it’s a different side of the band that comes off successfully. The guitar work deserves a nod in this one because more than once it caught my attention by itself. The ending of this song, and subsequently the ending of the album, is so perfectly faded out with a repeating line that they couldn’t have had a better ending.

I’m glad I moved this band to the top of my to-listen-to list because this is a fine album. I needed some pop-punk to give me a swift kick in the ass and I would recommend this one with two thumbs up. It’s nothing but solid pop-punk fabric and it’s a raving good time. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

 

Key Tracks
Sleep Well (track 11)
Two Sides of Every Story (track 8)
Backup Plan (track 3)

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Forever Came Calling: Contender

I think I’ve previously written praise for the blog Fuck Yeah Pop-Punk. Hold on to your pants cause I’m going to do it again in this post. I keep up with them on Facebook more than anything now and not only do they keep  me updated on a lot of news about bands I care about, but they give me a great outlet for discovering new bands. This evening, they posted that they were listening to “one of the best records of the year so far” and they were only “three songs in.” I was curious about this album, so I immediately took notice. Forever Came Calling is currently streaming their debut album, Contender, which drops Tuesday, July 24.

The album starts off with Learning, a track I was initially weary about. It’s more focused on the musical dynamics than anything. The vocals are muted, but that was probably the point as an intro track. Don’t get me wrong – the instruments are completely on point, it was just a strange entry way to the band for me.

They launch right in to For the Wolves next, a track that solidified my interest in the album instantly. It’s head strong pop punk that really takes charge. Sometimes bands in the genre seem to skip along, not really owning either side of the scene, but Forever Came Calling dive face-first and make a point.

Ides is one of my favorite tracks on this album. It reminds me of a combination of Four Year Strong and Say Anything – the hostility combined perfectly with the melody. It’s really what I love about pop-punk. Shake that up with the lyrics, and you’ve hit it out of the park for me. I did my best to keep all of your fucking secrets in but now they’re bleeding out from every god damn open end.

I’ll Be Better I Promise takes things down after two power house songs back-to-back. The combined vocals in this song gave me chill bumps on first listen and the guitar work is exquisite. It’s nice sometimes to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

The title track is tied for my favorite. The lyrics are sweet to my ears and tumble right over the guitars that are the wheels that keep this track going. This song is two minutes and thirty-four seconds of pure pop-punk bliss.

The album wraps up with Dead Poets Honor, a perfect ending to an amazing album. I keep my head low but you mistook that for my eyes closed. And I can’t stand this place that we’re from, and I can’t stand these things that I’ve done. This is a relentless track to end on. If I could pick a track to hear live from this entire album, I’d choose this one. The entire vibe of this song is so hard. I can feel the amount of talent that this band put into this album through this one song.

This album is seriously the best new album I’ve heard in a long time. They’re streaming it over on the Pure Noise YouTube account so you’re probably going to want to head over there. I’m left wanting more after the album, but I’m also strangely satisfied. Forever Came Calling went from a band I had merely heard of to the band who has recorded the best new album I’ve heard in months in a matter of ten tracks. This album gets two thumbs up from me. You better check this out cause I’m positive that your life has a huge hole in it where this album should be.

Key Tracks
Ides (track 5)
Contender (track 9)
Dead Poets Honor (track 10)

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The Seasonal Affair In Defense of Their Genre

I usually like to weave interviews into an article – or usually on the blog, into a review – but this band’s interview is too great to cut and paste and leave you guys missing something. Therefore, please refer to my review in the previous post for some of my words on these dudes, and see below for their own words. Check after the interview for where to find them around the web – and where you can get their EP for free.

What brought you together as a band?

Andy: We’ve all been in other touring acts in the NC area, and Matt, Ashkon and I’s band (Aloretta) actually went on a tour with Sean’s old band back a couple years. TSA started as a music project between me, Matt and Ashkon and I think having that time to have gotten to know each other as musicians on tour, we all felt like seen would be been the best fit for us vocally and attitude wise.

You guys only formed in 2011, yet the entire time I was listening to your EP, I found myself turning up the volume more and more. What do you think you all have that sets you apart?

Andy – I think what sets us apart is the fact that we’re not overly focused on making a “career” out of music. Don’t get us wrong, we wear our feet raw promoting, love shows and love playing music together, but that’s all we really focus on right now. We’re not worried about making money, or impressing anybody; at this point in our music careers we’re focused on enjoying the ride, and we hope you’ll take it with us.

Who were some of your earliest musical influences?

Andy: Some of my earliest musical influences were Sum 41, New Found Glory and of course, Blink.

Ashkon: Some of my earliest influences were Incubus and LostProphets.

Matt: Well my earliest musical influences are of course Blink 182, New Found Glory and Greenday (but only the Dookie album)

Sean: Early influences would be Blink182, Green Day, and Simple Plan… Yeah, I said Simple Plan.

Why isn’t pop-punk dead?

Andy: Pop-Punk isn’t dead, it’s only getting more personal. Things like, the current state of the economy, the ever-increasing amount of pop/pop-punk bands and even pirating have a negative effect on some of us, but this dilemma gives rise to a certain kind of cultured, “hard-to-kill” mentality for certain acts. Bands such as The Wonder Years, Lions Lions and Hit The Lights, to name a few, combat this hard reality and are able to convey a certain kind of honesty and integrity in their music as a result. We think that this is what separates the boys from the men in our genera.

If you aren’t out to reinvent the game, what are you out to do?

Andy: We’re out to play the kind of music we enjoy, with the friends and fans we enjoy. Life is too short to worry about sticking to a genre, or trying to be “different” because someone says you should. We’re becoming more and more musically comfortable with each other every day, and we’re more focused on seeing where our minds take us and what we can create together, than worrying about living up to someone’s false expectations of what shelf our music should sit on.

What made you decide to release your EP for free? What impact has this had for you as a band?

Andy: There were a number of factors that made us decide to release our first album for free. We were inspired by artists such as Pretty Lights, whose music is free, as he is more focused on the creation of the music and the enjoyment of it by those who listen to it. That really struck a chord with us; it was really the way we wanted to introduce ourselves as a band. No dollar gimmick, we made the album for all of you and if we can enjoy it together then we’ve accomplished something awesome.

What’s your personal favorite song off the Home Stretch EP and why?

Andy: My favorite song off of Home Stretch has to be disaster. It was a song that lyrically, really translated the aggressive personalities of the instruments.

Ashkon : My favorite song off the EP is Disaster because we’re slaying whack ass bands that are selling everybody some bullshit gimmick making people think that the music they write is honest when it’s really just some corny, rainbow way for them to try to get some girls and make a lil’ money.

Matt: My personal favorite song on the EP is Crawl, only cause’ it’s the most fun to play live since it’s a no brainer on drums; but it’s still very catchy.

Sean: I love playing Follow Through live. It’s the first song in the set and it always gets me really jazzed up. I also ALWAYS fuck up the song and I love looking at Andy, Ashkon, and Matt’s face when I fuck it up. Priceless every time.

How important is it to you all to have such a hands-on interaction with your recordings?

Andy: It’s very important to our creative agenda that we have such a hands-on interaction with our material. Having the ability to return to a finished song over the course of weeks, maybe even months is crucial to our writing process. If something doesn’t sound right, or maybe we think something needs to be added, we go back and experiment. It’s kind of like a really long drawn out pre- production process, that finally ends when were comfortable with how the song sounds, which is rare now-a-days, in a world where you’re usually limited by your budget with an album.

The album flows together really well – the transitions are seamless. Was that a conscious decision or did it just materialize?

Andy: This album composition has been my brainchild since we started recording it. From the very beginning I knew I wanted the record to work as one cohesive element. Home Stretch is definitely a “Music Lovers” CD. It’s meant to be listened to from the first track, all the way to the last track. Not to say the songs don’t stand tall in their mix as a “single,” but we spent a lot of time with the smaller things like, song transitions, and really creating a sense of depth. It’s fun to listen to in headphones because you’ll always hear something new.

How do you feel about conceptual albums? Have you written one – or would you ever?

Andy: We think conceptual albums are cool. We love the idea of having one unifying theme throughout the whole album, you really feel like the songs are made for each other. We’ve openly discussed doing small 3 song free-releases, so I can imagine as that evolves, we’ll eventually do one.

What’s your live show like? What’s your favorite part of the live shows?

Andy: Our goal for our lives shows is to present our material in the most accurate way possible in reference to the CD. We see a lot of bands nowadays with spectacular recordings that can’t live up to them live – we think this is ridiculous. Everything you put on your album should be able to be reproduced live, no questions. Understanding, committing and practicing this mindset allows us have a much lighter, and relaxed mentality live. The confidence that comes from relentless practice really allows us to focus on the crowd and our performance, which is no doubt our favorite part of live shows.

What’s next for The Seasonal Affair in 2012?

Andy: Well, that’s a big question. As of right now we are in the midst of pre production for our new album. Once we’re comfortable with the amount of material we’ve produced, we’ll pick a couple songs and move forward with them. Though the pre-production will be all done by me, we will be branching out for our first time and tracking a couple songs with our good friend Drew Fulk at Think Sound Studios and will be bringing in Wil Andrews of the band Farewell (Epitaph) to help produce. We’ve got a couple other big things under wraps that we can’t openly discuss as of right now, but to conclude: we’re really stoked on the future, and can’t wait to mature among many great bands.

If you could make sure everyone knew one thing about your band, what would that be?

Andy: It would definitely be that we’re drama-free. We’re all best friends, and we treat everyone else like we know them. We’re not focused on doing what other people think we should do. To quote some new material you’ll be seeing in the future – “If you can hear my voice we’re relating.” It’s really how we think. We know where our road is going and everyone’s welcome to jump on for the ride.

What’s the top played song/album on your personal iTunes?

Andy: Well, my Mac just died, so I had to get a new one, which means I have basically no music. But if we’re being completely honest: “lying from you” by linking park is my most played right now. Don’t hate!

Ashkon: The top played song on my iTunes is Sippin on Some Sizzurp by Three 6 Mafia.

Matt: The top played song on my iTunes is Dumpweed, by Blink 182 and after that it’s Worst Song Ever, by Go Crash Audio.

Sean: The song that is the most played on my iTunes is Breath In by Hit The Lights. It’s an amazing song that gets me hyped up before shows and I usually will do vocal warm ups to it.

What’s the strangest thing on your personal iTunes or the thing your band mates would be surprised to see on there?

Andy: Yeah, it would definitely be the fact that the only stuff I have on my iTunes, aside from our pre production, is Linkin Park.

Ashkon: I don’t know that anything on my iTunes would surprise the homies in this band. They know all I listen to is Metal and Rap.

Matt: On my iTunes I listen to just about everything, but the strangest bands on my iTunes that the guys don’t know about is probably Ace of Base and New Kids on the Block; like, old school pop from the 90’s.

Sean: I’m usually pretty open about what’s on my iTunes, but I recently added One Direction to my library and I’ve kind of kept that on the hush hush. Those little dudes can sing!

What song would you most like to cover? What would you do differently with the track?

Andy: This is an interesting question, because we’re currently trying to find a song we can all agree on to cover. I personally would love to overhaul a good country song. They always have really bomb vocal hooks.

Ashkon: I wanna cover Nutz on ya Chin by Eazy-E.

Matt: I really don’t know of a song that I’d like to cover, but I definitely want it to be fun, upbeat one.

Sean: I would really like to cover Blink-182: Whats My Age Again. Only because I don’t think anyone has ever covered that song EVER.  Or When I Come Around by Green Day.  I’m cool with either.

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Hit these guys up around the web: Facebook, Twitter, official site. Be sure to check out my review of their Home Stretch EP in the last post and get it for yourself over on their Facebook. Huge thanks to them for the awesome interview and the great tunes!

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The Seasonal Affair: Home Stretch EP

I’m going to switch things up this time and do my interview-review combination separate for this band. I’m on Twitter (follow me if you haven’t yet) and I often surf through smaller bands on there – and sometimes bands will follow me or message me out of the blue based on another band I’m following. I got a message from someone in a band called The Seasonal Affair and since it was a slow night, I took a moment to go over to their Facebook page to take a listen. What I heard blew me away. I promptly replied and asked for an interview. These dudes were gracious enough to oblige and I am pleased to be writing about them. I don’t know if I can do this music justice with words, but I’m going to try. Check back tomorrow for an interview with these guys.

The Seasonal Affair have their newest EP, Home Stretch, up for free download on their Facebook page. It’s becoming more and more common for bands to do this nowadays, and I think it’s a great decision. Not only does it offer people a non-committed highway into new sounds, but since it’s free, more people are willing to take down that road. It’s hit or miss, but this band knocks it totally out of the park.

The Home Stretch EP kicks off with Follow Through, a powerful bulldozer of a pop-punk song that reminds me of greats like New Found Glory, Senses Fail, and A Thorn for Every Heart. I don’t use those comparisons lightly, but this group deserves all that and more. This song starts off by kicking you in the teeth and it doesn’t let up the entire three minutes and eighteen seconds worth of sound. The drums are unbelievable on this one and the rhythm will keep you nodding your head the entire time. Through my first listen of this song, I found myself routinely turning up the volume more and more so it could bleed into my ear drums little by little with every consecutive note.

Home Stretch is a bit slower in the beginning, but is so melodic in its punk tones that it’s irresistible. This track is clearly about touring and being in a band and it really brings the joy that this band feels toward the fans through this song. Make believe is what everyone would say, but we can’t live our lives without hitting the stage.  If every band in the world felt this dedication to shows and fans, the world would be a better place. It’s rare that bands can convey that love in one song.

Our Prodigy is up next and is the quintessential romantics of the pop-punk genre. The hard hitting melodies are still there, but sweet lyrics are draped over top for a little extra something. You and me, we’re prodigies, so simple and sweet. I fall every time we meet. So go, take you off your feet, I’ll lay you down to sleep. I’ll make sure that everything in your life is right cause you’re worth my time.

Mono has a different feel, almost a muffled or smothered sound. It’s slower, but it’s slow with a purpose. Hearing a band be so successfully versatile and being able to offer up different sounds and different vibes on the same album is what every band should strive for. The Seasonal Affair hits this one just as hard and just as spot-on as they do the heavier pop-punk songs on this EP.

Crawl (Your Way Back Home) is probably my favorite of the six songs. It’s a little fiestier, and picks right back up from the slow sounds of the song before. This song more than anything else reminds me of Senses Fail – both vocally and in the guitar work. The lyrics that this band writes are also pretty incredible. I’ve been impressed with each song on a variety of levels, but the lyrics really hit home in a couple of these jams. This is how we make believe, living life trying to chase dreams. No one can tell us any differently. Crawl your way back home and forget about me.

The EP wraps up with Disaster, which takes you right back around in a full circle to a song as hard as the EP began with. I have a feeling that this song would be pretty incredible to see live, just from the vibe and the energy that I feel sitting at home in my room alone while listening to this. Something about it is electric, and it isn’t just the guitars. I also feel like after asking the band some questions and reading their responses, that this song really reflects their outlook on being a band and how they feel about everything that they’re doing. Again, I’m impressed with the honesty that a band is able to convey in a song while maintaining their sound and keeping it interesting.  Stay away from kids who are liars. We’re so fucking tired of washed out sounds, they’ve been all played out,  just like these new albums – when will we all come around? It’s not like we’re playing shit you haven’t heard, just proving to you we’ll continue to work. searching our hearts so we can play this forever, and reasons to move on and make this seem better. For that or worse, we’ll do this together. The Seasonal Affair will never shout never. Can’t you feel it?

I don’t usually gush about bands – not unless I feel there’s really something there to gush about. These guys are worth looking into, I promise. And you can grab their album for free. What do you have to lose? Head on over to their Facebook and download that up and let me know what you think in the comments.

And stay tuned tomorrow for my interview with them!

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