“My city’s still breathing (but barely it’s true).”

I recently spoke to Christian Holden of The Hotelier, who told me how an indie rock band from Winnipeg, formed in 1997, had immeasurable impact and influence on his passionate songwriting.

A band also held in the highest regard by Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack, who chose to cover one of their songs for the 2004 alternative rock compilation ‘Friends’. The Weakerthans seem to be one of those rare bands worshipped with the same intense fondness by fans and artists alike.

Beautifully poetic and starkly poignant, “Left and Leaving” from 2000’s release of the same name has a way with words unlike anything i’ve heard in a long time. A heartbreaking, incredible song with lyrics so well-crafted they could possess a thousand different meanings.

It’s been a year since the release of Violent Soho’s fourth album, ‘WACO’. During 2016, I became a fan, which involved making the spontaneous decision to see Violent Soho live…in Australia. The only band that I have ever travelled to the other side of the world for.

I regret nothing.

‘WACO’ has that balance of heavy and melodic riffs along with lyrics that fits so well with the music. Every song leads you on a journey that never stops for a breather, songs like ‘Slow Wave’ and ‘Viceroy’ that makes you feel like you’re on top of a mountain. It was this album that made them stand out at a time when I was losing an interest in anything that wasn’t low growls and blast beats. It reignited a love for a genre that made me a rock and metal fan a long time ago. Violent Soho are one of those bands that are exactly what you get on the tin. Fun and chaotic on record and on stage, something that everyone should see once or a couple dozen times.

With their ever growing popularity and successes in their homeland ,Australia, I’m excited to see what is next for Violent Soho, and the chance to see them again.

Deforesters describe themselves as “honest to goodness no bullshit punk rock,” and they have a point. They remind me very strongly of Seattle’s Success, in that regard. This is feel-good sing-along punk rock of the sort that compels one to put your arm around the person next to you, hold your beer high in the air, and sing at the top of your lungs. The songs immediately bored their way into my brain, so that upon the second listen-through they were already like old friends, so familiar and comfortable. And, in a time when many bands put out twenty minutes worth of music and call it a full-length LP, it makes me very happy that there are fully twelve songs (thirteen if you count the ‘Obligatory Cutesy Intro” – it’s really called that!) in thirty-six minutes.

I’ll bet that after you listen to this, you’re going to sing along until you lose your voice.

It’s not often you find a math-rock band without a guitarist, but that’s exactly what I stumbled across with Mannequin Mishap. When I first heard the track I had no idea that this array of noise was coming from only two people and it took the music video to make me realise I was only hearing drums and bass. I suppose when you play the bass like it’s a lead guitar, you don’t really need another one.

‘Tea Party With My Taxidermist’ is an intricate yet frantic blend of post-hardcore and math-rock, with vocals that have a major Kurt Travis vibe. Based on this comparison and the level of musicianship on show, it’s no surprise that they move in the same circles as Travis – they’ve teamed up with Spirit Vision Records, a label created by Strawberry Girls drummer Ben Rosett, who recently formed the band Eternity Forever with Kurt Travis.

This track comes from the band’s upcoming record ‘Acatalepsy’ which doesn’t have a release date as yet, but based on the quality of this first single, I’ll be at the front of the queue when it’s announced.

If you’ve been wowed by the alt-rock mastery of Arcane Roots and In Dynamics over the past couple of years then you’re going to want to turn your attention towards Rory Indiana. ‘Tough Love’ is the first track they’ve released since their breakthrough EP ‘Ruling Class Crooks’ in 2016 and it sees them at their infectious and memorable best.

Rory Kaye’s interesting vocal arrangements are reminiscent of In Dynamics’ Beau Bolden, particularly during his beautifully controlled falsetto and the song’s second half, with its added bite and punch from the instrumentation, brings the progressive heaviness of Arcane Roots to mind. They bear their influences well, but Rory Indiana are no copy cats: ‘Though Love’ has a character all its own and I’ll be looking forward to hearing more sides to it whenever the band release more of this catchy brilliance.

 

I’ve been a huge fan of Washington D.C. thrashers Darkest Hour since their rib-crushing 2003 opus ‘Hidden Hands Of A Sadist Nation’. Or at least I was a huge fan, until the band released their confounding 2014 self-titled album, on which they seemed to abandon much of what I’d fallen in love with to begin with. Gone was their signature brand of hardcore-informed melodic death metal, instead replaced with an ill-advised attempt at jumping on the ‘djent’ bandwagon, 7-string guitars and all. It was a gut-punch from a band I’d always been able to rely on (OK, maybe ‘The Human Romance’ wasn’t that great either, but that’s neither here nor there), and I couldn’t see how Darkest Hour could pull themselves back from the brink of stink-metal oblivion.

Turns out, all they needed to do was spend a couple of years reminding themselves who they really are, helped along nicely by their decision to spend much of 2015 and some of 2016 playing their 2005 thrashterpiece ‘Undoing Ruin’ live in its entirety. Oh, and also call master producer Kurt Ballou up to the plate to record their new album, ‘Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora’. And what a difference those 3 years have made. This is arguably the finest work Darkest Hour have put out since ‘Undoing Ruin’, though rather than a step backwards towards their older sound, this is instead a quantum leap forward. It’s as thrashy as anything they’ve ever released, but with a progressive edge the band have only ever flirted with in the past dragged to the forefront. It also largely eschews the clean singing frontman John Henry has been employing on the band’s more recent records, his vocals here as vicious and imposing as they’ve ever been. ‘Godless Prophets…’ isn’t just a return to form for Darkest hour – this sounds like the start of an entirely new chapter for them, and with my hope restored I’m once more happy to heed their prophecies.

Mind are a hardcore band from London with very specific goals that they’re trying to achieve. First and foremost is the raising of awareness of mental health issues and getting young people to start opening up and talking about them. Due to the tragic loss of a friend who’d been affected by anxiety and mental health issues, the band are dedicated to using their music as a way of sharing these important facts. The EP title alone, ‘One In Four’, is the shocking statistic of people that suffer each year with these illnesses.

Having listened to and been impressed by the EP, I caught their first show and saw just how they were  bringing these facts to light. Taking time between songs to explain what the band stood for and why with such conviction, it really struck a chord with me as well as encompassing everything that made me fall in love with hardcore music in the first place. Mind are not scared to speak out, tell their story and stand up for a cause they strongly believe in whilst making the music they love. That said there’s no style over substance here as their EP and live performance are both crushing and unstoppable. “You’re not a slave to your mind” is the message and it’s delivered with the raw emotion and importance a topic of this nature deserves.

There is something behind the fragility and darkness of Elliott Smith that elevates his music to a place reserved only for the most crucial of musicians. The Brian Wilson’s and John Lennon’s of this world – two people who just happen to be all over ‘Either/Or’.

Although not a commercially successful album, it plunged a delicate Smith into the peripheral of a mainstream audience who failed to notice. With three tracks used in the Oscar winning film Good Will Hunting, it marked the moment he stepped out of the basement and quite literally stood on the world stage.

Listening to the album twenty years on from its release, one of the most beautiful things about it is the therapeutic optimism that lingers near its edges. An overtly dark songwriter who tended to reflect the genuine anguish of his own life in his music – the shimmering brightness, and more pop feel, to Smith’s third album allow for a more joyous insight into one of the greatest, most undervalued songwriters of a generation.

 

Parting Gift are from Manchester. They have five members. And that’s as far as my knowledge stretches. Judging by the ‘launch date’ on their Facebook page of February 26th, there’s probably not much more to know either. But who needs details? With a debut single this impressive, I don’t care what their back story is, Parting Gift have my attention.

As ‘Be Still’ makes its way through dynamic drums and heavy-yet-melodic guitar patterns, it brings to mind the likes of Crooks and Holding Absence, and with a frontman who’s able to deliver the kind of emotionally captivating performance that’s equal to either of the aforementioned bands, they’re in very good company indeed.

For now the details surrounding this impressive young band are very limited, but based on the quality of ‘Be Still’, it won’t be long before Parting Gift become a well-known name in post-hardcore.