Michigan based The Cardboard Swords find the sweet-spot between cripplingly heavy emotion and uplifting melody, swaying between the twinkly beauty of ‘Brian’s Song’ and the tragic honesty of the part spoken-word ‘Flannel’. The mood glides through Midwestern emo and off-kilter indie, gently guided by primary vocalist Tyler DeCoeur’s mesmerising delivery.

In a live setting The Cardboard Swords are an emotive powerhouse, dripping in sweat as the inner turmoil twists into understated ferocity. The delicate nature of their sound is amplified, but never overpowered. Elegantly refined, The Cardboard Swords’ passion quickly drives their sound upward.

Photo by: Beth Parks

There’s an unmistakable goth edge to London trio Pet Grief’s sound, one that channels the indie sensibilities of later Joy Division whist retaining their distinct British punk roots. The often eerie vocals sit in-among a distorted soundscape, in equal parts floating and claustrophobic.

Their new four track self-titled EP provides evidence of both extreme, introducing the band’s brooding and dark tones on ‘Reject’, and their bright yet unsettling atmospherics on the likes of ‘Melt’. It’s filled with a reserved ferocity, accepting shoegaze influences yet with considerably more bite.

Oxford sibling duo Cassels aren’t ones to shy away from social commentary. Their recent ‘You, Us And They‘ EP directly challenges the listener with often uncomfortable but necessary subject matter. This straightforward and unfiltered storytelling continues on ‘Flock Analogy’, whilst simultaneously elevating┬átheir relentless anger and frustration.

It’s indicative of Cassels’ bravery, matched in their brazen experimental sound; a whirlwind of unpolished guitars that underpin their equally brash atypical song structures. If ‘Flock Analogy’ attacks the everyday committal to the norm, regardless of its impact on well-being, Cassels are equally challenging convention through sound.

You may have already heard of Alaska. Hailing from Las Vegas, their sound is more representative of the unforgiving terrain surrounding the city of sin than the gambling mecca itself; vast and expansive with an understated ferocious edge. As a touring machine, they are far from unknown in the stateside underground, and have been increasingly taking on the international road.

Last year’s phenomenal ‘Shrine’, criminally overlooked on our part, is a complex blend of math-rock and spine-tingling emo. Complimented by intricate instrumentation, not least the relentless drumming, Alaska’s sound plays with excellent atmospherics. Live it’s an even bigger beast.

With ‘Same Time Next Week’, Buckinghamshire’s Middle Distance paint a sprawling picture of beauty and anguish, as mirrored in the accompanying video. Toning down their atypical alternative rock sound, brilliantly presented on recent track ‘Coming Of Age‘, ‘Same Time Next Week’ showcases their complex diversity in both sound and imagery.

In equal parts euphoric and claustrophobic, the track finds the balance between delicacy and impact. With their latest EP, ‘Dahlia’, offering a continued blend of both, ‘Same Time Next Week’ joins a collection of songs that should see plenty of doors open for Middle Distance.

Sometimes life has it in for you. Everything appears to be going wrong. It is in these moments that your true character shines through. Presented with the option of crumbling to the floor or holding a chin up, the latter is often more difficult. Boat Race Weekend, from Spokane, WA, know the feeling well.

“Promise me darling that you won’t be afraid to smile despite a mouth full of broken teeth,” they implore on their latest single. It’s a brutal analogy for positivity, ┬ácaptured in a suitably dark yet melodious package. Taken from their┬áforthcoming ‘Throw My Head To The World’ EP, ‘Broken Teeth’ does just that; announcing Boat Race Weekend as a voice of personal affirmation.

Moving forward from Nai Harvest, Ben Thompson has teamed up with real-life partner Meg Williams to form Luxury Death, a whimsical indie-pop duo with seriously dark undertones. ‘Radiator Face’, the outfit’s lead single, exemplifies the juxtaposition between the twee and the disturbed. “I hear the screaming under your breath,” Williams sings in her distorted bubblegum fashion, only elevating the unsettling nuances intertwined with the track’s romance.

Successful relationships are built on a mutual understanding of each others’ intricacies, with Luxury Death accepting the pair’s subtly macabre leanings. ‘Radiator Face’ is a love song for the anarchic generation, set to continue blossoming into something potentially terrifying. Romantic, eh?

Recently signing to Bearded Punk Records in Europe, Atlanta punk and rollers Aree and the Pure Heart deliver an honest, heartfelt slice of punk poetry perfection. Channeling their heroes, expertly finding the balance between the punch of punk and entrancing Americana melody, the four-piece are led by Aree’s distinctive vocals switching between notably tuneful and devastatingly gritty.

The band’s aptly titled ‘Heartsongs’ EP captures the magic of their influences and contemporaries, led by a storytelling prowess akin to the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Against Me!. By matching the stadium sound of one with the unreserved nature of the other, Aree and the Pure Heart find an excellent musical niche all their own.

From it’s doom-esque opening moments, Cedar Spring Motel’s self-titled EP morphs into a punk powerhouse. ‘Stitches’, the record’s opener, channels a vocal delivery not dissimilar to Frank Carter – complete with a blues rock twang – over a bed of attitude filled musical snarls.

The gritty delivery continues throughout the record’s four tracks, tipping into vocal screams on ‘Waiting (For The Rain)’ and unleashing its full ferocity on ‘Smoke Break’. By the end of EP closer ‘Fake’, Cedar Spring Motel have delivered one of the most exciting punk and roll releases in recent memory.