Thursday, December 20, 2012

Various Artist - ReDirection: A Polyvinyl Sampler (2001)

ReDirection provides an excellent overview of Polyvinyl's early releases with nineteen tracks that include six unreleased/rare songs from Aloha, AM/FM, matt pond PA, Pele and Sunday's Best. Also includes tracks from Rainer Maria, Braid, American Football and many others.

Straddling the indie and post-rock worlds (often one in the same, really), Chicago's Polyvinyl label has earned praise from a streak of releases from groups like Aloha, Radio Flyer, Paris, Texas, and the sadly defunct Braid. Tossed-off roster compilations from indie labels are a hot thing, but ReDirection instead serves notice to just how deep and diverse the fringe rock communities bubbling just under the mainstream radar actually are. From old-school punk to new new wave, through arty instrumental post-rock to studied indie pop, a good example of all of it is contained here. Of note are two cuts from the always dramatic Rainer Maria ("Artificial Light," "Breakfast of Champions") and a pair of power melodies from Sunday's Best ("Saccharine," "Sons of the Second String"). Should send you running to the nearest small, dingy, smoky club in your city to find out what you've been missing. Includes previously unreleased tracks from the Ivory Coast, Matt Pond PA, Pele, and AM/FM.
John Duffy


1. Sunday's Best - Saccharine (3:47)
2. The Ivory Coast - Swope (3:34)
3. Aloha - A Hundred Stories (2:54)
4. AM/FM - Come Suck Down A Cloud (3:54)
5. Radio Flyer - (312) (4:03)
6. Rainer Maria - Breakfast Of Champions (3:36)
7. American Football - Never Meant (4:18)
8. Matt Pond PA - A New Part Of Town (4:05)
9. Pele - The Mind Of Minolta (3:41)
10. Hey Mercedes - Stay Six (4:32)
11. Kerosene 454 - What Was (3:03)
12. Paris, Texas - Le Tigre (2:41)
13. Sunday's Best - Sons Of The Second String (4:01)
14. AM/FM - A Best Man (Put My Girlfriend On Fire) (2:58)
15. Rainer Maria - Artificial Light (3:38)
16. Braid - Killing A Camera (2:35)
17. Matt Pond PA - This Is Montreal (1:19)
18. Pele - Gas The Nutsy (6:50)
19. Aloha - Warsaw (5:18)

Karate ‎– Karate (1995)

On request.

This music isn't for teenagers, but for mature people who are prone to self-reflection.

The debut disc from Allston, MA's Karate is a far cry from the jazzy, stripped-down rock that they would come to embody, but it's still an incredibly fresh start and a brilliant jumping-off point for a young band. Led by Geoff Farina's unparalleled guitar playing, this self-titled disc draws strongly from the burgeoning emo scene that was starting to appear at the time of its release. While peers in Texas Is the Reason and even the Promise Ring were out honing the early emo style, though, Karate were already taking things in a new direction. The opening slink of "Gasoline," with a lengthy pause after just a few lyrics, proved that the band wasn't rushing into anything, and the phenomenal "Bad Tattoo," one of the group's hardest-rocking songs, made it clear that Karate weren't afraid to show a little grit from time to time, either. The unfaltering musicianship that the band would come to perfect in the next few years and records may not be completely evident on this disc, but it is still a strong debut showing with a few truly standout tracks that make a lot of sense as the jumping-off point for Karate's later catalog.
Peter J. D'Angelo

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Sunday, December 02, 2012

Camber ‎– Anyway, I've Been There (1999)

'Think the epitome of maturity' is the description of Camber's new release by Deep Elm. In England, 'maturity' is a euphemism for when on the way to the recording studio, the guitarists broke their distortion pedals so all the songs sound like Oasis, but fortunately the same connotations haven't reached the shores of that big land accross the pond.
Anyway, "I've been there" is without doubt a far maturer record than their debut. Better playing, better songwriting and well, better songs. They take influences from all the greats from Promise Ring to Mineral, but at the same time creating a uniquely original sound. I think the originality comes from the occassional discordant guitar played on top of a beautiful melody, and while some cynics would say how the vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Sunny Day Real Estate and Mineral, singer Barry Lott isnt afraid of the occassional harsh aggression which i always thought was missing from the aforemetioned bands.
This new release is one of the finest releases of the year so far, pure ear candy. And as for the song '38th and Eighth', just forget about it.
Dan Baker

Second albums, to put it lightly, are a bitch. It's true in the mainstream rock world, for sure, and only slightly less so in the indie world. There's pressure to live up to your brilliant first album (or at least, your pretty cool first album), and a fumble can make a lot of people not bother with the third, if there is one. Now, couple that kind of intense scrutiny with the fact that your band's been pigeonholed into a genre that gets kicked like a redheaded stepchild by every music reviewer under the sun -- what the hell can you do? Well, in a perfect world, you reinvent yourself, but let's be honest: how many bands/people can do that, beyond U2, Prince, and maybe Madonna? (Sting does not count, by the way.)
Between those two poles, Camber've hit the middle ground with their own second album. Anyway, I've Been There still has plenty of melodic sweetness, particularly in singer Barry Lott's Jeremy Enigk-esque singing style, but instead of throwing out another album's worth of rock-out tortured love songs, guitars cranked all the way, they opt to be more minimal and quiet (ex.: album closer "Home Movies"). What's more, they throw in some really pretty different, rough-and-ragged sounds among the pretty stuff, coming closer to Jawbox at several points ("Punching Out," "Sad One") than Sunny Day Real Estate or their kin. Sharp, angular guitar lines balance out beautiful melodies and pained vocals, the odd-sounding notes pushing through and counterbalancing the sweetness. The end result? Well, I'm no expert, but I wouldn't call this "emo," or any derivative of it. What it is is a darned decent rock album, with some really good, passionate songs floating around on it. The moral of the story? Even a little bit of reinvention can go a long way. 

I have to hand it to Deep Elm...they don't put out any junk. Camber is another example of pristine production, strong songwriting, and impressive packaging. Beyond that, Camber is a solid band that walks the line between dissonance and a strong hook. If you liked their previous album, you're going to love this one even more. They tackle some more intricate song structures while maintaining a very focused approach to songwriting. The key element here is the amazing vocal abilities of frontman Barry Lott. Do not be fooled - that boy can sing. There's a certain passion in his vocals that brings the almighty Enigk to mind, but I'll try not to draw that comparison.
Plus: really cool cover layout
Minus: is life really this depressing?

With a barrage of fiery choruses and thunderous hooks, Camber unleashes an intelligent sonic opera on ANYWAY, I'VE BEEN THERE. Known for their keen ability to write effective and not-so-simple rock songs, this record is fueled by intense post-punk melodies, emotionally-charged vocals and masterful, tension-building guitars. Both melancholic and uplifting, tugging at your heart-strings with a sensitive prowess that's often illuminating but seldom predictable. It's rock and roll with feeling ­ something we don't see much anymore.

My mother used to say, "Patrick, you keep away from them there reckerds of the emotional variety. You know what I mean when I say -- don't you look at me that way! You know damn well that them emo reckerds always make you bawl like a baby." How true momma was. This record is brought to us by the Deep Elm people who put out those compilations known as The Emo Diaries . For crying out loud (no pun intended), don't put "Emo" in the title! Well, I liked those damn records and I like Camber, too. Anyway, I've Been There is full of bittersweet songs suitable for your first heartbreak. If you like your pretty parts with some noisy interludes, this is your stuff. These kids seem to like listening to those Sunny Day Real Estate records, but they don't let it ruin their song-writing. Anyway, I've Been There has some rockers, too. If you take the sum of all these, the product is a good record to make-out to.
Patrick Rafter

Camber's sophomore release on Deep Elm, Anyway, I've Been There, is a wonderful mix of emotional lyrics, creative songwriting, and Barry Lott's sharp, unique vocals. With ten miraculously sculpted tunes (none seem to tread on the heels of any of the others and yet the cohesiveness is remarkable), the band produces what some might hear as a soundtrack to life in New York City, the band's home base. The music is somewhat calm but can easily become classy, as with the trumpet on "Wait," yet on the next tune, "38th & 8th," Camber showcases a raucous guitar solo at the end of the song. The entire album is wrapped up with the dreary "Home Movies" and its tale of life's memories as home movies in one's head and the "endless hell" that only extreme depression can produce. It ends the album on a truly bleak note, and it's surely a darker side than anything else the band has revealed heretofore, yet it's not awkward. Sometimes the slow, depressing song is put last for a reason, to emphasize a point, and no doubt Camber has placed it as the closer as if to say, "If nothing else, listen to this part of our artistic expression." While not something most bands would heartily embrace, it's nevertheless a song that Camber pulls off with a passion and the bleak tone fits the band well, although surely the more upbeat tunes are less abrasive on the heart and soul. The crisp production was done by the legendary John Agnello; thus, nothing is lacking in that area. A truly solid, dynamic effort, Anyway, I've Been There is an album full of smart pop roots and somber undertones filled with intelligent songwriting from start to finish. A worthy follow-up to a strong debut.
Kurt Morris

password: thelastwordisrejoice

Camber ‎– Beautiful Charade (1997)

On their critically-acclaimed debut Beautiful Charade, Camber translates the desperation of an empty, lost soul into surprising thought and beauty in music. It's a delicate display on the art of dynamics that will leave you speechless. Driving, distorted guitars, tortured vocals and painfully-resigned introspection to the edge, with an incredible wrist-slitting vocal style. Raging when asked, consoling when necessary, Beautiful Charade is like a good friend in the time of need. Unreleased song "Sunday Brown & Green" on Emo Diaries 1. The first CD ever released by Deep Elm. (DER-359)
Deep Elm Records

"In a world that keeps getting more and more crowded, Camber finds room to breathe on "Beautiful Charade." With their high-rise vocal harmonies, satisfying guitar textures, and down-low rhythms, the NYC foursome carves out a place with space. On "First," vocalist Barry Lott sings of bittersweet understanding, while the band runs a patient race with tension and gritty guitar lightness. Always careful to betray your expectations, they surf a smooth wave of hope and frustration, then tie it in a knot with tricky rhythms and disorienting downturns."
Alternative Press

"Somewhere between Sunny Day Real Estate and The Promise Ring, however many inches that might be, sits Camber, boldly taking a seat and claiming their place in the emo-core all-American line-up. Carving out an identity amongst such close company would seem almost impossible, but Camber has met the challenge and recorded a beautifully original record."

"Beautiful Charade finds Camber driving distorted guitars, dirgy tempos, tortured vocals and painfully-resigned introspection to the edge. Although the band gazes down over the ledge, it never quite jumps. Perhaps the line 'I'm burning, so clean' best describes Camber's particular brand of angst. What sets this band apart is the incredible vocal style. It is wrist-slitting. Even those who are lukewarm about emo-core need to check out Beautiful Charade. Camber are one of the best bands ever to work in the genre..."
Seattle Rocket

"Both melancholic and uplifting, one minute tugging at your heart-strings and the next pushing your heart out of your chest with sheer feel-good exuberance. Vocals that touch you deep inside and harmonies that make you good to feel alive."

"Camber does such a fine job crafting emo-core where planning and painstaking effort are the key. The songs are gorgeous and there's not a hair out of place."
Aiding And Abetting

"Camber wears its repressed rage like a badge of honor...gritty and sweetly despairing."
Alter World

"The power on Beautiful Charade comes from Camber's ability to write effective and not so simple rock songs. Engaging songwriting and performance."

"Camber has mastered the delicate art of dynamics that is so central to emo-ness. The first track 'Hollowed-Out' has one of those euphoria-inducing choruses."

"Beautiful Charade is downright genius. Rock and roll with feeling, which is something we don't see much anymore."

"Camber roll blissfully around with depth of feeling, the music is wonderfully crafted. Put your feet up and let them ease your woes. No one can deny the quartet's thoughtful, sensitive prowess."

"The melodies are lifting in the verses and build tension toward intense choruses. At other times the textures are more subtle with an air of dreamy despair. Always cleverly crafted, never boring, and never a shortage of melodic hooks."
"Often illuminating and seldom predictable, Camber's resonating, emo-core blends post-grunge aggression with blustery melodicism. Expansive arrangements are turned upside down and inside out without losing the flow of the song at hand. Vocalist Barry Lott teeters at the edge of a nervous breakdown, sometimes emoting with the same urgency and determination Bono once did during his early U2 days. Lott's dramatic wails linger alongside dissonant guitars, raucous drums, and vibrating sonic textures."
Aquarian Weekly
Are you a New Yorker? Or the type that disparages this fine city, when I know you are secretly jealous of us lucky, lucky, lucky people? (Hey ex-Mayor Koch! How'm I doin'?) If you loved music in the mid-'70s, New Yawk was the place to be. At Max's Kansas City or CBGB, little bands turned into legends: New York Dolls to Heartbreakers, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Ramones, Television, Blondie, Cramps, yadda yadda f***ing yadda. Maybe this ole town hasn't produced such a golden crop since, but creative sounds have always emanated, and recent years have been the best in a decade. Inspired rockers Lotion, East River Pipe, Madder Rose, Versus, Ivy, and Guv'ner are now national items, but there's another post-punk bumper crop below them awaiting their due. Among them are French, Saturnine, Ditch Croaker, and this group, Camber. With a wired, heavy, smacking sound, Camber has made strides from early gigs and the foursome's Hollowed Out 7". Gotta love their fiery fury and controlled desperation. The guitars of Corby Caldwell and Barry Lott warp with chiming discomfort, as the bass and drums pound like doomsday. Yet, like French (only heavier), Lott's melodic, thick singing belies the ton of bricks bursting behind. The result is a post-grunge wall of sound, and soft to heavy tension pounding not for the timid! Perfect for a wound-up town.
Jack Rabid 

"Emo" has become a filthy word. You might as well go round talking about "God". But this is an emo record if you want to take that term as having a validity to it. Whatever this mass-culture emo-term has become is nothing to do with any of this, just to be clear. All that shit started when the guy in AFI wore some makeup and they released Black Sails.
Anyway, this is a proper 90s emo record where you have the jangling guitars with skethcy riffs and some guy whining on about how he feels. It's up there with the best records from that era - it has real nice songs to it and some soaring pieces and clever riffs. It sounds heartfelt and not some mass-produced shit. Basically they nailed it before all those shitty bands came out to denigrate the good name of emo.

password: thelastwordisrejoice