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Ship and Sail - From Seeds Review

Photography: Abby Recker

Photography: Abby Recker

A little fun, and also a little sad is the tagline from Ship & Sail’s Bandcamp - and the Michigan natives are definitely that. The melancholy, blissful mixture of Americana, Folk and Indie melt Ship & Sail down for listeners, they want you gooey, they want your right on the verge of knowing, experiencing. They are the haunting of our minds - from loss, from laughter, from sheer emotion. They bring to the table something I haven’t heard in a while, something that (sometimes) only bedroom pop bands can get right - but, we’ll save that for later.

Beginning from a song-writing exercise, Colin Haggerty (Vocals & Guitar) began Ship & Sail’s first EP, Even From A Dying Tree, The Worry Bird Sings. It has now grown into something that even Haggerty did not expect at first. Mixed and mastered by Doug Gallo at AGL Sounds in New Jersey, From Seeds is, according to Haggerty, “the most important release I’ve ever had and has been a blast to play live.” Since the release Ship & Sail has shared the stage with the likes of John Nolan (Taking Back Sunday, Straylight Run) and Breathe Owl Breathe, while also performing as a four-piece, a soon to be six-piece, and will also be doing a three-piece acoustic-folk outfit. All the while continuing to play solo.

Check out the tracklist below to follow along!

Album Artwork by Brijana Bondy

Album Artwork by Brijana Bondy

From Seeds Tracklist:
1. Lynda
2. A Wish, A Lie
3. Fix
4. Windowsill
5. Bed to Stay
6. Hope
7. Call it Quits
8. Nails
9. Maggie
10. From Seeds



After the death of his Mother, Ship & Sail began comprising an album that moves slowly, irrigating every moment it encapsulates. From Seeds is the capsule in which they live - the album, an impressive full-length that breathes feeling and lyricism. Opening track, “Lynda” drops the listener immediately into the sound of a voice - familiar, but far away.

Haggerty’s sound is one that jostles against his instrumentals. The deep, gritty voice against a melodic, slow moving undertone creates an atmosphere that gives a sense of knowing. Ship & Sail want you to know what they’re thinking, because it’s things you’ve thought before, felt before, seen before. Love, longing, fear, anxiety - all topics that From Seeds touches upon, thoughtfully & fully aware. One track that really does this for myself, as a listener, is “Call It Quits.”

This album takes it’s time, and instinctively, it makes it feel hard to separate. I understand the necessity, the artistry, the wanting; however, 10-tracks that meditate around a similar sound that includes instrumentals, little variation in vocal performance, and lyricism (while beautiful poetic, and one of my favorite parts) it can feel lengthy and tired by completion. I wonder how I would feel about these tracks if, instead, they were layered throughout different compilations with tracks that bounced off of them, rather than swept them all together.

That being said, my favorite track is “A Wish, A Lie.” Arguably, the most upbeat track on the record, this track feels just right. The beat hits in the right spots with the lyrics, the twanging of the guitar makes it feel like a journey from beginning to end - and, that’s what it is. A journey, a moment of flurrying feelings. It felt sweet, sincere, and secure for a moment - as if the album could look upon it’s creator and say, “take a look, this is what we are!”

Again, the lyricism of this album is the strongest, hardest hitting aspect of From Seeds. The imagery, the methodology, the quickness of it all - like the severing of ties - hits hard. This album is for feeling, for being in the moment of feeling, and for appreciating how stinkin’ good a guitar sounds all by itself. Ship & Sail take their time to craft, to emote and be human. From Seeds will do the same, and for that I am thankful. It reminds me of rainy summer days where the ground is hot and steaming, and the sky is dark but, somehow, there is still pale yellow light all around you.

Moving forward, I am eager to see how Ship & Sail will sound with more members, with different tracks, ideas, emotions. This beginning is valid and important in solidifying a common ground between artist & listener, and now that we’re here - what’s next? I guess we’ll see! Until then, check out Ship & Sail’s social media links down below, and listen to From Seeds if you need a good album to feel things with!

Keep reading to find out more new & exciting stuff, and thanks for choosing The Hook!

Ship & Sail: Facebook // Instagram // Twitter

**All biography information thanks to Brijana Bondy**

Green Knuckle Material - Renaissance Review

Green Knuckle Material are ending 2017 with their December release of Renaissance. The EP is a fun-loving, sweet little collection of 5-tracks that Green Knuckle Material should be proud of. I mean, we're gonna practically beg you to listen to this one. With an infusion of hip-hop, indie rock, alternative rock and rap rock you're in for a montage of good sounds and good feels. 

But first, let's introduce the people that brought us Renaissance: Scatterbrain (Rap Vocals), Young Dan (Guitar & Lead Vocals), D String (Bass & Vocals), Mudd Dog (Guitar & Vocals), and the Hawaiian (drums). The EP was produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered by Josh Gustin and Mike Ravenda. The 5-track EP is a cohesive, exciting & fun to groove to when the winter blues have you down.

Check out the tracklist below to follow along!

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Renaissance Tracklist:
1. Lullaby
2. Soon As
3. Hole
4. For the First Time
5. Pictures

 

 

 

 

Opening track 'Lullaby' sets the tone for the rest of the EP. Reminiscent of bands like Pepper, Green Knuckle Material leave an open hand out for listeners in this first track. The EP devolves into a more 90's rock influenced sound with an identifying guitar tone, and vocals to offset it. Tracks like 'Soon As' and 'Hole' most represent this part of the EP. The piano & shrieking vocals in 'Hole' especially are not to be missed.

'For The First Time' slows it down for Green Knuckle Material, similar to 'Lullaby.' The piano in this track offsets the harshness of the vocals, and the chorus is the highlight of the track for me. Closing & longest track "Pictures" is the black sheep of the bunch, but I don't mean that in a bad way at all. I really enjoyed 'Pictures' because this EP could've gotten really stale very quickly, but GKM gave listeners a new sound in each track and that's a really stellar thing.

Generally, GKM have always stuck to their guns and are a band you can count on for a good time and feel good vibes. Renaissance is a fantastic EP and you'd be silly not to listen. Check out Green Knuckle Material & Renaissance before the year is over, and check out their social media down below to stay in the loop with everything they've got going on!

Green Knuckle Material: Website // Instagram // Facebook

The Afraid Brigade - If I Ever See Stars Again Review

Fantasy indie rockers, The Afraid Brigade, have released their latest EP If I Ever See the Stars Again back in June of this year, and it has become one of my favorite indie records of 2017. The 4-piece band from Woodbridge, New Jersey have crafted a diverse record filled with excellent songwriting, infectious choruses and melodies, and a theatrical story that takes the listener on a wonderful journey throughout its 6 songs, but is sadly over far too soon.

Consisting of lead singer Joe Ruff, guitarist Tyler Boland, bassist Ben Lander, and drummer Zach Lander, The Afraid Brigade is a group of very talented musicians who understand their inspirations well. Personally, I got a sort of Manchester Orchestra meets Modest Mouse sort of vibe from the band, but they cite mewithoutYou, Band of Horses, and Iron & Wine as main influences. It’s refined indie pop-rock filled to the brim with over the top emotion and attitude and everything about it just feels so right.

If I Ever See the Stars Again contains 6 very unique tracks that all come together to tell a cohesive tale of a weary space traveler experiencing some difficult situations. From the seamless transitions between songs that sound nothing alike to the deliberate choice of instrumentation to convey setting and atmosphere, everything about this record feels polished and well thought out making for an unexpected, but truly awesome journey. It also helps that these songs are really, really good. Nothing ever overstays its welcome on this record, in fact a lot of songs could have stayed a little longer (I’m looking at you, beautiful intro track).

Clocking in at roughly 16 minutes, this space voyage is over before you realize it, and leaves the listener wanting more. Check out the tracklist below!

1. Stars Intro
2. The World Don't Want You
3. Nothing Good
4. I'm in Hell 
5. Dead Wrong
6. Let's Die Alone Together







 

The album kicks off with literally an intro track, but it honestly is one of my favorite songs off the record. It’s only about a minute long, but the sense of space and loneliness it conveys is some of the most impactful material on the album. “Stars Intro” is really only comprised of 4 things: a bit of sound effects, a droning synth, a piano for subtle melodic effect, and Ruff’s vocal out in the forefront all by itself. The vocal on this track is the most vulnerable vocal throughout the entire record and it instantly hooks the listener in, which is perfect because this track smoothly leads into the second song “The World Don’t Want You.” 

This sort of anthemic emo song kicks off with a solid guitar hook and incredibly well-done harmonies to perfectly offset the depressed, solitary mood of the intro track. The stars of this song (no pun intended) are undoubtedly Boland’s unbelievably sick guitar work, which kind of feel just like a solo jam for almost 3 minutes, and Ruff’s vocals which come off as desperate in the best way possible.

The next track, “Nothing Good” can be seen as the pop-punk song off the record. Chugging rhythm guitars, mixed with driving beats are met with a lead guitar track that cuts through it all to give it a sense of attitude. A bridge that calms everything down only to come back up to a climax in the song is about as pop-punk as it gets. Once again however, Ruff shows just how versatile his vocal can be as he attacks these quick, syncopated lines with precision and tenacity. This is a hard-hitting track that somehow hits all the right notes despite its short run time. 

“I’m in Hell”, the next song off the album, is arguably the most different sounding song on the entire record. It’s a very early Beatles-esque vibe mixed with a sort of classic 50’s love song. This track comes fully equipped with a frilly piano that drives the whole thing, a whistle part to connect different parts, a horn section to serve as a call and response, and of course a key change. It’s all pretty intoxicating to be honest, and I couldn’t help but fall for the undeniable charm that came with everything. Through all of that throwback goodness though, my favorite part of the recording is actually the gang vocals. They purvey a real sense of camaraderie that make me feel like this band is having a lot of fun with what they are doing. It’s a subtle thing, but one I don’t hear a lot of anymore.

“Dead Wrong” is about as Modest Mouse as it gets for me. It’s a pop-oriented song that’s led by an off-kilter guitar and intentionally pitchy vocals to convey as much emotion as possible. Somehow The Afraid Brigade make it all work so well without ever sounding like some cheesy knock-off which is truly a testament to just how malleable this band truly is. 

Finally, If I Ever See the Stars Again reaches its finale with “Let’s Die Alone Together.” It’s a beautiful rock ballad with extremely big choruses and Queen inspired guitar solos that ebb and flow until it all just eventually fades away. It’s as fitting an end to a record as any I’ve ever heard. I don’t want to give anything away, but I highly recommend putting this album on ‘repeat’.

The Afraid Brigade deserve every ounce of praise, respect, and support they get for If I Ever See the Stars Again.

This record feels so thought out, and so professional, as if it came from a much more established band that’s been around for at least a decade. It’s such a fantastic EP that I really think everyone should listen to, and since it’s such a quick listen there’s really no excuse not to. Although I wish there were more to it, I really can’t find a single thing wrong with this record, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this band. 

The Afraid Brigade: Facebook // Bandcamp // Official Site // YouTube

Neck Deep - The Peace and The Panic Review

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You’d be hard pressed to claim to be a fan of alternative/pop-punk music and say you have at least never heard of Neck Deep, but for those of you who may be less familiar or have somehow managed to avoid hearing of this band, allow me to introduce you to them.

Neck Deep, the 5-piece pop-punk sensation hailing from Wrexham, Wales has basically taken the alternative scene by storm, turned it on its head, and made it their bitch. The Peace and The Panic, the band’s third album, sees Neck Deep further solidifying their rightful heir to the pop-punk throne with their first top-10 hit. The band delivers some of their best performances mixed with some of the heaviest themes of their short careers making The Peace and The Panic something that feels truly timeless in everything it does. 

Three albums in three years is no small feat, especially when they’ve been as solid as the ones Neck Deep has made. While The Peace and The Panic isn’t as revolutionary or as endearing as their sophomore attempt, Life’s Not Out To Get You, the band has stuck to their roots and made an admirable follow-up record that feels right at home in the Neck Deep discography. This release is definitely their most pop sounding album, but nothing about this record feels forced or as if the band is selling out, but rather it’s an obvious evolution for a group that has gained so much momentum in such a short amount of time. It still sounds as if the band is making the music they want to make, but there’s an obvious change in production techniques and experimentation resulting in a different sounding record that is sure to alienate some die-hard, old school Neck Deep fans.

Check out the tracklist below before we get real deep into this.

The Peace and the Panic Tracklist:
1. Motion Sickness
2. Happy Judgement Day
3. The Grand Delusion
4. Parachute
5. In Bloom
6. Don’t Wait (ft. Sam Carter)
7. Critical Mistake
8. Wish You Were Here
9. Heavy Lies
10. 19 Seventy Sumthin’
11. Where Do We Go When We Go
 

The band has gone through some emotional trauma since their last release. Losing friends and family members while constantly touring on the road and facing their inner demons. Neck Deep grew up a lot, and The Peace and the Panic reflects that. Maturity comes at a price, however. If what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, then what makes us money makes us less daring. From the out of place anthem of “The Grand Delusion” to the ‘let’s leave this town’ song in “Parachute”, all of the usual pop-punk tropes and themes are here. Everything on this album feels and sounds great, but the biggest issue with it, is that it feels and sounds great for a 2005 record.

Frontman Ben Barlow’s vocals sound like a mix between Ryan Key from Yellowcard, and Christopher Drew from Never Shout Never. Combine this with fairly simplistic and straightforward, albeit incredibly addictive and relatable songwriting, and you have a record that sounds very Simple Plan-esque. Keeping all of this in mind though, Neck Deep really isn’t trying to sound like anything else. In fact, the band absolutely owns the sound they are going for, and it’s one of true infectious nostalgia that only proves the timeless appeal of a pop-punk genre that seems to have disappeared from modern music.

The Peace and The Panic is a really good album. It’s not amazing, and doesn’t bring many surprises, but its songs are incredibly catchy and fun and harken back to what feels like a much simpler time. Standout tracks for me are “Happy Judgement Day”, “Don’t Wait” and “In Bloom” which has the potential to really become a solid hit for this band. This is the most accessible Neck Deep album by far, and it’s definitely going to get the group new fans, but may ultimately end up alienating some of their old ones. People looking for a new pop-punk record should look no further, and older fans who may not have loved this record should listen again to truly embrace all of its catchy goodness.  

Regardless of how fans may feel though, Neck Deep isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and The Peace and the Panic is everything we love about Neck Deep, even if it is a little bit different.

Keep up with them on their social media down below for more!

Neck Deep: Facebook // Instagram // Twitter // Official Site

Shred Flintstone - Cartoon Physics Review

Shred Flintstone, the 3 piece “shred rock” band based out of New Jersey (and I must add one of the coolest band names I’ve ever heard), has released their hard-hitting debut EP Cartoon Physics and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

The 5-song album (only 4 on Spotify for some reason) is only around 10 minutes long which may sound like nothing to some people, but in a world of waning attention spans, Shred Flintstone absolutely owns every second on this record. The songwriting is clever and concise and nothing is wasted on unneeded instrumentals, repetitious choruses, or flashy guitar solos and it makes each song extremely satisfying. 

Fronted by guitarist and vocalist Dan Barrecchia, Shred Flintstone started out as a just a side project, but quickly evolved to take on a life of its own when drummer Joey Giambra and bassist Bridget Bakie joined. The band is all about positive vibes and good times, and their music is a complete manifestation of that. To quote the band off their Bandcamp page, “We hope this music makes you feel good about being yourself in a world that wants you not to feel good about being yourself”.  Each track off of Cartoon Physics somehow feels like a perfect throwback to the carefree times in your life, just making you feel happy and want to dance. These songs are oddly familiar which gives the listener a certain level of comfort and enthusiasm about not only the music, but the band as a whole. 

Check out the track list for Cartoon Physics below! 

 

 

 

 

The album kicks off with the aptly named “Happy Song”, a minute and 22 seconds of pure fun. It’s filled to the brim with infectious attitude thanks to its angsty lyrics and intentionally fast and sloppy guitar, and gives us a perfect glimpse into what Shred Flintstone is all about. This leads perfectly into “Buggin’” which has arguably the best chorus on the record. It’s an in your face, anxious song that has a lighthearted feeling of hijinks behind it. 

The next track “To-Do List” is my least favorite song on the album. It almost entirely forgoes that atmosphere of fun nostalgia that is present on the rest of the record in favor of a more serious tone that comes off a bit whiney in all honesty. Luckily this track is followed by my favorite song, “Fruity Pebbles.” Clocking in at a whopping 3 minutes and 12 seconds (that’s long for this band) it showcases the group at its best both on terms of songwriting and lyrics. It’s a truly delightful song with clever wordplay as it ebbs and flows between its quick verses and slower, more impactful choruses.

This brings us to the last track on the album, “You Don’t Know Me.” In the spirit of complete honesty, I’ve spent the least amount of time with this track because I usually stream albums off of Spotify to listen for reviews, and for some reason this song is not on Spotify, but I digress. A brooding, anti-social song, “You Don’t Know Me” features some of the most inspired and interesting performances on the record. It’s got a different feel than all of the other songs, and while it may not be as fun as some of the other songs, it’s still oddly familiar and comforting. 
In the time it took me to write this review I listened Cartoon Physics in its entirety 6 times. I found myself enjoying each song more and more as time went on. It’s a quick, fun-filled album that is filled with charm and positivity. With that being said it’s not without its flaws.

The biggest drawback of this record is all of the timing and syncopation issues present within a lot of songs. They are never enough to take away from the song, but they definitely catch your ear when you hear them.

If you have 10 minutes to spare and want to check out some new music, I highly recommend this record, you won’t be disappointed. 

Shred Flinstone: Facebook

Civil Youth - Conversations Review

If you’re familiar with Philadelphia’s rock scene at all, then chances are you’ve probably at least heard the name Civil Youth at some time or another.

Comprised of lead vocalist, Michael Kepko, guitarist Daniel Chapman, and drummer Evan Seeberger, the ‘indie-alternative/rock’ trio from Philadelphia, PA has been taking the east coast by storm. With the release of their latest album, Conversations, Civil Youth’s worldwide musical conquest is now all but inevitable. From opening for acts such as Twenty One Pilots, AWOLNATION, and Capital Cities to their 8th US national tour, Civil Youth has far surpassed that ‘local band’ status, and has established a far reaching cultural presence with their genre defying sound, intensely intimate lyrics, and high energy performances.

Conversations, available now, is the band’s latest release. The 13 track album (not including bonus tracks) centers around the wide range of emotions we all go through when battling depression, anxiety or just any of our inner demons. Trying to define a genre for this album is about as challenging as it gets. Conversations is rap-rock meets post hardcore meets pop with obvious influences such as Linkin Park and Twenty One Pilots.

At first listen it all sounds a bit forced and contrived as if the band is going through a sort of identity crisis trying to appeal to everyone but themselves. Much to my surprise, however, after a couple of listens I genuinely grew to really like nearly everything that Civil Youth and Conversations had to offer.
 

1. 502 (Sides)
2. Belief
3. When We Collide
4. Dark Debts
5. Just Set Fire
6. Between Me & You
7. Stay
8. Echoes
9. Let You In (ft. Bradley Walden of Emarosa)
10. Jaded
11. Part of Me
12. Vacancy
13. Conversations (These Ghosts)
 

Conversations starts with the track “502 (Sides)” which quickly introduces the audience to everything that is Civil Youth and sets the tone for the rest of the album for better or for worse. A driving synth backtrack fuels the entire song opening the floor for Civil Youth’s signature style of vocals. While the vocals are very pop sounding and deceptively catchy (you will find yourself singing these songs, I guarantee it), they are heavily drenched in electronic production techniques making the whole record feel a tad too synthetic.

There’s a catch 22 though. The subtle brilliance behind these vocals sounding the way they do is that they are often conveying very real, and very desperate human themes. This juxtaposition coupled with Civil Youth blurring genres together, blatantly challenging what traditional pop music sounds and feels like is something that took me a little while to appreciate, but nonetheless inspires me. 

Take a listen to and watch the music video for “Between Me & You” below!

There’s a very big part of Civil Youth’s sound that I still haven’t touched on, and that is of course the rapping. Kepko is not only the very talented singer for Civil Youth, but also doubles down and raps on many tracks as well showcasing just how good his flow really is. While some songs have just ok rap verses, there’s a few tracks (Jaded, Part of Me, Let You In) that exhibit just how good Kepko can rap and is also a testament to the versatility of the band as a whole. These tracks for me are some of my favorite off the record because they feel the most natural and true to the band. Other standout tracks include “502 (Sides)” and the title track “Conversations."

If you’re a fan of the newer Linkin Park sound or just some solid rap-rock, then Civil Youth and Conversations are definitely the right fit for you.  

If you’re not a fan of these things then Conversations isn’t as easy to get into as you’d might hope, but if you stick with it and give the album a fair chance, you can really grow to love it and appreciate its genius. All in all it still sounds a bit over-produced and could stand some more natural sounding vocals, but once you get past that, you can be treated to one of Philly’s best up and coming bands.  

Civil Youth: Facebook // Official Site // Twitter // Instagram // YouTube

Andross - Recidivist Review

Indie Punk Rock is well defined by Andross, a Philadelphia four piece, who are celebrating the recent release of their third full-length album, Recidivist. Having just played one of our Hook Showcases on April 28th, we might be a little biased, but Andross is one of the best bands around right now - really exciting up & coming band stuff, ya know.

Released on May 19th, Recidivist was produced, engineered, mixed, mastered by Kevin Folk at Warm Body Studios, includes 7 additional vocals, and of course couldn't be created without band members Tim Balch (vocals, guitars, acoustic guitar, keyboards), Chris Waters (guitars, backing vocals), Drew Grahn (bass), and Tom Brucker (drums, percussion, backing vocals). The 10-track album is a hard hitting, fast paced collection that adds a lasting impression to Andross' already impressive discography.

Check out the tracklist below to keep up with us!

Recidivist Tracklist:
1. Recidivist
2. The Consensual Revolution
3. Moonracer
4. I Don't Want Yr Money
5. Violence 1995
6. King Coyote
7. Needa
8. Pinko
9. Got a Gun, Agnes
10. Inventor and Human Dynamo
 

 

Recidivist is a fast paced album that relies on heavy hitting riffs contrasting against the voice of Balch who has inherited this half-sung, half-screamed lyricism. Opening track, "Recidivist" immediately slinks the listener into the world of Andross - a fast-paced, hungry space for you to get lost into. Some of these tracks move so fast, it's easy to listen to the album in it's entirety without realizing.

One of my favorite tracks off of the EP is "Violence 1995." This track, in comparison to the four tracks that come before it, sounds full. Musically, this track really brings in what I want from Andross. A lot of the tracks feel hinged on punk and indie vibes, but they never thoroughly stick to one - which definitely isn't a complain, but it can make the tracks feel similar to one another.

"King Coyote" is such an interesting stand out track for this album. Mostly acoustic, more traditionally "indie," but honestly it reminded me more so of folk-y rock? It's sort of a surprise when it comes on, but after many listen-throughs, I've decided that Andross' tactic for Recidivist is one that highlights their ability to shape shift. I usually go through every track and break it down, but I think that's something the listener should do. This album will surprise you, confuse you, make you sad, make you happy. This album is a light in the dark, and I am so unbelievably excited to see what Andross has in store.

Recedivist is 10-tracks of hard work and love from Andross, and that sweats through each track as you follow along. In comparison to their last big release, These Are The Giants We Know, seems a much more post-hardcore collection than Recidivist, especially instrumentally, not to mention the variety. Don't sleep on this one. Check out a bandcamp stream of "Violence 1995" while you're here.

As we said above, (maybe we're gloating), Andross is a Hook favorite, and you'd be legit silly to not check these guys out. If you're into anything at all we've said, then definitely stay up to date on all Andross news by checking out their social media links down below! Andross is Philly's force to be reckoned with. 

Andross: Website // Facebook // Instagram // Bandcamp