The Front Bottoms – Rose EP (2014, Bar/None Records)
I will start off by saying I hate the name “Front Bottoms.” I know it is a British slang term and I appreciate the anglophile inclination but I can’t bring myself to say it in a conversation without giggling quietly to myself.
With that being said this band, from Bergen County, NJ, is pretty great. And their latest EP, Rose, is pretty damn catchy.
Rose is an album of unreleased “fan favorites” in honor of Mathew Uychich’s grandmother, according to their website. It is a throwback to the early 2000s pop-punk but it is slightly grown up. Acoustic guitar is preferred over the electronic-guitar led melodies. There is an angsty breakdown in “Lipstick Cover Magnet.” “12 Feet Deep” is about post-high school uncertainity, complete with a story of unrequited love. In the story, the main character describes himself as “concrete boots” and his love interest as “the river” to which he will drown into. There is a give-and-take conversation going on in “Jim Bogart” and ends with a choral sing-along. “Awkward Conversations” is as emo as it can possibly get without being over the top (or maybe it is over the top?) Brian Sella sings, “Once the booze is gone/ is it worth the buzz?”
As a recovering pop-punk addict, I appreciate these lyrical themes and the way they are conveyed. It may not be the most sophisticated music, but it is enjoyable.
The Felice Brothers – Favorite Waitress (2014, Dualtone)
The Felice Brothers’ latest album, Favorite Waitress, belongs in the Catskills (where they are from). It is rustic, revival-roots music and perfect for fans of other “brother” bands like The Avett Brothers and Punch Brothers. Songs like “Bird on a Broken Wing” and “No Trouble” lend themselves to foot-tapping and swaying along. “Cherry Licorice” is one where Bob Dylan vocal influence is felt most strongly. In “Constituents” an organ shines brightly at the start of the song but the track slowly flickers out.
After listening to quite a few Felice Brothers records over the years, they are obviously committed to this sound. One must wonder what will happen once the folk-revival bubble bursts. While the true devotees may stick around, will The Felice Brothers adapt or continue on this path?
The Antlers – Familiars (2014, Anti-)
Familiars is the latest full length album by The Antlers, since 2011’s Burst Apart and 2009’s critically acclaimed Hospice. In being unfamiliar with their previous work, I am very impressed by Familiars. The melodies seemed rooted in jazz and low-fi with wondrously lush arrangements. All the songs clock in at almost 5 minutes or longer. It is easy to get lost in the floating-through-space vibe of the album.
With simple one-word titles, the album could serve as a journey film’s soundtrack. The record goes from point-A to point-B at a deliberate and calculated pace. The trumpet-lead outro on “Doppelganger” is gloomy and dark. “Intruders” is a ballad where Peter Sillberman’s voice reaches dramatic heights. The slow-guitar picking on “Director” is full of grace. On “Revisited,” there seems to be an external (or internal) struggle between the past and the future.
As a first exposure to the band, I enjoyed this release. It was excellent background music for completing a check-list of tasks. For me, the melodic elements and Sillberman’s voice stand out the most. Familiars is a journey through a luxurious landscape that see-saws between powerful and lethargic.