Tag Archives: Pop-Punk

The Best Punk on Bandcamp: March 2019

best-punk-march-1244.jpgBandcamp has long been a home for DIY punk and hardcore from around the world, touching all of the myriad subgenre styles and helping to translate the simple effectiveness of cut-and-paste to the digital age. For March’s edition of the best punk releases on Bandcamp, Kerry Cardoza features weirdo rockers Uranium Club, the polished pop-punk of Potty Mouth, the proto-punk of Mexico’s Polo Pepo, and much more.

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Album of the Day: T-Rextasy, “Prehysteria”

At first listen, Prehysteria, the latest album from T-Rextasy, appears to be written lovingly by the band, for the band. (At least, those dinosaur puns seem designed to crack themselves up.) Like the NYC-based band’s sound in general, this punchy record could be loosely, lazily categorized as a post-punk LP, at least until you dig deeper. The group, which consists of vocalist Lyris Faron, guitarist Vera Kahn, bassist Annie Fidoten, and drummer Ebun Nazon-Powe, have previously named in interviews a varying cluster of influences, ranging from The Bags and Johnny Cash to Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Avril Lavigne. Album highlight “Coffee?” is a direct product of those broad tastes, with the band fluctuating between ’70s punk, funk, ska, and a pop breakdown that easily could’ve come from a lost, decade-old Ke$ha song. Later, on “Baby,” they use sugary harmonies and reverbed-out snare drum to tap into the overwhelming sweetness of a ‘60s girl group, a compelling counterbalance for the shaggy indie-rock riffs. The production is a little on the lo-fi side, conjuring images of a dirty, energetic Brooklyn warehouse practice space that’s littered with paper coffee cups and filled with laughter.

There’s a theatricality to T-Rextasy’s lyrical style that feels brassy (and maybe even a little corny) at times, and the music is all the more charming for it: Take “The Zit Song,” where Faron chronicles a particularly bad acne breakout to shape her central message of affirmation: “‘Cause I’m the prom queen, I’m the teen dream, worship me baby, when you see me you’ll scream.” From vintage shopping to zits to high school to dating apps, the subject matters on Prehysteria often teeter on the line between frivolous and fun-loving. The humor the quartet incorporate is refreshing, calling back to queercore icons Pansy Division—not just in its discussion of sexuality, but in its overarching, joyful camp. In times like these, when the world feels absolutely bleak, it’s invigorating to hear T-Rextasy focus on the little things while having so much fun—with us, with each other, and most importantly, with the music that they’re making.

Allison Crutchfield

Album of the Day: The Beths, “Future Me Hates Me”

Few bands make angst sound as joyous as the Beths do on their debut LP. As its title suggests, the album is full of songs of both regret and self-doubt, but the group deliver them with some of the strongest power-pop this side of Weezer’s Blue Album. The New Zealand quartet—who studied jazz together in Auckland—have a penchant for writing massive choruses that crash like tidal waves, and their songs are as tightly-wrought as they are relentless. On the belligerent breakup track “Uptown Girl,” frontwoman Elizabeth Stokes calls down the wrath of the gods (and a glass of poisoned wine) on a crummy ex as her band yank her from one full-octane hook to another, emphasizing her own frenzied urge to “drink the whole town dry.” Later, in “You Wouldn’t Like Me,” a sunny doo-wop arrangement and crisp backup vocals serve as a foil for Stokes’s harshest self-indictment: “You wouldn’t like me if you saw what was inside me.”

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Album of the Day: Royal Brat, “Eyesore”

Minneapolis punks Royal Brat have been on an upswing since 2015 when they broke into the scene with the lo-fi, five-song mixtape Negative Bone, which showcased the band’s aggressive, crunchy guitar riffs and in-your-face lyrics. It was a short but bombastic debut that led to a national tour on the strength of those five tracks. More importantly, it established them as queer punk storytellers and warriors, with most songs sharing painful experiences with heartbreak, identity, and sexual abuse, as well as their struggles as members of the queer and femme communities. On their full-length debut Eyesore, Royal Brat dedicates each minute—there are 26 of them—to gut-punching lyrics that move from poignant accounts of violence and inequality, to empowering anthems of self-determination and self-worth. Continue reading

The Merch Table: January 2018

merchtable
Every month, The Merch Table brings you the best and most bonkers merchandise you can find on Bandcamp. We commend bands and labels that get a little creative and think outside the tote bag. Whether it’s a fashion accessory, a piece of art, or something entirely unique, The Merch Table showcases inventive, original—and, occasionally, downright strange—stuff that you might want to get your hands on. Continue reading

Album of the Day: Fits, “All Belief is Paradise”

The cover of Fits’ debut record, All Belief is Paradise, depicts the band’s name on what appears to be a fluffy pink and blue carpet. Those cotton candy colors are just right for this record; it’s a hunk of sweet power pop that’s instantly delightful, but melts quickly. Each of the mostly sub-two-minute tracks smack nervously into the next one, offering immediately gratifying hooks, riffs, and climaxes that crash and rebound like a sugar-sick kid the day after Halloween.

Fits’ songs aren’t just saccharine, though. The band is a compound of Brooklyn talents from members of Big Ups, gobbinjr, and Fern Mayo, and Paradise plays like a compilation of their many influences; the songs are full of brooding basslines, creative drum fills, and seriously bright guitar licks. Lyrically, frontperson Nicholas Cummins unleashes emotions that take either a hilariously frank (“Superdead,” “Fulfilling”) or purposely vague form (“Drop Thistle,” “The Ground”). Like the best desserts, these songs aren’t meant to stay on your plate—they’re meant to be devoured, not lingered over.

In a recent interview, Cummins said that their brief songs are simply a result of their lack of patience, and that “if you wanna hear something [longer], you can play the song a couple times.” That demand for repetition makes highlights like “Running Out,” “Mango,” and “All the Time,” feel masterfully timed, rather than criminally short.

Eli Enis

Honolulu’s Honest, Diverse DIY Scene

The Bougies

The Bougies.

It’s a warm Friday night in Honolulu’s Chinatown, and local punk band Smoke Free Armstrong are playing their final show to a packed crowd at the Downbeat Lounge, a venue that, in recent years, has been ground zero for the city’s DIY punk scene. Between songs, guitarist and singer Steve Tanji grabs the mic to offer a sincere tribute. “I just want to thank you guys, from the bottom of my heart, for letting us play for you,” he says. The crowd of kids gathered in front of the stage cheer in response. “We’ve been playing for two years, and I want to thank you all for coming out and supporting the scene.”

There is a certain poignancy to Tanji’s words. By the usual musical standards, two years isn’t a long time for a band to exist—but, in Honolulu, it’s rare to find bands who last more than a few months, let alone years. Being a punk band in Honolulu is a lot more challenging than it would be on the mainland. First of all, there’s the location—“literally in the middle of nowhere,” says longtime promoter Jason Miller, who has been booking shows in Honolulu since the mid ’90s, and currently books under the name 808shows/Hawaii Express. “It’s so much [money] up front just to get somewhere for exposure. People can go on tours, but they’re not able to do it every summer, or during spring break. They can’t just jump in the van.”

Other problems: Hawaii is by nature a transient place. People come and go from the islands constantly, making it difficult to sustain a musical project for a long period of time. The state has an extraordinarily high cost of living, on par with that of the Bay Area or New York City, but with a far smaller population, and musicians need to hold down two or three jobs just to scrape by. Instruments and amps are more expensive because everything is imported—and forget about PA systems. Nobody owns property and basements are non-existent, so practice spaces are difficult to find and pricey to rent.

As far as places to play, there are currently no DIY venues on the island, and even if there were, the owners would still have to contend with the strange-but-true fact that sound travels farther in moist air than in dry air, making noise complaints inevitable, and house shows nearly impossible in Hawaii’s tropical climate. Generator shows in skate parks and on the beaches occasionally happen, but they can be stressful to execute—especially when it suddenly starts to rain, as it often does in Hawaii. To say nothing of the fact that the laid-back nature of Hawaiian culture isn’t exactly the most amenable to punk rock.

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Sub Pop Imprint Hardly Art Celebrates 10 Years as a Tastemaker All Its Own

Hardly Art

Sometime over tea at a donut shop in downtown Seattle, it occurs to Sarah Moody, general manager of Sub Pop Records’ imprint Hardly Art, that her label officially celebrated a milestone just days before.

“Just last week was our technical 10-year anniversary of the announcement of the label,” she says, taking a moment to reflect. “That was on March 9th, 2007.” To celebrate, the label is releasing a compilation of “bedroom recordings, demos, rarities, unreleased, and widely ignored material.”

Moody has been with Hardly Art since the beginning and Sub Pop before that. At 22, she was handpicked by Sub Pop CEO Megan Jasper, co-founder Jonathan Poneman, and Head of A&R Tony Kiewel to lead the nascent imprint.

At the time, Sub Pop was going on 20 and entering a stage of growth few indie labels survive long enough to see. The label quip, “Going out of business since 1988,” didn’t hold up. Sub Pop was thriving, having folded in successful comedy acts like Eugene Mirman, Flight of the Conchords, and Patton Oswalt into its ranks, along with crossover bands like Fleet Foxes and Iron & Wine.

The label had more ideas than it had resources to execute them. “One of the dangers of being successful and growing larger as a record label is that you can become victim to your own inertia,” Kiewel says. “You get bigger, it gets harder to change directions or to stop going in whatever direction you’re already aimed.”

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