If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. We’ve all
heard that at some point in our lives and when I was preparing to
write this review, that sentiment was haunting me like a ghost. Full
disclosure here, I’ve met the Gin Blossoms, I’ve actually had drinks
with them in New York City way back in 1995 and they are delightful
lads. That is why I am finding it so difficult to write this review. If you
can’t say anything nice…ok, so here goes.
No Chocolate Cake, the new album from the Gin Blossoms is 11 mild
tracks of jangly guitar tunes that is the perfect cure for anyone longing
to be transported to a college campus in the spring of 1995 walking
around with their 5th beer occasionally listening to some band playing
in the background.
Is that not nice? You decide. Here’s more.
Do you recall the Gin Blossom’s sound? Well that is what you’re
getting on this album and I know that’s a pretty obvious statement but
15 years later one would think that perhaps there would be an
evolution of some kind, anything, something. But to those die-hard
fans out there, fear not because No Chocolate Cake is serving up
everything Gin Blossoms just as you like it. Nothing on this record will
throw you off your fanwagon.
The single from the album is Miss Disarry and is by far the best tune
to be found here. It has a semblance of attitude and hooks that is
lacking on most of the other offerings on the album. Robin Wilson’s
vocal style works well in this song where as on most of the album it
just sounds like he’s so uninterested in what he’s singing and I think
maybe this hints at the main issue with No Chocolate Cake, it barely
has a pulse. The words that pop into my head are, nice, fine, bland,
and ho-hum. But I know they have fans, and lots of them so perhaps
all they want to do is please the fans they already have and are not
interested in garnering new interest. And there is nothing wrong with
that at all.
This is coming off a little harsh so let me add something here. The
Gin Blossoms are a very good live band. The songs have a presence,
energy and enthusiasm when they play them live and it makes one
ask, why couldn’t some of this be translated to a recording?
I wish the Gin Blossoms well, I really do. And I know I have probably
disobeyed the if you can’t say anything nice rule and for that I
The truth is the Gin Blossom’s music has always eluded me and I
wish No Chocolate Cake reversed that trend. Alas, it does not.
Transistor-on Takes “The Way Back Down” on EP
Transistor-on calls their goods “fuzzed out reverb music,” and in the spirit of post-rock, EP The Way Back Down is full of that melodious texture and sensation. Recorded at The Cottage with Damon Moon, The Way Back Down is a mere four tracks. But those songs make a satisfying sampling of a band with a big future ahead.
Atlanta duo Joey Piersante and Chris Armistead offer up a hazy fugue state that is the blueprint for this coming summer, showing that they can run with the best of the lo-fi crowd with their unique rhythms and finger-picking. The minimalist use of instruments that whip up the dream poppy wall of sound succeeds in taking the listener in a layered, chill journey.
Tracks like “Calling Out” and “Solar Flare” are so catchy (the former with its title refrain; the latter with its main guitar melody), that they etch onto your brain and trick you into thinking these are songs that have been around for maybe 20 years or so already.
Reviewers are throwing out comparisons—and they’ll continue to—of Transistor-on to Explosions in the Sky. The similarities are there for sure; both bands share a genre, after all. But saying only “they remind me of Explosions in the Sky” overlooks the fact that Transistor-on are stepping out in earnest on this EP, sounding comfortable in their skin without being jaded. Plus, having smoky vocals on the tracks adds to the spacey miasma and mystery that serves as the overarching feel of the record. The singing on “Empty Planet,” for example, highlights the track’s slow burn into its rocking guitar-driven crescendo.
Though the last piece on The Way Back Down is called “Exit,” by no means is that a harbinger of the band’s future. Transistor-on closes with a sure-footed tapestry of distortion and crisp rhythm, wrapping up a consistent and skillful release that definitely marks their arrival.
The Way Back Down is available to stream on SoundCloud or for purchase on iTunes. The gorgeous photo cover by Richard Casteel.
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Emily Hearn Saves Time in a Bottle on “Hourglass”
Emily Hearn’s sonic journey on Hourglass shows that she is a woman coming into her own, figuring out the knots of past heartache, the bliss of newlywed life, and the passage of time.
Time acts as the overarching narrative on the record; Hourglass spans the two years following the Athens, GA native’s debut Red Balloon and 2013 EP Promises. “We fall in or out of love as time moves us,” she explains. “We learn life-changing lessons as time goes on. We figure out how to handle important relationships as time shapes us. We decide who we want to be and what we believe as time reveals our priorities. And ultimately, we grow older as time goes by.”
Hearn sings wistfully “Oh, to be young, and to have time” on the third track “Oak Tree,” longing for the naïve feeling that time would never move forward, or at least not so fast. She frets over seeing her parents age so quickly. The existential worries of a twenty-something come delivered in a package of a catchy, infectious chorus and clap-along-able melody.
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