Category Archives: Albums

REVIEW: ANTI-MELODY by American Standards Gets Real About Grief, Loss, & Suicide

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Phoenix-based hardcore punk-infused metal band American Standards is known for their “piss and vinegar” sound, boasting a well-crafted amalgamation of heavy-handed, technical instrumentals, and brutal yet poetic lyrics that confront societal divides such as corporate greed, media corruption, loss, materialism and personal struggle. Presumably due to their focus on DIY ethics, the group attracted a devoted following in response to their leadership of what has come to be known as the “guerrilla punk” movement in Phoenix. Think of the gritty, raw basement shows we all know and love, except this time American Standards would be there to distribute self-produced compilation CDs as a method of raising money for local causes and charities. Pretty rad, isn’t it?

Online you’ll find American Standards listed as “chaos-driven noise punk” also noting themselves as self-proclaimed “purveyors of fine noise” and “Voted Least Likely to Succeed in 2011″ – the year the band was formed. Don’t let their humor fool you though, the message packaged within the chaos tells something of a deeper story. The group has since been recognized in the form of a regular presence on local radio stations like 98KUPD, RadioPhoenix and TheBlaze in addition to sharing the stage with acts like Atreyu, Comeback Kid, Norma Jean, Every Time I Die and many more.

American Standards’ most recent album “ANTI-MELODY” (which premiered in Revolver Magazine, Alternative Press and Lambgoat) is the group’s fourth release, delving into topics that are undeniably more personal than ever before for its members while simultaneously continuing to deliver on what the band has always been known for: pungent commentary on societal divides and anti-consumerism. This time around however, the development of this album is a distinct reflection of American Standard’s ability to focus through times of struggle while baring it all despite battles with depression after the loss of founding guitarist Cody Conrad to suicide, followed shortly after by the loss of the vocalist Brandon Kellum’s father to cancer.

What would have broken so many other bands transmuted into a powerful point of resonance for American Standards, empowering them to produce an album that not only cuts deep, but holds true to the spirit of the band’s fiercely integral essence.

The Tracks

Writers Block Party

“Writer’s Block Party” might at first sound like pandemonium to an unfocused ear, but with closer listen you’ll quickly discover a lyrical contrast that highlights societal pressures imposed on those who desire success or any place in the limelight. The song immediately portrays the immense impact of these pressures through the band’s eyes; “dancing around like we’re marionettes, a stutter in our step, a cadence in our breath, to the unimpressed…”

This is an opening number that comes out swinging, keeping things hyped while immediately addressing the lyrical heart of the matter which made it an ideal choice for a single. And despite seeking an “easy fix” it’s clear things weren’t so simple as the song goes on to say, “I gave up my heart to find a soul… The clouds came in and the lights went out. We were guided by the roar.”

The metaphorical nature of their lyric choices leave much to interpretation and making space for further connection with their ever-growing fan base, but it can be speculated that this track alludes to the many struggles of avoiding corporate sponsorship in the music industry and beyond. This line in particular encapsulates the track well:

“Remove the spine and the heart. Safe bet, mindset. And claim what’s left as art.”

Carpe Diem, Tomorrow

Although brief in content, the technical aspect of  instrumentals included in “Carpe Diem, Tomorrow” are placed well as both a striking opener and stout interludes that highlight a wake-up call just beneath the surface:

“Concrete minds cannot change. Don’t stand still, keep moving. You’ll become what you say you hate.”

Encouraging fans to seize the day, this track utilizes the concept of time to motivate listeners and warn them of the consequences of stagnancy in life. Audibly this track has an underlying rhythm that is a bit similar to that of System of A Down, Throw Down, or Tool; while offering unique lead guitar, which in contrast offers similarities to bands like From First to Last, Trivium, and Hatebreed.

Church Burner

“Church Burner” starts off with an eerie chorus which repeats throughout, but not before laying down some seriously chunky guitar riffs that bring a daunting undertone. The lead guitar and bass notes are undeniably the highlight here, although this is the first sing-scream track to be found on ANTI-MELODY which is to be noted as well.

Lyrically this track is beautiful in the simplicity of its resounding metaphor while still managing to communicate the intensified angst that American Standards fans long for.

“An extremist in boldface type. We’re all people, but compassion doesn’t sell. And there’s no time for independent thought. There are no divisions outside the ones that we create.”

While chaos and hardcore don’t exactly scream “empowerment”, American Standards is clever in the execution of their message. They scatter calls to action throughout each song and foreshadowing for what is to come if the previously mentioned social obstacles aren’t addressed in a way that keeps things moving, so-to-speak. The lyrics go on to say:

“Tear down the walls and build a bridge… We don’t want another title to tell us who we are.”

Bartenders Without Wings

“Bartenders Without Wings” slows things down a bit, sounding more like a classic punk ballad that explores a struggle between man and self. The energy of this track is especially solemn, suggesting the song may be addressing the unexpected loss of founding guitarist Cody Conrad as well as Kellum’s father. “Bartenders Without Wings” also spotlights some inarguable similarities to the sound of now infamous As I Lay Dying.

According to Kellum, ANTI-MELODY is the result of “what started as social commentary on the growing divide in our society” but then became much more personal due to the loss of Conrad and Kellum’s father amidst recording; this track communicated that effortlessly.

Kellum went on to say that the band “went back in to re-record much of the album and in a lot of ways used it as therapy to cope with the experiences.”

Danger Music #9

“Danger Music #9” is a smashing reminder of the dreadful state of conglomerate corporate takeover and a return to the classic American Standards sound, fueled by the pain and grief that lurked in the shadows for these four bandmates at the time. It can be inferred from the lyrics that they are not simply addressing a grandiose idea of anti-consumerism, but more specifically an issue with the intentions and treatments of our healthcare system. Though often choosing to communicate through lyrics that are poetic and/or satirical in nature, “Danger Music #9” takes an unprocessed approach to its confrontation of western culture particularly medicine, making the lyrics that much more savage in nature.

“You make a beautiful statistic, diamond eyes. Giving incentives to move these units. Prescribe more illness. And we’ll become the money they count behind closed doors. A half a million dead. A third of us next.”

Cancer Eater

The title may have tipped you off as to what this track is about. The tragic loss of Kellum’s father is uttered through every verse of “Cancer Eater”, tearing from word to word with an energy unmatched by any other song on the album. Instrumentally, “Cancer Eater” is equally as brutal, once again highlighting lead and bass guitar.

Lyrically, however, this track has got to be the most poetic:

“We’re taken hostage by the ones we love, that leave us behind. I can’t be as tough as nails, with this paper skin. And organs that fail. But life moves on, and I’ll go on too… I lived like him. I’ll die like him. Remember me, remember.”

Broken Culture

“Broken Culture” is self explanatory in its purpose, erupting with energy right from the start with strategically coalesced vocals and a true hardcore sound that are again unique in their likeness to other tracks on the album if you listen close. Themes of anger, fear and isolation resurface once again, but this time with a more somber tone in wake of its preceding track “Cancer Eater”.

“We had more guns than bullets so, we made pistols with our hands. Where’s the good; there’s evil we must fear. So, pull the trigger and pray the rounds land.”

Chicago Overcoat

“Chicago Overcoat” takes all the energy from the seven songs before itself and delivers that consolidated energy as one swift punch in the ear drums before ending on a beautiful piano note. The track is in itself, a crescendo of all-encompassing instrumentals accompanied by a dominating vocal performance by Kellum.
“Chicago Overcoat” starts off with the focus on bass and drums as opposed to vocals and lead guitar, making for a pleasantly unrefined, and super-sludgy combo. And yet, there is a tone of desperate release, resentment, and determination to rise above through and through.

In Closing

ANTI-MELODY took things to the next level for American Standards, allowing fans to get to know the individuals behind these powerful words that leave us feeling a little less misunderstood and a little more at home in the world.

Ever-brutal. And ever-poetic.

It seems, although incredibly tragic, the struggles that American Standards experienced during the making of ANTI-MELODY created a vacuum of emotion yielding an outcome no fans could have predicted. We’re looking forward to seeing where this intimate breakthrough takes them, and eager to listen in as they continue to evolve.


ANTI-MELODY is available now on iTunes, Google Music, Amazon and Spotify or you can pick it up along with exclusive merchandise through the
American Standards Bandcamp page.

BANDCAMP | ITUNESAMAZON | GOOGLE MUSICSPOTIFY | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | YOUTUBE | INSTAGRAM

REVIEW: Miss Krystle’s New EP “Inevitable” is Down to Make Fans Feel Good

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Miss Krystle recently released her new EP Inevitable earlier this fall. As Arizona cools down from a particularly “Cruel Summer,” and as the US at large continues to struggle with obstacles across the board, Inevitable is a breath of fresh air ready to bring a second wind to all who listen. The Inevitable EP will be “on your mind and in your dreams… burning in your memory,” as it is truly “Unforgettable.”

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

Ever the inspiration, Miss Krystle continues utilizing all her passions and talents to their fullest potentials in all 6 tracks on the EP. She is a humanitarian, a philanthropist, an intellectual juggernaut, and a phenomenally talented musician; not only is the EP immensely entertaining, it is also incredibly uplifting and nurturing.
Miss Krystle had this to say about her new EP: “It was my mission to be impactful. We were going for in-your-face, this is how it is. We also wanted it to be empowering. I wanted to tell my fans that despite everything that has been going on socially and politically this year, you can find your power and your voice. I want them to remember to never give up. Lastly, I wanted to showcase my own vulnerability.” Throughout the entire album, these words certainly do ring true.

The Inevitable EP is a wild journey through many of the emotions, passions, experiences, and darkest thoughts that the human mind is capable of. The energy levels of the album are like a rollercoaster, with some songs pumping the listener up and getting them ready for a night on the town and others making the listener wonder if they should curl up on the couch with a comfortable blanket and a pint of their favorite ice cream. Miss Krystle has a one-of-a-kind style in her approach to music, but it fits in perfectly with other contemporary pop artists. Some of her new songs also seem like they’d easily find a place on a Dance Dance Revolution playlist, as they would be delightfully fun to dance along to. Others still would be perfect for someone’s first pick at karaoke.

Photo Credit: Shot by Jonny

Generally, pop music and similar genres are not known for their depth or insight, yet Miss Krystle easily marries popular culture, philosophy, and deep introspection in her musical work. During a preliminary listen, her songs sound as if they’d easily find a home in any club or on one’s favorite Top 40 radio station. Don’t be fooled, however—upon further inspection, the lyrics peel away, layer by layer, revealing a deep exploration into the human condition and how it impacts contemporary society.

Inevitable

From anthemic, affirmational title-track “Inevitable”, Miss Krystle explores themes of fitting in, watching the world around us, learning from our experiences, seeing the horrors of humanity and the world around us, yet still keeping calm and carrying on. 

She tackles the concept of how “they tell us how to fit in… tell us how to get by,” while still struggling to find our own identities in this mad world. While the song could be about so many different topics, from love to revolution, it instantly becomes a bright beacon in the night, guiding all who may feel lost.

Photo Credit: That Orko

In fact, out of all the songs on this EP, “Inevitable” itself may be the most exceptional and singularly profound track. Coming out at a time when many of us may feel utterly lost and hopeless, Miss Krystle reminds us to “rise for what matters, lasting until the end.” She needs us standing with her, united. This is a call to arms, not to fight what is wrong in this world, but rather to fight for the ability to support one another, to remind ourselves that we are all in this together. “We are, none of us, alone,” as ancient Chinese philosopher Fushumongu stated long ago.

As we’ve seen, time and again across this country, people are “taking it to the streets, not afraid to take a stand.” We do have strength in numbers, and we will fight. We have had enough. We’ve all woken up to this new day, and we “can’t give up on what we love.” Victory truly is inevitable. This song, like a mantra, shall inspire countless others to greatness in the coming days.

On top of any newfound courage in the realms of love and activism, Miss Krystle also calls us to come “together, woman and man.” This is truer now more than ever before. None of us can ignore the future, no matter how hard we try. Now, let’s get ready to “spark it up.”

Wild Like Fire

While the more insightful songs and verses from Miss Krystle’s new EP are absolutely striking, the album has a great mix of fun and fiery tracks as well. When “Wild Like Fire” comes on, it’s difficult to not instantly get pumped up. This song is a true energy boost, from the lyrics to the beat. “Welcome to the show.” Miss Krystle “can’t control it,” because she really is a pro. This song is great to drive to with the volume up, but it would also find a home in any club or, perhaps, bedroom. While Miss Krystle certainly has her own, unique style, fans of Kylie Minogue and similar artists may really enjoy “Wild Like Fire” and other songs off this EP.

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

Better Than You Think

On top of Miss Krystle’s self-assuredness and self-knowledge of her more primal urges and experiences, she also covers those more intimate feelings that often accompany physical connections between lovers. “Better Than You Think” is a love ballad of sorts, reminiscent of a modern Shakespearean sonnet in its lyrics. The symbolism and imagery in this song are quite powerful, from “collecting stars like fireflies, I’ve never felt this much alive, living the life before we die, and we return back to the sky,” to “baby the altitude is fine, on this journey, you and I, watching auroras hypnotize, getting lost deeper in your eyes.” The romantic notions in this song would melt even the coldest of hearts.

Photo Credit: Larry Alan

As much as many of us know that the only person we can truly rely on in this universe is ourselves, Miss Krystle explores feelings most of us have felt before. She shows a serene vulnerability, acknowledging the dangers but also the securities that can come out of relying on another beautiful soul for sustenance. Someone else to share this journey, and the wonders of the universe, with, as she serenades us with “and if I burn up on reentry, I knew you’d want to be here with me, you knew that one last kiss could save me, floating with you for eternity… everything’s good as long as you’re here with me.” Miss Krystle takes us on an odyssey to space, giving us “galactic goosebumps everyplace” as we cruise “on highway milky way.”

Just as Miss Krystle explores these elements of our humanness, she also explores how the best intimate relationships involve two souls coming together, knowing more about each other than they may let on. Indeed, Miss Krystle shows that she knows us better than we think that she knows us, as our human experiences are similar to one another despite their singularity. In fact, through her work, Miss Krystle may also reveal how she may know herself better than she thinks that she knows herself.

Erase You

While many of us can relate to the feelings Miss Krystle explores in “Better Than You Think”, some of us may have unfortunately experienced some emotions and experiences that are quite antithetical to that beauty. “Erase You” is a song that explores the darker side of love, when we find ourselves in a relationship that ends up being something we were not quite expecting. Still, Miss Krystle’s penchant for self-examination and metacognition still shines through brightly in the lyrics. “I never understood your distance, I thought I got it right, but now you’re gone and I’m alone.” Anyone who has been through something like this can empathize with how painful this situation is.

Miss Krystle counters this betrayal with self-empowerment, starting the song with a vigorous mantra: “You’re in the presence of a Goddess, but you forgot to bow, and now I got my eyes up on the blade I’ll use to take you out.” She continues with some conflicting lines later in the song, showing the sort of infighting and uncertainty our spirits must endure in terrible times such as this treachery of love. As she struggles with these feelings, she shares her efforts to forget: “You can hand it over, no more staying sober, I drink it away to erase you. I need to escape what you put me through. I drink it away to erase you.”

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

While coming to terms with reality and coping mechanisms, Miss Krystle also explains some positive strategies for her situation: “So you thought you’d be a martyr, and leave me with your sin, but little did you know, I gave it up before your words began… I’m glad you’re gone and I’m alone, so I can go and live my life.” While all is fair and love and war, this war takes no prisoners, and the cost is high.

Despite Miss Krystle’s best efforts, she is only human, and the song ends with more of this battle still to be fought. “If I could just wake up with you next to me, everything would be just how I need it to be. I don’t want to feel all this pain, don’t want to be alone. I need you to feel the same, and get your arms back around me.” These heart-wrenching lyrics make it apparent that there are no happy endings in the real world, but we all have the power to make it through as stronger versions of who we used to be.

Anything

From the second “Anything” begins playing, it is difficult to not imagine it being played while a model walks down the runway, or while a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race lip syncs for her life. The beat really gets the blood flowing, and it is great to drive or work out to. It’s nearly impossible to not feel sexy and powerful while “Anything” plays, so “why you actin’ so shy?” Miss Krystle shows us something that will make our hearts bleed, so we “best be getting ready” because she’s gonna get us rockin’ steady. While it may be hard to focus, Miss Krystle helps us learn to “live it up.”

Relevant

The song “Relevant” was saved for the end of the EP, and for good reason. “Relevant” is rife with self-awareness and introspection, and it is clear this song is very personal for Miss Krystle. However, it also serves as a reminder to the rest of us to let go of where we began “and be reborn in the wake of it.” These lyrics are quite relevant to the theme of symbolic rebirth, and it is also quite fitting for Phoenix, Arizona.

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

Miss Krystle also reminds us to “feel at home in the place” we’re in, and to “never mind the storm.” Our dreams will keep us warm. We all struggle to become relevant while traversing our own paths through this life, and “we constantly test our innocence.” Likely pulling from her own experiences, she reminds us of the ultimate cost of giving parts of ourselves away in order to reach our goals: “May our broken halos serve as evidence; pieces of our souls for percentages.” As she states proudly, “I’m holding on to me.” We all may get a little lost on the way, but we must always remember who we are and where we came from.

Continuing this philosophical journey through personal trials and tribulations, Miss Krystle explores how “we all wanna be somebody,” but in the end, “all we really need is somebody… down to make us feel we’re relevant now.” Perhaps that somebody is a lover, a family member, or a friend; that somebody may even be ourselves, especially when the path becomes increasingly treacherous, or when the storm becomes too tempestuous. To quote Miss Krystle, “At the end of the day, all we are really looking for is someone to make us feel like we matter. My message is that the only person who should make you feel relevant and loved is ultimately you.”

Closing Thoughts

Don’t forget, “we make our own strength, we make our own peace,” and we really are so strong. “We can do this.” We are all a part of history, but Miss Krystle and her new EP Inevitable have certainly found a comfortable home in modern popular culture. As we all enjoy these 6 sublime songs, we also wait with bated breath for future releases from Miss Krystle. Hers is a flame we do not want to go out, as she brings a lot of light to this oft dark world.

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

(Top featured photo by Tony Mandarich Creatives)

 

REVIEW: DaDadoh + The P.o.C. “You Can’t Rap Forever” EP Release at The Trunk Space 9-25-17

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DaDadoh - Photo Credit: Lnin Oo
DaDadoh
Photo Credit: Lnin Oo | Editor: Katherine Amy Vega
© All Rights Reserved

PHOENIX — With an Arizona summer solar-powered surge of ambition, Tempe-based Alternative HipHop artist DaDadoh started recording the 6-track You Can’t Rap Forever in June of this year. In only four months between then and the release show, he worked with a perfectionistic fervor to re-work and refine his songs that had already proven popular. Regardless of unwavering confidence in the songs he’s written, DaDadoh honed his insatiable appetite for challenging himself to accomplish beyond what he thought feasible before. In fact, he mixed and mastered the album, and performed all of the songs including all of the instrumentals, himself. The result was reaching the same kind of new heights as an artist that he is regularly helping other artists achieve as a music producer with his record label TVLiFE Entertainment.

Although You Can’t Rap Forever is a cohesive addition to DaDadoh’s discography, the release brings a fresh sound that comes with his growth and evolution as an artist and a person. Lyrically, he continues to cleverly inject commentary into his verses, using music as his platform to have a voice in matters. Steering away from his cocky, comedic, and sex-saturated themes of the 2016 release Radical, he takes a more sober tone, and channels angst into his music. The new release is both melodic, and infused with punk rock. The album feels sincere and intense – like it’s made of his very soul. Get ready to get f*cked up when you dive in.

You can buy You Can’t Rap Forever on Bandcamp as a digital download only, or with a physical copy in CD format: Here

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DaDadoh & The P.o.C. - The Trunk Space 9-25-17

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While DaDadoh is a charismatic (and somewhat-eccentric) staple in the Phoenix local music scene, he isn’t one to boast; despite the fact that one might consider him a hiphop-flavored renaissance man. If you’re not familiar with his projects and you’re reading this now, it might have taken some online sleuthing to discover that on top of his solo project and music production, he also hosts “Before The Show: The Podcast,” and is a member of bands including Exxxtra Crispy and Militia Joan Hart. And during the four months leading up to the EP release, he helped local musicians even further by recruiting 3 live band members – now known as The P.o.C. – Andy Warpigs (Guitar & Vocals), Jimmie Lewis (Bass), and Daviid Giiron (Drums).

The more you learn about DaDadoh, the more you come to understand that he passionately pours 100% into his artistic projects, and how important the community is to him. Although this release show was his time to shine, his gratitude for his new bandmates, and all of the fans and media people swarming around The Trunk Space venue, was no secret; nor was their willingness and enthusiasm to support his release show – and THAT reciprocal community is what Burning Hot Events is all about.

Catch DaDadoh’s next show,
with Amuck, Wait for the Sun, & TOSO,
at Rogue Bar on October 10!

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

DaDadoh + The P.o.C. – Trunk Space 9-25-17

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REVIEW: Say Anything’s New Album “I Don’t Think It Is”

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Artist: Say Anything
Album: I Don’t Think It Is
Release Date: February 5, 2016

Like every Say Anything album, “I Don’t Think It Is” lays it’s cards on the table from the first note of the raucous intro “Give A Damn”, and sets the tone for a strong outing that is at once a return to form and a massive leap in sheer willingness to push their songs beyond any easily categorizable structure. Lyrically, the song showcases Max Bemis’ traditional vitriol toward both himself and his critics. However, the song structurally revolves around a much more lo-fi garage rock vibe than has ben shown in any previous Say Anything album. This burst of high energy post-punk stems directly from the influence of members from bands such as The Blood Brothers, At The Drive-In, and Mutemath; as they each provide their own unique take on the tried and true Say Anything formula. Since the release of “In Defense Of The Genre”, Say Anything as a band has evolved into a collective of sorts with Max Bemis at the helm. Whether through a slew of special guest features (“In Defense Of The Genre”) or a bold decision to release an album without any guitarist (“Hebrews”), Bemis’ creativity and unhinged passion always shine brightest when he surrounds himself with his peers and idols.

Perhaps the most impressive feat this album manages to pull off is a return to the bold sassiness, hilarity, and angst that characterized the early albums without coming across as an awkward old man trying to rekindle the sound of his youth. Above all, there is a refreshing burst of anger on this release that could only be created by an artist who simply does not give a damn what critics, fans, or anyone other than himself thinks about the songs he has crafted. Perhaps this mindset is what allowed for the much talked about collaboration with Kanye West wherein Bemis and West sat down and listened to one another’s at-the-time unreleased albums together and each other.

As with all things Say Anything, there really is no way to truly ever separate truth from facetiousness unless you were actually present for any of the events, but it is very difficult not to notice parallels between the two artists. “Goshua” in particular sounds like an indie B-Side of the “Yeezus” album, and is the moment the album became a masterpiece. “We’re divided by a wavering expression. And I drink too much to cut the tension. You think I live for attention? Man, look what I do for a pension.” is a verse that could have just as easily shown up during “Black Skinhead”, and shows a bravado noticeably missing from the previous two albums. Max Bemis is confronting his own creativity with every line and through doing so manages to save Say Anything by simply returning to what he does best, brutally and comedically self-deprecating his own shortcomings and successes. In short, Say Anything managed to succeed where “Life Of Pablo” fell short.

A surprise release full of bravado and grandeur that actually delivered on the self-congratulatory hype of it it’s creator.

Check out our review and photos of Say Anything’s concert!
REVIEW: Say Anything Brings It to Tempe 4-22-16

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