Elephant Jake makes the most of discomfort with “Classic.”

This piece originally published on my radio show’s website, Finding Emo

EJ

by Jeff Dunn

“I don’t wanna talk, talk, talk anymore than we have to,” croons Sal Fratto on Sebastian Bauer, the second track from Elephant Jake’s LP “Classic.” released March 17, 2017, on Wreck It Records. As the line would imply, Fratto and Colin Harrison cut straight to the point on “Classic.”, blending that now-quintessential emo revival sound with just enough indie rock to make it stand out palpably.

Fratto and Harrison don’t pull any punches lyrically, crafting intimate imagery with their words, reminiscent of Modern Baseball, Slaughter Beach, Dog, and Marietta. Fratto and Harrison capture the indeterminate feelings that come with maturing; fears of being alone, hesitantly leaving comfort and the familiar for the sake of changing and growing. “But it’s alright,” Fratto and Harrison offer on Minute Hands; “Everything’s alright.”

I don’t want to present the album this album as the saddest thing you’ll hear this year – far from it. “Classic.” is as irreverent and fun as the dudes who make up Elephant Jake, and this carefree attitude shines through in the opening riff to Six Four (You Know Better Than I Would), guaranteed to get your toes a-tapping, and At Least For Now’s tom-heavy drum beat.

Elephant Jake has songwriting ability in spades; “Classic.” sounds like it couldn’t have been written any other way. The album bounces from song to song, keeping your attention at all times. Energetic electric guitar riffs trade the spotlight with somber acoustic ballads; both pull your ears to the center of the music and drop you gingerly into verses where Fratto and Harrison’s voices weave around each other like they were two heads on the same body.

There’s a certain honesty to “Classic.” that a lot of indie/alternative rock misses the mark on. Elephant Jake isn’t out to prove anything on this album. They’re here to rock and give you a 42 minute long peek into their psyche.

Ultimately, this album comes from a place of discomfort and awkward social interactions and turns it into something beautiful, channeling primarily negative emotions into positive outcomes.

Stream/purchase Classic. here

Check out our interview with Sal and Collin here

Mineva’s “Precious, Endless” a cathartic expression of reflection

this piece originally published on my radio show’s blog, Finding Emo

by Jeff Dunn

On March 15, Nik and I had the pleasure of playing a few tracks from the recently released “Precious, Endless” EP from Connecticut post-hardcore five-piece Mineva.

“Thematically, they address stages of grief and dealing with different loss that we dealt with in our personal lives,” bassist Peter Strockowski told us on-air. “There’s a ton of emo influence in our music, I don’t know if it comes across as simply as that, in a less teenage angsty, since we’re all a little older now and have been around the block a few times, but it’s definitely very introspective in an emotional way.

The best lyrics are always introspective, and Mineva pulls at their own hearts to find meaning in their music; “I’m still stuck somewhere between selfish / and a question still unanswered / it’s only fear that’s speaking back to me / year after year i just want you to be happy / as I overthink everything about me annually” rings the chorus to the opening track Annually, hitting the themes of introspection and reflection early on.

Sonically, each track on “Precious, Endless” sweeps effortlessly from the softness of a reverb-soaked arpeggio to the raging punches of hardcore verses and back again. I find something new to love about the guitar work on the “Precious, Endless” every time I listen; subtle dichotomies between the lead and rhythm parts demand your attention several times over.

“There’s an Alan Watts quote dealing with love and enemies,” Strockowski told us. “It kinda came to us, what he was saying about loving like a faucet and the necessity of enemies to someone as a part of basic human relations, it’s really incredible. A lot of people these days wouldn’t say they necessarily have enemies, but it’s a reflection of how your relations grow and change as you mature.”

“A great deal of damage is done in practical human relations by saying that you love people,” the Watts sample monologues over the opening riff to “bluesummers (The End With You).” “when what you mean to say is that you ought to (and don’t). You give the impression, and people begin to expect things of you which you are never going to come through with.” The Watts quote mixes well with bluesummers’ lyrical themes of a fear of loving. “It’s like we always wanted/ to hold hands and watch the end / to find closure in compassion / and hope to love again” sings Kevin Covill, before Watts returns; “But love is not a sort of rare commodity—everybody has it. Existence is love. But its like water flowing through a hose, it depends on what direction you point it.”

A beautiful album with a direct theme and wonderfully unique sound, “Precious, Endless” will restore your belief in love while taking you on a deeply personal journey through the hearts and minds of Mineva. Get it for pay-what-you-want on their bandcamp.

“Harmlessness” and breaking through the Emo Ceiling

Harmlessness was released September 25th, 2015
Harmlessness was released September 25th, 2015

by Jeff Dunn
dunnja@plu.edu

This piece was originally written for The Mast

8/10 Stars

“The Emo Revival Ends Here” reads the title to Noisey’s review of Harmlessness, the sophomore album from The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die (abbreviated TWIABP), released Sept. 25 via Epitaph Records.

With a history almost as long as their name, TWIABP has become (by none of their own intentions) the poster-children of the so-called “Emo Revival,” but this new release has cemented their transition into a more accessible indie rock sound without losing the core themes that have permeated their previous releases.

“Emo” as a genre carries certain connotations that elicits negative responses from unaccustomed listeners. People are often turned off by harsh vocals or shouting, which emerged as a major part of the genre from its punk and hardcore roots. Contrary to their previous full length, “Whenever, If Ever,” 2013, “Harmlessness” has no screams. In fact, the album features the band’s female vocalist on several tracks, “January 10th, 2014” being my personal favorite.

Rebranding to a more accessible style is often met with accusations of “selling out” by die-hard fans. Really, that argument only works under the assumption that a band is making its music for you, which is pretty self-centered of you. For shame. It’s a momentous occasion when artists can sustain themselves long enough to really “feel out” their sound and fine-tune it.
Members of the band have noted in interviews that writing this album felt more cohesive than “Whenever, If Ever.”

“For ‘Whenever, If Ever,’ that whole thing was just a mess,” guitarist Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak said in an interview with Themusic.com.au. “You know, it’d be like, two or three hours in the studio every couple of weeks, and not everyone would be there. We lost our vocalist during the middle of recording. It just wasn’t focused; we kind of rushed it.”
“Harmlessness” is full of references to the band’s first EP, 2010’s “Formlessness.” Since then, the band has fluctuated in size between four and 10 members. But just because they’ve gone through a few lineup changes doesn’t mean they’ve slowed down at all. If anything, TWIABP has done the opposite – pushing the limits of their sound to new heights. What they’ve done is nearly impossible for many great artists; maintaining their popularity long enough to keep going back to the studio.

On Pitchfork, writer Evan Rytlewski writes:

“TWIABP have succeeded where past generations of emo bands have often stumbled: tidying up their sound without losing any of the exuberance and immediacy that made that sound so striking in the first place.”

Throughout all of their musical endeavors, TWIABP strives to create a sense of community and collaboration. This album doesn’t disappoint in those regards, and takes it a step further to tackle myriad issues from mental well-being and displacement from old homes to new ones, to violent revenge against sexual predators and everything in between.

It’s these themes that landed TWIABP the “emo” title in the first place. The lyrical content is reminiscent of any twenty-something’s search for meaning and purpose in their world.

Writer Ian Cohen summarizes this album better than I ever could in his review from Noisey:

“As much as I want to say “Harmlessness” is what the emo revival was leading up to, that still feels like selling it short[…]The emo revival ends here because its flagship band made the best indie rock record of 2015, period.”