FIRST STEPS: Athens-based Americana and Southern rock band Heart of Pine is set to celebrate the release of its new album, Highly Flammable, at Nowhere Bar Saturday, Mar. 23. The 11 songs here are handled with care by the band and, while crisply and clearly produced, don’t suffer from an overly analytical process. During my first listen to this, it was all kind of nice, and its influences were pretty instantly recognizable, but it wasn’t really anything that blew my mind. Subsequent listens, though, uncovered multiple instances of real “hell yeah” reactions—namely, the piano and guitar solos in “Demons,” the double-tracked vocals on “Ghost Town” and the introspective and nicely paced “All These Years.” It’s going to take a few more records for these guys to really develop into a recognizable-sounding band, but this album is a really decent first step. Here’s to their celebration being roundly recognized. Hear the whole thing at heartofpine.bandcamp.com.
THREE CHORDS GOOD: I know absolutely zippo about poppish-punkish duo Needle Teeth, but the group’s new record, Expiration Date, came out at the beginning of the month, features six tracks and is alternating refreshing and claustrophobic. It opens with the late-1990s tune “Play This Song to Die Instantly,” which I really disliked the first time I heard it, but it grew on me. The record improves as it goes on. The hip swing of “Again Whatever” is tuneful and shaky, “Other/Happy People” is emotionally taut and a total earworm, and “Animal House, Part 2,” while along the same lines, features a nice hat tip to Allen Ginsberg with the line, “I’ll watch the greatest minds of my generation die in debt.” Overall, the best song here is “Quit Yr Job,” which the band released as a single last month. The claustrophobia I mentioned before is mainly due to all the vocals sounding like they’re processed through a megaphone. While not a deal-breaker, it’s tiresome after a while. In any case, if Eureka California doesn’t have Needle Teeth in its rearview mirror, chances are it will soon. Check this out at needleteeth.bandcamp.com.
NEW BRUISES: Athens newest hardcore heroes, Rottweiler, next play live at Hi-Lo Lounge Sunday, Mar. 24, but the group released its self-titled debut EP back on Valentine’s Day. It was recorded and mastered by Joel Hatstat, so, you know, it sounds pretty damn good and has none of the punk-rock noise bleed that happens quite naturally during live shows. All of which is to say, even if you’re already familiar with the band, go ahead and give this a few listens before you see it again. While speed is king on pretty much all these tracks, there’s still discernible melody on tracks like the clearly Subhumans (English, not Canadian)-influenced “Hated.” Also, opening song “Third Way,” although occupying a relatively epic-length amount of time at two minutes and seven seconds, starts off with a churning-pit primer rhythm before dropping its full weight into your ears. Dig this at doggystyle.bandcamp.com.
TWO OUT OF FIVE AIN’T BAD: Also on the bill at the above-mentioned Hi-Lo show is Kneeler, which just came out with a self-titled demo. (Weirdly, it came out a mere day after Rottweiler’s EP, but that’s whatever.) Before I get into it, let me clarify that I’m not an audiophile in any sense of the term. I care not a whit for studio mastery, trickery or clarity. If the songs are there, they’ll shine through any technical fouls a subprime recording experience might render. Which is really lucky for Kneeler, because this thing sounds like it was recorded in an abandoned submarine left at the bottom of the ocean. It’s like a 40th-generation copy of a live recording that spent all of last year on the floor of a hand-me-down hatchback. That said, boombox demos are essentially an ancient punk language at this point, so while this is occasionally impenetrable, it’s also pretty damn authentic. Top tracks are “I Don’t Wanna Be Here” and “What It Is (How It Works).” Turn this up all the way at kneelerathens.bandcamp.com.
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