Rare by Hundredth: Shoegaze meets Hardcore

The album, Rare, by Hundredth is a unique concept. A melodic-hardcore band realizes that their sound doesn’t reflect their musical tastes, and make an effort to shift their focus from hardcore to shoegaze. This change brings them an intensity that the dream-pop genre tends to shy away from. Tracks like “Vertigo”, “White Squall”, and “Youth” are all very much post-punk, dream-pop ditties that are solid shoegaze with some edge. But ultimately, Hundredth seems to lack the nuances that drive shoegaze, and the sound suffers because of it.

While most dream-pop might bring to mind positive imagery such as rainbows and beaches, Rare shoots for more of a nightmare-ish feel, with lyrics such as “False hope/Spreads like a disease/The curtain is drawn/ And there’s no shepherd for the sheep” from the song “Disarray,” played over a soundscape featuring heavily distorted guitars, blaring power chords, and aggressive drum beats.

It is surprising just how well the band’s darker tone fits with the shoegaze sound. Hardcore and shoegaze seem like opposite ends of the musical spectrum, but Hundredth has really found a sweet spot where shoegaze reverb and hardcore’s intensity can meld together and create something uniquely enjoyable. Tracks like “Suffer” and “Hole” really showcase this hybrid sound.

Rare is a solid album, but it is impossible to shake the feeling that this is not the band’s full potential. Shoegaze, as a genre, has surprising depth with the diversity of emotions and sounds it can encompass and Hundredth just hasn’t quite mastered it. At a certain point, the songs all meld together in the worst way possible; there is little variation and that’s what really limits Rare. Somewhere in the album’s forty-five-minute run-time, the album loses its nuance. “Down” and “Chandelier” might start differently, but ultimately, they all become variations of the same song, just with different lyrics and slightly different chord progressions.

With Rare, Hundredth shows a lot of promise for the road ahead, and if you’re already a fan of the band, this album, while a massive departure from the rest of their discography, isn’t going to disappoint you. However, for everyone else, it’s a mixed bag. Tracks like “Vertigo”, “ Disarray ”, and “ Suffer ” are inventive and strong, but as a whole, the album just leaves a lot to be desired. My recommendation: go check it out because there is a lot to love, just don’t expect to fall in love with Rare as an album because the “pieces” aren’t all there yet.

PWR BTTM What Happened?

So, let’s talk about PWR BTTM and why what’s happened the last few weeks sucks. I realize that as cisgender male with no real connection to the LGBTQ community I’m apart from a lot of this business, but as a fan I can’t help but feel disappointed.The duo has come under serious allegation, with Ben Hopkins accused of “sexual assault and predatory advances on multiple occasions.”.With one witness claiming “I have personally seen Ben initiate inappropriate sexual contact with people despite several ‘no’s’ and without warning or consent,” Adding that they had also been told that Hopkins made “unwanted advances on minors despite knowing their age.

First off, no one should ever treat anyone that way, end of discussion. But to be a punk band whose work is heavily inspired by queer culture and openly advocates for queer rights and act like this within the LGBTQ community is not only immoral it’s also hypocritical. It’s the equivalent of Joe Strummer moonlighting as a union buster or if Rise Against owned a factory farm. Punk is the genre of saying what you mean and meaning what you say, to go back on your word is punk rock heresy, no one comes back from it and for PWR BTTM that’s a shame.

They’re an amazing band. From the first time I heard the punchy Low Fi hook of Ugly Cherries, a light snapped on in my brain. They somehow infused punk with a sense of musicality, opting to experiment on basic rhythms and chords instead of the over-saturated four chord Pop Punk that has ruled the stage for so long. Adding to that are their lyrics, which express wells of emotion through surprisingly casual language, take this excerpt from West Texas for example “You left New York for West Texas/To avoid all of your exes/How ironic but that is your thing.” Add to that their glam rock aesthetic which proudly defies gender norms that gives them the perfect edge and the wheels begin to turn about just how big this band could have been. Their songs are intoxicating, equal parts hypnotic melody, and escalating vocals creating exquisitely aggressive overtones. I was genuinely excited to hear what the duo would do with their new album Pageant.

So as a fan, what do you do now? Their music remains the same as it was before the allegations and there has yet to be any real proof behind the allegations leveled at Ben Hopkins. But something has been lost; the band was dropped by their label, management, and even opening acts. They’ve canceled their international tour and a lot of other tour dates, all of which were in support of Pageant which is now unavailable on services such as ITunes and Spotify. For better or worse, it seems like PWR BTTM is on their way out, at least for now. It’s sad to see a band that was heralded as the next big rock group, the light at the end of the ever-elongating tunnel that is this drought of rock music, leaving only a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. There are many dialogues to be had about PWR BTTM  going forward. Is it still morally acceptable to listen to their music? Was this the best way to handle allegations with little proof behind them? How do you separate the artist and their work? But for now, I think it’s OK to do a little grieving.

Editor’s Spotify:My crunch playlist

As an Entertainment Arts and Engineering student I constantly find myself working deep into the night on my games or crunching. This week especially I had to crunch from one PM to one AM multiple nights in a row. You, dear reader, might be wondering how I managed to spend 12 hours fiddling with a computer screen? The answer is four words. Dope. Ass. Crunching. Playlist. Keeping me motivated and energized.

The secret to a Dope Ass Crunching Playlisttm is to strike a balance between songs that motivate and songs that will energizes as they play in the background whilst you work meticulously. Think of it as the Eminem vs. Chance the Rapper conflict. Eminem has been, is, and always will be my artist of choice for motivation. His raps are consistently about him kicking assand getting the respect he deserves. “Till I collapse I’m spilling these raps long as you feel ’em/Till the day that I drop you’ll never say that I’m not killing ’em/‘Cause when I am not, then I’ma stop penning ’em.” He is all about being the underdog, working hard, and winning, making him the perfect artist to start out a work session with. Hit the ground running and lose yourself in the music. But the emotional high of an Eminem song doesn’t go on forever, as the hours tick away something different is required, the motivation is there but no the groove.

Considered Chance the Rapper. I always put him in my Crunching Playlist, he also never raps about being the underdog and is nowhere near as aggressive as Eminem. But he is still great for working, his bars are fire, the beats are mellow but still have the energy to keep your pace, and who doesn’t want to listen to Chance’s voice while they work? He is perfect for mid crunch; his rhythms bring a groove that can be focused into working energy. For example, take the second half of the first verse of All We got “It was a dream, you could not mess with the Beam/This is like this many rings /You know what I mean? /This for the kids of the king of all kings /This is the holiest thing/This is the beat that played under the words /This is the sheep that ain’t like what it heard/This is officially first/This is the third.” Just reading that you can feel the groove bringing forth energy within, perfect for keeping a steady stream of work.

This dichotomy doesn’t exist only in rap either. It’s everywhere, Cold War Kids vs. Saint Motel, Devo Vs. Talking Heads, even Blink-182 Vs. Less than Jake. Whatever the genre I assure you there are certain bands that provide hard heavy hitting motivation, focusing on being the underdog and fighting you way back and bands that can just exude energy to maintain your work groove. Those bands make up any good crunching playlist. Of course, you still need to include Stan Bush’s classics The Touch and Dare from The Transformers: The Movie but I’ll explain that some other time.

Editor’s Spotify: Theo Katzman’s Heartbreak Hits

I was listening to my Discovery Playlist on Spotify earlier the week when I found someone I had to talk about, an LA based rocker named Theo Katzman and his album Heartbreak Hits. Katzman’s Soul, Rock, and Jazz influences combine to create a modern rock album that hits all check marks, even a punky picture of the lead man on the cover, and it’s all I’ve been listening to this week.

There’s not a bad track on this album, from top to bottom and front to back it’s solid as a rock. The opening track I Put In The Hard Work where Katzman laments time and energy put into a past romance, gives us something of a teaser. While subject matter, like most songs on this album, isn’t going to give anyone a revelation about break ups, it’s so well done I couldn’t help to groove to it. The guitar heavy intro brought me in as a well composed swinging beat topped off by Katzman lyrics sung with in classic rock falsetto, there was no escape I needed to listen to the whole thing.

Heartbreak Hits isn’t afraid throw a fast ball and switch to a slow song like Break-up together and my 1-bedroom. Katzman’s grooving energetic tone somehow sticks around during these tracks and I still found myself rocking back and forth as he shows a more sensitive touch. These songs are heavily influenced by Katzman’s Jazz upbringing with a strong focus complex melodies and employing full use of the chorus and piano that otherwise take a back seat to guitars and Katzman’s lead vocals for the rest of the album.

Katzman is at his best when he goes loud. In this humble editor-in-chief’s opinion there is no exciting moment on Heartbeak Hits then when Katzman goes full rocker. The guitars whale, the drums burst into a beat straight out of the garage, and Katzman puts all out there the mic. My Heart is Dead, Lost and Found, and As the Romans Do are the type of polished and heart-felt rock songs that we just do not get a lot of these days, and it’s great to hear a student at the Art go town.

Although with all of that said I would be remorse if I didn’t mention the album’s most powerful track. Paine Jane Heroine. I can’t tell if the song is about a girl, Heroin, or some combination of both. But after learning about the Opioid epidemic that faces our country this week I couldn’t help but be moved. The song is sliced somewhere in the middle when it comes to energy, not soft not loud but perfect for painting the picture of drug addiction and its disastrous effects on lives. The sincerity and simplicity that make this album work is on full display and if you are going to listen to one song off this album this is the one.

Heartbreak Hits isn’t a complex album. There’s minimal amounts of production that creates a clean sound. There is no wonky instrumentation to create some weird hook and Katzman barely isn’t flashy in any sort of way, he is just a dude lookin’ to rock. It’s ten solid Pop Rock songs on level that I haven’t heard in while that together create the solidest album I have so far this year, take or leave it, but that it’s what’s on my Spotify.