Catholic Werewolves - You're Gonna Miss Everything Cool And Die Angry

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Catholic Werewolves’ debut album begins with a collage of humanity. Within 30-seconds, clips of news reports, interviews, movies, and game shows all flash through the listener’s speakers, each punctuated by a short buzz of static. It’s like we’re listening in on an old TV controlled by an impatient person who’s channel surfing until they find something that captivates them properly. No sound bite lingers for more than a few seconds, but the result is something that feels both familiar and relevant: all the pop culture in the world isn’t enough when you don’t know what you’re searching for. 

34-seconds into the opening track, two cymbal taps signal the entrance of the trio who make their way into the frame like a band taking the stage at a house show. Soon the drums, guitar, and bass all whir up to speed, synching up and making way for a bombastic shouted vocal harmony. After a fiery verse, blistering guitar solo, and cathartic group chant, the song ends mid-thought and throws you directly into the remainder of the album. 

I first wrote about Catholic Werewolves back in December when this album was fresh off the presses. At the time, I held them up as an exemplary midwest band that embodied immaculate songwriting, tenacious spirit, and the DIY aesthetic. After spending even more time with their record, I’m happy to confirm that every one of these beliefs is true. 

Clocking in at a mere 15-minutes, You're Gonna Miss Everything Cool And Die Angry is one of the most compact, exciting, and well-thought-out records I’ve heard in recent months. The melodies are catchy, the choruses are sharp, and the instrumentals are tight. The Jeff Rosenstock and Joyce Manor influence is evident from the outset, but it’s also clear that Catholic Werewolves are putting their own spin on it.

Songs never wear on because they don’t have time to. Within the space of minutes, the band can deploy a concept, set the scene with minimal effort, and then bowl you over with everything that they just put into place. It’s economical songwriting that respects the listener’s time but also shows incredible talent and creativity. 

With every song hovering around the two-minute mark, the band spends the release exploring different sonic pallets in a free-wheeling and uncomplicated way. “Instrument of Torture” is a thrashy punk pit-starter. “Title on Screen” is a bouncy and clever song that breaks out into a rapid-fire final verse. “Tom Hanks” is a guitar-led song that somehow manages to be poppy while also hosting the most hardcore screamed vocals on the entire album. “Tuxedo T-Shirt” is a two-minute acoustic pit-stop centered around an infectious melody backed up by strings, piano, and harmonized vocals. “Emotional Sharingan” bears a hard-charging drumline with crashing cymbals and one of the record’s most catchy hooks. “Where Do You Think We Are?” uses a line from Scrubs to springboard into a narrative-driven brush with mortality that evokes the best parts of You, Me, and Everyone We Know. Finally, album-closer “Adult” is a biting, vicious, and hilarious takedown of complacency that sends the album off on punchy a high note.

It’s hard for me to think of a better pop-punk record than this in recent years. I know I’m a sucker for short albums, but the sheer amount of ideas that Catholic Werewolves manages to pack into such a short amount of time is absolutely astounding. Every song is varied, catchy, and speaks to a different concern. The lyrics are razor-sharp, and the production is immaculate. Most importantly, the songs never overstay their welcome and always leave you wanting more. 

One of the reasons the Emo scene feels so exciting right now is because it’s very economical. Bands are releasing more EPs, splits, and singles because those are more affordable. It leads to a genre that feels ever-shifting and constantly-growing where bands can release updates on their lives in short bursts rather than long, bloated stream-chasing records. It leads to a more supportive scene that feels more intimate and interconnected than ever before. 

On this record Catholic Werewolves didn’t half-ass a collection of songs; they honed these tracks down to their bare components and bundled them up in a compact package that’s simultaneously quick to consume and artistically-satiating. It’s an inspiring, accessible, and creative force, and that’s the type of art we need right now. 

When Musicians Tweet

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There’s an old adage that every musician wants to be a stand-up and every comic wants to be a rockstar. While this is probably a case of “the grass is always greener,” sometimes you’ll find someone who manages to excel in both categories. 

Luckily platforms like Twitter have made it easier than ever for musicians to prove their comedic chops, even if it’s just within the space of a 280 character message nonchalantly fired off from the comfort of a rest stop toilet. Some bands may relegate their social media usage to promoting their newest album or upcoming concerts, but (unsurprisingly) some of the most fulfilling Twitter follows belong to bands who also to use the platform the same way that I do: shitposting.

As great as it is to know when new music is coming from a band you follow, it’s almost more rewarding to find out that an artist you love shares the same sense of humor as you. Social media has allowed us to peek inside each other’s heads, and sometimes what you’ll find is so unexpected that you can’t help but laugh. Whether it’s dumb puns, depressing realizations, or just funny observations spurred by the never-ending drawl of tour life, there is occasionally some gold to be found in between tour dates and album promo.  

Without further ado, these are some of the funniest, most iconic, and just plain goofy tweets from musicians paired with their hyper-serious press photos. Because at the end of the day, bad jokes bind us all.


A Guide to Supporting Bands in the Streaming Age

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The landscape for how music is consumed has changed unrecognizably in the past 10 years. When we started the label we were selling hundreds of CDs (imagine that?!). Nowadays streaming is a big focus and can make a huge difference to whether we break even on a release or not, and if a band gets heard outside their immediate scene. This isn't meant to be an attack on streaming, I'm a big fan, it's super convenient and I've discovered loads of great bands through Spotify. But the reality is payment rates for streams are tiny (£0.003-4 a play). 99% of streaming income goes to the top 10% of tracks and we're participating in a system which only works financially for those at the top and leaves those at the bottom unheard and unpaid! 

It looks like that system is sticking around for a while, so here are a few ideas for how to support artists you like and try to level the playing field a bit. 


Be An Active Listener

Playlists, algorithms, 'radio' playlists all work to highlight those lucky few who get handpicked or get enough data to enter the recommendation algorithms. If you never break that threshold you're destined to remain in '<1000' streams territory. 

Listen
Listen to small artists, listen to ones you already like, actively check out ones you haven't heard, listen to their tracks in full (don't skip through), save their songs / albums to your library. 

Use Playlists
Set up some playlists for songs you like, maybe separate them by genre. It doesn't matter if anyone apart from you listens to the playlist, Spotify picks up on what tracks are on the same lists together and will use that data for their recommendation algorithms. 

Turn Off Auto Play!
You know when you finish listening to an album and it starts auto playing similar songs (usually from the lucky handful of top artists in that sub-genre)? It's nice not have an awkward silence, but it does serve to inflate the play count of those already popular artists. By not using it, you're choosing what to listen to and who to support. 

Discover
If you're looking to discover new music, by all means check out Discover Weekly, Release Radar and other recommendation systems. But also try listening to your mates playlists, look through related artists, listen to what's come out recently on labels you like, check out what blogs are recommending, read reviews in zines / MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL / Razorcake, look through the Bandcamp homepage. There is endless good shit out there and the best stuff is not necessarily what's being directly recommended to you. 


Share 

The influence of traditional media is dwindling, the influence of online music websites is dwindling, how many people actually look outside their own social media bubble anymore? The reach of bands and business Facebook pages has basically dropped to nothing unless they're willing to pay for it.

Your personal social media probably has more influence on the tastes of your friends than anything else! If you like a song, tell your mates, if you like a video show your mates, if you're going to a gig invite your mates or at least encourage them to check out the bands. If you have a playlist of new music, share it with people! If you're at a gig, take a photo / video, stick it on Instagram (obviously try not to be obnoxious about it, we've all been stuck behind someone at a gig that can't put their fucking phone away). If you're playing a record at home stick a photo on social media. 

If you do a blog / write reviews, I love you, you truly are doing awesome work! But it doesn't need to take that kind of time commitment to help share music, a simple repost and "If you like 'X Band' / 'Y Band"' type recommendation really helps. 


Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

The reality is most artists aren't making any significant money from streaming. If you can afford to support in other ways it will make a huge difference to their ability to continue touring and continue making music. Music will always be created regardless of the financial returns, it's fun and its cathartic, but a healthy music economy means that making music isn't only for those privileged enough to have spare cash and spare time to put into it. 

Buy The Record
I'm sure you've all heard about the so-called 'vinyl revival', and yes in total record sales are higher than they've been in years. But just because everyone's dad is buying Led Zep reissues at Tesco, the reality is small bands and labels are struggling. There are so many records coming out now, pressing turnaround times are going up, prices are going up. If you like physical music, buy that record you've been streaming constantly! 

Buy Advance Tickets to Gigs
Touring is pretty much the only consistent revenue stream for most bands! So go see them, buy advance tickets when the shows get announced, and try to bring some of your mates along. Services like Songkick do a great job of emailing you when bands you've been listening to on Spotify / Apple Music are playing nearby, so sign up for that as well as actively looking at venue listings and following local promoters. 

Buy Merchandise
Apart from touring, merch is probably the next most lucrative way bands have to make money. So pick something up at a show, check out their Bandcamp page and see if you can order online. 

I know some of this shit is obvious, and hopefully this isn't teaching you how to suck eggs! You have more power than you think to help out musicians you like, and it doesn't take a huge amount of time or money. No one's getting rich off this shit, bands you perceive to be doing well are probably still struggling, your support & enthusiasm can mean the world.


 I love talking about this kind of stuff so if you have any thoughts / ideas hit me up - andrew@specialistsubjectrecords.co.uk 

A PDF of this is available free at shop.specialistsubjectrecords.co.uk. Words by Andrew Horne, layout by Kay Stanley. Specialist Subject Records is an independent record label and shop based in Bristol UK. Follow them on Twitter here.

Interbellum - Dead Pets, Old Griefs

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Life becomes a cruel joke when you look at it from a cosmic perspective. Our time here is finite, and the only things we know for sure are that you were born, you will die, and a bunch of bad things will happen in between. 

On one hand, you could learn these facts and they could make you feel small. That you are infinitesimal. That you don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, you could learn these facts and be comforted by them. Be comforted by the fact that you are infinitesimal. Be comforted by the fact that you don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Because if this life is all there is, then everything you’ve ever dreaded will pass. All of your mistakes will be forgotten, and every bad feeling will dissipate. 

Enter Dead Pets, Old Griefs.

Life is a gift, but it comes at a price. The horror of existence is as much of a reality as the beauty. Life’s scarring experiences aren’t something you can bargain away; they’re part of the deal. Experiencing sadness, loss, and displacement are guaranteed at some point in your life, and Dead Pets, Old Griefs has put that feeling into words. 

The second album by Lebanese singer-songwriter Karl Mattar under the name Interbellum, Dead Pets, Old Griefs sees Mattar partnering with Fadi Tabbal and a host of musician friends to make a grand statement of love and loss. 

Focusing on the minute details of the human experience, Mattar weaves visceral tales about navigating the waters of life. With lyrics of healing bruises, red sunsets, and thawing snowfields, the language used is vivid and evocative. Your mind is drawn into the scenes being depicted, which unfold like canvas paintings from a past life. 

As the stories of each song unfurl, the listener begins to place themselves into the world of the album. Decaying particles linger. Shadows cling to the walls. The feeling is dark and inescapable but captured perfectly. 

It’s a release that blurs perception and bleeds into reality. As you find yourself listening to it, your mind will shoot from the experiences contained within the song to your own. It evokes a deep feeling of connectivity between its author and the listener. 

As these flashes of distant lives move throughout your mind, the songs also may evoke a feeling of familiarity, not just between your life and the songs, but between the songs and other music. From Sparklehorse-esque opening track “Distortion” to a pitch-perfect Yo La Tengo-style duet on “Ready To Dissolve.” There are hints of Daniel Jonhston, Vampire Weekend, and Car Seat Headrest just to name a few. The result is an album that feels wide-ranging, familiar, and distinctly indie. 

By the second half of the album, Mattar settles into a heartfelt Mark Linkous-style delivery as he continues to wrestle with the questions of his own existence. As the moments unfold, everything leads to the final track “Weight of Winter” which utilizes airy emo guitarwork as Mattar depicts an escape over a steadily-marching drumline. 

Dead Pets, Old Griefs is a reflective journey of the self. It forces the listener to face life’s inevitable sadness and loss and leaves them no choice but to lean into it. While that may be an uncomfortable journey for some, for others it could be meditative or even revelatory. 

With a title like Dead Pets, Old Griefs, one might expect this album to be an existentially-painful bummer, but I choose to view the album optimistically. Dead Pets, Old Griefs is a reminder to enjoy every moment of our finite time and to hold close the things that are dearest to us. It’s a reminder of the light that makes the darkness bearable and the beauty in life that makes it all worth it.

That’s a reminder we all could use sometimes.

Two Parallel Lines: Growing Up With The Wonder Years

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On this day nine years ago, Philidelphia-based pop-punk band The Wonder Years released their sophomore album The Upsides. I listened to the album one year later on February 14th of 2011, and my life has never been the same since. 

I became infatuated with The Upsides upon first listen, and the record quickly became one of my all-time favorites racking up hundreds of listens over the time since I first pressed play eight years ago. While eight years may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, a lot has happened in my life since 2011, and the group’s songs were there with me every step of the way. 

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In many ways, your twenties are the first real years of your life. Your first years out of school. Your first years on your own. Your first years figuring out what the rest of your life will be. The music of The Wonder Years has been with me through every one of those. Their records act as demarcation points in my life because I consumed them so voraciously as they came out that now each one evokes a different era of my own history. 

When I first discovered the band I was a senior in high school, on the cusp of entering the unknown expanse of college. The Wonder Years had only put out two albums at the time: Get Stoked On It and The Upsides. I listened to them both endlessly, and one even helped me get through my first real breakup. In the fall of 2011 I went off to college the band released Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing. I spent two years in school directionless and depressed, and after two years of soul-searching I finally found my passion. In the spring of 2013, The Greatest Generation was there right as the clouds began to clear. In 2015 I finished school and the band released No Closer to Heaven that same summer. Most recently, 2018 has been marked by the release of Sister Cities which I listened to as I moved across the country to start a new life following my career and passion into the unknown. 

All of that has happened in the last eight years, as have the Wonder Years. With each phase of my life, the band and their music continues to intertwine with my existence no matter what I’m going through. I write all this to say one thing; The Wonder Years May not be the greatest band in the world, but they are the greatest band of my life. 

On their earliest songs, lead singer Dan Campbell would pen lyrics of struggle and resistance. As I got older, so did the band. Their lyrics shifted from struggling with post-college listlessness to family, community, and acceptance. The band members have gotten married, and some now even have kids on the way. The words have changed, and the feelings have shifted, but the core has remained the same. 

The specificity of the lyrics allows the band to weave intimate tales of their own lives and experiences while simultaneously tackling something more significant. They address a universal struggle with existence. They’re poetic, heartfelt, sincere, and human.

The words within the songs have only strengthened this sense of attachment I feel with the Wonder Years’ music. I’m eight years younger than Campbell, and the frankness with which we wrote about adulthood, addiction, depression, and belief connected with me on every level. I feel like I grew up with the band. Not only that, I feel like they gave me a warning of things to come. That my experience mirrors theirs. That we are two parallel lines experiencing the same things eight years apart. 

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Back in October of 2017, I stumbled across a NYLON article by Helena Fitzgerald. It was technically a review of The National’s then-new record Sleep Well Beast. In the article, Fitzgerald talked about how The National had impacted her. How the band and their albums had been there for every step of her life, releasing music along with every minor and major change of her existence. Something clicked in my head as I was reading her words, and that article became one of my favorite pieces of music journalism I’ve ever read. 

It helped me realize that The Wonder Years have guided my life in the same way. I’ve loved bands before, and I’ll love bands after, but this past decade was soundtracked consistently by only one musical force, and was The Wonder Years. 

When someone asks me who my favorite band is, I don’t have to think about it twice. I answer ‘The Wonder Years’ instantly and without hesitation. Is it weird for a 25-year-old to love a group that started off as an easycore act singing about zombies? Well yeah, it’s funny at the very least, but I look at the Wonder Years and see progress both musical and literal. They’ve grown up and matured. They’re not the same people who released The Upsides nine years ago, and neither am I. I look at them and see progress. I look at them and see myself.