After 8 years of freelance music journalism (and plenty of cultural sociology masked as music criticism), you’d think I could effectively express why I remain drawn to propulsive, aggressive hardcore. Unfortunately, I don’t have any easy answers for you. Sure, I listened to the stuff in high school, college, and into my mid-20’s, but shouldn’t I have outgrown this genre by now? Hell, I was never the moshing, circle pit type, as I was afraid my glasses would get jostled off my face and break (and I certainly didn’t have the money to replace them). Yet, despite my many dalliances with pop and rock of both the indie and “poptimist” persuasions, all it takes for me to throw my fist in the air and wish I had the gumption to attend just one more sweat-soaked hardcore concert is to be exposed to an amazing band like myfictionsband.
Hailing from Lowell, MA, this talented quartet has created 10 robust, powerful songs that are packed to the gills with galloping goodness and earnest energy. The chops and arrangements on display in Stranger Songs speak to a band fully immersed in the legacy of its preferred genre, but the intensity and ferocity shown evince an outfit not content to rest upon anyone’s laurels. The sounds of label mates Pianos Become the Teeth and The Saddest Landscape rear their heads early and often (it’s obvious why TSL released the When You are Close, I am Gone with My Fictions in 2013), but I’m entranced by the appearance of Converse, Fucked Up, and Ferret-era Zao.
Admittedly, it’s the vocals and lyrics of Bryan Carifio that first capture your attention and then hold them throughout the record - they’re a desperate, passionate growl that manages to sound pained, but never painful or shredded into oblivion. What’s more, his bass work features an angry, aggrieved tone that provides sustaining depth for the rest of the musicians. The guitar onslaught crafted by Tyler Bradley and Ryan Boone balances the right amount of dark, distorted chugging that’s perfect for breakdowns with a keening, careening buzzsaw that keeps your teeth on edge in the best way possible. And when the frenetic, furious drumming of Seamus Menihane is added to the mix, it’s altogether an unsettling and chaotic experience that sends you deeper into the music as you Carifio on his quest for catharsis.
My Fictions has figured out a way to swing between running around in the circle pit and stopping to bang one’s head at a tremendous breakdown, but without devolving into tired cliches. Just listen to the unbridled and tortured majesty of “Postcard,” “Lower (a selfish song),” “Wake Anxious,” and “Parking Lot” to hear what I mean. Call it brooding, call it angry, or call it frustration personified - whatever you say, just be sure to call Stranger Songs one of the best records of 2014.
Dear Shona and Stina,
Thanks for filling your debut record with such super-duper ‘90s alternative rock goodness. Truly, the tunes you two create as Honeyblood makes me so very happy. You’ve penned 12 fantastic records that are driving, yet dreamy, buzzy, but never brooding - even as you lambast scorn lovers with all the piss and vitriol those jerks deserve. But while you’re walking familiar sonic territory, your marvelous execution and believable delivery allow you to put a fresh spin on these sounds that’s all your own.
It’s obvious the sort of music you two Glaswegian residents grew up digging - robust shoegaze, fuzz-drenched garage rock, tuneful riot grrrl odes. And the bands you admire should respect and encourage the fine edge to which you have honed your craft, as I hear ample amounts of Dum Dum Girls, Hole, Veruca Salt, Cranberries, Garbage, Warpaint, Best Coast, and The Breeders in your intonation, production, ideas, and ideals.
For example, Stina - your guitar work features sounds that are resplendent, crunchy, and jangly: and in the right proportions. You also displays plenty of sass and snarl in You vocal delivery, though she’s never tacky, crass, or petulant. And Stona, while I love that you can wail on your drums with vigor and energy, but I’m glad that you can showcase a deft hand for dynamic and tempo shifts when the song calls for it. But most importantly, the two of you have a knack for sharp pop arrangements which give classy oomph to a record that could have been distorted and cliched sludge in less capable hands.
My favorite Honeyblood tracks? They’re the loudest, the snottiest, and the ones that get me on my feet the quickest: “Fall Forever,” “Killer Bangs,” “Choker,” “Joey,” and “All Dragged Up.” All told, this self-titled album bursts with robust tunes, excellent band presence, and potentially wide appeal to anyone who loves quality guitar rock wrapped up in coming-of-age lyricism.
Thanks for being awesome, ladies.