About the Editor

I received a message a few days ago from a new Renaissance fan asking to know a little bit more about the review and myself (this was before the Aim and first reviews were published) and offering advice. After our conversation, I’ve decided to let you all know a little bit more about myself, because you’re probably thinking, “Who is this guy and why should we care what he has to say?” or, “Does he even know anything about music or writing? Probably not, so I don’t really have any interest in this anymore.”

I can’t stress to you enough how much I loathe talking about myself; I always feel like I’m bragging or acting deluded or ignorant.

So there you go, that’s all you need to know.

……………………………..

Okay, honestly, I’m going to tell you.

I’ll start with the music, because that’s what we’re all here for. Now, I don’t have any pictures of myself on the blog, (that would be kind of weird, I think) but if I did, you might recognize me as the frontman/primary vocalist/rhythm guitarist/mandolin player/synth player of the indie rock band Yesterday Vs. Tomorrow. Since this blog is not about my band and I’m not here for self-promotion, I’ll sort of leave off there and let you check out our latest album, “Aurora Borealis,” for yourself. I tell you this to say that I, like a lot of you, am in the trenches right now, trying to carve out a piece of this city with my/our name on it, and I get it. I’m not just some 40 year old eating cheetos and listening to Creed’s Greatest Hits at my desk on top of a stack of old video games writing about a bunch of people I’ve never seen before and don’t really care too much for. Chances are we’ve actually met before.

As for the music I listen to, I’m really all over the place (and I don’t mean that in the same way that people who listen to Taylor Swift AND Katy Perry mean it). Indie rock/Alternative is my home, but I’m not afraid to praise a Rap album or dabble in the corporate world of popular music at times. Anyway, I guess a way to make this description a bit easier, I’ll give you my thoughts on last year’s best albums and what I believe are the 10 best and most important albums of the last 50 years or so.

2013 (no particular order)
The National’s “Trouble Will Find Me”
Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City”
Kanye West’s “Yeezus”
Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor”
The Flaming Lips’ “The Terror”

All Time (in mostly-particular order)
1.Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. OK Computer
3. Revolver
4. Nevermind
5. The Velvet Underground & Nico
6. Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness
7. Kid A
8. Slanted and Enchanted
9. Selected Ambient Works 85-92
10. Run DMC (eponymous)
11. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
12. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Now, you don’t need to agree with me; that’s not the point here. The point is that whether or not you like these albums, they shaped much of what artists are creating today (obviously you could go back to cavemen hitting rocks together, but we’re talking about modern music here). And really, the only reason I gave you those lists was to sort of give you a background of where I’ll be coming from with a lot of these posts and to point out that these artists are all vastly different from one another. As an aside, I condone arguing here, because it means people are communicating. If you don’t think my review of a band is accurate and openly comment your disagreement, that’s GREAT, because it means that people are having conversations and forming opinions and ideals.

After sounding like the syllabus from a generic 100 level college course, I’ll move on to my history with writing and close this out.

This part’s a bit anticlimactic, but before I’m a musician, I’m an academic at heart. I’m studying at Daemen College to become a PA, (the medical field is a sort of  far from music, I’ll admit) but in some of my introductory courses over the last three years, I’ve discovered a bit of a gift for writing. I’ve coached 100-300 level composition courses and got mostly all A’s in them myself and have had a love for words and the way they work together since high school. Please don’t forget that the only reason I’m telling you any of this is to demonstrate a little bit of credibility, that’s all.

Wow, that was difficult. But I hope it helps. If you don’t really care, even better. Thanks Katie.
-JJK

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Single of the Week: Digital Afterlife’s “Legacy of Lies/ In a Way”

Dichotomy (n): a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities (Merriam Webster).

Digital Afterlife has been astounding fans across Buffalo with their post-goth/industrial electronica since 2011. 2013’s “Binary Consciousness” demonstrated to us that the Burt brothers could recreate Trent Reznor’s years of work with new life and breath, but a band can only get so far with another’s sound.

This is exactly the reason why these two singles aren’t just good music–These singles are important.

Legacy of Lies and In a Way signify the purest form of growth. Like Revolver and The Bends, these single have began to carve out a new sound, a new atmosphere, a new vibe. Shaking off a bit of the doom and darkness of Binary Consciousness, the brothers decided that they’d rather make you dance than scare your children, and the result is breathtaking.

Perhaps their most stunning element is the dichotomy between these singles. The fiery eruptions of Legacy of Lies are cooled by the icy, desolate vibes of In a Way. The pyrotechnic drums of Legacy are softened by the glassy synths of In a Way, and the solitary croons of the latter are sharpened by the yelps and moans of the former. These songs fuse together so perfectly, so unexpectedly, one can only imagine what’s to come. The Burts will have us all on the edge of our seats waiting, impatiently, for the next release.
JJK

8.1

Recommended for fans of: Nine Inch Nails, Aphex Twin, Jon Hopkins

Download the singles:
https://www.facebook.com/DigitalAfterlife/app_2405167945

Follow the band:
https://www.facebook.com/DigitalAfterlife

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EPs: Sweet Apollo’s “The Great Deluge”

0:00 Piano keys softly fall like rain drops into your lap.
0:19 Those few rain drops become a shower.
1:11 Thunder and light cascade down.
1:21 Let the downpour begin.
2:11 FLASHFLOOD WARNING
3:12 Those few raindrops have submerged everything around us, but we’re not too worried about it. As a matter of fact, we’re gonna swim in the floods and have ourselves an unforgettable time.

And that’s just the first four minutes of Sweet Apollo’s new EP.

For the remaining duration of the titanic four-song collection, LaShomb et al take you by the hand and guide you through deep waters, European homes, nuclear winters, even the highest of the heavens. Sweet Apollo haven’t just played songs here, they’ve carefully and meticulously crafted a work of art that soars high above the clouds and dives to the deepest trenches. In just under 16 minutes, the Buffalo champions have managed to build an entire lifetime of soundtrack here. Whether you’re a fan of the indie pop game or not, these classically charged, radio approved, compositionally brilliant songs will find their way into your temporal lobe and never leave. This is music you can live to.
-JJK

8.7

Recommended for fans of: U2, Coldplay, The Killers

Buy the EP:
https://sweetapollo.bandcamp.com/

Follow the band:
https://www.facebook.com/SweetApollo

Key Track: “Paris Basement”

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LPs: HolKampany’s “Juvenile Gentlemen”

It was a brisk March evening in Buffalo, and Yesterday Vs. Tomorrow (the band of yours truly) was preparing for a U2 cover set at For the Music Productions’ first installment of the “Show Your Influence” series. As we began to load in, I swore I heard Billy Joe Armstrong and co. reverberating from the Forvm’s sacred walls. “Who is this band?,” I asked myself as I fumbled for the show’s flier. “Holkam-Holcum-Hol-Company?” “Who cares?! They sound exactly like Dookie-era Green Day!” Now, I’m not exactly a pop-punk defender (as it were); however, Green Day was a large part of my precious, embryonic years of musical development, so it comes as no surprise that a closet Green Day fan such as myself would be ecstatic (ahem, reluctantly, of course). The night when on, and, naturally, they closed their set with a damn-near perfect cover of “Good Riddance,” and that was it. It was sort of poetic, really: I wouldn’t hear from them for another few months.

Now, I’m going to go right ahead and admit it: I was a little nervous when I first heard the singles. For a second, I thought I was hearing the Green Day cover set again, until I realized that Green Day never wrote a song called “Only Human” or “Wretched Year.” Before you take that statement too far, let me say this:
It takes talent to recreate a sound so perfectly, and on a garage budget with garage equipment; however, respectable, critically-acclaimed artists don’t make careers on copying a sound tone-for-tone and note-for-note (sorry Coldplay and Parquet Courts).

Wait a minute……

The album finally reached bandcamp today, so I decided to give it a listen. “What’s this?” Stacked, palm-muted guitar riffs? A groove that Page and Bonham would be proud of? As it turns out, HolKampany has found a sound of their own on a great majority of the 19 tracks here. By the way, 19 tracks is unheard of on a local independent release; some will give kudos and others might gripe over its length and argue that you could strip this album down to its key tracks and still have a solid amount of material. Wherever you stand there, keep in mind that this is a punk rock record…But this isn’t just a punk rock record. Take the blues piano solo of “Golden Girl,” the Moon-inspired drum fills of “Deepest Me,” or the.acoustic balladry of “Make Amends.” The further I dive into “Juvenile Gentleman,” the more I realize that HolKampany may have actually written a classic, back-to-the-basics, rock ‘n’ roll album that simply disguises itself as pop punk. Perhaps “Marie” serves as the prime example of this notion. Aggressive, fast, and snotty, this song, on paper, is just another punk rock/pop punk track, but you can’t seem to get away from the classic rock vibe of it all.

hkAlthough I missed the CD release show, I bet these songs explode live. It’s no question they may have expanded sonically and become more monstrous in a big studio, but the recording quality is part of the album’s charm. After all, that’s what this record is about. Juvenile gentlemen. College students holding on to adolescence. And they’re going out with a bang.
-JJK

6.8

Recommended for fans of: Green Day, Arctic Monkeys

Buy the album:
https://holkampany.bandcamp.com/album/juvenile-gentlemen
Follow the band:
https://www.facebook.com/HolKampany?ref=br_tf
Key Track:
“Make Amends”

Aim.

So what’s the goal here?

Well, I started this blog simply as something “fun to do while my band takes a break for school,” but I’m suddenly realizing what a task this review is actually shaping up to be. Right now, creative and talented bands are out here, and not a lot of people know about them. This is largely due to the nature that the Buffalo scene has possessed over the last half a decade or so (the one where a band’s fans are their families and high school/college/work friends because they need to sell enough tickets to help the promoter at least break even). And it’s time to fix that stagnant system.

Renaissance has two main goals: to connect and to inspire.

First and foremost, the reason Renaissance exists is to cross-pollinate fan bases. For instance, the friend or cousin of the guitarist in a reviewed band might be reading for support and stumble upon another band reviewed that week, realizing the other band is actually worth listening to, and friend or cousin decides they’d like to see them live or buy their album. If this happens enough times, each reviewed band should start to gain a larger fan base, and, more importantly, their new fans will actually really appreciate their music, rather than just being “I pressed like cause some guy in my chemistry class invited me to on facebook” fans.

Furthermore, the review process is viewed, by many, as a need here. A lot of really great sites and blogs (buffaBlog, Art Voice, Gusto) cover a lot of important news and albums, but none of them are really scoring and praising these breakout artists to the extent they deserve. Renaissance hopes to not only inspire listeners to discover new music, but inspire the artists themselves to be proud of their work, or to take heed of constructive criticism. One method of accomplishing this will be through sending the artists the review before publication. This way, rather than detracting from potential listeners, the review can aide the band in the direction and technique of their next release.

Given the goals outlined above, I’m going to, very briefly and loosely, outline the criteria that Renaissance will base reviews on.

Creativity. A high-scoring artist should be able to develop their own sound and feel. At the very least, he/she/they should be able to draw unlikely or less obvious influences to create something fresh and new. No genre will be excluded on Renaissance. Though the focus will be on the broad world of Alternative, even the most saturated genres can have their inventive sparks of individualism. If you’re a -core band, chances are you’re going to sound a lot like everyone around you, but that’s not always the case. Likewise, even though most rap isn’t usually known for taking creative leaps, one of the most convention-defying, rule-breaking game-changers was released last year. So think outside the box.

Emotion. The best music can take you places, and facillitate an experience. High scoring releases consist of music that can resonate with listeners, and soundtrack the lives we live.

Musicianship. Honestly, I could care less how fast your guitarist can two-hand tap, how many notes your bassist can cram into one bar, or how good your drummer is at double bass-ing. However, it goes without saying that the band should at least be able to play their instruments with style and sophistication to achieve a high score.

And so it begins. Let’s make this great.
-JJK

Overture

Welcome to the Rust Belt.

Over the past 70 years or so, Buffalo has become a sort of flagship of economic grief and grey, amorphous culture. Lovely. After a ~50% decrease in population, the city has seen some of its darkest days, but we’re still here.

Enough with the economics, get to the music, man. Well, whether as a result or a coincidence, the Buffalo music scene has experienced its own dark days. Ridden with hardcore, deathcore, metalcore, emocore, or whatever place-adjective-here-core you can name, we haven’t exactly teemed with new species of creative, artful music for a while here. You can blame the economy or you can blame Hot Topic and the mall rock regime, but either way blaming isn’t what solved the problem. Honestly, nobody really knows for sure what did solve the problem. All of a sudden the city just exploded with an army of bands ready to dive head first into uncharted waters. Some look like classics you love, and some look like nothing you’ve ever seen: be it the brit pop-infused punk rock of Kill the Clock, the summery jams of Improbable Cause, or the ska-turned-R&B brass-kickers of Wild Card. They’ve all come together to soundtrack the revival of Buffalo. This isn’t just a handful of musical do-gooders. This is a Renaissance

And The Renaissance Review is here to guide you through it.

For now, as a fledgling blog on a free word space, Renaissance won’t be covering too much in news; however, it will concentrate on reviews. Every Saturday, a new review will reach your computer screen to inform you of who’s doing what in the new Buffalo scene. Keep up to date on who to look out for, where to catch them live, and whether their album is worth your time.
JJK