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Four years after the self release of the Head and the Heart’s self titled debut, the Seattle sextet returns with their greatly anticipated sophomore release, Let’s Be Still. Two years of relentless touring after the release combined with 10,000 units moved directly from the back of the van and industry chatter to influence regional powerhouse Sub Pop to take on the group as clients and release The Head and The Heart under their own brand label.

Success met success with this venture. The Sub Pop exposure led to high visibility touring slots, and the album continued to render healthy sales figures. There is very little reason to wonder why. Four years of touring covering roughly 40 minutes of music meant H&H were an act not to be missed at any regional summer mega-festival. Their self-titled album could be considered a bit lopsided in that its strong suits more than make up for tracks that shouldn’t be described as filler so much as middle of the road. The Head and the Heart might have been better labeled the Hot and the Cold. Where they work, they kill, but they aren’t without faults.

It’s not hard to spot a band on the brink of a breakout at Warped Tour. The signs usually consist of a relatively large crowd on one of the side stages, an amped up atmosphere during the band’s set, and usually, newly released material that eclipses the group’s past work and gives you the sense that it has finally come into its own. One of the most logical candidates for a breakout this year has to be Hands Like Houses.

The Internet buzz has been building for the Aussie six-piece for a while now. Last year’s Ground Dweller proved to be a stellar debut, packed with experimental post-hardcore that challenged pre-conceived notions about what the genre should sound like. Certainly heavy, but captivatingly melodic, Ground Dweller set the stage for Hands Like Houses to shake up the scene.

The last time William Beckett graced the stage at Warped Tour, he was fronting emo pop-rock act the Academy Is… in 2008 and was finally on the verge of the big mainstream breakthrough so many fans assumed was inevitable. Instead, the Academy Is… stands as an example for many as to what major label politics can do to a promising indie band, as the group parted ways in 2011 under continued pressure and frustration to deliver radio-worthy material.

In its wake, the band left some of the most classic and revered music the scene has known. Although The Academy Is… was no more, there was never a doubt that Beckett was done creating. Indeed, he emerged last year with three new EPs as part of his new solo endeavor before being signed to Equal Vision Records and recording what will be his first full album as a solo artist. That album, Genuine and Counterfeit, maintains the heart of what fans have grown to love from Beckett, but explores new sonic territory as a brave, forward-thinking pop record.

For those of us who bemoan the fact that we weren’t born Canadian, Imaginary Cities adds more fuel to the fire with their blend of pop music, which does more to blur the lines of what makes meaningful music than any of their contemporaries.

Fall of Romance, the duo’s sophomore album, sounds as refreshingly dense and well-developed as most bands’ fifth or sixth record, owed in no small part to Rusty Matyas’ already storied experiences with major label success via his work with the Weakerthans and his band the Waking Eyes. Yet it was Marti Sarbit’s voice which captured Matyas’ attention in the first place, and it’s that same voice which anchors the music on both their studio efforts. The two worked up material for 2011’s Temporary Resident playing music just for the sheer hell of it, and had they not been initially pressured by the Weakerthans’ manager to focus on putting out a full record, we may never have heard them.

by Jonathan Sanders

17 Jun 2013


Photo: David Myrick

For those of you who think rock is dead, I give you two words: Nico Vega. The band built its reputation through a series of EP releases before finally getting the opportunity to release an epic, self-titled debut LP in 2009. Since then the group has toured with everyone from Gavin Rossdale and Neon Trees to Metric and Imagine Dragons, showcasing Aja Volkman’s description-defying vocals and the band’s unique ability to merge memorable hooks with songs built upon pounding percussion and emotionally charged riffs. Their song “Beast” received prominent placement in Bioshock: Infinite‘s massive press campaign, and with a new groundswell of support, their forthcoming full-length Lead to Light is currently being readied as a force to truly reckon with.

The band’s unique blend of rock, pop, and modern alternative sounds helps set it apart, but Volkman’s lyrics definitely put Nico Vega in a different league from their genre contemporaries. “It’s important to me that music evokes emotion”, she’s said in the past. “Lyrics have to be honest and true for me.” In that vein, the group has built up the Nico Vega persona to symbolize the warrior within, representing unity and the battle against ego. The band’s passion for exploring all things art and politics has helped fuel songs like “Beast”, which has become all but ubiquitous when the band’s name is spoken: “Stand tall for the people of America, lay down like a naked dead body”, Volkman sing-screams. “Keep it real for the people working overtime ... we are free in the land of America, we ain’t going down like this!”

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Is Black Widow Still a Hero? Dissecting the Misogynistic Outrage Against the Avengers

// Short Ends and Leader

"Black Widow may very well be the pinnacle of the modern action heroine, so why is there so much backlash about her role in the new Avengers film?

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