[24 February 2014]
Emo revival! Well, actually, no—emo isn’t in revival at all. The genre has continued to exist over the years, but it’s now suddenly been thrust back into the spotlight by a blogosphere that once again deems it cool (RIP, Algernon Cadwallader). Exploding In Sound, a small label based in Massachusetts, has found itself in the middle of this “revival”, for the sole reason that it has a roster of good bands that are now putting out some of the best music of their respective careers. Exploding In Sound bands bridge 1990s emo (Cap N’ Jazz, Braid) with 1990s indie rock (Pavement, Pixies, etc) and it turns out these styles of music weren’t really that different to begin with.
2013 was a huge year for Exploding In Sound, given the release of Speedy Ortiz’s breakthrough Major Arcana, an album that really is as good as it is hyped to be. Last year saw the release of excellent but overlooked albums from Exploding In Sound bands Ovlov and Two Inch Astronaut as well. Krill also began gaining traction last year and are capitalizing on that buzz with a new concept EP entitled Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts in to Tears. So who is Pile? Pile is a Massachusetts band—also on Exploding in Sound—that has earned the admiration and respect of many of its peers. Krill are clearly such fans that they’ve dedicated these five songs to this rather outlandish concept. With this EP, the three-piece uses jagged rhythms to accentuate its melodic leanings. The low fidelity recording often recalls Surfer Rosa-era Pixies in both sound and structure.
Krill self-released 2013’s Lucky Leaves, which leaned more toward the indie-rock side of the 1990s underground as an influence. Lucky Leaves was certainly an enjoyable album, ignoring much of a verse-chorus structure with most songs and instead allowing the music to stretch out and go where it pleases. The biggest problem with that album was that the songs didn’t always stand out and by the end, they tended to blend into one another. On this year’s Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts in to Tears, Krill refine the sound the band has cultivated and manage to include hooks that are memorable as well as off-kilter. The band continues to write songs with atypical structures and guitar parts that often betray the melodic, poppy math-rock guitar lines of bands like Braid and American Football. On “Sweet Death, that guitar style is used to excellent effect while Furman’s voice warbles one of the sweetest melodies the band has yet managed (pun intended).
On “Turd”, one of the EP’s best songs, Furman calls out his anxiety with lines “If I could just keep a commitment / Maybe I’d be happier,” sounding like a more desperate, less demented Black Francis. The song encapsulates emo-leaning twenty-something poetic discontentment while the band utilizes Pixies’ quiet-loud dynamics. Even though Krill’s music and words can be quite serious, the band continues to betray a sense of humor in both the title of the EP as well as in naming one of the EP’s best songs “Turd”. Of course that’s not too surprising from a band that named the first song on last year’s Lucky Leaves “Theme From Krill”. “Unbounded Nameless Future” continues the Braid-influenced sharp, start-stop melodic guitar entanglements. “Fresh Pond” closes the EP with another excellent off-kilter, oddball pop melody before ending rather relaxingly, sort of a resolution to the EP’s angst.
This five-song EP continues to hone Krill’s musical strengths while betraying a growing melodic sense. It’s an excellent introduction to the band for the uninitiated and points toward the untapped potential that the band could continue to harness with their next full length. On Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts in to Tears, Krill proves itself a serious band that doesn’t take itself too seriously.