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Thursday, October 1, 2015

New Lives' In Passing: Review and Stream

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 7:57 AM

click to enlarge New Lives - JAKE SIMORKA
  • Jake Simorka
  • New Lives

The four guys in the punk-leaning foursome New Lives have played with each other in a handful of locals bands (Bestfriends, Icon & Anchor, Scouts Honour) but formed this group, in part, to channel the discordant, forward-thinking music of their youth. A few ‘90s underground stalwarts are name-checked in the band’s bio, and the weight of influence is initially hard to cast off — Fugazi comes through most prominently, with traces of Hum and Seaweed right behind. These songs have the economy of punk but find space to modulate and shift in a relatively short space. The quartet can hammer out its crunchy, ragged riffs with punishing force, but it has the good sense to temper these moments with on-a-dime stops, grimy textures and emotive vocals.

click to enlarge newlivesalbumcover.jpg

As befits an EP whose physical incarnation is on cassette tape, many of these five songs run into each other — the brief come-down squall lingers for a time and flips back into the next song’s count-off. It’s a compelling bit of thread to connect these five tracks, though at fifteen brief minutes, In Passing struggles to distinguish song from song. That’s not a huge problem, as each track finds ways to teeter between attack and release.

After a nicely disorienting lift-off, opener “Sink” settles into the comforts of modern, melodic punk rock. Singer and guitarist Ian O’Leary is at his rawest and most direct on “Wounds” — his full-throated performance hits its marks with Ian MacKaye-like force while still finding room to bring his scream back down to a near-whisper. The rest of New Lives — David Shanle on guitar, Tyler Wait on bass and Justin Brown on drums — do well within the confines of these songs, with the rhythm section providing vital pivots every few minutes.

The light flanging effect on the modest, mood-setting guitar figure on “Pacemaker” offers a post-punk sheen to contrast the distended wallop carried by the rest of the song. But, as becomes New Lives, the nuanced tail of “Pacemaker” becomes a platform for In Passing’s title track, which pairs up the band’s several dichotomies into one bruising final number. O’Leary’s double-tracked vocals show both of his approaches, one layered atop the other, as the guitars crunch, collide and momentarily take flight.

Stream the EP in full below:

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