Review: Two Years Later’s ‘Say It To My Face’

Columbus, Ohio’s alternative rock act Two Years Later (@2YLBand) ambitiously released two records in 2016 with the latest (and third overall) being Say it to My Face. As evidenced by the title, the record is themed as a revenge record with songwriter/lead vocalist/guitarist Jamie Rogers exacting payback against those who wronged her by way of melodic pop-punk music and a few ballads mixed in. In turn, these tunes can be relatable to others who have experienced similar dilemmas and seek healing, which they can also get through Rogers’ creative venting. Fans are forewarned that although disappointing relationships and/or life experiences are the norm on the album, one-third of the tracks is a departure of what they have heard on prior albums.

The title track is a brilliant clap-along 40-second intro to the album that takes one right to “#sorrynotsorry”, which was featured on the band’s first record. With its solid guitar and drum work, it is a rock anthem would fit right in on Alternative radio stations’ playlists. “That’s Not Ladylike” calls out the contradiction of women’s current beauty standards and Rogers’ vocals are on fire as she awesomely rants about the hypocrisy within mainstream and social media.

Say it to My Face’s fourth track, “Linger”, is different from Two Years Later’s trademark sound as it is reminiscent of the Santana and Michelle Branch collaboration “The Game of Love” sped up a tad. The song is one to salsa to and has potential to be a crossover hit across multiple formats. “Tonight, Tonight” is a standard part of Two Years Later’s playbook with sheer brilliance on guitar from Chandler Eggleston (also the tune’s co-writer), banging on-point drumming out of the group’s co-founder Zak Toth, and bombastic bass work and backing vocals by Mike Johnson. It is one of the album’s headbangers, making it a crowd favorite at live shows.

Yet another popular song at concerts that made the album is the call-out “Let Me Down Easy”, in which Rogers expresses self-depreciation for falling for false charms all the while chastising the culprit for his cons. Those not familiar with Two Years Later’s work should be warned that although Rogers writes and performs PG songs, this one contains strong adult language. Without approval of a radio edit, the song will not see the light of day on terrestrial radio stations. It makes those who love it obligated to hear it by attending a show or buying the album, but that is only a benefit to Two Years Later’s economic success.

An atypical track from Two Years Later, “California is Calling” slows the album back down as the ballad explores escaping a bad experience through an entire change of scenery. It also criticizes the antagonist’s actions and insufficient compensation attempts as the protagonist moves on with her life. Formerly a concert exclusive, “Never What You Wanted” is on millennials’ soundtracks as it deals with monkey wrenches getting in the way of society’s life manifests. The final tune on Say it to My Face is “Lullaby of Bitter Things”, which showcases Rogers’ vocals with some wicked ukulele playing. If the group wishes to take a huge risk, they can release it as a single and see it soar up the Adult Contemporary chart gaining them even more fans.

The band is on indefinite hiatus from touring and recording as for the time being, principal songwriter and lead singer Rogers is focusing on electronic/acoustic side project Kitty Pause. Thus, casual and diehard fans need to stay interested in the group’s work as it may encourage a reunion sooner versus later.  Much like Say it to My Face, when Two Years Later does return they will come back with a vengeance.

Open Your Mind to Conway’s Open Your Eyes

Quintet Conway (@conwayband) has paid their dues by touring across the U.S. in support of their unique take on pop-punk. Their most recent EP Open Your Eyes will get listeners’ attention as the Michigan five-piece demonstrate a great effort into recording it with its recurring main idea of relationships gone awry. This makes the band and their music more relatable to everyday people who can find solace knowing they are not alone in being broken.

 

The first tune ‘On Your Own’ is a song of love gone awry with splendid arrangements and spot-on vocals. It seems clear the band has spent some time listening to Simple Plan, A Day To Remember and The All-American Rejects for inspiration. It is an anthem that the heartbroken and neglected can relate to. The EP‘s longest track ‘All Wrong’ is another tune with the same imperfect relationship theme. Some of these songs will likely hit close to home with listeners who have experienced what the songwriter(s) have. It is often that the worst situations make the best stories.

 

Much like the previous two tunes, ‘Currents’ has surefire hit written all over it and maintains the album’s continuity of imperfect social situations. From start to finish, this track is their best chance at obtaining a Top 10 Alternative Chart hit off this record. Coming in at under two and one-quarter minutes, the finale ‘Meant To Seem’ is an ideal ending to the EP with solid musicianship on display and poignant lyrics such as, Sail away from the safe harbor / Catch trade winds to the east / Cause every part of me knows I should leave / But that’s not happening.

 

Open Your Eyes is a commendable effort from Conway as it cannot be easy to take dark subject matter and turn them into danceable, headbanging, songs. Although the lyrics are grim, the vocals and musicianship are on point and high energy from beginning to end. Another thing that is amazing is how they have managed to fly under the radar for so long. It is in every pop-punk fan’s best interest to pick up the EP and check the band out live. Their tour kicks off in Columbus, OH tomorrow, November 17 before they head back to their home state for a show and head west. Conway is in possession of four coping mechanisms for today’s depressed and confused youth and this EP along with their back catalog going unnoticed is a travesty.

Aiming For Average: Miles Better Than Their Name Dictates

Aiming For Average (@Aiming4Average) is a pop-punk quintet from Berwyn, IL (a western Chicago suburb) proving they do not live up to their tongue-in-cheek name. They are actually better. The group was founded in 2011 and has two records currently on Bandcamp (Icebreaker, which was released in 2014 and Blueprints the following year). Given what they have provided thus far on both EPs, the band is well on their way to joining fellow pop-punk groups A Day To Remember, Allister, and Taking Back Sunday on Active Rock radio and with a label deal.

 

The five-piece act consists of lead vocalist Nik Maniotis, guitarists Chris Perez and Christian Castillo, drummer Ruben Lopez, and bassist Zak Vhrel. On the seven-song release Icebreaker, the group primarily stays in high gear with heavy guitars and blazing drum work. The second track, ‘Sorry Not Sorry’, is a headbanging bitter love song relatable by anyone whose heart has been broken. The album’s final song, titled ‘3 Years, And All I Got Was A T-Shirt’, is another jaded relationship track in the band’s repertoire. With most tunes on Icebreaker being at warp speed, a standout track is their ballad ‘Man On The Moon’ in which Castillo gets to reveal his voice as the second coming of Chris Carrabba’s. This is their cigarette lighter/cell phone waving song at live events and the band will have ladies eating out of their hands after this is played.

 

On the four-song EP Blueprints, Aiming For Average keeps it short and sweet with fine results. Each track will have its place on rock radio, however, their best chance for a hit is the opening track ‘Feedback’, which is a brilliant toned down song similar to ‘Man On The Moon’. ‘IOU’ is another tune that will be pleasing to not only radio listeners, but to those who get to hear it live. The band has recorded themselves two fine pieces of work that at some point are going to attract the attention of labels big and small. Able to tour the Midwest this year, these guys are doing fine on their own, though.

 

Not only are Aiming For Average above-average musicians, they seem like swell gentlemen. Per Facebook, the group has raised money and performed on behalf of Autism Speaks and have had several write-ups recognizing their talent. Their summer tour is underway with stops in Shickshinny and Lansford, Pennsylvania on June 16 and 17, respectively. The big show of the week is on Saturday, June 18 as part of Columbus, Ohio’s Pride Weekend. Thousands of tourists will invade the capital city and once the marching and parading is over, Woodlands Tavern will feature three hours of in-your-face live music. They will be joined by indie rock darlings Sam and The Barbers and fellow pop-punk outfit Two Years Later. It is in one’s best interest to catch the band when they can and sample the music for themselves to confirm how good they really are.

Review: WATM’s Get Busy Living…

Columbus, Ohio’s We Are The Movies (@weare_themovies) have something special with their sophomore EP Get Busy Living… due to be released next Saturday March 26 digitally. That very night, the band will release the CD in their hometown at the Scarlet & Grey Café as part of 99.7 The Blitz’s Local Stuff Showcase. This show and the accompanying record are proof of fantastic things happening for this well-deserving group.

Although it clocks in under 90 seconds, the opener ‘Always the Rule (Never the Exception)’ starts off with a bang with Mike O’Leary and Tim Waters’ solid vocals and Bryan Overholt’s high-energy drum work. If it were a half-minute longer, it would be an amazing single in the same vein as Blur’s ‘Song 2’. It has a chance as a track that could be included in a movie montage, though. ‘The Story So Far’ exudes Overholt’s superb drumming in addition to magnificent guitar play from O’Leary, Waters, and Dan McMillan. The tune also possesses O’Leary and Waters’ spot-on vocals, which will remind pop-punk fans of the genre’s all-time greats Hawthorne Heights, A Day To Remember, and Allister.

The third track ‘Happy EX-Mas (War Is Over)’ has Overholt’s great drum play with its standout guitars not far behind. It is a headbanging, sing-along tune that can be successful on rock radio stations. The song should resonate with listeners due to its lyrics that include “We all want something to believe in, but give me something real like happiness.” Song four is ‘The Best Revenge is Living Well’, which is about utilizing the power of positivity to combat negativity. It makes wonderful use of Stephen Goldstein’s bass skills and the track has great potential as a radio single with in-sync drum work, guitar play, and vocals. With the rise in cyberbullying and social media shaming, the song has a great message as a response to haters.

‘Temporary’ is the EP’s longest tune coming in at near six minutes and is starts off as a ballad with beautiful acoustic guitar work before the group turns up the heat. It could be a radio single if they edited a chunk of it, but that would butcher the track and it is best left alone. The record’s final song ‘By a Thread’ starts off the same way as ‘Temporary’ and is an alternative radio prospect with O’Leary and Waters’ essential singing leading the way.

For next Saturday’s album release show, We Are The Movies will play alongside four other fantastic local groups Absolute Hero, No Dice, The Scratches, and Heroes Like Villains. The gig will be free to the public, but great alternative music lovers will want to bring their wallets to support these groups. Although WATM was founded approximately four years ago, with the musicianship and songwriting exuded on Get Busy Living… show the band members have been honing their craft for much longer. With the new EP and a spot on The Vans Warped Tour in Alaska, great things are in store for the gang for years and years to come.

*Photo courtesy of wearethemoviesband.com

 

Review: Two Years Later’s ‘Dropping Anchor’

Columbus, Ohio’s Two Years Later (@2YLBand) is an alternative pop-punk rock quintet formed in 2013 by principal members drummer Zak Toth and singer/guitarist Jamie Rogers. The duo recruited bassist Mike Johnson and guitarists Chandler Eggleston and Mike Leibrand to fill out the lineup. Two weeks ago, the group made their second album Dropping Anchor available to select fans and on February 20 was released it to online outlets. The official release occurs this Saturday, March 5 at north Columbus’ Spacebar with physical copies available to the public. Given the record’s craftsmanship from top to bottom including Mark Abrams’ mastering and Matt Hagberg’s engineering, the band is ready for the record as well as themselves to go viral. After 20 minutes of taking in Dropping Anchor, the group proves they have the style and substance to succeed.

The EP’s first track, ‘Learn to Let Go’ displays Rogers’ sharp vocals and Toth’s solid drumming skills. The tune is pure pop-punk greatness with fine work from all guitarists. With Rogers as the band’s sole songwriter, listeners will hear songs grounded in a reality that is not all rainbows and unicorns. If one fancies Rogers’ voice on the first song, they will be blown away with what she serves up on ‘You Win’. The song is about the dilemma to sacrifice and concede, even if those are not the ideal things to do. The guitar work is actually more solid here than on the previous tune and each player comes together to concoct a rock radio dark horse.

Dropping Anchor’s third song ‘Pieces’ is pure awesomeness from the arrangement to the lyrics to the musicianship. The theme here deals with experiencing heartache, but ultimately dusting oneself off and moving forward. ‘More Than This’ holds its own on the record as a fantastic song with a fine message put to a wonderful melody. Young people’s empowerment, especially for females, is important in today’s society with the rise of bullying and shaming prevalent due to never-ending technological connections. Whether intentional or not, Rogers has created the next Saturday morning PSA.

Lastly, Dropping Anchor features the surefire rock radio staple ‘Stay with Me’. By far and away, this gem is Two Years Later’s best chance to lead them on the road to fame. #Road2Fame happens to be the group’s first (and already out-of-print) EP from 2014 that lives on in cyberspace. Although consumers will likely compare Rogers to Paramore’s leader Hayley Williams, on this song she comes off closer to highly regarded rock goddess Lizzy Hale.  Johnson’s bass work is spectacular here and Leibrand and Eggleston’s guitar play is on point with everyone else. Toth’s excellence behind the kit is noticeable here and stands out in the final 30 seconds.

Dropping Anchor is a very personal record and all should be grateful Two Years Later and especially Rogers have invited us in to experience it. To promote the EP, the band is taking to the road with stops in Louisville, Charlotte, Cincinnati, and beyond. This band is onto something huge and alternative music lovers will want to join the wild ride.

*Photo by Matt Hamilton is courtesy of the band’s official website