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A soundtrack to an early morning
Rocky Votolato’s Makers hits the mark
by Ed Johnson

Since the late ’90s Seattle singer/songwriter Rocky Votolato has released a series of accomplished and sincere albums. His 2003 release Suicide Medicine contained a few amazing songs, but lulled towards the middle. Makers, the newest album from Votolato has no such failings, and is his best and most consistent musical output yet. Every track contained within is as powerful as the last. While he sticks to the same basic framework of acoustic guitar and searing emotional vocals, Makers also represents a change and expansion of sound for Votolato. That isn’t to say that the production is more immense, because it isn’t, in fact it hearkens back to his early more intimate and quiet days. The sparse production really lends itself to Votolato’s style of singing, leaving his voice to create a powerful dynamic that carries his music. Besides the always-present acoustic guitar, several songs feature instrumentation that is new to Votolato’s music. The use of electric and pedal steel guitar adds an airy almost western feel to songs like “The Night’s Disguise” and “Tennessee Train Tracks.” Votolato’s voice on Makers also features an expanded sound. He goes from his standard singing voice that is raw and powerful to a softer more subdued touch, such as on “White Daisy Passing.” Votolato’s lyrics dart between the dark thoughts of death and the melancholic to sprigs of hope rising from the drudgery of life. The last words of the album sum up the lyrical content of Makers well. “Heaven or heaven less we’re all headed for that same sweet darkness.” The fact that his music and his lyrics can bridge such a broad spectrum of emotions is a testament to his extraordinary songwriting ability and voice. This album could be the soundtrack to the early morning of a northwestern day. When the sun rises in the morning to dew soaked grass and quiet evergreens, but the utter truth that it will rain later in the day changes our perception of what really is beautiful. Makers is a career making album for Votolato and complete summation of the promise of his earlier work.


Ever We Fall’s We Are But Humans
by Daniel Krow

There’s just no way I could ever like Ever We Fall’s We Are But Humans. The band plays the kind of emo that is almost exclusively for junior high and high school kids. I mean, who else is going to buy lyrics like “With the weight of the world on our shoulders/ We will push again, and again”? The weight of the world is on the shoulders of sweatshop workers in the developing world, not high school kids whose crushes doesn’t like them anymore.

But having been a teenager once, I understand. When you’re 16 and 17, everything feels dramatic, and bands like Ever We Fall are successful when they speak to that feeling. But at the same time, the band is tapping into the teenage mindset without attempting anything original or controversial. With songs like “Schoolyard Crush” and “Late Night Dance Party,” the band knows who its audience is and it’s not interested in challenging it in anyway.

The genre of emo started as an offshoot of hardcore punk, its name most likely stemming from its choice of emotions over overt politics and complicated rhythms and minor chords over four-four beat punk rock. But now emo is just a catchphrase for anything that sounds too personal, too emotional, or too whiny. When folk-rock bands like Bright Eyes and Okkervil River are being referred to as emo, you know something is wrong.

What Ever We Fall is playing is basically a kind of slick pop punk music, like New Found Glory or Sum 41,without the big bubblegum hooks those bands often use. Based on the success of those bands, Ever We Fall has about a 50-50 chance of breaking big, though I’m sure even if they don’t they’ll amass a cult following.

But I think what makes bands that sound similar to Ever We Fall successful is a certain amount of self-consciousness. Even teenagers are aware that poppy punk about cute girls and skateboarding is kind of lame, but it’s the kind of music that speaks to them when they’re alone with their adolescent fears and fantasies. When bands let the listener know they don’t take themselves too seriously, it allows teens to appreciate the more earnest songs without feeling melodramatic.

Ever We Fall has little chance of ever reaching a mainstream audience. Their music is too serious, too dramatic and self-righteous to appeal to kids who are aware teenage life doesn’t last forever.