Big Stories

POZ Gear Talk: The Basics of Buying a Tube Amp

by Zack Zarrillo - Feb 12, 2014

So, you are looking to get a new tube amplifier. 

Perhaps you’re just starting out, or you’re switching over from solid state into your first real tube amp. There are some things to consider before you just walk into a shop and buy the first thing you see that looks cool.

In my opinion, there is no better sound than a guitar being cranked all the way up through an old tube amp. However, that’s not to say that there are not good solid-state amps out there either, because there are. One of my favorite amps (that I wish I had never sold) was a solid-state Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus. However, I wanted something with more warmth and transparency, so I swapped it out for 1968 Fender Bassman, and have not looked back since.

Solid-state amps can be great if you use a lot of pedals and want your tone to be as sterile and unaffected as possible. However, tube amps add color and character to your sound that will breathe life into your guitar tone. When I’m selling someone an amp, I ask him or her the following questions; that way, I’m positive they’re getting exactly what they need. Below are things that you should take into consideration before walking out the door with something, or buying online.

How Many Watts?
First, you’ll need to figure out how much power you need. If you’re playing at home and doing a lot of recording, you don’t need much. If you’re going out on the road, then that’s a different story. However, a lot of guitarists think they need 120 watts to play 1500 cap rooms, and truth is, you don’t need that at all.

So for the player who is mainly at home, or at small clubs, I recommend getting an amp between 4-22 watts. But ask yourself: do you need a lot of headroom? Do you want an amp that breaks up at low volumes? There are a lot of great amps now that are lower than four watts and are great for home use. Of course, if loudness isn’t really an issue, you can get an amp that’s 30 watts or more, but it’s going to be pretty damn loud for your neighbor. If you have a dog (like me) who can’t stand even a high string being plucked on an acoustic, then he/she really won’t like that Marshall full stack, or even a Vox AC30, for that matter. 

Now if you’re out on the road and playing various different rooms every night, then you’ll need to consider something different. You’re going to need something with more headroom, especially if you don’t hire a sound guy. Chances are the front of house guy will tell you to turn down and you’ll be screaming at he or she to turn your monitors up. Well, first and foremost, my advice would be to be nice to the poor bastard that has to hear you complain that you can’t hear anything. He/she won’t do a damn thing for you if you’re being a jackass. 

Personally, I like 50-watt amps on the road. The tubes get hotter and they break up quicker. I like headroom, but too much for me will alter the tone in a bad way. 30 and 50-watt amps are great for venues of any capacity. If you must make a statement and need to be the loudest band to ever play Madison, Wisconsin, then that is your choice. But with that said being the gear nerd that I am, I do love when there is a band playing with a wall of amps behind them (all with speakers in them, preferably). A great example would be J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. He plays through two 100 watt Marshall full stacks behind him and a Hiwatt 120-watt full stack between them. Pretty impressive, and yes, he actually does play through all of that. But you are not J Mascis, so you shouldn’t be lugging all of that gear around pretending that you might be him. Also, why put yourself through the torture everyday of stacking up amps and running a million cables? Keep it clean, and keep it simple. Unless of course you can afford a guitar tech and roadies, and if you can, then you shouldn’t even be reading this article.

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POZ Gear Talk: Will Levy Of The Story So Far

by Zack Zarrillo - Jan 23, 2014

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For this week’s segment, I (Pat Benson of Polar Bear Club) talked with my good friend Will Levy, who plays guitar for The Story So Far. I first met Will in the fall of 2012, when our bands toured together on the Glamour Kills Tour. He and I spent the better part of the days just talking about gear and playing guitars, so while piecing together ideas for this column, I thought to myself, who better to talk shop with than Will? This interview was conducted for about an hour and a half over the phone; Will in the beautifully sunny Walnut Creek, California, and myself inside, heat cranked, and draped in several layers of flannel and sweatpants as Upstate New York underwent a winter vortex. We talked about my favorite Gibson model ever in production, why Led Zeppelin is still the best rock ‘n’ roll band, and all sorts of other cool stuff that you’ll have to just read to find out. Oh, and if you haven’t yet, I suggest picking up the band’s last record What You Don’t See which was released last year on Pure Noise.

How did you get started playing guitar?

I think I was in first or second grade. My dad first introduced the guitar to me. There were always guitars around the house; my dad always played and still does. He was always in bands. I don’t even remember the first time I heard live music, I just always grew up with it. He was in a cover band and was the singer and played rhythm guitar. I don’t think I took guitar super seriously and really buckled down until I was in high school. I could play a few power chords and what not. I took lessons but not seriously; I was always playing baseball. Once I met the dudes in my band, I started to take guitar more seriously and get better at it. So that’s when I really started playing.
 
So did your Dad end up getting you a guitar when you started out, or did you just end up using his stuff for a while?
 
I actually got a bass for my first instrument. It was an Ibanez Soundgear that he bought for me at SamAsh in New York City when I was in fourth grade. I always just borrowed his G&L Stratocaster. So I don’t think he ever bought me a guitar besides the bass. The first guitar that I bought was a Gibson SG for like $300.
 
So you started right out with Gibson when you got serious about playing?
 
Oh yeah. Kevin had a Gibson SG, as well as the other Kevin who was in the band before me. So they were like “You’ve got to get an SG!” So, I got one. I still have it and gig with it and it rules.
 
What are you playing now?
 
I have a Gibson RD. It was made in the ‘70s for like three years. I think ‘77-’79.  I have a reissue that I got from Gibson about three or four months ago. It’s like the meanest playing guitar I’ve ever picked up.
 
That’s been one of my favorite Gibson models for a while now. They recently have been popping up. Every time I see someone playing one, I think to myself “this person gets it,” haha.  What inspired you to play such a unique Gibson model?
 
A friend had showed it to me, and I just thought it was so mean looking. Then we were invited up to the Gibson showroom up in Seattle earlier this spring, and that was the first time that I had ever laid eyes on one in person. They just had it there, and I picked it up. It had a huge neck, and that’s kind of fitting because I have huge hands. I don’t even think I plugged it in. I asked the guy what could I do to get this guitar, and he said they were all out of them then. He never got back to me and basically just said he couldn’t find me one. So months went by and I kept hitting him up and begging him. I’m sure I annoyed the shit out of him, haha. So eventually he sold me the showroom model, so I guess I got the last one.
 
That’s awesome. They’re very hard to find, and it’s funny that even the reissues seem to be just as hard to come across along as well.
 
Dude, I found one at a Guitar Center by my house in February. It was a ‘77 all-original, made in the Kalamazoo factory. This thing was huge, man, it was so heavy and the neck was even bigger on that one then the one I currently have. I picked it up, and I was like, “Fuck, this thing is a junker.” No one there had any idea what it was. I think that one was more of an investment though. It needed a fret job, along with a lot of other work. I was about to leave for tour, and I said if it’s here when I get back, I’ll buy it. It was like $750, so it was real cheap. When I got back from tour, it was gone.

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Marathon (Pre-PBC Members) Announce Reunion Shows

by Zack Zarrillo - Jan 21, 2014

Marathon, a band that formed before Polar Bear Club, are reuniting for two shows in February and March. Check out the dates below after the jump.

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POZ Gear Talk: So, You’re Looking to Build Your First Pedalboard?

by Zack Zarrillo - Jan 9, 2014

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I (Pat Benson of Polar Bear Club) have been playing guitar for the last 14 years. I started when I was 10 years old, right after I first heard Black Sabbath’s “We Sold Our Soul For Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and was entranced by Tony Iommi’s playing. The quest for tone started shortly after, as I spent most nights practicing and gazing over pictures in magazines of different players, looking at what gear they used. I’ve learned a lot growing up being involved in music. Even to this day, I’m learning new things and new techniques and styles. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world playing, (most recently playing in Polar Bear Club) and have met a lot of amazing and talented people.

This weekly column is where I get to talk about gear with friends that I have met along the way. I’ve read a lot of interviews with musicians, and I always just want them to get down to the questions I really want to know. What guitars do they use? What amps are they playing through? Do you they use effects? I know this wont be relatable to everyone; however, I hope it inspires at least one person who doesn’t play to go down to their local music store and buy a guitar, a keyboard, drums, or whatever it is that that have always wanted to play.

by Pat Benson, edited by Erik van Rheenen

Effects remain a mystery to a lot of guitar players. Frankly, the market is oversaturated with many different options and brands to choose from. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to find the right pedal(s) to complete your rig, and it all comes down to what you play and what you’re looking to accomplish with your tone. Many players have a minimalistic setup, while others have rigs that resemble the control panel of the Starship Enterprise

Whichever road you decide to go down, it’s best to understand to only use what you need. Don’t overdo and get a bunch of pedals you don’t understand. The more you add, the more signal loss you get. Signal loss equates to your tone diminishing significantly. Imagine signal loss as if someone draped a heavy blanket over your speaker cabinet — that blanket will deaden the sound dramatically and not allow your sound any air to breathe, and sound needs air and room in order to be heard significantly.

Too many pedals — without the proper setup and power — will often do you more harm than good. Any player you see with a huge pedalboard most likely has it set up to where they won’t lose any tone, either by having what’s called a “true bypass” pedals or a “buffer” in their chain to increase gain. If you’re looking to build an intricate pedalboard with a lot of pedals, I recommend researching further into buffers and true bypass.

The best way to look at the signal flow of your setup is going from right to left, from your guitar into your pedals, and out to the amplifier. There is an order for in which each pedal should be laid out in your signal flow, as this will allow for the best overall performance and quality. However, this order is not set in stone. It is simply a reference point as to where to begin setting up your pedals. It can be very beneficial to move pedals around here and there in your chain after setting them up to hear the overall difference in quality and sound. 

Below is a list I’ve put together of different pedals in a basic order, allowing for proper, clean, and beneficial signal flow that won’t suffer any significant loss in tone.

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Tuner
First and foremost, start with a tuner. This will prevent you from not sounding like you’re plugged straight into a potato. When placed first, it is not affected by previous pedals, allowing for a more accurate reading.

A good and reliable tuner is the classic Boss TU-2. I have used many different tuners (including the new Boss TU-3, and the TC Electronics Polytune) and all have failed on me. They no longer make them, but the good thing is they’re not hard to find. You can easily track one down for anywhere between 40-50 dollars, easily.

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Polar Bear Club Full Set Stream From Final Fall Show

by Zack Zarrillo - Dec 16, 2013

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Polar Bear Club ended their fall tour in Philadelphia, PA last weekend. Check out their full set stream below after the jump.

Related Stories:
POZ Review: Polar Bear Club - Death Chorus
Polar Bear Club Frontman Releases Statement On Vocal Change 

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Polar Bear Club Audiotree Live Session

by Zack Zarrillo - Dec 15, 2013

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Polar Bear Club have released their recent Audiotree Live Session. Watch it below after the jump.

Related Stories:
POZ Review: Polar Bear Club - Death Chorus
Polar Bear Club Frontman Releases Statement On Vocal Change 

Read More

The Weekender: The Ataris Continue Their Downward Spiral To Irrelevancy

by Zack Zarrillo - Nov 24, 2013

imageWelcome to PropertyOfZack: Weekender edition. Every Saturday, we’ll be bringing you some of biggest and most interesting stories of the past week from our own content to stories or breaking news. If you’ve had a busy week and want to catch up with some light reading, we hope this is for you.

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The Ataris Cancel Australian Tour

Look - it’s officially time that we stop championing The Ataris for their prior work and start calling them out for their complete lack of competence and all-around disrespect to their fan base.

Let’s rewind:
1) February 2007 - the release of The Ataris’ last album, Welcome The Night.
2) Number of band member changes since 2007 - eight.
3) Three years later in 2010 - no new album, no label, empty promises.
4) May 2012 - The Ataris one month away from finishing new album that had been promised for for over three years. 
5) October 2012 - Kris Roe throws a tantrum and throws his drummer’s kit off stage. Shows no composure or care for fans.
6) November 2013 - 17 months following that “one month,” The Ataris have no new album. Have given no update on their album since.
7) November 2013 - The Ataris cancel Australian tour on days notice. Kris Roe strands three members of his band in Australia. 

To recap:
How do The Ataris have any fans at all? It’s just sad at this point. 

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blink-182 To Begin Recording New Album Within 90 Days

Things are moving fast in the blink-182 camp that it may even be too good for some fans to believe, but let’s hope not.

The band is hoping to begin recording their new album within 90 days with a producer that is still not confirmed, but could be Bill Stevenson

blink seem to becoming more of a real band with each day that goes by starting with their Riot Fest tour this past summer. The pieces are starting to come together. 

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How We Get Rid Of The Plague That Is StubHub

When you’re a diehard fan of a musician, that doesn’t always mean you have $400 to give to eBay’s shareholders (who own StubHub) to see the concert you want. They’ve made a business model that preys on desperate fans, or, even worse, caters to rich assholes that get access instead of the fans who tried to get tickets but were squeezed out by scalperbots who got there first. To make matters worse, the musicians playing these shows receive no compensation and, if anything, are hurt by this practice, since fans then have less money to spend on music, merch, et cetera (via Jesse Cannon).

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Warped Tour 2014 Routing Revealed

Warped Tour took the wraps off the routing for their 2014 traveling circus. The routing this year is similar to prior years, minus a little less love to California and a little more love to Canada. Lineup announcements for Warped Tour 2014 will begin on December 4th.

Also: Warped Tour Band Or Romance Novel?

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Polar Bear Club Frontman Releases Statement On Vocal Change

There’s been a ton of attention surrounding Polar Bear Club’s new album, Death Chorus, but perhaps not in the way the band was hoping. Jimmy Stadt’s voice underwent a drastic change on this new album, and fans have been unsure why. Instead of sounding like a gruff mountain man, Stadt has sounded like a Chris Conley somewhere between Saves The Day’s second and third album.

Stadt took a brave step to move the fan conversation from from his voice to the album itself by releasing a statement on the shift - it’s worth a read. 

Polar Bear Club “Blood Balloon” Music Video

by Zack Zarrillo - Nov 22, 2013

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Polar Bear Club have released a new music video “Blood Balloon.” Watch the video below after the jump. 

Related Stories:
POZ Review: Polar Bear Club - Death Chorus
Polar Bear Club Frontman Releases Statement On Vocal Change 

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POZ Review: Polar Bear Club - Death Chorus

by Zack Zarrillo - Nov 21, 2013

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by Erik van Rheenen

This time every year, most states scattered across the northern reaches of America start buckling down for winter. Leaves fall, and so too does snow-that’s-not-quite-ready-to-be-snow-just-yet and temperatures — standard early wintertime fare. And, this time every year, Upstate New York gets hit by Winter with a capital “W,” boldfaced, underlined, and (if you want to go for the typeface perfecta) italicized. Only Upstaters’ resilient spirit — a reluctant fervor to refuse to let winter blues win out — matches the region’s downright polar temperatures and relentless snowfall. 

No band captures Upstate New York’s spirit more fittingly than Polar Bear Club. Native sons, the band’s back catalog is bursting with references both direct (“Too many nights in the Greyhound station up North Syracuse” in Clash Battle Guilt Pride’s “Religion on the Radio”) and indirect (“It left like melted snow and came back tough as leather” from “Screams in Caves”) to Polar Bear Club’s home state. Death Chorus, the band’s Rise Records debut, might also be their most quintessentially Upstate album — ten anthems of longing and nostalgia and romanticizing the best and worst punches life throws.

Much has been made of singer Jimmy Stadt’s slide to a delivery style that doesn’t dangerously tax his vocal cords, but the less-fanfared watershed instances on Death Chorus are Stadt’s deft hand for songwriting and Upstate poetics. Though maybe not the opener fans expected after the soft-loud theatrics of “Pawner,” “Blood Balloon” starts Death Chorus with a chorus of monolithic proportions and lyrics aflame with clever truisms (“I guess everyone is part perfect storm and part broken song.”)

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Polar Bear Club Frontman Releases Statement On Vocal Change

by Zack Zarrillo - Nov 18, 2013

Polar Bear Club will be releasing Death Chorus tomorrow, but a lot of the conversation surrounding the album has shifted to frontman Jimmy Stadt’s vocal change. Stadt has released a statement to fans on what brought on the change, and you can read it below after the jump.

Related Stories:
Polar Bear Club Stream ‘Death Chorus’

POZ Discussion: Essential Fall Listening  
POZ Discussion: Most Anticipated November Releases 

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Polar Bear Club Stream ‘Death Chorus’

by Zack Zarrillo - Nov 14, 2013

Polar Bear Club will be releasing Death Chorus next week. Stream it early here via Red Bull or below after the jump.

Related Stories:
POZ Discussion: Essential Fall Listening  
POZ Discussion: Most Anticipated November Releases 

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POZ Discussion: Essential Fall Listening

by Zack Zarrillo - Nov 11, 2013

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Fall rules. From the pumpkins to the turkeys to the cider to the utter sadness that fills your heart when you listen to that certain song (whoa, that got dark quick). To celebrate PropertyOfZack’s favorite season, we’re launching a new Essential Fall Listening Discussion filled with TeamPOZ’s favorite albums for this season. Check out our guide, listen along, and feel free to reblog with your favorite fall records!

Brand New - Deja Entendu
While Brand New’s Deja Entendu may have arrived in the summer of 2003 it wouldn’t be for another two autumns that the album’s place as a “fall classic” in my eyes would take center stage. I had listened to the album numerous times in those two years and memorized it well but I never put purpose behind the words and how it meant to someone like me. Driving home after an exhausting day of selling retail (what any 17 year old does in high school) the car ride home was dreary and the rain was pouring. As “Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t” began to play over the very wet October evening, I knew this was the time of year for such a moody and melancholy record when feelings felt mutual with the atmosphere. “Play Crack the Sky” even now is my go to for nights that slowly descend into very cold temperatures, something that considering current weather patterns, doesn’t always occur but it doesn’t matter. - Jason Stives

The Gaslight Anthem - The ‘59 Sound
While it’s perfectly reasonable to say that any Gaslight Anthem album is perfect for any season, there’s a particular feeling that will come over you when listening to The 59 Sound this fall. With so many of the songs dealing with the agony of lost love and the pain of looking back on better times, the album is perfect for anyone moving into a new phase of life, be it a new school, going to college, or facing the real world for the first time, The Gaslight Anthem’s sophomore full-length is the perfect companion through times of hardship or change, and when the leaves start changing and falling from the trees, that soaring chorus of “Great Expectations” takes on a whole new meaning. Sure, you probably just spent all summer listening to Handwritten up and down the highway this summer, but is there really ever a bad time to listen to The Gaslight Anthem? - Donald Wagenblast

Death Cab For Cutie - Plans
Despite including a song titled “Summer Skin,” Plans by Death Cab For Cutie is constantly in rotation during autumn for me. All Death Cab albums are, really, but Plans has a few standouts. It’s a strange time of year: on one hand, I love it, but there’s also this weird feeling of melancholy since it’s about to get cold and I do not enjoy the winter. 

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Polar Bear Club Release “WLWYCD” Music Video

by Zack Zarrillo - Nov 6, 2013

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Polar Bear Club have released a new music video for “WLWYCD.” Watch it below after the jump.

Related Stories:
POZ Discussion: Most Anticipated November Releases 

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POZ Discussion: Most Anticipated November Releases

by Zack Zarrillo - Nov 4, 2013

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November is here, and there are a slew of great records coming out this month that PropertyOfZack team members couldn’t be more stoked to hear. In today’s new Discussion, we’re highlighting our personal Most Anticipated November Releases. Check out our list below and feel free to reblog with what you’re looking forward to as well

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Punk Goes Christmas (11/05)
It’s kind of shocking that Punk Goes Christmas hasn’t happened until now; there’s a long tradition of punk bands doing Christmas tunes that goes as far back as the Ramones. Christmas tunes are usually some mix of goofy and sentimental, two moods that punk bands tend to excel at, and over the past decade, it seems like nearly every scene band of note has taken a crack at writing one (or covering a classic). We’ve even made it a yearly tradition here at POZ to review our favorites on Christmas Day.

The lineup contributing to Punk Goes Christmas’s tracklist nicely pulls together the ghosts of pop-punk past, present and future to join in the caroling gang chorus, from old guard favorites like New Found Glory and Yellowcard to young upstarts Real Friends. Notably, Fearless have pared back on the screamo /metalcore / heavy music acts that have dominated the last few Punk Goes… releases, and one of the few included here, Issues, has seen frontman Tyler Carter make a bit of a splash in the past few years with Christmas tracks under his own name. If the album proves anywhere near as solid as its track list (and let’s face it, Christmas songs really only come in two varieties, good and great), we’re in for some early holiday goodies. - Jesse Richman

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A Wilhelm Scream - Partycrasher (11/05)
November is apparently a banner month for punk albums, possibly none quite as important as A Wilhelm Scream’s aptly named hiatus-shattering record, Partycrasher. Six years removed from a studio effort, the band proved its legacy in the genre on the new album with eleven searing, scathing, sneering new cuts. Still brash and angry like the best of A Wilhelm Scream’s back catalog, the band only adds polish since taking a leave of disappearance — not rust. - Erik van Rheenen

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The Bouncing Souls, The Menzingers - Split
During a way-too-early conversation regarding AOTY candidates, I jokingly mentioned to a friend that my top spot was currently occupied by The Menzingers’ On the Impossible Past, since no album from 2013 captured my heart and headphones the way that bottle rocket of a record did a year ago. Having to wait for next year for a new full-length from the band verges on cruel-and-unusual punishment, but a split 7” between The Menzingers and punk elder statesmen The Bouncing Souls should be a firecracker in its own right. Featuring a new cut and a cover from each, a lighthearted Souls take on powerhouse “Burn After Reading” and The Menzingers’ spin on “Kate is Great” is the only punk-goes-something we need this year. - Erik van Rheenen

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Anthony Green - Young Legs (11/12)
I’ll be the first to admit that I had no idea what the birth of Anthony Green’s children was going to mean for his musical productivity, be it through his solo work or his main act, Circa Survive. But here we are at just about two years since the birth of his second son, Luke, and Green is about to release Young Legs, his second solo album in as many years (which brings his release count to three since 2012 began, when you account for Circa’s Violent Waves). 

Green’s solo work has always been much more mellow and light-hearted than the atmospheric, aggressive blend that Circa has become known for. Young Legs will bring about an interesting sound, as he is now identifying his solo work as Anthony Green and the Good Old Band, which will feature the entire trio that comprises Good Old War, along with a familiar face in Circa Survive guitarist Brendan Ekstrom. In terms of sound, it should be noted that Green recorded this album shortly after completing work on his last solo effort Beautiful Things, so it will be very interesting to see how the two records compare to one another. No matter what it sounds like, it’s a safe bet that plenty of people will be listening to the new songs from the scene’s favorite family man. - Donald Wagenblast

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Matt Pryor - Wrist Slitter (11/12)
Matt Pryor has always been prolific — between the Get Up Kids, the New Amsterdams, albums released under his own name, his Terrible Twos children’s music project, and his newest band, Lasorda, Pryor’s been averaging better than an album a year for the last decade, most with the kind of hit-or-miss rate you might expect from someone cranking out songs as fast as he can go. 

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Polar Bear Club Stream New Song “Upstate Mosquito”

by Zack Zarrillo - Oct 28, 2013

Polar Bear Club have released a new song called “Upstate Mosquito.” Stream it below after the jump.

Related Stories:
Polar Bear Club’s ‘Death Chorus’ Announced; Tour With Citizen, DMNDYTH 

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Ernie Ball