Little Richie – Being As An Ocean: Music Review

Bio

Harnessing the whimsicalities of spoken word and melodic grit, California-native Being As An Ocean, have fit comfortably in the niche of the new wave of American hardcore since releasing, Dear G-d, in 2011. Their polished sound and lyrical prowess give this band an edge that is ultimately an emotional gamut.

Background

I’ve said something similar on previous posts, but I believe friends, peers, and family are critical pieces in the jigsaw puzzle of musical tastes. The range of your buddies listen to in the car all the way to what you were raised on are pieces that help put the puzzle together. The reason I say this is because BAAO are a band that I got into because of friends who had roots in different tastes than I do… but that’s starting to change for me. I found them on Spotify (chalk three in this blog thanks to that site) as a band related to Capsize – another hardcore band hailing from the east coast.

Band shot. Photo credit: Rock Transmission
Band shot. Photo credit: Rock Transmission

I don’t normally review singles, but I think this will provide a good opportunity to further dissect song structure, lyricism, instrumentation, and give a more comprehensive picture of where this band has come from and gone in the last 4 years.

Little Richie is the single that was released a couple weeks ago for their upcoming self-titled album, scheduled to drop late next month.

I remember watching the music video for Salute e’ Vida and seeing a Youtube comment that read, “I’ve never seen a band who’s Youtube comments are filled purely with love rather than random sprays of hate. These guys must be pretty special.” While there is some satire laced that response, I thought to myself, “Yeah, I can see why.”

This band came out of left field. I’ve never been too big a fan of hardcore music because I wasn’t enamored with the vocal style, lack of brutality, and messier production quality that most modern metal makes up for. With that said and as aforementioned, that’s beginning to change for me. My friends who enjoy heavy music are much more into hardcore, emo, and punk rock. To be honest, I liked metal’s calculated anger channeled into this maelstrom of sonic ferocity. Metal was and still is (to a certain degree) an outlet for anger and frustration, but now that I’ve gotten a chance to work out frustrations and unpack baggage from my life, I don’t have such a strong of an itch for that kind of musical therapy to drown myself in. With that said, I’ve always enjoyed the edgier side of music and find that my tastes are evolving. I’m beginning to latch on to this kind of hardcore my friends are into for what it holistically offers, but I’ll get to that later.

Instrumentation/Songwriting

Little Richie starts with a short somber sounding echoing piano section that takes off into a familiar formula of hardcore instrumentals and vocals that build on each other throughout the verse. Throughout this song, you hear the instrumentals build up in the verse, return to this sonic homeostasis, and then take off again. In that time, the drums and bass continue to lay down the groove and back Joe Quartuccio’s bellowing vocals. The chorus introduces clean singing from rhythm guitarist, Tyler Ross, along with increasingly more emotional instrumentals in this song. On that note, the guitar riffs are catchy and have this really clean tone that I wasn’t expecting to hear.

Joe Quartuccioo. Photo credit: Wikipedia
Joe Quartuccioo. Photo credit: Wikipedia

I’m used to more grimy tones in this genre of music, but it actually works really well for what the band is trying to capture. The second verse transitions into a softer passage, much like the first pre-chorus that showcase drums, bass, and intermittent guitar work. Quartuccio’s vocals evolve into a spoken word slam that narrates a story of physical abuse towards witnessed by one of the children. As the song ends, the instrumentals explode into one last chorus that takes the song to its most cathartic passage and conclusion. Quartuccio’s vocals are well executed in this song, and in my opinion it’s because they’re controlled. I don’t mean that to take away from the intensity his screams/yells, but they’re harnessed and fit well. Each syllable and enunciation is placed where it should be and you can still hear what he’s saying.

I gathered from looking at lyrical themes on previous releases that there are spiritual underpinnings. Listening to interviews with the band, Quartuccio’s devotion to God is painted throughout their discography, yet it doesn’t reach a level of “preachy” that you might otherwise hear. These songs are much more parabolic and anecdotal. They tell stories of mourning, the necessity for love, and leaning on God to navigate through doubt. Little Richie illustrates an emotional depiction of a mother enduring physical abuse while having to reassure her son that “God has a much bigger plan…” At the end of the song, the story outlines how this young child found life in God and reminds the congregation, “This is what’s promised, he works all things for good. It’s love that wins.” Contrasted with the workings of such a dysfunctional family in this song, this is striking lyricism that packs even more punch when you listen to how this is all done as slam poetry and traditional hardcore screams. This is one of the reasons that I am beginning to warm up to hardcore. The emotionally laden lyricism combined with such raw intensity makes it all feel more organic and believable.

Lyricism

I gathered from looking at lyrical themes on previous releases that there are spiritual underpinnings. Listening to interviews with the band, Quartuccio’s devotion to God is painted throughout their discography, yet it doesn’t reach a level of “preachy” that you might otherwise hear. These songs are much more parabolic and anecdotal. They tell stories of mourning, the necessity for love, and leaning on God to navigate through doubt. Little Richie illustrates an emotional depiction of a mother enduring physical abuse while having to reassure her son that “God has a much bigger plan…” At the end of the song, the story outlines how this young child found life in God and reminds the congregation, “This is what’s promised, he works all things for good. It’s love that wins.” Contrasted with the workings of such a dysfunctional family in this song, this is striking lyricism that packs even more punch when you listen to how this is all done as slam poetry and traditional hardcore screams. This is one of the reasons that I am beginning to warm up to hardcore. The emotionally laden lyricism combined with such raw intensity makes it all feel more organic and believable.

Photo credit: Alt Press
Photo credit: Alt Press

Production

As I discussed earlier, hardcore has more grit in its presentation and a lot of that comes down to how records are recorded and mixed. As I began to journey through this type of heavy music, listening to groups like Underoath, Capsize, Counterparts, LaDispute, Defeater, even August Burns Red, there’s a common denominator. These groups, including BAAO, are able to serve something polished that still retains its frenetic nature. With that said, this song does do something different. It’s very heavy in the drums and bass when they are in the spotlight. Guitars vary. In the beginning, they take somewhat of a back seat, are fronted in the chorus, and then take off at the end. The vocals are in your face and dominate for a good reason. Little Richie’s production is clean, but still captures the controlled chaos.

Conclusion

This song, and furthermore, this band captures why I’m beginning to enjoy hardcore. The dynamic song compositions, edgy vocals with meaningfully potent lyricism, and emotionally charged, forward songwriting make me enjoy songs like this in ways I never thought possible. I’m pumped for this new album to be released and would highly recommend this song!

 Score: 96/100

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5 albums to listen to in may.

These are five albums that I have discovered in the last couple of months between friends, roommates, and browsing on Spotify. Some are old, others are recent releases, but either way, I hope this can lead you to discover some new, good music.

Invent, Animate – Everchanger

I saw Invent, Animate open for After the Burial in Lacrosse this semester with a buddy of mine from college. I had heard the name before, but never listened to them until then. As they played their set, I could see their lead guitar player’s apt skills, performing two handed chromatic taps and sweeps on some nice looking hardware, but the issue was… I couldn’t hear it. The mixing at the venue was sub par for this band, so anything melodic was muted by a chaotic wall of chugging. It became boring, very quickly. I went on Youtube the next day and looked up their new album, Everchanger, and I retracted ANY presumptions about this group from the night before. Invent, Animate serve a progressive palate of musical influences that is refreshing in a way that was done by Volumes. I wouldn’t say that this band is reinventing the wheel of modern metal, but they’re doing something right. This band shared a label with bands like, Erra, which is a personal favorite of mine, and is one of the best bands Tragic Hero Records has in their arsenal. This band has a balance between the heavy, melodic, chaotic, and calm. This album is not without its flaws, but I think it’s still a worthwhile listen that is accessible. Not to mention that these guys are stellar musicians and shred this record into oblivion! If you like good, progressive metal give this album a listen!

Everchanger Photo credit: Facebook/InventAnimate
Everchanger Photo credit: Facebook/InventAnimate

Lowercase Noises – Marshall

I’ve said this before in a review of Sons of the East’s debut EP, but Spotify exemplifies why social media fosters good connectivity between users. When you scroll through what your friends are listening to, you get the chance to get to know them in a more subtle way. You begin to discover their musical tastes, which I think is a deep reflection of someone’s emotions. With that said, one of my roommates likes to listen to post rock and worship music when studying upstairs. There was one night where I looked on that ticker and saw this one-man band on there. I clicked out of curiosity and let myself become immersed. Lowercase Noises is an ambient project composed by a multi instrumentalist from New Mexico. Andrew Othling creates this whimsical orchestra of guitar reverb and synths that will put an angry two-ton gorilla to bed. This is a very relaxing listen that flows well, is potent and meaningful, considering this album is dedicated to Othling’s son. The composition of this album takes you on a journey through these glimmering highs and very melancholy, yet beautiful lows. It’s pretty formulaic for ambient music, but it never gets old, because it’s that emotionally charged. If you’re looking for a lullaby on a rainy day with a good cup of coffee or want some music to reflect on life to, I would highly recommend this record!

Marshall album cover. Photo credit: The Outpost
Marshall album cover. Photo credit: The Outpost

Bear’s Den – Islands

I have Spotify to thank again for Bear’s Den, because of their Winter Acoustics playlist that is armed to the teeth with one high caliber singer-songwriter track after another that is good for a nice afternoon doing homework. Hailing from England, this three piece takes a folk like approach to singer-songwriter similar to groups like Mumford and Sons. Though Bear’s Den resemble such acts, their sound feels less like arena caliber anthems and more like nimble compositions made for a good bar or small theater. It’s more intimate. With introspective lyrical content that touches the heartstrings of love, death, mourning, and friendships as well as very catchy, melodic choruses, this album has a lot of replay value. I like that they use horns as a way to create a robust sound that still feels unplugged in most tracks on this record. It gives this group personality and keeps them thinking outside the musical box. If you’re looking for good singer-songwriter music and thick British accents, I would highly recommend this record to you!

Islands album cover. Photo credit: The Swollen Fox
Islands album cover. Photo credit: The Swollen Fox

Norah Jones & the Peter Malick Group – New York City

I always tell people that jazz was my first love. I found something so beautiful in the way that the musician allows the grooves to envelop them. It’s almost as if they become one with the instrument. The genre is organic, often times improvised, and runs on feeling. Norah Jones is a family favorite. Come Away With Me is one of my favorite indie pop albums of all time that we played on repeat in our house growing up. Take those two, put them on a plate with a good drink to wash it down with and a nice view outside with that meal, and you get this record. Norah Jones collaborated with a jazz band from (you guessed it) New York City to make this album that brings back those high school memories of playing jazz in the cafeteria with low ceilings, and a cozy atmosphere. The combination of memorable melodies, Norah Jones’ signature raspy voice, an impeccable mix, and skilled musicians at the helm, this album is not only a good change in pace for Norah Jones, but it’s a solid blues record. The pace of this album is slowed down, allows for experimentation in the instrumentation, but manages to hold your attention. I found myself nodding my head throughout this album to a guitar tone that gives this very live feeling. The bass line compliments the grooves and drums that are hearty yet don’t overpower. If you like blues, jazz, and have an ear to the underground, then give this album a listen!

Norah Jones. Photo credit: The Beat
Norah Jones. Photo credit: The Beat

Jedi Mind Tricks – The Psychosocial, Chemical, Biological, and Electro-Magnetic Manipulation of Human Consciousness.

Say that title five times fast. This is the first hip-hop album that I’ve reviewed, aside from touching on the social themes consistent in the new Kendrick Lamar record. I don’t review that many in this genre, because I am very picky about the rap I listen to. I need something that goes beyond the vagrancies of bling. Though most rap is not lyrically sterile, I like clever wordplay, good flow, and a message to digest. If that’s your fancy, then let me introduce you to Jedi Mind Tricks, a hip-hop trio hailing from the City of Brotherly Love. This was Jedi’s first full length album released in 1997, when rap moguls like 50 Cent and Jay-Z were rising to power. Meanwhile, this group was crowned kings of the underground. This record is armed to the teeth with the things that make Jedi the alternative rap juggernauts they are. With the gravely sonic boom that is the voice of Vinnie Paz, grimy, orchestral production from Stoupe, unbelievably dizzying bars dropped by guests like Apathy, and striking political and religious commentary, this album is a refreshing listen. There’s a tone and atmosphere this album gives off that’s moody and goes against the grain of most mainstream rap. If you want hip-hop that transcends the superficial themes of pop rap, crank this album!

Jedi Mind Tricks album cover. Photo credit: Rhapsody
Jedi Mind Tricks album cover. Photo credit: Rhapsody