Chasing Fridays: Cindy Lee, Balmora, Jeff Rosenstock live, and more

Chasing Fridays: Cindy Lee, Balmora, Jeff Rosenstock live, and more

*Velvet Underground voice* Friiiday morning. Yep, it's another one of those, and I'm here with this week's Chasing Fridays roundup. This week, I listened to a bunch of new metalcore (the good kind, don't worry), some indie-rock courtesy of A Country Western, some psych-pop by the inimitable Cindy Lee, and a bunch of MGMT for a podcast (which you can hear by subscribing to Endless Scroll's bonus feed).

I also went and saw the Pittsburgh stop of Jeff Rosenstock's tour with Sidney Gish and Gladie, which was fun but also kind of...weird. I reflected on why that was below, and also wrote up my thoughts on fresh releases by the aforementioned bands. I spent basically every other waking hour of this week grinding on some freelance writing assignments, a couple of which (including a big-in') will be published next week outside of Chasing Sundays.

In the meantime, I really appreciate all the support from those who've subscribed to Chasing Sundays at the $5/month tier. That funding helps me give time and attention to this blog, which I'm putting towards some bigger pieces that I'm planning to publish here in the not-too-distant future. If you enjoy my writing and have the means to support this 100% independent venture, then I'd encourage you to subscribe below.

Alright now go ahead and read what you came here for. My thoughts on some motherfuckin' music.

Balmora/Since My Beloved - Six Pacts Etched Into Blood

There's basically no band I've thought more about over the last year than Balmora. The Connecticut crew are reviving a form of early-2000s metalcore (or edge-metal, to get hyper-specific) that hadn't been trendy in a real way in almost 20 years, even though it had a brief resurgence in the hardcore underground back in the mid-2010s (shoutout xElegyx, xRepentancex, and Drawing Last Breath). Balmora's 2023 EP With Thorns of Glass and Petals of Grief has been relentlessly described as an anachronistic relic of Y2K-era metalcore, back when the genre was contained to VFW halls and still belonged to the hardcore scene, not the Hot Topic industrial complex.

Balmora dress like Avenged Sevenfold did in 2002, and all of their reference points are obscure European edge-metal bands, the first (and only the first) Black Dahlia Murder record, and some early metalcore that's become trendier in recent years like Prayer for Cleansing and Undying. They're also unabashedly pulling from early deathcore, and their guitarist rocks a signature Synyster Gates Schecter guitar — so yeah, these dudes actually fuck with metalcore-era A7x. When I first heard that EP last year, I shook my head at the way it brought to mind the first Devil Wears Prada album, which I still throw on once or twice a year for a high-school nostalgia trip. But I didn't really get what they were going for upon my first couple listens. It didn't register to me that Balmora are playing the good and cool version of metalcore, not that version of metalcore — a distinction that you have to be really tapped-in to hardcore micro-scenes and aesthetics to even comprehend, let alone appreciate.

However, after seeing Balmora play a cartoonishly violent hardcore show in a Philly bar last summer, I began to develop a serious appreciation for what the band are doing. The more I listened, the more I found myself attracted to their melodramatic flair, blackened melodeath riffs, and harder-than-they-have-any-business-being mosh parts. By the end of 2023 I considered them one of my favorite young bands, and I still feel that way upon hearing their long-awaited split with Since My Beloved, another group of 2001-era metalcore worshippers, who'll sadly be calling it quits after a few shows later this summer.

xNomadx, also operating in this idiom, dropped a fantastic demo and EP in 2023 on Ephyra Records (the label run by Balmora singer Chris Misenti), but are also bowing after one final show later this spring. And Adrienne, a Massachusetts band who started playing a slightly different but aesthetically similar version of late-Nineties metalcore just a couple years before Balmora, just announced their breakup earlier this spring. It looked like any of those bands, who all have a growing cult following among twentysomething hardcore fans, could've broken through in a big way in 2024, but now all of them but Balmora are breaking up — and before any of them even got around to releasing a full-length album.

I plan to write a more in-depth feature on this brief yet inevitably historic blip on the hardcore timeline sometime later this year, but right now, I'm just typing to say that this Balmora/Since My Beloved split absolutely fucking smokes. The Balmora half took about a week to grow on me, as the songs aren't quite as immediate as the ones on With Thorns..., but now I think "Unlike the Times Before" and the six-and-a-half-minute "Your Unyielding Light" are two of their best tracks yet. The latter especially. It's got deathcore brees, some gnarsty breakdowns, a clean bridge that almost sounds like Codeine, a ripping guitar solo, and even more breakdowns splashed with deathcore brees. Again, the good kind of deathcore, not that kind of deathcore.

The coolest part about this split is that the Since My Beloved side might even be better. I actually like the fact that Balmora's songs are a little overwrought and convoluted. It gives them a scrappy charm that's been missing from so much of the professionalized, formulaic music that's dominated metalcore for the last two decades. However, it's nice to hear Balmora side-by-side with Since My Beloved, who are tighter songwriters and possibly even better players. Their breakdowns have the tightly-wounded elasticity of the little trampoline on one of those Bulls-Eye Ball toys from the 2000s. Their vocalist has a more dynamic shriek than Balmora's Misenti, and even though they sneak in a couple clean vocals (my biggest pet peeve with bands of this stature), they keep the catchy parts brief and make the rest of the songs about as heavy as this style of music can get.

Balmora are by far the most popular band of this mostly-defunct bunch, and they absolutely have the ability and the engagement to write an instant-classic full-length album, and hopefully they're already working on that. But who knows. They could just as likely call it quits tomorrow and this whole revival would be reduced to a bunch of hangers-on trying to mimic what Balmora and Since My Beloved have already mastered. That would suck, but the precarity of Balmora and Co.'s existence makes this split feel that much more special.

Foreign Hands - "God Under Fingernails"

Foreign Hands are also a metalcore band from the Northeast who came up in the hardcore scene and are reverent for a long-ago version of the genre. Where they differ from Balmora is the degree of professionalism in their delivery. Chest-beating clean choruses are strewn throughout their growing catalog, their production has a modern polish, and they're signed to SharpTone Records, who're home to way more lame-ass metalcore bands (We Came As Romans, Alphawolf) than cool ones (Dying Wish).

My opinion on this band has long been an even mix of skepticism and shrugging appreciation. Their 2022 Bleed the Dream EP definitely felt like a step ahead of the curve when it first dropped, but the Ephyra wave of metalcore quickly leap-frogged over whatever air of coolness Foreign Hands had mounted at that time, and made their sleeker, more try-hard breed of metalcore ring a bit gauche to my ears. However, after seeing them play a really heavy show to a really engaged hardcore crowd last fall, I finally got to see why they've earned the pedigree they've acquired within the hardcore scene, despite vying for a much more general-interest audience.

Last week they dropped a couple new singles, and I actually like them both a lot. "Conditioned for a Head-On Collision" features Olli Appleyard, frontman of U.K. post-hardcore breakouts Static Dress, and his chemistry with Foreign Hands really comes through in his berserk energy. I like the other tune, "God Under Fingernails," better, though. It sounds like Every Time I Die with heavier mosh parts, and while that's not usually the type of metalcore I reach for, I can enjoy it when it's done this well.

A Country Western - Life on the Lawn

Maybe it's just because they're on Pittsburgh-via-D.C. label Crafted Sounds, but A Country Western's new album just sounds Pittsburgh as fuck to me. No, I think it's more than that. I really think this new LP, the Philly group's third and first since 2021's Duster-y birdfeeder, sounds tapped-in to the lane that Gaadge, Same, and of course Feeble Little Horse have been operating in throughout the 2020s. A breed of indie-rock that's not quite slacker-rock but not not slacker-rock; that's not slow enough to be slowcore but just slow enough to warrant mentioning the genre; that's not noisy or reverb-y enough to be shoegaze, but gets pretty damn close at some points.

When I first heard this album I must admit I was a bit disappointed to hear that A Country Western abandoned the jittery slowcore of birdfeeder and breakcore-infused shoegaze of their 2022 split with They Are Gutting a Body of Water. I didn't think that they had made a masterwork in that style yet, but they were getting closer to creating something really lasting on the weirder side of "Philly shit" slow-gaze, and with Life on the Lawn they just dropped those elements entirely to take a trip down indie-rock mainstreet. But with riffs as whistle-able as the one in "The Dreamer" bass grooves as stark and hypnotizing as the one in "Sidewalk," and a six-minute centerpiece that gently unspools the way "The Spine" does, it's hard to be disappointed with what they served up here.

Cindy Lee- Diamond Jubilee

The new Cindy Lee album is two hours long and only available to stream on YouTube or through their vintage GeoCities website. I've had the YouTube tab open on my computer all week and have been slowly sifting through the record piece by piece, 15 minutes here and 20 minutes there. As of this writing I haven't even finished it yet, but I already know it's one of the best things I've heard this year. I remember enjoying the bleary noise-pop of their early 2020 album What's Tonight to Eternity, but, like so much music from that time, I haven't revisited it since the COVID-19 lockdown era.

Diamond Jubilee is a lot more accessible, if you could describe a 120-minute record as such. On these songs, songwriter Patrick Flegel cuts closer to the sepia-toned psych-pop of their old band Women, the kind of Sixties-indebted wispiness that I can imagine humming out of an old transistor radio perched in the windowsill of a Southwest desert bungalow. It reminds me of what bands like Cindy (no relation) are doing now and what Women's peers in Pure Hex were making in the early 2010s. Warm, nostalgic, classically tuneful, and as softly peculiar as the eye floaters you see when you shut your lids while facing directly into the sunlight.

Jeff Rosenstock, Sidney Gish, and Gladie live

I hadn't seen Jeff Rosenstock live since 2018, when I saw him play with Martha and Bad Moves in a 450-cap room in Pittsburgh. At that time, Jeff was one of my favorite artists, and that show, my third time seeing him live, meant a helluva lot to me. Earlier this week, I saw him play a sold-out 800-cap room in Pittsburgh, and when I did the calculation on my way over, I couldn't believe that it'd been six full years since I last attended a Jeff Rosenstock show.

Even though he's become a much less consistent part of my musical diet in the 2020s, as my taste continues to drift further away from the indie-punk scene he inhabits, I still think of myself as a pretty big Jeff Rosenstock fan. His 2020 album, No Dream, was a real grower that I now consider to be among his very best solo LP's (Worry and We Cool? are better), and I liked last year's Hellmode well enough, even if I basically haven't returned to it in full since I binged it in preparation for a podcast.

But I didn't really feel like a "pretty big" Jeff Rosenstock fan when I was at the show the other night. Standing closer to the back than I usually do for any show these days, pressed up against a few fidgety millennials who were more interested in procuring additional beers than watching the stage, I started to feel not just my age, but my distance from Jeff's music. There was a super active pit of screaming fans 10 or 12 rows up, where I certainly would've pushed my way through the crowd to join back in 2018. But most of the songs Jeff played that night (12 of them!) were from Hellmode, the Jeff record I've spent the least amount of time listening to since I first became a fan of his nearly 10 years back.

The people in the pit and all throughout the front half of the crowd (I was firmly planted in the back half) already knew all the words to those songs, whereas I was happy to feel the choruses slipping out of my lips with 70% accuracy, having not listened to any of them in almost a year. The last time I saw Jeff, he only had three albums to pull from (OK yes, four, but he didn't really play from I Look Like Shit back then), so basically every song he played was one I had an intimate appreciation for. Now, what I think of as prime-era Jeff music is essentially his "old shit," songs that his fans still exploded to when he pulled them out the other night, but that serve more of a "classics" function in his setlist these days. It was just a weird feeling. To actively become aware that my era of Jeff Rosenstock is well over six years in the past now, and my role as the hyper-active early twentysomething buzzing about in the pit is now being fulfilled by a new generation of fan.

It wasn't necessarily a bad feeling. I'm not really all that hung-up on the fact that I'll turn 30 this year, and I still get a kick out of moshing and singing along upfront at all the hardcore shows I go to, where I almost always feel more engaged in the genre's current moment than I did at this Jeff show. Gladie were a great opener. Their late-2022 record cracked my top 10 of that year and I still stand by that buzzer-beating inclusion. The song "Born Yesterday" is perfect. Sidney Gish was also incredible. I'd seen her a couple times back in the previous decade, but because she hasn't really released any new music since then, I didn't feel like I was trying to play catch-up while watching her whizz through "Sin Triangle" and "Persephone," her immense guitar (and looping pedal) prowess and gut-bustingly witty banter on full display.

But yeah, man. Jeff sang it in 2015 and I related to the sentiment then, but woof, it's only hitting harder now. "The only one thing remains secure/That we all get old together/And we all get old forever."