It’s time for another Freegal album review! If you’re unfamiliar with Freegal you can read all about it in our Easing into E-Resources blog series. Basically, Freegal is a music streaming platform that is available for free to our patrons. Pretty cool, right? This time we’ll look at the Bayside / Name Taken Split EP. Wait, wasn’t this another Freegal album review? Why are there two band names, what is a split, and what the heck is an EP?
Well, a split is a type of compilation that typically only features two artists. Each artist provides a few songs and splits the album. On vinyl, this split would be physical as one artist’s tracks would occupy either the A side or B side, and the other artist would be featured on the opposite side. Splits are typical of independent artists and labels, particularly in underground music. By nature, they are less of an investment as a physical release and a good way to expose audiences to a label's related bands or sound. More of a novelty or promotional gimmick in the age of digital distribution splits continue to be released in a number of formats by various groups and artists.
And an EP, that’s just a short album. EP is an acronym for extended play, as opposed to a single. While the history of the term goes back to the early days of commercial music releases and is steeped in the technical limitations of various physical formats, its contemporary use is simply to designate a release that’s not quite album length. Wasn’t I supposed to be reviewing something, now where was I?
Bayside / Name Taken Split EP is an interesting little release from the early years of the 3rd wave of Emo. Released in 2003 through Dying Wish Records this is one of Bayside’s earliest official releases and Name Taken’s last release prior to their first album. As with most splits, one band steals the show for me and that’s Bayside. This release really hooked me and got me interested in the band. Name Taken, on the other hand, was alright. Their sound was far less distinct than Bayside’s and I found my attention waning during their half of the EP.
No surprise here, this is another Punk / Post-Hardcore / Emo album from the early ’00s. I’ll do another genre someday, I promise. Dynamic rhythms, punishing power chord drives, and petty vocal aggression define this release. Bayside’s half has a great hands-off sound where the production is concerned. In fact, I’m fairly certain that the tracks featured here were actually the recordings for their second Demo. Name Taken’s half is certainly cleaner but lacks the character and charm achieved by Bayside. Instead of achieving a more professional sheen and clarity, the production leaves them sounding like too many of their peers, and the things that make them unique get lost in the crowd. Rather than harp on the Name Taken section which I was less than enamored with, I’ll focus on the good here. And the good here is Bayside.
Bayside’s contribution to the split consists of four tracks: “Loveless Wrists”, “Cold and Blue and Lifeless”, “Just Enough to Love You”, and “Answers We’ll Never Get”. The first three tracks Bayside serves up are absolutely killer. If you don’t find yourself singing along to these choruses then you might need your hearing checked.
Anthony Raneri’s vocal performance is the perfect amount of strained amateur and confident rock star. Some of the highs may sound a little bittersweet, but the backing vocal harmonies add just the right amount of zest to make these lines really pop. The vocal duet in the middle of “Cold and Blue and Lifeless” is a good example. During an instrument break, the vocals ride through with an excellent hook and harmony. The lines are as follows:
Trippin over my words
And now you're trippin on me
Isn’t that funny?
Couldn’t you just laugh until you choke?
I wish you would
So your face could match your eyes
Cold and blue and lifeless
How did I ever
Fall for you?
More than a little melodramatic and a fair bit violent, the commitment to selling the emotion here pays off. I couldn’t count the number of times these lines have randomly popped into my mind and I find myself humming the melody.
The guitar work on these tracks manages to carry a lot of angst and grit while following some pretty conventional pop progressions. The frequent rhythm changes and breakdowns keep a sharp edge on the guitar lines and hold the listener’s attention while remaining very accessible. Many of the licks thrown in between chords absolutely shred, while others add a subtle melody and depth to the composition. It certainly helps that Bayside utilizes two guitars on these tracks and actually lets them play off of one another. Duel guitar lines can become tedious if it’s a competition or an excuse for one player to show off.
The drums and bass are well seated in the mix and complement the songs’ aggressive but emotive tone excellently. The bass feels prominent when it should shine and settles back into the mix when the guitars need space. The full mix feels much wider than it sounds at first. The use of compression is heavy enough to keep everything contained and in line, but doesn’t make these songs sound crushed or lacking in dynamics. I would be very interested to know what medium these were recorded on because they carry a sort of warm, analog tone.
I could carry on for much longer than I’m sure my readers could stand about all the little things that just tickle me about this split. I could write a whole post on the design of the album art alone. It’s a superb composition, with beautiful balance and color. If you’re in the mood for something a little obscure, a little dramatic, a bit aggressive, and infinitely catchy give this EP a chance.