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  Warm Hearts, Cold Hands  
  Save Ends  
  Tiny Engines  
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Save Ends are a very earnest 5-piece punkish pop band from Boston. They are a five-piece who apparently consist of members of other Boston bands that i have never heard of -- No Trigger and Rotary. So, i am guessing that this is a local Boston supergroup of musicians that have been in the scene for a while.

And this shows in the instrumentation, which i really like a lot. Guitarists Christina Atturio and Tom C. play counterpoint to one another in a manner that blends Superchunk and The Offspring. Very cool. The rhythms tend to be swift and catchy, bassist Sam Nash and drummer Burton! (the ! is apparently his last name) drive the songs along forcefully. And keyboardist Brendan Cahil adds a nice accent to the pop punk.

Cahil and Atturio split the vocals, often harmonizing. Her voice is a little high-pitched and her vocal style is kind of shouty. That is not something everyone enjoys, but is not bad in itself…

The problem that i have with this record is the recording. According to their BandCamp page the record was "Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Jay Maas at Getaway Recording".

I don't know what this Mr. Jay Maas is, but someone needs to stop him.

The problem with Warm Hearts, Cold Hands is ultimately the same problem that strikes a lot of local Atlanta bands, like American Dream and Sleep Therapy and Ruvolo, etc. And that problem is that the record is produced with all of the instrumentation in one layer, just like when the band performs live, and then the voices are produced WAY on top of that layer. The effect is of seeing a band playing about 100 feet away while two people stand directly in front of you screaming along.

Look, Mr. Maas, the voices do not need to THAT loud. Why do so many bands record like this? What is the deal?

I can see using that recording style for a band with a really phenomenal singer. But while Cahil and Atturio are good for what they are doing, neither singer has a really great of a voice. We're not talking Pavarotti and Aretha Franklin, here. But this is a bigger problem than just Save Ends here...

I wonder if the problem that when bands get in the studio suddenly the vocalist(s) start thinking they are Bono and that every listener needs to hear the words first and foremost, in order to observe the depth of the passion they express through songwriting ?

Look, most of the people who come to local shows have no freakin' idea what most of the words are. Certain words, like choruses, stand out while the rest are a vague impression in the overall sonic roar of the band. And that really works! Think about this: how many times after a show has some fan, smiling and sweaty from dancing, remarked, "Great show! I really liked it, i just wish i could have heard the vocals better..."

Yeah. That never happens, or at least it doesn't for the bands I like. Voices kind of buried in the mix, or at least not massively overpowering the rest of the music, are better.

Balance -- that's what is needed. The voices should blend in a bit with the instrumentation. I bet that happens when Save Ends plays live. In fact, i bet these guys are a lot of fun in concert.

That sense of fun is hinted at here in tunes like Same Old Dice, where the guitars grind under rumbling drums; or Punkorama 30, which i bet gets the crowd moshing happily; or Always Knew, where the drums and vocals scamper around messily; or Chasing Embers, where the guitars grind like a moody AOL song from the middle of All The Nations Airports.

However, this just a hint, a hint of talent that is squashed by the poor production choice. The record is, well, mediocre at best. It could be a lot better if the voices were not so damned loud.

And this stuff keeps happening! Why? I have so many CDs made by local acts on shoestring budgets that are recorded like this.

I cannot make it any clearer: stop. Even if you think you are a poet on par with Bob Dylan (hint: you're not), your vocals should not completely overpower the record.


Please stop.

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