One Step Closer signal a sea change with Songs for the Willow. With last year’s This Place You Know, the band had already mastered a unique stripe of mournful melodic hardcore informed by eclectic emo influences. But on Songs for the Willow, they’ve tapped into a dynamic, emotionally powerful, and sonically intricate post-hardcore space inhabited by the charged aura and artistic nuance of landmark early 2010s records like Title Fight’s Floral Green and Touché Amoré’s Is Survived By. But ultimately, Songs for the Willow moves this sound forward into new territory.
While frontman Ryan Savitski explored clean singing on This Place You Know, he expands his vocal repertoire further here, pushing himself to an even wider range of styles and methods, from soaring highs to breathy lows and rousing harmonies. He makes for a spirited lead and consistent presence while guitar work from himself, Ross Thompson and newcomer Colman O’Brien weave sundry, compelling layers, never content to linger on one riff for too long.
“All three songs revolve around the problems that touring so much this last year have caused,” Savitski says of the thematic melancholy running through the EP. “Losing relationships, losing band members, losing a sense of what this band even means to everyone.” Savitski is still grateful for the growth his band experienced—they made memorable appearances on some of hardcore’s biggest stages (Sound and Fury, This Is Hardcore, and Outbreak festivals), supported scene staples on tour (Comeback Kid, Drug Church, Terror), and had This Place You Know land on respected publications’ Best of 2022 lists (Stereogum, BrooklynVegan). But Savitski also recognizes the sacrifices they made along the way, and that struggle imbues itself in the EP’s desperate tone. “I feel like this last year was the first time we’ve truly felt like a real band, but there were so many issues underlying that it made it hard to enjoy a lot of things.”
The band stepped outside their comfort zone to create Songs for the Willow, teaming with Jon Markson and Eric Chesek to record the EP and explore new sonic terrain. “[Markson] is such an awesome guy and [they] really pushed to get the best out of us the entire time,” Savitski says. “I think their creative minds helped us make something special. We tried a lot of new things for these songs and really pushed a vocal style I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”
Those three songs comprise a mighty trio of powerhouse mid-tempo fare that fire off stirring tempo and tonal changes, giving mere three-minute songs a dramatic, cinematic splendor. “Dark Blue” seems to yearn a loss through the picturesque changing of seasons. “Earlier this year driving through the Pacific Northwest,” Savitski recalls, “I was struggling with how much we were about to be touring this year. As much as I was excited, I was just as much scared of how the dynamic of my life at home would change. I almost felt like people would forget about me for some reason, or relationships would change while being away. I found comfort looking out the window of the van and seeing things I never thought I’d ever see, while simultaneously turning my head to see some of my best friends who I get to experience this life with. It made me feel conflicted—potentially lose the people you love at home, to do the thing you love just as much. This song represents those conflicting moments in time.”
“Turn to Me” wields a surprisingly melodic refrain while trying to maintain optimism amid despair. “Sometimes things happen and it changes relationships, and no matter how much you don’t want that to happen, it still does,” says Savitski. “I’ve experienced this a few times in my life and every time it makes me wonder why things can’t be the same as they were, until I finally realized it’s just part of growing. This song is about watching yourself and your friends grow up, but [also] further apart. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world and it really sucks to live with it everyday.” Following that, “T.T.S.P.” appropriately attempts to find closure with more natural imagery surrounding the search for solace.
All along, there’s an insistent, relentless forcefulness to each performance. After already cementing themselves as the best young band reviving genuine melodic hardcore, One Step Closer have now proven themselves as virtuosos of the impassioned post-hardcore mini-epic.
While crafting Anxious’ new album, Little Green House, the Connecticut five-piece were afforded a luxury so few bands are when making their debut album: time. With extensive touring plans halted and regular life on pause, the band—vocalist Grady Allen, guitarists Dante Melucci and Ryan Savitski, bassist Sam Allen, and drummer Jonny Camner—headed into Allen’s mom’s basement and reflected on each part of the material that would turn into their first record over and over again. The result is an artistic leap that, had the band’s plans to spend much of 2020 on the road actually been feasible, maybe wouldn’t have happened.
Formed in 2016 while members were still in high school, Anxious’ early releases were indebted to the urgent freneticism and heart-on-sleeve lyrics of post-hardcore acts like Texas Is The Reason, Samiam, and Turning Point, allowing Anxious to immediately grab the attention of the hardcore scene. The band’s DIY roots and dedication to craft were equally as essential to their rising profile—early releases were accompanied with band-dubbed cassettes, made-to-order zines, and even self-dyed shirts—each part of Anxious was laid out in meticulous detail from day one. Having almost immediately surpassed Allen’s modest ambitions of “playing a couple of shows,” Anxious quickly found a home on Triple B Records, gaining the attention and adulation of both the hardcore and emo scenes on the back of two seven-inch EPs and a pair of demos, getting them coveted spots on tours with genre-bending acts like Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, before landing on Run For Cover.
Named after the space in which the material was written, Little Green House sees Allen and Melucci exploring what it feels like to enter adulthood in unflinching detail. The pair unpack their struggles, joys, and hard-earned realizations in a way that makes them each feel wise beyond their years. “I think a lot of the record is a coming-to-terms, interpretive record about relationships with people and thinking introspectively,” says Allen. “I’m sure it’ll be a cliché very soon to say, ‘With all the time spent away, I was able to really think about things,’ but having that time ot sit and be introspective really does give you perspective on yourself, the relationships you have with other people, and that recognition that while you might all be interconnected—whether it’s your parents, your friends from high school, people you know through music—it’s bound to happen that you all have deeply individual and separate paths, and that’s okay.”
Recorded and produced by Chris Teti at Silver Bullet Studios, the diversity of perspectives on Little Green House is matched by the album’s ability to jump between sounds without ever feeling disjointed. The band’s commitment to their creative vision and exacting attention to detail is apparent, with Anxious going so far as to completely re-record the vocals until Little Green House was exactly the statement they wanted to make.
That devotion is clear from the very first notes of opener, “Your One Way Street.” Anxious sounds more deliberate than ever, with each riff pounding like a powerful declaration as Allen works through the emotions of watching one of his oldest friendships breaking apart, “I beg you, one last time as a friend / How did we get here and why does this have to end?” On “More Than A Letter” the band explores what it was like to watch a potential romantic relationship fall away because of outside pressures, and the energetic “Let Me” is a show of support from a child to a parent while watching them go through a painful divorce and features guest vocals from Pat Flynn of Fiddlehead. “I guess the idea behind the record is that coming to terms with who you are and accepting that,” says Allen. “Struggle, sadness, and pain aren’t necessarily negative things, but they are necessary things. There’s no shame or sadness put onto these feelings that you’re already experiencing. But there are positive, triumphant elements running through the album, too,” a feeling that’s best exemplified by the triumphant, and aptly titled, “Growing Up Song.”
While fans are used to Anxious’ infectious energy spilling into every song, the closing track “You When You’re Gone” shows a totally new side of the band. Where the raucous parts of the album recall Lifetime and Sense Field, this one’s pure dream pop bliss. Joined by vocalist Stella Branstool on the track, it gives Little Green House an expanded scope, one that showcases a band taking big swings and landing every single one of them.
“The goal wasn’t to create something that perfectly replicates a sound or an era,” says Allen. “It was just about us wholeheartedly trying to create something that felt distinctly like us and not worry for a second if it feels unfamiliar—we just wanted to create something that was unabashedly us.” On Little Green House, that’s exactly what Anxious did. They’ve made a record that captures the bittersweet feeling of returning to a place you grew up and realizing how the passing of time has changed you – a musical snapshot of who they were in an exact moment, and who they want to become now that they’re ready to move on.
Since forming in 2020, every single second of music recorded by Koyo has been completely and utterly genuine. Formed in Long Island, New York by five childhood friends who grew up together—vocalist Joseph Chiaramonte, guitarists Harold Griffin and TJ Rotolico, bassist Stephen Spanos, and drummer Salvatore Argento—Koyo’s music is the sound of Stony Brook summers flipping between Taking Back Sunday and Silent Majority while driving to the beach, living in songs that feel just like home.
Three years after their formation—and hot on the heels of a slew of acclaimed EPs—Koyo is now taking their next step in the hallowed halls of Long Island hardcore with Would You Miss It?, the band’s debut album. Following in the footsteps of the giants of hardcore, pop-punk, and emo that came before them, Koyo are aware of the weight a debut album carries, and they’ve been slowly crafting it since the band’s earliest days. “We really slow-cooked this record,” says Chiaramonte. “There are songs on it that go back as far as being written just after Painting Words Into Lines came out. Even as we were writing for Drives Out East, we knew certain songs had to be allocated for certain things. We’d just keep them in the bank and develop them over time.”
Despite all the planning and tinkering, there’s nothing contrived about Would You Miss It?, because there’s nothing remotely manufactured about Koyo. Every element is a genuine representation of the people creating it, and the album was concocted in the most authentic way possible: with five friends, all together, writing songs. “We have great chemistry as a band and as songwriters,” says Griffin. “That’s the beautiful thing about Koyo, that we can sort of fit into everything. We never try to box ourselves in, because no matter what we do, it will still be us.”
To fully immerse themselves in the recording process, Koyo decamped to a barn in rural New Jersey with producer Jon Markson (Drug Church, Regulate, One Step Closer) and spent six weeks digging into every detail of the record. The product is songs like “You’re On The List (Minus One),” “Message Like A Bomb (ft. Daryl Palumbo),” and “Anthem,” tracks that build upon Koyo’s established foundation, but feel sharper, stronger, and even more singalong ready. “This record was a labor of love,” says Chiaramonte. “Not just because of the work that went into it, but because of all the life experiences that shaped it. The record was a life-fulfilling, life-affirming thing to make, but it hurt a little bit to make, too.”
That’s no metaphor. Nearly every day working with Markson was a marathon 10-hour session with the band poring over every single detail to ensure their debut album met their expectations. Meanwhile, Griffin was learning how to walk again after an onstage accident precipitated a major ankle surgery. “The first week we were at the studio, I was in a wheelchair with my foot up and could not do anything,” says Griffin. “Three of the songs on the album were written from that wheelchair. I had a physical therapist a mile away from the studio, so I learned how to walk while living at this farm for six weeks.”
For Chiaramonte’s part, the lyric writing process forced him to dig deep into himself. Musically, Koyo’s songs flow out of Griffin and Rotolico as naturally as a conversation at an all-night diner but, for Chiaramonte, writing lyrics proved to be a deeply introspective experience. He’d drive somewhere remote and sit for hours with a notepad until what filled the page was an honest, open-hearted sentiment. “Life’s A Pill” is a prime example, and a perfect encapsulation of the range of emotion Koyo captures throughout each of the tracks on Would You Miss It?.
“‘That song is about a family member of mine passing away from a drug overdose when I was on my first full U.S. tour,” says Chiaramonte about “Life’s A Pill.” “Ultimately, I chose to stay on that tour. I didn’t want to grieve. I didn’t want to think about it. It was all so overwhelming that I just opted to shoulder how I was feeling, finish the tour, and deal with it another day. I found that I started to do that with a lot of things because I started to tour full time that year. There were so many interpersonal problems that I was just smothering. That song dives into that. The loss, the avoidance, and what I was doing mirrored what some people turn to drugs for. It’s a giant song about loss and escapism.”
Would You Miss It? is the kind of album that could only be made by a group of self-proclaimed genre-obsessives. It’s why Koyo can seamlessly transition from playing the This Is Hardcore festival to opening for Bayside, because they make perfect sense no matter what bill they’re on. That natural musical dexterity is what fostered collaborations with Glassjaw’s Daryl Palumbo (“Message Like A Bomb”), Vinnie Caruana of The Movielife (“What’s Left To Say”), and Vein.FM’s Anthony DiDio (“Flatline Afternoon”) on songs where each part was written specifically with the guest vocalist in mind. Each person fits right into Koyo’s musical language, and expresses the range of sounds and feelings the band can express at any given time.
Taken in full, Would You Miss It? is the coming-of-age tale of five friends joining together to take on the world. Fueled by a love for music, and a shared creative bond, Koyo sets the bar for the new wave of Long Island bands. As Chiaramonte notes on “Anthem,” a lyrical love letter to Long Island scenes of the past, present, and future, “the best is yet to come.” Pay attention, because you won’t want to miss it.
“It’s What We Do” is the culmination of energy and aggression. Stateside explores what it feels like to face the demons of addiction, loss of relationships and the challenges of identity in a way that feels universal. On this EP, the band showcase their ability to play heartfelt, melodic music with a hardcore edge that feels simultaneously nostalgic for a time when bands wore their hearts on their sleeves and a current moment where sound transcends genre or authenticity is key. “It’s What We Do”!