Album Review: Aspiga / Hanalei – Split

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After a few months delay Jump Start Records released a split between New Jersey’s Aspiga and California’s Hanalei on February 28, 2012. As far as splits go, these two bands have their own specialized approach to punk rock: the energetic Aspiga churns out fast-paced tunes that channel the sounds of the 90’s punk scene, while Hanalei, the current project of Brian Moss of the Wunder Years (not to be confused with the modern day pop punk act, the Wonder Years), finds their groove rooted in the indie folk sounds comparable to many acts on the Jade Tree roster. While the physical copy of the split only has two tracks, the digital version doubles the contribution from each band and gives the listener twice as many songs.

The split starts off with Aspiga’s “Laughing This Off,” which kicks things off on a fast paced note. While the band has notably been compared to influential acts such as Jawbreaker, Osker, and the Weakerthans, they take what their forerunners did and filter it through the modern day Tri-State area punk sound. From their precise musical abilities, to their dense (and sometimes angry) lyrics, Aspiga has comfortably carved themselves into their own niche; one that allows them to write songs that wear their influences on their sleeves without completely sounding like the bands that inspired them.

Their second song, “Thanks, But I Can Throw Myself Out,” starts off sounding almost like The Gaslight Anthem’s “The ’59 Sound” before launching into another energetic pop punk tune. Musically, the band offers a solid performance, and continues their ability to create familiar yet new sounds, but the song really shines in the vocals and lyrics, provided by guitarist/vocalist Kevin Day. Arguably “Thanks, But I Can Throw Myself Out” is the stronger of the two Aspiga tracks on this split.

Hanalei’s first contribution, the mid-tempo “Get Gone,” is carried by the melodic vocal performance of Brian Moss. Combining his raspy vocals and clean guitar tones with the steady bass and drums (performed by The New Trust’s Josh Staples and Dead to Me’s Ian Anderson, respectively), Get Gone sounds almost as if it could very well be an unreleased Jets to Brazil song. No really, it doesn’t sound like a really good Jets to Brazil cover, but an actual Jets to Brazil song.

The ride comes to an end with a cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Cut Dead,” which sees Moss step away from sounding like Scwarzenbach and strips away the electric elements. Remaining rather faithful to the original, “Cut Dead” is a relaxing number that shows off Moss’ melodic influences as well as the band’s “down-to-earth” folky side. Early reports stated that Hanalei would be contributing a cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” to this split. The band had even released a homemade video for this track, although it is oddly missing from the final product. While that cover would have been welcome, Hanalei’s contributions still offer a look into both their electric and acoustic sides, benefiting new and old fans alike.

A great split will contain at least two bands or artists that have a similar sound, but that can also remain distinct from one another. Being rooted in the same types of sounds and genres helps to keep listeners interested in both sides, but the diversity of sounds is so that the listener doesn’t get bored halfway through. A great split should also get new listeners to want to hear more material by the bands involved, while simultaneously giving older fans excellent new material. Listeners are in luck, as Aspiga, Hanalei, and Jump Start Records accomplished all of those things with this album.



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