You Might Have Missed: Valens
I don’t think it’s a big secret that I’m a fan of first wave emocore. Most of the bands contained guys who became lifelong pals of mine, and it was also taking place when I was in my impressionable mid twenties. Then, after Drive Like Jehu broke up, emocore became a music industry term given to bands that were being labeled emo, but who were closer to pop punk or bro rock. Then a couple of years ago I started seeing a new crop of bands who actually got what the music of that first wave was all about. I’d listen to bands and immediately hear aspects from June of 44, Braid, Mineral and more, and I was happy to see that the “core” in emocore wasn’t lost on a generation. In Houston, we have a handful of bands who not only got what that scene was all about, but who perform music in a very similar vain without directly lifting it. One of those bands is Valens. The three piece makes a mix of harsh emo like Boys Life mixed with the melodies of bands like Mineral and Braid. Last year they dropped a full length, only to follow it up with a split release later on. That full length, “The Trouble of Finding Out” is one of my favorite albums that I somehow missed in the shuffle of albums that were released locally last year. In seven songs these guys leave their mark while echoing the sounds that made emocore so endearing.
They kick the album off with the hiss and hum of amplifiers warming up, before a lone guitar rolls onto the track with such grace and beauty that it’s almost symphonic on “The Trouble of Finding Out.” Unfortunately the song is just over a minute, but it’s a nice prelude of what’s to come. They follow it up with the Get Up Kids feeling “E. Wisconsin Ave.” Though the title is more than likely an homage to The Promise Ring, the band has this murky bassline that glides the track alongside a pretty guitar track and backing vocals. Instead of emulating the sounds of the past, they masterfully forge their own path including a small solo that feels closer to a run down the fretboard than anything you’d expect from the average solo. The song pops and has plenty of hooks that keep you involved while things keep a nice snappy pace. You could say the same thing about the third track, “The Hard Way,” that has hints of American Football while still sounding original and on their own. When the second verse comes in, they add what sounds like a guitar doubled up and little distorted vocals before taking your ears back to their beautifully crafted single guitar that greeted you at the opening. I really enjoyed how moments of the song were 100% their own, though it wasn’t hard to figure out what genre the song was.
They add a small little ditty with the forty second track “Carousel,” similar to what Christie Front Drive did with their album “Stereo,” before launching into the fifth track, “One of Those Days.” On it they really hit a stride where it sounds like they’re making their own mark. Crazed drum fills and that nice emo ringing guitar dance all over before that murky bass hurls the song along. The snappy pace of the song makes it one you’ll want to hear on repeat as you bop your head from start to finish. The harder elements of emocore come in on the following song, “Weather Or Not.” Sharing similarities to early Jawbreaker and early Braid, the bonus here is that there’s a nice battle being waged between a distorted bass and a melody heavy guitar track while the song develops into a chaotic chorus where it feels like things might explode. It’s also my favorite song on the whole album, as it really showcases the band’s strong suits while keeping the same head bopping stride from start to finish.
They end the album with the a slower an almost experimental sound with “Sunset and Sunrise.” Though things start off a little more somber, the heavier nature of the band comes in before they start forging ahead at a slower pace than any of the other tracks of the seven. There were moments where it reminded me of how Knapsack would play these heavier tracks in a slower way, but the song doesn’t sound like Knapsack at all. There’s a nice break in the song where they pick things up and create a sound that’s not only all their own, but makes you happy that you kept listening. Like most of the band’s songs here, the payoff is always worth the time invested. There aren’t too many times where you can hear a band that’s doing something that reminds you of the past, without sounding like they ripped it completely off, but Valens creates their own sound while reminding you why you loved a genre in the first place. You can get a copy of the album here, and make sure to follow Valens here to catch one of their energy heavy live shows as soon as possible.