As I write this I'm looking out the front window of my house hoping for more people to show up at my yard sale. In roughly two weeks, I'll be moving to Austin, TX to join up with the rest of this circus. Three days after I get there, we're off on tour again (official announcement soon)!
We were feeling proud of ourselves, so we compiled some of the reviews we've gotten for TBTB. Enjoy! See you soon!
Look Mexico - To Bed to Battle
Label: Suburban Home Records
Release Date: March 23, 2010
There was a time a few years ago where I was sick of hearing the next generation lack of pop, Midwestern emo, indie sensibility that was being shoved down my throat. It was like trying to retain sixth wave leftovers from record companies trying to maintain the next buck since they had "one" big breakout. With that pessimism, I bred a history lesson of bands such as Braid, Texas is the Reason and Sunny Day Real Estate. I went back to the gritty roots which were put together in passion and creativity not seen before it.
More than a decade later, I can finally say I'm happy with what's being put on my plate as a new meal. Look Mexico are now dishing out their second album after last decade's proper full length and a handful of EP's. To Bed to Battle isn't to be passed over lightly. It's reminiscent of a time where more was put into the build of a song structure and not the look of the band playing the song.
The opener eases in a repetitive, infectious chorus, "Thank you for absolutely nothing." Its falsetto doesn't seem cheap in production. It's as honest as when Davey VonBohein sang out the circular chorus in "Is This Thing On?" That honesty and Midwestern homage holds true with "I Live My Life a Quarter Mile at a Time" and the closing "Just Like Old Times" on Look Mexico's new album.
But it's the quick left turn that To Bed to Battle takes that separates it as its own, and not just a classic portrait of how we felt about our 90's idols. "Take It Upstairs, Einstein" glistens strings and twang in a band who are attempting a craft outside of its album's first two track marks. That old sound and new Midwest, Saddle Creek influence blends on "Until the Lights Burn Out?" and "They Only Take the Backroads." As the band instrumentally takes its closer to the end of the album, it feels like sun is just setting over the plateau in the back of your mind.
Look Mexico are attempting to cram what they already know how to do and what they want to do in To Bed to Battle. Fortunate enough for the listener, it works on all levels. Sure, songs like "Get In There, Brother!" and "Time for You to Go Do Your Own Thing" don't fit quite right in the sequence, but they still have their moments of a band pushing expected boundaries. The first time I heard the album, my initial thought was, "Cool, it's like if Braid grew up in Georgia." That may not be the most accurate way to describe the band's abilities in the simplest form, but one listen through and you may get a connection of how some of us miss and continue to rediscover those better days, without getting completely stuck in the past.
LOOK MEXICO – “To Bed To Battle”
April 16 2010 // Posted by Jordan
I start work most mornings around 7am. For the past seven months I have had the privilege to work from home full-time, and my home office sits on the second floor of my house with a large window facing due east. One of my favorite moments each day is watching daybreak and tracking the sun as it breaks through the trees that crowd my view. On the brightest of mornings, the sun truly ushers in each day.
With that in mind, LOOK MEXICO’s To Bed To Battle has become one of a few albums that back this sunrise escape at the present time. Far from being some kind of cheery, breezy pop record, To Bed To Battle is an exercise is textures and nuanced, technically proficient indie rock (with footings in midwestern emo, math rock, and [oh how I hate this phrase] chamber pop). Nothing is lightweight in LOOK MEXICO’s musical vision, but To Bed To Battle sees value in putting cautious fluidity into action. Prior recordings may have been guilty of some unbecoming guitar noodling (see This Is Animal Music), but that’s largely smoothed out on this record and the proof is in the way the band deploys horns, keys, and other smothering techniques to beat songs into mostly linear submission like dough on the downside of a rolling pin.
That compactness squeezes any waste out of the 10 song track listing, and To Bed To Battle motors on with an unexpected agility, especially on the hook-filled “I Live My Life A Quarter Mile at a Time.” Sometimes it’s the drumming that takes center stage with a pestering busyness, and likely a measurable amount of sweat.
Call it a cheap comparison if you want, but To Bed To Battle makes me think of what might happen if music by ARCADE FIRE was run through the mental grinder of kids who grew up clutching a handful of BRAID and GET UP KIDS records. It’s as good as it sounds.
To Bed To Battle
Music critics and fans a like have spent the past several years looking for the next big band, the next big sound, and the next big thing that’s going to “save” rock-n-roll. I have several friends that regularly bemoan the takeover of the indie universe by groups like Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear, much less the ascension of flavors-of-the-month like “chillwave” and “glo-fi.” Their gripes are understandable – sometimes all you want to hear is a classic guitar-bass-and-drums setup banging out three chords and the truth, not some spaced-out jam, complete with electronic aides and annoying vocal manipulation.
To those people, I would like to introduce you to Look Mexico and To Bed To Battle. This Austin-nee-Tallahassee quintet creates the sort of righteous, unpretentious new-school rock music that combines all of the best elements of the indie and math scenes with tight grooves and crisp drums, yet is refreshingly devoid of any art-house wankery. Instead of merely sulking in the lows like an emo sad-sack or perpetually rejoicing in the highs like Bono and Chris Martin, the group knows how to expertly ride the crests and troughs of the waves it’s writing.
More importantly, Matt Agrella pens lyrics that are both clever and emotional – there aren’t any sappy sentiments present, and he’s certainly not writhing about in his own depressed funk. With “Take It Upstairs, Einstein,” he puts a fresh twist on dreaming about finding “The One” when he writes, “Well maybe a good friend is like a great story. You can pick up right where you left off. But tell me where, where is that kind of book – the book you can’t put down?” On “I Live My Life A Quarter Mile At A Time,” he talks plainly about the consequences of bad choices with the line, “You had eight or nine, a few. Getting home was up to you. Instead, got three initials added to your name.” “They Only Take The Backroads” concludes with this rumination on growing up and leaving behind one’s ugly past for something better – “Yes, I will move through the states, taking notes from the graves, then bury them right above the me I’m learning to hate, the one addicted to shame.”
Musically, I was consistently impressed with the zip and energy pulsing through these ten songs, even the slower, alt-country-tinged ones, and it can be duly attributed to the solid composition and part-writing for the tasty guitar riffs. Yes, there are horns, strings, and keys (Rhodes and organ among them) aplenty, but this is definitely a guitar record, as things shift from jangly, dischordant sections into big power chord regions with ease and without breaking up the song flow. With To Bed To Battle, Look Mexico has deftly bridged the gap between the intricacies of a Minus The Bear, the ‘90s indie-emo of groups like Braid and twothirtyeight, and the arena rock volume of a Muse-type act. With “No Wonder I’m Still Awake,” “They Offered Me A Deal (I Said No, Naturally),” and “Just Like Old Times” leading the way, this is an excellent record that finds a young band growing into its own skin – it’s adventurous without ever being outlandishly weird, as the guys know how to pursue the edges of their sound while retaining a firm pop center.
Look Mexico’s To Bed To Battle – Fresh Indie Rock from Florida
When most people think of Florida, chaotic Spring Breaks and stretches of elderly retirees are usually two of the first things to pop into mind. Of course, the entire state isn’t just a mass of beach parties and avid seekers of Early Bird specials, but for better or worse, that’s the image that Florida tends to have. A closer look, though, reveals plenty of surprises and many hidden gems -- such as Tallahassee’s Look Mexico. The indie rock outfit is set to release their second full-length, To Bed To Battle, on March 23, and much like their home state, Look Mexico offers plenty of rewards for those who dive deep into the album.
It’s difficult to get a definite feel of To Bed To Battle, as it offers a wide variety of sounds. The opening track, “You Stay. I Go. No Following.”, is a mid-tempo jam that doesn’t try to do too much but does everything well. The verses are driven by lingering organ and a meandering bass line, with distorted guitar chords sweeping in at just the right moments. Singer/guitarist Matt Agrella manages to pull off the everyman feel as he sings, “Thanks all to your promises, we’re picking up extra shifts these days, and it’s not paying for minimum wage.” While such a line would be absurd coming from more established bands, Look Mexico still feels authentic enough to give the impression that Agrella is trying to relate with his listeners, not putting on an act.
“No Wonder I’m Still Awake” follows with a similar tempo, except steady strumming on the guitar is present from the very beginning. The track features some great guitar work, which is ironic considering at the same moment, Agrella is singing that he is “tired of playing the same chords I’ve played before.” By now, it’s evident that Look Mexico doesn’t provide the soundtrack to late nights in Miami or daytime parties at the beach, but instead offers chilled-out indie rock suitable for any time.
The next song, “Take It Upstairs, Einstein,” throws out another curveball, opening with some orchestral strings, but then following up with Agrella alone with a guitar, giving the song a classic singer-songwriter feel. The lyrics here are masterful, with Agrella singing, “Maybe a good friend is like a great story -- you can pick up right where you left off. But tell me, where is that kind of book? The kind you can’t put down.” The band also adds some slide guitar, which is a great touch, although it makes the song sound like it should have belonged on The Wallflower’s Bringing Down The Horse. Look Mexico makes the song all its own, though, with an extended orchestral break that takes the track to its conclusion.
“I Live My Life in a Quarter Mile at a Time” not only boasts a borderline excessively-long title, but a very catchy feel as well. Heavily echoed guitars result in a very dense, full sound. Look Mexico offers some of its hardest moments on this track, with some heavy strumming, crashing drums and Agrella stretching his vocal cords to the point of screaming, though it is very tastefully done.
“Until The Lights Burn Out?” slows things down a bit, opening with some light guitar picking Agrella’s soothing vocals. The song takes a while to develop, but the slow build adds an air of suspense and the melancholy feeling is palpable when Agrella wonders, “What would you say if I told you I’m giving up? No more air left in these lungs.” And just when one gets the sense that a hopeful line is around the bend, Agrella’s imaginary partner answers, “You’re not burned out, you just can’t hold the flame to make a difference.” The song continues to build, eventually leading to a lengthy instrumental break with some creative guitar riffing before the final chorus.
The next track, “They Offered Me A Deal,” brings the tempo back up, with a neat riff in the intro. This song has a bit of an early Wilco feel to it, as some horns can be heard blasting briefly in the background, and the quick strumming of the fuzzy guitars gives off an alt-country vibe. Whatever the inspiration, Look Mexico pulls it off without a hitch.
“Get In There, Brother!” follows, bringing a funky little riff and Agrella’s defiant pledge: “After years of saying please, I’m getting up off of my knees -- I’m so tired of not being taken seriously.” With more songs like this, though, Agrella and company shouldn’t have to worry about that much longer, as this is another well-written tune. Everything from a haunting organ to syncopated percussion and a catchy chorus and skilled riffing are present in this one, making its two minute, 32-second duration seem too short.
“They Only Take The Backroads” is another solid track, featuring more prominent organ work and light guitar riffing. Look Mexico drops in some studio effects during the guitar break, giving this a slightly spacey feel, but things never stretch too far out of orbit. This down-tempo track probably won’t stand out, but blends in nicely as part of this cohesive collection.
The second last song, “Time For You To Go Do Your Own Thing,” settles into another slow tempo, with the great riffing in the chorus easily standing out as the best part of the song. There aren’t too many highlights in between, but this isn’t a painful track to listen to, either.
“Just Like Old Times” wraps up the album, and from the opening notes it sounds as though Look Mexico was in the mood for a big finish. Guitars and horns form an unlikely but very pleasant combination, although everything but the drums drop out for the first chorus. Agrella steps up the lyrics on this track as well, delivering some hard truths as he sings, “You’re too old for this, little boy…why are you still here wasting time, you’ll be late for your own life. So why don’t you go put on a tie and get a job…pull tight until the air stops holding you.” The horns and guitars trade off the leading role, which features an extended instrumental jam section. This is a very strong track and a great finish.
Though Look Mexico isn’t a household name now, it’s not hard to imagine their popularity seeing a surge after the release of To Bed To Battle. While some indie rock bands tend to have strikingly similar sounds, Look Mexico breaks the mold and sounds fresh and creative. The band covers a lot of musical territory, but it’s not aimless wandering -- the roaming pays off.
Front Porch Musings
To Bed To Battle review:
Forgive me, but I’ve never been a fan of Look Mexico. The Floridians turned Austinite’s music always seemed sorta silly to me. All of this was of course based on the album cover for their debut This is Animal Music which I couldn’t stand nor get past. Lucky for me, the band returned this last month with their follow-up record To Bed To Battle, and this time they equipped themselves with possibly the best album cover of the year. Oh yeah, and the songs are pretty good too.
So this March at SXSW was the first time I really heard the band. A devoted follower of all things Suburban Home Records, I’ve had their debut for years but never got around to really listening to it. When we were fortunate enough to have Look Mexico play our SXSW showcase this March, I went into their set not expecting much. What transpired over the next 45 minutes was the absolute best musical “find” of my week.
Mixing elements of alt-country and indie/emo rock, Look Mexico plays a style of music that equals part Minus the Bear, part Braid and part Saves the Day. The instrumentation on To Bed To Battle create spacious sounds featuring driving drum beats, light string harmonies and an occasional trumpet behind guitar riffs that could have been found on lost American Football tracks. Lead vocalist Matt Agrella is a great vocal talent, but is cautious not to overpower the songs with his voice and drown out the wall of sound behind him. Such evidence can be heard on the standout track “I Live My Life a Quarter Mile at a Time” which is a big hook-laden anthem that perfectly balances the rage and wail of Matt’s vocals with the hysteria of the instruments around him.
My favorite track at the moment is what sounds like Sunday’s Best to me, “They Offered Me a Deal (I Said No, Naturally)”. I love the guitar work and the blasts from the trumpet (played by Agrella) really ties the track together. It sounds familiar but altogether completely new. Lead single “You Stay. I Go. No Following.” shows off the band’s penchant for big hooks and clever lyrics where Agrella sings “It’s not paying the bills working for minimum wage”. Obvious? Maybe. But as a broke kid in his 20’s, I connect with the message.
Anyway, I really love this record and think it deserves every one’s attention. If you’re around the southwest in May I highly suggest checking them out live as they put on an incredible performance. I’m really enjoying their maturation process and really looking forward to seeing how this record is received.
Under The Gun
Artist: Look Mexico
Album: To Bed To Battle
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: Suburban Home
Tallahasee’s indie rock outfit Look Mexico took form in 2004 but it wasn’t until their debut album, This Is Animal Music in 2007, that they gave listeners a clear vision of diverse musical territory they cover. By bridging the gap between emo pop and math rock they introduced a breath of fresh air in the indie world. Following that up with the experimental and well received Gasp Asp EP, only left fans anxious for more. Lucky for those fans, their forthcoming sophomore album, To Bed To Battle, on Suburban Home indicates their already diverse sound continues to expand with their intricate instrumentation and ability to interchange between catchy pop rock anthems to acoustic driven tunes.
Look Mexico’s use of anomalous song titles recapitulate on this record, starting with opening tack and first single, “You Stay. I Go. No Following,” which happens to be a quote from the beloved animated film “The Iron Giant.’ The opening bars alone, with Matt Agrella’s passionate voice layered over clashing drums and an abiding organ, left me in awe. Continuing with the astonishment, Agrella’s falsettos during the chorus and a cameo from Frank Turner on the bridge that led to an orchestrated break with sweeping guitar chords affirm that this track was build to please from start to finish. “No Wonder I’m Still Awake,” follows with a similar tempo and a deep bass line, on the other end of the spectrum, “Take It Upstairs, Einstein,” slows things down with deeper vocals alongside an acoustic guitar. Agrella’s noteworthy and introspective lyrics, similar to the chorus’ heart wrenching question, “Maybe a good friend is like a great story, you can pick up right where you left off. But tell me, where is that kind of book? The book you can’t put down. Am I the entertainment on a coffee table or the dusty novel by the bathroom sink?,” continue to be a strong attribute before an enduring and beautiful orchestral interlude brings the track to its conclusion.
“Until the Lights Burn Out?,” opens with light guitar picking, condensed percussion, and soothing vocals all creating a melancholy atmosphere that transcends during the questioning line, “I’ve been working hard on the same failing fire, where there’s a lot of smoke. What would you say if I told you I’m giving up? No more air left in these lungs.” The song builds up momentum with an electric piano and preceding the chorus that leads into yet another extensive and artistic instrumental break. Fortunately, the distorted guitars throughout the modern rock tune “They Offered Me a Deal (I Said No, Naturally),” and neat electric riffing in “Get In There, Brother!,” brings back the upbeat tempo. Later. following his declaration, “After years of saying please, I’m getting up off of my knees. I’m so tired of not being taken seriously,” Agrella stretches his vocal chords to an impassioned and almost screaming voice.
As the album unwinds with the organ playing a more prominent role, “They Only Take the Backroads,” exhibits a soothing and unique guitar effect filled finale, making it one of the catchiest songs on the record. “Time For You to Go Do Your Own Thing,” continues with distinguishing studio effects and wrapping up the album, “Just Like Old Times,” intertwines horns and strong guitar work for a colossal finale. Realizing the difficult truth, Agrella sings, “You’re too old for this little boy, then why are you still here wasting time, you’ll be late for your own life. So why don’t you put on a tie and go get a job. It’s right over left, right back over and through, pull tight until the air stops holding you,” before the music escalates to a crescendo instrumental break layered over a repeating rally of “too old for this.”
Whether they are belting out explosive ballads, acoustic tunes, or edgy math-rock songs, Look Mexico succeed. Surprisingly, they have remained relatively under the radar, but To Bed To Battle, is bound to push them more towards the forefront of the indie scene. From start to finish, the cohesive yet very dynamic and compelling To Bed To Battle demonstrates exceptional songwriting skills, intricate instrumentation, and profound lyrics make forimpressive follow up to much adored Gasp Asp EP indeed.
Look Mexico To Bed to Battle (Suburban Home)
Somewhere between the gritty anguish of Cursive and the arty guitar wallop of The Walkmen exists the expansive rock sound of Look Mexico. Expertly recorded in a pizza shop in Tallahassee, Fla., Battle mines territory already explored by earlier, more mature emo acts. “Maybe a good friend’s like a great story—you pick up where you left off,” singer Matt Agrella wonders. This versatile quintet doesn’t just specialize in clever metaphors. Blast-it-with-the-car-windows-down tracks like “Until the Lights Burn Out?” are deliciously visceral. Still, Ryan Slate’s pedal steel, Dave Pinkham’s keyboard and Agrella’s horn (trombone and trumpet) parts cause Battle to brim with musicianship. Like the band’s lush home state, the sonic palette of Look Mexico makes you feel like anything—even love—is possible.