Topshelf was one of the first labels I had heard of that was in the new “scene of music” sweeping the hipster nation. They had a sweet logo, some of the best website design I’ve seen, and some really killer bands signed on there, so obviously I was drawn to it. Both my newly-college self and my musical interests were converging to something beyond the norm. I needed edgy, twinkly, and mathy music to obtain a better grasp of myself, as I was at the start of pursuing a Math degree (which I am about to finish soon !). It was all so natural and I felt like I belonged with this crowd upon my first intimate listen of Pianos Become the Teeth and You Blew It, as they brought a new formula to the aged alternative rock equation. It wasn’t just the trend leading me down the garden path this time, it was my own special doing, as it was the first time I had to reinvent my musical interests. What blows me away is Topshelf’s roster, as current signings and alumni include: You Blew It, The World Is, Moving Mountains Pianos, Prawn, Frameworks, Have Mercy, AGBPOL, Empire Empire, and Sorority Noise. While some of these bands have moved on from the label, the energy still remains, with Seth and Kevin at the helm now more than ever.
But before I talk about their newest acquisition, Del Paxton and Gulfer, let me discuss a band probably no one has ever heard of: 31knots. If anyone can send me a documented legit picture of their subscription to the IndieFeed alternative rock playlist back in 2006, I will pay them infinite monies. Basically they’re (or were, I’m not sure if they’re even still a band anymore, will check on that) a math-rock band with amazing hooks and a keen eye for the coolest sounding shit ever. It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to them but my passion for math rock has burned for years since finding my niche.
Enter Del Paxton and Gulfer, two seemingly small bands with a ton of heart and some real experience on their toes. Once I saw the announcement from Topshelf’s news page, I was perplexed and quietly listened to the streaming of the first track “Paline.” Immediately I was brought back to 2006, fully reminiscing to my younger self. Back were the vibes of Snowing and (surprisingly, but then again, not surprising at all) Death Cab for Cutie, especially in the guitar-lead introduction to the split. It was the emo-tinged-math-rock I had so longingly pined for. “Bad Batch” supplies a mid-tempo effort that explodes beautifully into a closing repetition of “stray from the path, finally found your bad batch.” These Buffalo boys have crafted two unique and genuine emo-math rock tracks, and for that I give them kudos. Both tracks are cuts I’d expect to see from a more maturing band, but luckily the fledgling Del Paxton reflects more than a 90′s theme in their music. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more music from Topshelf’s newest members in the very near future – hopefully they can continue with the serious momentum they’ve accumulated with this fantastic contribution to a (much-needed) fresh split.
In an unexpected turn of events, Topshelf have signed a foreign band from Canada. Well, it’s still over a border… so I guess that still counts right? Anyways, Gulfer are your newest Canadian obsession, so make a comfy place for them next to your shrine of Counterparts and (um… this is awkward). Think Snowing on a little less crack and more Lucky Charms, and you’ve got a pretty precise picture of this energetically frantic 4-piece that makes up Gulfer. As for their contributions to an already amazing split, “F’real for Real” (despite being one of the best song names I’ve ever seen) pairs perfectly with it’s A-side counterpart, and by no coincidence, is the math-rock anthem of 2015. It punches you in the face with it’s treble-y tone and gruff vocal delivery. “Bob Abate” takes a slightly different road and opts for an instrumental-heavy track, but still provides enough lyrics to keep things interesting. The false ending is absolutely perfect here; as the song flows into a galloping finish over gang vocals and gripping guitars. The duality between the songs seems to be done on purpose, as both respective tracks reflect the other and build off each other. That’s what truly makes this split special, as both Del Paxton and Gulfer completely understand each other’s musical talent and ability, and play off of it in a fresh-new way.
Splits always seem to come with a lesser amount of reviewing than any other release. Maybe it’s because it’s only a small sample a band has to offer or cause they’re inherently easy to digest. And that makes sense since it is a sample – a chance for (usually) a new band to catch your attention before they’re ready to explode onto the scene and release a banger of an LP right in front of your eyes. I sincerely hope that is the case with Del Paxton & Gulfer. They’re both amazing emo-math rock bands with impeccable talent, and deserve much much more exposure. Props to Topshelf for noticing this, and props to the guys for making honest music. Definitely check this split out. 5/5
Del Paxton is a 3-piece indie/emo rock band from Buffalo, NY. You can check them out on facebook, twitter, and bandcamp. Gulfer is a 4-piece emo math rock band from Montreal, Canada. You can check them out on facebook, twitter, bandcamp, and on the road with Prawn and Face Ghost in Canada in late May.