The Red Tree, the first release from Ontario's Moneen in three years, is the kind of effort that can even give emo a good name. Dense and complex, the record features the nasally howl of Kenny Bridges fitfully cast against the hyperkinetic rhythm section of drummer Peter Krpan and bassist Eric Hughes, creating neo-punk of a rare intelligence with (thankfully) limited anguish. The dynamics and atypical structure of songs such as "The Day No One Needed to Know" and "This Is All Bigger Than Me" are exactly the kind of details that escape many of the bands Moneen plays with. Ironically, San Diego's Pistolita cannot be numbered amongst the eyeliner-and-glower crowd either. Oliver Under the Moon, the band's 2006 debut, shows influences as diverse as Queen and Elton John, mostly due to frontman Conner Meads' aggressive piano playing. Thematic without being silly, both Moneen and Pistolita escape the emo-induced tedium with aplomb and style.
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