Reviewed by Ian Morales.
Austin-based singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer Rory Allen Phillips has come a long way since his early days with Fueled By Ramen alumni The Impossibles. For many who grew up in Austin during the late ’90s, it was a heartbreaking split as they were one of Austin’s most popular (and better) pop-punk/ska bands. Shortly thereafter Phillips was in a group called The Stereo, which disbanded in 2004.
Today, Phillips is known to a new generation of Austin music aficionados as a producer, having produced for everyone from metal acts At All Cost to the popular indie-pop act Young Love, to name a couple. Most recently, he joined the Austin-based indie-pop group, L.A.X. With all that being said, the best is yet to come from Phillips. He and former Impossibles bassist Craig Tweedy, along with guitarist Scott Clapsaddle, make up the core of the semi-new rock group The Artificial Heart.
The Artificial Heart’s self-titled debut reflects a new maturity not heard from Phillips’ previous bands. Steering completely away from anything ska or pop-punk, The Artificial Heart lean more towards modern screamo and indie-rock that is ready for mainstream alternative radio. Catchy hooks, mature lyrics and near perfect arrangements combined with Allen’s angsty vocals give this album real potential for both national and international success.
The album opens with “Again, With Feeling,” pulling you in right away with Phillips singing a quick and soft intro that leads into the angsty alt-rock scream that’s his signature sound throughout the album. “No Way Out” follows and incorporates a voice encoder affect, adding that hint of Phillips’s indie-electro sensibilities (see Young Love) without cheapening the track in any way. “Self Esteem” is arguably the album’s best track, leaving no guitar riff or breakdown untouched. You can sing along to the memorable chorus and scream out the signature whoa-oh-ohs. Not all of The Artificial Hearts music is so quick and angsty. Some songs, such as the angry at your ex anthem “Cold, Cold Day” slow it down just a little, but not much.
While the album is full of stellar tracks, it may tend to sound a tad samesy when you listen to it all the way through. It just feels as if it has three-too-many tracks. If this genre is your musical preference, then you will love that aspect of the album. For those of you who to download only a few singles, be sure to download “Self Esteem,” “No Way Out” and “Cold, Cold Day.” Those three tracks will provide you with the best representation of The Artificial Heart.
The self-titled debut from The Artificial Heart was originally released digitally in 2009. It will be re-released on limited edition colored vinyl from Priorities Intact, a label co-owned by Phillips. The official vinyl release will be in Austin at the Mohawk on August 7 at Everyone Knows Everyone 8, a popular showcase for Austin talent.