Fox & Coyote is Ryan Evans (lead vocals/guitar), Jonathan Harms (lead vocals/banjo), Katherine Canon (cello/vocals), Grant Gordon (upright bass/electric bass), and Kenny Befus (drums). The band recently released Scattered Shadows on a Double Bed.
The band plays into folk and rock but their biggest strength is when they dabble in the avant garde which often taps into an absurdist, haunting vibe somewhere between David Lynch and Scott Walker. Take for example “(Don’t Tell Me) There’s Nothing In My Head.” The verse here swells with uncertainty. It’s foggy and painted vivid visual imagery. They launch into the more traditional chorus and I was jolted out of the soundscape they painted for me.
“Blue Marble” is more folk based built on organic strings. The band’s strongest moments are again when they build soundscapes and environments like they do at around the two-minute mark. They don’t really seem to know how to build it out other than going for a more traditional rock sound
“White Spider’ starts off with a Victorian/Tom Waits type of vibe. The cello is the star here although the lyrics were unique and interesting. “Everything’s Just Fine” also has its moments which are the most subdued. This song is also one of the most catchy and dynamic.
“May 18” felt way too chipper and upbeat compared to the foundation they were playing with on the previous songs “A Million Filaments” doesn't have that much success with the straight rocking but does with the last minute of the song which is where they dip into interesting, avant garde textures. The next success is “Gibeon.”
The general sound I was hoping this band stuck to was somewhere between Laughing Stock by Talk Talk, The Drift by Scott Walker and One In Six Children Will Flee in Boats by Frog Eyes. I wanted to forget I was listening to a band and get lost in the environment and there are enough moments here for me to appreciate their album.
I really liked this band and this album. My thoughts are evident and I really hope they submerge themselves into learning how to build off of soundscapes with dynamics and melodies that can make the transitions feel a little more seamless. I’m rooting for them and think this band can be exceptional with a couple of minor adjustments on focus.
That being said there is plenty to appreciate here. This is a band I would start following with this release.
Mandy Drew and Michael Drew are Silent Ones. I can’t confirm if they are married, brother and sister or just so happen to have the same last name. What I can confirm is that they hail from Elgin, Il and released a four-song EP entitled All I Hear…
I need to give a quick shout out to the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I myself grew up in Crystal Lake which is a couple of towns over from Elgin which I am also very well acquainted with. The EP is sixteen minutes long and goes by in a flash not only because it’s short but because the song are catchy, well produced and well written.
The band said, “in making the record, we wanted to go for a "new wave,” “’80s pop” feel, similar to the Killers, the 1975, etc.” That makes sense but the band that kept coming to mind was The Postal Service. One major difference are the vocal harmonies which are an important aspects to their sound.
They get going with the title track which is easy as pie to appreciate. There are multiple synths fading in and before you know there a steady beat and an infectious vocal melody. The verse is addictive and starts to build before leading to a brief breakdown that gets to the single worthy catchy chorus. It’s a highlight. There's no doubt about that.
Up next is “I Trusted You” where Michael takes the lead during the verse. The song had a little more of a straight pop vibe to me but I still loved those synths and guitar works. “Every Leaf” had a nice balance between haunting atmosphere and guitar. The song felt modern somewhere between Passion Pit and CHVRCHES.
Mandy takes the lead on “Another Story of Defeat” which is the reflective, emotional ballad on the EP but Michael knows when to interject and add harmonies. The songs starts to get epic and gets to a precipice of feeling too saccharine in a very FM radio type of way.
On that note the band feels like they are right on the line between a pop band and something that an indie crowd would eat up. I hate to say it but they could either attract both type of audiences or not. Perhaps food for thought on their next release.
Overall, this is a good EP with some exceptional moments. All the key ingredients are there and I can’t wait to hear where they go from here. Recommended.
Perhaps recording alone in a cabin during the winter has a certain sound? I was listening to Blooming Echo by Ulysse Gélinas-Roy which has undeniable similarities to For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver. The creation of both albums have more or less the exact same storyline and are aesthetically aligned in many ways - the hushed whispered vocals, the minimal guitar, the reverb and the overall nostalgic melancholy.
Ulysse Gélinas-Roy has only been playing music for two years but seems more advanced than that when listening to his guitar playing, songwriting abilities and vocal delivery. He opens with “Feels like summer” and I was immediately attracted to the guitar picking and hushed vocals. It’s extremely intimate sounding and slowly gains some energy and momentum as it progresses. There are two major builds and along the way there are memorable melodies.
Up next is “Fall” which is perhaps most comparable to Bon Iver because of the falsetto. It’s a beautiful track but could have been a Bon Iver B-side. He has more success with “Into your grave” and the very slow moving “We’ve made it through.”
There really isn’t much variation between the remaining tracks “Never,” “Go slowly” and “Lack of love.” That’s not a bad thing because it created a very cohesive experience while continuing to showcase memorable melodies.
Apparently, this album was done spontaneously without too much thought behind it. If that's the case I would really like to hear something that he's been working on for months, a year or longer. There is a lot of natural talent here and it’s easy to spot because the songs are stripped down.
This is a solid release and no doubt an artist I’m going to keep an ear on. Recommended.
I can relate to Dylan Martin. For one thing he lived in Chicago and got sick of the snow. Tell me about it. It’s almost May and we just had snow again. Martin did something about it and moved to North Carolina. He recorded the songs “sporadically” and “quickly” on his release Lo Fine and in all honesty the disparity between recording quality and style makes it feel that way.
It’s hard to know what make an album like this because there isn’t much of a foundation that creates a signature sound for Martin. He has a more distorted, aggressive garage style and also dabbles into much more of a subtle folk sound on the second half of the album.
Martin opens with “Cuddling a Breakfast Elf.” You hear a couple distorted power chords, a tambourine and vocals. The way he delivers the song I kept on waiting for drums to join into the mix. I enjoyed the vocals on the verse but the song doesn't have a hook or chorus.
Up next is “Dirty Boy” which is a highlight. The vocal line reminded of John Lennon singing “I Am The Walrus.” Up next “is Sun Fuzz.” I can’t say the programmed drums were doing much for me on this track which sometimes sounded out of sync but there are some catchy vocal melodies.
For whatever reason the recording quality starts to get worse. “Sexist, Texas” was a little too lo-fi to properly enjoy mostly because of the really high frequencies that needed to be cut. “Whatever” is where it starts to sound like a completely different album and I think he should have released this as a separate EP. The vocal delivery and vibe is so different that I had to make sure I was listening to the same artist. That's not to say there aren't some great moments in the second half. One of those moments is on “Tell Me About Love” which I thought was the best written song on the album. His vocal delivery is on point. He has some more success with “Chambers, Dangers” which sounded like a ’50s pop song.
As a recording engineer myself I’m a little picky with the production but I think he should consider recording some of his material at a local studio. I think he has chops in multiple areas and someone who has the proper gear and experience could bring out some of the potential these songs have.
Overall, I liked the album as well as the timestamp it represents for Martin and I hope to hear more from him soon.
Joseph Barrows and Timothy Faiella are the duo that make up Joule Thief. They released a self-titled album Joule Thief that they worked on while at different locations.
There is a lot to appreciate on this release however I felt like the band was going in very direct directions and it was hard to find a foundation to the music. For example, the music can go from having a song that is based and industrial/metal and then make a jump to a jazzy avante garde soundscape.
The band starts with “Cryptkeeper's Secret Stash” which is a harder rock song with lots of fuzz and distortion. I liked the energy but couldn't make out a single word with either of the two distinct vocal styles. The song really has no type of hook or chorus to be found but I was ok with that.
Up next is the serene and post-rock inspired “Fools Reason.” The song builds with light drones familiar to early Explosion in the Sky. They then get really heavy in a Deafheaven type of way with “Reversal of Fortune (Cleo from Toledo)” although there are moments of straight metal.
I had to check I was listening to the same band when listening to the jazzy psychedelic dream soundscape that is “Hither Content.” They get back into post-rock territory with “Jettison” which sounds like an intro to a post-rock song that gets cut short.
“Sever(e)” moves slowly and steady. There again are no hooks to be found. What you do hear is the Marilyn Manson-esque demon voice more or less talking all scary like. “Troubadour's Regret” is the centerpiece which like some of the other songs does not go too far dynamically from where it started. The drums are the focal point while all the other elements are far, far in the background making it feel more like an ambient piece than anything else. “Nocturne” is a longer soundscape that eventually starts to find a beat towards the end while “Ybor City” is another song where the drums seem to be the focal point.
The duo did a great job for a complete DIY effort. That being said this is a case where I know a professional mastering engineer would have helped with balancing dynamics, EQing and creating a more consistent sonic imprint between songs.
The more I listened to the album the more I felt it was an album dedicated to soundscapes and ambience rather than anything else. The band definitely has some potential and talent but I think they might need to think about finding a signature sound. I think creating more of a cohesive sound would have helped connect more with their music.
I have to hand it to the guys for making a solid album while being in different area codes. It did make me wonder what they could achieve while in the same room. Either way I’m looking forward to more from Joule Thief.
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Logan McCune is a singer/songwriter from Marquez, Texas who recently released Pup. I was on board with this album about thirty seconds into the first song. It combines that heartfelt folk and Americana that always brings a smile to my face but there are some twists and turns as well.
“Hard Headed” revolves around great guitar work, drums, bass and a lot of nostalgic spirit. His vocal delivery fits the song perfectly. McCune has a deep Bob Dylan-esque voice that seems to cover multiple octaves. I think more vital then that is how truthful and sincere the vocals seem. You can’t fake this type of honesty.
“Summertime Girl” is another standout track. The brush work fits really well against the guitars and this was one of my favorite vocal performances. I heard some female accompaniment that was subtle but effective.
One of those twists was “Bubble of Bliss” which was the first rock song in the batch. The song had a strong ’70s flavor that was easy to appreciate. The short lead guitar is great in numerous ways. It’s mixed really well and technically and creatively impressive.
I was not expecting synths on this album but there they were on “Death Star.” I’m pretty sure that was a rumbling Moog I heard. “Town Creek Trail” is a stripped back effort. I can't tell if those birds in the recording were there when he recorded it or not but either way it worked for the song.
“Mess” was a highlight to my ears. The forward moving momentum and vocals really stuck out to me on this song. Great stuff. The closer “Kati” was gorgeous. The song is brimming with sweet nostalgia and will remind you of the bedroom you slept in as a child although the lyrics seem to fit the mold of a fairly straightforward love song.
This is a great EP from beginning to end. I think there were a couple of standouts that I will re-visit quite often. McCune is the real deal. Take a listen.
Armed with the ukulele, an instrument that can sound happy and melancholic – depending on which key is being played – comes a short and sweet three- song EP from UK artist Eira Bailey entitled I Am. She mixes the genre of indie folk with deep soul searching lyrics around her “old soul” style of singing that seems to be kicking up a trend among female singers today. Under the label Mana Music Management the EP was recorded at Anglia Ruskin University and mixed and mastered on Bailey’s portable studio in various locations.
Not being sure which song order is correct (due to Spotify’s preview and iTunes Music Preview having conflicting song orders) I will start of with “515.” This tune has a happy sounding melody, accompanied with light, airy piano, tambourine and a steady bass drum beat. Bailey may be suggesting in her lines, “the future scares me / but I do my best to try and hide it” and later “the 515 train home” as maybe a way of letting go of the past and hitching a ride to the next phase in life.
“Breathe” has a slower tempo and one basic rhythm on the ukulele, or in other words two main chords for most of the song. It feels spacious, ethereal and the lyrics are more inward and melancholy, too. I did like the line, “it’s enough just to be.”
With “A Letter I Will Never Send” Bailey’s words seem to be about a letter written just to get things out of one’s head, but with no intention of sending it. I’ve written a few of those myself and it actually feels good to do it. Anyway, this number features tambourine and a beautiful sounding violin and again, as with the other two songs, a clean and well-produced sound.
Listeners can hear each song of Eira Bailey’s I Am on YouTube in their entirety.
Ashton York is an artist from California who spent two years writing songs for You Are My Sanity. The album is primarily pop but melds other genres like rock, folk and some more in there.
I sometimes have problem with pop albums being too formulaic and processed. Overall, I thought York did a great job avoiding some of those traps I hear within pop music. I wouldn’t say his music went into areas I didn’t expect but what I heard around the corner was easy to appreciate for multiple reasons.
The production/recording quality is fantastic. It definitely has that studio gloss that you won't hear with a bedroom project. For example, I could hear every single word without struggling to make out what he might have said.
The songwriting was also top notch starting with the “Intro” which was actually a highlight for me. It’s a soft, intimate intro that initially starts off with guitar and vocals and eventually get filled with orchestral strings and pads. The vocal harmonies were also very effective. I thought the melancholy sounded good on him.
I actually started to feel it was a pop album with “L.A.” which was more upbeat, shiny and single worthy. Some of the subtle instrumentation really made the song sparkle such as the swooping strings. The song is a full production.
The title track is pretty bright and hopeful. The lyrics reflect the feeling in the song. York sings, “You're always in pursuit / Of seeing every desire come true / I'll always, I'll always / Be waiting for you.”
The guitar work had me hooked in “Montecito” although the layers of pads create a unique dream like atmosphere. It felt ethereal at times perhaps even a bit new age. “Lose Again” definitely had a little more straight rock flavor to it while “Beach Song” is shorter and has some of the most intense, dynamic crescendos. My personal favorite song was “Anymore.” The vocal melody is a killer. I had the melody stuck in my head and the music is also some of the best on the album.
I’d say this is a really well done off-kilter pop album. If you are looking for something a little bit different from the normal radio friendly pop songs this could be your ticket. Recommended.
Jon Laczniak aka Ottofox is an artist from Minnesota who recently released his second effort entitled Sentimental Afterthoughts. Laczniak stated the album, “is meant to sound nostalgic and cozy, like music to listen to on a rainy day.” I was actively listening for that and I’ll say some songs definitely were more nostalgic then others to my ears. Laczniak utilizes a lot of synths and for whatever reason I have a hard time creating nostalgia with electronic elements as opposed to organic instrumentation.
Laczniak gets grooving with “Haunted House Party” which at the very least highlights some of his impressive production skills. A very hard hitting 4/4 kick drum plows through arpeggiated synths, pads and more. As the song progresses it almost gets overwhelming as to what's going on all at once.
Up next is “Howl.” The lyrics on this song come off as nihilistic and dismal. He sings, “I’m so sick and tired / of all the world's desires / No one feels at home / And everyone is tired / but we fool ourselves/to make us feel divine.”
“Solemn Curls” gave me a sense of nostalgia between the ethereal pads and reverb. I liked the way the vocals were treated which reminded me of Youth Lagoon and even David Bowie at times to a lesser extent. I did have a hard time occasionally making out the lyrics.
“Ethereal (Please Try)” seems to try to capture more nostalgia but as the song title suggests the nostalgia can feel a bit otherworldly. That being said this song is a highlight for the simple fact that there are memorable hooks.
“Melody Lurker” was another solid track. I loved the percussion which at times reminded me of Caribou. There is quite a lot left to the album including the more melancholy and guitar based “Penultimate Nostalgic (Everything Will Be Okay)” and the eight-plus-minute “American Carnival.”
Laczniak is an above average bedroom producer with good ideas and executions. He seems like a young guy just getting started so I am excited to hear more. Recommended.
Some things never change. I remember sometimes skipping classes in college to record music in my tiny apartment which is something similar to what Digital aka Elijah Ison did to create Digital EP. Back then you didn't have anywhere near the capabilities in the DAW as today and that's pretty obvious after listening to Digital.
This EP certainly feels like a small bedroom project from a producer who is just getting his start. The songs are filled with a lot of elements but I had a harder time finding the melodies beneath the layers at times.
Up first is “Void/Embryonic” where he somewhat comically and dramatically gives a prologue that sounds like he's in the middle of the AI neural database. A 4/4 beat starts to fade in as alien, dark pads surround it along with what sounds like delayed guitar. The song doesn't get much farther than that. Up next is “How Does It Feel” which is a neo techno song that songs like it being played in a Movie like The Matrix. It revolves around a fairly straightforward beat and delayed vocals. The vocals are solid overall.
“Sleepy” is more like a collage of sounds. It starts off pleasant enough and quickly becomes frivolous which I was still fine with. I initially thought of Ariel Pink. The big difference is that there aren't any hooks or vocal melodies which are common in an Ariel Pink song. Instead you are treated with occasional coughing, talking and eventually it becomes a psychedelic whirlwind of vocal noises which could confound the listener.
“She Does” is a change in direction. It’s a more rock based song and is the catchiest one of the batch. That being said there are noticeable issues with timing that took me out of the song. He ends with a soft acoustic ballad entitled “Thylacine Man” which has its moments as well.
Digital has a lot of typical types of issues that I notice with young producers who are just getting started. The mixing and production is the bedroom type of lo-fi, there are timing issues and the artist has a very scattered signature sound at best.
More often than not these issues get sorted out once you have been doing it awhile. In this case I’d say the artist has a solid grasp of the fundamentals and has a lot of potential. I have a feeling his best work is still ahead of him but he is certainly one to keep an ear on. I wish him luck and hope to hear more soon. Godspeed.
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