Guyaume Huot is a Canadian from Quebec. He sings and plays piano and guitar. On top of that it was a full DIY album. He also had contributions from additional musicians who played cello, drums, piano, guitar and trombone.
His release Last Years is the first in what I hope may be many to come from Guyaume Huot. It’s really hard to make some comparisons and I will leave it at that although he fuses inventive production techniques not unlike that you heard on the latest Bon Iver album. He is a very talented musician who has technical and creative skill with the piano and is someone who knows a lot about utilizing harmonies. I also appreciated his ability to create engaging atmosphere.
While listening to Last Years I couldn’t escape the feeling that he was influenced by a number of different electronic artists and was trying to fuse organic instrumentation in seamless ways. I did enjoy this album but wonder if the right producer would make this EP even more coherent. This may be a learning experience for Huot but it seems like he did have an enjoyable time making and his music and exploring possibilities.
It seems as if he is experimenting with the production in search of sounds which will develop into something more in the future. I think he just needs to put all the pieces in the right places in order to progress more.
Huot knows how to conjure delicate melodies which I would describe as “warm melancholy” and “piano-mix nostalgia." “I guess I should be far away” and “Everything means nothing I’m no longer afraid to die” showcased his creativity. And in a way these songs illustrate what I am saying. What I thought was inventive was the way Huot used lyrics and voice more as an instrument. The most emotionally resonant song is the closer "Night bird" which contains a fantastic vocal performance.
It’s hard to say in which direction Huot will decide to go. He hasn’t pigeonholed himself and has a lot of possibilities for his future work.
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A trio of talented ladies from the UK have banded together and call themselves Hayéli. They have an utterly fabulous new album out called Faraway which contains a fresh electronic sound full of attitude and soul. I hardly where to begin with what someone can expect. The music is cool in every sense of the word, from the tone to the mix of chillhop, folk, jazz and electro. The songs are bathed in fiery femininity and musical savvy. The album is only four tracks long but made a huge impression on me that has turned me into a proper Hayéli fan.
As I said, the songs are just plain cool. They all take a mellow, slinky tone that is subtle and addictive. What works in their favor is the combination of synthetic and organic sounds. There is also a healthy ratio of sampled and live played elements. Producer Leva Vaiti will go on legitimate hunts in her local area for organic sounds to harvest as samples. I really appreciated the choice for them to utilize live key performances.
There’s also a heavy presence of some beautiful violin that brings a sweet folkish surprise. One of the most versatile instruments is the vocals, which is beautiful and can be so many things and dips into so may genres. These ladies are also bold in their rhythmic decisions. Even the vocals can get in on the act of creating these lush percussive movements that give any listener a serious case of the mellow head bobs. The cherry on top of this treat is the lyrics which can be literal or very fantastical. Sometimes it feels like you’re getting a whimsical explanation of a daydream.
To my knowledge, the recording, mixing, mastering, the whole shebang was done by the artists, and I find this impressive. There was a lot of effort to give these four tracks just the right amount of cohesion while allowing each song to stand out on its own. I could tell the vocals in particular were given a special treatment because that voice is not buried at any point in any track, it’s always right out in front where it should be. It sounds like everyone had their input considered because the unique sound they have created comes from a serious dedication to blending perspectives.
I would say Faraway is definitely one of those gems hidden away in the vastness that is the music market now. I could not get enough of this album. I wanted to be mad that there were only four tracks, but I can’t. I got exactly what I needed from the songs given to me. It really is a cool little album with a lot of depth. I want to congratulate Hayéli on a successful album.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Boxhead Black Rain 3.5
Alike Vibrate Alike Vibrate 3.4
Wolves Can't Dance Brief Cases for Lost Causes 3.5
So She Says Liquid Sky 3.4
Mason Hietkamp Out of the Woodwork 3.4
Underground Witch Rock Water Talk EP 3.5
String Bone Love & Highways 3.8
Tom Leader Moving On - EP 3.7
Kythira Soon, I Promise 3.6
Pale Colder Than Winter. 3.4
Winnick Moves 3.6
Mitchy Dee has a familiar story. He played in various bands but had a baby and for obvious reasons he started a solo project and released Mo.
The album is very light and often felt silly in a good way. I was on the fence about the vocals. Truth be told he doesn't have a voice that you might associate with someone who is traditionally a great singer but it does work for what he is doing. There were vocal styles which worked and some which don't work as well.
First up is “L.S.D.” where he is talking about the Chicago expressway that I live about five minutes from. You get a taste for his vocals style which are on the verge of rapping on the verse. He changes it up on the chorus. The song hits a tone somewhere between Weird Al and Butthole Surfers.
“Better” is a highlight. I liked some of the bluesy guitar work and the vocals. “Beer & Water” is where he lost me. He more or less raps in a cute yet dorky type of way. It felt like something a couple of twelve year olds might listen to on a children's program for better or worse. “Tru Grit” is a little more folky revolving around acoustic guitar while “Honey Hush” has a bit of a country/western vibe.
I don't know anything about the specifics in terms of recording but I feel confident as an engineer that this was a complete DIY effort. The recordings are lo-fi and I think I know that if the songs had some professional treatment it could have tapped into more potential. Additionally, I think working with a producer should be something to think about if the artist is considering taking his songs to the next level. The songs were scattered sonically as well as artistically.
This album is far from perfect but it has its moments. If you are looking for something light with humorous lyrics then take a listen. I have to admit I think he should just go full on silly and make a album that younger children could laugh to. It could work and could even pull off the rapping in that context. Food for thought.
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DOM is a artist from New Jersey who released PHoenix. It’s a blend of EDM, hip-hop and a number of sub-genres which combine into a contemporary sound. The production is top notch with inventive beats and varied approaches to the songs.
Up first is “Live From The Depths.” The flow on this song definitely had some resemblance to Eminem and the music was a psychedelic concoction of space aged pads, chants and tribal beats. There's a futuristic feel to the music. I could definitely imagine hearing this beat blasting at 1:30 am in the darkest club in the city.
The advanced percussive timing elements was evident on “The Beginning” and got my attention. It was on par with artists like Four Tet, Flying Lotus and Prefuse 73. The vertigo inducing rhythms transition into something that combines a sense of apprehension and immediacy. There was no way I could relax while hearing this track.
“Spiderwebs” was a slight change in scenery which induces an MDMA type peak of kinetic, enlightened energy that I remember hearing at raves fifteen, twenty years in the Chicago scene. Aahh the good old days. “SnowGlobes” has a rhythm that felt suitable for a club that serves alcohol and the dancing style isn't solo. “The Human Race” is a cosmic wormhole that Neil Degrasse Tyson and Lawrence Krauss would appreciate while “Chrome Zebra” is an aggressive drone of words and sounds.
There were more highlights like “Year of the Phoenix” and “Bouncing Rabbits.” He closes with one of the best tracks entitled “I'm gONe.” It starts off with Eastern influence sounds before transitioning to hyper realistic speed that feel frantic due to the Aphex Twin type beat yet kind of chill at the same time due to the jazzy standup bass.
There was obviously a lot of time spent making this album. There is a lot of attention to detail and a variety of tones, textures and soundscapes. I was impressed by almost all of what I heard and could imagine this artist getting a gathering of people large or small into a hypnotic trance with his music where body parts are moving and dopamine is flowing. Don’t pass this up.
Recorded in 2016 inside a live room affectionately called the ‘Band Room’ the Demarest, New Jersey band known as Grilled Cheese (yes, you read that right), put out its third release at the end of 2017. This self-titled nine-track album Grilled Cheese, according to the trio, is their heaviest and darkest to date. Capturing themes of everyday life, employment, cinema and politics, the straightforward no-nonsense line up of drums, guitar and bass sounds phenomenal, especially for those of you who love the pure energy that comes from a one room live recording. Additional recording was done in 2017 at Basement Star Studios and Paul Gold at Salt Mastering mastered the album.
The opener “Weekend Song” feels like what the title suggest – having fun! A thrashy, punk-pop party song, hints of Weezer just a bit if their sound was heavier or a less experimental Pixies. “All The Time” features heavy distortion on guitars and a really cool hook worthy of the airwaves. This one reminded me of The Smithereens. Good stuff. “Hank Moody” rocks hard and fast. It sounds to me what would happen if you put grunge and blues together or ‘50s rock meets punk – a dirty, low-down high-energy song. All that with a kick-ass guitar solo, too.
“Car Song” has a guitar lick that sounds like something from ‘70s glam rock mixed with…fill in the blank. “Killing Me RN” has great power chords and a warm, woody bass. More pop rock and less raunchy punked out rock with good vocal harmonies, too. “I Don’t Care” has a Lou Reed style with its humorous lyrics and east coast vibe. The backing vocals are fabulous – a great anthem for those who could care less. “Tully’s Lullaby” has a slower, shuffling beat, jangling guitar and harmonious vocals that are spot on. The singing is clearer and shows off the band’s sense of range and control.
“Tully’s Nightmare” has awesome power rock chords and in my opinion, is musically written with a magic wand. In other words, I frickin’ love this song! To me, it’s one part Black Sabbath and the other part the band that made the old blues classic “Black Betty” famous on the radio back in the ‘70s. The final number “Astronaut” is upbeat and moves quickly. A break or two mid-way makes for a great arrangement and the echoing guitar effect adds nicely to the song’s theme.
Sometimes recording a straight live album in one room is the best thing for a band. It can really test their patience and determination and shows them just how well they work together. From the looks of it, this Jersey trio has that part down very well. Not to mention, all three members sing which is a huge asset in any lineup. Rehearsing and recording live is also a great way for a band to prep themselves when it comes time to play in front of an audience. I have no doubt that Grilled Cheese have already melted their fans’ hearts and will continue to do so for some time.
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For a band that’s only been together for a few years and has just released their debut New Device, Life On Fire certainly has that well produced, polished sound of a band that’s been doing the music thing for a while. Consisting of singer/guitarist Damon Barnett, keyboardist Giuseppe Caruso and bassist Orazio Parisi, this Los Angeles based trio prides themselves on a do-it-yourself work ethic. This first release mixes styles of old and newer forms of classic rock together with new wave, progressive and heavy metal – quite an array. Their influences range from MGMT, Smashing Pumpkins and Queens of the Stone Age, to The Killers, Pink Floyd and U2, again, quite an array.
The opening title track of the album “New Device” is part ‘70s progressive rock with ‘80s pop-synth sensibilities mixed in. “Catatonic Love” has a great dry and full bass line that cuts through, danceable rock-pop beats and an overall newer “stadium rock” sound like something from Muse. A catchy guitar riff, too. “Even an Ostrich Doesn’t Bury its Head in the Sand” features a good sampling of ‘80s synth sounds, while “Fly at Night” has a terrific arrangement, changing beats and melodic guitars.
“Just a Man” shows a reflective, softer side to the band and sounds a little like the Foo Fighters if they had a keyboard player. “Vanish” features Damon Barnett’s deeper vocal range and there is a video that goes along with this number which can be found on the band’s own website. “Shadow Whisperers” has that ‘younger’ sound, for lack of a better way to describe it, but it’s one of those songs that has that “isn’t it great to be young and alive and to experience new things for the first time” feeling to it.
“Union Bells” has a great driving bass line, futuristic keys and a dancing beat of the drums. “Trickledown” features some really thought provoking lyrics, some of which are spoken instead of sung. Musically, this number rocks fast and the song’s title hints at a political theme. I love the last line, “In the land of milk and honey dreams / You’re not the only one who didn’t succeed.” I really liked how “Radio Hell” came together – the drums and bass kept the song’s structure going, the guitar chords were powerful and the keys had this full orchestral sound. There is a dark nature to this tune as well.
“Blocking out a Freeway” threw me for a loop. Up to this point, no one single song really stood out for me until the last three tunes. I’m not sure why, but the others really didn’t grab me. Perhaps too many songs sounded the same? In any case, “Freeway” definitely has a Pink Floyd influence and sounds like nothing else on the album. With it’s traditional piano and instrumental only take, it’s as if this song came from a completely different band. However, it does showcase the trio’s convincing grasp at being diverse on their first effort. Life On Fire is well connected on several media platforms.
The Superelevators is a two-piece heavy blues band from Alabama that recently released Devilblues. The album is a fusion between free jazz and blues rock with a dash of humor. It more or less sounds like a couple of young guys jamming in the basement to be honest. There are no real hooks, or single worthy songs or even any catchy songs for that matter. The lo-fi quality sounds like it was recorded from a tape deck from the ’90s with absolutely no treatment. At times the songs can just sound like a ball of white noise.
“Little Flower/Intro” is the opener which is just downright silliness. The vocalist sings or talks or something in a hyperbolic voice. He mutters something about chicken gravy and lets you in on the joke, “You might be better off listening to Thriller.” The song soon unfolds to a jam session somewhat reminiscent of The White Stripes if Jack White was drunk and if Meg White could play a funk grove. The song goes absolutely nowhere but I think that's the point. It’s a jam, a frivolous one at that.
The jam session continues with “Bored” which is a heavy blues jam that is more of a continuation of where they left on the first track. When I listened to “Possum Kicking (for Snoog Lacky)” I thought I might get a couple of melodies but no not really. The song is utter chaos and I would avoid it at all costs if you are on psychedelics. “Next Ex-Boyfriend” was the first track that had a little bit of structure. “Strychnine Blues” is another longer blues jam that goes on for awhile and the same could be said about the closer “Devilblues.”
I know exactly what these young men are up to. This was me about fifteen years. My friend and I would be silly and record in the basement and it would end up sounding similar to this but wasn't as blues heavy. Truth be told I can guarantee this was a lot of fun to make. Unfortunately, this visceral jam session isn't as much fun for the audience. That being told I like the spirit of this recording.
The songs felt frivolous, improvised and while I’m not sure what their angle was here exactly, it just seemed like stream of consciousness. These jams are just that jams. If these guys want to build an audience I’m going to go out on a limb and say they need to think about melody, structure and those other things people usually prefer. They could also go the other way and start creating psychedelic blues jams like Comets on Fire or the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Either way they go they are going to have some work to do.
Overall, I liked this release but mainly for the spirit in which it was created. I’m interested to see where they go from here because they have a lot possibilities. Good luck fellas - hope to hear more soon.
JSP is a British band from Leister formed in 2016. The line up is the classic one with guitar, vocal, bass and drums.
I have to say that it was nice to hear an “old” British rock sound that took me way back to the ‘90s. The influence of The Stone Roses, Oasis, Charlatans, Happy Mondays, Blur and the wave of the British rock scene that came in the ‘90s is more than evident. What I always loved about that sound was that it sounded fresh back then and sounds just as good today.
They are very clear in their intention to carry on and take ‘90s British rock into today. The more I listened to their release Faraway - EP, the more it grew on me. JSP sound like four friends, “ordinary lads” who decided to pick up guitars and write quality songs. I also love that street and working class mentality and “no nonsense” attitude of their songs.
Up first is the warm and inviting "Faraway" which contains dreamy atmosphere created by reverb laced guitars. Elements of shoegaze are apparent in the mix as the songs lush landscape is driven by bass and drums.
“Sunday's Promises” and “Jacko's Song" were also strong songs. The lyrics are unique and so is the melody. You might get lost in the overall sound and not notice the nuances of the vocals and the guitar solos. They close with "King of My Throne" which is another solid effort that reminded of early Primal Scream.
Since I enjoyed this EP, my expectations are high for their full length. As long as they continue to play from their heart and keep their feet on the ground they are on the way to making interesting music and who knows… . It’s a long way ahead but one day soon we might refer to JSP as leaders of a new wave of British rock.
The Voodoo Bandits is an indie rock band from the Isle of Man. They describe their EP Voodoo Bandits? as “five songs that don’t follow normal convention” and I would say its a pretty accurate description. Their songs have very ambitious arrangements that blend mellow surf rock sounds with indie and pop/rock.
The EP started off with “Rollercoaster” which although I really liked had a few kinks that were hard to ignore. The guitar was too loud compared to the vocal and the arrangement just didn't seem to work. There was something about it that felt disconnected. It just felt off to me. I really appreciated the intent but the end result just missed the mark for me.
“I Know You Know” was a little funkier and had a cool vibe, but there was still something strange about it. There was so much going on that it was hard to focus on the song as a whole. I feel like a little more simplicity would have went a long way.
My favorite track was “Flotilla” which stood out from the others. The vocal melody was unique and felt perfectly gelled to the arrangement. Everything just worked in this one. It had a dark edge but still felt youthful and fun. I think this could be a great signature sound for Voodoo Bandits and I hope they expand on it in the future.
Voodoo Bandits? shows a lot of promise. I think most of the tracks came off as a little too ambitious, but they pulled it together towards the end. Their sound is definitely unique. I think by honing in on those cool standout elements and expanding on them would be beneficial to creating a more signature sound. I look forward to their evolution and future work.
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