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
The War Between Goth Beach 3.6
Home Media Boardwalk 3.5
fuzz puppy hipster nightmare 3.4
Matt Bentley Life on Automatic 3.7
yeenar baseball & chain 3.6
NASH.txt Psychic Prelude 3.4
Matthijs King Pravus 3.5
Jordan Robinson Tall Tales 3.5
Lukas Barret from North Carolina is just getting his start making instrumental music. His EP Springtime for losers completely revolves around a single guitar. Truth be told you better be pulling off some pretty creative and technically minded parts to keep my attention. Barret isn’t there yet in the technical department but at the very least shows some potential.
The EP opens with “Mr.CoolBreeze” where he plucks out a couple of notes. The song moves slowly never really going much of anywhere. Some advice from the production standpoint is that the song contains digital distortion on certain notes. Make sure you aren’t coming in too hot or this will be the case.
“Ups and downs” is a simple picking pattern that lasts forty-eight seconds and abruptly stops while “Springtime for losers” contains a couple of strummed chords and a lead guitar which provides loose fills.
“Nature calls” crawls along at a snail's pace. He adds what sounds like some kind of modulation effect and there might be a field recording of some sort way in the background. He closes with “Daylight Savings” which just sounds like he is tinkering around with his guitar.
Barret seems like a really young guy and I have some pragmatic advice for him being someone who has played guitar for twenty-plus years. The songs sounded more like ideas at this point. I would encourage him to experiment as well as listen to instrumental guitarists. A good starting point and fairly like-minded instrumental guitarist would be William Tyler. Barret may find some inspiration on his album Modern Country.
Barret still has a long way to go but everyone has to start somewhere.
A Calling West is the moniker under which Boulder, Colorado-based singer and multi-instrumentalist Matt Owen records his dreamy indie pop. The name is also a reference to his move to Boulder from his home on Long Island.
Owen had been in a slew of different types of bands previously and left his last band to focus all his energy on A Calling West. This was significant for Owen because he wanted to do everything himself; i.e. play all the instruments, record and mix everything and also write all the lyrics which is something he’d never done before. But as the record progressed Owen recruited some friends of his to help contribute to different parts of the record.
The result of this massive undertaking is his first proper full length as A Calling West called Space for Echoes. It came about as Owen noticed that the music scene in Boulder was overwhelmingly jam band heavy and he wanted to do something different. So he set his sights on making an album with influences that ranged from Sonic Youth to Bjork, from Radiohead to Pink Floyd with a little bit of video game soundtrack kind of stuff added for flair.
A Space for Echoes opens with the mellow and spacey minimalist guitar and drum workings of “Arc.” In this opener Owen lets a woman’s soaring, nearly operatic vocals slowly and tenderly sing the lyrics with a restrained fervency. Next up “Keyboard” starts up on the more upbeat side of things and then in the middle the guitar whirrs for a minute or so, like a car engine that won’t turn over and then we get a bit of jangle pop break down before some guitar picking and a teasing of feedback. It sounds at times like it might go somewhere but never really does.
The noir-ish feeling and slow grooves of “Alien” hit the mark much closer as an ode to Sonic Youth. There is more substance with the heaviness of building guitar and drums, and the vocals here sound much more confident.
“Her Name is Summer” also seeks to have a hand in a more flighty experimentalism and succeeds in much the same way, as not being overdone or over the top. Owen and company seem to be best when not trying to show off and just letting the music speak for itself. The instrumental “Forest” seems another good indication of this also. It’s a simple guitar-picked tune of the kind one might pluck out sitting on the front porch watching the sunset.
Being a one man band can come with its privileges but also has so many downfalls. The record has very little variance in the way that it sounds. In many places A Space for Echoes sounds like it was one long song. Perhaps a second member could act as a foil and help to flush out the next round of songs of this musical monolith.
Overall, this an impressive solo album. Recommended
Null is a nineteen-year-old bedroom artist who recently released dead celebrities. The album felt more like a collection of songs and at nineteen tracks it would easily qualify for a double album.
Dead celebrities is an album where you can hear pockets of potential but it still has a long way to go to compete with the big boys. Most of the album falls into a dreamy shoegaze category. As far as the production and recording quality goes there is still a lot to be desired. That being said, he gets the basics right for shoegaze. Tons of reverb, drowned out vocals, etc.
Null has some decent ideas throughout but sometimes can drag them out too long. Take for instance the opener “5150.” The song slowly builds into an atmospheric groove but the lack of a focal center like a vocal melody makes it feel more like an ambient track. “Downer” has a really cool groove and is one of the best on the album. Null decides to cover the song in samples which in my opinion is done way too often these days.
As the album progresses some songs sound closer to My Bloody Valentine while others might sound closer to DIIV. “Idk” contains hushed vocals and doesn’t change much during its five-plus-minute run time while “phoebe” is A bass heavy song with one of the most inspired grooves.
As I mentioned the artist has some talent but there are a number of areas which can be improved upon. At nineteen-years-old he has all the time in the world to perfect his craft. I started at around fourteen and twenty years later I think I just recently started getting to my peak.
Null is a part time hobbyist but if he keeps at it I’m sure he will evolve artistically. At the moment he is a case of wait and see,
Trick Gypsy is located in the south of Australia in Geelong, Victoria. They consist of Felix on vocals/guitar, Josh on bass/vocals and Tom on drums. This intriguing band has been around for a little over two years, and they have wasted no time in crafting an exciting sound. They’ve also been expanding their reach through gigging around Victoria and have been on local radio multiple times, thanks to their established fan base. They’ve certainly achieved a lot in a short space of time and are pretty chuffed with their 600+ views on YouTube. Most notably, however, they’ve won multiple ‘battle of the bands’ competitions and have started to make a name for themselves simply through impressing crowds in a live environment. Through hearing their recorded material, I find this easy to believe.
Their latest six-track EP entitled Devil Teddy opens with the throbbing beat of “Euphemism.” A shoegaze-esque, meaty bass rhythm glides atop the throbbing, as the song slowly layers this riff with electrifying distorted power chords and crashing cymbals. Felix emerges after this explosive start with that hoarse, powerful and classic ‘lazy-cool’ style of singing that was so prominent in the punk or pop-punk era of music back in the good old ‘90s. Tricky Gypsy infuses this nostalgic sound with a little of their modern alt-rock production and energy, of course, and ensure they’re crafting a noise which is original and exciting.
‘Schitzo-Friendlier’ is even more brutal, raw and energetic than the punchy opener. A punk power chord progression screeches and burns atop energetic bass riff-age and punchy drums. Felix, once again, doesn’t disappoint with his raw, Cobain-esque brand of vocals which still retain originality through melodic and pop-esque influences here and there which add some softness and smoothness in order to create a little variety among the song. It’s a raw track, but there’s a lot of melody in which listeners can sink their teeth amidst the addictive chaos of screams, punchy drums and brutal guitar.
“Sour Straps” continues the explosive theme of the album. It does open, however, with a catchy, light-hearted guitar riff which breaks away from the darkness of the opening two tracks. It adopts more of a pop-punk-esque approach than the front half of the EP seemed to. A chorus from Felix is full of lyrics about how he “can’t get enough” and his hands are on the “sour straps.” It’s all vague and clear at the same time. The weirdness is all part of Tricky Gypsy’s aesthetic, of course, and they wear this look so well.
“Obscene” may be raw and brutal, but it’s much prettier than its title might suggest. A catchy, high pitched electric guitar riff is incredibly catchy over a pulsating, continuous beat. Felix screeches in musical breaks between guttural raw, forceful power chords. The track feels laid-back and explosive all at the same time. The instrumental is crunchy and vibrant, but melodically enticing. Felix beckons the listener to ‘come as you are’ in another seeming nod to their influencers, Nirvana, and yet the band retains their originality; they avoid sounding like just another tribute.
All in all, this is an impressive EP. Six tracks is very little into which you can sink your teeth, but Trick Gypsy sure does manage to add a lot of meat to the bones over such a short run time. I felt as if I’d listened to a full-length album. I look forward to seeing what they do next.
Panels is a local band from Clarksburg, MD, and they were founded in June of 2016. Planets is their first EP, and it’s an exciting debut from an unknown act. I’m blown away by the production value and songwriting ability present on this short but sweet little EP. If this is achievable on their first effort, I look forward to seeing what comes next for Panels.
The six-track EP entitled opens with the funky bass rhythm of “Synchronous” which jumps to and fro; up and down; back and forth. They combine jazzy, funky, soulful rhythms that seem reminiscent of the heights of the ‘80s with the intimacy of modern pop music. Tuneful, soft and timid vocals fluctuate and dance atop the addictive bass line beneath. A catchy, clapping drum beat accompanies the many complex and sonically juicy rhythms at play during this melody. I’ve never heard something so rich and ‘lip-bite-inducing’ from an indie artist before, but I’m grateful I have now. A variety of instruments, including clean, sleek and punchy electric guitar towards the latter half of the track, really adds to the many layers and complexity of this opening song.
The excitement continues on “Fly” which lives up to its name; this is most certainly a fly track (if that’s still cool to say). It comes in at only just over a minute, but truly accomplishes a lot in terms of sonics during that short runtime. An electronic drum clicks and clacks and pulsating synths, along with a continuous chord, warble and ripple atop this simplistic, mellow and catchy beat. Some percussive variations add a little funky variety to the track towards the close, but it’s the repetitive simplicity of this track that makes it funky and “fly.”
‘Heartbeat’ opens with an ominous synthetic noise which seems to have endless depth. Catchy, melodic and powerful synthetic keys reverberate through the noise. Eventually, a slow drum beat and a ballad-esque bass and guitar rhythm join the mix. Twinkles and glittering moments of synthetic notes dance atop this mellow mix. Reflective and emotive vocals join this musical balladry later on in the track, and it was the raw energy which truly captivated me here. There’s so much real emotion in the voice, even if it is still quite timid and restrained. I thought this worked well here, though I did think the vocals could perhaps have done with a little reverb in order to blend in with the spacey atmosphere; this is just a production quip, and it’s a subjective opinion.
All in all, I loved all the sounds, along with the instrumental and vocal performance. A spoken word piece in the latter half of the track about heartbeats is quite sweet, tender and intimate. It creates a real connection with the listener. There’s so much psychedelic, musical madness in which to sink your teeth here too. It’s a song you just have to listen to for yourself.
“Massive”’ opens with a reverberating, distant electric guitar line which is joined by a muted, uplifting rhythm. A throbbing bass riff accompanies the other instruments, maintaining the calm, timid feel of the track. Far from the title’s suggestion, this track is not massive, but it is serene and captivating. Perhaps that is, in a way, a massive sound. A piercing guitar solo buzzes and throbs, but still does so in such a distant, lost manner that it does not ruin the quiet aesthetic present here.
This EP is funky at times and peaceful at others. There’s so much variety, and it’s well worth a listen.
Cherry Heaven is a collaboration between Timothy Steingraeber and Cole Williams. They released a lo-fi effort entitled Very Pleasing and Desired. The band mixes different genres like shoegaze and garage rock with varying degrees of success.
“Let's Go All The Way” is one of the stronger songs and it felt influenced by Primal Scream. Bobby Gillespie came to mind when I heard the vocals. The vocals are covered in so much reverb you can’t make out much of what's being said. I can't say there are any hooks in the song which grabbed my attention but I did like the percussive aspects of the song.
The second track “Denim Lightning” has some minor issues. They occasionally get off time; the singer gets noticeably off key and the song can’t find the right energy in order to take off. Luckily, the band gets on track with a standout entitled “Mary Nohl.” The mix of electronic elements and melancholy reverb laced guitars make an interesting concoction of noises somewhere between electronic and shoegaze. This track is repeat worthy. Similar to the some other songs the vocals lack a melodic hook that you might want to hum along with.
The duo has more success in the instrumental department on “Lost Merit Badge.” It’s a bit dance-y and reminded me of Out Hud. The vocals were still very hard to understand on this song. “Dreamy” is about as close to a pop song as you are going to get. This song had the most melodic and memorable vocal hooks. There were some catchy lines on this song and oddly reminded me of The Smith if they used synths. "Dreamy" is a song I could imagine a large demographic enjoying quite a bit.
“Exploding Stars” had a earlier shoegaze sound reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain. “Creepin’” is a slightly funky space odyssey. The closer is a little more subdued and emotionally resonant than their previous efforts.
Cherry Heaven is a duo that shows some potential with this effort as well as some very unique sounds. There were some inspired moments especially when it came to the instrumental sections. I’d love to hear them expand off the success they had with “Mary Nohl.” They are a duo to keep your eyes and ears on.
Tony Gravell is a singer/songwriter from New Hampshire who is still in the embryonic stage of his development. His first release Nervousness shows potential as well as room for growth during it's just around seven-minute runtime.
He opens with “Nervousness” which revolves around a basic picking pattern on guitar and not too much else. There is something going on in the background like a rumbling but it is indistinct. The whole sequence may have fared better if it were around thirty seconds.
Next up is “Keeping You Awake” which contains vocals and strummed chords. Gravell has an enjoyable voice but I would hesitate to call him a naturally aesthetically pleasing singer. He’s a guy who is going to have to dig a little and put in some hours.
That being said he stays in key which is half the battle. He closes with “Always the One” which is the highlight. The song is just as simple as the previous songs but the delivery and melody was a little more notable on this track.
Overall, I think Gravell accomplished what he set out to do. He made a simple EP with easy to embrace songs that put him in a position to evolve. I would like to see him step it up on his next release and start to define a little more of his sound and flex a little more of his guitar skills. Truth be told it’s hard to get by today as a musician strumming a couple of major and minor chords.
The best thing he has going for him is the the songs felt honest and heartfelt. Not a bad way to start off your development as a musician.
Vanity Mirror is the first studio album by Austin-based prog rock group Interns. The album is a string of carefully-crafted instrumentals. Each song assumes its own distinct character, yet they all mesh enough for a wordless story to be told.
“Intro” is an epic seven-minute journey of builds and falls. There are aesthetics of sorrow and loneliness during the more serene moments of the song, but Interns makes sure to maintain an overall neutral feel; not really one theme or another. This track, as an intro should do, left me on the fence about what to expect next. They give you a taste of their flavor, yet gradually let you into their world.
That brings me to my next point - patience. Interns is never too quick to build a song. They take their time to establish a mood, and then they erupt. This could be attributed to the band’s apparent chemistry, as they’ve been jamming on-and-off for three years now.
Some songs, they noted, even took that long to make. Interns told us that each member is a contributor; one person establishes a framework, and the others work to fill the spaces around it. The group even had some special guests on the album, like violinist Sungkyung Woo, who makes “Drone Boys” more cinematic, while never taking away from the band itself.
And fill the spaces is exactly what they do. “Waves” is filled with spacey, reverberated and distorted guitars that create a really comprehensive sound - similar to a lot of tracks on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless.
The intricate nature of their songwriting is a huge plus. Though the whole project is pretty diverse and filled with surprise, “Drone Boys” is a track in which I couldn’t really expect what was going to happen next.
Nothing stays in one place which is why this album is gripping from front-to-back, minus the practically drum-less interlude when I wanted James Bauer to shred like he does on “Blood On The Water.” I guess that backing off is the purpose of the interlude; just letting the record breathe for two minutes. I didn’t think that an interlude was necessary because of how dynamic Vanity Mirror is as a whole. There are small interludes in every song.
This band has a lot of promise going forward. Expect to see some more projects coming from Interns in the future, just maybe not too soon. Some songs on this record took years of refining, as the band’s specificity shows and pays in interest.
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The Sides are a five-piece band from the UK consisting of Macaulay Murray, Dean Worrall, Jordan Wilkinson, James Devitt and Tom Malkin. The young band put out a four-song EP entitled Hesitate. They aren’t reinventing the wheel with this release but they are showing some talent and greater things ahead with palatable pop/rock songs.
They open the EP with “You and Me” which sounds like a song that could have FM radio potential if the production was a tad bit better. The song is catchy if a little predictable with familiar guitar lines and structure. The vocalist sounds great throughout and delivery overall is solid.
The title track has a similar vibe with guitars that are coated with enough reverb that it seems like it' being played in a huge hall. Like the previous track the song is really catchy with a large sounding chorus that gets in to U2 territory.
The next track “My World” has a little more of an edge and intensity to it. There is a ’90s vibe here not too far off from punk or grunge despite the modern sounding lead guitar. They close with “The Alchemist” which was my personal favorite song. It felt a little more fun and poppy. Comparisons to The Strokes may be in order.
I’d say this band has all the key elements for success. That being said the four songs didn’t leave me with much of a signature sound. They can write a tune and they can deliver it. I just think it may behoove them to think about how they could really stick out from the crowd. It’s a simple fact that the style of music they play is extremely popular and the competition is absurdly fierce.
Overall, the band does deliver with these tracks. The songs take no effort to enjoy and aesthetically the band sounds great. I’d say the vocalist is a key aspect to their sounding as good as they did. I’m looking forward to where the band goes from here.
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Divide and Conquer is dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We review a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
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