Chelsea Popp is a four-piece band comprised of Jackson Hernandez (guitarist/singer), Brian Simpson (drums), Nick Mastorakis (guitar) and Charlie Herrmann (bass/vocals). They released a raw four-song self-titled EP Chelsea Popp which is intense music you could classify as indie rock or arguably hardcore.
I liked the band's energy. It felt like the type of band that you want to catch live. I have to admit I was a little surprised about the recording quality considering they went to a pro studio. The thing I appreciated most was the bass tone. It was aggressive with the perfect amount of distortion. The drums sounded decent but the kick needed a couple of lower frequencies to feel on speakers. Even more important was the stereo width or depth. The mixes got a bit too narrow when the whole band was rocking out hard. Suffice it to say I had a couple of minor issues with the audio fidelity but was nonetheless impressed by the songs.
Up first is “Flashlight” which is an infectious highlight. The bassist and drummer sound so crisp and in the pocket. As the song progresses I enjoyed the dynamics of the song. Speaking of dynamics the vocalist has range. There are certain points where he seems to be arguably straining his voice too much but it's pretty rare.
The band delivers with “Melrose.” I especially loved the guitars on this song. The separate riffs have a symbiotic relationship. “Karaoke Night” had a more traditional EMO feel to me while “Dive Bar Bathroom” is high energy fun and possibly the most single worthy song of the batch.
Although Chelsea Popp recently formed the members have some experience. This EP felt like a starter package to me. You are introduced to their general sound and it builds a foundation. I do hope to hear a little more attention to detail in regards to recordings next time around because this type of music benefits from it.
I think this is a band to get excited about and keep your ears on. Recommended.
On the Bandcamp page for Cykophuk its says his music is “Built on a core of mid ’80s EBM Industrial & alternative dance, DJ Cykophuk's driving beats, dark imagery & dance floor aggression set the standard for 1990’s Midwest Industrial events at places like Neo, Exit, Aftermath & Inferno.” That description is pretty spot on.
I grew up in Chicago and used to go to Exit and Neo quite often in my mid to late 20’s . Exit is no longer as punk and edgy as it once was and the now defunct Neo had an MDMA fueled goth feel to it. The songs on Cykophuk’s release Dreadful feel like they have almost one specific purpose - get your ass on the dance floor.
The songs on Dreadful keep a 4/4 time with a deep dance kick drum. He then sprinkles samples on it whether it's from Jefferson Airplane or NIN. The songs are more like repetitive mantras that can make you into some kind of hypnotic dance monster.
For as club worthy as these songs may be they don’t translate as well for active head phone listening if were you searching for memorable melodies. For one this isn’t glitch which became a notable sub-genre. The elements are relatively sparse with percussion and a couple of synths. Even more obvious is the lack of hooks. Suffice it to say these aren't songs that you can play on a guitar and sing around a campfire.
There were a couple of standouts to my ears. One was “F33D YOUR HEAD” I thought he utilized the Jefferson Airplane sample with finesse. This is one song that I could see raising the energy on a dance floor.
Before EDM went mainstream there was IDM and “Revision of DuHast” which really nails that vibe. The beat has similarities to early Aphex Twin while the sample is juxtaposed from Rammstein. “Basic Pleasure Model” is the peak of the roll while “Revision of Cities In Dust” had an inspired beat.
Dreadful is a very specific tip of the hat to a sliver of musical history that happened in the late ’80s and ’90s. It may feel like a nostalgic throwback to those who were there to experience it.
I am not a real expert on hip hop, though my old man and his family hail from Pittsburgh, a town that I know well and love. I have family there still and it is not too much different from the blue collar once bourgeoning industrial mecca turned long forgotten wasteland in which I spent much of my life. And though I don’t know everything about hip hop I know what drives artistry, which is surroundings and experience.
So as I listened to the tracks on Enter The Mind by Hennessy Jones, I felt I related to much of what he was saying on a human level. I’m not going to try to paint myself into the picture of someone who has suffered wrongly at the hands of those in control, but I, like everyone who has ever lived, has endured my fair share of suffering and can at least empathize to a certain degree.
Hip hop is essentially poetry set to music or in some cases samples and found sounds, bits and pieces of influences that run the gamut from other people’s songs to sampled lines from movies and television. It’s a diaspora of musical influences squeezed into a hyper-surreal experience that is sometimes funny and sometimes sad, but always, always real. It is the vocabulary of landscapes which the performer has absorbed over the course of years. It is in a sense the truest form of expression there is. It pulls no punches, and doesn’t try to hide the truth in head scratching metaphors; it simply says what is right there in front, making the listener a voyeur whether or not they asked for it.
Enter the Mind doesn’t waste any time getting to these points as it opens with “Intro” which basically plays with all these aforementioned ideas of hip hop. There is seriousness, playfulness and wistfulness in this track and Jones wastes no time in breaking down the fourth wall and addressing the listener, which is playful, yet personal and gives the record a different dimension, one which will be recurring throughout.
Next we have “Concepts ft. Elluna & Kirsin” which follows the hip hop formula of features that has the chorus sung by featured guests (female vocalists) as the main vocalist pops in and out for the verses. Next we have another feature “Blessed ft. Luxo & Monae Miller” that also brings in some horns and electric guitars. This guitar feature, though in a softer acoustic format provides the background for the rapturous and well spoken “Acoustics.”
There are tracks like “Preminisce” which sound like a lot of what has come and much of what will come. The lyrics are hard, the beats have been heard before and the effects are much the same as what one has heard many times over as well as “Ready or Not” which sounds like the same filler that pervades even the best hip hop records. But even when Jones is not doing anything new for the genre he is at least giving it his all and providing the accoutrements that hip hop has come to be known for as he does on the elegant “Quicksand” and on “Mental Silhouette ft. Brendan M” which shines with an R&B richness.
Hennessy Jones has a lot going for him. His voice is crystal clear, as are his lyrics. Though like all artists who are involved in a medium of so much self-fervency I feel like he’s maybe holding back a little, or maybe letting his influences keep too strong a hold on him, not letting him break out to be the artist he truly can be. Be that as it may there are still plenty of jams to savor on Enter The Mind. Highly Recommended.
The Scotland musical project Greenback was born out of several different bands, including: Apache Darling, Courier's Club, Angus Munro, Fat Suit, Flembot, Horse, and Be Charlotte. Lead vocalist and composer Lynn Matthews spearheaded the project while obtaining an applied music degree and then further continued her studies in Edinburgh where Greenback came about.
The debut record from this smorgasbord of musicians is Talk to Strangers, a record full of songs that reflect the jazz and pop style music which these musicians studied for years. The compositions are as straight as though they were drawn using a ruler.
The opening track “Graves” is sweet and enduring pop balladry in the vein of a more radio-friendly breed of musicians who aren’t necessarily going for that type of sound. In fact this mellow pop frequency occurs all over Talk to Strangers. On “Made in an Image” Matthews slyly paints poetic images and weaves together a story of betrayal as her backing band flow in and out like a well-timed breeze.
Things pick up and get a bit more jazzy and funky on the electronically handsome and clubby “Change My Mind” which then morphs into the melodic eeriness of “Faders” which skirts the boundaries of Radiohead B-sides.
But the layers of classic jazz and pop funk keep poking their noses back into Talk to Strangers, such as the elusive and crepuscular-sounding “Snakepit” and its hand-clap laden follow-up “Fractures” on which Matthew’s vocals have up until now had a tired sweetness to them suddenly take on a darker hue which was a nice departure into a much darker territory of songwriting. Even the instrumentation here, the synths and bass and monk-chant backing vocals sounds like the some of the great ethereal music which the Cure were putting out in the late ‘80s.
I would hesitate to call Talk to Strangers an album for music nerds but then again that is for lack of a better bit of descriptors on my part exactly what it is. The compositions are beautifully arranged and each member of the band knows exactly how to get the proper tone and feel from their instruments. It is not a record one should just pop on to have in the background, but one that should be listened to and studied for its richness and its truth.
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Tabula Rasa, released this summer by the Italian trio Efrem Scacco, which also happens to be the name of the band’s guitarist, is perhaps nothing you’ve ever heard or at least, you haven’t heard this mixture of styles before. If you are into progressive, jazz-fusion and intricately woven metal guitar music, and might I add all of them are instrumentals, than this band is definitely for you. I’ll admit I haven’t heard anyone in recent memory playing both jazz and metal in one album, and doing it fantastically well. Dare I say, Efrem Scacco could give such musical powerhouse masters like Rush, Yes and Metallica a run for their money?
“Shy” is aptly titled because the feeling of the instruments sound shy but then it gets much livelier after the five-minute mark. “Freme” has beautifully, flawless fingering on the guitar. It’s funky, danceable and jerky with lots of energy packed inside. “Too Much Thinking” is more of a free form jazzy number that starts off slow and quiet and packs an explosive punch towards the end.
“Refusi e Rifiuti” is a head bang metal song but with a sophisticated style thrown in that is hard to describe unless you listen to it. “Paraneue” made me think of Radiohead, Primus and Rush all rolled into one. “L’Ostile Libero (lamenti)” has some crazy, cool guitar effects that I would describe as progressive metal that turns chaotic, but in a good way.
“Notterno” is the first of the last three songs that slows the tempos down. Jazzy, shuffling brush technique on the snare drum and dreamy, luscious jazz guitar tones from years ago can be heard throughout this one. “Laconico” also has the slower pace of the cool jazz sound that’s marked by energized high spots of the drums, melodic bass lines and one hell of a “singing” guitar sound that lasts for many measures - very original.
“Deltempo” starts off with a richer sound coming from each of the instruments with a lot more action during the mid-way point of the song. If you are familiar with the guitar styling of Steve Vai and others like him, than you’ll dig this ending number.
Again, all songs are instrumentals, so if you’re not into that than this album probably isn’t for you. But if you appreciate jazz, metal, progressive and all that, from a very talented trio who have command of their instruments, then look no further.
The improvements in the last twenty years concerning recording technology is incredible. I started making music in the ’9’s on portastudios and got obsessed. Eventually I started engineering in a real studio and understood what needed to be done to make a professional sounding recording.
I can’t stress enough that bedroom artists should learn the very basics of engineering. It’s a thought I had when listening to The Lonesome Pope by Sam Little who hails from Norway. I enjoyed his album but the production really held back the full potential of the songs.
Up first is “Kicking Ourselves” which for some reason was much better sounding in the production department than most of the other songs. It’s also about 4-5 dbs louder than most of the songs. I can’t say that I was a fan of the virtual instruments but the song was well put together and thought he has a great voice.
“Lookout” and “A Million Regrets” were also well composed songs but the lo-fi quality made it harder to embrace than “Kicking Ourselves.” There were a couple of standouts such as “Devil in a Boat” "Frank Sinatra" and “Last Tango” where his deep voice really shines. “Last Tango” in particular had some notable guitar picking and I thought the melancholy in the song fit his delivery.
As a songwriter Little isn’t exactly experimental but has a firm understanding of a palatable pop structure. I never felt like the songs dragged and I thought the flow of the album was smooth.
Overall, The Lonesome Pope builds a foundation with this release. I hope to hear some more and I look forward to his evolution.
Scanner was formed by Joe Brady and Junnie Fortney in 1979 and are still rocking. Their latest release Under the Devil's Tail is a four-song EP (make sure to check out our review of One Foot In The Grave, And More Pissed Than Ever.
It has been described as Alice Cooper Meets Motörhead Meets The Ramones Meets Devo. That description is actually pretty spot on. I might throw in KISS as well. www.divideandconquermusic.com/indie-music-album-reviews/scanner-one-foot-in-the-grave-and-more-pissed-than-ever
The band gets rolling with the title track which has a good amount of hyperbolic vocals that fit with the lyrics. Alice Cooper and Axl Rose came to mind with the vocals but the music has a hard rock/punk vibe from the ’70s. I enjoyed the nostalgic throwback and the production and recording quality fit like a old shoe.
I was laughing to the lyrics on “Tapeworm.” He sings about being infested with a tapeworm and the apprehension that this is causing. Even better is how the story turns into him doing “the worm” on the dance floor. It’s a fun song that has catchy melodies and is simply a good time. It’s the type of song you would want to catch live.
Up next is “Membrane Men” which is another one they just hit out of the park. It sounds like they use a theremin on this song. Props. They close with “Hippie Authority Song” which I already liked from the title. The song starts off very punk rock and is arguably the highlight. I thought the chorus was very anthemic in a classic ’70s fashion. The lyrics are fantastic as well and revolves around the title of the song.
It felt obvious to me that the band was playing exactly what they want. Their music feels very authentic and that's what sold me. In my book they go four for four with these songs and if you have enjoyed any of the aforementioned bands you will want to check out Under the Devil's Tail.
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
Butterfly Baby Heartbreak 3.6
Peak Body Peak Body 3.6
Andrew Skelton Pocket Change 3.6
Barlo Casting per diventare zombie 3.7
Lunar Vacation Swell 3.7
The Year of the Raccoon The Year of the Raccoon 3.5
Midnight Divide Dichotomy 3.5
Drew Keenan is an artist from West Virginia who recently released his second effort entitled Whatever Makes You Happy. It’s impressive step forward from his release in terms of songwriting and as well as production. The album contains eleven songs and is a mix pop and rock and a number of sub-genres including surf.
Up first is “Waste” which is a simple yet catchy four-chord style romp. Shades of bands like The Pixies emerge in the lead guitar. The song goes by in a flash but it felt like a good length with no extra fat.
Up next is “I Love You So” which has an obvious ’50s clean cut pop feel. Even the lyrics are aligned with this brief moment in time. I think he sounds great in this style and really nails the performance. He sings, “Hold me baby and tell me we're alright I love you dearly, don't want to see you cry.”
Keenan moves up a couple of years with “Mellow Medusa” which takes influence from surf rock. The indecipherable vocal snippets work nicely here and so do the lead vocals. “I've Got You” hits more of a ’90s alternative vibe with some possible influence from The Smiths.
“Don’t Let Me Down” is the arguable highlight. The atmospheric, reverb laced guitars work nicely against his softly served vocals. The other songs that stuck out to me as highlights were “Another Year” and “Tonight.”
Drew Keenan is evolving as an artist in multiple ways. On Whatever Makes You Happy the production has improved and the songwriting feels a little more crisp. I doubt this is his best work and I am excited to hear more from him in the not too distant future.
The thing with concept albums is that there must be some mutual understanding between the musician and the listener for the project to work correctly. It’s kind of silly that anyone would make a concept record just for themselves, unless they were Narcissus, and you know how poorly that whole escapade ended.
The Australian singer/songwriter who performs under the gothic moniker Woman InBlack, seemed to know this from the outset of her five-song concept record Genevieve, which also happens to be her solo debut too. She understands that if the listener is going to stake any claim in this record it had better be a good story she’s spinning.
And it is in fact a story of sorts, as the concept is that the lyrics on the five tracks on Genevieve all tell different parts of the title characters journey through a parallel dimension which she stumbles through aimlessly searching for home and encountering many obstacles along the way.
Now that we have the plot line and the basis down, let’s talk about what the record sounds like. Before deciding to go solo Woman InBlack headed a few Aussie punk bands and that is where her sound still lies. Genevieve opens with “Genevieve (Maple Tree).” It’s slow and sweet at first, but then after about a minute in, the song takes a dark turn adding slow and sludgy guitar riffs and boot stomping drum beats. It’s a slow shred of dark metal and sounds both awesome and scary at the same time, almost as if Pat Benetar was the lead singer for Black Sabbath.
The shredding guitar continues on “Come Undone” but the pace is picked up to punkier speeds. Things take a grungier turn as “Young Blood.” The lady in black shows off her impressive set of pipes, screaming with a banshee-like howl that is both chilling and mesmerizing. This slow paced sludge-grunge continues on “Dead City” before closing out with “Let it Rain” a stirring ballad that sheds some hope and some light to this otherwise dark-sided tale.
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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