I remember about twenty years ago living at my mom’s house. After school my friends and I would play music really loud and record it on a tape deck. That's exactly what Sensation by Guacamole Ceiling reminded of expect the lead singer sounded a lot more like Zack de la Rocha.
It’s completely live with seemingly no editing or much post-processing. Up first is “Situation” which is a bunch of well done bass and drum work. I couldn't hear much of what was being said and really have no idea how much was improvised and much wasn’t. Whatever they are recording through gets digital distorted as soon as they start rocking out. They more or less sound a lot like Rage Against the Machine with a tinge of Led Zeppelin which is badass combo if you ask me.
Up next is “Sublimation” which is a faster song with a forward moving kinetic energy while “Simplification “ is a ten minute song that is the first change in pace. It’s a very different vibe and sounds like a completely different band. They hit a jazzy singer/songwriter vibe sort of like John Maher before going back into Rage type talking/singing. “Stimulation” is a bunch of white noise and some talking that sounds like a cross between Zack de la Rocha and a political speech.
The band will have to think about some structure to these songs. I know it's fun to jam on I remember but these longer types of jams aren't as fun for an audience especially in recorded format.
Suffice it to say they are a bunch of young guys having fun and there might be a possibility of something more than that. It goes without saying they will have to hit up an actual studio and some point and develop a sound that feels uniquely their own.
This is a case of wait and see right now. There are moments that work but the band has a lot to do before competing with more popular acts.
Gabriel and Daniel Traknyak are brothers and the primary band member in Sky Orchid. Apparently Daniel plays the drums and Gabriel takes on pretty much about everything else which includes vocals, guitar, bass, synths, and.keyboards. They released Oculus which is two separate EP’s
They make emotionally fueled music that is often thematic, atmospheric and fused with explosive rock tendencies although they often deviate into different styles quite often. I really liked the soulful vocals which were an important element in making these songs work. There were times were the delivery in the vocals was going to make or break the song for me depending on the style of music
I started off with the first EP. Up first is “The River” which builds around a dark atmosphere of piano, drums and exceptional vocals. It starts to build and was hoping at this point the song wasn't going to get predictable by just going into a hopeful vibe. After a drum roll that seems to last a lifetime they get to a crescendo. Luckily, the dove aren’t flying and fireworks aren't going off. They keep it dark with subtle shifts of energy. Great start.
“In the Fire, Pt.1” felt a little more single worthy and rock based while “I’ll Stop the World, Pt.2” just straight up rocks. “Wildfire” has a more intimate, singer/songwriter type vibe. They close with a relative straight rock song that flirts with reggae at points. There was a lot to appreciate here but the styles did feel scattered. I wasn't able to establish any type of signature song.
The second EP volume two starts with “Sneakers” which is a highlight amongst all the songs. They sound good when dark and soulful. The vocals needs to breathe like they do there. They change the vibe to upbeat and borderline cheerful with “Take It All’ which sounds closer to John Mayer.
“Lex” was another standout. The EP for some odd reason closes with “HIdden Track” which is an experimental, electronic piece which really has no relation to anything else I heard.
The biggest issue by far is the band doesn't have any type of signature sound or foundation. They seem to trying out multiple styles to see what works. Out of all the things a young band needs to do it's find a unique and original sound and make a cohesive release.
The plus side is they have a ton of talent. They just don't seem to know where to place it. If i were their manager I would stay stick with the dark, atmospheric almost EDM vibe we hear on “Sneakers” and “The River’. It sounds the most natural and original to my ears.
The band is young and have time to develop. I think if they do some more work on pre-production they will be one interesting act. I hope to hear more soon because they have the skill set.
Neverland Tourist is the project of singer/songwriter Mark Romney. After taking time off to start a family, Romney decided to get back into the studio and begin performing again. Closer to the Clouds is his debut EP. The sound is a combination of folk-pop and Americana, with poetic lyrics and complex arrangements
The EP opened with “That Sea” which was gentle and mellow. Romney’s voice is wild and a little rough around the edges, but endearing and expressive. I really loved the artistry in his arrangements.
I had the TV on mute while Olympic Figure Skating was on and watching that while listening to this song allowed me to hear the soft fluidity of the melody that I may have missed otherwise. It really was beautiful. I enjoy the contrast of Romney’s gritty vocals with the tender feel of the music.
“Show Me What You Won’t Tell” was a little messier to me, it didn’t feel as organized and deliberate as the first track. Overall I still really liked the songwriting and feel of the music. The following track “You Are The One For Me” had a different vibe than the previous two. It was a little funkier and felt youthful and fun. The same vibe continued with “You’re the Girl” which was lighthearted and quirky.
The title track “Closer to the Clouds” was probably my least favorite, it felt a little disconnected to me. The melody just sounded off and Romney’s vocals didn’t have the usual endearing quality. The EP ended with “It Was Always You” which was soft and sad with just enough melancholy to be one of those songs that you listen to a bittersweet mood.
I enjoyed Closer to the Clouds. Romney is an interesting songwriter. I really dug the contrast between the rugged sound of the vocals and the gentle polished sound of instrumental accompaniment. Neverland Tourist, besides having an awesome band name, has a real original take on folk rock and I’m excited to hear more.
Simone Lipkin is an artist who is only thirteen years old and recently released her first EP Stories in My Mind. I picked up a guitar at around the same age and remember writing music shortly after. It’s not easy.
Truth be told you’re still a kid and you’ve barely had any life experience to write about. I remember writing about a petting zoo and Saturday morning cartoons. Lipkin writes about subjects which do seem a little mature for her age that revolve around relationships and love.
I was reading about Simone Lipkin and I think a lot of credit has to go to music producer Russ DeSalvo (Celine Dion, Trisha Yearwood, Marc Anthony) who discovered her while she was playing at an open mic. The songs were written by Lipkin and produced and arranged by Russ DeSalvo. Desalvo has did all the engineering which sounds radio ready.
These five songs are pure FM radio type pop. There is no denying that. The structure follows a formula that tries to appeal to as much of a mass of an audience as possible. You can make comparisons to artists ranging from Taylor Swift to Avril Lavigne.
Lipkin does have a voice that is beyond her years. You can hear that on the opening track “For You.” She has a range that is dynamic and the tone of her voice has palatable aesthetic qualities. Lipkin delivers more pure pop with “Trust Fall” which balances melancholy and anthemic hooks. “Contagious” is a slower ballad while “Mystery” has a hopeful Americana type flavor.
In the mid ’90s I discovered bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead. In my 20’s I was neck deep in shoegaze and post-punk and in my early 30’s I feel in love with contemporary composers. As a songwriter whether I want to admit it or not these artists influenced my writing in some way. I have little doubt that as Lipkin goes through her teenage years and beyond she will discover other artists that will have an impact on her. She has talent for any age but it will be interesting to hear how she evolves as a musician over the next couple of years.
The words experimental and creative are often overused when describing a piece of art or music or even poetry. Ok, so how about quirky? Ethereal? Or how about just taking a few styles, like indie and alternative, mix them with electronic sounds, blurbs and (fill in the blank here) and you may come up with something called Love the debut album from Connecticut artist Mild Monk. Written and produced entirely on Garageband using an iPhone 6S, this record I sense, has that ‘something’ that if you listen to it days or weeks later, you’ll probably end up hearing something new or that ‘new’ thing in a different way.
To start off, the aptly titled “Intro” has a sparse techno beat and retro feel with a nice warm voice by bandleader Henry Stein. Love is largely a solo project started by Stein but within the last few months a band has formed to play live shows. A video has been filmed as well for the song “Once Again” and it is quite imaginative, so check it out if you can. The next number “Sweet Perfume” has a slow, dragging beat that adds to the lyrical theme of the song, which I presume is about those first feelings of euphoria when first falling in love and the perfume of the person you admire still lingers on your clothes.
“Summer Song” features a bright and warm guitar like the summer’s sun, a galloping beat (with additional drums by Kyle Sullivan) and later, a heavy warm guitar solo. This tune reminded me of a ‘70s soft rock, one-hit wonder that had this insane xylophone solo, yes, I’m not kidding, but I don’t recall the artist or band. Burpy or blurping sounds can be heard on “Once Again” accompanied with a tingling keyboard and a guitar that has a sort of reggae style to it.
All the sounds come together like an ‘80s retro video game, so I thought that was a cool thing to pull off. “Her Loving” has a strange, sensual feel to it but not a creepy strange in my view. Reverberating guitar with an old school hip-hop beat of sorts matches with an ode to a girlfriend. The song stops abruptly as if you just shut the turntable off before a song ends.
“Musical Love” features a lovely melody that works well with the beat, guitar sounds that are like a muted jazz guitar, strange gurgling sounds and whistling. Of all the songs on Love, I think this one was the most musically well written. The drum kit selection on “Wolves” sounds like a traditional trap set which Sullivan played on. There was also what sounded like an alto sax being played or something that sounds like an alto sax. A heavily distorted guitar adds a unique dimension to this tune as well.
“Gotta Get off My Phone” has a lounge, shuffle beat and a muddy-hazy guitar effect – sort of like what my head feels like after being on my phone for far too long – muddy and in a cloud. The song I liked a lot was “Today” a dreamy rhythm with sleepy vocals and a warbled sounding guitar. The last tune “Rain” features up front vocals with one of those ‘voice changer things,’ a ukulele, flute, sounds of rain dropping, a glass bottle being filled and what sounds like the flicking of a cigarette lighter. So yeah, there are lots of things going on in this one. Overall, Stein’s Love has several love-centered themes and musically it’s pretty mellow and mild
Nick Crameri aka Hot_Dog is a bedroom DIY artist from Australia who recently released Beneath the Bun. Crameri is joining a movement or aesthetic that in my opinion was spearheaded by Mac DeMarco and exploded. That dreamy, atmospheric, happy, slacker go lucky vibe is easy to replicate and one of the reasons I hear so many artists going that way more than anything else in the past five years.
Some songs sound like a DeMarco B-side and others don’t. The first song “Livin' Without You” certainly does. The song is catchy and easy to appreciate but wasn’t a standout for me. Up next is “Some Problems” which fared a little better in my opinion but the song which got my attention was “The Girl You Used to Go With”. There is a post-punk/shoegaze vibe on this track and really appreciated the vocal melody.
“Stay Cold” revolves around a slower, jazzy and dreamy vibe which goes back into Mac DeMarco territory while “It Can't Work” was another highlight in my opinion.
The recording/production quality contains the typical issues I see again and again with DIY bedroom recording. There are inconsistencies in quality. The contrast “It Can't Work” from “Livin' Without You” is significant. Crameri puts too much reverb on more or less everything which often makes the recording muddy and that is no exception here. One thing to do in this type of situation is EQ the low mids around 200 - 400 hz of the reverb itself on multiple instruments. I had a hard time understanding the lyrics. A boost somewhere between 1 khz and 5 khz would have helped. Additionally, I always suggest handing off your mixes to professional mastering engineer to help with all of the issues I just mentioned.
Crameri has some talent as a songwriter but needs to aware of how ubiquitous this type of sound is being replicated by young bedroom artists all over the globe. I would encourage him to think about how else he can differentiate himself and standout from the crowd. I wish him luck and hope to hear more soon.
There is much to be seen as music being a tangible plane on which one can off-shoot other such tangible things from it such as records, t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc. Musicians are often oversaturated by publicity, trumped up high fashion photos of big smiles and often against backdrops which have been fussed and mussed into perfection and then crisply rendered by the illusion of photoshop.
To many people, both musicians and fans alike, this is what music is. This is what we are really aspiring to these day. How many people can you get to “like” by the tap of a button your post or photo. It gets to be so much so that a tap can often be now just out of pity or habit. The world in some sense has lost its way.
But I was reassured that not everyone is so eager to find the spotlight via their music. This reassurance came by the way of London singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sam Beard who performs under the moniker endlessjackal. For Beard has stated, “As someone deeply passionate about music, I’m hoping to contribute something back into the ether that has so often saved me.” I found this to be a very astute phrase coming from such a young artist. He wants to give back to the power of creation that has saved him so many times.
This saving comes by the way of his three-song EP Hail and Hollow which I found to be a remarkable mixture of ambience and hard rock that comes together with the qualities of an indie-rock like symphony. The opening track “Anything in Doubt” is equal parts big beat electronics and straight up rock n’ roll. It sounds like a lovely ode to new wave British rockers from the ‘80s and well into the ‘90s. Then comes the very ethereal rock of “Pilot” which rises and falls like a newly fallen leaf born on a gust of wind that refuses to hit the ground and remain there just yet. The crowning jewel to the EP is the five-and-a-half-minute epic “Hail and Hollow” which ebbs and flows in illustrious variants of rock. It alone is worth the price of admission.
Hearing things like Hail and Hollow reminds me that there is still another world out there where musicians pour every last ounce of their being into their art. The EP, though small, is a pean to the power of music and its ability to heal.
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.
Become A Fan
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
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