There are home studios (a hundred dollar audio interface and a laptop) and there's a home studio. I got a good paying job after college and deciding to invest in gear. I became addicted. I bought analog compressors like an 1176, an expensive EQ called an Lil FrEQ, a summing bus and full rack of other gear. These reason I bring this up is because Mat Creedon has a comparable setup that is a legit home studio he used on his recently released self-titled album Mat Creedon. I fell in love with his list of gear
Creedon is a full on renaissance man when to comes music. His latest album is actually his third overall and he also teaches and produces. All these statements feel obvious after spending some time with the album. Creedon plays all the instruments and writes all the songs. The results are fantastic.
The songs are fun, very catchy and emotionally resonant. He says, “I think it sits somewhere between Beck and The Flaming Lips.” I love both those bands but I would actually give Creedon a little more credit. There is a retro, indie pop type style but it didn’t feel like any specific band was jumping out at me while listening to his songs.
The album gets going with a good amount of energy on “Every Bodies Gonna Fry.” The hooks are undeniable. I loved the vocals but those hand claps come in at a close second. I can’t forget the feedback from the guitar which was a great way to build crescendos.
Up next is “Dawn” which is a little more serene and ethereal. That being said the hooks are still so solid and apparent in the song. Creedon continued to impress and even got better with “Keeps Me Hypnotised.” In fact “Keeps Me Hypnotised” could be the highlight on the album. There are little production tricks here and there that are pure ear candy that add to the song even though it would sound great with just guitar and vocals. As the album progresses there were a number of standouts such as “Drive On By,” “27 Years,” “Out To Sea” and the closer “Orbita.”
This is an exceptional album that had it all for me. Great production, songwriting and delivery. Highly recommended.
If you can imagine a style of music where Elvis Costello meets Jesus Christ Superstar (the musical play, not the real man of course), coupled with early Genesis and other art/prog rock influences and mixed with contemporary classical music, then you’ll have something called Head Above Tide. Jason Vitelli creates a style and finesse all his own. Indeed, his latest 16-song venture features dramatic and highly interesting arrangements and well executed songwriting that I thought was intriguing. With the help of seven other recording artists, Vitelli has put together songs that center on “facing diversity and overcoming obstacles” and teach the listener about “the human condition through song.”
The album starts with a piano intro on “Hit and Run” straight out it seems, from Jesus Christ, Superstar. This one has a very entertaining arrangement to be sure, but I wondered if it was about an actual hit and run accident or simply metaphoric. “Fault Lines” is the first of many songs featuring fantastic backing vocals with a little soul and strings added. This one sounded to me like old Genesis when Peter Gabriel fronted the band.
“The Persecuted” is a rock/jazz fusion number, which lyrically, could be about any culture or group that gets treated unfairly. The next song “(descension)” is an instrumental that has a spookiness to it that I liked a lot. “Labyrinthine” tells a story, a dramatic fantasy of some kind, and musically it’s very theatrical. One of my favorites is the next song, “Living Proof” – the strings are gorgeous as is the piano, the bell chimes. Lyrically, it seems to come from a children’s storybook. “D-Day” sounds like a folksy-hippie melody from the musical Hair and Vitelli adds the album’s title at the end. Some eye opening lines to this number may make you stop and think – “Rat droppings now cover the floor of which we can’t scotch-guard / As we’ve ingested our own poison.”
“Welcome to My Life, Healing” is a cool, soulful reggae tune with keyboards, beautiful backing vocals and some scatting vocals. Another all instrumental is “(ascension)” and this one was just Vitelli on piano and it is short but very nice. The lyrics on “Trees” suggest a soul-searching story of redemption, hope and inspiration. A dramatic ending with guitar solo can be heard on this one. From what I could tell about “Pinwheel” lyrically, it could be about a car as a metaphor for….? well, I don’t know. Musically, this one reminds me of ‘70s piano soul, like something from Carole King.
“Autumn Hype” is an ode to high ideal and values. Acoustic guitar, alto sax and a nice jazzy, mellow feel can be heard here. “Propagate” features great low sounds of strings, lots of layers and arrangements that kept the song moving and tempo changes as well. Lyrically, this tune seems to be asking deeper questions pertaining to mortality and a man’s legacy. “Vacant” is a lounge, jazz number with lots of scatting vocals. Vitelli changes things up well between contemporary jazz and the more traditional jazz styles.
“Three Marionettes” another song featuring fantastic backing vocals, also has a funky drumbeat and a plethora of words. Not sure if this one is about a lion in a testing lab, or in a zoo putting on show – or is this another song with metaphor – your call. Lastly, Vitelli sings about a captain about to overthrown on “A Mutiny” or at least that’s what I got from this one. Humorous in a dark way, “and the seasick sailors / lock step into a psychopathic tango” the song ends this uniquely entertaining album.
Vitelli’s lyrics do get quite deep at times and some song’s messages seemed a little baffling to me. But, don’t let that stop you from listening to this remarkably talented, multi-instrumentalist who steps outside the boundaries of standard genre.
Marc LaFrance (vocals), Brice Tabish (guitars), Rob Becker (bass) and Kelly Stodola (drums) are Thunderbird. When I heard the name Thunderbird I couldn’t believe the name wasn’t taken back in the ’70s by a classic rock band. It really sounds like a band name. The band which formed in 2003 does have an unmistakable ’70s sound and even an early ’80s sound on their self-titled album Thunderbird. I’d say the band plays undeniable classic and hard rock. Suffice it to say if you enjoy bands with a little old school attitude like AC/DC, Alice Copper, Thin Lizzy, etc. you will love this.
Their music really just nails the sound in every area from recording aesthetics to vocal delivery. On top of that the songs are well written with infectious melodies and technical talent.
I was actually a little thrown by the first fifteen seconds or so of “Liar (Fool's Gold)” which contains angelic vocal harmonies. The full band comes out of nowhere to disrupt the beauty with a crunchy riff that is much more indicative of their sound. They also have no problem displaying their dynamic range on this song. Great opener.
“Little Jenny” is pure rock that mixes the ’70s sound with Van Halen while “Star” contains a notable guitar solo and an anthemic chorus. The band can display different angles as they demonstrate on “Rain” where they have implemented acoustic guitars on the verse.
“Into The Sun” felt more ’80s than ’70s to me but a little more prog rock as well. The tempo is a little faster and they display their technical ability on this song and don’t miss a beat. The band is just getting started but I do want to point out some of the minor deviations on the album such as the more reflective and melancholy “Man of Clay” and the theatrical closer “Vampire.”
The band is unquestionably talented and you can tell a lot of work was put into this album. I think a lot of fans of classic/hard rock will be happy they discovered this.
The band Skeptical Spectacle released their album Between You and Me in March. The duo is comprised of college buddies Ron Reynolds (vocals/guitar/synth/bass) and Sean McCarthy (bass/drums/guitar/synth). The two are friends whose desire to create music led them to an intimate studio setting the Music Engineering Lab at their college, University of Pittsburg. The album was recorded during their spring semester, 2017. They completed the nine-song LP while also juggling heavy workloads and other projects.
Their sound reminds me of the ethereal band Rhye mixed with the indie pop duo Whitney. The dreamy pop and the mashup of sounds on the first track roped me in. it starts in an ethereal wave then there is a pop of a drum and the track changes direction letting go of the vocals and allowing the percussion to be the protagonist. The style of musical combination works on these tracks.
“Wrong” starts strong with acoustic guitar mixed with percussion. The song is about the loss of feelings in a relationshi. ”Thought you were a face I could trust / Let's be real / there's nothing left for us.” The duo Intertwines the steady guitar with ethereal electronica. Russel injects his rolling vocals into the track at a perfect time. The accession of sound wafts upward. There is definitely a skyward ambience quality to this track. I particularly appreciated the way his voice stays steady but feels like he is going to waver into tears. “This post truth world I can’t wrap my mind round. “Wrong” delivers smoothly in wake of a loss and ultimately letting go.
“The View” shows off Russel’s youthful, wobbly vocals. He almost has a Ben Folds quality to his vocal delivery. Skeptical Spectacles displays a steady dose of romantic yearning and confusion. “Just a Dream” starts with a downtempo groove but the guitar and percussion are added quickly playing easily in tandem with each other. Russel’s voice is a bit more delicate in delivery on this song. "Did you and I mean anything / You and I are just a dream.” The familiar theme threading though Between You and Me continues to be the questioning that goes on in one’s mind while in a relationship or looking to get out of one. This track has an easy vibe but then around the four-minute mark turns into a wild rebel rouser with the volume going up to portray what I think sounds like the rise of frustrating confusion of asking questions and not getting the answers you want.
The airy guitar playing on “Growing Pains” drives this coming of age song. It is fitting considering the duo was on the cusp of graduating and moving into the real world. A sweet song about millennial angst. “Not everything in my life is just up to me.” “I am a mess / A mess when things change.” He wants to know everything is going to be ok and while some of the lyrics might seem sappy they will resonate with young people of his generation. The guitar pace picks up, adding the synth and it ends more upbeat than it started. “Slow down / I am learning to enjoy a moment” felt ripe with a tinge of optimism.
Skeptical Spectacel’s LP had an accomplished feel for only being recorded in a simple studio environment.
Get ready to enjoy music by the southern rock band Five Ton Faces. Five Ton Faces released their first self-titled EP Five Ton Faces.in March 2018 out of Franklin, Tennessee. The band mixes in a diverse array of energy and approaches. Some songs have a hint of rockabilly, others mix in country and that's just the beginning.
Five Ton Faces was created in the summer of 2016 by George Hamilton VI (vocals) and Jonah Raymond (guitar) as a folk duo. Adam Story (keyboard) joined a few months later and that's when things truly begin to form.
Everything seemed to come together perfectly in the summer of 2016. With their future members in the crowd the current members were unaware they would be a full band by the end of the night. Alex Brassfield (bass) and Bailey McClendon (drums) asked to join after the show.
Hamilton has had his hand in writing most of the songs with each member bringing their own unique sound to the table. Five Ton Faces was recorded at The ‘Cuda with help of Johnny Hopson (producer). Five Ton Faces was mastered at BBD by Donnie Bott (mastering tech). Throwing in his artistic abilities Michael Webb (mixing engineer) brought it all together.
Recently having mild success in the Nashville scene across town. Also, playing at a charity event “Tiny Fest” which raised over $300 for Puerto Rico relief. Five Ton Faces is a 14-track album which is a mix of all types of genres. Heartache was apparent and some songs like “Don’t Feel Anything” and “Drinking of You” hit right to the heart and easily communicating the tatters of a lost love.
The album starts with the somewhat hilarious "Taking Me Home Tonight". The song is about booze and is sung in a half drunken way which works wonderfully with the song. "Flew The Coop" is fun, energetic song about being broke while "Stoned and Alone" is borderline perfect for sing-alongs.
"Adventurous Escapades" is worthy of hoe down with your sweetheart. The fast tempo and melodies are great. They are just getting started and continue impress. The flow of the album is seamless and was mix of more sing-alongs, songs to dance to and also celebrate to.
Five Ton Faces is a band with a unique essence and heart-felt vocals that are taking the Nashville scene head on. Both these aspects are easily recognizable and leaves the band in a very advantageous situation.
They & Them is a septet hailing from Philadelphia. They just released their EP @35 which was five years in the making. They describe their musical style as "folk pop love.” The band exudes a family style atmosphere as they always eat a meal before practice. The band consists of Dave DeHart (songwriter/vocals), Susan Krisch, Mike Robbins, Mike Romano (“dulcimer Mike”), Katie Pflaumer and Sheila McNally.
@35 was crafted by Dave DeHart over the course of five years. Self-described as a "difficult process” he says these songs ultimately lead him to a personal recovery so he could move on. DeHart’s goal was simply to finish the album without having a pointed idea about a specific sound.
@35 is a five-song EP crafted by DeHart. It begins with an audible sigh and ends with a hearty I will be all right anthem. DeHart's smooth vocals remind me of a melancholy Jack Johnson and to good effect. The sheer honesty will resonate with people riding out their life without knowing if they made the right choices be it job or mate. He explained he began writing @35 in part due to watching a friend settle down and ultimately be miserable.
"Not the Same" begins with a dark guitar intro that eventually gives way to some heavy bass sound which gives it a bit of a Pixies feel again to good measure. These are well crafted relatable well-orchestrated songs that spark of sadness but promise of moving forward.
The snap and pop coupled with the hand clapping of "Looner Love" proves to be an infectious tune. This song mirrors the bright sorbet colored cover of an eye painted with broad brush strokes. "Looner Love" is a track that will stick in your head.
I heard a Conor Oberst vibe in "Saddened Eyes.” The harmonizing in this song is sweet as is the jangly surf rock guitar that plays a supporting character. "Id rather be a planet then fall in love / Because then all I would have to do is spin.” I detected a bit of a Beach Boy harmonizing that really drove the lyrics home.
I especially enjoyed "Cardboard Signs.” It begins with original material with lyrics that tug at your heartstrings. "Sunken eyes behind cardboard signs / Waiting for a chance to shine.” The steady guitar beat combines with the piano to form a contagious rhythmic movement. The original material then gives way to a hidden track. DeHart delivers on a rocking cover of Quarterflash's "Harden My Heart” which seems an appropriate ending to the honest dissection of struggles and getting back to good.
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Joel and the Good Old Boys hail from Marquette, Michigan where they recorded their six-song EP Speak! in a couple of living rooms and the basement of a Cigar Lounge in their hometown. They didn't record any of their songs in a studio which is impressive as the songs on Speak have a high quality vibe they attribute to a friend the final mastering and mainly all of the mixing. They refer to their style of recording as “homebrewed." I appreciate the DIY approach to recording and it taps into a band's creative out of the box thinking.
The band is named after a one eyed pup named "Joel" and they refer to their style as dog rock which showcases the band's lighthearted take on their music. Speak! is a rich blend of indie wave, blues rock and everything in between. On their Facebook page the band describes the EP as a "collection of bops and dots” which shows they are obviously having fun making their music. I felt the EP had the air of a ‘90s Power Pop band but with more emphasis on trippy guitar riffs and solos, and strong melodies. The band is comprised of Joel (good boy), Brady Skewis (vocals/guitar), Cory Russell (vocals/guitar),Ty Hutch (drums) and Dylan Heltslag (bass).
The EP is comprised of four recorded songs and two live versions. "Swoon" rolls with contagious lyrics. Skewis sings "Swooning. You got me swooning / You got me moving.” I especially enjoyed the lyric "Got you into my space / Even though we never met.” This is definitely a song to play loudly while cruising down a back road with the windows down. The Good Old Boys have a knack for writing songs about crushes and impending breakup songs with a breezy flair.
"I Can't Help It" rushes into its start with crashing drums and fluid guitar playing reminiscent of a Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever opening. Upbeat and infectious, these melodies make you want to dance. The percussion keeps a strong beat while the vocalist croons. Russel ends with a growl "I can't help it!.”
"Spaghet About It” begins with a Chris Botti like trumpet solo paired with a strumming electric guitar. The track is a toned down instrumental centered on trumpet sounds initially. The track morphs into “Rigatoni,” a tune with a groovy sounding electronica vibe. It invokes that feeling of when you are in a contemplative mood and are searching for something to get you out of it. Midway through some trippy guitar sounds and percussion rush in along with the vocals. Skewis and Russell merge voices on this track. They sing about a desire to eat spaghetti but then change course thinking they might want rigatoni. The guitar takes over now as he sings "You say I am not ready for any talk about commitment / Hey babe could you get me some spaghetti?” The lyrics “Give me one more chance to show you / Why you and I are never going to make it" effectively details a "doomed from the start" relationship. The musical style of this band gives a heartbreaker experience comedic relief.
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Dylan Lalonde lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. A multi-instrumentalist with an interest in different genres and playing styles, Lalonde released Time-worn in March of 2018. A warm and laid-back album with saxophones, guitars and organs blending to create a tasty set of tunes from cover to cover, Time-worn will appeal to anyone looking for something different than what can be heard on the radio.
The music is insightful and innovative without being arrogant. Lalonde knows where to stop pushing the limits to allow the listener to catch up. Despite the limits being constantly inched higher and higher, Time-worn is not a chase for the listener. It is a journey with no particular destination. The album sets the listener in motion to observe the aural scenery that creates the journey.
Time-worn follows the style of other rock-fusion groups that are not too common, but far from being rare. What is rare is the skill and talent that is exhibited though the running time of Time-worn. “Breaking Eggs” is a song that really stood out to me. I can’t place a particular reason though. It could be the simple chords that the guitar casually strums and stays almost robotically on time with. It could be the building of the layers of guitars, leads and organs. It might even be the way it starts to swing hard toward the end. Whatever the reason, I can’t get enough of the track.
There are other sections on the album that provide the same sense of confused delight. They’re wonderful when they show themselves to you. The way that a particular hook can be hidden in the listening and then suddenly stand out during a later listen is why I have come to enjoy Time-worn since I’ve started listening to it.
This sounds like a tasteful update to the sound of George Benson, Herbie Hancock or Wes Montgomery. Each instrument is given the spotlight through the album. Maybe your favorite smooth instrument is the guitar, it could be the saxophone, or even an electric piano. It’s all there, and it’s a great ride to go along for. There is room in the sonic landscape that Lalonde creates for anything to be possible. The wrong notes are played at the best times. There are moments of wondrous dissonance, as well as tight harmonies and some sections where there’s nothing particularly special aside from all of the instruments being in the pocket at all times. Time-worn is layered, but not deceiving. It doesn’t require much dissection to fully enjoy all that it has to offer. Sit down and buckle up if you find yourself faced with this album. It’s going to be a great ride.
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Tobias Noto (vocals/guitar), Owen Baker (drums) and Mat Peachey (bass) are Camcorder. The band released an EP entitled Manifest Misery in 2015 and just released Suck! which is their debut full length. The band states, “Camcorder's only aim is to write and deliver hard-hitting catchy songs that are worthy of its influences, including Weezer, Dinosaur Jr, Jawbreaker, Archers of Loaf and many more.”
That makes sense when listening to the album but I think that the band falls in line with Weezer for multiple reasons. Suffice it to say I enjoyed Weezer especially during their glory days of The Blue Album and Pinkerton. If you enjoyed those albums as much as I did then you won’t want to pass this up.
The album sounds great from head to toe. They went to a professional studio and were able to capture that alternative ’90s rock sound that I for one still love. There is plenty to appreciate in terms of dynamics, use of distortion and stereo separation. The songwriting is solid throughout with plenty of rocking grooves and catchy vocal melodies.
They get going out the gates with “Crave.” The hooks and energy are all evident within the first minute. I love bands that do away with unnecessary preamble. “The Evil Exceptional” is first of all a great name for a song but also a ridiculously catchy chorus and an instrumental verse.
The band has more success with “Mexico” and “Animals.” I can’t say there were any surprises good or bad at this point but the songwriting was evident. “Space” has a little more of a '90s punk vibe that veers towards a band like NOFX while “Summer!” is under two minutes and could also be the catchiest song in the batch. The band closes out strong with “The Raft” and “Grey Days.”
Suck! Is a cohesive album that was a seamless listen. I never felt like it dragged and I always appreciate a package like that. Fans of the aforementioned bands should enjoy this. Recommended.
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Zoey is a nineteen-year-old up and coming artist who recently released a self-titled album Zoey. The songs I heard showcase a talented vocalist with a lot of potential. Zoey plays into a ubiquitous singer/songwriter type of vibe not unlike artists such as Julie Bryne, She & Him and to a lesser extent Amy Winehouse because of the smidge of sass she coats her vocals in.
The album starts off with “What Is It, Gotta Be True” which is a highlight. It’s a smooth, yet melancholy heartbreak song with soft acoustic strings, drums and bass. The song is repeat worthy with an infectious chorus. I hope to hear more in this style in the future.
“Bein’ Selfish” has two versions - a version with a rhythm section and a version without it. I preferred the former mainly because I felt that Amy Winehouse type of inflection felt magnified instead of the melancholy.
“Laying Next To Me” is the softest and arguably most melancholy song on the album. It works in that intimate, singer/songwriter by the fireplace type of way. “Play It Cool” and “You’ll Never Be Mine” have a similar vibe with only a single guitar to support her vocals. Up next is “Happy Song” which is solid song but also a little more lo-fi sounding.
The songs I heard felt like a solid introduction to Zoey. Her voice is front and center while the themes and concepts are relatable and easy to understand. On that note I will admit I wanted a couple more songs with a full band like I heard on “What Is It, Gotta Be True” and “Bein’ Selfish.”
There is no doubt Zoey has some serious talent and is ahead of the game. She has impressive vocal talent and at the very least that was one thing this album showed us. I was impressed by what I heard and I hope to hear more of her work in the near future. Recommended.
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