Nathan Butler is one talented dude. He not only is the songwriter for the band Shiny Shiny Black but also plays lead guitar, drums and he sings. It doesn't stop there he also engineered, mixed and produced their recent release entitled Travelers. I know what you're thinking “A lot of records are DIY efforts these days.” True, but only a very, very low percentage sounds like they were recorded by a handful of skillful engineers. The first thing I thought to myself while cranking some of the tunes was that Travelers is a great example of how a rock record should sound. The guitar has a meaty mid-range without any harsh frequencies. The kick drum and bass create a round, defined low end and the vocals cut through the mix.
At its core Travelers is an eclectic twelve-song album that delivered in an easy digestible pop format. The songs on this album stick to tried and true formulas that almost always sound good. Butler doesn't go down an experimental path here but rather delivers songs that manifest with an immediate visceral reaction.
The album open up with a very catchy rock song called “Look Me In The Eyes.” Butler combines distorted guitars, drums and bass to create a warm canvas for him to sing over. There really isn't too much to say about this song other than it is a well written rock song.
“Six Shooter” is a gritty song with plenty of breakdowns and build ups to create one of the most dynamic songs on the album. Butler switches thing up on “Heaven Only Knows.” He turns off the distortion pedal and creates an emotional resonant song that contains one of his most inspired vocal performances. HIs voice sounded good against the warm organ and banjo. Another welcome deviation is “Lady of the Harbor,” which weaves in a Celtic twist. In introduces more strings as well as exceptional snare work.
“Like A Star” is the most melancholy song on the album that slowly sprawls out of your speakers while “Love Like That” is an upbeat, dance-worthy number.
The album closes with “The Prisoner,” which is arguably the highlight of the album. It is certainly a heartfelt song that progressively builds with intensity. Don’t miss this one.
Travelers is a fluid and enjoyable album that will appeal to a wide audience. Highly recommended.
Drew McClellan, Jared Elrod and Adam Snook are on to something with their band Gravity Tapes. They have a unique style that blends rock and free jazz on their recent EP entitled The Blue Suede. When you listen to the songs on this EP it instills a sense of relaxation as if you ingested a Xanax followed by a shot of cognac. The guitars are clean, the drums are airy and the bass is smooth. On top of the music McClellan scats/sings/raps in a style that ultimately reflects the tranquil, sedative quality of the music. Now don't get confused. Just because this music is chill and relaxing doesn’t mean it’s boring. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The music is great for putting on at a small get- together or listening to with a pair of headphones.
The EP starts with “Because of Me,” which revolves around strategically placed percussion and a killer bass line that supports arguably the best vocal performance on the EP. The music is spacious and a blast to listen to but McClellan really carries this song. He delivers the lines “everything's got a weight gotta pull in the hay load... same old same old... caught a word from a bird just the other day... maybe i don’t know what the future holds in store for us, but fuck, who does?” with a hip, I don’t have a care in the world swagger.
The second song “Jesus and the Uppers” strays from the palette of the first song and sounds like a band in a room playing together. It’s well written with an unconventional chord structure and a great but subtle bass line. Speaking of awesome bass it continues on “Pulse.” Elrod pulls out a jazz walking bass line as Snook starts to flex his muscles as well. “Sandy” contains a number of intricate, technically creative guitar parts while McClellan lays down his scat-style singing.
They close with the biggest deviation called “Sweeter Than Sugar,” which has an upbeat Russian circus via Tom Waits vibe that is the closest they come to a dance song.
There are a lot of good things happening on this EP. It seems to me that Gravity Tapes has a solid, original sound that they should continue to explore.
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The Indoor Kids is a five-piece psychedelic/indie band from Salem, MA consisting of Adam Cool (bass/vocals), Tyler Zucco-Bernard (lead guitar/vocals), Alex Deroo (drums), Anthony Bonarrigo (rhythm guitar/backing vocals) and Eric Parker (keys/synths). They recently released an EP entitled The Color, which revolves around colorful, upbeat pop songs not unlike that of The Polyphonic Spree or Passion Pit. The music on this EP is best served loud. Whether you play it in the morning to give you an extra dose of energy to get your day going or at a house party to dance the music.
The band bursts out of the gate with the highlight of the album called “Friends.” It starts off with the low hum of an organ and a lead synth that quickly becomes layered with bass, drums and more synths. Before you know it the song disregards what it knew and goes into an energetic guitar-driven verse. I thought the vocal performance was executed with near perfect delivery. The vocalist sounds exuberant as if he can't hide his enthusiasm and is letting it all out.
“Mapping” sounds more akin to a rock song and I'm not sure if it Cool or Zucco singing but it gives the song a very different feel. The vocalist is coated in more melancholy than the singer on the first song. Overall, the song is solid but the knee-slapping getting ever so fast breakdown that they pull out at about two-and-a-half minutes in is the cherry on top.
“I Know You Miss Me (and I Agree)” rides a huge wave of white noise produced with guitar and synths while “FrEaKoUt!” contains a mini drum solo. I haven't heard one of those in awhile. They end with “Prismatic Isolation,” which closes the album with as much energy as it starts with. The same vocalist who started it all on the first track sings on this song and left me with more energy than when I first started listening to it.
Overall, you boil this music down and you are left with well-written songs that are a blast to listen to.
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A collected yet overwhelming mix of emotions is what I feel after listening to Austin-based band SkyAcre’s first full length album Sacred Ground. If ever you’re looking for contrast between high energy scream-singing and amphitheatre-filling indie guitar solos, SkyAcre’s mash up of the two should be your go-to.
Sacred Ground starts off strong with “Jeff Davis County Highway”, which is available for free download on their website, and sets the listener up with a great attitude from the jump-worthy drums supplied by Daniel Jones and head thrashing guitar riffs via Marcos Delgado. And you can’t pass up that introductory bass line from Daniel Dietrick.
Normally “scream-o” doesn’t do it for me. I find it irrelevant and pointless, but here, mixed with the talented combination of Nirvana worthy bass lines and classic hard rock guitars, I’m actually sold. The second track, “Steps On Sacred Ground” slows it down a little with moaning lyrics from Delgado and a moody melody. But of course, the scream-singing isn’t amiss here; it’s sort of their staple as “scream-o indie rockers”.
My personal favorites are “Puppet Emperors” and “Stars Are Crashing”, the last two on the album. “Puppet Emperors” is slow and chill and a good contrast to the first two tracks. The bass definitely tickles my fancy as it grooves along with room-filling guitars. “Puppet Emperors” is a simple track and a nice little break from the first three songs on “Sacred Ground”.
Every album throughout time as it seems, has their upbeat tracks and their slower ones. SkyAcre took a slightly different route and made their slower tracks almost as equally upbeat as their others. It’s refreshing and it completely works.
There are only five tracks on “Sacred Ground” but they make a huge impact. With only half as many songs as the average album, you might want to feel as though you need more. But here, you are contently full. You’re not painfully overwhelmed but you’re not still hungry for more. Like Goldilocks, you’re just right.
When you listen to Leah Pape’s recent album Not What I Meant you can't but help see images of her playing these songs at a coffee shop or an open mic. It fits nice and snug into the melancholy singer/songwriter genre, as the eight songs here are simply her voice and her guitar with no noticeable overdubs. Suffice it to say the lyrics and her voice is the most important component of the music.
Let’s get it out of the way that Pape is talented. She has a dynamic voice and I found it to be warm, versatile and not overly cute. On top of that I found her lyrics to be well written and often engaging. With that being said I’d be lying if getting through eight melancholy songs of just her and her guitar was a bit rough. A harmonica, additional strings, organ, anything on a couple of the songs would have helped to create a bit of variation amongst the sounds.
My only other issue with album was the production; In particular the dynamics. A compressor on her voice would have helped but the bigger issue was the difference in volume from track to track (something that proper mastering would have resolved). I found myself having to constantly adjust the volume knob, which takes away from the fluidity of the album.
Amongst the batch of songs there a couple of highlights that come to mind. “Passing Craze,” “The Spin” and “The Long Drive” are all notable songs.
To be honest there isn't much more that needs to be said about this release. It’s a girl with a guitar with a lot of heart playing music. There are a number of improvements to be made but she is off to a solid start.
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Last year Love Jupiter released their self-titled album Love Jupiter, which relied on distorted guitars, crashing drums and cathartic singing to bring you a heavy rock album that paid homage to some of the dinosaurs of rock from the past and present. The band is building upon that momentum and recently released 1967, which is a continuation of the narrative of Love Jupiter’s debut album. According to the band “it’s the story of one man - The Man in Flames - a ghost tied to this earth as he traverses time and space on a mission to reunite with his beloved.”
After listening to 1967 I’d have to say that it’s an extremely dynamic release. Throughout the twenty minutes of music the band goes from parts that rely on softly sung passages with even softer guitars to soaring heights of the band working in unison to bring you to climaxes that cease to end.
Perhaps the best example of this is the first song “Andrea Doria,” which starts with a sole clean guitar progression before the band explodes with power. Without much warning the band quickly simmers down until they emerge once again but this time even more triumphant. The band starts to ride a hypnotic wave of distortion and vocal harmonies before coming to a close.
“I Can’t Touch” is another dynamic song, which does not adhere to a simple verse-chorus-verse structure. The band weaves in and out of parts strategically restraining certain instruments. This song displays the band’s inventive nature and willingness to experiment. “Castle” rides a more consistent wave but the band employs what sounds like a backward type effect that really works with the song while “Boom 1967” is more like an experimental sound piece than a song. They close with the most straightforward song on the album called “Love A Man.” It’s a solid rock song and I was glad they ended with a memorable impression.
Love Jupiter isn't your standard rock band. They are mixing things up on 1967, which makes for a fun yet unpredictable listen.
I would say that The Quincey’s self assessment as a psychedelic folk band, with some rock influences, is a rather spot on description. I was bathed in the tunes of a rather well put together EP when I listened to their five track self-titled album. “Sunny Days” feels very folksy to me with the dual male and female vocals, a clapping percussion sound in the background, and the addition of a tambourine. There’s a nice little dose of rock in there too, though appears more as an afterthought than a main focal point.
“Look up to the Sky” reminds me of something I would hear on the Brady Bunch. This does have a bit of an ethereal quality, sounding like something residing just outside the grasp of our atmosphere but still very close to home. It’s also rather catchy.
Now “Rainbows” has a lot more of the psychedelic flavor I was looking for, with more ambient liberties. It’s also a bit deeper, which of course caught my ear. The album keeps up this pace with the more heavily rock flavored “Late City Night”, which also featured a really smooth solo.
“Til the End” has a classic melody balanced with electronic vocals and some whammy to make an altogether interesting song. I thought this was a pretty solid end to EP, as it seemed to be the most accurate representation of everything this band is influenced by and stands for. I think this is a great carefree type album, for someone who likes to sway lightly with the music and just enjoy it.
The songs do seem to get a bit heavier in tone as the album progresses; I’m a bigger fan of the last three than of the first two, as they were more immersive and attention grabbing, but I can easily see someone enjoying this entire EP. It feels like a summery album that would play well on a car radio at a campground or by the beach. Definitely give it a listen for some laid back tunes.
I should have known from the first few seconds of “Come Closer,” the first song of Pale Fires’ Louring Skies EP that I was going to be in for a treat. It starts with a pretty epic build up that just lets you know something big is brewing, before it hits with the dirty rock and some pretty nicely contrasting vocals. I love the soul undertones in this, which take me from an eye-closed groove to a face-squinting head-banging melee in mere moments.
The groove continues with “So Soon,” a nice swirling song with a slightly irregular tempo at times. It uses the pace switch technique with a much lighter hand here, though still containing just as much passion. I also like how the melody evolves as the song plays through. “Sky Dance,” which appears at the end of the EP, is a similarly swirling song with the same other worldly sound. It kind of reminds me of an adventure song that would appear in a game like “Spyro the Dragon.” Though I was already fully convinced of the band’s aptitude and flair for melody, “Burn Alone” surprised me with how elegant the initial notes were, leading into a buttery melody poured over grating guitars. It’s clearly slower than the first few songs, but I still hesitate to call it a slow song; the chorus has a nice punch to it.
I think it’s pretty cool that they added intermissions to the EP, which could have really been called segues given their sound and purpose. The first “Intermission” is just so….grungy. It’s the kind of song that makes you scrunch your face and wildly air guitar, and perhaps kick an amp over or something, though it still sounds somewhat restrained due to the fact that only one or two instruments lend sound to it. The second “Intermission (The Egg)” is almost a complete opposite to the first intermission. Feeding off of the beauty of “Burn Alone,” it’s a song drenched in feeling and delicacy. The use of the sounds of nature really brought it together.
My absolute favorite song was “Louring Skies,” the title track. That song has a KILLER melody – I could listen to it nonstop for days and never get tired of it. I especially loved how halfway through some heavier sounds were added to it to give the groove some gravity, particularly with the low-end notes. The vocals serve as the perfect mid-range glue and were just right. I’ll be playing that one on repeat for while.
This entire EP was a good listen, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. It perfectly mixes rock with groove and throws in some offbeat tempos and some grunge and pure adrenaline to make a really exciting, fun album. Definitely, definitely take 20 minutes out of your day and give this a listen; you will not regret it.
If I close my eyes, I can almost envision a young Snir Yamin with a guitar in hand, one leg propped, playing for a square full of enamored ladies clutching at their hearts and slowly swaying from left to right. His Urban Stories EP contains three beautiful, very sweet songs, all carried with his very strong voice.
There are four main elements that appear all throughout the EP that really give the music character: the cello, the guitar, the piano, and last but certainly not least, the vocals. The accompanying instruments are kept in the background but are still rather powerful. “Missed Love” introduces us to the cello, the guitar and the vocals, though the cello is kept as more of an aural accent. I have to admit as much as I enjoyed the song it was a bit jarring to hear him say the word “fuck” amongst the angelic overtones of the song.
“Top of the World” brings really pretty piano tones into the fray, which adds punctuation to the guitar chords. This is only a taste of his piano proficiency, however; “Stay” develops that sound and shows an impressively deep song that seems to come directly from his very soul.
This EP is almost like a fairy tale; it’s almost impossible to hear the stories of love without wanting to be swept into the arms of a suitor and held until the end of time. I am intrigued by the sheer musicianship contained within these songs, and how well each instrument and part worked with each other; now that I’ve heard the love songs, I am very interested in hearing some of his other work and seeing what else he has created. If you are in the mood for some very sweet, lovely tunes, definitely spin this three track EP – and if you’re trying to woo some ladies, it’s really a good idea to throw this on.
Located in Pomona, California Marcus Evans creates ambient, looping, lo-fi music under the moniker illimitable abstract. Last year in 2013 in released Time Will Tell, which is a six-song EP that provides a decent foundation for Evans to build upon. The EP is a mixed bag of material but more often than not it is enjoyable.
Time Will Tell starts with one of the highlights of the EP entitled “Introductions.” Evans creates a melody that reminded me of Ariel Pink if he decided to create atmospheric music. The same melody repeats over the two-and-a- half minutes as it sometimes filtered and injected with a synth that sounds like radio frequencies, “So Old” is another successful song for Evans as he combines bending guitar strings, humming vocal parts and a consistent kick drum. I enjoyed the disparate parts he combined to create an amusing concoction of sounds.
“Glass Splinter” sounds like elevator music you might hear coming out of from an actual elevator speaker. The extremely lo-fi sound works to his advantage this time around. The first time I heard “Pretend” I didn't even realize he was singing. It’s so buried in the mix and his singing style doesn't help much.
“Pretend” revolves around a guitar and a very simple drumbeat that slowly automates using a low pass filter. “Time Will Tell” was the most ethereal song amongst the batch but couldn't get past the kick drum that was way too prominent in the mix. The guitar was good and I wish it filled the space around my speaker more. He ends with one of his strongest songs called “Disdain.” The songs drips with guitar parts that sound as if you were on the last hour of your chemical trip.
Overall, Evans has some good ideas and sometimes successfully implements them. The main thing holding back these songs is the production. (i.e. Windy and Carl who create guitar driven ambient music probably wouldn't sound that good if it was lo-fi). With that being said Evans has created a solid structure to build upon and I am looking forward to see where he goes from here.
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