Thunderbolt & Lightfoot are Sarah Fuerst and Phil Barry. The duo are long time musicians who have a good amount of experience playing in numerous musical outfits. Songs For Mixed Company is their second effort. The music is quite beautiful and minimal. At the center are the vocal harmonies which is at least accompanied by an acoustic guitar. There are other elements on certain songs which give just enough variety.
The production is truly exceptional. Everything is crystal clear and there is so much space in the mix. They open up with “Let’s Be Friends” which keeps it very sparse. Guitar and vocals. That's really all you need when a song is this well written, performed and recorded.
“Miss Me” adds additional guitar, organs and drums. The song is another success from head to toe. I thought the melodies were memorable and it has such a warm, comforting feel to it.
“Can’t Be Trusted” has some dark tones that felt reflective and serious while “Goodbye is not the End” felt like I was walking down a boardwalk on a sunny day without a care in the world. As the album continues the duo crushes it with exceptional songwriting.
They do a great job mixing up the palette of sounds but it's nothing too drastic. It's an important pro move a lot of artists don’t practice. The tones and shades of each song feel similar and connected but vary enough with each song to keep things interesting.
My favorite song may have been the closer “Dearly Beloved” which felt like a traditional song from the Appalachian mountains. Fuerst's vocals are a little more upfront on this track and it works out great. There is a soulful, human quality to the music that is undeniable.
I really don't have any complaints with this album. The album never drags, the melodies are easy to appreciate and the overall attention to detail and quality is top notch. Highly recommended.
Joel Beavin, Matt Yates, and Penny Manousoff are Science Penguin. The recorded a six-song self-titled EP Science Penguin showcasing their sound. Their sound is no frills rock with inventive experimentation. The band sticks to the basics as far as instruments go. I give them points for prog rock style experimentation which is their biggest asset. On that same note their music isn't very emotionally impactful.
Sometimes emotional impact has a great deal to do with the production. I can’t say there were many favors that the production did for the delivery. It’s above demo quality but things like the vocals sitting on top of the mix and lack of low-end were areas that could use improvement.
Manousoff has some inspired moments. She stays in key and is a dynamic singer but there are areas with her style that could use some tweaking. Her lyrics veer towards teenage journal entries with superfluous use of the word fuck. Lyrics like “Pick yourself up off the fucking ground” and “I may never meet someone like you again” and many others were so matter of fact lyrics that it felt like she was having a conversation. I would have liked to hear just a little more ambiguity, metaphors and play on words in general.
As I mentioned previously the music is the strongest aspect at the moment. The drumming on “Cassiopeiae” is manic, sporadic and pretty incredible while there is some sick guitar work on “Iron Valentine.” Overall there is some very inventive music littered throughout the EP.
This music will resonate more with a younger audience. I’ll be honest I’m in my late thirties and I had a hard time relating to anything she was singing about. However, I think people in their late teens and early 20’s will have an easier time connecting.
Overall, the band has some talent but there are a lot of areas for improvement as well. This EP builds a foundation and I look forward to their evolution.
Become A Fan
Ambientnisity hails from Hilo, Hawaii. This started out as a side project from one of the member’s previous band called 82 Penn, which is “in between drummers” at the moment. Realizing that different songs were coming out of some sessions - songs which didn’t suit 82 Penn, Ambientnisity was born with a penchant for psychedelic and ambient music along with some raw and metallic elements.
I Thought I Had More is the latest five-track EP from Ambientnisity. Their band name certainly describes the music; ambient, beautiful, reverberating and echoing electric guitar chords ring out softly and cleanly into the atmosphere. A slowly crashing drum beat and spoken word accompany the peaceful guitar backdrop. Yet, this serenity is deceptive; suddenly, out of nowhere, electrifying guitar and a throbbing beat burst into the mix. Screeching vocals which wobble a little shakily during the sing-shouting moments ring out, but the energy and passion is there.
The occasional flaws are something Ambientnisity can work on over time. It’s better to miss the occasional note and still have that raw energy and passion than to express little emotion at all. Above all else, I really like the psychedelic elements of this track and the way they combine with spoken word and metal elements. These are definitely genres I’ve never heard combined in such a way (if at all) before.
“Can I Ask A Favor” opens with a tender guitar arpeggio. Sweet and soft vocals dominate the first half of the track, and instrumentally everything is very sleek and soothing. The drum beat is tight, precise, but not too overwhelming. It’s restrained enough that it allows the other elements to shine through.
There are moments at which Ambientnisity tease elements of their heavier side and I almost expect a screeching riff or vocals to burst out of nowhere, but they always swoop back into their ambient and psychedelic style each time. There’s something intriguing about the unexpected nature of this music; there’s diversity to it, and you’re never quite sure what’s coming next. Again, there are a few flat moments in terms of the singing, but these are things which can be ironed out with time and practice.
“Limitless Anxiety” is a raw and vulnerable song full of angst and passion that perfectly summarizes this band. Distorted guitar chords open atop a violently crashing drum beat, and distant vocals reverberate and echo behind the noise. The energy and passion in the vocals works well in this track - this is definitely more within the lead vocalist’s range, and it all blends well with the instruments. Nothing seems to clash. There’s certainly something anxious and frantic about the song in a melodic, musical sense, and I appreciated that they physically demonstrated the meaning of the song. Moments of throbbing beats and screaming vocals add to the intensity and pain oozing from every corner of this track. It’s sad, but it doesn’t wallow in sadness. There’s a frantic energy to the song.
This is really a great EP. The only flaw is that there are moments during which the singing isn’t quite as good as it could be, but the singer does prove that he can sing in other moments. It’s all about getting a feel for what works with one’s range. In time, this will come more easily. I look forward to seeing what Ambientnisity do next.
Ottowa-based musician Garrett Warner recently released Summer Songs.
The entire project was recorded over a three-week span during the late summer of 2016. I should also mention that Summer Songs was recorded in Warner’s bedroom with the exception of, “A Short Story (Freedom).” The reason I say this is because Warner’s first release under his own name sounds very studio-esque, as it’s remarkably mixed and mastered to sound like a high-budget product.
Production aside, this album has a lot going on. For one, each of the five songs really bring their own personality to the table.
“529” is a prog rock ballad that takes on a sudden shift halfway through, as the time signature switches from 5/4 to 9/4 - hence the name, “529.” Indeed, the title is clever. The music itself, however, supplies the majority of the impressiveness, as Warner shreds guitar solos throughout the second half of the song, subtly drawing inspiration from classic and math rock.
“Ocean’s Void” is another standout song on the album. It’s the fullest sounding track to me, as Warner invites guitarist Shane Calkins to slay a guest solo. The name is especially appropriate because the fullness of the synths, chimes and drums illustrate the darkest depths of a blue ocean. The song is an underwater exploration, really, made complete with changing tides and scenery.
The emotional peak on the album lies within the fourth song “A Short Story (Freedom).” Warner channels a mood of melancholic solitude on this track, as he gives a plain and simple piano performance that leaves you dozing at the wall wondering where your life is going to go from here. The track most sounds like a sample that a lo-fi hip-hop producer would use to create a lonely, yet hopeful sound.
Warner put on an impressive performance here, literally. He even told us that a lot of this album was improvised when recorded with the exception of the foundation of some songs. From here, I’m wondering if Warner will invite a vocalist to feature on his next project or even if he would dabble in singing. His instrumentals will throw you curveballs at every turn, however some vocals could give his music even more structure and personality.
This album will throw a lot of emotions and genres at you, but you won’t ever feel like it’s too much. In fact, you’ll find that this young and ambitious musician really has a hold on what it means to be just right.
Marriott is a St. Louis band comprised of Eddie Berkheimer (drums/harmonies), Caleb Tochtrop (guitar/vocals) and Colton Ward (guitar/vocals) who released a three-song EP entitled I Hope This Takes Me Somewhere. The band describes their sound just about perfectly “emo college rock.” It’s music made by young people for young people. I promise you that.
The band had their music mixed and mastered by Jacob Ewald from the band Modern Baseball. This peaked my interested as I don’t think Ewald is an actual producer or engineer. Maybe he is but I didn't see evidence of that online. I took a listen to Modern Baseball and then took a listen to Marriott. Suffice it to say if you enjoy Modern Baseball this is more or less an extension of that type of music. To be perfectly honest they sounded almost exactly the same to me after comparing the styles, tones and delivery. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand in my opinion they sound just as good as Modern Baseball. On the other hand they sound like Modern Baseball which already has a huge following.
The band opens with “Drop Dead…” and I was impressed by their technical ability. They don’t have any trouble playing in the pocket and changing up tempo. My point that this is music made by young people for young people is further cemented through the lyrics. Don't ask me why but when I was college myself and many others used to drink Mountain Dew along with other candy which is what Mountain Dew really is. Kind of weird but that drink dropped off the grid for me when I got into my thirties. No one has it in their fridge unless they have a teenager.
He sings, “I got these late nights, when I lock myself in my room staring at a laptop, strung out on coffee and Mountain Dew, but I'm no Sherlock to know I'm not over you, and I know you want me to drop dead.” What did you do? Why does she want you to drop dead? I’m sure it wasn't that horrible -at least I hope not man.
The lyrics get really ambitious and poetic on the next song. He sings, “Metaphorical phrases leave empty spaces in my head, running in circles my hands stained red.” You get an A for originality but I have no idea what that's supposed to mean.
“Again Wallace?” is a clever take on the absolutely normal trials and tribulations of young love that almost everyone goes through. “You mean everything to me, we aren’t talking, my world is shattered forever” is the sentiment. Thank god your hormones and emotions balance out with age.
Marriott seem like a bunch of relatable, normal young men singing about the things they go through. That's what music is all about. They sound great and can build on this momentum. Recommended.
Listening to Rochester, New York, orchestral outfit The Saplings debut eponymous EP The Saplings I was scratching my head trying to think who they reminded me of. I finally got to it that they reminded me, with their glorious four-part harmonies and bouncy compositions that one can’t help but get stuck in, and the tongue-in-cheek lyrical stylings of singers Abe Nouri and Greg Roberts. I was reminded of ‘90s piano rock trio Ben Folds Five.
Take for instance the perfectly composed musical composition “Milo” which is contrasted by the clever silliness in the thematics of its lyrics. The six-plus-minute track is gorgeously rendered musically with a mellow synth at its core and spattered with four-part vocal harmonies a la the Beach Boys and funky and soulful horns resounding like it’s a track off of Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book.
The joke part here is that Milo is a girl kitten. It seems almost to serve as a point that one can make great music but keep the lyrics light and fun, much like Pavement classically proved throughout their illustrious career. I am reminded of Malkmus and Co. on the jaunty “Time Shortage” which this time has a bit more of a pop-rock feel to it but still remains lighthearted but in a way that just makes you want to overdose on how catchy and fun the song is.
The whimsy is sometimes overwhelming however with “Anything” coming off sounding like a track sung wantonly by the Oompa Loompah’s in the reboot of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and over time just becomes a little too silly for its own good.
The Saplings quickly recover, however, offering up the most delicious track on the album, the pop-radio friendly percussive explosion of “All the Way” which recalls the delightful quirkiness of The Long Winters. They return to the zany side of things closing out the record with the children’s television sounding song “R.A.D.”
Despite its being a bit hokey at times one cannot overlook or say enough of how great the musicianship and the overall song structure of the The Saplings EP is. And though the curmudgeon in me peeks its head back into its shell during the sillier moments here it does still agree that a mellowing out of the comedy is the only real remedy The Saplings need to stay on their unobstructed collision course with a wider audience.
Kurt C.L. (vocals), Tom Rehnberg (guitar/vocals), Rob Busler (bass/keys/vocals) and Cory Dorman (drums) are Static Momentum. The lead singer must be British were my first thoughts when listening to their self-titled album Static Momentum. I then noticed they were from Florida so maybe he was born in England. I have no idea but I do know that at lower octaves he sounds like Ian Curtis and at higher octaves more like Morrissey.
You can clearly hear the similarities on the opener “Gatling Gun” which was a thoroughly enjoyable song. The song starts Van Halen-esque with an ’80s guitar. In fact the song has a bit of an ’80s metal vibe in general with airy synths and guitar tones.
The lyrics are ambiguous. Not as ambiguous as an artist like Bon Iver but enough so that I have no idea what he was singing about. He sings, “A red moon punctuates the black / I've gone too far for turning back / All I can do is find a way back to familiar doors / Two roads diverged in yellow wood.”
The band has more success with “The Ledge” which is another catchy success and yeah I still think there was a tinge of ’80s rock in the music. The song rocks out in good form. “Blue, Grey & Yellow” has a garage rock feel and is also quite dynamic. They do a great job implementing subtle effects like delay on the vocals which make the song consistently interesting to listen to.
“Here in the City” was a highlight. It was head and shoulders better than other songs. I think I just really enjoyed the chorus on this track. At the very least it felt the most single worthy to me and was a song that had more radio potential. The band closes with “The Summer Electric” which is a solid closer with a impressive guitar solo and catchy chorus.
Overall, Static Momentum isn't bringing much new to the table but the songs are well written and the delivery is tight all around. Recommended.
Become A Fan
Consisting of Paul Fielder on guitar and vocals, Andre Andrews on bass and Lewis House on drums, Cyanide Sundae is a hard rock band from the south coast of England. They have begun touring to promote their debut EP Nothing to Lose, released in May of 2017. Featuring four fast-paced fiery tracks, the sound is fierce and aggressive with raspy intense vocals mixed with rock guitar and drums.
The album starts off with “What Can I Do” which immediately hits you full force with intense drums and full-bodied hard rock sound. Fielder’s vocals are raspy and raw and he ends certain notes in a way that reminded me slightly of James Hetfield. The lyrics were repetitive and angry with the vocals becoming more and more intense throughout.
In the second track “The Rebound” the band seems to have more of a standout sound that separates them from most of the heavy, scream rock I’ve heard recently. With an interesting vocal arrangement and cool distortions, this song came off as original and unique. The eerie dark aura and intense emphasis on certain words in the chorus were striking and made it my favorite song on the album. I think tapping into this particular quality and expanding on it more may be key to establishing their sound.
“Spinning Wheel” came off as a little all over the place to me. The vocals seemed scattered and rushed almost at times. I still ultimately enjoyed the song but felt it was lacking compared to the previous track. The instruments were crazy intense on this one, so much so that it had almost an anxious quality to the feel of it. If the vocals were more organized I think it could have been a real hard hitting song.
The final song was “Rage” and it definitely had more of a melodic quality to it than the previous track. This song had more of the originality that I heard in “The Rebound” and it felt more dimensional and complete. The interesting vocal arrangements are a signature feature that would be cool to focus on.
Nothing to Lose had some pretty impressive potential. Although two of the songs felt scattered and unfinished, the other two completely stood out to me. They were pungent and dynamic and different than anything I’ve heard recently. I think building on that solid foundation could lead to some pretty stellar music and I look forward to future work.
Twin Beds is a band from Pennsylvania that consists of John Clark (lead vocals/guitar), Jack Einhorn (bass/vocals) and Zach Jaworski (drums/vocals). The band released Passivity which is a four-song EP.
The EP is demo quality and very lo-fi. It sounds raw and reminded me of the sound quality I used to get when I recorded my band in college. The snare has no snap, the vocals desperately need to be properly treated and there is very little separation between the instruments. Despite the recording quality the band gives you an idea of their sound with this EP.
The band plays in pop punk on their first song with lyrics that are more related to young relationships. He sings, “but you ruined my birthday but you made it up the next year 'cause you lost your boyfriend and I lost my curfew that month on the fourth of July.” The song revolves around basic chords, a steady bass and drums.
“Forgetting” is a little more fast paced with effective vocal harmonies. It’s a fairly catchy song that is simple and easy to appreciate. Up next is “Plan Ahead” which slows things down and is more emotionally resonant at first. It does speed up relatively quickly. “Letting” was even more lo-fi than everything that came before it.
The band seems like they haven't been around for a long time. The songs feel very influenced and familiar to plenty of other bands in this genre. I think the band does have some technical talent but if the band hopes to compete with the best acts in this genre there will have to be some big steps forward in a number of areas like production and being able to create a signature sound which they don't have yet.
Truly a jack of all trades, Steve Hensby’s eclectic, two-disk self-titled album Steve Hensby is jam packed with loads of genres and emotions, I’m not entirely sure where to begin. Hensby described this album by saying, “It’s a gypsy circus.” I’ll say this, it achieves the dizzying effect of the circus considering there are so many flavors to pick from. He touches on everything from traditional folk music, drinking songs, French pop, jazz, indie rock and even a hint of punk. I had a lot to listen to and a lot to talk about.
The first four tracks of disk didn't do much for me, in all honesty they sounded like something you could hear at your local renaissance fair or outdoor festival. There is a sense of humor to them but they just sound so hokey I really can’t think of an occasion where I would want to listen to them which comes down to personal taste.
However, track five, “Overtime” was a complete turnaround with a cool jazzy feel and piano playing that was just plain lovely. Same thing with “This Old Town” which had a French pop essence to it. I don’t know what these two tracks had to do with the first four but I was now intrigued. Another fun insert in disk one was “Advert” which is a hilarious, raunchy advertisement for a fish and chips joint. It’s great, but I don’t understand it’s placement in this album. To be honest I really want to hear the punk rock album that I feel would be attached to that advertisement.
Disk two had a similar mixture of his gypsy circus and jazz stuff. The one thing that stood out was the cool acoustic cover of “If I Only Had a Brain.” It was eerie and had a melancholy quality to it that I could appreciate. As for the rest of this disk, once again I wasn't as smitten with the circus stuff. The jazzier stuff even got a bit sleepy for me.
The audio craft was not entirely flattering, and that could be on purpose to play up the humor bits. However, on the jazz end it just fell short for me, I think if it sounded a bit more intimate instead of open and airy, I might have appreciated it more. Hensby’s vocals are interesting; he’s on the higher end of the scale. His voice works fine enough for the humorous hokey stuff. I don’t know that his voice is really suited to jazz. I would love to hear him in a punk or indie rock setting, I think he could really make an impression in either of those realms.
You can get a glimmer of indie rock with “Stagefright” and his voice really clicks with that track. He excels with blunt yet light, playful delivery.
Overall Hensby clearly likes to play the field when it comes to genres which I can respect. I would recommend breaking it up. I felt like I had two completely different albums on my hands. I would be very interested to hear more work from him that was less for kicks and more for listening.
Become A Fan
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.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook