Adam Swartz (guitar), Christos Cunning (keyboard), Josh Bugis (drums), Tal Bogdonov (bass) and Ty Koch (vocals) are Red Shift. The band released Bumblebee which is a demo quality EP that showcases different style and themes.
The band opens with “Bumblebee Groove” which is somewhere between a Jimi Hendrix and a jam band sound. It’s a pretty standard sounding jam and the band doesn't exactly stay in the pocket. The guitar sounds off quite often from the other instrumentation. In all honesty this song reminds me of bands I would have found playing around town in my college days. That's not a bad thing but the song was a good one for a Friday night.
Up next is “Jump (You Gotta)” which has a vibe between surf and indie rock. The band is tighter this time around and the chorus is arguably the most catchy they get. Overall, a solid song that was enjoyable.
“Dandelion” is homage to ’70s soul and funk with all the tropes to go along with it. The vocalist goes falsetto and the song is predictable as he sings about a sweet love interest. The band closes with “Heartstrings” which veers back into surf and indie rock.
Overall, the band has some talent but will need a good amount of improvement to compete with the most inventive music around today. They need to figure out who they are as a band. The four-songs all pull the band in different directions and don’t do much to create a signature sound or foundation. As of right now I’d like to see the band start with the fundamentals and work on tightening up the delivery.
As I mentioned previously they remind me a lot of the bands I used to hear on a college campus. The good thing is the band seems very young from their photo and they have some time to work on creating an original sound and improving on the technical side of things. The band has hints of potential but for right now fall into a case of wait and see. Best of luck.
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Chest of Drawers is singer/songwriter Dylan MacWilliams. He recently released a self-titled demo quality EP Chest of Drawers. The EP contains five songs of nothing more than vocals and guitar.
The EP was recorded on an iPhone and is about what you would expect as far as recording quality. I can’t say the songs are close to a professional sounding product but at the very least they give you an idea of MacWilliams’ songwriting.
Up first is “Cloudy City Only Lonely” which has a picking pattern that reminded me of Elliot Smith. MacWilliams sings “cloudy city, mississippi river, reverse, revert tired mind in minnesota report, repress, rehearse.” It's a decently written song that has some catchy moments. It became evident to me that his strongest aspect of music right now are the lyrics which are sometimes ambiguous and poetic. On “Stars Turn Sharp” he sings, ”candle light to candle death from memory to dust don't dwell they say get back to normal must I must- I must.”
“Ode to my Cool Disorder” felt like a journal entry and therapy sessions. His lyrics are nihilistic and awfully depressing here. He make Conor Oberst seem cheerful. Lyrics like “oh I think about death most of the time” and “I set myself up and expect it to feel bad, and it feels bad, feels fucking bad” made me just flat out feel sorry for whoever he was singing about.
MacWilliams is going to have to improve the recording quality at some point if he wants to be competitive with any notable acts. That's just a fact. The other fact is you don’t need much to sound decent. Doing some basic homework on how to record properly and mix can help immensely. Better yet, recording in a professional studio would be easy with his current setup.
The best part about the music is it feels honest. It also feels his songwriting is an outlet for his own personal demons. On that note I’d like to see him develop more as a songwriter and think about about more elements than just a guitar or at the very least over dubbing. There is a lot of work he needs to do in order to be competitive with similar acts like Elliott Smith, Sufjan Stevens, Iron and Wine, etc but is has potential and some passion.
Music is obviously important to MacWilliams but he falls into a case of wait and see as of right now. Developing on the instrumental side of things while going about finding better production would be a good start.
Renaldo Greco is a French musician who recently released a whisper in the night. Greco stated, “After a ten year period of jazz and improvised music, I decided (four years ago) to come back to my first love, which is indie rock music.” After spending some time with the songs I wouldn't say his music is straightforward indie rock. I say that as a compliment.
He opens with “City of joy” which is an upbeat, jovial song. A buoyant bass line, crisp drums and clean guitar creates an appealing combination of sounds. The mix is fantastic but it's not a surprise when noticing it was mixed by Yann Arnaud who has credits with well known acts such as Phoenix and Air. The song is really well written and probably the catchiest amongst the batch.
Up next is “I could imagine” which is another notable song. It’s emotionally more heavy than the opener and has elements of post-rock. The end of the song is something special with inventive timing and rhythm.
“I feel awake” was my personal favorite out of the batch. It has a unique vibe and reminded me a bit of Radiohead. The vocal harmonies were an unexpected surprise that I throughly appreciated. Great song. He closes with “Black birthday” which is atmospheric, contains a cascading piano amongst a swirl of sounds.
Greco is not giving himself enough credit by simply labeling his music as rock. There are too many experimental tendencies and technically advanced aspects here so that I’m more inclined to call this baroque pop.
Greco goes four for four easily with these songs. He knows what he’s doing when it comes to arrangements and writing. Can’t wait for more. Recommended.
Fernando Aragones aka Animal Ventura is an artist born in Brazil and he began to get some attention when he started playing in Sydney, Australia. In 2009 he toured Brazil, Europe, UK and New Zealand. After establishing a fan base he flew to the states to make his debut album Forrest St. I enjoyed this album immediately for a number of reasons. There is a good amount of instrumentation but it doesn't feel crowded.The horns in particular sounded exceptional. His vocals were also notable upon first listen.
Throughout the album he attempts a couple of different styles. There is a very distinct singer/songwriter vibe. Some of it comes like Jack Johnson-esque by the side of patio playing acoustic to beautiful ladies while other songs were more subdued with a lounge-y, jazz vibe. I preferred the latter.
He starts off with the exceptional “No Gravity” - lounge-y jazz with a hint of reggae. I love the groove. So, so smooth. It’s catchy and will certainly melt someone's heart. I also thoroughly enjoyed “Slave Of Love (Do It Twice)” but it has a very different vibe. The song is on the verge of rocking out with some funk and has a lot more energy. It still works and the horns are still a focal point.
“Muddy Water” has too much of a standard singer/songwriter vibe to me. It sounded too familiar. That being said the vocals are solid. “Animal” was much more to my sensibilities. He gets back into a smooth groove that felt like silk. “Lights On Feat. Laura Stitt” seemed out of place after “Animals.” It has an overt pop sound that sounded like a different artist all together. There are also female vocals which sounded good. “Go” and “ Domingo (Cut It Loose)” sounded connected and like minded between the funk, rock and jazz. I can’t say the same about “Same As” which sounds like a country song. A good country song but a country song nonetheless.
Unequivocally, my main and only gripe with this album is the dichotomy between the styles. It’s actually kind of interesting that he seems to have two sides rather than multiple sides. I definitely had my preference but I’m positive that is debatable since all the song are well written.
There is no doubt in my mind that he is a great musician. His overall vision is uneven but I’m certain with the right team behind him he can create a more singular sound.
Overall, this is not an album you want to pass up. There is plenty here to appreciate.
Tim Dolan is an artist currently living in Los Angeles who recently released his second effort as a solo artist entitled My Railroad Valentine. His songs on this album are sparse, spacious and easy to appreciate. The songs were pretty poppy to my ears but Dolan isn't afraid to dabble into unique territory. On my first listen I thought the music was relatively simple revolving around major and minor keys, relative melodies and sparse instrumentation. The music proved more inventive as I dug in.
Up first is “Ty Cobb” which starts with a couple of strummed chords and vocals. He sings “He said, “I’ve got half a mind to let you know” Then reared back and let fly a torrent of blows / That left my eye a blue-black with a bloodied nose” and you can hear a tinge of Elliot Smith between the melancholy and overall sparse instrumentation. The chorus is memorable, and quite infectious.
Up next is “Sully's Pub” which is a lot more upbeat at least for awhile. The song has an Americana vibe at one point but also goes into dark areas that revolve around violin, piano and vocals. I like the dichotomy of emotion he was attempting on this track.
“Local 5:18” was about a minute long and felt like filler to me. It sounded like a build up and it would have worked except the next song “Santa Fe” didn't sound at all like what it was building up to. “Santa Fe” certainly had its moments with some transitions that really gave the song a different feel.
“The Trains Are On Time” is under two minutes long and may have been my favorite song because it sounded unique. I thought the background vocals were exceptional along with the handclaps. On top of that the vocal melodies were great. I thought this song could have been extended. It ends abruptly and it felt like it had potential to go into other places. “Beasts (5:19 PM)” felt a little traditional and familiar at first. However there are again some vocal harmonies that really make the song work later on. He closes with “Longfellow Bridge.” The song has its moments. He attempts to rock out with an electric guitar which feels like it needed some percussion.
Dolan is at his best when he isn’t afraid to experiment. Those were the times where I felt there was the biggest payoff and more importantly differentiated his music from other exceptional singer/songwriters.
Overall, this is a fairly cohesive and highly enjoyable album. That being said I think his master work may still be ahead of him.
Max Loignon (guitar/vocals),Than Rolnick (bass) and Bob Breychak (drums) are The Right Offs. On their album Quiet Down the band has a visceral, raw energy to their music that doesn't sound the least bit contemporary. I would compare their energy and vibe to bands like The Clash and The Who. It’s hard to quantify but that's some of the beauty of live music that still is vacant within electronic music.
That's the thing about their music. It’s hard for me to explain on paper the contingencies that make it work so well because the music is fairly simple from a technical standpoint. For starters Loignon has a voice that feels tailor made for this music. It crackles with energy and his delivery is covered with aesthetics of ’70s English punk bands.
The other aspect to note is the production and recording quality. I have to mention something I found humorous about the album process. The band recorded the album in Manchester, CT and then had it mixed in Manchester, England. I have no idea of their thought process but I’m guessing it had nothing to do with the fact that both cities were called Manchester but they were studios that they wanted to utilize. It fits the music so well. The band's energy matches with the aesthetic from ’70s punk is the full package.
Quiet Down is thirty-nine minutes and there isn’t an ounce of fat. The songs are catchy and to the point. I can’t say there were any songs that felt like duds or brought down the energy of the album. The band starts with “Ways of the Western World” which is indicative of the feel of the rest of the album. “Every Punk Has a Soul” is a refreshing song that brings a similar revolutionary type vibe of The Who while “Just Above Below” contains an exceptional, dynamic vocal performance.
This is a great album from beginning to end. I can’t say the band is pushing boundaries at all or introducing aspects I haven't heard before. That being said these are original compositions that are very well written and executed. Overall, this gets two big thumbs up.
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Lee Cain (vocals/guitar/cavaquinho/banjo), Adam Ortiz (vocal/guitar), Pete Daniels (violin), Brandon Miller (bass) and Joe Hodgson (drums) are Blue Plains. Their EP took awhile to make. Over three years on every Tuesday the two founding members would work on the EP. I’ve never understood concepts like the RPM challenge.
If you can’t finish a song maybe it just wasn't that good to begin with and sometimes a good song takes more than a couple of days to make. To my point there is almost always a notable chasm of disparity between an album that has been worked on for a year versus a four-song EP that was written, and recorded in two or three days. The dedication to a craft is apparent to me on this self-titled five-song EP Blue Plains.
On their Bandcamp page the band says they have been compared to Wilco, Radiohead, Mumford and Arcade Fire. As a side note I don’t think bands should mention comparisons. I think the music should be an open book which lets the listener interpret the experience. Hopefully a band gets no comparisons and is a singular entity. Since the comparisons were planted in my head I was looking or them. Nothing in the least reminded me of Radiohead or really of Arcade Fire. However, Blue Plains does have an alt-country vibe on some songs that we have heard from on Wilco.
The songs are organic, feel open and certainly dig into Americana sensibilities. Take for instance the impressive opener “Sharks.” There's a lot to like about this song including the vocals, violin, shimmering guitars, unique drumming and harmonies. It’s a solid opener that got me interested in the remaining songs which wasn't' exactly what I was expecting.
Up next is “City, Sing to Me” which rocks a little less and leans more towards country. The song is more subdued but also more emotionally resonant. The bass and drums provide the energy as the violins and guitars create the atmosphere.
“Falling Sky” goes down a pretty different road. It's a format that starts off soft and goes into epic territory. There is a bit of Pink Floyd vibe here that felt a little weird coming off the prior song. Even more contrasting is “Can You Hear Me?” which skips over country and goes into bluegrass territory which at this point had me scratching my head as to where this was going.
The closer is contemplative and sounded similar to Doves. It builds upon atmosphere, swells of violin and picked guitar. The song picks up energy and eventually goes into a “Free Bird” style rock out section.
All the songs on this EP are good and arguably great. On that note the songs didn't feel particularly cohesive which left a blurry impression of the band's overall sound as well as their vision.
Overall, I enjoyed this EP and thought the work they put in was obvious. Approaching this EP as a batch of singles is the way to go. Recommended
December Skyline is a band that broke up and then reformed years later. They released a four- song EP entitled Apricity. The EP is a DIY effort that’s a little shy of a professional studio sound. That being said it sounds better than most DIY recordings to my ears.
The band has a pretty unique sound. They are elements of punk, alternative and rock but I thought they kept it blurry in a good way. The band opens with “Effects of the Common Cold” which got my attention. The verse sounded a bit like Les Savy Fav, the chorus is catchy and I enjoyed the vocal delivery.
The vocalist sings, “All the lies are frosting up the windows / So take a look outside / You shake your head in disgust, 'cause it was never enough /T he lights dim down in your eyes.” Overall, it’s a really solid song, It doesn't drag and it felt fluid.
Up next is “Every Yard is a Grave Yard When You're Dead Inside” which seemed to veer a little more towards pop punk. On that note it also reminded me of the punk band Pretty Girls Make Graves.
“...But it's Probably a Train” is another solid rocker. The dissolving white noise that bubbles with bass notes is a winning combination. “al Coda” is the song that sounds very different from the other three. The production was really good on this song but it also revolves around acoustic guitar and felt a little more poppy and less punk influenced. “al Coda” and “Effects of the Common Cold” were the highlights to my ears.
December Skyline is a solid band. They play well together and can write a song. The EP is far from perfect but does display some inventive moments. I hope the band stays together and builds on the momentum they have with this EP.
Rainsound is a three-piece self-proclaimed “loud” and “emotional” (I’d have to agree) ambient rock/post-hardcore band based out of Lowell, MA. The band is comprised of Nick (vocals/bass), Dan (guitar/vocals), and Stu (drums). Their four-track EP entitled Wreathed In Life is their first album-styled release, as the band has put out a prior single earlier is the year (‘Thirty One’). The majority of their shows have been within Massachusetts or New Hampshire but they’re looking to tour very soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
The EP opens with “A Letter From Yesterday.” Plinking piano sounds and warbling, collapsing synths all collide delicately and perfectly against one another. This is a deceptive opening, however, as screeching guitar chords burst into play half a minute into the piece with no warning. This explosive moment marks the true entrance of Rainsound. Brutal, gut-wrenching screaming from the vocalist tears into view and fights to be heard over the distorted electric guitar chords. There’s no traditional structure to the track, and I liked that. The noise drops away halfway through the track, inviting gentle and clean electric guitar, a slowly throbbing drum beat, warbling lead guitar and muffled screeching vocals somewhere far off in the distance. I never thought atmospheric metal could sound this good, unless you count Deftones as a metal band, but Rainsound proved me wrong on this track.
I had no idea what to expect from “Salt Stained Glass” given the unexpected opener. The listener is greeted by a pretty clean electric guitar arpeggio, a gently progressing drum beat, and the first bout of singing on the EP. There’s still a sense of aggression and power in this track, but it’s wrapped in a different package. The beat is frantic, as is the singing. There’s a raw power to the melody even if it is blissfully sweet. Random bursts of distorted guitar and screaming burst into the mix periodically, creating a jarring loud-quiet dynamic; but it weirdly works well. The singing and screaming vocals harmonize surprisingly well too. Everybody about this band is unexpected, and I like it.
“Lucy” opens like a love ballad. Warbling, atmospheric, reverberating electric guitar peacefully flitters on behind a gentle beat and emotive singing. You’d easily be deceived into thinking this was a gentle-natured band, but that’s the point. There are two sides here. The emotions are equally as raw with this band whether they’re sensitive and broken or aggressive and powerful. The female vocals were a beautiful addition to this track; the to-and-fro between the male and female really added to the hardcore-love-ballad feel of this track. There might not have been a distorted guitar in sight, but the vocals added all the electrifying energy any listener would need.
“The Scenery I Shared With You” closes the EP on a mellow note. Well, it opens on a mellow note. A quietly chugging guitar rhythm, warbling guitar leads, and tender singing all combine to create a gentle atmosphere, but the chorus, yet again, throws a curveball. Crashing drum cymbals, screeching guitar, and even more powerful singing all combine to create an anthem of a chorus. Once again, the melody is always there, of course; that’s what I like about this band. They never forget the importance of melody.
This was a good EP. The first couple of tracks were probably the strongest, in my opinion, but there was a lot to sink my teeth in a short space of time here. I look forward to seeing what these guys come up with next.
Tovias is a three-piece which started out in Corona, CA. Two of the members, Brock and Anthony, met during their senior year in high school to compete in the talent show along with other members to perform a cover of "Stairway to Heaven.” Things went so well that the boys continued to make music. They joined other bands along the way; things didn’t work, and they tried again, eventually finding themselves in Tovias. There’s a great sound here, so I hope things fare better for them this time around.
The EP entitled Horizons opens with “Paper Tigers.” Melody and raw emotion combine into one epic masterpiece here. The vocals are emotive, melodic, and powerful. The guitars are screeching, brutal, and relentless, but they’re still melodic. The melody seems to be the thing that this three-piece champion above all else, and I’m glad that’s the case. There’s no point being “heavy” for the sake of being heavy. In the case of this track, the screeching guitars add some power and energy behind an energetic vocal performance. They have to match that level; every musical element of this track has a purpose.
“Personal Hell”’ is driven by a slowly throbbing drum beat and dark, haunting guitar arpeggios. The choruses are packed full of electrifying, relentless vocals and moments of earth-shattering screams. This is a band which knows how to build, and that’s something missing from a lot of bands within this genre at the moment.
They know how to take a song from quiet, timid beginnings to a ground-opening climax. As you can tell, I really liked this song. It’s the singing which really sells me on this band. A lot of the musical elements within these songs are typical of the post-hardcore genre. That’s no bad thing because the songwriting and performances are great, but every band needs some unique element; the vocals are definitely that.
“Hidaway” is another loud-quiet piece. Verses with U2-esque chugging lead guitars (they make it sound good - don’t worry) are packed full of emotive, powerful vocals. There’s a soft nature to this music and yet, simultaneously, there’s a raw energy to it. It’s really hard to explain unless you listen to the music for yourself (hint, hint). The guitars were a highlight on this track, however. You can only use distorted power chords so many times before it sounds old, so I appreciated the guys switching things up; fuzzy, high-pitched arpeggios build and grow to another climactic ending that Tovias is so good at putting together.
“Grand Fire” definitely sends out Tovias in a blaze. A dark, twisted guitar riff, throbbing drum beat and tenderly powerful vocals open the track. There’s an ominous feel to the song, and I love it. This is definitely my kind of music; if you like Tool, Incubus, and that sort of thing then there are definitely those kinds of vibes here. The chorus is an anthem. Powerful vocals which echo off into infinity create an atmospheric vibe to the track, but they’re so strong that they feel immediate, intimate, and present at the same time. This was a great way to close the EP.
Horizons is only comprised of four tracks, but those four tracks got me pumped to hear a full-length release from Tovias. There’s a real energy here, and I’d love to see what the guys are going to do with that next.
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