After starting in 2016 jamming and fooling around just for fun, playing some gigs and putting out two singles last August, the members of HoneyGrip released their first EP Uncle Funkle just a few days into 2018. Approaching the EP this five-piece modern rock band from Glasgow had many ideas of what they wanted their overall sound to be. Influenced by such bands as Queens of the Stone Age, Slash and Foo Fighters, Uncle Funkle is a mix of high-end energy and loud, raw emotion.
The first song “3” starts off fast and explosive with heavy, distorted power guitar riffs and my god – some damn good singing from the vocalist. I hate making comparisons to other singers, but Sebastian Bach (and others like his caliber) better watch his back. “Carnival” has a darker edge to it musically, and again, the vocalist takes it to the top with his singing. The tune has a nice break that spreads its delivery out longer past five minutes with the vocalist belting out “welcome to the carnival!”
“Heartburn” is the longest song among the four songs on the EP. This one had a good variety of changing things up with more intricate, edgy guitar riffs on the verses and power chords on the chorus. If you’re familiar with bands such as Mother Love Bone and Danzig, I could hear some influence from these bands within this song. Again, who is this vocalist? No fooling – straight up solid singing and one hell of a range.
The last number “Tequila” really lays down a crazy, good groove that I had to listen to it again immediately after. The fantastic low-end bass line draws you in at first and then a catchy, grinding guitar and infectious drumbeat keeps you gripped in the song’s fold. Just when I thought the song couldn’t get any better, a well played guitar pairing between the rhythm and lead has a good time during a solo break and again, the pipes on the singer are crazy insane especially in the song’s end. Lyrically, this song is about a particular drink of choice and how it can really mess you up bad – if you don’t respect it, that is – you may not respect yourself in the morning.
For being a fairly new band, HoneyGrip has a great professional sound with a lot of potential to expand on in the future – it wasn’t hard to figure that out on their debut.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Ice Giants Acrobat 3.7
Sightline Heights Sightline Heights EP 3.5
Great Waves Solace 3.7
display-only awake but drowsy 3.3
IDIOTS WINNING Demented Picnic 3,4
2018 was kicked off by the release of It Doesn’t Matter What It Is, Just What It Seems <3. Solace Sovay released their full-length album on New Year’s Day. Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, the band has been active for ten years. Playing all over the state and the surrounding mid-Atlantic area, after years of playing out 2017 was the year that Solace Sovay decided to record their debut album. Made up of older and newer material, It Doesn’t Matter What It Is, Just What It Seems <3 is a monument to the tenacity and perseverance of Solace Sovay.
“Should Know By Now” is the longest track on the album. The track is positively swaddled in electronic roots. The drums are the most vibrant example of this approach. The guitar is also complemented by an angelic synth backing. “For You” opens with the guitar following the piano down a riff as a saxophone is featured in the introduction. Lyrically, the song features a rhythmic delivery. Saxophone sections that are featured elsewhere in the song help to create a colorful environment.
“Hate Freaks” is incredibly emotional. The crashing of the cymbals throughout the verses highlights the passion in the vocals. Arpeggiated guitar licks form support structures for the foundation of the song, carrying its 4:33 run-time with fervent momentum.
A darker take on the territory typically populated by bands like Yellowcard and Dashboard Confessional, Solace Sovay uses their darker undertone to energize their music on It Doesn’t Matter What it is, Just What it Seems <3. The melancholy feeling of the album is matched with excitement with booming drum fills and expertly structured songs. The flow of energy on the album is managed to allow the feelings of the album to be felt.
Listeners are taken on a rollercoaster of emotional peaks and valleys through the lyrical landscape of It Doesn’t Matter What it is, Just What it Seems <3. Alongside the mountainous instrumental interludes that paint vivid pictures of distant views of melancholy and of hope. It Doesn’t Matter What it is, Just What it Seems <3 is a listen that will become an instant pay off for anyone who is willing to take the chance.
Babylon Tom, made up of members Brian Ballard, Brian’s wife Stephanie Ballard and Victoria Langford, started in Brooklyn in 2015 with Brian as the main songwriter. With a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh, the writing-music-on-the-side thing seemed to have this band well connected to some pretty big names in the music industry: Matt Bauder, saxophonist for Arcade Fire; drummer James Richardson from MGMT and trumpeter Chris Coletti from Canadian Brass, along with over thirty other musicians who helped out – just to name a few.
Influenced by bands such as Arcade Fire, Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, Neutral Milk Hotel and the oldie but goodie, Joann Sebastian Bach, Babylone Tom’s debut release The Burning Wolf is an indie rock exploration into Ballard’s growing family that he describes as “a tangled mess” that involved “prostitution, the mafia and being a foster child.” Dang – heavy stuff. One remarkable thing I’d like to point out is The Burning Wolf was the second to last record ever recorded at the legendary Magic Shop in SoHo, NY, which just happens to be where Bowie made his last records. So, does this mean I’m one degree away from my idol, or is it two?
“Ship Without a Name” starts the eleven-track album with hints at the mafia lifestyle, I think – “in a black car they come for your children” or maybe prostitution, not sure. This song for me was without a clear explanation, but lyrics don’t have to be objective, right? Musically, it’s pretty mellow with a solid beat. “Animal Song” has more of a rocking edge with some heaviness to the drumming and catchier rhythm guitars. The trumpet parts added a lot of finesse, as did the keyboard and piano. Also, you can hear influence from Arcade Fire’s earlier work.
“Machine” begins with some cutting power chord guitars and piano, trumpets, keys – all of it, filling in their spots effortlessly. Some of the lyrics are vivid and dark, like the “ten horned beast coming up from the sea” and it’s “coming for you!” It’s an interesting juxtaposition, because the music sounds rather happy amongst words like killer, dead and cure. “Hide Away” is a short song just over one minute long and I really liked how neat and tidy it was with the words and music. The lyrics suggest a story about a drifter coming into a town where no one knows who they are. The music reminded me of some of the trippier stuff the Beatles did as they were transitioning from a two-minute pop song band to the more reclusive, experimental one later on.
“How the Music Used to Feel” pulls things back with its shallower electronic beats and introspective lyrics with a melancholic edge. The backup singing added fullness, as did the extra keyboard effects, as there were no guitar additions in this one. “Shadow over Us” is another mellow venture that’s musically somber toned. The words suggest a part in Ballard’s life that wasn’t a good time at all; I’m guessing his experience as a foster child. The trumpet parts really added a great texture to this one – gave me goose bumps.
“Time the Weapon” picks things up again with a faster indie rock feel. Lyrically, this song has some drama for sure, and with the instruments belting out an urgency and tension, especially with the addition of the sax, this number couldn’t have been written nor played any better. “Captains” starts off with slow, mellow guitar strumming. The singing is desperate and deep, matched only by the darkness within the story unfolding inside the lyrics. This one felt like Ballard had reached rock bottom somewhere in life, and now in retrospect, he wrote the song in second person as a way to address a painful memory so he could detach from it. Either way, a remarkably well played song.
“Play for Keeps” begins with a low guitar sound and a marching drumbeat. This tune has crime and doing time, as its main theme. It’s written in a way that reads like a classic crime story, although I don’t think this is a fictional one. The ending gets interesting with its quiet sounds and bleeds right into the next song “Down for the Count.” The music has an inspiring feel, lofty almost in a way, coupled with a heavier rocking beat midway through. Additional violins, sax and keys work their way throughout – a lot of good things going on in this tune. The album’s title ending track begins with a slow turning beat, droning guitars and a sing-a-long “ba-da-da-da” cadence and then the beat picks up after two minutes.
The feeling in the song is uplifting as are the ending lyrics, “You will be made new / All will be made new in you” and later on “Your songs will love you / Your daughters will kiss you again” and “But you are a king’s song if you choose.” Ballard’s words seem to suggest a future for a boy who thought he had none – a great ending song that left me hoping for a future free from fear.
The Burning Wolf offers the listener themes of despair and hope, trouble and redemption that are nicely paired up with an indie rock sound.
Shannon Boone is an artist who recently released her self-titled six-song EP Shannon Boone. She says that her music is “an eclectic mix of pop and ’70s infused soft rock.” She mentions Jane Olivor and Karen Carpenter as influences. I really liked what I heard but there is no denying her music took me for a ride in a time machine. I was never a huge fan of this type of music growing up but I had a lot of nostalgia for it when I heard it. In addition to that she does add some modern influence a la Coldplay at particular moments.
“Something Beautiful” is just dripping with nostalgia. You really don’t hear this style very much these even with the crazy amounts of music being made. Boone has a great voice and I think it worked really well with the style she was going for. The song is emotionally stirring and I felt like I had heard the song before in some way. There was something so familiar about it that made it easy to appreciate.
“Don't Forget Me” felt a little more modern. The chorus felt like a mix of Enya and Coldplay. It’s really catchy and I thought the use of reverb was well implemented making for a dreamy landscape. She sings, “Don't forget me when you're lost and lonely I'll be here, I'll be here.”
Up next is “Invisible’ which builds off an intimate, fireside type feel. The song is full of emotion and also quite catchy. I thought the chorus was memorable after the second time hearing it. “Fall Apart” is another success. The verse is moody with the drums being the backbone against sparse piano chords. I loved the transitions between the bridge and chorus. “Freefall” had its moments but I think it was the intimate and subtle “Dreams” which showcased some of her most nuanced vocal work.
Boone went full on in on a genre that even at its peak wasn’t particularly popular. I respect that. Her music is honest and heartfelt and I think I appreciated it more on multiple listens. I can see her music having divided reactions but when that happens it’s usually a sign of good art.
Austin Thompson (guitar/vocals), William Mikesell (guitar), Dave Birnell (bass) and Quentin Watson (drums) are 3 Beers Deep. The band is a straightforward alternative project that released Not Great, But Fine.
They get going with “Sirens” which is a combination of distorted power chords, a 4/4 beat, a steady bass and some lead guitar. The structure is predictable and sounded familiar to myriad songs in the same genre. On that note the vocal is catchy.
The band hits onto more of a classic rock vibe with “Sweet Vivian” and “4th of July” which veers more towards Americana with a dash of punk. The band pays homage to bands like Blink 182 with “Get Sober.” They go in a different direction with “Way we used to be” which has some of the best moments on the album.
As an engineer the hardest part for me was just how lo-fi sounding these songs were. There was almost no low-end or separation of instrumentation. If I can give these guys one bit of advice it would be to figure out how to improve the recording quality on their next release. I think when this much work needs to be done in this area it’s worth recording at a studio with an engineer who can capture the performances.
The songs were well written with not much fat. On that note I think the band needs to dig a little deeper to find a signature sound. They have a very general sound with this release and I think they should think about ways they can stick out from the crowd a bit more than they do.
The band has a lot of talent in all the right places. I think a better recording and a bit of tweaking to their sound and they should be well on their way. I wish them luck and hope to hear more soon.
Bigfoot Portal Crisis is a band from Ontario comprised of Tyler Desroches, Barry Lachance and Jon Boyer. The band released an EP entitled Portal Kombat which is a mix of punk and ska. Portal Kombat is about seven minutes long and a refreshingly frivolous romp.
The band is having a lot of fun with the music and it was infectious. Their statement on Bandcamp is great — “Our main objective is to raise awareness of the Canadian Government’s efforts to hide the existence of Bigfoot through the use of Canadian portal technology. The people need to know!”
The world is under constant threat from radioactive bees from some super villains and it's about time someone sang about it. The opener “Radioactive Bees” is a fun, catchy song with a dash of punk and alternative. “Radioactive Bees” opens with palm muted power chords which is quickly followed by some hi-hat work as it builds. The vocal melody in infectious and I loved the dynamics the song had as well.
Up next is “Superfly” which veers more towards ska and punk. I was thinking of bands like NOFX with this track. The band gets in and out quickly. That being said it’s another super fun song and if anyone remembers the game Crazy Taxi I think it should be on the soundtrack.
The band ramps it up for “Paranoia” which was another success. The song is the shortest of the three but hey that might happen when you are playing at a faster BPM. I especially liked the verse on this track.
Bigfoot Portal Crisis is just a fun band and I am willing to bet these guys are a blast to see live. What was that ska dance people used to do in the ’90s? Is that still a thing? Anyway, this band is certified listening for fans of ’90s punk and ska. On that note I want a couple of songs specifically about Bigfoot on their next release.
Pulled from pages of greek mythology, Logos, a Long Island based band, gives us Gates of Tartarus. The title is by no means a false advertisement; there is something very underworld about the type of music. The hardcore/punk music is more than just the sum of the album's name. There are deep messages about traditional versus non traditional spirituality. The band's main songwriter tells personal tales of life experiences that rub against the grain of what is considered "normal" or "based in reality." Obviously with this type of life path there is a darkness that comes with it and it is illustrated rather interestingly in this album.
Musically, the group takes a lot of risks, especially when it comes to a song's composition. A lot of the songs go very hard and fast and spiral into light gobbling vortexes. However they also included interesting little audio samples and interludes in between songs that give a personal touch in setting a mood. Even if these interludes are ominous, I say they are key in helping paint a picture. I have to give honorable mention to the percussive elements because the drums are everything with this album. It calls back to the turn of the millennium where key metal bands were having a love affair with intricate percussion like double base drums. I forgot how quickly a sound like this can get your blood flowing.
Technically this album is a re-release under the current band Logos. It was originally released in July of 2013 and you can definitely get a sense of the music scene at that time through this album. The album was remastered and some of the drum, guitar and bass sections were redone not too long ago. It's interesting to hear how much was done to the existing work, but I have to believe it was ultimately a good thing to put the current band's stank on it.
A big struggle for me was the mixing. I heard vocals that sounded appealing but I was struggling to find them and struggling further still to hear the lyrics, which are fascinating, when I could hear them. It was tough, the inflection of the vocals as one that was meant to be heard and yet I was digging in the dirt to find them. This production had a nasty knack of bringing down the album for me. I appreciate the amount of work put into this album to breathe more modern and up to date finishes in it.
Logos has been doing a few shows where I have no doubt they have found a following for themselves. There's not a lot out there right now that is quite like this. I think the fact the album has been re-released has made it sort of special. Like a bridge between two or possibly three periods in time. You get a taste of the trends and sensations from each time period. I don't know if that was intentional but this aspect made me appreciate what was there
Karmen Roze is an artist from Atlanta, Georgia who style is mostly derivative of dark pop, new wave and hip hop. Both Karmen Roze and her label-mate God Among Zombies have performed at local venues, namely Pure Lounge, Umbrella Lounge and 421 Hookah Lounge.
Roze recently released her album entitled Soul Cell. The album's primary genre is pop and darkwave with a hint of punk, with its secondary musical style being hip-hop. Throughout the album, Karmen Roze places emphasis on her egomaniacal persona and being enraptured as she "takes the souls" of suitors.
The album starts with an a cappella introduction entitled “Day One Dawn.” It’s a short intro - around thirty seconds long. “Infatuation” is an off-kilter psychedelic song. It’s a little hard to fully describe but it's some kind of erotic, dream like sound. It’s a bit terrifying when she claims she sings “I want your soul.”
“Wavy Baby” is more traditional R&B and hip-hop while “Boss Lady” is a smooth song and for whatever reason is much softer in volume. “Take Me There” goes back into avant garde experimental territory. It’s another erotic soundscape that often seemed ominous. I will definitely give some points for originality here.
The title track is arguably the highlight. It goes deeper into avant garde territory while simultaneously having some hooks. She sings “I’m never hungry, I never starve, we eat good, drive foreign cars.” “Cherry Flavor” has its moment as well while “Payback” had a bit of Missy Elliot vibe.
Soul Cell is at its best when it goes into experimental territory almost David Lynch-esque. Those were the most unexpected and rewarding moments. Take a listen.
Damien Burrello released Nothing Ends… And that’s Final in May of 2018. Taking influence from literature, as well as the world around him, Burrello writes songs that he would enjoy listening to. Using the skills that he has honed over the years as both a musician and a songwriter, Burrello has crafted a strong debut in Nothing Ends… And that’s Final.
“Grace Period” opens with percussive riffs on the guitar and on the bass. As the vocals begin to work their way to fill the gaps, the guitar, bass and drums join in. The twangy, pull-off driven guitar licks remind me of the ones you would hear on a Modest Mouse album. It’s a super funky track. Its 4:29 run-time gives more than enough time to get to know the tasty riffs that “Grace Period” has to offer.
“Dignity” is much slower. It is a darker song overall, following the same formula of a walking bass line being punctuated by guitar chords. The vocal harmonies created toward the end of the song are haunting, combined with the dark energy of the bass line and the dissonant tones of the guitar. It’s a spooky track, very well done, and one great listen.
Nothing Ends… And that’s Final is a very modern sounding EP. The layers of sound are becoming a standard; the doubled vocals and self-harmonies are nothing new. The layers are still full of incredible depth. The self-harmonies created through the doubled vocals are monstrous, climbing to brave heights while staying level with the music around it.
While Nothing Ends… And that’s Final is not a trail-blazing album, it sets the standard and raises the bar for what is to be expected from an EP of this genre. Nothing Ends… And that’s Final is a shining example of what one mind can create with music.
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