Villareal is a Brighton, UK based band that recently released a hauntingly subdued album called “Unravelling.” The album contains 11 songs and the sequencing is some of the best I have heard. With bands releasing more and more EP’s and almost everyone streaming their music the craft of putting together an album with a beginning and end is waning. This is an album you can hit play and then sit back and enjoy. Don’t skip tracks – just listen. There are a number of great things about this album but the horns and orchestral strings are excellent. They mention Talk Talk on their Bandcamp page and when I heard the horns on this album it sometimes reminded of the horns I heard on Laughing Stock. Of course without the actual songs this wouldn't matter at all and they have no problem in that department either.
The first song on the album “Orange Host” is possibly the eeriest on the album. It opens with subtle horns and a foggy club-like ambience that is accompanied by a simple yet sad piano part. As the song progresses parts are added and the instruments create a concoction of haunting beauty, which I was quite fond of. While the song was powerful in its own way it also served as a good introduction to some of the meatier songs ahead.
“New Miracles” is a solid song and I enjoyed the creative decisions they made behind the board as well. The drums are dry, low in the mix and a lot of the dynamic range is achieved through the guitars. When the chorus hits it sounds huge and not because of the drums but because of the way the guitars are mixed with the lush arrangement. “Bodies In The Water” is a gypsy/Tom Waits type sounding song that mixes in horns, percussive beat boxing and organ to create the most festive vibe on the album thus far.
“Low Cloud Revisits” opens with horns and I would have been fine with that for the four minutes the track lasts. The song instead opts to launch into a great melancholy song that has just the right amount of optimistic energy to deliver one of the highlights on the album. The strings on “Sirens” are just gorgeous as Simon Parker sings over them. Not much else to say about this one except it has one of the most interesting breakdowns halfway through. At around the three-minute mark the song quickly fades and you hear the sound of rain and various eerie elements before a just as eerie organ enters. They somehow find their way to a hopeful upsurge of strings before the song ends. I thought I might have had their sound figured out before I heard the chaotic white noise and sludge that only lasts about ten seconds on “Keys To The Back Of My Mind” but it is quite the intro for a quiet song that is pretty mellow overall. The horns cry on “Last Of The Pale Winter Sun” while “Summer is Dreaming” delves into avant-garde experimental ambience.
Unravelling is an exceptional album from front to back with little to criticize. The album is accessible yet isn't afraid to test some boundaries while taking on a sonic journey.
Undiscovered Soul is an alternative rock band from Switzerland who is refining their sound through three EP’s they plan on releasing over the next two years. In October 2013 they released the first installment called Yellow. It contains four very well written songs. They have stellar production and heartfelt emotion. One thing that is for sure is that the band seems to be exploring various styles and approaches to their music. They’ve made a stab at dance style Franz Ferdinand type melodies while also delving into ballads as well as a couple of places in between. This might have more of an off putting trait to a lesser band but all four of the songs are so well put together it’s pretty easy to look past it.
The EP starts with the best all-around track called “Run Baby Run.” It starts with an infectious two-note synth line and hand claps before we are introduced to the vocal melody. The vocalist has an attractive singing style in that it feels like he is applying just the right amount of emotion to his voice. As the song progresses it gets more intense and it reminded me of some of the more enjoyable Coldplay songs. It soars, the guitars sound huge and it ends with a bang.
The second song “Categorize” is where we are introduced to some dance elements that sounded like a mix between Out Hud and Franz Ferdinand. It is hard not to listen to the music and not tap your foot and bob your head. The bass is funky and original while the guitar is clean but drenched in a sweet delay. Besides the wickedly attractive beat the music still brings a solid hook that will have you singing along after you listen to the song a couple of times. “Rolling On” is a pretty straightforward alternative rock song. They sound a bit like early Bloc Party on this one. “Paradise” is the closer and the most emotionally resonant song on the album. It is easily the best vocal performance on the album, as it sounds open against the piano and drums. The song does open up and introduces some orchestral elements but never sounds too grandiose.
“Yellow” only has four songs but they were good enough to be tracking this band and anticipating the next two EP’s of this trilogy.
Mood Mechanics is a group from North Carolina who formed in 2010 as a long-distance recording project. Brian Obernesser and Logan Tabor were living in separate cities but were still able to write and record their first release entitled Manzari. After some accolades for their live shows they decided to create a series of live video performances that was called The Cool Uncollected Sessions. There are four really well put together videos showing the band playing live in the studios. The songs sound great and reminded me a lot of when Radiohead released a similar type of video series called From The Basement that showed them live and raw. It’s hard after watching the videos to go back to just listening to music even if for the simple fact that it’s fun to watch technically proficient musicians do their thing.
The first song “Credit Carpenters” starts off with no ambient intro or solo guitar riff that separate it from the rest of the song. The drums and guitars start together as the vocalist sings “Lend me your ears for a minute, I swear I’m not tripping I just got it figured out.” It was a treat watching the drummer harmonize live with the lead vocalist who has a great indie rock voice. It’s a bit stoic and he can also pull off a falsetto voice pretty effectively. He actually sounded a bit like Paul Banks from Interpol. Next up on their video series is “Give Back,” which is more laid back than the first song. The subtle percussive elements and cool sounding guitar added a spacious atmosphere to the main guitar riff. I would have sworn if I weren’t watching the video that I would have confused the synth strings for actual violins. It sounded great and really filled out the music. The singer sticks to a high octave range the entire time and it works well with the song.
“Sitting Ducks” may be the most commercially appealing song and also the most melancholy. It soars triumphantly and occasionally achieves epic heights. They close with an instrumental number called “Cool Uncollected.” It’s an infectious cascading lead guitar part with a dancey bass that veers into shades of post-rock. Imagine The Strokes taking a stab at post-rock and pulling it off.
The video series is fun way to enjoy the music of Mood Mechanics. They have a solid lineup of musicians and I can't think of a better way to enjoy these songs besides seeing them live.
The Stillroads are a bunch of friends who have been playing music together since they first met in elementary school. They recently released their own self-produced and recorded self titled EP The Stillroads. Despite the minimal equipment it sounds pretty good despite some minor production issues. The songs are pretty straight pop/rock songs that borrow a lot from previous decades including the 50’s and 60’s. Some of the melodies remind me of something you might hear on an early Beatle record and other times I hear a hint from a 90’s alternative scene although it is hard to center on one particular band.
They start the EP off with “My Cloud 9.” Before knowing much about the band I thought they might be an experimental project as the minute is pretty much an ominous pad of sound where you can hear bells in the background. Without much warning you are treated to an extremely upbeat groove made through piano and various vocal harmonies. They sing “Its alright, It’s Ok” and “cause I feel good, In my head, its’ all the same.” It’s a really catchy melody but had little to do with the first minute or so of music.
“Camera Lens” goes straight into it with a Jimi Hendrix inspired blues riff on clean guitar. The song is a bit bogged down by the production but the chorus still shines when the vocal harmonies sing “Your breaking up, and i can't get much younger, talking to you dear -Your breaking up, as if i wanna hear, what you have to say, so im gonna go my way.” “Hello, My Gypsy Queen” was a decent song but not the strongest on the album while “Only An Average Song” was a bit better than just average. The EP ends with a slow number called “Elevator” that ties things up and displays another side of the band.
The Stillroads produced a solid debut that has well written but it sometimes suffers because of the quality. They have a good style and aren't writing material that is groundbreaking but they can write a tune.
The last three years have been especially busy for The Late Ancients. Singer and lead guitarist, Pete Beck, has spent his time and spent it well, crafting songs that send the listener to a different time and place. Songs From the Wigwam sounds as if you took a step back 30 years, but there was new polish and more concentrated exploration. At the heart, it's a strange cornucopia of intellectualism and drugs made to order with wonderful yet reserved production. The snare drum hits with a sweet thickness while the organ work is nothing less than superb. Brittany Staub’s clear voice resonates effortlessly in harmonic union with Beck and Mark Brown. It's a joy to hear this group's wide influence exemplified in moments that liken the riff intentions of Jimi Hendrix and the width of space that only Pink Floyd could create.
Dave Master's tom work on "Enter The Wigwam" opens the album, moving with unique anticipation much like The Yeah Yeah Yeah's track "Maps.” If that's any indication, this song is already on the right path. Sly and sexy, Staub's voice joins the guitars and the verse builds toward dancing cymbals. Then the groove relaxes, sitting beneath the gang vocal "All hail the Wigwam,” a statement of this album's mantra, punctuated by a quirky hit that further grounds the message in the listener's memory. Funk guitar and organ send "Flash" on a fun ride that lasts up until the backyard chugger that is "Cross of Lorraine." The tempo shifts back in the favor of rock n' roll and we hear this group really flesh out on "Spirit Drive" before "Dovetail" returns the soundscape to familiar places, bringing back the psychedelia of the 70s with pure intention and excellent musicianship.
"On The Old Brandywine" tells a puddled honky-tonk tale about sweet love gone sour. The lyric, "You wasted nothing but your time," sums it up pretty well. And just when you think you have them all figured out, The Late Ancients bring in the horns. A whole new mood is introduced on "Whiskey Jim" and it's as close as we get to pop on the whole album. But before any more sparkling, the flow steps back and leans on the shoulders of blues. The album closes like it began, with a reprise of the somewhat haunting chant "All hail the Wigwam” on “Exit the Wigwam." Strange abducting sounds are weaved throughout the album to act as transition effects. This tactic is used most profoundly toward the end creating continuity worthy of praise.
Yonder Peak is a self-described “proggy/punk” band from just outside Toronto that consists of James Stajov (bass), Chris Harry (drums) and Ethan Pounds (vocals/guitar). They recently released a huge sounding eccentric self-titled rock EP Yonder Peak. To put it bluntly the band just tears it up over five songs. They reminded me at times of the stellar band Battles in how they combine jarring rhythmic complexity that will make your brain buzz with visceral emotional connectivity that comes from the stomach.
All I could think about was what these guys sound like live. It’s just such explosive loud music that its gotta be one helluva ride that most three-pieces would have no idea how to achieve, On top of the songs being off the beaten path the production is tight. Snare sounds like a machine gun – check; bass sounds complete with a solid low end – check; the album is covered with lots of distortion – check.
The band doesn't waste any time getting down with “The Glow That I Know.” The first 30 seconds are blankets of white noise that gets bombarded by heavy tom work and screeching guitars. As the song progresses the listener becomes illuminated to the degree of technical prowess the musicians are bringing. The guitar solo sounds like it’s going to break apart at points, as the drummer isn't content doing anything that wouldn't involve an extra limb. They break down a bit (reminded me of Primus at points) as the guitar shrivels and unravels as the bass takes the lead. “Left In Blue” combines asymmetrical rhythms that clash and collide with an onslaught of guitar and bass while “Your Eyes Eat The Most” is another highlight in where the singer sounded a bit like Travis Morrison from Dismemberment Plan.
The album ends with a bang and doesn't hold anything back on “Does It? (It Does).” The band just tears it up. There really isn't anything else you need to know. They bring it from all angles. This nausea-inducing album makes most other albums sound like commercial pop that your pastor listens to. It creates a concoction of juxtaposed chaos that sounds like its being played at a party on the verge of madness. It is highly recommended.
Something people don't mention about getting older is that it is liberating. You start caring a whole less what people think about you and it feels pretty good. When I listened to Old Man by Gery Tinkelenberg he not only sings about this topic but the whole album emanates that vibe and it pays off immensely.
Tinkelenberg made a record that 20-year-old Brooklyn hipsters wish they could make. Throughout he finds an excellent balance between accessible harmonies and avant-garde experimentation as he sings about despondent relationships or meeting the grim reaper. The music is just really, really good. He comes up with parts that are immensely enjoyable to an experienced, connoisseur of music. Like sipping a fine wine a lot of enjoyment comes from the subtleties in what he does.
The EP starts off with the best song on the album called “Old Man.” The string part is hypnotic and original as it slowly builds with subtle dissonance. When the drums enter you know you’ve struck gold. It continues to build in a way that does abide by any one of the many clichés of modern post-rock but does its own thing. The song eventually breaks and gives us a bit of constant for Tinkelenberg to sing over. His voice isn’t particularly striking but it fits over the music quite well. Things only get better as the song continues. The last minute or so is a collage of white noise and strings that added a couple of extra points for me.
“This Place” sounded like a cocktail between Primus and Bob Drake. At about the halfway point the song gets a bit creepy and psychedelic as if you are roaming in a haunted house after ingesting a couple of magic mushrooms. Let’s just say it’s a breakdown you will not want to miss. “I Could Never Love You” centers around a sweet stand up bass and Tinkelenberg sounding like a boss as he sings about misguided feelings. The best part is when the song sounds like you're getting sucked into an endless black void and then transitions into sweet guitar jazz. Did I just write that? Better put did he just do that?
I think I have covered enough points here for you to realize Old Man is an exceptional album that I’m more than impressed with and will continue to spin for the foreseeable future. If you know what's good for you do the same and take a listen.
Hailing from Austin, TX Quiet Fires formed earlier this year and is in the embryonic stage of their aesthetic development but still managed to record an impressive three-song EP called Fulcrum. The band delivers accessible and fun indie rock that manages to be creatively engaging and technically proficient. Every member of this three-piece is essential to the mix and no one is standing in the background with these songs. The parts each member play is usually very inventive and adds a lot to the song. I think the best way to put is by saying the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Fulcrum kicks off with “Wasted Winter,” which has a great interplay between the bassist and the drummer. As far as I'm concerned if you have an exceptional rhythm section you already have a lot of things working for you and they don’t disappoint. The bass line has a bit of funk attached to it while the drum work is off the hook. It reminded me a bit of one of my all time favorite bands Menomena. The guitar is melodic and the vocals are on point as well.
"Destroyer” was my favorite track on the album. The bass and drum were again exceptional. They never seem to take the easy way out and their technical ability isn't just a wow factor it's also aesthetically pleasing. The most straightforward song on the EP is "Send/Receive". It’s solid but not quite as immediately pleasing as the previous song. That being said it is quite melodic and pretty catchy.
Fulcrum is a short EP and a nice, solid foundation for them to build upon. The songs are well written and the band shows a lot of potential.
Forming in Budapest, Hungary in 2006 The Trousers didn't waste any time getting to work. They released their first full length called Planetary Process in 2008 and then quickly followed up with Soul Machine in 2010. Most recently they released their third full-length entitled Freakbeat, which is one hell of a great sounding rock record. Zoltan Kovary is the songwriter, lead vocalist and plays guitar for the band. The band is rounded out by Peter Locke (guitar), Adam llias (bass) and Zoltan Cs. Szabo (drums). You can tell from the first track on Freakbeat that The Trousers has a locked in chemistry and love playing in a room together. The production on the record is exceptional. Everything from the dynamics, to the guitar tone, to the saturation is right on the money.
They pump the room with an immediate burst of energy with the first track called “I Get Around.” The guitars sound huge and the chorus is infectious as Kovary sings, “I get around when your walls come tumbling down.” You can't help but get energized with the fast bpm and wailing guitar solos. “Sister Sludge” sounds a bit like its name. A bit influenced by sludge metal and classic rock the song is another rocker that doesn't know how to take its foot off the gas.
The title track “Freakbeat” sounds like a classic from the opening moments. It has an anthemic chant and vocal delivery that may make it the best song on the album (If not the best, it definitely should be the single).”Under The Wheel” reminded me a bit of the classic cult band Television while The Kinks cover “All Day and All of The NIght” may sound better than the original. It’s more intense at the very least. The album ends with metal blues hybrid called “Demon Gasoline.
The Trousers’ third release Freakbeat is an intense, fun ride. They never slow down and the album could turn a small gathering into a raging party.
An eclectic assortment of off-center pop by Orange Air from Jacksonville, Fla., and the music is so good that The Big Flo is now only my 49th least favorite state (sorry South Dakota).
Dragon Fly is characterized by a very prominent rhythm section (that bass is omnipresent, I swear), fast tempos and very ample vocal harmonies. Some of the instrumentation, the quick chord changes and key variations, remind me of Sunset Rubdown's earlier experiments. But at other points I'm reminded of The Shins. Weird. But it’s so cool.
"Lucky Pierre" startles the senses with subtle fretting, and pleasant wailing. But the going gets groovy in the next track, "Naked and Starry Eyed," with staggered bass lines and the energetic chorus. "I want to dance, I want to kiss, I want to take you home / all my dreams have become something of their own." I love it, the lyrics match the energy of the music and ask yourself: "How often does that really happen?"
Much of the music seems to hiccup into existence. Stop-and-go rhythm patterns, and even vocal deliveries, permeate the musical atmosphere, and while the sound is always continuous (there's always something going on), the sudden ways the instrumentation can shift is delightful rather than jarring. "Stacy Sweat" is the best example of this; while the main verses are told in mild shouts, the chorus is much more fluid in delivery.
Dragon Fly is a very exuberant release, full of pep and a healthy interest in expanding the boundaries of contemporary pop. It is highly recommended.
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