There’s a little disclaimer on the bottom of the Bandcamp page for Sticker Shock EP by Forever Hermit saying that there will be another version at some tentative time in the future with more instruments. I’d be interested in hearing that.
The version I listened to contains guitar and vocals which are strummed in a such a way that they seem conducive to at the very least bass and guitar. That being said I thought the songs were well written and catchy. They aren’t much more than that in this form but I thought the lo-fi album was easy to appreciate.
The themes and topic are mostly frivolous. If there is any deeper meaning to a song like “Another Monkey Wasted” then well I just didn’t interpret it that way. In fact “Another Monkey Wasted” has a couple lines such as “And if by chance one survives all of the bullshit / The reward is a lifetime supply of life and banana splits” which garnered a chuckle.
“Bones” is about, well, bones and “Cardboard Box” is sort of adorable. You will never guess what “Lawnmower” is about. If you guessed the ineffable nature of human conscious you guessed wrong. It’s about a lawnmower cutting grass.
As the album progresses I can’t say the album is comprised of much more than a couple of strummed minor and major chords. The music wasn't the most engaging aspect of the album. However the vocal melodies and lyrics were strong enough the keep my attention. “Paddock's Paradox” and “I Wanna Be Alkaline” were the standouts to my ears.
Sticker Shock EP is a lo-fi bedroom effort that has its charm. There were a number of solid songs on here and I hope to hear them with more instrumentation one day.
College seems to be the perfect place to put together a band which allows for diversity and finding other like-minded individuals. Rally. came together in that particular manner. They formed in the early fall of 2017, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This circle of four students; Anna (vocals/guitar), Lucas (vocals/guitar) Jonah (bass) and Packie (drums) make up the collective Rally. Each person throwing in their own specific talents they released their first EP About Time in April of 2018. Rally. hoped to create a musical debut that was one to remember by pulling off different styles into a captivating signature sound.
Like any great band starting out, Rally. utilized their relationships. They got help from their friend Anthony Vargas (mixing/mastering tech) to assist with his talents in the comfort of his basement. About Time is an EP recorded as a full band in single takes. This allowed Rally. to show off what they sound like live. About Time was completed throughout the course of two days and in my opinion is a mix between math rock, indie emo with a smidge of 90s alternative.
Anna’s vocals come in strong on the first track “Harsh.” A song possibly about losing a lover. The song contains a catchy hook that was stuck in my head with the first listen. She sings "You walked by faster than you walked in."
Up next is “The Dot Ott Trot” It's a fully instrumental song glimmering with intricate math and prog rock tendencies. The fluidity of all the instruments came together perfectly showing their creative and technical abilities.
"Thank You" has an engaging start and stop motion with dynamic peaks while "Attest" is a percussive free song dripping with melancholy and nostalgia. “Sunburn” is the last track on this EP which is arguably the highlight in the batch
Rally. has the potential of growing into the next big indie project. These young musicians have knowledge and creativity that impressed me. I'm definitely intrigued to hear what Rally. has in store for us.
Become A Fan
Jam bands often get a bad wrap, sometimes from guys like me specifically. But I’ll defend my jam band difficulties to the death. I’ll start by saying that I don’t dislike all jam bands, but rather like every other type of band in every type of genre I don’t appreciate it very much when I can tell a band isn’t really trying. They may think they are, but that is often an artistic narcissism which prevents so many artists from ever becoming better than what they think they are. In any field, be it creative or otherwise you must be able to accept criticism, even when negative, because it’s coming from a completely different perspective, and not blinded and jaded by its creator. My point is that a lot of times in my findings and listenings that jam bands just come off as a bunch of noise that goes on for an extended period of time and then ends and moves on to more of the same.
Now provided all that I didn’t find the Joliet, Illinois jam band Arbor Creek to be that sort of jam band at all. The six members (vocalist/guitarist David J. Drilling, bassist Alex Ford, guitarist Larry Huff III, keyboardist/mandolinist/didgeridooist Jared Bebee, drummer Frank Dvorak, and backing vocalist/producer Mathew Morgan) create melodies that are rooted in the blues scene that Chicago is known for, which is not to say all the songs on their self-titled debut Arbor Creek sound particularly bluesy but they do contain that essential element of the blues which is heart and soul pouring forth from every pore as the music is being played.
Arbor Creek opens with the home spun prog-rock influencer “Hammel Woods” which builds towards a towering production of ‘70s rock and a few sprinkles of country and folk. It has a very latching-on effect because each of the members here are in a beautifully raucous tandem as they work their way together through the song. Next up “Nimbus” has a very blues-rooted rock riff combined with the organ that gives it such a ‘70s hard rock feel to back it up. It’s a jam and again shows these guys rocking together, building something together. Then later, on the acoustic instrumental “Black Bear” they get an almost Led Zeppelin kind of instrumentation of rock going which really shows off the band’s chops, as well as the fact that they know how to write a song, work with melody and work together.
On the tune “Autumn” they get a bit psych-rock. It’s like a deep void of sound but also one they keep close tabs on, never letting it get away from them as many bands tend to do. Then on the seven-plus-minute closer, the epic “Crawling Back” there is a permeating darkness of the darkest side of rock and blues, an all-out assault of a song and a hell of a way to close out a record.
Arbor Creek is a jam band record in the sense that it doesn’t play into too many other genres specifically enough to be labeled any single one in particular. There is transcendence on this record which I found very fulfilling and was really impressed with. This is a record that anyone who appreciates music will enjoy.
Originally formed in 2009 and then later solidifying as a permanent group in 2013, the Salem, Oregon band Felony Flies released their latest Flies this past April. With strong songwriting capabilities (three members write the songs), they have an awesome mix of metal, hard rock and grunge and they take influences from bands like Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots.
The song’s title track “Flies” is gritty and crunchy with heavy distortion. To me it feels like one part Rob Zombie and one part heavy grunge – real thick and loud! It also has a killer opening. As you may guess, “If You Can’t Fulfill Me, Kill Me” is not the happiest of songs, but eh, does it have to be? This one twists and chugs with vengeance. The finger work on guitar is classic and the following solo screams oh so well, as it should.
Musically, “System Slave” grooves along with a raunchy blues/metal sound and the guitar solo has some pretty tasty effects added. “Money” breaks fast and hard and it too sounds like it has a blues bent to it. The lyrics are funny and memorable. This one is a good intro kind of song for those not generally into this type of music. “Happy” is a little less heavy, maybe – more of a party favorite type of song and yes, it’s a song about feeling happy!
The fantastically funny titled “Regurgitation At Its Finest” is about a blind date that’s gone horribly wrong and the subsequent events following that date, also going wrong. The lyrics explain it all – “Every time I think about you / I wanna throw up in my mouth” and “ Love at first row” explains the sentiment. “Lovesick” is just the opposite of a love gone bad. This one is about being hung up in love with someone who you can’t live without. It’s not a soft rock love ballad musically; it’s about a guy who’s tormented over this girl, so expect the music to reflect this.
The guitar on the last number “Lonely Serenader” is thick and moves heavily quite nicely. The melody is dark and it gave me a few chills. Lyrically, it sounds like rage filled angst – but the good kind. Overall Flies is solid from start to finish. No song stuck out as if it were not supposed to be on the album. If you like the heavier, grittier sounds of rock and guitar solos with catchy riffs then you’ll like Felony Flats.
Luke Spehar is an artist from Minneapolis who blends country, Americana, bluegrass and more on his release The Pilgrim. Spehar was recently on tour with Ben Harper and I can hear why. I felt like their music goes very well together.
First and foremost the songs on this release have incredible production. If you want to hear what an acoustic album can sound like with professionals at the board just take a listen. It goes without saying production only goes so far without good songs. Luckily, the songs are top notch as well.
Up first is “The Farmer” which displays guitar and vocals. The song is immediately emotionally gratifying in a heartfelt melancholy type of way. Towards the end of the song orchestral strings give the song an epic coming of age, reflective type quality.
The pace changes considerably with “America and Me” which features handclaps and banjo that creates a mood that will make you want to dance. It’s a hopeful, fun and energetic song that should put you in a good mood.
“Love Songs and Lullabies” was another success. The instrumentation is great on this song and it is brimming with clarity and nuance. “Time With You” is sweet and undeniably romantic while “Which Road” is melancholy and thought provoking.
The title track picks up the pace but isn’t nearly as festive as “America and Me.” He closes with “Joshua” which strays away from the by the fireside singer/songwriter type vibe in favor of something more epic you would hear from a group like Mumford and Sons.
My only criticism is that Spehar comes close to fitting the mold of a singer/songwriter in the spirit of Jack Johnson or John Mayer and in my opinion we already have enough people who sound like that. That being said the talent is undeniable and I think there will plenty of people who love what he has to offer. Take a listen.
Carter Long is an eighteen-year-old musician from South Carolina who recently released 18. It’s almost twenty years since I was eighteen but I do remember my main concern back then was girls. It’s no surprise the EP is mainly about a girl who broke his heart.
Up first is “another one you hated” which I thought was the highlight of the batch. I thought the vocals sounded very similar to Local Natives and say that as a compliment. The song starts with a swell of atmosphere before introducing sparse keys and prominent beat. I loved the vocal melody which was immediately infectious. The song breaks down to vocals and keys before the last hurrah.
“Stay around” is a slower, melancholy number. It sounded like a detuned jazz song. Long’s vocals are smooth on this track and I thought the Andrew Bird-esque type whistling was a nice touch. Up next is “dancing with the sun” where he combines the warm glow of electric piano with a beat along with emotional driven laments.
He closes with “I can't hear a thing” which trades in the piano for guitar. The song reminded me of something I would hear off the album One Foot in the Grave by Beck. The vocals are delivered in a deadpan, monotone type of way but fit the song. In fact I thought this was another highlight.
Long is off to a great start with this EP. The songs are fairly varied and undeniably lo-fi but he can write a melody. The first and last song were stuck in my head after having heard them.
I think the next step for Long would be to figure out how to improve the engineering/production, whether that be investing in gear and know-how or working with another person. There were a host of issues that even a novice engineer could have improved such as more clarity in the vocals and proper frequencies in the kick drum with a basic setup.
Overall, I was impressed by what I heard and hope this is only the beginning. Recommended.
Pat Cassidy (guitar/vocals), Mike Cassidy (drums), Josh Wells (guitar) and Brady Humbert (bass) are Brothers. The band released If It Kills Me which showcases some of their songs.
The songs are straightforward rock with a clear ’90s flavor sprinkled in with some pop punk. They start off with “Blackout.” I thought the drums and bass in particular were tearing it up. Once the verse hits the song relies on distorted power chords, a steady beat and vocals. It’s a catchy song but also sounded broad and I couldn’t pick up on the signature sound of Brothers.
Up next is “All Gone” which is another solid song. The melodies were there but I wanted a little more happening musically besides distorted power chords. I loved the way “The Fix” started. The combination of guitar, vocal, drums and bass sounded great. In fact I thought this song was the highlight of the batch.
“Sleep On It” is perhaps the most single worthy song. I thought of a number of ’90s bands but blink 182 was the most obvious comparison. “Tread Lightly” has some crunchy heavy riffs but the vocalist attempts a range that he can't hit comfortably.
There were a couple of more highlights including “Broken Strings and Dying Batteries” which really excels in the verse. They close with “No Ones Children” which had some inspired moments along the way.
The production/recording quality on these songs is about on par with a demo you might record in your basement or garage. Truth be told this aspect will have to improve at some point to compete with the vast amount of notable bands in this genre.
The band is going for a no frills, no overdubs type of aesthetic which I appreciate. I thought the songwriting and delivery was solid from all the band members. On that note I had a harder time finding the unique aspects which defined a song from Brothers that would make me recognize the band if I randomly heard a song from them on the radio.
I liked the the songs overall but I think there can also be some tweaks in a number of areas which could take the band to the next level. I wish them luck and hope to hear more soon.
Oyster pt1. & pt2. are releases from Robert James. I’m not sure why these songs weren’t just put on one album because they are virtually identical in approach. These are lo-fi home recordings of a single lead vocal and acoustic guitar.
I started with “copper nail” which revolves around a couple strummed chords. He sings, “the lines are drawn in sand / but their moved by winds and ageing hands / each step it takes to overcome, time ripples on.” The lyrics are deep and poetic. The vocal delivery was dynamic and some light compression could have worked wonders here.
I liked the dissonance and taming of the next song “longest mile.” I would have loved to hear some more instrumentation on the track to back up his talking/singing style. James fits in a lot of lyrics on “going down to see” which is really the attraction to the song. Musically there isn't much happening beside a couple strummed major and minor chords. There are some great lines such as “nothing's more alone than the silence of a dream movement within solitude at peace it always seems.” James closes with “the owl” which has its moments. I had some trouble keeping up with the chorus because it felt a bit chaotic and jarring.
Oyster pt2. starts with “ballad of leo brown” which is a little smidge of Johnny Cash. He changes his style on “help take hold.” He sings the song in such a different way that I would have not known it was the same artist. “Help take hold” felt a little more heartfelt and authentic whereas “ballad of leo brown” felt hyperbolic as if he was playing a character.
He switches the vocal style again with “how it was always meant to be.” “Matador” is arguably the highlight of the batch and I thought the melodies were memorable.
I think James has some talent especially as a lyricist but the approach to the songs felt piece meal rather then cohesive. I would love to hear some of the songs with more instrumentation and better recording quality at some point.
Overall, I liked a number of songs on these releases. I think a boost in recording quality and more instrumentation might be something he should look into at some point. I look forward to hearing his evolution.
Sean McLaughlin is an artist who recently released The Derelict Choir EP. It’s a folk album which revolves around guitar and vocals with some other instruments sprinkled in. There was a mixed bag of songs; some of which I thought were clear standouts.
The album starts with “Bullet For You” which was one of the highlights. I thought McLaughlin sounded especially good at times singing on this song and the mix of banjo and drums worked very well. That being said McLaughlin tends to strain his voice to a point where he gets off key and loses the appealing the aesthetic qualities that he has at a comfortable range.
As an engineer it would be a disservice for me not to mention there were some issues with the production and recording. His vocals are so much louder on the second song “Sheldon and Abigail” comparatively to the first. These sorts of issues should be handled in the mixing and mastering stage. “Sheldon and Abigail” is just guitar and vocals. McLaughlin again gives a solid vocal performance but he has similar issues where there are certain words that are either off key or distinctly out of his natural range.
The next song which stuck out the me was “Culture War...This Virus” which I thought was the best song on the album. McLaughlin nails the vocal this time around and finds his range. On top of that the instrumentation was great and the vocal harmonies were exceptional. The chorus is infectious and I listened to the song a couple of times because I liked it so much.
As a lyricist McLaughlin has some skill. He avoids cliches and paints vivid imagery. Take for instance “Call Me When There's a Light On.” He sings, “I'll drink to you and sail with the albatross / Get to Cork and stare up at the Celtic Cross / Ask Christ to forgive me of my sins /Then jump back into my body again.”
The other notable track was “TSOA - Peace in the Valley.” There is some engaging strings at work here and a solid vocal performance.
I would have liked a couple of more songs to have had full arrangements dispersed between the solo guitar and vocals. I thought those were his strongest songs. I’ll add that I hope a bump in the production and recording quality happens next time around.
The Derelict Choir EP is a solid effort that showcases a lot of skill, talent and honest songwriting from McLaughlin. There were some songs I’m sure I’ll be re-visiting in the not too distant future.
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
Joan Smith and
the Jane Does Normalize EP 3.8
Late Night Bull Fight Something Doesn't
Add Up 3.6
Dead Pilgrim Dead Pilgrim 3.5
The Holy Knives Ritual Bloom 3.8
Big Burger Perfect Menu 3.5
The Last Living The Last Living 3.6
Ryan Webb STOP THE WORLD! 3.8
Mysterious Universe Mysterious Universe 3.9
Guilt Trap Can't Get Hurt 3.8
Thirty Car Pileup Sometimes I Walk
with Both My Eyes
We are 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 critique 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