Buddy Junior is the San Francisco based music project of Jared Levine and LN BL. As a big fan of shoegaze since the early 90’s I would say their music on Marietta fits into this category. Their music is more lo-fi than I’m used to for the genre but has a lot of the key criteria that reminds why I love this music in the first place. The vocals lay low in the mix, there is a ton of reverb and a lot of the hallmarks of the genre that band's like My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Slowdive established decades ago.
“MARIETTA” is the opener. There is a bit of an early M83 vibe here at first but quickly goes into a lush, shoegaze inspired sound with swirling soundscapes. The song has very little separation especially at first and perhaps that was aesthetically a choice but the vocals, drums, and guitars sounded like one glossy white ball of energy. It opens up and kind of blooms like a flower as the song progresses and starts to gel into a meditative hum.
“DIRT” starts with guitar and glistening keys. The duo trades vocal phrases like it’s a mantra and possess a hypnotic quality by the one minute mark. The guitar takes over but soon enough the duo return to the same vocal melodies. As the song progresses it builds slightly but then dissipates into a single distorted guitar which lasts about a minute.
The recording quality sounded it’s best on “GOTH”. It’s still undeniably lo-fi but the drums have more kick, the low end is more defined and clearer separation. The vocals are also have more clarity. Besides the recording quality, the song is also well written, delivered with precision and a clear highlight with memorable melodies. I liked the mesh of sounds here. The shoegaze qualities are there but there is a dirtiness to it that works really well. The very inspired guitar riff and in fact the whole groove that happens at the end of the song is just great and could have gone on longer.
“what my body tells me when i'm with you” felt like a vignette. The open with a groove and end with the same groove and melody. There are changes to the drums but I would call this song more ambient than anything just because of how repetitive it is.
The other highlight was “SLOW92”. This was the song where the female vocalist shines. It felt like she was singing lead hear rather than creating a hypnotic vocal pattern. The elements also work really well here and the song builds to the best climax on the EP.
If you aren’t an engineer you most likely don’t realize that shoegaze is one of the hardest genres to produce, record, mix and master. I remember the first time I heard Loveless and thought it was the worst thing I ever heard. It wasn’t until I started studying engineering that I realized the complexity. Decades later I still I think it's one of the best mixed and produced albums I’ve ever heard. That’s why I commend this band for their efforts and in particular “SLOW92” and “GOTH”.
Shoegaze is one of the off kilter genres that has a relatively small but dedicated fan base. I think fans of the genre will appreciate this EP and perhaps more important the possibilities and potential they have. I became a fan and am looking forward to hearing more from them. Recommended.
When it comes to Embrace The Fade, a new album from Heaven Process, its construction is almost as key as the end result. With a big focus on late ’80s and early ’90s synth, Heaven Process creates a dark and murky dream pop sound that is very retro in the most goth sense. The album was written by Justin Lomery who was dealing with a serious bout of depression during the process. As someone who been through a bout or two, maybe seven, myself, I loved that I was listening to someone channel that part of themselves and make something cathartic and productive. This album is thick. There is a lot to unpack and a lot of atmosphere being cultivated. This was an ambitious project and that is the first thing I wanted to acknowledge as I dive in.
This is an immersive and heavy album especially when it comes to the lyrics which are deeply poetic and thoughtful. It could dominate the mood of any room and reshape it in its image. The brooding is strong and decisive with how much vulnerability is shown. I respect the unbridled waves of melancholy, regret and hindsight. These are real things, and instead of hiding behind a smile, the music resides in its honesty. In this aspect, the album is beautiful.
So while this album rests in a very low-fi, low energy place, that doesn't mean it does so in black and white and gray scale. There is a living, beating heart in here that emits lots of saturated, vibrant colors. I think that's the beauty of calling back to an era like the ’80s where nothing was without at least a hint of color. The music is utterly saturated in heavy synth electronic sounds. I respect the homage but if I'm being honest it also sounded very dated. The production is very good to the point that it sounds like an 80's album that has been remastered at a very professional level.
Speaking of production, I have to give it to them for being able to achieve this nostalgic sound. Right down to every detail including the treatment of the vocals. The one thing that gives this album a modern edge is the stellar production. The main weapon of choice was Ableton which I think was an excellent idea for this sort of aesthetic. The album had parts coming in from all over the US and even as far as Manchester, from west coast to east coast. This album managed to cover a lot of ground and yet there is such a high level of cohesion.
Sometimes I'll get these albums and swear there really are time lords out there messing with the timelines. This album sounds like it was stolen from the past and brought to the now to re-ignite a synth invasion. Fans of those decades lost where synth was king and fog machines were never tacky will love Embrace The Fade.
Twelve Hour Day is an American alternative rock/pop-punk band from the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota that formed in the spring of 2017. The trio consists of childhood friends Aidan James (guitar/vocals) Zane Wagner (bass) and Jake Bringgold (drums). They are a young band and the topics felt like things I thought about while in my 20’s which include things like finding out what you want to so with your life, breaking up and the heartache that comes with it, etc.
I really liked the textures, tones and aesthetics on this album. The band kind of got this early 90’s grunge distortion thing going on. It’s a little more dirty and raw than straight pop punk. I think early Green Day and even Nirvana might be a good comparison to the type of distortion they were using.
The band get going with “Paper Planes”. It's a no frills catchy tune that grabbed my attention. That song has a lot of energy and there are breakdowns, builds and memorable melodies. It's trim, concise and has no extra fat.
They continue to have success with “Anchors” which under two minutes. I loved the vocals here. James kills it on the chorus and really finds range. It's another song that doesn't overstay it's welcome and gets done what's needed.
“Living Waste” was the first song that felt very 90’s to me. This song had a Green Day kind of vibe when it came to the chord progressions and overall intensity. “Divide” definitely has a number of wicked grooves. This song at points felt like hard rock or even metal for a couple of brief moments. I liked the fact that the band had no problem flirting into different areas.
They have more success with “Hanging on to Yesterday” which revisits an old relationship while “Minneapolis Kids” goes back in fun and fast punk with some engaging twists and turns. The close strong with “Some People”, “Angry Faces” and “We're All Actors”.
I was a teenager in the 90’s and remember when this style of music was at its peak. I’m glad bands like this are keeping the spirit alive. Recommended.
Tensaw is a project revolving around South Alabama native Tyler Lee Wilson. He recently released Tensaw EP was contains four songs. These songs sound like they are from the south. In fact, I can picture these songs being played on a front porch.
These songs are a mix between traditional country, folk and bluegrass. I’d also say these songs sound best in the evening when the sun is going. They are relaxing and just by listening to them seem to reduce anxiety.
Up first “River of Whiskey” which is a superb song and the highlight. The mood here takes you down the lazy river of relaxation. I absolutely loved the melodies and it’s sung perfectly. This song is just so easy on the ears. You can't help but sway back and forth.
That sort of mood continues with “Sunset Limited”. It’s very laid back sort of like that song “Ripple” by The Grateful Dead. The song contains some slide guitar, what sounds like mandolin and acoustic guitar. I loved the fills that were strategically placed in the song. The lyrics fit the song which is about a boat, it’s captain and the destination. Wilson sings “Down on Mobile Delta, the fog’s been rolling in There's a towboat headed north with a heavy load of coal But the crew’s a little thin The captain's sound asleep, first mate is at the wheel”
“Don't Bother” has a slightly different feel. The song first of all has drums and sounds like a song you might hear in the movie Dusk Till Dawn. There is some mystery and danger to the song. “Another Year Gone” is more lively. This song actually felt brighter and could also be a song to start your day to.
As an engineer the only slight issue I had was that some of the songs were at noticeably different volumes and there is also some slight issues with the sonic imprint. It was nothing major but something a mastering engineer could take care of.
I liked all these songs but something about those first two songs were the style I preferred. Overall, this a good batch of songs from a very talented musician. Recommended.
Charlie Doesn't Surf is band from Minneapolis, Minnesota comprised of Joshua Williamson (guitar/vox) John Bruno (drums) Wyatt Engl (bass). They band released two EP’s both of which we reviewed here at Divide and Conquer. The band is back with another release and this time it’s their self-titled album.
The band covers a wide range of topics on this release including grief, struggles with modern technology and the culture it creates, and civic pride, and more. As far as the music goes the band keeps it close to their previous EP’s. The songs are catchy, rock based and mostly revolve around guitar, bass, drums and vocals but piano does show up on occasion.
The album was a pleasure to listen to. Although there are some heavy topics the mood isn’t heavy or bogged down. In fact I thought some of their music had a " it's summer roll down your windows" type of quality. The song are for the most part bright and infectious.
The band gets going with “Darkroom Dream” which is indicative of the general style the band plays into for a large majority of the album but there are some twists and turns as well. I thought the aesthetics had a classic 90’s alternative feel to it. The verse is clean and catchy while the chorus rocks out considerably hard in epic fashion.
“D.U.I.” is another example of band writing a single worthy song. The chorus is very addictive. “Lynlake Punk” sounded somewhere between The Smashing pumpkins and Hum to my ears while “Palm Pilot” and “Despot” is a little closer to 90’s punk.
One of the highlight was “Stand/Fall” which was a little more experimental. It’s a bass heavy song and there is some intense guitar action on this song which had a post-rock quality to it. “Broken Cells” is an inward, cerebral journey that seems to be about cancer. I loved the melody on this song. “Travis (Revisited)” is a slow burn and eventually becomes one of the more epic songs on the album. The mood perks up with “Perpetual Youth” but gets contemplative with “HWY 19”. “Ode 2 Harper” felt simultaneously loud and soft in a very cool way. They closer with a song called “closer” which was a fitting ending.
The band covers a lot of ground here and their debut album felt like their most rewarding release yet. Recommended.
AP Macroeconomics is a solo artist from Seattle. I spent some time with both of his EP’s A Lot of Opens, a Lot of Climbing Down and Balancing Act. His music tends to veer towards and relies on acoustic instrumentation. I was reminded of the band's as far ranging and The Microphones, The Dodos and The Antlers. On paper this music doesn't sound that impressive but it’s really about the details, delivery and color of the music that made me like it so much.
The two EP’s could have been one album to me. There weren’t enough striking differences where I felt one had a different foundation.
He opens with “Course Evaluations” on A Lot of Opens, a Lot of Climbing Down. It consists of a couple quickly strummed acoustic guitar chords and lo-fi percussive. The music has an upward energy and motion. It’s the vocals that were the huge draw for me. I just really liked his delivery. His voice is slightly melancholy but never dismal. It has this stoic quality it which I found appealing.
Songs like “Waste”, and “Heated Tiles” almost sound a little out of tune but it’s those qualities which make the music feel raw and real. There are also great melodies as well which stay with you which you hear on “Matter of Time/When” and “Up @”.
Balancing Act opens with “American Novel”. This song in particular sounded like perfect lo-fi. His vocals are clear and the acoustic guitar contains just enough warmth. This song also happened to be a highlight out of all the songs I heard. “Hypoxia” is this sort of off beat blues number while “Red Bereave” was really lo-fi.
“Venetian Blinds” is one of the more somber songs while “Cactus Breath” contains a full on drum set. He closes the somber singalong “Dagnabbit!”.
I fell in love with lo-fi acoustic songs from bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and The Microphones a long time ago. I’m glad newer artists like this are keeping that flame alive.
Justin Bloom is a twenty three year old artist from Boston, Massachusetts who recently released You'll Try which is a four song EP. Bloom recorded and produced the EP himself and showcases how good production can be bedroom artist. The songs contain lush soundscapes and heartfelt melodies that have similarities to artists like James Blake and Blood Orange.
I really appreciated the palette of sounds Bloom brought to the table. The drums were usually big and deep while the synths had a combination or warm and airy tones. That being said it was the vocals that made me fall in love with these songs.
The album opens with “I Don't Know”. You hear drums that are in front of the mix with the key and synths creating a tranquil background. There are other percussive elements which come into the mix and the song starts to build energy and more movement start to happen. The vocal melodies start become and soon become a mantra when he repeats the line “what do you think”. There is inventive splicing as well when to comes to the vocals.
“What You Think” starts off with the hook. The song is very lush and the vocals fit the mood. His delivery is relaxed but he pushes his inflection when needed. There are some on this song and you can hear a tinge of Blood Orange on this track.
Next up is “Lift You When You're Down (feat. Alex Lorraine). '' The additional vocalist was a welcome addition. They can definitely harmonize together. The song twinkles in the early morning hours and just about perfect for a chill underground lounge. Last up is “You'll Try”. Bloom’s vocals are up front in this song and they sound great. The end of of this song is absolutely beautiful.
This is a very strong debut. Bloom’s talent is obvious and hope this is just sampel of what’s to come.
Steve Sharfa (guitar/bass/drums) and Shannon Crawford (vocals/violin) are Singularity. Singularity has a whopping twenty four tracks which is two almost three albums worth of music.
The music feels firmly rooted in 80’s rock to my ear. There are those intense guitar solos and drumming patterns. The album is such a mix of genres and styles. It’s not only that the engineering is very varied. Some of the music is very lo-fi while other songs felt like solid home recordings.
The opening “Ashes of Fire” is one of the highlights. It contains some killer guitar work and drumming. As I mentioned the 80’ influence seems very apparent here which link to speed metal and heavy rock. “One Breath” was also one of my favorite tracks. There is a punk vibe on this song and thought Crawford sounded particularly good on this track.
“Solace” contains some softer elements like acoustic guitar and was a nice change of pace while “Unjustified” has it moments and again go for a more punk rock inspired moments. As the album progresses I felt there were a good amount of highlights.
There are so many songs here I really felt like it should have been split into two albums. I’m kind of old school in that I like to listen to it from beginning to end. Even my favorite albums which happen to be much shorter I have a hard time getting through in one sitting. My point being is sometimes brevity is beneficial.
As an engineer myself I have the admit the inconsistencies with the recording quality was my only issue here. Some songs for instance had too much low end with 200hz - 450hz and were masking the valuable mids while other songs were more clear. My suggestion, especially when working with this many songs is to hand it over to a professional mastering engineer who will solve issues like these.
Overall, I think there is a lot to praise about this album. There is a good variety of styles and I think this duo make a powerful combination. I thought the songs were well written in terms structure and top notch lyrics and delivery sealed the deal.
AntiSocial Surf Club is a band from Ontario, Canada that have had a number of different band names over the years. Apparently, they are more settled now and have core members and aren’t changing their name again.
The band released Peace and Quiet which is short (under ten minutes) EP but a boatload of fun. I laughed when I read their description. It said, “it’s like if Greenday was the Beach Boys.” Well by that logic wouldn’t they just be The Beach Boys. Ok I’m being pedantic. They mix Beach Boys flavor with some punk which is about right. All the songs are ridiculously catchy and the music feels youthful and sort of coming of age.
They get cracking with “Dancing Alone” and they do in fact talk about being young. And when I say young I mean 20’s which is a fun part of life where anything seems possible. That type of free energy is apparent in the song. It’s loose and really fun. The band is really tight as well. There is a breakdown section which sounds very much like Green Day but when they get back into the verse they do sort of have that surf vibe going on.
“25 and Sunny” is a lot of fun as well. I was actually reminded of Vampire Weekend on the verse but there is a lot of that pop punk flavor as well. The guitars patterns are hypnotic on this song and the subdued vocal harmonies really lift the lead vocal.
The band closes with “Peace and Quiet” and they seem to be celebrating that they are twenty years old. Ok, well I felt pretty old listening to this track but nonetheless I have some fond memories of being that age.
The band is a blast and this EP is a short but repeatable ride. I’m looking forward to hearing more.
It was early ’90s. I was around twelve and I finally discovered rock. The band that blew my mind was Guns N’ Roses. They were my first love when it came to rock and god knows I listened to their music endlessly. I remember my first breakup was around that time and after she broke up with me for some reason I called her parents’ house and played the song “Get in the Ring” through the phone. No one picked up so I let the entire song play through the answering machine. Anyhow, I digress, the reason I bring this up is because I just listened to Take You For a Ride by Kruiser. If they are not as big fans of Guns N’ Roses as I am or a bigger fan then I have no idea what universe I’m living in. The band does have their own thing going on but there were so many times where certain riffs, breakdowns and parts where I was thinking “these guys must dig Guns N’ Roses.”
The band is comprised of Liam Heuser (guitar/vocals), Mikey Krause (guitar/vocals), Jake Wood (bass) and Jack Jump (drums). There are four songs on this EP and at the very least these songs should give you a very clear idea of who these guys are.
They open with “Take You For a Ride” and the title says it all. This is the single to my ears. The song hits hard and fast and gets to the chorus early in the game. It’s a sing-along worthy song and also one that sounds best loud.
Next up is “Not Much Left” which rocks out hard. They pull off some classic rock moves that real fans of the genre will eat up. “Rebels Are Blind” is equally as badass. They close with “Turn Around in Take” which is by far the most epic. The song starts off a little like “Patience” by Guns N’ Roses but instead of staying on the intimate, acoustic side the band decides to plug in their guitars and reach some epic crescendos.
I think these guys might have been born in the wrong decade. As a big fan of this music that is by no means an insult but you have to face facts. This type of music just isn’t that popular anymore. That being said I think it will have great appeal to fans of the genre and maybe, just maybe, if enough young people hear it we will have a resurgence. Spread the word - rock on my friends.
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