Grey Fields is a band from Chicago whose 2019 EP Sometimes the Dark Outweighs the Wonder was a Top Album here on Divide and Conquer. Their brand new release titled Vesna is a ten-song album that “…revolves around the concept of cycles. It’s moody and filled with existential questions, sort of similar to a band like Radiohead.”
Formed in 2016 but with 25 years of experience, Grey Fields consists of Alex Dzamtovski (vocals/guitar/keys), Adam Repp (bass/vocals) and John Polischuk (drums), with guest cello by Yoed Nic of Regina Spektor/Rufus Wainwright fame. They state that their music “combines elements of folk and rock but often fuses that with classical music in terms of structure and instrumentation.” The album was recorded and mixed at home and mastered at The Boiler Room in Chicago by Collin Jordan.
Grey Fields generally features spooky vocals sung as if in a dream, busy and distinctive bass playing, and cello parts that add a cool, neo-classical feel to the proceedings. They reminded me of both early and later Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and maybe a darker Camper Van Beethoven.
“The Luck” begins the album with a short, tentatively picked song that could be taken as a welcome or a warning, though I lean toward the latter. “Weather The Storm” is a seven-minute psychedelic epic that quickly establishes Grey Fields’ debt to Radiohead in the vocals, melodies and extraneous sounds. The bass playing here and elsewhere is unique, a sort of rapid-pulse heartbeat that won’t be ignored. The drums are good too, though mixed mostly center. At about four minutes Yoed Nir’s cello is first introduced, adding tons of class and color. The song changes slowly until the final, triumphant two minutes, taking us from dream to celebration.
“Mines And Tunnels” takes a short break for a whimsical, folky tune about the changes in a loved one over time. It feels like a heartland band backed by aliens. “Maybe My Next Day” kicks in with a smart, solid beat and more spacey chord schemes and vocals. Repp’s bass again plays more notes per second than I thought possible. After a whistling interlude, “Halfway Home” again owes a debt to Radiohead, specifically OK Computer and the song “Exit Music (For A Film).” I love the upbeat, almost bluegrass energy in the second half.
“Palm Trees” opens with up-front acoustic guitars and features an interesting, repeating chord motif throughout, like a record skip. The structure of this song owes a little to The Rutles’ “Cheese and Onions” with some of the nicest cello playing so far, sounding like a string quartet. “Ineffable” features off-kilter beats for a melancholy tune that just barely hangs together.
The big finale “Every Now And Then And Always” leans heavily on the yearning side of Grey Fields, becomes weirdly psychedelic, then gathers itself together into a celebratory tune that recalls Yellow Sub-era Beatles. It’s all the elements of Grey Fields in one teeming package, and there’s a cool graphics-heavy video for this one that does an amazing job of visualizing the music.
Fans of space rock, psychedelic music, and of course Radiohead will really love these guys!
Kiss the Tiger is a rock n’ roll rebirth band hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Formed in 2016, Kiss the Tiger has worked hard to capture the hearts of Twin Cities’ music lovers. That sentiment should go well past Minneapolis, Minnesota. The band recently released Vicious Kid which is a killer twelve-song rock album.
Man, can Meghan Kreidler (vocals) sing. She has a sort of classic rock voice in a lot of ways. It reminded me of powerhouse rock female vocalists from the ’70s. I’m not sure she sounds too much like Patti Smith but that emotive quality is apparent to my ears,
The album starts with “Motel Room” which is an upbeat piano bar type of romp. It's high energy and fills you with adrenaline. The vocal performance is great but man the band just clicks here and sounds like an unstoppable force.
The next song is like a ’70s ballad. It’s warm, has some tasty organs and Kreidler transforms her voice here to fit the music. She sounds great and pulls off this type of song with ease. We get into rock mode with “Who Does Her Hair?” and “Weekend” and these songs are prime ’70s rock. This is when rock had an attitude and oh man can you feel it.
“Hold On To Love” is perhaps the most single worthy song. The hook, the dynamics and the mix grab you right away. There are some subtle moments on highlight “Out of My Mind” which blossoms into this spaghetti western like vibe. It had me imagining I was wandering the desert avoiding killer mercenaries. “Ghost Song” and “Dinosaur Song” were the other highlights.
This is a great album. It’s dynamic and fans of rock should love this. I sure did. Take a listen.
Sinister Cutlery is an avant-rock duo from Middle England (aka Milton Keynes and Oxford), comprising of Neil Cutland (aka Neil Cutlery) on guitars and Mark Whittaker (aka Mark Sinister) on synthesizers. Cutland and Whittaker met four decades ago at college in York where they were members of The Kitchen Utensils – a justifiably unknown band given their prog rock aspirations and palpable absence of musical talent. At the time Cutland played drums, but prior to the formation of Sinister Cutlery in 2015, he made the switch to guitar. Meanwhile, Whittaker graduated over time from a homebuilt synthesizer to computer-based music production. Sinister Cutlery’s album State of Fear was recorded and mixed in a bedroom studio between 2015 and 2020, mostly using Presonus Studio One as the DAW. Aside from the guitars and some vocals, the album was created primarily "in the box" as the lingo goes. The album was mastered by Barry Gardner at Safe and Sound Mastering. Cutland and Whittaker live in separate parts of the UK, which made the writing process irregular, involving extensive file exchanges over the internet. Because of the Covid lockdown, remote recording was used via Steinberg's collaborative software tools. State of Fear explores the nascent fear that is part of the human condition in the twenty-first century, through a wide range of musical genres resulting in a diverse set of tracks. The sonic results reflect the band’s Influences, which range from ‘70s prog rock to modern day electronica.
According to the duo, the opening track “Digging for Timmy” is well, about “mislaying a tortoise…” – obviously. I’ll leave that one for the listener to figure out. The guitar is flowing, and bright, then more harder edge tones come in along with a commanding bass melody. The synths trickle in with some solo work as does the lead guitar. Great opening number! The band states that the next song “Kandahar” was inspired by the “sand dunes, wadis and Tuareg encampment of Northern Africa, while awaiting a posting to the conflict zone.” The tune starts off with nice guitar layering, then come synths and background vocals. Overall, a dramatic prog-rock style with dark undertones. The album’s title track “State of Fear” is a statement for the rest of us nobodies to rise up, wake up and see the “bloody tyranny” for what it truly is – just one, big, mind warping plot to get us to be submissive to those in power. There is a reference here “To Queen and country” so the song addresses more specific conditions in England, but eh, sounds like the same ‘ol, same ‘ol here in the states, too. This one’s got a great late ‘70s electronic prog-rock vibe, reminding me of Bowie’s Low. Maybe it was the key this song was in or melody that did it for me.
“The Grim Sweeper” features “Orange Cutlet” on lead guitar, accompanied by some fantastic guitar and drum action. Not sure what words are being sung, but man, the programmed drums are in overdrive – prog-metal in full force! “She Decided to Go (to War)” puts the breaks on big time and changes genres – if you like The Police’s version of reggae or Bob Marley or ‘pick your favorite reggae/ska band here,’ I think you’ll like this one. The echoing snare effect was a nice touch. The band describes “Moon Feet” as “ambient dyads with crashing waves while lying on a beach in the mountains near a babbling brook – surrounded by birds and mysterious maidens.” Another nice diversion, and pretty chill – adding to an already diverse album. The next tune was influenced by other musicians named “Andy, Keith and Bob.” I thought this one had an outer space vibe to it with heavy prog-rock/ambient influences – perhaps some Pink Floyd in there, too. I really liked this one a lot.
Next up is “Go for Deploy” which features voices from NASA recordings. The bones behind this track come from the band’s earlier attempts to make music using extensive guitar sample recordings on a laptop. So, it’s more production, rather than music based. I liked the edgy guitar parts and funkier bass lines, too – quite catchy. “52 to 48, Says Leif the Emu” mixes early techno and electronic with an almost samba-like drumbeat keeping the rhythm. A “futuristic” song that sounds like it was a lot a fun to make. The next song “Antares 9” – which has a fantastic ring to it – has been described as “an energizing, inspired melding of the real with the metaphysical” but also regarded as “pretty ordinary.” Either way, a pretty awesome track. I liked how the instruments gradually blended into one another and mixed elements of early EDM and ‘80s new wave. “Tomorrow in History” takes influences from various sources – daytime TV, violin concertos and heavy rock guitar. A good, solid and danceable drum beat that does have a sort of “soap opera” quality about it, but without all that soft-rock elevator music soaps are known for. The last track, “I Remember Scary Henry” goes all the way back to the band’s early days in York in the late ‘70s. It starts off rather trippy, experimental and ambient, sounding more mysterious than most tunes on the album. I kept thinking there was going to be some breaking moment where the drums come crashing in, but no go. Anyway, a nice contrast to round out this highly diversified, but cohesively written album.
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
shadow work Robben Island 3.9
Misty Fortunate Disaster 3.6
Peter Stone Remote 3.9
Plu Mera Wait Here 3.6
Little Paradise Little Paradise 3.6
The One With, Uh, What’s It… The Dog on the Cover is the debut release from Why Lions? a New Jersey-based rock quartet. John Hull is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist; Mark Coniticchio handles lead guitar and the occasional keyboard. The bottom end is held down by Martin Czajkowski (bass) and Zack Papianni (drums) with both Papianni and Czajkowski helping with backing vocals.
All ten tracks here are originals. With their instrumentation, you’d expect a guitar-based rock record, and that’s what they’ve delivered. Why Lions? cites Queens of the Stone Age, Green Day and Stevie Ray Vaughn, among others, as influences. These are bits of funk (the 7#9 chords in “Broken Skin”), some early ‘90s Blues Traveller-like grooves (“Can’t Change”/“Little Smile”), and some fast punk too (“Hindsight”/“Heaven Up There”).
There are some strong moments on the album. The ending vocal stacks on “Little Smile” and the a cappella bits of “Hindsight” are solid. Coniticchio snaps off a Joe Perry-esque guitar solo on “Broken Skin.” Be sure to check out the middle section and rapid-fire lyrics on “Since You Asked…”.
The band have been a working live act for a number of years, and they try to capture that live-gig energy. Some of that works, and some of that doesn’t fully translate to the studio setting. On “Little Smile,” for instance, the band has written a nice bridge, shifting to heavier ‘70s riff-rock. While it’s challenging to switch guitars live, in the studio it’s an opportunity to punch in a different guitar tone and make the song sparkle, instead of keeping the same axe and amp settings.
In addition, the album mixing doesn’t always support the band’s performance. It almost feels like a soundboard recording of a live gig. There’s not a lot of variation in the levels; while we can hear everything, the dynamics suffer. For instance, on the “Don’t Talk To Me” instrumental breaks, the guitars should come up front-and-center, and then move to the background once the vocals come back in. While “set and forget” sliders can work in a small club with musicians handling their own levels onstage, in a studio setting the mixer needs to perform, too. This is all part of the growth process as a band transitions between live act and recording artist; I’m confident the band (and their studio partners) will bolster this area in future releases.
The One With, Uh, What’s It… The Dog on the Cover is a good foundation for Why Lions? The album showcases a live band learning about the studio. I look forward to following their development as recording artists, and watching them adapt their songs and performances to fit this medium.
From Minneapolis, MN, indie pop/rock artist Bev has been making albums and playing shows since 2010. Previously performing under the name, Niki Becker, she changed her name to Niki Beverly (in honor of her deceased mother) after her divorce in 2018 and began performing under the name Bev. She released her previous album Static Elastic in September 2018 and is back with Crusher.
The album contains eleven songs and contains fantastic songs. I felt like the album could be categorized as rock or alternative. It sounds fresh, vibrant and very catchy. The album starts with “Crocodile Tears” which contains brass horns, clean guitar, bass, drums and very catchy vocal melodies. It grabbed me right away and I was excited to hear what else was on the album.
The next song is “January.” I loved the simplistic bass and drums which allowed the vocals to be emphasized. There’s a bit of a post-punk like vibe when the guitars enter the mix. “The Scenery” starts off rock based and felt like a tip of the hat to the ’90s. I liked the rock based song but the atmospheric vibe I heard on “Madrid” is just money. The end of this song around the two-minute mark is absolutely beautiful. I also loved the jazzy “Nothing Last Forever.” Another highlight is “Before The End” and all I want to say here is “bass.”
“You’re Gonna Destroy Me” is another atmospheric song perhaps in the style of Mazzy Star. The end though is incredible which is dissonant and sounds like you’re in the middle of a tornado. The more folk inspired “Bad Bad Habit” was also a standout track.
This is a really great album. The album, production and delivery is all there. I also really thought the qualities were apparent when listening to it from beginning to end. Recommended.
Vancouver, BC brings us solo artist Video Days, and his eponymous debut EP. It was written, recorded, mixed and mastered entirely in his bedroom, except for some outside drumming help. He draws from his shoegaze and lo-fi influences and mixes in some surf, garage and indie rock feels across the five tracks.
His goal with the EP was to “convey a specific mood [and] feeling.” “Sleepwalk,” the opening track, gets right to business with a moody, melancholic rocker awash with guitars and distorted, buried vocals. It’s a straight-ahead track that fits that lo-fi, shoegaze sound with a few cool chords thrown in for color.
Up next is “Bummer” which keeps a similar sound but evokes a poppy ‘60s beach vibe with bell-like keyboards doubling some of the guitar lines. Again, the vocals are buried and distorted, making the lyrics incomprehensible.
No matter--the vocals fit the ethos of the album, and it doesn’t matter what Video Days is saying; the overall soundscape and melodies communicate the mood well. “High School Blues” pokes a little fun at early-career garage bands. The reverb-drenched “Dazed” is particularly easy on the ears with its dreamy wash of sound and interesting layers of keyboard tones.
Video Days hits his peak on the final track “Portra 400” which features a picked acoustic guitar figure and a nice use of pedal tones under a pretty melody. There’s a surprise, unresolved ending to the proceedings, which is a nice way to finish the disc.
This is a strong debut. If the album misses, it’s in the mastering. Yes, it’s supposed to be lo-fi, but the mastering choices (with the software set to the “old transistor radio” setting) detract from the detailed work Video Days has done with the sound design. A remastered version that aimed for more immediacy would allow the listener to immerse more deeply and appreciate the depth here.
These are technical choices that are easy to address. In the meantime, Video Days EP is an enjoyable shoegaze/lo-fi spin.
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Dane DiPerro is a veteran of Washington DC’s indie rock scene. Having played in bands like The Capstan Shafts, Ghost Hotel and Distant Creatures, so far, he has released five albums and played festivals like CMJ and SXSW. Like many other musicians during lockdown, when the pandemic hit, DiPerro found himself struggling to remain creative in an isolated environment. Going back to old demos he started years ago, DiPerro decided to finish these projects, resulting in his debut Romance Languages EP that is his dive into getting these songs realized under the moniker Romance Languages.
Romance Languages EP gets revving to a start with “Let’s Get Out!” where warbling synths and electronic riffs sound out to great effect along with the sound of jangly guitars. Once DiPerro’s vocals enter, you can right away feel the urgent themes permeating this track. As a drumming beat settles in, the song becomes more dynamic and shimmering. The vocals feel kind of submerged under the instrumentals. Perhaps more fidelity would give a more balanced sound. The vibe here is busy and energetic. I loved the great energy here. More guitars make up the sound on “Misread” as a drumming beat sets the stage. Some keys add to the vibes. The beat is bouncy here. I greatly enjoyed the jaunty rhythms. This seemed like another upbeat and catchy track with great energy. I thought DiPerro sounded a lot like Passion Pit but with more guitars. The euphoric sounds above all made me think this. Off to a sauntering groove, “Tastes” feels more like a slow burn with more of a bluesy pulse and lounge vibe. There is no doubt that these cool grooves have the ability to soothe. The more subdued vocals really found their home here, as the hushed sensibilities bring about the smooth sounds.
On “You’ve Got Everything You Need,” synths add to the ambiance on this song as chord progressions on the acoustic guitar give off a very intimate performance. Progressing with tons of reverb, this song is filled with distorted and fuzzy effects. Traces of a piano melody also make its way. The steel lap guitar went on to create a more atmospheric feel to this track. This felt like a song with embellishments in indie, folk and Americana. Filled with tons of mood and feeling, this track will really take you there. “Cemetery Gates,” is a Smiths’ cover. This rendition felt true to the original while keeping to the musical themes on the EP. Packed full of emotion, the delivery on this acoustic track was very immediate. Just on guitars and vocals, DiPerro finishes with this dynamic and captivating closer.
These acoustic tracks are like a breath of fresh air to the indie, acoustic, bedroom pop and dreampop umbrellas. DiPerro utilizes both acoustic and electronic embellishments in taking these tracks to the next level. Because digital and live instruments are used, the experience is layered with lush and dream-like acoustics. While touching on themes of isolation, restlessness, alienation and learning to be content with the things we have, DiPerro leans into a folksy ambiance with shimmering indie rock and dazzling dreampop displays as he talks about things close to his heart and the things going on in the world. Feeling very singer/songwriter in mode, DiPerro goes the distance with songs that take on the innate while appealing to what’s going on around us with candor and spirit. DiPerro’s songwriting abilities and musicianship goes above and beyond the expected. This proved to be a good introduction to what he is going for in regards to sound and I greatly look forward to seeing what’s next for him.
Back in 1984, The Gutter Brothers composed of Tony Green, Steve Turner and Chris Cawten formed. The band had some success when they were discovered by MTV. Within a few months the band had rocketed from street buskers to performing at The Capital Radio Festival and The Reading Festival with artists such as Steve Harley, Dr Feelgood, Debbie Harry, Jools Holland to name a few. The band eventually broke as band's do but they had a good run that went to 1993. They recently released Summer in the City - the Best of the Gutter Brothers.
The band is essentially a rock band but they throw in other elements as well like folk and jazz in to the mix. There are some truly great tunes out of the fifteen that they have on the album. One of the highlights was “Everlasting Shining Peace of Mind” which is a jazzy sort of hoe down. The song is a fun time from beginning to end and a real romp.
The band can also rock out on songs like on “Anyone but Me” but I actually preferred the slicker song like “The Spoiler” which has a bit of a Tom Waits thing going on. I also really loved “Fat Cadillac” which is another song that feels like pure fun from the percussive elements to the playful mantra.
“Mother Primeval” is another highlight which has a country and jam band type vibe which reminded me of the Grateful Dead. The late night B.B. King blues of “Girl for Granted” was killer as was the classic rock inspired “Stand Up Little Jesus” and “I Ain’t Afraid.” The band even has a ballad called “Blow Away.” I also enjoyed “Runaway Train” and the closer “Smashed in the Face by the Fist of God.”
This was a diverse batch of songs and I found the band to have multiple sides. I felt the strongest songs were often the most loose and playful which was most of them. The band has something to be proud of when looking back at their career and this release is a testament to that. Take a listen.
As a part of his New Year’s resolution, Justin Robben decided he would plunge himself into the world of songwriting and see where it takes him. A couple of months later and here we have this six-track demo of songs that shows his first efforts ever as a songwriter and musician. Growing up, Robben learned how to play piano and sang in the shower. His musical father was an enormous inspiration to his music and now heading into his fifties, there is no better time than the present pursue his passion. Seeing how this was his first attempt ever recording, I was greatly impressed by how good he sounded. Robben certainly knows how to belt a tune as this group of tracks for his demo Deborah is greatly indicative of his vocal talents. With music that revisits classic ‘80s rock, this endeavor, which seemed to be another project sprung from isolation, shows an artist willing to take us right back to a sound we all know well and love.
Deborah gets started with “Bridges and Candles,” where some drumming beats and a dynamic vocal harmony comes strutting in. I was straight away impressed by Robben’s singing ability. At moments, the combined vocal harmonies reminded me of The Beach Boys and The Beatles. There was just something to the vocals that arrested me right away. The acoustic guitar solo also proved to be a good highlight. The melodic and catchy riffs have the ability to transport you. I loved the energy and delivery of this track. A drumming beat and some rumbling bass adds to the sounds on “The Slinger Of Silverton.” The vibe of the vocals changes up for a more emo-driven drone. This seemed to be a change of pace to the more driven and upbeat energy from before. But I was excited to see the artist venturing into new territory, willing to explore all sides to his music-making. Some wind instruments light up the sound on “You Will See” as some beats gain traction. As warbling synths and keys come in, the sound grows into a more shimmering and electronic feel. The vibes have an ‘80s synth feel to it. There was a new wave appeal to this song that made it very retro-inspired.
On “The City,” percolating synths and beats gives this track an airy feel. Feeding into tons of ambiance, this felt like a moody number. There was an ominous vibe to this song that gave it a haunting air. I enjoyed the keys solo here. On “Written In the Stars,” bouncy beats meet the start of this track as some retro keys set the scene. The vibe feels very vintage as the shouted-out vocals make for a compelling performance. The energy here felt very contagious and invigorating. Some reverberating keys and synths create an airy sonic landscape on “Stepping Down (Untrue).” Once the subdued ‘80s-inspired vocals come in, the ambiance really starts to come together. Feeling very new wave-influenced, I enjoyed the synth-based sounds and bouncy beats. This song felt like another synth-pop, new wave number, though I would have liked to see more music in the acoustic vein.
Robben is able to capture another era with these songs while also adding his own distinctive flavorings to the rock genres. At the focal point of these tracks are Robben’s vocals. I was amazed at his singing abilities. Though only in their demo stages, I think Robben does a great job in delivering the goods. Though Robben mixes a lot of synths in these recordings, I think his more acoustic-leaning track really drives in a more intimate and immediate energy. Though there were some songs I preferred more than others, this was an overall good batch of songs. I think these demos point Robben in a good direction and I look forward to seeing him releasing a full-length in the future.
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