Dream of a Man in a Top Hat is the band name for the recording duo of Lee Leffler (guitars/keys/vocals) and Michael Frackleton (drums/bass/keyboards/vocals). Both are veterans of the ’80s post-punk Boston band Native Tongues. They now rehearse in two separate Massachusetts homes and lay down their tracks using Logic Pro and GarageBand with mastering by CloudBounce.
Their previous release, an EP titled Blunt Instrumentals, has been described as “cool, grooving, swaggering, psychedelic, experimental, wild, infectious, seductive, chaotic and unique.” For this new full-length project, they’ve decided to add vocals to their alt-rock sound. They feel that fans of the Yardbirds, Jack White, Syd Barrett, Tame Impala, Dandy Warhols and the Beatles will enjoy their music, but that’s a pretty tame list for what they actually deliver.
The first thing I noticed is that the Dreamers have not embraced the “shorter is better” aesthetic: these 13 songs average around four minutes each, making for a rather lengthy collection; but of course, how they use that time is most important. As you’ll discover, that’s a question I can’t easily answer!
“Small Plastic Animals” fades in with clouds of repeating guitar figures against which an acoustic guitar plays with buried vocals that slowly work their way forward. This track was mixed very strangely and didn’t work for me at all: nothing coheres, and then it just fades out. “Bill And Lulu” features a squeezed, quickly strummed electric guitar and pinched percussion with vocals billowing all over the place. The weirdness of this mix at least recalls early Pink Floyd. I can’t make out anything that’s being sung (plus no lyrics sheet!) but I did get caught up in the melodies and harmonies of this song, along with some of the cool experimental Beatles Revolver sounds. “If You Wanted Normal” has an infectious beat with insistent keyboards and stabbing electric guitar, and could very well be about this album! “If you’re waiting for me to be normal / if you’re waiting for me to make sense / all my life I’ve been trying to understand myself / trying to figure it out.” I like this song in spite of its mix where nothing takes center stage: certain instruments sound miles away while others jump out at random intervals. There’s a nice lead solo buried in there somewhere.
“Because” is a fun space funk romp with prominent bass and silvery metallic guitar lines with some incredible processing. This is the best mix so far by a mile, and the first time I felt that the boys achieved what they’ve been promising. “What’s The Fact” is another nicely arranged and mixed tune with sharp, clean drums and percussion right up front. The “chorus” is not of this world, more of a mass of bent sound that just decides to intrude where chorus music would normally go. The vocals seem weird and lazy even for these guys, but by now I’m actually starting to get where they’re coming from and can’t help but go along for the ride. This is the point where I realized I’d be buying this album for my collection!
“Too Soon” is a totally bent (big shock, I know) broken-hearted love song with dark, descending chord patterns and jarring vocal passages, like a convention of aliens each taking turns at the podium mic. I also love the close-up keyboards. “Out With Dogs” has vocals that are frankly a bit off-putting, but the song is based on hardcore guitar riffs and nasty leads that won me over by their sheer audacity. “Lowlife” is like pop music from hell: the weird mixing quirks from the album’s opening have returned, and the John Lydon-ish lead vocals seem to have been recorded down the street while the chorus vocals are right up front; an incredibly cool guitar middle section gets swallowed in a black hole. A total mess, but again I can’t help loving it and rooting for every saturated moment.
“The Footprint” starts out like several songs on Abbey Road played simultaneously. There’s vocals, but again they’re lost in a sea of noise without adequate EQ to rescue them. From what I can hear, they do have a Syd Barrett quality. A brutal, punishing guitar attack finishes off the song - literally! “The Baby And The Bathwater” feels vaguely like DEVO, if DEVO had totally committed to their vision. “Shambling By The Sea” sounds like gray whales recorded through fuzz boxes while a misplaced “surf” guitar plays off to the right. One of the shorter songs, and a weird delight. “Timeline” feels like a stylistic rehash of the previous songs until the middle section, when the bottom drops out and monstrous behemoths start lobbing boulders at each other. “The Color Of Your Mood” finally brings us to the end with some of the prettiest and most up-front vocals yet. It’s a surprisingly gentle song, but has that weird quality of sounding as if tracks from different songs have been added randomly. There’s actually a bit of air for a sweet lead guitar solo halfway through.
So, what’s the verdict? Is this something you’d want to hear? Fans of psychedelic music will have a leg up, but this stuff goes far beyond anything I’ve heard in that genre. This is a wild and unique album, both because these guys designed it that way, but also because they pushed themselves way beyond their current grasp of studio technique. Of course their recording chops will improve with time, but for now this is an unpolished classic along the lines of Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica or Music To Eat by the Hampton Grease Band.
Dennes Frikken aka Lilywhite just released his first solo album entitled Pale Face. The album contains a whopping fourteen songs and is primarily a rock album but there are a lot of different moods that he flirts with. Some of the songs felt more pop-oriented while others blend elements of post-rock. Frikken mentions, “This first solo album is the result of a personal journey that led through Dennes‘ past in the Dutch area of Ommen, Dalfsen and Zwolle.”
The first song “Alone” was one of the highlights. He hits a nice emotional point between levity and dramatic moments. It’s catchy and at first was reminiscent of the band Pavement but there are some epic moments on the song which felt like a cathartic release.
“Forced” is a classic case of a slow build. The song builds and builds with intensity till there’s nowhere else to go and it was really well done with a lot of attention to detail. “Grey” is more lush and the reverb laced guitar really gave it more of a post-rock quality. Radiohead also came to mind on this song.
“Parish” is another highlight. The vocals are great here and are backed by a music that felt pensive and more like a ballad. I especially thought the cerebral quality of the piano grabbed my attention.
As the album progresses the song quality doesn't dip. The lush but steady groove of “Stay” and the slow sprawl of “Serenity” were high points. “Change” was also a dynamic song. The most epic song is arguably “Off” and the title track “Pale Face” is a close second.
There are a lot of songs but the album is around forty-eight minutes and runs smoothly from beginning to end. The exceptional sound quality was a big factor as the engineer took advantage of warm mids between 100hz and 250hz which was nice on the ears.
This is a really great album. The songwriting, delivery and cohesive qualities come together making for a very enjoyable listening experience. I recommend starting from the beginning and letting it ride.
Wounded Man on Trees is a post-rock band that formed in 2019 and recently released Feral. Truth be told I haven’t seen too much change in the genre over the past twenty years or so when I first got into bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai. There’s a formula of longer tracks which are usually moody and there’s at least some spoken word at some point. Despite that I still enjoy it when done right and I would say this band is off to a good start.
“The Dilemma” is the first track and the music on this sounds like it could be a B-side from Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It’s a dark, moody and ambient soundscape and they have a recording of David Attenborough speaking over it talking about extinction events.
“Gra Valas” is the first full arrangement with the whole band going at it. The band mixes it up on this song and shows some of their metal side in addition to post-rock 101. I was reminded of Deafheaven at points. The band is tight and knows how to create exciting dynamic moments. If you like this song then you should enjoy the other tracks as well, as this is the main aesthetic.
“Feral” is next and is a solid song mixing between moody and pensive soft sections and more epic parts where distortion is introduced. They sound good and show off more of their technical and creative skills. The band sticks to the same formula on “Recluse” where you have waves of white noise and other sections which present a warm and dark melancholy.
“Rhinokeros,” which is the arguable highlight on the album, is actually mixed better than the other songs for some reason. The closer “Silverback” comes in at a little less than twelve minutes. Again it sticks to a similar formula but perhaps there’s more attention to the builds on this song.
As an engineer myself I would say these are solid home recordings. The use of hall reverb which is a staple of the genre was applied well and there’s not too much high end which is a problem I often run into with home recordings. That being said there are some things that can happen next time around to improve the fidelity.
The band formed in 2019 and in my opinion that’s not very long. They certainly know their post-rock but don’t have much of a signature sound at this point. I would encourage them to experiment and think about how they can give their own spin to a genre which isn’t easy to do.
Overall, this is a very solid first release. The band is very talented and I look forward to hearing how they evolve.
The musical project known as Your Man Alex Smith has been performing since 2012. The band’s album Slow Burn, which started back in 2017, tells the story of a toxic relationship and the abuse that often happens with it from start to finish. It was largely funded by members of the artists’ Patreon page. The Brisbane-based, singer-songwriting describes each song as a love letter to a genre of music. Driving ’80s rock, indie anthem, jazz duet and country – each song takes place in its own sonic world with Smith portraying different characters. The intent behind this is to replicate the way that we can use humor, or other methods to distract or disassociate, when telling people about our trauma. This was Smith’s most collaborative effort with Jacob Peterson (drums) and Lachlan James Kennedy (bass) playing on “Rescue Me,” Gen Tree singing vocals on “It Was Good Once” alongside Matthew Newsome's arrangement, Sharmanee Jenkins singing vocals on “Run into The Night” and Jessie Morgan (violin) playing on “Julia Bryer” (Morgan was a collaboration from the US over the internet). Overall, the artist wanted to make an album that packed a punch cohesively, but with songs that stood up on their own if you wanted to listen to them individually. Multiple genre styles are the name of the game on this collection of songs, and I think you’ll agree. Songs were recorded with Nick O'Donnell of 'Make Music Not War' and the band 26. O’Donnell also produced, engineered, mixed and mastered the album.
The opening track “Align” has a very familiar, classic country-western feel to it – reminds me a lot of the old school country I grew up with (Hank Williams, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash). This tune has a great cartoon animated video to compliment the song on the artist’sBandcampsite, too. Be sure to check it out. The next song “Julia Bryer” featuring some violin, is a love story about a guy and a girl named “Julia” that had hair “like radiant sunlight pouring o’er the clouds of heaven.” Sadly, she somehow dies, leaving her mate tormented by regret. The song’s style and lyrical content is Celtic folkish in nature – complete with a swinging beat, accordion and strings. Think The Pogues, but much less brawl-ish, more tender. “Run into the Night” is very much a song that has theatrical production written all over it. Not campy, or over the top like Meatloaf, and not too teenager-ish like Glee either – maybe somewhere in between. A great rocking song! The next number “Rescue Me” also features a video with it. There’s an inspirational pop rock element here with lyrics to match – “promised land” “angles” “sins.” Lyrically, it’s a cry for help.
“Gotta Get Out” is about being in a bad relationship and needing to get out – like now! The beginning starts off with an ‘80s synth feel with a “Footloose” like drum beat and metal guitars, but perhaps a little light on the metal. I wasn’t expecting this – quite a mix of music styles so far. Next up is “Can’t Do This Anymore” a piano ballad that really cuts to the heart – “I know we can be better / but not if we’re together” and later, “I love you, but I took too long to learn to / And I had you but god I didn’t earn you.” whoa! Pass the tissues. “Trigger” is a fantastic guitar rocker with a great bass line, too. The chorus part was the best lyrically, I thought – very catchy! The song’s guitar riffs got stuck in my head for a while. “Pilot Light” offers a light, acoustic indie pop style. The pilot light image is a metaphor for a past love that hasn’t quite been let go, despite other loves who enter the picture – “And all the lovers tell me / That it’s cold in your shadow / and I wish I could convince them / that they don’t have to be you.” I thought this was Smith’s most tender song on the entire album.
OK, correction…. “It was Good Once (Ft. Gen Tree)” gets even more heartbreaking, well at least in the beginning lines it does. But then the band switches gears and goes into this vaudeville / theatrical pace singing about how good our relationship was despite the painful memories it left us with. This was a quick little ditty thrown into the mix in just under three minutes. That last track is called “Dawn” and it reads like a personal note, or journal entry, that a person might hope to give to their ex, but in the end, never does. This is another soft and tender ballad with an even sadder story – “You were my confidante and my best friend / thought we would stick it out until the end / and we did / it just came before marriage and kids.” A very, moving song with a universal message.
If ever you need an album, post-breakup, do yourself a favor and listen to Slow Burn by Your Man Alex Smith. Thematically, the album does not let up one bit – that’s obvious. Genre wise, yes, it’s a healthy mix of styles, but I think there’s something for everyone here and that’s a good thing. For me as a writer, who’s toyed with the idea of writing a play for the stage, this album would make for a great soundtrack.
Lorne Entress is an instrumentalist, producer and mix engineer who lives in Glastonbury, Connecticut. He has quite the professional credit sheet, having produced or engineered for Lori McKenna, Big Al Anderson (NRBQ) and Tom Jones, as well as drumming for Junior Wells, Charlie Musselwhite, Susan Tedeschi and Ronnie Earl. Listing more of his credits would take up this whole review, so let’s move onto Red Letter Day, a solo album Entress began in 2019 because he felt “…a bit stifled in having to always adhere to someone else’s vision. I was eager to make my own statement unfettered by genre or fanbase concerns.”
Entress notes that much of his career has been in American roots music, but that he grew up absorbed in the British rock of Badfinger, Thunderclap Newman, Paul McCartney and later XTC. “There's something about those strong melodies and chorus harmonies that makes for repeated listening, so when those British influences pushed to the surface I didn't push back.” Lyrically the songs are inspired by his music and an open mind; Entress wanted to make sure his lyrics “sang well,” and as a producer he knew how to pull out clunky lines that might distract the listener. Entress tracked and mixed most of the album at his own Harmony St. production studio in Tolland, Connecticut with additional work at Sounds Interesting and The Garret. Completed tracks were mastered by Scott Craggs at Old Colony Mastering. Entress enjoys collecting and using old dynamic microphones and also makes good use of analog compressors, plus vintage EQ’s and reverb units.
Right up front, I have to say that this is one of those nearly perfect song-based albums that would have spawned numerous hits in a previous era. To hear songs of this quality and in these “older” styles is a rare treat, and Entress’ long resume turns out to be well deserved. The sound quality throughout is flawless.
“New Things” starts us off with strutting, swampy pop rock that features acoustic guitar, a clean and crunchy rhythm guitar and ace vocals by Entress. He has a high, smooth voice that could sometimes pass for female, and that’s great for music. I also love the Beach Boys ’70s era fuzz bass by Jesse Williams, which I first mistook for a Moog. Sam Kassirer guests on Hammond organ. “Surrender Days” features a thumpy beat and heavy fuzz guitar with carefully layered Badfinger descending harmonies. This is constructed like an early ’70s hit, and though dated (this time with a Moog for sure!) it’s solid songwriting with a highly commercial sound.
“Back To Boston” is classic country pop like Jimmy Webb or even Freedy Johnston, a favorite of mine who actually shows up for guest vocals along with Lori McKenna, Kevin Barry, Christine Ohlman, Mark Erelli and Tracy Grammar. I love the lyrical device of naming different locations (Boston, Costa Mesa, etc.) with each chorus. A Dylanesque organ and pedal steel bring the country feel all the way home. “January Wind” is even more heavily influenced by Badfinger with a “la la la” chorus that reminded me of The Banana Splits’ “Tra La La” song (and I say that as a fan) making this a favorite for me.
“The Rowboat” is an achingly beautiful folk rock lament, thanks mostly to the lush melding of Entress' voice with guest Hayley Reardon, who brings a wholly appropriate Stevie Nicks quality. “Red Letter Day” is similar and every bit as good with the unexpected addition of Duke Levine’s banjo and Kevin Barry’s steel guitar. The choruses shine with a diamond-like luminescence, as they do in most of these songs. “Just Like a C Major 7” is another good song, though just a bit self-referential for my taste. “Hobo Nickel” is a folk-country tale with a spooky edge, which Entress sings in a lower register that suits him quite well. Kevin Barry this time plays lap steel bathed in reverb, and his contributions are worth their weight in gold. “Shawsheen Ride” ends the collection with its first and only instrumental, and it’s just as gentle and haunting as you’d by now expect. Entress plays deep drums and orchestra bells, while the essential Kevin Barry provides lovely dobro and acoustic guitar.
An album like this is impervious to any review, since it is by any standard a near perfect example of musical craftsmanship; all I can do is highly recommend these amazing songs and performances.
Though Ray Norris of Helensburgh, Scotland calls himself an amateur guitarist and composer, he’s been playing for over 50 years and is good enough to remind me of the awesome Leo Kottke, whom he cites as an influence (along with Bert Jansch and Stefan Grossman). He has also performed live both in bands and as a solo artist. His new EP is titled Above The Treeline (that even sounds like a Leo Kottke title!) and it contains five songs, three of which feature drummer Paul De Shriver.
Norris says some of the tunes evolved out of noodling on his guitar, while other melodies were in his head before playing. He notes that the EP has “a very stripped-back feel and sound” and that “jazz, blues and folk / Celtic influences are evident in the compositions.” He recorded using a Taylor acoustic along with an Ibanez Artcore archtop and electric bass at his home studio, utilizing a Fostex MR-8. The album was mixed with Sony Vegas.
The title track “Above The Treeline” beautifully opens the collection using that classic, rolling John Fahey-Leo Kottke style of acoustic picking with sweet themes and melodies interwoven throughout. In all probability this is just one guitar without overdubs, making it an even more amazing track.
“I Get That Old Feeling” is the first of the songs to feature Paul DeShriver along with bass overdubs by Norris. It’s a laid-back, strutting blues instrumental with Norris playing his electric lead lines as if it were a 12-string, similar to Wes Montgomery. DeShriver’s drums are a nice addition, filling out the track without yanking away the spotlight.
“Remembering” returns us to a slower paced, solo acoustic composition. Again, the melodic lines Norris is able to voice while picking his patterns are pleasant and involving, sounding exactly like the cover art looks. “Lopin’ Along” begins in a similar fashion, then introduces DeShriver’s drums and Norris’s bass for a minor key, easy blues excursion. “Tell It To The Judge” is the jazzy full-band conclusion with lots of fun blue notes and a rare instance of Norris recording two tracks of acoustic guitars, creating a doubled harmonic lead line.
All in all, a totally satisfying and compact effort from this fine composer and guitarist, and it definitely made me want more!
Crystal Robins is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who relocated to Darwin (Larrakia Country) from Sydney, Australia in 2017. Her song “Wildfire” was shortlisted in the Listen Up Music’s Songwriting Prize in 2020 and reached number 6 in the AMRAP Community Radio Charts in the weeks after its release. Robins has performed across Australia for more than a decade with such artists as Wendy Matthews, Daniel Champagne, The Pointer Sisters, Boney M and Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Now with her focus on a solo project, Robins’ original songs bring to the stage a sweet upbeat mix of chilled acoustic indie-folk and alt-country stylings with lush harmonies and instrumentation.
This summer she released her debut EP titled Wildfire. The five songs were recorded in Darwin, in the Northern Territory, by local engineer/producer Danny Christie with some interstate collaborations by drummer Andrew Congues in Melbourne, cellist Lucinda Machin in Adelaide and pedal steel player Jy-Perry Banks in Sydney. Other players include Sarah Lynar on trumpet and Aden Mackay on electric guitar. The EP was also mixed in Darwin by local engineer Danny Christie and mastered by dB Mastering in Sydney (Track 1), and Moses Mastering in Nashville (Tracks 2, 3, 4, 5). Robins is also passionate about her day job as a music therapist, and the power music has in the art of healing. She states, “music is a powerful art form with the ability to heal through songwriting and storytelling, and importantly as a way to connect with others.”
The first track is the EP’s title – “Wildfire” is a warm, inviting indie folk number. The piano and guitar Robins plays sounds so soothing and her voice complements these instruments so well. She sings, “The smoke is rising / From these flames I’m fighting / the fire’s always there” that suggest perhaps something within Robin’s life that she’s been up against. Beautiful opener! “So High” offers the listener more beauty and some added instrumentation of a shuffling snare, soft tom and bass beats by Congues and electric guitar by Mackay. Overall, this one has a bit of a faster beat and more gorgeous vocalization by Robins. “What You’re Looking For” has some country twang to it with the pedal steel being played by Jy-Perry Banks and a more forceful beat on the drums. There’s a trumpet playing here as well towards the end by Sarah Lynar, which I thought was a nice addition.
“Stranger” has an interesting arrangement with the verse parts being slower and the chorus ramping up a faster tempo. A lot of instruments are active here – pedal steel, piano, acoustic, drums – giving this tune a rich, full sound. The last track is a reprise of “Wildfire” only played live at the Darwin Entertainment Centre, in the Northern Territory of Australia. I thought this song was done well live and the pedal steel addition was nice to hear, too. But I think I liked the keys and piano more on the first track. Instruments aside, it’s the melody that captured my attention and how beautifully this song flowed.
If you like indie folk songs in a singer/songwriter style, complete with great pop melodies, a beautiful voice, great instrumental chemistry and production, check out Crystal Robins’ Wildfire.
Maddie Swinger, recording as ketseleh, set out to record "pop music with depth," which is no small feat when breaking through the noise of Ariana Grande, Doja Cat and anything remotely molested by the Max Martin algorithm. Yet, when the prose on the Marion EP Bandcamp page eclipses the IQ of the entire genre in which Swinger professes to operate, it would seem unreasonable not to explore her “vignettes.” Said differently, the lyrics are crafted to impress. In which case, she’s forgiven for her (self-admitted) dalliances with Björk’s back catalog, even if we can all acknowledge the awesomeness of “Hyperballad.”
The quartet of tracks are as brooding as Swinger’s haunted mien on its cover. Nary a guitar or real drum sully the effluence. While precise inspirations are eschewed, she claims to have listened to “music of the ‘90s-early 2000s” which, when reconciled to this album, seem definitively post-post grunge. And lest that conjure uncomfortable reminders of frosted tips, Woodstock ‘99 and Brian Dunkleman, rest assured that Marion EP exists in its own non-derivative universe; one colored in three-dimensional anxiety. Shades of Fiona Apple mingle with Au Palais, as ketseleh — the so-called “machine” behind the sounds — seems programmed to mesmerize.
“Marion,” the opener, is a study in nuance. Pretty but not predictable, electronic but not soulless, lo-fi but hardly muddled, the track blooms over a serviceable beat. Swinger’s voice, an instrument in and of itself, seems to float above the fray. At its peaks, the song could explode into a lush euphoria, but these urges are tempered to good effect and, if anything, lessen the burnout over multiple listens. The stripped back “Be Seen,” which sounds perfectly funereal amid somnolent piano, plays it straighter. Alas, its repetitive structure may prove tedious unless one were commencing a Quaalude addiction.
“End It All,” the strongest track, is either a sing-song-y paean to suicide or a cheeky metaphor. Alternatingly thin and bright, Swinger makes good on the dichotomy she so clearly advertises. This is, perhaps, her best “far cry into the void,” where even slight changes in vocal pitch shatter the time-space. Sure, she could push things further, but discipline dodges cliché (and nobly evades a radio ready chorus). By the time one arrives at “Whose Hand Do You Reach For?” the desolation is more a familiar friend than an incongruent force. A deconstructed “Moonlight Sonata” even bleeds through. And since Beethoven hasn’t dropped a tune in nearly 200 years, this is probably the closest we’ll get to Romantic Period throwbacks.
Overall, there’s much to admire on Marion EP from the album’s DIY aesthetic to the openness in sound and texture. It may be a stretch to truly call it “pop,” but then again, the dynamics of said genre are always shifting. Swinger just operates on its fringe, outside the range of #wap hashtags and Twitter feuds. So it’s a shame that her ethereal vocals too often get lost in the mix. There’s deep lyricism here. And maybe, if we all strained to hear it – as this listener did – we’d plumb the depths of her lullaby. Or maybe it’s all just theater; a lucid dream.
No matter the case, it deserves a listen.
Late Summer Drive is the debut release from the Canadian duo of the same name. The group consists of Vito Schiralli (bass/rhythm guitar/programming) and Bobby Boutros (lead guitar/saxophone) with Schiralli handling all the recording and mixing. In the studio, the sound was fleshed out by David Paul Neil (drums), Steven Lee Rachel (double bass) and Phil Ashley (violin/alto sax). Guest vocalist Drea and rapper Frantik added their talents in a few featured parts as well.
The band call their style “funk, jazz and chill-hop infused rock music.” Their compositions stemmed from long jams that were cut down and then built out into the tracks heard on Long Summer Drive. Clearly, the jams have a minor-blues flavor to them, as each of the first four cuts has that orientation, albeit with slightly different feels. “Mencomot” sets up as a funk track with horn parts. “Lucid” takes a hip-hop approach and adds Frantik’s rap over the top. “Glossolalia,” in a nicely creative turn, works in some reverse-synth techno sections between minor jazz-standard passages with Boutros’ distorted guitar leads fitting in well.
I am big fan of minor blues tracks, but “Bittersweet” misses the mark entirely. Late Summer Drive includes an effected, distorted vocal that’s supposed to sound sultry, I think, like a lounge singer at a smoky jazz club. Instead, it comes off creepy, like someone calling in a ransom demand for a patron locked in the basement of said club. Further, Boutros’ guitar solos here come across more like blues-scale warmup exercises instead of fluid, purposeful, melodic lines.
Taken as a whole, there are some good ideas across these four minor-blues tracks, but they’re not fully developed. This could go one of two ways: they could be distilled down into one large suite, or, if these are conceived as four separate pieces, the ideas can be fleshed out and tightened up. Maybe this goes against their jam-band ethos, but the middle ground here on Late Summer Drive is inconsistent.
The band does tighten things up on “Komorebi” though, and it’s the best cut on the album. It starts as piano-driven, dramatic, Pink Floyd-eqsue epic, then weaves in Drea’s vocals and works its way up to a terrific breakdown section with a full orchestra slamming away. When the band sets out with a plan, they deliver. The only sticking point for me was some of Boutros’ note choices--they stuck out in places, and it was hard to tell if this was intentional.
Late Summer Drive is a good start for Schiralli and Boutros. They’ve got a strong base to build on, and maybe we’ll hear updated versions of these ideas on their follow-up album. They could call it Mid-Autumn Stroll, and I would gladly spin it.
When the Covid-19 pandemic happened, Vince Colbert, a Denver-based singer/songwriter thought it would be a good time to restart his music career. Previously, the artist had released two EPs and a debut full-length album. When the pandemic hit, Colbert realized that he would have a lot of time on his hands since he had just quit his master’s program due to lockdown restrictions. During his trip to Oregon with his wife got Colbert thinking about his music. As he gave his catalog a good and long, hard look, it dawned on him that many of the songs he previously released didn’t really resonate with him and that he could do a better job making them resound. So, he selected ten core songs and came back to Denver to set out to bring out the best versions of each. This is Colbert’s self-titled album Vince Colbert, a record where Colbert gives fresh insight into a batch of songs that reverberate the most with him.
Vince Colbert starts off with “As You Are,” where a lot of mood and feeling brings in a sound fragrant with atmosphere to the start of this track. Once Colbert’s vocals come in, you can really feel the emotional resonance of the song coming together. The keys are equally expressive, bringing in a melodic pulse. What sounds like a steel lap guitar brings in a familiar folk feel. Traces of a cello also add into the track a weighty mood. More moody strumming on the guitar leans into an acoustic sound on “Michigan.” As the keys sound out on the backdrop, the sound is very folksy. The cello offers an apt underpinning layer. More acoustic guitar chord progressions meet the start of “Landslide.” Once Colbert’s vocals come in, you can feel the minimalistic arrangement really come together. This song only featured vocals, guitar and percussions at first. Next a fuller band backing comes through, producing a fuller and more impactful sound.
More finger-picking on the guitar sounds out here on “Broken Joy.” Colbert’s vocals once they arrive sound very soothing and smooth. Percussion and cello offer up an exciting layer to the sounds. The piano also adds a very poignant element. This is another soaring ballad. A guitar melody opens up this track as synths add in an airy effect on “Hold On.” In a very minimalistic approach, Colbert’s vulnerable vocals come in with a fresh and startling sound. More melodious acoustic guitars make up the sound on the start of “Courage.” Colbert’s vocals are solely accompanied by the guitar. The sound here is sweet and compelling. I thought this simple execution really pointed to an emotionally powered sound. This song was more in the acoustic ballad vein.
On “Stranger In My House,” keys and guitar are the first instances to this atmospheric and soaring ballad. Colbert’s vocals are very expressive, coloring the mood of these tracks with more emotionality. The background vocals really added more flavor to this track. On “Porcelain Vase,” some monotonous keys add a hypnotic quality to the start of this song. Once the vibe settles in, Colbert’s sparse vocals are brimming with a chilling and haunting vibe. The simplicity of the execution will grow on you the more you listen on. A lot of mood and feeling could be felt in this track. More melodies come from the acoustic guitar on “Outlast The Sun.” The vibe is very shimmering and inviting on this closer.
I thought Colbert really does a good job in this new rendition of his past releases. He adds a full band backing, in addition to the cello and other instruments to give a fully embodied sound. I thought Colbert’s voice worked well for the ballad form and as his vocals take flight on these set of songs, he paints a poignant picture packed with emotion and mood. You can tell that Colbert draws from his personal experiences in how these songs are realized and you can see this in his performances where Colbert is unafraid to be vulnerable and unguarded before audiences. It is this up-close-and-personal persona that will really draw audiences as his intimate delivery makes it feel like he is in the very same vicinity as you. I thought this album was very well done. With such craft to songwriting, excellent delivery and execution, it looks like Colbert is well on his way. This is a great new beginning and I look forward to hearing more music in this vein.
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