Everyone once in a while I get albums that really truly tickles my sci-fi fancy and once again, I have been spoiled with Part Time Genius' Candy Coated Candy. The album is indeed an other worldly sweet treat from beyond the known realm of existence. Although considering this sound hails from Austin, I'm not shocked. Something about that city makes me think they have a direct link to all things elsewhere, maybe it's transmitted via the moon tower (if you get that movie reference you're awesome). Candy Coated Candy is a mostly instrumental trip-hop/ alt pop experience that wooed me to my sci-fi writing core. It has a duality where it can paint bright and beautiful fantasy but also travel deep into dark voids. The pictures being painted are in full color but I would say they play with light more than color.
There is a lot to unpack in terms of the layering and sampling on this album. Starting with some of the big arcs, they like to keep the treatment of the sound in what I call a canned air effect. It is kept at a distance; there is an atmosphere between the listener and the material. It never sounds like it’s right next to you. Now, sometimes they will break this rule, especially with the spoken word vocals which will get very intimate, I LOVED this wall breaking. They'll also pull this with certain organic samples which will pop out at you unexpectedly. This little trick sculpts the sound into a three dimensional object. It's an impressive and endearing feat to pull off.
This album houses a far reaching and in depth narrative. It conveys moods, conflicts and atmospheres. I highly recommend listening to it in its entirety in the order it is presented. Their ability to tell a story with so few words puts their composing skills on a level that almost compares to classical musical movements. You will go on a proper journey listening to this album from beginning to end I found the overall message to be hopeful and cautiously optimistic.
Let's talk tech for a moment. The production and engineering choices on this album are solid. When it comes to mixing I think Part Time Genius is a more than appropriate name for the project. It is quite brilliant, but not just done well, done with playfulness and curiosity. The album tickles and pokes at your senses. Something about this album makes it feel trustworthy enough to touch my brain. Granted that could be their alien plot and then they'll harvest me for information, but honestly they wouldn't get much.
This is an album for the daydreamers and skeptics alike. It's a good one to chew on, to work to, to create with. Again there's that duality of light. You can kick back and listen or you can stand up and get to work. It's sort of a "choose your intergalactic adventure" body of work and I think it's awesome. Give it a listen if you want to get our of your own head or universe.
Axe Club is the moniker for Collin Barnwell. He recently released Bathrobe Sessions which is a lo-fi album fourteen-song album.
No matter which direction the songs seem to go they have more of an indie flare. I was reminded of groups as far ranging as The Microphones, to Bright Eyes to Vampire Weekend. The songs overall were really well written and have this kind of theme and sentiment that reminds me of being in my early to mid 20’s. There are metaphors comparing love to traffic lights, missing someone who won’t pick up the phone and more. It’s a little hard to pinpoint but this feeling stayed with me while listening to the album.
The songwriting and delivery is consistently good but I would say the styles are a lot less consistent. “Really Really Far Away” felt like I was listening to an introduction of a post-rock album. The mood especially when the vocal harmonies were very serious in that post-rock type of way and really doesn't feel like the mood for most of the album.
“Truth and Hypnosis” is up next and this song at least gives more appropriate direction as to what this album is about. This is a folk song that has a very indie feel to it like Bright Eyes or the lesser known Vetiver. “A Lullaby for Adults” continues here but the atmosphere comes closer to an artist like Bon Iver.
Barnwell is at his best on a song like “By My Side” which sounds somewhere between Vampire Weekend and Dirty Projectors. “You Can Count on Me” is a full arrangement and another song where Barnwell blends disparate influences into a jazzy folk hybrid. There are also some other styles like the experimental but accessible “I and You.”
I felt Barnwell may have benefited from trimming this album to eight to ten songs that had a similar vibe and feel. There is a little too much of diversity here for me to feel like I was getting a singular vision or a signature sound. In fact I think maybe even splitting the album into three EP’s or two albums may have been a better way to consume it. The next area for Barnwell to focus on would have to do with the way an album is experienced and how disparate moving parts like textures and tones can create a mood and flow. This is often the last step and most often the hardest hurdle artists have to deal with and is often why working with a producer who has a different set of ears can be a game changer.
There were certain songs which were great while others were really good. I don’t think there were any songs that I didn’t like in fact. This is an album that is well worth exploring.
Our Wicked Hearts is a band from Amherst, Massachusetts that released Altamont Skyline. The album contains twelve songs and although most of them are rock I had a harder time finding a foundation to this album.
Take for instance “Kickin' The Dog” which is a bright rock song that felt like a full on production with shared vocal duties and even horns. There is an anthemic '70s quality to it and there is denying the infectious chorus. I’m not exactly sure why but Rocky Horror Picture show came to mind while listening to this song.
The foundation is almost immediately shaken with the country and rockabilly sounds of “Under Burning Skies.” I also happened to love this song as well but for very different reasons. The vocal inflection even seems different and tailored for the song.
The band goes full on nostalgia with “Blue Ridge Town” that contains warm overtones and more of a country ballad vibe. “Old Scratch” is where the vocalist sounds like Johnny Cash for some reason which was much more noticeable on this song even when I went back to listen again. “Chance of a Ghost” brings more nostalgia but with some more tenderness and I believe an accordion.
The band starts to rock with “Eleven Seconds” which reminded so much of a couple country/rock hybrids. I loved the spoken word beginning. “Funny Thing” is pretty straightforward yet fantastic rock song.
“Blacklight Girl” was perhaps the highlight. This song really sounded different than the previous songs. The song is slightly funky and seemed to be much influenced by David Bowie in particular. They dip into “Didn't Do Nothing” which is a sentimental and beautiful sung piano ballad that sounds worlds away from “Blacklight Girl.”
I loved the Roy Orbison vibe on “This Lover's Tale” and they close with a hopeful almost religious sounding “Tears & Flames.”
Back in the ’90s best of albums were popular. It was just a collection of the band's popular songs. That’s what Altamont Skyline reminded me of. I liked the songs but the varying degrees of separation almost made me think I was listening to a band at different stages in their career. For that reason this album will deserve some attention and I surmise people will have far varying opinions of their “favorite track” based on the genre they prefer. Find yours.
Kurt and Brianna Jorgensen are The Jorgensens. No, they aren’t the stars of the delightfully dated sitcom based program slated for Thursday night. They play together music together and even if you haven’t somehow figured it out yet I will inform you they happen to be a couple. Yes sir, it’s pretty much confirmed once you go to their website. There is a picture of him just sitting there and she is sitting on a chair with her hand resting just resting on his shoulder as if it’s not a big deal. Well, this is indicating that no one is taking her man.
Alright, back to the what we came here for which is the music. They released The Lexington Stretch which is their second album. It’s an organic album mixing elements of folk, blues, rock and more. And oh my god this album sounds like people playing together in an actual room. Amazing.
The album starts with “If The Sea Was Whiskey” which was actually the highlight for me. It’s very minimal with standout bass and vocal harmonies being the main focal point. The mood and style is very old school folk and traditional. I like the Louis Armstrong sounding trumpet as well.
“Unchained” is a little more contemporary and bluesy in a lot of ways. The style is smooth and again I really thought the horns were the breakout stars here. I liked both vocalists whether they sing together or solo. They can sing and are also in love - oh how they need to disappear. The last part of the sentence is called sarcasm.
There are some subdued numbers like “St. James Infirmary” which brings to mind Tom Waits while “Chocolate and Cheese Blues” is so relaxing I got some lemonade and set up a sun umbrella right in my living room.
The Jorgensens unfortunately will not be airing as a sitcom but the good news is that their album will be out in September. It seems like something you should mark on your calendar like immediately because September is super far away for remembering things like that. Have a great summer.
Miah Taaca and Bella Reyes are Finding Milo. The band released Sputnik which is a five-song demo of what I would call indie pop. On their Bandcamp page it says the music was made at a “very sad and depressing time in my life.” I don’t want to take anything away from that or trivialize that statement but it’s funny that a lot of the albums I review say the exact same thing. I love that music has that kind of power. I have to admit I would find it funny if I read something like “I wrote these songs when things were going pretty good in my life, I mean not great but yeah I would say pretty good” just once.
The music on the album is in the vein of cute indie pop, not unlike Frankie Cosmos. The first song is “One Summer's Day” is the exception and is more of an intro and didn’t really feel connected to the other songs other than being a piece that is supposed to instill maybe some wonder and nostalgia. It’s slower, melancholy piano and some sort of field recording.
The second song “I Don't Mind” is the band at their best. I thought the verse in particular was really good. The high pitched and quaint vocals worked especially well on the verse. I liked the chorus but the outro was exceptional.
“Jake I Love You” is pretty straightforward indie pop. The music is reminiscent of bands like Real Estate with a lot of reverb laced guitars. I thought the songs flowed really well together with a stronger build to the chorus. They have more success with “Chapter 5” which has the catchiest chorus yet. “Good Talk Kid (My Friends)” is guitar, vocals, slight atmosphere and is more melancholy and dramatic. The topic is pretty straightforward doldrums that young people have. I loved the end of the song and how there is a slight build which leads to a most beautiful moment.
The recording was quality was good for an iPhone/garageband type situation. I would love to hear at least a slight step up in this department on the next release. An album by Frankie Cosmos would be a good measuring stick as to the quality that would work best here.
Overall, this is a really well done indie pop EP. I hope to hear more from this duo. They make a good pair.
Dave Robertson & The Kiss List writes and sing songs about kissing, climate change, cult ‘70s novels and more kissing. Their arrangements are driven by strong lyrics and multiple vocal harmonies with instrumentation serving each song rather than conforming to a single genre. The band was formed in Fremantle, Western Australia, back in 2012. Prior to the formation of The Kiss List, Robertson released a solo EP titled Little Scientist that proved popular on numerous radio stations Australia-wide, including Triple J. His many gig highlights include the Nannup and Fremantle festivals (in Australia), supporting the band, The Basics in Tasmania and performing the political “Rogue State” to thousands at a Walk Against Warming rally. The band’s latest release Oil, Love & Oxygen was recorded in a whopping ten different houses inside bedrooms, lounges and lofts.
The album starts off with “Close Your Mouth” – a tune flavored with sophisticated pop sensibilities that have a modern edge, but also taking a page from pop rock bands like Crowded House. At least that was my first impression. “Good Together” tells a story of a “yoga queen in a pair of Blundstone boots” that a boy fancies but assumes she’s “out of his league.” Musically, this song is folksier with a “bohemian-like” style. Next up is the title track to the album, and it offers more of the band’s trademark folk/indie pop sound. Lyrics-wise, this song gets serious and takes a look at social and environmental justice – “Massive extinction, event number six / Another species just drops off the list / When it can’t adapt to the rate of this change / The children of men are fanning the flames.... We are to blame.” Some cleverly biting cynicism is in here too – “We’re still a ship of fools looking for oil, love and oxygen” and “My silence will not protect me.” Nice vocal harmonies are present here, too.
“The Relation Ship” also offers gorgeous vocal harmonies and a more stripped-down acoustic style with some play on the drums, bass, extra guitars and violin. For all you Cure fans who know which song the line “Perfect as Cats” comes from, will appreciate this tongue-and-cheek number, making reference to Mr. Goth himself – “And then I rush to reach the end too soon / Robert Smith said that. You’re perfect as cats / Robert Smith he said that too.” By the way, that first line also comes from “Primary” one of the British band’s best. Overall, a smooth, mellow and warm sound. The words and title to “Dull Ache” reflect the mood of this next song – somber, reflective with a sense of deep sadness. There are definitely hints of goth here, but with pop and folk-rock insights.
In “Kissing and Comedy” Robertson declares – “kissing and comedy are the only good things we’ve invited.” This tune features a more lighthearted style with a few opinions, or guesses, at what makes us humans happy. Hint: according to Robertson and The Kiss List, it’s not writing computer programs, hooking up on social media or Christianity. More lyrics about kissing are plentiful on “Now That We’ve Kissed.” This song offers funny lyrics for sure but delivered in a dry way – making them even more funny. The guitar in “Rogue State” immediately reminded me of The Smiths “Big Mouth Strikes Again” but after that, It’s Robertson and his band all the way. Lyrically, this tune is perhaps Robertson’s most biting and critical – “You made my country a rogue state post-Kyoto Protocol / And now we're firmly planted on the axis of unethical.” There’s a lot to digest here for all who want to dig deeper into Australia’s recent history. That said, it’s definitely a protest song.
Switching gears with a lighter folk pop flavor is “Montreal” – a sadly, beautiful song about a budding romance, but the guy in the song takes a wrong turn, no doubt regretting it – “But I didn’t go to Montreal / I played it safe in the south / Now I miss you here in Melbourne / I stepped in when you stepped out.” I really liked the song’s melody and the soft drumming, too. “I Stood You Up” starts off with a jazzy bass line, brushes on the snare and an overall bluesy attitude. The highlight for me was the flute solo – I mean, c’mon – how many songs can you count on one hand that features a flute solo?
The last tune is “Measuring the Clouds” and it offers Robertson’s most stripped-down sound with just a mandolin, glockenspiel and a shaker used for rhythm percussion. With references to a place called “Charlie’s Chook House” with its old smells of books and magazines from the ‘50s, I can only imagine for some, it must be just like heaven. For those who like cheeky and endearing lyrics about kissing, but also get into social and political issues, Robertson and The Kiss List will offer something they’ll enjoy on Oil, Love & Oxygen. Musically, I could hear hints of The Smiths, Crowded House, Michael Penn (yes, he really is Sean Penn’s brother) and other alternative pop rock artists like them, but more on the folksier side.
Geoff Woodhouse and Heather Reynosa are GoFetch. The duo recently released Go Figure which is a twelve-song album that primarily fits into the pop category.
I’d like to get some things out of the way. First off, Reynosa definitely has a set of pipes. She has a lot of range and can go from confident and powerful to subtle and sleek with zero issues. The reason I felt this album is primarily a pop album is because there is a lot of diversity but all the songs felt accessible and would appeal to a large demographic. I often felt like these songs are the kind you would hear on American Idol or The Voice rather than a private art gallery in Brooklyn. As far as pop music goes it certainly seemed to be competitive with some very well known artists.
The band starts with “Lucky Day” which is a pop song with a mix of rock as well as electronic elements. There are distorted guitars but also arpeggiated synths and the song delivers an explosive chorus.
“Sonya” plays more into rock with some attitude from the Led Zeppelin-esque rock riffs but also delivers a funky and catchy chorus. “Where I Wanna Be” isn’t a rock song in the least. This felt like a ballad pop song that was hopeful yet nostalgic. Reynosa’s vocals sound great against the atmospheric elements.
The mood shifts almost too much initially with “Play” which gets into dirty rock. I have to say that the chorus was one of my favorite parts on the album but the verse almost felt like a different song.
There are some solid pop/rock songs such as “Thru” and “Pleasure Den.” “Better Off” is a reflective acoustic ballad that veers towards folk and country. One of the highlights was “Surprise Me” which contains a memorable chorus and an early ’90s alternative vibe. They close with the largely electronic “To Die For.”
The band jumps around so distinctly to different genres and styles like electronic, country ballads and rock that I had a hard time feeling like they established a signature sound. In a lot of ways this feels like a standard debut in that the artist wants to showcase a lot of different styles while paying homage to their influences. If I have one piece of advice being in this business for over twenty years it would be that I would like the band to narrow down on more of a singular sound on their next album.
Overall, there is certainly boatloads of talent here from the incredible vocal performances to the eclectic music which was diverse but always well done. On top of that I thought there were a number of songs which had a single worthy type of quality. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear one of their songs on the FM dial. Recommended.
Sam & The Savages is an alternative rock band born and raised in Bellingham, WA. The band consists of Sam Chue (vocals/guitar) and brothers Caleb and Eli Savage on bass and drums.
The band has been recording since middle school apparently. I’m not sure how old the band is now but they certainly have an undeniable chemistry on their release Light. There is a lot of energy in these songs and the band just clicks. They sound really in the pocket and I want to clarify I don’t mean they were just able to stay in time to a click. The whole band knows how to transition from grooves and knows when to pull and push the energy.
The band get cracking with “Feel The Need.” They display their dynamics here. The guitar and vocals sound intimate and are emotionally resonant. They build the song up quickly and sound just as good when they rock. Chue simply has a lot of range and can pull off both styles.
“Light” comes out of the gate with a good amount of energy not too far off from Guided By Voices. The band just rocks here with the drummer giving a powerful performance, the bass keeping the foundation together and distorted chords howling throughout the song. Chue sounds great.
“Melatonin” had a little more of an alternative 90’s feel to my ears. In particular this song felt grunge inspired. “Golden Rising Sun” is the arguable highlight. The song contains some great melodies. The guitar and bass parts on the verse are inventive and the chorus has a ’70s classic rock type quality.
“Shiver” is the first sort of ballad and perhaps similar to Pear Jam at moments while the closer “Part of The Show” is a warm no frills rock song.
This band has a certain X-factor that make the songs really radiate that is hard to pinpoint on paper. All I can say is take a listen.
The Scythe and Spade is a recording project by folk musician Joseph Doucette. He released Sowing and Reaping which is a double album's worth of songs. This album needs a little explanation so I will I quote the artist. “Sowing and reaping is a tribute to traditional Appalachian folk music and the field recorders that wandered down the dusty roads and over the lonesome mountains to document it. All songs were collected from mostly forgotten masters, who’s ghost’s laying waiting in archives to be discovered by the next generation of folk musician.”
This collection of songs are very traditional. There is no doubt about it. These are the types of song you heard in the Coen Brothers movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? Or maybe a revolutionary war reenactment. In fact I would say these style of songs were some of the first recordings when that technology came to be.
There are a lot of songs here and many of them were quite obviously recorded in different situations. As an engineer myself I personally prefer very intimate close mic recording with this style bearing the full range and subtlety of an instrument. I had my preferences. There were a number of songs where the natural reverb of the room was too much for me; there were other songs where the room was a factor where the instrument sounded great but the vocals didn’t quite have enough clarity and there were other recordings which came close to perfect.
Up first is “Old Virginia.” This is one of the songs that was covered in so much echo it was hard to separate much of the instrumentation such as the banjo from other elements. It sounded like the ghost of a recording.
Then you have a recording like “Lost Gander” which is a solo instrumental piece while “O Death” is another shorter piece but contains some vocals. “The Hanging of Georgie” contains solo vocals and I loved the night insects in the background.
There is a warmth in the recording once we get to “Wild Bill Jones.” This aesthetic was sort of the center of the bullseye for me. As the album progresses you get a wide array of material that often revisits former structures. For instance there are more solo vocal songs as well as songs with full instrumentations. There are some unexpected surprises as well such as the Tibetan throat singing that was not on my radar.
Sowing and Reaping truly feels like a collection of music. If you like traditional music this should be a welcome listen with many rewards.
William Codona may not be a familiar name known throughout Scotland and northern England, but Codona comes from a long line of entertainers spanning over 200 years. From Punch & Judy performers to acrobats, clowns and trapeze artists to dancers and musicians, it’s no surprise Codona has music and performing in his blood. Previously being in Glasgow bands Subway and The Surfin’ Gnomes, Codona embarks on a solo DIY project for his debut album Now is the Time. Interestingly the band got their name from the famous TV show Columbo. In one of the episodes the evil murdering character Fielding Chase was played by William Shatner, and he even retweeted the band!
Now is the Time opens with a jarring interlude “All In.” It’s a 20 second mash-up of all the little movie samples Fielding Chase uses throughout the album which creates a convoluted rush of noise. Luckily the music really begins with the smashing song “Almost Man, Almost Woman.” The instrumentation is heavy and the vocals hallowed giving off the spooky vibe of walking down dark corridors. The songs ends with the famous scream “It’s alive!” from Frankenstein.
“Gothic Horror Show” is a love letter to Dracula. Again Fielding Chase has fun with the vocals as they are given a bit more Transylvania flare. The beat is pretty punk as the lyrics focus on finding the perfect one. Similar to “Gothic Horror Show,” the following song “The Secret” is an ’80s style punk-gothic track with a nice melody. Fielding Chase then chills things out with the laid back jam “The Longer Lasting.”
“Love Island” is two minutes of insanity. Thumping bass and synths lead to a song that’s loud and in your face. Again here Fielding Chase shows they have fun with the lyrics, “Shit on your phone. Shit on your shoe. Shit on tv.” It’s what that carefree old European punk used to be about. “This Life” opens as a relaxing guitar before turning into to more badass rock. The album ends with the outro “All Out” which is the same loud noise as the beginning intro, but this time in reverse before fading out.
Now is the Time is an homage to everything Fielding Chase loves. Old horror and sci-fi films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dracula and Frankenstein, as well as influences from bands like The Foo Fighters, Cardiacs and Twenty One Pilots. It has the gritty spirit of European punk pop from the ’80s. If it’s good even for William Shatner, it’s good enough for me.
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