Two friends who were separated for over a decade reunited again in Brooklyn back in 2014. After three years, they put their heads together and started a band. The members that make up The Basement Year states that their musical style has a “taste for the aggressive” and is “mixed with a healthy dose of melody and emotion.” On their Bandcamp site, the group describes themselves as a “Brooklyn-based noise manufacturer.” And rightly so, the noises coming out of this band’s amps and manufactured in the studio were simply stunning, raw and emotionally charged.
Their debut EP The Sun Will Rise Again contains struggles of many kinds: loss, grief, anger, heartbreak and hopelessness. It’s about being faced with insurmountable odds, but with the hope that if we can just make it to tomorrow, the sun will surely rise again, and we will have another chance. Members include Keith Montgomery on guitar and vocals, Sam Levine on guitar, Chris Losavio on drums and Vincenzo Panetta on bass. The five-song collection was recorded and released last fall at Sleepless Sound Studio in Philadelphia, PA.
“Run the Wire” begins with hopeful and bright guitar sounds, like the sun shining over the horizon. The vocals have an echoed effect as the music progresses onward slowly. The focus for me were the guitars and bass. The vocals blended so well with the instruments, though I could distinguish some words being sung. Halfway in, the drums come onto the scene with slow, passionate thumps. The band’s style here reminds me a little of Radiohead – atmospheric and inspiring. “Uncomplicated” starts off with explosive, searing energy and keeps it there at a high level until the end. I thought the group’s style here takes influences from bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Filter or Dinosaur Jr.
When “Something for Nothing” started in with its distorted, full blown guitar riffs, high tenor scream-sing and drilling drumbeats, I thought I was hearing Jane’s Addiction. It was great to hear, as you might imagine. The Basement Year switches gears on “Simple Words.” In my opinion, a must listen. This song just blew me away. It has lovely and raw distorted guitars, drawn out, atmospheric chords and a really beautiful melody overall. The grinding guitar segues into a soothing keyboard solo by Sam Levine. The ending guitar parts get really good and dramatic convincing me once again that this six-string electric instrument is perhaps the most powerful on the planet.
The ending words for “Tourists of the Moment” speaks of some kind of ending – wanting to “see this place burn to the ground” – tapping into themes of loss, grief and heartbreak. The ending guitar chords are full, rich and melodic. Big enough to fill a large (fill in the blank here).
In my view, The Basement Year has great potential and I thought their mix of melodies, along with their style of atmospheric guitar chords paired up well. Hopefully, the sun will rise again for this young band (i.e. another album) on the streets of Brooklyn.
Sketchy Lines is the band name of multi-instrumentalist Fredrik Kjellman who is based in Stockholm, Sweden. His music can be described as a combination of folk rock/indie rock with a hint of post rock. This brand of folk is enhanced through instruments such as slide guitars and banjos, as are the structure and melodies of the songs. The sound of Kjellman’s debut, Colour and Composition, tends to have a bit of melancholy and his lyrics cover topics such as self-examination, social commentary and existential concepts.
“Under Our Wheels” begins with a slow dancing groove and a mellow vibe overall. The lyrics are romantic, and the instruments come together in a soulful way, and funny – it reminded me of summer. “The Caged Bird” adds some Americana and alt-country flavor to the mix with the band’s use of banjo and twangier guitars. “First Light” offers more space and sparser use of the instruments. There’s a basic beat and light guitar work. “One Bird in the Forest” tears things up with a faster, toe-tapping tempo. Kjellman adds an effect to his vocal, as if he was singing in a large concert hall – and who knows, maybe he was?
“Stockholm Syndrome” sounds like a song that was written in the thick of the Sweden countryside. It’s melancholy and peaceful and Kjellman’s use of layering his vocal really made this tune stand out for me, not to mention the song’s melody. The overall message I got was homesickness which came from the singer’s words – bringing to mind the things he loves about his country, his home. Although, at times his words read like he was addressing a long, lost friend or lover. Anyway, I really like this one. “Astray” is another slower number and Kjellman gets deeper with his vocal range. The vocal harmonies he did were great!
“King of the Hill” – the second of two longer songs – has a more traditional arrangement, with its old-style plucking guitar rhythm and swaggering, slow dance beat. A little alt-country, a little old school ‘50s usually sounds pretty great together – I thought those two styles did here. “Generation Y” was a pleasant surprise – rolling rhythm on the acoustic, sad and beautiful harmonica, along with lyrics and a musical arrangement in the spirit of Woody Guthrie, Dylan and Springsteen. “The End of Summer Blues” rambles along nicely with an Americana vibe. It felt like the last hurrah of summer as you’re turning back home, watching the sunset in your rearview mirror. After listening, I would say Fredrik Kjellman’s style and sound reminds me of The Jayhawks, Wilco and/or Jeff Tweedy, also, a little Connor Oberst and perhaps, Arcade Fire in there, too. So, if you’re into any of these bands, give Sketchy Lines a try.
Sean Williams is a singer/songwriter living in Neath, South Wales in the UK. Spending years in different local bands, playing different instruments, time in the scene inspired Williams. After years of writing songs while playing with other bands, Williams collected his works and recorded them for his debut album About Time. Titled so because Williams had thought that it was ‘about time’ that he wrote an album. The album is an illustrious wonderland of emotions and narratives that are sure to keep listeners on their toes.
“Selfie Song” is the fourth track on About Time. It is also the shortest on the album. A quirky and comedic song, Williams tells of his disdain for one of the modern world’s most prevalent commodities, selfies. The feel-good bass groove and drum shuffle that follow behind the words are what really makes the song worthwhile. In a Frank Zappa fashion, the musicians are so good that you can’t be distracted from their playing when they decide to have a laugh through the words.
Later on in the album, “Sunday Morning (Just After Ten)” explodes open with a dirty driven guitar. Laying down chords over drum hits, the song carries an explosive energy that is necessary to help the listener reach the final tracks. Where most albums let the energy fall toward the rear portion of the music, Williams continues to carry the listener at a steady pace from start to finish.
Williams borrows influence from post-grunge alternative bands like Counting Crows, Matchbox 20, Third-Eye Blind, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Hootie & The Blowfish, The Black Crowes, and many others that dominated the alternative charts following the fall of grunge. It’s a lighter approach to an alternative album. Williams even borrows some elements of folk for his music on About Time. The album as a whole is a familiar mix of alternative music through the song structure and the instrumentation. The narrative is told with a wit and through observations that are not made by simply getting through the days. The album was inspired by years of seeing things happening in the surrounding world and putting them to music. Williams does a brilliant job of bringing the listener into his world.
Broken Headlights is Austin Osmond who is a fourteen-year-old from New Jersey who released A Few More Days. About twenty-three years ago I was also fourteen and also making music. In those days home recording consisted of tape and I remember writing and recording songs about visiting a petting zoo, going to school or other casual observances a young teenager might observe.
Times have changed somewhat. Osmond sings about girls and heartbreak which is great because there will be plenty more heartache as he gets older. He also sings about depression which I have to admit felt odd to me and seems like a new phenomenon that happens to a younger generation these days. When I was fourteen no one around my age would mention anything about depression. It really wasn’t a thing. Boys would wrestle, get into trouble and then get into more trouble.
The album starts off with “Unwanted.” He sings, “I can’t stand this feeling building up inside of me / Is it depression or am I just lonely / I can’t stand knowing all my friends are out with out me / Or am I just a fancy word for bummed out.” The song is actually fairly upbeat despite the lyrics. Osmond’s vocal delivery doesn't come off as looking for attention. There is a fragile honesty in there.
“Your Friend (Loves You)” is kind of classic teenage love tale. He sings about crushing on a friend and wanting to hold their hand. It comes off as sincere. “A Few Days” is a stripped back lament while “She Said” is a more driving three-chord punk rock song. “Eyes”is another stripped back intimate song with just guitar and vocals. “Fake” is the arguable highlight about connecting with people of the lack thereof. Last up is the distorted rocker “Bye, Girl (I Won't See You)” which embraces lost moments.
A lot of things change as you get older. And they keep changing long after you become an adult. One thing that has never changed for me is having music as an outlet. Although there is plenty of room for improvement the music does feel honest and seems like a positive medium for Osmond to express his emotion. I encourage him to keep at it and keep experimenting.
I have to admit I don’t relate to music the same way I used to. To be more specific now that it’s been about twenty years since I graduated high school it is harder for me to relate to the subject matter I did then. If nothing else My Character, Your Charisma by Nearly Sincerely is an honest account of the experience of a young person.
The album starts with “Sticks and Stones” which revolves around guitar and vocals. The vocalist and guitarist Jacob Handermann doesn't have a voice that immediately makes you think he is a good singer although it grows on you. His inflection isn’t exactly smooth and almost sounds forced when he sings, “Can you kill me now I hope I die / Can you kill me now I hope its tonight.“
Up next is “Anxiety” which is a song about a girl he has a crush on while “My Character, Your Charisma” revolves around basic minor and major chords. “Dark Places” is pretty self explanatory while “Living Room” is youthful lamenting. “Birthday Party” is arguably the best sounding song.
One thing I can say is that I have a lot of similarities with the band. I started making music when I was twelve and when I was in high school I wrote songs inspired by bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana. The songs would consist of basic chords and similar subject matter. It really wasn’t till I graduated in college with a music degree that my writing became more complex. As of right now the music on My Character, Your Charisma is simple but inspired and I encourage the artists to explore more musical possibilities.
There is decent songwriting but for right now the young duo fall into a case of wait and see. I wish them luck as their tastes and talents evolve.
Valerie Leighton and Cam Allen are The People In Your Ears. The two came together to make Lost in the Shine EP. According to their Bandcamp both of them were “miserable” for reasons undisclosed. This isn’t all that surprising in fact I could say it’s very common that people who are dealing with anything from depression to loss and everything adverse in between utilize music as an outlet or channel to heal.
Lost in the Shine EP is a rock EP that feels like it’s influenced by a couple of sub genres like pop-punk and grunge. Up first is “Running For Cover.” The lyrics are definitely dark. The vocalist sings, “I don’t just show up baby you know I arrive / Slip the noose around your neck.” The song however is pretty catchy , especially the chorus.
Up next is “Black Hole” which is even better. The distorted guitars sound better on this track than on the first because they don’t mask the vocals as much. There is a more distinct pop-punk flavor. The vocals on the verse almost feel too tortured but the chorus does bring some much needed levity.
“Take My Hand” was interesting. The song felt a little too busy at times. I really liked the vocals however it almost felt like it could have been a country song if played differently. “One More Minute” is pretty a straightforward break up song while “Thick Black Ink” is a little more punk oriented.
My only suggestion is that the band work with a mastering engineer next time around. The songs all have different sonic imprints which were noticeable. A good mastering engineer would have been able to make the songs more connected to each other.
Lost in the Shine EP definitely has a fuck it all, that break up sucked diary entry feel to it. The sadness, anger and frustration feels more aligned with someone in their early to mid 20’s to my ears. Tortured or not good music still has to be good in order for an audience to appreciate it. Luckily, the songs are well written and delivered.
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Trickshooter Social Club is a band from Chicago which is where I happen to live. My first thoughts after spending some time with their release American Experiment is that It’s the type of music that feels like it’s meant to be experienced live. The album is a mix of rock, blues, garage and country but the one thing that remains fairly consistent is that it feels like a celebration. In fact according to their Facebook page the band has eight members which seems like a party to me.
The band come out of the gates with the energetic “Boxcar Racer” which sort of sounds like a mix between Cheap Trick and the popular song from Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s a romp with guitars, bass and drums that feel like they are charging forward. Better yet the hook is really catchy.
Up next is “If I Could” which is a bluesy hard rock inspired song that also drives. The vocal melodies are memorable in a way that you can imagine a whole audience singing along. “Duck and Run” felt like another memorable song. It rocks hard and the implement of a lot of classic rock moves that get your adrenaline pumping.
I thought the band went for a romantic classical on “Twisting in the Wind” but that was just the intro to the song. This song is the most mixed in terms of combining styles. It’s funky yet there are moments where it feel like a classic rock song. Once the fiddle is introduced the song has a bit of a country flavor to it.
The band slows things down for the first time with “Carry Me Home.” It veers towards a country ballad and I am happy to report they pull off this style really well. Melancholy sounds good on them.
There is a bit of a hoe down with “Until I Die” which does a one eighty in terms of mood and energy. They dip back into celebratory rock with piano leading the charge on “Whiskey On My Grave” while “The Promise” is perhaps just pure rock.
“Hotel Nowhere” has a single worthy John Mellencamp feel to it. There is some attitude on “Time To Get Out” while “American Experiment” is a dynamic rocker. They close with some warmth and nostalgia on “Rolling Blue Light.”
I can hear why Trickshooter Social Club has an impressive following. The band is versatile and takes you through different styles which bring about different emotions. Make sure to take a listen. I’ll see you at their show.
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Andrew Neil is a musician with quite a history. To sum it up briefly he got into a very bad car accident and also was in the hospital for years due to a number of issues. If you want to read more about his story I encourage you to visit his Wikipedia page.
He released an album entitled Merry Go Round. For the most I found this to be a pretty straightforward alternative album which has an overt '90s vibe although there are some deviations in style. Some songs stuck out more than others to me but I would say the album is pretty consistent in terms of songwriting, delivery and overall aesthetics. One thing that seems to reoccur is the repetitive nature of the lyrics. He tends to repeat certain lines like a mantra.
The first song is called the same thing as this website “Divide and Conquer.” It consists of distorted power chords, a driving beat and a steady bass. This song in particular sounded very ’90s like and a homage to garage bands like Weezer. The title track “Merry Go Round” is a highlight. It’s one of the catchier songs in the batch. This is one of the songs where he repeats certain lyrics till they become a mantra. His vocals sound good here.
“Storm” had a more haunting vibe not unlike that of a band like Urge Overkill. Up next is “Red” which is a rocker with some solid lead guitar while “In The Air” is a throwback to grunge with some brighter elements thrown in the mix.
“I Wish” came out of nowhere and felt really different than anything that came before. The song is light and jazzy. I liked the orchestral elements in the song. He goes back to alternative rock with “No Longer.”
“Sorry Kyle” is soft and mellow, “Princess Never” has it moments and “Tie Dye Dinosaur” is a bit silly sounding. He closes with “Beautiful Mess” which is a strong song.
Having been a teenager in the ’90s I grew up on alternative rock which is about ninety percent of what this album goes for. Hence I would say this album should be a welcome throwback for fans of the genre.
DP is back with his eighth release entitled ORDINARY. I felt like this release may have been his most fluid. I say that in terms of the sequential order of the songs as well as the parts within the songs themselves. The songs this time around have a ’90s indie rock vibe most closely related to the band Pavement.
The album gets started with “WALK WITH ME” which contains guitars with just a little crunch, a steady bass and a drum beat. It’s a song that feels akin to walking into a park on a sunny day and appreciating the walk itself. As the song progresses it does get a bit more intense.
“READING OLD LETTERS” continues with palatable grooves. The guitar melodies on the song are sometimes hypnotic with a bass line that really shines as well. “FULL MOON” slows things down a bit and has a more melancholy pensive feel but still has a similar feel to the previous songs. “NO NEED TO EXPLAIN” brings a little bit of levity and has a playful, optimistic feel like the opener “WALK WITH ME.”
“TUESDAY MORNING” keeps the momentum going with more solid grooves while “YEARS AGO” slows thing down once more. “END OF THE DAY” reflects the title. It almost sounds like you had a long day and are ready to crash and your thoughts are scattered.
I may have stated this before but it bears repeating. The real strength of a release like this is that the sum is greater than the parts. It’s the type of album that should be appreciated from beginning to end. It’s akin to a roller coaster ride with peaks and valleys.
Overall, this is another top notch release from DP. The production also seems to be at its best. Don’t miss out on this one.
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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
Pipe Dream FLUX 3.7
Will Killen Write You Out 4.0
Justin Yates Friend 3.7
Dirty Boots The Talk Around
The Swimming Pool 3.7
The Lowsiders Extended Play 3.8
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