Wrong Way at the Roundabout is an alt indie rock quartet based in Seattle, WA, comprised of Richard Laqueur (guitars/lead vocals), Tom Wade (bass/background vocals), Xavier Salinas (lead guitar) and Jack Brady (drums). The band is releasing their debut self-titled album Wrong Way at the Roundabout.
Laqueur says he owes the making of the album to his recovery. He began writing music after he got sober from meth and heroin. It helped him stay clean and was something to look forward to. The band was gigging and began recording when he fell back into heavy using. But he made it out again thanks to suboxone and after ending a toxic relationship with a girl. Finishing the record helped him stay clean and it is thanks to the support of his crew that he made it out again.
Wrong Way at the Roundabout opens with “Crusin” where reverberating guitar riffs add to the atmosphere. Laqueur’s vocals are raw, filled with a gritty bluesy vibe. The music has a slow sauntering effect that also offers up a groovy funky riff. A guitar solo launches toward the two-and-a-half-minute mark. The sound is warm and soulful.
“Under The Table” is a track about his worst overdose and chronicles his downward spiral and the demons he had to face. The vibes on the acoustic guitar paves this song towards the start. Percussions and drums add that extra zing. Next, the interwoven sounds on the electric guitar reverberates overhead. The finger-picking on the acoustic guitar is intricate. The vocals eventually come in with a fully realized feel. Laqueur sings with range and emotional power.
The dynamic sounds coming from the acoustic guitar starts off “Cellophane.” The interwoven sounds of the acoustic guitar and electric guitar courses through this track. A piano melody trickles in. The vocals arrive with a sparse sound. A strong sense of urgency underlines this song. The slow burning vibe on this track makes it a definite highlight.
On “Wrong Way,” bluesy guitar riffs sound off on this song. The vocals strut in, in a straightforward manner and are sung in a spoken word performance-like feel.. The album closes on a soft note with this apt closer.
Laqueur is the main songwriter and his lyrics are auto-biographically based. With a sound that contains a blues and indie rock vibe, Wrong Way at the Roundabout layers in vocal harmonies. You can tell a lot hangs in the balance as these songs are about self-destruction, drug use, sex but also self-discovery, determination and perseverance. This collection of songs has helped Laqueur survive his addiction and hopefully they remain a beacon of hope for others who are going through the same things. Music is like that - able to bridge that gap and offer us stories and a source of comfort that connects all of us.
Turning Violet is four-piece band based in Los Angeles. Founded as a solo project by singer Simone Siren in 2014, it has gone through several different line-ups and morphed into the current tightly knit, energetic quartet that plays with punk bands and indie rock acts. Broken Wheel is their first EP, after a digital-only single release, and a few of the songs have lasted from the early days, evolving from singer/songwriter territory into melodic rock.
The band’s style(s) “sits in that satisfying spot between punk and power-pop, with the added bonus of some new wave flair.” Simone Siren has been compared by listeners to Kate Bush and Debbie Harry from the ‘80s new wave/punk pop band Blondie. Other band members include Wally Rashiidi on drums, Matt Whitlock on guitar and Iriel Blaque on bass. Themes on the EP consist of frustrations, loneliness and disgust with the state of the world.
“The Meteor” starts off fast and with raw post-punk style. During the solo the band mixes it up with a slightly lighter sound with elements of good old-fashioned rock ’n roll. The song’s words beckon for the human race to be obliterated by a meteor because our species pretty much has not evolved that well and we are still selfish. Yep, that about sums it up for me, too. “Making Eyes” features an old-style beat starting off and then a power pop style on the chorus. The lyrics suggest internal frustration and “a side of me that still clings.” Next up is “Now and Always” and it plays up some fantastic guitar action by Whitlock and vocals by Siren. This one felt more on the side of new wave, in my opinion, with the solo parts and the way it ended.
“Corset” settles in with a slower tempo but gets pretty bold and raw on the solo parts. This one felt like a cross between the Pretenders, but with less pop, and the Cranberries, perhaps? “Keyhole” is a fun sounding number with elements of power pop and punk. I loved the brooding bass lines by Blaque and the guitar riffs, too. “Dance Floor” wraps things up with a quick tune inside of two minutes. I liked the fast rhythm to this one – Rashidi tore up those drums well!
Overall, I thought Broken Wheel was a good introduction to Turning Violet’s many genre switching styles. At times, I was hearing the Go-Gos, Missing Persons, Pretenders, Patty Smyth (Scandal) and the Cranberries – lots of good stuff in this EP. To me, the band sounded tight and well-rehearsed – no wonder Chicago’s Power Pop Shoppe at WNUR called them the “Best of 2019.”
David Rea is a singer/songwriter artist from New Zealand who recently released Time. He explains, “Time is a concept album which encapsulates the time between two relationships. The first part of the album is well produced but talks of a witch-like character as the narrator feels as though he is alienated towards the actions of his ex girlfriend. As the album gets nearer the end Rea chose to make the music less produced for the reason that a first love feels so raw and unworked on.”
The EP starts with “Time (Feat. Andy Coyle)” which is a mix between Pink Floyd, field recordings and spoken word. I’m not exactly sure how to feel about this intro. It was taking itself so seriously I think but it also felt sort of tongue in cheek, almost sarcastic. Either way it was theatrical and not really indicative of the feeling I had throughout the other songs.
There was a lot less ambiguity about my feelings on “Howling Wind.” This is an emotionally resonant song and a highlight in the batch. It’s gospel sounding and perhaps in similar company to early Bon Iver. The song mixes melancholy and hope. It’s a great song.
The next song “Misty Mountains” was more beat heavy and brought to mind Boards of Canada. As the song progresses Rea’s vocals felt soulful and I enjoyed the Pink Floyd style guitar solo.
“Hunter” is a short mood piece revolving around delayed guitar while “Black Flies” incorporates elements of Eastern music. “Masquerade” was a subtle piano piece with two vocalists and was one of the highlights. I was getting some Radiohead vibes on this song. The dramatic highlight “Disappear Completely” was dark but also quite beautiful. I again had some Radiohead vibes. The sparse horns were great and Rea does a great job here. Last up is “Moonlight” and this sounded more like a song I would hear in a Sunday worship session. Very warm, hopeful and motivational. I kept on picturing people singing together.
I had a hard time connecting the dots and feeling the arch when listening to this sequentially. There were a lot of different styles and not as much as I wanted from tones, textures and colors to unite all the songs under one umbrella. That being said I thought some of the songs when looked at individually were great. I had strong preferences over some of the styles he played.
Overall I thought this was a solid release from a talented, young musician. I’m looking forward to hearing more from him. Take a listen.
Nearly Sincerely used to consist of two members but now is just a solo artist from Cincinnati, Ohio. His latest release is Wonderful Weather We're Having. This release felt like an extension of his previous releases in that it is somber, emo music that is mainly about depression.
Back in my college days, about twenty years ago, I got a chance to hang out with Conor Oberst. It was after one of the shows and before he got popular. He was a pretty down to earth guy and seemed very normal despite his music which contains some of the most depressing moments I have heard in songs.
I’ve compared Nearly Sincerely to Conor Oberst previously and that’s still the same thing I was thinking on this release. The lamenting scrutiny of self doubt, anxiety and depression. Take for instance the opener “Motivation” which is an ironic title. He sings “And one day I'll be that guy / Going on about the old days / Drifting off in boredom / As I'm properly ignored” against jangly guitar chords.
Up next is “Pretend to Be Happy” which is about faking something until you make it. On the next song “Solitude,” he proclaims “And time goes by fast / My mind can't reverse / All of the damage that's been done.” The artist continues with “I Like Your Jacket” and “Hard Day at the Office.” The most cynical lyrics might be on “Hard Day at the Office.” He sings “You'll say I don't like you / And I don't like me.” As the album progresses he continues to weave his web of sorrow with “Wonderful Weather We're Having” and “Lament.”
The music itself is sparse really just revolving around guitar and bass. His vocals take up almost all of your attention not only because of the lyrics but the emotionally dynamic delivery.
I would never judge anyone else's despair but there is an inherent danger in romanticizing misery. I’ve seen it before and it reminds me of a great line by Kurt Cobain - “I miss the comfort in being sad.” Once you get familiar with sadness and despair it can also be comforting because that’s where your metaphorical home is. The artist here reminds me of myself twenty years ago and if his art is actually representative of his life, I hope he eventually makes a more hopeful album.
That being said this is a solid album and if you’re a fan of some of the aforementioned artists like Conor Oberst, Elliot Smith and many other like minded artists this might be for you.
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
Jeff Hortillosa The Horticulture Vol 1 3.9
Stephen Roddy Search Party 3.7
Junior Farrer Strange Times 3.6
Saving Throw How Do Microphone 3.6
AJ Dvorak Tell Me How It Feels 3.6
The Pickpockets is an indie rock band from Chicago, IL. The band consists of Brian Baseggio (guitar/vocals), Allen Duarte (bass), Kiri Klawitter (vocals/keys) and Rob Sheehan (drums). The band is releasing their latest EP entitled If I Were You.
It’s been over a decade since the band has put out any new music, but The Pickpockets are getting back on the bandwagon, so to speak, with the launch of their If I Were You EP– the first in a planned series of releases. The EP contains four songs, ranging from “moody art rock to an exhilarating punk rush, with time spent exploring dynamics and tension-filled volatility.” The Pickpockets are known for their live shows, and the sound on If I Were You really picks up on that live aspect. You can tell that the band is willing to experiment on their sound as they innovate on their vibe. Tinged with reverb and distorted riffs, The Pickpockets isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty and the sound on the guitars exhibit this with a down to the basics nit and grit vibe.
If I Were You opens up with the energetic “The Clairvoyant.” The music in the backdrop pulverizes with a happening vibe. Klawitter’s singing is spewed out in a fast-paced manner. The music keeps pace with her vocals.
Following is “Edit Sober,” where right off the bat the music comes in with no hesitation. The band jams out in this revved up performance. The music is fast-paced and energetic.
“When The Drugs Wore Off,” is a departure from the more high-energy display in the previous tracks. This song is more of a slow burn. Percussions adds to the dramatic ballad.
On the closer “Correlation And Causality,” Klawitter’s vocals are echo-y and melancholy-tinged as she sings about isolation.The bass lines are moody and ominous. This is a somber-sounding track with a grave vibe.
Raw and unrelenting, the Chicago band features a sound that is cemented in the alternative, indie rock and pop genres. The atmosphere on If I Were You contains intense vocals that are executed in a rapid pace. Klawitter’s enthusiasm has no peerage as she takes the lead in all four tracks. You can tell that her energy will translate really well onstage. Stay tuned for more material from the band, as they plan to release a series of EPs in the near future.
Liam Aylward (guitar/vocals), Max Alba (bass) and Sean Connolly (drums) are Granite Lake. The band from Northern New Jersey released a live EP simply called The Live EP. It was recorded at WPUNJ radio station Brave New Radio and broadcasted live.
The music is simple yet catchy. I felt these songs went down easy. Most of the songs seem to consist of major and minor chords and a 4/4 beat. They start with “Not Your Scene” which consists of strummed chords and vocals. It’s warm, memorable and slightly melancholy.
Things pick up slightly with “Hesitate” and the band feels like indie rock down to its bone. You can make comparisons to bands like Vampire Weekend, Neutral Milk Hotel, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and a couple of others.
“Sorry for the Weight” has its moments but “It Followed Me Home” was a certified highlight. “It Followed Me Home” has a bit of a classic rock feel to it. Aylward sounded great here. Up next is “Misery’ which is another solid song and not quite as miserable as the title implies.
The band hits a nice flow between “Luxury Homes” and “You're So Last Summer” which reminded me of one of my favorite bands Pavement. “Scared To Ask,” “Keepsake Yesterdays” and “Sandcastles” round out the album and create a nice cohesive sound for the band.
I’d love to hear a studio worthy full length soon. There are some great songs on this release and I look forward to hearing more. Take a listen.
The fundaMentals is all about rock. I mean that late ’60s and ’70s rock that had some attitude. Before everything had to be optimistic and joyful, rock had some grit. People weren’t afraid to play music with a sense of danger. Hell, you could do a shot of Jack Daniels and smoke a cigarette and no one would look at you funny. Those days might be over to some extent especially within the mainstream but The fundaMentals is keeping the spirit alive with their latest High Crimes In Lo-Fi.
Divide & Conquer reviewed their previous releases MonuMental:The Best of The fundaMentals and Full Mental Jacket but this release felt to me like their best yet. They come out of the gates with a killer track entitled “They Can't Kill Us All” which is a certified highlight. I liked how explosive the song was. It sounded like a mix between Motörhead and Steppenwolf.
The band can also get a little psychedelic in the spirit of The Doors on this album. “Down The Rabbit Hole” is probably the prime example. This seven-plus-minute song is a bit of a slow burn with extended instrumental sections. That sort of thing is also a relic of the past. You don’t get many drum solos like you heard on “Moby Dick” by Led Zeppelin.
As the album progresses a lot of the songs are between the four- and five-minute mark. There is certainly a cohesive quality amongst the songs and the band goes back to the playback from early rock gods. “Ain't Comin' Back Alive” is a good example of the band paying homage to some legends with certain moves that made it classic in the first place.
The band does mellow out on occasion. “Stereo 102” was mellow enough to remind me of The Velvet Underground. As the album comes to a close “instruMental” is another deviation that this time comes closer to Pink Floyd.
This release, similar to their others, is for fans of rock when it was in its prime - 1967 to 1975. I know that’s my opinion but I’ll politely argue that in person and with a pint of beer tell you why. Anyhow, let the good times roll. Take a listen.
Hermit Commune is an indie rock group based out of Fort Collins, Colorado that recently released WHAM-O. The band says, “We choose seven songs that vary drastically in style and direction - so the album is a rollercoaster - and each song occupies a unique element of our sound.” To be blunt I disagree with this after listening to it. I didn’t think there was a huge shift in style which I have heard before from other artists. There isn’t genre hopping from rap to country and back to rap. This a cohesive release primarily rooted in rock and alternative with some slight deviations in texture and tone.
You have read my reviews before - I want a band to be singular, I want to remember their sound if I hear it on the radio, I want it to stick with me. You can’t do that if you jump from style to style so I’m glad they don’t. It was like the first time I heard Sigur Rós. I was like wow this sounds like no one else. They have their own sound.
WHAM-O is a great album and it starts with “Secret Bunker” which is a catchy song. I was reminded of bands like Grizzly Bear, Local Natives and even The Flaming Lips. It uses some inventive chord changes. You could label this as Baroque pop.
They continue with “Feeble Branches” which is another catchy song. I’m not just talking about the vocal melody. It’s really all the fantastic instruments that have a slight Bossa Nova combined with a hint of The Beatles.
Up next is “Ethylene” which is a killer track and arguably the highlight. The vocalist delivers a lot of emotion. “Green Dream'' does sound like a dream with some reverb laced vocal harmonies. The vocalist reminded me of Jim Morrison on this track. In fact this whole song reminded me of “The Crystal Ship” by The Doors.
“Living with Computers” is warm and inviting. It reminded me of a very underrated band called Super Furry Animals. The spaghetti western instrumental section was on point. Up next is “Save Them” which contains some great drumming and airy synths. They close with “Bats Fly Low” which is somewhere between Of Montreal and The Beatles.
This is a great home recording. It’s raw and lo-fi but it works. That being said my only critique is I think they should have handed the mixes off to a professional mastering engineer. I wanted a little more separation between the instrument and perhaps stereo depth which a good mastering engineer would have no problem achieving.
Overall, this is a near flawless record. Every song hit the mark for me. Take a listen.
Totem Frogs was formed in Lincolnshire, Illinois in the late-summer/early-fall of 2018 by singer and guitarist Alexander Garrin. He had been in bands previously and released a solo EP entitled Smoke Shack earlier that same year. While Garrin was playing with one of his other bands at the Covered Bridge Creamery in Long Grove, IL, he met drummer Danny Lozano. The two decided to meet up and jam. Soon after, Lozano introduced Garrin to lead guitarist Matt Dastice, who he went to high school with. The band has an appreciation for the music of the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, the Band, Frank Zappa and the blues. Eventually they built a solid repertoire of covers and started playing at their local hangout Chatter Box and other small restaurant bars in the area. In 2019, Garrin started looking for a dedicated bass player – he met Max Blaul on an app for musicians looking for other musicians and the two hit it off well. After jamming a few weeks and sitting in with the band, he was brought into the fold as a full member. Since then, Totem Frogs has played a few gigs in the summer and started writing more original material for their self-titled debut Totem Frogs. Totem Frogs was recorded in Garrin’s bedroom using Logic Pro.
The album starts with “Spark Away” a warm sounding rocker that has the spirit of folk rock – more on the rock side I think – with the modern format of today. I’d say my first thought would be Big Star or Wilco. The guitar solo was top notch in my opinion. “Lately You Find” rocks and sways along like a jam band song, in the spirit of Grateful Dead, but with a little bit of blues and soul, too. A nice number all around. “I Don’t Believe in God” features some acoustic guitar action – actually the band sounds like they layered two guitars together – making for a nice, full and rich sound.
The blues-ish style of this one reminds me of Dylan and The Band. “Song Shaped” features a cool, stripped down sound to start off with fantastic vocals. Then the band rocks out pretty hard in a more modern fashion, complete with harmonica. This was a fun one to listen to – Lozano really lays it down on the drums! “Blues in Time” does have a blues progression and I’d say the band’s style here has that classic Chicago blues sound – gritty, smooth and mean. If you dig the blues, not to mention slide guitar, take a listen to this one for sure.
Next up is “Basement Song” a happy, rolling tune with a light touch and groovy guitar finger picking by Dastice I’m guessing. “Let Us Go” has a nice addition of the congas with a folksier acoustic style and warm, buttery slide guitar - perhaps the band’s most stripped-down song. “Size” has a more charged up style, something akin to the rock ‘n roll protest songs of the ‘60s but with the band’s own modern sound. The bright, jangly sounds of the guitars mixed with heavier distortion makes me think of R.E.M.s Peter Buck, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Neil Young’s Crazy Horse band. I liked the bass lines on “Fair Share Outta Town” also how the song’s structure and progression rolled along. This one for me had a different feel to it and Garrin really belted out the words here, too.
Totem Frog’s last number is “Wicked Things” and it’s a heavier rhythmic song with the bass and drums taking more of the reins. The sound of Dastice’s guitar, whatever effects pedal he was using made me think of that early Fleetwood Mac song – wait for it, - “Hypnotized” – in fact, some of this band’s stuff reminds me of early Mac, pre-Buckingham/Nicks (aka the Peter Green and Bob Welch eras). Believe me, if you take a listen to this song, you’ll be hearing an entirely different band before the famous ’77 Rumors masterpiece. Anyway, I suspect there is some Zappa influence in this last number, too. Overall, a smooth, smoky sounding tune.
Even though I’ve never been a big Grateful Dead or Dylan fan, I was impressed with this young Illinois band. I thought I would hear a band riffing on one or two notes incessantly for ten minutes, but not these guys.
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