Quinn is a 14-year-old Toronto based singer/songwriter. At 14, I could barely pluck up the courage to talk to someone of the opposite sex, so creating and releasing an album at such a tender age is some feat in itself.
Quinn has impressive knowledge of design and is able to produce exquisite music, as well as melancholic visuals. His six-track album Candy, Again sees Quinn flourish through dreamy vocals and beats and synth effects, all united with a strong sense of hopelessness. In terms of the genre Quinn’s album can be characterized as dream-pop or soft-rock with touches of electronic. But there is way much more to this artist, and such the versatility of the artist’s musicality, you can quite easily vision his songs transformed into orchestral or hip hop remixes.
The opening track "Cape Cod" has a Lana Del Rey allure and grandiose nature to it that really portrays Quinn's unshakable confidence. While "See you" deals with the frustration of lack of human interaction during the pandemic. "Resilence" is an amazingly inspirational song to help guide us through these tough times and spreads positivity for the future. With heavy Arlo Park and Billie Eilish vibes. Quinn has an interestingly concurrent voice with an idiosyncratic, heavily distorted vocal style that combines fittingly with his take on playful and innocent angst. As well as serving as a welcome reminder of how amorphous modern pop has become.
Candy, Again is a quintessential contemporary album dealing with the difficulties that modern life holds. There is a sentimental reflection of life pre-covid, which any human being can connect with. Such deep emotions from the pandemic are explored throughout from isolation to optimism.
Quinn is an artist that can guide you into his world, a world crammed with poignant happiness and adamant wholesome emotions. I look forward to seeing what direction this talented young singer/songwriter takes as he develops his sound.
Spanning across the Washington cities of Mead, Colbert and Kelso, 20-year-old lead guitarist Landon Spencer, 23-year-old Cailin Spencer, 18-year-old Samuel McQuarrie, 20-year-old Ian McTamaney and 20-year-old James Ott have joined forces to create the band known as Spilt Milk. The band’s beginnings started in high school with one central focus – to be original. Their debut See You Around was recorded in London Bridge Studios in Shoreline, Washington. The project was produced by Julian Anderson and mastered by Geoff Ott. See You Around is an Americana rock album that draws inspiration from bands such as Dawes, Tom Petty, Jerry Jeff Walker, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Nathaniel Rateliffe. All the songs on the EP were written in various basements over the band’s senior year and recorded the following summer in 2019. Their style is unique and reflects each of the member’s personalities.
First up is the title to the EP, and it’s a jangly, rock and ramble tune with a full band song. A familiar “oom-pah” country beat with piano, warm bass and free from guitar sound that reminds me of Lou Reed from his Velvet Underground days. The vocal harmonies round out the band’s natural instrument, making this a highly likable number.
“Snakes in the Water” has even more great vocal harmonies and a stronger presence of the piano, accompanied by an old-style Hammond-like organ. This is a happy sounding tune with elements of pop and Americana folk and I think you’ll agree.
The third track is “Shoulder” and the band gets quiet on this tune. A low mellow organ, rim shot on the snare with a meaty bass drum thumping, and an acoustic guitar strumming somberly. The young singers’ harmonies are the real highlight, as they belt out the chorus with a lot of heart. I think there’s an old fashioned style with this one – you may hear some CCR or Dylan influence coming through here. Lastly there’s “On a Roll” and it features a more rocking edge. The drums are stronger, the vocals more forceful and the pairing of the band’s two main singers really shine through on this last number.
Overall, I think the entire band really play to their strengths from start to finish throughout the EP. This Washington band has a lot of great potential and has a lot of years ahead of them to prove it even more.
Ravenman is the recent release from Mike Lambeth. The artist mentions: “The Ravenman album sounds dark & heavy with some metal & rock influences & is gothic in lyrical nature. Gothic metal.” Lambeth mentions some of influences like Black Sabbath, Therion, Theatre of Tragedy and NIN. I definitely picked up on Black Sabbath right away and in particular a ’70s metal vibe.
This is a very long album which is one hour and eleven minutes long. It’s intense and required a couple of sittings to get through completely but there are some pleasures along the way. The first song “Serpent Rising” was a solid song. There’s some great riffs here including some parts which I wasn’t expecting which felt like post-rock and others that felt like something Frank Zappa might come up with.
Black Sabbath can sometimes come off a bit humorous and that was some of what I was feeling on “The High Priestess” and lots of other songs. It’s very mythological and a cartoonish and the lyrics felt somewhere between Spinal Tap and Black Sabbath which is perfectly fine.
I think that’s why I appreciated this album is because it was constantly on the line of taking itself too seriously like countless other metal acts that read one too many fantasy novels. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and many more used these themes in their music.
As the album progresses I thought the songs were fairly consistent. I did have some favorites like “Forest Styx,” “My Tempest” and the closer “Death, Magic & Rebirth.” There are even some excerpts which sound like they are from a play about lords, mages, kings and well you get it.
If you’re a fan of fantasy based metal then you should love this. I don’t have much doubt about that.
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Mick Shaffer has an impressive resume. He started practicing the guitar again at age forty but first picked it up when he was fourteen. Before getting into music he worked in the entertainment industry.
Shaffer appeared on network television, off-off Broadway theater, the stage of Radio City Music Hall and various comedy clubs in NYC performing with the likes of Robin Williams, Bruce Willis, Alan Arkin, Dennis Leary and Gilbert Gottfried. On the music side he has been playing in the San Francisco bay area for over twenty-two years and recently released Thoughts & Ruinations.
The album contains ten songs and is around forty-two minutes long. I would say the music is rock based with a strong proclivity towards’70s Americana based sounds. The first song entitled “Amiga'' was a highlight. I loved the opening guitar and slight country twang on this song. Johnny Cash came to mind but with more electric guitar and atmosphere.
Next up is “Low Hanging Fruit’ which sheds most of the country flavor. There’s some really great work across the board when it comes to the instrumentation. The warm and inviting “Lay It Down” lays down the Americana thick and the first time Neil Young came to mind. “Another World” is stripped down with just acoustic guitar and vocals while “Glimmer” features a new vocal style - spoken word. “True” was one of the more single-worthy songs. The song drives and has memorable vocal melodies.
Some of the best vocals are also on “Same Old New Thing.” I thought “Imagining” has more of a contemporary country quality. It wasn’t my favorite song in the batch but contains warm melancholy and hope. “My Green Thumb” is a fun one. It’s loose and playful. Shaffer closes with “In the Moonlight” which is atmospheric and misty.
This was a really well produced and written album. I liked most of the songs and thought some were exceptional. Recommended.
Back in the early ’90s I picked up a guitar and quickly started playing cover songs with my friends which included Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and other popular alternative bands at the time. I quickly wanted to ditch the covers and start playing originals. This is a cycle that’s going to continue as long as young people continue to want to pick up an instrument and not just learn how to program a virtual instrument. The reason I bring this up is because Coffee and Soda is a band based in Cape Coral, Florida that is going through a very similar thing that I was over twenty years ago. The band mentions: “We formed initially as a cover band in late 2019 for fun as a group of high schoolers, but over the past year and a half we wrote our own songs and released this EP.”
On their self-titled EP Coffee and Soda I would say the young band is off to a solid start. They start with “Alone for the Summer” which consists of a couple jangly guitar chords, drums, bass and vocals. The band sounds similar to The Strokes but perhaps a little more funky.
The title track “Coffee and Soda” is more emotive and pensive while “Hot Cinnamon Donuts” was catchy, poppy and easy to digest. They rock out harder with “Serpent’s Kiss” which is closer to Interpol. “Olive Branch'' is a solid but straightforward garage rock and the closer “Capo at 6 A.M.” is by far the most technically impressive song. They go into prog and post-rock territory. I hope this is a hint of what’s to come.
This is the sound of a young band figuring out what works and what direction they might go in. As an engineer myself the logical next steps would be to step into a professional studio and record. The band did a fine job with the home recordings but they sound like they could use some improvement. Overall this was a solid start for the band and I look forward to hearing more.
Robert Anderson aka RW/A is an artist from Oakland, California who recently released That's True. It seems like the album was a complete DIY production done from the comfort of his own home. There’s definitely the familiar home recording quality I’ve heard countless times before and overall I thought the production was solid.
The songs are pretty straightforward and revolve around guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Up first is “Along with Me” which consists of minor and major chords, 4/4 time and some catchy vocal melodies. As the song progresses other elements like a second guitar show up and there are some nice pushes in terms of dynamics.
“Of the Surf” has a slight ’50s vibe. The guitar work is similar to The Animals and other acts from around that time. It’s lush, easy to appreciate and has a relaxing vibe. “Don’t Follow” is more moody and pensive. I really enjoyed the vocal harmonies which are done on the verse.
“Head in the Sand” is a solid rock song. The song is about 4 dbs quieter than the previous song which is an issue with the mastering. One of the highlights was “Get Away (feat Lena).” The male and female vocal performances sound good together and I liked the melodic guitar parts as well.
“Beauty All Around Me” is another solid song which is laid back. The vocals are delivered in a very comfortable vocal range. I again was attached to the guitar, especially the lead. He tries to get a little more rock-oriented with “Do You Blame?” but the mix was having a hard time keeping up with the sound he was trying to achieve. “More of a Friend (feat. Lena)” has a bit of a Velvet Underground vibe but perhaps a little less psychedelic sounding. “Preacher” is another more rocking song.
My critiques are fairly minor and related to engineering. These songs would have benefited from being passed to a professional mastering engineer. I thought the artist did a solid job but a mastering engineer could have helped with the overall RMS level and made the sonic imprint of the songs a little more cohesive. The drums were a little too perfect, clean but not really dynamic compared to the rest of the sounds to my ears. I’d love to hear these songs played with a full band live.
Overall I thought this was a solid album with some good songwriting. Anderson certainly has some talent in multiple areas and I enjoyed the songs. Take a listen.
Billy Edwin--the recording handle for Los Angeles-based Mike Levy--has released Life is Short, a four-song EP which follows August 2020’s New American West album. Each of the four songs in the collection is an original Edwin (Levy) composition.
Edwin’s musical roots stretch back to the mid-90’s Southern California punk-rock scene, so he is no stranger to the studio. For Life is Short, he handled engineering and production himself with terrific-sounding results. Edwin’s vocals, guitars, bass and harmonica performances are augmented by a strong supporting cast of guest musicians, including Adam Salzman and Rich Culley (guitars), Phil Parlapiano (keys), Amy Aileen Wood (drums), and Barry Stricke (backing vocals). In short, it’s a professionally-executed record, helped by a sparkling, professional mix (courtesy of McCulley).
Stylistically, Life is Short fits right into the Americana rock/country/alt-country bucket, although Edwin adds a few twists. The opener “The Road” is a straight-ahead rocker, featuring nice piano thump underneath and organ up top. The production is, well, professional, with a nice balance between gritty and softer sounds; there’s not a hair out of place, yet it still feels like rock.
The musical twists start with “Ballad of a Privileged Man” where Edwin’s lyrics turn a disapproving eye towards narcissists. Underneath, the song employs an unusual meter on the verse, which gives the track a lilt and an urgency to drive the message home. The acoustic-guitar love ballad “She’s My Best” continues the off-kilter feel with shifting downbeats set against a plaintive harmonica line. The ending lyric brings a smile with an atypical couplet: “She keeps me calm like a cigarette / She’s my best / Her name’s Annette.” Hey, if it makes Annette happy…
The title track closer “Life is Short” is a radio-ready country-rock anthem from a band to its audience--or for a struggling friend. Edwin brings out his punk roots here with the chunky guitars and pounding drums giving the song a bit of a harder edge than your standard mainstream country fare. It’s another well-constructed track with strong backing vocals, guitar solos and shifting dynamics. Edwin finishes by telling his friend, “Hang on there … we’ll be on stage again.”
And good thing. This is solid rock n’roll, and we’d like more of it. Life is short, so spin it today!
I was looking at the album cover and song titles for Boonton, USA by Bryan Yurcan and I thought I already know what this is. That’s definitely a presumptuous thought but just looking at the imagery and song titles it seems like this is going to be nostalgic American folk/rock. I wasn’t far off but there are some twists and turns.
The opener “In Your Garage” felt like such an odd song to me to start with. For one thing this song sounds like nothing else on the album. This has an early Sonic Youth vibe. I love Sonic Youth and thought the song was damn good and actually one of my favorites but it really doesn't sound like it belongs on the album when compared to the other tunes.
“Mercer County” is much more indicative of the general sound of this album. The song is mostly strummed chords, some atmosphere and singing that’s more spoken word. That style continues with “Summer Of ‘99” but with percussion. It’s very lo-fi but has some charm.
“Moonlight over Manhattan” is the first highlight with the acoustic instrumentation. It’s atmospheric and the vocals fit the song well. “Break in the Clouds” is a really nice song but the percussive felt too lo-fi or something. The tone and textures of whatever is being hit sounds a bit boxy but there are some guitars that enter the mix which help with that. I thought the vocals were some of his best and liked the more traditional singing on this song.
“Isabelle” is another solid song but again it’s quite lo-fi and the acoustic guitar needed some more definition and fidelity. The guitars actually sound better on “High School Poetry.” He ends with the most somber song entitled “New England Winter” which can feel dismal at times. The guitar was pleasant towards the end which perhaps can be interpreted as some kind of hopeful closure.
The familiar topics of reflecting on life in the middle of America have been done countless times before and the artist does a fine job here. Some songs hit the bullseye for me. I think working with an engineer would help his future release quite a bit. The recording quality is varied and changes from song to song although not drastically.
Overall, this is a solid effort with some heartfelt songs. I hope to hear more soon. Take a listen.
Everything But The Everything is back with a new song entitled “Blue Sun featuring Olivia Barchard.” If you are unfamiliar with his work he mentions “Izzy The Gent takes a different approach to producing and releasing music under his Everything But The Everything moniker. As a bass player and producer by nature, he pairs each of his indie-rock tracks to a specific voice, knowing that one person will be the perfect fit for the song.”
Barchard was a good choice for this song to my ears. The song starts with a fairly straightforward distorted guitar riff, a driving beat and what sounded like additional arpeggiated percussive elements. Barchard's vocals are simultaneously lush and powerful.
There are some similarities between Victoria Legrand from Beach House especially around the one-minute mark where the song opens up and starts to feel more shoegaze influenced. There’s a good amount of reverb coming from the stereo field.
The song goes back to verse with perhaps a little more energy but not much. I thought the lead guitars were also very well done on the chorus which sounds like the player is hitting sixteenth notes that combine with a sheen of reverb. There are slight post-rock vibes on this song that combine with ’70s punk aesthetic.
The song is just over three minutes long and all the fat seems to be trimmed off. There’s no navel gazing, experimental sections or anything else that feels labored. At its heart this is a single worthy song that has repeat worthy value. Take a listen.
Torso Incognito is the second release from Atlanta-based singer/songwriter Cory Brown, recording as The Racquet. The work on the seven-track album is entirely his: he wrote, performed, engineered, mixed and mastered everything in his home studio.
Brown describes The Racquet’s sound as a mix of “elements of noise and experimental artists like Sonic Youth and Radiohead with the compact and melodic songwriting of artists such as The Strokes and Pixies.” These influences come through clearly. Put another way, he’s taken some of the best parts of the ‘80s new wave sound, updated it with some of what’s come since, and wrapped it all around solid songwriting. The songs are strongly structured with clear verses, choruses and bridges, and feature memorable melodies. The structured writing allows Brown the leeway to build variations in the backing tracks, adding that little extra sparkle to the proceedings.
Of particular note is the guitar work. It’s terrific throughout. The rhythm parts are on-point, even evoking the Motown style at points. Leads are melodic and interesting, and Brown avoids the tempting thousand-note guitar-hero opportunities in lieu of restraint and musicality. Listen for the tones of his guitars as well. He’s laid down a wide variety of different six-string sounds, from razor-thin early-‘80s (“Poor Ramona”) to 2000s rocker (“Backseat”), and everywhere in between.
The mixing and mastering--also Brown--perform a great service to the music. He’s close to soundscape nirvana. There’s a great use of dynamics with volumes rising and falling to support the arc of the songs. Panning effects are sprinkled in where appropriate (e.g. the spoken-word bits of “Ghosted”). Further, distinct parts can be heard, if you want to pick one out, but none detracts from the overall whole. “Window Shopping” is a great example of this. There is a lot going on in the track, and it all fits beautifully into the ear space.
You won’t go wrong with any of the seven tracks here. Highlights include the angular riff and middle-section guitar work on “Debris” and the garage-rock-meets-new wave sound of “Night Terror.” Brown digs out some interesting chords for “Ghosted.” Finally, don’t miss the phrygian-tinged outro of “Poor Ramona” which might be the single best section of the whole disc.
Torso Incognito is a strong sophomore effort for The Racquet. Solid songs, terrific feel and great sound--what more could you want? Cue it up today.
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