Jarbins is a solo project from the multi-instrument of Alex Nicholson out of Athens, GA. He recently released When We Fade. Similar to countless other artists I have read about, Nicholson felt the need to delve into his solo project when COVID-19 hit and he was no longer able to put his energy into live music. Also similar to many other bedroom artists the setup is very minimal. In this case one mic and a laptop.
There are seven songs and they are somber, reflective acoustic songs. It starts with “Scratch The Clouds” which is a pleasant intro. It’s soft with acoustic guitar and light percussion. The song ends as it starts to feel like it is beginning to grow.
“Rebirth” is the song where we are treated with some vocals. Nicholson strums a couple of guitar chords and sings falsetto. The melancholy yet warm and nostalgic vibe worked well and has some similarities to Radiohead.
“Custom Concern” is a highlight. I really enjoyed the vocals on the song. It does come from a little woe is me and similar to lamenting in early Bright Eyes. As an engineer I was picking up on the very low subs that were happening. I’m not sure why this was occurring but using a high pass filter to cut anything below about 35hz might have helped.
“Energy” seems to have a different singer during the verse or perhaps he changes his voice here. I was thoroughly confused by the personality change which happens in his voice at the end of the song. The song contains a ukulele which adds to the intimacy. “When We Fade” felt like a classic singer/songwriter type of tune as did “Hard Drugs.” Last up is “Everything Is Falling” which contains some of the best recorded and delivered vocals.
These songs have the classic sensitive artist type of quality similar to Bright Eyes and many others who provide intimate yet pained performances. Nicholson pulls it off. That being said I think obvious next steps would be to hit a studio to really bring out the songs.
Overall, I thought these songs were well written and delivered. There are a lot of qualities in the songs I think people will gravitate towards.
Siren Satellite is a band from San Diego that recently released The Soundrive. Their EP contains five songs. The band has a straightforward rock sound that is most aligned with a 90’s aesthetic.
They begin with “Everclear” and you are introduced to some guitars before the distortion pedals come on and in a very ’90s fashion start to rock. The song revolves around 4/4 time, major and minor chords, and catchy vocal melody.
“Convertible Cars (I’ve Got the Maps” is up next and reminded me specifically of a band called The Wrens. This song was a highlight. The cleaner production benefits their style and I thought the vocalist sounded good with the more emotive palette of sounds surrounding him.
The band gets back into rock mode with “Lunatic” which revolves around jangly chords, a steady bass and dynamic drumming. They have more success with “Sunder.” The band closed with the catchiest song on the EP entitled “Apart from History.”
The EP was cohesive and the songs didn’t present any surprises good or bad. It felt like an EP that would mesh well with a playlist of bands are far ranging from The Killers to Nirvana to Matthew Sweet. The band proved them themselves to be talented songwriters and performers.
As an engineer myself I felt there was something to be desired with the recordings at points. The guitars were a little thin for my personal preference and the dynamics of the songs didn’t always pop.
Overall, I would say this release has a solid batch of songs. Fans of ’90s rock will especially gravitate towards these songs. Take a listen
Tom Ciurczak is a musician who says he got bitten by the music bug when he was a kid watching the Beatles then they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show back in 1964. Although music wasn’t his sole profession it seems to be a constant in his life and I’m sure one reason he decided to create his album Call Me Ishmael.
His music is very influenced by American music. In particular Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Steve Earle are artists that people mention when listening to his music. I have to say I agree and sometimes the Springsteen influence felt too noticeable to me.
I was listening to the first song “Guys Like Me” and I could hear multiple influences on this song. For example on the verse his affectation when he sings sounds like classic Bruce Springsteen but when the chorus he changes his voice and it sounds noticeably different.
The songs generally have a classic ’60s and ’70s rock feel. My theory that musicians later in life end up making what they loved as teenagers and in their early 20’s seems once again proven to my ears. I never got the feeling Ciurczak was trying to update his sound to a more contemporary 2020 type of quality. These songs and the recordings as well seem to be a tip of the hat to a specific splice of American rock.
There weren’t any surprises when I was listening to the songs. Everything felt fairly straightforward but there were some highlights. I really loved the upbeat ballad “Mine Torne Road” as well as the female vocalist on “Strung Out.” The fun summer jam “Sunny Came Back” is a great song and I also enjoyed the playful “Winter Highland Falls.”
The songwriting for that matter was consistently good and there was a good amount of variety. Ciurczak wears his influence on his sleeve but there is plenty of it to be had making for an eclectic album that I think a lot of people will appreciate. I was definitely one of them and you might be too. Take a listen.
Kid Bowery is a musician and writer from the lower east side of NYC who recently released Colony Collapse. The EP contains three songs which felt like emotive rock ballads. I was reminded of bands as far ranging as The Velvet Underground and The Clientele.
There is no way I can pass up giving you the description of this release from the artist’s mouth. Bowery says, “Colony Collapse explores the uncertainty of our times through the eyes of discontented bees whose populations continue their mysterious decline, and self-destructive geniuses who careen toward internal apocalypse in spite of the love of those around them.”
The first song is entitled “Testimony of Pilot” and is a slow burn that is also the highlight to my ears. It starts off minimal and soft with drums and lonely guitar strings. The vocals sound great here and I loved his inflection and delivery.
I also enjoyed the subtle atmosphere which surrounds the song. It’s again very open and makes the moments heading towards a crescendo that much more powerful which happens towards the end. The band Oasis actually came to mind when the songs started rocking.
“No Bees Up in Here” has a lounge-y relaxed vibe that reminded me of The Velvet Underground at least at first. The verse is composed of single piano notes, organ and drum beat which holds it all together. I was not expecting the chorus to come so suddenly but it does so with no warning. The chorus sounds big and anthemic - Pink Floyd type of big with hall reverb.
Last up is “Colony Collapse Devolution Mix” which contains the most constant energy of the three. It’s a bit of romp and the most catchy, pretty fun and joyful sounding to me. There is also an outro psychedelic jam that consists of drums, organ and eventually guitar that I wasn’t expecting but proved a good addition.
I liked all three of these songs and felt like they melded together which made for a seamless listen. Additionally, I thought the slightly lo-fi recording matched the music. I hope this is just the beginning and I hope to hear a full length at some point.
Unhappiness Club is the solo project for Karl Sweet. Music for Film or Dark Meditation is his first release. Sweet is a drummer and with that knowledge in hand I was hoping Music for Film or Dark Meditation would focus on that skill. It does and Sweet actually combines live playing with electronic elements which I thought worked really well.
The music is dark as the music implies. I was reminded of groups like Burial and Zola Jesus. There is a lot of atmosphere in these songs where the drums more often than not sound thematic. You can hear this on the first track “Brasil” which mixes cut up vocal breathing sounds, synths and drums. The track is slow burn and does become a sort of meditation as it progresses or at the very least feels hypnotic.
Up next is “Caged” where we are greeted with tribal sounding war drums and alien sounding synths. Similar to the previous song the music gains intensity as it progresses. We are surrounded with ominous sounds on “Riding Asphalt” which sounds like it could work as mood music for a horror film. I would argue “Sedative” is even more apt to be used in a horror movie. There is such a sense of tension and apprehension on this song it makes your spine tingle.
He has more success with “The Consumer'' but felt like the adrenaline inducing “Carbon Neutral” was a highlight that actually felt like one of the more danceable songs. The void of darkness continues to surround you on “Bad Decision” and is getting some NIN type vibes on “The Fix.” Last up is “Stain” which is still dark but also sounds like a runaway ghost freight train.
This album is one that surrounds you. Sweet did a great job creating this pulsating universe that pulls you into his world. I suggest starting this one from beginning, turning the lights off and letting it ride.
Eugene McGrath is a folk singer/songwriter based in Ireland who recently released Waiting for Morning. Everything about this album feels influenced from Ireland. McGrath explains, “The songs are based on the people and landscapes of the west of Ireland, and have country, folk and rock influences intertwined with the stories". I will say that the Irish accent was very thick to me which made the songs sound traditional in a way.
There are ten songs and the whole album lasts around thirty minutes. It went by quickly for me and I found the general vibe to be warm, comforting and have a layer of melancholy. The album starts with “Little Acorns” and was a delightful way to start. It revolves around acoustic guitar, what sounds like xylophone and organ. It’s reflective, nostalgic and warm.
“Carolina Setting Sun” and “I Wish It Were The Night'' were also very well done and a similar sense of solace, comfort and reflection. The first highlight to me was “Lough Easkey Snowfall” which sounded like a traditional song in a lot of ways. I loved the intimacy of this song which is created by fantastic guitar picking, subtle atmosphere, xylophone and nuanced vocal performance.
The album gets a rush of energy with “Peggy Brown” which was an excellent choice to follow up “Lough Easkey Snowfall.” McGrath has more success with “Into Dust,” “Cliffs of Dooneen” and “Cross the Land.” “Goodby Angel” and “Back on the Ten” reinforce the foundation to his signature sound.
I loved how cohesive this album felt from beginning to end. It’s also very organic sounding when it comes to the recording quality. Kudos to the engineers for really bringing the beauty and warmth of the instrumentation. I have to admit a lot of the songs made me feel cozy and I say that in a good way. This is a great album. Recommended.
Captain Clip-On is an artist from Savannah, Georgia who recently released his debut album entitled A Perfect Stranger. He mentions on his Bandcamp page that he was the only musician on these recordings and it took him a total of around three years.
His music is instrumental and he primarily plays rock music with a good amount of experimentation. There is a different flavor to a lot of the songs and the thing that aligns them to me was that there was an off-kilter approach. That being said it wasn’t so experimental that it felt inaccessible.
The first song “Subpar Waitress” is more or less an introduction but imparts a perfect tone to the rest of the record between the dissonance and delivery. It got my attention. One of the more experimental tracks was “Helmeted Silhouette” which is over eight minutes. This song is a slow burn and there are swells, drones and more that make this a haunting song. There are parts where the song starts to completely unravel and then finds a 4/4 beat to the rescue.
“Ball Game” is more straightforward and leans into his progressive rock tendencies while “Leg Man” is very clean, folk based and feels like free jazz. He goes head first into experimental music with “Cellulite Creature” which is all over the place. It sounds like he is playing a sitar at first and then there are some sudden changes which eventually leads to a section where it feels like time is slowing down and something bad is about to happen.
I was not expecting vocals but I got some on the jazzy “Peaks of Otter.” The vocal delivery is monotone and almost spoken. It works really well for the song. “Rene” is arguably the most experimental yet and goes into ambient territory and alien sounding spaceship noises. “Poor Willem” is off kilter rock while the closer “Blocks” is another epic journey going over eight minutes long.
This is not only a long album in terms of time but it is also very dense. It’s an album that will take a number of spins to fully appreciate and by a lot of accounts is musicians’ music. There’s some amazing musicianship and talent throughout this album. Simply put this is a great album. Recommended.
RedWeather from Virginia Beach, Virginia formed in 2018 and consists of Tim llardi (vocals/bass), Mike McFarland (vocals/guitars) and Brian Bassette (drums/vocals). The band released their debut EP Empty Places.
The band derives their sound from early ‘00s emo, indie and punk rock. Taking a sound nostalgic for another era, their music brims with a vibe that takes the familiar and gives it their own unique spin. The band, though a three-piece, sounds bigger and badder than their three-piece arrangement. They utilize a full sound by accompanying dual vocals into their songs. What comes across is a fully implemented sound full of anthemic instrumentals and driven vocals.
Empty Places paves the way with “Weight Of The World,” where driven guitars really move the music forward. The overlapping vocals shouted out with gusto propels the song forward. The energy of this track is out-of-this-world. Right off the bat, the music struts in on “Nothing At All.” The sounds here prove to be more of a slow burn. The vocals seethe and the vibe simmers underneath this song, giving it an added depth.
Rapid paced drums draw listeners into the music on “Armslength.” I could really feel the emotions overflowing on this track and I was greatly moved by the ebb and flow of the music. On “Burdens,” undulating guitar chord progressions nearly bury the sound, but gradually the vocals roll forward. The band rides out the rhythms, going into great lengths to get their sound across. On the title track, melodic guitars take the gamut of this song. The epic-ness of this song goes on to show the band’s expansive sound. The album closes with high-energy with the ramped sounds of this anthem.
Though they are a relatively new band, the group also shows that they work hard and play hard. With their debut EP just recently unveiled, the band is at work producing and creating more music that fans of the aforementioned genres will no doubt grow to appreciate. The band plans to bring to the circuit a new song every month for the foreseeable future. With the kind of energy displayed on their album, the band’s sound will most likely translate into a live setting very well. Their sound and style, deeply inspired from 2000s emo/punk rock draws from the bands and styles from that time. They rely on the familiar sounds of that era, while at the same time rounding out their sound with memorable performances and compelling combined vocal harmonies from all the members. The band shows that tried and true is not tired, nor should it be retired.
Tigershark Don't Quit is a band from Michigan City, Indiana what recently released Creatures in Kind. The album contains eight songs all of which are under three minutes. These songs go by fast and remind me of a band like The Minuteman. The songs are more like vignettes. There aren’t many changes once the song starts and the band more or less jams out and then stops. The mood here is tongue-in-cheek and loose. It feels like fun punk rock.
The album opens with “Bad Bad Cats” and it should give you some idea of what you are in for. They jam on a basic riff for under two minutes. The verse comes quick and the hook comes quicker and we are done.
More spontaneous fun is had on “Guilt” and I thought we were getting an art piece on “Bees” which does sound a bit like Sonic Youth. “Brett” is a mess of distortion of multiple vocal lines. We get a little Black Sabbath action as well as sweet warped bass lines on “More Museums.” “Stupid Bird, Stupid Tree” was a darker song with noir overtones while “Shaker” sounds a little closer to surf. They end with a more experimental piece called “Furby.”
This is an album that feels visceral at best. There is a stream of consciousness to it and the song felt like something you might improvise. Here’s the riff, let’s jam out on it and see what happens. The recordings were home recording type of lo-fi. Even by my punk rock standard I wanted a little more fidelity at that point so I could experience some more of the energy.
In my experience this type of music is best experienced live and the band usually has just as much fun as the audience. It’s like there are no boundaries between the two when you go to a good punk rock show in a small club. It’s unlikely that most of us will be attending those kind of shoulder to shoulder concerts anytime soon so this recording is the next best thing.
The band Trash Truck has a typical band story. They were two founding members that discovered more players and started gigging at house parties. Eventually they became rich and famous and conquered the world. Ok they didn’t conquer the world yet but who knows what can happen in 2021.
The band released Gun which is a lo-fi nine song indie rock album. They have a sense of humor and seem more or less just having a fun time which is sometimes all you need. The band starts with “Lullaby” which is a highlight in the batch. It’s not the most technically impressive song but man the hook is really catchy. There is even some rapping happening which they get away with because of how it’s delivered.
Up next is “Kirt Vile” which is an obvious nod to the artist. The song is really lo-fi and sounds like a practice recording but still has its charm. “Gun” is another song that is simple enough but catchy and infectious.
There is a noticeable difference in fidelity when we get to “Awesome Song.” The song is fun and silly. It’s also playful and easy to appreciate. They go back to lo-fi with “Cedar Point” which was an amusement park I’ve been to before when I was a kid.The band continues to have a blast with “99 Bottles,” “My Babies,” “G.O.A.T” and “Vile Goat.”
As an engineer and producer myself I have to mention the most obvious thing and that’s I would love to hear some better quality recording at some point. That shouldn’t be too hard as there are lots of things that can be improved for fidelity.
This was just a fun album that was easy to appreciate. It was accessible and I always appreciated a band that can laugh. Take a listen.
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