To my surprise Jack Greenwood is the moniker for Travis Kohnhorst. Kohnhorst is the songwriter but for his album Flying Softly he also enlisted sixteen other musicians. This album is one where there is no doubt a lot of hard work went into it. There is such a beautiful array of instrumentation and performance and the production is just as good as the best produced albums out there.
Take for example the opening title track “Flying Softly.” The song revolves around silky smooth guitar, light pads and other subtle elements. Greenwood’s vocals are soulful. As the song progresses distant horns are added in the mix and soon enough drums and more horns enter. There is no denying this song is fully realized.
One of the highlights is “Set Me Free” which is soulful, funky and even has some blues rock in there. He has no problem hitting a falsetto. I also loved the John Mayer style guitar. “Farewell” was next and the more subtle, warm and comforting vibe felt like a good choice after “Set Me Free.”
“A Song About Time” has “hit single” written all over it. There is another vocalist on this track and they sound great together. It’s a fun, breezy track that is very infectious. He gets so smooth with “Memory Remains,” an perhaps even smoother and more funky of “Little Skies.”
“Under the Sun” has perhaps the most overt singer/songwriter vibe. Another highlight was “Time Bomb.” The bass on this song was incredible. The vocals soar on the ballad “Hide Your Eyes'' while “Last” is another funk inspired closer that takes advantage of that auto tune effect.
This is what an album sounds like that is done professionally. The proof is in the pudding. This is an album that should have mass appeal. Take a listen.
The Reporting Party is an indie rock project started in the summer of 2019 by Braiden Williams and Ben Kelkis. They got to work fast and recorded The Reporting Part. The EP is three tracks and under ten minutes long.
It seems like clean, reverb laced guitar has become a lot more popular over the last fifteen years or so. I remember playing in a number of rock bands in the ’90s and we listened to bands like Pavement and Yo La Tengo. Almost no one was like ”hey let’s put hall reverb on our guitars.” I partially credit bands like Real Estate for this. At any rate I think when it’s done well as in this case it sounds great. The thing I liked about their aesthetics was the dreamy mix of ’50s pop and jazz combo that sounded great.
The band opens with “Lover My Lady” and this was the highlight in my opinion. You can clearly hear the dream pop/shoegaze texture but the jazzy seventh chords and walking bass line work wonders. On top of that the song is well structured with a catchy verse and downright infectious chorus. There are dips, builds and more that make it a great song from beginning to end. The outro was also great.
Up next is “Asbury.” The song seemed just a slightly more lo-fi but not by much. This song actually felt more on the nose with a band like Real Estate. The duo cement the fact that they can create a memorable melody. I thought the vocal line in particular was great. Additionally, the occasional vocal harmonies were a very nice addition.
The band gets back into more jazzy territory with “All I Need Is You.” I was picking up some Mac Demarco vibes. That being said the chorus is spectacular and sounded like a pop hit from the ’70s. I’m also a sucker for great hi-hat work and I want him to know I did notice. Lastly, the line “All I need is you” is delivered with just the right amount of affectation.
These songs are great and hopefully just a taste of what’s to come from the duo. I’m looking forward to hearing more.
Patrick Codere is the main songwriter for Faux Plums. Besides Codere (guitar/vocals), the other band members include JP Maurice (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Dicky Neptune (drums), Vinay Lobo (bass guitar) and Rod Campbell (keyboards). They recently released In Tongues.
This is a very catchy album and it utilizes unique colors and tones. The band Deerhunter kept coming to mind. Codere sounds a bit like Bradford Cox but something about the aesthetics of the music and emotional resonance is also in there as well.
The band starts off with “Liebling” which is a pretty wonderful intro with a gospel vibe. There are multiple vocal harmonies, organ and piano. The band takes off with “Quiet Love” and I found so much to like about this song from the vocals to the palette of sounds. There are a lot of elements from guitar to pads but everything feels like it's working in unison. The vocals are extremely well done. I was drawn to the melodies but even more so the character and inflection in which he delivered the words.
Once I heard “Whip” I was a dedicated fan. Oh where to start with this exceptional song. It sounded like a mix between Perfume Genius, Wild Nothings and Deerhunter. Every section was more hook worthy than the last. On repeat my friends.
The band is just getting started. “Foreign Tongue” is a lush, vocal centric song that is powerful yet comforting while “Never Had Enough” is an energetic, fun romp. That ’80s synth flavor is all over the emotionally resonant and melancholy “Hunting Dots.” The hyperbolic “Raccoons” has so many flavors to it including Americana which I wasn’t expecting.
“Blue Hands” is a bit of a filler but it was a nice moment to catch your breath before coming back with the gorgeous “Vivian” which has some silky horns. Those horns were so '80s sounding and I loved it. “Be Gone” is beautiful and reminded me more of Perfume Genius. The album ends with the lush and serene “Strawberries in the Nude.”
This album is emotionally powerful but subtle and also uses levity to its advantage. The songs never feel close to being melodramatic. They felt just about right with a blend of emotion that reflects life. Highly recommended.
Aaron Neal (vocals/guitar), Esteban Nieves (guitar), Zach Long (bass) and Weston Hawkins (drums) are Space Between. Their story is ubiquitous. They were hanging out and decided they wanted to jam and started a band. Soon afterward they recorded a self-titled EP Space Between.
The band released three songs all which are pretty straightforward and showcase the band's sound. They start with “Leave it Alone“ and by all accounts this is in very familiar territory to a band like The Black Keys. Blues rock has been around for decades but this is more the hard rock style the The Black Keys made popular with driving drums and squealing guitars.
The next song is called “Lessons” and seemed like a fairly different style. It’s a more relaxed song by all accounts with a funky bass line. There is some atmosphere with jangly guitars playing a chord progression. The band has their best moment on the chorus which contains the catchiest melodies on the EP. It’s lush, atmospheric and on the verge of shoegaze. The song ends with a classic ’70s sounding guitar solo.
Last up is “Ruins” and that sounds very different from where the band started with “Leave it Alone.“ This is more lush and more jazz infused with clean guitars. Once the song adds more elements there is a lounge like ’70s vibe. The song is almost seven-minutes long with the last minute dedicated to rocking out in epic fashion.
Space Between is a young band that seems to be testing the waters right now. In my twenty years of working with musicians I often find that bands experiment with different genres before landing on a signature sound and that seems to be the case here. That being said the band is not going too far into left field by attempting hip-hop or Bossa Nova.
I liked all three songs but preferred the more atmospheric aesthetics. “Lessons' ' might be the center of the bullseye and I think this might be a good song to base their sound off of at least for an album. The band has talent in the songwriting department as well as technical ability. I imagine this is just the beginning and I hope to hear more from them soon. Recommended.
Coma Toast is a progressive rock project led by Alex Kastanek. Kastanek has been writing songs for most of his life. It was only after graduating college in Spring 2019 that Kastanek decided to put his knowledge to the test by writing, recording, producing and mixing his debut record This World.
With vulnerable vocals, Kastanek bares all in these intensely dramatic tracks. He wears his heart on his sleeve on these emotionally powerful and evocative songs about love and “opening yourself to the world and allowing yourself to love confidently. Each song explores a different way that love can be expressed and the first and last song explore what impact giving more love to the world could have on it.”
On that note, we’ll start with “Human Beings,” where psychedelic guitars roll forth drenched in reverb. This is a slower sauntering track with a coalescing of drums, guitars, bass and percussions. A melancholic melody pervades from the guitars. Dreamy and haunting riffs hail from the instrumentals.
Following is “Monument,” where a smattering of drums dives into a more upbeat vibe. Driven by catchy rhythms, reverb-filled guitars create a wall of sound. The vocals are matched with a sense of reverb that brings forth an ‘80s-inspired classic rock appeal. The synths are ambient sounding.
On “Run Away,” an electric cadence comes from the guitars toward the start of this song. The guitars underline this track. The synths add in a soaring and ambient vibe. The guitar licks are infectious with a psychedelic appeal. The keys are energized. The vocals are echo-y and project an eerie stance. The melody is catchy and dynamic.
On “Save The Day,” ethereal synths start off this song, giving off some atmospheric vibes. The electric guitar adds range to this track. The vocals are moving and vulnerable, giving off a lasting impression. This dramatic song offers up some psychedelic riffs. The vocals also reverberate in a cavernous appeal.
These are bedroom recordings and are a bit in the lo-fi scale. Seething with emotion and range, these set of songs were greatly impacted by their simplicity. Brimming with melodic guitars, reverb-filled vocals and riveting drums, the album celebrates love in all its dimensions. Psychedelic guitars rev to create a soaring effect while the drums pounce toward a bouncy beat and the vocals saunter with range, This World gravitates toward a stripped-down pulse. The minimalistic arrangements I felt did not estrange the vocals, rather I felt they added a bit of rawness to the dimensions. This World brings into fruition a smattering of rock genres from indie rock, alternative and psychedelic rock but mainly classifies itself under the ‘psychedelic’ umbrella. While definitely psychedelic, these electric set of songs are a great start.
Ella Mar is 26-year-old Israeli musician Hila Tako. During her mandatory military service, she studied at a branch of The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music (Manhattan) in Tel Aviv Conservatory. Breaking away from tradition, Mar decided to unleash the singer/songwriter in her. Mar’s debut album, Embodimental is her dreams realized.
The album incorporates symphonic finishes with string embellishments and horns. In this record, Mar blends in the acoustic with electric. Her compositions contain synth integrated alt rock infused with folk and jazz orchestrated with symphonic overtures. The melding of sound is both intricate and rich.
Embodimental opens up with “Hold Your Fire,” where invigorating synths sound off on this track. Mar’s vocals are operatic and theatrical. The cadence is highly dramatic. The strings add a lush appeal. The song contains a smooth jazzy vibe. A cool and soothing blend. The beats are slow, simmering and seething in the backdrop of this track. A piano melody traces this melancholy-tinged song.
Following is “Moonlit Night,” where syncopated beats and synths start off this track. Mar sings with emotion and flair. The vocals shimmer with a bit of reverb. Horns add another intricate scope to this striking song. Mar scats on this jazz infused song.
On “The Sinner,” melodious numerating on the acoustic guitar is accompanied by synths and Mar’s smooth vocals. The arrangement is sparse and stripped-down. Next, a bouncy electronic beat sidles in, giving off a more exhilarating feel. Strings add in a lush appeal, tracing the gamut of this track.
The closer “Singing For You” has some lovely strings pervade on the start of this track. Acoustic guitar riffs add in a bit of numerating. The sound is soothing and placating. The song has a lulling feel to it much like a lullaby. A sweet lush sound is carried forth.
Mar’s vocals pivot between intense and soft. With an operatic voice, Mar sings with finesse and with a bit of theatrics. Mar really owns her sound in these textual jazz-infused folk and alt rock numbers. She sings with passion on these polished productions.
Mar ties in her singer/songwriter sensibility with her formal training as a jazz singer to produce a record that connects the listener with subjects that include depression, PTSD, destructive relationships and love. Embodimental is a cohesive album that delves into a strong signature sound. Evoking a haunting cadence with brushes of folk, rock and jazz, Mar’s tender vocals and edgy lyrics embraces the shadowy abyss without giving into the darkness. Her charismatic voice traverses uncharted territory catering to a world on the peripheral. Because of this, I could really see these group of songs being showcased perhaps in a Tim Burton movie soundtrack. Tinged with grace and melancholy, these striking set of songs will leave a searing imprint onto listeners.
A little on the short side – a lot of these tracks arrived at the three-minute hold – I thought these songs were fine-tuned to give the most exponential amount of emotion that could be packed into them – and the results were ratifying. Embodimental is an excellent record.
Duo King Brown call themselves a “juicy alternative rock tandem” and boy are they right. Their debut King Brown EP is a tight, smoking, punky set of guitar-riff driven tunes that will have you up and moving. You won’t get a full workout in--each of the three songs clocks in at under three minutes--but you’ll get your cardio burst.
King Brown comes out cranking on “Strange” with Alex Ashmun’s guitar riff ripping out of the speakers. Drummer Aaron Esnough kicks them into high gear and they keep the intensity going until the track’s crashing end. They channel some Ramones and Green Day punk, or maybe it’s Elastica with a different singer. No need for Justine Frischmann, though: Ashmun’s vocals suit these songs perfectly.
“Freak Town” is a creepy “tune it low, play it slow” track that sounds like deep, classic Black Sabbath. If you told me it was a lost Sabbath B-side, I would have (a) believed you, and (b) asked why Sabbath left this gem off the album. Eat your heart out, Tony Iommi.
King Brown EP finishes with “Black Mass,” driven by a heavy, bluesy riff. Here they add a few guitar and vocal overdubs which add nicely to the sound without distracting from the band’s sharp punk sensibilities.
King Brown cut their base tracks live; the energy and interaction of the ensemble playing crackles throughout. Go see them at the Minneapolis clubs now. Next year, they’re at the Armory.
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Before I heard a note from Dawns Divide album I had a feeling it was going to hard rock. That album cover has such a ’70s and ’80s rock vibe to it. I was right. This band has a hard sound that goes back to bands like Black Sabbath. The band comprised of Kurt McClellan (vocals), Les Lepore (guitar), Matt Chambers (bass) and Chuck Nickerson (drums) rocks hard and will be greatly appreciated by a lot of metal purists as well as the new breed of fans.
They open with “Dirty Mind” and man I loved the Primus-esque bass line. That riff really drives the song at first. Other elements start to come into the mix. There is a classic ’80s guitar scratch and McClellan at first is pretty mellow. However his vibrato rises like Phoenix mimicking so many classic ’80s metal singers. The song goes in all sorts of directions with the chorus playing much more Sabbath like riffs. It’s a heck of a song that speeds up, slows down and embraces so many classic rock moves people love.
Up next is “To The Keep” which is a little more straightforward. It’s a rocking song with a heavy amount of distortion and another passionate performance from McClellan who has no problem leaning into an affectation that works very well for the song. Chambers is at it again with another killer bass line on “Walk Away” but I really just have to give kudos to everyone here. They just killed it and I loved the breakdown which felt like something you would hear from The Doors.
They go into overdrive with the high octane “The Devil You Know” while the intense vocals on “Kiss of Death” are so over the top but exactly what the song needed. There is also another breakdown that reminded me of The Doors on “Kiss of Death.”
Every metal band in the ’80s had a ballad. “Sly Eyes” is theirs. The band isn’t even close to being done. They start “The Grind” with a haunting but pretty a cappella. The song then goes into an epic seven-minute roller coaster ride. They close with “The Otherside” which is a strong song to end the album.
This band really gets what metal is all about. This should be an easy decision for metal fans. Two thumbs up.
Jeffrey Chan is a singer/songwriter who grew up in Sydney, Australia. His penchant for music evolved when he first started taking piano lessons at the age of five. It wasn’t until later that he began to incorporate his piano training with his love for singing and songwriting.
His self-released debut Spectrum was a combination of his influences while growing up, a blend of EDM, dance and ‘80s pop. 2018’s FaultLine delved into a more wide-ranging sound with elements of retro-pop, funk and dance.
FaultLine: AfterShock is a follow up to FaultLine. The predecessor is about all the ups-and-downs that comes with falling in love. FaultLine:AfterShock underlines the strong feelings that may arise long after the relationship has simmered down. The album and EP go hand in hand, both reflecting the analogy/idea of an earthquake and all its different stages.
The sound on FaultLine: AfterShock, a blend of electro, dance and ‘80s pop, revolves around a deeply electric reverberating cadence. Buoyed by a melding of invigorating ‘80s-inspired electronic beats and Euro-pop, these electro-pop anthems contain a highly energized vibe that makes them infectious and addicting.
FaultLine: AfterShock opens with “Tell Me The Truth” that starts off to catchy and melodious riffs. A great vibe comes from the electric guitars. The synths are soaring and invigorating with a real dance-worthy feel. Energized bass lines pivot on this track. The vocals are bass-y and will really hook listeners. The percussions give off a fully charged vibe. A swelling sound is ill-contained on the keys.
On “Too Far Gone,” a melancholic piano melody sounds off on this song. The vocals are very dynamic on this dramatic track. A strong sense of urgency unwinds itself on this song. This is a dark and somber-sounding track that hinges on heartbreak and longing. Electric guitar riffs pave itself on this song aligning itself along with the dark bass lines.
“So Real” retains some melodious synths that create an ambient soundscape in the start of this track. The synths and electronic beats soar and take flight. This song has a more upbeat and catchy pulse. The vocals are equally dynamic. This track has a finger on an ‘80s-inspired pulse, gravitating toward a new wave feel.
On the closer “FaultLine (Monarques AfterShock Remix),” sizzling sounds soar from the ambient synths. An invigorating electronic beat paves this song. Chan’s vocals are touched with reverb, giving a cavernous echo-y appeal. Dark undertones underline this track. An energized backbeat gives off a Euro-pop feel. Keys add an energized pulse to this song.
He totes the line between retro and modern with ease. He has a foot in both worlds. He navigates both terrains with style and finesse. Oldies fans as well as contemporary followers can both appreciate this energetic melding of dance pop, electronica and Euro-pop.
A polished production, the sound on this EP was overall very cohesive. Chan wears his heart on his sleeve on these deeply personal tracks. In the confessional singer/songwriter vein, these songs are like excerpts from his diary, digging deep into his personal journey.
His vocals though low-keyed give off a strong bassy vibe. Thumping bass lines also pave this EP with heavy and pulsating rhythms. His warm, heartfelt vocals will find listeners at just the right place and right time.
Meathouse Man is the performing and recording name for Anthony Ramirez. According to the artist, “These four songs are Meathouse Man's eldest. These four songs have been the thread that has evolved Ramirez' artistry to this point.” All things considered these are pretty straightforward indie rock songs with some twists based on jangly guitar chords and memorable vocal melodies.
The EP starts with “A Dream” which starts with a simple palatable guitar progression. It doesn't take long to get to the bridge which actually lasts a while. Once the chorus arrived I thought it was the best part of the song. It sounds a bit like a song The Beatles would have released early in their career. I was not expecting the horn solo towards the end of the song.
“Leaving” has a different tone. It’s more pensive, reflective and melancholy at least at first. There is a clear Americana vibe mixed with The Velvet Underground but sharply shifts into this sort of surf melody. That type of transition was unexpected. It almost felt like a different song the first time I heard it but it grew on me the more I heard it.
“Margaret” is another song that goes in unexpected directions. I really like the initial vibe which sounds like Sparklehorse. The song ramps the BPM with a lot of dissonance. There are more moments where it comes together and other times where it there is more chaos.
“John the Farmer” is the most consistent song and was my personal favorite. The song has a good amount of energy and I liked the punk rock vibe along with the harmonica. That being said it is quite dynamic with a quiet breakdown.
There are solid moments on this EP as well as some unique transitions. Take a listen.
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