Jeremy Tardif’s freshman effort Fish In A Bowl Beside The Ocean, released November 3rd of 2013, played in the background of my morning. The heart aching vocals and the gorgeous piano riffs soon brought it to the foreground and I couldn’t take my ears off the translucent sound.
A mix of classical influences, such as Dvorak and Bach, find new ground in a prog-rock incarnation. As a classically trained pianist, Tardif began to grow as a composer and singer/songwriter. Tardif, who is the former lead singer for the progressive rock band Marching Mind, takes his sound in a whole new direction on Fish In A Bowl Beside The Ocean.
Jesse Karr, who plays bass on the album, recorded all tracks at The Hive Creative Studios in British Columbia. Karr then mixed and mastered at Rain City Studios in Vancouver, BC. The album also features Hayato Kubo on drums, Alex Hauka on cello, and Cary Tardif on the trumpet.
“Water’s Dust,” the first track on the album, begins with stark vocals that give the impression of an Irish wake; as soon as the piano crashes in it does not let up for the rest of the album. “Bubbleman” could easily be a radio hit and reminded me of everything I love about Toad and The Wet Sprocket. “The Deepest Science” starts off sounding like the coolest Bill Nye episode ever then continues gaining speed as a sensitive and rhythmic tune. “Mouse.” the last track on Fish In A Bowl Beside The Ocean pulls the listener through gorgeous and unconventional chord pairings, swooping into hopeful notes that cradle breathless vocals.
On “The Show” Tardif sings, “every time you walk away from there, you want to walk away and never look back.” I get the impression that this sentiment is not melancholic or resentful, but the triumphant start of something new.
In 2014, Tardif will move to Australia to tap into the thriving musical community of Melbourne. Give Fish In A Bowl Beside The Ocean if you need a new album to sing along to. As the name suggests, this artist is on the brink of something magnificent and vast. After listening to this album, I can understand how that fish feels.
Without Parachutes hit the Sydney scene hard in January 2013 with an indie rock, 90’s grunge sound. Their self-titled EP Without Parachutes is composed of a three-piece powerhouse: lead vocals, guitar and synths William Cruger, bass Michael Cooper, and Bob Stewart on drums. The group entirely self recorded, mixed, and mastered in their living room. It’s a strong and clean recording, that living room must have excellent sound. Without Parachutes holds down the underground scene by playing local shows and were even featured at the Raw Emerging Art Festival. They bridge the gap between the Australian music scene’s euphoric indie pop and the heavier alternative sound.
Without Parachutes begins with a breathy, a cappella intro in “It’s Time Again” before the driving rock guitar riff kicks in. The song alternates between Snow Patrol soft vocals and heavier pop rock riffs. The rhythm section provides stops and starts to make the listener eager for the next phrase. Anticipatory pauses foment the building excitement in “It’s Time Again.”
A Michael Jackson style drumbeat sets off “Lights Out,” accompanied by tender keyboards before breaking into the grungier chorus. The guitar solo echoes the chorus melody with a 90’s punk grunge edge. This solo is excellent, it’s not a guitar egomaniac that goes on for minutes, and it compositionally accompanies the rest of the song while adding nuance and complexity.
The third track, “Tip Toe” jumps right into a metal guitar intro that sets the track up a darker vibe than the rest. Halfway through the song, the rhythm pulls back and the vocals “tip toe” through a long, anxious bridge before breaking into the repeated declaration “sing what you love.”
The fourth and final track wins my heart as best track. It has drum breakdowns characteristic of The Runaways, harmonizing yet eerie vocals, “the end is near / it’s clear / it’s closer as the years go by.” The singer’s anxiety about death haunts the listener; it’s as though the time running out on the EP parallels the time running out in our lives. These tragic sentiments, topped off with a killer guitar solo that just builds and builds shine a spotlight on this track.
The guitar riffs and solos along with the creative drum fills and resonant vocals drive this powerhouse EP. Rhythmically the bass is strong but I definitely wanted to hear more bass features. Catch them in Sydney if you can!
The players of Porch have been making music for twenty-five years, and the compositional prowess of their latest album Walking Boss proves it. Porch prides themselves on their dedication to analog creation. The album was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Louder Studios in Grass Valley, CA. The contenders for this ten-track album are Todd Huth on guitar/vocals, Michael Jacobs on drums, and Christopher Frey holding it down with heavy bass.
The album boldly starts off with an 8:15 minute long track, “Heart Attack.” The intro builds slowly, with a lot of white space, or rather dark space, between pure tones until about three minutes when the “heart attack” hits you with high caliber, repetitive guitar undercut by heavy bass. The heart attack lets go just as the listener feels it welling up inside them as the guitar falls down a few octaves to a lower timbre. The vocals waste no time with lip service as they start off with the socio-political commentary “heart attack / the American dream.” The aggressive, slappy bass outlines the vocals, definitely giving them an extra dark push.
“Ballad of Cruelty” exhibits Porch’s slower smoky rock capabilities and more involved songwriting. The refreshingly simple guitar melody is simultaneously sexy and sad. Alongside the chorus “on the road / feeling / on the road / feeling like everyone’s /gone away” the guitar and vocals claim a special traveling loneliness.
“Dark Corner” demonstrates a unique question and answer phrasing, which is difficult to do in this stripped down mode but they do it very well. The bass line asks the question and is answered either by a simple guitar riff or the vocals. Towards the end Huth slips in to Bush groan style vocals.
I could take or leave a few tracks on here, but the features are “Heart Attack,” “Ballad of Cruelty,” and “Dark Corner.” Also check out the impressive metal drive in “Bow to the Clown” as well as the skillful strumming in “Manana.” I look forward to a future EP from Porches, with possibly slightly shorter songs and improved songwriting.
Jules Wolfrey's album A Long Time in the Making is an album unified by sounds. It is a journey into Wolfrey’s experimental style, held together by his expertise. Wolfrey is indeed a man with experience. His background ranges in the authorship of several works, countless live performances at his home on the Isle of Wight, and the study of literature and music. He is a member of the sound sculpture and visual installation duo, ThrobTheorists.
On this particular album, Wolfrey is the sole producer of sounds. He plays instruments that range from a Theremin to a wine glass. He also plays the piano, keys, guitars, fiddle, recorder and percussion. This leaves no doubts to his absolute talent, with a deft ear for sounds as great as his ability to play the instruments. Wolfrey engineered, mixed and produced the album independently at Whippingham Studio.
Wolfrey was inspired by the Isle of Wight and constructed his album around the people and places there. Wolfrey’s says, “Each composition started with a single improvised theme, played either on guitar or piano, and then built from that starting point, adding other instruments in a series of serial patterns and counterpoints.”This album feels experimental because the genres of the songs are not cohesive. The sound is very consistent, and that is what holds this album together and unifies A Long Time in the Making in an unexpected way.
The track, "Making Time (for RMR)", is elegantly simplistic, with a repeting melody that is entrancing. As it builds, the tunes mysteries begin to unfold. This track is an excellent example of Wolfrey’s powers to create an emotional soundscape. "Last Tide" begins as a medieval song, ushering in images of a formal dance at court. Half way through large gong-like percussion brings the pace up. "Ghost in the Barn" has a sweet and simple Americana twang to it.
There is a time and a place for this album, at times it is mesmerizing then it switches to feel primary and innocent as a lullaby. I would highly recommend this album to any listener who wants a new encounter with an aural image. All profits from A Long Time in the Making go to Rainbows Childrens' Hospice. The charity provides palliative care and support for children, young people and their families, when faced with life-limiting conditions.
Solo artist Slow Walk breaks through traditional album construction by giving us An Idiot’s Guide! This self-described musical project is an intentionally raw self recorded fifteen minute project. Slow Walk started off doing unpredictable performances that ended with head banging microphones and bleeding all over his guitar. He has since redirected his performative energy into creating a cohesive musical story rather than a disparate album collection. Lorenzo Franchi revels in spontaneity, claiming to bust out this colossal track with just a few vocal takes.
An Idiot’s Guide starts off with an alien synth intro that tapers off into a consistent beat as the guitar climbs and falls, coaxing the vocals to start. Slow Walk starts off with airy acoustic vocals that shortly transition into a folk goth tone. With the beats stripped down around 2:00 the lyrics really come through with “everybody wants to tell you / how to do your own thing.” Slow Walk’s atypical long single track album style purposefully resists mainstream song demarcations.
At 3:17, he introduces a driving electro synth beat, that when performed live, must push the audience to its feet to start dancing. His voice looped and slightly slowed down in this section, giving it a deeper and creepy edge. Resistance is a theme throughout An Idiot’s Guide declaring over and over “speak in silence/ talk in violence / watch the city burn.” The doomy chant has realistic repercussions as it transitions into a pared down acoustic folk section that admits “now all is gone / forgotten.” Driven by dramatic musical transitions, the story narrated by the lyrics evolves into a journey that endlessly questions if there’s any good left in society. Slow Walk sets up the human / monkey parallel as an answer: “But while computers are evolving / I think we might be going at reverse / cuz you’re still only a monkey /But at least those little monkeys /were the first to go into space.”
Around 12 minutes Amy Brooks jumps in with harmonic back up vocals as they question “Are we heroes or are we / sick enough to be the super villain.” From the story they tell, being the super villain definitely sounds more fun. “An Idiot’s Guide” waxes and wanes through an impressive number of genres, from electro to folk goth, folk punk, acoustic folk and dubsteppy bass.
RepoMen bring a retro sound, but in a new way. A little bit of old with some new is a popular scene and they’ve grabbed a hold because who doesn’t like a splash of The Dream Academy in their bowl of Ramones? This standard four-piece comes to you from across the pond in Sheffield, United Kingdom. They fashion themselves on an eclectically cluttered stage donning vests and beards. Look out.
On their EP Vapour Trails, “Rare Cabriolet” serves as a great introduction with vocals yearning from the 80’s, guitar like video drone, bass dripping with a flanger effect, and solid drums – all part of a complete rock bop anthem. You get the feeling this kind of music is for the smarty-pants in all of us, maybe even the rebel that likes to read, but also tosses bottles out the window. I mean, who knows what Cabriolet is? You’re on Wiki right now. I know it.
“Vicar Street” takes a jazzy detour before the pre-chorus, but at its heart is dance rock with alley club meets dancehall. There’s some sexy tom work to compliment the staple groove we hear in the beginning and bridging verses while the chorus soars above the rest giving off positive vibes that could easily work for an Eco Boost commercial.
On “Vapour Trails” the band dips into more emotional territory with dreamy guitar work atop medium fast drums driven by off beat hat work as if to ensure this was never mistaken for a ballad. We get it, when the lyrics go soft keep the gain up and swallow that 90bpm sir. The chorus showcases more tom work, slightly less sexy this time around, and the drummer puts a crash on 2 for anticipatory satisfaction.
Rounding out this compact collection is nothing else but a sing along ploy revealed from the very start – da dada dadoo. “Ophelia” wants the crowd in on it and rightfully so as sing-a-longs are very happening, as a matter of fact, they don’t even need to be words anymore. Blame it on the pop all you want, we still dig it. Having said that, in this case it’s only effective once the song comes together and the initial confusion resolves. The vocals on the “Ophelia” come across as unordinary as the name. It’s all very reminiscent of the garage band era, just a great song for the trendy youth to jump up and down to.
At first taste, RepoMen seem to stake their claim on a unique musical style. It makes you wonder how many other post new wave alternative punk pop acts are out there going, “Hey, that’s our sound!” Yet however you slice it, the bread is good. Britain is hot with new talent and these guys just might find themselves taking off.
Forget sticking to a genre, Jackie Highway has too much in her brain to stifle it with just one or two styles. She is clearly very well trained in music performance and arranging, traits she refined during her time spent touring Europe in an orchestra. She was only a teenager at the time. Not to mention her years enhancing the instrumentation of bands ranging from Led Zeppelin to the B-52s. There’s a great spread of influence in her art and even more under the surface. I couldn’t help but hear moments that channeled the likes of Alanis Morissette and Regina Spektor, even Enya on her EP Solid State Sun.
“What Happens” is quirky and fun with Jackie’s vocal phrasing and tone. The edgy pedaled guitar fizzes in a soda of harmonies; the beat punctuates and begs for listeners to nod their heads. Single notes on the keys plunk along adding a touch of psychedelic reserve. “The Grant” is a wonderful disbanding of album direction. The gallant stamping of chords amidst a tinny snare with gated ride cymbal makes for a rich and intriguing introduction. The vocals climb a melodic idea that slips into an eastern scale then moves down the progression to ethereal chants and beautiful piano laden layers. The violin makes a lovely entrance near the end and you expect the song to gently fade away, but then the violin soars up to a peaking high note repeatedly marking the end of the phrase. The fade begins, but you don’t want it to.
Gorgeous piano and strings strut about on “Bach is my Boyfriend.” Such well-calculated chord movements and viola parts, it’s clearly a nod to her time in the orchestra and what better way than to honor arguably the most revered 18th century composer of all time. Plus it just has a good ring to it. Only problem with this piece – not long enough.
“Flowchart” is a romp of a track with stingy carnival horns and whistles; the odd ball among the crowd. “Snow, His Sun, Her Water” has Jackie sounding at times youthful and carefree with an almost intentionally loose use of diction.
From start to finish this latest release is an exciting journey. The fact that she did this EP by herself is truly commendable. While the songs vary in mood, the production stays consistent and balanced. Solid State Sun plays like a cohesive unit, but at the same time can be dissected into entirely different parts. I find that to be the mark of a great album.
Eddie West takes a walk down sentiment lane on Natural Philosophy, but its cloudy out and a little windy. Not ideal accompaniment for a true to heart song man. The guitar tone could be dialed in a little stronger, mixed with more focus on pure tone, and the overall sound levels are a touch thin. Things definitely could benefit from a second look with production. The albums plays a little like an auditorium performance from the balcony.
West has a background of substance and respectable track record so there’s enough folk in this rock to keep it low key and in step with easy alternative, however it’s tough to find a standout on this album as they all blend well and move like slow melting gold.
“Candy Mae” is a sweet and long-winded track that lifts and drops with quiet intensity. It is sung from the point of view of an elated man and the mixed attraction and disbelief he sends to his lover. For the mellowest song on the album it surely makes a statement for West’s songwriting and not only that, but the band sounds right on point. The other tracks lilt with introspective weight, falling right in line with what might have come from Elvis Costello borrowing early 90’s adult contemporary. On “Flower Season” West steps out of his comfort zone to dabble in a reggae feel. There’s panning delays and stylistic fills, but still plenty of alternative tone and overdone choices that shouldn’t fool the average listener.
New Jersey’s seen West go up and down the coast like a musical relay runner and they won’t be seeing the last of him anytime soon. He’s a singular force of talent and songwriting. This album might not ignite passion or shake your walls, but beneath its tameness is an honest soul. West invites listeners without forcing anything, even going so far as to prefer coffee shop shows to standing room only venues. Talk about a humble artist.
Reno McCarthy is a talented young man. He can't even legally buy a beer in the US but has managed to create a very impressive EP entitled Components of a Happy Life in which he not only plays every instrument (guitar, bass, vocals, drums, etc.) but also recorded, mixed and mastered the project. The EP sounds great. A nice low end, vocals are front and center, guitars have a nice mid range and there is also a lot of space. McCarthy dips into a number of genres including classic rock, electro rock, funk and disco but they never sound too far removed from each other. Above all else the songs are finely tuned, have a hook and are instantly accessible.
Components of a Happy Life begins with the immediately infectious “Please,” which is a fun way to start off the album. McCarthy delivers a Spoon-esque type verse with just bass, drums and vocals before adding guitars with a slight distortion, nothing too heavy. McCarthy also works it when it comes to nuances. For instance, the chorus has a couple of electronic elements that he incorporated that are subtle but very effective in adding some additional depth to the music.
McCarthy starts to expand his palate with “Let Her Come To You,” which rocks out much more than the first but also contains a very inventive bass line during the verse that contrasts against the just as inventive guitar part. This is also the song where McCarthy decides to flex his muscles a bit. He pulls out a guitar solo that shreds, if however brief, as well as a deep, funky and very welcome breakdown.
“You Become The Fire” begins with Pink Floyd type ambience of scattered notes before dissipating and leaving a sole guitar and McCarthy’s voice as he sings “Calling out a name as the situation burns you resist and you become the fire. Here a bitter guy who is fully recognized by the crowd.” As the song progresses it picks up some steam with the addition of bass and drums.
The highlight of the album was “Still” possibly because I'm still not over the funk Daft Punk dropped last year. “Still” is a very catchy song that tips its hat not only to Daft Punk but to Franz Ferdinand. The chorus is money and I would make the suggestion that this be his single from the album.
The album closes with “Sweet Chamomile,” which is the most ambitious song on the album and is a good way to end the journey. It’s a bit nostalgic but not overly so and continues with the upbeat vibes.
McCarthy has a bright future and the world is his oyster. There is not much doubt in my mind that we will be hearing much more from this young talent.
Sancat is an indie rock band from Akron, Ohio that recently released their debut album called Supernatural. They are technically proficient and creatively ambitious musicians with a number of tricks up their sleeves. For a majority of the record they rock but they also delve into territory that lesser bands wouldn't think of approaching.
All the members of the band are either classically trained or jazz musicians, which contribute to the vision of Sandra Emmeline (songwriter, vocalist). She is a gifted songwriter who has a knack for writing original lyrics that avoid typical clichés. On top of that her voice sounds confident when it is against the harder moments in the music and almost maternal like when it is against softer elements. The pacing of the album works well and there is enough variety throughout to not have it drag. There were hardly any moments that had lulls that made me want to reach for the closest magazine.
The album starts with a strong, dynamic song called “Eyes Of Coals.” The most exciting, inventive part of the song is before the guitars lay on the distortion. I thought the combination on the verse of the drumming, bass, vocals and arpeggios on the guitar was where the song shined, There is a lot of space during this section and you can also hear the jazz influence, which is a very welcome aspect to the music,
The second song “I Notice You” opens up with minimal ambience along with the voice of Emmeline. Similar to the first song I found the verse more creative and engaging than the more standard power chord type choruses they delivered. The drum work juxtaposed with the piano and bass to create another excellent moment tinged with jazz and creativity.
“Sandman” is an accomplished track with a wicked guitar solo while “Werewolf” has a pleasant section containing a Tori Amos type moment where it’s just Emmeline’s voice and a piano.
“Dreamweaver” starts out with a manic cascading void of sound that sounds a bit like something Meatloaf may have come up with if he ingested psychedelics. The song is intense as it progresses and starts to get a bit creepy while inducing slight vertigo.
The album ends with the most epic of songs called “Dawn.” Emmeline delivers a dynamic vocal performance as the song reaches for its apex.
Sancat is an explosive, young band with fresh ideas and their debut proves that they have a lot to offer. I still think there's room for improvement but there is more than enough on this album for you to enjoy.
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