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
Alexander Ferwerda Down Maple Creek 3.9
Chris Koza In Real Time 3.8
Drugs Kids With Dreams 3.1
Scent Of War Contracts 3.5
Khydra Skycrasher 3.1
Casual Sweetheart Dark Summer 3.4
the Rainman Suite Highways 3.5
Trip Kick Trip Kick 3.1
projector As Full As We Felt 3.4
Big Friends The Sle-EP 3.5
Coming from Brighton, United Kingdom, THYLA is a self-described alt-rock/grunge rock/psychedelic-rock 4-piece group. The style they’ve gone after has its share of influential acts in the 90s and early 2000s, like Pearl Jam or Stone Temple Pilots, and has made something of a comeback in the indie circuit with groups like Warpaint and The Dead Weather. Their debut EP War, released December of last year, has its moments that do well to promote the styles of these genres. Being a live recording, however, the EP does have its spots that could use some polishing.
In the opening track, “Sticky Red”, the feel of the song is difficult to follow, and I can’t find any real narrative to get attached to. The chorus repeats “Are you gonna swim? Are you gonna swim for me?”, and maybe it’s deliberately not obvious what they’re getting at, but they certainly don’t make it easy. Instrumentally and rhythmically, coupled with some strong vocals during the chorus, the song has some very catchy instants that would make me want to see them play live.
“Fate Tells Lies” starts out much more structured, and seems to have more of a sense of cohesiveness to it. At around the 1:50 mark, however, the song changes direction from a big, expansive feel to a minimalist, tight sounding section absent of big chords to drive the big emotion. “Cornfields” is probably the most consistent song. The feeling is slow and melancholic, emphasized with lead vocalist Millie Duthie’s light voice, and some sombre guitar lead from Maxfield Fletcher. The drums trudge it along at a slow, foot-tapping pace that ties it all together. I would consider this to be the strongest song on the EP.
The vocals dominate the songs, but not necessarily in a good way. They fall victim to some poor mixing during the live recordings, and often I found them too loud over the rest of the band. On top of that, to put it bluntly, the singing leaves room for improvement. Millie has the right voice and pitch that is easy to listen to, and could well be a strong vocalist, but throughout the EP she throws her voice around without much control and it often feels like she’s trying to sing. To get that effortless feel, keeping the vocals in a tighter range and with a style appropriate to each song would do wonders. The good news, though, is that this is easily fixed by recordings with better equipment and in a better environment, while also adopting a ‘less is more’ approach.
I don’t hear a lot of grunge or psychedelic on War, and it comes out with more of an alternative/folk feel. Perhaps having too many influences led to each song feeling a little unrefined, but with time and experience TYHLA can find their own style that feels true to them as the artist and to the audience. For a first time listener, I feel as though they haven’t quite found their niche yet. More consistency in their song writing approach would help each song feel discrete among the rest. The EP absolutely has its moments where the band shines and writes a catchy hook, a strong breakdown, or the perfect bass line to compliment the vocals, and now the task is to take those moments and expand on them to write what could be a very strong follow-up release.
The Maelstrom EP from Optimist Park aka Jeremy Mullins sounds like demo tapes you would expect to come out from Bradford Cox’s bedroom for his project Atlas Sound. The EP is full of great ideas that never get fully realized because of subpar production. Mullins covers his vocals and pretty much everything else in a copious amount of hall reverb that ends up creating waves of atmospheric white noise.
Mullins is college student who like many other aspiring musicians on a budget is trying to make due with the consumer gear he has the budget for. I think Mullins for the most part does a pretty job and a lot of his ideas are strong enough to get past the aesthetic quality of the songs.
I’m not sure why Mullins decided to starts with “hers” because out of the five songs this one suffers the most from detrimental production. The song was too muddy for my ears but the second track “hydrodynamics” is much improved in every area. It sounds more open, less muddy, etc. He combines programmed drums, with spacey sound guitars and reverb soaked vocals. I’m not going to compare this to My Bloody Valentine but do think that they might have been an influence here. Mullins vocal melody is quite melodic and gets better upon repeated listens.
“they were like wild beasts” was the strongest track on the EP. Mullins delivers his best vocal performance. He sings “what would they think of us // if we carried on this way? it doesn't matter i guess // it had to happen someday when i kissed you on the ferris wheel // i was really thinking of falling it doesn't matter i guess // it had to happen someday”.
The closing track “for bryn mawr” is an ambient soundscape. It was a decent effort but didn’t offer the subtleties and dynamics you would expect from a exceptional soundscape.
It’s obvious Mullins is a work in progress but definitely knows what he likes. There are pockets of potential here and hopefully we can hear more refined work from Mullins in the future.
Lucid Echo is a project for Mose Berymon which began last year. He spent a lot of time investing in a five song EP entitled Fractal Anomaly. The EP does little to establish much of a signature sound for Berymon or indicate what could come next. Everything song on the EP seems isolated to itself and perhaps that’s what Berymon intended to do.
The album was recorded, mixed and mastered in his home studio. Fractal Anomaly is about average sounding for a home studio project but can't compete with the audio fidelity you would expect from a professional studio. Little things like guitars that sound like they were recorded via direct input and vocals which need some proper treatment are noticeable to those who have an ear for such things.
The album starts off with “Fractal Anomaly” which is more or less an intro. Berymon creates an atmospheric, tranquil landscape from a number of synths. A simple piano melody gets layered with slightly cheesy sounding pads. It reminded me of the sounds I heard from Destroyer on Your Blues.
The jump from “Fractal Anomaly to “The Dark Star” is jarring and juxtaposed. “The Dark Star” is basically straight up metal. It has elements of rock opera, old school Metallica and Megadeth. It does contain impressive lead work which ends up being the focal point in the song since there are no vocals.
As the EP continues Berymon continues to give no regard to consistency. The song “The Only One” has lyrics reminiscent of Trent Reznor while the music combines electronic and organic elements. “The Child” mixes up psychedelia and ambient music into the longest track on the EP. He coats his guitars in a copious amount of reverb and contains the most experimental and impressive parts on the album. At five minutes in he lands a groove that he lets go of too soon.
The last track is an acoustic based song entitled “Love Is The Law” which starts off a bit rough but gets better as it progresses as he adds vocal harmonies and layers. It’s unequivocally the most grandiose track on the EP.
The biggest issue that Lucid Echo faces at this point is knowing what type of music he is going after. I would have a real hard time explaining what Fractal Anomaly sounds like in a sentence or two. A couple of the songs show potential on their own but the overall message is confusing. This EP points to more questions than answers and at this time Lucid Echo is largely a case of wait and see.
Remixing is a talent that I think is underappreciated. It takes a whole different set of skills that a person who plays an instrument may not posses. You need to be able to deconstruct and reconstruct music while still representing the original vision. D.J. Robinson is a master at this craft and encourage you to visit his bandcamp page and listen to remixes he has done of artists like Common, Pharrell Williams and Michael Jackson. Even though D.J. Robinson obviously have a passion for remixing he has released his own original material as well. In 2010 he released Chill Mode: UpGraded and just recently followed that up with Chill Mode 2: My Mind In Stereo. Chill Mode 2: My Mind In Stereo is a diverse album that combines hip-hop, soul, and electronic music.
It didn’t take me too long to realize D.J. Robinson has skills as a producer. He pulls out an arsenal of tricks and sounds that kept me engaged throughout the fourteen tracks on the album. On top of that D.J. Robinson enlists a slew of guest vocalist who keep things fresh.
The album kicks off with “Believe Me (Intro) Feat. Damo” which revolves around southern swagger style hip-hop. It contains cascading synths, manipulated bells and a hard hitting beat while Damo raps over the layers of sound. D.J. Robinson switches thing up on the next track Donuts (Another One For Dilla) which is instrumental track where he combines funk and a bit of disco. The track is a bit reminiscent of something you might hear from Four Tet, Prefuse 73 or Mylo. It’s definitely a passable groove that you wouldn’t mind hearing coming out from the hippest lounge in the city on a Friday Night.
As the album progresses D.J. Robinson churns out a number of highlights including “Truth”, “Status Quo” and “I Miss You Feat RN”. The album closes with arguably the most inventive track entitled (Quiet TIme (Outro) Feat. Damo). I was immediately impressed by the beat which had traces of Flying Lotus. Great way to end the album.
Chill Mode 2: My Mind In Stereo showcases some serious talent coming from D.J. Robinson. That being said this album is fluid but also falls short of redefining what’s possible as on such recent albums like Black Messiah and Run the Jewels 2. Overall, the album was a thumbs up in my book and is recommended listening for anyone who considers themselves a fan of soul and hip-hop.
Hailing from Copenhagen She Talks is a four-piece band comprised of Inge Poulsen, (lead singer) Jens Poulsen, (guitars) Henrik Madsen, (guitars, bass, keys etc) and Mathias Hoeg (drums, percussion). They released their debut self-titled album in 2011 and followed that up with their sophomore release entitled Heroine. Their latest effort Exile is an EP and after taking a listen doesn't surprise me that their songs are on rotation on Danish National Radio.
Exile showcases five indie pop/rock gems that are about as addictive and catchy as anything I have heard in recent memory. She Talks in many ways reminds me of a female fronted version of The Shins. Poulson implements creative lyrics that avoid cliches while having a voice that was meant to sing pop songs. The songs are incredibly easy on the ears and are a real treat to listen to for a number of reasons. It’s a warm album that utilizes acoustic and electric guitars while never trying to fit in too many elements. On top of that the EP has a flow to it. It’s obvious that the band thought about the sequential order which seems to be more and more like an afterthought for artists in these days of streaming services and the ability to buy any song you want.
The EP starts with “The Night Isn't Young” and the first time I heard it I was addicted. Poulsen’s infectious vocal melodies are supported by a combination of organ, slide guitar, bass and drums. The songs emits feeling of stoic nostalgia and melancholy while also feeling appropriately upbeat.
The next two tracks “A Song Once Meant For You” and “Roadside” are also notable songs. You get to hear some sweet harmonica on ““A Song Once Meant For You”. They close with “Tangled Up” which was the most emotionally resonant, heartfelt song out of the five. The song is void of percussion besides a shaker but features some effective vocal harmonies.
Exile isn’t breaking any barriers but She Talks has established their own sound that feels natural. The songwriting is good while often being on the verge of great. Suffice it to say She Talks is a band I would recommend to anyone who appreciates palatable pop music.
After experiencing an Aquarian Summer, I guess I wasn’t in the place I expected to be. The gig is up, as if it weren’t obvious by the themes at first glance – nature, summer, Aquarian….we’re dealing with some psychedelic good vibes revival here, folks. So strap in or rather embrace the vibes head on because we all know they’re golden and righteous.
Putting this record on will nearly immediately transport you to a simpler time of doing good and smoking good. I see a hazy living room with tie-dye drapes and the smell of botany. I like it. Nature Walks are the cool pilots of a low flying indie machine that runs on clean guitar and easy drums. The progressions are far from conventional but often times the beat and / or message hit harder than any hook. Having said that, this music does do its fair share of wandering, but that just comes with the territory really. Nature Walks will take you on a walk of their own, filled with shuffle-your-feet tempos, chord outline noodling, and floaty vocals that take on an err of the pastoral.
While no song really pops out, the album plays nicely as a whole maintaining the same theme throughout and revisiting certain motifs with new perspective. “Meddling Kids” might be my jam on this journey. It has a clever and sly bass line that peeks around the corner of each passage while the drums stay true to their slightly funky backbeat complete with tambourine / snare punctuations.
The guitar chicks are present in the mix but not overly done, you manage to gloss over them despite how they act like a melodic metronome. The tone is quick with attack and almost like the plucking of violin strings. Before song’s end, the band gets its moment in the sunshine, expanding on the progression. At this point, I gravitated toward the musicality of the cymbals and the close attention they all paid to taking things to new heights while still keeping some pressure on the brake pedal.
This album never takes off, but instead it finds beauty in the idle. And it’s worth noting that the album art is as gorgeous as it is mood shaping. Let this collection sink in, it’s deeper than the surface portrays.
With the inflection and art song of Dave Matthews, comes Kid Cousin, with a surprise in their pocket unlike I’ve witnessed in years. I’d give a little more exposition, but let’s just cut to the chase. The first 3 minutes of Birth will make your brain start to assign assumptions and you might peg these guys as victims of acoustic dependence, leaning on the charm of well-crafted lyrics and true-to-the-heart vocals. And in that instance, you’re almost convinced there’s no more water in the well; you’ve seen the bottom of their musical depth and it was good. I, for one, was proven so pleasantly wrong.
This is a group of serious players not satisfied with molding into one genre or the other. They have a knack for power rock but it’s blended with alternative, singer/songwriter, indie, and pop. So, returning to my first impression, “The Trough.” The acoustic established a strong, poignant melody, the words poetic and rich. And then, the drums broke free as did the Earth, giving way for something bigger than you could imagine. The song erupted with instrumentation, subsequent melodies, key movement, layers, intensity and resolve. A blossoming experience to say the least.
Following this treat is “Trapdoor,” a driving track with exploratory and involved drums supporting focused and yet relaxed musical ideation. The guitar plays breezily on top of the ebb and flow urgency beneath. All the while, one has to appreciate the similar quality in vocal toward Dave Matthews. In this reflection, it’s just another great voice enhancing music that surrounds it like a close friend. This band gels at every turn and their spot on production brings that to the surface.
On “Swamp Thing” they take what could be a typical lesson in rock tension and add parts in 7/4 time while developing linear ideas to bridge the full time / half time relationship. In other words, the feels are varied, but each one serves the song in its own way. Sometimes their creativity is the stuff of magic and other times seems to step out of the box a little too far. Their skills are impressive, bottom line, so take that with a grain of salt. Birth is a rock renaissance that needs to be heard.
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Every once in a while an artist comes around that has a sound all their own. Almanac Mountain is a borrowing of many different colors, but the big picture is a hue of something new altogether. The songs are like quaint and romantic gems of a certain innocent love. The album title itself is a cutesy take on the beauty and fluttering youth that comes with liking someone. And moving with that, when does like become love? Is there a singular moment where the dawning becomes clear or is it a hard earned process of learning, accepting, and growing interpersonally?
I’m not sure if this album answers that question, but it raises similar thoughts and experiences that we all can find some relation to, strengthening the bonds between track and listener. Almanac Mountain breathes this light charm and glow into each song permeating with new wave synth, dry vocal delivery, and enchanting melodies. All of this is the standard upon which further development unfolds, namely on “The Old Carvings.” No way did you see saxophone making an appearance, but it’s certainly a fine addition.
The Portsmouth Herald writes, "Almanac Mountain...creates so much blissful noise in such a confined space it's a wonder he's able to make it all happen by himself." I couldn’t agree more with this statement. We live in a world where too many artists just rely on their teams of writers and producers to craft the hard stuff and then they just parade the lyrics around with enough investment to get by. Almanac Mountain shines in this sense right from the start. “Orison” is gentle and introspective with great song structure and build, all on an even plane of subtlety and emotion. Become familiar with this formula because it makes a trend. And why not? Use what works, I say, and use it well. Almanac presses on with an attractive little number, “Dynamite & Wine.” Who can resist some wonderful ukulele especially when it’s softening an already smooth pillow of sound.
As mentioned earlier, “The Old Carvings” showcases some fine sax work and acts as a closing message to anyone doubting the integrity behind the instrumentation. Personally, I think Almanac Mountain could find a way to make an oboe sound fitting. Let’s hear it for this diverse and darling record.
I was listening to Lone on the Mountain by MIles Wide and the first thing I was thinking was that I wished some of the songs had more instrumentation. Lone on the Mountain is an unplugged, acoustic demo featuring recordings from live performances around Rochester, NY from MIles Wide. The next sentence on his bandcamp page states that his previous record Moon Howls has all these songs with fuller instrumentation. Perfect.
Let’s first talk about Lone on the Mountain. Truth be told there isn’ t much to talk about here. Wilde has an attractive voice and the songs sound more melancholy stripped down. I have to say as far as contemporary artists go it’s going to be hard to hold my attention with an acoustic guitar and vocals unless your name is Kristian Matsson or Samuel Beam. There really isn’t much of an exception here. Wilde isn’t a bad guitarist by any stretch of the imagination but he also isn’t pulling guitar gymnastics that have any kind of wow factor.
Suffice it say Moon Howls is dynamically rich and multi-colored album compared to Lone on the Mountain. The title track “Moon Howls” contains complex bass work and drums which give the song a surge of energy. WIlde sings “Wind blows; children cry The moon howls and so do I Faces smile and the grass grows The whole world turns and no one knows”.
One of the strongest tracks was “Sit Think and Stare”. Wlde delivers one his best vocal performances here and at his best has some some similarities to Paul Simon. He lyrics are introspective, deep and also sung with conviction. The stand out track was “On The Street Tonight”. It’s a soulful song with slick singing on Moon Howls and sounds pretty good on Lone on the Mountain as well.
Both these albums are far from perfect but Wilde has some talent in the songwriting department and does have a good sounding voice but somewhat standard singing style. He has skill but I have a feeling his full potential hasn’t truly been tapped with these releases.
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