When I was a teenager growing up in a sub-industrial town that someone once told me is one of the most segregated cities per capita or had the most bars per square mile per capita or both or some other nonsensical strange random fact it seemed that when I hit the age of sixteen everyone around me at the time was starting a band.
I remember instead of going home after school to do my homework like all the lame smart kids who probably have a stable income now, did, I went into various basements of latchkey kids and smoked pot and cigarettes and listened to bands practice in that short window of time before their parents came home and killed all the fun.
So I understood completely the woes of singer-guitarist Connor Pitre who had been trying since 2011 to put a band together. Pitre had the band’s name all set: King Kudos, the only problem was that he didn’t have the other members, or at least members who could or would commit to the effort it takes to being in a band which is something that people who are not in bands don’t understand. But last year, after five long years of searching Pitre found brothers Tommy and Will Foley to play bass and drums and guitarist Jackson Bounds and the four finally formed the Voltron that is the alternative rock outfit King Kudos.
The quartet’s debut record Love Is a Dying Art grabbed me from the start with ‘90s alt-rock opener “Like Clockwork” which like clockwork itself is a heavily verse chorus verse myriad of feed back guitars and an aria laden lyrical melody whose lyrics ask questions to the “you understood.” Next then comes the stomp-rocker “Love is…” on which Pitre laments “love is patient love is blind / and it gets me every time.” The lyrics are simple and astute at the same time. He sings them as the guitars and bass choog and the drums crash in a stalwart syncopation and perhaps a bit of nostalgia for my youth choked my heart. But in this mist of reverence I also was struck by the production value, something which I rarely comment on, but I feel the need to note here because Love is a Dying Art was recorded and mastered by drummer Will Foley and sounds amazing.
Moving on the boys work their way into a radio-friendly rock hit on “Ode to Being Lonely” and then they take a little bit of an experimental chance changing it up on the less conservative “Quite a Dilemma” which bleeds into the bright forward thinking confessional-pop closer “Given a Chance.”
The fact that Love is a Dying Art was made at all makes me happy. It’s the coming to of fruition of an idea that was a long time in the making. The songs are straightforward and pure; the step on the first stone of more stones, hopefully to come.
After several years of writing and releasing songs recorded on phones and computer mics, Joseph Evans, known as Joseph the Worker in his musical projects, released his first proper full band effort entitled Silver Dollars. Combining alternative country elements with elements of folk and pop styles, the EP was recorded near Evans' home in Chicago in a studio in Evanston, Illinois.
Evans' tender, almost frail voice opens “Letter” with a background of steady acoustic guitar strumming and subdued, droning steel guitar notes. As he lends his voice more energy and steadiness as the song progresses, he is joined by a simple percussion beat, louder notes from the steel guitar and vocal harmonies that blend into a relaxed, melodic country ballad.
The next track “Not Nothing” features the full reach of Evans' mellow voice, which soars above the guitars and drums that comprise the rest of the soundscape. Emotive singing, paired with thoughtful lyrics and conventional chord progressions, make this song sound approachable and familiar, even to a first time listener.
A bright, cheery harmonica riff highlights Joseph the Worker’s diverse musical talent in the intro of “Black and White Photograph.” As the song progresses, it swells and fades between sections of full sound and sections of quieter, stripped down instrumentation, all the while maintaining an overarching cohesiveness.'
The EP ends with “Silver Dollars” which begins with ambient jazz and blues influences underlying slow and purposeful notes from Evans' voice. The song gradually gathers more energy and relies more heavily on the alternative country and folk influences that characterize most of his music. As a whole, Silver Dollars EP is a spectacular professional debut for a highly talented and skilled musician and artist.
Sea Yarns is a musical project by Tavis MacLeod. He recently released Death of a Giant which is a four-song EP. He explains he wanted to create relevant surf music. Truth be told I listened to the four songs and explaining it as surf never entered into my mind. You could make a loose argument for it but I was thinking electronic and shoegaze more than anything else.
Recording-wise Macleod is recording everything digitally into his computer. The songs have a lot of high end and very little warmth which in turns makes it difficult to listen to loud without having your ears ring. The four songs felt more like vignettes that introduced a concept and sound.
Take for instance the opener “Creation and Flood,” he never deviates from the sound and energy he introduces. It’s hypnotic like a mantra but has the structure of an ambient song that repeats instead of a conventional song with verse, chorus and bridge. Imagine the band A Place to Bury Strangers decided to jam out on one riff for a couple of minutes.
“Song of Whales” is a very similar song in how to plays out. Besides removing the drums at one point the song repeats the initial riff. The song swims with superfluous amounts of reverb to where it’s very hard to make out the instrumentation. “Arrows” contains mechanical sounding percussion and delayed guitar while “The Last Bridge” has forward momentum to it.
MacLeod has talent and some good ideas but there is room for improvement in a number of areas. I would advise him to work with someone with knows more about engineering or do a little more homework in this area. Introducing more lower frequencies and using a low pass filter would help the overall sound. I would also encourage him to think about how he can expand on the initial idea he introduces. I felt like at least one significant transition would help the songs out.
I’m looking forward to hearing how his music evolves.
Leonel Pompa (vocals/guitar/keys), Roger Maher (vocals/bass), Josh Leija (drums) and Aaron Montano (guitar) are Sound of Curves.
Sound of Curves is a band that seems to be throwing everything they have heard that they think will get some traction on a wall and seeing what will stick. Their amalgamation of styles seems to in one way or another reinforce popular tropes we have heard in mainstream music for the last fifteen years.
Everything from Coldplay to Passion Pit to anything in between seems to be embedded within the songs. They even do the popular background vocal harmonies melody that I read about that seems to be ubiquitous amongst commercial radio.
On their release Gone Gatsby, they open with "Galaxy" which right away reminded me of fifteen different artists and had elements of pop-punk to electronic. That guitar riff is flashy, clean and reminded me of a song by the band Phoenix. The production effects like splicing up the vocals did little to enhance the song and in fact takes away from the emotional core of the music.
As the album progresses the songs all shout single. Songs like “Summer Radio” and “Disco” have some of their catchiest moments. Another standout is “Waves.”
I'm sure the members have good intentions but it feels blatantly obvious to me that the band is mimicking the most commercial viable style instead of forging to find their own. I promise you that if you a hear a sound, song or four-note repetition that is popular you are already too late. By the time you hear it it's already passé and has been played by a thousand of other bands.
Don’t get me wrong this band is talented in a number of ways. They are all quite good when it comes to technical talent and delivery. I just think they could benefit from some more experimentation, out of the box thinking and digging deep to figure out how they can stand out from the crowd.
If you haven't been living in a cave you will find the music on Gone Gatsby familiar in some form or another. This is an album that can be enjoyed by a large demographic and less so by anyone who explores the fringe.
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After releasing several musical projects in 2014, the four-member rock band KAMBER began to work on a new EP. In the summer of 2016, the group, now operating under the moniker Raviner, released their [DISCONNECTED] EP and have continued to build their own following through regional touring, self-produced video content and further creative endeavors.
The record begins with a tour de force of strength, juxtaposed sharply by moments of quiet stillness in “Scarlet.” Frontwoman Kamber Kigin’s voice runs the gamut from sweet, mellow singing to full-bodied notes as the song alternates between intense and beautifully subdued sections. With hard-hitting guitars and percussion, electronic vocoder chords and an overall sense of cohesiveness, this track is arguably the best on the entire EP.
The album continues with “Maybe” a harmonious rock anthem that blends elements of pop and alternative rock styles with success and natural ease. A catchy guitar riff is repeated throughout the track and is accompanied by strong power chords, steady percussion and emotive singing by Kigin. This song gradually crescendos in volume and dynamic intensity as it progresses to the end.
Soft piano notes and mellow singing open “Squares” before the track plunges into an aggressive power ballad style for the majority of the track. At the very end of the song, the soundscape returns to a minimalistic blend of piano and vocals, adding a soft and poignant ending to an otherwise rather relentless tune.
As the album comes to a close, Raviner refuses to back down off the high level of energy exuding its music and instead rallies for one final powerful anthem. With bells ringing, chorus-like vocals and pounding guitars and drums, the record’s closer feels more like a celebration than anything else. As a whole, the [DISCONNECTED] EP is a monument to Raviner’s talent and ability to create memorable and energizing songs through both traditional and unconventional instrumentation and means.
Jambrains is a one-man band hailing from Sweden. The band is driven by the sole, multi-instrumental talent and songwriter named Johan Alm. Arguably, his most prominent talent is his songwriting. This album, 900 Days, was released exactly 900 days after the first Jambrains track came to life, and therefore we’re seeing a somewhat matured yet still fresh sound.
The album starts out with a track called “Yours For The Taking.” The name of the track says a lot, and I think properly sets the tone for the type of songwriting and music we are about to hear. The track starts out with a very nice, clean, classic rock guitar sound. The drum and bass join in soon after with that same classic rock sound, something that stays consistent throughout the album.
Right at the beginning of the track there is also a feature of an awesome guitar solo, which is a perfect reflection of the talented guitarist that wows us throughout the album. Lots of talent there. The vocals, though, are not the biggest highlight. They do need some work, as they are somewhat monotone and don’t perfectly keep up with the pace of the instruments. Regardless, the amazing guitar sounds keep this album well alive.
The majority of the album has the same classic rock sound and vibe. The song, “Cries of Angles” for example have that one-two rock n' roll style that’s pretty fun to listen to. The lyrics though are the most powerful and central part of the album, arguably. The brains behind Jambrains obviously uses his music as a communication medium and as a way to express his experiences and feelings. It’s personal and fun, and always accompanied by an amazing guitar.
The album does have a change in pace though with the track “The Harder We Hit.” We are hit with a acoustic classic rock ballad type of song, and a nice change. The lyrics are definitely the central piece again, and the acoustic sound gives them a perfect chill background. This track is calm and has an excellent guitar melody; it’s complex and beautiful. The writing abilities are very high-skilled, and accompanied by a great guitar melody.
900 Days is a fun listen, especially if you are a fan of classic rock. The vocals do need some work and are not fully matured; they somewhat bring down the energy of the album. At the same time, the lyricism and amazing guitar skills make this a complex and great album. Those are definitely the best two things about the album and Jambrains.
Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Conor Deery, bassist Josh Jackson-Drewett and lead guitarist Sebastian Morrison are the driving force behind the Adelaide, South Australia rock band Free From Burden.
Their debut record A Tale of Bats & Butterflies is an eclectic mixture of rock styles which stems from each member bringing their own musical taste to the songs and then mixing those tastes together. It is a very open process and one that can at times result in a mixed bag of songs with the band often defending itself by claiming they don’t want to pigeonhole their sound, though what it means is that they lack any sense of direction.
A Tale of Bats & Butterflies opens with the five-and-a-half-minute lounge rocker “(bracket)” which combines murderous sounding piano with searing guitar and window shattering cymbal crashes which all come to a head and are swept up in a fury of string. Crying out from this miasma is Deery who does an excellent job of displaying his range from a nearly perfect Jeff Buckley impression during the mellower parts and then rises to sound like an angry version of Morrissey.
This display is even more charismatic on the six minute “Bats & Butterflies” which again delves into the slow roll of rock and quiet interludes before the wave slowly builds up and comes crashing down again in a fit of furious guitar, drums and piano. As to not deviate from this formulaic musical equation they use it again on the piano pounding rocker “Blue.” However they are saved somewhat by their last track “Set Me Alight” which is fun and shimmery and recalled for me the happier pop punk elements of a band like Smoking Popes.
If I were to weigh in with my opinion, which I am, I’d tell Free From Burden to ditch the formulaic sad piano rock and start making the uppity heart on your sleeve pop punk that makes “Set Me Alight” such a standout. Over time I’ve come to notice that many vocalists tend to write the same sad sappy lyrics that have this dark and edgy wantonness to them. And musically so many indie bands write the same song over and over and try to pass it off as different. Many of those bands don’t have the glimmer of hope that Free From Burden does, and that should take at least a little weight off of their shoulders.
The Clouded Lights are an alternative rock/brit-pop band located out of West Yorkshire, and they have recently come out with a rather enjoyable EP titled Stranded On the Path. Throughout the short collection of music, the band showcases their ability to cohesively navigate through a couple of different genres, offering their listeners a coherent yet diverse taste of what they can do. Hints of the Smiths, Bloc Party, and even some Joy Division can be found within Stranded On the Path, so if jangly, high-energy alternative rock is your sort of thing, you should check it out.
Although the lyrical content was not filled with the most positive subjects I have heard (though they are quite apt), I would describe the tone of most of the music as pretty upbeat and fun. Most of these songs have pretty straightforward formats that tend to have carved out sections within them that allow for the instrumentation, particular the lead guitar, to sort of run away and do its own thing.
While on that note, I think the guitar work on this album is really nice, and I really enjoyed how the guitar was simultaneously perpetually prominent and positioned in the front of the music, and how the tone of the instrument remained relatively clean. This intricate balance allowed for the guitar to sort of act as the vocalist’s counter, consistently playing what sound to me like countermelodies. On the other hand, I think the vocalist does a nice job of picking out vocal lines which tend to piece the music together. The Clouded Lights possess a cohesive sound, and it is nice to hear the music come together.
One of my few problems with the record is that I feel that some of the tempos sound a bit too fast— for example, the first track on the EP, titled “Borrowed Hearts” is extremely catchy, however at times it sounded a bit rushed and like everyone was trying to catch up with one another. Despite this, I think the song sounds good and is well put together.
Production wise, the sound itself is pretty spectacular. The mixes all sit together nicely, the instruments sound good, and I think the production is what allowed the songs to come together as well as they did.
I also really like how much energy the band carries with them in these songs. It sounds like they are having fun playing together and that they genuine care about the music they are expressing, and that always reflects really well in the recordings. In my eyes, this is a strong record both in terms of songwriting and production, and I hope the band sees success with it. I look forward to hearing what The Clouded Lights do in the future.
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There is a hilarious juxtaposition on the album The Three of Us by Parachute Words (the solo bedroom project by Martino Gasparrini). It’s between his lyrics and the delivery. His music is often soft and full of solace. It often feels playful and warm. His lyrics however don’t share the same comfort and warmth. He sings about division, existential dread and turbulent relationships.
He opens with a highlight entitled “The Three of Us Part 1.” It’s catchy due mostly in part to the vocals. His delivery is so effortless and serene but works so well with the song. He sings, “The three of us are hurting each other / The two of us don't like one another /And she's here and she's gone / I haven't seen I haven't done / Hold on tight it’s going to be a bumpy one.” It could work as a lullaby.
“Curtains” is more upbeat and rocks out a little bit more. It’s a solid song but the production was a little too lo-fi for what he was trying to accomplish here. The next highlight is “Circles” which has a ’50s pop feel to it.
As the album progresses there were a number of catchy songs including “Blood,” “Higher” and “Dive.” He seems to save the best for last with “The Three of Us Part 3.” This is a great example of the aforementioned juxtaposition. He sings, “The three of us are hurting each other / The two of us don't like one another / And I don't like you now /And I don't that she will be here for me.” It also happens to be one of the best written songs with a good vocal performance.
My suggestion to Gasparrini is to try and get out of the bedroom and into the studio. I think with better recording quality some of these songs would shine a bit more. That being said I think he has a cohesive foundation and has a good amount of talent. This is a great start and hope to hear more soon.
Zakk For Real is the solo project of Zakk Davis, who is based out of Chilliwack, BC. He wrote and recorded his first album in his basement for a dear friend, which is a true testament to the passion and emotion behind his music. It took him no more than a few days to write the album, but he spent months mastering the piece to perfection. The initial spark comes in a burst, but professionalism is about patience, and that certainly shines through on Davis’ debut release. He’s been playing music for all of his life but the fact that he has only been writing music for a couple of years does surprise me. He’s been taking some time to figure out what his style is, and Davis is finally ready to offer something to which he believes listeners actually want to listen.
Rockmontigny is a six-track EP which opens with the simultaneously peaceful and chaotic insanity of its title track. A gentle chord progression, plucked delicately on an electric guitar leads the listener into what seems to be a pleasant, straightforward experience, but it ends up being much more exciting than that. Vocally, pop-punk-esque vocals tear through gripping, quirky and witty lyrical one-person conversations such as: “Hey man / What? / Wanna hang out tonight? / No, I’m way too damn tired to.” All the while, the song builds musically, as crashing drum cymbals and surf-esque guitar screeches into infinity. The track closes with multi-layered vocals clashing and crashing against themselves as Davis drones on about tiredness endlessly. The jovial, funny nature of the track makes this all the more insane, but awesome because of that.
The second track on the EP is entitled “Confused” and it’s a song impossible to summarize in words alone. It really has to be heard in order to truly be understood. An infectious bass line rhythm, viciously-pumping drums and multi-layered, fast-paced falsetto, along with screeching, guides this insane track forwards. Funky, horror-punk guitar ascends and descends alongside this vocal insanity, creating a bizarre, yet wonderful musical piece.
“Father Figurative” opens with a gentle chord progression, again laden with guitar picking and a gentle beat, but, as I expected, this was all a ruse. The track quickly explodes into electrifying and distorted power chords, screeching guitar solos and explosive drumming. Davis once again impresses me as an indie singer, as brutal, fractured, yet powerful screams ascend atop the metallic-rock force of the track. His musicianship truly shines through heavy, grungy, distorted tracks such as these. Impressive vocals aside, his written or improv work when it comes to guitar solos is worthy of note here.
There are some incredibly catchy arpeggios and riffs at play on this release. Dark, twisted, fun and mind-blowing all at once; that’s how I’d describe the instrumental work, along with the vocals, on this EP.
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