The Boston based Celtic folk duo Rakish, comprised of violinist Maura Shawn Scanlin and guitarist Conor Hear, draw their name from a traditional Irish folk tune “Rakish Paddy” and rightly so as the pair sound as traditionally Irish as if they were un-earthed from the time when those early traditions began. Scanlin herself is a two-time U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion and a winner of the Glenfiddich Fiddle Competition, and Hear has been deeply immersed for years in several traditional Irish folk bands playing around the Boston area.
On the pair’s eponymous debut Rakish they give the listener, in a brief five songs, a smattering of what they can do, and they do it with great aplomb and shockingly none of the garish mockery that so much Irish music gets transformed into in one way or another, due mostly to the cultures co-existence with drinking. One finds none of that here—no heartbreaking songs that end up at the bottom of a bottle. They restore the genre to its original form of weepy guitar and fiddle that is beautiful and heart wrenching akin to the gracefulness of an impressionist painting.
The opening track “Sadbdh” with its bright and flighty classical fiddle and gentle pricks of acoustic guitar sound like something that would have been heard around a fire or in the court of a King and Queen alike. In its brief time of just under five minutes it has the power to move one and strike one that they are under the spell of two very spectacular musicians.
The second track “Waterbound” takes on a more rustic folk scenario; the biblical thematic of water doing much of the work. But what is really striking here is the unbelievably catchy little riffs even though it seems that the pair are hardly touching the strings with more than a gentle nudge most times. Their harmonies together, soft as silk and just as shimmering help to boost the true and simple beauty that’s happening here. Then they revert back to that classical and baroque folk with the gentle wave of a hand on “Inion Ni Scannlain.” They go for their most intense songs “The Stolen Child” and “The Birds” to close out this little EP on a high note.
Folk music has its die hard followers and there are many of those. Then there are those who think that traditional Irish folk music is and should be reserved for St. Paddy’s when it’s blared out of every single bar speaker from Boston to Baja California. But Rakish is a record which belongs in the former’s category, existing for the true listeners, and not needed to incur inebriation.
Rock the Chandeliers is a new pop album by Canadian singer/songwriter Curtis Newart. The album is pop/electronic which showcases a lot of what you might call club worthy type tracks with lot of leads synths and a big booming kick drums.
“Rock the Chandeliers” is the opening title track. It’s no doubt catchy but also pretty silly to my ears. That’s not a bad thing but something about that bass line and the lead vocals seemed kind of comedic. I think that was the intention.
Up next is ”Confetti and Beachballs” which felt like it could be used in a coming of age movie from the ’80s. It’s pretty exuberant and they sure seemed too excited that the summer has arrived. “Down the Garden Path” is a silly sex romp. This song has a very ’80s club vibe going for it.
Apparently “Perverse” is a popular song and this song goes in a completely different direction. The instrumentation is that of a rock band making for a jarring transition from everything else that came before.
The electronica comes back in full effect on “Superhuman” and Lost in Light.” “Fork in the Outlet” is slightly funky and I couldn’t help but laugh when he sings, “You’re my fork in the outlet” with authority. “Thru the Keyhole” has its moments and then there is the R.E.M cover of “Man on the Moon.” Last but not least is “Trippin’ on the High Horse” which is arguably the highlight of the album.
Newart seems to be in his own universe with this album. It’s not the most emotionally resonant release I have heard in recent memory but it’s fairly fun with enough to hooks to make you revisit.
Good Sad News is an album full of warm, easy to appreciate rock/pop songs. There is a good amount of influence from previous eras of rock. Some songs are easier to pinpoint than others but either way I felt the songs went well together making for a cohesive album.
Up first is “Conversations with My Heart” which definitely has a bit of ’50s pop vibe especially on the chorus. It reminded me of Fountains of Wayne when they would go for a '50s pop type vibe. It’s a catchy song that reminds me of summer and backyard BBQ’s. “Little House (Built For Two)” digs more into an alt-country sound. The laptop steel guitar sounds great with memorable melodies. It’s another catchy song and the band fits in a number of quality licks in two minutes.
“Please Don’t Make Me Leave You” is the most obvious homage to ’50s pop and has pretty obvious influences. Let’s just say the song would be a home at a high school prom sometime in the ’50s. “Tomorrow” has a warmer ’70s aesthetic and was a pretty romantic song while “Crush,” the country based “I Saw You Dancin’” and the upbeat and bootslapping “Halfway Thru” certainly have their moments as well.
The accordion was pretty fantastic on “Hey Mary.” “Two Days of Rain” continues to impress but the closer “Top of the Watertower” was a celebratory song that was a highlight. That song gives a tip of the hat to rockabilly.
Good Sad News is an album that I think will appeal to a lot of fans of rock and pop. They cover a good amount of ground and sound really good doing it.
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
MoodPill Lie to Me 3.5
SUNFIELDS MONO MONO 3.9
Ed Strong It Is What It Is 3.6
Sellers Forever 3.8
Puppy Angst Tiny Thoughts 3.7
Wittenberg Perennial 3.7
Jessie Albright (vocals), Shane Denmark (drums), Jim Martin (bass), Dewitt Thompson (guitar) and John Woods (guitar) are Last Chance Riders. The band released Jet Lag Super Drag which is an eight-song release.
The band plays into a very familiar broad brand of classic rock. They utilize rock 101 moves that has been done countless times before and really don’t do much to establish a signature sound. That being said the songs are well written enough and fun to rock to. The band has no problem playing but there is very little that made me remember this band's sound. I felt like I listening to variations of songs I have heard before on classic rock radio.
The eight songs didn't have too much distinction amongst each other. On one hand you have a cohesive experience which is a good thing but on the other hand there were zero surprises.
I think it would behoove the band to start experimenting; play outside of the box and shed their influences. Anything they could to do to stick out as more than just another band who listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC would benefit them. I have been involved with music for a long time and call it tough love or whatever you want but this is true. Bands who “make it” tend to be singular - Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine. The White Stripes you name it.
There is an X-factor whether it’s the falsetto of Thom Yorke or the white noise generated from the guitar of Kevin Shields that creates a signature sound. This band more than anything should focus on finding why you should be listening to them instead of the classic rock cover band at your local bar who practiced “Whole Lotta Love” five hundred times. I say this because they seem to have all the other elements for success.
The production and recording quality was almost too clean and not really raw enough for the songs. It’s like when you go into a recording studio and the producer gives you the cardboard cut out, by the book template of what they taught him in school. I wanted dirty ’70s John Bonham style recordings on the drums and a little more distortion on the bass for starters.
I think this band does have some chemistry as well as individual talent and wish them all the luck in the world finding that X-factor that will make me recognize a song of theirs when I hear it on the radio.
Adam Kalachman, Glen Wong, Oliver Chiang, Patrick Cummins, and Steve Calvaruso are Everywhere Now. The band from Silicon Valley work in tech and play at night and recently released their debut album entitled Somewhere, Finally.
The band play palatable, accessible power pop that is full of catchy melodies and feel good vibes. They have an upbeat energy and in general it felt like music that could get you in a good mood. The album contains fourteen songs and felt a little long considering what type of album it was. I think the album would have been a little tight and more impactful if they kept the album around ten songs.
The album starts off with “It's Gonna Go” which is one of the more positive songs on the album. It felt akin to a band like Passion Pit. As the album progresses I felt there were some clear highlights starting with “Sounds.” The song is infectious and unapologetically catchy in a ’50s type of way.
“Beaches” has the energy of a classic indie rock band in the spirit of a band like The Killers and Interpol. I thought “Blood on Snow” was pretty slick and proved to be one of the more dynamic songs on the album. There is a great breakdown around the three-minute mark.
“Stretcher” was the centerpiece of the album and the best song in my opinion. I really liked the aesthetics. They utilize softer elements like pads and synths that are juxtaposed against a slightly funky bass line. On top of that the chorus is memorable. The other notable songs were “Sometimes,” “Hands are Waving” and “Sunday Morning.”
I think this album certainly has some gems and points to a band with a lot of potential. Take a listen.
Fight the Panic is the first EP by veteran pop-punk Boston rockers Howl!, that were looking to do something a little out of the norm. Although the band doesn’t doubt that Fight the Panic is a rock album, the group’s new journey also incorporates aspects of many genres including pop, prog, darkwave, and punk. The EP project was conceived by producer and songwriter Phil Paicopolos, who shortly after recruited vocalist Morgan Sweet and drummer Mark Boado. The five-song venture was recorded at Noise Monster Studio by Paicopolos and mixed and mastered by Tom Iannello.
“Stranger” is tense and highly charged with a drum beat that doesn’t let up and biting guitar action. Words declare, “Fight the panic!” inside this first song that’s sure to get you pumped. “For the Ones You Forgot” is a song that will please any drummer because of the sweet rumbling beats. The words are sung with plenty of rage and screaming by Morgan Sweet so that I needed a breather after this one, ok… not really. “One L, Two N’s” has a great groove and offers a softer look into the band’s rock style. The guitar licks are catchy and Boado’s drumming is tight and explosive.
“Losing Count” was probably my favorite if just for the added keys/synth parts, which I think shows yet another side to this band. Boado is super tight on the skins and his fills are crazy! This song sounds a little more prog rock and shows again the high energy this band delivers. “LMK” ends the EP with a slower tempo starting off and then a jerky, off beat rhythm keeps things together. Sweet and company yell “There’s another day, there’s another way – Speak up and reach out! – don’t shut me out!” I’m not sure what the acronym to the song means, but I get a sense that the words suggest communicating with someone who doesn’t see eye to eye with you. This last number would also make for a pretty good protest song, too.
Overall, a tight and tense debut filled with high notes and higher energy from this Boston trio.
At age 12, with a beat-up Telluride guitar for a holiday present, Bryce J. Rogers decided to seriously take up playing music. He first got his start playing worship music in his church and from there he practiced under the influence of some very talented musicians who helped him along the way. During his teenage years, he played with several alternative rock bands, but his heart had always been focused on singing and songwriting. He continued to hone his musical skills while hosting many open mic nights after his family made a move to Arizona in 2012.
In the summer of 2018, he met another talented songwriter, Daniel Lease. The two put together a side band called Zen Salad which they continued to play with and which helped Rogers to record his first solo project Heart Shaped Stone. Based in Tucson, Lease produced, mixed and mastered Rogers’ EP at his own studio, Love Punk Records. Rogers states, “instead of diving into my past with songs about heartache and depression – this album is addressing my ego, like personal therapy, I talk myself through fear and emotions.”
The opening title track to the EP starts off with a pretty lead melody on the acoustic and a natural, folksy rhythm. A pretty piano/key accompaniment, too. I really like the line – “the catch is, we’re all gonna die, so why aren’t we out there living life.” Lyrically, a solid statement for sure. “A Song for my Ego” begins with pretty much the same rhythm as the first song, but just in a different key and chord progression. Some additional percussion was added for the beat, but I found in some parts the rhythm was off. That aside, Rogers sings his heart out with conviction as a he confronts or cozies up to his worst enemy (depending on how you hear his words).
“Singing by Our Graves” reminded me of the indie folk quality of Ed Sheeran. The piano melody along with Rogers’ acoustic and brushes on the snare were a good match for this tune. The piano sounds sad, but in a good way and Rogers lyrics really pack a lot of emotion. I’d say this one was Rogers’ stand out number among the four. “Little Brother” finds Rogers singing about his younger sibling and addressing him with lyrics about past regrets, moving away and things left undone – “where did this blow up, where did we go wrong.” Harmonica accompaniment gives this last tune a melancholy, old school folk feel.
All in all, a pretty good debut. If you’re into stripped down, acoustically driven, singer/songwriter music, Heart Shaped Stone may be what you’re looking for.
There's a lot of things that come to mind when I think of Philadelphia, PA. I think of beef, beer, football, a blue collar town coming into its own with a flourishing music scene. However I do not think of mind bending psychedelic bands that have mastered what makes electronic music so amazing these days. So thank you to Soul Dolphin, a local Philly act that has altered my state of mind about their city with their incredible musical experience that is their debut album Deja Vu All Over. I could make some sort of attempt to peg these guys down with a list of genres but honestly, screw that. This album is one for the senses, and trust me, every single one will be stimulated.
Texture, texture everywhere running up and down my skin, rattling my spine, massaging my jaw. There is more than three dimensions to these eight tracks. A big part of that comes from their concept of percussion. It's like they're 3D printing the tune right into your ear canal. I could almost feel or even taste it. When I closed my eyes I could see geometric shapes building on top of one another or puffs of smoke warping into different shapes. Typically albums in this ballpark like to keep it light and fluffy. This album is anything but light and fluffy. Each track has weight and gravitas to it. Yes you're going on a journey, but your feet are rooted into the ground.
I will admit, you've got to work for the lyrics, but that didn't come as shock to me. Once you steady yourself in the sensory overload, you can make out fantastic lyrics. This was not the lyrical style I am accustomed to hearing with music like this. It's not all flighty metaphors. A lot of the words are very real and earthbound. Again, they managed to exceed and transcend my expectations.
For a debut album, there are a lot of things to applaud here. For one, this album is a home recording project and hot damn it sounds like a pro production. Managing the countless and delicate layers it takes to build one of these tracks would be daunting for many. Perhaps then it was a good thing that the band didn't ship it off to be handled by the hands of someone else. Instead band member and producer Sam Lev handled business from the comfort of his home. You can tell he had skin in the game because the production is essentially an instrument in itself when it comes to this music.
I'll try to be brief as I explain why this album is worth your money and time. I think music like this is the future. It doesn't paint pictures. Those are too two-dimensional. No, this music is sculpting and composing full body experiences. It's something you almost breathe into yourself. No I'm not on any recreational substances at the moment for those of you wondering. I simply listened to this album in its entirety, and this is where I'm at with it.
Oh yeah, who's ready to have some fun? I know I am. Considering that I ran away to southern California to avoid the tundra like hell scape that is Chicago in January, you can guess where my head is at. So here comes Hot Work, a particularly amusing band from Sydney, Australia. Their EP is Clean Living and the irony with that title is pretty thick. The four tracks are a love letter to the fun surf and doo wop genres of the ’50s and ’60s. However it's covered in salt and dirt. What is it that I love about this album more than anything else? I suppose it would be the big sweaty balls it has slapped on it.
I was smiling the moment I heard the first track "Got Me On My Knees." I got those wicked, surfy bass lines with the unmistakable vocal stylings of vocalist Michael Van Dyk. He's a screamer that one. Literally, he is fearless when it comes to dishing out the irreverent lyrics. Somehow amidst his wailing and brutal proclamations, I am not annoyed, and I cannot stress how easy it is to annoy me. No, instead I was charmed and empathized with the nonsensical sounds he makes.
“A Drink Doesn’t Hurt None” digs pretty deep. It's almost four-minutes long and boy does it know how to hang there. I appreciate their conviction in this song. This a great one to hear all the musicianship at work. Everyone gets their turn at shaking their goods for you. The end of it takes its time sputtering out of control into nothing, and while it was not my favorite, I can respect it all the same.
Next up was,"Honey" which puts you back on the cheery, happy fun surf time track, but I didn't believe it for a moment. This one is thick with irony and howling at the moon due to the monotony of our existence. This one had me smiling as well, mainly because it was both parts adorable and grotesque.
The final track on the EP is "Alone Not Lonely." Now here we get a whole different vocal styling that is a little more traditional to those doo wop days. It was lovely, and boy was he hitting notes I didn't see coming. I always love a good surprise. The song is fun, but ran a little too close to its doo wop roots. I like these guys best when they're taking all the things they love and making some original, ill-tasting stew.
I think with more of a focus on forging their own genre path, I would be head over heels for these guys. This EP is a lovely sampling of what these guys are about and I am quite taken with their point of view. Check it out for yourself if you need something to shake loose your worst impulses. I am genuinely chomping at the bit to hear what's come out of this band next.
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