Palmer T. Lee who is one half of The Lowest Pair recently released Winebringer. The album is a stripped back acoustic, folk album. It's somewhere between Bright Eyes when they are a folk band and The Tallest Man on Earth. You can really feel the room on these recording as if you can fairly accurately predict as to where the mics were placed. It sounds great. The organic quality to the song creates the human connection that I think most of us hope to get when listening to music.
There is also just enough diversity on the album to keep things interesting in terms of instrumentation and mood. Things starts off contemplative and reflective with a ’60s bohemian folk vibe. The vocal melodies are arguably at their best and most poignant here.
“Aw Jeez” follows a similar emotional space but the strumming pattern is different. The wings of the album start to spread on “Fat Barred Owl” which adds some mandolin into the mix. ”Uneasy” felt like a centerpiece. It’s a gorgeous song with the most instrumentation yet. The warm strings feel like a comforting hug when you desperately need one and the vocals are heartfelt reflections on the human condition.
“So Between Eyes” strips things back with just guitar and vocals which felt like a good move considering the previous song. Next up is “Rice and Beets.” It’s the longest song coming in at seven minutes. There isn’t much movement on this song which seemed to be more about the lyrics and mood. Towards the end of the song he repeats the lyrics “And I had the strangest dream” till it fades seamlessly transitions into the organ. A beautiful transition.
“Moon You” is another song like ”Uneasy” that is full on instrumentation and notable vocal harmonies. The title track “Winebringer” strips things back again before “Fiddle Bow” takes you home with banjo, fiddle and guitar.
Two of the great things about vinyl is that it is a pain in the butt to skip tracks and pulling out a record from its sleeve and putting it on a needle is a process. When vinyl was the only thing people could listen to they usually just let it start from the beginning and let it ride. I hate to sound like an old man but that’s only the way of listening to music that captures the creative vision of the artist.
These days songs are made into Spotify playlists and the instant access to million of songs that diminishes the attention in way where we don’t appreciate the art as much as we could. My point is to do yourself a favor with this album. Treat it like a vinyl record and just press play and listen. I’m pretty sure you will be happy you did.
Blair B. aka Luxury Eviction just released an album entitled Master of None. The album is made of electronic and organic elements which always veer towards a darker aesthetic. Bands like Portishead, Grouper and even Fionna Apple come to mind.
There is some beautiful instrumentation throughout and there is also no denying the vocals were impressive. I myself love dark music to get wrapped into although sometimes just a little levity goes a long way no matter if you are Radiohead, Portishead or any other artist that presents a very “serious” approach to their music. I can’t say there was much levity to be found but there were moments here and there.
The album starts with the title track “Master of None.” You are greeted with some minimal piano but the song quickly picks up when the drums are introduced. I loved the jazzy, clean drum they have here. It’s a pretty catchy song and the lyrics are ambiguous and interpretive but there is occasionally straightforward language such as “And I promise someday / You’ll feel ok / You will recognize / The soul you've made.”
Up next is “Dragonflies in Hurricanes” which is a strong name for a song. It’s rainy and windy at first with the hum of an organ which has a symbiotic relationship with the elements. The vocals come in and are the clear focal point. As the song progresses it’s kept minimal with no percussion introduced.
An electronic beat starts off “Altered Cinder.” This is one of the more dynamic vocal performances and the instrumentation blends piano with warmer sub bass frequencies.
“On Your Tongue” is essentially soft orchestral elements, pianos and vocals. It’s a haunting and beautifully dynamic song. “Catching Fire” puts the emphasis on a warmer organ and vocals while “Could Be Worse” could be considered the levity I was referring to which comes in the form of hope. The album closes with “SoulStar” which is minimal and you might see the space between the piano notes is just as important as the notes that are playing.
I think it’s fair to say Master of None isn’t an album you might play in your car everyday on your ride to work to get the day going. It’s a darker album that will might put you in a pensive, reflective mood. That’s not a bad thing because I think these types of albums are a little deeper and perhaps best if appreciated once in a while. It’s sort of how I feel about albums like The Wall by Pink Floyd. The album is so epic it’s best utilized in the moments when we need them. On that note I suggest you take some time to discover what this artist offers.
I feel like in today's political climate there is always room for an anti-establishment album. In fact, right now I would say there can't be too many. Rising up in their own, pop folk way is The Dog Wood Three with their self-titled album The Dog Wood Three. It's an album that illustrates a picture of rural life and touches on both political and emotional subject matter. In many cases those emotional and political veins collide. I think what I like most about this album is that they strongly illustrate just how personal political issues can be.
The album features a full lineup of eleven tracks. As I said, this album has a very rural feel and while I listened to it my mind was painting lovely, sprawling landscapes. The music is lovely. It cuts itself down the the smooth bare bones. There were also a lot of solid vocal performances. The aesthetic behind this album was the idea that the songs would resemble folk tales. I like this idea, but there were lots of moments where their steadfast conviction to this almost did them a disservice. The vocal and instrumental elements are good.
There is a lot of talent here and these guys are very capable. Sometimes I got the sense they pulled back on their more sophisticated and modern tracks to keep in line with the folksy theme. I think there was more than enough room for them to veer more heavily into more modern, indie areas and they would have done it very well. They have definitely mastered that folk feel. I can tell these are genres this group has a love for and that's what gives this album so much heart.
This album was forged in the wild wilderness of the mountains of Queensland, Australia and I think that beautiful landscape seeped into the music. I think the recording process was a success, especially when considering this was a home project. For the finishing touches, the album was turned over to Don Bartley at Benchmark Studios. This production on the whole I would confidently categorize as a success.
I think the album speaks to an audience that is empathetic and has a bit of wanderlust. These winding tales they tell are deeply personal and honest. Not all anti-establishment music has to scream and shout. In the case of The Dog Wood Three, they tell an engaging story. I commend the group for their passion and undeniable dedication to this album.
Color Failure is a band from Texas comprised of Brandon Maahs, Will Hughes, Isabella Hutto and Jaime Esposito. They released their self-titled debut Color Failure which is a pretty eclectic album. I was sometimes reminded of the band CHVRCHES because of the positive, synth rock and the lead singer who happens to sound similar to Lauren Mayberry.
I really liked this album but there were some songs which felt like undeniable standouts to me. The opening song “Celadon Sky” is easily the most unique and inventive sounding song on the album especially the first two minutes. It’s very cinematic and they use unique percussive elements. The song is pretty epic and doesn't feel over the top.
The next song “Speak With the Sparks” felt a lot more predictable and familiar but still was quite good. They keep the energy up here. It’s basically a rock song with a couple of lead synths thrown in.
“Silent Movie Star” could be the pop single. It’s catchy but I was a lot more interested and taken by “Where the Love Begins” which plays with experimental, atmospheric soundscapes. The guitar “Interlude” didn’t really feel all that necessary. They got into a more organic rock sound with “Outlier.” They hit upon a clear highlight with “I Fell Into the Sea” which is the song that should be the single that sounds contemporary and catchy.
The band has more success with “Lionshare” and “Hypersomnia” which successfully melds electronic and rocks elements. “Panacea” has its moments but was almost too epic. I felt like it should have been playing while watching the movie Avatar.
This is a band with tons of talent but they also fell victim to a very familiar trap that tends to happen on debut efforts. The band is simply attempting too many styles to form a signature sound which is really vital early on. Far and away the band excels on the more electronic oriented tracks and I think they should continue to explore experimental approaches that you hear on ““Celadon Sky” and combining it with the more catchy melodies they have on “I Fell Into the Sea.” I think it would behoove the band to ditch the more straightforward rock songs all together.
Overall, when the band gets it right they really nail it and that is worth the price of admission. I wish them luck as they evolve and look forward to hearing their next move.
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
The False and
the Fair The Space In Between 3.9
Should've Flesh From Bone 3.6
Unpaved Highway Fragments of My Life 3.6
Austin Basinger Austin Basinger 3.7
Royal And The
Southern Echo Correspondence 3.7
TOYLIT is a band from Arizona formed by Effren Haro, Carlos Velasquez and Nathaniel Lopez. They recently released The Real American Zero. The band plays into a mix of rock genres quite successfully. I really liked the musicianship especially the drumming. The vocals were the most divisive aspect to me. The vocalist sounds really tense, dramatic, aggressive and even angry almost the entire time. This approach seemed to work much better when the music matches his levels of intensity. The softer moments however could feel jarring and the vocals sometimes seemed like they were separated from the music.
The band gets going with “All On Your Own” which is one of the highlights. It’s a solid song but the NOFX esque chorus is really where the band thrives. “Ghost White” is perhaps the best example of the vocals clashing with the music. I thought the music on the verse was great. I wanted the vocalist to just take it back a bit. It just seemed a bit over the top on certain words. The chorus however is again where the band thrives. The vocalist sounds like Tim Harrington from Les Savy Fav who is one of my all time favorite vocalists.
“Eyes” has perhaps the prettiest verse yet, bringing to mind a band like Pavement. The formula is a little different on this song with no distinct hook but it works for the song. “Me, You” mixes elements of post-rock and features a stellar performance from the drummer. It’s also arguably the best all around performance from the vocalist. “15 Thoughts” is another solid song. It’s dynamic, kinetic and emotionally resonant.
This band seems to be on to something. I think a couple of tweaks regarding the details as previously mentioned should be the focus moving forward. There is definitely a lot to appreciate and they cover a broad spectrum of punk, indie rock and post-rock that I think I a lot of people would love. Take a listen.
Buice is an Atlanta indie band consisting of Hayden Locke (bass/vocals/production), Russell Houk (guitar/vocals) and Ian Valdés (drums). The band formed in June 2018 and recorded a demo called The Walrus EP.
The demo is really lo-fi even for this type of raw garage/indie rock but the band can definitely bring the goods. Things get going with “The Gods Must Hate Me” which consists of heavy ’70s style rocking with these breaks in between where one of the guys goes into a spoken word section. It worked well enough and the talking is kept to a minimum.
The band mellows out somewhat with “Overdose.” The verse is bubbly and a little bit jazzy sounding. I liked the syncopated bass part. The intensity revs up a bit as the song progresses and proves to be a pretty catchy song. The band burst into surf rock with “Walrus.” It’s one of the highlights and sounded like a song that could have been in Pulp Fiction. The chorus is heavy and felt a little more grunge inspired.
“Grow Up” features exaggerated vocals which are somewhere between speaking and singing. You can feel the momentum building as it progresses. Once you get to around the three-minute mark the vocalist is screaming and you get a pretty epic sounding guitar solo.
“Break Me” is a light, funky and breeze song which again features a mix of spoken word and traditional singing. They close with “Thirteen” which embraces a ’50s pop aesthetic and style.
The band is in their embryonic stage but has a lot going for them. Getting a proper studio at some point and refining their style a bit more should be on their to do list. I’m looking forward to where they go from here.
A:rport is a band from New York comprised of Natasha Razek (synths/vocals), Dee Wonder (drums) and Johny Deep (bass). The band released a self-titled demo A:rport which showcases a little of what they have been up to.
They have a dark, atmospheric quality to their sound as you can hear on the first track “Event Horizon.” The synths create the atmosphere with the bass sticking to heavy root notes. Razek sings barely above a whisper and I had a hard time making out the lyrics. I liked the vibe and post-punk groove but the band too easily went out of the pocket.
Up next is “Beta Run” which actually felt a little more lo-fi than the opener. The vocals seemed like they were recorded in another room. Deep keeps the momentum up with a number of bass lines that drive the song.
“Hailey” has its moments. The bass hangs really low and I like the way the synth merged with the distortion. “Montauk” was another solid track and one of the few songs that features some light guitar along with what you might call an interesting and unusual phone conversation.
As the album progresses they continue to create a dark, haunting foundation of goth inspired post-punk. They seemed to have the most success with “Animals,” “Stratosphere” and “Glass Sky.”
The band does a good job at letting you know who they are on this album. I think the next step would be to work with an engineer/producer who can hone in on the sound. Prior to that however would just be working on being a little tighter of a band. Some deviation from a BPM is fine but when the musicians play out of sync with each other that can cause issues.
Overall, this is a solid first release. I think the band has some potential and look forward to hearing them evolve.
Supervised is the brainchild of Bruno Marinho. Originally conceived in Rio, Brazil, Marinho relocated to San Francisco, California for the bulk of recording the self-titled album Supervised. Each track reflects the change in locale, and also the personal journey of Marinho. The album is a self-proclaimed learning exercise, however, the skill demonstrated on each instrument and in the mixing is anything but elementary.
The opening track “The Invisible Man” begins with an ominous synth that gives way to crashing drums and a shredding guitar. As the track mellows out it leads into the lyrics. Haunting and dark, the track carries the mood of a stormy afternoon. Bits of sunshine can poke out in between bursts of rain and thunder. The explosive energy of the track that comes and goes between the slow and burning verses creates a great foil for itself as the track rises and falls.
Following later in the album, “Lack of Faith” opens like a Rage Against The Machine song, and is then joined by a spaced out synthesizer that sounds like it would be more at home in a Daft Punk song. However, the blend works incredibly well, raising the energy level of the song to a new plane as listeners settle into the track as a whole. The body of the track is laden with crash cymbals and synthesizer lines that highlight the breaks in the vocals. As the chorus rises, the story of the song is revealed more. As the chorus ends, a guitar solo carries the song yet another plane higher.
Supervised will appeal to fans that enjoy listening to a whole album. There are many long tracks on the album, jam packed with synthesizer lines and solos on every instrument to fully take in and digest. The tracks don’t feel like nine minutes. The changes in song sections are timed perfectly to keep a listener’s attention. I think everyone will be able to find something to like about this album.
Cole Withers is a singer/songwriter based in Idyllwild, CA. His brand of music is deeply rooted in American soul, R&B and rock n’ roll. His current band has played throughout Southern California and they’ve been featured on NBC news in the Coachella Valley having only been together less than a year. The lyrics to his debut The Last Bookstore has been called “haunting” and “moving” and his sound has been compared to Bob Seger/Tom Petty/Bruce Springsteen by radio DJs and the press.
“Wash Away” breaks into an American rock n’ roll sound very reminiscent of Bob Seger’s work from the ‘70s. This was my first time hearing Withers’ and hell yeah, his voice is almost spot on Seger. “Mary Queen of Mt. Washington” features a faster, upbeat drive, jangling guitar rhythms with a sweet solo. Another fast driving song is “Surrender to Win” and Withers’ lyrics on this one are quite imaginative. His message is inspirational and, in a way, reminded me of Seger’s “Roll Me Away.”
“Rescue Me” slows things down with acoustic flavors and warm, bright guitars. Backing vocals added a great soul vibe and the guitar solo on this one was damn good, too. The spirit to this number reminded me of Petty’s “Free Falling.” “Eastern Standard” is another slower tune, more ballad like, and features saxophone. I liked this one for its melancholy vibe and Withers’s lyrics about reminiscing.
“As It Is” has been played on FM radio in the Midwest and I could tell why – it has a nice rock radio sound, with lyrics about falling in love, making love, catchy guitar licks and an excellent guitar solo. The break in between – where the bass guitar gets its two cents in – was especially good.
“Ghost of God” has a swinging beat and taps well into a soulful classic, R&B style. “Love Never Ends” features a great shuffling beat, worthy of getting on the dance floor. Wither’s lyrics get spiritual, as he sings about “the Alpha, the Omega, the beginning and the end…love never ends.” The track to the album’s title takes a more storytelling approach with lyrics about meeting a girl with a “scarf in her hair and reading Voltaire” inside a bookstore that is the last one to ever exist. The sounds of the guitars reminded me of the Grateful Dead or something on the softer end of ‘70s rock n’ roll. “Heartbeat Away” has a “wind-in-your-hair” open road sound and felt like a good way to end the album.
If you like classic, American rock n’ roll reminiscent of Bob Seger and Springsteen, then Cole Withers’ The Last Bookstore is waiting for you to check out.
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