The American Buffalo is a music and art project from Dayton, OH, currently based out of Nashville, TN. At the helm of the project is Josh Edward. Edward is joined by bassist Kieran Cronley, drummer Tim Weigand and guitarist Jackson Badgley, who together make up the core of The American Buffalo. The band is releasing their debut album entitled Reflections.
The sound on the record is soft, a melding of indie rock, alt, pop, lounge, blues and jazz that offers up a lush soundtrack filled with melody-driven guitars, a trickling of piano, a smattering of drums and energized percussions.
Reflections opens up with “Into The Blue,” where noodling on the acoustic guitar starts off this track. Edward’s vocals are mesmerizing. At the focal is Edward’s dazzling vocals that evoke great emotion and range. The acoustic song then segues into a fuller band vibe with a smattering of piano melodies, drums, percussions and bass. A lounge vibe could be detected. Brushes of drama makes itself apparent on this track. The vocals are reverb-drenched.
On “Composition No. 5,” numerating on the acoustic guitar jumpstarts this song. The vocals soar buoyed by the guitar and ambient synths. This is a slower striding number with a country-twang vibe and Americana feel. A melodic piano melody courses through this dramatic sounding ballad.
On “Caught Between Our Troubles,” a slow sauntering sound comes from the acoustic guitar. The drums provide a marching backbeat. The sound is ominous with the electric guitar offering riffs of discord. The cadence is slightly off-kilter. Edward’s vocals are operatic with a sound reminiscent of Fun. This is a slow burning ballad. It has a nice flow to it with a touch of drama. A jam session ensues around the four-and-a-half-minute mark. An enthused revelry project itself. The track showcases a joyous celebration.
On the closer “Come Into My Bungalow,” dynamic numerating on the acoustic guitar starts off this song traced by the sound of trumpets. This is an energetic and sun-soaked track with catchy and melodic riffs, offering up a lounge and great jazzy flair. The sound is amped and fully charged. This is a real dance-worthy song. The infectious tunes make it a highlight. A beatific melody on the acoustic guitar pervades.
Edward’s vocals really take front and center in these polished tracks. He sings with range and power and I was really drawn to his dynamic vocals. Edward’s voice is impassioned and listeners will be carried away by the very ebb and flow of his vocals.
Like its namesake, The American Buffalo’s journey ripples across the American landscape through prairies, mountains and fields. Covering vast terrain, Reflections encompasses soundscapes that evoke the American catalog. From indie rock, pop, alt, lounge, blues and jazz, Reflections is an amalgam of the band’s influences. Referring to such folk legends like Nick Drake, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen as well as songwriters Jeff Buckley, David Bowie and Paul McCartney and nods to contemporaries like Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes, Reflections is a timeless record taking us back to the bare essentials. As Edward bares all with his emotional vocals and as the band members’ tight-knit chemistry coalesce with enraptured playing, this is a weighty record with sonic displays that soar with attention to detail and fine-tuned to appeal to audiences of the all above genres.
Inspired by rock n’ roll throughout the ages, the first half of Reflections contain songs that relish in a cool, smooth vibe with a jazzy flair while the latter consist of tracks that revolve around a retro-inspired air reminiscent of such acts like the Beatles and David Bowie. On this polished production, the band wears their heart on their sleeves with this heartfelt and warm record. Reflections showcases a whole lot of potential and I look forward to hearing more from the band.
North Carolina brothers, Chris and Josh Hayes, who were previously involved in a guitar driven band known as XD Out, are back again with a new album and a new name – Torn Sky. After recording three albums and making music together for nearly 20 years, their latest release debuted under this new name was created with no preconceived style in mind. This new exploration allowed the brothers to experiment with new instruments, for example the banjo, which Josh plays, and to invite guest musicians to the fold while also paying tribute to some of their favorite artists, covering songs by The Beatles and Tom Petty. This project was a very personal one as well, as it involves songs “born out of difficult times” that deal with loss, loneliness but hope for the future. The brothers close the album with an emotional tribute to their father who passed away in 2013.
“Hope” begins the album with a rocking beat, steady and bass-y. Further in, the band rocks out pretty good in a familiar way, like post-rock/grunge and indie rock bands of the ‘90s – Foo Fighters come to mind. “Breathe” rocks a little grittier and lower in a classic rock anthem kind of way (na-na-na-na-na-na). The drums sound excellent and I liked the reverb effects on the guitars, too. “On Our Way” rocks more gently with a cleaner guitar sound and style. Somewhere between a rock ballad that has a meaningful message with pop radio sensibilities. “Moving On” offers the listener a funkier rock style, with plenty of quick changing bass lines, which I loved. The guitar riffs were pretty fun and catchy, too.
“I Won’t Back Down” is the brothers’ own version of the Tom Petty classic. You won’t hear the post-Traveling Wilbury’s sound that Petty adopted in the ‘90s. But you will hear nice backup singing, slide guitar action and overall, a nicely executed cover. “The Very End” adds a little rocking swagger to the brothers’ catalog, with what I believe is a song about the end of time and the science of physics. Overall, this song seemed to have a complex approach to Torn Sky’s songwriting, rather than something more cut and dry. “Believe” features another catchy guitar riff and more of the brothers’ own brand of rock-anthem power. If there’s any one song on Torn Sky’s entire album that I would recommend, this would be it. I loved the sparse use of lyrics and the inspirational sounding key it was in. Sometimes the simpler styled songs pack the most punch.
Another cover the duo takes one is The Beatles “The Word” which is off the Fab Four’s 1965 release, Rubber Soul. Clearly, Torn Sky’s version is different, if nothing more than the way the guitars and drums sound and the song’s production. It rocks harder, but then again, I’m comparing a classic song from 1965 to today. Overall, a faithful rendition. “New Song (20 years)” fades in with a heavy beat and even heavier bass lines. I really liked the song’s melody and overall structure. It had a light, hopeful message with the lyrics but also, the brothers’ instrumentation offered a heavier rock edge.
“The Fight” is perhaps Torn Sky’s heaviest rocking song. The guitars are edgy and mean, the singing dark and brooding, as the drums smash hard. Oh yeah, and there’s some great moments of rage singing – “stand with me, FIGHT!” What I liked best is when the drums drop out and the metal edged guitars take center stage. The brothers’ last number is a tribute to their father – “See You Someday” and it finds the duo trying their hand at playing the banjo. Lyrically, the song’s words are heartfelt and are clearly coming from a deeply spiritual place. The blend of banjo and electric guitar make for an intriguing sound. The thundering drums were excellent, and I enjoyed the song’s chord melodies. Chris’ vocals are chilling and beautiful. My heart goes out to them, because I could sense how they felt when they wrote this song – (my father passed away 10 years ago). The ending surprise was the addition of a trumpet. A powerful song overall, quite emotional. In a word, Torn Sky’s debut was solid.
Jacob Goodman, a transplanted Detroit mathematician, delivers Lost at Last, a self-recorded EP from his current post in Madrid, Spain. The EP is short - clocking in at just over sixteen minutes - and holds together well through its guitar-laden tracks.
The opening song “Move Along” opens with a Jack Johnson feel, but adds spacey tones and a cool, jazz-tinged guitar solo near the end. Next up is “Freeform” which evokes the acoustic version of “Layla,” especially during Goodman’s guitar solo.
“Without”, the third track, is the top pick on this EP. The brooding, melancholic guitar supports Goodman’s emotional vocal performance, while the psychedelic synthesizers give a nice change in texture between the verses. The track builds up to a strong climax, highlighted by soaring vocals.
“Koi Pond” gives us a unique juxtaposition of finger style acoustic guitar and metal-style drum programming, with lots of double kick-drum figures. I don’t think I’ve ever heard those styles married together before (although maybe Nuno Bettencourt did sometime during his Extreme days). The track finishes with a distorted, hard-rock guitar solo. Goodman closes with “Homogenous,” another finger style piece, this time augmented with dreamy, swirling synths.
Lost at Last displays a guitarist clearly in control of his instrument, and the tones and moods it can generate. For his next offering, I’d like to hear more dynamics from the percussion tracks - perhaps using a live drummer would help. Also, the songwriting could be developed further. I was left wanting a pre-chorus, a bridge, or even a gratuitous key change to break up some of the repetitive patterns in the music. “Without” includes some of this variation, and it shines towards a bright future for Mr. Goodman.
As soon as I read the title “I Walk the Line For You” by White Owl Red I was thinking this had to be some kind of homage to Johnny Cash. Turns out my assumption was right when I read about the song. It is certainly country infused with elements of Americana and folk.
“I Walk the Line For You” melds organ, reverb laced slide guitar, exceptional percussive elements and bass. The initial blend of instrumentation on the verse actually brought to mind Bruce Springsteen more than Johnny Cash. The vocalist Josef McManu sounds a bit like the Boss on the verse and even contains lyrics I could imagine him singing. I have zero complaints in this department.
The song emits nostalgia on the verse but once the chorus pops there are more joyous and upbeat vibes. I also thought the guitar reflected the playing style of Johnny Cash. The lyrics are an obvious tip of the hat when he sings.
I think by the time I got to the second chorus I was already humming along. By my second run though I was tapping my feet. Suffice it to say this is a great song but it's not all that surprising. Back in 2017 the full length album by White Owl Red Naked and Falling was rewarded TOP ALBUM honors.
If “I Walk the Line For You” is any indication of what is going to be in store on his next full length his album could very well make that list again. In the meantime I’ll be enjoying “I Walk the Line For You” and in fact it inspired me to put on some Johnny Cash as well. Take a listen.
Jeff Baker is a singer/songwriter/guitarist living in Los Angeles who recently released “TBD.” He explains “The Big Dream” is a collection of eight songs about finding inner beauty in people, of helping others make positive changes in their lives, and seeking one’s dream despite challenges, addictions and distractions.
I spent some time listening to his music and I would say this is more of a pop album than anything else. Sure there are guitars but this is the kind of music you would hear on popular radio stations in the ’90s. Bands like Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox Twenty and other like-minded bands come to mind.
Although Baker says the album is about “being positive and finding the bright side in life” not every song is bursting with joyous vibes nor should it be. Do you know anyone who is constantly feeling like they arrived and are so happy there can’t be anymore problems?” Of course not, that doesn't exist. People experience patterns of energy, emotions and more that are always changing.
That being said there aren’t many grey areas on this release. There are clear emotions that Baker plays into like hope, fear and happiness. Take for instance the song “The Night That We Almost Met.” This song is feeding into a joyous, upbeat and happy vibe. That's the emotion the song hits upon during the verse and chorus.
A song like “Sherpa” however is much much more nostalgic and hopeful. The sound builds with more intensity as the song progresses. He plays into more uplifting emotions on “Feels Like A Friday'' where he paints a picture that everyday is just as good as the next. Baker ends with the most melancholy and intimate song called “The Big Dream.” The last song was actually my personal favorite.
I’m not going to skirt around the fact that Baker makes music that will appeal to a mainstream music fan. If you are a fan of indie rock bands like Grizzly Bear and Deerhunter I don’t think this will be up your alley. If you lean towards the former I think you will be happy with the results.
The five songs on You Again by Kat Lock were picked in order to represent different times in her life. I thought this was a nice change of pace. Most of the time I read about an album or EP representing a period of time (often a hard time) so it was cool to experience more of a change.
The music is fantastic from the production and the songwriting and oh my god can Lock sing. Just listen to the last thirty seconds of the first song “Art” and you will hear what I mean. Speaking of “Art” the whole song is great. I loved the melding of melancholy electric piano and more upbeat guitar strumming. The band sounds fantastic and soulful. It’s a killer song where everything from the verse, to the bridge to the chorus delivers.
Up next is “Biggest Mistake” and I was catching a slight country/pop vibe on this song. It is another great song but perhaps even more accessible in a broader way. There is an interesting change of direction on “Demitrius.” The song begins with atmosphere and ambience. There is a bit of a Mazzy Star type vibe. Her vocals sound fantastic against the pads and guitars. The song does explode once it gets to around the halfway mark and becomes the most dynamic song by reaching epic crescendos utilizing lead guitar.
“Embarrassed” is a great breakup song. The horns are a nice addition and I would say this song felt empowering and hopeful. She’s pissed off but moving on. “Someone Else's Future (alt version)" is the closer and really capitalizes on persevering forward. The horns and vocals - enough said.
This is a great EP. Lock is a top notch singer and the instrumentation really shines a light on that fact. Take a listen.
Simeon Ross is a prolific Toronto based musician who has an impressive discography. He released more than ten albums with various bands. His latest is entitled Westmount.
I was reading about his influences. Ross says he was influenced by post-punk bands from the ’80s, The Tallest Man On Earth, Phoebe Bridges and more. I have to admit I was surprised how pop oriented some of the songs on this EP sounded based on his influences. That being said there is a hybrid he creates and I thoroughly enjoyed his music.
The EP starts with “Arise” and blends guitar, bass drums and fairly prominent pads. At the center of the song are his vocals. He sounds confident and hopeful but his lyrics are yearning for someone and a family, and are heartbreaking. The chorus is undeniably catchy and memorable. I would say the same thing goes for the verse.
Up next is “All For You” which contains some very pretty guitar patterns. The song is melancholy and hopeful. There is another great chorus. It actually reminded me of one of my favorite bands - Pulp. The romantic quality was sincere and well done.
The title track “Westmount” felt like the most pop-oriented track. There is no denying the chorus has a radio ready quality to it. My personal preference leans towards a song like “Red Lights.” The verse was actually the thing that really stuck with me on this song. His vocals sounded especially good on the verse and I always appreciate a good bass and drum breakdown.
My favorite track was “Under The Gun.” The song is flashy, funky and contains horns. His vocals seem to get to a different level here. I loved it. “Solar Flares' ' successfully went back into territory more similar to “All For You.” He closes with the “Lowlands” which contains a wicked groove and was another highlight to my ears. The vocals reminded me of Bowie when he was singing with the subtle atmosphere in the song.
There is a clear juxtaposition with these songs. The music is often hopeful and full of bright choruses. If you listen to the lyrics they deal with loss, doubt, heartbreak. There are plenty of moments where he doesn't seem to know when and where salvation will arrive. That dichotomy is one of the reasons it can be so powerful. Take a listen.
Milkbath, a duo hailing from College Park, MD, dropped their eponymous EP Milkbath in October 2019. After a few years of development, experimentation and lineup changes, singer/lyricist Maya and multi-instrumentalist Rainor have arrived at a delicious initial offering which effortlessly delivers fresh takes on familiar styles.
The EP kicks off with “Pomme” and engages from the first downbeat. The track evokes the best of ‘80s synth-pop, fusing Blondie’s punk sensibilities with lusher, sinuous synth lines and alluring vocal textures from Maya. They keep it up on “Koza” employing live drums by Jian and bringing in some more direct disco elements.
The ending on “Koza” moves the listener from the dance hall to a more intimate acoustic-guitar setting, leaving us ready for “Uroborus.” “Uroborus” is flat-out terrific. The guitar work on the chorus recalls the Beatles’ “Julia” but the second time the chorus comes around, the track has built way beyond its initial coffeehouse feeling, taking us into outer space with thick, swirling crescendos of sound.
“Spoons” comes next, a melodic ditty driven by staccato guitar which felt like something Lindsey Buckingham would have played on a good day. Milkbath augments the space with a lovely complement of dreamy backing vocals and synths. The dreamlike feeling continues halfway into “Certain Silences” when Jian’s drums return and kick the doors open for the last minute of the EP ending with those certain silences ironically interrupted.
Milkbath is a treat from start to finish. The tracks sound terrific — they are dreamy yet bursting with undeniable energy. The overall experience is coherent and well-constructed. I’m left wanting more. More Milkbath please!
The Stay at Home Dads are Dillon Markham (drums), Jacob Diamante (guitar), Alan Woulfe (bass) and David Wilson (vocals). They formed in 2010 and recently released Heavy Load.
At their core they are a rock band. There were a couple of bands that seemed to be clear influences. The band certainly sounds like rehearsed veterans. They give great performances which felt organic, powerful and in the pocket.
After a quick intro the band gets going with a highlight called “Breaking Through.” There is some formidable slap bass happening before the band explodes. Once the vocals come there is a pretty strong resemblance to Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine. The affectation and inflection has that aggressive vocal style that de la Rocha for the most part invented. Once the chorus begins however they go into a hard rock style with a noticeably different vocal style that is more straightforward. Great song.
I was getting different vibes off of “Can't Let Go.” The riff on the verse is fantastic with a blaring lead guitar and a steady rhythm section. There is a very different vocal style which comes closer to a singer like Maynard James Keenan. The chorus explodes with ’80s metal band vibrato. It's a great mix.
With those first two songs I wasn’t sure what else to expect on the album. “Never Satisfied” goes back into Rage Against the Machine territory but perhaps with more levity on this run. The music felt like a melding between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage. It sounded like the best of both worlds.
The band gets melancholy and atmospheric on “Trails'” which shows more sides to the band. There is a strong grunge flavor on the chorus. You then get a more pop/hard rock oriented track like “What Am I Missing?” As the album progresses the band dances on a spectrum between the aforementioned styles with a high degree of success.
The band sometimes feels like a party band. There are also more serious sounding songs. There seems to be a influence mostly coming from ’90s rock bands which is spread out over these songs. I did have some difficulty finding any recurring sign posts that formed a signature sound.
The performances are great throughout and I kept getting the feeling this band would be a blast to see live. If they ever tour in Chicago I’ll be waiting in line. Take a listen.
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
J-Dog First 3.6
Pseudo You Red Meadow 3.6
Nervous Pulp The Fuzzy Orange Ep 3.5
Witnesses III 3.9
Let The Storm
Ride Out Darker Goes The
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