Peter Blau Ormsby, Edwin Blau, Dylan Long and Evan Marczynski are Grizzly Troubadour. The band from Washington recently released Hop This Fence With Me. I remember hearing the name Karl Blau from way back in the day when listening to The Microphones and Peter and Edwin are his brothers. The band said “We have been recording and performing for some years before finalizing this first full length album in 2019. The songs represent a couple decades of songwriting. The songs have morphed over time, changing titles and adding parts.”
I love the idea that songs aren’t static. For the most part I love it when a band plays different versions live. Hop This Fence With Me contains very well crafted songs that were such a pleasure to listen to. The songwriting is sharp and the melodies are catchy but the songs are very relaxing. I thought the album felt like a relaxed Sunday morning.
Things get going with the wonderful “Med and Metal Ink” and I loved the groove on this song. There is a bluegrass vibe mixed with The Grateful Dead to my ears. The brush work was great on the snare. I loved the vocals for myriad reasons. The character, tone and texture of the vocals was very appealing. I just felt very relaxed and comfortable while listening to the music but it was actually pretty joyous as well.
“Orion” is full of memorable melodies. I had a hard time not picturing an outdoor festival with a lot of people dancing. It’s a great song with very tight performances. The band continues to crush with highlight “Like Sisyphus” which is a jazzy, smooth and a good way to start your day.
“Frogsong” was a highlight. This song had better recording quality and contains horns, multiple vocal harmonies and much more. It’s such a fun, festive song and absolutely dance worthy. “Tuki vs Arni '' sounded like a tip of the hat to The Velvet Underground. As the album progressed the band hits it out of the park with a lot of great songs. “Grand Scheme” might be the other highlight but it’s a very close call.
I loved this album. The songs are heartfelt, organic and pure. Take a listen.
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Buckhead Shaman is the moniker for Tyler Hobbs. The artist from Atlanta, Georgia recently released Truly. He describes his music as a culmination of freak pop, freak R&B, anti-psychedelia, fake jazz, world country and mystic bullshit. I absolutely love all this but mystic bullshit made me crack up.
Hobbs has an original sound. It’s creative and combines texture and tones that you might not expect with catchy melodies. I would say there are some similarities to Ariel Pink in some ways. The tone of the music doesn't take itself too seriously in fact it kind of dances a line of irony. I love that it kept me guessing especially when the music lands on a powerful moment I was not expecting.
The music is atmospheric with a lot of use of pads. Although it is almost also built on a rather funky foundation of bass and guitar. Take for instance one of the album highlights entitled “Mystery at Dawn.” The song revolves around off kilter percussion, airy pads and some memorable melodies.
“Escape Pods” is another highlight with ephemeral pads that floats into ether but is supported but a sturdy foundation. The vocal melodies are infectious. I also like how dynamic the vocals were. There were certain sections where he takes on a slightly different affectation that works very well with the song.
The Ariel Pink vibe I was talking about seems clear on “Solo Operations.” The sort of tongue-in-cheek quality is there which mostly comes from the vocals. “Tastebloods” sounds like a club hit that’s just a little off center while another highlight “Eleven Times Borrowed Time” is a little anti-folk with some stellar vocals.
As the album progresses there is a lot to appreciate. There are some great songs like “Dear Lord” which reminded me of Flaming Lips or the serene “Art Museum Management.” Hobbs might have saved the best for last with “A North Druid Suite” which is cinematic, grand and goes in multiple directions.
I loved this album from the '70’ flavor to the unique sensibilities. This album is accessible yet experimental. Two very good qualities. Take a listen.
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John Chadderton, Danny Viney, Scott Barclay, and Attila Hegedus are The Silent Mantra. The band formed in 2015 and recently released To The Edge Of Light. Their album contains thirteen songs and combines different genres like post-punk and rock. The first thing that struck me about this album was the vocals. The vocalist sounds a bit like Bono and Matt Berninger from The National. His voice soars and as much as I appreciated the instrumental aspects the vocals are the focal point.
The album starts with “Fly.” Who doesn't like a cowbell and that’s a pretty constant factor in the song along with a smooth bass line and single guitar notes that ring out. The chorus explodes and gets more intense as multiple pads come into the mix. It’s dynamic and when he sings “I can fly” you can believe it.
The band has more success with “Feelings Into Stone” which is infectious, dark and also a good amount of fun. I thought the melodies were memorable upon the first listen. It felt like a song you would have heard on the radio and sung along with friends at night.
The quality of these songs is consistent. Take for instance “On This Day” which actually reminded me of Danzig or the Americana infused “Right Into You.” “Pointless Road” is more of a melancholy and pensive ballad and they sound great here as well. Then you have a song like “Stay Down” which is lush and intimate. They follow that up with the driving “Be The One.” The band is just getting started. Some of the other highlights include “Wake Up” and the dramatic and epic closer “Stellar.”
This is a great album with an older vibe that I thoroughly enjoyed. I was about ten in the late ’80s and still remember when music like this would be played on the radio. The songs on this album could have worked back then and sounds just as good now. Take a listen.
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First Mate is the most recent music project of Shrewsbury, UK-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Vin Whyte. He recently released his self-titled album First Mate which contains eight songs. The album was recorded, mixed and produced over four days in a disused office unit. I loved the range of topics on this release. He explains “the collection of eight songs present a variety of stories about murderers on the run in North Wales, austerity, memory loss, career choices, the notion of land ownership, a fortune teller, a psychopathic farmhand’s daughter and the ghost of a lighthouse keeper dodging flying golf balls.”
He opens with “Bad Hand” which is a seven-plus-minute song that I found to be a very good balance between hope and melancholy. It reminded me of the way I sometimes I feel when I listen to Simon & Garfunkel. The song revolves around clear guitar, a drum beat and exceptional vocals. Towards the end a bass is added to the song but there aren’t too many changes in melody or tone.
“Meet Me In Dwygyfylchi” is a gorgeous song. There is a traditional folk vibe here from the guitar patterns to what sounds like a wooden flute. The lyrics are quite dark. I didn’t even notice until my second listen that it was about a murder.
He has more success with “No More Time To Spend'' and David Bowie actually came to mind on this song - something about his vocal inflection. He is strumming this song and giving it the most rock oriented vibe.
“Old Head At Kinsale” is a festive and fast paced song that calls for a traditional dance while “Seer, Are You There?” is perhaps the most melancholy and pensive song on the album. “The Diary Remembers The Day” is thoughtful and nostalgic and you could actually say the same thing about “Tenderfoot” which is about aging.
He closes with “Faye Fariday” which is short and sounds introspective but it is about a beheading. I actually found it delightful and funny despite the rather morbid topic.
My only critique is I wanted better recording quality on some of the songs. I really enjoyed this album. I felt like I was working at a lighthouse on a beautiful green pasture. That was the image I had in my mind most of the time. There were a couple of sheep I was looking after as well. Well there you have it. That’s a first. Take a listen.
The band Widow Rings is located in Fredericksburg, Virginia and containing two members who moved here from Anchorage, Alaska. The band says “their music aims to blend intense elements of our hardcore and punk rock roots with the atmosphere and at times dance worthy moments of synthesizer based music.”
Their album The Luminous Veil opens with “103119” which is an intro of white noise and distant beat. They get going with “Polaroid” and you can easily notice the post-punk influence from bands like Joy Division and The Cure. As soon as the vocals start, the song begins to feel more pop punk inspired. Something about the delivery felt more celebratory in that way I associate with pop punk. It’s a hybrid but can’t say this had many hardcore elements that I noticed. This felt like a clear highlight.
Up next is “Cape May House Show” and this again felt like more of a blend of pop punk and post-punk. I think the thing that really added to this factor was the character and inflection of the lead vocalist. The music is synth heavy and at moments I was reminded of Postal Service.
“Dissociation” embraces a lot of atmosphere and darker qualities. The ’80s post punk aesthetic is clear. The vocalist sounds his best in a lower register and octave.
“Skinwalker” is pretty straightforward with some resemblance to the band Daughters. The best song on the album was the last one entitled “Party's Over.” I really liked the buzzing, dissonant guitars. I also thought the spoken word vocals were great and this was also the best vocal performance in general.
As an engineer myself I thought the band did a solid job with the home recording. That being said I think at some point it will make a lot of sense to work with an engineer. There are a lot of elements and a lot of things an experienced engineer can do to elevate these mixes.
I thought the vocalist did a great job. It’s also clear he does a much better job singing at a lower octave. Take for instance “Party's Over.” When he gets to a higher octave there are certain notes he has a hard time reaching.
The band is off to a solid start with these songs. I like the blend of genres and the songwriting was good. Take a listen.
The Public Sector is a four-piece indie/punk band from Melbourne, Australia. It’s the musical outlet for musician James Taplin who collaborated with Daniel and Itamar Livne and Oscar Linkson. The band released a self-titled six-song EP The Public Sector which is just a blast from beginning to end. They mention bands like The Strokes, Pixies and Green Day. To my ears I heard a lot of older punk influence like Minutemen and a number of ska bands as well.
The band kicks things off with “False Start.” There is a fade in which leads to verse. It’s immediately catchy and I thought the Australian accents worked very well with this music. The song is sharp but loose and every transition seems to contain another catchy hook. I thought the band did a great job utilizing vocal harmonies.
Up next is perhaps the highlight in the batch entitled “Deer In Headlights (Red In Wine).” The ska influence is more obvious with this song. There is so much to appreciate from the catchy vocal melodies to the slick riff. The bassist crushes it from the ’70s inspired funk to the walking bass line. He is all over the place but in a good way that fits the song. The vocals are absurdly catchy.
“Trudy Door '' brings down the energy a tad but not by much. The ska vibe is gone and replaced by more of an indie vibe. Similar to the previous song there is a lot to appreciate. There are a lot of creative aspects to the song and there are again a ton of hooks.
The energy is brought back up with “Stage Fright” which felt like garage rock 101 done really well while “Boundaries” showcases the band’s ability to play around space. They close with a very punk inspired song entitled “Falls Apart.”
The band clearly has chemistry. They really play off each other well and I thought the instrumentation was unique and creative. This is an EP free of any pretense and it is a good time. Take a listen.
Cormac Ferris, David McGurk, William Saunders, and Jedaiah Van Ewijk are Planet Hunter. The band named themselves on April 19. On the very same day, the Planet Hunter Satellite was launched into outer space.
The band released a four-song eponymous EP Planet Hunter which is a jet fueled rocket of sorts that contains a good amount of kinetic energy. They get going with “Celestial Tongue” and within about ten seconds I was thinking of Queens of the Stone Age. The band does however go in different directions and does tear things up quite well. I was loving the Black Sabbath type breakdown and at points I was even reminded of the band Swans.
On “Dawn of the Ants” the band goes into a dark pre-grunge vibe not unlike The Melvins. It’s sludge infested water with mosquitoes and leeches. The energy is more subdued throughout except the end where they crush it and push on the gas.
“Bitter Winds' ' revisits the Queens of the Stone Age vibe I recognized in the first song. I actually noticed the lead singer sounds like Josh Homme as well which is another factor as to why that band popped up in my mind. You could call this song the ballad of the group and it felt like the most dynamic. It’s like a mix between slow and fast energy which I thought sounded really cool. The breakdown seemed more like a build from a band like Tool. The way they use vocals was very inventive and unique. Great song.
They close strong with “Dynotrash.” It’s hard to pinpoint but I was getting more a classic ’70s hard rock vibe at times. I have to say the transition to the breakdown around the two-minute mark was just badass.
The band is off to a great start. I think shedding just a tad of their influence would be food for thought but I thoroughly appreciated how much these songs rock. I’m ready for more. Recommended.
The song “Jerf (Ft. Reza Kashi & Negar Nik Persian Lounge Music in 432Hz)” by Art Tawanghar is another flavor to a unique vision. He is not joking around when he says “lounge music.” This seriously feels like something you would want to want to listen to to enter a state of utter relaxation and bliss. The thing that I loved about this song is that it works in multiple ways.
Is this the type of song that would sound great in the background when perhaps getting a massage or relaxing in a day spa? Yes, it would. That being said it’s a song where you can delve into the details with a nice pair of headphones. If you aren’t familiar with Art Tawanghar, he layers his music but it’s never too much or sounds forced. The elements all work in unison and “Jerf (Ft. Reza Kashi & Negar Nik Persian Lounge Music in 432Hz)” is no exception.
The song starts with some jazzy guitar, percussion elements, pads, atmosphere and more trickling in. You can hear the Persian influence and the ascending elements that sound a bit like a harp makes the song sound ephemeral and dream-like.
The introduction and dissipation of sounds is so seamless you might not even notice them if you aren't paying attention. Take for example the ghost like vocals melodies which disappear almost as soon as they appear.
The song does have somewhat of a crescendo with more focused melodies coming in around the five-minute mark. This song is like a musical collage that refuses to remain static. It could be my favorite of his that I’ve heard. I also thought this style comes closer to sounding similar to an artist like Four Tet and Prefuse 73 both of whom I’ve listened to for almost twenty years. Two thumbs up.
The bedroom musician was not a thing when I was in high school. Back then you still had to record to tape. Everything was difficult from splicing, to adding compression, to layering. It also cost a lot of money. These days all you need is a laptop, an audio interface and a basic DAW to get something going. Across college campuses students are in their dorms after making music in their bedrooms. One of those artists is E. M. Ferrell who recently released Sottosaga which is his first release.
The EP contains three instrumental songs. Like a lot of bedroom artists the bass and guitar seems to be recordings of organic instrumentation and the drums are in the digital domain.
The EP begins with “The Damask Dealer.” He strums a C - A - A# progression which he stays on for the entire song. It’s backed up by a 4/4 beat and a lead guitar plays a C major scale. As the song progresses you can hear pads and what sounds like digital bells. Another lead guitar is added to the mix. The song is based on adding layers and he does it with a good degree of success.
Up next is “I'm Trying to Be Patient” which follows a very similar pattern. He strums a basic chord progression and the lead guitar solos over it making it the focal point of the song. There is another lead guitar that comes in similarly to the previous song. You could say these two songs had similar foundations.
Last up is “Seraphim.” He strums a couple power chords and all things considered this is very similar terrain to the previous songs with no real surprise.
The artist apparently plays piano. I’d love to hear some of his future arrangement with piano added. These are simple compositions but catchy. He has a good ear for melody which is the strongest aspect of these songs. That being said adding more transition not just layers to his music is something to think about as well as working with additional musicians if he wants to open up some more possibilities.
I thought this was a solid first release EP for an artist who by all accounts hasn’t been playing very long. I wish him luck as he evolves and I hope to hear more soon.
To my surprise Jack Greenwood is the moniker for Travis Kohnhorst. Kohnhorst is the songwriter but for his album Flying Softly he also enlisted sixteen other musicians. This album is one where there is no doubt a lot of hard work went into it. There is such a beautiful array of instrumentation and performance and the production is just as good as the best produced albums out there.
Take for example the opening title track “Flying Softly.” The song revolves around silky smooth guitar, light pads and other subtle elements. Greenwood’s vocals are soulful. As the song progresses distant horns are added in the mix and soon enough drums and more horns enter. There is no denying this song is fully realized.
One of the highlights is “Set Me Free” which is soulful, funky and even has some blues rock in there. He has no problem hitting a falsetto. I also loved the John Mayer style guitar. “Farewell” was next and the more subtle, warm and comforting vibe felt like a good choice after “Set Me Free.”
“A Song About Time” has “hit single” written all over it. There is another vocalist on this track and they sound great together. It’s a fun, breezy track that is very infectious. He gets so smooth with “Memory Remains,” an perhaps even smoother and more funky of “Little Skies.”
“Under the Sun” has perhaps the most overt singer/songwriter vibe. Another highlight was “Time Bomb.” The bass on this song was incredible. The vocals soar on the ballad “Hide Your Eyes'' while “Last” is another funk inspired closer that takes advantage of that auto tune effect.
This is what an album sounds like that is done professionally. The proof is in the pudding. This is an album that should have mass appeal. Take a listen.
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