Douglas Love is led by London-based Christopher Bull who formerly performed under his own name. Love has put away the jangly guitars and bedroom recordings for electronic bedroom productions and harmonized guitars. His latest effort under the project EP1 is a journey through heavily synth-based soundscapes and syncopated beats interwoven with epic guitars.
EP1 unfolds with “First,” where jarring sounds of guitars reverberate. The beats percolate over this song. The guitar melodies drone on for a while. Eventually, some synths enter. The synths are retro-styled leaning into a very vintage electronic sound. The keys sound very melodic. The rich tones permeate this track. The sounds are very attention-grabbing.
Out of the ambience of synths comes the marching sounds of drumming beats on “Second.” The beats are steady slowly becoming more syncopated. Some keys are loosened in the backdrop. The energized sounds are the backbone to this song. With more stamina, the synths come in full force.
Hypnotic keys arrest the listener on the start of “Third.” Next, some beats roll in, adding some bounce to the melodies. The sounds are smooth and relaxing. I enjoyed the overall ambience of the first half. The second half of the track felt more driven and energized. The synths progress with an alluring sound, oscillating in and out of this song. The vibes are immediate. This felt like a great way to close the EP.
At times the music feels very retro with the synths sounding like something that could come from the ‘80s and beyond. But more than just an ‘80s experience, the EP also places a lot of importance on mood and ambience so that if you close your eyes while listening to this record, a movie will instantaneously play in your head as a result. The album has a vibe to it that will be great to listen to with headphones or earbuds. With this new project, Love embraces electronic productions and really givies these tracks the breadth of life with his skills as a composer. Love’s ability to enmesh artificial sound with acoustic instrumentation shows his artistic talent. This was a solid effort and I look forward to seeing where he goes from here.
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Kevin Grace is a solo artist from Deptford, New Jersey. He’s been in the South Jersey music scene for years playing with various local bands and during that time, he played in venues such as Philly’s Trocadero, as well as Asbury Park’s Stone Pony. In 2020, after a nine-year hiatus from music, Grace released Paradox,his first serious push at a solo career. This EP was mixed and recorded by Grace using GarageBand and then mastered using a cloud-based mastering platform called Promaster made by Aftermaster, Inc. Paradox is a collection of alternative and post-punk “maelstrom” which sounds can be best compared to earlier work by The Killers or The Strokes. Grace would begin his recording process by finding the right melody for each track, which involved exploring a specific aspect of his psyche. Once that was down, it was just “a matter of feeling out what it is the melodies were saying lyrically.” After finishing the lyrics, all the instruments were recorded with guitar and voice being last.
The opener bears the same name as the EP, and it features a synth pop rhythm, complete with layered synths and a very ‘80s sounding drum machine. The loud distorted guitars over the synth and overdubbed vocals makes for a unique sound. There is some definite Killers influence here but also some post-punk underpinnings – Kraftwerk, Joy Division and Gary Numan come to mind. “Fireball” mixes in lower bass keys on the synth with different sounding keys. If you pay attention to Grace’s voice here, he’s got a pretty sweet tone and vibrato. I would even say sometimes it reminded me of the late Layne Staley. Even though Grace didn’t write his music in the “traditional love ballad template” kind-of-way, that’s pretty much what the song is about – being in love, oh yeah, and buying a Corgi.
Next up is “Masquerade” which lays it down heavy with the synths, alongside some dry sounding electronic drums. I thought Grace’s guitar work was quite good on this one, too. “World on Fire” has an ‘80s new wave synth appeal to it – perhaps it was the catchy melody Grace used or the lighter pop song structure or the song’s intro – in any case, it had a definite early ‘80s vibe to it. He really belts the lyrics out as well, both in volume and passion and I really liked his guitar work on this one a lot, too. The last tune is “Trauma” and it starts off sounding, well, traumatic. There is a more tense and dark sound mixed within and his guitar solo is pretty darn good, too.
Overall, Paradox has a very unique mix of electronic drums, synth styles and textures, fuzzy distorted guitars and a singer who put a lot of heart into his work.
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Jeff Tundis is a musician who was formerly in the band Jazz Bastards. The band broke up and Tundis decided to make a solo release entitled The Empire Never Ended. There are ten songs on this album and they are a mix of funk and blues but mostly fit into the classic rock category.
The album gets going with “Lifeline” which mixes elements of funk and rock quite successfully. There are shades of Stevie Wonder as well as an amalgamation of classic rock bands. It’s a good start. “At The Sun” was a little more cosmic in scale. There are some Pink Floyd vibes here along with some prog rock influence. “The Bubble 2.0” is a high energy song that actually sounded too fast for me to feel settled on a groove while “GOP” seems to be influenced by ‘70s three chords English punk.
“The Turning Pool'' feels like it is constantly ascending. This was a highlight amongst the batch and felt more original in a number of ways because the style didn’t feel on the nose. I also thought “Advice For The Wary Traveler'' was a highlight which was more of a Frank Zappa type structure by switching dynamics and melodic patterns quite suddenly. There is also a bit of Beach Boys style surf on this song.
“Wishes Like Wine” gets into ’70s classic rock style rock again while “Spire” leans more towards prog rock. “4D” is the longest song and also a slow burn comparatively to the other songs with a longer instrumental section and also more experimental with dissonance. This is arguably the strongest song on the album.
The last song is “Z” and is by far the most experimental and gets into John Cage territory. I liked this individually but it sounded out of place like it didn’t belong on this album.
Tundis jumps around on this album swinging from different genres while never completely landing on a sound for too long. It felt like each song was influenced by a different set of individual artists from the ’60s and ’70s. On that note if you want a buffet of genres from that time period you will appreciate this.
I remember jamming out in college with multiple bands. That was decades ago at this point but I still have a fond recollection of those carefree days with no money yet just having a blast. As you get older it gets way harder to keep a band together after college. For the Yale undergrads known as Toil! they are in that stage now and just released Night Out with Toil!
The band opens with “Cask” and is a mellow rock covered in mellow overtones. John Mayer actually came to mind on this track between the vocals and the warm, comforting and sort of sensual vibe the song has. It’s a strong song that’s well delivered.
I enjoyed “Maybe it’s Real” quite a bit more. They reminded me of this obscure fantastic band called The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group. The song has prominent organ and I thought the vocalist sounded good at a lower octave range which he showcases on the verse. That being said the vocalist really does a great job overall. The song has a number of inventive transitions along with being quite catchy.
“Stalagmite” is perhaps a little more loose and fun than the previous songs. The vocalist is loose and seems to be singing with more of an affectation. There are some grooves which border on cartoonish but they pull it off and I also love the jazzy melody on the guitar.
The closer “Proud” felt like the highlight. It’s simply a really well written song. There’s also some killer vocals harmonies, falsetto, a blues guitar solo and even some very welcome horns.
This is a strong EP. College bands come and go but these guys are apparently undergrads so hopefully expect at least a couple more releases and maybe even more if they continue to play. I look forward to hearing more.
Blake & The Fabulous Fakes is a five-piece band from Toronto, Ontario. Sun & Moon is their twelve-song album that according to the artist “follows the passage of a full day - morning to night. The first five songs are long and joyful filled with peace and love. The last seven songs are short, fast, and dark filled with chaos and fear. The album represents human duality and the behavioral changes some experience in the day verses the night.”
The album is soaked in late ’60s aesthetic. There are songs like “Ghosts” which sound like a B-side from The Doors except with villainous whispers and there are other songs like the opener “Run” which sound more like The Byrds. Anyway you slice this, it is for fans of that era of psychedelic infused counter culture.
The songs often seemed to be influenced by a particular artist of the genre. Take for instance the folk inspired “sunshine” which sounds like it could be from the lower east side bohemian scene. It sounds like an opener for Dylan.
There are more Eastern influences such as on “Drone” which is the same type of music The Beatles embraced. This song is a meditative soundscape. There’s even some surf in there you can hear on “Go-go.” The darker carousel- sounding “Fun” was a good tune and I really enjoyed the closer “Light” which has some of the best guitar work.
This album felt like a history lesson in popular music from the ’60s and early ’70s. In that sense there is cohesion. That being said I never felt like I connected to a singular or signature sound from the artist because of how broad the strokes were. Additionally, the artist doesn't really introduce an X-factor that pushes the songs into new terrain that felt different enough from the artists that influenced this music.
Overall, I was impressed by the ambitious concept and I thought there were some well written songs as well. I’m sure fans of the aforementioned artists will appreciate this. Recommended.
The latest from Peter Ormerod is entitled EP 8. If you are unfamiliar with his work I would say it's a mix of classical and cinematic sounds. I was reading about EP 8 and he considers this his most abstract. Truth be told I wouldn't classify these songs as abstract but I did like that he is covering new ground.
The first song is called “Moth” and this sounded like a dramatic and melancholy scene in a movie. I was imagining a war movie with airplanes flying over a jungle and some explosions in a slow motion type of thing. I think you will understand what I’m talking about when you hear it. The music mostly seems to be in the form of synths and strings.
“Taking Flight” features some acoustic guitar and has a unique meditative quality. I found the main melody to be hypnotic but also quite memorable. The song does go very far from where it starts but it was very enjoyable from beginning to end. “Belonging” is very subtle. This song also reminded me of something from a movie but is way more subtle. There could be dialogue over this music. I would say it’s relaxing and have heard similar music in a spa or acupuncture type situation.
Last up is “Awake” and definitely creates the most tension. It’s ominous and did sound very different from the other songs. The song slowly builds and continues to build on this tension with strings. It does change the flavor when the piano comes and sort of blossoms. The tension mutates into something more pensive with subtle moments of beauty.
This is arguably the best release yet from Ormerod and is a very welcome addition to his discography.
Corner Creature describe themselves as a “New Atlanta band. ‘80s people playing ‘90s music in 2020.” I was born in the early ’80s and then consumed ’90s music throughout my teenage years. Suffice it to say there was a rock sound that was created between bands like Tool, Soundgarden, Nirvana and many more. The band recently released Sounds Like Something and they sound like an amalgamation of those sort of bands that were in constant rotation on MTV.
The band starts with “Echoes Don’t Come Back Always” and the opening verse had a riff that reminded me of a very specific song from Tool that was very popular in the ’90s. As the song progresses the band does a good job of making it their own. On that note there is a Soundgarden flavor to the music on the chorus especially when the vocalist goes for a higher octave. All in all a great song to start things off that is catchy, well delivered and rocks quite hard.
The band continues with “Finally Dead Again” and similar to the first song it has soft verse and louder chorus. This is the classic formula the alternative scene and Nirvana in particular made ubiquitous. Corner Creature has done their homework and executed it flawlessly.
Last up is “Ephemeral Gaslight Anthem'' which is first of all a great name. This song is perhaps a little more hard rock oriented. The vibe felt like it was on the line between commercial appeal and something more underground.
The release is only about ten minutes long and goes by fast. I did think this was a very good introduction to their sound and I have got to say as an engineer myself that the fidelity was exceptional. I think my only critique would be for the band to think about elements they could infuse into this popular sound that would make it more singular. That's harder said than done but something I firmly believe something that can help with gaining a larger audience.
Overall, this is a very good start from the band and I look forward to hearing more.
Barkada is an alternative band based in Houston, TX. “Barkada” means “friends” in Tagalog, which is fitting since they all met as friends in college. Consisting of Peyton Till (vocals), Cesar Jimenez (guitar/vocals), Ryan Rodriguez (bass) and Julian Combong (drums), the band incorporates a number of genres into their sound. An undertaking that includes jazz, hip hop, funk, math rock and indie with bedroom pop grooves, the band’s self-titled EP Barkada is a varied approach covering a wide array of sounds.
Barkada gets going with “Agora,” where soft strumming on the guitar sounds melodic and harmonious in the start. Next, the vocals strut in. Right from the start you can feel the jazzy undertones making its way on this track. Till’s vocals embrace a style similar to the likes of Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone. The music stops and goes in bursts which gives the song a startling vibe. I loved how improvised everything sounded and gave it a spontaneous appeal. Off to a sauntering groove, the instrumentals come in with a warm and intimate sound on “DBJ.” Jimenez’s vocals are a smooth blend. The cool undertones really made for a chill sound. This song felt like a definite slow burn. The band felt like they are in no hurry to end the song. They languidly play their instruments. On “Scarlet,” the rumbling of bass lines rolls forth beneath this track as upbeat drums add a jaunty beat. Till’s vocals feel vibrant here. This is a slow simmering jazz number that felt very flavorful. I loved the energy of this song and greatly enjoyed Till’s vocal delivery.
On “Tarantino,” shimmering guitars pave the start of this song. The vibes are melodic and reverberate through this track. A sauntering drumming beat sidles into great effect. The percussions adds a lively feel. The guitars give a near psychedelic vibe as the song has traces of surf and garage rock in it. A pure instrumental, the band really jams out here. Off to another happening groove, “Union Square” moves in with a driven sound. The jaunty rhythms will no doubt get you moving in no time. The drum solo feels very invigorating. This is another number where the band chooses to jam out with full flavors. The band closes the album on a colorful note with this distinctive closer.
Flitting beneath the grooves of this album are Till and Jimenez’s jazz infused harmonies that felt like the focal point to these tracks. Supporting them are some great musicianship as Jimenez brings in the wonderful guitar work while Rodriguez brandishes his skills on bass with Combong coming in with consistent drums. The progression of these songs feels very natural like a jazz improvisation where the band just gets up and just starts jamming together. I thought this gave the tracks a playful air that can’t be easily mimicked. The ‘playfulness’ will most likely translate into an energized live set. Though the band, similarly to other acts, won’t be able to perform live on stage due to pandemic restrictions, the EP will have to serve as the immediate distraction in the meantime. The band makes headway with this album and I look forward to seeing more from them soon.
Mark Ryan has been writing and recording music for two decades and apparently Pineapple in Room is his first release. There are eleven songs which he recorded and mixed in his bedroom. I’ve gotten very accustomed to the “bedroom” type of sound and this certainly sounds like it.
After a brief intro the music gets going with “Donna’s Secret’s” which is a slow burn of a song but well done. It revolves around an electric piano and vocals. As the song progresses other elements are added which create more layers of emotions.
“Love Knocks Once” is more single worthy and catchy in general. It’s got a great hook and is about a modern day relationship. “What We Wanted” is a lush ballad while “Chloroform” is more subtle which contains two themes around romantic relationships.
“College Kid” is by far one of the most rocking songs and even gives us some distortion and I would classify this song as shoegaze. I thought “Crying in the Basement on Vacation” was a highlight. The vocals were really strong on this and the atmospheric quality worked really well. “Points in Time” was the closer and also one of the more epic songs.
My only critique was the singing every once in a while sounded slightly off key. There were a couple instances where it was noticeable but still I enjoyed his vocals and you might say that's part of its charm.
Overall, this release has some quality songs and also has some diversity in terms of mood and energy,
Antoine Camion (vocals/guitar), Jules Bastien (guitar), Hubert Forget (drums) and Abigail Galwey (bass) are In Like Flynn. The four-piece band from Montreal, Québec recently released a four-song EP entitled Skallywag.
The band leans towards an alternative ’90s vibe. There are elements of Radiohead, The Shins and a fairly diverse patch of artists. The band gets going with “Guilty” and starts with jazzy guitar and vocals. I liked the vocals which are fairly dynamic but also emotive. As the song progresses it gets more intense till there is this fantastic breakdown section with multiple vocal harmonies. Once we get to the guitar solo that’s really the climax of the song that transitions into a smooth outro.
“Ivresse des profondeurs” is sung in French. The energy on this song is a little more consistent and the Radiohead vibes are strong on this song from the picking pattern on the guitar to the melancholy atmosphere. It’s quite good and the band showed some range with this song.
Next up is “Run Home” and we are greeted with a female singer and right away I loved her voice. It’s got that darker jazz quality that I found really appealing. The song is a slow burn and felt like it would sound good on True Detective Season 1. I actually think this might be the highlight and would love to hear more of the vocalist on this track.
“Shhhh” is the last song and sort of goes back into more Radiohead territory for the first thirty seconds maybe mixed with some Blur. I thought the guitar work was great. The song expectantly rocks out really hard and the drummer crushes it then there is a third more subdued section and finally another Frank Zappa freak out section.
The EP is a little scattered but not by much. I thought the band pulled off what they attempted. The band also released another EP which I haven't heard yet but will soon.
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