Over the years the sunny southern California band Outside Pedestrian has endured hiatuses and lineup changes. Back in the early ‘90s at Berklee College of Music was where both guitarist Anthony Fesmire and bassist David Lockeretz began their musical partnership. They played on each other’s musical projects and over time they formed a musical relationship, which then led to the formation of their own band Outside Pedestrian in Los Angeles in 1999.
The pair was working with inmates at California Rehabilitation Center, and takes their name from one of two pairs of thick gates which secured the prison. The band toured around for a time until Fesmire moved on to further his musical studies while Lockeretz stayed in California and continued to make music there. When the pair reunited back in California in 2012 they decided it was time to unearth Outside Pedestrian and making it a trio brought on veteran drummer David Oromaner.
The trio’s latest release entitled Reclaimed offers up six jazzy tunes, which take their time, working their way slowly into your ears. I’m a sucker for jazz, especially free jazz. I like when each band member takes turns jumping in and trying something out, whether or not it works it doesn’t matter, the other musicians simply follow the lead and take it somewhere else until it does. And this is precisely the feeling I get on most of the six tracks on Reclaimed.
The standout track to me on Reclaimed is definitely “Chasse” with its Coltranesque saxophone and Wes Montgomery guitar taps. The song is as smooth as any of the jazz master’s cuts I’ve ever heard. The band doesn’t just play this style of jazz though as they illustrate on “Two by Two,” which has roots in both funk and metal as does “Jake’s Shuffle.” The shortest track “Marbakki” was a little too jazz metal for my tastes and sounded a bit out of place on the album. And my only other staunch complaint would be to offer up a tad more variety as after a time some of the tracks, despite my digging them, did tend to run together.
Reclaimed would be a good record to play on a late summer night with all the windows open and a good buzz on from whatever your poisons might be. Sitting in comfortable chair and just feeling the music, letting it take you along wherever it wants to go.
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Atheist Nation epitomizes the idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover;” in this instance, though, one shouldn’t judge a band’s music by its name. Instead of chain-saw guitars and guttural vocals—tropes of any archetypal death metal band, Atheist Nation beguiles with acoustic chording and Dylan-esque singing. So, it’s a folk outfit masquerading as a metal group? Clever girl.
Folk as a genre has progressed immensely since the likes of Dylan, Guthrie (Arlo) and Young (see: The Tallest Man on Earth, Sufjan Stevens and Ben Howard) but Atheist Nation’s The Road is almost entirely a flashback to last century’s folk. Blonde on Blonde, Alice’s Restaurant, and After the Gold Rush aren’t relevant to most listeners, but The Road emulates the classics well. It just doesn’t offer anything new.
“The Abduction of Edward” is a rehashing of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” with a touch of catharsis— same vocal delivery, stronger guitar tempo. Likewise, “Lost Saloon” would be right at home on Neil Young’s Harvest. Even though Atheist Nation shows their cards often, many songs can still be enjoyable as homages.
The group finds themselves in trouble though when they try to blend yesterday’s instrumentals with lyrics about today. It’s their attempt at topical lyrics that expose their ugly side. The third track “Nobody’s World” is a fine example: “It’s nobody’s land. He’s nobody’s man/ He dreams tomorrow to his fill/ It’s nobody’s game. The rules never change/ The timeless watcher standing still.” These words lack the poignancy and the specificity listeners expect from today’s artists. And “The Surrogate’s” “Oh mothers teach you children of the evil in this world/ The kind of thing they really out to know” will never work, regardless of the time period. Ben Howard’s “Where We Were” speaks to the urgency of today’s world: “Oh, hey/ I wasn’t listening/ I was watching Syria blinded by the sunshine strip/ you, you were in the kitchen/ your mariner’s mouth the wounded with the wounder’s whip.”
With such obvious musical ability and a plethora of supporting musicians (The Road utilizes eight guest musicians), it’s a shame to waste it all in an effort to replicate the past. Perhaps it’s time Atheist Nation put aside the ‘60’s and ‘70s folk and embrace the sound of today. A death metal tinge would be interesting.
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You would think that a group called Jack Dooley & The Always would gave a guy named Jack Dooley in it with a bunch of other band members. Well that’s what I thought at least. Hamilton Goff is in fact the only creative force behind the music on his recent release entitled Asymmetry. The album is a combination of indie rock and electronic elements. He even occasionally flirts with grind core style like EDM.
Goff’s songs are energy filled and usually upbeat but also contain a good amount of emotion. He has a decent voice. I thought he sounded best when he wasn’t straining it. There is a natural range where he sounds loose and relaxed. One thing that should be noted is that Goff recorded, mixed and mastered the album in his home studio. It sounds above average for a DIY and he obviously knows his way around the studio.
The first thing you hear on the first track “Do you Wonder?” is a techno style synth that quickly combines with a drumbeat that is obviously programmed but is an organic sounding kit. By the time the verse hits, the synths drop out completely sounding like a indie rock song. The changes come fast and Goff does a good job at not letting things grow stagnant. As the song progresses you could make comparison to a band like Peach Pit.
The next song “The Low Light” felt more or less like a standard indie rock with a splash of U2 while “Hero No More” is the most juxtaposed song. He does a great job at seamlessly combining dubstep style EDM and indie rock elements on “Hero No More.” “Right Now” has quite a different feel, as it’s slow and nostalgic. It sounded good but just a bit misplaced.
Asymmetry is a strong album. I thought the singing could have been better but overall it was an enjoyable as well as an original experience.
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Tyler Harris (guitars, saxophone), Maci Hayes (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Cody Kraus (percussion) and John Michael Porten (bass) make up Challenger Deep. They released their self-titled album Challenger Deep back in 2014, which showcases a blend of funk and rock. Musically they often times end up sounding like a jam band that you would hear on a college campus. On their Bandcamp page they claim to blend trip hop style bass and drums, which I guess you could make a case for. That being said trip hop is usually considered electronic music and there aren’t electronic elements in the music.
The music doesn’t contain many catchy hooks and choruses but instead relies on repetitive grooves, which you can picture a drunken hippie dancing to. Some of it works; some of it goes on too long but overall I found they had some talent. In all honesty this is the type of music that works best listened to in a live situation. I’ve never seem them live but I am willing to bet there's a lot more energy in that room. In fact that’s what the band was trying to do was to capture what they sounded like live. From an aesthetic perspective the recording sounds like a slightly above average demo.
The most unique aspect of their music is when they implement the saxophone. It adds a unique dynamic that gives the songs a jazzy vibe that differentiates the band from a surplus of other bands that sound similar. Even though the saxophone is the x factor that gave the band a bit of an edge it’s obvious that everyone in the band is a technically proficient musician.
The first song “Voices” displays the band’s talents. The guitars slip and slide while the Kraus drumming style is loose and free. Hayes’ vocals are powerful and she displays an impressive dynamic range. “If You Please” was only about two minutes long but was one of the highlights. The horn work was exceptional. Not every song was a homerun but there were also no duds.
Overall, Challenger Deep is an enjoyable release. I do hope the quality of the recording is improved with their next release. Until then Challenger Deep is worth a listen.
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Atlas Crash boasts great sound and production on Driving In The Fog. The makings of some solid full-length albums are already showing themselves in the first few seconds. What presents itself at hand is a short culmination of their best work, three songs that move like the ocean and hold strong like boulders. I’m a sucker for great album art and I’m especially pleased with the relationship between the scene and the general vibe their music exudes.
Shorelines of nature heavy fringe beckon like sirens while songs like “V.O.L.E.” illustrate and narrate the unspoken longing that humanity has for the water. Some of us just don’t know it. I wouldn’t have imagined four men from Paris were behind this record, largely due to how Imade’s vocals aren’t overly foreign sounding and seem to have their own original timbre and inflection, which is a trait increasingly difficult to find nowadays. It coos and glides triumphantly throughout this trio of alternative pop songs.
With a mixture of Coldplay and Arcade Fire, “V.O.L.E.” breaks things open. The drums fulfill a lilting backbeat with great tom play and snare alternating on 4 and 3 so as to make the bridge and chorus move just a little more comfortably. The piano is strong and melodically dictating even more than the guitar that sheens with held chords of faintly crunched attack and fuzzy bleed. I felt that the choral background was the most poignant element feeding the vocals and giving this song a largeness that would have otherwise felt too grounded.
“Driving In The Fog” is a great title and aptly named obviously. This one has a Modest Mouse quality to it that pays compliment most directly to the vocalist’s ability to change his tone to best fit the song. The closing track “Babydoll” is a great marriage of what worked in the prior two, one part alternative, one part post modern. It grows with urgency and drives like a train into the passionate tunnel that is its climax. Atlas Crash provides a wide landing for multiple tastes and I think they’ll find a place in your heart.
The album Between the days by OVOD is an improvised, loosely structured and surprisingly beautiful collection of emotions through sound. Wide ranging effects, tense crescendos, ethereal resolutions and panning waves of mood disguised as just tones. There is more to this music than any average critique could begin to describe. It belongs in a movie or digital short because I see so many scenes in my head as they play out in eerie continuity. Each track has an air of mystery and intrigue matched with a sense of alarm and reproach, not exactly the usual fare for easy listening.
It’s difficult to really separate each song from the others without delving deep into the science of spontaneity and being purely cerebral composition. I think it would entail picking the Russian artist’s brain to really understand what makes this record tick. Ivan Lavrov tells an esoteric tale on Between the Days. I can’t help but imagine myself immersed in a sea of mind-altering substances or sedated from illness, fatigue, lolling away to these flowing tapestries of spiritual awareness. In the right setting this album could make a difference in how you experience music. In my eyes, that enrapture seems unavoidable.
Between the Days is a cinematic journey through electronic fields that grips the mind with textural interplay and inescapably isolated sensations, at times off putting and unsettling and other times oddly uplifting. The feelings grow with each passing second as long as you allow yourself to sink into the chasm. “Butterfly Day” is anything but a prance in the grass with fluttering little bugs.
To be honest, it’s a touch apocalyptic and that could be said for all these tracks. Not in the sense of this epic disaster or large scale defeat, but more like the aftermath of desolation when all there is left to do is survey the barren cities and landscapes, while the wind carries the ashes like a choking gale of broken futures. In the end, Between the days will no doubt leave a defining impression on you whether that brings out a positive or negative association. I suggest turning the light down low and bracing yourself for some meditative musings.
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The Bullet Party wastes no time on their album No Future in getting the party started with a taste for die hard rock. It’s a full cylinder assault of badassery and good times rolled into a thick piece and smoked no filter. Several moments make No Future sound a lot like Every time I Die, but the record’s majority stands out amidst the relentless rock punk contemporaries, thanks mostly to its strong sense of riff and intensity balanced with post modern elements and melodic choices a la Stone Sour, Seether and the like.
All of this adds up to a powerhouse storm of guitar and drums that won’t quit. The vocals tear and sever the tracks like muscles reborn from a long day at the gym. Each track introduces a new exercise in hard knock rock and never shies away from pouring on the effects making The Bullet Party brand grow with sonic appeal. Their progression is smooth and develops into new territory just a shade at a time. These five tracks will leave your head a little sore so start stretching now.
“Holy Toledo” uses washed out treble in the intro and then cranks it with a punch in the face effects crescendo. The snare hits on 4 and the rest is a collapse of epic proportion as the riff grabs you by the throat and tells you to like it. Rock has never quite sounded so raw and energetic without being overtly violent or malevolent. You know what they call this? Rock with balls; it’s that simple. When the next track starts up you get the feeling that The Bullet Party is holding back some real slamming shit because they don’t start soft for nothing.
“Paint The City” delivers it all by the 1:30 mark with some sick tone and the harmonics are spot on, like 311’s “Down” from ’95 but yet not dated in the slightest. What works knows no age. This chugging burner of grunge metal rips in 6/8 making it the grooviest jam cut on the album. “Sleepwalk” takes a few tips from its predecessor and then just lays it out with driving snare in place of the heavy half time edge. Vocally, this track tears at the chords and stretches to pronounce breaks and holds with an unforgettable confidence. This is definitely a group to see live. Until then, put this in your earhole and dig in.
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Fallen Daughter might not be ET and the Alien’s crowning achievement, but it has a good introduction to it that makes me appreciate where they might grow. In some departments they are fun and infectious and in others they are too passive and non-engaging. This group from down under is on top of that indie garage sound and the album’s title track is their staple piece for sure.
From that opening hook and those sloshy hats with the quicker than usual tempo…I was in for the win. It has fun movement throughout and doesn’t drop off for some solo or left field bridge like other acts might choose to do. Just ride the feels, stack some tension and break like a wave of fresh rebellion. The guitars weave some catchy lines, but never quite nail the marker on tone at least for me. The general mix could use some further attention especially in the mid range so as to give the electrics more body.
“From Afar” has a dreamy ‘80s quality to the opening riff and the bass line is in full support, coming clear through the mix and picking little windows to run amidst the well-orchestrated steps and jumps. The chorus has a great in-between tonality that isn’t quite minor or major, giving it an enigmatic appeal similar to old U2. “Summer Days” almost sounds like a ‘70s breezy soft rock number, I’m just waiting for Don Henley to come in and melt some hearts. But before it gets too comfortable in cruise control, the grit of rock makes its entrance and things are never the same, especially when the drums pick it up into full time.
To be honest, I liked the beginning’s potential for a light coastal shore jam. It goes in tandem between the two, but there’s too much disconnect to convince me of musicality, it’s more a combination of different styles they were playing with and wanted to bring together. Nothing wrong with, but sometimes it’s just done with more cohesion and purpose. Leaving things on a somber note is “Rusty Rocks.” It’s slow burning like a cherished fuse. Worth the listen, just a touch longer than necessary.
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From Georgia comes Jerry on the Moon, a six-piece jam band with many leanings, mostly funk and blues. The core of their style is extended solos and an energy that keeps their songs ever-changing. Members rotate vocal duties on Old Age Comes to Those Who Wait and each song has at least one moment where things unwind and everyone involved gets loose. This approach lends a live feel to the recordings and makes for a fun and addicting listening experience.
Opener “All the Same” serves as a good benchmark for what Jerry on the Moon do. More time is offered to the playing than the lyrics, with great ascending and bending guitar work at the forefront. There's a real sense of spontaneity and flexibility to it. “Fight No More,” a reggae tune hinged on a foreboding bass, ends with an extended jam that defies simple definition: a remorseful funeral procession along a snare-laden beat gains speed into what I can only describe as a moment of sci-fi warp speed, reaching deep down, echoing and booming as it races into a more traditional classic rock guitar solo, then sci-fi again, then solo, then sci-fi again, before the eventual muted collapse. “Wasting Time” undergoes similar though less dramatic metamorphoses, almost as though it's following a film's act structure.
The band explains that their lyrics somehow relate to their personal journals. The resulting mix of stories is a bit eclectic, though it blends together rather nicely given what musical elements they have in common. “Hay Mama,” a blues number with a thick groove and snippets of flare from the band's horn section, is a somewhat unusual but encouraging look at a hard-working woman's life, repeating the line “stay at home and lay down by your baby's side.”
On the more abstract side of the scale is “Tomorrow,” the slow turning Eastern psychedelic closer. Equal parts accepting defeat and expectation of something greater to come, the song creates an uneasy and at times joyfully disorienting feeling. Thematically it fits in nicely with the previously mentioned “Fight No More” and its promise that “there will be no rest until there is no war” and “I said I got no problems with you my friend/we'll leave the fighting to the others and the government.” The diversity of what they want their songs to say is impressive to say the least.
It's rare that a group can recreate the live experience in studio, but Old Age Comes to Those Who Wait manages just that and refuses to stay still. The range and complexity Jerry on the Moon put on display here is something I hope more acts would strive for.
The Veitch Boys (frontman Michael Veitch and his assembly of studio talent) play surf-rock in the style of The Beach Boys. In fact, they appear to be Veitch's favorite group, if not the one that has influenced their self-titled EP The Veitch Boys the most. Built on rich, dense vocal harmonies and the bright guitar sounds of classic pop, Veitch has closely analyzed how his favorite ‘60s hits work and used that to craft his own songs. While he largely stays faithful to the genre's earmarks musically and lyrically, there are a few moments where he puts a new spin on things to great effect.
“Drive” is the opener, a light-hearted jingle, that like many songs before it and countless others in the future, frames the joys of freedom as driving with no particular destination during the days of summer. A bit typical lyrically, the music itself offers solid hooks in the bouncing keyboard melody and the beautifully harmonized vocals (a recurring element throughout the EP). It's the song that comes closest to that vaunted Beach Boys sound: mid-tempo and filled with the requisite background “ooooooh,” it's catchy and universal. The next track “August Nights” follows similar motifs, swapping genres to dabble in doo-wop. Again, it's a nostalgic throwback, romanticizing summer for a good slow dance.
Things venture into less tried and true territory midway into the EP. “Close to the Flame” puts emphasis on piano chords while de-emphasizing to some degree the harmonized vocals. Listening passively you may think it a continuation of the last track as it carries that same swaying final number feel. But the story told, though still in Veitch's joyful tone, is surprisingly bleak. “I'm here to confess/some years were just a mess/crawling through the dark/with a knife in my chest.” Hiding behind the EP's easy-going attitude is this extended moment of self-recognition and defeat. Certainly the odd duck in the group, but thanks to the delivery and execution it doesn't sound too far out of place.
“My Old Car” offers a similar inversion of the happy-go-lucky ways of surf-rock. The sunny strumming gives way to detailed descriptions of how the treasured old car has been destroyed by the progression of time. Though not as hopeless as the previously described track (here the memories of what the car once was trump its present state), it still hit me as a delightful shock.
Overall The Veitch Boys EP is a nice walk through the past with a few unexpected turns onto roads less traveled. Though a bit too comfortable at times, it plays close—and very well—to the roots it seeks to honor.
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