Love songs - love them or hate them they will always be around. Breakups, true love and heartbreak are common topics, which come up time and time again for good reason. Romantic relationships are not only an important aspect of most people’s lives but usually the most emotional and that's why they show up in songs. In the case of Cody Altieri and his release Colors In Shapes he documents a romantic relationship from beginning to the present.
The songs have a distinct ‘50s rock/pop that is undeniable. He utilizes a clean guitar throughout although there is a hint of grit when he aggressively strums.
The EP opens with “Joanna,” which is fast, paced garage rock style song, which details how they met. He sings, “Blue hair house party / And you could see so far / Wonder why you're talking to me / Let's go find your car / Talk to anyone around / With all the floating sounds / Look me in the eye / I know that I could die.”
The next song “Stranded” has more of a straight ‘50s pop and is based on some of the insecurities one usually feels especially during the beginning of the relationship. Altieri increases the energy with “Colored Shapes.” It’s the song that explores the moment you really fancy someone. He closes with “Wash Away.” It comes to a logical conclusion as Altieri sings about getting older and some of his apprehensions. He sings, “The sand doesn't feel the same anymore / But you bring me back to reality / My love for you is as endless as can be.”
Colors In Shapes is a basic DIY effort that seems like it was made for his girlfriend then the masses. There is nothing wrong with that but if he hopes to gain a large audience the production, recording quality will have to improve and he will have to zero in on more of a unique sound.
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
Volcker Volcker 3.4
Golden Legacy Golden Legacy 3.6
Sinking House Apartment Songs 3.5
Caroline Irick Wooden 3.8
The Dangerhounds Big Bad Wolf EP 3.5
Forest mixtape2k6.erl 3.4
PJ ORR Foggy Notion 3.8
Anytime I’m asked to review a singer-songwriter’s record a sympathetic harshness comes over me and I feel the need to give more of a fine tooth comb listen to the album than I would to an album that has a supporting cast to it. I think to myself why would anyone seek to go it alone? Why for god sakes would anyone want to sit alone for hours and hours and try to turn their feelings into something they think anyone would want to listen to? Rarely if ever do I come up with an answer. If my pseudo-sarcasm hasn’t transferred any meaning at this point I am speaking directly of the current “I” who is typing these words. Surely if anyone is fit to pass judgment on a singer-songwriter then shouldn’t it be someone who in some capacity has worn the other’s shoes? Thankfully I have an editor to fall back on, to shield me from sounding too stupid.
However the singer-songwriter, lest he seeks help or has a producer who is willing or smart enough to speak his mind (though often in the case of the unsigned the producer just records the music and takes his money) must rely on his wiles and take what he has wrought in the end, be it received good or bad.
Such is the life so far for Ohio born singer Jim Vest. His latest record The Big Sleep is in many ways his most ambitious to date. On his previous efforts 2012’s Another Cliche' Phrase and 2014’s It Is What It Is, Cause' It Is Vest, who was just getting his footing as solo artist after spending time playing in local Ohio bands, opted for the straight forward approach, using only his guitar and vocals as his main means of making music.
On The Big Sleep, a somewhat happier approach to his sadness, Vest approaches the solo genre from a new perspective, often shying away from just the acoustic muse, opting for strings and other effects, which give The Big Sleep a richer effect while still keeping the eerily haunting lyrical effect which Vest’s lyrics habituate.
The Big Sleep represents a step up in the songwriting skills of Jim Vest and sees him working away from the often sad and dopey single stringed troubadours and bringing in more instrumentation. It’s a welcomed change from the desultory singer-song writer record and it puts Vest in a new and well-deserved light, no matter how dark some of his songs may be.
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There seems to be a good chance that the latest album from Matthew Reid could be his best work yet however until his album is actually released this is mere conjecture. The Premature Leak is a preview of a LP titled In The Rain With Dog's, which is dropping sometime this year.
It didn’t take me long to appreciate the direction that Reid was going when I listened to “Another Whack Day.” The production reminded me of Tribe Called Quest in a number of ways. The beat is simple and steady as warm waves create a cool, chill vibe that is easy to enjoy. Reid’s lyrics are loose on this song and go from talking about everything from smoking, to his girlfriend to the ice bucket challenge. He spits, “The TV's and black bats, break shit attack that/ and if they might fight back we'll bomb them like Baghdad. And if i'm coming back again guarantee my niggas free. This ice bucket challenge as I freeze for proceeds/ guarantee that I'm a slave its another whack day yeah.”
As much as I enjoyed the first track, “First Week (Brunette In Jeans)” was even better. The beat and music is hypnotic. It also has a raw almost dirty aspect to it that is hard to pinpoint but I’m sure you will appreciate once you hear it. Reid has some inventive lyrics. One of my favorites was “The philosopher of life, that's my main objective/ I'll sleep in your class, pass the elective.”
“Orange Leaves” is an upbeat, feel good track that is bright and feels like a great summertime jam. Reid seems to be speaking from the third person on this song at times when he raps, “Okay now Matthew spit this flow and Matthew get this doe, your conscience is the door, that will help you see your goal.”
The last song “Janet's Poetic Way” is a tip of the hat to Janet Jackson. He samples her song “That’s the way love goes” and it turns out to be the smoothest track of the four. It’s a very chill song and his delivery is rounded and borderline relaxing.
The Premature Leak plays like a short EP of what we can expect from Reid in the not too distant future. Reid is playing into his strengths and coming into his own.
Being in an instrumental math-rock or prog-rock band demands that the players have to be complete badasses at their instruments. In the case of the Oklahoma two-piece Headbutt comprised of Micah Smith (guitar/bass) and Grant Marshall (drums) they have it covered. Their recent release Definitely! is a nine-song album that showcases not only a lot of technical talent but creative talent as well.
It’s not a surprise when you look at Smith’s background that he kills it on the guitar. He is not only a classically trained guitarist but also teaches as well.
The production isn’t bad but I have to admit that I would have really liked to hear these songs with slightly better recording quality. I don’t want this music to sound like an over produced Top 40 hit but if the aesthetics were closer to say an album by Death From Above 1979 or Lighting Bolt it would have been about perfect.
The two-piece band covers a lot of ground on this album. They display that if you have the talent, drums and bass alone offer a vast range of sonic possibilities. Take for instance the juxtaposition of the opener “My Reflection is Blinking,” which is jarring math-rock versus the ominous and atmospheric “Empty Calories.”
The band’s strongest moments are when they hypnotize you like on “Palindrome.” Around the four-minute-mark you might start twitching from razor sharp accuracy. You might have an aneurysm if you try and dance to this one. Better yet next time you are at a packed dance club, distract the DJ and pop this tune and see what happens. Report back to me on that.
The only thing I hope to hear from these guys next is more even production. I like the raw feel of the music but if it could be a little more crisp with the drums especially which sounds about demo quality. Overall, these guys rule and I hope to hear more songs soon.
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For his day job, Jason Coveleski is a clinician for a homeless veterans program. According to the man himself “experiences with homeless vets and many years with hospice, elder care & corrections have given him a glance into many lives. Many of these lives come out to visit in his songs.” The songs Coveleski aka Anker are referring to are on his recent release entitled Atomic Sound.
For the most part the songs on Atomic Sound are blue collar rock/pop dripping in Americana with tinges of country while not to far from artists like John Mellencamp, Tom Petty and arguably some of Bruce Springsteen’s material. This album certainly isn’t the most experimental nor inventive thing you will hear this year by a long shot. The songs are built on classic songwriting that the masses have been exposed to for a long time.
As for the production and recording quality goes I can give it two thumbs up. The songs sound professional and I could hear every element of the music.
Coveleski is a good songwriter who has a knack for writing a memorable melody and being able to deliver in an aesthetically pleasing way. He doesn’t have a voice that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up but it works very well in context of the music he’s making.
The album gets going with “Nowhere is Forever” which is about as American as apple pie. I was able to forgive some of the predictability because of the delivery. It’s the kind of song that is perfect for summertime BBQ’s. “Off the Rails” is another song but has a different kind of vibe that feels more rooted in ‘80s or early ‘90s pop. I heard a bit of a Cat Stevens thing going on during “Dust” while “Priests, Kings & Saints” is an atmospheric, nostalgic song that is one of the highlights.
There is a lot to enjoy on Atomic Sound. That being said I would have liked to hear Coveleski dig a little deeper into his own distinct sound rather than wearing his influences on his sleeve. I know that's easier said than done but that was the feeling I got after giving the album a couple of spins. Nonetheless, there is a lot to appreciate and it’s obvious that Coveleski took a lot of time to create this dense album and delivered it in the most honest way he could. Recommended.
Altamina began as a two-piece instrumental project between Marco Gervais and François Graham and pitted Graham’s electronic drum kits against Gervais’ high-powered synthesizers. The pair released their first record Silver Landing in a Barren Land in 2012 and then took on bassist Roxanne Miller and drummer Matt Davis, and Gervais took to the guitar and Graham took up the keys and vocal duties.
Tomorrow Morning Will Be Tonight opens promisingly with the astral beauty “Under the Black Sea” which pairs a simple staccato drum track with ebullient synths and catchy piano riff. Over this Graham lays his gloomy baritone in the vein of The National’s Matt Berninger.
Altamina picks up the pace a little bit on the semi-rock telescope, puts the guitar at the forefront of the mix for half the song before hanging back and taking the song into the realm of the emotional and introspective piano ballad, and then returning to the aforementioned semi-rock from which it began. It threatens to build yet it never does, which in a sense is rather disappointing. And oddly enough the following track, ironically entitled “Storm,” also fails to build to anything near the end, though Altimina teases the listener that this time they might lose it and rock out, they again chose to go out quietly.
The song “Tonight,” is Altimina’s most National-esque and is without question the band’s favorite and probably the best choice for a leadoff single. Listening to it, hearing the force each member is putting forth, the effort to get this one right is precisely what the rest of Tomorrow Morning Will Be Tonight is sometimes lacking. “Bunkers” and “Follower” are interchangeable piano based ballads, which sound like record filler more than fully realized songs. Later “Drifter” sounds like a hollow demo.
Tomorrow Morning Will Be Tonight does little to initially grab the listener’s attention. With limited exception each song has a redundantly drab feeling to it, yet often fails to sound emotional. It’s like playing sheet music and reading from notecards. On the upside Tomorrow Morning Will Be Tonight does have a solid foundation, which Altamina can build on.
Lachlan Scott (guitar), Hugh Buckingham (bass/vocals), Tom Kingshott (guitar) and Adam Holmes (drums) are a four-piece band from Sydney, Australia called Sketch Jets. The band recently released a seven song self-titled album Sketch Jets, which unequivocally falls under the label of indie rock. While I was listening to the album I was reminded of bands like Real Estate, Deerhunter and Mac Demarco and even some veterans like Yo la Tengo and Jesus and Mary Chain. This album isn’t quite competitive with those artists at this point but the band does do a lot of things right and if they continue to improve could foresee good things happening.
One of the biggest issues I see with albums all the time is that the artist or band will take many months or years to complete it. This can work if you are maybe Kevin Shields but for the rest of us mortals it leads to disparate sounding songs and incongruous ideas. In a pro move Sketch Jets realized this and wrote this album in about a month's time scrapping the other songs they had which didn’t work with their new-stripped back sound.
The other thing the band has going for them right now it they stick to a palette of sounds which come in the form of clean reverb laced guitars, clean bass and dry sounding drums. On top of that the vocal delivery is aesthetically pleasing and works on a number of levels.
They open with “Clive” which is a catchy, shoegaze inspired song. I enjoyed the vibe a lot but thought the song stopped a bit too abruptly. The band continues to showcase some talent and songwriting chops with “Crush” and “With You Eyes Open.” The highlight amongst the batch was “Burn Our Love” which has exceptional vocal harmonies that are pretty infectious.
The band is good but there were a couple of moments where they went off time, which at the end is a difference that separates the pros from the amateurs. Overall, the band has a lot of potential. Sketch Jets is a worthy debut that certainly deserves some attention and is hopefully just the beginning for the young band.
I have said it before that an entire album composed of vocals and a single guitar tests my patience. No matter how good the guitar playing is or the vocals are delivered I start to get antsy and need to hear some sort of change.
The Grand Design by The Nothing Kings, which is Gil Michael (guitar/vocals) and Jim Clarke (lyrics) is one of those albums that moves at a slow pace with melancholy acoustic songs and almost get away with it because almost everything else works. I liked the singing style and the lyrics. Some songs work better than others but more on that later.
The only issue I had with this album is that the energy doesn’t change much in any degree. Especially upon first listen the songs sound interchangeable because of the energy in which they are delivered. Suffice it to say a couple of faster, more upbeat songs would have gone a long way and additional instruments would have greatly helped the overall ebb and flow of the album.
The lyrics are often metaphysical, poetic and avoid narratives. Take for instance one of the highlights entitled “Perfect Inertia” which is a highlight. Michael sings “Perpetual motion was never my game / Decisive inaction is my only aim / Spinning my wheels / No cards left to play / Perfect inertia / No demons to slay.” I was reminded of Neil Young at times when listening to this song.
The lyrics are reminiscent of Pink Floyd in a lot of ways. When I was listening to “Great Unknown” and “Desire & The Grand Design” The Dark Side of The Moon kept on popping in my mind.
The second half of the album starting with “Restless Angel” is where the songs start to run into each other and almost feel like one long track. I thought the vocal delivery was great and the guitar playing was solid.
The Grand Design is not the easiest of listens from beginning to end but is rewarding and full of solid songwriting and great lyrics. It may take some effort but give this album a couple of spins. That way you can always go to your favorites later.
John Pattie is a musician from Austin, TX who has been playing around the scene but only recently released his first solo effort entitled The Home Inside My Head. The five songs each have their own sound to them and gives you an idea of what Pattie is capable of but also doesn’t paint a distinct general sound for Pattie.
There is a lot to appreciate here on this debut but I have to say better production and recording quality would have improved the listening experience. Some music works lo-fi and some doesn’t. In this case there are some many tones and textures that a bit more separation would have helped these songs along. That being said I wouldn't say the recording is bad and arguably a bit better sounding than your average demo.
The EP starts with “Skate Into the Dark” which is an impressive song. I was reminded of Bon Iver at times but the song had more energy then you can usually expect from Justin Vernon. The chorus is upbeat and extremely catchy. There is even a very pretty sounding instrumental part towards the three-minute-mark. I really liked “Skate Into the Dark” the more I listened to it.
There are some inventive aspects about the song “Won’t Be Young.” Most of it works but there were a couple of minor issues here and there. I thought the percussive elements while a focal center of the song contained too many high frequencies and took away from the vocal. The song isn’t as catchy as “Skate Into the Dark” but does succeed in creating an especially memorable chorus. I loved the whistling around the three-minute-mark.
“I’m Right Here” is a relatively straight rock/pop song. It’s uplifting and hopeful. The next song “Pieces” is subdued and reserved compared to “I’m Right Here” until it goes into a build up that seems to last a bit too long.
Pattie closes with the slow moving but grand “The End.” I would have loved to hear this song with professional production.
The good songwriting outweighs the scattered ideas on The Home Inside My Head. Pattie has a little bit of work to do in finding his niche. If he can improve the recording quality and define his sound a bit more on upcoming releases he should find himself in a really good space.
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