Oh la la, I love what I got from What Is Done In Love, the debut album from Emma Claire Gies. I will be completely honest; I saw I was getting a violin and vocalist combo and was prepared for something completely different. For anyone who may have reservations, this is not some Celtic love fest you might hear at a renaissance fair. I love the violin in all forms. Whether it be classical or jazz and then there's what Gies did here with this enchanting album. I could not possibly box in what genre is happening here. It's very experimental and I can gather that Gies is a musician that lands on her feet when put on the spot. She has a natural born gift for improvisation. I feel like she has pioneered some new sect of indie/psych fiddle and I am totally into it.
The violin as an instrument has so many voices. It can be gruff, coy, poignant and even savage. Gies uses all of these voices and then some. She knows her instrument inside and out. Outside of her signature violin she has a sampling of curious sounds and instrumental choices that bestow such a fresh edge on this album. Also the percussion elements are so indulgent, quirky and elaborate. A great example comes up on track three "Bloom." Often with fiddlers I don't get a whole lot of percussive rhythms so I welcomed this with open arms and it's DAMN GOOD. Everyone involved on the instrumental level brought an imagination to their role. It all paid off.
Obviously on a musical level I am quite smitten, but this isn't just a fiddle album. We've got this incredible voice of Gies to talk about. Her voice is raw and comes with a healthy dose of gusto. Her performance style is somewhat understated but always sharp and packing a full clip of ammo. She writes all her own lyrics and they are very organic to the music. I can't tell if the music caters to her words or it's the other way around, but those words fit so effortlessly into the music. Such a zen like balance to the give and take between the music and lyrics.
Gies is going for her master's degree at The New England Conservatory. Her dedication to her education has paid off and I think a huge part of what gives this album such a standout appeal. I imagine she could tell me things about the violin I had never known. Those who study music often have such a clear view of what has been in music that it is only natural that they would create something that would be so forward facing. This album really floored me and took me by surprise so many times. I would say this album is a vision that can take genres like folk and Americana and give them a legitimately cool vibe. Yup, I'm saying it, this is a cool album, you won't change my mind.
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Tollington Road is a songwriter/producer duo based near London. The band consists of Dr. B who comes up with song concepts, lyrics, melodies and also sings lead vocal and James Welch who contributes additional music, instruments, studio production and vocals as well. The group’s sound is a blend of alternative and indie with classic hard rock thrown in for good measure. Their style of playing can be attributed to such rock legends as Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, to more recent bands like The Killers, Foo Fighters and Primal Scream. Their debut EP Fly! Is a project 25 years in the making. Starting from Dr. B’s early lyrical ideas – handwritten on scraps of paper in the early ‘90s – which found their way to James’ ideas of musical reality starting in 2012. This debut is the first in a planned series of “mini-albums.”
The duo describes “More” as a “call to escape the shackles and relentless slog of work and commuting to re-find life and purpose.” The lyrics are humorous and tongue-in-cheek: “I don’t want to be a stereotype / I want to believe in my own hype / It’s time to take a stand / As the singer in a rock and roll band.” The guitar riffs are catchy as are the melodious and strong back up singing courtesy of Pip Williams. The drum beat and bass lines to “Slave” reminded me of Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator” so yeah, already I liked this one. But what I liked even better were the guitar riffs. The lyrics express that music is all about the groove, the dancing and the rhythm.
“Friday” features Pip Williams and Thir13een Beatz on vocals. What threw me for a loop were the synths and the techno-dance style – this one is a definite, pump-you-up-before-you-go-clubbing kind of song. My favorite line was – “Get down!” – something I don’t hear too often these days. “Beauty” has a slower groove and its overall style is a stadium-rock n’ roll anthem. The band describes “Phoenix” as “epic” – a slow-building, seven-and-a-half-minute rock opus – a reflection on lost love and the need to move on. The vocal harmonies are gorgeous on this one as is the great moments of guitar grooves. Quieter parts along with louder crescendos kept this song moving well. The words suggest a call to the “Phoenix” inside of us all – that, despite the ‘should ofs’ and ‘could ofs’ – each new day we are born again and given a second chance to right the wrongs and make a brand-new start.
The aptly titled “The End” begins with an infectious drum and guitar rhythm and keeps it going pretty much throughout the song. The style is a straightforward rocker with inspiriting lyrics – “I know that we can take it / I’m never gonna break it / I know that we will make it / Ooh, yeah in the end.” I think what I liked best about this band, at least on their debut, was that they took chances mixing up styles of rock, techno, dance and alternative. And, adding additional musicians and singers to their fold made for a strong start.
Canadian based artist Lennox Campbell-Berzins is a songwriter, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist (guitar/piano/drums/bass/mandolin/vocals). Over the years he has performed various genres and is the front man for local bands Ruby Cikada and Broken Wolves. Night Light, a dream/psych pop album, is Lennox C.B.’s new solo debut release. Recording and mixing in his bedroom, Lennox found the experience more daunting than expected but also liberating. His friend James Mulevale helped him master the album.
Off the bat you can tell the dreamy album Night Light was influence by artists and bands like Mac Demarco, The Beatles, Weezer and Beach House. While his songwriting has mainly been in the style of classic rock from the ’60s and ’70s, Night Light was Lennox C.B.’s’ attempt to borrow some of the textures and instrumentations from the contemporarily artists.
Night Light is super chill and relaxing. While the tone may be laidback the lyrics can have a more serious message - “Oh my god think I did it again. Drank all my money now I’m on the mend. Hurts more than I can pretend. One of these days I’ll meet my end.” Of course with such a bubbly sounding album, Lennox C.B. can have fun with the sound. “She Gets Me High” is the perfect example of how love can get you a natural euphoria and you don’t really know the reason why. By using distortion he’s able to build this atmosphere of how it feels to be in love.
Lennox C.B. shows off his doowop chops on “Henhouse” by using “oohs and awes” to build up the blissful sound. Lennox’s voice is perhaps the strongest on “Parachute” while being accompanied by his wailing guitar and synthesizer. The 8-bit chip tune sound of “Why Can’t I Forget You” plays with the painful feeling of not being able to let go. “Why can’t I forget you, now that you’ve forgotten me. This crippling affliction is all too plain to see.”
If you like any of the aforementioned bands then there is enjoyment to be had in Lennox C.B.’s Night Light. From the distortion sounds to smooth doowop, the fact that Lennox C.B plays so many instruments gives you an appreciation to the hard work within this mashup. People will enjoy the creative imagination that Lennox C.B. brings to this psychedelic dream-pop album.
Blue Remedy is a band consisting of two high school students from Northern California. Guitarist Holden Hunt and drummer Victor Cassizzi have been jamming for a year. The Santa Cruz duo has accumulated lots of songs from different genres before deciding to put their own stuff out to the public. These young pioneers recorded the four-song EP Surreal at home using Logic Pro and will power.
Surreal opens with the mellow song “Remember When.” Reminiscing about the past always sounds better when it’s accompanied with an acoustic guitar. With a steady drumbeat to keep the beat upbeat, Hunt’s voice isn’t as vibrant as the song would want it to be. Also there’s a screeching noise in the background that interrupts the flow of the song. Luckily the following song “If I’m Wrong” allows the duo to show more complexity. The acoustic guitar is switched to an electric guitar with a beautiful melody that carries through the entire time. Hunt’s soft vocals are a more welcome contrast with the electric guitar and Cassizzi’s speedy drum hits. You’re in the middle of jamming along to what you think is the beginning of a guitar solo before the song comes to an abrupt stop.
“Higher Standards” is all about the aftermath of a relationship. The relaxed tone is played at a fast tempo leading to a hard rock breakdown with a catchy chorus that rings true to the experience of a young breakup. “If what I say, leads you astray, you should hold yourself to higher standards. The things you do, are up to you. Next time I’ll try to understand her.” The album ends with the harmonious track “The Fight.” The idea of letting go of whatever fight or grudge you’re hanging onto is not worth it because the world has moved on. Cassizzi’s drumming shines on this song as it keeps you thumping along with ending the album on a solid note.
Blue Remedy’s Surreal is a very mellow album. In some ways they’re similar to the band Surf Curse, two young kids, a drummer and a guitarist from the California, that make really chill songs. Hunt’s voice is soft and gentle making the mature lyrics he speaks sound tender and sweet. Cassizzi’s drumming helps keep listeners awake and vibe to songs. There are moments where the two instruments simultaneously rock pretty hard but the vocals hold it back from being a real head banger and letting listeners let loose. “IF I’m Wrong” is the shinning example of what great songs these kids can make. But even then when you think a awesome guitar solo is about to drop, the song cuts off without warning. Hopefully the young lads can continue to grow with more interesting and complex songs. Regardless kudos to this duo from Northern California and their bright future.
Plastic Shrines is a band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that recently released their sophomore effort entitled Styroglyph. They are an eclectic rock band and definitely bring a lot of different flavors to their sound. Some songs are funky while others feel like straight garage rock while plenty of others switch genres mid song. Perhaps the one unifying factor with this music is that it all felt like music that I would want to experience live and loud.
Things start with the spacey jazzy funk of “Waves.” The funk feels smothered in ’70s type soul funk with a side of classic rock. It’s a catchy song that takes its time to get where it needs to go. It’s a lengthy opener that certainly rocks out once you get past the halfway mark.
Up next is “Secondhand Sand” which is funky again but perhaps somewhere between “Fame” by David Bowie and Stevie Wonder at least at first. The best thing about the song is the transition to the chorus. They go in a direction I really wasn’t expecting where they lose the funk in a good way and deliver one of the catchiest hooks I have heard in recent memory. The band goes further into a samba type breakdown and gets out of 4/4.
“Tribunal” is a seven-plus-minute song that you might call garage rock with an extended breakdown that goes almost everywhere. I have to admit I don’t hear many garage rock songs with breakdowns let alone one with sub synth bass that sort of eventually sounds like funk from Blondie.
“Crème” is a clean drive jam that starts off funky and then goes into more of a jam band type thing. Next up is the rather epic rocker “Shadethrower.” The band tears it up especially the guitarist. “Black Materia” is a slippery, tribal like interlude while “Laces Out, Dan” continues a mishmash of styles.
They have more success with the dynamic “Prayer of the Lycanthrope” which combines electronic elements and hypnotic math rock. The band buzzes with the closer “Mouth.”
The most impressive thing about this band is that the shifting of genres within the songs not only feel impossibly seamless but they make it seem easy and in a way it makes the music feel boundless. I really wouldn’t be surprised if they went into straight hip-hop and made it seem completely natural. The ability to do that is rare and not one I hear often. You won’t encounter a dull moment with this album. Highly recommended.
The genre of psychedelic music has come such a long way from the roots of acoustic instruments and live sets that seem to go on forever. I have a hard time believing that those musicians could have ever imagined what electronic music would do to the genre. Now you don't need ten minutes to set someone's mind ablaze. For Vince James, he only needs a few minutes to wrap you up in the blanket of alternate state of mind, oh and that blanket is a high end fashion statement. His latest album is a fascinating elixir with a name that sounds like a jazz club cocktail Cherry Blue.
This album is a sophisticated blend of shoegaze, chillhop and psych tactics. I think my favorite part is that the music on its own could stand as a perfectly fine instrumental album. However James also gives us vocals with flighty lyrics. I like his vocal styling. He is haunting but not overly dramatic. James also has a long list of talented and diverse talents who acted as co-conspirators on this project. This gave the album so much range in terms of vocal performances and instrumental ability. The album is moody and dusky. Nowhere in the album did I picture a scene before sunset. The songs are all shielded by this timeless haze of reverb that kept it mysterious and alluring. He's essentially a brick layer, carefully and poetically laying down bricks. Sometimes the wall gets very high and thick, and then other times he trims those bricks down to a single line of his building material.
This album was constructed alongside a film which I found interesting. Mainly because the album is so fluid and abstract that my imagine ran wild. I didn't think it needed curated images to anchor it. However as I listened and watched a few videos I was reminded that not everyone's imagination runs the way mine does and the videos are interesting. There's a casual, freedom loving mood highlighted with organic sounds of nature and human interaction. I now had a clearer understanding of what James and his partners in crime were about. The album does have a cinematic quality to it. I could almost see the camera filters as each song opened. The rhythms are unpredictable and can have such grandiose impacts, so in other terms, rhythms that match that of human existence.
This is an album for getting lost in the best way possible. While James can and will pile on those brick layers, this is not a heavy album. You're not getting pulled into a black hole. It's not a consuming kind of lost. The kind of lost I get into when listening to this album is one that takes its time. Slowly and carefully your surroundings fall away, never jarring, never needlessly demanding any emotion from the listener. I love that anyone would have a tough time trying to date this album. Time seems sort of irrelevant in all ways when it comes to Cherry Blue.
The San Francisco duo Jahan, consisting of Iranian-Americans Kamran Atabai and Sarah K, blend their styles of traditional Persian music with American music traditions including rock, folk and jazz. On their last album 2016’s Triple Creek reviewer J. Simpson marveled “Listening closely to Triple Creek is a joy and a pleasure. It might even be impossible to do anything BUT, if you happen to appreciate interesting, intricate arrangements and thoughtful lyrics. Jahan's downbeat guitars and plaintiff vocals are joined by trumpet and saxophone miniatures as well as moments of pure poetry. There are even some moments of levity with outtakes of some '70s radio DJ on "Where Are You Now."
I would echo this sentiment and more to describe the pair’s latest release E Blues. All of these elements, the intricate arrangements and very personal lyrics, which are arranged and backed beautifully, so beautifully that they themselves become more like instruments rather than just mere voices. There is space and time in these songs, nothing is rushed and the layers spill out in ways that envelop the listener, creating this world around them. In this sense E Blues seemed to me like a novel in musical form. There is much to dissect and absorb here and multiple listens will have you off on different planes and appreciating the diversity of the record.
The opening track “Lil Sunflower (I Want You Back)” an eight-plus minute opus opens the record. Here we get a taste of just how intricate the layers of songwriting are and the way they incorporate so many different forms of music yet make them sound as though they were meant to be together. This collage effect only deepens as the song moves on. Contrast this to a more straightforward and powerful rock driven track like “Home” which comes in the middle of E Blues, and you really start to hear and see that you are in the hands of two very powerful craftspeople, two people who don’t let anything go that is not polished to their style of perfection.
Other powerful and dare I say “catchy” songs, though perhaps “memorable” is a more fitting term are the riveting “1365” which to me had resonances of Leonard Cohen at his most experimental and the genre bending eclectic and decade jumping musicality of “Dealin Alone.” Again though these are pieces of the larger whole of the record which flows so seamlessly from beginning to end that again one is just borne along with it, moved along by it in more ways than one.
With E Blues Jahan have taken their talents to a higher plane than even before, a place which one only gets to by challenging oneself to do better things, different things than one has done before. The efforts have paid off as E Blues sounds with every spin a classic, timeless record.
The self-titled album Jambori Jambora by Jambori Jambora had my attention within the first couple seconds. I think it was the combination of the funky bass and dynamic violin. But before we get to the music let's back up a bit.
The band from Quebec across eight songs describes what the album is about. “Party culture, generational boredom/sense of entitlement and problematic dynamics between men and women are all themes evoked that the protagonist tries to leave behind beginning his/her quest through the dry desert of introspection to find his true moral well being and serenity.” Just reading that I feel like I be might one generation too old to currently relate to some of the topics. I’m in my late thirties but remember a couple years back a lot of people and a lot of media outlets referred to millennials as the “entitled generation” here in the states. Additionally any sense of party culture has evaporated when you are creeping on forty years of age. That being said I think as you get older you naturally get more introspective as to what matters, what can be meaningful and perhaps even what gives you a sense of peace.
Musically, this album is fantastic. The band combines tons of different genres seamlessly. There are places the band goes I wasn’t expecting and i'm all for that. Furthermore, they conquer every style they attempt and make it seem easy.
The energy gets pumping with “Boredom” which by the way is something I think you experience less and less as you get older. I loved the vocals which are pretty intense but I wouldn’t say are aggressive. The song is dynamic with jazzy breakdowns and great vocal harmonies. All in all it’s a killer track with an epic outro jam.
The band is just getting going. “Franz Boas I” is a fantastic homage to surf rock which is followed by the ambient and dreamy “Franz Boas II.” “Milk and Honey” which is the arguable highlight starts with acoustic guitar and turns into such a versatile fun track. It’s really a thematic song with so many enjoyable twists and turns. The violin is just so good on this track.
“Watib” has a bit of a vibe somewhere between Tom Waits and garage rock while “Jamaican Showers” slow things down a tad with piano, vocal harmonies and some other elements. “Bird Watching” delivers as well with rocking peaks and dreamy, ambient sections. They close with “Pastel” which is emotionally resonant and also has some cathartic punk like vocals.
This band is ridiculously talented. They don’t have a tinge of pretense and are able to make songs that are not only catchy but experimental. A rare feat indeed. Congrats.
Parlors is a band comprised of Matt Fullam (vocals, guitar), Hart Mechlin (guitar), Dan Fullam (drums) and Matt DaSilva (bass). The band after working on a couple of demos did what they needed to and headed to a pro studio to record a short three-song self-titled EP Parlors. In my opinion there is no compromise if you are a band that wants to compete with popular, notable artists. You have to hit the studio and the proof is in the pudding with these songs.
Parlors is a pretty straightforward rock band. They have a sound that feels contemporary in some ways but also could have been released back when The Strokes were the most popular thing around and Arctic Monkeys was just coming on people's radar.
Things start out with “State Lines” which is the arguable highlight. This groove is money and on the verse the guitars leave plenty of room for the vocals to breathe. The songs unfold and the band doesn't waste any precious moments. They pull off a tight song that is a little over the three-minute-mark.
Up next is “Glass Bricks” which is a little more moody and I want to say mysterious sounding. That being said it picks up nicely around the one-minute-mark with memorable vocal melodies and a surge of optimism.
Last up is “A Night out of Dallas.” It’s a well done song but perhaps the one that felt the most predictable.
I think Parlors should appeal to fans of some of the aforementioned bands. They are easy to appreciate and have produced a very professional sounding product. I look forward to the full length.
Rhys Gabriel, Jon Meyer, Sean Hussett and Joe Jankowski are Read the Sun. The young band, both in terms of age and their time together, just released Music for Birds. It’s a complete DIY release and the band explores a number of different sides of rock and more. There is some ska, some that leans towards indie and even some prog. They have some talent. That's for certain. They need some direction as to what type of band they want to be but this is a promising release that shows a band in their embryonic stage with some potential.
Up first is “Ladybug.” It’s sort of a light, fun and catchy song and also really well delivered. As an engineer myself I need to point out the lead distorted ska guitar was taking up too much frequency bandwidth. It was too prominent in the mix while the vocals needed to be more front and center.
“Delsym Pt. 1” and “Delsym Pt. 2“ is a little more straightforward indie rock. There are hints of bands like Vampire Weekend as well as classic rock 101 and prog type stuff. They slow stuff down with the moody and atmospheric “Surgeon.” The band sounds their best on “Havenwyck” which is really where I think the band should build a signature sound from. It’s light and fun and perhaps more importantly the vocalist’s inflection works naturally with this style of music.
“Silo” rocks a lot harder. As I mentioned the vocalist just doesn't have the right voice for this type of song. That being said there are some impressive instrumental moments. The band get super moody and ambient on “Music for Birds” which doesn't sound like it belongs on this album and is the biggest misstep. Perhaps it would work on a Stars of the Lid album but not this.
“Forward Goes Behind (Rockeet)” has an older ’80s ballad type of vibe with bossanova vibes. I give them credit for trying to meld different styles.
This release has all the tell tale signs of a band that is just starting out which I have noticed after working with bands for over twenty years. The best advice I can give is for the band to find their signature sound. They are all over the place stylistically.
They have the talent; now they just need to do have some discussion about the music they want to play and have perhaps some open jam sessions to see what direction the music pulls them in. After that I think hitting a professional studio would be their next move. I wish this band luck as they evolve and hope to hear more soon.
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