Canvas and Color is a recent release by Cory Coffman. It’s an eight-song release that’s about 35 minutes long. There are a number of different styles so let’s get into it.
The first song which is the title track seems to be an homage to ’50s pop. There isn’t so much distinction on the chorus because there is a little bit of distortion but for the most part the lyrics, vibe and really just about everything seemed to come from that era. It sounds great and is well written and delivered.
Up next is “Tango til They’re Sore” and was a direction I was not expecting. I’ve been a Tom Waits fan for about twenty-five years. He’s got a very distinct singular sound and the music could have been from Waits. The obvious baritone was missing but I would be very surprised if this wasn’t directly inspired by Waits.
“Mother Earth” is next and is another change in aesthetics and vibe. This was a contemporary blues and rock hybrid. It sounded like a subdued song from The Black Keys. “Marigolds on Monday” is Coffman's attempt at an intimate ballad in the spirit of Sufjan Stevens and it even has a similar cadence. The track builds with elements and ends up being one of the highlights on the release.
“Weeping Willow” is another ballad and is seeped in melancholy and reflection. I would say no one specific artist didn’t come to mind like on the other songs. The mood brightens with levity on “Raspberry Seeds” which is a happy go lucky type of song similar to the title track but less drenched in ’50s pop. He goes deeper into the happy go lucky vibe which is playful on “I’ve Been Thinkin’.” Last up is “Midnight Callin’” which is stripped down that feels more pop oriented.
This album was so varied in mood, style and approach it was difficult to feel the signature sound or essence of the artist which is often the case with debut releases from solo artists. It felt more like a compilation of songs instead of a release that weaves a singular aesthetic X-factor into each song. Whether or not you think that is a good or bad thing is certainly up for debate but I think building more of a foundation on the next release might be food for thought.
I had some preferences in terms of the songs but overall I thought the songwriting and delivery was top notch. The songs whether they were chipper, somber or specific to a genre or artist all felt heartfelt, tender and warm.
Overall, I thought this was a solid debut and look forward to where Coffman goes from here.
LANUE is a new project from Sarah Krueger. She collaborated with an impressive array of musicians. Krueger worked with Steve Garrington (Low) and Sean Carey (S.Carey, Bon Iver) to assist with production and instrumentation while relying on JT Bates (Pieta Brown, Taylor Swift) on drums and Ben Lester (Field Report, Sufjan Stevens) on pedal steel guitar. The string arrangements are by Ryan Young (Trampled by Turtles) and guitar work by Erik Koskinen.
The album contains ten songs and is a blend of folk and rock. Musically, I didn’t feel this album was pushing into new territory but the delivery was often exceptional. In addition to that there’s no denying the top notch production and it creates a warm glaze over the music.
“Wars Intro” is up first and is a minimalist intro that revolves around a vocal and somewhat ominous atmosphere. It works well enough and captured my interest. We get our first fleshed out sounding song with “September.” The song revolves around piano, guitar, drums and some atmospheric elements. At the center of the song is the vocals which drip with melancholy and reflection in a way that sounds familiar. My first thought was Mazzy Star but the mood itself had a sense of familiarity.
The mood extends with “Oil Fields'' which is a highlight. I loved the vocal melody on this song. It gets stuck in your head but in a way where you don’t want it to end. “Pull Through” is next and as the song implies sounds a little more hopeful in some ways but still contains a foundation of melancholy and reflection.
“What I Love the Most” is the most joy filled song yet and in my opinion the most single worthy song. The chorus just pops and connects with the medley the first time I heard it. The push and pull continues with the slow burn on “Mexico” and the reflective yet uplifting “July” which could be another single. “Mississippi” is great and “Something Scared” continues to meld elements of melancholy and reflection. Last up is the anthemic and celebratory “Days in the Sun.”
This is an exceptional album from beginning to end. The ebb and flow is seamless and a journey I highly recommend taking.
Dred Buffalo is a Boston-based rock quartet. Their lineup consists of Alerisa Rose (vocals), Chase Cavacco (guitars), Paul Curran (bass) and Davey Dreyer (drums). All are longtime friends who grew up on Boston’s South Shore; following a strong Boston band tradition, they’ve moved into a house together, and have written, recorded and released their eponymous debut album Dred Buffalo.
Dred Buffalo is a tasty slab of bluesy rock, although calling it just “rock” doesn’t do it justice. Over the nine tracks, the band takes us on a journey of evolving musical styles--like a good train ride, you don’t feel as if you’re moving, but when you look up you’re somewhere else.
Our ride starts with “Mr. Fella” which is Dred Buffalo’s take on the twelve-bar blues format. They’re not breaking new ground here, but they do move outside the standard I-IV-V chords and give it their own twist. And, besides, how can you dislike a song that includes a vibraslap?
“Malign and I” introduces elements of soul and psychedelia into the mix, and Cavacco lays down some dueling blues-guitar lines to keep us rooted. “Gloo Canoe” with its punky A section, riffy B section, and various breakdowns and tempo changes, could have been a Guns ‘N Roses song, if Dred Buffalo cranked up the Marshalls. Curran introduces a heavy, Led Zeppelin-style bass riff here, which foreshadows some of his later work.
“3AM,” the band’s take on the slow blues shuffle, features some terrific guitar tones. “Night Owl,” heavier still, harkens back to early ‘70s Aerosmith, a la “Train Kept A Rollin’.” “Call of the Buffalo” has a great arrangement, where the main descending riff is reinterpreted in surf-rock and hard-rock flavors. When we finally arrive at “Tacky Tendrils,” the band is full-out heavy rock; Zeppelin fans will find this familiar.
Overall, the album sounds as if the band, as a cohesive, well-practiced unit, set up in a studio room and played their hearts out. Rose’s vocals sound great, and Dreyer’s drums keep it all locked in. There are overdubs--Cavacco does a nice job making us think there are two distinct guitarists in the band--but for the most part the feel is that of a nearly-live album. It’s nice to hear a new rock album from the Boston music scene. Give Dred Buffalo a try!
The music of Tuscon, Arizona songwriter Gabrielle Pietrangelo is inspired by the open spaces and big skies of the southwest where she grew up. Her new solo album On My Way Back Home comes after working on several collaborative projects including the Silver Thread Trio, and brings her full circle to simpler guitar arrangements, open tunings and “melodies that emphasize the shimmering quality of her voice.” Besides guitar, vocals and harmonies, Pietrangelo also plays ukulele and piano, and has help from Thoger Lund on double bass. This album was recorded and mixed with Jim Waters at Waterworks Recording Studio in Tuscon using Logic 9, and mastered by Jim Blackwood.
Pietrangelo has a sweet, high pitched singing voice which reminded me of Nanci Griffith, Stevie Nicks, or even (going way back) Melanie. Her songs feel like classic folk tunes, and the recording quality is studio-pristine, if a tad heavy on the reverb. She’s quoted as saying: “I hope that these songs can be a helper to those walking their own path to transformation and healing."
“What The Darkness Knows” starts us off with double-tracked acoustic guitars picking a descending pattern with Pietrangelo singing harmony with herself. This song appears to be about a disappointing lover or friend who refuses to take ownership of the hurt they’ve caused. “If you could see / Then you’d truly believe / And finally face the heart you’ve broken.” For the choruses, Pietrangelo adds some lovely piano figures.
“Summer Rain” is an especially beautiful love song with achingly intimate vocals and sweet guitar picking. “I’ll hold you when you're lying in your bed / I’ll soothe you when you're seeing scarlet red / I’ll feed you when you've nowhere left to turn / I’ll love you like you've never known your worth.”
“He’s Got A Broken Wing” feels more like folk country with a lead vocal venturing into Dolly Parton World. In this song, the singer appears to be gently taunting herself with the inevitable questions after a breakup. “Who's loving you now? / Who's holding your hand? / At night when you can't stand / The sound of the demons knocking on your front door.” Just under three minutes, this song is a true gem. “Way To Fly” again has a country feel and makes full use of Pietrangelo’s guitars, piano, ukulele and multi-tracked vocals.
The title track “On My Way Back Home” may be the first song with Thoger Lund’s double bass. Compositionally this is a sweet but effortlessly complex tune, casting an upbeat glow on the entire collection. “I’m coming home changed… I’ve been digging deep / I’ve been hearing the words / That the mountains and the rivers speak.”
“Morning Bells” is another close up, intimate vocal performance with a melody vaguely reminiscent of the Stones’ “Angie.” Some especially nice piano here as well. “Listen To The River” ends the collection with a slow-picked lament you might find recorded by Sony artist Mary Lou Lord: simple, heartfelt, moving. “I listen to the river when she's dry / Late summer whispers in the trees / Singing the song of I'm sorry / Telling the tale of goodbye / Giving me strength to uncover the truth that I / Can finally let you go.”
This short but exquisite collection was something my heart needed to take in, without really knowing why.
StellarJay is the musical project of Nathan Randall who is currently based out of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. He recently released an EP entitled Sea Breeze which is an eight- song EP revolving around guitar.
The songs mostly revolve around the same thing. There’s a simple chord progression and some lead guitar with reverb. The music has a similar quality to one of my favorite artists William Tyler.
The album begins with the title track “Sea Breeze” and it is indicative of what else is on the EP. Suffice it to say if you like this track you will appreciate the rest. “Milky Sway” had its moments and I enjoyed the calming stream of rain on “Brookside.” “Aurora” has a calm, contemplative type of quality. “Hindsight,” “Rendlesham” and “Venera” were pleasant songs and further built on this foundation. Last up is “Adobe” which is a short but sweet send off.
The strongest aspect of this release is the cohesive qualities. From beginning to end there’s a specific type of mood created that aligns with the cover art. I always preach about this and thought he did a fantastic job with this aspect of the release.
I would really encourage this artist to listen to William Tyler and in particular his masterpiece entitled Modern Country. There were so many similarities in what they were trying to achieve in the music to my ears. As a recording engineer myself I think it might behoove StellarJay to try and get to a similar aesthetic in terms of the sound quality. I applaud him on achieving what he has in his home recordings but I promise there’s much more that can be done in this department to complement the style of music he’s doing.
Overall, I thought there were good ideas and solid implementation. He is a talented guitar player who has the ability to find a memorable melody and seamlessly transition to other ideas and sounds.I hope to hear more soon from this very promising artist. Take a listen
Mickey Monster is a rock band with members from Kauai, HI and Seattle, WA. It is no wonder that the band is able to draw from the influences of these two realms, going on to incorporate a classic island reggae ska vibe with mainland modern rock on their debut self-titled album Mickey Monster.
Mickey Monster starts off with “Kalypso,” where the band right from the start brings in the Caribbean flavors with steel drums. The mixture of percussions and beats makes for an inviting sound that embraces a great island vibe, mixing reggae with a modern rock sound. The melding is just right. This felt like something great to listen to while relaxing on a beach-y front somewhere. More island flavors are unleashed here on “Hawaiian Punch.” The soft vocal harmonies evoke a soothing sound. The band’s reggae influences could really be felt here. I felt carried away by the music. A blissful island feel makes another appearance on “I’m Not Crazy (I’m Just In Love).” The sounds of bongos give off an ear-pleasing pulse. The acoustic guitar underlines this track. The combined vocal harmonies feel very dynamic. The song blends in soulful R&B with a tropical and reggae flavor.
Sparse guitar riffs sound off on “There’s A Rainbow.” Next, a drumming beat struts in. More steel drums include an island pulse. The vocals sound softer here and due to the subdued execution, it was hard to make out the lyrics. Perhaps more attention in this area would benefit the band. The guitars are touched with a dash of psychedelic and the distorted effects recall a surf and garage rock vibe. Finger-picking on the electric guitar makes for a stark introduction on “Monkey Feet.” The sound meanders for a bit. Next, the drums and percussions come in. The vocals sound slightly off-key here. Not sure if that’s the band’s intent but this became distracting at times. Driven guitars make for a hard-hitting sound toward the start of “Space Force Dropout.” The combined vocal harmonies point to an energized sound. The vibe here sounds heavier, heading into grunge and metal territory. The more aggressive-fueled sounds made for a harder rock vibe.
“My Sweet Angel” felt like the ballad out of the bunch with the lead singer sweetly singing about his “angel.” This felt like a song that plays up to the impulses of a hopeless romantic. On “A Man Sitting Under A Tree,” reggae-inspired guitars really bring in a tropical flavor. Heavy guitars add an intense element to what otherwise would be a laid-back number. The sounds of organ are a nice addition toward the start of “More Than You Will Ever Know.” The vocals are somber-sounding at first. Then a touch of theatrical aspect factors into the performance. Giant sounding guitars eventually roll in. This felt like a straight rock-based sound with embellishments on the xylophone to give off the band’s signature sound of Caribbean flavors. This is another example of the band’s excellent sound.
Filled with tons of flavorful party sounds, this type of music will get you in the mood for a beach-y bash jam. The band displays great chemistry as you can feel all the members each meshing with each other’s frequencies to give a well-executed album with many feel-good and uplifting flavors. I greatly enjoyed the positive energy here and this is definitely something I will come back to frequently. Fans of reggae, ska and rock will be delighted to find a band that mixes all these genres and well too. I think this album successfully blends in different genres and styles to create a new sound worth exploring from start to finish. This is a great start and I look forward to seeing more in a follow-up release.
Jackson Funk is a young musician from Maryland who recently released Interplanetary Funksmanship. It’s a complete DIY effort and features straightforward rock, some funk and blues.
The album opens with “Sermon of the All-Powerful God of Funk” which is very funky. There’s a lot of wah wah pedal going on which sort of overwhelms the song. The song features some inventive transitions and some solid performances. There’s no real hook to the song because the vocalist more or less uses spoken word.
Next up is “Lust in the Dust” which is a hard-hitting blues/rock hybrid. The song quickly starts to feel chaotic and comes apart to sometimes come back together. It had its moments. The first highlight to me was “The Blair Bitch Bacchanalia” that starts off with some great guitar licks which was my favorite aspect of the song. They played around with dissonance here and there and the playing from everyone was great on this song. There’s a breakdown section in the middle which is a psychedelic swirl.
Up next is “Georgia Crush” which is somewhere between funk and rock. There's some Red Hot Chili Peppers, Led Zeppelin and bands in between. The song felt like it was constantly changing and never really settled on a groove.
“Mister Feedbag Pennypacker” is another song with a lot of changes and often felt chaotic while “Live by the Sword, Die by the Hook” has one of the stronger grooves. “Auralator” and “Woo Number Two” are solid songs. The fast paced ska vibe on “Woo Number Two” which the song opened with got my attention.
There aren’t many vocal hooks or melodies that stood out to me. The strength of the songs is the technical playing. They are all good players and seems like they enjoy to demonstrate their skill.
Overall, I thought this was a solid album with some well delivered songs.
Portland, OR-based Alex Whiler is a lifelong singer, working in the musical theater, classical and opera genres. After a life-changing experience on the Pacific Coast Trail, she found that she had something to say, and expanded to writing. Whiler took her feelings of failure, confusion and heartache and poured them into the songs released on her debut EP, Look Me In The Eye.
Look Me In The Eye is a sandwich cookie of an EP. Think of it as a Hydrox, or a Mint Milano if that’s more your jam. The outside crunchy layers are the full-production numbers “Golden Hour” and “Into the Fire.”They’re engaging mid-tempo compositions where Whiler’s vocals shine in front of a solid rock combo; “Into the Fire” leans a little more modern-pop by including some fuzzy synth parts straight off the dance-club floor. Her lyrics make good use of imagery, and her harmonies are solid. “Golden Hour” is a little hampered by a monolithic mix--no instrumental parts are really highlighted until the cool keyboards on the ending fade.
The center filling of the EP cookie are the two piano-driven ballads “Wash” and “Mortar & Pestle.” They are pretty, heartfelt songs, and they’re layered with lovely string parts. In these recordings, you can hear the action of the piano’s dampers as she works the pedal; it gives the songs an extra-authentic touch, as if you’re sitting on the piano bench with her. “Mortar & Pestle” has some clever lyrics, too: “you knead me like dough / but you don’t need me at all.” The bizarre thing, for me, was the electronic effect added to some of the vocals, as if a talkbox were driven by a cello and then run into an autotuner. Whiler is blessed with pipes that don’t need studio wizardry, so this is an odd choice--I would have preferred to have the tension built with some dissonant harmonies or borrowed chords rather than a Pro Tools plug-in.
“Resolve” is that dollop of extra flavor that holds the whole cookie together and makes you want to grab another one from the bag. It’s a short piano-based instrumental with a little keyboard added in for extra ambience. This was my favorite cut, and it ties the album together nicely.
Look Me In The Eye is a fine start. Whiler’s voice is terrific, and her writing puts it to good use. I hope that she has more experiences to share with us, and that she’ll trust her voice to carry the songs without studio trickery. In the meantime, I’m going to grab another bite of this tasty EP.
Parachuting Bear began as a side project for New York musicians “Dan” and “Mike.” After playing 200 shows in New York City the duo has since gained a loyal following. Since their first gig at NYC’s Dead Poet, the band has played venues such as Bowery Electric, Rockwood Music Hall, Prohibition as well as Sofar Sounds. Right up until Covid, they had a weekly residency at The Gin Millon in the upper west side of Manhattan. Their self-titled album Parachuting Bear was recorded in quarantine with everything done on a Mac using Logic, a simple Focusrite interface and an Sm48. The band wanted to capture “the time we were living in – so the whole record is recorded in our tiny NYC apartments.” Style wise, it’s a mix between folk and classic rock combined with world music influences.
The band states their first track “Till I Let You Go” has Led Zeppelin influence., but I don’t know – I’m hearing old school stuff, but more like ‘70s Heart or a heavier version of Fleetwood Mac, or better yet, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. In any case, the band does have a really unique sound, not to mention, either Dan or Mike has one hell of a tenor/falsetto voice – and I mean that sincerely. Next up is “Tell Me No Lies” – this one had a more Zeppelin-like feel to it. The duo describes the next song “Whoever Brought me Here" as a combination of Moroccan traditional music and Nirvana. In my view, mix together mid-‘60s Beatles(Rubber Soul or Revolver), Page and Plant’s No Quarter, something off the Hair soundtrack and then, bring all of that into the 21st century and you might come close to what these guys are laying down. It was truly mesmerizing – I loved every minute of it.
“Keys to the Kingdom” had a really great beat and melody and the solo part was, just, so, imaginative. Some parts reminded me of Arcade Fire or Keane. The last track is “Burning the Midnight Oil” and parts of it reminded me a bit of the soft, summer beach rock that R.E.M. tried to capture on Reveal – maybe it was the drums and keys. But also, the song’s structure had a familiar tone to it in that it sounded like something from a popular one-hit wonder from the ‘70s. The duo states that it recalls the vocal harmonies of Crosby, Stills and Nash (CSN).
What can I say about this New York duo? Well, they bring new meaning to the word alternative, in my opinion. Parachuting Bear has just got this, finesse, about them. It’s not hard to realize why they have a loyal following. I look forward to their follow up soon.
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
Jake Wright Shed Sounds 3.6
TheseEyesRadiate Crashing Waves 3.7
Charlie on Trial Opening Statement 3.7
Peace Fever Wandering Minds 3.7
kidsawcat Narrow end 3.8
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