Hailing from Seattle, King Friday is a band that creates folk music with a creative twist and originality that most other bands in the genre are not capable of making. A lot of the songs show off their technical ability on acoustic guitar but what is most impressive is that the songs technicality improves the listening experience. A lot of the time technically proficient guitarists simply show off their skills and don’t enhance the song. This isn’t the case here. They released Let Him Eat Cake (Songs of Birds) back in late 2012 and one of the most impressive things about the album is that the songs are rather sparse however each song seems unique and works well in the context of the album. Subtle effects with reverb and phase are used at certain points to alter songs ever so slightly to gain the attention of the listener at different times.
The album opens with “Firewater” which sounds contemporary yet very grounded in 1970’s folk. Imagine if you put Dirty Projectors” and Paul Simon in a blender. The guitar work is enticing and contains some very creative melodies. The vocals are utterly unique, clear and the poetic lyrics avoid cliché lyrics. Other songs like “Steal This Tune” utilize a reverse effect that Paul Simon never discovered. If you would tell me to use a reverse phasey backward effect in a song I would tell you you’re crazy but that indeed is what they do and it works just fine. Once again the high point of the song is the vocals that soar and inflict meaning with originality. Over the 11 songs on this album there isn’t a single dud. It still amazes that music this good is relatively unknown. King Friday should be a household name as their original music is a breath of fresh air amongst the mostly uninspired folk music we hear on the radio.
Spinoza is the first artist that actually sounds like he belongs on a label called “11th Dimension Records.” Studying and being captured by electronic sonics by an early age, Joseph Schagen has engineered his first EP Spinoza. From Invisible Walls; My Arch Nemesis, Spinoza had no idea what tools he preferred or even what beats he would want to lie down. This is a true, raw, experimental release.
Valour infuses the voice of a young woman, having a conversation. All leading with a tron, horror story as the background to the ever reinvestment eerie keynotes, that play at the end of the song. The dub-step has been transformed into a more reluctant, sacrificial substitute for a questioning psyche. Since Schagen has worked on horror films, I think that alone gave him an advantage to testing the high waters for whatever unique controversy were to be thrown his way. As a whole EP, Spinoza is a strong outlet, in style and in precedent attitude. Whether he's launching over 20 synths to be played at once or to the accidental equation that made IA went to crawl into your skin. As a judgment of time, the only thing I would ask is if the EP doesn't end so abruptly, you crave more. But if that is Schagen’s quest into the electronic storm cloud, then he's ready to play the lightshow that will be on our minds for years to come.
Federal Crimes is a synth pop duo from Chicago, Illinois. They strictly use analog synthesizers and drum machines that predate 1985. Oddly enough Federal Crimes sound just as relevant as any other inspired electronic musicians that have their finger on the pulse and a knack for creating original music. Federal Crimes self-titled EP is a minimal affair that creates hypnotic synthy textures, subdued drums and various samples to forge a solid EP.
The album starts off with “Fraud by Wire” which contains wobbly dream-like syths and distant drums that last a minute and a half before going into “Rocket Power,” a repetitive song that takes a vocal sample and twists in a rhythmatic element not unlike something I would imagine listening to on a Oneohtrix Point Never song. There is a barely audible beat in the background as the electronic piano contains the one and only melody. The song “Wall Street” has a sample of a Bulls game in it. I was trying to figure out what specific game it was since Michael Jordan’s name got mentioned a number of times but I couldn’t. The music is simple and I often felt like I wanted the music to expand at times but maybe that wasn’t the intention of the album. The album closes with “Lost Highway” which is by far the longest song on the album. The song contains a couple of arpeggiated synths that loop about for about eight minutes. Although I felt the album needed some more peaks and valleys, it is a solid introduction to what Federal Crimes may have in store for us in the future and what they can build upon.
Year 5000 has been making music back in ’96, which was a glorious time for a lot of thirty-somethings like myself. It’s been 16 years since he started and it is a shame that Year 5000 hasn’t become a household name in that time. In this day and age I listen to so much music. I digest it like candy and 85% of it I feel is regurgitated even if it is good. Year 5000 is the first artist I have listened to in quite some time that I feel is completely original, unique, experimental and at the same time is able to write catchy ear-candy type melodies. The exceptional Pilgrim's Gate is the third and final installment of the Year 5000 Gates series, following 2011's The Stranger's Gate and 2012's The Farmers' Gate. It is an eclectic journey of discovery that will have fans of avant-garde and pop song rewarded.
The album starts off with “A Confuddlement of Duchesses” which is the longest song of the album as well as an instrumental piece. There are a unique variety of disparate instruments, such as string and accordion, working together to create a balance that works. It isn’t until the third song “Money’s on the Phone” that we hear some vocals. Luckily, they are awesome! But it doesn’t stop there. Organs, electronic drums, white noise cover this one which is probably my favorite from the album. Other songs such as “The Devil Is in the Pigtails” has an almost drunken Tom Waits feel. The album goes by extremely fast after this song where no song overstays its welcome No matter what type of music you dig, you need to check out this original piece of work.
I never would have never guessed that a guitarist who plays rock, country, R&B and more 120 days out of the year would find the time or even want to make an ambient album. Luckily Infinite_coil decided to do exactly that. Not unlike other contemporaries such as Star of the Lid or less obvious comparisons to Max Richter, Infinite_coil is able to create soundscapes that feel like landscapes. It's as if you were strolling down a cloud through a luminous city or flying through the majestic skies whiles gazing upon the busy city streets. Transmit contains four songs which is an impressive, subtle, melancholy yet serene album that displays a fluid understanding of how to bend sounds and place them in the right context to create meaning.
The melancholy “Transmit 1” which is more then double the length of any of the other songs swells with dynamics and transitions as sounds drop in only to leave us a moment later. It's a journey that goes by fast despite the slow feel of the song. “Transmit 2" feels like a slight variation of the first song which works just fine. A couple of different tones and textures are introduced but for the most part it feels like a continuation which a lot of ambient music should feel like. The album concludes with “Transmit 4” which explores other subtleties and nuances with great care. This is an album that to me at least contains feelings of serenity, tranquility, solace and hope that wash over your body as you listen.
Inspired by William Basinski and Andre Chalk, Josh Evans decided he wanted to create his own ambient textures. While even hardcore fans of the ambient scene might feel the 23 minutes of Purgatory and have a hard time sticking with the track through its entirety, it is definitely rewarding if you put the time in. Not unlike some of Keith Fullerton Whitman’s earlier work that explores the very fine nuances that may go unnoticed without the utmost attention Purgatory’s subtleties is what makes it interesting. Hardly anything you would play at happy hour on a Friday Purgatory is the type of song that you have to be in the right mood for which for fans of ambient, avant-garde and experimental are maybe more often then not.
This being the first I have heard Josh Evans’ music, I am interested as to what will develop in the future. As we have seen with many other contemporary artists of the genre they tend to experiment within their own pond.
Hailing from a small seaside town in Massachusetts, Nick Janowicz has a background in louder music with his former band The Wicked, but he eventually ended up trading amplifiers and distortion pedals for the warm and organic feel of acoustic guitars, self-producing his delicate blend of indie-folk out of his room. I Get Better at Growing Up Everyday is a really fitting title for Janowicz’ debut EP. It is simple and direct, yet poetic and nostalgic, not unlike the songs featured on the recording. After a brief instrumental intro “Up and Away”, the EP begins with the folky ballad "Anchors,” putting the true stars under the spotlight acoustic guitar and vocals. A soft, yet full melody fits perfectly with the gentle, but brave vocal style. Xylophone, backing vocals and organ add a pleasant and fulfilling color, without overshadowing the main elements, keeping the feel intimate.
"I Do" brings a little more rhythm and groove as the shaker keeps the tempo and the bluesy guitar riffs bring something different into the mix. But the true hotspot here is "Old", a heartfelt acoustic ballad with disarmingly honest lyrics, whispered softly, in a vocal style that kind of reminds me of Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie/ The Postal Service). The only thing I found a little out of place was the spoken word track in the middle of the EP, "The Seminar.” The content is really interesting, but I think that the way it was put there in the middle of the record clashes with the whole, sweet vibe of the EP. Variation is a great thing, but on a short EP like this one, I would have gone for something maybe a little subtler. It could have maybe worked better at the end or as some sort of hidden/bonus track, like they used to do a few years back; when you noticed that a file's playing time was actually longer than the song's actual playing time. In the end, this little EP is a remarkable work, and another reminder of how much an artist with a driving motivation can achieve, making music that could rival major productions right out of his bedroom.
Hailing out of Nashville, TN, Koa is a self-described “good vibes” band. A five-piece that recently began gaining attention from a number of popularblogs such as “Good Music All Day” they are a young band that displays a lot of creativity as well as technical skill. They recently released a four-song EP Cool It Down which does its fair amount of genre hopping and includes everything from funk to blues to rock. The songs are catchy, creative and easy to listen to. You know what you’re in for once you start listening.
The album kicks things off with the title track “Cool It Down” which is a chilled out yet upbeat song that grooves upon some really inventive organ that sounds nice against the well-sung lead vocals. Sprinkle in some nice lead guitar and you got yourself a solid song. “Soul on Fire” is a little different in that is a bit more nostalgic and subdued but also showcases the band’s talents. They save the best for last with the seven-minute song “Turtle” which is more introspective than the other songs. Koa pulls it off well and the singers’ voices seem to work even better with the nostalgic backdrop. Cool It Down is a solid EP that showcases the band’s strength and diversity.
When I think about Scotland, my memory brings me back to a few travels there. Good times, great beer and lots of nice folks, but there's something that has always been in the background of all my visits — grey clouds and rain falling from the sky. Not to say that Scotland is a depressive, dark place, but the way that this kind of weather is so characteristic of the landscape is a fascinating part of the whole experience. I am speaking about the weather conditions in Scotland because as soon as I heard the very first seconds of "Rain Falls Down" from Bridgehunter's album The Other Side, I instantly thought about my trip to Glasgow a while ago. A little bit into listening and reading about the band and…guess what? One of the musicians is from Scotland! I love writing about connections, and this project owes a lot to those kinds of things. Instrumentalist Pat Kilgore who hails from Tucson, AZ started to collaborate with Scottish vocalist Ewen Allardyce after the latter stumbled across Kilgore’s instrumental demos on Soundcloud, and it was clear from the start that something good was going on.
Their debut album The Other Side is a concept album that tells the story of a man whose wife dies at home, going through the entire emotional tempest that this event brought in. The flavor of the album is classic, in a good way, bringing together the best of psychedelia and hard rock with a melancholic, dark vibe. As any good concept album, the 14 songs on this record flow smoothly, telling the story and balancing the emotional impact perfectly because of its eclectic approach. For example "45 Seconds" brings you in a different place than does a song like "Stay With Me.” This album is going to make any lover of good psychedelic rock really happy.
Canadian musician Karl Sanden has been living all his life surrounded by music. With a background in classic music and piano, over time he learned to love and play several folk instruments, including the accordion and the mandolin. The result is the blossoming of a really original compositional style, somewhere in between the familiar feel of folk music and the solemnity of classic compositions.
His debut album Not There Yet is a really good snapshot of Sanden’s vision and ideas in music. This composer is no musical snob. Refusing to stick to expectations he is able to blend simple songs with composition with an uncanny ease and comfort. This record features covers of traditionals and pieces from the songbooks of artists as diverse as Eddie Vedder, Frederic Chopin, Yann Tiersen and Handel. This goes to show that Sanden relies on a really vast musical background and that he definitely approaches it all with a really open mind. "Rise,” originally an Eddie Vedder song featured on the Sean Penn movie Into the Wild is quite faithful to the original version, with the addition of the accordion. But the best part comes when Sanden radically re-interprets the songs in his own style. Hearing Chopin's Nocturne or Handel's Lascia Ch'Io Pianga on an accordion makes for a really cool contrast. An instrument like the accordion has always been associated with a radically different environment than that of classical music. Although quite hard to play and master for many, it's easy to picture the former instrument within humble, popular settings, while the immediate mental image associated with classical music is a stunning, spotless concert hall. Karl Sanden's renditions are a really good (and a successful) attempt at bringing the best of both worlds together. It is a promising and refreshing approach that really makes me curious to hear some original material!
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