Forgotten Souls of Antiquity released a four-song promo for their upcoming album called cleverly enough 4 songs. I'll say this off the bat I hope they get a professional engineer involved before they release the album. The songs are there but the production needs improvement. There's a lot instrumentation and it sounds convoluted with a muddy low end with almost no definition. Despite the production issues I dug their vibe. They delve into a number of sub-genres of rock but they don’t got too far as they could out of place.
The first song on the sample is called “Norfolk Line,” which is the most straightforward and predictable songs amongst the four. It’s a high paced, energy-filled rock song that would be best heard live. “Spider’s Requiem” is where things start to get interesting. They mix things up and lose the distortion for a while. The song kind of reminded me of the song that is played during the beginning credits of “True Detective” although Forgotten Souls of Antiquity rock it out. One thing that was a bit frustrating about the song is that it lasted 2:40 and it felt like they went from 0-60 way too fast. The beginning had excellent jangly guitar and an effective talking part that could have been at least revisited once or played up a bit more. They get in rock mode and spend a bit too much time with a guitar solo. ”Three AM” was the highlight of the four for me. They experiment with a Russian circus vibe and it reminded me of something I could hear from Tom Waits.
They close with “Desolation Ridge,” which flirts with a progressive country sound. It’s a song that you should listen to with a whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I wouldn't be surprised if Quentin Tarantino picked up the music here for one of his next films. It had a very thematic feel to it like it revolved around a protagonist.
Overall, the band seems to be headed in the right direction. 4 songs is a bit rough around the edges but it points to good things to come on their upcoming full-length.
Watch out America because Finland is coming at you with hard rock. The band known as Mindeyes made up of Marko Mannermaa (vocals, harmonica), Jussi Tohmola (lead guitar, backing vocals), Tommi Tyvelä (guitar), Teemu Vedenoja (bass, backing vocals), Antti Itkonen (keyboards) and Jouni Itkonen (drums, percussions) released their first full-length entitled Higher Forces. There is no getting around the fact that the songs on this album sound like they came from the 80’s hair metal era. Everything from the production, song structure, vocals, lyrics and guitar solos sound like a combination of Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Warrant and about ten other bands who had a similar style. The music doesn't sound like an homage but actually feels like it was created in that decade.
The album starts with “Search For The Reason,” which combines distorted electric guitar, impressive vocal harmonies, and a steady drumbeat. It contains a good amount of energy and a guitar solo you have heard a million times before but can’t get enough of. There are also a good amount of changes in the song, which keep it interesting. The second song “Little Girl” contains an ample amount of 80’s clichés. The vocalist sings, “Little girl what you gonna do, I aint gonna live no more the things you put me through” as well as “I’m tired of your game.” The band explores a tried and true topic but ultimately it feels like something you have heard before.
“Fading Away” is a bit more a ballad while “Matter Of Time” is one of the highlights on the album due to the inspired vocal performance. On “Gloria” Mindeyes spreads their wings and sound like Scorpions doing their best song. It sounds grandiose and you can imagine people holding up their lighters. They close with one of the most versatile and inspired songs called “Higher Forces.” It has an anthemic quality and was a solid choice to end the album.
Mindeyes is a decent band that seems to be a stuck in a past decade. Some of the songs are good and I respect what they're doing but at the end of the day I would most likely just pop in an album from the 80’s. That being said if you can't get enough of the 80’s hard rock scene you just found your next favorite band.
Highway’s End travels through fables, mythology and history, while blending bluegrass, acoustic rock, Americana and folk music, to create a high-energy, exciting album. The band only formed in 2012, but their short years playing together gave them an instrumental strength that matches musicians who have jammed together for decades.
Nor’easter EP by Highway’s End infuses genres to animate five distinct stories. These stories use source material from ones that define American culture. These stories are the princesses, war heroes, gods and lost family members ones that create the American psyche through moral tales and life lessons.
“House of Straw” playfully uses fairytales, twisted with realistic elements, such as a straw house falling down by wind, to tackle the greatest legends of all: the power of love and the afterlife. The catchy beats and fast-paced guitar strokes conjure a song that listeners will find hard not to clap, dance and sing-along to. “End of the Road” creates an almost classic rock or 60’s folk music style with its somber, smooth beats. Despite the song’s lyrics discussing the Civil War, the sound could fit into a 60’s protest music realm. “Black River” combines rock beats and bluegrass roots to illustrate the story of an individual tragedy. The song’s rhythms sometimes sound disjointed, but that matches the idea of uncontrollable circumstances.
The instrumental solos on many of Nor’easter’s songs create the album’s most memorable moments. They’re impressive with their styles and tones, and their intricate, repetitive sounds make them far more intriguing than the daily pop song. One small criticism is that by the final two songs of Nor’easter, a little of the album energy decreases, and the lyrics lose some of their creative but concrete blend. However, overall Highway’s End Nor’easter EP channels the beauty of a captivating story, and then mixes it with the grit of unique beat to create a musical imprint hard to forget.
In 2012, Jeffrey Trainor began his newest project Western Jaguar. Immediately after establishing it, the Mission, British Columbia resident started mixing sounds and recording vocals for the six tracks of Glacia. He designed them around loops. From there, he developed ideas and based his tracks around these concepts. Finally experimentation occurred to develop beats, vocals, and melodies for Glacia’s songs. Western Jaguar’s Glacia album fuses rock, alternative, techno, and even atmospheric music to produce an album mainly existing in a stream of conscious form.
Each track on Glacia establishes a new world of wonder to explore. The song “Mt. Baker” takes listeners to a dark, eerie place with its otherworldly sounds. It invents a setting of high-anxiety and demon reflections. “Darby” opens with the sound of wind chimes, which symbolizes a welcoming to the world of Glacia. Then it builds on that sound by layering music until it reaches the piercing vocals. Trainor’s vocal on “Darby” feels reminiscent of styles of musical greats like Richard Ashcroft of The Verve.
“Karoo Mammals” has an electro-pop tone with the general beats and vocal effects, along with the diction behind Trainor’s words. Listeners are submerged into water with these sounds, which works well with the water and oceans themes. “Violet Sweatshirt” shifts from fast guitar strokes to smoother beats throughout the single making it a perfect blend of rock and pop.
All the tracks on Glacia contain omniscient and ambiguous lyrics. These lyrics create a hazy quality to take fans of Trainor, Western Jaguar, and Glacia beyond the realm of normal, general albums. The Glacia album possesses so much character that it’s like reading an abstract book from an author you love; you understand the tone, but the new perspective makes you respect their talent and ambition even more than expected.
No But Yeah is the moniker for Ben Watts (who happened to be a professional snowboarder). He just released his full-length album Of A Flower Past Its Prime. He is still in college, records all his own material and wears his influences on his sleeve. After listening to the album you can pinpoint specific artists who most likely influenced that song. While Watts still has some searching to do to find his own style there are some quality songs here that display his talent.
“Of A Flower Past Its Prime” is the first song and could be a Sufjan Stevens B-side if you didn't know any better. The guitar is lightly picked along with the sparse piano melody. Watts sings barely above a whisper and mimics the way that Stevens sounded on “John Wayne Gacy Jr.” He even breaks out the horns, which sounded similar to ones that Stevens used on albums like Michigan and Illinois.
“From The Daily Accounts of the Devoted Cynic” doesn't sound as directly influenced by any particular artist. Watts manipulates his voice with modulation while a slow but steady drumbeat creates the foundation. The bass line impressed me on this one. “Sociopath” is a song and style that comes out of nowhere. It’s a three power-chord punk style song that couldn't be much farther away than the first two songs. “Pins And Pine Needles” is another song with overt influences. Watts sounds like Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse and even covers his vocals with a similar type of distortion we came to know on albums like It's A Wonderful Life. The song has a similar humorless melancholy that can be beautiful when looked at through the right lens.
“Not Clinically Dead... (Pt. 1)” is a creepy piece of music that you could imagine being used in your latest horror flick. A distant piano plays as different recordings of voices create an ominous concoction. Yet two songs later he reverts to his three power-chord punk in “I Was Planning On Naming This Number, But After Much Consideration And Hours Of Sleeplessness, I Have Decided Otherwise.”
A number of the songs on this album are enjoyable on their own merit but as a cohesive album it doesn't work. It’s obvious that after listening to this album Watts is still figuring out who he is as an artist. Luckily. He is only 20-years-old and has time on his side.
Four years ago, while in college, Alexandra Berenson and Maura Mullen met and formed the Philadelphia-based alternative duo known as Moonshine Heather. Long before Moonshine Heather, as children they began their musical journeys. Berenson and Mullen cite jazz and Motown as major inspirations for their sound, which also channels rock n’ roll, indie pop, R&B, folk, punk and country music. Moonshine Heather gained a local following after playing many venues around Philadelphia.
Moonshine Heather’s self-titled EP Moonshine Heather explores the different dimensions of dysfunctional relationships. “Stay Alone” mixes beats to form tango-style sounds that coordinate with the idea of constantly being drawn to a person. Their seduction intoxicates someone into believing that they only want and need them. “Comedown” uses the lyrics ‘losing my religion’ to reference R.E.M’s “Losing My Religion” song and it also contains elements indicative of their song. The song’s incorporation of beat boxing and creating a drug-hazed vibe with its tones makes it one of the most unique songs on the album.
“Internal Sunshine” integrates many of the elements from the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, such as direct quotes, sampling the song “Oh My Darling, Clementine,” and creating a ghostly echo vibe with vocal techniques. Each one of these singles on Moonshine Heather adds a dynamic to the EP that explores Mullen and Berenson’s provocative storytelling abilities and hypnotic folky vocals.
Moonshine Heather manages to keep the instruments simple but potent. Often the guitar chords act as the supporting role to the star of the pieces: the lyrics and vocals. The harmonies, diction, and lyrics are what make Moonshine Heather a memorable ride, a ride you want to take and visit repeatedly.
Lefty Burns started playing in rock bands when he was the tender age of 14. As his musical journey progressed he played in a number of different bands and preferred singing about whiskey and chasing girls. Like anyone else he got older, matured and settled down by finding a girl and a job. These life changes also inspired some of his most reflective music that he delivered with heartfelt honesty on his self-titled album Lefty Burns. The songs are rooted in Americana good times and usually lie somewhere between Jimmy Buffett and a folk song. They are the kind of songs you can enjoy with a drink in your hand and find yourself singing along to in no time.
The album starts off with “Hold On Tight,” which on the verse sounds like a party. It has an anthemic vibe but what I enjoyed most about the song was that he didn't overdo it. Within the first two minutes he breaks down the drums, bass and distorted guitars to just him and an acoustic guitar and the sounds of seashells and waves. The song is a good opener. His vocals sound clear in the mix on “When I Get Home,” which is a catchy song that flirts with an island-like vibe. The sounds of waves reinforce the idea of being by a beach.
“Changing Colors” has some of the best string work on the album while “Arthur Lee” contains a tinge of melancholy while utilizing up front and center electronic drums. “Diamond Ring” was the highlight of the album for me. I enjoyed the sparse parts where it was just Burns’ vocals and strings that were covered in a little too much reverb. He implements low-hanging distorted guitars, which adds just enough energy and doesn't take away from one of his best vocal performances. I also thoroughly enjoyed the old-time traditional roots he busts out on “I’m Gonna Be Ready.” He ends with an upbeat percussively heavy song called “Boiling Water.”
Overall, the album could have been a bit more cohesive and a better mix would have helped some of the songs but these minor issues don't take away much from the album. There are some enjoyable songs here and it’s obvious Burns has a passion for the things he is singing about.
8th&M is beginning to show his strength and longevity within the music industry. Better known by his stage name, 8th&M, Michael Alvarez is an American music producer and singer who was raised in the San Diego indie scene. His music is unlike much of what exists in that landscape today so be sure to check it out and get inside the mind of this trail-blazing electronica maestro. He was introduced to music surprisingly through gospel and soon after picking up a few instruments in his early teens, Alvarez began figuring out he had a great ear for music and pursued production following a successful string of choirs and bands along the way.
He got his first shot at production through his older brother’s record label, Kingspin Records. This door opener was just what he needed to launch notoriety and buzz for his work. The radio picked up his single and soon he had studio dates lined up left and right. It was then that he broke down the barriers of independent electro with Something Proper.
The first track “Fly Over To Sweden” reminds me of Drake’s beat on “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” No complaints here, that stuff is gold. It really moves the song along and works as a great start to the album. “I’m So Low” is almost too dreary; I had to pass this one up. “Slow Down a Bit” has a perfect tempo and glides along with new wave moments. Auto tune vocals blend with an ear piquing keyboard textures. It’s a slow jam for the introspective. “For The People” has a strong sway and bounce, ideal for the club but also as a wheel pounder in the car. Some elements are very R. Kelly and it works because 8th&M uses R&B sensuality to leave that pleasure imprint on the listener.
Something Proper will go down as a seven-track escapade of emotion and intention. The production is innovative with melodies to match, while his lyrics touch on real life issues. He really moves through the spectrum of what a music project can and should be, by using his experiences to relate outwardly in a public sense. This is a crafty and inspiring way to mold one’s material and I’m all for it.
The album’s title Spur of the Summer says it all. Amidst a sweaty afternoon on the lawn, two kindred spirits began to brainchild a musical endeavor bigger than the both of them. The couple joined minds with a close friend and got off to a great start writing and recording their work. Like the youthful rebels they are, their process was avant-garde giving their sound just a touch of lovely disregard. The drums were not isolated and hard panned but rather recorded mono and represented as unified drum sets, in each recording one can hear the room in which the instruments were recorded.
We find The Mites on the brink of a self-realized prophecy. They know who and what they are. A band of misfit souls, intelligent and refined – MTV exposed and smart enough to know the difference between art and bullshit. Educated by flower power all the way up to Soundgarden. Listening to Spur Of The Summer is to feel like one was riding on a dollop of molasses as it dripped, in super slow motion, from spoon to ground. This is quoting the group by the way. Paints a picture doesn’t it?
“Wash Away” dances like surf rock with a sprite-like spirit, spring emotions and California vibes, sun between the trees and music in the pines. It’s a freeing song with a chorus like Zoloft. The female vocals are breathy and pure, the instrumentation just the right amount of edge. “On And On (Without You)” sounds like a drugged Garbage. The album’s tracks are sweet little nuggets, some not even breaking the two-minute mark. Prepare for a lot of replay. “Marjorie’s Injury” is much heavier than its counterparts, striking low-end distortion from the very first note.
If you like indie and sonic adventures, this album was made for you. Put it in on a long drive or for a slow afternoon. Both situations will be highly complemented. Find a collection with that same power that’s not on a major label. Good luck. The Mites are a great find; get into them.
From out of the Chicago suburbs comes Tyler Krienitz, a 22-year-old singer/songwriter sitting atop several album releases and a sterling performance circuit amidst the Midwest. His music is both progressive and traditional combining folk with contemporary influences. "World Away" is folk heavy but contains plenty of alternative instrumentation including various pianos, organ, bass, drums and saxophone. Believe it or not, it was recorded in just two days. Striking when inspiration is the most vulnerable…check.
“Mess of Blue” is a bold tale that isn’t afraid to walk around for eight-plus minutes. It plays out like a story that has a perfect supporting chord structure. Krienitz’s voice is somewhat sedated in contrast to the contemporary brightness of his folk. With each reprisal of the verse comes a surge of new intensity. This track is a little Bob Dylan, a little Kurt Cobain, and all good.
“Men Of Weary Kind” is like swaying slowly beneath a tree in the valley – sun setting, beer growing warm. The harmonica is a beautiful touch to such a gentle breeze. Again, the vocals reach out in the likeness of Dylan and I’m sure Krientiz is aware of his ability to attract the ear with that association. Singer/songwriters need all the tricks they can muster, but in this case, the proof is in the pudding. Great songwriting, great levels of arrangement; the listener is rewarded in every song for having experienced the journey especially for those on the lengthy side.
Keep an eye out for Tyler Krienitz. This world has room for folk and should usher in more artists such as this for the reminder alone that we still have integrity as artists; writing should be personal not plastic.
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