This ain't no disco punk; no post-hardcore; no arty postmodern metal deconstruction, seeking academic validation.Colour by Australia's ViperLove is a straight up blast of tensile, metallic, southern rock-infused punk fury, straight from the cinderblock practice space and radioactive piranha feeding frenzy of the circle pit.
Colour is quick and immediate as a fat rail of white lightning, shooting straight into your brain. The action begins at a breakneck pace with the primal howl of "The Thirsty Itch" and never lets go, shaking you by the throat until you're seeing gray stars. ViperLove sets out to make a short, interesting EP that holds the listener's interest, without skipping a track, desperately wanting the next hit, the next fix. I'd say they succeeded admirably.
While I've enjoyed many of the mutations and permutations of metal, since the turn of the century, it's always struck me as slightly dismissive, almost offensive, that heavy metal axe slingers needed to bow to the institution, to be taken seriously, like Metallica playing their hits with an orchestra (not that there's anything wrong with that). While many of the mutations have yielded interesting results, too many have succumbed to pop conventions, becoming metalcore or post-hardcore in the process. I'm not going to lie, I hate metalcore to the depths of my soul - with its emo singalongs and bro-love, and while I find aspects of post-hardcore interesting - the might, the ferocious low-end - I've always found the tendency towards metal breakdowns to be rather predictable, the punk/metal equivalent of the dubstep wobble.
ViperLove keeps it pure. They've incorporated ASPECTS of nearly every extreme musical movement of the last 30 years, but they still shoot straight from the hip, keeping it short, quick, adrenalized. In short, ViperLove plays punk rock with the intensity of people who love grind, but don't succumb to the cookie cutter growls.
Colour bears a sonic similarity to the earliest Dillinger Escape Plan records, which is a huge compliment, as they are the best of the best at delivering fast, intricate, nearly spastic metallic flagellations, as well as the twitchy pathos of The Blood Brothers. But ViperLove has less art school pretensions about them. Their songs are frenetic, feroicious, yet still delivered with a thrash/hair metal catchiness, while not becoming screeching. ViperLove offer the best of all worlds.
Australia seems to be one of the last bastions of true rock n’ roll, just going to show that sometimes we have to travel to the ends of the Earth to find pure, undiluted music and movements. This short EP has renewed my enthusiasm for riffs, blastbeats, anger and adrenaline, so I say ViperLove offers a valuable public service - being excellent, without being pretentious!
The five members of Baltimore based band The Stone Hill All-Stars have been playing music together as backing band musicians since the late 1980’s. Although it wasn’t until almost thirty years later in 2010 that principal songwriter Paul Margolis along with accordionist and arranger John Shock, recruited Dan Naiman, Hoppy Hopkins and later guitarist Tim Pruitt to form what is now The Stone Hill All-Stars. The band subsequently went on to write and record their debut self-titled album shortly thereafter.
Now the band is back with Away, their latest mélange of music with influences steeped deep in roots rock, Americana, zydeco, blues, jazz standards and just about every other genre that doesn’t require a computer to produce. All of the ten tracks that comprise Away were recorded live in the studio with an impressive nine of them being done in the first take. This is no small feat, seeing as the average length of the songs is about five minutes. Though after a few listens, one understands that this is due in part to a deep love of the music itself, and also the countless hours of playing together as a band.
Away opens with the twangy and zydecoesque title track dirge “Away.” The quick high-hat heavy beats and fast finger picked blue-grass guitars and bass race alongside the huffing and puffing accordion which parallels the similarly paced “Jones Et Al V Petrie,” which also shares the theme of men fraught with disparaging situations in their lives.
In contrast the following “Out Across the Frozen Lake” is a slow and swoony tune, with jazzy drums and sleek saxophone rips while “Into the Van” bounces along with deep rumbling piano rolls reminiscent of The Randy Newman Songbook, as does the jazzy and juking “All Along the Waterfront.” The slow, storytelling ballad “Despite the Current Mess” shows The Stone Hill All-Stars range and keeps them from being pegged as just another bar band.
Years before the Shock and Margolis formed The Stone Hill All-Stars they had been in a band together named The Polkats, who were named by a panel of well-known musicians as the “best unsigned band in America.” I would argue that with the release of Away, The Stone Hill All-Stars are ready to take on that role.
Murphy N Weller is the electro-pop solo project of producer Alejandro Preciado. His bio alone implicates Preciado as a virtuoso of sorts. On his new EP, the four-song Soft Horror EP, Preciado plays multiple roles, acting as producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. Soft Horror EP is reminiscent in sound and scope to projects like The Postal Service, Stars and Passion Pit, in the way these bands all blend soft poppy synths over mild tempo drum machine beats and then attach an eighties discotheque style groove which loops throughout the song. Oh and sometimes there’s vocals whispered in that hushed tone that listeners of this genre have come to expect.
If you haven’t already figured it out by now Soft Horror EP is part of that computerized Crayola genre that has been making its way out of bedrooms, basements and studio apartments and onto the Internet going on for more than a decade now.
So suffice it to say the Soft Horror EP is not breaking any new ground. However that doesn’t always matter and if you’re looking for a few relaxing synth saturated tunes to chill out to then Soft Horror EP will not disappoint you. That’s due in part mostly to Preciado knowing what he’s doing behind his laptop and his keyboard. At times he’s not necessarily making music, but rather making mood enhancers, sounds which stick in your brain and seem to release the proper amount of serotonin to make you feel relaxed.
The opening track “GLORIA & ALIEN” is a spritely blend of high note synths weaving in and out of wispy vocals, and infused with a funky bass line. Eventually it builds into a rhythmic handclap paced dance beat before returning to its former slowed down beats. The next track “JCDJ ( JEAN CLAUDE DREAM JEANS)” unfolds in much the same way as its predecessor does, though the bass comes out front and center this time and bounces along parallel with the drums. “BE OKAY” takes on a slow haunting quality, and then turns into a jazzy –disco groove. It is by far the shining star of Soft Horror EP. The closing and self-titled track is a mellow head-bobbing loop suffused with punchy erratic drums and Preciado’s whispered vocals.
For all his efforts Alejandro Preciado has served his overproducing genre rather well on Soft Horror EP. And although the little EP may not stand alone it is however able to stand on its own. And in this day and age, and in this electronic music game, that is no small feat.
Before listening to Catalyst by Jessi Lee Ross I briefly scanned the cover art and other pictures on her Bandcamp page. There is a picture of her playing guitar and singing into a microphone. My brain automatically expected the lyrics would be the focal center of Catalyst but to my surprise there isn’t one single word on the album. The album almost solely revolves around a single acoustic guitar.
Your first thought might be that this could be an incredibly boring album, which I don’t blame you for. Catalyst is in no way an intense album and certainly won’t be something you will be hearing in a dance club but it isn’t boring. As I listened to the songs I was met with a sense of tranquility, nostalgia and melancholy. The songs are minimal mood pieces that I could make comparisons to Julianna Barwick's latest release Nepenthe. Nepenthe is more vocal based with more instrumentation and less acoustic guitar but often conveys a similar vibe and feeling. Serene, still and present are some of the words that come to mind.
There are thirteen songs on Catalyst but they might as well as been one track. The best way to experience Catalyst is by pressing playing and listening to the album from beginning to end. Each song has a very subtle difference in mood but the foundation stays the same.
One thing that needs to be mentioned is that one of the reasons this album works is because of the tone and recording quality. The acoustic guitar sounds warm, organic and like it was recorded with mics not a DI. Impressively this is a DIY effort and Ross deserves some kudos in this department.
The strings that are picked on “Sunday” are played lightly creating a fragile atmosphere that could fall apart at any moment. The beauty is that it doesn't. An hypnotic, ambient mood is painted on “Ephemera” while “Vitreous” introduces delicate vocal harmonies. “Dream Consistency” very well may have the most gorgeous melodies on the album. The only questionable track was “Relapse,” which had a tinny guitar sound. Luckily, the vocal harmonies help fill out the sound.
The closing track “Adrift” was the highlight and hopefully a precursor of her next album. It contained a cello, which created a lush and even more emotionally resonant canvas of sounds.
Catalyst is a good album but I think that adding elements like orchestral strings, bells and possibly brass might be the next logical step for Ross. Her next album doesn’t necessarily need more layers but the possibility is there for it to be more lush, expressive and encompassing if more instrumentation is implemented with tact. For the time being Catalyst will certainly suffice so sit down, relax and take a listen.
Float Upstream is a band from Hershey, Pennsylvania who formed a couple of months ago and has already released an EP simply titled EP. The band is composed of Josiah Joseph (lead vocals/guitar), John Davis (guitar), Nick Scipione (bass guitar) and Owen Pearl (drums) and as of right now they haven't much of a unique sound but there is a more glaring problem with this EP other than their growing pains - it's the recording and it's one specific issue - the ridiculous amount of high frequencies. I literally couldn't put my speakers past a low volume setting or my ears would start ringing. I ended up having to bust out a graphic EQ and remastering the songs to get through it. It's baffling that the band or their friend who helped engineer didn't notice it.
Once I scooped out the offending frequencies with my graphic EQ I started listening to the songs. At this point they sound like a garage band that is relying on their influences and clichés of rock a bit too much. Predictable power chord progressions, transitions and melodies are what you can expect on their EP.
The songs aren't badly written but if the band hopes to get competitive with other top-tier bands there are going to have to infuse something within the music to make people notice. There’s just not much to latch on to that defines any unique qualities about the band.
The best efforts come from "Wasn't Meant To Be" and "Plastic Man." "Wasn't Meant To Be" sounds like a watered down B-side of The Strokes. However I thought the breakdown at the end with the vocal harmonies was clever.
"Plastic Man" was a decent track with a fairly catchy vocal melody. Kudos to the drummer here for mixing it up on the high hat. The guy has got some technical and creative talent.
Float Upstream has got some work ahead of them. The upside of all this is they have only been around for a couple months. Practice, step outside what is safe and the next time you are in the studio make sure there aren't so many high frequencies in your finished product.
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The Loose Threads is the bedroom lo-if solo project for Nolan Allen. His recent three-song EP The Loose isn't filling but points to an artist with some potential if he capitalizes on his strengths. He points to Johnny Marr and John Frusciante as influences with Frusciante being a more obvious presence in the music. Allen is far away from being as creative or good at the guitar as Frusciante but few people are. That being said, he holds his own amongst the over saturated lo-fi bedroom market.
While the songs are somewhat creative in terms of the palette of sounds he chooses they weren't fleshed out enough for me to feel completely engaged. All the songs are instrumental and have a hypnotic, drugged out feeling rather than grabbing my senses and refusing to let go.
The first track "Animal Tracks" is a perfect example of this. Loose yet steady percussion provides the skeleton of the song while various guitar parts float in and out of existence. The song’s high point comes towards the end where he implements backwards, psychedelic effects that transition into manipulated vocals.
The second track "The Sun in The Sky" has a similar feel to the first track but explores a number of other areas. The song actually ends at around three minutes and has an additional two minutes of silence. Why? You got me.
He ends with "Smile On," which suffered from poor recording quality and he incorporates classic sounding backward effects that Frusciante was known for. Allen is a work in progress and a case of wait and see. He has some good ideas on this EP even if they aren't exactly implemented with precision. Godspeed.
Influenced by early Beck and Robert Pollard, Justin Bendell started his lo-fi solo effort entitled fuguers cove. Over the years he released some music, quit music altogether and then went back into it. He recently released a full-length fourteen song EP entitled Knights of June. The music at its most basic is raw garage rock. It's a fun album with some certified catchy tunes that can draw comparisons to The Stooges and Guided By Voices. I wish the production/recording quality was a bit better but for the most part he is able to get away with it because of the vibe, energy and style.
Not every song has a punk/garage three-chord type of structure. He mixes in some well fitting experimental songs that fit in well with the other styles. Although there are fourteen songs the album goes by quick since the songs range from one minute to about three.
He starts off with a messy smudge of white noise entitled "Stars In the Cave." It's really a good song if you can get past production. He has a great voice that is immediate, a bit sloppy and unfiltered. "Mesa" is experimental and a bit folky. I can hear the early one-foot in the grave era influence here.
One of the clear highlights is the title track "Knights of June." It's an infectious song that reminded me of old English punk bands like The Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols. The rustic, psychedelic folk on songs like "Ptarmigan Scores" and "Tolleson" is scattered between the garage rock as the album progresses.
Knights of June is far from perfect but is a gem of lo-if punk album that isn't trying to be anything it's not. Good stuff - check this out.
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
Babylon K EP 3.4
New Born Animal Drag 3.1
Joko Tea Trio 3.0
Chick Quest Vs. Galore 3.7
King Of None King Of None 3.4
Private Island Good Luck 4.0
von Däniken The Ceramic Era 3.1
Model Slaves Earthlings 3.6
The Sandy Rats The Sandy Rats 3.4
The Society Of Rockets Plutonian Rockets 4.0
It’s a classic story. You’re in college trudging through classes and existential questions and you think to yourself that starting a band might be a good way to go. One day you and your best mate are drinking beers on Friday and you get the brilliant idea to start a band. Suffice it to say that an ample amount of bands start over shared a drink with a friend. This is the case with Freddie Phoenix. The two friends in this case are Charlie Oliver (lead guitar) and Magnus Rowbotham (rhythm guitar/vocals). The band officially formed in September of last year and quickly recruited Josh Meyer (drums) and Dom Oliver (bass) to fill out the four-piece. They went to work quickly and recorded a five-song EP entitled State Your Name.
For what little time they have been together I’m impressed with the caliber of the material. The band can bear similarities to bands like The Artic Monkeys and early Bloc Party. Rowbotham’s voice works very well within the context of the music. He has an English accent that is noticeable but not overbearing and has an attractive delivery overall.
He sounds loose, emphasizes the right notes while also being reminiscent to old English punk bands. He also doesn’t slack when it comes to lyrics. It’s obvious he put some thought into what he sings as he avoids clichés and instead plays around with lyrical ambiguity while not being lost in the ether of confusion.
The music itself isn’t groundbreaking but also is impressive in its own way. They never pour on too much distortion and go from a clean sound that could be compared to Marquee Moon from Television to a heavier Arctic Monkey style production.
The album starts off with “State,” which was an excellent opener. Sporadic drums fills, bass and a picked clean electric guitar provide the music as Rowbotham sings, “There was a time when it used to matter what we did and where we stood.” The song steadily picks up more energy as it progresses. A steady beat is established, Rowbotham vocals get stressed and by a-minute-and-a-half in the band hits their apex. Then they lose their energy and quickly submerge in the verse.
“Elastic Women” is another winner. The guitar strings bend, the drumming is loose and creative while Rowbotham serves up some notable vocals. “MCP” has an old school punk vibe while Rowbotham pulls off Art Brut type talking. Good Stuff. The last two songs “Helping Hand” and “Atlas” are both melancholy but sounds good on the band.
Let’s hope Freddie Phoenix stays around for a while because State Your Name is impressive to my ears. Recommended.
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Barry Myers is singer writer/musician from Florida who recently released his second album entitled Starseeds and Dreamcatchers. Upon listening to his album it feels like it’s a bit misplaced in time. It doesn’t sound anything like Pitchfork and hipster approved music. Myers influences are overt and stem from the ‘70s and ‘80s.
The most noticeable influence is from Pink Floyd and is apparent in the lead guitar tone and style in which Myers plays on the album. However, it’s not only the lead guitar that reminded me of Pink Floyd; it also has to do with his lyrics, use of reverb and the overall larger than life approach to the music.
Take for instance one of the highlights on the album the track titled “Starseeds and Dreamcatchers.” The song starts with some engaging acoustic guitar picking before it takes off into a cosmological ether of rock. He sings, “Are we just survivors of an ancient memory” and “Are we still searching for the value of the truth.” These types of existential questions about purpose and meaning become ubiquitous throughout the album. Luckily, Myers has enough talent as a songwriter that he can produce catchy hooks that can get stuck in your head while you are gazing into your navel pondering the existence of life.
Myers does a good job at mixing things up throughout the album. “Dreamcatcher” is a slow moving but percussive heavy song while “Day and Numbers” is catchy, hopeful sounding track that has some of the most infectious vocals on the album.
One of the highlights was “Angels and Elvis,” which is a fairly earth based rock song that doesn’t sound as cosmically inclined as the other songs. It actually reminded me of Peter Gabriel at points. There was impressive synth work towards the end and it added some emotional layers to the song. The other highlights on the album were “One Light” and the serene closer “I Am.”
After I listened to the album I did a bit of research to find out more about it and was surprised to discover that Starseeds and Dreamcatchers is actually a concept album about the Mayan calendar/end of world scenario. To be honest it was not something I caught during my initial playing of the album because the grandiose lyrics about stardust, planets and love are so broad.
Starseeds and Dreamcatchers is a solid effort. If you like a surplus of reverb laced guitar solos and go to bed every night wishing Pink Floyd had another album coming, I suggest you give this a moment of your time.
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