The Minneapolis band Of the Wild released the group’s debut EP About on January 27. The band is comprised of Mitch Fedie on the guitar and vocals, Leliani Endicott on the keys and flute, Ken Johnson with the bass and Kevin Anhut behind the drums. This EP is made up of four lengthy tracks that stay true to the band’s overall rock vibe from beginning to end.
While I did find myself wanting more variety in terms of mood at the end of my first listen, there are some really memorable occasions here. Endicott’s flute break on the EP’s opening track “About” fits surprisingly well with the song. Her playing is never overpowered by the rest of the band, nor does it restrict momentum from building into the beaming last chorus of the track.
Vocally, Fedie gives an impressive performance on “Dirty Knees” beautifully matching the aesthetic of the instrumentation with his powerful words, “You wash it, you wash it out again. Because that's what you needed. You're gonna get dirty knees again.”
There is an ongoing theme of change here. In “Time Lends Its Hand” Fedie submits to the inevitability of time when he sings, “No man can escape its plan.” He portrays his reasoning by metaphorically drawing a connection between raindrops and human nature. Just as raindrops are unafraid of their ultimate fate of either diluting water or soaking into soil, humans shouldn't be afraid to approach fate either.
The song also objects to environmental destruction by humans. Fedie sings, “Don't stop it. Try to rock it,” expressing the concept of viewing nature as a home instead of a bank of resources for humans to use at its expense.
He’s asking us to be more selfless regarding all that surround us, nature included. “Change your heart. Won't you lend your ears unto your brothers? All the knowledge they've uncovered they'll impart.” Aside from that being the first time that I've heard the words “unto” and “impart” in a song, these lyrics are impressive. Without being too obvious, Fedie calls on everyone to respect all that inhibit the Earth, while not restricting his selflessness to just human beings.
The musical chemistry within the group is evident through their consistent sound from track to track. Of The Wild has a good time, but what sets them apart is what they have to say. You’ll enjoy this EP with patience. Allow the songs to progress on their own time, and you’ll vibe to them.
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Matthew Grimm is badliterature. His self-titled EP Bad Literature is a mixed lo-fi experimental affair. The songs aren’t particularly musical and emphasize mood and atmosphere over anything else.
He opens with “yikes@us.” The first thing you are greeted with is a sample of song that fades into him playing guitar and hyperbolically singing about a burned relationship. He talks, sings and often sounds frantic. The song disjointedly transitions into a beat where he continues to talk about a relationship that's gone sour.
The next track is comically dismal. I’m not sure what his intention was but it was hard to take seriously. I was reminded of the band Xiu Xiu. However, I was even more reminded of Xiu Xiu on the next track “stonedinthegraveyard.” He distorts his voice and speaks fast and furiously stringing together non sequiturs that often have the inflection of a hyped stand up comedian. Other times he goes in a lower register talking about how he is wasting away.
“Zoloft” is basically an eleven-minute ambient track. The song revolves around a sample from a Zoloft commercial. He snippets the part that repeats the line “whatever you do / you feel lonely.” The song has no dynamics. There is no crescendo, no hook. The song could repeat forever like a misty fog that you never wake up from. “Basement” is a very lo-fi song. He strums a couple of chords and utters some words I could barely make out.
I’m not completely sure what Grimm is going for with this EP. He jumps all over the place stylistically. I think a little more musicality could go a long way. Songs with more transitions, dynamics and melody.
Overall, this falls into a case of wait and see. Grimm is poking around experimenting with the tools he has available but I think there are plenty of ways he can improve his sound.
Lorenzo Esposito is a musician from the suburbs of Chicago who recently released Dreamcatcher. The twenty-four-year-old hit the studio and came away with five songs that fit somewhere between the singer/songwriter genre and rock.
The songs are heartfelt and lush. Esposito implements acoustic guitar, bass, drums and some more ornamental aspects into the songs. The EP opens with “Shadow Play” where he plays a basic chord structure and sings about lost love. He sings, “Reality is piercing through the seams. You're just a woman in my dreams. And now you wonder where it is I've gone.” The song gets more epic and expansive as it progresses.
Next up is “Worthwhile” which opens up with a solo piano. Similar to the opener it slowly builds into expansive territory. In all honesty the music felt like something you might hear at a Sunday church worship. The uplifting quality with a tinge of melancholy that rises feels prone to having people sway back and forth singing along.
He keeps it a little simpler on “The Wanderer.” The song sticks to acoustic guitar and vocals. I thought this may have been his best vocal performance. The vocal harmonies especially sounded good.
“Blind” tackles topics such as battling negative emotions, salvation and moving on from the past. Perhaps the best moment on the album is the ’70s free bird style guitar solo three-and-a-half minutes in. He closes with “Lady In Red” which is upbeat and quite jovial. It was a good choice for the last song.
Dreamcatcher is far from perfect but is a fairly straightforward and enjoyable EP. The writing and delivery was solid. Recommended.
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Peter Sanderson (keyboards/vocals), Nathan Byrnes (drums), Jarrin Borg (bass) and Nathan Barraclough (vocals/guitar) are The Collars. The band formed in early 2016 and released a four-song self-titled The Collars EP about a year later.
The Collars is a high energy rock band. The songs are often exuberant and bursting with a lot of energy. On their Bandcamp page they say they are an alternative, experimental band but to my ears they fall more into the alternative department.
They open with “In-faux-cation” which begins with heavy toms and a distorted bass line. Right off the bat you can hear the energy building up getting ready to explode. When the guitars are introduced they are bright and soaked with reverb which makes for a worthy juxtaposition. Overall, I thought it was a solid opener which gets your adrenaline pumping.
“The Clown and the Bride” is a little more atmospheric and reflective when it begins. The drums come in and for a second I thought the energy was going to be rather mellow. I was wrong as the intensity builds and the barrage of instrumentation comes at you before the song reaches the one-minute-mark.
The band has more success on “The Case of Miss Fields” which was a highlight. I really enjoyed the bass line and thought the chorus was memorable. Barraclough gives an explosive vocal performance. They close with “Aches and Panes” which solidifies the sound of that band.
I thought this band was technically talented. The drummer goes nuts on the tom drums and I appreciated the guitarist and bassist as well. The one thing I’d like to hear a little improvement on next time around is the production. It’s certainly not bad but I felt a couple things could be improved.
Overall, this is a solid introduction to the band. Recommended.
Belying its name, The Blank String Sextet is the one-man-band of Jake Wheeler, a singer/ songwriter from southern Ohio. His first album under his new musical moniker Oh Boy! Surely There Is Rebirth. Right? is an acoustic indie rock concept album that he recorded in his home studio, and it was released in January of 2017.
The album begins with droning organ chords in “Rechance 1” before they are quickly joined by quietly strummed acoustic guitar chords and Wheeler’s hushed vocals. Violins and reverb-laced electric guitars add to the song’s sound as the guitar and organ continue to cycle through chords with relaxing ease. A beautiful piano riff joins the opening track to “Nothing About Abo” a reflective piece that highlights Wheeler’s vocals layered on top of a minimalist soundscape.
Returning to acoustic guitar and piano in “Bridge Walking” a throbbing stringed instrument runs below the rest of the instrumentation, drawing together the track nicely. Already a relaxed album, “Materialization (To Someone Else)” manages to quiet down even further, lulling the listener into a deeply meditative state with gradually building harmonies and melodies. The energy continues to build in “Midlife Marks the End” an upbeat piece with guitar chords punching in to accentuate the song’s pulsing rhythm.
Continuing with “Bridge Walking Too” Wheeler brings his full creativity to the table as multiple instruments takes turns in the spotlight behind Wheeler’s steady, comforting voice. The vocals in “Sky Quirk” float high above the rest of the instrumentation, bringing a light, bright feel to the otherwise ambient, solemn song.
Perhaps the most memorable and honest song on the entire record, “Words I Believe In” pieces together strummed acoustic chords with catchy electric guitar riffs, thoughtful lyrics, and lush strings and organ sounds.
The album comes to an end with “Some Bloody Brass Bird” a hauntingly beautiful piece led by piano and “Rechance 2” the longest track on the entire record that pulls all the stops in Wheeler’s musical repertoire. Overall, Oh Boy! Surely There Is Rebirth. Right? is a nontraditional take on a classic singer/songwriter format, and it is within the complexities woven into each of the songs that The Blank String Sextet shows its true musical genius.
Taking one look at the picture of the band Eightball Junkies consisting of Will Vaughan (vocals), Dee Huske (guitar), Michael Padilla (bass) and Rikki Varga (drums) on their Bandcamp page I knew these guys were a rock band with some attitude. I couldn’t help but think of bands like Guns N' Roses and Mötley Crüe. Their sound actually aligns with those bands as well when you listen to their three-song EP entitled In Hell.
The production sounds great and can compete with commercial releases. They obviously wanted a good sounding EP and chose to go to the pros. Well the proof is in the pudding.
They open with “In Hell” which contains plenty of distorted guitar, pounding drums and a thumping bass. The thing that really gave the song a late ’80s hard rock vibe were the vocals harmonies on the chorus. That being said the aggressive hyperbolic inflection of the singer during certain words also felt like a trope that I didn’t mind one bit. The guitar solo was also badass.
I was reminded of Marilyn Manson in the beginning of “Changes” just because of the vocals. That quickly changes though when the chorus hits. The song is pretty straightforward hard rock but very well executed.
I was kind of hoping they would drag out the unique sounds of the beginning of “Bleed.” It sounded like manipulated orchestra strings. The six-plus-minute song has mounds of distortion that just pours over you with plenty of squealing guitar fills. Alice In Chains came to mind on this track.
Eightball Junkies isn't reinventing the wheel. Their style is quite familiar. They also can write a song and have a niche sound that will appeal to some of the aforementioned bands. I can almost guarantee this guys would be fun as hell to see live. If you aren’t around for that you can do the next best thing and listen to their EP.
J-Uke, as the name might suggest, has been playing ukulele for about three years, and after wanting to make music for a long time, finally set out to create her own debut album. And so, with help from a friend and her husband, she recorded and released The Hat Collective at her home studio in March of 2017.
The album’s opener entitled “Wishbone” begins with pulsing synthesizer sounds overlayed by J-Uke’s modified, warbly voice before plunging into the main sound of the song, a ukulele-led jam with organ riffs, raw vocals and harmonies, and steady percussion. “All Along” highlights are J-Uke’s technical skill on the ukulele, as well as the fullness of sound that the simple instrument can bring to the table.
With a bouncing rhythm, throbbing bass notes and horn riffs, “High Time” displays an excitement and energy that persists even through the minor chords of the song. Somewhat quieter and more subdued “Irons” features echoing strings in a beautiful, ethereal soundscape. Taking a jaunt into a more electronic side of music, “The Tension” employs electronic percussion along with layered ukulele and synthesizer sounds to create a lush, ever-changing tune.
In “Portents” sounds of nature introduce the listener to the song before it gradually builds into a energetic tune that still harbors a down-to-earth sound. Following, “Dememeter” is one of the most danceable tracks of the entire record, a song that blends folk elements with blues guitars and a steady beat.
Piano notes make an appearance in “Take A Day,” a piece with jagged rhythms and unexpected, nontraditional chord choices. J-Uke returns to her characteristic sound in “Aground” as the ukulele continues to take center stage among percussion and vocals. Overall, The Hat Collective embodies a unique sound that includes contributions from many instruments and musical styles, and listeners of many genres will find something to their liking in the music of J-Uke.
Just the bio alone for NYC-based indie pop outfit The Boobies is enough to make you believe in the power of rock n’ roll music. The quartet half hail from North Carolina and the other half from Texas. They’ve played clubs all around the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan as well as playing gigs in Dallas Texas.
Most recently they were able to raise enough money via a Kickstarter campaign to buy a van. The plan is to head back down to Texas to play shows while playing shows in other states along the way. Oh and just in case you’ve forgotten, their band is called The Boobies.
The Boobies first offering is the little three-song eponymous EP The Boobies. The three to four song EP is quite a common release for a band’s first effort in the recording studio. To be quite honest most initial EPs are nothing more than a fart in the wind, over before they’ve even started, and due to their brevity and often lack of any cohesiveness they are quite forgettable. With their self-titled offering however the Boobies manage to evade these tropes through punchy, surf rock riffs and anthemic choruses that stay with you like a virus.
The EP opens with “We ain't goin home.” A steady flow of kick drum and jangly guitar along with bouncy bass line and some mild and catchy vocals plateau along threatening at times to explode into a frenzy of rock, which finally happens about halfway through in a shiny burst of energy that never loses itself to making noise for the simple sake of making noise. The Boobies are not careless in the least.
This is perhaps even more evident on the woozy and dark surf rocker “Children of a Dark Art” as Josh Brocki goes from cream sweet crooning to a controlled guttural howl, and the rest of the band refrains from tearing out on their own. Sometimes rock is best when the beast is restrained. The closing tune “Knockin” lets in a little country twang and some pretty swift and hard beats into this story-song of a jilted lover.
The Boobies have given me renewed faith in the EP. In just under fifteen minutes they managed to have me hooked and left wanting more. The Boobies EP is a teaser, but they’re a band whose future releases I’m already hungrily awaiting.
Chifa Dog aka Matthew Scott is DIY musician from New Zealand. He released a fourteen-song album entitled Good Scare. His music is fairly straightforward consisting of guitar, drums, bass and vocals.
The songs are well written but the recording production and quality is the thing that needed improvements. For some reason he distorts his voice which sits on top of the mix a little too much and there is not much warmth and low-end. Some songs fare better than others. That being said there are some catchy songs. The first one that popped out to me was “Dumb Luck” which has an infectious vocal line.
I was also his fan of his guitar work which reminded me of John Frusciante at times. You can hear some of this on “The First House on the Right.” “Riverside” is fairly catchy power pop while “Cosmic Latte #FF8E7” almost has an early Beck vibe.
I appreciated the vocals on “Night in the Pyramid.” The vocal harmonies work well here and I enjoyed the groove as well. I thought “Black Hole” was a highlight. It’s a really well written song and was immediately catchy to my ears. The song is accessible right off the bat. As the album progresses I thought the other highlights were the more subtle “Candiru,” “Web In Front” and the closer “Cemetery Road.”
Good Scare is a mixed album in plenty of ways. The production is all over the place and different on almost every song and I would argue there were clear highlights. I think this is a solid DIY release.
I’d like to hear Scott get to the next level in the production department so the songs could reach some of their potential. Overall this is a decent start and one to keep your eye on.
Silent Ash is the solo artist Jeremy Lawson. He is a young college student who released a complete DIY effort entitled Alive.
The songs on the album are quite eclectic with a variety of different styles. That being said there is a singer/songwriter vibe to the music. There is a still quite a lot to be desired in the production department. His vocals often sounded too raw and the drums were often so low in the mix it was hard it make out what was going on.
He opens with “Art” which is spoken word poetry. In all honest it reminded me of being in college again. I remember going to plenty of coffee shops hearing people recite with a very similar inflection.
The first song is “Bliss” which opens with solo guitar. His guitar playing is the strongest element of the music. It’s almost a flamenco style and I suggest in the future he revolves his music around that aspect. I can’t say Lawson is as gifted in the vocal department. His delivery isn’t bad but I encourage him to keep practicing. The song overall has nice flow and I found the subtlest moments to be the most enjoyable although the sax sounded good.
The next song “Sound and Sight” has quite a different feel. It sounds Mediterranean and it was quite complex during the opening. Once the verse hits it almost has a video game type vibe to the music. It turns into an uplifting song.
“Nature” is a highlight. The spareness of the song works for him. The lyrics are very introspective, cosmic and existential. He sings, “The sky has no ending / Peace and quiet is waiting / Among the fields of green / A forest so serene / Sit and listen to the wind /T he sound of birds is all I hear.”
“We Are One” is a pleasant instrumental song with nice guitar action while “Every Night” is another highlight. As the album progress there was a mixed batch of songs. Not every song worked but he hits more than it misses.
Alive felt very much like it was coming from a young person asking existential questions. I’m fine with that as I think that your younger years (early 20’s) are often meant for that. It’s only natural it would come out in his songs.
Lawson has some talent but there are plenty of areas he can work out kinks. I’d also advise him to brush up on production techniques or save up his pennies to work in a studio at some point. Overall, there is a good amount of potential here.
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