At the core of Holding Pattern by The Celebrators, is an organic and bare bones indie Americana message, but somehow they managed to make their sound much bigger than that. It sounds as though you're already at the music festival. I can feel the wristband and smell the recreation. There is definitely a sense that The Celebrators are best enjoyed live, however, this album is no slouch by any means. Their aesthetic is strong, something that I believe could withstand the strains of a vast audience.
There's a lot of forward motion conveyed in this album. It has a motivational aspect to it without any cheese or unrealistic expectations. Their motivation is one that comes from reality, where there are no straight paths and setbacks are plentiful. It's all set to what feels like a rural backdrop with large sprawls of empty roads and fields. Vocalist Nicolai Carrera is a fabulous find and a wonderful painter of this imagery. He has a solid performance style that translates across the album's entire genre spectrum. Keep an ear out for when he hits those higher notes because he doesn't even remotely flinch when he does it, and I love it.
There are so many albums out there that like to "call back" to music of the past. Some do it right, some do not, and then there's The Celebrators that manage to knock it out of the park. Those classic rock riffs are present, but not dated. It also never sounds overly derivative. I can take a guess as to who their influences might be, but I would never say any of these songs have been done before. I love their ability to toe the line into so many genres with just ONE SONG. I myself am incredibly finicky when it comes to country music. This is a genre that for me easily falls into eye roll zone. These guys have managed to find that sweet spot where I can't so much as sneer, well done!
I love that this album was fine tuned to be a bigger than life listening experience. It knocked down the walls of my Chicago condo and brought a little fresh air in. This is an excellent production choice that makes them so distinctive and also makes me want to catch them live so badly. Whether intended or not, the production on this album was a great business decision head to toe. The album sounds amazing and makes me want to spend money - NOT an easy feat.
I'm not kidding when I say these guys have something that is meant for a broad audience and I think they will find it. This is an album I could recommend to about sixty-five percent of my music loving friends. That's a pretty healthy chunk considering my friends are some of the most jaded and critical people I know besides myself. I want to congratulate The Celebrators on this album because I think it's a very solid collection of work that will take them places.
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
Chris Sunshine June Bug 3.6
Alex Crowson Take This With You 3.9
Wind and the Willows Bloom and Fade 4.0
Klepto Robot Viennese Emperor 3.6
Jonathan Fraser The Art of Apathy 3.8
Transient Root Innershift 3.8
crystal rose summer shoes 3.8
I had a feeling I was going I to really like For Fear by Green Palm Radiation by just reading about some of his influences ranging from Yo La Tengo to Simon and Garfunkel. For Fear is a diverse album in a number of ways. A lot of the aesthetics in the recording themselves sound different and the music can go from what sounds like ’60s inspired Velvet Underground to ’90s indie rock. The album never attempts hip-hop or anything too far in left field but it’s a little hard to define the band under a single genre.
They open with “Forest For Trees” which sounds very similar to the indie rock music I grew up on in the ’90s. It’s basic 4/4, crunchy major and minor chord type stuff aligned with bands like Guided by Voices. I really liked this song. The vocal delivery and melodies particularly stuck out to me.
“Way Home” was interesting. Something about this song reminded me of The Beatles. It’s almost like The Beatles discovered indie rock. “In The Haze” is where the aesthetic of the recording changes considerably. It’s another really good song with catchy vocal melodies. “Strategy” could have been a Yo La Tengo B-side. Loved it.
“Raise” mixes a similar vibe with a tinge of garage rock while “Rain Delay” contains bright acoustic guitars that have a ’60s folk feel to it. “Lean-To” is atmospheric and dreamy that might help you relax while “Superball” has a good amount of kinetic energy that was really infectious. “Lovesick Lake” is almost pure atmosphere so much so that Pink Floyd comes to mind. The song had a very cosmic sound.
“Shut Out” was one of my favorites. The organ and whirlwind of instrumentation combined with some of the most notable vocal melodies make for a psychedelic sound. “For Family, Fear, and Fair” is ethereal and borderline magical sounding at points. They close with the cerebral and melancholy “Essay On Dreams.” They are very subdued here and pull it off.
As an engineer I have a lot of thoughts. It wouldn’t have been easy even for the best mastering engineers but getting a more unified sonic imprint to the songs would have made the experience feel more like an album. I know those days are long dead but I still prefer listening from beginning to end. It’s not even the writing that was different. It was strictly the engineering side which made me feel I was listening to self-contained islands of songs with different tones, textures, compression techniques, RMS levels and EQ curves
All that being said I really thought these songs were great. The band has no lack of tools or talent. I thought the songs were well performed and written with plenty of emotional depth. Recommended.
Pushing an interesting post-punk out of Little Rock, Arkansas is Mount Desert Island. Their latest album is Let Me In and it's a subtle romp through political and personal narratives. Their genre blend is a complex one of indie and alt rock with heavy notes of grunge. It's sort of like a quiet, indie rock riot. Enough of me trying to peg the album. Let's dig into what made me like this album.
On the narrative side, this album is pretty damn thick. Everything from breakups, to war to immigration is addressed across the nine tracks. These heavy handed lyrics are armed with the voice of Anthony Jarrell, who is essentially fifty percent of this group. He delivers impassioned and vulnerable vocal performances that stuck with me. His performance style is one that is often aloof and haunting. It's not hard to identify who his vocalist idols are and lord knows I'm a fan of all of them so naturally Jarrell's vocal contributions work for me.
Musically this album plays with a lot of different tactics. The other half of this group is Micah McClellan who happens to be drummer. Percussion had a big role for me with this album. Sometimes they would use the organic talents of McClellan and sometimes they would opt for drum and base machines, sometimes both. There was always a lot of thought sewn into the percussive elements when they were present whether it was electronic or not. It got to the point where I wasn't getting much percussion that I would miss it.
The guitar and bass elements are another block in the album's solid foundation. It was here that they really dictated their mood whether it was surfy and lofty or dark and introspective. The tracks that focused on bass and guitar were often lively and many times along a vintage counter culture vein compared to the tracks that were supported by atmospheric and electronic elements which were often more moody and psychedelic. Naturally there were tracks where all these elements collided, and those often became my favorites.
I did hit a snag with some of the production choices even if I understand why they chose to do things a certain way. Given my affinity for Jarrell's vocal work, I would get a little frustrated when he would get buried underneath all the fuzz and ruckus. Not that I'm against ruckus, by all mean, ruckus away, and this album has some top tier ruckus. "Let Me In" actually did a good job of isolating Jarrell's vocals so I could take them in without effort which is great because the lyrics on that track are fantastic. I get that there is an instinct to lean toward a garage punk sound with their mixing choices, and it fits. However I feel a few tweaks in favor of vocals or even the awesome bass on certain tracks would have been beneficial. I also think isolating elements outside of the guitar and percussion would shake some of the dated sounding haze that would hang over several of the tracks. What I can say? I hear a lot of talent in these layers and I just wanna gobble it all up.
Based in Menston, UK, Paul Davy offers listeners a “distinct bluesy/folk style with storytelling” that’s “truly at its heart.” Influenced by a wide range of artists including Gerry Rafferty, Rab Noakes, Thea Gilmore, Capercaille, Old Crow Medicine Show and Eddie Reader, Davy has been writing music since his teens. According to his biography, he set his guitar to one side when career and family took over in his late-20s – he is a father of two – but when one of his earliest home recordings was unearthed in 2010 by his sons he began to write again. Following up his debut album Better Late is Ancestors, a five-song EP about mortality and loss with a surprisingly uplifting sound.
The songs were all written on the Scottish islands of Orkney and Lismore. It was produced by Nigel Stonier and engineered by Seadna McPhail, who also worked on Better Late. Recorded at Airtight Studios, Chorlton, Manchester, UK, Stonier also played bass, keyboards, acoustic guitar and sang backing vocals, while Davy’s friends and family were playing with him on various instruments. Davy also recruited the help of Che Beresford from the bands Black Grape and Capercaille to play drums and percussion.
“Ancestors” is described as a waltz that is “part love song” and “part we will know when our time on the planet is up when the ancestors come calling.” If you listen closely and know what a waltz is, Davy and company play it beautifully, in a nice, gentle fashion. I wish more artists played them. And if you like the warm, mellow sound of the cello, you’ll like this one for sure.
“Who's Going to Miss You When You're Gone” is a sorrowful song for the National Health Service – the NHS. Davy’s words are a call to save it before it's too late. He ‘personifies’ the service by using the pronoun ‘you’ – as his words say, “you gave them hope / you took their fear / you gave them a shoulder for their tears… they’re going to miss you when you’re gone.” This tune features a combination of cello and violin solos that are gorgeous and a tempo that’s slow, but perfect for the song’s context.
“What Am I to Do” is about grief and loss. The act of holding onto someone but then, letting go. There’s a sweet and soulful harmonica solo on this one and overall, in the style of a slow dancing ballad. “Go Tell Aunt Mary” is an upbeat number in bluesy rock n’ roll fashion. Lyrically, it’s about a fictional person who’s called on when it's time to go – but, go where Davy doesn’t specifically name a place, other than “home.” Back-to-back harmonica and guitar solos are a highlight here.
The last song “Clouds” is about hope and coming out on the other side after a devastating event in your life. I really liked Davy’s words on this one – very poetic. I especially liked the chorus “let’s just see what tomorrow will bring / let’s just sit and wait / put some money on sunshine ahead / let’s just sit here and wait.” On the whole, I liked how Paul Davy and his band mixed old-world styles and sounds, along with takes on more modern genres – a good variety for those who like a bit of everything.
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Justin Moran is an artist from California who recently released BLURRY. The EP was recorded in one take and revolves around guitar and vocals. According to his Bandcamp page BLURRY describes the loss and gradual reclamation of self that occurs following a tragic life event. That description resonated with me since I have practiced meditation for years. One of the main ideas or even goals of certain disciplines of mediation is to lose the sense of self, not get it back.
The songs all seem to come from the same foundation of melancholy. Moran has a good voice and often sounds like the archetype of the tortured singer/songwriter whispering truths to the listeners. The songs are covered in a lot of reverb. As an engineer myself I’m not exactly sure why there was so much reverb. You usually want a sense of intimacy with these types of songs but the hall reverb made it hard to pay attention to details and nuances of both the guitar and the vocals. One thing I will point out is that if you are going to coat an instrument in a lot of reverb it is usually advantageous to lay off reverb on other elements because a lot frequencies build up and compete for space.
The EP starts with “Blurry” where the guitar is strummed throughout There are multiple degrees of intensity and Moran does a great job controlling the dynamics with his playing style and vocals. By around the two-minute mark Moran is going all out.
“Bloom” starts off very subtle and subdued. It sounds really good. The song builds quickly with more traditional strumming and grows more intense as it grows. “Black Tattoo” follows a similar formula with some subdued picking and more intense strumming. Even after a couple of listens to these songs they felt really similar to me. That's a bad thing because it makes the experience feel cohesive but I felt like I wanted something to define the individual songs more.
I’m not sure what happened to the recording quality on “Battle Cry.” The better quality returns on “Where Will I Be” which is the arguable highlight. That being said the emotional foundation felt very aligned with the previous songs.
I would like to hear Moran’s abilities that weren’t in one take. At some point working in a studio with a producer, engineers and even other musicians may be advantageous to his music.
Moran is a solid songwriter who has a notable singing voice. I look forward to hearing more from the young talent.
The year was 1976 and Ross Bryant was washing dishes to make money so he could buy a guitar. The passion to play music obviously never left him as he just released Red & Black. It contains ten songs which mix a number of genres like blues, rock, pop and more.
“Private War” opens up the album and I initially thought the song was going to sound similar to early Metallica. The song ends up having a very mixed ’70s sound. There is some classic rock as well as darker, hard rock not too far off from Alice Copper.
“Life's been Good” is a fun song with a momentum and energy that reminded me of The Who. It’s a breakup song that celebrates life after the separation. “Coffee and Tea” is a catchy one with a rock attitude but there is also a bluesy side to the song from the lead guitar to the breakdown. It’s also a little funky because of the bass line.
“Cat in the Hat” is a little more edgy and aggressive. There is a good amount of attitude when it comes to the vocals. The sound is very ’70s hard rock. “Sorry” takes a turn emotionally. This is kind of a sweet and tender song. It felt more like an Americana influenced ballad of sorts. It’s also a really catchy song with an infectious chorus that was easy to appreciate.
“Rehab” returns to ’70s hard rock while “Hurts” is an acoustic based song that is warm and contains a good amount of nostalgia. It is one of those of those songs that has a cerebral Pink Floyd quality. The album continues with two more rockers entitled “Why” and “Free to be a Slave.” He closes with the slower ballad “Hey Momma.”
Bryant’s influences are artists from the ’60s and ’70s which is a major factor to how this album sounds. On that note if you are a fan of the aforementioned artists and styles you will probably appreciate Red & Black.
Prismatics is a synthpop/alternative rock band comprised of Brooke Austen (synthesizer/keyboards/vocals), Josh Clark (guitar/vocals), and Jo Bossi (bass/vocals). They released New Emotion which contains five songs.
There is a band called Chromatics that I’m a big fan of. I’m sure it’s just coincidence but one thing I found funny is that they are also a synthpop band which takes inspiration from genres like new wave and glam. In fact they also have a female lead singer who sort of sounds similar to Austen. At any rate they should definitely tour together.
The EP opens with “Popaganda.” You are greeted with a nostalgic sounding arpeggiated synth you would hear in ’80s new wave song. The song starts to unfold with multiple vocal melodies, clean, shimmering guitar, bass and drums. There is a heavy ’80’s feel to this song from the goth tinted vocals to the beat which feels a little inspired by Blondie.
Up next is “Real Love” which is more of a ballad. The vocal harmonies are great and I really liked how dark they got the drums to sound during the verse. Once the chorus hits there is a change in energy that feels pretty celebratory and joyous.
The title track “New Emotion” is the arguable highlight. I liked how dynamic the song was. It’s a song that picks up energy and I thought the hook a little after the one-minute mark was immediately memorable and classic sounding. “Sail in Light” is another winner. The vocal harmonies are really strong on this song. That being said the instrumental parts are on point as well.
They close with “Apparition.” This song definitely soars. The funky bass stood out to me on this track and the juxtaposition against the shimmering guitars and synths worked very well. On top of that the vocal melodies are infectious.
There are really zero holes in this EP. I liked all the songs and look forward to a full length. Recommended.
Fawkner Walking Society was formed in 2018 by brothers Owen Eales and Robert Eales. Located in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, the band’s debut EP Fawkner Walking Society by the same name is the result of spending time playing in local venues throughout the northern suburbs. This in turn solidified the group’s identity as part of the Melbourne music scene. The band describes their songs as a fresh take on the indie/alternative guitar-based rock of ‘90s Australian bands and other bands like the Go-Betweens, The Smiths and The Underground Lovers. Their songwriting centers on localism and modern living. Recorded over a span of just a few days, the band’s intent from the start was to have a fresh and live sound with minimal production additions.
To start off with “Ether Girl” bypasses any literal definition of the word, but no worries – what’s happening here musically are warm tones, smooth harmonies and a nice, indie/folksy pop vibe that’s inviting. “Fawkner Walking Society” offers a rolling rhythm – hip, tender and pleasantly smooth. The band’s warm toned and live sound is really growing on me. After just listening for a bit, the band’s sound reminds of a few other artists like The Wallflowers, Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M. with hints of Tom Petty.
“Murmuration” carries on the band’s smooth and slow tempo and warm toned guitar sounds. The lyrics are quite poetic in the way that they’re written. If you listen closely, you can hear the hushed but crisp sound of the ride cymbal, but hey… I’m a drummer, I listen for these things. The band’s last number “Outer North” finds the band singing about their home roots and the rhythm is just a bit faster. I really liked the band’s melody on this one, it reminded me of something from MurmurorReckoning by R.E.M.
The song seems to have an alt-country flavor, but just a bit. If you like indie-alternative music that has a familiar sound, but with something fresh, then I think the Fawkner Walking Society would make an excellent choice.
Nothing like starting my morning with some raw cut punk from across the pond. Scotland's FLEGGETT takes me back to a simpler time, when a pack of cigarettes and access to my shitty Nissan Altima was enough to make me happy. Nowadays I got bills to pay, two cats to feed and a husband who I need to make sure is alive from time to time. The album The EP is downright squirrelly, capturing all my favorite emotions from frustration, to anger and everything that falls in between. When I say "raw cut" I mean it. You are neck deep in reverb and fuzz for days, but in all honesty I can't really picture this album being done any other way.
Just listening to the vocals alone I felt like I was burning calories. He's a screamer this one, yelling out the lyrics which take a few listens to pick up. I've got no problem with a lyric scavenger hunt, that's the nature of the beast with music like this. A good chunk of the lyrics were worth the hunt, others not so much, but always the raw emotion behind them. There were times where I would have liked the vocal work to actually hit a note for the sake of the music.
The first couple of tracks "Digital Shark Fin" and "What's For You Won't Go By You" are standard issue punk rock heart pounders. I was particularly struck by the song "Stop Looking At Your PHONE!" I like the idea that this band hustling a ballsy sound of punk and grunge would produce a song that almost makes them sound like grumpy old men screaming at kids about their phones. Getting past that, you get into a more genre expanding realm where indie rock and grunge and garage rock make their appearances. The final track "Ride" was particularly interesting to me because I felt like it was pulled from another album. It was instrumental, still very rough in terms of production like the rest of the album, but it had a joyride feel unlike any of their other songs. I was sort of curious to hear that album.
Here's a fun fact that I did not see coming. This album was a studio project. Color me shocked. Somehow they managed to create such a vibe that I figured could only be achieved in a garage. This fascinates me. Was their intent to trick me this way? In terms of production, I think a little more time in the oven and polish could have benefited their work. However it could be entirely possible that they engineered this album to be a growling, snarling beast with no leash, and if so I respect it.
I think these guys have a lot of ideas, and this EP was sort of a sampling of what was possible. Judging from this little sample platter I would say this group has several albums worth of content just mulling around in their fun loving skulls.
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