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
Edelweiss Honduras 3.8
These Bashful Claws Stories 3.7
East Atlantic Brighton 3.6
Dan Clews Tourist In My Own Backyard 3.9
Navy Skies The New War 3.3
Carl Dylan & the Citizens Rewrite 3.4
The English Muffins Pedos On Bikes 3.4
Digits Shake Your Body Down 3.7
Rose Blake, Mike Isaacs and Scott Maynard are the three musicians that make up Pales, a group from New Zealand that recently released their full-length entitled It’s Cold Outside. This a sparse but sophisticated album that has some more than impressive vocal work as well as guitar playing. They kind of sound like a stripped down version of Grizzly Bear because of the vocal harmonies and vocal delivery as well as the off-the-cuff guitar progressions. Some people have described Grizzly Bear as baroque pop. If that’s the case I will go out on a limb here and call Pales baroque folk. Besides guitar and vocals they skillfully throw in other instrumentation that never takes away from the core elements. It’s strategically placed and adds extra subtleties that go a long way.
The album starts out off with “Right St.” which was an excellent way to begin the album. It immediately focuses on their biggest strengths, which are the vocals and guitar work. The song delivers original and inspired songwriting. You won't find any clichés here but what you will find are field recordings of waves, wind and other odds and ends that create a fantastic concoction of sound that melds into the guitar and vocals. The song ends with serene vocal harmonies and at this point had me very intrigued as to what the rest of the album would sound like.
The second song “Broken Homes” was even better than the first song. Pales hit the sweet spot after the two-minute mark making not only an original surge of sounds from incredibly typical instrumentation but also created an infectious melody that only furthers my appreciation for the group. The other thing they have in common with Grizzly Bear is that the music is accessible while relying on rhythms and progression that people might not associate with pop.
As the album progresses it continues to churn out undeniable talent. “Low” introduces a delightful banjo and well as melancholy while “It’s Cold Outside (Part II)” implements loosely put together guitar fragments that are downright intoxicating yet chaotic.
I don't have anything to criticize about this album. It was exceptional from beginning to start and I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did.
In October 2012, when Billy Baker, Jesse Duran-Crelin and Chelsea Moore united to form a band, the Woven Woods dynasty began. Since their initial interweaving, the band changed its name several times, undergone an artistic shift and played shows throughout the Boston area. Woven Woods’ first self-titled EP Woven Woods creates an angst-filled journey that effectively tackles the indie rock and alternative music realms.
The professionalism behind each track on Woven Woods shows the band’s advance grasp on today’s musical market. Woven Woods’ songs channel the spirit of hugely popular bands like Paramore, The Best Coast, and YellowCard, while still maintaining their own artistic identities. All four tracks on Woven Woods work lyrically, vocally and instrumentally so well that they could easily be placed on radio airwaves tomorrow and become hit records.
The songs “95” and “Trying to Find a Body” both draw on personal stories of lovers growing apart, but each of these tracks create different tones with their musical accompaniment. “Trying to Find a Body” uses less aggressive guitar and drum methods, so it sounds more reflective than angry, which works with the perspective of the song and singer. The point-of-view of the singer is someone who may miss their old relationship but has accepted the end of it. On the other hand, with “95” the point-of-view of the vocalist is someone still angry about the outcome of the romance, so the more aggressiveness of the instruments works within the frame of that single. With a Natalie Imbruglia or Sheryl Crow style, “Is Anyone There?” contains the deepest and most profound message on the EP with its development of tragic stories about lost souls, some haunted by their past with no hope for their future. It also contains the most carefully, tender vocals.
Instrumentally, “Is Anyone There?” offers the most variety with the softness of the drumming and guitar chords. However, whether Woven Woods goes all in rock hard or soft steps toward victory, all their musical arrangements work. They chose the best instrumental weapons to go with the emotional battles portrayed with their lyrics.
Overall, Woven Woods creates poetry with their words, power with their beats, and personality with their vocalists. It gives fans a glimpse of what the band can become. It’s both exhilarating and thought provoking. Woven Woods is definitely a band to watch out for in the future: hopefully they’re going to do big things.
In 2009, the married duo Maya and Jay Klein began the band Guess & Check. They shared song writing and lead vocal duties. In 2011, the Kleins expanded their group by adding their friends Shayna Lewis (bass player) and Barry Ickow (drummer). As a Brooklyn-based band, Guess & Check has performed at various New York venues, including the Cake Shop and Glasslands Gallery. Their first full-length album Entanglement, released in 2014, consists of songs written in a four-year span.
Entanglement fuses indie pop and rock. However, the entire album represents a grab bag of music, where any style, genre, or beat surfaces spontaneously. The alternating vocals help fuel this idea of surprise and mystery with every new track.
Each track on Guess & Check’s Entanglement gives a rock-musical theatric, especially with the singles “Entanglement,” “Lucy Relax,” and “Antidote.” If Entanglement was a rock-opera it would focus on a couple-characters’ journey through pain, growth, and eventual self-acceptance. Additionally, each song contains a distinct sound representative of a musical decade, everything from 60’s female lead singer groups to present day pop-rock bands.
Three songs on Entanglement capture the overarching themes of it. “Lucy Relax” creates an ‘everything will be alright’ calmness, which works with the lyrics. The song’s catchy chorus and slick beats create a tone that’s easy for singing and dancing moments. “Letter” potently captures the idea of exposure and self-reflection with its straightforward lyrics and tension setting instrument accompaniment. The instrumental choices help create the idea of someone exposing their darkness, loneliness and regret through words - not just in the form of a letter but also a diary entry. “My God I Just Realized” plays into the concept of youth anthems. It discusses embracing your passion while maintaining uplifting rhythms. These three tracks highlight the most consistent subjects on Entanglement: freedom of the mind, forgiveness of the past, and reflecting on the future.
Upon initially listening to Entanglement, the changing vocals, styles, and genres created a disconnection. These choices made it difficult for me to understand Guess & Check as a band: who they are and what they want to accomplish with their music. Eventually, I grew to appreciate their creative choices, but Entanglement might work slightly better with a more consistent style and tone. Every track could stand out more on separate albums, or bundled by content or style in EP forms. However, considering the title of the album, creating a musical entanglement might have been Guess & Check’s plan, to which they succeed.
Overall, Guess & Check creates twelve enjoyable, distinct, and relevant stories, which gives Entanglement a lot to explore and appreciate.
Richie Healy lives outside of Kilkenny, Ireland, where he raises sheep and grows hay on a 70-acre farm. Some of his musical influences include Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Tom Waits. Healy’s chill inducing, gritty-rasp vocals makes him a perfect addition to the blues, folk genre. His Last Taxi Home album portrays the human journey through his development of certain atmospheres and places with strong imagery.
Each track on Healy’s album offers a lot of vocal and instrumental character, but a few of these songs have a little extra magic. “Changes” starts Last Taxi Home by being reminiscent of a Western film. Someone enters the town planning to cause change; it commands you to stop and listen. “Room Around Here” starts with a piano, the first track on the album to depict this type of instrumental solo. Its lines “something tells me that the devil got a room around here,” grabs you, not only for its intensity but because it represents a major theme of the first half of the Last Taxi Home album: inner and outer demons. The combination of the softness of the piano with the darker lyrics of the “Room Around Here” creates a tantalizing juxtaposition.
Following that song is “Lost Souls,” which purely uses found sounds - like wind chimes - and instruments. It relies heavily on the somberness of the guitar and acts as a break/transitional phase for Last Taxi Home. What makes this point in the song transitional is that many songs following it have a calmer, reflexive nature. An example is “Steal Down the Rainbow.” The track creates Healy’s most mesmerizing usage of his vocals. “Swans and Hobos” exemplifies what Healy does best: create vivid, powerful imagery, and places listeners in certain settings.
Instrumentally, the band shines by allowing Healy to remain the star of the song. Some artists get outperformed by the band not fitting with the nature of the song and singer. On the other hand, some bands add nothing or get completely drowned out by the vocals. With Healy and his accompanying music, it’s a perfect marriage.
Healy creates one of those rare musical experiences where you’re completely enamored from the first note and it continues on throughout the whole album. Songs like “Room Around Here” and “Steal Down the Rainbow” from Last Taxi Home will haunt you for decades to come, in a good way.
Sean Hanley began acoustically playing his music in 2005. Since then, he has performed in many venues around the Palm Beach and Broward County area. The West Palm Beach, FL musician takes a time machine to the 60’s and 70’s with his creation of a rock, bluegrass, folk, country and pop fusion album, Fall of This Town. The album has as much heart and soul as the legendary albums of those eras.
Fall of This Town gives fans of every genre something to glorify with constant repeats of their favorite tracks from it. For fans of fast-beat, high-energy songs, “One More Hour of Daylight” and “Don’t Blame Me” satisfy their cravings with melodies that will make them clap, stomp and sing. For fans of more simplistic instrumental efforts, “Long Lonesome Life” and “When My Bottle Runs Dry” will impress with Hanley’s poetic lyrics and vocal styling. A fascinating thing about Fall of This Town is Hanley’s adaptability with each song. His voice morphs and gains the same character as musical greats like Bob Dylan. “Long Lonesome Life” and “Fall of This Town” really sound like they are Dylan-inspired.
Many of the songs on Fall of This Town thematically fall into the peace, love, freedom and revolution categories, which helps it generate the 60’s era mystique. Fall of This Town contains many instrumental solos, especially for the guitarists. It really does give fans of all musical styles something to delight and discover.
Overall, Fall of This Town not only shows musical expertise with the arrangement, instrumental backing and carefully constructed lyrics, but also an album with personality. Hanley’s Fall of This Town has something important to say and knows how to say it with finesse.
Seacow is a three-piece hailing from Pembrokeshire, West Wales and recently released an EP entitled Steller Has Gone to showcase what people can expect from their upcoming album. I took a listen and I expect good things to come from this band. They have a shoegaze, indie vibe that is comparable to Yo La Tengo, Tapes N Tapes and Sparklehorse. On this four-song EP they effectively showcase their diverse capabilities.
The first song up is “Spring,” which relies on melancholy as well as tranquility. That chose to forgo any percussion in favor of atmosphere. The song starts off simply enough with a lone guitar that starts getting engulfed with ethereal pads of warmth. It’s soft and subtle but creates a very seductive canvas. An electric guitar is introduced which doesn't feel jarring. The vocal work is excellent as Martin Solomon sings barely above a whisper. He has a very comforting voice that I would think most people would enjoy.
The second song “Fixer” is the most straightforward indie rock song of the four. It’s nothing too out of the ordinary but still a very solid song. Seacow sounds more like a traditional band on this one as it introduces a standard lineup of bass, drums and guitar. “Dan Beard Threw His Men Away” is more of a transition piece than a song. For 42 seconds you get the sound of a simple organ. They end the EP with “Man My Tee,” which utilizes distant guitars, warbly synths and percussion as Solomon sounds similar to Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse.
Steller Has Gone is a sampler that shows a lot of promise from the band. I’m interested to see how their upcoming full-length sounds.
Hollowphonic aka Brad Ketchen is back. He started Hollowphonic in 1999 and began melding shoegaze, ambient, rock, and electronic sounds but it has been awhile since we heard from him. In February of this year Minor Sphere Records released his long-awaited follow-up entitled Viaduct. This record brings 13 flushed out creative endeavors and surpasses his previous efforts. There is a wide variety of genres he mashes together creating a hybrid of staple sounds that reminded me of some of my favorite bands from the 90’s and early 2000’s. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Notwist, Sigur Rós, My Bloody Valentine, and Ride are a couple of names off the top of my head that had some influence on this record. There may be influences on this record but don't be fooled. Ketchen is his own beast who creates inventive sounds that become his own.
The album starts with “In Support of Living,” which is an atmospheric ambient piece that makes you feel as if you are observing the earth from a distant cloud. He douses the instruments with a hall-like reverb creating an ethereal, tranquil fog of serenity. Ketchen quickly switches gears with the second track “Absent Without Leave” and introduces a beat-heavy song with perhaps the catchiest vocal melody on the album. When the electric guitars are introduced around the two-minute mark they mask the song in a glorious veil of white noise that creates a marriage between electronic and shoegaze. Ketchen doesn't let up one bit and certifies his reawakening with “We Are Not Alone.” With guitars galore the song rocks and has stellar production value.
“In Need” creates an almost perfect symbiotic relationship between harsh white noise and sublime warmth while “Remember Forever” effectively combines nostalgia and melancholy. “Underground” has a raw sound and again showcased the proper way to implement distortion in shoegaze. The record concludes with “Endings (feat. Amy Pagnotta), which is arguably the highlight of the album. The song is an ambient achievement and is up there with some of my favorites from Windy and Carl to Auburn Lull.
Overall, there are very few lulls in this record and I have little to say about what I didn't like. The album is strongest towards the beginning and the end with the middle having a couple of weaker moments. In the end Ketchen is one of the few artists who was influenced by the sound of Creation Records and is trying to keep that sound alive and well.
Never Forsaken is a Christian hard-rock band from Southern New Jersey who recently released a six-song EP called The Journey Here. The first thing that needs to be mentioned is that you don't need to be a Christian to enjoy this music (although I'm sure it’s easier to appreciate it since they are talking about Christian faith). I'm a borderline atheist and was able to enjoy a good majority of this EP without feeling like it was being overly preachy or cliché. It’s hard to deny that they have a huge sound with great production, which is influenced by 80’s heavy metal, electronic as well as contemporary bands such as Fireflight and Evanescence.
The band consists of Jim Dallett (guitar), Lois Dallett (bass), Carlos Figueroa (guitar), Denise Jubb (lead vocals), John Eller (drums) and Sam Santos (keys). Everyone in the band is an accomplished musician and it shows through some of the impressive creative and technical parts that are throughout the album. Even if you aren't a fan of the music it’s hard to deny the vocal abilities of Denise Jubb. She sings with conviction and more often than not her voice soars.
The EP starts out with a solid rocker entitled “We Fall Down.” Palm-muted guitars are implemented into the verse before exploding on the chorus. Jubb sings “We Fall Down” as the song reaches for grand heights. It’s a powerful song that could barely be contained by speakers but it also contains an infectious chorus that I wasn't able to get out of my head. “Beg a Pardon” diversifies their sound by adding orchestration to the mix, which makes the music feel even more thematic and powerful. I wasn't expecting to hear a straight-up house beat on “Surrender My Life” but there it was. The song eventually segues into a heavy rock song then reverts back to the house beat. They pull it off and it sounded seamless.
Overall, the band does have that hard rock Christian sound, which makes me cringe but it also has a number of qualities that made this easier to digest. The band strives for songs that sound larger than life and hit the mark. Check it out for yourself and see if this is your cup of tea.
So Alex Cross is a jazz pianist from Philly. Keep this in mind when you listen to some of this album. Cross excelled in music at an early age, inspired by the saturation of his talented family, singers and instrumentalists alike. He started studying piano seriously, attending prestigious schools and working with renowned instructors. At one point, during winter break, he decided to put some of his efforts into recording Here and Now. Make the break go by faster. What happened was more than he expected. It was an outpouring of everything he'd been exposed to - jazz/rock/pop. And in those days of recording, some special things were happening. Let's get into it.
"The Enemy In Me" starts off setting the tone with a down-tuned angry riff, warbling in a chunky effect station. I like this sound a lot personally, and would expect some wild movements to follow. After the intro, however, things are placed on the back burner for a little while and a general rock song crawls through to the surface. The time shifts from 4/4 to 5/4 and I really appreciate that especially when it works so well. Throughout the song the guitar stays fierce, the drums right on the beat – programmed through software, but do what you gotta do – and the vocals take flight whether the support is necessarily there or not. Nobody should shy away from daring harmonies and upper range wails when they can hit the notes, but maybe some multi tracking could help. It's almost there. The sound is evolving away from rock and more into contemporary melodic ideas with "Brand New Dawn.” Mood setting chords and washy drums with quick sputter bass beats, wide thinking contemplative motion and some ear piquing runs on the keys.
"Someday" is some kind of pop ballad. That's the closest assimilation I can think of. The vocals push a little too far for ear's comfort and it's hard to take seriously considering the content of the first track. Continuity suffers a little bit – bring some abrasiveness to this track and I think it could thrive in that highly contrasted environment. Core music with bright heartfelt intention isn't seen every day. Just a thought. Now we're back to the rough sounding guitar and dirt in your eyes expectations with the final track of the album "Disappear.” The piano is definitely a tool that Cross uses to his advantage. He has a great ability to hear song structure and execute it at a level that begs for more attention. I think the loud, soft, loud theory works very well here, if it's not broke don't fix it. Remember back to the early 90’s of Nirvana and Smells Like Teen Spirit? That's where it started. Bring in the heavy, take it down for an intimate verse, then bring that stuff back in even harder. Emotions people. That's what “Disappear” is about.
This album has some focused and well-crafted material, I'm honestly impressed with the layers that each song creates and the story that is painted through the moods that intermingle from one track to the next. It satisfies an eclectic taste ranging from hard rock with a decent flavor to an almost sappy pop ballad. It's through this wide range that Alex showcases what inspires him and what he can relate to within songwriting. As I said, this work has some very positive potential if put in the right hands. It needs a stronger voice and an emphasis on one style; my opinion is leaning toward the harder edge. Also, production would be a huge improvement. I can hear what these songs would sound like and it's miles above where they are – and where they are is pretty damn good. So hats off for kicking ass with what you've got Mr. Cross. You've got riffs, good ideas and brave vocals.
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