Jon Lock used to play bass in a jazz band before he picked up a guitar and started singing. Some of his recent progress has been recorded on his recent release Cooked With Curry. Cooked With Curry is a complete DIY effort that is unequivocally lo-fi. I’d be lying if I said I was completely happy with the recording quality. There are a good amount of things a proper studio could have cleaned up but overall the songwriting still shines.
Lock is an artist who churns out songs rather fast. In all honesty as a songwriter myself I’m not sure how he has such a fast turnaround. Lock mentions “I generally write, perform and rough mix a track in one day.” That concept is unknown to me simply for the fact that I can work months on end for a song.
There are fourteen songs on this album which is quite a lot and I enjoyed the majority of them. He opens with “Cut Me a Little Slack” which has a bit of a Roy Orbison vibe. Lyrically, it’s a pretty straight forward love song. He sings “Every time I see your face / I feel my heart race / I can't believe I got the luck / To get in your good grace.”
“This Is it” is basically Reggae. The song was begging for some kind of lead instrument or vocal. Yes, there is some lead guitar but it only made it’s appearance on occasion. I really wasn’t sure what to expect after this rather abrupt change in style from the first to the second song. “Outshines Your Grace” has a little more of that ’60s singer/songwriter vibe while “Seething” takes advantage of a lead guitar but veers more towards cosmic territory a la Pink Floyd.
“King Arthur's Lament” is a solo acoustic song that sounds like nothing that came before while “Cut Me a Little Slack” is a bit dissonant sounding while simultaneously being catchy. Up next is the jazzy lounge song “Holtsville Reel” which is another song that feels like a complete departure from anything else. Lock continues to experiment with one-off style songs such as the instrumental “Mellow Sun” or the waltz “Laurent Proy.”
I can’t say these songs feel cohesive. Cooked with Curry feels much more like a collection of songs than an album with a beginning and an end. Once I approached the album in that way I was able to appreciate it a little more. At the very least this is an album that may have something for everyone; you just may to do a little digging to find your favorite songs.
Stone Fella is an indie band based in Barcelona, Spain. The band consists of lead guitarist Rick Alon, rhythm guitarist and lyricist Toni Pons, and bass player Dani Hernandez. Rick Alon and Toni Pons first met in Barcelona, sharing a classroom as they were both interested in the recording arts. Shortly later as Alon was playing in a band, he invited Poni to play the bass guitar. Pons agreed and started playing with them. Months later when that band dissolved Alon and Pons decided to start a new and fresh band where playing, writing songs and breaking the bounds set by the old formation would be the core of the band, and what’s most important to embrace the artistic freedom that these guys needed to start calling themselves Stone Fella. After a few months Alon met Dani Hernandez in an improvisation session at the school and Rick invited him to join the band and be the new bass player.
Their self-titled EP Stone Fella opens with “Walk Around.” Two Door Cinema-esque lead guitar twinkles in a high-pitched arpeggio atop a punchy, fast-paced beat and strums of electrifying and melodic chords. The vocals have that classic slurred by soothing indie rock feel made popular by bands such as The Strokes, but Stone Fella adds its own spin on a popular genre. There’s a soothing and gentle feel to their music which really brings out the melody over the noise of the tracks. This is a refreshing take on indie rock, and I particularly enjoyed the mellow synthetic arpeggios, surf-esque lead guitar and gentle, harmonizing vocals. Yet, at the same time, it’s a danceable, fast-paced track that I’m sure goes down a real treat live.
“Hear Me Say” delves deeper into the melodic, soothing and ballad-esque sensibilities of Stone Fella. A calming acoustic guitar progression strums its merry way atop a slow, soft and restrained drum beat which keeps the song concise and structured without trying to drown out any of the musical goodness this song boasts. It’s rare to find a drummer who adds just the right amount of flavor to a song without being too overbearing with fills and unnecessary noise. All in all, “Hear Me Say” is sadly a short song, but a soothing moment of respite.
“Egg” delves further still into the electronic, spacey and melodic monster hiding beneath the surface of Stone Fella’s indie rock exterior. Punchy drumming once again manages to create a danceable vibe with the occasional dose of fills without being unnecessarily loud or frustrating. It’s incredibly satisfying, and it’s a style reminiscent of Phil Selway (Radiohead’s drummer). Again, this is a short track but a sweet one. The jazzy vibes brought on in the closing minute with a bouncy, vibrant bass rhythm and sizzling trumpets manages to, yet again, be upbeat and exciting yet calming and soothing.
‘Rocket Fuel’ returns to the more straightforward indie style with which Stone Fella opened, and it reminds me of some of Bombay Bicycle Club’s earlier work - the difference being, yet again, that Stone Fella have added their trippy and soothing flavor to the mix. Muted, delicate electric guitar strumming along with harmonizing, melodic vocals create a really calming vibe. The bass rhythm is soothing and the drumming, yet again, is punchy but restrained.
All in all, this is one of my favorite indie listens on a personal level in a long time. I’d urge any fan of indie rock and trippy, melodic music to gives this a listen.
Verdigris is a duo which started back in 2014, with both members having played in bands a long time ago. They were both finally ready to return to music. They came back in with a fresh batch of songs and some ideas about how to present them. They were content to be a straightforward duo, as full rock bands seemed overly complex and unnecessary to them. They welcomed the challenge of creating a huge sound by themselves. By remaining a two (and lately, three) piece unit, Verdigris keep things as simplistic as possible. They can play anywhere from a bedroom to a huge hall and easily fill out either space.
The 10-track Verdigris release entitled ‘meaning making machines’ opens with ‘The Newell’. Softly strummed clean electric guitar chords tentatively reverberate as deep, elongated vocals and twinkling flourishes of ethereal lead guitar dance atop this melodic, mellow and soothing ballad. There’s something distant and yet immediate about the song all at once. It’s beautifully intimate and yet spacey, open, distant and otherworldly. It’s the perfect combination of human emotion and psychedelic, atmospheric and ambient noise.
‘Want’ takes on a softer, darker and even more ambient approach than the opener. Behind slowly strummed clean electric guitar chords and soothing vocals, a continuously resonating guitar note - sounding almost like a muted siren - floats in the distance before finally increasing in volume and coming to the forefront of the track. The distorted, gripping and brutal manner of the lead guitarist’s efforts adds some real grit to the atmosphere of this intense, atmospheric track. The noisy, chaotic chorus, full of raw, belting vocals, aggressively strummed chords and a crunchy guitar line all combines to create a powerful moment of sonic bliss. It’s amazing that such a sound can be achieved by so few instruments; there’s no bass and no drumming.
‘I Cry (When The Rains Come)’ is the first straightforward track. Again, there’s no drumming, but the rhythm guitar serves as a steadily pulsing beat to which the duo can remain in time. Its steadily throbbing, crunchy, chunky sound serves as the backdrop to harmonising vocals between the two musicians as occasional bursts of power chords emerge atop the noisy, pumped-up and electrifying chaos for which the pair are responsible here.
‘The 11 Mile’ is a slow-paced, soothing and straightforward melodic piece full of a tender picked clean electric guitar pattern and soothing, reverberating and otherworldly vocals. Verdigris once again manage to create a large sound with nothing more than two musicians playing soothing, restrained electric guitar. Occasional distorted and powerful chords ring out atop the soft guitar playing and singing which drives the majority of the track. It’s an impressive sound for two people, and I don’t think that can be understated.
Overall, this is an intriguing album. Personally, I’d have liked a little more variety in terms of different sounds, but I can’t fault consistency when the songwriting is so impressive and the emotional performance is so gripping. The singing’s brilliant, the guitar-playing is brilliant, and I’m sure these guys are a blast to watch live. I look forward to seeing what they’ll create with a third member in their band.
The Dobies is the solo project by Anthony Gaglia. Gaglia made his three-song EP Animal Like Me in around two weeks and it is under ten minutes long. The EP goes by in a flash not only because of the short run time but because the songs are poppy, fun and light. I thought the music sounded like off-kilter surf/garage rock.
The EP starts off with “”Mystery and Fright.” The guitars are jangly yet smooth and are layered with light, atmospheric percussion and bass. It’s a very spacious canvas and lets the vocals really shine. The song isn’t particularly dynamic but it has a good amount of transitions and the melodies from the guitar to the vocals are great.
Up next is “Waiting” which starts with a little pup barking and then gets some energy with a vibe that's almost straight surf. The breathy vocals work very well with the song and the guitar is treated the same way as in the first song. Also like the first song it’s evident that Gaglia can write a catchy melody. A one off “woot” signals the rather long fade out a little after the two- minute-mark.
Gaglia closes with the title track which is perhaps even more catchy than the previous songs. Either way the song is addictive the first time you hear it and I thoroughly enjoyed the way he switches the vocal melodies. There is a distinct difference in his delivery but it works to the song’s advantage.
The only issue I had with the EP is it felt like an appetizer. However, maybe that was just Gaglia’s plan. Leave us hungry so we will be anticipating a follow-up.
Overall, Animal Like Me is a no brainer and certainly worth checking out. I have a feeling you will be happy with the eight minutes you've invested in checking out his songs.
Eva Cassel, a student at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, has recently released her debut album titled Everything. Written following a break up, she and her band navigate the listeners through separate stages of grief within a strong melodic and emotional context. Somehow, despite the clearly heartfelt, melancholic nature of the music, I actually had a lot of fun listening to the album, and I would say that is a testament to the songwriting capabilities of Cassel and her bandmates— utilizing delicate instrumentation with oftentimes powerful yet soothing vocals, the band conjures up a work of art that is sure to strike the listener in all of the right ways.
Firstly, I would like to briefly touch on the production of the album— with most of the instrumentation recorded at the Record Co. in Boston, with the vocals being recorded in a closet somewhere in Mission Hill, Everything honestly sounds excellent— it is warm, full, and still has room to breath. With the vocals being the centerpiece of most of the songs, the way that the instruments consistently sit in the pocket provided a perfect foundation over which the vocals could rest. The band (and producers, I may add) use reverb exceptionally well, adding to the thematically distant nature of the music, further illustrating the separation and grief that was found in many of the song’s lyrics.
In terms of song-writing, as I have already mentioned, Everything is absolutely solid. My personal favorites being “Pretty Girl” and “Lifeline,” the band does a wonderful job blending elements from several different genres of music in order to create a cohesive, unique sound. The way that most of the lyrical content was juxtaposed from the nature of the instrumentation (dark vs. light) presented the listeners with a multi-dimensional and multi-faceted approach to songwriting, which I think works very well.
I also enjoyed how close-knit and united the band sounded on just about everything (no pun intended). I guess the word to best describe the album, in my opinion, is polished. Polished musicians, polished production, polished sound. It made for an easy, attentive listen, and I loved that I could pretty much hear the enjoyment coming from the band as they played their songs. I am excited to see where Cassel and her band go, and furthermore what they accomplish, as I definitely see both potential and promise in their project.
A little over a year ago the Boston indie rock three-piece Birdwatching had their debut four- song EP Leaving Sounds reviewed on these very pages. The review was an accurate description of the band that was just starting out and trying perhaps as many bands do to release their best effort into the world.
Leaving Sounds was soaked in upbeat and fuzzy riffs and had that signature DIY hum to the recording. In the review Birdwatching were also called out by the reviewer as a band which falls into the “wait and see category.”
So here we are a year later and Birdwatching is back with their second offering, the three- song EP Hard Feelings. From the get go, one can hear an immense change in the sound quality. The band also comes out swinging with bigger hooks than before and tighter chops both musically and vocally.
The opener “Oh Mi” is a dance inducing pop gem that is bursting at the seams with pop sensibility. Sharing of vocal duties, bassist Andrea Neuenfeldt and guitarist Alex Zaniboni complement each other very well and percussionist James Soares fantastically keeps up the beats in the background with some pretty punchy drum fills. At just over two minutes “Oh Mi” sweeps in, swiftly kicks ass and then gets out.
The second song “Shukra,” is reminiscent of ‘90s emo acts; Rainer Maria comes to mind, as it changes direction and pacing going from hard and fast rock and then gradually slowing down the pace with angular guitar riffs, taut bass lines and hard, hollow-edged beats. The final song slows down the pace as it bounces along with a feel good jam session vibe that doesn’t quite have the same catchiness or rhythmic nuances of its predecessors.
With Hard Feelings Birdwatching has definitely shown that good old fashioned hard work is one of the most key components to a band tightening their sound and honing their craft. Birdwatching is no longer a band to wait and see, but a band that should be heard now.
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Joe Macdonald's Bridge and River Songs is a chance for the artist to return to performing. After taking a decade or more off from performing, the songwriter started off to simply write a song as a gift. It appears this highly personal album grew into a gift for the audience.
The emotions behind each song are authentic and organic. The vocals are unaltered and do not sound like they are overly computerized which is a nice change. The country undertones are simple yet entertaining.
“Cavendish Girl” starts off the set as a simple love song of sorts. It is easy to picture the type of girl every young man longs for, that one girl that just makes life easy. This is the lifetime love he sings about and I have to wonder where she is. The vocals combine nicely with the guitar for a classic country feel.
“Bridge Song” is a bit more upbeat with some interesting musical rhythms. It is still a highly personal song and almost too personal. You can feel the sadness and the disconnect the artist feels. The bridge to safety, to a far off place where you just do not turn back. The jump into the water seems like a sad metaphor for that moment where you are forced to make a choice that can't be undone.
“Coins in a Cup” was by far my favorite song on the album, but it is also one of the more heartbreaking of the set. It is a reminder about how fast things change and life takes a turn for the worse. It puts a face to the plight of the homeless. It reminds us that each of those silent beggars once had something beyond that cup with a few coins. Life was different before they became a ghost in the daylight.
“Time to Come Home” is a gentle break from the sad undertones of the album. This song stands alone as a voice of hope for a new life. This was the start of the album but it also could easily stand simply alone. This is a warm tribute to a rebirth of a family.
I enjoyed the questions this album brought up for me. It hit some pretty sad subjects but also made me think a bit outside of the box. I enjoyed the set and look forward to more of the hard hitting songs that are sung in such a simple way they are enjoyable
Japanese Lycra seems to be one guy from New Zealand. His self-released debut Japanese Lycra shows potential as well as specific things that could use improvement.
I was most reminded of Antony and The Johnsons and Perfume Genius for a number of reasons but mostly the delicate delivery of the piano and vocals. Piano and vocals are the main component and at its most inspired Japanese Lycra can sound quiet beautiful.
The most obvious issue to me was that these songs are drawn out when they really didn't need to be. I really enjoyed the opener but it would have been so much much impactful at around three minutes rather than seven. The changes are subtle and is anchored by the vocal harmonies. Perhaps the song could have justified the seven minutes with more instrumentation, crescendos or significant transition but that just wasn't the case.
Because of this the album does require patience on songs like “Vision Screen” and the title track. Tracks like “9 to 5” and “1950's Dancehall Interrupted” fare much better.
The other minor issues are timing and production value. There were moments where the piano is off. As far as production this is music that really requires great recording and mix quality. It just doesn’t work lo-fi and that's where the recording veers. The singer does have a great voice. It’s often exceptional. You really need to hear every nuance and breath with music this sparse and detailed.
This is a case of an artist who is unique and just needs to get to the next level. He is sitting on a boatload of talent. If he can starting dotting his I’s and crossing his t’s he can be making a sophomore release that will get people's attention. I’d keep your eyes and ears on this artist.
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
Useless Garden The Vows And The Wishes 3.4
David Wells Songs of Hope 3.7
Brunch Club Brunch Club 3.5
CROWMARSH CROWMARSH 3.6
Okay Champ I Don't Like This Anymore 3.5
Turtle Grenade Turtle Grenade 3.5
Greg Ieronimo Never Leaving California 3.6
TopCat TopCat 3.4
Jude Markey-Smith is a young singer/songwriter hailing from New York who released a DIY EP entitled Celestial Scenes. He veers towards rock/pop with influences that fall as far back as the ’60s. He mentions that Van Morrison and The Beatles are some of his favorite artists and you can hear that in the music.
He explores a number of topics but the most prevalent is romantic love. The way he writes about relationships reminded me much more of the way songwriters from the ’50s and ’60s wrote about relationships. He comes at it from an idealized, classic Elizabethan perspective where the romantic interest is a near flawless creature.
The songwriting is notable throughout with some peaks and valleys along the way. At the end of the day the songs revolve around mostly major and minor chords with a pretty predictable structure. The most important thing moving forward is making sure that he keeps in time. There are moments on this EP where the guitar strumming and beats get noticeably off time.
He opens with “Show Me A Sign.” The guitars are clean, the drums are in the back of the mix and the song is pretty catchy. The song has a sing along quality to it as he sings about yearning for romantic love.
Up next is “No Other” where lyrically you have to compare to “Something” by The Beatles. The song is solid but towards the end the playing gets a little chaotic. A similar vibe and feel is apparent on “Libra Unseen” which is arguably the highlight on the EP.
“Park Avenue Dash” felt a little more contemporary where comparisons to the band The Strokes are justified while “Sweet Surrender” is by far the most melancholy and contemplative song on the EP. “Sweet Surrender” is sparse and a certifed closer that felt appropriate as the last track.
This young artist isn’t breaking barriers or reinventing the wheel at this point but there is a good amount of talent here despite wearing his influences on his sleeve. He needs to continue to discover his own style as he continues to develop. Luckily, time is on his side and his evolution is guaranteed as long as he continues to practice and refine his skills.
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