It’s revealing when a recording artist lays out what’s in their head and hearts, while taking up the challenge to write and record a collection of songs in a very short span of time for time. Novel writers do it in November I believed during the National Novel Writing Month in the U.S. For the singer/songwriter known as The Idle Owl, his challenge was to write and record songs for February Album Writing Month and then upload them to the sponsored website before the month was over. Those songs saw the light of day on his debut release After All These Adventures.
The themes on this album encompass a variety of issues, like the struggles of being inadequate at a job; sadness, love and having time for to do those things you want to do in life. The album was recorded using one microphone in the attic of his home in Sheffield, UK.
In the opening tune “Not Coming Back Again” he talks about walking home in the pouring rain – “I love the rain / it helps to numb the pain.” Musically, it sounds upbeat even though the lyrics may not be. I liked the line – “drinking cream soda underneath the pagoda” for simply using that word, pagoda. “Time” feels somewhat like a protest song in a way, “keep your filthy hands off / my time is mine / my time is mine.” We’d all like back our time to right our wrongs or whatever the case may be. Time is money after all. “The Bridge” seems to be about building a bridge to repair a broken relationship between two people – a very open and honest song.
“A Trip to the Supermarket” sings about going to the store for “chocolate, sweets and colorful treats” but with a twist. Idle Owl seems to also be singing about having a nervous breakdown or maybe it’s just about a person who is extremely confused. I really liked “Peach Cove” for its jumpy, light rhythm on the guitar and happy feeling. “The Snow” was another toe-tapping number. I felt that this song was about the lonely romantic. Idle Owl mentions a list of things, pastimes, food, drink – all the things that bring back a memory frozen in time – centered on a relationship, just a guess though.
The last song, “What to Say” is deeply introspective and naked – “I’m not sure the man I’ve become is the man I want to be.” He goes on to sing that when you try to help someone by saying something you think might fix things, but then it turns out it didn’t – “I guess I didn’t know what to say.”
After All These Adventures is without a doubt intensely personal but it’s not all sad. The happier guitar rhythms bring a nice balance to the anxiety and somber feeling within the lyrics. Any amount that an artist puts into their work that shows the world just how deep emotions can really get is a beautiful thing. That’s what makes good art, no matter what medium it’s in. So if you’re feeling a bit down, The Idle Owl may help you out – he’s been there too.
Toby Valmas (vocals/guitar/keys) and Andrew Couglin (drums) are a newly formed band called Night Hums. They mention they took influence from ’80s new wave on their self-titled release Night Hums. That all makes sense. However let's dive into this a bit more. Night Hums sounds closer to bands like M83 and Cut Copy who both have tremendous influence from ’80s new wave acts like New Order, The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure and other like-minded bands. To pin the tail on the donkey Night Hums has most in common with the album Saturdays=Youth by M83 and pioneers of the sound Cocteau Twins.
The EP opens with “Coastal Roads.” I loved the production and elements right away. Luckily, they can also write a hook. I can’t say there were any surprises along the way but I was pulled in by the infectious melodies. Out of all the songs “Coastal Road” felt like it could be a B-side of Saturdays=Youth.
“Fiends” veers in slightly different directions. It felt more pop oriented with some resemblance to bands like CHVRCHES and Passion Pit. “Without You” was a highlight. I’m a sucker for nostalgia and this song has tons of it. The reverb washes over you and that guitar solo was straight from the ‘80s. “Night Drives” is upbeat, bright and ridiculously catchy while the closer “Yesterday” brings back the nostalgia I always yearn for at the end of the night.
80’s new wave never completely died, it just mutated. Other genres like shoegaze and dream pop would soon branch off and movies like Drive and labels like Italians Do It Better would reinvigorate the genre with synth pop with bands like The Chromatics.
Night Hums is a promising band that is keeping the spirit alive. My only advice is to be aware of wearing your influence too close to your sleeve. Being a singular band with a signature sound is still the recipe I believe has the most chance of catching the collective conscious of an audience.
Night Hums is on a good trajectory and I am excited for their future. Godspeed.
Brit La Palm (vocals/guitar), Justin Dale (lead guitar), Josh Denham (bass) and Michael Beavers (drums) are Moody Hollow. The Atlanta based band recently released a self-titled album Moody Hollow which is a rock album with southern charm and folk mixed in for good measure.
I spent some time with the album and my first thoughts were how well put together it felt. The production, delivery and everything in between seemed professional. It was obvious the band put a lot of work and effort into the album. Unfortunately, a professional sounding band doesn't’ always equate to an emotionally fueled, passionate album but that’s not the case here. The whole band does their part but the focal point of the music is the vocals by La Palm. La Palm is a dynamic singer who can go from intimate and mysterious to powerful and commanding. Her southern accent is sometimes subtle and other times a little more obvious.
The band starts off with the title track. I was immediately attracted to the music and thought the bass line in particular got my attention. The song was one of my favorites. It has an infectious, rocking chorus along with more serene moments. I was actually reminded of My Morning Jacket at times.
“Omaha” was just as much country as rock. The song has a single worthy type quality that made it seem like it would work on the radio. “Touch” is a darker rock song while “Runaround” is a catchy rock infused song with country and Americana.
One of the highlights was “El Dorado.” The band has a good amount of attitude on this song and a couple of riffs sound like they were influenced by spaghetti westerns and a mariachi band. As the album starts to come to a close they continue to deliver well written songs.
Moody Hollow is a good album that I think a lot of people would appreciate. There weren’t any surprises along the way but the band was able to create a cohesive experience for the listener. Recommended.
Merges is an alternative rock band from Raleigh, NC comprised of Diego Fonseca (vocals), Adam Hudson (guitar), Chris King (bass) and Phillip Harrington (drums). The band which formed less than a year ago already has found time to release a three-song entitled EP showcasing some of their songs.
They are a fun, energetic rock band. The topics are easy to understand and the music is well executed. They start off with “Yell it Out” which is a mix between funk and rock. Everyone in the band holds it down but I have to admit I was really attracted to that bass line during the verse. On top of that the vocal melody is catchy and I had it rolling though my mind upon the second listen.
Up next is “See You Around” which felt like a more straight alternative song. The funk is replaced with a more cerebral, thought-provoking quality. I thought the song was well structured. The band doesn't waste time moving about from verse to chorus and in between. I have to give more kudos to the bassist and pianist for the jazzy fills.
“Way You Taste” seemed like the most single worthy song on the batch. The chorus pops the first time you hear it and I could imagine this song getting radio play.
The recording definitely veers towards a well put together demo but I can’t say it's something I would expect from a commercial release coming from a professional studio. Suffice it to say that’s one of the areas I’m sure the band will probably focus on if they are hoping to compete with well known bands.
I’d say Merges is off to a great start. They have technical/creative talent and I expect to be hearing more from them soon. I’d keep an ear on them.
LegoHeads aka Landon Trimble is a solo act from Vancouver, Canada who labels his music “ambient pop.” I was intrigued by the label but found it a little misleading. When I think of ambient music I think of artists like Brian Eno, Stars of the Lid and William Basinski come to mind. To my ears his album The Space Between was a well executed pop album period.
In fact the songs often try to be so epic and intense in scope that the last thing I would label this as is ambient. As I was scanning his facebook page I noticed he mentioned Bon Iver was an influence but really didn’t pick up on this. The band I thought more often was Coldplay although there were others that came to mind as well.
Trimble’s songs in general feel more founded in radio ready pop then anything else. There are plenty of catchy hooks along with fairly familiar production techniques that aren’t cutting edge but easy to appreciate. Trimble pulls off quite a lot for a one-man act. If he is pushing the boards, creating the synths lines, on top of writing hooks, singing and more he is one talented guy to be pulling all of that off.
Up first is “Headlights.” Something about the slightly funky groove reminded me of Justin Timberlake but the bridge was a little more atmospheric before smoothly segueing into an almost Phoenix like chorus. “My Body Will” is really epic and the first time I thought of Coldplay but “Pull Me Under” perhaps even tops that in the last minute. I was hoping for a breather after listening to these two songs back to back. Trimble delivers with “The Void” which is a catchy, feel good song that would sound prefect in a hip lounge.
“Who Would Run” was a solid track. Trimble pulls off the falsetto which I wanted more of. As the album progresses he has more success with “When I Drink” and “Memories” and somewhat ironically ends with “Here at the Edge (Outro) which is the one track that I considered somewhat ambient.
Trimble accomplished a lot here from the song creation to the exceptional recording quality. There is a lot of pop music that makes me cringe. This is not that. In fact pop music needs more artists like Trimble out there.
Located in Westminster, Maryland the members of Pain To Purpose started off as a duo about a year and a half ago. Sometime after the backbone rhythm of a bass player and drummer came into the fold and just last month the quartet released their first EP Coincide.
The band’s songs deal with brokenness and pain and relationships in a fallen world. But despite this, they also speak of having courage to see the pain through and come out alive into a better, more hopeful future.
Coincide starts off with “Here and Now” and it’s quite heavy with the double-bass drum and grinding distorted guitars. The vocalist is a little like the singer from Creed with Gavin Rossdale from Bush and maybe that singer from Silverchair, albeit many years older.
I’m not one to regularly compare a singer’s voice to other singers – perhaps it’s just a natural human thing to do. So for what it’s worth, those other singers came to mind when I started listening.
The title song “Coincide” has a great mix of sounds. I really liked the “rat-a-tat-tat” riff of the guitars juxtaposed with the lighter guitar sounds on the verses. A little old school metal mixed with the new – good stuff! I absolutely loved “Toxic Love Story” for its “chug-chug-chug-chug” of guitar and a dark melody that had an inspirational feel.
There’s also a terrific balance of a high-pitched solo with a low grinding metal guitar that gives the metal genre a fresh sound. I chalk this song up as having a little Soundgarden influence and some guitar riff from KISS’ Hotter Than Hell album. Not too shabby. If you like metal music that has a message, Pain To Purpose might be your band.
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The Diseffect is a project from the metro Detroit area consisting of Mike Phipps. On his release Unicorns Phipps plays into a very specific niche of music. The Cure, Clan of Xymox, New Order, Joy Division, or The Sisters of Mercy are obvious influences that he points out. I’d say the music felt like a mix of Joy Division and The Cure with varying degrees of separation. The music has dark tendencies that usually come from the guitar which reminded me of Joy Division. However the four songs felt a little more buoyant and carefree in a way I associate with The Cure. The vocals were also a little too dynamic and uplifting to compare to the jarring yet monotone delivery of Ian Curtis. Robert Smith and Morrissey seemed more like the style Phipps was going for.
“Unicorns” is the opening track. The song is well put together with a catchy chorus and well delivered vocals. I would also note that this song felt like it was made in the early to mid ’80s. There are plenty of bands like Wild Nothings, Serena-Maneesh and more that in the last decade have updated this sound in their own way but this didn’t feel like that. The song felt like a transplant.
Up next is “Farsight” which is another very well written song. Phipps has done his homework on how to reel you in. I loved the atmosphere and textures on “Divine Deveined.” Phipps paints one of my favorite soundscapes utilizing a semi-funky bass line, reverb laced pads and a straight, danceable 4/4 beat. In my younger years this is the type of song I would have loved to hear in a club that would close out a night of decadence. “Drowning Sun” is the closer and in addition to the aforementioned artists I would throw in The Jesus and Mary Chain into the pot as well.
Phipps hits a sound right on the nose. I couldn’t help but want to listen to some of the classic records I grew up on after listening to this songs. And perhaps that's the only issue I have with this EP. As much as I appreciated the songwriting and aesthetics I had a harder time recognizing what elements felt associated with Phipps alone. I needed that X-factor that would make me recognize the singular sound of a Phipps song.
Suffice it to say fans of the genre will need to take a listen to this. Phipps’ music is somewhat nostalgic for those like myself who grew up on this music and wanted more of it. Recommended.
Those who are familiar with the syndicated radio show Little Steven’s Underground Garage will understand the sound this album Slinging Beauty by Ladies of brings by the time this sentence is finished. Those who don’t know the show are in for a wild ride. This album is awesome.
The twelve tracks were written over twelve months to be the songs that represent the best work the band can bring to the table. I would say that they have completely hit their target. Slinging Beauty, was released in late February of 2018. It carries a quick paced energy and confidence that makes it a reward to listen to. The band set out to bring their best before recording, and the attention to detail and dedication is incredibly apparent.
The song “Puts Up A Front” rides a guitar riff, and a short burst vocal pattern, while simultaneously building with the drums and the guitars. Background singers come to the aid of the bridge before the band launches back into their powerful riff driven frenzy. The song has a heavy grit to its spirit, incredibly determined to kick ass and keep kicking more ass. The ass kicking continues with “Make Up Your Mind,” a few tracks later in the album. The riff is a little slower, but still as powerful. The vocals are more drawn out, but they don’t take away from the power of the shorter delivery from earlier. The song shows the versatility of the group to accomplish their sound while changing the elements that are at the core of their songs.
It’s hard to just toss a genre and say that it exactly defines the The Ladies of. Elements of blues, hard rock, electronic music, vocal pop and classic rock can all be heard in the music. The album is enjoyable and is a good listen for an evening-in with a set of headphones, or for driving with a friend and having the music on underneath the conversation. There’s enough difference in the sound of the album that you can notice when songs change without having to be fully immersed in the listening. When you are fully immersed in the listening, the changes can be appreciated fully.
Slinging Beauty is a journey from start to finish of deep grooves and heavy hitters. The way the energy of the album flows could not have been decided on any better. There are ups and downs, fast songs and slow songs and all the songs are stellar.
Felix Goldstein knows what it’s like to be shuffled to the back and overlooked. That’s exactly what happened for over twenty years as she played bass in various bands in Gettysburg, Boston, New York City and Los Angeles. Eventually finding her way into writing lyrics, Goldstein funded her own recording and completed twelve tracks.
The twelve tracks span many genres. They also include several instruments that are not often found on solo projects. Double Helix was released in mid-February of 2018 on both Soundcloud and Bandcamp.
“(I Can’t Wait For) My Special Day” is a bouncy piano led track about the perfect wedding. It’s fun to listen to, and it’s hard to be in a bad mood when you listen to it. “If I Lose You” is a surf rock influenced reverb laden song that eventually builds to include a synth string section. “Seduce You” is a bluesy smooth jazz track. The lyrics and the vocal style they are presented in keep the track’s title entirely relevant. “The Queen Always Gets Her Way” is another club jazz combo track. It includes many layers of instruments and vocals alike. There are no two songs on Double Helix that are the same.
The laidback grooves of Double Helix are incredibly heavy under the right circumstances. You don’t have to listen very hard to be able to tell that this is an emotional album. The genre defying nature of the album brings up thoughts of other experimental alternative artists’ album structure, like Ween or Frank Zappa.
The carefree spirit of the two are found here, however the silliness does not get away from the serious intent of the songs. As well as being multi-genre, the album is soaked in different layers of instruments and vocals. It’s an interesting listen, and I think everyone can find at least one song to say that they really like. There’s more than a few reasons for that. It’s more than worthwhile to give it a listen. Check it out and find the reason that you like it
Peter Sean Maloney is a solo act based out of Los Angeles but he harnesses a lot of musical influence from traditional Celtic culture. He has an interesting collection of moods and aesthetics. He likes to delve into post punk and goth tones that go perfectly with the subject matter that he has fixated on which is the end of a relationship. So I suppose that makes this a breakup album, and I notoriously LOVE a good breakup album. I'm all for the misery, the combing through one's sorrow and taking your listeners with you. I have yet to experience a breakup album with a Celtic twist to it so that's definitely a first.
Maloney uses a cozy lineup of instruments that contribute to the acoustic nature of the album. There's guitar, mandolin, and even a traditional Irish bouzouki. Lock and loaded with all these instruments, Maloney weaves a winding journey with all these strings at his disposal. As far as his guitar work is concerned he is not afraid to experiment. He'll do a little finger picking where he happens to be very talented. He'll mess with the tuning to get more diverse sounds and all of these efforts did not go unnoticed. I appreciate his craftsmanship because it helped keep the music fresh.
Merrow Music is a concept album engineered specifically for vinyl. There is a side A, which features some pretty dark themes including murder and the inner working of twisted minds, however it sort of finds a light at the end. Side B is where the Celtic influence really shines. I was not given a vinyl version so I'll have to make due with what I was given, which was a digital rendition. I'll be honest, I could see this sounding great on vinyl, and I understand the appeal to want to engineer for that sounds, but it does put me and probably a few others at a disadvantage in terms of experiencing the music as intended.
I traditionally love a breakup album because I enjoy an honest and deep dive into misery and Maloney certainly delivers that. It's more than just a "light out" kind of darkness. It's incredibly heavy, and only at a few rare moments is there a counter weight to it. To be honest this is much more than just one subject matter. There was a lot to unpack in this album, maybe a bit too much. I feel like there could have been as many as three different albums tucked into this one. I had trouble connecting to the album at times because I struggled to find a thread in the music that pulled it all together other than that heavy darkness. I think spreading out the ratio between dark and light could have been good. You can keep your cold and damp core and still find light to guide the way.
I could never deny Maloney's passion and conviction to what he wanted to do with Merrow Music. This album may not have always rang my bell, but that certainly doesn't make it unworthy of listening to. I think if you want to hear legitimately solid acoustic guitar and cool Celtic touches you should look into this album.
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