Becky Kapell got interested in becoming a musician when she started strumming her teenage son’s guitar. She was forty-two at the time and maybe this was the first time she strummed a guitar because it created the impetus she needed to start writing her own songs and release That Certain Ache.
It’s an impressive album. The songs are well written and I really loved her vocals which have a classic country feel to them. Her music is a mix of country, folk and Americana.
The album starts with “Capable Man” which is a southern sounding rock song. It’s got a little bit of attitude and Kapell sings about the archetype of the classic idea of what a man can be which was born out of the ’50s. It’s catchy and an easy song to appreciate.
Kapell started to grow on me more with “Say Goodbye” where the energy picks up with a rolling momentum. It’s sort of a classic country song. The music itself is warm, inviting and hopeful while Kapell sounds very at home with her vocals.
The title song “That Certain Ache” is perhaps the highlight. The song is a little melancholy and has a very old country feel to it. I loved it and the song gives plenty of room for her vocals which sound even better when it’s a slow burn.
That energy continues with the exceptional “Such a Fool” which is another slow burn. Things pick up nicely with “Got Burned” and submerge into water on the tender and heartfelt “Spend My Time.”
Kapell continues to flourish with “Little Bird,” and the Muscle Shoals sounding “Hungry Dog.” The album closes with the minimal “Just One Thing” which gets to the heart of a song with a tremolo infused guitar and the emotionally resonant vocals of Kapell.
The album made me a big fan of Kapell. It’s authentic music that comes from the soul. Recommended.
The Mighty Weed & Cobras is comprised of Young Ray Kang (guitar/vocals), Brandon Munro (drums), Nick Procyshyn (keys), Germ Sperman (bass) and Bryar Gray (guitar). They released a three-song EP that is just called EP. The songs by principal songwriter Young Ray Kang are an effort to win back a former lover but also are an effort to spit in the face of such an undying love. I thought that was interesting dichotomy and makes total sense.
I love the sort of passion that is released into music and comes out the other end usually having a cathartic effect for the artist who made it. As a listener you hope to feel, empathize and understand what the artist is going through as they build a bridge of emotion with sound.
That bridge of sound in this case is comprised of mostly garage rock. The EP opens with “Try” where you are met with jangly guitars, drums, distant organ and bass. When the vocals come into the mix there is the ’50s pop feel to the song. It’s well done, heartfelt and effective. The chorus comes and rocks out with a ’50s style drum pattern but is just as heartfelt and infectious.
Up next is “Don't Come Knockin'” which really plays more into ’70s garage rock. Bands like The Stooges come to mind as well as The Clash. It’s another success with plenty of emotion. Kang especially lets loose on the chorus as he pushes his vocals as far as they can go and gets away with it. I love a vocalist who can hit those high pitched Kurt Cobain-esque screams and Kang pulls it off. Last up is “St. Simeon” which reminded me of The Rolling Stones. I really enjoyed the timing of the song as well as the inventive guitar parts. Kang doesn't disappoint on vocals either.
As an engineer I have to point out how fantastic these recordings are. The band recorded live-off-the-floor in a studio with a professional engineer. It just sounds great and you can really feel the band playing live in a room.
Overall, this is a very well done passion project. I hope he got back the girl but if he didn’t he can always have his music to fall back onto. Recommended.
The Chesterfield Band was on tour in 2018 and at least some of the topics on their release Early Days seem to revolve around that. The songs felt a little more pop oriented to me with a foundation of rock.
They open with “Home” which I surmise was about them on tour and wanting to go home. It starts off pleasantly with subdued instrumental elements and a catchy vocal melody. The chorus is grand and has an almost overwhelming hopeful tone not too far from Mumford & Sons. In fact it reminded me of the very same kind of cathartic, hopeful feeling I’ve heard at Sunday worship.
“Our North Star” has a similar type of hopeful feeling but the verse and chorus don’t have such a dynamic leap. This song felt very pop oriented. It has a sweet, tender sort of commercial appeal that a general demographic can appreciate.
“Imagining Nothing At All” is the band's official single. I can hear why. I especially liked the guitar work on the verse. It reminded me of “Blackbird.” It’s a well done song and I liked everything that was happening. That being said I wish the chorus didn’t head into such a pop oriented direction and just fleshed out the somber qualities of the song. I also understand the decision considering it was a single.
They had my attention with “Standing Still.” It starts off very bluesy and I would argue the lead vocalist might sound her best on this track. They really pull off the bluesy sound and I was really feeling the beauty in that. The band decides to push the energy into a very hopeful direction where it feels optimistic and bright. As someone who is more of a blues purist with reverence for blues artists like B.B. King, I think you have to tread with caution when doing this. The blues for me is really about the blues and exploring the beauty within that. If it starts to feel too positive well then it’s really not the blues. “Standing Still” sort of pushes that threshold, then comes back down and then pushes it again.
“If It Doesn't Hurt” felt like a straightforward song. It’s a mix of funk, rock and pop. The guitar lead was really intense which actually made me giggle because the rest of the song doesn't feel like that. Last up is “If You Love” which is funky and infectious song that you can put in the win column.
My only advice would be to think about how they can hammer down on a signature sound. They seem to be following most of the rules of how to make accessible songs and what you have here is just that. That is a good way to cast a large net and in no means is a bad thing. The harder thing to do which may take more time considering this is their debut is finding a signature sound which I encourage all the artists with whom I worked over the years to try and find.
I like this band, I like their talent and I like the fact they are hitting the road. Overall, this is a very good debut from a band that has a lot more than just the basics covered. I look forward to hearing more from them as they evolve. Recommended.
Dearest Astraea is the solo effort for Johnston Ellis. Ellis seems have always wanted to write and record music. He got that chance with the help of a couple of friends to record Coming Home - Demo EP.
I’m only a couple years away from forty at this point. The first song on this EP entitled “23 Lamps” reminds of being in my late teens and early twenties when I listened to a good amount of NIN and darker, very “serious” type of music. The music itself reminded a lot of the hard rock goth acts that came out of the ‘90s. Ellis sings with a lot of affectation as if he was trying to be menacing and evil. He sings, “Thou preparest and anoints and restores my soul. / And surely You come quickly.”
The next song “Easy Company” is almost a complete departure. The whole I’m sinister and a tortured soul act is gone and with it is a much more straightforward and accessible human inflection. The song is actually tender and sweet in its own way. He sings, "I swear I'm getting out, but I will never forget you! / I’ll never turn my back on everything we did, all the hell that we went through, and everything we had!”
“Equivalent Exchange, Winry!” is a clear highlight. The whole band sounds very natural here and the melodies are catchy and memorable. This is the style that seemed to really fit them. They play into three chord punk rock that harks back to the ’90s on “I've Got Your Back (Until the End).” They have more success with “Coming Home” which is a jangly pop song.
The band is all over the place stylistically. There really is no one genre. On top of that the recording is very lo-fi with different sonic imprints so it's a little hard to feel like the band has any type of signature sound.
Ellis stated that in regards to his project “the point of it will always be to make music and memories with close friends as they go through life together.” I like that reason for making music and hope to hear more as they evolve and continue to explore different musical possibilities.
George Karpasitis is a composer, producer and guitarist based in Los Angeles, California. He released Sounds of Mar Vista EP. The album revolves around classical guitar, atmosphere and a good amount of emotion.
“Ruzafa” is the opener and showcases some beautiful, classical guitar playing. The playing style harks back to a number of old roots. You can hear some Portuguese influence in the spirit of a band like Madredeus as well as Mediterranean influence.
“Amiga Luna” is a slow burn. There is a lot of romance and beauty in the way it’s played. It feels clear and defined with subtleties and details really being the reason the song feels so heartfelt. You are greeted with a waltz on “The Witch's Tango” which sounds exactly like the title. It’s haunting yet playful in some ways with a pinch of danger.
Next up is “Journey” which is another song that sounds like the title. The song sheds some of the more haunting qualities on the earlier songs. It has a rolling, pensive quality but not overly heady and melodramatic.
“Sunset Blues” does have some blues influence it to that was more obvious to me. Karpasitis goes between lightly strumming chords and utilizing swift fills to provide the song with an uplifting energy. Last up is perhaps the most overtly beautiful song entitled “Ocean Song.“ It’s bright and warm with some slight moments of dissonance so it never feels too saccharine. The song gets a little bluesy as it unfolds and reminded me somewhat of William Tyler. Towards the end of the song it drips with comforting nostalgia that leaves a sense of tranquility.
Sounds of Mar Vista is an EP showcasing an artist who understands how dynamic and emotionally expansive a single instrument can be. It is this reason that Sounds of Mar Vista will keep you engaged from beginning to end.
Cellular Cat is an artist from Finland who released a four-song eponymous EP Cellular Cat. The project apparently goes back to 2008. This music is completely instrumental and the majority of the songs reminded me of music you would hear in a video game. Chiptune is nothing new and that’s the genre this music falls into. There are tons of synths, sine waves and more which are related to early video games from the ’80s.
Up first is “Dash” which is indicative of what you will hear on the EP. The song is well done with a nice assortment of familiar video game sounding synths. It’s all about the layering yet there is still the main synth which sounds like a pretty basic sine wave creating the main melody. The driving drums and lower bass synths really give the song a forward moving momentum.
“Morning Budgie” is another solid song with an organ like synth leading the way. There are times when an additional lead melody comes in. The drums and bass do an effective job keeping the energy up here as well. “All of the Above” continues to form the foundation with a very similar energy. “Altyen” is the most dynamic song in the batch and felt like the most intense like I was facing the final boss.
I was reading about this release and the artist said on top of the video game influence there was post-punk and new wave. Post-punk is something I grew up on with a steady diet of Joy Division, Wire and The Cure. I can’t say I hear anything in the music that resembles post-punk. That being said I think you could make a little better case for New Wave because of the synth heavy songs that started to manifest with bands like New Order.
I really felt like I was playing a video game and perhaps this has something to do with my age. This was the music I was raised on in a way. I grew up playing video games on the original Nintendo and then Sega Genesis. The songs on this release gave me the feeling of nostalgia for playing Metroid and Castlevania amongst other titles. However, I would give Cellular Cat more credit. The songs on here sound better than those songs ever did mainly because this sounds like a full band with an actual drum kit and driving bass. This music is most likely not something you are going to listen to if you just had a breakup but it does serve a very niche purpose.
The Gatekeepers is a band that recently released Wanderer's Way. The description on their Bandcamp page says that it’s “An album made by three guys over long nights smoking far too many cigarettes and drinking far too few beers in an attic in Syracuse, New York.” That description sounds like most young dudes in their twenties and definitely did a similar thing when I was that age.
Wanderer's Way is a lo-fi emotive rock album. The album starts with “Run Like Hell” which was one of the only songs that didn’t resonate with me. It felt a little too wholesome and saccharine for my liking. The nostalgia and hopeful emotions felt a little too on the nose.
“The Twin Theory” is up next and I was feeling this song. There is a good upbeat energy and it felt really positive and motivational. “Water on Mars” was another solid song. The song felt a little more neutral in the emotional department which was a good thing. They don’t push one particularly emotion hard in one direction.
They slow down things with “Jeremy” which is a slow ballad. The song has a sweetness and tenderness to it. This song was hitting on a very particular tone. Up next is “Soul Spits.” I really liked how the banjo worked in the song and in fact I really loved the instrumental sections of this song. “Autumn Sun” has an Americana type vibe to it that I thought worked while “End of Every Summer” has a warm nostalgia.
My only advice for the band is to not be afraid of going into emotionally gray or ambiguous areas with their music. Music provokes emotion but emotions are complicated patterns of energy that fluctuate and change. At its best music can do the same thing.
Wanderer's Way is a solid album with a number of songs which really had my number. I look forward to hearing more from the band.
Burn The Map was written and recorded in Vancouver, Washington, though Catfish & Sons cites Portland, Oregon on their Bandcamp page. It is just a stone’s skip over the Hood River.
The first track “Cold Mountain Air” starts out in the realms of psychedelia. The intro is reminiscent of Yessongs-era Steve Howe-guitar played over a drum-beat that, if anything, makes you think of Native-American rhythm. Listening to it makes you want to catch them live to see what they do with this sequence: it seems perfectly ripe to be turned into a longer riff and re-riff jam. The combination is quite enjoyable even in the short snippet that the band gives us - at about 35 seconds in, though it’s time to end the reverie and everything turns into blues-rock. What we get here is a driving beat and bass line with bluesy guitar and Daniel Hendricks’ Steven-Tyleresque vocal. The lyric, itself, is about a femme-fatale: “She’s got a stare like the cold mountain air.”
“Hallways” begins with and is throughout strongly flavored by Henry Thompson’s bluesy keyboards. (Think Doctor John and his progenitor, Ray Charles.) Thompson’s vocal runs a little closer to Clapton here, though, with all respect to the Slow-Hand, the Catfish & Sons singer’s voice is a little more masculine: huskier.
If you’re noticing that all the references are to the ’70s and even earlier, that is not a mistake. Everything about the EP, right from the cover art to the time-change-y guitar picking hearkens back to the era of Hippies over Hipsters. If ‘68 to ‘75-or-so bluesy classic-rock is your jam, Catfish & Sons has a lot to offer you. If you also happen to like psychedelic and progressive, then you may as well say goodbye to your current lover and just move in with these guys. They’re everything you ever wanted and more.
The most enjoyable track is the third. “Seven” just seems to be the freshest take on what this band is about. In three-and-a-half-minutes, they give you everything that you might have to listen to an entire evening of classic-rock-radio to get. It starts out sounding like The Allman Brothers, turns into mellow-phase Aerosmith crossed with Nazareth, hits a little ELP and then shape-shifts back to something like southern rock again. It’s a whirlwind tour of your uncle’s record collection and it doesn’t drag on or include uncomfortable stories about all the laws he broke back before strict drunk-driving laws….It’s on the third cut, also, that Andy Hokanson’s drums, Jordan Sjothun’s bass and Joel Barker’s lead-guitars shine the most. All three are quite good and don't seem to take a moment off throughout the four songs, but here they are especially busy.
“Tango” finishes up the proceedings in a slightly trippier, more psych-rock manner than the first three songs, but that is only by measures of degree. Catfish & Sons has a recognizable tool-box and you sense their musical identity on each track regardless of which exact wrenches or pry-bars are in hand at any specific moment working their way through any specific musical task.
You only “burn the map” (reminder: EP-title) in a couple situations: one is if you are wandering aimlessly, don’t care where you end up and just want to keep moving. Another is if you know the way so well that the map is no longer useful.
I think both ways of looking at it describe where Catfish & Sons will take you
If An Hour Remained is the latest release from Jason Greene. Greene continues to build on his sound he started to establish with State Of A Lawman and Local Animus back in 2016. The instrumentation stays similar to his previous releases with the guitar as the main instrument of choice.
Greene starts with “If An Hour Remained” which is a bluesy folk song. It revolves around a rhythm guitar, occasional lead guitar and vocals. The lyrics focus on broad concepts like free will and value. Greene sings, “Does it make any difference which way you turn? / Yes I believe that it does oh yeah.”
“Modern” is reflective and atmospheric. It also contains a smooth layer of melancholy. I thought “Aquifer You” was a highlight. It’s a really smooth song and I felt like I wanted to listen while hanging out at the beach. There is some very light percussion at points but for the most the song is all about the guitar work.
“Steal Another Ride” is a bit of a slow burn with thought provoking lyrics. Greene sings, “If I lose my mind, it won't cost a dime / I will save what I have left and steal another ride.” “A Thousand To One” continues with a more somber tone while “Arrested” contains some notable lead guitar with harmonica making itself known as well.
“St. Joseph Drive-By” is basically an old traditional blues song. There are more reflective moments to be had on “Welcome Relief.” “No When I Arrived” contained my favorite guitar work on the album. It‘s wicked blues with some attitude. “Coastal In My Mind” had its moments as well. Greene ends with a postive note on “I Asked A Question”
Greene brings the goods with this release and is proving himself to be a prolific artist. Recommended.
Become A Fan
I was reading about Wavelength by Jupiter’s Basement and there was a line that intrigued me. He said, “I'd like to think of this album as a matured pop-punk album.” Truth be told I’m just a couple years away from forty and coming of age topics in a lot of pop-punk are completely out of my age range.
The music did feel a little more accessible for me. I didn’t have to deal with the whole “tonight is that special night of our lives” type of feeling. The album starts with “Pull on Rope.” I was immediately digging the vocals which don't have a standard pop punk feel. It’s an interesting mix of influences including ’50s pop. It’s a catchy song that got me interest to hear what else was going to come.
Up next is “It's Alright” which reminded me of Green Day. He sounds Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong. “Get Yourself Gone” has a similar Green Day type of feel to it but is also infused with this ’80s vibe not too far away from Journey.
“Radio Emergency” sounded like the single to me. It’s really catchy and the hook will have you coming back for more. “Knocking my Door” is almost equally as catchy with an accessible pop and mall punk feel to it.
“Ready” is very hopeful and cathartic sounding. It has a tinge of Mumford & Sons in that it’s hopeful and positive. He closes with “The Fire” which was another solid tune and pretty straightforward as well.
Wavelength was a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end. The songs are well written and produced and felt like a version of pop punk I was able to appreciate.
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