Anderlloyd is a project created by Mikey Sloan in South Carolina; he is a senior at college and previously released two EP's to reasonable acclaim. The singer/songwriter’s latest five-song EP entitled Whatnot is a luscious record of commercially attainable alt-rock sprinkled with soul and folk influences.
"Long Sleeves" is the opening track, which is also the EP's single. Straight away, I sensed a strong "John Grant" influence, and akin to Grant, the strong harmonies with singer Coleman Smith are a real highlight of the song. The cello work also brings the whole track together to give a menacing and melancholic vibe to "Long Sleeves,” an emotive and delicate opener from Anderlloyd.
This is followed by the song “Roanoke,” a darker number with incredibly emotive lyrics throughout, such as "I may be an imbecile, but that don't mean I can't feel things.” Such vulnerable and open words really allow Anderlloyd to truly show himself on this track and to significant effect.
"Candle High" has a much more soulful feel, thanks to the rhythmic chordal guitar and the stunning profound vocal performance by Quentin Wilson, and the two components work off each other exquisitely. The use of only electric guitar and vocals give this track a really intimate essence, which seductively draws the listener in.
The soulful sentiment is continued on the next song, "Autumn Leaves,” as again Quentin Wilson showcases his emotive vocals. A beautiful guitar solo gives this track a devilish flavor; however, at just under two minutes in length, I think the song was far too short to do Anderlloyd's ideas justice and ended just as it was about to unfold.
The EP is concluded with “Closer," and in my opinion, you hear Anderlloyd at his best with his "Julian Casablancas-Esque" vocals. A folky/indie number, reminiscent of "Here We Go Magic,”as the song grows from a laid back piece, to a grand dreamy electro ending, revealing Anderlloyd’s ability to produce epic music whilst alternating genres effortlessly.
Overall, Whatnot is an accomplished piece of work that showcases Anderlloyd’s undoubted ability; with more time and guidance, I can see him flourishing into an extraordinary artist, thanks to his rare ability to push and experiment with sounds combined with his undoubted songwriting craft.
Rob Henriksen is a 44-year-old singer/songwriter from Rockland, Massachusetts, which is just south of Boston. During the day, he works full time for an electric utility but in his spare time he enjoys everything music – concerts, listening to music, open mics, bluegrass jams and playing his own gigs. The multi-instrumentalist singer plays acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin and harmonica. His latest release Balance was recorded in his bedroom on a Zoom H4N recorder using a couple of mics – a Shure SM57 and an Audio-Technia AT2020. He mixed the EP in GarageBand and mastered it through the online service eMastered. Henriksen states the album’s main theme is about life and “how there is always so much going on – not just with day-to-day things like work and your home life, but with emotions – dealing with them and sometimes not dealing with them.” The six songs showcase the styles and sounds of Americana, bluegrass and folk genres.
“Tuesday Night” is about driving to Henriksen’s friend’s house for a banjo lesson. He took mandolin and banjo lessons from Dave, who is in his 80's, for close to eight years and he became one of Henriksen’s good friends and mentor. Henriksen says that he wouldn’t be where he is today musically had it not been for Dave’s friendship. Henriksen’s guitar is full and rich, and he plays it in true bluegrass-folk fashion. I wonder if he needs an upright bass player. “BNA” is about Henriksen visiting Nashville and thinking about how many musicians had written songs in the airport there, and wondering where everyone is going, everyone has their thing going on, which speaks the album’s “Balance” theme. This song feels like a fresh morning that’s filled with new possibilities and it carries on a traditional singer/songwriter spirit.
Henriksen lost his mom to cancer in 2018 and two of his songs are about losing her. First there is “These Changes.” He starts off asking – “How many people are crying tonight?” “How many swollen hearts are filled with joy?” But further in, his line – “I can’t come over and see you anymore” really cut right at the heart. So much of what he sings strikes a deep, universal chord, as if he wrote this song for every son and daughter who lost a parent to cancer. A powerful number. The next tune lightens the mood for a bit – “Way You're Treating Me” is his try at a straight up bluegrass tune about a fictitious girl who is rambling around. I’d say he pulled it off like a pro. Got to keep your eyes peeled and your heart in the right place when those kinds of girls come to town!
“Me & You” is another take on Henriksen’s experiences of losing his mom. The song’s style is lighter, more open, as Henriksen recollects memories he shared from a photo of him and his mom. Musically, there are lovely textures of the banjo and I think a couple of acoustics, too. A short and sweet tune. The last track is “Grey Skies” and it was written during the Covid lockdown in April. Henriksen was scared about the future – no one knew much at that time. The news was just a non-stop, day-to-day cycle about the virus where after several months, things just started to blur. The weather in Massachusetts was so overcast and cold and he just thought if spring came, everything would be better. He opens with “Birds chirping’ but their confused / someone hasn’t told them the news.” Not getting too close to your best friend, staying inside and hunkering down is something we’ve all experienced. I liked how he ended this one on a soft minor note, which adds to the bitterness and loneliness we have all felt from this virus.
Overall, this is a well-played debut.
After a long (25-plus-year!) absence, Idaho-based singer/songwriter Paul Hroma has returned with a new album of originals, Bottled Water from the Fountain of Youth. Hroma never stopped writing; he “took advantage of the time at home” in 2020 to get some of the song inventory cut and released.
Bottled Water from the Fountain of Youth is a sprawling work: it’s almost fifty-two minutes of music spanning twelve tracks. Hroma describes it as “piano-based rock and soul,” which it is. The piano features heavily throughout, and drives most of the grooves. Layered around the ivories are the usual assortment of guitars, bass and drums with some synths sprinkled in here and there. Lyrics are straightforward and direct, and mostly narrative; this, combined with Hroma’s vocal delivery and choice of song keys gives several of the tracks a feel that’s more Broadway than rock.
Some tracks, though, could fit right into the late-‘70s/early-‘80s pop/rock oeuvre. The opener, “Feels Like I’m Runnin,’” recalls Huey Lewis and Jackson Browne in equal parts. The easy-listening ballad “Crazy,”complete with a meandering saxophone line over electric piano, could have been an Al Stewart blue-eyed soul cut. “What’s It’s Gonna Take” features a funky electric piano start and some nice power-chord guitar bits, reminiscent of pre-suck-era REO Speedwagon. “You Are My Home” has a nice guitar/bass call-and-response to go with its layered synths. If Hroma went to Nashville with this, and joined up with a staff writer to countrify the lyrics, he could have a crossover hit.
The Broadway-tinged tracks include “The Day the Circus Came to Town,” which could fit into the “Grease” setlist, complete with a spoken-word middle section. “My Reality” infuses a bit of flamenco-style chord changes with its narrative lyric. Unfortunately, “The Life I Dreamed” misses the mark with its repetitive, non dynamic drum-machine pattern.
The best track is “The Other Side of Georgia,” which is a tent-revival gospel tune. It swings, and Hroma’s lyrics fit the style well. There are some terrific instrumental sections. Hroma knows he’s got a good one, too: he ends the track by saying, “I think that’s the one.” Indeed.
Bottled Water from the Fountain of Youth will satisfy some of your late-‘70s needs. Welcome back, Mr. Hroma--it’s always great to see an artist reappear!
Secret Season is Mark Moogalian and Isabelle Risacher. The duo recently released Closer which contains seven songs and lasts around twenty-six minutes. This is an emotive album that feels like you’re about three feet away from them.
They open with “Closer” and it revolves around slowly strummed guitar, bass, drums and vocals. There’s a nice use of vocals on this song as Moogalian sings lead on the verse and the female vocals are covered in more reverb for the chorus. It’s a good opener on the melancholy side but also appreciative.
“I Miss You” is really great. They make similar use of the vocals. The guitar works pretty and the whole song feels warm and comforting. It’s also reflective as the title of the song repeats on the chorus.
“Lightning Skies” opens with a bluesy lead guitar and more delicate guitar picking while the more psychedelic “I Can’t Take It” feels cerebral and dreamy. I loved the subdued joy and it reminded me of The Flaming Lips. “The Other Side” has Risacher on lead and she sounds fantastic. It’s rare I like both vocalists about equally but they both sound great on these songs. They continue with “Today is Breaking” and it has hypnotic and meditative quality. They close with “Go Outside and Play” which combines guitars, synths and more into a very cosmic sounding groove that was very enjoyable.
Closer is a great album from beginning to end. There’s just a lot of emotion throughout the album and shifts in subtle degrees which keeps you engaged. One thing I noticed as well is there isn’t much fat on these songs. The songs didn’t feel like they dragged and when they end I was ready for the next one. I thought the engineering was top notch as well. Recommended.
Alisa Jefferson (vocals/bass), Barb Wilmoth (vocals/drums) and Scott Mitchell (vocals/guitar) are Radial Red. The band recently released Moving Skies which is a ten-song rock album that spans around forty-two minutes. It didn’t take me long to connect with this familiar rock vibe. This type of sound spans a couple generations and in particular the ’70s through the ’90s. I can’t say this is contemporary sounding music but truth be told I’m not a big fan of much contemporary music.
The album starts with “Free” and it is one of the highlights on the album. They lay into a pretty lush groove. It’s atmospheric yet catchy and also contains one of the more notable hooks. “Infinity” is a little more energy infused while “As It Should Be” contains a little more growl and attitude.
“Prejudice Poison” has more or a distinct ’80’s tone especially when it comes to the guitars. They continue with a number of solid songs including “Moving Skies” and “Drivin’ the NEED” but the highlight “Karma” really contains some of the best grooves on the album.
“Time Out” is also a highlight. The music on this song provides maybe a little levity at least in terms of the mood and tone. “Radiate” was definitely another one of my favorites and makes good use of vocal harmonies. The last song “Newbreaker” is kind of a classic rock tune with a lot of moves from the rock n’ roll handbook.
The recording quality was really good on top of great performances. I thought everything from the singing to the hi-hat work was well done. This music in my mind is definitely for purists of rock. The band really digs into an older rock sound that I lived through and remember quite well. I think this style of rock will be immediately recognizable for people who are way past their college age, but on that note I encourage anyone of any age to check this out. Recommended.
Guilty Williams is a one-man band currently based out of San Juan Capistrano, CA. Having been based in San Francisco for the past 16 years, he was a member of numerous bands including MACRO, The MosquitoHawks, The Credentials and Turkish North. His debut self-titled EP The Guilty Williams EP is his first dive into recording his own material as a solo artist. With a large backlog of unrecorded songs, spanning the last 20+ years, Williams fully intends to release these songs in a series of albums, EPs, soundtracks and boxed sets over the years. The Guilty Williams EP, the first to be unleashed, is a four-track journey through traditional rock n’ roll territory with embellishments into the terrain of “buzzsaw riff-rock, psychedelic soundscapes, harmony-rich sweet-vocal soul-songs and the empowerment of punk rock abandon.” On these set of songs, Williams fully fleshes out these ideas and more.
The Guilty Williams EP starts off with “The Guilty William Blues,” where after some white fuzz, the sounds of acoustic guitar cues in along with some energized percussions. The chord progressions lean into a catchy and upbeat sound. With a touch of uplifting blues, the vibes feel bright and sunny. I loved all the soulful notes the vocals evoke. Moody noodling on the acoustic guitar addresses the intro of “She Likes Her Wine.” A drumming beat underlines this song. Williams’ vocals are more somber here as a tinge of melancholy could be felt underneath the grooves of this track. The music becomes more dynamic on the chorus with the band fully jamming out.
On “Thickenhurst (A Thousand Ways To Get High),” full-on guitars greets the start of this song. The riffs have a metal and hard rock edge to it. With vocals executed in spoken word-like fashion, this gave the track a touch of experimentation. The ingenuity of this song was a departure from the more straight-edged rock sounds seen previously. There seemed to be different movements to this track and each section seemed to be slightly fragmented. More cohesion is probably needed to afford more fluidity in-between variations. Sounding loud and clear, an acoustic guitar rendering sounds out on the intro of “Clayton Street.” Background noises feed into the ambience. The acoustic guitar playing is steady throughout all this. This was a pure instrumental piece that heavily leans onto mood and ambience as emphasis.
The Guilty Williams EP is meant to be a teaser to whet audiences’ appetites for the full-length debut album to be released in 2021. And what an introduction it is. Williams brings his brand of rock to the table, mixing some contagious blues with psychedelic guitars and sing-along worthy vocals to give both an intimate, up-close-and-personal acoustic performance perfect for the coffee shop vibe and the type of band leading synergy geared towards a rowdier crowd. The EP is a blend of these energies, giving listeners a glimpse into the man behind the band. A guy who just wants to reach out to you with his music, the album is filled with some good vibes that will really take you back to the good ole days of rock n’ roll. Not just a classic take on rock, Williams also adds in a few surprises here and there that really turns the music into something that is really his own. This proved to be a good introduction to his sound and I look forward to seeing more of his unique style being fleshed out in a full-length follow-up.
Fredo Viola is an artist originally born in London but now lives in New York. He had success and is best known for his beautiful song “The Sad Song.” I took a quick listen before getting immersed into his exceptional release entitled My New Head.
The album is one of the more unique and captivating I have heard in recent memory. It accomplishes something that very few albums do which is combine experimentation with accessible melodies. The songs feel fresh, robust and inhabit their own universe and my impression is that was where the title came from as if he is creating a new way to perceive.
The album begins with “Demolition” and you hear xylophone, reverb and other instrumentation that is hard to pinpoint. There’s a playful but haunting quality that is captured and often sustains with the subsequent songs.
“Pine Birds” is the first meaty song which revolves around angelic vocals, Tom Waits style percussion and many other layers of elements. I loved the delivery here and the instrumentation is ambiguous and symbiotic. It’s sincere, a little melancholy and like there’s a curiosity to the questions he’s asking. The horns are also incredible, very original and quite thematic when they come into the mix.
“Waiting For Seth” is very catchy. It begins with marching drums and unfolds with ephemeral instrumentation like flutes and pads. There was a hint of energy that felt like a cathartic release of anger. “Clouded Mirror” is another fantastic song that places you somewhere between playful fantasy and apprehension. It’s a unique combination and I thought the instrumental break a little after the two-minute part opened up more engaging musical concepts.
Viola brings unique tones and textures with “Black Box” which is very thematic with some of the most infectious melodies yet. The hook is emotive and accessible with the perfect amount of experimentation. The more cartoonish sounding “Kick The Sick” felt a tad silly but still a nice pit-stop or interlude.
“Stars and Rainbows’ is one of the more traditional sounding songs with piano and sweeping strings while “Sunset Road'' is a slow burn that is simultaneously beautiful and haunting. The most intimate sounding song goes to “In My Mouth.”
The somewhat panic-inducing intro to “Edwin Vargas” is a beautiful collage of sounds that transitions into one of the most powerful and triumphant moments. Last up is “My Secret Power” which is empowering and has the best groove on the album. It's quite joyful.
My New Head is a captivating album. It's a wonderfully singular sound that unveils itself with multiple spins. This album somewhat blurs the lines between emotional energy. We have words in the human language to describe emotion but sometimes it seems too compartmentalized What's the word to describe the most love you've ever felt for instance. Music at its best can reflect the complexity of being itself and capture those same vibrations within space and time.
I suggest playing this album from beginning to end so you can experience how art can transcend the mundane and bring you into a new head space. Highly recommended.
JSev Sounds is back with a new release entitled Memories. They explain: “The album is a mix of acoustic/folksy music recorded over a period of six-seven years, some of which was at a military academy, in the military and in the pandemic era.”
This is an album where the recording quality is very varied from song to song. As an engineer myself this made me want to remix and remaster certain songs so it would sound more cohesive. The whole album is lo-fi in a home recording type of way. Some recordings have more fidelity than others which in way made this feel like a collection of live performances.
The album opens with “No More” and is the strongest song on the album. It starts with strummed acoustic guitar which is fine but the real element that stuck out was the vocal harmonies. It was somewhere between The Beatles and The Everly Brothers. The vocals however at points were in need of some slight compression to even out the dynamics. That being said the melodies were great.
One of the songs that features programmed drums is “River” which is also a highlight. The vocal melodies are strong and I also appreciated the instruments which sound like a xylophone. It’s warm, comforting and a good song from beginning to end. “Change” is a good song and noticed the vocals are on top of the mix here. As the album progressed I enjoyed “True,” “Hope” and “Wrong.”
I have to admit I’d really like to hear their songs recorded professionally over a couple sessions in a shorter time span. The songwriting is there but there is improvement that can be done in terms of how it’s recorded and mixed. On that note this was a solid album that I’m sure was full of memories from over those six or seven years. There might be more sentimental value but mostly from the artists’ side not the audience.
Overall, this a solid collection on tunes I encourage you to check out. Take a listen.
Real is the debut release from New Zealand’s Ra Gossage. On this “deeply personal” release she explores “love, loss and friendship” across four tracks, in a classic soul style. She’s joined by Tom Irvine (guitar), Matt Shanks (bass) and Cole Goodley (drums).
Ever dig through a bin of old 45s and come across a long-lost Stax record? Those old gems had such a simple formula, and yet they were so hard to get right. You don’t need complicated orchestration, or even many chords. You do need a bass player and a drummer who swing such that you can’t help but move your body whether you’re sitting or standing. You need a guitar part that welds staccato chords with little fills and licks, supporting the rhythm section, delivered with a crisp guitar tone that cuts through a warm room without blowing away the rest of the band. And finally, you need vocals that are earthy, smoky and real, delivering a lyric that reflects emotions that you’ve had but didn’t appreciate in quite the way the singer does. When Stax got ‘em right, they got ‘em right. That describes the opening track “In the moments.”
“Love lets go,” up next, takes the Stax base and mixes in a little ‘60s I-vi-ii-V girl-group feel for a tale of unrequited love. (And, in case the song’s narrative wasn’t clear, Gossage uses that precise term in the lyrics). There’s wonderful space in the music, especially in Irvine’s guitar parts, as he displays tasteful restraint and doesn’t feel the need to overplay.
“Get Up” continues the exact same chord progression, tempo and key from the prior track. While the group has a terrific, soulful sound, I’d love to hear some variation from song to song. There was a clear spot where I was all primed for a guitar lead… and it didn’t happen. And does every track need the drum count-in?
At least “Missing You”’s drum count-in is different, as it’s a 6/8 feel. Goodley’s on the brushes here, stirring the snare for a slow tune featuring Gossage’s heartfelt vocal and touching lyric. The variation in feel was welcome, although a little more arrangement and instrumentation would have sent this over the top--imagine a trumpet (or sax section) part on the way out.
Real is definitely real. Gossage has crafted some terrific songs that are ideally suited for her vocal style. The band sounds great and plays with delicious tone and taste. I’d love to hear her expand the arrangements as she develops her music, but in the meantime I’m spinning “In the moments” again.
Rootabagga is an experimental electronic rock project out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, featuring Nick Piovesan (vocals/programming/synths), Adam Langille (guitars), Connor Saunders (bass) and Nick Smith (drums/synths). The band is moved to include an amalgamation of genres into their sounds, everything from carnival music, funk, metal, emo and pop. Because they are able to pack so much into their sound, what often comes across is music that is noisy and chaotic. Yet there is order in the chaos as Piovesan takes the lead on vocals with his commanding carnivalesque-driven vocal styles. With so many different flavors in the vibes, there is a whole lot to appreciate on their latest EP Abby Normal. An eight-track collection that sees the band mixing a soupy concoction of many different sounds, the band makes music that you can not only dance to but appreciate simply for its originality.
Abby Normal makes its moves starting out with “Save Your Progress,” where synths create a warbling effect to the vibes. Next, some aggressive guitars settle in, giving off a metal feel. Once the vocal sets in, I was reminded a lot of Alien Ant Farm. There was just something to the oddball vocals with hints of carnival that sounded similar to the aforementioned band. Next, the vocals become grittier and more rage-fueled. The guitars mixed in with beats and synths sound kind of mechanical with the robotic like vocals. The music is stop-and-go and adds to these effects. Right away listeners will be arrested by the scream-o vocals on “Gloop.” The glitchy video-game vibes gives this track an electronic-based feel. The vocals are sung with a touch of nonchalance, feeling very emo in nature. The fast-paced rhythms of the music is driven. Wonky synths greet the start of “Mt. Rugged” as rage-filled screams takes this song by the reins. The aggressive vocals are filled with a gritty vibe. Interwoven in the backdrop is a carnivalesque feel and bouncy rhythms. On “Butcher,” the vibes are dark and haunting, sounding like something that could come from a classic horror movie. The reverb-drenched vocals add to the uncanny sound. The track had a great cinematic appeal to it.
Distorted vocals set the tone to the start of “Bungee Chord.” Next, the vocals and amped music comes in full-throttle. The band does not hold back here. The glitch-y vocals give off a very electronic-based sound as scream-o vocals give a full-on vibe. On “Carousel Horse,” anthem-like guitars spiral overhead. As drums and bass race in, the vocals feel very robotic-like. The mechanical style vocals contrast with the radioactive guitar effects. The driven energy has a metal energy to it that made the music frantic and impactful. On “Night Nurse,” atmospheric synths sound out toward the start along with some whistling. Percussions and a drumming beat eventually joins in. The echo-y vocals sound rather subdued here. I could barely make out the lyrics. Perhaps more balance in this department would be needed. This felt like a departure from the band’s more aggressive sounds previously. The music, though softer here, felt a little too distorted. The dissonance was a little too distracting for my tastes. More glitchy video game chiptune vibes greet the intro of “Kneecap Soup.” Next, the vibes are mixed in with hectic noisy guitars and synths. On top of this are the vocals, which alternate between robotic and scream-o fests. The band’s spontaneity throughout the album will leave you guessing throughout. This epic closer is no different.
An often weird ride through the absurd, Abby Normal often feels like a caricature with its cartoony like gestures and outlandish approaches. Feeling very much like an artsy experimental project, the band mixes metal, punk and funk. Loud and busy, the band makes great use of the noise and chaos, at times making the music feel very driven and pumped. Compared to other bands like Mr. Bungle, Primus, I Set My Friends On Fire and more, Rootabagga really embraces their oddball qualities and really brings out their weirdness to full effect. Those who don’t mind the strangeness will find something to enjoy with Abby Normal. Even if artsy experimental bands aren’t your cup of tea, the unconventional music is worth diving into if you're pining after a change of scenery. This was a good start and I look forward to seeing where they go from here.
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