Andrew Young is a young man who is making easily digestible mainstream music that could easily sound right at home next to bands like A Rocket to the Moon, and Colbie Calliat. The songs on Young’s latest effort Tree House while absolutely predictable and shamelessly abandoning any kind of indie cred burst with the exuberance that only a young man who is completely happy with his surroundings could produce. These songs often made me feel like I was living in a Gap commercial and are the type of songs I might listen to as a guilty pleasure. The lyrics are straightforward and the melodies are recognizable. However, at the right time and place you may find yourself popping this in to get your fix in.
One thing that usually suffers with independent musicians is recording quality but not in this case. The quality is exceptional as the guitars sound crisp, drums sound full and his voice sounds perfect in the mix. The EP has six songs that are all around three minutes long and have a basic cookie cutter framework that works for what he is trying to accomplish. Young is at his best when he is unapologetically optimistic with his songwriting. The second song on the album “Good Weather Song” is unforgiving with its catchy riffs and vocals lines that will make even the most glum of hipsters feel the unbridled joy of young love. I’m must be getting older, the hell with it, I’ll even embrace Justin Bieber if he writes a song that hits me in the right way. The other highlight on the album was “True Blue” which while containing cliché lyrics had a very catchy melody and was almost as addictive as “Good Weather Song” but it had a tinge of melancholy.
My advice to Young is to exploit his ability to write songs that burst with joy that have absolutely no trace of sadness in them because these are songs that feel the most original. Following in the steps of bands like The Boy Least Likely To that embrace creating such heightened sense of joy that is oh so rare in real life it may be a good thing for Young to do in order to differentiate himself amongst the singer/songwriters who write melancholy heart wrenched tunes that make most of us with a sense of good music want to cringe.
Trevor Allen, namesake Ample Heights, makes breezy electronic music with a Yamaha NP-30 keyboard and a Studio One digital audio workstation. He mixes everything on headphones out of necessity rather than aesthetic; he freely admits he cannot afford monitor speakers. This creates an interesting listening dilemma: should you listen to this on speakers for a more spacious sound or put on the headphones and hear where Allen was coming from?
Within the first ten seconds of the chilly beats of "Alone,” you know headphones are the way to go. The beats sound better, the music heavier and you start appreciating the tonal qualities of Gritty Lights. Allen's arrangements aren't complicated but they use interesting, up-tempo beat structures that sound Daft Punky at best and familiar at worst. Each song has a futuristic vibe that could be used to score scenes showing space stations or deserts. The synthesizers often fluctuate upon thick bass sounds, but Allen knows when to mix it up, such as on "Gritty Lights,” when he uses graceful piano notes to counter the heavier electronic music going on at the forefront of the song.
It doesn't feel like Allen is doing anything new with his music, but where Gritty Lights excels, and where a lot of electronic albums miss the point of, is it's sequencing: it feels and plays like an actual album. Listened to in order, the tracks steadily gain speed and variety. Each song is progressively more orchestrated to demonstrate Allen's compositional strengths and his willingness to think outside the box. The latter doesn't always work – the receding electronic whoosh familiar to most listeners of this kind of music is used all too often, especially on "Day to Day" where Allen mistakes its effectiveness for annoying repetition – but when it does the music lets the listener in on some very awesome moments. "Sanitizer" is the album's best track that tickles the feet of dubstep while still retaining the gentle musicality that Allen markets for himself on the previous numbers. There is something stripped down about Allen's music that will appeal to fans of electronic tundra soundscapes. There is little to offend here, more to enjoy, and at the end of the day a sound-sculptor can't ask for much more than that.
If you are a fan of punk rock music and you hear the word "Minneapolis,” one band would probably inevitably come to your mind: the cult group The Replacements. However, you do not really need to look at the past to find a healthy and creative music scene in that area, and Braver stands definitely as a solid testimony to that fact. Braver sounds somewhere in between the constant sonic assaults of bands like The Descendants and the melodic sensibility of more recent groups like Alkaline Trio, producing a straight-forward and familiar, yet personal and original sound.This is real punk rock, played loud and fast and straight from the heart. The production on the record is really simple (think about the latest Descendants record and you get the idea), and I mean it in the best possible way. I was quite impressed as the entire album was done in their basement. It feels like the ability and power of the band is captured with fidelity, blinking an eye to the organic controlled chaos of a live setting as opposed to the hyper-quantized approach that can be heard on a lot of releases these days.
Stay Busy! features 12 tracks in between pop punk and melodic hardcore: opening triplet "Yea,” "How The Midwest Was Won" and "Stay Busy.” "Yea" is a ridiculously catchy song that ends before it starts but feels like the perfect length for the type of music they are playing. Lasting an entire minute and nine seconds "How The Midwest Was Won" is immediate and reminded me of some of the early 90's punk bands I used to and still love. "Stay busy" meditates on the theme of death as they ferociously attack their instruments sounding a bit similar to the blood brothers at times.
The mid section of the record steps aside from the darker melodies for a while, to focus on a more classic approach – and by that I mean songs based on in-your-face 3-4 chord combinations, without many octave leads and other nuances. The band even takes the time to slow down on a song like "Nose Lotion,” before going full circle back to hard hitting punk rock music, until the closing number "All my Friends.”
Aside from a couple of production issues this album has definitely all you want to find in a good punk rock record, and Braver is a great punk rock band with lots of energy and a handful of great songs. Do yourself a favor if you have any interest and check out their album Stay Busy! if you are interested in hearing a punk band that combines a technical ability and gifted songwriting that makes for a winning combination.
Arkay is the moniker behind solo artist Randal Kamradt, hailing all the way from Fircrest, WA. This project started out almost randomly: Kamradt states that he simply started to create the songs that constitute this album out of boredom while on vacation, equipped with an MKP midi controller and a laptop. Inspired and challenged by the dubstep music he heard from his kids, he decided that he could do much better than what was around at the time. A few hours and a few bottles of wine later, and the result was Catwalk, an album of electronic music with an eclectic attitude, not only dubstep, but also elements of ambient, funk and trip-hop are part of the mix, creating a smooth, dynamic flow throughout the release.
The album starts with "Trouble" which is held together by the drums as various types of synths bleep, squiggle, and oscillate in and out of existence. The song builds as more layers of synths manifest themselves. There was a vocal sample which probably could have been left out. "Aria Diabolique" steps into much more experimental territory that has a haunting almost ominous vocal sample at the centerpiece. The song felt like it might be right at home next to a song from Scott Walker's 2006 masterpiece The Drift. I liked the ambition of the song but I felt like the song didn't fill me up. One of my favorites on the album was "Numb Love" which did a great job of balancing different elements such as the vocals samples, white noise, and bass line to create a listening experience that was one of the most captivating on the album. Arkay saved the best for last with "Zoombassa" which was the most original sounding song on the album as I could hardly make out any individual instruments but sounded more like a electron passing through a wormhole on its way to an alternate universe.
The album has got a really experimental quality to it: these songs perfectly capture the spontaneity of the creation process, featuring many different influences and a lot of unique details in the performance, such as improvised deals and pseudo-jams, all recorded with midi controllers and samplers.Arkay is definitely different from your average producer: while many artists rehearse their material constantly and risk to bury their creativity underneath too much thinking, The album while falling short on a couple of tracks more then makes up with it when he gets things right. Arkay is definitely an artist with something unique to offer and not afraid to follow the flow and create music outside of the box.
Hailing from South London, UK, folk-rockers The Motorpool is a hard working band that like to take matters into their own hands, self-releasing their brand new album After The Sugar Rush under their own independent record label, Battenburg Records, and touring extensively all around the world. The Motorpool sets out to deliver a really emotionally honest album with After The Sugar Rush, focusing on the ever-inspiring theme of love and relationships. The flow of the album is always set in a well-balanced compromise between heartfelt ballad and brighter tunes with a pop rock feel, keeping many elements as a watermark of the band's sound throughout the record. The crisp acoustic rhythm guitars are definitely acting as the skins and bones of this record, along with fitting lead lines and a lot of melody on the side.
The opener, "Trying to Revive The Dead," is perhaps one of the darkest songs on the records, with its 80s feel that blinks an eye to The Smiths, while the more upbeat "Ghost" and "Not Used to Being Alone" have a sound that could fit really well on an American alt folk rock record, that type of music made famous by bands such as R.E.M. This band showcases a lot of versatility on this record, but perhaps they feel more in their comfort zone when facing more mellow moments, such as "Waiting for The Storm To Break" and "She Haunts Me.” The album closes with with one of the best songs on the album entitled called "All the Stress Gets Passed Around" which starts with a gorgeous piano melody before giving way to a catchy guitar riff that when combines with the organ is simple splendid. The chorus is very catchy as the lead singer sings "Keeps on coming, it keeps on going, till you turn it around". After listening to the album a couple of times I was very impressed with the ebb and flow of the album . It sounded more natural with each spin and felt like they put in a good amount of time into the sequencing of the tracks.
The Motorpool is capable of creating fascinating melodic textures, as well as melodies that get stuck into your head really easily. After The Sugar Rush is a collection of 10 accomplished songs that portray a band that is mature enough to deal with their feelings and with their growth, but young enough to do it in a creative and exciting way, so that any listener could relate to it.
You can take the Brit out of Britain but you can't take Britain's folk music pedigree out of the Brit, as New Hampshire-based Tom Posner deftly proves on Hell between the lines. Seven songs of medieval instrumentation featuring acoustic guitar, mandolin, cello and Posner's eerie baritone-to-bass. His handle, The Way of the Dinosaur, is appropriate, as every song is reminiscent of a style that has since, you know, gone the way of the dinosaur (or knight errant) save for a few endangered species. Posner's songwriting recalls the more dreary, empathic, moments of artists such as Perry Leopold, Mark Fry, Bridget St. John and Spirogyra, not all of whom, incidentally, are British.
"Gone" begins the album with quick-tempo guitar playing that gives way to urgent breezes of mandolin. This is done while Posner gently croons "gone for a while" for a while before getting into lyrical content. Posner could just be reminding me he's run to the supermarket for all I care, I just want him to keep singing. His voice commands the track and draws you in fully. It's a great formula and one he repeats often, but he lets loose in later songs like "Lullaby" with chalkboard cello countering a meditative guitar piece. The closer, "You the color,” is the biggest test for Posner's talents. He's at his throatiest with his singing, doleful and most alone, while he alternates between barely heard guitar triplets and nervous strumming. "There is water in my life" he recalls, and for such a broad statement, it bares deep emotion.
Posner neatly sidesteps the pitfalls of his chosen style of music, sameness and effervescence, with clever string playing and lovely arpeggios. He lets his voice fall to the wayside on occasion in deference to his instruments, but you get the feeling that, for him, it's merely another instrument to cultivate an atmosphere of poetry. His lyrics are filled with ambition, in a Canterbury Tales sort of way. The only really weak moment on the album is "Ice Age.”Posner plans to move to Austin, Texas, later this year where he hopes to break into the music scene. If this record is any indication, he'll have little trouble doing so.
Cyrostasium isn't a real word, just one of those band names that sounds like a real word. Cyrostasium is in fact an ambient black metal band from Boston who has been making music since 1999. Cryostasis, the only possible real word they’ve taken their name from, is basically when you deep-freeze living organisms. If I got that wrong, go look it up yourself and let us know your findings. I review music. I don't deconstruct biological terms that may have something to do with a music act's namesake. Although it is kind of appropriate, since the entire time Winter is playing you get the feeling you're in an underground lab with nightmarish experiments starting to thaw while you try to find your way aboveground.
Winter leans more towards industrial rock than black metal, though the ambient tag is appropriate. Told through five parts, the abusive opera's track list actually plays more softly as it progresses. "Winter,” the opener and best track on the album, lets a bouncing bass line, bottom-of-the-well drumming and haunted museum sound clips to allow the listener to think this is something they can handle before opening the floodgates to dozens of evil riffs and disembodied screaming. The next four tracks generally follow this structure, and while the music isn't afraid to flex its muscles from time to time, Winter never feels as heavy as it could be.
That said, the memorable moments will haunt you when your day is at its sunniest. Cryostasium has crafted an interesting and versatile album full of bad intentions and shoegaze-laden guitar noise. They're not afraid to experiment with different sound effects and percussive structures, and for the purists it'll be the biggest turn-off. For others seeking something a bit different in their doom-laden symphonies, it'll be the biggest draw. The album's greatest strength is the meticulous drumming, sometimes barely registering as the killer's tap-tap against the wall in the next room, but always with presence and always a good companion to the ghastly noises floating in and out of your audio perception. Winter will probably find a smaller audience than other dark ambient albums, but the listeners it seeks will find it, and they will writhe.
West Palm Beach, FL, metal band. Florida is such a weird state to me. I expect yellow beaches; it gives me white dunes of coke. I expect free-spirited beach babes; it gives me redneck teenagers who murder their music teacher (Anyone ever read Someone Has to Die Tonight? It's awful). I expect sunny sunshine pop; they give me the ferocious guitar riffs of Ancient Albatross. I know it has all those things but that plays second-fiddle to their foils. I had a buddy from Florida who’d love it or hate it depending on the day. He was primarily a hip-hop head though, so that being my only impression of Florida at the time, I expected everyone to listen to the same. Then I met another dude who was into terrible alternative music and he said Florida was a breeding ground for indie bands. Make up your mind, F L O R I D A.
The EP starts with "City Living" which is sludge metal to the tenth degree. Heavy guitars and even heavier guitars permeate the air as the vocals are aggressively sung although at times when he sings the line "dancing with the devil" I couldn't help think about David Lee Roth. The second song is the longest of the bunch and reminded a bit of the band ISIS. Phrases are sometimes spoken until the pace is picked and they rock out for a bit. The album closes with "Frigid Oceans" which sounded like the epitome of early 90's metal.
Ancient Albatross has already made up their mind as to what music they want to play, technically impressive and pissed-off metal, and they make good use of their time on this four-track EP A Curse Upspoken. Each player is adept at his mission in the band. Singer Nick Barlow can go from guttural scream to black mass high priest chanting at the drop of the hat. Phil Pinto is a frikken' gorilla on drums (because they slam things, but his drumming is a lot more animalistic). Bassist Tony LaFerrera keeps things going with steady but nefarious bass lines and Daniel Mergens is just…his dark guitar wizardry is the reason this thing was on repeat for the better part of the day – mad slimy hooks with the sensibility of a mudslide. It's good as hell, heavy as hell, and acts as the perfect Pequod to Barlow's Moby-Dick vocals. If you like metal, stoner rock or anything like that, you will like this album. Too short of a review? Tough. That's what metal is about.
The one-man project entitled Evil Men Have No Songs infuses a number of different of elements such as psychedelic, garage rock and even elements of shoegaze. The project is named after a Nietzsche quote which I have no idea what the context was but I thoroughly enjoy the name. After listening to Evil Men Have No Song’s latest release Made of Three Songs I have to say that the name of the project isn’t very indicative of the music. Evil Men Have No Songs is a bit ironic because they create songs that sound like songs.
They are instantly catchy, recognizable and most importantly well written. The band say they were inspired by bands like The Velvet Underground, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Primitives and Radio Dept. which I see to some extent but I also hear a lot of influences from pop acts from the 1950’s such as Buddy Holly and the early Beatles albums. Evil Men Have No Songs has established a bit of a name for themselves in Budapest which is where they are from including opening up for No Age on one of their recent tours.
The EP starts with the title track “Where We Come From” which is an incredibly infectious pop song. Clean guitars provide submersive melodies and the drums are simple yet create a good backbone. The verse is good but the chorus is great in that song. It really comes together and feels like something that was worth waiting for. The vocals seem to fit like a glove with the music as he sings. The song “Love to You” feels like pure 50 - 60’s pop not unlike something you would hear from The Beach Boys or even The Monkees. Even more specific the song sounded like it was pulled from southern California in the mid - 60’s as surf music was starting to become popular. The EP ends with “Daily Girl” which happened to be my favorite song out of the three. I thought the hooks were better and the song sounded like the best mish-mash of influences even though still heavily relying on the 60’s pop sensibility. Evil Men Have No Songs latest release is an impressive throwback to the previous generations and feels just right as summer season begins.
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