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
Panther Cabinet Panther Cabinet 3.1
Athena's Army Run For Cover 3.4
Stringed Soul Penumbra 3,2
WeArtists Everybody is Fine, Nobody is Happy 3.7
YMMRTB Changes 3.3
Robin Mitchell Mellowtape 3.9
Amida Boring Birth 3.3
Speak In Tongues Speak My Tongue 3.6
Secret Season is a duo that brings us delightful sounds from vocals, guitars, drums, trumpet, musical saw, flutes and keyboards. The duo is Mark Moogalian and Isabelle Risacher and The Answer is the third album they released together as a duo. Together they create a misty and psychedelic mix of contemporary folk music that is really a trip to listen to. Interestingly enough, The Answer was mastered and mixed on a houseboat on the Seine River in Paris, France which perhaps contributed to the seriously ethereal vibes of this album.
The opening track titled “The Answer” makes me think I am listening to vintage rock from the 70’s. The harmonization between Mark and Isabelle give it that psychedelic touch as they go back and forth giving a different take on “the answer;” “What’s in your heart, what’s in your soul… find the answer, there in your eyes.”
All of the titles on The Answer seem to follow a theme of self-discovery and trial and error. “Life’s a Mystery” begins with an interesting flute solo and then the beat of the song begins to play. Yet later on within the chorus, the flute returns and stands alone as a beacon of hope and triumph in contrast to the lyrics; “there ain’t no more time, there ain’t no history, try to remember this, life’s a mystery. Moving along, “You Owe Me Good” is a subtle track harping on longing for a lover and it reminds me of a super-slowed down Beatles track. The lyrics explicitly describe the grief within an ending or unbalanced relationship; “for all the love you could not show me, you owe me good.”
Listening to The Answer is truly a nostalgia trip and something like entering a time machine that’s just about to propel you to the past but its stuck in the 21st century. The theme of the songs illustrate modern troubles but highlight them in a positive light of love for the experience we call life. This album is a great listen from beginning to end and you never know what visions Secret Season will help you conjure up next.
Ask the Woods' new release Season of the Sticks was cut in a centuries old mountain cabin nestled up in Western North Carolina. Talk about method recording, that setting undoubtedly laid the mindset for this album. The songs were written and performed by one man show singer/songwriter Paul Cataldo. This is Cataldo's second release following his initial album that hit stores and sold an admirable 4,000 copies spurring along a countrywide tour. Cataldo brings a nature themed message to the masses and that is refreshing in this day in age.
"Native" will catch the interest of anyone and stop conversation. There's something about otherworldly flute that brings us all down a peg, but in satisfied appreciation. The subtle shaker and deep drum keep a pulse, but they're just grains of sand among a larger beautiful beach. The melody moves authentically and tastefully. This really could have let loose on some instrumentation and development - beef it up to maybe even 3 minutes? That would have had me lost in a trance, where as this was short and sweet without realizing long and epic may have been the better choice.
"Owls" features twin acoustics that flail and sprinkle the sound with delicate tapestries of charming melody. The twanging chords are a little out of place for me, no need to elude to anything country or folk. The intro set such a tone that it spoke more than any give-away style could; a tone of care-free acceptance in life's crazy maze, just float down the river and watch the world as it watches you. On this track, Ask The Woods seem to define their intentions behind naming their band as such. A statement of thought that I find a lot in common with.
The lyrics of "Happy Hour" lead us along on a lengthy trail of deception and veiled truth that exist beyond the saturated mind numbing rat race that is a commercialized society - not unlike the one we see every day. These are hard hitting anecdotes for revolution even though they are delivered with pagan-like fortitude. I'd urge every listener to take this one for a ride and really let the message of new thinking sink in and take hold. Season Of The Sticks is a solid work that shows us all that we take the simple things in life for granted. We are too wrapped up in the stress and goal dominated grind to realize the beauty of a forest – where we once called home. Put this on and immerse yourself back to the primitive; you’ll see the day and maybe even your life in a new and exciting way.
Four fiery musicians and a strong taste for success, Kindergarten Kings are primed to be the next big thing. They're doing all the right things, opening up for trending acts, putting out solid EPs and landing high profile events. Did I mention they've only been at it since 2013? I know first- hand the level of work and raw talent that demands and it's no joke. So I had some preconceived notions as to the quality I was in for. To be honest, the production on there latest EP Too Young left a little more to be desired, but it was nothing garish and soon blended itself.
The beat and guitar work on "Open Mind" walk hand in hand like early romance, the drums humbly stapling while Vinnie's vocals make great moves via painted lyrics. It's a coasting easy track that rides the softer side of punk indie with emotional rock. Great rhythms and compliments between the guitars keep musicianship and integrity fresh in the listener's mind. This is a good yard jam for when you're with your buddies or just a significant other. Again, the guitar sounds just like it should for "From Across The Room". Just the slightest touch of 80s funk and mid treble modern.
Marcus makes a habit of moving the melody up the neck to noodle around underneath the chorus layers, which I think could be even more pronounced and heavier stated. Anthony chooses to pace the beat on the ride or hats at times where I think they should be the opposite, especially on the chorus. It's on the wonky side and has potential for being a bit of a floor stomper, but that meek ride cymbal just doesn't do it for me. Nit picking aside, this tune breaks up the album very nicely and has a positive spirit.
"For Tonight" has an opening riff that sounds confusingly similar to Pink's "Raise Your Glass". It’s purely coincidental, but worth mentioning just so you can go see for yourself. The ears really have to catch themselves. I think this song is another fine example of the lighthearted nature this band exudes. It has airy guitar, particularly bright and intimate, and the vocals move without strain or risk. And that really is the M.O. for Too Young - make the songs upbeat and attractive without having to push or be anything that they're not. Great vibes for good times is my listening advice for this album. Drinks optional, but highly suggested.
GCN is an artist who we reviewed back in February of this year. We thought his album this place called earth was an interesting cocktail of styles and sounds. Prior to this place called earth he released aspirations of a butterfly which is an album that has similar disjointed yet enjoyable style. He combines jazz, folk, ballads, elevator music and more on this album. No, he doesn't cross the genres but rather sticks to one for a particular song. As with this place called earth the constant jumping of genres doesn’t exactly make the album feel cohesive. WIth that being said there are a number of standouts that are good in there own unique way.
The album begins with “Let Me Go” which revolves around vocals and piano. When the drums enter they have this elevator music type quality. In fact, the whole song does but it somehow works. One thing i know for sure is that you won't mistaken this artist for anyone else. Imagine what Pink Floyd might sound like if they took xanax and it might sound like “Let It Heal”. He combines distorted guitar, subtle percussion and piano on this song.
Out of left field is DIxieland inspired “Me Blue”. It’s quite a catchy song that doesn't fit with the first two songs but is pretty darn catchy. I particularly enjoyed the walking bassline. Next up is an acoustic folk song called “little eyes” while “That Final MIle” has a thematic quality. The highlight of the album is the Elvis Costello inspired “Seasons” which sounds like jazzy pop song that is upbeat and vibrant in it’s own unique way. He uses synthetic instrumentation which gives the song this unsettling quality that makes the music attractive in its own special way.
He closes the album with “The Last Melody” which is an instrumental number that combines bass, piano with a lead instrument that sound like its the woodwind preset from a synth.
One thing this album has going for it is that it doesn't really sound like anything else. Im not sure if its on purpose or not but some of the songs have a sarcastic irony that makes it work.
My Cone Buddy is a three-piece band currently based in Neuville, Quebec that recently released a four song EP entitled Swiller. The EP finds the guys aiming for how the bands sounds live which is basically a punk rock band who replaced their distorted electric guitars for clean acoustic guitars. The best aspect of the music is the vocal work. The singer has a raspy old school punk 101 type voice that sounds strained and full of emotion. Musically there isn't too much going on besides an acoustic guitar that was recorded as a DI, (an additional mic would have helped the tinny sounding guitar) tambourine, lead guitar and poorly recorded drums that have have almost no low end.
The album starts with “swiller” which is arguably the best written track on the EP. I enjoyed the lyrics which talk alcohol consumption. The song is pretty funny as he talks about how he can’t afford the beer from the micro breweries and partying. It’s a simple unpretentious song that was fun too listen too.
“paradigm shift” takes on a slightly more serious topic that explores economic disparity and social injustice.The song combines vocals, acoustic guitar, tambourine as well as a lead guitar solo that comes out of nowhere. “Appeal To Reason” is a solid song that has some well implemented vocal harmonies. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the two different vocal styles. The song has drums but needed meat on it as he snare sounded pare thin and the kick was barely audible.
The band closes with “not my place” that confronts an existential dilemma of isolation, loneliness and meaning. It is the most heartfelt song out of the four and a good way to end the album.
This EP felt like a solid demo that displayed some some of the bands talent not something that produced in a decent studio. Swiller is a good effort but would love to hear something with a little more sheen and production value in the future.
Room 14 is made up two guys from Yanco, NSW who recently released their first EP entitled Room 14. The EP contains five songs that combines metal inspired riff, electronics, auto-tuned vocals into a lo-fi effort that is often held back by the production . The nasally vocals sit on top of the music and are usually in desperate need of some reverb while the low end could have been more defined.
“Gutless” is a rather graphic description of domestic abuse. The duo utilizes a canvas of electronic drums, distorted guitars and auto-tune from them to sing over. He sings “He kicks her down, leaves her to drown, choked up she can't make a sound. She's got no hope, the way he goes, breaking bones from head to toe. Bruises on her face, after every hit she takes, she gets back up to say - One day I'll get away.” The song has a bit of personality dsorder but has some decent moments in there.
“I Will Let You Down (I Promise)” busts open with an intense metal riff. The drums are programmed but effective against the whirling piano and distortion. The chorus ends up sounding more like something you would hear from Thirty Seconds From Mars. The vocalist sings “Throw me to the ground, walk away from this. I will let you down i promise. I could make you proud, but you won't notice. I will let you down i promise.” “Leaves” is about a hedonistic misogynist while “Cause F*ck You That's Why” combines metal with r & b style type synths. The EP closes with the nine minute “The Thought of You” which is the biggest deviation from the album. The song has some tender moments as well as an emotional anchor that wasn't apparent on the other songs. They ditch the guitar for piano and orchestral strings. As it progresses it goes in unexpected places and feels like the most thought out track.
This EP is a decent effort but also suffers from poor vocal performance and implementation. The duo has a decent foundation but need to work on mixing and production.
Landmine is alternative rock and California fresh. Three high school friends: Parth Relan, Daniel Bortner, and Alex Vahidsafa had been playing music together since the summer of 2010 before they recently decided it was time to take things more seriously. Despite the fact that the three of them were scattered throughout California for most of the year, they got the job done through digital file sharing and making great use of their time away from school. In the summer of 2013, they came together to select the best tracks for an EP. I think they chose wisely and here’s just a taste of what’s in store on Rising Sun.
Unfortunately, my first impression of the album was via "Insane" and I thought that Daniel's voice doesn't quite land every note in the opening verse. But the music shapes such an atmosphere that it could easily go unnoticed to a less acute listener. It's the runs and register that could be brought down and reduced, creating a more comfortable palette for his vocals. Insane has an edge of building to it that starts out in secret and then moves obviously toward a peak with fuller drums and crescendo. At the breaking point, things fall away and the guitar and keys pan and dance while the drums get creative and craft an intricate alternating pattern between linear bass and quick exchange hats with splash cymbal. It's really a drummer idea, not particularly suiting the song, but as a drummer I dug it pretty hard.
"Fur Elise" is just what you would expect and executed very well. Beethoven's classic piano piece, but with a Landmine twist. The embellishments stick and build into a bash worthy 3/4 rocker that would get Ludwig himself to pump his fist. This was such a cool idea. I want to get busy on my own adaption. Classical music has so much room for modern interpretation and this approach was right up my alley.
"Give Me More" really takes off at the end. The guitar screams, the drums shake the room, and the feedback exits the song. I almost think this song could have been listed last; it has a very final sense to it and showcases the band’s musicianship in a very cool narrative. Up until then, it had been a slow death of simple rock invading a chillness of what was almost a pseudo-electronic vibe. There are plenty of great moments on Rising Sun and I would encourage anyone to check it out.
It all started in the skate parks of small town Kenosha, Wisconsin. Young Adult is a 3-piece indie sensation consisting of friends who met through their mutual love of skateboarding. After their first few jams they knew something special was about to bud. Within four months Castles was finished, all recorded on just a laptop. Following the release, college and line up changes faced the band with potential adversity, but Young Adult persevered and kept hard at work to maintain notoriety and fandom throughout the upper Midwest.
On the opener, "Hindsight", the guitar is mixed and set so fittingly it's immediately a win in my book. The distortion is coarse but lightly dusted like a manually salted pretzel - so good and yet you wonder if it's missing more or less. The drums pound with matching bass hits as the guitars hammer in the strokes. The chorus restates the opening riff and it's nothing short of head bopping bliss. The vocals are only around for the verse as they step back and let the refrain go undeterred. What a rare and great choice from these fine musicians. By now, one can associate the Young Adult sound pretty easily to the likes of Young The Giant and Death Cab for Cutie.
The vocals and drive on "Get Out" are nothing out of the ordinary in that sense. I really enjoy the drum mix and the guitars have a lot of room to breathe and mingle. "We came, we saw, we left still unsatisfied," was the stand out lyric for me. Not what you would expect to follow such a commonplace saying. That's art in words and I look for it every time.
"2am" stands out in contrast to the rest of "Castles" as it is a sharp direction change into the realm of mood music. Things are still active and don't think the drums will let you fall asleep, but what a lulling, dreamy canvas of feeling and intention, mildly sedating and so pleasing to the mind. Vocally sweet and melodically nostalgic, you can't help but feel like searching for your old music box. But of course, this song seems to live in the now and the presence of the honest thoughts we have so late at night, when the world slows down and the hum of the day is muted. Perhaps it's a marriage of the two lives, juxtaposed as one being musically inspired while the other based upon content - the wandering successful, and the content child.
Hailing from Athens, Ohio Jason Trout is singer/songwriter who recently released his Debut EP entitled Off The Field Issues. The EP is lo-fi effort that works because of the sparse instrumentation and well written songs (although the low end was often lacking and the white noise from the preamp was a bit too prominent). Trout has a pleasant voice sometimes sounding like a distant relative to Cat Stevens. He also is a inventive lyricist who sometimes creates narratives (Whole Nother Life) as well poetic passages (Love Is Not The Reason) that have a ring of truth to them.
Although the songs revolve around acoustic guitar and his voice he implements didn't styles. For instance,I felt a tinge of punk rock, folk and even country.
The first song “A Whole Nother Life” is arguably the highlight of the album. It’s an upbeat ditty that feels alive with energy and works for a number of reason. The distant sounding vocal harmonies sound good when combined with the lead vocal. A lone tambourine keeps the festive vibe going as Trout sings about moving on from past relationships.
“A Beginning To Another End” is a slower, melancholy song sounding similar to a riff Conor Oberst may have come up with. I like Trout better without the melancholy but he manages to deliver a good vocal performance which is the best part of the tune. He voice sounds tired as if his eyes have seen it much. The song ends with a bit a revival as the energy increases and his vocals shimmer with vibrance.
“Love is Not Reason” is a catchy song that reminded me of something I would hear from The Magnetic Fields while” “Only When I'm Blue” contains a healthy dose of harmonica. “Why Don't I Listen To Radiohead Anymore?” made me laugh when I read the title. The lyrics are funny (and a bit sad) as he sings about why he doesn't listen to Radiohead anymore and can’t even enjoy movies. It actually seems to be about him having some sort of existential dilemma .
I would have enjoyed a bit more consistency with this EP in terms of songs and production. The production sounded different on almost every track which affected the fluidity and cohesiveness of the EP. Other than that the EP builds a solid foundation for his album which is due sometime later this year.
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